The real reason the US political establishment is ganging up on Rep Ilhan Omar

THE ISSUE

Despite being a congresswoman for just a few months, both major US political parties are pushing a narrative that Representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota is unworthy of her position.

THE MEDIA

“You have to wonder if she is an American first”

Brian Kilmeade, Fox News

THE COMMENT

I’m sharing this Young Turks video not to highlight the actions of Fox News, more to point out that it is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to elite opposition to Congresswoman Omar.

Nobody who has watched Fox News with a critical eye will be surprised by the blatant spin presented in the above video – Omar’s words are taken wildly out of context.

The Washington Post also did a good job in this video putting her words into the proper context…

But Rupert Murdoch’s right wing spin factory is not the only source of this misrepresentation, and her statement referenced here is far from the only example.

She was recently attacked for remarks she made that referenced AIPAC, a powerful lobby group that represents the Jewish-American community.

Again, whatever side of the issue you might be on, we have to wonder why her words were so blatantly taken out of context, not only by Fox News and Republican politicians, but also by the leadership of the Democrat Party and most significantly, the mainstream media.

It’s not as though the CNNs and MSNBCs are normally shy when it comes to playing clips of quotes when it suits them.  For example, how many times has Trump’s infamous ‘grab them by the pussy’ line been given airtime?  Seems to be at least once or twice a week even now.

Yet Congresswoman Omar’s quote, in which she clearly referred to herself when the entire passage is taken in context, was frequently branded as ‘Anti Semitic’ on political panels without her actual statement being played.

It took a comedienne to do what the broadcasters couldn’t…

Why the widespread revulsion against Omar?

Is it because she is Muslim?  Is it because the Washington establishment is genuinely concerned that she does not put ‘America first’?  Is it because they really do believe she is anti-Semitic?

None of the above, as far as I’m concerned.  I believe the push against is all about one of her first appearances on the House Foreign Relations Committee.

One of the principle consequences of the 2018 Midterms was that although the House was won back by the Democrats, the Progressive caucus was so strong that Nancy Pelosi had to make several concessions to guarantee that she returned to the Speaker role.

Among those concessions was the placement of prominent Progressives on key House committees like Intelligence, Judiciary, Ways and Means and in Omar’s case, Foreign Relations.

When she had one of her first opportunities to ask questions at a hearing, it was to none other than Elliott Abrams, who was involved in many questionable foreign incursions by the US in the past, and has now been appointed as President Trump’s ‘special envoy’ for Venezuela.

OMAR: On February 8, 1982, you testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about U.S. policy in El Salvador. In that hearing, you dismissed as communist propaganda reports about the massacre at El Mozote in which more than 800 civilians, including children as young as 2 years old, were brutally murdered by U.S.-trained troops. During that massacre, some of those troops bragged about raping a 12-year-old girl, girls, before they killed them. You later said that the U.S. policy in El Salvador was a “fabulous achievement.” Yes or no, do you still think so?

I haven’t taken the time to check all of the congressional records since 1982 (or mainstream media interviews for that matter) but I’ll bet anything that Abrams hasn’t asked a question like this publicly in that time.

That is why Omar is being so blatantly smeared; the ‘Military Industrial Complex’, a major donor for prominent politicians from both parties, do not want questions like that asked in a public forum.  In fact, the President himself gave the game away in one of his attacks on her “She should resign from Congress, or at least from the committee.” (paraphrase).

Just to be clear, I’m not 100% aware of Omar’s politics, but when anyone is taken so wildly out of context it needs to be pointed out.

#IANWAE

Brid Smith TD addresses Drimnagh residents on the proposed ‘carbon tax’

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I could have been at home watching Manchester United v Barcelona.  But I made myself a promise that I would make an effort to get more involved in local politics, and given the amount of signs I have seen around the area for this meeting in St John Bosco Youth Club, a mere ten minute walk from my front door, to not go would be to break that pledge.

