Tag Archives: Stephen Colbert

And You’ll See His Birth Certificate In The “Dre Day” Video

J. Hinson:

OBAMA MADE CAMEO IN 1993 RAP VIDEO?!?

AT 1MIN 1SEC – 1MIN 3 SEC
What do you think?

Pay close attention to his ears poking out, the shape of his nose, and skin color.

Obama would have been 32 years old at the time.. (Obama’s birthday 8/4/1961)

None of the pics and/or video were altered. This is an observation. This is not meant to be derogatory or inflammatory.

Tha Corner:

Pay attention @ 1:01 the dude with the shades and hat. This is crazy!

HotAirPundit:

I don’t think it is, but it would be quite a story if it was him in the video…Obama does like rap music, and if you remember, Jay-Z was recently at the WH, sitting down in the Situation Room. Obama also met with Ludacris before becoming President

The Improper:

More reason to suspect President Obama isn’t who he says he is, or is the coolest president since Andrew Jackson. A hot Internet rumor claims the leader of the free world had a cameo role in a 1993 video by hip-hop group Tag Team for their song “Whoomp (There it is).” Check it out.For the moment, let’s just say the alleged Obama figure pops up in the video about 1:01 into the song. It’s quick, so watch closely, but the image is clear.

The fact that — we’ll say the guy — appears in the video and then gets a close up, makes it suspiciously seem like the producer/videographer knew he was somebody special.

Of course, the video was shot in 1993. Obama had recently graduated from Harvard Law School. The presidency was still a sparkle in his eye.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

This is not the observation of just one random Internet weirdo. Other Internet weirdos have come to the same conclusion, including posters on the hip hop message board Tha Corner, the message board SomethingAwful and the Tea Party website Tennessee Sons of Liberty. The latter wrote: “This is an observation. This is not meant to be derogatory or inflammatory.” Yeah, just randomly noticing that Obama was in this RAP video. But so what? As far as musical infractions go, Obama committed a much graver one by listing Sheryl Crow as one of his favorite acts.

But is it really Obam’s flashy grin? Consider the evidence:

FOR

  • It really really looks like him!
  • Obama has a well-documented fondness for hip hop. He likes Kanye West and Ludacris.
  • Obama has a history of hip hop cameos. In 2008, reports said he was featured on an upcoming Q-Tip track. Though Q-Tip ended up simply sampling one of his speeches.
  • As one commenter on SomethingAwful noted: The man in the video is playing dominoes with his left hand. BARACK OBAMA IS ALSO LEFT HANDED!
  • The video was released in 1993. Barack would have been around 31 when it was filmed, a year or two out of Harvard Law. Seems like something cool that our coolest, cigarette-smoking, hoops-shooting future president would do as an early 30-something.

AGAINST

  • But, actually, by 1993, Obama was deeply involved in community activism in Chicago. In 1992, Obama famously helped boost voter turnout among blacks through his tireless organizing. How would Obama had the time to film this video? And why the hell would the director of Tag Team’s video seek out a notable community organizer to play a domino player? Maybe they were buddies from Harvard or something.
  • Also, Tag Team is from Atlanta. If Obama wanted to make his rap video debut, wouldn’t he have chosen an early-90s act from his beloved Chicago? Maybe Da Brat, or Crucial Conflict? And he would obviously be wearing a Bulls hat—not a Compton one.
  • Most of these conspiracy theorists base their observation on a low-quality YouTube version of the video. Take a look at this screenshot from a higher-quality video: Doesn’t look much like him, actually. Also: earrings? Obama is cool, but not that cool.
  • […]
  • Finally, if this was actually true, Sarah Palin would have already done five Facebook wall-posts about it, and Glenn Beck would have already run a weeklong special on the fact that our President appeared in a music video which appears to celebrate so-called “Party people.”
Sorry, Internet, it’s not Obama. But as far as conspiracy theories go, it’s way better than that whole secret Muslim thing.

Wonkette:

Wow, this is a dumb song! And, well, it’s very unlikely this guy (who doesn’t even look much like Obama, wtf people?) is Barack Obama. WHY YOU ASK? Because Barack Obama was, by 1993, a law professor and author and civil rights lawyer and director of regional political organizations, and probably wasn’t spending a whole lot of time as an extra in hip-hop videos. But this is a very big thing on the Internet, right now! We especially like the bit from National Review Online’s black-outreach blog, “Tha Corner.”

More Chen:
Over 200,000 people have read our original post; thousands of other outlets picked it up. CNN actually asked the White House for a comment. They “did not immediately respond.” A suspicious silence! And Obama’s potential cameo is now in the Wikipedia entry for “Whoomp (There it is)” which means it is a true fact for all of eternity. Pandora’s box has been opened, and the Whoomper Conspiracy will probably never die: Says commenter patlippert “I won’t believe it’s not him until he shows us his resume, which if he did and it proved me wrong, I’ll claim it was faked.”Even after we debunked it, readers flexed their paranoid muscles. Many agreed that it wasn’t Obama, but then spun that into a premise for an entirely new conspiracy theory! Heywhat thinks this was all a publicity ploy by the real extra. Tamara C said in an email that screencap above “looks digitally altered to look more like Obama… Is that possible? And if so, why?” WHOOMP: There is how you turn a conspiracy theory about Obama into one about people who hate Obama. Some thought the entire thing was a conspiracy of racists. Wrote Bearsvillemusic: “So, this is essentially an article saying that all black people like the same. Brilliant.”

