Monday, November 30, 2009

Escalation to What End?

Meghan McCain is angry at President Obama, angrier than she has been in a long time apparently.

In Meghan's most recent post at The Daily Beast, she recounts her visit to Camp Pendleton to send off her brother Jimmy before he deployed to Iraq and his recent return home.

But over this Thanksgiving weekend, with my brother home safely, I heard him tell stories of the horrors of fellow soldiers getting injured overseas. When my brother told me these stories, I was more upset than I expected. Something about hearing it straight from my brother’s mouth made it all more real.

Let me be frank—I am angry. I am angry and frustrated, in a way I haven’t been in a long time. During the election, I remember the biggest fear I had about an Obama presidency was his lack of experience in foreign policy and specifically with the military.

Without specifying what these horrific stories that McCain's brother recounted to her entailed, McCain gets angry at the President's perceived "lack of experience" with foreign policy.

As Obama stalls and hesitates to make decisions, these soldiers in Afghanistan are not being given the support they need. General Stanley McChrystal and other military leaders have asked for an additional 40,000 troops to expand the fighting in Afghanistan. And this Tuesday, President Obama will lay out his plans for the region.


...I hope President Obama fully supports our troops in his speech on Tuesday. Because in the meantime people continue to die, or have their legs blown off, or their bodies burned in a war in which they aren’t being given the opportunity to fight with all the required manpower.

As my father used to say during the election, “let them win.” President Obama, I am asking you to give this military full support and the troop numbers they are asking for. And anything less than 40,000 is a failure.

Let them win, Mr. President.

While I am not a proponent of sending more troops into the region, I find it quite interesting for McCain to claim that because Obama has taken time to consider his options in Afghanistan, he is responsible for soldiers dying and getting injured.

McCain apparently thinks that 40,000 is the magic number of troops for victory in this conflict in order for the soldiers to be "fully supported" and for them to avoid injury and death. If only they could be given enough manpower we could win right?

I wonder how Meghan McCain defines "winning" in Afghanistan. That would be more of an interesting article rather than her current naive attempt to simultaneously slam the President for not being a reactionary while trying to advance the Conservative line that these 40,000 troops will be the winning ticket in Afghanistan.

I want to encourage Meghan McCain to listen to the ever growing chorus of voices who are calling for an end to the fighting in the region and an end to the continued spending of war and destruction.

Take today's Editorial from the Capital Times in Wisconsin:

All indications are that Obama will announce on Tuesday plans to surge as many as 34,000 more troops to dramatically extend the U.S. entanglement in Afghanistan, and in the dirty work of defending what is unquestionably one of the most corrupt governments on the planet.

So what will U.S. troops being doing in Afghanistan? The president would have us believe they are on some sort of humanitarian mission.

This is not the case. They have been placed in the awful position of defending the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai, who secured the presidency of Afghanistan through foreign interventions, intimidation and election fraud.

Karzai is a despicable despot. The notion that one drop of American or Afghan blood would be shed in his defense is not just unsettling. It is grotesque.

I would also recommend that McCain watch "A Tale of Two Quagmires" which Bill Moyers presented on his program a few weeks ago. In this piece, Moyers took a look at the pressure that was put on President Johnson to escalate the Vietnam War in 1968 and how that scenario is comparable to today's decision facing President Obama. Moyers concluded by saying:

Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we're fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.

Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.

And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he's got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.

And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.

We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.

Someone who did say "no" was Matthew Hoh, who became the first U.S. Official to resign over the war in Afghanistan a few months ago. In Hoh's letter he states:

"I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end. To put simply: I fail to see the value or worth in the continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan Government in what is, truly, a 35-year old Civil War."

I can agree with Meghan McCain that this whole situation can draw up anger for a lot of reasons, but I don't think the answer is to fall back on the Conservative talking points of "supporting the troops" by sending thousands more into this complicated and increasingly dismal scenario. "Let them win Mr. President" is an empty phrase that does nothing to critically address the ever-growing problems that face this region and the escalation in forces that Meghan McCain is calling for, will only result in more horrific stories of death and destruction.

Journalist Amy Goodman Detained and Questioned at Canadian Border Crossing

Amy Goodman, Independent Journalist, author and host of Democracy Now! was traveling to Vancouver, Canada on Thanksgiving when she was detained and questioned by Canadian officials while trying to cross the border. Goodman and two colleagues were held and questioned for approximately 90 minutes while their belongings, including their notes and computers, were searched.

Goodman was on her way to speak at the Vancouver Public Library at a benefit for local community radio stations and the border guards seemed quite concerned over whether Goodman was going to speak out against the 2010 Winter Olympics which are being held in Vancouver.

To address why these border authorities were so concerned over the possibility of Goodman speaking out against the Olympics as well as the implications that this incident has on free speech, Goodman hosted a couple of guests this morning on Democracy Now!

Christopher Shaw, professor of Ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia. He is also a leading spokesperson for the No Games 2010 Coalition and 2010 Watch. He is the author of “Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games.” and David Eby, Executive Director of British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

Here is the video from the broadcast:

Monday, November 23, 2009

From Exclusion to Misrepresentation: Chicago Tribune Reporter Raises More Questions Than She Answers

On September 17, 2009, the Chicago-based non-profit group Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF) filed for voluntary dissolution with the Illinois Secretary of State's Office, effectively closing down the embattled organization that was founded by Carol Spizzirri. While the organization was once well-known for teaching schoolchildren first-aid skills and how to respond in emergency situations, controversy over both the credibility of Spizzirri as well as the claims that she made about the accomplishments of the non-profit, have cast a dark shadow on both SALF and those who have provided the organization with millions of dollars in funding.

