A Smorgasbord of Right-Wing Follies To Delight
Your Intellectual Palate...And Frustrate Your Friendly Local Right-Winger
War on Terror Talking Points / Mancow
hyperlinked to sources. For all
sources, see the data
Your sources for this first segment
include: mediamatters.org, nationaljournal.com, the website archives of the
George W. Bush White House, scrippsnews.com, thinkprogress.org, 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
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:
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:
[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:
HELDMAN: [T]he fact of the matter is waterboarding
is torture. It is not simulated --
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,
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:
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:
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
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
KSM is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
A press briefing by Bush's
counterterrorism chief places the date more precisely as February, 2002.
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
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
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:
[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
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
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:
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.
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
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.
Conservative Economic Philosophy / Poll on
hyperlinked to sources. For all
sources, see the data
Your sources for this segment are:
the New York Times, rasmussenreports.com, and pewresearch.org.
I recently read a bunch of really
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
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
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
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,
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.
These New York Times letters, and
this Rasmussen poll, are some more evidence of this wonderful phenomenon.
May it continue to blossom and
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
KBR Update / Reconciliation Hypocrisy
hyperlinked to sources. For all
sources, see the data
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, mediamatters.org, and msnbc.com
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."
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
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.
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
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
Republican Senator Judd Gregg told
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
In fact, Gregg and other Republicans
have repeatedly used the reconciliation process to push through legislation over
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!