The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.Continue reading
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The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.Continue reading
The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.Continue reading
This is a modified py-6 that occupies the entire horizontal space of its parent.
By Matt Kelley and Kevin Johnson
USA TODAY | 3-24-10
A freshman Democrat from Virginia reported that a gas line had been severed at his brother’s home, and two congresswomen — one in New York and another in Arizona — said windows at their district offices were smashed.
“A significant number, meaning more than 10” members received threats, said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, and officials from the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police talked with House Democrats Wednesday about how to protect themselves. Hoyer and other Democrats said the incidents may have been the work of angry opponents of the health care legislation, which President Obama signed Tuesday.
‘RUDE AND HATEFUL’: FBI probes threats against Democrats
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who on Wednesday disclosed two “alarming” incidents that occurred last week, blamed Republican leadership for “fanning the flames.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio condemned such misconduct. “Violence and threats are unacceptable,” Boehner said Wednesday on Fox News. “Yes, I know there is anger, but let’s take that anger, and go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign.”
The FBI is “seeking to identify those responsible” for threats against members of Congress, spokeswoman Katherine Schweit said Wednesday. She did not know how many threats had been made.
“Anybody who has information, we want them to contact us,” Schweit said.
Slaughter, who had a prominent role in passing the historic legislation as chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, said a window in a district office was shattered by a brick and a voicemail “referencing snipers” was left on a campaign office phone. She said the FBI, Capitol Police and local authorities are investigating.
Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., said the FBI and local authorities are investigating the incident at his brother’s house.
Perriello, who defeated Republican Virgil Goode by fewer than 800 votes in 2008, has been a target of conservative ire because of his vote for health care. Earlier this week, a “Tea Party” activist posted Perriello’s brother’s address on a blog, mistakenly identifying it as the congressman’s home and urging readers to “drop by … and express their thanks regarding his vote for health care.”
“While it is too early to say anything definitive regarding political motivations behind this act,” Perriello said in a statement Wednesday, “it’s never too early for political leaders to condemn threats of violence, particularly as threats to other members of Congress and their children escalate.”
Mike Troxel, the blogger who posted the Perriello address, could not be reached for comment Wednesday and his website was inaccessible. Troxel is a “participant” in a Tea Party group in Lynchburg, Va., said Mark Lloyd, the group’s chairman. Tea Party members are conservatives who oppose increased government spending and regulations.
Lloyd said in an e-mailed statement that his group does not “encourage violence, damage to property, or criminal activity of any sort.” He added: “If bad taste and poor judgment were a crime, then most of Congress would be behind bars.”
In Arizona early Monday morning — shortly after the health care bill passed the House — vandals smashed the glass door at the Tucson office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., her office said.
Giffords’ spokesman, C.J. Karamargin, said a security guard reported the incident hours after he and others had left the office after watching the health care vote on television. Giffords voted for the legislation.
“That was the frightening thing, that people were here just before this happened,” Karamargin said in a telephone interview from the Tucson office. “We feel lucky no one was injured.”
He said the office had received many phone calls with “nasty and rude and hateful comments” from opponents of the health care bill.
President Obama believes that “people should have a right to … passionate views,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. However, Gibbs said, people should “exercise those views not in a way that threatens anybody’s safety or security, not in any way that foments violence.”
By Ben Smith | Politico | March 24, 2010
Authorities in Wichita and some other cities across the country are investigating vandalism against Democratic offices, apparently in response to health care reform.
And on Monday, a former Alabama militia leader took credit for instigating the actions.
Mike Vanderboegh of Pinson, Ala., former leader of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, put out a call on Friday for modern “Sons of Liberty” to break the windows of Democratic Party offices nationwide in opposition to health care reform. Since then, vandals have struck several offices, including the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita.
Stauble said the brick, hurled through the window between Friday night and Saturday morning, had “some anti-Obama rhetoric” written on it.
Physical damage aside, this isn’t great P.R.
UPDATE: Andy Barr reports that the FBI is investigating an incident at the home of Rep. Tom Perriello’s brother.
By Carrie Johnson and Julie Tate
Washington Post | March 24, 2010
Prosecutors are now examining the sworn testimony of an agency official to assess whether false statements charges can be made, according to two sources familiar with the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John H. Durham, who is leading the investigation, recently bestowed immunity from prosecution on a CIA lawyer who reviewed the tapes years before they were destroyed to determine whether they diverged from written records about the interrogations, the sources said. That could signal that the case is reaching its final stages. Durham has been spotted at the Justice Department headquarters in the District over the past few weeks, in another signal that his work is intensifying.
