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The Bush-Obama Doctrine: A 12-Step Program for Seizing Control

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Patting Ourselves on the Back

Shortly before Christmas, President Obama called Yemen President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to congratulate his success in their recent air strikes.  On the surface, this would seem odd, since Obama was the one who ordered the deployment of the U.S. missiles and drones that successfully blew apart upwards of 80 to 100 human beings, many of them collateral damage, as they’re called  — the innocent men, women and children who were killed during the pre-Christmas blitzes. Odder, still, are the mixed messages that came from the White House in the wake of the air strikes. In one breath, we were told that President Obama ordered the  bombings (which is, yes, every bit as odd as if some foreign president were to order air strikes on U.S citizens to retaliate for our leaders’ terrorist acts). In the next breath, we were told that America could neither confirm nor deny a U.S. role in the air strikes. “We are not going to get into any details at this point,” one US official said.

Odd.

But if you consider the source for a moment, it begins to make better sense.

The Strange Case of Doctor Obama and Mr. Bush

There are two Americas, you see. One is the idealized America. This is the America that created the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights; the America that finally found the gumption, even if it was an act of self-preservation, to put an end to slavery. This is the America that initiated the New Deal during the Great Depression; the America that — 45 years ago this week — waged a War on Poverty and created programs such as Medicare and Head Start and, for a while, made progress in dismantling the cycle of illiteracy, poverty and oppression; the America that passed the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts; the America that created national parks and has at times, despite opposition, persevered to protect the environment. This is the America that drafts historic documents professing our aspirations to the democratic ideal that all men are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable Rights, among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is the America that voters overwhelming voted for in the fall of 2008.

The other America, our alter ego, is not quite the stuff of lofty, historic documents but, instead, weaves history from the shadows. Our alter ego is, for lack of a better word, the real America. This is the America that was secreted to North American shores with the Puritans and unleashed onto the Salem witch hunts; the America that justified the industry of kidnapping and selling human beings into slavery; this is the America that turned a blind eye to the Red Shirts and to Jim Crow law; this is the America that stonewalled anti-lynching laws; the America that violently fought to preserve slavery then, 100 years later, violently fought to preserve segregation; this is the America that replaced slave code with black code with Jim Crow with racial code; the America that dismantled Johnson’s War on Poverty and told us that greed and ostentatiousness were sterling qualities, if not inalienable Rights. This is the America that touts the values of democracy, then overthrows democratically elected leaders so that we may install corrupt dictators of our choosing; the America that sleeps in the shadows with Pol Pot, Pinochet, Rios Mont,  Noriega, Sadaam Hussein and Osama bin Laden; the America that simultaneously demonizes, yet arms, trains and funds war criminals from Israel to Afghanistan and Colombia; the America that trades arms, drugs and money to bankroll our crimes against humanity, then pretends under oath to not recall these deeds.

On special occasions, our alter ego parades its idealized twin, vociferously waving flags and extolling the virtues of our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our Declaration of Independence, while secretly loathing and warring against both the spirit and letter of the law contained within these documents.

When politicians such as Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin talk about the “real America,” this is the one to which they are referring — our alter ego — the America of Westwood Pegler, Joseph McCarthy, Lee Atwater and Karl Rove; the secret America of Richard Nixon, Oliver North, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush Jr. and Sr. This is the America that believes that the ends (money, oil, gas, gold, diamonds, titanium, etc.) justify the means (death squads, torture, extraordinary rendition, buying corrupt leaders, dealing in drugs, funding and arming terrorists, genocide, covert wars, and bending & breaking the spirit and the letter of the law). This is the America of Dick Cheney. Turns out, this is also — much to the dismay of the American voters — the America of Barack Obama.

Given the source, then, Obama’s congratulatory call to Yemen President is not really so odd. The mixed messages coming from the White House are understandable, given the inherent difficulty of keeping the facts straight on those occasions when necessity summons our alter from the shadows to perform front and center on the world stage. Americans will surely forgive Obama, too, for his lack of recall on who actually ordered the bombings. After all, we are engaged in a (call it what you will) war on terror, which means anything goes.

Bonfire of the Panties

According to the official version of the story, our best intelligence tells us that there are “credible threats” being waged against our interests in Yemen. As proof, we need look no further than the outrage being expressed by the Yemen people over the bombings, followed in quick succession by the underpants bomber. The official version, however, has neatly ignored three other facts that have been alleged to be part of the story: (1) that a well-dressed Indian man tried to assist the underpants bomber to board the plane without a passport in Amsterdam, (2) that one, possibly two men videotaped the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, and (3) that a second man from this same flight was arrested at the airport after being fingered by bomb-sniffing dogs, while waiting in the room with the other passengers who had been sequestered for questioning in Detroit.

Regardless of the facts, it is clear to anyone watching the news or listening to our president that Yemen is — as accused — a hotbed of al Qaeda danger, intent on attacking American “interests” in the area.

What has not been made clear is the exact nature of our “interests” in the area. Sure, we have embassies there. And these embassies have been the target of threats for decades now. Why the sudden impetus for a pre-emptive strike on the people of Yemen? It can’t be oil. After all, as the media has repeatedly and painstakingly tutored us over the past week or so, Yemen is slated to run out of oil in 10 years. This proves that the recent air strikes and the underpants bomber are not, as the more skeptical among us have become conditioned to automatically suspect, another war for oil.  Therefore, it must indeed be true: Yemen has replaced Afghanistan (and, later, Iraq) as the new world hub of terrorist activity.

Either that, or its the gas.

According to a 2007 issue of the Oil and Gas Journal, Yemen’s proven natural gas reserves totaled 16.90 trillion cubic feet.  Construction began in 2005 to build the $4.1 billion plant to liquefy the natural gas for shipment, with Hunt Oil (part of the Bush-Cheney rat pack) holding a 17.2% stake in the project and poised to share with Asia two-thirds, or 4.5 million tons of Yemen’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports per year. The first LNG shipments reportedly left Yemen within the last 2 months. Also integral to U.S. “interests” in Yemen is, of course, its location (location, location) on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, through which the U.S. must pass to ferry its loot.

The Yemen LNG deal is similar, albeit not nearly as lucrative as the LNG deal tentatively struck in Iraq via the 2008 “‘Heads of Agreement” with Shell, (aka “the Shell gas agreement rip-off”), set to be finalized after the Iraqi elections in early 2010. This agreement would give Dick Cheney’s partners in crime at Shell full control of all the Iraqi gas wealth in the south for 25 years. Add to this whatever other progress the Cheney rat pack has made with privatizing Iraqi gas and oil, plus the various PSAs, PSCs, TSAs and other acronyms that now form the jewels in America’s crown in the wake of our heroic battle with al Qaeda in Iraq, and you have what George W. Bush might call, “Mission Accomplished.”

Our pipe dreams in Afghanistan are a bit more complex and yet to be fully hammered out, but the tentative arrangement is to send a surge some 30,000 troops who will be deployed at strategic locations along the pipeline in time for the TAPI construction start sometime in late 2010 or early 2011.

Regardless of the ends, the means are more or less the same, no matter what the country — Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan or Yemen. The blueprint works something like this:

The Bush-Obama Doctrine (or, A 12-Step Program for Seizing Control of  a Country’s Assets)

  1. Determine what you want from the country (e.g. control of oil, gas and other minerals, and/or control of pipelines and shipping lanes).
  2. Build a case for a war on terror.
  3. If there is no terrorist group in the country, just make something up. Your paid AIPAC counterterrorism experts can help you with this by fabricating evidence of  terrorism and terrorist plots. Alternately, you can create a terrorist/insurgent/rebel presence by  staging a pre-emptive, covert war, which will not only destabilize the government, but will cause a spike in violence that can be blamed, rightly or not, on al Qaeda. (NOTE: Sometimes a terrorist attack — either “real” or thwarted — can help to rally a stubborn American public into supporting a war. Here, your pals at the CIA and the aforementioned counterterrorism experts at SITE, IntelCenter and MEMRI will be invaluable, as they can raise false flags faster than you can say, “underpants,” plus manufacture the necessary evidence, such as fake audios, videos and intercepted terrorist communications to substantiate the terrorist attacks and/or threats).
  4. Direct your media to report 24-7 on the official story, giving them ample fodder for speculation and fearongering. Stick to your story no matter what. And don’t worry if your facts don’t add up, or if the only leaks you can provide are from White House sources and military officials who are “only authorized to speak on the condition of anonymity.” As Dick Cheney proved, when it comes to terrorism, people are so easily scared, that they will view any threat of a terrorist plot as credible, no matter how flimsy the set-up.
  5. Ignore people who complain that the facts don’ t match up. If witnesses come forward and dispute the official story(as the Haskells and others did with the underpants bomber story), either forbid them to talk, (in the interest of national security) or ignore them. This way, no one will listen to them but the alternative and “fringe” media, which will brand these witnesses as crackpots or conspiracy theorists.
  6. Pat yourselves on the back as you watch Congress and the American people — as if on cue — begin waving flags, thumping Bibles and demanding war.
  7. Escalate the existing war, meting out both clandestine and overt efforts as Congressional funding and oil/gas-field strategy dictate.
  8. When international humanitarian and civil rights groups express outrage at the massive human suffering (genocide, ethnic cleansing, violence, brutality, murder, rape, starvation, disease, etc.) we’ve inflicted on the innocent citizens of the country, either blame it on the terrorist/insurgents/rebels, or declare the accusations to be nothing but a bunch of liberal propaganda lies. If Amnesty International or any of your other enemies accuses you of war crimes, label them naive terrorist appeasers.
  9. Grease the requisite palms to foster the creation of a specialized NGO humanitariaGn relief agency, and/or utilize some of the existing Christian relief agencies (such as Save the Children,  CARE and others who similarly funded by the defense industry) to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the country. The promise of protection, food, shelter and medical care to a brutalized population of sick, starving, scared, homeless people is an excellent tool for coercing  cooperation and compliance. Too, these relief agencies are very efficient at re-directing their contributions into the “right” pockets.
  10. When the citizens in the attacked country fight back (aka “playing right into your hands”) label them terrorists, insurgents and/or rebels, which will neatly vindicate your justifications for going to war in the first place.
  11. Escalate the war to crush the terrorists/insurgents/rebels.
  12. Repeat steps 10 and 11 until you’ve achieved your goal (see Step 1).

Or fester like a sore…

Once upon a time, Barack Obama conjured dreams of our forefathers, of the men upon whose shoulders he stood. He spoke to the American dream — to that idealized notion of a country and a people who aspire to do good things, to live up to that democratic ideal that all men are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable Rights, among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is the America that voted Obama into office, and this is the America that will suffer the repercussions of his turncoat presidency. But it was, for a time, a lovely dream, wasn’t it?

America simply cannot continue on this path. The need to drastically change our energy policy is no longer a debatable proposition. It is not a question of whether, but how; not a question of if, but when. For the sake of our security, our economy, our jobs and our planet, the age of oil must end in our time. Barack Obama, May 2007

Our cause is just, our resolve unshaken.Barack Obama, speaking in early December, 2009, on his decision to deploy a surge in Afghanistan

America will forgive Obama for omitting words such as liquefied natural gas, profit sharing agreements, TAPI, pipelines, death squads, mercenary armies, torture, war crimes, or extraordinary renditions to CIA black sites in Yemen in his Nobel Peace Prize speech and in his recent statements on Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ll forgive him, too, for neglecting to mention crimes against humanity in the soaring rhetoric of his lovely speeches. After all, we are embroiled in a war on terror. This is no time to quibble over semantics.

