Nel's New Day

July 19, 2018

The News for July 19, 2018

Today is the 170th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, when about 300 people–mostly women–gathered to address “the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.” They persisted, and one of those who attended managed to vote for the first time when women gained the right to vote 72 years later. On this day 170 years later, the current administration is attempting to rapidly reverse the accomplishments of the 21st century.  Following is an overview of a few political highlights for today, July 19, 2018:

Once again, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has been forced to back down, this time from his anti-U.S. intention to turn U.S. government employees over to Vladimir Putin. As the Senate prepared to vote on a resolution opposing DDT’s honoring Putin’s request, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that DDT “disagrees” with the “proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin.” He had suggested swapping the 12 Russians indicted last week for 11 current former U.S. officials. The resolution stopping many government officials from being turned over to Russia for questioning passed the Senate by 98-0. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) were absent for the vote. Republicans did reject efforts to support the intelligence community’s assessment, Mueller’s probe, and implementation of congressional sanctions. None of these resolutions would have been binding on DDT.

Republicans plan to keep Russian meddling: the House refused to increase election security spending. The GOP prefers voter ID to stop non-existent voter fraud and repress non-GOP voting. The commission administering the election security grant program is missing half its four members. Without a quorum, it cannot approve testing of voting systems for required standards, and the patchwork of voting systems has differing degrees of reliability. It’s a policy to “Keep American Republican.”

Two years ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stopped President Obama from making public the information about Russia’s hacking and election interference with accusations that it was a partisan move. No more. Despite the indifference of Republicans in Congress, DOJ’s Rod Rosenstein has a new policy to tell the U.S. companies, organizations, and others who are being attacked by foreign hacking and disinformation campaigns. He said, “The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda.” A Microsoft executive told the audience at the Aspen Security Forum today that Russia has target at least three candidates this year.

In another interview at the Aspen Security Forum, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen explained that removal of thousands of children from their parents is “to protect children.” She added that the courts—that actually require her to reunite children—are preventing families from staying together. In another noble move on her part, “we give a pregnancy test at DHS to every girl over 10.” It is her agency that imprisons pregnant girls to keep them from having any abortions unless courts manage to allow them to see doctors. Her claim that DHS gives aid to members of radical extremist groups who want to be non-violent is negated by her administration rolling back funds for this rehabilitation. The outstanding part of her responses was the support for “both sides” being to blame for the Charlottesville violence: “It’s not that one side is right, one side is wrong.” The official DDT administration position is that white supremacists are not wrong.

DDT has found another way to get rid of people he considers undesirable. Applicants for asylum visas no longer have 30 days to take care of missing or inaccurate information on their applications. The new policy is to immediately deport them with no advance warning—just a final statutory denial. They will be treated like criminals, who are also deported on a fast-tracked basis. [If only we could automatically reject DDT’s nominees who provide forms with missing or incomplete information!] The new policy politely states that it is “not intended to penalize filers for innocent mistakes.” AG Jeff Sessions also disallows domestic and gang violence claims as bases for asylum; those seeking asylum must provide evidence that they fear persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion. Fear of death doesn’t count.

On Fox’s Tucker Carlson show, DDT accused Montenegro of being responsible for starting World War III if it joins NATO because its people are “very aggressive.” Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic came into the limelight a year ago when DDT aggressively pushed him out of his path at the 2017 NATO meeting. [Full video here.] The country of 630,000 alienated Russia because it planned to join NATO: the Kremlin may have meddled in its elections, and pro-Russian militants planned a failed 2016 coup. NATO has an agreement that the other 28 members will support any one member attacked from outside. In its 69-year history, that agreement has been invoked only once—when 28 members went to the aid of the United States after the 9/11 attack. NATO members are still in Afghanistan after 17 years of the U.S. war there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convinced DDT to drop out of the Iran deal, according to a video of Netanyahu’s speech to his Likud party.

Poverty is no longer a problem in the United States. At least, that’s what DDT’s administration claims. A few facts they missed:

  • About 40.6 million people—12.7 percent of the population—lived below the official poverty line in 2016.
  • The Supplemental Poverty Measure shows that 14.5 percent of people in the U.S. are impoverished.
  • Over 20 percent of children in the U.S. live in poverty.
  • The United States was second only to Israel of the richest countries with the percentage of people in poverty in 2014.

