Top news of 2007

I’ve always enjoyed year’s-end lists. Here are the top 10 news stories of 2007 as voted by members of The Associated Press (released 20 December):

#10 - IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM: Worried that the ultimate goal is a nuclear arsenal, the United States and other countries pressed Iran to halt uranium enrichment. Iran said it never had a weapons program. A recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), prepared by 16 intelligence agencies, concluded there was such an effort, but it stopped in 2003.

#9 - IMMIGRATION DEBATE: A compromise immigration plan, backed by President Bush and Democratic leaders, collapsed in Congress due to Republican opposition. The plan would have enabled millions of illegal immigrants to move toward citizenship, while also bolstering border security. The issues remained alive in the presidential campaign.

#8 - PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: In a yearlong drama with shifting subplots, large fields in both major parties battled for support ahead of the caucuses and primaries that will decide the 2008 presidential nominees. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama led among the Democrats; some polls showed five Republicans with double-digit support.

# 7 - BRIDGE COLLAPSE: An Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed during the evening rush hour on Aug. 1, killing 13 people and injuring about 100. The disaster fueled concern about possible structural flaws in other bridges nationwide.

#6 - GLOBAL WARMING: Warnings about the consequences of global warming gained intensity with new reports from scientific panels and a Nobel Prize to Al Gore for his environmental crusading that included the award-winning film "An Inconvenient Truth." Across the U.S., many state governments sought to cap emissions blamed for global warming.

#5 - CHINESE EXPORTS: An array of Chinese exports were recalled, ranging from toys with lead paint to defective tires to tainted toothpaste and food. Despite the high-profile problems, America's trade deficit with China was running at record-high levels.

#4 - OIL PRICES: Oil prices soared to record highs, at one point reaching nearly $100 a barrel. The high prices, which burdened motorists and owners of oil-heated homes, nudged Congress to pass an energy bill that ordered an increase in motor vehicles' fuel efficiency. (BJ note: Under-reported is the effect of higher delivery costs on grocery prices.)

#3 - IRAQ WAR: The "surge" that sent more U.S. troops to Iraq was credited with helping reduce the overall level of violence. But, thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of U.S. personnel were killed nonetheless during the year, and Iraqi political leaders struggled to make meaningful progress toward national reconciliation.

#2 - MORTGAGE CRISIS: A record-setting wave of mortgage foreclosures, coupled with a steep slump in the housing market, buffeted financial markets, caused multibillion-dollar losses at major banks and investment firms, and became an issue in the presidential campaign.

#1 - VIRGINIA TECH KILLINGS: Seung-Hui Cho, 23, who had avoided court-ordered mental health treatment despite a history of psychiatric problems, killed two fellow students in a dormitory on April 16, detoured to mail a hate-filled video of himself to NBC News, then shot dead 30 students and professors in a classroom building before killing himself. It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

If you disagree with the AP ranking or don’t see an important story on the list, please leave a comment. (The Bhutto assassination occurred after the list’s release.)

The AP list, an analysis of the reanking and the runners-up for top stories of the year: LINK



In “Earthbound,” one of my favorite Nintendo role-playing game (RPGs), my mission was to go into a village of conformist cult followers and break the spell which held them. Everything in the village was blue, from the faces of the faithful to the milk cow. The worshipers practiced “Happy-Happyism.”

Back in the 1970s a popular source of camp entertainment was the TV ministry of one “Reverend Ike.” Bedecked with gold chains and bracelets and diamond rings, Rev. Ike’s followers were encouraged to pray for new Cadillacs. His message: “You can’t lose with the stuff I use.”

New broadcast technology has drawn millions of followers under the spell of new-day “prosperity preachers.”

As a Christian, I am turned off by their message that money can, indeed, buy happiness, and if worshipers are “faithful enough,” they will be showered with earthly riches, good health and a problem-free life.

Out here in the real world, we know that sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is not too keen on these pulpit panhandlers, either.

Grassley is investigating a number of these mega-church charlatans. The senator insists this is not about theology; it’s about the U.S. tax code, which allows these TV “preachers” to live in a world of Rolls-Royces, private jets and multi-million-dollar estates – tax exempt.

The ministries under review include Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Fla.; Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas; David and Joyce Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo.; Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas; Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga.; and Creflo and Taffi Dollar (for real!) of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, Grassley points out, not a Rolls-Royce. And, he didn’t wear a Rolex, either.

In fact, Jesus talked about the poor more than any other subject – mentioning them some 700 times in his red-letter New Testament teachings.

The human tragedies in all this are the faithful – the contributors who become disillusioned and heartbroken when they find out their faith isn’t strong enough to merit such prosperity.

For further reading:

The Grassley investigation, The Associated Press.

The “Prosperity Gospel” and its victims, CNN.


Now, it's working ...

There’s a joke in upstate South Carolina about two Clemson University students riding around campus. The driver pulls over and asks his buddy to get out and tell him if his right blinker is working. The buddy yells back to the driver, “Now, it’s working; now, it’s not; now, it’s working, now it’s not.”

So, is the so-called U.S. troop “surge” in Iraq working – or not?

Can the surge be working when armed U.S. troops celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in the heart of a Muslim country?

Can the surge be working when a single American soldier looks into the camera and wishes his family “Happy Holidays” with tears running down his cheeks?

Can the surge be working when there are those who would have the United States become a fundamentalist theocracy while our soldiers are dying to prevent one in a Muslim country?

Can the surge be working when U.S. troops are fighting to liberate Iraqis from years of tyranny while the Bush administration has systematically chipped away at our own freedoms here?

Can the surge be working when major Iraqi factions cannot exist in harmony, and there are, quite literally, "warring" factions right here in America?

Can the surge be working as long as the neoconservatives who have shaped this administration’s foreign policy are building the world’s largest foreign embassy – a virtual fortress – in Baghdad with plans for a U.S. presence and U.S. bases protecting Iraq’s oil reserves for the unforeseeable future?

And, finally, you are hearing that the surge is working militarily, if not in terms of a successful Iraqi government. Is this true?

Examine six periods of this almost five-year war in terms of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq, verified by the DoD:

20 March 2003 through 1 May 2003 (end of major combat operations): 140 in 43 days

2 May 2003 through 28 June 2004 (sovereignty turned over to Iraq): 718 in 424 days

29 June 2004 through 30 January 2005 (Iraq elections): 580 in 216 days

31 January 2005 through 14 December 2005 (Iraq general elections): 715 in 318 days

15 December 2005 through 31 January 2007: 933 in 412 days

Beginning of the surge – 1 February 2007 to date: 811 in 328 days

Total deaths: 3,897 U.S. troops (Total coalition: UK, 174; other, 133)


'The Christmas Tree Regiment'

During WWII, Japanese-American citizens began to be moved from internment to relocation centers, entered the U.S. work force and just as quickly were fired when angry townspeople demanded it of employers.

“At the same time the number of Japanese-Americans serving in the U.S. Army continued to grow, reaching 33,000.

“‘I’ve never had more wholehearted, serious-minded cooperation from Army troops,’ Lt. Col. Faron Turner said of the all-Japanese 100th Infantry Battalion, which fought with great distinction in Italy and France.

“The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which also fought in Italy and France, was known as ‘The Christmas Tree Regiment,’ because it became the most decorated unit in the entire Army.

“In seven major campaigns, the combined 100th and 442nd suffered 9.486 casualties and won 18,143 medals for valor, including almost 10,000 Purple Hearts.

“In addition, almost 16,000 Nisei served in military intelligence in the Pacific, translating captured documents.

“At Topaz, Manzanar, Poston, Heart Mountain and other relocation camps, the parents of fallen heroes accepted the extraordinary honors on behalf of their sons. The color guard turned out as the medals of the dead were pinned on their mothers’ blouses

“The familiar sadness of the ceremony was multiplied by its setting: a tawdry, tarpapered barrack surrounded by strips of barbed wire, which denied the parents of the honored soldiers the very freedom for which their sons had died.”

- Doris Kearns Goodwin, “No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: the Home Front in WWII.”


In this season of faith, love and hope, let our prayer ever be,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14


Method in MSNBC's madness

My veins still run with newspaper ink, and I still love the institution of journalism. Real journalism. Ethical reporting.

I confess: I have been addicted to politics and news since I was a child. Both were discussed at our family dinner table. I can remember lying on our living room floor reading the daily newspaper which landed on our front porch. The “Brenda Starr” comic strip led me as a kid to dream of a career in newspapering.

Because I love the Fourth Estate – and still believe in its potential power to right the wrongs – I am deeply troubled by what cable news is imparting under the non sequitur “news.”

Perhaps as a defense against spin, distortion and lies now disguised as “news,” I am compelled to keep myself informed.

This background leads me to this conclusion: MSNBC is swift-boating Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Opinion” shows such as “Morning Joe,” “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” “Tucker” and “Live with Dan Abrams” aside, the personal attacks on this candidate for the presidency have spilled over into the so-called news segments throughout the day.

