Nel's New Day

February 23, 2015

Bill O’Reilly Needs to Resign

Filed under: Journalism — trp2011 @ 9:41 PM
Tags: , , ,

Brian Williams went down in flames from his NBC anchor position after he was caught claiming that he was almost shot down in a helicopter in Iraq, and Fox network celebrity Bill O’Reilly used the debacle to attack what he describes as liberal media outlets and demanded investigation into its other “distortions.” O’Reilly did say on his show that “we’ve made some mistakes in the past but very few … [and] take great pains to present you with information that can be verified.”

Unfortunately for O’Reilly, David Corn and Daniel Schulman followed up on O’Reilly’s dramatic stories about his war reporting and reported in Mother Jones that the conservative program host exaggerated far more than Williams did—even talking about his heroism in a war zone where he never went. He has repeatedly claimed to be a war correspondent during the Falklands war and talked about experiencing combat between the UK and Argentina. “I’ve been there,” he stated. “That’s really what separates me from most of these other bloviators.” He also bragged about it in his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America. 

In a 2003 book, conservative journalist Tucker Carlson wrote about O’Reilly’s answer during a Washington panel discussion when he claimed to be in wars in the Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Middle East and was “almost killed three times.” He repeated this claim in 2008 and 2013, talking about how he saved his photographer after he “got run down” in the Falklands. According to Bob Schieffer, “nobody from CBS got to the Falklands,” which are islands 300 miles off the Argentine shore. The war zone included South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, more than 1,400 miles offshore.

O’Reilly did witness a riot in Buenos Aires after the Falkland war but complained that his footage was co-opted and featured Bob Schieffer instead of himself. According to Schieffer, it was common practice for CBS reporters to pool footage, and the segment lasted about a minute. Nothing matched O’Reilly’s dramatic description years later, and media accounts did not report any of the fatalities that O’Reilly now describes. Although two reporters were injured, O’Reilly’s memory by 2009 recalled that all “the other CBS news correspondents were hiding in the hotel.”

Retired CBS correspondent Eric Jon Engberg, who was with O’Reilly at the time, remembers Buenos Aires differently. He said that they stayed in a modern hotel and “never saw any troops, casualties or weapons.” Engberg saw no police attacks against demonstrators outside the palace. In addition, Engberg refuted the accusation that “the other CBS news correspondents were hiding in the hotel.” He wrote:

“If [O’Reilly] said such thing it is an absolute lie. Everyone was working in the street that night, the crews exhibiting their usual courage. O’Reilly was the one person who behaved unprofessionally and without regard for the safety of the camera crew he was leading.”

Engberg reported that O’Reilly ignored orders from CBS Bureau Chief Larry Doyle to avoiding attention and being injured by keeping camera lights off.

“According to Doyle, O’Reilly returned to the hotel in a rage over the fact that his cameraman wouldn’t turn on the lights to photograph angry crowds. Doyle defended the cameraman and chewed out O’Reilly for violating his instructions on lights.”

In The No Spin Zone, O’Reilly wrote about the civil war in El Salvador when he bravely went into a place of carnage. Yet his account on the report he filed with CBS News, which aired May 20, 1982, opened with a description of how little combat he found in the country: “These days Salvadoran soldiers appear to be doing more singing than fighting.” He reported that government troops were in control of most of the country, and a helicopter ride showed him “no signs of insurgent forces.” O’Reilly’s footage of the village which he described with no living people showed residents walking about and only one or two burned-down structures.

O’Reilly vigorously denounced the Mother Jones report and claimed, “It’s a hit piece. Everything I said about what I reported in South and Central America is true. Everything.” He said he never claimed to be on the Falkland Islands and called author David Corn a “despicable guttersnipe.” On his show, however, O’Reilly said:

“I missed Moyers in the war zones of El Salvador, the Falklands conflict in Argentina and the Middle East and Northern Ireland. I looked for Bill, but I didn’t see him.”

O’Reilly didn’t stop with the “guttersnipe” name-calling but continued with other reporters to call Corn “a liar” and “a left-wing  assassin.” Then he suggested that Corn deserved to be “in the kill zone.”

Mother Jones had offered O’Reilly a full day to respond to his article before it was posted. O’Reilly admitted that he had received the offer but said, “I would never speak to the man about anything at any time. He’s a disgusting piece of garbage.”

Corn responded to the insults:

“To me, the issue here is whether a media figure and journalist like Bill O’Reilly, who claims to be a truth teller, can get away without answering questions about specific statements he’s made, and hide behind name calling. I would encourage anyone else who covers this story to get Bill O’Reilly to answer those questions–if not to me, than to anyone else.”

The editors in chief at Mother Jones went farther by expressing concern about the violent nature of O’Reilly calling for Corn to be “in the kill zone” and asking for an apology in a letter to both O’Reilly and one of Fox network’s communications execs.

On February 20, 2015, O’Reilly used his “Talking Points Memo” to address the Mother Jones article. He began by saying:

“Hi, I’m Bill O’Reilly … thanks for watching us tonight … more proof the American media is corrupt. That is the subject of this evening’s Talking Points memo. This man … 56-year-old David Corn … who works for the far left magazine … Mother Jones … smeared me, your humble correspondent, yesterday … saying I had fabricated some war reporting. Mother Jones … which has low circulation … considered by many the bottom rung of journalism in America. however … in this Internet age … the defamation they put forth … gets exposure. and so I have to deal with this garbage tonight. I’m sorry.”

In this article, Corn fact-checked O’Reilly’s narrative, point by point.

Other people are angry as well. Thomas Ruyle wrote in Stars and Stripes:

“‘Stolen Valor’ is a term applied to the phenomenon of people falsely claiming military awards or badges they did not earn, service they did not perform, Prisoner of War experiences that never happened, and other tales of military derring-do that exist only in their minds.”

This description applies to O’Reilly’s fictionalized account of his experiences during 1981-82. John Soltz, the president of the 400-member, issued this statement condemning O’Reilly for lying about his war zone experiences.

“NBC acted completely appropriately in taking Brian Williams off the air and looking into claims he’s made over the years. Fox News has to do the same thing. The issue, for me, isn’t that Fox has been caught off guard, and didn’t realize O’Reilly was telling possibly false tales. That I can accept. It’s what do they do about it now? That will tell us a lot about how seriously they take their news organization.

“Men and women have fought, died, been wounded, and scarred by war. There are many journalists who actually were in the crossfire, who died, trying to bring the story to the American people. What Bill O’Reilly has done is steal their valor, and it is wrong. It makes it seem like anyone can head on over to a war zone. But honestly it is more insulting to the war reporters who never bragged about their war experience, but just kept their head down and did their job. Some of them died doing that job. In my mind, those reporters were heroes.”

After The New York Times printed an article on the controversy, O’Reilly threatened one of the reporters. “I am coming after you with everything I have,” he said.

O’Reilly showed footage from the Buenos Aires demonstrations, still trying to convince people that it vindicated him. Instead of showing people fired on in the streets and killed, the correspondent said that police used guns firing “tear gas and plastic bullets.” After several days of bullying and threatening anyone who disagreed with him, he said, “I want to stop this now.”

O’Reilly constantly talks about personal responsibility and how he loves the military and the veterans. He owes them an apology and a resignation from his post. O’Reilly said that Brian Williams “had to go” because he made up stories about dangers he faced in his reporting career. O’Reilly needs to go, along with his fictionalized biographies about Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, George S. Patton, and Jesus.

February 22, 2015

‘Christians’ in the United States

Exceptional. That’s what conservatives call the United States. This country is so exceptional that doctors can refuse health care to people for religious reasons. That’s what happened in Michigan last October when Dr. Vesna Roi (Eastlake Pediatrics, Roseville) prayed about caring for the infant of a lesbian couple. Prayer – 1; infant – 0. Originally Roi told the women she would be their pediatrician and then changed her mind. She didn’t even have the courage to personally tell the two women that she had reversed her position; she stayed out of the office on the day of the appointment so that she would not have to see them. Embarrassed and humiliated, the couple found another pediatric group. Four months later, after an outcry from social media, Roi sent them a letter that stated,

“After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients. Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice, and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice.”

