Thursday, December 31, 2009
In the wake of the failed attempt on Christmas Day to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) and other Republicans are seeking to revive their voter-rejected charges that Democrats are weak on security - while somehow blaming unions for airport security failings. In doing so, they're holding up the nomination of veteran counter-terrorism expert Erroll Southers to head the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
As recapped by McClatchy Newspapers:
DeMint said in a statement that the attempted attack "is a perfect example of why the Obama administration should not unionize the TSA." He wants Southers to clarify his stand on unionizing the TSA, a shift that Democrats support.
Without collective bargaining, DeMint said, the TSA has "flexibility to make real-time decisions that allowed it to quickly improve security measures in response to this attempted attack."
If organized labor got involved, DeMint said, union bosses would have the power "to veto or delay future security improvements at our airports."
Sen. Harry Reid announced Tuesday that he would move forward on the delayed nomination of Erroll Southers to be TSA chief by seeking a cloture vote when the Senate returns in January. A spokesman for Reid called DeMint's opposition to allowing a nomination vote "disgraceful." (With both houses of Congress closed for the holidays, a spokesperson for Senator DeMint's office did not reply to a written inquiry by Truthout requesting comment.)
What's the truth about the impact of unions on our security?
In interviews with Truthout, one of the nation's most respected aviation security experts, Douglas Laird, and the president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, Marshall McClain, have sharply attacked the notion that unionized security officers weaken public safety. After all, most cops, firemen and emergency responders across the country already are unionized.
"My union card doesn't sit between my bulletproof vest and my willingness to put my life on the line," says Marshall McClain, who works on a canine unit scoping out contraband chemicals and drugs brought by would-be passengers.
He and his colleagues will do what's needed to protect the public, contrary to right-wing falsehoods about their insisting on following petty union rules that thwart effectiveness. For instance, in just the last few days at the Los Angeles airport, McClain observes, all vacations were canceled and a full contingent of officers was placed on duty. "Management has the discretion to change the days [of our shifts] and maximize deployment," he says. "There was no process or meeting or a conference about this. The chief just said, `Vacations are canceled and this is going to happen.' His [DeMint's] claims about unionization and homeland security have no validity."
Indeed, the Homeland Security Department's customs and border patrol officers who regularly face criminals are already unionized, with no sign of the common right-wing mythology about union members: there are no goldbrickers loafing back at the union hall while drug smugglers and border-crossing terrorists are being ignored. As Bill Fletcher, the American Federation of Government Employees' field services director, says, "It's a completely baseless argument." He adds, "It's a game of sabotage: Republicans are playing to basic fears, and obstructing the appointment of a TSA administrator to make it nearly impossible for TSA to recognize and address problems in any kind of systematic way. It's all obstruction to make an anti-union point - and to disrupt the administration's ability to function in any way they can."
The critics note, with varying degrees of harshness, that by Senator DeMint placing a "hold" on President Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration, he has apparently damaged the ability of that agency to implement long overdue improvements that could save American lives.
Douglas Laird, the former chief of airport security for Northwest Airlines, and president of Laird and Associates security consultants, says, "It's critical to appoint a strong leader to move the bureaucracy forward [on reforms], and it's a disservice to the American public not to move forward" because of opposition to unions.
The agency needs a serious overhaul. He points to a continuing series of GAO reports on the agency's failures since the Bush era to meet virtually any deadlines, fix its woeful mismanagement of the "no-fly" list that kept the late Sen. Edward Kennedy off planes while allowing terrorist suspects on them, or deploy at least 150 whole-body scanners (although privacy concerns have also slowed their use). "With good, powerful leadership, projects move forward at a better pace," he says. "At the TSA, [major new] projects are never done on time." (He also noted, of course, that day-to-day operations can continue to function for a while without a permanent administrator; the current acting head is a Bush administration hold-over.)
Laird also contends that the agency is lagging in restoring the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System(CAPPS), developed first by the airline industry, that cross-checks databases to help flag individuals who could be traveling under false identities or pose terrorism risks (it flagged ten of the 9/11 hijackers who were let on anyway after questioning). Yet, although this high-tech approach has faced continuing questions about privacy dangers, it underscores what Laird and others see as a major loophole in the entire system of watchlists designed to protect the public: "The feeling was 'we'd better look at the names.' But if you're a good terrorist, you've going to have a new identity with a valid passport. It's a weak system."
But the aviation security system can't be improved on a variety of fronts, especially at the TSA, until there's a strong, innovative leader to head that agency.
Even DeMint's harshest critics in the union movement, though, haven't stooped to using extremist, fear-mongering rhetoric to tar him as abetting terrorism. They aren't accusing DeMint of potentially having blood on his hands. Nor are they charging the union-bashing senator with willfully allowing innocent men, women and children to be blown up in midair by wily terrorists who could outwit underpaid, demoralized airport security screeners, all so he can score cheap political points against unions at the behest of his corporate donors. Obviously, such ugly politicization of national security for partisan political purposes would be unthinkable coming from any major political party's leaders or its allies.
Still, his critics take a dim view of his disparaging comments on the impact of unions on front-line responders - in their view, it's essentially a smear against the dedication, flexibility and courage of all public security officers, who are overwhelmingly unionized. Citing other unionized forces, McClain observes, "You can't expect anyone to believe that the LAPD, the SWAT team, the county Sheriff's Department officers are going to shirk their duties because they're union members." And, he notes, they're all legally barred from striking.
McClain's police union has, in fact, worked closely with TSA nominee Erroll Southers, the counter-terrorism expert and former FBI agent who is now the Los Angeles World Airport's Police Department assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence. He cited one example of Southers's mindset as a "no-nonsense" official: In a matter of a few months, Southers was able to cut through years of red tape that had thwarted the department's tactical forces from getting a grant needed to purchase powerful new rifles they needed to augment their security detail for El Al, the Israeli airline. "His attitude is: if it makes sense, get it implemented now," says McClain.
So it's especially galling to McClain that DeMint and fellow Republicans are blocking a vote on Southers.
"I think the delay is a definite blow to public safety by not having someone in charge who is responsible for screening passengers," he says. The TSA now, he contends, "is a leaderless ship."
DeMint's anti-union assault against Southers shouldn't come as a big surprise. As the senator who vowed to "break" Obama over health care, he's also missed few opportunities to lash out at unions or the Employee Free Choice Act designed to level the playing field for organizing rights. He even introduced his own counter-measure to gut the Employee Free Choice Act and spread the myth that the pro-union legislation would bar workers from using a secret ballot or force tiny companies to pay auto industry-scale wages, even though current and proposed labor laws exempt such companies from having to accept unions. He also helped lead the opposition to the auto bailout, blaming the industry's failures on the auto unions.
