President Hugo Chavez Dead

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez succumbed to cancer today at age 58.  The socialist transformed a nation paralyzed by inequality of wealth, the corrupting power of corporatism and extreme poverty into one where income began being equalized providing greater wealth for the people, greatly diminished influence by corporations, agrarian reform providing property to all and an huge expansion of literacy as educational opportunity was provided for all.  He even provided home heating oil to thousands of needy Americans.

Chavez was vilified by corporate American supported by the past two Presidential administrations terrified of his populism and its meaning if it caught on in America.  The right wing made him into a Communist though he was never such a thing.  Hugo Chavez was so popular in his country he was elected President by huge margins even when terminally ill.

He directed vast sums from Venezuela’s oil industry to the people instead of to the wealthy and American corporations.  The country is vastly different today from 1999 when he rose to power.  The Venezuela of then is similar to the United States of today in that the rich held a vast amount of power and wealth, millions of citizens lived in poverty and corporatism ruled.

There is a huge difference between capitalism and corporatism.  America today is really a corporatist state wherein no legislation gets passed on a state or federal level without approval of the Chamber of Commerce.  The Supreme Court has sided with the Chamber 100% of the time, in every case brought before it.  Corporations completely control the U.S. and income inequality has risen to its highest level since the 1920’s.  The top 1% now own 40% of America’s wealth and every dollar of income increase in recent years went to their full bank accounts.

This is why Washington was so scared of Hugo Chavez:  his reforms worked.  His taxation of the rich and corporations funded desperately needed programs for the poor and lofted them out of poverty.  For this the media had to totally demonize the man and they did this very successfully.  Venezuela is a vastly improved nation because of Hugo Chavez and the U.S. desperately needs a leader like him.  The result of our income inequality threatens the stability of our society.  No democratic country has escaped revolution with such a wide gap of inequality.

Bush Emails “Reappear”

Twenty two million BushCo emails which supposedly “disappeared” have been found by the Obama Administration.  Isn’t it interesting that the Obama people had no problem producing the communications which, by law, were to be saved but were supposedly “lost” by inept Bush people.  They were requested by certain groups who sued so as to  investigate BushCo misdeeds.  Funny how these things happen…  I’m sure it was all just an innocent misunderstanding.  (dripping sarcasm)

This all reminds me of a time when 18 1/2 minutes of conversation mysteriously “disappeared.”

Limbaugh Cannot Accept the Truth of 9-11

Crossposted from Hillbilly Report.

9-11 should not be a political statement for anyone. It should be a sad day of remembrence that many people died because of hatred and incompetence. However, since the very day it occured it has constantly been used as a hammer to pound the agenda of a miguided bunch people with an unenlightened vision of the world down everyone else’s throat.  

Before going any further I think it is important to note that here at Hillbilly Report we simply do not condone the use of the Hillbilly Heroin. It makes you into Rush Limbaugh.

Now, these very people and their “leader” cannot simply commemorate those who died and honor their families, but they must continue trying to use the tragedy to try and score shameless political points like their President that thankfully has since been retired to Texas did in response to the incident.

Just listen to Oxymoron Rush Limbaugh spouting out some more of his mindless drivel for the masses:

What I would like to ask Rush Limbaugh is why would the President not ask that Americans honor the victims of 9-11 by giving service to their communities?? I mean, a whole lot of the people that died on that day and in the aftermath were their giving service to their communities by trying to help others. Men and women of our armed forces that have died in the corresponding wars were there giving service to their nation. Does Rush Limbaugh think that everyone is this nation sits on their fat, lazy butt eating Oxycontin like M&Ms spouting lies about and insulting everyone else?? Of course he cannot understand the concept of a “day of service” because he and the folks that think like him simply do not believe in serving anything but their own selfish interests and failed vision of a pre-enlightened world. The truth of 9-11 is that thankfully in this world there are people who unlike Limbaugh believe in risking themselves for the greater good of their neighbors and country.

