Nel's New Day

July 29, 2019

More Fodder for DDT’s Swamp

Determined to surround himself by incompetent sycophants, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) found a candidate for his intelligence chief, in charge of 16 agencies, after getting rid of Dan Coats, a Republican who served in that position for over two years. The new loyalist pick, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), auditioned for director of national intelligence when he slammed special investigator Robert Mueller during last week’s House committee hearings and showed himself to be comfortable with protecting DDT through ignoring Russian interference in U.S. elections. Ratcliffe denied that DDT committed obstruction of justice and criticized Mueller for addressing it in his report. GOP senators will almost likely confirm the nomination.

Like most of DDT’s other appointments, the partisan Ratcliffe has little background for the position for which he is nominated, in this case a position which should be independent. For Ratcliffe, his ignorance is not a huge problem because Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, formerly CIA director, sets the agenda for the intelligence agencies.

The order creating the office after 9/11 requires military or intelligence experience for the director. Ratcliffe lacks both. He was a private practice lawyer until he became Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security for part of Texas for a few years in the early 2000s. During that time, he was also mayor of a city with a population of 8,000 people. In his third term for the U.S. House, he has been on the Intelligence Committee since January. His website states that he “put terrorists in prison,” no evidence exists that he has prosecuted a terrorism case. In opposition to the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling, Ratcliffe claimed that any interference benefitted Hillary Clinton. Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) summed up Ratcliffe’s experience for leading 17 intelligence agencies:

“The sum total of his qualifications appears to be his record of promoting Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about the investigation into Russian interference and calling for prosecution of Trump’s political enemies.”

GOP senators seem lukewarm about Ratcliffe’s appointment, and they may face more problems with DDT’s appointment of Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten as the next vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Army Col. Kathryn A. Spletstoser renewed her assertion that he sexually assaulted her in a California hotel room. The episode allegedly came after a number of unwanted touchings in 2017. She reported his behavior, but Hyten denied that it happened. During an inquiry, his wife said that his private-sector lie-detector test “did not go well,” and Hyten refused to take one for the Department of Defense. Yet investigators found “insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct.” The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding confirmation hearings for Hyten this week after meeting with him and Spletstoser in closed sessions.

After an appointment as chief of naval operations, Admiral William Moran, confirmed in May by a Senate voice vote, declined the position for an early retirement, perhaps because of emails between him and Cmdr. Chris Servello who retired in disgrace. Servello was investigated for allegedly acting inappropriately toward women during a Pentagon holiday party in 2016. The Navy found that his harassment didn’t constitute “criminal sexual harassment,” but Servello retired. He had been chief spokesman for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson who was found to take little disciplinary action for not censuring Servello earlier when Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) began an examination into hundreds of sexual assault and harassment complaints in the armed forces. Richard will stay on as Chief until a replacement is confirmed.

DDT has followed his pattern of appointing people to cabinet positions who oppose the agencies’ missions with his nomination of Eugene Scalia, son of a former Supreme Court justice, to lead the Labor Department after Alex Acosta left during the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. The anti-labor lawyer tirelessly worked for large corporations to circumvent regulations and stop employees organizing efforts. His legal efforts benefitted Ford Motor, MetLife, American Petroleum Institute, Steve Wynn’s casinos, and major telecommunications and retail industry trade associations. Other Scalia successes are defeating the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Labor Department, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Federal Communications. Commission.

Thanks to Scalia, Walmart won its case against a Maryland law requiring companies with over 10,000 workers to either spend eight percent of payroll costs on health care of pay into a state Medicaid fund. Another Scalia win was against unions arguing that Boeing violated labor law in threats to open a South Carolina assembly plant if the union didn’t agree to a no-strike contract clause. Scalia also worked to protect Wall Street from the Dodd-Frank Act. DDT’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, wanted a far more aggressive anti-labor leader to head up the Labor Department.

Seventeen years ago, George W. Bush appointed Scalia the acting solicitor at the Labor Department in a recess appointment after Democrats opposed Scalia for his opposition to protecting workers from job-related repetitive stress injuries. Scalia was also AG Bill Barr’s special assistant under George H.W. Bush and wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan’s education secretary, William Bennett.

Mark Esper, top lobbyist for Raytheon receiving $18.1 billion in unclassified defense contracts last year, easily received confirmation despite his refusal to recuse himself from Raytheon issues. He also declined to commit to not working for a private defense company for four years after he leaves the Pentagon. Only eight senators voted against him, half of them women. A friend and former classmate of Pompeo, he will make a formidable team with the Secretary of State against national defense secretary John Bolton. As Open Secrets shows in this article, DDT seeks out lobbyists for his administration.

The FAA has moved from administration by Boeing to Delta in the Senate’s confirmation of a longtime Delta Air Lines executive Steven Dickson along party lines. He replaces acting secretary Daniel Elwell who had been a lobbyist for Boeing. Democrats opposed Dickson because of the company’s whistleblower retaliation while he was senior vice president of flight operations. Although Dickson said that safety would be a priority for him, Delta pilot Karlene Petitt was forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and barred from flying after she spoke out on safety issues, specifically inadequate pilot training and lack of pilot rest. Her whistleblower claim is before an administrative law judge who said that he was “really troubled” by her case. Dickson had failed to mention the case in his questionnaire and downplayed his involvement during the hearings. A medical expert at the Mayo Clinic said that “the evidence … does support an organizational/corporate effort to remove this pilot from the rolls.”

When DDT is not hiring lobbyists and industry officials, he shops for new people at Fox. Monica Crowley, who lost her chance to be on DDT’s National Security Council because of plagiarism, is now the Treasury Department spokesperson as assistant secretary for public affairs. Crowley spread conspiracy theories about President Obama being a secret Muslim on the side of Islam terrorists and being not born in the United States. She follows Morgan Ortagus who recently became the new spokesperson at the State Department who replaced former Fox anchor Heather Nauert. Just before that, former Fox reporter Lea Gabrielle became leader of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center. Cabinet members Ben Carson and Elaine Chao were also on Fox. The “joke” is that people can feed DDT information if they get on Fox—like the video that elicited DDT’s series of racist tweets for the past ten days. More Fox folk for DDT here.

Michelle Moons, White House correspondent for Steve Bannon’s Breitbart, has moved to the office of Domestic Policy Council.

As DDT hires lobbyists and journalists, professionals are moving out of his administration. Former State Department intelligence official Rod Schoonover resigned “in protest” for DDT’s blocking him from presenting evidence and data on the impacts of climate change in Congressional testimony. The excuse in cutting scientific information was that it did not fit with DDT’s official position. Critics of the testimony included National Security Council senior director William Happer who finds carbon dioxide beneficial. Schoonover quit after a decade of federal service at the same time that DDT blocks climate research from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and DDT’s new plan to help polluters, in opposition to EPA assessment that the plan will annually kill 1,400 people.

Lack of support by the UK new prime minister, Boris Johnson, caused Sir Kim Darroch to resign as British ambassador to the U.S. because of Darroch’s uncomplimentary statements about DDT. Even conservative MPs called Johnson’s conduct “contemptible.” Darroch will stay on the job until a new ambassador is appointment which doesn’t look eminent at this time. 

June 22, 2019

DDT: Week 126, Threat Balloons Backfire, More Lies

This blog refers to the man inaugurated in 2016 and limited by the U.S. Constitution to two four-year terms as “dictator.” A video from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) shows his interest in being “president for life”—up until the year 10,000.

