The Fourth of July is coming up and Trump is busily working to ruin it for everyone but his ignorant deplorable base and his billionaire buddies.
The Washington Post: Trump plans ticketed-access area for VIPs, friends and family at July 4 celebration.
Plans by President Trump to reshape Washington’s Independence Day celebration now include an area in front of the Lincoln Memorial reserved for dignitaries, family and friends that will be accessible only through tickets distributed by the White House.
The VIP section will stretch roughly from the steps of the memorial to the midpoint of the reflecting pool, according to the U.S. Secret Service. It is in front of the spot from which Trump plans to address the nation as part of his rebranding of the traditional July 4 event into his own “Salute to America,” which includes moving the fireworks from the reflecting pool to two different sites, including West Potomac Park.
The revamped festivities will include additional fireworks, military bands and flyovers by Air Force One, the Blue Angels and aircraft from all branches of the military.
Where Trump plans to speak is not yet clear.
On Friday morning, bleachers had been set up on the plaza below the Lincoln Memorial, and workers were erecting other structures. Seats faced away from the memorial and toward the Washington Monument,making it unclear where exactly Trump plans to stand while giving his speech.
Many people who have long-standing practices for how they get downtown, or where they position their boats for the best vantage points and ease of access, will need to make adjustments. Even travelers passing through the region’s skies will be affected, with all operations at Reagan National Airport suspended for up to an hour and 15 minutes on July 4, the FAA said late Friday….
The ongoing shifts to what had been established security and crowd-control protocols have left officials in the District and some federal agencies confused about logistics as basic as what Metro stops and roads might be open or closed, and for what period, and how many fireworks displays will launch….
In West Potomac Park, softball fields were fenced off Friday morning, a day earlier than had been announced, while 36 portable spotlights were parked along Ohio Drive. A crew from Garden State Fireworks was setting up its launch site near a baseball backstop.
Come July 4, the Arlington Memorial Bridge, a major thoroughfare that was open in the past on the holiday, will be closed for the day, cutting off people trying to drive into the District from Arlington National Cemetery and other nearby points. Transportation officials warned that the Smithsonian and Foggy Bottom Metro stops could experience extra crowding as a result.
Read the whole story. It’s going to be a clusterfuck.
Richard Nixon tried to pull something “special” on the Fourth of July, 1970, although it was supposedly “bipartisan.” From Timeline.com: On the 4th of July in 1970, the nonpartisan Honor America Day turned into a drugged-up protest.
Tensions all over America were high in the summer of 1970. The Nixon administration’s bombing of Cambodia and the continued war in Vietnam were seen by a vocal section of the population to be murderous disasters. Outraged students raised their voice, and in May, the National Guard killed four of them at Kent State and two others at Jackson State. It appeared to some as if the country doubled down on its sins, adding the blood of its own citizens to the mix.
A month later, a group of wealthy and prominent Americans assembled to do something about the national divide. Their mission was not to address the problems behind it, but to invigorate a broad and vague spirit of appreciation for the United States of America. They called it Honor America Day: a massive, entertainment-filled ceremony, to be held in Washington DC on the Fourth of July. For a day, Americans could swap their discontent for waving flags, live music, and old-fashioned pride….
And while the event was ostensibly apolitical, The New York Times noted that committee members almost unilaterally supported Nixon’s campaigns in Southeast Asia.
Naturally, there were protests.
Given the national and international situation, a counter protest was inevitable. And it was a doozy.
Perhaps the most inflammatory was a Fourth of July smoke-in on the National Mall by anti-war and pro-legalization protestors, slated to compete with the more wholesome Honor America Day activities. “Before this is over,” joked Bob Hope, “I may need some of that stuff myself.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, neo-Nazis and conservative groups also turned out to represent their causes.
Some 10,000 people attended the interfaith service led by Billy Graham on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at 10:30. But protesters appeared at the same time, with the audience cheering as security ejected those who broke past the line.
I wonder if there are protests planned for Trump’s idiotic celebration of himself. It will be interesting to see what happens, but I wouldn’t want to be there.
Colbert I. King at The Washington Post: Frederick Douglass would be outraged at Trump’s Fourth of July self-celebration.
“What, to the American slave,” Douglass demanded, “is your Fourth of July?”
Nearly 170 years later, Douglass’s bold declaration and haunting question resonate with new meaning.
President Trump has taken over Independence Day 2019, transforming the traditional celebration on the Mall of the nation’s founding into a salute to his egocentrism, staged with demonstrations of America’s military might, an Air Force One flyover and an address to the nation to be delivered by himself on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
The brave signers of the Declaration of Independence — flawed men but men who, as Douglass said, “staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country” — will take a back seat next week.
This Fourth of July is Donald Trump’s — not theirs, not the nation’s, not mine.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
More food for thought from CREW: How Trump’s 4th of July Hijacking Could Violate the Hatch Act.
Is President Trump trying to hijack the Independence Day celebration on the National Mall by turning it into a taxpayer-funded campaign rally? If he does, the Trump administration will violate federal appropriations law and the Hatch Act. In that case, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale had better have the campaign’s checkbook handy and be ready to write plenty of zeros.
At a kick-off rally for his re-election campaign last week, Trump sounded a lot like he was laying the groundwork for politicizing America’s birthday party—
This election is not merely a verdict on the amazing progress we’ve made. It’s a verdict on the un-American conduct of those who tried to undermine our great democracy, and undermine you. And by the way, on July 4th, in Washington, D.C., come on down, we’re going have a big day. Bring your flags, bring those flags, bring those American flags, July 4th. We’re going to have hundreds of thousands of people. We’re going to celebrate America. Sounds good, right? July 4th. Celebrate America. This election is a verdict on whether we want to live in a country where the people who lose an election refuse to concede and spend the next two years trying to shred our Constitution and rip your country apart.
The very next day, Trump’s Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, responded by issuing an announcement confirming that the July 4th event “will feature remarks by President Donald J. Trump.” [….]
If Trump is careful and has the self-discipline to talk only about government policies, the event may amount to little more than a garish display of nationalism….
But when has anyone ever accused Trump of being predictable or sounding like a dry policy wonk? It seems far more likely that he’ll talk about his reelection bid or fling schoolyard nicknames at his political rivals. That sort of bombast would be a whole lot more fun for Trump than having to deliver dull prepared remarks. And, hey, it’s a party after all. Right? The problem – as is so often the case for the Trump administration – is the rule of law.
In other news, Kamala Harris was the breakout star of the first Democratic Debate and the Russian bots and Trump and his on-line army are attacking her.
The Daily Beast: Kamala Harris Is Surging and Birtherism Is Back. As Harris spoke about race and the history of busing,
she was attacked on Twitter by a conservative provocateur for not being an “American black.” It’s a play straight out of the racist birther playbook used against Barack Obama when he ran for president a decade earlier. This time, though, those kinds of allegations don’t have to circulate for years on obscure right-wing forums before they reach a mainstream audience. On Thursday night, spammers and even one of President Trump’s sons spread the attack to millions of people within hours….
“She is half Indian and half Jamaican,” [Ali] Alexander wrote. “I’m so sick of people robbing American Blacks (like myself) of our history. It’s disgusting. Now using it for debate time at #DemDebate2? These are my people not her people. Freaking disgusting.” [….]
More Twitter users copied and pasted Alexander’s message verbatim and tweeted it as their own, according to screenshots posted by writer Caroline Orr. Some of those accounts, like “@prebs_73,” have copy-pasted other popular right-wing tweets verbatim. Other accounts with right-wing references in their usernames and biographies piled on, accusing Harris of not being black.mi
“Ummmmm @KamalaHarris you are NOT BLACK. you are Indian and Jamaican,” wrote a Twitter user with a cross emoji, the word “CONSERVATIVE,” a red “X” emoji (a right-wing Twitter trope), and three stars (a QAnon symbol) in their username.
