A Word About “Fake” News (updates)

December 19, 2016

writing-book
I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to be trying to pin down the reasons for Hillary Clinton’s campaign loss for a little while, especially given the fact that, at this moment, the Electoral College is all but certain to proclaim Donald J. Trump as our next president, as horrifying as that reality is (and believe me when I tell you that I’d love to be wrong). And yes, I know I personally have already engaged in this exercise in this space, and at a certain point the whole damn thing starts to become repetitive or self-serving, or both.

However, I believe I must add something to the discussion about so-called “fake” news that, as nearly as I can tell, has been missing.

As far as I’m concerned, the concept of “fake” news isn’t new at all. You could argue that the means to propagate it is relatively new (that is, by means of social networking sites, most infamously Facebook). To me, though, “fake” news has propagated like metaphorical weeds all over the manicured green grass of what should be our information landscape ever since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 (and, not coincidentally at all, the arrival of Fox “News” 20 years ago).

There has definitely been a conservative element in this country from its inception, of course – isolationist, capitalistic, racist, among other faults (not to say that the other side has been perfect on this stuff either…far from it, actually). And they have had their own sympathetic media voices for a long time (such as Westbrook Pegler and Jack O’Brian in the 1950s, who were precursors to William F. Buckley, Irving Kristol, and others). However, they remained relegated to the sidelines by comparison in response to the legitimate news networks and professionals of our corporate media who, long ago, were not saddled with the burden of profitability. I would also argue that conservatives realized just what kind of an impact the media could have on our politics when the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein led to Richard Nixon’s resignation in Watergate of course (if conservatives don’t have a sense of resentment over something and a need to attack “the other” in response – and Nixon’s fall gave them that in their estimation – then they truly have nothing).

The ascendancy of their hero Ronald Reagan gave them the excuse for triumphalism in their media and discourse overall (print back in those days), but it wasn’t until the election of Bill Clinton and the advent of communication online at about that time that they found a way to generate a self-sustaining media presence that (as far as I’m concerned) led to the whole “weed” thing I mentioned earlier. They saw that they could generate the requisite outrage aimed chiefly at our 42nd president over the “controversy du jour” and maintain their profitability in their little devil’s bargain (and of course, the financial success of Fox “News” speaks for itself, unfortunately).

To me, that is when the whole “fake” news thing started. And when the Supreme Court installed Clinton’s successor (aided by plenty of “fake” news from Frank Bruni, for one, in favor of the Republican nominee in that election), we found ourselves with a presidential administration that, to no small degree, started to fix its often disastrous policies in no small part on “fake” news (see Miller, Judith and the Iraq War).

Of course, the whole “fake” news industry had to shift gears when President Hopey Changey was elected in 2008 – I mean, they had to be outsiders all over again, so of course that led to all of the birther stuff, Bill Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, etc. I’ll never forget that useless hack J.D. Mullane’s column about how Obama was supposedly “racist” for saying that white people in this country cling to their guns and their religion in times of crisis, or something (even though that whole dustup almost sunk Obama’s campaign – again, the whole “fake” news business falls apart without a heaping dose of white resentment – I don’t think there was a speck of untruth in that statement).

So along comes 2016, and so what does the “fake” news industry do now? The answer is almost too easy, especially since another Clinton is now the candidate of the Democratic Party for president. And I would argue that this campaign brought us yet another evolution in the fake news industry…that is, not just to support a political party and opponent who is sympathetic to the corporate, conservative cause (with the so-called “values voters” being played for saps yet again), but to go for the whole enchilada, if you will. And by that I mean to roll back all reforms sponsored and initiated by the Democratic Party since the post-Great Depression and World War II era of Franklin D. Roosevelt (if you think I’m wrong, by the way, I give you this in response).

So yeah, the whole “fake” news industry has existed for a little while. And it has existed to the benefit of one political and corporate constituency only as far as I’m concerned.

Is it dirty and lowdown? Of course it is. But for any Democrat to campaign in this day and age without knowing that reality and finding a way to combat it somehow (including staging and broadcasting your own events, finding a way to interact with the key constituencies you need without the help of the usual alphabet soup of media culprits…in short, making your own damn media in response) shows a naivete that, as far as I’m concerned, is staggering.

Yes, “fake” news is one reason why Hillary Clinton lost. But there were many others, including the James Comey stuff and Putin’s hacking, as well as the fact that Trump knew that the election would be won or lost in the primarily white suburbs of this country, mainly in the Rust Belt (of course, Trump typically lied his ass off about protecting Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Law, which those who supported him will learn to their horror I’m sure). And as nearly as I can tell, Trump made the election just close enough for the Comey/Putin stuff to make an impact; my point, though, is that the Clinton campaign should never have let it get that close in the first place (I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard about HRC beating up Trump but not making the case somehow as to why she would have been an infinitely better president).

I wish I could say that “fake” news will go away. However, given its impact in what has just happened, I cannot possibly imagine that that will be the case.

Update 12/20/16: I thought this was a good related post on this subject.

Update 1/13/17: Of course, I could be totally self-serving and point out that I’ve spent literally years trying to debunk fake news at this site and also at the Blogger site.

That is, if I really were self-serving of course (wink).

Update 2/1/17: Uh, yep.

Advertisements

Exuent “Dr. McLaughlin’s Gong Show”

August 17, 2016

john-mclaughlin
(The reference in the title comes from a quote by former ABC News reporter/anchor Sam Donaldson, by the way.)

I suppose I should say something about the passage of this guy, not because I have anything particularly brilliant to add, but maybe just to vent ultimately (hey, if I can’t vent at my own blog, where can I do it, right?).

I wouldn’t say that I started to become politically aware thanks to his program – that’s a stretch, I’ll admit. For what it’s worth, I started to learn more and more about the con that was being played out as part of the ruinous conservative ascendancy in this country in the ‘80s under The Sainted Ronne R, and that is when I tried to consume more from newspapers, TV news casts and “opinion” programs (to go back even further, I suppose that the murder of John Lennon made me pay attention to the issue of gun control in a way that I never had before, though I admit that I should have before then).

I guess, in my naiveté, I sought out objective and responsible media as much as I could in response to what I believed was the wholesale abandonment of the middle class as a result of the flight of capital offshore, the craven and disastrously irresponsible codification of the thoroughly not proven mantra of perpetuating crony capitalism and the “ownership society” via something relatively new to that time called “trickle-down economics,” fanning the flames of hostility against unions, minorities, women, and working families overall (which, among other things, spawned the phrase “Reagan Democrat,” something that STILL requires me to suppress a gag reflex after all this time), and the demonization of anyone with a political opinion other than what passed for movement conservative thought.

And with all of that going on, I found myself watching “The McLaughlin Group” starting in the early ‘90s, and probably until later during that decade.

I know it seems quaint to admit now, but I watched that show with the hope of being informed on the issues that actually mattered. What I eventually came to realize, though, was that the intent of that show (intended as far as I’m concerned), first and foremost, was to elevate the “cult of personality” of the Beltway journos who appeared on the program.

Don’t get me wrong – there were some moments of actual substantive discussion. However, it became more and more clear that what mattered above all else was self-promotion.

Oh sure, there were moments when I actually learned a thing or two; I guess the main reason I kept tuning in was to watch Jack Germond, someone more professionally accomplished than everyone else on that panel put together. I give Eleanor Clift points for tolerance and endurance and frequently carrying the banner of the lefties/Democrats and, truth be told, the reality-based community. Morton Kondracke also had some worthwhile input on occasion, though it was obvious that he wanted to be part of the club, and that came through in almost everything he said. And Chris Matthews was pretty much the same thing you see now. And as far as Clarence Page goes, he became another reason to watch after Germond started drifting away from the show.

On the other side, it’s hard to describe how utterly loathsome Pat Buchanan was, again, then as now. Fred Barnes (again, then as now) was nothing but a lickspittle blathering whatever conservative talking points were handed to him before the cameras rolled. Mortimer Zuckerman occasionally crossed over into the realm of common sense, but that never lasted for too long. And I couldn’t keep track of the other assorted right-wing meat sacks who posed for the cameras, dutifully volleying back and forth with the host.

And as for McLaughlin himself, I got it that he realized he was the ringleader of all of this and occasionally had fun with it (which he was entitled to), but after watching that program, I found myself no more informed or educated in the way I thought I needed to be than I was before I started watching. And I guess this had the happily unintended consequence of making me seek out writers like Joe Conason, David Sirota, and in particular The Eternal Molly Ivins in order to find a proverbial clue.

