Nel's New Day

November 14, 2022

News Avoiding the Election, Mostly

Great news for Arizona and democracy! Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, endorsed by Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), lost her election to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Bad news for Arizona: after the losses of her and two other major DDT candidates, Mark Finchem for secretary of state and Blake Masters for U.S. senator, election liars may try to burn the state down. DDT wants an entire new election for the state because Democrats won some of the races, and some of the losers refuse to concede, saying that they will ensure that they win. With a little over 100,000 ballots still to be counted, Kris Mayes is only 3,000 votes ahead of GOP Abe Hamadeh, another DDT election liar who can bring lawsuits for the state.

In a three-hour face-to-face meeting, President Joe Biden and Chinese President XI Jinping looked for ways to work together. Biden said there will be no “new Cold War” and believes China has no imminent plans to invade Taiwan. The leaders were in Bali for the G20 summit, and the meeting came after months of quiet negotiations. Biden asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to follow up on the discussion in Beijing as part of a long process to thaw a tense relationship. Biden kept DDT’s tariffs and restricted selling semiconductors and chip-making equipment to China.

For the first time, Xi warned against nuclear weapons in Russia’s war when he met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a clear signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. A Chinese senior official said on the condition of anonymity:

“I think there is undeniably a discomfort in Beijing about what we’ve seen in terms of reckless rhetoric and activity on the part of Russia. I think it is also undeniable that China is probably both surprised and a little bit embarrassed by the conduct of Russian military operations.”

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was absent for part of the summit after he was taken to the hospital for a heart problem. He said he is fine. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), possibly the biggest liar in the Senate, feels that Biden is compromised by China. No evidence, just a “feeling.”

The House January 6 investigative committee may subpoena the phone records of Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward according to a Supreme Court ruling. She had claimed the request for her phone records violated the First Amendment. The committee requested call records, phone numbers, text messages, and IP addresses communicating with Ward’s number between November 2020 to January 2021 when she was connected to the scam of an Arizona alternate electors’ slate to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.      

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented from the decision without explanation. Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, had taken part of the attempted coup by writing 29 Arizona lawmakers, urging them to choose “a clean slate of electors” instead of the state electors pledged to Biden in support of the popular vote. Ward and her husband were “fake electors” from Arizona, lying about the 2020 presidential election in their state. Both the state district court and the 9th Circuit Court disagreed with Ward’s arguments, one of the three-judge panel a DDT appointee.

Ginni Thomas is working on another coup, this one to get rid of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for congressional leaders. She joined almost 60 far-right politicians, some of them like Thomas investigated by the House January 6 investigative committee, in signing a letter to delay the choice of GOP leadership in the 118th Congress.  The American Independent’s senior political reporter Emily C. Singer called it a “who’s who of insurrection supporting Republicans.”

A DDT-supported federal judge in the U.S. District Court for D.C. dismissed a year-old lawsuit by Mark Meadows, DDT’s former chief of staff, to block the House investigative committee to subpoena him. He will likely appear and run the clock out to the end of the 117th Congress, but the ruling is a precedent for many other suits in the same court. Meadows was on the telephone when DDT tried to persuade Georgia election officials to “find” sufficient votes for his victory and with DDT on January 6, 2021 when insurrections illegally entered the Capitol.

A federal judge blocked attempts by Rudy Giuliani to dismiss a lawsuit brought by two Georgia election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. Giuliani’s accusation of election fraud by the mother/daughter pair caused serious threats and harassment against them; Freeman even had to leave her home for months. Giuliani had falsified a video for his lies.

The Senate returns next week, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), also elected for that position in the 118th Congress, scheduled a Wednesday vote on the bill to codify the right to same-gender and interracial marriage. Democratic leader Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said she thinks the bill has the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and has reached an agreement on “commonsense” changes to protect religious freedom with Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ, and Thom Tillis (R-NC). In July, almost 50 House Republicans joined Democrats to pass the bill.  

When Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) politely protested Elon Musk’s allowing Twitter impersonation of him—and many others—Musk responded by saying Marky’s own account “sounds like a parody.” Marky tweeted back:

“One of your companies is under an FTC consent decree. Auto safety watchdog NHTSA is investigating another for killing people. And you’re spending your time picking fights online. Fix your companies. Or Congress will.”

A fake tweet from Eli Lilly about free insulin in a supposedly verified account brought outrage after Lilly’s “apology” that it was false, including from a parody imitating Lilly:

“We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account about the cost of diabetic care. Humalog is now $400. We can do this whenever we want and there’s nothing you can do about it. Suck it. Our official Twitter account is @LiIlyPadCo.”

About 37.3 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and 8.4 million need insulin to survive. To manufacture, a vial costs under $10, but Lilly’s list price is $274.70, the generic at $82.41. Most people on insulin require 2-3 vials a month so at least 1.3 million people risk their lives by rationing their insulin. The Inflation Reduction Act caps insulin out-of-pocket costs at $35 per month for Medicare participants, but Republicans blocked all other price caps.  

In the midst of ballot-counting, the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel released the newly declassified summary of a joint interview with George W. Bush and his VP Dick Cheney regarding the September 11 attacks. Members of the 9/11 Commission, did not record the event on April 29, 2004, and the released summary document is the only official record, a “memorandum for the record.”

Bush evidenced no sense about the death and destruction set free by his global war; the interview was at the same time as a massive insurgency in Iraq against a U.S. occupation which would kill thousands of U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Seeing the first plane hit the World Trade Center, he thought what a terrible pilot. When his chief of staff Andy Card told him the U.S. was under attack, he stayed in the classroom where he had been reading My Pet Goat to children. He tried to “collect his thoughts” and decided he should “project calm and strength.”

Communications equipment kept failing, including the secure phone line between Bush and Cheney. Bush couldn’t find Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and complained about not having “good television” on Air Force One. Cheney was responsible for authorizing the military to shoot down civilian aircraft. Bush also claimed he didn’t know anything about Saudi nationals receiving permission to leave the country after 9/11.

Bush said he got no “actionable intelligence” About Osama Bin Laden and preparation for hijackings or other attacks in the U.S. and claimed CIA Director George Tenet said “the threat was overseas.” Cheney criticized congressional oversight of covert operations, especially by the CIA, because it weakened the agency. To make the U.S. less vulnerable to attack, Bush said, “We had to kill them before they kill us.” Working with Putin was important to use U.S. military and intelligence of bases in central Asia.

Inflation dropped to an annual rate of 7.7 percent in October, down a half percent. The biggest inflationary contributors were shelter, gasoline, and food, the first two items raising historic profits for companies. Buyers will find less inflation in used cars prices, household supplies, clothing and accessories, household gas, and some food items.

Biden gave all veterans and Gold Star families lifetime passes to national parks.

New drugs could restore a woman’s period using the same medication as used in medical abortion, misoprostol or in combination with mifepristone. The process might not be classified as abortion because the woman doesn’t know whether she is pregnant. Misoprostol is also used for gastric ulcers in nonpregnant people but have become more difficult to obtain because of its connection to abortions. The courts, however, have described abortion as related to “knowledge of a confirmed pregnancy” or “intent to end a confirmed pregnancy.” Menstrual regulation doesn’t rely on a confirmed pregnancy, and no states ban or restrict this regulation with an unknown pregnancy status.

September 27, 2022

News on September 27, 2022, Hearing Canceled Etc.

The House January 6 investigative committee has postponed its September 28, 2022, hearing because of Hurricane Ian, expected to go through Florida the next two days. The upcoming hearing was expected to focus on a declaration of victory for Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) despite his loss in the 2020 presidential election. Danish filmmakers filmed DDT’s friend Roger Stone during the months prior to the election showing his prediction of violent clashes with left-wing activists because DDT would use armed guards and loyal judges to stay in power. In one video clip, Stone says:

“F–k the voting, let’s get right to the violence. Shoot to kill. See an Antifa? Shoot to kill. F–k ’em. Done with this bulls–t.”

The committee also has details about Stone’s contacts after obtaining records of Kristin Davis, aka the Manhattan Madam, who was with Stone at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC on the day before and the day of the Capitol attack. Stone also called Enrique Tarrio, head of the Proud boys, before and after the January 6 and contacted the former Oath Keepers chief Stewart Rhodes nine days after the attack. Both are charged with seditious conspiracy.