In his interview with Chuck Todd about the proposed preemptive strike on Iran, to be shown on Sunday, DDT claimed no planes in the air and no final approval. Planes were most likely in the air, however, because the operation required them to go from distant bases hours away from Iran. Unless there was an operation. DDT did declare that his on Iran would be “obliteration like you’ve never seen before.” People in the U.S. could be the ones obliterated. Even Fox network figured out that he is lying: Shep Smith and Chris Wallace both questioned DDT’s statements

Increasingly disenchanted with Fox, DDT also accusing them of “fake news” because of Fox polls showing Biden leading over DDT in several battleground states and disputing the Fox report that DDT spend 30 hours with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos—which he did. Fox’s Sean Hannity, who reportedly has nightly telephone pillow talk with DDT, is not as popular with DDT as shown by DDT’s comment that Hannity is motivated more by ratings than by patriotism. DDT also mocks Hannity’s fawning behind closed doors as dull and unchallenging. DDT may no longer need Hannity Since Paul Manafort is in prison for 7.5 years, DDT may not need Hannity who apparently illegally passed information between Manafort and DDT while Manafort waited in jail for his trial. A judge unsealed hundreds of emails between Hannity and Manafort, some of the time when Manafort was under a gag order not to communicate with anyone except lawyers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told DDT not to go through with his misbegotten war plans when DDT briefed her, joined in the White House by other congressional leaders Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY). About the 3:00 pm meeting, Pelosi said, “Democratic leaders emphasized that hostilities must not be initiated without the approval of Congress.” DDT supposedly called off the strike at 7:00 pm, about two hours before the scheduled finale. Perhaps DDT obeyed Russia’s president Vladimir Putin who said that a U.S. attack on Iran would be a “catastrophe.” Bully and television performer, DDT loves drama and sends up threat balloons to find a reaction; hopefully the backlash was too much for him.

In another failed threat balloon, DDT defended his plan to deport “millions” tomorrow before tweeting that he was delaying the deportation “for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans” can agree on an (unidentified) resolution for “Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.” There won’t be a resolution because Republicans don’t want one. Pelosi tweeted, “Families belong together.” DDT disagrees although he lies about his position and blames the non-existent “sanctuary cities.” Houston police chief Art Acevedo in Houston, nowhere near giving sanctuary, tweeted his approval of blocking deportations:

“Rhetoric that causes fear & panic & pushes folks further into the dark places all at risk.”

Even acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who supervises ICE, knows that separating children from their parents is becoming political suicide. That’s the reason that GOP senators are crying “humanitarian” on a bill designed to get more money to separate families and cage children. The bill escaped a committee, but questions have been raised since publicity about the neglect and abuse of children on the southern border. Democrats need to be careful; DDT considers a wall “humanitarian aid.” DDT is good for human smuggling across the southern border. Every time he mentions his wall, more migrants head toward the United States. While DDT pushes billions for a southern border wall because of the illegal drug trade, $1.2 billion worth of cocaine was shipped into a Philadelphia port out of Chile, Panama, and the Bahamas—one of the biggest drug seizures in U.S. history. Although this shipment was discovered, Joaquín Guzman (“El Chapo”) has talked extensively about smuggling drugs through ports of entry.

The Senate is running short on time. Within 40 “working” days, the U.S. is ripe for a shutdown because of no bills for raising the debt ceiling and passing appropriations bills. GOP congressional leaders have a bipartisan deadlock with DDT on budgeting because acting chief of staff and budget director Mick Mulvaney’s agenda disagrees with DDT’s desires. The actions of Mulvaney, formerly a South Carolina GOP representative, are particularly galling to Republicans. During a White House meeting last Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin suggested a one-year stopgap measure that keeps funding at its current levels with a one-year debt limit suspension, unpopular with Democrats. Schumer pointed out that McConnell blocked moving 2020 spending bills under “regular order” to please DDT. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said:

“Mulvaney does not want a deal, and I think that’s the biggest point.”

The group didn’t discuss offsets to pay for the GOP tax cuts for the wealthy and big business, a serious problem because Republicans will want to take money for the bottom 80 percent.

In an interview with Time, DDT lied when he said he never separated children from their parents. He falsely claimed, several times, that President Obama separated families and he (DDT) “ended separation.” A court ruled against DDT’s family separation, but he continued the practice after the court’s decision. DDT repeated his lies to José Díaz-Balart, anchor of “Noticias Telemundo,” in his first interview on a Spanish-language network. The rare occasions when President Obama separated children was for threats to children or adults detained for criminal convictions or felonies such as carrying drugs. In April 2018, the DOJ under former AG Jeff Sessions ordered every illegal entry case to be prosecuted, separating children from parents even if parents only committed a misdemeanor by crossing the border. Children were put in cages and sometimes didn’t recognize their parents after lengthy separations. 

In the Time interview reporters, DDT threatened a journalist with prison after he tried to take a picture of a letter that DDT claimed was “written by Kim Jong Un. It was delivered to me yesterday. By hand.” DDT went off the record for a few minutes, and a reporter later brought up the issue about DDT trying to “limit Mueller’s Russia probe to only future election meddling” and dictating a letter to Corey Lewandowski, “telling him to tell” former attorney general Jeff Sessions “to limit the investigation.” DDT told the journalist that “you can go to prison instead, because, if you use, if you use the photograph you took of the letter that I gave you—” Asked if he was threatening prison for the journalist, DDT went off on a rant, including how Time should make him “man of the year.” They did, just three years ago.

Some of DDT aides think they are above the law, just as DDT does. Kellyanne Conway indicated that the Hatch Act, that prevents all federal employees except DDT and the vice president from campaigning for candidate, doesn’t apply to her. DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is also being investigated about his possible violation of the law preventing federal employees from political activities after the media reported that he is working with DDT’s campaign officials to work on fundraising strategies. Kushner is supposedly “the campaign’s key liaison in the West Wing” and has “multiple daily conversations” with campaign manager, Brad Parscale. In 2016, Kushner’s companies were also flagged for suspicious activity in Deutsche Bank money-laundering reviews. Ivanka Trump’s tweet with DDT’s campaign slogan “Make America Great” and her claim that “the best is yet to come” on her government Twitter account may also violate  the Hatch Act:

“Four years ago today, I introduced my father @realDonaldTrump when he launched a Campaign that would forever change America. Because of his courage, Americans are safer and more prosperous…and the best is yet to come!”

Last week when DDT kicked off his 2020 campaign in Orlando, a place surrounded by swamp, the city’s newspaper Orlando Sentinel, traditionally endorsing Republicans, made its 2020 endorsement: not DDT.

“After 2½ years we’ve seen enough. Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies. So many lies—from white lies to whoppers—told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity. The nation must endure another 1½ years of Trump. But it needn’t suffer another four beyond that. We can do better. We have to do better.”

The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial wasn’t much more supportive, asking why DDT should be re-elected if he didn’t do anything in his first term. About DDT’s Orlando speech:

“The most striking fact of his speech was how backward looking it was. Every incumbent needs to remind voters of his record, Mr. Trump more than most because the media are so hostile. [The people who aren’t core supporters] want to know why they should take a risk on Mr. Trump and his volatile character for another term.

“On immigration, however, the President missed a chance to strike a deal trading more border security (including his wall) for legalizing Dreamers. On trade, Mr. Trump has disrupted global rules but has put nothing new and stable in their place. Asking voters to believe he’ll do better on these issues in a second term isn’t likely to turn many swing voters his way.”

DDT’s staunch supporter, The Washington Examiner, retracted a story repeating DDT’s lies that a New York Times “fed information” to the FBI about Jared Kushner. The complete story is here.

