Bad Deeds for 4/9/2010

 

Bush, Cheney & Rumsfeld Knew Many Guantanamo Prisoners Were Innocent – Former US president George W. Bush and his top aides were accused Friday of covering up that many Guantanamo Bay detainees were innocent, amid fears releasing them could harm the ‘war on terror’.

The allegations were made in a document by Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, once chief of staff to Bush’s first secretary of state, Colin Powell, in a lawsuit filed by a former Guantanamo inmate and published by The Times in London.

Wilkerson alleged Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld knew that most detainees held at the US detention camp in 2002 were innocent but believed it was “politically impossible to release them”.

They were also keen to avoid revealing the “incredibly confused” detention operation, Wilkerson said, claiming prisoners were often rounded up by Afghan and Pakistani forces in return for cash, with little or no evidence as to why.

Wilkerson alleged Cheney “had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were innocent… If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it”.

 

The Horrors of War – Truthout has spoken with several soldiers who shared horrific stories war in Iraq:

“I remember one woman walking by,” said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the US Marines who served three tours in Iraq. He told the audience at the Winter Soldier hearings that took place March 13-16, 2008, in Silver Spring, Maryland, “She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces.”

 

An Organization That Helped the Poor is Gone Because Conservatives Lied – When conservative activists James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles released tapes last fall purporting to show ACORN employees advising them on how to set up a child prostitution ring, it resulted in widespread praise for their intrepid journalism and a Congressional defunding of the anti-poverty group. But it is now clear that the O’Keefe “expose” was deliberately misleading.

Last week, California Attorney General Jerry Brown released some of O’Keefe’s raw footage, which he obtained as part of an agreement not to prosecute O’Keefe for violating state privacy laws. The result showed severe distortions by editing the footage, starting with O’Keefe’s claim that he was wearing his outrageous pimp outfit when he visited the ACORN offices.

That claim was promoted heavily by Fox News and swallowed uncritically by most of the media. The unedited tape of O’Keefe’s visit to the ACORN office in San Diego, however, includes a shot of his arm as he opens the door to leave, and he is clearly wearing a nicely pinstriped dress shirt.

The edited video released by O’Keefe also appears to show an ACORN employee advising him on how to smuggle underage girls into the United States. However, in the previously unreleased portion of the video, the employee continues asking very detailed questions about O’Keefe’s phone number and the exact time and location of the girls’ arrival. The ACORN employee used that information and called the police and reported what they’ve told him is going to be a crime.

According to Jerry Brown’s report (pdf), “Immediately after the couple left, Vera telephoned his cousin, Detective Alejandro Hernandez, at the National City Police Department… [and said] that a self-admitted prostitute had been to the office and was discussing human smuggling.”

For that, the ACORN employee ended up getting fired. And later, ACORN got defunded and disbanded.
The O’Keefe video was a dishonest political stunt that bears no resemblance to journalism and no resemblance to the actual facts. But it worked. Who do you think is next on their list?

 

Fox News Disproves Itself: Network’s Own Poll Finds Americans Favor ‘IRS’ Over ‘Tea Party’ – After months upon months of enthusiastic, cheer-leading coverage of any rally that involved tea, tea bagging or tea partying, the Fox News network has miraculously disproved itself by producing a new poll that finds Americans think more highly of the Internal Revenue Service than they do the vocal conservative minority.

Atop the fourth page of a Fox News Opinion Dynamics poll released April 8, the questioner explains that respondents would be read a series of names and asked whether their opinion is positive or not. The most popular among the names is Barack Obama, who scored a 50 percent approval rating. Second was the Internal Revenue Service, at 49 percent.

Down below Democrats and even below Republicans is the “Tea Party,” at 36 percent approval.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, received 16 and 29 percent favorability ratings, respectively. But, House Minority Leader John Boehner, one of the GOP’s top men and a key public face for the party, received just 12 percent approval.

