Transcript #150-1

A Smorgasbord of Right-Wing Follies To Delight Your Intellectual Palate...And Frustrate Your Friendly Local Right-Winger


War on Terror Talking Points / Mancow Waterboarding


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.


Your sources for this first segment include:,, the website archives of the George W. Bush White House,,, and the website of the Senate Armed Services Committee.


One right-wing War on Terror talking point making the rounds is inconsistent with undisputed facts.  Another defies common sense.


Facts, common sense?  Both in short supply in right-wing circles.


The right's propaganda machine apparently found a May, 2005 Justice Department memo which claims that waterboarding a terrorist saved Los Angeles from a terrible attack.  Supposedly, waterboarding Khalid Shaikh Mohammed forced him to reveal a plot to destroy the Library Tower in Los Angeles, and the plot was then broken up.


To give you an idea of the chorus of disinformation that somehow spontaneously springs up immediately after a right-wing talking point is created, or perhaps fabricated is a better word, listen to examples of this parade of untruth on Fox News.


To start off, here's California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher with Fox's Neil Cavuto:


audio: Dana Rohrabacher

ROHRABACHER: [W]e have a document right here, a story that came out yesterday, about how this -- this waterboarding of Shaikh -- Khalid Shaikh Mohammed actually gave us the information to thwart a terrorist plot that was under way that would have resulted in planes flying into buildings, 9-11-style, in Los Angeles. We saved thousands of lives --

CAVUTO: And waterboarding stopped it. 

Fox News contributor and Roll Call editor Mort Kondracke:


audio: Mort Kondracke

[T]he interrogation, the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed resulted in information, which foiled an attack on a tower in Los Angeles, the second so-called "second-wave attack."

You know that master propagandist Sean Hannity -- and I actually mean that as a compliment, he's very good at what he does -- you know Hannity would be in on this:


audio: Sean Hannity

HELDMAN: [T]he fact of the matter is waterboarding is torture. It is not simulated -- 

HANNITY: According to you. 

HELDMAN: It's not simulated drowning. According to me and lots of research and many experts on the topic, it doesn't simulate drowning. It is slow drowning that is controlled -- 

HANNITY: It's not drown -- it's not drowning. 

HELDMAN: It causes your bodily organs to shut down, Sean. 

HANNITY: It makes it -- Khalid -- 

HELDMAN: It's torture. 

HANNITY: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed gave up that there was a terror cell in this country, that the city of Los Angeles was about to be hit in a second-wave attack… 

Old Bushians are part of the act, like former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen:


audio: Marc Thiessen

THIESSEN: The interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed -- the interrogation of Salid [sic] Shaikh Mohammed led to the capture of a cell of Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists who were planning to hijack a plane and fly it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles. And if it had not been for this program, there would be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York City.  

Finally, what would a lie fest be without the Architect, and now Fox News contributor, Karl Rove:


audio: Karl Rove

ROVE: [W]e specifically stopped the plot to run jets into the Liberty Tower in Los Angeles -- 

DOOCY: That's right. 

ROVE: -- because of the information that we got from this. And there's a lot of other things that were stopped because of this interrogation techniques and the information they yielded.

The print media was on board as well -- maybe on board isn't a great metaphor to use here, or actually, it's the perfect one to use.


After hearing all that, guess what?


A fact sheet released by the Bush administration itself states that


In 2002, we broke up a plot by KSM to hijack an airplane and fly it into the tallest building on the West Coast

KSM is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. 


A press briefing by Bush's counterterrorism chief places the date more precisely as February, 2002.


So what?


I'll tell you what.


Khalid Shaikh Mohammed wasn't even captured until a year later, March 2003.  Even Abu Zubaydah, another prisoner we waterboarded, wasn't grabbed until after the plot was broken up in February 2002, again according to the Bush administration itself.


So the capture and waterboarding of both these two guys took place after the plot, according to the Bush administration, was already broken up.


