I don’t write much about poetry here, but I wanted to acknowledge the passing of Adrienne Rich, for whom poetry was a tool in “the creation of a society without domination.” Listening to her read “Diving into the Wreck” is remarkable. And it makes it all the more painful that with her gone, we can no longer access “the wreck and not the story of the wreck / the thing itself and not the myth.” It’s harder for me to think of a better description of our broken world and the quest to bind it up again than her gorgeous quest for “the damage that was done /and the treasures that prevail.”
While media coverage of the case has been intense, there are several key questions that have yet to be answered about the case. Here are five of the most important:
1. What was the purported “conflict” that required the initial prosecutor to step down? On March 22 — after several weeks on the job — state attorney Norm Wolfinger stepped down from his role as prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case. Wolfinger relinquished his post after meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi. He said it was necessary for him to step aside to preserve “the integrity of this investigation,” adding he wanted to avoid “the appearance of a conflict of interest.” He did not explain why his continued involvement would damage the integrity of the case or explain the potential conflict he was seeking to avoid. Did anyone at the prosecutor’s office know Zimmerman or his family? [Orlando Sentinel]
2. Why did the prosecutor ignore the recommendations of the lead homicide investigator? ABC News reported that Chris Serino, the lead homicide investigator on the Trayvon Martin case, recommended that Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter on the night of the shooting. Serino filed an affidavit that night stating “he was unconvinced Zimmerman’s version of events.” As the lead homicide investigator, Serino was: 1. In the best position to evaluate Zimmerman’s credibility, and 2. Intimately familiar with Florida law. Why was he ignored? [ABC News]
3. Why did then-Police Chief Bill Lee make public statements directly contradicting the official recommendations of the police department? On the day the Sanford Police concluded their investigation and handed over the case to the prosecutor, then-Police Chief Bill Lee stated publicly that there was no “probable cause” to arrest or charge Zimmerman. (Lee has subsequently “temporarily” stepped down from his post.) But the Miami Herald reports that on the same day the Sanford Police formally requested that the prosecutor charge Zimmerman, something known as a “capias” request. [ThinkProgress]
4. Who leaked Trayvon Martin’s school records? As public outrage increased, Zimmerman’s sympathizers launched a smear campaign against Trayvon Martin. This included details of several occasions where Martin was suspended for minor infractions (defacing a locker, possessing an empty “marijuana baggie.”) None of the information seemed to have any particular relevance to the night Trayvon Martin was shot to death. Was this a ham-handed attempt by the police or the prosecutor to defend their lack of action against Zimmerman? The Sanford City Manager announced he would launch an independent investigation into the source of the leak. [Miami Herald; NBC12]
5. Why was Trayvon Martin’s body tagged as a John Doe? The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart notes a police report “that was completed at 3:07 a.m. on Feb. 27 lists Trayvon’s full name, city of birth, address and phone number.” But yet, Trayvon’s body was reportedly “tagged as a John Doe” and his father wasn’t informed of his death until after he filed a missing person report later on the 27th. Why weren’t Trayvon Martin’s parents contacted immediately after the police confirmed his identity? [Washington Post]
Special prosecutor Angela Corey has promised to release additional information about the case once she makes a decision about whether to charge Zimmerman, something that could happen at any time.
In their latest push for U.S. military involvement in the Syrian conflict, three of the most hawkish Senators today introduced a resolution calling on the U.S. help arm the Syrian rebels through Arab allies. Suggesting support for regional efforts to arm the opposition, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) called for condemnation of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who for more than a year has cracked down with the full force of his military against anti-government demonstrators and rebels.
ABC News described the Senators’ bill:
The resolution supports calls by Arab leaders to provide the Syrian people with weapons and other material support and calls on President Obama to work closely with regional partners to “implement these efforts effectively.”
At a press conference, Lieberman said:
We in the United States have both a moral and strategic reason to support their efforts by at least giving them the means with which to defend themselves.
The Hill reports that the McCain-Graham-Lieberman resolution is likely to be merged with another by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) calling for a U.S. government report examining the rebels and gleaning information about its different factions. Other aspects of the resolutions also overlap. The Hill went on to expand on the call to support the Syrian opposition’s self-defense:
That support would likely come in the form of weapons and ammunition for anti-Assad forces. McCain declined to comment on what specific weapons could shipped to rebel troops in the country.
