Nel's New Day

July 19, 2016

Only GOP Gets Pass for Making Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. That’s what Republicans said this week when Leslie Stahl asked GOP vice-president candidate Mike Pence about staunchly supporting the Iraq War and Donald Trump excused him. That’s what a GOP delegate said about Melania Trump’s speech on the first night of the GOP convention that copied segments about values from First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic convention, the wife of the man who Trump denigrated for his lack of values.

Plagiarism seems to be a family pattern for the Trumps:  much of the materials from Trump Institute’s “get-rich-quick” ideas came from “an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier,” according to NYT’s Jonathan Martin. Plagiarism ended Joe Biden’s first presidential campaign in 1988, but Trump has been called the Teflon Man because nothing sticks to him. The GOP position that mistakes are no problem seem to not be extended to Democrats.

Last night at the convention was a night of fear and doom highlighted by Patricia Smith, mother of a man who died in the attack on the diplomatic post at Benghazi (Libya), when she emphatically said that she holds Hillary Clinton personally responsible for the death of her son. (Fox watchers missed her speech, however, because it broadcast a live interview with Donald Trump at the same time as her speech.) Smith claims that Clinton lied to her; family members of other losses at Benghazi do not agree with Smith. Steve Benen described the manipulation of a woman’s grief for political purposes as “the lowest point a party has reached in my lifetime.” Throughout the evening, the incessant cry of “lock her up” about Hillary made the delegates sound like crowds rioting during the French Revolution.

While the media’s obsession with Clinton and Benghazi, it largely ignored George W. Bush’s part in the Middle East conflicts, a disaster that has killed hundreds of times more people—both in the 9/11 attack and the ensuing wars—than the four tragic deaths at Benghazi. As Maureen Dodd reported in a recent column, “Bush’s Call to Invade Iraq Looking Even Worse,” Trump agrees with a report in Jean Edward Smith’s biography, Bush, “that W. ignored warnings before 9/11, and overreacted afterward.” He behaved like a teenager who didn’t pay attention while driving and then over corrected into the ditch—but millions of times worse.

Recent reports show that Bush’s actions, responsible for the current dangers from radical terrorists, ignored the results of the 9/11 congressional inquiry released in 2002. After 14 years, former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) forced the release of 28 pages from this report showing that the United States blamed the wrong country for the 3,000 deaths on 9/11. Despite heavy redactions, the pages reveal that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack on the United states were paid by Saudi Arabia and identifies serious communication failures between the CIA and the FBI that provided intelligence failure before the attacks.

In addition, the view of Saudi Arabia as an “ally” led to the FBI’s refusal to investigate the Saudi hijackers. Within the 28 pages is that statement that connections “suggest … incontrovertible evidence [exists] that there is support for these terrorists within the Saudi government.” Another part of the newly-released findings is that “Saudi Government officials in the United States may have ties to Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network.”

After the 9/11 attack, the FBI failed to interview key Saudi Arabian witnesses while relying on false second-hand information. Despite the FAA’s closure of the U.S. air space, they allowed key Saudi Arabians to almost immediately flee the United States because of their friendship with the Bush family. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were identified as Saudi citizens, but W. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

Months before the attack on 9/11, however, W. and his administration had already begun planning to attack Iraq. He started immediately after his first inauguration when he also cut taxes by $1 trillion and created a deficit, beginning with $400 billion after the former president, Bill Clinton, had brought the country to a surplus. Dick Cheney said that “Saddam’s own son-in-law” told them that “Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.” Yet in 2003, reporters found that the son-in-law had said the opposite, that “all weapons—biological, chemical, missile, nuclear—were destroyed.”

Despite claims to the contrary from Cheney, and Condoleeza Rice, the aluminum tubes were the wrong size for centrifuges but appropriate for conventional, non-WMD rockets and “innocuous.” There were no links at that time between Iraq and a Qaeda although Colin Powell said the opposite.  W. claimed an IAEA report said that Iraq was “six months away from developing a nuclear weapon.” No such report existed, and the IAEA reported that it had “found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.” And on and on with the lies.

Over one million Iraqi men, women, and children have been killed in the conflict, and another two million are refugees in other countries. Another 1.7 million are displaced within the country. One million U.S. veterans were injured in the war, and 4,491 died.

W. always claimed that releasing this information would “make it harder for us to win the war on terror.” What he really means is that the release of the information would be harder for him to start the war that developed the terror in today’s Middle East.

To accomplish his goal, he enlisted the support of Tony Blair, then British prime minister, “to start a war on dodgy intelligence with inadequate planning to control the killing fields of a post-Saddam landscape, a landscape that eventually spawned the Islamic state.” That’s the conclusion of the 2.6 million-word report from the British government’s Chilcot inquiry. They ignored the report of U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix who said that he found no weapons of mass destruction. Blair expressed concerns about the French, and W. answered:

“Yeah, but what did the French ever do for anyone? What wars did they win since the French Revolution?”

Key findings from the British inquiry into the Iraq War:

  • There was “no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein” in March 2003 and military action was “not a last resort.”
  • The UK “chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted.”
  • Tony Blair’s note to George W. Bush on July 28, 2002, saying UK would be with the US “whatever,” was the moment Britain was set on a path to war
  • Judgments about the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD “were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”
  • Tony Blair told attorney general Lord Goldsmith Iraq had committed breaches of UN Security Council resolution 1441 without giving evidence to back up his claim
  • Planning for post-war Iraq was “wholly inadequate.”
  • Iran, North Korea and Libya were considered greater threats in terms of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons proliferation.
  • The joint intelligence committee believed it would take Iraq five years, after the lifting of sanctions, to produce enough fissile material for a weapon.
  • There was no evidence that Iraq had tried to acquire fissile material and other components or – were it able to do so – that it had the technical capabilities to turn these materials into a usable weapon.
  • Saddam’s regime was “not judged likely” to share its weapons or knowhow with terrorist groups.

After the report came out, W. admitted “mistakes” in Iraq but said that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. The U.S. created Hussein, employing him starting in 1959 and sending him millions of dollars, intelligence and tactical advice after making him the dictator in the 1980s. W. simply destroyed any Iraqi institutions remaining with no plan on how to rebuild these. Thirteen years later, poverty and violence in Iraq are rampant, and many people are without reliable electricity, running water, and healthcare.

As always, conservatives blame everyone except themselves—in this case the Iraqis. James Kirchick wrote in the National Review:

“If supporters of the Iraq War can be blamed for anything, it is being guilty of, at worst, a naïveté whereby they expected too much from Iraqis—not, as the latter-day inquisitors of George W. Bush and Tony Blair would have it, of a malignant desire to rape and pillage. Iraq’s tragic predicament is the result not of Western imperialism but of the particular pathologies of a Muslim-Arab world whose depredations are now on full view across the region, from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen and beyond.”

The GOP push at this time is to complete wipe out terrorists in the Middle East. That means eliminating whatever infrastructure exists in these countries, putting in more dictators, and then leaving the countries worse off that they were before they did their regime-building. The result will be more hundreds of thousands of people dead and more hundreds of thousands of people left homeless and wandering a planet where they are unwanted.

This is the party that wants to put Hillary Clinton in prison after she was exonerated of involvement with the deaths of four people in Benghazi. The GOP must keep bombing countries—14 of them in the Islamic world since 1980—because politicians make money from contractors creating the war machines. In addition, the U.S. accounts for 79 percent of weapons sales to the Middle East, and the majority of all foreign weapons sales around the world.   That’s one way that GOP candidates get elected; they beat the war drums and then use funding from manufacturers of war weapons.

May 14, 2016

How Far Will the GOP Go?

Republicans are going crazy after “the people” spoke and chose a candidate that they—and the majority of people in the United States—consider unsuitable. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) met with other GOP legislators and presumptive GOP heir Donald Trump to lay down the law. Trump appeared to back down on all the backing down that he had done during the past week, and Ryan, who foolishly believes that he can control a loose cannon, found him “warm and generous”—although not enough to endorse him. Other Republicans are going off on their own crazy ways.

Ryan’s governor, Scott Walker, blames the state’s deferment of $101 million in debt on President Obama, costing taxpayers at least $2.3 million in just interest plus tens of millions more. Wisconsin has the money, but Walker put it into the general fund for any shortfalls. The president’s economy has added jobs every month for six years, but Walker’s failed policies badly hurt Wisconsin. Yet Walker’s rainy day fund has $280 million thanks to the president’s gains in the stock and job market. His reason for looking poor is to make future budget cuts to use the Koch brothers’ “starve the beast” government strategy.

