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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Navy ship christening named for immigrant in Bath Maine

The USS Rafael was christened on Saturday. The Navy warship was named in honor of Marine Rafael Peralta, who died in Iraq. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with the Marine's brother, Sgt. Ricardo Peralta.

Rafael Peralta USMC

Americans are largely unaware about the number of immigrants who are defending our nation in the US military.

Today, October 31, a naval ship was christened in Bath Maine, at the Bath Iron Works, named after one of these brave immigrants. 

We learned about this important ship christening while lsitening to Scott Simon's "Weekend Edition" on National Public Radio. Unfortunately, to our knowledge, jusa a few of the Maine media covered this local story. Thank you NPR Scott Simon!

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:  The U.S. Navy has named ships after cities - the USS San Diego and Chicago, states, the Alabama and the Texas, presidents, the Lincoln, the Roosevelt, the Reagan, and battles, the Iwo Jima, the Antietam. Now and then, they name warships after fallen warriors. The USS Rafael Peralta will be christened today at the Bath Iron Works in Maine. Sgt. Peralta, was killed 11 years ago in Iraq when he threw himself onto a grenade to protect his fellow soldiers. 
Ricardo Peralta is his brother, and he joins us now from Maine. Thanks very much for being with us.
RICARDO PERALTA: I'm honored to be here, sir. Thank you.

SIMON: What can you tell us about your brother? Why did he join the Marines?

PERALTA: I was in the - around second grade. I witnessed him, his excitement. He wanted to be a part of something greater than him. He would watch the - I remember seeing the Marine Corps commercials and him, you know, being in high school getting excited. His pride in being in a Marine just - that's all he wanted to do. And in the letter, he tells me that if anything did happen to him that he already lived his life to the fullest, and he's happy with what he lived.

SIMON: This is a letter he sent you.

PERALTA: Yes, sir. Since I got the word of him being killed in action, I received a letter. And those words where he states that if anything did happen that he was happy with what he lived is what's kept me at ease throughout the years, just knowing that at the end, he died doing what he wanted to do and that was to fight for his country as an infantry rifleman.

SIMON: Mr. Peralta, what happened the day your brother died?

PERALTA: The day my brother died, he volunteered to go out there with another squad, and they got to a room where ultimately he was shot and wounded, and he was just laying in between the insurgents and the Marines. You know, the insurgents threw a yellow grenade that rolled over towards my brother's perimeter where he grabbed the grenade, cradled it. My brother absorbed the blast, and that ultimately was the end of him. He saved the lives of his fellow Marines, and I'm actually fortunate enough to meet, again, Cpl. Robert Reynolds. He's actually attending the ceremony. I can call him my brother because going through something like that, all you have is nothing but respect. And I stayed in touch with the other Marines that my brother saved. They've remained honorable men. I mean, my brother did not die in vain at all. Those men, they deserve another shot at life.

SIMON: Your family's from Mexico City, right?

PERALTA: Yes, sir. I was the only one born here.

SIMON: But your brother was born in Mexico City, right?

PERALTA: Yes, sir.

SIMON: And he loved America.

PERALTA: I have a quote here from the letter where he says, I'm proud to be a Marine, a U.S. Marine, and to defend and protect the freedom and constitution of America. You should be proud of being an American citizen. After all, our dad came to this country and became a citizen. He was proud of his Mexican heritage. He was proud of where he came from as much as he was proud to be an American citizen. He was just the ultimate American. There's nothing more American than to volunteer, fight for your country, and give your life for your men. There's nothing more American than that.

SIMON: What's it mean to have a ship named after your brother?

PERALTA: For me, this christening ceremony, the USS Rafael Peralta, I feel like it holds the spirit of what my brother fought for, that fighting spirit. The courage until the end is the ship's motto, and, I mean, my brother defines that. I've never been able to compare my brother's letter to a certain thing, and the USS Rafael Peralta is that. In his letter, he states that, be proud of me, bro. I'm going to make history. Those were his words. And I felt for the first time that the USS Rafael Peralta is that history that he's talking about.

SIMON: Mr. Peralta, thank you for your service and your family.

PERALTA: Yes, sir. Thank you.

Marine Times:
Warship honoring Marine Rafael Peralta christened at Maine shipyard

First in English, then in Spanish, the mother of a fallen Marine who shielded his comrades from an insurgent's grenade christened a new Navy destroyer in his honor.

The mother of Sgt. Rafael Peralta asked God to bless the ship named for her son and keep the crew safe before smashing a bottle of Champagne on the ship's bow Saturday.

The ceremony to christen the future USS Rafael Peralta paid homage to the slain Marine, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service of a country to which he emigrated as a boy.

Peralta, who pulled a grenade against his body to protect his fellow Marines during close combat with insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 15, 2004, is believed to be the first serviceman born in Mexico to have a naval warship named in his honor.

"He believed more about the goodness of America than most Americans, to the point of fighting and sacrificing everything for what America stands for," Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, said as he quoted from Peralta's former commanding officer from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, the Hawaii-based "Lava Dogs."

Peralta came to the U.S. with his family, attended high school in San Diego, then enlisted on the day he received his green card. He hung only three things on his wall: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and his Marine boot camp graduation certificate.

Among Marines, Peralta is well known for his heroism.

The sergeant was nominated for the Medal of Honor — the nation's highest military honor — after fellow Marines said he covered a grenade after being shot and wounded during close-quarters combat. The defense secretary at the time ultimately rejected that honor because of questions over whether the mortally wounded Marine was conscious at the time.

Peralta's family, which has no doubt about his valor, said the naming of the 510-foot guided-missile destroyer in the fallen Marine's honor has eased some of the bitterness.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is one of a handful of Navy ships to be named for Mexican-Americans.

The USS Gonzalez bears the name of Master Sgt. Alfredo Cantu Gonzalez, a Marine who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. 

The cargo ship USNS Benavidez is named for another Medal of Honor recipient, Raul Perez Benavidez. 

There's also a ship named for labor activist Cesar Chavez, a Navy veteran who died in 1993.

Unfortunately, I don't know of any Maine media that reported on this important and poignant story. WCSH - WGME- Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News were absent.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Syria and evil ISIS now have what they want - US boots on the ground

Now we know. In fact, the secret "horse" is out of the barn. 

Indeed, the elite US special forces were finally revealed as "troops on the groupd", in Syria and likely other places, as well. 

US Special Forces ops logo

Probably, these US troops are anywhere or maybe they're everywhere. 

This "who knew?" knowledge will have one amazing response. There will be a huge shift in evil ISIS and Syrian army strategy. Instead of fighting to take over the world, the evil ISIS forces will focus like laser beams on capturing one American service person. 

