Saturday, April 28, 2007
Okay, ladies, gentlemen, and Republicans, no peeking. Which conclusion actually is true regarding Bush Administration policy and rightwing ideology?
(A) Support for blank check funding of the surge in Iraq - as favored by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress - looks increasingly foolish and indefensible.Well, that was easy.
(B) Advocating the privatization of Social Security as a means of resolving a very real but overblown problem - as favored by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress - looks increasingly foolish and indefensible.
(C) Reliance on abstinence-only sex education as the primary tool to reduce teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases - as favored by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress - looks increasingly foolish and indefensible.
(D) Promotion of faith-based initiatives - as favored by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress - looks increasingly foolish and indefensible.
(E) Insistence upon making tax breaks for the rich permanent - as favored by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress - looks increasingly foolish and indefensible.
(F) Advocating an amendment to the US Constitution to ban same-sex marriages - as favored by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress - looks increasingly foolish and indefensible.
(G) Retaining Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States - as favored by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress - looks increasingly foolish and indefensible.
(H) Respecting the judgment and intellectual integrity of Paul Wolfowitz - as favored by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress - looks increasingly foolish and indefensible.
(I) All of the above.
(J) None of the above.
And that's exactly how easy it is these days to grind out editorials about this unbelievably bad presidency and his unbelievably corrupt and dim-witted ideological partners. The tragedy is that it was just as easy to do so much earlier, when they could have made a difference, for example, regarding public willingness to support an utterly idiotic and immoral invasion.
What's hard is trying to understand why anyone, including the editors of the NY Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, the New Republic, every American television station, and so on and so on and so on, gave these fuck-ups a free pass for so long when it was patently obvious from day one that everything they believed or did was, to coin a phrase, "foolish and indefensible."
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Fox News: Home to Racist Jackoff John Gibson. Gibson calls Iraqi's "knuckle-dragging savages from the 10th century."
On the April 23 broadcast of his Fox News Radio show, John Gibson argued that the Iraqi people -- whom he described as "knuckle-dragging savages from the 10th century" -- are at "fault" for the situation in Iraq. While discussing Iraq, Gibson said: "The one thing that drives me up the wall is [people] saying, 'Look at all the deaths you Americans have caused in Iraq.' No! 'Scuse me? We invaded the place, we knocked over Saddam, and then Iraqis began killing each other." Later in the show, Gibson agreed with a caller that the Coalition Provisional Authority's 2003 decision to purge the civil service of all former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and disband the Iraqi army "was a mistake." Gibson then stated: "[B]ut who is doing this killing? Give me a break. These are Iraqis killing each other. So what did we do? If you're saying it's our fault that we unmasked them as knuckle-dragging savages from the 10th century -- fine! I'll take credit."
Gibson made his comments while criticizing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) April 19 statement that "[t]his war is lost." (Reid went on to say that "the war, at this stage, can only be won diplomatically, politically, and economically.") Gibson was asking listeners to call in and help "expand my vocabulary of nasty things I can characterize Harry Reid as."
Right Wing Continues to Attack Media Matters following Rovian Script: Attack the messenger, not the message.
Media Matters for America
Right Embarks on Smear Campaign Against Media Matters; Baseless Attacks Make the Case for Group's Mission
Washington, DC - In recent days, Media Matters for America has become the target of an unprecedented stream of attacks from right-wing media and political figures intent on silencing the media watchdog's criticism. This recent barrage of false, baseless, and sometimes comical attacks, complete with flowcharts, from the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Tom DeLay, Neal Boortz, Matt Drudge, and Michael Savage, just to name a few, ironically underscores the need for an organization like Media Matters to monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the media.
"The right appears to be in full-blown meltdown over the work we do at Media Matters for America," said Eric Burns, a senior spokesman for Media Matters. "Given the bizarre anger that Media Matters inspires from the far right, it's clear we're making an impact."
Bill O'Reilly on the Attack
On April 23, O'Reilly devoted an entire segment on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor to what he sees as a devious conspiracy of progressive donors and nonprofit groups. Referring to Media Matters as "the vile propaganda outfit, which specializes in distorting comments made by politicians, pundits, and media people," O'Reilly -- while failing to identify a single instance when Media Matters has distorted his words or those of others -- purported to depict billionaire philanthropist George Soros as funding Media Matters, which "feeds its propaganda to some mainstream media people." As Media Matters has previously indicated, Soros has never given money to Media Matters, either directly or through another organization.
O'Reilly's comments are just the latest in what has become a veritable who's who of right-wing media figures attacking Media Matters.
"O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Drudge, and now even Tom DeLay are attempting to discredit Media Matters with conspiracy theories and name-calling," Burns continued. "It is worth noting that nowhere in these often contradictory and provably false attacks do our friends on the right actually question the accuracy of the research we release to the public every day."