Others still believe. (We’ll call them “Whoompers,” per OrneryBabe’s suggestions) We argued that a high-quality version of the video showed the man didn’t really look like Obama at all. But ShruitBorus accused us of masterminding a coverup: “Funny how one of your affiliated sites had a post about how internet video degrades over repeated use. Just setting the stage for your debunking of this video?” And CID_VICIOUS eviscerated our assumption that a cash-strapped, 31 year-old Obama wouldn’t have taken time out of his schedule for the shoot… and a quick payday: “That video was almost certainly shot in one day – I’ve been in a few dozen. So Barack could have gotten a call from a friend, ‘hey, you want to make a hundred bucks and be on a music video?'”

While the most enthusiastic Whoomper, Ismith, offered biblical proof of Obama’s role in the video:

Revelations 3:45: “And the anti-Christ will appear in a music video reaching the masses. It shall tell the masses to shake their derrieres. And thus will begin Armageddon”

Clearly, there is only one way to definitively debunk Obama’s cameo: Find the real domino-playing extra. The director of the video is one VJ Beedles. His Google footprint is tiny (suspicious!) but he was apparently once the assistant scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 2020 in Atlanta. We’ll reach out to the troop, but if anyone ideas for how to reach Beedle, send them along.

Whoomp (The truth is out there).

1 Comment

Filed under Bloggy Funnies, Music, New Media, Political Figures

There Was A Very Heavy Fog Of War Today

Warning: Above video is not for children.

BBC:

WikiLeaks has posted a video on its website which it claims shows the killing of civilians by the US military in Baghdad in 2007.

The website’s organisers say they were given the footage, which they say comes from cameras on US Apache helicopters.

They say they decrypted it, but would not reveal who gave it to them.

The WikiLeaks site campaigns for freedom of information and posts leaked documents online. There has been no Pentagon response to the video so far.

High-quality video

The video, released on Monday, is of high quality and appears to be authentic, the BBC’s Adam Brookes in Washington says.

It is accompanied by a recording of the pilots’ radio transmissions and those of US troops on the ground.

The video shows a street in Baghdad and a group of about eight people, whom the helicopter pilots deem to be insurgents.

It then shows the individuals on the street being shot dead with the Apache’s cannon.

Then, a van drives onto the scene, and its occupants appear to start picking up the wounded.

It, too, is fired upon. Altogether, around 12 people die. Two children appear to be injured.

Dan Froomkin at Huffington Post:

None of the members of the group were taking hostile action, contrary to the Pentagon’s initial cover story; they were milling about on a street corner. One man was evidently carrying a gun, though that was and is hardly an uncommon occurrence in Baghdad.

Reporters working for WikiLeaks determined that the driver of the van was a good Samaritan on his way to take his small children to a tutoring session. He was killed and his two children were badly injured.

In the video, which Reuters has been asking to see since 2007, crew members can be heard celebrating their kills.

“Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” says one crewman after multiple rounds of 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street.

A crewman begs for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants, even though it has done nothing but stop to help the wounded: “Come on, let us shoot!”

Two crewmen share a laugh when a Bradley fighting vehicle runs over one of the corpses.

And after soldiers on the ground find two small children shot and bleeding in the van, one crewman can be heard saying: “Well, it’s their fault bringing their kids to a battle.”

The helicopter crew, which was patrolling an area that had been the scene of fierce fighting that morning, said they spotted weapons on members of the first group — although the video shows one gun, at most. The crew also mistook a telephoto lens for a rocket-propelled grenade

Andrew Sullivan posts a reader’s e-mail:

A reader writes:

Soldiers are trained to kill and sometimes in the heat of combat they will engage in killings that are not strictly justified, for example, at Haditha.  But this — all of it — was simply gratuitous and the killing of the wounded journalist and the shooting up of the minivan trying to pick him up to save his life went beyond gratuitous and was just plain sadistic murder.

Forty years ago, when Charlie Company went into My Lai to inflict some collective punishment, a helicopter pilot watching from above saw the carnage and did something to stop it.  Nowadays, helicopter pilots make movies of their killings and beg a wounded man to make a suspect move so they can pump more 1 1/4″ rounds into him.  How completely depraved.

I served four years in the Armed Forces of the United States and was always proud of my service.  Not anymore.

Casual Observer at Firedoglake:

This video (Origin Wikileaks via arabic_news on Twitter) will speak for itself, just a couple of comments.

First, Greenwald has a related post up today regarding the chronic nature and scope of American war propaganda currently holding sway in our media. Highly recommended.

Second, President Obama just minutes ago tweeted that he is planning on “Opening the 2010 baseball season with the first pitch at Nationals Park today.”

The disconnect between our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and our awareness of them here at home is staggering.

John Cole:

They engaged several Reuters photographers, claiming the cameras were weapons, giggling the whole time. Then, when a van came to pick up the wounded, they claimed they were going for weapons and got permission to shoot the people picking up victims.

Fog of war, bitches. Fog of war.

Charli Carpenter at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

I will definitely be using this film in my class next year. But as an example of what I haven’t decided.

The disjuncture between the images captured by the camera and the information being verbally reported by the helicopter crew is striking. (For example, the crew reports that they are seeing adult males armed with AK47s, but the men on the ground appear unarmed.) Could the film be a fake, and how would we know? (Wikileaks has provided almost no information on its website about the video’s source other than a non-working link. The big “Click here to donate” link above the video on the Wikileaks site works fine, which is troubling.)

I am not saying I don’t believe some Apache gunners made gross errors and the military covered it up, only that user-generated content should always be verified before conclusions are drawn, and Wikileaks’ confidentiality policies make that difficult.

If the footage is completely genuine, what cognitive process is at work here that is leading the pilots to so drastically misinterpret what they are seeing? Or are they in fact wilfully mischaracterizing it and why?