Odds are, they're already setting up multiple traps to accomplish their nefarious goal. Terrorists like evil ISIS and their like minded allies will create international chaos with only one American military hostage.

Sadly, the killing of Master Sargeant Joshua Wheeler in Iraq, the first since American troops returned in mid-2014 to train, advise and assist the Iraqi military to fight ISIS, has ripped the scab off of the myth that Americans would not put boots on the ground in these daunting serial wars.  (He's the first American combat death that we know about....).  Two military officials said that Wheeler was a team leader for the elite Army special operations unit commonly known as "Delta Force," which is based at that command at Fort Bragg NC.  Since the Master Sargeant's death was revealed, the "boots on the ground" strategy was also unmasked. There's no way these "boots" are isolated to Iraq.

With Master Sargeant Wheeler's death, Americans are now officially back in Syria. 

What in the world is our government thinking by revealing the strategy of putting American troops on the ground when they're obviously vulnerable to capture?  Our "troops on the ground" are a challenge to our enemy. Moreover, our admitted presence is an acceleration of the now rescucitated Iraq War.  

It seems like the Iraq War is the zombie that just won't die, regardless of how many stakes are driven into its heart.  

The Washington Post reports:

Obama intensifies operations in Syria with Special Ops troops
The White House said President Obama plans to deploy a small number of special operations forces to Syria to advise rebels that Washington deems moderate. When asked about the number of troops, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, "The less than 50 number is accurate. (Reuters)

(IMO, this is not reliable information. If Earnest says "about 50" special forces will be sent, then what he REALLY means to say is that 50 MORE will go, above and beyond the unknown number who are already there. Indeed, that's more like the truth than "less than 50".)

President Obama is sending a small number of Special Operations forces­ to northern Syria, marking the first full-time deployment of U.S. troops to the chaotic country.

The mission marks a major shift for Obama, whose determination to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been balanced by an abiding worry that U.S. troops not be pulled too deeply into the in­trac­table Syrian conflict.

The latest deployment will involve fewer than 50 Special Operations advisers, who will work with resistance forces­ battling the Islamic State in northern Syria, but will not engage in direct combat, Obama administration officials said. (Anybody who believes this is certifably delusional.)

“This is an intensification of a strategy that the president announced more than a year ago,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

The move, which the president’s national security team recommended late last week, reflects Obama’s growing dissatisfaction with the halting progress in Iraq and Syria and his commanders’ sense that the Islamic State has significant vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

This map below illustrates how complicated this situation is:
US troops are expected to begin arriving over the next month in Syria, where their main focus will be advising Syrian Arab and Kurdish forces­ who have fought to within 30 miles of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital, said a senior defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. 

US troops are expected to remain largely at the “headquarters level,” where they will assess the local forces­ and help plan military operations to put continued pressure on Raqqa and a 60-mile-long stretch of the Syria-Turkey border.

A successful attack on Raqqa would mark a major victory for the forces­ battling the Islamic State.

The Special Operations forces, even though they are focused on advising U.S. allies and not direct combat, still face a real threat. “This is a dangerous place on the globe, and they are at risk,” Earnest said. “There is no denying it.” The deployment, like the recent commitment to keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan after 2016, would be essentially open-ended, he said.

The introduction of U.S. advisers follows Russia’s stepped-up involvement in the war in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opening at a hastily convened meeting of diplomats in Vienna on Friday to discuss ways to end the increasingly bloody conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he ordered his country’s military to strike Islamic State ­forces, but White House officials said that the Russians are indiscriminately targeting all rebel forces­ arrayed against the regime. 

In fact, Russia’s military actions on behalf of the Assad regime have complicated U.S. efforts to help rebels in northern Syria, where U.S. officials are worried that American-backed forces­ will feel compelled to shift their focus from battling the Islamic State to helping their beleaguered allies fight Assad.

The Russian operations have, in particular, sapped momentum from a push by Syrian Arab fighters to drive the Islamic State from the contested stretch of the border between Syria and Turkey, U.S. officials said. In the past few weeks, U.S. airstrikes in Syria have dropped off dramatically, prompting concern from local fighters allied with the Americans.

The recent deployment of Special Operations forces­ along with new U.S. warplanes headed to Turkey suggest that the airstrikes will soon intensify. The White House plans to send A-10 ground attack planes and F-15 fighter jets to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where they will be able to support ground operations against the Islamic State. The heavily armored A-10s, which fly low and slow over the battlefield, are built to back ground troops engaged in combat.

The planes will also focus on attacking the Islamic State’s supply lines that connect its base in Syria to its fighters in Iraq. Russia was not made aware of the deployment of U.S. troops into the country, the senior defense official said.

The new deployment of ground troops and planes drew a mixed reaction from Democrats, who worried about the deepening U.S. involvement in the war, and Republicans, who said that the small U.S. force was insufficient and disconnected from a broader, coherent strategy.

“These steps may prove to be too little, too late,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “I do not see a strategy for success, rather it seems the administration is trying to avoid a disaster while the president runs out the clock.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the latest moves “yet another insufficient step in the Obama administration’s policy of gradual escalation.”

Obama first asked for a broader set of options in Iraq and Syria when he visited the Pentagon in July. That meeting came two months after Iraqi army troops were driven from Ramadi, about 80 miles west of Baghdad, by a much smaller Islamic State force.

Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the administration’s new plan for Iraq and Syria would focus on aiding the slow-moving Iraqi army assault on Ramadi, the military operations around Raqqa and more raids on Islamic State leaders in both countries.

[Defense Secretary Carter says Iraqis lacked will to fight]

Obama also spoke Friday with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to outline U.S. plans to intensify support for the Ramadi operation and an increase in raids aimed at the Islamic State leadership in the country.

Administration officials said that the U.S. and Iraqi governments are working on plans to establish a joint Special Operations task force to target Islamic State leaders and their network. The raids would be conducted with the backing of U.S. Special Operations forces backed with U.S.-supplied intelligence.

The move was foreshadowed this week by Carter, who told lawmakers that the military’s elite counter­terrorism forces­ would increase the pace of raids like the one in northern Iraq that freed as many as 70 captives being held by the Islamic State and resulted in the death of Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler.

Senior defense officials said Obama remained open to deploying Apache attack helicopters and forward air controllers, who are trained to move with Iraqi forces­ and call in airstrikes, if needed for future operations.

More costly and ambitious measures in Syria, such as no-fly zones or buffer zones that would require tens of thousands of ground troops, did not receive the backing of Obama’s top policy advisers and weren’t among the options forwarded to the president. Many Republicans and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton have said they favor a no-fly zone in Syria.