Naturally, after a 23-year-old Nigerian got on an airplane with explosives although his powerful banker father warned CIA and State Department officials about his son's terrorism ties and the CIA knew beforehand that Yemen-based terrorists were prepping a Nigerian for a terrorist attack, it was time once again for Jim DeMint to blame ... the unions.
So on CNN, FOX and other news outlets earlier this week, he made his case against allowing collective bargaining for airport screeners who work for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) because, he insists, that potentially hampers effective responses to terrorism. That, at least, is his ostensible justification for putting a hold on the nomination.
Yet, even DeMint's and Republican attacks on the TSA itself in the Nigerian case are wildly off-base. As terrorism expert Richard Clarke pointed out Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," countering rising GOP calls to fire Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano: "She inherited a TSA that needed a lot of work, and she appointed a great guy to run the Transportation Security Agency, but the Senate hasn't confirmed him. No, I think the problem lies with the intelligence community, not at Homeland Security."
The president has downplayed the threat of terror since he took office, and he waited eight months to even nominate Mr. Southers for this position. And then he wanted him approved in secret with no debate and no recorded vote in the Senate.
And this is all in the context of the president promising the unions that he will submit our airport security to collective bargaining with union bosses.
This is the last thing we need to do right now. Our airport security needs to have massive flexibility, the ability to move people around and change protocols. And it makes absolutely no sense to submit the security of our airports and the passengers here in this country to collective bargaining with unions.
In truth, contends the AFGE's Bill Fletcher, "Collective bargaining brings with it improved security for passengers. It's precisely on issues of morale and training of workers where what you have now is a completely unstable situation."
He also points out that when the TSA was established in 2001, its workers were actually allowed to be represented by a union - in this case, AFGE - but they were soon flatly barred by the Bush administration, under the authority of the law creating the new Homeland Security department, from engaging in collective bargaining. That action effectively neutralized the impact any union could have. But contrary to much of the latest news reporting, as the union's press releases show, "The union currently has approximately 12,000 dues-paying TSA members at more than 100 airports in 36 union Locals nationwide."
The AFL-CIO joined in a campaign earlier in December to protest at airports on behalf of collective bargaining rights for TSA workers. A bill to restore collective bargaining rights and grant stronger whistleblower protection for TSA workers passed a House committee in September, but it's stalled since.
Fletcher observes that in seeking collective bargaining, the screeners are seeking more than added pay and benefits: "The TSOs [Transportation Security Officers] are concerned about the long-term stability of the agency; they're looking for leadership. They want to know they're going to get the training and the equipment in place. The TSOs don't want to do this on the cheap. They want to protect the public."
Unfortunately, he argues, "These Republican demagogues are not trying to resolve this situation." Drawing on a metaphor from Hollywood teen-age films, he says, "They're playing 'chicken' with the administration - and the people standing between these two approaching cars are the TSOs and the public."
And next time around, if DeMint's union-busting hold on TSA leadership still remains and we face more massive intelligence failures, there could be a terrorism crash coming we won't be able to escape.
3:47 PM EDT Thursday, December 31, 2009
Judge throws out Blackwater indictments
A federal judge Thursday threw out charges against five Blackwater Worldwide Security guards accused of killing 14 people in a 2007 shooting in downtown Baghdad.
For more information, visit washingtonpost.com - http://link.email.washingtonpost.com/r/3873VC/XNPD6/18EWHL/NTF179/DI7RO/JY/t
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Crony capitalism unchanged
Wall St: More complicated means more profitable - Click "Read more" to watch second video.
To close out 2009, I decided to do something I bet no member of Congress has done -- actually read from cover to cover one of the pieces of sweeping legislation bouncing around Capitol Hill.
Hunkering down by the fire, I snuggled up with H.R. 4173, the financial-reform legislation passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives. The Senate has yet to pass its own reform plan. The baby of Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, the House bill is meant to address everything from too-big-to-fail banks to asleep-at-the-switch credit-ratings companies to the protection of consumers from greedy lenders.
I quickly discovered why members of Congress rarely read legislation like this. At 1,279 pages, the "Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act" is a real slog. And yes, I plowed through all those pages. (Memo to Chairman Frank: "ystem" at line 14, page 258 is missing the first "s".)
The reading was especially painful since this reform sausage is stuffed with more gristle than meat. At least, that is, if you are a taxpayer hoping the bailout train is coming to a halt.
If you're a banker, the bill is tastier. While banks opposed the legislation, they should cheer for its passage by the full Congress in the New Year: There are huge giveaways insuring the government will again rescue banks and Wall Street if the need arises.
Here are some of the nuggets I gleaned from days spent reading Frank's handiwork:
-- For all its heft, the bill doesn't once mention the words "too-big-to-fail," the main issue confronting the financial system. Admitting you have a problem, as any 12- stepper knows, is the crucial first step toward recovery.
-- Instead, it supports the biggest banks. It authorizes Federal Reserve banks to provide as much as $4 trillion in emergency funding the next time Wall Street crashes. So much for "no-more-bailouts" talk. That is more than twice what the Fed pumped into markets this time around. The size of the fund makes the bribes in the Senate's health-care bill look minuscule.
-- Oh, hold on, the Federal Reserve and Treasury Secretary can't authorize these funds unless "there is at least a 99 percent likelihood that all funds and interest will be paid back." Too bad the same models used to foresee the housing meltdown probably will be used to predict this likelihood as well.
-- The bill also allows the government, in a crisis, to back financial firms' debts. Bondholders can sleep easy -- there are more bailouts to come.
-- The legislation does create a council of regulators to spot risks to the financial system and big financial firms. Unfortunately this group is made up of folks who missed the problems that led to the current crisis.
-- Don't worry, this time regulators will have better tools. Six months after being created, the council will report to Congress on "whether setting up an electronic database" would be a help. Maybe they'll even get to use that Internet thingy.
-- This group, among its many powers, can restrict the ability of a financial firm to trade for its own account. Perhaps this section should be entitled, "Yes, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., we're looking at you."
-- The bill also allows regulators to "prohibit any incentive-based payment arrangement." In other words, banker bonuses are still in play. Maybe Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. shouldn't have rushed to pay back Troubled Asset Relief Program funds.
-- The bill kills the Office of Thrift Supervision, a toothless watchdog. Well, kill may be too strong a word. That agency and its employees will be folded into the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Further proof that government never really disappears.
