The GOP outrage machine: The President’s pies.

November 29, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Lawrence Jackson - Official Whitehouse Photographer (White House - Executive Office Of U.S.A. President)

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Lawrence Jackson – Official Whitehouse Photographer (White House – Executive Office Of U.S.A. President)

After months of shamelessly using the tragedy in Benghazi for political gain that eventually led to no scandal whatsoever, a new scandal took hold. The President was not attending Gettysburg for the 250 year anniversary! When that turned out to be in keeping with every other President since Gettysburg, the Tea Party brigade needed a new scandal. Well, this time, they really outdid all expectations of the crazy we’ve all come to expect; The First Family had NINE pies on their Thanksgiving menu!

For reference, here is the White House Thanksgiving Menu:

Honey-Baked Ham
Cornbread Stuffing
Oyster Stuffing
Macaroni and Cheese
Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Dinner Rolls

Huckleberry Pie
Pecan Pie
Chocolate Cream Pie
Sweet Potato Pie
Peach Pie
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie

– Bare in mind, this is the choice. They didn’t eat every single menu item. My fridge and freezer currently contains enough to make about 9 or 10 different dishes that I could put together. This doesn’t mean I will eat all 9 or 10 dishes. It means I have the choice. This is lost on Tea Partiers, who apparently believe that they must order every item that appears on a menu, when they go out to eat, judging by the feigned Twitter outrage below:

– Only Commies would dare to employ chefs capable of offering nine pies on a menu! For reference, I’d like to know how many pies is synonymous with freedom loving Patriots?

– Actually, he might be on to something. Massive war expenditure, and the wealthiest in society choosing not to pay taxes, whilst the most vulnerable are left to suffer? Sounds much like 1789, and the entirety of the Bush White House years. A corporate Versailles.




– The over dramatic whinge, we’ve all become so accustomed to hearing from the Tea Party Right.

– I don’t think this guy can go any better than this tweet. ‘Lying Pig’ is surely enough?

– Arrogant! of course! AND RANDOM capitalised WORDS for dramatic EFFECT!

– What this means to say is, one per GOP-invented, reigned outrage, non-scandal.

– YEA…. wait, what?

– I believe Trotsky himself insisted that the proletariat could only be victorious in the great class struggle, if they had a menu with more than eight pies on it.

– Well, she did make it up a little bit. They had nine on the menu. They didn’t eat nine. They had a choice. Apparently the White House have chefs that are capable of offering several different dishes!

A restaurant I visited recently, had twelve desserts on the menu. It’s a small restaurant, and not once did I consider twelve desserts to be a clear symbol of communism in the UK. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe freedom lovers are fine paying for President Bush’s countless trips to the golf course, but should not be fine with any more than maybe five desserts, six at most on the White House Thanksgiving menu. Perhaps employing chefs willing to cook more than eight pies, is the very epitome of socialism. I have a lot to learn about this freedom loving thing.

Abusing the Filibuster: Some Stats.

November 28, 2013


It has been an interesting week since Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option to ensure Presidential nominees are no longer blocked by an increasingly power-hungry Tea Party minority. From the right of the Republican Party, there appears to be a constant “We’re a republic! Not a democracy!” odd little tantrum, in a curiously weak attempt to justify their horrendous inability to accept that they lost the election. It should be noted that the US is indeed a republic, framed by the Constitution, which, in the case of Congressional rule changes quite clearly states:

“Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.”
Article 1; Section 5; Clause 2.

– Also, when it comes to Presidential nominees to executive branch positions, the President has that right. As long as those nominees are qualified, they are entitled to be confirmed, with the President shaping his administration as he sees fit. The Senate traditionally is there to advise and consent, to block only in the most extreme of conditions, and not to usurp that power and use it for fringe-partisanship. The filibuster not only gives a voice to the minority (who are entitled to that voice, via debate), it gives that minority far more power than both the majority party in the Senate, and the President combined.

That being said, it’s true that both President Obama and Harry Reid condemned the nuclear option during the Bush administration, whilst Democrats were the minority party in the Senate. But it is equally true, and needless to point out that President Bush wasn’t facing the sheer force of extreme obstructionism facilitated by the filibuster that the Obama White House faces today.

The nuclear option, in short, means that nominees by the executive branch require a simply majority of 51 votes for appointment, rather than the 60 votes needed if filibustered.

So, why did Harry Reid feel that he had to use a procedural measure to prevent further nominee filibustering in the Senate? Well, it’s quite obvious when you look at the past three years.

