Mike Pence: The Leading Member of the "Israel, What Nuclear Weapons?" Flat Earth Society

Last night, Pence addressed the Republican Convention: "And if the world knows nothing else, it will know this: America stands with Israel." 

I've heard him say that before. 

Being a journalist based in the Washington, D.C. area, I try to ask tough questions of political figures when I can. Perhaps my favorite question is some variation of "do you acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons?" I've asked this of many political figures and virtually none have given me a straightforward response.

But the most surreal -- almost comical -- response came from Donald Trump's VP pic, Mike Pence, in 2011. At the time, he was a congressman and vice-chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia:


Question: You've also served on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Do you know that Israel has nuclear weapons?

Pence: [long pause, looks down] I'm -- I am aware that Israel is our most cherished ally. And I strongly support Israel's right of self defense and to take such actions as are necessary to secure their homeland as much as we take actions to secure ours."

Question: “Do you think it increases or decreases U.S. credibility around the world when U.S. government officials can’t even acknowledge that Israel has a massive nuclear arsenal?” 

Pence: “The American people support Israel. I call Israel our most cherished ally and I will continue to stand -- without apology -- for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and strong cooperation with our most cherished ally in a very volatile part of the world.”

He was utterly incapable of engaging on the issue. The passionate attachment has become a mantra and no inconvenient facts need enter the equation. 

Some other responses from political luminaries: "The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel’s Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial". 

Since my questioning these figures, information has come out about gag orders on the subject. As Grant Smith of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy wrote in 2015: "Under two known gag orders -- punishable by imprisonment -- U.S. security-cleared government agency employees and contractors may not disclose that Israel has a nuclear weapons program. GEN-16 is a ‘no-comment’ regulation on ‘classified information in the public domain.’ ‘DOE Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities’ forbids stating what 63.9 percent of Americans already know -- that Israel has a nuclear arsenal.'"

Thanks to Matt Bradley and Chris Belcher for help with the Washington Stakeout project, which questioning Pence was a part of: @dcstakeout and on YouTube

Could the Republican Party Use its "Crack up" to its Benefit, Different Parts Controlling Different Branches of Gov?

Some Republicans are trying to do "Dump Trump" at convention. I suspect that what they are doing is trying to distance themselves from him so that they can keep House and Senate if he goes down. And they might be wanting to tell the "Tea Party" types a big "I told you so," so they can retake full control of party after the election. 

But, my channeling Theodore J. Lowi (who wrote The End of the Republican Era about the breakup of the Republican coalition) leads me to wonder: They might be experimenting with the notion of having different parts of the GOP in charge of Executive and Congress as a way of keeping the different elements of the party together. That is, resolving their factions by having each in charge of different part of government. It might fail, it might work, especially because of the hatred toward Hillary Clinton. 

Garrison Keillor's Prophecy and Apostasy

On what was billed as his last show, Garrison Keillor, host of "A Prairie Home Companion" got a call from President Barack Obama and they traded extensive compliments, with Keillor telling Obama he was "the coolest president." 

Keillor's signing off on July 4 weekend was likely calculated to accentuate his presumed ties to all things Americana, but for me it actually highlighted his hypocrisies and contradictions. 

For one, my favorite story of his was set on the Fourth. I'd long thought that any reasonable person who hears that story would concur it was his greatest. Unfortunately when I asked him about it last year, Keillor himself clearly wouldn't fit into that category. 

The story -- which he told shortly after the 1991 bombing of Iraq -- was simply titled "Prophet." When I heard it at the time, it gave me a sense that there was a silver of hope in turning the U.S. public around regarding the country's place in the world. My girlfriend back then gave me the cassette tape collection that included the story as a birthday present. 

Until lawyers expunge it from the internet, you can listen to that story on here. I've excerpted the heart of it below. 

I tolerated Keillor's unevenness for years after that, listening on and off. I had an unsatisfying run in with him in 1999, but I'd overlooked that and his various annoying proclivities, especially his seeming incessant avoidance of the moral sins that created the U.S. -- because he told the "Prophet" story. But you never really know someone until you have a chance to ask them a couple of questions, as I did when he spoke at the National Press Club last year.

He began his talk at the Press Club by bemoaning that people rarely addressed particular things he'd written. They'd just say "good job" -- as you "would say to a child who had had a bowel movement. ... As I look back on my career in broadcasting, nobody had ever complemented me on a specific thing. Nobody had ever quoted back to me some brilliant thing I had ever said. It was always general. 'We like your show.' 'It really relaxes our children.' 'We listen to it late at night.' And it occurred to me that perhaps I had spent 40 years in radio as a sort of comforting baritone presence and that nobody heard anything in particular that I had said."

I felt so good, because I had submitted a question about the "Prophet" story which he told decades earlier. Surely he'd be floored that someone remembers that story. Perhaps seeing that that's what resonated with people he would be compelled to use his pulpit to do more of that caliber of commentary. 

