06/08/2011 archive

How Many “L’s” Are There In “Gullible”?

Egg meet face. Or maybe not. Yesterday, your Bloguero became incensed that Syrian authorities or other bad people had seized or kidnapped Syrian Blogger Amina Abdallah, and your Bloguero rushed to post about it, not just here but at about five other sites, using a photo your Bloguero (and most of the world’s media) then thought was Amina Abdallah.

Almost immediately, the claim arose that the woman in the photo wasn’t really Amina.  No, it was apparently somebody else, from England, named Jelena Lecic.  OK, your Bloguero thought, somebody is trying to undercut the kidnapping story. Then your Bloguero, ever suspicious, thought, no, Amina had used somebody else’s picture so that she would not be so easily identified by Syrian police thugs.  That made sense.  Then your Bloguero thought, well, and maybe her nom de ecran isn’t her real name either.  And then, gnawing at your Bloguero’s brain stem, the thought arose, “Ut oh.  Maybe you’re gullible and maybe this whole thing is just an enormous hoax.”  That ugly, reptilian thought was one your Bloguero immediately filed in his vast personal filing cabinet of ugly, reptillian thoughts.

Your Bloguero thought, “Well, let’s see what is next.”  Today what was next was not pretty. MSNBC reported that Jelena Lecic claims that Amina stole her identity:

The reported disappearance of a gay Syrian-American blogger has attracted skepticism after a London woman claimed the photos published by news organizations worldwide are of her, not of the blogger, and that the blogger stole her identity a year ago.

… News sites, including msnbc.com, reported the 36-year-old writer’s disappearance on Tuesday, along with a photo of her.

On Wednesday, a London publicist said photos circulating are actually of Jelena Lecic, a Croatian woman who works as an administrator at the Royal College of Physicians in London. Lecic believes her identity has been used before by Arraf.

Jelena Lenic, who lives in London, said her photo was used alongside stories about a missing Syrian blogger. The blogger has previously claimed photos of Lecic were of her, she said.

“Just over a year ago, a friend called Jelena up and said, ‘Do you have another identity up on Facebook? Because there’s someone else who has your pictures up but not your name,” publicist Julius Just told msnbc.com. “She and her friend complained, and Facebook removed it, and she believed it was the end of the matter.”

But when news of Arraf’s disappearance broke, Just said Lecic saw her photo alongside the story in London’s Guardian newspaper. It was one of the same photos her friend had spotted on Facebook a year ago under a different profile name: Amina Abdalla Arraf….

[Lecic’s] publicist said he questioned whether Arraf was a real person.

“She could be a composite. Who knows? She claims online that she was born in the United States, but researchers can find no records of her born in the U.S.,” Just told msnbc.com. “Why would you take another woman’s identity and claim it as your own? If she is real, Jelena is extremely concerned for her and her family, but her identity has been stolen. This is a serious situation.”

Egged on by the “publicist” MSNBC reported that apparently nobody had seen Amina in person.  And it wondered aloud whether she existed. It accepted without investigation that claim that there was no record of her in the US.  Heaven knows how the “publicist” could know that. One thing is for sure: if she didn’t exist, the story of the kidnapping was baloney. Hmmm.  That too sounded odd.

So apparently a woman who is an administrator at the London College of Physicians has a “publicist”.  And that publicist is now speculating on whether or not Amina really exists.  And talking about an investigation of US records about Amina.  How curious.

Maybe your Bloguero should go around with a shirt with an enormous “G” for gullible stenciled on it.  Maybe not.  The compelling part of the story is that a blogger would be targeted by the government or thugs because of what she said and would be kidnapped or seized or maybe even disappeared.  As a blogger, your Bloguero felt compelled to speak out about this.  And he did.  But today there is still that loud gnawing on your Bloguero’s brain stem.

Is your Bloguero (and the rest of the Blogosfero) being played for the sentimental, self righteous fool?  And if he is, is this just the latest attempt by Syrian and other despotic authorities to silence the chattering Blogosfero?  Or is the story a real one?

Amina’s blog, “A Gay Girl In Damascus,” hasn’t been updated since late Monday.  The story in the Traditional Media is now no longer about a kidnapping.  It’s about whether there was a hoax.


cross posted from The Dream Antilles

A Japanese Lesson

mishima is excluded because he’ll spoil the curve.

In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the… Anyone? Anyone?… the Great Depression, passed the… Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?… raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression. Today we have a similar debate over this. Anyone know what this is? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone seen this before? The Laffer Curve. Anyone know what this says? It says that at this point on the revenue curve, you will get exactly the same amount of revenue as at this point. This is very controversial. Does anyone know what Vice President Bush called this in 1980? Anyone? Something-d-o-o economics. “Voodoo” economics.

