Brian Williams Goodbye

In reference to the LA Times Posting at

Frank Snepp, February 6, 2015
Brian Williams Controversy

Brian Williams

Brian Williams misremembers — and the Internet won’t let him forget it

As a former investigative journalist for NBC and a one-time CIA agent who served five years in Vietnam and knew many journalists inured to genuine close calls, I wonder how Brian Williams can flog such self-hype about an alleged near miss in Iraq and still stand for integrity in reporting. If he had told this tall tale over drinks at a bar near 30 Rock, maybe we could we laugh it off. Maybe. But his repetition of the untruth means that he got giddy on self-promotion. I doubt any of this would go over well with Bob Woodruff of ABC News who not only braved enemy fire in Iraq but was very seriously wounded there (along with his cameraman) three years after William’s imaginary encounter with a rocket propelled grenade. And now that brave colleagues are being beheaded, or gunned down in their offices, for simply doing their jobs, the image of an anchor awash in manufactured heroics is beneath parody. Williams ought to spare himself and his profession further embarrassment by resigning and devoting himself to helping veterans and the survivors of journalists whose bravery isn’t invented.

Makers of Snowden Documentary Face Legal Showdown over Leaks

CIA Author Points to U.S. Supreme Court Precedent

By Frank Snepp, January 8, 2015

A recent “exclusive” from The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Edward Snowden’s producer, who helped turn his secrets-bust into an Oscar-contending documentary, could be facing a financial bust for her trouble.

Laura Poitras, Film director

Laura Poitras, Film director

A newly filed lawsuit alleges that Laura Poitras and her production associates are guilty of helping the former NSA contractor breach his fiduciary obligations to the government.

If they lose, they could be obliged to forfeit all profits from “Citizenfour,” the documentary they filmed about Snowden and his decision to expose some of the NSA’s most sensitive classified information.

Kansas attorney Jean Lamfers filed the suit on behalf of a former government worker who argues that Snowden and his collaborators should not be allowed to profit from his leaks. The plaintiff, Horace Edwards, who insists he is acting for the public, seeks to have a “constructive trust” imposed on the profits that would cause them to be turned over to the government.

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Think Obama should be tougher? Then think about Nixon.

President Nixon prided himself on his tough-guy image and his reputation for strategic risk-taking. (AP)

President Nixon prided himself on his tough-guy image and his reputation for strategic risk-taking. (AP)

Those who fault President Obama for not being belligerent enough toward Russia and Iran — or assertive enough in dealing with the crises in Iraq, Gaza, Syria and Afghanistan — would do well to remember how poorly the feckless bravado of President Nixon served us and our allies in Vietnam.

Nixon prided himself on his tough-guy image and his reputation for strategic risk-taking. He learned the dubious art of brinkmanship as Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president during the height of the Cold War. And, as he later acknowledged, he came to admire Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev for his simple ability to “scare the hell out of everybody.”

Once Nixon became president and was faced with the daunting task of forcing the North Vietnamese to negotiate — even as U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam and U.S. antiwar sentiment peaked — he began trying to “scare the hell out of everybody” to gain leverage against Hanoi.

“I call it the madman theory,” Nixon told his aide H.R. Haldeman. “I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war.”

His calculated displays of rashness included invading Cambodia, making a jaw-dropping opening to China and initiating the “Christmas bombing” of Hanoi in late 1972.

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Physical Therapy Bill Blocks Regulatory Action

header-la-032014-614x90Law blocks regulatory action against certain health care professionals By Frank Snepp | Wednesday, Jun 6, 2012

After intense lobbying by the California Medical Association and its legislative allies, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law this week a bill that blocks regulatory action against certain health care professionals specially favored by the association.

“There appears to be two sets of laws, one for those with the big dollar lobbying war chests and one for the second-class citizens, like patients and the average taxpayers,” said Paul Gaspar, a spokesperson for a group of physical therapists that opposed the governor’s decision. “Powerful special interests like the CMA seem to think that they are above the law.”

