Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump’s Amerika

neo-Nazi white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA last night

Good Afternoon!!

White “nationalists” are involved in a violent demonstration in the streets of an American city today. There has so far been no reaction from the “president,” who of course has a number of these crazies working for him in the people’s house.

According to reports on MSNBC, the rally–supposedly a protest of the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee–has now been declared an “unlawful assembly.” Interestingly,there are lots of Confederate flags on display in the crowd, but I have yet to see an American flag. Until recently, there hasn’t been much attempt by police to control the “protesters” either. It’s certainly a different scene from the police crackdowns we have seen at demonstrations organized by Black Lives Matter.

Boston.com: Hundreds face off ahead of white nationalist rally.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Hundreds of people are facing off in Charlottesville ahead of a white nationalist rally planned in the Virginia city’s downtown.

Rally supporters and counter-protesters screamed, chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday morning.

Men dressed in militia uniforms were carrying shields and openly carrying long guns.

 

From Twitter earlier today:

NBC News: Protesters Clash at White Nationalists March in Virginia, Local Emergency Declared.

Altercations erupted Saturday morning and at least two people were hurt as white nationalists and counter-protesters violently clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, where local police and the governor declared a state of emergency.

Supporters of the “Unite the Right” rally descended again on the city’s downtown in opposition to clergy members and other groups, who stood in a line singing, “This Little Light of Mine,” to drown out the profanity and slurs.

“Love has already won. We have already won,” the counter-protesters responded.

But as the violence intensified with shoving and punching, demonstrators covered their mouths after what appeared to be tear gas was released into the crowd.

The city and Albemarle County both issued a “declaration of local emergency” for the two jurisdictions to request additional resources. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also declared a state of emergency to allow for a response to quell the violence.

The rally hasn’t even started yet, but it has been called off. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next.

Yesterday White House employee Sebastian Gorka defended white supremacists. Think Progress: White House adviser says people should stop criticizing white supremacists so much.

On Wednesday, Gorka lashed out at “at [New York Times reporter] Maggie Haberman and her acolytes in the fake news media, who immediately have a conniption fit” and brought up McVeigh. He added that “white men” and “white supremacists” are not “the problem.”

It’s this constant, “Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.” No, it isn’t, Maggie Haberman. Go to Sinjar. Go to the Middle East, and tell me what the real problem is today. Go to Manchester.

Gorka noted that the Oklahoma City bombing was 22 years ago, which is true. But since 9/11, right-wing extremists — almost always white men and frequently white supremacists — have been far more deadly domestically than Muslim extremists. A study found that in the first 13.5 years after 9/11, Muslim extremists were responsible for 50 deaths in the United States. Meanwhile, “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”

I wonder if he went to the rally in Charlottesville?

Meanwhile, Trump has apparently been threatening a nuclear holocaust in an effort to change the subject from the Russia investigation, because there’s no sign of the U.S. military gearing up for war or of the government moving to evacuate U.S. citizens from South Korea and other areas that could be threatened by strikes on North Korea.

US Naval Base in Guam

Defense News: If the US is going to war in North Korea, nobody told the US military.

If you watch cable news or follow the president’s Twitter feed, you might be under the impression that the U.S. is heading to war with North Korea. But somebody, it seems, forgot to loop in the U.S. military.

North Korea is threatening to launch missiles toward Guam; U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Friday morning that military options were “locked and loaded;” NBC News ran a story Wednesday claiming the U.S. had ”prepared a plan” to strike North Korean missile sites with B-1 bombers.

But while the rhetoric is nearing a fever pitch in D.C., out in the Pacific you’d never know the world was on the brink of nuclear war.

In Yokosuka, Japan, the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed ready aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan sits peacefully pier-side, along with the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship Blue Ridge. On the Korean Peninsula, the State Department has not advised American citizens to leave the country and U.S. military family members are not being evacuated. No Marines are being loaded on amphibious ships; no sailors have been recalled off leave to prepare for emergency operations; and no ballistic missile defense ships have been sortied to North Korea, the waters off Japan or to Guam, three sources said.

The frenzied rhetoric being propelled by the president’s words and fed back by the news cycle is, for the second time this year, failing to match what’s actually happening, sources told Defense News.

Continue reading at the link.

Eddie Baza Calvo Govornor of Guam

I guess Trump wasn’t satisfied with the panic he has caused around the world, because yesterday he seemed to threaten military intervention in Venezuela. But more evidence that this is nothing but a “wag the dog” strategy came in a phone call Trump made to the governor of Guam late last night. The New York Times: Trump to Guam Governor: North Korea Threats Will Boost Tourism ‘Tenfold.’

If there’s one thing that Guam does not have to worry about while the tiny island is in the nuclear cross hairs of North Korea, it’s tourism, President Trump told the island’s governor in a phone call made public on Saturday.

The threat by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to create “an enveloping fire” around the tiny United States territory in the Western Pacific will boost Guam tourism “tenfold,” Mr. Trump is heard saying in the recorded conversation with Gov. Eddie Calvo.

The recording was put on the Republican governor’s Facebook page and other social media accounts.

Mr. Trump said: “I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world. They are talking about Guam; and they’re talking about you.” And when it comes to tourism, he added, “I can say this: You’re going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money.”

Trump is another P.T. Barnum, and he’s turned our government into a three-ring circus. It appears he is actually enjoying his ability to strike terror into millions of people around the globe. He’s getting off on it. I’m beginning to wonder if Trump suffers from bi-polar disorder. He is acting as if he’s in a manic phase and about to spiral out of control.

Journalist Daniel Dale tweeted a comparison of the White House readout of the Guam call vs. an actual transcript.

The New York Times and The Atlantic each have lengthy articles up asking why Trump can’t ever criticize Putin. Neither author suggests what is likely the real reason–Trump is a Russian asset.

The New York Times: Combative Trump Pulls His Punches for One Man: Putin.

TheAtlantic: Why Does Trump Still Refuse to Criticize Putin?

A couple more interesting stories I came across this morning, and then I’m going to retire to my bed to nurse a throbbing headache caused by reading about all this insanity.

The Hill: Former Mueller deputy on Trump: ‘Government is going to kill this guy.’

CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd warned that President Trump is agitating the government, saying during a Thursday afternoon interview with CNN anchor Jake Tapper that the U.S. government “is going to kill this guy.”

Mudd, who served as deputy director to former FBI Director Robert Mueller, said Trump’s defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin has compelled federal employees “at Langley, Foggy Bottom, CIA and State” to try to take Trump down.

“Let me give you one bottom line as a former government official. Government is going to kill this guy,” Mudd, a staunch critic of Trump, said on “The Lead.”

“He defends Vladimir Putin. There are State Department and CIA officers coming home, and at Langley and Foggy Bottom, CIA and State, they’re saying, ‘This is how you defend us?’ ” he continued.

Read the rest of Mudd’s rant at the link.

Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: Melania, Ivanka and Ivana Trump Wear High Heels, a Symbol of Everything that is Beautiful and Horrifying about Them.

The vertiginous spike-heel shoe is not currently in fashion, but for Ivana, Ivanka, Melania and the Trump daughters-in-law, Carrie Bradshaw’s shoe of choice never went out of style. In fact, the female consorts of the Leader of the Free World do not set foot in public without first molding their arches into the supranatural curve that Mattel toy designers once devised for Barbie’s plastic feet.

Six months in, and the Trump women are well on their way to normalizing the footwear of the beauty pageant. The Cinderella shoe fitted on the feet of all the Miss Teen USA’s and Miss Universes who ever beamed under the Trumpian gaze in contests of yore also is the shoe that average women can bear for only a few hours at weddings or proms, before casting them off, moaning and rubbing their soles.Former Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley, a longtime friend of Melania Trump’s, believes that, other than the White House Easter Egg hunt on the lawn, Melania has not been photographed as first lady without her feet arched into one of two brands of towering high-heeled shoes that she favors, Manolo Blahniks or the 4.5-inch-heeled Oh So Kate by Christian Louboutin. (Talley says Melania picked up 22 pairs of Manolos in various colors before decamping to the White House last month.)

