"To tell the truth and to shoot well with arrows"
The 2012 campaign began on Aug. 2, 2011, when President Barack Obama signed the deal ending the debt-ceiling fiasco. At that moment, the president relinquished his last illusions that the current, radical version of the Republican Party could be dealt with as a governing partner. From then on, Obama was determined to fight – and to win.
It was the right choice, the only alternative to capitulation. A Republican majority both inspired and intimidated by the tea party was demanding that Obama renounce every principle dear to him about the role of government in 21st century America.
And so he set out to defeat those who threatened to bring back the economic policies of the 1890s.
Now, it’s up to the voters.
Obama took the oath of office before a vast and euphoric crowd, but as he raised his hand, he was inheriting an economy worsening by the day. And he was about to confront a Republican Party that took its setback as an imperative to radicalize.
In the wake of the failures of George W. Bush’s presidency, Republicans would ascribe their party’s problems to Bush as a big-spender, ignoring the major culprits in the country’s fiscal troubles: a downturn that began on their watch, and their own support for two tax cuts at a time of two wars. They would block, obstruct, stall and denounce all of Obama’s initiatives, and abuse the rules of the Senate to demand that every bill would need 60 votes.
And then came the tea party. It was, all at once, a rebirth of the old far right from John Birch Society days, a partisan movement seeded by right-wing billionaires, and a cry of anguish from older, middle-class Americans fearful over the speed of social change. The GOP establishment rode the tea party tiger to power in 2010, and then ended up inside it. Republicans who dared to deal or compromise risked humiliation in primaries at the hands of a far right certain that the president of the United States was a subversive figure.
Nonetheless, Obama kept trying to work with them. His plans and proposals were geared not toward his progressive base but toward moderates in both parties: no public option in the health care law, plenty of tax cuts in a stimulus whose size was held down, a very temperate reform of a dysfunctional financial system.
Obama’s aides are unanimous in saying that the breaking point came when Republicans, filled with tea party zeal, were willing to endanger the nation’s financial standing to achieve steep budget cuts during the debt-ceiling fight. When House Speaker John Boehner walked away from a deal that conservatives of another era would have hailed as a great victory, Obama realized that a grand bargain would be a chimera until he could win the battle about first principles.
Everything you needed to know about Obama’s argument was laid out Dec. 6, 2011, at a high school in Osawatomie, Kan., the place where Theodore Roosevelt had laid out the core themes of American progressivism a century earlier.
“Just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time,” Obama declared, “there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. ‘The market will take care of everything,’ they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. … even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty. Now, it’s a simple theory. … But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked.”
In Mitt Romney, Obama was blessed with an opponent who embraced that theory, not only in his move far to the right to secure the Republican nomination but also in his own career as a private equity capitalist. Romney may have flipped and flopped and flipped again on issues he didn’t care about, but his view of American capitalism and American government never wavered. If Teddy Roosevelt fought against the policies of the Gilded Age, Obama is fighting a Republican Party determined to bring the Gilded Age back and undo the achievements of a century.
And so, beneath the attacks, the counterattacks, and the billions invested by small numbers of the very rich to sway the undecided, we face a choice on Tuesday that is worthy of a great democracy. My hunch is that the country will not go backward, because that’s not what Americans do.
…the unreported story of our times is that birtherism isn’t an isolated example of paranoid lunacy taking hold of a disturbingly large segment of the population — in fact, modern conservatism is driven by multiple lunatic theories that are precisely as delusional as birtherism.
True…but the mulitple lunacies have been reported time and time again. The problem is that the people who should be paying attention aren’t listening to anyone whose first name isn’t Rush, Glenn or Sean.
And on it goes…the delusional theories of a self-destructing political party.
Creationism, that zombie of the American political scene, rises again — this time in Indiana:
An Indiana Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed teaching creationism in public schools, despite pleas from scientists and religious leaders to keep religion out of science classrooms.
Senate Bill 89 allows school corporations to authorize “the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life” and specifically mentions “creation science” as one such theory.
State Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, who voted for the measure, said if there are many theories about life’s origins, students should be taught all of them.
The Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee nevertheless voted 8-2 to send the legislation to the full Senate.
Here’s the substance of the text of the bill:
[EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2012]: Sec. 18. The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.
Anyone who has followed this issue in the US can tell right away that even if this bill passed the Indiana Senate, and was eventually signed by the Governor of Indiana, that a federal judge would strike it down right away as unconstitutional (with much precedent in the US court system.)
Yet the creationists still try, over and over.
And, to simply use the phrase “creation science” uncritically informs us of how anti-scientific the authors of that bill are.
The Chairman of the committee was one of the original authors, and given that 4 more signed on as co-authors pretty much guaranteed it would get through the committee.
The State senator mentioned in the news article is one of the co-authors, Scott Schneider, has introduced or co-authored several bills, many of which are close to the heart of the tea-partying and creationists/home-schooling groups. For instance, he’s introduced bills on Right To Work, on controlling sexually explicit material, and so forth. He also works the Tea Party circuit for political support.
Sen. Schneider is also a well known anti-abortionist and a favorite of the Indiana Right to Life organization, and last year helped spearhead an effort to defund any organization in IN that performed abortions.
So we see that the stereotype is reinforced – tea party, creationism, anti-abortion – they are all part of the same stew that is today’s Republican party.
Via Charles Johnson
It’s horrifying to hear almost all the GOP presidential candidates proudly saying that victims of rape or incest should be forced to give birth to an attacker’s child. There’s nothing that makes the utter heartlessness of this fanatical agenda more evident, and now Rick Perry (who previously supported rape/incest exceptions) has announced that he’s a monster like the rest of them: Perry changes stance to oppose all abortions.
CNN – Texas Gov. Rick Perry revealed a hardening in his stance on abortion Tuesday, telling a crowd in Iowa that he opposed abortions in all cases, including when a woman had been raped or the victim of incest.
Previously, Perry had not opposed the procedure in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life was threatened.
Responding to a question about the change in position, Perry said, “You’re seeing a transformation.”
Perry told the crowd at his campaign stop that the decision came after watching a documentary on abortion produced by former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
“That transformation was after watching the DVD, ‘The Gift of Life,’” Perry said. “And I really started giving some thought about the issue of rape and incest. And some powerful, some powerful stories in that DVD.”
Perry said a woman who appeared in the movie who said she was a product of rape moved him to change his mind about abortion.
