The Obama administration is hell bent to oust Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Determined to repeat the mistakes of Iraq and Libya, and caving to congressional war hawks, the CIA began arming rebels opposed to Assad. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, apparently the CIA program was hijacked by Turkey and the weapons were diverted …
One of the many provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 that was signed by Pres. Barack Obama late in the night of December 30, 2012, was the repeal of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. The original act outlined the State Department’s dissemination of information outside the boarders of the United States:
authorizes the U.S. State Department to communicate to audiences outside of the borders of the United States through broadcasting, face-to-face contacts, exchanges (including educational, cultural, and technical), online activities, the publishing of books, magazines, and other media of communication and engagement.
The legislation included three key provision the first, and most important was a prohibition on domestic dissemination of materials intended for foreign audiences by the State Department.
Section 501(a) of the Act (care of the Voice of America website) provides that
“information produced by VOA for audiences outside the United States shall not be disseminated within the United States … but, on request, shall be available in the English language at VOA, at all reasonable times following its release as information abroad, for examination only by representatives of United States press associations, newspapers, magazines, radio systems, and stations, and by research students and scholars, and, on request, shall be made available for examination only to Members of Congress.”
“This means that VOA is forbidden to broadcast within the United States.” In reality, of course, any American with a shortwave receiver or an Internet connection can listen to VOA. That’s incidental, however. VOA cannot direct or intend its programs to be “for” Americans. This distinction is often lost on experts who see the letter of the law but with no real understanding of the media. George W. Bush-era State Department official James K. Glassman has called for directing VOA at American audiences.
The 2013 NDAA ended that restriction on July 2:
(T)he Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) was given permission to let US households tune-in to hear the type of programming that has previously only been allowed in outside nations.
The BBG is the independent government agency that broadcasts Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other networks created “to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy” – and a new law now allows the agency to provide members of the American public with program materials originally meant to be disseminated abroad.
Back in 1972, Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright equated those government stories with propaganda when he said they “should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics.” A couple of current lawmakers were singing a different tune when they proposed the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 last year, though, which became official just two weeks ago.
Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA), who introduced the changes to the Smith Mundt last year argued
“Effective strategic communication and public diplomacy should be front-and-center as we work to roll back al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among disaffected opulations,” [..]
“An essential part of our efforts must be a coordinated, comprehensive, adequately resourced plan to counter their radical messages and undermine their recruitment abilities. To do this, Smith-Mundt must be updated to bolster our strategic communications and public diplomacy capacity on all fronts and mediums – especially online.“
According to Tim Cushing at Techdirt, there is the good news and bad news of the government’s ability to aim its pre-approved news at US citizens. The “good new”:
BBG spokesperson Lynne Weil says these efforts aren’t simply pro-government hype machines. [..]
As Weil points out, this will bring a new level of transparency to the BBG as communicating to Americans is no longer prohibited. If nothing else, transcripts of BBG programming will be easier for Americans to get ahold of. A court ruled in 1998 that the limitations of the Smith-Mundt Act exempted the Voice of America from releasing transcripts in response to FOIA requests.
Another possible plus is the fact that the BBG will provide a free, “local” news source for immigrant populations. [..]
However, there is the “bad news”:
(T)he thought of a state-run news agency being allowed to direct its efforts at Americans is still uncomfortable. Despite claims of independence, it’s hard to believe the source is 100% trustworthy when its stated purpose is to run flack for the State Department in foreign nations. (Of course, the mainstream media outlets haven’t shown much reluctance to regurgitate talking points, which almost makes the BBG’s efforts seem redundant.)
While the BBG may provide a less-biased source of news for many foreigners (or at least provide a different bias), the purpose of its broadcasts to its new American audience is less clear. The fact that the State Department is behind the effort doesn’t do much to allay fears that the BBG will become a tool of domestic propaganda. The State Department’s reaction to the leak of diplomatic correspondence by Wikileaks was to block its employees’ access to the site (or any site containing the word “Wikileaks”) and demand the digital documents be “returned.” How will a state-run press react to developments like these? Will it be forced to play by the department’s rules, no matter how illogical, or will it be able to deal with them in a more forthright manner?
In a time where the administration seems to be forced to play defense with increasing frequency, it’s hard to believe it won’t be willing to exploit this addition to its PR arsenal.
In a May 18, 2012 BuzzFeded article, the late Michael Hastings warned that this revision would open the door to Pentagon propaganda:
The evaporation of Smith-Mundt and other provisions to safeguard U.S. citizens against government propaganda campaigns is part of a larger trend within the diplomatic and military establishment.