So yeah, I suppose I should give McLaughlin a bit of credit in that he motivated me to seek out better media than what I was consuming at that time in order to learn more about the issues that impacted my life and the lives of those around me and what I should think, say and ultimately do in response. But I think he ended up blowing a golden opportunity, given his profile and that of his show, to practice actual quality journalism for the sake of perpetuating his own peculiar version of a carnival tent show that dovetailed nicely with the emergence of all-out-attack conservative media during the Bill Clinton years (and oh yeah, his show had enough of a profile to get parodied in the movie “Watchmen” as well as earning a nod in “Dave” and other topical films).

I guess there are worse legacies to be had. But I can think of a lot better ones too.

Update 8/18/16: Uh huh – not sure how I forgot about “dark Lord” Robert Novak, but somehow I did…facepalm.

Update 8/20/16: I also forgot about Bob Maynard who appeared on the “lefty” side; aside from being a true pro, I admired the fact that he never lost his cool despite all of the often-idiotic banter on that show.


Another Corporate Media Lesson

February 11, 2015

BW_TkXmEO0w
(Note: As I’ve pointed out before, about all I can do now at this site is post random observations on selected topics, kind of like what I’m doing now. If that changes, I’ll let you know.)

So let me get this straight – Brian Williams, the person who (until recently) was the anchor of the NBC Evening News, can go ahead and basically fabricate at least one story, and his “punishment” is to be banished from his vaunted perch in the Beltway media/political/industrial complex for a period of six months, as noted here (oh, and I’m trying to forget about this too).

Meanwhile, Martin Bashir, who once hosted a mid-day news and opinion show on MSNBC (what I would argue is a higher quality broadcast, albeit with much lower ratings), says something admittedly a bit disturbing about a former half-term governor of Alaska (who has since been pilloried quite rightly as noted here), but even though Bashir apologized for it, he has to lose his show for good (here).

The moral? Lie to millions of TV viewers, and you’ll get a slap on the wrist. However, if you piss off conservatives, your career is over.

God Bless America.

Update 11/20/15: And here is more proof.


Thursday Mashup (9/4/14)

September 4, 2014
  • Since we have a new terrorist threat in the Middle East, that means that it’s time for our corporate media to return to the same babbling idiots for more non-solutions, including Pete Hegseth (here)…

    As any war fighter knows, the enemy always gets a vote on the battlefield. Just because we quit the Iraq war in 2011, doesn’t mean our enemies did.

    Case in point: the rise ISIS — now a self-declared Islamic State — in Iraq and Syria. Last week, it shook the collective American consciousness with its beheading of U.S. journalist and New Hampshire native, James Foley. But that was merely the latest demonstration of their brutal, systematic — and growing — radical Islamic movement.

    While the situation is complex, and blame shared, it is now clear that President Obama’s single-minded rush to remove all U.S. forces from Iraq — while simultaneously botching our (non)-policy in Syria — created the power vacuum these barbaric Islamists have rushed to fill.

    You know, it’s really tedious to keep mentioning over and over and over again that our troops were withdrawn from Mesopotamia at the end of 2011 because of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated under Obama’s ruinous predecessor, which I still believe was the right thing to do (here). And speaking of Number 43, let’s not forget for a second his role in the murderous fiasco in which we currently find ourselves, as noted here.

    And by the way, though Hegseth served for 9 months in Iraq (which is 9 months more than I did, I’ll admit), I don’t know how he can be proclaimed a military genius of sorts since he apparently was supposed to serve for 4 years in ROTC, as noted here

    Naming your Iraqi interpreter “John Kerry” is funny – for you – in Iraq. Reporting that fact to the Family Research Council is not, perhaps, in the best tradition of a non-partisan military. And suggesting in your hometown paper that Senator Durbin “handed our enemies a propaganda victory” is quite clearly inappropriate.

    It is unclear to me how Mr. Hegseth had time to complete…active duty required by his ROTC scholarship. And yet this person had the gall to argue with General Wesley Clark – 34-year veteran who won the Silver Star for Valor for commanding his unit after being shot 4 times – that the Webb amendment would give too much time off to soldiers and ruin unit cohesion. This he knew from his “firsthand experiences” Of course Pete switched units after just a few of his NINE MONTHS in Iraq, so obviously, well, he has no idea that the hell he’s talking about.

    I also give you the following from Hegseth:

  • Here, Hegseth was upset that a BENGHAZI!! suspect wouldn’t be tortured; he also claimed that there was somehow a timing factor involved to help the not-yet-officially-announced presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton (uh huh, sure…).
  • Here, Hegseth also tells us pretty much that he has a problem with women in combat.
  • Hegseth also said here that he believed that “Redskin” was meant as a term of respect (uh, no).
  • This tells us (among other details) that Hegseth’s group, Concerned Veterans for America, has ties to Chuckie and Dave Koch (figures – first bullet).
  • I’ve tried to take it easy actually on Pete Hegseth in the past in deference to his military service. However, I believe that the trail of ooze he has created as a result of his smarmy activities in politics and punditry have made it impossible for me to do that any longer.

  • And keeping with the subject of MOAR WAARRR, I give you the following from Anne Applebaum of the WaPo (here – h/t Atrios)…

    Over and over again — throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels — I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets. I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next. September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house.

    In retrospect, all of them now look naive. Instead of celebrating weddings, they should have dropped everything, mobilized, prepared for total war while it was still possible. And now I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?

    OK, so Applebaum says that we should prepare for war with Russia because September 2014 really is just like September 1939, dammit! Because one day 75 years in the future some pundit from another galaxy will visit what remains of Earth, find all our hashtags, blog posts and Instagram messages and wonder how we could have been so reckless to not rise up and thwart our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin and his global designs when we had the chance. Am I right?

    It’s interesting to me that Applebaum would have such misty water-colored memories of Poland now, though she didn’t feel that way about the Poles a few years ago, accusing “Allied governments” including that country of “cowardice” when Russia faced off with the country of Georgia a few years ago, as noted here (maybe a little “sock puppetry” on Applebaum’s part on behalf of her husband, who at the time was a Polish foreign minister?).

    (But to answer the question…yes, actually; the thought of war anywhere IS “a hysterical idea.”)

  • Next, in light of the story about the merger between Burger King and Tim Horton’s of Canada as part of BK’s “inversion” scheme, “Chuckles” Krauthammer (also of Jeff Bezos, Inc., where it’s best to keep employees completely in the dark, apparently) has the perfect solution (here)…

    What is maddening is that the problem is so easily solved: tax reform that lowers the accursed corporate rate. Democrats and Republicans agree on this. After the announcement of the latest inversion, Burger King buying Tim Hortons and then moving to Canada, the president himself issued a statement conceding that corporate tax reform — lower the rates, eliminate loopholes — is the best solution to the inversion problem.

    It’s also politically doable. Tax reform has unique bipartisan appeal. Conservatives like it because lowering rates stimulates the economy and eliminating loopholes curbs tax-driven economic decisions that grossly misallocate capital.

    The appeal to liberals is economic fairness. By eliminating loopholes, tax reform levels the playing field. Today, the more powerful companies can afford the expensive lobbyists who create the loopholes and the expensive lawyers who exploit them.

    Of course, even Krauthammer admits that, though the nominal corporate rate is about 35 percent, the effective rate (which any halfway decent corporate accountant should be able to obtain) is about 13 percent.

    I’ll tell you what, though – I’ll go Krauthammer one better; as noted here, Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich proposes that we eliminate the corporate income tax but set capital gains taxes at the same rate as ordinary income.

    As Reich explains…

    “In many cases, depending on the structure of the market, a significant share of the actual burden of paying the corporate income tax is often borne instead by employees in the form of lower wages, or consumers in the form of higher prices.”

    Is such an idea a panacea? No. But if this is the best way to take away “inversion” incentives for “U.S.” corporations while making corporate “persons” behave in a decent manner (in a move which is bound to be economically stimulative, by the way), then at the very least, I think it should be crafted into legislation for a congressional vote.

    I just have one request; please don’t use this as yet another excuse to try to take away the federal home mortgage interest deduction or deductions for state and local taxes again, OK?

    And as long as I’m mentioning the paper formerly run by Katharine Graham, I think this needs to be pointed out as well, unfortunately.

  • Further, it looks like we got us another “big gumint” Obama conspiracy on our hands, and Michael Bastasch of The Daily Tucker is ON IT, PEOPLE!!! (here)…

    Republicans are accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of preparing to take control over vast swaths of land under the guise of protecting the country’s water resources. Lawmakers warn this could erode private property rights.

    The EPA has consistently denied they are trying to use the Clean Water Act to expand their regulatory reach, but Republicans say they have a smoking gun that shows the agency is up to something.