-- Since Congress isn't cutting jobs, why not add a few more. The bill calls for more than a dozen agencies to create a position called "Director of Minority and Women Inclusion." People in these new posts will be presidential appointees. I thought too-big-to-fail banks were the pressing issue. Turns out it's diversity, and patronage.
-- Not that the House is entirely sure of what the issues are, at least judging by the two dozen or so studies the bill authorizes. About a quarter of them relate to credit-rating companies, an area in which the legislation falls short of meaningful change. Sadly, these studies don't tackle tough questions like whether we should just do away with ratings altogether. Here's a tip: Do the studies, then write the legislation.
-- The bill isn't all bad, though. It creates a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, currently head of a panel overseeing TARP. And the first director gets the cool job of designing a seal for the new agency. My suggestion: Warren riding a fiery chariot while hurling lightning bolts at Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
-- Best of all, the bill contains a provision that, in the event of another government request for emergency aid to prop up the financial system, debate in Congress be limited to just 10 hours. Anything that can get Congress to shut up can't be all bad.
Even better would be if legislators actually tackle the real issues stemming from the financial crisis, end bailouts and, for the sake of my eyes, write far, far shorter bills.
(David Reilly is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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To contact the writer of this column: David Reilly at firstname.lastname@example.orgLast Updated: December 29, 2009 21:00 EST
Ratings, particularly for the staunch critics of President Barack Obama, suggest that more and more, people are turning to pundits for their political news. How influential have pundits become in national political discourse? Earlier this year, some Democratic leaders derisively claimed Rush Limbaugh was the face and de facto leader of the Republican Party. And it wasn't entirely laughable. Meanwhile, Glenn Beck gave voice to an emerging political force that calls itself the Tea Party.
So this year, PolitiFact decided to add pundits to our fact-checks. Here are some of our favorites from 2009.
1) Glenn Beck: John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, "has proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population." Ruling: Pants on Fire!
It is perhaps appropriate to begin our list with Beck, as no pundit's star has risen more quickly this year than his. With a popular syndicated radio show, a new and highly rated cable show on Fox News and a couple of best-selling books, it's no wonder Beck made the cover of Time magazine in September, along with a story that described him as "the hottest thing in the political-rant racket, left or right."
More than any other pundit, Beck has focused on the so-called "czars" of the Obama administration, describing many of them as socialists and radicals. In addition to Holdren, Cass Sunstein and Van Jones were among the Obama appointees who found themselves in Beck's cross-hairs. The Holdren claim is representative of the genre. In this case, Beck's claim was based on a textbook Holdren co-wrote more than 30 years ago, though we found Beck had lifted Holdren's comments out of context, distorted his positions and ignored Holdren's more recent public statements.
2) Rush Limbaugh: "President Obama . . . wants to mandate circumcision." Ruling: Pants on Fire.
From Beck we go to the long-reigning king of political talk radio. It's a good example of the lengths some went to this year to score political points (ratings?) in the highly charged health care debate. It also was our first fact-check to carry a "parental warning." The claim, though, turned out to be flimsily based on a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that health officials may recommend circumcision for newborn boys as a way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, because studies show that the procedure can reduce transmission of the disease from women to men. But any eventual recommendations would be voluntary, not mandatory. More important, it had nothing to do with Obama, who to the best of our knowledge has never even uttered the word "circumcision" in a public forum. In fact, the CDC recommendations were under discussion long before Obama took office.
3) Steve Doocy: White House political director Patrick Gaspard once served as the "right-hand man" for Bertha Lewis, who heads up ACORN. Ruling: False.
This one hits the exacta of conservative pundits' 2009 attacks. One, it seeks to portray an Obama administration official as a radical. Two, it involves ACORN. Ka-ching! The claim made by Doocy, one of the hosts of Fox and Friends, and repeated by a number of conservative pundits, turned out to be wrong (though perhaps understandably as it was based on erroneous info in a blog posting from a former high-level ACORN official). More notably, this fact-check went on to play a cameo role in a high-profile spat between the White House and Fox. The brouhaha began when then White House communications director Anita Dunn called out Fox News, saying it was a "wing of the Republican Party." An accompanying blog posting on the official White House Web site repeated Dunn's claims and encouraged readers to check out "even more Fox lies," along with a link to the Doocy item from PolitiFact.
4) Rachel Maddow: "President Bush never did one interview with the New York Times during his entire presidency." Ruling: False.
The war of words between the White House and Fox predictably was the talk of pundits, liberal and conservatives alike. And it led to this spin-off from Maddow, in response to conservatives who criticized the White House for freezing Fox out of a series of interviews given to other networks on Sept. 20. Maddow argued it was no different from Bush refusing to be interviewed by the New York Times. Except that we found several incidents where he was. Maddow later offered an on-air correction.
5) Beck: "In the health care bill, we're now offering insurance for dogs." Ruling: Pants on Fire!
This is a prime example of how seemingly innocuous language in health care reform bills kicking around Congress this year was distorted and presented as outrage. The kernel of truth in this ridiculous claim is that the House bill includes scholarship and loan assistance money for health care workers, including veterinarians, who work in public health practice. These are the people who deal with disease outbreak, things like mad cow disease, swine flu and other animal-borne diseases. In other words, not the local vet who gives your dog heartworm pills. And certainly not health insurance of any kind for dogs.
6) David Brooks: Preventive care does not save the government money. Ruling: True.
Brooks' statement seemed counterintuitive, and it struck at a core principle of Obama's health care overhaul: That many costly procedures and treatments can be prevented by catching disease earlier or preventing it all together. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office explained that while it might be good health policy, it's not always cost-effective. You can't always predict who will develop costly illnesses, so you end up spending a lot of money on preventive care for people who would otherwise remain healthy anyway. "The evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall," the CBO concluded. But that didn't stop Obama from continuing to claim that preventive care would lower health care costs. And so a month after this Brooks ruling, we gave the president a False.
7) Keith Olbermann: A new Republican litmus test "would have resulted in (the GOP) kicking out Ronald Reagan." Ruling: Half True.
This statement might sound blasphemous to some Republicans who consider Reagan one of our greatest presidents. Olbermann based his argument on a comparison of Reagan to a proposal before the Republican National Committee to enforce ideological purity by denying party funding to any GOP candidate who bucks the party's stance on at least three items from a 10-point checklist of issues. We looked into it and concluded that Reagan definitely broke with today's conservative orthodoxy on several of the issues. If nothing else, it's a great lesson in how politics shift over time.
8) Sean Hannity: Under the "Cash for Clunkers" program, "all we've got to do is ... go to a local junkyard, all you've got to do is tow it to your house. And you're going to get $4,500." Ruling: False.