In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.
A U.S. Army whistleblower, Lieutenant Col. Daniel Davis, noted recently in his scathing 84-page unclassified report on Afghanistan that there remains a strong desire within the defense establishment “to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary to “protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will,” he wrote, quoting a well-regarded general.
Not only is the government creating an state approved press, it will now have its own news agencies within the US to disseminate its own sanctioned news stories, a true Pravda on the Potomac.
The Authorization to Use Military Force is a joint resolution passed by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizing the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001. During a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Pentagon officials testified that the authorization would be needed for another 10 to 20 years and could be used anywhere from “Boston to FATA (Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas).” According to the interpretation of these officials this could be done under the current AUMF without any further authorization from Congress. Those claims elicited disbelief, even from war hawk Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who said, “For you to come here and say we don’t need to change it or revise or update it, I think is, well, disturbing.”
Indeed, but disturbing is an understatement, but none of the Senators suggested that the powers under the AUMF be dialed back.
Testifying before the committee on May 16 were Assistant Defense Secretary Michael Sheehan; Robert Taylor, the acting general counsel for the Department of Defense; Brig. Gen. Richard Gross, Legal Counsel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. Michael Nagata, Deputy Director for Special Operations/Counterterrorism, J-37, Joint Staff
This excerpt of the hearing from Democracy Now includes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Robert Taylor, acting general counsel, Department of Defense; Michael Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, Department of Defense; and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).
Transcript is here
From Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian on Pres. Obama’s permanent war on terror:
That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the “war on terror” will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week’s big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of “endless war”. Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.
It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat. [..]
The genius of America’s endless war machine is that, learning from the unplesantness of the Vietnam war protests, it has rendered the costs of war largely invisible. That is accomplished by heaping all of the fighting burden on a tiny and mostly economically marginalized faction of the population, by using sterile, mechanized instruments to deliver the violence, and by suppressing any real discussion in establishment media circles of America’s innocent victims and the worldwide anti-American rage that generates.
Though rarely visible, the costs are nonetheless gargantuan. Just in financial terms, as Americans are told they must sacrifice Social Security and Medicare benefits and place their children in a crumbling educational system, the Pentagon remains the world’s largest employer and continues to militarily outspend the rest of the world by a significant margin. The mythology of the Reagan presidency is that he induced the collapse of the Soviet Union by luring it into unsustainable military spending and wars: should there come a point when we think about applying that lesson to ourselves?
Then there are the threats to Americans’ security. Having their government spend decades proudly touting itself as “A Nation at War” and bringing horrific violence to the world is certain to prompt more and more people to want to attack Americans, as the US government itself claims took place just recently in Boston (and as clearly took place multiple other times over the last several years). [..]
The Obama administration already claims the power to wage endless and boundless war, in virtually total secrecy, and without a single meaningful check or constraint. No institution with any power disputes this. To the contrary, the only ones which exert real influence – Congress, the courts, the establishment media, the plutocratic class – clearly favor its continuation and only think about how further to enable it. That will continue unless and until Americans begin to realize just what a mammoth price they’re paying for this ongoing splurge of war spending and endless aggression.
Harvard Law professor and former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith, who also testified, wrote this at the end of his brief summery of the hearing:
My general impression of the hearing was that (1) DOD officials were very uncomfortable talking about how they interpret the AUMF and what groups are covered by it, (2) those officials interpret the AUMF very broadly, and (3) several members of the Committee were surprised by the breadth of DOD’s interpretation of the AUMF. I came away thinking that Congress cannot address the problem of extra-AUMF threats until it gets a handle on how the AUMF is being interpreted and deployed. I also came away thinking more than ever that Congress needs to re-engage in a serious way about the nature and scope of the conflict against al Qaeda and affiliates. Amazingly, there is a very large question even in the Armed Services Committee about who the United States is at war against and where, and how those determinations are made.
The solutions are for Congress to repeal the AUMF or for the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional. Don’t hold your breath for either of those things happening.
