Newspaper column: Public has a right to see justice done

Steve Kelly cartoon

Currently playing in theaters across the country is a movie called “The Post,” about  how in 1971 The New York Times and The Washington Post both brazenly defied the law of the land and published excerpts of a highly classified document that has since been dubbed the Pentagon Papers, which outlined how a succession of presidents lied to and concealed information from the American public about events and strategy in the Vietnam War.

The public had a right to know, both papers argued.

There was nothing in the Papers that would have jeopardized American security or troops, just the confidence of the American people in the belief that their leaders would tell them the unvarnished truth.

Today, both of those papers are being less than enthusiastic about the public’s right to know what is in a declassified memo from the House Intelligence Committee that states there are “concerns with the legitimacy and legality” of how law enforcement obtained court approval to wiretap a then volunteer political adviser to  now-President Donald Trump, Carter Page, in an investigation into whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with officials of the Russian government.

The memo indicates Justice and FBI officials were less than forthcoming with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about the material used to support the request for permission to surveil an American citizen, despite the Fourth Amendment guarantee that citizens are to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. The memo specifically addresses the fact the Christopher Steele “dossier” was bought and paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign and that the credibility of Steele himself was doubtful after he was quoted as saying he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.”

Never mind that then-FBI Director James Comey testified that the dossier was “salacious and unverified.”

The Post editorialized that the Intelligence Committee under Republican Devin Nunes of California “has become another front in Mr. Trump’s assault on the law enforcement institutions investigating the president and his associates. House Republicans are poisoning the committee’s relationship with the intelligence community and distracting from real issues demanding attention.”

Poisoning? Distracting?

The editorialists at the Times opened with the dismissive line, “Seriously? That’s all they’ve got?” From there the paper derisively chided the House Republicans for what it seemed to believe is a newly discovered reverence for transparency.

“Since the Republicans are now on board with greater transparency, they will no doubt push President Trump to release his tax returns, as every other major-party presidential nominee has done for the past four decades, won’t they?” the Times taunted.

There was nothing in the memo that in any way jeopardizes national security, but the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee fired off a memo declaring, “The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information …” adding, “The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the President.”

Nevada’s Democrats, of course, joined the hooting chorus of naysaying.

Freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is running against Sen. Dean Heller this year, said, “Declassifying this memo, filled with innuendo to support unsubstantiated claims, is a blatant attempt to discredit Robert Mueller’s investigation for political gain. This was all done despite the objections of the FBI, and these attacks undermine the integrity of our federal law enforcement officers.”

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto released a statement declaring, “This partisan memo is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the very real issue: Did a presidential candidate’s campaign work with a foreign government to influence our election process? I support the dedicated professionals at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is clear that to some Republicans in Congress, it’s more important to play politics than to support law enforcement. No one should ever be above the law.

Including those in law enforcement?

Rep. Dina Titus fired off this retort, “Republicans are willing to jeopardize our national security by attacking and undermining an FBI investigation of one of Trump’s advisers in a memo that has material omissions of fact, distortions, and ulterior motives. … Something doesn’t add up. Trump has something to hide.”

And what is the purpose of classifying a document, but to hide? While declassifying reveals.

For justice to be done, it must the seen, and not cloaked under a veil of secrecy.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

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WaPo fact check: Democrat tax hike claim a tad bit misleading

On Tuesday Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto made some odd claims in a press release about how the GOP tax reform bill would rip off middle-class taxpayers. We poked fun at a few items, but it turns out one was a whopper.

The Washington Post today looked into a claim made by three Democrats a week ago, the same one made by Cortez Masto this week. She claimed, “The average tax increase on families nationwide earning up to $86,100 would be $794.”

In tweets, Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jeff Merkley of Oregon made the same bogus claim.

 

It turns out that claim was lifted from a Democratic Policy and Communications Committee analysis. According to the Post the document had this line on each state page: “The average tax increase on families nationwide earning up to $86,100 would be $794, a significant burden for middle-class families.”

This was attributed to a report by Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee. That report stated, “If enacted, the Republican tax reform proposal would saddle 8 million households that earn up to $86,100 with an average tax increase of $794 — a substantial expense for working families.”

But you see, there are 122 million households making less than $86,100. Thus only 6.5 percent of those households would see a tax hike of that amount. The Post reported that more than 97 million, or 80 percent, of that group would get a tax cut averaging about $450.