Read more about this at Buzzfeed News: A New Racist Campaign Against Kamala Harris Is Taking Shape.
The New York Times has an important article on the crisis in Trump’s concentration camps: The Treatment of Migrants Likely ‘Meets the Definition of a Mass Atrocity,’ by Kate Cronin-Furman.
A pediatrician who visited in June said the [detention] centers could be compared to “torture facilities.” Having studied mass atrocities for over a decade, I agree.
At least seven migrant children have died in United States custody since last year. The details reported by lawyers who visited a Customs and Border Protection facility in Clint, Tex., in June were shocking: children who had not bathed in weeks, toddlers without diapers, sick babies being cared for by other children. As a human rights lawyer and then as a political scientist, I have spoken to the victims of some of the worst things that human beings have ever done to each other, in places ranging from Cambodia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Sri Lanka. What’s happening at the border doesn’t match the scale of these horrors, but if, as appears to be the case, these harsh conditions have been intentionally inflicted on children as part a broader plan to deter others from migrating, then it meets the definition of a mass atrocity: a deliberate, systematic attack on civilians. And like past atrocities, it is being committed by a complex organizational structure made up of people at all different levels of involvement.
Thinking of what’s happening in this way gives us a repertoire of tools with which to fight the abuses, beyond the usual exhortations to call our representatives and donate to border charities.
Those of us who want to stop what’s happening need to think about all the different individuals playing a role in the systematic mistreatment of migrant children and how we can get them to stop participating. We should focus most on those who have less of a personal commitment to the abusive policies that are being carried out.
Cronin-Furman argues that the problem is that many of the people involved in what’s happening see themselves as just doing their jobs–or “following orders” as many people involved in the Nazi’s “final solution” did.
Testimony from trials and truth commissions has revealed that many atrocity perpetrators think of what they’re doing as they would think of any other day job. While the leaders who order atrocities may be acting out of strongly held ideological beliefs or political survival concerns, the so-called “foot soldiers” and the middle men and women are often just there for the paycheck.
This lack of personal investment means that these participants in atrocities can be much more susceptible to pressure than national leaders. Specifically, they are sensitive to social pressure, which has been shown to have played a huge role in atrocity commission and desistance in the Holocaust, Rwanda and elsewhere. The campaign to stop the abuses at the border should exploit this sensitivity and put social pressure on those involved in enforcing the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Read the rest at the NYT.
So . . . what stories are you following today?
Yesterday JJ posted a link to this brief post by Melissa McEwan:
I was managing to keep a lid on the bitterness about Hillary Clinton not being our president until I saw Donald Trump start to govern.
It’s going precisely the way I thought it would, so it’s not like I’m surprised.
It’s just that seeing it actually begin to unfold is triggering a deep well of resentment, and a profound grief, that I was only able to keep at bay until he was sworn in.
And now I cannot contain it. I am angry and resentful and grief-stricken in a way I have never felt before.
That’s exactly how I feel. The time from the election to the inauguration was bad enough, but now everything feels unreal and frightening. Last night on Rachel Maddow’s show, Dan Rather called it a “Twilight Zone feeling.” I think it’s likely that a majority of Americans feel this way. A man with the temperament and personality of a 6-year-old–sometimes a 3-year-old–is sitting in the White House watching Fox News and plotting the destruction of our country. And even more horrifying, he has the power to blow up the entire world if he so chooses.
I recall feeling desperate and enraged after the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush, but this is so much worse. I feel anxious and on-edge all the time. I’m afraid to get too far from my news sources for fear that he will do something drastic; and even if I try to escape into a book or TV show or video game I just can’t shake this feeling of everything being out-of-kilter. The only difference I can see between tRump and a dictator like Kim Jong Un is that we have a few checks and balances in place–for now–to keep our child-leader from killing or jailing his critics.
Apparently the DC police feel empowered to arrest and charge journalists now. The New York Times reports: Felony Charges for Journalists Arrested at Inauguration Protests Raise Fears for Press Freedom.
At least six journalists were charged with felony rioting after they were arrested while covering the violent protests that took place just blocks from President Trump’s inauguration parade in Washington on Friday, according to police reports and court documents.
The journalists were among 230 people detained in the anti-Trump demonstrations, during which protesters smashed the glass of commercial buildings and lit a limousine on fire.
The charges against the jouMexirnalists — Evan Engel, Alexander Rubinstein, Jack Keller, Matthew Hopard, Shay Horse and Aaron Cantu — have been denounced by organizations dedicated to press freedom. All of those arrested have denied participating in the violence.
“These felony charges are bizarre and essentially unheard of when it comes to journalists here in America who were simply doing their job,” said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Pen America. “They weren’t even in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were in the right place.”
Carlos Lauria, a spokesman and senior program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, called the charges “completely inappropriate and excessive,” and the organization has asked that they be dropped immediately.
“Our concern is that these arrests could send a chilling message to journalists that cover future protests,” Mr. Lauria added.
Witnesses reported that sweeping arrests during the parade targeted rioters, protesters and journalists indiscriminately. A lawyer representing dozens of people arrested, Mark Goldstone, told The Associated Press that the police had “basically identified a location that had problems and arrested everyone in that location.”
Yesterday, tRump began pressing forward with his promised Muslim ban, his fantasy border wall, and his threat to “defund” sanctuary cities by issuing a series of executive orders. He also threatened to reopen CIA “black sites” and reinstate Bush-era torture techniques. On Twitter, he even threatened to send Federal troops into Chicago to crack down on crime!
This isn’t creeping fascism; it’s galloping fascism.
The good news is that the White House and government agencies are leaking like crazy. Vox obtained leaked copies of draft executive orders: Read leaked drafts of 4 White House executive orders on Muslim ban, end to DREAMer program, and more. Yesterday the White House released two of the orders that were exactly like the drafts; therefore Vox decided to report on the others.
The two orders released today by the Trump administration, and delivered yesterday by our source, start the process of building President Trump’s famous “wall,” and make it easier for immigration agents to arrest, detain, and deport unauthorized immigrants at the border and in the US. Those policies are explained in detail here.
The four remaining draft orders obtained by Vox focus on immigration, terrorism, and refugee policy. They wouldn’t ban all Muslim immigration to the US, breaking a Trump promise from early in his campaign, but they would temporarily ban entries from seven majority-Muslim countries and bar all refugees from coming to the US for several months. They would make it harder for immigrants to come to the US to work, make it easier to deport them if they use public services, and put an end to the Obama administration program that protected young “DREAMer” immigrants from deportation.In all, the combined documents would represent one of the harshest crackdowns on immigrants — both those here and those who want to come here — in memory.
Read the rest at Vox.
Last night, ABC News ran an interview with tRump conducted by David Muir. I haven’t watched the whole thing yet, but the clips I’ve seen are terrifying. The interview confirmed what we already know–that tRump is a childish, ignorant buffoon who is clearly incompetent to hold any public office, much less be POTUS.
The Washington Post has published the entire interview with annotations by Aaron Blake. I can’t bring myself to post excerpts, but please read the whole thing at the Post. You watch the video there too if you can stand it.
tRump is running around saying dangerous things, apparently without even consulting the Cabinet members who would be charged with carrying out his orders.
Two of the officials who will be in charge of carrying out President Donald Trump’s terrorism detainee policies, Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, were “blindsided” by reports of a draft executive order that would require the CIA to reconsider using interrogation techniques that some consider torture, according to sources with knowledge of their thinking.
Lawmakers in both parties denounced the draft order on Wednesday even as White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he had “no idea where it came from” and that it is “not a White House document.”