How many of you know that Fukushima means “fortunate island“?  Hands?  Mr. Hand?  I like irony except I find that if you just toss your clothes in the dryer for a few minutes you hardly ever have to use it.

Now, how many of you know that Dai’ichi means “number one”?

Just as when we start numbering battles (First Bull Run, Second Manassas) and wars (WWI, WWII) and movies (Han shot first!), this should be a clue that there are others out there.

Dai’ni means “number two”, and now you and Elmo can count in Japanese.

Tepco Plans Radioactive Water Release from Second Plant

By MITSURU OBE, The Wall Street Journal

JUNE 8, 2011, 10:55 A.M. ET

TOKYO-Tokyo Electric Power Co. is planning to release 3,000 tons of lightly radioactive water into the ocean from the Fukushima Daini nuclear complex, the sister plant of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi complex, officials said Wednesday.

The government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the water contains a small amount of radioactive material, including manganese-54 and cobalt-58, but that the amounts are mostly within permissible levels for being discharged into the ocean. The total amount of radioactive materials contained in the 3,000 tons of water is estimated at three billion becquerels, NISA said.

Not that this is the worst news-

Blackout hits Fukushima nuclear plant’s Nos. 1, 2 units

Japan Today

Wednesday 08th June, 06:59 PM JST

TOKYO – The crippled Fukushima Daiichi (that would be number one original for you newly bi-lingual folks) nuclear power plant suffered power outages at its Nos. 1 and 2 reactors temporarily Wednesday, with lights in the units’ central control room being cut off and the transmission of radiation data being partially halted.

The system to transfer data from radiation monitoring posts was found to have partly stopped. The blackout is also believed to have affected the nitrogen supply system for the No. 1 unit’s containment vessel so its operation was stopped manually.

They’re also having humidity problems which they’re going to “solve” by leaving the doors open and letting radioactive vapor vent into the environment.

High Tech, isn’t it?

But wait, there’s more!

Since I’m entirely vain and constantly in search of validation I’m happy to report my original estimate that all three active reactors suffered containment vessel breaches is now confirmed

‘Melt-through’ at Fukushima? Govt report to IAEA suggests situation worse than meltdown

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Jun. 8, 2011

Nuclear fuel in three reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has possibly melted through pressure vessels and accumulated at the bottom of outer containment vessels, according to a government report obtained Tuesday by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

A “melt-through”–when melted nuclear fuel leaks from the bottom of damaged reactor pressure vessels into containment vessels–is far worse than a core meltdown and is the worst possibility in a nuclear accident.

The possibility of the situation at the plant’s Nos. 1 to 3 reactors was raised in a report that is to be submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

smiley face

Have a nice day.

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: Beware Charlatans, Cranks and Contemptible Politicians

Ben Smith and Byron Tau commented in Politico: “In this Republican primary season, no economic or monetary policy is too unorthodox for an electorate hungry for change.”

There wasn’t much new in the story, published May 20, but it did remind us that former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty – who is supposed to be a noncrazy – has declared his opposition to fiat currencies, which means a return to the gold standard (although he may not know that that’s what it means).

What Politico doesn’t include, but should, is the lemminglike rush to endorse the budget plan of Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, which, although Very Serious, is also complete crank economics, with its insistence – in the teeth of all the evidence – that privatizing Medicare can somehow bring about adequate health care in the United States at a much lower cost. And then there’s the recent rise of default denialism: Hey, let’s signal to everyone that we’re a banana republic, what harm can it do?

In the first edition (but only the first edition) of his textbook “Principles of Economics,” economist Greg Mankiw famously derided President Reagan’s supply-side advisers as charlatans and cranks. It’s pretty clear that when Mr. Mankiw wrote that, he imagined that this was only a phase, that Republicans would return to more sensible policies. In fact, however, the party is sinking ever further into deep voodoo.

Glen Grenwald: The Joys of Repressed Voyeuristic Titillation

There are few things more sickening — or revealing — to behold than a D.C. sex scandal.  Huge numbers of people prance around flamboyantly condemning behavior in which they themselves routinely engage.  Media stars contrive all sorts of high-minded justifications for luxuriating in every last dirty detail, when nothing is more obvious than that their only real interest is vicarious titillation.  Reporters who would never dare challenge powerful political figures who torture, illegally eavesdrop, wage illegal wars or feed at the trough of sleazy legalized bribery suddenly walk upright — like proud ostriches with their feathers extended — pretending to be hard-core adversarial journalists as they collectively kick a sexually humiliated figure stripped of all importance.  The ritual is as nauseating as it is predictable.