    Their proof? The EPA paid private contractors to assemble detailed maps of waterways and wetlands in all 50 states. The EPA maps were made in 2013, shortly after the agency proposed expanding its authority under the Clean Water Act. The maps were kept secret by the agency, but were obtained by Republicans on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

    And if you guessed that Repug U.S. House Texas moron (redundant?) Lamar Smith is involved, then you win a free barrel of toxic sludge…

    “These maps show the EPA’s plan: to control a huge amount of private property across the country,”(Smith), the science committee’s chairman, wrote in a letter to the EPA demanding more answers on why they have a detailed map of U.S. waterways.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. Determining Clean Water Act protection for streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 21, 2014. The public comment period will be open for 182 days and will close on Monday, October 20, 2014.

    And by the way, the rule definition was requested by a rather lengthy list of individuals and agencies, including Repug Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, the New York City DEP, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Clean Water Action, and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), among many, many others.

    So, as nearly as I can determine, the maps were created in concert with the rule definition (40 CFR Parts 110, 112, 116, 117, 122, 230, 232, 300, 302, and 401) published in the Federal Register to clarify recent Supreme Court decisions. That would make sense because that’s the best way to determine the practical impact of the rule (which, as noted above, is still open for public comment – if Smith doesn’t like it, he is more than welcome to voice his opposition).

    But of course, Smith isn’t really so concerned with encouraging a dialogue on science and the environment as he is on trying to muzzle it, as noted here, so I don’t expect an intelligent response from him about the rule or much of anything else, really.

    Couric_Sawyer_Head
    (And keep it classy as always, Tucker, OK?)

  • Continuing, it looks like Louisiana Gov. Bobby (“Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal is desperately trying to remain relevant once more, as noted here

    (Jindal) filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in federal court Wednesday, claiming that the Department of Education has illegally manipulated grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the controversial Common Core standards.

    In the suit, Jindal argues that the Education Department’s $4.3 billion grant program “effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum” in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. The suit asks a judge to declare the department’s actions unconstitutional and to keep it from disqualifying states from receiving Race to the Top funds based on a refusal to use Common Core or to participate in one of two state testing consortia tied to the department’s grant program.

    Well, the Teahadists should be amused anyway. As for the actual grownups, though, I give you the following from here

    Louisiana adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 and worked toward full implementation by 2014-15. The initiative was on the right track, with Mr. Jindal’s staunch support. The Common Core standards “will raise expectations for every child,” he said in 2012.

    Late last year, as Common Core critics emerged, Mr. Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, began raising “concerns.” “Let’s face it,” he said last month. “Centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education.” Last week, he completed his reversal on the heels of a fundraising visit to South Carolina, saying he wants state officials to develop “Louisiana standards and Louisiana tests for Louisiana students.”

    How are those Louisiana standards working out so far? Louisiana’s fourth-graders rank 49th among the states in math proficiency. Eighth-graders rank 48th. Meanwhile, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., began raising standards in 2010 and now lead the country in reading and math score gains. In 1993, Massachusetts reformed its school system, placing rigorous standards front and center. It is now first in many education rankings.

    So apparently, Jindal didn’t have either the foresight/imagination/basic intelligence/all of the above to realize that Common Core needed modifications at the very least for Louisiana. But since he also saw that he could gain some kind of political traction by switching sides, he decided to adopt his current cowardly position.

    Also, I think the following should be noted about Common Core from here

    Question 1. Where do you think the drive for Common Core standards is coming from?

    Alfie Kohn: I don’t think we have to speculate; the answer is pretty clear: While some educational theorists have long favored national standards — and got nowhere with the idea in the ’90s — the current successful push has come principally from corporate executives, politicians, and testing companies. This time they managed to foster the illusion that because the federal government, per se, isn’t mandating it, they’re not really “national” but just “core” standards, even though all but four states have signed on. It’s rather like the effort to reframe vouchers as “choice.” They’ve also been very shrewd this time about co-opting the education organizations by soliciting their counsel. These groups are so desperate for a “seat at the table” of power that they’ve agreed to confine the discussion to the content of the standards rather than asking whether the whole idea makes sense for children.

    If your question is read more broadly — not just “Who are the players?” but “What’s the ideological underpinning?” — then all you have to do is look at the rhetoric on the Core Standards website, read the defenses published elsewhere, listen to the speeches: This move toward even greater top-down control and uniformity is almost always justified in terms of “competing in the global economy.” It’s not about doing well, but about beating others. And it’s not about intellectual depth and passion for learning, but about dollars and cents.

    And I also give you this

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan dismissed Jindal’s move as purely political.

    “Gov. Jindal was a passionate supporter before he was against it. So this, from that situation, is about politics. It’s not about education,” Duncan said in an interview on CBS This Morning.

    And if you want to find out how well this is really playing with the folks back home, as it were, then I think you should read this.

  • On we go – I took particular interest in this item

    Temple University has become the latest focal point for groups concerned about the spreading wave of campus anti-Semitism and academic-based Holocaust minimizing.

    Temple student Daniel Vessal, a fellow with CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), was drawn into a verbal exchange with anti-Israel activists at the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) table during an official college event on August 20, 2014. Vessal, in his junior year at the Temple University Fox School of Business, studying Management Information Systems and Entrepreneurship, was allegedly called a “kike,” “Zionist pig,” and “baby killer.” He was slapped so hard at the SJP table that he was sent to the hospital. A police investigation and legal action are underway. The assaultive SJP supporter has purportedly apologized, according to a published SJP statement, which states: “I’m sorry for what I did. I admit I lost my temper.”

    With lightning speed, 14 Jewish organizations reacted to the assault, releasing a joint public letter of protest to Temple University. The letter complained:

    A university campus should be the setting for thoughtful discussion and intellectual debate. Such an atmosphere should be encouraged by all responsible student groups. Unfortunately, Students for Justice in Palestine is not such a group. It has a proven track record of intimidation, harassment, and incitement merging into anti-Semitism against Israel and its supporters on campus.

    The swift-response joint letter was spearheaded by StandWithUs, which has become the nation’s pre-eminent campus pro-Israel advocacy group. Additional signatories included Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), David Horowitz Freedom Center, Hasbara Fellowships, Proclaiming Justice to The Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach, The Lawfare Project, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

    I do not begrudge any of the Jewish organizations in their response to the alleged attack on Daniel Vessal. There is no place for abusive language and real or implied violence in something that should resemble informed dialogue.

    However, I take personal offense at anyone who would consider my alma mater to be an “anti-Semetic hotspot” (yes, I saw the words of Adjunct Professor Alessio Lerro about how the Jews are allegedly using the Holocaust for political advantage – in the course of vigorous debate, you’re going to hear indefensible language I’ll admit; I have no problem acknowledging that our universities are more or less laboratories of free thought, or should be, even sometimes coming from organizations as the thoroughly disreputable group noted here).

    HuffPo writer Edwin Black does tell us that “More than 137,000 individual donations were made to Temple between 2010 and 2012 alone, according to university records examined. The university’s benefactors include many major gifts from Jewish donors and foundations arising from or controlled by Jewish individuals.” That’s the journalistically responsible thing to note in a piece like this.

    I would add that Temple is also home to The Myer & Rosaline Feinstein Center for American Jewish Life as part of Temple’s College of Liberal Arts, which was founded in May 1990 (here). As the center’s website tells us: “Its mission is simple: Inspiring Inquiry. In collaboration with institutions in Philadelphia and beyond, the Feinstein Center invites the public to join conversations about Jewish culture, politics, history, and identity across time and space.”

    And as noted from here

    Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, also acknowledged rising tensions on campuses and in communities.

    “It’s an unfortunate byproduct of a conflict that has gone on too long and should be stopped immediately,” he said. “But no overseas conflict can justify any form of anti-Semitism or intolerant action or speech.”

    If charges arise from this incident at Temple, then so be it. Otherwise, let’s put the intolerant generalizations aside, shall we?

  • Finally, I have to tell you that I came across this truly hilarious item from Hunter at Daily Kos; he’s taking to task a writer at Irrational Spew Online named Armond White who came up with a list of the 20 films that “destroyed art, social unity, and spiritual confidence,” as far as White is concerned.

    Number 20 is Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”; of course, forget for a moment that we’re talking about a towering cinematic achievement about passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, definitely original in that the story proceeds through dialogue and various other plot lines without much in the way of what you would call “action.”

    Also on White’s list is “Wall-E,” which is also not surprising since it features characters imitating American behavior in many ways who have been basically exiled into outer space because the planet they once inhabited is now thoroughly despoiled, though there is a bit of environmental hope at the end. And, as you might have expected, “The Dark Knight” made the list because it “undermine(s) heroism, overturn(s) social mores, and embrace(s) anarchy.”

