Archive for News
The T-party will again provide its own response to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight, Rachel Maddow reports. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa will give the official Republican response. She may be about the only member of the Senate to the right of Sen. Ted Cruz, Maddow observed. Just not right enough.
The T-party response will come from the same smirking freshman congressman, Rep. Curt Clawson of Florida, who, in a subcommittee hearing last July, mistook two senior American officials from the State Department and from Commerce for Indian nationals. Guess why:
“I’m familiar with your country; I love your country,” the freshman congressman said. “Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I’m willing and enthusiastic about doing so.”
“Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcome there,” he added. “I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”
“I think your question is to the Indian government,” Nisha Biswal said. “We certainly share your sentiment, and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the U.S.” Working for the State Department, Biswal is a diplomat. Can you tell?
Clawson won his seat in a special election to replace Rep. Trey Radel, who resigned after a conviction for cocaine possession.
If we’re in luck, Clawson will display the same smug, false confidence again. As Maddow said, tonight’s SOTU should be fun.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
Why, how Enlightenment of them:
The case of a Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes has been referred to the Supreme Court by the king’s office, the BBC has learned.
Blogger Raif Badawi’s wife said the referral, made before he was flogged 50 times last Friday, gave him hope that officials would end his punishment.
A second round of lashings was postponed for medical reasons.
The punishment of Badawi, who was also fined and sentenced to 10 years in prison, caused international outcry.
Badawi established Liberal Saudi Network, a now-closed online forum that sought to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia in 2008.
Ah! Can’t have that. Nope.
News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch tweeted this on Friday about the Charlie Hebdo attacks:
Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.
— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) January 10, 2015
Murdoch’s sweeping indictment of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims drew its own round of apologies for Murdoch from other Australian men, conveniently aggregated by the Independent, including this none-too-subtle rebuke:
As a human being living on planet earth, I must apologise to the Universe for not throwing @rupertmurdoch into the mouth of a Volcano.
— Christopher McBean (@MrMcBean) January 11, 2015
As Vox observed, a ritual apology is expected of the Muslim world after every incident resembling the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris:
Writing for the Guardian, Nesrine Malik insists that retreating into tribal camps is not the way to respond to the Charlie Hebdo shootings. The attackers, she insists, “belong to no single community or country or mosque.” This is not a clash of civilizations. It is a strategic attack aimed at terrorist recruitment, as Juan Cole explains:
Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination.
Like early Stalinists or Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Cole writes, the Paris attackers hope to provoke a backlash to help radicalize an inconveniently docile population by “sharpening the contradictions” between communities:
“Sharpening the contradictions” is the strategy of sociopaths and totalitarians, aimed at unmooring people from their ordinary insouciance and preying on them, mobilizing their energies and wealth for the perverted purposes of a self-styled great leader.
The only effective response to this manipulative strategy (as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani tried to tell the Iraqi Shiites a decade ago) is to resist the impulse to blame an entire group for the actions of a few and to refuse to carry out identity-politics reprisals.
Malik concurs in rejecting any us-them framing:
To engage in war talk – about a Muslim threat that needs to be combated by an aggressive reassertion of whatever composite identity of liberal values one believes is under attack – is to give in to the reductionism demanded by terrorists.
Whether it is Islamic State (Isis), al-Qaida or lone actors, they will use religiously focused grievances as a vehicle for political, personal and mental maladies. Don’t buy it. The way to honour the dead and find a way out of what seems like a depressingly inevitable downward spiral would be to resist the polar narrative altogether. It will not only heal painful rifts, it might even save lives.
Shorter Malik: Don’t give them what they want.
In “David and Goliath,” Malcolm Gladwell tells a story about the bombing of London in WWII. What the Nazis expected (and British authorities, too) was that panic would sweep London, demoralizing the citizens. Unexpectedly, the opposite happened. Because, as Canadian psychiatrist J. T. MacCurdy deduced, the dead don’t panic and those nearly killed are few; and the far more numerous, those who survived multiple attacks unscathed, felt invincible. Gladwell writes:
So why were Londoners so unfazed by the Blitz? Because forty thousand deaths and forty-six
thousand injuries—spread across a metropolitan area of more than eight million people—means that
there were many more remote misses who were emboldened by the experience of being bombed than
there were near misses who were traumatized by it.