Those of you who despise Senator Clinton have your reasons and are entitled to them. But, if you approve the PERSONAL attacks on her and her campaign, you are turning a blind eye to ethics in journalism.

MSNBC has long been my cable news source of choice, although I do trust CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at 4 ET to give me a thorough and reliable daily news wrap.

From 5 a.m. up until the nightly tabloid, “Doc Block” at 10, I have heard reporting on Senator Clinton’s campaign which spins, distorts and takes out of context its every effort.

There is no attempt at subtlety. Whether her laugh is called a “cackle” or her campaign workers called “surrogates,” MSNBC’s campaign against Clinton is aimed at those who do not think for or inform themselves.

To my chagrin, I have seen long-respected journalists such as Tim Russert, David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, David Shuster, join in these unrelenting jabs at the Clinton juggernaut.

(I hope you will remind yourself, dear reader, what this same select group did to Don Imus.)

There’s no need to even mention Fox News.

Big media is after the Democratic frontrunner.

Have you asked yourself “Why?”

There are two reasons, and they both involve profits.

The first, simply put, is “conflict sells.”

The other is a little more complicated. As you read this, the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is ready to “open the floodgate” to further media consolidation.

Here’s what freepress.net has to say:

“If FCC Chairman Kevin Martin gets his way, your community will be inundated with even more mass-produced celebrity gossip and infotainment, and less local reporting and quality journalism: more of the junk news that is making us sick.

“Martin wants to ‘Super Size’ Big Media, allowing companies like Gannett, News Corp and Tribune to swallow up even more local TV, newspaper and radio outlets. Martin wants to let one company own both the major newspapers and a TV station in your hometown, drowning out the few remaining independent voices, so that media moguls like Rupert Murdoch can expand their empires.”

So, you ask, what has this got to do with MSNBC’s campaign against Hillary Clinton?

Well, everything.

When it became apparent that Senator Clinton was the frontrunner, outpolling candidates of both parties, cable news went into overdrive to stop the Democrat most likely to succeed.

By attempting to marginalize both Hillary and Bill Clinton and promoting candidates which, in my opinion, cannot carry the national vote, “big media” will keep in place an FCC which is favorable to both profits and expansion.

I remember the words of a former executive editor, who, when I complained our inside pages “news hole” (space left after advertisements are inserted) was too small, said, “It’s a business. If you don’t want it to be a business, you had better get out.” I did.

So, now you know: there’s method in MSNBC’s (and Matthews’) madness.

I will support and work to elect the Democratic nominee, whoever he or she is, but I did that in 2000 and 2004.

I honestly believe the one person who could win back the White House – and turn this country around - is at the mercy of an unethical media. If these personal attacks succeed, you just wait to see what they do to the Democratic Party’s nominee.

That “food for worms,” Benjamin Franklin, who chose “printer” as his sole epitaph, must be spinning in his Philadelphia grave.

And, when there’s a Republican taking the oath of office in January 2009, I will refer you back to this post.


Case study: Internet crap

Why in the name of God do people read the crap which circulates the world via Internet when these emails have no attribution or documentation?

This post, with a read time of about 10 minutes, cannot be appreciated unless you take the time to read the snopes.com analysis linked herein.

Involved is a particular bit of tripe from a man who claims a desire to publish his wife’s “beautiful” letter-to-the-editor because the Orange County (Calif.) Register ignored it. Basically, the email compares a Utopian view of late 19th- and early 20th-Century immigration with the blight of today’s unwelcomed hoards.

Snopes analyzes the letter with its usual dose of reality.

I wrote the following to the person who forwarded the letter to me – you know one of those emals where you have to plow down through countless email addresses until you get to its body and which always ends by demanding you keep it moving around the world.


I am so happy I read and studied Clyde Raymond Miller's "The Process of Persuasion," the acknowledged bible for identifying the various techniques of propaganda, because this CRAP is chock full of them. I read it and recognized it for what it is: xenophobic propaganda which is written to stir your emotions while blocking your ability to reason for yourself.

A rule of thumb on these Internet letters from NOWHERE is to delete them. If you do read them, look for the APPEAL at the end that asks the reader to spread it to "millions" and makes the reader feel less-than-patriotic if he or she doesn't send it along.

Actually, these letters are not from "nowhere," they are written by hired guns of advocacy groups which support or oppose an issue, a cause or a candidate. These people are very skilled at composing propaganda and setting it into circulation.

Why would you read these letters when you don't really know who wrote them?

Even if the content of this letter were TRUE, as a former editorial page editor I could tell you that the letter would have been rejected by any newspaper, because it's too long. When I write an occasional letter-to-the-editor to the newspaper here, the word limit is 250.

All that aside, you don't have to worry about persons coming here from Mexico just to make money for their families. Right now, the value of the U.S. dollar is plummeting, and when it drops BELOW the value of the Mexican peso, they will all go back home. Wall Street is very nervous over the continuing downward spiral of the U.S. dollar. Now, that's an issue for concern.

Here's what SNOPES.com says about this “letter” (and, dear reader, it will be worth your time to read the analysis!): LINK

Now, to take this to a personal level:

I have read best-selling books on the history of almost every American decade. It is a mistake to believe America - the America we grew up in and love - is and has been perfect, for it has not. There have been problems in every decade which have had to be rectified.

There have been systemic problems such as prejudices against blacks, Jews, American Indians and peoples of almost every nationality and faith.

There have been grave mistakes made when the U.S. has intervened in the affairs of foreign govenments (for example, the CIA-led coup to overthrow the elected Iranian leader and install the Shah or taking the side of the United Fruit Company in overthrowing the elected leader of Guatamala - to the advantage of a private business using near-slave labor).

So, as the SNOPES analysis points out the Utopia the letter writer would have you believe has never existed here. And, sadly, never will.

I am currently listening to noted historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's "No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: the Home Front in WWII," which is a documented record of the post-Depression 30s and the war-time 40s. During those decades Americans did sacrifice, but there were race riots and violent labor strikes.

Most notably, as a result of post-Pearl Harbor hysteria, the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese-American CITIZENS in filthy and overcrowded "concentration" camps remains a blight on our history. The last camp housing these "suspected enemies" closed in 1946. (History and photographs, University of Utah collection). The U.S. finally paid these citizens retribution for what they went through.

I am struck by a common theme in each decade of our history: each has had the SAME problems to deal with – the same prejudices, fears and paranoia.

Hence, the French phrase Snopes.com uses:

"Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" - the more things change, the more they stay the same.

No, America is not perfect - as evidenced by all its current problems - but it's still a good country with good people, in my opinion, and I'm glad I was born here. I know you are, too.

Have you ever asked yourself, "Why?" Why were we lucky to be born here, when so many are born into oppression, disease, poverty and hunger?

I refuse to find fault with any persons who want to come here to find for themselves what we, by the sheer luck of birth, simply inherited, having done nothing to deserve it.


'There you go again!'

Today I’m featuring a favorite blogger, Papamoka, whose “Straight Talk” blog is always interesting and might be named “Common Sense” if that title had not been used by an earlier patriot.

In his 12 December 2007 post, “Grinch AKA Bush Kills Kids Health Bill Again” (LINK), Papamoka writes:

Separated at birth is our current Commander in Thief and the Grinch who stole Christmas. If you took the time to compare the two it might not be as far off a thought as you think. With his hefty and mighty veto crayon he swiftly cast the medical care of 10 million kids in the “Do Not Recycle” bin out in the back of the White House today... AGAIN!

His rationalization for vetoing the bill is that it is the beginning of socialized medicine? Maybe the President has not visited an emergency room in any city in America lately. Socialized medicine is already here! It’s just the most expensive form of medical health care there is and we all pay for the poor using the Emergency Room with every payment to our HMO provider whether we like it or not.

If there ever was a clear cut example of what not to do as an American President then this guy is going to be mentioned more times than anyone else. He clearly fits the phrase from the movie The American President where it was said “For someone who loves America but clearly cannot stand Americans”. Rough paraphrase but it fits W to a tee.

Bush vetoes children's health bill a second time
Wed Dec 12, 2007 7:02pm

By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday vetoed a bill expanding a popular children's health care program for the second time, angering Democrats who are locked in a fight with the administration over the budget and spending.

Pushed by the Democratic-led Congress but also supported by many Republicans, the bill was aimed at providing health insurance to about 10 million children in low- and moderate-income families. Taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products would have been increased to pay for the aid.

Bush vetoed a version of the bill in October but Congress quickly passed another one that included some changes but not enough to satisfy the White House.

"Because the Congress has chosen to send me an essentially identical bill that has the same problems as the flawed bill I previously vetoed, I must veto this legislation too," Bush wrote in a message to the House of Representatives.

