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Chart of the Day: Fox's Benghazi Obsession

Mother Jones - 7 hours 39 min ago

The good folks at Media Matter have taken on the soul-crushing task of tallying up coverage of Benghazi on Fox's prime-time evening shows, and they report that Fox has aired nearly 1,100 segments in the 20 months since the attacks. In a bit of a shocking upset, the winner of the obsession war wasn't heavy favorite Sean Hannity, but the normally more mild-mannered Bret Baier.

However, don't count Hannity out quite yet. By far, the stupidest Benghazi talking point has been the endless "stand down" infatuation—the notion that rescuers were available but someone in the White House deliberately ordered them not to go in. This is stupid not just because it's been debunked over and over and over, but also because it makes no sense. Even if Obama hates America, why would he do this? It's political suicide.

Anyway, guess who's spent the most time on the stand down order? That's right: Sean Hannity, by a huge margin. Hannity might not have won the overall obsession crown, but he certainly won the special award for pandering idiocy.

As you'd expect, coverage was heaviest just after the Benghazi attacks in 2012, but even after that initial flurry Fox has kept up a steady drumbeat of 20-30 Benghazi segments each and every month. It makes me wish I could figure out an anti-Obama angle for my obsession with lead and crime. These guys would be the greatest allies ever. I need to put my thinking cap on.

Joe Strupp: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editor Troubled By Fox News, NY Post Ferguson Coverage

Media Matters - 7 hours 45 min ago

St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor Gilbert Bailon criticized some conservative media outlets and national press for their coverage of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Bailon singled out Fox News for focusing on looting and "chaos" while ignoring the "deeper story" in Ferguson, and also cited The Washington Post and the New York Post for running thinly sourced negative stories about Brown. 

Bailon, editor of the largest local paper covering the aftermath of the August 9 police shooting that left Brown dead and sparked a national debate on police tactics, spoke to Media Matters at the American Society of News Editors conference in Chicago this week.

While the editor and former ASNE president praised much of the national press coverage, he cited Fox News for criticism.  

"I think the national media has done a good job of capturing the story," Bailon said. But he later said of Fox News: "I do think sometimes ... it looks like the whole community was in flames, and it was really a few block area. Significant, but it wasn't like St. Louis was on fire or out of control and there was mass chaos everywhere ... it wasn't like an all-consuming entire metropolitan area was hit by that, yet it commanded a huge presence of what was there."

He added, "I think Fox took a different angle, their view was more of the view of the chaos, was really focusing on the looting and less of what was going on in the community pre-dating the looting. The looting was very dramatic...but there was the deeper story there. Some stayed on in town longer, I think there was a different viewpoint on them and less on the undercurrent. [Fox] didn't look at it as deeply and as long as others, CNN did make an investment, MSNBC was there a lot."

He also cited a Washington Post report that Brown had marijuana in his system and another from the New York Post that the officer who shot Brown suffered a fractured eye socket as facts his paper has yet to report because they cannot be verified.

"There's been a couple of stories that I think the sourcing wasn't quite as good on," he said. "I don't know whether these are wrong but we haven't been able to verify it. There's been talk that Michael Brown had marijuana in his system. Well that hasn't been officially reviewed, we don't know that yet. We haven't reported that. The New York Post picked up some information about [police officer Darren Wilson] having an orbital fracture of his face ... inflicted by Michael Brown. We have not found that to be true. In fact, it has been debunked by many."

Assignment Desk: How Does the Media Deal With Domestic Violence?

Mother Jones - 8 hours 14 min ago

I have an assignment for an enterprising reporter or intern with access to a telephone. I'd like a survey done of a dozen or so major media outlets, including but not limited to ESPN, CNN, the New York Times, CBS, Fox, the Nation, and National Review. And Mother Jones, of course. Here are the survey questions:

  1. To your knowledge, have any of your employees ever been charged and/or convicted of domestic violence?
  2. In general, what is your corporate policy for dealing with employees who have been convicted of domestic violence?

Just curious!

The US Has Been the World's Sole Superpower for the Last 13 Years—Why hasn't It Done Anything Good?

The Nation - 8 hours 36 min ago
Tom Engelhardt

Now, across a vast and growing swath of the planet, the main force at work seems not to be the concentration of power, but its fragmentation.

It's Hard to Say It, But US Policy Toward Terrorist Ransom Demands Is Probably Right

Mother Jones - 9 hours 27 min ago

Rukmini Callimachi's story in the New York Times today about the anger and frustration of James Foley's family over their treatment by the US government is heartbreaking. Foley was among dozens of hostages being held by ISIS, but one of the few to be murdered. Why? Because the others were Europeans, and European governments routinely pay ransoms to win the release of their citizens:

“The F.B.I. didn’t help us much — let’s face it,” Diane Foley said in a telephone interview. “Our government was very clear that no ransom was going to be paid, or should be paid,” she said. “It was horrible — and continues to be horrible. You are between a rock and a hard place.”

....The United States and Britain are among the only countries that abide by a zero-concession policy, refusing to accede to terrorists’ demands, arguing that doing so encourages more kidnapping. By contrast, European countries have repeatedly paid to free their citizens, despite signing numerous declarations vowing not to, prompting condemnation from former American officials and analysts.

....As early as February of this year, the Europeans proceeded from requesting proof of life to making a ransom counteroffer, according to a person closely involved in the crisis who said the average sum negotiated per person was around €2 million.

The Foleys and the other American families were left to answer the emails themselves and kept largely in the dark....The families said they had little evidence that the kidnappings had become a major concern for the Obama administration, though they acknowledge that they were not necessarily aware of all of the government’s efforts. While they reached out to the State Department and were repeatedly told “everything was being done,” they said they never had any clear indication that this was a policy priority.