The agency lawyer, John McPherson, could appear before a grand jury later this month or in April, according to the sources, who spoke anonymously because the investigation continues. CIA lawyers have been essential to understanding the episode because they offered advice to agency personnel about the handling of the tapes and whether they should have been included when agency records were turned over in other court cases. McPherson is not believed to be under criminal jeopardy but he had previously hesitated to testify, the sources said.
An attorney for McPherson did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment. Thomas Carson, a spokesman for Durham, who is based in the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut, also declined comment. A CIA spokesman declined comment Wednesday.
A U.S. official who declined to be identified because the case is ongoing, said “Durham runs a tight ship, and there haven’t been any real leaks out of his investigation. People should, for that extremely compelling reason, be very careful about believing anything billed as inside scoop from the Durham inquiry. It’s probably, at best, gossip and rumor.”
Investigators now are turning their attention to the grand jury testimony last year by another agency official, the sources said. Lawyers point out that prosecutors routinely search for discrepancies in grand jury testimony as part of any broad investigation.
Jose A. Rodriguez, the former chief of the CIA’s directorate of operations, triggered the destruction of the 92 tapes in November 2005. But he has not offered any testimony to prosecutors. But an official who worked alongside him did appear before the grand jury for more than a day and that testimony is being scrutinized closely by prosecutors, the sources said. The Washington Post was asked not to publish the name of the official, who is undercover. The official’s attorney declined comment Wednesday.
Durham and a special team have gathered and pored over sensitive documents to determine whether destruction of the tapes constituted a crime. Agency officials say the motive for getting rid of the tapes was innocent: that CIA veterans feared the disclosure could compromise their security after the emergence of widely reviled images of detainee humiliation at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But investigators have been probing whether the tapes were destroyed in anticipation of a congressional or federal investigation, which could violate obstruction of justice laws.
Durham has gone about his work quietly. But in July, Durham told a federal judge in New York in a related freedom of information case filed by civil liberties groups that he was “examining whether the obstruction of justice statutes may have been violated; whether somebody engaged in a contempt of court or contempt of Congress; whether the Federal Records Act was violated, that is, did the tapes constitute federal records and, therefore, they should not have been destroyed; and we are looking at whether people, any person or persons, filed false statements or may have otherwise perjured themselves in connection with these matters.”
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union are scheduled to appear in court in New York on Thursday to argue for the release of CIA cables and other documents that describe the contents of the destroyed videotapes.
In recent weeks, prosecutorial attention has turned to false statements, in part because of the difficulty in making a case based on the underlying destruction of the videotapes. The tapes cover the interrogation of two of the CIA’s high-value detainees: Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, an alleged al-Qaeda financier who is better known as Abu Zubaida; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi suspected of involvement in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole as it docked for refueling in a Yemeni port.
The fresh scrutiny based on allegations that do not relate directly to the destruction of videotapes could make it more difficult for Durham to win voluntary cooperation from witnesses in another, related matter he is investigating, lawyers involved in the case said.
In August, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. directed Durham to expand his focus and investigate whether to launch a criminal investigation into a small number of cases where CIA contractors went outside the boundaries of Justice Department guidance in interrogating terrorism suspects. Among the cases, which date to 2002, is the alleged use of a drill and a firearm in the questioning of Nashiri, according to government documents released last year.
The decision to open a criminal inquiry into the interrogations — after two teams of Bush administration prosecutors decided against launching a probe — ignited fierce criticism, including a letter to President Obama from seven former CIA directors from Democratic and Republican administrations asking him to reverse course last year.
” … The FAA ALWAYS says safety is their number one concern. If that was true, they wouldn’t have hired one of my co-workers after he had been busted twice in the US Navy for trafficking in drugs. … “
The FAA has told us that the lone controller at Lexington tower turned his back on Comair 191 and was busy with “administrative duties, traffic count” after he cleared Comair191 for takeoff while it was on the wrong runway. Initially, he admitted seeing Comair on the wrong runway and later changed his testimony.
I came across a letter to AvWeb from a controller claiming things are worse now than when I blew the whistle. AvWeb has been able to confirm her identity. Her letter is at ….
By Guy Walters
Daily Mail | March 2010
On the man’s right arm, a Union Flag shield is just visible, while his right collar tab hides a strange insignia – the three lions of the Royal Standard of England.
For this corporal was no ordinary Nazi. He belonged to a shadowy and little-known unit of the SS called the British Free Corps (BFC), a group of treacherous British and Commonwealth soldiers who decided to fight for the Nazis rather than spend the war in honourable captivity as PoWs.
Photographs of members of the British Free Corps in uniform are fantastically rare – the last was found 30 years ago. But earlier this month, I discovered this faded photograph – and several others like it – in a long-forgotten file buried away at the National Archives in Kew, Surrey.
