Nel's New Day

July 28, 2014

Time for GOP Shill Gregory to Leave ‘Meet the Press’

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Back in the day of Tim Russert, Meet the Press had good journalists who verified its news. After Russert’s death six years ago, host David Gregory, who took over from interim moderator Tom Brokaw, has demonstrated a serious bias on the conservative side. Last Sunday was no different: he played an unconfirmed Israeli video allegedly showing Hamas shooting rockets from a UN school. This video was accompanied by a sympathetic interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who explained, among other positions, that the only way to “peace” is to militarily destroy Hamas.

In response to Gregory’s question about whether Hamas is using civilians and the UN in a propaganda war, UN Relief & Works Agency spokesperson Chris Gunness pointed out the ridiculousness because of his inability to even see the video:

“To bring me on a live program and expect me to comment live on air on pictures I haven’t actually seen, I think anyone looking at this program would agree that’s really unfair. I mean, if I can see it, I’ll happily comment on it.”

Although Gregory did say at the end of the program that the UN confirmed the video does not show what Gregory early purported, he still gave credence to the Israeli report, “So this is a back and forth that we are not able to settle at this point.”

Gregory’s conservative bias is nothing new. Over a year ago, I wrote a piece beginning with his pandering to conservatives from his start on the show when he promised Mark Sanford the ability to “frame the conversation” when he talked about abandoning South Carolina for an assignation with his mistress and lying about his whereabouts.  Esteemed journalist Frank Rich pointed out that Gregory may be “playing the part [of Joe McCarthy] to make some noise” when Gregory attacked Glenn Greenwald for supporting Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks.

On the Jay Leno show, Gregory said:

“I think it’s deeply disturbing when someone takes it upon him or herself to decide they’re uncomfortable with some program and they decide they want to undo a government program. I don’t think that’s what the founders of the country envisioned and it’s not a real way to do that.”

That position is in direct opposition to journalism’s requirement of  in-depth reporting.

On a program last October, Gregory called for more “leadership” from President Obama. Typical of conservatives, Gregory wanted to know when Obama was going to “demonstrate he can bring along converts to his side and actually get something meaningful accomplished.” Unfortunately for the host, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne was present to gently explain the confusion between presidential “leadership” and giving in to GOP demands:

“A lot of times, though, when people say the president should lead, what they want him to do is adopt Republican positions and then push for those. That’s not leadership, that’s capitulation. I think we should stop talking about a Grand Bargain and try to have normal government in the next two months.”

The Republicans have refused to have a “normal government.”

Gregory specializes in asking leading questions that permit his conservative guests to present their far-right positions. An example occurred during his interview with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in the 2012 Benghazi deaths. Gregory allowed Paul to again smear Clinton with the false opinion that she denied additional security forces at the compound although she knew the need. Not satisfied with Paul’s attack on Clinton, he then encouraged more smears by asking if Benghazi disqualified Clinton for presidential candidacy.

Earlier this month on Meet the Press, Gregory supported House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) lawsuit against the president because Democrats would have been just as upset if a Republican president had delayed some of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. Fortunately, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm was present to bring the program back to reality. She reminded Gregory that George W. Bush had delayed parts of the Medicare Part D implementation with no negative reaction from Democrats. That was before she called Boehner’s lawsuit “the legal equivalent of birtherism.”

Granholm also filled in Gregory’s omission that the Republicans had voted overwhelmingly—time and again—to delay the exact provision that they are now using to sue the president. But that wasn’t all. In talking to former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who was discussing the problems within the Republican party needing a positive message for blue-collar workers, Gregory said, “the Obama economy,” blaming one person for the disaster that the GOP has supported. This was the same show when he asked if the border immigration crisis is “Obama’s Katrina moment.”

That Gregory is in trouble with the network has been obvious for some time. In March, the head of NBC News, Deborah Turness, met with him and executive producer, Rob Yarin, to discuss “format changes” for the show. Fourth-quarter 2013 ratings showed the lowest total viewers in the show’s history which started in 1991. A “format change,” however, won’t change the fact that the program caters to Republicans, with its base of old, white men. A diverse guest list that didn’t include John McCain and his cohorts almost every Sunday could make the difference. Hispanics and blacks are almost invisible on the show except for a few appearances on the panels; the women, segregated to the roundtable, are mostly members of the media.

Beyond adding accuracy and lack of bias to Meet the Press, these ideas could improve the show:

One way that Tim Russert used to grill politicians was to put some of their past quotes that contradicted their statements on the show and ask them to explain their positions. No host now uses this approach; it’s a “format change”! And it works well on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. 

Russert also appeared skeptical of all answers. Gregory needs to expose inconsistencies while being respectfully aggressive.

Gregory could also invite guests that aren’t visible elsewhere. Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell, who appear on MSNBC almost every day, frequently appear on Meet the Press.

The drums beating the rumor that Gregory will be gone after the fall elections are getting louder. Viewership is down 43 percent since he took over six years ago, and only the Winter Olympics saved the show from third place this year. Sadly, suggestions for a replacement are Chuck Todd, Joe Scarborough, and Mika Brezezinski—more conservatives. At least Brezezinski would mean that a woman would finally host one of the Sunday political talk shows, but she needs to lose the submissive behavior that she demonstrates on the Scarborough show.

On June 15, when Iraq was the focus of all Sunday talk shows on CNN, Fox, CBS, NBC, and ABC this Sunday, no women or people of color were featured on the solo interviews. Two-thirds of the participants on the roundtable discussions were men. Of the 38 guests on the shows were five people of color, and no one show had more than two women or two non-white guests.

That same week, Melissa Harris Perry’s show had ten guests: four women and five people of color. It was the only show to feature an Iraq war veteran. Now there’s an idea: replace Gregory with a black woman.

June 29, 2013

Gregory Accuses Journalist of ‘Aiding and Abetting’

When Tim Russert was the host of NBC’s Sunday morning political show, Meet the Press, he was so respected that the network added his name to the name of the program. Moved from chief of the NBC News’ Washington bureau to take this leadership in 1991,Russert moved the program’s length from 30 minutes to an hour and initiated in-depth interviews following his extensive research. Russert used old quotes or film clips inconsistent with the guests’ more current statements and then ask them to clarify their positions. In 2008, the year he died, Time named Russert one of the most 100 influential people in the world.

After his death, the respected Tom Brokaw acted as an interim appointment before David Gregory became the permanent host. His conservative bias was obvious from the beginning when he interviewed Mark Sanford, the South Carolina governor just come back from Argentina, that he called the Appalachian Trail. The media had been clear about his lying to the state and disappearing without leaving anyone in charge. Gregory promised Sanford that his coming on his new show “puts all of this to rest” because “it allows [Sanford] to frame the conversation how [he] really wants to … and then move on.”

I confess that I watch Meet the Press because the re-run is at 11:00 Sunday night, and it puts me to sleep. Yet he frequently annoys me, for example when he gives Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) a pass for his creating scandals just to bring down the president. Last Sunday, Gregory brought a great deal of well-deserved criticism down on him for his question at the end of an interview with Glenn Greenwald.

After discussing Greenwald’s involvement with Edward Snowden, the man declared either a hero or a traitor for telling the world that NSA is collecting metadata on all U.S. citizens, Gregory finished with this question: “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”

Greenwald replied that it was “pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” and that there was no evidence to back up Gregory’s claim that he had “aided” Snowden. Gregory replied that “the question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you’re doing,”

Frank Rich, respected investigative reporter and writer for The New York Times for almost three decades shredded Gregory and his accusations.

“Is David Gregory a journalist? As a thought experiment, name one piece of news he has broken, one beat he’s covered with distinction, and any memorable interviews he’s conducted that were not with John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dick Durbin, or Chuck Schumer. Meet the Press has fallen behind CBS’s Face the Nation, much as Today has fallen to ABC’s Good Morning America, and my guess is that Gregory didn’t mean to sound like Joe McCarthy (with a splash of the oiliness of Roy Cohn) but was only playing the part to make some noise. In any case, his charge is preposterous.

