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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Inauguration Day Madman

February 2, 2009

 

"I'm from the GOP and I'm here to Help(?)"

From tax breaks for the rich; to big bucks for Big Finance; then to mortgage help for Americans, these Republicans are all over the place. One has to wonder what their true intentions really are.

(Like I really have to wonder.)

It wasn't that long ago that any plan submitted to Congress was destined for the trash heap if it included any help for those Americans who got suckered into the mortgage mess; or simply lost their livelihood due to mass layoffs, business bankruptcies or any of the other oversightless shenanigans which went on during the GOP reign these past eight years.

Yes, those days are now ended with these words out of Mitch "Groucho" McConnell's mouth today:

"a stimulus bill must fix the main problem first, and that's housing,"
-McConnell

I'm getting all weepy inside. This is truly the beginning of the new Compassionate Conservatives. Too bad they weren't around when all of the (expletive deleted) hit the fan.

The National Republican Party has become the party of tax cuts. And even as they speak of helping families who are about to lose their homes to foreclosure, it's really those very same tax cuts that are on their minds.

But what the Minority Party in DC doesn't seem to realize is that tax cuts don't stimulate economies because, by design, they're instituted for the very few to make the very most while the rest of us get very little.

And that makes me very sad.

With so many people out of work, the questions become, "Who is paying, and who isn't paying taxes?" The answer is everyone still making a meager to mild to exorbitant living are paying those taxes. And whereas those who pay more should get more back (in the GOP world of finance), the need is squarely and obviously set on those who aren't paying taxes: those who have joined the ranks of the unemployed.

By now we're all familiar with the record numbers of Americans who have lost their jobs in the waning days of the Bush administration. (And those numbers haven't gone down at the beginning of the Obama Administration.) But what is truly horrific is the number of Mass Layoffs, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Monthly mass layoff numbers are from establishments which have at least 50 initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) filed against them during a 5-week period. Extended mass layoff numbers (issued quarterly) are from a subset of such establishments—where private sector nonfarm employers indicate that 50 or more workers were separated from their jobs for at least 31 days,"
-BLS.gov

In 2008 alone there were 21,137 Mass Layoff Events recorded by the BLS effecting 2,130,220 former workers. (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/mmls.nr0.htm) And those numbers don't appear to have slowed down with the incoming administration.

While these numbers grow, and we hear new Mass Layoff news almost every day on the evening news, we see the new administration working and trying to get their plans and ideas into action. Will the DC Republicans become a part of the solution; or will they stay in their traditional role as a part of the problem?

Can we believe Senator McConnell when he states he wants to help Americans who can't pay their mortgage?

Can you?

-Noah Greenberg



HOW WE STOP TORTURE
By Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2009 Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

“America does not torture.”

How many times did Americans hear George W. Bush reiterate that statement, often angrily and impatiently? Between September and December of 2007 alone, the former President declared this no less than eight times to both the domestic and foreign press.

And yet Americans saw the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison. We heard former CIA operative, John Kiriakou, on the morning TV talk show circuit revealing details of CIA torture. We heard ABC’s Brian Ross expose “extraordinary rendition”–the process through which the Bush Administration sent people to prisons in other countries to be tortured. We also knew there were “black prisons”–secret prisons in other countries were we tortured people, notably in Poland and Romania. We knew what was happening at Guantanamo Bay prison where no rules of law, international or American, applied. We knew that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had written memos that revised the Geneva Convention rules on torture to disinclude anyone involved in the war on terror who is on the other side from the U.S. And we knew that John Yoo, in his role as Gonzales’ assistant, expanded those torture memos. We also knew that CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden acknowledged that the CIA water-boarded suspects. And we knew that water-boarding is torture.

We knew that there was torture under the Bush Administration because it was on the evening news, in the daily papers and online and members of the Bush Administration acknowledged that torture had been used, even though the President had reiterated that America did not torture.

We saw the photographs, we heard the details.