Earlier this week it was leaked to the press by those “anonymous White House sources” that the CIA’s drone program would be gradually transferred to the Pentagon supposedly making oversight by Congress more transparent and according to Daniel Klaidman, who first reported the shift at the Daily Beast it would also toughen the “criteria for drone” strikes and “strengthen the program’s accountability:”
Currently, the government maintains parallel drone programs, one housed in the CIA and the other run by the Department of Defense. The proposed plan would unify the command and control structure of targeted killings and create a uniform set of rules and procedures. The CIA would maintain a role, but the military would have operational control over targeting. Lethal missions would take place under Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which governs military operations, rather than Title 50, which sets out the legal authorities for intelligence activities and covert operations. [..]
Officials anticipate a phased-in transition in which the CIA’s drone operations would be gradually shifted over to the military, a process that could take as little as a year. Others say it might take longer but would occur during President Obama’s second term. [..]
uring that time, CIA and DOD operators would begin to work more closely together to ensure a smooth hand-off. The CIA would remain involved in lethal targeting, at least on the intelligence side, but would not actually control the unmanned aerial vehicles. Officials told The Daily Beast that a potential downside of the agency’s relinquishing control of the program was the loss of a decade of expertise that the CIA has developed since it has been prosecuting its war in Pakistan and beyond. At least for a period of transition, CIA operators would likely work alongside their military counterparts to target suspected terrorists.
Spencer Ackerman at The Wire, doesn’t think that this is much of a change. The CIA will still be involved telling military personnel what and who to target. Nor does Ackerman think that the program will be more transparent:
The congressional reporting requirements for so-called Title 50 programs (stuff CIA does, to be reductive) are more specific than those for Title 10 (stuff the military does, to be reductive). But the armed services committees tend to have unquestioned and broader oversight functions than the intelligence committees enjoy, not to mention better relationships with the committees: Witness the recent anger in the Senate intelligence committee that the CIA lied to it about its torture programs. The military is more likely than the CIA to openly testify about future drone operations, allow knowledgeable congressional staff into closed-door operational briefings and allow members of Congress to take tours of drone airbases.
As, Klaidman pointed out this could lead to even less transparency since there is nothing in the law that requires the military to account for its lethal operations while the CIA is obligated to report its activities.
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee which has oversight of the CIA, expressed her concerns
Feinstein told reporters her “mind, certainly, is not made up.” But she quickly added she has reservations about turning over to the military the CIA’s armed drone fleet and the missions they conduct.
During the last few years, she said, “We’ve watched the intelligence aspect of the drone program: how they function. The quality of the intelligence. Watching the agency exercise patience and discretion,” Feinstein said.
“The military [armed drone] program has not done that nearly as well,” she said. “That causes me concern. This is a discipline that is learned, that is carried out without infractions…. It’s not a hasty decision that’s made. And I would really have to be convinced that the military would carry it out that way.”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) preferred the program be transferred to Defense bringing it under the House and Senate Armed Services Committees:
“I believe the majority of the responsibility for this should rest with the military,” McCain told reporters Tuesday. [..]
“The majority of it can be conducted by the Department of Defense,” McCain said. “It’s not the job of the Central Intelligence Agency. … It’s the military’s job.”
Transferring the program to the Pentagon — and under the auspices of the House and Senate Armed Services committees — would create more “openness” and “oversight” and public hearings about the program, he said.
In reality, the Obama administration would still be running a secretive and questionably legal program.
Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” gives a a short history of the CIA and talks with former congressman and now MSNBC contributor, Patrick Murphy, who served on the House Armed Services Committee, about oversight of the drone program.
Over that last few weeks with the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been much hype over Iran and its nuclear capability and threats from Israel of military intervention. Despite all the intelligence and statements from the ruling Ayatollahs that Iran is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons, the US government and pundits continue to push the meme in the media that Iran must not be allowed to continue to develop nuclear “capabilities.” Much of this sounds very familiar hearkening back to the lies of 2003’s run up to the war in Iraq. The major media is banging out the message that a war with Iran is inevitable and have failed to disclose to the public the relationship of some of its guests to government agencies or their guests own self interests for monetary gain should there be a war. As Talking Points Media points out the talk of a war with Iran has reached “fever pitch”:
The tone in reporting on a potential military conflict with Iran has entered a new phase in recent weeks, with the saber rattling seemingly reaching a fever pitch.
From the New York Times recently reporting on how Israel would carry out a strike against Iran, to pundits casually throwing around the words “bomb Iran,” to presidential candidates trying to out-tough each other on a daily basis, the prospect of a potential military conflict with Iran is increasingly discussed less in terms of “if” but of “when.”