In their old age, these women will need serious health care for their feet.

The stiletto is a podiatrist’s dream, or nightmare, depending on your point of view, because devoted wearers ultimately require medical attention. “As you get older in these shoes, your feet are going to have problems,” Talley says. “I am not gonna say Melania is gonna have them soon, but sooner or later she is going have to come down off that high arch.”

The internet and YouTube are rife with tutorials on how to bear the pain (bandages, gel inserts, baby powder) and walk gracefully in them. Michelle Phan’s “How to Master the High Heel” tutorial has received millions of views. Her nuggets of advice include: “Your first assignment when walking in heels is to find a straight line and follow it,” and “For every step you take, you need to have a general awareness of where your heel is being placed.”

Stiletto pumps demand a critical level of attention to pebbles, cobbles, sidewalk cracks, mud, grass, curbs and stairs—all while keeping head erect and shoulders back—that has sometimes eluded even the greatest public females. Remember Naomi Campbell’s famous runway spill. Or Jennifer Lawrence tripping up the steps to receive her Oscar.

But not the Trump women. Read the rest at the link.

What stories are you following today?


Lazy Saturday Reads

4600535791_e2384409c1_bHappy Memorial Day Weekend!

This is the weekend when we reflect on the costs of war.  The holiday is rooted in our own civil war but it gives us a chance to think on those who have come and gone before us.  Memorial Day used to be the day my family would go on picnics to the family plots in all these little towns around Kansas and Missouri armed with every imaginable gardening tool.  I don’t think we were unique in that but I do think it might’ve been a regional thing to do.

I spent a good deal of yesterday in St. Louis Cemetery #1 standing by a shady palm tree near the crypt memorializing those who died in the Battle of New Orleans from the Orleans Battalion.  You’ll see that there were very few dead in this battle on the side of the Republic.

The cemetery dates back to the late 1700s.  It’s probably best known as the resting place of Marie Laveau and a crazy movie scene in Easy Rider.  I was actually there for a funeral for a favorite professor of a friend.  His family were some of the first French folks to settle here.  The process of adding new family members to a crypt is an interesting one.

13319982_10153758786958512_3404328470106535680_nThere were tours all around us yesterday.  So, the tourists got to hear the piper, the brass band music, and the burial service provided by a priest.  I’m always happy when a few of them get to see that the traditions here continue and that we all have to live around the folks who come to visit us.  They get to see that we’re actually a living, breathing city and not just a place of old buildings and bars.

While Marie Laveau is probably the most famous inhabitant of crypt space, I’d suggest you read up on Dr. John Montanee who is the father of New Orleans Voodoo. Dr. John actually taught Marie.

Sometimes when a person becomes legendary they cease to be human beings and instead become the legend themselves. Dr. Jean is remembered according to his legend, as a powerful gris gris man who was rich, got a lot of women and who was the teacher of Marie Laveaux. The whole context of the trauma of the Diaspora is left completely out of his-story, and this is not only unfortunate, but it is highly disrespectful. My belief is that his goal from the onset of becoming a slave would have been to reclaim his personal power and power within the community (whatever community he ended up in), and to do so using his strength and charisma. This internal fortitude was enough to achieve his eventual freedom from slavery; it is said that his West Indian master taught him to be an excellent cook and grew quite fond of him, and eventually gave him the gift of freedom. As a result, Dr. Jean left Cuba to be a cook on a ship and eventually ended up in New Orleans where these characteristics of strength, charisma and fortitude landed him as a gang leader of cotton rollers. Within that community, he began to be known for his apparent supernatural powers and fortune telling abilities. This set the tone for his eventual great success in New Orleans. All through the various narratives of his-story, we can see his ability to transcend the normal performance of a given task and exceed all expectations.

Dr. Jean was likely a man who liked to make grand entrances in an effort to make his presence known. But, he more than likely retreated from this showy demeanor to a very warm and gregarious human being. People probably liked him more than not and he likely had many friends, and at least as many acquaintances. He would have been someone who would have started a family as soon as possible and given the culture from which he came, would likely have had more than one wife and many children. Family would have been very important to him and he would have taken his role as provider very seriously – yet another mechanism to drive his entrepreneurial spirit.

In addition to being successful in his various jobs and as a provider, he would have taken his role as a leader of the Voudous quite seriously, as well. As gris gris is a religiomagical system originating in Senegal and practiced by the priests, it makes perfect sense that he would have brought knowledge of the tradition with him to New Orleans. Gris gris is one of the most unique characteristics of New Orleans Voudou and a tradition that persists to this day – his contribution to the New Orleans religion is unsurpassed. He expected to be noticed and he was, as his legacy lives on in the heart of the Mysteries and can be heard and felt in the beat of every drum.

So, there are a lot of folks buried along side the illustrious founding families in this and the many old cemeteries to be found in New img_2353Orleans.

I’m using all of this to lead up to some sad news.  JJ’s brother Denny lost his struggle last night after her eldest son received his high school diploma.  This is one of those days where milestones can be bittersweet.  We love you JJ and wish all the best as you and your family make these transitions.

So, here’s some suggested reads for today.

Here’s a follow up to my post on the collapse of Venezuela from the NYT:”Venezuela Drifts Into New Territory: Hunger, Blackouts and Government Shutdown.”

Venezuela’s government says the problems are the result of an “economic war” being waged by elites who are hoarding supplies, as well as the American government’s efforts to destabilize the country.

But most economists agree that Venezuela is suffering from years of economic mismanagement, including over-dependence on oil and price controls that led many businesses to stop making products.

Some Venezuelans are channeling their frustrations into demonstrations against the government. Mr. Maduro’s opponents, who now control the National Assembly, have been staging weekly protests in support of the recall referendum.

Last Wednesday, protesters clashed with police officers who fired tear gas at the demonstrations and were attacked with bottles and rocks.

“The economic situation of this country is collapse,” Pablo Parada, a law student, who was participating last week in a hunger strike in front of the O.A.S. office in Caracas. “There are people who go hungry now.”

Mr. Parada said the purpose of his hunger strike was to pressure the O.A.S. to push Venezuelan officials to allow the referendum to take place this year, the only way he felt the country could recover.
There is often little traffic in Caracas simply because so few people, either for lack of money or work, are going out.

On a recent day in the downtown government center, pedestrians milled about, but nearly every building — including several museums, the public registry office and a Social Security center — was empty, giving the appearance of a holiday.

Only the guards were at work.

“It’s in God’s hands now,” said one, Luis Ríos, echoing a common phrase heard here.

Here’s an interesting article in Slate on “White washing” in the Asian American Community and the “bamboo” ceiling in America. Easy_Rider We’ve discussed before  this via the whiter-than-white portrait of Bobby Jindal that once hung in his office.

But I have a somewhat different and darker thought: What if Asian Americans are underrepresented in media because non-Asians have yet to reconcile themselves to Asian overrepresentation in the uppermost echelons of U.S. society? Don’t see that many Asian Americans as CEOs or in other leadership roles? Just give it time. Whether you look in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, elite academia, or America’s burgeoning medical-industrial complex, you’ll find a disproportionately large and fast-growing number of Asian Americans. Earlier generations of Asians often found themselves stymied by the so-called “bamboo ceiling,” which largely reflects the fact that new arrivals in America tend not to have the social connections they need to reach the highest rungs of the organizational ladder.

Sanders continues to be a busybody loser.  This time he’s suggesting what Hillary should do for a running mate choice.