 

Deadly Mine Was Ordered Closed 61 Times in Past 15 Months for Safety Violations – Parts or all of the mine where at least 25 workers died were ordered closed 61 times in the past 15 months, according to information from the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

 

33,000 Texans Lose Benefits Because of Republican Congressman’s Action – Rosharon mom Shant’e Kelley says she is out of money and praying for a miracle to help provide for her five children because Congress failed to extend emergency unemployment benefits before taking its two-week spring break.

Kelley figures an extension would have put $576 in her pocket for two weeks and kept her from having to borrow $680 from her mother to pay bills.

“The Easter Bunny didn’t come to my house this year,” said Kelley, who was laid off from her secretarial job at Methodist Hospital in July 2007 and has been looking for work ever since.

Kelley, 35 and single, is among the estimated 33,000 Texans — and 212,000 people nationwide — who did not receive unemployment benefits this week and cannot pursue additional financial assistance.

Democratic attempts to extend the jobless aid just before Congress’ spring break were blocked by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who used parliamentary tactics to delay consideration of the short-term extension.

 

Glenn Beck Smears Pres. Obama’s Mother and Grandparents – Glenn Beck says the president had no chance to become anything other than a Marxist because of his mother and grandparents.

But Beck chooses to ignore the preponderance of evidence that is relevant. For example:

Why was Obama elected President of Harvard Law Review? According to fellow members, it was because the Review was sharply divided into conservative and liberal camps, and he was the one candidate that conservatives felt would listen to them. He listened to the views of some of the brightest conservative minds of his generation and weighed their arguments. No chance to hear anything but Marxism, as Mr. Beck says? Hardly!

Pres. Obama taught for approximately twelve years at the University of Chicago Law School. Of the major law schools, University of Chicago is the most conservative in the country. No opportunity to hear anything but Marxism? Hardly!

Pres. Obama seems to have tremendous regard for his grandmother. She was a bank vice-president. Being vice-president in a privately-owned bank makes it almost impossible to be a Marxist, since Marxists believe that capital should be owned in common. One doesn’t generally find bankers storming the barricades. Mrs. Dunham was not a Marxist, and find it a bit hard to believe that her husband, an insurance agent, was either.

 

Why Are 25 Hedge Fund Managers Worth 658,000 Teachers? – In 2009, the worst economic year for working people since the Great Depression, the top 25 hedge fund managers walked off with an average of $1 billion each. With the money those 25 people “earned,” we could have hired 658,000 entry level teachers. (They make about $38,000 a year, including benefits.) Those educators could have brought along over 13 million young people, assuming a class size of 20. That’s some value.

Apparently the 25 hedge managers did something that is even more valued in our society. But how valuable was it, really? To assess that, we need to answer a few basic questions:

1. What do hedge managers do?
They run funds into which very rich people put money to make even more money. Hedge fund managers move the money around in very risky ways to get the most enormous yields possible. (Wealthy investors believe they are entitled to double digit and even triple digit returns.)

Because hedge funds are considered playthings for the rich, who presumably are fully aware of all the risks, they are exempt from most financial regulations. (We’ll soon see if the financial reform bill now moving through the Senate changes this in any substantial way.)

The wealthy will have placed an estimated $2 trillion into hedge funds by the end of this year. (That’s about $6,500 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.)

2. Where does all that hedge fund money come from?
It’s mostly excess cash the super-rich have in hand now that their tax rates have dramatically declined. In the 1970s the marginal rate on those with incomes above $3 million (in today’s dollars) was 70 percent. Today, the effective rate on the 400 richest Americans is 16 percent, according to the most recent IRS data.

The wonderful thing about putting your money in a hedge fund (or managing one) is that the income you get from it is not taxed as income (say, officially at the rate of 35 percent). Instead, it is treated as a business investment, something that’s good for the economy and that we need to encourage through a low tax — a “capital gain.” The tax rate on capital gains is 15 percent. This is one reason that Warren Buffett can say that he pays a smaller percentage in taxes than his secretary.

3. How do hedge funds make money?
Some hedge fund managers use computerized modeling to decide where to invest or to make investments automatically. Other managers claim they just make good judgment calls. They also make enormous bets using lots of leverage and deploy an arsenal of derivatives.

