Monthly Archives: October 2007

Hitting to Left Field 2: Gay Marriage, Oliver North, School Vouchers

I’ve got a stack of notes of facts, anecdotes, statistics and/or blog topics I heard, read, or thought of lately that’s gotten quite tall. I’m going to present the info scatter-shot in hopes of exorcising the demons/clearing off my dresser of the stack of paper. Here goes:

Gay Marriage in Massachusetts

Recently Massachusetts voters organized a petition to get a ballot initiative to try to overrule the Massachusetts Supreme Court and ban gay marriage in Massachusetts. The argument for the ballot initiative was that we’re a democracy and we, the voters, should decide what it right and wrong, constitutional and not. In a Catholic Mass at the church I attend, a Priest I very much admire and care for asked us to sign the petition and give the people a voice in government and let them decide if they want gay marriage to be legal or not. I didn’t sign the petition. Sometime later, when the legislators were going to decide if they would allow the ballot initiative to go forward or not, I called my state reps and politely asked them to block the initiative.

But, what about letting the people decide? What about democracy? Friends, we don’t live in a direct democracy, we live in a constitutional republic. We ELECT leaders to REPRESENT us in the state and federal government. If they make unpopular decisions, and enough people get off their duff and vote for someone else come election time, they won’t be representing the people for very long.

I’ve been on the pro-gay marriage side since the debate started. It seems ludicrous to me that in a country that is dedicated to the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” of its citizens, in the 21st century, that we are having a debate over whether or not two people of the same sex who love each other can’t enter into a legal arrangement and be married.

I’ve talked with some on the other side of the issue, and they make no valid points. If their interpretation of their religion says gay marriage is disgusting and evil, I disagree, but in this country they are free to practice their religion, as long as they don’t drag it into government or the public square; incite violence; etc. There is a wall separating church and state for a reason. The founders of this country and the framers of the constitution didn’t want a theocracy. Don’t let a man marry a man or a woman marry a woman at your church if that is what you think Jesus says to do. Condemn the practice in your sermons and homilies if you want. Just remember it seems a tad hypocritical to condemn gays and/or gay marriage and then sing a hymn entitled “All Are Welcome” (one of my favorites, by the way).

Those darn contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan

Several Iraq Vets, both callers and guests, on the Randi Rhodes show said that contractors in Iraq are a HUGE liability in many ways. 1. Security contractors like Blackwater and the Australian Unity group are killing civilians. On its face this is terrible, but some of it can be rationalized as the by-product of operating in a war zone. But, as ordinary Iraqis lump the Mercs in with the US Soldiers and Marines as “American Occupiers”, every incident involving contractors killing civilians makes life much more dangerous for our troops and hinders their chances of winning “hearts and minds”. 2. If there is a major attack on US forces a la the Tet offensive, the shit will really hit the fan. In Vietnam during the Tet offensive, the cooks, truck drivers, mechanics, accountants, etc., all dropped what they were doing, grabbed their rifles, and fought off the attacks. All, or most, support personnel in Vietnam were US military trained to fight. In Iraq the soldiers and marines would have to repel the attack while also defending large compliments of civilian contractors. Most of us realize this would be a bad thing and put our soldiers in greater danger. 3. Contractors charge the government lots of bucks for their services in a war zone. Our soldiers get hazardous duty pay and the like, but contractors get no-bid contracts and cost plus billing. This means the soldiers and marines are working side-by-side with civilians who were getting paid many times G.I. pay to do jobs the soldiers and marines are willing and able to do. This is a morale buster and an insult to our brave men and women in uniform.

School Vouchers

School vouchers are just another tax break/subsidy for the upper-middle class and the wealthy. It gives people of means a small break on the costs of sending their scion to exclusive, pricey private schools while the poor and middle class are screwed. They can’t afford to send their kids to the exclusive academies, so their “voucher” just means their kids are forced to attend the same public schools as before, except that the public schools will now be massively underfunded in order to pay for the tax break–I mean vouchers–for the rich and upper-middle class.

The “Fenced in/collared” media?