After Krista and Jami Contreras legally married in Vermont in 2012, their daughter Bay Windsor was born last October. The American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics both condemn discrimination against patients based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other similar criteria. Michigan is considering a “religious freedom” bill which would probably allow doctors to refuse care to unmarried pregnant women, people with HIV, ethnic minorities, etc.


Just as refusing medical care is legal, so could a ban on Advanced Placement classes in U.S. history and a mandate for a religious curriculum be Oklahoma law if proposed legislation succeeds. Again the topic is “exceptionalism.” Dan Fisher, a pastor elected as state representative, succeeded in moving the bill on party lines through a state House committee on a vote of 11-4 with a list of appropriate texts for education.

Fisher is part of a group called the “Black Robe Regiment” which argues “the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.” The group attacks the “false wall of separation of church and state.” The Black Robe Regiment claims that a “growing tide of special interest groups indoctrinating our youth at the exclusion of the Christian perspective.”

In addition to the U.S. Constitution and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” the curriculum would emphasize the Ten Commandments, two sermons, three speeches from former President Reagan, and George W. Bush’s address to the nation after the 9/11 attacks. The sermons are the 17th-century “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop and 18th-century “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.

The Fox network went one better than the Oklahoma bill. Outnumbered host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery said, “There really shouldn’t be public schools, should there?”  Co-host Andrea Tantaros, who earlier described the United States as “awesome” when reports showed how this “awesome” country tortures people, definitely agreed by suggesting that the Department of Education be eliminated so that children would not be subjected to “meaningless liberal crap.”

Retired high-school history teacher Larry S. Krieger may have initiated the malcontent with the national curriculum for advanced students. He complained about its “consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters.” Thanks to Krieger, the RNC passed a resolution in opposition to the Advanced Placement U.S. History course, saying it “reflected a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

In response, the College Board—a non-profit which creates the AP tests—said that the opposition was based on “significant misunderstandings.” Dan Coleman, the President of The College Board, emphasized that the tests are actually written “by college professors and K–12 teachers throughout this country.” He also, in an effort to allay concerns, released a sample test. Students can use this and other AP classes for college credit, saving them money and meeting a prerequisite to attending elite colleges.

Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Colorado have also attacked the test. Colorado students walked out of class after conservative school board members tried to make the AP U.S. History course “more patriotic.” South Carolina has asked the College Board to exclude any of the curriculum with an “ideological bias,” including evolution.

Thanks to the abysmal science education in much of the United States, one-fourth of the people in the United States believe that the sun goes around the earth, according to the National Science Foundation. These people have missed the idea of the earth orbiting the sun that has been accepted by scientists and most of the civilized world since the 16th century. Over 60 percent of the respondents disagreed that “the Universe began with a huge explosion,” and 52 percent oppose evolution, denying that “human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

In Florida, at least 164 public schools teach creationism, and Louisiana and Tennessee permit the teaching of creationism as “supplemental” material. The following map shows schools teaching creationism.

Not satisfied with making just the schools religious, Tennessee, thanks to state Rep. James Van Huss, might make the state a theocracy by putting the following sentence in the state constitution: “We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God, our Creator and Savior.” State Rep. Jerry Sexton also has a bill that to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee.”

Mississippi legislators have so much faith in Jesus that the House has passed a bill to exempt drivers of church buses from the requirement of a commercial driver’s license. Democrat state Rep. Robert Johnson III said that churches “can pick a person to drive the bus.” Republican state Rep. Toby Barker calls the bill “Jesus Take the Wheel Act” and anticipated tragedies from allowing anyone to drive people, including small children, with no formal training or requisites. Troy Coll, who has a commercial driver’s license said, “This bill is trading the safety of everyone on the road for the convenience of those operating church vehicles.” Mississippi already has the Bible as the state book because of “all the things going wrong in the world” and hopes to declare Mississippi a “Christian state” in a 2016 ballot measure. Mississippi is also the state with the highest poverty rate and the second-highest high school dropout rate.

Right-wing evangelical pastor John Hagee, who campaigned with John McCain in 2008, has predicted that tensions between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may lead God to destroy the United States. “I am a student of world history,” Hagee said, “and you can wrap up world history in 25 words or less and here it is: the nations that blessed Israel prospered and the nations that cursed Israel were destroyed by the hand of God.” He added that God “is watching what America does as it responds to Israel. If America turns its back on Israel, God will turn his back on America. And that’s a fact. It’s proven by history.”

Conservatives are using President Obama’s speech at a recent summit on violent extremism to attack the president’s bona fides, as with Rudy Giuliani’s complaint that Barack Obama “doesn’t love America.” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) summarized the GOP position by calling for a holy war against ISIL:

“We’re taking God out of this country, they’re fighting for their God, and all I can say is the person who has God on their side is going to win this. And I think we all need to huddle around and get back to some basics in this country.”

The increasing number of conservative-owned newspapers also contributes to this ignorance of people in the United States. For example, a “retraction” in North Carolina’s The Lexington Dispatch printed a letter with the headline, “Is Obama the Antichrist?” explained that the letter instead claimed that President Barack Hussein Obama was the “seventh king” who announces the arrival of the Antichrist.

This coming week, the Republicans in Congress, who claim to be Christians, will try to force through the anti-immigration amendments attached to funding the Department of Homeland Security. They want to separate families, tear people from their long-term communities, and eliminate education and health care for vulnerable individuals. Such is the conservative view of Christianity. Rudy Giuliani is right when he claims that he and President Obama have different beliefs.

February 21, 2015

Will Giuliani Bring Down Scott Walker?

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 7:13 PM
Tags: , , , ,

“I know this is a horrible thing to say . . . ” That’s how former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani prefaced his announcement to about 60 right-wing people from business and the media at a private dinner honoring Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s governor, that the president “doesn’t love” America. Giuliani added, “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

Caught “punting” about his belief—or non-belief—in evolution earlier on a panel in England, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stuck with the indecisive approach, saying that he doesn’t know whether President Obama loves America. Giuliani promised to endorse Walker if he can express that [we’re the most exceptional country in the world], do that and carry it out.” If not, Giuliani will “support somebody else.”

Some presidential wannabes are standing in line to get Giuliani’s support. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called Obama “an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists,” and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal claimed that “the gist” of Giuliani’s remarks was true.

On the other side, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that he had “no doubt” that Obama loves America although “his policies are bad for our nation,” and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) followed suit. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) doesn’t “question [the president’s] patriotism or love for our country.”

Forced to defend his statement after the ensuing firestorm, Giuliani said:

“Well first of all, I’m not questioning his patriotism. He’s a patriot, I’m sure. What I’m saying is, in his rhetoric, I very rarely hear the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things that I used to hear Bill Clinton say about how much he loves America.”

Giuliani followed that up by saying, “You can be a patriotic American and be a critic, but then you’re not expressing that kind of love we’re used to from a president.”

Last year the former mayor blamed the president’s “propaganda” saying it told everyone to “hate the police” for the deaths of two New York police officers. More recently, Giuliani said about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “That is a patriot, that’s a man who loves his people, that’s a man who protects his people, that’s a man who fights for his people, unlike our President.”

After Giuliani’s “horrible thing to say,” he couldn’t quit talking. “President Obama didn’t live through September 11. I did,” he insisted. Then he claimed that he shouldn’t be considered racist because the president was raised by “a white mother.” He accused the president of “anti-colonialism,” which would make Giuliani pro-colonialism. Finally he devolved into daring reporters to find examples of the president expressing love for his country. (USA Today found many of these examples, including the president’s most recent State of the Union speech.)

People like Giuliani forget that when they make inflammatory statements others will report on the speaker’s background. An example is this op-ed from Giuliani’s own biographer (Rudy: An Investigative Biography).  After an overview of Giuliani’s personal peccadilloes, he wrote about Giuliani’s half-dozen deferments to avoid fighting in the Vietnam War, his police commissioner who went to prison, and his father who served in Sing Sing for holding up a Harlem milkman and being a mob enforcer for the loan-sharking operation run out of his uncle’s Brooklyn bar. Giuliani is probably right when he says that the president “wasn’t brought up the way … I was brought up.”

