In the Belly of the Beast: 4/25/11: WikiLeaks Documents Reveal U.S. Knowingly Imprisoned 150 Innocent Men at Guantánamo

INDEX (stories follow)

The WikiLeaks Blog: The Guantánamo Files

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”
THE ECONOMY


ENVIRONMENT

“Hold Both Parties to High Standards”: Van Jones, Obama’s Ex-Green Jobs Czar

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

“Now Is Our Time to Take a Stand”: Tim DeChristopher’s Message to Youth Climate Activists at Power Shift 2011



NUCLEAR POWER


Headlines for April 25, 2011

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

The WikiLeaks Blog: The Guantánamo Files

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell
What do the classified documents reveal about the military prison and its inmates?
“POLITICS”

Trump now questioning how Obama got into the Ivy League

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

I’m hearing more than a bit of race-baiting behind Trump’s latest attempt to appeal to the crazies in the GOP base. What he really means is, how did a black guy get into a good school? It’s a classic Republican tactic in a number of ways. First, it’s racist. Second, attacking a Democrat on their strength – in this case accusing Obama of being dumb. Obama has many flaws, but lacking intelligence is hardly one of them. Trump on the other hand? I seem to recall a few bankruptcies and an awful personal life.

Where we are with the Wisconsin recalls

Goal ThermometerNow that we have the Kloppenburg challenge gauntlet thrown (good for you, Ms. Kloppenburg), let’s take stock of where the Wisconsin Recall effort sits.

As I understand it, eight GOP senators are eligible to be recalled; all eight are being challenged via petition drives; and only three overturns are needed to potentially re-blue the Wisconsin Senate with Democrats in the majority. Petitions have been turned in for four (CORRECTION: five) of the eight senators.

The Republicans are playing Mirror-Mirror by pushing to recall some Dems, but as you’ll see in the Maddow Show clip below, that’s not likely to go well. Rachel has done two segments on this, one on Wednesday and the follow-up on Thursday. Click the link to see the Wednesday clip. This is the follow-up; enjoy.

It’s worth pausing on that chart about 0:25 into the clip, the one that overlays the map of how much bluer the districts have become since the last election, with the map of who is being recalled in those districts. Looks promising.

Let’s recall all eight. We’re still raising money here at AMERICAblog for the Recall effort. Just click the image in the upper right to contribute. If you haven’t given already, please consider doing so now — and thanks.

Krugman on the GOP’s ludicrous health care “plan”

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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NYT:

Now, what House Republicans propose is that the government simply push the problem of rising health care costs on to seniors; that is, that we replace Medicare with vouchers that can be applied to private insurance, and that we count on seniors and insurance companies to work it out somehow. This, they claim, would be superior to expert review because it would open health care to the wonders of “consumer choice.”

What’s wrong with this idea (aside from the grossly inadequate value of the proposed vouchers)? One answer is that it wouldn’t work. “Consumer-based” medicine has been a bust everywhere it has been tried. To take the most directly relevant example, Medicare Advantage, which was originally called Medicare + Choice, was supposed to save money; it ended up costing substantially more than traditional Medicare. America has the most “consumer-driven” health care system in the advanced world. It also has by far the highest costs yet provides a quality of care no better than far cheaper systems in other countries.

But the fact that Republicans are demanding that we literally stake our health, even our lives, on an already failed approach is only part of what’s wrong here.

Truthdig

The Corporate State Wins Again

[Rick’s editorializing] In my opinion, Hedges is too pesimistic, I have this eternal optimism about the capabilities of the oppressed to overcome their conditions. But this is worth reading for the devastating picture he paints of the state of democracy in the US of A.

Posted on Apr 25, 2011

By Chris Hedges

When did our democracy die? When did it irrevocably transform itself into a lifeless farce and absurd political theater? When did the press, labor, universities and the Democratic Party—which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible—wither and atrophy? When did reform through electoral politics become a form of magical thinking? When did the dead hand of the corporate state become unassailable?