“If Hillary Clinton were to win and Hillary Clinton were to bring onboard a conservative or moderate-type Democrat, I think politically that would be a disaster,” Sanders said in an interview with The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur.

Uygur asked if Sanders had any suggestions for VP — specifically citing Sen. Elizabeth Warren(D-Mass.), whose name has been floating as a possible running mate for months.

Sanders said policy and a track record for fighting against Wall Street were the most important factors in a running mate.

I really have an intense, white-hot dislike of this man.

Here’s another one that’s a great read:  “Japanese American internment survivor hears troubling echoes in Trump rhetoric.”

Sugimoto, now 80, finds herself thinking a lot about those three years she spent in internment camps in Arkansas. The spirit of that deeply disturbing part of her childhood, an episode she believes has been all but forgotten within the narrative of American history, appears to be raising its ugly head once again.

“I think it’s dangerous the way he spouts off,” she said. “Not knowing any history, making no connections with what he says should be done today – it’s worrying and upsetting.”

She’s talking about Donald Trump, and his mass targeting of ethnic and religious groups. It’s not Japanese Americans this time: it’s the 11 million undocumented immigrants, mostly Hispanic, he has threatened to round up and deport. It is alsoMuslims, who he has vowed to ban from entering the country just by dint of their faith.

And, no that’s not a ghost up there, although I do profess to being one pale white woman.  That’s just whacky little me in funeral attire resplendent with some vintage stuff.

Have a good weekend!    Remember, this is an open thread so share links profusely!!!


Sunday Reads: Taliban, Venezuela, Football and teh “Gays”

7ff38369540c4e315e2af644745c7356 Purple hat - Marcello DudovichGood Morning

Today’s post will be brought to you by the color purple. Why? I don’t know, maybe because of the color’s significance…maybe it is because I felt like it…maybe it is because I wanted to put up some of my saved images of women wearing purple hats. Who the hell knows.

Anyway, the links will be a mixture of this and that…mostly news stuff at first.

Taliban Says Talks Over U.S. Soldier’s Release Suspended – NYTimes.com

The Taliban confirmed publicly on Sunday that they had been in talks with the United States over the release of an American soldier, but said the talks had now been suspended.

[…]

The unusual Taliban statement, which was emailed to journalists, said that the talks had taken place “recently” with the mediation of Qatar, suggesting that meetings took place in Qatar, where the Taliban have an unofficial political office.

(1928), Maggie Laubser Colored Woman With a Purple Headscarf

(1928), Maggie Laubser Colored Woman With a Purple Headscarf

The talks had previously been rumored, but this is the first time the insurgents have publicly confirmed them. They are aimed at reviving a longstanding offer by the American government to release Taliban prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, into custody in Qatar, in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of the United States Army, the only American being held by insurgents in Afghanistan.

Talks confirmed and suspended in the same emailed statement. Prior to this message, news of a Taliban attack also hit the MSM:

Taliban attack kills 19 Afghan soldiers in eastern Afghanistan | Reuters

The Afghan Taliban attacked an army outpost in eastern Kunar province early on Sunday, the Afghan government said, killing 19 soldiers in what appeared to be the most deadly assault on security forces in months.

Defence Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi, in a posting on his Twitter feed, said 19 soldiers were killed, and two wounded, in Kunar’s Ghaziabad district.

Young woman with a rose in her hat - Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1913

Young woman with a rose in her hat – Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1913

Abdul Ghani Musamem, spokesman for the provincial governor, said seven soldiers were captured by the Taliban in the attack in a remote, mountainous area near the border with Pakistan.

He said Afghan forces had launched an operation to try to free the captured soldiers. The Defence Ministry did not immediately confirm the report of captured soldiers.

In a statement provided to media organizations, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

My head gets dizzy with this news of violence, but it is not the only mess in the world that seems to be never-ending.

Of course, you have Syria: Car bomb kills nine people in Syrian town of Atmeh: activists | Reuters

At least nine people were killed in a car bomb attack on Sunday near a field hospital in the Syrian town of Atmeh near the border with Turkey, activists said.

The hospital is owned by Ghassan Aboud, a Gulf-based businessman who runs Orient Television, which said at least 10 people were killed.

Woman with a Hat is a painting by Henri Matisse

Woman with a Hat is a painting by Henri Matisse

That was filed at 4:55 am EST…yeah, I know it is that late/early. (What can I say, Treasure of Sierra Madre is on TCM and I have to make the Sicilian pizza today which I will need to start soon anyway.)

In Ukraine, Fox News is reporting via AP: Where’s the President? Yanukovych’s whereabouts unknown

Nearly a full day after Ukrainian President Viktor Yankovych departed his country’s capital, Kiev, leaving it to the protesters who have called for his removal for three months and the parliament that voted to do just that Saturday, no one seems to know where he is.

A plane with Yanukovych onboard was denied permission to take off Saturday evening from Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine that is the president’s base of support, en route to Russia, the State Border Guard Service said. Oleh Slobodyan of the State Border Guard service told the Associated Press Sunday that the plane did not have the proper documentation. The president was driven off in a car from the airport.

Ivan Argunov painting of woman wearing a kokoshnik

Ivan Argunov painting of woman wearing a kokoshnik

Yanukovych did speak on television Saturday in Kharkiv, accusing his opponents of trying to overthrow the government.

“Everything that is happening today is, to a greater degree, vandalism and banditry and a coup d’etat,” he said. “I will do everything to protect my country from breakup, to stop bloodshed.”

However, Yanukovych’s movements have not been accounted for since, and even his spokesman told the Associated Press Sunday morning that he does not know where his boss is.

Also: WATCH: Drone Captures Intense, Unsettling Footage of Kiev Aflame | Mediaite

Protestors have taken the city of Kiev for now and protestors have flocked into the empty presidential compound. But during the height of chaos this week, one news outlet managed to capture stunning footage of Kiev from above with the help of a drone.

The drone, utilized by the German news agency Ruptly, captured some pretty unsettling footage showing parts of the city up in flames after days and days of protests. Thursday was the bloodiest day of the conflict thus far, with dozens killed and hundreds more injured as protestors faced off with Ukraine police forces.

Video at the link.

Woman Wearing Purple Hat - Toulouse Lautrec

Woman Wearing Purple Hat – Toulouse Lautrec

Hey, but Europe/Eastern Europe/Central Asia etc, aren’t the only places having it out, down in South America: Venezuela death toll reaches 11 as protests continue – latimes.com

Opponents and supporters of President Nicolas Maduro held massive demonstrations Saturday in central Caracas and other Venezuelan cities as the unofficial death toll rose to 11 in more than a week of unrest.

Leading the opposition demonstration in eastern Caracas was Liliana Tintori, wife of Leopoldo Lopez, the former Caracas borough mayor who was arrested this week and charged with inciting violence that has erupted during protests.

Lopez and other opposition leaders say armed pro-government vigilantes have been responsible for the deaths and that the opposition has demonstrated peacefully to protest rising crime and shortages. Speaking at a rally attended by tens of thousands of mostly white-shirted opposition members, Tintori said her husband has been jailed unjustly.

Moderne Welt (The Modern World) magazine

Moderne Welt (The Modern World) magazine

“No one can tell me this is not a dictatorship. This is a dictatorship,” said Tintori who shared the platform with opposition leaders Maria Corina Machado and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. “No one can tell me we are divided. We are united. Leopoldo will do what is necessary so that Venezuelans unite in peace, and can walk the streets in safety.”

Now, back to the USA…Y’all heard about the shit Ted Nugent said about Obama, calling him a  ‘subhuman mongrel.’   Take a look at this: The GOP, Race and Ted Nugent: If you won’t Denounce Nazi Insults, What does that Say about You? | Informed Comment

On Friday, Nugent “apologized” (though “not to president Obama”) for using the language insofar as it embarrassed other Republicans associated with him. That is, he did not actually apologize at all.

