Saturday, January 10, 2015

Islamist leader condemns Islamic extremists' actions

The Huffington Post is reporting that Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah has said that "Islamic extremists have insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammed more than those who published satirical cartoons mocking the religion."

He also said that "Islamic extremists who behead and slaughter people [in the name of Islam}  have done more harm to Islam than anyone else in history."

Nasrallah heads a Shiite group that is fighting in Syria along with President Basha Assad's forces against the Sunni militants from the ISIS group and al Qaida.

This is a stark contrast to the language coming from the Sunni militants who have called for attacks on Western countries.

Given the choice between Assad and ISIS, our former enemy now seems the less bad of the choices -- at least for now.


Anyone else want to run for the 2016 GOP nomination ?

Mitt Romney has declared himself considering a third run for the Republican presidential nomination.   Why?    I'm not sure.

Of course there are the host of those trying to catch the right wing vote, and then it looked for a time like it left Chris Christie with a relatively free field on the more moderate side.

Then Jeb Bush jumped in and seemed to take the spotlight away from the flawed Christie.

And now Romney?    Really?    We thought the 2012 debate stage was crowded.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Fox News wins again -- for most misinformation

FoxNews does consistently win in the ratings wars -- meaning more people watch them -- which makes the following facts even more unfortunate and puzzling.

In every survey (and this is at least the third one) Fox News has also come out ahead -- way ahead -- in the percentage of its viewers who are misinformed about the news compared to people who get their news from other sources.    Fox viewers had the highest wrong score on 8 of 9 questions and were second highest on the 9th.   MSNBC viewers were the best informed.

World Public Opinion, a survey conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes from the University of Maryland, corroborates a previous survey by the same group as well as one by NBC/Wall Street Journal.

This second PIPA suvery not only shows the overall negative effect of watching Fox News, it also shows that the greater exposure to Fox News, the greater the misinformation.

Here are some of the results for Fox News viewers who believe what isn't true:
  • 91% believe that the stimulus legislation lost jobs.
  • 72% believe that the health reform law will increase the deficit.
  • 72% believe that the economy is getting worse.
  • 60% believe that climate change is not occurring.
  • 49% believe that income taxes have gone up.
  • 63% believe that the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts.
  • 56% believe that Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout.
  • 38% believe that most Republicans opposed TARP.
  • 63% believe that Obama was not born in the US (or that it is unclear).
While we chortle and feel justified in our scorn for the network, there is the very serious question:    Why would people voluntarily choose to watch news that misinforms them?   That's the study I would like to see done.

On the other hand, there seems little question why Fox News deliberately does this.  Here is the conclusion reached by a blogger reporting the story on Daily Kos: 

"That's a pretty high batting average for journalistic fraud. . . .  The conclusion is inescapable. Fox News is deliberately misinforming their viewers and they are doing it for a reason. Every issue above is one in which the Republican Party had a vested interest. They benefited from the ignorance that Fox News helped to proliferate. The results were apparent in the election last month as voters based their decisions on demonstrably false information fed to them by Fox News.. . .

"This is not an isolated review of Fox's performance. It has been corroborated time and time again. The fact that Fox News is so blatantly dishonest, and the effects of that dishonesty have become ingrained in an electorate that has been been purposefully deceived, needs to be made known to every American. Our democracy cannot function if voters are making choices based on lies. We have the evidence that Fox is tilting the scales and we must now make certain that they do not get away with it."

How would this be for a campaign issue from a forceful, progressive Democratic candidate in 2016.   "Telling the truth to the American People."   Sounds like Elizabeth Warren is already way down the track on that strategy.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Trouble for prosecutor in Ferguson, Missouri

One of the grand jurors has filed a lawsuit against St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, charging that: (1) In announcing the grand jury decision, he had mischaracterized their degree of agreement about there not being enough evidence for an indictment;  (2)  that, because of confidentiality rules, there is no way for any juror, who disagrees with his representation, to speak up about it;   (3)  that evidence in the Darren Wilson case was presented differently than in other cases, with the insinuation that the victim, not the officer, was the wrongdoer.   The juror is being assisted in the case by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a separate, and perhaps a more significant case legally, attorney Sherrilyn Hill and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund make a compelling case for misconduct on the part of MuCulloch and his staff.   This comes in the form of a request of the Missouri Circuit Court Judge who has jurisdiction over Ferguson to appoint a special prosecutor.

