In the USA....United Surveillance AmericaReport: CIA Misled Congress over Interrogation Program
by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 April 2014, 06:42
A damning Senate report concluded that the CIA misled Congress and the American public by downplaying the severity of its interrogations and overstating intelligence gleaned from the sessions, The Washington Post said Monday.
Several officials familiar with the classified 6,300-page document, years in the making, said it detailed the brutality of an enhanced interrogation program that yielded little actionable intelligence beyond what was already obtained from detainees before they were subjected to the objectionable techniques.
"The CIA described (its program) repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as getting unique, otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives," a U.S. official briefed on the document told the daily.
"Was that actually true? The answer is no."
Officials also spoke of the abuses undertaken within the vast system of secret detention sites to which terror suspects were taken and interrogated.
The abuse often took place under brutal conditions, including the previously undisclosed method of repeatedly dunking suspects in ice water -- until President Barack Obama ordered the system dismantled in 2009.
Classified files reviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigators, who put together the report, showed that CIA employees left the agency's secret black site in Thailand, disturbed by the abuses that were being administered there.
Officials at CIA headquarters ordered the harsh interrogation techniques to continue "even after analysts were convinced that prisoners had no more information to give," the Post said.
The records were said to make it clear that the CIA obtaining key intelligence against al-Qaeda, including information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, had little to do with the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."
One official said nearly the entirety of valuable threat-related information from al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida, captured in Pakistan in 2002, was obtained during questioning by an FBI agent while Zubaida was in hospital in Pakistan -- before he was interrogated by the CIA, whose agents waterboarded him 83 times.
The explosive account comes as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein pushes to get parts of the report declassified and made public.
Her committee is expected to vote Thursday on whether to send the report's executive summary and key conclusions and recommendations, a total of about 400 pages, to the White House for declassification.
Committee staffers spent countless hours pouring over more than six million pages of documents in collating what has become one of the most comprehensive oversight projects in congressional history.
Their report has caused a deep rift between the intelligence agencies and the Senate panel tasked with conducting oversight of the spy activities, with each side accusing the other of potentially criminal violations related to accessing computer systems used during the investigation.
****************Chemical industry-funded senators want to hide chemical industry funding of studies
By Travis Gettys
Monday, March 31, 2014 13:53 EDT
Republican lawmakers who are trying to change research disclosure rules to hide corporate influence received more than $150,000 in campaign contributions from chemical companies who stand to benefit from the change.
Corporations may already submit studies they’ve paid for themselves as evidence in court or during congressional debate, but they must disclose how the research was funded to reveal any possible conflicts of interest.
However, this nod toward transparency apparently imposed too great a burden on the silica industry, which wanted to provide Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with research that found its products to be safe.
OSHA chief David Michaels wants to update guidelines for working with silica dust, a significant hazard for construction workers and others exposed to the industrial byproduct that can cause lung cancer and other deadly diseases.
“What I’m doing here is essentially saying the information that we will base our standard on has to be of the highest integrity, and we have to do it in a transparent manner, and conflict-of interest disclosure is an important component of both of those,” said Michaels, an Obama appointee. “It would be surprising right now if a scientific journal didn’t ask for that information.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and 15 other Republican senators sent a letter to OSHA objecting to the agency’s insistence that any evidence submissions include funding sources.
“Disclosing the funding sources of commenters who submit scientific or technical research raises questions about whether OSHA will use that information to prejudge the substance of those comments and could result in dissuading stakeholders from even submitting comments,” the senators said in the letter.
An Alexander staffer went further, suggesting the requirement would limit debate.
“The chilling effect the financial disclosure could have seems counter to the idea of robust inclusion of a diverse set of ideas and views to inform the rule-making,” said Alexander spokeswoman Liz Wolgemuth.
As The Daily Beast points out, any brief filed in federal court must include a disclosure of interest by those making the arguments, and senators must disclose any campaign contribution over $200.
The campaign contribution requirement allowed Maplight.org to reveal those 16 lawmakers – who comprise nearly one-third of Senate Republicans – had received $151,266 between July 24 and Nov. 16, when the letter was written, from companies that opposed new OSHA regulations on silica dust.
***************Supreme Court wary of major change to software patent law
Monday, March 31, 2014 15:48 EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court justices stepped gingerly into a raging debate over computer software on Monday, voicing concerns about vaguely defined patents but signaling they would avoid any radical change to existing law.
This may help tech companies fend off lawsuits filed by “patent trolls,” defined as companies that hold patents only for the purpose of suing firms seeking to develop new products, but not as much as a broad ruling would.
For companies holding many patents, such as IBM Corp, a narrow ruling from the court would be better than a broader decision that tightened patent eligibility.