It’s unclear who wrote the draft order or whether Trump will sign it, though members of Congress in both parties were taking that prospect seriously on Wednesday.
Some members of Congress said the document raised the specter of Trump following through on campaign vows to bring back waterboarding and other George W. Bush-era torture practices, which many lawmakers consider a shameful chapter of U.S. history.
The document, obtained and published by The New York Times and Washington Post, calls for the director of national intelligence to review whether to bring back the CIA’s infamous black-site prisons. Those were secret overseas facilities where the CIA carried out brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects from 2001 to 2006, as documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 investigation into the issue.
The draft order says terrorism suspects in U.S. custody will not be subject to “torture” or “degrading treatment.” But it characterizes a 2016 law barring torture as “a significant statutory barrier” and would revoke an executive order signed by President Barack Obama stating that suspects must be treated in compliance with international law.
I’m going to give you the rest of the news in a link dump, because I’m just too traumatized to do more.
WaPo: Maybe Trump isn’t ‘lying’. Jennifer Rubin suggests that Trump may not be able to tell truth from fantasy.
New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman asks “Is Donald Trump’s War With CNN Personal?”
Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: Trump White House Senior Staff Have Private RNC Email Accounts.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and try to stay calm just for today. I love you all.
I full admit to being out of the loop and away from the news recently. So, let’s see what I can do to catch us up! First, you have to check out Fusion‘s Gallery of Girls at the Women’s World Cup Ticker Tape Parade. I’ve put a few up for this post in celebration of our USA Woman!!! The Ticker Tape Parade was the first ever given for a woman’s sports team. These kids are just plain cute and excited!!
Nick Gillespie writing for The Daily Beast has some good analysis up on why Hillary Clinton’s strategy of laying low at the moment is brilliant.
Since announcing for president, Clinton has granted exactly one televsion interview, with CNN’s Brianna Keilar, and smartly used the occasion to attack the Republican field for their weak-tea responses to Donald Trump’s muy stupido assertion that Mexican immigrants are mostly rapists. Indicating that she was “disappointed” (read: elated) “in those comments,” Clinton went on to note that her Republican rivals “are all in the same general area on immigration.”
The worst part of that? She’s absolutely right. Once the party of near-open borders (watch this video from 1980 in which Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush one up each other on praising the contributions of illegal immigrants), today’s GOP, with minor exceptions, vilifies the wretched yearning to breathe free, at least when they come from Latin America.
In 2004, George Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. Eight years later, Mitt Romney—who counseled that illegal immigrants should practice “self-deportation”—pulled just 27 percent. In the GOP “autopsy” of Romney’s failure in 2012, the authors wrote, “If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence.” Given the way that the current candidates have been non-reacting to Trump, that might be the best outcome the Republican Party could hope for.
Against such a backdrop, Clinton is right to keep mum, except when making easy layups against her opponents. Let Bernie Sanders whip Democrats into a progressive frenzy and then step in withvague nods toward equality and growth for all. She knows full well that Sanders is not her real rival—that will be the GOP nominee, not a frothing-at-the-mouth socialist from a state with a population smaller than Washington, D.C.’s.
In a speech Monday at the famously progressive New School in lower Manhattan, Clinton will lay out her economic theory of the case, and her main theory is that the incomes of “everyday Americans” have remained too low for too long. At a moment when the left wing of the Democratic Party is flexing its muscles—and flocking to the rallies of her socialist challenger, Bernie Sanders—she will stick with the liberal populism that has dominated the opening months of her campaign, contrasting the good times on Wall Street and corporate boardrooms with the wage stagnation of the middle class.
But an outline of the speech provided by a campaign aide suggested that she will strike less of a rabble-rousing tone than Sanders, challenging “top-down” Republican policies without suggesting that capitalism is inherently rigged against families on the bottom.
The speech is supposed to be a vision statement, not a laundry list of agenda items, and Clinton intends to roll out a series of specific policy proposals in the coming weeks. But the aide said she will preview several of those proposals, including more generous family leave policies, additional tax increases for the wealthy, and new corporate governance rules that would discourage short-term quick-buck thinking.
President Obama has been describing his own policies as “middle-class economics,” and Clinton is walking a fine line as she tries to distinguish herself from her former rival (when she ran for president) and boss (when she served as secretary of state) without criticizing his policies, which remain broadly popular among Democrats. In her speech, she will praise Obama for dragging the economy back from the brink of a depression in 2009, and for specific actions like his recent push to expand overtime pay. But even though markets have thrived and unemployment has drooped under Obama, her primary focus will be middle-class incomes that have barely outpaced inflation over the last four decades, a problem she will describe as the defining economic challenge facing the next president.
Clinton’s aide said she will discuss some of the structural forces conspiring against sustainable wage growth, such as globalization, automation, and even consumer-friendly “sharing economy” firms like Uber and Airbnb that are creating new relationships between management and labor (and which now employ many Obama administration alumni). But she will argue that policy choices have contributed to the problem, and that she can fix it.
“There’s a commonly held view that there’s nothing to do about some of these global trends—a kind of ‘it is what it is’ thinking,” says Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden, a longtime Clinton confidante who advised the campaign about the speech. “Hillary has never given in to that kind of pessimism.”
The campaign provided an unmistakably left-leaning list of advisers who were consulted about the speech and the economic agenda Clinton plans to roll out in the coming weeks. They included some of Obama’s most liberal former aides, like Christina Romer, who chaired his Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, who was Vice President Biden’s chief economist. They also included progressive economists like Joseph Stiglitz, Jacob Hacker and Heather Boushey. Clinton plans to refer to the prosperity America enjoyed during her husband Bill’s presidency, but Wall Street-friendly Clintonworld centrists like former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin were notably absent from the list.
The Republicans are not only looking positively xenophobic. They’re looking overtly racist as the dissection of Boehner’s foray into Confederate Flag Politics continues. This is Dana Milbank’s analysis at WAPO.
Thursday’s Confederate flag debacle is a direct consequence of House Speaker John Boehner’s leadership strategy. Calculating that compromise with the Democratic minority will cause his conservative caucus to oust him from the speakership, Boehner has essentially chosen to pass a legislative agenda with only Republican votes. Because this leaves him a thin margin for error, it empowers the most extreme conservatives in the House, who have an incentive to withhold their votes if they don’t get everything they want.
This leadership style also bestows outsize power on conservative groups such as Heritage Action, an outgrowth of the Heritage Foundation. The group gets much credit for the 2013 government shutdown, and it has been influential in keeping the Export-Import Bank from being reauthorized and in getting a committee named to probe the Benghazi, Libya, attacks. Heritage Action also had much to do with the initial defeat of trade legislation last month — and it celebrated as Boehner abandoned his attempt to punish lawmakers who voted against it.
On the education bill, Heritage demanded that the legislation effectively take the federal government out of education policy by creating no-strings-attached block grants to states. When the bill came up in February without such a provision, conservatives balked, and Boehner’s team had to retreat. This time, leaders bought conservative votes by making such an amendment in order. The amendment failed, but the concession earned just enough conservative votes for the bill to pass by a bare 218-to-213 after extensive arm-twisting.The flag fiasco followed a similar ideological dynamic. Republican leaders were coming up short on votes for the legislation, in part because some Southern conservatives were angry that the bill included language, adopted by the House in a voice vote, blocking the sale and display of the flag at parks and cemeteries. So the GOP leadership agreed to let these holdouts have a vote to reinstate the Confederate flag.
The result was embarrassment for a party that already has trouble with non-white America. Typical of the series of outraged speakers was Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who displayed the flag in the well of the House. “Had this Confederate battle flag prevailed in war 150 years ago,” he said. “I would be here as a slave.”