Glen Greenwald at Salon focused on the relationship of NBC News with retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey whose reliability has come into question:
In 2009, The New York Times‘ David Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize for his two–part series on the use by television networks of retired Generals posing as objective “analysts” at exactly the same time they were participating – unbeknownst to viewers – in a Pentagon propaganda program. Many were also plagued by undisclosed conflicts of interest whereby they had financial stakes in many of the policies they were pushing on-air. One of the prime offenders was Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who was not only a member of the Pentagon’s propaganda program, but also, according to Barstow’s second stand-alone article, had his own “Military-Industrial-Media Complex,” deeply invested in many of the very war policies he pushed and advocated while posing as an NBC “analyst”:
Through seven years of war an exclusive club has quietly flourished at the intersection of network news and wartime commerce. Its members, mostly retired generals, have had a foot in both camps as influential network military analysts and defense industry rainmakers. It is a deeply opaque world, a place of privileged access to senior government officials, where war commentary can fit hand in glove with undisclosed commercial interests and network executives are sometimes oblivious to possible conflicts of interest.
Few illustrate the submerged complexities of this world better than Barry McCaffrey. . . . General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism. . . .
Many retired officers hold a perch in the world of military contracting, but General McCaffrey is among a select few who also command platforms in the news media and as government advisers on military matters. These overlapping roles offer them an array of opportunities to advance policy goals as well as business objectives. But with their business ties left undisclosed, it can be difficult for policy makers and the public to fully understand their interests.
On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television.
Not exactly an unbiased reliable source nor especially coherent:
Among the many attributes one might attribute to McCaffrey and his report, incoherence is near the top of the list. He does, as I noted, make statements suggesting imminent military conflict, including his claim that “there is a significant probability of Iranian escalation in the coming 90 days” and “they are likely to further escalate,” along with the title of his first page: “Creeping toward war.” But as several emailers point out, he also tacks onto the end of the discussion on the first page the assessment of “15% probability of major military action in the coming 90 days.” The document is devoted to making military conflict appear quite likely, though he places a relatively low percentage on “major military action in the coming 90 days.”
Knowing all this, NBC News still calls McCaffrey an analyst, gives him an unchallenged platform and beats the drums of another unnecessary war.
As we approach the 8th anniversary of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, and having just passed the 20th anniversary of another, it’s worth reflecting on what’s been accomplished through two wars and the intervening sanctions that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright so famously approved of even at the cost of a half million children’s lives.
Your tax dollars at work, my fellow Americans. You cannot destroy a nation and hire religious fanatics to attack other types of religious fanatics without creating hell on earth.
As we busy ourselves denouncing the Republican budget for all of the traits it shares with Obama’s proposal, and as Obama fights off the teeny cuts to the Pentagon that the Republicans are seeking, bear in mind what that money is used for. If we really bear it in mind, if we really consider what the majority of every US tax dollar goes to fund, the day will come when Freedom Plaza in Washington DC resembles Tahrir Square in Cairo. May that day come before it is too late.
by David Swanson…
President Obama is back from his Pan Pacific – Asian debt sales trip, and the Lame Duck session of Congress is now officially underway.
Lt. Dan Choi and 12 other Get Equal civil rights activists handcuff themselves to the White House fence on Monday, Nov 15, 2010, to protest the military’s discriminatory policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (photo of murky screenshot from video was highlighted. )
Happy Friday from the Obama Administration:
The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Friday to pause enforcement of the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian service members while that policy faces a legal challenge.
The high court sided against the Log Cabin Republicans, a GOP gay rights group, that had asked that discharges of gay and lesbian members of the armed forces under military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy be suspended.
The Supreme Court of the United States sided with Eric Holder’s Department of Justice and the Obama White House, and against the Log Cabin Republicans, letting the military’s unpopular and discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy stay in place while it is undergoing a legal challenge that is trundling through the Federal appeals process, after Judge Virgina A. Phillips of the Central District of CA ruled that DADT was unconstitutional on September 9, 2010.
On October 12th, Judge Phillips issued an injunction to suspend DADT and
(3) Orders Defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have commenced under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act, or pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 654 or its implementing regulations, on or prior to the date of this judgement.
That is where and when the Obama administration could have let the thing die, but, oh no, they have to go on appealing and defending it. On October 14, the DOJ under Eric Holder appealed with a request for an emergency stay on Judge Phillip’s injunction, and on November 1 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed it, pending appeal to the Supreme Court.
