Tag Archives: Ravi Somaiya

Once Is Happenstance, Twice Is Coincidence…

Heather Horn at The Atlantic

Edward Cody at The Washington Post:

In a brazen display of stealth, cunning and cool nerves, a thief using a sharp cutting tool opened a gated window and sneaked into the Paris Museum of Modern Art.

Three security guards were on duty at the time, but the thief — or perhaps thieves — detached five major cubist and post-impressionist paintings from their frames without being detected and slid back into the night with a rolled-up treasure worth well over $100 million.

The embarrassing heist — of paintings by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani and Fernand Léger — was discovered just before 7 a.m. Thursday, Paris officials said, probably long after the celebrated canvases had disappeared.

Stephen Spruiell at The Corner:

Art lovers, be not afraid: The blackguards are sure to return the priceless works once they get wind of this major scolding from Pierre Cornette de Saint-Cyr, director of a neighboring museum:

“You cannot do anything with these paintings. All countries in the world are aware, and no collector is stupid enough to buy a painting that, one, he can’t show to other collectors, and two, risks sending him to prison,” he said on LCI television. “In general, you find thesepaintings,” he said. “These five paintings are un-sellable, so thieves, sirs, you are imbeciles, now return them.”

The possibility de Saint-Cyr appears to be overlooking: The theft was commissioned by a private collector, and the thieves won’t have to worry about selling thepaintings.

Nick Obourn:

Works stolen include Picasso’s Le pigeon aux petits-pois, and works by Georges Braque, Matisse, and Modigliani. More news on this will surely emerge in the next few hours, but safe to say this is one of the biggest art heists pulled off in recent memory. The works stolen are landmark paintings that once gone off museum walls go underground quickly.

The Guardian reports that the thief was caught on camera taking the paintings.

The burglary was discovered just before 7am. A single masked intruder was caught on a CCTV camera taking the paintings away, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office. A window had been broken and the padlock of a grille giving access to the museum was smashed. The paintings appeared to have been carefully removed from their frames, rather than sliced out.”

Update: Bloomberg is reporting that the $600 million dollar figure affixed to these paintings is incorrect and inflated.

The paintings are together worth about 100 million euros ($123 million,) Christophe Girard, the Paris city official responsible for culture said as he visited the scene of the crime today. He dismissed earlier reports putting the value as high as 500 million euros. The heist was ‘well organized,’ Girard said.”

The Economist:

In a paper called “The Underworld of Art”, published in 2008 in the journal Crime, Law and Social Change, R.T. Naylor argued that art insiders are often involved in these illegal operations, as they “alone have the technical knowledge and circle of intimates necessary to link an illicit supply with a demand”. The criminal underworld he depicts—an illicit mirror image of the legal art world, with all works running through similar channels—is also an intriguing one. But it seems more likely that underpaid museum employees are involved in such thefts, and that the stolen works are either traded for other illegal goods and services, or used as legal bargaining chips by criminals with even greater black marks on their record.

The explosion of the art market as a hotbed of speculation has naturally accelerated the market for art theft. Interpol counts such theft as the fourth-largest type of crime that it tracks worldwide, after drugs, money laundering and arms sales. If these works are recovered, such a high-profile theft would probably increase their value. But stolen works rarely resurface—only 12% to 15% do, according to the London-based Art Loss Register (ALR), which also counts Picasso as the world’s most stolen artist. (The organisation counts more than 500 missing works of his, including two that were stolen in 2007 from the home of Diana Widmaier, the artist’s granddaughter, across the Seine from the museum.) The ALR put the total number of stolen items worldwide at 203,734 in January 2009, up nearly 50% from five years earlier.

So, what should the Paris Museum of Modern Art do? Some say that offering a reward (with help from an insurer, who is otherwise caught out) is the most effective way to recover stolen art, as this allows individuals and institutions to operate without the bureaucracy of law enforcement. But as with kidnapping people, this also creates an incentive for informants to speak up and private investigators to get involved. In the event the thief demands a ransom, whether or not to pay out is somewhat controversial. Some art-industry observers suggest this merely fuels more art crime, and makes the aggrieved institution a bigger target. (For this reason, most museums—such as the Tate, which recovered two stolen Turner paintings in 2002 for £3.1m—keep quiet on whether they pay out.)