"Their attacks against an organization that openly and transparently promotes accountability in the media is far more reflective of their agenda than anything involving Media Matters," Burns said. "They're clearly afraid of having their deceptions corrected and afraid of being held accountable. If they had their way, Media Matters would just disappear. That isn't going to happen."
Other Recent Attacks from the Right
- On the same day as O'Reilly's attack, TOM DeLAY wrote in The Politico, "George Soros, upset with the slight inroads conservatives have made recently, has funded an organization called Media Matters for America, led by liberal muckraker David Brock. Brock's job is to serve as a constant rapid responder to any media report that fails to follow Soros' Shadow Party agenda. Brock is there to crack the whip any time a 'one of us' liberal reporter steps out of line and to make sure reporters are instructed on how to take down any conservative leader or idea that starts gaining traction with the American people."
- "I'll tell you who's out there doing all this monitoring, and then reporting things out of context, and that's our old buddies at Media Matters for America," said RUSH LIMBAUGH on April 16. "I'm not going to let the Democrat Party or the left or some lackey watchdog group or a couple of race hustlers dictate my speech." Limbaugh added, "This is Stalinist, folks. This is an attack on certain kinds of information that is protected by a template which says, 'All conservative information is misinformation.' "
- On April 13, Internet gossip MATT DRUDGE linked to a Wall Street Journal article that attributed Don Imus' firing from CBS Radio and MSNBC to Media Matters' first having highlighted his comments. Drudge claimed that Media Matters is funded by Soros, claiming in his post "Soros Operation Takes Credit for Imus Take-Down..." After Media Matters indicated that Soros had never given money to the organization, the link vanished from Drudge's website.
- On the April 18 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, NEAL BOORTZ said, "When the history of this event [the Virginia Tech shootings] is written ... we will have 25 students standing meekly waiting for this guy to execute them" and then aired an instrumental version of the Pat Benatar song, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." When his comments appeared in The New York Times, Boortz said on April 20, "[S]omebody out there feeds this, because I know damn well [Times reporter] Jacques Steinberg wasn't listening to The Neal Boortz Show. ... So my guess is Media Morons, I mean Media Matters. My guess is it was them. Because they specialize in disinformation."
- On the April 13 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, MICHAEL SAVAGE said of Media Matters, "They're people who attack me. It's run by a homosexual activist who hates anybody in the media who does not kowtow to the homosexual agenda." Referring to Media Matters CEO and President David Brock, Savage added: "The man who runs it is, in my opinion, a straight-out maniac. He would belong much more happily in the ex-Soviet Union."
- San Francisco radio host and frequent cable news guest MELANIE MORGAN compared Media Matters to the Virginia Tech killer in an April 20 column: "Like that mentally unbalanced and angry gunman at Virginia Tech, they'll methodically march through the domiciles of the conservative movement, targeting the movement's leaders for career elimination."
More from Media Matters for America
Limbaugh claimed Media Matters "fell for" his "liberal" gunman "joke" "hook, line, and sinker"
On the April 23 broadcast of his radio show, Limbaugh claimed, "I was making a joke," when he said on his April 19 broadcast that Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui "had to be a liberal," and "it's a liberal that committed this act," before adding on April 23, "I do believe that it was liberalism that got a hold of this guy and made him hate things, professors and this sort of thing." Limbaugh also lashed out at Media Matters, claiming that he had made the comments about Cho "as a means of illustrating on this show how the words of conservative talk show hosts are twisted and taken out of context," before adding, "And sure enough, Media Matters fell for it hook, line, and sinker. They had it up all over the place."
Limbaugh falsely accused Media Matters of not providing context for his "Obama Osama" comment
On April 20, Limbaugh asserted that Media Matters "takes everything that we say here out of context." The example Limbaugh provided was an incident on his July 11, 2005, broadcast in which he repeatedly referred to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as "Obama Osama" and "Osama Obama." Limbaugh argued that he was just engaging in a "parody because Senator [Edward M.] Kennedy [D-MA] at the National Press Club was asked about Obama and said, "Well, we need to ask Osama about that." In fact, as Media Matters documented at the time, while Limbaugh mentioned Kennedy's gaffe during the broadcast, he also repeatedly referred to Obama as "Osama Obama" or "Obama Osama" in criticizing Obama and Democrats in general.