The policy change is currently stuck in the Fiscal Year 2011 Defense spending appropriations bill, and Senator John McCain of Arizona successfully filibustered it on September 21st. His wife Cindy McCain, and her daughter Meghan, are doing their usual good- cop Republican routine and calling for the policy to end. His 2008 Vice Presidential running mate is busy planning a book tour and promoting her new reality TV show on her twitter account. The first stop on the book tour is in …. Phoenix, AZ. A leaked draft of Gate’s review of DADT has shown that the report says repeal would not be detrimental to the military.
Some 70% of troops surveyed said the effects of repealing the ban would be positive, mixed or nonexistent, the paper said, citing a Pentagon report.
According to the newspaper, (the WAPO) which spoke to people who had read the unreleased 370-page study, the survey results have led the report’s authors to conclude that objections to openly gay colleagues would drop once troops were able to live and serve alongside them.
However, a significant minority opposes serving alongside openly gay troops, with opposition apparently strongest in the Marine Corps.
Currently the Marines have fewer active personnel (14%) than any other branch of the military except for the Coast Guard.
Nicholson’s response from Servicemembers United
“These results confirm what those of us who actually know the modern military, especially the rank and file troops, have said all along. The men and women of America’s armed forces are professionals who are capable of handling this policy change,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence Collector who was discharged under the law in 2002. “In light of these findings, as well as the Secretary of Defense’s recent call for Senate action on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ during the lame duck session, there is no longer any excuse for failing to bring the defense authorization bill back up during the first week of the post-election legislative session.”
Since the Democratic Party took the House of Representatives in 2006, there have been over 2,000 discharges of servicemembers under the discriminatory DADT policy. Since the Clinton administration, there have been over 13,000. The Democrats now have a short window of time in a lame duck session to accomplish anything, before they can kiss their supermajorities goodbye. One of the political fatalities of the last election was Representative Patrick Murphy of PA, who introduced the amendment repealing DADT into the bill. In an interview, the President asked for assistance from the Log Cabin Republicans to get more Republican votes to get the bill changing the policy through the Senate (before the Nov 2, 2010 election). Secretary of Defense Robert Gate’s military review report on DADT is “due” out officially now on December 1st. The lame duck session will begin next week.
Apparently there is an (unspoken) assumption being made, that if a conservative, Republican dominated Senate passes something the Supreme Court will not rule to over turn the law or declare it unconstitutional later.
“Obama conducts first sit down with “progressive” bloggers ”
The invitees fall more under the rubric of ideological or issue-oriented activists as opposed to online reporters, though the names are familiar to most political junkies. An administration official confirmed that Joe Subday of AMERICABlog; Duncan Black (“Atrios”), who runs the site Eschaton; Barbara Morrill, who writes for the DailyKos; Jon Amato, who edits Crooks and Liars; and Oliver Willis, who runs an eponymous site, spoke with the president on Wednesday.
Calling the mistress of the ugog MF banhammer trolls who routinely rid the site of anything not uber right wing a ‘progressive blogger’ is like calling a shark a vegan guppie kitten kisser.
Of her last eight diaries, 7 were about the Rand Paul headstomping incident and one about the latest Jerry Brown ad. Before that set, ones on AZ sherrif tweets about Sarah Palin, and Juan Williams getting fired and going to Fox. DADT. One on Joe Miller. Joe Miller. Joe Miller. Joe Miller. Sharron Angle. Christine O Donnell. Tea Party. Christine O Donnell.
At least 16 Tea Party Is Bad diaries in the last 22 days (others were open threads and news roundups)
Joe Miller, Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle are all being financially supported by the same King Media/Russo Marsh Rogers/Move America Forward/Our Country Deserves Better/Tea Party Express PAC and Republican PR firm (that is also registered as a foreign lobby for Northern Iraq, and that also has done extensive Pentagon media work during the Iraq War) that supported Sarah Palin and Tom McClintock (R, chickenhawk) in 2008 and John Doolittle (R, Abramoff Scandal) in 2006. This PAC has changed their name and filing techniques, so the swiftboating expenditures they did before Oct 2008 on behalf of McClintock and Doolittle do NOT show up under their current FEC name but were made as general payments to Russo Marsh. Here’s their first 2008 filing under the new name, which has a payment to Bryan Barton who made the anti Democratic candidate videos for Tom McClintock http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-b…
I just checked their independent expenditures and they appear not to be funding the Rand Paul Kentucky thing but certainly Paul associates himself with Tea Party.