And what is the other truth of 9-11 that Limbaugh and his ilk seek to avoid?? The true fact of the matter is that they used 9-11 over and again in the years following it to stifle discussion, silence critics, and steal away generations of Constitutional protections. They shamelessly misled the American people into going to war in the wrong country and wasted thousands more lives and at or over a trillion dollars in national treasure. With Limbaugh as the fattest, ugliest cheerleader to ever don a mini-skirt singing their praises, they made 9-11 a publicity stunt.

And what is yet another truth that Limbaugh refuses to acknowledge?? A Republican Adminstration that is supposed to be “tough on terror” was completely and totally incompetent and that incompetence contributed greatly to the events themselves. When their fearless leader was handed a memo warning of the attacks before the attacks he could not even come off of vacation to WORK and stop them. When they actually occured, he appeared as a deer in the headlights and gazed stupidly into space showing no strength or decisiveness whatsoever.

Then, cheered on all the while by Limbaugh that leader led us into the wrong country to punish the wrong person and settle a personal agenda instead of avenging American victims of the attacks. Now, years later a new leader is still mired in and trying to leave Iraq, while deciding whether to finish the job his predessesor should have long concluding bringing the mastermind of those attacks to justice.

In response to their own incompetence and absent vision, and once again encouraged by Limbaugh, they then preceded to stifle critics by calling them cowards, and traitors and stole generations of Constitutional protections from American citizens to try and cover-up and justify their own shameless and inexcusable incompetence.

Before Limbaugh or any Republican or Democrat for that matter who enabled George W. Bush should remember before critisizing anyone else about their response to 9-11 and how they choose to honor the dead of that event is that another hard truth of this passing of the 9-11 anniversery is that Barack Obama has now kept our country safe longer than George W. Bush.

The Return of Diplomacy

Instead of threatening them with inclusion on a list of countries to invade or calling them an “evil empire” President Obama dealt with North Korea’s detention of two American journalists by sending Bill Clinton to negotiate and secure their release.  Isn’t it amazing how diplomacy works if a president is actually willing to use the device?  George W. Bush, with his cowboy mentality, disdained and rejected the use of diplomats to solve problems.  He preferred, instead, to use the Army.

What a breath of fresh air.

Indict Cheney

Information that other covert spying programs were being conducted by the CIA and kept from Congress is not new or shocking.  Alberto Gonzales slipped during Congressional testimony and inadvertantly revealed that other programs existed.  We simply knew nothing about them until now. The fact Dick Cheney was running all these extralegal operations from his office is shocking.  How many rogue spying programs did Darth Vader perform?  Because his office even controlled who was informed within a very tight circle he even, conceivably, could have kept them from the President.

We do not give Vice President this kind of power.  We don’t give it, legally, even to Presidents.  The CIA has a long, inglorious history of going off the deep end when no oversight is provided to their rogue operations.  This is why the Frank Church commission was needed and the reforms emanating from those revelations are important.  Frankly the CIA cannot be trusted.  The sissy fit performed recently when Nancy Pelosi protested that the Agency lies to Congress has now been exposed as a serious attempt to cover up more wrongdoing.

We know the CIA was run from Cheney’s office along with his own rogue outfit manufacturing “intelligence” justifying the invasion of Iraq.  Dick Cheney violated serious national security laws and he must be investigated, indicted and prosecuted.  We are a nation of laws above all else and accountability for extreme conduct is warranted.  Conservatives love to base their ideology partly on “personal responsibility.”  As such Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld and George Tenet all must be held accountable personally.  What is to deter someone else in the future from doing similar or worse actions if there is no accountability now?

Democrats Pardoning Specter For Horrific Votes

Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party is already blinding many Dems to his horrific George W. Bush voting record.  Scores of people who protested the war in Iraq, torture, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, the shredding of the Bill of Rights and the other innumerable crimes and offenses of the Bush Administration are already lining up to pardon Snarlin’ Arlen and re-elect him to the Senate.

Gov. Ed Rendell and President Barack Obama are leading the charge much to their shame.  How could you campaign against everything President Bush did then embrace one of his chief enablers?  Sen. Specter was actually quite a reliable vote for W.  Everything from military tribunals, the denial of due process rights, destroying the separation of powers, in all of this Sen. Specter was there with his strong support for Bush.  He was a pivotal figure in the politicization of the Department of Justice and inserted the provision enabling AG Gonzales to fire prosecutors.