(Tax Policy Center)

The Post piece concludes, “In their haste to condemn the GOP tax plan, Democrats have spread far and wide the false claim that families making less than $86,100 on average will face a hefty tax hike. Actually, it’s the opposite. Most families in that income range would get a tax cut. Any Democrat who spread this claim should delete their tweets and make clear they were in error.”

 

Newspaper throws stones at liberal East Coast media

The Las Vegas Vegas newspaper carried a front page story in its Sunday edition that criticized The New York Times and The Washington Post for largely ignoring the story of five Pakistani-born congressional informational technology employees suspected by Capitol Police of violating security policies.

“Unlike the Trump Russian scandal, however, The Washington Post and The New York Times have barely reported on the story, which has conservatives observing — with President Donald Trump’s Twitter account concurring — that the mainstream media have a double standard,” the story, which carries a slug calling it an analysis, reports.

 

Up until Sunday, the local paper had itself carried only two mentions in print of the main character in the story, Imran Awan. One was a Washington Post story about Trump’s twitter posts that mentioned a Trump tweet about Awan. Another was a brief that reported Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman, had finally fired Awan after his arrest at Dulles Airport as he was about to board a flight to Pakistan after wiring nearly $300,000 there. Some of that money was suspected of being the proceeds of bank fraud.

In the past month alone the paper appears to have carried a dozen accounts that contain the words Russia, Trump and collusion.

After reporting that the five suspects — four members of the same family and a friend of the family — had been paid $4 million over the past dozen years, “three times higher than the norm for a government contractor,” the analysis scolded:

“There is enough smoke to this story to merit intense news coverage. Yet, The Washington Post, the federal government’s hometown paper, had published only two stories on the Awan saga as of Tuesday, when the Post ran an explainer that looked at the story through two lenses — one conservative, one liberal.”

The analysis concludes with this observation: “It is impossible not to see a double standard. The Democrats’ IT guys enjoy the presumption of innocence. And that would be OK, if big beltway media showed the president the same courtesy.”

Those who live in glass houses …

Debbie Wassermann Schultz (AP pix via WSJ)

 

Obama declares Gold Butte a national monument

Gold Butte (R-J photo by Jeff Scheid)

Gold Butte (R-J photo by Jeff Scheid)

Obama has made another midnight ramble, locking up still more land from productive use in Nevada and Utah. Today he added to the already millions of acres of national monuments by naming Gold Butte in northeast Clark County and Bears Ears in Utah as monuments, according to the Washington Post.

Using the constitutionally questionable Antiquities Act, Obama basically declared the land in the two new monuments off limits, though we doubt Bundy’s free range cattle can tell where the boundary lies.

As WaPo noted Harry Reid has been pushing Obama to designate 300,000 acres of Gold Butte before leaving office. “Reid intensified his campaign when the Bundys were jailed earlier this year for a takeover at the Oregon wildlife refuge, arguing that any pushback would be minimized while they were incarcerated,” the paper reports.

Whether there will be a pushback from the new Trump administration remains to be seen.

Sen. Dean Heller had urged Obama to not designate Gold Butte, but Reid’s hand-picked Senate heir is not like to join with opposing the move.

How well are the mainstream media covering questions about Hillary’s health?

Clinton coughing during a recent speech. (AP photo via WSJ)

Clinton coughing during a recent speech. (AP photo via WSJ)

She is trying to have it both ways.

Hillary Clinton told the FBI she could not recall briefings about classified information due to a concussion she had in 2012.

The FBI report said, “However, in December of 2012, Clinton suffered a concussion and then around the New Year had a blood clot (in her head). Based on her doctor’s advice, she could only work at State for a few hours a day and could not recall every briefing she received.”

But now Clinton’s surrogates are attacking the news media for deigning to question her health after she experienced a four-minute coughing spasm at a recent speech and another aboard an airplane while being questioned by reporters.

“They’re trying to work the refs a little bit as they try to push back on the mainstream media’s willingness to pick up on some of this stuff that’s usually left to the fringes,” Clinton surrogate and former Harry Reid mouthpiece Jim Manley said of the efforts.

The Hill said the campaign intends to counterattack news media who even dare to take seriously questions about her health.