The photographs – of 14 men in total – had been tucked away in a folder relating to an RAF war crimes investigation unit that I stumbled upon while researching a forthcoming book.
Placed in a plain brown manilla A5 envelope marked simply ‘collaborators’, there were no accompanying documents, nor any details of the men’s identities.
But from piecing together other historical records, I have been able to trace most of those shown here, and in some cases tell the full story of their betrayal – and reveal what became of them after the war.
Together, their tales cast a fascinating new light on some of Britain’s worst wartime traitors.
So who was the first arrogant young man, posing proudly in his SS uniform? His name was Roy Nicholas Courlander – one of the leading members of the BFC. And what makes his betrayal even more abhorrent is that he had been raised by a Jewish family.
These BFC members are believed to be Railton Freeman, Leonard Banning, Martin James Monti and Douglas Berneville-Clay
Born illegitimately in London in 1914, the young Roy was adopted by a Lithuanian Jewish businessman who sent him to boarding school. When he was 19, however, he was sent to live and work on a coconut plantation owned by his father in the New Hebrides in the South Pacific.
On the outbreak of war, Courlander was enlisted into the New Zealand army, and served in the Western Desert and Greece, where he was captured in April 1941.
But unbeknown to his fellow PoWs, Courlander harboured secret fascist sympathies and had come to believe in the inevitability of a Nazi victory. So when the Germans invaded Russia that summer he decided to defect, volunteering to fight for Hitler against the Soviets.
His request was initially turned down by the Germans, and Courlander spent the next year acting instead as an interpreter at his PoW camp.
Nevertheless, he continued to ally himself with his captors, and in June 1943, he was rewarded with a transfer to Genshagen PoW camp 20 miles south of Berlin.
Superficially, Genshagen appeared to be almost like a holiday camp, where PoWs were well fed and had access to many more amenities than they would expect at a normal Stalag.
Billed as a camp where compliant prisoners could enjoy a well-earned break, its purpose was far more sinister – it was a place in which prisoners were recruited to help the German cause.
While at Genshagen, Courlander first came into contact with one of the most despicable and infamous British traitors of the war – John Amery.
An Old Harrovian and son of a leading member of Churchill’s Cabinet, Amery was a sexual pervert, a bankrupt and a convinced Nazi who had remained in France with his prostitute wife after the fall of Paris.
These portraits of unidentified members of the BFC were found in an envelope marked ‘Photographs Dulag Luft III and Collaborators’ at the National Archives at Kew. The first two pictures appear to be of the same man
Amery spent his time making speeches glorifying the Third Reich before he kindled the idea of forming a British unit that could fight alongside the Germans – the British Free Corps.
Initially christened the ‘Legion of St George’, the idea was personally approved by the Führer. On December 28, 1942, Hitler had sent out the following order from his lair in the forest at Rastenburg: ‘The Führer is in agreement with the establishment of an English legion . . . former members of the English Fascist Party or those with similar ideology – therefore quality, not quantity.’
Hitler stipulated that the unit should reach platoon strength – around 30 men – before going into action.
Amery toured PoW camps attempting to recruit British and Commonwealth-troops to enlist, but he met little more than catcalls and jeers. His recruiting leaflets were often used as lavatory paper by patriotic prisoners.
Courlander, though, was eager to enlist. Even before joining Amery’s unit, he proved his loyalties to his new masters by broadcasting on German radio. The Nazis thought that using British citizens for these transmissions was a useful propaganda weapon.
The most famous broadcaster was William Joyce, more infamously known as ‘Lord Haw-Haw’. But Courlander did more than just make broadcasts. He actively tried to convince fellow PoWs to join the new ‘British SS’.
The vast majority were understandably outraged. Those who were persuaded to sign up had often been members of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, or chancers who were lured by the promise of decent food, alcohol, and access to female company.
Towards the end of 1943, Courlander was sent to live in Pankow in Berlin, where he was billeted along with his fellow recruits. On January 1, 1944, the British Free Corps finally came into being, and Courlander was given the rank of corporal.
As the leading light in the unit, he had hoped to be commissioned as an officer, but the job went to a German SS captain called Hans-Werner Roepke.
In the spring, the unit was posted to Hildesheim, 20 miles south-east of Hanover, and on April 20, 1944 (Hitler’s 55th birthday), the unit had its inaugural parade wearing its specially designed BFC uniforms featuring the Union Flag and the three lions collar tab that Courlander is shown wearing in the photograph on this page.
What is not visible in this image is the cuff band which read ‘British Free Corps’, an addition that must surely have startled the residents of Hildesheim when the British collaborators caroused with German women in the local cafés.