The Foley family has been berating the Obama administration for the death of their son ever since the video of his beheading was released, and who can blame them? If I were in their shoes, I'd probably feel exactly the same way, and I probably would have been desperate to try to raise the ransom money.

But the hard truth is that this is why I wouldn't have been in charge of the government's response. There's very little concrete research that tells us whether the US non-negotiation policy is effective, but common sense suggests that it is. And at the very least, it starves terrorist groups of a flow of cash they can use to finance their operations. The European approach may seem more humane, but it's largely driven by political cowardice—their governments are afraid of the public backlash if they get stuck in a long-running hostage situation—and seems highly likely to lead to more hostages and more deaths in the long run.

Of course, we now know that the US government was trying to free Foley and the others. But the rescue mission failed, and the Foleys, of course, were told nothing of it beforehand.

How hard-hearted do you have to be to say that, sadly, the Foleys are wrong and US government policy is right? I'm not sure. But that's how it strikes me. And I have nothing but contempt for conservative writers who have used this episode as an excuse for launching crude attacks on Obama. If you think the United States should change its policy regarding ransom demands, then have the guts to say so. Otherwise, keep your yap shut. The Foleys have an excuse for their grief. No one else has an excuse for exploiting it.

Why Liberians Thought Ebola Was a Government Scam to Attract Western Aid

The Nation - 10 hours 8 min ago
Sara Jerving

Decades of corruption have left Liberians suspicious of their government.

Inmates Aren’t the Only Victims of the Prison-Industrial Complex

The Nation - 11 hours 6 min ago
Alex Hannaford

Prison-reform advocates tend to focus on the plight of those behind bars. But the enforcers of this draconian system are victims as well.

Eric Boehlert: From Tragedy To Farce: How Fox News And The GOP Tarnished Benghazi

Media Matters - 11 hours 14 min ago

On September 6, Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland spoke at a Cobb County Republican breakfast in Georgia to an audience of 75 people, who each paid $10 to attend his "update on the Benghazi investigation." 

Westmoreland is one of seven Republican members picked to serve on the House select committee, which holds its first public hearing tomorrow and could stretch its inquiries into the 2016 election year. The latest Republican-run body follows what has been a parade of costly and repetitive investigations into the Benghazi terror attack that killed four Americans.

Despite a laundry list of nearly identical conclusions about the events, and the complete absence of a White House cover-up or wrongdoing, Republicans, spurred on by Fox News, press ahead in search of "answers" to supposedly elusive questions.

But in Cobb County that Saturday morning, Westmoreland insisted the committee's not "a partisan witch hunt." He stressed another point, according to a report in the Marietta Daily Journal [emphasis added]:

"I think our enemy stands on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.," Westmoreland said to loud applause.

And so it goes.

Last week, as Fox's Benghazi cover-up conspiracy sputtered across the two-year anniversary line, Roger Ailes' team was furiously promoting not one but two new books, claiming both tomes boasted revelations that deepened the alleged controversy. (They do not.)

Benghazi, of course, has been politicized in the most disturbing way possible, to the point where Fox News and conservatives have has turned an American tragedy into something of a macabre Twitter punchline. It's become sort of a Groundhog Day of exploitation and fakery with more than one thousand on-air Fox segments -- during evening coverage alone -- devoted to the endless pursuit. And now the Republicans' select committee, virtually sponsored by Fox News, is set to add more chapters to the sprawling production, which conveniently doubles as a GOP fundraising tool.

According to press reports, the committee's first hearing will focus on the State Department's Accountability Review Board, which looked into the details surrounding the Benghazi attacks.  In other words, Republican investigators have decided to investigate the Benghazi investigators. Again.

And at this point, does anyone even remember in 2012 when the family of slain U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens beseeched opportunists not to politicize his death? ("It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue.") Or when the mother of one of the other murdered Americans in Benghazi scolded Mitt Romney when he kept referencing her son on the presidential campaign trail? ("It's wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.")

Those wishes were almost instantly trampled and are now long forgotten by most; distant echoes drowned out by the churning gears of phony outrage.

The professionally sustained hysteria over the minutia of Benghazi --the YouTube video, Susan Rice's talking points, the allegedly nefarious White House emails, and the imaginary stand-down order -- they were all constructed for partisan purposes and none of them were based on fact or common sense.

Matt Gertz: All Questions Answered , Media Matters ' Guide To The Benghazi Select Committee

Media Matters - 11 hours 19 min ago

With the House Select Committee on Benghazi scheduled to convene for its first public hearing tomorrow, Media Matters is unveiling All Questions Answered, the definitive user's guide to the committee that demonstrates how conservative inquiries into the 2012 attacks have been litigated over and over again.

You can read All Questions Answered at BenghaziHoax.com, a new Media Matters website featuring our latest research and curating nearly 1,000 pieces we have produced over the past two years chronicling and debunking the lies right-wing media have pushed about Benghazi. 

Fox News and the conservative media have been politicizing Benghazi for more than two years, seeking to turn the tragic events of that night into a phony scandal in order to damage President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The network Benghazi Hoax: All Questions Answerered by MediaMatters4America

Hannah Groch-Begley & Rob Savillo: REPORT: Fox's Benghazi Obsession By The Numbers

Media Matters - 11 hours 27 min ago

Fox News' evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath in the first 20 months following the attacks. Nearly 500 segments focused on a set of Obama administration talking points used in September 2012 interviews; more than 100 linked the attacks to a potential Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential run; and dozens of segments compared the attacks and the administration response to the Watergate or Iran-Contra scandals. The network hosted Republican members of Congress to discuss Benghazi nearly 30 times more frequently than Democrats.