The fallout from Giuliani’s comment may land squarely on Walker instead of the former mayor, who isn’t running for anything. As Dana Milbanks said in a Washington Post opinion piece, “What Rudy Giuliani did this week was stupid. What Scott Walker did ought to disqualify him as a serious presidential contender.” Milbanks was right about the stupidity: Giuliani wasn’t scheduled to speak at the dinner and didn’t know that any members of the press were there.

Milbanks described Walker as “spineless” for not refusing the “beyond-the-pale rhetoric.” During President Obama’s first campaign, John McCain shut down hateful supporters who were screaming that President Obama is a “terrorist” and an “Arab.” With Walker’s action, “the venom is being sanctioned, even seconded, by those who would lead the Republican Party.”

Walker can’t even answer a simple question about whether he believes in evolution. His response? “That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another, so I’m going to leave that up to you.”

As governor, Walker has revealed an auspicious lack of leadership. His tax cuts have caused the state a $283 million deficit which must be taken care of by mid year and a projected deficit of $2 billion for the two years following July 2015. His solution for the current deficit is to put off paying $108 million in debt due in May so that he won’t look so bad in the current fiscal year. The debt will only increase next year’s deficit, but by then Walker hopes to be on the national stage.

Walker also wants to borrow $1.3 billion funding over the next biennium for transportation needs, money that he could have gotten from accepting Medicaid expansion and not providing tax breaks to those who didn’t need it.  He had attended the private dinner with Giuliani to explain how he can do for the nation what he has done for Wisconsin. His ideas don’t bode well for the U.S. economy.

Senor establishment Republicans are displeased with Walker, saying that he is still not sure-footed on the national stage. Scott Reed, the top political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and campaign manager for Bob Dole in the 1996 presidential election, said:

“One of the challenges of running for president is how you handle events where you’re introduced and the news from the introduction overtakes your campaign message of the day. And how you handle those curveballs says a lot about your candidacy.”

Dan Senor, a prominent Republican adviser on a range of issues, said:

“There is a simple response: ‘I don’t challenge President Obama’s love for America; I challenge his agenda for America.’ Period. And then move off it. The last thing we want is to be drawn into a psychoanalytical debate about what is in the president’s heart.”

Leading GOP strategists know that Guiliani’s accusations aren’t successful because Mitt Romney used them in his losing 2012 campaign against President Obama. At a campaign event, Romney said, “Our president doesn’t have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do. And I think over the last three or four years, some people around the world have begun to question that.”

Walker made things worse today by saying that he doesn’t know if the president is a Christian, that he had never read anything about whether he is. For damage control, his spokeswoman Jocelyn telephoned the Washington Post after the interview was concluded to say that Walker knows that the president is a Christian. She claimed that the governor was making a point of principle by refusing to answer the question.

Thanks to Giuliani, the campaign smearing leading up to the 2016 presidential campaign is in full swing, and Scott Walker, beloved by the Koch brothers, may be collateral damage. His campaign message is that as a representative of “fresh leadership,” he has “big, bold ideas and the courage to act on it.” There has been nothing bold or courageous about Walker on the world stage.

February 20, 2015

Who Votes for These People?!

Legislators can make laws for everyone, which is why their ignorance is frightening. Some snippets from the past few weeks:

In South Dakota, state Rep. Isaac Latterell wrote a piece on his website called “Planned Parenthood Worse than ISIS and Lying About It.” Apparently dissatisfied with the low-key approach to the subject, he changed the title to “Planned Parenthood Beheading Children and Lying About It.” Somehow he believes that abortions “behead unborn children.” Part of his post (more here) included New York Times columnist David Brooks’ statement:

“A beheading … is not just an injury or a crime. It is an indignity. A beheading is more like rape, castration or cannibalism.”

Planned Parenthood only does first-trimester abortions; it doesn’t do “dismemberment abortions” done only by doctors outside Planned Parenthood and for the serious health issues.  Only three percent of Planned Parenthood services are abortion-related.

PlannedParenthoodPeople who think that GOP legislators ignore science need to note top issues on Tom Kirby’s website. The Georgia state representative wants to guarantee that embryos are not forced to glow in the dark. To preserve the “ethical treatment of embryos,” he is calling for a ban on the mixing of human and jellyfish DNA. He also introduced a bill to prevent any “attempt to create an in vitro human embryo by any means other than fertilization of a human egg by a human sperm.” Asked by a reporter about why people would mix human and jellyfish DNA, he replied, “To make them glow in the dark is the only thing I know of.” He hasn’t seen any evidence of this problem, but he said that people had told him about it. This isn’t a new thing for Kirby; two years ago he posted a video on YouTube talking about banning human-animal hybrids.

Montana has a lot of serious issues too. The Tea Party in the state is very worried about access to guns and has introduced bills to prepare for the National Ammunition Shortage, establish Armed Militias in Every Town, and create “home guards” (local paramilitary groups) across the state which could be mobilized by sheriffs for whatever reason they choose without the governor’s consent. The Tea Party in Montana thinks that they would be safer if concealed weapons were allowed in “Bars, Banks, and on Campuses.” The bill does exclude bars on campuses.  Two other bills propose the nullification of all federal gun laws and allowing hunting with silencers. Chasing a running animals burdens the hunters’ freedom, according to the bill’s sponsor.

yogaLest you think that they concentrate only on firearms, however, they also focus on the body by requiring that the anus, nipples and areolae be fully concealed with “a fully opaque covering” and prohibiting “simulated genitalia.”  State Rep. David Moore’s bill is in addition to a law against indecent exposure. He also thinks that “yoga pants should be illegal in public.”

Montana finds education important, so another bill is called “Encourage Critical Thinking in the Classroom.” Based on the sponsor’s position that “the scientific community has not resolved or answered the questions related to the origins of all life or the origin of our universe,” the bill allows public school teachers legal immunity if they want to teach “alternative” theories.

Last December, the Montana legislature mandated a dress code for women in the legislature, requiring them “to be mindful of necklines and skirt lengths” and also to wear only “dress blouses or suit-like dresses” and never “jersey or fleece material” or leggings.

A Mississippi GOP state representative is against education funding because blacks on welfare checks are allowed to go to school. Gene Alday, who helps to rule the poorest state in the union with some of the worst schools, objects to improving schools for his “town where all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call ‘welfare crazy checks.’ They don’t work.” He also complained about having to wait at an emergency room where the poor go for treatment because the legislators refuse them Medicaid from the Affordable Care Act:

“I liked to died. I laid in there for hours because they (blacks) were in there being treated for gunshots.”

Former Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry said that the people of his state want 22 percent of their residents to be uninsured. In New Hampshire, he said, “Texas has been criticized for having a large number of uninsured. But that’s what Texans wanted.” When Perry rejected Medicaid expansion funds from the Affordable Care Act, he denied coverage to 1.5 million people with a median income of $833. Texas law denies Medicaid to non-disabled parents unless they earn less than 19 percent of the poverty level–$4,500 for a family of four. Seventy percent of uninsured Texans are in working families with 40 percent living below the poverty level.

Obviously ignorance isn’t confined to state legislatures. Nationally, GOP members of Congress have tried to drag the country back a century or two. Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), who unexpectedly replaced Majority Leader Eric Cantor less than a year ago, wants to go back a couple of centuries by modeling its educational system after the ancient Greeks. The U.S. could eliminate education funding, he said:

“Socrates trained Plato in on a rock and then Plato trained in Aristotle roughly speaking on a rock. So, huge funding is not necessary to achieve the greatest minds and the greatest intellects in history. The greatest thinkers in Western civ [sic] were not products of education policy.”

Brat proposes putting “private sector folks into every one of our schools, get the CEOs in the schools and move beyond this just narrow policy debate and really have a revolution.”

Currently, federal law targets $14 billion to schools and school districts in places with high poverty density based on the number of students living in these communities. The GOP proposal would give states the option to allocate funding to poor students wherever they live. It would remove $75 million from the Los Angeles schools while increasing funding for Beverly Hills by $140,000. The proposal passed committee with no hearing.

