Last fall, I asked whether MSNBC hosts like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes (my two favorite) are pressured not to cover issues like hydrofracking or GMO foods by their bosses (see “Is Rachel Maddow Going Easy on MSNBC Advertisers?“). No one knows whether or not they had to sign confidentiality agreements governing editorial control of their shows, or what, if any influence there may be by new ownership. Media watchdog FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) notes that Maddow’s history of reporting on the shady dealings of ALEC becomes awkward as MSNBC’s new parent Comcast is a celebrated corporate member of ALEC with plans to exploit the Common Core ”juggernaut” selling their wares to schools.
As a teacher, I’ve watched the charter/Common Core debates go mainstream of late, including reports on CNN, ABC, CBS, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Stephen Colbert, The Nation, Mother Jones and many more. But NBC and MSNBC are different because they were previously involved in promoting Common Core. Researching the record of MSNBC hosts, I soon learned of their divisions (which could be a good thing). Let’s go through it:
It started with MSNBC blogsman Trymaine Lee. I thought it odd that he wrote so articulately about the charter school controversy, while Morning Joe gives obvious preference to charter school principals with air time and promotion.
CHRIS HAYES: had a real teacher on the air one time (a BadAss Teacher from the 45,000+ member Facebook group) in a balanced debate against a charter proponent, while Hayes stayed neutral. Hayes noted keen interest in “Common Core” as an issue held against Jeb Bush’s by his competitors, but misspoke about Common Core’s component parts. He did interview Diane Ravitch here and reported on Michelle Rhee’s “bombshell” cheating cover-up here. But why would his news instinct take him away from Common Core, the latest tea party stampede, and subject of Glenn Beck’s next book?
[Update: Hayes ran segments on Common Core both Thursday and Friday, see addendum below]
RACHEL MADDOW: Noticeably absent on the issue of Common Core, charters and #Rheeform in general, but has concerns about career readiness and smartness deficits. In thoughts about raising expectations made at a 2013 appearance at her alma mater Stanford, Rachel asked “who is going to write the stuff that goes into Wikipedia?”
This is the first part of the classic Common Core pitch — we’re so “low” we need to do something. The second part is the Common Core lobby’s assertion that changing standards helps, a claim in major dispute. So Rachel avoids the subject on her show, but basically can’t believe how poor the resumes of her job applicants are.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: a charter school true believer, Morning Joe’s show is the on-air home for Eva Moskowitz of Harlem Success Academy. The only example found of Common Core coverage was an article on the Morning Joe web page which spoke of the “botched” rollout, top-down inflexibility, lack of teacher input and data mining.
ED SCHULTZ: Ed also didn’t wade into Common Core waters but spoke out here for public schools, calling the charter school vacuum of student talent and funding the “new segregation”.
STEVE KORNACKI: Did a panel on Common Core but concentrated on GOP infighting and attacks against Obama instead of the nuts and bolts of the policy. You’d think wonks like Steve Kornacki or Chris Hayes might delve into the bipartisan affront to accuracy with Common Core’s evaluations, if they had a green light. But not so far.
In a different segment, Kornacki stood mute as former VA governor Jim Douglas parroted the specious claim that a standards overhaul somehow will improve performance. The data was there to obliterate the assertion, had Kornacki been read up:
Higher standards are the goal, but without in-classroom, hands-on support (particularly tackling non-academic obstacles to learning), little will change. After a decade of corporate pork spending, the achievement gap only worsened, right up to last year – so say the tests.
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: A definite charter guy, @lawrence is a longtime board member at Codman Academy, a charter school in Dorcester, run by his former Harvard classmate.
AL SHARPTON: Also mum on Common Core, the Rev continues to praise charters today but has a sordid past, accepting half a mil to endorse NYC’s charter expansion with the tacit help of the Bloomberg administration. Not his best moment, because most of the money reportedly went to just one person on his staff, a well-connected state Democratic party official. Yeeech. But Rev Al did speak out against charter maven Eva Moskowitz for eclipsing Bill de Blasio’s pre-K rally in Albany with a decisively bigger counter-rally (which we learned was secretly hatched by Governor Cuomo).
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY (herself a teacher): Hosted a highly staged live forum Oct 2013 on MSNBC starring David Coleman of The College Board, the Common Core’s top developer. Coleman spoke persuasively to a live audience stacked with school kids. Amid the softball questions, Harris-Perry hinted at ‘controversy’ but was mostly decoration as Coleman expounded at length, as seen in this clip.