The body politic was mortally wounded during the long, slow strangulation of ideas and priorities during the Red Scare and the Cold War. Its bastard child, the war on terror, inherited the iconography and language of permanent war and fear. The battle against internal and external enemies became the excuse to funnel trillions in taxpayer funds and government resources to the war industry, curtail civil liberties and abandon social welfare. Skeptics, critics and dissenters were ridiculed and ignored. The FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA enforced ideological conformity. Debate over the expansion of empire became taboo. Secrecy, the anointing of specialized elites to run our affairs and the steady intrusion of the state into the private lives of citizens conditioned us to totalitarian practices. Sheldon Wolinpoints out in “Democracy Incorporated”that this configuration of corporate power, which he calls “inverted totalitarianism,” is not like “Mein Kampf” or “The Communist Manifesto,” the result of a premeditated plot. It grew, Wolin writes, from “a set of effects produced by actions or practices undertaken in ignorance of their lasting consequences.”

Corporate capitalism—because it was trumpeted throughout the Cold War as a bulwark against communism—expanded with fewer and fewer government regulations and legal impediments. Capitalism was seen as an unalloyed good. It was not required to be socially responsible. Any impediment to its growth, whether in the form of trust-busting, union activity or regulation, was condemned as a step toward socialism and capitulation. Every corporation is a despotic fiefdom, a mini-dictatorship. And by the end Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs had grafted their totalitarian structures onto the state.

The Cold War also bequeathed to us the species of the neoliberal. The neoliberal enthusiastically embraces “national security” as the highest good.  The neoliberal—composed of the gullible and cynical careerists—parrots back the mantra of endless war and corporate capitalism as an inevitable form of human progress. Globalization, the neoliberal assures us, is the route to a worldwide utopia. Empire and war are vehicles for lofty human values. Greg Mortenson, the disgraced author of “Three Cups of Tea,” tapped into this formula. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq or Afghanistan are ignored or dismissed as the cost of progress. We are bringing democracy to Iraq, liberating the women of Afghanistan, defying the evil clerics in Iran, ridding the world of terrorists and protecting Israel. Those who oppose us do not have legitimate grievances. They need to be educated. It is a fantasy. But to name our own evil is to be banished.

We continue to talk about personalities—Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama—although the heads of state or elected officials in Congress have become largely irrelevant. Lobbyists write the bills. Lobbyists get them passed. Lobbyists make sure you get the money to be elected. And lobbyists employ you when you get out of office. Those who hold actual power are the tiny elite who manage the corporations. Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, in their book “Winner-Take-All Politics,”point out that the share of national income of the top 0.1 percent of Americans since 1974 has grown from 2.7 to 12.3 percent. One in six American workers may be without a job. Some 40 million Americans may live in poverty, with tens of millions more living in a category called “near poverty.” Six million people may be forced from their homes because of foreclosures and bank repossessions. But while the masses suffer, Goldman Sachs, one of the financial firms most responsible for the evaporation of $17 trillion in wages, savings and wealth of small investors and shareholders, is giddily handing out $17.5 billion in compensation to its managers, including $12.6 million to its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.

The massive redistribution of wealth, as Hacker and Pierson write, happened because lawmakers and public officials were, in essence, hired to permit it to happen. It was not a conspiracy. The process was transparent. It did not require the formation of a new political party or movement. It was the result of inertia by our political and intellectual class, which in the face of expanding corporate power found it personally profitable to facilitate it or look the other way. The armies of lobbyists, who write the legislation, bankroll political campaigns and disseminate propaganda, have been able to short-circuit the electorate. Hacker and Pierson pinpoint the administration of Jimmy Carter as the start of our descent, but I think it began long before with Woodrow Wilson, the ideology of permanent war and the capacity by public relations to manufacture consent. Empires die over such long stretches of time that the exact moment when terminal decline becomes irreversible is probably impossible to document. That we are at the end, however, is beyond dispute.