The fight between Congress and the White House over the health bill is one in a series of clashes over spending that have arisen as Bush approaches the start of his final year in office. -Reuters

One of the obvious problems with the bill is how it was to be funded and those funds discharged. There was no money in it for the “Bush Too” crew of political hacks. If Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi had linked some (more than half) of the money from the bill to be directly paid back to any oil company or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia then it might have had a chance at passing.

It is very obvious that this President does not care one iota about his own peoples’ health care. He does not even care about our own military wounded soldiers coming home for care in our military hospitals unless the Washington Post blasts the negligence across the front page to embarrass him. Even then he only tosses a white wash over the issue and moves on to where the money is.

Sometimes I wonder if he has CADD, that would be Conservative Attention Deficit Disorder. Federal programs that don’t send money his friends’way just cannot seem to hold his attention span long enough. Out comes the veto crayon, and he tries his best to color within the lines but those pesky flash bulbs always make him mess up.

Back to the emergency room, kids. Socialized medicine? Ridiculous!


For more of “Papamoka’s Straight Talk:” LINK


Demwit today: “Black eye”


WaPo A01


Media’s anti-Hillary blitz backfires: LINK

Eat your heart out, Chris Matthews.


Taking five

Working on Christmas projects and will see you in a couple of days. In the meantime, you might enjoy this post from 5 April 2007:

Whiskey at the good-old-boys club

Once upon a time at a certain daily newspaper in a certain Southern town, I edited the opinion pages.

In an editorial board meeting with the publisher and the executive editor, where plans were made for the week’s opinion pieces, I commented that Mississippi once taxed illegal liquor. There was a state tax collector, I added, whose salary was a percentage of the take.

Pretty confident of my home state’s history, I punctuated these remarks with “That’s how William Winter got rich.”

Maybe this newspaper had not yet gotten the word that women were becoming a force in journalism, for the publisher immediately put me in my place. “That’s ridiculous!” he retorted, “and I know Bill Winter. Bill Winter is not rich.”

When the publisher left the conference room, the editor, in front of the other board members, looked at me and snapped, “If you don’t know what you’re talking about, keep your mouth shut!”

I kept my mouth shut.

I did not tell him that my brothers-in-law Paul and Harold and my brother Leroy were friends of William Winter, former Mississippi governor, back in their Grenada, Mississippi, growing-up years.

Nor, did I tell him that William Winter had never in his life been called “Bill.”

Didn’t even mention that seen from the perspectives of a publisher and a lowly editorial editor, “rich” might be relative.

Heck, Mississippi politicians were among those who practically wore out the old Pearl River bridge connecting the state capital to “The Gold Coast,” a Rankin County road lined with wooden shacks dispensing illegal whiskey from drive-through windows.

A few days ago I ran across the delightful memoirs of retired Mississippi Judge Thomas Givens of Oxford.

Drawing me into Judge Givens’ stories were his title, “Whiskey, Chickens and Cherry Bombs,” and this on the Web site:

“Note from Ye Editor: Judge Tom Givens writes stories that are not only entertaining, but also give us a glimpse into a rapidly fading era of Deep South history. Readers will enjoy these four memoirs - and will learn a thing or two.”

Learn a thing or two, indeed!

With permission of Beth, whose Web site is usadeepsouth.ms11.net, I quote a few words from one of Judge Givens’ stories:

“As I said before, just about all the (Mississippi) Delta and River counties allowed liquor sales. You could walk into any of those establishments, and there tacked on the wall would be their black market tax receipt.

“Now, get this, they had a ‘State Tax Collector.’ His only job was to collect the black market tax, and his compensation was a percentage of the collection. In the 50's, Life magazine did a profile on him as the highest paid public servant in the United States. That was none other than the most Honorable William Winter. To Winter’s credit, he lobbied the legislature to do away with the position, which they finally did.”

Well, that makes two Mississippians who know what they’re talking about!

Thanks, Judge! Once upon a time a woman could get pretty lonely working at a good-old-boys club.


Girdles and coffee

In “No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor: The Home Front in WWII,” the book I’m currently enjoying, Doris Kearns Goodwin points out the sacrifices Americans made during that war.

The two things they most hated to give up were girdles and coffee.

Because Japan had captured rubber- and coffee-producing countries, rationing became a necessity.

So great was the outcry over girdles - “sagging muscles in middle-aged bodies leave women without the energy to do their work” – the government capitulated on that restriction.

Coffee lovers were limited to one cup a day. (I would have demonstrated.)

By and large, Americans on the home front sacrificed. Society women had a new role model: Rosie the Riveter. The war was won on the beaches of Normandy, in the steaming tropics of the Pacific and on Main Street, USA.

Not much of that going on today with America at war in two countries.

Funny thing is: the people who thought the Iraq war was a great idea, the people who claim sole support for our troops are the very people most unwilling to pay taxes to fund it.

The Republican Party wants permanent tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, many of which are making megaprofits from the war.

Sacrifice doesn’t mean sugar rationing any more.

On this the 66th anniversary of FDR’s “day that will live in infamy,” maybe Americans could take time from life as usual to remember:

Uncle Sam still wants YOU.


DemWit today: “Wrong numbers”


The poop on Lou Dobbs

This winner of Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” (LINK) is just too good not to pass along:

(O)ur winner, Lou Dobbs of CNN, who has been teetering on the edge of madness for a couple of years now and last night stopped the teetering part.

A critic from the L. A. Times, CNN‘s partner in an upcoming debate, accused CNN of improperly tailoring the first half hour of its YouTube debate last week to reflect Dobbs‘ personal obsession with undocumented immigrants.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll suggests the topic is only the fifth highest priority among American voters at 11 percent. The latest Pew Poll says it‘s only the sixth priority of Republicans.

Dobbs thinks it‘s the only one. The critic called CNN corrupt - strong language. But, of course, on this topic, Dobbs is corrupt and hypocritical, too, as we‘ll examine in a moment. First, though, let‘s play the tape of some of Dobbs‘ detonating, largely because, at this point, I‘m sad to say, my impression of him consists of only three words - I‘m Lou Dobbs.


LOU DOBBS, CNN Imagine that. We offended the little liberal lily. Not only was Rutten apoplectic that presidential candidates would actually have to deal with the issue of illegal immigration; but Rutten‘s tortured mind crushed his own sense of reason and managed to conclude that CNN focused on illegal immigration to create a larger audience for me. Did Rutten notice I was not involved in that debate? The candidates get a little nervous if I‘m in the same building.

Rutten, you either don‘t know how to read a survey, a poll, or you have no interest in the facts, or you‘re just another elitist partisan, and that explains why the L. A. Times continues to lose readers. You‘re a lousy media critic. We all knew that. But, now you‘ve stepped into advocacy, and you‘re even worse at that.

And, you don‘t even have the guts to come on this broadcast and discuss your corrupt reasoning and partisan activism disguised as media criticism. Too bad, we would have loved to have discussed the issues with you. But, you‘re not interested in reality or truth. You‘re a media critic, of sorts.


OLBERMANN: He sounds passionate about immigration, the way, say, Senator Joe McCarthy was passionate. But, actually it‘s hypocritical.

As noted in the book “A Sunday Horse” by Vickie Moon, Dobbs has two daughters who have for years been passionately involved in show jumping, the upper class, super expensive, elitist world of horses and hurdles. Show jumping depends on—and Lou Dobbs spends his money indirectly employing—hundreds of the very people he rails against each night.

After mentioning the Dobbs‘ family involvement, Vickie Moon writes of the sport, “This melting pot of international equine aficionados does not include the countless number of illegal Spanish-speaking immigrants who shovel the 40 tons of poop a day.”

In other words, weeknights, Lou Dobbs threatens illegal immigrants, and on weekends, he pays them to clean up after his daughters‘ horses.

So, Lou, get serious one way or the other. Drop your racism, thinly disguised as warnings and threats about illegal immigrants, or get your daughters and money out of a sport that could not exist without them. Better still, why don‘t you go clean up the 40 tons of poop a day yourself? On TV, you seem pretty good at shoveling it.

Lou “Do as I say, not as I spend” Dobbs, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

I continue to be amazed that, primarily, through the voices of Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan, who throw out statistics and don’t seem to back them up, the media has created the myth that ALL Americans are freaking out over illegal immigration.

Yet, current polls continue to show this is not the biggest issue on Americans’ minds. Legitimate polling shows the majority of Americans favor a “path to citizenship.”

Here’s is a question from a poll cited by Dobbs:

“Do you believe illegal immigration is an issue which needs attention?”

Well, of course, it is.

But, Dobbs will tell you that the 90 percent who answered “yes” to this question want all “illegal immigrants” shipped home. Not exactly a logical interpretation of the answer, huh?

Thanks, Mr. Olbermann, for pointing out the obvious: Lou Dobbs is a one-track fanatic.