A number of conservative outlets have raised the issue of her health, but Manley said the campaign fears the issue is “bleeding to the mainstream media.”

Which is funny, since The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto just pointed out that media are trying to tamp down the story.

“Hillary Clinton is in excellent health, so shut up: That’s a summary of the media narrative that emerged last month after Donald Trump questioned whether Mrs. Clinton has ‘mental and physical stamina.’ A Puffington Host headline proposed: ‘Let’s Call The Conspiracy Theories About Hillary’s Health What They Are.’ What are they? You guessed it: ‘The subtext of the rumors spouted by Trump and his crew of armchair doctors is clear: [Mrs.] Clinton is biologically unfit to lead,’ asserted senior reporter Melissa Jeltsen,” Taranto writes. ‘She’s a woman, after all.’”

A Huffington Post contributor who posted comments questioning Clinton’s health was immediately terminated.

The WSJ columnist reports mainstream media headlines have included the Washington Post’s “Armed With Junk Science and Old Photos, Critics Question #HillarysHealth,” The New Yorker’s “The Far Right’s Obsession With Hillary’s Health” and the Atlantic’s “Questions About Hillary’s Health: The Birtherism of 2016.”

But a former Clinton aide told The Hill, “I think that the fact that any mainstream publications would do anything but make this is a story about Donald Trump is completely out of the mainstream and why these claims have gotten worse. …

“The fact of the matter is there is no truth or factual evidence to debunk,” the former aide continued. “She is perfectly healthy. The only way is to challenge him to a pushup contest at the first debate.”

The website WND, admittedly not mainstream, has tracked down a number of doctors willing to diagnose Hillary from afar and call for her to release health records.

Typical were the comments of Dr. Gerard Gianoli of Tulane University:

“What do we know about Mrs. Clinton’s health? We know that she has suffered two deep vein thromboses and an episode of cerebral venous thrombosis. Blood spontaneously clotting within one’s veins on three separate occasions is not a good thing. In fact, it is life-threatening. This tells us that she has a hypercoagulable state requiring the use of Coumadin (a ‘blood thinner’) for the rest of her life to try to prevent this from happening again. While Coumadin may prevent future blood clots, it can also lead to life-threatening hemorrhage if she has any future trauma.

“We also know that she suffered a concussion and, according to her husband, she took 6 months to recover. How do we know she recovered? If she was a high school athlete, she would have had mandatory neuropsychological testing before being allowed to participate in sports again. Given that being the leader of the free world is more important than playing goalie for the local high school, why is the mainstream media not demanding to see Mrs. Clinton’s post-concussion testing?”

 

 

All the news that fits

That Washington Post story on the front page of today’s Las Vegas newspaper about an Iranian scientist being executed was trimmed before getting to a rather politically interesting aspect.

What you did not read in the local paper was that the scientist, Shahram Amiri, had been mentioned in an email on Hillary Clinton’s server and that email was made public this past year. The section left on the cutting room floor, the last two paragraphs, reads:

Amiri appeared to be mentioned in emails released last year by Clinton as part of investigations into her use of a private server while she was secretary of state. An email forwarded to Clinton on July 5, 2010 — nine days before Amiri returned to Tehran — apparently refers to Amiri’s case.

“We have a diplomatic, ‘psychological’ issue, not a legal one. Our friend has to be given a way out,” wrote Richard Morningstar, who was then a State Department special envoy for Eurasian energy affairs. “We should recognize his concerns and frame it in terms of a misunderstanding with no malevolent intent and that we will make sure there is no recurrence.”

Apparently being a “friend” of the United States is a capital offense in Iran.

The Guardian story was more to the point:

The release of Clinton’s emails last year by the State Department appeared to have been damning for Amiri. A number of emails sent to the then secretary of state appeared to support claims that he was a defector. “Our friend has to be given a way out. We should recognise his concerns and frame it in terms of a misunderstanding with no malevolent intent and that we will make sure there is no recurrence. Our person won’t be able to do anything anyway. If he has to leave, so be it,” wrote one senior official to Clinton, according to CNN.

“Following the reported revelations in the Clinton emails, Amiri was executed for spying,” said Dina Esfandiary, MacArthur fellow at the centre for science and security studies at King’s College London. “In the Iranian judiciary’s mind, it’s a necessary signal to the US that Iran is aware of their activities in Iran and that this is what is done to those who help the enemy. It’s a textbook spying case.”