Keep Calm and Carry On.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
Perilous times for free speech
by Tom Sullivan
I have long said that loss of the ability to laugh at yourself is the first warning sign of fundamentalism. That applies whether the fundamentalist is a jihadist of the right or from the fringe left. Plus a lot in between. A priest I know once said it was a healthy thing, now and then, to spit on your idols. That is, if you can still recognize when beliefs have become idols.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, even Ross Douthat argues that the right to blaspheme is “essential to the liberal order.” And although shock for shock’s sake adds little to public debate, “If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said.” We will see, after the transient outpouring of support for France, how well some of our compatriots (and Douthat) warm to defending that idea when their own sacred cows are gored.
Time‘s Bruce Crumley responded to the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo in 2012:
It’s obvious free societies cannot simply give in to hysterical demands made by members of any beyond-the-pale group. And it’s just as clear that intimidation and violence must be condemned and combated for whatever reason they’re committed — especially if their goal is to undermine freedoms and liberties of open societies. But it’s just evident members of those same free societies have to exercise a minimum of intelligence, calculation, civility and decency in practicing their rights and liberties—and that isn’t happening when a newspaper decides to mock an entire faith on the logic that it can claim to make a politically noble statement by gratuitously pissing people off.
Writing at Wonkette, Shrill picked up on a story the other day that I missed:
Anyway, on New Year’s Eve, the New York Police Department requested the public’s help in finding a man who grabbed an MTA worker, threw her on the ground, throttled her, and then ran away with a jaunty and satisfied smirk on his face.
Being the New York subway system, surveillance cameras captured the play-by-play. Turns out the attacker was an off-duty police officer. But here’s where Shrill turns it into a man-bites-dog story:
The hilarious coda to this story is the treatment of this story in the news by the New York Daily News. Here’s the headline from the story they wrote before they knew that the culprit was a police officer:
And here’s the lede of that story:
A hulking brute grabbed a 28-year-old MTA employee up in a bear hug at a Bronx train station, shoved her onto the platform and began choking her in an unprovoked attack – then ran away smiling, authorities said Wednesday.
Here’s the story after they found out that the culprit was a police officer:
During a similar period of prolonged, public face-palming over Washington idiocy, somebody asked: Where’s Tom Lehrer when you really need him? Well at 86, the singer-satirist is no longer performing. Thankfully, we have Matt Taibbi, back at Rolling Stone.
Taibbi gives the Citigroup provision in the “Cromnibus” budget bill a bit of the “vampire squid” treatment. Senator Elizabeth Warren made headlines on Friday night when the Massachusetts Democrat read aloud the title of the Dodd-Frank rule the Citigroup-sponsored provision aimed to repeal: “PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES.” And then proceeded to vivisect it in her speech on the Senate floor, warning that passage means more corporate welfare in the form of taxpayer-funded bailouts. It is a provision neither Republicans nor Democrats would own up to inserting, neither would defend, yet would not stand up in numbers to remove lest it precipitate a government shutdown. Neither will the White House veto it.
Taibbi writes (emphasis mine):
There’s no logical argument against the provision. The banks only want it because they want to use your bank accounts as a human shield to protect their dangerous gambling activities.
Questions surrounding the August hanging death of Lennon Lacy, 17, of Bladenboro, NC have been percolating since the summer. With fall election campaigns and higher-profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, the black teenager’s hanging death, quickly ruled a suicide, went largely unnoticed outside North Carolina. But Lacy’s family did not accept the official conclusion that the youth killed himself. Lacy was found hanging by a dog leash wearing someone else’s shoes. Two sizes too small:
Days after he was buried, Lennon’s grave was defiled – an act of vandalism that Lennon’s family believes supports their claim that he was killed in a racially-motivated homicide.