It’s a dicey business, but it’s not supposed to put the larger system at risk… until it does. In the late 1990s, the hedge fund known as Long Term Capital Management, run by the brightest bulbs in the financial universe (including a couple of Nobel laureates), found itself with over $100 billion in assets but only $4 billion in capital. When that upside down pyramid began to crumble, the effect was systemic. So systemic that the Federal Reserve, fearing a major meltdown of the financial markets, forced Wall Street banks and investment houses to bail out the fund’s investors. Some economists argue that risky gambling by hedge funds did not cause the current crisis. But no one has conducted an impartial investigation into that question.

The $1 billion each those 25 hedge fund managers netted (for themselves) was impressive — but doing it in the year 2009 was also slap in the face of struggling Americans. That’s because hedge funds would have earned little or no money at all in 2009 had the government not bailed out the financial sector with trillions in loans, asset guarantees and other forms of financial assistance. It was, in effect, a generous gift from we the taxpayers. Much of that money was “earned” by betting that the government would not let the financial sector collapse. Smart bet.

How to tame these runaway paydays? Just institute a financial transaction tax or a windfall profits tax. The fix is technically simple but politically complex. It’s going to take a lot of political will — over a long period of time — to reorder our most basic economic values.

Local schools are laying off teachers and cutting programs. Try explaining to your kids why their teachers won’t be back next year or why school programs are being cut while 25 shrewd gamblers are living like Pharaohs.

 

Conservatism Has Failed – The right-wing ideology that ran the US for thirty years has proven to be a total failure. Classic conservatism promised to keep us safe, reduce the size of government, lower taxes, and manage the economy. Republicans broke each of these commitments:

Keep us Safe [from external threats]: Republicans lost credibility with the debacle of the Iraq war. Despite the transition from the Bush to the Obama Administration, there has been little change in the military budget (+ 3 percent). Not surprisingly, voters now see little difference between Democrats and Republicans on this issue.

Shrink [destroy] Government: Conservative ideologue Grover Norquist famously promised, “Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” Nonetheless, the Federal bureaucracy grew during the Bush presidency. Now the Republican base – frustrated with the failure of their leaders to follow through on this promise – has turned to the futile pursuit of “state’s rights” or, as Texas Governor Rick Perry has proposed, the notion of secession from the USA.

Lower Taxes [for the rich]: Beginning with the Reagan Presidency, conservatives have argued that much of the Federal government is a waste of money and, therefore, Americans shouldn’t have to pay for it. As a result, the marginal tax rates for individuals and corporations were diminished until today they are roughly half of what they were in 1980. However, while Federal revenues diminished, expenditures surged. During the Bush Administration, the Federal deficit became a serious impediment to US economic growth. Not surprisingly, voters now trust Democrats more than Republicans on economic issues such as taxes, the deficit, and the economy, in general. While voters are suspicious of taxes, in general, they are now willing to tax the rich and to enact penalties on corporations that don’t play by the rules.

Manage [let it run free] the Economy: Conservatives claimed that Republicans are “professional managers” who know how to run government like a business. Eight years of George W. Bush – touted as America’s first “CEP president” – proved this to be a lie.

The promise of competent management covered a more sweeping assertion: conservatives knew best how to manage the economy. The result was a savage increase in monopoly capitalism and inequality, and the loss of eight million jobs. The performance of the Bush Administration and 2008’s financial meltdown destroyed the last pillar of conservative orthodoxy.

But it’s not only conservative ideology that’s failed. As UC professor George Lakoff brilliantly argues in Moral Politics, conservatives have a different worldview than liberals do. Conservatives believe in the “strict father” model: the world is dangerous – there’s an angry mob at the gates of fortress America – and what’s required are strong, righteous men to lead the US.

The conservative worldview proved a delusion. The supposedly strong, righteous Republican leaders turned out to be incompetent. Worse yet, they often favored their own interests over those of the public; they abandoned the common good for the personal good. In reality the strict father was an abuser.