But now Democrats are suddenly blinded to this by one simple act:  Arlen Specter changed his Party affiliation.  Wow, it doesn’t take much to brainwash Democrats does it?  Talk is that Gov. Rendell has, once again, promised to clear the primary field of challengers as he did in 2006.  Isn’t it time for Ed Rendell to simply go away and allow the people of Pennsylvania to select their Senators?

Joe Torsella’s days as a candidate are numbered and numbered in single digits.  His campaign was supported with Rendell money and that will now evaporate.  Ed Rendell has been dictating for too long now and today is the day Pennsylvania Democrats finally need to restore democracy to their Party.  Reject Rendell, Specter, torture, wars of choice and the underming of our rights and reject this imposition upon your choices.  I will vote Green again if Arlen Specter is the only Democrat allowed to run.  Do NOT take away our rights as citizens tor un for office or vote for whom WE choose.  Gov. Rendell has no right to choose who can run and who cannot.

Toothless: The Watchdog Press That Became the Government’s Lapdog

Toothless:  The Watchdog Press

That Became the Government’s Lapdog

PART II: The Lapdogs Get Some Teeth

by Walter Brasch

In May 2004, the New York Times, while claiming it was aggressive in pursuing stories about the Bush-Cheney Administration, slipped in an apology for acting more as the mouthpiece for politicians than as a watchdog for society. “Coverage was not as rigorous as it should have been,” the Times admitted. Part of the problem, the Times acknowledged, was that “Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.” The Times concluded it wished “we had been more aggressive.”

           Almost three months later, the Washington Post, one of the most hawkish papers for invading Iraq, finally acknowledged its own pre-war hysteria and lack of journalistic competence and courage. “We were so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn’t be a good idea to go to war and were questioning the administration’s rationale,” wrote Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr.

           During President Bush’s second term, especially after his popularity had begun to sink, several major newspapers, including the New York Times and Washington Post, became more aggressive, publishing several major investigations into the War in Iraq, the government’s use of torture and apparent violation of the Geneva Accords, violations of due process, extensive spying upon Americans, the failure to provide combat troops with adequate body armor, the silencing of government scientists who disagreed with Bush-Cheney beliefs and values, the classification of 55,000 documents in the National Archives that had previously been declassified, the use of propaganda to support doctrine, and problems at Guantanamo Bay.  

A New York Times investigation by Tim Golden and Don Van Natta Jr. revealed “government and military officials have repeatedly exaggerated both the danger the detainees posed and the intelligence they have provided.” That same investigation also revealed a CIA report in September 2002 that questioned the arrests. Most of those picked up in Afghanistan and transferred to Guantánamo Bay, according to the CIA investigation, were low level recruits or innocent men.

           Among other reporters from the Times who broke major stories were Elisabeth Bumiller, Douglas Jehl, James Risen, and Eric Schmitt, who wrote about secret prisons and rendition; and James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, who wrote several articles about the government’s illegal spying upon American citizens. Times editors, however, had kept the stories about the government’s spying out of the newspaper for about a year, in deference to the Administration’s hysterical claims before the November 2004 election that breaking news about unconstitutional activities might somehow be aiding and abetting the enemy; the reality was that the Times was duped into protecting the Administration against a vote drain.

           For the Washington Post, Stave Fainam wrote about abuses by extramilitary private contractors in Iraq; Dana Priest wrote about secret prisons and controversial parts of the Bush-Cheney counter-terrorism tactics; Jo Becker and Barton Gellman investigated the growing influence of Dick Cheney into national policies; and Dana Priest, Anne Hull, and Michael duCille in several articles exposed the medical and psychiatric neglect of returning combat soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Although the Post’s Bob Woodward fully believed Bush-Cheney Administration claims about the need to invade Iraq, he still produced the most in-depth reporting about Bush and his decision-making process. His four books in six years were all best-sellers.

