After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
Late last week, the twenty conclusions of the U.S. Senate's report on the Bush-era's secret CIA torture and detention program was leaked and published by McClatchy.
As we noted on Friday, when we also published the report's disturbing conclusions [PDF], the 6,600-page study, based on first-hand CIA documentation, reveals massive illegalities and war crimes by everyone from CIA contractors to agents to higher level officials at that agency and others.
The report is said to detail wide-spread crimes that are not only in violation of U.S. law, but also international laws which our nation has an obligation to enforce, thanks to treaties we have long been a party to. And, if we don't enforce those laws and hold the criminals accountable for lawlessness such as torture, all the rest of the nations signed on to such treaties along with us, such as the UN Convention against Torture, have a legal obligation to do so.
The prohibition against torture under that treaty is absolute for all nations. "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture," according to Article 2 of the treaty.
All of that comes on the heels of revelations that the CIA itself had used the computers of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee in an attempt to sabotage the committee's report.
On Friday, we mentioned that the U.S. Senators who recently voted to release 500 redacted pages of the report (we're still waiting on the White House to take action to redact and release it), argue that release is necessary to avoid this country ever going down this same path again.
We opined in response that "only actual prosecution will deter that eventuality", that "As long as those who committed such vile and abhorrent crimes are not actually held accountable, all of this will almost certainly be repeated in the future," (by both us and other nations) and that "if we fail to prosecute, we will also have little ground to hold other rogue countries accountable for the same crimes in the future."
The fact that the twenty, very easy-to-read bullet point conclusions from the U.S. Senate report, which has been years in the making --- as based on first-hand documentation of the crimes --- were released last week, and not even mentioned once on any of the four major Sunday network news shows underscores our point. The release of data is all well and good. But it's only when the perpetrators start being frog-marched to jail that the mainstream corporate media --- and, thus, the American public --- will begin to give a damn about one of the darkest moments in this nation's history.
As of now, at least if Sunday is any indication, evidence suggests that the MSM doesn't give a damn. Therefore, neither will the American people. Thus, we are destined to repeat this abhorrent chapter and, once again, like so many shameful chapters in our recent past, the corporate mainstream media themselves will have played a lead role in helping to make sure that happens.
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Obama's plan to keep on truckin'...with much less oil; Secretary of State John Kerry goes 'weapons grade' on climate change; PLUS:It's GNR's 5th anniversary! So to celebrate, the Sunday network news shows all finally covered climate change --- really badly... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Fracking boom spews toxic air emissions on Texas residents; CA city fights 'environmental racism'; NC coal ash spill found 70 mi. downstream; Gov. McCrory denies involvement in Duke Energy sweetheart deal; Brazil: land disputes escalate over illegal mining; BP Oil Spill giving tuna heart disease; Arctic on track to warm 23 degrees F ... PLUS: Michigan: Vast Spill Of Liquid Manure Hidden Under Snow ... and much, MUCH more! ...
Now that the East Coast and parts of the southern U.S. have been battered over and again with extreme weather this winter, and while California is in the midst of its worst and longest drought on historical record, the Sunday "news" shows, all at once, decided to cover what they describe as "climate change" --- or, in the words of NBC's Meet the Press host, David Gregory, "The Politics of Weather".
Out of all four of them, just This Week and Face the Nation, bothered to book an actual climate scientist to take part in the conversation with their various bevies of political and journalistic deniers and non-scientists. Only Face the Nation offered a one-on-one with a climate scientist before then bringing on the denier.
Gregory, who Esquire's Charlie Pierce aptly described today as a "noodlebrained bag of useless flesh", tipped his hand last Friday by announcing excitedly via Twitter that MTP would be "Debating Climate change" on this week's show with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), one of Congress' top carbon industry proponents and global warming deniers and Bill Nye "The Science Guy", a mechanical engineer turned TV science personality. No actual climate scientists necessary, apparently, to "debate" climate change in Meet the Press World.
Pierce called the embarrassing exchange "every bit as grim as you can imagine", and it certainly was. Here's just part of his scathing, dead-on-the-money response to it...