From their questions during an hour-long oral argument, the justices appeared likely to rule, as expected, that patents held by Australian company Alice Corp Pty Ltd for a computer system that facilitates financial transactions were not patent eligible. CLS Bank International, which uses similar technology, challenged the patents in 2007.
Although some of the nine justices signaled a willingness to go further and provide new guidance to lower courts that would describe exactly what types of computer-implemented inventions were patent eligible, others suggested there was no need for so broad a ruling. A ruling is expected by the end of June.
If the court were to avoid any major pronouncements, the outcome could mirror a 2010 case, Bilski v. Kappos, in which the court was expected to offer guidance on business method patents but eventually issued a relatively narrow 9-0 decision.
COMPANIES WATCHING CLOSELY
Chief Justice John Roberts questioned whether a proposed test, suggested by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli on behalf of President Barack Obama’s administration, would make the complex issue any clearer.
“I’m just doubtful that’s going to bring about greater clarity and certainty,” Roberts said of the proposal.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor also suggested the court might steer clear of the broader question.
“Why do we have to … reach software patents at all in this case?” she asked Verrilli.
The case is being closely watched by a broad swath of companies in the technology sector and beyond.
Google Inc, Dell Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, Microsoft Corp, and Hewlett-Packard Co were among a large list of companies that filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of CLS. A smaller number, including engine manufacturer Cummins Inc, supported Alice, while others, like IBM, supported neither side.
Companies vary over what kind of eligibility threshold they would prefer. Those that often get sued for patent infringement, such as Google, favor a tighter definition. Those that want to protect their many patents, such as IBM, would prefer that most software be patent eligible.
LOWER COURT SPLIT
In May 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., ruled for CLS but the judges were split 5-5 on which legal test to adopt.
On the patents contested in the case, several justices, including Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, suggested they appeared to be too abstract to be eligible for patents. Previous Supreme Court rulings have said abstract ideas are generally not eligible for patents unless the inventor shows a way of applying the idea.
Making references to ancient Greek inventor Archimedes and other historical figures, Justice Stephen Breyer was one of the court members who appeared keen on a ruling that would have broad application.
On the one hand, he noted, patent eligibility that is too broad creates monopolies and reduces competition down to “who has the best patent lawyer.” On the other hand, if patent eligibility is too strict, it could “rule out real inventions with computers,” he added.
The case is Alice Corp v. CLS Bank, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-298
(Editing by Howard Goller and Grant McCool)
***************Republicans vow to repeal Obamacare, even as White House claims enrollment goal exceeded
Tuesday, April 1, 2014 6:13 EDT
The White House said Monday that it expects final enrollment numbers for private health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act in 2014 to be “substantially larger” than 6 million after a busy final weekend of in-person and online signups.
“Here on the last day of enrollment, we’re looking at a number substantially larger than 6 million people enrolled,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, noting he was not sure when the government would be able to release its final enrollment figures.
The White House also said it has resolved a glitch affecting HealthCare.gov that temporarily prevented new users from accessing application and enrollment tools around midday, as website traffic volumes surged hours before a midnight deadline to enroll in private health insurance.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is responsible for implementing the healthcare law, said those who were already in the system were able to complete the enrollment process.
More than 6 million people had signed up for private health coverage through the new Obamacare insurance markets by last week, surpassing a target set after a disastrous October rollout called the enrollment process into question.
With daily volumes continuing to surge, analysts believe the final tally could approach or even exceed an original goal of 7 million.
“We admittedly had just a terrible start because the website wasn’t working, and despite losing effectively two months, we are going to be reasonably close to that original projection,” Obama said in a CBS Evening News interview that was taped last week and broadcast on Monday.
A successful enrollment would give an important political boost to the administration and its Democratic allies, who are locked in an election year battle with Republicans over the future of Obamacare.
“No one expected us to come back from the brink,” Carney told reporters before the broadcast. “But we have. And I think that merits noting in your reports.”
Analysts say the total enrollment is less important than the number of healthy policyholders in the marketplaces, which have probably attracted large numbers of older people and consumers with pre-existing medical conditions, who are costlier to insure.
Obama told CBS that young people, who are generally healthy, were signing up in larger numbers late in the enrollment period, as expected.
In Houston on Monday, prospective enrollees again lined the sidewalks outside special city offices in hopes of obtaining private insurance coverage that comes with federal subsidies for low-income people.
“It’s madness. But it’s good madness,” said Tiffany Hogue, statewide healthcare campaign coordinator for the nonprofit Texas Organizing Project, which is helping with the 11th-hour enrollment drive in the state.
People also crowded health centers across Florida as navigators and others trained to assist with online enrollment struggled with HealthCare.gov’s access problems. Compounding the website’s challenges were long waits at a federal call center set up as an alternative route to coverage, according to health center officials.