The moderator of the event, then Press Club President John Hughes did ask that question: "One of your greatest stories on 'A Prairie Home Companion' was the 'Prophet' which you told during the 1991 Gulf War. What would a prophet tell us now?"

But Keillor basically renounced the story: "I am not in the prophecy business and sort of regret that monologue. I've been trying to forget it for years and years. It was one of my ill-advised ventures into political commentary. I had almost erased it from my mind, John. You brought back a little tiny bit of it. That's p-r-o-p-h-e-t? I have no idea -- I have been around and seen a lot of young people in the last month ..." 

He yada-yada-ed for a bit about passing the mantle, but the point was made. [See video.] 

Here's the most substantial chunks of the "Prophet" story: 

I recall when I was a little boy, going to the volunteer fire department Fourth of July picnic. My family doesn’t remember this at all, but they have very poor memories. ... I got the beans on my plate and I had the bun and I had just put the wiener in the bun and I was just squeezing the ketchup and the air turned white and it was snowing. Snow was falling and everybody was amazed and then somebody said, “oh no”, they said, “It’s fluff from the cottonwood trees, it’s just seeds coming down from the cottonwood trees”, and so, that was that, but then I looked down at my plate and there was nothing there. Now cottonwood fluff does not melt. Seeds don’t just disappear. It was snow on the Fourth of July. A snow flurry hit Lake Wobegon on the Fourth of July when I was a boy, but if you talk to anybody, including my family who was at the Volunteer Fire Department Bean Feed that day in 1951 on the Fourth of July, they will tell you that was fluff from the cottonwood trees that came down. I was the only one who knew the truth. A terrible responsibility for a child and one more reason to leave town, you know. There were too many things that I was the only one that knew them... 

Stunning thought, but when God sends snow down on the Fourth of July, that indicates to me that he is talking to us in a loud voice and apparently I was the only one who saw this and therefore, the only one who might have a hunch what God was trying to tell us, but I turned down the privilege, thank you very much, no thank you. To be a prophet was too much for me then and it’s too much for me now. To be a prophet is hard work anytime and anyplace, but you never want to do it in a town of less than 2,000 population. If you live there and if you come from there. To stand and to tell people the truth that they have been successfully avoiding is not a pleasant business in a small town. 

Back in 1918 in my town, back when the streets were lined with flags and when school children sat for hours of deadly nonsense about glory and honor and this war was a war to end all wars, this war would usher in a New World Order. Sat and listened to this there was a man on a bench outside a grocery store and turned to the man next to him and said, “I wish they’d take the flags down, I don’t think there’s any glory in this war, it’s just a bunch of politicians.” And the word got around town of this man's remarks, this slur on our country ... and people would not speak to him again for a long time...

You have become a scourge. You have become a prophet and it’s time to time to hit the road Jack. You gotta get out of this town. Well, that never happened to me and I’m not ever going to have it happen to me. That’s what God was offering me when he had the snow fall on the Fourth of July and I saw it. He was saying, "Witness to people about this. Reveal the truth of this and be a prophet." I said, "No thank you, I don’t want it." He said, "This will be a great service to people whom you love, to tell them the truth”. I said, “Well they’re not going to thank me for it. I know that for sure. People hurt prophets. They throw sharp things at them. They rip the clothes off them and they make them sit for long periods of time in uncomfortable positions on top of sharp objects that are extremely flammable. That’s what they do to prophets. I don’t want that. I don’t want any pain whatsoever. I don’t ever want to experience any pain. Minor dentistry is more than enough for me. So, no thank you. I don’t want to be a prophet and tell the truth. What can I do that’s the opposite of that?” And so, I got into this line of work. Telling lies and I’ve never regretted it, which is a terrible thing to say in front of children. To say that you’ve spent your life telling lies, but I have and I’ve had a wonderful time, and I have been very well rewarded for this, and I have been congratulated by all sorts of people including members of the clergy, whereas if I had been prophet and told the truth, I would be broke and I would be unhappy myself and I would be despised and I would be condemned from most pulpits in the country. No thanks, I don’t really care for that. ...

No, it’s not that I don’t know what a prophet would say, you see. I do. It’s not for lack of a message. I’m not interested in saying it. If there were a prophet, of course, a prophet would tell us that America is a country that God has blessed so much, we have not suffered as other people have. We don’t know what suffering is like. We have not known war in our country since 1865. That experience of war in 1865 was so horrible in this country, the Civil War, that we did not lift our hand against anybody for years and years after that. [note even here, Keillor ignores wars against the native population.]

But over the years we’ve become so prosperous and we have developed technology that allows us to deliver war to other people, and it never falls on us. We have no idea what war is like in this country. Our soldiers know, but when they come back to tell us, we don’t know what they’re talking about. We don’t know what war is like in this country and so it behooves us to be careful. And to rain down death on people and then to gloat over it is not becoming in God’s eyes. This is not good. To rain down destruction from this country, which knows so little suffering that our own navels become the source of our suffering is not pleasant or good in God’s eyes. We should be very careful, very careful. This is what a prophet would say, I think. 