Let’s start with the most staggering.
Number of Presidential nominees filibustered over the course of US history: 147.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered before Obama took office: 68.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered since Obama took office: 79.
More than half of all filibustered nominees for executive branch positions – since before the White House was even built – have taken place during President Obama’s five years as President. This stat alone should be more than enough to convince anyone of the need to curb the abuse of power by a minority wing, or a minority party, that could not win the Presidential election, nor the Senate, nor the popular vote for the House. But in case you’re still on the fence, here are a few more stats:

Between 1949 and 2008, 20 cloture votes had been held to end filibusters, and push for a three-fifths majority vote. In 59 years, 20 votes. Between 2008 and 2013 – just five years – cloture has had to be invoked 27 times.

In President Bush’s two terms, the number of cloture votes for Presidential nominees was 7. In President Clinton’s two terms, the cloture votes for Presidential nominees, was 9. By early 2013, 16 of the President’s executive branch nominees had required cloture votes. In one Presidential term alone.

Interestingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who seems to have no problem with the obscene amount of obstructionism his party is willing to adopt in preventing the appointment of Presidential nominees, wasn’t too happy with it when the shoe was on the other foot. During the Bush Presidency, McConnell said:

“To correct this abuse, the majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedents to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It is time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.”

– Ironically, McConnell is now the King of the obstruction he harshly condemned in 2005.

Damningly for McConnell, on top of the 16 cloture votes by March 2013, we see the situation getting worse. Between March 2013, and November 2013, a staggering 11 more cloture votes – taking the total to 27 – for executive branch positions were required after being targets of filibusters from Senate Republicans.

75 executive branch nominations, to incredibly important positions, have waited an average of 140 days for confirmation. The obstruction in the Senate, leads to gridlock across agencies. This isn’t just unfair, it is dangerous. There is absolutely no need nor requirement for the Senate to demand a super majority for Presidential nominations.

And that’s just on nominees. Motions to end a filibuster by procedure during George Bush’s term, and when the party in the White House also controlled the Senate stood at 130 over two terms. Over just one term, and six months of President Obama’s Presidency, that number stands at 307. The era of block-over-debate had to come to an end.

These incredibly telling figures represent another wing – after the ill-considered Republican shut down – of the Republican strategy to destabilise the operation of government departments that people count on every day, simply because the election did not go their own way. The nuclear option was both necessary and inevitable. The reaction from the Republican camp to Reid’s decision has been predictable. Harry Reid – they claim – had choked democracy. This was the end of America as we know it. The usual hyperbole.

Strangely, the same Republicans didn’t react with equal venom when on September 30th of this year, House Republicans changed House rules to take the power to end a government shutdown away from all members of the House, and bestow it upon the House Majority Leader only. It’s a curious hypocrisy, but nevertheless completely expected from that section of the delusional right that holds nothing but contempt for democracy when it goes against them.

Kennedy, Obama, and the Tea Party extremists.

November 26, 2013


The intensity of paranoid right winged hysteria that faces everything the President says, everything he does, and everywhere he goes has grown substantially over the past few years. From those demanding a birth certificate, to public office holders invoking the image of slavery and Stalin whenever they disagree with any policy coming out of the White House. It is all anchored by a paranoid fear of an imminent communist take over. The intensity of the vitriol is growing… but it isn’t new, nor are the people behind it.

In November 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech in which he warns about the “discordant voices of extremism” on the far right fringes, Kennedy said:

“They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with communism. They object quite rightly to politics’ intruding on the military — but they are anxious for the military to engage in politics.”

– Echoing these thoughts, the former President, Eisenhower – a Republican – also in 1961 registered his concern about the growing tide of right winged paranoia and extremism that the President and the country were facing in the early ’60s. He expresses concern over what he calls the “super-patriot” and that they tend to wish to:

“…go back to eliminating the income tax from our laws and the rights of people to unionize… [and those] advocating some form of dictatorship.”

The far right attacks on Kennedy grew during the early ’60s, and by November 22nd 1963, the Dallas Morning News printed this full page advertisement attacking the President:

– It is a page dedicated to the subtle hinting that Kennedy was soft on communism and must be resisted by Constitution loving Patriots. For example, one “WHY” on the list reads:

“WHY have you ordered or permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership?”

– Interestingly, you will note that the name on the bottom of the ad is Bernard Wiessman. During the 60s, Wiessman was a member of the infamous ultra-right ‘John Birch Society’. The society continues to this day. Their website lists Fred Koch – the father of the Tea Party bankrolling Koch Brothers – in its “list of significant figures”. Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society. The society has played host to some particularly unsavoury characters, not least Fred Koch himself, who laid the seeds for his wealth by building Soviet oil infrastructure, and training Soviet engineers. The Koch family has only ever been interested in increasing its own power and wealth. The same is true today.