“As a columnist who published Edward Snowden’s leaks, Greenwald was doing the job of a journalist–and the fact that he’s an ‘activist’ journalist (i.e., an opinion journalist, like me and a zillion others) is irrelevant to that journalistic function. If Gregory had integrity and guts, he would have added that the journalist Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, who published the other set of Snowden leaks (and arguably more important ones), aided and abetted a crime. But it’s easier for Gregory to go after Greenwald, a self-professed outsider who is not likely to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and works for a news organization based in London.

“Presumably if Gregory had been around 40 years ago, he also would have accused the Times of aiding and abetting the enemy when it published Daniel Ellsberg’s massive leak of the Pentagon Papers. In any case, Greenwald demolished Gregory on air and on Twitter (“Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”). The new, incoming leadership of NBC News has a golden opportunity to revamp Sunday morning chat by making a change at Meet the Press. I propose that Gregory be full-time on Today, where he can speak truth to power by grilling Paula Deen.”

Activist Carl Gibson asked why there should be reporters if those who report on leaked government secrets are labeled as criminals. As all of us know, the drive to sell advertising has overcome much of news reporting, but even worse, corporations own almost all the media now.

Follow the money. Meet the Press is sponsored by Boeing, that owns NSA contractor Narus, an Israeli company that makes the rapid interception technology used by the NSA. Boeing is also a member of the corporate coalition for “Fix the Debt,” a sham organization funded by Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson. That organization hope to destroy Social Security and Medicare, which may explain why Gregory has framed the decimation of those two programs as the best way to deal with the country’s debt. Gregory has never mentioned that companies like Boeing pay a “negative” federal income tax.

When journalists discovered that the Obama administration had seized phone records of AP reporters without their knowledge, fellow journalists were incensed. Yet Gregory has joined the intimidation of journalists by asking Greenwald if he is a criminal.

David Sirota on Salon asked more questions. Mother Jones’ David Corn asked why Gregory had not addressed the same question to reporters at the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Bloomberg News after they, too, publicized similar leaks.

Trevor Trimm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation asked if Gregory himself should be prosecuted because “when interviewing Greenwald, he repeated what government officials told him about classified FISA opinions.”

A year ago, the New York Times’ Jo Becker and Scott Shane published an article about President Obama’s so-called “kill list” based on leaks of classified information by White House officials. Also an Inspector General report documented then-CIA director Leon Panetta’s possibly illegal release of top secret information to filmmaker Mark Boal for the film Zero Dark Thirty. Should Gregory ask whether the authors of these if they “should be charged with a crime” for publishing secret information?

After National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Chief Keith Alexander lied in their testimony before Congress, should they be prosecuted for perjury in the same way that major league pitcher Roger Clemens was?

Since the time that Daniel Ellsberg revealed information and now, when Edward Snowden did the same thing, the White House has declared war on any people who tell the public about its covert—and possibly—illegal surveillance. Why has the media transferred its obsessive attention to where Snowden might be at any time instead of the NSA’s crimes against millions of people in the United States. Why do media outlets view the NSA’s actions being legal when they “intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress,” according to the New York Times?

Speaking about Snowden to Jay Leno on his show, Gregory said:

 “You know, there are people who give him credit for sort of forcing this debate out into the country. I think it’s deeply disturbing when someone takes it upon him or herself to decide they’re uncomfortable with some program and they decide they want to undo a government program. I don’t think that’s what the founders of the country envisioned and it’s not a real way to do that.”

I tend to be suspicious of people who channel the “founders of the country,” but it might be useful to read a few of their statements:

 “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”—James Madison

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”—Benjamin Franklin

In the Washington Post, Eric Wemple wrote about the 2001 case Bartnicki v. Vopper in which the Supreme Court ruled that an illegal recording or great public consequence that a media outlet had only received but not participated in the recording of, was protected by the First Amendment. Greenwald did not aid and abet Snowden in obtaining the information or ask him to break the law. Gregory didn’t do his homework when he slandered Greenwald by his accusation that the journalist had “aided and abetted Snowden.”

I’ll watch Meet the Press tomorrow because both Rachel Maddow and Wendy Davis, the woman who filibustered the Texas Senate for almost 12 hours last week, will be on. But also on is Jim DeMint, new leader of the Heritage Foundation ultra-conservative political organization. Hopefully, Gregory won’t decide to pander to DeMint and declare Davis a terrorist the way that one of her GOP colleagues did.

September 9, 2014

‘Meet the Press’ Has a Long Way to Go

Martha Routree began moderating  Meet the Press on radio almost 70 years ago, two years before it moved to television. Her format was to invite a leading public figure to face a panel of reporters; Rountree persuaded such luminaries as Sen. Joseph McCarthy, California governor and future chief justice Earl Warren, and President Harry Truman to be on the program. Co-producer Lawrence E. Spivak was a “permanent panelist,” and the television show won at least three awards in six years before Rountree lost the show in a coin-toss to Spivak in 1953. Followed by eight male moderators, she has been the only woman to host the program.

After NBC sent David Gregory, the program’s recent host, packing, it picked another man, Chuck Todd. During the hiatus between Gregory and Todd, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, and Chris Jansing, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent, both did excellent jobs as substitute hosts. They provided a refreshing change from both Gregory and Todd, who attack progressives and give passes to the conservatives.

When Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) lamented the country’s serious problems from ISIS and claimed that they are “just a plane ticket away from the United States,” Jansing asked him, “But we’ve heard the Pentagon say that, right now, they are not in a position to launch an attack on the United States. Is there any credible intelligence that ISIS is either planning that or has the capability to do it.” Rogers said that he disagreed but didn’t have any facts to back his position. Neither Gregory nor Todd would most likely have challenged Rogers.

A year ago Todd said that correcting GOP lies that he repeats is not his job. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he agreed that Republicans repeat the party’s false message about the Affordable Care Act, but he blamed the president for not selling the ACA. Todd gives lies the same weight as facts. When Todd made that statement, he was political director for NBC news, meaning that this philosophy was leading the political coverage. Now it will lead Meet the Press.

On his first show last Sunday, Todd  repeated the tired statement about Kentucky’s Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Alison Grimes, having “a lot of money” without pointing out that her opponent, Sen. Mitch McConnell, has three times as much campaign funding as Grimes. Todd talked about the horrible gridlock in Washington before he did a puff piece on how well three mayors in the country are working with their elected officials. When two of them, a Republican and an independent, slammed the president by saying they were successful because the executive is in charge of successful cooperation, Todd just sagely nodded. Nothing was mentioned about how the GOP will do everything possible to tear down the president and then blame him for not being bipartisan. When Scarborough said that the midterm elections really don’t matter, everyone again just nodded.

The mayor segment is entitled “Who Needs Washington?” And as Dana Milbank pointed out:

 “We all need Washington. And though it’s standard for politicians to campaign against Washington, it’s a bit cynical for Todd and Meet the Press to be vessels of populist outrage against a Washington media elite of which they are very much a part.

“Washington isn’t dysfunctional because people who live here are out of touch. Washington is broken because of the increasingly belligerent assortment of 537 politicians the rest of the country sends here. The problem is not that Washington is too insular. If anything, Washington isn’t insular enough.

“For most of the nation’s history, lawmakers spent long stretches of time in the capital, getting to know each other as people rather than partisans. The friendships and goodwill they developed helped them to cut the necessary deals. But when “Washington insider” became a political liability two decades ago, politicians began jetting into town for three-day workweeks — long enough to demonize their opponents but not to know them.”

To give Todd a pass, we’ll assume that he was just clueless instead of lying when he cheerfully attacked President Obama for not mentioning “Syria.” Todd directly said, “You’ve not said the word, ‘Syria’ so far in our conversation.” A check of the transcript shows that the president had used the word four times before Todd made his statement.

