Nel's New Day

July 31, 2015

Travesties in Friday News Dump

The last day of the traditional work day is known in the media as “Trash Day,” according to the classic TV series “West Wing” description of the Friday news dump. The tactic is to “dump” bad news or documents on that day so that media scrutiny would be minimized. Here are some of the Friday dump day travesties:

 

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was last Tuesday: July 28, 2015, is the day when black women caught up with the salary that white men made in 2015. In other words, black women had to work 575 days to match the pay that men made in 365 days. Black women make 64 percent of white men, but Native American women salaries are far worse—at 59 percent of white men’s salaries.

What Voting Problems?! A Wichita State University mathematician asked for Kansas voting machines to be audited because of suspicious patterns in electronic returns, but government officials don’t want anyone to know about its problems. When Beth Clarkson, chief statistician for WSU’s National Institution for Aviation Research, made calculations after last November’s election, she found a “statistically significant” pattern in which the percentage of GOP votes increase according to how big the precinct is, even where other demographics don’t agree. She said that this anomaly happens across the country. Forced to file a lawsuit against state Secretary of State Chris Kobach for documentation, she still hasn’t been able to get the information.

Walker Rides High on Hypocrisy. In an op-ed for the Des Moines Register, presidential candidate and Wisconsin’s GOP governor, Scott Walker, wrote, “You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.” His reference was to how Hillary Clinton spent time in meetings with union bosses, who he calls “big-labor special interests,” as she will “shun everyday” people. Walker is headed to a luxury hotel in Southern California with other GOP presidential candidates—Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio—to attend the Koch brothers annual summer conference for Freedom Partners with 450 of the wealthiest donors on the far-right.

An Environmental Award for Rick Scott Is a Joke. The governor has  one of the worst environmental records in the history of Florida—and that’s saying something—and banned state employees from saying “climate change.” He decimated funding for important departments and projects while appointing developers and land use lawyers to their boards. They gave employees bonuses for speeding up permit approval and suspended Connie Bersok who refused to violate state law by approving development in the state’s wetlands. Chair of the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida giving Scott an award for his “conservation work” is Rodney Barreto—wealthy businessman, lobbyist, chair of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee, and Jeb Bush appointee.

McConnell Shows Game Plan for 2017: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) plans to use reconciliation to bypass the 60 votes necessary to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The purpose of reconciliation is reducing the deficit, and repealing the ACA would increase the deficit. The far-right Heritage Action group suggests replacing an official score of a repeal with a GOP invented score.

GOP Women Posted Graphic Illustration of Lynching on Facebook. The official Facebook page of the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women briefly showed an image of a lynched black man until complaints led to its withdrawal. The text read, “The KKK was formed by the Democrats to keep control over black Americans. The Democrats of today just traded ropes for welfare.” In 2013, over 40 percent of food stamp recipients were white. The number of food stamp beneficiaries who are black has declined every year from 2001 through 2010; in 2013, only one-fourth of the recipients were black. Even if more beneficiaries were black, there is no excuse for using either the illustration or the text.

Pro-Israel, Anti-Iran Agreement Organization Pays to Take Democrat Senators to Israel on a Propaganda Tour: Lobby group AIPAC led the United States into a war with Iraq, and now it wants the United States to start a war with Iran. That’s why they are sending 40 members of Congress, several of them Democrats, to Israel this coming month to listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explain why they should vote with him instead of the President of the United States. Legislators prefer to meet with Netanyahu rather than their own constituents. AIPAC is spending at least $50 million to persuade people to vote against the Iran agreement.

Super PAC Carly for America Is Coordinating with Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina: The Supreme Court ruling allowing almost unlimited money in donations to political candidates through super PACS also mandated no communication between the organizations and the individual campaign efforts of political candidates. Yet the super PAC for Fiorina, confusingly called “Carly for America,” has invited its supporters to join a conference call with the candidate Carly Fiorina while including the necessary legal notice that Carly for America “is an independent expenditure committee and not authorized or coordinated with any federal candidate or candidate’s committee.” The super PAC also performs candidate campaign functions such as managing rapid response to press questions, rolling out endorsements of the candidate, funding grassroots organizing, and organizing advance work for Fiorina’s appearances. Fiorina isn’t alone in crossing the line: presidential candidate and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivered his anti-Donald Trump speech at a July 22 event hosted by his super PAC, Opportunity and Freedom PAC.