But the Arizona Republicans said those arms could be funneled through the same lines that the “non-lethal” supplies being sent to Syria by the U.S. and Turkey.
The Hill also noted that McCain, Lieberman and Graham did not call in their resolution for airstrikes against Syria. Earlier this month, McCain voiced support for U.S. air strikes against Assad’s regime aimed at helping the rebels topple it. Lieberman and Graham almost immediately followed McCain’s lead.
But those sorts of actions are deeply unpopular among Americans. A Fox News poll released on March 15 said 68 percent of those surveyed opposed air strikes aimed at overthrowing the country, and only 19 percent supported such a strategy. A slim majority opposed and 37 supported air strikes narrowly limited to protecting anti-government rebels. Even the U.S. arming the rebels was unpopular: 64 percent of respondents opposed it, with a quarter of them supporting it.
According to the Hill, “Lieberman said it was decided to exclude the airstrikes demand from the resolution, fearing it would sap bipartisan support for the legislation among rank-and-file senators.”
Bank Of America CEO Gets $7.5 Million Pay Package After The Bank Lost More Than Half Its Stock Value
The Wall Street Journal noted this week that that CEO pay lagged behind profits and productivity last year, mirroring a trend that has been occurring with workers’ wages for decades. But even that slight modicum of moderation regarding executive compensation evidently didn’t extend to Bank of America, which gave CEO Brian Moynihan a $7.5 million pay package — six times as much as he made in 2010 — following a year in which the company’s stock plummeted:
Bank of America gave its CEO a pay package worth $7.5 million last year, six times as large as the year before. It happened while the company’s stock lost more than half its value and the bank lost its claim as the biggest in the country.
The package for CEO Brian Moynihan included a salary of $950,000, a $6.1 million stock award and about $420,000 worth of use of company aircraft and tax and financial advice.
For those keeping score, Bank of America’s stock dropped 58 percent in 2011 and the bank surrendered its title as the nation’s largest to JP Morgan Chase. A good chunk of the stock award was actually given to Moynihan for the bank’s 2010 performance, when it lost money.
In addition to seeing its stock tank, Bank of America has also been, according to a whistleblower suit, intentionally blocking troubled homeowners from receiving mortgage aid. The whistleblower alleges that BofA misled borrowers about their eligibility for federal mortgage aid programs and that “the bank and its agents routinely pretended to have lost homeowners’ documents.” (But remember, Bank of America will modify your mortgage as long as you erase all the mean things you’ve been saying about it on Twitter.)
BofA has also been tied up in the foreclosure fraud scandal, and just a few months ago paid $335 million to settle charges that its subsidiary discriminated against minorities in its lending. If this is how much Moynihan gets after that sort of year, what will he receive if the bank actually has a good one?
IPCC (2001) graph illustrating how a shift and/or widening of a probability distribution of temperatures affects the probability of extremes. (Via RealClimate)
The full 592-page (!) IPCC extreme weather report is out. Like most Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports it has some value for people who don’t follow the science closely, which is to say the overwhelming majority of the media and policymakers.
Of course, the TV media ignored the summary report in November, so we will have to see if they pay any attention to this one now that the United States has just been through the most extreme winter heat wave in our recorded history.
But as Kevin Trenberth, one of the world’s leading experts on the link between climate change and extreme weather, put it to me in an email:
I have seen the chapter on the physical climate and I found it quite disappointing…. I don’t think it adds to AR4 [IPCC Fourth Assessment] much.
I agree with Trenberth that if, for instance, you want a more up to date and straightforward discussion of the impact of climate change on precipitation, you should just read his 2011 paper, “Changes in precipitation with climate change” (online here).
Indeed, the actual scientific literature from 2011 is generally more useful than this report — see “NOAA Study Finds Human-Caused Climate Change Already a Major Factor in More Frequent Mediterranean Droughts” and Hansen et al: “Extreme Heat Waves … in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 Were ‘Caused’ by Global Warming.”
It is, as I wrote when the summary came out in November, the report is “Another Blown Chance to Explain the Catastrophes Coming If We Keep Doing Nothing.” I also wrote that the summary has a good chart that hints at dust-bowlification, but is mostly silent on warming’s gravest threat to humanity.