“… ISIL poses a broader threat because of its territorial ambitions in Iraq and Syria…”

“… And we’ve seen the savagery not just in terms of how they dealt with the two Americans that had been taken hostage but the killing of thousands of innocents in– in Iraq thousands of innocents in Syria, the kidnapping of women the complete disruption of entire villages …”

“… But what is absolutely clear in ISIL, which started as Al Qaeda in Iraq and arose out of the U.S. invasion there and was contained because of the enormous efforts of our troops there then shifted to Syria, has metastasized …”

“We’ve got to do more effective diplomatic work to eliminate the schism between Sunni and Shia that has been fueling so much of the violence in Syria, in Iraq. And so we put together a plan that is compatible with the kind of work that we’re doing now.”

David Letterman honored this gaffe by creating a new segment, “Chuck Todd on It” and pointed out Todd’s mistake. This could become a weekly piece. Letterman’s leaving won’t stop Todd from being a punch line; Stephen Colbert steps up to the plate then.

Todd also falsely accused President Obama of using the term “ISIL” instead of the term “ISIS” because the president wants to avoid the word Syria. Todd said to Andrea Mitchell, who uses the abbreviation ISIL, “Obviously we refer to it at NBC News as ISIS. The Obama administration, president says the word ISIL. The last ‘S’ stands for Syria, the last L they don’t want to have stand for Syria.”

According to the Associated Press regarding AP’s use of ISIL:

“In Arabic, the group is known as Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The term “al-Sham” refers to a region stretching from southern Turkey through Syria to Egypt (also including Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan). The group’s stated goal is to restore an Islamic state, or caliphate, in this entire area.”

The final “S” in ISIS does not translate to Syria because the word Syria is not in the original Arabic language. Todd claims to be a journalist. He should be ashamed for not being aware of such a simple fact.

In another attack, Todd, like many other conservatives, slammed the president for discussing the beheading of journalist James Foley while President Obama was golfing. During Todd’s gig on the National Journal Hotline, he never objected to George W. Bush golfing in 2002 while he talked about five U.S. citizens being bombed to death. Bush had left for a month-long vacation at his parents’ home in Kennebunkport (ME) two days after a bomb exploded at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. Two days after that, another suicide bomb blew up in Israel. The following day, Bush took a break from his golfing to say that he was “distressed” and thought that we should “stop the terror.” He finished by saying, “Thank you…. Now, watch this [golf] drive.” He finished his drive and then said, “See you at church.”

To further add to the “good old boys” club, NBC promoted former Rep. Joe Scarborough to senior NBC political analyst and contributor to Meet the Press. Todd may think that Scarborough can provide “robust conversation,” but this ultra-conservative primarily passes along the GOP talking points on his morning fluff show, Morning Joe. One rumor is that he got the job to calm him after he failed to become the host. Scarborough will move Meet the Press even farther to the right than David Gregory did. NBC expects Todd to boost ratings, but Scarborough may be waiting in the wings in case Todd fails.

The only new thing about Meet the Press is the furniture rearrangement, but the program might experience more success by returning to Tim Russet’s format. He used archival tapes to confront a guest who had moved on to another position and then asked about the shift. “Meet the talking points,” critic Jay Rosen called the show then. The same right-wing guests weren’t given the same passes every Sunday. Now GE clearly controls the show, and the television advertising by Koch Industries shown another influence.

Ratings went up this past Sunday; the question is whether it was a fluke to see how Todd would do. His slogan is “it’s not politics that people hate, it’s that they hate the politicians that don’t know how to practice the art of it.” In my case, it’s not Meet the Press that I hate, but the way that the hosts have moderated it since Tim Russert died. Leslie Savan suggests watching John Oliver’s new show, Last Week Tonight. Maybe Oliver could take over the show when NBC isn’t satisfied. Now that would help the ratings and deliver substance.

August 14, 2014

Militarization, War Zone in Ferguson Slows Down

There’s a new sheriff in Ferguson after the problems escalated last night into more assault and arrests. This afternoon, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon replaced the St. Louis County police with state highway patrol led by Capt. Ron Johnson. Tonight, instead of gassing the demonstrators, the police march with the protesters. When a protester needed assistance, a patrolman got out of his car with his hands up so that he could provide assistance.

President Obama said today that he has called on the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate what led up to the shooting of the unarmed teen. He also criticized police “excessive force”:

“There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. And here in the United States of America police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people what they see on the ground. Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority.”

antonio frenchThe openness on the streets tonight is a 180-degree turn from last night when police turned on citizens such as  St. Louis Alderman Antonio French. He was arrested last night in Ferguson because, as a police officer said, he “didn’t listen.” He had been videotaping events in the town and got in his car with the windows rolled up after police threw tear gas canisters. He was released this morning.  One of French’s posts included the following photo with the statement: “It’s important for people to understand that the man is this photo was throwing it BACK at police who shot it at him.” Other media outlets using this photo failed to print information behind the picture.

View image on Twitter

Police also attacked Al-Jazeera America TV crews with tear gas. Like many other civilians in the city, they were shot with rubber bullets. After the reporters fled, police took down the light kit and pointed their camera at the ground.

al-jazeera reporters

One response to the terrifying situation in Ferguson:

 “Horrifying. Like a car wreck I can’t stop watching. Others have commented it looks like Kent State and the 60s civil rights marches. Exactly. Rep John Lewis was on MSNBC this morning to discuss. Most enraging for me is the attack on the press trying to cover the police behavior. How much worse would it be if the press is excluded? Police ordered them to stop filming. Arrested reporters from Huff Post and the Washington Post in McDonalds recharging their batteries and using their laptops. Attacked Al Jazeera reporters in their car on a quiet side street. Film footage of the police handling Al Jazeera equipment after reporters fled; pointing cameras at the ground and shutting off lights etc. Infuriating.

“Goldie Taylor was interviewed on MSNBC. She is a former Marine and went to high school in Ferguson. She said this treatment of AA citizens has been going on for generations there. Another AA attorney interviewed for a job in the DA’s office. They asked her if she’d be ok working in an office where the N word was regularly used. A picture of this place is starting to emerge to the rest of the nation. Apartheid in America.”

Also horrifying is the conservative response about Ferguson.  Asked yesterday by former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) on Newmax TV if the Congressional Black Caucus should look into the events in the St. Louis suburb after a police officer killed a black teenager, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said that action wasn’t necessary:

“This idea of no racial profiling. I’ve seen the video. It looks to me like you don’t need to bother with that particular factor because they all appear to be of a single origin, I should say, a continental origin might be the way to phrase that.”

In other words, there’s no problem because they’re all black. King has been infamous for several years because of his prejudice against people of color, most recently at an Iowa fundraiser. He was co-architect with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for the House’s recent border bill.

Todd Starnes (Fox network) is incensed because President Obama sent condolences to the family of the murdered teenager but not to the police officer who killed him.

Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe Show, accused the assaulted and arrested reporters of merely trying to get on television. Fortunately, Scarborough, possibly on the short list for replacing David Gregory on Meet the Press, didn’t get that position. NBC announced today that Chuck Todd would be taking over Gregory’s position on the talk show. A response to Scarborough from one of the maligned reporters, Wesley Lowery, is here.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 kept military forces from being deployed in civilian neighborhoods for law enforcement, but the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act made all of the United States a part of the “War on Terror.” Posse Comitatus has been eliminated while anyone deemed a potential terrorist can be assigned to indefinite detention in a military facility.

The conservatives who believe that the police are in the right should remember the show-down at Cliven Bundy’s ranch. White people who pointed guns at federal officials were heroes, patriots, freedom lovers, law-abiding citizens, defenders of the constitution, rebels against tyrannical government forces, etc. Almost none of the protesters in Ferguson is armed, but they are herded like animals by SWAT teams in armor who have sniper rifles and tanks. That’s racism.