In 2006 and 2007 Spizzirri and SALF were the targets of a four-part investigative series by Chuck Goudie of Chicago's ABC 7. Goudie's investigation uncovered multiple red-flags about the organization. He found that Spizzirri fabricated her medical credentials by claiming that she was a Registered Nurse, he found that serious questions exist over Spizzirri's claims that SALF trained over a million school children since 1995, and Goudie found that SALF was under the medical advise of Dr. Henry Heimlich despite controversies over medical scenarios in which Heimlich believes that his "Maneuver" is appropriate.

The Cincinnati Beacon, and more specifically Jason Haap (The Dean of Cincinnati), has had a history of reporting on the controversies surrounding Dr. Heimlich, so when Goudie's investigation ran in 2006 and 2007, Haap continued to cover both Dr. Heimlich and the new questions that were stirred up about Carol Spizzirri.

SALF responded by suing Haap, Peter Heimlich (son of Dr. Henry Heimlich), and Dr. Robert Baratz (President of the National Council Against Health Fraud) claiming that they conspired to harm the reputation of SALF by spreading false information to agencies that gave funding to the non-profit. The lawsuit continued for the next two years until July, 2009 when SALF dropped the charges against the trio, just two months before the organization filed for voluntary dissolution.

As I reported a few weeks ago, Chicago Tribune reporter Lisa Black wrote an article entitled "Save-a-Life Foundation in limbo" that was published on the Tribune's website on October 11, 2009.

Black's piece told her readers that SALF was "in limbo" despite the fact that the dissolution paperwork was filed a month before her piece was written and Black also gave Carol Spizzirri the definitive last word on many of the controversial issues that have surrounded both her, and her organization over the years.

As I also reported, Lisa Black was one of two Tribune reporters on the potential witness list for SALF in the lawsuit that was filed against Haap, Heimlich, and Baratz. Since Black had failed to disclose this information to her readers and since the only voice that was represented in her piece was that of a noted controversial figure, I decided to take a closer look at both what was said and what wasn't said in Black's piece.

Peter Heimlich is the son of Dr. Henry Heimlich (who invented the famous "Maneuver" that bears his name) and runs a wholesale textile business with his wife in the Atlanta area. In Heimlich's spare time, he runs the website on which he posts research that is critical of many of his father's claims. Heimlich was one of the three named in the defamation lawsuit and in my initial piece, I wondered why there were no quotes from either Heimlich or any of his co-defendants in Lisa Black's piece which specifically mentions the case. Instead, Black quotes Carol Spizzirri as saying the lawsuit "took its toll" and is partly responsible for SALF's closure.

I contacted Peter Heimlich and asked if Lisa Black had reached out to him for comment on this issue. Heimlich stated that he was in fact contacted by Black, but that her line of questioning raised his suspicions. "She seemed determined to focus on me and portray me in a negative light," Heimlich stated, "For example, Black asked me to answer a half-dozen loaded questions that had nothing to do with the case and were based on bizarre false claims about me. I asked Black where she got this ridiculous information and she wrote back that it came from Carol Spizzirri."

Heimlich also told me that Black "refused" to interview his co-defendants in the defamation case or anyone that would be critical of SALF, so I contacted both Jason Haap and Dr. Robert Baratz.

Jason Haap, co-founder of the Cincinnati Beacon (to which I am a regular contributor), confirmed that Lisa Black never contacted him and Dr. Baratz (speaking to me on his own accord and not on behalf of the National Council Against Health Fraud) confirmed the same. Dr. Baratz added that Peter Heimlich had made him aware of Black's interest in the legal case and that he had sent Black the following email:

“Peter Heimlich indicated in an email you may want to speak with me regarding the SALF lawsuit (now withdrawn), and perhaps other matters regarding potential fraud with grants, contracts, and other activities.
I am happy to speak with you.”

He never received a reply.

I also contacted Attorney Wayne Giampietro who represented Haap, Heimlich and Baratz in the defamation lawsuit. Giampietro told me that he did speak with Black regarding the case. "We talked about the case, what it alleged, why it was dropped, etc." he stated, "Virtually nothing I told her during that conversation was included in her article."

What also wasn't included in her article was that her name was on the list of requested witnesses on behalf of SALF for the very lawsuit on which she reported. I sent Lisa Black, as well as her editors Peter Kendall and Peter Hernon, multiple requests to comment on whether they were aware that Black's name appeared on this list and if they felt that this information should have been disclosed to readers. While I didn't receive a reply from any of them, Peter Heimlich tells me that he did make Black and Peter Kendall aware that her name appeared on this witness list and that she didn't view it as a problem. According to Heimlich:

I sent her an e-mail asking if she was aware that she was on SALF's witness list. She replied, "I had no idea I was named on a potential witness list. I did some reporting on SALF a few years ago but we never published an article." I then asked if being named as a witness would affect her reporting a story about the lawsuit. She immediately replied, "I don't see why it would be an issue since the suit has been dismissed and I don't remember being contacted about it by any lawyers."
Heimlich then told me that he wrote a letter to Peter Kendall on October 2 that expressed his concerns and requesting that a different reporter be assigned to the story. Heimlich says he never received a reply.

While Attorney Wayne Giampietro verifies that he never contacted Black about her name being on the witness list, the issue of disclosure may not be as clear-cut as Black seemed to indicate to Heimlich.

Dr. Richard Campbell
is the Director of the journalism program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Campbell has written books and numerous articles on the media and journalism for publications such as the Columbia Journalism Review, Journal of Communication, and Media Studies Journal. He received his MA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and his PhD from Northwestern University. I spoke with Dr. Campbell about this topic.