The governor’s signature writes an end to a bitter political battle over an issue that seems at first narrowly parochial: whether the state’s physical therapists should be allowed to work for doctor-owned medical corporations.

For more than a year state regulators have interpreted existing law as making this practice illegal.

Lobbyists for the CMA, the California Podiatric Medical Association and the California Chiropractic Association have repeatedly tried to get the law changed, but failed.

According to their opponents, they then resorted to backroom maneuvering that has compromised the legislative process and ultimately made the governor himself a party to selective law enforcement in the interest of a powerful political lobby.

“What the governor signed was never open to public debate,” Gaspar told NBC4. “It bypassed the normal committee process and was jammed through in the final days of the legislative session.”

These tough words reflect the intensity of feeling on both sides of the controversy and provide some measure of the stakes involved.

Gaspar estimates that more than 80 percent of California’s 25,000 physical therapists, also known as PTs, work in legal practice settings.

But he claims that the minority who work for doctor-owned medical corporations represent an important revenue stream for their employers. They also represent an opportunity for doctors to extend their control of service professions and to take an extra piece of the insurance pie by referring patients to their own PTs, Gaspar said.

The CMA and its supporters counter that an “integrated” approac ensures the best treatment.

But vocal lobbyists for the independent therapists’ camp say it creates a conflict of interest that leads to unnecessary for-profit referrals, raises health care costs, and threatens to put self-employed therapists out of business.

“If we cannot eliminate illegal and costly referral-for-profit schemes,” Gaspar said, “there can be no hope for solving the more difficult problems with health care and our budget.”

Twice in the past six months, state Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, who receives large political donations from the CMA and other medical groups, tried to persuade her legislative colleagues to change existing law to allow PTs to work for medical corporations. In each instance her proposal died in committee.

She and her supporters then began pressing the Physical Therapy Board of California, a regulatory arm of the Department of Consumer Affairs, to suspend enforcement action against therapists employed by such corporations so that they could continue work with impunity. They also persuaded a joint legislative committee to launch an audit of the Board, claiming — without offering any proof — that its outgoing director had an improper relationship with lobbyists for independent PTs.

Finally at the end of the legislative term, Senate Pro tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and other Democrats took over for Hayashi, adding an amendment to an omnibus regulatory measure, SB 543, that would effectively accomplish what she wanted by suspending for one year any regulatory action against physical therapists who are working for medical corporations.

Tucked away in the omnibus bill, the amendment easily passed the Assembly and the Senate several weeks ago with no invitation to public debate and no referral to any committee for consideration.

“It is not good government to sneak an amendment into a ‘must pass’ bill at the last minute,” said Gaspar, “and to blindly favor powerful special interests over patients and taxpayers.”

Steinberg’s press spokesman, Nathan Barankin, told NBC4 that the Senator’s main objective was to provide a cooling-off period so that the two sides could work out a compromise. “This is something the legislators thought we should evaluate. There are so many ways of going about this, considering Hayashi’s open agenda. The main thing is to figure out a complex issue.”

Borrowing an argument from Hayashi, he warned that rapid enforcement action “might hurt patients.”

He also insisted that Steinberg’s vote had been based on conscience and denied that the Senator or anyone else had been steamrollered by a powerful political lobby.

“This clearly is not a David and Goliath case. It is a Goliath v Goliath case,” Barankin said, referring to the CMA and its opponents in the California Physical Therapy Association, which advocates for independent therapists.

The remark baffles CPTA officials who say that their group spent only $57,000 lobbying against the Hayashi bill on the Assembly side, while proponents, including the CMA, spent $2.4 million.

The CPTA’s Stacy Defoe said the newly signed Steinberg measure grants medical corporations leverage over “any future outcome on these issues [and] another year to operate outside the boundaries of the law.”

“At a minimum,” she said, “they get to continue a scheme that shows up time and again as taking way more money out of the health care delivery system than is necessary and provides inadequate care.”