Thursday, April 20, 2017

O'Reilly Shows Moral Bankruptcy of Fox Empire

The termination of Fox cable's leading star Bill O'Reilly is the latest example in the continuing devolution of the inner rot animating the Murdoch empire and the conservative infomercial industry. Many of the attitudes and misinformation that led to the rise of Trump and Trumpism emanated from Fox, and much of that was hatched in a workplace culture under the thrall of sexual criminals.

Former Fox "News" president Roger Ailes went down last year under the weight of repeated allegations and finally the news that there had been $20 million in payouts of hush money to aggrieved women at Fox who were propositioned and pressured to have sex with the boss. Now, thanks to the New York Times and one courageous woman who wouldn't be bought, O'Reilly is going down too, though with a $25 million severance check. It was the Times that dug up the information that five women had been paid a total of $15 million to keep their mouths shut about O'Reilly's predation, blackmail and retaliation against non-compliant females. Wendy Walsh is the woman who told her story rather than settle for a payoff to stay quiet.

Consider the moral bankruptcy of Fox's ownership, patriarch Rupert and sons Lachlan and James. So long as things could be kept quiet with hush money and ratings were good, the millions spent on keeping their  management's and star's criminality confidential were simply part of the cost of doing business to them. The culture of misogyny was nothing to be concerned about so long as the bottom line was served. It was only after the Times informed the world that there had been a long history of this with O'Reilly, (as with Ailes), and that Ms. Walsh was apparently out of control and would not settle, and consequently that advertisers began deserting O'Reilly's program that action was taken. In other words, when profits were threatened that's when the purveyors of "family values" saw the light and finally "did the right thing." How noble.   

Sunday, April 2, 2017

LA Times Castigates "Our Dishonest President"

Anyone who follows or drops in on this blog even occasionally knows I have opinions and express them in these columns. They also know I take pains, just as I did in my book, to rigorously fact-check everything I present. We live at a time where the cover story in a recent Time Magazine was titled "Is Truth Dead?" At such a time it is more important than ever to assert my adherence to the principle that truth matters and that facts must form the basis of thought and discourse. I believe that to abandon that principle is to court a descent into barbarism of the kind seen in the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century.

I thus find it gratifying that more and more opinion leaders such as Time and CBS News are focusing on that fundamental principle and speaking out directly. The impetus behind this, of course, is the current lying president and the lying crowd of retainers and sycophants who surround him. Today's lead editorial in the Los Angeles Times is a strong example of the increasingly forthright stance being taken as a result of the rising alarm associated with the serial prevarications of the minority president and his enablers. I find the trend refreshing, if unfortunately belated in too many cases.

Today's Times editorial, "Our Dishonest President" is the first of a series of four. I encourage you to click on the link and read it in its entirety yourself.To give you a synopsis, it pulls no punches in using such terms as "narcissist, demagogue and dangerous" to describe the man in the White House. His policies are characterized by such terms as "train wreck, catastrophe, chilling and frightening." But their harshest criticism is reserved for the man himself, "unpredictable, reckless and petulant," "imprudent and erratic."

Their detailed critique, to follow in installments over the next three days, will concentrate on three aspects of the current chief executive's character flaws that present a danger to the republic itself.

They are:

1) "Trump's shocking lack of respect for fundamental rules and the institutions on which our government is based."
2) "His utter lack of regard for the truth."
3) "His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot ideas."

The Times concludes today's piece with the warning that those who oppose the president must speak out strongly and incessantly in order to safeguard the constitution and all it stands for. I couldn't agree more. I look forward to tomorrow's piece on the president's attempts to undermine constitutional government itself.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Call for Demonstration Against Nunes

Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of the 22nd Congressional District that wends its way from Tulare through Visalia up to Clovis, has long been a local embarrassment. He is now also a national laughingstock. As Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee he is in charge of the crucially important investigation to determine the extent of Russian interference in last November's election and whether any Americans were complicit. If they were it would amount to treason against the United States. The Director of the FBI has confirmed that his bureau is also conducting its own investigation into this very subject. A number of people involved with the Trump presidential campaign are subjects of this investigation.

Rather than fulfilling this important role impartially in the interest of American national security, from the outset Nunes has engaged in a public campaign to minimize the importance of the issue and to deflect blame from President Trump and any of his associates. Once some evidence did begin to become available, Nunes went to the White House to receive it and briefed Trump, without even sharing the information with the members of his own committee. Imagine what type of "independent" congressional "investigation" Nunes has in mind when he informs the target of the investigation what is going on before he even allows the Democrats and Republicans on his committee to see and vet the intelligence themselves. The obvious partisanship was unfortunately predictable given that Nunes was a leading figure of the Trump transition team. Newspapers across the political spectrum from the Wall Street Journal to the Washington Post have all called on Nunes to step down, which he has up to now refused to do. His own constituents have little say; he hasn't had a town hall, debate or other open public appearance in his district in years.

The congressman will be back in the area to talk to his favorite kind of people, big money supporters, tomorrow. If you can make it to Fresno, I encourage you to go and help encourage some accountability from Rep. Nunes. I've pasted the appeal below from the Visalia Democratic Club. If you participate, remember to keep it peaceful!