The Cash for Clunkers program took a beating on conservative TV and radio talk shows. Under the popular but controversial program, people could get $3,500 to $4,500 if they traded in their old gas-guzzler for a more fuel-efficient new car. The idea was to boost the ailing auto industry while improving the environment. Hannity claimed it would be all too easy to game the system. But a reading of the legislation showed legislators anticipated just such a scheme and included provisions to prevent it. And so we threw Hannity's statement on the junk heap.
9) Hannity: "Barack Obama won't even use the term 'war on terrorism.' " Ruling: True.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remain a source of partisan disagreement among politicians and pundits. And as Obama took weeks to mull whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, some like Hannity questioned his resolve in the fight against terrorism. As for Hannity's claim here, he's right that as president, Obama does not use the "global war on terrorism" phrase adopted by his predecessor, George W. Bush. It's a deliberate choice. Obama said he didn't want it to be misinterpreted by Muslims that we are at war with Islam, that he wanted to be more precise that the United States is at war with al-Qaida and other affiliated organizations.
10) Olbermann: "Yes, this would be the same congressman (Rep. Pete Hoekstra) who last year Tweeted the whereabouts of a top-secret mission to Iraq." Ruling: False.
Hoekstra Tweeted all right. He sent several messages to constituents back home describing his doings on a congressional trip to Iraq. And it prompted the Pentagon to review its policy on congressional delegations traveling to war zones, which resulted in a policy statement that amounted to telling congressmen they shouldn't be Tweeting their whereabouts or where they are heading in a combat zone. But it wasn't like Hoekstra spilled the beans on some covert military operation. Military officials said the mission, which was announced to the media beforehand (though embargoed), was hardly top secret.
There has been a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about our response to various critics of the President, specifically former Vice President Cheney, who have been coming out of the woodwork since the incident on Christmas Day. I think we all agree that there should be honest debate about these issues, but it is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer.
First, it's important that the substantive context be clear: for seven years after 9/11, while our national security was overwhelmingly focused on Iraq – a country that had no al Qaeda presence before our invasion – Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership was able to set up camp in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they continued to plot attacks against the United States. Meanwhile, al Qaeda also regenerated in places like Yemen and Somalia, establishing new safe-havens that have grown over a period of years ...
To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.
Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation's Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don't think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said "our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred" [...]
There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn't need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic ("terrorism"), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.
An excellent response ... and hopefully it will prod more Democrats to stand up and fight against the hate and lies that have been peddled by the GOP and their operatives this past week, instead of continuing with the "strategy" of sitting on their hands and hoping it will go away.
Perhaps it's not just his anti-labor positions that led Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) to keep a hold on President Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration. Back in 2007, a tipster points out, DeMint was one of a handful of GOP senators to vote against a bill implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations for strengthening homeland security. (Obama, then representing Illinois in the Senate, didn't vote. ) Here are some of the provisions of the bill — described in Project VoteSmart's summary — which ultimately passed by a wide and bipartisan margin:
Requires the secretary of homeland security to establish department-wide procedures by which to receive and analyze intelligence from state, local, and tribal governments and the private sector …
Authorizes funding levels for various efforts of Transportation Security Administration, including $1.99 billion for railroad security, $95 million for over-the-road bus and trucking security, and $36 million for hazardous material and pipeline security through fiscal year 2011…
Oh, and there's this, too, at section 1307:
Directs the Secretary to: (1) begin to increase the number of explosives detection canine teams certified by TSA for purposes of transportation-related security by up to 200 canine teams by the end of 2010; and (2) encourage state, local, and tribal governments and private owners of high-risk transportation facilities to strengthen security through the use of such teams.
Don't worry, though. DeMint is looking out for your security.
Gingrich: Obama cares more about ‘protecting the rights of terrorists’ than the ‘lives of Americans.’ from Think Progress
The right wing's response to the failed underwear bomber has been all too predictable — accusing liberals of being anti-patriotic and calling for greater ethnic profiling of Muslims, while ignoring the Bush administration's failure to prevent terrorist attacks, catch Osama bin Laden, or distinguish real threats from imagined ones. Newt Gingrich, one of the media's favorite conservatives, has been calling for "profiling" and "discrimination" on Twitter. Now he is also directly accusing President Obama and "the elites" of caring more about the "rights of terrorists" than the "lives of Americans":
In the Obama Administration, protecting the rights of terrorists has been more important than protecting the lives of Americans. That must now change decisively. It is time to know more about would-be terrorists, to profile for terrorists and to actively discriminate based on suspicious terrorist information.
Gingrich calls for the firing of Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, the renewed use of torture ("a policy of effective interrogation"), and the end of any civilian trials for suspected terrorists, even if they are American citizens. If the underpants bomber is justification for all this, one wonders what Gingrich would recommend we do to fight his other great threat: the "gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us."
Federal agents went to the homes of two bloggers Tuesday to issue subpoenas in an effort to find out who leaked them a memo on the Transportation Security Administration's enhanced security procedures in the wake of the failed Christmas Day terror attack. The agents looked through the computer, Blackberry, and iPhone of one of the bloggers, and told him they'd sit outside his house until he gave them the information they wanted, he says.
On Sunday, Chris Elliott, a well-regarded travel journalist who writes for National Geographic, MSNBC, and the Washington Post, published on his blog a TSA security directive, issued in the hours after the failed bombing incident. The directive, which went to airline, airport, and government personnel, outlined enhanced screening procedures, including performing a "thorough pat-down of all passengers at boarding gate prior to boarding, concentrating on upper legs and torso."
Around the same time, Steven Frischling, who writes a blog for KLM Dutch Royal airlines, posted the same directive.
Two days later, agents for the TSA, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, visited both men at home, and issued them subpoenas.
"Security Directives are not for public disclosure," a TSA spokesman said in a statement to TPMmuckraker. "TSA's Office of Inspections is currently investigating how the recent Security Directives were acquired and published by parties who should not have been privy to this information."
Elliott posted the subpoena he received on his blog. It demands, under penalty of imprisonment, "[a]ll documents, emails, and/or faxsimile transmissions (sic) in your control possession or control concerning your receipt of TSA Security Directive 1544-09-06 dated December 25, 2009."
Elliott declined to speak on the record to TPMmuckraker, pending legal advice. Frischling did not respond to an email seeking comment, but he described the visit -- and the agents' use of hardball tactics -- in an interview with Wired.
"They came to the door and immediately were asking, 'Who gave you this document?, Why did you publish the document?' and 'I don't think you know how much trouble you're in," Frischling told the magazine.