"Of course the reporter should have disclosed the information," he says, "The point of good journalism is to insure that readers know as much about the events or issues being covered as possible, and this includes full disclosure of the reporter’s connections to what he/she is covering." Dr. Campbell believes that the mainstream media has "general credibility problems" and that the claim of objectivity isn't necessarily realistic. "The best you can be is to try and be fair," he says and that in critiquing journalists one needs to ask if they have been fair, complete, and if they tell multiple sides of the story. Dr. Campbell concludes, "In this situation, that's leaving stuff out that should be there."

With Black failing to disclose that she was on this list, it only manages to raise more questions about her connections to SALF and to Carol Spizzirri. Dr. Robert Baratz: "Ms. Black was a named witness by SALF in the litigation. She never appeared, was deposed, or generated a report. Thus there was no opportunity to even find out why she was a witness, let alone what she knew that would contribute to the plaintiff’s (SALF’s) case, or what her relationship was with SALF or its principals that would put her on the witness list."

It isn't just the fact that Black left this disclosure out of her piece that raises questions about her objectivity. In Black's piece she wrote (emphasis mine):

Spizzirri launched a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching children emergency response techniques, raising at least $8.6 million in federal and state grants for her Save-A-Life Foundation. Firefighters and paramedics were recruited to offer instruction on how to apply CPR and stop bleeding and choking, said Spizzirri, who estimates 2 million children took the classes, many of them from the Chicago Public Schools.


Much of the foundation’s work, Spizzirri said, focused on Chicago’s public schools. City school officials did not respond to inquiries about how many students received emergency training, but officials previously confirmed that the foundation taught classes that were arranged by individual schools.

Peter Heimlich informed me that when he was in communication with Black prior to the publication of her article, he provided her with the subpoenaed records from his case (which can be viewed here). "Training hundreds of thousands of kids should have produced piles of supporting paperwork," Heimlich said, "but our subpoena to the Chicago Board of Education produced a skimpy 19 pages showing only a few hundred people received SALF training at a handful of Chicago schools."

While Black did not mention this subpoena in her piece she did state that "officials previously confirmed that the foundation taught classes that were arranged by individual schools." This sentence gave Peter Heimlich pause, "Was Black basing that on the subpoenaed records?" he asks, "If so, she was not only ignoring the elephant in the room -- the lack of supporting records for SALF's claims -- she was trying to hide the elephant."

I attempted to obtain comment on many of these issues from Lisa Black, Peter Kendall and Peter Hernon, but after multiple attempts to reach all of them I have not received a response to any of my inquires.

As is usually the case, secrecy and actions that are not transparent only create more questions than they do answers. Among the Code of Ethics listed by the Society of Professional Journalists are the following items:

Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

These standards seem to stand in stark contrast to how Lisa Black and the Chicago Tribune decided to report this most recent story, especially considering that this is how Chicago Tribune Editor Gerould Kern recently described the Tribune's commitment to "keeping their promise" to their readers:

In a special report in June, we told you about our commitment to watchdog reporting, and we promised to stand guard for Chicago. Local investigative reporting is at the heart of our mission, and it drives everything we do.

We are keeping that promise. Each day we make watchdog reporting a defining characteristic of our news report.

The recent reporting on SALF lies in sharp contrast to both Kern's comments about the Tribune as well as the standards outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists. Given that journalism is supposed answer questions, shine a bright light on the truth, and tell a complete story, it is problematic when an organization fails to adhere to these standards. Reporter Lisa Black's failure to give Tribune readers a fair and complete picture of the controversies surrounding SALF, as well as her failure to disclose relevant information regarding her connection to a lawsuit on which she was reporting, only raises more questions than are answered. If the Chicago Tribune views this kind of reporting as "keeping their promise", then their readers may be inclined to wonder how other stories are being presented.

This article is cross posted here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Citizens Gather for "End the Fed" Event in Downtown Cincinnati (Video Report)

This is cross posted here.

Can You Smell What Sarah Palin is Cookin'?

There are many times where I would like to bang my head against a wall when I read the numerous stories that center around the one-woman drama show that is Sarah Palin. I am sure that many of you have felt the same way. There are those out there who dismiss her as being a mere blip on the Conservative radar that has no future chance of winning office and there are those who take her very seriously as a new face of the Conservative movement.

I am somewhere in-between on this one. I have yet to be convinced that she is a new brand of Conservative that will redefine the Republican Party, but I also don't think that she should be just ignored with the hope that she goes away. Palin has this raw appeal that resonates with many angry Conservative Americans. Even when she is factually wrong, even when she says ridiculous things in interviews...she still connects emotionally with a large number of people. That is interesting and really can't be simply dismissed.

Matt Taibbi over at Rolling Stone has a new piece up on his blog which breaks this issue down in greater depth. It is worth the full read, but I have included just a couple of clips below:

Sarah Palin’s battlefield, on the other hand, is whatever is happening five feet in front of her face. She is building a political career around the little interpersonal wars in the immediate airspace surrounding her sawdust-filled head. And in the process she connects with pissed-off, frightened, put-upon America on a plane that’s far more elemental than the mega-ditto schtick.

Most normal people cannot connect on an emotional level with Rush’s meanderings on how Harry Reid is buying off Mary Landrieu with pork in the health care bill. They can, however, connect with stories about how top McCain strategist and Karl Rove acolyte Steve Schmidt told poor Sarah to shut her pie-hole on election day, or how her supposed allies in the McCain campaign stabbed her in the back by leaking gossip about her to reporters, how Schmidt used the word “fuck” in front of her daughter, or even with the strange tales about Schmidt ordering Sarah to consult with a nutritionist to improve her campaign endurance when she herself knew she just needed to get out in the fresh air and run (If there’s one thing Sarah Palin knows, it’s herself!).


Sarah Palin is on an endless crusade against assholes. It’s all she thinks about. She doesn’t really have any political ideas, in the classic sense of the word — in fact the only thing resembling real political convictions in Going Rogue revolve around the Trans-Alaska pipeline and how awesome she thinks it is.