DDT maintains that income data doesn’t reflect poverty because poorer people underreport their income, and interviews about consumption make poverty in the U.S. disappear. In that way, DDT can declare “mission accomplished” on the War on Poverty and do away with the entire safety net. Refuting this claim is a study tracking economic adversity, including reports of difficulty in paying for food, utility bills, rent, or medical care that comes out about the same as official poverty rates. DDT’s method shows a decline in poverty as more households struggle with costs of food and shelter. The chart below shows the how DDT’s system skews the facts:

Reasons for the inaccuracy of DDT’s report:

  • Poor people finance their spending with debt—payday loans, second mortgages they can’t afford, etc.
  • The cost of living for DDT’s report is adjusted more slowly than the official Consumer Price Index, making household spending appear to be growing faster.

EPA Scott Pruitt and his corruption may be gone, but the United States still has Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. After several reports of his illegally using taxpayer money, his own department’s IG is investigating the man responsible for protecting public lands about his real estate deal with Halliburton Chair Davi Lesar. The foundation run by Zinke and his wife granted Lesar’s real-estate development the permission to put a parking lot on land donated to the foundation for a Veteran’s Peace Park in Whitefish (MT). Zinke is also under investigation for a violation of the Hatch Act after tweeting himself wearing socks with DDT’s face and “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. Halliburton is one of the world’s largest fracking and offshore drilling companies; Zinke repeatedly opened up federal lands and coastal waters for fossil fuel drilling.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), known for his frequently obnoxious grilling of Hillary Clinton, John Brennan, Peter Strzok, and others regarding their possible connections with foreign countries, has been revealed as a beneficiary of foreign monies for his election from his superpacs, including Great America PAC, that may also fund Russia’s attack on the U.S. election. The PACs’ major donors have direct ties with Cambridge Analytic, now defunct, that helped elect DDT through data collection, hacking, and social media manipulation. As chair of the Oversight Committee, Gowdy refused members 52 times to request subpoenas for interviews in the Russia probe. He will not be running for re-election.

ALEC, the powerful organization that writes conservative legislation for lawmakers, has lost ExxonMobil after Ford, Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and many others left the group. The biggest oil and gas company in the world followed BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips in abandoning the Koch Brothers’ group after a disagreement about an ALEC resolution that would ask the feds to reconsider its findings that greenhouse gasses are harmful to human health. A major contributor to the secretive organization since 1981, Exxon has given millions to promote the conservative corporate agenda. Its departure comes in the midst of state investigations into its connection with hiding evidence about its climate impact from its shareholders as well as the public.

The classic for today comes during an interview at the Aspen Security Forum when NBC journalist Andrea Mitchell tells Director of National Intelligence Director Dan Coats the breaking news that Vladimir Putin is coming to Washington this fall. The video is not to be missed. The best part may also be that McConnell said that Put will not be coming to Congress. I’m sure that DDT wants to be alone with Putin anyway. The question is how long Coats will keep his job.

And that’s just one day for DDT’s administration.

July 18, 2017

U.S. House Produces Mixed Results

Most media attention on Congress has targeted the Senate, but the House keeps chugging along. The 2018 budget plan goes to committee tomorrow with a partial repeal of Dodd-Frank in order to stop protecting consumers plus a reduction of $203 billion for financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, the safety net, etc. to pay for tax cuts and military. Defense spending would increase over the next decade as nondefense discretionary declines to $424 billion from $554 billion. Like senators, representative factions are split between far more cuts to the safety net and opposition to the proposed ones.

Unlike Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) assumption of a four-percent growth, the House Budget Committee expects a 2.6 percent annual average. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecasts a 1.9 percent growth in the economy for the next decade.  The House budget plan also assumes that their repeal of the Affordable Care Act will pass.

Last week the House Appropriations Committee passed a $20 billion spending bill to fund federal agencies, including $1.6 billion to build DDT’s wall against Mexico. The bill includes a measure preventing the IRS from enforcing the 63-year-old law preventing churches from backing political candidates. Another provision in the bill is taking control of funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from the Federal Reserve.