Even as the White House announced the measures in Iraq and Syria, senior administration officials played down hopes that the additional forces­ would fundamentally change the circumstances in either country.

“The president has been quite clear that there is no military solution to the problems that are plaguing Iraq and Syria,” Earnest said. “There is a diplomatic one.”

Tragically, this acceleration will not resolve the horrific problems in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and all the other places where extreme danger is lurking.  Whether the US sends 50 or another 5,000 troops (God forbid) the fact is, President Obama would never have renigged on his promise not to put American "boots on the ground" unless the entire situation in the middle east was worsening.  With Russia overtly involved, there was truly no alternative but to put "troops on the ground".

Regardless of what's going on in the middle east, my prediction is that the entire focus of our evil ISIS enemy will now be to capture just one American.  God protect us. 

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Republicans and anti-knowledge- Ben Carson exposed!

"Ben Carson. The man is anti-knowledge incarnated, a walking compendium of every imbecility ever uttered during the last three decades. Obamacare is worse than chattel slavery. Women who have abortions are like slave owners. If Jews had firearms they could have stopped the Holocaust (author’s note: they obtained at least some weapons during the Warsaw Ghetto rising, and no, it didn’t). Victims of a mass shooting in Oregon enabled their own deaths by their behavior. And so on, ad nauseam."

Dr. Ben Carson is a compendium of imbecility writes Moyers and Company: ".....overlapping and mutually reinforcing segments of the right-wing media-entertainment- 'educational' complex, makes it now possible for (zealots) to sail on an ocean of political, historical, and scientific disinformation, without ever sighting the dry land of empirical fact." 
Josh Billings put it, “The trouble with people is not that they don’t know, but that they know so much that ain’t so.”

Josh Billings was the pen name of 19th-century American humorist Henry Wheeler Shaw (April 21, 1818 – October 14, 1885). He was a famous humor writer and lecturer in the United States, perhaps second to Mark Twain, during the latter half of the 19th century. 

Well, Billings may have immortalized his own memory by succinctly describing the unscientific beliefs of many in the American Republican political party- including Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon.  In other words the Grand Old Party has morphed into a group of "grumpy old politicians" who suffer from an anti-science syndrome of unknown orign.  

The GOP and the Rise of Anti-Knowledge as posted by journalist Bill Moyers provides more insight:
October 29, 2015 by Mike Lofgrenrt.

This post was first published at Consortium News.

In the realm of physics, the opposite of matter is not nothingness, but antimatter. In the realm of practical epistemeology, the opposite of knowledge is not ignorance, but anti-knowledge. This seldom recognized fact is one of the prime forces behind the decay of political and civic culture in America. (In my opinion, it's an "everybody is an expert!" - syndrome.)

Some common-sense philosophers have observed this point over the years. “Genuine ignorance (I believe the author  here is referring to ingorance of completely not knowing,  rather than of stubborn or bull-headedness) is . . . profitable because it is likely to be accompanied by humility, curiosity, and open mindedness; whereas (on the other hand) ability to repeat catch-phrases, cant terms, familiar propositions, gives the conceit of learning and coats the mind with varnish, waterproof to new ideas,” observed psychologist John Dewey.

Or, as humorist Josh Billings put it, “The trouble with people is not that they don’t know, but that they know so much that ain’t so.”

Fifty years ago, if a person did not know who the prime minister of Great Britain was, what the conflict in Vietnam was about, or the barest rudiments of how a nuclear reaction worked, he would shrug his shoulders and move on. And if he didn’t bother to know those things, he was in all likelihood politically apathetic and confined his passionate arguing to topics like sports or the attributes of the opposite sex.

There were exceptions, like the Birchers’ theory that fluoridation was a monstrous communist conspiracy, but they were mostly confined to the fringes. Certainly, political candidates with national aspirations steered clear of such balderdash.

At present, however, a person can be blissfully ignorant of how to locate Kenya on a map, but know to a metaphysical certitude that Barack Obama was born there, because he learned it from Fox News

Moreover, a person can be unable to differentiate a species from a phylum, but be confident from viewing the 700 Club that evolution is “politically correct” hooey and that the earth is 6,000 years old.

Today, a person may never have read the US Constitution and have no clue about the Commerce Clause,, but believe with an angry righteousness that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

This brings us inevitably to celebrity presidential candidate Ben Carson. The man is anti-knowledge incarnated, a walking compendium of every imbecility ever uttered during the last three decades. Obamacare is worse than chattel slavery. Women who have abortions are like slave owners. If Jews had firearms they could have stopped the Holocaust (author’s note: they obtained at least some weapons during the Warsaw Ghetto rising, and no, it didn’t). Victims of a mass shooting in Oregon enabled their own deaths by their behavior. And so on, ad nauseam.

It is highly revealing that, according to a Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll of likely Republican caucus attendees, the stolid Iowa burghers liked Carson all themore for such moronic utterances. And sure enough, the New York Times tells us that Carson has pulled ahead of Donald Trump in a national poll of Republican voters. Apparently, Trump was just not crazy enough for their tastes.

Why the Ignorance?

Journalist Michael Tomasky has attempted to answer the question as to what Ben Carson’s popularity tells us about the American people, after making a detour into asking a question about the man himself: why is an accomplished neurosurgeon such a nincompoop in another field?

“Because usually, if a man (or woman) is a good and knowledgeable and sure-footed doctor, or lawyer or department chair or any other position that could have been attained only through repeated displays of excellence and probity, then that person will also be a pretty solid human being across the board.”

Well, not necessarily. English unfortunately doesn’t have a precise word for the German “Fachidiot,” a narrowly specialized person accomplished in his own field but a blithering idiot outside it. In any case, a surgeon is basically a skilled auto mechanic who is not bothered by the sight of blood and palpitating organs (and an owner of a high-dollar ride like a Porsche knows that a specialized mechanic commands labor rates roughly comparable to a doctor).

We need the surgeon’s skills on pain of agonizing death, and reward him commensurately, but that does not make him a Voltaire. Still, it makes one wonder: if Carson the surgeon believes evolution is a hoax, where does he think the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that plague hospitals come from?

Tomasky expresses astonishment that Carson’s jaw-dropping comments make him more popular among Republican voters, but he concludes without fully answering the question he posed. It is an important question: what has happened to the American people, or at least a significant portion of them?

Anti-knowledge is a subset of anti-intellectualism, and as Richard Hofstadter has pointed out, anti-intellectualism has been a recurrent feature in American life, generally rising and receding in synchronism with fundamentalist revivalism.

