I joined a friend’s “Facebook” page. At least I thought that’s what I was doing. Suddenly, my inbox was being filled with notices of messages left by friends of friends of friends.
I received one message from a woman who was a friend in college which read simply, “It’s great to make contact with you again!” That’s it. That’s all it said. How is that making “contact?”
In one instance, I found out that a person apparently was deceiving others in an atrocious way, yet I could not say a word. This is a secret I’ll have to carry to my grave. Downright spooky.
I couldn’t get off Facebook fast enough, but couldn’t figure out how to “unjoin.” I finally called a friend who logged on for me and disengaged me from the worrisome site.
Not surprisingly a New York Times headline caught my eye: “Facebook Exodus.” Writer Virginia Heffernan explores the many reasons folks are bailing out of the social networking experience of Facebook. There are many interesting direct quotes from former members.
From a sociological standpoint, this is pretty fascinating stuff.
In the end, writer Heffernan asks:
“Is Facebook doomed to someday become an online ghost town, run by zombie users who never update their pages and packs of marketers picking at the corpses of social circles they once hoped to exploit? Sad, if so. Though maybe fated, like the demise of a college clique.”
Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail” talks about a $2.95 “tall, decaf cappuccino” giving “people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are … an absolutely defining sense of self.”
I think this is probably true of these online communication shortcuts as well.
“Facebook Exodus” is brief enough and a fascinating read worth your time.
Of course, that’s my opinion, but it’s an opinion based on years of taking the measure of the man.
This is the man who brought the neocons’ dream into the White House and led it to fruition in Iraq.
During the eight years of the Bush administration, we learned of one breaking scandal after another with names like Valerie Plame Wilson, Abu Ghraib, Attorneygate, Halliburton/KBR and numerous others which led eventually, sometimes circuitously, to the vice president’s office.
This is a man who can go on Fox News this morning and brush off the atrocities of his administration by accusing any investigation into them of being simply “politically motivated.”
The CNN Wire (LINK) has just reported Fox News’ viewers got a dose of the smarmy veep who won’t go away defending once more “enhanced interrogation techniques” – a term weak-kneed news organizations prefer to calling torture “torture.”
“The attorney general’s decision to review waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques is politically motivated, former Vice President Dick Cheney said in remarks broadcast Sunday.
“Cheney told FOX News Sunday in an interview conducted Friday that he opposed Attorney General Eric Holder asking a former prosecutor to review CIA interrogations of high-profile terrorism suspects outlined in reports released last week.
“Cheney made clear he believes President Barack Obama directed Holder to launch the review, due to pressure from left-wing Democrats. He called it a bad move that would undermine the willingness of CIA operatives to carry out necessary operations to protect the country. ‘I think it’s a terrible decision,’ Cheney said, later adding: ‘It’s clearly a political move. There’s no other rationale for why they’re doing this.’ “
No other rationale for why they’re doing this?
Well, that’s one way to cover your ass.
I suspect the public at large has no idea what “techniques” have come to light in recent weeks as various reports have been released.
The proof of valuable information gleaned at the hands of torturers – something Cheney has insisted the reports would reveal – has not emerged.
But, let’s move beyond the “deserving victims” argument some would make concerning suspected terrorists – with emphasis on the word “suspected.”.
The atrocities revealed in recent reports say to the world:
“This is the United States of America. This is what we’ve become. This is who we are.”
Army field manuals and Geneva Convention be damned.
I am not at all happy with the new American image. Are you?
What follows, in my opinion, is the most informed argument for the preservation of real news – facts, not opinion – made today. It very well might constitute the last stronghold of real news in this country. And, it is as impassioned a plea as John Milton made for a free press in “Aeropagitica.”
I can make it no clearer than this: this is a post which demands your attention and your time. Arguably, it will be the most important information you will find online today, or any day.
Two eseential elements of this post are an NPR interview, available to you on video or transcript, and the Chapter One excerpt from the featured book.
The post will be here at the top of DemWit. Come back to it, if you must, but you will not want to miss any part of it.
If factual news feeds democracy, there is today a very great threat that our democracy is in trouble.
Enlighten yourself on all aspects of that fact presented here.
Thank you for reading and thinking for yourself.
B. J. Trotter
“After reporting for small newspapers, a big metro paper, radio, TV, books, magazines, and the Internet, Alex S. Jones fears that the kind of news he believes in is in trouble.”
-Terry Gross, FRESH AIR, National Public Radio, 18 August 2009.
My recent post, “News at Noon,” focused on my concern over my own news dearth – and that of the United States.
I am very grateful to my friend Katherine for calling my attention to a new book:
Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy, Alex S. Jones, Oxford University Press, 2009.
From my research – all 37 pages of notes - it is apparent this book will be a bestseller. It is at once a book which will be snapped up by news professionals, will grace the college classroom and will enthrall consumers of news.
The top-rated reader review on amazon.com (LINK) had this to say:
“But, most of all, Losing the News is for people who love good books. Written by a master storyteller, the prose is gorgeous. Jones' style empowers the reader to enjoy the book from his or her unique experience.”
Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy enlightens the reader on what constitutes “accountability news,” which is essential to a democracy, and how everything else perceived as “news” evolves from that central core of news.
Let me hurriedly point out that the author is NOT radio host and right-wing conspiracy nutcase Alex Jones.
Alex S. Jones is a Pultizer Prize-winning reporter and of the fourth generation of a Tennessee publishing family – its newspaper begun in 1916 and pioneered by his great-grandmother and his grandmother. This from National Public Radio (NPR):
“Alex S. Jones has been the host of NPR's On The Media, and host and executive editor of PBS's Media Matters. He is the director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.”
THE NPR INTERVIEW:
This is one of the two essential elements of this post - as plain and as riveting a discussion as you will ever hear about what constitutes “news” in the United States today.
“Now, you said that you were brought up to believe in fairness, objectivity and accuracy. How do you see that approach to journalism changing as Web sites, blogs and cable news channels take on a bigger role, and opinion journalism becomes much more popular?”
- Terry Gross, host of FRESH AIR, NPR, questions Jones.
Mr. Gross’ interview with Alex S. Jones on “Losing the News and Why It Matters:”
Watch the video HERE.
Read the transcript HERE.
FROM CHAPTER ONE, “THE IRON CORE:”
The opening words of Jones’ book are the second essential part of this post, for herein lies – and I’m not exaggerating – both the threat to our democracy and the opportunity for informed citizens to preserve it.
"Unfortunately, that meant we had to offer buyouts to some very talented people."
— Brian Kelley, editor of U.S. News & World Report, quoted by Washington.com after the magazine eliminated its investigative unit for economic reasons.
Imagine a sphere of pitted iron, grey and imperfect like a large cannonball. Think of this dense, heavy ball as the total mass of each day's serious reported news, the iron core of information that is at the center of a functioning democracy. This iron core is big and unwieldy, reflecting each day's combined output of all the professional journalism done by news organizations — newspapers, radio and television news, news services such as the Associated Press and Reuters, and a few magazines. Some of its content is now created by new media, nonprofits, and even, occasionally, the supermarket tabloids, but the overwhelming majority still comes from the traditional news media.
This iron core does not include Paris Hilton's latest escapade or an account of the Yankees game or the U.S. Open. It has no comics or crossword puzzle. No ads. It has no stories of puppies or weekend getaways or recipes for cooking great chili. Nor does it include advice on buying real estate, investing in an IRA, movie reviews, or diet advice. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. Indeed, pleasant and diverting stories are far more appealing to most people than the contents of the core, which some find grim, boring, or riddled with bias.
It has no editorials and does not include the opinions of columnists or op-ed writers or political bloggers. These things are derived from the core. They are made possible because there is a core. Their point of departure is almost always information gleaned from the reporting that gives the core its weight, and they serve to spread awareness of the information that is in the core, to analyze it and interpret it and challenge it. Opinion writers pick and choose among what the core provides to find facts that will further an argument or advance a policy agenda. But they are outside the core, because they almost always offer commentary and personal observation, not original reporting.
Inside the core is news from abroad, from coverage of the war in Iraq to articles describing the effort to save national parks in Mozambique. There is news of politics, from the White House to the mayor's office. There is an account of a public hearing on a proposal to build new ball fields and an explanation of a regional zoning concept that might affect property values. There is policy news about Medicare reform and science news about global warming. There is news of business, both innovation and scandal, and even sporting news of such things as the abuse of steroids. An account of the battle within the local school board about dress codes is there, along with the debate in the state legislature over whether intelligent design should be taught as science. The iron sphere is given extra weight by investigative reports ranging from revelations that prisoners at the county jail are being used to paint the sheriff's house to the disclosure that the government is tapping phones without warrants as part of the war on terror.