As a result, right-wingers are thrashing in pain from the death of conservatism. They don’t know what to believe in, so they reflexively unite in opposing whatever liberals propose. It’s understandable, but it doesn’t contribute anything to our joint challenge to make the United States safe and prosperous.

 

A Local Example of the Above Story: When Republicans Fail, They Blame Liberals – Juanita is white hot mad. She’s all horns and rattles this morning. She read some of the local [Fort Bend County, TX] real blogs last night. Bad mistake.

There’s a mess bigger than a basket of wire coat hangers at the Fort Bend Independent School District and the local damn fools are blaming “the liberals,” and the “liberal education take-over,” and one guy even said that you can expect this kind of thing when you elect a socialist President.

“Caca del toro,” Juanita shouts this morning when telling us about it.

“Just for fun, I looked up the voting record of our school board members. There are 7 school board members. Six of them are what we call triple R Republicans. Hard core kiddos who vote in every Republican primary, some of them for as long as record keeping goes back,” Juanita announces.

“One of them – Daniel Menendez, voted in Republican primaries consistently until 2010. He voted Democratic this election. Hell, he even voted in the Republican primary when Barack Obama was on the ballot and it mattered.”

“Heckfire,” she continues, “even the Superintendent is a Republican. He’s voted in Republican primaries since he got here.”

“I ain’t listening to them try to blame Democrats for the mess that Republicans made,” she stomps.
“However,” she says with a sly grin, “I do have some news about the mess that Democrats made. Well, it’s not really a mess. In fact, you might refer to it as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
“The only – I repeat, ONLY – Democratic Mayor in Fort Bend County, Leonard Scarcella, my friend and the smartest guy I know, had a little announcement this week ——

While a lot of cities and other public sector governmental agencies are dealing with budget issues or shortfalls, Stafford not only is debt free, it even has a budget surplus in spite of sales tax revenue being down 20 percent. “We resisted strongly with regard to debt,” he said speaking about projects such as roads improvements and many other things that cities typically borrow from cash reserves to accomplish. “We want to make sure to use the money we receive not to pay interest and escrow payments related to bonds, which can be quite sizeable, but have all the money to pay,” for necessary projects.

“So, the city of Stafford has a budget surplus, and even built the outstanding Stafford Centre to bring extra class and culture to their city, and their leader is a hard core, liberal, yellow dog Democrat. And let me rub this in a little harder to really make the GOP seethe – Stafford has no property taxes. None. Zero. I am not kidding,” Juanita says.

“And,” she recalls with a smile the size of Vermont, “I do recall that Leonard Scarcella pulled his city out of your school district and founded they only municipal school district in Texas in 1977 because he was sick, sick, sick of your big spending ways that didn’t benefit his minority kids.”

“Not only is his city doing fine, so is his school district.” Juanita sticks a needle in a another Republican balloon. It’s her job.

 

The NRA Likes the “Might Makes Right” Approach – Last year, NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre explained in chilling terms to the wild cheers of the Conservative Political Action Conference. that we are free only to the extent that our guns allow us to impose our will on others. Here are LaPierre’s words:

“Our divine rights, they might have been endowed by a Creator, but they are preserved by mortals, if we mortals have the means and the will to make it stick….Freedom is nothing but dust in the wind till it’s guarded by the blue steel and dry powder of a free and armed people….Our founding fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules.”

It is worth pausing to reflect on that phrase: “The guys with the guns make the rules.” In the NRA’s distortion of democracy, the rules we live by are not ultimately the result of our collective decision-making, made through our elected representatives, after we have had a fair opportunity to exercise our First Amendment right to be heard. In LaPierre’s view, the rules are made by those who are more powerful than the rest of us because they are armed. [Right-wing authoritarinas are of the strict father worldview and believe that severe punishment is the only way to teach those doing things they don’t agree with to stop.]

Regards,

Jim

 

 

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About Jim Vogas

Texas A&M Aggie, Retired aerospace engineer, former union member, Vietnam vet, Demcratic Party organizer, husband and father.

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