The full report has more on drought, but fails to clearly describe what the literature now suggests is coming if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path. In 2010, the National Center for Atmospheric Research did a far more valuable literature review and analysis of what we face, which makes clear we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path.
In the case of extreme weather, my guess is that decades from now, people will look back on the staggering growth in off-the-charts “outlandish” extreme events in the past few years and conclude that a regime change had occurred in the climate. That change is probably a combination of the sharp loss in summer/fall Arctic sea ice and the sharp increase in ocean heat content.
We’re only in the past year or so seen analyses that demonstrate the human fingerprint in these uber-extreme events, including the studies above and these two:
- Nature Climate Change: Strong Evidence Manmade ‘Unprecedented Heat And Rainfall Extremes Are Here … Causing Intense Human Suffering’
- Study Finds 80% Chance Russia’s 2010 July Heat Record Would Not Have Occurred Without Climate Warming
So rather than citing this timely, but already out-of-date IPCC report, let me just repost below an excellent new piece from RealClimate by the authors of those two studies, who have been doing some of the best recent work in this area.
It’s been nine years since Augusta National Golf Club emerged largely unscathed from a battle with feminist activist Martha Burk, who led a protest outside the club’s signature event, The Masters, over its policy forbidding female members. But in two weeks, the club may be forced into the 20th — er, 21st — century, thanks to IBM’s decision to make Ginni Rometty its first female CEO earlier this year. Rometty’s promotion has the club facing quite the dilemma, as Bloomberg reports:
As Augusta National Golf Club prepares to host the competition next week, it faces a quandary: The club hasn’t admitted a woman as a member since its founding eight decades ago, yet it has historically invited the chief executive officer of IBM, one of three Masters sponsors. Since the company named Rometty to the post this year, Augusta will have to break tradition either way.
Change comes slow at Augusta, a club that clings to tradition proudly and loudly, even if that tradition is full of discrimination. The first black player won his way into The Masters field in 1975, but Augusta ignored outside pressure to admit a black member for another 15 years.
Its response to women has been the same. It trudged on in the wake of the Burk protests, winning over golf fans (equality be damned) by airing the tournament with limited commercials after she pressured sponsors to pull out. Just last year, it banned a female reporter from entering the players’ locker room, drawing protests from male and female journalists alike.
Rometty’s situation, though, gives her leverage Burk never had. The CEOs of the other two Masters sponsors, Exxon Mobil and AT&T, are both members, and they’ll both be donning the club’s signature green jackets next week. If Rometty isn’t allowed to join them (and given Augusta’s history, she probably won’t be), it will send another message to the 6 million American women who play golf and countless others who watch it that even if they are capable of breaking every last one of corporate America’s glass ceilings, they aren’t capable of playing golf with the boys.
The Masters, as CBS likes to remind us, is a “tradition unlike any other.” This year, though, Augusta has a chance to break with one tradition it should have ended a long time ago.
The Global Post describes the circumstances of the attack:
In 1998, Younus was an 18-year-old working in Karachi’s red light district when she met Bilal Khar, the son of politically powerful Ghulam Mustafa Khar. The two married after six months, the Express Tribune reported. But Khar was verbally and physically abusive. Younus eventually left him.
Younus claimed that she was sleeping at her mother’s house in May 2000 when Khar entered and poured acid on her. Her 5-year-old son from a different man witnessed the attack as well, the Associated Press reported.
Pakistani writer and activist Tehmina Durrani wrote that Younus’ attack was the worst she’d ever seen: “I have met many acid victims. Never have I seen one as completely disfigured as Fakhra. She had not just become faceless; her body had also melted to the bone.”
Khar was acquitted in the crime. The AP reports that “many believe he used his connections to escape the law’s grip — a common occurrence in Pakistan.”
In her suicide note, Younus said she was taking her own life because of the silence of law on the atrocities and the insensitivity of Pakistani rulers.
“The saddest part is that she realized that the system in Pakistan was never going to provide her with relief or remedy,” Nayyar Shabana Kiyani, an activist at The Aurat Foundation, told the AP. “She was totally disappointed that there was no justice available to her.”
In an interview after Younus’s death, Khar again denied that he was responsible for the acid attack, saying that a man with the same name committed the crime. And he criticized the media for bringing up the matter. “You people should be a little considerate,” said Khar. “I have three daughters and when they go to school people tease them.”
