|For weeks, Republicans have been tripping over each other as they rush to defend BP. They’ve apologized to the oil giant, accused the President of a shakedown, and called for deregulation of the oil and gas industry. It’s as if they’ve forgotten that they have a responsibility to the people of the Gulf who’ve seen their lives and livelihoods upended by this tragedy.
We’ve put together a site to help get the story out and show in a very pointed way exactly how Republicans are standing with BP. Will you check it out and share it with five friends?
While the site we’ve created is a parody, this isn’t a laughing matter. We need to make sure voters know who was standing with BP throughout this crisis, and we need your help to do it. We’ve built the site to make it easy to share with friends, email to family, or post to Facebook and Twitter.
We want folks to know this wasn’t just a gaffe or slip of the tongue — this is how the Republicans would govern. Rep. Joe Barton apologized to BP and called the victim relief fund a “tragedy.” Rep. Steve King agreed, and went on talk radio to say “I think Joe Barton was spot on.” Rep. Michelle Bachman said that BP shouldn’t agree to be “fleeced.” Rand Paul — the GOP nominee for Senate in Kentucky — said that President Obama’s efforts to hold BP accountable were “un-American.” And Sharron Angle — the Republican Senate nominee in Nevada — even said her solution to the energy crisis was to “deregulate” big oil.
You might think that a company responsible for the worst environmental disaster in American history wouldn’t have many friends in Washington. But for BP, that’s just not the case.
We need to make sure that the American people know which side the GOP is on. Will you check out our new site and share it with five others?
President Obama announced in his weekly address on Saturday that starting today, a new claims process for military veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will be established to make it easier to receive benefits and care. “We have a solemn responsibility to provide our veterans and wounded warriors with the care and benefits they’ve earned when they come home,” the President said. “In past wars, [PTSD] wasn’t something America always talked about. And as a result, our troops and their families often felt stigmatized or embarrassed when it came to seeking help,” Obama noted, adding that “we’ve made it clear up and down the chain of command that folks should seek help if they need it.” A senior administration official said the new process will make it “a lot easier” for veterans suffering from PTSD “because the threshold has been liberalized to the point where it’s much easier to verify.”
THE NEED FOR CHANGE: In 2008, the RAND Corp. found that among 300,000 servicemembers, nearly one in five veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan showed symptoms of PTSD or major depression, and only half of those sought treatment. The study found that lax PTSD diagnosis and treatment will cost the military as much as $6.2 billion in the two years following deployment and “[i]nvesting in more high-quality treatment could save close to $2 billion within two years by substantially reducing those indirect costs.” Indeed, Obama administration officials noted that while benefits will likely be granted to more veterans, it will be “quicker and easier and therefore less costly per case.” “There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said RAND’s Terri Tanielian at the time of the study’s release. “Unfortunately, we found there are many barriers preventing them from getting the high-quality treatment they need.” In another study last year, the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) “found that more than one-third of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who enrolled in the veterans health system after 2001 were diagnosed with a mental health problem, the most common being post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.” Mental health issues are related to other problems veterans confront, such as drug addiction and homelessness. And as of last year, five U.S. soldiers try to commit suicide every day compared to one per day before the Iraq war began.
A NEW STREAMLINED PROCESS: Under the new guidelines — applicable not only to those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in previous conflicts — veterans will not have to document what caused their PTSD. Instead, they will now only be required “to show a diagnosis of PTSD and that it was related to service overall, not a specific event.” “I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application,” Obama said. “And I’ve met enough veterans to know that you don’t have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war.” Under the old guidelines, veterans advocates argued that it “could be impossible for veterans to find records of a firefight or bomb blast.” The old rules also “ignored other causes of PTSD, such as fearing a traumatic event even if it doesn’t occur,” which could “discriminate against female troops prohibited from serving on front lines and against those who don’t experience combat directly.” The new regulations acknowledge that the nature of military conflicts, past and present, include “guerrilla warfare, insurgent activities where stressors may include constant vigilance against unexpected attack, the absence of a defined frontline, the difficulty of distinguishing enemy combatants from civilians, and the ubiquity of improvised explosive devices.”