Like his fellow traitors, Courlander jumped at the chance of female company, and while he continued his radio work in Berlin, he struck up a relationship with a German girl called Carola.
But as the year wore on, even the most dim-witted members of the BFC realised that the war was going against Germany, and they had no desire to go into action. ‘The unit was just trying to kill time,’ Captain Roepke remembered many years later.
Even Courlander’s loyalty to the Nazis dissipated, and during that summer he made plans to escape. Along with another BFC member, Francis Maton (see below), Courlander was seconded to the SS propaganda regiment on the Western Front, which he hoped would give him the chance to defect back to the Allies.
On September 3, the two men duly arrived in Brussels, where they went into hiding rather than face the advancing Allied army. The following day, they gave themselves up to a British officer, thus becoming the first two BFC men to be arrested.
THE STORY of Frank Maclardy, the Formby chemist who fought for the Waffen SS in World War II, has been resurrected this week after the discovery of a secret file.
The dusty document, marked ‘collaborators’ and containing photographs of 14 men including Maclardy at the centre of a RAF war crimes investigation, was found earlier this month at the National Archives in Kew. Maclardy was interrogated by the unit because, incredibly, he had fought for the British Free Corps within Hitler’s SS during World War II.
Born in Waterloo a year after the outbreak of the Great War, Maclardy developed a vicious political appetitite to contrast with his mundane life as an apprentice chemist in Formby. Nicknamed ‘Teeney Weeney’ on account of his physical immaturity, Frank’s remarkable 20th century odyssey began with his appointment as Formby secretary of the British Union of Fascists’s Liverpool branch, and ended with the former chemist having to explain away his SS paybook to the British Army in the ruins of post-war Hamburg.
The lower middle class Formby man entered the war in 1940, as member of the Royal Army Medical Corp, quickly captured by the Germans in Belgium and dispatched to Stalag 21 D in Poland. However, rather than endure the fate suffered by the 60,000 other British POWs during the war, the Formby man offered his services to his captors.
The Formby fascist was soon ushered in to the British Free Corps, a regiment of renegade Englishmen who wore a an SS uniform with a Union Jack on their sleeves.
The traitorous fighting unit was the brain child of John Amery, a scion of the British Establishment, sexual reprobate and life-long Nazi. The old Harrovian’s ‘baby’ won the personal approval of the Fuhrer and the unit was fighting fit by 1944.
However, as the Nazi empire began to unravel in 1945, the ragbag regiment began to fall apart. Amery was arrested by the British authorities and hung as a traitor, while Maclardy escaped with the lesser charge of aiding the enemy. He served seven years in prison and then emigrated to Germany, where he married Isobel and began a successful career with a chemicals company.
His wife gave birth to son Harold in 1956 and Bernard in 1957. Frank died in 1995.
The historian Adrian Weale, who co-produced the 2002 Channel Five documentary The Brits Who Fought For Hitler, speaking exclusively to the Formby Times, said:
“He was a very British traitor, and perhaps the flip side to Kim Philby and the Cambridge spy ring, although ironically Maclardy found the time to complete a distance learning degree chemistry degree at their University from prison. Maclardy’s class, which was lower middle explains a lot about his life-long fascination with fascism and nazism. I am not entirely sure how comfortable Maclardy would be in the BNP today. I think their thuggery might have put him off.”
Frank’s brother Donald, aged 88, said: “The family were all ashamed of him.
“He was a traitor. I can’t hate him – he was my brother. I even visited him in prison. My parents were horrified.”
By John D. Atlas (Written with Peter Dreier)
Huffington Post |March 23, 2010
Both pieces reported conservative allegations against ACORN as if they were true, without seeking to verify them. Yet since 2008 the paper has consistently ignored ACORN’s community organizing successes while focusing on its enemies’ accusations, belying its reputation as a “liberal” newspaper
This reflects the Times‘ more general failure to cover grassroots organizing, except when groups engage in protest or otherwise disrupt business-as-usual.
Moreover, when the Times botched the ACORN story, as Hoyt now concedes, it acted as an unwitting co-conspirator with Fox News, Glenn Beck and the rest of the right wing echo chamber in scapegoating an organization that helps the working poor facing hard times to stay in their homes, make a living wage, and vote.
Because of its pivotal role in bringing down ACORN, until recently the nation’s largest and most effective anti-poverty community organizing group, the Times owes the group an apology and the public a commitment to assign an experienced journalist to cover the complex world of community organizing, whose diverse practitioners mobilize poor and middle class people to win a voice in local, state, and national politics.