What fascinates me the most is the almost relaxed professionalism with which the chopper crew and ground troops are operating. Does this allow us to infer anything about the rules of engagement US troops were operating with around that time? What can we infer from such footage that can help us in other low-intensity conflicts?

One thing is certain: this doesn’t look like a “firefight with insurgents” that the DoD claimed. BBC has a story about the video with some useful links. Michael Collins at The Agonist has more.

Richard Oppel in NYT:

After initially denying involvement or any cover-up in the deaths of three Afghan women during a badly bungled American Special Operations assault in February, the American-led military command in Kabul admitted late on Sunday that its forces had, in fact, killed the women during the nighttime raid.

The admission immediately raised questions about what really happened during the Feb. 12 operation — and what falsehoods followed — including a new report that Special Operations forces dug bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the nature of their deaths.

A NATO official also said Sunday that an Afghan-led team of investigators had found signs of evidence tampering at the scene, including the removal of bullets from walls near where the women were killed. On Monday, however, a senior NATO official denied that any tampering had occurred.

The disclosure could not come at a worse moment for the American military: NATO officials are struggling to contain fallout from a series of tirades against the foreign military presence by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who has also railed against the killing of civilians by Western forces.

Matt Steinglass at DiA at The Economist:

When one hears about something like this, it forces one to think about what the essential character of the American intervention in Afghanistan is. It’s possible to contextualise this sort of slaughter of innocents and subsequent mendacity as accidental collateral violence, followed by terrified stupidity. Perhaps these kinds of incidents are inevitable in war, and should not undermine America’s dedication to the overall effort. Or perhaps they can be prevented through technical measures; as Spencer Ackerman points out, General Stanley McChrystal has curtailed night-time raids and taken closer personal control over special-forces operations precisely to avoid any further such mistakes.

Or, on the other hand, this kind of unfortunate waste of human life may be the basic shape of the NATO intervention, while the noble mission of beating back misogynistic theocracy and building a stable, reasonably democratic government is in fact a fantastical utopian sideshow. This was the fundamental shape of the moral argument that rent American politics in two during the Vietnam war. The men who could never forgive John Kerry for his testimony before Congress were infuriated because he treated the war’s pointless slaughter and periodic atrocities as its essential character. In the view of many who fought, including many South Vietnamese, those things were collateral damage; most of those who fought were honourable, and the fundamental cause was just. But history has sided with Mr Kerry: the pointless slaughter was the essence of the Vietnam war, while the cause of a free and democratic South Vietnam was a weird fantasy.

Spencer Ackerman at Washington Independent:

The statement has a vague explanation for the February report about the women being bound and gagged: “this information was taken from an initial report by the international members of the joint force who were not familiar with Islamic burial customs.” Presumably that means the women were shrouded, but that’s hard to square with U.S. forces being responsible for the actual killing. Additionally, The New York Times further reports that the “lack of forensic evidence” about those dead women civilians may be attributable to Special Operations Forces digging “bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the nature of their deaths.”

Last month, McChrystal, himself a former Special Operations commander, took greater control over the Special Operations chain of command in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s move was an attempt to end a semi-autonomous war effort that can too often place a giant asterisk on his strategy of prosecuting the war through protecting the civilian population. One area he apparently left untouched is detention operations. Will there be further clarifications in the future about ultimately-untrue statements about the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan?

Glenn Greenwald:

What is clear — yet again — is how completely misinformed and propagandized Americans continue to be by the American media, which constantly “reports” on crucial events in Afghanistan by doing nothing more than mindlessly and unquestioningly passing along U.S. government claims as though they are fact.  Here, for instance, is how the Paktia incident was “reported” by CNN on February 12:

Note how the headline states as fact that the women were dead as the result of an “honor killing.”

[…]

All of this is a chronic problem, not an isolated one, with war reporting generally and events in Afghanistan specifically.  Just consider what happened when the U.S. military was forced in 2008 to retract its claims about a brutal air raid in Azizabad.  The Pentagon had vehemently denied the villagers’ claim that close to 100 civilians had been killed and that no Taliban were in the vicinity:  until a video emerged proving the villagers’ claims were true and the Pentagon’s false.  Last week, TPM highlighted a recent, largely overlooked statement from Gen. McChrystal, where he admitted, regarding U.S. killings of Afghans at check points:  “to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. . . . We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”  And as I documented before, the U.S. media constantly repeats false Pentagon claims about American air attacks around the world in order to create the false impression that Key Terrorists were killed while no civilians were.

UPDATE: On the Iraq story, Ed Morrissey:

In the video, starting at the 3:50 mark, one member of this group starts preparing what clearly looks like an RPG launcher, as well as some individuals with AK-47s. The launcher then reappears at the 4:06 mark as the man wielding it sets up a shot for down the street. In 2007 Baghdad, this would be a clear threat to US and Iraqi Army ground forces; in fact, it’s difficult to imagine any other purpose for an RPG launcher at that time and place. That’s exactly the kind of threat that US airborne forces were tasked to detect and destroy, which is why the gunships targeted and shot all of the members of the group.

Another accusation is that US forces fired on and killed rescue workers attempting to carry one of the journalists out of the area. However, the video clearly shows that the vehicle in question bore no markings of a rescue vehicle at all, and the men who ran out of the van to grab the wounded man wore no uniforms identifying themselves as such. Under any rules of engagement, and especially in a terrorist hot zone like Baghdad in 2007, that vehicle would properly be seen as support for the terrorists that had just been engaged and a legitimate target for US forces.  While they didn’t grab weapons before getting shot, the truth is that the gunships didn’t give them the chance to try, either — which is exactly what they’re trained to do.  They don’t need to wait until someone gets hold of the RPG launcher and fires it at the gunship or at the reinforcements that had already begun to approach the scene.  The gunships acted to protect the approaching patrol, which is again the very reason we had them in the air over Baghdad.