The current wave, which now threatens to swamp our political culture, began in a similar fashion with the rise to prominence in the 1970s of fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. But to a far greater degree than previous outbreaks, fundamentalism has merged its personnel, its policies, its tactics and its fate with a major American political party, the Republicans.

An Infrastructure of Know-Nothing-ism

Buttressing this merger is a vast support structure of media, foundations, pressure groups and even a thriving cottage industry of fake historians and phony scientists. 

From Fox News to the Discovery Institute (which exists solely to “disprove” evolution), and from the Heritage Foundation (which propagandizes that tax cuts increase revenue despite massive empirical evidence to the contrary) to bogus “historians” like David Barton (who confected a fraudulent biography of a piously devout Thomas Jefferson that had to be withdrawn by the publisher), the anti-knowledge crowd has created an immense ecosystem of political disinformation.
Thanks to publishing houses like Regnery and the conservative boutique imprints of more respectable houses like Simon & Schuster (a division of CBS), America has been flooded with cut-and-paste rants by Michelle Malkin and Mark Levin, Parson Weems-style ghosted biographies allegedly by Bill O’Reilly, and the inimitable stream of consciousness hallucinating of Glenn Beck.

Whether retail customers actually buy all these screeds, or whether foundations and rich conservative donors buy them in bulk and give them out as door prizes at right-wing clambakes, anti-knowledge infects the political bloodstream in the United States.

Thanks to these overlapping and mutually reinforcing segments of the right-wing media-entertainment-“educational” complex, it is now possible for the true believer to sail on an ocean of political, historical, and scientific disinformation without ever sighting the dry land of empirical fact. 

This effect is fortified by the substantial overlap between conservative Republicans and fundamentalist Christians.

The latter group begins with the core belief that truth is revealed in a subjective process involving the will to believe (“faith”) rather than discovered by objectively corroberable means. Likewise, there is a baseline opposition to the prevailing secular culture, and adherents are frequently warned by church authority figures against succumbing to the snares and temptations of “the world.” Consequently, they retreat into the echo chamber of their own counterculture: if they didn’t hear it on Fox News or from a televangelist, it never happened.

For these culture warriors, belief in demonstrably false propositions is no longer a stigma of ignorance, but a defiantly worn badge of political resistance.

We saw this mindset on display during the Republican debate in Boulder, Colorado, on Wednesday night. Even though it was moderated by Wall Street-friendly CNBC, which exists solely to talk up the stock market, the candidates were uniformly upset that the moderators would presume to ask difficult questions of people aspiring to be president. They were clearly outside their comfort zone of the Fox News studio.

The candidates drew cheers from the hard-core believers in the audience, however, by attacking the media, as if moderators Lawrence Kudlow and Rick Santelli, both notorious shills for Wall Street, were I.F. Stone and Noam Chomsky. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus nearly had a (ruptured) aneurism over the candidates’ alleged harsh treatment.

State-Sponsored Stupidity

When forces of anti-knowledge seize the power of government that the real damage gets done. 

Under Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia government harassed with subpoenas a University of Virginia professor whose academic views contradicted Cuccinelli’s political agenda.

Numerous states like Louisiana now mandate that public schools teach the wholly imaginary “controversy” about evolution

A school textbook in Texas, whose state school board has long been infested with reactionary kooks, referred to chattel slaves as “workers” (the implication was obvious: neo-Confederate elements in the South have been trying to minimize slavery for a century and a half, to the point of insinuating it had nothing to do with the Civil War).

This brings us back to Ben Carson. He now suggests that, rather than abolishing the Department of Education, a perennial Republican goal, the department should be used to investigate professors who say something he doesn’t agree with

The mechanism to bring these heretics to the government’s attention should be denunciations from students, a technique once in vogue in the old Soviet Union.

It is not surprising that Carson, himself a Seventh Day Adventist, should receive his core support from Republicans who identify as fundamentalists

Among the rest of the GOP pack, it is noteworthy that it is precisely those seeking the fundamentalist vote, like Ted Cruz (aka"Cruz to loose"), Mike Huckabee (aka "Huckabee-wannabee") and Rick Santorum (aka "Little Ricky"), who are also notorious for making inflammatory and unhinged comments that sound like little more than deliberate trolling to those who haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid (Donald Trump is sui generis).

In all probability, Carson will flame out like Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and all the other former panjandrums of a theological movement conservatism that revels in anti-knowledge. 

Nevertheless, Carson will have left his mark, as the others did, on a Republican Party that inexorably moves further to the right, and the eventual nominee will have to tailor his campaign to a base that gets ever more intransigent as each new messiah of the month promises to lead them into a New Jerusalem, unmoored to a stubborn and profane thing called facts.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Atlantic reports on the Dr. Ben Carson Mannatech problem

As a neurosurgeon (physician), Dr. Ben Carson has no reason to advocate for any particular nutritional supplements, because most of them, quite frankly, are snake oil.  Dr. Carson knows this. Yet, Carson's relationship with Mannatech is lengthy and well-documented, which makes his denial of support bizarre.

In fact, Dr. Carson supported one particular brand of supplements and now he's being asked to be accountable for his involvement with the company. Rather than take the "Haliburton" approacch, used by Dick Cheney, when he was confronted with his position on that company's board, instead, Dr. Carson denied his involvement. Cheney admitted to his support for Haliburton. Yet, Carson flatly denied any affiliation with Mannatech, all the while, until recently, his picture was featured on the company's website.

Mannetech is a marketing firm that promotes plant generated sugars - ie "snake oil".

Mannatech, Incorporated, is a multinational multi-level marketing firm engaged in research, development, and distribution of "glyconutrients," the company's name for blends of plant-sourced saccharides. In other words, "snake oil". (What are "plant-sourced saccharides"?  These are plainly stated "sugars" derived from plants.  A a nurse, I have virtually no idea about the health benefits of taking sugar derived from plants.  In fact, "sugar" is a plant it's called "sugar cane" and it grows wild in countries. Nevertheless, without seeing a price list, I'm willing to bet Mannatech products are expensive and I doubt they produce curative results of anykind. It's likely they're as efficient as taking sugar pills.)

During Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate in Boulder, Colorado, CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla asked Ben Carson, a leading GOP contender and an accomplished pediatric neurosurgeon, about his relationship with a controversial nutritional-supplement company named Mannatech.

Dr, Ben Carson is a neursurgeon and presidential candidate who should know better than to support nutritional s“There’s a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a ten-year relationship,” Quintanilla asked. “They offered claims that they could cure autism and cancer. 

They paid $7 million to settle a deceptive-marketing lawsuit in Texas and yet your involvement continued. Why?”upplements that are plant sugars aka "snake oil".