On Irish TV, O'Reilly called Media Matters "an assassination website" that takes him "out of context"
On April 13, O'Reilly appeared on RTÉ One's The Late Late Show, a talk show based in Dublin, Ireland. During the interview, host Pat Kenny asked O'Reilly about his previous references to the poor as "irresponsible and lazy" and the Iraqi people as "prehistoric." When Kenny said that he found both remarks on Media Matters' website, O'Reilly responded by attacking Media Matters as "an assassination website" and a "far-left propaganda thing." O'Reilly further claimed that he didn't "remember saying" either of the statements pointed out by Kenny and added that Media Matters takes him "out of context." However, Media Matters provided documentation of O'Reilly referring to the poor as "irresponsible and lazy" and the Iraqi people as "prehistoric."
Schlussel responds to Media Matters, Olbermann: Vegans, transsexuals, and "fake Holocaust survivors," oh my
In an April 18 weblog entry, right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel responded to a Media Matters item that highlighted her "speculat[ion]" in an April 16 post (since removed) that Cho Seung-Hui might have been a "Paki" Muslim and part of "a coordinated terrorist attack." As Media Matters pointed out, "Paki" is a disparaging term for a person of Pakistani descent. Schlussel attacked Media Matters, writing: "Media Matters bragged to the Wall Street Journal that it was responsible for taking down Don Imus. I suppose now that Don Imus is gone, they've assigned the vegan lesbian transsexual 'interspecies erotica' devotee they had monitoring the Imus show to monitor my site." She also attacked "nutty, angry" MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, who awarded Schlussel third place in his April 17 "Worst Person in the World" segment for her "Paki" statement. In addition, Schlussel falsely claimed that billionaire philanthropist George Soros "is the funder of Media Matters."
Savage called Media Matters "a gay smear sheet," CEO David Brock "a psychopath"
On April 11, Savage referred to Media Matters as "a gay smear sheet" and called David Brock "a psychopath in my opinion, who hates me." Savage read from an April 14, 2006, Media Matters item, which noted that Savage called the woman who alleged she was raped by Duke University lacrosse team members a "Durham dirtbag" and a "dirty, verminous black stripper," and that he also said, "This is the radical, feminist, lesbian agenda being acted out on our campuses in a witch-hunt manner against these white boys, very much like the socialist communist agenda being acted out on the American stage by the extras called the illegal aliens." After reading his previous comments, Savage stated: "That's me. I am proud to tell you I agree with every word that I said a year ago." Savage claimed that Media Matters "ought to apologize to me" -- presumably because of the April 11 decision to drop the sexual assault charges in the Duke case.
The Bill Moyers documentary on our failed and barren press
Apr. 26, 2007 | If you didn't watch Bill Moyers' documentary last night regarding the joint, coordinated behavior of our government and its media in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, I can't recommend it highly enough. You can watch it here.
For those who have been following these issues, there was no single, specific blockbuster revelation that was not previously known, although Moyers' focus on the superb (and largely ignored) pre-war work of Real Journalists at Knight-Ridder (now at McClatchy) does cast a new light on the profound malfeasance of our most influential media outlets. Most of all, the documentary very powerfully compiles some of the most incriminating facts, and it unapologetically identifies many of the guiltiest and most destructive wrongdoers in our government and in the press.
For that reason, the documentary is -- in one sense -- a very valuable historical account of the corrupt behavior by our dominant political and media institutions which deceived the country into the invasion of Iraq. But on another, more significant level, it illustrates the corruption that continues to propel our political and media culture.
One of the most important points came at the end. The institutional decay which Moyers chronicles is not merely a matter of historical interest. Instead, it continues to shape our mainstream political dialogue every bit as much as it did back in 2002 and 2003. The people who committed the journalistic crimes Moyers so potently documents do not think they are guilty of anything -- ask them and they will tell you -- and as a result, they have not changed their behavior in the slightest.
Just consider that, as Moyers notes, there has been no examination by any television news network of the role played by the American media in enabling the Bush administration and its warmonger propagandists to disseminate pure falsehoods to the American public. People like Eric Boehlert have written books about it, and Moyers has now produced a comprehensive PBS program documenting it. But the national media outlets themselves have virtually ignored this entire story -- arguably the most significant political story of the last decade -- because they do not think there is any story here at all.
The fraud that was manufactured by our government officials and endorsed by our media establishment is one of the great political crimes of the last many decades. Yet those who are responsible for it have not been held accountable in the slightest. Quite the contrary, their media prominence -- as Moyers demonstrates -- has only increased, as culpable propagandists and warmongers such as Charles Krauthammer (now of Time and The Washington Post), Bill Kristol (now of Time), Jonah Goldberg (now of The Los Angeles Times, Peter Beinert (now of Time and The Washington Post), and Tom Friedman (revered by media stars everywhere) have all seen their profiles enhanced greatly in our national media.
And while Judy Miller became the scapegoat for the media's failures, most of the media stars responsible for the worst journalistic abuses -- from Michael Gordon to Tim Russert to Fred Hiatt to most of The Washington Post, to say nothing of the Fox stars and cogs of the right-wing noise machine -- continue merrily along as before, with virtually no recognition of fault and no reduction in their platforms.