War correspondents take huge risks to bring news of a war to readers far away.  What this shows is just how risky it is to embed with terrorists, especially when their enemy controls the air.  War is not the same thing as law enforcement; the US forces had no responsibility for identifying each member of the group and determining their mens rea.  Legitimate rescue operations would have included markings on the vehicle and on uniforms to let hostile forces know to hold fire, and in the absence of that, the hostile forces have every reason to consider the second support group as a legitimate target as well.   It’s heartbreaking for the families of these journalists, but this isn’t “collateral murder” — it’s war.

The Jawa Report:

They’ve even embedded it on a site they call “Collateral Murder.”

These people are beyond stupid, they’re evil.

Worst case scenario this is a few innocent being accidentally killed in the fog of war.

But the video doesn’t even appear to be worst case scenario. It appears, in fact, that the video shows armed insurgents engaging or about to engage US troops. The Reuters camera men had embedded themselves with the insurgents. This makes them enemy combatants themselves and should have been shot.

Reuters has a long history of its local stringers embedding themselves with terrorist forces. Perhaps they do this because they are sympathetic, perhaps they do this to get “the story“, but it matters little to those engaging insurgents.

When you embed yourselves with terrorists you know the risk. You are producing propaganda for them. You have become one of them.

Anything less than this understanding is purposeful naivite about “objective journalism”. In war there can be no objective journalism. You’re either with us or the enemy. If you want to stay neutral stay out of the war zone.

As for those who went in to pick up the bodies? Perhaps they were innocents. I’ve no idea.

But you drive your van into an active military engagement? What the hell were you thinking?

You are stupid. Innocent, but stupid. You’re asking to be killed.

And if you brought children into the midsts of an ongoing military engagement that makes you more than stupid: it makes you criminally negligent.

“It’s their fault for bringing their kids to a battle,” says one of the Americans on the video. Indeed it is.

People, this is war. This happens in war. It can’t be avoided. If you want to end civilian casualties then end war. Start by asking armed Islamists to put down their weapons. But you won’t do that because your real objection isn’t war, it’s America. Which is why anti-war activists around the globe never protest al-Qaeda, only America.

They’re not anti-war, they’re anti-American.

Gregg Carlstrom at The Majlis:

There are really two separate issues connected to this incident. One is the cover-up — opening fire on the ambulance, the Pentagon’s refusal to divulge how these people were killed, or to release the video — which is simply inexcusable.

And the attack itself? If you watch the entire video, one or two of the men in the square certainly appear to be armed (though it’s hard to tell from low-resolution gunsight video). Chmagh and Noor-Eldeen presumably knew the risks of standing with armed men in a public square in Baghdad in 2007, and the pilots presumably were on edge (east Baghdad was the site of a major coalition offensive at the time).

None of the men move to engage the helicopter, though; they’re not “committing hostile acts” or “exhibiting hostile intent,” the two conditions under which U.S. forces were authorized to use lethal force in 2007.

Clearly the second condition includes a lot of wiggle room — but I’ve watched the video twice, and I’m hard-pressed to identify anything in the video that appears to be hostile intent. The Apache also made no attempt to “use graduated measures of force” — warning shots, for example — as required by the rules of engagement that were in effect in 2007.

UPDATE #2: Sullivan with a round-up

Bill Roggio at TWS. More Roggio

James Fallows

James Joyner

David Kenner at Foreign Policy

Matthew Yglesias

Brian Doherty at Reason

UPDATE #3: Jawa Report

Megan McArdle

UPDATE #4: Stephen Colbert

Jawa Report on Colbert

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite on Colbert

Jules Crittenden on Colbert

Moe Lane on Colbert

UPDATE #5: On the arrest, Uncle Jimbo of Blackfive

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker

2 Comments

Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT, Iraq

Kiriakou Changes His Story

Jeff Stein at Foreign Policy:

Well, it’s official now: John Kiriakou, the former CIA operative who affirmed claims that waterboarding quickly unloosed the tongues of hard-core terrorists, says he didn’t know what he was talking about.

Kiriakou, a 15-year veteran of the agency’s intelligence analysis and operations directorates, electrified the hand-wringing national debate over torture in December 2007 when he told ABC’s Brian Ross and Richard Esposito  in a much ballyhooed, exclusive interview that senior al Qaeda commando Abu Zubaydah cracked after only one application of the face cloth and water.

“From that day on, he answered every question,” Kiriakou said. “The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.”

No matter that Kiriakou wearily said he shared the anguish of millions of Americans, not to mention the rest of the world, over the CIA’s application of the medieval confession technique.

The point was that it worked.  And the pro-torture camp was quick to pick up on Kiriakou’s claim.

“It works, is the bottom line,” conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh exclaimed on his radio show the day after Kiriakou’s ABC interview. “Thirty to 35 seconds, and it works.”

A cascade of similar acclamations followed, muffling — to this day — the later revelation that Zubaydah had in fact been waterboarded at least 83 times.

Had Kiriakou left out something the first time?

Now comes John Kiriakou, again, with a wholly different story. On the next-to-last page of a new memoir, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror (written with Michael Ruby), Kiriakou now rather off handedly admits that he basically made it all up.

“What I told Brian Ross in late 2007 was wrong on a couple counts,” he writes. “I suggested that Abu Zubaydah had lasted only thirty or thirty-five seconds during his waterboarding before he begged his interrogators to stop; after that, I said he opened up and gave the agency actionable intelligence.”