Physicians should know better!

“Well, it’s easy to answer,” Carson quickly replied to Quintantilla. “I didn’t have an involvement with them. (Pinocchio!) That is total propaganda and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda.” He then backtracked a little. “I did a couple of speeches for them. I did speeches for other people, they were paid speeches,” he told the crowd before switching back to a full denial. “It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of relationship with them.” Then he again acknowledged a role. “Do I take the product? Yes, I think it’s a good product.”

Presidential candidates frequently stretch the truth. Some of them have made fantastical claims about President Obama’s birth certificate, for example, or their ability to construct a giant wall on the Mexican border that Mexico will pay for. 

But Carson's outright denial seems egregious even by that standard. His relationship with the company is lengthy and well-documented, which makes his response even more bizarre.

Carson first spoke out in favor of Mannatech products over a decade ago when he claimed that the Texas-based company’s “glyconutritional supplements,” which included larch-tree bark and aloe vera extract, helped him overcome prostate cancer.

As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, Carson’s relationship with the company deepened over time, including “four paid speeches at Mannatech gatherings, most recently one in 2013 for which he was paid $42,000, according to the company.” 

The company disputes that Carson was a “paid endorser or spokesperson,” according to the Journal, and claims his financial compensation went to charity.

National Review also highlighted Carson’s connections to Mannatech in January and how Carson’s team went to great lengths to distance themselves from the company. Some of his video appearances have been removed from the Internet, but those that remain appear to show a deeper affiliation than Carson claimed during Wednesday’s debate.

In one video for Mannatech last year that remains online, Carson discusses his experiences with nutritional supplements while seated next to the company’s logo. “The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel,” Carson explained. “And that fuel was the right kind of healthy food … Basically what the company is doing is trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine or as a mechanism for maintaining health.”

Carson stopped short of making substantive medical claims about Mannatech’s products. “You know, I can’t say that that’s the reason I feel so healthy,” he said. “But I can say it made me feel different and that’s why I continue to use it more than ten years later.” (Obviously Dr. Carson forgot his pharmaceutical studies about the placebo effect.)  

Apparently, seven years before Carson appeared in the promotional video, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who was elected governor of Texas last year, sued Mannatech for running an illegal marketing scheme under the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Abbott claimed that the Dallas-based company and its sales representatives repeatedly exaggerated the medical efficacy of their products.

Logically, Dr. Carson is unqualified to be president of the United States. He is a physician, trained in science, who was somehow lured to believe plant sugar was a miracle cure for some cancers. Nevertheless, he then goes on to deny that he had any involvement in supporting the snake oil he admited to taking.

How, in the world of possibilities, can he be qualified to be elected leader of the free world?  To put it simply, anybody who thinks Dr. Carson is qualified to be President of the United States should think about investing in Mannatech. As a matter of fact, I understand the company may be looking for another spokespersonn. 

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Republicans 2016 candidates can't formulate a message- except for John Kasich

Applause to the CNBC moderators who obviously rehersed trying to keep the mob of GOP debate candidates on October 27th, accountable for providing answers to questions. (I especially applaud Rebecca Quick.)

Only John Kasich's answers provided a glimpse of hope for America's future. Some said they were looking hopefully to America's future, but they wasted most of their debate time tearing down policies of the past. In other words, no new ideas.

John Kasich R-Ohio

Unfortunately, the candidates came prepared with stump speeches. Therefore, their answers were evasive. When the candidates became particularly stressed, they turned their anger on the media. 

Marco Rubio has no credibility. He wasted his own money while getting paid as a US Senator; but he can't even show up to vote for his Florida constituionets. The Sun Sentinel is even calling for his resignation! Unfortunately, even with this disclosure, Governor Jeb Bush was unable to use the issue to his debate advantage. Sadly, Jeb Bush is like a "no show" in this GOP debate.

Dr. Ben Carson was exposed as a man who didn't know his name and face were being associated with snake oil supplements. Moreover, Dr. Carson can't defend the outrageous rise in big pharmaceutical cost gouging.  Carson needs to go back to school and get a degree in public policy, rather than misrepresent his "political" resume, when he has no political experience.

So, here are my take aways from this GOP chaotic debate:

1.  Republicans, who hate Social Security, now say they're all about saving it? 

2.  Dr. Carson will cut government by 40 percent without any evidence whatsoever about how this will stimulate the nation's economy.

3.  Carley Fiorina lives in a fantasy world. Somehow, she thinks she's qualified to be the leader of the free world and the first female President of the United States; but she can't even explain how or why she was fired as the CEO of Hewlett Packard. She simply can't formulate a response to that very problematic fact.

4.  Governor John Kasich makes good sense! He's the only candidate who can articulate a message that seems to solve problems without creating fear among the electorate! Also, Governor Kasich has proven political leadership experience!

5.  And "taaadaaa" my final take away is this. (There are days when I actually become nostalgic for Governor Romney!). Republicans must remove their support from non-qualified candidates. This current band of wanna-bees are an embarrasment.  Take another look at Governor John Kasich.

Although I applaud Governor Kasich's debate responses for being message driven, focused and, therefore, understandable, he still doesn't have the stature of Secretary Hillary Clinton.  Nevertheless, the contrast between Secretary Clinton and Governor Kasich would provide an issues driven 2016 presdential campaign.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dr. Ben Carson is the Cheshire Cat of politics unqualified to be leader of the free world

"....said the Cat: `we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’"

"...'a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now, I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore, I’m mad', said the Cat."

Dr. Ben Carson is like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.  H'e the definer of Republican madness.

I've worked with surgeons, like Dr. Carson, in operating room suites. Dr. Ben Carson is a neurosurgeon. As a resultof his expertise, he has the distinction of having separated the brains of cojoined twins, who were connected by their heads. Yet, Carson's political experience is as rare as germs on an autoclaved scalpel.
He has an engaging smile, but his voice is so boring that some might even call him somniatic. As a matter of fact, it's difficult to understand Dr. Carson when he typically closes his eyes while speaking and seldom raises his voice to an audible level.

In other words, Alice's Cheshire Cat is more appealing than Dr. Carson's monotone.

Of course, Dr. Carson must convince Americans how he's qualified to be elected President of the United States and the Leader of the Free World.  Personally, I can't find any reason to elect Dr. Carson to be President. Although Carson has proved himself to be a brilliant neurosurgeon, with a compelling life story, his political skills have never been vetted in a political election.  

Republicans are obviously desperate to put their confidence in a leader they can trust. Dr. Carson is certainly a neurosurgeon we can trust, if we happen to need his high level of medical-surgical expertise. Otherwise, political leadership is what every American needs. He hasn't proven these skills at all.