Sarah Palin said of Abbott, “if he’s good enough for Ted Nugent, he’s good enough for me!” Sen. Ted Cruz, quizzed on Nugent’s language, replied that he was sure that President Obama’s Hollywood friends had also said some extreme things.

Really, Ted? This comment is just “extreme”? And which liberal in the film industry has said anything like that?

The fact is that the Republican Party today has a problem with race. Not across the board, but it is there. The Party is is disproportionately made up of self-conceived white southerners with some white Midwesterners and westerners, allied with Wall Street big money. It has even lost the majority of Asian-Americans and Arab-Americans, and can’t get even a plurality of Latinos or more than a handful of African-Americans (traditionally Republicans before the 1970s) to vote for it. The Tea Party and other currents in the party often express white male rage about the rise of the minorities, and the party’s refusal to consider immigration reform is rooted in that rage.

vt 1907 Félix Edouard Vallotton (Swiss artist, 1865-1925) The Purple Hat

1907 Félix Edouard Vallotton (Swiss artist, 1865-1925) The Purple Hat

Of course you can read more at the link.

There was also some news about asshole cops:

New Jersey man escapes 5 year sentence after dash cam footage clears him, indicts cops | The Raw Story

Austin police chief says jaywalkers should be happy they’re not sexually assaulted by cops | The Raw Story

That is quality top notch policing if you ask me. /snark

More ridiculous crap to get you worked up here…I got this petition notice in my email yesterday.

Petition | TED Talks: Lift Your Ban on Abortion! | Change.org

In an article in The Nation by Jessica Valenti, TED content director and TEDWomen co-host Kelly Stoetzel said that abortion does not fit into the focus on “wider issues of justice, inequality and human rights.” She said that “Abortion is more of a topical issue we wouldn’t take a position on, any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill.”

Portrait of a woman in a purple hat 1912 Lovis Corinth

Portrait of a woman in a purple hat 1912 Lovis Corinth

But that’s just it – access to abortion IS an issue of justice, inequality, and human rights. As NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue noted in her letter, last year the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, issued a report declaring that denying women access to abortion amounts to torture. If families cannot care for, feed, or plan their families adequately, they are more likely to remain in poverty. That’s inequality. As Tara Culp-Ressler points out, 47,000 women die from unsafe abortions every year. Not talking about abortion has many consequences.  It leads to inadequate support for people who have abortions, lack of insurance coverage of abortion, and even unsafe abortions.

Statistics show that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they turn 45, but because of silence and stigma, they often don’t feel safe enough to talk about their abortion. I know this from experience. I felt ashamed and isolated for six years. I had no one to talk to. The people I meet who’ve had abortions feel it too. Abortion stigma hurts. Can we talk about it?

By talking openly about abortion, TED Talks will reach out to millions of people with abortion experiences and tell us that we matter. Our stories matter.

Susan Seated Outdoors, Wearing a Purple Hat Mary Cassat oil on canvas, ca. 1881

Susan Seated Outdoors, Wearing a Purple Hat Mary Cassat oil on canvas, ca. 1881

What if TED spread a great new idea – how to listen to people’s experience with compassion, love, and without judgment?

Those of us who have had abortions, and our loved ones, hear you. We are watching you. Will you take a moment to listen to us? Will you help share our stories?

TED Talks have the power to shift abortion stigma. They have the power to create a space within TED where people can hear nuanced, honest abortion stories. Our voices need to be heard. TED Talks: Lift Your Ban on Abortion!

If you can go on TED Talks and listen to the shit talks they have by Jesus freaks Rick Warren, Billy Graham, A.J. Jacobs, then I think they have enough space to hold talks on women’s issues as important as rights to safe legal abortion.

Look at this interesting map, I wonder what Dak has to say about it: Income Inequality Is Even Worse In Big Cities: Study

Woman with Purple Hat Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918) oil on canvas, 1912

Woman with Purple Hat Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918) oil on canvas, 1912

As for something fun: 15 Made-Up Words That You Should Start Using Right Now

Ever heard of “nurdeling”? You know, the act of sticking your cold feet under someone’s butt on the couch. How about a “woolly-doop-doop”? That thing, when you’re driving and you go fast over a bump in the road, and that it makes your stomach jump a little. Not ringing any bells?

Well, that’s because these are made-up words, courtesy of “The Made-Up Words Project.” The hilarious illustration series is the brainchild of designer Rinee Shah, a San Francisco-based artist who sketches out the meanings of comically nonsensical terms. Particularly, words that are commonplace amongst certain groups of friends and family members that, for one reason or another, just stuck.

You can see Shah artwork here: The Made-Up Words Project

I am thinking of sending her my daughter’s phrase “Coochie Day” you know, what she calls those days when only beings with “coochies” go out and do something special.  No “dingys” aloud!

Okay, on to news out of the NFL:

Pablo Picasso Bust of a Woman Wearing a Striped Hat

Pablo Picasso Bust of a Woman Wearing a Striped Hat

NFL to adopt 15-yard penalty for use of racial slur? – CBSSports.com

John Wooten, head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that monitors diversity in the NFL, said he expects the league’s competition committee to enact a rule at the owner’s meeting next month making it an automatic 15-yard penalty if a player uses the N-word on the field, with a second infraction meriting an ejection.

I wonder when the use of the word “Redskins” will get the same kind of racial allocation?

Michael Sam is ready to be judged on his merits on football field – latimes.com

Michael Sam stepped onto stage and looked into what might have been the largest media gathering in the history of the NFL scouting combine. Hundreds of reporters clustered in, and there were three rows of TV and video cameras.

“I just wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player,” the Missouri defensive end said, “instead of Michael Sam the gay football player.”

Then again, it was Sam who generated the story with his announcement two weeks ago he is homosexual, telling his story to the New York Times and ESPN. He is on track to become the first openly gay professional athlete in a major American team sport, and he acknowledges the significance of his place in history.

“Everything that my Mizzou family has done for me has been amazing,” he said, wearing a small, rainbow-colored “Stand With Sam” button on his NFL-issued sweatsuit. “I walk around campus and dozens of students and faculty give me hugs or kisses, start crying in my arms. It’s unbelievable.”

Headdress - WOMAN OF THE TIME OF HENRY VIII

Headdress – WOMAN OF THE TIME OF HENRY VIII

I think it is wonderful and brave of Sam to come out like he did. It should not be such a big deal, but believe me it is. I know in all these years of NFL there have been gay players on the field. It would be crazy to think that the NFL has been “gay free,” just as it is to think Sochi is “gay free.”

And even though I could usually care less about the draft, I am paying attention to it this time.

Oh, and btw: SOCHI, Russia: Billie Jean King sends message of support to Russia’s LGBT community | Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics | McClatchy DC

Tennis great Billie Jean King arrived for Sunday’s closing of the 2014 Winter Olympics with a message for Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community: Hang in, hang on, and you’re not alone.

“Having the Winter Olympics here, the situation here in Russia, has opened up dialogue,” King said Saturday. “I’m always big on love over hate, and I think it’s important that everyone’s treated equally and good to each other. Hopefully, the LGBT community here in Russia knows that they’re not alone and we’ll learn from them.”

King, who is gay, is part of the official U.S. delegation that will witness the end of the 23-day international sports festival. Her presence represents the United States’ objection to a so-called “anti-propaganda” law that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed last June.

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt

In other Olympic news, did you see the racist comments from Ashley Wagner Blasts Olympic Figure Skating Judging, Calls For An End To Anonymous Judging

Well, for a little more analysis on that statement of Wagner: Why Ashley Wagner Is Wrong About Figure Skating

The American skater who ended up in seventh place yesterday is all over the news this morning saying she feels cheated — actually, “gypped” is the word she unfortunately used. Wagner is already known for the face she made when she got a low score during the team competition earlier in the games. Now she’s publicly questioning the sport’s judging system.

