In the USA...United Surveillance AmericaObama Hits Back Hard at Foreign Policy Critics
by Naharnet Newsdesk
29 April 2014, 07:13
Barack Obama's frustration is spilling over as he makes the most strident defense of his foreign policy yet, rebuking critics who say his diplomacy is haphazard, weak and blurs U.S. national security red lines.
The U.S. president's patience snapped several times during his tour of Asia which wrapped up in the Philippines Tuesday, when confronted by arguments that he has failed to put his stamp on a world increasingly flouting U.S. power.
His four-nation trip was meant to cement the most substantive doctrinal element of his foreign policy, the pivot of American power to Asia, which had been a little ragged of late.
But Obama's inability to deter President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, the crumbling Middle East peace process and the unstoppable carnage in Syria, opened the president to new charges his foreign policy is a bust.
He had to reassure Asian allies nervous of China's growing territorial muscle that despite his reluctance to fight traditional wars, Washington's defense guarantees are rock solid.
He rarely loses his cool in public, but Obama was at his most waspish in public comments on foreign policy during the trip -- recalling his ill-tempered debates with Republican Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential race.
His wariness of foreign quagmires is also a consistent political theme -- recalling the 2002 rebuke of "dumb" wars that helped him harness public dismay with the Iraq war six years later to win the White House.
Obama argues that hubris gets America into trouble and that avoiding "mistakes" like the Iraq and Vietnam wars is paramount, while advancing modest goals and hoping for the odd foreign policy "home run."
"That may not always be sexy. That may not always attract a lot of attention -- but it avoids errors," he said in a press conference in Manila on Monday.
As a foreign policy doctrine, this might lack a little lofty vision -- but seems to represent a trimming of Obama's global aspirations since he swept to power vowing to change the world.
What critics see as a retreat, Obama sees as a wise turn away from foreign adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan that have drained America's power, stretched its finances and strewn a new generation of U.S. dead on foreign battlefields.
Obama is especially sardonic about Republicans who portray him as overly reluctant to commit military force other than in robust drone wars, or to arm rebels in Syria or the Ukraine government.
"My job as Commander-in-Chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely," Obama said.
"Most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests."
He did not name particular critics, but his top antagonist is hawkish Republican senator John McCain who he beat to the presidency in 2008.
"I believe that the president does not believe that America is an exceptional nation. And if America doesn't lead, other people do lead," said McCain on PBS show Charlie Rose this month.
McCain believes Obama has been cowed by President Vladimir Putin and that he dismayed U.S. allies in the Middle East by stepping back from attacks on Syria.
"The most powerful, richest nation in the world can carry out a lot of measures to assert our leadership in the world," he said.
"We have to take steps that convince the bad people in this world... that there is a very heavy price if they do things... in gross violation of international norms."
Administration officials are privately incensed that a deal with Russia to remove Syria's declared chemical weapons stocks -- which emerged after Obama blinked at the last minute on firing missiles into Damascus -- is seen a failure.
They say more than 90 percent of the stocks have been removed and that this represents a foreign policy triumph.
Obama is also fuming over claims that he has left Ukraine high and dry and should arm Kiev to deter Russia -- despite Monday imposing new sanctions on Putin's inner circle.
"Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?" Obama asked.
Obama's unusually blunt language may also be born of frustration that a foreign policy record, adorned by the killing of Osama bin Laden, that was once seen as a political asset is now often seen as a liability.
For the president, his critics have one solution to every foreign policy headache -- deploy the U.S. military.
"Many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven't really learned the lesson of the last decade," he said as his frustrations spilled over -- again in Manila.
"They keep on just playing the same note over and over again. Why? I don't know."
******************Rigging The Rules: Congress Moving Corporate Tax Breaks
By Robert Borosage April 29, 2014 6:00 am
Republicans in the House are getting ready to push permanent tax breaks largely for corporations. They don't intend to offset them by closing other loopholes or raising rates. This is a case study in how the game is fixed and the rules are rigged.