“She said, ‘My life has worth.’ It was a powerful moment for me,” Perry said.
The Republicans’ war on science and reason
By Katrina vanden Heuvel, Published: October 25
The 18th century was defined, in many ways, by the Enlightenment, a philosophical movement based on the idea that reason, rational discourse and the advancement of knowledge, were the critical pillars of modern life. The leaders of the movement inspired the thinking of Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin; its tenets can be found in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. But more than 200 years later, those basic tenets — the very notion that facts and evidence matter — are being rejected, wholesale, by the 21st-century Republican Party.
It’s on that basis that Ron Paul can say of evolution, “I think it’s a theory and I don’t accept it as a theory.” It’s on that basis that Rick Perry can call evolution “it’s a theory that’s out there, but one that’s got some gaps in it.” And it’s on that same basis, that same rejection of science, that Perry can say, “I’m not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how old the earth is.”
Then there’s Michele Bachmann, who has embraced the idea that the HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation, although not a single piece of medical evidence backs up her claim. How, then, did she come to that conclusion? That’s simple: A woman came up to her at a debate and told her so. Scientific evidence is anathema; superstitious and anecdotal asides, on the other hand, deserve to be repeated and amplified on a national stage, the consequences, in this case to countless women and girls, be damned.
This kind of guttural rejection of reason, evidence and science trickles into just about every aspect of Republican ideology. There’s Herman Cain’s much-discussed 9-9-9 plan, for example, which has been eviscerated by independents, conservative and progressive economists alike, but which Cain continues to champion. Why? Because, he argues, the skeptics haven’t read his analysis yet — as if he is entitled not just to his own facts but to his own math. It’s that same worldview that makes Cain comfortable, when asked about the Occupy Wall Street protests, to say, “I don’t [have] facts to back this up, but I happen to believe . . . ” Without facts, does it really matter how he finished the sentence?
Perry now fancies himself a flat-taxer, a position that might as well make him a flat-earther. A flat tax is, in his mind, a job creation proposal. In a reality based on reason and logic, it is a ticket straight back to recession. He might be giving — or getting — lessons from his fellow Republican, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who after boldly lying about Planned Parenthood on the floor of the Senate had his press flack explain that his remarks were not intended to be a factual statement. What then, one wonders, were they intended to be?
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, this kind of behavior is constantly rewarded by the media. As Al Gore noted in “An Inconvenient Truth,” while fewer than 1 percent of peer-reviewed scientific journals questioned the reality of man-made global warming, about half of all journalistic accounts did. In an age where media is obsessed with balance, facts are sidelined in favor of dueling opinions and false equivalence. That one is based on reason and science, the other on neither, is treated as entirely irrelevant. It’s a system ripe for exploitation, and conservatives are happy to oblige.
It seems worth reminding the candidates that these debates have been settled, many for decades, some for centuries and that the year is 2011, not 1611. In the coming decades, science — and a respect for science — will prove crucial to confronting our greatest global challenges, whether that means reducing our carbon footprint to combat climate change, finding new treatments and new cures to the diseases that ail us, or developing new innovations that can lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. We cannot afford to ignore the power of science or the problems we will need it to solve. Nor can we afford to make decisions about our economy, and our future, without reason or sound evidence. It’s time to take back the Enlightenment.
Katrina vanden Heuvel’s new book is “The Change I Believe In: Fighting for Progress in the Age of Obama.”
Right Wing fruitcake Sean Hannity attempted to elevate poor persecuted Sarah from bullied school into a saint Joan of Arc martyr effigy!
You would think these pair of hypocritical liars and loons were beyond parody; but John Stewart proves that wrong!
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Despite some brow-beating from CNN’s John King, Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen didn’t back down or apologize for his statements on the House floor that the lie by Republicans that the Affordable Care Act is a “government takeover” of health care is similar to the techniques used Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
Dem Rep: No apology for saying GOP mendacity is worthy of Goebbels:
Uh oh. Dem Rep. Steve Cohen has no intention to apologize for insisting in a controversial broadside on the House floor that GOP lies on health reform are worthy of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. In a lively interview with me just now, he doubled down on the claim — hard.
“I don’t think calling out liars is uncivil,” Cohen told me. “No reason to apologize. You have a duty to respond. if they were telling the truth and I said they were lying, then I would apologize,” Cohen continued, referring to Republicans.
In case you missed, it, on the House floor last night Cohen unleashed a head-turning series of claims, arguing that the “government takeover” claim by Republicans is “a big lie, just like Goebbels.” He added: “The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it — and you had the Holocaust.”
Conservatives have expressed outrage today and demanded that Dems condemn the comment, but Cohen has no intention of backing off. In our interview he rejected the idea that he had compared Republicans to Nazis.
“I said Goebbels lied about the Jews, and that led to the Holocaust,” Cohen said. “Not in any way whatsoever was I comparing Republicans to Nazis. I was saying lies are wrong…I dont know who got everybody’s panties in a wad over this statement.”
Cohen insisted that the invocation of Goebbels was legit, given the larger context: He said that Repubicans had, in fact, repeatedly used a big-lie technique on health care.
“There have been so many lies about the health care bill,” Cohen said, citing “death panels,” the GOP rejection of the Congressional Budget Office’s finding that repealing reform would hike the deficit, and the claim that health reform represents a “government takeover.”
“You can’t stop them from saying that lie,” Cohen said of the “government takeover” line. “It’s their mantra. They go to bed with it. They do Yoga with it.”
As one would expect, this has the right wingers going crazy. I think most liberals who follow politics were already more than aware of the amount of propaganda we’re being exposed to from Republicans and their enablers in the corporate media without Rep. Cohen pointing it out to us. I also don’t believe he meant to literally call Republicans Nazis by giving some historical context to the tactics they’re employing. Here are Rep. Cohen’s remarks on the House floor.
UPDATE: Cenk Uygur weighed in on Rep. Cohen’s statements on The Young Turks as well. While I can understand criticism of Cohen’s remarks as hyperbolic, that doesn’t mean his point about the propaganda and how dangerous it is for society isn’t truthful. Cenk has more on the feigned outrage and extreme hypocrisy we’re seeing from the right on this.
UPDATE 2: Rep. Cohen defended his remarks on Anderson Cooper’s show as well and explained that in no way was he trying to literally call the Republicans Nazis. He also said even though he was right to say what he did, he won’t be bringing it up again again. I won’t be surprised if we see him a apologize if the brow beating continues.
