Saturday, July 09, 2016

Today's Tune: The War On Drugs - Full Concert HD, June 13-2015

Why Fiction Mirrored Grim Reality on ‘Homeland’ This Season

Warning: This post contains spoilers from season five of “Homeland” 
December 17, 2015
The day after the Friday, Nov. 13, siege in Paris that killed 130 people, Alex Gansa flew from Los Angeles to Europe, where the cast and crew of “Homeland” was preparing to shoot a season finale involving a chemical weapon attack by terrorists in the subway system of Berlin.
“It was a very difficult flight,” recalled Gansa, an executive producer who has led the writing and production of all five seasons of the Showtime series.  The parallels between violent reality and the plot of a fictional thriller prompted questions that the producer and his collaborators are wrestling with as the season wraps.
“What are we doing? Are we sensationalizing? Are we editorializing? Are we putting the right message out to the world? Are we helping?” Gansa said last week, shortly after completing the final edit of the finale, which airs Sunday.
“Look, we’re an entertainment show on television. I get that. But we do occupy a strange place right now as one of the few ongoing serialized dramas that are commenting on these things happening in the world. We’ve been doing some soul searching.”
With a narrative about CIA officers—Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes), Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend)—fighting terrorist threats to the United States, “Homeland” has tried to ground itself in reality. Though some plot points are fantastical (hacking a pacemaker to assassinate the vice president of the U.S., for example), many others hew closely to troubling or controversial current events, such as Carrie’s command over disastrous drone attacks last season.
Principal photography is typically completed several weeks before an episode is scheduled to premiere, then it’s edited for air. That leaves little time to react to news events in real time. On occasion, however, dialogue has been altered after the fact. For an episode that aired about three weeks after the Paris attack, producers had actress Miranda Otto record a line of dialogue—“no one wants another Paris”—for her character, a CIA station chief, to say off camera.
Seemingly prescient plot lines often spring from the “Homeland” staff’s own sort of intelligence gathering. Though the producers have always relied on intelligence consultants, their research process became more formalized after season three, which brought the end of Nicholas Brody, the soldier-turned-traitor-turned-patriot played by Damian Lewis. “Once Brody left the show, we felt like it had to go back to its roots as a very real-world spy thriller,” said Showtime Networks President David Nevins.
Since then, the “Homeland” writers have started each season with a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with sources. Last January, they holed up in a private club in Georgetown for four days of meetings organized by series consultant John MacGaffin, a former deputy director of the CIA. A parade of current and former intelligence officers, State Department staffers and White House insiders, along with journalists and other experts, provided off-the-record briefings and “a real heavy dose of people’s worst fears,” Gansa recalled.
Those sessions, which took place shortly after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, led directly to certain story threads. Setting season five in Germany, for instance, helped capture the pressure facing the intelligence community to prevent further attacks in Europe.
Because of Germany’s strict privacy laws, placing Carrie there (a decision praised by the intelligence expert who helps recap episodes of “Homeland” for the Wall Street Journal) highlighted thorny issues surrounding intelligence gathering and citizens’ rights.
Sarah Sokolovic plays an American journalist trying to publish a trove of secret CIA files. In real life, Berlin served as an adoptive home to Laura Poitras, the American journalist who helped Edward Snowden publicize documents about National Security Agency data collection.
“We’re a very politically liberal staff, and some of us have feelings that Edward Snowden wasn’t the worst traitor America has ever seen,” Gansa said. “But when his name came up [during the ‘Homeland’ source meetings] every single intelligence officer would turn red in the face and be absolutely murderous about what he did.”
In the episodes leading up to the season finale, a group of jihadists with ties to the Islamic State take steps to unleash a sarin gas attack on Berlin. That choice of weapon was informed by the “Homeland” writers’ meeting with a member of the coalition of nations tasked with eliminating Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
Certain “Homeland” characters present a varied picture of Muslim society in Europe. In addition to the jihadist conspirators, other characters include a Hezbollah commander who has a German wife and refers to ISIS as “idiots,” a physician who helps save Quinn’s life, and a professor who aids the attackers but happens to be an atheist.
“One thing we really tried to accomplish this season was to show that Muslims in Europe are not speaking with one voice,” Gansa said.
Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama delivered a speech from the Oval Office in which he warned of the consequences of deploying American forces to Iraq or Syria, saying, “That’s what groups like ISIL want.” That same night, in a “Homeland” episode titled “The New Normal,” Saul says, “there’s no bigger proponent of an American invasion than the Islamic State.”
During the first episode of the season, a character angrily laid out a different scenario. After two years of working with U.S. special forces in Syria, including in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State, Quinn tells his superiors they should send in soldiers to support an equal number of Western doctors and teachers. Either that, he says, or “pound Raqqa into a parking lot.”
Of Quinn’s speech, Gansa said, “He was supremely frustrated by the pace of the fight we’re bringing against these people. I think he was voicing the frustration of all the more hawkish members of our defense establishment.”
In the wake of the Paris attack, some TV networks postponed episodes of shows dealing with urban disasters, terrorist or otherwise. Showtime didn’t delay that week’s episode of “Homeland.” Instead, the network changed its introduction message to “remind viewers that ‘Homeland’ contains content that some may find upsetting.”
Said Nevins, “People know what they’re getting with this show. And yet, to have no acknowledgement [of the terrorist attack] would have felt wrong.”
Gansa says that even if producers had felt compelled to change aspects of Sunday’s finale because of the events in Paris, it was too late—shooting on the episode was under way and there was a tight deadline to deliver it.  He said, “We just had to trust that what we had planned was going to work and was going to resonate.”