Haroldson L.Hunt, the Texas millionaire was a keen member of the John Birch Society during the 1960s. Hunt frequented the radio waves of Texas often to warn of the terrible consequences of President Kennedy’s support for Medicare:

“The plan provides a near little package of sweeping dictatorial power over medicine and the healing arts—a package which would literally make the President of the United States a medical czar with potential life or death power over every man woman and child in the country.”

– According to Hunt – the John Birch member, and someone who clearly doesn’t understand the word ‘literally’ – Medicare would lead to dictatorship, and death panels. According to Tea Party today – including groups with links to the John Birch Society – the Affordable Care Act will lead to dictatorship and death panels.

A ’60s associate of the society, Reverand Billy James Hargis wrote:

“This nation today is in the hands of a group of Harvard radicals who have long ago been “hooked” by the insidious dope of socialism and view human life from the international standpoint – They are a dangerous scourge – and they are so deeply entrenched in power that they can be removed only by a nationwide upsurge of conservatism.”

“They are liberals; liberals are socialists; and Khrushchev himself said that socialism is ‘the first phase of communism.'”

– Hargis headed the fifth annual convention of the Christian Crusade against Communism, which included Robert Welch – the director of the John Birch Society.

In 1961, a report by Congressman Morris K. Udall noted another significant member of the John Birch Society:

“For example, the testimony revealed that Gen. Walker is a member of the John Birch Society, an organization whose leader says former President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and other high officials of our government have been Communist dupes. Also, it was revealed that Gen. Walker made public statements which were derogatory of other present and former officials of our government. Such statements, of course, are wholly out of keeping for a military officer.”

– General Walker – also a guest at the Christian Crusade against Communism convention – was using his position as a General to amplify his far-right, aggressive John Birch Society beliefs. According to further testimony to the Warren Commission by the aforementioned Bernard Wiessman, Walker was driving around with copies of this in his car, shortly after November 22nd 1963:

– Anti-Christian, Communist race rioters, betraying the Constitution, treason. Familiar vitriolic terms you will still note coming out of the same far right, largely funded by the same Koch family in 2013.

On October 18th, 1963 – just over a month until the assassination – the Delaware State News ran an editorial:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. His name right now happens to be Kennedy. Let’s shoot him, literally, before Christmas.”

– The fear driven, violent rhetoric is the same. But in 2013, the John Birch Society and its Tea Party has just as much – if not more – power than it had in the 1960s. The dangerous conspiratorial tone that a Marxist takeover of government is imminent, now infects legislative bodies across the US. For example, In March 2012, the Tennessee House Republicans drafted House Joint Resolution 587 that read:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth”

– The wording is eerily similar to a John Birch Society mock-up Bill which reads:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded by society and the environment which would be accomplished by a socialist/communist-style redistribution of wealth”

– When I say “eerily similar”, I mean “exactly the same”.

At a Tea Party rally back in 2010, a speaker from Corpus Christi passionately told the crowd that President Obama’s:

“…goal is to do whatever he can to reinvent the United States of America into the aggressively, militantly, secular socialist and post-Christian state he wants it to be. This means … deconstructing the Constitution however he pleases.

Also in the more recent past, Republican darling Ron Paul was not only the first chairman of ‘Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE)’ which was founded in ’84 by David and Charles Koch, and is now ‘FreedomWorks’ – he was also a key speaker at the John Birch Society’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Wisconsin in October 2008. Interestingly, one of ‘FreedomWorks’ main financers is Crow Holdings, LLC. Crow Holdings has contributed $20,000 to Senator Cruz so far for 2014. This, on top of the $25,000 from Koch industries. 50 years of Koch family promoted vitriol and paranoia, through their hired mouthpieces in Congress.

The opposition to both Kennedy and Obama from the fringe of the right wing has never been a reasonable opposition built on democratically scrutinising ideas. Their brand of opposition has been consistent for the past 50 years; to present any policy slightly to the left of father Koch, as ‘unamerican’, as ‘communist’, as a threat to the fabric of American society, needing to be dealt with outside of the democratic process if necessary, and to spend an obscene amount of money sponsoring candidates and running “Welcome Mr Kennedy” ads to help spread the paranoid fantasies of one far-right family, whilst presenting itself as “grassroots”.

The Tea Party in 2013, and to a growing extent – the Republican Party in 2013 – is the John Birch Society of the 1960s. The same meaningless yet vicious and provocative manipulative and paranoid phrasing, bankrolled by the same family for the sake of the power of that one family, and working to inspire the same reactions from those who suffer the most from its manipulations. They inhabit the realm of paranoid fantasy that is usually considered fringe. It has been key to the far-right’s 50 years of manufacturing false and delusional hysteria, and as of 2013, the power of John Birch-style extremism had the power to shutdown the government in September. That’s a worrying development.