That said, I’ve really got to wonder what kind of shelf life this latest dust up has because I’m not quite sure either the Republicans or our corporate media want to go there if you really want to get into a prolonged discussion about how terrible both have been with propagandizing the public in America. You can make a lot of other comparisons to other propaganda campaigns and what the Republicans have been doing and they’re not a whole lot more flattering than the Goebbels analogy.
I’m pretty sure that’s a topic our corporate media would rather not spend a lot of time covering due to the fact that our they have been complicit in promoting the GOP’s lies and propagandizing the public as well, but who knows. I guess we’ll see how this gets spun shortly and to what degree.
Glenn Beck And Sean Hannity Dropped From Philadelphia Radio Station
Yesterday, hate radio hosts Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity had their nationally syndicated radio shows dropped from WPHT in Philadelphia, which is the second radio station to drop both of the conservative commentators. The moves were scheduled back in November 2010, and Marc Rayfield, market manager for CBS Radio in Philadelphia and senior vice president, said that WPHT wants to become “more of a locally based station.”
Just weeks ago, Beck was dropped from WOR in New York, but the most recent cancellation in Philadelphia hurts Beck even more. Beck got his start in Philadelphia, and many of his radio staffers still live in Philly, including Beck’s side-kick Stu. Immediately after being dropped yesterday, Beck dropped all affection for the city where he got his start, saying, “Philly sucks”:
“You know the killing streets right there in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia?” Beck told his producer. “You know how Philadelphia is not a place you want to be?” he added. “I’ll put you on a hidden cam and put you downtown at 6, 7 o’clock at night.” He could not believe his producer would be brave enough to walk around Center City at night. “Philly sucks,” Beck then said.
Last October, Hannity was dropped from KSL Radio in Utah, which is managed by Deseret Media Companies (DMC), a for-profit arm of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to reports, Hannity’s drop in Utah may have been due to a clash between DMC’s “Mission Statement,” which calls for the declaration of “light and knowledge” along with the advancement of “integrity, civility, morality, and respect for all people,” and Hannity’s constant lack of civility.
WPHT reportedly dropped both Beck and Hannity because they wanted more local talk content, but the most recent cancellations may be part of a pattern in which advertisers and broadcasters have become wary over the rhetoric spouted by hate radio. Color of Change reports that, so far, 81 companies have quit advertising on Beck’s Fox News show and Media Matter reports 100, including a list of those who haven’t withdrawn their advertisements.
John Pilger‘s Investigation Into the War on WikiLeaks and His Interview With Julian Assange
Friday 14 January 2011
Founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange. (Photo: Ben Bryant / Flickr)
The attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, are a response to an information revolution that threatens old power orders in politics and journalism. The incitement to murder trumpeted by public figures in the United States, together with attempts by the Obama administration to corrupt the law and send Assange to a hell-hole prison for the rest of his life, are the reactions of a rapacious system exposed as never before.
In recent weeks, the US Justice Department has established a secret grand jury just across the river from Washington in the eastern district of the state of Virginia. The object is to indict Assange under a discredited espionage act used to arrest peace activists during the First World War, or one of the “war on terror” conspiracy statutes that have degraded American justice. Judicial experts describe the jury as a “deliberate set up,” pointing out that this corner of Virginia is home to the employees and families of the Pentagon, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and other pillars of American power.
“This is not good news,” Assange told me when we spoke this past week, his voice dark and concerned. He says he can have “bad days – but I recover.” When we met in London last year, I said, “You are making some very serious enemies, not least of all the most powerful government engaged in two wars. How do you deal with that sense of danger?” His reply was characteristically analytical. “It’s not that fear is absent. But courage is really the intellectual mastery over fear – by an understanding of what the risks are and how to navigate a path through them.”
Regardless of the threats to his freedom and safety, he says the US is not WikiLeaks’ main “technological enemy.” “China is the worst offender. China has aggressive, sophisticated interception technology that places itself between every reader inside China and every information source outside China. We’ve been fighting a running battle to make sure we can get information through, and there are now all sorts of ways Chinese readers can get on to our site.”
It was in this spirit of “getting information through” that WikiLeaks was founded in 2006, but with a moral dimension. “The goal is justice,” wrote Assange on the homepage, “the method is transparency.” Contrary to a current media mantra, WikiLeaks material is not “dumped.” Less than one percent of the 251,000 US embassy cables have been released. As Assange points out, the task of interpreting material and editing that which might harm innocent individuals demands “standards [befitting] higher levels of information and primary sources.” To secretive power, this is journalism at its most dangerous.
On 18 March 2008, a war on WikiLeaks was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch.” US intelligence, it said, intended to destroy the feeling of “trust,” which is WikiLeaks’ “center of gravity.” It planned to do this with threats to “exposure [and] criminal prosecution.” Silencing and criminalizing this rare source of independent journalism was the aim: smear the method. Hell hath no fury like imperial Mafiosi scorned.
Others, also scorned, have lately played a supporting part, intentionally or not, in the hounding of Assange, some for reasons of petty jealousy. Sordid and shabby describe their behavior, which serves only to highlight the injustice against a man who has courageously revealed what we have a right to know.
As the US Justice Department, in its hunt for Assange, subpoenas the Twitter and email accounts, banking and credit card records of people around the world – as if we are all subjects of the United States – much of the “free” media on both sides of the Atlantic direct their indignation at the hunted.
“So, Julian, why won’t you go back to Sweden now?” demanded the headline over Catherine Bennett’s Observer column on 19 December, which questioned Assange’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct with two women in Stockholm last August. “To keep delaying the moment of truth, for this champion of fearless disclosure and total openness,” wrote Bennett, “could soon begin to look pretty dishonest, as well as inconsistent.” Not a word in Bennett’s vitriol considered the looming threats to Assange’s basic human rights and his physical safety, as described by Geoffrey Robertson QC, in the extradition hearing in London on 11 January.