Other Stone contacts are with prominent Republicans who tried to overturn the 2020 election such as Texas AG Ken Paxton and Donald Trump Jr’s aide Arthur Schwartz. During the 2016 election, Stone was middle-man between Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, and DDT’s campaign. In his book The Breach, Denver Riggleman, former staff member of the investigative committee, describes how DDT’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was the center of the efforts to stop the certification of Biden’s electoral college win through his thousands of texts.

According to recent revelations, Secret Service leadership turned over cell phones from 24 agents to DHS Inspector General, DDT-appointed Joseph Cuffari, in July. The House committee had requested texts from the phones almost a month ago. Cuffari knew in December 2021 that the phones had been wiped, but he waited to inform Congress and the National Archives required to retain the records. His own staff called on President Joe Biden to fire Cuffari, and political scientist Norman Ornstein describes Cuffari’s actions a “coverup of treason.”

Paxton, who initiated the persecution of families with trans youth, ran away in a truck to avoid being served with a subpoena for a federal court hearing scheduled for Tuesday. The lawsuit is from nonprofits trying to help state residents pay for out-of-state abortions because of Texas’ vigilante law against the procedure. Paxton claimed he left the premises because he was concerned for his safety although the process server identified himself and held up the subpoena. For the past seven years, the attorney general has been under indictment for securities fraud and faces a lawsuit from former top deputies accusing him of abuse of office. In his reelection primary, Paxton received under 43 percent of the vote as high-profile Republicans tried to unseat him, but he defeated George P. Bush, Jeb Bush’s son, in the runoff. Texas’ voter suppression laws will likely put Paxton into power while he awaits a trial on his indictment.   

DDT’s special master, Raymond Dearie, has postponed the deadline for another week to complete digitizing the 11,000 documents seized from Mar-a-Lago because no vendor will work for him. The government may need to hire a vendor. DDT’s $3 million new lawyer, Chris Kise, has also disappeared from the investigation into the 11,000 documents seized from Mar-a-Lago; he may be moved into DDT’s business legal problems.

Two new books about DDT reported House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called DDT “crazy” and considered a vote to convict DDT in the January 2021 impeachment trial. Now McConnell has endorsed the bipartisan electoral count reform bill to keep future presidents from trying to overturn presidential elections through Congress. The bill would reaffirm that the vice president has only a ceremonial role for the joint session of Congress to count electoral votes and increase the number of congressional members to object to a state’s electors. The Senate bill already has support from 11 GOP senators, more than enough to overcome a filibuster if all Democrats vote for cloture.

McConnell prefers his bill to the House bill passed by 229-203 with support from nine Republicans who will not be returning in 2023. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was one of the sponsors, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) called the bill unconstitutional. The House bill requires at least one-third of the members of both the House and the Senate to object to a state’s electors instead of the current one member from each chamber. McConnell’s preference is for one-fifth of the members from both chamber in the Senate bill.

The electoral bill has been struck from the continuing resolution bill trying to avoid a government shutdown this weekend. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-V) will not support Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) bill because part of the pipeline runs through his state and seizes property from private owners. Kaine said he wasn’t consulted on the language of the bill or given a chance to share his constituents’ “deep concerns” over the project. The bill also changes the legal battle from the 4th Circuit to the D.C. Circuit. Kaine said litigants should appeal instead of changing “federal law to achieve their goal” if they object to the 4th Circuit ruling. If Congress doesn’t soon pass some sort of budget agreement, the government will shut down on October 1.

In a frantic search for the way out of his problems, DDT moved from Hillary Clinton’s missing emails to the “lost” millions of emails in George W. Bush’s White House. In 2008, Democrats claimed the missing emails left an “enormous gap in the historical record“ during a critical period. Newsweek reported in 2016:

“This correspondence included millions of emails written during the darkest period in America’s recent history, when the Bush administration was ginning up support for what turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq with false claims that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction, and, later, when it was firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons.”

DDT may have given up on Clinton’s “scandal”: the article states in the first sentence that no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Clinton exists. After his recent—and repeated—claims about Clinton, DDT lied about Barack Obama taking classified secrets and clashing with the National Archives. DDT still can’t find a parallel for his taking classified materials, leaving them lying around in a fancy country club, refusing to return them, and being investigating for obstructing the retrieval process. He’s working on the “what about …” and “everybody does it” defense.  

The party of “law and order” and its leader are still savagely attacking the FBI, the lead agency for enforcing both domestic and foreign crimes. After its investigation into DDT’s alleged crimes, DDT called them “corrupt,” “mobsters,” “vicious monsters,” and “a real threat to democracy” while accusing them of “atrocities.” His allies fell in line, claiming they are politicized, pushing conspiracy theories and calling on the FBI to be defunded—sort of like “defund the police.” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told Fox network viewers that a possible “cabal” within the FBI politicized the agency’s work.

Next year if they gain power, the GOP plans extensive investigations, possibly a select committee, to probe the recovery of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago as well as curbing FBI funding and surveillance permissions. With no visible evidence, the GOP “Commitment to America” claims “more than 14 whistleblowers” have “come forward to publicly raise concerns about the FBI’s politicization,” based on an assertion from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).

The people of the U.S. should be treated like little children, says Arizona’s supposedly Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema as she praised McConnell and declared she shares GOP values. According to her reasoning, the filibuster needs to be restored to its former glory because parents shouldn’t give children everything they want. MSNBC Chris Hayes described her comparison:

“Sinema and others like her are the Grown Ups. And We The People are spoiled children constantly asking for things.”

Sinema falsely claims the filibuster was “what our forefathers intended.” The first use of the Senate filibuster,however, was in 1837 to keep President Andrew Jackson from a resolution of censure, and it didn’t become popular until the mid-20th century when Southern Democrats used it to fight the Civil Rights Act. Until 1970, a senator could filibuster only by standing on the chamber floor and non-stop talking, but now it requires only a senator effortlessly submitting an intent to filibuster in writing.

MSNBC Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out:

“The number 60 never appears in the Constitution, but it seems to live in Kyrsten Sinema’s imagined version of the Constitution. If a simple majority vote is a dangerous and fickle threshold for governing in a democracy, then why should only five members of the United States Supreme Court get to decide the final interpretation of the law of the land? Why doesn’t Senator Sinema advocate a minimum of a 6-vote threshold in the Supreme Court instead of a mere majority and why is the United States of America the only country that has a 60 percent threshold to win a vote in a national legislative body?”

More news tomorrow.

September 30, 2021

SCOTUS Justices Need a Code of Ethics

The Supreme Court returns Friday, October 1, and approval of the Supreme Court has dropped to the lowest in history. The reason is not only the agreement from six justices that vigilantism can stay alive and well in Texas until the anti-abortion law is litigated, perhaps many years from now. Without Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) to clamp down on news, the public now knows that the FBI suspected serious problems about Brett Kavanaugh before 49 Republicans and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin voted to put him into a lifetime Supreme Court term. It was the closest vote since 1881. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she voted for Kavanaugh because he promised her Roe v. Wade was “settled law.”

Without DDT’s AG Bill Barr, the Department of Justice confirmed the FBI received over 4,500 tips against him and sent “relevant” ones to DDT’s White House where they disappeared. Accusations of Kavanaugh’s sexual assaults from two other women than Christine Blasey Ford were also negated. “Yay” senators also ignored the appointee’s misleading them, possibly lying under oath in 2004 and 2006 as George W. Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit about his partisanship as a young lawyer. The tirade at the televised confirmation hearing in 2018 dismissing his misconduct allegations as a “political hit” should have been obvious to Manchin if not to the other Republicans. Kavanaugh claimed then, “What does around come around,” and he’s living up to it. In addition to anti-choice decisions in the Supreme Court this year are disputes about guns, voter-suppression, and elections—possibly even insurrections after January 6. By now his decisions are becoming predictable.