The rhetoric of the Democratic Party and the neoliberals sustains the illusion of participatory democracy. The Democrats and their liberal apologists offer minor palliatives and a feel-your-pain language to mask the cruelty and goals of the corporate state. The reconfiguration of American society into a form of neofeudalism will be cemented into place whether it is delivered by Democrats, who are pushing us there at 60 miles an hour, or Republicans, who are barreling toward it at 100 miles an hour. Wolin writes, “By fostering an illusion among the powerless classes” that it can make their interests a priority, the Democratic Party “pacifies and thereby defines the style of an opposition party in an inverted totalitarian system.” The Democrats are always able to offer up a least-worst alternative while, in fact, doing little or nothing to thwart the march toward corporate collectivism.

The systems of information, owned or dominated by corporations, keep the public entranced with celebrity meltdowns, gossip, trivia and entertainment. There are no national news or intellectual forums for genuine political discussion and debate. The talking heads on Fox or MSNBC or CNN spin and riff on the same inane statements by Sarah Palin or Donald Trump. They give us lavish updates on the foibles of a Mel Gibson or Charlie Sheen. And they provide venues for the powerful to speak directly to the masses. It is burlesque.

It is not that the public does not want a good health care system, programs that provide employment, quality public education or an end to Wall Street’s looting of the U.S. Treasury. Most polls suggest Americans do. But it has become impossible for most citizens to find out what is happening in the centers of power. Television news celebrities dutifully present two opposing sides to every issue, although each side is usually lying. The viewer can believe whatever he or she wants to believe. Nothing is actually elucidated or explained. The sound bites by Republicans or Democrats are accepted at face value. And once the television lights are turned off, the politicians go back to the business of serving business.

We live in a fragmented society. We are ignorant of what is being done to us. We are diverted by the absurd and political theater. We are afraid of terrorism, of losing our job and of carrying out acts of dissent. We are politically demobilized and paralyzed. We do not question the state religion of patriotic virtue, the war on terror or the military and security state. We are herded like sheep through airports by Homeland Security and, once we get through the metal detectors and body scanners, spontaneously applaud our men and women in uniform. As we become more insecure and afraid, we become more anxious. We are driven by fiercer and fiercer competition. We yearn for stability and protection. This is the genius of all systems of totalitarianism. The citizen’s highest hope finally becomes to be secure and left alone.

Human history, rather than a chronicle of freedom and democracy, is characterized by ruthless domination. Our elites have done what all elites do. They have found sophisticated mechanisms to thwart popular aspirations, disenfranchise the working and increasingly the middle class, keep us passive and make us serve their interests. The brief democratic opening in our society in the early 20th century, made possible by radical movements, unions and a vigorous press, has again been shut tight. We were mesmerized by political charades, cheap consumerism and virtual hallucinations as we were ruthlessly stripped of power.

The game is over. We lost. The corporate state will continue its inexorable advance until two-thirds of the nation is locked into a desperate, permanent underclass. Most Americans will struggle to make a living while the Blankfeins and our political elites wallow in the decadence and greed of the Forbidden City and Versailles. These elites do not have a vision. They know only one word—more.  They will continue to exploit the nation, the global economy and the ecosystem. And they will use their money to hide in gated compounds when it all implodes. Do not expect them to take care of us when it starts to unravel. We will have to take care of ourselves. We will have to create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves. It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and culture values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global, corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one.
To read more of Chris Hedges’ writing on the themes from this column, check out his books “Death of the Liberal Class” and “The World As it Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress” hereand here, respectively.

White House / Lawrence Jackson

This is what the White House has to say about this photo: “At a townhall from Facebook HQ, the President speaks on his plan to get our fiscal house in order while keeping our commitments to seniors and ensuring the burden is shared by the wealthiest Americans, not just foisted on the middle class.”


A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
Copyright © 2011 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

WikiLeaks Documents Reveal U.S. Knowingly Imprisoned 150 Innocent Men at Guantánamo

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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GitmofilesThe whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun releasing thousands of secret documents from the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay that reveal the Bush and Obama administrations knowingly imprisoned more than 150 innocent men for years without charge. In dozens of cases, senior U.S. commanders were said to have concluded that there was no reason for the men to have been transferred to Guantánamo. Among the innocent prisoners were an 89-year-old Afghan villager and a 14-year-old boy who had been kidnapped. Some men were imprisoned at Guantánamo simply because they wore a popular model of Casio watches, which had been used as timers by al-Qaeda. The documents also reveal that the journalist Sami al-Hajj was held at Guantánamo for six years partly in order to be interrogated about his employer, the Al Jazeera network. Al-Hajj’s file said he was sent to Guantánamo in order to “provide information on … the Al-Jazeera news network’s training programme, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan.” For more, we speak with journalist Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison. [includes rush transcript]

Does Obama not believe in the rule of law?