In response to Bennett, the editor of the online Nordic News Network in Sweden, Al Burke, wrote to the Observer explaining, “plausible answers to Catherine Bennett’s tendentious question” were both critically important and freely available. Assange had remained in Sweden for more than five weeks after the rape allegation was made – and subsequently dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm – and that repeated attempts by him and his Swedish lawyer to meet a second prosecutor, who reopened the case following the intervention of a government politician, had failed. And yet, as Burke pointed out, this prosecutor had granted him permission to fly to London where “he also offered to be interviewed – a normal practice in such cases.” So, it seems odd, at the very least, that the prosecutor then issued a European arrest warrant. The Observer did not publish Burke’s letter.
This record straightening is crucial because it describes the perfidious behavior of the Swedish authorities – a bizarre sequence confirmed to me by other journalists in Stockholm and by Assange’s Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig. Not only that, Burke cataloged the unforeseen danger Assange faces should he be extradited to Sweden. “Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England,” he wrote, “clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is ample reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights.”
These documents have been virtually ignored in Britain. They show that the Swedish political class has moved far from the perceived neutrality of a generation ago and that the country’s military and intelligence apparatus is all but absorbed into Washington’s matrix around NATO. In a 2007 cable, the US Embassy in Stockholm lauds the Swedish government dominated by the conservative Moderate Party of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt as coming “from a new political generation and not bound by [anti-US] traditions [and] in practice a pragmatic and strong partner with NATO, having troops under NATO command in Kosovo and Afghanistan.”
The cable reveals how foreign policy is largely controlled by Carl Bildt, the current foreign minister, whose career has been based on a loyalty to the United States that goes back to the Vietnam War when he attacked Swedish public television for broadcasting evidence that the US was bombing civilian targets. Bildt played a leading role in the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a lobby group with close ties to the White House of George W. Bush, the CIA and the far right of the Republican Party.
“The significance of all this for the Assange case,” notes Burke in a recent study, “is that it will be Carl Bildt and perhaps other members of the Reinfeldt government who will decide – openly or, more likely, furtively behind a façade of legal formality – on whether or not to approve the anticipated US request for extradition. Everything in their past clearly indicates that such a request will be granted.”
For example, in December 2001, with the “war on terror” under way, the Swedish government abruptly revoked the political refugee status of two Egyptians, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari. They were handed to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm airport and “rendered” to Egypt, where they were tortured. When the Swedish ombudsman for justice investigated and found that their human rights had been “seriously violated,” it was too late.
The implications for the Assange case are clear. Both men were removed without due process of law and before their lawyers could file appeals to the European Human Rights Court and in response to a US threat to impose a trade embargo on Sweden. Last year, Assange applied for residency in Sweden, hoping to base WikiLeaks there. It is widely believed that Washington warned Sweden through mutual intelligence contacts of the potential consequences. In December, prosecutor Marianne Ny, who reactivated the Assange case, discussed the possibility of Assange’s extradition to the US on her web site.
Almost six months after the sex allegations were first made public, Assange has been charged with no crime, but his right to a presumption of innocence has been willfully denied. The unfolding events in Sweden have been farcical, at best. The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, describes the Swedish justice system as “a laughing stock … There is no precedent for it. The Swedes are making it up as they go along.” He says that Assange, apart from noting contradictions in the case, has not publicly criticized the women who made the allegations against him. It was the police who tipped off the Swedish equivalent of the Sun, Expressen, with defamatory material about them, initiating a trial by media across the world.
In Britain, this trial has welcomed yet more eager prosecutors, with the BBC to the fore. There was no presumption of innocence in Kirsty Wark’s “Newsnight” court in December. “Why don’t you just apologise to the women?” she demanded of Assange, followed by: “Do we have your word of honour that you won’t abscond?” On Radio 4’s “Today” program, John Humphrys, the partner of Bennett, told Assange that he was obliged to go back to Sweden “because the law says you must.” The hectoring Humphrys, however, had more pressing interests. “Are you a sexual predator?” he asked. Assange replied that the suggestion was ridiculous, to which Humphrys demanded to know how many women he had slept with.
“Would even Fox News have descended to that level?” wondered the American historian William Blum. “I wish Assange had been raised in the streets of Brooklyn, as I was. He then would have known precisely how to reply to such a question: ‘You mean including your mother?'”
What is most striking about these “interviews” is not so much their arrogance and lack of intellectual and moral humility; it is their indifference to fundamental issues of justice and freedom and their imposition of narrow, prurient terms of reference. Fixing these boundaries allows the interviewer to diminish the journalistic credibility of Assange and WikiLeaks, whose remarkable achievements stand in vivid contrast to their own. It is like watching the old and stale, guardians of the status quo, struggling to prevent the emergence of the new.
In this media trial, there is a tragic dimension, obviously for Assange, but also for the best of mainstream journalism. Having published a slew of professionally brilliant editions with the WikiLeaks disclosures, feted all over the world, The Guardian recovered its establishment propriety on 17 December by turning on its besieged source. A major article by the paper’s senior correspondent Nick Davies claimed that he had been given the “complete” Swedish police file with its “new” and “revealing” salacious morsels.
Assange’s Swedish lawyer Hurtig says that crucial evidence is missing from the file given to Davies, including “the fact that the women were re-interviewed and given an opportunity to change their stories” and the tweets and SMS messages between them, which are “critical to bringing justice in this case.” Vital exculpatory evidence is also omitted, such as the statement by the original prosecutor, Eva Finne, that “Julian Assange is not suspected of rape.”
Having reviewed the Davies article, Assange’s former barrister James Catlin wrote to me: “The complete absence of due process is the story and Davies ignores it. Why does due process matter? Because the massive powers of two arms of government are being brought to bear against the individual whose liberty and reputation are at stake.” I would add: so is his life.
The Guardian has profited hugely from the WikiLeaks disclosures, in many ways. On the other hand, WikiLeaks, which survives on mostly small donations and can no longer receive funds through many banks and credit companies thanks to the bullying of Washington, has received nothing from the paper. In February, Random House will publish a Guardian book that is sure to be a lucrative best seller, which Amazon is advertising as “The End of Secrecy: the Rise and Fall of WikiLeaks.” When I asked David Leigh, the Guardian executive in charge of the book, what was meant by “fall,” he replied that Amazon was wrong and that the working title had been “The Rise (and Fall?) of WikiLeaks.” “Note parenthesis and query,” he wrote, “Not meant for publication anyway.” (The book is now described on the Guardian web site as “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.”) Still, with all that duly noted, the sense is that “real” journalists are back in the saddle. Too bad about the new boy, who never really belonged.