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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FOR A CLOSER LOOK:

American Everyman Blog – An informative compendium of well-researched information contained in 3 articles from the author’s “Understanding the Panty Bomber Mythology” series:

Library of Congress (Federal Research Division) Country Profile: Yemen, August 2008 (see page 11 for info on Yemen’s proven natural gas reserves plus info on 2/3 split (4.5 million tons per year) slated to be exported to the U.S. and Asia beginning in 2009)

The Public Record: Halliburton, KBR Plead Guilty to Cheney-Era Bribery Charges (February 2009) Article detailing the bribes paid by Cheney-Halliburton-KBR and Shell to the notoriously corrupt Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and some of his subordinates to win a lucrative construction contract for a natural gas liquefaction plant.

Voltaire.net’Nigerian Terrorist Patsy Yet Another CIA Ploy in US-backed Buildup of al Qaeda in Yemen Civil War’ (includes video)

Voltaire.net – Interview with Webster Tarpley : “The War on terror is a myth” Webster Tarpley’s analysis of U.S. imperialism and the events since 9-11, including Obama’s war on Pakistan and on the geopolitical relationships between the U.S., Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China.

Voltaire.netAfricom’s Covert War in Sudan: Under the Guise of Humanitarian Intervention (by Keith Harmon Snow)

Canarypapers: The U.S. War Machines Leaves an Ugly Slick of Oil & Blood Takes a closer lo0k at Africom and the coincidence of alleged al Qaeda activity near the shipping channels, mineral mines and oil/gas fields where, for years now, the clandestine U.S. wars on terror have been reaping lucrative deals for the Cheney rat pack.

Radio Free Europe: U.S. Airport Terminal Closed Over Security Alert U.S. authorities temporarily closed a terminal at the Newark, New Jersey, airport in the eastern United States after a man walked through a screening checkpoint exit into the secure side of the terminal without apparently undergoing a security check. (RHETORICAL QUESTION ON THE ABOVE ARTICLE: Are we to believe that a man simply walked past security at the screening checkpoint? Does any one who’s been to an airport in recent years actually believe this story?)

Salon: Cruise Missile Attacks in Yemen by Glenn Greenwald

LA Times: Yemen Dismisses al Qaeda Threat as “Exaggerated”

St. Pete for Peace: This site has a host of links detailing Obama’s statements, stances and “accomplishments” throughout his political career

Telegraph UK: Abu Ghraib abuse photos ‘show rape’ – Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, it has emerged.

Washington Post: U.S. announces more security aid to Yemen; Britain to host meeting on nation Typical media article that parrots the official story.

ThinkProgress: Hersh: Cheney ‘Left A Stay Behind’ In Obama’s Government, Can ‘Still Control Policy Up To A Point’ Article on Seymour Hersh interview with Terry Gross (NPR). Quote from interview:

“They call it a stay behind. It’s sort of an intelligence term of art. When you leave a country and, you know, you’ve driven out the, you know, you’ve lost the war. You leave people behind. It’s a stay behind that you can continue to contacts with, to do sabotage, whatever you want to do. Cheney’s left a stay behind. He’s got people in a lot of agencies that still tell him what’s going on. Particularly in defense, obviously. Also in the NSA, there’s still people that talk to him. He still knows what’s going on.”

Asia Times: Big Oil’s ‘secret’ out of Iraq’s closet Article that untangles the web of lucrative oil, gas and pipelines deals that have emerged from the U.S. wars on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan

Dennis Kucinich interview in which he proposes to restore the constitutionally mandated role of Congress in declaring (or not) war.

Lastly, consider these words — any of which would not sound at all odd coming from the mouth of Barack Obama:

Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that. It won’t be a World War III…. It has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil. It has nothing to do with the religion…. People say ‘Where’s the smoking gun?’ Well, we don’t want to see a smoking gun from a weapon of mass destruction. With a weapon of mass destruction you’re not talking about 300 people or 3,000 people being killed, but 30,000 or a hundred thousand.”” — excerpts from Donald Rumsfeld’s CBS interview in November 2002 (4 months before the start of the Iraq war) explaining both the brevity of the impending war, along with the insistence that the impending pre-emptive strikes were about weapons of mass destruction, period. Not oil.

If we were to allow our enemies to prevail in Iraq, the violence that is now declining would accelerate — and Iraq would descend into chaos….  Out of such chaos in Iraq, the terrorist movement could emerge emboldened — with new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America. An emboldened al Qaeda with access to Iraq’s oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations. — George W. Bush March 2008

For us to walk away from Iraq I think would have at least that bad an effect, probably worse, because if al Qaeda were to take over big parts of Iraq, among other things, they would acquire control of a significant oil resource. Iraq has almost 100 billion barrel reserves, producing 2.5-3 million barrels of oil a day. If you take a terrorist organization like al Qaeda and give it that kind of revenue, there’s no telling the amount of trouble they could get into.– Dick Cheney April 2008

The United States pursues no claim on Iraq’s territory or resources.Barack Obama, February 2009

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The Idolatry of Lesser Gods: Bogeymen and Heroes in the Bush Age

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No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving god looks upon them with favor. — President Obama, speaking at the Fort Hood memorial service on November 10, 2009

Listening to the radio yesterday, I heard Obama speak at the memorial for the 13 slain soldiers at Fort Hood. I listened to another mourner call the shooting rampage a “mini 9/11.” I listened to Obama.

At the risk of committing blasphemy, I’m going to state the obvious. When it comes to honoring tragedy, violence and death, Americans rise to the occasion. But only so long as these can be turned into a cause, of sorts: a cause for waving the flag and waxing patriotic about how great we are, as a people and a country — a cause, ultimately, for uniting against a common enemy. Because  without our enemies, we’d be nothing.

pro war
More than 200 demonstrators gathered at a Lafayette, California hillside in 2007 to voice their support for Bush and the Iraq War. The more than 3,000 crosses in the background represent the soldiers killed in Iraq.

I say this not to dishonor the victims of this horrible tragedy, but because it is incomprehensible that the American people have not embraced, with an equal degree of passion and mourning, the estimated 738 innocent American lives that have been lost — due to the simple inability to afford medical care — since the November 5th shooting rampage at Fort Hood.

Traditionally, Americans don’t rally around common enemies like poverty, racism or injustice. Quite the opposite, in fact. Our enemies are whatever bogeyman currently embodies our centuries-long hatred of other races, of other cultures,  and most especially of non-Christians.  And — as we learned during the Bush-Cheney Administration — it makes no difference whether these enemies are real or imaginary. The important thing is that we have them.

Without our enemies, around whom would we unite? Against what would we fight? What would be our common cause? Certainly not a reverence for the living.

If we’ve learned nothing from the health care wars of 2009, it’s that here in American, there are some folk who wouldn’t give a slug nickel to buy a poor man 5 minutes with the doctor — and who would, in fact, fight to the death to ensure he doesn’t get a red cent. By no coincidence, these are the same folk who have proved they don’t give a rat’s ass how big the price tag, when it comes to war.

The proof of this is in the pudding of the last 8 years. The rabid mobs who took to the streets this summer in protest against health care reform are the same folk who raised nary a squeak over the trillions of their grandchildrens’ futures that were mortagaged by Bush, Cheney & Co. Not a single pip was heard over the trillions that have been squandered to foot the bill for two wars that were waged on false pretenses and lies — wars which have accomplished little more than generating new armies of enemies, while making billionaires out of oil men, defense contractors and the myriad other for-profit agents of modern warfare. 

And in the wake the shootings at Fort Hood, we’ve learned something else. Americans easily unite to shed tears and decry the tragedy of 13 soldiers whose lives were brutally cut short by an irrational act of insanity. Yet we, as a people, are unable to extend this same level of sadness and outrage over the 123 Americans whose lives are brutally cut short each and every day — lives that could be saved, were these human beings simply given access to medical care.    

child-of-warIn America, we readily unite around our wars, our enemies and our soldiers. We generously open our pocketbooks to bullets and bombs and missiles. And we turn a blind eye to the repercussions of our purchases — millions maimed and slaughtered, falsely imprisoned and tortured, the women and children forced by American mercenaries into servitude and sex slavery, the uncounted number of babies born grossly deformed and dead in the wake of our depleted uranium bombs. Even as we don’t dare look our deeds in the eye, we rejoice in their righteousness. 

Yet, we fracture at the prospect of peace; ridicule peacemakers as weak; label them “terrorist appeasers.” We resent humanitarian causes, squabble over whose job it is — and isn’t — to protect and care for the sick, the oppressed, the hurt, the weak and the hungry. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that we were unable, as a country, to unite during the summer of 2009 to ensure that — never again — would any American citizen suffer fear, hunger, destitution, bankruptcy or homelessness due to medical bills  — or, worse, that any American citizen would die for simple a lack of money to pay for medical care. It should come as no surprise, but yet it caught us all by surprise to find our nation split in two, with many citizens taking to the streets with guns and threats of violence, sedition, assassination and lynching. 

Could it be that — for all our claims of being a godly nation — the moral pulse of our country is driven less by love than by hatred? Could this be the reason why Christians want to embed their religion into our laws, post their commandments in our national parks, plaster their piety on bumper stickers — cramming their hypocritical holiness down the throat of every non-Christian — so that we may, as a country, legitimize greed, ignorance, fear and intolerance? So that we may, on paper, divide the godly from the godless — and, in doing so, elevate our wars, our hatreds, and our petty missions into something they’re not? Is this why — whenever our leaders have attempted to pass legislation to protect people from racism, discrimination, lynching and hate crimes, or to protect the earth, feed the hungry or heal the sick — the Christians are the ones who take to the streets, armed to the teeth in protest? 

Could this be the reason why the American people seem almost obsessed with the need to know that the tragedy in Texas was not a random act of insanity but was, indeed, the long hand of the Muslim bogeyman reaching out to get us?  

Here, the tension is palpable. Patriotic Americans everywhere are waiting with bated breath — flags in hand — for the answer to that question. The media and our leaders wait with us, their fingers on the trigger, ready at a moment’s notice to shoot the answer to this all-encompassing question: Was Nidal Hasan’s shooting rampage part of a *gasp* Muslim terrorist plot?

They hope the answer is yes. 

They hope the answer is yes: permission granted to loathe and fear Muslims. Permission granted to believe that all Muslims are secretly planning to wage jihad against America. Permission granted to label all Muslims — and anyone who resembles, sympathizes or socializes with Muslims — as terrorists. Permission granted to elevate them all to the status of enemy.  And because all foreigners look alike to Americans, permission granted to fear and loathe all foreigners. 

They hope the answer is yes. Otherwise, Nidal Hasan’s rampage wouldn’t be so different than that of a disgruntled, white Protestant American worker who — perhaps suffering one more ounce of burden, stress or perceived injustice than he could handle — simply snapped. He succumbed to insanity; we went “postal” and slaughtered innocent people. 

By the same token, what if Nidal Hasan were, indeed, on a self-appointed mission from God? Americans have never, in the wake of similar tragedies, waged war against postal workers or factory workers. Nor have they persecuted Christians in the wake of crimes by men such as Timothy McVeigh, Jim Jones, Warren Jeffs and others who have committed equally heinous acts, including mass murder, under the delusion that they were on a mission from God:

Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.” — George W. Bush in early 2003, before the US-led invasion of Iraq began, speaking to French President Jacques Chirac, in the hope of drawing his country into the “coalition of the willing.”