In my notes I have a stat that 72% of working journalists/newspeople want to report and investigate REAL stories. I don’t know where the stat is from, and I’m not google-savvy enough to find it. So, instead of a lag-dog press, it seems we have a press on a dog run, in a cage, or fitted with one of those electric-shock administering training collars.

In this age of media consolidation, outsourcing, and extreme partisanship, it’s a dangerous time to be a truth-teller in any media. Look what happened to Phil Donahue and Dan Rather. Donahue gave anti-Iraq War folks (Scott Ritter) a voice on his show prior to the invasion and it got him canned. Rather reported on W. going AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard and got tarred, feathered, and fired for his reporting of that “inconvenient” truth. Look at how Big Cable (Comcast, Charter) is trying to move/has moved MSNBC from basic cable into a higher-cost package so they can, 1. Get more bucks from people who can’t live without their Countdown w/Keith Olbermann. And 2. Prevent those who are still “sleeping” from seeing Olbermann and getting a clue as to what’s going on in George Bush’s America.

Working media like their salaries, health insurance, 401ks, etc. They want to keep their job, just like you and me. They want access to their favorite administration source and they want their kids in expensive private schools. They know if they step out of line, their corporate masters will axe them and find someone more willing to tow the line. Completely coincidentally, in addition to being more docile, their replacement will be younger, perkier, and much better looking than the person who’s job they’re taking.

American Fascists

A quote from American Fascists by Chris Hedges (great book):

“When people come to believe that they are immune from evil, that there is no resemblance between themselves and those they define as the enemy, they will inevitably grow to embody the evil they claim to fight. It is only by grasping our own capacity for evil, our own darkness, that we hold our own capacity for evil at bay. When evil is always external, then moral purification always entails the eradication of others.” (p. 151)

Ollie North–Great American Hero?

Recently, a TV talking head on a network other than Fox News channel called Oliver North a great American hero. While it is true that lieutenant colonel North did serve in the marine corps in Vietnam, and was awarded a silver star, bronze star and 2 purple hearts, his later role in the clandestine, illegal sale of arms to Iran tarnished his heroic service to his country in Vietnam.

Hunter S. Thompson said it best in a short piece in his SF Examiner days called “God Bless Colonel North” (collected in Generation of Swine: Gonzo Papers, vol. 2). Thompson fillets North’s patriotism by insinuating North is partially responsible for the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983 because he sold arms to Iran.

Also on North, Iran-Contra hearings made Oliver North a star, by John D. Saxon in the Birmingham (AL) News:

North was the architect of the “diversion,” a scheme to sell arms to Iran (never mind Iran was on the State Department’s list of terrorist nations, and to do so would violate the Arms Export Control Act) at a marked-up price, take the profit and “divert” it to the Contras (never mind that to do so violated the Boland Amendment, which Congress passed prohibiting U.S. government assistance to the Contras).

Not my definition of an American hero, unless you excise all elements of North’s career after his service in Vietnam.


Filed under american fascists, chris hedges, gay marriage, hunter s. thompson, iran-contra, oliver north, school vouchers

It All Makes Me So Sick I Could Puke: Two Months in Right Wing Hell

First, why I got so sick (ABC News blog, full story here):

Dems’ Poster Child Faces a Firestorm

ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: With debate raging in Washington over children’s health insurance, congressional Democrats found a new way to make their case for an expansion last weekend: Rather than have a senator or a congressman respond to President Bush’s weekly radio address, they decided to have a child who was helped by the program speak directly to the public.

But the 12-year-old boy whom Democrats chose as their poster child is now at the center of a firestorm in Washington and beyond. Conservative bloggers who uncovered some details of the family’s finances are blasting the family, calling the fact that they rely on federal insurance an example of how the State Children’s Health Insurance Program has expanded beyond its original intent.

According to Senate Democratic aides, some bloggers have made repeated phone calls to the home of 12-year-old Graeme Frost, demanding information about his family’s private life.

. . .

“This is a perverse distraction from the issue at hand,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, D-Nev. “Instead of debating the merits of providing health care to children, some in GOP leadership and their right-wing friends would rather attack a 12-year-old boy and his sister who were in a horrific car accident.”

Manley cited an e-mail sent to reporters by a Senate Republican leadership aide, summing up recent blog traffic about the boy’s family. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to comment on Manley’s charge that GOP aides were complicit in spreading disparaging information about Frosts.