But who wants to say it, because prophets have an approval rating of five percent, only in some places. No, I'd rather be in my line of work. ... God was disappointed in me at first, but He's come around to seeing this more and more from my point of view. ... God made mistakes...you spread the truth around and it becomes common and people ignore it. ... Whereas, with someone like me, if I ever do tell the truth, people remember it. ... I remember every time I told the truth. Like a snowfall in July -- you remember every time. [Partial transcripts via "Lying Through Their Teeth" by Danny C. Campbell [PDF]. "The Favored of God" by Rev. Dr. Timothy Ives [doc].] 

To me, Keillor's writings are a self-refutation. There's almost no need for meaningful commentary. It's disguised in jest, but the obvious truth is that Keillor is explicitly saying that he doesn't want to be honest because our society punishes people who are forthright about such truths. If looked at clearly, the indictments to the society and himself could hardly be harsher. 

Beyond that, his calling Obama "the coolest president" almost dovetails with his critique of the Bush I bombing of Iraq. Keillor finds it reprehensible that the U.S. would "rain down death on people and then to gloat over" -- as much of the country did in 1991. And hearing his revulsion was a welcomed thing for me at the time. But it would seem Keillor mostly doesn't like the gloating. 

Indeed, just around the time that Keillor was taping his final show on Friday, the Obama administration finally released preposterously low-balled estimates of the number of civilians killed in its drone terror program. These were presumably for Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. The numbers excluded "areas of active hostilities” which the administration states "currently include Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria." The timing of the release of the numbers was particularly noteworthy -- a Friday afternoon of a July 4 weekend -- a transparent attempt to minimize coverage of the story. In a minimally ethical world, the timing of the release would itself be part of the indictment. The episode epitomizes patriotism as the last refuge of scoundrels. 

But this works with Keillor admiration of "cool." You want understated bombings and geopolitical machinations. Soft power. Subtle threats, not craven chest-beating. A massive global terror campaign with a pacifistic veneer. You get the blown up limbs and collapsed states that posed an obstacle to U.S. government elite designs without the handwringing. This is far preferable to what gloating or goading people might have engaged in in 1991 or years since. 

Along similar lines, another question of mine did get asked when Keillor spoke at the Press Club last year -- or rather a neutered piece of it. I asked: "Do you see contradictions of liberalism -- from LBJ to today -- proclaiming progress but backing wars, bombings, and increasingly presiding over more economic inequality?" 

This was notably truncated by the Press Club management (either John Hughes or someone else who passed him my questions) to exclude the reference to wars and bombings: "What is your opinion on liberalism? Do you see contradictions from LBJ to today, proclaiming progress But also increasingly presiding over more economic inequality?" This prompted English major Keillor's reply: "That is a powerful, complicated sentence. I am not sure I could diagram that sentence. Yes of course there have been changes Since then and defeats. But we don't have people running for public office against Social Security and Medicare. So that says a lot right there. You can always run against Washington. Welcome to the club. But they don't get very specific about their plans for entitlement programs. They talk about them sort of vaguely. The things that LBJ and his cohorts have set up seemed fairly durable to me."

It's actually the same theme all round. Keillor on his show ignores bombings of several nations by a Democratic president. And the Press Club in their choice of questioning excluded acknowledgement of same.

Keillor did make some reasonable remarks at the Press Club in my view: "We need to take a deep breath and back away from the Middle East. ... You can call this isolationism, you can call it ice tea. Whatever." His reasoning was convoluted, but he got there in ways I won't pick apart here, but he got there. The funny part is that on the rare occasion I've tuned into his show, he's more likely to be talking about World War I than any of the wars the U.S. government is waging now. 

But perhaps the most bizarre answer from Keillor at the Press Club was in response to a question submitted by someone else. They asked if Somali immigrants were not changing the demographics of Lake Wobegon in Minnesota. 

Keillor responded: "I don't know if I should introduce a Somali character and what he or she would do in Lake Wobegon. I could have a Somali woman who could come as an intern to the Lutheran church. That would be interesting. A conversion and a young woman in training to become a pastor. That's a possibility."

This was before liberals were aghast at Trump's remarks about Muslims. But Keillor almost sounded Trumpish in his statements: "We have many listeners among the Somalis to our shows. ... We have all these listeners because they can learn English by listening to 'A Prairie Home Companion.' We don't make references to politics on the show."

See the depraved thought patterns here from a "liberal": Keillor can seemingly only figure out a way to work a Muslim character into his stories if they decide not to be a Muslim any more. Of course he does politics on his show, he mocks Trump -- and in a sense, his very remarks about only having Muslims on if they convert is quite political in the worst way. 