Media Matters reviewed Fox News transcripts and identified segments including significant discussion of Benghazi on The FiveSpecial Report with Bret Baier, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren between September 11, 2012, the night of the attacks, and May 2, 2014, when House Speaker John Boehner announced the formation of a select committee to investigate the attacks and their aftermath. This report does not include The Kelly File or Fox Report because they did not run for the full period of the study.

Key Findings
  • 1,098 total Fox News evening segments that included significant discussion of Benghazi -- an average of about 13 segments per week
  • In 18 of 20 months studied, Fox ran at least 20 Benghazi segments per month, with a high of 174 in October 2012
  • 382 segments aired on Special Report, the network's flagship news program
  • 478 segments invoked the talking points used for Susan Rice's 2012 Sunday show appearances
  • 281 segments alleging a "cover-up" by the Obama administration
  • 144 interviews of GOP members of Congress versus only five interviews of Democratic members of Congress and Obama administration officials
  • 120 comparisons to Iran-Contra, Watergate, and the actions of the Nixon administration
  • 105 attempts to link Benghazi to Hillary Clinton's potential presidential ambitions
  • 100 segments promoting the lie that the administration issued a "stand-down order"
Nearly 1,100 Evening Fox News Segments On Benghazi

Fox News' Evening Shows Broadcast Nearly 1,100 Segments On Benghazi In The 20 Months Following The Attack. During the period of the study, Fox News' evening lineup aired a total of 1,098 segments featuring significant discussion of Benghazi, an average of about 13 segments per week. Special Report with Bret Baier, the network's flagship news program, led the charge with 382 individual segments. Hannity and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren followed in distant second and third, with 220 and 214 segments, respectively. The O'Reilly Factor aired 181 segments, and The Five aired 101. Special Report runs more segments in general than the other programs, while The Five typically runs fewer (the latter, however, repeatedly aired nearly an entire show devoted to discussing Benghazi).

In 18 Of 20 Months Studied, Fox Ran At Least 20 Benghazi Segments Per Month, With A High Of 174 In October 2012. In the months following the attack and leading into the 2012 presidential election, Fox News aired its largest share of Benghazi segments. September 2012 saw 102 segments; in October, that number jumped to a high of 174; and in November, the number slid slightly to 141. For the next five months, Benghazi segments steadily declined but then surged to 168 in May 2013. This coincides with coverage of the May 8 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, which included controversial testimony from foreign service officer Gregory Hicks. Following that May, coverage dropped down again, fluctuating between about 20 and 50 segments a month. In March 2014 coverage hit its lowest point, with only six segments. Coverage surged again in April 2014 in response to calls for forming a House select committee, which Boehner announced on May 2. 

Fox's Fixation On Susan Rice's Talking Points

Conservatives Tried To Manufacture A Scandal From Sunday Show Talking Points. Then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday political talk shows on September 16, 2012, to discuss Benghazi and a series of anti-American demonstrations across the Muslim world, which were a response to an anti-Muslim YouTube video. Rice immediately came under fire for linking the Benghazi attacks to the video and for not referring to the attack as terrorism, even though she called the perpetrators "extremists" and made clear that her comments were based on the limited intelligence available. Lawmakers and media subsequently fixated on the "talking points" she was given for the appearances, falsely suggesting that the Obama administration had deceptively edited CIA intelligence to downplay the role of terrorism in order to benefit President Obama's re-election campaign. But the email record of the editing process shows that references to terrorists were removed from Rice's talking points in order preserve the ongoing criminal investigation, that the first draft of the talking points submitted by the CIA had stated that the Benghazi attacks were inspired by Egyptian protests against the video, and that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points. [Media Matters

Fox Tried To Manufacture Another Watergate With The Benghazi "Cover-Up" 

Multiple Investigations Reveal There Was No Obama Administration "Cover-Up"... Multiple investigations, including the State Department's independent Accountability Review Board, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee have found no evidence that the Obama administration or the intelligence community withheld necessary information or acted with political motivations. [State Department, 12/19/12; Senate Intelligence Committee, 1/15/14; House Intelligence Committee, 7/31/14]

... But Fox News Charged The Obama Administration With A "Cover-Up" In 281 Segments. A quarter of segments studied included the explicit characterization of the Obama administration's response to the Benghazi attacks as a "cover-up." Hannity led this charge, with 108 total segments accusing the administration of engaging in a "cover-up." The FiveSpecial ReportOn the Record, and The O'Reilly Factor followed with 53, 46, 41, and 33 segments, respectively. Fox has suggested the administration "covered up" security flaws at the diplomatic facilities prior to the attacks, the realities of terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, what happened the night of the attacks, and why Rice's talking points were edited. The so-called "cover-up" has been framed as politically motivated, both to aid Obama's 2012 re-election as well as protect Clinton's potential 2016 presidential ambitions. [Media Matters

Fox Paints The Obama Administration's Response As Willfully Negligent

There Was No Obama Administration "Stand-Down Order." Fox repeatedly pushed the myth that CIA and military personnel were ordered to "stand down" by higher-ups or someone in the Obama administration, theoretically hindering their ability to save the Americans who were killed during the attacks. But multiple investigations found that while commanders on the ground made tactical decisions in the interest of protecting Americans in Tripoli and ensuring a successful rescue effort in Benghazi, no such "stand down" orders were given. CIA personnel, the Pentagon, the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, Tripoli commander Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, nine other military officers, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee have all confirmed that there was no "stand down" order given. [Media Matters