“It’s been very, very, very busy. But the website issues haven’t been bad, and people realize they’ve waited until the last minute,” said Andrew Behrman, chief executive officer of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, which represents facilities in nearly 350 locations.
“What can I tell you? It’s like a last-minute sale,” he added.
Texas and Florida, whose political leaders reject Obamacare, have the biggest uninsured populations among the 36 states served by HealthCare.gov. The remaining 14 states, including California and New York, have set up their own insurance marketplaces.
Virtual waiting room
HealthCare.gov’s performance on the final day of a six-month enrollment period was delayed until 8 a.m. EDT after a government tech team noticed a software bug and extended an overnight maintenance schedule to deal with the problem.
A few hours later, new users logging on to the federal website that serves consumers in 36 states were suddenly unable to create accounts and begin the enrollment process as volume reached what administration officials called record levels. By early afternoon, officials reported the issue resolved.
“Record traffic continues before the midnight ET deadline. As of 2 p.m., HealthCare.gov had more than 1.6 million visits. As of 4 p.m., there were more than 840,000 calls to the call center,” said Joanne Peters, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
She said the day’s high volumes triggered the system’s virtual waiting room, a holding page where people can wait to be let into the website.
The call center volume shattered the previous record of 646,000 for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services call centers, which occurred on Medicare Part D’s last day to enroll on May 15, 2006.
As enrollment has gathered pace, opinion polls have shown public opinion on Obamacare sharply split, with the law slowly gaining favor. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll on Monday said 49 percent of Americans now support the law, up from 40 percent in November. The latest data has a 3.5 percentage-point margin of error.
Republicans continued to pour scorn on Obamacare as a mistake that would harm consumers and small businesses.
“Republicans will continue to work to repeal this law,” House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said in statement.
“We’re achieving something today that I know has our critics gnashing their teeth,” Carney, the White House spokesman, said of the law’s political opponents. “It leaves them with the need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to other means of trying to attack.”
The system’s data services hub, which connects HealthCare.gov to federal agencies, remained fully operational, allowing people already in the system to complete their enrollment, she said.
The delays occurred as healthcare reform faced a crucial test to see how many people sign up for new insurance under the Obamacare marketplaces.
Americans have until midnight on Monday to obtain health insurance under Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or face fines. The administration has softened the deadline to accommodate those who attempt to apply for coverage by Monday night but run into technology issues.
The administration said the website “has handled record consumer demand well. Over the weekend, the site saw 2 million visits,” the government said, and more than 8.7 million visits during the past week.
HealthCare.gov’s consumer-facing technology has worked more or less smoothly since December following an emergency overhaul ordered by the White House. However, there are still some parts of the back-end systems that remain unbuilt.
******************Ryan Unsuited to Lead ‘Adult Conversation’ About Poverty
March 29, 2014
by Greg Kaufmann
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) takes part in a San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event, Thursday, January 23, 2014, in San Antonio. Ryan said House Republicans will tackle immigration reform in pieces rather than the Senate's comprehensive approach. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
These days, a favorite talking point of Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s is calling for an “adult conversation” about poverty.
“It’s time for an adult conversation,” he told The Washington Post.
“If we actually have an adult conversation,” he said in remarks at the Brookings Institution, “I think we can make a difference.”
The problem is that a prerequisite for any adult conversation is telling the truth and it is there the congressman falls monumentally short.
In addition to Rep. Ryan’s recent, racially-coded comments about “our inner cities” where “generations of men [are] not even thinking about working,” his rhetoric around policy should raise red flags for anyone — including the media — assessing his credibility.
In addition to Rep. Ryan’s recent, racially-coded comments about “our inner cities” where “generations of men [are] not even thinking about working,” his rhetoric around policy should raise red flags for anyone — including the media — assessing his credibility.
A report from Emily Oshima Lee, policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, examines the hatchet job Rep. Ryan did on Medicaid in his 204-page account of antipoverty programs that The Washington Post generously described as a “critique.” Indeed, Ryan’s report — which would have been flagged by my excellent 10th grade English teacher for misrepresenting and cherry-picking data — is a dangerous disservice to a public which has neither the time nor the staff that Ryan has at his disposal to delve into literature assessing antipoverty programs.
Lee notes that Ryan misuses research to imply that Medicaid coverage leads to poorer health — that people enrolled in Medicaid will have worse health than those with private insurance and the uninsured.
“The privately insured comparison is patently unfair because these people tend to be higher income and that comes with a whole host of health privileges,” said Lee.
She notes that Medicaid enrollees tend to struggle a lot more with chronic conditions and illnesses than other populations.
