On his show Wednesday night, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly accused American Atheists president David Silverman of being a “fascists” who wanted to banish Christmas from the United States.
During the contentious interview, O’Reilly insisted that Christmas displays in public buildings were not a constitutional issue because Christianity is not a religion.
“It is a fact that Christianity is not a religion, it is a philosophy,” the Fox News host declared confidently. “If the government was saying that the Methodist religion deserves a special place in the public square, I would be on your side.”
At the end of the day, the whole Benghazi episode is going to come to nothing, and the president will nominate Susan Rice to be secretary of state, or not. But, if he does, there’s something more to talk to her about than the phony crisis that John McCain has turned into political Cialis over the past month or so.
Susan Rice, the candidate believed to be favored by President Obama to become the next Secretary of State, holds significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline. If confirmed by the Senate, one of Rice’s first duties likely would be consideration, and potentially approval, of the controversial mega-project. Rice’s financial holdings could raise questions about her status as a neutral decision maker. The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.
The Keystone XL pipeline — old friend of the blog and Republican political fetish object — rather has slipped out of the national dialogue for the moment, but the decision on whether we should allow an untrustworthy Canadian company to take people’s land from them in order to run a pipe full of the dirtiest fossil fuel in human history down the spine of the continent and perilously close to the Oglalla aquifer is still (remarkably) an open question. And, as it happens, its ultimate resolution may come with the participation of a Secretary Rice.
During an appearance on CNN Wednesday night, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange warned that mass surveillance was becoming a worldwide problem as technology progressed.
Despite this victory, the thousands of men and women who are booked into MSCO jails each year remain at risk. In 2011, Ernesto “Marty” Atencio died after being severely beaten and Tased by deputies shortly after he was booked into the 4th Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix. Atencio’s death is the latest in a string of highly publicized fatalities at Maricopa County jails during Sheriff Arpaio’s tenure. To date, the county has paid out tens of millions to settle wrongful injury and death lawsuits brought on behalf of Maricopa County inmates and their families.
Private Prisons and Kids: ‘A Picture of Such Horror as Should Be Unrealized Anywhere in the Civilized World’
On March 22, Judge Reeves heard searing testimony from six young African-American youth — the youngest only 15 — on the horrors to which they had been subjected in the Walnut Grove prison. The courtroom was packed with family members as well as Walnut Grove prison staff. Judge Reeves closely questioned the father of a young prisoner who had been so badly beaten that he suffers permanent brain damage; the boy’s father described spending six weeks desperately trying to locate his son after prison officials moved the boy to a hospital and refused to tell his family what had happened to him.
Two days before the hearing, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report concluding that “brazen” staff sexual misconduct and brutal youth-on-youth rape at Walnut Grove was among the worst that DOJ had seen “in any facility anywhere in the nation.”
In his scathing and powerful order, Judge Reeves found it “astonishing” that nothing had caused the defendants to change course. In fact, he wrote, “The testimony established that only two days before the hearing, the facility remained so understaffed that a teenage offender was brutally attacked.” He also found that “the youth are routinely subjected to excessive force by prison officials and staff consistently fails to report and investigate these claims,” which he found unsurprising, “given that the facility employs correctional staffers affiliated with gangs.”
So Auntie Marlo drove to Martindale’s bookshop in Beverly Hills and searched the shelves for children’s books with a take on gender a little more suited to the progressive era in which she lived. It was 1971, for goodness sakes. Instead she found a book called I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl! In charming cartoon panels, little boys and girls gave thanks for what made them who they were:
The book, by New Yorker cartoonist Whitney Darrow, Jr., was likely intended as satire, but the satire was so dry it was entirely lost on Auntie Marlo. My god, she thought. This is what she’s going to be reading. This is all there is for her to read. What am I going to do? Then she thought: I’ve got to make something that will obliterate this.
Marlo Thomas, then 34, was taking acting classes with Lee Strasberg in New York and planning her next move. Her TV show, That Girl, had run its course, finishing after five seasons. Thomas’s character, aspiring actress and single girl Anne Marie, had gotten engaged in the final year of the show, but Thomas refused to end the series with a wedding—Thomas was single and proud, and she wanted her character to be as well. She was dating playwright Herb Gardner—she always referred to him in conversation as “Herb-Gardner-my-boyfriend,” spoken as if it was just one word—but was uninterested in getting married.
Thomas’ fruitless Martindale’s shopping trip led her to the idea that her next project ought to be a collection of stories for children that avoided sexual stereotypes and promoted gender equality. She could solicit the stories and record herself reading them. It would be just like the records she and her sister had listened to in their rooms as little girls, but liberated, smarter, modern. She just had to find the stories.
Back in New York, a mutual friend put her in touch with Ursula Nordstrom, the doyenne of children’s publishing who’d edited E.B. White, Maurice Sendak, and Margaret Wise Brown at Harper & Row. Nordstrom sent Thomas out on meetings with a handful of writers. “I told them what I was looking for,” Thomas remembers: “stories that showed boys and girls sharing the world and cooperating together and changing who our role models could be. Breaking down the myths of what girls and boys could do, changing the whole idea of who they could be.” In response, Thomas says, “It was kind of, ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, you can be this, you can do … ’ I thought, This is no good. Kids are too sophisticated; they have rock concerts in their living rooms on television. They weren’t hot enough. They weren’t sassy enough.”
It sounds absurd, but a daily annoyance to millions of Russians did save lives.
A man whose plot to cause carnage on Moscow’s iconic Red Square was thwarted by a spam phone message that prematurely detonated a bomb was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in jail.
Ilyas Saidov, a member of an underground Islamist group, brought explosives-laden belts disguised as heaters for two female suicide bombers on a bus from his native Dagestan, a southern province in the Caucasus region plagued by almost daily clashes between Islamists and federal forces.
But just hours before they were to detonate the bombs on New Year’s Eve, 2010, a belt attached to a cellphone exploded after the detonator was activated by a spam message, killing one of the women and prompting the arrest of the other. She was sentenced to 10 years in jail in May.
Steve Benen observes as John McCain Descends Further Into Incoherence.
For those who can’t watch clips online, McCain appeared on Fox News to raise a series of strange complaints, and roll out a truly bizarre new analogy.
“[W]ho changed the talking points that was used by Ambassador Rice? And why? And on what circumstances? Why was reference to Al Qaeda left out? There are so many things that have happened. And the interesting thing is, finally, Neil, we knew within hours of all the details when we got bin Laden in the raid there, every bitty one of them. They are making a movie out of it.
“And here we are 10 weeks later, and finally our ambassador to the United Nations who appeared on every national Sunday show has now said that she gave false information concerning how this tragedy happened as far as the spontaneity of a demonstration triggered by a hateful video.”
But comparing this to the raid on bin Laden’s compound is a special kind of dumb. I realize national security and foreign policy is an issue McCain struggles with, but this isn’t complicated: the bin Laden raid was our idea. It was our mission. We planned it and we executed it. We knew the details “within hours” because, unlike the terrorists’ attack on Benghazi, the raid in Abbottabad was carried out by our guys, not their guys.
Honestly, I’m not sure whether to be annoyed by the senator’s nonsense or feel sorry for him.