August 18th, 2010
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Monday accused the White House of using the stimulus tracking website Recovery.gov to disseminate propaganda.
Issa released a 37-page report documenting alleged misconduct by the Obama administration in several of its new-media projects. The report documents several instances in which government agencies allegedly promoted administration policies using federal resources.
Issa called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the allegations and determine if the administration violated federal law by using taxpayers' dollars for political purposes.
Specifically, the report points to websites it claims contain false or misleading information, such as Recovery.gov and HealthReform.gov, as well as to a conference call during which a White House staff member urged artists and entertainers to support President Obama's agenda.
Rather than serve as a tool for strong oversight and transparency, "Recovery.gov became a taxpayer-funded tool to promote false and misleading propaganda to support the Democrat-backed stimulus," the report states. "The manifest inaccuracies in the data the White House used to justify its economic policies constitutes the dissemination of false propaganda by the federal government."
Recovery Board Chairman Earl Devaney published a blog post Monday arguing the site has accomplished its objective by providing transparency of stimulus investments.
"Although this new level of transparency may not be obvious to casual observers, it is inspiring real transformation in the federal government," Devaney wrote.
The report also accuses President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden of leveraging their White House platform "to promote websites designed to disseminate propaganda." It argues the claims made on Recovery.gov about jobs saved or created by the stimulus are fictitious and misleading, citing news reports and individual instances in which the displayed figures appeared to be incorrect.
The report notes the White House responded to critical reports by changing the displayed metric from "Jobs Created/Saved" to “Recovery Funded Jobs Reported by Recipients” but says there is no evidence the reported figures are any more accurate.
“Using new technologies and the remnants of the most expensive presidential campaign in history, the Obama administration’s use of taxpayer dollars to engage in covert propaganda is disconcerting," Issa said in a statement. "This new report and a GAO investigation are needed to help shed light on how taxpayer dollars are being spent to illegally further a political agenda.”
August 18th, 2010
In an interview late Wednesday, former DNC Chair Howard Dean reiterated his belief that the controversial "Ground Zero" mosque should be re-located, arguing that critics of his position were "guilty of" the same type of absolutism on the issue that they've accused Republicans of harboring.
The former Governor of Vermont told the Huffington Post that he "stood by" the remarks he had made earlier in the day on WABC radio in which he called the mosque plan "a real affront to people who lost their lives [on 9/11]." But in a clarification of sorts, he stressed that he would not have a problem if the proposed Islamic cultural center ultimately ended up being built in the current location.
"It won't upset me," Dean said, "except I think it is a missed opportunity to show some flexibility... I don't believe all this nonsense the right wing is putting out about radicals and all that stuff. I take the congregation at its word that it is a moderate congregation trying to heal the wounds of 9/11. But the best way to heal the wounds is not to have a court battle, but to sit down and try to work things out."
As Dean explained, the purpose of the Ground Zero mosque -- which is, in essence, to promote cross-cultural reconciliation -- became irrevocably compromised once the controversy began bubbling around the project. This is no fault of the planners behind the Cordoba House, Dean acknowledged. Nor was there any debate that the constitution was on their side. But that didn't nullify the argument that they would be better served to sit down with city and state officials to find an alternate site less objectionable the critics.
"They don't have to move," Dean said. "But the fact of the matter is, for better or worse, since 9/11 this country has been badly divided -- particularly by right wing politicians exploiting those divisions -- and this is an opportunity to bring the country together."
Dean's sentiments put him in, what surely seems like, rare political standing. The former DNC chair is not the first Democrat to oppose the current location for the Cordoba House. But he is the first critic to hail from the progressive community that, by and large, has viewed the debate over the mosque as a litmus test of sorts for a politician's commitment to constitutional rights and religious tolerance. Indeed, when Dean's viewpoints were broadcast, it was met with a mix of horror and anger from, what usually are, his chief defenders.
"I've seen a lot of the comments about this and a lot of it is silly that I'm agreeing with Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich," Dean said in response to the criticism. "That's just silly. I don't believe in race baiting..."
"The battle lines have been drawn so firmly on every issue that when the right says 'X' the left has to take the opposite position," he added. "This seems like one issue where if you have a congregation that wants to make things work and want to bring America back together again then why don't you do that."
August 18th, 2010
BY Meena Hartenstein
NY DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Ann Coulter just got dumped.