As the Times‘ public editor, Hoyt is supposed to be a kind of in-house inspector general, evaluating complaints from readers about the Times’ news coverage to make sure it meets the standards of first-rate journalism. The crux of Hoyt’s Sunday column is the following paragraph about the controversy over ACORN:
“It remains a fascinating story. To conservatives, Acorn is virtually a criminal organization that was guilty ofextensive voter registration fraud in 2008. To its supporters, Acorn is a community service organization that has helped millions of disadvantaged Americans by organizing to confront powerful institutions like banks and developers.”
Hoyt seems to be saying: Take your pick. Or, according to journalistic convention: the truth lies somewhere in between. In doing so, he fails the test of his job description, which is to examine whether the Times’ was accurate in its reporting. It is true, as Hoyt wrote, that conservatives have accused ACORN of being a “criminal organization” and “guilty of extensive voter registration fraud in 2008.” But neither of these accusations against ACORN is correct, which Hoyt doesn’t bother to explain.
The Times has never informed readers that the Republican Party’s ongoing war against ACORN began in 2004 and accelerated during the 2008 presidential campaign. Karl Rove (President Bush’s top political adviser) and conservative Republicans orchestrated an attack on Acorn for alleged “voter fraud,” as part of a campaign to suppress the voting of minorities and the poor. As part of this effort, a U.S. Attorney was asked to investigate ACORN. The investigation came up empty-handed, but the GOP operatives persisted. The allegations of “voter fraud” hit a peak in October 2008, aided by Arizona Sen. John McCain’s charge in a presidential debate with Barack Obama that Acorn “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” He demanded that Mr. Obama disclose his ties to ACORN. McCain frequently repeated those accusations on the campaign trail.
Urbana repeats the misleading canard that, “Some chapters were also found to have submitted voter application forms with incorrect information on them during the lead-up to the 2008 presidential election, leading to blistering charges from conservative organizations linking Acorn’s errors to the Obama campaign.”
In fact, ACORN never engaged in voter fraud. When ACORN ramped up for its massive voter registration campaigns, it hired thousands of part-time staff, a few of whom tried to beat the system and get paid while handing in phony registrations. ACORN’s quality-control procedures — phone-verifying every card, flagging problematic cards, and identifying offending workers for local officials — caught people trying to register under false names or multiple times. After ACORN reported these problem, politicians, mostly Republicans, used them against ACORN in the media and in the legal process.
The statutes in the states where ACORN registered prospective voters required ACORN to submit all registration forms they received, even when ACORN believed they were faulty. In nine of the eleven states where ACORN’s registration efforts were questioned, the law or voter-registration practice required ACORN to submit every voter-registration form, regardless of doubts about its authenticity. For any questionable form, ACORN’s quality-control staff had attached a “problematic card report coversheet.” As reported by McClatchy News Service and CNN, the law gave ACORN no choice but to flag the form and turn it in or face a thousand-dollar fine. ACORN neither had a policy nor an intention to engage in voter-registration or any kind of fraud. For all the publicity about some ACORN canvasser registering somebody in Florida who called himself “Mickey Mouse,” Mickey Mouse didn’t vote and couldn’t vote. According to Barnard College professor Lorraine Minnite, voter registration and voter fraud are very rare.
Republican candidates and officials accused ACORN of voter fraud, and even filed lawsuits claiming it, but ACORN has never been found guilty of voter fraud. Last December, a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted that as of last October, ACORN had been subjected to at least forty-six federal, state, and local investigations, with only eleven still outstanding. In addition, the U. S. Attorney’s office in Louisiana notified ACORN that it has closed its investigation. Only one state, Nevada, brought charges against ACORN, under an ambiguous law that prohibited paying staff to register voters.
The stories planted during and after the election season yielded a bountiful crop of misinformation The mainstream news media was unwittingly complicit in the conservative campaign to frame ACORN. For example, a study of media coverage of ACORN found that over half (55%) of the all stories about ACORN during 2007 and 2008 focused on “voter fraud,” while few stories reported on its grassroots organizing work. Moreover, 80 percent of the print and broadcast stories about ACORN’s alleged voter fraud (and 63 percent of the Times’ stories) failed to mention that ACORN itself was reporting voter-registration irregularities to authorities, as required by law. The Times’ coverage of ACORN was almost entirely negative; 56 percent of its stories focused on voter fraud and embezzlement.
Similarly, attacks against ACORN as a “criminal” organization have been a consistent mantra of the right and its business allies, who despise ACORN for its success at challenging the anti-consumer practices of banks and low-wage employers as well as its effective efforts to expand voting among the poor. But the fact that Rep. Darrel Issa and other ACORN opponents persistently claim that ACORN is criminal doesn’t make it so — a distinction that gets lost in the Times reporting. This attack line gained prominence when two conservative activists, Hanah Giles (claiming she was a prostitute) and James O’Keefe (claiming he was her friend), visited 10 ACORN offices with a hidden video camera and tried to trap the group’s housing counseling staff into giving them advice about buying a home to use for their prostitution ring.