But never mind, he says now.

“I wasn’t there when the interrogation took place; instead, I relied on what I’d heard and read inside the agency at the time.”

Michael Scherer at Swampland at Time:

The original ABC News story, meanwhile–with the headline “Coming in From the Cold: CIA Spy Calls Waterboarding Necessary But Torture”–is still running on the ABC News website, effectively unaltered save a small note that says after the third paragraph, “This story has been updated. (see endnote),” with a link to another page, where Kiriakou admits that he was wrong.

As it stands more than two years later, the web story is an embarrassment for ABC News. If the esteemed news organization had reported on election night in 2008 that John McCain had won the presidency, my guess is ABC’s editors would feel obligated to issue a more prominent correction than a blind link to another web page hidden in the text of their original mistake.

Marc Thiessen at The Corner:

The Left will pounce all over this story in Foreign Policy: “CIA Man Retracts Claim on Waterboarding.” It reports that “John Kiriakou, the former CIA operative who affirmed claims that waterboarding quickly unloosed the tongues of hard-core terrorists, says he didn’t know what he was talking about.” In his memoir, Kirakou admits that he was not in the room during the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, who he claimed broke after one application of water and produced vital intelligence. His resistance was, in fact, much greater than that.

As always, the Left will attempt to distort this as proof to back their specious claim that no valuable information came from Zubaydah and other terrorists. But the evidence that the CIA program was effective is not dependent on Kirakou’s testimony.

I have spoken to the people who — unlike Kirakou — were in the room for the interrogations of Zubaydah, KSM and other terrorists held by the CIA. And in Courting Disaster, I meticulousluy document the evidence for the efficacy of the CIA interrogation program — based not on Kirakou’s claims, but on the testimony of the actual interrogators, interivews with top CIA and other intelligence officials, the evidence presented in the CIA inspector general’s report, and other top-secret documents declassified by the Obama administration. I urge you to read it and judge for yourself. The evidence is overwhelming.

Unfortunately, Kiriakou kicked up a lot of dust and created a lot of confusion about the efficacy of torture, a practice that should be abandoned purely on moral grounds, but which also has terrible track record for success compared to more thoughtful interrogation methods.  His mea culpa is too little too late considering the blatant lie he told in the face of actual evidence, and the harm caused.

Of course there is more than meets the eye on this story. The fact of the matter is that Kiriakou says he “didn’t know what he was talking about” because he wasn’t in the room when the waterboarding took place. The whole piece uses over 900 words to assert that the success of waterboarding is in question because Kiriakou used second hand information to come to the conclusion that waterboarding doesn’t work, but completely ignores the fact that the interrogators themselves confirmed KSM broke because of waterboarding and the declassified documents prove that attacks were prevented because of the information that was extracted.

[…]

The left can squeal all they want on this matter. KSM broke because of this interrogation method and if this method was not in place at the time we would have suffered more attacks. Now that we read Miranda rights to enemy combatants we should not be surprised when the next attack attempt is successful. Why? Because we will have no idea its coming.

Rachel Slajda at TPM

UPDATE: Annie Lowrey at Foreign Policy with the Colbert Report piece

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Mainstream, Torture

Just A Spoonful Of Sugar

Eleanor Barkhorn in The Atlantic rounds-up the reactions.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported some bad news for Americans with a sweet tooth: the U.S. faces a sugar shortage so severe, it could “virtually run out of sugar.” Big food companies like Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., Hershey Co., and Mars Inc. wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warning him of the shortage and asking him to ease trade restrictions on the commodity, which are structured to encourage companies to buy domestic sugar. What if the government doesn’t drop the quota on importing foreign sugar? The companies say they’ll lay off workers and raise prices on their products–from chocolate bars to breakfast cereal.

Stephen Colbert reacted to the news with his signature dramatic flair. After a Home Alone-style yelp, he ripped open a 5-pound bag of Domino sugar, and poured it over himself. “Can you imagine an America with no sugar?,” he asked. “Juice would contain nothing but 10 percent juice. And we’d all be eating uncaramelized apples.”

Stephen Colbert bit here. Colbert’s guest on the sugar subject, Marion Nestle, has an Atlantic post up here.

Daniel Griswold at Cato:

Protectionism is not just a consumer issue. As we elaborated in a 2005 Cato study on the high cost of U.S. farm programs (see pp. 4-6), trade barriers against agricultural commodities such as sugar also raise costs for U.S. producers, forcing them to raise prices, and thus reducing sales, output, and employment. Artificially high domestic sugar prices have forced thousands of domestic manufacturing jobs to be “shipped overseas” to countries that allow sugar to be imported at world prices.

If the Obama administration wants to encourage the domestic production of sugar-containing products, it should raise the quotas as far as they can and allow American companies to buy sugar at world prices.

Juliet Lapidos in Slate:

After the Wall Street Journal and a number of other news sources picked up the story on Thursday, the American Sugar Alliance countered that we’re far from a shortage; in fact, we have a surplus. Could we ever really run out of sugar?

No way. American sugar producers churn out approximately 8.5 million metric tons per year. The USDA also allows about 1.3 million metric tons to cross our borders from 40 different sugar-producing countries, and, under NAFTA rules, an unlimited amount from Mexico. (Mexican imports will be about 1.45 million tons for the current fiscal year.) Since American consumers use only about 10 million tons in a year, producers frequently end up with excess sugar, which is then stockpiled in warehouses. If producers couldn’t keep up with demand—due to poor growing conditions or a change of policy in Mexico, say—they would first dip into these stockpiles. If there were still a shortage, the USDA would simply increase its import quotas. In 2006, after back-to-back-to-back hurricanes (Katrina, Rita, Wilma) during the 2005 growing season, the USDA became worried about the domestic sugar supply and promptly pushed up the yearly limit. Most Americans never noticed.