What goes into this cannonball is the daily aggregation of what is sometimes called "accountability news," because it is the form of news whose purpose is to hold government and those with power accountable. This is fact-based news, sometimes called "news of verification" as opposed to the "news of assertion" that is mostly on display these days in prime time on cable news channels and in blogs.
Traditional journalists have long believed that this form of fact-based accountability news is the essential food supply of democracy and that without enough of this healthy nourishment, democracy will weaken, sicken, or even fail.
For more than a century, this core of reported news has been the starting place for a raucous national conversation about who we are as a people and a country. Just as the Earth is surrounded by a blanket of atmosphere, so too is this core enveloped by a thick layer of talk and opinion. The conversation — which seems more like an endless family squabble — takes place on editorial pages and in letters to the editor, in opinion columns and on Sunday morning talk shows, on The O'Reilly Factor and the radio programs of Rush Limbaugh and Don Imus, in blogs on the Internet and press releases, over dining-room tables, beside water coolers and in barrooms, in political cartoons and on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
And in-jokes. In his first ten years as host of The Tonight Show, Jay Leno told over 18,000 political jokes, almost 4,000 of them about Bill Clinton. But for each of Leno's political jokes, the starting point was something from the core. The core also feeds the entertainment industry, which has its own powerful voice in the national conversation. The quasi-news programs on television, such as Today and 20/20, look to the core for ideas and inspiration. Some pure entertainment programs, such as The West Wing, come directly from the core, and even the silliest of sitcoms and nastiest of hip-hop lyrics are often linked to it in some murky way. No matter where the conversation about public affairs takes place, it is almost always an outgrowth of that daily iron cannonball.
The biggest worry of those concerned about news is that this iron core is in jeopardy, largely because of the troubles plaguing the newspaper business. It is the nation's newspapers that provide the vast majority of iron core news. My own estimate is that 85 percent of professionally reported accountability news comes from newspapers, but I have heard guesses from credible sources that go as high as 95 percent. While people may think they get their news from television or the Web, when it comes to this kind of news, it is almost always newspapers that have done the actual reporting. Everything else is usually just a delivery system, and while resources for television news have plunged and news on commercial radio has all but disappeared, the real impact on iron core news has been from the economic ravaging of newspapers.
Until now, the iron core of news has been somewhat sheltered by an economic model that was able to provide extra resources beyond what readers — and advertisers — would financially support. This kind of news is expensive to produce, especially investigative reporting. And there are indications that a lot of people aren't really interested. In the media economy of the future, cold metrics will largely determine what is spent on news. The size and quality of the iron core will be a direct reflection of what the audience for it will economically support. Demand will rule, and that may well mean that, as a nation, we will be losing a lot of news. There will be a bounty of talk — the news of assertion — but serious news, reported by professional journalists, is running scared. –End of excerpt-
APATHY AND TEARS
"For over a century," Jones writes, "Americans have had as a birthright a remarkably good — though far from perfect — core of reported news that is as essential to our freedom as the Constitution itself. But the times we live in trigger an unsettling cascade of questions about journalism and news."
I saw a comment on a blog which read:
“THUMP …THUMP ... THUMP. That’s the sound of my head hitting the keyboard.”
Very apropos to my feelings about the absolute apathy which exists in this country over an issue of such extreme importance to the very existence of our democracy.
Just makes you want to cry.
- Sen. Jack S. Phogbound, “L’il Abner.”
"Seniors may perceive that they are being hurt because there is no COLA, but they are, in fact, not getting hurt. Cngress has to be able to tell people they are not getting everything they want."
- Andrew G. Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.
'Bout time the Associate Press got around to the story below. I read it on the Social Security and AARP sites months ago.
I even wrote a post about it on 4 May 2009, “Uppleasant surprise.”
The headline below is misleading: Social Security checks won't go up, but they won't SHRINK from no "cost of living adjustment" (COLA). They will stay the same.
For clarification, you will find mention in the AP article this term: “hold-harmless provision.” That simply means Medicare Part B premiums – which cover doctors, outpatient services and medical supplies - cannot go up if Social Security checks do not increase. The provision applies ONLY to persons who have their premiums deducted from their SS checks.
This then will hurt the poor.
According to AARP (LINK):
“About 7.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who don’t have their Part B premiums deducted from their Social Security checks are those whose premiums are paid for by their state Medicaid program. These low-income people are not affected—they still won’t pay the premiums themselves.
“BUT, the states would have to pick up the tab for the higher premiums. This could affect the NUMBER of people covered by Medicaid if state governments, already strapped by falling revenue, cut back on services, consumer advocates say.”
This will throw many more Americans onto the rolls of uninsured.
On a personal level, that means I might lose my Part B protection paid by the state of South Carolina. Concerned? Sure I am. I only qualified for this program two years ago and could not have had cataract surgery without it. I care about so many others who might be affected.
And, many sources are suggesting this is a prelude to cutting out the COLA permanently.
As my mother always said, "The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer."
THE AP ARTICLE:
Because this issue is important and is going to heat up in another month or so – when Social Security trustees officially announce there will be no COLA - I am posting the AP article (LINK), in accordance with my sidebars’s “Fair Use Notice.” I hope you will share the information in this post with older Americans and those who are disabled.
Social Security Payments to Shrink in 2010
By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, The Associated Press
August 23, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) - Millions of older people face shrinking Social Security checks next year, the first time in a generation that payments would not rise.
The trustees who oversee Social Security are projecting there won't be a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the next two years. That hasn't happened since automatic increases were adopted in 1975.
By law, Social Security benefits cannot go down. Nevertheless, monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to go up slightly.
"I will promise you, they count on that COLA," said Barbara Kennelly, a former Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut who now heads the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. "To some people, it might not be a big deal. But to seniors, especially with their health care costs, it is a big deal."
Cost of living adjustments are pegged to inflation, which has been negative this year, largely because energy prices are below 2008 levels.
Advocates say older people still face higher prices because they spend a disproportionate amount of their income on health care, where costs rise faster than inflation. Many also have suffered from declining home values and shrinking stock portfolios just as they are relying on those assets for income.
"For many elderly, they don't feel that inflation is low because their expenses are still going up," said David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP. "Anyone who has savings and investments has seen some serious losses."
About 50 million retired and disabled Americans receive Social Security benefits. The average monthly benefit for retirees is $1,153 this year. All beneficiaries received a 5.8 percent increase in January, the largest since 1982.
More than 32 million people are in the Medicare prescription drug program. Average monthly premiums are set to go from $28 this year to $30 next year, though they vary by plan. About 6 million people in the program have premiums deducted from their monthly Social Security payments, according to the Social Security Administration.
Millions of people with Medicare Part B coverage for doctors' visits also have their premiums deducted from Social Security payments. Part B premiums are expected to rise as well. But under the law, the increase cannot be larger than the increase in Social Security benefits for most recipients.
There is no such hold-harmless provision for drug premiums.
Kennelly's group wants Congress to increase Social Security benefits next year, even though the formula doesn't call for it. She would like to see either a 1 percent increase in monthly payments or a one-time payment of $150.
The cost of a one-time payment, a little less than $8 billion, could be covered by increasing the amount of income subjected to Social Security taxes, Kennelly said. Workers only pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,800 of income, a limit that rises each year with the average national wage.
But the limit only increases if monthly benefits increase.
Critics argue that Social Security recipients shouldn't get an increase when inflation is negative. They note that recipients got a big increase in January - after energy prices had started to fall. (BJ NOTE: See my question at the end of post.)
They also note that Social Security recipients received one-time $250 payments in the spring as part of the government's economic stimulus package.
"Seniors may perceive that they are being hurt because there is no COLA, but they are in fact not getting hurt," said Andrew G. Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. "Congress has to be able to tell people they are not getting everything they want."
Social Security is also facing long-term financial problems. The retirement program is projected to start paying out more money than it receives in 2016. Without changes, the retirement fund will be depleted in 2037, according to the Social Security trustees' annual report this year.
President Barack Obama has said he would like to tackle Social Security next year, after Congress finishes work on health care, climate change and new financial regulations.
Lawmakers are preoccupied by health care, making it difficult to address other tough issues. Advocates for older people hope their efforts will get a boost in October, when the Social Security Administration officially announces that there will not be an increase in benefits next year.
"I think a lot of seniors do not know what's coming down the pike, and I believe that when they hear that, they're going to be upset," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who is working on a proposal for one-time payments for Social Security recipients.
"It is my view that seniors are going to need help this year, and it would not be acceptable for Congress to simply turn its back," he said.
OK, you economists, help me out here. Economics is not my long suit. It’s the only class in college I fell asleep in.
The COLA raise is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and is traditionally announced early in the fourth quarter of the year.
I have read that COLA is based on the “core rate” of the CPI, which excludes “volatile items” – the price of food and energy – and I am attempting to determine if this is true.
