People Get Last Word on O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly.

Bill O'Reilly.

Fox News Channel, nearly untouchable, no matter how skewed or vile the reports and commentary on some of its programs, has met its match.

Wednesday, parent company 21st Century Fox dismissed Fox News’ biggest star, Bill O’Reilly.

Fox followed not devotees of the News Channel in making its decision against O’Reilly but the broad public — the people.

These regular folks buy the products of advertisers who left “The O’Reilly Factor.” They overwhelm O’Reilly watchers in number.

The advertisers acted as the people’s proxy by boycotting the show in protest over five cases accusing O’Reilly of sexual harassment or other foul action. The cases were settled with payments of about $13 million from O’Reilly and Fox, reports The New York Times.

Fox would have you believe that O’Reilly’s departure was a joint decision.

In a one-sentence statement Wednesday, 21st Century Fox said, “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”

O’Reilly denies wrongdoing.

DAMNING REPORT

The people arose after an April 1 report by The New York Times. The article detailed accusations in each of the five cases.

Rachel Witlieb Bernstein was a Fox News junior producer. O’Reilly screamed at Bernstein, witnesses say. She left the network. Fox settled with Bernstein in 2002. The amount is not public.

Andrea Mackris was a producer for “The O’Reilly Factor.” She filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against O’Reilly. He settled with Mackris for about $9 million in 2004.

Rebecca Gomez Diamond was a Fox Business News host. She recorded conversations with O’Reilly. As a result, he settled with Diamond in 2011 for an amount that is not public.

Laurie Dhue was a Fox News anchor. She made sexual harassment claims against O’Reilly after she left the network in 2008. Fox settled with Dhue for more than $1 million.

Juliet Huddy presented and co-hosted various programs for Fox News. She accused O’Reilly of making sexual advancements in 2011. Fox settled with her for $1.6 million in September.

Two additional women have spoken about inappropriate behavior by O’Reilly, The Times reported in its April 1 article. They have not received settlements.

Wendy Walsh, who made guest appearances on “The O’Reilly Factor,” said O’Reilly made an advance and offered to arrange a Fox News job for her.

Andrea Tantaros accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment in a 2016 lawsuit against O’Reilly and former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. The lawsuit is ongoing.

Fox fired Ailes in July, following allegations of sexual harassment that led to a company investigation. Fox paid Ailes $40 million upon his departure.

Although Ailes and O’Reilly were forced out following complaints of a similar sort, the manner differed.

Even though Ailes was a founder of Fox News, he did not hold the popularity with viewers that O’Reilly did.

Fox had known about complaints against O’Reilly and had taken part in financial settlements with employees for more than a decade. Yet, for so long, the company took no action against its star commentator.

Only when advertisers left O’Reilly’s show out of concern over customer reaction, and protests sprang up among those beyond the Fox News faithful, did the company bear down on its No. 1 host.

In the end, the people drove 21st Century Fox to remove O’Reilly from Fox News Channel.

▽ Download editorial in plain text — right click to save/download.

Syria Strike: Big League Cost

The USS Porter launches Tomahawk cruise missiles April 6.

The USS Porter launches Tomahawk cruise missiles April 6.

On the order of President Donald Trump, the Navy fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Air Base last week. The missiles exploded their 1,000-pound bombs on buildings and airplanes at the base.

“On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said on the night of the April 6 strike.

The cost to replace each Tomahawk cruise missile is $1.869 million — a total of $110 million for the 59 missiles.

The president’s order to attack Syria stirred questions and discussion worldwide.

Trump’s decision demonstrated that the U.S. is willing to intervene when a country gasses its citizens. Bombing the air base from the launch site of Syria’s chemical weapon attack was appropriate.

On Aug. 21, 2013, Syria struck residents with chemical weapons. That gas attack was substantially larger than this month’s, with more victims. President Barack Obama considered military action.

Trump spoke strongly in opposition on Twitter.