“A large body of literature identifies various social determinants of health, including socioeconomic status and living and work environments, as risk factors for poor health outcomes,” writes Lee, in my opinion admirably resisting the temptation to add, “duh.”
As for the uninsured being healthier — it would be one thing if Ryan were making an “apples to apples” comparison, but he’s not.
“The uninsured is a diverse group and doesn’t only include low-income individuals. It may include people who are high-income and don’t really want insurance but can afford health services, and lower-income people who may not have previously enrolled in insurance for a number of reasons — including cost and not having any real health issues,” Lee says. “But again, to imply that Medicaid is somehow making people worse off is absurd.”
Ryan also argues that Medicaid coverage has little positive effect on enrollees’ health. But as Lee points out, Ryan conveniently overlooks studies showing an association between Medicaid and lower mortality rates; reduced low-weight births and infant and child mortality; and lower mortality for HIV-positive patients, among other heath benefits.
“In general, we need more data to accurately assess the effect of Medicaid coverage on people’s health,” Lee continues. “But several studies do indicate positive health and non-health effects of coverage — such as increased use of preventive care and greater financial security.”
Despite Ryan’s shabby work when it comes to antipoverty policy, the media repeatedly seems willing to overlook it.
Rep. Ryan also plays on fears of low-income people abusing the welfare system when he asserts that Medicaid coverage improperly increases enrollees’ use of health care services, including preventive care and emergency department services. Ryan makes this case too by comparing Medicaid enrollees to uninsured people, who, as Lee writes, “are less likely to use health care services due to significant financial barriers.”
“Presenting data that Medicaid enrollees use more health services than the uninsured affirms that insurance coverage allows people who need care to seek it out,” writes Lee, “and that being uninsured is a major barrier to receiving important medical care.”
Further, one of the two studies Ryan references explicitly states that “neither theory nor existing evidence provides a definitive answer to… whether we should expect increases or decreases in emergency-department use when Medicaid expands.”
Despite Ryan’s shabby work when it comes to antipoverty policy, the media repeatedly seems willing to overlook it. That’s another strike against the prospects of a truly adult conversation about poverty — in addition to honesty, it requires accountability.
*****************John Kerry: The Hardest Working Man in the Diplomacy Business
By: Becky Sarwate
Tuesday, April, 1st, 2014, 9:10 am
While CNN busies itself covering every non-development in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 (I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Newt Gingrich. He makes for amazing treadmill grist.), the world continues to turn. And as much of the nation’s news apparatus is rightfully preoccupied with a triumphant conclusion to Obamacare’s first enrollment test, it’s been another busy week for foreign policy.
Such is one of the many perversities plaguing the Obama era. Every time the beleaguered POTUS wants to shine the spotlight on domestic issues, international unrest just won’t have it. Thankfully, he has arguably the modern era’s most unflappable State Department leader by his side. There seems to be no number of hairy, potentially history changing crises that Kerry cannot attack at once.
Secretary of State John Kerry is a busy fellow. Last week the former Presidential candidate was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for what I am sure were tense discussions regarding the years-long Syrian conflict, ongoing negotiations with Iran and a host of other topics. Apparently a glutton for punishment, Kerry was halfway home this past weekend before turning his plane around and heading for Paris.
According to a report from Matthew Lee of the Associated Press, “Kerry [was] to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Sunday evening at the Russian ambassador’s residence. Kerry spoke to Lavrov on the flight to Shannon after President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a call on Friday to have their foreign ministers meet to discuss a possible diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine situation.”
Seriously, if the only channel one watches is CNN, it’s easy to become transfixed by the Flight 370 black box countdown and Richard Quest’s virtuoso ability to make floating jellyfish sound like a break in the search. But change the station. There’s plenty of other stuff not happening.
John Kerry is definitely the ‘don’t put off until tomorrow that which can be done today’ sort. I like this Kerry, the urgent, sincere, and dare I say bold Secretary who can juggle multiple serious imbroglios without misplacing a strand of that lovely silver hair. Would that he had been half so interesting in 2004.
Apparently opposed to a good night’s rest, Kerry was up and at it early Monday morning. According to a report from Shira Schoenberg of The Republican, “As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry jetted to Israel on Monday in an attempt to revive faltering peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Israeli members of parliament visiting Boston reacted with mixed emotions, ranging from cautious optimism to strong pessimism.” That’s right. Kerry can mix it up with naysaying Israeli lawmakers talking to the press on two different continents. Boom.
And because North Korea needs to make sure the world still knows it exists every few months, the communist nation exchanged fire with its neighbor to the South in the early part of the week. While North Korea’s aggression in the event, according to Kashmira Gander of The Independent, is attributable to “an expression of Pyongyang’s frustration at making little progress in its recent push to secure international aid,” The White House and the State Department are expected to formulate some type of official response. Kerry’s got this.