YEARS OF NEGLECT: As Center for American Progress analysts Lawrence Korb, Sean Duggan, Max Bergmann, and Peter Juul have noted, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the first conflicts since WWII in which service members have been asked to undertake multiple deployments without adequate time at home between tours to rest and recuperate. During two terms in office, the Bush administration did not do nearly enough to safeguard the health and readiness of the U.S. armed forces. Bush officials regularly downplayed the scourge of PTSD, and often times, reports from the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs on the numbers of troops diagnosed with PTSD were “disturbingly low” — suggesting that the administration understated cases of mental disorder resulting from war. In the latter years of the Bush presidency, e-mails leaked from the VA revealed that agency employees were discouraged from diagnosing soldiers and veterans with PTSD. One e-mail complained of “compensation seeking veterans” and urged VA staff to rule out PTSD and “consider a diagnosis of ‘Adjustment Disorder'” instead. Moreover, in 2008, then-VA Secretary James Peake suggested that PTSD and traumatic brain injury have been “overblown.” While Peake said that brain injuries are serious, he downplayed what veterans experience “to what anyone who played football in their youth might have suffered.” Veterans with mental disorders were even being used to test new drugs. In 2008, the Washington Times reported that “mentally distressed veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are being recruited for government tests on pharmaceutical drugs linked to suicide and other violent side effects.” During his confirmation hearing, current VA Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki (ret.) promised to make the VA a “21st-century organization” that meets the needs of a growing population of wounded veterans. Indeed, Obama’s 2010 budget for the VA emphasizes a veteran-centric commitment by expanding services by 15.5 percent over 2009, the largest percentage increase for the VA requested by a president in more than 30 years.
Progress Report: from the ThinkProgress.org site
BUSINESS — BP CONTRACTOR: ‘WHAT THIS COMPANY IS DOING TO THIS COUNTRY RIGHT NOW IS JUST WRONG’: A former contractor has come forward to denounce oil giant BP and the “cutthroat individuals” running the oil disaster response. On Friday, contractor-turned-
whistleblower Adam Dillon told New Orleans television station WDSU that he was fired “after taking photos that he believes were related to the use of dispersants and to the cleanup of the oil.” As a BP liaison, he had rebuffed reporters’ attempts to observe cleanup operations in Grand Isle, LA, in June, before being promoted to the BP Command Center near Houma, LA. At the command center, BP manages the private contractors who are running practically every aspect of the spill response. Dillon, a former U.S. Army Special Operations soldier, “has lost faith in the company in charge,” stating that BP’s “bottom line is just about money.” “There are some very cutthroat individuals,” he said. “They’re not worried about cleaning up that spill as it is.” He decided to go public because “he placed his oath to his country over and above any loyalty to BP,” adding that “what this company is doing to this country right now is just wrong.” Before he was fired, Dillon was “confined and interrogated for almost an hour.” WDSU’s Scott Walker will air more of his interview with Dillon tonight. His troubling firsthand account joins other reports from the likes of wives of Gulf Coast fisherman and independent scientists who are breaking the media blackout on BP’s private army of contractors.
SPREAD the WORD!
FOX is up to its old race-baiting tricks. But this time, CNN is repeating FOX’s distortions and taking them mainstream.
FOX is claiming that under President Obama, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is refusing to prosecute voting rights offenses when the victims are White and the perpetrators are Black.1 It’s a bogus story based on the allegations of one former Republican DOJ attorney, and it sidesteps a mountain of facts.2
On Tuesday, FOX complained that other news outlets weren’t covering the story. The next day, CNN uncritically echoed FOX’s distorted story, lending it mainstream credibility. We expect FOX to engage in this kind of race-baiting. But CNN should know better, and we need to hold them publicly accountable.