Here’s my question: how can the COLA be determined in May of 2009 for the year 2010, and projected for the next two years on a Consumer Price Index that is only calculated from month to month? For example, how could Social Security trustees know in May whether gasoline prices would soar as they did last September? How can they know the CPI a full year ahead of time?
What is this, crystal ball economics?
At the time I initially wrote about the arrest of Greenville, S.C., businessman John Gilbert Ludwig in the Maserati crash which killed a man, I reported Burgess’ arrest. See my post of 4 May 2009: LINK
In the newspaper account linked below, arresting officers’ testimony was very explicit about sexual innuendos, but Burgess claimed he was at the park to work on his book and “eat a Happy Meal.”
According to local reports, Burgess’ attorney Fletcher Smith ignored the homosexual aspects of the testimony and argued that a city cannot have a law which targets one group of its citizens. He further argued that city law is too vague in defining “immoral purposes.” Smith said the verdict shows Anderson “is ready to operate in the 21st Century.”
The jury delivered its verdict after 20 minutes of deliberation.
DON'T MISS: “Former school superintendent found not guilty of morals charge,” Liz Carey, Anderson Independent-Mail, 21 August 2009: LINK
ATTENTION NEW VISITORS: Welcome to DemWit. I hope you will take 30 minutes this weekend to read the very important post from yesterday HERE. It might just blow your mind! At the very least, you will be enlightened. Thanks, BJ
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Or, for that matter, slap some folks into reality!
Seven years ago, I was telling everyone, “There is a PATTERN to these terror alerts.”
More than two years ago on my archived blog, “I See My Dreams,” I gave my readers an opportunity to examine fully what I considered PROOF of this pattern.
I honestly don’t think anyone paid attention. They saw the length of the post and took off.
I’m sorry, I don’t undertand; don’t people read any more? I heard Tom Brokaw say if something is more than two paragraphs long on the Internet, no one will read it.
Well, stay stupid or get smart!
Maybe, now you’d like to take the advice of the 2007 post’s title, “Read or ignore, it’s your country!” - and spend a half hour getting to know what the hell is going on in it.
Maybe the next time the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, you’ll see it coming!
Here is the post AGAIN in its entirety.
Read or ignore, it's your country!
(READ TIME: 30 MINUTES)
“If this week‘s alleged JFK terror plot teaches us anything, it is that fear, like fire, can spread only when it is given plenty of air.” – Keith Olbermann, MSNBC
Some five years ago, I posted a message on a grassroots forum that went something like this: “Has anyone noticed a PATTERN of bad news for the Bush administration followed by terror alerts and arrests?”
Not long after that I began to see mention of such a pattern on various trusted Web sites.
So, are these terror alerts and arrests real or red herrings? Are they believable or bogus?
If, as the pattern suggests, they are products of some creative propaganda genius, they would make even Joseph Goebbels proud.
Or, are they just products of paranoia generated by distrust of a president and an administration who lied to take us to war in Iraq? For lie they did, time and again.
Keith Olbermann, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” MSNBC, has been tracking this PATTERN, and on Monday night he updated his list titled “THE NEXUS OF POLITICS AND TERROR.”
Olbermann’s list is comprised of 13 separate incidents linking such terror news to other events. I believe there might be more.
But, I cannot, in any way, improve upon Mr. Olbermann’s work, and so I post it here for your enlightenment.
This post is long, and I plan to leave it here at the top of my blog for a couple of weeks. It’s that important. You can copy and paste it to a Microsoft Word document on your computer to read at your leisure and to keep for future reference.
You can read it or ignore it. It’s your country, your liberties and your children's future!
THE NEXUS OF POLITICS AND TERROR
KEITH OLBERMANN: The abstract hypothetical terror plot at JFK. It sounds ominous, until you ask the experts. Blow up part of a jet fuel pipeline, and you still stand zero chance of blowing up the airport.
VIDEO: UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable.
OLBERMANN: Yes, well, so would me blowing up the moon with Mentos and a liter of Coca-Cola.
We will truth-squad the plot and update “The Nexus of Politics and Terror” - the now 13 times officials of this country have revealed so-called terror plots at times that were just coincidentally to their political benefit, no matter how preposterous the actual schemes might have been, including a plot against Fort Dix, where pizza deliverymen were supposed to kill at will at an Army base full of soldiers with guns, all summed up neatly by a Republican state party chairman, who has just said, quote, “All we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on 9/11, and the naysayers will come around very quickly for President Bush.”
TERROIST PLOT TO BLOW UP JFK AIRPORT
Law enforcement calls it, quote, “one of the most chilling plots imaginable.” But, even if the suspects had the support, the money and the wherewithal they needed, is it even possible to ignite JFK Airport by igniting the jet fuel pipeline that leads to it?
And, the president has renewed his attempts to link our security here with the war in Iraq. Are the arrests in this case, and the equally impractical Fort Dix plan, politically timed, or just politically coincidental? We will revisit the nexus of politics and terror.
OLBERMANN: If this week‘s alleged JFK terror plot teaches us anything, it is that fear, like fire, can spread only when it is given plenty of air.
In our fourth story tonight, the fear got plenty of that, even as it turned out that attacking JFK would not have ignited the fuel pipeline system, nor vice-versa, if only due to the lack of air.
In addition to the laws of physics, the pipeline that stretches 40 miles from New Jersey to JFK has the occasional disconnect valve or two. The alleged terrorists apparently hoped to take out JFK, the pipeline and thousands of people who live above the pipeline. It is not their job to know better.
But, when a U.S. attorney said that the results of a successful attack would have been unthinkable, in fact, she and other U.S. officials should have known that thinkable was about all those results were. They were not that doable. Federal officials confirm the alleged terrorists had no experience, no backing, no money, no explosives and no inside information, unless you count Google Earth.
Plus, of course, whatever the accused ringleader, seen here in surveillance tape just prior to his capture, remembers from his job as a cargo handler 12 years ago.
NO BLACK BELTS ALL AROUND
Let‘s turn to a professional in this field, Michael Boyd, president of the Boyd Group aviation consulting firm.
Mike, thanks again for your time tonight.
MICHAEL BOYD, AVIATION SECURITY CONSULTANT: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Before we get to the dangers not being talked about today, explain why the prospect of terrorists putting a match to a fuel pipeline at JFK does not necessarily produce the apocalyptic scenario that the U.S. officials describe, both in terms of the pipeline and jet fuel, in specifics.
BOYD: Well, jet fuel is not as volatile as gasoline. (BJ note: this reduction of volatility was mandated by the FAA and the NTSB following airline crashes and 9/11.) Unless you have a lot of air and it‘s atomized, it‘s not going to burn real good. As a matter of fact, it takes a minute or two to get it burning if you put a blowtorch to a pool of it. You know, that‘s why the FAA said you got to be off an airplane in 90 seconds after an accident, because they figure that‘s how long it takes the fuel to get burning.
So, this argument that if you light it somewhere on the length of the pipeline, it‘s going to blow up all of Rego Park, that‘s just nuts.
OLBERMANN: So, what are the real dangers to the U.S. aviation systems, when we‘re talking about fuel supply, fuel pipelines, terrorist attacks on fuel pipelines?
BOYD: Well, you know, what these people we saw at that press conference yesterday don‘t know, and don‘t pay any attention to, but a pipeline is vulnerable. But, it‘s vulnerable to hurting our economy. If you could knock out the fuel supply of five or six airports, you shut down the air transportation system in a couple of days. And, what would that do to our economy?
They didn‘t even focus on that. They focused as if, somehow or other, this would be one giant incendiary event. And, what that says is, very clearly, these are not real security people. I mean, the terrorists they caught, supposedly, were not black belts in terrorism. And, these guys aren‘t black belts in counterterrorism, either.
OLBERMANN: So, all right, let‘s say, if this had somehow come to pass, if what they designed to do actually came to pass, what would the result have been? Would there have been an interruption to the flow of fuel to JFK? Or, would there have been something — what kind of cataclysm would we have had?
BOYD: Well, it depends on where they hit. If they hit the whole fuel farm or one of the major fuel farms that feed JFK, yes, you could have had a major shutdown at John F. Kennedy International. That‘s bad. But, you know, give New Yorkers a real flash here: New York is not the only place in the world. It would have hurt the economy, but it — and it certainly could have shut the airport down. If that happened to a lot of places, it could shut our economy down.
The unfortunate part is: these people at Homeland Security don‘t realize that, and that‘s why we‘re vulnerable, even to these second-rate kind of people like they caught yesterday.
OLBERMANN: So, if the danger is to fuel delivery and economy rather than conflagration, but people are talking about conflagration and terror and mass death, what does it tell you that the prosecutors knew about this since last year, and still characterized the results the way they did?
BOYD: Well, they‘ve done this. They said they started on this over -
about a year and a half ago. And, as of yesterday, that attorney still didn‘t know that what these guys were planning to do would not do what they thought it would do. That says to me is, this was more of a photo op than really anything that really focuses on protecting our airports.
