Good morning. I've got a couple of disjointed stories this morning, not really enough to write a full blog on any one of them. Nevertheless, you should probably hear about them, so away we go. As always, the usual apologies to Bob Ryan
, from whom I shamelessly steal this idea from time to time.
We'll start this morning with the most disturbing story...remember when we declared war against Pakistan? No? Well, neither do I. But that hasn't stopped the United States from waging a virtually unrestricted drone war against our mercurial ally. Pakistan may have been useful to George Bush for propaganda purposes, but I personally never believed they were truly on our side. (The enemy of my enemy...) The strikes have been going on for months under the Obama administration, and aside from the occasional "collateral damage" that may make the US news, there's been precious little heard about it. The President admitted we're doing this
, but so far the story has failed to gain any traction.
On Monday, as President Obama was answering questions during an interview conducted by several Americans through a Google+'s "hangout" group video chat feature, he acknowledged publicly the use of US drones and airstrikes inside Pakistan.
Obama's admission came in response to a question from a young man named, Evan, from Brooklyn, New York, who said: "Mr. President, since you took office you've ordered more drone attacks in your first year than your predecessor did in his entire term. These drone attacks cause a lot of civilian casualties. I'm curious to know how you feel they help the nation and whether you think they're worth it."
In answering, Obama first argued that "first of all, drones have not caused a great number of civilian casualties. For the most part they have been very precise, precision strikes against Al Qaeda and their affiliates. We have been very careful in how it's been applied." He goes on to say that the drone program is "kept on a very tight leash" and that it's not "just a bunch of folks in a room somewhere making decisions."
In a follow up question regarding the degree to which US drone incursions might be "perceived" as interference in other countries, Obama responded that even in "sovereign nations" its better to have pinpoint capabilities, suggesting airstrike accuracy lessens the infringement of sovereignty in those nations, and, in fact, are helpful to those countries because they could not otherwise apprehend (or annihilate) these targets.
Moving on, like many of us, you've probably been following the Senate campaign here in Massachusetts. For whatever reason, this election is being seen as a national referendum of sorts on the President's economic policies. Like most Republicans, our junior Senator seems to be an affable and pleasant fellow, but his policies and practices reveal all the expected right-wing tooliness. A few days back now, Candidate Warren and Senator Brown reached an agreement to limit PAC influence
in the race. Alas, it seems to be our side that is finding ways around the agreement, as most of Elizabeth Warren's fundraising is coming from out of state.
BOSTON -- Democratic Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren is continuing to raise the bulk of her campaign contributions from outside of Massachusetts as she hopes to oust Republican Sen. Scott Brown from office.
Warren's campaign said Friday that of the more than $5.7 million she collected during the last three months of 2011, about 69 percent came from out-of-state supporters. The remaining $1.8 million came from in-state contributors.
Brown's campaign said that about 75 percent of the more than $3 million in donations he collected during the same three-month period came from donors inside Massachusetts.
At the same time, Brown is relying more heavily on donations from political action committees than Warren.
The most recent campaign finance reports filed by both candidates with the Federal Election Commission show Brown collected more than $1.6 million from PACs in 2011.
That's more than ten times as much as the $142,000 collected from PACs by Warren, who entered the race in September.
The PACs backing Brown included financial institutions, defense contractors and corporations like Citigroup, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, McDonald's, Microsoft and Google.
Many of the PACs supporting Warren represent labor unions, including the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, the Laborer's International Union and the American Federation of Government Employees.
"Scott Brown's donations from PACs are no different than Elizabeth Warren or the other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation," said Brown spokesman Colin Reed.
"While Professor Warren collects the vast majority of her donations from outside Massachusetts, Scott Brown is proud that 75 percent of his donations came from in-state last quarter," Reed added.
Finally this morning...I don't know what's going on in your neck of the woods, but I'm a bit disturbed by the sheer number of stories about child porn that seem to have hit the news since the first of the year. In this Commonwealth, there are currently 3 cases in the news (and likely more that have not been extensively reported). That doesn't seem like a lot, but the news has broken in 3 consecutive weeks, so it's been above the fold for that time. Skimming the news this morning, I run across this story from Los Angeles
, and it just seemed to strike another nerve.
An elementary school in South Los Angeles was left reeling Friday after authorities arrested a second teacher accused of lewd acts with students.
The arrest of Miramonte Elementary School teacher Martin Bernard Springer, 49, came three days after L.A. prosecutors accused former teacher Mark Berndt of bizarre acts in his classroom that have generated national attention.
Berndt, 61, allegedly spoon-fed his semen to blindfolded children as part of what he called a "tasting game." Police have collected hundreds of disturbing photos; in some, children are shown with a milky substance around their mouths.
The allegations against Springer, a second-grade teacher from Alhambra, come from two students he allegedly touched improperly within the last three years.
The girls "were allegedly fondled in the classroom at Miramonte school by suspect Springer," said Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "They were approximately 7 years old at the time of the incidents... The investigation is continuing."
Springer, like Berndt, has worked his entire teaching career at Miramonte. Berndt, a Torrance resident, began working as a teacher there in 1979, Springer in 1986.
Miramonte, in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood, is one of the nation's largest elementary schools, with about 1,500 students. Its teachers work varying schedules at the year-round campus, but Berndt and Springer knew each other. School newsletters show that they took their classes on field trips together over the last decade: one to Malibu, for example, and another to Griffith Park.
Berndt is being held in lieu of $23-million bail. Springer is being held in lieu of $2-million bail.
A further search through Google News on "child porn" yields a number of hits...I don't know what it is, but there seems to be a disturbing new trend. On the other hand, maybe something investigative has changed and we're getting better at catching people. I'd sure like to think so. I'm a youth leader myself, and this hangs like a sword of Damocles over every adult volunteer...even a suggestion of inappropriate behavior has ruined reputations and lives.
In any case...that's what has caught my eye on this morn.