Dr. Ben Carson is to be commended for his ambitious success in medicine, surgery and neurosurgery.  

On the other hand, Americans can't afford to provide political "on the job training" for our Executive Branch leadership and the leader of the free world.

Americans need an experienced political world leader and Dr. Ben Carson is obviously unqualified to be president of the United States.

Alice's Cheshire Cat said he was mad because he wagged his tail when he was angry and growled when pleased. In fact, it's difficult to determine when Dr. Carson is angry or pleased, because he has no leadership resume to determine how his medical qualifications can translate to political leadership.  He's plainly unqualified.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

John Boehner helped to save US government from shutdown (hopefully)

Maybe it was the impact of having Pope Francis as a guest speaker at a joint session of the US Congress, in Septermber. Whatever miracle it took, John Boehner will apparently leave his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives, after his resignation, by getting the budget deal needed to prevent the US government from a disasterous shut down. Thankfully, this daunting achievement is well timed, albeit long overdue.  
Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington)

Although I'm relieved, the deal obviiously isn't perfect. 

Nevertheless, the budget resolution is the alternative to a horrible government shutdown, something the Conservative Right Wingers prefer - but they won't get.  Of course, the narrative in this budget deal will likely be difficult for everyone to deal with. I'm especially curious about the item ambiguously labeled as "defense discretionary spending". (Too bad Social Security cost of living adjustments aren't included in this line item.)

Lawmakers strike major budget deal (finally!).....
By Manu Raju, Deirdre Walsh and Ted Barrett, CNN

Bipartisan congressional leaders and the White House struck a major fiscal deal in principle Monday, that would raise the debt ceiling and lift budget caps on both defense and domestic programs, according to congressional sources familiar with the deal.

The agreement could be voted on as early as Wednesday, the same day House Republicans are expected to nominate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to replace retiring Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, as House speaker.

The final details are being ironed out and a bill could be introduced later Monday as negotiators draft the language to prepare for it for vote.

This deal would avoid a potential debt default on November 3, and reduce the chances of a government shutdown on December 11.

The agreement includes top line numbers for defense and domestic spending levels for the next two years, but Congress will still need to pass some type of omnibus spending bill that includes specific levels for various federal agencies to avoid a shutdown in December.

The deal includes $80 billion in increased defense and domestic spending over two years‎, a senior House source told CNN.

It also includes more money for the Pentagon's overseas contingency account.  (This is interesting!)
That new spending would be offset by sales from the strategic petroleum oil reserve, use of public airwaves for telecommunications companies and changes to the crop insurance program — among other measures. 

Moreover, the budget deal would spread out increases in Medicare premiums over time so beneficiaries don't feel them acutely. It would also aim to preserve the Social Security disability trust fund, sources said.

Conservatives sharply panned the deal.
(If Conservatives sharply pan this deal, then it must have something progressive in the spending.  Keeping our government open is what Congress is supposed to do!!!)

It's sad to see our American Democracy held hostage to right wing politicians who have little interest in protecting the greater good. Instead, Republican right wing conservatives seem to be focused on a narrow minded and limited political agenda. Hopefully, they will soon be fired!

Boehner's office negotiated many of the details directly with the White House, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid were also part of the discussions, as the framework was developed, according to a source familiar with the talks.


Obituary - Argo: The Canadian who helped Americans escape Iran

Published in The Week, Ocboer 30, 2015 and elsewhere:

Ken Taylor (1934-2015) the former Canadian ambassador known for his role in the Iran hostage crisis, died.

Belatedly, I learned about this important Canadian's contribution to the safety of our American embassy personnel when we saw the wonderful movie "Argo".  

Ambassador Ken Taylor (1934-2015)

Taylor played a key part in what became known as the "Canadian Caper," a covert operation by the Canadian government and the CIA to rescue six American diplomats who eluded capture during the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

The episode was made famous again by the release of the 2012 hit movie "Argo," loosely based on the real-life drama.

Ken Taylor 1934-2015

When Islamist radicals stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, nobody could have guesssed that Canada's ambassador  to Iran would become a hero of the ensuing crisis. He was a 45 year old diplomat, on his first ambassadorial posting who had spent much of his career as a trade commissioner, negotiating grain deals. But, when Taylor learned about six Americans who had fled the embassy phoned him and asked for help, he didn't hesitate. As portrayed in the 2012, film Argo, Taylor and his deputy secretly harbored the four U.S. officials plus two of their wives in their diplomatic residences for almost three months, while arranging a daring operation to spirit them out of the contry. He was, as fellow Canadian diplomat Roger Lucy put it, "the right man in the wrong place at the right time."

Born in Calgary, Alberta, Taylor joined the Canadian Foreign Service in 1959, "and had postings in Karachi, Pakistan, and London before going to Tehran," said The Washington Post.  When the Iranian students overran the U.S. Embassy and took more than 60 Americans hostage, they didn't realize that six others were missing and moving from one hiding spot to another in Tehran.  

After considering various ways of sneaking the American out of the country, Taylor eventually agreed to the CIA's (Central Intelligence Agency's) bold plan. As told in the movie, they used false passports. The fugitives managed to leave Iran by pretending to be location scouts for a science fiction movie called Argo.  In fact, Taylor played a much bigger role in the "Canadian Caper" than Ben Affleck's film suggested, said the Toronto Globe and Mail.  He pushed his government to provide the Americans with false Canadian passports and sent his staff to test airport security. "We received some help from the CIA," taylor said. "But quite honestly, it was a Canadian-based and Canadian-executed operation."

The plan went off without a hitch, and the same day the Americans left, "Taylor and his remaining staff quickly closed the embassy and fled Iran themselves," said The Ottowa Citizen.  

Ambassador Taylor retired from diplomacy in 1984, and moved to the U.S., where strangers oftn shook his hand to thank him.  "I enjoy that, of course," Taylor said.  "It is a sense of saying to Canad: This is what you did.".

His son said, "He always liked to say that anybody else would have done exactly what he had done. On the other hand, he did it," Taylor's son, Douglas Taylor, told CBC News. "And I don't think it was just simply a fact of his being there. It was, you know, a reflection of his character, and how he was able to handle an extremely difficult situation."

Thank you Ambassador Taylor.  May you rest in peace.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Social Security beneficiaries need a defense budget

Americans are subjected to daily news about how our US military are fighting Middle Eastern terrorists, using many millions or billions of dollars of super-duper techologies. Meanwhile, the US Congress spent eleven hours of taxpayer paid time on October 21, 2015, drilling Secretary Hillary Clinton about a tragic September 11, 2012 murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans, in Benghazi, Libya. 