The United States House of Wall Street.

November 25, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

An interesting vote took place in the House of Representatives at the beginning of this month. A vote completely overshadowed by constant Republican tantrums over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. A vote that has potentially serious consequences in the future.

The Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank) included Section 716, which ensured that banks insured Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, move their ‘swaps’ (a certain derivative) into non-bank arms of the business that aren’t insured by FDIC; not eligible for bail out funds. It ensured protection for the consumer’s savings, and ensured protection for the taxpayer, by enforcing banks to place their more risky derivative deals outside of the realm of Federal assistance.

At the end of October 2013, House Resolution 992 passed the House by 292 votes to 122. The Bill – H.R.992 – or The “Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act” – severely limits the reach of Section 716 of Dodd-Frank, ultimately striking down a key regulation that Dodd-Frank implemented back in 2010. The implication, simply put, is that incredibly risky Wall Street behaviour surrounding the dealing of derivatives could be backed by a taxpayer funded bailout – for exchanges that are not at all related to banking – if it all goes wrong again.

Despite the Treasury raising concerns about striking down such an important provision, the House – including many Democrats – voted to pass H.R.922. But why? What is the motivation? Well, one only has to look at the lobbying on this Bill to understand just how this may have come about.

Contributions to House members from interests groups who expressively support H.R.992 are rather eye watering. On the list of top contributions to House Members, Jim Himes (D-CT4) – a co-sponsor of the Bill – received $437,179 from special interests in favour. More than any other Democrat in the House. The second ranking figure in the Democrat House Leadership chain of command, Steny Hoyer (D-MD5) received $266,510 from Wall Street supporters of the Bill. The most expensive ‘Yes’ vote for Wall Street comes to us via Eric Cantor (R-VA7), who received $525,400. The main sponsor of the Bill Randy Hultgren (R-Ill) received more contributions from the Securities and Investment industry than any other industry, at $136,500.

In all, special interests supporting H.R.992 contributed 5.9 times more to House members than those groups that opposed it. Wall Street has been staggeringly influential in ensuring regulations from 2010 are struck down. Citigroup were among the contributors. Citigroup also wrote ‘recommendations’ that appeared to be reflected almost word for word in the final draft of H.R.992. The Citigroup recommendations reads:

(d) Only bona fide hedging and traditional bank activities permitted. The prohibition in subsection (a) shall apply to any covered depository institution unless the covered depository institution limits its swap or security based swap activities to:
(1) Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(2) Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, unless–
(i) such structured finance swap is undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Unsurprisingly, given just how much money Wall Street has spent buying its Congressional support for the Bill, H.R.992 reads:

(A) Hedging and other similar risk mitigation activities.
Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(B) Non-structured finance swap activities.–
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps other than a structured finance swap.
(C) Certain structured finance swap activities.
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, if–
(i) such structured finance swaps are undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance swaps is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Practically word for word. In fact, according to the New York Times, 70 of the 85 lines in the Bill were penned by Citigroup. A Bill that deregulates the risky aspects of the financial industry – and spreads the risk of failure and the obscene costs of such, to the taxpayer if it all collapses again – was written by the financial industry. Welcome to the House of Wall Street.

The Bill passed the House, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs at the end of October. It is unlikely to pass the Senate, though if somehow it does, it is unlikely to be signed by the President. The White House has already registered its opposition to the Bill, though stopping short of threatening a veto. It might be worth noting that Jack Lew – current Treasury Secretary – worked as Citigroup’s Chief Operating Officer between 2006 and 2008, overseeing the Alternative Investments unit that invested in a hedge fund that had bet on the housing market to collapse.

The US is still recovering from the destruction wrought by, among others; Citigroup. In 2013, Citigroup and Wall Street have successfully managed to lobby Congress into ensuring that incredibly risky derivatives deals – that helped to cause the problems in the first place – are now fully exposed to a risk of a future bailout. This, despite the Federal Reserve reporting in 2012 that Citigroup was one of four financial institutions to fail its ‘stress test’; a test of the institutions ability to withstand another crisis like that of 2008. Also in 2012, Citigroup had to settle an investor lawsuit for $25,000,000 for allegedly misleading investors over the nature of its mortgage-backed securities. Why on earth is this institution allowed anywhere near the strings of government, to shape policy that has such far reaching implications?

Under such circumstances, Citigroup’s lobbyists must be in for a huge Christmas bonus. They’ve certainly earned it.

November 22nd, 1963: The day the FBI failed.