Frischling said the agents were armed, and didn't mention a subpoena until an hour into their visit. "They were indicating there would be significant ramifications if I didn't cooperate," he said, adding "It's not hard to intimidate someone when they're holding a 3-year-old [child] in their hands. My wife works at night. I go to jail, and my kids are here with nobody." He said they told him they'd sit outside his house until they got the information they wanted.
The agents appear to have been determined to follow every lead -- to the point of absurdity. Wired reports:
The agents searched through Frischling's Blackberry and iPhone and questioned him about a number of phone numbers and messages in the devices. One number listed in his phone under "ICEMOM" was a quick dial to his mother, in case of emergency. The agents misunderstood the acronym and became suspicious that it was code for his anonymous source and asked if his source worked for ICE -- the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Frischling noted to Wired that the memo had been sent out broadly to airport and airline personnel who would play roles in the enhanced security. "They're saying it's a security document but it was sent to every airport and airline," he said. "It was sent to Islamabad, to Riyadh and to Nigeria. So they're looking for information about a security document sent to 10,000-plus people internationally. You can't have a right to expect privacy after that."
The TSA may be particularly sensitive right now about its security procedures -- and its strategy for communicating them to the public. In the wake of the failed attack, the agency was criticized for issuing a vague statement about additional screening measures, without offering details -- causing confusion for millions of holiday travelers.
It appears to have been a desire to clear up this confusion that prompted both bloggers to publish the directive. Elliott wrote that he was posting the document "since the government has been unresponsive to my requests to clarify its new security measures." Frischling wrote that he posted it "[b]ecause following the failed terrorist attack on the 25th of December there was a lot of confusion and speculation surrounding changes in airline & airport security procedures."
In addition, earlier this month a TSA contractor posted a sensitive screening manual on a government site, revealing details like which passengers are most likely to be subject to screenings. The TSA put five workers on leave pending an investigation into the incident.
Frischling told Wired that after talking to a lawyer, he's decided to cooperate with TSA, since he doesn't know the identity of his source, and isn't protected by a federal shield law -- though that may not be the case for long.
McClatchy reporters have been digging into the shady offshore dealings of Goldman Sachs and what they've found is as maddening as it is to be expected of the financial meltdown villain.
According to their investigation, "Goldman peddled more than $40 billion in U.S.-registered securities ... but never told the buyers it was secretly betting that a sharp drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those securities plummeting."
In some of these transactions, investors not only bought shaky securities backed by residential mortgages, but also took on the role of insurers by agreeing to pay Goldman and others massive sums if risky home loans nose-dived in value — as Goldman was effectively betting they would.
Some of the investors, including foreign banks and even Wall Street giant Merrill Lynch, may have been comforted by the high grades Wall Street ratings agencies had assigned to many of the securities. However, some of the buyers apparently agreed to insure Goldman well after the performance of many offshore deals weakened significantly beginning in June 2006.
Goldman said those investors were fully informed of the risks they were taking.
Transport agency 'more aggressive with this reporter' than with alleged bomber, fmr. official says
The Transportation Security Administration threatened two travel bloggers with jail if they didn't reveal the source who provided them with temporary screening procedures issued in the aftermath of the Flight 253 incident, the bloggers and news sources say.
Christopher Elliott, who runs the Elliott.org blog and is a contributor to the Washington Post and MSNBC, and Steven Frischling, who writes for the official blog of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines as well as his own blog, were both visited by TSA agents Tuesday night and served with subpoenas ordering them to identify the source who provided them with the TSA's new security directive.
Frischling ... said the two agents who visited him arrived around 7 p.m. Tuesday, were armed and threatened him with a criminal search warrant if he didn't provide the name of his source. They also threatened to get him fired from his KLM job and indicated they could get him designated a security risk, which would make it difficult for him to travel and do his job.Story continues below...
"They were indicating there would be significant ramifications if I didn't cooperate," said Frischling, who was home alone with his three children when the agents arrived. "It's not hard to intimidate someone when they're holding a 3-year-old [child] in their hands. My wife works at night. I go to jail, and my kids are here with nobody."
Frischling, who also said that the TSA demanded and got a copy of his computer's hard drive, told Wired that he didn't see the harm in publishing the directive because it was sent to thousands of air travel security officials worldwide.
"They're saying it's a security document but it was sent to every airport and airline," he said. "It was sent to Islamabad, to Riyadh and to Nigeria. So they're looking for information about a security document sent to 10,000-plus people internationally. You can't have a right to expect privacy after that."
The other blogger, Christopher Elliott, wrote on his blog that he published the TSA directive "since the government has been unresponsive to my requests to clarify its new security measures." The full text of the security directive, designated SD 1544-09-06, was still available on Elliott's Web site as of Wednesday evening.
Some of the changes to air security outlined in the directive -- which was designed to expire on Dec. 30 in any case -- have since become widely-disseminated public information, including a requirement to pat down all travelers boarding planes bound for the United States, as well as a requirement that passengers on US-bound flights must remain seated for the last hour of the flight. Another rule in the document states that flight crew cannot announce the plane's flight path or point out landmarks once over US airspace.
But, in the end, Elliott and Frischling may have little to give the TSA in its apparent effort to find out who inside the federal agency leaked the document. Frischling told Wired that he received the directive from an unidentified email account, the name on which stated only "Mike," followed by a series of numbers and letters.
According to an unnamed former federal prosecutor who talked to Wired, the TSA's investigation into the leak has been mishandled.
"It strikes me that someone at TSA is apoplectic that somehow there's a sense that they're not doing their job right," the former prosecutor said. "To go into this one reporter's house and copy his computer files and threaten him, it strikes me that they're more aggressive with this reporter than with the guy who got on this flight."
Conservative radio talk host Rush Limbaugh was rushed to a Honolulu hospital on Wednesday afternoon with chest pains, sources told KITV.
Paramedics responded to the call at 2:41 p.m. at the Kahala Hotel and Resort.
Limbaugh suffered from chest pains, sources said. Paramedics treated him and took him to Queen's Medical Center in serious condition.
He will not be released on Wednesday night, sources said.
Where is the outrage now? Cant have health insurance reform but ok to socialize GMAC amd Fannie/Freddie?? Breaking News: U.S. taking majority ownership of GMAC
04:30 PM EST Wednesday, December 30, 2009
U.S. taking majority ownership of GMAC
The federal government said Wednesday it will take majority control of the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to staunch its losses. GMAC, which already has taken $12.5 billion in direct federal aid along with other forms of government support, is the largest lender to General Motors and Chrysler dealerships and to their auto-buying customers.