You may hear the right say, oh, there were other participants in that Library Tower conspiracy still running around when we tortured KSM. 


Irrelevant, since Bush's counterterrorism chief said that after the February 2002 busting up of the plot, the remaining members of the cell understood that the Library Tower attack would not go forward.


The impossibility of waterboarding KSM stopping an already dead plot didn't prevent a Fox News reporter from still making the claim as late as last week.


At least now if you hear it, you can debunk it.


The larger lesson: whenever you hear a right-winger claim anything, assume they're wrong.  Investigate, and your assumption will virtually always be validated.



Ok, on to the second right-wing War on Terror talking point.


Listen to Fox News's Jim Angle:


audio: Jim Angle

[M]ost of these techniques had been used on tens of thousands of American military for training purposes -- and that includes waterboarding -- so officials knew exactly how they worked. And if the methods are torture, it means we have been torturing our own military for years with the approval of Congress.

Yes, Jim we were giving our personnel a taste of torture.


Angle is referencing the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program, SERE, which took the torture techniques of the Russians, North Koreans and others, and gave our soldiers a taste of them so they'd know what they'd be up against if captured.  Check out podcasts 98 and 109 for the gory details.


Anyone with a lick of common sense knows that equating a training program, with the actual infliction of the torture on a captive, is comparing apples and aardvarks.


A recent report by the Senate Armed Services Committee put it well:


SERE school techniques are designed to simulate abusive tactics used by our enemies. There are fundamental differences between a SERE school exercise and a real world interrogation. At SERE school, students are subject to an extensive medical and psychological pre-screening prior to being subjected to physical and psychological pressures. The schools impose strict limits on the frequency, duration, and/or intensity of certain techniques. Psychologists are present throughout SERE training to intervene should the need arise and to help students cope with associated stress. And SERE school is voluntary; students are even given a special phrase they can use to immediately stop the techniques...  

Even a Bush Justice Department memo admits these differences.


It's amazing, isn't it? 


Decent people are appalled that we're using Russian and Chinese torture methods.  Right-wingers twist things around and say since we gave a taste of those torture methods to our troops, obviously we can use them for real on our prisoners.



A bonus post-script, which is just too delicious to pass up:


Our friend Sean Hannity, challenged by a guest, had said he'd submit to waterboarding in return for a contribution to a charity helping our troops.  Keith Olbermann offered  him a $1,000 charitable contribution for every second Hannity could last.  All of a sudden  Hannity, chickenhawk extraordinaire, even about this, fell deathly silent.


Then right-wing talk show host Erich "Mancow" Muller stepped up to the plate.  He volunteered to take Olbermann up on his offer.  Deal.  Mancow allowed himself to be waterboarded.  The video is well worth watching.  Mancow lasted about 7 seconds before giving the signal to stop.  Clearly shaken, he said he had thought it would be no big deal, but now has changed his mind, and understands that waterboarding clearly is torture.


Listen to some excerpts:


audio: Mancow waterboarding

WATERBOARDER:  We're going to get It nice and wet.        

ANNOUNCER: He's dunking the cloth in a bucket of water now

WATERBOARDER:  I'm getting ready to put it over your face

ANNOUNCER:  The bucket of water is in his hand.  The sergeant is over Mancow's head.


WATERBOARDER:  We’re going to do it on 5, OK? 1, 2…. I lied.

[6-7 seconds of pouring water, then MANCOW jumps up, stopping the waterboarding]

ANNOUNCER: Alright, that's it, that's it. 

MANCOW: Oh, God.  


ANNOUNCER:  How do you feel ?  You want the EMT?

MANCOW:  No, No, No.

ANNOUNCER:  The EMT's here.

MANCOW:  No, no, it's OK. 

ANNOUNCER:  Catch your breath.

MANCOW:  I'm fine.  It is way worse than I thought it would be.  And I --  it's way worse than I thought it would be.  And that's no joke.

ANNOUNCER:  Would you consider that torture?