Ferguson isn’t unique in blatant racism. Two days after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, a security guard pepper-sprayed Raymond Wilford, a black man walking by a pro-Palestinian protest in Seattle. Wilford was walking by the demonstration when a shirtless white man, who had been screaming terms such as “towelhead” and “sand n*gger” at the demonstrators, started to attack the black man. The guard walked past the aggressive white man to spray Wilford while protesters kept saying, “You Maced the wrong guy!” Wilford was detained after a Seattle police officer arrived, and the white man walked away.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) announced that he plans legislation to slow down the militarization of local police. The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act would rein in a Defense Department program that provides Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, M16 assault rifles, and other surplus military equipment to local law enforcement, free of charge. Other federal legislators, including Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Rand Paul (R-KY), agree with the need to demilitarize the police.

Thousands of people across the United States are protesting police actions in Ferguson. We need to support the legislators who will try to return democracy to the nation.

June 22, 2014

Religious War in Iraq, U.S.

Former Dick Cheney, the noisiest of the current chicken-hawks urging the U.S. to resume an Iraqi war, said in 2003:

  • People are wrong to think that we need several hundred thousand troops after military operations cease.
  • “[The United States] will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”
  • “Our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced.”
  • The Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites will come together in a democracy, Cheney told Tim Russert on Meet the Press, because “they have so far.”

“They understand the importance of preserving and building on an Iraqi national identity….  The prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country and under similar circumstances in that part of the world.”

No, none of this happened. Bush/Cheney pushed the well-trained Sunni military out of leadership and put the Shiites into control through the leadership of  Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, leaving the country torn apart.  Bush/Cheney destroyed the country’s infrastructure and replaced its government with another corrupt, brutal government.  Bush/Cheney put the Al-Qaeda in power because the Sunnis were not part of the government. Bush/Cheney went in with no plan and then signed an agreement to get out of Iraq before leaving office.

The $25 billion that the U.S. put into training and equipment for the Iraqi military paid for abuse of Iraqi civilians, primarily Sunnis, through unlawful raids and arrests, torture, and indiscriminate shelling.  The best summary of what happened in Iraq comes comedian Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.

Despite his brutality, Saddam Hussein had kept an uneasy peace among the three separate identities in the country for almost 30 years. When Bush/Cheney removed him as leader, the rift became violent. Injured Sunnis were left for dead in a Shia hospital, and Sunni families who came to get the injured Sunnis were also in danger of being killed. Sen. John McCain said in April 2003 that the Shias and Sunnis had no history of discord. The U.S. totally failed to understand that this rift has existed for 1300 years, that Iraq was only labeled as a “country” in 1920 because Britain wanted its oil.

For a short time in 2008, Gen. David Petraeus demanded that the Sunnis be included in decisions, but this was soon dropped. A Sunni organization in Syria called ISIS made themselves popular with food and healthcare drives in the villages. ISIS built a fortune of over $2 billion after it took over some of the Iraqi banks this year, becoming the richest terrorist group in the world.

ISIS isn’t alone in its attacks on the Iraqi army. Although many Sunnis are disturbed by the ISIS violence, the group’s collaboration with local militias, including Ba’athist and Islamist sects, has made it easier for them to overtake a number of cities. Most of the media reports only on ISIS, but people in Iraq report that it is just one faction in a popular rebellion against Maliki’s corrupt government. For them, there is no other option.

Eleven years after the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq, most people have figured out that the U.S. isn’t going to plant “seeds of democracy” in a religiously war-torn nation. President Obama has announced that the U.S. would not intervene in Iraq until the Iraqi government makes concessions to the Sunnis. Yet he has already chosen sides with the Shiites by promising 300 “military advisers,” who will receive combat pay, to help the government fight against the Sunnis. The U.S. has already also increased its “intelligence and surveillance assistance” and continues to supply arms to the Shiite government, assisting the “genocide” against the Sunni population.

Religious and ultra conservative leaders in the U.S. are opposing any involvement in Iraq: Pat Robertson bashed the Bush/Cheney war on The 700 Club by agreeing that Hussein kept “those warring factions in check.” He added, “It’s unfixable. Those simmering animosities have been there for centuries.

Glenn Beck admitted he was wrong and the liberals were right for opposing the invasion:

“You were right. Liberals, you were right, we shouldn’t have…. Not one more life. Not one more life. Not one more dollar, not one more airplane, not one more bullet, not one more Marine, not one more arm or leg or eye. Not one more. This must end now.”

Fox network’s Shepard Smith criticized the people who were wrong in the first place and now want the U.S. to go back into Iraq. Megyn Kelly scolded Cheney for his op-ed criticizing President Obama for his Iraqi policy by telling Cheney how wrong he was:

“Now with almost a trillion dollars spent there with 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) talked to David Gregory on NBC’s Meet the Press today about the Bush/Cheney mistakes.

Much as I would like to think that these people have suddenly become sane, the intent may be to show up the war-mongering establishment GOP by siding with the over 80 percent of people in the United States who think that the U.S. needs to stay out of Iraq.

Historian Crane Brinton describes three phases of revolutionary change countries typically follow:

  • People revolt and the old order is overthrown.
  • Revolutionaries, the people who overthrew the old order, become oppressors themselves and use violence to stay in power.
  • People revolt against the revolutionaries to restore the peace and tranquility they used to have during the old regime.

When order is restored, the best parts of revolution are preserved. Iraq’s old order was overthrown in 2003. The country is still in the second, violent, phase. The Iraqis have to revolt against this violence to escape a cycle of radicalism and terror. The U. S. needs to stay out of the process.

To support the current Iraqi regime is to support Iran. When the Iraqi soldiers defected, Iran sent the Revolutionary Guard to help Maliki, increasing Iraq’s independence on Iran. Anything the U.S. sends to Iraq may easily go on to Iran.

Even some of the Shiites want the U.S. out of Iraq. In a sermon Friday, Nassir al-Saedi, loyalist to Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, said that their group will attack the U.S., “the occupier,” if it comes back. Tens of thousands of al-Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi army, paraded through the Baghdad streets yesterday.

The U.S. needs to concentrate on the domestic terrorists in our country. The Ku Klux Klan is organizing a military-style combat training for its members to participate in a racial civil war. At this time, existing and new KKK members now overseas and leaving the military will be leading these trainings. One of the women in the KKK said, “The Klan is a Christian organization, so they get to read the bible and they enjoy going to rallies and they get to play with kids their own kind.”

The Klan is starting to develop its followers in the same way that ISIS did—by helping people. Part of their agenda is to volunteer for neighborhood watch programs. KKK members dropped flyers in Chesterfield County (VA) that stated, “You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake.” The klan may appear to be small at this time, but it will be joined by angry violent groups with almost unlimited supplies of guns because of lax laws in the U.S.

Conservatives will do anything they can to keep the KKK in business. After U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced  that the DOJ is bringing back its committee on Domestic Terrorism, the extremist right wing came out in force. According to their beliefs, white supremacists using violence and terrorizing communities for their political agenda are exercising their free speech rights. They are “patriots.”

Extremists claim that Holder’s committee is a war on white men while bombing abortion clinics and killing doctors is just showing that you disagree with them. Cliven Bundy was merely exercising his rights not to pay his debts; the government was the terrorist, according to the radical right. In 2009, DHS issued a report that identified white supremacists as the greatest threat to national security, and the far right went ballistic.

Membership in the KKK has tripled since President Obama was elected the first time. Members claim that it’s a “non-violent, Christian organization.” The past six years has seen a constant diet of vicious, racist diatribes not seen since Herbert Hoover’s Southern Strategy to attract Southern racists to the GOP. Republican candidates use openly racial language in an attempt to win votes.

Parallels between Muslim fundamentalists and U.S. Christian right:

  • Motivated by extreme religious beliefs
  • Tend to have antiquated ideas about the role of women
  • See themselves as “soldiers of God”
  • Harbor strong homophobia
  •  Vigorously defend their way of life by using violence if necessary

About a half century ago, a Catholic president promised to follow the constitution and keep his religious beliefs separate from his political views. Since Ronald Reagan was elected president, far-right religious candidates have become more and more fanatical about incorporating the Bible into political decisions until the radical Christian fundamentalists have started to force everyone in the country to follow their beliefs.  Like the Shiites, these legislators are the religious fanatics who protect the domestic terrorists.