“The game is rigged and the American people know that. They get it right down to their toes.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren
This week, the House Ways and Means Committee is poised to demonstrate exactly how the rules are rigged. Beginning on Tuesday, the committee will mark up a series of bills on corporate tax breaks – known as “extenders” because they have been extended regularly every year or two for over a decade. Only now the Committee plans to make many of them permanent, at the cost of an estimated $300 billion over 10 years. And it does not plan to pay for them by closing other corporate loopholes or raising rates. The giveaway – almost all of which goes to corporations -- will simply add to the deficit. And no doubt those who vote for them will later demand deeper cuts in programs for the vulnerable in order to bring “spending” under control.
The measures range from big to small, sensible to inane. Two centerpieces are glaring loopholes for multinational companies and banks, encouraging them to ship jobs and report profits abroad to avoid an estimated $80 billion in taxes over a decade.
Call them – one known as the “active finance exception” and the other as the “CFC look-through rule -- the General Electric tax dodges. The loopholes allow multinationals with huge finance arms, like General Electric or Wall Street banks, to dodge paying their fair share of taxes simply by claiming that U.S. based financial income is being generated offshore. These “exceptions” are central to how GE managed to declare a profit of more than $27 billion over the past five years, while not only paying nothing in taxes, but pocketing tax refunds of more than $3 billion. The multi-billion dollar multinational pays less in taxes than any mom and pop store that turned a profit. These breaks don’t pass the smell test.
Making these permanent without offsetting them by closing other loopholes is a brazen insult to American voters. Republicans have railed incessantly about deficits, forcing austerity budgets that have impeded the recovery and cost jobs. For the first time, they even refused to pass emergency unemployment compensation to long-term unemployed workers unless it was “paid for” by cuts elsewhere. (And even after the Senate passed the measure with “pay-fors,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner still refuses to allow it to come to a vote)
Emergency unemployment compensation is temporary, targeted and timely. It goes to sustain the families of unemployed workers who are still looking for work. It is of limited duration. And the families that receive it spend it immediately on food, rent, gas – helping to boost jobs and the economy. And it can’t get a vote on the floor of Congress.
The offshore tax dodges that the Committee is about to markup and bring to a vote will be permanent. They aren’t emergency measures. They are targeted perversely to benefit the biggest corporations and banks the most. And they will cost jobs rather than help generate them.
But in a congress supposedly locked in hapless partisan gridlock, these bills are greased to go. They are backed by a full court press from the corporate lobbies. They gain bipartisan support by pairing the obscene with mostly small “side of the angels measures” -- a deduction for schoolteachers who pay for supplies out of their own pockets, a tax break for employees that ride mass transit to work, a tax relief for families taking a loss from selling a home with an underwater mortgage, a production tax credit for renewable energy.
Legislators who want to support the sensible measures are told they have to buy the drek. This is the routine way the rules get rigged, the powerful get the gold and the workers get the shaft.
But perhaps this time business as usual may bear a price. Warren is right: Americans are increasingly onto the game. As polling for Americans for Tax Fairness has shown, voters are outraged that corporations and the wealthy aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. They are incensed at the notion that Congress is giving multinationals incentives to ship jobs or report profits abroad. Or that Wall Street banks are paying lower tax rates than small businesses.
Even the perpetually tanned House Speaker John Boehner will blanche at trying to explain how unemployed workers can’t be helped but multinationals need permanent loopholes to stash their earnings abroad. Even the glib Republican budget chair Paul Ryan will find it hard to justify deeper cuts that boot kids out of Head Start or cut Pell grants for college in order to make up for deficits produced by rewarding GE for stashing profits in the Cayman Islands.
This is an election year with voters in a surly mood. Embattled incumbents might be wise to think twice before bowing to the dictates of the corporate lobbies. Surely challengers in both parties will relish going after legislators who voted to carve a permanent loophole for multinationals that ship jobs abroad, while cutting investments in education and abandoning workers struggling to find a job.
Washington is a city wired for the insider’s deal to fix the game. And the rules will keep getting rigged until voters sort out who is on their side and who isn’t – and throw some of the latter out of office.
*******************Supreme Court confronts digital privacy rights today in cell phone case
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 6:14 EDT
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday confronts the question of whether the increasing amount of deeply personal information kept on mobile devices means police officers need a warrant before they can search an arrested suspect’s cell phone.