Friday, July 08, 2016

Comey Ran True to Form

The FBI director let Hillary Clinton off, making the safe call—no big surprise there.

July 7, 2016
President Obama at the White House announcing his nomination of James Comey as FBI director in 2013.
President Obama at the White House announcing his nomination of James Comey as FBI director in 2013. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

When President Obama in 2013 named James Comey to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the president must have sensed that he had picked someone who could be trusted to have his back, even if Mr. Comey had served in the George W. Bush administration. This week, Mr. Obama’s bet paid off when the G-man let Hillary Clinton skate.
Not that Mr. Comey had an explicit understanding with the White House. It’s just that Mr. Obama and his savvy political team must have known from the start that Mr. Comey was no John Adams.
Not the Adams of Founding Father fame, but John Adams when he was a younger man, who in 1770 agreed to defend British soldiers accused of massacring Boston colonists. The legal task was so unpopular, so dangerous, that nobody else would do it. Yet Adams believed that the law trumped politics, and that the men deserved a fair trial. In taking the case, he risked both his economic and political future. He took it anyway.
Mr. Obama announced Mr. Comey’s appointment by praising his “fierce independence and deep integrity.” And the press drooled over several episodes in his history that had given the former Justice Department official a reputation as tough and impartial. What this missed was that Mr. Comey had risen through the ranks precisely by being the opposite of tough. Washington rewards officials who are best at currying public favor, best at surviving, best at creating unfounded legends. And Mr. Comey had been steadily rising in Washington a long time.
Consider the episode for which he is perhaps most famous: opposing the George W. Bush administration’s “warrantless wiretapping” program in 2004. The left cast the then-deputy U.S. attorney general as a hero, breathlessly relating how he had rushed to the hospital bedside of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to oppose reauthorization of the program. Mr. Obama, in choosing Mr. Comey, furthered this lore, feting him as a man who “was prepared to give up a job he loved rather than be part of something he felt was fundamentally wrong.”
Yet there was nothing tough or bold about opposing a program that was always going to be explosively controversial. Intervening wasn’t brave; it’s what any watch-your-own-backside official would do. There was nothing courageous in later spinning his role, or tarnishing well-meaning government lawyers whose interpretations of the policy differed from his own. Tough would have been standing behind a program that was vital in the war on terror; tough would have been defending the policy when it became a lightning rod for liberal and media criticism.
There was nothing tough, when Mr. Comey was a federal prosecutor in 2003, about expending vast time and resources to harass banker Frank Quattrone over the wording of a single ambiguous email. Tough would have been withstanding the post-Enron, antibusiness populist climate and refusing to burnish one’s prosecutorial credentials by turning Mr. Quattrone into a whipping boy. There was nothing tough about continuing to defend the FBI’s hapless investigation of non-anthrax-mailer Steven Jay Hatfill.Tough would have been admitting the FBI had bungled it.
And there was certainly nothing tough in 2003 about appointing a special prosecutor—an old buddy named Patrick Fitzgerald—to investigate the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA employee. How tough was it to allow the hounding of Bush officials after Washington had turned against the war in Iraq? Tough would have been exercising the authority Mr. Comey had to shut the case after Mr. Fitzgerald quickly discovered the leaker’s identity. Mr. Comey instead let it run for three years, let it temporarily put a journalist in jail for refusing to disclose a source, and let it end with the scandalous perjury conviction of Scooter Libby. This isn’t tough. It’s going with the popular flow.
All of which is why it was no surprise that Mr. Comey this week let Mrs. Clinton off, despite the damning evidence amassed by the FBI of gross negligence in her handling of classified material. A prosecutor—for this was the position Mr. Comey essentially assumed on Tuesday—who put the law above all else would have brought charges, holding Mrs. Clinton to the same standard as other officials convicted of similarly “extremely careless” handling of classified material.
A prosecutor who had spent a lifetime with one eye on politics and one eye on his résumé would have behaved exactly as Mr. Comey did. He must have noticed that Mrs. Clinton, leading in the polls, had recently dangled a job offer in front of his boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch. He saw President Obama pressing not just his thumb, but his whole body, on the scales of justice. Reporters were on Mrs. Clinton’s side. Democrats were ready to be furious if he decided the wrong way.
Mr. Comey wasn’t ready to go it alone and impose accountability on Mrs. Clinton. That would have been tough. That would have been brave. He instead listed her transgressions in detail and left it to the public to pass judgment at the ballot box in November. That isn’t how the system is supposed to work. But Mr. Comey is no John Adams.
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Thursday, July 07, 2016