Most of the rest of the book just catalogs her Gump-esque rise to national stardom (not having enough self-awareness to detect the monstrous narcissistic ambition that in reality was impelling her forward all along, she labors in the book to describe her various career leaps as lucky accidents or mystical acts of Providence) and the seemingly endless parade of meanies bent on tripping her up along the way.


She is the country’s first WWE politician — a cartoon combatant who inspires stadiums full of frustrated middle American followers who will cheer for her against whichever villain they trot out, be it Newsweek, Barack Obama, Katie Couric, Steve Schmidt, the Mad Russian, Randy Orton or whoever. Her followers will not know that she is the perfect patsy for our system, designed as it is to channel popular anger in any direction but a useful one, and to keep the public tied up endlessly in pointless media melees over meaningless nonsense (melees of the sort that develop organically around Palin everywhere she goes). Like George W. Bush, even Palin herself doesn’t know this, another reason she’s such a perfect political tool.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lou Dobbs Continues his Post-CNN Media Tour

Lou Dobbs, freshly departed from his gig at CNN, stopped by The Daily Show last night. Jon Stewart extended the segment into a three-part conversation that is posted at The Daily Show's website and also right here:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Lou Dobbs Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Lou Dobbs Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Lou Dobbs Extended Interview Pt. 3
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

I thought Stewart was pretty good in this conversation, but it wasn't his best. The conversation stayed very down to Earth and Stewart was able to challenge Dobbs on a few key points, but Stewart didn't touch on Dobbs' controversial stance on "illegal" immigration or on his recent birther comments. Stewart also allowed Dobbs to paint President Obama as a "far left" President which, in turn, framed Dobbs as being a centrist. Then again, Stewart is just the host of a satirical comedy show right?

One of the more important points that Stewart did bring up, which I believe is both revealing and central to this conversation, is the past silence of those who are suddenly criticizing the so-called destruction of our freedoms by the government. I have stated this in the past, but it is quite clear that during the last eight years, the tea-partiers and 9/12'ers were totally silent on these issues. It is only now, when there is a black Democratic President in the White House, when there is sudden outrage from the right and being adopted as a viable business strategy by a major "news" corporation.

If you want to take a look at a really interesting interview of Dobbs and a subsequent discussion, I point you to this interview that was conducted by Democracy Now! hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez in December of 2007. Dobbs is confronted and forced to try and explain apparent inaccuracies that he stated on his broadcast. I will post some of the transcript below, but I highly recommend you follow that link and watch the entire conversation.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Lou, you said a third of the prison population are illegal aliens.


AMY GOODMAN: The fact is, it’s something like 6% of prisoners in this country are non-citizens, not even illegal, just non-citizens.


AMY GOODMAN: And then a percentage of that would not be documented.

LOU DOBBS: Well, it’s actually—I think it’s 26% in federal prison.

AMY GOODMAN: But you said of all prisoners.

LOU DOBBS: I said about—yes, but I—and I misspoke, without question. I was referring to federal prisoners.

AMY GOODMAN: But you didn’t say that, and so it leaves people with the impression—

LOU DOBBS: Well, I didn’t, but then I just explained it to you.

AMY GOODMAN: But you have a very large audience on CNN.

LOU DOBBS: I have a very large audience and a very bright audience.

AMY GOODMAN: And you told them that a third of the population of this country are illegal immigrants. 6% , which is under the population of immigrants—

LOU DOBBS: 6% , right.

AMY GOODMAN: —in this country, of prisoners—

LOU DOBBS: In state prisons.

AMY GOODMAN: —are immigrants.

LOU DOBBS: In state prisons. In state prisons.

AMY GOODMAN: No, 6% overall are immigrants. You said 30% are illegal.

LOU DOBBS: Well, I think we’ve established—we could sit here and say this all day, Amy. The fact is, the number is 26% in federal prisons. That’s what I was referring to. I did not—I misspoke when I said “prisons.” I was referring to the federal prisons, because that’s the federal crime: immigration. And that—

AMY GOODMAN: Have you made a correction on your show to say that 30% of—?

LOU DOBBS: I’m sure we have. We’ve reported—absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: We didn’t see it.


AMY GOODMAN: Another guest that you’ve had on the show—now, this is a very important point, and this is one that you would agree that you’ve covered, and that is Arizona—this is very important—the Protect Arizona Now referendum. In late 2004, it was revealed that the new head of the national advisory board to Protect Arizona Now, an anti-immigration organization, was a longtime white supremacist who was also an editorial advisor to the racist Council of Conservative Citizens. Although Virginia Abernethy’s controversial selection was reported prominently in virtually every Arizona paper, and despite the fact that Lou Dobbs heavily cover the anti-immigration referendum that Protect Arizona Now was advocating, you never mentioned the affair at all, her controversial selection as head of this group.

LOU DOBBS: And she was featured in how many reports?

AMY GOODMAN: The point is, you covered Protect Arizona Now extensively, and this is certainly significant, when it turns out that the head of the board of Protect Arizona Now is—

LOU DOBBS: And when was the last time she was on the show?

AMY GOODMAN: No, the important point is, you didn’t report the news of this very controversial—

LOU DOBBS: Is it possible—

AMY GOODMAN: —racist woman who headed Protect Arizona Now, which was virtually in every Arizona paper. The question is—

LOU DOBBS: Concurrent with our reporting?

AMY GOODMAN: —what you report and what you don’t.

LOU DOBBS: Concurrent with our reporting?

AMY GOODMAN: Of course. This is in 2004. The point is, what you report, Lou, and what you don’t report.