I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.George W. Bush four months after the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, speaking before a Palestinian delegation in Egypt during the Israeli-Palestinian summit, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq began. 

As the child and grandchild of World War veterans, I am grateful to those who lay their lives on the line to protect America and our allies from real enemies. But being an American does not commit me to leave my mind and my conscience on the doorstep every time the decision is made to go to war. History has already shown — and one day the history books will catch up: America’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan — be they Christian crusades, wars for oil, or a crude mix of the two — were unnecessary and avoidable.  

Had the shoe been on the other foot — had, say, Timothy McVeigh et al been accused of flying suicide planes into the heart of Afghanistan, we would have responded exactly as the Taliban did in the wake of 9-11:  Show us the evidence that these people committed this horrible crime, and we will turn the criminals over to the courts for prosecution. Specifically, America was told:

“Punishment must only be brought once clear evidence of the crime has been established, and that must come through the relevant judicial channels.”

Judicial channels. What a novel concept. The Bush cabal cast such quaint notions aside, in what was to be their first successful abuse of the “state secrets” priviledge to deny accountability for their actions. To provide evidence that al Qaeda was responsible for 9-11 would have been “in conflict with the imperative of keeping intelligence information secret.”

The United States is going to do nothing that jeopardises the investigation,” opined Condi Rice.

The American people take encouragement from the fact that this government will not have loose lips,” bragged White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

But “In the near future,” promised Colin Powell, “we will be able to put out a paper, a document, that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking him to the attack.” Of course, these documents never materialized. And the American people, it seems, didn’t really care, anyway.   

bush praying

"I accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice and determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world..." Bush memo, dated February 7, 2002

And as the 8 years wound on, around the world, in dark, secret places, America accumulated prisons full of accused bogeymen — prisoners for whom, we were assured, the normal judicial channels and international law didn’t apply. Indeed, to have provided things like evidence, formal charges and jury trials against any man on the planet accused of terrorism would have also been “in conflict with the imperative of keeping intelligence information secret.” These bogeymen were so very bad, that they didn’t even deserve the normal channels of justice. In fact, these men were so evil that the only way to proving their crimes was to torture them into making confessions.   

Imagine a court of law in Podunk, USA pronouncing a man guilty of murder, yet refusing to allow the evidence of his guilt, based on the argument that to do so would jeopardize the police investigation. Or that the only way to proving his guilt was to torture him — beat him, starve him, keep him awake for weeks on end, cut his genitals, rape him with broom handles, suffocate him with water, threaten to torture or kill his wife, his sons, his daughters — whatever means were necessary to making him ‘fess up.     

It would be equally unjust, under the scenario above ( with Timothy McVeigh being accused of flying a suicide mission into the heart of Afghanistan)  if Afghanistan simply refused to follow judicial channels and, instead, chose to invade American soil and kill tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Or if Afghanistan were to go on a worldwide crusade to round up and imprison whatever Christians they deemed terrorists. No evidence necessary, of course, beyond whatever confessions could be extracted under torture. After all, as we now know, Christians can and do commit heinous crimes under the delusion that they are on a mission from God. 

My heart goes out to the victims and the families who suffered from the brutal violence and murders commited by Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009. My gripe is not with those who fight real enemies. My gripe is with people who hurt innocent people. My gripe is with those who try to elevate ignorance, fear, intolerance, indifference, greed and violence into something they are not. Namely patriotism, capitalist enterprise, or a mission from God. There is nothing noble or heroic in murdering or allowing harm to come to innocent people, no matter what your religion, nationality or office, and no matter how justifiable your fear, anger or rage.   

A blind reverence to those institutions and individuals who claim license to kill innocents flies in the face of all gods. Obama got that much right yesterday.    

No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving god looks upon them with favor. — President Obama, speaking at the Fort Hood memorial service on November 10, 2009

Similar words were spoken 3 years ago, by the United States Conference for the World Council of Churches, in their criticism of the Bush Administration’s response to the 9/11 attacks:

We are citizens of a nation that has done much in these years to endanger the human family and to abuse the creation. Our leaders turned a deaf ear to the voices of church leaders throughout our nation and the world, entering into imperial projects that seek to dominate and control for the sake of our own national interests. Nations have been demonised and God has been enlisted in national agendas that are nothing short of idolatrous.

 

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by Mantis Katz for canarypapers

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John L. Perry’s Advice from the Dark Side: “Try listening with your eyes closed”

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Folks are scratching their heads over the inner workings of John L. Perry, whose resume credentials would seem to contradict his current campaign to overthrow the U.S. government. After all, what would compel a man who worked for the Johnson and Carter Administrations to turn, in his old age, to the rantings of traitors and treasonists, calling for a coup of our democratically elected president? What happened? I have my theories.

But the fact is — just as there are some men, such as Frank Schaeffer, who consciously choose to make a u-turn from the dark side — there are some men, and John L. Perry is one of them, who are compelled to turn toward the dark side.  

The comparison between these two men ends there, as Schaeffer’s choice was toward enlightenment, whereas Perry’s choice was to embrace that certain darkness wherein a man — urging a coup of Barack Obama’s presidency — might choose to begin his epistle by paraphrasing Samuel Johnson, “Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging,” then conclude it with his own dark words, advising Americans:

“Start thinking. It comes at a time when Americans’ minds are focused on what gallows the future may hold for them and theirs.”

Those were the words penned by John L. Perry eight days before Obama’s inauguration. And, if there were any doubt as to what, exactly, Perry meant by this, he neatly clarified this in a subsequent column, on January 19 — on the eve of Obama’s inauguration — wherein Perry constructed a vision of how our democratically elected, constitutional government might best be overthrown. Building on Jeb Bush’s suggestion that Republicans form a “shadow government” (a term drawn from the British Parliamentary system), John L. Perry extrapolated this: “When a ruling party fails to stay ahead of the hounds, the shadow government, at least in theory, is equipped to step into power.”

Perhaps the years have muddled things up in Perry’s head. He confused the British Parliament with the Keystone Kops. Or maybe he just plain holds no regard for the facts. Whatever the case, Perry took Jeb Bush’s shadow and ran with it, completely sidestepping the fact that the British version of a shadow government — also called, “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” — is termed “loyal” for a reason: their role is to offer healthy opposition, not to dispute the legitimacy of the government.  John L. Perry’s version, on the other hand, seeks to do just the opposite: to challenge the legitimacy of our democratically-elected, constitutional government, toward the potential goal of overthrowing it. 

Some men’s minds are compelled to turn toward darkness, some toward light. This is the warp and weft of our history, the de facto nature of our national character. We earned it. Whether John L. Perry’s decision to lurk in the shadows is based in old ignorance and old hatred, or in new money, is yet unknown. But one thing is for certain: there is no resume so spiffy that it can polish the stain off a foul soul.

For the record, if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Deep Throat’s advice: Follow the money. In the spirit of learning from this particular history, lest we repeat it, I’ve chosen to preserve some of John L. Perry’s words, which are prone to being scrubbed from the Newsmax website. For now, you can read it straight from the horse’s, er, mouth, via this link to the Perry archive. Below are links to several notable gems from his archive. Should these links disappear, let me know. I have copies of the text. 

FROM THE PERRY ARCHIVES:

John L. Perry’s idea on insurrection against the U.S. government (published the day before Obama’s inauguration):  “A way must be found — invented if necessary — to defuse the perils lying ahead for America.”

*     *     *     *     *

John L. Perry on his discontent with the Obama Administration (published 8 days before Obama’s inauguration): “Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging.”

*     *     *     *     *

In this column, titled, “Grumpy Old Men for Sarah Palin,” (which could have as easily been titled, “Old Confederate Soldiers Hatin’ on Blacks and Protectin’ the Honor of White Women”) John L. Perry — writing in terms that any klansman would adore — explains how the men in “their day” would have handled the liberal media and left-wing politicians who were “slandering the honor of Alaska’s woman governor”: “Had such churlish conduct been inflicted on one’s mother, wife or daughter, it would have been answered in their day by horse-whipping in broad daylight.”

*     *     *     *     *

John L. Perry, writing on July 5, 2007, extolls the yet-to-be-realized greatness of George W. Bush, prefacing his column with this: “America sleep-stumbled once again through the significance of July 4, 1776. Centuries more could elapse before it awakens to history’s judgment of George W. Bush.”  Reading onward, you’d almost think Perry was talking about…. Oh, nevermind. Just read on: 

If you don’t know anything much about history, especially of your own nation, how can you pass a valid judgment about this current president, let alone about any president’s proper place in history?

At various points in their public careers George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, and Ronald Reagan were abused most vilely in the public prints. Years later, all are re-discovered as men of greatness — just as other presidents gained little, or sunk lower, in public regard as history unfolded….

He has not pandered to popularly perceived precepts of conventional wisdom. More and more, it is becoming clear that he is, with dogged courage, listening to the dictates of his own mind and heart. In the final analysis, is that not his overriding attribute that persuaded American voters to elect him?

Put bluntly, he is one of the rare presidents who genuinely believes the right thing to do is the right thing to do. And he persists in doing that, whatever the cost.

Any conscientious reader and serious student of American history knows this rare quality is the one indispensable ingredient in history’s stern requirement for greatness.

*     *     *     *     *

In his column titled, “Clues to Deciphering Obama Speeches,” John L. Perry takes a close look at President Obama’s elocution and finds, (surprise!) an arrogant black man. In all fairness, it must be said that a man must close his eyes, in order to see things that don’t exist, just as closing one’s ears can prevent facts from seeping into the mind: 

“Elocution matters, so try listening with your eyes closed. You’ll notice Obama ends almost every sentence or phrase on a decided drop in tonal scale as added emphasis. That says you are being looked down upon oratorically by one whose haughtiness and arrogance he cannot camouflage and relishes displaying.” — John L. Perry, describing how to “listen” to an Obama speech (April 21, 2009)

*     *     *     *     *

The text of John L. Perry’s (now-scrubbed) column on staging a coup to fix the “Obama Problem” is available via a pdf here at mediamatters.org.  He prefaces this column by giving notice to all those who have been waiting for this very moment in history:  

“There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.”

Continuing, Perry explains how there is already in place a secret component to our democracy — a built-in machination left by our forefathers, who apparently had the foresight to envision the day when it would become necessary to trample the U.S. Constitution. On this fateful day, which Perry paints in painstaking detail, our military (whose officers, according to Perry, are not compelled to obey Obama, but are readying themselves, as we speak, to defend America against the laundry list of armageddon-style scenarios prophesied in Perry’s column) will overthrow the Obama Administration, much like a “family intervention,” only with “skilled, military-trained nation-builders.”

*     *     *     *     *

What Perry seems to have overlooked, for all his fancy know-how on American history, is that the predictions for this very terrible, awful, dire time (the day when the chickenhawks and the Chicken Littles take to the streets in arms to warn us all — oh God, oh God, if only we’d listen! — that our country is about to be overrun by communists, socialists, blacks, Catholics, Japanese, Jews, Nazis, fascists — take your pick) arrive at least a few times per century. Ask the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s; ask the Red Shirts of the 1870s; ask the Klan of 1920s; ask the doomsday predictors of the New Deal era; ask Joseph McCarthy; ask George Wallace. Twenty years from now, you can also ask Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck: How did your socialist apocalypse pan out?

Better still, do this: be good girls and boys; learn your history well — paying special mind to people who say and do stupid things — then lather, rinse and, whatever you do, don’t repeat.  