In a case that pits expectations of privacy against the interests of the law enforcement community, the court will hear one-hour arguments in two cases.
The nine justices are weighing cases from California and Massachusetts arising from criminal prosecutions that used evidence obtained without a warrant from a judge.
Cell phones, initially used purely to make calls, now contain a wealth of personal information about the owner, including photographs, video and social media content. According to a 2013 report by the Pew Research Center, 91 percent of adult Americans have a cell phone, more than a half of them smartphones that can connect to the Internet.
Concerns about increasing government encroachment on personal privacy, especially in relation to electronic communications, has surged into the public eye over the last year in light of the disclosures made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about government surveillance.
The cell phone cases arrive at the court two years after the court unanimously held that police need a warrant before they can put GPS tracking devices on vehicles.
That ruling was a signal that the court is concerned about how technology affects privacy rights, according to defense lawyer Gerry Morris, a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
“You are starting to see much more awareness on the part of the court to the dangers to liberty that technology can pose,” he said in an interview.
In the cell phone cases, the legal question rests on whether the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bars unreasonable searches, requires police following an arrest to get court approval before a cell phone can be searched.
The two defendants challenging their convictions, David Riley and Brima Wurie, say evidence found on their phones should not have been used as evidence at trial because the searches were conducted without warrants.
According to court precedent, police only have two valid reasons for searching items immediately upon arrest: officer safety and the need to secure evidence that could otherwise be easily discarded. In the past, police officers have not needed warrants to look at items such as wallets, calendars, address books and diaries.
Digital rights activists and criminal defense lawyers are among the groups supporting Riley and Wurie say cell phone data is not a safety risk and can, in most cases, be easily secured.
State and federal government lawyers have told the court that searching a cell phone is no different than warrantless searches of other items commonly found on a person at the time of arrest. The administration of President Barack Obama is backed by 16 states in the case.
“While technology has increased the amount of information an individual may practically choose to carry, neither the form nor the volume of the information at issue here provides a sound basis for redrawing clearly established Fourth Amendment lines,” Kamala Harris, the Democratic attorney general for California, said in court papers dismissing the need for a warrant.
She noted that potential evidence held on a cell phone could be vulnerable if not searched for immediately. Some phones, for example, might automatically delete some data after a certain time or allow for data to be deleted remotely.
In the first case, Riley was convicted of three charges relating to an August 2009 incident in San Diego in which shots were fired at an occupied vehicle.
Local prosecutors linked him to the crime in part due to a photograph police found on his smartphone that showed him posing in front of a car similar to one seen at the crime scene. Riley sought the high court’s review after his convictions were upheld by a state appeals court in California.
In the other case, the U.S. government appealed after an appeals court threw out two of three federal drugs and firearms counts on which Wurie had been convicted by a jury in Massachusetts.
The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a May 2013 ruling that police could not search Wurie’s phone without a warrant after the September 2007 arrest for suspected drug dealing.
A major difference between the cases is that Wurie’s phone, unlike Riley’s, is not a smartphone. Officers used the phone only to find a phone number that took them to Wurie’s house in Boston, where drugs, a gun and cash were found.
Rulings are expected by the end of June. The cases are Riley v. California, 13-132 and U.S. v. Wurie, 13-212.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman)
**************Researchers: More than 4 percent of U.S. death row inmates are likely to be innocent
By Agence France-Presse
Monday, April 28, 2014 18:20 EDT
About one in 25 inmates sentenced to death in the United States was likely wrongly convicted, a study said Monday.
Estimating the rate of false convictions, which the study put at 4.1 percent, is no easy task since there is no central database and many are never identified, in part because some sentences are commuted.
Nevertheless, “false convictions are far more likely to be detected among those cases that end in death sentences than in any other category of criminal convictions,” said the article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Everyone, from the first officer on the scene of a potentially capital crime to the Chief Justice of the United States, takes capital cases more seriously than other criminal prosecutions — and knows that everybody else will do so as well.”
The study, the first of its kind, used a statistical method known as survival analysis. The method is usually used to determine the effectiveness of a medical treatment in reducing mortality rates.