The meeting was held by local councillor Hazel De Nortúin.  Now when I say ‘local’, she hails from Ballyfermot, yet she represents me as Drimnagh has been curiously cut in two and my house falls in the ‘Ballyfermot/Drimnagh’ zone.  Still, the very holding of this meeting shows that the councillor is willing to be involved throughout the ward.

Her party is People Before Profit.  I confess to knowing little about them, save for assorted Facebook posts, but I do know that their name itself is closely aligned to my politics so it was a safe bet that I would feel at home in this company.

The principal speaker was Brid Smith TD and the theme was ‘Why Carbon Tax Won’t Stop Climate Change’.  She began by highlighting the protest by schoolchildren all over the country, but particularly outside the Dáil. where over 15,000 were reported.

Deputy Smith also pointed to a poll which found that 39% of Irish people saw climate change as one of the most important issues of today, adding that while some might think that was a low percentage, she was actually encouraged by it.

She has recently been sitting on a Special Oirechteas Action Committee which followed on from a Citizens Assembly.  She referred to it as more of an ‘Inaction’ committee because it appeared that the decision to level the carbon tax on ordinary citizens was already made.

She claimed that the supposed thinking behind the tax was that if people’s habits could be changed, ie if we can move away from carbon-intensive forms of energy, then supposedly this would influence (‘by osmosis’ as she ironically called it) the large corporations.

An interesting plan if true…especially given that when it comes to distributing wealth, corporations tend to favour things going in the opposite direction.  When it comes to the carbon tax, should we call their plan “Trickle up?”

She also pointed out that even if carbon taxes did have some positive effect, they would never be enough to tackle climate change on their own, yet once implemented the government could well consider them to be a ‘catch all’ of sorts.  ‘The one tool becomes the only tool’.

Next the TD covered the whole area of ‘Just Transition’ – when she explained it I knew what she meant though I had never heard it called that before.  Basically when a society moves from one form of energy to another, care must be taken that the existing workers in the old service are offered the opportunity to move into the new field.  Seemingly People Before Profit have been working with Bord Na Mona workers in this area.

Apparently three of the main political parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour, along with the Green Party, are in favour of pushing ahead with this tax, which probably means it is likely to go through.

In the interest of fairness I took some time to go over the websites of various parties to see how they presented their policy (if any) on carbon tax and/or climate change in general…

FINE GAEL – banner on homepage #TogetherOnClimate Climate Action – when you click it you see 16 links under heading of ‘progress’ none of which refer to carbon tax.

‘carbon tax’ search produced links on Special Oireachtas Committee

FIANNA FAIL – No search facility. No mention of carbon tax under section ‘tackling climate change’

LABOUR – ‘Labour’s clear preference is for ring-fencing funds from carbon taxes to pay for home retrofitting, including in local authority housing, and other ways of reducing energy poverty’

SINN FEIN – ‘Imelda Munster has criticised the agreement…to increase carbon tax four fold’

GREEN – Cuffe : ‘The aim of the carbon dividend, or carbon cheque, is to change behaviour. By placing carbon taxes and giving back what is taken to households it provides direct incentives for people to move to low carbon heating.’

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS – can’t find policy on carbon tax but policy section shows they are keen to reduce emissions
RIGHT2CHANGE 10-Point policy programme – ‘A Progressive Government will make protection of the rights of Mother Earth a Constitutional Imperative’

‘The IFA is up in arms over suggestions that people should eat less meat and drink less milk. No doubt carbon taxes will be pushed also as a key part of this debate.’

‘Women make up 70% of farmers world-wide yet only own 2% of land…they are responsible for 90% of the caloric intake of the average family’

SOLIDARITY – nothing on climate change on ‘what we stand for’ page

…just to be clear, my research for the above information was not exactly extensive.  There are so many parties in the jurisdiction that it isn’t easy to keep up with them all.

As you can see my attention was drawn most to the Right2Change platform – the quotes above were taken from the Facebook page of Joan Collins TD.  I like the way they constantly use phrases like “Under a Progressive Government Ireland can…” because while that may be extremely aspirational right now, if we don’t discuss and use such terminology regularly, it could remain so.