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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Joe Wilson: Dog-Whistling Dixie in the Senate Chamber

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dixie tooAs one of Joe Wilson’s constituents, I feel compelled to weigh in on his “You lie” outburst during Obama’s speech. After scanning through the comments posted about the internet, I’ve noticed there’s a prevailing misperception that,  by virtue of being citizens of this state, we South Carolinians are all — each and very one of us — responsible for repeatedly re-electing this neanderthal to the House. 

Unless you have the misfortune to be a Democrat in South Carolina, you can’t possibly appreciate the futility of trying to elect intelligent, principled leaders of integrity in certain districts of South Carolina. Joe Wilson’s district covers some of the state’s largest concentrations of the poorest of the poor, juxtaposed with the richest of the rich.

Allendale County, in Joe Wilson’ district, holds the highest unemployment rate in the state and, in fact, vies with some of the highest in the country, at 22.5% — up from  its 15.9% high of one year ago. The state of South Carolina currently has the 6th highest unemployment rate in the country, at 11.8% (following right on the heels of  Nevada, California and Oregon), having nearly doubled in the past year. It has long been the distinction of South Carolina to rate among the worst in the country, concerning the health, education and well-being of its citizens.

We have politicians like Joe Wilson to thank for this — for cultivating and nourishing a climate that places South Carolina among the most backward states in the country.  We have been doing this for so long, that it’s become a tradition, of sorts.

One hundred years ago, we were the second most illiterate state in the country (see pg. 56), ranking in 49th place. Things have changed little since. Today, we still rank among the lowest in the country for graduation rates (49th) and SAT scores (47th/48th), while we rank (and you won’t Joe Wilson bellowing these words on the Senate Floor) among the top ten  highest states on infant mortality (45th), low birthweight babies (47th), child deaths (40th) teen births (42nd), children living in poverty (42nd), children in single-parent homes (48th), violent crime (50th), and unemployment (we were at 48th in May 2009, with the recent drop to 45th place likely due to folk giving up on the futility of looking for work). In 2008, South Carolina earned the distinction of being the third worst state in the country for human health (up 6 notches from 2007). It comes as no surprise, then, that South Carolina also rates as one of the worst places in the country (46th place, at last count) for raising children.  

With such deplorable health statistics for his state, in general, and his district, in particular, you’d think Joe Wilson would have something on his mind besides going to tea bag parties and spreading disinformation to kill the health care reform that would benefit the majority of his constituents. You’d think he’d be obsessed with something other than assuring the lords in his fiefdom that their tax dollars won’t (for the record, anyway) go toward paying medical care for the illegal migrant workers on whose backs their economies covertly depend. You’d think that, perhaps, Joe might have something more helpful to offer the national dialogue than, “You lie!” Joe’s actions only make sense when you consider the health of his corporate campaign contributions  (see bottom of post), as opposed to the blood and guts health of his constituents.

In South Carolina, as elsewhere in the country, the poor and the minorities are among the most disenfranchised citizens.

AN ASIDE: To be fair to Joe Wilson, Obama was just as guilty as any Republican last night of negating the existence of the poor. While discussing the number of uninsured in this country, Obama said, “These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans,” thereby dispelling, in one fell swoop, the existence of upwards of 30 to 40% of Americans who are neither on welfare, or in the middle-income bracket. This is the demographic which (scalawag notwithstanding) John Edwards fought for during his brief bid for the presidency — a mantle for the swelling numbers of poor in this country, which was not picked up by either Clinton or Obama.  

The careers of Republicans are made or broken, depending on their ability to make clear where their loyalties lie, without appearing blatantly racist. Last night’s outcry by Joe Wilson was a perfect example. 

 

dog whistleDog-Whistling Dixie

To understand the politics of South Carolina and men like Joe Wilson, one must first understand that the South Carolina Republicans have yet to forgive the Democratic Party for the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the desegration of public schools. To understand South Carolina politics, one must first understand the politics of Lee Atwater, the architect of the modern-day Southern strategy. 

Our politicians still fight as dirty as they did during the reigns of the Red Shirts, the Klan and the Jim Crow era. The only difference, today, is that in order to  disenfranchise minority voters, undermine education to the poor, and blackwash humanitarian and social programs that could elevate these people from the bondage of servitude and poverty, a politician must be subtle. 

Remember, it’s been only 50 years since South Carolina politicans were forced, in the name of political correctness, to hang up their  white hoods. In the interim, the burning cross has been  replaced with a system of verbal winks and nods that equally convey the same message. This strategy, as described by  South Carolina’s own adopted homeboy, Lee Atwater, works something like this: 

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites…..  You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Joe Wilson’s outburst last night was not, as he would have us believe, a spontaneous, impassioned eruption of frustration. No, it was an intentional, calculated  hard wink to his largest campaign contributors in the healthcare, insurance and pharmaceutical industries — as well as to his well-heeled constituents:  Not to worry, fellas. Joe Wilson’s got your back. 

In the realm of South Carolina politics, those two words, “You lie!” were pure genius — capturing, in one fell swoop, the continuing generosity to his campaign coffers from the health, insurance and drug industry, along with the continued support of his “people” — knuckle-dragging racists and elitists alike.  

Already, one group has declared Joe Wilson a hero, naming him “Tea Party Patriot of the Day” —  deeming his outburst a “major victory” against the radical left and the evil liberal media.  

None of this comes  as a surprise from a man who cut his political teeth working as an aide to Strom Thurmond, Or from a politician who — in 2002, long before it was in vogue — resurrected the ghost of Joseph McCarthy, declaring one of colleagues in the House, Congressman Bob Filner as being “viscerally anti-American” with a “hatred of America,” after Filner had factually reminded the body, during an Iraq war debate, that the U.S had, in fact,  supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical and biological weapons.  

Wilson later apologized for this outburst, much as he did last night, saying that he hadn’t ( perish the thought!) intended to insult Filner. Working from the time-honored Republican strategy that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to resist the compulsion to engage in reprehensible political theater, Wilson  did what South Carolina Republicans do best: he put on a show.  And he wasn’t just dog-whistling dixie.

That’s what keeps the re-election coffers filled: stoke the old hatreds, replenish the ignorance, stroke the priviledged and the kings of industry, and you are assured of a long political career in South Carolina.  Joe Wilson has many beaus in industry, the greatest being “health care professionals,” who, along with the insurance and pharmaceutical industry filled his coffers to the tune of $97, 235 in the 2008 election. His 2010 re-election is all but assured.

But if worse comes to worst, and the voices of the poor and the minorities in the state threaten to change the status quo, Joe can always revert to that thing that Southern politicans do when all else fails: redistrict. 

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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Potent Quotables from the Joe Wilson’s Town Hall Meetings

In the following statement, Joe Wilson is showing “concern” for his constituents in the poorest counties in his district — for whom he predicted dire results, should they be allowed equal access to medical care. His concern for this particular population, which holds the 2nd highest diabetes rate in the country, was that they might  “fall through the cracks” of “a big government system.” 

 We know that diabetes causes many other collateral health conditions, and quality of life is destroyed, families are destroyed because of diabetes. So, by adopting a big government system where people fall through the cracks, there are a lot of people, particularly people in the rural community I represent, who are going to be hurt. 

Joe Wilson on “Obamacare” and death panels, aka Bill 3200:

It will be the government determining the care you get and ultimately whether you live or die.

The Resignation of Van Jones: Who Needs McCarthy Hearings, When You Have Glenn Beck?

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When contemplating the abyss, it’s sometimes helpful to look straight into it.  In this spirit, I did something I never do: I went to the Fox News website and read their account of the Van Jones story, titled, “How Van Jones Happened and What We Need to Do Next.”  The article reads like a page from the Lee Atwater manifesto.  ( Or Harry Dent or Karl Rove, take your pick.) Herein, I learned that, according to the folks at Fox News, Van Jones was part of a bigger conspiracy, not unlike the Democrats’ secret  mission to use health care reform as a path to putting our country under the rule of socialist death panels.  

And, if not for the courage of the fearless crew at Fox News, it’d still be a secret, since the evil liberal media was, as usual, asleep at the helm, ignoring yet one more left-wing radical plot to take over our country.

Turns out, according to this article, the reason that 57 companies pulled their ads from Glenn Beck’s show was NOT because Beck said the following, of President Obama on July 28th:

This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture — I don’t know what it is. …I’m not saying that he doesn’ t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. He has a — this guy is, I believe, a racist.

No, the real reason for the boycott is much more insidious: Glenn’s show was boycotted because he broke the Van Jones story.  According to Phil Kerpen, Director of Policy for Americans for Prosperity, who officially broke the story on Beck’s July 28th show: “Given the chronology… we should consider whether the boycott was retaliation for the coverage.”

But wait, there’s more. According to Kerpen, Jones’ real agenda at the White House was, “an attempt to achieve radical ends” an end Kerpen deemed, “squarely within the mainstream of the political left and the Democratic Party.”

Just what was Jones’  secret agenda? Apparently, his agenda for the “greening” of America was really a thinly disguised plot to topple capitalism. Kerpen even gave a name to his plot, calling it “the watermelon theory,” (not to be confused with the certain stereotypes of yore about colored folk and watermelon). According to Kerpen, Jones’ efforts toward a cap and trade bill to curb carbon emissions was  “watermelon,” green on the outside but Communist red to the core.

As evidence of this, Kerpen revealed Jones’ ties to the radical organization, the Apollo Alliance, which has been involved in myriad nefarious projects, such as:

  • Working with volunteer university students, union workers and community members to caulk, seal and insulate low-income homes in Buffalo, NY.  and to also design a do-it-yourself kit for homewners — called the Home Energy Conservation Kit (HECK) that gave homeownders the necessary materialsto make basic improvements themselves.
  • Efforts to keep millions of U.S. jobs from being sent overseas. Responding to recent reports that 30% of American overseas job losses came from the manufacturing sector — and that 70 percent of America’s clean and efficient energy systems are currently being manufactured overseas — Apollo has been working with a “broad spectrum of U.S. industry, including manufacturers, distributors, labor unions, and clean energy producers” to support legislation to “revive American manufacturing through investment in clean energy.” In this effort, the Apollo Alliance supports Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill titled, “Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) Act,” — a bill to boost domestic clean energy manufacturing and ensure that new clean energy jobs stay in the United States, while also cutting American dependence on foreign oil. 
  • Efforts to modernize our long-neglected transportation infrastucture to rejuvinate our cities by bringing businesses and people back to the deteriorating downtowns, much like Chattanooga did in the early 1990s — a succes story that created jobs, prospered business, and improved the quality of life, while also setting the standard for cutting operating costs,  reducing fuel consumption and waste, while being good stewards of the environment.  

And this is only “the tip of iceberg,” accoring to Kerpen. To illusrate this point, he offered the following chart which draws the clear, undisputable connections between communism, green jobs, the Sierra Club, the president of the United Steel Workers Union and, yes, none other than Van Jones.

 

The Chart: The "Green Jobs" Radical Network Conspiracy to Take Over the WorldEven

If this reminds you of that scene with all the crazy road signs in the movie, “Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure,” it’s for good reason. We Americans were on a crash collision course with communism — saved only by the grace of Phil Kerpen’s meticulous research, which uncovered all manner of scary plots:    

“He [Jones] urged adoption of a carbon cap-and-trade program, renewable electricity mandates– including Al Gore’s outlandish and impossible goal of eliminating fossil fuel use by 2018, large taxpayer-funded green jobs programs, a so-called smart grid for electricity, more mass-transit subsidies, higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, federal funding for organic farms, a ban on new coal plants, expanded ethanol mandates, and even a spirited, multiple page pitch for a cash-for-clunkers program.”

