Friday, April 17, 2009

Some are above the law!

The torture justification memos contrived by the political hacks that ruled the George W. Bush Justice Department should be required reading for every American. Sadly that will not happen—and if President Barack Obama has his way the United States will move “forward” leaving yet another legacy of not holding accountable those responsible for war crimes.

To suggest as, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder did, that the CIA interrogators should have immunity from prosecution because the techniques were declared legal by Bush sycophants is equivalent to the Nuremberg defense that they “were only following orders”. It is an insult to any but the dimmest of intelligence!

When the torture started in 2002, the FBI objected to the techniques and withdrew from the questioning. CIA lawyers suspended their black hole operations for fear of criminal prosecution and demanded legal cover from the Justice Department. They received it the form of a secret memo by John Yoo and signed by J.S. Bybee, head of the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel.

When Yoo and Bybee left the Justice Department, the new Office head, Jack L. Goldsmith apparently viewed the memo so legally incompetent, he advised not relying on that opinion, withdrew it and resigned in June of 2004. Goldsmith’s successor, Steven Bradbury resurrected the opinions, giving the CIA” legal” cover.

In 2005, the CIA was so fearful of legally being held accountable for what some of them knew to be criminal violations of our laws (not to mention international treaties), they destroyed 92 videotapes that documented the torture techniques. Apparently, Obama and Holder do not consider obstruction of justice as an offense worthy of accountability, either.

Moreover, the most offensive excuse for torture is the argument that its specific use on a “top Al Quaida” leader, Abu Zubayda, harvested vital information that has protected America—--specifically, yielding the name of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen whom Bush arrested for plotting to make a dirty bomb—a charge so flimsy that it was later dropped. They also claim Zubayda gave up the much sought after nickname of an Al Quaida leader known as KSM.

However, author and journalist Jane Mayer in her book Dark Side, points out that those two specific bits of information were given up before he was tortured---- and former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations reported that not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of his “confessions”.

Finally, the techniques adopted by the Bush administration are directly out of the interrogation manuals used by communist Russia and North Korea.

Imagine Americans being held for years without charges or trials. Imagine Americans being waterboarded a hundred times in a two week period (as was the case with Zubayda).Imagine Americans being sleep deprived for 11 days at a time, of being forced to kneel leaning backward at a 45 degree angle (and other stressed positions)for hours on end. Imagine repeatedly having your head slammed against a wall.

Imagine, the offending government having doctors there to facilitate the effectiveness of the techniques. Imagine the offending government, declaring such treatment is not torture because its puppet lawyers said so.

Now, imagine President Obama saying yes, we tortured but the perpetrators should not be held accountable. I can’t imagine it!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wayne LaPierre, NRA genius.

Back in January of 1990 the Wisconsin Legislature put forth mild support of an even milder attempt to get some control over guns and automatic weapons that were flooding the market.Wayne LaPierre was head of the Wisconsin wing of the National Rifle Association and made the case against any form of control—over any form of guns—including assault weapons and also including armor piercing bullets. Mr. LaPierre is now President of the NRA and his whacko arguments—one of which is seen in the cartoon below--- are the same now as they were back then. The only difference between now and then is the U.S. Supreme Right Wing Court agrees with him!

Murder facilitators at work.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

America Inc. revisited.

The election of Ronald Reagan in 1981 revitalized America Inc.—the merged assets of corporate, political and personal greed—that had been somewhat dormant since the 1930s. At the same time, a credible survey of University seniors, revealed in anonymous responses that large numbers of our potential future leaders were cheats. Significantly, the champion cheaters were business majors with 86% of them admitting they cheated.

President Reagan’s embrace of the 1930's trickle-down economics and his simpleton mantra of “government is the problem”not the “solution”struck a responsive chord in the hearts of millions of American voters. They loved his cue-card homilies, his welfare bashing and his deregulation fear mongering.

I mattered not that Reagan led us to abandon our progressive tax structure so as to enrich the wealthiest among us. It mattered not that Reaganomics increased our national debt from 2.5 % of the national economy when he took office—to 5% by the time he left. (The interest payments on the that debt went from $69 billion in 1981 to $169 billion at the end of his administration.)

It also mattered not that two years into Reagan’s first term, we experienced the worst recession since the great depression with an unemployment high of 10.8%.In short, the Reagan presidency started American Inc. on the road to our present destination.

We look back and see a path of unbridled greed, littered with corporate carcasses like Enron, Tyco, and Author Anderson--- that were once guided by corporate felons.

The zenith of de-regulation and the facilitation of corporate-political greed came under the aegis of George W. Bush, his evangelical right wing base and the Republican party. Texas Senator Phil Gramm led the charge.

After the 1929 stock market crash, Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act that would separate commercial banks from investment banks (which deal with speculative trading and mergers) and thus encourage market stability.

In 1999 Senator Gramm shepherded a bill through Congress that gutted the Glass-Steagall Act allowing commercial banks, investment banks and insurers to merge—think Citibank, Travelers Group, Smith-Barney, etc. Then after George W. Bush’s election, Gramm slipped an amendment into an omnibus appropriations bill titled Commodity Futures Modernization Act. It deregulated derivatives trading and exempted energy trading from regulatory oversight----think the current economic disaster and the Enron debacle.

Meanwhile Un-curious George inherited a $236.2 billion surplus, spent over $500 billion in Iraq and walked away leaving a $1.3 trillion deficit. The Republican hypocrisy is palpable!

America Inc. roots.

In my opinion there is an important lesson to be learned from the current crisis caused by America Inc.—there is no such thing as compassionate conservatism. Notice: I did NOT say there is no such thing as A compassionate conservative.

The difference being, generally speaking, that conservatives of the Rush Limbaugh, Reagan, Bush, etc. species may, indeed, have their personal, individual compassionate moments and act them out to the benefit of another less fortunate individual.

However, they are not inclined to support compassionate efforts that require a collective financing beyond the abilities of a few individuals—particularly if those efforts go towards aiding others who are judged as lacking in total motivational skills.

In calculating the motivational math for their “boot straps” philosophy, the “compassionate” conservatives frequently do not factor in the lack of education, the bias of race and sex, IQ, the negative environmental influence—nor the stunted mental acuity any or all of these may have on an individual or group.

In their calculating, there is no consideration that some fellow human beings are not as mentally-emotionally swift as the rest of us--- but still have similar dreams and aspirations.

Hence, it is the fault of those who sign up for balloon mortgages they can’t afford, that caused the housing collapse.