           The Los Angeles Times published a series in 2006 about Iraq’s descent into civil war following the U.S. invasion. Outstanding reporting about the impact of the war upon soldiers and civilians was done by several reporters, including Borzou Daragahia  and David Zucchino of the L.A. Times; and Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman of the Hartford Courant. However, for the most part, reporters accepted what they were given. Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the London Independent, condemned much of the American press corps in Iraq for “hotel journalism,” writing stories based upon what they were told in press conferences without going into the field.

            At the Boston Globe, Charlie Savage did solid reporting about President Bush’s use of signing statements to bypass federal and constitutional law.

           Much of the best in-depth reporting about the Bush-Cheney Administration, especially its fixation upon invading Iraq, was done by reporters for national magazines.

           Seymour Hersh’s powerful series about the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and several articles about the war in Iraq first appeared in the New Yorker. Hersh had broken the story about the massacre at My Lai and its cover-up during the Vietnam War; it was this willful murder of civilians by the U.S. military that other reporters knew about but didn’t report that earned Hersh the Pulitzer Prize. However, after Hersh’s series was published, the establishment media could no longer ignore the story. Not much changed in the four decades since then. Perhaps Hersh’s greatest honor is that a senior Bush advisor called him “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist.”

           Among several outstanding hard-news reports about the Bush-Cheney Administration, especially its fixation upon invading Iraq and of subsequent constitutional violations, were those of Michael Isikoff in Newsweek, David Corn in Mother Jones, Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, and James Bamford in Rolling Stone.

           With a few blips for courageous reporting, the American press, according to media critic Norman Solomon, continued to blindly accept the Bush-Cheney doctrine as truth. “The American media establishment,” wrote Solomon in August 2007, “continues to behave like a leviathan with a monkey on its back- hooked on militarism and largely hostile to the creative intervention that democracy requires.”

           However, reporters for one establishment news agency consistently represented the highest ideals of an uncompromised press.

           John Walcott, the Knight Ridder bureau chief in Washington, and bureau reporters Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, were aggressive in publishing well-documented stories that challenged Bush-Cheney claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the need for the invasion. When McClatchy bought out Knight Ridder in 2006, Walcott continued as bureau chief, and Landay and Strobel become senior correspondents. They continued to challenge the propaganda, and proved that their organization was doing everything the Founding Fathers demanded when they said the primary function of the media is to act as a watchdog on government. When other media disregarded the anti-war dissidents, Walcott’s reporters interviewed them; when other media gave Guantanamo Bay coverage little more than “he said/she said” coverage, the McClatchy bureau dug into the story to present the truth and not the spoon-fed lies. When other media took down what they were told at press conferences and private meetings with senior Bush-Cheney officials, Walcott’s reporters listened, but went to innumerable professionals and lower-level staff in the Defense and State departments to get the truth.

           “Journalism is not stenography,” says Walcott, winner of the first I.F. Stone medal for journalistic independence. The role of the journalist, he says, isn’t to record what people say, but to question it in the search for the truth. “One of the reasons we pressed so hard for the case for the war in Iraq,” says Walcott, “is that what they [the Administration] said simply made no sense.” The primary focus for Walcott’s reporters was “how were the decisions being made in Washington, [by] many who had never been to war, would affect the men and women” in the military.  

            “On the whole, the Bush Administration did not put out the welcome sign for us,” says Roy Gutman, McClatchy foreign editor. On even routine stories, the White House planted its leaks with friendlier organizations, and tried to isolate the Knight Ridder/McClatchy bureau from the other media. Publicly, the Bush-Cheney Administration issued no retort; by maintaining silence, the Administration knew the establishment media would also ignore a competitor’s reports.

           “We were alone at the beginning,” says Walcott, “and are still fairly lonely at the end.”

Forthcoming: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, The alternative press, and establishment commentators.

[Walter Brasch continually challenged Bush-Cheney claims about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. He wrote about the shredding of civil rights under the PATRIOT Act, including violations of free speech, due process, and the rights of privacy. He and Rosemary Brasch, two years before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, wrote about disaster preparedness and concluded that the U.S., because of political incompetence and the deployment of troops and resources to Iraq, wasn’t prepared to deal with a natural disaster. The establishment media ignored their reporting.]