[…]

Before the scores even came in commentator Tara Lipinski noted, “To the audience it may look perfect, but when the judges go back and examine those landings she’s going to lose a lot of points.”

“A few shaky landings, a few issues here and there, landing on two feet,” said Johnny Weir. “But it wasn’t a flying endorsement of Ashley Wagner.”

Acapulco Coke Original 1957 Vintage Print Ad

Acapulco Coke Original 1957 Vintage Print Ad

Weir used the word endorsement because her selection for the U.S. Olympic team was surprising after a poor performance at Nationals — an unofficial qualifying event for the American team — where she finished fourth and fell twice. But the skating association sent Wagner to the Olympics because she has more experience in the international competitive circuit than skater who finished ahead of her, Mirai Nagasu.

Wagner’s skates at the Olympics are certainly a huge personal victory after all that doubt and pressure. Taking her bows after the long program, she was celebrating like she had the skate of her life. And her performances were fun to watch and both good ones — but just because she didn’t fall doesn’t mean they were great. And it doesn’t mean, as she is suggesting, that she deserves to place higher than other skaters who did fall, especially when those other skaters landed more difficult jumps more beautifully than she did. Her remarks are poor sportsmanship — and seem to be a campaign to change the sport to favor those who don’t take risks.

Enough of that shit, now for some interesting and pretty links.

Massive logging leaves deep scars in Eastern Europe

With its steep, forested mountains set against blue skies, Romania’s central Pojarna Valley once looked like a postcard landscape but illegal logging has turned the site into an ugly scar.

Ilegally deforested mountains in Pojarna Valley, in the heart of the Romanian Carpathians are pictured on January 16, 2014

“The guys who did this used excavators. They even destroyed the young trees,” said Gheorghe Ridichie, an official at Romania’s forestry ministry, pointing to thousands of stumps poking out of the valley’s now-barren slopes.

Barren slopes to bare naked bodies: Photos Of Nude Dancers Show A Very Different Side Of The Human Body (NSFW)

Ludovic Florent‘s series “Poussières d’étoiles” (Stardust). In it, the French photographer captures the fluid movements of nude dancers, their bodies partially covered by clouds of dust that both obscure and accentuate the curves and lines of their muscles. The images provide a very different perspective of the human body, emphasizing the dynamic potential of bare forms.

lady_victorian_traveler_print-r73bbe529314d478782117cbea42ba49f_nur_8byvr_512Go and see how beautiful those forms and images are…

Finally, FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.: Sharks may hold key to hurricane forecasts | MCT National News | McClatchy DC

More than 750 sharks, tarpon, tuna and billfish, fitted with satellite-linked tags, are providing scientists with data on temperature and salinity at various depths in the Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean. It’s information they hope could someday be used to improve hurricane forecasts, since a storm’s strength largely depends on how much warm water it will encounter.

“What the fish are providing is a profile of the ocean’s heat structure,” said Jerald Ault, a marine biology professor at the University of Miami. “You get a picture of what the upper layers of the ocean look like.”

Ault and other scientists at UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science started tagging tarpon in 2001 and sharks in 2010 to learn more about migration, feeding and reproduction. About three years ago, they discovered a remarkable pattern: the fish remained in waters that were about 79 degrees, the minimum required for tropical systems to develop.

In addition, many swam into the waters around tropical systems, which churned up nutrients and made hunting for food easier.

That’s when scientists realized that fish could provide accurate ocean temperatures, which could be fed into the computer models that forecasters use to develop tropical predictions.

Funny how animals can predict things like weather, storms, earthquake and tsunamis?  Some can even tell when people are about to have epileptic seizures. I don’t know, something to think about on this Sunday Morning isn’t it?

Share your links with us today!


Lazy Saturday Reads: True Detective and A Bit of Real News

hbo-true-detective-trailer-618x400

Good Morning!!

Since it’s the weekend and most of us can probably use a little escape from reality, I thought I’d begin this post by writing a little about my latest obsession–the HBO show True Detective. Have you been following it? I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but I had been hearing good things about this show; and a few days ago I decided to take the plunge. I ended up watching the first five episodes in three nights. Episode 6 will debut tomorrow night at 9PM, and HBO will repeat Episode 1 tonight at 10PM. I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about it. I’ll post some interesting reading and try not to include too many leave it up to you if you want to read them now or later. I guess I’m hoping some other Sky Dancers will be interesting enough to watch the show too, so we can discuss it here.

True Detective combines two elements that have always fascinated and attracted me–mystery stories and occult horror. The story is set in Cajun country–south-central Louisiana. The two main characters are Rust Cohle and Martin Hart, played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson respectively. Cohle and Hart are homicide detectives who catch the case of a lifetime–a murder that combines sadistic cruelty with bizarre symbolism. Cohle is convinced from the beginning that they are dealing with a serial killer who has likely committed previous murders and who will commit more in the future if he isn’t stopped. They are then drawn into a 17-year investigation that powerfully affects both of their lives.

Nic Pizzolatto

Nic Pizzolatto

The show’s creator, writer, and producer is Nic Pizzolatto, a Louisiana native who, until 2010 was a professor at DePauw University in Indiana.  According to the Indy Star,

In fact, DePauw University in Greencastle served as a launch pad for his Hollywood career….

Before he moved west, Pizzolatto held a tenure-track post as a DePauw English professor. In 2010, his book “Galveston” was published. That summer, he decided he could not return to academia, he has said in interviews.

“I’d want to bring a flamethrower to faculty meetings,” Pizzolatto told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. “The preciousness of academics and their fragile personalities would not be tolerated in any other business in the known universe.”

The award-winning novelist sold the film rights to “Galveston” [his first novel] and moved his wife and young family to southern California to try to break into another industry, not known for its own lack of preciousness and fragile personalities.

I want to thank Dakinikat for getting me interested in watching True Detective.  Awhile ago, I had sent her a long article about a series of murders in Louisiana: Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8? (I recently posted the link in a morning reads post too, but I don’t know how many people saw it.) Dak said she thought True Detective was based on those cases. Here’s another article about the murders–still pretty long: Jennings 8: Unsolved murders haunt town, police

Pizzolatto kind of confirmed that by tweeting the link to the article on January 28. So you might want to take a look at it. The author, Ethan Brown describes a series of murders of 8 prostitutes, some of whom knew each other. The police have investigated the cases as if they were committed by one serial killer, but Brown argues that there is more than one murderer and what connects the cases may be that members of law enforcement were involves in each of them. Similarly, there are hints in True Detective that powerful people may be involved in the cases Cohle and Hart are investigating.

HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary Fukunaga

As I mentioned above, the show is in some ways a typical police procedural that explores conflicts between two homicide detective partners with very different personalities. Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) is a seemingly ordinary guy, married with two daughters, who acts self-destructively by getting involved with other women and neglecting his family. Rust Cohle is a strange fellow who hasn’t been with the police department very long. He drives his partner and other detectives nuts with his obsessive approach to the case and his tendency to spout bizarre nihilist philosophies. But with each succeeding episode, the series moves more into the horror genre, as the detectives try to understand the bizarre symbolism that keeps cropping up in their cases–such as repeated hints about a “yellow king” chasing people through the woods and a spiral tattoo that appears on victims’ backs–and as the show reveals more about Cohle’s past history.

Now for a few reads that will give you a sense of why True Detective is so fascinating. You could endlessly chase the literary connections that Pizzolatto has planted in his tale. Start with this interview with author Nic Pizzolatto in the Wall Street Journal: Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of ‘True Detective’. It turns out Pizzolatto is a connoisseur of the weird horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft and his predecessors–as well as modern practitioners of the genre.

Horror and mystery go hand in hand on HBO‘s “True Detective.”  The hit series…is rich in dread similar to the kind inherent in the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and it has featured words and imagery derived from Robert W. Chambers‘ story anthology “The King in Yellow.” As a result, the show has opened up the worlds of weird fiction and cosmic horror to broader audiences.