Some of the GOP craziness is ongoing. The Platform Committee of the Texas GOP is voting next Wednesday on an “independence” resolution. Then Gov. Rick Perry hinted that Texas might separate itself from the “United States,” but this vote will be the first action in its 171-year history about a decision to make the “state” an independent nation. With ten county chapters supporting the resolution, the Texas Nationalist Movement seems to be moving toward the political main stream from a fringe group.

In the GOP’s effort to “Benghazi” Hillary Clinton, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is working with Fox host Adam Housley to find the fake witnesses swearing that military assets could have saved the lives of four people at the diplomatic compound almost four years ago. Fox has no evidence, but Gowdy wants these non-existent people for his committee. Housley is known for finding Dylan Davies who claimed that he scaled the wall on the night of the attack and engaged combat with the terrorists—before Davies admitted he lied.

Randy BarnettRandy Barnett is blaming John Robert for Donald Trump’s popularity because of Robert’s vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. He claims:

“Roberts increased cynicism and anger at play-by-the-rules conservatives and decreased respect for institutions across the board.”

Barnett’s article in highly conservative The Federalist is based on the premises that John Roberts knows that the health care law violates the constitution but he pretends that it doesn’t because of his belief that courts should not overturn law passed by majorities. The argument overlooks Roberts’ deciding votes that gutted the Voting Rights Act, campaign finance law, and gun control legislation—and other decisions. Somehow, however, Barnett has convinced himself that the Trump supporters vote for the businessman because of a judicial review. This man who teaches lawyers at Georgetown University has even crazier ideas—so far right that the John Birch society doesn’t agree with them.

A recent GOP fit (they have so many!) comes from a report claiming that Facebook suppresses conservative articles in its Trending Topics feed. There is no support for the allegations from former Facebook workers, and Republicans have never expressed any concern that “fair and unbalanced” Fox is anything but. The RN accuses Facebook of “censoring” the right and using its power “to silence view points and stories that don’t fit someone else’s agenda.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has declared that he “wants to haul Facebook employees before Congress.” He wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with the demand that Trending Topics employees brief the Commerce Committee by May 24.

Despite all the vacation days and the health crisis of the Zika virus moving through the southern states, GOP finds that “Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest.” Even if someone could find support for allegations, the question begs congressional oversight for a private social-media company. Thune now worries about Facebook’s integrity whereas his opposition to net neutrality declaimed that any political interference in Internet operation is unacceptable. In 2007, during a fight against the “Fairness Doctrine,” Thune argued:

“I know the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear government officials offering to regulate the news media and talk radio to ensure fairness. I think most Americans have the same reaction. Giving power to a few to regulate fairness in the media is a recipe for disaster on the scale that George Orwell so aptly envisioned.”

In avoiding a consideration of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Republican congressional members decided that the last elected year of the president’s four terms is a “lame-duck session,” but they are considering a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the real “lame-duck session” between the general election and the changing of the guard at the end of December. Only three trade-related bills have been voted on in a lame duck: 1974, 1994, and 2006.

TPP is a really bad idea: extending drug company monopolies over their products, undermining environmental and labor regulations, allowing corporations to send more jobs oversea, voiding U.S. consumer laws with unelected international tribunals, etc.  Republican legislators who lose in November can vote for the TPP before they leave Congress and then take jobs for giant corporations grateful for their vote.

Publicity about the North Carolina “bathroom law” keeping trans people out of the appropriate facilities just hasn’t stopped. The Department of Justice has ordered the state to rescind the law to keep its federal funding, and North Carolina is suing the DOJ for its order. At the same time, all 10 GOP House members gave the Department of Education until yesterday to promise—provide the state with “immediate assurances”—that the North Carolina won’t suffer monetary penalty for violating federal civil rights. GOP state leaders, who complain about being “bullied” by the federal government are telling lobbyists that their employing corporations that they can expect retribution for speaking out against HB2, the potty law.

Gov. Pat McCrory wants to overturn the Civil Right Act of 1964 to make segregation legal again so that the state can “make special circumstances for those individuals [transgender students].” He also claimed that the “far left … brought this [agenda] up.”

Middle Age RiotThe latest lawsuit against the federal government, filed by “North Carolinians for Privacy,” is identical to a suit in Illinois from the Alliance Defending Freedom. It begins with the falsehood that DOE’s guidance “forbids educational institutions from maintaining sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms” and moves on to the argument that gender identity is not a component of sex. The lawsuit’s main claim is that the DOJ “unmistakable ultimatum” to either prohibit sex-specific restrooms or lose federal funding endangers all the students’ access to education. Another premise in the lawsuit is accusing the DOJ of violating the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) because the agency discriminates on the basis of gender identity against non-transgender people because it allows “some, but not all, biological males the right of entry and use of female restrooms and locker rooms.” The suit claims that North Carolina’s HB2 “treats all persons the same, regardless of their gender identity.”

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has dived into the bathroom controversy by describing it as the “biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools.” About potentially losing $5 billion of federal funding for Texas education, he added, “Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver.” The analogy indicates that either he or Texas—or both—should be compared to Jesus who was betrayed by Judas for “30 pieces of silver.” Answering Patrick’s comments, including the one about no longer giving poor students free lunches, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “I think this does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to elected statewide office. No one should be discriminated against because of who they are.” Texas cut school funding 25 percent in the ten years following 2002 and ranks 38th in the nation in per K-12 student funding.

The U.S. disdain for the Republican party is at its highest level since 1992; 62 percent look at it unfavorably whereas only 33 percent view it with favor. The positive perception fell four points in the past six months. Only 68 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of their party, an 11-point drop from October. Independents prefer the Democrats to Republicans, 37 to 28 percent. The majorities of minorities oppose the GOP: women, 62 percent; blacks, 79 percent; and Hispanics, 61 percent. Among whites, 37 percent view both parties favorably while 59 percent have an unfavorable view of Democrats and 58 percent—only one percent less—have the same view of Republicans.

Update: Wisconsin’s debt deferment was erroneously listed as $101. It is $101 million.

 

April 21, 2016

Hillary Clinton Faces More Media Censure

Hillary Clinton was declared the most untrustworthy of the presidential candidates two months ago and has received negative ratings in favorability in ten recent polls. That’s this year. Three years ago, when she stepped down from the position of Secretary of State, her approval rating was 69 percent, making her the most popular politician in the country and the second-most popular secretary of state since 1948. The year before, the Washington Post called on President Obama to replace VP Joe Biden with Clinton for his second presidential run.

In Quartz, Sady Doyle has a theory for why this happened:

“[Clinton’s] public approval plummets whenever she applies for a new position. Then it soars when she gets the job. The wild difference between the way we talk about Clinton when she campaigns and the way we talk about her when she’s in office can’t be explained as ordinary political mud-slinging. Rather, the predictable swings of public opinion reveal Americans’ continued prejudice against women caught in the act of asking for power.”

Karen Blumenthal’s Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History, written for teenagers over 15 years old, follows Clinton’s rise and fall throughout her lifetime, starting when she was a bright, competent, confident high school student who wanted to make the world a better place. At Wellesley, she made friends with one of the six black students in the school population of 400, and they became roommates. Her friendship with black activist Marian Wright Edelman led her to become an advocate for children. At the same time, she campaigned for candidates, changing her allegiance from the GOP as a “Goldwater Girl” to fighting for Democrats. In her twenties, she was a member of the House Judiciary Committee legal staff to work on the Nixon inquiry into Watergate.

Clinton’s marriage to Bill Clinton led her to massive ridicule from people in Arkansas, including Bill Clinton’s mother, for her clothing, hair, makeup, etc.—issues that men never face. She kept a job but maintained a low-key presence because of the disapproval. And she tried to change her appearance to satisfy the critics. The same ridicule came from politicians and pundits across the United States when she supported her husband in his campaign for president. Forced to give up her career while she was in the White House, she face further cruelty when she worked to improve conditions for people in the nation. Early in the first term, she and her husband faced five inquiries about the death of a close friend who killed himself because of the persecution he faced in Washington, D.C. The persecution continued as she faced criticism for not divorcing her philandering husband.

People told Hillary Clinton to be more open. She complied, and they heaped more derision on her. She became increasingly private, resulting in even more contempt. Nothing she did suited her critics. As she runs for president in 2016, both Republican candidates and her Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, talk about how much people dislike her. Sanders calls her a liar and unqualified to be president before his aides and consultants talk about how Sanders plans to take over the Democratic candidacy at the July convention because Clinton is unpopular.

Hillary Clinton opponents now realize that ridiculing her hair and dress might be seen as sexist so they complain about her “shrill” voice and ask that she smile more. Chris Matthews (Hardball), who I sometimes respect, recommended that Clinton select John Kasich (check out the last two blogs) for a vice-president if she wants to win.