No amount of fact-checking by the media, consumer groups and the public affect Hannity’s assault on the US public interest
In a galling display of disregard for the public interest, Sean Hannity has been broadcasting provably false information on radio and TV about the Affordable Care Act. Salon’s “Inside the Fox News lie machine: I fact-checked Sean Hannity on Obamacare” uncovered how he distorted the stories of three couples to imply that they were worse off under Obamacare’s new rules. In fact, the couples are now able to get more coverage for less money, but Hannity did not retract his report.
By last night, Hannity’s lies were corrected on the Rachel Maddow Show, in theWashington Post, Politico, Huffington Post, CNN (VIDEO), The Ed Show (VIDEO), and many other outlets. Hannity refuses to address any of the coverage calling him out for deceit.
But now Consumer Reportshas also chimed in, correcting statements made by Hannity, The Hill and bloggers on Breitbart.com as “not true.” Consumer Reports advised shoppers the best time to enroll in Obamacare was a few weeks off, while expected delays and glitches at HealthCare.gov are ironed out. Hannity took this out-of-context, squealing “Consumer Reports, Ann, they’re telling people, ‘stay away from the website!’” in a segment to Ann Coulter, when just the opposite was true. Consumer Reports has unequivocally endorsed the exchange as the best place to purchase health care.
Hannity’s misinformation forced the nation’s leading consumer reporting experts to release a statement correcting the record so Americans can get accurate advice for purchasing healthcare policies. How is this connected to the Tea Party “scorch everything” campaign we just witnessed? Read on …
Continuing The Anti-Obamacare Shutdown Madness
During recent weeks, Hannity’s guests Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Rand Paul have expounded on the ways Obamacare was going to kill jobs, trying to justify a shutdown that cost our economy an estimated $24 billion and 120,000 jobs. These same Republican leaders could have offered any number of jobs bills that would sail through both houses in a heartbeat if they really cared about boosting employment – the stalled transportation bill is one of the more immediate examples
But they could also have modified Obamacare to ensure employers wouldn’t excise staff, if they so desired. The very idea that the ACA will cost jobs is an admission that it doesn’t go far enough to ensure employers don’t penalize workers in offering health coverage.
But just hours after the shutdown failed to do anything and was overwhelmingly blamed on Republicans, Hannity threw his own guests under the bus, saying it was time for the House leadership to be replaced!
One of the editors involved in publishing “gun maps” in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre was recently laid off by NY’s Journal News, along with dozens of other staff, according to the Rockland Times.
The article clearly states there is no evidence to suggest the firing was related to the gun map, or any backlash therefrom, but in deceitful re-reporting, writers at MichelleMalkin.com and Breitbart.com saw fit to remove that crucial fact from the story.
This created a distinct impression Rockland County editor Caryn McBride was fired for her role in the gun map controversy. Within hours, comments affirmed this, including sexist insults and not-so-thinly veiled threats leveled against McBride below the deceptive articles.
Because the senior Journal News editors who approved the map idea remain on the job, it’s evident the publisher is NOT exacting punishment. But Malkin’s scribe curiously added “Backlash” to his headline – he should know all too well Journal News publisher Gannett and the whole newspaper industry has been routinely shedding jobs in wave after wave of downsizing.
Further, McBride’s role in the gun map controversy was exaggerated by the headline copy “Gun Map Editor Fired”, leaving the impression the map was her brainchild.
It’s no shock partisan media like Breitbart.com is slanted (they also botched the numbers laid off in the purge), but harrowing, violent comments calling for the editors’ fingers to be broken, or describing her death and rape are just disturbing. Also unfortunate are the hateful, Limbaugh-esque “slut” type comments openly tolerated by Breitbart.com editors and fellow hyenas.
Breitbart author William Bigelow could defend his article as “true” despite being strategically incomplete. But he is standing behind misogyny as they repeatedly call the woman ripe for raping or a “gang” attack, with comment after comment calling her a “pig” and a “skank” and a whore. Is it an endorsement to allow this to go on after criticism of it appeared, again and again?
Malkin’s page did not have the same level of vile and violent comments following her deceitful omission, but her fans do call out the ex-editor’s home address, claiming it’s “payback time” because her paper put the county’s public gun permit records online.
Rush Limbaugh sure knows how to get folks to talk about him, but he’s hit a new bottom on his website with a venomous smear of “mommies” who are ”too educated” and have become bored by their children.
Limbaugh surmises “…if all you’re going to do with that education is be a mommy, you are headed for white wine”…“they go out and start drinking white wine, and then they become lushes”. Rush then reverts to ‘slut’ talk, explaining how these ladies get promiscuous with random men:
“And the guys in the bars who are drinking less are waiting for the white wine-drinking women to cruise by them on the way home from the grocery store…[t]hey head them off at the pass and end up at the Motel 6 or whatever is nearby.”