Psychologists and the CIA collaborated to commit torture. Here’s some stunning information on the W Bush administration’s interrogation procedures from the NYT.
The 542-page report, which examines the involvement of the nation’s psychologists and their largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, with the harsh interrogation programs of the Bush era, raises repeated questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.
The report, completed this month, concludes that some of the association’s top officials, including its ethics director, sought to curry favor with Pentagon officials by seeking to keep the association’s ethics policies in line with the Defense Department’s interrogation policies, while several prominent outside psychologists took actions that aided the C.I.A.’s interrogation program and helped protect it from growing dissent inside the agency.
The association’s ethics office “prioritized the protection of psychologists — even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior — above the protection of the public,” the report said.
Two former presidents of the psychological association were on a C.I.A. advisory committee, the report found. One of them gave the agency an opinion that sleep deprivation did not constitute torture, and later held a small ownership stake in a consulting company founded by two men who oversaw the agency’s interrogation program, it said.
The association’s ethics director, Stephen Behnke, coordinated the group’s public policy statements on interrogations with a top military psychologist, the report said, and then received a Pentagon contract to help train interrogators while he was working at the association, without the knowledge of the association’s board. Mr. Behnke did not respond to a request for comment.
Norman Byrd at The Examiner reports that climate change deniers basically are conspiracy theorists.
A new study concentrating on those that deny climate change is an actual process has found that deniers are more likely as not involve themselves in conspiratorial thinking as well. The authors of the study found that many of the climate change deniers called themselves skeptics when they weren’t exhibiting actual skepticism at all — just an unhealthy dissemination of conspiracy theories through unsubstantiated allegations. Furthermore, study authors find that such contradictory maneuverings have been detrimental to the world at large, causing greater distrust in science and scientists and slowing efforts to find and implement solutions to the accumulating effects of global warming.
The Guardian reported July 8 that a recent study headed by experimental psychologist Prof. Stephan Lewandowsky at the University of Bristol concluded, after a blind test where students gauged whether comment material they read was of a conspiratorial nature or of sound scientific research (but were told all material was from an unnamed scientific paper), that as much as one-fifth of the comments contained strong conspiracy theory ideation. The study itself built upon an earlier published study wherein Lewandowsky and a team of social scientists found that some 40 percent of those writing so-called skeptical pieces concerning global warming had used some form of imagery that conjures up conspiracy theories.
Lewandowsky told The Guardian, “I do not recall ever having seen such a strong effect in 30 years of behavioural research, and I have certainly never encountered ratings that favoured the extreme end of the scale to the extent observed here.”
The study, published in Journal of Social and Political Psychology, further lays out the difference between skepticism and conspiratorial denial. He explained to The Guardian that conspiracism was not skepticism and that self-appointed skeptics were often simply conspiracy theory propagators, their arguments “lacking in scholarly incisiveness” and “detracts from scholarly critique.” He also noted that this type of thinking has become a “direct pipeline” from blogs to right-wing media to, at times, political and government officials.
What’s your reading and blogging list today?
Recently Dakinikat wrote about how gentrification has affected her adopted hometown, New Orleans, since Katrina. Well this morning I read some surprising news about Harvard Square–a place I’m very attached to because I either lived nearby, worked, or hung out there for so many years. I’ve written about it before of course. I moved here from Indiana in 1967. It was the “Summer of Love,” and Harvard Square was the center of local hippie-dom, plus there were endless bookstores to feed my addiction to reading and possessing books.
So this morning I read in the The Boston Globe that Chinese billionaire Gerald L. Chan has been quietly buying up prime real estate in Harvard Square, and he now has “enough clout to influence the square’s look and character for years to come.” Harvard Square has already changed a great deal since the late 1960s, of course, so I don’t know why this should shock me. But the Square is still unique–a special place, with a traditional look and feel. What will happen to it now? From the Globe article:
First he grabbed an apartment and retail building in the heart of Harvard Square. Months later, he bought another apartment and retail complex on the other side of John F. Kennedy Street. Then came the deal for a building known as the American Express travel office, quickly followed by the purchase of apartments behind the Harvard Lampoon office.
Over the course of 18 months — and without calling attention to himself — billionaire businessman Gerald L. Chan spent about $120 million to amass an impressive portfolio of Harvard Square real estate that includes nearly a dozen properties….
“Take Harvard University out of the equation, and I don’t know of anyone who owns more real estate in Harvard Square than he does,” said Peter Bekarian, executive vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial real estate firm in Boston.
Chan and his brother, Ronald, control the Hang Lung Group, a leading Hong Kong real estate development and management company that has made them billionaires. Forbes pegs their combined wealth at nearly $3 billion.
Chan is a Harvard graduate who now lives in Newton, MA. He says he loves the place and he’s just investing in “properties that have the potential to generate a good return.” He says he doesn’t have a plan to remake the Harvard Square area according to his own vision, but some local business people have expressed concern–and some have abruptly been put out of business. In their places, Chan has installed business owned by his children.
Some tenants in Chan’s newly acquired buildings, including local landmarks such as UpStairs on the Square and nearby Leo’s Place diner, did not have leases renewed and shut down earlier this year.
Chan paid $6.8 million for 93 Winthrop St., where he is replacing UpStairs on the Square with another restaurant, Parsnip. His daughter, Ashley Chan, is listed in corporate documents as one of the managers of the Morningside-controlled entity that operates the restaurant. UpStairs co-owner Mary-Catherine Deibel said, “It was time to wind down the business after 31 years.”
New restaurants — the Noodle Project and Night Market, a Japanese eatery — will replace Leo’s Place, a haunt of movie actor Ben Affleck, and Indian bistro Tamarind Bay, on JFK Street. Ash Chan, Gerald’s son, is operating both. He’s a West Coast restaurateur known here for Churn2, a Harvard Square stand that services liquid-nitrogen-chilled ice cream.
I guess we local peons will just have to wait and see what happens…
Speaking of billionaires, Brian Beutler has written a response to the views on the Affordable Care Act expressed by Charles Koch in his truly strange op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that I wrote about on Thursday. From Salon, Greediest family on earth: Proof Koch brothers have just one political principle.
Beutler argues that the Kochs opposition to “Obamacare” is less about ideology than selfishness, greed, and desire for power.
Would you believe me if I told you that the Koch brothers actively participate in, and benefit from, a healthcare system in which the government subsidizes private insurance; carriers are prohibited from discriminating against the sick; the young cross-subsidize the old; and qualified beneficiaries who opt out suffer a big financial hit?
Well, they do. Not Obamacare, of course — they want to repeal that. But as employers, they can and do compensate their employees with tax-exempt health insurance benefits, their employees are all part of one risk pool, and everyone contributes the same amount for equal coverage….
despite the fact that employer-sponsored health insurance resembles Obamacare in many ways, the Koch network is not actively trying to repeal ERISA — the law that regulates employer-sponsored health plans — or to repeal the tax expenditure that allows them to advantageously provide the benefits they claim they’re working so hard to maintain.
So why do they so vehemently oppose the Obama health care plan?
To the Koch brothers, there’s apparently a big difference between government subsidizing and regulating health insurance for their employees and government subsidizing and regulating insurance for the self-employed, individuals whose employers don’t provide health benefits, and the unemployed.
This might seem strangely contradictory, unless you stop and consider what the existence of a universal right to health insurance coverage means for employers and the people who work for them. When the Congressional Budget Office updated its analysis of the Affordable Care Act’s labor market effects, it concluded that the existence of a coverage guarantee for all, and subsidies for many, would reduce employment by more than 2 million people over the coming decade. Opponents of the law pounced on this as proof that Obamacare would be a job killer, but for the most part what CBO actually meant was that Obamacare would shift the center of power between workers and employers a bit closer to the workers.