The conservative media has attempted to dodge he belief that any treatment of Clinton is sexist. Instead, as Brian Birdnow claims, her “vaunted achievements in public life materialized because her now-estranged husband was going places, and she went along for the ride.” According to Birdnow, “the Clintons have been the beneficiaries of adoring media coverage beginning in 1991.” Blumenthal’s book records how hard Hillary Clinton worked before meeting Bill Clinton and since then. As for the “adoring media coverage,” it may have been so for Bill Clinton, but not for his hated wife, “Billary.” Birdnow wrote that “the critics cannot help that she sounds like a screeching harridan when she tries to give a political speech, or that her hoarse voice grates like fingernails scratching on a chalkboard.”

Sanders has given conservatives fuel against Clinton by his repetitive complaining that she took money for speeches on Wall Street. He has never come up with any ways in which she has personally benefited Wall Street, but his insinuation is enough to taint her. Sanders himself voted to deregulate Wall Street in 2000.

The GOP has further plans to shred Clinton’s reputation. Over six months ago, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) led Clinton through an 11-hour inquisition—at least the ninth time—into the death of four people at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi in 2012. Almost two years ago, Gowdy had said that his investigation would be completed by the end of 2015, but that wasn’t an election year. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy bragged that the purpose of the inquiry is to destroy Hillary Clinton.

Fox network Greta van Susteren wrote a year ago that “dragging the investigation into 2016 looks political” and that releasing the report right before the election “looks awful” and “sends a bad message about fairness.” If the report comes out in 2016, she wrote, “it is fair to draw an adverse inference against the Committee—an adverse inference of playing politics. . . . Whatever the findings are in this investigation—it will forever be plagued by allegations of unfairness, and politics if this investigation is dragged into 2016.”

Gowdy said then that “it’s not going to come out in the middle of 2016.” He recently announced that the Benghazi report will be released during this summer–the middle of 2016. Democrats on the committee aren’t allowed to see transcripts of witness interviews, and they won’t see the final report before it’s released either in July just before the Democratic convention or in September as the presidential campaign goes into full swing. Gowdy promises that the report will be “eye-opening.”

In a recent column, Dana Milbank pointed out one “eye-opening” event:

“Gregory Hicks, the U.S. diplomat in Libya who criticized the administration response, is now on detail from the State Department working as a legislative assistant to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who previously said Hicks’s ‘shocking testimony’ confirmed a ‘Benghazi whitewash’ by the administration.”

Also eye-opening is the $6.5 million expenditure thus far in a probe that “quickly devolved into the mix of unfounded allegations, selective leaks and partisan sniping that characterized the preceding Benghazi investigation by Rep. Darrel Issa’s oversight panel.”

Gowdy swore transparency that never occurred. Sixteen months ago, he promised monthly hearings that didn’t happen. In its 700+ days, the committee had only four public hearings and only one since January 2015. At the same time, mysterious leaks, damaging and false, are fed to the press from GOP members. Remember? Democrats aren’t allowed to know what’s happening.

Gowdy has dragged out his committee “work” longer than investigations into 9/11, Watergate, and the JFK assassination. No male has ever been investigated in this manner despite their greater transgressions.

Milbank provided a background of the Benghazi investigation up to Clinton’s testimony in October.

Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of the acclaimed biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, said of Hillary Clinton, “I don’t think there is a First Lady who has been treated as rudely and meanly except for Eleanor Roosevelt. Both of these women boldly risked the scorn of “those threatened by the image of a woman carrying the fight for social justice into the public arena.” Karen Weaver, the mayor of Flint (MI) said about the water crisis that Hillary Clinton “has actually been the only candidate, whether we’re talking Democratic or Republican, to reach out and talk with us about, ‘What can I do? What kind of help do you need?’”

Hillary Clinton graduated high in her Yale Law School class and became partner in a top law firm through her own hard work. Throughout her life, she has worked hard and energetically, showing competence, intelligence, stamina, courage, and knowledge of the issues. In her current campaign, she demonstrates a consideration of alternatives leading to successful endings rather than latching on to only one solution. She has experience in working with countries across the world and has been highly praised for these accomplishments. Clinton understands that a plan is necessary to accomplish goals—universal health care, higher taxes for the wealthy, gun sensible laws, equal pay, reduction of income inequality, clean energy, etc. Just hoping that people will rise up isn’t a successful way to improve the lot of over 300 million people in 50 disparate states.

One question is how people would view Clinton today if the media and other politicians had not spent billions of dollars to trash her. Another is how they would treat her if she were a man. The miracle is that she is doing so well with all these forces against her.

April 13, 2016

Press Has No Justification to Hate Clinton

One of my good friends is a registered Republican—although she recently told me that she’s considering a switch to being independent after the events of the last few months. She also hates Hillary Clinton. Last Sunday I asked her what was wrong with Clinton politically, and she said she’d make a list. What’s wrong with Clinton is the media. Bernie Sanders complains about how they ignore him, but he’s lucky.

Both wings of the media, love to bash Clinton while they give Sanders a walk. A prime example is the massive number of complaints about Clinton supporting the omnibus crime bill in 1994 that included the federal “three strikes” provision. Sen. Sanders voted in favor of the same bill—as did many other liberals—but the media ignores that vote. Trevor Noah, the un-funny replacement for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, has declared open season on Clinton, but Sanders gets Noah’s weak “heh heh.”

Alternet, a progressive website self-described as a “syndication service and online community of the alternative press,” almost exclusively prints anti-Clinton and pro-Sanders articles. Just Google the two names separately with “alternet” to see the difference. (Caveat: it did reprint Gabler’s article referenced below about media attacks on Clinton.)

Some of the Alternet’s puff pieces about Sanders might have shreds of truth, but the reprint of Arturo Garcia’s article from Raw Story about Chris Hayes’ joint interview with former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and economist Robert Reich uses a headline about how “Reich “schools” that was a blatant and total misrepresentation of the information. Reich was unable to answer Frank’s questions about banks “too big to fail.” Frank kept asking “how big is too big,” and Reich just said, “They are already too big to fail.” Garcia failed to give Frank’s detailed information in comparison to Reich’s generalizations.

As Neal Gabler wrote on Moyers & Company, the media is sticking to its standard position that Clinton can do nothing right. After it destroyed Donald Trump, it had more time to devote to the next candidate they love to hate, Clinton–“the media’s national pinata.” Over and over, the media declares that she lies, she is a pawn of the rich, she is dishonest. They repeat the same mantra over and over with little basis.

The entire focus on emails from private servers is directed at Clinton, despite the fact that it has been a common practice even by the most recent Secretary of Defense. George W. Bush’s White House destroyed tens of millions of emails, and the GOP said “good” because they were run through private accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee.  Karl Rove used RNC email servers for 95 percent of his communications, and all the emails have disappeared with no congressional investigations. GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie hid thousands of emails concealing his part in “Bridgegate,”  dangerously closing the busiest bridge in the world with no objection from Republicans.

The media obsesses about the “classified” emails on the private server although these emails were not “classified” until much later. Yet every release of emails results in more headlines claiming Clinton’s wrongdoing. According to the media, 147 FBI agents have been assigned to Clinton’s emails because an unnamed “lawmaker” said so. Investigation revealed the possibility of fewer than 50, and FBI experts told NBC that this number is largely overstated. But the media continues with the later number.

Another attack on Clinton comes because of the four people killed during the attacks at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Again, more and more investigations from 32 congressional hearings resulting in 11 written reports, all costing over $20 million. During Ronald Reagan’s first reign, 254 servicemen were killed at a Lebanese diplomatic outpost after the military command left a vehicle gate open and ordered sentries to keep weapons unloaded. Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill asked for one investigation which made recommendations for better security measures. Less than five months later, CIA’s station chief in Beirut, Bill Buckley, was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. Reagan’s response to the lack of safety measures leading to Buckley’s death was that a kitchen can’t be quickly remodeled. There were no public hearings and no investigations. Perpetrators, not political rivals, were blamed.

Sally Quinn, the wife of conservative Washington Post’s executive editor Ben Bradlee, basically called the Clintons country bumpkins who had sullied the White House and Washington. The Clintons were always punished for trying to enter the Washington society. The media jumped on NYT’s accusation from Jeff Gerth, either implausible or false, to accuse the Clintons of fraud in Whitewater. This non-scandal led to more stories that created the myth of untrustworthiness, perpetrated by the media for almost 25 years. Instead of looking for truth, the media made money.

The accusations continue. Clinton takes money from the coal and oil industry, according to Sanders, and the media leaped on his statement. Even the conservative Washington Post fact-checker gave the claim three “Pinocchios” out of four because Clinton’s money comes only from the industry’s employees—just as some of Sanders’ money does.