Kavanaugh adds to the solid block of conservatives voting for Republicans: unlimited corporate spending on elections, elimination of federal “preclearance” of voting changes in regions demonstrating discrimination, permission of partisan gerrymandering on the part of the GOP, etc. Like DDT, he has openly criticized mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day although some states make them legal. And like his conservative compatriots, there is no such thing as “settled law.”

People wanting to give partisan Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt forget he worked to put George W. Bush into the White House in Bush v. Gore after he spent four years with Ken Starr investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton. This work was rewarded by his appointment to the D.C. appeals court where a columnist wrote he was “nothing more than a partisan shock trooper in a black robe.” As a White House operative, Kavanaugh’s confirmation was blocked for three years until 2006. Democrats refused to accept protestations that he had nothing to do with warrantless surveillance, torture of terrorism suspects, and “Memogate” about a Republican aide who stole thousands of Democrats’ emails from 2001 through 2003 and shared them with Bush advisers.

During his earlier confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh lied about promoting three judicial extremist nominees despite emails proving he was involved in staging events, reviewing promotional material, attending meetings, drafting statements for Bush officials, providing advice, and recommending one of the nominees. And “Memogate” when he was often listed as either the first recipient of the emails or the only one. In 2004, he swore he had not received any of these emails and in 2006 said he was “not aware of the memos.”

Facing his former lies under oath in 2018, he moved from ignorance to admission he had received some emails but assumed that the aide found the information through typical information-trading between Republican and Democratic aides. One email told Kavanaugh exactly what questions Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would ask him at a hearing, and another was a 4,000-word strategy memo a Leahy adviser sent her employer. A third email, marked “confidential,” stated that “Leahy’s staff is only sharing with Democratic counsels.”

Supreme Court justices are the only ones in the judicial branch who cannot be impeached, and the same goes for unethical behavior. Chief Justice John Roberts sent scores of complaints about Kavanaugh, primarily about his lying under oath, to the 10th Circuit Judicial Council for review; they were returned two months later, dismissed as moot because federal ethics rules don’t apply to Supreme Court justices. The Council did confess that “the allegations contained in the complaints are serious.”

Kavanaugh is not alone in needing a code of ethics. A year after his confirmation, Kavanaugh joined Justice Samuel Alito in meeting privately with representatives of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and posing for photos with them. Opposing marriage equality, NOM was participating at that time as a friend of the court in a case involving LGBTQ rights. Lower federal court judges would have been censured for this behavior, but both Kavanaugh and Alito dissented against the six justices supporting LGBTQ rights in the case. 

A year later, Alito gave an “ireful” speech to the highly conservative Federalist Society, delivering his strong views against gun rights, abortion, LGBT rights, and pandemic-related restrictions on religious gatherings. His statements left no doubt about future rulings. All federal judges except those on the high court must comply by the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.

Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni may top lack of ethics in the current set of justices because of their mutual scams. She collects unlimited dark money for her Tea Party-connected nonprofit, Liberty Central, and organizes Republicans on issues often reaching the Supreme Court. He works the court, including the ones in which spouses have financial interests.

A recent example is the issue of big tech when Republicans complain about censorship of conservative positions despite evidence that many of these, especially Facebook, have favored Republicans. Ginni promoted a website and “influence network” about big tech’s “corporate tyranny.” Clarence wrote a concurring opinion in a case dealing with DDT’s blocking his critics on Twitter and railed railed against the control “of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties” and the “glaring concern” for free speech.

Ginni started Liberty Central in 2009 with secret donations enabled by that year’s Supreme Court Citizens United decision. Legal ethicists questioned the existence of those secret donations, but the ruling’s permission of secrecy makes investigation difficult. Since then, she opposed the Affordable Care Act, which Clarence always opposes in the Supreme Court.

In the Pennsylvania decision permitting mailed-in ballots counted up to three days after Election Day if postmarked before Election Day, Clarence wrote a scorching dissent using DDT’s argument of fraud, especially in mail-in ballots used primarily by seven states. Yet the number of ballots involved totaled about 10,000 which would not have changed the majority for Joe Biden who won the state 3.4 million votes to DDT’s 3.3 million. Ginni endorsed the rally that led to the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Last year’s SCOTUS decisions set the tone for the upcoming term. The majority voted in favor of the GOP Chamber of Commerce 83 percent of the time and moved to the right in “religious liberty” and voting (non)rights in its shadow dockets.

The court’s power in blocking votes was obvious in gutting another part of the 56-year-old Voting Rights Act after destroying much of it in 2013 by supporting Arizona’s voting-restriction law, struck down by the 9th Circuit Court. One provision was blocking anyone except a relative or caregiver from dropping off a ballot, and the other requiring the tossing of all ballots cast in the wrong precinct. Alito said that courts should use voting rules made in 1982 to make its decision.

In Arizona, precincts are hard to determine because the state seems to change them for every election, and the absentee ballot drop-off restriction is especially damaging to Native Americans on reservations and people who may count on friends to drop off their mail-in ballots. Alito said just because voting may be “inconvenient for some,” doesn’t mean unequal access. but the Tohono O’odham Nation reservation, almost four times the size of Rhode Island, has only one post office, trouble with transportation, and difficulty in mail delivery. 

The 4-4 decision in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s small extension in the mail-in ballot deadline before Amy Coney Barrett moved onto the Supreme Court bodes future decisions like Bush v. Gore, nullifying thousands of legal ballots. Trying to block state judiciaries from protecting state voting rights under state constitutions goes farther than the decision putting George W. Bush into the White House when Florida later found a majority of votes for Al Gore.

Packing the Supreme Court? That’s what the Republican senators and DDT did before Joe Biden’s presidency.

September 12, 2021

Thoughts about 9/11 on Its 20th Anniversary

Yesterday saw no foreign attacks on the 20th anniversary of “9/11,” the date when 19 hijackers, including 15 men from Saudi Arabia, used airplanes to attack the United States, including at New York City’s World Trade Center. Following the death of approximately 3,000 people in the attacks, George W. Bush, appointed to president by five Supreme Court justices after a voting debacle in Florida, started two preemptive wars, one almost immediately in Afghanistan and the second 17 months later in Iraq. Almost 20 years later, the media has been consumed with President Joe Biden ending the Afghanistan conflict and air-lifting over 123,000 people out of the country. For 20 years, the power of 9/11 has loomed over the United States with no need to identify the year. 

After 20 years, the U.S. administration has admitted that domestic terrorism is a far bigger threat to the U.S. than international terrorism: QAnon conspiracy theories and white supremacy, promoted by conservative media such as the Fox network, proliferate throughout the nation with violent attacks. For years, conservatives were convinced that terror came only from outside the country as they ignored the growth of global anti-government extremism, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) protected QAnon believers and white supremacists because they were his voting base.

After a number of mass shootings, the Department of Homeland Security finally admitted the threats of domestic violent extremism, especially white supremacy, at the end of DDT’s term, and the conservatives’ attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 confirmed their position. Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an expert in the field of polarization and extremism, explains the greater danger of domestic violent extremism: combined of “coherent ideologies,” it lacks the hierarchical organization of jihadi extremism. Run by online youth satire with a “countercultural, edgy resistance,” it uses faux-patriotic language of freedom, constitutional defense, and revolutionary action to grow the illegal militia movement. Participants are people dissatisfied with traditional authority, such as COVID lockdown and mask mandates, and are willing to violently oppose anything they don’t like. They spread disinformation from history, such as Holocaust denial, and from scientific theory, such as racism, through conspiracy theories.

Domestic terrorism moved from fringe to mainstream. People need training “to recognize and resist propaganda, disinformation, and the persuasive tactics of extremist rhetoric” as well as addressing social and political issues driving extremists’ grievances. “The widespread availability of weapons and a lack of effective gun control,” according to Miller-Idriss, has increased the domestic terrorism.

Twenty years ago conservatives hated the Taliban; now they want to emulate the Taliban in taking over the U.S. Domestic dissidents plan a rally on September 18 to celebrate the hundreds of criminals who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to overturn the presidential election. The economy isn’t to blame: many of those involved in the movement have expensive cars and homes—like the St. Louis couple who pointed AR-15 rifles at peaceful protesters walking on the sidewalk in front of their McMansion home. As conservative David Frum, who wrote speeches of fear for George W. Bush’s victorious campaign, observed:  

“If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.”