For someone who knows the law as well as he does, this was completely out of line. How could he possibly make a statement like this and expect his subordinates to ignore this? Salon:

Protesters yesterday interrupted President Obama’s speech at a $5,000/ticket San Francisco fundraiser to demand improved treatment for Bradley Manning. After the speech, one of the protesters, Logan Price, approached Obama and questioned him. Obama’s responses are revealing on multiple levels. First, Obama said this when justifying Manning’s treatment (video and transcript are here):

We’re a nation of laws. We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.

The impropriety of Obama’s public pre-trial declaration of Manning’s guilt (“He broke the law”) is both gross and manifest. How can Manning possibly expect to receive a fair hearing from military officers when their Commander-in-Chief has already decreed his guilt? Numerous commentators have noted how egregiously wrong was Obama’s condemnation. Michael Whitney wrote: “the President of the United States of America and a self-described Constitutional scholar does not care that Manning has yet to be tried or convicted for any crime.” BoingBoing’s Rob Beschizza interpreted Obama’s declaration of guilt this way: “Just so you know, jurors subordinate judging officers!” And Politico quoted legal experts explaining why Obama’s remarks are so obviously inappropriate.

It may be that Obama spoke extemporaneously and without sufficient forethought, but it is — at best — reckless in the extreme for him to go around decreeing people guilty who have not been tried: especially members of the military who are under his command and who will be adjudged by other members of the military under his command. Moreover, as a self-proclaimed Constitutional Law professor, he ought to have an instinctive aversion when speaking as a public official to assuming someone’s guilt who has been convicted of nothing. It’s little wonder that he’s so comfortable with Manning’s punitive detention since he already perceives Manning as a convicted criminal. “Sentence first – verdict afterward,” said the Queen of Hearts to Alice in Wonderland.

The modern anti-abortion conspiracy in America

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Gaius Publius

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If anyone doubts that there is a right-wing anti-abortion murder conspiracy in this country, those doubts should be fading fast. Another nail in the “it’s not a conspiracy” coffin, via Rachel Maddow:

There is a threat of terrorism domestically, it comes from many sources, and right-wing anti-abortion terrorists is certainly one of the most significant.

As Katherine Spillar said so clearly (10:55 in the clip):

There has not been a single murder of a doctor in this country by an individual who was a lone wolf. In every single case the person who actually committed the murder has been an active participant in a network of extremists who promote the murder of doctors, who advocate the murder of doctors, who many of them, themselves, have committed violence.

And they start with threats, with gluing doors, and other acts of vandalism. That Kansas judge’s decision is puzzling, isn’t it. I wonder if Kansas elects judges.

Michigan is “ground zero of American politics right now”

This is a striking report. It’s about a remarkable inner-city school in Detroit named Catherine Ferguson Academy — and the Michigan Republican power-grab that’s being referred to as “financial martial law.” Watch:

Rachel’s right; this really is the next big move in what I’ve been calling the Movement Conservative Coup, thecadre coup of modern American government and institutions (for example, the Southern Baptist Church and the group that determines textbooks for the state of Texas).

While there were many minor steps along the way (victories for their side, defeats for the other), there are probably three major moves in recent years, three great leaps forward, to borrow a Maoist phrase.

▪ The birthing room has to be Bush v. Gore, the corrupt and judicially indefensible handing of the U.S. presidency to the Movement Conservative candidate by Movement Conservative judges on the Supreme Court. The broader coup has been a work in progress for decades, but the current on-steroids phase starts here.

▪ After that comes the U.S. Patriot Act, Bush II’s response to the 9/11 attack.

▪ Then comes Citizens United, the gift that keeps on taking. We’ve just started seeing those effects. That by itself almost guarantees that the Coup’s owners and chief beneficiaries will own us for a generation.