Reinforcements Were Scrambled To Aid The Diplomatic Post ... A six-member quick-reaction team and 60 Libyan militiamen in Benghazi responded to the initial distress calls from the diplomatic post, and reinforcements from the embassy in Tripoli arrived the same night, before the second round of attacks on the CIA annex. In fact, one of the four Americans who were killed that night, Glen Doherty, was part of the rescue effort. Additional special operations teams were ordered to deploy from Croatia and the United States, but did not arrive in Libya until long after the attack had concluded. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has accused critics who believe more U.S. forces should have responded of having a "cartoonish impression of military capabilities." [Media Matters

Fox's Effort To Use Benghazi To Damage Hillary Clinton

Benghazi Increasingly Mentioned In Relation To Clinton's Potential 2016 Presidential Bid. Fox News continually brought up the specter of Benghazi as the media's 2016 presidential speculation has heated up. Fox connected the Benghazi attacks to a potential Clinton presidential run shortly after the 2012 election and went quiet until the May 2013 Benghazi hearing sparked a surge of 19 mentions. Benghazi as an issue for Clinton steadily rose again in December 2013 and into 2014.

Clinton On Importance Of Inquiry Into Talking Points: "What Difference, At This Point, Does It Make?" During her January 2013 congressional testimony, Clinton was asked a question about the State Department's role in editing Rice's talking points to remove a reference to the attackers' motive. In response, she dismissed the relevance of asking who edited a government memo, saying, "[T]he fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again." [Media Matters


Media Matters identified segments based on Nexis transcripts for The FiveSpecial Report with Bret BaierOn the Record with Greta Van SusterenThe O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity between September 11, 2012, and May 2, 2014 for "Benghazi" or "Libya." The Kelly File and Fox Report with Shepard Smith were not included because they did not air during the full period of the study.

We included each segment where Benghazi was the stated topic of discussion. We also included segments that were not limited solely to Benghazi but that featured significant discussion of the topic. We defined significant discussion as at least two speakers in the segment talking about Benghazi to one another (e.g. the host asking a guest a question about Benghazi during a multi-topic interview). We coded for the following criteria:

  • Segments referencing the talking points delivered by then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice on September 16, 2012
  • Suggestions that the administration deliberately misled about who perpetrated the attack and why
  • Characterizations of the Obama administration's response to the Benghazi attack as a "cover-up"
  • Suggestions that the Obama administration did not originally term the attack an act of terror
  • Suggestions that the Obama administration's actions with regard to Benghazi were politically motivated to strengthen Obama's 2012 electoral prospects
  • Suggestions that the Obama administration ordered security forces to stand down, including allegations from whistleblower Gregory Hicks
  • Suggestions that no security forces were deployed to Benghazi in response to the attack
  • Segments calling into question the whereabouts of senior administration officials on the night of the attack
  • Suggestions that the Obama administration had access to a real-time video of the attack as it unfolded
  • Suggestions that Clinton faked her concussion to avoid testifying about the attack
  • Segments or mentions linking the Benghazi attack to a potential Clinton 2016 presidential run
  • Segments interviewing a Republican or Democrat on Benghazi
  • Mentions of Clinton's "What difference, at this point, does it make?" quote, including both paraphrases and direct quotes or clips
  • Comparisons to the Iran-contra scandal, the Watergate scandal, or the Nixon administration, or suggesting that the Obama administration engaged in "Nixonian" tactics in response to Benghazi

Passing mentions in segments about other topics were not included, except for Clinton's potential 2016 presidential run; mentions of Clinton's "What difference, at this point, does it make?" quote; and comparisons to Iran-Contra, Watergate, or Nixon. Teasers for upcoming segments were not included.

Ben Dimiero, Matt Gertz, Eric Hananoki, and Oliver Willis contributed research to this report. Charts by Oliver Willis.

Alexandrea Boguhn: Megyn Kelly Gets Facts Wrong About Coalition Against Islamic State

Media Matters - 11 hours 34 min ago

Fox News' Megyn Kelly ignored the pledge of military assistance from allied countries to aid the United States in its fight against the Islamic State (IS) when she claimed that "no one is committing to help us." But just one hour earlier, Kelly's colleague Bill O'Reilly explained the commitments made by several countries to address the threat. 

On the September 15 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly discussed recent airstrikes on the Islamic State by the United States, noting that Fox White House correspondent Ed Henry questioned whether Secretary of State John Kerry "has failed in building the broad coalition" to combat IS. Kelly asked "who will be with us" during continued military action against IS, before claiming that "no one is committing to help us":

Kelly's claim ignores that, according to CNN, Australia will deploy "up to eight Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 combat aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft and a KC-30A multirole tanker and transport aircraft" to the region. France also began reconnaissance flights over Iraq, and told the Iraqi prime minister that it promised that France "will participate in efforts to hit terrorist locations in Iraq."

Many other nations pledged assistance that doesn't include military strikes against IS targets, a fact that Kelly's Fox colleague, Bill O'Reilly, acknowledged one hour earlier. 

This GOP Benghazi Hearing Is Actually Worth Having

Mother Jones - 13 hours 30 min ago

Benghazi! It's back. On Wednesday, the select committee on Benghazi set up by House Speaker John Boehner—who yanked this conservative crusade from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and handed it to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)—will stage its first public hearing. In a surprising move that might disappoint right-wingers yearning for proof that Benghazi is Obama's Watergate (or worse!), the session will not focus on whether the White House purposefully misled the public about the attacks on the US diplomatic compound in that Libyan city that claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Nor will it probe the favorite right-wing talking point that President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, for God-knows-what reasons, ordered US forces to stand down and not respond to the murderous assault. Instead, the committee will examine the State Department's implementation of the recommendations made by the Accountability Review Board, an independent outfit that investigated the attack and in late 2012 issued proposals for improving security for American diplomats and US diplomatic facilities overseas. And the idea for this first hearing came from…a Democrat.