Moyers did a superb job of questioning both Tim Russert and Peter Beinart, and both were -- appropriately and enjoyably -- extremely defensive about their behavior. Beinart, along with his good friend and mirror image Jonah Goldberg, participated in one of the most vile -- though not all that unusual -- smear campaigns against a war opponent, Scott Ritter. The smear campaign was necessary precisely because Ritter was one of the very few individuals in this country who (completely unlike Goldberg, Beinart and all of the other faux warrior-experts parading across television screens loyally reciting the Bush line) actually knew what he was talking about when it came to the Iraqi weapons program and its "relationship" to Al Qaeda, and continuously warned (to little effect) about all of the warmongers' false claims about those topics.
But credit is at least due to both Russert and Beinart for appearing on Moyers' program and facing his appropriately confrontational questions. Their willingness to account for their conduct stands in stark contrast to the long list of cowards who still constantly strut around self-lovingly touting their own courage, resolve, Churchillian backbone, and all of their other little self-glorifying platitudes, yet were too afraid to face questioning from a real journalist about all of the fact-free, false propaganda they spewed for years (and continue to spew).
That disgraceful, dishonorable roster of Great Warriors hiding under their beds from Bill Moyers includes Fox's Krauthammer, Fox's Kristol, Fox's Roger Ailes, Bill Safire and Judith Miller. As The Washington Post's own Tom Shales put it:
Among those who declined -- and thus became a part of the story more than they already were -- are Judith Miller of the New York Times, a reporter who became a relentless drumbeater for war; Times pundit William Safire, who'd predicted that Iraqis would welcome Americans as liberators when they marched into Baghdad; columnist Charles Krauthammer, another hawkish columnist who's usually anything but camera-shy; and Fox boss Roger Ailes.People like Bill Kristol and Krauthammer will only go and sit with the likes of Brit Hume and speak only to Fox audiences, so they are never reminded of the literally countless falsehoods they churned out not only to justify the invasion but to profoundly mislead Americans for years about the ongoing occupation. And they both continue to issue one-way decrees from the pages of Time and The Washington Post, where they are never held to account for what they have done.
William Kristol, a conservative columnist who, Moyers says, "led the march to Baghdad behind a battery of Washington microphones . . . has not responded to any of our requests for an interview, but he still shows up on TV as an expert, most often on Fox News."
Moyers' documentary is a superb piece of journalism and makes inescapably clear how profoundly corrupt our dominant political and media institutions were prior to the invasion. But most national "journalists" will simply ignore the whole program (as Digby notes, The New York Times, one of the principal culprits, did not even review it).
They will almost certainly dismiss Moyers as a liberal partisan, not a real journalist, and continue to insist that they are doing a superb and even-handed job. They will continue to revere the most guilty parties responsible for the deceit and destruction of the last six years.
And, worst of all, the sicknesses documented so potently by Moyers will continue to pervade our dominant media and political institutions. Comparing 2002 and now, however, there is a significant difference: as Moyers' documentary illustrates, as does the emergence of political blogs, more and more people are increasingly recognizing how pervasive those deficiencies are, and consequently, are developing multiple alternatives to the rancid governing Beltway system.
-- Glenn Greenwald
Great Moments in Punditry........
by Tom Tommorow
I was planning to mark the fourth anniversary of the start of the war by looking back at some of the more remarkable statements pundits made at the time. But I'm a weekly cartoonist, and this month I just had too many other ideas clamoring for my limited space, so this one stayed on the back burner and never ended up running. So here's a small exclusive for the HuffPo.
In compiling these quotes, I relied heavily on the excellent work of my friends at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, who have been tracking right-wing and corporate bias in the media since long before it ever occurred to anyone to coin a word as ungainly as "blog." I also want to give a shoutout to Glenn Greenwald, who keeps track of these things with a methodical relentlessness reminiscent of the Terminator, except, you know, the one from the sequels, where he's a good guy. And before he becomes governor of California.
There's one other quote that I just didn't have room for, which I'd like to include here. In his column of April 15, 2003, Cal Thomas wrote:
When the Berlin Wall fell and Eastern Europe escaped from the shackles of communism, I wrote that we must not forget the enablers, apologists and other "fellow travelers" who helped sustain communism's grip on a sizable portion of humanity for much of the 20th century. I suggested that a "cultural war crimes tribunal" be convened, at which people from academia, the media, government and the clergy who were wrong in their assessment of communism would be forced to confront their mistakes. While not wishing to deprive anyone of his or her right to be wrong, it wouldn't hurt for these people to be held accountable.