Keillor of course expressed sympathy with the Somalis fleeing their "disastrously war-torn country" -- but in a horribly familiar pattern, expressed little interest about how it's managed to say so "war-torn." Which brings me to a final irony: One of the best analysts on Somalia, Abdi Ismail Samatar, is at the University of Minnesota. Right around the time Keillor was speaking at the Press Club last year, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Somalia and Samatar told me: “The U.S. should face up to its role in bringing Somalia to its current state. It actually backed the warlords against the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC), which was trying to bring some stability to the country. In 2005, the UIC defeated the warlords and created peace in Mogadishu for the first time in years and without any help from the international community. Rather than engaging with the UIC, the U.S. and its African clients considered them as terrorists and Ethiopia was given the green light to invade and dismantle it. Ethiopian forces took over Mogadishu on December 25, 2006, and the prospect of a peaceful resurrection of Somalia perished.”

But Keillor didn't need to get into the analysis if he doesn't want to. The line of thought in the "Prophet" -- the missiles "never falls on us" was the heart of it. Connections could and should be drawn between different sorts of tribal tendencies, whether in St. Paul or Damascus. Or just plain among people. It's tragic that even if we awake to our current state, it may be because of a realization of the vulnerability of people in the U.S. now as well. It's wildly disproportionate, but the reaper of political violence does now visit upon the U.S. public on occasion. But even with such circumstances, we're not facing the realities. 

Instead, we see a proliferation of brazen hypocrisies and defacto apologetics for political violence. Do we really need a prophet to see what's right in front of us?

To #PPLSummit friends: VotePact -- Toward defeating Trump and Clinton

Dear friends, 

I'm sorry I couldn't make the #PPLSummit. I've been swamped dealing with backlash against Muslims after the horrific Orlando shooting. This week began with Trump brazenly blaming Muslims for not fingering terrorists (and Clinton doing so subtly), a story line based largely on questionable anonymous sources around the shooter's widow. That story line seems to have slowed, largely to information I've been able to get out the last 72 hours

But I'm writing to you because I want you to know about a path toward defeating Clinton and Trump while you're at the Summit: VotePact.org. There's a way out of fear, out of silence in not knowing what to do when faced with the "choice" of Clinton or Trump. If you can't vote for either fine, vote for who you most really want, but you'll want to share this with comrades who are trapped and torn. 

If you're trapped, there's a way out. It requires work, but it's a real path: Sanders supporters and other progressives can reach out to conscientious conservatives they know -- friends, relatives, neighbors, debating partners, etc. -- and both vote for the independent candidates of their choice. That way they don't change the balance of between Clinton and Trump, but both individuals -- who have to trust each other -- get to overcome their fear and get a greater measure of political freedom. 

You become free of the prospect of voting for Clinton's and all her wars and Wall Street ties and your "votebuddy" is free of voting for Trump's misogyny and bigotry. 

It's about really breaking down barriers, reaching out and instilling fear into Trump and Clinton instead of each of them using fear people have to keep them trapped in that "choice".

There are lots of benefits to this, some outlined in my latest piece from earlier this month, below. 

Happy to hear back from people on this, please feel free to share this email and idea with others at conference. 

all my best, 
Sam Husseini

PS: And here's my latest piece on VotePact: #BernieAndBoom

Noor Zahi Salman: Everything You're Hearing About Me Is a Lie

[Article originally posted June 15, 2016 at approx 5:43 ET p.m.]

Addendum: My source has now been in direct communication with Noor Zahi Salman. She says that she has read this article. She states in a text which I have seen that instead of blaming her, since she had nothing to do with the shooting, shouldn't the people who sold the guns take some blame? She writes all she wanted "was a home, family, and peace -- for the media to say these lies isn't right." A friend, who is with her, adds: "It is not an easy time for her ... and having a child ask a mother 'where is daddy' can't be easy and for New York Post to show her son's face is not right." [Added June 16 at approx 11:55 ET a.m.]

Original article: 

Virtually everything in the media about Noor Zahi Salman, Omar Mateen's wife, is from anonymous government sources. They lie in situations like this. 

Such anonymous sourcing helped facilitate the lies used to invade Iraq and countless other horrific policies. They're doubly dangerous during a panic, consider that after government anthrax killed people in 2001, Andrew Sullivan talked about using nuclear weapons

And the government has a lot of incentives to lie about this case. They failed to keep people safe. So, what to do? Blame the wife. Blame the Muslims. They didn't alert us. They are suspect. Potentially, all of them. That's what Trump -- and Clinton in more subtle ways -- are saying. 

I didn't need to be in contact with people who know Noor Zahi Salman to know that, but it helps. 

In fact, I am in touch with a friend of hers who is in regular contact with people around her now. This means I am probably in closer touch with the actual facts of the case than the zillion media outlets blaring whatever it is "sources" are telling them to blare at you. In so doing, they are smearing a woman who was questioned by the most powerful government in the world, smeared on the largest media outlets as a virtual accessory to mass murder -- all without the benefit of a lawyer. 