On 11 January, Assange’s first extradition hearing was held at Belmarsh Magistrates Court, an infamous address because it is here that people were, before the advent of control orders, consigned to Britain’s own Guantanamo, Belmarsh prison. The change from ordinary Westminster magistrates’ court was due to a lack of press facilities, according to the authorities. That they announced this on the day Vice President Joe Biden declared Assange a “high tech terrorist” was no doubt coincidental, though the message was not.
For his part, Assange is just as worried about what will happen to Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower, being held in horrific conditions which the US National Commission on Prisons calls “tortuous.” At 23, Private Manning is the world’s pre-eminent prisoner of conscience, having remained true to the Nuremberg principle that every soldier has the right to “a moral choice.” His suffering mocks the notion of the land of the free.
“Government whistleblowers,” said Barack Obama, running for president in 2008, “are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.” Obama has since pursued and prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in American history.
“Cracking Bradley Manning is the first step,” Assange told me. “The aim clearly is to break him and force a confession that he somehow conspired with me to harm the national security of the United States. In fact, I’d never heard his name before it was published in the press. WikiLeaks technology was designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never knew the identities or names of people submitting material. We are as untraceable as we are uncensorable. That’s the only way to assure sources they are protected.”
He adds: “I think what’s emerging in the mainstream media is the awareness that if I can be indicted, other journalists can, too. Even the New York Times is worried. This used not to be the case. If a whistleblower was prosecuted, publishers and reporters were protected by the First Amendment that journalists took for granted. That’s being lost. The release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, with their evidence of the killing of civilians, hasn’t caused this – it’s the exposure and embarrassment of the political class: the truth of what governments say in secret, how they lie in public; how wars are started. They don’t want the public to know these things and scapegoats must be found.”
What about the allusions to the “fall” of WikiLeaks? “There is no fall,” he said. “We have never published as much as we are now. WikiLeaks is now mirrored on more than 2,000 websites. I can’t keep track of the of the spin-off sites: those who are doing their own WikiLeaks … If something happens to me or to WikiLeaks, ‘insurance’ files will be released. They speak more of the same truth to power, including the media. There are 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organisation and there are cables on Murdoch and Newscorp.”
The latest propaganda about the “damage” caused by WikiLeaks is a warning by the US State Department to “hundreds of human rights activists, foreign government officials and business people identified in leaked diplomatic cables of possible threats to their safety.” This was how The New York Times dutifully relayed it on 8 January, and it is bogus. In a letter to Congress, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has admitted that no sensitive intelligence sources have been compromised. On 28 November, McClatchy Newspapers reported, “US officials conceded they have no evidence to date that the [prior] release of documents led to anyone’s death.” NATO in Kabul told CNN it could not find a single person who needed protecting.
The great American playwright Arthur Miller wrote: “The thought that the state … is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.” What WikiLeaks has given us is truth, including rare and precious insight into how and why so many innocent people have suffered in reigns of terror disguised as wars and executed in our name; and how the United States has secretly and wantonly intervened in democratic governments from Latin America to its most loyal ally in Britain.
Javier Moreno, the editor of El Pais, which published the WikiLeaks logs in Spain, wrote, “I believe that the global interest sparked by the WikiLeaks papers is mainly due to the simple fact that they conclusively reveal the extent to which politicians in the West have been lying to their citizens.”
Crushing individuals like Assange and Manning is not difficult for a great power, however craven. The point is, we should not allow it to happen, which means those of us meant to keep the record straight should not collaborate in any way. Transparency and information, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, are the “currency” of democratic freedom. “Every news organisation,” a leading American constitutional lawyer told me, “should recognize that Julian Assange is one of them and that his prosecution will have a huge and chilling effect on journalism.”
My favorite secret document – leaked by WikiLeaks, of course – is from the Ministry of Defense in London. It describes journalists who serve the public without fear or favor as “subversive” and “threats.” Such a badge of honor.
John Pilger, Australian-born, London-based journalist, film-maker and author. For his foreign and war reporting, ranging from Vietnam and Cambodia to the Middle East, he has twice won Britain’s highest award for journalism. For his documentary films, he won a British Academy Award and an American Emmy. In 2009, he was awarded Australia’s human rights prize, the Sydney Peace Prize. His latest film is “The War on Democracy.”
Monday 10 January 2011
by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)
To: Palin-lovers, Fox “News,” the “mainstream” media, and the Far Right, et al.
From: William Rivers Pitt
Date: Monday 10 January 2011
Re: The blood on your hands
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords isn’t much older than I am. She served in the Arizona State House of Representatives, and the Arizona State Senate, before being elected to three successive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. She once described herself as a “former Republican,” and is today considered a “Blue Dog” Democrat, meaning she holds a number of conservative political positions. This is not terribly surprising, given the generally conservative political bent of the state she has served for the last ten years. She was married four years ago to a space shuttle commander who had served as a Naval aviator, and who flew 39 combat missions in Desert Storm, before volunteering for astronaut training.
Last Wednesday, she was sworn in to her third term as the Representative for Arizona’s 8th congressional district. One of her first acts in the newly-minted 112th Congress was to read aloud from the House floor, in response to the Republican Party’s recitation of the Constitution, the following lines: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
She returned to Arizona not long after to assist in the implementation of that most vital of Constitutional principles, calling together a meeting of her constituents in a peaceable assembly so the citizens she represents could petition the government for a redress of grievances. Among the gathered crowd were a number of her staffers, a judge, and a nine-year-old girl named Christina-Taylor Green who was born on September 11, 2001.
And then all Hell broke loose.
A man named Jared Lee Loughner waded into the group and fired a bullet into Rep. Giffords’ skull at point-blank range, before turning his weapon on others in the crowd. Christina-Taylor Greene, who would have celebrated her tenth birthday on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, was shot in the chest and killed. The woman who brought her to the event was also shot. Gabriel Zimmerman, who served as Rep. Giffords’ director of community outreach, was also killed. He was 30 years old, and was recently engaged to be married. U.S. District Judge John Roll, who had served on the bench for twenty years, was also killed. Dorwin Stoddard, a church volunteer, died after putting his body between his wife and the hail of bullets. His wife was also shot. Two of Rep. Giffords’ constituents, Dorothy Morris and Phyllis Scheck, were also killed. All in all, 31 shots were fired before several brave souls tackled Loughner, disarmed him, and wrestled him to the ground.