Toothless: The Watchdog Press That Became the Government’s Lapdog

by Walter Brasch

PART 1

        The president of the Associated Press (AP) was spewing venom at the Bush-Cheney administration for having turned the Department of Defense into a propaganda machine.

        Americans “expect honest answers about what’s happening to their sons and daughters,” Tom Curley told journalism students and faculty at the University of Kansas. Listing innumerable ways the Pentagon had advocated Bush-Cheney political beliefs, Curley questioned if the United States should “be trying to influence public opinion through subterfuge, both here and abroad,”  

        An AP investigation had just revealed that the Pentagon budget for “influence operations” this fiscal year is at least $4.8 billion, with about 27,000 civilian and military personnel assigned to information dissemination.

        The penalty for failing to agree to the Pentagon’s terms of reporting, said Curley, was that he was told by top commanders that “if I stood and the AP stood by its journalistic principles, the AP and I would be ruined.”

        With a new Administration, “now is the time to resist the propaganda the Pentagon produces and live up to our obligation to question authority and thereby help protect our democracy,” said Curley.

        Brave words, but words that would have had more impact had they been said publicly four years ago instead of a month after Bush and Cheney left office, and a more transparent administration was elected.

        Although the Bush-Cheney Administration put propaganda ahead of truth, the media, like Congress, were willing accomplices.

        Most media were far too deferential to the Bush-Cheney administration following 9/11, perhaps believing it was unpatriotic, or at least detrimental to their revenue, to oppose the tools the president said he needed to fight the war on terrorism.

When the Bush-Cheney Administration, aided by a compliant Congress, pushed through the PATRIOT Act, with severe constitutional violations, the media barely raised a voice to protest. Reporters who wrote against the PATRIOT Act were often ostracized by the establishment press. It was the nation’s librarians, not the nation’s journalists, who even led protests of First Amendment free speech/free press violations during most of the eight years of the Bush-Cheney Administration.

        When the Bush-Cheney Administration established “free speech zones,” as much as a mile from any presidential or vice-presidential speech or rally, whether official or political, the media ignored the dissidents and, for the most part, the blatant constitutional violation of the First Amendment.

        When the Bush-Cheney Administration laid out lies that Saddam Hussein was tied into 9/11, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and then launched an invasion of a sovereign nation, the media saluted and reported what they were told.

        When the Bush-Cheney Administration rewrote the rules of press coverage in combat to compromise independent reporting, the press didn’t challenge their new restrictions. They grumbled over beers, but didn’t push back. By their failure, the press allowed themselves to become part of a propaganda machine, spewing good news from their tunnel vision.

        When the Bush-Cheney Administration, trying to find “good news” in Iraq, fed information to the Washington Post that Army PFC Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, was a hero whose Humvee was ambushed, that she fought a heroic battle, killed some attackers, was herself shot, was tortured in an Iraqi hospital, and that Army Rangers and Navy SEALS made a heroic rescue, no one at the Post or most other media questioned the Defense Department’s statements, pleased to have been given a human interest scoop. But the story was a phony. Lynch herself confirmed suspicions raised in the alternative media that she didn’t wield a gun, that her injuries were sustained when she was pinned under the Humvee, and that she was treated well by Iraqi physicians, who had even given the American “rescuers” the hospital’s master key.

        When the Bush-Cheney Administration tried to cover up that former NFL star Pat Tillman, an Army Ranger, was killed by friendly fire and not playing John Wayne, and that the Army delayed and then lied to Tillman’s parents, the press just went along with what they were told.

        When the Bush-Cheney Administration made sure that retired military officers, favorable to the Administration, got choice TV network assignments, hardly anyone protested until it became so obvious that the commentaries were skewed to Bush-Cheney policies.

        When the Bush-Cheney Administration lied about massive spying upon Americans, the environment, public health, and hundreds of other areas, the media yawned and swallowed what they were told.

        When the Bush-Cheney Administration said the U.S. was not in a recession, that the economy was doing just fine, while all around them the sub-prime crisis and Wall Street greed was eating up the fabric of America, the media reported the latest pop-celeb’s tryst, movie deal, drinking or drug problem.