But that’s not to say I was completely turned off the PBP folks just yet.  They passed around a page for names and addresses – I offered my information though I fell short of ticking the ‘Join’ box for now.

When the meeting was over a chatted for a few minutes and then left.  I was first to head for the door and Deputy Smith thanked me for attending.

I’m glad I did, and I look forward to following the progress of the PBP’s resistance to the introduction of the tax.

Next on this site I’d like to start covering the various candidates standing for election to the council in May.

#IANWAE

 

“What, exactly, is a Progressive?”

“What, exactly, is a Progressive?”

I was asked this in an email recently and saw it as a challenge.  After giving it a few days’ consideration, this was my reply :

Wow that’s actually a very interesting question from the ‘How long is a piece of string?’ genre. I doubt many could tell you ‘exactly’ what it is but I definitely appreciate the opportunity to express what it means to me.

I only started being interested in politics & government during The West Wing years (1999-2005) and I only followed the non-fictional American version on a daily basis when Barack Obama first announced his intention to run for POTUS.  Still, that’s about 20 years overall, and my fundamental beliefs have not really changed too much in that time.

For starters, I think the most basic characterisation of political thought is flawed.  While pretty much every opinion can be described as ‘left’ or ‘right’ or somewhere in between, I disapprove of that framing because it falsely represents what the two sides stand for.  Seemingly the further ‘right’ you go, a smaller (or richer) subset of people get ‘priority treatment’ by the government. But if we accept the directional branding, then we automatically cede half of the argument to a group of people that by definition is a ‘minority’.

What words should we use instead? Damned if I know.  But if we MUST use an arbitrary two-dimensional axis, then I believe the Progressive movement should be at its true centre, or to put it another way, it represents a ‘median perspective’.

I understand it to be an approach to government that neither prioritises the corporate world nor rejects it out of hand.  It is essentially in favour of policies that promote equal opportunity for all citizens.  It is also for public ownership of, and government prioritisation in, key areas like health, education and first responders.

Then there’s the elections themselves. Progressives want them to be run without the influence of corporate donors and PACs because they only tend to produce corporate politicians, even in the Democrat Party.

And going back to the left/right thing, since Progressives would disagree with the so-called ‘centrist’ approaches of the likes of Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, they get branded as the ‘radical left’, as if their opinions are extreme, even though pretty much everything about the viewpoint is based on fairness.   This also suggests that they are somehow a direct alternative for those on the ‘far right’ and thus, bizarrely, an equivalent of sorts to Trump and his minions.

Of course the (mostly corporate owned) ‘mainstream’ media is complicit in all of this.  Using the ‘left vs right’ paradigm and assuming the Democrat Party fully represents the ‘left’ makes it easy for them to use a boilerplate approach to covering every issue.  “This is where the Dems stand, and this is where the GOP stand.  Now the issue has been covered, let’s move on to the next one.”

In these times when Trump has such a stranglehold on the Republican Party with views and policies that are at best radical and at worst downright dangerous, to equate giving them coverage with somehow being ‘balanced’ can only benefit the ‘right’, and that’s before we even consider that they have their own propaganda news network which has no place for balance whatsoever.

As far as I’m concerned, even the word ‘Progressive’ itself is an unfortunate choice.  We shouldn’t have to ‘progress’ to equality and fairness in society.  We should already have it.  Some might consider this assertion to be naive.  I believe it is naive to assume it is an unattainable goal.

But the reality is that the corporate world has become ‘the establishment’ after generations of false promises, spin and despite, at times, blatant austerity and discrimination.  I don’t believe the majority of people behind that world are necessarily ‘evil’, I just think they are preoccupied with looking down at the bottom line of a financial spreadsheet as opposed to looking up at the physical and social challenges faced by humanity.

If the Progressive movement can hone its message and get more people to look up, then perhaps one day we can have a new plane of political thinking led by ‘President Ocasio-Cortez’ or someone like-minded.