Event: Rally Against Nunes
Date: Friday, March 31st
Time: Noon to 2 PM, Sign-ups start at 10:30 AM
Place: Tornino's Banquet Hall in Fresno
          5080 N. Blackstone Ave. (Just north of Shaw and Blackstone)

Representative Devin Nunes will be giving a speech at the Ag Lenders Society of California. Our group will be rallying outside Tornino's, where he will be speaking. Since he is getting so much national coverage, various organizations have contacted the Rachel Maddow show to drum up attention to help get support for the UnseatNunes Crowdpac. Therefore, this rally needs to be BIG!!!! It's also critical that the rally be nonviolent and does not interfere with the Lenders' meeting that will be going on inside Tornino's. The goal is to send a message to the country, with lots of signs and attendance that we are not happy with Nunes.
We need your help to spread the word so we can get lots of people at this rally!
Sherry Timmons (559)334-7531

Monday, March 20, 2017

Liar in Chief Exposed in Congressional Hearing

The House Intelligence Committee met today to investigate President Trump's recent charges that President Obama ordered phone taps of Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers were clear with the results of their investigations: Trump's tweets containing these allegations are complete fabrications without a shred of evidence behind them. In other words, the President of the United States is a brazen, bald-faced liar.

"I have no information that supports those tweets," Comey told the committee, adding that the Justice Department, along with the FBI, had no information to support the allegations. Comey said that no president could order a wiretapping operation against a specific American citizen.

Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump would not apologize to Obama for the accusations against him, adding that there were questions still remaining about surveillance that may or may not have taken place during the campaign.

A Fox News report had also intimated that British intelligence might have done the job for Obama, a charge that Trump and his Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, have repeated. CNN reports: Rogers said under questioning from the top Democrat on the committee that there was no information that the Obama administration requested the British surveillance agency GCHQ to conduct eavesdropping on Trump, as stated in a Fox News report that has been cited by the White House. He also said that he had not personally done so."No, sir, and nor would I, that would be expressly against the construct of the Five Eyes agreement that has been in place for decades."

Comey and Rogers were also questioned about Russian involvement in trying to sway the 2016 election to Trump. The FBI investigation is still proceeding on this, and based on the research so far Comey directly corroborated these suspicions. "They wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her, help him. I think all three we were confident in at least as early as December," Comey said.

Friday, March 17, 2017

What Jesus Would Say to Paul Ryan

What are the ethical underpinnings of society? Are there moral principles which provide a guide for the objectives of public policy? How do the foundational standards of the Judeo-Christian world view, the starting point for any discussion of right and wrong in Western Civilization, guide our steps in meeting societal needs? These are big philosophical questions, and any political debate is conditioned by the moral perspectives of those involved. Since the object of politics is to accomplish good for the polity, what is done depends on what one considers good, and that depends on where one goes to find moral guidance.

Nicholas Kristof has written a column on the health care debate in the form of a parable. It expresses his idea of what Jesus would say to Paul Ryan. It expresses my own views as well. I invite you to read it for yourself and see what you think. Read it on this link.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge

I saw "Hacksaw Ridge" today and I'd have to rate it the best World War II movie I've ever seen. That's saying a lot because I include such films as "The Longest Day," "Saving Private Ryan," "Letters from Iwo Jima," and even "Patton." It's a marvelous story and character study, with enough background to both lay the groundwork and develop empathy for the people involved. Then of course come the combat scenes, and in this case I find them unparalleled for their realism.

The true-life story of Desmond Doss set the stage for this magnificent film. Almost drummed out of the service for his refusal to carry a gun and shunned by his comrades-in-arms for what they mistook to be his cowardice, he went on to save 75 of their lives under the utmost peril of his own life in one of the most epic stories of heroism ever told. He is the only conscientious objector ever to win America's highest military award, the Medal of Valor. 

Andrew Garfield is brilliant in the title role and director Mel Gibson turns in an incredible job of painting the picture and telling the story. Unless you can't take graphic combat wounds "Hacksaw Ridge" is a must-see.

Friday, March 10, 2017

AARP Urges Defeat of GOP Health Plan

AARP has come out strongly against the Republican health proposal. The organization's  announcement today is reproduced below. It's one of the most concise list of the plan's shortcomings I've seen. This harmful legislation would take health care away from millions of people, take billions of dollars away from Medicare and inflate the budget deficit. If it passes in its present form many thousands of people will die. It's that stark. To go to the AARP's full newsletter on the topic click here.

In a statement today, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond announced AARP’s opposition to the House plan that would make changes to our current health care system, such as shortening the life of Medicare, hiking costs for those who can least afford higher insurance premiums, risking seniors’ ability to live independently, and giving tax breaks to big drug companies and health insurance companies:

“AARP opposes this legislation, as introduced, that would weaken Medicare, leaving the door open to a voucher program that shifts costs and risks to seniors.
“Before people even reach retirement age, big insurance companies could be allowed to charge them an age tax that adds up to thousands of dollars more per year. Older Americans need affordable health care services and prescriptions. This plan goes in the opposite direction, increasing insurance premiums for older Americans and not doing anything to lower drug costs.
“On top of the hefty premium increase for consumers, big drug companies and other special interests get a sweetheart deal.
“Finally, Medicaid cuts could impact people of all ages and put at risk the health and safety of 17.4 million children and adults with disabilities and seniors by eliminating much-needed services that allow individuals to live independently in their homes and communities. Although no one believes the current health care system is perfect, this harmful legislation would make health care less secure and less affordable.

AARP stands ready to work with both parties on legislation that puts Americans first, not the special interests.