Obviously some of my remarks have been semi-serious, but my respect for John Kerry’s energy and leadership is completely genuine. Others might have deemed following the celebrity and competence of Hilary Clinton’s turn in the Cabinet a daunting task not worth the undertaking. But Kerry accepted the challenge and even afterward, could easily have chosen to play it safe. Instead, with everything else on his international plate (and by extension ours), the man continues fighting the good two-nation, Israeli/Palestine fight. He seems completely unburdened by previous decades of failure to achieve a solution, and if he doubts his own eventual success, it doesn’t show.
I don’t mean to suggest that the combustible situations unfolding across the globe aren’t deadly serious. They are and it’s precisely because so much is at stake in so many regions that I am grateful for Kerry’s cool-headed, thoughtful, yet unwavering direction. He may not know it all, but he’s a thinker, a statesman, not a trigger happy cowboy. I think he’s found his calling.
****************John Boehner’s Shafting Of the Unemployed Has Cost The Economy Nearly $5 Billion
By: Sarah Jones
Monday, March, 31st, 2014, 12:54 pm
Chalk another “success” up for House Republicans in their jihad against the economic recovery. They’ve caused the economy to lose nearly $5 billion since they refused to renew extended unemployment compensation for more than 2.2 million Americans. Mind you, this $5 billion isn’t all that House Republicans have irresponsibly and for partisan political purposes cost the US taxpayer, as their IRS witch hunts, Benghazi hearings, and ObamaCare repeal votes and hearings haven’t exactly been cheap.
The U.S. economy has lost $4.7 billion ($4,698,892,545 to be exact – see the breakdown below) in the first three months of the year due to the Dec. 28 expiration of federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation, according to an analysis released today Monday by Ways and Means Committee Democrats.
Sandy Levin (D-MI) is not impressed. He knows, like most people with at least a modicum of intelligence, that unemployment is not just for the unemployed, but it also helps to boost the economy. He wearily explained this fact again in case any Republicans were listening, “Unemployment insurance has played a vital role in our economic recovery and the program’s expiration has drained billions of dollars from state economies during the last three months.”
The Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member tried to shame the House Republicans into helping America as the Senate is, “Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake, as are the livelihoods of millions of Americans laid off through no fault of their own. The Senate is taking another bipartisan step on the long-road to extending this critical lifeline today and the House needs to also act to stand with job-seeking Americans.”
Last week, Senate Republicans shamed House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) over his refusal to help the economy and the jobless to no avail. So it’s sort of the Sane Senators Versus the House Republicans in a battle to the death.
But, you know, this House. They don’t want to help America, so this argument might be the wrong tact to take. It’s tough to know with modern day Republicans, between their lusting after Putin and their frat boy tweets to world leaders, just what kind of tone should be set when attempting to have policy discussions.
Anyway. The world carries on without them so here are some facts provided by the Ways and Means Committee Democrats, and yes, they are partisan but the source information is not and let us not forget, neither is the issue or the agenda. Their source is the U.S. Department of Labor, “EUC Program Activity.” Oh, wait, Republicans don’t trust the Department of Labor anymore either- something about a birth certificate or a conspiracy with Obama to fool them all or DOL boogeymen under their beds. So maybe this is just for the sane folks. Which makes it perfect. After all, before Obama, extending long term unemployment was just something Congress did because it was helpful for the economy. Now it’s suddenly a partisan thing for House Republicans.
The state-by-state projections for the three-month period are based on the total federal unemployment insurance that Americans received in each state during the last three months of 2013. Nationwide, nearly 72,000 people are losing unemployment insurance, on average, every week – adding to the 2.2 million Americans who have already lost their benefits.
Yes, the 5 billion dollar fail is all due to their partisan poutfest over unemployment benefits. You see, the Senate has put forth a bipartisan agreement to pay for the renewal, but that’s not good enough for House Republicans, who claim some kind of bizarre moral superiority regarding fiscal responsibility, when in actuality they are tossing money into the trash just to be spiteful.
Republicans against the economy — to the death!
Estimated Lost Unemployment Benefits in the First Three Months of 2014 Due to the Shutdown of the Federal UI Program. Projections Based on EUC spending in last quarter of 2013
State: Projected Lost UI in Jan-March 2014 (total)
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor, “EUC Program Activity.”
NOTES: “*” indicates NC had terminated its EUC program prior to the end of 2013.