After Boehner in May announced the formation of a special committee—after various GOP-led congressional panels had already investigated the Benghazi tragedy—the House Democrats considered not participating in the new inquiry, which seemed not much more than an attempt by Boehner to placate tea partiers and conservatives for whom the Benghazi affair had become a top priority. But the House Dems eventually decided to join the committee—which was budgeted a whopping $3.3 million—and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was one of the Ds placed on the committee by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Schiff scoffed at the need for further investigation of the attack. But, as he said in early August on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show, there was something productive the committee could do: review how the State Department has handled those ARB recommendations. Gowdy agreed. Presto, a hearing on substance, not conspiracy theories.

Continue Reading »

GOP Moderates' Secret Confession: We Were Afraid to Vote Against Extreme Abortion Bill

Mother Jones - 13 hours 45 min ago

In the hours before Missouri Republicans overrode Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto and passed one of the harshest abortion bills in the country, a handful of Republican women—party activists, a local officeholder, and operatives who support abortion rights—drove to Jefferson City and begged lawmakers to reconsider. When cornered, some GOP lawmakers made a confession. "They said, 'I don't actually want to vote for this bill,'" recalls Linda Rallo, an alderwoman who led the team that buttonholed Republicans. "'But if it comes to the floor, I'm going to vote for it.'"

Republican state Rep. Chris Molendorp, who opposed the bill, heard similar admissions from his GOP colleagues. In a closed-door meeting of the Republican caucus before the vote, Molendorp argued that the bill most of his colleagues were about to vote for was unreasonably cruel. The bill creates a three-day abortion waiting period, the longest in the country, with no exception for rape or incest victims.

"My fear that I expressed is that we have gone beyond concern for the life of the unborn and we've become punitive against the expectant mother," he says. Molendorp, who has an 85 percent approval rating from Missouri Right to Life, says that several women legislators who represent Missouri's suburbs approached him privately to say they agreed with him—but they felt they had no choice but to vote for the bill.

The waiting period became law on Wednesday. Nearly every Republican and many Democrats in both houses of the state Legislature voted to overturn Nixon's veto. But Republicans' private apprehensions about the bill show that in a state like Missouri—which has more abortion restrictions on the books than almost any other state—not every legislator who votes for bills like these necessarily votes his or her conscience.

Rallo fears this bill identifies the GOP with a "Todd Akin agenda." "It makes it harder for moderate candidates to get broad, statewide support," she says. "And a lot of women like me are feeling like there's not place for them in the Republican Party…They take our money and our time but they don't want our opinion."

Rallo, an alderwoman in the St. Louis suburb of Town and Country, has Republican bona fides. She served for six years as legislative assistant to a House Republican, ran a Republican's statewide campaign for treasurer, hosts fundraisers for Republicans running for the Legislature, and has donated thousands of dollars to state GOP candidates.

She wasn't alone in her effort to change GOP lawmakers' minds before the vote—Christine Doyle Luhnow, another Missouri Republican activist, came to the state capital to help Rallo lobby. Doyle Luhnow previously ran media relations for the Missouri chapter of the Republican Leadership Council, a defunct political action committee for moderate Republicans founded by former Missouri Sen. John Danforth and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Both women have long-standing connections and fundraising ties to many of the lawmakers they met. "They're not bad guys," Doyle Luhnow says.

But the women didn't find much success. Rallo recounts their conversation with state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican who represents the college town of Columbia: "He said, 'Listen, I am voting for that bill.' I said, 'Do you want to vote for that bill?' He said, 'I am voting for that bill. And what you're trying to do, you're not going to have any success.' He just kind of shut that down."

"Kurt gives the appearance of a forward-thinking man," Rallo continues. "But he wants to run for attorney general and he's worried about that primary." Schaefer did not reply to requests for comment.

The day of the vote, Rallo recalls, she and Doyle Luhnow asked state Sen. Eric Schmitt, the majority caucus chair, if he would at least permit a symbolic filibuster. He smiled and breezed by. That night, Republicans invoked a procedural rule that hadn't been used in years to stop Democratic state Sen. Jolie Justus from staging a filibuster.

"At least Wendy Davis was allowed to talk," Doyle Luhnow says, referring to the Texas state legislator who mounted an all-night filibuster against an abortion bill before it eventually passed. Schmitt did not reply to requests for comment.

In May, after the GOP-controlled Legislature passed the three-day waiting period for the first time, Rallo met privately with two House representatives and a senator from St. Louis County, all Republicans. All three legislators said they understood her concerns, Rallo recalls, but that laws like this are necessary to help certain members of their caucus win primaries. "Every single one of them said to me, 'I'm pro-life, but I didn't come to Jefferson City to advance this style of legislation," Rallo says. "'These aren't the bills I like voting for, but I have to.'"

Missouri joins Utah and South Dakota as the only states to mandate an abortion waiting period of 72 hours. Republican Rep. Kevin Elmer, who sponsored the bill in the House, told Mother Jones last week that he didn't feel a waiting period of three days was a burden on women.

But Molendorp, who is leaving the Legislature this year to run a small health care nonprofit, says any reasonable person would see the bill is over the top—and that piling on abortion restrictions would eventually backfire for Republicans.

"We've gotten to a situation in a lot of state legislatures where Republicans are being accused of not being pro-life enough," says Molendorp. "It's almost as if we've got a competition going: 'I'm more pro-life than you are.' 'Nuh-uh, I'm more pro-life than you are.' The only way one of us can eventually win is if we pass a nine-month waiting bill."