November 21, 2013


I must confess that for at least the past five years I had been convinced that President Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy of rogue CIA elements. I even touched upon the idea that Lyndon Johnson may have been involved somehow. The questions raised by Oliver Stone in the movie, lead me to questions raised by Mark Lane in his books and countless others. And I bought into it. It was revenge for the Bay of Pigs disaster. Nixon was somehow involved. Howard Hunt was one of the tramps in Dealey Plaza. Back and to the left! Maybe Bush Sr was involved. Perhaps the CIA stole the President’s brain! I didn’t really spend time entertaining the other theories – the Israelis, the ‘military industrial complex’, the Mafia, the Cubans, the Soviets, the Federal Reserve – but nevertheless the circle of blame grew every day. Half of the US was involved in the assassination, by the time I reached 2012 Hell, I even wrote an article on it. It took me a while to realise there was no hard evidence for any of it.

Then, earlier this year – with the help of the wonderful Vincent Bugliosi – I came to the realisation that Oswald was the lone gunman. I looked over testimony, hard evidence, Oswald’s own actions – which are often neglected or skirted around by conspiracy theorists – and concluded that there was absolutely no conspiracy directly related to assassinating the President. There just wasn’t. I am however convinced that the conspiracies that have progressed since November 22nd 1963, were the result of FBI incompetency and attempts to deflect attention away from the failures of the Bureau.

It is clear from the evidence that Oswald was known to the FBI for months leading up to the assassination. They knew he’d visited Mexico City, and wanted to flee to Cuba to assist the Castro administration. They knew he had defected to the Soviet Union and openly hated the US. They had twice attempted to speak to Oswald whilst he was at Ruth Paine’s house, but missed him. Special Agent James Hosty of the FBI was the agent tasked with investigating the Oswalds. Hosty testified:

“I had in fact on two occasions been to the house where his wife lived, once on November 1 and then again on November 5. The purpose of these visits was to make preliminary contact — introduce myself and establish the identity, address, and place of employment of the subject in the case, which was a counter-espionage concern. In these initial contacts with Marina Oswald, I was hoping to set up a time to conduct an in-depth interview with her. Both Oswalds — he being a former Marine who had defected to the Soviet Union and then returned the United States, she a Soviet citizen — made for a classic counter-espionage case. The question was: Could either of the Oswalds be Soviet intelligence agents? In November 1963, the Bureau had no direct information that the Oswalds were Russian agents, but this was the height of the cold war, and for national security purposes we had to be prudent.”

– There’s no reason to doubt this, and it seems a reasonable position for the Bureau to hold at the height of the suspicions of the Cold War. Oswald didn’t take to kindly to the FBI visits. He left a hand written note (to Special Agent James Hosty) that – according to the receptionist that day – read:

“Let this be a warning. I will blow up the FBI and the Dallas Police Department if you don’t stop bothering my wife”

– Marina was questioned by Hosty, in relation to Oswald’s communist connections. Hosty also questioned many other suspects and their families, and didn’t realise the note was from Oswald at first. Gordon Shanklin was James Hosty’s superior at the FBI. Hosty had told Shanklin that the note was “typical guff”, believing it had been written by a right-winged subversive that he’d interviewed the wife of days before. Shanklin responded:

“What do you mean, ‘typical guff’? This note was written by Oswald, the probable assassin of the president, and Oswald brought this note into this office just ten days ago! What the hell do you think Hoover’s going to do if he finds out about this note!”

– The note was destroyed by Hosty, on orders from his superior, Gordon Shanklin, when Oswald was named as the prime suspect in the Kennedy Assassination.

Shanklin knew that in his town, a man had threatened to blow up the FBI building, had at one point defected to the Soviet Union, had attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker a few months earlier, and yet his details were not passed onto the Secret Service, nor did the Bureau work to keep Oswald as far away from the President during his trip to Dallas as he absolutely should have been. The FBI essentially drew a massive target on the President in Dallas.

Oswald; a man who should have been handled by the FBI that day, slipped through the net, and assassinated the President of the United States of America, in Shanklin’s back yard. That is beyond incompetence. It represents the very essence of a failure beyond anyone’s comprehension.

Hoover knew that had it came to light that the FBI had knowledge of the danger Oswald presented, and that they could have, and absolutely should have prevented Oswald from having any opportunity to even catch a glimpse of the President in Dallas, he would be out of a job. The biggest failure in law enforcement history up until that point had happened on Hoover’s watch. And this is a job and an institution that Hoover had made his own. He wasn’t about to let it all die with three shots in Dallas.