Executive producer and writer Nic Pizzolatto, responding through email, commented to Speakeasy about some of the more ominous literary and philosophical influences on  ”True Detective,” as well as some of his favorite horror writers.

yellow king

Read Pizzolatto’s recommendations for further reading at the link.

A couple more links on the literary references in the show:

Allyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress: The Crazy Mythology That Explains ‘True Detective’

Lincoln Mitchell at Buzzfeed: A “True Detective” Reading List: dark, weird, and southern gothic books that every fan of HBO’s True Detective should read.

A review of the first episode by Daniel Lefferts at Policymic:

‘True Detective’ Premiere: This is the Next Great American TV Show

More detailed reading about the “yellow king” mythology (some spoilers in these)

Gilbert Cruz at The Vulture: True Detective: Who Is the Yellow King? Here Are Some Theories

An outstanding article by Michael M. Hughes at io9: 

The One Literary Reference You Must Know to Appreciate ​True Detective. An excerpt:

Two episodes into the series, True Detective dropped a reference to one of the strangest, most compelling tales in the canon of weird fiction: Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a collection of short stories published in 1895. Knowing this book is key to understanding the dark mystery at the heart of this series.

This collection of stories has influenced writers from H.P. Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler, to Robert Heinlein, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. The King in Yellow and his legendary city of Carcosa may be the most famous character and setting you’ve never heard of.

In fact, the more of the show you watch, and the more carefully you pay attention, you’ll find a number of Easter eggs aimed squarely at hardcore fans of the weird fiction genre. I’ll touch on a few of the more prominent ones, but I have a feeling the rest of the series will be a bonanza for true detectives of strange fiction.

Video:

Watch the official trailer here.

The music on True Detective is fantastic!

From Policymic: The Secret Sauce of ‘True Detective’ is its Awesome Soundtrack

There is tons more stuff out there, including great discussions by “experts” as well as amateurs in the comments sections of reviews and other articles. I have a feeling people will be talking about True Detective for a long time. The show will continue into a second season with different actors and a new storyline.

——————————————————————–

Now, before I run out of space, here’s some real news, in link dump fashion.

Washington Post: Obama to award Medal of Honor to two dozen veterans, including 19 discrimination victims

WFTV.com: Florida man shocked to learn of Medal of Honor

USA Today: Team USA vs. Finland: How to watch Olympic bronze medal showdown

NY Daily News Ukraine Live Blog: Kiev, Ukraine: Protesters versus police in civil war revolt

CNN: Is Vladimir Putin really the puppet-master in Ukraine’s crisis?

Newsday: In Ukraine and Syria, Vladimir Putin wants to work with dictators

Radio Free Europe: Yanukovych Denounces ‘Coup,’ Not Resigning

BBC News: Venezuela leader Nicolas Maduro seeks talks with Obama

Christian Science Monitor: California in six easy pieces? A bid to let voters decide. 

Those are my offerings for today. What’s on your mind?


Tuesday Reads: The Snowden Conundrum

Assange and Snowden

Good Morning!!

I’m going to focus on the Edward Snowden/NSA leaks story today, because there has been quite a bit of news breaking about it over the past few days.

As of this morning, Snowden hasn’t decided whether to accept one of the asylum offers made by three Latin American countries, Venezuela, Nicaragua, or Bolivia. From NBC News:

MOSCOW, Russia – The status of Edward Snowden’s bid for asylum in Venezuela remained unclear Tuesday after the country’s apparent deadline passed.

The Venezuelan Embassy in Moscow said it had no information on whether the fugitive NSA leaker had completed a deal that would allow him to leave the transit area of an airport in the Russian capital.

In Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro confirmed late Monday that Venezuela had received an official request for asylum from Snowden, telling reporters at a news conference that the self-declared leaker “will need to decide when he will fly here,” according to Russia Today.

Even if Snowden agrees an asylum deal with Venezuela, travel problems could take time to resolve: His U.S. passport has been canceled and U.S. allies may deny airspace to any flight on which he is believed to be traveling.

According to Fox News,

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to decide if he wants to seek refuge in his country after the American reportedly sent an asylum request to Caracas.

Maduro told reporters at a press conference on Monday that the fugitive systems analyst must communicate his intent to accept Venezuela’s offer of asylum, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“He will have to say when he is flying here, if he definitely wants to come here,” Maduro was quoted as telling reporters.

He would probably have to take a private plane, which would be very expensive. Wikileaks is paying for Snowden’s expenses, but would they be able to spring for a private plane? Maybe. More on that in a minute.

One thing we know is very important to Snowden–internet access. One of the reasons he left Hong Kong for Moscow was his fear of not being able to get on the internet. From the Wall Street Journal on June 24:

A person familiar with Mr. Snowden’s case said his decision to get on a flight to Moscow was “very sudden,” made only in the day before departing. The decision was made in consultation with WikiLeaks, which encouraged Mr. Snowden to leave the city after communicating with others about his options abroad, the person said.

“He is very independent, but also very willing to listen to advice,” the person said, adding that Mr. Snowden was concerned that any further delay would result in his detainment by Hong Kong authorities. In part, Mr. Snowden’s determination to leave Hong Kong was based on the fear of losing access to the Internet—his vital link to the rest of the world—should he be detained, the person said. In part, Mr. Snowden’s determination to leave Hong Kong was based on the fear of losing access to the Internet—his vital link to the rest of the world—should he be detained, the person said.

Now Snowden is considering going to one of three countries that have limited access to the internet, according to an article by Alex Halperin at Salon. Venezuela is the best choice, with 40% of the population having internet connections. In Bolivia, it’s 30%, and in Nicaragua only 10.6%.

The Daily Beast has an article on “Wikileaks’ Money Trail” today.

Thankfully for WikiLeaks, its latest cause célèbre, Edward Snowden, is raking in some much-needed cash for the whistle-blowing organization. Snowden sympathizers have been donating generously since WikiLeaks decided to take on the NSA leaker’s case—and the organization desperately needs every dollar it can raise to stay in the black and pay for the legal fees and living costs of founder Julian Assange and now Snowden.

The money WikiLeaks has raised—nearly $90,000 in 2012, with about $1,300 coming in each day since it took Snowden under its wing—comes from people around the world, some of whom give just a few dollars to do their part in making the world a more transparent place.Assange and his team still say they need a lot more than they raise, and the organization always seems to be in the red. WikiLeaks’s operating budget was $510,197 in 2012, which is serious money, considering it is a simple .org with a staff of three paid software developers.

A look into how WikiLeaks is funded and how its money is spent reveals an irony that Assange has acknowledged: an organization dedicated to uncovering the truth keeps its finances intentionally complicated, and it’s next to impossible for donors to find out how their money is processed and where it goes.

Much more at the link. It doesn’t sound like Wikileaks would be able to fund a private plane flight, but maybe some wealthy person like Michael Moore would come through with the big bucks.

More of Snowden’s leaks about U.S. intelligence activities in other countries have been published over the past few days by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Greenwald published a report of Snowden’s allegations of U.S. spying in Brazil that appeared in the Guardian and in the Brazilian paper El Globo, and a report on US collaboration with Australia in collecting data was published by the Sydney Morning Herald. Snowden also released a top secret map of sites in a number of countries that collaborate with NSA in collecting intelligence data.

IMHO, it’s likely that Snowden is giving information to countries he’d like to go to. Greenwald lives in Brazil, and Wikileaks’ Julian Assange is from Australia. I say this, because Greenwald explained on Twitter that Snowden revealed classified documents  in Hong Kong and in order to gain friendly treatment by the government.