For more information, visit washingtonpost.com - http://link.email.washingtonpost.com/r/YLCS8G/A0G8N/HDGUW5/EJKNZI/47GTN/9A/t
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Rove says Obama's handling of Nigerian airline bomber weaker than Bush's -- even though it's identical from Crooks and Liars
Karl Rove went on Fox News twice yesterday -- first on Your World and later on Hannity, where he essentially repeated his earlier performance -- to accuse the Obama White House of being soft on terrorism because it did not declare Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be bomber of that Northwest flight into Detroit, an enemy combatant:
Rove: This shows the big difference in this administration's approach to it. This guy was treated not as an enemy combatant, and turned over to the FBI and the CIA for interrogation, he was charged criminally, which means he immediately lawyered up and the amount of information we're going to get from him is going to be this much, compared to what we could get if he was just simply sweat by the FBI and the CIA -- not even using enhanced interrogation techniques, just using what police would be able to use if you weren't lawyered up. This is a very troubling way in which the administration has handled this.
On Hannity, he claimed that by filing criminal charges, "we treat him as a guy who tried to knock over a Seven-Eleven or got caught shoplifting."
Memo to Karl: Convenience-store robbers and shoplifters do not get charged with terrorism in federal court. Just sayin'.
Moreover, the problem with Rove's claim that "this shows the difference" between the Bush and Obama administrations is flatly false (aka a lie).
Faced with nearly identical circumstances with would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid -- who was attempting to use the exact same kind of explosive on an American flight -- the Bush administration in 2001 did exactly the same thing: it filed criminal charges and eventually tried Reid in federal court.
What's worth noting is that Reid, too, was potentially an intelligence bonanza, since he had numerous operational ties with Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.
Then there was Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen who was eventually convicted of plotting with Al Qaeda to participate in the 9/11 attacks. He, too, was treated as a federal criminal by the Bush administration.
Finally, it should be noted that declaring suspects "enemy combatants" -- especially when they are captured away from the field of battle -- is actually a legal minefield fraught with far greater uncertainty than the use of federal criminal statutes. The classic example of this was the case of Jose Padilla, who was declared an "enemy combatant" by the Bush administration and whose case wound up taking years to be settled by the Supreme Court -- which eventually insisted that he be tried in federal court. Padilla's case was somewhat different, since he is a U.S. citizen, but one can rest assured that the issue of habeas corpus central to his case would be resurrected should Obama have followed Rove's advice.
But then, anyone who follows Karl Rove's advice deserves everything that inevitably will happen to them.
Since we still seem to be having a national freakout over some loser who got on a plane with a bomb in his underwear, which was apparently worthy of a presidential address, it might be a good idea to put the actual danger posed by terrorist attacks in some numerical perspective.
If you count the Ft. Hoot shooting as a terrorist attack, which even the likes of Pantload doesn't, 16 people have died in the United States as result of terrorism in 2009. The other three deaths include the Little Rock military recruiting office shooting (1), the Holocaust Museum shooting (1), and Dr. George Tiller's assassination (1), the last two coming at the hands of right-wing extremists.
Clearly, providing health care to all Americans is beyond our capabilities, so when do we launch the $700 billion-a-year War on Salmonella?
Health Care Industry Coordinating Effort To Opt States Out Of Health Care Reform from Think Progress
As Congress prepares to pass the final health care reform legislation early next year, health care lobbyists are mobilizing legislatures in approximately 14 states to ratify constitutional amendments that would repeal all or parts of the new measure. "The states where the amendment has been introduced are also places where the health care industry has spent heavily on political contributions," the New York Times notes:
Over the last six years, health care interests have spent $394 million on contributions in states around the country; about $73 million of that went to those 14 states. Of that, health insurance companies spent $18.2 million.
Overall, at least 21 states have indicated a desire to opt out of federal health care reform or block fundamental features of the reform bill, including mandatory health coverage. While Arizona, is the only state legislature to place an opt-out measure on the 2010 ballot, a significant number of gubernatorial and state legislature candidates across the country have also said that they are strongly "leaning towards" opting out of reform.
Lawmakers in Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, Kansas, Texas, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Arizona, Alabama, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Louisiana, Alaska, Minnesota, North Dakota, Georgia Illinois and Florida have introduced ballot measures to protect their states from reform legislation or promised to spearhead such efforts if reform is enacted.
While it's unlikely that conservatives and their health care industry allies could repeal health care reform, (they are more likely to water-down certain elements of reform), a successful challenge would devastate the populations suffering from the most pronounced health care crisis. A back-of-the envelope analysis conducted by ThinkProgress suggests that on average, the repealing states have experienced very substantial premium increases, high rates of uninsurance and annual percent growth in health care expenditures and higher insurance market concentration:
- 42% (9 of 21): have an uninsurance rate higher than the national average of 15.4%.
- 62% (13 of 21): have an average annual percent growth in health care expenditures that his higher than the national average of 6.7%.
- 62% (13 of 21): experienced premium increases of more than 75% between 2000 and 2007.
- 90% (19 of 21): are dominated by two insurers that control more than 50% of the health insurance market.
The effort to repeal health care reform "began at the conservative Goldwater Institute in Arizona" and was latter "picked up by the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], a business-friendly conservative group that coordinates activity among statehouses." As the New York Times points out, "five of the 24 members of its 'free enterprise board' are executives of drug companies and its health care 'task force' is overseen in part by a four-member panel composed of government-relations officials for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association of insurers, the medical company Johnson & Johnson and the drug makers Bayer and Hoffmann-La Roche."
Earlier this month, Lee Fang reported that Joan Gardner, executive director of state services with the BCBS Association's Office of Policy and Representation and a member of ALEC's 'task force' "played a pivotal role in crafting this anti-health reform states' rights initiative."
Dumb: Criticizing the president on health care is “Naderite” and “hurts the progressive agenda,” from Politics in the Zeros
Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake rightfully slams The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel apologia for Obama's inaction.
The Obama White House has been working furiously to pass an enormous transfer of wealth to the insurance companies from the start. I don't see how reporting this constitutes "attacking the administration," or why it "hurts" the "progressive agenda" to do so. So, I was very surprised that Katrina would promote and give the imprimateur of the Nation to a blog post encouraging me not to be critical of the administration on health care, and to accept the fiction that this bill is the fault of Congress.
And here I thought only Republicans insisted on unquestioning loyalty and brooked no criticism of their leaders. Hey, didn't The Nation used to slam the Bushies for doing just that? But apparently for some progressives, what is morally noxious when Republicans do it is just dandy when they do it.