Hoover had seen the capture or killings of several high profiled gangsters in his career. Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly for example. He’d expanded the Bureau’s recruitment drive, was at the front of intelligence gathering during World War II and the Cold War with the Venona Project, the covert COINTELPRO initiative, and other massive expansions of FBI power. By the 1960s, each FBI Special Agent in Charge had a drawer of files on field agents that never made the official record, so to keep a distance between their potential misdeeds, and J.Edgar Hoover. Hosty noted:

“the Hoover FBI… The absolute privacy of this drawer afforded Hoover “plausible deniability” ”

– For 30+ years, J.Edgar Hoover was the FBI, and vice versa.

Hoover’s ego was greater than the FBI itself. He had carved the position out of nothing, and became the chief law enforcer in the nation’s history. For Hoover, that legacy also threatened to be a victim, shot down by Lee Oswald that day. And those FBI agents like Hosty, and Shanklin in Dallas knew it. Their mishandling of Oswald could lead to the fall of the Director of the FBI, and would put the Bureau itself is jeopardy. Hoover was never going to risk that.

Hoover had told people privately that he feared that the Warren Commission was out to embarrass the FBI. Former assistant director of the FBI, William Sullivan later said:

“Hoover did not want the Warren Commission to conduct an exhaustive investigation for fear that it would discover important and relevant facts that we in the FBI had not discovered in our own investigation, [since] it would be greatly embarrassing to him and damaging to his career and the FBI as a whole.”

– He isn’t talking about a grand conspiracy to murder the President, he’s talking about the very fact that a man known the FBI, a man who had threatened to blow up their building, and had Soviet and Castro sympathies was allowed to go to work in a building that directly overlooked the path the President’s motorcade was taking that day in Dallas. The FBI should have stopped the assassination well before it had the chance to occur. They didn’t. They, and ultimately J.Edgar Hoover were responsible for the death of the President.

There is not one shred of verifiable hard evidence that suggests a conspiracy to assassinate the President. Only conjecture and mostly weak understanding of the actual facts. Believe me, it’s taken me a long time to get to that stage of reasoning. There is however a mountain of evidence that points to Oswald as the lone assassin. This evidence often gets lost and creatively reinterpreted due mainly to a clear attempt by the FBI to deflect blame from itself and to not reveal the extent of the knowledge they had on Oswald prior to the assassination. This was Hoover trying to rescue his legacy from its darkest hour. From that, conspiracy is born.

We do not know if John Kennedy would have made a great President. He was certainly on the road to greatness. His rhetoric was impassioned, brilliant, and engaged the World. The youthfulness of Camelot seemed to echo the new and vibrant generation of the 60s. Kennedy’s life was cut short in the middle of his first term, with those horrific few seconds etched on Zapruder’s film for posterity. We will never know what could have been had Kennedy lived. Had the FBI done its job correctly that day, history could have been very different.

President Obama & the Tea Party Gettysburg non-scandal.

November 19, 2013

gettysburg address, snub gettysburg, obama gettysburg

It is 150 years today that President Lincoln gave perhaps the most important, and brilliant speech he would ever give. A speech that defined the era, and solidified the ideals on which the United States was born. The Gettysburg Address is one that rings as true today as it did in November 1863.

Predictably, conservatives over the pond have used the anniversary as a platform to launch yet another misleading and absurd attack on the President. This new line of attack comes in two parts; both equally as absurd. Firstly, that the President “snubbed” the Gettysburg Address memorial at Gettysburg, and secondly, that the President omitted the words “under God” when reciting the Gettysburg Address earlier today. Both – as expected from this current crop of conservatives – are entirely misleading, and represent a complete lack of respect by those on the American Tea Party right who will use anything to concoct bullshit to aim at the President.

Nothing is sacred to the Tea Party conservatives. It seems that they have decided it is acceptable to abuse the memory of Gettysburg, in order to launch a cynical and misleading attack on the President, today. Let’s look at their two claims in a little more detail:

gettysburg address, gettysburg address snub, president obama gettysburg address, "under god"
– “Stunning snub!” The hysteria couldn’t be more feigned and ridiculous. And not least because it’s entirely misleading. The President did not ‘snub’ the Gettysburg Address anniversary today. He just didn’t attend it. Like every other sitting President since Lincoln – with the exception of Taft – hasn’t attended a Gettysburg Address anniversary. This includes Kennedy in 1963, at the 100th anniversary. This includes conservative hero President Reagan who did not attend the 125th Gettysburg Anniversary. I have searched thoroughly and cannot locate any media outlet from the 125th anniversary, that feigns outrage over the “stunning snub” by President Reagan. Strange that.