William Rivers Pitt points out that these former conservatives have even deserted the conservative beliefs. To them, people like John McCain, Mitt Romney, John Boehner, and Bush are left-leaning; now those who call themselves conservatives threaten election and school board officials with physical harm and death if they don’t do exactly what “conservatives” want them to do. “We will find you!” has become the far-right meme screamed at their elected officials. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), once a close friend of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), claims the U.S. will return to the Middle East and attack Afghanistan.

About the changes since 9/11/2001, Jonathan Last wrote this for the conservative Bulwark website:

“We have a minority-rule dynamic that did not exist 20 years ago. We have one political party that is explicitly anti-democratic in that its macro-strategy is no longer winning more votes, but winning by restricting voting and playing games with vote-counting and apportionment. We have some significant chunk of that political party which is nakedly authoritarian. And we have just lived through our government’s first failure at a peaceful transfer of power since the Civil War—a crisis that was serious enough to alarm senior military leaders that a coup might be in process.”

The events of 9/11 caused people in the U.S. to bond with W. Bush and other Republicans coming out on top in their battle against foreigners. Then the GOP stood for national security. Now the party represents what people call “freedom” and individualism, ignoring the common good and public safety while letting hundreds of thousands of people die from politicized anger about a small piece of cloth. Gone is any concern with vigilance and protection while danger from disease is ridiculed as non-existent. DDT hid any threat, silenced people attempting to warn the public, opposed testing, and mocked masks. His political attacks on anyone trying to warn people about COVID’s danger polarized the entire country.

DDT lost his election, but GOP leaders in Congress such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) accuse public health measure as “government control,” a GOP bugaboo. The GOP movement against public health has been far more effective than the 9/11 attack—3,000 deaths then compared to at least 677,000 deaths from COVID in 18 months and the equivalent to 9/11 every two days. The GOP proves it is no longer a party of national security.

Six years before 9/11, people watched domestic terrorism by government-hating extremists when two white U.S. citizens blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing at least 168 people. While the FBI devoted only 20 percent of its counterterrorism agents to domestic terrorism, these homegrown extremists killed more people in the U.S. with more attacks than international terrorists. Yet the terrorist statute doesn’t cover these terrorists with no one of the hundreds of people arrested is charged with terrorism. Even white supremacist Dylann Roof, who killed nine Black people at a Bible study didn’t receive a terrorism charge. Laws since the Oklahoma City bombing target international terrorists but not neo-Nazi groups or other domestic extremists. Social media platforms communicate domestic terrorism, and GOP governors are passing laws to allow posts to incite this violence in the name of protecting conservatism.  

DDT, criticized for spending the day calling a boxing match on 9/11, tried to redeem his self-esteem by repeating lies about 9/11. He “helped” after the attacks and “brought a “big crew” while he was “down there” near the World Trade Center, a claim with no evidence, and he lied about donating to support 9/11 victims. He did make a new claim, that he heard “creaks,” probably the “United States Steel Building … 50 stories tall” and said, “That building is going to come down.” DDT actually got a $150,000 grant for his property near the site, claiming it was “reimbursement” for helping to shelter people at the building. Paperwork shows he really claimed “rent loss,” “cleanup,” and “repairs.”

Striking a pugilistic tone, DDT avoided the Ground Zero official ceremony but briefly appeared In front of first responders at the 17th Precinct station house. He ignored his denigration of the police at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and said: 

“I’ll say it loud. You know, you’re not supposed to say that. We love the blue.”

Others honoring first responders yesterday in their remarks included Biden, VP Kamala Harris, W. Bush, and President Obama.

DDT’s live pay-per-view commentary for the Saturday night boxing match between 58-year-old Evander Holyfield and 44-year-old former UFC lightweight champion Vitor Belfort didn’t take long: Holyfield lost to Belfort’s TKO in the first round. After that event, DDT moved on to speak at the “Rally of Hope,” presented by Unification Church, a cult group often called the “Moonies” with deep ties to the GOP, where he praised the founders for “peace all other the world.” DDT also took credit for improving the security situation in the Korean peninsula and instigating “a policy of unprecedented strength” for the U.S. Jim Stewartson, founder of the anti-disinformation organization The Think Project, wrote on Twitter that the event was “deeply harmful and deceptive.” Former cult members described the group’s indoctrination process. Worshipping while carrying AR-15 rifles, the group has a 40-acre “safe haven” in Texas for “patriots.” 

The FBI released its first document about 9/11 in fewer than ten days after Biden’s executive order to make some files public. The heavily redacted report from April 2016 was about the supporting role from the Saudi Arabian government for the hijackers. Information came from November 2015 interviews. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission Report described little evidence about the link between Saudi Arabia government and the hijackers, but the FBI launched an investigation, Operation Encore, in 2006 for a decade. Watch for the release of more of these documents.

August 17, 2021

Afghanistan–20 Years of Lies, Failure

While Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) was in the White House, he arranged a peace agreement with the Taliban and arranged for 5,000 of their fighters to be released from prison with no involvement from the Afghan government. Now he watches television—as usual—and lambasts President Joe Biden who, DDT said, “ran out of Afghanistan instead of following the plan our Administration left for him.” Four months ago, DDT lauded Biden’s withdrawal plan as “wonderful” and “positive” although he wanted Biden to leave before September 11. Three weeks ago, DDT took credit for the exit at a rally in Ohio.

DDT negotiated a peace treaty with the Taliban and agreed to withdraw all U.S. troops by May 1 if the terrorist group agreed to stop attacking U.S. troops. Afghans were not included in the negotiation, and the Taliban assassinated Afghanistan leaders while not killing any U.S. soldiers until after the deal was signed. Funded by foreign investors, the Taliban took over two-thirds of Afghanistan. 

Almost 20 years ago, the 9/11 hijacking of U.S. jetliners and attacks in the U.S. by a majority of Saudi Arabians, including the Twin Towers, was blamed on al-Qaeda, and the U.S. attacked Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and kill Osama bin Laden although Bush made little effort to catch the man blamed for the 9/11 attack. The Taliban retreated into rural Afghanistan, and George W. Bush soon declared “Mission Accomplished,” continuing the 20-year-old war in a nation with corrupt, incompetent leadership. Bin Laden and other Taliban leaders settled in Pakistan, and the U.S. refused an unconditional surrender in December 2001. Instead Bush moved toward nation-building in Afghanistan, complete with waste, fraud, and confusion. The Taliban regrouped, and the U.S. ignored Afghan traditions by centralizing the government. U.S. resources then poured into Iraq for a war based on U.S. government lies about “weapons of mass destruction.”

Despite the Osama bin Laden’s killing in 2011 and a timeline to withdraw troops in 2014, Afghan relationships with the U.S. continued to deteriorate especially after U.S. troops maltreatment of Afghans, for example, filming of U.S. Marines urinating on dead Afghans and accusations of Qurans burned at a military base. The Taliban ceased talks after a soldier allegedly shot and killed 17 Afghans, mostly women and children.

An RNC statement from its 2020 campaign, now removed, accused Biden of “a history for pushing for endless wars” and praised DDT for leading historic “peace talks” with the Taliban. DDT’s withdrawal plan, “the best path” for the U.S. was a Fox News commentary on the RNC press release that disappeared. No praise, however, for Biden’s withdrawal which followed DDT’s plan.

A month ago, former Secretary of State and presidential wannabe Mike Pompeo announced he wanted to “applaud” the withdrawal, stating, “I want the Afghans to take up the fight for themselves.” Pompeo took a personal role in DDT’s Taliban deal, directly talking twice with Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban cofounder and Afghanistan’s new de facto leader. Baradar, co-Taliban co-founder in the mid-1990s, was captured in 2010 but released in 2018 at DDT’s request, despite he Afghan’s opposition, so Baradar could lead DDT’s peace agreement, essential the U.S. surrender to the Taliban. In 2020, Baradar was the first Taliban leader to speak directly with a U.S. president when he talked with DDT on the phone after signing the initial agreement.