As “bomb trains” filled with oil randomly explode as they travel the country, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, wants people to drop the “misperception” that “our current tank cars are not safe, that our industry does not have a safe record.” The Modesto Bee, a newspaper in Denham’s district, published an editorial that “Delays on safer rail cars are unacceptable” and called for elected representatives to insist on rules for cars and deadlines to replace all tank cars in the United States. Denham disagrees with the National Transportation Safety Board that the existing rail cars pose “unacceptable public risk.”

Greg Saxton, chief engineer for rail tank car manufacturer Greenbrier, claims the industry can meet the deadlines, but Sen. John Thune (R-SD) calls the deadlines “unattainable,” disagreeing with Saxton, engineer of the largest tank car manufacturer. Meanwhile the industry wants to keep all the old cars and add new ones while it also privately lobbies against new braking systems, safer oil, and any speed limits for the trains. You can check out this map to see how close you are to the bomb train blast zones.

The most head-shaking policy that a Tea Partier wants to push, however, may be from new senator Tom Tills. Elected by North Carolinians, he wants to remove the requirement that food servers wash their hands after using the bathroom because he’s against regulations. Instead, he would require these places of business to post signs announcing that they don’t require employees to wash their hands. It seems that regulations are in the eye of the beholder.

Truly amazing, however, was Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) support of Sarah Palin for president if she chooses to run. And if he reruns for senator, he will “absolutely” call on her for help.

These are just a few of the crazies currently in the news!

February 19, 2015

‘Open Carry’ Grows More Frightening

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:21 PM
Tags: , , ,

Texas, one of the most conservative states in the union and a leader in gun “open carry,” is finally getting nervous about their resident gun nuts. It should. The Texas senate may not pass a law allowing open carry in public without a gun permit, and Kory Watkins of Open Carry Tarrant County gave a rant on his Facebook page that should disturb legislators—maybe even make them understand the problems of gun “enthusiasm.” Watkins wrote:

“I don’t think they want to mess with us too much longer. They better start giving us our rights or this peaceful non-cooperation stuff is gonna be gamed up. We’re going to step it up a notch. I think here in Texas we’re tired of jacking around with people in suits who think that they can take away freedoms in the name of safety … We should be demanding [Texas legislators] give us our rights back, or it’s punishable by death. Treason. You understand how serious this is, Texas? We need to start sticking more than foots in doors. This is treason against the American people. You don’t sell my rights back to me? You’re going to find trouble.”

Law enforcement officials, however, are supporting legislators. State Sen. Joan Huffman talked about “concerns from law enforcement and constituents that allowing unlicensed open carry [of handguns] ‘could create some chaos in an ordered society.'” A recent Texas Police Chiefs Association survey distributed to over 800 police chiefs reported that almost 75 percent of the respondents oppose open carry of a handgun.  Another 90 percent said that a license should be required for open carry, and 71 percent said that holsters should have retention ratings to help secure the gun.

The reason for these concerns is the dangerous and aggressive behavior of people carrying long guns in public because they confront and harass police. After Watkins and other pro-gun activists refused to leave the office of Texas State Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-74th), the legislator and his family received so many death threats that state law enforcement officers are assigned to guard him. Legislators’ office now may have panic buttons to protect them and their staff.

Even Republicans are beginning to understand the danger of unrestricted gun ownership.  Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that he’s “not necessarily all that fond of this open carry concept” and added that those who carry guns in public should be “appropriately backgrounded, appropriately vetted, appropriately trained.” Former Texas Land Commissioner/State Sen. Jerry Patterson, sponsor of the state’s concealed-handgun law in 1995, said that open-carry legislation “has been pushed off the rails by the nut jobs.” And State Sen. Charles Perry pointed out to The Chad Hasty Show that “some of the folks … that are coming in with intimidating tactics have issues in their background that they can’t get a CHL [concealed-handgun license]. So there’s always more than one agenda that’s apparent.”

The most bizarre gun bill in Texas would allow teachers to kill their students. Teachers are already permitted to carry guns in their classrooms, but H.B. 868 would authorize instructors to use “force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator’s person or in defense of students of the school that employs the educator.” Instructors would also have the right to use deadly force “in defense of property of the school that employs the educator.” Moreover, civil immunity would be granted to those who use deadly force, meaning they would not be liable for the injury or death of student. Black and Latino students already face much greater rates of discipline than white students; this bill could permit teachers to kill them.

In Washington state, a gun group is planning a gun show in defiance of the new state law for background checks. Dubbed the Arms Expo, it is scheduled for the third weekend of June in the Yakima area. Advertising promises “no background checks, no paperwork, no infringement.” Organizer Sam Wilson said that they would be breaking the law, but he predicted that law enforcement wouldn’t intervene.

States that have loosened their gun laws are finding them expensive. Idaho’s new law to allow guns on college campuses will cost schools $3.7 million for the year. With no additional state funding, that’s money taken from the educational process.

Although extremists think that guns will make them safer, studies have shown this argument is false. A re-enactment of the recent Charlie Hebdo shooting showed that no “armed civilian” was able to take out both shooters, and the only person who didn’t “die” was the one who ran away. Even trained police officers in New York City hit the intended target 18 percent of the time. Yet the majority of people in the U.S. think that a gun in the house makes them safer. Studies show that a gun in the house is more likely to kill the owner or a loved one than to kill a stranger in self-defense, and the annual per capita risk of death during a home invasion is 0.0000002 percent.

Owning a gun, holding one, or even just seeing one has a significant effect on perceptions and behavior. Studies for almost 50 years have examined the “weapons effect,” in which the presence of a gun or a picture of one can stimulate aggressive behavior. A 2006 study found that men exposed to firearms before an experiment had higher levels of testosterone and were three times more likely to behave aggressively than those who weren’t exposed to a gun.

In 2009, the University of Pennsylvania found that people with guns were 4.5 times more likely to be shot than those without guns. One conclusion was that “a gun may falsely empower its possessor to overreact.” Evidence supports this. In a 2012 study, people had either a replica of a gun or something like a ball and asked to identify objects that other people held. The participants holding guns were more likely to guess that others had guns and more likely to “engage in threat-induced behavior” like raising a gun to shoot.

Brains react to guns in almost the same way as to spiders and snakes by capturing the attention. People identify threats to safety in order to avoid them. The brain immediately responds, which is why people instantly see a gun among other objects. The automatic response often results in 911 calls when people see gun owners openly carrying their firearms. Displaying guns doesn’t stop crime because brains see them as threats. People who become de-sensitized to guns are in even more danger because they cannot perceive them as dangerous threats.

States with the weakest gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership have the highest overall gun death rates in the United States. The reverse is true as shown by this chart. Every 1 percent increase in gun ownership is correlated with a 1.1 percent increase in the firearm homicide rate and a .07 percent increase in total homicide rate. With the absence of guns, criminals do not switch to another weapon for homicide. Gun ownership doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk of suicide, and a gun in the home is far more likely to be used to threaten a family member or intimate partner than to be used in self-defense. In Missouri, annual murder rates increased by 16 percent after the state’s 2007 repeal of its permit-to-purchase handgun licensing law.

People who threaten legislators with death if they vote the wrong way and collectively flaunt actions against the law are domestic terrorists. These are acts of intimidation and should be treated like terrorism. People who threaten violence if they don’t get their own way are capable of committing bloodshed as shown by the Bundy standoff in Nevada and the ensuing murders of two police officers in a pizzeria. One member of Open Carry Texas/Open Carry Tarrant County is awaiting trial for killing her estranged husband and his 20-year-old daughter.

The same political party that fights for states’ rights wants to trump these with a bill to allow carrying concealed guns across state lines without permits from those states. Chief sponsor in the senate is Texas Republican John Cornyn. Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said that “law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise this fundamental right while traveling across state lines.” No mention from the NRA that governments can’t know whether the carriers are “law-abiding.” The House will most likely pass the bill, and the senate has a better chance of getting past the 60-vote filibuster level than in 2013. Cornyn compared the process to that of a driver’s license. It would be good if gun licenses would be comparable to driver’s licenses.