A number of unhappy "good government" groups will file a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission next month, in hopes that the courts will force the FEC to enforce the federal campaign finance laws that the FEC is, supposedly, there to enforce.
The organizations are particularly unhappy about Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS "behemoth" outfit, which has raised hundreds of millions over the last several years to elect Republican candidates to office, recently receiving a pass from the FEC, even after the agency's Office of General Counsel found reason to believe Rove's group clearly violated campaign finance laws.
The news about the groups' intention to file suit was offered on the KPFK/Pacifica RadioBradCast this week by my guest, Craig Holman, the Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen's Congress Watch. Public Citizen, along with the Campaign Legal Center, Center for Media and Democracy, and Protect Our Elections filed the initial complaint over campaign spending in 2010 by Rove's then new non-profit 501(c)(4) organization. They now plan to sue the FEC for failing to do their job, Holman explained on the show on Wednesday. [Disclosure: Protect Our Elections is a campaign created by VelvetRevolution.us, an organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG, though we weren't personally involved with either the complaint or the upcoming suit.]
"What's happened with the Federal Election Commission is," Holman explained during my interview [posted in full at the end of this article], Senator "Mitch McConnell [R-KY], back in about 2008, realized that even though he can't get Congress to rescind campaign finance laws --- and he certainly can't sell the public on rescinding campaign finance laws --- he realized that if he were to appoint three Republican Commissioners to the FEC, he could ensure that the campaign finance laws don't get enforced. And that's exactly what has happened." Holman detailed how three-to-three deadlock votes on whether to pursue further action in most of the campaign finance rulings by the three Democratic and three Republican Commissioners on the FEC has increased "nine-fold" since 2008. A deadlock vote effectively ends the matter, even if wrong-doing had been found by the investigative staff, as is the case here.
In the original complaint against Rove's Crossroads GPS, the FEC's Office of General Counsel (OGC) found that the group had spent a majority of its funding on campaigning in 2010. If so, that's a violation of the law, since Rove's group should have filed with the FEC as a political committee, rather than as a 501(c)(4) which is supposed to be a non-electioneering "social welfare" organization. As a political committee, funders would have to be immediately disclosed, but as a (c)(4), the identity of those funding Rove's organization can remain a secret....
Never mind that Democrats had already compromised by agreeing to "Sequestration" level budget cuts, the only question was how would the two sides "compromise" on the Affordable Care Act which had nothing to do with the budget resolution itself, but has long been a bete noir for Republicans.
Meanwhile, the non-U.S. news outlet, The Guardian in the UK, accurately reported that the U.S. government shutdown occurred because Democrats refused to give into the Tea Party's extortion-like demands. Specifically, they wrote, it occurred after "Republicans staged a series of last-ditch efforts to use a once-routine budget procedure to force Democrats to abandon their efforts to extend U.S. health insurance."
Was that so hard? Apparently so, for the U.S. corporate media anyway...
Had Karl's error --- compounded by his "cover-up" even more than his original "crime" --- contained news that falsely appeared good for Democrats instead of for Republicans, he would have been hammered and forever discredited by the Right until finally fired by ABC News. But, alas, his completely false report on Benghazi benefited Republicans rather than Democrats, so no biggie, it seems. He gets to keep his career!
ABC's Karl, however, wasn't the only top-tier network newsman who blew it big time, further tarnishing the profession over the past week, not by a long shot.
[Update: During a disastrous post-Newtown press conference this morning in D.C., exactly one week after the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the NRA's CEO and Executive Vice President (and chief liar) Wayne LaPierre said: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." More on that presser now here, but the following article, published prior to the NRA debacle today, goes a long way towards pre-bunking LaPierre's main contention.]
There have been a lot of absurd claims by the folks scammed by the NRA racket into believing that nothing can be done to decrease gun violence following last week's horrific mass shooting in Newtown, CT.
(Our personal favorite was the one that failed the quickest: The claim that the stabbing of 20 school children in China on the very same day as the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre proves that putting responsible limitations on gun and high-capacity magazine ownership won't help stop these types of tragedies. The reason that response failed so quickly? The wingnuts using it apparently failed to read the actual China story to learn that none of the children there were actually killed in that attack.)