At the time of this writing, Rep. Giffords is lying in a hospital bed in critical condition. The God you Bible-spewing frauds love to flog the rest of us with must have been in that supermarket crowd with her on Saturday, with His hand on her shoulder, because it is nothing short of a full-fledged miracle she survived at all. Doctors are actually cautiously optimistic that she will survive, though the degree to which she will ultimately recover is still sorely in doubt. She can respond to simple commands, according to her doctors, and is marginally able to communicate. If she survives her wound, it is wretchedly certain her life will never, ever be the same.
I just thought you should know a few things about the people you helped into their graves and hospital beds this weekend.
You false patriots who bring assault rifles to political rallies, you hack politicians and media personalities who lied through your stinking teeth about “death panels” and “Obama is coming for your guns” and “He isn’t a citizen” and “He’s a secret Muslim” and “Sharia Law is coming to America,” you who spread this bastard gospel and you who swallowed it whole, I am talking to you, because this was your doing just as surely as it was the doing of the deranged damned soul who pulled the trigger. The poison you injected into our culture is deeply culpable for this carnage.
You who worship Jesus at the top of your lungs (in defiance of Christ’s own teachings on the matter of worship, by the way) helped put several churchgoers into their graves and into the hospital. You who shriek about the sanctity of marriage helped cut down a man who was about to be married. You who crow with ceaseless abandon about military service and the nobility of our fighting forces helped to critically wound the wife of a Naval aviator who fought for you in a war. You who hold September 11 as your sword and shield helped put a little girl born on that day into the ground.
You helped. Yes, damn you, you helped.
The “mainstream” media is already working overtime playing up the “Disturbed loner” angle with all their might. There is no doubt, from the available evidence, of Mr. Loughner’s transformation into a disturbed individual. But here’s the funny part: all the crazy crap he spewed, about the gold standard (a favorite of Glenn Beck, the master of Fox “News” fearmongering…so he can sell his gold scam to suckers) and government mind control and everything else before going on his rampage, is straight out of the Right-Wing Insanity Handbook. His personal YouTube ramblings were a mishmash of right-wing anti-government nonsense…the kind that attracts sick minds like Loughner, the kind that only reinforces their paranoia, the kind that finally pushes them over the brink and into the frenzy of violence that took place on Saturday. The kind that the likes of you have been happily spreading by the day.
He did not act alone. You were right there with him. You helped.
I’m talking to you, “mainstream” media people, who created this atmosphere of desperate rage and total paranoia out of whole cloth because of your unstoppable adoration for spectacle, and ratings, and because the companies that own your sorry asses agree with the deranged cretins you helped make so famous and powerful. It was sickeningly amusing on Sunday to watch Wolf Blitzer bluster and bluff on CNN about how the media owns no responsibility for this disaster. It was like watching a ten-year-old try to explain how a lamp got broken while he was running through the living room, but no, it wasn’t him. It was, in reality, a pathetic display…but that is what you generally get whenever Wolf is on your screen.
“Mainstream” news personalities like David Gergen and John King bent over backwards warning people not to blame Sarah Palin and her ilk for this calamity. It was a sick man who did this, they said. Bollocks to that. I hate to break this to the “mainstream” media know-betters, but words matter. When people like Palin spray the airwaves with calls to violence and incantations of imminent doom, people like Loughner are listening, and prepared to act. The “mainstream” media lets it fly without any questions or rebuttal, because it’s good for ratings, and here we are. Words matter. Play Russian Roulette long enough, and someone inevitably winds up dead.
Remember the run-up to the Iraq invasion, and the subsequent occupation? “WMD everywhere, al Qaeda connections to 9/11, plastic sheeting and duct tape because we’re all gonna die!” was the central theme of the majority of your broadcast schedule for years…until it was all proven to be a lie. You helped the liars, you were the liars, but you knew that. You also got your spectacle, and the corporations that own you got paid a king’s ransom, so everyone was happy, except the dead.
Tell me this is any different, I dare you. For the spectacle, the ratings and the pleasure of your owners, you ran names like “Sarah Palin” across the sky in lights, even after she should have faded into well-deserved obscurity, and helped this blister of right-wing rage fester until it finally burst. This was your show, and in perhaps the most wretched irony of all, I would bet all my worldly possessions that your ratings are through the roof right now. You got what you wanted. I hope you are pleased.
And yes, I’m talking to you, Sarah Palin, you unutterably disgusting fraud. You pulled it off your ridiculous website, but it’s out there: you put cross-hairs – literally, cross-hairs – on Rep. Giffords, you blithered about “reloading” instead of “retreating,” and you made this country more stupid and violent with every breath you took. Well, congratulations, you failure, you quitter, you inciter of mobs. You put the cross-hairs on her, and someone finally pulled the trigger. Run from it all you like, Lady MacBeth, but this blood will never be washed from your hands.
I’m talking to you, Sharron Angle, you walking punch-line, who talked about “Second Amendment remedies” being necessary if you didn’t get your way on health care reform during your failed Senate campaign.
I’m talking to you, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly, and Michael Savage, and Ann Coulter, and Laura Ingraham, and to every other right-wing tripe-spewing blowhard blogger and Fox News broadcaster. I hope you are proud of yourselves, because this is the day you get to reap what you have been relentlessly sowing since you were forced to encompass the unmitigated outrage of a Black man winning the office of President of the United States.
That’s right, I said it. Anyone who thinks good old-fashioned American bigotry and racism are not the core motivation for a vast majority of these so-called “revolutionaries” should get their heads examined. You’ve heard of the “elephant in the middle of the room?” Well, this is the burning cross in the middle of the room, and no amount of spin will douse those flames.
I’m talking to you, Koch Brothers. Your money to create and spread this disease was well-spent; you now have one less Democrat in the House to worry about, at least for the foreseeable future. Congratulations, you un-American sacks of filth.
And I’m talking to each and every one of you who listened to these traitors and believed the nonsense they spewed at you for no other reason than to pick your pockets for campaign/organization contributions. I’m talking to you who wore your silly fatigues and carried your badly-spelled fact-deprived signs to protests with pistols on your hips and rifles on your shoulders. You who threw bricks through the windows of politicians you disagreed with. You who shot out the windows of Rep. Giffords’ office not even a year ago.
You worked very hard to create exactly this atmosphere in America, and now it has come to be. We have entered the age of the Wrath of Fools, and we now must again exist in an America where the word “assassination” has become all too relevant.