Scary stuff, eh? Kerpen elaborates:

“Green jobs are not economic jobs but political jobs, designed to funnel vast sums of taxpayer money to left-wing labor unions, environmental groups, and social justice community organizers.”

In other words, environment protection is part of an evil fascist  plot to take over the government. Social justice is just another word for socialism. And community organizers are… Well, you get the picture. 

Kerpen continues:

“Even  if Apollo is properly tainted by the Van Jones scandal, it’s only the tip of the iceberg, as this chart shows. In fact most of the action has already moved to the Center for American Progress, the hyper-politicized think tank that’s advancing most of the left’s agenda.”

It would easy enough to confuse the name of this “leftist” organization,  “Center for American Progress,” with its polar opposite,  “Americans for Prosperity,” the group with which Phil Kelpern serves as pollicy director. A quick view of their websites dispels all confusion. Below are some of the headlines from the home page of the “leftist” group, Center for American Progress, allegedly tied to Van Jones: 

  • Serving America’s Veterans
  • Restoring America’s global leadership
  • Seizing the energy opportunity
  • Creating progressive growth
  • Delivering universal health care
  • Getting Our Sudan Policy Right
  • Mixed News for Older Workers
  • A Good Job Is Hard to Find
  • Ted Kennedy, in Substance
  • Evaluating the Elections in Afghanistan
  • Public Shows Strong Support for Changes in Energy Policy
  • Making Government Work for Families
  • What Does Reform Mean for You?

In contrast, the headlines on Karpen’s “American’s for Prosperity” site seem less geared toward  issues and solutions and, well, American progress, than toward sliming the Democrats and killing every single effort to address the enormously complex issues of our times. Their current focus appears to be on killing health care reform and bashing unions and a cap and trade bill:

  • Green Czar’s Communism No Coincidence
  • Obama to Indoctrinate Schoolchildren
  • Obama’s “new” health care strategy
  • Baucus Deal is No Compromise
  • Americans for Prosperity Exposes the Left’s “Secret Plan” to Use Forced Unionization to Take Over the Country
  • Obama’s ‘Green’ Groups Eye Lots of Greenbacks
  • Tell the Obama administration to allow offshore drilling here in America!
  • Documentary Exposes Cap-and-Trade: It’s All About Control
  • Americans for Prosperity encourages members of the general public to visit their district offices and attend town hall meetings of their senators and representatives, especially during this August break when issues like health care reform and cap-and-trade are at the peak of debate. Make sure your voice is heard!

Of course, this comes as no surprise from an organization that is bedfellows to Doug Coe’s C-Street and the insurance, pharmaceutical and oil industries, to name a few. So it also comes as no suprise that Americans for Prosperity has also been spearheading this summer’s debacles of the tea-baggers, birthers and deathers, inciting Americans to take arms against imaginary giants.

Turns out, these efforts are effective. Health care reform is dead in the water, and Van Jones resigned, saying that he took on this position with the Obama Administration so that he could put his energies into defending others, not into defending himself. His absence leaves the Obama Administration another person short of the independent voices sorely needed to counterbalance money with morals on Capitol Hill — to offer a a strong voice for the people, whose interests are not served by the kings of industry and their lobbyists, whose job is to buy political favor and squash anything that stands between the kings and their profits. 

The aptly named “Americans for Prosperity” makes no claims to be Americans for clean drinking water, or Americans for breathable air, or  Americans for preserving and protecting the environment for future generations, or Americans for decent medical care for all citizens, or Americans for serving the needs of veterans, or Americans for stopping genocide in Africa, or Americans for decent worker wages. No, their name is American for Prosperity, and the only causes they support are those that benefit the kings of industry. Causes that benefit the people and the environment are enemies to prosperity.

Having hamstrung Van Jones, on the heels of helping kill health care reform, Americans for Prosperity got a taste of blood and it seems they like it. Seems they like folk who issue death threats and accuse the president of hating white people. Seems they like folk who resurrect the ghost of Joseph McCarthy. Seems they like insurrectionists who plan revolts against our constitutional government. Seems they like folk who attend Obama events with guns strapped to their sides. Seems they don’t give a damn about death panels, so long as they’re run by insurance CEOS.

Here, Obama and the Democratic Party would do well to take a line from George W. Bush’s playbook: We don’t appease terrorists.

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more on Van Jones, from someone who actually knows the man and his work, see Arianna Huffington’s, “Thank you, Glenn Beck!”

The (Unfinished) Story of Majid Khan, Dick Cheney and the Torture Memos

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FROM THE UNPUBLISHED ARCHIVES: This post is among several unpublished, unfinished drafts — all of them works-in-progress, when I set them aside to speak out on behalf of other issues. The news in America is relentlessly bad, and it’s only getting worse. It’s difficult for the average person to stand still long enough to make sense of one horror story, before another one overtakes it. Torture is promising to be an ongoing horror — past, present and future.  And I remain unconvinced that the Obama Adminstration has done enough — or intends to do enough — to ensure, “Never again.”

In this vein, we should never stop shedding light on all the terrorist acts Dick Cheney committed under the false flag of fighting terrorism. We should never stop demanding that Cheney and his gang be held accountable for their war crimes. Even as this post is unfinished, it holds value as a reference tool for shedding light onto the complex legal sleights-of-hand Cheney used to “legalize” torture.

Equally important is the need to continually shed light onto the victims of the Cheney-era war crimes. Many of these victims — if not most — are believed to be innocent. And who’s to say otherwise? Few have ever been officially charged with a crime and none have been permitted the basic right of a trial — their every effort to do so having been defeated by Team Cheney’s devious legalese, which is still a de facto part of American law. The number of these victims is seemingly countless. Majid Khan is but one of these human souls left to rot in jail, his guilt long ago sealed by accusations and confessions extracted under torture.

My apologies for not finishing this post, and for any loose ends I didn’t tie up.

The (Unfinished) Story of Majid Khan

Dick Cheney and his torture regime are like the vampire in the B-grade movie that refuses to die. Until someone drives a stake through its heart — that is, until the Department of Justice sees fit to take the gloves off and conduct an honest investigation into Cheney’s regime of corruption and torture — the monster will continue to re-injure our country, our laws, our integrity, our standing in the world. Not to mention the victims, whose stories are the stuff of nightmares. Problem is, the more time passes, the easier it becomes for Dick Cheney and daughter, Liz (who is — mark my words — being groomed to run for the vice-presidency in 2012), to re-write history and for the American public to then blindly accept their bill of goods. But, make no mistake, the rest of the world — the good, the bad and the ugly — aren’t buying.

Obama’s refusal to acknowledge America’s war crimes and hold these criminals acountable is not only short-sighted — permitting this history to exist unimpeded and ripe to repeat itself — but it also makes  Obama party to the crimes.  Obama’s neglect does not abrogate the DOJ from their duty to investigate these crimes to the fullest extent of the law. But that’s not how things are done in America today. Ultimately, it is up the American people to demand this. Perhaps we can pencil this fight into our busy agendas, somewhere between our battle for health care reform our own personal struggles with the collapsing American economy.

I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world: the United States does not torture. — George W. Bush, September 6, 2006

By the time George Bush uttered those words, he was (technically, anyway) correct. That is, according to the precise letter of the law, as interpreted by Dick Cheney’s crackerjack team of attorneys at the Dept. of Justice Office of Legal Council (OLC) and published in the four Bybee and Bradbury memos, dating from August 2002 and May 2005. According to Team Cheney, we never did torture, and even if we did, the point was moot. Here’s why, according to the Bybee and Bradbury memos:

  • Intention is nine-tenths (plus one-tenth) of the law: Unless the interrogators intended to inflict pain and suffering, it was not torture. And since the specific intention of the interrogators was to gather intelligence — and not to inflict pain and suffering, per se — it was not technically torture.
  • Location, location, location: Under the terms Article 16 in the Geneva Convention Against Torture (CAT), the torture prohibitions apply specifically to “territories under [United States] jurisdiction.” To ascertain whether we were in compliance with this treaty obligation, the memo authors repeatedly consulted dictionary definitions of “territory” and “jurisdiction,” which neatly supported their argument that it is was not illegal for the U.S. to torture prisoners, so long as the torture took place in non-U.S. territories. Thus, the network of secret black site prisons around the globe (e.g. Afghanistan, Poland, Syria, Morocco, Thailand, etc.) where torture took place were determined to be, technically, legal, as were enhanced interrogations on any ships not registered with the U.S.  (see pages 17-21 in the May 30, 2005 Bradbury Memo)
  • Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls: An existing U.S. Senate reservation states the the U.S. is bound to the obligations of the Geneva Convention Against Torture “only insofar as the term ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment'[ means [that] prohibited by the Fifth, Eigth and/or Fourteenth Amendments to Constitution of the United States.” Scrutinizing the language of this reservation, Team Cheney again consulted the dictionary for clarity on the precise definitions of key words and terms, such as “torture” and “calculated” and “severe physical suffering” and “severe mental pain or suffering” and “prolonged mental harm.” After careful consideration of the dictionary definitions, they concluded that  the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, were legal. Waterboarding cannot be considered “severe physical suffering” because, according to the dictionary, for distress to be “severe,” the intensity and duration of the distress must be taken into account. The memo explains that, by definition, waterboarding does not constitute “severe physical suffering,” since (a) the physical distress of waterboarding ends as soon as the session is over, and since (b) these sessions were, by their estimation, brief (with the maximum time set at 12 minutes per day, total, of actual waterboarding per day, with each session to last no longer than 40 seconds.) A similar argument is used to explain why waterboarding does not cause “prolonged mental harm,” as the length of these sessions do not conform to the dictionary definition of “prolonged.” You’d have to read the memos to appreciate the beauty of these definitions, as they apply to the blow-by-blow legalization of torture, as construed in these memos. Here are a few examples, as they apply to each of the following Constitutional Amendments:
    • 8th Amendment – This amendment protects against the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” As the memo argues, however, this amendment only applies after an individual has been convicted of a crime. Thus, the memo concludes that “Because the high-value detainees on whom the CIA might use enhanced interrogation techniques have not been convicted of any crime, the substantive requirements of the Eighth Amendment would not be relevant here.” Accordingly, so long as the due process is denied ( per the provisions of the 14th Amendment, below) then a detainee could be detained forever, being subjected all the while to “cruel and unusual punishments.”
    • 5th Amendment — Unlike the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Fifth Amendment allows that NO person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Setting aside the dictionary for a moment, the memo’s authors turned to case law, citing a 1952 ruling, which stated that the due process component of the 5th Amendment protects, specifically, against executive action that “shocks the conscience.” And to determine whether an action “shocks the conscience,” it is necessary to determine whether it is “arbitrary in the constitutional sense,” which, in turn, depends on whether the action is justifiable “in the service of a legitimate government objective.” The memo authors devote several pages to this concern before ultimately determining waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques do not “shock the conscience” and therefore do not violate the 5th amendment.  Building on this argument, the memo asserts that — since aliens (non-U.S. citizens) are not entitled to Fifth Amendment rights outside of the sovereign territory of the United States — it is not illegal to subject aliens to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”so long as this takes place in the above mentioned black prison sites. This argument was no doubt used to justify the extraordinary rendition of Canadian citizen Mahar Arar to Syria. (To be sure, since the Constitution technically only applies to U.S. citizens, it stands to reason (and this is painstakingly spelled out in the Bybee-Bradbury memo) that it is perfectly legal to subject non-U.S. citizens to “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” )
    • Fourteenth Amendment — While this amendment provides that “No State shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” this provision does not *technically* apply in the District of Columbia, which is coincidentally where the White House is located. This gave the Bush-Cheney Administration additional license, as if they needed it, to deprive anyone they jolly well pleased — from American citizens to aliens — of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.