    (I thought the “Batman” movies by Christopher Nolan were a bit of a nod to the “one percent” since they present their wheeling and dealing as important to the survival of Gotham City, though there are also “Occupy”-related themes, particularly in the last one, where the villain Bane uses them to give Gotham the illusion of hope while the city lives in terror, cut off from everyone else. Basically, I think that’s what makes those movies great art; you can look at them from a couple of different mindsets and create different impressions, with not one better or worse than another.)

    As you might have expected, though, Number One on White’s list is “Good Night and Good Luck” about the faceoff between CBS news legend Edward R. Murrow and communist-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy. I’m not going to get into the history of that encounter here; if you want to read more, feel free to click here.

    In the article about the program “See It Now,” where Murrow stood up to McCarthy and allowed the Wisconsin senator an opportunity for rebuttal, we learn that the broadcast did a good job of cutting McCarthy down to size, as it were. What isn’t as readily obvious is the aftermath to Murrow, the program, and the network. CBS ended up losing sponsors in droves (including Alcoa), the program was cut from an hour to a half-hour, and it was moved from prime time to Sunday afternoons. And oh yeah, the loss of sponsors also led to layoffs in the news division, and Murrow’s “cred” within the corporation was irreparably damaged as a result (all of this is portrayed in the movie).

    The moral? If somehow you are remunerated or rewarded for telling the truth in the face of great opposition, especially of the corporate variety, count your blessings, because that probably won’t happen. A clear conscience and the ability to look yourself in the mirror, though highly satisfying, is probably the only positive outcome you will get.


  • Friday Mashup (6/13/14)

    June 13, 2014
  • This story tells us the following (about the recent idiocy in North Carolina Virginia where Phillip Puckett, a thoroughly compromised Dem in the state senate, agreed to resign for a plumb patronage job that he since has chosen not to accept, and let the Repugs take over that body, denying Medicaid expansion in that state)…

    Puckett’s resignation leads the way for him to get a job as deputy director of the state tobacco commission and for his daughter to be confirmed for a state judgeship. Depending on how you look at it, it’s politics at its worst — or best.

    “Republicans I’ve talked to are chortling,” Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Business Insider. “They think it’s one of the cleverest things they’ve done.”

    “And yet,” he added, “one of them asked me, ‘Do you think Democrats would not have done the same thing if they had the opportunity?’ And of course they would have. It’s yet another reason people hate politicians.”

    Perhaps, but is there a recent example of such an occurrence? You know, engaging in political nonsense that could prevent nearly 400,00 people in the state of North Carolina from receiving health care (here)? And let’s see how many Repugs are “chortling” in light of this.

    And Sabato follows up with the following…

    “This is really about Obamacare,” Sabato said of the dispute. “Forget about Medicaid.”

    I realize that it’s Sabato’s job to comment on the “horse race” political stuff and not necessarily the wonky material about, you know, actual policy and legislation that makes a difference in people’s lives, but if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about on this issue (and he obviously doesn’t), then he should shut up.

    You see, the people affected by the treachery orchestrated by Puckett and the North Carolina Repugs are (again) primarily the poor in his state who are due to receive the benefits of “Obamacare” through Medicaid expansion. Arguing that the two are separate in this case is disingenuous at best and outright lying at worst.

    This is par for the ridiculous course when it comes to Sabato, though; as noted here, he once said that the Swift Boat liars who impugned John Kerry ten years ago (remember that one?) were telling the truth; he also said that it would be “a national disgrace” to continue “the Clinton/Bush dynasty” (another idiotic construct as far as I’m concerned; things were a hell of a lot better for me and everyone I know under Bill than under either of the Bushes); and he also said (in the post I linked to previously) that the Democrats are the “mommy” party while the Repugs are the “daddy” party.

  • Next, I give you some truly ripe stuff from Larry Kudlow (here)…

    The Democrats want a minimum-wage hike. That may sound great on the surface, but it’s actually a big job loser for the lowest-skilled and poorest among us. President Obama and his EPA have launched a war on coal, which will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs if implemented. And then there’s Obamacare, which the CBO estimates will cost at least 2.5 million jobs.

    I don’t know how Kudlow can make that claim about the minimum wage with any degree of seriousness whatsoever (much more on that is available from here).

    And as far as coal goes, I also don’t know how Kudlow can seriously make the claim that Obama has “launched a war on coal,” considering that his administration encourages coal burning by aggressively issuing permits to mine coal on federal land, especially the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, as noted here.

    But wait, there’s more…

    With coal demand at home expected to fall by 20 per cent due to new regulations, and competitive pressure from low-priced natural gas, coal companies are now pushing to increase exports to Asia. … Three new coal-export ports are being proposed for the Pacific coast: two in Washington state and one in Oregon. They could eventually ship up to 100 million tons of coal per year—an amountequivalent to the total volume of coal the U.S. will export this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). …

    Environmentalists warn that emissions from that volume of coal would dwarf the savings from Obama’s new power plant rule.

    Since 2009, the Obama administration has sold leases for more than two billion tons of coal in the Powder River Basin for rates as low as $1 per ton, drawing the wrath of critics, including some in Congress, who say too much coal is being leased too cheaply. (Coal from the Powder River Basin is worth about $13 per ton.)

    As it reviews its long-term plans for the leases, which could eventually put another 10 billion tons of coal up for auction, the administration has so far resisted calls to include carbon emissions abroad in its decision-making.

    In addition, it looks like Kudlow is trying to propagandize once more about how the Affordable Care Law is a supposed job killer, when in reality (here)…

    The reduction in work hours that equates to 2.5 million jobs “stems almost entirely” from Americans deciding to work less or not at all in order to retain their eligibility for the Affordable Care Act’s expanded Medicaid coverage or government health insurance subsidies, the CBO analysis concludes.

    More on that is here; basically, we’re talking about a reduction in work hours that equates to 2.5 million jobs. Or, to give you an example close to home, maybe Mrs. Doomsy could continue to work on-call for about 20 hours or so a week if she qualified for “Obamacare” instead of having to work a minimum of 32 hours a week for her employer to get health insurance by that way instead (that’s partly a hypothetical and partly reality too, for the record).

    (Oh, and by the way, as you go to the polls later this year, please remember which political party was responsible for a near-catastrophic government shut down last year, and also remember who was one of the shut down’s biggest cheerleaders.)

  • Further, James Jay Carafano waxes hysterical as follows (here)…

    Iraq is a shambles. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al Qaeda off-shoot that now controls nearly a third of the nation, continues to run amok.

    It’s way past time for the White House to get its head in the game. The disaster unfolding in Iraq and Syria could very quickly spiral into a much, much bigger problem. And some problems are so big that even our president can’t spin his way out.

    At the top of the list of what the administration should be worrying about—and preparing to deal with—is the potential for an endless three-way civil war in Iraq. With Sunni, Shia and Kurds fighting one another, it would look something like the civil war in Syria—on steroids.

    Of course, back during the supposedly glorious days of Iraq War II, no one could have predicted that the quagmire in Mesopotamia would turn out to be favorable to Iran. Right?

    In response, I give you James Jay Carafano in 2010 (here)…

    Here is what we know for sure. 1) Given the state of Iraq in 2006, the country is in a much better place today that any reasonable observer then dared hope. 2) Iraq is better off than it was in the age of Saddam. Now the country has a future, and it rests in the hands of its people. Bonus: The world is rid one of its most dangerous and bloodthirsty thugs. Yes, it was a heavy price. Freedom rarely comes cheap. 3) The surge worked. The surge never promised a land of “milk and honey.” It just promised to break the cycle of continuous, unrelenting violence, to give the new Iraqi political process a chance, and to allow the Iraqis time to build the capacity for their own security. It did that. 4) Things didn’t turn out the way Bush planned. But the vision — a free Iraq without Saddam — was achieved. Remember, things didn’t turn out the way FDR planned either. He said all the troops would be out of Europe in two years.

    By the way, Carafano wrote the above column on August 19th, the day that Obama announced that all combat operations would end by August 31st, with the full withdrawal scheduled for December 2011 (here). And after that, the attacks started to ramp up again.

    Here is my point – if Carafano said that “this is the way history works” in 2010, acting like he was OK with what Obama was doing, then wasn’t Carafano just as wrong then as he thinks Obama is now (and personally, I think Obama was correct, as opposed to Carafano)?

  • Continuing, I came across this real whopper from Dr. Ben Carson (here – page 2)…

    Over the past year, I have learned a great deal about the press in America. It is not uniformly unfair with nefarious agendas, but a significant portion is. One of the best ways to determine which news organizations are objective and which have an agenda is to keep a scorecard that lists both electronic and print media. When evaluating a story, check off whether it is concentrating on factual reporting or demonization. If there is controversy, determine whether both points of view are considered. If major stories of a political nature are ignored or barely mentioned, that should raise suspicions about objectivity.