Pompeo, who tweeted this photo of himself with Baradar, now calls the withdrawal “weak American leadership”; President Joe Biden was essential following DDT’s and Pompeo’s pattern for pulling out of Afghanistan. On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace had hard questions for Pompeo, including whether he regretted “pressing the Afghan government to release 5,000 prisoners, which they did, some of whom are now back on the battlefield fighting with the Taliban.” Pompeo claims Biden should “crush those Taliban” after signing a deal with them. Asked about DDT’s administration “giving the Taliban legitimacy,” the former deal-maker attacked “corrupt” Afghan leaders who only wanted money and claimed he and DDT “never trusted the Taliban.” Now Pompeo calls the Taliban “butchers.”

Republicans cheered George W. Bush’s Afghanistan war and endorsed withdrawal during DDT’s term. In cognitive dissonance, the GOP now condemns Biden, blames his administration for Afghan conditions, supports DDT’s position, and avoids a position on the war.

Biden announced the U.S. military would be withdrawing from Afghanistan five weeks ago; today the Taliban took over the country’s capital, Kabul, after taking over almost every major city in Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani fled to Tajikistan. The U.S. increased the number of service members from 2,500 to over 5,000 in an effort to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan allies. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen blocked the Taliban from accessing Afghan’s billions of dollars in U.S. bank accounts.

In Afghanistan, 2,448 U.S. military members and personnel have been killed and another 20,722 wounded out of than 775,000 deployed military members. Evaluation of the mission’s cost varies between $1 trillion and $4 trillion with multiple trillions of dollars in the companion war in Iraq. By July 2021, 73 percent of people in the U.S. supported withdrawal. The U.S. began withdrawal, and the Afghan military disappeared, leaving the country to the Taliban.

An Afghanistan veteran, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), opposed the withdrawal but tweeted:

“Do not let my party preten[d] to be outraged by this. Both the [Republicans] and [Democrats] failed here. Time for Americans to put their country over their party.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert, GOP QAnon believer from Colorado’s Grand Junction area, tweeted, “The Taliban are the only people building back better.” Tucker Carlson accused the Taliban takeover of its reaction to U.S. “radical gender politics.”  In part of his rant, Carlson complained:   

“Thanks to American-imposed gender quotas, dozens of women ultimately were installed as representatives in Afghan’s parliament. [T]he whole thing was a sham, as always.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) suggested Biden is “paying the Taliban … with weapons, vehicles, Blackhawk helicopters because the Afghan army is handing them over as fast as possible.” She’s right about the Afghans turning over these weapons to the Taliban, but not about that being Biden’s intention. Told that the Afghan was not protecting the country, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), with no evidence, said, “What a bunch of crap!”

While Republicans damn Democrats for not saving Afghan refugees, they bitterly oppose any refugees being brought to the U.S., claiming that the Democrats only want the votes of these “criminals.”

U.S. allies don’t agree with the GOP’s smearing Biden to score points for the next election. The UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace said DDT’s “rushed” deal with the Taliban omitting any involvement from the Afghan government or the international community set up the disaster. Wallace said, “The die was cast when the deal was done by Donald Trump.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg blames Afghan leaders for the government’s collapse because of the refusal to stand up to the Taliban. He follows Biden’s assessment that “what [the U.S.] could not provide [the Afghan forces] was the will to fight for their future.” About 800 NATO civilian personnel are still in Afghanistan for air traffic control and provision of fuel and communication.

Most pundits prefer to write about “who lost Afghanistan,” but Katrina vanden Heuvel addresses how the U.S. got into the seemingly never-ending war. After a few months of defeating al-Qaeda and finding Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush shifted his focus to nation-building to build his importance. Never mind the ignorance of people attempting this effort. Corruption included incompetence, lack of motivation, theft, and drug trade from both U.S. and Afghan military leaders. Every year, inspector generals reported the “war” as a failure. Commanders exaggerated the positive numbers and erased bad ones. Craig Whitlock reported on “explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public” and the distortion of statistics “to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.”

Afghans took bribes to move to the Taliban as soon as the U.S. left gone. After DDT’s deal with the Taliban, Taliban leaders offered money for U.S.-provided weapons and a future of surrenders.  Susannah George writes about the steps leading up to Taliban fighters walking into Kabul, the capital, with no resistance.

Despite the trillions of dollars lost by taxpayers and the ever-ending pain of anyone involved in Afghanistan, stockholders greatly benefited from the 20-year failure. An investment of $10,000 in stock with the U.S. top five defense contractors on September 18, 2001, if consistently reinvested, would now be worth $97,295. These stocks outperformed the stock marked by 58 percent during the past two decades. These contractors are Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics. All but Boeing got their money from the U.S. government. 

George W. Bush, who gave the Taliban over $5 million in May 2021, started the 20-year war, and supported torture, gets to view the events in Afghanistan “with deep sadness” and wish Biden, who got stuck with the buck, would move more quickly to evacuate people. DDT, who bragged in June about setting the withdrawal, now calls on Biden to “resign in disgrace.” And Afghanistan diverts the media from climate warming, voting suppression, COVID, and other disasters directly affecting the United States.

July 19, 2016

Only GOP Gets Pass for Making Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key findings from the British inquiry into the Iraq War:

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 9, 2015

June Pot-pourri

Best news of the week: The gun-friendly Supreme Court may understand that enough is enough. In refusing to hear the case Jackson v. City and County of San Francisco, the Supremes have let stand a lower-court ruling that gun owners are required to keep their guns “well-regulated” by locking them up. Still standing is a 2007 San Francisco regulation requiring all guns to be locked up, disabled, and/or controlled by a trigger lock when stored in a home. The two dissenting justices are Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. A gun in the home increases the likelihood of gun related deaths, including accidental deaths, and injuries and death to children. The lower-court ruling came from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which covers my beloved state of Oregon.

Speaking fees from the GOP president: While conservatives rant about the “Clinton Cash scandal” when Hillary Clinton donates her speaking fees to charity, they ignore George W. Bush, who has been given $100,000 to $175,000 for over 200 paid speeches, putting the money into his personal account as he continues to “replenish the ol’ coffers,” according to Bush. The “coffers” are up to about $15 million dollars. One of these speeches was at the 2014 International Bowl Expo where Bush explained that “bowling is fun.” He also raked in $100,000 at a fundraiser in McKinney (TX) for a homeless shelter.

mckinney2Speaking of McKinney: Witnesses have given another side to the pool fight story in McKinney (TX) about unruly black kids who didn’t belong at the pool party. The problems started when a white couple came up to the kids—who lived in the area—and used racial slurs (“black f*ckers”), insulted them (“go back to your Section 8 housing”), and slapped the teenage girl who hosted the party after she tried to defend a 14-year-old white girl who was also at the party. The couple then called police, claiming that black kids were fighting. Eric Casebolt, now resigned from the force, shouted at the young black girl kneeling on the ground, “Get on the ground.” He immediately grabbed her hair and pushed her face down into the grass before putting his knee on her back.  On a Daily Show segment, Jessica Williams pointed out that there has been progress because “a cop pulled a gun on a group of black kids and nobody is dead.” That segment is here. Casebolt, who also pulled his gun on unarmed teens in bathing suits, was “2008 Officer of the Year.”

President Obama’s invasion of Texas: Texas citizens have received over $11 million in FEMA funds after the most recent severe flooding. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who couldn’t support aid for Sandy victims because of the “pork” and “wasteful spending” in the Disaster Relief Act of 2013, demanded money for his own state. The “pork” in the 2013 bill was to “replenish FEMA’s disaster relief fund, which funds relief from future disasters.” Other “pork” came from bribes to red state Republicans—including Texas—to pass the bill over their filibuster. Texas and Oklahoma have had over one-fourth of FEMA’s declared disasters in the past six years, Texas at 75 and Oklahoma at 45. Former Gov. Rick “I hate the federal government” Perry said after fire devastated much of his state, “It is not only the obligation of the federal government, but its responsibility under law to help its citizens in times of emergency.”