Limbaugh was commenting on a Wall Street Journal article about alcohol abuse by women, but his interpretation took off into the absurd, claiming to have mined “the meat of the story” by “stripping away all of the extraneous BS”. He sprinkled in stats but ended up with wildly different conclusions than author Gabrielle Glaser if you bother to read her mediocre source article.
In short, Rush said this proves educated women hate the “tedium” of child rearing and somehow connects this to them being loose and adulterous.
This deliberate attack on women is only the latest in Rush’s ploy to generate buzz via outrage, going right back for more after the first “Slutgate” incident in March of 2012. Limbaugh drew criticism by characterizing activist Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” for testifying on behalf of medically necessary contraception. But it also generated headlines which he sees as positive.
Limbaugh lays his blueprint out clearly in interviews, embracing wide public hatred, as long as the publicity enables him to charge “confiscatory ad rates”. Over the decades, Limbaugh’s dominance of talk radio has helped narrow choice on the dial, as syndicators Clear Channel and Cumulus have gobbled up the strongest signals in the biggest markets.
But the anti-Limbaugh movement that coalesced since the original Slutgate scandal may have affected Limbaugh’s bottom line. For over a year, the social media group Flush Rush has been relentlessly contacting sponsors to read them misogynist and racist quotes by Limbaugh, claiming success as thousands of advertisers drop out. Just this week, they are reporting that Cumulus’ losses are mounting as Rush’s ads are increasingly being replaced by filler in key markets.
Limbaugh struck back though, hiring top crisis management consultant Brian Glicklich who had previously helped Paris Hilton repair her image. Right away, Limbaugh increased his online presence to counter the growing anti-Rush sentiment in social media. He finally began to use Twitter, “buying” Twitter followers by offering free Apple iPads.
Next, he opened a Facebook page for female supporters called “Rush Babes for America” which sports sexist “mudflap” silhouette designs. After gloating that the Rush Babes page accumulated more “likes” than NOW, the National Organization for Woman, reports surfaced proving that most of the Rush Babe “likes” were coming from fake, overseas accounts.
Still, there are many legitimate females who frequent the page. Limbaugh keeps it active by demeaning women in brief posts that prompt discussion. The formula is simple – be outrageous and people talk. Rush’s female fans agree some moms are too educated, for example saying they should “keep their legs shut” or “Motherhood has always driven women to drink — it’s a tough job”.
But the saddest I saw was a Rush “babe” who promised she’d do better to avoid Rush’s criticism: “Yes, being a mom of 2 little ones – I look forward to that glass of (any colored) wine when they are both tucked peacefully into bed! I’ll make sure to avoid stereotyping myself and avoid the grocery store!”
Do we have to accept that hate speech on public radio is a part of living in America?
Limbaugh is cagey, using his website to post this latest anti-woman rant because online “free speech” is different than radio airwaves which are supposed to have some component of “serving the public interest”.
The recent appointment of a new FCC commissioner has brought fresh questions to debates over the limits of political free speech over public airwaves.
One FCC complaint filed in Milwaukee proved that radio stations showed imbalance in favor of embattled governor Scott Walker by denying his critics any appreciable air time to refute claims. Lawyers for the station tried to defend this by citing a free speech exemption granted to “bonafide news” programs, arguing that talk radio hosts like Limbaugh meet this definition.
With that, a petition sprung up, claiming the FCC should rule that broadcasters like Rush Limbaugh are not actually credible “news” hosts and should be denied the “news” exemption for equal time requirements. Limbaugh himself claims to be an “entertainer”, putting him at odds with this legal argument.
The debate will be interesting to watch as the new FCC commissioner is seated. How do you feel?
Learning the Hard Way by amerigus, all non-com creative commons uses granted
My daughter sees a math tutor, a bright young med school student from Pakistan. She told me last weekend my daughter still struggles, but she was shocked to hear that “every single kid” in her class has a math tutor. I was shocked to learn this too, but for another reason.
Over a decade ago, the federal government sought to “fix” low-performance in schools, but not by increasing learning, rather by increasing standardized testing and leveling threats against those whose scores don’t magically rise. In NY and NJ, newly implemented evaluations say teachers who show progress on student’s standardized test scores are more likely to retain their jobs, and in some cases might “win” cash bonuses.
My daughter attends a high-performing suburban school where well-educated parents have kids laser-focused on academic performance. In these districts, the question is not how many kids get into college, it’s how many get into the Ivy League. So all that private tutoring, usually ranging in price from $50-$150 per hour, is going to be skewing the bejesus out of state-mandated teacher evaluations.
In classes where many of the students get private, one-on-one instruction time, the teacher evaluation numbers can be thrown way off, creating supposed “superteachers” — but only on paper. And if judging teachers via their students’ test results gives inexact data out in the burbs, what’s it doing in NY’s urban settings?