    You know what? I think Carson is actually onto something here. So, following up on his idea of a “score card,” I came up with the following…

    Story Demonization Factual Reporting
    Here Carson compares gay men and women to bestiality supporters. Bestiality is abhorrent to the gay community and just about every other life form that I know of (duuuh!).
    Here The VA scandal is “A gift from God” according to Carson. The VA scandal is a national bipartisan tragedy, owing primarily to the huge burden of treating our military personnel fighting two wars begun under the prior administration (not a criticism of our military in any way, of course – not their problem that Bushco was a gang of thugs who were asleep on 9/11).
    Here Carson compared the Affordable Care Law to “slavery.” Over 8 million (and counting) citizens of this country now have access to health care, many of whom had no access before.
    Here Carson once said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was right to call America “godless.” Why should we take seriously supposed lessons in morality from a thug who annexed Crimea away from Ukraine (you can go in many other directions here, I’ll admit).
    Here Carson invokes Lenin (no, not the Beatle) in attacking the Affordable Care Law. Sigh – is this really necessary anymore?

    Of course, if you want to do any research about Carson on your own, dear reader (trying to determine “factual reporting” vs. “demonization” without a visual aid, even the one as primitive as I provided), you can always just click here.

  • Update 6/14/14: Turning to Philadelphia-area stuff, it looks like a SEPTA transit strike is underway. I’m not totally familiar with all of the issues, though it apparently involves pension contributions and cost-of-living increases for transit workers (have to read more about it, as they say). It also looks like our illustrious governor, Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett, is going to ask Obama to appoint an executive-level commission, or something, to look into the matter, meaning that the striking workers will have to return to their jobs for a minimum of 240 days.

    I’m noting this particularly because of the following (here)…

    Bucks County Commissioner Charles H. Martin, who serves on SEPTA’s board of directors, said he was not aware of any plans by Bucks officials to handle potential traffic headaches.

    “Frankly, I don’t know what we could do,” he said.

    He said most people employed by the county and working in the county seat of Doylestown already drive to work, and would be unaffected by a Regional Rail strike.

    I know this may be hard for Mr. “I Have A Semi-Open Mind” to comprehend, but not all of the residents of Bucks County work in Doylestown (facepalm).

    Here’s a thought – why not try to encourage businesses to arrange staggered shifts for their employees or set up/encourage telecommuting or flex time options? Do anything you can to try and alleviate further traffic problems that may result from the strike!

    God, what a maroon (Update 6/16/14 – Hopefully, though, the strike won’t be an issue based in part on this)…

  • Finally (and returning to Fix Noise), I give you the following here

    This week, the president is speaking and acting on the issue of student loans for higher education. He appears to truly believe that a college education is important and is taking executive action to help students pay for their education. This seems like a straightforward feel-good issue…except there is a painful irony hiding behind the president’s words and actions.

    A closer look at the president’s Department of Education, sadly, reveals an elitist streak when it comes to higher education. At the same time that the president is speaking grandly about helping students pay for college, his education department is moving forward on a regulation that would severely limit the opportunity for college for a certain type of student — those attending non-traditional, private-sector colleges.

    There’s a hell of a lot of “red meat” and “dog whistle” language in what I suppose is a column that’s primarily an editorial as opposed to actual news (Number 44 is “elitist” and “classist,” etc., whatever the hell that means).

    I suppose this Jean Card person from Fox is responding to this news story (including the following)…

    The Obama administration is proposing to tighten oversight of for-profit colleges through new rules that seek to limit how much debt students can amass in career-training programs.

    The proposal, announced Friday, is the administration’s second try at regulations setting standards for what colleges must do to ensure that graduates of career programs get “gainful employment.”

    The first gainful employment initiative, debated from 2009 to 2011, spawned a huge campaign by for-profit colleges to block new regulation. The colleges, supported by many congressional Republicans and some Democrats, said then that they had been unfairly targeted and that the initiative would hurt low-income students.

    Obama administration officials said they were trying to protect those students from low-quality programs that would saddle them with too much debt.

    The Education Department issued a rule in 2011 that set standards for loan-repayment rates and the ratio of graduates’ debt to income. Programs that failed the tests could be disqualified from participation in the federal student aid, which would essentially shut them down. But in 2012, a federal judge blocked major provisions of that rule, forcing the department to start over.

    The new proposal jettisons the repayment-rate metric. Instead, it would require that the estimated loan payments of typical graduates not exceed 20 percent of discretionary income or 8 percent of total annual income.

    If someone has a principled disagreement with what Obama is trying to do here, then I honestly get that. I do support the president on this, I wish to emphasize, because I don’t see anyone else out there lifting a finger to try in rein in student debt.

    More information on this is available from here, including the following…

    A year ago, President Obama set a national goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. But because of the high costs of college, about two-thirds of graduates take out loans with an average student debt of over $23,000. This debt is particularly burdensome for graduates who choose to enter lower-paying public service careers, suffer setbacks such as unemployment or serious illness, or fail to complete their degree.

    To ensure that Americans can afford their student loan payments, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act gives student borrowers new choices in how they repay their loans. The initiative was developed by the Middle Class Task Force chaired by Vice President Biden, and it will expand the income-based repayment plan for federal student loans that was put in place last summer. More than 1.2 million borrowers are projected to qualify and take part in the expanded IBR program.

    Under this new law, students enrolling in 2014 or later can choose to:

    Limit Payments to 10 Percent of Income: Borrowers choosing the income-based repayment plan will pay no more than 10 percent of their income above a basic living allowance, reduced from 15 percent under current law. The basic living allowance varies with family size and is set at 150 percent of the poverty line, currently equaling about $16,500 for a single individual and $33,000 for a family of four.

    ◦More than 1 million borrowers would be eligible to reduce their monthly payments.

    ◦The payment will be reduced by more than $110 per month for a single borrower who earns $30,000 a year and owes $20,000 in college loans, based on 2009 figures.

    Forgive Any Remaining Debt after 20 Years, or after 10 Years for Those in Public Service: Borrowers who take responsibility for their loans and make their monthly payments will see their remaining balance forgiven after 20 years of payments, reduced from 25 years in current law.

    ◦Public service workers – such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service – will see any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years.

    Fully Funded by Student Loan Reforms: These new initiatives are funded by ending the current subsidies given to financial institutions that make guaranteed federal student loans. Starting July 1, all new loans will be direct loans delivered and collected by private companies under performance-based contracts with the Department of Education. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, ending these wasteful subsidies will free up nearly $68 billion for college affordability and deficit reduction over the next 11 years.

    And by the way, let’s not forget that the ridiculous practice of paying subsidies to financial institutions for basically nothing as part of the student loan process was ended by congressional Democrats in March 2010, with nary a single Republican voting in support (here).

    Oh, and speaking of the “respectful opposition,” this tells us that Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao did what he does best, and that was to launch yet another filibuster, this time of the student loan legislation sponsored by Dem Senator Elizabeth Warren (“come back louder” indeed).

    And things are no better in the House, of course; I give you the following…

    Congressman Fitzpatrick votes to protect the ultra-wealthy and votes against making college more affordable for America’s students and families

    Today, Congressman Fitzpatrick voted with Republicans to block H.R. 4582 “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act,” the House version of Senator Warren’s companion bill that would allow students to refinance their loans at much lower rates than they are currently paying today.

    Congressman Fitzpatrick’s Republican budget charges students $40 billion more in loan interest, in order to pay for more tax breaks for those who need help the least, like special interests and the wealthiest Americans. Today’s vote was the latest in a record that clearly places the interests of banks above those of students.

    “Once again, Congressman Fitzpatrick gave us a clear view of his priorities when he voted with the Republicans against a bill that would lower the cost of education for students. Congressman Fitzpatrick has no problem standing up for tax breaks for the bankers and special interests he is supposed to regulate as a member of the House Financial Services Committee–but when it comes to helping Bucks County students and their families pay for college, Fitzpatrick turns his back on them” Strouse said.

    Strouse added, “Congressman Fitzpatrick continues to vote to protect the interests of wealthy bankers, while ignoring the needs of the middle-class. If America is going to succeed in a 21st century economy, we need to have the best-educated, best-trained workforce possible, and Congressman Fitzpatrick voting against making college more affordable for students in Pennsylvania’s 8th District is exactly the kind of representation we do not need in Washington.”

    ###

    Kevin Strouse is a former Army Ranger, CIA counterterrorism analyst, and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who lives in Middletown, Pa., with his wife, Amy, and two young children, Walter and Charlotte. He is currently Program Director of Teach2Serve, a non-profit that teaches social entrepreneurship to local high school students. He earned his BA from Columbia University and a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, graduating with honors.