Researchers were thus able to estimate the proportion of death row inmates whose innocence would have been established if they had stayed in prison and thus benefited from resources to defend themselves.
“Even if you are sentenced to death… the chance to be exonerated is much higher if you’re still on death row,” lead author Samuel Gross told AFP.
However, “the great majority of innocent people who are sentenced to death are never identified and freed.”
The researchers used data from the 7,482 people sentenced to death from January 1974 to December 2004.
Among that group, 12.6 percent were executed, 1.6 percent were exonerated, four percent died while on death row, 46.1 percent remained on death row and 35.8 percent were taken off death row but stayed in prison after their capital sentences or convictions were reversed or changed.
Based on the analysis showing a more than four percent error margin in trials, the study said it was “all but certain” that several of the 1,320 people executed since 1977 were in fact innocent.
“Most innocent defendants who have been sentenced to death have not been exonerated, and many — including the great majority of those who have been re-sentenced to life in prison — probably never will be,” it added.
“The net result is that the great majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of capital murder in the United States are neither executed nor exonerated. They are sentenced, or re-sentenced to prison for life, and then forgotten.”
**************A Deadly Fungus and Questions at a Hospital
By IAN URBINA and SHERI FINK
APRIL 28, 2014
NEW ORLEANS — The first victim was a premature boy in the intensive care unit whose mother noticed a mysterious irritation in his groin; it grew into an open wound burrowing into the baby’s abdomen. The last patient to die was a 10-year-old girl, whose face was ravaged.
Three other patients at Children’s Hospital here were also stricken, including a 13-year-old boy who his parents said endured over 20 surgical procedures in 54 days in a futile effort to save him.
Like the others, Zachary Malik Tyler, the 13-year-old, arrived at Children’s Hospital battling a serious illness before being overwhelmed by an infection. “What haunts me more than anything is thinking about what he suffered,” said Stephen Tyler, his father.
The children died of various causes between August 2008 and July 2009 during an outbreak of a flesh-eating fungal infection, mucormycosis, most likely spread by bed linens, towels or gowns, according to a medical journal. The disclosure this month caused new pain for the families of the children and raised troubling questions about how the infections came about, why doctors did not connect the cases until more than 10 months after the first death, and what obligation the hospital had to inform parents — and the community — of the outbreak.
Those questions take on greater urgency, experts say, because deadly fungal infections, while still rare, appear to be on the rise nationwide.
That may be because of changes in the environment and a larger pool of vulnerable people with suppressed immune systems because patients are living longer with serious illnesses.
An estimated 75,000 patients with infections picked up in health care facilities die in hospitals each year, according to figures released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The outbreak may have spread unchecked, at least in part, because of lapses in the hospital’s infection controls and sloppy handling of contaminated linens, according to a review of emails, patient records, legal testimony from hospital and laundry staff, and interviews with doctors, lawyers, federal health officials, hospital administrators and patients’ families.
Workers unloaded clean linens on the same dock where medical waste was removed, moved clean and soiled linens on the same carts, and stored linens in hospital hallways covered in dust from a nearby construction site, court records indicated.
C.D.C. investigators did not fault the hospital for failing to move more quickly to detect the outbreak, noting that the infections occurred weeks or months apart in different areas of the hospital. Still, there were problems, records and interviews showed. With one of the five children, a doctor allegedly agreed to biopsy an infected spot only after a nurse and the parents insisted. And the hospital’s infection investigators did not become involved for months because their threshold for reviewing cases excluded some of the five deaths.
In a city where so many institutions had failed its citizens — a former mayor convicted of bribery, a police department tainted by charges of brutality, schools where student performance was historically abysmal — Children’s Hospital was well respected. It cared for New Orleans’s sickest young patients, from those living in the poorest precincts like the Lower Ninth Ward to those from the hospital’s genteel neighborhood uptown.
But now, Children’s Hospital is accused of breaking faith with the community. Much of the anger has focused on what a local newspaper, The Times-Picayune, charged in an editorial was an “appalling” failure to alert the public and a “lack of urgency” that slowed the discovery of the outbreak.