For some of those workers, that shift will mean the freedom to quit — hence the “job killing” canard. But for other workers — current and prospective — it will mean the freedom to ask for more money. All thanks to a program that’s financed largely by taxing people like Charles and David Koch. And I think therein lies the key to understanding why they’re devoting so much time and so many resources to destroying Obamacare.
That’s a very interesting argument, one I never thought about. Read the rest at the link.
At The Washington Post, the former head of the CIA interrogation program Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. defends the Bush policy on torture. I ran the CIA interrogation program. No matter what the Senate report says, I know it worked.
On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify and release hundreds of pages of its report on U.S. terrorist interrogation practices. Certain senators have proclaimed how devastating the findings are, saying the CIA’s program was unproductive, badly managed and misleadingly sold. Unlike the committee’s staff, I don’t have to examine the program through a rearview mirror. I was responsible for administering it, and I know that it produced critical intelligence that helped decimate al-Qaeda and save American lives.
Rodriguez says the committee never questioned him or other CIA leaders and they were not permitted to review the report. He says the committee began with conclusions about the program and simply looked for evidence to support those conclusions. On the “harsh” interrogation methods the CIA used, he writes that they were approved “the highest levels of the government,” were declared legal by the Justice Department, and were subject to Congressional oversight, and most of all they were effective.
When we captured high-ranking al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida in 2002, we knew he could help us track down other terrorists and might provide information to allow us to stop another attack. Those who suggest we should have questioned him more gently have never felt the burden of protecting innocent lives.
Second is effectiveness. I don’t know what the committee thinks it found in the files, but I know what I saw in real time: a program that provided critical information about the operations and leadership of al-Qaeda. Intelligence work is like doing a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box top and with millions of extra pieces. The committee staff started with the box top, the pieces in place, and pronounced the puzzle a snap.
Perhaps so, but Rodrigues seems to be ignoring the primary point about torture: it is immoral. Sometimes a civilized people must choose to accept some risks to safety in order to remain civilized. As for the government officials, Congressional committees, and the Bush Justice Department, they too should be subject to criticism and even prosecution. Unfortunately the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress took those options off the table.
There’s a new AP report (via the Christian Science Monitor) on the Air Force nuke team cheating scandal: Did report on nuclear Air Force overlook signs of trouble?
Service leaders took an assessment last year of the nuclear Air Force as an encouraging thumbs-up. Yet, in the months that followed, signs emerged that the nuclear missile corps was suffering from breakdowns in discipline, morale, training and leadership.
The former Air Force chief of staff who signed off on the 2013 report is now being asked to dig for root causes of problems that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says threaten to undermine public trust in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
The Air Force may have taken an overly rosy view of the report — it was not uniformly positive — by a Pentagon advisory group headed by retired Gen. Larry Welch. The study described the nuclear Air Force as “thoroughly professional, disciplined” and performing effectively.
It sure sounds like it.
The inquiry itself may have missed signs of the kinds of trouble documented in recent months in a series ofAssociated Press reports. In April 2013, the month the Welch report came out, an Air Force officer wrote that the nuclear missile unit at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., was suffering from “rot,” including lax attitudes and a poor performance by launch officers on a March 2013 inspection.
An exam-cheating scandal at a nuclear missile base prompted the Air Force to remove nine midlevel commanders and accept the resignation of the base’s top commander. Dozens of officers implicated in the cheating face disciplinary action, and some might be kicked out, the Air Force said last week.
Welch began the new Hagel-directed review in early March, teaming with retired Navy Adm. John C. Harvey, who was not involved in the earlier reviews but has extensive nuclear experience. Much rides on what they find, not least because Hagel and the White House want to remove any doubt about the safety and security of the U.S. arsenal and the men and women entrusted with it.
Lots more to read at the link.
A little science news . . .
Apparently, there have been some videos floating around of terrified bison stampeding out of Yellowstone Park. Since there was a small earthquake there recently, some people have been asking if these are signs the “supervolcano” is coming soon? From Discovery News:
Recent videos of animals fleeing Yellowstone Park have many tourists and local residents concerned that a volcanic eruption may be imminent.
After earthquakes and tsunamis, stories often circulate of animals acting strangely or seeming to know of the disaster long before humans. Animals that detect impending earthquakes don’t have more senses than humans; they just have much higher sensitivity. Dogs have a remarkable sense of smell, birds can migrate using celestial cues, and bats can locate food with echoes. Elephants can detect faint vibrations and tremors from fantastic distances.
It’s not some unexplainable gift: Animals may sense unusual vibrations or changes in air pressure coming from one direction that suggest they should move in the opposite direction.
If a herd of animals are seen fleeing before an earthquake, all that is needed is for one or two of them to skittishly sense danger; the rest will follow — not necessarily due to some supernatural earthquake-detecting sense, but simple herd instinct.
Scientists pooh pooh these paranoid fantasies. From The Week: Don’t Sweat the Supervolcanoes:
Beneath the pine forests and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park is a huge chamber of magma, which by some measures makes the park’s volcano the world’s largest. The last three eruptions at Yellowstone occurred 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago, respectively.
Scientists estimate that another mega-eruption — which would send billions of cubic meters of choking ash up to 15 miles in the air, blackening the skies and drastically changing the climate — could possibly occur in the next 100,000 years. Such an event would present a huge danger to human civilization — killing millions in the initial blast, and then disrupting agriculture, infrastructure, and the global economy for many years to come.
But although the recent earthquake was the strongest in the area since 1980, experts say there’s nothing to fear. So what signs would indicate the supervolcano is imminent? And what could be do about it anyway?
If we were moving toward a massive geological event, then we should see massive geological signs of change. We could expect large earthquakes as opposed to the small rumble we saw last week, which registered a humble 4.9 on the Richter scale. We should also see the earth around the volcano swelling by tens or hundreds of meters, as opposed to the centimeters of uplift we see regularly.
But for the sake of it, let’s assume Yellowstone will erupt tomorrow. Could we do anything about it? Although some scientists are experimenting with the idea, to date there have been no successful efforts to stop or reduce a volcanic eruption. These kinds of geological events remain stubbornly outside human control even on the smallest scale — and Yellowstone is absolutely the largest scale.
If Yellowstone blows in 10,000 or 50,000 years, maybe technology will have been developed to mitigate or contain its effects. But if it unexpectedly blows tomorrow, we can do nothing whatever to stop it. At best, with warning signs, we could conduct an evacuation from the surrounding area.
Read more at the link.
Those are the stories that caught my eye today? What’s on your mind? Please share your thoughts and links in the comments
I’ve found some interesting links for you this morning. Some of them are fun and some are rather shocking. Drink your coffee and settle in for a little bit of this and that. Oh, you may want to hold off on food or make sure it’s completely digested before you read a few of these. For some reason, I’ve found a lot of stories that don’t seem to contribute to holding food down.
I’m not sure if any of you have seen Zero Dark Thirty yet. I’m still trying to decide if I should live through the first few minutes and embrace the controversy. Here’s an interesting panel of Ex-CIA officials that were supposed to discuss the film that went elsewhere instead. It’s a compelling and disturbing read via Slate.
Former CIA director Michael Hayden led the panel. He was joined by Jose Rodriguez, who ran the agency’s National Clandestine Service, and John Rizzo, who served as the CIA’s chief legal officer. The stories they told, and the reasons they offered, shook up my assumptions about the interrogation program. They might shake up yours, too. Here’s what they said.