Could Bitcoin Become Scotland’s Official Currency?

Mother Jones - 13 hours 50 min ago

With Thursday's Scottish independence referendum too close to call, opponents of an independent Scotland have been stressing the would-be country's lack of a reliable currency. An independent Scotland could either keep using the British pound and lose control of its monetary policy, join the Eurozone's well-known squabbles, or create a new national currency that's almost certain to be weak. But there's an intriguing fourth option: adopting an online crypto-currency such as Bitcoin.

Scotland actually has some historical experience with this sort of thing: Instead of relying exclusively on the British pound in the 18th and 19th centuries, many Scottish banks issued their own currencies—a fact noted by Guy Debelle, the assistant governor of Australia's central bank, at a recent conference on digital currencies in London. Here's Debelle in the Guardian:

"The Scots can go back to experimenting with a multitude of currencies, Bitcoin and the like, and we can just sit back and see how it goes. A nice natural experiment about the future of money in Scotland—again. Because, as I said, they tried this in the 18th and 19th centuries. It worked for awhile, but eventually fell apart."

In the ensuing discussion, David Birch, the director of the digital currency consultancy Hyperion, argued that Scotland's currency experiment was more successful than one might think. From the Guardian:

"The economic research shows that in Scotland, the bank failures were fewer, and less disruptive, than the bank failures in England at the time," he said. "Competing note issue in Scotland didn't end because it collapsed: it ended because of an outrageous extension of the Bank Act of 1844, which extended the Bank of England's monopoly over note issue north of the border."

But ending the Bank of England's monopoly might not be the biggest problem with Bitcoin. A national Bitcoin-based currency would, practically speaking, resemble one based on gold: Bitcoins are designed to function as a limited commodity that becomes harder to acquire over time. In either case, the result is a highly inflexible national currency that often can't keep pace with economic growth. As Felix Martin points out in the New Statesman, one of the first people to identify this problem was a Scotsman: The economist John Law of Lauriston emigrated to France, became that country's minister of finance, and in 1719 replaced the gold standard with paper money printed as the discretion of the government.

No matter: Edinburgh-based venture capitalist Derek Nisbet recently launched Scotcoin, which is offering 1,000 free Scotcoins to every resident adult. "Our motivation is to empower the Scottish people with an alternative digital currency opportunity," he told the Guardian, "which may be used as a medium of exchange, should the need or wish arise."

For now, at least, it seems like Bitcoin's biggest use in Scotland is as a marketing gimmick. In May, the London electronics retailer CeX got a load of free press when it introduced Scotland's first Bitcoin ATM and briefly turned its Glasgow store into a "pound free zone": For a few days, it only accepted Bitcoin payments. "The trial is turning the Scottish High Street [location] into a Bitcoin laboratory," a CeX spokesman told the website CoinDesk, "highlighting alternative forms of currency should Scotland vote 'yes' in the forthcoming referendum."

Why March in the Biggest Climate Change Demonstration Ever?

Mother Jones - 14 hours 34 sec ago

This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

On Sunday, September 21st, a huge crowd will march through the middle of Manhattan. It will almost certainly be the largest rally about climate change in human history, and one of the largest political protests in many years in New York. More than 1,000 groups are coordinating the march—environmental justice groups, faith groups, labor groups—which means there's no one policy ask. Instead, it's designed to serve as a loud and pointed reminder to our leaders, gathering that week at the United Nations to discuss global warming, that the next great movement of the planet's citizens centers on our survival and their pathetic inaction.

Read Bill McKibben's story on Obama's fracking gamble here. Obama: Charles Dharapak/AP; Methane: Michelangelus/Shutterstock

As a few of the march's organizers, though, we can give some sense of why we, at least, are marching, words we think represent many of those who will gather at Columbus Circle for the walk through midtown Manhattan.

We march because the world has left the Holocene behind: scientists tell us that we've already raised the planet's temperature almost one degree Celsius, and are on track for four or five by century's end. We march because Hurricane Sandy filled the New York City subway system with salt water, reminding us that even one of the most powerful cities in the world is already vulnerable to slowly rising ocean levels.

We march because we know that climate change affects everyone, but its impacts are not equally felt: those who have contributed the least to causing the crisis are hit hardest, here and around the world. Communities on the frontlines of global warming are already paying a heavy price, in some cases losing the very land on which they live. This isn't just about polar bears any more.

But since polar bears can't march, we march for them, too, and for the rest of creation now poised on the verge of what biologists say will be the planet's sixth great extinction event, one unequalled since the last time a huge asteroid struck the Earth 66 million years ago.

And we march for generations yet to come, our children, grandchildren, and their children, whose lives will be systematically impoverished and degraded. It's the first time one century has wrecked the prospects of the millennia to come, and it makes us mad enough to march.

We march with hope, too. We see a few great examples around the world of how quickly we could make the transition to renewable energy. We know that if there were days this summer when Germany generated nearly 75% of its power from renewable sources of energy, the rest of us could, too—especially in poorer nations around the equator that desperately need more energy. And we know that labor-intensive renewables would provide far more jobs than capital-intensive coal, gas, and oil.

And we march with some frustration: why haven't our societies responded to 25 years of dire warnings from scientists? We're not naïve; we know that the fossil fuel industry is the 1% of the 1%. But sometimes we think we shouldn't have to march. If our system worked the way it should, the world would long ago have taken the obvious actions economists and policy gurus have recommended—from taxing carbon to reflect the damage it causes to funding a massive World War II-scale transition to clean energy.