Midway through his piece, Hoyt concedes the Times erred when it reported that O’Keefe entered the ACORN offices dressed as a pimp “in the outlandish costume — fur coat, goggle-like sunglasses, walking stick and broad-brimmed hat…” Hoyt excuses the error saying, “It is easy to see why The Times and other news organizations got a different impression. At one point, as the videos were being released, O’Keefe wore the get-up on Fox News, and a host said he was “dressed exactly in the same outfit he wore to these Acorn offices.” He did not. O’Keefe spliced into the videos scenes of him in the pimp outfit, which Giles later admitted. Hoyt acknowledges that the Times was wrong to write that O’Keefe was dressed as a pimp. But, he says, “just because O’Keefe lied about his wardrobe doesn’t mean that his videos don’t reveal problems with the behavior of ACORN, staffers argue.”
Hoyt says, “But I am satisfied that The Times was wrong on this point, and I have been wrong in defending the paper’s phrasing.” Had the Times interviewed ACORN’s staff and done some on the ground reporting it could have avoided that mistake.
Hoyt explains why he thinks the Times got the story wrong. “At least 14 reporters, reporting to different sets of editors, have touched it [the video controversy] since last fall. Nobody owns it. Bill Keller, the executive editor, said that, “sensing the story would not go away and would be part of a larger narrative,” the paper should have assigned one reporter to be responsible for it.” You’d think that, given its own internal disarray, the most powerful newspaper in the world would understand the management problems of an anti-poverty group — one that runs on a shoe-string budget and whose staff earns relatively low salaries.
Yes, a handful of ACORN staffers exercise bad judgment in dealing with O’Keefe and Giles. ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis quickly dismissed the offending employees, launched an independent internal review and audit of the service programs, and instituted a complete review of ACORN’s management operations to fix its weaknesses. Hoyt failed to emphasize that an investigation by the former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger found that to correct its management troubles ACORN’s board fired its founder in May 2008. ACORN, he found “…has made reforms in finances and governance a priority, including developing detailed bylaws, whistle-blower and document retention policies, and implementing independent auditing, codes of conduct and ethics, uniform and basic human resources and employment policies, and intensive board education and selection criteria.”
Further, while ACORN has had oversight and management difficulties, they have been blown way out of proportion. For example, the Times failed to report that in only 3 or 4 of the 10 offices visited by the fake pimp and prostitute did ACORN’s intake staff give patently outrageous advice and the videos covered only 10 of ACORN’s 103 offices. In none of the offices visited by the video-tapers did ACORN employees create client files or bills, file tax returns, sign or submit loan documents, or arrange bank loans.
Hoyt also failed to report that O’Keefe and Giles targeted ACORN not because they wanted to expose problems with its housing or tax counseling programs, but because ACORN was a thorn in the side of Republicans and conservatives for its large-scale voter-registration drives among poor African Americans and Latinos who tend to cast ballots for Democrats. “Politicians are getting elected single-handedly due to this organization,” O’Keefe told the press.
The Times played a critical role in damaging ACORN’s reputation among both its reluctant and stalwart allies and gave aid and comfort to its enemies. A few days after Fox News and CNN played several of O’Keefe’s misleading and doctored tapes over and over, the Times inaccurately reported that the fake pimp was “dressed so outlandishly that he might have been playing in a risqué high school play,” thus giving its imprimatur to the video-tapers’ lies. This image became implanted in the public mind, reinforcing the conservative view that ACORN was not only mismanaged but also that its African-American intake workers were buffoons and/ or corrupt.
Two days later, the U.S. House of Representatives (including many Democrats) voted to de-fund the organization. In reality, less than 10 percent of ACORN’s budget came from federal grants. But the symbolism of Congress’ action was more important than the money itself. Congress’ action provided ACORN’s cautious foundation funders with an excuse to abandon their support. By the time other reports exonerated ACORN of wrongdoing, it was too late. Likewise, by the time a federal district court judge in New York found Congress’ action to be an unconstitutional bill of attainder on March 10, ACORN could no longer use the money, since it was in the process of closing its offices. (The judge found no evidence that ACORN committed any crimes or violated federal contracts.)
Over the years, the Times has written about ACORN’s battles with banks over redlining and payday lending, its campaigns for local living wage laws, and its efforts to protect affordable housing. In most stories ACORN was identified as the “community” or “consumer” voice in a story about a controversy. But since the 2008 presidential election campaign, Times stories about ACORN have typically been about the controversy swirling around the group itself.