So I imagine the “outreach” went something like this. Say, could y’all start ramping it up some more on how bad the Tea Party and the Republicans are ? Big Scary. Other issues way too complex. Don’t mention where money comes from. Do NOT mention Blue Dogs, DOD, or Foreign Interests. Do not mention Wars, Torture, Drones, Pentagon Budget having Domestic Narco Surveillance Money, 50 million Americans without Health insurance, Economy, Energy or Foreign Policy, Foreclosures or the Unemployed and Homeless. Do not mention that Greek woman named Arianna. Do not mention any Senators from Connecticut, ever. Kthnxbai !
Other lead blog stories right now on:
Oliver Willis. Rand Paul headstomper story, calls Ari Fleischer a liar.
Crooks and Liars.(Amato) Rand Paul headstomper story. Teabaggers.
Eschaton. (Black) Said he was optimistic about November on Tuesday. Aie yi yi. Latest post is on walkable neighborhoods.
John Aravosis at Americablog. had a TeaParty Rand headstomper story and Obama meets 5 top progressive bloggers at White House, including Joe Sudbay of AMERICAblog includes photo and write up of meeting.
The invitations were extended late last week, and the meeting was to be a Q&A with the President for 45 minutes, followed by 15 minutes with presidential adviser David Axelrod. No recordings are permitted, but the White House will release a transcript of the discussion after it is finished.
It will also be the first time that President Obama has sat down and taken questions from a member of the gay media, Joe Sudbay, who is representing both AMERICAblog and AMERICAblog Gay.
You know, when I watch somebody like Rachel Maddow, I don’t think of her as the “gay” media but somebody who just brilliant at interviewing, but I don’t in my mind have to make her over into “straight” media, either. She just is what she is.
comment under post at AmericaBlog:
….The administration has spent months trashing progressive bloggers as well as those who read and support them. One afternoon, mere days before the election, smacks of desperation. Like they suddenly realized they did something wrong and have to quickly try to unburn a couple bridges.
Here’s the verbal writeup from Aravosis. Go read. But here’s the summary.
Finally, Joe asked the President if he has a strategy for passing the DADT compromise legislation during the lame duck session in Congress. The President did make some news here, by telling Joe that he asked the Log Cabin Republicans in a meeting at the White House yesterday to get him 2 to 5 votes. The President seemed to think that Joe could help persuade Log Cabin to help. Joe told the President that he didn’t have sway with those people.
“Those” people ?
Well, hell, they are Republicans. Try the Bipartisanshipthingee.
“once like a movie write your own ending keep believing keep pretending we done just what we set out to do….”
Thurs am update: Full transcript of this “outreach” can be found here . It is not possible to tell easily who was asking what question on all of them
Summary. The guy still thinks he needs 60 votes to do anything.
I don’t think that this person in the WH Oval Office really has a core commitment to anything other than saving his own hide for the next 2 years, and he’s already been practicing mouthing Republican catch phrases for months in preparation. I think at this point it is time to stop calling him the “leader” of the Democratic Party. Somebody else needs to act as a spokesperson when they have a top elected official sabotaging the ticket that much and trying to get more of the other party elected. Apparently he also wants the supposedly left blogs (hah ) to acknowledge their lack of actual relevance, and diss him to give him credibility with the MSM. If anyone would want to accuse me of hyperpartisanship I would be more than willing to debate several of the Republican talking points he used in this interview, and tell the country that we do not need any more excuses from either the WH or the Senate as to why this country MUST constantly seek to appease privatization extremists and Corporations in the MIC who do NOT want things to become better.
Fri Afternoon 10/29/10 update
The “progressive” blogger whom I characterized as a shark masquerading as a guppie kitten kisser has not posted anything on her homebase website since the White House experience other than the WH transcript of the meeting, and a few comments on it. She has since stated in a comment that the questions she asked were on raising the retirement age and the one which started “I want to go back with working with Republicans…. ”
This would be these questions, which were actually very good:
Q – I want to go back to the idea of working with Republicans. And given the comments from McConnell and — well, all of them — I think that what a lot of people find frustrating is that our side compromises and continues to compromise just to get that one Republican on. We’re going to get one of the Maine twins — whatever. And it doesn’t happen, and then by the time health care or whatever goes through we’ve compromised; we still don’t get any Republicans.
I don’t anticipate this changing in the next two years. I think it’s going to get worse. How are you going to get Democrats to understand that compromise means the other side has to give something sometimes, one day?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, obviously I share your frustrations. I’ve got to deal with this every day.