    To support Kevin Strouse in his campaign against Mikey the Beloved (and stand up on this among many other important issues), please click here.


  • Friday Mashup (5/9/14)

    May 9, 2014
  • This from clownhall.com tells us the following (with the understated headline of “Guns Don’t Cause Gang Violence – Democrats Do”)…

    Between Friday night, and Sunday evening, 28 people had been shot in Rahm Emanuel’s gun control utopia (Chicago). Which, unbelievably, shows an improvement over the previous weekend, which tacked on more than 40 gunshot victims to the city’s climbing statistics. And, heck, with the CPD’s recent scandal surrounding how they classify various crimes, it almost makes you wonder if these numbers are more “ballpark” figures than actual stats.

    I mean, heck, (gun control) hasn’t exactly worked out that well so far, but why not double down? Right? The fact is, the failure of Liberalism has brought the city to its current state of deterioration. The Chicago model of unconstitutional restrictions on keeping and bearing arms has done little more than add fuel to the fire. Politicians, meanwhile, have been more than happy to ignore the easily identifiable, but politically tricky, origins of gang violence, and criminal activity.

    Yeah, well, this is part and parcel of the wingnut caterwauling on guns I realize. However, did you know that the state of Illinois recently passed a concealed carry law, as noted here?

    Well then, isn’t the Michael Schaus post proof, then, that concealed carry leads to more crime?

    And as noted here, the NRA is pushing for a national concealed carry law that would override other more sensible state laws (the party of “state’s rights” strikes again, considering how “simpatico” the NRA is with the “party of Lincoln”). Which is all part and parcel of this (and by the way, Politifact strikes again on the whole “half true” thing – the U.S. has the highest gun casualty rate among “other affluent nations on a per capita basis,” so that settles it as far as I’m concerned).

  • Next, “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction” is back to inflict the following (here)…

    The qualifications of a Tommy “Dude” Vietor or Ben Rhodes that placed them in the Situation Room during Obama-administration crises were not years of distinguished public service, military service, prior elected office, a string of impressive publications, an academic career, previous diplomatic postings, or any of the usual criteria that have placed others at the nerve center of America in times of crisis. Their trajectory was based on yeoman partisan PR work, and largely on being young, hip, and well-connected politically. I don’t think either of these operatives has a particular worldview or competency that would promote the interests of the United States. But they do talk well, know the right people, and are hip. Again, they have no real expertise or even ideology other than that.

    (The “Dude” reference, for the uninitiated, has to do with Vietor pretty much laughing off more BENGHAZI!!! idiocy from Bret Baier of Fix Noise, which I think was definitely the correct response.)

    So a certain V.D. Hanson is criticizing Vietor and Rhodes because of their ascent in the Obama Administration from a background of “yeoman partisan PR work.”

    Well then, let’s take a look at Obama’s ruinous predecessor, as long as Hanson has opened that “can of worms”:

  • Longtime Bushie Karen Hughes was a “communications strategist” who, as a member of the White House Iraq Group, helped to sell Number 43’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Iraq (here).
  • And speaking of the quagmire in Mesopotamia, former PR flak Dan Bartlett once said that his boss “never had a ‘stay the course’ strategy” here (liar).
  • When it comes to PR and marketing, though, I don’t think either Hughes or Bartlett can top Andrew Card, who rose to Chief of Staff and notoriously said here that “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August” in response to the question of why Bushco started beating the drums for war in Iraq in earnest in September 2002.
  • Given this, I would say that, when it comes to “yeoman partisan PR work,” Vietor and Rhodes are chumps by comparison (and speaking of Iraq, more “fun” with Hanson is here).

  • Further, I think it’s time to take a look at some true revisionist wingnuttery on The Sainted Ronnie R, first from Michael Barone here

    Second-term presidents over the last generation have tried, with varying results, to achieve breakthroughs. Ronald Reagan, after cutting tax rates in his first term, called for further cuts combined with elimination of tax preferences that had encrusted the tax code.

    House Ways and Means chairman Dan Rostenkowski and Senate Finance chairman Bob Packwood — a Democrat and a Republican — achieved a historic breakthrough with the tax-reform legislation of 1986, thanks in part to intensive coaching from Treasury Secretary James Baker.

    See, the point of Barone’s screed is that Obama isn’t being “bipartisan” enough for his liking, with Barone’s definition of “bipartisan” being, apparently, to get beaten up and let the Republicans do whatever they want (Barone lists other examples of supposed “bipartisanship” that got things done in Washington).

    I guess that, living in the world of reality, it may not be necessary to point out at every opportunity to you, dear reader, that Number 40 raised taxes a dozen times, as noted here. However, since the other side is constantly trying to form reality to their twisted worldview, I believe that I must engage in this exercise.

    And sticking with the decade in which Reagan took up space in An Oval Office, this post from The Daily Tucker discusses a TV program called “The Americans,” which I guess has to do with Soviet-era spies living in this country.

    So what is this show about, exactly…

    In one recent scene, for example, KGB agent Elizabeth goes off on a standard 80s liberal spiel about the Nicaragua war, complete with hypocritical sympathy for Catholic nuns and dissident journalists.

    Well OK then – it looks like this Will Rahn person isn’t a big fan of ‘80s-era political activism in particular.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    I first confronted this pattern while covering Reagan’s hard-line policies toward Central America. The lies started just weeks after Reagan’s 1980 election, when four American churchwomen were raped and murdered by government security forces in rightist-ruled El Salvador.

    On the night of Dec. 2, 1980, two of the women, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, drove a white mini-van to the international airport outside San Salvador. There, they picked up Ita Ford and Maura Clarke who had attended a conference in Nicaragua.

    Leaving the airport, the van turned onto the road that heads into the capital city. At a roadblock, a squad of soldiers stopped the van and took the women into custody. After a phone call apparently to a superior officer, the sergeant in charge said the orders were to kill the women. The soldiers raped them first and then executed the women with high-powered rifles.

    The atrocity was only one of hundreds committed each month by the Salvadoran security forces in a “dirty war” against leftists and their suspected supporters, a conflict that was more mass murder than a war, a butchery that would eventually claim some 70,000 lives. The Dec. 2 atrocity stood out only because Americans were the victims.

    The proper response from U.S. officials would have seemed obvious: to join U.S. Ambassador Robert White in denouncing the brutal rape and murder of four American citizens. But the incoming Reagan foreign policy team didn’t see it that way; Reagan was on the side of the rightist Salvadoran military.

    So, the rape-murder was treated like a public relations problem, best handled by shifting blame onto the victims. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan’s choice for United Nations ambassador, depicted the victims as “not just nuns. The nuns were political activists – on behalf of the [leftist opposition] Frente.”

    Kirkpatrick’s implication was that it wasn’t all that bad to rape and murder “political activists.”

    And as far as the “Fourth Estate” is concerned (here)…

    To conceal the truth about the war crimes of Central America, Reagan also authorized a systematic program of distorting information and intimidating American journalists.

    Called “public diplomacy” or “perception management,” the project was run by a CIA propaganda veteran, Walter Raymond Jr., who was assigned to the National Security Council staff. The explicit goal of the operation was to manage U.S. “perceptions” of the wars in Central America.

    The project’s key operatives developed propaganda “themes,” selected “hot buttons” to excite the American people, cultivated pliable journalists who would cooperate and bullied reporters who wouldn’t go along.

    The best-known attacks were directed against New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing Salvadoran army massacres of civilians, including the slaughter of more than 800 men, women and children in El Mozote in December 1981.

    But Bonner was not alone. Reagan’s operatives pressured scores of reporters and their editors in an ultimately successful campaign to minimize information about these human rights crimes reaching the American people. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

    The tamed reporters, in turn, gave the administration a far freer hand to pursue its anticommunist operations throughout Central America.

    Despite the tens of thousands of civilian deaths and now-corroborated accounts of massacres and genocide, not a single senior military officer in Central America was held accountable for the bloodshed.

    The U.S. officials who sponsored and encouraged these war crimes not only escaped any legal judgment, but remained highly respected figures in Washington. Reagan has been honored as few recent presidents have.

    The journalists who played along by playing down the atrocities — the likes of Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer — saw their careers skyrocket, while those who told the truth suffered severe consequences.

    And given the BENGHAZI!!! fever currently sweeping the “leadership” of the U.S. House, I think this is a timely article.

  • Continuing, it looks like VA head Eric Shinseki (who, once again, is a huge improvement over his Bushco counterpart) is in hot water, as noted here

    (Reuters) – Two Republican senators on Tuesday joined veterans groups in calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid claims that up to 40 people died while waiting for treatment in the U.S. veterans’ healthcare system.

    Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, said the Veterans Affairs Department needed a “true transformation … from top to bottom.”