She is apparently telling people around her that virtually everything you're hearing about her is a lie. 

Some examples:

NBC claims: "The Orlando gunman's wife feared he was going to attack a gay nightclub overnight Saturday and pleaded with him not to do anything violent — but failed to warn police after he left, NBC News has learned."

Noor Zahi Salman is apparently saying she didn't have any idea of an attack. 

NBC claims: "In addition, she said she was with him when he bought ammunition and a holster, several officials familiar with the case said."

Noor Zahi Salman is apparently saying she didn't do that. She says it might be possible that they went shopping together -- and she went to buy food or clothing and he might have gone to a gun store. In any case, why is this on her? Why are people focusing on her and not the "security" firm G4S that employed Mateen? How is it that the FBI is suddenly off the hook? 

The Daily Beast claims: "Noor Zahi Salman also reportedly drove Mateen to the gay nightclub Pulse to case the place before he killed 49 people there on Sunday night."

Noor Zahi Salman is apparently saying that she never drove him to the club and that in fact, she doesn't like to drive at all. 

ABC claims: "After Noor Mateen began to answer questions, agents administered a polygraph test to determine whether she was telling the truth."

Noor Zahi Salman is apparently saying she offered to take a polygraph but the government declined. 

What we apparently have is severe logrolling between media and government -- where government sources hide behind anonymous quotes and media hide behind anonymous sources. So, basically, they can mutually absolve each other and publish most anything that will benefit the both of them. 

Seriously, what's the justification for using anonymous sources on this story? My justification for using my anonymous sources is that they are scared. The only thing the government sources driving this story are afraid of is that they will be held responsible for their words. 

We're not seeing a free-for-all in terms of everyone speculating as they please. There might be justification for that: Bring on the government stenographer, then bring on the false flag theorist. No, what we're seeing are directed leaks laying out a pattern of smearing an individual, smearing a community and getting the government and media off the hook for the fact that 50 people are dead. 

Some friends of Noor Zahi Salman are apparently speculating that what actually happened was that Omar Mateen was about to be outed as gay -- and went nuts. This could have broader implications since "Israel surveils and blackmails gay Palestinians to make them informants." That clearly is speculative. But far more responsible than speculation that is streaming forth from your TV. 

I know more, including an allegation about how the government treated Noor Zahi Salman that would turn your stomach. 

I'm not telling all I know now because I have reason to believe it might make the family and friends uncomfortable. 

See what I did just there? I was forthright with you, my reader, while respectful of my sources. 

Big media propagating anonymous government allegations about Noor Zahi Salman distracts from their own failure to protect the public from attacks. 

Instead, it fingers the Arab and Muslim communities as responsible. And that's a message that is being articulated in ways crude and subtle from our "leaders": 

Says Donald Trump: "But the Muslims have to work with us. They have to work with us. They know what’s going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death, and destruction."

More subtly, says Hillary Clinton: "Since 9/11, law enforcement agencies have worked hard to build relationships with Muslim-American communities. Millions of peace-loving Muslims live, work, and raise their families across America. They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to help us block it. We should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them." Clinton pretends to be against "scapegoating" when that's exactly what she just did. Most just let it slide because it's not as crass as Trump's formulation of much the same idea. 

Most subtle still is President Obama: "Since before I was President, I’ve been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As President, I have repeatedly called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions."

I don't know Noor Zahi Salman. I have not had the opportunity to speak to her directly. I don't know for certain how forthright of a person she is, though even through media reports, several people who have known her have said she's upstanding. My immediate source I believe is very reliable. Things are rushed, there maybe misunderstandings here. Noor Zahi Salman is quite likely in shock, she may be honestly misspeaking, especially when in a coercive environment before threatening government agents. 

Now, would I like more sources to confirm what I'm writing? Yes, I would, but I think it would be irresponsible to let what are likely falsehoods contaminate the public mind on virtually every major media outlet given the limited capacity to communicate directly with Noor Zahi Salman at this time. 

Correction: This article originally stated "Noor Zahi Salman is apparently 'free', but with an electronic bracelet." That sentence has now been removed. In fact, my source now tells me that she doesn't have a electronic bracelet on her, she has rather been told by the FBI to keep a phone they gave her. My source states: "The FBI was waiting for a search warrant and that apparently didn't come as fast as they wanted so they asked if they could search the apartment. She said she had nothing to hide and signed something allowing them to take her phone, ipad, and a camera. Again, she said she had nothing to hide and they could have them. The FBI gave her a cell phone to carry with her in the mean time (and possibly in place of a bracelet as a tracking device). After she gave the authorization to take the items is when they said she was free to go." [Correction added June 16 at approx 11:05 ET a.m.] To clarify: I believe that the misunderstanding over the electronic bracelet occurred because Noor Zahi Salman and/or a friend or relative offered for the FBI to put a electronic bracelet on her as a condition of release, but the FBI was willing to let her go if she checked in with a phone. This would seem to speak to the level of her cooperation. [June 16 at approx 3:15 ET p.m.] 