Congress—meaning both chambers—must pass a budget by October 1 to avoid another embarrassing and expensive government shutdown similar to the one in 2013. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), House Freedom Caucus chair, said that his members won’t vote for any budget without constructing the wall. They also claim that they won’t vote for the budget bill because they haven’t seen it. Ryan needs the Caucus because they comprise 31 of the 240 Republicans in the House; passing a bill requires 218 votes. Representatives from districts along the Mexico border are largely opposed to a wall between Mexico and the United States.

The House is still largely ignoring a Senate bill, passed 98-2, that imposes greater sanctions on Russia and limits DDT’s ability to lift them. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the bill should have originated in the House after DDT lobbied the House to weaken the bill. Special interests in energy are now opposing the bill. Despite the Democratic support for the bill in the senate, Ryan is blaming Democrats for the slowdown.

The House did manage to pass two anti-immigration bills. The first cuts off some federal grants from cities that do not go beyond federal law in cooperating with immigration authorities, and the other creates tougher sentences for criminals illegally entering the U.S. several times.  The second bill was based on a woman killed by a man who had been deported to Mexico five times; DDT had used her as a symbol during his campaign. The Senate will probably not survive the Senate, especially the first one opposed by law enforcement groups. The National Fraternal Order of Police wrote House leaders that “withholding needed assistance to law enforcement agencies—which have no policymaking role—also hurts public safety efforts.”

Even GOP representative couldn’t swallow the massive cuts to the UN peacekeeping budget that its ambassador Nikki Haley touted on behalf of DDT. Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) pointed out “our leadership is irreplaceable.” Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) said the cuts are not “sustainable or advisable” if the U.S. wants to maintain its status as a global leader.

The House did give DDT a bloated defense budget of $696 billion, more than his requested $603 billion. To survive, the budget needs to cut a deal to increase or repeal the sequestration caps that the GOP supported in 2013. A proposal to end the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force remained in the budget, but an amendment passed to require an administration strategy to defeat ISIS and an assessment of whether the 2001 AUMF is adequate to accomplish the strategy.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) lost her amendment to bar the Pentagon from paying for grender transition services when 24 Republicans joined Democrats to kill the measure. Twenty-seven GOP House representatives, including Oregon’s Greg Walden, joined the Democrats to oppose lawmakers who tried expand DDT’s religious profiling and Islamophobic policies. The failed amendment would have required the Secretary of Defense to “conduct strategic assessments of the use of violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine to support extremist or terrorist messaging.”

Another loss for the GOP came from 46 Republicans voting against with their caucus to defeat an amendment to the Pentagon’s budget to eradicate language about climate change’s threat. The defense policy calls climate change a “direct threat” to national security and requires analysis about its affect on the military. The House voted 185-234 to keep this language by voting down the amendment. Justification for the language in the Defense Department included the rising sea levels threatening military installations and disasters of drought and floods that exacerbate instability and increase extremist insurrections and war. Defense Secretary James Mattis has already stated that climate change is “a real-time issue, not some distant what-if” and “impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.”

One House member who may find himself embroiled in the DDT/Russia collusion is Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (SC). His super PAC accepted a great deal of money at the same time that the House Intelligence Committee began his investigation into the collusion. Gowdy defended himself by saying that “it’s not unusual for Russians to contact campaigns.” Yes, it is, and how does Gowdy know about these contacts? He also faces an ethics complaint about the possibility of bribes for his actions connected to Hillary Clinton’s debunked Benghazi investigation.

Gowdy has demanded that every DDT official disclose all communications with Russia before they come “out on the front page of the newspaper.” He wouldn’t admit that there is a problem with Russian collusion, but he wants the distraction to stop. Yet he admitted that “four or five statutes [could be] impacted” and “trusts” special investigator Robert Mueller “to sort all that out.” Mueller has 16 attorneys in his team of 25 people looking into Russian interference.

Things between the House and the White House may grow even more tense, if possible. Devil’s Bargain, a new book from Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, states that white supremacist Steve Bannon, back in WH favor, called Ryan “a limpd**k mother**ker.” Green wrote that the comment from DDT’s chief strategist came from the suggestion of Ryan as a DDT alternative is the RNC were contested. Breitbart.com, Bannon’s former website, launched critical pieces about Ryan. Can this be the first of “kiss and tell” books about DDT—without the kiss?