OLBERMANN: You‘ve been on this since we talked to you first about this in 2003, that we seem to be devoting the right amount of attention to aviation safety, but we have always — we‘re always picking the wrong topics to be concerned about?
BOYD: Well, the problem is, our security — Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration - is not run by security professionals. It‘s run by political appointees. And, political appointees look to cover themselves and to look good rather than to do the job. And, that‘s why we‘re no safer than we were on 9/11, because we have the same problems we‘ve always had.
OLBERMANN: The aviation expert Michael Boyd, cutting through as always. Great thanks for joining us again, sir.
BOYD: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: Details of another plot, more pipe dream than pipeline, emerging just as the White House redoubles efforts to equate the war in Iraq with our security at home.
We will update our look at the history of these kinds of dubious coincidences in a revised edition of the nexus of politics and terror.
The nexus of politics and terror. Why was the JFK airport plot revealed by a U.S. attorney in the middle of a U.S. attorney scandal and by the father of a Fox News reporter? (BJ note: According to an MSNBC reporter at the press conference, the conference was not broadcast live, because it was help on one of the top floors of the building and was not accessible to camera equipment.) And, why, on this Saturday, the coincidences have begun again. We will review that.
THE NEXUS OF POLITICS AND TERROR
OLBERMANN: Since last August, there had been a period of calm. The screaming hair-on-fire pronouncements about terror plots that may have had real plotters, but no real conceivable chance of actually happening had ceased. That that period spanned the time between the 2006 midterm elections and the week we reached exactly 18 months until the 2008 presidential election - just a coincidence?
“ALWAYS FEAR FEAR ITSELF”
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, from the mind-bending idea that four guys dressed as pizza delivery men were going to outgun all the soldiers at Fort Dix to the not-too-thought-out plan to blow up JFK airport by lighting a match 40 miles away, here we go again. Time for an update of our segment, “The Nexus of Politics and Terror.” The instance is now 13 in number when those two worlds have overlapped, and we are reminded by our government, with or without justification, that we should always fear fear itself.
We offer two prefaces tonight: one, the words of Dennis Milligan, the new state chairman of the Republican Party in Arkansas, who says about Iraq, to the newspaper The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, quote, “At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing. And, I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on September 11th, 2001, and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.”
“All we need is some attacks on American soil,” said the Republican Party chairman in Arkansas - Arkansas. in the United States. That Arkansas!
The other preamble, we remind you again that coincidences can happen, that the logical fallacy insists that just because event A occurs and then event B occurs, that does not automatically mean that event A caused event B. But, neither does it say the opposite.
THE 13 LINKS
The Nexus of Politics and Terror updated through today (4 June 2007). Please judge for yourself.
OLBERMANN: May 18, 2002; the first details of the president‘s daily briefing of August 6, 2001, are revealed, including its title, “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.” The same day, another memo is discovered revealing the FBI knew of men with links to al Qaeda training at an Arizona flight school. The memo was never acted upon.
Questions about 9/11 intelligence failures are swirling. May 20, 2002:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The terror warnings from the highest level of the federal government tonight are …
OLBERMANN: Two days later, FBI Director Mueller declares that another terrorist attack is “inevitable.”
The next day, the Department of Homeland Security issues warnings of attacks against railroads nationwide, and against New York City landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
Thursday, June 6, 2002:
COLEEN ROWLEY: I never really anticipated this kind of impact.
OLBERMANN: Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who tried to alert her superiors to the specialized flight training taken by Zacarias Moussaoui, whose information suggests the government missed the chance to break up the 9/11 plot, testifies before Congress. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Graham says Rowley‘s testimony has inspired similar pre-9/11 whistleblowers.
Monday June 10, 2002, four days later:
JOHN ASHCROFT, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot.
OLBERMANN: Speaking from Russia, Attorney General John Ashcroft reveals that an American name Jose Padilla is under arrest, accused of plotting a radiation bomb attack in this country. In fact, Padilla had by this time already been detained for more than one month.
February 5, 2003; Secretary of State Powell tells the United Nations Security Council of Iraq‘s concealment of weapons, including his 18 mobile biological weapons laboratories, justifying a U.N. or U.S. first strike. Many in the U.N. are doubtful. Months later, much of the information proves untrue.
February 7, 2003, two days later: as anti-war demonstrations continue to take place around the globe:
TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: Take some time to prepare for an emergency.
OLBERMANN: Homeland Security Secretary Ridge cites credible threats by al Qaeda and raises the terror alert level to orange. Three days after that, Fire Administrator David Paulison, who would become the acting head of FEMA after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, advises Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves against radiological or biological attack.
July 23, 2003; the White House admits that the CIA, months before the president‘s State of the Union address, expressed strong doubts about the claim that Iraq had attempt to buy uranium from Niger. On the 24, the Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks is issued. It criticizes government at all levels. It reveals an FBI informant had been living with two of the future hijackers.
It concludes that Iraq had no link to al Qaeda. Twenty eight pages of the report are redacted. On the 26th, American troops are accused of beating Iraqi prisoners.
July 29, 2003, three days later, amid all of the negative headlines:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Word of a possible new al Qaeda attack.
OLBERMANN: Homeland Security issues warnings of further terrorist attempts to use airplanes for suicide attacks.
December 17, 2003; 9/11 Commission co-chair Thomas Kean says the attacks were preventable. The next day, a federal appeals court says the government cannot detain suspected radiation bomber Jose Padilla indefinitely without charges, and the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, Dr. David Kay, who has previously announced he has found no weapons of mass destruction there, announces he will resign his post.
December 21, 2003, four days later, the Sunday before Christmas:
RIDGE: Today the United States government raised the national threat level.
OLBERMANN: Homeland Security again raises the threat level to orange, claiming credible intelligence of further plots to crash airliners into U.S. cities. Subsequently, six international flights into this country are canceled after some passenger names purportedly produced matches on government no-fly lists. The French later identified those matched names. One belongs to an insurance salesman from Wales, another to an elderly Chinese woman, a third to a five-year-old boy.
March 30, 2004; the new chief weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, tells Congress we still have not found any WMD in that country. And, after weeks of having refused to appear before the 9/11 Commission, Condoleezza Rice relents and agrees to testify.
On the 31st, four Blackwater USA contractors working in Iraq are murdered - their mutilated bodies dragged through the streets and left on public display in Fallujah. The role of civilian contractors in Iraq is now widely questioned.
April 2, 2004:
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The FBI has issued a new warning tonight.
OLBERMANN: Homeland Security issues a bulletin warning that terrorists may try to blow up buses and trains using fertilizer and fuel bombs like the one detonated in Oklahoma City, bombs stuffed into satchels or duffel bags.
May 16, 2004; Secretary of State Powell appears on “Meet the Press.” Moderator Tim Russert closes by asking him about the enormous personal credibility Powell had placed before the U.N. in laying out a case against Saddam Hussein. An aide to Powell interrupts the question, saying the interview is over.
TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: I think that was one of your staff, Mr. secretary. I don‘t think that‘s appropriate.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Emily, get out of the way.
OLBERMANN: Powell finishes his answer, admitting that much of the information he had been given about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was …
POWELL: Inaccurate and wrong, and, in some cases, deliberately misleading.
OLBERMANN: On the 21st, new photos showing mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison are released.
On the 24th, Associated Press video from Iraq confirms U.S. forces mistakenly bombed a wedding party, killing more than 40.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004, two days later:
ASHCROFT: Good afternoon.
OLBERMANN: Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller warned that intelligence from multiple sources ,,,
ASHCROFT: Indicates al Qaeda‘s specific intention to hit the United States hard.
OLBERMANN: And, that 90 percent of the arrangements for an attack on the United States were complete. The color-coded warning system is not raised. The Homeland Security secretary, Tom Ridge, does not attend the announcement.
July 6, 2004; Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry selects Senator John Edwards as his vice-presidential running mate, producing a small bump in the election opinion polls and producing a huge swing in media attention towards the Democratic campaign.
July 8, 2004, two days later:
RIDGE: Credible reporting now indicates al Qaeda is moving forward with its plan to carry out a large scale attack in the United States.
OLBERMANN: Homeland Security Secretary Ridge warns of information about al Qaeda attacks during the summer or autumn.
Four days after that, the head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Deforest B. Soaries, Jr., confirms he has written to Ridge about the prospect of postponing the upcoming presidential election in the case, the event, it is interrupted by terrorist attacks.
July 29, 2004; at their party convention in Boston, the Democrats formally nominate John Kerry as their candidate for president. As in the wake of any convention, the Democrats now dominate the media attention over the subsequent weekend.
August 1, 2004, Monday morning, three days later:
RIDGE: It is as reliable a source — a group of sources - as we‘ve ever seen before.