    “I ask the secretary to submit his resignation and I ask President (Barack) Obama to accept that resignation,” Moran said on the Senate floor.

    Assistant Senate Republican leader John Cornyn said: “The president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization out of the wilderness, and back to providing the service our veterans deserve.”

    As noted here, Cornyn voted against a bill to provide $12 billion in medical, educational and job-training benefits for our veterans returning from the wars (to be fair, Moran voted Yes as noted here).

    However, it’s not as if the Kansas senator doesn’t have his own baggage in these matters. He gave conditional-at-best support here to the military sexual assault bill sponsored by Dem Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Moran also voted against the Veterans with Disabilities Act (here), despite the request from former Kansas Sen. (and WWII-disabled vet, of course) Bob Dole that Moran and everyone else in the U.S. Senate support it.

    The Reuters story also tells us the following…

    The American Legion, the biggest U.S. veterans’ group, and Concerned Veterans for America called on Monday for Shinseki, a former Army general twice wounded in Vietnam, to step down.

    I’m not going to take issue with The American Legion, but Concerned Veterans for America…hmmm…

    Oh yeah – as noted here, that’s another “dark money” front group for Chuck and Dave Koch (kind of like “Concerned Women of America” who are apparently trying to torpedo a women’s history museum sponsored by Dem Carolyn Maloney and Repug Marsha Blackburn (!), as noted here, with “Moon Unit” Bachmann opposing it even though the plan is for her to be featured in an exhibit – way too funny).

    Returning to the main topic, I don’t know if Gen. Shinseki should resign as head of the VA or not. However, I think it’s more than a bit hypocritical to blame only him for trying to clean up a mess originated by our prior ruling cabal (which he, among a very select few – and more’s the pity on that – actually stood up to, as noted here).

  • Finally (and speaking of war), I give you former Bushco U.N. rep John “Blow ‘Em Up” Bolton (here, with what you might call some “crackpot history” in concert with his claim that President Obama’s recent far east tour didn’t go well since Obama looked tired, or something)…

    In 1932, Secretary of State Henry Stimson declared his “non-recognition” doctrine regarding Japanese aggression in China and subsequent annexations. Although politically symbolic, Stimson’s high-collared moralisms did nothing to deter further Japanese expansionism.

    Years later, when President Roosevelt finally imposed sanctions that could actually inhibit Japan’s military, the increasing likelihood of war against the Nazis was apparent. Pearl Harbor followed, but one can ask if stronger U.S. Asia policies in the 1930’s might have caused a different result.

    Yes, “one” can ask indeed if “one” were a total moron, I suppose. As noted from here

    In 1933, President (Franklin D.) Roosevelt proposed a Congressional measure that would have granted him the right to consult with other nations to place pressure on aggressors in international conflicts. The bill ran into strong opposition from the leading isolationists in Congress, including progressive politicians such as Senators Hiram Johnson of California, William Borah of Idaho, and Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. In 1935, controversy over U.S. participation in the World Court elicited similar opposition. As tensions rose in Europe over Nazi Germany’s aggressive maneuvers, Congress pushed through a series of Neutrality Acts, which served to prevent American ships and citizens from becoming entangled in outside conflicts. Roosevelt lamented the restrictive nature of the acts, but because he still required Congressional support for his domestic New Deal policies, he reluctantly acquiesced.

    The isolationists were a diverse group, including progressives and conservatives, business owners and peace activists, but because they faced no consistent, organized opposition from internationalists, their ideology triumphed time and again. Roosevelt appeared to accept the strength of the isolationist elements in Congress until 1937. In that year, as the situation in Europe continued to grow worse and the Second Sino-Japanese War began in Asia, the President gave a speech in which he likened international aggression to a disease that other nations must work to “quarantine.” At that time, however, Americans were still not prepared to risk their lives and livelihoods for peace abroad. Even the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 did not suddenly diffuse popular desire to avoid international entanglements. Instead, public opinion shifted from favoring complete neutrality to supporting limited U.S. aid to the Allies short of actual intervention in the war. The surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 served to convince the majority of Americans that the United States should enter the war on the side of the Allies.

    And as noted from here

    By 1940, the (Second Sino-Japanese) war descended into stalemate. The Japanese seemed unable to force victory, nor the Chinese to evict the Japanese from the territory they had conquered. But western intervention in the form of economic sanctions (most importantly oil) against Japan would transform the nature of the war. It was in response to these sanctions that Japan decided to attack America at Pearl Harbor, and so initiate World War II in the Far East.

    OK, so, to review:

  • Sanctions against Japan were probably necessary in hindsight, but to try and make the argument that Roosevelt sought them too late and Pearl Harbor might have been prevented is ridiculous. If anything, if sanctions had been imposed earlier, an attack might have happened earlier (again, not saying that sanctions were wrong) when we would have been less adequately prepared to fight it than we were.
  • As the article states above, there was not enough of a “push back” against the isolationist sentiment Roosevelt faced across the political spectrum at home after World War I. And he needed those same senators opposing military action to support the New Deal.
  • I’m not a bit surprised, however, to find out that Bolton knows nothing about that period of history, given that he finished his column with the following (again, using this totally inaccurate reading to justify another attack on Number 44)…

    In December, 1937, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of all people observed that, “It is always best and safest to count on nothing from the Americans but words.”

    5_fig002
    And the fact that Bolton would say that without a single word of acknowledgment of the price this country paid to defeat the Axis Powers in World War II (particularly repugnant as we approach Memorial Day) tells you how callow and ignorant he truly is.


  • Thursday Mashup (5/1/14)

    May 1, 2014

    voter id

  • Wonder if Voter ID is starting to “crash and burn,” people? We can only hope (here)…

    In a clear-cut victory for Wisconsin voters, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman came down on the side of foes of the state’s strict photo voter ID law Tuesday.

    In the 90-page decision, Adelman takes note of difficulties low-income citizens have in getting an ID, the cost of obtaining background documents to get an ID—such as a birth certificate—the cost of transportation to the DMV and work time lost…

    Of course, Gov. Hosni Mubarak Walker will probably appeal the ruling (and Repug Attorney General candidate Brad Schimel is trying to fundraise off the ruling as noted here).

    Not that we have anything to brag about on this subject in our beloved commonwealth of PA, of course, where Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett has spent in excess of $2 million in state funds to defend voter ID (here) even though the PA Commonwealth Court recently affirmed its decision overturning it (here).

    But wait, there’s more…

  • A federal court ruled the same way about Texas’s voter ID law, one of the most restrictive in the nation (here), but the ruling was invalidated when The Supremes gutted the Voting Rights Act (yep, some nice “ROI” from The High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR to “the party of Lincoln” on that one).
  • As noted here, Judge Tim Fox of the Pulaski County Circuit Court recently struck down Arkansas’s voter ID law, quite rightly saying that it “illegally adds a requirement” voters must fulfill before going to the polls.
  • And in case anyone still had any doubt about this, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly pointed out here that North Carolina’s law in particular was aimed at minorities (yeah I know, duuuh, though, as noted here – in a surprising development – that state’s voter ID law could actually help with voter registration in that state).
  • Here and here are links to the voter ID issue and how it is playing out across all 50 states. And as noted here, the Voting Rights Act Amendment (VRAA), introduced in the Senate by Dem Pat Leahy and in the House by Repug James Sensenbrenner, could address the voter ID issue in a bit of a favorable manner also (but good luck seeing that passed in the U.S. House as it is currently constituted; another reason to vote early and often this fall).

    david-koch-and-charles-g.-007_0
    And lest we forget, Chuck and Dave are all too happy to see voter ID enshrined all over this country (here).

  • Next, this tells us the following…

    RICHMOND — Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell has landed a job as a part-time visiting professor of government at Liberty University’s Helms School of Government, the school announced Monday.

    McDonnell (R) will serve as a guest lecturer in other professors’ government classes at the Helms School, named for former senator Jesse Helms, a Republican from North Carolina.

    Any idea on McDonnell’s “course load”? These come to mind immediately for yours truly…

  • Influence Peddling 101 – How to Receive Money, Golf Fees, Other Equipment and Luxury Plane Flights to Resorts While Alleging That No Conflict of Interest Exists
  • Returning Obstetrics to the Middle Ages – Classroom Theory and Practical Working Exercises in Administering Fetal Ultrasounds, Plunging Virginia To The Same Depths As 23 Other States Advocating The Same Barbaric Procedure
  • Male-Only Human Sexuality – The Evils of (Pro) Contraception Legalization
  • And just as a reminder, the story also tells us the following…

    McDonnell left office in January and soon after was indicted with his wife, Maureen, on federal corruption charges related to about $165,000 in luxury gifts and loans that a businessman lavished on Virginia’s first family.