Illinois Republican Andy Martin Who Started "Obama Is A Muslim" Smears Accuses Opponent Of Being A Homosexual from Crooks and Liars
Illinois Republican Andy Martin is about as slimy as they come. He gleefully accepts credit for starting a nasty smear campaign against President Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, and continues to ramp up the hate as he runs for a seat in the U.S. Senate:
Andy Martin, a noted conservative dirty trickster, put out a spot on local radio in which he pushes a "solid rumor" that fellow Senatorial aspirant, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), "is a homosexual."
"I helped expose many of Barack Obama's lies in 2008," the ad goes. "Today, I am fighting for the facts about Mark Kirk. Illinois Republican leader Jack Roeser says there is a 'solid rumor that Kirk is a homosexual.' Roeser suggests that Kirk is part of a Republican Party homosexual club. Lake County Illinois Republican leader Ray True says Kirk has surrounded himself with homosexuals."
The seedy spot seems to take a page out the Karl Rove playbook -- in which allegations of homosexuality are pushed by innuendo and 'simple demands for the truth.' In a statement to a local Illinois station, the Kirk camp vehemently condemned and denied its content.
In a stunning move, the Illinois Republican Party has denounced Martin and his tactics. Maybe Republicans is learning?
The Illinois Republican Party disavows the statements made today by Mr. Andrew Martin in his statewide radio advertisements. His statements today are consistent with his history of bizarre behavior and often times hate-filled speech which has no place in the Illinois Republican Party. Mr. Martin will no longer be recognized as a legitimate Republican Candidate by the Illinois Republican Party. Read on...
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC); Erroll Southers
In the aftermath of the attempted Christmas airplane bombing, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is unrepentant about his hold on President Obama's nomination for the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the division of the Department of Homeland Security that handles airport security. Obama nominated Erroll Southers — a former FBI special agent, the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence, and the associate director of the University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events — to run TSA in September. Southers' nomination was approved by two Senate committees, but DeMint has placed a hold on Southers "in an effort to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union":
Instead, the post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has held up President Obama's nominee in an effort to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union. DeMint, in a statement, said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's alleged attempted attack in Detroit "is a perfect example of why the Obama administration should not unionize the TSA."
DeMint claims unionization of TSA workers would give "union bosses" the power "to veto or delay future security improvements at our airports."
Officials actually concerned with passenger safety disagree with DeMint's hold. "Friday's terrorist attack on U.S. aviation makes it all the more imperative," Marshall McClain, the president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, said, "that there be no further delays in filling this crucial position."
Republican Sen. Hatch: ‘It Was Standard Practice Not to Pay for Things’ Under Bush-GOP Congress from Pensito Review
Six years ago, when the Republicans controlled the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of government, they rammed through Congress a Medicare prescription drug bill that they paid for by borrowing billions of dollars, presumably from Communist China.
This month, when Democrats in the Senate proposed a health-care overhaul that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office adjudged to pay for itself and would require no borrowing, all the Republicans voted against it, including 24 senators — over half the caucus — who voted for the budget-busting Medicare expansion in 2003.
These same Republicans were also onboard for George W. Bush's tax cut for the wealthy and deficit funding of Bush's two wars. They also advocated underfunding the regulatory agencies that provided oversight for financial institutions and even the nation's food supply.
So how do they justify this gigantic — and nonsensical — flip-flop on fiscal responsibility?
Here's what Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said — in a classic Kinseyan gaffe*:
[When Bush and the GOP controlled the government six years ago] "it was standard practice not to pay for things…We were concerned about it, because it certainly added to the deficit, no question."
*Michael Kinsey once said that, in Washington, a "gaffe" is when someone inadvertently tells the truth.
Monday, December 28, 2009
CNN Breaking News North Korea announced that it is holding an American who illegally entered the country on Christmas Eve.
Landrieu Cares: Controlling Health Costs by Helping Millionaires, Hurting the Working Class from Firedoglake
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
After working very hard to kill many progressive idea about how best to control health care costs, Mary Landrieu has found one she likes. Too bad it is the one that will most benefit millionaires:
I can only support a bill if the Cadillac plans are taxed at the level they are in the Senate [bill,]" said Landrieu. "It's not because I'm thrilled about taxing those plans, which I'm not, but it is the No. 1 cost-containment measure in the bill. It's what is going to drive costs down over time."
Well that is just a great justification for keeping the Cadillac tax. After Landrieu fought for months to kill the public option in the Senate, which would have brought down costs, and voted against drug re-importation that the CBO said would save American consumers around $100 billion, she is worried about cost control. I can only assume based on her vote on the Dorgan amendment that she would also be opposed to government price controls on drugs, to get them in line with prices in Canada, or direct Medicare drug price negotiations, since both would upset PhRMA. It seems Landrieu is against the progressive ideas for controlling health care's spiraling costs, but uses the issue of "cost control" to defend only one provision.
With the terrible Senate bill already written, Landrieu has magically transformed into someone who cares about cost control. She has laid down a marker on the so-called "Cadillac tax" on health care benefits even though the CMS says it will cause millions of Americans to see increased co-pays and deductibles, while only reducing national health expenditures by a measly 0.3%.
By demanding to keep the excise tax on health care plans unchanged and the overall price tag the same it means the millionaires surtax in the House bill is likely to be dropped or dramatically scaled back. Does a millionaire like Landrieu really feel passionately about the need to tax health insurance benefits, or is it just that she is passionately opposed to the House's alternative funding mechanism, which is increasing taxes for millionaires? I will let others judge, but I think the evidence clearly points to one conclusion.
Republicans Who Opposed The Stimulus Continue To Pan It As A ‘Failure,’ While Also Taking Credit For Its Success from Think Progress
Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY)
In the past month, several more GOP lawmakers went home to their district to praise and claim credit for successful stimulus programs:
– Earlier this month, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) called the stimulus a "large-scale failure," but last week hailed a stimulus program in Frankford, Missouri as "critical." Referring to a $330,000 loan and $313,900 grant authorized by the stimulus, Luetkemeyer said, "Clearly, the 328 residents of Frankford will benefit from this grant and I appreciate the USDA's willingness to help this community." In September, Luetkemeyer requested $100 million from the stimulus for a road project in Missouri.
– On his campaign website, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) features his opposition to the "pork-filled" stimulus. However, on his congressional website, McCaul features a story from earlier this month about a largely stimulus-funded project to expand Highway 36 in Texas. In the story, he is thanked for "taking this project to the next phase of reality." Noting its importance, McCaul says the highway expansion will "cut down on fatal crashes and ensure commerce can continue to move efficiently through Austin County and the rest of this important region."