Marching is not all, or even most, of what we do. We advocate; we work to install solar panels; we push for sustainable transit. We know, though, that history shows marching is usually required, that reason rarely prevails on its own. (And we know that sometimes even marching isn't enough; we've been to jail and we'll likely be back.)

We're tired of winning the argument and losing the fight. And so we march. We march for the beaches and the barrios. We march for summers when the cool breeze still comes down in the evening. We march because Exxon spends $100 million every day looking for more hydrocarbons, even though scientists tell us we already have far more in our reserves than we can safely burn. We march for those too weak from dengue fever and malaria to make the journey. We march because California has lost 63 trillion gallons of groundwater to the fierce drought that won't end, and because the glaciers at the roof of Asia are disappearing. We march because researchers told the world in April that the West Antarctic ice sheet has begun to melt "irrevocably"; Greenland's ice shield may soon follow suit; and the waters from those, as rising seas, will sooner or later drown the world's coastlines and many of its great cities.

We don't march because there's any guarantee it will work. If you were a betting person, perhaps you'd say we have only modest hope of beating the financial might of the oil and gas barons and the governments in their thrall. It's obviously too late to stop global warming entirely, but not too late to slow it down—and it's not too late, either, to simply pay witness to what we're losing, a world of great beauty and complexity and stability that has nurtured humanity for thousands of years.

There's a world to march for—and a future, too. The only real question is why anyone wouldn't march.

Eddie Bautista is executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. LaTonya Crisp-Sauray is the recording secretary for the Transport Workers Union Local 100. Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org and a TomDispatch regular. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.

The Demise of a US Group Backing Moderate Syrian Rebels Is a Bad Sign for Obama's Anti-ISIS Campaign

Mother Jones - 14 hours 35 sec ago

Last week, President Barack Obama outlined his plan for expanding military action against ISIS, the murderous Islamic extremist group that controls territory in Iraq and Syria. His beefed-up campaign includes increased funding previously announced (up to $500 million) to train and arm supposedly moderate rebels in Syria who are fighting the dictatorial regime of Bashar al-Assad and also at times battling ISIS. For the past few years, Washington has assisted Syrian opposition forces deemed non-extremist—even though they might be fighting alongside Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels. But the effort has not been a great success, with hawks accusing the Obama administration of not doing enough, and administration officials skeptical about the moderate opposition's cohesion and military effectiveness and wary of doling out weapons that could fall into the wrong hands. In February, the leader of the moderate Free Syrian Army—who was the conduit for US aid to the rebels—was removed by his own council, partly because the FSA had been taking a beating from the regime and Islamist forces. Now Obama intends to boost the US effort to support these moderate fighters in Syria. But this move comes just weeks after the collapse of the Syrian Support Group, a US-based nonprofit backed by the State Department that boasted it delivered millions in dollars of nonlethal supplies to the FSA. According to former officials of the group, it shut down because of funding problems and divisions among rebel forces.

Working with the rebels in Syria will be a daunting task for the Obama administration. There are hundreds of anti-Assad militias, each with its own agenda. Some moderate bands have no interest in taking on ISIS. Some fighters shift allegiances between secular outfits and Islamic extremist groups. Neither the FSA nor the Syrian National Coalition, a political group representing the opposition, control or even coordinate all the various non-extremist fighters. And the dissolution of the Syrian Support Group in the United States—just at the time when Washington is ramping up its investment in the Syrian opposition—could be a troubling sign.

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Great Photos of High Life and Low Life in the American Desert

Mother Jones - 16 hours 18 min ago

Three recent photo books offer very different perspectives on life in the American desert. Vacancy: The Gateway to Death Valley (Kehrer), by Pamela Littky, documents scenes in Beatty, Nevada, and Baker, California. In The Good Life: Palm Springs (Kehrer) Nancy Baron delivers on its title, giving a taste of the upper-crust desert lifestyle.

Vacancy–a little shabby and weathered, yet resilient—represents what some would consider real life. It's an honest look at two hardscrabble desert towns separated by Death Valley. Vacancy isn't without it's oddly still moments. Even the portraits carry a hint of Errol Morris' 1981 documentary Vernon, Florida–everyday people captured plainly in their environment. A little too real, maybe. In addition to the portraits, Littky takes us out around town, showing a burnt out trailer, a lonely country store, deer statues, trailers, and empty pools.

Tony and Sam at the Atomic Inn (Beatty, Nevada) From Vacancy by Pamela Littky


Pool at Wills Fargo Motel (Baker, California) From Vacancy by Pamela Littky


Lawn Deer, Baker (California) From Vacancy by Pamela Littky


Sharon and Arie (Beatty, Nevada) From Vacancy by Pamela Littky


Burned Out Truck (Baker, California) From Vacancy by Pamela Littky


Country Store (Baker, California) From Vacancy by Pamela Littky


Bingo (Beatty, Nevada) From Vacancy by Pamela Littky


Liquor Snacks Soda (Baker, California) From Vacancy by Pamela Littky

The communities Littky shoots fulfill our stereotypes of salt-of-the-earth desert living—unless the first thing you think of when you hear "desert life" is Palm Springs. While her pools might contain just a couple of feet of dark, murky water, those in The Good Life, Palm Springs are blue gems surrounded by sparkling white concrete. Everything is in place—perfect in a showroom kind of way. The desert without the dust. Some people have strong feelings about Palm Springs, seeing it as a veneer of life, at best, or as a sort of utopia. The Good Life shows us the idealized, almost stage-crafted lifestyle that has come to epitomize Palm Springs.