LOU DOBBS: Well, you know, Amy, I don’t know what to tell you, because, you know, based on your focus here today, you have focused on probably three or four reports, as best I can figure, out of more than five years of reporting on the issue. If that smacks at all to you of reasonable proportionate journalism on your part, I mean, God bless you. If that’s what you believe, God bless you. But I think you’re coming from an ideological position that has just absolutely skewed that perception and that perspective.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Palin's Interview with Barbara Walters

As it appears many do, I find Sarah Palin's widespread appeal to Conservatives very interesting. Every time she gives an interview, it is clear that to some, the accuracy of her claims have no bearing on her popularity. Even when she lies through her teeth.

The Huffington Post has compiled "18 of the Biggest Falsehoods" in Palin's new book and the Associated Press also did a fact check of the book. The New York Times summarizes:

The A.P. suggests that history and Ms. Palin diverge on a number of points, adding that her recollection of the awarding of lucrative natural gas contracts seems at odds with what happened, that her campaign financing included its share of high rollers in spite of her suggestion to the contrary, and that her warm feelings toward the Exxon Valdez settlement are a recent development. The A.P. knocks her for persistent historical revisionism and tartly concludes, “‘Going Rogue’ has all the characteristics of a precampaign manifesto, the requisite autobiography of the future candidate.”

Frankly, it should not a surprise to anyone that Palin has a rocky relationship with the truth, but what is noteworthy is her continued support despite her blatant contradictions that are exposed so publicly and so thoroughly.

Here is her most recent interview with Barbara Walters:

Watch her response at about 6:22 in the second video. Does anyone actually believe that Levi has "nothing" on her?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Counter-Protester Tricks Participants in an Anti-Immigration Rally

Over the weekend, some anti-immigration protesters gathered on the steps of Minnesota's State Capitol building to hold a rally. (h/t Amanda Terkel)

The interesting part? There were some counter-protesters that had gathered with this group and one of them, a concerned citizen from Minnesota named "Robert Erickson", actually got on the list of speakers.

Erickson delivered a scathing speech denouncing immigrants who come to take American jobs and encouraging the crowd to send the immigrants "back where they came from". It wasn't until the last third of Erickson's speech that it became clear that he was actually talking about European immigrants.

By this point it was too late as the crowd was already solidly behind Erickson as he denounced how European immigrants inflicted genocide on an entire population and stole land from this county's true inhabitants. He even finishes his speech by leading the crowd in a "Columbus go home" chant.

Here is video of his speech:

This piece is cross posted here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Two-Tiered System of Justice

The blogosphere is all fired up regarding the recent news that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and five others are going to be brought to the United States to stand trial in civilian court. Here is one example from Doug Payton over at Considerettes:

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, is being promoted to, what amounts to, full citizen of the United States of America for purposes of standing trial, in civilian court, for his war crimes. He’ll get all the rights and privileges afforded citizens, and even just residents living under the laws of our land, even though he has never been either of those.

Nazis are rolling over in their graves. No doubt John Kerry, who called the war on terror a "law enforcement" issue is feeling vindicate today.

I suppose this type of reaction from the right is to be expected, even complete with hyperbole about Nazi's!

I first heard of this news on NPR in my car this morning and while my initial inclination was to applaud the Obama Administration for finally bringing charges against these individuals I then heard the other half of the announcement. Namely:

Holder also announced that five other detainees held at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be sent to military commissions for trial. They were identified as Omar Khadr, Mohammed Kamin, Ibrahim al Qosi, Noor Uthman Muhammed and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

Al-Nashiri is an accused mastermind of the deadly 2000 bombing of the USS Cole; Khadr is a Canadian charged with the 2002 murder of a U.S. military officer in Afghanistan. Khadr was 15 years old when he was captured in July 2002.

Holder said a venue for the military commissions has not been set.

Sigh. So the American system of justice is good enough for some, but we must resort to the controversial "Military Commissions" for others? That sure sounds like a two-tiered system of justice to me. Despite all the comments I have seen today saying that we should just execute KSM or that he shouldn't be afforded a trial, we should aspire to be a civilized society that has a fair justice system that can be applied to even the "worst of the worst". A fair justice system does not seem to jive with the ability of our leadership to simply pick and choose which accused terrorists get afforded a system of justice like that practiced in our civilian courts and which detainees will have to go through the more controversial Military Tribunal system that has been largely criticized.

The obvious question in this situation (as is all too often the case) is why? Why are some detainees deemed fit to stand trial in the United States under one system of justice while others will be tried under Military Commissions? Glenn Greenwald has some ideas:

So what we have here is not an announcement that all terrorism suspects are entitled to real trials in a real American court. Instead, what we have is a multi-tiered justice system, where only certain individuals are entitled to real trials: namely, those whom the Government is convinced ahead of time it can convict. Others for whom conviction is less certain will be accorded lesser due process: put in military commissions, to which most leading Democrats vehemently objected when created under Bush. Presumably, others still -- those who the Government believes cannot be convicted in either forum, will simply be held indefinitely with no charges, a power the administration recently announced it intends to preserve based on the same theories used by Bush/Cheney to claim that power.

A system of justice which accords you varying levels of due process based on the certainty that you'll get just enough to be convicted isn't a justice system at all. It's a rigged game of show trials.

I think these implications and observations that are made by Greenwald, are being grossly overlooked in the corporate media's discussions on this issue. Most discussions are largely focused on the impact of bringing KSM to the United States for trial and the so-called "security risks" that it could pose. The greater implication that Grennwald outlines, is why these two systems of justice are being written. A very telling portion of Attorney General Eric Holder's statement on this issue was this segment (emphasis mine):

In each case, my decision as to whether to proceed in federal courts or military commissions was based on a protocol that the Departments of Justice and Defense developed and that was announced in July. Because many cases could be prosecuted in either federal courts or military commissions, that protocol sets forth a number of factors – including the nature of the offense, the location in which the offense occurred, the identity of the victims, and the manner in which the case was investigated – that must be considered. In consultation with the Secretary of Defense, I looked at all the relevant factors and made case by case decisions for each detainee.