Meg Marco at The Consumerist

Bruce Watson at Daily Finance:

Part of the problem lies in a worldwide sugar run as Brazil diverts part of its sugar crop into ethanol production and monsoons have wiped out much of India’s sugar crop. All told, the Department of Agriculture expects sugar supplies to drop by 43 percent over the next year.

In many ways, the government is caught in a squeeze play. On the one side, there are domestic sugar beet and cane growers who are strongly invested in maintaining a high price for American sugar. Perhaps more importantly, they also have a very strong lobby that helps them to control import quotas. This ultimately translates into an American sugar market that is priced at two to three times the global market rate and American companies that make billions per year in inflated profits.

[…]

One solution is to use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS); as the price of sugar rises, the compound becomes comparatively cheaper and thus more attractive to food manufacturers. However, as more customers become aware of the health dangers associated with HFCS, many food companies are shying away from it. In fact, even the soft drink industry — long a bastion of HFCS — has begun experimenting with new sugar-sweetened sodas.

As they currently stand, sugar quotas are driving up food costs, weakening international trade and driving an already-overpowered corn industry. As the price of candy bars is poised to shoot up, perhaps it is time for the government to put Big Sugar on a big diet.

NPR’s Marketplace

Paul Kedrosky at Seeking Alpha:

With sugar spiking to all-time highs, there is a potential behavioral upside. Much as happened with higher oil prices, which changed driving behavior, higher sugar prices could materially change people’s behavior, steering them away from sweets and refined sugar products, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

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“As A Usenet Discussion Grows Longer, The Probability Of A Comparison Involving Nazis Or Hitler Approaches 1.”

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The title of this post is the oft-cited Godwin’s Law.

Amanda Terkel at Think Progress (video is up there):

Last week, Las Vegas radio station KDWN AM720 sponsored a “contentious” town hall, emceed by conservative morning show host Heidi Harris. At the event, local news stations were interviewing an Israeli man who was praising the “fantastic” “national health care” in Israel. During his remarks, a woman yelled out, “Heil Hitler!” The man stopped, became visibly upset, and exclaimed, “Did you hear this? She say to a Jew, ‘Heil Hitler’! Hear? I’m a Jew! You’re telling me, ‘Heil Hitler’? Shame of you!” After he angrily confronts her, the woman mocks him by making a crying sound to imply he is a whining baby.

Digby

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection:

How many people who shout “Heil Hitler” go around in an Israel Defense Forces t-shirt? How convenient that this shout was made only when the Israeli was being interviewed for television.
Given the imposters who have appeared at town halls to discredit health care protesters, anything is possible.

UPDATE: A video is available at ABC 13 in Las Vegas. The video shows the two individuals, but there is no mention of a “Heil Hitler” statement being made by the woman (the Think Progress video does not show who made the comment, and assumes it was the woman pictured). The woman is identified as Pamela Pilger, and the man as Samuel Blum.

The audio on the ABC 13 video also does not contain the “Heil Hitler” statement or show Blum conronting Pilger about the statement. (As as aside, Blum says he agrees there should be no health care support for illegal immigrants.) The ABC 13 web post on the town hall also makes no mention of a “Heil Hitler” statement.

Was the statement made, and who are these two people? Was it real or staged? Assuming this was not a set-up, why could an obvious supporter of Israel make such a statement; was it anti-Semitism, or just wrong-headed, like when blacks call other blacks the n-word? … or mayby it’s just a variation on the stupidity in which each side calls the other side Nazis, Godwin’s law gone mad.

Gateway Pundit

WaterTiger at Firedoglake:

The wingnuts carry “Obama as Hitler” signs in order to disguise their own deep-seated and lizard-brained bigotries, they openly possess and wield assault rifles at the rallies to protest some completely unfounded rumor that Obama plans to take away their right to own guns, and they attempt to silence health care reformers by drowning out any real conversation with screams that their own First Amendment rights are being abridged.

And now, onto Barney Frank:

Mark Silva at The Swamp:

The attempted equation of a health-care overhaul with Nazism, fascism or any such oppressive political mechanism probably defines the outer boundaries of the debate.

And Rep. Barney Frank figured the whole thing had gotten out of bounds when he walked into a “town-hall”-styled meeting to find a health-care protester toting a poster depicting President Barack Obama wearing a Hitler-styled mustache.

“On what planet do you spend most of your time?” Frank (D-Mass.) asked the woman, who had stepped to the podium at a senior citizens’ center in southeastern Massachusetts to ask the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee why he supports what she called “a Nazi policy.”

“”Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it,” Frank replied, while calling her ability to deface an image of the president “a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.”

Will at The League:

I won’t write this very often . . . but God Bless Barney Frank

James Joyner:

Like Will, I’m not among Barney Frank’s biggest fans. And I disagree with him vehemently on the direction we should take our health care system. But the refusal to take obnoxious lunatics seriously is fine by me.

Allah Pundit:

Hannity culled the best soundbites of Frank displaying the special charm for which he’s so well known and loathed, but you’re cheating yourself if you don’t watch this, too. The crack about how arguing with the “Obama = Hitler” crowd is like arguing with furniture is worth the price of admission.

Joseph Childers:

When a confused idiot asks you some ridiculous question comparing health care reform to the Nazi regime, shut it down.  Don’t engage, don’t apologize, and don’t debate.  It’s not a serious question and it doesn’t deserve a serious answer, only mockery.