Missouri gives the judge the authority to do this in any case in which a citizen has not yet been indicted and where prosecutorial misconduct is being alleged.   It only requires one instance of misconduct;   the NAACP-LDF request cites three instances of misconduct (as summarized by Shaun King for Daily Kos):
1. How prosecutors violated Missouri law and professional ethics by calling a witness they've since admitted they knew did not actually witness the shooting and was not at the scene. They not only called her once, but twice, and encouraged her to bring physical evidence on her second visit.  This witness, Sandy McElroy, perjured herself over 100 times.

2. Prosecutors consistently made documented mistakes in the essential instructions they gave to the grand jurors, including a well documented instance giving the grand jurors instructions on the law, which had been declared unconstitutional decades ago.

3. Legal analysts and now an actual member of the grand jury [above] felt strongly that Bob McCulloch and his team acted as de facto defense attorneys for Darren Wilson and that it often appeared as if Mike Brown was on trial instead of Darren Wilson.
It should help the case for appointing a special prosecutor that many legal experts had called on the governor to appoint a special prosecutor from the beginning.

So this may not be over yet.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Obama would veto Keystone pipeline bill

The first new piece of legislation introduced in the new Republican-majority Senate was one that would force the approval of the Keystone pipeline.

President Obama's press secretary, Josh Earnest, said this about it:

"The fact is this piece of legislation is not altogether different than legislation that was introduced in the last Congress,. . . . And you would recall that we put out a Statement of Administration position indicating that the president would have vetoed [it], had that bill passed the previous Congress."

"I can confirm for you that if this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn’t sign it either."
So the president is not backing down from his new-found stance of aggressive governance.   And this particular bill is not just a Republican backed issue.    This legislation was introduced by a bipartisan team of  Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and it has 60 co-sponsors, including 6 Democrats.

The bill is likely going to pass -- and be vetoed.    This will make progressives happy and go some distance to repair what many had felt was Obama's abandoning the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."

A note of caution, however:   at this point the president is opposing the bill on a procedural objection, because it is not following the established protocol of waiting for the official evaluation as to whether such a project is in the best interests of the country.    It's possible that, when that evaluation is completed, the report might possibly give the project a thumbs up -- and then we might see a different position from the president.

A side issue in this controversy over the pipeline is that the Republicans have been trying to sell it as a job-creator, which is truly false.    Although there would be some temporary jobs for the construction, in the long run it has been determined that the number of long-term jobs is negligible.

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"States' rights:" Jeb Bush uses the ultimate dodge.

So . . .  now that Jeb Bush is serious enough about running for president that he's resigned from all those lucrative, corporate positions that made him a wealthy man is just a few post-governor years -- how is he going to tackle some of the tricky social issues?

Like gay marriage -- Florida being the latest state to have a federal judge overturn a state law and allow same-sex couples to start getting married TODAY?

Well, it looks like Jeb has fallen back on that old, last-gasp avoidant stance:    states' rights.    They tried it to justify slavery, and fought a civil war over it.

Now it's become the favorite way to dodge the question of gay marriage used by the less-than-rabid, conservative politicians.   And -- you guessed it.    Old Jeb just trotted it out to explain avoid taking a stand on the issue.

The thing I've never understood is:   How do they decide what's up to the states and what to do nation?    I would think really important things like freedom to not be a slave and freedom to marry whom you wish are so important and fundamental that all United States citizens should have the same rights as every other U. S. citizen.

Why would it be OK for residents of Rhode Island to be protected from enslavement but not those of Georgia?    And why should Minnesota residents be able to marry their choice but not Mississippi residents?

Perhaps it's not logic -- but simply a dodge -- to avoid facing a choice you don't want to make but are ashamed to stand up and say:   I do not favor freedom to marry for this group of people.

So:   VOILA !!!!   Let the states decide.

Nope.   I just don't buy it.    Take a stand, Jeb.   You really think it should be left to the prejudice of the majority of one particular state as to what rights the minority in that state have?

That's not someone I want to have as a president.    Certainly not in 2016.   It was an acceptable compromise 10 years ago, when Massachusetts became the first state to allow marriage equality at a time when it would have been politically impossible to get at a national level.     State by state provided the experiments needed to encourage more and more.   

But we're far more enlightened as a nation than we were even just five years ago.   We're past the tipping point when some 2/3 of citizens do live in states that give them marriage equality.   So now it's time to make it the national standard.


Monday, January 5, 2015

The wide-ranging damages of CIA torture

Brian Dooley, Director, Human Rights First's Human Rights Defenders Program posted an article on Huffington Post on Jan 1st under the heading:  "CIA Torture's Immeasurable Damage to U.S. Global Leadership."

Unlike those who were opposed to releasing the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture, Dooley is not saying that the release of the report caused the damage.   He writes:  "After Abu Ghraib and earlier revelations from Guantanamo it's not much of a shock for foreigners that the CIA tortured detainees and lied about it to other parts of the U.S. government."

No, he argues, "making public and facing up to its mistakes are generally seen as a plus."  However, the fact of the torture and lying "have diminished U.S. claims to moral leadership."  He quotes a Spanish newspaper as saying the U.S. can no longer present itself as a "beacon of freedom."  Dooley concludes:

"The revelations mean being seen as friends with the CIA is less attractive than ever, and will make it harder politically for some allies to partner with US intelligence agencies. But releasing the report was the right thing to do: in the long run continuing the coverup and refusing to admit what really happened would have hurt the U.S. far more."
This seems right to me.   If it did nothing more than contradict Dick Cheney's sanctimonious, false claims, that in itself would move us closer to setting the historical record straight.

And that, I insist, is the most important thing, more important than prosecuting Dick Cheney or sending someone to jail.    What matters most, in my opinion, is that the truth about what was done in our name be made known -- so that it will be recognized in the future as a wrong decision that was not worth the consequences on any count.    Those, like Cheney, who claim otherwise are wrong, and that should be the official conclusion and widely known.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Big Failure: Kansas' austerity fiscal policy.

According to the Kansas City Star columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, Gov. Sam Brownback's much touted tax cut/spending cut fiscal policy that was supposed to work miracles for Kansas' economy -- has instead proved, once again, the wrongness of austerity in such economic times.

"Instead, Brownback — and residents — have been enduring a steady drumbeat of bad news after the cuts took effect. This week, a 31-hour stretch brought three different body blows to Brownback’s administration.

"▪ At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing how jobs had grown in metropolitan areas across America.  Unfortunately for Brownback, the report showed that the Missouri side of the state line had gained jobs at four times the rate of the Kansas side. . . .   So much for Brownback’s promise that jobs would be fleeing Missouri-side cities for Kansas after the tax cuts.

Read more here:
"▪ Shortly after noon Tuesday, a judicial panel in Shawnee County released a ruling that Kansas was inadequately funding K-12 education.  That could mean the state would need to pump in $500 million extra a year or more to bring schools up to par . . . [at a time when] income tax cuts are on pace to help cause a $1.1 billion hole in revenues in this and the next fiscal year. . . . 

"▪ Finally, on Wednesday afternoon, Kansas officials released figures showing the state had collected $15 million less than expected in December. And that was after the state in November had dramatically lowered revenue expectations for the rest of this fiscal year. . ."

Explain to me again why it was that Kansas voters just re-elected Brownback for another term.

The cold truth is that it's nice to have your tax bill go down . . .  but there are some things that really are worth paying to have.