The media keeps falsely communicating that Clinton might not win the presidency even if she is the candidate because people don’t like her or they’re not enthusiastic. Gallup Poll checked up and found that Clinton supporters are extremely or very enthusiastic by 54 percent as compared to only 44 percent of Sanders supporters for him.

A year ago, Politico’s Dylan Byers said, “The national media has never been more primed to take down Hillary Clinton.” The same press corps, he added, is poised to “elevate a Republican candidate.” No one objected to his comments that Clinton faces a tougher press than her opponents. Gone are the days when journalists thought their job was to report on what happens rather than destroy a viable candidate. Make that a Democratic candidate. The press didn’t attack Trump until the GOP establishment made clear that they wanted another candidate.

Eight years ago, Dana Milbank stated, “The press will savage [Clinton] no matter what.” Journalists simply “dislike” her. When Clinton answered tons of media questions early in her run, the press attacked her and stated that her answers were all wrong. No matter what she does, the press’s goal is to take her down.

Hillary Clinton should smile more. She should be friendlier. Her voice is too loud. She shouts. She sounds angry. She should pick John Kasich for a vice-presidential candidate if she wins the candidacy. This last one from Chris Matthews may be one of the craziest comments I’ve heard about her.

All the presidents who had sexual affairs—including Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy—got a walk for them. Republicans decided to impeach Bill Clinton for consensual sex. George W. Bush started a permanent war in the Middle East that has thus far cost the taxpayers trillions of dollars with no intelligence that Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction. His actions killed hundreds of thousands of people, and even people who know he was wrong just say we should forget it because it’s in the past. Ted Cruz has threatened to “spank” Clinton.

The conservative media want Bernie Sanders as the Democratic candidate so that they can trash him in the general election. The so-called liberal media, owned by big corporations, either want the same thing or they just continue their tradition of hating the Clintons.

What makes the press the angriest is that they can’t find anything wrong with her policies. They have to trash her personality, appearance, past votes, etc. Like Sanders, Clinton is progressive, but Sanders makes visionary statements about a political revolution with no plans to carry it out in a time when the GOP refuses to compromise on anything. Clinton keeps fighting for causes, admitting that she can’t always achieve perfection. (Sanders admits the same thing, but his supporters overlook how he agrees with Clinton.) Clinton wants to build on past successes; Sanders wants to tear down what’s happened and start over. The media just wants to tear down Clinton. We all want idealism, but if we don’t settle for pragmatism—and fight the media—we’ll get GOP destruction.

[Update: An earlier version of this blog stated that “Clinton voted in favor of the omnibus crime bill.” In 1994 she was First Lady, not Senator. In fact, she has been recently criticized for “supporting” the bill. The blog has been changed to reflect that correction.]

 

November 21, 2015

Christians Discriminate against Muslims in U.S.

 

Firefighter. let it burnThree Muslim-American students were murdered in Chapel Hill last February. Christian white people in the U.S. wanted to call this hate crime a matter of a parking dispute, but the three young people were lined up on the ground, kneeling, and shot in the back of their heads execution style. It was a Christian terror attack. A few days later, the Quba Islamic Institute in Houston, storing religious books, was completely destroyed by fire last February because of arson. Dustin Herron, a retired Houston-area firefighter who volunteered at the time for Crystal Beach Fire & Rescue posted the following:

“Let it burn … block the fire hydrant.”

That summarizes the conservative response since the attacks in Paris.

Indiana’s governor Mike Pence, who might have run for president if his state hadn’t tried to pass an anti-LGBT “religious liberty” law, told two Syrian refugee families that they cannot come to his state. He also told two religious charities, Exodus Refugee Immigration and Catholic Charities, that no other families will be allowed in Indiana. One of the families waited for three years in Jordan before the vetting process was completed.

In Rhode Island, state senator Elaine Morgan suggested segregated camps for Syrians after calling on state governments to refuse any Syrian refugees in the country. She thinks refugees are part of a plan “to spread out their people to attack all non Muslim persons.” One U.S. human rights abuse was the internment of about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, some of the U.S. citizens, in abusive camps during World War II.

According to the annual Hate Crimes Statistics Report, the number of the hate crimes in 2014 decreased for every minority group except Muslims. The increase of 14 percent against Muslims may be under-reported because they tend not to report these crimes. The rise of these crimes against Muslims parallels the increase in the number of hate groups formed in the U.S., most of them based on conspiracy-based and virulent anti-government leanings. Christian attacks have moved from LGBT people to Muslims.

Following the tragedy of hate in Paris last week, Christian people in the U.S. immediately responded—with more irrational hate. Gunshots at mosques and private homes, threatening phone messages, hate graffiti, Islamophobic statements at community meetings—these are only a few of the occurrences during the past week. The Islamic Center of Pflugerville (TX) was vandalized with feces and torn pages of the Quran.

In contrast to the bigoted reaction from conservatives, seven-year-old Jack Swanson took his piggy bank to the Pflugerville mosque and gave them all the contents of $20.

The day before the killings in Paris, ISIS killed 45 people and injured another 200, some of them critically, in Beirut (Lebanon). The death toll would have been much higher if a man had not thrown himself on a bomb to save his son. A terrorist group left 147 people dead and 79 injured at Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya last April, a tragedy that barely grazed the U.S. news media. A terrorist bomb on an airplane between Russia and Egypt killed 224 people. Only the attacks in Paris affected people in the U.S.

The U.S. concern primarily for people in France and not those on other continents might come from experiencing human empathy for only victims similar to themselves. Studies show that individuals focus more on their “ingroup,” creating an “empathy gap” among victims in attacks. The media obsessed with the attacks in Paris but gave little attention to other attacks.

Some people in the United States see every one of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as connected to the Paris attacks. These facts might give a different perspective:

  • Worldwide the 1.6 billion Muslims are expected to increase by 35 percent by the year 2030.
  • By 2050 the number of Muslims in the world will match the number of Christians.
  • Only 20 percent of Muslims live in the Middle East.
  • The majority of people who follow the Islamic religion, more than 60 percent, live in the Asian-Pacific region.
  • Muslims have lived in China for more than 1400 years.
  • Less than 15 percent of the world’s Muslim population is Arab.
  • Two-thirds of the U.S. Arab population is Christian, not Muslim.
  • The most common name in the world is Muhammad.
  • All Muslim women do not wear hijabs.
  • The percentage of women in government in Muslim-majority countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Sudan and Saudi Arabia, is higher than in the United States.
  • The youngest female president in the world, Atifete Jahjaga, the president of Kosovo, is a Muslim woman.
  • Muslims give twice as much to charity as Christians.
  • When Columbus came to America, he may carried a book written by Portuguese Muslims who had navigated their way to the New World centuries before him.
  • Muslims may have settled in America before the Europeans did.
  • The first wave of Muslims to the U.S. was African slaves; at least 25 percent of the slaves violently kidnapped from their homes and families by white men were Muslim.
  • About six million Muslim live in the United States; about one-third are black.
  • Muslims range from highly orthodox to moderate to secular with many different interpretations of their religion.

The United States is not and never has been a Christian nation. On June 10, 1797 the United States signed a compact of friendship with the Muslim population living along the Barbary Coast. The Treaty of Tripoli was commissioned by President George Washington. It was unanimously approved by the United States Congress. It was signed by the country’s second President, John Adams. Of special importance is Article 11, which reads:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Mohammedan) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

How far will GOP politicians go in using the Paris attacks? Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) blamed the current distrust of Syrian refugees on President Obama’s handling of the 2011 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Yes, Benghazi. Again. Buck believes that the White House covered up some imaginary scandal, leading to U.S. distrust and making the Benghazi tragedy responsible for hostility toward refugees from a different country. (An aside about the recent 11-hour Benghazi hearing: Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) said that Hillary Clinton laid “a trap” for the committee by making her appearance go “as long as possible.”

States_that_have_surrendered_to_ISIS

The above map shows which states have embarrassed the people of the United States by surrendering to ISIS. All the “red states” have GOP governors except New Hampshire. Since the map was published on November 16, 2015, Oregon has joined the green section.

What problems have we had from refugees in the U.S.? Since 9/22, 750,000 people have come into the U.S. as refugees. The following chart shows the number of refugees arrested on domestic terrorism:

refugees arrested

That’s right: zero.

The people happiest about conservatives’ rejection of Syrian refugees are members of ISIS. They hoped for this reaction, and they got it. ISIS isn’t a country: it’s an idea. Propaganda spreads this idea, and ISIS has succeeded. The more conservatives spew their hatred, the more ISIS can persuade people that peace is impossible. Rejected by the U.S., people are sent into the arms of ISIS.