Hospital officials first suspected they had a problem in late June 2009, and in the weeks after alerted state and federal health officials, but few others. They contacted the children’s families only after the journal article “Mucormycosis Outbreak Associated With Hospital Linens” appeared in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. (The article did not identify the hospital, but a local television station, WVUE, disclosed it based on a tip from a local doctor, Brobson Lutz.)
“We failed to do what we should have done, pure and simple,” Dr. John F. Heaton, the hospital’s associate medical director, said during a news conference this month, in which he acknowledged that the infections most likely contributed to the children’s deaths.
In response to several unrelated outbreaks in recent years, the C.D.C. started an initiative to help hospitals and health departments communicate with the public about medical errors and infections acquired in health care facilities. Abbigail Tumpey, who leads the effort, said that while it is important to avoid scaring away patients, hospitals that are open about problems and the steps taken to remedy them have built public trust.
Children’s Hospital is trying to be more transparent, but for some, it is too late. Dolly Malik, Zachary’s mother said, “We clearly felt silence back then.”
The First Cases
Tyrel Cayden Gee, born prematurely at 26 weeks, would eventually be identified by investigators as Case No. 1. But because the infant had been critically ill before contracting mucormycosis — in its severe form the fatality rate tops 90 percent, and it primarily afflicts patients with compromised immune systems — it was not considered a primary cause in his August 2008 death. Even though Children’s Hospital had not had a single incident of hospital-acquired mucormycosis for at least 15 years, Tyrel’s case did not raise alarms or become labeled a sentinel event, which would have set off an inquiry.
Dr. Rodolfo Esteban Bégué, who headed the hospital’s infection control committee, said later in a deposition that he was not aware of the case. Even though mucormycosis had caused rare hospital outbreaks elsewhere, his committee had not included it in its quarterly reviews of hospital infections, and it was not among the diseases hospitals must report to the government.
When Zachary Malik Tyler came to the emergency room six months later, with a recurrence of a cancerlike condition that causes widespread tissue damage, his parents still expected he would return home to his siblings, his book collection and his chess sets. By March 2009, though, his immune system was suppressed by chemotherapy, his health precarious. Zachary’s empathy had still shown through during his hospitalization. When he saw his brother Crawford’s plans for an underwater car, Zachary said, “It just might work.”
That month, Zachary’s mother noticed a small black spot in his armpit. In operations, sometimes just a day apart, doctors chased the infection — cutting underneath Zachary’s arm and into a second site in his lower back. To repair the defects, they moved skin and muscle from his chest and thigh and operated on his belly, performing a colostomy. “After his skin graft, his pain was quite intensified,” doctors noted. He died of multiple causes on May 17, 2009.
Dr. Bégué helped treat Zachary and asked for a review of infection control procedures regarding his treatment, but did not consider opening a wider inquiry, he said later.
While Zachary had been struggling, another premature baby received a diagnosis of mucormycosis and died in a different part of the hospital, but Dr. Bégué did not learn of the case. In late June, Tierica Jackson, 10, admitted for heart surgery, also fell victim to the infection. Hospital personnel began swabbing various surfaces to determine the source, which struck one more patient, an 11-year-old girl, who died the day after her diagnosis. One of the doctors decided to test the linens.
A Prime Environment
The parents of Zachary Tyler said they hoped their son’s death would inspire hospitals and health care facilities to be more vigilant about controlling the spread of deadly infections.
Fungi thrive in moist environments, and the 40,000-square-foot washing warehouse owned by the hospital’s off-site launderer, TLC Linen Services, was just that. The laundry sits several blocks from Lake Pontchartrain on a dirt road in the city’s Ninth Ward.
The owners, who declined interview requests, replaced drywall and flooring after the levee failures caused by Hurricane Katrina brought in water. But he never tested to verify that the plant was free of mold, records showed.
The company, which was not accredited by the main voluntary group that inspects health care laundries, also lacked proper filters on ventilation fans to block spores and dust from the street, records showed. There was also reason to suspect that the outbreak was due to myriad problems with the way hospital workers handled linens, court documents showed. (Three patients’ families have filed lawsuits; one was settled.)