Eshoo explained the need for the amendment:
All Americans have a right to honest information about who has paid for the political messages they receive. This includes the sponsors of political advertisements—not just the names of sham entities designed to evade disclosure.
Americans are besieged by anonymous campaign ads around the clock this year. With disclosure and transparency, the public will be able to decide for themselves, because relevant information about the interests and their impact will be public. Disclosure of an ad’s major donors does not place any undue burdens on speech or industry. It will empower the voters.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, objected to the proposal complaining that it might have unintended consequences for public broadcasting sponsors and offered the bizarre justification that it would not require enough disclosure for elected officials. He lamented that the $10,000 threshold would mean voters would only see “a tiny little window” into who backed members of Congress (who are already subject to much stricter disclosure requirements under election law) and might be evaded by outside committees.
Five Republicans voted in favor of disclosure. They were:
Eight Democrats opposed the measure:
All of the Democratic opponents except Hochul are members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, a group historically supportive of campaign finance reform. Reps. Cardoza, Cooper, Schrader, and Shuler all voted for the DISCLOSE Act in 2010, a measure which contained similar disclosure requirements, among other provisions.
The House Republican budget makes some deeply flawed arguments about higher education. It claims both that rising financial aid is driving college tuition costs upward and that Pell Grants, which help cover tuition costs for low-income Americans, don’t go to the “truly needy.” Republicans — led by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) — use these falsehoods to justify cutting the Pell Grant program by $200 billion.
According to an analysis by the Education Trust that was provided to the Huffington Post, the House Republican budget would ultimately knock more than one million students off of Pell Grants entirely:
More than 1 million students would lose Pell grants entirely over the next 10 years under Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, according to an analysis that the national reform organization Education Trust provided to The Huffington Post.
And by the looks of it, the Ryan budget, which is slated to hit the House floor this week, would hit the poorest kids hardest. [...]
The budget would cut Pell grant eligibility for students who attend classes on a less-than-halftime schedule — which usually means low-income students who need to work their way through college.
And it gets worse. Sixty percent of students who receive Pell grants also take out loans — twice the rate for college students overall — so they might be doubly hit by the Ryan cuts: In addition to receiving less Pell money, they would have to start paying interest on their loans while still in school.
A new study shows that nearly half of American college students drop out before obtaining a degree, with cost being one of the main factors cited. Since 1985, the cost of college tuition and fees has nearly sextupled, while student loan debt in the U.S., according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has cleared $1 trillion.
At the same time that they’re proposing to cut Pell Grants, Republicans have become fond of promoting for-profit colleges, despite those schools having a record of leaving students buried in debt and with bleak job prospects. Currently, more than three-quarters of for-profit students fail to earn a degree after six years and they are more likely to default on their loans than students at non-profit institutions.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (appointed by George H.W. Bush) Thomas Pickering laid out the potential risks of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program.
Pickering — who served as Ambassador to Israel during Reagan administration and Ambassador to Russia during the Clinton administration — warned that an attack would only set back Iran’s nuclear program “for a number of years” and could push Iran in the direction of pursuing a nuclear weapon, a decision which neither the IAEA nor U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iran has yet made:
[A military strike] has a very high propensity, in my view, of driving Iran in the direction of openly declaring and deciding, which it has not yet done according to our intelligence, to make a nuclear weapon to seemingly defend itself under what might look to them and others to be an unprovoked attack.
Iran has great possibilities for asymmetrical reactions including against Israel through Hezbollah and Hamas who have accumulated a large number of missiles. [...] It is a series of potential escalatory possibilites that puts us deep in the potential for another land war in Asia, something that I think we’ve spent the last number of years trying to get out of.
Pickering’s comments today closely match the warnings issued by former Israeli spy chief Meir Dagan earlier this month. Dagan warned that an Israeli attack on Iran could spark a “regional war” and, at best, could only delay Iran’s nuclear program. That assessment is shared by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The Obama administration has emphasized that a diplomatic solution is the “best and most permanent way” to resolve tensions with Iran. President Obama warned that a nuclear armed Iran poses a threat to regional and international security and endangers the nonproliferation regime. While the Obama administration does not rule out military action on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Obama said that “loose talk of war” with Iran is only serving to benefit the regime in Tehran.