OLBERMANN: The Department of Homeland Security raises the alert status for financial centers in New York, New Jersey and Washington to orange. The evidence supporting the warning - reconnaissance data left in a home in Iraq - later prove to be roughly four years old and largely out of date.
October 6, 2005, 10 a.m. ET: the president addresses the National Endowment for Democracy, once again, emphasizing the importance of the war on terror and insisting his government has broken up at least 10 terrorist plots since 9/11.
At 3:00 p.m. ET, five hour after the president‘s speech has begun, the Associate Press reports that Karl Rove will testify again to the CIA leak Grand Jury and that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has told Rove he cannot guarantee that he will not be indicted.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: We‘re awaiting a news conference at the bottom of the hour.
OLBERMANN: At 5:17 p.m. ET, seven hours after the president‘s speech has begun, a New York official disclosed a bomb threat to the city‘s subway system, based on information supplied by the federal government. The Homeland Security spokesman says the intelligence upon which the disclosure is based is of doubtful credibility.
And, later it proved that New York City had known of the threat for at least three days and had increased police presence in the subways long before making the announcement at that particular time. Local New York television station WNBC reports it had the story of the threats days in advance of the announcement, but was asked by high-ranking federal officials in New York and Washington to hold off on its story.
Less than four days after having revealed the threat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York says, “Since the period of the threat now seems to be passing, I think over the immediate future, we‘ll slowly be winding down the enhanced security.”
While news organizations, ranging from the New York Post to NBC News, quote sources who say there was reason to believe the informant who triggered the warning simply made it up.
A senior U.S. counterterrorism official tells the New York Times, quote, “There was no there there.”
A sequence of events in August 2006, best understood now in chronological order:
As the month begins, the controversy over domestic surveillance without legal warrants in this country crests.
Then, on August 9, the day after the Connecticut Democratic Senatorial Primary, Vice President Cheney says the victory of challenger Ned Lamont over incumbent Joe Lieberman is a positive for the, quote, “al Qaeda types,” who he says, quote, “are clearly betting on the proposition that ultimately they break the will of the American people, in terms of our ability to stay in the fight.”
The next day, British authorities arrest 24 suspects in an alleged imminent plot to blow up U.S.-bound aircraft using liquid explosives smuggled on board in sports drink bottles. Domestic air travel is thrown into chaos as carry-on liquids are suddenly banned.
On August 14, British intelligence reveals it did not think the plot was imminent. Only the U.S. did. And, our authorities pressed to make the arrests. Eleven of the 24 suspect are later released. And, in the months to come, the carry-on liquids ban is repeatedly relaxed.
May 7, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas, leveled by a tornado, and the state’s governor notes, more in sorrow than in anger, that the redeployment of so much of the Kansas National Guard and its equipment to Iraq might now cripple the soldiers’ ability to respond if another disaster hits Kansas.
GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS: What we‘re really missing is equipment. And, that is putting a strain on recoveries like this one.
OLBERMANN: The next day, the authorities announce arrests in a far-fetched plan to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey. The so-called terrorists planned to gain access to the base by posing as pizza delivery men. It is not a suicide mission. They state clearly they intend to kill personnel and then retreat to safety, even though they were going to attack a closed compound, full of trained soldiers with weapons.
And, though the plan is branded sophisticated, its perpetrators are not sophisticated enough to have not handed over the videotape of themselves training with weapons to a Circuit City store in order to be transferred to DVD.
The Fort Dix plot not only erases from most news coverage the issue of disaster readiness in Kansas, but it also obscures the next day’s story that, in anticipation of his testimony to a House panel, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has submitted opening remarks that match, virtually word for word the remarks he had given the previous month to a Senate committee.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Recognizing my limited involvement in the process, a mistake I freely acknowledge — a mistake that I freely acknowledge, I have soberly questioned my prior decisions.
OLBERMANN: And, June, 2007, the JFK plot to blow up the jet fuel pipeline feeding John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, thus causing the entire airport to be consumed in an horrific conflagration. One of the men arrested has, as past employee, access to the sprawling complex, but little knowledge of the reality of the pipeline system.
The manager of that system tells the “New York Times” that the pipeline is not some kind of fuse. Shut off valves throughout would have easily contain any damage, just as a leak in a tunnel in any city would not flood everything in that city below ground.
The so-called plot happens to be revealed the day before the second Democratic presidential debate.
And, as the scandal continues to unfold over the firings of U.S. attorneys, and their replacements by political hacks, the so-called plot is announced by the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, New York, and by the police chief of New York City, the father of a correspondent for Fox News Channel.
(BJ note: And, the continuing Iraq debacle and troop deaths. And, the president’s plummeting approval rating. And, the final word from Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the CIA that Valerie Plame was, indeed, a “covert operative.” And, on Tuesday, one day after this report, the sentencing of former Cheney Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby to 30 months in prison, and Bush’s “I call him Vladimir” saber rattling over Russia at the G-8 Summit.)
OLBERMANN: In all fairness, we could probably construct a similar timeline of terror events and their relationship to the haircuts of popular politicians. But, if merely a reasonable case can be made that any of these juxtapositions of events are more than just coincidences, if that case can be made on this, the very day that a military judge at Guantanamo Bay dismissed all terror charges that have kept Salim Hamdan jailed there for five years, it underscores the need for questions to be asked and asked continually in this country, questions about what is prudence and what is just fearmongering.
“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN,” MSNBC, Monday, 4 June 2007, transcript: LINK
FOR FURTHER STUDY:
Almost six years after 9/11, are we any safer? “THE NEW AGE OF TERROR” by Evan Thomas, Newsweek, August 21-26, 2006, issue: LINK
“PLOT TO BLOW UP JFK AIRPORT!” That’s what America heard. What are the facts? “Experts cast doubt on credibility of JFK terror plot,” Agence France-Presse, 5 June 2007: LINK
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Straight news, hard news, investigative reporting continue to be supplanted by opinion and by tabloid-journalism appeal to basest instincts and prurient interests.
Fewer and fewer reporters are in the field, actually engaged in fact-gathering, resulting in higher profits for media conglomerates.
Cable news and network news have become … well, if you watch them, I don’t have to explain how they have devolved into nothingness. Instead of digging up facts and reporting a story, anchors turn to guest pundits to shovel up their "version" of a story.
Local newscasts are straight off the police register – murder and mayhem – with few investigations into local government and plenty of canned material from the corporate level. Describing local news, my friend, journalist Bill Sumrall is dead on, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
On a personal level, I weaned myself first from cable news – when Charter Communications dropped C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2 from its expanded basic lineup. A few weeks back, I abandoned network news and the dregs of basic cable and turned solely to the Internet for news.
What I’m finding on U.S. news sources online are the same inadequate offerings. From cnn.com’s “Laterst News” headlines to the front page of the venerable New York Times, there are slim pickings.
I am suffering from a news dearth. This nation is suffering from a news dearth.
No revelation here. When this nation was marching toward an invasion of Iraq, those seeking less subjective coverage turned to foreign news sources.
A few weeks back I read once more James A. Michener’s “Centennial.” One of the historical novel's major characters had been appointed to chair a statewide effort to improve the environment – in conjunction with the celebration of Colorado’s centennial and the nation’s bicentennial.
He tunes in to his car radio for news at noon, hoping to hear an announcement about this statewide effort:
FIRST MALE ANNOUNCER: Well, folks, it’s high noon, and the train is chugging in from Poison Snake, and Sheriff Gary Cooper is a-waitin’ at the station.
SECOND MALE ANNOUNCER: It’s time for the news, all the news, the straight news delivered without fear or favor. The news you want when you want it.
FEMAILE QUARTET SINGING IN CLOSE HARMONY: From North, from South, From East and West, we bring it first, we bring it best
FIRST MALE ANNOUNCER: Yes, sirree, like the girls just said we bring it best. Remember, you heard it first on Western Burst.
MALE AND FEMALE QUARTETS, BLENDING: The news, the news, the news, here comes the news.
SECOND MALE ANNOUNCER: But, first a brief message which is sure to be of interest.
HERE FOLLOW TWO MINUTES OF SINGING COMMERCIALS.
FIRST MALE ANNOUNCER (breathlessly): West Berlin, Germany. This morning Chancellor Willy Brandt announced a radical shift in his cabinet.
SECOND MALE ANNOUNCER (gravely): Oakland, California. At a special press conference called hurriedly this morning, the management of the Oakland Raiders announced that Choo Choo Chamberlain would, I repeat, would be able to play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
MALE AND FEMALE QUARTEST, BLENDING: No matter when the stories burst, you hear it here, you hear it first.
FIRST MALE ANNOUNCER: Stay tuned for all the news; the news in depth; the news behind the news.
MALE AND FEMALE QUARTETS, BLENDING: All the news, the news you need, yes indeed, yes indeed.
FIRST MALE ANNOUNCER: Next complete news coverage one hour from now.