Urbana’s story is typical. He recounts how ACORN is close to bankruptcy because most of its major foundation supporters have withdrawn their grants. But because he doesn’t really understand community organizing and the role of foundations, he never explains how difficult it is for a group that protests the policies of the rich and powerful on behalf of the poor to get cautious foundations to support them. Only a tiny proportion of all foundations provide grants to activist groups. Some of the funders who supported ACORN — such as the Ford Foundation, the Mott Foundation, and the Campaign for Human Development (an arm of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops) — had long been under attack by conservatives for their grants to ACORN. Some abandoned ACORN after a series of Times reports about ACORN’s founder’s brother embezzling almost $1 million from the organization’s coffers in 2000 and internal fighting that ensued. Others cut off ACORN after the O’Keefe videos surfaced on Fox News and then elsewhere. Other funds abandoned ACORN after Congress voted to de-fund the organization.
Urbana fails to quote any foundation staff to understand why they withdrew their support or whether their perceptions of ACORN were accurate or based on false accusations that, repeated often enough, become what people believe.
ACORN could have survived the controversy over its founder’s misdeeds and management problems. At that point, a handful of funders withdrew, but others simply asked ACORN to improve its management oversight and its new leader, Bertha Lewis, had already begun the process. It was the steady drumbeat of attacks on ACORN, repeated by the right-wing echo chamber and reported by the mainstream media that ultimately destroyed ACORN.
By October 2008, a national Rasmussen poll found that 60% of likely voters had a slightly unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of ACORN. The same poll reported that 45% believed that ACORN was consciously trying to register people to vote multiple times in violation of election laws. By November 2009, another survey found that 26% of Americans — and 52% of Republicans — believed that ACORN had stolen the election for Obama. Overall 11% of Americans viewed ACORN favorably while 53% had a negative opinion of the group. ACORN has become well known, but what most Americans know about it is wrong, based on controversies manufactured by the group’s long-time enemies.
Likewise, Urbana reports that “Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, described Acorn at a December hearing as a ‘criminal organization’ working hand-in-glove with the Obama administration. In February, committee Republicans released a report saying that Acorn ‘exploits the poor and vulnerable’ for political gain.” It is definitely true that Issa said this and that the report by the Republican members of the committee (led by Issa, which Urbana doesn’t mention) said that. But are they true? Do newspapers have to report any controversial statement by politicians, even if they are known to be false or misleading?
Many journalism schools teach students about the media’s mistakes in covering Sen. Joseph McCarthy. In the early 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, newspapers routinely reported McCarthy’s accusations that he had an exact count, and the names, of Communists working in the federal government. The numbers kept changing, and he never released the lists, but the media kept reporting his accusations. Haven’t today’s journalists learned any lessons from that experience?
Urbana apparently has not. His story acknowledges that ACORN did a great deal of good during its 40 years as a grassroots anti-poverty group. But he engages in the typical “he said/she said” journalistic balancing act that journalism watchdogs have long recognized distorts the reality. For example, Urbana quotes two low-income ACORN members who were helped by the organization’s efforts. Then, Urbana writes: “But other supporters have grown disenchanted,” quoting Rick Tingling-Clemmons, 66, a teacher in Washington, who was “an enthusiastic dues-paying member, but soured on the organization over the reports of embezzlement and dropped his affiliation last year.” Based on Urbana’s calculations, for every two ACORN members who continue to support the organization, one has quit in disenchantment.” There is absolutely no evidence that more than a handful of ACORN members were prepared to leave the organization over the controversies.
Urbana reports that, “Republicans and conservatives attacked the group, in part because the group’s registration efforts typically signed up voters who were believed to support Democrats.” Yet he fails to inform readers that the voter fraud accusations were bogus.
Will the the Times learn any lessons from its mistakes in its coverage of ACORN over the years?
The Times has no reporter whose beat covers community organizing or, more generally, liberal and progressive activism, but it overwhelms readers with stories about the Tea Party, whose numbers pale in comparison to membership in grassroots community organizing in cities across the country. Community organizing has changed dramatically since the days of Saul Alinsky — whose books, Reveille for Radicals (1946) and Rules for Radicals (1971) became bibles for activists in the 1960s and 1970s. There are now thousands of grassroots community organizing groups around the country. There are also national networks and federations of community organizations that have significantly expanded and scale and scope of issue battles. These include National People’s Action, the Center for Community Change, PICO, Gamaliel, DART, and the Industrial Areas Foundation (the latter founded by Alinsky in the 1940s). On myriad issues, these groups — often working in partnership with immigrant rights groups, environmentalists, labor unions, tenants organizations, and others — have waged effective campaigns for reform.