When Graeme and his sister were seriously injured in a 2004 car crash, their parents relied on S-CHIP coverage to help them recover.

. . .

But after a largely positive story about Frost appeared in the Baltimore Sun, conservative-leaning bloggers began focusing on details of Frost’s family situation. They suggested the family makes the conservative argument — that the children’s health insurance program has strayed from its original purpose by subsidizing healthcare for middle-class families, not just poor children.

A blogger on discovered that Frost and his sister, Gemma, attend a private school where tuition costs $20,000 a year. Their father, Halsey, is a self-employed woodworker, meaning that if his family doesn’t have health insurance, it’s because Halsey Frost — as his own boss — chooses not to purchase it for himself.

“One has to wonder that if time and money can be found to remodel a home, send kids to exclusive private schools, purchase commercial property and run your own business . . . maybe money can be found for other things,” a blogger with the handle “icwhatudo” wrote on FreeRepublic.

That posting was widely circulated in the blogosphere, making great fodder for conservatives who argue that President Bush was right to veto the Democrats’ bill expanding S-CHIP.

. . .

But Manley say conservative bloggers didn’t dig deep enough. It turns out that the Frost children attend Baltimore’s Park School on near-full scholarships; they pay roughly $500 per child per year in tuition, he said.

Like many small-business owners, Halsey Frost can’t even afford to provide health insurance to himself, Manley said.

“Last year, the Frost’s made $45,000 combined,” Manley said. “Over the past few years they have made no more than $50,000 combined depending on Halsey’s ability to find work.”

The Frost family did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Dumping on a 12 year-old recovering from traumatic injury is a new low point in the poison politics of the right. Reactionary. Stupid. Devoid of any smidgen of conscience. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the GOP and the right wing blogosphere. (sound of one hand clapping)

My It’s painful to venture into the minds and haunts of the right wing, ice cream headache painful. And depressing, too. I’ve been on a downward spiral that I just managed to pull out of after a month plus of right wing madness. It started with a week-long email exchange with Boston talk radio host Todd Feinburg. I emailed him after he made a comment on his weekend radio program (which I listen to on the way to work on Sundays because there’s nothing else on) about our brave soldiers and marines being in Iraq to defend middle east oil interests for the good of free market capitalism. He said this was a noble undertaking. I respectfully disagreed and emailed him. After a lengthy exchange, nothing was gained, at least on this side.

Some of the memorable moments from our emails:

Me: There is nothing noble about invading a country to protect a critical
natural resource. I think if you ask any soldier who’s been in combat,
under the rank of 0-4, if war in general is noble he or she will say
not just no but HELL NO. On of America’s most highly-decorated heroes,
Gen. Smedley Butler, wrote after WWI that all wars are “rackets” that
only benefit big business–and he would know, he’d been in several.

Feinburg: Just because all wars are rackets doesn’t make them illegitimate, and
doesn’t support your argument at all that invading to protect a natural
resource is wrong. Given the unique confluence of events that are going on
in the mid east, I think there’s a compelling argument to be made for the
invasion. The terrorists want to severly disrupt or shut down the engines of
the world which can be done by upsetting the flow of oil out of the region.
They are extra-national actors, so territories don’t necessarily coincide
with relevant theatres of operation, but we know we need to get in to the
region, change the political paradigm so that its not totally dominated by
oppressive regimes that resist globalization and can’t provide jobs which
creates an incubator for endless militants, so we invade Iraq because Sadaam
needs to be taken out and we are already in a bit of a war with him and he
has failed to live up to the terms of the prior war so the justification is
in place to satisfy the needs of the international community. It was a
pretty logical thing to do if you accept the notion that it is in the best
interest of the U.S. to make an aggressive move to reconfigure things there

Me: And I don’t think many soldiers, sailors, airmen or marines would agree
with the mission in Iraq as you describe it. They thought–like much
of the American public–that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks
on 9/11/2001; that Iraq had WMDs, including mobile biological weapons
labs, alumininum tubes and nigerian “yellow cake” uranium for building
nuclear weapons, centrifuges, unmanned gliders that could reach the
U.S. Eastern seaboard, anthrax, scuds etc. etc. etc.