****************Court Case Is Just One Way Hobby Lobby Is Trying to Impose Its Beliefs
Monday, March, 31st, 2014, 10:30 am
Dominionism (Christian Reconstructionism) is the dangerously tyrannical idea that god granted Christians the right to force either a nation governed by Christians or one governed by conservative Christian biblical law on a nation that exists primarily among evangelical fundamentalists in the United States; it is theocracy and very closely related to theonomy. Theonomy is the idea, espoused by American evangelical Christians, that Mosaic Law must be observed by all Americans under pain of death and is the exact Christian equivalent of Islamic Sharia Law the Dominionist movement has worked towards for well over twenty years.
Dominionists lust to implement a Christian theocracy to govern America along the lines of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and tearing democracy down by Republican legislation has been a slow but methodical means to institute biblical law in America. However, Dominionists have been treated to a quicker and more permanent means to prevail by using the conservative Supreme Court to rule that Christians’ religious liberty supersedes established law, and they are giddy their objective is within their reach. The Hobby Lobby case before the High Court is a golden opportunity the company’s Christian Reconstructionist owners hope will help hasten a theocratic coup d’état in America, but it is just one avenue in the company’s multi-faceted machinations to impose their version of Christianity on the nation.
Hobby Lobby co-founder Barbara Green said that as a good Christian corporation Hobby Lobby is not before the Supreme Court because they want to meddle with a woman’s right to take contraceptives. She said “We’re not trying to control that, we’re just trying to control our participation in it.” However, that statement is as completely deceitful and an outright lie as the company claiming they are only protecting their religious freedom and Barbara Green knows it; apparently good Christians lie with impunity if they do it in the “lord god almighty’s name.” It is beyond the pale that Green has the temerity to lie with a straight face and claim they are not meddling with a woman’s right to choose when they are attempting to use their Christianity to disregard the law and prohibit a woman’s right to use contraceptives. The Greens are on a crusade to do much more than protect their own religious freedom or dominate America’s women by heavily funding, with the Koch brothers, a political network of Christian activists deeply invested in forcing a biblical agenda into American law initially to subjugate women and put an end to equal rights for gays; dominating the rest of the population will come later.
According to a federal tax document revealed last week, Hobby Lobby is the primary funder of the “the largest Christian grant-making foundation in the world” (National Christian Charitable Foundation) that was the principal funder of two Christian groups, the Center for Arizona Policy and the Alliance Defending Freedom, that produced and actively promoted Arizona’s “religious freedom to disregard the Constitution” (SB 1062) legislation vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer last month. The tax document shows a total of nearly $65 million in contributions from a combination of Jon Cargill, Hobby Lobby CFO, and “Crafts Etc.,” a Hobby Lobby affiliate company. The document shows that Hobby Lobby-related contributions were from a facility housing Hobby Lobby’s headquarters in Oklahoma City, and that Hobby Lobby was the single largest source of tax-deductible donations to the Dominionist organization the National Christian Charitable Foundation (NCCF).
In 2012, the National Christian Charitable Foundation had more than $1.22 billion in assets under management in donor-advised funds that offered “innovative, tax-smart solutions to help simplify giving, multiply impact, and glorify God.” Since 1982 NCCF grants totaling $4.3 billion funded a wide range of religious causes, including some very near and dear to the Koch brothers, such as climate science denial, taxpayer funded “voucher” charter schools, promoting free markets (deregulation), and pro-life advocacy. The Alliance Defending Freedom is a national Christian organization the group’s website claims intends to “spread the Gospel by transforming the legal system and advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family;” four major Dominionist objectives. The National Christian Charitable Foundation’s primary goal is the same as Hobby Lobby’s owners; push an extreme right-wing Christian agenda that allows businesses to use a distorted interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause to discriminate against gays and deny their employees contraceptives and disregard any law their “free exercise of religion” deems is contrary to their bastardized version of Christianity. The Koch brothers support Hobby Lobby to bolster their bona fides with evangelicals and they will celebrate a ruling for Hobby Lobby that will complete the corporate personhood designation the oil magnates need to disregard federal laws with impunity. A High Court ruling for corporate religious personhood will be the corporate world’s ideal “conscience clause” protection to ignore laws and statutes that violate their concept of free enterprise including paying minimum wage, flouting federal and state taxes, banning workplace safety measures, and ignoring environmental regulations.
Hobby Lobby’s owners donate heavily to the National Christian Charitable Foundation to ensure its continued effort to test the limits of the legal system’s interpretation of religious freedom is successful and reaches fruition sooner than Dominionists had anticipated. According to Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, “Ideologically, the thing that unites Hobby Lobby’s contraception case and Arizona’s SB 1062 is an attempt to use religious exercise as a sword to impose religious belief on others, even if it harms others, which would be a radical expansion of free exercise law.” Martin is right, of course, but it appears she does not understand that harming others under a radically expanded “free exercise” interpretation is, like harsh Sharia Law, the goal of Christian Dominionists who intend to use the threat of harm to control the population.