In other words, (according to the authority of Dick Cheney and his crackerjack team of lawyers) there are no domestic or international laws to prohibit the U.S. from torture, illegal detainment, extraordinary rendition or the denial of due process. Which brings me to the case of Majid Khan.

It is only appropriate (since his incarceration and torture would have been deemed illegal in pre-Bybee-Bradbury years) that his name is physically present in these memos. In the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, if you look at the 2nd paragraph on page 10, you’ll find his name. Look closely, because the words “Majid Khan” — much like the actual person — have been partially obliterated by the ubiquitious redactions.

In broad brushstrokes, the story of Majid Khan  can be given in two sentences: Majid Khan, a legal U.S. resident from Baltimore, was arrested in 2003, based on accusations from a torture victim, who has since acknowledged giving false information under torture, simply to make the torture stop. Majid Khan has spent the past 6 years — and counting — in prison, without charges, during which time he, himself, has been reportedly subjected to torture, under which he confessed to crimes he never committed.

Majid Khan is seen in year in high school in Baltimore, Maryland. Khan, 27, is now jailed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Majid Khan is seen in 1999 during his senior year in high school in Baltimore, Maryland. Khan, 27, is now jailed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Again, my apologies to Majid Khan and his family for not finishing this post. I hope that this post will be a starting point for others to take an interest in his story.  By all appearances, Mr. Khan is an innocent man: he has yet to be charged with any crime — much less been granted the basic right of a trial — and, as such, appears to be guilty of nothing more than getting mired in the web of Dick Cheney’s deceitful war on terror.

Below is a synopsis of Majid Khan’s story, quoted from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. CCR has been actively involved in litigation on behalf of many Guantanamo detainees, including Mr. Khan, whom they’ve represented since Sept. 2006, a timeline of which can be found here, at the CCR website, along a list of PDF files of their actions throughout this case:

Mr. Khan was kidnapped in 2003 while visiting relatives in Pakistan, imprisoned in secret CIA detention for three-and-a-half years and subjected to “alternative interrogation methods” that amount to torture. He has never been formally charged with a crime.

Majid Khan had immigrated with his family to the United States in 1996. They settled in Baltimore, where he attended Owings Mills High School, graduating in 1999. Majid was granted legal asylum in the U.S. in 1998 and subsequently worked for the State of Maryland. In 2002, he went to Pakistan to get married and then came home to the United States to continue working. Shortly after returning to his wife in Pakistan, Majid and other relatives were kidnapped from their residence.

In the middle of the night, on March 5, 2003, individuals identified as Pakistan security officials pounded on the door of the home of Majid’s brother in Karachi, and rushed into the flat. The family members at home included Majid, his brother, his brother’s wife and their month-old daughter. As the family was trying to wake up, the officials hooded and bound them before placing them in a vehicle. They were all taken to an unknown location.

Majid’s sister-in-law and infant niece were imprisoned for about a week. Pakistan officials imprisoned his brother for approximately one month. When Majid’s brother was released, officials threatened him not to make any public statements or inquire after Majid. As a result of the threats, Majid’s family in Baltimore and Karachi waited anxiously and fearfully for his return. He was never released or heard from again.

Back home in the U.S., Majid’s family cooperated with U.S. authorities in every way they could; Majid’s older brother, a U.S. citizen, was interviewed hundreds of times by the FBI and he asked repeatedly about Majid’s whereabouts. Nonetheless, Majid’s family did not learn he was in U.S. custody or even that he was alive until a news reporter knocked on their door and told them President Bush announced Majid’s name in a speech before the nation on September 6, 2006.

Majid now has a young daughter he hasn’t seen.

For more on Majid Khan from the Center for Constituional Rights archives:

Khan v. Bush / Khan v. Gates Synopsis: CCR’s representation of Majid Khan involves two cases: Khan v. Bush is a habeas corpus … of former Baltimore, MD resident and U.S. asylum-holder, Majid Khan, who was transferred from three-years in secret C.I.A. detention to …
Going to See a Ghost: Majid Khan and the Abuses of the ‘War on Terror’ … wrote this op-ed in The Washington Post on CCR client Majid Khan, a former Baltimore resident who was “disappeared” into a CIA …
Redacted Motion to Declare Interrogation Methods Used on Majid Khan Are Torture Cleared By CIA … the government to preserve evidence of Guantanamo detainee Majid Khan’s torture by the CIA, a second motion filed by the Center for … the motion is due to the court on December 20. “Majid Khan was subjected by U.S. personnel to a ruthless program of …
CCR Attorneys Release Revelations of Torture of Former Ghost Detainee Majid Khan Sub Heading: Motion Filed to Preserve Evidence of Majid‘s Torture While at CIA Black Site Last week, a motion that … attorneys filed in the case of former ghost detainee Majid Khan was made public. The heavily redacted motion, which was filed in order to …
Government Declassifies Majid Khan Torture Motion … by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Majid Khan, a former CIA ghost detainee now held at Guantanamo. The motion and its …
Freedom of Information Act: Ghost Detention and Extraordinary Rendition Case … tortured in Syria for nearly a year. CCR also represents Majid Khan, a former resident of Baltimore, Maryland, who was detained in secret for …
Dixon, J. Wells … Yemen. He also represents former Baltimore-area resident Majid Khan, who was imprisoned and tortured in secret CIA “black sites” for more …
CCR Files Important Brief in Khan v. Bush … response to the government’s efforts to deny CCR access to Majid Khan, on whose behalf CCR previously filed a petition of habeas corpus. Mr. …
Gutierrez, Gitanjali … Convening Authority in May 2008.  She also represents Majid Khan, a Baltimore resident and citizen of Pakistan transferred from secret CIA …
CCR Attorney Gives Unprecedented Classified Briefing to Senate Intelligence Committee on Details of CIA Torture Program … provided a thorough account of what was done to CCR client Majid Khan and of the on-the-ground implementation of the CIA’s “enhanced …

Court Orders Government Not to Destroy Torture Evidence … to preserve” evidence relating to Guantanamo detainee Majid Khan, including evidence of his torture by the CIA. The U.S. Court of Appeals …

FAQs: What Are Ghost Detentions and Black Sites … In addition, CCR provides legal representation to Majid Khan, one of the 15 men transferred from secret CIA custody to Guantanamo Bay. …
House Votes to Outlaw Waterboarding … was released on the same day that the government brought Majid Khan, who is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, and others to …
CIA Acknowledges It Has More than 7,000 Documents Relating to Secret Detention Program, Rendition, and Torture … of men. These include some of our clients, like Majid Khan, who were known to be in the program. The public needs to know what …

Sources plus more info for further reading:

April 17, 2009 Letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to  Sen. John D. Rockefeller in response to the Senator’s Feb. 2009 request for declassification and release of a narrative regarding advice provided by the CIA on the legality of certain interrogation techniques

World Socialist Website: More Revelations from Bush Torture Memos

Security Dilemmas (A blog dedicated to examining issues of international and national security, international politics, and international law): Legalizing Torture? Part II: The 30 May 2005 Bradbury Memo

Emptywheel/Firedoglake: The Gestation of Bradbury’s Torture Memos

Congressional Research Service: The U.N. Convention Against Torture: Overview of U.S. Implementation Policy Concerning the Removal of Aliens (January 21, 2009)

The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: The text

ACLU: FAQs on the U.N. Convention Against Torture

ACLU: On April 16, 2009, the Department of Justice released four secret Bybee-Bradbury Memos, which were used by the Bush-Cheney Administration to justify torture. This page includes links to the texts of the following memos:

  • The Bybee-Memo: An 18-page memo, dated August 1, 2002, from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF]
  • Bradbury Memo: A 46-page memo, dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF]
  • Bradbury Memo: A 20-page memo, dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF]
  • Bradbury Memo: A 40-page memo, dated May 30, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF]
    • NOTE: This is the memo where you will find mention of Majid Khan in the 2nd paragraph on page 10, which reads:

More specifically, we understand that KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] admitted he had tasked Majid Khan with delivering a large sum of money to an al Qaeda associate… Khan subsequentgly identified the associate (Zubair) who was then captured. Zubair, in turn, provided information that led to the arrest of Hambali. the information acquired from these captures allowed CIA interrogators to pose more specific questions to KSM, which led the CIA to Hambali’s brother, al-Hadi. Using information from multiple sources, al-Hadi was captured, and he subsequently identified the Guraba cell…. With the aid of this additional information, interrogations of Hambali confirmed much of what was learned from KSM.

The footnote (#6) to the above section was redacted in entirety, except for this sentence:

We discuss only a small fraction of the important intelligence CIA interrogators have obtained from KSM.

2007 International Red Cross report This ICRC report, dated February 2007, details the treatment of fourteen “high value detainees” in CIA custody. The leaked report was first published by the New York Review of Books. This report cites specific instances of ill-treatment as reported by these 14 detainees. Below are the passages that mention Majid Khan:

  • Prolonged Stress Standing (Section 1.3.2): Ten of the fourteen [detainees] alleged that they were subjected to prolonged stress standing positions, during which their wrists were shackled to a bar or hook in the ceiling above the head for periods ranging from two or three days continuously, and for up to two or more months intermittently. All those detainees who reported being held in this position were allegedly kept naked throughout the use of this form of ill-treatment. For example…. Mr. Majid Khan [was shackled] for three days in Afghanistan and seven days in his third place of detention…. While being held in this position some of the detainees were allowed to defecate in a bucket. A guard would come to release their hands from the bar or hook in the ceiling so that they could sit on the bucket. None of them, however, were allowed to clean themselves afterwards. Others were made to wear a garment that resembled a diaper… Three other detainees specified that they had to defecate and urinate on themselves and remain standing in their own bodily fluids. Of these, on Mr. Bin Lep agreed that his name be transmitted to the authorities.
  • Prolonged Nudity (Section 1.3.6): The most common method of ill-treatment noted during the interiews with the fourteen was the use of nudity. Eleven of the fourteen alleged that they were subjected to extended periods of nudity during detention and interrogation, ranging from several weeks continuously up to several months intermittently. For example…. Mr. Majid Khan alleged that he was kept naked for three days in Afghanistan and for seven days in his third place of detention….. Most of the detainees commented that the provision of clothes was determined by how cooperative they were perceived by the interrogators.
  • Deprivation/Restricted Provision of Solid Food (Section 1.3.12) Eight of the fourteen alleged that they were deprived of solid food for periods ranging from three days to one month.This was often followed by a period with the provision of food was restricted and allegedly used as an incentive for cooperation. Two other detainees alleged that, whilst they were not totally deprived of solid food, food was provided intermittently or provided in restricted amounts. For example…. Mr. Majid Khan alleged that he did not receive any solid food for seven days in Afghanistan.
  • In addition, the dates of the ICRC’s written interventions to the U.S. authorities, requesting information on Majid Khan are given in Annex 2 of this same report.