Ryan has expressed dismay at the senate failure to pass a healthcare bill after the House found 217 votes for Trumpcare months ago. He said that the House will move forward on tax “reform” (aka cuts for the wealthy). Passing the House health care bill has been profitable from some U.S. representative who bought stock in health insurance companies. As the bill moved forward in late March, GOP congressional members invested, i.e., Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), $30,000 and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), $50,000-$100,000.

Shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pulled the vote on its second bill for Trumpcare, he declared that the Senate would vote for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and then replace it later. That plan didn’t work either. Senators who opposed the harshness of the Trumpcare bill are already voicing their opposition. And one possible GOP vote—Sen. John McCain—is still in Arizona. Plus McConnell will need 60, not 50, votes because a repeal won’t fall under the reconciliation process. Yet McConnell plans to move ahead with a vote next week

Ryan was surprised when some women representatives objected to the enforcement of a dress code preventing sleeveless tops and open-toed shoe. Rep. Jackie Spiers (D-CA) initiated “Sleeveless Friday,” a day when the temperature in Washington, D.C. was 97 degrees. Twenty-five women gathered for a photo op on the steps of Congress. Three-fourths of the women in the House are Democrats, but the protest crossed party lines.

Some people may complain about the women making a big deal of a small thing. At this time, however, the Republicans in the House are making a small thing of a big deal—DDT’s conflicts of interest, lack of tax returns, violent and threatening tweets, Russian connections, etc.

June 29, 2016

Benghazi Panel Won’t Stop Going Nowhere

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 9:45 PM
Tags: , , ,

The House Committee on the tragic deaths of four people in a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, has slogged along for almost 800 days—longer than the 704 days that the 9/11 Commission worked to dig out every piece about the worst terrorist attack on the United States. That committee created a bipartisan report endorsed by all the commission members. The Benghazi committee was created on May 8. It has lasted longer than investigations in Pearl Harbor, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the Hurricane Katrina debacle and found nothing new over the first seven Benghazi inquiries.

The committee isn’t finished. Although the Republicans on the committee has already released an 800-page report, they interviewed another witness today, a man who used the hashtag “#ifyouvoteforhillaryyouarebeyondstupid.” The Air Force mechanic posted an argument on his Facebook page that planes from his European base could have saved the people who died. His superiors have already testified that there’s nothing to what he claims.

The committee vote on whether to adopt the report is July 8, and Democrats are just getting copies. Not one Democrat on the committee was allowed to see the report before it was released to the public. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), leading Democrat on the committee, described today’s interview as further evidence of GOP attempts to smear Clinton. That one committee cost the public at least $7 million, and Cummings questioned why taxpayers should have to pay more money “to chase down unsubstantiated conspiracy theories against Secretary Clinton.”

The GOP’s sole goal in the investigation, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was to discredit Hillary Clinton to keep her from becoming president. Whether the partisan witch hunt has succeeded in finding enough dirt on Clinton to destroy her differs depending who is reporting the information. The conservative publication from the nation’s capital, The Hill, announced, “Benghazi Panel Faults Clinton.” The headline from the popular Huffington Post was “House Republicans spent millions of dollars on Benghazi Committee to exonerate Clinton.”

The New York Times summarized the Benghazi report:

“Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.”

These seven “findings” in the report show how desperate The Hill is. Although Republicans may wish to believe that these are new, all seven emerged in the earlier seven investigations:

  • Ambassador Stevens, one of the four men killed, wanted to make the Benghazi facility permanent.
  • The military never got moving (probably because it was too far to be successful in stopping the attack).
  • Troops changed clothes four times. (That Marines in Rota, Spain were required to change four times from military to civilian attire and back again is irrelevant because no aircraft was at Rota and the Marines’ destination was Tripoli, not Benghazi.)
  • YouTube video dominated White House meeting, but the anti-Muslim video ultimately proved not to be a contributing factor.
  • Former Qadhafi loyalists evacuated U.S. people from Benghazi’s CIA annex to the airport.
  • Clinton blamed terrorists in private. (The report tried to show this as part of her deception.)
  • Rice went “off the reservation.” The racist statement from the State Department’s senior Libya desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs was a criticism of then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice’s statements on the Sunday talk shows after the attack when she said the assaults were spontaneous. She was actually using information from the CIA, some of which the CIA admitted later were wrong.