DemWit today: “Untitled”


At the mercy of madmen

Writing a political blog can be overwhelming. This country is at the mercy of madmen, and the head honcho is sitting in the Oval Office. The madness rolls in in daily waves – of tsunami proportions.

Did some master propagandist like Karl Rove, who has recently shown he has no qualms about lying to rewrite history, sit down and tell this administration: if we do enough bad things on a daily basis, the people, the Congress and the media will be so overwhelmed they simply cannot or will not do anything about it?

This is not uninformed speculation on my part; I’ve been monitoring this bunch since January 2001.

First, there was Rove himself, blaming the Democrats for “pushing” the vote on Iraq and saying the GOP didn’t want “to politicize” the potential for war in the run-up to Election 2002.

Then, there’s Bush using our troops as a fulcrum to convince Americans that if Congress doesn’t continue issuing him blank checks for Iraq NOW, the military will run out of money. Secretary of Defense Gates himself has contradicted this claim in statements before Congress.

The president of the United States then insulted the U.S. Congress by saying it had “done nothing.” I watched on C-SPAN as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was the first to rise and speak as that body reconvened after its Thanksgiving break. Reid was incredulous that Bush would make such a blanket statement, then enumerated exactly what the legislative branch HAS done, despite Republican opposition and Bush vetoes.

Word comes next that Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the Iraq war, after scandal led to his firing as president of the World Bank, will be brought back into the Bush administration – as an expert on, of all things, “weapons of mass destruction.” (Ironically, that was CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson’s area of expertise!)

Now comes the National Intelligence Estimate – the NIE - a product of 16 U.S. intelligence entities, with findings on Iran which are certain to make Bush and this country the laughing-stock of the world. And, Bush with his sabre-rattling talk of World War III, stated he only found out about the NIE’s findings two weeks ago.

If further proof of madness is needed, here’s what former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton told Wolf Blitzer in CNN’s “The Situation Room” yesterday at 4 p.m. ET. (LINK) Read the following exchange and ask yourself if we can really wait until Bush leaves office in 412 days to put an end to this madness.

Blitzer asked war hawk Bolton if the NIE had changed his mind on Iran. (Bush told reporters yesterday that it had not changed his mind.)

“No,” Bolton said. “I think in the first place there is an artificial distinction in this Estimate between so-called civil activities and military activities.

“The Estimate itself says Iran continues its uranium enrichment program; and what that means is Iran is building up an inventory of at least low-enriched uranium, that it's at Iran's discretion when to convert that fissile material into a nuclear weapon.

“So, I think there are a lot of questions about this Estimate, which is only an analyst's judgment. And, I don't think I would change my view of the threat that Iran poses.”

Blitzer pointed out that the new NIE “clearly would indicate that the president and all of his top advisers who were so worried about Iran's nuclear threat were wrong.”

“Right. Well, that's one reason I'm suspicious about the conclusion here, that this took four years to find out,” Bolton said. “And, by the way, two agencies dissent from that conclusion. And, even what was published says that the NIE itself only has moderate confidence that the suspension in 2003 continues today, and that there are gaps in our intelligence. I think there's a real risk here of over-judging what the intelligence community found, and that there is a real risk of disinformation on the part of Iran.”

Blitzer asked Bolton for clarification: “You're saying that this new NIE … is potentially wrong? Is that what you're saying? And, that it was released for what, political purposes?”

Bolton replied, “Well, I think it's potentially wrong. But, I would also say many of the people who wrote this are former State Department employees who, during their career at the State Department never gave much attention to the threat of the Iranian program. Now, they are writing as members of the intelligence community, the same opinions that they had four and five years ago.”

President Bush, Blitzer pointed out, says he has confidene in the new NIE. He also reminded Bolton that, according to Bush, the entire U.S. intelligence-gathering community has been revamped since faulty intel led us into war in Iraq, and the president himself says he has “total confidence” in this NIE.

To that Bolton replied, “Well, I have to say I don't. I think there's a very real risk here that the intelligence community is like generals fighting the last war. They got Iraq wrong, and they're overcompensating by understating the potential threat from Iran.”

So, according to Mr. Bolton, when they got it wrong, they got it right, and when they get it right, they’ve gotten it wrong. Although the former ambassador recently declared, “I am not a neocon,” that sure sounds like neoconspeak to me.

Now, what could possibly be more scary than that? The fact that about 35 percent of the voting-age people in this country are not even registered to vote and only 65 percent of those registered actually vote. Far too many Americans have no idea all this is going on.

There might be one thing above all to be feared: a free press which has forfeited its mission as government watchdog.


See a brief, related quote on my blog, “DemWit:” LINK


One happy Imus fan

Don Imus returned to the air with apologetic remarks, then added, "Other than that, not much has changed. Dick Cheney is still a war criminal, Hillary Clinton is still Satan, I'm back on the radio and the coffee’s still good at B. J.’s house.”

OK, I added that last part, but it’s true!

Like the night my “Friends” exited the apartment door or finally tossing my favorite old houseshoes, the absence of Imus and his crew in the morning was unsettling.

I had grown accustomed to the craggy-faced curmudgeon and stepped right back into the comfortable morning routine.

I once heard David Letterman say he liked “Beavis and Butthead” because “they’re consistent.” And both Imus and his fans know that is crucial to the new show’s success.

The I-man promised the show his fans came to love “is not going to change,” a remark which drew loud applause from yesterday’s live audience.

RFD-TV, which will simulcast Imus’ WABC-AM show, says 30 million viewers will tune in. The channel hopes to add “20 million urban viewers.”

RFD, for you city slickers, stands for the postal designation, “rural free delivery.”

A friend who gets the channel via satellite told me the program is being bleeped. Well, they ain’t gonna add urban viewers that way.

I buzzed the blogosphere to get reaction to the broadcast, and that hasn’t changed, either – you love Imus or you hate him.

I ran across a blog by a Jewish woman who was complaining about “that bastard Imus” and his new black female sidekick, Karith Foster, a Texas gal educated at Missouri’s exclusive Stephens College and Oxford University in England.

The Jewish woman was raising hell because Foster had joked on her Web site, “I'm really a Jewish girl from Long Island trapped in this body, which technically makes me a JAAP - Jewish African-American Princess."

Sometimes you’re just damned if you do and damned if you don’t. And sometimes, you just want to scream, “SHUT UP!”


Read the Associate Press coverage of the first show: LINK

Listen to Imus “streaming live” at WABC-AM, 6 to 9 ET weekday mornings. Go HERE and click on "Listen Live."

TODAY'S QUOTE: In discussing the issue of illegal immigration with Imus, GOP hopeful Mike Huckabee said, "We should get down on our knees every night and thank God we live in a country people are trying to break into and not trying break out of."


Imus on the air!

Listen to Don Imus, beginning Monday, 6 to 10 a.m. ET, on WABC-AM, New York, ABC radio affiliates, RFD-TV simulcast and STREAMING LIVE on your computer at: "Listen Live"

And, with apologies to Elton John, a message for Joe Scarborough:

Goodbye, “Morning Joke!” Your sarcasm burned out long before your program ever did.


Is this your America?

If you will allow me the “audacity of hope,” it is my hope that every voting-age American who did not watch the GOP debate last night will sit down and give it full attention when it re-airs on CNN Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

Watch it, then remind yourself: one of these men might be the next president of the United States.

While the candidates themselves had no control over the questions, and CNN and YouTube vetted them, they were posed by Americans via YouTube video.

It is apparent that, contrary to what I had thought, “God, gays and guns” are still main concerns of those who will vote Republican.

So prevalent was the issue of “illegal immigration,” I found myself thinking of Charlton Heston, staring down at the Statue of Liberty protruding from the sand, and screaming, “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you!”

Other questions were primarily about God (“Do you read and believe the Holy Bible?” and “What would Jesus do?”), gays, the 2nd Amendment and guns, abortion, torture and 9/11 and the Islamic Jihadist threat to America.

They were about a mindset.

The loudest booing came when Ron Paul attempted to explain jihadists hate us because of our policies toward the Middle East for the last several decades, and when Rudy Giuliani dared to suggest some gun ownership must be regulated.

The one question on Iraq – shouldn’t the U.S. establish permanent bases and remain there indefinitely to protect the region? – created a verbal tap dance onstage.

At times, Ron Paul seemed the only voice of reason, then he had to go and say we have to get government out of our lives, while pointing out the necessity of things only a federal government can do – such as “rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.”

As one post-debate panelist said, “What you didn’t hear was the name George Bush. They are trying to distance themselves from him, yet, with the exception of Ron Paul, they agree with him on almost every issue.”

These issues did not come up: education, health care, energy, global warming, the economy, Iran.

During the post-debate coverage a group of “undecided Republicans” remained undecided, could not pick a debate winner and expressed interest in one overriding criterion: who can beat Hillary Clinton.

I don’t have a problem with that, as I support the one person I believe can defeat this less-than-illustrious field – and restore this nation’s soul.