Two sides of Ted Cruz:

“This [Disaster Relief Act of 2013] bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington–an addiction to spending money we do not have.”—2013

“Democrats and Republicans in the congressional delegation will stand as one in support of the federal government meeting its statutory obligations to provide the relief to help the Texans who are hurting.”—2015

Cruz isn’t alone in his hypocrisy. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) voted against emergency aid to Hurricane Sandy victims when he was a U.S. representative, arguing that he didn’t “think Arkansas needs to bail out the Northeast.” The Northeast bailed out Arkansas last July when Cotton got FEMA funds for his state after severe flooding. Every Colorado Republican in the House voted against post-Sandy relief before they wanted emergency funding for Colorado in September 2013.

Shocker of the week: President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy was wrong, according to his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He told the British newspaper The Times, that the plans to replace Saddam Hussein’s regime with democracy were unworkable and that he had serious concerns from the first time he heard about the idea. [After the article was published, Rumsfeld denied that he had criticized Bush or that his statements contradicted his previous positions about the Iraq War.]

Loss of the judiciary in Kansas: After Gov. Sam Brownback destroyed Kansas’ economy, he signed a bill to obliterate the state’s judiciary if is rules against a law that he likes. He went into a snit after the state supreme court ruled that the inequality between school funding for rich and poor districts was unconstitutional. The justices ordered the disparity fixed, and the legislature stripped the supreme court of its authority to appoint local chief judges and set district court budgets. Brownback and the legislature have threatened the supreme court with recall elections, splitting the court into two sections, lowering the retirement age, and creating partisan elections. If the supreme court strikes down these laws, it  loses its funding.

The week’s oddity: A ruling is imminent on the lawsuit from Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, founder of AIG, who is suing the U.S. government because it saved his company from financial ruin. He claims that the government seized his assets illegally and wants to be paid the original value of the company. Before the bailout, he was forced out of the company because he used off-the-books schemes to fake profitability and paid a $15 million fine for the crime while AIG paid $1.6 billion in penalties. James Millstein, the Treasury official who oversaw AIG’s restructuring, said about AIG:

“The AIG which came begging to the Fed’s doorstep was the AIG that Hank Greenberg built. Its capital structure was opaque, it was heavily dependent on short-term funding, with a highly leveraged financial products subsidiary that had been organized to evade effective regulatory oversight. [Greenberg] ran the parent company like a hedge fund with a triple A rating.”

AIG had gone to other lenders before, in a last resort, it went to the federal government. It would receive $85 billion for an 80 percent stake in the company and the option of additional lending. The U.S. Treasury took AIG’s offer. Greenberg’s lawyer is David Boies, whose career includes getting George W. Bush appointed to president for his first term and saving marriage equality in California. Judge Thomas Wheeler is a George W. Bush appointee. A Greenberg win could undo the entire financial bailout, possibly forcing every bailed-out bank, no matter how successful, into receivership. Greenberg just wants $40 billion.

GOP problem with losing “Obamacare”: With the Supreme Court judgment on King v. Burwell, everyone is getting nervous, especially the GOP legislators who can’t figure out what to do if the Supremes do what the GOP wants. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) wrote:

“Six million people risk losing their health care subsidies, yet @POTUS continues to deny that Obamacare is bad for the American people.”

The lawsuit to do away with subsidies in states that use the federal exchanges is funded by a conservative organization, promoted by conservative think tanks and conservative law professors, and backed by many top Republicans including several of Thune’s GOP colleagues. The minority of lower court judges siding with the plaintiffs are all Republicans. Only Republican-appointed justices are expected to vote for the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court, and the majority of the justices are Republicans. The lead attorney for the plaintiffs boasted that he does not plan to “lose any Republican-appointed judges’ votes” when his argument was being considered by a lower court. The Republicans are most likely more nervous after a poll shows that 55 percent of the respondents don’t want the subsidies taken away by the Supreme Court.

“News” that people can’t trust: Journalism is expensive which is why newspapers publish information that corporations send them. CNN plans to sell air time to corporations for in-house programs that look and feel like news but actually present the corporate PR goals and narrative. The new CNN advertorial program will be called “Courageous.” Corporations will be willing to pay for programming on “Courageous” in order to trade on the perception—from some—about CNN‘s “trustworthiness” and unwillingness to “blur the lines.”

Owned by Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, CNN already published 18 “original series” last year, 17 of them sponsored by a corporation. CNN’s in-house studio will produce “news-like content on behalf of advertisers” to reflect marketers’ growing desire for articles and videos that feel like editorial work. “Courageous” will highlight “news,” such as the building of a manufacturing plant or a philanthropic effort, according to Otto Bell, the lead of the studio and former creative director at OgilvyEntertainment. Dan Riess, executive vice president of integrated marketing and branded content at Turner, said, “This isn’t about confusing editorial with advertising. This is about telling advertisers’ stories.” Oh, sure.

[Note: Nobody pays me for writing this blog. It’s just my perception of the world!]

September 12, 2014

George W. Bush Created ISIL

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 7:40 PM
Tags: , , ,

It started 13 years ago with planes crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. George W. Bush’s first action was to ensure that any potential accomplices from Saudi Arabia were flown home before any investigations. A month later, Donald Rumsfeld stood in front of a $2-billion bomber and told the aircrews:

“We have two choices. Either we change the way we live, or we must change the way they live. We choose the latter.”

Since then the U.S. has killed a million people and reduced tens of millions of others to disability, dislocation, and poverty with more than 94,000 air strikes. Most of these were launched on Afghanistan and Iraq, but others covered Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Rumsfeld achieved his goal of changing the way that they live. Three months before 9/11, Bush gave Al-Qaeda almost $50 million; two years later he acquiesced to their demand that he withdraw U.S. forces from U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia.

ISIL goes back to 2004 when Western propaganda needed a villain. U.S. military intelligence officers explained: “We were basically paying up to $10,000 a time to opportunists, criminals and chancers who passed off fiction and supposition about [the original leader of ISIS precursor] as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq.” After the leader’s death in 2006, the U.S. continued to describe the Iraqi Resistance as bloodthirsty religious fanatics instead of the people of an invaded country resisting Bush’s preemptive occupation. According to a Congressional Research Service investigation, the group was responsible for only two percent of violence incidents. The real violence came from U.S. air strikes, night raids, and other indiscriminate use of force.

The 1,000 members of ISIL found support after the Western- and Arab royalist-backed war in Syria during 2012. ISIL moved from there back to Iraq where it again exaggerates its strength and accents its brutality. By that time, the sectarian Maliki government had exacerbated the problems by politically and economically marginalizing the largely Sunni Arab areas of northern and western Iraq where security forces used brutality to deal with dissent and political demands.

The U.S. met resistance in Iraq by recruiting, training, and directing Iraqi death squads, largely from the Shia militia. Its reign of terror in 2005 and 2006 tortured and killed tens of thousands of mostly Sunni Arab men and boys by ethnically cleansing most of Baghdad. Adnan al-Asadi, the leader of that campaign is still in office where he runs the Interior Ministry. With the current crisis, al-Asadi has released a new surge of death squad activity.

Almost 70 years ago, George Orwell wrote, “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” He listed “torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians.” During the past 13 years, the U.S. has committed all these atrocities.

President Obama, elected on a “peace” platform, now has the biggest military budget since the second world war, supervised eight times as many drone strikes, and become commander-in-chief of special forces operations in at least 134 countries, twice as many as during the regime of George W. Bush. Night raids in Afghanistan have gone from 20 per month in May 2009 to 1,000 during the same time period by April 2011; senior officials report that these kill the wrong people most of the time.

The more deaths, the better the recruiting of terrorists. During the massive tonnage of U.S. bombs dropped on Cambodia, the CIA said that Khmer Rouge recruiting “has been most effective among refugees subjected to B-52 strikes.” During his speech this week, the president announced his intention of escalating U.S. bombing in Iraq, but he has already launched over 24,000 air strikes in Afghanistan, vastly increasing the number of U.S. enemies.

President Obama’s use of Islamist militias to destabilize Libya supported ISI by giving them weapons, equipment, and training. Many of them were veterans of groups that worked with the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Qatari special forces in Libya, with U.S. support, just moved over to Syria where they trained al-Nusra in the use of chemical weapons which almost started another U.S. bombing campaign last year.