Q Well, I don’t expect you to talk like a blogger. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: But I guess I’d make two points. The first is, I’m President and not king. And so I’ve got to get a majority in the House and I’ve got to get 60 votes in the Senate to move any legislative initiative forward.
Now, during the course — the 21 months of my presidency so far, I think we had 60 votes in the Senate for seven months, six? I mean, it was after Franken finally got seated and Arlen had flipped, but before Scott Brown won in Massachusetts. So that’s a fairly narrow window. So we’re right at the number, and that presumes that there is uniformity within the Democratic caucus in the Senate — which, Barbara, you’ve been around a while. You know that not every Democrat in the Democratic caucus agrees with me or agrees with each other in terms of complicated issues like health care.
So it is important for me, then, to work every angle I can to get as much done as I can. If we had a parliamentary system, then this critique would make sense to me because you do as much as you can to negotiate with the other side, but at a certain point you’ve got your platform and you move it forward and your party votes for it.
But that’s not the system of government we have. We’ve got a different system. I will say that the damage that the filibuster I think has done to the workings of our democracy are at this point pretty profound. The rate at which it’s used just to delay and obstruct is unprecedented. But that’s the reality right now.
So I guess my answer is that there has not been, I think, any issue that we’ve worked in which I have been willing to sign on to a compromise that I didn’t feel was a strong improvement over the status quo and was not the best that we could do, given the political alignments that we’ve got.
And, yes, it leaves some folks dissatisfied. I understand that. But let’s take the health care bill. As frustrated and angry and dispirited as the base might have been — we didn’t have a public option, and it just dragged on for such a long time, and you’re having conversations with Grassley, even though it turns out Grassley has no interest in actually getting something done — all the complaints which I was obviously very familiar with, the fact of the matter is, is that we got a piece of legislation through that we’ve been waiting a hundred years to get through; that in the aggregate sets up a system in which 30 million people are going to get health insurance; in which we’ve got an exchange that forces insurance companies to compete with a pool of millions and will be policed so that they can’t jack up prices; that pool has purchasing power that they’ve never had before; that you’ve got a patient’s bill of rights that was the hallmark, sort of the high-water mark of what progressives thought we could do in the health care field — we got that whole thing basically just as part of the bill.
You’ve got investments in community health centers and preventive medicine and research that’s going to help improve our health care delivery systems as a whole. And we can build on that.
And I know this analogy has been used before, but when Social Security was passed, it was for widows and orphans. And a whole bunch of folks were not included in it. But that building block, the foundation stone, ended up creating one of the most important safety nets that we have. And I think the same thing is going to happen with health care.
…… (the answer continues to ramble on to include financial reform and finally the stimulus. note this: )
And I’ll give you one last example because I know this is a famous example in the blogosphere, is the stimulus. I mean, if folks think that we could have gotten Ben Nelson, Arlen Specter and Susan Collins to vote for additional stimulus beyond the $700 billion that we got, then I would just suggest you weren’t in the meetings.
This notion that somehow I could have gone and made the case around the country for a far bigger stimulus because of the magnitude of the crisis, well, we understood the magnitude of the crisis. We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.
They never filibustered. They merely threatened to, and the Democrats folded meekly.
Here is the sorry spectacle of the President trying to set the conditions of what reality he can operate under, the Majority Party Caucus declaring that they need a supermajority of 60 to pass any legislation. the 3/5’s rule, we should start to call it, and then saying he cannot depend on his own caucus so he has to go to the other side. But he did have that 60 vote majority for half a year. We already know that the President decided to have secret meetings with lobbyists like Billy Tauzin at the WH right at the very beginning of his Presidency, and that is when the Public Option was secretly ditched. We know the House under Speaker Pelosi passed their version of the Bill on time and with a Public Option. We know the President let the Senate dither away stalling for months all summer. And he finally got the health care bill he wanted – one with no Public Option.
Said bill which much of the general public hates, because most of it isn’t implemented yet, did not change a single thing for them, and let private contractors, aka private insurance, get the promise of being able to feed off of more Medicaid in the future, but it let the insurers continue to jack rates up. It will, by the numbers, barely cover half the uninsured someday in the future if the Republicans don’t destroy it, the rest have still been thrown to the wolves. The reality is embarrassing.