I teach in a crime-addled community in the inner city, where working class, immigrant and impoverished families produce a mix of kids who face violence, drugs or gangs, and that’s just for starters.
Seeing the new evaluations coming, two of the best math teachers in my school left last summer. Both relatively early in their careers, they transferred to schools in neighborhoods where students will score higher on tests. They knew from experience that students three years behind grade level when they enter a school are highly unlikely to make up significant ground.
Another matter is the “mainstreaming” of special needs students, placed in crowded classes because of funding shortfalls or long backlogs in evaluating and classifying kids with ADD/ADHD, emotional disabilities or other issues. From day one, we see so many of these kids cannot focus long for “desk work”, demanding inordinate teacher time. But because they are as-yet unevaluated, they are considered “general ed” and will again skew teacher evaluations.
Because of other home factors such as neglect, abuse, depression or homelessness, success in school is increasingly supported by “wraparound” services like counseling or health checks which look at problems more holistically. These services barely exist in my school, while suburban schools in the region can offer weekly one-on-one counselor meetings for every student.
The high number of transient families in the inner city means students are constantly entering and leaving school. But if a new student arrives just before the state exams, it still counts fully, skewing the measurements. Likewise, students instructed all year by a math or ELA teacher could leave just before the tests. With this, administrators can game the system by intentionally making last-minute shuffles.
The new teacher evaluations, which led to a week-long strike in Chicago last September, are ensuring the NY kids who need great teachers the most are now more likely to see them flee, or switch to a non-tested subject area. Low performing schools will continue to repel talent, but in high performing schools, teachers will be artificially and arbitrarily rewarded thanks in part to the tens of thousands spent on private tutoring.
The English teacher in my daughter’s school who was recognized for showing the most progress in her grade last year confided in me that she has no magic formula, she has been teaching the same exact way for over ten years, but that each crop of students simply varies in performance.
Two teen defendants in the “Jane Doe” case in Steubenville Ohio were found guilty by Judge Thomas Lipps last Sunday morning, following testimony given by eyewitnesses who confirmed the athletes used their fingers to penetrate the victim while she was unresponsive.
The case drew wide attention after a group of ‘hactivists’ made a raft of outlandish allegations suggesting many influential townsfolk were in on the rape and cover up, or part of wider criminal activity such as drug and gambling rings. Almost all the criminal accusations remain unsupported, but the online campaign did bring the national spotlight to the case, including calls for more arrests.
The City of Steubenville took an unusual step in response to the increased attention, hoping to show an objective, responsible side of a town accused of favoring it’s high school football stars. A “Steubenville Facts” page was posted, disseminating selective information to dispel rumors.
But questions persisted. Multiple eyewitnesses to the assault were not charged, even after they reportedly took pictures, shared them online and deleted them. Three were offered immunity, and ended up taking the stand where they admitted their part. But many more were not charged, at least not yet.
It’s been reported that dozens knew about the incident but did not alert authorities, a misdemeanor offense in Ohio. Taking naked pics of a minor is also a chargeable offense. Atorney General Mike DeWine has called for a grand jury to consider new charges because sixteen witnesses refused to talk, a veritable blockade of silence.
We learned during trial testimony how nervous participants were they would be reported in the aftermath of the incident. Some suspect intimidation and special treatment took place from on high – it was ten days before local prosecutor Jane Hanlin recused herself from the case, her son a teammate of the accused and her home one of several party sites involved.
The victim took the stand on the last day of the case, becoming distraught when she saw a picture of herself not in control of her faculties. She has questioned whether she was drugged because memory loss seems unusual for the amount of alcohol she was said to have consumed, described as “out of it” from fairly early on in the evening.
City of Steubenville: In Breitbart We Trust
Another mystery involves a posting on the City of Steubenville website, linking the page of a controversial Breitbart.com blogger as a reliable source for “controlling the rampant spread of rumors and inaccurate information about this case.”
It’s still there online, entitled “Get The Facts”. They might have been impressed with the blogger’s posts on the Steubenville case, but they either ignored or were unaware that the conservative blogger has an ongoing feud with the hactivist group Anonymous coloring everything he says.
The blogger argues that Ms. Hanlin’s work actually helped lead to the conviction, while skeptics believe she helped pick fall guys while protecting others. Why did the testifying eyewitnesses get immunity instead of plea deals or prosecution? Hanlin’s apologists are saying the pressure of social media, including death threats, “forced” the judge to grant immunity to the star witnesses. Is that how justice now works?
Doubtful. We have already heard complaints of class and race privilege, but “connections” often play the bigger role in small town justice.