In the rare instances when linens have been associated with transmitting illnesses, the problem is usually caused by improper transportation or storage, said Lisa Waldowski, an infection control specialist with the Joint Commission, the organization that accredits most American hospitals. Hospitals typically do not sterilize linens, except those used in operating rooms. Hospital bedsheets and towels typically are washed and bleached to reach the same standard of cleanliness as hotel laundry. One key difference is that medical linens are supposed to be wrapped in bags or cellophane for transport.
Starting in 2007, TLC managers complained in meetings and emails about how Children’s Hospital housekeepers were handling the linens. Washcloths were being used as “cleaning rags” to wipe down bathrooms, TLC said. Laundry workers had to fish bags of dirty towels and sheets out of hospital trash bins. Trash was being put in linen carts and linens in trash carts.
Especially frustrating, TLC managers said in a deposition, was that, in violation of industry and federal guidelines, the head of housekeeping, Glenn Cobb, told them in 2007 to stop delivering the clean linens in sealed bags.
“I didn’t agree with it,” Charles LeBourgeois, a co-owner of TLC, said in the deposition. The plastic bags were cumbersome for the housekeeping staff and getting caught in cart wheels, he recalled being told by Mr. Cobb, who did not respond to interview requests. It was only after dust from nearby construction sullied linens that the hospital agreed to allow TLC to cover the carts.
Mr. LeBourgeois testified that he had discovered workers at the hospital washing bed linens in a machine there after the outbreak — using a method intended for cleaning floor mops. He said he had explained that the chemicals were too weak and the water temperatures too low to be hygienic. “Oh, my god,” he recalled Mr. Cobb saying. “So, we are not getting them clean?”
In recent weeks, hospital officials have emphasized the protective measures that they have taken, like resterilizing key areas of the hospital, including where linens were stored, and changing the site where they were delivered. The hospital now uses sterile linens for sick infants, cancer patients and other highly vulnerable patients. It also now wraps linens for transport.
Dr. Heaton also pledged that the hospital would fully disclose any adverse event or hospital-acquired condition that affects any of its patients.
Mr. Tyler, Zachary’s father, said such measures might have saved his son and other patients. “Perhaps it will inspire other institutions to be more vigilant.”
****************Historians battle loyalists at Nixon library over how to portray the disgraced president
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 6:33 EDT
Nearly 40 years after President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace because of the Watergate scandal, the debate over how his legacy should be defined seems as vibrant as ever – at Nixon’s presidential library, at least.
The Nixon library, which opened in 1990 in Yorba Linda, about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles, has become the focus of a behind-the-scenes tussle over how the story of the only person to resign from the U.S. presidency should be told.
It pits Nixon loyalists who want the library to do more to portray the 37th president as a great leader with a range of domestic and foreign accomplishments, against historians and others who say that the library – as a symbol of U.S. history and education – has a duty to also provide an unvarnished, and unflattering, lesson on Nixon’s downfall.
A key issue is whether the Nixon Foundation, which is run by former aides to the president and Nixon family members and is raising $25 million to renovate the library, is trying to delay the appointment of a new library director by the National Archives so the renovation can be done without interference from those not loyal to Nixon.
The Nixon library has been without a director for more than two years. The last director, Timothy Naftali, resigned shortly after installing a Watergate exhibit that detailed Nixon’s role in trying to cover up his administration’s involvement in the burglary of Democratic Party offices in the Watergate complex in Washington.
Members of the Nixon Foundation vehemently objected to the exhibit, and several boycotted its opening in 2011. The other exhibits at the library are reverential toward Nixon.
The foundation, which is run by a board of directors led by former Nixon aide Ron Walker, rejects the notion that it has tried to stall the appointment of a new library director.
Some Nixon historians aren’t convinced. They include Stanley Kutler, who successfully sued the National Archives to force the release of White House audio tapes of Nixon and his aides discussing Watergate. Kutler calls the situation at the Nixon library “troubling.”
The tension at the Nixon library reflects how the memories of Watergate, and its impact on Americans’ trust in the presidency, remain bitter and unresolved for some.
It also is a reminder of the tensions that can develop over presidential libraries between library foundations – which typically are staffed by loyalists who largely fund and build the libraries and seek to cast their president in a positive light – and historians and other outsiders who want a non-partisan portrayal that includes details on the president’s worst moments.