The Washington Post:

  • Human Beings Without Humanity — (Excerpt: “The profoundly disgusting memos made public yesterday — in which government lawyers attempted to justify flatly unconscionable and illegal acts — provide a depressing reminder of a time when the powerful and powerless alike were stripped of their humanity. These memos gave the CIA the go-ahead to do things to people that you’d be arrested for doing to a dog. And the legalistic, mechanistic analysis shows signs of an almost inconceivable callousness. The memos serve as a vivid illustration of the moral chasm into which the nation fell — or rather, was pushed — during the Bush era. President Obama deserves great credit for defying members of the intelligence community who wanted to keep these memos secret. But in calling for the nation to move on without any further looking back, Obama put his political needs above his moral and legal obligations…..”)
  • Too Embarrassing to Disclose? (Excerpt: “President Obama’s approach to government transparency is disturbingly opaque in places, particularly when it comes to disclosing information about the Bush administration’s torture legacy….”)

Salon.comIs waterboarding torture? Ask the prisoners (November 6, 2007)

Long Excerpt: If senators such as Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein have doubts about whether waterboarding is torture, they should — and should be allowed to — interview the men who have likely experienced it in secret CIA detention facilities in American hands.

For example, they should interview Majid Khan, a Baltimore resident abducted and held for years in secret CIA prisons. He was a “ghost detainee” who this past year was among the “reappeared” at Guantánamo.

President Bush himself has clearly stated that Khan was held at a secret CIA facility before being transferred to Guantánamo. Bush also made clear that an “alternative set of procedures” were enforced — procedures widely believed to include waterboarding.

So, was Majid Khan really waterboarded? I don’t know. Khan has been prohibited from speaking to anyone except my colleagues, lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights who were finally allowed to visit him recently. One of those attorneys, Gitanjali Gutierrez, and her colleagues have also since been silenced: The government forced them to sign a protective order because Khan knew about “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Likely translation: Khan was tortured and the government is trying to cover it up by silencing him — and even his attorneys….

Those senators are perfectly within their rights and powers to pick up the phone right now and demand to interview Khan and others who were likely tortured at CIA secret sites. They can conduct classified interviews with the lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights about their milestone visit with Khan. They can learn exactly what happened to these men. And, if the men were waterboarded, they can learn exactly what the practice entails.

What they will likely hear are descriptions like one written by Henri Alleg, a French journalist who suffered waterboarding during the Algerian war: “I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me.”

…. And so the question is extremely simple: Do the men and women who serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee want to know, or not? Do they care about whether our nation has tortured?

….I believe that upon talking to victims of waterboarding any reasonable senator — or citizen — will define it as torture. There is no reasonable disagreement on this point. It was a technique invented in the Spanish Inquisition and used to terrible effect in the centuries since. The only question is whether there is any institution or group of politicians in this nation with the will to stand up for our Constitution, even at the risk of their own political prospects. If there are such men and women, then there is yet hope that our nation will rescue the Constitution from those who would shred it.

This is not a moment for political theater. This is not a moment for politics at all. This is the moment for good and decent leaders to remember that the truth still matters and to act accordingly.

POTENT QUOTABLES:

This is a highly classified area. All I want to say is that there was “before” 9/11 and “after” 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off. Nearly three thousand al-Qa’ida terrorists and their supporters have been detained. In Afghanistan the al-Qa’ida who refused to surrender have been killed. The hunt is on. — Cofer Black (former Director of the CIA’s counterterrorism center from 199 to May 2002) in his Sept. 2002 testimony before the House/Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing in their joint investigation into September 11th

The gloves are coming off gentlemen regarding these detainees…. we want these individuals broken. — U.S. Senate Committed on Armed Services report, titled “Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody” November 2008, pg. 199 [quoting an August 2003 email sent by Capt. William Ponce (the battle captain in the Combined Joint Task Force 7’s Human Intelligence and Counterintelligence Office in Iraq) to interrogation elements in the field, in which he requested they submit “interrogation techniques wish lists.”]

The danger facing us is enormous. The efforts we take to meet it must be just as enormous. The time has come to remove the gloves! We must use our fists now! ….Those who do not understand this fight today will thank us on bended knee tomorrow that we took it! — Joseph Goebbels, from his 1943 speech, “Nation Rise Up and Let the Storm Break Loose”

Health Care Apples & Oranges: UPS and Fedex vs. the U.S. Postal Service

with 3 comments

Keep your socialistic hands off my mailbox!

Keep yer socialistic hands off my mailbox!

I winced the instant I heard Obama say it. Of all the ways to allay a citizen’s fear that “government-run” health care would drive the private, for-profit insurance industry out of business:  

As long as they have a good product … private insurers should be able to compete with the government plan. They do it all the time…UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. . . . It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.”

It’s not that Obama was wrong. It’s not that he’s right, either. It’s just that he’s talking apples and oranges. And debates over apples and oranges don’t lend themselves to being settled in screaming matches at town hall meetings. I wish Obama’d stuck to the script: using Medicare — or, better still, the Veterans Administration health care system — as a model for universal health care, explaining how private insurance does and could continue to compliment this system. But since he didn’t compare apples to apples, and since he did throw the debate onto the kitchen table, let’s do it. Let’s talk apples and oranges. Starting here:

mailboxWhat if, instead of health care, this debate was over private mail carriers vs. government mail carriers?

What if the U.S. Postal Service had never been born, so to speak? What if it cost $12 to mail a letter from Georgia to California? Or if mail delivery was only available to folks living in big cities?

And what if, in response, there were a bunch of mail service reformers  pushing to enact a government-run mail delivery service to compete with the private, for-profit delivery service, so that everyone could afford to send letters to Grandma? And what if these reformers proposed that this new government-run mail service could deliver that $12 letter for a mere  44-cents to anywhere in the country? Would folks be taking to streets with guns strapped to their sides, yollering “Keep yer socialist goverment hands off my mailbox!” ?

Probably.

I say this because we are currently involved in a remarkably similar debate: Pay $2,700 per year, out of pocket, for total medical care for a family of four, OR pay from $7,000 up to $100,000 (and upwards) out of pocket (depending on whether you’re part of an  employee group plan or are going it alone), OR cross your fingers and hope you don’t get sick.  Here are the details on your choices: 

  1. If you’re among the 63% of non-elderly Americans who are lucky enough to receive medical insurance through your employer, you can continue paying an average of nearly $7,000 total out-of-pocket medical costs per year for a family of four. (The breakdown: $2,820 employee share of insurance premium + $4,004 deductibles, copays, etc. + $9,947 employer share of insurance premiums = $16,771 total medical expense outlay per year  for a middle-income family of four). And if you’re lucky, you won’t be among the three-quarters of a million Americans WITH health insurance this year who will be forced into bankruptcy because of your medical bills. 
  2. If you’re among the 23% of non-elderly Americans who are not lucky enough to receive medical insurance through their employers, nor through a government plan, you can can keep doing what they’re doing:  
    1. Buy comparable insurance to your employee-covered counterparts at a much higher rate (well over $13,000 per year), OR buy “affordable” insurance with high deductible and co-pays. 
    2. Continue neglecting or going without health care entirely
    3. Be among the projected total of nearly 1 million Americans this year who will be forced into bankruptcy due to medical bills.
  3. OR: Support a Medicare-for-all plan (also called H.R. 676, universal health care, the single-payer plan) for which you would pay $2,700 total out-of-pocket medical costs per year for a family of four. ( The breakdown: $2,700 insurance premium + $0 deductibles, copays, etc = $2,700 total medical cost per year for a middle-income family of four).

But let’s get back to those apples and oranges

Those opposed to health care reform have loved sinking their teeth into Obama’s Post Office analogy. And who could blame them? It’s an easy enough target — made all the more so by the fact that no one’s challenged them with dollars-and-cents realities of the Post Office debate. Since no one else bothered, I will.

Knowing how fond some folks are of choice — and how profoundly un-fond they are having the government’s hands all over their lives — I’m pleased to remind Americans everywhere that you DO have a choice. No one is forcing you to allow the government to get its socialist hands all over your lives. Take a stand against government intrusion!  

Next month, don’t send your water bill through the Post Office. Send it via UPS or Fedex. And this Christmas, when you mail out your greeting cards, don’t send them through the Post Office. Send your holiday cards through UPS or Fedex. Americans, you DO have choices! Here they are:

  • The U.S. Post Office will deliver 20 Christmas cards in 2 to 3 days for $8.80.
  • UPS will deliver 20 Christmas cards in 2 to 3 days for $239.00
  • Fedex will deliver 20 Christmas cards in 3 days for $235.20.

This isn’t to bash UPS and Fedex. It’s to underscore the fact that comparing these two private carriers to the U.S. Postal Service is like comparing apples to oranges. For one thing, they don’t even offer the same services. Unlike UPS and Fedex — the U.S. Postal Service maintains a daily delivery route covering nearly every home and business address in this country, to which they deliver mail 6 days per week. And their rates are affordable to the average Joe, like me, who wants to mail a letter to Grandma.

Yeah, yeah, I know: the Post Office has a monopoly on First Class mail — which has, for years, been a burr in the side of conservatives and libertarians, who believe this monopoly should be broken. “Give it to the free market!” they cry. But the fact is, no one else wants this job. Not unless they can, like the insurance industry, claim executive privledge to deny delivery to unprofitable cutomers. What would be the fate, then, of a 44-cent letter addressed to, say, Lost Springs, Wyoming?

lost springs

 

Were private enterprise to take over First Class mail delivery, they’d right away skim off the cream — all the delivery routes in high density populations of cities and towns — and leave to the Postal Service, or to no one, the rural customers, who are nothing but a gross money suck to the profit margin. Then the government would either have to subsidize rural deliveries, or allow private enterprise to charge higher rates.

Choice is all well and good, see, so long as I’ve got mine. To hell with the rest of you.

Oranges vs. Oranges: UPS and Fedex vs. the Private Insurance Industry

UPS and Fedex are efficient, profitable businesses that deliver on time, every time, as promised. Not so with the insurance industry. These carriers are prone to dragging their heels — sometimes denying delivery entirely. We’ve heard enough horror stories to know that these are not exceptions, but the rule to running a profitable business. 

According to a recent study by the California Nurses’ Association, claims denial rates by leading California insurers during the first six months of 2009 averaged 30%. Here’s the breakdown of denial rates, per insurance carrier:

  • PacifiCare — 39.6 percent
  • Cigna — 32.7 percent
  • HealthNet — 30 percent
  •  Kaiser Permanente — 28.3 percent
  • Blue Cross — 27.9 percent
  • Aetna — 6.4 percent

The Post Office is the apple in this equation. Were the Post Office to run like the insurance industry, then mail workers could begin sorting letter according to profitability — throwing into the trash any 44-cent letter that was deemed too unprofitable to deliver. 

Apples vs. Apples: Old and Disabled People vs. a 44-cent Letter to Lost Springs

As any insurance underwriter could tell you, Medicare currently covers some of the most costly patients on the market — folks that the insurance industry wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole — the elderly and the disabled. 

But what if, into this Medicare system, were added a mix of college age kids, thirty-somethings, forth-somethings and fifty-somethings? By incorporating a pool of healthy, low-cost individuals into the system, Medicare would more closely approximate the business model of the private insurance industry, which — by spreading the risk — rakes in billions upon billions in profit each year.

Except that Medicare would not rake in billions in profit because (a) the premiums would be a fraction of that paid to private insurers, and (b) Medicare would use the premiums for the purpose they were intended — to provide medical care — rather than squandering it in advertising, lobbying and executive pay. (As an example of this squandering, UnitedHealth Group compensates just one of its top executives at a rate of $819,000 per day. That’s a almost $103,000 per hour paid to just one CEO at UnitedHealth Group!)