October 18, 2015

World Didn’t End, Benghazi Arguments Continue

October 7, 2015 has come and gone, and people reading this are still here despite the predictions of the E-Bible Fellowship. Their website’s explanation for the mistake reads in part:

“The world today is populated by a generation of people that has outdone all past generations for wickedness. It tends to view a “passed date” for its end as some sort of victory and celebrates it as though it means it will now never end. And yet, the truth is that the world is in its death throes. A date of destruction given to the world (like October 7th, 2015) is like a man with a terminal disease that was given a short time to live his Dr. The man passes the 6 months (or year) he was told. Yet the prognosis hasn’t changed. He’s still terminally ill. It’s still certain he will die from his disease. It’s just a matter of when that remains in question.”

There have no posts since that one on October 8. Unfortunately, the congressional control of climate deniers gives a sense of validity to the planet’s “terminal disease.” Meanwhile the United States struggles to loosen a grip by fundamentalist Christians.

Muslims may inadvertently cause fundamentalist Christians to separate church and state. In Tennessee, conservative legislators want to prohibit “anything deemed ‘religious doctrine’ ” for public school students in ninth grade or younger after parents complained about the content of world history curriculum. Teachers were teaching about the Five Pillars of Islam in order to “provide historical context about the influence the religion had on regions of the world.” And about Islamic role in introducing algebra and influencing the Renaissance. The resolution of “no religious indoctrination” in schools will be very enlightening.

First, Rowan County (KY) Clerk Kim Davis refused to allow anyone in her office to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Then she spent five days in jail and said that her staff could issue the licenses although they wouldn’t be legally binding because she changed them. Now she’s totally caved: her lawyers admit that they are binding. Meanwhile federal judge David L. Bunning has ordered Kentucky’s Democratic governor Steve Beshear to decide if the altered marriage licenses are valid.

A bike lane is impinging on a Washington, DC church’s “religious liberty” because fewer parking spaces” “would place an unconstitutionally undue burden on people who want to pray.”

Televangelist Pat Robertson usually has an answer for everything—frequently “send me money”—but one viewer took him aback. “Why have you undergone surgeries if your faith would be enough?” prompted Robertson come up with some non-answers before he said, “I don’t know what else to say. If you have enough faith … maybe I don’t have enough, but I have enough for other people.”

Herb Titus, a dominionist Christian Reconstructionist attorney, has declared that the United States has changed its immigration policy and gone against the Bible. Immigrants can come only from countries that are based on Christian principles because the United States would otherwise “become a kind of multicultural society,” according to Titus. He said, “We had a carefully designed policy for many years to allow as immigrants into the United States only those people from countries that have a Christian-principled culture.” What he bases his beliefs on, no one seems to know. The U.S. has had quotas, but they were based on nationality. Barring all Asians from emigrating was not based on religion, but ethnic background.

A federal judge seems to be supporting Titus in acting unconstitutionally. Texas health officials are denying birth certificates to immigrant families with U.S.-born children, and U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman has denied an emergency injunction to recognize identification cards issued by Mexican consulates to citizens living and working in the U.S. Before 2013, these documents were acceptable to receive birth certificates. The immigrant rights lawyers represent 28 adults and their 32 children. Without birth certificates, the children could be considered criminals and deported. The newborns could not even receive baptisms without birth certificates. The 14th Amendment guarantees the right to citizenship for children born on U.S. soil, and the parents have documentation from the U.S. hospital where the children were born.

Evangelical pastor Rob Schenck has taken on Sarah Palin in a documentary, The Armor of Light, about gun violence and the question of whether a person can be both pro-life and anti-gun safety. One scene shows Palin telling a NRA audience not to waste ammunition on a warning shot. She criticized Vice-president Joe Biden for this advice and said, “Gals, you know that nowadays, ammo is expensive. Don’t waste a bullet on a warning shot.” In the film’s voice-over, Schenck wonders about the “ethical dimensions of having a constant, defensive posture.” He said, “When pastors, preachers, bible teachers, ignore these questions, it creates a vacuum. And other voices fill that vacuum.”

I admire Pastor Schenck for addressing this issue, but he’s going to have a difficult time persuading the people who think that they have the right to shoot anyone at any time because of their skewed sense of reality. An example of this is the Alabama KKK. In an interview with the BBC documentary, KKK: The Fight for White Supremacy, a KKK member explained that the Nazi Holocaust concentration camps were actually “summer camps” for Jewish people instead of death camps.

“These death camps, they gave the so-called people that were being killed cigarettes, there was coffee, there was a movie theater, a library, even a swimming pool in Auschwitz. And if you’re going to sit there and kill all these people then how come all these things would be in there?”

Stunned, the interviewer asked the KKK member what the Jews were doing in Auschwitz. “Swimming” was the answer. “And working. Because they didn’t want to do any work, and what Hitler was trying to do was he was trying to teach them to work, trying to rehabilitate them, if you will.” Asked where he heard this, the Klan member said, “It’s all history.”

And now all the television viewers in Great Britain will know how stupid “Amuricans” are.

Sunday is almost as well known for political interviews as for religion, and CNN’s Jake Tapper hit the ball out of the park in his interview with Jeb Bush. Raw Story described this follow-up to Donald Trump’s comment that George W. Bush was president during the 9/11 attacks. There was nothing false about Trump’s statement, but Bush has taken great umbrage at the insinuation that Bush was responsible for the disaster.

Tapper asked Bush how he could blame Hillary Clinton for the attacks in Benghazi while exonerating his brother George W. from any blame for the 9/11 disaster. Told that “my brother … kept us safe,” Tapper asked if Bush’s loyalty to his brother “might be in some ways a political or policy liability blinding you to mistakes he made.” Tapper continued by asking how Bush could “make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi.” Bush was unable to find an answer, but Tapper asked why terrorists were not responsible for the four deaths at Benghazi if they were those solely responsible for the 3,000 deaths on 9/11. Bush said, “They are!”

Bush has a problem: either he admits that his brother was inept in protecting the country by ignoring intelligence about Osama bin Laden’s attacking the U.S., or he is forced to admit that Clinton and the Obama administration aren’t liable for the Benghazi attacks. (This exchange was omitted in reports from CNN and The Hill about Tapper’s interview with Bush.

Equally enlightening about the Benghazi select committee was the discussion on Meet the Press when Andrea Mitchell responded to Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-KS) statement about Clinton relying on former advisor Sidney Blumenthal’s intelligence. “That is factually not correct… I cover the State Department. That is just factually not correct,”Mitchell said. Pompeo tried to put down Mitchell—and failed—but he said nothing when Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) said that the committee doesn’t “know what this committee’s supposed to look for. Apart from damaging Hillary Clinton, it has no reason for existence.” The clip is worth watching.

October 16, 2015

House Gets Worse–Who Knew It Was Possible?!

 

Congress is still on “recess” (aka vacation), the debt crisis has moved up to November 3 (two weeks after they return), and the rudderless House will concentrate on two “select” committees that have nothing to do with the economy or joblessness. The first, started 17 months ago; the new one continues the House’s attack on women’s reproductive rights.

Three years ago, four men were killed at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi (Libya). Since that time, the GOP House members created eight committees, the most recent a “select” committee, to skewer Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. Clinton was exonerated by the first seven, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) proposed the most recent one on May 2, 2014 that has cost taxpayers over $4.5 million already.

Many people already assumed that the purpose of the committee had nothing to do with justice before House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) admitted it on a Fox network show. (Maybe he thought only conservatives would notice.) The committee continues to unravel as another GOP representative, Richard Hanna (R-NY), said on the Keeler in the Morning radio show:

“I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.”

Senior Republican officials had already said that Boehner was using Clinton’s emails on a private server as a way to keep Benghazi alive and create political problems for the presidential candidate.

Committee members face more problems since Bradley F. Podliska, major in the Air Force Reserve, was fired as a former investigator.  Podliska claims that he was fired because he was trying to do his job and plans to sue. The self-described lifelong conservative Republican supported GOP claims that the committee wanted to concentrate on Clinton herself, instead of Benghazi. Podliska also said that Benghazi Committee staffers used their time to surf the web and drink alcohol. They had formed a “gun-buying club” and spent work hours designing monogrammed weapons. This from a committee that is supposedly investigating killing.

Committee chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), said he had never met with Podliska, but the Wall Street Journal wrote that Gowdy “handpicked” the committee’s staff. Just last week, however, the committee re-posted a Wall Street Journal piece noting that Gowdy “handpicked” the committee’s staff.