Minnesota Woman gives chilling, 1st-hand account of Muslim rape threat

Refugees terrorized Minnesota neighborhood 3 straight days

July 6, 2016

Somali teens and men in their 20s invaded the Linden Hills neighborhood for three consecutive days during Ramada in late June.
Somali teens and men in their 20s invaded the Linden Hills neighborhood for three consecutive days during Ramada in late June.

Editor’s note: The name of the victim in this story has been changed to protect her safety. Sarah Penskey is not her real name.

Sarah Penskey was in her garage unpacking boxes on a sunny morning in late June when she was approached by several bearded Somali men in their early to mid-20s.
It was the last week of Ramadan, and the men were wearing traditional Islamic robes.
The uninvited visitors to this posh Minneapolis neighborhood known as Linden Hills – situated among tall trees just off of Thomas Beach on Lake Calhoun – ground to a halt beside Penskey’s house that morning.
They came in a white RAV 4 Toyota and a dark-colored van, catching her unawares as she walked out of her garage to put something in her trash can.
It was just the day before that another group of Somalis had driven through the neighborhood and approached her as she was turning on her sprinkler, but they were younger, in their late teens and dressed in basketball shorts, not robes.
That younger group complimented her house and her looks. “Hey, you have a beautiful house,” they said. “You’re beautiful, too. Can we move in with you?”
Penskey, blond with an hourglass figure, has been told by friends she “looks like a Barbie doll.”
“Thank you. Have a nice day at the beach,” she replied, dismissively, walking back into her house and doing her best to, as she says, “diffuse the situation.”
The older group that showed up the next day was not so subtle. Nor would they be so easily dismissed.
“Hey, hey… hey,” they yelled as she was taking out her trash.
“We want to live in your house. We want to marry you.”
“No, I already have a husband, but have a good day,” Penskey replied.
The men starting jostling with each other and yelling things that were hard to understand. At least five other cars were driving recklessly through the narrow streets, setting off bottle rockets, their passengers hanging off of the door frames, some even riding on the hood, yelling, “Jihad!”
They ran over some neighbors’ lawns and reportedly beat up one resident’s dog.
“Do you know Shariah law?” one of the older men in robes yelled at Penskey.
Having lived overseas, Penskey knew about Shariah law and its rules for man-woman relationships and Muslim-non-Muslim relationships.
“Yes,” she said, walking back toward her garage.
“We can kidnap you and rape you!” the men shouted back at her.
She shut the garage door and ran inside to call police.
“I didn’t yell at them. I didn’t do anything, just tried to shut the door and get back inside, so it’s like there were some bad apples one day, and then there were some really bad apples the next,” Penskey told WND in a phone interview Wednesday. Her husband was not home during either of her first two encounters with the Somali men.
Many neighbors called police on the second morning of what some are calling the Somali “wilding,” a day of brazen intimidation that started in Linden Hills using fireworks and fake guns and spread to the adjacent beach on Lake Calhoun.
“On the second day, multiple neighbors were running out, trying to get license plate numbers, and were on the phone with the police. They were running outside, barefoot. One woman came and swept up her child and took her back in the house,” Penskey said. “Imagine six cars driving 50 mph through a residential street, then slamming on the brakes, driving on lawns, exploding fireworks. They almost hit one child and actually did hit one of their own.”
Several of the Somalis carried black flags that Penskey said resembled the ISIS flag.
A man in his sixties was reportedly threatened by one Somali who demanded that he erase the picture of his license plate from the man’s camera.
Police took up to three hours to arrive. The dispatchers told Penskey they didn’t have enough officers on duty to confront 20 or more men. The police did periodic drive-bys to monitor the situation. When they did show up, the worst offenders were gone.