Regardless, it is grim to know these paintings—in particular “Dove with Green Peas”—are gone from public view. But if all publicity is essentially good publicity (as the Metropolitan Museum of Art learned in January, when a visitor accidentally tore one of its Picasso paintings), perhaps this heist will now send greater numbers to Paris’s Museum of Modern Art, if only to see the many other works that once accompanied the five that are now gone.

TPM has the photo gallery

Ravi Somaiya at Gawker:

On Thursday art thieves broke into the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and stole $123m of paintings, including a Matisse and a Picasso. Yesterday two men got into the home of a collector in Marseille and stole five works.

The collector, a man in his 60s, was beaten up during the robbery. The value of the stolen works has not been released, but the BBC report that a Picasso lithograph was among them. It is not yet known whether the thefts is connected with the Paris robbery earlier in the week, during which the painting above — Pastoral, by Henri Matisse — was taken. But be vigilant with your masterpieces, people.

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Nobody Is Surprised That Nobody Is Surprised

Danny Hakim and Nicholas Confessore at New York Times:

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor on Saturday, saying he was seeking not only to lead New York but to remake a state mired in political scandal and paralyzed by financial crisis.

In a direct confrontation with a Legislature controlled by his own party, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said he would pressure lawmakers this fall to state publicly whether they would embrace essential ethics changes, including disclosing their outside income, ceding control of redistricting to an independent panel and submitting to an outside ethics monitor.

Appearing in front of the former Manhattan courthouse named for Boss Tweed, the corrupt political boss of Tammany Hall, Mr. Cuomo told a crowd of supporters: “Unfortunately, Albany’s antics today could make Boss Tweed blush. Our message today is simple. Enough is enough.”

The approach underscores Mr. Cuomo’s determination to avoid the fate of the current governor, David A. Paterson, and the previous one, Eliot Spitzer, who both promised change but were quickly stymied by an obstinate Legislature, and later fell victim to their own scandals.

Huffington Post:

NAME: Andrew Mark Cuomo

BIRTH DATE – Dec. 6, 1957 (Age 52)

BIRTHPLACE – New York City.

RELIGION – Roman Catholic.

EDUCATION – Fordham University, 1979; Albany Law School, 1982.

EXPERIENCE – Managed father Mario Cuomo’s successful campaign for governor in 1982; special assistant to the governor, 1983; assistant district attorney in Manhattan, 1984; private law practice 1985-89; founded Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged in 1986 and left his law practice in 1989 to run HELP full time; assistant secretary, federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1993-96; HUD secretary, 1997-Jan. 20, 2001; Island Capital Group real estate investment firm, vice president, 2004-05; New York attorney general, Jan. 1, 2007-present.

FAMILY – Divorced from Kerry Kennedy. Three daughters, including 15-year-old twins Cara and Mariah and 12-year-old Michaela. Companion is Food Network personality Sandra Lee.

Tom Diemer at Politics Daily:

In the 21-minute video carried by the Albany Times Union, Cuomo, a Democrat, sketched his campaign themes: a plan to freeze state worker salaries, streamline state government, clamp a 2 percent cap on property tax increases, and impose new ethics and disclosure rules on public officials.

Since Gov. David A. Paterson’s ethical issues made it virtually impossible for him to seek reelection — and the governor before him, Eliot Spitzer, was decked for consorting with a prostitute — Cuomo’s looming candidacy took on a sense of inevitability. His father, Mario Cuomo, was a three-term New York governor who was often viewed as a potential Democratic presidential candidate. He never took the plunge and lost in a bid for a fourth term as governor in 1994.

Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice:

Wholly unsurprising breaking news from Cuomo Central: Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo officially announced his campaign to become governor of New York in the above video on his website early Saturday. It is embeddable, see!

The site also provides the full transcript (in .pdf form) of the announcement, which seems practical, as well as highlights, meaning the parts that the campaign is telling you (the media) are most important. The internet makes politics easy.

“As I hope you have seen, I don’t run from a problem. I run at it.” Truly a highlight.

Patrick Edaburn at Moderate Voice:

In one of the least surprising events of the year, New York AG Andrew Cuomo has announced he will accept his coronation as the next Governor of the Empire State.

Polls have shown Cuomo with about 70-80% of the Democratic primary vote and 60-70% of the general election vote. Of course polls are just a snapshot and things could change between now and November but I think that my chances of being the next Governor of New York are not much worse than the odds of the eventual GOP nominee.