Watch Saturday night. If you are conservative and Republican or liberal and Democrat, ask yourself if what you see represents your own ideals, your own hope for your country.

This might just be the most important two hours you will spend before Election 2008.

Watch it like your future depends on it.


An inconvenient distinction

Ran across “Sean Hannity’s America” on Fox News the other night, and Sean was blathering away about how all the great scientists on Earth – the ones who really count – are refuting claims of global warming.

Sean went on to make the same mistake so many do – not recognizing there is an inconvenient (for them) distinction between “weather” and “climate.”

Time to recycle my blog post of 28 February 2007:

Hume-idity & snow jobs

My friend Richard, in a phone chat Saturday, was complaining about snow, ice and zero temps in Akron, Ohio. I hated to tell him I had my central air running here in South Carolina.

We were talking about the “weather.”

The right-wing and particularly Fox News are trying desperately to convince folks that “global warming” is a tree-hugger hoax.

Fox anchor Brit Hume just can’t get enough of those “it’s snowing, there’s global warming” jokes. On a recent show, he reported that a theater had canceled the showing of Al Gore’s “An Inconventient Truth” due to snow, then reacted to his own joke with a hee, hee and a yuck, yuck.

Hume was talking about the “weather.”

These naysayers neglect to tell their followers and/or audiences that there is a difference between “weather” and “climate.”

The 14 February 2007 edition of the Progress Report, Center for American Progess, explains the two terms:

“To understand why the current cold snap across the United States is occurring during a global warming trend, one must first understand the distinction between climate and weather.

“Climate is the ‘composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness and winds, throughout the year, are averaged over a series of years.’ In other words, climate refers to recorded history.

“Weather, on the hand, is current events; it refers to the ‘state of the atmosphere at a given time and place.’ Weather is a snapshot of the climate at any one instant. Although the two are related, their relationship is indirect. ‘The chaotic nature of weather means that no conclusion about climate can ever be drawn from a single data point, hot or cold. The temperature of one place at one time ... says nothing about climate, much less climate change, much less global climate change.’” LINK


Update on the former AG

My lasting impression of former Attorney General John Ashcroft is the image of the sneer on his face as he whipped out a memo written by 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick during those crucial hearings. Turned out Ashcroft was wrong about the memo, and both Bush and Cheney apologized for the AG’s action during their session with the Commission.

The look on Ashcroft’s face that day was, in my opinion, pure evil. Funny how little things like that stay with you.

So, what’s the former AG doing now?

Article: “Justice Department Awards Ashcroft $52 Million Contract,” LINK.


The year that changed America

Erstwhile broadcast journalist and writer Tom Brokaw is making the talk-show rounds promoting his new book, “Boom! Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today.”

In a recent appearance I heard Brokaw explain how 1968 changed America for the next four decades.

On 11 June 2007, I wrote a post about former President Bill Clinton’s observations on how that year changed American politics.

For its timliness, I repeat it here:


My current book on tape is Bill Clinton’s “My Life,” and I am so impressed with his writing style, as amiable and down-home funny as his political style.

Clinton has just described one of the most tumultuous summers in our history – 1968 – and the violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The great dividers in the nation were racial conflict and Vietnam.

The Chicago violence unfolded while Clinton was on a trip to Shreveport, La., with his mother’s boyfriend. As he watched on TV Mayor Daley’s police force beating youthful protesters in Grant Park, Clinton says his Southern upbringing clashed with his progressive ideals. This young college kid, who would leave for Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship in the fall, says he saw his beloved Democratic Party crumbling before his eyes.

Hubert Humphrey won the Party’s nomination over Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, choosing Senator Edmund Muskie as his running mate. Bobby Kennedy had been killed after winning the California primary, and Senator Edward Kennedy rejected the pleas of young idealists to seek the nomination. Alabama Governor George Wallace was set to wage a third-party campaign.

At the conclusion of Chapter 13, devoted to the politics of this explosive summer, Clinton writes:

“The feeding fanaticism of the left had not yet played itself out, but it had already released a radical reaction on the right – one that would prove more durable, more well-financed, more institutionalized, more resourceful, more addicted to power, and far more skilled at getting and keeping it.

“Much of my public life has been spent trying to bridge the social and psychological divide that had widened into a chasm in Chicago. I won a lot of elections, and I think I did a lot of good, but the more I tried to bring people together, the madder it made the fanatics on the right.

“Unlike the kids in Chicago, they didn’t want America to come back together. They had an enemy, and they meant to keep it.”

Later, in Chapter 14, Clinton describes 1968 as:

“… the year that broke open the nation and shattered the Democratic Party. The year that conservative populism replaced progressive populism as the dominant political force in our nation. The year that law and order and strength became the province of Republicans, and Democrats became associated with chaos, weakness and out-of-touch, self-indulgent elites. The year that lead to Nixon, then Reagan, then Gingrich, then George W. Bush. The middle-class backlash would shape and distort American politics for the rest of the century. The new conservatism would be shaken by Watergate, Its public support would be weakened as right-wing ideologues promoted economic inequality, environmental destruction and social divisions, but not destroyed.

“When threatened by its own excesses, the conservative movement would promise to be kinder and gentler or more compassionate, all the while ripping the hide off Democrats for alleged weakness of values, character and will.

“And, it would be enough to provoke the painfully predictable, almost Pavlovian reaction among enough white middle-class voters to carry the day.

“Of course, it was more complicated than that. Sometimes conservatives’ criticisms of the Democrats had validity, and there were always moderate Republicans and conservatives of good will who worked with Democrats to make some positive changes. Nevertheless, the deeply imbedded nightmares of 1968 formed the arena in which I and all other progressive politicians had to struggle over our entire careers.

“Regardless, those of us who believed that the good in the 1960s outweighed the bad would fight on, still fired by the heroes and dreams of our youth.”


Two geniuses – skilled at propaganda – became the architects of conservative populism: Lee Atwater and his protege Karl Rove. Atwater, who died from a brain tumor at the young age of 39, apologized and asked forgiveness for his deeds before death. Rove’s influence continues in Bush’s White House.

Update: Karl Rove is now writing a column for Newsweek, in which he continues to give the GOP pointers on how to win. So far, he hasn't apologized for anything.


Spitzer: 'Fix it'

Remarks by Governor Eliot Spitzer Washington, DC November 14, 2007 (LINK)

Over the last two months, I have been advancing a proposal that I believe would improve the safety and security of the people of my state by addressing the fact that New York is home to one million undocumented immigrants, many of whom are driving on our roads unlicensed. After serious deliberation and consultation with people I respect on all sides of this issue, I have concluded that New York State cannot successfully address this problem on its own. I am announcing today that I am withdrawing my proposal.

Here in our nation's capital, I wanted to talk briefly about the failed federal immigration policy and what that has meant for states like New York.

I suggest to you what everyone already knows. The federal government has lost control of its borders, has allowed millions of undocumented immigrants to enter our country, and now has no solution to deal with it.

When the federal government abdicates its responsibility, states, cities, towns and villages still have to deal with the practical reality of that failure. And we face that reality every day in our schools, in our hospitals, and on our roads. In New York, that means one million undocumented immigrants, many of whom are driving without a license and without insurance, and all of whom are living in the shadows with no real identity.

While states lack the ability to fix our immigration laws, we do have the obligation to try to address some of their negative consequences. And so, many of us have tried.

In New York, we announced a comprehensive proposal to allow New Yorkers to choose from three secure licenses. This was a practical response to both the new federal travel requirements and the old federal inaction. It would have enabled us to keep our Upstate economy viable; meet the demands of federal travel requirements; make our roads safer; and bring more New Yorkers into the system, helping law enforcement officials fight crime and terrorism.

It would have restored the practice of licensing immigrants who do not have social security numbers, something New York had done for years, something eight other states -- both "red" and "blue" states -- do right now and something I continue to believe is principally the right thing to do to make our roads safer and our state more secure.

I continue to believe that my proposal would have improved an unsatisfactory situation. But I have listened to the legitimate concerns of the public and those who would be affected by my proposal, and have concluded that pushing forward unilaterally in the face of such strong opposition would be counterproductive.

Leadership is not solely about doing what one thinks is right. Leadership is also about listening to the public, responding to their concerns and knowing when to put aside a single divisive issue in favor of a larger agenda.

I am here today to respond to the vast majority of New Yorkers of good will who have heard my best case and yet still disagree with my proposal.

As New Yorkers, we respect that people from all over the world come to this country to work hard and to live the American dream, just like all four of my grandparents. We respect the hard and sometimes backbreaking work of those who participate daily in our economy. But at the same time we are troubled when people violate our immigration laws.