The police report says officers arrived to find a female victim, Penskey, who was “very distraught and alone. Crying.”
She had called 9-1-1 three times that day. An officer arrived once earlier but only wrote a minor traffic ticket to one of the rioters. The main instigators had fled before police got there.
Police: ‘This is a very unusual case’
John Elder, public information officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, told WND Wednesday there have been no arrests in the incident to date.
“There remains an active investigation, and I am very limited in what I can say due to the fact that it is an active investigation,” Elder said. “We continue to work with the community, and continue to interview folks, but no arrests have been made at this point.”
WND asked if any arrests were anticipated.
“I can’t comment on that,” Elder said.
Is this type of activity common in Minneapolis?
“This is an unusual case, yep,” the officer said.
The case is being investigated as a situation involving potential terroristic threats. Penskey said the FBI has also visited her and is taking the case very seriously.
Day 3: Men in robes return
And the terrorizing of Linden Hills didn’t stop after that second day.
The men returned for a third straight morning, June 28, and this time Penskey’s husband was home, standing out in the yard as they approached.
It was the younger group of Somalis this time, not the older ones dressed in robes. Within minutes, the older provocateurs were back, however, with their robes and their duffel bags, their flags and their bottle rockets, shouting their threats in this strange form of jihad.
But this time they had a surprise for the targets of their terror.
“They slowed the car down, waved at my husband with the windows open and played a recording of what sounded like a woman being raped, blasted it from their car speakers,” Penskey said. “Then they parked their car, and my husband came upstairs and said call 9-1-1 now and stay away from the windows.”
The robed Somalis scared vacationers off the beach that morning, reportedly using their duffel bags as fake guns, pointing them at families and pretending to shoot them, one by one. The sound of exploding bottle rockets crashed through the heavy morning air.
“The beach emptied out real quick. It was about 10 a.m., and there weren’t a lot of people out there. But those who were got up and immediately walked toward the parking lot yelling, ‘Call the cops!” witnesses told WND.
“The problem is this escalated so fast, but it was more at the beach side on the third day,” Penskey said. “They said something inappropriate to my husband turning on the recording of a woman being raped, or having loud sex, and just waved at him and smiled, a threat, to my husband. What was he to think? He was just furious and came upstairs and said you can’t leave the house today.”
Police arrived much faster this time, within three minutes. But, again, the older ones who were the main instigators had already driven away.
Even in liberal-minded Minnesota, where the sight of bearded Somalis in Islamic attire is considered part of the multicultural norm, the reaction of the beach-goers reflected the level of aggressiveness that was on display.
“They’re not accepted on the beach that way. You have beards and you’re dressed in long robes and using a duffel bag like you’re shooting a machine gun,” Penskey said. “People left. People left the beach.
“I don’t think people realize how bad it is in Minnesota and what type of backdrop we have here.”
Feds import 132,000 Somali refugees over 30 years
The federal government, working with the United Nations, Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services among other agencies, has imported more than 132,000 Somali refugees into dozens of U.S. towns since 1983, according to U.S. State Department data, but the largest contingent has been sent to Minneapolis.
Judy Layer, 76, lives next door to Penskey at Linden Hills and was an eyewitness to the events of June 26-28.