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) Lecture Nuclear Physicist on Nuclear Weapons. Last week, Cruz and Johnson accused Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz of knowing less that they did about Iran’s possible nuclear weapons and the threat of an imaginary Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon to take out the nation’s electronic grid. First, the senators accused Moniz of not knowing what an EMP was because he had said he did not know the 2008 Congressional report recommendations. Cruz claimed to be “stunned” at what he considered Moniz’s ignorance about the subject. Then he refused to allow the nuclear physicist, longtime MIT professor, and holder of a PhD in theoretical physics from Stanford to answer a question before accusing him of “refusing to answer the question.” Far-right articles claim that the EMP could easily leave “9 out of 10 Americans dead,”but the Federation of American Scientists stated that this would require a “large device” detonated about 300 miles above Wichita at the altitude of the International Space Station.

Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley, Appointed Matthew Brown to the State Department of Education: The new appointee is a fundamentalist Christian who hates the public school system and has sworn that his children will never attend public school. Bentley said, “Matthew brings a unique perspective to the position.” His perspective is to starve the public education system through vouchers and charter schools, which Bentley strongly supports through taking $30 million from public schools.

Medicare Turned 50 Yesterday: That’s the good news. The travesty is the GOP attempts to eliminate health care for the elderly and disabled. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is leading the charge to”figure out a way to phase out this program for [younger people] and move to a new system that allows them to have something.” Backlash led a Bush spokesman to say that Bush wanted only modest reforms. Conservatives say they want to shift the current “defined benefit” program providing specific protections and levels of financial security to a “defined contribution” that distributes money according to a pre-determined formula and require seniors to shop for coverage. What they really want is to end Medicare’s guaranteed health care.

Cruz Tells Code Pink That “Truth Matters” Before He Lies: After pointing out the importance of truth, Cruz said that both Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani “explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons. There is no doubt about it.” Code Pink’s co-founder Medea Benjamin said, “That is absolutely false.” Benjamin speaks the truth, but Cruz told Benjamin not to interrupt him. Conservatives failed to report the statements but said that Cruz “crushed” Code Pink. [Insight into Cruz: one of his favorite superheroes is Rorschach, the mentally unstable killer in Alan Moore’s Watchman who lives by his own moral code and exacts severe—maybe psychotic—punishment for anyone who violates it.]

pigs flyTexas Displays Judicial ActivismAfter anti-LGBT activists couldn’t get the 17,000 signatures required to put Houston’s anti-discrimination measures to a vote, the Texas Supreme Court suspended the ordinance, ruling that it either be repealed or put before voters. The court couldn’t do this legally, but it made the ruling. Do conservatives find this judicial activism—which they profess to hate? Will they object? Do pigs fly?

Congress Passes Short-term Highway Funding Bill: The Senate has passed a funding bill to continue the Highway Trust Fund for six years but pays for only three, providing $45 billion spread out for the six years over the gasoline tax. They not only refused to increase the gas tax to levels of 20 years ago but also could not work anything out with the House, that passed only a three-month extension of the funding. The Senate made a bipartisan refusal with 18 Democrats and 15 Republicans voting against it. Great comment from Oregon’s senior senator, Ron Wyden:

“I said to a friend this morning with apologies to the elephants: When the elephants lock tusks, it’s never dull.”

States cannot possibly plan for major transportation projects and prolong maintenance on dangerously damaged roads and bridges with short-term fixes, and this is the 34th “fix” since 2009—an average of five each year. After the recess, the two congressional chambers will have to tackle the problem again. And the Iran deal. And the appropriations bill. And Planned Parenthood. And anything else that has nothing to do with jobs. And the infrastructure suffers because Congress hands out the money in dribbles and drabs.

 

January 31, 2015

Kissinger-Defender McCain Calls Code PINK ‘Low-life Scum’

“I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place…” That was part of Sen. John McCain’s apology to Henry Kissinger, 90, after Code PINK protesters interrupted a Senate hearing with their demands that Kissinger be arrested for war crimes. While serving as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State between 1969 and 1977, Kissinger “designed and implemented policies which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, the overthrow of democratically-elected governments, and the invasion and occupation of sovereign countries,” according to a group of historians. In defense of Kissinger, the 78-year-old senator who is currently considering running for another six-year term in 2016, labeled the protesters as “low-life scum.”

Early in his term as National Security Officer, Kissinger authorized the secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia in 1969 and 1970 killed 40,000 people. He said, “[Nixon] wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn’t want to hear anything about it. It’s an order, to be done. Anything that flies or anything that moves.”  Although Kissinger claimed that he was stopping North Vietnamese troops, he merely gave the brutal Khmer Rouge an opportunity to take over Cambodia, allowing the U.S. a justification for more bombings. Kissinger illegally bombed a sovereign nation, destabilized its government, and allowed a violent, autocratic regime to seize powers.