In the almost four years since the tragic event at Benghazi, that one word is now defined as everything that went wrong in Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi, assisted by the U.S. The GOP focus on Clinton’s fault in the deaths kept any thoughtful consideration of U.S. interventions in other countries’ politics. The GOP opinion made only one shift: In the past, Republicans claimed that the Obama administration handled the crisis badly because they could have sent military forces but didn’t. Now they’re saying that the situation was badly handled because they had not positioned military forces to make a difference.

Donald Trump and his son, Eric, have viciously lied about Clinton “sleeping” while Ambassador Stevens was killed. Yet the attack occurred at 3:30 pm EST, and Clinton released a public statement after 10:00 pm. She was still sending emails after 11:00 pm that night.

Trump went so far as to tell people to ask Stevens’ family how they feel about Clinton. Dr. Anne Stevens, the ambassador’s sister said this about the tragedy:

“It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is under-budgeted.

“I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.”

The GOP-controlled Congress started slashing security funding for embassies as soon as they took over in 2011. The year before Benghazi, Hillary warned the GOP that their embassy security cuts put Americans at risk, but they refused to listen to her. Instead the report blamed the tragedy on positioning of “assets”:

“The assets ultimately deployed by the Defense Department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive prior to the final lethal attack on the Annex. The fact that this is true does not mitigate the question of why the world’s most powerful military was not positioned to respond; or why the urgency and ingenuity displayed by team members at the Annex and Team Tripoli was seemingly not shared by all decision makers in Washington.”

Despite all their efforts, the GOP failed to place the blame: they just raised general criticisms and concerns about inadequate security resources, breakdowns among agencies, and bureaucratic inaction. Committee Democrats released a press statement that stated, in part:

“Decades in the future, historians will look back on this investigation as a case study in how not to conduct a credible investigation.”

The far right-wing has now moved from Hillary Clinton to a new scapegoat, committee chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC). The Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi released a 73-page Benghazi report against Clinton and President Obama that reads like a Trump speech and includes fantasy connections between the deaths and the Clinton Foundation and the president’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report, one of the men who died, Ambassador Stevens, was at fault because he “rather romanticized the Libyan jihadis.”

Retired Gen. Thomas McInerney said that the congressional leadership’s “dirty little secret” is that they approved “black operations” to run weapons from Benghazi to ISIS in Syria. “We see a field of smoking guns,” said Roger Aronoff of Accuracy in Media, which convened the Citizens’ Commission at the National Press Club. And it’s not just the public—two committee members wrote their own report.

In The Guardian, Chris Stephen gave three questions that will probably never be answered: who launched the attack, why did they do it, and were US actions in the turmoil of post-revolutionary Libya a contributory factor? The mystery may never be solved because the CIA won’t provide any explanation of their presence in the city. The report has no information about why the CIA had a Benghazi annex with dozens of agents and contractors to organize massive transfers of weapons from the Libyan government’s stockpile to Syria.

Trey Gowdy knows that the Benghazi report would not be damning to Clinton. He released it just before the Fourth of July recess, a time when few people pay attention, and during the media focusing on the British vote to leave the European Union.

The taxpayers in the U.S. have paid more than $100 million to investigate all the myths surrounding the Clintons—Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, and Benghazi. The GOP certainly won’t have any concern about a few more million dollars.

As for Clinton’s guilt, Trey Gowdy asked people to read the 800-page report and decide for themselves. If you’re so inclined, it’s online here. At least Democratic committee members can now find the report.

April 21, 2016

Hillary Clinton Faces More Media Censure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 22, 2015

GOP Grills Clinton for 11 Hours, Loses

Hillary Clinton testified before the Benghazi select committee for eleven hours today. I missed the first eight hours, but just watching the last three hours was exhausting. I cannot imagine what it was like for the Democratic presidential candidate, who calmly answered all questions except when the questioning attacked her staff and Admiral Mike Mullins. There were no revelations, no new information over the past eight committees, but the committee was an embarrassment for the Republicans who insisted on continuing despite admission that it was designed to destroy Clinton’s presidential hopes. Jonathan Allen encapsulated the 11 hours well:

“Republicans will kick themselves for dragging Hillary Clinton before the House Benghazi committee Thursday.