NPR "Correction" Obscures How "Terrorism Correspondent" Falsified How We Might End Threats

On Monday, the day after the horrific Orlando massacre, FAIR published a piece of mine: "Commenting on Orlando, NPR Terrorism Reporter Reverses Political Lesson of Madrid Blast," which stated: 

Shortly before noon on Sunday (6/12/16), during NPR’s national coverage of the horrific shooting in Orlando, NPR “counter-terrorism correspondent” Dina Temple-Raston [@NPRDina] made a critical false claim that deserves an on-air correction.

NPR’s hosts were talking about the Orlando shooting, terrorism and the US election. They asked Temple-Raston to chime in on the issue, and she drew a parallel with Spain, claiming that when the 2004 Madrid train attacks happened just before the Spanish election, “the more conservative candidate ended up winning.”

This is exactly backwards. 

In fact, the incumbent government, led by the conservative People’s Party, had brought the country into the Iraq War a year before against public opposition, and feared that if the attack were shown to be Mideast-related, voters would be furious. The day of the attack, March 11, 2004, the Spanish government had the United Nations Security Council pass resolution 1530, which condemned in “the strongest terms the bomb attacks in Madrid, Spain, perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA.” Three days later, the day of the election, Al Qaeda claimed responsibility.

Late Tuesday, I got a note from the NPR ombudsperson, Elizabeth Jensen (@ejensenNYC) pointing me to a "correction" on their website, which states: "On June 12, 2016, during a live broadcast about the Orlando shootings, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston was mistaken when she said commuter trains in Madrid were bombed in 2007. In fact, that happened in 2004. She also was mistaken about the results of elections that were held three days after the bombings. Prime Minister José María Aznar's party was defeated. Her comments begin around the 42:15 mark in the audio attached to this page."

I responded with the note below and have not received a response as yet:

If I understand the situation, this is merely being posted online, on the "corrections page" -- I don't see any link to that from the front page. The original falsehood was broadcast live on air on hundreds of stations at what was likely a time of very high listenership, just after the horrific Orlando massacre. 

All this is ironically mitigated by the fact that the "correction" does virtually nothing to communicate that Temple-Raston got the story exactly backwards. Temple-Raston claimed that the "more conservative" Spanish party won just after the 2004 Madrid train terror attacks, when in fact, the more antiwar party won -- largely because of a 10 percent swing in the polls following the attacks. 

Nor does it communicate the critical significance of the underlying point: This was in a discussion about the U.S. election: How would a terror attack affect political campaigns? Virtually no one reading this correction will have any sense of that. 

There's a huge story about what happened in Spain, how Spain has suffered no Mideast related terrorism in over a decade after this dramatic election following the attacks which led to the more antiwar party entering office and ending Spain's participation in the Iraq war. Do you have plans for that to be shared with your listeners? How it might affect decisions the U.S. makes? 

"Counter-terrorism correspondent" Temple-Raston's getting the year wrong as well is ironically used in the "correction" to further bury the lead of her getting the story backwards. 

This can hardly be seen as a response that would compel reporters to ensure they don't disinform your listeners. 

Sincerely, 
Sam Husseini

Sanders Shouldn't be in Vermont, He Should be in Brazil


Media report that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is meeting with advisers in Vermont on Sunday. 

This last week, many spoke laudingly of the recently deceased Muhammad Ali. 

As some noted, Ali's great contribution was not being a talented athlete, heavy weight champion -- there are many such prominent sports figures, but they don't play a historic role. His true greatness came because at the height of his fame and powers, he challenged an oppressive system: He refused to go into the Army during the Vietnam War. It cost him a great deal of money and stature -- and tremendously helped the world and assured his canonization. 

Sanders has a similar opportunity now. As pundits are voicing alleged ecstasy over Hillary Clinton "shattering the glass ceiling" by becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, the first female president in Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, has been ousted in a defacto coup. This has been fostered by establishment media in Brazil, as for-profit media often plays the role of king maker in ways stark and subtle in every country, including the U.S., as we've seen in this current election

Rousseff's cabinet was diverse, both in terms of gender and ethnically. The new government is all white males. Rousseff was set to investigate corruption, including in the Brazilian Senate, and the coup was planned out by corrupt senators. Indeed, the anticorruption minister in the new coup government was recently forced to resign when a tape was leaked about how he was trying to cover up corruption. All this and more is being done with U.S. government silence and tacit support

Certainly, Sanders has challenged the power of Wall Street and the wealthy from within the Democratic Party. But, largely because of the role of the media in fostering a mantle of celebrity around Hillary Clinton (and Donald Trump for that matter), they are the likely nominees.