SECOND MALE ANNOUNCER: Unless, of course, there is some fast breaking news development anywhere in the world. If there is, you know we break in right away, regardless of the program, because Western Burst is always first. All the news, the news in depth.
This newscast would be amusing if it weren’t so recognizable.
It is good news then that the non-profit Center for Public Integrity will be teaming up with the Associated Press to deliver “authoritative, dynamic investigative reports that hold government and corporate power accountable.”
Read the Center for Public Integrity’s “Mission Statement.”
Two New York Times articles make it clear that protest organizers have tapped into a riptide of anger which could kill any efforts at healthcare reform.
I offer a brief synopsis of each, followed by a link to the full article. We must know what we’re up against, and these two articles are essential to that knowledge.
SAME OLD, SAME OLD
A lie is being spread by Republican leaders and at town hall meetings across the country.
The false “death panel” rumor – that government under healthcare reform will decide who will live and who will die – was not born, according to this Times article, “of anonymous e-mailers, partisan bloggers or stealthy cyberconspiracy theorists.”
This Big Lie has a “mainstream provenance,” according to the article. Turns out it came from the same conservative pundits and media who helped defeat President Clinton’s healthcare plan 16 years ago.
AARP Executive Vice President John Rother told the Times, “It’s people who are ideologically opposed to Mr. Obama, and this is the opportunity to weaken the president.” The AARP supports the healthcare proposals and has “repeatedly denied the ‘death panel’ claims.”
After all that I’ve read on this issue and all the right-wing comments I’ve seen on blogs, I am not easily shocked. But, the article’s quotes from conservative media shock me. A Washington Times editorial compares healthcare reform with Nazi Germany and tells me that President Obama wants to kill me, my son and my buddy Chris. Would I lie?
“False ‘Death Panel’ Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots,” Jim Rutenbrg and Jackie Calmes, New York Times, 14 August 2009: LINK
‘ROOTS OF RAGE’
On Tuesday morning, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) made every effort to keep his Lebanon town hall meeting civilized – to no avail.
Anti-Obama (yes, that’s what they are) protesters got there at dawn and, being first in line, got into the meeting while supporters of healthcare reform weren’t admitted.
Interviewing many of the protesters, NYT reporters found them motivated by “underlying dissent.”
“Many said the Obama administration’s plans for a new health care system were just another example of a federal government that had again gone too far, just as it had, they said, with the economic stimulus, the auto industry bailout and the cap-and-trade program.”
Many are angry about “abortion, euthanasia, coverage of immigrants, privacy” – fears born of lies circulating about reform legislation.
“This is about the dismantling of this country,” one woman told Specter. “We don’t want this country to turn into Russia.”
Overall, the article shows how civil discourse on healthcare issues was disrupted by people who apparently have no idea about the legislation’s content.
Nor did they learn. They didn’t come to learn.
“Senator Goes Face to Face With Dissent,” Ian Urbina and Katharine Q. Seelye, 12 August 2009: LINK
IMHO, the greatest enemy of this country is ignorance. I’ve quoted Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” many times before, but today Mr. Kelly’s prescience seems more timely than ever:
“We have met the enemy, and he is us."
In this DemWit series, I’ve made it clear that the far-right fights dirty. Ethics, morals, principles are being shed like snakeskin as the core of the Republican Party has taken a desperate turn to the far right.
A party which cannot stand on its own merits, which resorts to lies, deception and personal attacks, cannot stand at all.
While medical industry lobbyists are rallying the troops at town hall meetings and across the Internet, the Republican Party has offered no solution to the healthcare crisis Americans are facing.
According to FactCheck.org (LINK):
“There is no plan around which Republicans have coalesced. … And Missouri Republican Rep. Roy Blunt was tapped to head a GOP healthcare task force in February, which was charged ‘with crafting Republican solutions to increase Americans’ access to quality, affordable healthcare,’ but which so far has produced no plan and seems unlikely to do so.”
Pretty hard to reign in the healthcare industry with all that lobby money in your campaign tills.
Your leaders are preaching, as Charles Dickens puts it, “the gospel according to monotony.”
I am personally acquainted with a very large number of Republicans – ethical, moral and principled folks who are not party to the despicable ploys aimed at killing healthcare reform.
When reading through a blog post about CNN, Lou Dobbs and “birthers” – the latter two denying President Obama’s legitimacy - I found this quote in a reader’s comment:
“Republicans come in three groups: ignorant tools, religious fools and dittohead stools.”
The Republcans I know personally do not want to be characterized this way, nor should they be.
We liberal (some prefer “progressive”) Democrats are fighting nail and tooth to debunk false claims and phony protests surrounding proposed healthcare reform legislation.
You know the old expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Can anyone deny our healthcare system is broken? The soaring costs of medical care, prescription drugs and health insurance, coupled with joblessness and a shaky (at best) economy, have expunged millions upon millions of Americans from medical access.
Yet, in my neighboring state to the north, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), all set to answer questions from concerned citizens, has decided not to host town hall meetings. Miller has received death threats because of his support of healthcare reform.
Is this democracy in action? In America?
Americans are not so easily fooled: they will see through this chicanery.
DemWit is throwing down the gauntlet to decent Republicans: we liberals and Democrats cannot save your party from extinction. It’s up to you to fight the radical turn it’s taken.
Republicans, step up!
- Charles Dickens, “Our Mutual Friend.”
Since I began this series on healthcare reform, visitors to DemWit have fallen off. Numbers aren’t important to me. On a good day I’m thrilled with 30 or so visitors. Sure makes the research and the writing worthwhile.
So, why do I have my nose to the grindstone on this issue?
In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted July 24-27 (LINK), 36 percent of Americans thought healthcare reform was “a good idea.”
Now, here’s the interesting part:
“When given several details of the proposal, 56 percent said they favored the plan …”
A 20-percent jump!
All it took was a little information, a few facts!
Then, this from Gallup (LINK) yesterday:
“About as many Americans – 35 percent - say they would tell their member of Congress to vote for a new healthcare reform bill when Congress reconvenes in September as say they would tell their member to vote against such a bill – 36 percent. The rest – 29 pecent - have no opinion either way at this time.”
29 percent have no opinion either way at this time!
And, this morning, this from Gallup (LINK):
“More Americans disapprove (49 percent) than approve (43 percent) of Barack Obama’s handling of healthcare policy, hardly changed from views expressed in mid-July.”
So, do we have our president's back on this or not?
If we truly want healthcare reform in this country, we cannot afford to sit on our butts and do nothing. We have to reach that percentage of Americans who don’t seem to have a clue. Never mind that they don’t know we are working in their behalf.
In an email this morning, a dear friend asked:
“Really, BJ, what does it take to get human beings to exercise actual intelligence?”
I responded: “That, my dear, is the $64,000 question.”
Back to the grindstone.
Remember envelopes? Remember stamps?
Let’s take advantage of the Republicans’ “scorched earth” tactics, a little number they call “delay and kill.”
Let’s use this extra time to start a real grassroots movement.
Let’s call it “STAMP.”
Support the American Majority’s President.
There is no greater “town hall meeting” than the editorial pages of your local newspaper. Why reach hundreds when you can reach thousands? And, without all the shouting. People read three things in their local newspapers on a daily basis: the comics, the obits and the letters-to-the-editor.
Take one envelope and one stamp, and sit down today or tomorrow and write a letter-to-the-editor on healthcare reform.
Don’t overwhelm. Make your letter BRIEF and focus on one positive aspect of the reform legislation. Sign with your name, address and telephone number (these are not published, but are used for verification of your authorship). And, by all means, use your own words as newspapers can check instantly for material copied from the Internet.
The mailing address for your newspaper is found in its "masthead" within the first four pages - the box with staff and policies listed. Rules for acceptable letters are found on the editorial pages.
I sent my letter yesterday. It measured 94 words in Microsoft Word, and it took five minutes to write. I can promise you’ll feel good afterward.
I don’t like the word “misinformation.” Let’s all STAMP out lies by countering them with one positive FACT.
As the song goes, “It only takes a little spark to get a fire a-going.” Please copy and paste this post and email it to all on your list.
Previous “Making it clear” posts are indexed in DemWit’s sidebar.
Over the last few days DemWit has pointed out the absurd conspiracy theories and health industry lobby-backed “protests” aimed at stopping healthcare reform at all costs.
Democratic members of Congress have gone out across the country in an attempt to explain to their constituents exactly what this legislation will mean in their lives.
Here’s what they are trying to say. Here’s why they are being shouted down. And, here’s why America’s $2.4 trillion healthcare and health insurance industy is spending $1.5 million A DAY to kill this reform:
According to healthcarefactcheck.com, a Web site of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), here is what proposed healthcare reform legislation will mean to America’s middle-class families:
The days of being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition - or being forced to pay higher premiums because of it - would be over, thanks to the House bill. Insurance companies also will be prohibited from other discriminatory practices like charging higher rates because of gender, health status or other factors.