That advice was not taken - but today we are presented with another opportunity in the form of scores of false media prophets who predicted disaster should the U.S. military confront and seek to oust the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein. The purpose of a cultural war crimes tribunal would be to remind the public of journalism's many mistakes, as well as the errors of certain politicians and retired generals, and allow it to properly judge their words the next time they feel the urge to prophesy...
All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent.
On that last paragraph, at least, Cal and I are in agreement.
(Visit the Tom Tomorrow blog at www.thismodernworld.com.)
Probably the most successful kind of internet troll, the kind of troll unaware that it is actually attempting to troll, is the truly stupid person. They attract an immense amount of attention, bringing out all of our inner teachers. We cannot believe they are actually that stupid. We believe that maybe, somehow, if we explain things to them very slowly they will actually have the capacity to learn. But they don't. They are giant honking ignoramuses who don't know anything about anything and likely never will.
Yet we can't resist them, because we are fascinated by their stupidity. Fascinated that they manage to be that profoundly dumb yet still manage to tie their shoes, string complete sentences together, etc.
Petraeus Ex Machina
General David Petraeus went to Capitol Hill Wednesday to brief Congress behind closed doors on the progress of the surge. No word on whether he walked across the Potomac to get there.
But given the glowing terms increasingly desperate Republicans have been using to describe him, I'm sure they wouldn't have been surprised if he had.
He's been lauded as, among other things, "an expert on counter-insurgency" (President Bush), "a determined, resourceful and bold commander" (John McCain), "a superb officer, one of the finest I've ever known" (Dick Cheney), "a student of counterinsurgency warfare" (Orrin Hatch), and "Bush's Grant" (Lindsay Graham).
His name has become a verbal trump card. As soon as you mention Petraeus, it's game over. Why continue talking? He's a one-man cavalry, riding to the rescue armed with a Princeton PhD and a successful stint in Mosul. The pro-war crowd's olive drab savior -- able to confer military absolution on America's greatest foreign policy disaster with the wave of his hand.
These bold pronouncements -- and attendant irrational expectations -- are almost always buttressed by the fact that, as we have been told again and again, "General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency." Literally.
Which he did, spending the last year overseeing the preparation of FM 3-24, the Army's newly-revised counterinsurgency field manual.
The trouble is, most of those touting his authorship have clearly never read his magnum opus. Or perhaps they have, didn't like the plotline, and decided to ignore or alter the contents to fit their political agenda. (This, of course, is standard operating procedure for the Bushies. Just this week, the president suggested the 2006 elections offered a mandate for his policy of escalating the war on Iraq, and Dick Cheney used the findings of the Iraq Study Group to slam Harry Reid, conveniently skipping over the fact that the ISG recommended a troop withdrawal timetable similar to the Democrats'.)
Now they are willfully ignoring Petraeus' blueprint for success -- and acting like they are following it to a tee. His newly-minted counterinsurgency approach calls for a ratio of 25 soldiers per 1,000 residents -- which would require 120,000 soldiers to provide the proper security for Baghdad, and roughly three times that amount for all of Iraq. But let's just focus on the 120,000 soldiers that, according to the manual written by Petraeus -- "the expert on counterinsurgency," remember? -- are needed to secure Baghdad. Simply put: we're not even close to that number. And never will be. Even after all of the planned 21,500 additional troops are sent to the embattled capitol, there will still only be 85,000 security forces there -- and that includes significant numbers of Iraqi security forces, whose readiness and loyalty have repeatedly proven to be unreliable at best.
So Petraeus says it will take 120,000 soldiers to succeed. Instead, he's being asked to do it on the cheap -- and pretend that he's getting what he needs. And this is just in terms of troops. Petraeus' manual also says that a muscular military presence is just 20 percent of what is needed for a counterinsurgency effort to succeed -- the other 80 consists of establishing political and economic reform, two areas in which the United States is also failing miserably.
Despite this, Petraeus, to his eternal discredit, is going along with the charade -- probably crossing his fingers behind his back -- and promising to let us know how it's really going sometime this summer. But we don't need to wait until sometime this summer. We can see the news, and count the bodies, and know for ourselves that this is all just another case of prolonging the inevitable, of asking more young men and women to die for a lost cause. For the first time since the war began, we've just had five straight months with 80 or more U.S. fatalities.
In ancient Greek dramas, an apparently insoluble crisis was sometimes resolved by the intervention of a god, brought on stage by an elaborate piece of equipment. This contrived resolution was known as a deus ex machina ("god from a machine").
In this present insoluble crisis, defenders of the war like to imagine Gen. Petraeus flying in on a giant Blackhawk suddenly transforming chaos into order. A Petraeus ex machina.