February 17, 2015

‘Oregonian’ Victorious in Destroying Liberal Leader

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:25 AM

Oregon has been front and center in the national media for the past week as Gov. John Kitzhaber announced his resignation, effective tomorrow. I have watched with dismay for the past four months as the state’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, has decimated his reputation over the actions of Cylvia Hayes, his “first lady” and fiancé. In the Online Journal of Public Theology, described as “The Place for Protestant Pastors and Scholars,” Ed Knudson has written about a conservative publication’s success in viciously destroying a leader who supports clean energy policies. The entire piece is here.


Some years ago I remember seeing a movie about an Australian family on a camping trip whose child was abducted by dingo dogs. In television interviews the mother of the child did not appear to be emotionally devastated by the event. Press speculations about this led to a widespread accusation that the mother was a witch or a satanist who may have assisted in her child’s death. The press essentially created an angry crowd, a self-righteous mob out for blood which was not going to be satisfied without a public sacrifice. It turned out, finally, that the mother had a very strong religious faith which led her to believe that her dead child was in the hands of a loving God. So it was not necessary to have an emotional breakdown in front of the television cameras.

Notice that the media in this case itself created an hysterical mass judgment against a person and then required action against that person…. [Kitzhaber] has just been drummed out of office by a newspaper which didn’t like his policy proposals for energy and the environment.

It was the Oregonian newspaper editorial board which decided it could demand the resignation of the governor. It smelled blood in the life story of Cylvia Hayes; concerning Hayes it felt it found a weak spot in the governor, a vulnerable place to go after this governor. The paper could attack her over and over in article after article. The paper could accuse her of abusing her office of “first lady” for her own benefit, getting paid for influencing government. And then after saying this day after day for weeks the paper can claim that the governor is “too distracted” to govern….

The paper itself was responsible for the constant attacks on Cylvia Hayes. The paper was the first to call for resignation. But now the paper was happy to be able to say that it was these “Democratic leaders” who were now calling for his resignation. This is a terrible moment for the Democratic Party of Oregon. It sacrificed its own popular governor.

And this is a terrible moment for democracy. For a democracy to work the people have to be able to elect leaders who have the perspective and fortitude to stand up against what may otherwise seem to be obvious public opinion generated by a self-interested media. Kitzhaber himself in a verbal message his office has just released did not accept the verdict of the press. He said it concerned him that the media could become both judge and jury in forcing him to resign. But he was doing so because the whole matter will take months to reconcile. I am sorry he decided to do this. But his friends appear to have abandoned him. It’s a terrible thing, really bad….

I want readers to understand something about Oregon and its primary newspaper. The paper does not represent the culture or values of the people of Oregon. The people of this state love the incredible beauty of the mountains and rivers and forests and deserts and beaches of this part of the world. The large Columbia River marks the northern boundary of Oregon and the people here know how much they are gifted by such close access to the absolutely gorgeous Columbia River Gorge. But the Oregonian newspaper minimizes the importance of these gifts of nature. This newspaper is completely out of touch with the people of this state.

Now there is a big threat to this gorge. It is coming in the form of coal and oil trains, possibly hundreds of them every month. The big business oil interests have a huge stake in trying to provide for a “movable pipeline” for oil in Canada and North Dakota to come right down our gorge, especially if the Keystone pipeline is denied as it may well be. Already there are lots of trains moving through the little towns and cities along the gorge. And already there are large groups of citizens worried about major oil spills and other environmental impacts of oil trains. These citizens are organized in several important groups and have been trying to minimize the impacts of oil trains. And this has a lot to do with state government and the issue of permits for various facilities needed by the oil trains.

In editorial after editorial [The Oregonian] takes the side of business over the environment. Not long ago it wrote an editorial saying it was not going to say anything about climate change because that is not a local issue and they are only going to speak on local issues. What a complete farce that is. They, of course, take the side of the oil interests outside the state in supporting permits for oil facilities. The real reason they don’t want to talk about climate change is that they know they would be out of step with the people of Oregon, the people reading their paper. So they avoid it.

But the paper wants to get after the governor. They want to especially go after his policies on the environment and energy. And along comes an article about Cylvia Hayes which opens up a real weak spot. And big business really likes to go after weak spots; it’s one of the ways they make money, lots of money. It’s a jungle out there in the business consciousness, go after the easy targets. Cylvia Hayes turned out to be an easy target.

The first stories about her told about how she received money by getting married to an African immigrant who wanted to become a citizen. Then she was said to have bought a farm which was to be used for raising marijuana. So in the public mind now Cylvia Hayes has been vilified, a disreputable character if there ever was one, certainly not a person who should be the wife of a governor. Once that stuff was out there the story line was clear and the Oregonian demanded more and more emails and documents, and the more information they got the more they interpreted details according to the story line that Cylvia Hayes was disreputable and was abusing her access to the governor and state government.

But the Oregonian wanted more and more documents and claimed that Kitzhaber wasn’t providing enough. That is another big media power play these days. Plenty of politicians don’t like to provide incriminating data. But it is not just a matter of data, it is how data is interpreted. And the Oregonian was not a neutral arbiter of facts. It was a paper on a mission, a mission to take down a governor who cared about the environment. And they had found a weak spot.

There is a final lesson in all this about liberal politicians in general. Liberal politicians tend to be genuinely good people. That is, they want to do good in the world…. John Kitzhaber started his career as an emergency room physician, doing good for people. His decision to become involved in politics was to do good for people. His leadership has meant that thousands more Oregonians have access to health care. He will be remembered for this and the other good he has done.

I think John Kitzhaber appeared confused and uncertain in these last few days because he genuinely had difficulty believing that the Oregonian newspaper would actually do what it was doing. The people on the editorial board are really mean and nasty people. They believe their storyline, Cylvia Hayes is dangerous for Oregon…. And they knew that she was a weak spot, a way to get at a governor, a way to demonstrate they were the real power in the state, not those elected by the people.

The Oregonian, its writers and editorial board, do not represent Oregon or its people, their real interests and values…. This paper is not worthy of the people of this state.

February 16, 2015

GOP Supports Netanyahu Instead of U.S. President

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) declared yesterday on the Fox network that “we have every right to do what we did,” referring to inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a speech before Congress only two weeks before Israel’s election. Congress is on recess, and tomorrow Oregon’s Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Kurt Schrader are appearing at a town hall on the coast of Oregon. Gilbert Schramm, has provided some background about Netanyahu for people who want to know more about the person who will be lobbying Congress to stop U.S. negotiations with Iran.

Fact checks of Netanyahu’s recent statements:

Iran: Speaking to the UN, Netanyahu claimed that Iran was only a year away from having a nuclear weapon. A top Israeli intelligence official admitted that Iran was 10 years away, and Israel doesn’t know if Iran will try to develop to develop one.

Syria: Netanyahu pushed the United States toward bombing Syria in 2013, and 200 lobbyists argued for a war that the U.S. people don’t want. Their claim that Syria would never divest itself of chemical weapons collapsed, leaving it the only major force opposing ISIL after the U.S.-created Iraqi army dissolved. Israel has not ratified the chemical weapons treaty and keeps its chemical weapons.

Missiles: Netanyahu’s story about “Syrian missiles bound for Gaza,” issued at the same time as U.S. negotiations with Iran, also blew up. The missiles were from Iran and headed to the Sudan. Iran’s peaceful nuclear program continues to be in compliance with the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that Israel refuses to sign.

Gaza: Netanyahu claims to care deeply about “every single civilian in Gaza” while leveling whole neighborhoods with what he calls “precision strikes.” He also seals the borders of Gaza to keep everyone from escaping and then bemoans the Palestinian leadership “using human shields” and “placing its own people at risk.”

Threats: Hours after Netanyahu claimed that Israel was under a terrible existential threat, he told the FAA that U.S. tourists would be perfectly safe when they flew into Tel Aviv at the same time that flights had been forced to abort landings in the presence of rocket fire.