“It was a defining moment for Clinton’s presidential aspirations. She handled the GOP’s questions with aplomb and without the patina of partisanship that has characterized the committee since its conception. That would have been bad enough for the Republicans’ hopes of seizing the White House in 2017. But she did much more than that. She answered questions that Republicans have been hanging out there in hopes of sowing doubts among voters.

“Does she believe in American exceptionalism? Yes.

“Can she be non-partisan, serious, and policy-minded? Yes.

“Is her mental acuity superior to pretty much anyone you know? Yes.

“Is she human? Yes.

“Does she have the energy to be president? Yes.

“Conservative commentators were disgusted with the failure of the committee’s GOP lawmakers to land a single punch on Clinton. The worst thing she acknowledged was that Ambassador Chris Stevens didn’t go outside the chain of command to email her directly about what was happening in Libya. Strategically, the big error for the GOP is having entangled the email investigation with the Benghazi probe. Because the latter is tainted with partisanship, so, too, is the former.

“All in all, it was an embarrassment for Republicans and one that, improbably, made Clinton look more presidential.

“Clinton’s opening statement—delivered on the heels of bickering between Chair Trey Gowdy and top Democrat Elijah Cummings over whether the committee is partisan in nature—was essentially a eulogy for the Americans who died in Benghazi in 2012.

“In it, she referred to Ambassador Stevens’s mother saying he had “sand in his shoes” to describe his dedication to on-the-ground diplomacy in dangerous places.

” ‘Before I left office,’ Clinton said, ‘I launched reforms to better protect our people in the field.’

“For the rest of the hearing, she hewed close to the line that she would cooperate in trying to uncover anything that would help keep Americans abroad secure in the future. She also told emotional stories about the night of the Benghazi attacks, recounting how the ambassador and two others tried to crawl out of a smoke-filled building at the Benghazi facility. Two of them didn’t make it out. She described the tense hours when State Department officials couldn’t locate Stevens, and how Libyans poured into the streets in a show of support for him after he was killed. Clinton said she found it “deeply distressing” that she was being blamed for Stevens’s death.

“Throughout the hearing, she kept her composure, even when Gowdy became agitated, when Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) fired questions at her in a condescending tone, and when Rep Peter Roskam (R-IL) yelled at her for compiling a list of her accomplishments in Libya.

“Roskam accused her of trying to ‘turn progress in Libya into a political win for Hillary Rodham Clinton’ and then shifting her attention away from the country.

“Clinton calmly called it a “political statement” that had nothing to do with the matter at hand.

“The biggest problem for the GOP is that there’s nothing more to learn about what happened in Benghazi. Four Americans were killed by terrorists. Clinton didn’t know the attack was coming. And she was the administration official most engaged in the immediate response.

“The Republican tack could be broken down into a couple of main points: Roskam argued that Clinton was the chief force behind US Libya policy, while Gowdy and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) tried to prove that she was taking more advice from Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal than from Stevens.

“It’s true that Clinton was the main architect of US Libya policy. She put together the international coalition that took out Muammar Qaddafi, and she convinced the president it was the right thing to do. But she also noted that it was the president’s call. Republicans proved what she’s written in her book and what many journalists reported at the time.

“If the Republican presidential nominee can plausibly claim that he or she was against the Libya war—and some cannot—Roskam’s line of questioning could be useful in the general election. But it wasn’t revealing.

“Blumenthal is a red herring — a political hanger-on who emailed Clinton a lot with borrowed intelligence. He’s never been to Libya and didn’t have any firsthand information about the security there. The references to his emails only seemed to underscore how little the hearing had to do with the actual situation on the ground in Libya or the administration’s security posture in Benghazi.

“Pompeo grilled Clinton on whether Stevens had her email address, her home address, or her phone number. Her home address can be found on Google. It would not have been hard to reach her in an emergency, and, in fact, she was alerted very quickly when the Benghazi compound was attacked.