#IANWAE

 

Corporate media pats itself on the back for ‘solidarity’ in White House press briefing yet ignores progressive question

THE ISSUE

The majority of the corporate media may well be ‘anti-Trump’ but they also take care to make sure progressive issues are at best, ignored or at worst, belittled.

THE MEDIA

Clip by Lawrence O’Donnell in YouTube on Wednesday, July 18, 2018

“…the most perfect of White House press corps teamwork unfolded…”

THE COMMENT

It’s hard to disagree with Lawrence O’Donnell and for the most part I enjoy his MSNBC show The Last Word, particularly in the Trump era.  But much like news coverage by the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, you often have to ask yourself if they are always covering a given topic to its fullest and consider what is being left out.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ press briefings are always contentious occasions, but yesterday’s was always going to be even more so given all that happened surrounding Trump’s Monday meeting with Russian despot/president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and its aftermath.

Of course Lawrence is right when he points out in the above clip that it was nice to see NBC’s Halle Jackson and The Hill’s Jordan Fabian working together to prevent ‘SHuckS’ (why isn’t everybody calling her that????) from dodging important questions, having seen the entire briefing I think it would have been prudent for him to also mention what happened regarding April Ryan from the American Urban Radio Network.

Ryan and SHuckS have had several heated exchanges in the past and on this occasion, I thought her question was not only relevant but also one that was unlikely to have been asked by her fellow journalists in this session.

In her defence of the president’s approach to election security, SHuckS listed a range of measures she claims has been taken by the Trump administration.  Ryan wanted to know if voter suppression, in other words actions taken by mostly Republican state legislatures around the country, was also on the list.

At first, her question was completely ignored.  To be fair, Ryan was eventually allowed to ask it, yet while SHuckS offered some words in reply, none of them could really be considered a ‘straight answer’.

But this post is not about SHuckS, rather O’Donnell and the corporate media for which he works.  If there really was a general sense of teamwork among the White House press corps, then Ryan would have received the same help from her colleagues that Jackson did.

Ryan’s experience wasn’t completely ignored by the wider media.  Josh Feldman of Mediaite wrote of it in his piece : “April Ryan Confronts Sarah Sanders For Not Calling on Her in Briefing: ‘I’ll Keep Asking the Question’” while a more conservative slant was put on it in “April Ryan keeps interrupting Sarah Sanders – Sarah finally loses it” by the Daily Caller’s Benny johnson.

But with Trump finding new creative ways to shoe horn himself into the headlines every day, I can’t see the very real issue of voter suppression coming even close to the mainstream again any time soon.  JLP

#IANWAE

 

Peter Strzok hearing has Republicans struggling to stick to party narrative away from Fox News safe haven

THE ISSUE

Republican lawmakers are determined to use cherry-picked private text messages by FBI agent Peter Strzok to ‘prove’ the Mueller investigation is biased, and after months and months of analysing the texts on Fox News, he finally had the chance to speak for himself in front of the American people yesterday.

THE MEDIA

Clip by CNN in YouTube on Thursday, July 12, 2018

GOP Congressman Chris Collins : “Peter Strzok and Lisa Page…are a stain on the FBI…”

[Cuomo goes to his whiteboard and demonstrated there is no evidence of Strzok ever acting on this perceived bias]

Collins : “…the bias speaks for itself, again, he and Lisa Page are a stain on the FBI’s reputation…”

 

THE COMMENT

Forget Love Island or the Kardashians…THIS was what I call ‘Reality Television” in that it was entertaining, it was actually happening and most importantly, it actually mattered.  

“In the Majority (Republican)’s view, the text messages exchanged between Mr. Strzok and Lisa Page are a higher priority for us than President Trump’s request that James Comey end the investigation into Michael Flynn, or his decision to fire Director Comey “because of that Russia thing with Trump and Russia,” or his repeated attempts to fire Special Counsel Mueller directly.”

Congressman Jerrod Nadler, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, lays out his party’s position very well in his opening statement at yesterday’s hearing.  And while I don’t always agree with the Democrat position, in this matter. namely the witch hunt on Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, they are doing a great job of laying bare the blatant misinformation and bullying tactics being used by their political opponents.

I only got to see the first hour of the hearing as it happened but even then it was most enlightening, and what is so significant about the proceedings is that it is the first time the agent has actually been able to publicly put forward his own defence of his text messages.

Looking at this with a rational eye, the conclusion is simple.  He is entitled to his viewpoint, he was stupid to express it on an FBI device but even given that, there is no evidence that he was anything but impartial in carrying out his duty, though just to be absolutely sure, Mueller took him off the investigation the second he learned about the messages.  So why are we still here engaging in this political theatre months later?

There are a ton of clips from the actual hearing I could comment on but they are too numerous to mention.  From an entertainment standpoint, one of the best moments was when Democrat congresswomen Bonnie Watson from New Jersey asked Republican Louie Gohmert from Texas if he had “taken his medication” after he repeatedly called Strzok a liar and brought up the subject of the agent’s extra-marital affair [because as we all know, the president the GOP are so desperate to defend would never do such a thing].

Or from a misinformation standpoint, I could highlight Strzok’s response to ranking Republican Trey Gowdy who attacked him as if all the evidence of his mindset is contained in a specific series of tweets, which he proceeded to literally examine word for word.  The FBI’s agent answer (when the congressman finally stopped interrupting him) got a round of applause in the chamber, albeit from the Democrats.

But for me, the most telling soundbite comes from Congressman Chris Collins (R-New York) who appeared on Chris Cuomo’s Prime Time show on CNN.  Cuomo seems to want to make the whiteboard his trademark, and to be fair he uses it well in this clip, and as you can see from the quote chosen above, when he uses it to press Collins, all he can do is go back to the talking point he was obviously given when he plugged himself into the GOP/Fox News ‘Matrix’ prior to the interview.

Of course Trump supporters (the select few who don’t simply go by his tweets and rallies that is) won’t have been watching Cuomo’s show – instead gorging themselves on the Fox News spin like they always do.  Still, for those of us who crave as much real information as possible, yesterday’s hearing offered us plenty.  I’d even go as far to say it was more entertaining than the World Cup, and for me, that’s saying something.  JLP

#IANWAE

Fox News evalutates the opinions of all American students on SCOTUS pick by interviewing five of them

THE ISSUE

Fox News might as well be renamed TrumpTV.

THE MEDIA

Clip by Fox News in YouTube on July 8, 2018

“Every person I spoke to all assumed Trump was going to pick a man.”

THE COMMENT

This clip is Fox News at its best.  Well, I really should say ‘worst’ but since they get such good ratings I suppose you could spin it as a positive.

In what is quite possibly the most unscientific vox pop ever put on the airwaves, a young guy goes on the streets of New York (probably not far from Fox News studio) and clearly gets the answers he wants from random people, with the ‘Students hate the SCOTUS pick that Trump hasn’t made yet’ narrative more than likely determined before he ever set foot on the sidewalk.

The premise of the narrative, of course, is highly disingenuous.  It is widely known that the shortlist for Trump’s Supreme Court choice was taken from a longer list drawn up by the ultra conservative Federalist Society (think Iona Institute and you’re in the ballpark) so no matter which judge Trump goes for, anyone of a progressive or ‘liberal’ mindset would be inclined to oppose the nomination.  For example, there isn’t a single judge on that list which would fail the ‘I will help abolish Roe vs Wade’ litmus test.

But why ruin a good narrative with the facts?  The already-brainwashed Fox News viewership don’t need much of a push to support the stereotype they have already been fed of ‘students’.  Once the answers from the vox-pop are selectively chosen and they spend more time in the studio mansplaining the responses than actually airing them (assuming the overall sample was actually bigger than the one they put on air that is), it only takes a clip of less than three minutes to get the ‘job’ done.

As I always say about entities like Fox News, it’s not its existence that is downright scary, it’s the fact that so many people actually believe content that is so blatantly skewed towards the Republican agenda.  And it has only gotten more blatant under this president.  JLP

#IANWAE