The most revealing recent stories have been published by Der Spiegel, which has been given access to some of the documents Snowden stole from NSA. The latest Der Spiegel piece included a blockbuster revelation.  The German magazine published a previously unknown interview with Snowden that was conducted by Laura Poitras and Jacob Applebaum in mid-May, before Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong.

This is stunning news, because Applebaum’s name has never been mentioned in connection with the Snowden story until now, although he (Applebaum) has been very visible on Twitter defending Snowden and hyping Greenwald’s articles.

Applebaum is a  well known hacker who has been prominently associated with Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He is one of the founders of the Tor network , which promotes encryption method to help people and organizations maintain anonymity on the internet. Although he acknowledges that Tor could be giving aid an comfort to criminals such as child pornographers, he believes that privacy rights take precedence over such concerns.

Both Poitras and Applebaum have come to the attention of the U.S. government and both have been stopped and harassed on return flights to the U.S. from other countries.

From the Der Spiegel article:

Shortly before he became a household name around the world as a whistleblower, Edward Snowden answered a comprehensive list of questions. They originated from Jacob Appelbaum, 30, a developer of encryption and security software. Appelbaum provides training to international human rights groups and journalists on how to use the Internet anonymously.

Appelbaum first became more broadly known to the public after he spoke on behalf of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at a hacker conference in New York in 2010. Together with Assange and other co-authors, Appelbaum recently released a compilation of interviews in book form under the title “Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet.”

Applebaum explains how he got involved.

“In mid-May, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras contacted me,” Appelbaum said. “She told me she was in contact with a possible anonymous National Security Agency (NSA) source who had agreed to be interviewed by her.”

“She was in the process of putting questions together and thought that asking some specific technical questions was an important part of the source verification process. One of the goals was to determine whether we were really dealing with an NSA whistleblower. I had deep concerns of COINTELPRO-style entrapment. We sent our securely encrypted questions to our source. I had no knowledge of Edward Snowden’s identity before he was revealed to the world in Hong Kong. He also didn’t know who I was. I expected that when the anonymity was removed, we would find a man in his sixties.”

Please note the timeline: Poitras says Snowden contacted her in January, and Greenwald says he began working with Poitras and Snowden in February. Poitras also contacted Barton Gellman of the Washington Post in February–apparently without Greenwald’s knowlege. At some point Snowden was working for NSA as a Dell contractor, but he quit this job in order to get one at Booz Allen, where he would have access to more top secret information about U.S. spy facilities around the world. He took the job with Booz Allen sometime in March and went to a training course back in the U.S. that lasted a couple of months. According to Booz Allen, Snowden was employed by them for less than three months and was only on the job in Hawaii for about three weeks, during which time he stole four laptops full of classified documents.

There’s no doubt this operation was premeditated; Snowden admitted that in an interview with the South China Morning Post. The only real questions are whether it was initiated or aided by Julian Assange and Wikileaks and whether Jacob Applebaum aided Snowden in hacking into NSA computers. I’m not ready to argue that yet; but these new revelations, along with the fact that Wikileaks seems to have taken over communications with Snowden are certainly suggestive.

Here’s another possible piece of the timeline. In December 2012, Glenn Greenwald and some of his close friends started an organization called Freedom of the Press Foundation. Others on the board of directors of the foundation besides Greenwald are Laura Poitras and Daniel Ellsberg. According to their website, their purpose is to raise funds to support “public interest journalism.” Their criteria for choosing news organization to support is as follows:

Record of engaging in transparency journalism or supporting it in a material way, including support for whistleblowers.

Public interest agenda.

Organizations or individuals under attack for engaging in transparency journalism.

Need for support. The foundation’s goal is to prioritize support for organizations and individuals who are in need of funding or who face obstacles to gaining support on their own.

At the top of the list of organizations they support is Wikileaks.

Please note that I’m not yet proposing some grand conspiracy theory here. I’m just laying out the facts as I know them so far and connecting some dots. But some people are suggesting Wikileaks could have directed this operation. I was very surprised to see this article by Walter Pincus at the Washington Post yesterday: Questions for Snowden. Basically Pincus connected some dots and is asking some of the same questions I am asking.  I’m going to excerpt a little more than I normally would from the Pincus piece. He writes:

Was he [Snowden] encouraged or directed by WikiLeaks personnel or others to take the job as part of a broader plan to expose NSA operations to selected journalists?

In the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier on trial for disclosing thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, it was Julian Assange and his organization who directed the collection of documents, U.S. prosecutors have alleged. While Manning’s lawyers contend there is no evidence to support that finding, prosecutors have said there are hundreds of chats between Manning and Assange and WikiLeaks lists of desired material.

In Manning’s case, WikiLeaks and its founder, Assange, determined the news organizations that initially would receive the materials.

Pincus wants to know how Snowden decided to leak to Poitras, Greenwald, and Gellman.

Did Assange and WikiLeaks personnel help or direct Snowden to those journalists?

Poitras and Greenwald have had close connections with Assange and WikiLeaks. In December 2010, Greenwald said of the British arrest of Assange: “Whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they have not been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. Yet look what has happened to them. They have been removed from [the] Internet . . . their funds have been frozen . . . media figures and politicians have called for their assassination and to be labeled a terrorist organization.”

In a June 2012 Guardian column, Greenwald wrote, “As a foreign national accused of harming U.S. national security, he [Assange] has every reason to want to avoid ending up in the travesty known as the American judicial system.”

On April 10, 2012, Greenwald wrote for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog about Poitras and WikiLeaks being targeted by U.S. government officials.

Pincus also suggests that Julian Assange knew the contents of Glenn Greenwald’s first article on Snowden’s leaks.

Poitras has been working on a film on post-9/11 America, with a focus on the NSA and in which Assange and WikiLeaks are participating. Assange confirmed this in a May 29 interview on Democracy Now’s Web site.

In that same interview, Assange previewed the first Greenwald Guardian story based on Snowden documents that landed a week later. Speaking from Ecuador’s embassy in London, Assange described how NSA had been collecting “all the calling records of the United States, every record of everyone calling everyone over years. . . . Those calling records already [are] entered into the national security complex.”

Did he know ahead of time of that Guardian story describing the U.S. court order permitting NSA’s collection of the telephone toll records of millions of American Verizon customers and storing them for years?

This post is getting way too long, but just to be fair I’ll offer another conspiracy theory from Pepe Escobar of Asia Times. I’ll quote the first few paragraphs and you can go read the whole thing if you’re so inclined.

The working title of the Edward Snowden movie is still The Spy Who Remains in the Cold. Here’s where we stand:

– Snowden could only fly out of Hong Kong because China allowed it.

– Snowden could only arrive in Moscow because Russia knew it – in co-operation with China. This is part of their strategic relationship, which includes the BRICS group (along with Brazil, India and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. No official source though would ever confirm it.
With the Latin American offers of asylum (Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua; even Uruguay would consider it), we’re approaching the clincher: Moscow is now calculating whether – and how – to help Snowden reach his final destination while extracting maximum political capital out of Washington.

Into this script comes roaring the coup-that-is-not-a-coup sub-plot in Egypt. Cynics’ eyebrows will be raised that just as the Barack Obama administration was going mental over the National Security Agency (NSA) spy scandal a revo-coup-o-lution explodes in Egypt. New revelations about the extent of the NSA-centric Orwellian Panopticon keep on coming, but they have been totally downgraded by US corporate media; it’s all Egypt all the time. After all, the Pentagon – to which the NSA is attached – owns the Egyptian military, something that even the New York Times had to acknowledge. [1]

Yet they don’t own Snowden. This has nothing to do with “terra”.

Meanwhile, the US intelligence gambit of intercepting a non-adversarial presidential plane spectacularly backfired in true Mad magazine Spy vs Spy fashion. Obama had said he would not “scramble fighter jets” to catch Snowden; of course not, just ground them.