On Aug. 29, 2013, Trump wrote: “Let the Arab League take care of Syria. Why are these rich Arab countries not paying us for the tremendous cost of such an attack?”

On Sept. 7, 2013, Trump wrote: “President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day!”

Building an international coalition to oppose a heinous government by using isolation, political pressure and diplomacy is just as reasonable as a military strike.

BUSINESS CASE

One question has been mute: Was last week’s attack an efficient use of governmental funds?

This is important in light of Trump’s long campaign to reduce the cost of government.

Here is how he framed the issue in a 2000 interview: “I have made the tough decisions, always with an eye toward the bottom line. Perhaps it’s time America was run like a business.”

Was the cost of $110 million in cruise missiles — excluding the cost of operation and related materiel — a good deal?

Besides the air base limping back to use the day after the attack, the damage caused by 59 tons of precision-guided bombs showed the missiles’ limits.

In a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said, “I think it’s around 20 aircraft were taken out.” This corrected his Monday statement of 20 percent of Syrian Air Force craft.

Department of Defense photos above and below show bomb damage at Shayrat Air Base in Syria.

Department of Defense photos above and below show bomb damage at Shayrat Air Base in Syria.

Photos released by the Department of Defense showed that a prime target of the cruise missiles was high-strength concrete aircraft shelters. Two airplanes can be berthed under each.

The annotated photos show that seven shelters were damaged and that only one was destroyed.

An independent analysis by ISI, a satellite-imaging company, said that bombs hit 13 aircraft shelters 23 times. Some targets were hit more than once.

Bombs hit 10 ammunition depots, ISI said, along with seven fuel depots, five workshops and five SA6 motorized missile launchers, one of which was destroyed.

Despite a total of 44 targets hit by bombs, ISI said, “it seems that the overall damage to the base is limited.”

Cruise missiles are unlike rocket-powered missiles that shoot upward, then dive to their targets. Tomahawks are maneuverable airplanes with small wings and tails, and powered by jet engines. They fly an evasive course, close to the ground, guided by GPS and have remote operators who can change direction.

The Tomahawk’s precision aiming is renowned. The 59 cruise missiles’ failure to knock out a modest Syrian base is a disappointment.

Bottom line, the decision to bomb Shayrat Air Base did not produce a businesslike gain.

▽ Download editorial in plain text — right click to save/download.

Secretary of Injustice

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

A heavy hand of governmental law enforcement has pounded citizens needlessly in cities large and small. Death, injury and disenfranchisement have resulted.

Some police officers take the “force” in enforcement literally. Leaders of certain police departments do little to ensure equal application of the law.

The other side of oppression by law enforcement can be federal. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wields that heavy hand.

Sessions made his administrative glee apparent by having his office on Monday file a disruptive motion. It asked for a 90-day delay in a federal court public hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday in Baltimore.

The motion said the Justice Department has changed direction to “prioritize efforts at crime reduction, and cooperation with state and local law enforcement.”

PUBLIC VOICE

U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar approved the public hearing Feb. 15. The Justice Department and the city of Baltimore requested the hearing as they worked together on police reforms. The purpose was to hear from residents about their views on the reforms and a consent decree that would put them in place.

Baltimore opposed the delay. The city told the court it invited the Justice Department to investigate the Baltimore Police Department and develop a reform agreement “when the city was engulfed in unrest following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in April 2015, and the ensuing spike in homicide rates in Baltimore.”

In his ruling to move ahead with the hearing, Bredar noted how fellow judges canceled Thursday hearings in their courtrooms and court employees trained for special roles in the large public hearing, and how deputy U.S. marshals were redeployed and special security measures were put in place.

“To postpone the public hearing at the eleventh hour,” Bredar said in his ruling, “would be to unduly burden and inconvenience the court, the other parties, and, most importantly, the public.”

NO NONSENSE

Friday, Bredar approved the consent decree between the federal government and the city of Baltimore.

The judge accepted neither of the nonsensical delays proposed by Sessions’ attorneys this week. The Monday motion asked for 90 days. A request in court Thursday sought 30 days.