Bob's Red Car From The Good Life: Palm Springs by Nancy Baron


Pink Shoes From The Good Life: Palm Springs by Nancy Baron


Mike and Bob From The Good Life: Palm Springs by Nancy Baron


Blue Wall From The Good Life: Palm Springs by Nancy Baron


Mighty Joe From The Good Life: Palm Springs by Nancy Baron


Golf Course Plane From The Good Life: Palm Springs by Nancy Baron

Depending on where you come, from you're likely to favor one of these books over the other. Or at least one is least more likely to evoke The Twilight Zone.

Beyond their subjects, the look of the two books provides a notable contrast. Vacancy carries more brown and yellow tones, with almost a dusty, desaturated look. The Good Life pops with blues and greens and a bit of pink. Another small but important difference is the use of tighter shots in The Good Life. You get less exterior mess, less serendipity, more claustrophobia, and ultimately a sense of formality, of everything being in place. In Vacancy, the shots are medium to wide, which adds a feeling of openness but everything is also less tidy, probably a lot like life in Beatty and Baker.


As an addendum, I should mention Mike Osbourne's excellent Floating Island (Daylight), which documents life around Wendover, Utah, and West Wendover, Nevada—a military base-turned-casino destination that straddles the state line a few miles from the Bonneville Salt Flats. The Enola Gay pilots trained in Wendover. Of these three books on the desert, Osbourne's is the smartest. He shot each of his 13 chapters with a very unique feel, based on the focus, give each of them a distinct point of view. His landscapes look otherworldly, more than they already do. Casinos feel like funhouses, more than they already do. Surveys of the towns and their people have a more plaintive, direct approach. It's easy to see how much thought went into the book's conceptualization, shooting, editing, and design.

Floating Island, by Mike Osbourne

If you want a good, rounded look at life in the American desert, you should look through all three books. The only thing that's missing, really, is the area's very active military presence. If there hasn't been a photo project on that yet, there's a good book there as well.

Texas Official Is Freaking Out About School "Meatless Monday"

Mother Jones - September 15, 2014 - 7:34pm

This story originally appeared in Huffington Post and is republished here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A top Texas official denounced school districts that have scaled back on serving meat one day a week, accusing them of succumbing to a "carefully orchestrated campaign" to force Americans to become vegetarians.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples last week criticized districts that have adopted "meatless Monday" policies in an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman. He specifically attacked Dripping Springs Independent School District, near Austin.

"Restricting children's meal choice to not include meat is irresponsible and has no place in our schools," Staples wrote. "This activist movement called 'Meatless Monday' is a carefully orchestrated campaign that seeks to eliminate meat from Americans' diets seven days a week—starting with Mondays."

The Dripping Springs district adopted meatless Monday to encourage healthy eating that is environmentally conscious, a local CBS affiliate reported. Industrial meat production is resource-intensive and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

"Are we having a war on meat in Dripping Springs? Definitely not," John Crowley, head of nutrition services for the school district, told the CBS affiliate. "We're trying to think outside the box, and we serve a lot of Texas beef on our menus. We've had requests for more vegetarian options, and I thought, 'Why don't I give it a try and see how it's received by kids?'"

Dripping Springs students are still allowed to bring meat lunches on Mondays. Last week, a district elementary school served options that included cheese pizza, black bean burritos, and vegetarian chili, reported KVUE-TV.

"In no way are kids going deficient in protein by not having actual meat, fish or poultry products served today," Crowley told the station. "We hope that we're meeting the parents' and the kids' needs and serving things that they like and things that are healthy."

Staples, however, wrote that he sees meatless Mondays as a way for activists "to mandate their lifestyles on others."

Staples, who has received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from beef producers and ranchers over the past few years, has lashed out against meatless Mondays in the past, according to the Austin-American Statesman. Staples branded as "treasonous" a U.S. Department of Agriculture suggestion in 2012 that its employees go green by participating in meatless Monday.

Bryan Black, director of communications for the Texas Department of Agriculture, said campaign contributions are unrelated to Staples' position on meat-eating.

"He's focused on this issue because children need the freedom to eat meat," Black told The Huffington Post. "I think it would be important to go back and look at all his contributions. He's received millions of dollars from Texans across our state. In this last election he received more than $3 million, so to try to pinpoint that he's doing this simply for farmers and ranchers who gave him money is untrue."

School districts around the country have embraced meatless Monday in recent years. In 2009, a Baltimore district became the first in the country to adopt the initiative, according to Education Week. A district in Houston also participates.

Report: Adrian Peterson Was Investigated In A Second Child Abuse Case

ThinkProgress - September 15, 2014 - 7:32pm

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson

CREDIT: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who was indicted on child abuse charges in Texas last week, was investigated in another child abuse incident last June, according to a report from KHOU 11 News.

The investigation involved a second of Peterson’s sons, a four-year-old boy. Peterson allegedly hit the child so hard he left a scar over his eye. KHOU obtained pictures of the child with a bandage over his eye and another of the child with a scar, as well as text messages between Peterson and the child’s mother describing the incident.

In the text message chain, the woman asks Peterson if the child “got a whoopin in the car,” to which the running back responded, “Yep.”

“I felt so bad. But he did it his self,” Peterson later texted.

The results of a Child Protective Services investigation are unclear. No charges were filed.

The case that resulted in Peterson’s indictment accused him of using a switch to discipline another of his sons and leaving wounds on the boy’s legs, back, and genitals. The second incident could be “very damaging” evidence in that case, a former prosecutor told KHOU.

The Vikings deactivated Peterson before Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, but the franchise’s owners announced Monday that Peterson would return to practice this week and is expected to play in the team’s game against New Orleans this Sunday.


Radisson suspends sponsorship of Vikings, citing “long-standing commitment to the protection of children.”

The post Report: Adrian Peterson Was Investigated In A Second Child Abuse Case appeared first on ThinkProgress.


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