Medicare would not need to spend billions per year in advertising, lobbying and lining the pockets of those industries (pharmaceutical, medical supplies, hospitals, oil & energy, etc.) that lobby on their behalf. In 2008, for instance, the top lobbyist in the U.S. was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent nearly $92 million on lobbying, some of this on behalf of their friends in the insurance industry. Exxon, another friend to the insurance industry, was the 2nd top lobbyist, spending $29 million. AARP, another friend, was the 3rd top lobbyists at nearly $28 million. Go down the list of the top lobbyists of 2008, and you will be hard-pressed to find one that is in favor of true health care reform. These are the folks who fill the campaign coffers of our politicians. With friends like this, who needs constituents?  

  • US Chamber of Commerce $91,725,000
  • Exxon Mobil $29,000,000
  • AARP $27,900,000
  • PG&E Corp $27,250,000
  • Northrop Grumman $20,743,252
  • American Medical Assn $20,555,000
  • Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America $20,220,000
  • American Hospital Assn $20,102,684
  • Koch Industries $20,023,000
  • General Electric $19,379,000
  • Verizon Communications $18,020,000
  • National Assn of Realtors $17,340,000
  • Boeing Co $16,610,000
  • Lockheed Martin $15,961,506
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield $15,560,165
  • AT&T Inc $15,076,675
  • National Cable & Telecommunications Assn $14,500,000
  • Southern Co $14,080,000
  • Altria Group $13,840,000

These numbers are following a similar path in 2009, except that there are a higher number of health care lobbyists in the mix, such as the AMA (the American Medical Association), which have stepped up the plate to fight health care reform, with the AMA spending $8.5 million on lobbying during in the first quarter of 2009.  

Here, a reminder is in order: The American Medical Association is not a professional association of doctors — as is widely believed — but is, in fact, a concert of insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists composed of paid doctors and other medical professionals.  Which makes all the more reprehensible the repeated references to the AMA throughout the health care debates — as if the AMA were the voice of doctors and the medical profession. Nothing could be further from the truth. No, the majority of doctors are in favor of single-payer health care, which is why they were given police escorts out of the health care hearings this past May. 

Add to these lobbyists the stockholders who drive the insurance industry agenda, with stock prices plummeting every time the least amoung of progress is made by health care reformers. Under our current system, it is the stockholders and insurance execs — not our doctors — who determine which patients do (and do not) receive medical care. 

A Dirty Little Secret

There’s a reason the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and their stockholders feel threatened by health care reform. It’s because they know that a Medicare-for-all plan, such as H.R. 676, will not only support itself — easily being revenue neutral — but could do this while also providing all the services it promises. This is the dirty little secret that has so far been covered up by the insurance industry’s scare campaigns about death panels and socialist plots. Medicare-for-all is not a socialist plot, but a delivery system to provide comprehensive medical care services, most of which the private insurance industry wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole: 

  • Every resident of the US will be covered from birth to death.
  • No more pre-existing conditions to be excluded from coverage.
  • No more expensive deductibles or co-pays.
  • All prescription medications will be covered.
  • All dental and eye care will be included.
  • Mental health and substance abuse care will be fully covered.
  • Long term and nursing home services will be included.
  • You will always choose your own doctors and hospitals.
  • Costs of coverage will be assessed on a sliding scale basis.
  • Tremendously simplified system of medical administration
  • Total portability – your coverage not tied to any job or location.
  • Existing Medicare benefits for those over 65 will remain the same or be vastly improved in many cases.
  • No corporate bureaucrat will ever come between you and your doctor to deny your care

In other words, instead of Americans footing the bill for the insurance industry’s $1.5 million per day lobbying campaign and for $103,000 per hour CEO compensation, Americans would be paying into a Medicare plan that would foot the bill for their own damned health care.

Sure, the insurance industry could still turn a profit by delivering that 44-cent letter to Lost Springs, Wyoming. But could they turn an obscene profit? No. That’s why they’re content to let their customers lie and rot in the dead letter office.

The pity is that Medicare-for-all  — which was the choice of 60 to 70% of Americans up until this June, when the insurance industry began its fearmongering, smear campaign in earnest — was never even on the table. Instead, backroom deals were cut between Capitol Hill and the insurance and pharmaceutical industries — two of the most lucrative contributors to our politicians’ campaign coffers. The single-payer, Medicare-for-all advocates were, in fact, barred from the table. The medical doctors who attended the health care reform hearings and demanded a seat at the table were given police-escorts out of the room and were arrested to the accompaniment of laughter and ridicule by the invited guests.

More Apples

As someone who’s done a lot of shipping through my work, I can claim some authority on the topic of mailing and shipping. I offer no defense of the U.S. Postal Service. What began in Benjamin Franklin’s day as an effort to ensure the free exchange of information among the citizenry has grown into a semi-independent behemoth of a business/government agency.

On one hand, the Post Office spits out copious wads of junk mail into our mailboxes each day. On the other hand, they faithfully deliver letters 6 days a week for the everyday Joe, like me, for only 44¢ each. And, if you’re shipping a package that’s less than 10 lbs. and measures less than 1-foot x 1-foot x 1-foot, the Post Office is generally cheaper than UPS or Fedex. On the other hand, their tracking system is inferior to UPS and Fedex, whose packages can be tracked from California to Georgia with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Obama was incorrect when he said that the U.S. Postal Service is “always having problems.” Fact is, they’ve generally kept their heads above water. But they were hit hard beginning in 2007 — along with the rest of us — by the double-whammy of high fuel prices and our collapsing economy. So were Fedex and UPS and nearly every other business and agency in this country. Since then, the price of a stamp has risen by a nickel — from  39¢ to 44¢ — and the Post Office has also increased its shipping rates, as have Fedex and UPS, their increases ranging from 4.9% to 6.9% each year.  

All three of these carriers, like most businesses, have seen declining profits over the past 2 years.

More Oranges

Not so for the insurance industry, which is still making gains on the 428% industry profit increase it realized from 2000 to 2007 (according to Standard and Poor’s),  during which time the industry raised health care premiums by 87%. In 2008, they raised it by another 5%. The figures aren’t yet in for 2009, but with their current profits being deemed, “record profits,” it’s a safe bet they’re not slashing jobs, nor are the insurance CEOs feeling in any pain or any fear over their salaries/compensation. To be fair, not all insurance execs make $103,000 per hour (three-quarters of a billion per year). The average insurance industry CEO makes only $14.2 million per year.   

By comparison, the total 2008 salary/compensation for the CEO at Fedex was $10.9 million. The total 2008 salary/compensation for the CEO at UPS was $5.6 million. Congressed raised the salary for the Postmaster General in 2007, to be more competitive with private industry. As such, in 2008 the Postmaster General received a total salary/compensation of $1.35 million ($235k salary + $800k in bonuses and deferred retirement benefits).  

The Bellwethers of our U.S. Health

As the preferred shipper for small businesses, UPS (United Parcel Service) is extremely sensitive to changes in the economy. As such, this company is widely viewed as a bellwether for the U.S. economy, its profit margin serving as an indicator of the flow of commerce. It’s been a gloomy year so far, with UPS revenues down in both the 1st and 2nd quarters. The company’s 2nd quarter earnings fell by 49%, with per share earnings falling to 44-cents a share from 85-cents a share a year earlier.  Their 2nd quarter revenue fell by 16.7% — to $10.83 billion from $13.00 billion a year earlier.

The picture’s been a bit rosier for the insurance industry. By contrast, the 2nd quarter earnings for Wellpoint, the nation’s largest health insurer, fell by a mere 0.7% — declining to $1.43 from $1.44 per share one year ago. Wellpoint’s 2nd quarter revenues fell by 1.6% from a year earlier — declining to $15.41 billion from $15.67 billion.  

Wellpoint attributes this revenue decline to, primarily, a “lower commercial membership,” which they offset by raising premiums to their other customers. In plainspeak, this means that — despite that Wellpoint lost 1.1 million customers over the past year (that’s the number of folks who lost their insurance with Wellstone when they lost their jobs) — the company has suffered only a slight nick to their profit margin by raising premiums.  Wellpoint projects another tiny nick by year’s end, by which time they expect to lose another 600,000 members. Nonetheless, analysts predict a revenue total $61.39 billion for fiscal 2009, just a touch less than their $61.58 billion revenue for fiscal 2008. 

The picture is even rosier for UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s second largest insurer, whose 2nd quarter profit more than doubled from a year earlier, with per share earnings rising to 73-cents from 27-cents a year earlier. Their revenues increased to $21.66 billion for the second quarter — up 7% from a year earlier.

UnitedHealth acknowledges that their 2008 profits would have been greater, if not for the $895 million settlement paid out to the shareholders who filed a class action lawsuit against UnitedHealth for stock options backdating. Still, UnitedHealth is looking to the future, which is looking so bright in the wake of this summer’s health care wars, that insurance industry investors need sunglasses just to see. 

“Trust me,” said one financial analyst. “It’s not fun to lose 895 million dollars in this way. But investors look forward. This is the past.”

This $895 million settlement is not to be confused with the two other class action lawsuit filed against UnitedHealth, which were settled earlier this year to the tune of $450 million in restitution to the physicians and policyholders that UnitedHealth spent a decade or more cheating — policyholders who were intentionally robbed through a billing system designed to covertly underpay their claims.   

It is to these kings of industry that that our leaders on Capitol Hill have decided to entrust the health and well-being of the American citizenry. 

The challenge to health care reform, according to President Obama, is to keep the kings honest. It’s not about offering Medicare-for-all, so that every single citizen can afford to go to the doctor. Nor is about explaining, once and for all, what exactly the words, “public option” mean — an option which, as it turns out, was never an option at all, just more political theater. No, the key to reform is keeping the kings honest. And the way to doing this is to give them more money, plus 50 million new customers. See, the government will help pay our premiums to the kings, since we can no longer afford to do so. And if the kings don’t treat us kindly after that, well then, by golly — next time around — heads will surely roll. 

 Apples to Oranges, Dust to Dust

In the same way that UPS serves as the bellwether for the economic health of our country, Wellpoint and United Health serve as bellwethers to the state of medical care in this country. As for our politicians? They’re the bellwethers of America’s moral pulse.

It’s thready, at best. After all, we’re a nation on life support. But the family is engaged in fullscale denial. They’re the ones standing outside in the hallway holding signs that read, “Keep yer goddamn hands off my health care!”

For these folk, the news is good, for now. No one’s going to put their hands on anyone’s health care. No one’s gonna force the poor folk and the middle income folk into having equal rights to see a doctor, the way the rich folk do. No one’s gonna stand in the way of the insurance industry while it systematically sucks every last dime out of every last pocket until, at last, the economy entirely collapses — by which time, unlike the fall of 2008, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men…. Well, you get the picture.

Remember this next time you bitch about the price of a 44-cent stamp. While there are plenty of folk in this country who can afford a $239 Christmas card list, there are plenty more who can’t. The alternative to the Post Office monopoly on 44-cent stamp is a fight like we’ve seen this summer, rife with gun-totin’ folk lovin’ on American and hatin’ on socialist plots. In the end, the government will still end up subsidizing someone, because ain’t no capitalist enterprise gonna pony up the money to hoof that 14-cent letter to Lost Springs, much less foot all the doctors bills they promise to pay. Not without a fight.  

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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