DDT’s lies and chaos have lost him some right-wing media.

March 4, 2019

State TV Fox Tied to DDT, Vice Versa

For several years, people have noted the close relationship between Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and Fox network as the faux news network has remained a combination of propagandist and feeder of falsities to the man inaugurated over two years ago. DDT has given Fox 44 exclusive interviews, with the number accelerating. In the past six months, DDT has tweeted over 200 Fox items to his 58 million followers. In the New Yorker, journalist and author Jane Mayer has detailed the relationship between DDT and Fox in an 11,000-word essay.

Instead of reflecting the news, Fox radicalizes the people with its fear-mongering. Conservative pundit Bill Kristol, employed by Fox as a contributor until 2012, said, “Before [Trump], it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.” Sean Hannity has long been known as a confidant for DDT, often freely appearing at his dramatized events to toss him easy questions and one of the nightly triumvirate with Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham to scream over guest statements opposing DDT. Called the Shadow Chief of Staff, Hannity talks to DDT every night after his show. Fox Business hosts Pete Hegseth and Lou Dobbs offer DDT policy advice in the Oval Office. DDT thinks of hosts of Fox & Friends as his personal friends, and they pander to him with unvetted ideas.

Former Fox employees hired in the White House such as disgraced Bill Shine, former head of Fox News’ programming division, further burnish the Fox’s image with DDT devotees. Fox currently pays Shine while he collects his paycheck from taxpayers as part of the coordinated work between DDT and Fox. Former Fox contributors include HUD Secretary Ben Carson, national security adviser John Bolton, former deputy national-security adviser K.T. McFarland, and recently resigned UN Ambassador Heather Nauert. Donald Trump Jr., girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who also left Fox in disgrace works on DDT’s reelection campaign. Hope Hicks, DDT’s formers head of communications, went to Fox, and others such as Sebastian Gorka, are regularly on Fox. [Fox separated from Gorka as of this article’s publication.]

DDT’s political rise matched a shift in tone at Fox. Early on, CEO Roger Ailes opposed Fox being a shill for the Tea Party, but owner Rupert Murdoch created an audience that became the “party of Trump.” Before DDT, Fox ridiculed birtherism, Bill O’Reilly described its promoters as “unhinged,” and Glenn Beck, who hosted a Fox show until he went over the conspiracy edge, called them “idiots.” DDT made birtherism respectable, and Hannity got his way to promote the extremist far-right party. He described President Obama’s negotiations with North Korea “disturbing” but called DDT’s failed efforts a “huge foreign-policy win.” Fox built its audience by elevating Benghazi far above other embassy ambushes causing deaths in its constant attack on then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Hannity appeared on stage at a DDT rally with little objection from Fox. Murdoch went from correcting DDT by tweeting that “Mexican immigrants, as with all immigrants, have much lower crime rates than native born” to tolerating Fox’s frequent diatribes about hordes of “illegal aliens.” Murdoch and DDT are both about the bottom line and ratings.

Megyn Kelly asked DDT “tough” questions in the Fox-sponsored presidential debate, but insiders said that Ailes alerted DDT about the questions. Kelly wrote in Settle for More that DDT called Fox executives the day before the campaign to complain about her “very pointed question directed at him.” After the debate, DDT boycotted Fox, driving down until ratings until Ailes groveled.

During the summer when DDT became the GOP presidential candidate, Ailes’ sexual misconduct forced him out, and he joined DDT’s debate team. Fox gained two Ailes loyalists, Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine, as co-presidents who turned the network over to DDT propaganda, furthering empowering him and Hannity. At 85, Murdoch claimed the CEO position, but insiders reported that after his serious health issues, “the lunatics took over the asylum.” During DDT’s campaign, a Fox reporter confirmed the story about his affair in 2006 with Stormy Daniels, but Fox editors denied her going public. She told colleagues that Ken LaCorte, then head of FoxNews.com said, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” The same reporter kept digging and discovered that the National Enquirer made a “catch and kill” deal with Daniels in which the tabloid bought the exclusive rights to story before it buried the information.

The story went public when the Wall Street Journal published the details about Daniels and the Enguirer, a year after DDT was inaugurated. The reporter was demoted, she sued the network, and her settlement includes a nondisclosure agreement banning her from talking about her work at Fox. LaCorte, still paid by Fox after he left, said that he squashed the story without talking to superiors because it hadn’t “passed muster.” Blogger Nik Richie called him out for being a “LIAR,” tweeting that he “was one of your sources.” Richie voted for DDT, but he thinks that the story would have swung the election.

Part of Shine’s job at Fox was to handle sexual misconduct complaints. Any woman who complained was gently treated unless she persevered, when Shine would warn her that her career would be destroyed. At least four civil lawsuits against Fox name Shine as defendant, and Fox settled on in 2017 for $90 million. That suit claims Fox spent $55 million to settle sexual harassment claims out of court. Shine was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in a Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s investigation into company funds for these payoffs, but Shine agreed to interviews by prosecutors. The investigation disappeared after Ailes death in May 2017, but Shine was his enabler as shown by payments he signed to accusers’ settlements.

Under Shine’s leadership in 2017, Fox and O’Reilly paid $13 million to five female employees accusing him of sexual misconduct with a sixth $32 million payment in negotiation. After advertiser boycotts and street demonstrations, Fox fired O’Reilly and then Shine. Hannity became Fox’s top-rated star and highest-profile DDT promoter and helped Shine get a job as White House communications director and deputy chief of staff.

DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has always been close to Murdoch, but Murdoch made up with DDT after calling him “a f**king idiot” to benefit from specialized treatment for his business interests.

  • DDT’s administration approved Fox’s sale of most of its entertainment assets to Disney for $71 billion, with the Murdoch family getting $2 billion and becoming a major stockholder in the combined company that accounts for half the box-office revenue in the United States.  DDT promised the creation of jobs from the deal that has resulted in thousands of layoffs.
  • DDT’s FCC blocked Sinclair Broadcast Group, more conservative than Fox, from buying Tribune Media Company that would have given Sinclair access to 72 percent of the U.S. population.
  • DDT’s DOJ stopped AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, owner of CNN, after Murdoch failed to buy Time Warner in 2014. A sweetener for DDT was retaliation against CNN, DDT’s most hated media source. Although DDT claimed that he was “not going to get involved,” he ordered Gary Cohn, then director of the National Economic Council, to pressure the DOJ to intervene in the sale although Cohn knew that DDT’s action was inappropriate for a sitting president and refused. A federal court has ruled against the DOJ and permitted the $85 billion merger—for the second time. [Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said that a president has the right to punish the media by blocking this merger.]

The more DDT does for Murdoch, the more Fox does for DDT. Yochai Benkler, a Harvard Law School professor who co-directs the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, said, “Fox’s most important role since the election has been to keep Trump supporters in line.” According to Fox, the only collusion is between Clinton and Russia,  the special investigator is perpetrating a “coup” by the “deep state,” DDT and his associates aren’t corrupt, U.S. courts are corrupt, illegal immigration is an invasion and not at a 15-year low, and all news organizations offering perspectives different from these are “enemies of the American people.” Benkler, author with Robert Faris and Hal Robert of Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation and Radicalization in American Politics, said:

“It’s not the right versus the left. It’s the right versus the rest.”

Conservative media outlets focus on confirmation of the audience’s biases and provide propaganda and lies that spread uncorrected to Fox because viewers hate for falsehoods to be disclosed. Fox fired Glenn Beck for baseless conspiracy theories, but Hannity is rewarded for them. Only boycotts of Fox advertisers forced Hannity to drop his conspiracy accusations about murdered Democratic staffer Seth Rich.