Thus far, the committee has had only one of a dozen scheduled interviews and absolutely no hearings of the intended nine. All the hearings except for those with Clinton, including ones with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary Leon Panetta, were cancelled after the New York Times broke its story on March 2 about her emails. Interviews with CIA Director David Petraeus, General Martin Dempsey, General Carter Ham, and former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matt Olsen were also cancelled. The committee has had no public hearings with anyone from the Department of Defense, but by the end of October, the GOP will have interviewed or deposed eight current or former Clinton campaign staffers.

One person subpoenaed is Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal although Gowdy admitted that he “never expected Witness Blumenthal to be able to answer questions about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.” Over 160 questions directed to Blumenthal were about his relationship with Clinton with fewer than 20 questions about the Benghazi attacks. Over 50 questions concerned the Clinton Foundation, but only four addressed security in Benghazi.

During the past nine months, Gowdy’s 27 press releases have concentrated on Clinton with only five on any other topic, perhaps because the few interviews he attended were only about Clinton. Three were about the State Department’s compliance with document production, one was about the anniversary of 9/11, and the last was Gowdy’s interim progress report. Since the committee’s inception, Gowdy has publicly released only emails and did so without debate or vote by the Select Committee. Yet he blocked the release of Blumenthal’s deposition transcript.

Part of the GOP smear campaign comes from committee leaks of inaccurate information without full transcripts. Gowdy also hid information from Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills testimony that during the Benghazi attack, Secretary Clinton urged several agencies, including the Pentagon, to do everything they possibly could to save and protect the Americans at the Consulate.

Clinton’s hearing is currently scheduled for October 22, conveniently in the midst of the presidential campaign. Gowdy has said that he won’t release his findings until “just months before the 2016 presidential election.” Meanwhile, the GOP is using the committee and Gowdy’s name to raise donations for Stop Hillary PAC with its sole purpose of attacking Clinton. The conservative PAC America Rising described the attacks as a taxpayer-funded political activity.

Benghazi is so prevalent in the minds of the GOP, that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) focused on it during the House Judiciary Committee Planned Parenthood hearing. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “the contraception services that Planned Parenthood delivers may be the single greatest effort to prevent unwanted pregnancies that result in abortions….”  Yet Gohmert connected the Benghazi deaths and PP while questioning former clinic manager Susan Thayer in this tirade:

“You had people meeting here in America, in Washington, while people were dying! While Ty Woods was gathering David Ubben and Glen Doherty and going to the rooftop to man guns to try to protect the people in those facilities…. Yes, Benghazi was about politics! And we need to get to the bottom of why those four people were killed, while nobody in Washington that knew what was going on lifted a finger!”

The House’s “select committee” to follow up on the doctored videos about Planned Parenthood follows four earlier House investigations. House GOP members surely understand that the unedited footage from these videos would destroy their smear campaign because they held them for at least two weeks, refusing to permit Democratic committee members to view them.

Committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is already under fire for his five-hour grilling of PP president, Cecile Richards, when she was interrupted in her answers at least 51 times. He even presented a false—and damning—graph from an anti-abortion organization, making the assumption that he was from PP until he was corrected. He also attacked Richards for making over $500,000 as CEO of a $1.3 billion organization, something that Congress has never done to male CEOs making up to 1,000 times as much.

Every investigation into PP, whether federal or state, found no illegal actions on the part of PP. Chaffetz admitted, “Was there any wrongdoing? I didn’t find any.” Unhappy with the failure to find something that doesn’t exist, the new “select” committee will widen its search into women and abortion, still legal in the United States.

The 14-member panel will investigate not only PP but also privately funded abortions and fetal tissue donations to medical researchers. This time, the GOP picked a woman, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to head the committee. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) said, “Planned Parenthood is the new Benghazi,” echoing another position that McCarthy had already provided to the media.

In the past, “select committees” have been used only for highly unusual national events such as the assassination of a president and a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The PP select committee is under the auspices of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which will have members not related to Energy and Commerce and vet these people through outside anti-abortion organizations. At the same time, House Republicans explained that the new committee “won’t be political.”

GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has used the PP falsehoods as support for her campaign. At a conference the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, she talked about the difference between politics and business: “Politics is a fact-free zone. People just say things.” That’s why the GOP has these “select” committees.

One select committee regarding extraordinary events in the U.S. is necessary, one to examine increasing gun violence throughout the United States. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called for this committee after ten people died in a college shooting at Roseburg (OR) earlier this month. It’s almost a guarantee that the current House will never okay this committee.

Why isn’t there a select committee to determine why the United States started wars in the Middle East that killed hundreds of thousands of people, including almost 5,000 military members from the U.S.? Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) said:

“I haven’t heard a word about Colin Powell. I haven’t heard a word about Condoleezza Rice. In our investigations we went to both of those former secretaries of state and, Colin Powell, we tried to do an investigation of his testimony before the U.N. on weapons of mass destruction.

“You know what, Colin Powell didn’t have a goddamn email available for us. There was zero. Zero. Hillary Clinton, what was it, 30,000 she turned in? It was the same thing with Condoleezza Rice; not a goddamn email that was useful to the committee. And no one wants to talk about that because it’s being run by a Republican chairman.”

The GOP promised to make changes when they were elected a year ago. They did. Congress changed from a highly dysfunctional legislature to being the laughing stock of the world.

April 1, 2015

Real Fools on April Fools’ Day

The history of April Fools’ Day, the first day of April, goes back at least to 1392 in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. The focus of the day is to play pranks on people and then say “April Fool.” These days, GOP politicians are passing off their pranks as reality and then becoming fools themselves.

Fool for 2015 is Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as he tries to dig himself out of having signed a bill into law that a large number of legal experts agree is discriminatory. In the span of six days, Pence flip-flopped at least five times, sometimes on the same day: he endorsed, endorsed a change, opposed a change, re-endorsed change, and moved on to oppose changes.

Pence has a history of being a fool. He killed a grant application bringing tens of millions of federal dollars for Indiana’s preschool programs, giving thousands of low-income families and at-risk children access to early learning programs. Upset by negative press, he declared that he would use tax-payer money to create “Just IN,” a news service run by his government to make pre-written news stories available to outside media. National ridicule and outrage from both the left and right for his propaganda machine caused Pence to drop his idea.

Earning the title “fool” on a fundraising trail for the presidential candidacy that he hasn’t declared, Jeb Bush changed his message on Indiana’s new law from “right on” to “a consensus-oriented approach.” Last week, Bush praised Pence, but today he said, “We shouldn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation,” Bush said. A wealthy supporter of Bush at the fundraiser, Bill Draper, said, “I don’t know what Jeb feels.” Could Bush’s “shift in tone” come from his being in Silicon Valley to raise money? Draper added, “In Silicon Valley, we are very liberal on the issues of gays and women’s rights, and we’re all sensitive to the apparent wording of the law.”

The fools in Congress passed a resolution to block federal rules from the National Labor Relations Board to speed up the time it takes to unionize workers from 38 days to as little as 14 days. Rules require employers to share workers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses with unions. President Obama vetoed the resolution based on the positive changes that unions have created.

As the fools in a House committee prepare to interrogate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the eighth congressional panel about the disaster at the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi where four U.S. citizens were killed, chair Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) called her into a private interview with the committee before May 1. Why secret? So that they can lie about what she said? Or so they wouldn’t be embarrassed by their behavior as so happens in House hearings? Or so they can say that she wouldn’t be transparent? Or they can leak just a bit to put her in a bad light? Or all of these? Clinton prefers a public hearing, but Gowdy claims that he wants it private because he’s not sure he has all the relevant emails. Sounds like an irrelevant, foolish reason.

Top fool in Alabama—and that’s hard to achieve—is Larry Stutts. After Rose Church, an Alabama nurse, gave birth to a healthy baby girl in 1998, she was discharged from the hospital in 36 hours, only to soon return because of complications. Church was treated and discharged from the emergency room, only to die 36 hours later. The family sued the OB/GYN for wrongful death, arguing that Church was discharged too quickly without necessary tests. Although the case was settled out of court, the state legislature unanimously passed “Rose’s Law” requiring a minimum of a 48-hour hospital stay for new mothers following normal, vaginal births, and 96-hour hospital stay for more complicated births, including C-sections.

When Stutts was elected to the state senate last year, his first action was to try to repeal “Rose’s Law” because he connected the 16-year-old law to “Obamacare.” He found six Republican men in the legislature to join him in the repeal attempt. The name of the doctor who settled out of court after Church’s death? Larry Stutts. The doctor also wanted to repeal Alabama’s law requiring patient notification when mammograms show dense tissue, a possible indicator of breast cancer. That law was written by his predecessor, Roger Bedford, after his wife’s cancer was initially overlooked by her doctors. Stutts says that he opposes “emotional legislation.” [Following national publicity, Stutts has pulled his withdrawal for overturning the maternity stay bill. He’s still a fool.]