More Greenwald:

There's supposed to be one justice system for everyone -- not multiple ones from which prosecutors can pick and choose based on assurances of ongoing imprisonment. Highlighting how dangerous this is, the DOJ's investigation of al-Nashiri was originally classified as a standard criminal case, but -- as his counsel pointed out today -- he was assigned to a military commission because there simply isn't sufficient evidence to convict him in a real court.


And for those of you who favor what Obama did today, I have two questions: (1) are you in favor of allowing serial murderers and child rapists to go free if the evidence against them is "tainted," or should special commissions be created to ensure their conviction, too; and (2) did you defend the Bush administration's use of military commissions on the same grounds that you're defending Obama today?

This system, that of our leadership being able to decide which system of justice each detainee gets, is flawed at best and has the potential to be unjust at worst. These criticisms are why these actions were opposed so strongly when former President Bush implemented these Commissions and why they should be equally opposed as President Obama continues their use.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sean Hannity: "Jon Stewart was Right"

Yesterday, I highlighted this item, where Jon Stewart and the Daily Show caught Fox News and Sean Hannity falsifying video footage in order to make a tea-party protest seem like it was attended by a larger number of people.

Last night on his show, Sean Hannity addressed the criticism he received by Stewart and admitted the error:

While I still have my suspicions that this was done unintentionally (after all, Fox has been instrumental in promoting these events in the past), you have to give some kudos when errors are admitted to on the air. You also have to give kudos to a satirical comedy show that acted as a watchdog on the supposed "Fair and Balanced" network. I wonder if this incident has sparked Hannity to ponder how many other times the Daily Show has been "right" on issues.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Daily Show Catches Fox News Falsifying Video Footage

This clip is self-explanatory. The Daily Show catches Fox News and host Sean Hannity using old video footage to try and make last week's Tea-Party event in Washington D.C. appear as if it were attended by a larger number of people. (h/t Huffington Post)

This is from a network who continues to claim that they don't have an agenda. Looks like they also don't have an agenda to factually represent the news.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Murdoch Defends Glenn Beck's Comments that President Obama is a 'Racist'

Blogging has been a little sparse as of late due to some research that has consumed some of my time but this item was pretty revealing.

I know it can be hard to keep all the antics of Glenn Beck straight in your mind, but think back to the summer when Beck stated that President Obama was a "racist" and that he had a "deep seated hatred for white people".

Remember that?

Well, media mogul and creator of Fox News has now come out in an interview and stated that while Beck probably shouldn't have said it, he was right to call Obama a racist:

If you didn't want to watch the entire video, here is the quote:

Speers: Glenn Beck who you mentioned has called Barack Obama a racist, and he helped organize a protest against him and others on Fox have likened him (Obama) to Stalin is that defensible?

Murdoch: No, no, no, not Stalin, I don't think, ah, not one of our people.

On the racist thing, that caused a (unintelligible). But he (Obama) did make a very racist comment. Ahhh -- about, you know, blacks and whites and so on, and which he said in his campaign he would be completely above. And um, that was something which perhaps shouldn't have been said about the President, but if you actually assess what he was talking about, he was right.

Dave Neiwert over at Crooks and Liars has a good breakdown analyzing the "who said what and when" in this entry. Here is a clip:

Now, what exactly was it that Obama said that brought Beck to this conclusion -- and which Murdoch claims was a "racist" thing for him to say? Well, he was talking about the Henry Louis Gates arrest:

"Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts what role race played in that, but I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry. Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. And that's just a fact.

As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in this society. That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made. And yet, the fact of the matter is that, you know, this still haunts us. And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and hispanics are picked up more frequently and often time for no cause cast suspicion even when there is good cause, and that's why I think the more that we're working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody's going to be."

And this was racist exactly how?

I suppose if you redefined "racism" to include "bringing up historically and factually accurate information about racist behavior of white people", then I suppose you could say that. I don't think we're there yet, but Rupert Murdoch is obviously working on it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Around the Horn: Reactions to Yesterday's Shooting at Ft. Hood

I thought that this would be an appropriate time for us to take a look at a snapshot of reactions on this awful case.

Details are beginning to trickle out to provide a little more clarity as there was much initial misinformation reported yesterday.

The New York Times has a good profile of the shooter, Nidal Malik Hassan, that you can read by clicking here. Here are some reactions from around the blogosphere:

Mitch Berg at "Shot in the Dark":

It’s hard for me to know what to say about atrocities like Fort Hood, other than the obvious; I pray for the people of Killeen, the troops in the First Cav and the Third Armored Cav and the 41st Artillery and the other units stationed there. Getting shot at in a combat zone is something they train for and expect; getting shot at on home turf, allegedly by one of their purported own, is not.

Glenn Greenwald:

Perhaps most irresponsible of all is the unverified claim that Hasan had written on the Internet in defense of suicide attacks by Muslims, even though the origins of those writings are entirely unverified. Similarly, certain news organizations -- like NPR -- used anonymous sources to disseminate inflammatory claims about Hasan's prior troubles allegedly grounded in activism on behalf of Islam. Much of this may turn out to be true once verified, or it may not be, but all of the conflicting, unverified claims flying around last night enabled many people to exploit the "facts" they selected in order to create whatever storyline that suited them and their political preconceptions -- and many, of course, took vigorous advantage of that opportunity.