Alisyn Camerota, former co-host of Fox & Friends, quit because of its lack of standards and wrote the novel Amanda Wakes Up about propaganda on a cable morning show. She said that the show’s producers would “cull far-right, crackpot Web sites” for content and never bothered with second sources. The primary standard was that “this is going to outrage the audience!” Guilfoyle got her information from an avid fan who sent her content for her topics such as “physically weak men” are “more likely to be socialists.”

Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters, thinks that Fox drives DDT more than the reverse. A recent example how DDT caused the 35-day shutdown and declared a national emergency because of Fox ridicule.

“The President’s world view is being specifically shaped by what he sees on Fox News, but Fox’s goals are ratings and money, which they get by maximizing rage. It’s not a message that is going to serve the rest of the country.”

Fox’s problem comes from its one-pony show of DDT to make money, and ratings fall when he looks bad. Fox’s evening ratings have dropped by 20 percent since the midterms with only a spike for DDT’s interview after Michael Cohen’s testimony. A change may be in the wind: much smaller since the Disney sale, Fox will be supervised by conservative Lachlan Murdoch who might move to center right. The test could be the release of Robert Mueller’s findings. At this time, Fox’s hosts and guests are swearing war. The question is whether Fox wants to start the war.

The most frightening part of Jane Mayer’s detailed look at the authoritarian DDT and Fox network is that it’s not as shocking as it should be for a country that prides itself on being a democracy.

December 9, 2018

‘War on Christmas’ Returns

Thanksgiving is over, and the stores have filled with winter holiday decorations. Time for the “War on Christmas.” Fox network Sean Hannity opened his salvos in the war in all caps warning that “CHRISTMAS IS UNDER SIEGE.” He went far beyond protesting a greeting of “Happy Holidays” or a lack of Christmas items in retail stores to lambast a Massachusetts church that used a figure of baby Jesus in the Nativity scene behind a fence, pointing out what would have happened 2,000 years ago if the family faced the same problems as current refugees. Church leaders hoped that the display “will provoke conversations about how immigrants are being treated at the U.S.-Mexico border, including the controversial separation of children from their parents.”

Hannity warned his audience that they might not want their children to see an image of a doll in a cage although he lacked similar reservations about showing photographs of real children in cages. Laura Ingraham continued the barrage on her show after Hannity, and her guest, Dan Bongino finished Ingraham’s segment by exclaiming, “Friends don’t let friends mess with baby Jesus!” Earlier this year, Ingraham called the separation of migrant children from their parents as a summer camp.

On Christmas Day, white right-wing Christians join others in celebrating the birth of Jesus, a Palestinian, while they celebrate the mass slaughter of Palestinians by Israelites. He came from the town of Nazareth in Galilee in the northern territory of Palestine and spoke Aramic. Israelites began the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians in 1000 BCE, a process that is continued in current times. One story of Jesus’s birth describes the family’s flight as refugees from the genocidal infanticide of King Herod.

More than 100 migrant children continue to be separated from their parents seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border after last summer’s purge and remain in custody, sometimes in abusive situations. Despite DDT’s claim that he has stopped separating families, any vague or unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing of minor violations against parents are currently used to resume the separation process as a deterrent to asylum seekers. DOJ asserts that a court order does not require them to report these new separations to the ACLU.

Bill O’Reilly, gone from the Fox network because of expensive consequences for his sexual misconduct, brought the “war on Christmas” to media’s forefront in 2005. Chauncey DeVega, politics staff writer for Salon, theorizes about reasons for conservatives’ obsession with the subject. A half-century ago, history Richard Hofstadter pointed out that the conservative movement employ emotional appeals for manipulation and control of political power of its anti-intellectual audience who are prone to belief in conspiracy theory that lack any factual basis. The GOP and conservative control of the Fox network content provide effective state propaganda that conditions viewers to believe falsehoods.

Conservatives use their form of Christianity to weaponize religion by falsely purporting that liberals, gays, Muslims, atheists, “secularists,” and any other “enemy” oppresses white Christians, the most powerful and dominant group in the United States. The “war on Christmas” comes from white identity politics designed to make white right-wing Christians control all other groups.

University of Oregon sociologist Randall Blazak, a leading expert on the neo-Nazi and white supremacist movement who gained his information from infiltrating neo-Nazi skinheads and other white supremacist hate groups, discussed this movement. According to Blazak, the white working-class men have lost their picture of the American Dream through the demographic changes during the last half century which has made others more equal to them. They perceive this growing equality as a loss of status from the 1950s when white males reigned supreme.

The Tea Party, which took over Congress in 2010, holds similar false narratives to white supremacists—President Obama as the Muslim outsider, the media as “enemy of the people,” desire for Christian control of the nation—ideas that evolve into violence. White supremacists told the murderer of nine people in a black Charleston church that he couldn’t get a date because black men were taking white women, and the killer’s actions progressed from that fear. The simplistic world view for white supremacists is that if other people gain, then they are losing. It’s their job to take back the country through violence.

The simplistic view of these people is the importance of saying “Merry Christmas” to suppress the multiculturalism taking over the United States. Supporters of the “war on Christmas” concept lack the skills or refuse to develop ones to cope with social change.

Fundamentalist Christians continue to boycott stores in their “war on Christmas”: Target for allowing transgender people to use bathrooms (although the Liberty Council also complains that Target doesn’t make Christmas its main advertising focus); Barnes & Noble for losing “focus on the Reason for the season”; Burlington Coat Factory for “severe lack of Christmas advertising with biblical meaning”; and Lord & Taylor (“reindeers and Santas hide the love of the Nativity”). Nothing yet about Starbucks not putting the word “Christmas” on its cups and J. Crew for not using nativity scene clipart to sell sweaters.

In accordance with the freedom of religion laws, the Chicago chapter of the Temple of Satan put up its celebration of the holidays in the Illinois state capitol. The four-foot sculpture of a snake coiled around an outstretched arm holding an apple sits between a Christmas tree and a menorah. The plague reads “Knowledge Is the Greatest Gift.” In previous years, the building has hosted a “Festivus” pole, a fictional holiday from the TV sitcom Seinfeld. The mission of the Temple of Satan is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.”

Last year, 90 percent of people in the U.S. said they celebrate Christmas, but only 46 percent do so in a religious way—a drop of almost ten percent from 51 percent just four years earlier.

This year, Starbucks seems to have avoided the political accusation that its cups show a “war on Christmas.” Or maybe people are just tired of complaining that the cups aren’t Christmasy enough. Four lovely cups feature red stripes, red and white flames, mistletoe-like coffee cherries, and stars—all pagan designs. Lest we forget, Christmas evolved from a rowdy pagan winter celebration and was banned by the Puritans who settled America. Now it’s a patriotic holiday in which God is wrapped in the U.S. flag. And the White House celebrates it in blood red.

January 5, 2017

What Passes for News on NBC:

Filed under: Media — trp2011 @ 8:46 PM
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Criticized for being close to Donald Trump (DT) and advising him on his campaign, Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s The Morning Show, claimed that people had to be good friends with political figures in order to get news from them. The conservative “news” show host has stayed while MSNBC fired progressive talk show hosts and replaced them with hacks such as Chuck Todd who has a daily show on that cable network as well as destroying the reputation of Meet the Press.

Now NBC has picked up Megyn Kelly from Fox, despite the latter’s offer of $100 million for her to stay. Kelly became a Fox star after she verbally attacked DT in the first primary debate. Now NBC is trying to boost its ratings by scheduling her as host of a daily daytime show and a Sunday newsmagazine program while she covers major political events.