    The McDonnells, who have pleaded not guilty, were in financial distress when they accepted the largess of dietary supplement maker Jonnie R. Williams Sr., and their money woes have grown as they mount a legal defense in the case, scheduled to go to trial in July. Supporters have launched a fund to pay legal bills.

    The part-time position at the Lynchburg University is not likely to bring McDonnell the big bucks he could have counted on absent the scandal. Moore declined to disclose what Liberty will pay McDonnell, once regarded as a credible contender for president in 2016.

    Also, how apropos for “vaginal ultrasound” Bob to end up at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, where approval was revoked for a Democratic Party organization on campus here (wonder if I’ll get an Email blast about a Bias Alert! from Drudge and his pals – not holding my breath on that one), and where Glenn Beck, of all people, once gave a commencement address (here).

    And the cherry on the icing on the proverbial cake is the fact that McDonnell will now reside at the Helms School of Government, named after a noted racist, anti-immigrant homophobe and chauvinist (who, along with the rest of his party, ignored the al Qaeda threat in the ’90s, as noted here – Clinton stumbled a bit on that score also, but at least he did something).

    How much do you want to bet that (assuming a Dem wins in 2016) McDonnell ends up taking a shot at the 2020 Repug presidential nomination (and no, I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence either)?

  • Continuing, I give you the latest in Repug Party hijinks over the environment (which has presented us with particularly extreme weather lately)…

    Republican lawmakers pushed back at Environmental Protection Agency Chief Gina McCarthy after she assailed critics for charging the agency with using “secret science” to support its regulations.

    Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said McCarthy is “ignoring the big picture” in her defense of the agency.

    Vitter and a majority of Republicans have continued to berate the EPA for its proposed carbon emissions limits on power plants, which they say are backed up by faulty science.

    “It is inexcusable for EPA to justify billions of dollar of economically significant regulations on science that is kept hidden from independent reanalysis and congressional oversight,” Vitter said in a statement on Monday.

    Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) echoed Vitter’s sentiment.

    “It’s disappointing that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy continues to try to justify her agency’s use of secret science,” Smith said in a statement. “Relying on undisclosed data is not good science and not good policy.”

    OK, so “secret science” is the latest wingnut catchphrase (poll tested and approved by Frank Luntz, no doubt). Which is particularly amusing to me because, as noted here, the “science” to support EPA regulation doesn’t look very “secret” to yours truly.

    And of course Smith would protest, he who, though he routinely ignores sound climate science, once held a hearing on aliens (and no, I’m not talking about immigrants) here. And what can you say about “Diaper Dave,” who cheered the last government shutdown because it temporarily put the brakes on EPA’s ability to enforce regulations to protect our water and monitor coal and gas-fired power plants (here)?

  • Further, it looks like Joke Line is back to heap more ridicule (here)…

    Time magazine columnist Joe Klein called CNN “an embarrassment to our profession,” surprising a New York City audience on Sunday by declaring Fox News “the only option” for straight news at 6 p.m.

    “I come home, and I turn on CNN at 6 o’clock at night — because that’s something I kind of do in preparation for the 6:30 network news, to see what Wolf [Blitzer] is being really hyperbolic about — and he’s talking about the plane!” Klein lamented.

    “It is such an embarrassment to our profession that CNN has gone in the toilet the way it has,” he continued. “You know, I miss being able to turn on a straight newscast. And it turns out, the only place you can go to get one, at 6 o’clock at night, is Fox.”

    “The other option is to go to MSBNC and see the Reverend Al Sharpton, who I still consider to be a major criminal,” Klein quipped, prompting audience applause. “I mean, the guy can have a job on network TV, on an NBC cable network, and he still hasn’t apologized for Tawana Brawley? Gimme a break.”

    I cannot fathom why Klein would defend a network that was once responsible for this.

    That being said, he actually has a point about CNN and its endless coverage on Flight 370, which, horribly, I’m sure is at the ocean floor somewhere. At this point, I cannot imagine where else it could be; if it had been hijacked somehow, we surely would have heard at this point.

    And not for a second am I going to defend Al Sharpton over the Tawana Brawley stuff; I don’t know if Sharpton ever apologized for it either. However, making the leap from shameless self-promoter at the expense of a young girl who apparently didn’t know better to a “major criminal” staggers the imagination. And there’s a reason why I include his videos at the site I link to from here, and that is because I find his commentary to be fundamentally sound and factually correct. When Klein or anyone else has a factual criticism to offer (and I’ll admit that MSNBC overall flubbed some of the Trayvon Martin stuff), then I’ll definitely give it a fair hearing.

    Also, when it comes to whether or not our supposedly elite journalists are doing their jobs, how does Klein account for this (and who knew besides me that Megyn Kelly of Fix Noise, for example, was a corporate attorney as opposed to a journalist, and she’s on the network Joe loves in bleeping prime time).

    Klein’s call for an “apology” is funny, though, when you consider that, to my knowledge, he never apologized for this.

  • Finally, Mikey the Beloved is back with another opinion column for the benefit of his PR factory (here)…

    Increasing and securing our investment in infrastructure is an investment in our country’s future. I am pleased to have worked across the aisle with Congressman John Delaney in supporting the Partnership to Build America Act (HR 2084). The bill will restore solvency to the Highway Trust Fund by revenues from repatriated earnings as a funding mechanism while the debate continues around ensuring long term solvency of the Fund. These efforts have merit, particularly if combined with other fiscally prudent ways of increasing infrastructure investment.

    The first question I have is why it took so damn long for Mikey or anyone else in his party (and the same goes for Delaney, to be fair) to say anything about HR 2084, seeing as how it was introduced about a year ago (here…and yes, I know the answer is that this is an election year).

    However, the more you look into this particular piece of legislation, the more problems you discover as far as I’m concerned. The bill establishes a government corporation headed by a board of trustees, appointed by the president (yeah, as if that will be OK with this Congress – the Teahadists are probably writing hate-filled blog posts and working on their misspelled signs even as I write this, and the bill hasn’t even come up for a vote yet).

    Also…

    The bill also “establish(es) the American Infrastructure Fund, to provide bond guarantees and make loans to States, local governments, and non-profit infrastructure providers for investments in certain infrastructure projects, and to provide equity investments in such projects, and for other purposes.”

    So it looks like the states will be responsible for funding infrastructure projects with minimal (at best) federal oversight (and yes, I realize that, since we’re talking about a Republican congress, they don’t want the federal government to be a “player” in this stuff at all, damn the consequences).

    Here is my concern: suppose the infrastructure projects blow up and the financial obligations cannot be satisfied. Is this yet another “bubble to bust” boondoggle where taxpayers will be called upon again to bail out the Fund if the infrastructure projects are cancelled because of, say, cost overruns (and another well-done Matt Taibbi comment on this whole potential mess will be written someday)?

    And did I mention that, according to Govtrack, the bill has about a 3 percent chance of being enacted anyway? More on the bill is here.

    Meanwhile (from here)…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration sent a four-year, $302 billion transportation plan to Congress Tuesday, hoping to jump-start a national debate on how to repair and replace the nation’s aging infrastructure while accommodating the needs of a growing population.

    Action is urgently needed because the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to run dry by late August, said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Unless Congress acts to shore up the fund, transportation aid to states will be held up and workers laid off at construction sites across the country.

    President Barack Obama has emphasized infrastructure spending throughout his presidency as a means to spur job growth and increase economic competitiveness, but the bill is the first detailed, long-term transportation bill his administration has sent to Congress.

    There isn’t much time for Congress to act before the trust fund can no longer meet its obligations, especially in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of an election year. Many transportation insiders predict Congress will wind up doing what it has done repeatedly over the past five years — dip into the general treasury for enough money for to keep programs going a few weeks or a few months, at which point the exercise will have to be repeated all over again.

    But keeping highway and transit aid constantly teetering on the edge of insolvency discourages state and local officials from moving ahead with bigger and more important projects that take many years to build. In 2012, Congress finally pieced together a series of one-time tax changes and spending cuts to programs unrelated to transportation in order to keep the trust fund solvent for about two years. Now, the money is nearly gone.

    So instead of passing the Obama bill, it looks like Mikey and his pals (including Delaney, who apparently isn’t much of a progressive, though he’s definitely an improvement over the odious Repug Roscoe Bartlett, who formerly held the seat) are cooking up this new scam that could come back and bite us one day. All just so they can say that they didn’t raise taxes or fees, or something (if doing this right means paying a few cents more a gallon for gas, for example, to me, that makes a hell of a lot more sense than this idiotic funding mechanism).

    All of this and much more is a reason to support Kevin Strouse for Congress (to help, click here).


  • Top Posts & Pages