What’s evident is that Hanlin did not belong anywhere near the case, even for one day, and that it’s pretty odd to have “journalist advocates” vouching for the coaches and prosecutors without showing why through their research.
This link to a partisan political site seems an unwise decision, but it was questionable in setting up a taxpayer-funded “city blog” in the first place that gives out selective fact-checking while legal proceedings are underway.
We all know the case was already being tried in the court of public opinion, but the “official” endorsement of a right wing activist blogger who describes himself as a fan of the work of James O’Keefe can only add controversy. “ACORN pimp” O’Keefe is known for deceptive editing on behalf of secret wealthy donors, but has been criminally convicted and sued for using illegal methodology.
A Second Case In The Same Basement?
Another disturbing loose end suggests Jane Doe was not the first girl photographed lying naked on the distinctive carpet.
Via The Daily Mail, two different unidentified girls can be seen lying face down, partly naked, in undated photos taken in the same room as the above rape incident. According to transcripts, the images were on the phone of a witness in the above case, along with a similar shot of 16 year old Jane Doe, face down on the floor, arms tucked beneath her and stripped naked.
Per the report, the witness claimed he had never before see these photos, found on his own phone by forensic examiners.
It’s possible the images may correlate to a sexual assault reported to police by a 14-year-old girl who attended a team prom party in April but kept quiet for five months. Deep-digging hactivists claim to have discovered tweets from the time of the incident which convey a similar story of online bragging and misogynist comments.
When Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla was asked by reporters about the April case, he said “The last I heard the girl had recanted and said it was consensual”. This may be an inappropriate comment, considering the case is currently under investigation by the state Attorney General’s office, but the April case may have indeed been “dormant” until the Jane Doe case went under the national microscope.
The media coverage has emboldened others to speak about being victims of assault in Steubenville. But despite the verdicts, recent tweets and warped media coverage show we still have a way to go. CNN is under fire for ‘sympathetic’ comments aimed at defendants, but legal analyst Lisa Green told NBC News anchor Lester Holt the Steubenville case was a “cautionary tale” of leaving digital images and conversations behind, suggesting the perpetrators could have gotten away with it if they were just more careful with social media.
Crime blogger Alexandria Goddard is being credited for bringing public awareness to light, for preserving screenshots that were quickly deleted, but authorities claim they had all pertinent evidence already in hand. The perps had their devices seized by cops as soon as the charges were filed.
The whole ordeal seems like a societal cry for help – the boys didn’t even realize what they were doing was wrong, didn’t imagine the consequences or reaction outside their Steubenville bubble. Going forward, we’ll see whether more arrests are coming, whether other victims will come forward, and whether hacktivists will use the same method of making outlandish allegations to bring attention to cases in the future. But there are also questions about how our digital communications are being preserved and stored. If so, for how long, who gets access to them and under what conditions?
From all I’ve read, the cops didn’t request copies of deleted data from telecom firms in this case, relying on forensic experts to retrieve deleted images and communications from the devices themselves.
But if the NSA is actually copying and storing all communications of US citizens as whistleblowers report, it’s possible law enforcement may request access in the future, to determine guilt or innocence in court cases, for example. For me, this is the critical “social media” question this case brings up, not how stupid some teens were to post evidence online as they committed rape.
Rachel Maddow is looking to ruffle feathers, going where Obama or Congress wouldn’t dare to tread, in publicizing the “deceptions” of the Bush Iraq Team which launched a long and costly war.
Because of a ten year mainstream media whitewash, it’s been generally accepted that “mistakes” resulted in a war that claimed over 4,800 US troops. But this week, MSNBC will rock the boat, suggesting false pretenses took us to war, meaning the nation should start debating consequences.
Rachel Maddow is teasing there will be great “political upset” when the documentary Hubris: The Selling of The Iraq War airs on Monday Feb. 18.
If proven deliberate, the Iraq WMD intel debacle could constitute domestic and international war crimes. Someone must have had a long fight behind the scenes to get this controversy on the air because most of the facts have been readily available for years through indie media, articles (and even in drips and drabs on MSNBC). A book version of Hubris was co-authored by David Corn and Michael Isikoff in 2007.
Perhaps most striking is the way most media has ignored Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a top level Bush administration insider who has offered to testify directly against Dick Cheney and others. So what actionable allegations will Maddow present?
Plamegate was just one WMD related scandal resulting in conviction. Scooter Libby lied to investigators, taking the fall for Vice President Cheney before having his sentence commuted by President Bush. But that story is old, so what’s new, what’s different?
