I was joined on this week's KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast by Dan Froomkin, formerly of the Washington Post, where he worked for more than a decade before becoming Washington Bureau Chief for the Huffington Post before becoming the founder of the soon-to-be-launched Center for Accountability Journalism at FearlessMedia.org.
His response to that question and others on the recent shameful history and hopeful future of journalism were much more optimistic than mine --- but, as I note during the show, I really need a break (which I hope to get somewhere in the mountains next week), so I may be a even more cynical this week than usual.
[ED NOTE: An abridged version of this article was republished by the Ventura County Star on 8/17/2013.]
On Aug. 1, my Congressional Representative, Julia Brownley (D-CA-26), forwarded a letter to me in response to a query as to why she was amongst those responsible for the recent narrow defeat (205 - 217) of Amash-Conyers, a bi-partisan amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill that would have brought an abrupt halt to the NSA's warrantless blanket collection of Americans' phone records.
The response did not address the actual substance of Amash-Conyers. Instead, her complaints about the measure were procedural, as she explained...
I have worked vigorously to protect civil liberties over my entire career in public service, and will continue to do so. However, we must address the very complex issues related to our privacy, rapidly advancing technology, and threats to our national security that exploit these advancements, in a deliberative, thoughtful, and responsible way with vigorous public debate. Crafting legislation that deals with such foundational issues cannot be accomplished in an amendment to an appropriations bill, as was the strategy with the Amash amendment. Furthermore, it allowed for only fifteen minutes of debate, which is not acceptable for such an important and complex issue that the public and their elected representatives rightfully care so deeply about.
While there's some legitimacy in Brownley's objection to an arbitrary 15-minute time limit for debate on such an important matter, the issue is not as "complex" as the first-term Congresswoman characterizes it. The one paragraph amendment, and its implications --- unlike the PATRIOT Act, FISA and the opaque secret interpretations of those laws she was effectively voting to keep in place, as is --- were fairly straightforward, in fact...
It was outrageous, it was inappropriate, and we reported it as such at the time, just as we did in 2011 when, in a bit of déjà vu, he similarly shut down a town hall event in WI after protesters there expressed outrage over the Republicans' radical anti-union law recently adopted in the state.
So it is with much sincerity and great appreciation that we "call him out" today, not for outrageous behavior, but for his outspoken and unwavering support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, after the very heart of that landmark civil rights legislation has been violently carved out by a 5 to 4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Billionaire codger cage match: T. Boone Pickens picks on the Billionaire Koch Brothers; U.S. military prepares for climate change; Japan: nuke-free, but not worry free; Dino-Farts! PLUS: Billboard blowback - funders flee from Heartland Institute's Unabomber billboard blunder .... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Flipping the Switch on Solar Plant on Public Lands; Common Pesticide “Disturbs” the Brains of Children; Data Shows Spring Advancing Faster Than Experiments Suggest; Keystone pipeline is baaack; Carmakers standardize 15-min faster charging system for electric vehicles ... PLUS: What is going on with Peru's dolphins and pelicans?... and much, MUCH more! ...
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is clearly not a fan of opposition view points. At least not when they are in opposition to his own. Last night wouldn't be the first time he simply gavelled a meeting to a close in order to shut out the voices of those who disagreed with him.
At a Town Hall meeting in a library in Wauwatosa, WI, on Monday night, as TPM reports, Sensenbrenner suddenly adjourned the event after just 27 minutes as citizens expressed their disagreement with the speaker, state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R), concerning the state GOP's attempt to legislate away their freedom to collectively bargain as public employees.
After Sensenbrenner abruptly shut down the event --- something he has done before, but in the U.S. House --- the crowd on hand erupted into cries of "Shame! Shame! Shame!", echoing Democratic law makers in the state Assembly a week and a half ago after Republican members suddenly opened a vote on the "Budget Repair Bill" without warning at 1am, and closed it seconds later before nearly a third of the chamber had even had a chance to cast their vote.