You helped this happen. You.
You know it. I know it. Have the guts to admit it, even if only to yourselves.
I know many Republicans and conservatives, and consider them to be dear friends. The single most influential person in my life (aside from my mother) was a rock-ribbed conservative Republican, and there is no person I respected more than him. I do not count these people, and those like them, among those whom I address here. They are as sickened and repulsed by you as I am.
This is not the end of the story, but is just the beginning. The good people of the United States of America, the true patriots, have finally seen you with your media-painted masks ripped off. They have seen what comes to pass when hate, venom, ignorance and violence goes unchecked and unanswered. You have been exposed, and the fact that it took such an unimaginably horrific act for that exposure to take place only increases the fierceness with which you will be answered. You will be repudiated, not with violence, but with the scorn and rejection you so richly deserve. Spin it as you will, scramble all you like. You are found out, and you have nowhere to hide.
Oh, P.S., if anyone reading this is operating under the delusion that the overheated right-wing rhetoric that went a long way towards almost getting Rep. Giffords killed, and had a strong hand in putting six people in the ground, is some sort of new Obama-era phenomenon, well…
“I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus – living fossils – so we will never forget what these people stood for.”
– Rush Limbaugh, Denver Post, 12-29-95
“Get rid of the guy. Impeach him, censure him, assassinate him.”
– Rep. James Hansen (R-UT), talking about President Clinton
“We’re going to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.”
– Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), Mother Jones, 08-95
“My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”
– Ann Coulter, New York Observer, 08-26-02
“We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors.”
– Ann Coulter, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 02-26-02
“Chelsea is a Clinton. She bears the taint; and though not prosecutable in law, in custom and nature the taint cannot be ignored. All the great despotisms of the past – I’m not arguing for despotism as a principle, but they sure knew how to deal with potential trouble – recognized that the families of objectionable citizens were a continuing threat. In Stalin’s penal code it was a crime to be the wife or child of an ‘enemy of the people.’ The Nazis used the same principle, which they called Sippenhaft, ‘clan liability.’ In Imperial China, enemies of the state were punished ‘to the ninth degree’: that is, everyone in the offender’s own generation would be killed and everyone related via four generations up, to the great-great-grandparents, and four generations down, to the great-great-grandchildren, would also be killed.”
– John Derbyshire, National Review, 02-15-01
“Two things made this country great: White men & Christianity. The degree these two have diminished is in direct proportion to the corruption and fall of the nation. Every problem that has arisen (sic) can be directly traced back to our departure from God’s Law and the disenfranchisement of White men.”
– State Rep. Don Davis (R-NC), emailed to every member of the North Carolina House and Senate, reported by the Fayetteville Observer, 08-22-01
I could go on, and on, and on, and on, but you get the gist.
Most Disrespectfully Yours,
William Rivers Pitt
At Talk to Action, the veteran watcher of white supremacist and anti-semitic groups Chip Berlet writes, The Becking of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. An excerpt:
|From a moral viewpoint Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is the victim of demagogues such as Glenn Beck and his allies at Fox News and in the Tea Party Movement. This is not about legal liability but about moral culpability. This is about a nation that has lost its moral compass.Some of us progressive writers have been warning about this dangerous trend for several years. This includes my colleagues Fred Clarkson, David Neiwert, Sara Robinson, John Amato, Adele Stan, and others. We blame right-wing demagogues like Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter and a culture that tolerates their vicious targeting of scapegoats.
Now the shootings have created a new word floating across cyberspace: “becking.” To be “becked” is to be held up as such an evil and destructive person that someone, somewhere, will interpret it as a call to eliminate that problem through violence.
I made similar assertions after the murder of Dr. Tiller in a post at Religion Dispatches, “Who Will Rid Me of This Troublesome Doctor?”: Bill O’Reilly, King Henry II, and George Tiller” Here is what I wrote then:
On the day Dr. Tiller died, May 31, 2009, Gabrielle Winant on Salon traced O’Reilly’s relentless campaign against the murdered doctor. Winant wrote that some of O’Reilly’s characterizations of Tiller replicated “ancient conservative, paranoid stories: a decadent, permissive and callous elite tolerates moral monstrosities that every common-sense citizen just knows to be awful. Conspiring against our folk wisdom, O’Reilly says, the sophisticates have shielded Tiller from the appropriate, legal consequences for his deeds.”
So, concludes Winant: “O’Reilly didn’t tell anyone to do anything violent, but he did put Tiller in the public eye, and help make him the focus of a movement with a history of violence against exactly these kinds of targets.”
The analysts at Media Matters for America have been forcefully arguing the case against the “Emerging Culture of Paranoia” and the role of “Right-Wing Media” in fostering a toxic climate in which violence is more likely. Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert, who suggested after the Tiller murder that “O’Reilly and Fox News will have more right-wing vigilantism to explain,” selected some of O’Reilly’s most egregious statements demonizing Dr. Tiller. …
Hannah Arendt described the process of demagoguery leading to violence as it occurs in totalitarian regimes ranging from Hitler to Stalin. The demagogue frames the target, but leaves off a direct call for violence. But the message is clear. Unstable people often act first. Political ideologues, however, can be mobilized as the process continues to act as a group. Sara Robinson and I have been tracking the number of political murders since the inauguration of President Barack Obama. [See link below].
The people who “becked” Rep. Gabrielle Giffords began with a premise of dualism or Manicheaism, and then constructed a frame that uses demonization, scapegoating, and conspiracism to divide the world into a good ‘us’ and a bad ‘them’. …
Following the shooting of Rep. Giffords we once again heard calls for civility and pundits pointing out that hateful rhetoric is aimed at Republicans and conservatives by Democrats and their lefty allies. This is true, and I do object to liberals who hurl buckets of mud as we on the left are being buried in an avalanche of shit from right-wing demagogues with national television and radio programs, websites, and newspaper columns. The comparison is true in the manipulated facts yet false in the claim of equivalence.
Peter Daou writes about the bogus equivalency between right/left extremism in his post Gabriel Giffords and the rightwing hate machine.”The targeting of political scapegoats in our nation today is overwhelmingly coming from the Political Right. To claim otherwise is a lie easily debunked by even a modicum of research. A big lie. …
We who must speak out are not faced with death here in our nation this week. We are faced with our visage in a moral mirror looking back at our conscience which is telling us that we must speak out against the crescendo of totalitarian demagoguery. We must oppose the becking of our society.