MANCOW:  Look.  All that's been done to this country.  And I heard about water being dropped on someone's face.  And I never considered it torture.  Even when I was lying there, I thought, this is going to be no big deal -- I go swimming.  It's going to be like being in the tub. 

It's such an odd feeling to have water poured down your nose and your mouth with your head back.  It was instantaneous.  I--I thought I could hold out 30 seconds, 60 seconds.  It was instantaneous, and -- and, uh--I don't want to say this.  I do NOT want to say this.  Absolutely torture.  Absolutely. I mean that's drowning.


ANNOUNCER:  You look shaken.  You look shaken.  Your hands are shaking a bit, I can see your hands shaking…And your eyes—you. uh, you look pale.  

MANCOW:  I thought I could hold out.  And it was instantaneous and horrific, and I really, look, I wouldn't have done this….No way in hell, had I known it was that bad, I would not have done that.

Olbermann is donating the money as promised.


Hannity, it's your turn now.  And you, Ann Coulter, you can go next.


In a moment, how'd you like to disassemble some assumptions of  right-wing economic philosophy?  Stick around.




Transcript #150-2

Conservative Economic Philosophy / Poll on Socialism


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.


Your sources for this segment are: the New York Times,, and


I recently read a bunch of really great Letters to the Editor in the New York Times.  They point up how ridiculous right-wing economic philosophy can be.


I'm going to share with you excerpts from a couple.


This way you'll be keyed up to respond to these types of arguments the next time a right-winger throws them at you.


The letters are responding to an op-ed written by former Republican Senator Bob Packwood.


The first one:


To the Editor:

Bob Packwood’s article states: “If we spent like the Nordic countries, we could provide government-paid maternity leave, subsidize college tuition and offer a health plan that was close to free for all Americans. But this would leave significantly less money for taxpayers to spend as they want.”

This perspective ignores the fact that most Americans do want health care, maternity leave and college tuition, and directly or indirectly spend plenty of money on these goods and services.

This is the "you know best how to spend your own money" line of right-wing propaganda.


The right makes it sound like if the government provides services that people need, that's bad, because then they can't use the tax money they paid for those services, to… go buy a flat screen TV, to spend as they want.


Wrong. They'd have to pay for those necessities anyway, other than through their taxes.


The real question is, can these necessities of life like maternity leave, college tuition and health care be provided for less net net out of pocket costs to Americans, and more equitably, via a 100% private industry scheme, or, out of a partially or totally government paid for effort.


Next letter, which makes a related point:


Former Senator Bob Packwood is correct that more government spending ultimately requires more taxes, and more taxes leave less money for taxpayers to spend as they want.

However, he completely ignores the other half of the equation. Most government spending gives people more money to spend as they want. Every dollar in a Social Security check is a dollar that the retired worker can spend. Every payment of a doctor’s bill by Medicare or Medicaid reduces what the patient is otherwise obligated to pay, leaving him or her with another dollar to spend on other things. Every dollar spent for a paycheck for a government worker is a dollar that worker can spend.

Another fact the right ignores.  If the government in a single payer system provides your health care, you don't have to pay insurance premiums, deductibles or co-pays.  The right often leaves out this side out of the equation.


Here's another valid point from another letter writer:


Instead of asking “how much we want to tax,” Bob Packwood asks “how much we want to spend.” But the truly substantive question is what do we want government to do?

Do we want policemen and firefighters and National Guardsmen, and do we want them properly trained and equipped? We’ve seen the alternatives: the incompetent response to Katrina, sending our children to Iraq without armor.

Do we want national health care? We’ve seen the alternatives: rising costs, closing hospitals, nursing shortages, thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Do we want Social Security? We’ve seen the alternative: Before Social Security, the elderly were the poorest people in America. And we’ve also seen what can happen to privatized retirement accounts.

How much to tax and how much to spend is just the math. The hard part is quality of life, and which and how many of us get to enjoy it.