Sensenbrenner --- who had previously been a fan of rowdy Town Halls over the last year or two when corporate-manipulated "Tea Party" protesters were attempting to shout down Democratic elected officials over the so-called health care reform bill --- has a record of simply shutting down debate when he is not in favor of the viewpoints being expressed...
As originally reported here yesterday, Democrats on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee invoked a rarely used rule to extend Committee hearings on the renewal of the Patriot Act.
Apparently, they inappropriately called witnesses to testify today from whom the Republicans did not wish to hear. And thus, in what can only be seen as an unprecedented tyrannical abuse of Majority power in the U.S. House of Representatives, Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), suddenly and without warning, gavelled the hearings to a close! Unilaterally, without debate, and in the middle of ongoing testimony!
The extraordinary video clip of Sensenbrenner's appalling display, was captured by C-SPAN. Take a look at the meltdown...
GOP House Judiciary Chair Uses Pinochet Tactics to Abruptly and Unilaterally Shut Down Hearing Into Abuses of the (Un)Patriot Act, Because He Was Afraid the Truth Would Come Out. America: "IT" is Happening Here. Democracy is Being Dismantled by GOP Thugs.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
June 10, 2005
BuzzFlash News Analysis
This morning, House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) unilaterally and arbitrarily shut down committee hearings on the reauthorization of the Patriot Act without comment or issuing a statement. Sensenbrenner gaveled the committee hearings in the middle of witnesses testifying about human and civil rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, racial profiling of individuals of Middle Eastern descent, prolonged detentions of Americans after September 11th and other abuses.
The suppression of free speech and testimony in the congressional committee in charge of protecting our civil liberties shows the Republican's power grab has no limits and no decency. The irony was not lost on anyone.
UPDATE: We must go on the air on Tony Trupiano's show in a just a few minutes, so this must be quick for now. (Link to that interview, with a lot more information on my conversation with a Democratic staffer who was in the room, is now below.)
To clarify some confusion on this matter, what had been referred to as "Democratic Hearings" today in some places, actually were not Democratic-only hearings (unlike the hearings that took place in January on Ohio Election Irregularities, and the recent Media Bias forum held by Conyers and other Dems).
Today's hearings were called under the archane provision of House Rule 11, which, we are told, allows the Minority to call for an additional day of hearings and to choose their own witnesses if they are unsatisfied with the hearings as held by the Majority.
The U.S. House Judiciary Democrats have been unable to do that previously on issues like Election 2004 and Media Bias because the Majority hadn't called a hearing at all on those matters, and thus, they were forced to call their own hearings.
We are told by a Democratic Staffer who The BRAD BLOG has just spoken to, and who was present at today's debacle, that the Majority has been quite disturbed by those previous hearings for some time, and, in fact, during the airing of Conyers' Media Bias forum (it ran as taped on C-SPAN at 8:30pm ET a few Saturdays ago), an email was sent to a Judiciary Committee staffer which said, in effect, "I'm watching your forum right now, hope you enjoyed it, it will be your last."
We'll have more detail after we're off the air, but the staffer just explained to us that the Minority was displeased with the witnesses called previously in the Commission hearings on renewal of the Patriot Act, and attempted to work with the Majority to call additional witnesses.
According to the staffer, they were told, "'You're gonna get your hearing, but it's gonna be 8:30am on Friday morning'...Never in the history of the Judiciary Committee have we been able to find a time when a hearing has been scheduled like that. The Congress was not in session today. We've never been able to find an instance when a hearing was called when Congress wasn't in session."
"The irony, when we're debating the Patriot Act," we were told, "of cutting off the debate and acting so anti-democratic when that's going on, is unbelievable!
"In the committee with sole jurisdiction over civil rights and civil liberties, for the chairman to say, I don't want to hear about guys who are getting their testicles shocked, it's breathtaking arrogance, it's testimony to abuse of power and how this place is now run. They've become everything they said they deplored when they took over the house in 1994."
Conversations with the House Democratic leadership on currently ongoing. The BRAD BLOG has learned that they are "very very concerned" about this matter, and that "the issue will be elevated."
"Ms. Pelosi is very concerned about this," said the staffer.