But this is no ancient Greek drama. It is an all-too-real American tragedy. And the sooner the White House stops waiting for a play-acting god to intervene, the sooner we can do the right thing and bring our troops home.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Bill Moyers’ new documentary, Buying the War, airs tonight on PBS at 9pm. The Washington Post’s Tom Shales calls it “one of the most gripping and important pieces of broadcast journalism so far this year, but it’s as disheartening as it is compelling.”
Moyers and producer Kathleen Hughes use alarming evidence and an array of respected journalists to make the case that, in the rage that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the media abandoned their role as watchdog and became a lapdog instead.
Exhibit A — the first event recalled in this report — is a news conference by President Bush on March 6, 2003, which Moyers says is two weeks before Bush “will order America to war.” The press conference was a sham, with Bush calling only on “friendly” reporters who’d ask friendly questions. The corker was this scorching investigative query: “Mr. President, how is your faith guiding you?”
Watch a preview:
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Rush Limbaugh Claims VT Shooter Was a Liberal. Oh Really?
George McGovern: Bush and Cheney Worse Than Nixon.
The 1972 presidential nominee strikes back at the vice president for comparing today's Democrats to the McGovern platform.
Cheney said that today's Democrats have adopted my platform from the 1972 presidential race and that, in doing so, they will raise taxes. But my platform offered a balanced budget. I proposed nothing new without a carefully defined way of paying for it. By contrast, Cheney and his team have run the national debt to an all-time high.
He also said that the McGovern way is to surrender in Iraq and leave the U.S. exposed to new dangers. The truth is that I oppose the Iraq war, just as I opposed the Vietnam War, because these two conflicts have weakened the U.S. and diminished our standing in the world and our national security.
In the war of my youth, World War II, I volunteered for military service at the age of 19 and flew 35 combat missions, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. By contrast, in the war of his youth, the Vietnam War, Cheney got five deferments and has never seen a day of combat — a record matched by President Bush.
Cheney charged that today's Democrats don't appreciate the terrorist danger when they move to end U.S. involvement in the Iraq war. The fact is that Bush and Cheney misled the public when they implied that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks. That was the work of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda team. Cheney and Bush blew the effort to trap Bin Laden in Afghanistan by their sluggish and inept response after the 9/11 attacks.
They then foolishly sent U.S. forces into Iraq against the advice and experience of such knowledgeable men as former President George H.W. Bush, his secretary of State, James A. Baker III, and his national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft.
Just as the Bush administration mistakenly asserted Iraq's involvement in the 9/11 attacks, it also falsely contended that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. When former Ambassador Joseph Wilson exploded the myth that Iraq attempted to obtain nuclear materials from Niger, Cheney's top aide and other Bush officials leaked to the media that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent (knowingly revealing the identity of a covert agent is illegal).
In attacking my positions in 1972 as representative of "that old party of the early 1970s," Cheney seems oblivious to the realities of that time. Does he remember that the Democratic Party, with me in the lead, reformed the presidential nomination process to ensure that women, young people and minorities would be represented fairly? The so-called McGovern reform rules are still in effect and, indeed, have been largely copied by the Republicans.
The Democrats' 1972 platform was also in the forefront in pushing for affordable healthcare, full employment with better wages, a stronger environmental and energy effort, support for education at every level and a foreign policy with less confrontation and belligerence and more cooperation and conciliation.
Cheney also still has his eyes closed to the folly of the Vietnam War, in which 58,000 young Americans and more than 2 million Vietnamese died. Vietnam was no threat to the United States.
On one point I do agree with Cheney: Today's Democrats are taking positions on the Iraq war similar to the views I held toward the Vietnam War. But that is all to the good.
The war in Iraq has greatly increased the terrorist danger. There was little or no terrorism, insurgency or civil war in Iraq before Bush and Cheney took us into war there five years ago. Now Iraq has become a breeding ground of terrorism, a bloody insurgency against our troops and a civil war.
Beyond the deaths of more than 3,100 young Americans and an estimated 600,000 Iraqis, we have spent nearly $500 billion on the war, which has dragged on longer than World War II.
The Democrats are right. Let's bring our troops home from this hopeless war.
There is one more point about 1972 for Cheney's consideration. After winning 11 state primaries in a field of 16 contenders, I won the Democratic presidential nomination. I then lost the general election to President Nixon. Indeed, the entrenched incumbent president, with a campaign budget 10 times the size of mine, the power of the White House behind him and a highly negative and unethical campaign, defeated me overwhelmingly. But lest Cheney has forgotten, a few months after the election, investigations by the Senate and an impeachment proceeding in the House forced Nixon to become the only president in American history to resign the presidency in disgrace.
Who was the real loser of '72?