Other Dems – are you watching?

Wonkette:

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. HEY, 1988 CALLED, IT WANTS ITS LAROUCHIES BACK.

UPDATE: On the Frank video, Nick Gillespie in Reason

Matthew Yglesias

Ezra Klein

Doug J.

UPDATE #2: More on the Frank video, Ann Althouse

Steve Benen

Conor Clarke

Charles Johnson at LGF

John McCormack at TWS

UPDATE #3: David Weigel at The Washington Independent

Rod Dreher

James Wolcott:

And so we see the rich dividends paid by Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, which painted a Hitler mustache on the smiley face of meliorist policies and helped intellectually underwrite the frothings of undisciplined minds and mouths from Glenn Beck to this Sig Heil heckler, licensing them to spot a Nazi shadow bayoneting across the White House lawn whenever the sun is at President Obama’s back. And when Obama travels abroad, why the Nazi parallels are even more striking and ominous, if you’re a loon.

Bravo, then, to Barney Frank, who, at a health-reform event, gruffly stuck a cork in the spout of one particularly egregious Hitlerizer.

UPDATE #4: The Daily What:

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UPDATE #5: Stephen Colbert argues with a table.

Clark Stooksbury at TAC

UPDATE #6: Richard Spencer at Taki’s Magazine on Stooksbury

Stooksbury responds

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No, Really, Seriously, Don’t Tase Me Bro

The Stephen Colbert segment from a few nights again.

Digby:

I’m ambivalent about joking about tasers. When I see movies in which cops shooting people with electricity is a punch line I can’t say I find it all that funny. It’s not because I’m above slapstick humor, but because it further trivializes a coercive tool that our society is allowing police to use for trivial reasons. (And truthfully, when I see people screaming in agony, writhing spasmodically on the ground in pain, I’m afraid it turns my stomach rather than makes me laugh. I’m just funny that way.)

But this is different. It’s brilliant satire designed to expose the use of tasers for what they are. TGFC (thank God for Colbert.)

Maybe this issue is starting the seep into the mainstream. Unfortunately, I think it’s going to take the tasing of someone who important people feel is above such tactics to change things.

Andrew Sullivan:

A classic case of what it’s like to live in today’s America:

Police in Mobile, Ala., used pepper spray and a Taser on a deaf, mentally disabled man who they said wouldn’t leave a store’s bathroom …  Police tell the Press-Register of Mobile that officers shot pepper spray under the bathroom door after knocking several times. After forcing the door open, they used the stun gun on Love.

Then they tried the Crowley option: arresting him for disorderly conduct. Mercifully a judge threw the charge out. But notice the disorderly conduct charge filed even after all the facts are known. The crime – disabled while taking a shit – is just asking to be tasered and pepper-sprayed.

Bill Flanigen in Reason

Jacob Sullum in Reason:

Bill Flanigen notes that police in Mobile, Alabama, recently used pepper spray and a stun gun on a deaf, mentally disabled man who overstayed his welcome in a Dollar Store restroom, then charged him with disorderly conduct for provoking the assault. Alabama’s definition of disorderly conduct is similar to the one used in Massachusetts, and it’s not clear which part the police thought applied to sitting on a toilet too long. Engaging in “tumultuous behavior”? Obstructing “pedestrian traffic”? Making “unreasonable noises”?

Love, who has a mental age of about 10, says he was not feeling well and was in the bathroom for about a half-hour before the police “throw poison under the door.” Soon they broke into the bathroom, he recalled in an account he wrote for his family, and “the police get the tazz three strings in my stomach, chest and hand and hit my head.” Later, he says, “I saw police laugh at me.” Citing a police spokesman, the Mobile Press-Register reports that “the officers’ decision to take Love to jail—even after they discovered his disability—as well as their conduct throughout the incident is still under investigation.”

James Joyner:

It’s not the police department’s responsibility to know that an unidentified person they’re called out to respond to is disabled.  And the fact that Love thinks the devil is attacking him in bathrooms and that he is unable to cope with his surroundings is perhaps an indication that he shouldn’t be out unsupervised.

The officers in question undoubtedly acted as they were trained to do.

No, the problem, as in the Henry Louis Gates case, is a police culture that sees all non-police as potentially dangerous perps and that demands instant respect and obedience from the public.  Watch any random episode of “Cops” and you’ll see outrageous police conduct by officers who know that they’re being filmed for television.   Police increasingly see themselves as soldiers in a war zone and behave with an arrogant, bullying attitude toward the citizenry even in clearly non-dangerous situations.

Kelley Vlahos in TAC:

Seriously, a quick Google News search of the last month alone reveals a barrage of police tasing incidents across the country one more barbaric than the other: grandmas, grandpas, the mentally ill, teens and even children. Some of these taser victims died. One (ok, in Australia) burst into flames, another was left with burns in his anus, and yet another, a 14-year-old girl, got it in the head — running away after a dispute with her mother over a cell phone (caution, graphic).

All — in varying degrees — needed to be “subdued” by police, and were. It is, after all, a most effective tool in that regard, especially when dealing with  pregnant women, 16-year-olds with broken backs and 6-year-old boys. After reading news reports dating back to 2004 about the hyper-use of these 50,000-volt zap guns, it’s not difficult to imagine what might have happened if Gates were say, in Boise, and had hurled one more insult, used a few expletives, raised a hand or moved toward Officer James Crowley in a “threatening manner,” much like this guy, who was irate and scary, but nonetheless handcuffed and shackled, when he was Tasered in a Kentucky court on July 22.