Feinburg: I’m not sure why what our soldiers think is the critical test of whether
the war is in the best interest of the U.S.

Me: If the President was interested in longterm stability in the Middle
east, he wouldn’t be in Iraq. For better or worse, Iraq was stable
prior to the invasion in 2003. Saddam Hussein was an evil bastard, but
he came to power with U.S. help, was a favored ally through the 70’s,
80’s and early 90’s, and may have only invaded Kuwait because he
received a communication from then Sec. of State James Baker III saying
the U.S. had no stake in border disputes between Kuwait and Iraq (do
the research online and you’ll be able to find this document–its in
the public record). Also, he was a secular leader who kept religion
out of government. Contrast that with 2007 Iraq’s Shiite-led democracy
which is more of a Shiite-led theocracy. I’m in no way defending
Saddam, he was pure evil. But, the sanctions against his country were
working and he was disarmed. Weapons inspectors were in country doing
their job up until days prior to the invasion–when Pres. Bush ordered
them to get out or be “shock and awed”. The much-hyped Oil-for-food
scandal implicated a few minor shady deals between Saddam and the U.N.,
but also revealed massive illegalities with multi-national oil
companies like current Sec. of State Condi Rice’s former employer
Chevron (fun fact: Condi was working for Chevron when they were
illegally buying oil from Saddam–some would say that constitutes
treason). You can’t dispute this, Chevron just recently plead guilty
to the crime.

Feinburg: Once again, your arguments show no relationship to the opening statement.
Iraq is obviously unstable now as a result of being invaded, and that also
destabalizes the region, but that doesn’t mean that ultimately greater
stability won’t be the result. In addition, the end of the sanctions era was
coming, and the U.S. faced the reality that Sadaam would once again be
sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia, and
would be in a position to create great havock, or be overthrown.

Me: If yes than we can also agree there was no danger to what you called the
“engine of the world”. We had contained and were watching Saddam from the
North, South, East, and West. Saddam was providing oil to the world.

Feinburg: I’m talking about the region and the threat that al Qaeda represents to
the flow of oil, not Sadaam. I apologize for not making this clearer. As I
mention above, I do agree that we invaded Iraq becasue it was justified, but
that Iraq was part of a larger strategy to keep the U.S. safe from terror.

Me: Lastly, if the newly-elected government passes resolutions that ask/tell us
to leave their country, don’t you think we should comply with their wishes,
and leave? (another fact: This December the Iraqi parliament has to have a
binding vote on whether or not to renew the U.N. resolution that allows the
U.S. to occupy Iraq. What do we do if they don’t renew the resolution?
Legally we must leave. And this would be a great way to declare victory and
peace with honor or whatever floats your boat)

Feinburg: This would be tough. To leave knowing that we’d have to return if the
expected meltdown and genocide followed would force us to negotiate some
compromise position, such as a withdrawal to certain borders and protecting
important infrastructure like the oil supply and distribution system. Its
hard to imagine that they would ever ask us to leave.

Me: This is the paragraph where I almost boiled over. After calling me
condescending earlier, you next say I’m a pessimist who only hears how bad
we are. . .etc. Well, I’d like to respond to this with an insult of my own,
but I won’t. I’ve learned an argument can stay above the level of petty
name-calling. But don’t put words in my mouth–i.e. that all I hear is how
bad we are?

Feinburg: I’m not sure why this was upsetting – I was referring to the endless
negetive coverage in the media that makes it tough for strong supporters of
the war to maintain their morale, and to the rhetoric of the left that you
seemed to be repeating that avoids considering whether the white house might
actually have had the best interests of the country at heart when going into

Feinburg is one of the best quibblers in the business. That isn’t a compliment.

I emailed him after work, between the hours of 2 and 5 A.M, and, admitedly I was scattershot with some of my points. But I think I held my own, and the facts were/are on my side. He didn’t respond to my last email, where I was respectful but also called him a run-of-the-mill right wing talk radio host, or words to that effect. I thought I was more than fair, as he labels Ellen Ratner, his “Alan Colmes” on the weekend program, “the mad liberal”, and often labels liberals loonies and crazies in his broadcasts.