The lesson of 9/11 should have been that creating and arming groups of religious fanatics to fight secular enemies leads to their increased power and refusal to submit to external control. The U.S. and its allies, the U.K., France, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, insisted on undermining Kofi Annan’s 2012 peace plan in Syria and pledged ever more support, funding and weapons to the rebels. With the help of the Western propaganda, the coalition claimed to fund and arm only “moderate” forces, allowing ISIL to gain strength and eliminate any rivals.

When Iraqis participated in the 2011 Arab Spring protests, the repressive sectarian government sent security forces to beat, torture, arrest, and kill the demonstrators. Protests after the arrest of activist Dr. al-Issawi, a Maliki opponent, spread to 14 cities and were greeted with the usual brutality, firing on demonstrators in Mosul and Fallujah. The killings have continued since then as the Maliki’s government has banned satellite TV channels, including Al-Jazeera, to censor news of any uprising.

Since then, the Iraqi problems have worsened as the U.S. denies any diplomatic attempts to recognize opposition to the U.S.-installed Maliki government. Tribal leaders have tried to approach U.S. officials with no response. With no attempt to work out differences, ISIS will only grow stronger. If the nation can work out diplomacy with Iran, it can certainly do the same in Iraq if all people in the country can be given civil and political rights.

Instead of using air strikes and sending more arms to the Middle East for ISIL to take, the United States could work on changing the sectarian dynamics in Iraq. People who lost their jobs and suffered from bombings, arrests, torture, and watching murders are those who now support ISIL. Every bomb that is dropped has the marks of the Kurds and the Shia to the Sunnis. A partnership with Iran could move Iraq toward inclusive governing because Tehran is worried about its neighbor’s growing instability. Diplomacy, especially with a coalition, would undermine ISIL, and Middle Eastern countries might stop arming anyone in Syria, including the al-Qaeda supporter al-Nusra Front, who claims to be against Assad.

If the U.S. stopped sending arms to the Middle East, an embargo might stop Russia and Iran from supporting the Assad regime. As long as this nation sends arms, other countries—Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc.—will send arms to what we see as the opposition. This policy could move toward eliminating nuclear arsenals, including that in Israel.

None of this can happen, however, as long as leading U.S. conservatives shout for war in the Middle East. The odd couple, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), are demanding that the president call for more war, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is agreeing with them. Republicans won’t notice that these legislators have the authority to call on Congress to declare war, that, in fact, it is the role of Congress and not the president. Voting to send more troops into Iraq would create a problem in the upcoming election. People want something done about ISIL, but they don’t want to go back to war.

Two beheadings in Iraq have driven 59 percent of the people in the United States toward war in the Middle East, yet tens of thousands of beheadings by Mexican drug cartels don’t seem to disturb them. This past summer, Israel killed 2000 civilians, and in the last month Saudi Arabia beheaded 26 people. Most people in the U.S. have either nodded sagely about the importance of these actions or remained ignorant of them, but they went insane over two beheadings.

Two years ago, Dennis Kucinich emphasized the importance “of strong and patient diplomacy, working together with the community of nations to address security challenges, letting our allies take responsibility for regional security, being willing to talk to anyone in the cause of stability, and setting aside stale, ideological doctrines of intervention.” Reasonable people could look for diplomatic solutions, but conservatives aren’t reasonable. Their only goal is to take over all three branches of government.

Bringing back the draft would make any war more relevant to the people of the United States, possibly making them more thoughtful about hard decisions.

December 12, 2013

How George W. Bush Failed the GOP – Rachel Maddow

Meet the Press - Season 65Rachel Maddow is expanding her job responsibilities: she now has a monthly column in the Washington Post with a six-month contract.  I don’t read the Post regularly and wondered if I would come across her first column. No problem! Reprints popped up today in two of my favorite online news services, Truthout and Reader Supported News (RSN).

The mission of Truthout, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, reads: “Truthout works to spark action by revealing systemic injustice and providing a platform for transformative ideas, through in-depth investigative reporting and critical analysis. With a powerful, independent voice, we will spur the revolution in consciousness and inspire the direct action that is necessary to save the planet and humanity.”

Both sites provide writings from the greatest progressive thinkers of our time, and both come from Marc Ash. Truthout donations are tax-deductible; contributions to RSN are not. Ash wrote, “This is a new experiment: can an organization serve the community and still pay its taxes? The answer should be yes.” In neither case, however, do corporations control the content.

Ash started Truthout in 2001 after George W. Bush stole the presidency; RSN came along in 2009. Scott Galindez joined Ash at RSN the next year. Like many of us, he is “angry, and believe[s] that one way to take our government back is to inform the public of the truth.” What he asks from the readers is “to spread the news we provide.”

Sister site of RSN is Writing for Godot where readers can post their own essays. In Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, Godot never comes, but many others do. Galindez writes that the “God” for which people wait can “be equated with social justice and order, tolerance and compassion.” These have not come for Galindez for the past nine years, but perhaps tomorrow …. And that’s why we follow progressive websites—reading about social justice and order, tolerance and compassion.

Since Jeff Bezos, the $33 billionaire founder/CEO of amazon.com, purchased The Washington Post, he has kept a low profile. Hiring Rachel Maddow to write a column speaks well of his intentions. In no way would I presume to paraphrase Rachel Maddow. Here is her column, verbatim, about how George W. Bush failed the GOP. You can go to the original to find links to more information about her subject. Thank you, RSN.

 

After a presidency, what comes next? Not just for the president but also for the members of the administration, the president’s allies in Congress, his or her political party?

In the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, no hearty saplings were ever able to take root in the shade of that big tree. No one expected Vice President Dick Cheney to ever be a contender for the presidency – part of his effectiveness was his willingness to say and do very unpopular things. When he snapped at ABC’s Martha Raddatz, “So?” as she questioned him about public disapproval of the Iraq war, he wrote the perfect epitaph for his vice presidency.

But by the time the Bush era was winding down, the whole administration, including the president, was stewed in terrible, Cheney-level disapproval ratings. And now, almost no one who played a significant role in that administration is anywhere to be found in electoral politics, beyond the tertiary orbits of Punch-and-Judy cable news and the remains of what used to be the conservative “think tank” circuit.

That’s true even for former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who had no formal role in his brother’s administration but will probably always find the familial association an insurmountable obstacle to his own presidential hopes.

Unlike the Reagan administration, the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration, the George W. Bush presidency elevated precisely no one to the ranks of national leadership who wasn’t there before. The 2008 Republican presidential primaries were like some odd eight-year cicada hatch in which the candidates went underground in 2000 and then birthed themselves after Bush and Cheney were gone, as if the intervening years had never happened.

The 2000 second-place finisher, Sen. John McCain? You’re next in line for 2008! And four years later: second-place Mitt Romney? You’re next in line for 2012!

The unpopular presidency of George W. Bush has proved to be a blackball on the résumés of a generation of Republican leaders. Maybe Cheney’s daughter Liz will break the pattern next year with a successful Senate bid in Wyoming, but if you made it through that sentence without spitting coffee out your nose, you’re in rare company.

The fascinating turmoil in the Republican Party since 2008 is not just a personnel problem – it’s also ideological. If you were putting together a legacy to inspire the next generation of conservatives, you wouldn’t pick the Bush administration’s trailing ends of land wars, budget deficits, torture, a crusade against gay rights and a financial collapse to rival the Great Depression. The isolationism and libertarian iconography of the Ron Paul wing of the party really does appeal to young people more than Bush-Cheney Republicanism. Social conservatives really do feel backed into a corner and ready to fight against a country that is turning against them faster than most pollsters can keep up. There really is something ripe for renewal in Republicans’ self-conception as fiscal conservatives, when the clear pattern is that budget deficits grow under Republicans and shrink under Democrats. The Republican Party is a churning swirl of conflicting ideological currents, and that’s going to take some time to work out.

But part of the reason it may be taking so long already is those lost years: the period from 2000 to 2008 that effectively obviated the authority and the leadership potential of all of Washington’s Republican elites. The George W. Bush administration didn’t just cast too much shade on the next generation of leadership – it also apparently poisoned the ground.