Two-state solution: For years, Netanyahu pretended that he would accept a two-state solution. Last month he admitted that he never would. He follows Ben Gurion’s 1947 argument to Zionists that they should accept the UN partition plan detailed in UN 181 and then ignore the parallel Palestinian state. A Palestinian state doesn’t exist 68 years later because Israeli has prevented its creation.

Celebrating murderers: In Israel, people debate the “permissibility” of genocide. Referring to six Israeli Jewish extremists burning a Palestinian boy alive, Netanyahu claimed that Israel punished murderers while Palestinians “celebrated murderers.” His claimed that Israelis never named streets or buildings after murderers, but streets and buildings throughout Israel are named after Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, both leaders of Jewish terrorist groups that committed awful atrocities. Places are also named for dozens of other Zionist killers. Palestine cannot do the same because they have no state and therefore cannot officially give names to streets.

Background: Benjamin Netanyahu won the election for prime minister in 1995 after his opponent, Yitzchak Rabin, was assassinated by an Israeli terrorist. In Politicide, Israeli historian Baruch Kimmerling wrote that Netanyahu was a key figure in incitements against Rabin. Past leaders of Netanyahu’s political party, Likud, had supported Mussolini in World War II and were Zionist/Jewish terrorists responsible, among over things, for the bombing of the King David Hotel, assassinations of the British High commissioner and Count Bernadotte (the very first UN peacemaker sent to Palestine), executions of British troops, and numerous attacks on Arab civilians. Previously, the founder of Irgun, Likud’s predecessor, wrote to Adolf Hitler, promising that a Jewish state would protect Germany’s position in the Middle East. (Kati Marton, A Death in Jerusalem, p.54)

Loss of power: Once prime minister, Netanyahu immediately appointed as his defense minister Ariel Sharon, previously thrown out of the government for massacres in Lebanon including Sabra and Shatila. Sharon then defeated Netanyahu and derailed the Oslo peace accords in 2001, followed by his vigorous encouragement that the U.S. invade Iraq two years later. Although Netanyahu lost by a small margin in 2008, he united the Likud party with other even more extreme Israeli settler parties.

Palestinian state: Likud’s party charter rejects any possibility of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River; “their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel’s existence, security and national needs.” The goal of the Likud party, led by Netanyahu, is not peace but total “victory” by whatever means necessary and achieved through violence, if they wish.

[Gilbert Schramm is a peace activist and international educator who currently lives in Oregon. He has previously lived and worked extensively in the Middle East and has studied the region for almost 35 years.]

Netanyahu’s hawkish, right-wing lies start wars, and Israel wants the might of the United States military behind them for whatever the Israelis want. In his speech to Congress, Netanyahu will urge legislators to go above President Obama’s interests of peace to support the right-wing Israeli wish list. In recent weeks, Israeli intelligence agencies have directly reported to U.S. officials that increasing sanctions on Iran would derail the current delicate negotiations. Allowing Netanyahu to follow through with his plans would also insult the president of the United States and violate existing international diplomatic precedents.

The two most effective opponents of ISIL are Iran and Hezbollah. When UN peacekeepers were surrounded by ISIL rebels on the Israeli border, Netanyahu’s troops, a few yards away, did nothing while Syrian troops used artillery fire to help the peacekeepers escape.

Democrats, some of them leaders in the Jewish caucus and others long supporters of Israel, also condemn Netanyahu’s lobbying for war. Veterans of the civil rights movement also condemn Netanyahu for his apartheid policies in Israel. From left to right, the U.S. Jewish community, including Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, is outraged that Netanyahu pretends to speak for them.

Netanyahu had hoped to use his speech before Congress as part of his re-election campaign, but Israel’s election chief Salim Joubran announced that the broadcast in Israel would have a five-minute delay, allowing editors to cut partisan statements. Several parties in Israel have condemned Netanyahu for his actions, along with Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and five former Israeli ambassadors. Even right-wing allies fear that the speech will put the prime minister’s ties to the GOP ahead of the relationship between Israel and the United States.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said that he opposes “shallow” campaign tactics, adding that speaking about threats and dangers should be “in Hebrew to our citizens at home.”

A recent poll shows that people think that Boehner’s invitation was inappropriate  by 47 percent to 30 percent. All demographics show a majority of opposition to the invitation except for Republicans. In Israel, the opposition to Netanyahu speaking to Congress, 52 percent to 36 percent, is relatively the same as in the U.S.

After Netanyahu faced opposition in the United States for his planned speech, one of his officials, Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, accused Boehner of telling them that support for the speech was bipartisan. Hanegbi did not disagree with an interviewer who asked if Netanyahu had been “misled.” Nevertheless, Netanyahu plans to make the speech on March 3 because, Hanegbi said, it could help secure the two-thirds vote necessary to override a presidential veto on new sanctions in Iran.

Boehner told Fox’s Chris Wallace that he had asked Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., not to tell the White House about Congress’s meeting with Netanyahu “to make sure that there was no interference.” Boehner also complained about the “animosity” that the White House had shown Netanyahu. When Wallace asked if “the relationship between the U.S. and Israel be outside of politics,” Boehner dodged the question, saying that he looked forward to hearing what Netanyahu had to say.

Netanyahu said to Dan Shapiro, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, that the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again.” No other foreign leader could get away with this tone and this message. Yet United States taxpayers send over $8 million a day in U.S. aid to Israel.

The leader of the U.S. House of Representatives has secretly partnered with a foreign government to undermine the foreign policy of the United States. Boehner admitted that he put the prime minister of Israel above the President of the United States, and Boehner did this after he lied about giving the White House sufficient warning regarding the invitation to Netanyahu.

The Republicans have been salivating for an opportunity to govern in Washington, D.C. This debacle, only two months into the 114th Congress, may be only an early one that leads the GOP toward failure in the 2016 election.

February 14, 2015

Walker Short on Education, Truth

Filed under: Education — trp2011 @ 9:49 PM
Tags: , , ,

The Koch brothers may want to reconsider their choice for the 2016 GOP presidential candidate after Scott Walker has continually tripped over his tongue. His most recent gaffe was in London where other presidential candidates—namely Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal—have also looked foolish on the world’s stage. As the Daily Beast described his performance, “Scott Walker Goes for ‘Bland,’ Ends Up ‘Moronic’ on Evolution Softball.”  Asked whether he believes in the scientific theory of evolution, Walker said, “I’m going to punt on that one.” The amazed moderator, Justin Webb, asked him again, and he continued to “punt,” adding that he came there to talk about foreign trade and the “evolution of trade in Wisconsin.”

According to Walker, the debate between science and religious dogma is “a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another.” Webb responded by saying, “Any British politician, right or left, would laugh at that question and say, ‘Of course, evolution is real.’” The audience laughed. Walker also said it was “polite not to respond” to questions about Britain, refused to mention the president, and dodged all foreign policy questions because he was “on foreign soil.”

Earlier this month, he said that “we need to have an aggressive strategy anywhere around the world.” When ABC News host Martha Raddatz asked him what that meant, he called for “boots on the ground.” She asked further, “U.S. boots on the ground in Syria?” He said, “Well, I don’t think that’s an immediate plan.”

Recently, the press has started to delve into Walker’s lack of a college degree. After four years at Marquette University, he was 34 credits short of graduation, over one-fourth of the requirements for graduation. The last president to lack a college degree was Harry Truman who left the office in 1952.

Part of the questioning may have come from his attempt to remove the statement, “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth,” from the mission of the University of Wisconsin. Walker also tried to take out the words, “to educate people and improve the human condition” and “serve and stimulate society.” Under Walker’s vision, the university would focus on “the state’s work force needs.” Called out on his move, he claimed that the changes were “a drafting error.” Unfortunately for Walker, his administration gave orders for the change in terminology two months earlier.

