Saturday, December 5, 2015

NH newspaper endorses Christie; picks usually lose

The conservative New Hampshire newspaper Union Leader has endorsed Chris Christie, giving at least a moral and media boost to his lagging campaign.

Caution might be prudent.   Of their recent endorsements, John McCain got the nomination in 2008, and Ronald Reagen won the presidency in 1980.   But the others? Pete du Pont in 1988;   Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996;  Steve Forbes in 2000;  Newt Gingrich in 2012.

You get my point?


Good News #12: Unfathomable wealth, generosity

To mark the birth of their first child, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Pricella Chan announced the formation of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.   Their aim for this charitable foundation is to help make a better world for their daughter's generation to live in.   

Framed as a letter to their daughter, the announcement stated their belief that "we have a moral responsibility to all children in the next generation" and that "we believe all lives have equal value.  They plan to focus on two ideas:  "advancing human potential and promoting equality.". . .  "Today your mother and I are committing to spend our lives doing our small part to help solve these challenges."

 To accomplish this goal, Chan and Zuckerberg pledged that:  "We will give 99% of our Facebook shares -- currently about $45 billion -- during our lives to advance this mission."   The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will not just be throwing money at problems but building partnerships and long-term investment in the future of the next generation world-wide.

This generation of young technological billionaires is restoring my faith in the future. 


Friday, December 4, 2015

Senate Republicans . . . incredibly off track

So what were the Senate Republicans up to yesterday, the day after the San Bernadino massacre?

They killed a bunch of gun control proposals, voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and voted (once again, again) to repeal Obamacare.

Voters, pay attention !!!


Religion and violence

If we're going to call the mass shooting in San Bernadino "Islamic terrorism," why don't we call the mass shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs "Christian terrorism"?

Syed Farook was a devout Muslim, but no one who knew him suspected him of violent tendencies or even anti-American feelings.   Friends at the mosque he attended describe him as quiet, reserved.   They never saw him angry or expressing any radical ideology.

We don't know his motives for the San Bernadino killings, but he and his wife said and did nothing to call attention to their religion, and their behavior did not fit the profile of violent zealots.    They were not known to be involved in radical groups, and left no messages.

Those who commit violent acts in support of an ideology let it be known.

They were a married couple with a six month old baby, which they left with the grandmother, saying they had a doctor's appointment.   Syed had a good job working for the Public Health Department, making $70,000/year, and it was his work acquaintances that he attacked.    None of them knew him to have radical ideas.  They had never aroused any suspicion on any government watch lists.

Just being Muslim and committing a violent massacre does not of itself make one an "Islamic terrorist" . . . 

. . . anymore than Robert Dear being a Christian evangelical and an anti-abortion zealot, who committed violence, makes him a "Christian terrorist."

Now, we may later learn more about either of these men that changes this perception.   But we're too quick to blame Islam for individuals' bad behavior, when we don't do the same for Christians.    Rand Paul lost no time raising the question of "Islamic terrorism."   The New York Post had a large, bold headline: "MUSLIM KILLERS."   Why didn't they splash "CHRISTIAN KILLER" on the front page when a man slaughtered people at Planned Parenthood?


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mass shootings

In less than one week since last Friday's mass shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic, another horrific shooting has occurred at a San Bernadino social services center where they were having a holiday party, which seems to be the focus of the shooters.

How frequent are these shootings, anyway?  Several sources track them, but they use different definitions of a "mass shooting."    By the count of a Reddit online web site, "Guns Are Cool" (which is an ironic title, by the way;  they do not believe that guns are cool), San Bernadino is the 355th mass shooting this year, and it's only day#336.   In fact, it was actually the second of the day on Wednesday.   Most don't make the national news.  The Reddit site counts any event in which "four or more people [including the shooter] are shot [not necessarily killed] in a spree."  

Mother Jones magazine's "Guide to Mass Shootings in America" defines a mass shooting as a single episode carried out by a single shooter in a single location, usually a public place, that kills at least four people.   And they exclude crimes that are primarily gang activity, armed robbery, and domestic violence.   By their criteria, there have been 72 mass shootings since 1982.   It would not include either the recent Colorado City (not a lone shooter) or San Bernadino (only three killed). 