It does not take a stethoscope to hear the pulse of New Yorkers on this topic. It is also clear that, even if I could convince the public of the utility of our cause, the legislative process and any number of mounting obstacles would have prevented us from moving forward. The result would have been the defeat of this proposal and, even worse, a roadblock to solutions on so many important issues - like revitalizing our economy, lowering the cost of health care while improving quality and access; restoring excellence to our education system, and reducing property taxes. It is for these reasons that I will not move forward with this plan.

Indeed, a consequence of the federal failure is that Americans and New Yorkers are demanding a comprehensive solution. Piecemeal reform, even if practical, is unacceptable. It fails to address the many important, competing interests and values. I underestimated that sentiment in putting forward this proposal.

Beyond the crisis of illegal immigration that I have tried to address in some small way, please allow me this brief observation about another crisis - the crisis of political discourse in this country that was on full display these past two months.

While people of good faith opposed my plan for fair reasons, some partisans unleashed a response that has become all too familiar in American politics. In New York, forces quickly mobilized to prey on the public's worst fears by turning what we believe is a practical security measure into a referendum on immigration.

Political opponents equated minimum-wage, undocumented dishwashers with Osama Bin Laden. Newspaper headlines equated a drivers' license for an undocumented migrant laborers with a "Passport to Terror" and a "License to Kill." Based on the New Yorkers I speak to each and every day, I feel confident in saying that this rhetoric is wildly out of step with mainstream values -- doing nothing to offer solutions and everything to exploit fear.

In his new book, political analyst Ron Brownstein calls this a crisis of "hyperpartisanship," a crisis which has "unnecessarily inflamed our differences and impeded progress against our most pressing challenges."

Nothing reflects the result of hyperpartisanship more than the current immigration debate, which has become so toxic that anytime a practical proposal is put forward, it is shot down before it can even be weighed on its merits.

The consequence of this fear-mongering is paralysis.

Here are the facts:

Tomorrow, undocumented workers will not stop driving.

The federal government is not going to deport one million undocumented workers from New York by the end of this year, any more than it did last year or the year before.

And we can be sure that those who beat their chests the loudest will still have no solution at all.

As Attorney General, I often had to step into the enormous vacuum left by a federal government that did not embrace its most fundamental responsibilities. Whether it was ensuring fair play in the markets, protecting the environment, enforcing labor laws or product safety, time and again, the Attorney General's office was forced to step into the void left by federal inaction.

As Governor, it has not been much different. Whether it's health care, climate change, education or, in this case immigration, states are feeling the brunt of federal abdication and conscious neglect of a problem that is crying out for a solution.

But what I have learned here is that, while there are times when states should be laboratories, immigration is not one of them. It's too complex and too macro a challenge to be solved by a patchwork of state policies. But the reality of 14 million undocumented immigrants nationwide and one million in New York isn't going away. So my challenge to the federal government is this: fix it. Fix the problem so the states won't face the local impact.

With that, I look forward to getting back to an agenda that addresses the needs of all New Yorkers.

Thank you.

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Please use the “search blog” window at the top of this page to find what you are looking for.

Thanks for visiting.


Some final thoughts

"Let her and falsehood grapple; whoever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter." ~ John Milton in his great plea for a free press, "Aeropagitica."


"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But, it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else." ~ Teddy Roosevelt, Kansas City Star,7 May 1918


“I don’t want to hear about politics for at least a week. I want only sun, light, air and peace.” ~ Josef Goebbels, vacationing on the Baltic, as recorded in his diary. (This was right after Hindenburg had initially denied the chancellorship to Hitler and embarrassed him with a published communiqué.)


And, finally:

“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian.” ~ Source Unknown


Drowned-out answer

Cable news’ frenzy over Hillary Clinton’s answer to Tim Russert’s question in the most recent Democratic debate apparently drowned out his follow-up question to Barack Obama.

I haven’t heard this reported. Have you?

From the debate transcript (LINK):

BRIAN WILLIAMS, “NBC Nightly News:” Senator Obama, why are you nodding your head?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, I was confused on Senator Clinton’s answer. I can’t tell whether she was for it or against it, and I do think that is important. One of the things that we have to do in this country is to be honest about the challenges that we face.

Immigration is a difficult issue, but part of leadership is not just looking backwards and seeing what’s popular or trying to gauge popular sentiment; it’s about setting a direction for the country. And, that’s what I intend to do as president.

TIM RUSSERT, ‘Meet the Press:” Are you for it or against it (drivers licenses for illegal immigrants)?

OBAMA: I think that it is the right idea, and I disagree with Chris (Dodd) because there is a public safety concern. We can make sure that drivers who are illegal come out of the shadows, that they can be tracked, that they are properly trained, and that will make our roads safer.

That doesn’t negate the need for us to reform illegal immigration.


Clearly, Barack Obama gave the SAME answer as Hillary Clinton, but his answer was drowned out by cable hosts and analysts waiting to pounce on the campaign’s front-runner.

Now, please read the next post for the rest of the story.

Creating reality

For decades schools of journalism have kicked around Marshall McLuhan’s theory, “The medium is the message.”

Over the last few months, we have seen the medium of cable news doing what it does best: creating reality.

On 25 May 2007, my post, “The silence is deafening” (LINK) concerned “the new silent majority.” The premise of the post was: the MAJORITY of Americans do not have a voice in the media.

As an example, I noted that major polls, taken during the Senate debate on “immigration reform,” showed 60 to 80 percent of Americans support “a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”

MSNBC had Pat Buchanan on ‘round-the-clock, almost every program, stating that “the overwhelming majority of Americans do NOT support amnesty for illegal aliens.” Pat tends to throw out a lot of unsupported statistics.

Of course, Lou Dobbs was doing his nightly thing on CNN.

Between the two of them they started a cable news drumbeat – you know, reporting “there is a great public outcry” - that developed a MYTH exactly the opposite of what major polls were showing.

Let’s take a look at what Americans were saying at the time:


“The same thing is true for illegal immigration. A solid majority of Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants who have been living in the United States for a number of years to stay and apply for citizenship if they have a job and pay back taxes. Critics call that ‘amnesty.’ ”




“These sentiments were captured in an early March Gallup poll, which asked: ‘Which comes closest to your view about what government policy should be toward illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States? Should the government deport all illegal immigrants back to their home country, allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States in order to work but only for a limited amount of time, or allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and become U.S. citizens but only if they meet certain requirements over a period of time?’

“Fifty-nine percent think illegal immigrants should be allowed to remain in the U.S. and possibly become citizens if they meet ‘certain requirements,’ while 15 percent favor allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. for a limited time, and 24 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be deported.”

Fast forward: a “google” search shows most recent polls on this issue are yielding the same results.

On 2 November 2007, in an article following the Democratic debate in Philadelphia, the Washington Post reported (LINK):

“Polls suggest that most Americans want to allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country and create ways for them to obtain citizenship, but party strategists say the voters who care most about this issue are those angry about illegal immigration and want to hear a tougher message.”

So, America’s “new silent majority” is being drowned out by an angry 20 percent and two numbnuts with microphones.


'Demagogue in Denim'

In the pre-dawn hours Turner Classic Movies aired a film which, upon fresh viewing, seems as relevant today as when it was released 51 years ago.

A denim-clad, charismatic drifter, discovered in the drunk tank by a radio producer, rises to phenomenal success by appealing to the American masses.

Behind his hokey and homespun humor lies a megalomaniac, evil to the core, who pushes a fascist agenda onto an unsuspecting and uninformed mass audience.

Director Elia Kazan had the singular talent of squeezing gut-wrenching, primal-scream performances from his actors. It seems unlikely that the man who crafted the acting skills of Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “On the Waterfront” and James Dean in “East of Eden,” arguably extracted some of filmdom’s most riveting scenes from the man who played the sheriff of Mayberry.

“A Face in the Crowd” (1956), with equally flawless performances by Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau and Lee Remick, moves easily into today’s genre of right-wing talk radio and TV giants and ideology-bent politicians.

The film, born in the midst of McCarthyism, translates to a world of mass hysteria, fearmongering, nationalism and empire building. With a new viewing, Andy Griffith’s Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes becomes the more frightening, more dangerous persona embodied in the 24/7 world of right-wing punditry.

The demise of a tragic man with Shakespeare’s “tragic flaw” comes only when a duped public wakes up to truth.

I highly recommend this movie. If you’re in for a weekend video fest, experience it along with Barry Levinson’s “Wag the Dog,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro. Be prepared for revelations.


He's back!

Just in time for Halloween, one of the most intriguing characters in the whole Iraq war debacle has once more found favor with U.S. forces in that country.

When I first began to study the neocons – during the run-up to the Iraq war – a man’s name kept surfacing.

This man is an MIT-trained mathematician and a wealthy businessman.

He was an exiled Iraqi and president of the Iraqi National Congress, set up with funds from the CIA. The INC pushed for the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

Among this Iraqi’s staunchest supporters were neocons and high-ranking Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle.