THE VICE PRESIDENT spoke with contempt of my '72 campaign, but he might do well to recall that I began that effort with these words: "I make one pledge above all others — to seek and speak the truth." We made some costly tactical errors after winning the nomination, but I never broke my pledge to speak the truth. That is why I have never felt like a loser since 1972. In contrast, Cheney and Bush have repeatedly lied to the American people.
It is my firm belief that the Cheney-Bush team has committed offenses that are worse than those that drove Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew and Atty. Gen. John Mitchell from office after 1972. Indeed, as their repeated violations of the Constitution and federal statutes, as well as their repudiation of international law, come under increased consideration, I expect to see Cheney and Bush forced to resign their offices before 2008 is over.
Aside from a growing list of impeachable offenses, the vice president has demonstrated his ignorance of foreign policy by attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria. Apparently he thinks it is wrong to visit important Middle East states that sometimes disagree with us. Isn't it generally agreed that Nixon's greatest achievement was talking to the Chinese Communist leaders, which opened the door to that nation? And wasn't President Reagan's greatest achievement talking with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev until the two men worked out an end to the Cold War? Does Cheney believe that it's better to go to war rather than talk with countries with which we have differences?
We, of course, already know that when Cheney endorses a war, he exempts himself from participation. On second thought, maybe it's wise to keep Cheney off the battlefield — he might end up shooting his comrades rather than the enemy.
On a more serious note, instead of listening to the foolishness of the neoconservative ideologues, the Cheney-Bush team might better heed the words of a real conservative, Edmund Burke: "A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood."
Monday, April 23, 2007
A roundup of Gonzo's Testimony last week.....
But let's be fair. It wasn't all bad.
"The attorney general went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer _ honestly answer _ in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job" -- George W. Bush.
The right-wing is rallying around World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz by claiming that his critics disagreed with his anti-corruption agenda. Today, American Enterprise Institute scholar Kevin Hassett writes, “Wolfowitz’s One Sin Was Waging War on Corruption.”This weekend on Bloomberg Television, conservative pundit Robert Novak went further, saying it was “a left-wing conspiracy to get rid of him.” Novak argued that critics simply want to replace an American with a European. He then chided columnist Margaret Carlson, telling her, “I bet you you want to get the Americans out too, so your European buddies can be as corrupt as they wanna be.”
Countering public corruption is a serious issue that unites progressives and conservatives. Fighting it requires moral, competent leaders — qualities which Wolfowitz lacks.
The question hanging over Wolfowitz’s head is whether a man who has made countering public corruption his top agenda item can continue effectively in his post when it has been revealed that he engaged in the type of act he is seeking to end. “Your credibility as a leader in the fight against corruption…is certainly harmed if there’s a perception” of actions inconsistent with good governance, said Frank Vogl, cofounder of the watchdog group Transparency International.
This weekend, a group of 42 former top World Bank executives wrote:
For the Bank to succeed, it must be effective, especially on matters of good governance which Mr. Wolfowitz rightly emphasized as crucial to poverty reduction. What staff objected to was not the principle — which they applauded. Rather it was that the policy was implemented with no consultation, and little transparency or apparent consistency.
Nobody faults Wolfowitz for trying to fight corruption. They have issues with him engaging in it.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Injured Troops Struggle to Get Health Careby
All Things Considered, April 20, 2007 · When service members are forced to leave the military by war injuries or illness, they face a complex system for getting health and disability benefits. Sometimes, health care gets cut off when new veterans find they need it most. Some retired soldiers and their families say they are worried that the Pentagon won't spend enough money to give the injured the care they deserve.
'10 Percent Disabled'
Tim Ngo almost died in a grenade attack in Iraq. He sustained a serious head injury; surgeons had to cut out part of his skull. At Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., he learned to walk and talk again.
When he got back home to Minnesota, he wore a white plastic helmet to protect the thinned-out patches of his skull. People on the street snickered, so Ngo's mother took a black marker and wrote on the helmet: U.S. ARMY, BACK FROM IRAQ. On this much, everyone agrees.
But here is the part that is in dispute: The Army says Tim Ngo is only 10 percent disabled.
"I was hoping I would get at least 50 or 60 or 70 percent," Ngo says. "But they said, 'Yeah, you're only going to get 10 percent'... And I was pretty outraged."
When a service member is retired for medical reasons, the military's disability rating makes a difference. If Ngo had been rated 30 percent disabled or higher, he would have gotten a monthly disability check instead of a small severance check. He also would have stayed in the military's health-care system.
Instead, Ngo enrolled with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Typically, there's a waiting period for the VA.
In October, while he was uninsured, Ngo had a seizure, caused by his war injury. He remembers being outside and blacking out; he fell to the ground on the driveway.