If Ben Nelson is such an incredible impediment to ever getting any sort of legislation passed in the Senate, there is a simple solution – throw his sorry butt out. Nebraska is low in population. There is no reason I can see to let people who are never going to vote with the party on major issues continue to caucus with said party. They’ve already tried this with Sen. Lieberman and it never works- it backfires. Notice how he never mentions Lieberman and his wife who sits on so many boards who pay her a nice fee. He never mentions Blanche Lincoln, whom he endorsed and campaigned for after she went on point against that Public Option. Nor Kent Conrad, another in what Glenn Greenwald aptly named the Village Villain Rotation.
Regarding the stimulus bill, look who he tries to blame again – Ben “Mutual of Omaha” Nelson, Arlen Specter who has changed parties again, another Republican, Susan Collins, plus Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s irresponsibility.
How does a person who has relied on charisma to get elected, now criticize populism and direct appeals for public pressure with a straight face ?
They can’t. It’s an excuse, again. He got what he wanted.
The other question, and look at the ridiculous answer:
Q Mine is an easy question. Will you rule out raising the retirement age to 70?
THE PRESIDENT: We are awaiting a report from the deficit commission, or deficit reduction commission, so I have been adamant about not prejudging their work until we get it.
But I think you can look at the statements that I’ve made in the past, including when I was campaigning for the presidency, that Social Security is something that can be fixed with some modest modifications that don’t impose hardships on beneficiaries who are counting on it.
And so the example that I used during the campaign was an increase in the payroll tax, not an increase — let me scratch that. Not an increase in the payroll tax but an increase in the income level at which it is excluded.
And so what I’ve been clear about is, is that I’ve got a set of preferences, but I want the commission to go ahead and do its work. When it issues its report, I’m not automatically going to assume that it’s the right way to do things. I’ll study it and examine it and see what makes sense.
But I’ve said in the past, I’ll say here now, it doesn’t strike me that a steep hike in the retirement age is in fact the best way to fix Social Security.
No, we cannot look at statements you made in the past, unless you wish us to presume that you are going to ignore them now that you are elected, that you were lying, or at least you were persuadable to being lobbyied, and that you now have all the possible scenarios on the table. Because that is the historical precedent we have seen so far with many campaign promises the President made — they were just that, words. And the President has a set of preferences, but he certainly isn’t going to share them with anybody.
A “Steep hike” may not be striking him as the best way, but a less steep hike in the retirement age is implied to be on his table.
Currently the retirement age in the US is 62/66 for reduced to full Social Security benefits.
He could have just said “no,” and have been done with it.
I don’t believe that one could write up such an experience with those sorts of answers with the timing being right before the election and not have rather the opposite impact of what you intended, if you were intending to want to motivate voters to actually vote for the incumbent Party in office.
Changing the filibuster rules to give themselves a smaller, simpler Senate majority, would mean the responsibility for passing lousy legislation or not bothering to pass it at all, would fall squarely on the shoulders of the Democratic Party with that majority in this instance. With a much tighter Senate coming up, and a possible loss in the House looming, the President in the next term will now have his perfect, built in excuse.
No wonder the front pagers at that blog all switched over to writing Get Out The Vote pieces afterwards.
There’s another Very Important House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing taking place Today. As important as all that have in both the House and the Senate since the 110th Congress, covering issues that weren’t even mentioned nor as the many complaints rose, over a number of issues, were meaningful Congressional Investigations nor Hearings held, as two invasions and still ongoing occupations were started and only grew over these last close to a decade now!
It wasn’t only with the do nothing politicians, it also came from those that supported them and these wars. As they slapped magnetic ribbons on their vehicles, quickly to disappear and not be replaced and claimed they were the true patriots who really supported the troops. It’s carried into the last couple of years under a label that shows the total hypocrisy of these same citizens, the so called TEA Party, outraged at everything Government with no mention of their own complicity. They use the Military and Veterans in their false patriotism, in word and symbol, but Never Once Demading that they even start ‘Sacrificing’ themselves after all these years, quite the opposite is their stand!
On September 11, 2001, Islamist suicide-commandos crashed an airliner into the green fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, because they hate our soil!
But two more airliners aimed at the soil of Central Park accidentally crashed into the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan…
And yet another incompetent terror-pilot, aiming at the Potomac (because they hate our water!) crashed into the Pentagon instead.
So al Qaeda’s real intentions were obscured by a flood of sensational images from the Pentagon and World Trade Center, and 9/11 was almost universally misinterpreted as an attack against militarism and globalization.