During a debate about a measure to help prevent rapes on campus, state Rep. Mike Bocchino, fool of Connecticut, objected by saying that there are no witnesses to rape, and if there are, it’s a “really great party.” He did say that date rape is “disgusting,” but then so it what he said.

IJustNeedToPee-x400In 2013, trans first-grader Coy Mathis won a lawsuit so that she can use the girls’ bathroom in Colorado, and in 2014, Last year, trans student Nicole Maines successfully sued her Maine high school and can the same bathroom as other girls. Republicans in Nevada, Minnesota, and Kentucky are reacting to these successes with bills to deny transchildren the use the facilities, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, that correspond to their self-identified sex. Not satisfied with mandating this embarrassment for transchildren, Florida Republicans have proposed a bill calling for a $1,000 fine and a potential prison term of up to one year for anyone trans person, including children, using any sex-segregated public facility in the state. Texas introduced legislation basing access to locker rooms on possession of the “correct” chromosomes. Both the trans people and the attendants allowing them to enter would face a felony charge and jail time. (Evidently Texas is more comfortable legislating bathroom use than people openly carrying guns and accidentally or intentionally shooting others.)

we need to peeAlmost 60 percent of the transgender people avoid going out in public because of worries about safe access to public restrooms. In the same survey, 54 percent said they had physical problems like dehydration or kidney infections from trying to avoid using public bathrooms. Trans people have started a campaign against the fools behind these bills with selfies on hashtag #WeJustNeedToPee that show how foolish they look in a bathroom corresponding with the biological sex at birth. Michael Hughes’ Twitter image (above left) had this message: “Do I look like I belong in women’s facilities? Republicans are trying to get legislation passed that will put me there, based on my gender at birth. Trans people aren’t going to the bathroom to spy on you, or otherwise cause you harm. #wejustneedtopee.”

Even more foolish are the Republicans who want to determine sex through chromosomes. According to a posting from the Intersex Society of North America:

“Maleness and femaleness are NOT determined by having an X or a Y, since switching a couple of genes around can turn things upside down. In fact, there’s a whole lot more to maleness and femaleness than X or Y chromosomes. About 1 in 20,000 men has no Y chromosome, instead having 2 Xs. This means that in the United States there are about 7,500 men without a Y chromosome. The equivalent situation – females who have XY instead of XX chromosomes – can occur for a variety of reasons and overall is similar in frequency. For these 15,000 or more individuals in the US (and who knows how many worldwide), their chromosomes are irrelevant. It is the total complement of their genes along with their life experiences (physical, mental, social) that makes them who they are (or any of us, for that matter).”

We know that science is not a strong point with many Republicans.

The fool in Missouri for today is legislator Jeff Pogue, who wants to return to the “social norms” of 1820. He wants to deny state funding for unisex bathrooms and for any “project, program, or policy that creates or attempts to create a gender-neutral environment.” In 1820, Missouri was admitted to the union as a slave state, and women could not vote. Missouri’s state motto is “Salus populi suprema lex esto” translated as “Let the good of the people be the supreme law.”

sex after sixty

Iowa debates are really boring, according to state GOP Rep. Ross Paustian. That’s why legislators passed around the self-help book Sex after Sixty during a debate about weakening collective bargaining rights for state teachers. Des Moines Register reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel tweeted the photo above. During the same session, state Republican Rep. Clel Baudler watched Netflix on his laptop. Paustian apologized to his constituents but claimed that he was fully engaged in the debate. After the Republicans survived the boredom, they all voted against the teachers. I would ask how lawmakers would react if the teachers, who have lost some of their rights, behaved in the same was as lawmakers because they were “bored.”

The root of the word “fool” is from the Latin follis, which means “bag of wind.”

March 17, 2015

Clinton Not Alone with Private Emails

Filed under: Surveillance — trp2011 @ 9:01 PM
Tags: , , ,

The war of the senatorial 47 percent signing a mutinous letter to Iran last week was accompanied by the war of the emails. First came the news that Hillary Clinton, while Secretary of State, used her private server for emails rather than the government server. By today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had called on Clinton to turn over her email server to a “neutral third party” for review. He also attacked her for not signing a “separation statement,” a recommendation for State Department staff to acknowledge that they have submitted all appropriate records to proper officials.

State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, stated that there was no record of Clinton signing such a statement and that she had not violated any rule by not doing so. Psaki added that there is no record of Clinton’s immediate predecessors signing the form.

It is expected that two House panels will provide “rigorous oversight”–the Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Gowdy has issued a subpoena for emails related to the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic outpost that killed four U.S. citizens and agreed to the March 27 deadline for the emails.

Oversight committees into Clinton’s email might want to take a good look at the email addresses for Gowdy and Jaffetz, two men who also deal with sensitive information. Chaffetz’s business card lists a Gmail address, and Gowdy uses his own domain, treygowdy.com. AlterNet asked Gowdy’s office how the representative separates work through his personal domain and through his congressional work as well as where his personal email server is stored. More than two days after both the office and Gowdy campaign manager George Ramsey were contacted, AlterNet received no response to the questions. David Brock of The Record also received no response to these questions.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush isn’t the only GOP presidential wannabe to complain about Clinton’s email situation, but he may be the most vulnerable. Bush claimed:

“For security purposes, you need to be behind a firewall that recognizes the world for what it is, and it’s a dangerous world, and security would mean that you couldn’t have a private server. It’s a little baffling, to be honest with you, that didn’t come up in Secretary Clinton’s thought process.”

The media has largely ignored the fact that Bush used his private e-mail account as Florida governor to discuss security and military issues such as troop deployments to the Middle East and the protection of nuclear plants. Required to turn over records pertaining to official business “at the expiration of his or her term of office,” Bush waited more than seven years to meet these obligations. The search for a Clinton email “scandal” may eventually bring its similarity to Bush’s inactions to public notice because he did exactly what Clinton has done. Bush and his team examined the emails to determine the ones that should be released and the ones that should be kept private.

Perhaps they should have kept a few more emails private. Among the 275,000 e-mails Bush released, some of them showed a pattern of favors for donors. Although that doesn’t come as a shock in politics, the electronic trail doesn’t give a positive spin on Bush’s actions. An example is Bush emails is this one from GOP-donor William “Bill” Becker, Florida citrus grower: “Many thanks for an expedited and wonderful appointment.” People for the American Way, Every Voice, Public Citizen, Demos, the Brennan Center, and Common Cause jointly issued the statement:

“The emails reveal what most voters already know: Elected officials grant special favors and access to big donors that everyday voters can only dream about.”

As Jeb Bush started his meetings with major donors last December, the wealthy were telling him what they want in exchange for support and fundraising. These donors have a history from the 1999 meetings with George W. Bush with CEOs before his campaign was “officially” launched. At that time, a GOP lobbyist for Silicon Valley tech firms said that they were “educating” W. on the issues. Their “education” led to bundling millions of dollars for W., and the lobbyist became a liaison to the tech sector after Bush’s appointment to president in 2000.

States are fighting the same battle of the private emails:

  • Although the most recent issue came up in Oregon, the state Supreme Court in California is reviewing a lower court’s ruling that public officials’ communications on private accounts are not subject to the state’s public records law.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that the records on former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter are not public, prompting a dissenting opinion from two justices who said the court gave public officials a path to conceal public business “for the price of a monthly cellphone plan.”
  • The emails of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin weren’t released for three years after the request. She used three different accounts and regularly communicated with top aides who also used their own personal accounts.
  • Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has repeatedly fought with public record advocates, media organizations, and others over whether he has followed the state’s transparency law, one of the broadest in the country. Although denying that he used private accounts for state business, emails found after his re-election last November show that email exchanges with top aides and others included topics such as vetoes, the state budget, and his speeches. Florida law allows private email accounts but requires the emails be turned over if requested. Scott is currently being sued for flouting the law and ignoring public record requests.
  • Another Florida politician, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, deleted emails from his private account while serving in state government at the same time that he used this personal account for business related to his official duties.
  • Kansas has a bill would require disclosure of official emails from private accounts in response to the budget director for GOP Gov. Sam Brownback using a private email account at least twice in December to circulate a summary of budget proposals being considered by the administration. Two lobbyists with ties to the governor were in the group receiving the emails, weeks before lawmakers saw details of the governor’s budget proposals.
  • In New Mexico, GOP Gov. Susana Martinez has been sued by news organizations seeking access to her work and travel schedules, cellphone calls, and expenses of her security detail. A state district judge ruled last month that Martinez’s personal and political calendars are not public records because the documents were maintained by Martinez on her personal devices.
  • While calling Clinton’s use of a private email address an “outrage,” Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker is in the midst of a controversy surrounding his use of a private email address.
  • In New Jersey, GOP Gov. Chris Christie’s administration communicated through private emails and was chastised by lawyers hired by his team to investigate the lane closing at the George Washington Bridge.
  • Both Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry conducted official business from their private email accounts and have not released the emails for public scrutiny.