“After Roskam accused Clinton of using Libya as a tool for her political advancement, Clinton batted him aside.

” ‘For the witness to be right is a failure of the committee,’ Lawrence O’Donnell, a former staff director for the Senate Finance Committee, said on MSNBC.

“One veteran Republican strategist told me she stopped watching the hearing because ‘the questioning is so bad.’

“Clinton’s team couldn’t have dreamed for a better exposition of her strengths and the weakness of her Republican provocateurs.”

USA Today, owned by conservative Rupert Murdoch of Fox fame, admitted that Clinton came out of the hearing “largely unscathed.”

Unable to find anything else wrong with Clinton’s testimony, conservative press noted that she “stumbled” because of a serious coughing fit. The two-minute episode was after she had been speaking for ten hours, and she overcame the problem and continued for over another hour.

CNN tried to manufacture “fireworks” between Clinton and the committee, but the real fireworks came among the members. Clinton’s testimony was almost entirely level and calm.

When committee chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), was asked if the 11 hours revealed anything new, he hemmed and hawed before he indicated that there was probably nothing new. As bad as things have been for him in the past, Gowdy is in for more attacks after his bad performance today. Having sworn that the only purpose of the committee is to find the truth and denying that the committee is a “prosecution,” he compared the investigation to a criminal trial. He further said, “I can’t end a trial simply because the defense won’t cooperate.”

Claiming that the committee had nothing to do with Clinton’s emails, Gowdy asked about nothing else. Even worse was when Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked that the full transcript of Sidney Blumenthal be released, a reasonable request because that was Gowdy’s focus. Until now, Gowdy has leaked only selected parts of this transcript. An attempt to put Cummings down for wanting the transcript failed, and he may be forced to release the non-damning results of committee hearings.

A history of the $20 million that U.S. taxpayers have paid for investigations into Benghazi is available here, including the five House committees, two Senate committees, and a nonpartisan, independent Accountability Review Board—all finding that there was no gross negligence. This website constantly updates the costs of the current Benghazi select committee.

Hillary Clinton will be interviewed on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show tomorrow, October 23.

October 21, 2015

Problems Pile onto House Benghazi Committee

House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. reacts to a question during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, about former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton using her personal email account for official business. A spokesman for Clinton says there was nothing illegal or improper about her use of a personal email account during her time as Secretary of State, rather than a government-issued email address. The practice could hamper efforts to archive official government documents required by law. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Eighteen months ago Trey Gowdy was almost totally unknown, but South Carolina’s U.S. representative has become infamous—and he doesn’t like it. The reason is his position as chair of the “Get Rid of Hillary Clinton” committee, also known as the House select committee on Benghazi. A former prosecutor should have a thick skin, but Gowdy almost cried about what he calls the attacks on his character and motives. He said that these are “1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically—at least it is for me.” These words came from the man who leads the right-wing in attacks on “character” and “motives” of Hillary Clinton.

Some of these attacks emanate from his own party members who point out that the goal of his committee is to keep Clinton from being elected president and that Gowdy is doing very little outside that purpose. One gaffe from the Gowdy team came after their accusation that Clinton released the name of a classified CIA informant in her infamous emails “which could jeopardize … human lives.” To prove his point, Gowdy leaked a redacted email, but the CIA has explained that the information was not classified—and not redacted.

As if that lie weren’t bad enough, Gowdy’s panel leaked the name of a Libyan CIA source in its squabbling with Democrats about the sensitivity of information and Clinton’s private email account. Following criticism from the State Department, Gowdy announced his decision to release documents over the objections of the State Department, making emails between Clinton and Blumenthal without redactions public if the State department doesn’t cooperate with him. House Benghazi Committee spokesman Jamal Ware said in essence that the committee can tell the public anything that it wants. Gowdy is blaming the State Department for its release of sensitive information.

A major question is whether Gowdy and other GOP committee members are acting illegally in their distorting intelligence documents and lying to the public. Twelve years ago, high level GOP officials, perhaps led by Vice-president Dick Cheney, deliberately leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame in retribution for her husband’s opposition to the Iraq War. “Scooter” Libby took the heat for everyone, was convicted of lying, and then had his sentence commuted by George W. Bush when he was president.