We should also be keen to note that the President has quoted Lincoln, and paid tribute to Lincoln plenty of times in the past. Both of President Obama’s inaugural speeches mention Lincoln, he was sworn in on the Lincoln Bible and he consistently refers to Lincoln as his inspiration as President. This, in contrast to Republicans, who invited Ted Nugent to the State of the Union, despite Nugent having said:

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

And then there’s the second claim:
This is just as ridiculous as the first, and used as nothing more than another cynical attempt to launch an ill thought out attack on the President:

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The Library of Congress website states:

“Of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address, the Library of Congress has two. President Lincoln gave one of these to each of his two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. The other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19.”

It is those three “well after” November 19th that contain the words “under God”. The two in the Library of Congress – one of which Lincoln brought to Gettysburg itself – given to Lincoln’s secretaries, do not include the words “under God”.

As part of a documentary, President Obama was today asked to read from the Nicolay copy. The Nicolay copy does not include the words “Under God”. Therefore, the President did not omit the words “under God” from the draft of the address. Lincoln did. The other three copies were used for fundraising purposes. The second written version of the address, is called the Hay draft, and was the draft handed personally to his secretary John Hay upon Lincoln’s return from Gettysburg. The first version, also not including the words “under God” is called the “Nicolay draft”. President Obama today, was asked specifically to read the Nicolay draft copy by the documentary crew – headed by the brilliant Ken Burns – filming it. This, he did. There was no snubbing.

It would be of great service to the increasingly Confederate-like Tea Party conservatives, if they read the words of the Gettysburg Address and worked to put them into practice. “…that all men are created equal”. As opposed to their own version of that statement of equality, that seems to consistently preclude gay people, women, the least wealthy, non-Christians, and anyone with a slightly darker skin tone. It would do conservatives great service to ponder the idea that all are created equal, rather than focusing entirely on the word “God”. And whilst they’re at it, perhaps stop following the President around with Confederate flags.

We will of course never know whether or not Lincoln said “under God” at Gettysburg. But if he did it certainly wasn’t in the drafts of the speech leading up to Gettysburg, and only appeared written down after the 19th, for charity purposes. Regardless, President Obama was specifically asked to read a specific draft of the address, for a documentary. This he did. To complain or to invent a scandal, is nothing more than to attempt to hijack the day, for political purposes from a regressive Republican Party that has absolutely no connection to its roots with the Republicans of Lincoln. Given that the US Tea Party right wing has attempted to hijack the Benghazi tragedy for political purposes, has shut down the government for political purposes, and consciously chosen to horrifically compare the Affordable Care Act to slavery, for political purposes… it is no surprise that they’re willing to abuse the memory President Lincoln and the solemnity of Gettysburg with equal contempt.

Operation Christmas Child: The Cult of Franklin Graham.

November 18, 2013

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It is around that time of year again when the cries of “Keep CHRIST in Christmas!” spring up, the same time of year we hear that there is some sort of conspiracy of Atheists and Muslims trying to ban Christmas. The persecuted Christians (who oddly, are in all major positions of power in the US) spring to life in an attempt to conceive of an anti-Christmas Atheist agenda that doesn’t actually exist. Sarah Palin has already used the phrase “The War on Christmas” this year and it isn’t even December yet.

This week saw a new apparent example of heartless Atheists attempting to undermine the spirit of Christmas whilst simultaneously impoverishing children further. The story is brought to us across the evangelical blogs and news sites. For example, WLTX reports that due to the big bad Atheist bullies, East Point Academy in Cayce South Carolina had cancelled its toy drive after being threatened by the American Humanist Association, simply because it was a Christian concoction. That’s the story posted. They even include a back up quote from the Principle Renee Mathews here:

“There’s no religious literature tied with it. There’s no speakers who come. There’s no religious affiliation at all.”

– The problem is, this isn’t true. It isn’t a case a benevolent charity giving gifts to the needy, for benevolent reasons, with no religious affiliation at all, as Mathews claims. Quite the opposite, and rather sinisterly so.

Operation Christmas Child, ran by Reverend Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical program designed to bribe the most vulnerable people into converting to Franklin’s particular brand of Christianity. They openly state their goal is:

“…the advancement of the Christian faith through educational projects and the relief of poverty”.

– Relief of poverty for the sake of itself is not good enough for this organisation, it must be linked intrinsically to the spread of the cult of Franklin Graham.

The cult preys on US school children by inviting them to give to what is believed to be an honest charity dedicated to helping the poorest children in the World, but before delivering those gifts, they slip in Reverend Franklin Graham’s propaganda material. Your children are not sending toys to vulnerable children, the toys are just a marketing technique for a cult that wishes to spread to message.