The Center for Arizona Policy (SB 1062) supported by Hobby Lobby through the NCCF said the group’s primary focus is “making certain that governmental laws cannot force people to violate their faith,” and a statement on the group’s website boasts they pushed 123 measures that have been signed into law including mandating intrusive ultrasounds (rape by medical instrument) for women seeking abortion service that has nothing whatsoever to do with a government law “forcing people to violate their faith.” It has everything to do with Dominionists forcing their Christian beliefs on the entire population that is a claim Christians say is the goal of Muslims imposing Sharia Law on Islamic nations.
Hobby Lobby’s owners are much more invested in using a Supreme Court ruling in favor of corporate personhood’s “religious freedom” than just dominating women and gays according to their so-called Christian faith. Barbara Green lied when she said Hobby Lobby is not attempting to meddle in women’s decision to use contraception, and the company’s tens-of-millions of dollars in donations to Christian groups to “spread the Gospel by transforming the legal system” is proof that a nation under the Christian version of Sharia Law is their primary goal. It is tragic that Americans are unaware of the impending doom a High Court ruling for Hobby Lobby will wreak on democracy, because not only will Americans be at the mercy of corporations and businesses run by evangelical fanatics, the Koch brothers will use expanded corporate religious personhood ruling to destroy what is left of America’s fragile democracy.
Dominionists have panted for a legal precedent to use the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom to impose theocracy on Americans for twenty years. Coupled with Hobby Lobby’s millions of dollars to transform the legal system to spread the gospel and the Koch brothers’ support for corporate religious personhood, Christianity’s version of Sharia Law in America is likely much closer than even cynical secular humanists and freedom from religion advocates feared possible. The only question yet remaining is exactly what Christians will call their version of Sharia Law when it replaces the Constitution as the law of the land because that is the objective of Hobby Lobby’s Dominionist owners and they are spending tens-of-millions of tax deductible donations to see their goal reach fruition.
****************Wendy Davis Smacks Down Greg Abbott’s $20 Mil Hypocrisy on Pre-K
By: Adalia Woodbury
Monday, March, 31st, 2014, 9:12 pm
Greg Abbott is just no match for Wendy Davis. This is the second time in less than a week, Davis countered Abbott’s hypocrisy on an important policy with facts.
The last time, Davis pointed to Abbott’s discriminatory pay policies as Attorney-General when he claimed to support equal pay for women. Davis’ use of facts was effective enough to make the Texas boys club of Republicans more than a little nervous for their boy Greg.
This time, the issue was pre-K. Following Abbott’s announcement of his plans to improve Texas’s pre-K program, Wendy Davis gave 20 million reasons why Abbott’s promises prove he is a hypocrite. Twenty million is the number of dollars in cuts to Texas’ pre-K program that Abbot is defending in court.
The hypocrisy is astonishing. It’s completely dishonest for Greg Abbott to be talking about early education at the same time he’s defending deep cuts to Texas pre-k in the courtroom, Despite the pleas of students, teachers, parents and school boards across the state, Greg Abbott is using his office to undermine Texas’ effort to prepare its students for the jobs of a 21st century economy
Ouch! Facts strike again! Aside from using facts to prove, once again, that Greg Abbott’s statements need to be fact checked with his actions, Davis exposed Gregg Abbott’s true agenda of returning to yester-century when access to education was restricted to children of the rich and the privileged. No matter how Abbott tries to mansplain it, there is nothing about a $20 million dollar cut to Texas’ pre-K program that is conducive to improving the program, or improving access to it.
In reality, Gregg Abbott is saying that educating all of Texas’ children to ready them for 21st century challenges is a waste and by extension that access to 21st century opportunities should be limited to a chosen few.
By calling him out, Wendy Davis is exposing Abbott’s short sightedness and unwillingness to prepare Texas’ children for 21st century jobs – something that is necessary for their well being and for Texas’ economy.
As importantly, Davis is proving to be a capable leader who relies on facts in her opponent’s record and actions instead of Koch style smear tactics and campaign appearances with radical has-beens like Ted Nugent.
This is the second time, that she caught Gregg Abbott making promises that contradict his actions. With the election season being this young, it’s inevitable that there will be others. Stay tuned.
*****************GOP Tries to Woo Women Voters by Mansplaining That They Shouldn’t Care About Equal Pay
By: Sarah Jones
Monday, March, 31st, 2014, 4:36 pm
How do you fool the ladies after your party rebranding failed? You get a bunch of women folk to parrot the lines of the Koch Brothers, ‘cuz nothing fools the ladies like another lady.