What makes the Anthony Weiner story somewhat unique and thus worth discussing for a moment is that, as Hendrick Hertzberg points out, the pretense of substantive relevance (which, lame though it was in prior scandals, was at least maintained) has been more or less brazenly dispensed with here.  This isn’t a case of illegal sex activity or gross hypocrisy (i.e., David Vitter, Larry Craig, Mark Foley (who built their careers on Family Values) or Eliot Spitzer (who viciously prosecuted trivial prostitution cases)).  There’s no lying under oath (Clinton) or allegedly illegal payments (Ensign, Edwards).  From what is known, none of the women claim harassment and Weiner didn’t even have actual sex with any of them.  This is just pure mucking around in the private, consensual, unquestionably legal private sexual affairs of someone for partisan gain, voyeuristic fun and the soothing fulfillment of judgmental condemnation.  And in that regard, it sets a new standard: the private sexual activities of public figures — down to the most intimate details — are now inherently newsworthy, without the need for any pretense of other relevance.

Norman Birnbaum: Germany-Appearance and Reality

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has come to Washington to be honored at a state dinner at the White House tonight, will be welcomed as a loyal ally, a very competent leader and the representative of a successful nation. No doubt, President Obama has reason to envy her capacity to exploit the weaknesses of her situation to stay on top. It is not, however, the kind of thing that is decently said aloud. Commentators instead will remind Germany of its moral obligations: to accept US initiatives, large and small. Otherwise, after all, we might not defend it against Russian invasion or Iranian missiles.

In Washington the chancellor will pretend to agree with a worldview that in Berlin she ignores, since it is dismissed as preposterous by much of her citizenry as well as by intelligent bureaucrats and politicians. Once home, she will preside over the shrinkage of the German army and keep it out of disasters like the stalled NATO intervention in Libya. Before the next general election, two years hence, she will certainly recall German forces from Afghanistan. Since 1945, war has become deeply unpopular in Germany, and the Afghan war is viewed as especially senseless.

Larry Goldsmith: Bradley Manning: Rich Man’s War, Poor (Gay) Man’s Fight

A poor, young gay man from the rural South joins the U.S. Army under pressure from his father, and because it’s the only way left to pay for a college education. He is sent to Iraq, where he is tormented by fellow soldiers who entertain themselves watching “war porn” videos of drone and helicopter attacks on civilians. He is accused of leaking documents to Wikileaks and placed in solitary confinement, where he has been held for more than a year awaiting a military trial.  The President of the United States, a former Constitutional law professor lately suffering amnesia about the presumption of innocence, declares publicly that “he broke the law.”  The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Amnesty International, and the American Civil Liberties Union express grave concern about the conditions of his imprisonment, and the spokesman for the U.S. State Department is forced to resign after calling it “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” A letter signed by 295 noted legal scholars charges that his imprisonment violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment guarantee against punishment without trial, and that procedures used on Manning “calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality” amount to torture.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Human Rights Campaign, having invested millions lobbying for “gays in the military,” have no comment.  Of course not.  Bradley Manning is not that butch patriotic homosexual, so central to the gays-in-the-military campaign, who Defends Democracy and Fights Terrorism with a virility indistinguishable from that of his straight buddies. He is not that pillar of social and economic stability, only incidentally homosexual, who returns home from the front to a respectable profession and a faithful spouse and children.

Robert Reich: Make Companies’ Political Spending Transparent

President Obama is mulling an executive order to force big government contractors to disclose their political spending. He should issue it immediately. But he should go further – banning all political activity by companies receiving more than half their revenues from the federal government.

Consider Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest contractor. It has received more than $19 billion in federal contracts so far this year. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Lockheed has already spent more than $3 million lobbying Congress this year.

Lockheed supports a platoon of Washington lawyers and lobbyists dedicated to getting more federal contracts. Sixty-four of Lockheed’s lobbyists are former congressional staffers, Pentagon officials and White House aides. Two are former members of Congress. As such, they used to be on the public payroll, representing us. Now we continue to pay them, indirectly, through the government contracts Lockheed gets. But their job is to improve Lockheed’s bottom line.

John Nichols: Russ Feingold’s March With Workers Stirs Talk of a Political Comeback

Russ Feingold leapt into the center of the fight for worker rights and people-first budgeting in Wisconsin this week, stirring excitement about the prospect that the popular former US senator might soon be reentering the political fray-as a candidate for an open Senate seat in 2012 or perhaps as the champion of the forces seeking to remove right-wing Governor Scott Walker in a recall election.

Russ Feingold leapt into the center of the fight for worker rights and people-first budgeting in Wisconsin this week, stirring excitement about the prospect that the popular former US senator might soon be reentering the political fray-as a candidate for an open Senate seat in 2012 or perhaps as the champion of the forces seeking to remove right-wing Governor Scott Walker in a recall election.