The conservative commentator has been publicly dropped from a keynote speaking gig at right-wing website WorldNetDaily's "Taking America Back National Conference" because she is also booked to headline a gay Republican group’s event.
The website’s backers say they gave Coulter the boot because she refused to ditch her speech at "HOMOCON," an event sponsored by GOProud, which "represents gay conservatives and their allies."
"Ultimately, as a matter of principle, it would not make sense for us to have Ann speak to a conference about 'taking America back' when she clearly does not recognize that the ideals to be espoused there simply do not include the radical and very 'unconservative' agenda represented by GOProud," said Joseph Farah, editor and CEO of WND.
She says speaking at the event has nothing to do with her personal beliefs.
"I speak to a lot of groups and do not endorse them," Coulter said to Farah, according to WND. "Giving a speech is not an endorsement of every position held by the people I'm speaking to."
And though CBS reports she will continue to write a column for WND, Coulter wasn't afraid to critique the website's views.
"I think you're nuts on the birther thing," she told Farah, "Though I like you otherwise!"
While her involvement in HOMOCON may surprise right-wing supporters, Coulter has expressed her belief that gays belong in the GOP before.
"I don't know why all gays aren't Republican," she once said. "I think we have the pro-gay positions, which is anti-crime and for tax cuts. Gays make a lot of money and they're victims of crime. No, they are! They should be with us."
August 18th, 2010
The Huffington Post | Nick Wing
Ted Olson, former George W. Bush solicitor general, attorney behind the case against California's gay marriage ban, and husband of a woman who died aboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, said Wednesday that President Obama was right about his analysis of the "Ground Zero Mosque" as a constitutional right protected by the First Amendment.
Olson's wife, conservative commentator and lawyer Barbara Olson, perished on September 11 aboard American Airlines Flight 77, the plane that was hijacked and flown in the Pentagon.
Asked on MSNBC about his opinion on the plans to construct a 13-story Islamic community center two blocks away from Ground Zero, Olson gave a response that served as a rather high profile departure from what has become the conservative norm on the issue.
"Well it may not make me hap-- popular with some people, but I think, probably, the president was right about this," Olson told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. "I do believe that people of all religions have a right to build edifices, or structures, or places of religious worship or study where the community allows them to do it under zoning laws and that sort of thing, and that we don't want to turn an act of hate against us by extremists into an act of intolerance for people of religious faith. And I don't think it should be a political issue. It shouldn't be a Republican or Democratic issue, either. I believe Gov. Christie from New Jersey said it well, that this should not be in that political, partisan marketplace."
Watch Olson on MSNBC:
Liz Cheney's group, Keep America Safe, took a different tone Wednesday, however, with the release of a new ad that uses the emotional testimony of six family members of 9/11 victims to push the message that people must "remember" 9/11 in opposing the "Ground Zero Mosque."
Watch Keep America Safe's new ad:
August 18th, 2010
msnbc.com and NBC News
NEAR THE IRAQ-KUWAIT BORDER — The last U.S. combat troops were crossing the border into Kuwait on Thursday morning, bringing to a close the active combat phase of a 7½-year war that overthrew the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, forever defined the presidency of George W. Bush and left more than 4,400 American service members and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead.
The final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., began entering Kuwait about 1:30 a.m. (6:30 p.m. Wednesday ET), carrying the last of the 14,000 U.S. combat forces in Iraq, said NBC’s Richard Engel, who has been traveling with the brigade as it moved out this week.
The departure marks the official end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the State Department, told msnbc TV. But while it is “an historic moment,” he said, it is not the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq.
“We are ending the war ... but we are not ending our work in Iraq,” he said. “We have a long-term commitment to Iraq.”
The long convoy began moving earlier this week, and as the last soldiers reached Kuwait after midnight, they said they were proud of their effort.
“We are done with operations,” Lt. Steven DeWitt of San Jose, Calif., said as his vehicle reached Khabari Crossing on the border.
“This was a professional soldier’s job,” he said, describing “a war that has defined this generation of military men and women. “And today it’s over,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Nick Tooliatos, deputy commanding general for First Theater Sustainment Command in Kuwait, stood at the border saluting each soldier as he or she crossed.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better honor than to greet some soldiers who have done great work for a year fighting our nation’s war, and to just be here and render honors to them and welcome them and thank them for a job well done,” Tooliatos said.