Both measures contain useful information, although it seems the Mother Jones method leaves out a lot of incidents that are terrorizing.   Both point to a horrific shame and indictment of our society.   Are we just going to accept this as the new normal?

But why this one, particularly?   We are no longer so shocked when there is an attack on a Planned Parenthood facility or provider, with all of the intense feelings about abortion;  but why on earth would anyone want to attack a center that provides services for developmentally disabled individuals?

Could this be the real face of terrorism?   Attack where you least expect it . . . so you never know where they might hit next?    I'm writing this just before midnight on Wednesday.   By the time you are reading it, some answers may be known as to who? and why?   At this point, there are more questions than answers


[8:30 am Thursday.   The two dead suspects have been identified.   The man was employed by the group that was having the party at the Center.   He had attended the party, but reportedly left angry -- and then returned later in the combat gear and with a woman companion (reputedly his wife) and they opened fire.   So this may be a workplace resentment situation -- or, given the obvious preparations ahead of time, perhaps there were other motives as well.]

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Quote of the week

Pulitzer Prize winner (fiction, 1943),  muckraking journalist, socialist, politician Upton Sinclair once wrote this memorable line:
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something
when his salary depends upon him not understanding it."

That could be paraphrased for other situations.  Here's one:
"It is difficult to get a politician to tell the truth,  
when telling lies will get him more votes."

Robert Reich on the effect of hate speech

Robert Reich, former Sec. of Labor in the Bill Clinton cabinet, now professor at Berkeley and frequent author, had this to say about the effect of inflammatory rhetoric coming from presidential candidates.

"Perpetrators of hate crimes often take their cues from what they hear in the media. And the recent inclination of some politicians to use inflammatory rhetoric is contributing to a climate of hate and fear. I'm not suggesting Trump, Carson, Fiorina, or any other presidential candidate is directly to blame for hate crimes erupting across America. But by virtue of their standing as presidential candidates, their words carry particular weight. They have a responsibility to calm people with the truth rather than stir them up with lies. In suggesting that the staff of Planned Parenthood, Muslims, Black Lives Matter protesters, and Mexican immigrants are guilty of venal acts, these candidates are fanning the flames of hate."
*     *     *
I certainly agree with Reich in principle -- as I almost always do with this progressive policy advocate.   But I would say it a little differently.   I don't think running for president necessarily imposes a responsibility on you to calm people -- or even to tell the truth.

But, for those who don't, journalists have a responsibility to challenge their rhetoric and expose their lies.   Politicians don't, but journalists do. 

Or at least they used to.   I'm not sure how many journalists still believe that, which is one of the problems in modern reporting that seems to put "balanced" reporting above "finding the truth."


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Follow-up to "You are not free from judgment . . ."

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post about the lies told (and re-told) by Carly Fiorino about the fake video made by David Daleiden and passed off as an indictment that Planned Parenthood "sells baby parts."   Thanks toTrueBlueMajority on DailyKos for the summary:
"There is footage of an intact fetus.  However:
  • David Daleiden admits the footage was not obtained at a Planned Parenthood facility.
  • No one is talking about “keep[ing] it alive so we can harvest its brain” in the voiceover.
  • the woman in the voiceover is not a PP employee
  • she is a distraught former employee of StemExpress, a company that obtains samples for medical institutions doing fetal tissue research
  • and she is not talking about the fetus in the video and was never in the same room with it.
Not only that, the famous picture later in that same video of two hands cradling a fully gestated fetus is actually a photo of a stillbirth and NOT an aborted fetus.
*     *     *
It's even worse than that.   Grieving parents have identified the stillborn baby in the video as theirs -- the result of an unavoidable death during delivery of a much-wanted baby.   That part of the video, which Daleiden somehow obtained and misused in this way, seems especially cruel, since it was actually taken by the father as a keepsake memory of their hoped for child, which explains the "two hands cradling . . . "

Shame on Carly Fiorino and others who try to capitalize on the emotions stirred -- and misdirected -- by the scurrilous misuse of someone's pain to garner a few transient points in polls.