Here’s some of Kelly’s past “journalism”:

Santa Claus is white. Kelly responded to a Slate column suggesting that black Santa Clauses make people of color feel more included:

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change, you know? I mean, Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure, that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa — I just want the kids watching to know that.”

A journalist should know that “white” didn’t exist in first-century Palestine or third-century Turkey. Or that Santa Claus is not “a historical figure.”

Oh yes, Jesus was also white.

Victims should be blamed. Kelly said that Dajerria Becton, a 15-year-old black girl thrown to the ground by a police officer, deserves blame because of being “no saint.”

“The girl was no saint, either. He had told her to leave, and she continued to linger. When a cop tells you to leave, get out.”

Becton was doing exactly what the cop ordered: he said to leave “now” and she walked away. Corporal Eric Casebolt yelled at her, ran after her, grabbed her, and dragged her to the ground. He only stopped because two other officers grabbed him. He resigned, and she was not charged.

Pepper spray is just “a food product.” Kelly says that being sprayed is not any problem.

“It’s a derivative of actual pepper, it’s a food product, essentially. A lot of experts are looking at saying is that the real deal. Has it been diluted?”

Police-grade pepper spray is 5.5 times hotter than the hottest known pepper, the ghost chili that has been compared to “a cocktail of battery acid and glass shards.” A U.S. Army study stated that pepper spray’s active ingredient “is capable of producing mutagenic and carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, neurotoxicity, as well as possible human fatalities.”It can cause corneal damage and was associated with 26 deaths in California between 1993 and 1995—one in every 600 people sprayed by state police officials. The product is banned for military use overseas by the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of “any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals.” 

Criticism of the Vietnam War sounds like Osama bin Laden. Bill Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, agreed that it was fair to criticize his actions in bombing government buildings during the 1960s but that people should criticize violent actions that the U.S. takes in its military campaigns throughout the world. Kelly responded:

“I hear you saying — You sound like, with respect, Osama bin Laden.”

People in Colorado can commit voter fraud by printing out ballots at home. No they can’t! Kelly failed to understand the vote by mail process when she claimed that a new law “literally allows residents to print ballots from their home computers, then encourages them to turn ballots over to ‘collectors’ in what appears to be an effort to do away with traditional polling places.” Only people living abroad or serving in the military can receive them via email.

The New Black Panther Party is the greatest threat to American democracy ever. Six years ago, Kelly found prominence on the Fox network through her “shocking” reports about the organization that she accused of leading a vicious voter intimidation campaign during the 2008 election. In reality—not something of importance to either Kelly or Fox—two Black Panthers stood outside a heavily black Philadelphia voting place. Police removed them after complaints. Two years later, one Black Panther was at the same location, politely opening the door for voters. Media Matters reported that Kelly “devoted 45 segments, totaling more than 3.5 hours, to the investigation in a two-week timeframe” on the “scandal.” Her story was one of anti-white racism from Eric Holder, then head of the Department of Justice, who protected the NBPP and refused to investigate black people.

“Well, think about that. Think about that. … Now you’re going to have instances like this where Black Panthers and others can go to the polling stations and do this if they so choose. And they just basically are gonna get a pass because while it’s not an official thing, it’s been made very clear to all the rank-and-file voting rights attorneys in the DOJ those cases are not to be pursued.”

Racism has no relationship to police shootings of black people. Again not true! Yet Kelly continually used former Los Angeles Police Department officer Mark Fuhrman on her show to dismiss any racism. She also decried the “anti-cop, thug mentality” in black communities and criticized the Obama administration for encouraging integrated neighborhoods “whether the communities want it or not.”

megyn-kelly

Kelly gently searches for Donald Trump’s (DT) sensitive side. After her original attack on DT in the first primary debate and his refusal to attend another debate because of her, she changed to a cozy interview after he gained his GOP candidacy. At one point, she asked:

“Has anyone ever hurt you emotionally?”

Racist “jokes” among officials are acceptable and normal. After a police officer killed Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO), an investigation uncovered blatantly racist email exchanges among the town’s commanders, police officers, and court officials. For example, the comment that President Obama would not keep his job in the 2012 election because “what black man holds a steady job for four years” and depicted him as a chimpanzee. Another example was the “joke” about a man seeking “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”

Most of the points above illustrate Kelly’s racist approach in her “news.” Her move to NBC appears to be a support of racist conspiracies and falsehoods in mainstream news.

Over a year ago, Andrew Lack, head of news for NBC and MSNBC, said that he was shifting away from left-wing hosts to save the network. Since then, the networks concentrated on presidential candidate DT over his competition and became another venue to tout the right wingers.

If NBC hopes to bring Fox network watchers to its network, they’re sadly mistaken. Reading the comments on the NYT article shows that the conservatives dislike her more than the progressives do. Of course, the highly conservative CEO of NBC won’t mind copying Fox in its non-progressive policies.

A much quieter move from Fox to MSNBC was accomplished by Greta Van Susteren. It appears that Megyn Kelly had already sucked all the oxygen out of the two networks.

August 3, 2015

Let the Games Begin: First GOP Debate in New Hampshire

 

With the presidential election 15 months from now, 14 GOP candidates appeared in New Hampshire tonight for the first debate, this one televised on C-SPAN. Fox was supposed to have the first one on Thursday, but New Hampshire objected to the elimination of seven candidates based on an Fox’s average of recent, unnamed polls. At this time, no one knows which candidates will make the break for Fox, but the “also rans” can appear before the “official” debate.

14 candidates

New Hampshire was far more civilized than the Fox’s extravaganza on Thursday because Donald Trump won’t be there. The other two no-shows are Mike Huckabee and late-entry Jim Gilmore. The New Hampshire one-on-one format also prevented interaction among candidates with the appearance of only one person on stage at a time.

Fox’s debate criteria were originally those who place “in the top 10 of an average of the five most recent national polls,” with a cut-off time of 5 p.m. Tuesday. Upset about the possibility of Trump attending, Fox added that the participants had to also release their financial statements. Trump did, and Fox is having trouble finding other ways to disqualify the candidate who has been running at the top of the heap since he announced.

The Fox debate method almost assuredly omits Carly Fiorina, the only woman candidate. By now, one person of color—Ben Carson—has probably managed to get into the top tier, but Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, won’t be there. Ohio governor, John Kasich, may be able to appear, nice because the debate is in his home state, but he’s vying with former Texas governor Rick Perry and New Jersey governor, Chris Christie for slots 9 and 10. Absent from the primary Fox debate will most likely be a leading candidate from last time, Rick Santorum as well as former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). In essence, Fox is declaring the top candidates and winnowing out the rest of them without giving them a chance to rise in the polls.

What the candidates say doesn’t mean much because of their incessant lying. With only nine declared candidates, Politifact found that half of the checked statements were Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire. The Democratic contenders got only a rating of 30 percent lies. Leading the GOP field was Ben Carson at 100 percent lies. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) came next with 70 percent lies, followed by Carly Fiorina at 67 percent, Rick Santorum at 53 percent, and Mike Huckabee at 52 percent. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) trailed behind at only 40 percent lying followed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) at 36 percent lies. George Pataki’s only checked statement was also false—maybe another 100 percent.

Here’s a sample of what eleven of the participants have been up to lately. The other six haven’t managed anything memorable—maybe because they’re acting a bit more like adults.