Ravi Somaiya at Gawker

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Cinco de Tweety And The Blog Posts That It Caused

Captured tweets via Gawker

Roger Ebert:

This is the result of one single Twitter of mine, and those who were eager to misunderstand it. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, and here is what I tweeted:

@ebertchicago Kids who wear American Flag t-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.

Now what do you suppose I meant by that? It was tweeted at the height of the discussion over five white California kids who wore matching t-shirts to school on Cinco de Mayo, and were sent home by their school. This inspired predictable outrage in the usual circles.

Tweeted from lonestarag05: Its the USA not Mexico. They are allowed to be proud of their country. I wonder sometimes why you even stay here.

Many others informed me that Americans have the right to be proud of our flag, and wear it on T-shirts. Of course they do. That isn’t the question. It’s not what my Tweet said. What I suggested, in its 108 letters, is that we could all use a little empathy. I wish I had worded it better.

Let’s begin with a fact few Americans know: Celebrating Cinco de Mayo is an American custom. The first such celebration was held in California in 1863, and they have continued without interruption. In Mexico itself it is not observed, except in the state of Puebla–the site of Mexico’s underdog victory over the French on May 5, 1862.

Cinco de Mayo’s purpose is to celebrate Mexican-American culture in the United States. We are a nation of immigrants, and have many such observances, for example St. Patrick’s Day parades, which began in Boston in 1737 and not in Ireland until 1931. Or Pulaski Day, officially established in Illinois in 1977, and not observed in Poland. The first Chinese New Year’s parade was held in San Francisco in the 1860s, and such parades began only later in China. In Chicago this August we will have the 81st annual Bud Billiken Parade, one of the largest parades in America, celebrating the African-American heritage.

I invite you to perform four easy thought experiments:

1. You and four friends are in Boston and attend the St. Patrick’s Day parade wearing matching Union Jack t-shirts, which of course you have every right to do.

2. You and your pals are in Chicago on Pulaski Day, and wear a t-shirt with a photograph of Joseph Stalin, which is your right.

3. In San Francisco’s Chinatown for the parade, your crowd wears t-shirts saying “My granddad was at the Rape of Nanking and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

4. In Chicago for the Bud Billiken Parade, you and your crowd, back in shape after three hospitalizations, turn up with matching t-shirts sporting the Confederate flag.

The question is obviously not whether Americans, or anyone else, has the right to wear our flag on their t-shirts. But empathetic people realize much depends on context. If, on Cinco de Mayo, you turn up at your school with a large Mexican-American student population wearing such shirts, are you (1) joining in the spirit of the holiday, or (2) looking for trouble?

I suggest you intend to insult your fellow students. Not because they do not respect THEIR flag, but because you do not respect their heritage. That there are five of you in matching shirts demonstrates you want to be deliberately provocative.

Therefore, you and your buddies should try wearing the hammer and sickle on the Fourth of July. You could try it at a NASCAR race, for example.

Ravi Somaiya at  Gawker:

Five kids were sent home from a California high school on Wednesday for what seems like a fairly open-and-shut case of trying to start trouble. Of course, to the nutbag right, this was not the case at all and the whole thing was anti-American. Last week Ebert sent this message in response to the story:

@ebertchicago Kids who wear American Flag t-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.

According to an Ebert blog post today, it was met with predictable outrage from people with predictable Twitter handles:

@lonestarag05: Its the USA not Mexico. They are allowed to be proud of their country. I wonder sometimes why you even stay here.

Ebert has defended the Tweet very eloquently here. He points out, using humor, reason, logic and fact that the kids had done something analogous to wearing a Union Jack on St. Patrick’s day in Boston, or a Confederate flag to the Bud Biliken parade in Chicago — they were disrespecting the heritage of a community busy celebrating that heritage. Like, for example, “wearing the hammer and sickle on the Fourth of July.” He adds in the blog post that those who defended the kids might try that “at a NASCAR race, for example.”

Of course humor, reason, logic and fact are utterly alien to the Tea Party and their enraged acolytes. And they know no sense of proportion. Ebert, as this excellent Esquire profile outlines, has suffered through repeated bouts of cancer, and operations to remove that cancer, that have left him without a lower jaw. The picture above is the one that Esquire ran with that profile.

Knowing what we know about the Tea Party it shouldn’t have been surprising when Ebert tweeted this last night. But it was sad.