How many more must die before we wake up and put a stop to this terrible trend?
Another important read on this subject is the 18-month-old Tragedy At The Holocaust Museum: Stand Up To Terrorism by Sara Robinson.
See also Marta Evry’s The “Becking” Of America: How Right-Wing Media and Politicians Incite Violence at Venice for Change.
The coming war on women
A war is coming.
Congressional Republicans have already made clear that their top priority, once they take control of Congress in the next session, is to make sure President Obama is a one-term president.
But there is a second priority that many Republicans in Congress, and in state legislatures around the country, have promised to pursue: the further restriction of women’s reproductive rights.
As Mother Jones reported in December:
If you thought the abortion battle during the health care debate was fierce, just wait until Republicans take over the House in January. Strengthened by congressional victories in the midterm elections, Republican abortion foes plan to push hard in the new year. Their top goals: enshrine tough restrictions on abortion funding into federal law and defund Planned Parenthood.
The incoming Speaker of the House, John Boehner, is a staunch opponent of women’s reproductive rights, with a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. In fact, last year, he received the 2010 Henry J. Hyde Defender of Life Award for his “extraordinary leadership in the fight to prevent taxpayer-funded abortion and for his work to protect women’s health in his own state of Ohio.” After the November election, his staff held a meeting with terrorist Randall Terry to receive Terry’s list of forced birth demands for the new Republican majority.
And then there is the selection of Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) as the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. As the New York Times reported:
The selection…presages a major shift on abortion and family planning, according to opponents and supporters of abortion rights.
Mr. Pitts was chosen last week as the chairman of the subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over private health insurance, Medicaid and much of Medicare, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.
In urging Republican leaders to choose Mr. Pitts, the National Right to Life Committee said he had “made the protection of the sanctity of innocent human life the cornerstone of his service in the House.”
Forced birthers acknowledge that even with the additional 45 seats they picked up in the midterms, it will be difficult to enact their desired legislation with a still Democratically-controlled Senate and a pro-choice president. But forced birthers have, in the past, succeeded in passing restrictive legislation with the help of even self-described pro-choice Democrats. In 2003, for example, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed with the help of 63 House Democrats and and 17 Senate Democrats, including then-Senator Joe Biden.
And of course, who can forget how Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak held health care reform hostage in order to extort further restrictions on women’s access to reproductive health care?
Last year, state legislators introduced more than 600 bills to restrict reproductive health care rights, dozens of which were enacted into law. Often, the laws are overturned by the courts for their blatant unconstitutionality, but that doesn’t stop forced birth legislators from continuing to introduce these bills in the hopes that they will reach the Supreme Court and ultimately be upheld.
As the Washington Independent reported:
With a wide swath of state legislatures in the GOP’s control beginning in January, Republicans across the country will have a new opportunity to subtly create laws restricting access to abortion.
“They have so many things in their arsenal to use — starting with an outright ban on certain types of abortion procedures (saline abortions have been a favorite target in the past) to banning abortion insurance coverage in the still- to-be-developed health care exchanges, to preventing any state funding to go to organizations that provide, refer or support abortions, to overturning the Doe v. Gomez case, which provides funding for abortions for women on Medicaid,” Linnea House of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota told Birkey.
Every year, the forced birth advocates invent ever more creative ways to chip away at women’s rights to reproductive health care. Like the Personhood Amendment, which was on the ballot in Colorado in the last midterm election.
Personhood is a term that conservative groups have taken to using, arguing that life needs to be defined, essentially, at the most original point possible, starting with the zygote and calling it a person. The restrictions of such amendments like Colorado’s have major implications on a woman’s legal right to choose: If personhood were codified into law, not only would all forms of abortion become illegal, but stem cell research would be banned and women would no longer have access to certain forms of birth control.
The amendment was soundly defeated, but that won’t stop legislators from continuing to push for personhood laws throughout the country. Such legislation is currently being pursued in 30 more states.
And then there are the fetal pain laws.
Abortion rights foes emboldened by a new Nebraska law that restricts late-term procedures based on the disputed notion that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks are pushing for similar legislation in other states, particularly those where Republicans won big in November.
National Right to Life held a strategy conference this week in Arlington, Va., to offer its state affiliates guidance for the 2011 legislative session. Indiana, Iowa and Kentucky lawmakers have already started drafting bills similar to Nebraska’s law, and abortion opponents are pushing lawmakers in Kansas, Maryland and Oklahoma to do the same.
Forced birthers have already made clear their intention to use the new health care reform law to deny reproductive health care to women. According to the Guttmacher Institute:
In late July, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and some 165 cosponsors introduced the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Smith argued that the debate over health care reform and its outcome made clear that “it is time for a single, government-wide permanent protection against taxpayer funding for elective abortion.” His solution includes refighting the fight over health care to enact the Stupak amendment to essentially ban abortion coverage in exchange plans. He would further solidify the Hyde amendment and its progeny (affecting all women dependent on the federal government for their health care or insurance), by writing the prohibitions into permanent law, instead of their current form in which they must be—and are—renewed annually on the various relevant appropriations bills. The original Hyde amendment has been enacted annually since 1978; most of the other abortion funding restrictions spanning the federal government were enacted starting in the early 1980s.
The Smith bill would go even further, however, into uncharted territory. It would carry the argument against funding abortion to an extreme by preventing employers from taking a tax deduction for insurance plans that include abortion coverage. Moreover, individuals’ premiums for plans that cover abortion could not be paid with pretax dollars. In addition, any costs incurred by an individual for an abortion would be disallowed under a flexible health spending account or for the purposes of a potential medical care deduction from federal taxes.
Even though President Obama has repeatedly stated his support for women’s reproductive health care, he has already compromised on those issues. And given that he has made clear his willingness to compromise on even his most fundamental principles, there is no way to know what further compromises Republicans will be able to extort, should they decide to again take the American people hostage.
Despite Republicans’ promises to re-dedicate the government to focusing on the “real” problems Americans face, it is abundantly clear that they are, in fact, dedicated to restoking the flames of the culture wars, with the battle to strip women of their reproductive rights front and center in that war. The real question is whether self-described pro-choice Democrats, including and especially the president, will have the strength to fight back. Because this is a war women can’t afford to lose.