Austrian paper Die Presse revealed that the US Ambassador in Austria, William Eacho, was responsible for spreading the (false) information about Snowden being on board Bolivia President Evo Morales’ Falcon out of Russia – leading to the denial of overflying rights in France, Spain, Portugal an Italy. [2] Eacho – a former CEO of a food distribution company with no diplomatic experience whatsoever – was appointed by Obama to go to Vienna in June 2009. Why? Because he was a top Obama fundraiser.

Read the rest at Asia Times. BTW, I’m not sure both of these conspiracy theories couldn’t be at least partially true.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your reactions.


Saturday Reads: We’re Having A Heat Wave Edition

iceblock

Good Morning!!

The long weekend continues, and so does the heat wave here in Greater Boston. This is our second heat wave of this summer. I know these are just normal temps for you hardy souls in the South, but for us Northerners, it’s quite a shock to the system.

From The Boston Globe: As heat wave hits, region falls under a sultry spell.

The torpor-inducing temperatures, expected to last through Sunday, will feel hotter than the last, said Bill Simpson, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Friday’s high was 95 degrees with 55 percent humidity, he said, but the heat index, which combines temperature and relative humidity to measure how hot it feels, hit nearly 100. There will be no relief until Monday, he said, when temperatures should cool to the mid- to low-80s.

In Boston, Mayor Thomas M. Menino issued a heat advisory through the weekend, urging residents to stay hydrated and in the shade or air conditioning….

To stave off the heat, many turned to ice. The number of convenience stores and restaurants needing extra ice rose “exponentially” since the beginning of the heat wave, said Charlotte Ploss, sales manager at Brookline Ice & Coal, which specializes in ice delivery. The phones there rang nonstop Friday morning and afternoon, sometimes with customers requesting ice for the second or third time of the day.

One supermarket ordered 4 tons of ice, Ploss said. A restaurant called for so many ice refills that Brookline Ice & Coal offered use of a company trailer, which holds 3,000 pounds of ice. Because the restaurant does not have enough space for the trailer, its owner is parking it in his driveway, she said.

So what else is going on? The President of Venezuela has offered asylum to Edward Snowden. From Reuters via the NYT:

CARACAS — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden on Friday in defiance of Washington, which is demanding his arrest for divulging details of secret U.S. spy programs.

“In the name of America’s dignity … I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden,” Maduro told a military parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.

“He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world.”

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How Snowden would get to Venezuela from Moscow if he accepts the offer no one knows as yet.

There are no direct commercial flights between Moscow and Caracas, and the usual route involves changing planes in Havana. It is not clear if the Cuban authorities would let him transit….

One alternative flight plan would involve an aircraft taking off from Moscow, refueling in Vladivostok, and then continuing east over the Pacific to South America.

Nicaragua has also said it would consider offering Snowden asylum. Both Venezuela and Nicaragua have questionable human rights records; but no doubt, Snowden supporters will find ways to explain all that away.

The Washington Post has a feature on Sarah Harrison, “the woman from Wikileaks” who accompanied Snowden to Moscow and is reportedly still there.

Harrison began working with WikiLeaks in August 2010 on the internal vetting of confidential U.S. documents supplied by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, which the site later released. At some point that year, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Harrison and Assange became intimately involved. They cautioned that the relationship was not Harrison’s prime motivation in championing the WikiLeaks cause.

“She is firmly committed to what WikiLeaks is trying to do; she believes 100 percent in the mission,” one of the people said. “Any suggestion that her relationship with Julian is what has compelled her to do the things she has would be a totally wrong assumption.”

Although those who know her as an Assange confidante describe her as more comfortable behind the scenes, Harrison now finds herself in the spotlight. She has raced across continents to aid Snowden, assisting in his flight from Hong Kong and his search for asylum from Moscow. On Friday, Venezuela and Nicaragua offered Snowden asylum. All the while, she has has maintained a low profile and refrained from public statements.

Read the rest at the link.

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In Chile, another human rights issue has arisen once again–the right of girls and women to control their own bodies. USA Today reports: Child’s pregnancy sets off Chile abortion debate.

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The case of a pregnant 11-year old girl who was raped in Chile by her mother’s partner has set off a national debate about abortion in one of the most socially-conservative countries in Latin America.

Chileans were outraged on Friday after state TV reported that the girl is 14 weeks pregnant and was raped repeatedly over two years. Police in the remote southern city of Puerto Montt arrested her mother’s partner, who confessed to abusing the fifth grader. The case was brought to their attention by the pregnant child’s maternal grandmother.

Doctors say the girl’s life and that of the fetus are at high risk. But in Chile, ending the pregnancy is not an option.

Chile allowed abortions for medical reasons until they were outlawed in 1973 by Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. The current government of conservative President Sebastian Pinera has opposed any loosening of the prohibition.

One has to assume that Republicans here in the U.S. are applauding this horror, since they keep trying to limit women’s autonomy with nightmare legislation in numerous states. The latest is Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker just signed a draconian new anti-abortion bill. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports:

Madison — Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Friday requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges, and abortion clinics responded by immediately suing state officials over the measure.

The law — signed Friday by Walker in a private ceremony — would cut the number of clinics offering abortions in Wisconsin from four to two, and one of the remaining clinics would have to dramatically cut the number of abortions it provides, according to the operators of the clinics.

“When women don’t have access to safe, legal abortions, there are health consequences and women die,” said Teri Huyck, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin….

Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services filed the lawsuit in federal court in Madison. They brought it against Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dave Ross and the members of the state Medical Examining Board — all of whom have authority to enforce the law or issue sanctions.

It will be heard by U.S. District Judge William Conley. It was unclear whether he would take action before the law takes effect Monday.

The National Journal is bullish on the latest jobs report. The Really Great News From the June Jobs Report: the April and May Numbers

Happy jobs day! First, the immediate good news: The June report showed the U.S. economy added 195,000 in June, strongly beating expectations in the 150,000-165,000 range. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, was unchanged at 7.6 percent.

But now for the really good news: We were quite wrong about job gains in April and May. Initial reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a jobs gain of 149,000 in April and 175,000 in May. In the latest reports, those numbers were revised upward to 199,000 in April and 195,000 in May. That’s a combined gain of 70,000 jobs from earlier reports. So, since April, it turns out that the economy has actually gained nearly 200,000 new jobs a month.

They admit the unemployment situation is still pretty horrible overall. Read about it at the link.

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Here’s a wacky story out of Texas: Gun owners march on Houston police station with shotguns and assault rifles.

A group of gun owners and gun rights advocates celebrated Independence Day on Thursday by marching on the headquarters of the Houston Police Department while carrying an array of shotguns and assault rifles. According to the Washington Examiner, the group was organized via Facebook and numbered about 25 attendees.

“It’s Independence Day — where it all started,” said shotgun toting protester Jenn Kroll, to the Houston Chronicle. “What better day to show our rights?”

“If you don’t use your rights, they can take them away,” Ed Aldredge of Sugar Land said. Aldridge brought along his 11-year-old son, Austin, who carried a .22-caliber rifle.

No mention in the story about how Houston police reacted to the march.

Violence continues in Egypt where the army and Morsi supporters are battling each other. From BBC News:

More than 30 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in Friday’s violence following the ousting of Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi, it has emerged.

At least 12 died in Alexandria, and eight in two separate clashes in Cairo, the Health Ministry said….

Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, is in detention.

Some senior figures of his Muslim Brotherhood movement have also been held.

Early on Saturday, state media reported the Brotherhood’s deputy leader Khairat el-Shater had been arrested at his Cairo home on suspicion of incitement to violence.

The Tamarod [Rebel] movement – which organised recent anti-Morsi protests – accused the ousted president of pursuing an Islamist agenda against the wishes of most Egyptians, and of failing to tackle economic problems.

So…quite a bit of news for a long holiday weekend. What are you reading and blogging about today?