Tea Party Turns on Roger Ebert, Mocks His Cancer (Updated)

Scott Wampler at The Examiner:

Meet Caleb Howe, a self-proclaimed Tea Party member and dude who claims to write for RedState.com.  Because it’s called RedState.com, it’s precisely the sorta website that someone like a Comedy Examiner avoids.  And, it’s precisely because of the sort of Tweets that Howe made above that I’d avoid such a site.  I mean, let’s make sure that we’re all on the same page here:  Roger Ebert thinks that a handful of kids who were clearly just trying to stir up trouble were out of line…and someone (actually, more than just Howe, but let’s use him as our go-to dude on this one) mocks Roger Ebert’s cancer?  Tweets that he wants to provide Ebert with a “mercy killing”?

Are you effing kidding me?

Chris Jones at Esquire:

But for me — as a friend, but also as a human being — Roger’s rebuke didn’t go far enough. I’ve still spent a lot of time thinking how good it would feel to punch Caleb Howe hard in the mouth. I can’t help it, even though I know in my heart that Howe wants all of this, wants to bask in anything that resembles the thin light of attention. His posts on RedState.com might normally earn five or seven comments; Roger’s eloquent blog entries can win more than a thousand. That must be incredibly frustrating for Howe, who clearly has designs on his joining our ranks of right-wing wrestling heels and saw, through the bottom of his vodka glass, his path to glory: He decided, like those California school kids, to make an unnecessary, calculated attempt to provoke. And it worked, the way it works for Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, whenever they say something inflammatory and terrible. He made me angry, and now he knows it. Good for him. I hope he’s happy.

Because if he’s happy, then I know that will make his fall that much harder in the end. Saying the things he said — under the guise of patriotism, or freedom, or whatever illogic he chooses to use — has to eat at a man. I have to believe that; the alternative is too awful to stomach. I have to believe that after Howe sobered up, he must have thought, if only for a moment, What have I done? He must have felt whatever passes for regret in him, the prickles of sweat growing on his forehead. He must have felt as though he had butted out a cigarette on his own soul. And because he can’t apologize for it — can’t dream of seeming weak in the eyes of his fellow scholars and judges — those pinhole burns will stay there forever. Yes, Caleb Howe is more famous than he was last week, but he’s famous for being a person who doesn’t know whether he should introduce himself to strangers at parties, just in case, and he’s famous for his allegiance to the very thing that Roger has already stomped again and again: Caleb Howe, for whatever unfathomable reason, has sided with cancer.

Caleb Howe at Mediaite:

I love Twitter. I use it all the time. When I say use, hear it the way an addict would say it. I use Twitter. I’m pretty good at it too. Not in the sense of having lots of followers, or being really popular, or anyone knowing who I am. Rather in the sense of knowing how to get certain things out of it that I want. Usually that’s traffic to a blog post. I admit that. But the most satisfying thing of all is a retweet. If you’re really good, or really famous, it’s easy to get a lot of retweets. If you aren’t either of those, it’s still easy. Be bad.

I do this sometimes. Late at night, typically. Angrily for the most part. Drunkenly on occasion. Twitter is real life and in real time, after all. Isn’t that what we all love and hate about it?

Knowing all this, I hatched a plan that’s been going swimmingly all week. You see, Roger Ebert is on Twitter too. And he can be exceedingly … unkind. He compared Arizona’s immigration law to the Holocaust. Twice. He routinely mocks “TeePees,” his adorably dismissive shorthand for tea party protesters. And most recently, in an exceedingly ill-advised and poorly-received tweet, he suggested that “Kids who wear American Flag t-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.”

Let us not today go into the ins and outs of the students sent home after refusing to cover their American flags on Cinco de Mayo. Suffice it to say that from my perspective this was an unconscionable outrage, and therefore Ebert’s escalation of the rhetoric to the level of hammer and sickle doubly so. It was an insight into him. Twitter, as we addicts believe, is real life. And in real time. And so … the plan.

It was amazingly easy to do. First, I warned Media Matters what was about to happen. Second, I began attacking Ebert with increasingly awful tweets mocking his cancer. Third, I waited.

When the hits started rolling in, I infuriatingly taunted the naysayers with non-sequiturs and your momma jokes. That’s when they started getting real. Saying awful things. Well you see, it’s ok with me. I had earned it.