Eugene Robinson: The Revisionist Ride of Paul Revere

Sarah Palin is a fraud with charisma-and enough political support to effectively hold the Republican Party hostage. She is ridiculous and dangerous in equal measure.

Palin is certain about everything and knows about nothing. The only true facts are those she recognizes; other facts, when cited to contradict her private truth, are deemed politically motivated. History books are nothing more than weapons used by her enemies in their incessant attacks, their pitiful attempts to play “gotcha.”


This is a small, unimportant matter. But Palin demands to be seen as a big, important person in the nation’s political life. Her party is so afraid of her that the putative front-runner for the presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, won’t even call her out for stealing thunder from his campaign kickoff by just happening to be in the neighborhood, complete with the attendant media circus.

The woman, like Lord Byron, is “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” I’d shout it throughout the land, if I could find my horse and my bells.

Profile of Failures

Continuing economic policies  the have failed is flat out stupid. Proposing to not only continue with those policies but to reinforce them by making them worse is economic and political suicide. It is the path that the Obama administration and Congress have taken us down by renewing the Bush Tax Cuts until December 2012. Some of the GOP candidates would like to cut taxes even further, so much so that it would cripple the government and widen the socio-economic gap of the haves and have-nots.

June 7th was the tenth anniversary of the Bush tax cuts that were enacted on the promise as a  necessary economic stimulus that would boost job creation and a stalled economy by the Bush regime who said the “deficits didn’t matter”. Bush promised that result would be that the Federal debt would be paid in 10 years that was in 2001. At the end of 2008, the national to over $10 trillion dollars, 69% of the GDP and the highest it had been since 1955.

Think Progress compiled a concise video with graphics and music that demonstrates how the Bush tax cuts drove up the deficit and will continue to make matters worse over the next 18 months.

Yet, we still have the right wing pundits and GOP candidates for president repeating the with most of the talking heads nodding in acquiescence. Lawrence O’Donnell was the exception last night comparing the ignorance of Sarah Palin to the out right lies about tax cuts by GOP presidential hopeful, ex-Gov Tim Pawlenty. If elected, Pawlenty would propose cutting the business tax rate and wipe out the capital gains tax, interest income tax, dividend tax and the estate tax.

It’s estimated that Pawlenty’s proposals would triple the size of the Bush tax cut costing another $7.8 trillion over the $2.5 trillion the current extension is costing. Meanwhile, the other GOP contender, ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, follows the Bush/Cheney economic theory that deficits don’t matter with his endorsing a “federal spending at 20 percent or less of the GDP and finally, finally balance the budget” without mentioning the other side of the equation, revenue.

With Obama caving on just about everything, his word that he will not extend the Bush tax cuts again doesn’t hold much water. His economic policies and thus his re-election is in the inept hands of a Wall St. shill, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his Chief of Staff, former Morgan Stanley bank executive, Bill Daley. If Ben Bernanke expressed less than a rosy economic outlook, it understandable that the markets worldwide are taking a tumble.

On This Day In History June 8

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

June 8 is the 159th day of the year (160th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 206 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, Canadian Governor Sir Guy Carleton defeats American Patriot forces under John Sullivan, who were already in retreat from Quebec toward Montreal.

After General Richard Montgomery’s early success in Montreal, he and Colonel Benedict Arnold attempted to take Quebec in the middle of the night between December 31, 1775 and January 1, 1776. Montgomery lost his life and Arnold was wounded in the action; half of their men were also lost to death, injury or capture and Quebec remained in British control. The colonists’ ill-conceived, pre-emptive attack on Canada ended in disaster. Instead of winning French Canadians to the Patriot cause, it led only to a huge loss of life among Patriot forces.

The Battle of Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers in English) was fought on June 8, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War. A British army under Quebec Governor Guy Carleton defeated an attempt by units from the Continental Army under the command of Brigadier General William Thompson to stop a British advance up the Saint Lawrence River valley. The battle occurred as a part of the American colonists’ invasion of Quebec, which had begun in September 1775 with the goal of “liberating” the province from British rule.

The crossing of the Saint Lawrence by the American troops was observed by Quebec militia, who alerted British troops at Trois-Rivières. A local farmer led the Americans into a swamp, enabling the British to land additional forces in the village, and to establish positions behind the American army. After a brief exchange between an established British line and American troops emerging from the swamp, the Americans broke into a somewhat disorganized retreat. As some avenues of retreat were cut off, the British took a sizable number of prisoners, including General Thompson and much of his staff.

This was the last major battle fought on Quebec soil. Following the defeat, the remainder of the American forces, under the command of John Sullivan, retreated, first to Fort Saint-Jean, and then to Fort Ticonderoga.

DocuDharma Digest

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Featured Essays for June 7, 2011-