Running With Curveball’s Lies The saga of ‘Curveball’ also creeped out into US media in fits and starts. If networks truly wanted ratings or public trust, they’d have fought over blockbuster exclusives showing how the Iraq war was built on shameful lies. But we saw the opposite – a reluctance to report basic facts about the sole “eyewitness” claiming to be an “Iraqi chemical engineer”.
Curveball (aka Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi) was the main reason given for the US invasion of Iraq. In truth, the Iraqi exile had no bio-weapons knowledge, but fed claims about mobile labs to the BND (German intelligence) knowing the Bush administration was itching for war.
Officials within the BND, CIA and DIA all surmised Curveball was lying. These dissents were somehow “lost in the shuffle”, the supposed honest “mistake” that gave us the war. But there are plenty of whistleblowers saying otherwise and even naming names, if the media and Congress should begin to listen.
MSNBC has promoted this TV special with a graphic showing Iraq Team principals Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice dramatically walking down a Texas dirt path. But Colin Powell isn’t in the shot. This means MSNBC may be editorially sympathetic to Powell’s point of view. They will include interviews with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s Chief of Staff.
Powell’s former sideman has been blowing the whistle since 2005, even offering to testify against Cheney, Tenet and deputy CIA director John McGlaughlin, claiming the Office of the Vice President breached protocol, making agents within the CIA do Cheney’s bidding.
We’ll hear Secretary Powell did doubt Curveball and the White House. Wilkerson described these reservations on PBS in 2006, which put Powell in the position of either outing Cheney and the Iraq Team who set him up, or keeping his mouth shut to protect them. Hiding his own skeletons, Powell did not speak out, rolling over for the “hoax” that ruined his career.
Col. Wilkerson has admitted he personally brought graphic artists to the White House to “sex up” the WMD diagrams Powell would use, based off cocktail napkin drawings made as Curveball received expert coaching. Wilkerson has always said he would take responsibility for his part in the charade.
But then in 2011, another Wilkerson interview with Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald brought more disturbing revelations to light. Just as the US stood on the brink of war, Powell rejected Scooter Libby’s 50-page report, calling it “bullshit” as he threw it into the trash.
Col. Wilkerson said his boss sent word he would refuse to sign off on the WMD evidence. But within an hour, George Tenet unveiled “compelling” new evidence tying Iraq to the 9/11 attacks. Powell was told of a new link between Saddam and bin Laden, a high-level al Qaeda terrorist had admitted everything. This was the clincher for Powell, who would go out to make the fateful speeches to Congress and the UN that would sanction the war and destroy his credibility.
Beating Lies Out Of “The Libyan” Powell wasn’t told for over a year that it was actually a Libyan detainee named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who was tortured and punched in the face for 15 minutes in a secret Cairo “rendition” site, before agreeing yes, he had witnessed a meeting between Iraqi officials and al Qaeda.
But al-Libi recanted everything, admitting he lied to save his life. By 2009, al-Libi was found dead in a Libyan prison cell after human rights attorneys took an interest in him. But the CIA knew al-Libi made it up long before, according to a classified report filed way back in August 2002. The FBI officials who first aprehended al-Libi also believed he had lied, but they were dismissed from the case in a turf dispute.
The lead torturer was Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, a strong ally in George Tenet’s off-the-books rendition program, later appointed vice-president of Egypt by Hosni Mubarak. Suleiman continued relations with Leon Panetta through the Obama years, dying mysteriously in a US hospital last July along with a wealth of secrets.
Will Maddow’s special show how illegal torture, rendition and secret alliances with dictatorships gave us the crucial lies that steamrolled all resistance to the Iraq War? And if so, why didn’t MSNBC air these reports as they first broke? Why now? What’s changed?
Maddow Unmuzzled? It’s possible Rachel Maddow may have pushed for more latitude in a new contract. The timing suggests Maddow and other MSNBC staff were given a longer leash after Obama’s re-election, a bold move leftward for the network. MSNBC has also made headlines for regularly topping the ratings of Fox News and Sean Hannity, with Maddow making gains in key demographics. Also completed just last week was full transfer of MSNBC parent NBCUniversal, away from GE, who has defense interests, to Comcast, the media and communications colossus.
When a gun rights advocate brings up the Second Amendment, I ask them why they wouldn’t defend the First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment from either Bush or Obama. If they are willing to fight for the Bill of Rights, why do gun-lovers not just allow, but fight for stripping our right to a jury trial, to privacy or protest?
Worse yet, if firearms are the answers to stopping government tyranny, why are gun owners first to grant this government the authority to unilaterally label US citizens as terrorists and wipe them off the map?
Codified by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the 2011 NDAA makes firearm ownership yet another “red flag” for the government’s new legal authority to track, eavesdrop and ultimately, assassinate citizens, including minors, on their sole extra-judicial say-so, with total opacity. Isn’t this what the Second Amendment intended to prevent?
