Late Breaking--Sometimes Broken--News

Two incidents the same day lead the TV viewer even deeper into questions of network credibility.

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Disrespectful and Disgraceful: The Republican Policy Against First Responders

by Walter Brasch

    It isn't unusual that the Republican party is anti-union.

    It isn't even unusual that the Republican National Committee sent to its base  a loaded questionnaire with blatantly leading and highly biased questions.

    But it is unusual that the party that claims to ally itself with homeland security has not-so-subtly attacked the firefighters and police who responded to 9/11.

    The Republicans want their respondents to answer a resounding "NO" to the following question:

"Do you believe that the federal government should allow the unionization of the Department of Homeland Security employees who serve in positions critical to the safety and security of our nation"?

    What the Republicans neither say, nor apparently acknowledge, is that every one of the 60 police who died in 9/11, and every one of the 343 firefighters and paramedics who died in 9/11 were members of unions. Their union membership did not interfere with their responsibilities or their abilities. Nor did union membership interfere with the city's 37,000 police or 15,000 firefighters and paramedics who either were on alert or responded during the two critical weeks after 9/11. In the U.S., police and staff personnel are represented by several labor organizations, with about 100,000 represented by the International Union of Police Associations and 325,000 represented by the Fraternal Order of Police; more than 295,000 are members of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The Security Police Fire Professionals of America represent more than 30,000 officers at several federal venues, including the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and NASA.

    Union membership for emergency management dispatchers and thousands of construction workers didn't affect their response to 9/11. None but the ignorant claim that union membership affects the ability of IRS, ATF, and treasury agents to do their jobs. Nor does anyone but the most uninformed party hacks believe that unionized federal fire fighters, border, customs, and immigration agents don't perform their duties because they pay union dues.

    Of course, President George W. Bush had no aversion to standing among unionized construction workers, police, and firefighters at the site of the former Twin Towers when he wanted innumerable photo-ops. But, less than a year after 9/11, President Bush said he would veto the bill to create the Department of Homeland Security if it allowed the employees to continue their union memberships or if collective bargaining was permitted for any of the 170,000 employees. It wasn't an idle threat. More than two-thirds of Congress agreed to sustain his veto.

    In January 2004, by executive order, President Bush stripped more than 500 Department of Justice paralegals, secretaries, and clerks of union membership, voided previously signed contracts, unilaterally decertified their unions, and forbid all DoJ workers from collective bargaining rights. Bush's rationale was that because staff "have as a primary function intelligence, counterintelligence, investigative, or national security work," their continued union membership was not "consistent with national security requirements and considerations." No president before George W. Bush, and no attorney general before John Ashcroft--not during World War I, World War II, or the Korean and Vietnam wars--had even suggested that union membership was a deterrent to effective homeland security. Although Ashcroft's successor, Alberto Gonzales, also opposed unions, following an extensive internal review, he acknowledged that "the vast majority of [unionized] immigration judges discharge their duties in a manner of which we can all be proud."

    In March 2007, Bush again threatened to veto a Congressional bill that would allow collective bargaining. The Senate had approved, 51-46, to table an amendment that would have banned collective bargaining for the nation's 45,000 airport screeners. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said allowing collective bargaining rights would be a "gift to al-Qaeda." Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the amendment's sponsor, claimed it was "outrageous that some politicians want to protect union bosses more than they want to protect Americans from terrorist attacks." However, DeMint also was honest in one of his reasons to ban collective bargaining. He said allowing collective bargaining in the Department of Homeland Security could lead to labor unions contributing more than $17 million to Democratic campaigns. Once again, President Bush had enough votes to sustain a veto if necessary. Thirty-six Republican senators and 146 House Republicans wrote to the President, "We believe that providing a select group of federal airport security employees with mandated collective bargaining rights could needlessly put the security of our nation at risk." They never acknowledged that there were no-strike and no work slowdown clauses already in contracts.

    Three months later, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that Bush's previous executive order that banned collective bargaining in the Department of Homeland Security was not only unconstitutional but parts of it were "simply bizarre [and] defies common sense." This was no liberal court--nine of the 13 members were nominated by Republican presidents.

    It's been almost eight years since 9/11, and the Republicans still claim that the nation's security will somehow be threatened by unionized first responders.

    Like any political party, the Republicans can have whatever principles it wants. But to attack first responders because they may place union membership above their sworn duty to protect life and property, even at the risk of their own lives, is not only disrespectful, it is disgraceful.

[Walter M. Brasch is a university professor of journalism, social issues columnist, and the author of 17 books. His current book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available from amazon.com, bn.com, and other stores. The book was a winner in the politics/social issues category of USA Book News awards, and a finalist in the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group awards. His weekly column was this year's winner in contests sponsored by the Pennsylvania Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists; his column received honorable mention in competition sponsored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Forthcoming in August is the third edition of Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture. You may contact him at brasch@bloomu.edu or through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

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The Politicization of Our Safety by Republicans and Right-wingers

A brief chronology:

An Objective Assessment on Public Safety Concerns

April 7, 2009: The Department of Homeland Security releases a nine-page assessment document entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment" (in PDF).  Among the findings:

Threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts. Nevertheless, the consequences of a prolonged economic downturn--including real estate foreclosures, unemployment, and an inability to obtain credit--could create a fertile recruiting environment for rightwing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past.

The assessment also warned of "a heightened level of extremist paranoia" and "lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks."

Right-wing Blowback and Politicization

April 14, 2009: Former Speaker Newt Gingrich:

The person who drafted the outrageous homeland security memo smearing veterans and conservatives should be fired

April 14, 2009: Conservative commentator Sean Hannity intentionally misrepresents the focus of the assessment as targetting "people who have pro-life bumper stickers."

April 14, 2009: Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin:

The "report" ... was one of the most embarrassingly shoddy pieces of propaganda I'd ever read out of DHS. I couldn't believe it was real. ...

By contrast, the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives.

April 15, 2009: House Republican leader John Boehner demands an apology from the Department of Homeland Security for the report.

The Report's Tragic Accuracy

May 31, 2009: Dr. George Tiller, a frequent target of right-wing hate and violence for performing late-term abortions, was murdered.  The suspect apprehended is a right-wing extremist with a long history of violent rhetoric and criminal actions on behalf of the right-wing anti-choice movement.

June 10, 2009: A lone gunman opened fire at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, killing a security guard and injuring others.  The suspected shooter is a right-wing extremist with a long history of violent rhetoric and criminal actions on behalf of the right-wing white supremacist and Holocaust denier movements.

The Moral of This Brief Chronology:

Our public safety and national security should never be politicized, especially not by Republicans and right-wingers desperate for relevance in the media.  How many times do Republicans have to be wrong and divisively political - and have their "wrongness" be illustrated in tragic events - before they either change their tune or have the traditional media stop taking them seriously?

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Progressive Democrat Issue 217

Busy week! And I may have to soon take time off from the newsletter. If not before then, I will be at a conference and on vacation in California at the end of June/beginning of July, so may well take that time largely off from the newsletter. May have to before then as well given the amount of work I have, but we'll see.

So it seems, in between some great speeches, Obama discovered his own likeness in Egyptian hieroglyphs. From the Liberal OC:

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The Dick Cheney Magical Mystery Media Tour

Dick Cheney talking to the media? Did he again escape from his undisclosed location, or is he desperately trying to resurrect his shaken image? Walter Brasch has an idea . . .

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Diaries

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