And therein lay my plan. I’d wait a few days, gather the most insulting tweets, and publish. The fact that they felt free to “go there” with me proves they implicitly accept my premise. For they were using my logic, you see. Ebert had “earned” it, so I was free to open fire. Now I had earned it, so they were free to open fire. Media Matters was a no-brainer. I’d invited them in advance. But imagine my delight when bomb-throwing gossip site Gawker linked to my twitter feed. I fairly twisted my mustache and rubbed my palms greedily. Everything was proceeding as I had foreseen it; better, even.

This morning, I started in on the final phase: gathering the evidence. I started with Ebert. I spent hours poring over months of his twitter feed. I found he had a distinctive “dirty old man” streak. Screenshot. I saw how fond he was of mocking Creationism, intelligent design, Noah’s Ark, and Christianity in general. Screenshot. I found countless dismissive tweets about the ignorance of TeePees. The countless veiled accusations of racism. The endless tweeting and retweeting of anything critical of Sarah Palin. Screenshot, screenshot, screenshot. I found a totally right-on movie review of the movie Kick-Ass that mirrored my own thoughts perfectly. Screens … wait. What?

It is here. I’ve read Ebert before of course. He’s as good as his reputation. But this was more than a movie review. The objection was on a moral ground that I share. It was my objection to the movie too. Hmm.

Back to the Twitter I go. A little more uneasy, now. Ahhh, another TeePee reference. My righteousness has been restored. A-digging I continue. Screenshot. Screenshot. Appreciative chuckle. Dammit!

I started seeing quotable quotes. Witticisms I appreciated. Depth.

Ebert tends to appreciate the same sorts of lyrical turns of phrase on Twitter that I appreciate. I saw when he was being savaged about his position on whether video games can be art, he let the savagery wash over him. He even got a few quick quips out of it. I kept thinking “I should like this guy.” And then, TeePees, Michael Moore, and Markos. I couldn’t like him, even though I actually started wanting to. But his tweeting is so hot and cold. It’s like there are two of him. The one that everybody appreciates, and then the rabid lefty tweeter. I couldn’t figure it out.

And then I figured it out. That’s exactly how I am. Half of my tweets are normal, off-topic, funny (if I do say so) or conversational. And half must set afire the blood of any left-wing tweeter. I’m just like Ebert, minus the fame, fortune, education, writing talent, and painful disease. It’s like he was … human.

And that’s when it suddenly dawned on me. Twitter isn’t real life. It’s 140 characters. It’s a window, not a door, and certainly not the whole house. We all know this, of course. But we act in a manner that indicates we do not.

People like me, or anonymous Twitterer @shoq, and many others who do what we consider to be battle on Twitter “know” we are right. We know we are right because those we oppose are so very wrong. It’s all quite easy. You’re a TeePee. Yeah well you’re a moonbat! Tit for tat. Jab for jab. Round and round we go. The race to the most cutting insult never ceases. Do a search on twitter, some time, for “sub-human,” and/or “filth.” Try “despicable”. I bet it comes up a lot more than “beautiful.” Try “scum.” I bet it comes up more than “person.” Try “hate.” I think you get the picture.

You know what? It’s a polarized country we live in. Often rabidly so. I play that game. Most of you reading this, you play it too. We play for ratings, for clicks, for retweets. We play to satisfy bloodlust, vengeance, self-righteous fury. We play because we have contempt. And contempt is the one thing you will see on display more often than any other emotion in political tweeting. Because that’s not a person, it’s a TeePee. Not a man, a target.

Roger Ebert cannot be measured by his Twitter feed. Not even by his collective writings. Because he is human, and what’s more a human in pain. As am I. As are we all.

Tbogg:

So now CNN should totally hire Caleb Howe because, like Erick Erickson, he’s grown up a whole lot since last week.

The end.

Dan Riehl:

Caleb’s big mistake was apologizing. Did Ebert apologize to the many tragic victims of the Holocaust whose deaths he all but mocked and abused? No, of course not. Will he suddenly develop compassion for the victims of kidnappings and other crimes in Arizona? The people who feel trapped in their homes because of the Federal government’s refusal to act? Don’t hold your breath. As a political actor, he’s no more interested in their day-to-day lives, than we should be about his.