Walker hid his plan to change the university’s mission in his budget bill. Notable for that document is his $300-million cut for the state university system while he plans a $500-million new basketball stadium in Milwaukee for the Bucks. The plan freezes tuition for several more years and almost guarantees a massive tuition spike when the freeze expires in 2017. At this time, the projected shortfall for Wisconsin’s next two years from his tax cuts for the wealthy is $1.8 billion, worrying even Republicans.

megan simpsonOne of Walker’s claim to fame is gutting the unions in Wisconsin, and he particularly hates education. That’s why he used a first year teacher in his speech in Iowa to show how badly the unions treat educators. He claimed that the 2010 “Teacher of the Year” in Wisconsin, Megan Sampson (right) was laid off after her first year of teaching. Despite the massive cuts to the education budget that Walker gave to Wisconsin, Sampson was offered her place back but chose to take a job in the suburbs. She wants nothing to do with Walker.

teacher awardEven worse, however, Sampson didn’t even have the title that Walker gave her. The real 2010 Outstanding Teacher of the Year is Claudia Klein Felske, a former classmate of Walker’s at Marquette University. She wrote a letter to the Marquette Educator, calling him out for his lies and pointing out that the man who never graduated from college is attacking education in the state of Wisconsin from his position as the governor.

Dear Governor Walker:

I was both surprised and bewildered last week when I saw a news clip of you stumping in Iowa about Megan Sampson, whom you called “The [2010] Outstanding Teacher of the Year in my State.” This was baffling to me since in 2010, I was named Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year (Maureen Look-Ainsworth, Middle School Teacher of the Year; Peggy Wuenstel, Special Services Teacher of the Year; and Michael Brinnen, Elementary Teacher of the Year). In a most humbling ceremony, we were each surprised at our respective schools by State Superintendent Tony Evers and later honored at the State Capital as the Wisconsin Teachers of the Year.

And so, as one of the bonafide 2010-2011 Wisconsin Teachers of the Year, I feel the need to engage in one of the most valuable skills we teach our students, critical analysis.

Verified by multiple news sources, it turns out that Megan Sampson did win an award in 2010, but it was the Nancy Hoefs Memorial Award given by a relatively small organization of Wisconsin English teachers (WCTE) for “an outstanding first year teacher of language arts.” She was one of less than a dozen teachers across the state who self-nominated for this award.

You failed to mention these details as you used Sampson’s lay-off from her first year teaching position as an opportunity to bash Wisconsin schools on the national stage. You blamed the seniority system for Sampson’s lay-off when, in good conscience, you should have done some serious soul searching and placed the blame squarely on your systematic defunding of public education to the tune of $2.6 billion that you cut from school districts, state aid to localities, the UW-System and technical colleges.

This Wisconsin Teacher of the Year would like to clarify precisely what you’ve done for education.

2010-2011 was a surreal school year to be named Teacher of the Year as that was the year your passage of Act 10 marked the exodus of thousands of outstanding veteran teachers from the profession they love and marked the beginning of an extreme strain on our ability to continue providing the excellent public education Wisconsin has always been known for.

And what have you done lately? In just the past month, it seems you have once again actively declared war on education in your own state:

You’ve directed the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to devise content exams that would certify anyone with a degree to become a certified teacher. The ramifications of this move are nothing short of catastrophic and would grossly diminish what data has repeatedly shown to be the single most important factor in student learning: the quality of the classroom teacher. Allowing someone to teach without any training in HOW to teach, in effective pedagogy, in student behavior, brain research, motivation, and classroom management is akin to allowing someone who says “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on t.v.” to give you a heart transplant.

Continuing your bellicose streak (war is war, right?) you cut to the jugular by proposing a 13% across-the-board budget cut from the Wisconsin University System, our cornerstone of higher education, the source of much of our skilled and educated workforce, the center for research and development for our state. Aside from clearly being anti-education, this move is clearly anti-growth.

Psychological warfare has been your most recent tactic when you attempted to (and later tried to blame it on a clerical error) revise “The Wisconsin Idea” the sacred credo of the UW system articulated over a century ago. You sought to omit mention of public service and improving the human condition (you do realize that as Governor, you are considered a public servant?) You also tried to delete the phrase: “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.” Truth. Hmm…I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about that one.

Your tenure as Governor has demonstrated nothing less than a systematic attempt to dismantle public education, the cornerstone of democracy and the ladder of social mobility for any society.

How our paths have diverged from that August afternoon in 1986. True story: it was freshman orientation just outside Memorial Union. We were two of a couple thousand new Marquette University freshman wistful about what our futures held. Four years later, I graduated from Marquette and later became Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year. You never graduated, and you became the Governor of the State of Wisconsin bent on dismantling public education. Ironic, isn’t it? Situational irony at its best. I’d laugh if its ramifications weren’t so utterly destructive for the state of Wisconsin.


Claudia Klein Felske

2010-2011 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year

Marquette University Class of 1990

Scott Walker called Felske’s argument a “petty distinction,” but he needs to do some thinking before he claims to be the “education” candidate for the President of the United States.

February 13, 2015

How Conservative Legislators Think

A circuit of the media shows these gems from state and federal GOP legislators.

Tom Corbin, a state senator from South Carolina, gets his sexist attitude from his reading of the Bible. In front of several witnesses, he told the only woman in the state senate:

“Well, you know God created man first. Then he took the rib out of man to make woman.  And you know, a rib is a lesser cut of meat.”

It’s not his first offensive comment to her. He also claimed that women don’t belong in the Senate because they should be “at home baking cookies” or “barefoot and pregnant.” Corbin told the woman that “I see it only took me two years to get you wearing shoes.” Among his other issues, Corbin has fought legislation to keep domestic abusers from having guns.

South Carolina is an “interesting” place. According to an investigation, almost 400 inmates in South Carolina have been put into solitary confinement for using social media websites because the state Department of Corrections equates this action to murdering or raping a fellow inmate. With access to Facebook a Level 1 violation, prisoners can get more of these offenses than if the “inmate caused a riot, took three hostages, murdered them, stole their clothes, and then escaped,” according to the report. The SCDC has so many inmates in solitary confinement that the prisons run out of space. Tyheem Henry is an example of this policy: last October he was assigned to solitary confinement for 37.5 years and had his telephone, visitation, and canteen privileges removed for 74 years for 38 posts on Facebook. And he’s not alone.

The GOP is still struggling with issues surrounding rape. In explaining why raped women should not be able to get abortions, West Virginia Del. Brian Kurcaba said, “What is beautiful is the child that could come from this.” In Utah, State Rep. Brian Greene claimed that having sex with an unconscious partner shouldn’t be illegal, at least if it’s with a wife or long-time girlfriend.

“We can’t be for the rule of law at our own convenience,” according to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Now, however, the senator is asking Republicans for help to avoid a “costly and time-consuming legal challenge.” He wants them the Kentucky GOP to create a presidential caucus in 2016 before the May primary so that he can personally get around a state law that keeps him from simultaneously running for two federal offices. To run for both the senate and the president’s office, Paul needs the law changed, and the state legislature has refused. The 54 members of the state GOP executive committee meets on March 7. That’s when Paul will find out if they will make the law more “convenient” for him.    The departure of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) as Oversight Committee Chairman was supposed to bring back sanity, but the new chair of the committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), claims that the White House unduly influenced Tom Wheeler, director of the Federal Communications Commission, by bringing in outside groups. According to Chaffetz, the White House is not allowed to lobby FCC commissioners.

Even more bizarre is a video from the new organization Protect Internet Freedom. The porn parody falsely claims that net neutrality will monitor online activities and slow downloads. Behind the organization—and video—is Jordan Gehrke, senior adviser to freshman Tea Partier Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), which makes the organization and video directly connected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

All the GOP members of Congress are in crisis this week. After Republicans passed an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security with five amendments overturning the president’s immigration executive actions, they thought that Senate Democrats would give up and vote for their measure. It hasn’t worked that way. Tables have turned in that chamber, and Democrats are now demanding 60 votes for passage of bills that they don’t like.

The only solution for the Republicans is the so-called “nuclear option,” changing the rules of the Senate to do away with the 60-vote filibuster. Last year when Democrats declared that presidential nominations, except for Supreme Court justices, were exempt from the filibuster, Republicans were outraged. This year conservatives in the House want it done.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) reminded everyone that the filibuster “is not in the Constitution.” That’s true, but it’s in the Senate because the Republicans wanted it. After loving the filibuster in the past, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has criticized them as “undemocratic” and “senseless.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said:

“Senator McConnell has engaged in a half-hearted effort to date. McConnell has engaged in a policy of surrender without fighting. I’m not going to vote to fund unconstitutional conduct by Barack Obama. Period. End of subject.”

Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-ID) is demanding a change to the rules because he thinks the nation is facing a “constitutional crisis.” The so-called “crisis” has been the same for almost half a decade while Republicans blocked almost every bill that the Democrats tried to put on the Senate floor. During that time, Republicans loved the filibuster because it guaranteed gridlock and stopped much of President Obama’s agenda.

Nobody in the Senate is making noises about changing the filibuster rules. In fact, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), a former representative, said the change could backfire for the GOP. “The Senate should have a protection for the minority. Both parties will be in the minority at different points. We need to be able to protect the rights of the minority,” he said.

With the House refusing to send a “clean” bill without amendments to the president for extending Homeland Security funding, Senate Republicans are worried about a government shutdown—again. Because they’ll be blamed–again. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said:

“It’s not livable. It’s not acceptable. When you’re in the majority, you have to govern. You have to govern responsibly. And shutdowns are not responsible.”

One possibility is a short-term funding, but Senate Republicans know that this action shows that they can’t govern. The deadline for this funding is February 27, followed at the end of March with the deadline to stop steep cuts for Medicare providers. Transportation expires in May, and parts of the Patriot Act disappear in June without further legislation. Then there’s the budget this spring and appropriation bills for each arm of the government. All this capped off by the debt ceiling debates in late summer or fall.

Even Rupert Murdoch’s conservative Wall Street Journal criticized House GOP members and wrote that they are in a “box canyon” of their own making. The editorial continues:

“Restrictionists like Sens. Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions are offering their familiar advice to fight harder and hold firm against ‘executive amnesty,’ but as usual their strategy for victory is nowhere to be found. So Republicans are now heading toward the same cul de sac that they did on the ObamaCare government shutdown…”

“It’s not too soon to say that the fate of the GOP majority is on the line.  Precious weeks are wasting, and the combination of weak House leadership and a rump minority unwilling to compromise is playing into Democratic hands. This is no way to run a Congressional majority, and the only winners of GOP dysfunction will be Mr. Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich advised the Republicans to use the upcoming recess to get approval for their actions from people back home. That will be difficult because they’ll have to justify the deportation of law-abiding children and young people who came to the United States through no volition of their own. Even some Republican legislators oppose this action.

All this after one month of GOP leadership in the Congress, and they’re leaving town next week for the first of many recesses.

February 12, 2015

Islamophobia Kills Muslims, Drives War Debate

Filed under: Discrimination — trp2011 @ 11:14 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Craig Stephen Hicks, a white man in Chapel Hill (NC) shot three Muslim student–Yusor Mohammad, her husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salh–in the head. His wife claims that it wasn’t a hate crime, and police have said that the motivation was a parking place dispute. Hicks is a self-declared atheist, and his Facebook page shows a rabid opposition to any religion. If the situation had been reversed—three Muslim killers and one white man—there would have been claims of terrorism and demands that all Muslims condemn the action while the nation went into lockdown. Hicks, however, will most likely be seen as an isolated psychopath instead of a terrorist, and media reports about the event were initially minimal with the Washington Post ignoring it for 17 hours.

Muslims, however, are more often the victims of violence in the United States than the perpetrators. The year 2013 saw more than 160 anti-Muslim hate crimes in which mosques and Islamic centers have been firebombed and vandalized. During Ramadan in 2012, seven mosques were attacked. In 2010, a white college student and self-described patriot tried to slash the throat of Bangladeshi cab driver Ahmed Sharif. The white supremacist who slaughtered six people in a Sikh temple in 2012 may have thought he was targeting Muslims as did Erika Menendez, who pushed Sunando Sen in front of a subway train in the same year.

The police came to the conclusion that the parking place was the motive in less than 24 hours, despite the fears of their neighbor that the victim had expressed before their murders. Tensions for Muslims in the area had been increasing since the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris. Nearby Duke University has canceled a plan for the Muslim call to prayer from a campus chapel tower after the Fox network and evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, opposed the idea.

While Congress ignores terrorism against Muslims on the home ground, they’re quibbling about the problems in the Middle East. For six months, the GOP leadership in Congress have complained about the president not asking for permission in his military offensive against ISIL. They’ve demanded that the president seek permission from them but refused to put together any resolution. Yesterday, the president decided to play their game and stop bickering by providing Congress with a proposed resolution for new war powers to go after ISIL. The proposal replaces George W. Bush’s 2002 legislation that authorized the debacle in Iraq but leaves the resolution passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Democrats said the proposal is too broad with too few restrictions, and the Republicans said it is too narrow with too many restrictions.

As Steve Benen pointed out, the process was predictable:

  1. Congress’ demand to President Obama: “Send us a resolution!”
  2. President Obama responds to Congress: “Fine, here’s proposed language.”
  3. Congress declares to everyone: “We don’t like this resolution!”

Sen. Marco Rubio reacted by saying that the requested authorization should be just one sentence: “We authorize the President to defeat and destroy ISIL, period.” That’s probably what he wants if he gets to be president—limitless power to do anything, anywhere.

As Congress debates a war against ISIL and most people in the United States ignore the building anti-Muslim fear and antipathy in the country, religious leaders foment more hatred. For example, former governor and likely repeat GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said that the Obama administration is “bending over backwards to do everything possible to accommodate Muslims but they don’t mind stomping all over Christians and they do it regularly.” Another possible GOP candidate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warns of an Islamic “invasion” and “colonization” of the United States designed to impose Sharia law on unsuspecting Americans.

Bill O’Reilly started talking about “no-go zones” in Paris because of Muslims, and the far right religious leaders have declared that these exist in the United States. Tony Perkins thinks that they’re in part of Minneapolis, and Reagan administration Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Frank Gaffney has identified Dearborn (MI) as one of these areas. WorldNetDaily columnist Erik Rush called for all Muslims to be killed in response to the Boston Marathon bombing and now blames all Muslims for the death of 12 people at the Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

These are the sources for conservative “thought,” the impetus for war, and the persecution of Muslims in the United States.

February 5 was the seventh annual Texas Muslim Capitol Day in Austin (TX) when Islamic believers go to meet with lawmakers and learn about the democratic process. This year, however, virulent anti-Islam protests greeted them. One of the lawmakers said that she would require the Muslims to “publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.” In Texas, at least for some lawmakers, this step is required before politicians will speak to constituents.

The 9/11 attack moved the Islamophobes from a fringe group to the mainstream by 2010 when leading conservatives opposed a small Islamic prayer center near Ground Zero in New York. In her 2010 campaign, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), along with 16 other candidates, called it a “victory mosque,” celebrating (in her mind) the Islamic conquest of the U.S. on 9/11. Eight states passed legislation against “foreign law” or “sharia law” in the past five years. In 2010, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called for a federal ban on sharia law.

By 2012, the far-right had convinced 30 percent that President Obama may be a Muslim, double the number in 2008 after vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin accused him of being a Muslim and started a whisper campaign against him. The numbers of people who are openly Islamophobic rose enough that leading Republicans are comfortable with anti-Islam rhetoric in order to gain votes. During his 2012, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called Sharia law “an enormous problem” in the country, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called for restricting Muslim immigration to France and the U.S. That’s a strong statement from someone who claims that he is a libertarian.

For 2016, the question is whether the holdouts will cave in. In 2011, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appointed Muslim-American attorney Sohail Muhammed as a state Superior Judge and accused the opposition to his act of being “crazies.”  Christie hasn’t looked very strong lately, however, considering his backpedaling with the vaccine situation after he quarantined a healthy nurse, then said vaccines should be optional, and rapidly switched to possibly mandating them because of negative publicity.

Muslim-baiting in the United States will continue until a Republican leader is brave enough to confront the haters like Jindal or Palin. The question is when that Republican decides to stand up. Until then, the violence against Muslims in the United States will grow, and the taxpayers will fund more wars in the Middle East.

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