New Jersey governor, Chris Christie has said that treating each others with respect “can bring people together.” That was followed by saying that the national teachers union “deserves a punch in the face.” Washington Post has put together a video demonstrating the many moods of Chris Christie—defensive, condescending and unapologetic, sarcastic, indignant, tough guy, and funny man—in short, narcissistic who wants only to be a celebrity.

Former Alabama governor Mike Huckabee followed his comment that President Obama is sending people into the oven (a Holocaust reference) with suggesting that he would dispatch U.S. troops to block women from having their legal reproductive rights. (He didn’t appear in New Hampshire tonight.)

Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, has repeated his statement that he doesn’t know if President Obama is a Christian. He also hasn’t figured out whether being LGBT is a choice although he topped that off by saying it’s not his concern after extensive work to discriminate against them. Questions are hard for Walker: he won’t answer whether he accepts modern biology or whether the president loves the United States.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has attacked a few other GOP candidates by accusing them of not reporting to work in Congress all the time. His new clip states, “If Congress skips votes or hearings, Jeb will dock their pay.” He probably means “members of Congress,” but more than that, only Congress can adjust their compensation. It’s in the U.S. Constitution, Jeb.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), desperate to get attention back from Trump, has said he made a video of himself cooking bacon on a machine gun, but he couldn’t even tell the truth about the gun. It was actually an AR -15. A Smith and Wesson representative pointed out that the bacon stunt violates the gun’s warranty. The same conservative media outlet, IJ Review, filmed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) destroying a cell phone in a number of ways including the use of a blender. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) attacked the tax code with a chain saw and a wood chipper. These are people who consider themselves presidential timbre.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during the Atlantic Council’s series “America’s Role in the World” at the Atlantic Council's offices in Washington, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Graham, in a mild-mannered Southern way, may be the scariest candidate. As president, he would start wars with at least four nations, including Iran, North Korea, Iraq, and Syria, while sending soldiers back to Afghanistan. He would also “fire any military leader who disagreed with me.” At the same time, Graham wants veterans to pay more for their health care.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) loved NASA’s successful visit to the dwarf planet Pluto in July and hoped that young people will “feel that American science, ingenuity and daring are alive and well.” He continued by talk about its importance but has voted to cut NASA funding while refuting the findings of the agency’s scientists. So much for “American innovation.”

Dr. Ben Carson, who wants more political questions than medical, failed his exam on the U.S. Constitution in a Meet the Press interview.  Chuck Todd asked Carson, “Does the Bible have authority over the US Constitution?” When Carson said that this depends on the specifics, Todd, as usual, had no follow-up. Once again, facts are not part of “journalist” Todd’s job.

Rick Santorum thinks that the U.S. isn’t “winning” the war against ISIS because the country is not killing enough civilians in the Middle East. He complained about the lack of ordnance dropped on the insurgents in Ramadi, capital of Anbar Province, despite the way that the Iraqi army has surrounded the city. The U.S. killed over one-half million Iraqis in George W. Bush’s war, but Santorum wants to kill more.

Rick Perry has benefited from voice lessons, a good speech writer, and serious-looking glasses, but he still has a problem with ethics. Perry is a board member for an energy company that he protected while in office, and his boss, Kelcy Warren, is the biggest contributor to the super PACs funding Perry’s advertising. The company’s reward would be the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline if Perry became president.

Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, has stopped all state Medicaid for two state Planned Parenthood affiliates, claiming that he “investigated” Planned Parenthood after the fraudulent videos released to the public. Jindal is also driving business out of the state because of his discriminatory “religious freedom” stance and took $2,500 from every taxpayer in the state to give to corporations.

That’s tonight’s line-up. Tomorrow evening Fox may reveal which ones of these candidates appear in the “real” debate and which ones will be at the “kids’ table.”

 

WalkerCheck

In a bit of black humor, Walker has again been “punked.” When he was running for governor, a journalist convinced him that he was talking to a Koch brother. In this photo, he probably didn’t know that he was proudly posing behind a “check” showing that the Koch brothers were buying him. American “exceptionalism” strikes again.

June 13, 2015

TPP, McKinney – Updates

My sincerest apologies to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Last week, I accused her of caving into voting for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Instead she might be the reason that it failed–thus far. As usual, she provides great leadership for her caucus while House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), can’t, according to Rachel Maddow, lead a hungry puppy to a hamburger.

pelosi

On the House floor before the vote, Pelosi said, “You cannot separate commerce and environment” in reference to the trade agreement allowing corporations to sue governments that “interfere” with their business—even if the government wants carbon reduction goals and other environmental legislation. She referenced Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) amendment that would “ensure that trade agreements do not require changes to U.S. law or obligate the United States with respect to global warming or climate change.”

The option to fast-track the TPP passed by two votes more than needed, 219-211, but fast-track can’t move forward without the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that provides inadequate assistance to workers who would lose jobs or be injured by the TPP bill. That bill failed by a 302-126 vote. The GOP has called for a re-vote on Tuesday, but if it fails again, the option may die. If the entire package doesn’t pass, the bill goes to a joint conference committee to resolve differences between the House and the Senate. Each chamber will have to again vote on the compromise bill. Opposition to the TPP is increasing with a coalition of more than 2,000 groups opposed to Fast Track and the TPP—including women’s rights, labor, LGBT, environmental, civil rights, senior citizen’s groups and more—redoubling its efforts for next week’s fight.

A chief argument from proponents of the TPP is that it isn’t actually secret—although every legislator who has read it states that the document is classified. Ryan, however, finally admitted just how secret the TPP is. During his House Rules testimony, he said, “It’s declassified and made public once it’s agreed to.” He actually meant that the TPP would be declassified after Congress agrees to the fast-track option, but the fast-track up-or-down vote with no amendments and a pass by a majority of 51 in the Senate provides little oversight. The next two agreements being negotiated, TiSA and TTIP, are not even available to members of Congress who must go to a secret room to read the TPP.

Another big chunk of news last week came after twelve law enforcement officials went to a swimming pool because of a report from 911 about a fight. Eric Casebolt, the police officer supervising the other 11 police officers, resigned after videos of his brutalizing a teenage-girl in a bikini and his drawing his gun on other teenagers in bathing suits went viral.

Fox network dived into the pool fight by defending the police officer and denigrating all the black teens at the party, despite the fact that many of them lived near the pool and had passes to get in. One of the chief witnesses on Fox, cheered on by Sean Hannity, was Sean Toon, who claimed that “the police did nothing wrong” and that there were no racial overtones in the incident.

McKinney whte woman 2Further examination of videos taken on the day show that Toon and his wife, Shannon Barber Toon, most likely started the confrontation. Barber Toon was with the two women who called the teens “black f*ckers” and other slurs before initiating a physical attack on a 19-year-old girl. Grace Stone, a 14-year-old white McKinney resident, heard Toon say, “You should go back to the Section 8 [public] housing where you’re from because you don’t belong in our neighborhood.” Stone does live in the neighborhood.

When Toon was 18, he and friends abused and murdered animals housed in a rival high school’s agriculture center. A teacher in the program said, “Cows and pigs were cut and bruised, apparently beaten with wooden boards. And baby turkeys were slain, their limbs torn apart. It was brutal. There’s no way to describe it. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Toon was fined $300 and sentenced to 285 days in jail. The same year he was charged with “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon” and made a plea deal for 75 days in jail.

Tracey-Carver Allbritton, a woman involved in the attacks on the teens who started punching the top of the girl’s head while shouting racial slurs, was found through a Facebook profile linking her to the incident. She worked for a contractor with the Bank of America, that conducted an investigation to see if she was a bank employee. Allbritton’s employer, CoreLogic Inc, has provided financial and home loan information services to Bank of America since 2011, when it settled a $335 million lawsuit for racially discriminating against Blacks and Latinos in home mortgage lending. She is now on administrative leave.