Yet, the Social Security cost of living allowance in 2016 is zero.

Millions and probably billions of dollars are spent on defense technologies and useless Congresional probings (like the Benghazi inquisitions), while our American Social Security beneficiaries and military retirees are told the low inflation market basket doesn't justify a 2016, paltry cost of living raise. In the past, this cost of living raise has been decreasing to about 1-2 percent.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks about how millionaries, and billionaries are taking money away from the American worker and padding their own greedy pockets.  

Much of the moneies the millionaires and billionaries earn are received through multi million dollar defense contracts awarded to their friends. 

In fact, the millionaires and billionairs are benefiting from the American tax money spent on building strategic equipment for the American military. The military seldom accounts for how the tax money received is actually spent. Maybe, Social Security beneficiaries should sign up to serve in the US Military.  

Of course, many US military veterans receive retirement income as compensation for the years they gave, in their youth, when they defended their nation, while on active duty. Military retirees will not receive a cost of living adjustment in 2016, either, because the US Congress felt the inflation index didn't justify a raise.  

In my opnion, many US miltiary retirees would gladly volunteer to defend our nation again, if asked. Maybe, in so doing, their earned retirement income would justify exemption from Congressional cost of living oversight. In other words, US military retirees would give their lives again for our nation. They deserve a cost of living raise today.

Our nation's Republican driven US Congress talks vehemently about cutting taxes. But, in so doing, the politicians are putting at risk the safety net programs, relied upon by hard working people, to pay for their cruel austerity. Nevertheless, the military budget hardly receives any scrutiny. Moreover, only a few who serve in the US Congress have ever even served in the American military.  

It's time the US Congress puts aside the money needed for a cost of living increase for Social Security beneficiaries and military retirees. These hard working beneficiaries and military retirees have earned their benefits.  On the other hand, the US Congress that decides about authorizing the cost of living raises have only earned scorn for their inability to accomplish anything to help average American citizens. Still, there's a chance to help Social Security beneficiaries and military retirees with a COLA, but the Republcian Congress is planning, instead, how to shut down the American government. It's time Social Security beneficiaries and military retirees take action against the wrong minded decision about no 2016 cost of living increases. 

If the Congress doesn't think these hard working beneficiars earned their cost of living increases, maybe they can ask us where can we sign up to serve in the US military? There's no problem with their budgets. Retirees need a defense budget!

Call the American Associaiton of Retired Persons (AARP) - 1 (888) 687-2277, to insist they use their influence on Congress.

Likewise, let's call our US Senators and Congress to demand the COLA!

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Let's be charitable and forgiving of Congressman Trey Dowdy

Well, I received criticism about unflattering descriptions I made about South Carolina Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, in a blog about the daunting Behghazi Inquisition Committee (BIC) hearings.  

Mrs. Clinton certainly rose above the inquisition

On Thursday, October 22, 2015, Congressman Gowdy led a daunting 11 hour inquisition, whereby the BIC relentlessly quesitoned Secretary (and Democratic presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton, about the tragic events of September 11, 2012, when Libyan Ambassador Chris Stephens was murdered, with three of his highly trained security team, in Benghazi.  

When I researched Congressman Gowdy's wepage, I found the slogan "South Carolina Strong" as a lead banner.  Gulp! It took me awhile to rise above the plagerism in that image, as I've cut and pasted here. Congressman Gowdy gets and "F" for creativity on this webpage design. Surely, Gowdy can (and should) do better:

Oh paaaaleeeze Congressman Gowdy!  Surely you can do better than this plagerism.

Nevertheless, I'm motivated to follow Mrs. Clinton's professional lead. I'll attempt to rise above the inquisition Congressman Gowdy led, as he and Republican colleagues vainly tried to create another scandal about the Benghazi tragedy. In other words, I apologize to Congressman Gowdy, for comparing him to characters in a Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit along with other imagry.

Likewise, I would expect Congressman Gowdy to apologize to Mrs. Clinton for his committee's inquisition and relentless challenge to her qualified leadership, during the Benghazi hearing.

Harold Watson "Trey" Gowdy III is the U.S. Representative for South Carolina's 4th congressional district, a lawyer and former prosecutor. He is a member of the Tea Party (in other words, the right wing) movement within the Republican Party.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Los Angeles Times report describes Benghazi inquisition

Mrs. Hillary Clinton held her head high while the Republians on the Benghazi inquisition committee relentlessly questioned her for 11 hours, wiithout finding any new information.  

Congressman Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, led the committee without realizing how his torturous tactics could even have violated Mrs. Clinton's civil rights (in my opinion). 

Mrs. Clinton wasn't on trial, but they treated her like a hostile witness! In my opinion, Gowdy and his right wing questioners conducted an unlawful investigation of an American citizen.

Here's how The Los Angeles Times described the inquisition:

Benghazi hearing ends after extraordinary 11-hour grilling of ClintonRepublicans grilled former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton through nearly 11 hours Thursday in a long-awaited hearing of the House Benghazi committee that produced little if any new information, but ample partisan argument.

The hearing provided an extraordinary spectacle, starting in the morning and stretching well into the night, far longer than such sessions typically last even with multiple witnesses.

Through the lengthy session, Clinton maintained a relentlessly calm and smiling demeanor, showing few visible signs of fatigue other than a hoarse throat that began to develop in the 10th hour.

From her opening statement on, she sought to seize a rhetorical high ground above the partisan fray, reminding members of the panel that after attacks on diplomatic facilities during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in which hundreds of Americans were killed, members of both parties "rose above politics" to examine what had gone wrong.

In investigating the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in the Libyan city of Benghazi, "Congress has to be our partner as it has been after previous tragedies,” Clinton said.

"We need leadership at home to match our leadership abroad," she said in her opening statement. "Leadership that puts national security ahead of ideology."

Clinton’s appearance was preceded by several weeks of bad publicity for the committee, starting when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) said in a television interview that the panel had succeeded in driving down Clinton’s poll ratings.

Democrats had long charged the committee with partisanship. Therefore, Democrate have relentlessly repeated McCarthy’s politically damaging disclosure.

As a result, panel Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) began the hearing on defense, using his opening statement to justify the panel’s existence.

Although seven previous congressional investigations had examined the Benghazi attacks, "those previous investigations were not thorough," Gowdy said. The current panel was seeking "the truth,” he declared.

But if one of Clinton’s goals was to convey an image of being more composed and serious than her inquisitors, members of the committee often appeared to help, engaging in one high-decibel shouting match and numerous partisan jabs.