We need to turn back to a democracy instead of a theocracy like Iraq. Our government—including Congress—needs to start protecting “our homeland” from “our” domestic terrorists before the Christian fundamentalists take over U.S. cities by force.

December 21, 2013

Why Does the GOP Need to Lie?

The primary obsession for GOP members of Congress has been the health care law as it was approved (mostly) by the U.S. Supreme Court, demonized by the Catholic Church, and then suffered a discouraging lift-off. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a friend who could not afford $1,500 per month for health insurance. Despite her fears about identity theft, fomented by the far right, she bravely contacted Cover Oregon. She now has a policy for $118 per month with a $5,500 deductible. The most she would have to pay per month would be $534, about one-third without the Affordable Care Act. It is the first time in two years that she has had health insurance.

Luckily, she lives in a blue state. At least 4,831,590 of low-income people in the United States cannot have health coverage through Medicaid because Republican governors and legislatures refuse to take federal money to expand the program under the Affordable Care Act. These states are giving up billions in tax dollars, yet pay more as they fund uncompensated care for the uninsured. Texas loses out on more than $9 billion, while Florida is giving up more than $5 billion.

States pay more when the uninsured are forced to use emergency rooms for their regular health care. Also taxpayers in states that don’t expand their Medicaid programs will still be paying federal taxes that cover costs in other states.

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In the United States, only the old, disabled, and poor—sometimes very poor—are guaranteed health care. Everyone else falls through the cracks.Those are a few of the reasons that Rep. Bernie (I-VT) Sanders introduced S. 1782, the American Health Security Act of 2013, that would create universal health care and incorporate all the health care programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program into one program. Private health insurance could continue to sell supplemental coverage. 

Last March, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) filed H.R.1200, against a single-payer healthcare system. Putting this into law would save people—and the government—a great deal of money. Administrative costs for private insurance is at least 20 percent; for Medicare, it’s 3 percent.

At this time, people living legally in the United States who make under 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) can get advanced premium tax credits; those making less than 250 percent FPL can lower out-of-pocket costs through subsidies. Medicaid covers those making under 138 percent of FPL in states that accept the federal plan. The upper level for Medicaid is much lower in the states that have refused the ACA.

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A new study shows that 71 percent of people under age 65 in the individual market are qualified for one of these forms of assistance.

Consumer Reports, an independent organization that has been reviewing products since 1936, is now recommending the federal health care exchange. Expert Nancy Metcalf said about the website, “It’s terrific. I’ve tried it.”

GOP candidates no longer recommend repealing the ACA: instead they want to “fix” it. And the same candidates are no longer using the term “train wreck” to describe Obamacare.

rawlings-blakeConservative David Gregory, leader of Meet the Press, got his comeuppance after a series of programs in which he obsessed about the failed health care website. Facing Baltimore’s mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake were four standard moderate to conservative pundits: Andrea Mitchell, David Brooks, and Chuck Todd. In response to their negative chortling about the website’s failure, even after it was improving, and Gregory’s accusation that “this has been a lost year for Obama on the domestic front,” Rawlings-Blake said:

“I think that’s a bit of an overstatement, ‘The lost year?’ Focusing on trying to get more people affordable quality health care? In Baltimore, over 80,000 people are without health care. In the state of Maryland, over 800,000. At the end of the day, everyone knows, we can all agree, the rollout could have been, should have been, better. But underneath all of that is Democrats and the president trying to make sure the people have health care. You know, that is the side that we should be on, not, you, this sort of, ‘Is it right? Is it wrong? Should he be mad about it? Should he not be mad about it?’ This is about making sure people can live.”

When Mitchell tried to explain why Rawlings-Blake didn’t understand the issues, the mayor responded—despite Mitchell’s interruptions:

“Republicans are insistent, relentless pursuit of failure, standing on the sidelines, cheering for failure. You know, at the Conference of Mayors, I was just saying earlier, we have Democrats, we had Republicans, nobody’s rooting against each other. We’re trying to make sure that we all, we know that when cities succeed, the country succeeds. And in Congress, we have people that are standing on the sidelines, rooting for failure. We know that the rollout was botched. But Democrats are focused on trying to build and trying to fix it.”

This woman has a future in politics!

Rawlings-Blake knows about people in the United States not being able to afford health insurance. In a recent Gallup poll, they named cost as the most urgent health problem, more than access, obesity, and cancer. A much higher percentage of people say they put off medical treatment because of cost than a decade ago.

put off health care

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The media continually reports polls to prove that the ACA is unpopular. For example, a CNN/ORC poll last month showed that 58 percent oppose the law. The real question, however, is why. Only 41 percent think it’s too liberal; 14 percent object because it doesn’t go far enough. Thus 40 percent support the law plus the 14 percent who want the law to be more ambitious. Another way to describe the poll is that 54 percent of the people in the United States either support ACA or want more out of it.

To sabotage health care, the California Assembly’s GOP caucus has created a website with an address similar to that of the official health care exchange. The message of the Republican site, purportedly as a “resource” for those who want additional information, is comprised of such lies as the ACA increases the federal budget deficit and discourages private-sector hiring as well as hinting at the death-panel myth and claiming that the IRS will use the law to target conservatives.

On the Congressional level, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), currently chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has been leading a two-pronged fraudulent attack against health care. One of these is to leak fake news. Tragically, some mainstream media, specifically CBS and ABC, have spread his information as accurate. CBS went so far as to broadcast an interview with Issa, much in the realm as the false interview about the attacks on Benghazi.

Issa used a partial transcript when he announced supposed security flaws in healthcare.gov.  by giving up a partial transcript. There have been no security breaches and the parts of the system affected by any high-risk findings were quarantined and shut down. Issa further suggested that the White House pressured the company creating the website to release it with the security problems and then cover it to avoid embarrassment to the president. The transcript had no information to support Issa’s claim. Yet he went farther in his accusation that the website exposed the entire government to hacking.  With no evidence, he creates suspicion through innuendo.

Issa started leaking doctored information six weeks ago.  At that time, Rep. Ellijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member on the Committee, wrote Issa about his misinformation. Issa’s leaks have been so flagrant that the agency in charge of the health care website now refuses to release any security information to him.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is now calling for a high level security briefing on his operations. She is demanding that he go public about the information he has released and the source of these the sensitive documents about healthcare.gov so that the Department of Justice could make a determination about charging him.

Issa’s other attempt to damn health care is a series of “field hearings,” similar to those at Capitol Hill, across the country.  In Apache Junction (AZ), only GOP congressional members took part, and the only four witnesses allowed to testify were residents who claimed that the new federal health-care program had negatively impacted them. Audience members could not speak. After those with positive experiences protested, Issa told them that they could email him. The same thing happened in North Carolina and Georgia.

The question for Republicans: if the Affordable Care Act is so horrible, why do they need to make up lies about it or twist the facts? Why can’t they just tell the truth?

November 12, 2013

No Excuses for the Media

The entire news media are liberal, according to conservative complaints. Only the Fox network can be trusted, the far-right claims. A close look at politics on mainstream media, beginning with 60 Minutes, shows a different view. One of the recent stories on this venerable program was about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic million in Benghazi (Libya) over a year ago. The biggest flaw in the story is that 60 Minutes reporters did their fact checking after the story was shown, not before.

The centerpiece of the story was a man called Morgan Jones who told about his scaling a 12-foot wall at the compound and using the butt end of his rifle to knock down an extremist while desperately trying to rescue the people there. He also reported that after he failed in his task, he saw the body of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens at a hospital. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) got so excited about this black eye on the Obama administration that he told media he would block all the president’s nominees until Congress heard from the U.S. survivors of the attack. Those include Jeh Johnson for Secretary of Homeland Security and  Janet L. Yellen as head of the Federal Reserve.