Pre-war intelligence provided by this man was stovepiped by the Pentagon’s Douglas Feith directly into the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Those notions that Saddam had WMD and U.S. forces would be greeted with flowers – he’s your source.

With his mission accomplished, this man - who sat in the president’s box with the first lady at Bush’s January 2004 SOTU address - in February 2004 told Britain’s Daily Telegraph:

“We are heroes in error. As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone, and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if he wants.”

“Heroes in error.” The man then insisted the interview had never occurred!

Why would anyone put such trust in a man with an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Jordan – charged with embezzling $300 million from his Petra Bank? He was sentenced in absentia to 22 years. He filed a lawsuit in the U.S., claiming this was “a smear campaign.” Jordan’s king eventually pardoned him.

Here the plot thickens to the density of osmium.

Back in his homeland of Iraq, the man didn’t exactly do what the U.S. expected of him. The inticate details: LINK

Soon there were other warrants – in Iraq.

The man, accused of counterfeiting, said the bogus money was “samples” from his new job overseeing the country’s central bank. LINK

An arrest warrant for murder was issued in Iraq for the man’s nephew, then head of Iraq’s War Crimes Tribunal. The nephew, in London at the time, said the warrant was “an effort to discredit the tribunal.” LINK

The man’s Baghdad home was raided by Iraqi police and U.S. troops. U.S. officials accused the man of passing secrets to Iran. “Ridiculous,” he said. LINK

Remember this man’s name: Ahmed Chalabi.

On Monday, the Progress Report, Center for American Progress, reported:

“On 28 October 2007, McClatchy (newspaper group) revealed that Ahmad Chalabi, the disgraced Iraqi politician who embellished reports of Iraq's WMD to encourage an American attack, has ‘re-emerged as a central figure in the latest U.S. strategy for Iraq.’ As the new head of the services committee, charged with bringing electricity, health and other services to Baghdad, Chalabi serves at ‘the heart of the surge plan.’ Col. Steven Boylan, spokesman for Gen. David Petraeus, heralded Chalabi as ‘an important part of the process.’ "

In again, out again, this man is once more in U.S. favor. Be afraid. Be very afraid.


A brief and entertaining post follows.

Welcome to America

Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” feature on MSNBC is always entertaining, but Monday night’s winner was just too good not to pass along:

“The winner, your Department of Homeland Security. For the second time in a year, it has detained at a U.S. airport a Mr. Shahid Malik of Great Britain; this time searched Washington Dulles for explosives.

“Last year he said it happened at JFK. This time he said the other two men detained with him in the interrogation room were black men with Muslim names.

“Couple of problems here, Mr. Malik was in our country to meet with the Department of Homeland Security. He‘s not just some British guy with a Muslim name. He‘s with the British government. You know, Mr. Bush‘s partners in the war on terrorists. In fact, he‘s the British minister for international development. He‘s in the cabinet.

“And, we patted him down for explosives at Dulles, again!

“Your Department of Homeland Security, inspiring new anti-American terrorists since 2001, today‘s Worst Persons in the World!”


Hired guns of fake news


By now, you know about FEMA’s staging of a fake press briefing, using FEMA staffers instead of journalists, on Tuesday, 23 October.

The FEMA employees lobbed softball questions about the Agency’s response to California’s wildfires. (Read the “briefing” Q&A: LINK)

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said FEMA had, in its own words, made “an error in judgment,” and red-faced Agency officials issued a public apology.


These pseudo-journalist shenanigans by the Bush administration are nothing new. Let’s examine the background on this issue:

At the risk of seeming immodest, may I quote myself?

In 2004-2005 I authored a blog, “Vocal Yokels,” described thusly:

"Chronicling the absurd, the obnoxious, the outright lies, the occasional truths and the downright mystical out of the mouths of politicians and pundits."

For example:

"I hope you leave here and walk out and say, 'What did he say?'"
- George W. Bush,
Beaverton, Oregon, 13 August 2004


On 27 January 2005, under the post title, “Bush and the press,” I wrote about Bush’s press conference of the previous day (LINK). Watching the Q&A with Bush, I was stunned by an unidentified male reporter’s question:

"Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock-solid, and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work - you said you are going to reach out to these people - how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"

I concluded the post with “Don't know where this reporter went to journalism school, but he obviously missed Objectivity 101.”


A couple of weeks later news broke that the reporter who asked that question was Jeff Gannon, aka James “J. D.” Guckert, a phony journalist who had somehow secured White House Press Corps credentials. Far from having attended any school of journalism, Gannon/Guckert was a former male prostitute complete with nude photos on the Internet! LINK He obtained Press Corps credentials after setting up a right-wing propaganda Web site.


This sort of slanted journalism continues. At his press conference of 20 September 2007 (LINK), Bush fielded the “final question” from White House shill Bill Sammon of the Washington Examiner, a Fox News analyst and author of pro-Bush books (LINK).

Bush calls the tall reporter “Super Stretch” or “Big Stretch.”

Sammon, whose new book is titled “The Evangelical President: George Bush's Struggle to Spread a Moral Democracy Throughout the World,” lobbed the president a question about MoveOn.org’s General Petraeus ad in the New York Times, giving Bush the opportunity to conclude his press conference with sharp criticism of the “Democrat” (sic) Party.


On 6 January 2005, I wrote in “Vocal Yokels:”

The White House paid a prominent black pundit $250,000 to use his influence among blacks in garnering support for its education reform law - Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB), USA Today reports. LINK

To earn the money, Armstrong Williams, one of the nation's most influential black conservatives, was required to promote NCLB on his television broadcasts and to run interviews with Secretary of Education Rod Paige during 2004.

As part of the deal, Williams - a former aide to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, host of "The Right Side" and op-ed columnist - influenced his colleagues to promote NCLB.

According to USA Today, "Williams' contract was part of a $1 million deal with Ketchum (public relations firm) that produced 'video news releases' (called VNRs) designed to look like real news reports. The Bush administration used similar VNRs last year to promote its Medicare prescription drug plan, prompting a scolding from the Government Accountability Office, which called them an illegal use of taxpayers' dollars."


Williams, who is a regular political contributor on MSNBC, after being investigated twice before, has been issued a citation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

On 19 October 2007, PR Watch reported (LINK):

“Perhaps, in the case of Armstrong Williams, the third time will be the charm.

“The first two official investigations failed to hold anyone accountable for what can only be described as a textbook case of government propaganda. The results of the third investigation, by the Federal Communications Commission, were announced recently. The FCC found Williams and two media companies to be at fault, issuing a citation against Williams and proposing fines of $40,000 against Sonshine Family Television and $36,000 against Sinclair Broadcast Group.”


On 26 June 2005, New York Times columnist Frank Rich sounded the tocsin about Bush loyalists’ efforts to expunge public broadcasting - PBS and NPR - of liberal voices:

Stating the future of Big Bird was secure, Rich added, “That doesn't mean the right's new assault on public broadcasting is toothless, far from it. But, this time the game is far more insidious and ingenious. The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense.

“If you liked the fake government news videos that ended up on local stations - or thrilled to the ‘journalism’ of Armstrong Williams and other columnists who were covertly paid to promote administration policies - you'll love the brave new world this crowd envisions for public TV and radio.”

I recommend you read Mr. Rich’s exposé of right-wing efforts to take over public broadcasting: LINK


The conservative coup continues at PBS and NPR with five Republicans controlling the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, chaired by Cheryl Halpern, a former Republican fundraiser. Read more: LINK


Finally, the FCC has ruled against “corporate propaganda disguised as news reports.” These video news releases, or VNRs, are “fake news,” and you see them every day on TV.

The Center for Media and Democracy reports in an emailed newsletter, “The FCC now requires that radio and TV stations, as well as individuals, disclose on-air when they have received compensation to talk about a product or an issue.”


On 29 September 2007, the Denver (Colo.) Post reported (LINK):

“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week levied its first-ever fine against a cable-TV operator for running a "fake news" report without identifying it as such.

“The FCC proposed a $400,000 fine against Comcast, Colorado's largest cable company.

“Comcast ran a video news release, or VNR, for a sleep aid as part of a program the Philadelphia-based cable giant produced, but it didn't state the news report was produced by the third-party company.”


Remember the FCC ruling mentions “issues” as well as “products.” It remains to be seen how far the FCC will go in excluding propaganda from America’s airways – soon going digital - while protecting free speech and a free press.


"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda. (Applause.)"
- George W. Bush, Greece, New York, 24 May 2005: LINK


If all this is OK with you, if it fits your political agenda just fine, you do not want facts, you do not want real news, you want validation.


Bush WH: the naked truth

If you need singular proof that the Bush administration is FUBAR, read Bob Woodward’s third book on the Bush presidency, “State of Denial.”

In the meantime:

Open your eyes to the truth.