After Sarah Palin attacked Obama’s community organizing experience in her acceptance speech at the GOP convention in St. Paul in 2008, there was a short increase — for about a week — of articles describing the work of community organizers. But since that peak, the mainstream media, including the Times, returned to its previous ignorance of this vital aspect of American democracy.
The Times does not have a community organizing “beat.” Instead, they cover community organizing groups sporadically, typically in stories about controversial issues in which community groups are involved. But like the environment, health care, banking, real estate, City Hall, or the Pentagon, reporters need to develop sources and expertise to understand a subject. No Times reporter has developed expertise in covering community organizing groups, or developed the kind of sources necessary to understand what they do on a day-to-day basis and how they wage organizing campaigns that target some of the most powerful corporations and politicians in the country.
The Times is not alone is this serious failure, but as the nation’s “paper of record” its failure is particularly glaring.
Indeed, the role of community organizing in American politics typically gets little attention in the mainstream media and is thus not well understood by the general public. Reporters know how to cover rallies, demonstrations, and riots, where protesters disrupt business-as-usual and get into the media’s line of vision. But effective grassroots organizing is rarely so dramatic. It typically involves lots of one-on-one meetings, strategy discussions, phone calls, and training sessions that lead people to join together to channel their frustrations and anger into organizations that win improvements in workplaces, neighborhoods and schools. The Times, like other media outlets, is generally more interested in political theater and confrontation — when workers strike, when community activists protest, or when hopeless people resort to rioting. As a result, with a few exceptions, much of the best organizing work is unreported in the mainstream media
This was particularly evident over the past year in the Times’ coverage of the bottom-up campaign for health care reform. The paper covered the political dance among politicians and inside-the-Beltway industry lobby groups, and the attacks on Obama and other Democrats by Tea Party activists, but it virtually ignored the work of activist reform groups, such as Health Care for America Now!, even when they participated in protest and civil disobedience at insurance company offices, homes of insurance CEOs, and town meetings. On March 9, for example, at least 5,000 protesters picketed outside the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C., where America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the powerful industry trade association, was holding its annual lobbying conference. About 50 public figures — including writer Barbara Ehrenreich, SEIU secretary-treasurer Anna Burger, AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, the Center for Community Change’s Deepak Bhargava, and former Congressman Bob Edgar — participated in civil disobedience. The following day, 24 insurance-industry victims — people who lost family members, are suffering because they were denied care, or went bankrupt due to premium costs — confronted reform opponents on Capitol Hill, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. Many major broadcast and newspaper outlets covered the protests, but not the Times.
This was not an isolated example. Throughout the health care debate, the Times published moving stories of families hurt by insurance industry malpractices, but overlooked the grassroots organizing among reformers that kept the issue alive when, several times, it appeared to be dead. Over the past year and half, it was HCAN and other grassroots activist groups that kept the pressure on the White House and on the Democrats in Congress, rallied the base, and kept public attention on the insurance industry.
ACORN was a key part of the HCAN coalition when it began in June 2008. As part of HCAN’s strategy, ACORN planned to mobilize its members in states with key moderate Democrats, like Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, to push for a strong health reform package, including a public option. But by early 2009, ACORN was reeling from the attacks by conservative echo chamber and the Republicans, and had too few resources to adequately defend itself, exacerbated by the one-sided mainstream media coverage. As result, ACORN played a marginal role in the health reform battles.
Acorn, which once had offices in 37 states will close all affiliated and field offices by April 1st. One of ACORN’s legacies is the thousands of its former staff people who over many years learned organizing, research, and lobbying skills from ACORN and went on to work in many other public interest and grassroots activist and advocacy groups — unions, immigrant rights and environmental groups, health reform groups, consumer groups, and even as staffers to progressive legislators. Although no other community organizing group has reached the scale that ACORN had achieved at its peak two years ago, there are other local, state, and national groups that will continue to mobilize the poor for social change. Many of these groups will benefit by hiring some of ACORN’s laid-off staffers. And the state branches of ACORN that recently broke off to form independent anti-poverty groups will no doubt emerge as serious advocates for the disadvantaged. But the loss of ACORN leaves a huge void in the nation’s political landscape, one that won’t be filled quickly.
The mainstream media, including the New York Times, played a pivotal role in ACORN’s demise, but it has refused to acknowledge its role, as the two stories in the Times last weekend reveal. Hoyt, who rebuked the Times’ editors last year for missing the right-wing attack on ACORN, now needs to urge the daily to assign a reporter to cover the important work of progressives community organizing groups.