The “Well-Regulated Militia”
When the founders mandated we arm ourselves to stand against tyrannical rule, citizen soldiers using muskets, bayonets and cannons trained to resist phalanxes of government soldiers or statehouse coups like a glorified neighborhood watch.
We can agree “non-standing” militias were designed to provide security without federal control or tax dollars, but we must see a lopsided imbalance has evolved. Current laws allow citizens limited access to long arms as a comical check to the government’s stockpiles of atomic missiles, aircraft carriers, tank brigades, iron curtains, remote controlled flying machines – or digital ears and eyes in every home.
By the age of mortars, bazookas and howitzers, any glint of citizen parity with War Department firepower was lost, but after they developed the Apache copter, Stinger/Hellfire missiles and Predator drones, the concept was relegated to an exercise in fantasy. The very idea of thinking about a ‘security check’ on a government is made more ludicrous by the advantage government has in secrecy, encompassing anything from their new crowd control ray to classified bio-weapons programs, nano, genetic, or as-yet-unknown technologies.
The best bulwarks therefore are brains – the academic and independent labs that outpace DoD research, the freedom of the press that exposes their antics, the public shunning and shame.
The individual gun owner today might be able to defend themselves against a single rogue FBI agent on their lawn, but cannot hope to beat back the local SWAT team, let alone the US military, were they to turn on us. The Supreme Court admitted this in 2008, when Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority acknowledged the changes in technology indeed made the “security” clause of the Second Amendment moot. Nevertheless, Scalia used the opportunity to invent an arbitrary carve-out preserving the right to own hand guns, furthering confusion and endless debate.
The power of the people today lay in our political and aggregate strength, intelligence and economic power. The hacker community has more capability than some governments, demonstrating routinely how they can assume control of sites and networks, but often do so with a self-proclaimed morality responsible to the peeps, using their power to pick virtual locks with a conscious.
We have not been able to curb government corruption because the federal government hydra has grown over 470,000 times it’s size since the Second Amendment was ratified. But the venue for achieving balance has shifted anyway, from a potential homeland battlefield to the intellectual space – money, votes, airtime, buzz, boycotts, protests.
We The People are what keeps the country functioning, so our smarts and numbers will mean more to public policy than the founders’ writ. With respect to best intents, that horse hath left the barn already…
As often seen overseas, governments invest heavily in “heart and minds”, promising our votes and political support control outcomes. A major plank in this is gun ownership, a perennial wedge issue splitting us into rural and urban camps, but in practical political terms, a long settled debate.
The issue did not get ink in 2012 or 2008, a win for the status quo. Democrat John Kerry posed for a photo while game hunting, conceding the issue in 2004. Obama’s “skeet” photos are the latest round in the optics game that ensure the toothless Second Amendment is not in the crosshairs.
Ronald Reagan knew when he first started automating data analysis in the 1980 presidential campaign that potential voters like feeling they are in control. Owning a gun feeds this fantasy, a deadly weapon in hand gives a rush of penis-compensating awesomeness, but also purports to soothe our insecurity that Willie Horton, freshly paroled by liberals is lurking in the bushes with his beady black eye on our white women. This was key to Scalia’s unusual carve-out.
Reagan knew well how to play the cowboy, portraying many a formulaic wild west hero in a spate of Hollywood flicks. This tapped into our tradition of rugged frontier individualism on the surface, but more subliminally reminds us of a “white is right” and “might is right” history. The USA was built on gun violence and racism as we exploited brown people the world over to spur “growth”.
Guns harken back to our Manifest Destiny, now called American exceptionalism, right in the home, helping us puff out our chests as we ignore the stark reality that we are a much more likely to see a family member shot than use a gun in a “citizen intervention” case. These rare self-defense anecdotes are great for sales, allowing purchasers to imagine themselves in the super-suave hero role as they support an industry that made $1.7 trillion dollars in the last year.
But the reality is that the gun remains close at hand as families go through good and bad times – it’s there when depression hits and leads to a predictable 19,000 firearm suicides per year. It’s there when arguments or fender benders escalate violently, for all of our worst moments.
It’s there when spouses are caught cheating, or teenage hormones rage, or when small children explore the house. Just two years ago, a childhood friend of mine going through a separation took his life when he heard he was also losing his job. The gun was there before a friend could be.
So despite our best intentions for self-defense in the home, the increased access to the personal firearm has proven itself to be a remedy whose side effects are worse than the cure. Looking at the stats year after year , we are willingly hurting the many as we seek a benefit for the few.