If you like your doctor, your local hospital or your current insurance plan, you can keep your choice under the House bill. It also sets up a health insurance exchange to act as a marketplace where individuals and small business employers will be able to comparison-shop among private and public insurers.
LOWER COSTS FOR EVERYONE
The House bill would lower healthcare costs for all Americans. It ends co-pays and deductibles for preventative care and puts an end to rate increases for pre-existing conditions. It will give you access to lower group rates from a national pool if you buy your own plan. It also includes a public option to compete with private insurers (BJ NOTE: While public option remains in the House version, senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on CNN Sunday that public option is probably dead in the Senate). The bill caps annual out-of-pocket spending to prevent bankruptcy from medical expenses.
The House bill makes sure that you and your doctor make healthcare decisions, not insurance companies. It provides new incentives, scholarships and training to encourage the very best and brightest to become doctors and nurses.
PREVENTION AND WELLNESS
The House bill also expands community health centers, strengthens wellness and prevention services, provides oral, hearing and vision care for children and ensures that mental health care is covered.
Read more HERE.
So, who are the Americans doing the actural shouting at town hall meetings – at the behest of health industry lobbyists? In my opinion, they are anti-Obama activists out to see, as my own South Carolina Republican senator, Jim DeMint, put it, that Obama meets his “Waterloo.” Their new catchphrase is “Obamacare,” referring, of course, back to the earlier Republican catchphrase, “Clintoncare.”
Dear reader, let me remind you of President Obama’s words:
"This isn't about me, This isn't about politics. This is about a healthcare system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses and breaking America's economy.
“Health insurance companies and their executives have reaped windfall profits from a broken system.
"Let's fight our way through the politics of the moment, Let's pass reform by the end of this year."
This is a trillion-dollar industry based on services to sick people, and it needs to improve its bedside manner.
You’re sitting at your computer, checking out your favorite sites, surfing around on worldnetdaily.com and freerepublic.com, reading Rush’s latest, then Ann Coulter’s. You’re sipping coffee and wondering what you can do to stop those damn liberals and progressives from destroying America.
An email comes in – a three-page memo, and it announces that there’s a town hall meeting tonight in the city where you live. One of many planned to offer citizens a little Q&A on proposed healthcare reform.
Scrolling down though the instructions, you find a section labeled “Inside the Hall.”
“You need to rock-the-boat early in the rep's presentation,” the memo instructs. “Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the rep's statements early.
“If he blames Bush for something or offers other excuses - call him on it, yell back and have someone else follow-up with a shout-out. The goal is to rattle him.
“When the formal Q&A session begins, get all your hands up and keep them up. ... The balance of the group should applaud when the question is asked, further putting the rep on the defensive.”
Now, you’re fired up. You call a buddy to let him know you won’t make the bowling team tonight. Pulling on your Converses and a clean T-shirt, you head downtown.
Grabbing a gyro from a street vendor, you walk toward the meeting hall. Outside you wait in line behind a man and his wife. The man is in a wheelchair. Listening to the conversation, you learn he’s a diabetic, an amputee. He’s a poor-mouther, telling another man how he lost his job before he became so ill, how he lost his insurance and can’t afford a prosthesis.
Finally, you’re inside the meeting hall, ready to rumble, ready to create a little kick-ass havoc.
Pretty good night, you tell yourself as you arrive back at your apartment. All those poor-mouthers didn’t have a chance.
“Man, I love this country!” you say out loud, grabbing a beer and flipping channels until you find the wrestling match. Some guy is interviewing Outback Jack.
“Yeah,” you tell yourself, “that was some smackdown tonight.”
Across town, the protest organizers are reporting in to the national lobbying group which pays them.
The wife of the diabetic kisses her husband good-night, then begins work at her sewing machine, doing alterations which bring in extra cash beyond her 8-to-5 job.
Fade to black.
The “Inside the Hall” instructions above are in a three-page memo from a group calling itself Right Principles (READ ABOUT THIS GROUP). Obtained by the Think Progress Web site, the memo “was written by a man named Bob MacGuffie. Bob MacGuffie is associated with an organization called FreedomWorks (READ ABOUT THIS GROUP). FreedomWorks is a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, run by former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey.
Yes, that Dick Armey.
“Armey's FreedomWorks is organizing against healthcare reform. Armey's lobbying firm represents pharmaceutical companies including Bristol-Myers Squibb. Armey's lobbying firm also represents the trade group for the life insurance industry. FreedomWorks is supporting the status quo at all costs. They are also fans of fossil fuels. Armey's lobbying firm represents Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE (BJ NOTE: United Arab Emirates), on energy- related issues.
“Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed FreedomWorks for building ‘amateur-looking’ Web sites to promote far-right interests of Armey.” (SOURCE: alternet.org, 7 August 2009: LINK)
‘ONE BIG THING’
“What's becoming clear now is that there is a connection between the two big things that we have observed recently about the healthcare fight. On the one hand, are these crazy, disprovable, but nevertheless, endlessly stoked conspiracy theories that healthcare reform is communism, that it's a secret plot to kill your grandpa, that it's a government takeover, it's something called Obamacare. It's going to mandate abortions. It's going to mandate sex-change operations.”
“There are these crazy conspiracy theories about healthcare reform on the one hand. And, on the other hand, there are these organized efforts to shut down political debate about healthcare, by using angry crowds to take over town hall meetings and chase congressmen through parking lots. These two observable facts about the anti-healthcare reform forces, it turns out, are really one big thing.”
- Rachel Maddow, The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC, 5 August 2009.
"What Democrats call mob rule, the average American calls democracy. These kinds of despicable characterizations of middle-class Americans smacks of elitism."
- Ken Spain, Republican National Conservative Caucus (RNCC) spokesperson.
SOURCE OF MEMO EXCERPT AND THE KEN SPAIN AND RACHEL MADDOW QUOTES: “The Rachel Maddow Show,” MSNBC, 3 August 2009: LINK and 5 August 2009: LINK
CBO meaning Congressional Budget Office.
“Not true,” says factcheck.org of Rep. King’s release. (NOTE: There’s no direct link to factcheck.org’s full report on King’s claim. To read the report, go HERE, then click on “edit” at the top of your screen, then “find in top window” and type in “Rep. King.”)
According to factcheck.org:
“H.R. 3200 includes a provision that specifically says that there will be no federal funds spent to cover illegal immigrants:
H.R. 3200: Sec 246 - NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS
“Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”
SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL
To the people of Iowa:
While Rep. King is home on break, I suggest you take him to Dubuque and drop him from the top of the civil war-era shot tower (photo above). Maybe he’ll come out a more well-rounded representative of his constituents.
1) Insurance companies would be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history – “pre-existing conditions.”
2) Insurance companies would be barred from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become ill.
3) Insurance companies will no longer be able to charge exorbitant out-of pocket expenses.
4) Insurance companies cannot impose lifetime or annual caps on coverage.
5) Insurance companies will be "required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full."
6) Insurance companies "must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics."
SOURCE: The Progress Report, Center for American Progress, 3 August 2009: LINK
Well, that’s what MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann did on his show Monday night. He let a whole bunch of them have it – with facts that should make them writhe in embarrassment.
DemWit presents here in its entirety Olbermann’s SPECIAL COMMENT on health care reform and the legislators who would sell their soul to the devil for campaign donations. You may watch the 10-minute comment on video HERE. The transcript follows:
“Legislators for Sale”
A SPECIAL COMMENT by Keith Olbermann, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” MSNBC, 3 August 2009:
Members of Congress are failing to represent their constituents in the health care fight
In a Special Comment, Countdown’s Keith Olbermann slams members of Congress for acting more in the interests of their health industry campaign donors than their constituents who so clearly favor health care reform.
Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on Health Care Reform in this country, and in particular, the "public insurance option."
In March of 1911, after a wave of minor factory fires in New York City, the City's Fire Commissioner issued emergency rules about fire prevention, protection, escape, sprinklers. The City's Manufacturers Association in turn called an emergency meeting to attack the Fire Commissioner and his 'interference with commerce.'
The new rules were delayed. Just days later, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The door to the fire escape was bolted shut to keep the employees from leaving prematurely. One hundred and fifty of those employees died, many by jumping from the seventh floor windows to avoid the flames. Firefighters setting up their ladders literally had to dodge the falling, often burning, women. This was the spirit of the American corporation then. It is the spirit of the American corporation now. It is what the corporation will do, when it is left alone, for a week. You know the drill. We all know the drill.
You get something done, at a doctor's, at a dentist's, at an emergency room, and the bills are in your hands before the pain medication wears off. And, if you're one of the lucky ones, and you have insurance, you submit the endless paperwork and no matter whether it's insurance through your company, or your union, or your non-profit, or on your own dime, you then get your turn - at the roulette wheel.