Larry Johnson at "No Quarter"

The murder and wounding of more than forty soldiers is bad enough. If a cell of muslim extremists have infiltrated the U.S. Army then this is going to cause some major blow back throughout the military. Muslim officers and enlisted personnel will fall under suspicion. Most of this will be unfair and unwarranted. But human nature is what it is and the suspicion engendered by this kind of act will reverbrate for some time and probably hurt our ability to do a better job on winning hearts and minds overseas when there is such distrust in the ranks.

Firehand at "Irons in the Fire":

The L.A. Times will bury this as long as they can — probably until they’re embarrassed into revealing it due to its clear relevance. They will applaud themselves for being sober and cautious — something they would never do if the shooter were an aficionado of Rush Limbaugh instead of Allah and anti-American rants." From what I'm hearing and reading, a lot of other major media is refusing to mention these non-pc things; so much better to blame the Army and the other soldiers for 'bullying', etc.

Arsalan Iftikhar of the "AC 360" blog

First of all, as an American, my heart broke into two pieces tonight when I heard of the tragic mass murder at Fort Hood, Texas earlier this evening when a U.S. Army soldier opened fire on a military processing center at Fort Hood in Texas on Thursday; killing at least 12 people and wounding at least 31 others, according to Army officials in a report to CNN.

Secondly, as a Muslim, my heart further broke into another two pieces when it was learned that the Fort Hood shooter was a Muslim mental health care professional medical doctor who (similar to the April 16, 2007 Virginia Tech massacre) used two handguns during his mass murder rampage.

Jon Stewart Spoofs Glenn Beck

Jon Stewart does a great job of spoofing Glenn Beck's ridiculous schtick.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Republican Health Care Bill Doesn't get Good Marks from the CBO

A few of the primary criticisms that those in the Tea Party movement and those in the Republican Party have leveled at the Democrats and single-payer advocates is that so-called "free market" solutions should be implemented to reform the health care system.

Two specific points that I have heard from these groups is that the U.S should implement "common sense reforms" including allowing insurance companies to sell coverage across state lines and passing tort reform. You can hear these points discussed at the recent "We Surround You" event that I covered on Fountain Square here in Downtown Cincinnati.

Yesterday, House Republicans had their health care reform bill (which contained many of these so-called "common sense reforms") scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and it wasn't a pretty story.

From an LA Times report:

...the CBO analysis also concluded that under the GOP plan, 52 million nonelderly Americans would have no insurance in 2019 -- even more than the 50 million in 2010. By comparison, the House Democratic bill would reduce the number of nonelderly Americans without coverage to around 18 million over the next decade.

The GOP bill is an amalgam of market-oriented measures that would limit medical malpractice lawsuits, expand the use of tax-sheltered medical savings accounts, let people shop for insurance outside of their own states, and make it easier for small businesses and hard-to-insure people to get coverage. The ideas reflect conservatives' suspicion of sweeping new programs, federal spending and additional regulation.

Unlike the Democratic plan, it does not include subsidies or other provisions that would make coverage more affordable to people of modest means.

"What we've learned over many, many years is that the reason people don't have insurance is that they can't afford it," said Drew Altman, president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, an nonpartisan health policy research group. "You can't make much progress toward helping the uninsured unless you help them buy it."

Ezra Klein helps to break down what this means:

The Democratic bill, in other words, covers 12 times as many people and saves $36 billion more than the Republican plan. And amazingly, the Democratic bill has already been through three committees and a merger process. It's already been shown to interest groups and advocacy organizations and industry stakeholders. It's already made its compromises with reality. It's already been through the legislative sausage grinder. And yet it saves more money and covers more people than the blank-slate alternative proposed by John Boehner and the House Republicans. The Democrats, constrained by reality, produced a far better plan than Boehner, who was constrained solely by his political imagination and legislative skill.

This is a major embarrassment for the Republicans. It's one thing to keep your cards close to your chest. Republicans are in the minority, after all, and their plan stands no chance of passage. It's another to lay them out on the table and show everyone that you have no hand, and aren't even totally sure how to play the game. The Democratic plan isn't perfect, but in comparison, it's looking astonishingly good.

This is cross posted here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Proselytizing Atheists?

Among all the other topics that I find interesting, I often find myself drawn to articles that discuss faith, atheism and how both groups of people battle between finding common ground and disproving each other's views.

This is why I found today's article by Lauren Sandler of the Daily Beast so interesting. The article focuses on the rise in atheism (15% of people now claim to have "no religion") and those within the movement who wish to publicly express their views through advocacy campaigns. Whether it was the campaign in London that covered city buses with the message "There's probably no God. Stop worrying and enjoy your life", or the recent softer message of "Are you good with no God?" that was present in New York City subways, it is clear that there are deep divisions within the Atheism community about, well, proselytizing.

Here is a clip from the article:

These two philosophies are fracturing organizations at the top of the atheist activism food chain. Consider the Center for Inquiry, atheism's top think tank and one of the groups behind New York’s “Good Without God” campaign. The Center’s founder, Paul Kurtz, one of humanism's eminences grises, preaches maximum tolerance. His life's aim, he told me, is to “make it so a person can be a nonbeliever in our society and be respected and accepted.” As such, he thinks it’s counterproductive to preach against religion. “You can't begin by calling people names,” says the 85-year-old Kurtz. “It's self-destructive to nonbelievers.” When Kurtz’s own organization supported international “Blasphemy Day” in September (a day dedicated to openly criticizing all things God), Kurtz wrote a column in Free Inquiry magazine, an atheist publication put out by the Center for Inquiry, comparing the day to “the anti-Semitic cartoons of the Nazi era.” He continued, “There are some fundamentalist atheists who have resorted to such vulgar antics to gain press attention.”