If we cling to our Second Amendment liberty , the right to bear arms, the Constitution demands we train and prepare to revolt when our leaders fail to abide by the law, as part of a well-regulated militia . In a sense, it’s happening – i t is the truly the people keeping unchecked power from eating itself and everything else, but it’s getting increasingly difficult.
President Obama recently blustered that he could not change Washington from the inside, on one level an apparent cry for help, on the other, a warning reminiscent of Eisenhower’s 1961 call for “vigilance” of the military-industrial cancer consuming Washington. So who or what drives Obama, Bush and Congress to strip our rights away?
Concerning “tyranny”, the government has already violated the Constitution, many times over. When the founders crafted rules for impeachment, they expected it to be used frequently. But because of all-too-effective PR, government has made us servile, unable to question a War on Terror at odds with our Constitution and driving massive debt.
Reagan saw to it that pro-war propaganda was in place long before he ordered acts of aggression overseas. He even used taxpayer money to seed this, ordering restrictions lifted on political talk radio and manipulating national literature distribution to ensure hawkish ideas thrive on our bookshelves.
But since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Bush era propaganda such as multicolored alerts froze all the so-called red state patriots into total “terrorized” compliance.
The typical NRA member and the demographic living in “shotguns and pickups” zipcodes were so afraid of Muslim extremists, they welcomed unprecedented surveillance, rendition, and enhanced interrogation. They continue to defend and argue for these policies, even as they roundly disapprove of Congress and absolutely despise the current occupant of the White House. Ironic is too weak a word.
This has been the biggest abuse of power in our lifetime, the new idea that terrorist acts constitute endless ‘war’ which suspends our civil liberties, treaties and normal checks and balances. Themselves well-armed, the typical red state voter was so pussifed by the specter of Osama bin Laden he swallowed whole the major changes to our civil liberties on the fast-track, without realizing how it affects their rights.
The Patriot Act, torture, detainment, the Iraq War, the drone program, the warrantless surveillance were all high crimes and misdemeanors sold to gun-toting Republicans as necessary to guard against an unseen enemy, these Islamic terrorists in sleeper cells. The 9/11 response of “shock and awe” stated actual intention to intimidate suicide bombers, a laughably tragic failure of logic. Why a suicidal maniac would fear their enemy, I’m sure I don’t know.
Thanks to Fox News and the Limbaugh/Hannity talk radio lot, Republicans are still pro-actively arguing for our rights to be withheld by the government. The same government they say is too big, is too incompetent, is too liberal. After 9/11, we traded liberty for security, directly contradicting the clearest language in the Constitution, without a peep. We declared War Powers without a true war, we allowed spying on ourselves and we invaded sovereign nations without cause. Democrats bought in, lending the necessary votes.
Obama continues further, through the Trespass Act which strips our First Amendment right to petition elected officials with grievances, now a felony punishable by 10 years in federal prison. The Tea Party, who used to love picketing and protesting stood by deaf and dumb as this passed both houses unanimously, quickly and quietly. The left did little more than report on it.
But worse by far, the NDAA stripped our Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial by a jury of our peers, to face our accuser, to have an attorney and the protection of due process enshrined in over 800 years of democratic tradition. Our new law says a single bureaucrat can be your judge, jury and executioner whether you are armed on an overseas battlefield, or walking down the street in your American home town. Suspicion alone is now all that is needed to indefinitely capture or kill any US citizen, to deprive them of rights stated plainly in the Constitution in extra-ultra-unmistakeably clear language.
The Obama administration is apparently hanging this on Bush’s “enemy combatant” designation, which applies during wartime (eleven years and counting) and quite newly, to any part of the USA homeland, now considered a “battlefield” from sea to shining sea.
Obama also denies our 4th Amendment protection of privacy, collecting all emails, texts and call data to create long-term profiles of every single citizen. Multiple NSA defectors have confirmed they created capability to map our personal and digital histories, aided by automation to sift through all communications, presumably to aid law enforcement “if necessary”. This is all being done in secret, at great expense, under the program Stellar Wind.
The GOP’s Lost Potential for Big Wins
If you’d told the GOP candidates they could run against Obama on multiple proven violations of the US Constitution, you’d think they’d be all over it. But curiously, Republicans across the board shrink on what should be slam-dunk issues that grab US voters by their red-blooded heartstrings. Why? Republicans are even more power-mad than Obama, hoping to get back in power to take the reins of Nixonian spying, executive assassination, indefinite detention, corporate glad-handing and absolute suppression of dissent.
Republicans love to share images of Obama shredding the Constitution or buggering Lady Liberty, but claim it’s Obamacare that is unconstitutional, the same policy that originated with them when first suggested by the Heritage Foundation. Full circle and head-up-ass…
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