– On December 16th, Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) sent out a press release hailing $1,044,140 in stimulus money Carroll County school system, while crediting himself for securing the money. "I am pleased that our office was able to assist them in obtaining these funds," noted Davis in the release. On the same day, Davis blasted a separate release claiming that the stimulus had "failed."
Of course, Luetkemeyer, McCaul, and Davis voted against the stimulus. Congressional Republican leadership, who helped corral partisan opposition to the Recovery Act, are also shamelessly attacking the stimulus while requesting stimulus money. As ThinkProgress has reported, House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) recently hosted a job fair filled with jobs fueled by the stimulus, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been taking credit for stimulus projects in his home state.
Tea Bagger Socialists: Comrades Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sens. Grassley, Brownback Have Syphoned $100ks in Government Welfare from Pensito Review
Comrade Michele Bachmann
It's still socialism to Bachmann, however. "Right now, we are looking at reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom," she said in remarks to a right-wing club in Minnesota this month. "And we may never be able to restore it if we don't man up and take this one on."
This is nothing new. Here's what she said in March, for example:
Progressives should critique Obama on bullshit #hcr health care reform - and why those who feel doing so hurts a progressive agenda are idiots
from Firedoglake by Jane Hamsher http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2009/12/28/criticizing-the-president-on-health-care-is-naderite-and-hurts-the-progressive-agenda/
There's a very slick PR letter posted online that's being furiously retweeted by DC political operatives. I wasn't going to address it, but the editor of the Nation Katrina vanden Heuvel started pushing it. It becomes widely disseminated based on her role as a validator within the progressive community, and that necessitated a reply.
The letter says:
I do not doubt that you genuinely feel that your very vocal opposition to the Senate health care bill is in the absolute interests of the American populace and progressive politics. I honestly believe that you feel that the administration has let you and other progressives down by not publically pushing harder for elements in the bill that we all hoped would survive the legislative process.
What I doubt is that your actions will ultimately serve the advancement of the progressive agenda that you obviously care so much about. I believe in fact, that quite the opposite will be the result. Pushing for the very best bill that we can get through this congress is laudable, attacking the administration for dealing with the reality that is congress is not.
You can argue that this bill helps people and is therefore progressive. I would argue that it forces the middle class to pay almost as much to private insurance companies as they do in federal taxes, weakens the coverage of those who have employer-based insurance, and is a Shock Doctrine attempt to raid the public sphere of unprecedented magnitude. I come down on the side of Marcy Wheeler, who wrote an important post entitled "Health Care on the Road to Neofeudalism":
I understand the temptation to offer 30 million people health care. What I don't understand is the nonchalance with which we're about to fundamentally shift the relationships of governance in doing so.
But the truly creepy thing about the letter being pushed by Katrina (in addition to all the manipulative Orwellian language), is that it doesn't argue the bill itself is progressive. Rather, it says "attacking the administration for dealing with the reality that is congress" is not "laudable" and hurts the "progressive agenda."
It is manifestly untrue that the bill is the handiwork of Congress, for which the President bears no responsibility. The White House negotiated this bill with lobbyists starting early in the year. As Marc Ambinder reported shortly after the inauguration, the official White House strategy would be to deflect responsibility for anything unpopular onto Congress.
But Rahm Emanuel's need for self-promotion keeps stepping on that plan. The New York Times is just one of many places that has reported that he has been running the show all along:
Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff, runs the campaign out of his West Wing office. A former congressman, he knows how to count votes. (It was Mr. Emanuel, for instance, who suggested Mr. Orszag reach out to Ms. Collins.) Aides say he does not host a regular health care meeting, but rather summons his team several times a day, typically with e-mail messages ordering colleagues to drop everything and show up right that minute.
On October 5, I wrote "Countdown to Lieberman," saying it was only a matter of time before Joe stepped in and we started hearing that old song about "60 votes" again. And Brian Beutler reported that when it came time to deliver a bill to the Senate and yank the public option on October 25, Obama didn't want to take credit for Rahm's handiwork:
Reid wants Obama to do it to give cover to his caucus, Obama wants Reid to do it so he's not the bad guy on the public option, and can still walk away with a win with reform, with bipartisanship, and with a card for everybody running for re-election."
The Obama White House has been working furiously to pass an enormous transfer of wealth to the insurance companies from the start. I don't see how reporting this constitutes "attacking the administration," or why it "hurts" the "progressive agenda" to do so. So, I was very surprised that Katrina would promote and give the imprimateur of the Nation to a blog post encouraging me not to be critical of the administration on health care, and to accept the fiction that this bill is the fault of Congress. I asked her why she was doing this, and she replied:
Big tent. Divisions within progressive community can't be wished away. Respect your views; worth respecting others' views.
It's not such a big tent when you're promoting something that tells someone to stop criticizing the president's role in crafting the health care bill, nor does it "respect" the views of anyone who disagrees with that contention on the basis of well-documented evidence. Yet the editor of the Nation is granting its legitimacy to a post which attempts to stifle criticism of the president and dismisses it as "Naderite," equating the "progressive agenda" with "what's politically advantageous for the President."
Recently, Glenn Greenwald wrote in a post entitled "White House as helpless victim on health care":
Of all the posts I wrote this year, the one that produced the most vociferous email backlash — easily — was this one from August, which examined substantial evidence showing that, contrary to Obama's occasional public statements in support of a public option, the White House clearly intended from the start that the final health care reform bill would contain no such provision and was actively and privately participating in efforts to shape a final bill without it. From the start, assuaging the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries was a central preoccupation of the White House — hence the deal negotiated in strict secrecy with Pharma to ban bulk price negotiations and drug reimportation, a blatant violation of both Obama's campaign positions on those issues and his promise to conduct all negotiations out in the open (on C-SPAN). Indeed, Democrats led the way yesterday in killing drug re-importation, which they endlessly claimed to support back when they couldn't pass it. The administration wants not only to prevent industry money from funding an anti-health-care-reform campaign, but also wants to ensure that the Democratic Party — rather than the GOP — will continue to be the prime recipient of industry largesse.
Glenn was indeed roundly attacked for asserting that this bill is the handiwork of the White House, even though as he says "the evidence was overwhelming from the start that the White House was not only indifferent, but opposed, to the provisions most important to progressives." And Russ Feingold backs him up:
"This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don't think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth," said Feingold. "I think they could have been higher. I certainly think a stronger bill would have been better in every respect."
Despite this evidence, there is an orchestrated, active, full-court press to discredit and silence anyone who tries to point out the responsibility the president bears for crafting this bill. I'm surprised that the editor of the Nation would take part in it.