The GOP attack on Clinton’s emails managed to draw attention from another important progressive position. She was at the UN to celebrate the effects of the 1995 U.N. Women’s Conference for the grassroots empowerment of women. The attack on Clinton at that specific event was a parallel to Fox network’s reporting on President Obama’s speech in Selma about the during struggle for voting rights: the entire conservative focus was how George W. Bush’s was supposedly cropped out of official White House photographs. Jeb Bush was governor of Florida during the voting debacle in a state that actually voted for W. Bush’s opponent but was given to W. by Republican judges.

The controversy about Hillary Clinton’s emails is not irrelevant. Neither is the massive hypocrisy that has emerged from the criticism. The Bush/Cheney White House lost millions of important emails, Mitt Romney spend a great deal of time to hide his public emails during his most recent presidential campaign, and previous Secretaries of State send emails that the public will most likely never see. A “fair and balanced” media would highlight those issues with the same fervor that it has with the Clinton emails.

May 12, 2014

GOP’s Benghazi OCD Shows Ignorance

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:18 PM
Tags: , ,

Over a leisurely, late breakfast this morning, I discussed politics with a beloved friend, a Republican who now calls herself a centrist. Two topics that came up were the proposed hearings on Benghazi and the Affordable Care Act. I always take away interesting information from my talks with her, and this morning was no exception.

Almost 20 months ago, four people were tragically killed at a diplomatic outpost in Libya. The GOP is still convinced that President Obama lied about the reasons behind the deaths because the 2012 campaign was heating up. Conservatives also claim that the deaths could have been prevented and that Hillary Clinton was callous about the deaths. The other side still believes in the possibility that an anti-Muhammad video resulting in riots across 30 countries was a contributing factor.

The most recent excuse to have a 14th hearing on the tragedy comes from the appearance of an email about talking points for Susan Rice, then Ambassador to the United Nations and responsible for public information about Benghazi.  The new effort makes eight subpoenas, 50 briefings, hundreds of hours of transcribed interviews, and 25,000 pages of documents.

The ACA, my other topic discussion with my friend, received at least 50 repeal votes since it was passed in December 2010. (It appears that Benghazi has a few more hearings to go.) Although GOP candidates trying to replace members of Congress are campaigning on repealing Obamacare, existing lawmakers realize that the healthcare reform has gained a great deal of popularity since it went into effect in the last few months. That popularity has shifted the GOP circus from one circle to another. Fox network has almost totally withdrawn from any discussion of ACA to focus on Benghazi as the following chart shows:

benghaziobamacare550

Fox also dropped the Cliven Bundy stories when they figured out they would have to blame the conservatives.

foxbenghaziobamacare bundy The new circle at the circus may come back to bite the GOP. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that a possible Democrat boycott of the hearings would demand the GOP to meet a high standard, as if a high standard were not customary for House hearings. Boehner also needs to worry about the embarrassment from politicizing the hearings. Although they continue to claim that this is not being done for any political reasons, both the RNC and GOP candidates are using the event for fundraising.  Boehner denies any knowledge about the fundraising although he leads a monthly briefing meeting at RNC headquarters.

Although the House pretends that the Benghazi hearings are for fact-finding reasons, the committee chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is treating it like a trial. In answering a question about whether the panel’s work would continue in the 2016 election cycle, he replied, “If an administration is slow-walking document production, I can’t end a trial simply because the defense won’t cooperate.” He is convinced that the Obama administration is guilty and his responsibility is to prosecute its officials: “I can’t disclose that evidence yet, but I have evidence that there was a systematic intentional decision to withhold certain documents from Congress.”

Gowdy also explained that the hearings are weighted with Republicans because “one side gets more strikes than the other side when you’re constituting a jury.”  Following his policy, the Democrats should have a greater number:  in Gowdy’s trial his side has only six peremptory challenges as compared to the ten that the defendant receives. In a gesture of generosity, Republicans are willing to let Democrats read the documents and know about subpoenas.

Unfortunately for Gowdy, he’s also starting out with other positions of ignorance.  He plans to ask about lacking security, failure of military units to more toward support, and lack of references to “terrorist” and “attacks” in President Obama’s talking points. Answers to these have already been provided. Gowdy says that he doesn’t wish to rehash earlier Congressional investigations, but  these questions have been asked a number of times.

In discussing the recently-surfaced email, Gowdy seems ignorant of any disturbances and dangers in  the Middle East other than at Benghazi. In the email’s reference to bringing countries to justice for harming our citizens, he said, “What other country could they be talking about? I mean what else was being discussed after September 11, 2012 other than Benghazi?” Maybe Egypt, Yemen, and Sudan to begin with?

As a prosecutor, Gowdy would be familiar with the objection “asked and answered.” Counsel can’t repeat a question to a witness after getting an answer. He wants to ask Hillary Clinton why diplomats remained in Benghazi because of danger. Clinton has already answer the question, but the GOP wants to ask it again because they don’t like her other answer.

A question for Gowdy regarding the hearings, however, is why they are concentrating on Benghazi. Just the year of 2012 saw 86 “significant attacks” against diplomatic outposts, according to the State Department. The death toll of these attacks was 24, not four. Since 1970, 521 attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets killed 500 people. These included a truck bomb explosion in Nairobi (Kenya) that killed 213 people, 12 of them from the United States.

In 1983, Ronald Reagan’s time, 241 GIs died in an attack on a Beirut barracks. Less than a year later, a U.S. government outpost in Beirut was bombed for the third time in 18 months. Reagan explained that repairs hadn’t been finished on time: “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.” There were no hearings for hundreds of deaths, a tortured and killed CIA chief, and other bombings despite the urging of the U.S. Secretary of Defense to pull out the people serving in Lebanon.

The House suffers from either Benghazi Fever or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—or both. Before Boehner set up the special House committee to investigate the attack at Benghazi, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry on the same subject, despite the fact that Kerry has voluntarily testified before Issa’s committee and would probably do so again. Yet he was ordered to appear, not asked.

During Issa’s hearings, retired Brig. General Robert Lovell said, “I did not say we did not try [to save the people at Benghazi].” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) declared, “We have no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources the Defense Department had available to respond.”

An extensive investigation by The New York Times, including interviews with Libyans who were familiar with the attack, revealed no evidence of Al Qaeda or international terrorist group participation. Fighters who benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi led the attack. In large part, it was fueled by anger at the Christian video which led to more anger after the false rumor that guards inside the U.S. compound had shot Libyan protesters. A Senate intelligence committee report in January stated:

“Intelligence suggests that the attack was not a highly coordinated plot, but was opportunistic. It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attacks or whether extremist group leaders directed their members to participate. Some intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day’s violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video.”

Republicans have already behaved shamefully by revealing the names of Libyans talking the U.S. consulate, thus putting these people into danger. They ignored reports from Libyan security officials about a demonstration at the Benghazi diplomatic outpost because of the anti-Muhammad video. Despite Graham’s claims, Benghazi is not dominated by Al Qaeda. The Benghazi municipal council told then U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, killed in the attack, that security in the city was improving. About six months before the attack, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) talked about “the enormous progress … made in the past few months.”

No one in the House has investigated the CIA for its participation in the attack because of its compound attached to the diplomatic million. Nor have they created a select committee to investigate the problem instead of a specific situation. Doing so, however, doesn’t raise money and elect Republicans.

The GOP leaders claim that they’re re-investigating Benghazi for the families, but they don’t want it. The budget doesn’t want it. Nothing new will be revealed. Therefore the House GOP members will waste money and cause more pain to get elected in 2014.

None of the committee members has been in Congress for more than seven years, and almost half came in with the Tea Party sweep of 2010. Most are extremely conservative (as compared with quite conservative). Several are lawyers, and the chair is a former federal prosecutor. Four of the seven have already investigated Benghazi.

If the committee succeeds, the GOP will cheer; if it fails, Boehner will have thrown a few Tea Party members under the bus’s wheels. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), watching from the safety of the Senate, said, “The people who are seen as politicizing this are going to get burned.”

Next year, dictionaries may add Benghazi as different parts of speech—the verb “to Benghazi” someone, the adjective “a Benghazi experience,” even an expletive “oh Benghazi!”

The House would be better served by investigating the terrorist militias in Nevada and Utah who are pointing weapons at U.S. citizens, violating U.S. law, and destroying U.S. property.

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