She is most infuriated by a group of commenters who swarmed a neighborhood website and tried to either downplay the incident as simply some obnoxious youngsters having summer fun or to say that it didn’t happen at all.
“I’ll just tell you what I saw, and it did happen. There are so many people who were saying it was all made up,” Layer said. “I was walking my dog. I went around the block, came into my house, sat on my deck and was reading on my iPad.”
Her husband was still upstairs getting dressed. The couple has lived in Linden Hills for 22 years.
“I did see a pattern developing of about five cars coming in, turning around, then the kids would get out of the cars, be shadow boxing with each other, they were loud,” Layer said. “Then I saw them all go into a cluster. They were speaking with Sarah [Penskey]. And I said to my husband, ‘Come here, this looks like kind of a situation. She can’t be too comfortable with this. She was watering the lawn.’ So Jim called the police, and others did the same.”
One young man came running down the hill in his dress shirt and took pictures of license plates, she said.
“I can understand why one police car would not want to come into this situation. I counted 19 or 20 at one time,” she said. “But what I didn’t like is that some people remarked on the website Nextdoor-LindenHills that, ‘Oh, it’s just a bunch of old people that like to call the police.’ I don’t sit around wanting to call the police.”
Local newspaper goes dark on incident
The local newspaper, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, has ignored the incident. And only one TV station, KSTP Channel 5, has covered it.
“And so now it’s being said that it’s all being made up. It wasn’t made up; this happened,” Layer said. “Why it was only being reported on Channel 5, I don’t know.”
Layer said she tried to capture video, “But I missed the part where all the cars were veering around, screaming. Had it been late at night, I think it would have been more dangerous. I wasn’t’ trying to sensationalize it. But on the other hand, it did happen.”
Layer said the Somalis “named a practice” by which they could have four wives. That would be Shariah.
“And she said, ‘Well, I’m married,’ and she just wanted to get in the house,” Layer said of Penskey.
‘Dogs are unclean’
Layer said this is not the first time Somalis using the adjacent beach have targeted dogs in her neighborhood.
“There was an incident involving a girl with the dog, where she had a dog and felt she was verbally accosted by this group,” she said. “This girl at the lake made a police report. They think dogs are unclean.”
Since hearing of that incident, Layer said she takes precautions when walking her own dog.
“I’ve got a dog, and I walk my dog, but I go a different path now. I just don’t need that, so I’m happy to change my path,” she said. “After that happened, yes, I changed my route. I thought, yeah, I’ll just go down this alley and take my dog and come back. I’d rather do that than be confronted by something like that.”
Penskey said she has also been maligned by online commenters who accuse her and others of making the situation worse be attempting to video the young Somali men.
“There are people online saying this never would have happened if not for the video. Do you think I’m stupid enough to walk out of my house and take video of them?” she asked. “Some neighbors were shooting video, but even the Somalis themselves took photos and video of what they were doing. But, no, I’m not stupid enough to stand in my yard and take video of 19 or more 20-year-old men.”
Penskey and Layer both said Minnesotans are afraid to confront the issue of Somali terrorism and crime, even after six young Somalis were arrested last year and charged with trying to join ISIS. They are among nearly 40 who have been charged with trying to join foreign terror groups since 2007, and dozens of others have been convicted of providing material support to overseas terrorists.
“People are too afraid of the backlash, and that’s why people are afraid to say something,” Penskey said. “If you do, you’ll either get a backlash or be called a bigot.”


Related articles:

Read WND’s initial report from earlier this week on the terrorizing of Linden Hills by Somali refugees.