In another fallout from the pool problem in McKinney, Karen Fitzgibbons, a fourth-grade teacher in Lubbock (TX) has been relieved of her duties after she posted this reaction to Casebolt’s resignation on Facebook:

“This makes me ANGRY! This officer should not have to resign. I’m going to just go ahead and say it…the blacks are the ones causing the problems and this ‘racial tension.’ I guess that’s what happens when you flunk out of school and have no education. I’m sure their parents are just as guilty for not knowing what their kids were doing; or knew it and didn’t care. I’m almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone. Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something. Now, let the bashing of my true and honest opinion begin…GO! #imnotreacist #imsickofthemcausingtrouble #itwasagatedcommunity”

Fox also invited Kisa Jackson to appear on the network after she blamed parents for the problems and justified Casebolt’s actions in a video. “It’s about, again, the parents, and teaching our children to respect authority figures.” She told host Fox host Steve Doocy that the parents needed to “take ownership” of their children’s actions. Omitted from the segment was the problem that police in Baton Rouge (LA) had in arresting Jackson’s son, Jalen Mills, after he punched a woman in the mouth. Investigators issued a felony arrest warrant for Mills, a defensive back on the Louisiana State University football team, after he failed to show up for a scheduled appointment and didn’t return phone calls. He was initially charged with second-degree battery and suspended from the team, but the charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor because prosecutors could not prove the woman suffered “permanent disfigurement or unconsciousness.”

That’s it: one temporary success and one vindication after Fox went quiet about the McKinney pool party.

February 22, 2015

‘Christians’ in the United States

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

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

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

Krista-and-Jami-Contreras-with-Bay-Windsor-638x425

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 8, 2015

President Obama Calls for Humility, Gets Slammed

The National Prayer Breakfast, organized by the far-right congressional religious group called the Fellowship Foundation usually passes by with little notice from mainstream media. When prominent evangelical members from “The Family” supporting this annual event connected with people who pushed the Ugandan “kill the gays” bill to criminalize homosexuality, mainstream media said almost nothing. This year, however, legislators and media figures across the country are atwitter after President Obama tried to explain that violence in the name of religion is a global problem across all religions.

Syria’s war, Nigeria’s killings, Europe’s resurgence of anti-Semitism, India’s violence were some of the issues that he brought up. Where Christians in the United States objected, however, was his comparison of the Muslims’ attacks to “terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” including the Crusades. He explained, “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Jonah Goldberg’s attack on the president in the National Review was inelegantly entitled “Horse Pucky from Obama.” According to Goldberg, the Crusades were justified because of Muslim aggression: it was a “defensive war.” In reality, the Roman Catholic Church paid people from Europe to try to take over Jerusalem—900 years before the United States paid people to take over the Middle East for its own selfish gain. To Goldberg, the Inquisition was a way to stop lynchings. He missed the point that anyone who didn’t declare themselves part of mainstream Christianity, usually after extreme torture, were killed—frequently burned.

In the past, the U.S. has used Christianity as an excuse for colonizing, slavery, discrimination, and cultural destruction. African slaves in the United States were murdered, lynched, burned, and beheaded, and the practice went on for a large part of a century after their emancipation. In the present, the name of Christ is still being used to torment, torture, and kill people in the United States and around the world.

A bizarre part of the argument is that only the Crusades have been referenced, perhaps because the current Christian bigotry in the U.S. is too uncomfortable to discuss. On Meet the Press, conservative Jon Meacham stated that the Crusades was an exception to the rule, as if Christians have not used religion to persecute others outside the eleventh century. Sometimes liberal, but less so as time passes, Andrea Mitchell said that the prayer breakfast was not a place to bring up the issue. To her, “the word Crusade” is “too fraught.” Because “you have to deal with issues that are in front of you,” mentioning anything else is too “nuanced.”

Even more bizarre, however, was David Brooks’ defense of Obama on the same program.

“I am pro Obama. I am totally pro Obama on this. I think he said the right thing. It was a gospel of humility. What sorts of people need a little gospel of humility? People in Washington, pundits, religious believers, — I happen to be all three of those things — and so we are told to walk humbly in the path, that the Lord’s paths are mysterious. And so he was saying we are prone to zealotry. As Jon said we are fallen. So to underline that, that’s useful in Washington today. That’s useful always.”

Earlier this week, the Fox network used the president’s religious speech to attack him by claiming that President Obama is attacking Christianity. According to Eric Bolling, only Muslims kill people in the name of religion:

“Reports say radical Muslim jihadists killed thousands of people in the past few months alone. And yet when you take Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, whatever, their combined killings in the name of religion––well, that would be zero.”

If al-Quaeda had sent death threats to a Christian doctor and then killed him, far-right Christians would be outraged. Yet Dr. George Tiller was killed in his church by anti-abortionist terrorist Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009 after decades of threats and an earlier shooting. Far-right Christians cheered at their victory.

Middle East historian Juan Cole determined that Muslims had killed about 2 million people in the 20th century. His 2013 study revealed that during the same time Christians killed almost 100 million people in the name of Christ. Adolf Hitler’s killings were done in the name of Christianity as were the colonial wars in Southeast Asia and Africa. Although some claim that this violence was not Christian-based, combatants used their religion as part of the military campaigns just as today’s Islamist militants organize around groups sharing a common religious and cultural background.

The 1990 sectarian warfare in the Balkans culminated in genocide against Muslim Bosnians by Serbian Orthodox Christians. Balkans researcher Keith Doubt explained in a 2007 paper that the “role of the Church as protector of the Serbian nation gave the Church increasing social control, and with this power clergy fermented a xenophobic and bigoted attitude towards Muslims in former-Yugoslavia.” The Church dispatched Orthodox chaplains to bless “Serbian forces, such as the elite Panthers commando unit, which has been accused of committing numerous atrocities, before they set off on operations.” The Church would offer “Serb warriors communion without requiring confession,” giving them absolution for the crimes they were committing to create a “Greater Serbia.”

During Rwanda’s genocide, “Churches became sites of slaughter, carried out even at the altar.” Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka wore a gun and colluded with a Hutu militia who massacred hundreds of people seeking shelter in his church. After the genocide, Catholic clergy helped church ministers who were guilty of murder flee the country and re-settle elsewhere.

A Christian militia in the Central African Republic beheaded a young Muslim man, the same thing that ISIL is doing to groups determined to be the enemy. Christian-led Mexican cartels had beheaded and killed journalists in other ways. The cartel organizations have deep financial links to Mexican churches.

After the Fox network had its worst ratings last year in 13 years, it changed a policy of not airing violent propaganda videos from terrorists. It is the only U.S. news organization to air the entire video of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaebeth who was burned in his cage. Fox anchor Bret Baier claimed that the reason was to show “the reality of Islamic terrorism.” Even Fox’s national security reporter, Catherine Herridge, admitted that the video is a recruiting tool for ISIL. Malcolm Nance, an expert on counter-terrorism and radical extremism, said, “[Fox News] are literally – literally – working for al-Qaida and ISIS’ media arm.” Before President Obama was elected, Fox frequently criticized other media outlets for airing “terrorist propaganda” because it would threaten national security and U.S. troops. They were right then; they’re wrong now. Nance said, “The whole value of terror is using the media to spread terror.”