But perhaps, for all the good that Sanders did, he might feel a measure of remorse for what he hasn't done: Spoken serious about the U.S. government's role in the world. Even in his discussions of inequality, he's confined himself to inequality inside the U.S. But what about global poverty? 

Has Sanders been moved by slums in Latin America? Refugee camps in the Mideast? Stark poverty in Africa? Sweatshops in Asia? He went to a Vatican conference where Bolivian President Evo Morales also spoke. They chatted. What can be built from that? How can progressive leaders work together globally? How can movements cross boundaries? Are not movements weakened when they confine themselves to national barriers? 

Ali took himself out of his comfort zone. He focused not just on getting a seat on a bus for himself, and not just for African Americans, but spoke against the Vietnam War. Sanders has not transcended himself. As Ben Jealous has said, Sanders "has been giving the same damn speech for 50 years." Well, that's not necessarily a good thing. There are people living in horrible conditions around the world, in large part because of economic, political and military policies determined in facade marble buildings in Washington, D.C. Sanders has been remarkably mute about that. 

The power of the establishment rests in large part because of its global connections. But progressive forces have been reluctant to wield such power. Recall shortly before the invasion of Iraq, there were quasi-global protests against the war on Feb. 15, 2003. Just after that, the New York Times called the peace movement "the second super power." Yes, that didn't stop the war, but that was because there was only some global solidarity late in the day. The answer is more solidarity sooner. 

And now, Sanders has campaigned in all 50 states. It's late in the day, but not too late for him to break the wall and seriously engage the rest of the world. That should start with going to Brazil and meeting with Rousseff. It would help overturn the coup, thus doing a tremendous service to the people of Brazil and it would put the heat on the U.S. government regarding its behind the scenes machinations. It would also highlight the fake feminism that surrounds the Clinton campaign. Do we want women in officialdom simply so that they can be a murderous and corrupt as men have been? Or do we want a different kind of politics that is inclusive in terms of gender, but that is based on solidarity and uplift rather than "I got mine"? 

Clinton's crimes on foreign policy constitute quite a rap sheet. Sanders has at best scratched the surface. From bombing Libya, to voting for the Iraq war, to backing Netanyahu, to backing the Honduran coup and responsibility for the killing of Berta Cáceres, it's a gruesome tail that few have really come to grips with. 

And perhaps Sanders, struck by fear of Trump, desperately wants to look away. He doesn't want a sun rise, he wants a sunset. Does he want to be a pawn in the Clinton machine? See the roles that other past "insurgent" candidates play now: Howard Dean, Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich. They played the role of what Bruce Dixon has called "sheepdogging" -- they ended up being little more than a tool of the Democratic Party establishment to get presumably serious progressives to end up supporting an increasingly pro-corporate Democratic Party. That same fate of accessory or marginalization awaits Sanders. 

Now, the consultants and "advisers" he's meeting with this weekend are probably pushing Sanders to accept what bread crumbs he can get from Clinton & Co. After all, they have their careers to think about, and their careers are with the Democratic Party machine or some appendage of it. 

But real power, real greatness, doesn't come from accepting such a role. That's why we remember the name Muhammad Ali and forget many, many others. 

#BernieAndBoom

The dissent within the Democratic Party that Sen. Bernie Sanders has sparked needs somewhere to go. 

It should go in a direction that doesn't back Clinton -- and doesn't help Trump. 

That seems like you can't do both those things, but you can if you parse it through and do some real work. 

That energy should not go to backing Hillary Clinton: We've been down that road before. Gov. Howard Dean was the ostensible "anti war" candidate in 2004, he got folded into the campaign of John Kerry, who was "for the war before he was against it." Dean promised a movement in "Democracy for America" and it's not delivered much so far as I can tell. It's difficult to believe that Sanders, after his likely endorsement of Clinton, will be in much of position to meaningfully change policy in a Clinton administration. Note that even Sanders' position on many issues, especially foreign policy, were at best weak tea. At best, realistically speaking, millions of Sanders supporters falling behind Clinton now will result in a hollowness and crumbs. 

That energy should not go toward helping Trump: Some of Sanders' backers have been rallying around "Bernie or Bust." While I appreciate the sentiment, it needs to be more strategic than that. Many progressives and other supporters of Sanders correctly note that giving up on the electoral system, or voting third party when someone has a preference for Clinton over Trump, can be self defeating. Of course, if someone has equal distaste for Trump and Clinton, then one can simply vote for any independent candidate of their choice, but the reality is that many will feel compelled to vote for Clinton because they so fear and loath Trump -- just as many will feel drawn to voting for Trump because of hatred toward Clinton. 

How to resolve this?