We all know the right likes to obfuscate this question.  Only the brutally honest right-wingers, like Rush Limbaugh and Ronald Reagan, openly declare what all the right truly believes, that they don't want the government to do much of anything:


audio: Ronald Reagan

I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."


audio: Rush Limbaugh

Roosevelt is dead.  His policies may live on, but we're in the process of doing something about that as well.

Many people who now call themselves conservative don't understand this underlying right-wing goal.  You need to clue them in on it.  Many will be horrified.




Bob Packwood tells us that “the real question is not how much we want to tax, but how much we want to spend.” But the real question is not how much we want to spend, but what we want to spend it on.

While it is true that President Obama is on course to spend even more than his predecessor, he has chosen to spend the money to increase wealth. Instead of bombing infrastructure we are building it. And national health care will not only create a healthier, more productive population, but will also enable employee mobility that further enhances economic productivity.

Yes, we may be spending more, but it is also the case that we are spending more wisely. In the end that means we will have more wealth, not less.

Unfortunately, Obama is, even as he spends money here at home, actually continuing to bomb infrastructure abroad, but the larger point remains.


Government spending on infrastructure and the health and education of the population ultimately creates far more wealth than the money spent.  It's an investment with a great return.  That's the progressive way of looking at it.  Is there any doubt that when progressive economics mostly held sway, from the New Deal until 1980, the majority of Americans did better economically than from Reagan until now?


It's been shown that under Democratic administrations, the economy has greater growth, and the benefits of that growth are distributed more equitably throughout the population, than when the right-wing holds the reigns of power.


Be heartened, because apparently the American people, or at least a large hunk of them, are no longer enamored of right-wing, government-is-evil philosophy.


In a recent poll by Rasmussen, who if anything tends to lean right, only 53% of adults in our country said they believe capitalism is better than socialism.  20% said socialism is better, and 27% weren't sure.


So that means almost half of Americans, 47%, have soured on, or are beginning to have questions about, capitalism.


For those under 30, a whopping 63% support socialism or say they're unsure.


As you'd expect, there's a big partisan Republican-Democratic gap on the issue.


Now the poll didn't define capitalism or socialism.  If it had been clear that by capitalism they meant unbridled, laissez-faire, unregulated, Enron-subprime-global-crisis-producing capitalism, and that by socialism was meant European-style social democracy, like in the Scandinavian countries and to a lesser degree perhaps in France, etc, I'm sure the pro-socialism numbers would be even higher.


Remember my podcast series Reason To Cheer, how the country is becoming increasingly progressive on the issues, and the youth especially so?


These New York Times letters, and this Rasmussen poll, are some more evidence of this wonderful phenomenon.


May it continue to blossom and mightily grow.


Up next, updates on a company formerly run by one of your favorite guys, Dick Cheney, and an example of amazing right-wing hypocrisy.  Stay tuned.




Transcript #150-3

KBR Update / Reconciliation Hypocrisy


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.


In this last segment, you'll hear about two subjects, unconnected other than both being examples of the right-wing being wrong.  Which I guess it what links together everything on Blast The Right, isn't it?


Your sources here include: the New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters,, and


You may recall that in podcast 148 I told you about how the multinational KBR had done such faulty electrical work in Iraq that U.S. soldiers were being electrocuted.


Well, this former part of Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, is apparently no good through and through.  Like all right-wing entities.


Here are just a couple of items that have come to light since that podcast:


Two years ago KBR officials admitted to bribery and conspiracy that led to at least $100 million in overcharges to the US government.  Yet now we find out that the Pentagon has yet to collect repayment from KBR.


The Bush Pentagon failing to go after a former Dick Cheney company?  What a surprise.  The Obama administration better get on the case here.


And that $100 million is actually chump change compared to this:


The Pentagon's top auditor just said -- maybe they are getting on the case now -- the top Pentagon auditor just said that KBR is connected to a majority of the $13 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan costs that are currently "questioned" or "unsupported."


$13 billion.