The problem with the 60 Minutes report—and Graham’s delighted reaction—is that Dylan Davies, who pretended to be Morgan Jones on the program, told his employer three days after the attack that he spent most of that night at his beach-side villa. The Britain-based contractor hired to handle the compound’s perimeter security wrote in his report, “We could not get anywhere near . . . as roadblocks had been set up.” He added that he learned about Steven’s death after a Libyan colleague came to Davies’ villa and showed him a cellphone photograph. According to his 21.5-page report, he didn’t go to the compound until the following day when he photographed the devastation.

Both the State Department and GOP Congressional aides confirmed that Davies’ report was among tens of thousands of documents that lawmakers had available. Yet this week Davies’ book by Sergeant Morgan Jones, The Embassy House which has the same story as the 60 Minutes report, was supposed to be released. The co-author, Damien Lewis, doesn’t even believe Davies’ account because the man’s superiors told him by telephone during the attack to stay away from the compound. Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher announced last Friday, “We are suspending the publication.” The company is asking stores to return any books that they have received.

As bad as the false report is 60 Minutes’ weak apology. After stating last Friday that the program would “correct the record on our broadcast on Sunday night,” Lara Logan gave a 90-second comment at the end of the show. This followed several days of CBS’s support of its story after Media Matters pointed out the holes in Davies’ story and Davies used other media outlets, including The Daily Beast, to defend himself against “smears.”

 The media about Logan’s Benghazi report error, a story that sent the GOP in Congress into another witchhunt, was equally shabby. Washington Post headlined its defense of her as “brutal criticism,” and the author of the piece, Paul Fahri, described her as “glamorous” with “striking looks” and “femininity.” Obviously enamored by her appearance as she trick-or-treated with her children on Halloween, he wrote that she “dressed in a hot-pink bodysuit costume, set off with high heels.” No discussion of the 60 Minutes debacle until the next page.

Fahri—and most other media—failed to point out that Logan’s original report was not only wrong but also seriously lacking information. Although Logan claimed that the report was over a year in the making, it didn’t discuss the country’s historic and violent transition in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack. U.S. forces had helped to overthrow the Qaddafi regime with resulting disorder because of the revolution. She represented Libya as only a place with a diplomatic mission and brave men with only cowards in Washington.

The U.S. media is in a tragic situation when the best reporting comes from comedy shows The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. For the best in humor and accuracy, check here and here.

Somewhat chastised by the inability of 60 Minutes to provide accurate reporting on the subject near and dear to his heart, Graham is still clinging to his rationale for blocking the president’s nominees. When questioned on Sunday, he said, rather weakly, that he had “released” two nominees for ambassadors but would continue to block the others.

In his response to 60 Minutes’ error/sort-of apology, Jon Stewart also tackled the reference of Christie’s photo on Time‘s cover to “the elephant in the room.” Accompanying the media’s awkward description of Christie is the inability of hosts on media political “talk shows” to elicit any meaningful information from their subjects.

David Wiegel uses the four interviews of Christie last Sunday to show the fluff that pretends to be political interviews. Tim Russert, past host of Meet the Press, was worth watching. When then Sen. Barack Obama appeared on his show seven years ago, Russert didn’t ask him if he thought a black man could become president. Instead he referenced Obama’s book and began by asking him if legislators had an obligation to solve issues although they would benefit from staying “out of the way.” The interview continued with Russert quoting from Obama’s book and asking other policy questions.

The latest host of Meet the Press, David Gregory, is just the reverse of Russert. He started Christie’s interview with whether he planned to run for president and continued with others about what impact Christie might have on the GOP and how the party could be saved. About Medicaid, Gregory asked if conservatives would attack Christie for expanding it.

On This Week, George Stephanopoulos asked Christie about relieving sanctions on Iran. Christie said other people would know more, and Stephanopoulos immediately moved to another subject. In a discussion about immigration, Christie pontificates on the “broken” federal system with no interruption from the host and no follow-up question of how Kentucky was able to set up a largely trouble-free exchange.

On Face the Nation, Christie claimed he’s just the governor of New Jersey, and host Norah O’Donnell gave him a pass by asking him what lessons he has for the GOP and what goals he has for next year. When Christie brags about the people in his state not being “involved in this train wreck” of the Affordable Care Act, O’Donnell doesn’t point out that they are locked into the healthcare.gov system. Nor does she ask him why all his endorsed state GOP senate candidates lost.

As David Wiegel wrote:

“In not one of the interviews did Christie get a potentially irritating, but fact-based, question about whether his lack of coattails said anything about the limits of his appeal or strategy. He got no questions, really, that he’s never had to answer before—not on the Voting Rights Act, not on the gay rights bill moving through Congress, not on the minimum wage ballot measure that passed in New Jersey on the same day he was elected, nada, nothing.”

Graham’s desperation most likely comes from his up-coming re-election campaign. Instead of easily sliding back into office, he is opposed by—thus far—four Republicans in the primary on .The most recent one has some validity, having almost won lieutenant governor in 2012. With the contender a Democrat who has three Nevada felony convictions, the primary winner will probably go to the U.S. Senate.

For their failures, however, the media have no excuse!

July 1, 2013

Conservatives Want Big Government, Control

A week ago yesterday, David Gregory tried to criminalize the journalist who reported on Edward Snowden’s leaks about the unconstitutional NSA surveillance. Yesterday, he seemed a different person—for some of the time. Gregory pushed against Rep. Tim Huelskamp’s (R-KS) false belief that there are studies showing that the traditional marriage of male and female is better for children. Several times, Gregory tried to explain that these studies show that having two parents is better for children although Huelskamp was unable to accept information that disagreed with what his personal belief. 

Yet the panel contained the worst of the narrow bigots who refuse to follow any scientific belief in humanity or nature, the head of the Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint and the religious leader Ralph Reed. They added nothing to the discussion about the SCOTUS decisions overturning DOMA and turning Prop 8 back to a district court ruling in California. All the two of them could do was to repeat the far-right belief that traditional marriage should be decided by the state, as if giving same-sex couples federal benefits had anything to do with states’ rights. 

The statements from DeMint and Reed about mandated transvaginal ultrasounds were equally weak. DeMint claimed that these ultrasounds give women an opportunity and that they are lucky because they are free. Rachel Maddow disabused him of both ideas, telling him—and the audience—than a mandated action is not an “opportunity” and that these ultrasounds are not free. After that, Reed claimed that 70 percent of the people in the country want abortions after 20 weeks—a bold-faced lie. DeMint also tried to justify SCOTUS overturning the Voting Rights Act.

A strong feel of sexism, however, came with Gregory’s treatment of Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis who stopped the stringent anti-abortion bill last week through a filibuster of almost 12 hours. First, of Gregory’s six questions to her, two of them dealt with her choice of wearing pink sneakers. Davis had to stand for the entire time, not even leaning against any object.

The second oddity was that Meet the Press, we’ll assume Gregory’s choice, ran personal information about Davis beside the video of her that included her being a single mother at the age of 19 and attending a community college. It is the first time I’ve seen this on the program, and there was nothing about Huelskamp growing up on a farm or adopting four children, information about as pertinent to his appearance as that about Davis.

The third peculiarity was the disparity between questions for Davis and Huelskamp. For the latter, Gregory talked about the new bill the representative introduced to pass a constitutional amendment declaring marriage as only between one man and one woman. With Davis, Gregory asked why she would try to block another anti-abortion bill when she had little or no chance of success in doing this. Actually, she has a better chance of blocking this than Huelskamp has of getting a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution blocking marriage equality, yet Gregory didn’t ask Huelskamp about that. 

Davis had an excellent response to Gregory’s question of why she would pursue an issue if it was most likely that she would fail: “I don’t thinks it’s ever acceptable to concede the argument on incredibly important issues like this.” It was almost as if Gregory was trying to convince Davis to just quit. 

A group that did just quit, at least for ten days, is Congress. Today is when seven million college students can thank the Republicans in Congress for the doubling of new student loan interest rates while the lawmakers headed home for a leisurely recess. When the rates go from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, students will pay over 10 percent more over 10 years. Last Thursday, Senate Democrats asked for a temporary one-year delay to keep the loan rates at 3.4 percent, but the GOP refused.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said, “Why would we want to … just kick the can down the road another year?” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate education panel, said lawmakers would consider a retroactive fix on July 10.  With the current rates, the U.S. government is forecast to make a record $51 billion profit from the federal student loan program this year. Angus King (I-Maine) described this sum as “billions of dollars off the backs of our students.”