The Obama administration’s ability to nurture and support the next round of national leadership in the Democratic Party is going to be a big part of its long-term legacy. Unless Vice President Biden’s presidential hinting suddenly takes a turn for the serious, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the obvious inheritor of the party’s mantle. But, as in 2008, the Beltway may be overstating her inevitability. The grass roots aren’t all with her, frankly, and it’s yet to be seen if she’s interested in trying to win them over. Mainstream press may buy big-dollar donors (and more mainstream press), but it can’t buy the passionate volunteers and activists and excitement that are the oxygen for a winning campaign and sustained, effective leadership.

The collapse of national leadership prospects for the Republican Party is one of the greatest political failures and most important legacies of George W. Bush. Barack Obama looks less likely to repeat that fate, but it depends on a strong grove of nationally viable Democrats starting to grow now. The crescendo of attention to Elizabeth Warren is a healthy part of that process, as is the growing national interest in such diverse Democrats as Sherrod Brown, Claire McCaskill, Cory Booker, Wendy Davis, Martin O’Malley, Deval Patrick, Andrew Cuomo and Amy Klobuchar.

Inside the White House, the task of growing one’s own successors must seem like one of the less pressing items on the president’s long daily to-do list. But the previous administration’s trail of scorched earth and exiles has curtailed the prospects for the Republican Party and governing conservatism more profoundly than almost anything that administration pursued in terms of policy. It is a cautionary tale that Democrats and the Obama White House should heed sooner rather than later. Grow your successors, nurture your legacy.

November 10, 2013

Evangelicals Need Jews to Bring Jesus Back to Earth

Skip Thanksgiving—the far-right wingnuts have commenced the war on “War on Christmas” beginning with Sarah Palin’s new book. According to Steve Benen, the three-fold attack of this tome is a tribute to the holiday, an explanation of Christianity’s superiority to atheism, and a guide to opposing all those “litigious secularists.” Anyone trying to understand why a business wanting customers from all beliefs should incorporate inclusive holiday-season language or why a non-Christian might not want to listen to governments showing a preference for Christianity over all other beliefs won’t find help in Palin’s directions. Instead, she thinks that these fringe beliefs endanger religious freedom in the country.

Palin probably ignored the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht yesterday. Literally “Crystal Night” and also called the Night of Broken Glass, the term names the attacks against Jews in Germany and parts of Austria by Hitler’s forces and non-Jewish civilians that killed 91 Jews and arrested and incarcerated another 30,000 in concentration camps. The name came from the broken glass covering the streets because attackers smashed windows in Jewish businesses, homes, hospitals, and schools. That horrific event changed the persecution from economic and social to beatings, incarceration, and murder.

Seventy-five years after the turn toward open violence that led to a world war, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe again. Two-thirds of respondents to a poll believe that this prejudice is a problem, 76% thought that anti-Semitism had increased over the last five years, and 46% said they worried about being verbally assaulted or harassed in public because they were Jewish. One-third of the respondents were worried about being physically attacked, and 57% said they had heard or seen someone claim over the last year that the Holocaust was a myth or had been exaggerated.

Almost 6,000 Jewish people in eight EU member states–Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the UK–took part in the survey. About 90 percent of the EU’s Jewish population lives in these eight countries. The survey found 29% of those surveyed had considered emigrating because of concerns about safety, with particularly high figures recorded in Hungary (48%), France (46%) and Belgium (40%). One in five respondents had personally experienced at least one anti-Semitic verbal insult and/or a physical attack in the year before the survey.

One British respondent said the Internet communicated a “phenomenal” amount of anti-Semitic material: “This is in some ways setting us backwards as now young people are circulating content like the [anti-Semitic hoax] Protocols of the Elders of Zion which had, prior to the Internet, pretty much died out.” The report also said that Jewish people faced discrimination in schools and the workplace.

This week the U.S. and the World Jewish Congress criticized the far-right Hungarian Jobbik party for unveiling a statue of the wartime leader Miklós Horthy, who allied Hungary with Nazi Germany.

Not all people in the United States are open to Judaism, including the immediate (appointed) past president George W. Bush. This coming week he is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a fundraiser in Irving (TX) for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute. Its purpose is to train people in the world to convert Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The goal is to “restore” Israel and the Jews and bring about about the second coming of Christ. The Dallas-based MJBI claims that it acts like the Apostle Paul in helping to “educate Christians in their role to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy and thus save some of them (Romans 11:11-14).”

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said he is disappointed that Bush cannot “accept the validity of the Jewish covenant.” Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles’ Sinai Temple was more direct when he tweeted, “This is infuriating.” Bush follows last year’s star, Glenn Beck, who received a “Defender of Israel” award. The tickets this year range from $100 to $100,000. MJBI refused to say whether Bush would receive a speaking fee and, in fact, took his name off the website as keynote speaker.

MJBI board member Rabbi Marty Waldman of Baruch HaShem, a Messianic congregation in Dallas, explained that money is needed to hasten the return of Jesus. When there are “enough” Jewish people who call Jesus their savior, “some sort of a trigger will go off in heaven, and our father in heaven will say, ‘Okay, son, it’s time to get your bride,'” Waldman said.

These are some characteristics of people who “call Jesus their savior”:

Ignorance: While protesting the bill on legalized marriage equality in Illinois, a state representative failed to understand why people would advocate for civil rights in the debate. According to him, the United States was founded on “the scriptures,” not the constitution.

Fraud: LGBT-hater Dave Wilson used a creative way to get elected to the Houston Community College Board of Trustees by pretending to be black. Right-Wing Watch reported:

 “Wilson’s campaign fliers were filled with black faces that he admits to simply pulling off of websites, along with captions such as ‘Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.’ Another flier announces that he was ‘Endorsed by Ron Wilson,’ which is the name of an African-American former state representative. Only by reading the fine print will voters discover that the ‘Ron Wilson’ who actually endorsed Dave is his cousin. The cousin lives in Iowa.”

Wilson beat long-time incumbent Bruce Austin, who really is black, in the African-American district.

phillips_family-427x193Hypocrisy: Doug Phillips, married and father of eight children, has preached about his strong belief in “biblical patriarchy” over women and home-schooling. Women should not “work alongside men as their functional equals” outside the home, according to Phillips. Last week he stepped down from his position as president of Texas-based Vision Forum Ministries. Phillips wrote:

“I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.”

Phillips’ ministry took in $3.3 million in 2011; the related for-profit group, Vision Forum Inc. was paid $193,176 in 2011 for “labor and services.” Phillips plans to retain ownership of the for-profit business. The photo of Phillips and his family is from Vision Forum Ministries.

Bigotry: American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer accused First Lady Michelle Obama of inviting “demons into the White House.” She hosted an event honoring the Hindu “festival of lights.” Fischer said:

“This is a counterfeit religion. It is an Eastern religion. It is, in essence, an occult religion.  It’s a counterfeit, a false alternative to Christianity.  It ultimately represents the doctrine of demons, that is what you have with Hinduism and now this is being celebrated in the White House.”

Fischer called on the people of the nation to elect a Christian president. He missed the fact that George W. Bush also celebrated the Hindu holiday.

Intolerance: After the Rev. Frank Schaefer officiated his son’s same-sex marriage “because I love him so much and didn’t want to deny him that joy,” the pastor faces a church trial with accusations that he broke his pastoral vows by performing the ceremony.  Hundreds of other Methodist ministers have rejected anti-LGBT doctrine, and some of them also face discipline. Today 50 clergy members showed support for Schaefer by presiding over a same-sex ceremony in Philadelphia, one which will not have state support because of Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage equality.

Stupidity: Pat Robertson has been awarded the British Stonewall “Bigot of the Year” award reserved for “an individual who has gratuitously caused hurt and offense to gay people around the world,” according to the Daily Mail. In the U.S. right-wing extremists are rejecting Robertson because he has said that the world is older than 6,000 years. He was mocked because he denied the myth about the Earth’s age because the 6,000 years came, not from the Bible, but from a book by Ireland’s Archbishop James Ussher in the seventeenth century.

Next Sunday, I’ll fill you in on how everyone knows that humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs. If you can’t wait, you can Google it!

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