The latest conservative strategy regarding how to win women voters is to inform women that they shouldn’t care about equal pay because… Obamacare roll out glitches.
Greg Sargent was not impressed with the “winning message” (and thanks to Mr. Sargent for calling attention to this gem) :
GOP pollster says Dem focus on equal pay is nothing but distraction from Ocare: http://t.co/W7ASyAzWED
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) March 31, 2014
Nia-Malika Henderson and Jackie Kucinich must have had a tough time controlling their reaction as the GOP’s 2014 plan was explained to them for their Washington Post article. They reported, “The troubled roll out of the Affordable Care Act is an issue that GOP candidates believe they can use to return fire on the criticism that the party is hostile to women.”
So, roll out with some glitches = GOP no longer hates women! Cool trick. Women especially love being told by the Koch Brothers what matters to them.
What about that Republican policy war on women?
Oh, no worries! Remember that incredibly inaccurate, misleading “Obamacare victim” ad the Kochs were running in Michigan to help Republican Terri Lynn Land? The ad so misleading that even conservatives wouldn’t back its Obamacare claims? That’s the basic idea behind their strategy.
Sure, the Kochs had to dump that ad after being pummeled by factcheckers, but hey! The ladies don’t need to know pesky details. They’re too busy to care about equal pay anyway, according to Texas Republicans. Too busy to care.
So the Kochs are going to keep using that essential strategy of pasting a woman onto their Obamacare horror stories in order to mansplain what you ladies should be thinking. The WaPo article continued:
In Michigan, Republican Terri Lynn Land, running in a close race for another open Senate seat, marked the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and stressed her opposition by highlighting the voices and stories of women who said they were negatively impacted by the law. That strategy also is being used by Americans For Prosperity, a conservative nonprofit backed by the Koch brothers, that has also used women as the face of their ads attacking the health care law.
Jennifer Stefano, regional director for Americans for Prosperity, said they have run ads designed to appeal to women because “women carry the burden of failed economic policies.”
Apparently in this GOP fantasy, women do not bear the brunt of no health insurance for themselves and their family. Oh, no. Their biggest concern is how the roll out was bad or the policy in general is a “failure”. It’s a failure that you can take your kid to the doctor even though he has a pre-existing heart condition. Yep. That’s what the moms of America are thinking. Rather than thinking gosh, I’m so glad my kid can get help, they’re thinking about policies that help the Koch Brothers make a bigger profit.
BUT LADIES. We saved the best for last.
You don’t care about equal pay anymore because… OBAMACARE!
Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway said reminding both genders of the problems with the Affordable Care Act would trump Democratic attacks on the equal pay issue.
What can I say? I think the GOP/Koch Brothers have finally sorted us ladies out. We are more concerned about the Koch Brothers than our own kids, and equal pay. Meh. All we can think about are the Obamacare glitches. Plus, bonus points for totally ignoring any specific policies that would help women, and instead focusing on being negative and sans solutions for another policy that is helping women. This reads a bit dismissive to me, but heck. It’s not like they have a lot to offer women.
We don’t need equal pay when we can vote Republican and lose the healthcare protections afforded to us under Obamacare, like free mammograms. Plus, Republicans want to take our birth control away because they’ve recently become obsessed with our unfertilized eggs and how mean ladies are picking on corporations like Hobby Lobby, so TOTALLY.
This is totally working.
This is what happens to a party when it is dictated to by the top of the 1% of the 2%. It should surprise no one that the Koch brothers have no idea just how insulting their mansplaining strategy is, or that women will see through it.
**************Students walk out on ‘war criminal’ Dick Cheney during American University speech
By Travis Gettys
Monday, March 31, 2014 14:32 EDT
More than two dozen students walked out on former Vice President Dick Cheney last week during a speech at American University.
Some of the students called Cheney a “war criminal” Thursday as they filed out of the auditorium.
“Walk out on war criminals,” one student can be heard yelling on video recorded during the event.
The former vice president denied to The Eagle student newspaper that the Bush administration in which he served had used torture, although he conceded that three individuals were subjected to waterboarding.
“Some people called it torture,” Cheney said. “It wasn’t torture.”
Human rights groups say the practice was much more widespread, however.
Cheney said the enhanced interrogation tactics implemented by the Bush administration did not fall under the scope of the 1949 United Nations Geneva Convention because those rules do not apply to unlawful combatants.
“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” Cheney said. “The results speak for themselves.”
The Associated Press reported Monday that a disputed Senate torture report found that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods yielded no important evidence during the hunt for Osama bin Laden, although the CIA disputes the conclusion.
Cheney and former President George W. Bush have each canceled events in Canada after protests by human rights groups who accused the pair of war crimes, and Bush also canceled a speaking engagement in Switzerland over similar concerns.