That’s because he’s a scumbag, a card carrying member of the disgusting Left, now using his position and even his illness as a platform to undermine the very country that gave him everything he has. And they never apologize for any of their ugly, or even anti-American filth.

Did Caleb lose it and go a little too far? Yeah, probably. I doubt I’d have gone on to that degree. However, these are especially tense and troubling political times for America with much at stake. It happens and, given the Internet/technological influences on communication, it happens even more. And I imagine it’s going to get worse, before it gets better. I went off on someone on our side yesterday because of a misunderstanding. Eh, you move on.

Karoli at Crooks And Liars:

He’s still wrong about Twitter. Real people do inhabit the place, just like the real people who inhabit comments on the posts here at Crooks and Liars. Real people, with real lives, real health problems, real concerns and real interests. They’re even real voters. They come to social networks looking for a connection and a conversation. It’s not all of life, but it is a part of daily life in this connected world of ours, and if Howe is really sorry, he’ll get a clue about that.

Howe’s declaration that Twitter isn’t real life reveals more about why he did what he did than anything else. When nothing is real, when it’s all a game, when cancer is a word and not a disfiguring disease, all bets are off. This is how those words made it through his filters, because no one was real to him. Not one person.

Caleb Howe is a fascinating look at how conservatives think. No one is real; it’s all a game. Roll the 20-sided die for your contempt score, move to the next battle. This ability to disconnect from humanity is what should disqualify them from any leadership role whatsoever.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Let us return for a moment to our original question: How drunk was Howe when he pounded that stuff out on his keyboard and hit the enter button! Probably really drunk, judging by what he tweeted directly from launching on his rant: “Wife just revealed twe (sic) have fifth of vodka in freezer. That means I’m about to say things about Roger Ebert that Media Matters won’t like.” In fact Howe has a long history of sitting in front of his computer drinking vodka and tweeting about it:

How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?

So, we’re going to say he was really drunk. Probably partial black-out? Maybe he had a vague memory of typing the next morning. Next question: How drunk was he when he wrote this essay? To be so deluded that this exercise in self-aggrandizement with a one-sentence apology at the end might make him seem like less of a creepy drunk pounding away on the Internet after a shot or twelve, spilling the worst parts of himself out into the world. (See also: His gleeful celebration of Congressman John Murtha’s death.) Also up for debate, the drunkness level of the Mediaite person that put this on their website. (Awesome get! A guy who makes fun of cancer survivors!) The first political essay for and by drunk assholes. Caleb Howe is like the Tucker Max of politics. (Without the writing talent.)

Update: Caleb Howe complained we did not get his comment on this article, so I interviewed him via Twitter:
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?

EARLIER: Marilyn Manson T-Shirt, This Was Not

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Oh My God! They Indicted Kenny! … You Bastards!

Ravi Somaiya at Gawker:

First Goldman Sachs gets a lawsuit from the SEC, now prosecutors have indicted a former Blackwater president and four other former employees on weapons charges. Details are not yet clear. But who knows where this Federal justice train will stop.

Christopher Weber at Politics Daily:

The 15-count indictment accuses the five of skirting federal firearms laws and misrepresenting weapons sales, Reuters reported.

Gary Jackson, the company’s former president, was charged along with former general counsel Andrew Howell; former executive vice president William Mathews; former vice president of logistics and procurement, Ana Bundy; and former armorer Ronald Slezak.

Prosecutors said they gave weapons as gifts to Jordanian officials in hopes of winning their business. To account for the missing guns, Jackson allegedly ordered employees to fill out paperwork falsely showing that Blackwater workers had bought the guns for their own use.

The Justice Department said there was no wrongdoing by the Jordanian government and said the country helped in the probe, according to Reuters.

Zachery Roth at TPM:

The AP reported last month that the Feds were considering charges stemming from a 2008 raid, in which federal agents found and seized 22 weapons, including 17 AK-47s. The Feds were probing whether Blackwater obtained the letterhead of a local sheriff in order to create a false justification for buying the guns.

Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services last year, after a 2007 shooting by Blackwater guards in Baghdad killed 17 Iraqis.

Wonkette:

The Justice Department just indicted five evil southern scum-lords who used to run Blackwater, the private murder company hired by Dick Cheney to kill everyone in Iraq. The charges? Weapons violations, something about illegal machine guns, lies to the Feds, general criminality. No murder charges, because it’s always the little shit that brings down these big shits.