Piling up problems for Gowdy and his committee on Benghazi is a 124-page report from Democrats on the committee based on the “54 transcribed interviews and depositions conducted by the Select Committee.” It “releases key excerpts from unclassified interviews conducted by the Select Committee and calls on Chairman Trey Gowdy to release the full transcripts of all interviews and depositions conducted to date, consistent with classification guidelines.” The summary reports:

“None of the witnesses substantiated repeated claims that Republican Members of Congress and presidential candidates have been making about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the past three years relating to the attacks in Benghazi.”

The Select Committee has not held a single public hearing since January and abandoned its plans for a public hearing with the Secretary of Defense after the New York Times broke the story about Clinton’s private emails. The only documents from the 70,000 pages that Gowdy publicly released are Clinton’s emails with Sidney Blumenthal, contradicting his claims that “serious investigations” do not “make selective releases of information without full and proper context.” Despite selective releases of Blumenthal’s deposition, Gowdy blocked release of the full transcript that would show GOP questions are not related to Benghazi.

Gowdy’s latest excuse for the eighth committee on Benghazi is that earlier committees didn’t have access to Ambassador Chris Stevens’ emails. On November 24, 2014, and December 9, 2014, the State Department produced to the Select Committee approximately 25,000 pages of documents that had already been “previously produced to Congress.” These documents included Stevens’ emails regarding security concerns.

 

Things may get worse for Gowdy with the revelation that the same person, Dan Backer, acts as treasurer for Themis, Gowdy’s leadership PAC, and STOP Hillary PAC, “created for one reason only—to ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes President of the United States.” Last month, STOP Hillary spent $10,000 on robocalls and other efforts on behalf of Gowdy. Donations from Dan Backer are not new: last April three pro-Gowdy organizations, all with Backer as treasurer, received donations from Backer. Of course, the man who benefits from groups stopping Clinton is investigating Clinton.

The Senate Democratic leadership has asked the Republican National Committee to pay for the almost $5 million thus far spent by taxpayers because the committee is “a political inquisition.”

Clinton has already accepted responsibility for the attack, and seven earlier committees have found no evidence of administration malpractice. Donald Trump also raised the question of why George W. Bush wasn’t responsible for the 3,000 deaths on 9/11. Jeb Bush has a new answer for that one: it’s Bill Clinton’s fault. The next question should be whether Ronald Reagan was at fault for the over 300 people killed in terrorists attacks on U.S. outposts in Beirut over 18 months of his presidency. The Democrat-controlled house created one commission about 241 dead U.S. servicemen, concluding that there had been “serious command and intelligence failures and said that the mission was not prepared to deal with the terrorist threat at the time due to a lack of training, staff, organization, and support.”

Headlines proudly announced that 44 percent of people weren’t satisfied with Clinton’s responses about Benghazi, compared to 27 percent who say they are. Yet the headlines skipped over the 36 percent of the people who think that the Benghazi select committee is biased, compared to 29 percent who disagree. When Bernie Sanders said in the Democratic debate that America was “sick and tired of hearing” about Hillary Clinton’s “damn emails,” he was right. The 59 percent who agreed increased to 61 percent among registered voters. Only 32 percent want more media coverage, and those are primarily Republican. Almost as many who are tired of the coverage, 52 percent, said that Gowdy was “more interested in going after Clinton” than “learning the facts” about the attack, and 54 percent believe Clinton had the personal email account in order to be convenient rather than hide her behavior.

Tomorrow, October 22, Hillary Clinton is scheduled to appear before the House Benghazi select committee, possibly for eight hours. Unlike other hearings, this one will be made public, and the GOP members will most likely be polite, unlike at the Planned Parenthood hearings, so that they won’t be seen as bullies and further alienate voters. Two important questions about the committee: after three years and seven other committees, what more can they discover? And if four deaths are important, why aren’t there hearings about the increasing numbers of people dying and wounded from gun violence?

October 16, 2015

House Gets Worse–Who Knew It Was Possible?!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 1, 2013

Conservatives Want Big Government, Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chalking1-300x225

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

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

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