"My girlfriend was freaking out because she didn't know what to do," Ngo says. "She didn't know if I was going to die because I had hit the wrong side of my head."
An ambulance took Ngo to the nearest emergency room for treatment. It cost him $10,000. Ngo says that today, the bills for the incident are still unresolved.
Since that day, Ngo has gotten health coverage through the VA. Earlier this month, the VA said it would pick up his leftover bills from the emergency room.
The VA has been more generous than the Army all around. It rated Ngo as 100 percent disabled compared with the Army's 10 percent rating.
The VA gives him a monthly disability check, which helps with his finances; his head injury and post-traumatic stress disorder have prevented Ngo from holding on to even a simple job since he returned home.
Ngo's mother, Hong Wyberg, says the Army gives soldiers such as her son low disability ratings to save money.
"I don't fully think they were prepared for the length of time this war is going to last," Wyberg says. "They had no idea of how many injuries or the type of injuries that were going to come out of this."
Michael Parker retired from the Army in October, and he thinks Wyberg's suspicion is correct.
"The more I looked into it, I realized that this system does not have the soldier's back at all," says Parker.
Parker was a lieutenant colonel when he retired last year. Today, he has a disabling condition similar to rheumatoid arthritis. Parker was able to get the Pentagon's lifelong health coverage for himself and his family; he had been in the military long enough — for at least 20 years.
But Parker saw that a lot of other soldiers weren't as lucky, and it inspired him to become an advocate.
"I started posting questions and concerns and opinions on various blogs," he says, "and it just kind of mushroomed from there."
Parker started digging through Pentagon data, and the numbers he found shocked him. He learned that the Pentagon is giving fewer veterans disability benefits today than it was before the Iraq war — despite the fact that thousands of soldiers are leaving the military with serious injuries.
"It went from 102,000 and change in 2001... and now it's down to 89,500," says Parker. "It's counterintuitive. Why are the number of disability retirees shrinking during wartime?"
A 'Cost-Saving Device'?
Retired Army Lt. Gen. James Terry Scott heads a commission, set up by Congress, to study veterans' disability benefits. At a Senate hearing last week, Scott said that his commission had compared the way the Pentagon and the VA rated the same soldiers.
"The Department of Defense records were matched with VA records on 2.6 million veterans receiving disability compensation," Scott said. "Those rated zero, 10 or 20 percent [disabled] by the Department of Defense were rated in the 30 to 100 percent range by VA more than half the time."
In other words, troops often get small disability checks and no military health care when rated by the Pentagon's disability boards. But when they go to a VA board — with the same injuries — they get much more.
Scott said one reason is that the military's ratings determine whether a person is fit for duty, whereas the VA looks at all conditions that create health problems for a veteran. So the VA ends up rating more disabilities per retired service member.
But Scott said another reason may be that the Pentagon wants to keep down its costs.
"It is also apparent that the Department of Defense has a strong incentive to rate less than 30 percent, so that only severance pay is awarded," Scott said.
These numbers yielded some tough questions for Pentagon officials at the Senate hearing, such as Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.
"How do you respond to [the] assertion [that] the Department of Defense reduces disability ratings as a cost-savings device?" asked Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).
"I can tell you... there's no incentive to do that, senator," England replied. "I mean, maybe that's read into that. But I can tell you, we try to treat people fairly and accurately. And so there's certainly no incentive."
Pentagon officials conceded that the disability system doesn't work as well as it should. They admitted it is too bureaucratic and too often adversarial. They said they would listen to suggestions for change.
Navigating the System
But change in the future will come too late for many soldiers.
April Croft was serving in Afghanistan when she was diagnosed with leukemia. She was treated for a year at Walter Reed. The cancer seemed to go into remission and she was sent home.
"They told her that she was only eligible for a 10 percent rating with the illness of leukemia," says her husband, Mark Croft. "She was livid. She's actually contested that situation about three times already."
The Army never increased its 10 percent rating, but the VA rated her 100 percent disabled.
Croft spoke from his wife's room in a VA hospital in Seattle, where she recently underwent a bone-marrow transplant.
"The VA originally gave her 50 percent and upped it to 100 percent once... she got sicker," Mark Croft explains.
The VA provided the life-saving operation April Croft needed, but the low rating from the Army still mattered: The VA only covers veterans, not their families. It is the military health-care system that will insure an entire family — but only if the vet has a disability rating of 30 percent or more. April Croft has two young children, who are living with their grandparents in California.
Her kids eventually did get military health care — but only recently, after their mother married Mark, who is still in the Army. Mark and April wed in Reno in March. Afterward, he was given leave from the Army. Instead of taking off for a honeymoon, the newlywed couple drove to Seattle and checked into the hospital.
It's the kind of complicated arrangement that many veterans must make to navigate the military's complicated disability system