Nick Baumann at Mother Jones:

The South Park guys have hinted that an episode about the Blackwater/Cartman incident could be forthcoming this season. Anyway, the full AP report on the gun charges is here.

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Well, They Certainly Weren’t On MySpace In 1995

Devlin Barrett at Huffington Post:

A U.S. official says some of the people arrested by the FBI in Midwest raids this weekend face gun charges.

FBI raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio have resulted in three arrests, and officials are pursuing other suspects.

The law enforcement official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation. Federal warrants are sealed.

FBI spokesman Scott Wilson in Cleveland says agents arrested two people Saturday in Ohio and one in Illinois on Sunday.

Michael Lackomar, spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, says a member of his group was called by members of a religious militia Saturday who claimed their property was being raided. Lackomar says the member from his group declined to help and is cooperating with the FBI.

Emptywheel at Firedoglake:

Apparently, while I was sleeping, they turned my local sheriff’s department into a staging center for FBI raids against a Christian-focused militia group less then 40 miles away.

The FBI conducted raids Saturday night in Washtenaw County and Lenawee County in an investigation involving members of Hutaree, a Christian-oriented militia group based in Lenawee County, AnnArbor.com has learned.

The nature of those raids has not been made public. FBI Special Agent Jason Pack, who is based in Washington, D.C., said he did not know how many people were taken into custody. Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, could not be reached for comment today.

“I can confirm that there is ongoing law enforcement activity in the Ann Arbor general area,” Pack said in a written statement. “Since the federal warrants are under court ordered seal, legally we cannot provide further comment at this time.”

Local Michigan militia member Jimmy Schiel said he was told five people were arrested – including one known member of Hutaree. Schiel said the five were reportedly arrested during a raid at a service in the Ann Arbor area for a Hutaree member who died recently.

Apparently, this raid is connected with a raid in Indiana …

Hammond police assisted with an FBI raid Saturday evening in the Indiana city, but federal officials would not release any details.

Hammond officials did not know the circumstances surrounding the raid, which began about 7 p.m. and lasted two hours, said a police dispatcher.

And in Ohio

A battalion of local officers and federal agents flooded the Bayshore Estates neighborhood Saturday afternoon.

A second raid was conducted in Huron. An FBI agent at the scene of the Bayshore Estates raid said a second, related raid was taking place at “another location.” Huron police confirmed late Saturday a raid had taken place in that city, but would say nothing more.

Likewise, FBI agents at the scene and at the Cleveland field office are staying mum on the cause of the commotion.

“We did make some arrests,” said special agent Scott Wilson of the FBI’s Cleveland office.

What was it we’ve been talking about, whether coordinated actions of white Americans could be terrorism or not?

Instapundit:

THE TIMING APPEARS CONVENIENT: FBI stages domestic raids.

UPDATE: Thoughts from Dan Riehl. Helping law enforcement with searches? I didn’t realize the Michigan Militia was still around.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lawprof Tom Smith senses a media spin campaign: “Just wait for the MSM to associate them with ‘tea baggers’ and anybody not wild about health care. It could be something else but it looks like a plausible rumor at this stage. I am not hopeful that any distinctions will be made by our opinion leaders between those who think the Illuminati and the Joooz are running the world and those who think we should not create a debt that is half the size of our GDP. I hope the FBI understands the difference.”

MORE: According to this report, it’s got nothing to do with the Michigan Militia: “The group Hutaree, which has absolutely no connection to the Michigan Militia at all, has gotten into some serious trouble. From what my source has told me, this group was actually making threats towards Islamic groups.” Well, stay tuned. As has been noted here before, early reports on stuff like this are often wrong.

Dan Riehl:

Just three days ago, members of the group were assisting LE in a rescue search. Must be some really evil people there, what? Huntaree’s public forum is getting some buzz. Members were also discussing various perceived threats and threat levels in recent months here. Where is Janet Reno when we need her?

The Jawa Report

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo

Ravi Somaiya at Gawker:

It appears that members of the right-wing Hutaree Militia were arrested in raids in Michigan last night. Fox News reports that the seven is custody were selling pipe bombs. The FBI refused to comment. But you can enjoy some uncomfortable YouTube videos of disenfranchised white people running around with guns on the Hutaree MySpace page.

UPDATE: Justin Elliott at Talking Points Memo

UPDATE #2: Jared Keller at The Atlantic

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