There are eight million stories in the naked truth about the foulness of this administration, and this has been one of them:

KEITH OLBERMANN, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann, MSNBC, 23 October 2007 (LINK): On July 13, 2003, Valerie Plame Wilson was the chief of operations for the Joint Iraq Task Force of the CIA’s counter-proliferation division. Only a handful of people outside the CIA even knew this. For 15-plus years she had used various cover stories to conceal her identity as a CIA operative and to cultivate a network of contacts and sources as part of America’s effort to prevent the spread of nuclear and other nonconventional weapons. She was, in short, a rare and valuable commodity in the battle against weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.

On July 14, 2003, an American blew her cover to the media, trying to tarnish the credibility of her husband, who had just called out President Bush’s 16 words about Iraq’s pursuit of yellow cake uranium as the lie it was.

(BJ note: the parenthetical information in this transcript is mine. “16 words” background: The 16 words in Bush’s 28 January 2003 State of the Union Address – “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” – previously had been pulled from a speech Bush gave in Cincinnati, because the CIA determined intelligence surrounding them was shaky. Following the 16 words in Bush’s SOTU address, powerful words which wooed a nation to war with Iraq, CIA Director George Tenet stated he had not followed SOP and vetted the SOTU beforehand. It wouldn’t be the last time Tenet fell on his sword. A few days after Wilson’s op-ed piece appeared, the White House and the CIA conceded the 16 words – based on forged documents - should NEVER have appeared in the SOTU.)

OLBERMANN: The White House lied again, denying its self-involvement (in the Plame leak). A lengthy criminal trial later, and we learn that one State Department official and no less than three top White House aides had peddled Plame’s identity to the media.

Despite his pledge to fire any leaker or leakers, Mr. Bush fired neither Ari Fleischer, Karl Rove nor Lewis “Scooter” Libby. And, when Libby compounded his sin by lying to investigators, President Bush commuted his sentence, removing the one incentive Mr. Libby might have ever had to tell the truth.

No one ever apologized to Valerie Plame Wilson or her husband or her family. Today, in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, after some battling with her former CIA employers, her new book is finally out, “Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House.” I spoke with her earlier this evening:



OLBERMANN: The news of the month, let’s start there, Iran. David Shuster had reported that when you were outed, it damaged our ability to track nuclear ambitions by Iran. Give me your professional opinion: is this entire experience, Iraq, repeated right down to the cherry-picking of intelligence and eventually the picking of a fight with a foreign government?

WILSON: Yes, it certainly appears to be that way. I resigned from the CIA in 2006, so I, of course, do not have access to any current intelligence. But, it does seem eerily reminiscent of the run-up to the war with Iraq. And, I hope that we have learned some lessons.

OLBERMANN: Any indications that we have learned some lessons? Another professional opinion; we watch the vice president threaten. We listen to the president make references to World War III. We see the press secretary very politely drumming the beat for a war or conflict of some sort with Iran. Those are sort of a layman’s point of view.

You have dealt with intelligence. You’ve dealt with Iran. What should we be looking at professionally? What are the questions that we should be asking that we haven’t been asking, yet, about this topic?

WILSON: There is no doubt that there is malevolent intent on behalf of Iran, that they are seeking nuclear weapons. There’s no question about that. But, we are a great country, and I believe that as a great country, we can afford to speak to everyone, even our enemies. And, the idea of not using every single tool that we have available to us, primarily diplomacy, is unfortunate. And, obviously our international credibility, moral authority has been severely eroded in the debacle in Iraq.

OLBERMANN: Let me turn to the book, and your story of this last four years. One particular thing jumped out; how much do you believe, with all the information that you have had about this, that your boss at CIA, George Tenet, knew about the province (scope) of the leak when he asked for the investigation of it?

WILSON: I don’t know about that. As I write in the book, the only senior agency official that I spoke to after the leak was the head of the DDO (deputy director of operations, CIA), Mr. Jim Pavitt.

(Background: Pavitt, a 31-year veteran of the CIA, resigned as DDO in 2004, announcing his resignation on June 4, the day after CIA Director George Tenet resigned. Pavitt had served as DDO longer than any other person in 30 years.)

WILSON: So no one ever reached out to me. I have no idea. All I know is that the CIA referred this to the Justice Department at the end of September of 2003, because they thought that a crime should be investigated.

OLBERMANN: The promotional material about this book says some accounts have come close to the truth. Others have veered from it. Anybody get it right? And, in the whole process, has this given you insight that maybe we don’t have about the nature of the news media and whether or not we can rely on us?

WILSON: Well, the different accounts that I have read—and there is so much in the public domain—I sure was surprised. Some of it gets it really right. Some of it is way off base. It has been interesting to see as it all sort of washes over. As far as the media in the Libby trial, I think there was—that was sort of laid bear, the sort of symbiotic relationship between the media and the White House and their need for access. I was—what I was taken with was how easily the mainstream media took what was spoon fed from the administration without digging deeper, without using shoe leather to investigate, talk to maybe mid-level managers about the preparation for the war in Iraq, post-war planning, that sort of thing.

(This is exactly what Bob Woodward’s “State of Denial,” published three years after Plame Wilson’s identity was leaked, does.)

OLBERMANN: Is there anything from the entire experience that stands out at you at this point and makes you say, I can’t believe they got away with this? Or, I can’t believe the media or the politicians ignored this? Any of the things that happened to you that still are somewhat undervalued in this story?

WILSON: Well, I’m just coming off a really—what felt to me like a very ferocious battle with the Agency (CIA) over the censorship. As you know, there are lots of black lines in the book, and I would maintain that most of those redactions deal with the Agency’s position that I’m not permitted to acknowledge my Agency affiliation prior to January 2002. And, I would say that they (the redacted lines) have very little to do with national security, and everything to do with further punitive action by this administration toward me and Joe (Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson).

And, furthermore, I think it also was an attempt to diminish me and my responsibilities at the CIA, because if you diminish me, then the crime is diminished.

OLBERMANN: How antithetical to everything you were trained to do, everything you’ve done for 20-plus years before this happened, is the process of a book? I mean, you were on the side of the people putting the black lines over the books, not the people writing the books.

WILSON: Indeed. If none of this had happened, probably right now I and my family would be serving overseas. And, I would be working on something from which I derive a great sense of satisfaction: counter-proliferation issues. So, all of this is really strange. But, I am—finally, after four and a half years of everyone else talking about me, I get to tell my story, and it is an important one, because it is a story of the consequences of speaking truth to power and the importance of holding your government to account for its words and deeds.

OLBERMANN: Was it worth it?

WILSON: Which part?

OLBERMANN: Knowing that you had an impact on holding the government to its words and deeds when there were probably about 10 people in the country even trying?

WILSON: Absolutely. If we, you know, knew what we know now, then would we still do it? Absolutely. Joe wrote his op-ed piece (“What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” New York Times, 6 July 2003, LINK) as a matter of principle and conscience. We have small children that we have to answer to one day when they grow up and read about this, and ask us, “Well, you mean, you knew this, and you didn’t say anything?” So, there is no question.

And, Joe and I have always been very clear that although everything that has happened to us, and it has been very painful—it’s been a long, strange journey—that is, it is mere inconvenience compared to the news of American families who have their sons and daughters fighting in Iraq, and they get the worst possible news, because of the policies pursued by this administration.

OLBERMANN: Valerie Plame Wilson; the new book is “Fair Game.” It will certainly be one of the great original sources of American history as we live it. Great thanks for coming in and all the best.

WILSON: Thank you for having me.


To order:

“State of Denial,” Bob Woodward: LINK

“Fair Game,” Valerie Plame Wilson: LINK


My beef with J. K. Rowling

“Harry Potter” author J. K, Rowling told 2,000 fans at Carnegie Hall Friday night that the beloved headmaster of Hogwarts is “gay.”

I’ve read the 4,000-plus pages of Ms. Rowling’s seven books, and, as she states, there is no reference whatsoever to Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality.

I have no problem with Rowling’s perception of Dumbledore. My beef with the author is: why bring it up now?

When the first book was released there was a loud, right-wing outcry against teaching little kids to love witchcraft. The roar of the Religious Right died down in the face of Ms. Rowling’s genius – she had created a master work of wizardry for the ages – and for all age groups.

Now, the protests will rise again as fundamentalists ponder, in their own weird way, the “damage” these books have inflicted upon a generation of young readers.

All this from folks who’ve never read the books. I need a butterbeer!

If Rowling’s revelation deters one reader – young or old – from Harry Potter’s magical pages, one of the most rewarding literary experiences ever will be lost.


Please take my poll to the left, and don’t miss the next post.

10/24/2007 update:

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly aired a segment last night titled, "Harry Potter's Gay Agenda." I saw that one coming a mile away.

O'Reilly's guest from Entertainment Weekly "opined" that she thought Rowling was trying to teach "tolerance."

What she should have told O'Reilly, who stated he didn't have time to read books about wizards, was, "It's not in the damn books, Bill!"

Bloviate that!