Democratic senators proposed closing tax loopholes for oil companies, wealthy pensioners, and multinational corporations, raising $8.6 billion over ten years. The GOP didn’t seem to mind restricting wealthy heirs from sheltering inherited 401(K) accounts from being taxed, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed increasing taxes on the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and restrictions on multinational companies’ deducting interest payments to foreign subsidiaries from U.S. taxes. The Chamber’s $136 million in 2012 lobbying expenditure make them the highest spender. In addition, the Chamber spent almost $36 million in election campaigning for conservative causes and candidates. 

A year ago, Mitt Romney supported the president’s proposal for a temporary extension of lower rates, and the GOP senators backed off. 

The House Republicans want to tie student loan rates to the 10-year Treasury note and add 2.5 percent with the added revenue paying down the deficit. The cap would be 10.5 percent, but there would be no fixed rate.  This is the plan from the people who say that they want to protect the children.

Student debt in the United States currently totals more than $1 trillion, and one in five households has student debts. College costs have increased 7.45 percent per year from 1978 to 2011, exceeding both inflation and family income growth. At the same time, the bottom 90 percent of people in the country have not increased their salaries. People who have paid off their student loan debt are 36 percent more likely to own homes than those who haven’t. 

As most of us know, the immigration bill will also have great trouble in the House. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is one of the far-right lawmakers who’s trying to cover his negative votes that might lose Hispanic votes. His concern is that some undocumented people in the country might not want to become citizens, and he thinks that the immigration reform bill would force citizenship on those who don’t want it.

Gowdy likes his own Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act that the House Judiciary Committee passed on Thursday. If this became law, all undocumented immigrant would be designated as criminals, and states could enforce their own more restrictive immigration laws.

The conservatives weren’t able to protect the Bank of America in San Diego because a jury acquitted Jeff Olson of all 13 counts. Olson is not particularly a household name maybe because he doesn’t seem to be a criminal. Yet the bank pushed for prosecution after Olson used water-soluble chalk to protest the bank’s powers in front of three different buildings. One of the messages was “Shame on Bank of America.”  

Another activist was charged with the crime of using chalk to write on the sidewalk in Pennsylvania this last week. According to the police citation, A.J. Marin “Governor Corbett has health insurance, we should too.” The state pays for Corbett’s health care, and he opposes Medicaid expansion in the state for 700,000 poor and uninsured residents. Federal funding pays all the bills for the first three years.

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Abortion isn’t the only reason that the state is looking into women’s vaginas. In Clayton County (GA), 37-year-old Nakia Grimes discovered that her birth certificate incorrectly labeled her as a male because of a new rule requiring her to have a copy of her birth certificate.

An employee told the mother that, to prove she is a biological woman, she’d have to get Pap exam, have a doctor write a note verifying that she is a woman, and have it notarized. Grimes angrily reported the situation to a local media outlet who contacted Vital Records Services. State records officials looked up the birth certificate of Grimes’ son, Zion, and made the change.

May 14, 2013

GOP View of Benghazi Falls Apart

No one questions that the killing of four people, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, at the Benghazi consulate was a tragedy. But the fallout after this disaster has been disgusting as conservatives put everyone involved on the grill—over and over. During the GOP flack last October, Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name for consideration for Secretary of State, but the House came back for another round of hearings in January. I thought that was the end of the investigations.

Like a zombie, however, it’s come back to life after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s high level of popularity. Sunday’s Meet the Press spent most of the show on the issue with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) as the star. The real star, though, was conservative columnist David Brooks.

For 15 minutes, Issa tried to justify his accusation of a coverup because an email had 12 changes and because the administration didn’t answer all the questions. One of Issa’s big talking points was that the president was wrong because he said “act of terror” instead of “terrorist act.”  He called both former CIA Director David Petraeus and Ambassador Pickering liars, even though he was sitting beside the ambassador.  Issa looked like a fool.

The real star, however, was conservative columnist David Brooks. In a follow-up discussion, he said:

 “My reading of the evidence is that a very terrible event happened at a CIA, basically a CIA facility, they went into intense blame shifting mode, trying to shift responsibility onto the State Department, onto anywhere else, and the State Department pushed back. They said no, it is not our fault. It’s your facility. And so they push back and they say why we are suddenly releasing information that we haven’t been releasing so far. So the CIA was super aggressive, there was some pushback, out of that bureaucratic struggle all the talking points were reduced to mush and then politics was inserted into it. So I don’t think we should necessarily say this is politics intruding on a CIA pure operation.”

That’s it in a nutshell: Benghazi is not the big story that the GOP want.

Refusing to be a GOP shill, moderator David Gregory ran the list of casualties at embassies over the past decades, but Issa just ignored it in the same way that he ignored the casualties at 13 embassies and consulates during Bush’s two terms—96 people killed and at least 90 people wounded. Republican lawmakers made no outcry after 241 members of the military were killed in the Beirut Barracks Bombing of 1983, despite the fact that the blame was placed on Reagan’s administration because the president ignored then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger’s attempts to change Reagan’s military orders.

One of Issa’s arguments is that the military should have charged over to Benghazi to save the day. Bush’s and Obama’s former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates disagrees. On Face the Nation, Gates called these ideas “cartoonish” and agreed with testimony given by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint  Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.

Gates said:

“We don’t have a ready force standing by in the Middle East—despite all the turmoil that’s going on—with planes on strip alert, troops ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. And so, getting somebody there in a timely way would have been very difficult, if not impossible.”

In referring to dangers from surface-to-air missiles, he considered the sending of military aircraft in the volatile situation as too risky. “I would not have approved sending an aircraft,” Gates said, “a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances.”

Trying to make hay out of nothing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a GOP presidential candidate in 2016, travels the country, proclaiming, “I think it precludes Hillary Clinton from ever holding office. I think her mistakes were of such significance that she should never again be in that position, to make those decisions.”

Less than two months ago, Congressional members saw what they now perceive as the damning emails when lawyers from the Office of National Intelligence briefed House and Senate Intelligence Committee members. At that time, House Speaker John Boehner declined to attend or send a representative. Both Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) had said that briefing satisfied their concerns. No one from the House raised any questions. The emails were also shared with Congressional members during the confirmation of CIA Director John Brennan, who was confirmed 63-34.

Six months and one week after the 2012 election, Karl Rove’s Super PAC, American Crossroads, has launched the first ad for the 2016 campaign, using the Benghazi disaster and targeting Hillary Clinton. Polling shows that the smear campaign isn’t making a difference. Voters trust Clinton over the GOP on Benghazi by a 49 to 39 margin, and her +8 favorability at 52 to 44 is identical to that in late March. Meanwhile Congressional Republicans have a 36 to 57 unfavorability rating. By a 56 to 38 margin, voters say that passing the immigration reform bill is more important than a focus on Benghazi, and passing a bill requiring background checks for gun purchases is higher by 52 to 43.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) described Benghazi as ten times bigger than Watergate and Iran Contra put together. Even more outrageous is former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s comment, “I think it’s one of the worst incidents, frankly, that I can recall in my career.” Even worse than the lies and intelligence failures of 9/11, the Iraq War, the outing of Valerie Plame, the disasters in Afghanistan, the travesty of Abu-Graib, the failed response to Hurricane Katrina, the stock market debacle, the recession, the deaths in consulates and embassies on his watch, …?

After the Tea Party’s three-day boycott of Fox News last weekend, protesting the network’s lack of Benghazi coverage. Fox and Friends put out a highly “edited” video of President Obama. It lies about his statements regarding the “sideshow” of the GOP party. Their falsehoods have gone viral across the Internet on right-wing blogs.