Bredar said a delay would not address core questions: “whether the parties proposed decree is fair, adequate, reasonable, legal, noncollusive and in the public interest.”

Sessions criticized Bredar’s decree approval.

“I have grave concerns that some provisions of this decree will reduce the lawful powers of the Police Department and result in a less-safe city,” Sessions said Friday.

“The time for negotiating the agreement is over,” Bredar said. “The only question now is whether the court needs more time to consider the proposed decree. It does not.”

“The public statements made in writing and during the recent hearing make clear that time is of the essence,” Bredar said. “Now, it is time to enter the decree and thereby require all involved to get to work.”

POLICE POWER-UP

The title of attorney general is an aberration among members of the presidential Cabinet, most being secretaries. Call Jeff Sessions the secretary of injustice.

Sessions seeks to halt a number of police-reform decrees similar to Baltimore’s.

“The safety and protection of the public is the paramount concern and duty of law enforcement officials,” Sessions wrote in a March 31 memo to his department heads and U.S. attorneys.

The second priority in Sessions’ memo is “Law enforcement officers perform uniquely dangerous tasks, and the department should help promote officer safety, officer morale and public respect for their work.”

Only third in Sessions’ listing is “Local law enforcement must protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public.”

Nowhere is there a reminder that one is innocent until proved guilty and that one should be treated as such. Nowhere is reducing unnecessarily forceful treatment of suspects mentioned. Nowhere can a warning against racial profiling be found.

Sessions’ authoritarian objective is to pump up police officers and police departments to boost their power and esteem.

In his memo, Sessions ordered Justice Department leaders to “immediately review all department activities — including collaborative investigations and prosecutions, grant making, technical assistance and training, compliance reviews, existing or contemplated consent decrees, and task force participation.”

Sessions also wrote, “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage nonfederal law enforcement agencies.”

In short, Sessions hoped to use a Baltimore delay as a model for withdrawing from reform efforts in Chicago; Cleveland; New Orleans; Seattle; Ferguson, Missouri; and more than a dozen other cities.

In line with his criticism of Judge Bredar’s decision in Baltimore, expect Sessions to continue his misguided push to eliminate police reform in every city he can.

Justice means more than a criminal conviction, more than a prison sentence. It means being fair, correct and — in the United States — constitutional.

As attorney general, Jeff Sessions must ensure that these standards are upheld by every agency of law enforcement, whether local, state or federal.

▽ Download editorial in plain text — right click to save/download.

Make Sure Price Is Right

Tom Price, secretary of health and human services.

Tom Price, secretary of health and human services.

As the nation has learned in 2½ months of Donald Trump’s presidency, little is as it appears. Worse, little is as he says.

The problem is that his comments, pro and con, rotate around an important issue as quickly as the International Space Station orbits Earth.

When the House of Representative’s health care bill failed March 24, following mighty pushing and schmoozing by Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, the two were glum.

“This is a setback, no two ways about it,” Ryan said. “Obamacare is the law of the land,” he said, and it will be “for the foreseeable future.”

“I’m disappointed,” Trump said. Before the day was through, Trump circled around the other side of the health care globe to say, “I want to have a great health care bill and plan — and we will.”

Ryan said Tuesday that he would allow House Republicans to try again on health care. “We are all going to work together and listen together until we get this right.” Ryan did not provide a plan or schedule.

While Trump and Ryan entertain wishful thinking, the executive branch is obligated to carry out every aspect of the Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is titled.

NO EXCUSE

Tom Price, secretary of health and human services, has that duty. Obamacare is healthy. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted March 13 that insurance markets will remain stable.

As such, Price has no excuse for anything other than vigorous support for Obamacare as its executive leader and through his Department of Health and Human Services.

Neither may Price fall back on the ultraconservative, anti-Obamacare positions he held as a Republican member of the U.S. House. In the House, Price was a member of the Tea Party, much of whose outlook is shared by the House Freedom Caucus. Caucus members opposed the conservative House health bill as too liberal.