After calls from the North Carolina NAACP and Lacy’s family, the FBI has stepped in:
The FBI will investigate the case of Lennon Lacy, the black teenager found hanging in August from a swing set in North Carolina, whose parents have disputed the official ruling that he killed himself and asked whether his death amounted to a modern-day lynching.
It was confirmed on Friday that a federal agent has been assigned to investigate what happened to Lacy, 17, a budding high-school football prospect found hanging in the middle of a predominantly white trailer park in Bladenboro, North Carolina, on 29 August. The move follows a formal request from the Lacy family and from the North Carolina branch of the NAACP to the US attorney asking for the federal authorities to throw their weight behind the investigation.
A few years back I wrote an op-ed about extraordinary rendition flights and the case of Maher Arar, asking readers whether the Bush administration was fighting terrorists, breeding them, or becoming them. In a case of mistaken identity, Arar had been detained at Kennedy International while changing planes on his way home to Canada. He was taken by police in front of his family and sent to Syria where he was tortured for months. He’s been on Twitter recently for some reason:
"4 of the 20 cells at the facility included a bar across the top of the cell"- #TortureReport. A copycat of cell I was detained in in Syria
— Maher Arar (@ArarMaher) December 10, 2014
Mistaken identity as a terror suspect'd keep u in a Syrian dungeon 4months on end. Not any different in CIA-run prisons as in #TortureReport
— Maher Arar (@ArarMaher) December 10, 2014
Given the release of the SSCI torture report and this news from the Guardian, I guess the answer to my original question was all of the above.
Abu Ahmed (nom de guerre), a jihadist with misgivings about the brutality of the so-called Islamist State, spoke with Martin Chulov about the inner workings of ISIS and the rise of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, at the Americans’ Camp Bucca prison in southern Iraq:
“We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else,” he told me. “It would have been impossibly dangerous. Here, we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred metres away from the entire al-Qaida leadership.”
Baghdadi had inside “a darkness that he did not want to show other people,” Abu Ahmed explained. But he hid it well from the Americans.
Baghdadi also seemed to have a way with his captors. According to Abu Ahmed, and two other men who were jailed at Bucca in 2004, the Americans saw him as a fixer who could solve fractious disputes between competing factions and keep the camp quiet.
“But as time went on, every time there was a problem in the camp, he was at the centre of it,” Abu Ahmed recalled. “He wanted to be the head of the prison – and when I look back now, he was using a policy of conquer and divide to get what he wanted, which was status. And it worked.” By December 2004, Baghdadi was deemed by his jailers to pose no further risk and his release was authorised.
“He was respected very much by the US army,” Abu Ahmed said. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”
As Isis has rampaged through the region, it has been led by men who spent time in US detention centres during the American occupation of Iraq – in addition to Bucca, the US also ran Camp Cropper, near Baghdad airport, and, for an ill-fated 18 months early in the war, Abu Ghraib prison on the capital’s western outskirts. Many of those released from these prisons – and indeed, several senior American officers who ran detention operations – have admitted that the prisons had an incendiary effect on the insurgency.
Mission accomplished, eh?
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
The Army of Mumpower decided late last night to cancel today’s rally in support of local police. (A #BlackLivesMatter counter protest had been planned.) While acknowledging that local protests have been peaceful, former Asheville City Councilman Carl Mumpower said obliquely that he was cancelling his rally so as not to provide “the opportunity” for that to change (emphasis mine):
“I try to be direct and honest,” Mumpower said. “To me, we have been far too tolerant in this community. There are a lot of aggressive minority voices who have come here not to uplift our culture, but kidnap it. That doesn’t call for silence or passivity in my view,” he said.
“Outside people have come here with a broad insensitivity to the traditional culture and values of our community and that merits challenge.”
The challenge is how to do that without dismantling the local tourism-dependent economy. Unless, of course, one proposes ceasing all advertising and new home construction, rolling up the streets, and erecting gates at the county line.
Don’t like outside people? Stop inviting them!