Satirist Andy Borowitz gave a quality description of  the GOP dilemma:

“A deep divide has emerged within the Republican Party over whether to waste Congress’s time investigating Benghazi talking points or repealing Obamacare, G.O.P. lawmakers confirmed today.

“House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), sounded the first discordant note at a press briefing this morning, telling reporters, ‘The time for wasting day after day investigating Benghazi is over. The American people are counting us to waste our time repealing Obamacare yet again.’

“Warning that ‘the American people don’t have an endless appetite for meaningless political theater,’ Cantor added, ‘If we’re going to do something that’s purely symbolic, pointless, and detached from reality, I say it should be repealing Obamacare for the thirtieth or fortieth time.’

“Rep. Cantor’s comments drew a strong rebuke from Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has spearheaded the investigation into Benghazi: ‘Quite frankly, we have all the time in the world to blow repealing “Obamacare. The moment to waste our time investigating Benghazi is now.’ Noting that previous attempts to repeal Obamacare had cost the taxpayers approximately fifty million dollars, Issa said, ‘I think we’re entitled to spend at least that much, if not more, investigating Benghazi again and again and again.’

“But even as the debate raged over whether Obamacare or Benghazi was more worthy of Congress’ wasted time, House Speaker John Boehner offered a third point of view: ‘Personally, I think the time we’re wasting on Benghazi and Obamacare could be better spent blocking progress on guns and immigration.’”

After her appearance on Meet the Press, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote an excellent summation:

“If my Republican colleagues are serious about conducting real oversight on the tragedy in Benghazi, they should start by looking in the mirror….

“But Republicans choose to ignore these facts and are instead running negative ads and raising campaign dollars off the tragic events in Benghazi. Republicans tried and failed during the 2012 presidential election to use this tragedy for political gain and now appear eager to recycle these failed attacks. Their efforts are clearly aimed at the 2016 presidential race….

“As a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I well remember Secretary [Hillary] Clinton’s testimony following the Benghazi attack. She took responsibility and pledged to do everything in her power to put corrective measures in place….

“Republicans are shamelessly seeking to turn this tragedy into ‘Benghazi-gate’– comparing it to the Watergate scandal. Let’s remember: Watergate involved Republicans paying campaign money to break in and bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Benghazi involves Republicans cutting money for embassy security–funding that was clearly desperately needed.

“But Republican efforts to manufacture a controversy surrounding this tragedy are not only disingenuous, they are dangerous because they take our eye off the ball and divert attention from where it should be: protecting the American people and those who bravely serve our country overseas.”

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/3019154/posts  The plethora of GOP Congress members should take heed of Boxer’s advice instead of calling for a special investigative committee into Benghazi. Perhaps they will after today’s breaking news about the recently “leaked” emails. It now appears that someone falsified them to make it appear that the White House was trying to hide what happened.

After the unraveling of their Benghazi arguments, the GOP may switch their target to the IRS for targeting conservative fund-raising groups and the DoJ for obtaining Associated Press telephone records.

December 31, 2012

Myths, Odd Stories

For the end of the year, a few myths that conservatives have pushed enough to persuade some progressives—and the rest of the populace–in their validity.

  1. Social Security is causing the deficit. No, it doesn’t! Social Security would be self-sustaining for the next few decades if the government would just replace the $2.7 trillion that it took out of the Social Security fund. And it could be permanently self-sustaining if the tax were proportionately raised on the wealthy.
  2. The “morning-after pill” causes abortions. No it doesn’t!  Also known as Plan B, the pill just delays ovulation, the egg’s release, but it doesn’t cause abortions. It works the morning after unprotected sex, not the morning after fertilization. Because sperm takes up to five days to fertilize an egg, emergency contraception allows time for the sperm to die off before an egg is released.
  3. Tax cuts help the economy. No they don’t! Maine governor Paul LePage just found that out—and he’s surprised. After the tax cuts didn’t grow the state’s economy, he slowed payments for bonds. That didn’t work so he claimed more tax cuts would solve the problem. Maine now faces its largest deficit in history and is considered the worst state in the nation for business.
  4. Alan Greenspan is gone. No, he isn’t. The Fed chair behind the great recession during George W. Bush’s terms, the man who ignored the $8 trillion housing bubble because he believed in the “integrity” of banks, may not have an official position in the government but he’s working with “Campaign to Fix the Debt.” This is the group of more than 80 CEOs that has raised over $60 million to lobby to reductions in corporate taxes made up for added costs to poor and elderly, including lessening Social Security payments.
  5. Republicans want to be bipartisan. No, they don’t. If they were, we would have increased the minimum wage to $10; that’s still $.40 under what $7.25 would be if indexed to inflation. We would have had transparency in campaign finance instead of the opaque wall that the Supreme Court created through Citizens United. We would have had a minimum tax on millionaires, a non-discrimination act in employment, a U.N. treaty to protect the equal rights of the disabled, and the Payment Fairness Act to ensure that men get the same pay as men.  

Beyond the myths are the stories that tell how peculiar far-right conservatives are. Possibly the oddest story of the year—and there’s a lot of competition—is the one about Dick Armey’s separation from FreedomWorks after being a co-founder of the ultra-conservative Tea Party group. At first, it appeared to be a difference of opinion with Matt Kibbe, the organization’s president. Freedomworks offered Armey $8 million to leave, and he walked. But the story become even more bizarre.

Washington Post reported that the day after Labor Day Armey went to the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide wearing a holstered gun. Army’s assistance took two top employees off the premises, and Armey suspended several others. The coup lasted six days before Armey was gone, and the ousted employees had returned, thanks to Illinois millionaire Richard J. Stephenson who offered to pay Armey $400,000 annually during the next 20 years if he would leave.

After Armey’s departure, Stephenson put over $12 million into two Tennessee corporations that then fed the money into FreedomWorks’ Super-PAC for a last-minute campaign push. A goodly sum, $1.7, was provided to Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), Stephenson’s local congressman, in his disastrous campaign against Iraqi veteran winner Tammy Duckworth . Nobody’s talking, but two watchdog groups have asked the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department to investigate these donations.

Add to this, the bizarre story of Washington, D.C.’s police investigation of David Gregory after he help up two empty high-capacity magazines while questioning NRA’s Wayne LaPierre on Meet the Press two days before Christmas. Possession of the 30-round magazine is illegal in the city where the program was filmed. But the police did nothing about Armey’s armed security guard carrying a concealed weapon, also illegal in Washington, D.C.

Three federal judges in California, two appointed by Ronald Reagan and the other by George H.W. Bush, have ruled that only publishers have the right to determine the content of newspapers. The case started in 2006 when reporters gave the address of a lot that Rob Lowe, the publisher’s friend, wanted to develop. Lowe complained, and the publisher sent letters of reprimand to the reporter and three editors. The remaining employees joined the union, and the publisher fired them for this affiliation. Yes, wealthy people can purchase the control of the media in the United States.

This is something that should be closed down! A website called “Potential Prostitutes” allows anyone—anyone!—to post a woman’s photo, phone number, and location without her consent. Anyone wishing to be removed from the site must pay $99.95.

Another “blame the woman” judgment comes from Iowa’s all-male Supreme Court. After Dr. James Knight, an Iowa City dentist, fired his female assistant because she was “irresistibly attractive” and a threat to his marriage. Melissa Nelson, employed in Knight’s office for ten years, sued, and lost in what Knight’s lawyer called a home-run for family values. “These judges sent a message to Iowa women that they don’t think men can be held responsible for their sexual desires,” Nelson’s attorney, Paige Fiedler, said. “If [the bosses] get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it.”  Nelson said, “I wore a long-sleeve or short-sleeve T-shirt and I wore scrubs.” She added that she’s “happily married.”

It’s just a few hours before midnight in Washington, D.C., the time when the 112th Congress can no longer address the fiscal issues of the country. Rumors fly about whether an agreement is close, whether the president is going to cave, whether there will be a disaster because of the stalemate.

“Tomorrow is another day,” as Scarlet O’Hara said at the end of Gone with the Wind 73 years ago. And tomorrow is the 113th Congress.

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