My next ride on the right wing rollercoaster was my week-long “buzz kill radio” challenge, spawned by a US News and World Report “Washington Whispers” blurb on Miller’s program. The challenge: to listen to ALL THREE HOURS of the Dennis Miller show for a week. Big ouch. I heard Miller lavish praise on Bob Novak, John Bolton, and assorted other neocon “heavy” weights. And let’s just say Miller’s adoration of General David Patraeus bordered on the homoerotic. Thankfully I stopped listening to the program before the Patraeus report and the mock controversy over the “Betray Us?” ad. I’m sure it was deliciously over the top, but like a rich chocolate desert, more than just a little taste will make your stomach hurt.

After Dennis Miller I watched one hour of the Neal Boortz radio show on C-span. Boortz made Miller look legendary by comparison. There’s only one nice thing I can say about Boortz: he doesn’t hate and demonize gays. Unfortunately, he hates and demonizes EVERYONE else. I picked up Boortz’s book, Somebody’s Gotta Say It, at the library.

Boortz on Senator John Kerry, and why he (Boortz) didn’t go to Vietnam:

. . .or if I’d gone to Vietnam, applied a few Band-Aids to some scratches, scammed some Purple Hearts, and then come home to accuse our troops of atrocities.” (p. 297)

This statement, slandering John Kerry, who went to Vietnam, volunteered for dangerous duty as a Swift Boat Captain, was decorated, and did indeed testify to congress about atrocities related to him by other veterans, speaks volumes not about Kerry, but about Boortz. In the grand tradition of most right wingers, Boortz didn’t serve in the military, even though his father was a Marine fighter pilot in World War 2. Boortz was in a military frat at Texas A&M, where he got drunk and mediocre grades, but decided not to enlist or seek a commission. Boortz could’ve gone to Vietnam, but evidently, like Vice President Cheney, he had other priorities. Again, the potent one-two punch of guilt and shame causes a chickenhawk who avoided service to besmirch someone who did. So sad. So pathetic. So hateful. So predictable.

I could pick out/pick on the scores of outright falsehoods, slanted viewpoints, half-truths, etc, in Boortz’s book, but that would take the rest of 2007, and I’m not up for it. A good guide to reading or listening to Boortz is, whatever he says/writes, the exact opposite is much closer to the truth.

I wish I could say this was the end of my adventures on the right, but I can’t. But the next chapter was much better. I discovered a book called Conservatize Me by John Moe. Its a fun read and did give me some perspective on my own journeys in the land of Limbaugh. You can read reviews for it or buy it from Amazon here.

I can’t escape the right wing. I was told a few days ago by a co-worker that “we have to bomb Iran before they bomb us.” Another told me we can’t cut and run or the terrorists will follow us home and blow up the malls. A third told me that he’d torture a terrorist’s child to avoid a “24-style” ticking bomb threat. After a week of exchanges like this, I took some advice Randi Rhodes offered on her radio show: Stop talking to people like that. Stop trying to talk sense to them. Its hopeless. Check. Point taken. Stick to Patriots and Red Sox at work. No more politics. No more listening to conservative talk radio–I learn nothing from it. No more email battles. So long, right wing. Farewell. It hasn’t been nice knowing you.

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Filed under dennis miller, iraq war, john moe, neal boortz, randi rhodes, talk radio, todd feinburg

Rush Limbaugh finds the bottom–then goes even lower

First, a primer of highlights from Rush’s “illustrious” life and career:

1. Avoided service to his country during the Vietnam War because of a cyst on his ass but now declares himself a true patriot and wraps himself in the American flag. (here)

2. Ridiculed a teenage Chelsea Clinton in a joke referring to her as “the white house dog.” (here)

3. Vilified drug addicts for years as weak-willed human scum who belong in jail, then got caught and convicted for doctor-shopping and admitted to being a drug addict. By the “virtues” of being rich, white, and well-connected, he avoided serving any prison time for his crime. (here)

4. Calls veterans who are against the Iraq War “phony soldiers”. (here)

Upon being called “phony soldiers” by Mr. Limbaugh, veterans of the Iraq War, REAL SOLDIERS, responded:

h/t Pressing the Flesh

So, when confronted by REAL IRAQ WAR VETS who are pissed off at him for his comments about them being “phony soldiers”, Limbaugh apologized, right? Not exactly.