One of Blasphemy Day's supporters was, in fact, Tom Flynn, Free Inquiry’s editor-in-chief and Kurtz's colleague at the Center. Flynn sees a loud, proud, and socially unacceptable atheism as the best chance to achieve Kurtz's declared goals. He also draws constructive parallels to the raucous gay-rights movement of the 1970s and ‘80s. “If you think back to deliberately outrageous activism like ACT UP and Queer Nation, somehow after 10 years, gay was mainstream,” he says. “There were gay characters on sitcoms. How did this happen? That brashness and outrageousness, it desensitized America. It got everybody over that taboo.”


In my own reporting on Evangelical America, I've had occasion to read more than a few books that make up the massive Christian publishing industry. Most tend to share a few common traits: self-deprecating humor, a sprinkling of pop-culture references, testimonial doubt, second-person interrogations. Epstein has adapted the same model for nonbelievers, though he suggested to me that such influences were unintentional. “I don't consider myself evangelical,” he says. “I'm not out here trying to win souls.” He is, however, trying to build a movement, and Good Without God instructs readers in just how to do that: how to talk to people about Humanism, how to hold meetings in your home, how to write effective flyers—in other words, how to build a religious movement that doesn’t include religion.

I think that Sandler gets at a very interesting point in that last sentence that I quote above. I also think that that last sentence is at the crux of what divides those within the atheist community. Asking oneself if it is merely enough to co-exist peacefully with those who believe in God, or if it should be the mission of Atheists to point out certain so-called "absurdities" in religion. If the latter is true and attempts are made to start building an Atheist movement, then the question must be asked how one can build a movement against religion without falling trap to some of the same practices that Atheists criticize about religion.

It is an interesting debate to read about and observe, the "loud and proud" strategy versus the more gradual "let's talk about Humanism" strategy.

One thing that is not debatable is that these issues are far from being settled.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chris Wallace on Limbaugh: He is a 'Sweet', 'Vulnerable' Man

Remember when Chris Wallace interviewed former Vice President Dick Cheney? You know, the interview that Andrew Sullivan likened to "a teenage girl interviewing the Jonas Brothers"? Well, our good buddy Chris Wallace has done it again, this time in an interview with Rush Limbaugh.

Just watch how Wallace characterizes Rush Limbaugh in this online video from Fox:

Wow, Limbaugh is "nice", "sweet" and "vulnerable". Don't hold back there Chris. As for the actual interview, Wallace lobs softball after softball at Limbaugh like he did for Cheney. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

WALLACE: If you had to bet now, does Barack Obama win re- election in 2012?

LIMBAUGH: If I had to bet now, he will not.

WALLACE: Have you got a name of somebody who’s going to beat him…


WALLACE: … can beat him?

LIMBAUGH: No. I have no clue about that.

WALLACE: If he does win, how is Rush Limbaugh going to handle seven more years of Barack Obama?

LIMBAUGH: You know, I’m glad you asked me that, because one of the questions I always get is, Rush, isn’t Obama — aren’t these Democrats in power good for your business? The way I go about my business, I’m out to get the highest ratings I get every day.
I’m going to attract the largest audience I can regardless the news. It’s my — it’s my talent that draws the crowd. The news is incidental to it. No. I’m worried, seriously worried, about the future of the country.
I would never put my personal success in front of what I think is something that’s disastrous for the country.


WALLACE: I think you’re a great broadcaster. How can you possibly be worth that kind of money?

LIMBAUGH: Very simply. Value is determined by what somebody will pay you to do what you do. I’m probably worth more. I’m not complaining. Do not — do not misunderstood.
But you know, this whole question — see, because I’m a capitalist. You’re worth whatever you can get. You’re worth whatever your value is, and that’s determined by what somebody’s willing to pay you for it.
And the only reason I get that money is because the people who invest in me get results beyond their expectations.


WALLACE: In the Time Magazine article about Glenn Beck recently…

LIMBAUGH: Oh, yeah.

WALLACE: … they write just as you found your place as the triumphant champion of the age of Reagan, that Beck is tapping into the fear and anger on the right today.
Is that why you think he’s struck such a chord, because he taps into the fear and the anger of the conservatives today?

LIMBAUGH: There is a lot of fear. There’s a — there’s a tremendous amount of fear in the country over what is happening in Washington to individual liberty and freedom. He may well have tapped into that.
The anger — I think that’s — that’s sometimes overplayed, because it’s become a cliche for the left to say angry white men as a way of denigrating conservative energy and ideology. But there’s no question there’s a lot of anger. And if — and if he’s tapped into that, I wouldn’t be surprised.

WALLACE: When you look at Glenn Beck and you see this explosion, what do you feel?

LIMBAUGH: Well, I’m kind of — I’m kind of proud.

WALLACE: No envy, no competition?

LIMBAUGH: No, no, no, no, no. I mean, my radio audience is astronomically high. I’m — look it, in 1988 there was nobody doing what I’m doing. Nobody. You had — CNN was the only cable network, and you had the three networks and the newspapers.
And now look. Now look what’s out — all of this conservative media, conservative talk radio, television, Fox News, the conservative blogosphere. I mean, I — in one way, I could — I could — if I wanted to have my ego to be as big as Obama’s is, I could say, Look what I created.
So any success out there on my side, conservative media — damn, if it’s going to help us get this country back, bring more in.

You can watch the whole interview here and remember, this is the "news" programming that Fox claims is "Fair and Balanced".

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stewart Takes on Fox and Conservative Rapper Hi-Caliber Gives the World the 'Patriotic People' Rap

Jon Stewart did another bang-up job recently when he discussed the recent so-called "war" between the Obama Administration and Fox News. He is right on point in much of this video and is, per usual, hilarious in making the underlying points:

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In other video news, one of the scariest things that I came across on Halloween, was this rapping effort by Hi-Caliber. Sure, I disagree with the content, but I think this rap misses the mark on many levels: