Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Monday, March 10, 2014
The complete piece can be heard as I delivered it at http://kcaaradio.celestrion.net/kcaa-podcasts/leser/20140310.html or at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2014/03/09/iraqi-hero-who-served-with-navy-seals-ukraine-update-and-murrow-anniversary
This is the second week in a row this is my show’s feature story. My feature story last week on the Russian invasion of the Crimea region of Ukraine generated a lot of interest and inquiries. This week I want to concentrate on a couple of issues starting with the politics of the issue in the US but first, I want to play a part of an interview with Zbignew Brzezinski, who was United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter during such events as the SALT II treaties and the camp david accords, was on Eurovision discussing the crisis. This is what he said about Putin’s strategy and reasoning for invading:
I Play a segment of Zbignew Brzezinski, opining on Putin Reasoning including his Putins alleged remarks that the fall of the Soviet Union was the worst disaster of the 20th century
Republicans continue to heap blame on President Barack Obama for the invasion. Most prominent Republicans were at CPAC at the end of last week, and used the occasion of the conference to push the meme that President Obama is weak and that is why Putin invaded.
JOHN BOLTON said : Vladimir Putin has a strategy and Obama has nothing. Where Putin has a growing defense budget and ours is shrinking.
DONALD TRUMP said : You look at what he is doing with President Obama. He's, like, toying with him. He's toying with him.
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO said : We have a president who believes but by the sheer force of his personality he would be able to shape global events.
And finally, GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL said: As we see the president of Russia invade a neighboring country, while our president wants to downsize our military.
Now again, as I pointed out last week, it’s not as if we don’t have precedent of how a Republican would handle a crisis like this from the administration of George W. Bush. George W. Bush’s big move after the Russians invaded south Ossetia was to send humanitarian aid to Georgia. I guess the Bush administration felt that the best option was for Georgian citizens to cover themselves with blankets and eat gubmint cheese to make them feel better after losing South Ossetia to the Russians.
But that is supposedly a strong move compared to President Obama’s response. That response of humanitarian aid received no criticism from Republicans. In fact despite that history, Republicans think they have the right to criticize the President. President Obama has already done more about Ukraine and Crimea than Bush did about Georgia and South Ossetia and I will talk about that more in a minute.
If Republicans want to assert blame they can start by looking in the mirror. It has not escaped Putin’s attention that from the beginning of his administration, President Obama has faced harsh opposition from Republicans anytime he tries to do something. That kind of division probably emboldened Putin much more than any foreign policy actions of the Obama administration. The fact that it continues as the President is trying to deal with this difficult military and diplomatic crisis borders on a betrayal of the country.
That’s right, I said it. When the President is dealing with a crisis and threat like this that is wholly the doing of an external power, not supporting him borders on a betrayal of the country.
At least on this issue if no other, Republicans should be trying to support the President, not work to undermine him.
Most grass roots Americans across the political spectrum believe that this is an illegal war of aggression and that the Russian’s should pull their forces out of all of Ukraine including the Crimea. Perhaps 5-10% of Liberals and Progressives are trying to justify the invasion using various dubious theories.
I’ve had arguments with some of these folks and some of my Russian friends. Many of these arguments center around the allegation that the US somehow fomented the protests in Ukraine that ousted former President Yanukovych. As far as those allegations are concerned, I repeat what I said last week, there are always excuses given when a country engages in an unprovoked war of aggression. That is what Russia’s invasion of Crimea is and will always be. It is a war crime to engage in an unprovoked war of conquest like this.
Also, directly to the pathetic arguments some are using to try to justify the Russian invasion, any country can have people talk to the people of any other country and try to convince them of things. We have PACs from other countries here in the US. They advocate for those countries interests. If those PACs succeed in, for instance, influencing an election or getting a President impeached, the remedy is to mount a campaign to vote in the folks you want at the next election. That’s how it works in a Democracy, you don’t invite a nearby military power to invade.
But that is giving that argument way too much credit folks. Countries have disputes with each other all the time and any of those disputes can be used as an excuse to invade. That is ridiculous. The fact is, Ukraine posed no threat to Russia at all, as we can see now with Ukraine not even being able to defend part of its territory. For Russia to invade without a threat posed to Russia according to international law is an unprovoked war of aggression and a war crime.
So I have talked or provided evidence about why Putin did this and whether it is illegal or not, so I’m coming to what the Obama administration is doing and what should it be doing, but I should make a few other points first.
One of the issues with getting anything done is that ascertaining the exact facts on the ground is difficult. The European OSCE or Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has tried to enter the Crimea four times, twice on Thursday and twice on Friday and they have been denied entry by what seems like Russian forces. Without an independent agency seeing what is happening, the only source of information is what Russia is putting out and of course the Russians are in the position of trying to justify a war of conquest so they aren’t going to be forthcoming about anything.
This lack of independent foreign observers is the final nail in the coffin of the legitimacy of the national referendum Russia intends to hold on March 16th in the Crimea on whether those citizens want to become part of Russia. Picture this:
The vote will be scrambled together in ten days, efforts to put it together started March 6th, so ten days for a large regional election,
The election will be held under military occupation with tanks and armored personnel carriers and troops with automatic weapons from the country which Crimean residents are being asked if they want to join,
And yes, eight days out foreign observers have not been allowed to enter the country.
My friends who are experts in conducting elections tell me that free and fair elections involving a region this size cannot be pulled together in ten days under the best conditions. So there is little doubt that whatever happens on March 16th will be a sham election.
The Washington Post reported that "President Obama on Thursday authorized the Treasury Department to impose sanctions against 'individuals and entities' who are responsible for Russia’s military takeover in Crimea or for 'stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people.' The White House is pressing Congress to support a $1 billion aid package for Ukraine’s interim government. The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a financial aid package for Ukraine, authorizing up to $1 billion in loan guarantees. The 385-to 23 vote was the first congressional action on Ukraine, and the bill will now go to the Senate, where some members may propose a broader package of relief."
By the way, in case you are keeping score, that is already several times more aggressive than what George W. Bush did in response to Russia’s invasion of South Ossetia.
I played a part of Zbignew Brzezinski;s interview with Eurovision earlier. Here he is another part where he is discussing what the US should do to respond to the crisis:
<Mr. Brzezinski gives his suggestions, including sanctions and a carrot/stick approach>
It is my hope that the US and Europe put a strong package of sanctions together. I am in favor of a complete embargo by the US and Europe of all Russian goods and services and the denial of entry visas and cancellation of existing visas for any Russians to enter into the US and Europe. We need to get serious about a country that has done what they have done. If you aren’t familiar with Russia, the entry visas might not sound like a big deal, but the oligarchs in Russia are the ones who control the country and they really like being able to travel around the Europe and the US and going to the expensive resorts like skiing in Courchevel and Chamonix in the winter, and shopping in France and enjoying Italian cities.
If they are cut off from that, it will have a surprisingly big impact in Russia. The former world champion chessmaster Garry Kasparov wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal where he advocated for the same thing. Kasparov said “Cut Off the Russian Oligarchs and They'll Dump Putin. Target their assets abroad, their mansions and IPOs in London, their yachts. Use banks, not tanks.”.
I agree with Mister Kasparov.
Now in terms of a complete embargo like what I advocate, I know there are big challenges involved in this. Several European countries get a large amount of their oil and gas from Russia, but that doesn’t mean they HAVE to get their oil and gas from Russia. We should ask Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to step up production to supply some of the shortfall and I am even willing to change positions on the Keystone pipeline because of these exigent circumstances so we can export oil to Europe while the crisis continues.
Folks, allowing Putin to get away with this would be a huge mistake. You heard Zbignew Brezhinski earlier. Putin wants to re-establish the territorial holdings of the USSR. He is going to invade more territory if we let him get away with this.
That is why I am asking every person, every one of you hearing this should examine the places that you and any businesses you are affiliated with get products and services. Do not buy any Russian provided products or services and do not do business with any businesses that buy Russian provided products or services. Call and email your congressman, senator and the President. Spread the word to your friends to do the same. Support and insist on a complete embargo of Russian goods and services unless and until they leave the Crimea.
We’ll be right back.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
(The segment can be heard as I delivered it at either http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2014/03/03/complete-coverage-of-russias-invasion-of-ukraine-and-more or http://kcaaradio.celestrion.net/kcaa-podcasts/leser/20140303.html )
This past Thursday, Russia sent masked troops into the Crimea region of Ukraine to seize the airports and other strategic locations. The troops had been part of the Russian garrison in the naval base Ukraine allows Russia to have in the port of Sevastopol. The Russian base at Sevastopol is the headquarters for the Russian Black Sea fleet.
On Friday, the Russians admitted that they had troops quote/unquote “operating” in Ukraine.
That is the euphemism the Russians used to try to make invasion sound better.
I will talk about some of the reasons for the invasion for a moment but first, I should point out that I warned about the potential for Russia to invade Ukraine in my show three weeks ago:
I play an excerpt of my show from Feb 9 where I said “The crisis in Ukraine is ongoing with the USA Today reporting on Thursday that Ukraine protesters are telling reporters that they are concerned that Russia will intervene militarily at some point. I’ve heard this myself from several sources that the Russians are contemplating military intervention in Ukraine after the Olympics are over.
Again, this is a big issue to Russia and they are willing to pull out all the stops, all of the tricks and everything else to get their way here. What no one in the US or Europe should do is succumb to the dirty tricks that Russia and Putin are utilizing here to try and drive a wedge between the US and Europe. The US and Europe need to work together to ensure the wishes of the people of Ukraine to have closer ties to the EU are realized.”
That is from my show three weeks ago. As I said about this on my Facebook page, I take no pleasure at all about being right about this. This is a very sad and serious situation. Russia has started an unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine.
One of the more farcical aspects of this war is that after Russian troops had already seized control of the Crimean regional parliament and the two airports in Crimea and most main Crimean thoroughfares, Putin asked the Russian parliament for permission to take military action in Ukraine. In effect, any Russian parliamentary member not voting to give permission would not only be defying Putin, but they would be open to the criticism that they were not supporting Russian troops in the field. If that sounds familiar, it should, each time the former Bush administration requested additional funds for US military action in Iraq, they accused any members of congress who were against those funds of not supporting troops in the field.
Of course, in an extremely quick vote, the Russian parliament not only approved the use of force for Putin, they suggested that Russia remove the Russian ambassador to the US from Washington to protest President Obama’s statement on the crisis. I’ll play the President’s statement a little later.
No one is sure why the Russians are engaging in military action although there are plenty of theories.
Obviously the recent unrest and the impeachment and removal of a Russian supported President Yanukovych is at least part of the reason, but there are a lot of other theories floating around.
One of those theories centers around Yulia Tymoshenko. Ms Tymoshenko is a former Prime Minister of Ukraine who was jailed in 2011. Ms. Tymoshenko favored closer relations with the US and Europe and it is said she was jailed by President Yanukovych because of those views which included closing the Russian bases in Ukraine, including the one in Sevastopol, Crimea, because she asserted they were Unconstitutional. There seems to be some basis for that as the Ukraine constitution in chapter one article 17 says
The location of foreign military bases in the territory of Ukraine shall not be permitted.
It’s an interesting coincidence that within days of Ms. Tymoshenko’s release from prison, Russian troops invaded the Crimea region from their base in Sevastopol.
Warm water ports, like that in Sevastopol, have been important to Russia and the former Soviet Union since the Russian revolution in 1917 and perhaps beyond.
Another theory suggests that Putin’s popularity and that of his party Edinaya Rossiya, commonly translated as Russia United, is at its low point and Putin is engaging in what are historically used cynical methods to shore up that support.
A December 3 article in UPI talks about polling done by Independent Russian pollster Levada Center that showed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin is waning.
Of 1,603 people taking part in the survey, conducted mid-November, 52 percent of the respondents told pollsters they had a favorable opinion of the three-term president. Russia news agency RIA Novosti reported Tuesday similar polls conducted during Putin's first two terms as president reported an approval rating above 68 percent.
So, things are trending in a bad direction for Putin and his party. They went up slightly with the Olympics but events like that are just temporary bumps.
So what do you do if you are a semi-dictator with that situation?
Things like focusing attention on a minority as a scapegoat, like he did with the anti-gay law in June, and now invading another country and claiming he is doing so to protect the Russian part of that population. Those are exactly the kinds of things you do.
Both of those things have been done throughout history by leaders trying to take the focus off of themselves.
It’s a lot easier to do those kinds of things than it is to improve your economy, improve the lives of the least well off in your country, attack corruption, those kinds of things are hard. In fact, those are things that Putin probably doesn’t want to do anyway since to get into a leadership position in Russia in the first place you have to be supported by the oligarchs and the oligarchs in Russia, just like everywhere else, thrive on corruption and income inequality.
I have to say though that outside of the reasons I mentioned, the Russian obsession with Ukraine is something I have a hard time understanding. Russia spends a ton of money assisting Ukraine; somewhere on the order of tens of Billion dollars per year in reduced gas prices aid, loans and all kinds of other things. Put another way, if Russia wrote off Ukraine, Russia would instantly get a boost of tens of Billions of dollars per year to its economy. They could give a huge tax cut to their citizens and increase spending on infrastructure and education and still break even. To give you more perspective, the amount that Russia spends per year on Ukraine is similar to the amount that Germany and its citizens had a fit over giving Greece in a one-time situation to help Greece with its economic crisis. Imagine the reaction of Germany’s citizens if Merkel told them this was an every year deal. There would be revolution in Germany. They would ask France if they could borrow the guilliotine on display in the Musée D'Orsay in Paris for her execution.
So among other things, the Russians are engaging in an unprovoked war of aggression so that they can keep paying Ukraine tens of billions of dollars per year. If that seems dumb to you, you are not alone.
That brings us to what the United States should do, if anything. On Friday morning, when it became clear that some sort of Russian action was starting in Ukraine, President Obama had this to say:
I play an excerpt from the President’s speech culminating in the President saying “"The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine,"
Immediately Republicans pounced on this as not strong enough. Here is Republican pundit Charles Krauthammer on Obama’s statement:
I play a statement from Krauthammer where among other things Krauthammer says the speech was weak and flaccid
That was Krauthammer, Senator John McCain from Arizona called Obama naive on Putin, John Bolton called the President just engaging in Rhetoric while Putin holds all the cards.
But hold on a second, what did George W. Bush do in 2008 when Russia invaded South Ossetia?
He gave this speech:
I play an excerpt from Bush’s 2008 speech where he says Russia must respect Georgia’s sovereignty and agree to a settlement on the South Ossetia situation
And then what did Bush do after this speech? Bush decided to make a statement by sending humanitarian supplies to Georgia by military, rather than civilian, aircraft.
That was Bush’s big strong move. What was that Charles Krauthammer?
I Play a smaller snippet of Krauthammer’s statement focusing on the weak and flaccid comments
Krauthammer said nothing critical of George W. Bush’s actions with regard to Georgia and South Ossetia, but is now critical of Obama.
Folks, that is what Republican opinion on President Obama’s actions are worth, i.e. next to nothing. Unless you want to start a nuclear war, there isn’t much we can do directly regarding this situation. I think the President has to get creative and think a little out of the box in terms of how to respond to this crisis. There are a lot of things the US can do in conjunction with its allies that would really hurt the Russian economy and cause other kinds of problems for Russia. Those are the things we should do and threaten to do if Russia does not pull its troops out of Ukraine.
While I’m discussing Republicans, I should point out that Sarah Palin is claiming that she was right to warn in 2008 that we should be wary of Russia’s intentions with regard to Ukraine. First of all, that was something that the McCain campaign fed to her, she did not come up with that on her own. If you want proof, she didn’t even know one of the main foreign policies of her own country when asked about it. Remember the question she was asked about the Bush doctrine?
I play an audio excerpt from the September 2008 interview Charles Gibson did with Sarah Palin. This below play by play was from Jack Shaeffer’s Slate Sept 11 2008 article:
Gibson: Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?
Palin: In what respect, Charlie?
Gibson (refusing to give her a hint): What do you interpret it to be?
Palin: His worldview?
Gibson: No, the Bush Doctrine, enunciated in September 2002, before the Iraq War.
Palin attempts to fake it for 25 seconds with a swirl of generalities before Gibson, showing all the gentleness of a remedial social studies teacher, interjects.
Gibson: The Bush Doctrine as I understand it is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense. That we have the right of a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?
Sorry Sarah, you didn’t come close to getting that right and you don’t get to come to us now and claim you were a foreign policy expert on Russia and the Ukraine after not knowing one of the most important current foreign policy doctrines of your own country.
The other thing I would point out to my Republican friends is, it’s a lot harder to criticize the Russians for engaging in the war crime of an unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine after the Bush administration engaged in the war crime of an unprovoked war of aggression in Iraq.
There is a reason international laws exist and there are good reasons to make sure we are always on the right side of those laws.
One of those reasons is that being on the right side of them is the moral thing to do. The other reason is that you can’t hold other countries responsible for breaking the rules if you break them too.
Speaking of international law and treaties promises and the like, one of the things that make come of this is that I think a lot more countries in Europe and Asia that have the ability to go nuclear, but haven’t until now may decide to go nuclear. In 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had on its territory enough nuclear weapons to make it the third largest nuclear power in the world. It had 1900 nuclear warheads and a large complement of missiles and other delivery systems. Ukraine signed treaties with the United States and Russia that delivered all of that weaponry to Russia for dismantling by 1996.
That agreement and treaty, signed by Russia, has as its first two articles:
Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders.
Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.
Russia is blatantly violating the treaty they signed. They are violating Ukrainian sovereignty.
Does anyone think that Ukraine would be in this position if they were a nuclear power? I think a lot of countries bordering or in the neighborhood of China and Russia are thinking about that very question at this moment. In fact, there are calls in the Ukraine right now for that country to go nuclear again and some think that the Ukraine could have deliverable nuclear weapons again in as little as 3-6 months.
If you are Ukraine or Georgia, or one of the other former Republics that has had issues with Russia, or if you are Japan or South Korea or Taiwan or the Philippines that have had problems with China, wouldn’t you take this as a warning and go nuclear? Logically, I think it’s hard to argue against it if you are in the government of one of those countries. That is one of the wonderful lessons and consequences that are going to come from this action by Russia and Putin. I think we will see more nuclear proliferation in Eastern Europe and Asia.
Since we’re talking about options of Ukraine and what they are going to do the Government of Ukraine issued an order to mobilize their armed forces effective at 8am Kiev time, 1am Eastern time on Sunday March 2nd so by the time you hear this show, the Ukrainian armed forces will have fully mobilized for war.
Let’s hope Putin withdraws his forces and we will not have a generalized war. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call to "urgently engage in direct dialogue with the authorities" in Kiev. Canada called on Russia to withdraw their troops from Ukraine and recalled their ambassador from Moscow. Foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Poland issued a joint statement saying quote
"We are deeply concerned with the tensions in Crimea. Everything must be done to decrease the tension in the eastern region and promote peaceful discussions among relevant parties. We express support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country" and urge "all parties in Ukraine to refrain from actions that could challenge this".
Let me talk about a side issue regarding this whole thing. Since June, whenever I talk about Russia and wrongdoing on their part, my thoughts turn to Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. For all his complaints about US Surveillance, Greenwald spent the first 48 hours of Russian unprovoked aggressive war in Ukraine oddly silent about it.
So, let me get this straight Glenn, surveillance is bad, but invading a country is good or at least no big deal? I guess if you have made your bed with a country like Greenwald and Snowden have with Russia, you have to lie in it. It makes me wonder exactly what these guys stand for if they cannot stand against an obvious war crime in progress.
My guess is we will see a group of folks, maybe even Greenwald himself or one of his many supporters, who will try to justify the Russian action in Ukraine. They will claim that the Ukrainian protesters were bad people or that the people in the Crimean region wanted the Russians to invade. To which I respond, there are always reasons to justify unprovoked wars of aggression, just ask George W. Bush. George Orwell is out there somewhere smiling in his next life. If you have ever read his essay titled Notes on Nationalism, you know why.
Yes, Vladimir, yes Mr. Putin, you have committed the war crime of an unprovoked war of aggression. You know what that makes you. That makes you a war criminal, it makes you the George W. Bush of this decade. It makes you one of the most disliked people in the world forever. I found an interesting quote from Mr. Vladimir Putin from 2003 when the US Invaded Iraq.
On the invasion of Iraq by the US, Putin said “The use of force abroad, according to existing international laws, can only be sanctioned by the United Nations. This is the international law.”"
I would say that Mr. Putin is hoisted by his own petard here. That is one of eleven times that Buzzfeed’s Alison Vingiano found that Russian leaders condemned the use of force without UN approval in the last 11 years.
I want to stress that this pronouncement is only about Putin and his government. The Russian people are not responsible for this war crime any more than the people of the US were responsible for the war crimes of George W. Bush. I think the problem here is that Putin is a relic of the cold war. He is an old Soviet KGB Colonel or Polkovnik and I think his instinct when he is under pressure is to act like a leader of the old Soviet Union just as leaders of that now defunct country did when they invaded Czechoslovakia or Hungary. He has steered Russia into several wars now but this one is the most obviously unprovoked.
The Russian people do not deserve a leader like this anymore than we in the US deserved George W. Bush. We and they deserve better. We’ve got someone better; let’s hope the people of Russia get someone better soon.
In the meantime, the countries of the world have to insist that this violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty will not stand.
We’ll be right back.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
To hear the segment as I delivered it, click http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2014/02/10/cbo-controversy-on-jobs-russian-intelligence-intercepts-calls-from-us-diplomats-1
This past week, the Congressional Budget Office released a huge 182 page report detailing their analysis of the future of the economy and the budget for the next ten years from 2014 to 2024.
What I said just there is probably mystifying to most of you because the only thing that seemed to be reported in the news is that the Congressional Budget Office said something about Obamacare that affected around two million jobs.
No, the report was meant to cover every aspect of the economy and budget and give a ten year outlook. I am going through the report and hope to have more interesting tidbits for you during my next few shows.
There is a lot to take in.
I am going to ask you to stay with me here because the report is really wonky and full of somewhat dry details. I am going to try to address what the report said and the reaction to it by Republicans a couple of ways that I think you will enjoy it’s just going to take a little bit of time to get there.
What immediately made headlines is a suggestion regarding two million jobs and Obamacare. Now, the first thing you have to understand is that where this is all detailed is appendix C of the CBO report in question, titled Labor Market Effects of the Affordable Care Act: Updated Estimates. This section is eleven pages long and divided into an Overview where the report first explains what it thinks is going to happen, and two major subsections, one called “effects on the Supply of Labor” and another titled effects on the Demand for Labor where it painstakingly details the reasons why it thinks the things outlined in the Overview will happen.
The Supply of Labor is of course us the workers and whether we want to work and how much. Demand for labor refers to whether businesses out there want to hire.
In the overview, it talks about how quote
the CBO estimates that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net,by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.
That is a verbatim read from the report. So right off the bat, the CBO’s report says that it is talking about workers choosing to work less, not businesses offering fewer jobs and it as much as says that this accounts almost entirely for the reduction in hours and jobs.
Now, I want to talk about what that means and whether I agree with it or not and I will get to that, but first I want to address what happened when this information came out, namely, the mischaracterization of this information in Republican and Conservative circles and failure of huge segments of the press to report this properly. Let’s get started with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Certainly we can have the expectation that the Senate Minority Leader has a staff that can get him the correct information on things right? Well, let’s hear what he said:
<I play a clip by Sen Mitch McConnell on the CBO where he talks about 2million jobs being lost>
Almost everywhere you went where a Republican or Conservative elected official or members of the press was speaking you heard something similar to what Mitch McConnell just said. I can give a lot of examples, but one of them that stands out is The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication started in 2012 with ties to Tea Party organizations like the Center for American Freedom which has William Kristol on its board, this publication deserves special mention for putting out no less than four misleading videos on this. Here is part of the audio of just one of those four videos:
<I play a clip from the Washington Free Beacon where they have several people talking about jobs being lost>
Even supposedly non-partisan members of the media rushed to make statements that were completely unsupported by the document the CBO put out. Talking Points Memo put out an article where they showed Tweets by several high profile journalists that fell into this category. For instance
Chuck todd, the Chief White House Correspondant for NBC news tweeted:
CBO essentially reaffirms GOP talking points on health care. Says it will cost jobs, feel as if it raises taxes and contributes to deficit
Ben White from Politico tweeted:
Devastating #CBO report: Obamacare will cost 2 million full-time jobs over next three years.
The ability of our media here in the US particularly those conservative aspects of it to put out misleading information has really become breathtaking. Jon Stewart did a hilarious piece on this where he showed clips of a number of Republican elected officials repeating the incorrect information about job losses and then played this piece of congressional Democrats asking the head of the CBO Mr. Elmendorf some questions about it:
<Jon Stewart Questions Elmendorf who reiterates jobs are not being lost in his scenario, people are choosing to work less>
So not only is the head of the CBO, Mr. Elmendorf refuting what Republicans are saying about his report, he basically says that Obamacare is going to cut the deficit and has not caused employers to cut jobs or reduce hours. The funny thing is, there is stuff worth discussing in this CBO report regarding jobs and Obamacare. To get us started on those things, here is some audio from an appearance I did on Thursday on Your World with Neil Cavuto to discuss it.
<I reiterate that the 2 million refers to people deciding to work less not that people are being let go and I talk about how I don’t agree with the CBO’s analysis because in my experience people are holding onto their jobs and hours out of fear after the economic downturn>
That’s my main contention with this small piece of the CBO report and that is that I don’t think it captures how unwilling people are to give up their jobs right now even folks who are deeply unhappy with their current job. People are not quitting their jobs and they are not willingly giving up hours, and I don’t know if there is a way for the CBO to factor in angst like that in their analysis. That’s why I think they are wrong. If you are out there in the workforce, I think you know what I am saying is true. People are generally not leaving jobs of their own free will.
But let’s assume the CBO is right for a moment. Obamacare allows everyone to get good and affordable insurance outside of an employment situation. CBO is correct about that. CBO then says that because of that, some folks will work less or leave their jobs because of that for a variety of reasons.
One of those reasons is that you have a two parent family with both parents working and one will now spend more time at home taking care of the kids. That is one of the situations contemplated by the CBO.
Another is that someone will leave their job to start a business. Now you might ask what Obamacare has to do with that. I’ll explain.
Let’s say that you are also one of two working parents with children. Let’s say you are a plumber or a carpenter or a computer programmer or an accountant or one of a lot of other jobs working in a medium sized firm that provides health insurance and because of this you are the reason your family has health insurance. If this was before Obamacare and you quit your job to try to start a business, your entire family would lose their health insurance. That is a huge disincentive to start your own business particularly if you or another member of your family has health issues.
But now with the Affordable Care Act, you can leave your job and start your own carpentry or plumbing or programming or accounting business. You can afford health insurance for your family without having to continue to work for someone else. That is a great thing. That encourages good risk taking to create new businesses. In short, Obamacare supports capitalism.
That’s the funny thing about social programs. Social programs plus capitalism does capitalism better than capitalism by itself.
And that a the succinct way of describing the Liberal and Progressive position on economics in a nutshell.
We’ll be right back.
Transcript of my Feb 9-10 2014 Segment on Russian Intelligence intercept of US Diplomatic Phone Call
To hear the segment as I delivered it, click http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2014/02/10/cbo-controversy-on-jobs-russian-intelligence-intercepts-calls-from-us-diplomats-1 and forward to about the 16th minute.
As many of you know there was a conversation between two American diplomats leaked to the press this week. The conversation was between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland (C) and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.
Nuland: OK... one more wrinkle for you Geoff. [A click can be heard] I can't remember if I told you this, or if I only told Washington this, that when I talked to Jeff Feltman [United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy Robert Serry did I write you that this morning?
Pyatt: Yeah I saw that.
Nuland: OK. He's now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, **** the EU.
Pyatt: No, exactly. And I think we've got to do something to make it stick together because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude, that the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it...
Now of course there are the geopolitical considerations to be discussed resulting from this. Some leaders in the EU expressed outrage, and of course they weren’t really outraged they just have to express it to appear like they are doing something. There were a few notable exceptions.
The office of EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that they would not comment on “allegedly intercepted communication as a position of principle.”
“Intercepted private conversations aren’t part of the toolbox that we use to assist Ukraine,” said a spokesperson for Barroso.
The German newspaper Der Spiegel online published an opinion column titled “Relax, Europe.” Stating:
“Europe should simply laugh about the American F-word. Some humor would do no harm to the transatlantic relationship at the moment.”
Those are public statements; let me assure everyone that no leader in Europe is upset at the US or Assistant Secretary of State Nuland. In private, people say all kinds of things, all of you hearing this show, I am sure that at several points in your life, you have privately expressed frustration with even your best friends on occasion. Everybody knows that.
The curious thing about this is how it happened.
American officials immediately pointed the finger at Russian intelligence for the leak, Nuland herself referred to quote “remarkable tradecraft”, which is political and diplomatic speak for spying and intelligence actions. That is what I want to talk about because that is the really interesting aspect of this.
I think she is right and I think it is pretty obvious that this intercept and leak is the work of the Russians. They are the ones who have motive.
Russian intelligence is mostly conducted out of three agencies, the FSB, GRU and SVR. One of these three would be responsible for intercepting this call and disseminating it. My guess here is that this is the work of the GRU or Glavnye Raz-vedie-vatel-noye Uprav-linye which translates to main intelligence directorate.
But why would they do this now? In some ways it doesn’t seem to make sense. First of all, this is yet another blow to the narrative that had been set by Edward Snowden when seeking Asylum in Russia. A few weeks ago I noted how the problems Russia was having with ensuring that the Sochi Olympics were secure from terrorists was one problematic area for them because Snowden’s argument is that the US is going too far in its surveillance and espionage efforts against terrorism. If Russia is having problems dealing with terrorism but harboring Snowden, that is pretty hypocritical.
Now we have another instance of hypocrisy. One of the things that Snowden leaked was the idea that the US was listening in on the phone conversations of various diplomats. That is supposed to be bad. Now we have an example of Russia doing the same thing, yet they are giving Snowden asylum for leaking that the US did it.
That is some pretty serious hypocrisy.
Why would the Russian’s out themselves as hypocrites like this? While you are thinking that over, I should point out that countries usually do not advertise efforts by their intelligence agencies to the extent that this phone call intercept and dissemination did. That’s part of the whole point of covert operations. They are supposed to stay secret. You don’t want the public knowing, you don’t want your adversaries knowing. You can bet that this very second, US intelligence agencies are conducting a thorough investigation of how the Russians did this and are building new countermeasures and procedures into how diplomats and other officials do business.
So in terms of both keeping the US looking bad with respect to Russia on surveillance, this hurts Russia and it also potentially weakens Russia’s ability to eavesdrop on certainly the United States and perhaps other countries and groups in the future.
So again, why would they do this?
To me, the answer is obvious. I think the Russians are really worried about the situation in Ukraine.
A Russian expat friend just back from a trip to Russia said to me a week and a half ago, Steve, you have no idea how serious the Russians are about keeping complete control over the government and political situation in Ukraine. They will do everything they can to keep their guy in power over there and prevent Ukraine from joining the European Union.
The intercept of this phone call is confirmation of that as far as I am concerned. To give you all some more background, Russia’s preferred Ukranian candidate, Viktor Yanukovych was elected to the Presidency in Ukraine in 2010 and as of that moment, all progress towards Ukraine joining the European Union stopped. Prior to this, two Ukranian leaders, Victor Yushenko and Yulia Tymoshenko had been pursuing not only EU membership for Ukraine, but NATO membership for Ukraine.
Upon assuming power, Yanukovych’s governing of Ukraine can be described as pretty much exactly how Putin wants him to govern Ukraine. Ukraine has become a satellite of Russia under Yanukovych. EU and NATO membership for Ukraine is something that Putin does not want to see happen because if and when that happens, Russia’s influence over Ukraine will be weakened permanently.
In November of 2013, Yanukovych formally rejected an accord with the European Union in favor of stronger ties to Russia. Ever since then, protests have erupted in Ukraine which turned violent in January. The BBC reports that this is the worst unrest in the country since Ukraine’s independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.
The pro-European Union rallies have drawn crowds in Ukraine’s capitol of Kiev numbering in the hundreds of thousands of people. Putin fears losing control of Ukraine and he hates that the US is playing a role in trying to mediate a solution to the crisis.
That is why Putin ordered the Russian intelligence services to risk exposing themselves by intercepting and releasing this phone conversation. It is a move motivated by desperation by a man who wants to maintain control of Ukraine and fears he is about to lose it.
In case any more evidence is needed about how seriously Russia views its control of Ukraine, curious things have happened to both prior Ukranian leaders who wanted to forge closer relationships between Ukraine and Europe and the US.
I mentioned Victor Yushenko earlier. In 2004 in the middle of an election against the current President of Ukraine, Yanukovich, Mr. Yushenko was poisoned with the Dioxin Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin. Mr. Yushenko won that election and became President of Ukraine. On September 27, 2009 Yushchenko said in an interview that the testimony of three men who were at a dinner in 2004 at which he believes he was poisoned is crucial to finishing the investigation, and he claimed these men were in Russia. And, surprise, surprise, Ukrainian prosecutors said Russia has refused to extradite one of the men, the former deputy chief of Ukraine's security service, Volodymyr Satsyuk, because he holds both Russian and Ukrainian citizenship.
That is the experience of one leader who wanted to take Ukraine into a closer relationship with the EU and the United States. Another such leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine was thrown in jail after Yanukovich came to power and her trial and imprisonment is viewed by many in the international community, not least of which the Danish Helsinki committee as a politically motivated imprisonment. The European Court on Human Rights said in an April 30, 2013 judgment that Tymoshenko’s arrest had been politically motivated and her rights had been violated. She has sat in prison since 2011 under a seven year sentence.
Russia particularly has it in for Ms Tymoshenko because of a role she played in a gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia back in 2009 where it is said she directly angered Putin.
So if you want to understand how ruthless Putin is willing to be with regards to keeping control over Ukraine, just look at what has happened to the two highest profile Ukranian Leaders who wanted to move Ukraine from a Russian centered foreign policy, to a European Union centered foreign policy,
Once you understand the background, what happened here and why becomes much more clear. This phone intercept and its release was part of a deliberate plan to hinder the US efforts to mediate the Ukraine crisis and the Russians hoped it would put a wedge between US and the EU precisely when they should be working together on Ukraine to help remove her from Russian domination. Accomplishing that goal was worth it to Putin even though it would expose Russian intelligence efforts and make him and Russia look like a hypocrite in the Snowden case to anyone who was paying attention.
The crisis in Ukraine is ongoing with the USA Today reporting on Thursday that Ukraine protesters are telling reporters that they are concerned that Russia will intervene militarily at some point. I’ve heard this myself from several sources that the Russians are contemplating military intervention in Ukraine after the Olympics are over.
Again, this is a big issue to Russia and they are willing to pull out all the stops, all of the tricks and everything else to get their way here. What no one in the US or Europe should do is succumb to the dirty tricks that Russia and Putin are utilizing here to try and drive a wedge between the US and Europe. The US and Europe need to work together to ensure the wishes of the people of Ukraine to have closer ties to the EU are realized.
We’ll be right back.
Monday, February 3, 2014
To hear this from my Radio Show Podcast, click here to hear at BlogtalkRadio.com http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2014/02/02/coverage-of-bombshell-new-evidence-and-allegations-against-chris-christie-more-1 or here to hear at KCAA http://kcaaradio.celestrion.net/kcaa-podcasts/leser/20140203.html
Folks, I was on the Kelly file hosted by Megyn Kelly on Friday night to discuss the latest allegations about New Jersey governor Chris Christie and they do not paint a nice picture of him.
If you haven’t heard, the attorney for David Wildstein, the erstwhile Port Authority director of interstate capital projects and the person most responsible for implementation of the closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge, says that he has evidence that Chris Christie knew about the scandal during the time the bridge lanes were closed, which is much earlier than Christie says he did and also that he was aware of the Patrick Foye email before he said he was.
There is a common character these scandals take when in the person at the center of them is guilty of doing something wrong and is desperately trying to hide that fact.
They come out and do a big press conference where they deny everything, they say they did nothing wrong and had no idea about wrongdoing, and then drip, drip, drip, the evidence that they did not tell the truth and that they are guilty of whatever it is they are being accused of slowly and painfully comes out. Not all at once and sometimes the first revelations aren’t exactly smoking guns, but it starts with evidence that there were things said in that big press conference that were just not true.
Something told me when Governor Christie held his January 9th press conference where he denied participating in or in fact all prior knowledge of any wrongdoing in his administration regarding Bridge-gate, that this was not going to be the end of his problems with that issue.
For starters, the suggestion that Christie, who claims to be this extraordinary leader and manager and is in fact a micromanager and bully and who portrays himself as this guy who is on top of everything but on this one issue issued a couple of dozen denials that he knew what was going on until way after it was over, those two versions of Christie that he wanted to feed us seemed incongruous non credible.
He claimed in his press conference that he didn’t begin to know something was wrong until press reports began to surface about Patrick Foye’s email. Patrick Foye is the Executive Director of the Port Authority and his forceful email on September 13th, the fifth day of the George Washington bridge lane closures is what ended the lane closures.
The bridge closures occurred from September 9th to September 13th. Press reports about Patrick Foye’s email didn’t start coming out until October 1st. That is when Governor Christie says he realized the lane closures were some kind of issue.
What I want to make sure everyone understands is that the dual level George Washington Bridge which connects Manhattan and New Jersey and serves 102 million vehicles per year is the most heavily trafficked bridge in the world.
This bridge is arguably the most important piece of infrastructure in a metropolitan area with a lot of important infrastructure. In order for someone to believe Christie, you would have to believe that the Governor of a state would ignore a massive ongoing five day crisis with the most important piece of infrastructure in his state and wouldn’t look into it at all.
Honestly, who would believe that? Obviously the justice department doesn’t believe that which is why a Federal investigation complete with the FBI having agents involved is currently going on with regards to bridge gate.
I want to talk about some of the important reasons I think that Governor Christie is guilty of wrongdoing in Bridge gate, but before I talk about that, I think it’s important to remind you all that there is a second federal investigation going on regarding the Christie administration concerning the Christie administration’s use of the Superstorm Sandy funds and there are several allegations involved.
The first is that Christie improperly chose between two bids for marketing the relief efforts. There was a bid that would cost $2.5 million dollars and a bid that would cost $4.7 million dollars and again this was just for marketing, not actually rebuilding anything. The costs would come right out of the relief funds. Christie chose the $4.7 million dollar effort and here is the kicker, the $4.7 million dollar plan involved advertisements featuring Christie and his family. The lower priced campaign did not.
Also, as reported by NJ.com, Gov. Chris Christie helped channel $6 million in federal Hurricane Sandy recovery dollars to a project conceived years before the storm struck, in an Essex County town that was not particularly hard hit, records show. The funding, pushed for personally by the Republican governor, was announced less than two weeks before the town’s Democratic mayor Raymond Kimble formally endorsed him for reelection. The development is an $18 million senior center and housing complex in Belleville called Franklin Manor. One third of the cost — $6 million — is being paid for by a $1.8 billion pot of federally funded Community Development Block Grants to help the state recover from Sandy.
There are also the well-known allegations by the mayor of Hoboken Dawn Zimmer that she was told if she did not endorse Christie’s re-election, her relief funds for Superstorm Sandy would be affected.
Remember how Republicans and the conservative media jumped all over her and called her allegations non-credible? Well emails surfaced on January 28th backing up her story.
The NY Post, again, not a liberal media institution by any stretch of the imagination reported that newly released e-mails indicate Gov. Chris Christie’s administration pressured the mayor of Hoboken to approve a huge development project even during a meeting centered on Hurricane Sandy relief funds, according to a report.
One e-mail to Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer lists the first item on the agenda for a meeting about Sandy funds was “review of concepts for flood control measures at Rockefeller property,” The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The property refers to a billion-dollar complex that was being proposed for the city by a Christie-connected developer.
Zimmer requested the meeting after a severe rainstorm last May flooded Hoboken and raised concerns that the city could be devastated again.
She said she would not discuss the project at the meeting, the Times said.
The next day, Zimmer received a call saying Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno would be visiting her in Hoboken.
At that infamous meeting, Zimmer claims Guadagno and another Christie staffer demanded she push forward the redevelopment plan or risk losing all the Sandy recovery money.
On January 18th, the Washington Post reported that in September, Adam Schneider, the liberal mayor of the New Jersey shore town of Long Branch, was having trouble with the state utility board. After repeatedly getting the run-around, Schneider decided to instead try his luck with the office of Gov. Chris Christie.
Schneider’s call came four months after he crossed party lines to endorse the 2013 reelection of Christie (R), whose performance he admired after Hurricane Sandy. Schneider said that the governor never promised him anything but that he believes he has received “enhanced” access to state officials since the endorsement.
The same Washinton Post article says that Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has said the Christie administration suddenly yanked his access to a contingent of top officials slated to offer guidance on navigating the state bureaucracy after he declined to back the governor.
So we start to see a pattern here with how the Christie administration did business. The word pattern may not even do justice to what this suggests.
Since I promised to do so, let’s talk about some of the lies or suspicious behavior by Chris Christie regarding Bridge gate:
1. Christie claims not to have known about the Bridge lane closures until after it was over. But he met with the person who was one of the prime people responsible for it, Mr. Wildstein, on September 11th in New York, in the middle of the whole mess and while the Mayor of Fort Lee was screaming about it to everyone who would listen. Remember the lanes were closed from September 9th to September 13th. September 11 was right in the middle.
2. On December 12th, the Wall Street Journal reports in an article by TED MANN, ERICA ORDEN and HEATHER HADDON that Chris Christie phoned New York Governor Cuomo about Patrick Foye and the closure investigation to try to get him to back off of the investigation. A day later, and ever since, including in his January 9th press conference, Christie has tried to deny speaking with Cuomo about the investigation. The article specifically says:
a. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week to complain about a Cuomo appointee's handling of a growing controversy over traffic pattern changes on the George Washington Bridge, a person familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of why the number of toll lanes onto the bridge from Fort Lee, N.J. was cut from three to one in early September, according to this person. The lane closures occurred without notice to local authorities, officials have said, and snarled traffic for a week in the small borough on the Hudson River bluffs.
This particular issue isn’t so easy for Christie and his goons to use the typical response which is to pass it off as an attack by that quote Liberal media. We all know the Wall Street Journal leans conservative.
3. In response to Wildstein’s lawyer saying this past week that Christie knew about the lane closures and why they were occurring during the crisis, not afterwards as Christie claims, Christie issued a statement saying this corroborates his previous assertions that Governor Christie did not know about the lane closures in advance. As Megyn Kelly pointed out when she and I discussed this on her show last night, those two statements are not mutually exclusive. If you take them together, there is a simple statement that is true in both assertions and that is that Christie knew fairly early on in the lane closures what was happening.
All three of these issues cast extreme doubt on the assertions made by Christie in his January 9th press conference.
I think we can safely say a couple of things about bridge-gate at this point. The intersection between the statements of Wildstein’s attorney and the statement released by Christie’s camp along with the things I outlined earlier regarding the experience and statements of Democratic mayors in New Jersey and their experience with the Christie administration suggests to me that Governor Christie fostered a climate in his administration where it was routine not only to offer quid pro quos, where support for the Governor by mayors and other local officials garnered one favorable funding for projects and similar concessions, on the flip side of that, the lack of such support of Christie by local officials resulted in retribution and punishment.
Governor Christie expected his staff to threaten and carry out such measures. It is demonstrated in repeated instances how this was the case. I think Governor Christie expected that the mayor of Fort Lee Mark Sokolich would support his re-election because of the killing of the Hudson train tunnel which would have diverted traffic and business from Fort Lee. Christie looked at that as a favor and expected quid pro quo in the form of an endorsement of his reelection.
When he didn’t get that, he expected his staff to retaliate. Whether he explicitly said it or not, and whether he explicitly said to close the lanes on the bridge as part of that retaliation is immaterial. Christie actively fostered quid pro quo and retaliatory policies as a part of normal doing business for his administration.
You see this with Bridgegate, you see it with the way Christie used the money for superstorm sandy when I went over that earlier this is how the Christie administration did business.
I feel sorry for my friends just over the Hudson river in New Jersey. People don’t deserve to have elected officials who engage in corrupt practices. These quid-pro-quo and retaliatory actions take money away from doing the state’s business, they waste the taxpayers money. The people of New Jersey did not deserve to have Superstorm sandy relief funds spent needlessly on a more expensive ad campaign that featured the Governor and his family. They didn’t deserve to have superstorm sandy relief funds go to a mega-complex in a city that received little to no damage in the storm. They didn’t deserve to have EMS responders in Fort Lee require four times the normal response time to respond during the lane closures and the people of New Jersey didn’t deserve a situation where parent’s in Fort Lee couldn’t get their kids to school those days. The estimated money lost to New Jersey commuters alone in gas and time from bridge-gate is estimated at over $20 million. That’s just the beginning in terms of estimating money lost from that event.
It is starting to come out, it is all going to come out folks. It is going to come out that all of the worst allegations regarding Chris Christie and his administration are true.
It’s obvious now. And you know what, I think a lot more examples of quid-pro-quo and retaliation haven’t come out yet. As I said, the sense I get is that this was the way the Christie administration went about business all the time. There may be dozens, scores or even hundreds of examples before we are over folks.
It’s really sad, this is going to be the second major corruption scandal facing New Jersey in the last couple of decades, the other one being ABSCAM now being featured in the film American Hustle.
I can’t even begin to fathom the number of indictments and convictions that we are going to see. Like the examples of quid pro quo and retaliation that will come out the numbers could be pretty high before it is all over.
Let’s hope that those responsible for all of this, including the Governor, resign, take responsibility and get this over with so that the people of New Jersey can begin the process of rebuilding their state government. Yes, I just said Chris Christie should resign. I laid out the reasons, I don’t think there should be even a question left about that at this point. This is one of the most corrupt state administrations in American history. When it is all said and done I think Chris Christie is going to make Rob Blagojevich look like a boyscout in comparison.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
I meant to post this weeks ago, but here you are. If you want to hear this in the show, it is at the beginning of my 12/16/13 show here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2013/12/16/making-sense-with-steve-leser-newtown-anniversary-lie-of-the-year-more
Most of you know that Politifact is a fact checking organization that is affiliated with the Tampa Bay Times. When politicians or prominent individuals make statements about policy, politifact often does a piece on the statement and rates how true the statement is. The ratings range from True all the way to Pants on Fire. In order of most true to most untrue, the ratings are True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire.
Politifact also does a special at the end of each year where they assign a certain statement as their lie of the year. Since Politifact has started doing the lie of the year in 2009, the Republicans have won lie of the year three out of four years.
In 2012, Politifact’s lie of the year was when Mitt Romney said that Barack Obama quote "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs. Endquote. It turned out that this was not true, it was demonstrably untrue, to the point that Chrysler put out a statement saying they were exploring some expansion into China, but it would have no impact on existing production. Then to add to their woes, the Romney campaign doubled down on the claim even when they were shown it was untrue.
In 2010, Politifact’s lie of the year was that Obamacare the Affordable Care Act would be a government takeover of healthcare. Remember that one? Obviously we know that’s not true. If anything, Private insurance companies are experiencing a bonanza in new policies because that is in general what Obamacare does, it signs people up for new private insurance policies.
That was obvious to anyone who read the bill. Republicans made statements they knew to be untrue
In 2009, Politifact’s lie of the year was Republicans claiming that Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act would create deathpanels where seniors and the disabled would have to stand before a committee who would decide if they were worthy of health care. The old killing grandma canard.
Again, the same as 2010, Republicans were making statements they knew to be untrue.
Before I go further, this is going to sound a little silly, but bear with me, let’s talk about what a lie is. My mother was born in Panama and emigrated here in the 1950’s and has only held those two citizenships, US and Panamanian. If I told you my mother was Queen of England, that would be a lie. It’s not true, I know it’s not true but I would be asserting it as fact even though I know it is not true. That’s a lie. Something you know to be untrue, but you assert it as fact anyway.
Let’s take another example. What if I tell you that Hillary Clinton will be President in 2016 and then, for whatever reason, someone else wins. Or what if you give me a math problem to work out, my calculations give me an answer and I tell you that is the answer, but my computations were wrong. Did I lie when I said that Hillary Clinton will be President? Did I lie when I told you the answer I came up with to the math problem?
No. A lie is something very specific. You make a statement that you absolutely positively know is untrue and you assert it as fact. It’s not a guess that turns out to not work out, it’s not a situation where you may not have known all the facts and made an error, it’s not wishful thinking.
So, now, lets get to what Politifact claims is their lie of the year for 2013.
Politifacts lie of the year for 2013 was according to them when President Obama said 'If you like your health care plan, you can keep it’.
OK, this has been talked about a lot, chances are if you live in the United States, you have heard someone discuss this statement by the President and you probably have strong opinions on it.
I have a number of problems with Politifact claiming this is the lie of the year and not coincidentally, I have actually already given you a lot of the background for why I have such a problem with it.
Listen to how Politifact justified naming this statement lie of the year. I’ll read you some of it.
“Why the cancellations happened
How did we get to this point?
The Affordable Care Act tried to allow existing health plans to continue under a complicated process called "grandfathering," which basically said insurance companies could keep selling plans if they followed certain rules.
The problem for insurers was that the Obamacare rules were strict. If the plans deviated even a little, they would lose their grandfathered status. In practice, that meant insurers canceled plans that didn’t meet new standards.
Obama’s team seemed to understand that likelihood. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the grandfathering rules in June 2010 and acknowledged that some plans would go away. Yet Obama repeated "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" when seeking re-election last year.”
A couple of things jump out at me there. First, there were rules wherein if insurance companies followed them, the policies could have stayed in force. For this statement by Obama to be a lie, he would have had to know as fact that the insurance companies would not follow those rules.
How could he possibly know that?
Not only that, wouldn’t it seem to be in the insurance companies’ interests to try to follow those rules? Don’t they want to keep customers on their policies? Isn’t that how they make money? Wouldn’t you expect that they would do everything they can not to cancel someone’s policy. If United or Blue Cross or whoever else cancels someone’s policy, wouldn’t they be afraid you would be so annoyed with them that you would go to someone else and therefore wouldn’t you think they would do what is required to not have to cancel the policy therefore leaving you your choice to stay with your existing insurance
I can easily see making that assumption. Making that assumption does not qualify as a lie if it does not pan out. It qualifies as an error, not a lie.
Furthermore, what the President did once he realized what was happening was to create a new program where states could opt to force insurance companies to keep existing plans in place for a grandfather period. On November 14, 2013, in a letter to state insurance commissioners, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) outlined the conditions insurers must meet in order to continue offering noncompliant policies. The letter is available on the CMS website, www.cms.gov.
The last time I checked, around thirteen states had accepted this program and half as many had rejected it and the rest were still deciding.
So at the end of the day, a large percentage of people in this country will be able to keep their health insurance plans. Does that still sound like a lie?
What we have is an understandable error that has been fixed to the best of the President’s ability and could have been fixed 100% if not for the folks in charge of the state healthcare exchanges who rejected it. Of course, had the insurance companies made the changes they were required to make to those policies to bring them into compliance no on one would have been at risk of being cancelled in the first place. And again, these are changes that it would be reasonable to expect them to make given the way they make money is to have as many people on policies as possible.
Does this in any way resemble a lie let alone lie of the year? It’s preposterous when you go through it. That doesn’t compare with the idea that the health care law is going to be used to kill grandma.
Folks over at Politifact, you screwed up here. Politifact themselves lied when they characterized the President’s statement as a lie.
Oh and by the way, in another set of statistics Politifact keeps regarding the President, they track his campaign promises. As of now, five years into his Presidency, he has followed through on over 70 percent of his campaign promises and another six percent Politifact rates as in the works.
That’s not a guy who lies or misleads.
We’ll be right back.
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