As chairman of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham is given around $400,000 a year. Graham is as Tea Party-esque as the Christian Right gets, having once claimed:

“The Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and active in our country. It’s infiltrated every level of our government. Right now we have many of these people that are advising the US military and State Department on how to respond in the Middle East, and it’s like asking a fox, like a farmer asking a fox, “How do I protect my henhouse from foxes?” We’ve brought in Muslims to tell us how to make policy toward Muslim countries. And many of these people we’ve brought in, I’m afraid, are under the Muslim Brotherhood.”

– He also claimed that the Japanese tsunami may have signalled the beginning of Armageddon. He publicly maintains that President Obama is not a Christian – which he deems to be unacceptable – has said that the President was born Muslim, is influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, and he recorded a public message insisting that same-sex marriage should be banned, with no same-sex union recognised by the state at all. Graham, therefore, has a very political agenda. A very public agenda. Whilst pushing this public agenda, he also have a right winged Christian agenda, that Samaritan’s Purse manipulates school children into being an unwitting part of. Why not agree to send those toys without any mention of religion, or Jesus, or God, as defined by a right-winged American evangelical?

When they seek out donors, Operation Christmas Child usually downplays its evangelism, so as to attract funding. So much so that South Wales Fire Service here in the UK halted their involvement with Operation Christmas Child after discovering the true nature of the ‘charity’. Director of Corporate Services for South Wales Fire Service, upon discovering the real motives of Operation Christmas Child wrote:

“Our involvement in Operation Christmas Child has been on the basis that the project was no more than a charitable event. We do not lend support to any political or religious organisation in their own right, neither do we wish to be associated with anybody whose activities would bring the brigade into dispute.”

– It seems Samaritan’s Purse completely manipulated the fire service, and abused their generosity.

In 2001, in response to two earthquakes in El Salvador, Samaritan’s Purse received $200,000 of federal aid money to provide relief in the country. They then proceeded to hold prayer meetings, before showing people how to rebuild their homes. Franklin Graham wrote:

“When we go into these villages and help people get back into their homes, we hope we’ll be able to plant new churches all over this country”

– The use of US aid money, to spread a cult defined by the Graham family, is not a cause that the US government should be funded, nor should it be allowed in US schools.

In 2003, Samaritan’s Purse released a report, which seems to boast of their manipulative efforts to bribe children. This is the case of a 13 year old boy who’s enticed into the stranger’s ‘house’ with gifts:

“Every day, Ramakrishna’s work route took him in front of a Christian church. As he picked up trash from the gutter, a woman invited him into the church. He always refused. Then one day the woman asked him inside to receive a gift. He was still wary of Christians and their strange beliefs, but the offer of a gift was too tempting. He accepted.”

The report then goes on to give us the real reason they use shoebox drives. To get around anti-conversion laws:

“India can be a difficult mission field. Many states have anti-conversion laws that make it hard for Christians to work. But Operation Christmas Child breaks down barriers and provides a way to reach the children. More than 325,000 shoe box gifts were distributed in 2003, and 265,000 children were enrolled in follow-up Bible study programs.”

– The imperialist cult of Franklin Graham.

Operation Christmas Child sends its propaganda to places that are mainly Muslim; they sent 30,000 Arabic Bibles out to Iraq after the first gulf war. They also aim their propaganda at poorer Hindu communities. This, after Franklin Graham once said of Hinduism:

“… hundreds of millions of people locked in the darkness of Hinduism… bound by Satan’s power”.

“… no elephant with 100 arms can do anything for me. None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation”

– This isn’t about giving gifts to vulnerable children, this is about spreading a Biblical cult through any immoral means necessary; including the spread of bribery and bigotry. Visiting struggling countries, and offering food and aid, along with a Bible, is not something I am at all comfortable with, and it is not something that should be allowed to infect secular schools.

As a private organisation – regardless of how dubious and politically motivated their aims are – we cannot stop them. But it is entirely irresponsible and wrong to be manipulating state school children, in a secular society, to give up their belongings to a cause they believe is innocent whilst at the same time using that innocence to help spread the message of a fundamentalist cult, and the power of a very unlikeable evangelist.

For the cult of Franklin Graham, poverty and war are very profitable. Viewing poverty and destitution as a way to spread a religious agenda by preying on the most vulnerable, is so horribly wrong, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

It is not giving that is objectionable to non-believers. It is the use of propaganda in order to convert the most vulnerable, alongside the giving. I would encourage anyone who is worried that their good will and generosity may be the victim of a group like Samaritan’s Purse, to give to far more reputable sources. Oxfam Unwrapped for example, or Link To Hope’s shoebox appeal. Neither of these will include any form of political or religious propaganda, nor the spread of the message of a cult. Your gifts will be safe.

This hideous group should not be allowed anywhere near children.

It’d be nice for the news media to tell the full story.