[…] So what does this mean? According to police, who, as we’ve been reminded relentlessly over the last week face constant danger, Tasers are less lethal than guns and more effective at ending violent confrontations without serious injury. Furthermore, Tasers have been credited with shielding police officers from harm in the line of duty.

Maybe so. According to federal statistics, the number of police officers shot and killed in the line of duty is at an historic low. The nationwide number actually dropped 40 percent — from 68 in 2007 to 41 in 2008. The numbers have been on a downward trajectory for years, and Tasers are in part, credited. But there are other reasons, too, like the fact that overall violent crime is down, police wear super high-tech bullet-proof vests today and some 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated and off the streets.

Meanwhile, the stats on the number of American citizens police have killed in that timespan are much more elusive. According to this 2007 report (unverified), 9,500 people were killed by cops from 1980 through 2003, an average of 380 a year, one a day. These recent DOJ numbers jibe, with 1,540 killed by police from 2003-2006. Amnesty International says 351 people have died from police Tasers since 2001.

UPDATE: Conor Friedersdorf in the American Scene

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It Happened One Night On Christopher Street

Stonewall_Inn_1969On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Riots occurred and gave birth to the gay rights movement.

Frank Rich in the NYT:

LIKE all students caught up in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, I was riveted by the violent confrontations between the police and protestors in Selma, 1965, and Chicago, 1968. But I never heard about the several days of riots that rocked Greenwich Village after the police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in the wee hours of June 28, 1969 — 40 years ago today.

Then again, I didn’t know a single person, student or teacher, male or female, in my entire Ivy League university who was openly identified as gay. And though my friends and I were obsessed with every iteration of the era’s political tumult, we somehow missed the Stonewall story. Not hard to do, really. The Times — which would not even permit the use of the word gay until 1987 — covered the riots in tiny, bowdlerized articles, one of them but three paragraphs long, buried successively on pages 33, 22 and 19.

But if we had read them, would we have cared? It was typical of my generation, like others before and after, that the issue of gay civil rights wasn’t on our radar screen. Not least because gay people, fearful of harassment, violence and arrest, were often forced into the shadows. As David Carter writes in his book “Stonewall,” at the end of the 1960s homosexual sex was still illegal in every state but Illinois. It was a crime punishable by castration in seven states. No laws — federal, state or local — protected gay people from being denied jobs or housing. If a homosexual character appeared in a movie, his life ended with either murder or suicide.

The younger gay men — and scattered women — who acted up at the Stonewall on those early summer nights in 1969 had little in common with their contemporaries in the front-page political movements of the time. They often lived on the streets, having been thrown out of their blue-collar homes by their families before they finished high school. They migrated to the Village because they’d heard it was one American neighborhood where it was safe to be who they were.

Stonewall “wasn’t a 1960s student riot,” wrote one of them, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, in a poignant handwritten flier on display at the New York Public Library in the exhibition “1969: The Year of Gay Liberation.” They had “no nice dorms for sleeping,” “no school cafeteria for certain food” and “no affluent parents” to send checks. They had no powerful allies of any kind, no rights, no future. But they were brave. They risked their necks to prove, as Lanigan-Schmidt put it, that “the mystery of history” could happen “in the least likely of places.”

Video from Salon

Round-up of posts and articles Towleroad

Tjlabs at Daily Kos:

I was ordained a deacon in 1972 and served in two different parishes until the Church and I came to a mutual parting of the ways. During that time, I baptized dozens of babies, preached dozens of homilies and distributed hundreds of communions. But deep down I knew the real reason for becoming a priest. The Church was the safest place for a gay man to hide undetected by cloaking himself in the mantle of holiness and celibacy. I had gay classmates and knew gay priests but the straight clergy vastly outnumbered the gay clergy contrary to recent events and scandals within the Church. And the gay clergy were gay, not pedophiles. That was a whole other issue. And those we knew about were widely shunned by the rest of us.

It wasn’t until some years later after I had left the Church that I realized that the gay revolution which began 40 years ago tonight in a Mafia-run bar for gays and transvestites was also the catalyst for my personal revolution. I knew that I didn’t want to live a lie and that I didn’t want to live alone, surviving on one night stands and furtive trysts. So when I got out in 1973, I came out. But it was still early days for the gay movement for equality, rights and acceptance. You could still get fired from your job for being gay. You could still be refused an apartment for rent for being gay. And you still had to endure the verbal taunts and sometimes the threats of actual physical violence.

Teacherken at Daily Kos

Detroit Mark at Daily Kos:

But I just thought there would be something terribly wrong to let June 28th, the Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, to go by without at least trying to pin my own personal celebratory card on the wall for my sisters and brothers to remember and celebrate.

So here’s to my Forequeers.  Thank you girls, some of you adults with a full head of political activism who fought with years of preparation, and some innocent young kids left homeless on the benches of Christopher Park who stood up just out of the innate sense that something wrong needed to stop, all of whom made that night the night gay people would never go back into the closet without a fight.

Queerty:

But what if the cops never came? We’ll never know how that scenario would’ve gone down, but when you quiz an 89-year-old former cop who was part of the raid that night, it’s clear the Stonewall riots were destined to happen. And Seymour Pine, then the NYPD’s deputy inspector, has no regrets: “Yes, of course” the police did the right thing, Pine said in an interview with The Brian Lehrer Show. “When we took the action that we took that night, we were on the side of right. We never would have done something without supervision from the federal authorities and the state authorities. They were involved with this just as well as we were.” Insists Pine: “I don’t think not liking gay people had anything to do with it.”

James Ford

The Colbert Report

Jaclyn Friedman in The American Prospect

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