How much of it is the insurance company going to pay this time? How much of it is the insurance company — about which you have next to no choice, and against which you have virtually no appeal — how much is this giant corporation going to give you back? What small percentage of what they told you they were going to pay you, will they actually pay you?
You know the answer. And, you know the answer if you don't have insurance. But, do you know why that's the answer?
Because the insurance industry owns the Republican Party. Not exclusively. Pharma owns part of it, too. Hospitals and HMO's, another part. Nursing homes — they have a share. You name a Republican, any Republican, and he is literally brought to you by campaign donations from the Health Sector.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota? You gave the Republican rebuttal to the President's weekly address day before yesterday. You said the Democrats' plan was for "…government run health care that would disrupt our current system, and force millions of Americans who currently enjoy their employer-based coverage into a new health care plan run by government bureaucrats."
That's a bald-faced lie, Senator. And you're a bald-faced liar, whose bald face is covered by … your own health care plan run by government bureaucrats. Nobody would be forced into anything; and the Public Insurance Option is no more a disruption than letting the government sell you water, and not just Poland Spring and Sparkletts. But, as corrupt hypocrites go, Senator, at least you're well paid. What was that one statement worth to you in contributions from the Health Sector, Sen. Thune?
Five thousand dollars? Ten? We know what you are, Sir, we're arguing about the price. What about your other quote? "We can accomplish health care reform while keeping patients and their doctors in charge, not bureaucrats and politicians." Wow, Senator — this illustrates how desperate you and the other Republicans are, right? Because, Sen. Thune, if you really think "bureaucrats and politicians" need to get out of the way of "patients and their doctors," then you support a woman patient's right to get an abortion, and you supported Michael Schiavo's right to take his wife off life support, and you oppose "bureaucrats and politicians" getting in the way, and we'll just mark you down on the pro-choice list. That's a rare misstep for you, Sen. Thune. No $12,000 payoff for that statement! I am not being hyperbolic, am I, Senator? On the money?
Sen. Thune has thus far received from the Health Sector, campaign contributions — and all these numbers tonight are from The Center For Responsive Politics — campaign contributions amounting to $1,206,176.
So much for Sen. Thune. How about Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite? Good evening, ma'am. You are the Florida representative who claimed on the Floor that Democrats had “…released a health care bill which essentially said to America's seniors: ‘drop dead.’ ”
Now those are strong, terrorizing, words — that's exactly what your Insurance and Medical Overlords wanted to hear. But, are you truly worth every dollar of the $369,000,255 of them you have received over the years from the Health Sector? I'd read the rest of the operative part of your speech myself, but your rendition actually cannot be matched:
“Listen up, America. Seniors have special needs. This bill ignored the, ignores the needs of Florida's health care system. We should be fixing what is broke. Not disseminate, disseminating, decimating, the care of our senior population.” - July 21, 2009
You can always tell, can't you, Congresswoman, when the hostage is reading her own ransom note, and when she is reading one written for her? So much for Rep. Brown-Waite.
There are so many other Republicans, bought and sold — like the unfortunate Congresswoman there —by the Health Sector. Minority Leader McConnell of the Senate?
Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee. Congressman? Undecided on the public option? At $1,173,000 in donations from the Health Sector, I'm surprised. You should have already said “no” — and loudly. The only thing you should be "undecided" about is whether or not you're really a Democrat. So much for Rep. Gordon.
Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. Good evening, Senator. So, you're supposed to be negotiating all this out with the Republicans and hesitant Democrats? To gain bi-partisanship with a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Health Sector? Bi-partisanship that will get you, what? A total of no votes? And, your price has been, let's see, $414,000 in donations from Hospitals. About $667,000 from the insurance companies and just over a million from Big Pharma. There was a $1,300,000 from other health professional and $237,000 from Nursing Homes.
When you think of getting $237,000 in campaign contributions from nursing homes, Sen. Baucus, do you ever think about whether they subtract that amount of money evenly from all the patients suffering and dying in the lousy ones, or just from a few of the lousy ones? So much for Sen. Baucus. Sadly, this list could go on almost all night, too.
I could ask Blue Dog Congressman, Democrat John Tanner of Tennessee, if, since he's gotten $215,000 from hospitals over the years, if I and the appropriate number of my friends were willing to make it $216,000, if we could buy his vote — or would there have to be an auction?
We could bring up Senator Hagan, and Congressman Pomeroy, who, at $628,000, appears to represent the Insurance Industry and not North Dakota. I could bring up Sen. Carper, and Sen.Blanche Lincoln.
Senator Lincoln? By the way, considering how you're obstructing health care reform, how do you feel ... every time you actually see Sen. Kennedy? I could bring up all the other Democrats doing their masters' bidding in the House or the Senate, all the others who will get an extra thousand from somebody if they just postpone the vote another year, another month, another week, because right now without the competition of a government-funded insurance company, in one hour the health care industries can make so much money that they'd kill you for that extra hour of profit, I could call them all out by name.
But, I think you get the point. We don't need to call the Democrats holding this up “Blue Dogs.” That one word "Dogs" is perfectly sufficient. But, let me speak to them collectively, anyway. I warn you all: you were not elected to create a Democratic majority. You were elected to restore this country. You were not elected to serve the corporations and the trusts who the government has enabled for the last eight years.
You were elected to serve the people. And, if you fail to pass or support this legislation, the full wrath of the progressive and the moderate movements in this country will come down on your heads. Explain yourselves not to me, but to them. They elected you, and in the blink of an eye, they will replace you.
If you will behave as if you are Republicans — as if you are the prostitutes of our system —you will be judged as such. And, you will lose not merely our respect. You will lose your jobs!
Every poll, every analysis, every vote, every region of this country supports health care reform, and the essential great leveling agent of a government-funded alternative to the unchecked duopoly of profiteering private insurance corporations. Cross us all at your peril.
Because, Rep. Ross, you are not the Representative from Blue Cross.
And, Mr. Baucus, you are not the Senator from Schering-Plough Global Health Care even if they have already given you $76,000 towards your re-election. And, Ms. Lincoln, you are not the Senator from DaVita Dialysis.
Because, ladies and gentlemen, President Lincoln did not promise that this nation shall have a new death of freedom, and that government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation, shall not perish from this earth.
Good night and good luck.
DemWit submits that every newspaper or television report on where senators and representatives stand on issues - and how they vote - should disclose the total amount of contributions received from entities who would profit from passage of the legislation.
Now, do a search on each of your senators and your representative, followed by “contributions from the health industry” and hold them accountable for their allegiance.
Is it you they represent?
A headline caught my eye this morning – “Fear of a Black President: Conservative Media Deumming Up Racial Fear.” Turns out it’s a YouTube video which I cannot play on my dial-up connection. You can view it HERE and give me a report on its content.
Quotes such as the following make it apparent that the right-wing media are attempting to undermine Presiddent Barack Obama by stirring up racial hatred in America:
With all evidence to the contrary, Rush Limbaugh, on his Premier Radio Network show of July 27, had this to say about Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: “Gates is an angry racist.”
On July 28, Fox News’ superstar Glenn Beck had some choice words to say about Obama, although with Beck he seems to say something inflammatory, then attempt to recant his own words.
Said Beck: "[Obama] has exposed himself, I think, as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture" … "I'm not saying that [Obama] doesn't like white people. I'm saying he has a problem. He has a, this guy is, I believe, a racist."
I’ve had three blogs over the last several years and am on record as having pointed out that Fox News is in no way a professional journalism outlet. It is, in fact, a well-run propaganda machine.
Reading comments – many replete with blatantly racist remarks - on the various sites I researched this morning, I found this truism:
“If Heinrich Himmler were alive today he'd take notes from Fixed Noise. I don't think in the history of Man there has ever been as efficient a corporate-state propaganda machine as this channel. Even the average citizen in Nazi Germany didn't believe the state propaganda as hard as the right believes in the propaganda from this channel.”
Hell, Josef Goebbels would have his own show!
The media – any media – love conflict. It sells. Over the last week there has been much discussion of racism following the incident at Professor Gates’ home. The time to examine racism in America was after those horrifying television images following Hurricane Katrina. Ironically, the only person with a microphone who wanted to discuss the apparent racial ramifications of those images from New Orleans was Don Imus, at the time on MSNBC. Sadly, the I-man was silenced, when he himself was accused – in my opinion, falsely – of racism.
The Boston Herald (LINK) reports this morning that Professor Gates is receiving death threats and is considering moving from his home. Is it any wonder with the right-wing wunderkinder above exacerbating the situation?
One more thing: I noted a number of comments claiming that worldnetdaily.com has a photocopy of “Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate.”
Is there any question in your mind, dear reader, that all of this is simply an effort to undermine Obama’s presidency and his policies?
And once more, it all comes around to this question: is there any level the right-wing won’t stoop to to promote its twisted ideology?