        Even when the Bush-Cheney Administration blocked attempts by reporters to get public information through the Freedom of Information laws, their bosses usually didn’t back them up, content to save the financial and manpower resources that were necessary to break down the barriers.

When the Bush-Cheney Administration moved Helen Thomas, dean of the White House press corps, from the first row to the back row on press conferences, and refused to call on her to ask a question, most of the establishment media barely protested, ‘lest they would also be banished to the back of the press bus, denied “face time” on Air Force One, or not invited to exclusive black tie parties.

        The New York Times and Washington Post, which eventually redeemed themselves as Bush’s popularity sank, each published lengthy apologies for failing to adequately question Administration claims, and doing little more than recycle the lies.

        Americans have every reason to complain about the Bush-Cheney Administration. But, the nation’s news media, by abandoning their journalistic credibility and principles, had willingly become an extension of the propaganda machine that Tom Curley complained about.

NEXT WEEK: Media and reporters who challenged authority and tried to fulfill their responsibilities as watchdogs upon the government.

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Walter Brasch, an award-winning journalist, continually challenged Bush-Cheney claims about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. He wrote about the shredding of civil rights under the PATRIOT Act, including violations of free speech, due process, and the rights of privacy. He and Rosemary Brasch, two years before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, wrote about disaster preparedness and concluded that the U.S., because of political incompetence and the deployment of troops and resources to Iraq, wasn’t prepared to deal with a natural disaster. The establishment media ignored their reporting. Dr. Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University. His books about the Bush-Cheney Administration are America’s Unpatriotic Act: The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights; ‘Unacceptable’: The Federal Government’s Response to Hurricane Katrina; and Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush.]

Leahy Proposes Bush Truth Commission

Leftovers.  Never as tasty as when they were fresh leftovers always have a staleness.  In the case of George W. Bush’s disastrous administration, its obsession with secrecy, refusal to enforce the laws of the land and its unprecedented attacks on the constitution, the rule of law and the separation of powers, leftovers are all we have to digest what, exactly, was done and why.  Sen. Patrick Leahy is proposing a truth commission through his Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate what was done, how and decide how to prosecute those officials who violated laws.

Prosecution is the key here though Leahy is stopping short of that.  Those who violated laws, treaties and the human rights of others, including war crimes, must be prosecuted to return a sense of accountability and trust in our system.

“Rather than vengeance, we need a fair-minded pursuit of what actually happened,” Leahy said as he outlined his proposal during a speech at Georgetown University. “Sometimes the best way to move forward is getting to the truth, finding out what happened, so we can make sure it does not happen again.”

This isn’t about vengeance it is about accountability, a concept which disappeared from Washington for eight years.  White House officials kept secrets from the public in violation of the law, refused to honor legal subpoenas to testify about their misconduct and continue insisting these non existent rights extend indefinitely into the future.  They completely undermined the rule of law and must be accountable for their crimes.

False Pride, False Claims

President George W. Bush bade farewell to the nation this evening.  Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.   No sooner did he begin than he invoked 9/11 as is usual for the man.  Why he keeps insisting on reminding the country that he presided over the worst attack on the American mainland because he ignored warnings is beyond my comprehension.

Of course he used 9/11 to instill fear and control the populace while he shredded our civil liberties and began a war of choice based on lies about 9/11.  September 11th defined his administration and not well.  The man is actually proud of his colossal failure to protect New York and Washington and is proud his failed war prevented a new attack on American soil.

This is a false claim.  We haven’t been attacked again because Al Qaeda hasn’t had to come here to attack and kill Americans.  They’ve already killed 4200 more in Iraq.  We went to their own backyard and did it by hundreds of thousands.  Osama has had no need to send terrorists to North America because Bush went to him.  This is why the claim we haven’t been attacked again is false.  We have.  Sometimes we were attacked hundreds of times per day as fighting and chaos reigned in Iraq.

False pride, false claims.  This is the legacy Bush leaves in the disastrous reign of fear and terror which defined his presidency.