First, he selectively edited the transcript of the “phony soldier” telephone conversations that were heard by soldiers overseas on the Armed Forces Radio Network to make them sound less damaging (full post here):

During the September 28 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, in response to Media Matters for America’s documentation of his recent description of service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as “phony soldiers,” Rush Limbaugh claimed that he had not been talking “about the anti-war movement generally,” but rather “about one soldier … Jesse MacBeth.” Limbaugh further asserted that “Media Matters had the transcript, but they selectively choose what they want to make their point.” To support this claim, Limbaugh purported to air the “entire” segment in question from the September 26 broadcast of his show. In fact, the clip he then aired had been edited. Excised from the clip was a full 1 minute and 35 seconds of the 1 minute and 50 second discussion that occurred between Limbaugh’s original “phony soldiers” comment and his reference to MacBeth, the full audio of which can be heard here .

Then, Limbaugh apologized to the Troops–not for his comments, but FOR MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA (full post here)!

During the first hour of the October 1 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, in response to a Media Matters for America item documenting his recent description of service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as “phony soldiers,” Rush Limbaugh said: “I want to apologize to all of the members of the United States military, both in uniform and out, active duty and retired, for Media Matters for America.” Limbaugh continued: “They will not apologize to you, and they will not apologize to me. I want to apologize to you on behalf of them.”

Hey Rush, I don’t think someone who isn’t an employee of Media Matters for America can apologize for Media Matters for America–especially considering they didn’t do anything wrong and quoted YOU directly as YOU insulted all Veterans who oppose the Iraq Occupation. Shoudn’t YOU apologize for what YOU said?

Then, Limbaugh insulted wounded Iraq War Vet Brian McGough, from the TV ad, on his radio show (full post here):

On the October 2 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh denounced a recent ad by that featured Iraq war veteran Brian McGough, calling the ad “a blatant use of a valiant combat veteran, lying to him about what I said, then strapping those lies to his belt, sending him out via the media in a TV ad to walk into as many people as he can walk into.” Limbaugh went on to say that “[w]hoever pumped [McGough] full of these lies about what I said … has betrayed him.” Limbaugh denounced the ad despite admitting “I haven’t watched the ad.”

Limbaugh’s latest batch of comments are sickening on so many levels. First off, he still refuses to own up to his comments, even when confronted by a wounded Iraq War Vet. Second, he portrays Brian McGough as brainwashed by, an organization created by veterans to give veterans a voice. Third, Limbaugh’s subtle use of language seems to cast wounded Iraq War Veteran McGough as a jihadist-style suicide bomber instead of a hero–and VoteVets as a terrorist organization instead of an advocacy group. Note the language: Limbaugh says VoteVets “strapp[ed] those lies to his belt. . .” (allusion to a explosives belt or vest used by suicide bomber). Then VoteVets “. . .sen[t] him out via the media in a TV ad to walk into as many people as he can walk into.” (emphasis mine) Here Limbaugh makes another allusion to a suicide bomber. But instead of walking into a crowded market to inflict maximum causalities the site of the attack is a TV ad “beamed” to millions. This is only my read on what Limbaugh said and what Limbaugh meant–but I think his words and word choice were beyond the pale. He should be sacked by his employers and condemned by congress as was for the Patreaus/Betray Us? Ad.

To Brian McGough: Thank you for your service to this country. Thank you for your honesty and integrity and your bravery. Thank you for your courage to face combat and your courage to face unfair attacks for speaking your mind about the Iraq War. You are an example to us all. I hope and pray you have made or will make a full recovery from your injuries.

To Rush Limbaugh: Stop lying. Take accountability for your words and actions. Apologize to the Troops–and especially to Brian McGough. Donate a pile of cash to every legit Veterans organization out there. Confess your sins and pray for absolution (a la Lee Atwater). Get clean and do something honest and meaningful for the rest of your life–it’s never too late!

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Filed under brian mcgough, media matters for america,, phony soldiers, rush limbaugh,