Less than 100 years ago, the Ku Klux Klan lynched and burned a young black man, 18-year-old Jesse Washington. Afterward the body was torn into parts that were sold for souvenirs. A photograph shows white farmers, shopkeepers, and laborers from local churches in and near Waco (TX) standing behind the body. The crowd may have been as large as 15,000. A witness who sent home the photo on a postcard wrote, “This is the barbeque we had last night. My picture is to the left with a cross over it. Your son, Joe.” Between 1882 and 1968 were 4,743 recorded lynchings in the U.S., one-fourth of them white people who sympathized with blacks. No one knows how many recorded lynchings happened.

Kid-Setting-Barack-Obama-on-Fire-84399-e1423171421131Some of the people enraged by the president’s statement that religious people can use their beliefs in a “twisted” manner may be the same people who pass along this photo of the President of the United States. Or this lynching on the lawn of Terry Jones’ church. He is the Florida pastor who burned the Quran.

obama lynch

In his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama decried ISIL’s actions and celebrated U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae’s release from North Korea. He talked about faith as a force for good, giving as an example Kent Brantly, the doctor who lived after contracting Ebola in Liberia and donated plasma to fight the virus. He praised former NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip as an example of people who speak freely about the role of faith in their lives. Referring to his personal faith,  President Obama said he has sought God’s guidance “not just in my own life but in the life of our nation.” The mainstream media, however, is only concerned about his talking about the Crusades. Maybe it was because he concentrated on humility.

January 23, 2015

A Question of Ethics – Congress, Supreme Court, Journalism

With great power comes the possibility for the abuse of this power. This past week a few people in powerful positions show the damage that can be done to the United States through this abuse. One of the biggest dangers comes from the U.S. House of Representatives.

After President Obama said that he would veto bills to increase sanctions against Iran while the U.S. is negotiating with that country, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) secretly invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on the dangers of the administration’s negotiations with Iran without coordinating with the executive branch. Within three days, Boehner’s success turned to ashes. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a press conference that Netanyahu was welcome in the U.S. anytime and then added:

“In Israel, one of the top intelligence–-one of the top intelligence personnel within the Israeli intelligence field–-I won’t name names, but this person was asked directly by a congressional delegation that visited there over the weekend what the effect of sanctions would be. And this person answered that it would be like throwing a grenade into the process. We’re asking people to be responsible here, and then let’s have a good, responsible debate about what the best way to proceed is.”

President Obama has also pointed out that the negotiations are the only answer to protecting Israel from Iranian nuclear weapon. Therefore the message is now that Republicans, not Democrats, are failing Israel. Lawmakers at the briefing with Israeli intelligence confirmed Kerry’s statement, and senior U.S. officials explained that the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, agreed that legislation for sanctions “would cause the talks to collapse.”

Steve Benen has an excellent piece in which he points out the danger of the GOP Speaker of the House acting on his own in his one-upmanship battle with the President of the United States. He uses the example of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) meeting with the Guatemalan officials during the children’s immigration crisis to tell them that the issue was President Obama’s problem, not theirs. Meeting with foreign leaders on foreign ground, Paul denounced the U.S. president and undermined U.S. foreign policy. Republicans declared such an action would be treasonous during the Bush/Cheney regime.

Another frightening piece about Israel’s connections with al-Quaeda comes from Robert Parry.

There is no precedent for the way in which Republicans are deliberately undermining the White House’s foreign policy. The Supreme Court has ruled that only the executive branch and not Congress makes foreign policy. If two branches of government set foreign policy, then the country has two different foreign policies.

Imagine if Congress forces the U.S. into a war with Iran to satisfy Israel’s problems. Iran is three times the number of people and the amount of land as Iraq. The resulting cost could be between $15 and $24 trillion to care for the almost 100,000 wounded veterans. Russia and China would most likely help insurgencies to weaken the United States. Like Vietnam, such a “conflict” would end in defeat for the U.S.

In another branch of government, the idea of impeaching Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been tossed around for several years. The almost mute man who was accused, probably rightly so, of sexually harassing Anita Hill before his confirmation, has a long list of actions that would get him thrown off any other court in the nation. This year, Thomas, who will (most likely) be voting against marriage equality in the United States, proudly shows his friendship with two avidly anti-LGBT activists/spokesmen in this photo recently taken in the Supreme Court chambers.

Twitter-image-of-Thomas-and-FriendsOn the left of the photo is Ryan T. Anderson, activist with the Heritage Foundation, anti-equality voice on CNN, and co-author of the book, What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense.  Also in the photograph is Robert P. George, the other co-author and a co-founder of NOM, the National Organization for Marriage which vigorously lobbies against same-sex marriage. George is also a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute which funded the anti-LGBT Regnerus parenting study and is on the boards of Utah’s Deseret news (owned by the Mormon Church), the Koch Brothers’ American Enterprise Institute, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. A major accomplishment for George is his “drafting the Manhattan Declaration, which advocates for anarchy in the face of governmental support for the rights of a woman to choose, and same-sex marriage,” according to David Badash of TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com.

Journalism is also suffering from lack of ethics. “Based on our studies about the field of journalism, we have determined that you’re not practicing journalism. You’re practicing rank propaganda.” That was the conclusion of a journalism class at Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington (VT) after it conducted a “professional integrity audit” of a Fox network story about Vermont on Bill O’Reilly’s show. In its study based on the ethics codes of the Society of Professional Journalists and using only one short segment, the students “found examples of stereotyping, distortions, manipulation, questionable sourcing, and predetermining outcome,” according to News Corpse. Their video begins with Politifact’s revelation that Fox “News” is truthful only 18 percent of the time.

ABC is also being scrutinized. Its chief White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl, is moderating a panel of three conservative presidential wannabes, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), for the “American Recovery Policy Forum” at the Koch brothers’ weekend Freedom Partners meeting. Although ABC is paying for Karl’s travel and lodging, his action in an extremely partisan event brings up the question of crossing the line from neutral reporting to aiding a political organization. Karl’s presence validates the Koch brothers and their highly-financed anti-government political network, sometimes called a third political party in the U.S.

Marc Cooper, director of Annenberg Digital News and an associate professor of professional practice at the University of Southern California’s School for Communication and Journalism, said that Karl’s involvement amounts to “an in-kind contribution to a partisan group that is clearly aimed at positioning for the 2016 race.” Cooper noted, “The public has no input or access and no public service is being performed. Karl has no business being there.” Todd Gitlin, chair of the Ph.D program in communications at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, agreed, stating that it is inappropriate for a news reporter to “promote a sectarian political show,” particularly one that is sponsored by climate change-deniers like the Kochs.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, argued that Karl’s participation is “a huge difference between doing this kind of partisan event as opposed to, for example, moderating a gathering of the League of Women Voters.” She pointed out that the involvement of journalists in “closed” events undermines the fight for access and the public’s right to know.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, journalists should “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and “avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”

Karl has been scrutinized before because of his journalistic biases and questionable ethics. In 2011, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting noted that Karl was a prominent alum of a media training program aimed at promoting conservative media on college campuses along with such conservatives as Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, Maggie Gallagher, and Laura Ingraham. Karl’s support for right-wing positions includes praise for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) controversial budget plans. Media described Karl’s report on Benghazi as “sloppy” and “inaccurate” when he mischaracterized White House emails about the attacks and relied on an anonymous source after claiming that ABC News had reviewed them. Karl apologized for his incorrect report.

Thus we have journalists who support the conservatives who want to start another war that can then be established as “constitutional” by the nation’s highest court, all actions from people who consider their own desires and beliefs above ethical considerations.

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