A candid message about Iraq and the Islamic State

The leading German newspaper Der Spiegel published, in its international online edition, an interview with retired U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn, who was commander of special forces in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2004 to 2007 during the Bush administration.   He later served in the Obama administration as the highest ranking military intelligence official as Director of the National Intelligence Agency.
US General Mike Flynn: The Iraq war "was a huge error."

In an interview, Flynn explains the rise of the Islamic State and how the blinding emotions of 9/11 led the United States in the wrong direction strategically.    Was the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 a mistake?   Gen. Flynn said
"When 9/11 occurred, all the emotions took over, and our response was, 'Where did those bastards come from? Let's go kill them. Let's go get them.'  Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from. Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction. . . .

"It was huge error. As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him. The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision."
The current leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been captured in 2004;  but the U.S. military commission concluded that he was harmless and cleared him for release.   Asked how such a mistake could happen, Gen. Flynn said:  "We were too dumb. We didn't understand who we had there at that moment."

Gen. Flynn's interview was not primarily about blame and responsibility, however.  His message was the lessons we should learn from our mistakes about how to fight this enemy.    First, we must realize how different the Islamic State is organizationally from Al Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden's and then under Ayman al-Zarqawi.
"There's not some line-and-block chart and a guy at the top like we have in our own systems. That's the mirror imaging that we have to, in many ways, eliminate from our thinking. I can imagine a 30-year-old guy with some training and some discussion who receives the task from the top: "Go forth and do good on behalf of our ideology." And then he picks the targets by himself, organizes his attackers and executes his mission."
Recruiting is much more diverse and includes young men from countries all over the world.   So we should expect more attacks of the sort that just occurred in Paris.   There are also important symbolic differences. 
"Bin Laden and Zawahiri sit in their videos, legs crossed, flag behind them, and they've got an AK-47 in their laps. They are presenting themselves as warriors. Baghdadi brought himself to a mosque in Mosul and spoke from the balcony, like the pope, dressed in appropriate black garb. He stood there as a holy cleric and proclaimed the Islamic caliphate. That was a very, very symbolic act. It elevated the fight from this sort of military, tactical and localized conflict to that of a religious and global war."
As to how we can fight them, Flynn said that killing their leaders is "actually doing them and their movement a favor by making them martyrs." 
"The sad fact is that we have to put troops on the ground. We won't succeed against this enemy with air strikes alone. But a military solution is not the end all, be all. The overall strategy must be to take away Islamic State's territory, then bring security and stability to facilitate the return of the refugees. This won't be possible quickly. First, we need to hunt down and eliminate the complete leadership of IS, break apart their networks, stop their financing operations and stay until a sense of normality has been established. It's certainly not a question of months -- it will take years. . . .
"[W]e would need a coalition military command structure and, on a political level, the United Nations must be involved. The United States could take one sector, Russia as well and the Europeans another one. The Arabs must be involved in that sort of military operation, as well, and must be part of every sector. With this model, you would have opportunities -- Russia, for example, must use its influence on Iran to have Tehran back out of Syria and other proxy efforts in the region. . . . "
Asked if a Western military intervention doesn't run the risk of being seen as a new attempt to invade the region, Flynn replied:
"That's why we need the Arabs as partners, they must be the face of the mission -- but, today, they are neither capable of conducting nor leading this type of operation, only the United States can do this. And we don't want to invade or even own Syria. Our message must be that we want to help and that we will leave once the problems have been solved. The Arab nations must be on our side. And if we catch them financing, if they funnel money to IS, that's when sanctions and other actions have to kick in."
*     *     *
Finally, someone at the highest levels of military and intelligence at the time has acknowledged that invading Iraq was a mistake.    Gen. Flynn speaks with candor and believable honesty.

I don't like hearing that he thinks we have to be part of the troops on the ground.   But, if it has to be, then someone like him can make that case far better than the neo-con hawks and political opponents of President Obama, whose motives are not to be trusted.