Americans knew we were torturing, but the majority of us either ignored that reality, denied it or–among loyal Bush followers–found it acceptable in the wake of 9/11.

But it was never acceptable and could not be denied and thus on Jan. 22, two days after he took the oath of office, President Obama announced that there would be no more torture.

He invalidated the memos from Gonzales and Yoo. He reiterated that the Army Field Manual–which prohibits torture–be followed to the letter when interrogating detainees. He announced a plan to close Guantanamo Bay within a year. He ordered the secret prisons abroad closed. And he also set up a task force that would have 30 days to recommend policies on handling terror suspects who are detained in the future and where Guantanamo detainees should be housed once it has closed.

Standing at the State Department with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama was succinct: this was a new day, a new administration and by ordering Guantanamo closed, by closing any remaining CIA secret prisons and banning harsh interrogation practices Obama said he was signaling that the U.S. would confront global violence “without sacrificing our values and our ideals.”

Secretary Clinton asserted that she would be focusing on development and diplomacy. In short, the U.S. State Department would no longer be a front for false detentions and aggregate torture.

It should surprise no one who survived the last eight years under the Bush Administration that its leadership and loyalists would not go quietly nor acknowledge shame. Thus John Yoo’s defense of torture on Jan. 29 in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal wasn’t really a shock. Appalling, perhaps, but not shocking.

Titling his piece “Obama Made a Rash Decision on Gitmo,” Yoo’s implication is clear–the new president is somehow incapable of comprehending something so complex as the “necessity” of torture in the war on terror.

Yoo ends his piece with the kind of fear-mongering prediction that the Bush Administration repeatedly invoked: “In his decisions taken so precipitously just two days after the inauguration, Mr. Obama may have opened the door to further terrorist acts on U.S. soil by shattering some of the nation's most critical defenses.”

Hardly. Torture has been proven to be a wholly unreliable “resource,” as military personnel at all levels readily assert.

When Obama says torture diminishes us as a nation, he could not be more correct. Do we want to be linked with the likes of China, Iran, Burma and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq–nations where torture is a norm?

Those who have protested torture now ask the Obama Administration to prosecute the torturers. Torture is a war crime. In recent years prosecutions of torturers from Kosovo, Bosnia, Cambodia and Iraq have proceeded at the Hague. Should America be held to a different standard? For years members of Congress who were also members of Bush’s own party, like former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) have protested torture because they were tortured in Vietnam. Both men have reiterated that when the U.S. tortures, it puts our own military in harm's way–torture begets torture.

Yet there seems to be a reluctance on the part of the new administration to hold people like Gonzales and Yoo responsible for taking our nation down such a dark, extra-constitutional and illegal path.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) alleges that Attorney General-designate Eric Holder promised him there would be no prosecutions of Bush officials on the torture issue as a quid pro quo for Bond’s vote approving Holder’s appointment. An aide for Holder denies this, but Bond has remained adamant that it was said.

In addition, Gen. Hayden has said President Obama promised him the same thing: no prosecutions of anyone from the Bush Administration for torture. That statement, too, has been denied, but Hayden also stands by his story.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on Jan. 11, Obama was equivocal on the issue, even when pressed. Obama said it was important to “move forward, not backward.”

No one denies the need to move forward from the Bush Administration. And President Obama has been unequivocal on torture, while also leaving the door open for what he called “extraordinary circumstances.” But the best and clearest way to send a message to the world that the U.S. is no longer among those low and despicable nations that torture, is to prosecute those Americans responsible for taking the nation down that dark road. Otherwise commentary like Yoo’s op-ed and comments like those of Hayden and Bond articulate a back-door policy of quid pro quo that is antithetical to the new politics of transparency President Obama has espoused.

Obama said there is no room for torture in American policy. There should be no room for torturers, either. Obama should make that clear with a special prosecutor on torture. The only way to close this foul chapter in our history is to hold those responsible accountable. No need to water-board them–just prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law


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-Noah Greenberg