The excuse for taking no action in the wake of Newtown which has had the longest shelf life to date, seems to be the notion that if only someone in the school --- or in the movie theater, or in the shopping mall, or in the Sikh temple, etc. --- had been armed, the tragedy would have been averted.
If more law abiding responsible people had concealed carry permits and were able and willing to use their firearms when necessary, how many of you anti-gun nuts really believe he would have gotten off more than one or two shots in a school?
Setting aside his obvious strawman --- folks like us are no more "anti-gun nuts" than the vast majority of NRA members (if not their con-man leadership) who agree we should have increased gun safety regulations --- JPack80's thin argument, and the millions of other wingnuts making the same weak case, is quickly debunked by a few fairly easy to understand points. (There are many more, but we'll stick to two for the moment, since some folks making this case may have trouble counting higher than that.)
First, how many shots did the Fort Hood shooter get off when he opened fire --- killing 13 and wounding 29 others --- in the middle of a U.S. Army base, filled with people carrying loaded weapons and many more with easy access to them? (Answer: About 200 rounds, which also included shoot-outs with two armed officers, the first of which was hit three times before she went down. But, see update below for additional thoughts on this.)
It is also true that both Columbine and Virginia Tech had armed security officers on campus, as little good as that did anybody, during the mass shootings there. Let's also not forget the trained New York City police who attempted to stop a gunman at the Empire State Building over the summer. They ended up shooting nine (9) innocent bystanders in the bargain.
But the more damning response to the foolish point that "more people with guns are the best way to stop mass shootings" is found in this 2009 ABC video showing how people with guns, and training, actually react when confronted by something like a sudden, surprise shooting. Watch the results of the experiment --- using some folks with relatively little gun training as well as some who are trained marksmen --- to see how well that whole "if only someone was armed during these shootings they could have stopped the shooter!" argument holds up...
So, what's your next, dumb, non-solution for these problems, wingnuts?
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UPDATE: Several commenters written to take issue with our description of the Fort Hood shootings having taken place "in the middle of a U.S. Army base, filled with people carrying loaded weapons and many more with easy access to them"...
For the second time in a week, conservative Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) is breaking with his party on a hot button issue.
Last Tuesday, Cole made headlines for disagreeing with House Speaker John Boehner and advising his fellow Republicans to accept President Barack Obama’s offer to immediately extend tax cuts on incomes under $250,000, while negotiating a broader deal involving tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
During a Sunday morning appearance on ABC’s This Week, Cole offered his advice on the other issue that has animated Republicans in the weeks since the election: U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s response to the September 11th attacks in Benghazi, and her potential nomination as Secretary of State.
When Dan Senor — the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority during the Iraq War, and the chief foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney — suggested investigating “whether or not Susan Rice should be blamed” for the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attacks, Cole reminded Senor of the Bush administration’s false claims that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
“We saw President Bush out front defending something wasn’t true too,” Cole noted. “Maybe we should ask those guys some questions too.”
In both cases, Cole is not adopting the Democratic position; he opposes raising tax rates for the wealthy, and he does not appear to support Rice (although he did not say whether or not he would vote to confirm her if he were in the Senate.) Instead, Cole seems to be trying to divert his party from embracing hopeless political positions. Just as Cole correctly identified that the White House has all of the leverage in the tax cut debate, so too does he seem to realize that a public battle over Rice could lead to some very uncomfortable questions about the Bush administration’s record — a history that the Republican Party would rather stay buried.
Video of the ABC This Week moment mentioned above, from 12/2/2012, follows below...
Romney, over the course of his lengthy ABC interview, finally acknowledged that the statement issued by the Cairo Embassy condemning "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims --- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions" was made before the protests began.
However, the GOP candidate, who had shamelessly seized upon that statement to falsely accuse the Embassy and President Obama of having "sympathize[d] with those who waged the attacks," evaded a direct answer to Stephanopoulos' direct question: "Where do they show sympathy for those who waged the attacks?"
Instead, Romney insisted it was "inappropriate" for the Cairo Embassy to leave the statement up on its website after its wall was breached. "The statement was reiterated after they had breached the sovereignty of the embassy," Romney proclaimed.