1. The detention program was a human library. The panelists didn’t use that term, but it reflects what they described. After detainees were interrogated, the CIA kept them around for future inquiries and to monitor their communications. Sometimes this yielded a nugget, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s message to his fellow detainees: “Do not say a word about the courier.” Rodriguez said this incident shows “the importance of having a place like a black site to take these individuals, because we could use that type of communication. We could use them as background information to check a name.”
2. EITs were used to break the will to resist, not to extract information directly. Hayden acknowledged that prisoners might say anything to stop their suffering. (Like the other panelists, he insisted EITs weren’t torture.) That’s why “we never asked anybody anything we didn’t know the answer to, while they were undergoing the enhanced interrogation techniques. The techniques were not designed to elicit truth in the moment.” Instead, EITs were used in a controlled setting, in which interrogators knew the answers and could be sure they were inflicting misery only when the prisoner said something false. The point was to create an illusion of godlike omniscience and omnipotence so that the prisoner would infer, falsely, that his captors always knew when he was lying or withholding information. More broadly, said Hayden, the goal was “to take someone who had come into our custody absolutely defiant and move them into a state or a zone of cooperation” by convincing them that “you are no longer in control of your destiny. You are in our hands.” Thereafter, the prisoner would cooperate without need for EITs. Rodriguez explained: “Once you got through the enhanced interrogation process, then the real interrogation began. … The knowledge base was so good that these people knew that we actually were not going to be fooled. It was an essential tool to validate that the people were being truthful. “
3. The human library was part of the will-breaking process. “Because we had other prisoners in our black sites, we would be able to check information against others. And they [detainees] knew that,” said Rodriguez. In this way, simply holding detainees in opaque confinement gave interrogators leverage.
4. We had tested EITs on ourselves. Rodriguez said he quickly accepted the use of EITs in part because “I knew that many of these procedures were applied to our own servicemen. Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers had gone through this.” If these methods were safe and moral to use on Americans, weren’t they safe and moral to use on our enemies?
5. Freelancing was forbidden. Rizzo outlined some rules for EITs: No interrogator was allowed to use a waterboard without first submitting written justification, and only the CIA director could approve it. So, for what it’s worth, there were internal checks on the practice, at least because the CIA would be politically accountable for what its interrogators did.
6. Rules were a weakness, and ambiguity was leverage. While citing the program’s rules as a moral defense, the panelists also groused that the rules cost them leverage. KSM, for instance, noticed a time limit on waterboarding. “Pretty quickly, he recognized that within 10 seconds we would stop pouring water,” said Rodriguez. “He started to count with his fingers, up to 10, just to let us know that the time was up.” Hayden said that when the incoming Obama administration ruled out EITs, he requested a caveat: “unless otherwise authorized by the president.” This, he explained, would create “ambiguity” so that anyone captured in the future couldn’t be “quite sure what would happen” to them.
7. EITs were useful as an implicit threat. Hayden said only a third of the detainees required EITs. But he acknowledged that “the existence of the option may have influenced” the rest.
8. The library rationale withered. The detainees’ value as constantly accessible sources didn’t mean they could be kept forever. They were human beings, too, and this created political and international problems. Over time, their intelligence value sank below the PR cost of keeping them at black sites. “When I became director in 2006, I concluded that, number one, we are not the nation’s jailers,” said Hayden. “We are the nation’s intelligence service. And so there just can’t be an endless detention program.” Accordingly, he transferred a dozen detainees out of CIA custody, “not because their intelligence value had become zero … but because the intelligence value of most of them had edged off to a point that other factors were becoming more dominant in the equation.”
9. The library became less necessary as we developed other sources. Hayden said he re-evaluated the program in 2006 based in part on the declining need for it: “How much more did we know about al-Qaida now? How many more human and other intelligence penetrations of al-Qaida did we now have, compared to where we were, almost in extremis, in 2002?” There was less need to keep the human books on the shelf, now that the CIA could download information through other channels.
10. EITs liberated detainees from religious bondage. Rodriguez said Abu Zubaydah eventually “told us that we should use waterboarding … on all the brothers,” because
the brothers needed to have religious justification to talk, to provide information. However, they would not be expected by Allah to go beyond their capabilities [of] resistance. So once they felt that they were there, they would then become compliant and provide information. So he basically recommended to us that we needed to submit the brothers to this type of procedure. … As a matter of fact, it would help them reach the level where they would become compliant and provide information.
Hayden said the Abu Zubaydah story “was important for my own soul-searching on this.”
We’ve had a number of celebrities talk about running for public office and we’ve had a number of them dive in. Well, here’s a celeb talking about running for the senate that will make you think twice about celebrity and gravity. If the story on torture didn’t make your tummy a bit queasy, maybe the thought of Senator Geraldo Rivera will.
On his radio show this afternoon, Geraldo Rivera announced he might run for Senate in his home state of New Jersey.
“Fasten your seatbelt,” he told his audience and Judge Andrew Napolitano. “I am and have been in touch with some people in the Republican Party in New Jersey. I am truly contemplating running for Senate against Frank Lautenberg or Cory Booker in New Jersey.”
Napolitano praised Rivera’s potential decision, saying he’d do everything within the limits of his Fox News contract to support the campaign because he is “a rare understander of the nature of human freedom and the role of government in our lives.”
“I figure, at my age, if I’m going to do it, I’ve got to do it,” Rivera added. He praised Newark Mayor and rumored 2014 Senate candidate Cory Booker but noted that there doesn’t seem to be a formidable GOP member lined up for a challenge.
Later in the show, Rivera said that his desire to nationalize New York’s “stop-and-frisk” policy could be part of his platform. As a national police program, he said, it would decrease the chances for the policy’s controversial racial profiling.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) associates, furious about fellow Republican Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) calling the Floridian “nuts” and “naïve” over his immigration reform efforts, are hitting Vitter where it hurts.
“David Vitter has done some nuttier things in his life,” a source close to Rubio wrote in an unsolicited email to POLITICO.
That’s a not-at-all subtle reference to Vitter’s 2007 admission that his phone number appeared on a client list of a Washington, D.C. madam. A New Orleans-based prostitute and madam have also, separately, accused Vitter of being a client, but he has denied those charges.
Asked for comment about the jab, Vitter’s press secretary didn’t respond to two emails. A receptionist at Vitter’s Washington office said the press staffer “must be away from his desk.”
Vitter’s attack on Rubio, on conservative Laura Ingraham’s talk show Wednesday, came as he steps up his public profile in advance of a potential 2015 gubernatorial bid. Vitter is moving to re-establish his conservative and populist bona fides.
You know that austerity doesn’t work and hasn’t worked. Here’s a great post on that by Pat Garofalo. It’s also a good reason to question Paul Ryan’s understanding of simple math.
Most of the recent economic data out of Europe has been exceedingly grim. A record high number of workers across the Eurozone are unemployed. Economies are shrinking. Debts are rising.
The anecdotes, though, are even worse. Hospitals are asking patients to supply their own syringes due to lack of funds. Trees on public land are being cut down by workers desperate for firewood to warm their homes. An entire generation of young workers is going to experience lower wages for the rest of their lives, due to years of being unemployed while in their 20s.
At this point, it’s safe to say that Europe’s response to the financial crisis of 2008 and its ensuing recession has failed. Austerity packages that were meant to jumpstart business investment and reduce what were viewed as unsustainable debt loads have instead crippled growth and caused untold amounts of human misery.
America, meanwhile, eschewed austerity for stimulus in the wake of the ’08 crisis. The result has been a return to slow, steady, if not overwhelming growth. But for Republicans in Congress, who constantly warn about the menace of the European social safety net, European austerity is a model to be emulated. And their insistence on cutting government spending no matter its effect on growth is bad news for the fragile economic recovery.
With the so-called fiscal “cliff” firmly behind them and debt ceiling sufficiently punted away for a few months, House Republicans are turning their attention back to the federal budget process. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), fresh off his failed run for the vice-presidency, plans to release a budget that will balance in 10 years. Such a move, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, will require cutting one-sixth to one-third of most of the federal government, depending on how Ryan structures it.
But in the shorter term, congressional Republicans are planning to use a few pending deadlines to secure deep cuts in government spending. For instance, the current round of funding for the federal government expires in March, giving Republicans leverage to push for reductions. “The CR [Continuing Resolution]– it’s one of the areas where there is indeed an absolute deadline. Washington and Congress respond to crises and deadlines, and we need to address the spending side of the equation,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA).
Ryan himself has also said that the $1.2 billion in spending cuts known as the “sequester” are going to go into effect that same month. “I think the sequester’s going to happen, because that $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, we can’t lose those spending cuts,” Ryan said. The sequester will knock 0.7 percent off of economic growth in 2013, according to MacroEconomic Advisers.
Well, just when you thought you knew everything about all those priests and child sexual assaults along comes this story from Los Angeles. LA Archbishop Gomez has found files covered up by Cardinal Mahoney and is taking action.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Thursday night that he has relieved retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of his remaining duties and a former top aide to Mahony has stepped down from his current post, on the same night the church released thousands of pages of personnel files of priests accused of sexual abuse.
“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” Gomez said in a statement, referring to the newly released files made public by the church Thursday night just hours after a judge’s order. “The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children.”
Gomez announced that he has “informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties.”
Mahony, who retired in 2011 after more than a quarter-century at the helm of the archdiocese, has publicly apologized for mistakes he made in dealing with priests who molested children.
Gomez also said Thomas Curry, former vicar of the clergy under Mahony who was the cardinal’s point person in dealing with priests accused of molestation, has stepped down from his current job as auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese’s Santa Barbara region. Curry also issued an apology earlier this month.
Earlier Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias ordered the diocese to turn over some 30,000 pages from the confidential files of priests accused of child molestation without blacking out the names of top church officials who were responsible for handling priests accused of abuse.
The judge gave the archdiocese until Feb. 22 to turn over the files to attorneys for the alleged victims, but they were released almost immediately.
The archdiocese, the nation’s largest, had planned to black out the names of members of the church hierarchy who were responsible for the priests, and instead provide a cover sheet for each priest’s file, listing the names of top officials who handled that case. The church reversed course Wednesday after The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and plaintiff attorneys objected in court.
A record-breaking $660 million settlement in 2007 with more than 500 alleged victims paved the way for the ultimate disclosure of the tens of thousands of pages, but the archdiocese and individual priests fought to keep them secret for more than five years.
A first round of 14 priest files made public in Los Angeles nearly two weeks ago showed that Mahony and other top officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark about sexual abuse in their parishes. Those documents, released as part of an unrelated civil lawsuit, were not redacted and provided a glimpse of what could be contained in the larger release.
The files, some of them dating back decades, contain letters among top church officials, accused priests and archdiocese attorneys, complaints from parents, medical and psychological records and — in some cases — correspondence with the Vatican.
You have to hope that more church leaders like Gomez decide to do the right thing.
I hope you have found some stories to share! Some times, you just have to let what the evil men do just flow over you so you can beg the universe for justice. Then, you eat, pray, meditate, drink and hope the greater ethos takes care of them eventually. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Oh, and that last photo there is a celebrity. Can you guess who she is?
I’m back with more reads!!
Before I get started with the political news, here a very strange story from Chicago: Urooj Khan Homicide: Chicago Lottery Winner’s Death Re-Classified After Cyanide Poison Discovery
With no signs of trauma and nothing to raise suspicions, the sudden death of a Chicago man just as he was about to collect nearly $425,000 in lottery winnings was initially ruled a result of natural causes.
Nearly six months later, authorities have a mystery on their hands after medical examiners, responding to a relative’s pleas, did an expanded screening and determined that Urooj Khan, 46, died shortly after ingesting a lethal dose of cyanide. The finding has triggered a homicide investigation, the Chicago Police Department said Monday….
In June, Khan, who owned a number of dry cleaners, stopped in at a 7-Eleven near his home in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the city’s North Side and bought a ticket for an instant lottery game.
Ashur Oshana, the convenience store clerk, told The Associated Press on Monday that Khan said he had sworn off gambling after returning from the hajj, a Muslim pilgrimage, in Saudi Arabia. Khan said he wanted to lead a better life, Oshana said, but Khan bought the tickets that day and scratched off the winner in the store.
“Right away he grabbed my hand,” Oshana said. “He kissed my hand and kissed my head and gave me $100. He was really happy.”
Not long afterwards, Kahn was dead. Now police will likely exhume his body and try to find out who killed him.
Cheers, a standing ovation and a gag gift of protective headgear greeted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she returned to work on Monday after a month-long absence caused first by a stomach virus, then a fall and a concussion and finally a brief hospitalization for a blood clot.
A crowd of about 75 State Department officials greeted Clinton with a standing ovation as she walked in to the first senior staff meeting she has convened since early December, according to those present. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, noting that life in Washington is often a “contact sport, sometimes even in your own home” then presented Clinton with a gift — a regulation white Riddell football helmet emblazoned with the State Department seal, officials said.
She was also given a blue football jersey with “Clinton” and the number 112 — the record-breaking number of countries she has visited since becoming secretary of state — printed on the back. Aides said Clinton was delighted with the gifts but did not try either of them on and the meeting turned to matters of national security and diplomacy.
“She loved it. She thought it was cool. But then being Hillary Clinton, she wanted to get right to business,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Did you hear about GOP Connecticut State Rep. DebraLee Hovey, who attacked Gabby Giffords for visiting Newtown? From the Hartford Courant:
In content and syntax, state Rep. DebraLee Hovey embarrassed herself, the General Assembly and the state.
Ms. Hovey, a Republican who represents Newtown and Monroe, blasted the visit to Newtown on Friday by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, a Democrat, who met privately with local officials and families of victims of the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Gabby Gifford stay out of my towns!!” Ms. Hovey posted on Facebook over the weekend (misspelling the former Arizona congresswoman’s last name). In the comments thread, Rep. Hovey seemed to complain that she wasn’t invited (she was at a meeting in Florida at the time) and claimed the visit was political: “There was pure political motives [sic].”
How do these loony-tunes get elected? Hovey later offered a pathetic non-apologetic “apology.”
The remarks I made regarding Congresswoman Gifford’s visit were insensitive and if I offended anyone I truly apologize … My comments were meant to be protective of the privacy of the families and our community as we work to move on, and were in no way intended as an insult to Congresswoman Giffords personally. Our community has struggled greatly through this tragedy, and we are all very sensitive to the potential for this event to be exploited for political purposes. This is what I wish to avoid.
What a moronic asshole.
Read the rest of this entry »
Now that Congressional Republicans have successfully shot down President Obama’s rumored first choice for Secretary of State–Susan Rice–they are working on nixing the president’s possible pick for Secretary of Defense, Republican Chuck Hagel. Aaron Blake at The Fix:
Former senator Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) potential/likely nomination as Secretary of Defense looms this week amid a growing chorus of criticism over his past comments about Israel and his policy positions on issues including the defense budget.
It seems some are bent on defeating Hagel’s nomination before it can even become official — much as Republican senators did with potential Secretary of State pick Susan Rice just last week. In fact, the same GOP senators who scuttled the Rice pick are now expressing doubts about Hagel.
A battle over Hagel would be highly unusual — both because we just had one over Rice and because both senators nominated to Cabinet posts and Secretary of Defense nominees generally sail to confirmation.
Obama should have stuck with Rice and fought it out. Senate Republicans smell blood now. The only reason John Kerry may be approved for State is that Republicans fantasize that Massachusetts voters will repeat their past mistake of electing Scott Brown to fill an open Senate seat. This president is the worst negotiator ever. He really needs to get someone else to make deals for him. He just can’t accept the reality that Republicans hate his guts and will never give him a break, ever.
Meanwhile Rep. Darrell Issa must be drooling over the “scathing report” on the Benghazi attacks
Four State Department officials were removed from their posts on Wednesday after an independent panel criticized the “grossly inadequate” security at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi that was attacked on Sept. 11, leading to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, resigned. Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and another official in the diplomatic security office whom officials would not identify were relieved of their duties. So was Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary who had responsibility for the North Africa region. The four officials, a State Department spokeswoman said, “have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”
The report by the independent panel has criticized officials in State’s bureau for Diplomatic Security displaying a “lack of proactive leadership.” It also said that some in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs “showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.”
The report did not criticize more senior officials, including Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary for management, who has vigorously defended the State Department’s decision-making on Benghazi to the Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
At a news conference at the State Department on Wednesday, Thomas R. Pickering, a former ambassador who led the independent review, said that most of the blame should fall on officials in the two bureaus.
But that isn’t going to stop Republicans from trying to hang the blame around Hillary Clinton’s neck.
Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn., slated to be the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee in 2013, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Wednesday that Clinton “has to come before us. I think it’s imperative.” ‘
Corker and other members of Congress were given a classified briefing on the report and afterwards he insisted that Clinton must testify before she leaves her post and the Senate votes on confirmation of her successor.
The secretary was slated to attend briefings on the Hill this week but has been recovering from the flu and a concussion she suffered in a recent fainting episode.
Of course the right wing conspiracy nuts are accusing Clinton of faking her illness. And in the House:
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the unclassified version of the report “omits important information the public has a right to know. This includes details about the perpetrators of the attack in Libya as well as the less-than-noble reasons contributing to State Department decisions to deny security resources.”
He also said, “In light of the report, I am concerned that the carefully vetted testimony of senior State Department officials at the October hearing was part of an intentional effort to mislead the American people.”
Hey Darrell, have you hot-wired any cars or burned down any businesses lately?
While Pentagon officials struggle to figure out how to protect foreign outposts without using Blackwater-type hired guns, they are dealing with a worldwide Military day care abuse scandal.
The Defense Department has launched a worldwide investigation into hiring practices at military child-care centers after a criminal probe of employees at an Army base near the Pentagon sparked a review that found more than 30 staffers who officials say should have been barred from contact with children.
Two civilian employees at the Child Development Center at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall appeared in federal court Wednesday in Alexandria to face charges of assaulting 2-year-olds in their care.
The president immediately urged a thorough investigation and a “zero tolerance policy when it comes to protecting the children of service members from abuse.”
Two workers at the day-care center at the base known as Fort Myer were recorded by surveillance cameras dragging, pinching, kneeing and taunting toddlers, according to federal court records. The center is the military’s largest day-care center, with more than 400 children ranging from 6 weeks to 12 years old. It is used by Pentagon employees and other service members in the Washington area.
A personnel review at Fort Myer began in the fall after a parent complained about an allegedly abusive caregiver.
The inquiry turned up evidence that at least 31 staffers had potentially disqualifying factors in their records, including history of drug use and past allegations of assault, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation said. The staffers have been suspended.
“This is not just one or two or three people,” the official said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of an ongoing inquiry. “This is a severe lapse in the background checks system.”
In police state news, two women in Texas are suing the Texas State Police for subjecting them to an “illegal roadside cavity search.”
A federal lawsuit filed by two Irving women claims that Texas State Troopers humiliated them by performing illegal cavity searches on the side of the road after a cigarette butt was thrown out of their car window.
State Trooper David Farrell called in a female trooper to perform cavity searches of Angel Dobbs, 38, and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley Dobbs, because he said that he smelled marijuana and the women were “acting weird,” attorney Scott Palmer told KTVT on Tuesday.
Angel Dobbs recalled that the female trooper, Kelley Helleson, asked for her permission to perform the search and then told her to “shut up and just listen.”
Dashcam video shows Helleson searching the anuses and vaginas of both women with the same latex gloves in full view of other passing cars.
“At this point, I’m in clear shock. I can’t even believe this is happening,” Angel Dobbs explained. Turns me around goes down into the front of my pants into my inner thigh and at which point she goes up with two fingers. I just look at her and say ‘oh my God, I’ve just been violated.’”
And then the trooper performed the same procedure on Ashley Dobbs without changing her gloves.
“She went down, then turned me around, and went down my front and then she actually dug,” Ashley Dobbs said. “I didn’t know what I could say, what I could do. I felt hopeless.”
Is it time for Texas to secede from the union and become part of Mexico (except for Austin, Ralph)? Nah, Mexico probably wouldn’t want to get involved.
The TSA is “Finally Investigating Cancer Risk of X-Ray Body Scanners” now that millions of Americans have been used as guinea pigs in the nation’s airports.
Following months of congressional pressure, the Transportation Security Administration has agreed to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to study the health effects of the agency’s X-ray body scanners. But it is unclear if the academy will conduct its own tests of the scanners or merely review previous studies.
The machines, known as backscatters, were installed in airports nationwide after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009 to screen passengers for explosives and other nonmetallic weapons. But they have been criticized by some prominent scientists because they expose the public to a small amount of ionizing radiation, a form of energy that can cause cancer.
The scanners were the subject of a 2011 ProPublica series, which found that the TSA had glossed over the small cancer risk posed by even low doses of radiation. The stories also showed that the United States was almost alone in the world in X-raying passengers and that the Food and Drug Administration had gone against its own advisory panel, which recommended the agency set a federal safety standard for security X-rays.
The TSA maintains that the backscatters are safe and that they emit a low dose of X-rays equivalent to the radiation a passenger would receive in two minutes of flying at typical cruising altitude.
Winter has arrived in the Midwest: Outages in Iowa as season’s first blizzard starts journey in the Plains.
(CNN) — Tens of thousands of people lost power in Iowa on Thursday as the first major storm of the season swept in, bringing blizzards, high winds and severe thunderstorms to the central United States.
The storm prompted the National Weather Service to issue a blizzard warning for a huge swath of the Midwest stretching from eastern Colorado to Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shoreline, including virtually all of Iowa.
The declaration warned of snow accumulations of up to 12 inches, complemented by 25- to 35-mph winds that will occasionally gust to 45 to 50 mph.
The storm will race into western Illinois, the weather service said. Rain will quickly change to snow as the storm advances northeast, with the heaviest snow occurring overnight.
“Snow drifts several feet deep will be possible given the strong winds,” the blizzard warning states.
Wrapping around the blizzard warning on the north, south and east is a winter storm warning, which will be no picnic either. The winds won’t be quite as strong, but residents should expect a strong dose of rain, sleet and snow, with a few hail-packing thunderstorms thrown in for good measure.
Hmmm…what about my neck of the woods?
The “intense cyclone” will crawl across the Great Lakes region Thursday and slog into northern New England by Friday evening, the National Weather Service predicted.
Ugh…just what I needed.
I have three longer reads for you on the possible motivations behind mass shootings. I haven’t read any of these carefully yet, so I’m not sure if I’ll agree with the conclusions.
Scientific American is highlighting an article from 2007: Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings? The article focuses on the revenge fantasies of young shooters.
A Time article from July (written after the Aurora theater shootings) asks about “The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide.”
I’ll be reading these articles after I publish this post. Let me know what you think.
Finally, Senators Diane Feinstein and John McCain are “condemning” the new movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty for falsely suggesting that torture led investigators to bin Laden’s hideout.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?