Concern about Price’s willingness to meet the requirements of his position has proved valid in the short time since his Feb. 10 confirmation by the Senate.

Price’s agency delayed a health rule March 21. The HHS notice pushed back reform of Medicare payment for follow-up treatment after a heart attack, or heart-bypass or joint-replacement surgery. For months, Trump has promised no Medicare reductions.

PROTECTIONS

This mischief shows just a sliver of the worrisome possibilities. Price must keep at full strength a wide range of Obamacare protections, particularly its essential health benefits. Among them:

  • The individual mandate, which requires nearly all to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. This makes possible the coverage of people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Preventive coverage. Examinations and tests find problems about which patients are unaware. Early detection makes treatment easier and reduces cost. The benefits of laboratory-test coverage and chronic-disease management are similar.
  • Emergency coverage ensures that one can receive comprehensive hospital care immediately. Before Obamacare, too many could not get beyond emergency rooms and too many died.
  • Maternity care for mother and child is important for them and future society. Often, it was an exception before Obamacare. Mental health was covered at a reduced rate. Equal mental health coverage helps both patient and populace.

Between insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion, some 20 million Americans have health insurance because of Obamacare. The CBO projects the percentage of uninsured people to stay between 9.5 percent and 10 percent for a decade. Before, it reached 16.3 percent.

The Affordable Care Act needs an advocate at the top level of government. Because he accepted nomination, was confirmed and swore to uphold his duty, Tom Price is that advocate.

Price must perform. President Trump, Congress and the people must hold him accountable.

▽ Download editorial in plain text — right click to save/download.

Dissent Disqualifies Gorsuch

Neil Gorsuch

Supporters of Judge Neil Gorsuch, nominee for U.S. Supreme Court justice, cite attributes for his rulings: strict adherence to the law’s text and excellence in writing.

A dissent Gorsuch wrote as one of three judges on a U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel shows the opposite. He ignored the law’s clear wording and belittled a truck driver who had been ordered to follow hazardous instructions.

Gorsuch’s judgment was convoluted and aristocratic. It demonstrated that he lacks the qualities to serve on the Appeal Court appropriately, never mind the Supreme Court.

On Jan. 14, 2009, Alphonse Maddin drove a tractor-trailer through an icy Illinois night on Interstate 88. Directions from employer TransAm Trucking to a truck stop proved wrong. The truck ran down to a few drops of fuel.

At 11 p.m., Maddin pulled over to study a map. When he prepared to leave 10 minutes later, he could not. A temperature of minus 14 degrees had frozen the trailer’s brakes. The wheels would not turn.

DANGER

Maddin called TransAm. The company said it would send a mechanic. The truck’s heater was broken. Maddin fell asleep. A phone call from a cousin at 1:18 a.m. awakened him. The cousin said Maddin slurred his words and was confused. Maddin said he could not feel his feet and his torso was numb.

Maddin reported these symptoms of hypothermia to TransAm. The dispatcher told him to “hang in there.”

Maddin waited. After 30 minutes, he called his supervisor. He said the cold was causing medical problems. He planned to drive the tractor to find help.

The supervisor gave Maddin two choices:

  • Stay put.
  • Drag the trailer along I-88 with the wheels locked.

Maddin decided to drive the tractor to get aid. The mechanic arrived 15 minutes later. A warmed Maddin returned.

The next week, TransAm fired Maddin for leaving the trailer.

Maddin appealed. An administrative law judge and a U.S. Department of Transportation administrative review board each heard Maddin’s case. Both said he was fired in violation of whistleblower provisions. They ordered reinstatement and back pay.

TransAm went to the Appeal Court. The court panel agreed with Maddin 2-1, with Gorsuch dissenting.

TEXT

Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Laws, Section 31105 “Employee Protections,” says: “A person may not discharge an employee, or discipline or discriminate against an employee regarding pay, terms, or privileges of employment, because ... the employee refuses to operate a vehicle because ... the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public because of the vehicle’s hazardous safety or security condition.”