That’s what I’ve joined my friends at ColorOfChange to send a message to Jon Klein, head of CNN, demanding CNN stop running with half-baked, racially charged stories from FOX. Click the link below to add your voice, and then please ask your friends and family to do the same:
FOX consistently plays to the fear that President Obama will not govern Blacks and Whites equally, and they’re hard at work promoting this twisted narrative again.
The story that FOX is pushing revolves around an incident on election day 2008 in which several men from a small, fringe organization called the New Black Panther Party (NBPP — no relationship to the original Black Panther Party) stood in front of a polling place in a majority Black voting district, one of them carrying a nightstick. The Bush Justice Department charged them with civil voter intimidation charges, after deciding that the case didn’t meet the bar for criminal charges.3 After Obama took office, the Department of Justice dropped most of the remaining charges, saying that they weren’t supported by the facts and the law, while obtaining an injunction against the man who had been carrying a nightstick.4
But in FOX’s hands, the story has become that the case was dropped because of anti-White policies in the Obama administration, with Andrew Breitbart and host David Asman effectively calling the President a racist.5 CNN’s willingness to follow FOX’s lead is inexcusable.
The New Black Panther story is built on the claims of one man — J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department official who claims that the Obama administration dropped the NBPP case because of race.6 But even the most basic digging reveals that Adams is nothing more than a conservative activist hired by a Bush administration that was hell-bent on politicizing the Justice Department and subverting its civil rights enforcement mission.7 During the Bush years — the bulk of Adams’ tenure at the DOJ — civil rights enforcement decreased. The DOJ failed to even investigate numerous clear civil rights violations when the victims were Black and Latino, especially allegations involving voting rights.8
CNN has repeatedly allowed Adams to air his twisted views without allowing opposing perspectives or telling the full story of Adams’ past. CNN calls itself “the most trusted name in news,” but they just became complicit in a right wing effort to smear President Obama and Attorney General Holder as racists. Help hold them accountable now:
The fact is that there’s simply no evidence to support Adams’ claims. No “victims” — White or otherwise — have stepped forward to say that they were intimidated on the day in question.9
Even Abigail Thernstrom, GOP-appointed vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is now investigating the situation, blasted Adams, his theory, and the path it’s forced the commission to pursue. She sees it as an embarrassment. Thernstrom said, “I know Chris Adams very well, and he doesn’t know why the decision was made.” She goes on to call the DOJ’s position “perfectly plausible” and concludes “I don’t think that this inquiry has served the interests of the Commission as being a bipartisan watchdog for important civil rights violations, and I do not believe it has served well the party to which I belong.”10,11
The real danger of FOX
FOX has consistently stoked the fears of some White Americans that President Obama might favor Blacks over Whites — an irresponsible and dangerous game. But it’s even more dangerous when other news networks amplify and validate what they’re doing. This is FOX’s plan, and it’s important to note that just before the story got covered on CNN, FOX spent the previous day accusing the other news organizations of not covering the story. They set the bait and CNN took it.
It’s the same pattern that was used to put ACORN out of business. FOX ran a smear-campaign with partial or fabricated information and then got other news outlets to follow and run with the same story without digging deeper. Once the truth came out, it was too late.12
We expect FOX to lie and distort. But for CNN and others to fall into the trap of repeating FOX’s claims is a different story. Now, in hopes of preventing similar situations in the future, we must fight back. Please join me in calling on CNN to do real reporting, and not mainstream FOX’s distortions and lies. And when you do, please ask your family and friends to do the same. It only takes a moment: Thanks.
Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will proceed to a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each.
By unanimous consent, at 5:00pm today, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session to debate the nomination of Calendar #815 Sharon Johnson Coleman, of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, with time until 5:30pm equally divided and controlled between Senators Leahy and Sessions or their designees.
At 5:30pm, the Senate will proceed to vote on confirmation of the nomination.
205: Confirmation of Sharon Johnson Coleman, of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois;
Passed S.2872, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission REauthorization Act.
TUESDAY PREVIEW —The Majority Leader would like to resume consideration of HR5297, Small Business Jobs bill during Tuesday’s session of the Senate.
The next meeting in the House is scheduled for July 13, 2010 at 2pmET