Bill Clinton faced some criticism after the opening of his presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2004 because of how it portrayed his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and his impeachment. The library’s exhibit lumps the scandal with other controversies in a section dedicated to the “politics of persecution.”
At George W. Bush’s new presidential library in Dallas, Texas, the controversy over Bush’s decision to invade Iraq because it allegedly had weapons of mass destruction is portrayed in a way that aims to justify the decision.
Visitors can play a game in an interactive exhibit called “Decision Points Theater,” where they must decide whether to invade Iraq. If they choose not to invade, a video image of Bush appears to explain why the invasion was the right thing to do.
The exhibit has been ridiculed by critics of the Bush administration.
Some historians see such efforts to shape the memory of a president as not surprising, but unfortunate.
“It’s a serious problem,” said H.W. Brands, a presidential historian. “The foundations want to operate museums. They don’t want to operate libraries.” So the libraries become “like a … campaign.”
EMPHASIZING NIXON’S ACHIEVEMENTS
The National Archives, based in Washington, is responsible for running all 13 presidential libraries, which span the administrations from Herbert Hoover to Bush.
But the archives fund only the salaries and day-to-costs of operating the libraries. The private foundations that support the libraries raise the money to build the facilities and fund exhibits.
The Nixon Foundation’s board includes Nixon’s daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, and Nixon’s brother, Edward Nixon. The foundation president is Sandy Quinn, who worked on Nixon’s unsuccessful campaign for California governor in 1962.
That was two years after Nixon, then Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president, lost the presidential election to John Kennedy. In one of the great political comebacks in U.S. political history, Nixon was elected president in 1968.
Quinn says the new exhibits planned by the Nixon Foundation will include a deeper look at several of Nixon’s achievements, including his role in creating the Environmental Protection Agency and his ending of the draft by returning the U.S. military to an all-volunteer army.
Fred Malek, a former Nixon aide in charge of the fundraising, said: “It really is time to look at some of Richard Nixon’s accomplishments.”
Malek’s sentiments reflect those of many Nixon loyalists who were not happy with the Watergate exhibit that Naftali installed at the library in Yorba Linda, where the late president was born 101 years ago.
The foundation has no official veto power over library appointments by the National Archives, but it must be closely consulted by the Archives and has offices at the library. Because the foundation is the sole provider of renovation funds, Kutler and other historians and critics say this makes the archives wary of upsetting foundation members.
Kutler said he was told by Archives officials that a new library director had not been appointed because of a dearth of good candidates.
“I’m sorry, I’ve been around a long time,” Kutler said. “It’s hard to believe they can’t get a good candidate.”
Susan Donius, Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives, has been acting director of the Nixon library since Naftali’s resignation, from her office across the country in Maryland.
Donius said the Archives is using a recruitment firm to help in the search for a new director at the Nixon library. She declined to say why it has taken so long to find a new director and referred questions to David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States. Ferriero declined to comment.
Jon Wiener, a history professor at the University of California-Irvine, said the Archives’ long delay in appointing a new director in Yorba Linda “suggests an inability of the Archives and the foundation to agree on a new candidate.”
‘SHRINES,’ OR LIBRARIES?
Quinn, the Nixon Foundation’s president, said that “it’s absolute nonsense that we are holding up or blocking the appointment of a new director. We are anxious for a new director.”
Naftali, the library’s former director, said he left the library because he believed his work was done there once the Watergate exhibit was in place. He said he expected someone to replace him soon after he left to foster a culture of non-partisanship at the library.
“It’s much easier for a foundation to renovate a presidential museum if you don’t have a strong director in place, and a piece of cake if you have no director at all,” said Naftali, now director of the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives at New York University.
Naftali added that presidential libraries “tend to be shrines unless people inside and outside the National Archives bring pressure to make them nonpartisan. My concern is that the National Archives has not hired a director and its ability to counter-balance the Nixon Foundation is undermined by the fact that there is no director at Yorba Linda after nearly two and half years.”
Wiener, the UC-Irvine history professor, said: “It appears that in the absence of a new director, the Nixon Foundation, staffed and funded by Nixon loyalists, is asserting itself again at Yorba Linda.”