The committee’s seven Republicans and five Democrats squabbled over the cost to taxpayers of the multiple investigations, the conduct of the State Department in responding to those inquiries, even the length of the hearing, itself.

"We’ve been here for 9 1/2 hours, and the questions are increasingly badgering ... increasingly vicious," Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said as the evening wore on and Republican members turned from questions about the attack to inquiries about Clinton’s use of a private server for her emails while she headed the State Department.

"They simply wish to wear you down."

The hearing has been eagerly anticipated for its potential impact on next year's election. Partisans on both sides anticipate that if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, mobilizing each party's supporters will be a higher priority than finding or converting the relative handful of voters who remain undecided about her.

Both parties think the committee proceedings could help in the mobilization effort.

Among Republicans, "Benghazi" has become a watchword on the campaign trail -- an almost all-purpose label for sins of both omission and commission that GOP voters perceive in the former secretary of State's record.

Democrats are equally convinced that the committee provides an example of Republican unfairness and excess. The committee’s Democratic members made more than a dozen references to the panel’s $4.7-million price tag, saying that the GOP was wasting taxpayer money in an effort to harm Clinton’s campaign.

Republicans have hoped the hearing would produce slip-ups by Clinton that could be used to mobilize opposition in next year's election. An exasperated outburst she made when she last testified about Benghazi, almost three years ago, has become a GOP talking point.

Democrats, always nervous about Clinton's tendency to become defensive when criticized, watched to see how she parried the GOP attacks. Yet, as the evening wore on, Democratic apprehensions turned to applause as party spokespeople rushed to congratulate Clinton on her stamina and to denounce the committee for what they saw as a partisan inquisition.

Gowdy conceded after the hearing that Clinton’s lengthy testimony had broken little new ground.

"I don't know that she testified much differently today than when she previously testified," he said.

The hearing began on a testy note as Gowdy and the senior Democrat on the panel, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, sparred over whether the panel’s work was merely repeating what other investigations had done.

A few hours later, the two men, joined by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), escalated their conflict, engaging in an angry procedural fight over whether to release the transcript of the committee's interrogation of Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend of Clinton's and an aide to her husband.

As Clinton watched, smiling, Cummings -- shouting across the committee dais -- accused Gowdy of selectively releasing Blumenthal's emails in order to make false allegations

Gowdy accused the Democrats of attempting to disrupt the committee's proceedings, then vowed to investigate Clinton's old friend further.

"If you think you've heard about Sidney Blumenthal so far, wait until the next round," he said before stalking out of the committee room for a lunchtime recess.

When the committee reconvened, the members voted 7 to 5, along party lines, not to release the transcript.

Blumenthal remained a major focus in the committee’s afternoon session, with Gowdy and other Republicans questioning why he had such ready access to Clinton.

"I don't know what this line of questioning does to help us get to the bottom of the deaths of four Americans," Clinton responded to Gowdy at one point.

Said Schiff: "I just don’t understand the preoccupation with Sidney Blumenthal. You would think he was in Benghazi, manning the barricades."

As the questioning unfolded, Republican members of the panel pursued several disparate lines of questioning.

Several repeatedly accused Clinton of denying requests from Stevens and other American diplomats for more security. Clinton, repeating a position she has taken since the controversy over the Benghazi attack began, said that she had relied on the judgment of the State Department's security professionals.

Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor from South Carolina, cited cables from Stevens to the State Department warning that the security situation at American installations in Libya was deteriorating and needed to be bolstered. The administration did not fully heed those his warnings.

Gowdy juxtaposed those messages against emails from Blumenthal that were getting Clinton’s attention. Blumenthal, a former journalist and Clinton administration operative whom the Obama White House had banned from working at the State Department, offered voluminous advice to Hillary Clinton on Libya, including how she could use the overthrow of its dictator to her political gain.

Clinton repeatedly denied that Blumenthal had been an important advisor to her or a major source of information about Libya.

"I don't want you to have a mistaken impression about what I did and how I did it," she said of the attention her emails had gotten.

"Most of my work was not done on emails," she said, adding that she did not even have a computer in her State Department office.

Rep. Peter J. Roskam (R-Ill.) sought to portray Clinton as the chief architect of U.S. policy toward Libya, accusing her of forcing a reluctant Obama administration to take an active role there and then trying to take political credit for it.

Some of the most personal questioning came from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who suggested that in the days after the attack, Clinton had tried to hide information about the motivation of the attackers in order to influence the 2012 election.

"It’s just 56 days before an election" and "you can’t be square with the American people," Jordan said. Clinton and other Obama administration officials had downplayed the terrorist nature of the attack "because Libya was supposed to be this great success story," Jordan said.

"Americans can live with the fact that good people sometimes give their lives for this country," he said, but not "when their government’s not square with them."

With a rare note of irritation entering her voice, Clinton shot back that "the insinuations that you are making do a disservice" to government officials who were trying to do "the best we could with the information we had."

The GOP allegation that she had failed to take security requests seriously is "a very personally painful accusation," she said a few minutes later. "It has been rejected and disproven by nonpartisan and dispassionate investigators."

"I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together," she told the panel members.

The assaults in Benghazi began when dozens of attackers overran guards at the U.S. diplomatic compound there and ran through it, setting fire to buildings, including the one in which Stevens and another State Department employee were hiding. The two died of smoke inhalation. The attacks continued into the next morning, when mortar rounds were fired at a nearby CIA annex, killing two more Americans.

Clinton last testified about the attack in January 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It was a heated exchange. Republicans on the panel accused the administration of botching the U.S. response to the attacks. They took aim at its confusion about what happened, and its early explanation -- later proved wrong -- that the compound was overrun not by a terrorist attack but a demonstration that got out of control.

Clinton famously scolded the committee for its focus on the motivations of the attackers and how the Obama administration initially got it wrong. “What difference, at this point, does it make?” she said in a testy back-and-forth with committee Republicans, adding, “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”

Democrats on the current committee have repeatedly attacked the direction of the investigation. They accuse Gowdy of failing to interview potential witnesses with firsthand knowledge of what happened in the attack and instead using committee resources to drag top Clinton operatives into closed-door interrogations in a bid to generate headlines.

Last week, the committee spent hours interviewing longtime Clinton advisor Huma Abedin and even alerted the media to the location of the questioning, which was closed to the public.

The five Democrats on the committee are contemplating whether to resign from the panel, altogether in protest. Schiff said whether the Democrats remain on the panel may depend on “just how long they intend to keep this thing alive.”

“At a certain point, we may very well reach the conclusion that the diminishing returns of our continued participation don’t outweigh the liability of giving it any respectability,” he said.

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