Gorsuch wrote that, once Maddin raised safety concerns, TransAm: “permitted him to sit and remain where he was and wait for help. The trucker was fired only after he declined the statutorily protected option (refuse to operate) and chose instead to operate his vehicle in a manner he thought wise but his employer did not. And there’s simply no law anyone has pointed us to giving employees the right to operate their vehicles in ways their employers forbid.”

The judge was oblivious to the serious-injury provision in describing as an “option” the order to sit in an unheated truck with hypothermia symptoms. He was reckless in his disregard for the law’s prohibition against punishment for a hazardous-safety condition such as locked-and-skidding trailer tires.

Gorsuch compounded his legal blindness with a burst of snobbery: “Maybe the department would like such a law, maybe someday Congress will adorn our federal statute books with such a law.”

The Senate must reject Neil Gorsuch. His inability to understand a straightforward law and his eagerness to rain scorn upon those who do understand it disqualify him

▽ Download editorial in plain text — right click to save/download.

Killer Health Care ‘Choice’

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Since his election as president, Donald Trump has promised to improve health care in the United States, offer coverage to all and to make it less expensive.

As the months progressed, Trump added “choice.” Consider it lesser coverage.

Trump lieutenants use choice to explain away the contradictions of a policy that promises more, better and cheaper health insurance simultaneously. The number of people covered is secondary, they say, ignoring the danger of losing health insurance.

Choice would fool many into buying cheap, insufficient insurance. This would cause the cost of robust coverage to increase.

THE PROMISES

“It’ll be better health care, much better, for less money,” Trump told Lesley Stahl of CBS News in a “60 Minutes” interview conducted three days after his election.

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump told The Washington Post in an interview the weekend before his Jan. 20 inauguration. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

“I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs and, at the same time, provide better health care,” Trump said Feb. 28 to a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

THE POLS

“The fact that certain groups will pay less tax is not central to the issue,” said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney was responding to a March 12 question from George Stephanopoulos of ABC News on “This Week.” Stephanopoulos had asked if predictions were correct that the House’s health care bill would cover millions fewer Americans, force millions of those with health insurance to pay more and cut taxes for wealthy people.

“Congressman Morgan Griffith from Virginia had some really good ideas regarding things like changing the expansion date or perhaps putting work requirements in on Medicaid — those are great ideas that would improve the bill,” Mulvaney said. Stephanopoulos had asked about House Republicans, such as Griffith, meeting with Trump and discussing the end of Medicaid expansion in 2018 rather than 2020, as proposed by the bill.

“Nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through, understanding that they’ll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want,” said Tom Price, secretary of health and human services, on the March 12 “Meet the Press.”

THE DOCTOR

“Lack of access. Lack of jobs. Very poor health care in the past,” said Dr. Mitch Jacques of the Cabin Creek Health Clinic in Dawes, West Virginia. He was answering a question from Michael Barbaro of The New York Times about health conditions before Obamacare. The March 10 edition of “The Daily” podcast, which Barbaro hosts, contains the interview.

“It was not uncommon for someone to go to the emergency room and have a major heart procedure, and not follow up with anyone,” Jacques said about pre-Obamacare treatment in the coal-mining area of southern West Virginia.

“By 2020, there may be virtual elimination of the Medicaid expansion, under the Affordable Care Act,” Jacques said in answer to a Barbaro question of effects expected if the House bill succeeds Obamacare. “If that occurs, many of our patients will lose their insurance,” he said. The group that operates the clinic estimates a loss of 20 percent to 30 percent.

“What would that do to the community?” Barbaro asked.

“Without question, if the Republican policy goes through, and health care is withdrawn from 20 to 25 percent of our patients, a number of those people will die for lack of appropriate health care,” Jacques said.

Choice is the word. For too many, death would be the sentence.

▽ Download editorial in plain text — right click to save/download.