What I suggest at VotePact.org for Sanders supporters to do now: Reach out to Republicans in your life. Make a pact: You vote for an independent party candidate, like the Greens (Jill Stein is the likely nominee) or a socialist candidate and your Republican friend, relative, co-worker, whatever, votes for some candidate other than Trump. They can vote for the Libertarian (they just launched their Gary Johnson - William Weld ticket, both former Republican governors) or the Constitution party. 

This way, you both get your political freedom. You're free of voting for Clinton with all of her lies and hypocrisies, her wars and Wall Street ties. And your friend is free of any compulsion to vote for Trump with all of this misogyny and racism. 

People throughout history have risked their lives and fortunes for a measure of political freedom. It should not be beyond the capacities of Sanders supporters and would-be Republicans to team up and both vote against the corruptions of Clinton and Trump. 

The U.S. public is now trapped by two incredibly distasteful figures. They can continue to fuel the hatred between the two of them -- and that mostly benefits Clinton and Trump, or they can have honest dialogues with people in their own life. Fueling the hatred virtually ensures perpetual servitude to the worst elements of each of the establishment political parties. 

It should not be #BernieOrBust. It should be #BernieAndBoom. The dissent that he has begun to articulate on the national stage against a system rigged to benefit the one percent need not choose between two figures of that "one percent."

Sanders say he wants a revolution. This is a revolution. It can take place in every living room, in every car pool, in every chat room, in every pool room. People who know and trust and love each other can come together and both reject the billionaire system, the perpetual wars and the racism. 

Instead of people cancelling out each others votes -- one voting for Clinton because they fear, Trump and another voting for Trump because they hate Clinton, they can revitalize U.S. democracy in an unprecedented way. They can use their bond, their love and their trust to overcome the hatred and fear that the corrupt duopoly uses to enslave them. 

It will take work. It will take maturity. People will have to have an honest conversation with people they disagree with. People will have to not dismiss their friend's views. People will have to hear others out. But at least they'll be people authentically articulating their beliefs, not endless talking points by political hacks. It could be a revolution of the heart far beyond what Sanders has spoken of so far: #BernieAndBoom!

Tim Canova's Statements Are Even More Pro-Israel than Wasserman Schultz

Congressional candidate Tim Canova, a professor of law and public finance, is widely depicted as being a progressive challenger to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Wasserman Schultz of course chairs the Democratic National Committee and has rightly come in for lots of criticism on a host of issues

Canova was recently endorsed by Bernie Sanders. Sanders, at the New York debate with Hillary Clinton in April had showed some minimal concern for rights of Palestinians, rare in U.S. politics, saying that Israel's attack on Gaza was "disproportionate." 

Recently however, on MSNBC, Canova criticized Wasserman Schultz for being unreliable on a host of issues, then added: "even support for Israel, people don't know where she stands." 

The subject of Israel doesn't come up in many pieces on Canova, including his lengthy interview with Glenn Greenwald early this year

As the Jewish Daily Forward recently noted: "when it comes to Israel and the Middle East, Canova is trying to take on Wasserman Schultz from the right."

Canova's website states he "visited Israel many times ... returning to his former kibbutz as a volunteer time and again, and participating in workshops on citizenship, war, and counter-terrorism at Tel Aviv University."

He's also adopted an extremely anti-Iran position. Writes AP: "Despite the big fundraising haul, Canova faces a daunting task to defeat a strong a Jewish Democratic incumbent in a district dominated by Jewish and Hispanic voters, where U.S. relations with Israel and Cuba are debated as often as jobs and the economy. ... Canova supports ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba but believes it must be done 'in stages.' He said 'trade liberalization needs political liberalization.' He thinks the landmark Iran nuclear agreement was filled with 'holes' and that it was wrong to give Iran access to $100 billion in frozen assets." 

Canova has said: "I would like to see a Palestinian state, [but] to me, I don't see how you have one as long as all of these neighbors of Israel still don't recognize its right to exist ... as long as Iran is still funding Hamas, [as long as] Saudi Arabia has telethons for families of suicide bombers!"

In contrast, apparently Saudi Arabia's misogyny, authoritarianism, blood soaked interventions and invasions and fine with Canova. Well, the same would seem to be true regarding Israel's bigotry and carnage. 

I should note I use the term "pro-Israel" with implied scare quotes. An increasingly aggressive Israel could be "successful" in perpetuating oppression. And it could be disastrous for many, including many of the Jewish citizens of Israel. 

The funny part is that I've promoted Canova on Institute for Public Accuracy news releases. But then again, unlike lots of folks, I try not to have a litmus test for people. I try to put people on news releases for what they're best at. And Canova seems sharp and good on financial issues, so I use him on that without prejudice for how is when it comes to Israel. 

It often doesn't work the other way. I've had odd looks for working with "rightwingers" on some issues. I find that there's often a whole series of double standards associated with that. If you only want to work with people who agree with you across the board, fine. Do that. If you're flexible about who you work with, fine, do that. But there's something really wrong when people have a litmus test sometimes, but not others.