Talking about unsupported payments, next get a load of this:


Despite KBR's shoddy electrical work in Iraq causing soldiers to be electrocuted, Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan revealed that KBR was actually paid over $83 million in bonuses for its Iraq electrical work.


And yes, much of it was paid after the faulty nature of KBR's electrical work came to light.


The Obama Department of Defense wrote to Sen. Dorgan and said no new bonuses will be paid until all the investigations into KBR's electrical work are complete.


Moving from KBR's looting the treasury, to that faulty electrical work itself, in podcast 148 I told you that one-third of the 90,000 structures being inspected had faulty wiring.


Well, it's much worse than that.  Jim Childs, a master electrician heading the Pentagon's investigation, just testified that 90% of the wiring KBR did was bad and those structures not safe.  So it's 70,000 danger zones KBR has created.  Could Al Qaeda ask for more?



You may be wondering, what does KBR have to say for itself?


William P. Utt is the chairman of KBR.  He gave an interview to the Associated Press.


Listen to what he said, bottom line:


We don't think the wiring that we installed was potentially dangerous.



We don't think the wiring that we installed was potentially dangerous.

Like much right-wing verbiage, Mr. Utt's denial insults your intelligence.  There have been as many as 18 electrocutions and hundreds of shocks and fires in facilities or with equipment wired by KBR.  How could he possibly have the temerity to make such a statement?


The details of his argument are even more ludicrous.


He claimed that KBR's wiring didn't have to meet US electrical code standards, but only the British electrical code.  Oh, I guess shower electrocutions are the norm in Britain.


And why is this guy even talking about codes?  It turns out that KBR's hiring practices were so bad codes were irrelevant:


[M]ost wirers were not experienced in the British code and many were third-country nationals with no electrical training at all.

Do you share my view that criminal prosecutions are warranted here?


Mr. Utt would care to disagree.  He had the sheer audacity to say KBR deserves protection from lawsuits over its electrical work!



War profiteering is bad enough if it's an honest, albeit high, profit that's involved.  It's obscene when it's the result of fraud.  And even more so when cutting of costs results in shoddy work that injures and kills US soldiers.


Remember what FDR said about no war millionaires from WWII:


audio: FDR

I cannot prophesy the immediate economic effect of this new war on our Nation, but I do say that no American has the moral right to profiteer at the expense either of his fellow citizens or of the men, the women, and the children who are living and dying in the midst of war in Europe.

Another time, Roosevelt proclaimed "I don't want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster."


For more on that, see podcast 30.


President Obama, where are you on this overall issue of war profiteering?!!



Ok, let's close today with a quickie but a good one, a right-wing talking point you're sure to hear more about as the health care debate heats up in the coming weeks.


There's an obscure legislative procedure known as reconciliation that doesn't allow filibusters.  So only 51 votes would be needed to pass a bill.


The Democrats are considering using the reconciliation procedure to pass Obama's health care reform plan, in the event  they can't come up with 60 votes to defeat a Republican filibuster.


Well, the right-wing is truly shocked, shocked at this prospect.


If Democrats use the fast-track procedure, it would be tantamount to “a declaration of war,” said Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, the senior Republican on the health committee.

Republican Senator Judd Gregg told Politico magazine:


I can understand shaking Hugo Chavez's hand, but I can't understand embracing his politics ... cutting down the minority. 

Oh, the hypocrisy, which you should be most quick to point out to your friendly local right-wingers.


In 2005 Sen. Judd Gregg supported using this very reconciliation process to pass a bill permitting oil drilling in ANWR.


In fact, Gregg and other Republicans have repeatedly used the reconciliation process to push through legislation over Democratic opposition


The fast-track procedures have been used 19 times since 1980 to pass major legislation, including much of President Ronald Reagan’s domestic policy agenda in 1981, welfare overhaul in 1996 and President George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.

Of course, the mainstream media usually ignores the Republican hypocrisy of condemning the Democrats for doing exactly what the Republicans themselves do.


That's your and my job, to fill in what the mainstream media leave out.


Have at it!




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