*****************The Mainstream Media Finally Abandons Sarah Palin and Declares Her Over
By: Jason Easley
Monday, April, 28th, 2014, 9:51 am
Robert Costa of The Washington Post reported on Palin’s decline:
Four years after using her unique position to propel a number of conservatives — many previously unknown and not favored by party leaders — in the tea party wave of 2010, Palin is today a diminished figure in the Republican Party. Even as she travels to Iowa and elsewhere to bolster her handpicked candidates, her influence in these midterm elections has been eclipsed by a new class of stars and her circle has narrowed, with a handful of aides guiding her and a few allies in Washington beyond a group of backbench troublemakers in Congress.
When Palin took the stage at the Hy-Vee Conference Center under a banner that read “Heels On, Gloves Off” on Sunday at an event for Senate candidate Joni Ernst, the ballroom was half-full, with a couple hundred attendees scattered in clumps. Three people held signs and, while Palin was received warmly, only about 50 people stayed after to shake her hand on the rope line as Shania Twain’s “She’s Not Just a Pretty Face” blared from the speakers.
Craig Robinson, a former political director for the Iowa GOP, said that it was Palin’s smallest in-state crowd ever. Organizers blamed the heavy rainfall.
To put it another way, the media has finally caught on to the myth of Sarah Palin. Sister Sarah has been surviving for years on the idea that she is a conservative star, but the reality is that people were tired of her during the 2008 campaign. Palin has seen her fanbase narrow for years. She isn’t active in politics. She doesn’t donate enough of the money that she raises to candidates, and she has no future political prospects of her own.
For years, the media has happily pretended that Sarah Palin was a star, and a rival to President Obama. Palin was always the novelty that Republicans claim President Obama to be. Palin has taken to making radical statements to get media attention. Her latest is that if she were in charge she would baptize terrorists through waterboarding.
Palin will always have her fans, but even they realize that there is no future in supporting Sarah. There is no Senate campaign, or a presidential run coming. Palin is still living off of those few months in 2008, when she was a national political somebody.
Sarah Palin is the one hit wonder who started out playing arenas, then moved down to the clubs, then moved further down to the county fair circuit. When you stop drawing a crowd on the county fair circuit, it’s over.
The media is finally catching on that it is time to ignore Sarah Palin.
****************Glenn Beck says he got a message from God: ‘I am coming and I will settle scores’
By Arturo Garcia
Monday, April 28, 2014 18:06 EDT
Conservative radio host Glenn Beck claimed during a commencement speech at Liberty University last Friday that God delivered an angry message to him while preparing for a 2011 appearance in Jerusalem.
“I know the love, I know the gentleness of Christ,” Beck said in video posted by Right Wing Watch on Monday. “But I’ve never felt the wrath.”
Beck, a Mormon, told the crowd at the Christian university that God then informed him, “You tell them I am coming and I will settle scores.”
The alleged epiphany happened while Beck was asking God for guidance on what to say during his appearance at the Temple Mount, during which he described the popular uprisings taking place during the “Arab Spring” as “a familiar force which I said would come to the borders of Israel and bring death.”
“We went and we obeyed,” Beck told the audience at Liberty. “Some people who came with me were trying to talk me out of it the whole time, saying, ‘Glenn, this is impossible, it can never happen, it won’t happen.’ And I looked at them and I finally got sick and tired enough that I said, ‘talk to Him, not to me.’”
He also revisited a popular argument among conservatives, claiming that “aborted babies” were being incinerated to generate electricity in a Brooks, Oregon power plant.
In reality, as the Associated Press reported, conservatives seized on the topic after it was discovered that fetal tissue was among the materials used at energy plants in the United Kingdom, a practice that was quickly banned.
But officials in Marion County, which includes both Brooks and Portland, never received confirmation that the same was being done at the Oregon plant, and approved a revision for existing medical waste procedures to ensure that no fetal tissue is included.
Watch a portion of Beck’s speech, as posted by Right Wing Watch on Monday, below.http://videos.rawstory.com/video/Glenn-Beck-God-told-me-he-s-comi