Kissinger’s killings didn’t end with Cambodia. As Secretary of State for Richard Nixon in 1973, he facilitated a coup against legally elected Salvador Allende that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power and ended civilian rule. Among the 5,000 people rounded up in Chile’s National Stadium was singer/songwriter Victor Jara. Guards smashed his hands, tore off his nails, and then ordered him to play his guitar before dumping his dead body, riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture, into the street. After hearing about the torture and slaughter of thousands of Chileans, Kissinger said to Pinochet, “You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende.”

During his 17-year reign in Chile, government policies dramatically increased economic inequality—just as attempted in the United States—by restricting labor unions and privatizing social security. When Pinochet died in 2006, Chile had approximately 300 pending criminal charges against him not only for human rights violations but also tax evasion and embezzlement.

Hours after Kissinger and President Jerry Ford visited Indonesia in 1975, the country invaded East Timor with weapons provided by the United States. The result was a 25-year occupation in which 100,000 to 180,000 soldiers and civilians were killed or starved to death. Horrifying details of the invasion are here. Almost all the military equipment for the invasion came from the United States. U.S.-supplied destroyer escorts shelled East Timor, and U.S. aircraft dropped Indonesian paratroops and strafed East Timor’s largest city. Although the U.S. claimed that they suspended military service to Indonesia from 1975 to 1979, taxpayers provided $250 million of military assistance to Indonesia during those years.

Kissinger’s war crimes include his backing Pakistan’s overthrow of Bangladesh’s democratically elected government which caused half a million deaths. He also gave the green light to Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus when a right-wing junta wing replaced President Archbishop Makarios in 1974.

In The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, writing as a prosecutor before an international court of law, describes Kissinger’s ordering or sanctioning the destruction of civilian populations, his assassination of “unfriendly” politicians, and the kidnapping and disappearance of soldiers, journalists and clerics who got in his way.

Kissinger fled France after French Judge Roger Le Loire served Kissinger to appear in court. Indictments from Spain, Argentina, Uruguay—even a civil suit in Washington D.C.—followed Kissinger. Trying him may be difficult because he doesn’t directly commission these crimes; instead he facilitates them. The B-52s flew over Cambodia to bomb villages so high that the planes’ crews couldn’t see the targets.

In a pre-Internet world, Kissinger’s crimes were easier to hide. With access to information now, people were able to find out that George W. Bush lied about Saddam Hussein’s having weapons of mass destruction were able to discover that he was wrong although 42 percent of the people still believe Iraq had WMD. Less known, however, the United States’ long history of supporting Hussein and providing him with weapons and other resources before the political strategy of deposing him in 2003.

While McCain claims that “war is wretched beyond description,” he is the biggest war hawk in Congress whether about Iraq, Syria, or Iran. Yet he kept a 2014 bill for veterans’ retirement pay restoration from getting to the Senate floor. Five years earlier he allowed a bill to die that would have funded a transition for homeless veterans to having shelter. The same year he did the same thing for a bill to provide homes for veterans who are single mothers. Another bill he helped destroy was to pair up veterans with job opportunities based on their skills.

McCain has a net worth of over $10 million and owns eight properties, putting him in the top 0.01 percent of people in the United States. He voted 19 times against increasing the minimum wage but voted to extend George W. Bush’s tax cut package. Earlier he had called it “generous tax relief to the wealthiest individuals of our country at the expense of lower and middle-income taxpayers.” McCain’s $700-million bailout for big banks benefited him with almost $2 million in campaign and leadership PAC donations between 2005 and 2010.

Instead of being disgusted by Kissinger’s behavior, McCain fawned over him, apologizing profusely for anyone who objected to Kissinger’s reign of terror for decades. Kissinger has presided over a series of failed wars and was invited to the Senate to testify about “Global Challenges and the U.S. National Security Strategy.”

McCain follows the conservative approach of sliming individuals rather than their ideas. He calls the protesters “scum” but fails to point out how their ideas are wrong. Nowhere does he try to deny or justify Kissinger’s complicity in replacing elected officials with brutal dictators while killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The theory, which never succeeds, is that eliminating the people will take away the ideas, avoiding the merits of an argument by attacking an individual’s or group’s character. Michael Mann calls it “The Serengeti Strategy” in which a lion kills an individual zebra, usually one perceived as a soft target, rather than going for the herd. McCain can’t kill off the herd of people who believe that Kissinger should be tried for his war crimes because he can’t stop the debate. Therefore he yells “low-life scum” at a group composed largely of young women.

McCain’s purpose was to silence the protesters. The best way to oppose this intention is to keep talking and keep talking. “The best defense is a good offense.” Mann writes that a herd can be made stronger by supporting those who are perceived as weak and vulnerable.

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