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton accused Clinton of being reckless with such information, according to a Washington Examiner story:

Hillary Clinton recklessly discussed, in emails hosted on her private server, an Iranian nuclear scientist who was executed by Iran for treason, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Sunday.

“I’m not going to comment on what he may or may not have done for the United States government, but in the emails that were on Hillary Clinton’s private server, there were conversations among her senior advisors about this gentleman,” he said on “Face the Nation.” Cotton was speaking about Shahram Amiri, who gave information to the U.S. about Iran’s nuclear program.

The senator said this lapse proves she is not capable of keeping the country safe.

“That goes to show just how reckless and careless her decision was to put that kind of highly classified information on a private server. And I think her judgment is not suited to keep this country safe,” he said.

But you’ll not read that in the local paper.

Shahram Amiri speaks to journalists after returning to Tehran in July 2010. (Reuters photo)

The crusade against ‘biased cops’ is based on a false premise

By now you’ve read about the police officers killing armed black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and the the black sniper killing five cops and wounding more in Dallas during a Black Lives Matter protest.

And you’ve heard Obama say the shootings of blacks by cops “are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”

 

Perhaps you recall Hillary Clinton saying earlier in the year that “too many encounters with law enforcement end tragically,” later adding that there is “systemic racism.”

Perhaps you’ve even read the stats compiled by the Washington Post showing that 26 percent of those killed by police officers in 2015 were black, though blacks are only 13 percent of the population. Then there are the FBI crime stats that reveal 51 percent of those charged with murder and 56 percent of those charged with robbery are black.

But perhaps you missed The Wall Street Journal op-ed from February that was reposted this weekend. Reporter Heather Mac Donald, whose book “The War on Cops” came out June 21, “Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police.”

Mac Donald also reports that studies refute claim by the Black Lives Matter and certain politicians, that white cops are more likely to shoot blacks. One study of the Philadelphia Police Department found black and Hispanic officers were much more likely than white officers to shoot blacks upon the mistaken belief the person is armed. A study of New York City police found that at a crime scene where gunfire occurs black cops were 3.3 times more likely fire than other cops at the scene.

 

Never let the facts get in the way of your presumptions of racism and fatal bias.

The following is an excerpt from Mac Donald’s book posted on Fox News:

In the summer of 2014 a lie overtook significant parts of the country and grew into a kind of mass hysteria.

That lie holds that the police pose a mortal threat to black Americans—indeed, that the police are the greatest threat facing black Americans today.

Several subsidiary untruths buttress that central myth: that the criminal-justice system is biased against blacks; that there is no such thing as a black underclass; and that crime rates are comparable between blacks and whites, so that disproportionate police action in minority neighborhoods cannot be explained without reference to racism.

The poisonous effect of these lies manifested itself in the cold-blooded assassination of two NYPD officers in December that year.

The highest reaches of American society promulgated those untruths and participated in the mass hysteria.

President Barack Obama, speaking after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, declared that blacks were right to believe that the criminal-justice system was often stacked against them. Obama repeated that message as he traveled around the country subsequently.

Eric Holder escalated a long-running theme of his tenure as U.S. attorney general: that the police routinely engaged in racial profiling and needed federal intervention to police properly.

University presidents rushed to show their fealty to the lie. Harvard’s Drew Gilpin Faust announced that “injustice” toward black lives “still thrives so many years after we hoped we could at last overcome the troubled legacy of race in America. . . . Harvard and . . . the nation have embraced [an] imperative to refuse silence, to reject injustice.” Smith College’s president abjectly flagellated herself for saying that “all lives matter,” instead of the current mantra, “black lives matter.” Her ignorant mistake, she confessed, drew attention away from “institutional violence against Black people.”

The New York Times ratcheted up its already-stratospheric level of anti-cop polemics. In an editorial justifying the Ferguson riots  the Times claimed that “the killing of young black men by police is a common feature of African-American life and a source of dread for black parents from coast to coast.”

In reality, however, police killings of blacks are an extremely rare feature of black life and a minute fraction of black homicide deaths.

Blacks are killed by police at a lower rate than their threat to officers would predict. To cite more data on this point: in 2013, blacks made up 42 percent of all cop killers whose race was known, even though blacks are only about 13 percent of the nation’s population.