“It’s a historic event,” he said. “In 2003, we rolled across this berm into Iraq, and now as we get ready to transition the security of Iraq to Iraq’s own forces, this is a significant retrograde of a combat unit.”
50,000 advisers remain
The timing of the final departure was a closely held secret, occurring in dramatic fashion two weeks ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline President Barack Obama had set to withdraw combat forces and close Operation Iraqi Freedom, which the U.S.-led multinational coalition began March 20, 2003, in the belief that Hussein possessed an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that threatened the West.
In a statement, Obama called the troops’ withdrawal a “milestone in the Iraq war” and said, “I hope you’ll join me in thanking them, and all of our troops and military families, for their service.”
At one point, the United States had blanketed the country with nearly a quarter-million-strong combat force; by the end of the month, Obama said, about 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country, in a non-combat role providing support and training for the Iraqi military.
“This is an extremely interesting night to see these pictures, but I think people need to understand ... this is a transition from one that is military over seven years to one that is a transition to diplomacy,” Crowley said.
“It’s still a dangerous place,” he said.
Christopher R. Hill, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, said it was now Iraq’s responsibility to form a stable long-term government and Washington’s responsibility to “see Iraq as a country and not as a war.”
In remarks Wednesday to the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington, Hill said he was optimistic about the prospects of a stable government, but he added, “If it’s instant gratification you’re looking for, you had better look elsewhere.”
The new U.S. ambassador, James F. Jeffrey, presented his credentials Wednesday to President Jalal Talabani on Wednesday.
In those 7½ years, 4,415 U.S. service members lost their lives.
Estimates of the number of Iraqis who were killed are more problematic, complicated by difficulties in determining which combatants were from Iraq or were sympathizers from other countries in the region, by deciding whether to include victims of bombings and other attacks by anti-coalition elements, and by the biases of who is doing the reporting.
Iraq Body Count, a non-governmental organization based in Germany whose tallies are commonly reported by Western news agencies, puts the current toll at 97,000 to 106,000. By contrast, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Al Mustansirya University in Baghdad said in a report heavily criticized by U.S. officials that more than 650,000 Iraqis were killed in “war-related activities” just in the period from 2003 through 2006.
Struggle continues in Afghanistan
The 4th Stryker Brigade, a unit of the 2nd Infantry Division that is known as the Raiders, arrived a year ago to provide security for the Iraqi elections on March 7 and to help coordinate the transition of command to the Iraqi military.
The formal handover actually took place Aug. 7, when three Raider soldiers and two Iraqi soldiers pulled down the the brigade’s colors at Forward Operating Base Constitution, leaving only the flags of the Iraqi government and the 6th Iraqi Army Division flying.
Still, the departure means the end of only some combat operations in the greater region. As many as 100,000 U.S. combat forces are still operating in Afghanistan, which they are not tentatively to conclude until next July.
“I think the biggest challenge is the combination of running two theaters,” Tooliatos said, “not only drawing down things in Iraq but working to get things into Afghanistan to the right place at the right time so that the soldier on the ground has what he needs to fight, win and survive on the battlefield.”
Pfc. Timothy Berrena of Fairfield, Conn., is likely to be one of those soldiers. After 12 months on this tour in Iraq, he has re-enlisted.
“I’m hoping to do one more [tour] before I get out. I’m sure the next one will be Afghanistan if it’s anywhere,” Berrena said.
“It’s another chapter in the book,” he said. “It’s a good experience — met a lot of great kids here. You’ve got kids in the military who can’t even buy a pack of cigarettes yet, but they can come over here and fight for their country. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
‘No one else is going to get hurt’
For others, like Pvt. Nicholas Kelly of Seattle, the day meant “I’m on my way home now.”
“It was a great feeling, you know, being in the country for 12 months,” Kelly said. But “finally getting out is a great feeling.”
Staff Sgt. Steven Bearor of Merrimac, N.H., said he, too, was looking forward to “going home to the family. I like it.”
But the best part, he said, is knowing that “no one else is going to get hurt.”
The Iraqi security forces “are ready to go, Bearor said. “I have all of faith and confidence they will be able to pull off the job.”
By Richard Engel and Charlene Gubash of NBC News on the Iraq-Kuwait border and Alex Johnson of msnbc.com.