After its wall was breached, the Cairo Embassy tweeted: "This morning's condemnation (issued before protest began) still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy."
Without explaining why he felt it was inappropriate for the Embassy to retain its condemnation of the film's scurrilous slander of the prophet Muhammad while simultaneously condemning the "unjustified breach of the Embassy," Romney followed up with a criticism of the film that was virtually indistinguishable from that which had been initially issued by the Cairo Embassy...
Only a handful of Americans understand what really took place inside a Tallahassee, FL federal courtroom on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, thanks to the skewed reality presented by mainstream corporate media coverage of the latest ruling to affect Florida's attempted purge of alleged "non-citizen" voters.
The extraordinary misreporting subsequently enabled top Florida officials, including Republican Gov. Rick Scott, to continue what has become a reliable pattern of public deception and disingenuous spin in its wake.
What happened, in short, on June 27, was this: The attorneys for FL Sec. of State Ken Detzner (R) walked into the federal courtroom, threw-up their hands and surrendered. There was no need for Judge Robert Hinkle to issue the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) sought by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) in order to stop what the DoJ described as an illegal, systematic purge of "potential non-citizen" voters. Detzner voluntarily suspended the purge and promised the court it would not resume.
Accepting Detzner's surrender, Judge Hinkle denied the federal government's motion for a TRO, finding it unnecessary, but cautioned that the DoJ could revisit the issue if Detzner or any of Florida's county Supervisors of Elections resumed what he described as a flawed voter removal program that "probably ran afoul" of the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA).
Subsequent misreporting by the corporate mainstream media succeeded, however, in turning that reality upside-down. The failure comes courtesy of an MSM that has not so much as mentioned Scott and Detzner's documented mendacity, revealed by The BRAD BLOG's exclusive investigation of public records last month, concerning the alleged "refusal" by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide FL with access to a federal immigration database for use in its attempted voter purge.
Trouble is, each and every one of those news organizations got it wrong, just as CNN and Fox "News" got it wrong when they initially filed erroneous reports claiming that the Supreme Court had struck down the Affordable Care Act.
What the media and the Governor depicted as a FL victory, one that would permit his attempted purge to continue, was, in fact, an abject capitulation by the authors of an unlawful voter roll purge...
Pretty big news here. Barack Obama has finally decided to do the right thing by standing up for marriage equality directly. While it took long enough, he now has the distinction of being the first President in the history of the U.S. to do so. This is also another reminder that politicians don't lead, they follow. You lead. So keep up the good work!
Getting ready for my KPFK/Pacifica Show today, so no time for more commentary at the moment. Here's ABC, who broke the news within the hour. Here's TPM's take. And here's the video clip of the President this afternoon acknowledging: "I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married"...
The key section from ABC's transcript...
I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.
Rights will always win. It takes time. But they will always, eventually win.
• As I noted in UPDATE to my short stub story this morning linking over to the MoJo article, the Kochs finally decided to respond today, first to Jake Tapper at ABC News, after days of their refusing to give me a response --- even though I pressed them, multiple times in advance, for an explanation of Charles Koch's seeming comparison of "Saddam Hussein" to Barack Obama and the 2012 election as the "Mother of All Wars." See their response, and my response to it, in that UPDATE.
• CNN's Brian Todd did a decent report on the Situation Room today, in which I offer a quick comment...
• After years of appearing on Fox "News" and CNN, it was nice to finally be invited today to appear on MSNBC for the first time. Here's my appearance this evening on The Ed Show...
How many times can the New York Times, the country's so-called "Paper of Record," misreport the very same story?! Even after being called out repeatedly on it? They seem to be working on breaking their very own previously set record at this point.
In the yet another puff-piece on Rightwing scam-artist Andrew Breitbart, published over the weekend, in which he's described as being "careless with facts," the Times' Jeremy W. Peters continues the paper's long and proud record of being exceedingly careless with facts themselves in reporting on the faked ACORN "pimp" videos created in 2009 by Republican activist and convicted federal criminal James O'Keefe, as published by Breitbart.
That, even as Breitbart would once again provably lie to the media --- this time to Fox "News" anchor John Stossel --- about the tapes once again just late last week....