And, if ground troops from the U.S. are to be considered, in my opinion, it must include(1) the reinstatement of a military draft;  and (2) paying for the war with a war tax.   We should not fight another big war by sending someone else's sons and daughter to do the fighting and putting the bill on our credit card.


Monday, November 30, 2015

"You are not free from the judgment of the consequences of your hate-filled rhetoric" - NARAL

NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue challenged the hypocrisy of anti-abortion politicians who spread lies and damning rhetoric against abortion providers -- who then act innocently shocked and condemn those deranged individuals who actually commit the murders.

She specifically aimed her criticism at David Daleiden, the founder of the Center for Medical Progress group that produced the fake videos they claimed were taken inside Planned Parenthood offices;  and at Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, whose book Their Blood Cries Out actually calls for doctors who provide abortions to be "executed."

This is the same Troy Newman whose endorsement Ted Cruz boasted about and has listed as the first name on his web site's list of endorsements from "Celebrities, Commentators, and Activists."

Ilyse Hogue wrote on her Facebook page:
Sorry, David Daleiden. You don't get to create fake videos and accuse abortion providers of "barbaric atrocities against humanity" one day and act shocked when someone shoots to kill in those same facilities the next.

And you, Troy Newman -- using Operation Rescue to call for state-sanctioned execution of doctors who serve women -- and then crying crocodile tears when someone takes that vision into their own hands.

It's America. You are free to have your speech. The language you choose matters. You are not free from the judgement of the consequences of your hate-filled rhetoric.
Free speech is a cherished value in America.   But so is reasonable moderation when it comes to someone else's safety.   We don't allow someone to cry "Fire!" in a crowded theater and start a stampede.  Nor should we allow people's lives to be endangered by a climate of hate speech that falsely demonizes them.   At the same time, we cannot take away people's freedom to speak their minds.

Finding the elusive line in that gray area -- that's where wisdom and judgment are called for.   Look at the presidential candidates.   Which ones do you think have that wisdom and judgment, as well as the courage to act on the wisdom and judgment?

Carly Fiorino, for one, rejects any connection between rhetoric and violence.   On Fox News Sunday, she called it "typical left-wing tactics" to attack the messenger.   Fiorino, herself, probably more than any other GOP candidate, stirred the anti-abortion hype during one of the debates with her melodramatic description of gruesome details of the (fake) video she claims to have seen.   It was later established that what she described had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood -- but she has not backed down nor retracted her claiminstead, just yesterday she repeated to Chris Wallace on Fox News the false claim that PP "sells body parts."   Using her slippery rhetoric, hoping that people won't notice, she said:
"Well, first it [selling fetal body parts for research] is not "alleged."   Planned Parenthood acknowledged several weeks ago that it would no longer take compensation for body parts, which sounds like an admission that they were doing so."
Wallace, like most journalists these days, did not challenge her false equivalence and context slippage.   The undisputed fact is that PP has been, quite legally, accepting reimbursement only for the actual expenses of preserving and shipping fetal tissues to legitimate research institutions.  They have never "sold body parts."  No one has offered a shred of evidence that they do.  But Fiorino slides from "compensation" (payment for actual expenses) to "doing so," which can only refer in this context to her charge of "selling body parts."

In order to try to avoid even this false charge, PP went the extra mile and announced it would no longer take this expense compensation.   But Fiorino takes that as an admission of guilt.   GRRRR.   This is one of the subtle ways Republicans lie.  If your wording is carefully crafted with the specific intent to deceive your audience, leading the average person to draw the wrong conclusion -- then I call it lying.

There has, in fact, been a sharp increase in threats to Planned Parenthood Clinics, and there have been several actual cases of arson, since that fake video was given such media spotlight last summer.   If these conservative politicians don't want to accept any blame for fomenting violence with their rhetoric, then let them attach a disclaimer to everything they say about the subject.   They should warn people:  "No matter how upset you get about what you hear us say, do not resort to violence."   Otherwise, they are part of the problem.   Yes, you, Carly Fiorino.   And you, Ted Cruz.  And especially you, Mike Huckabee.