▪ And now Michigan and its “financial martial law” — a test bed for near-dictatorial control of local government by state governors.

Michigan is just the start; these Teabag-enabled Republicans want it all, and if Michigan isn’t rolled back, these laws will roll out in every Republican-controlled state.

Google Android phones are spying on you too

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

Et tu, Android.

We reported previously that iPhones are secretly tracking your location, second by second, sending the data to Apple and then saving the data on your computer’s hard drive when you synch the phone to your computer.  That data then sits on your computer, seemingly forever, just waiting for someone to grab it and see exactly what you’ve been doing every second of your life.

Well, all you Android owners who laughed yesterday, you’re not laughing now. WSJ:

Apple Inc.’s iPhones and Google Inc.’s Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google, respectively, according to data and documents analyzed by The Wall Street Journal—intensifying concerns over privacy and the widening trade in personal data.

Google previously has said that the Wi-Fi data it collects is anonymous and that it deletes the start and end points of every trip that it uses in its traffic maps. However, the data, provided to the Journal exclusively by Mr. Kamkar, contained a unique identifier tied to an individual’s phone.

Google says the location information helps it determine traffic patterns, which is then can show on your phone. And that’s very cool. But if the company’s were using the data for something this innocuous, why are we finding out about it from a hacker? And what safeguards are there to protect the info from prying eyes, governmental or otherwise?

THE ECONOMY

Obama “stimulus czar” leaving because his advocacy for more stimulus was going nowhere

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

WHprogresssivemedia.jpg
Jared Bernstein meets with progressive bloggers in February 2010

I’m just calling him a czar to give Glenn Beck an aneurism, Jared Bernstein really is Joe Biden’s economic adviser and in charge of the stimulus for the White House.  According to Jonathan Weisman at the WSJ, Bernstein is leaving because his advocacy for more stimulus monies is going nowhere with the Republican House.  In fact, it was going nowhere from day one, when the President advocated for, and got, a much smaller stimulus than was needed to pull the nation out of its economic funk.

Who can forget the infamous meeting Rahm had with Olympia Snowe when she demanded the proposed stimulus, already too small, be cut another $100 billion.  As Joe wrote a year ago:

Washington Post:

When it came time for the economic stimulus plan, Emanuel — arguing that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste” — was the White House’s point man in the Senate. There, too, he valued the plausible over the perfect.

Snowe said he was “responsive” to her interest in removing $100 billion in spending from the stimulus bill. “He understood it operationally and legislatively, what needed to be accomplished, and was very straightforward,” she said.

At the time, the President’s approval rating was soaring and the economy was on the brink of collapse. Everyone was talking about another Great Depression, and economist were saying we needed $2 trillion in stimulus spending. The President’s own chair of his Council of Economic Advisers said we needed $1.2 trillion. So Emanuel’s first instinct was to compromise and go for less (less than what was needed to avert a Depression and keep unemployment far below 10%). If he were the hard-ass we’d all been led to believe he was, Emanuel would have sent Obama to Maine to campaign for the strongest bill possible, in order to get Snowe’s and Collin’s votes. That’s what a real tough Chief of Staff would have done, instead of caving as quickly as possible on the medicine needed to save the country from economic collapse. Emanuel made Obama look weak right off the bat — and the Republicans saw it immediately.

Interestingly, Bernstein is the man I met with last year, with a small group of bloggers at the White House, to talk stimulus.  And he’s the one who was apparently not very happy when I questioned him about the White House’s failure to push for a bigger initial, and then second, stimulus, and their failure to sufficiently defend the stimulus they got against GOP attacks claiming it didn’t do anything.  It did do something, just not enough because it wasn’t big enough, and everyone should have known it at the time.  Berstein also proceeded to blame the Netroots for the White House’s failure to counter the GOP PR attack on the stimulus.

So it’s somewhat ironic that Bernstein is leaving because his advocacy for more stimulus is going nowhere.  Those of us who were his allies sure weren’t treated as such.

Beware the “Middle Ground” of the Great Budget Debate

Robert Reich

How debates are framed is critical because the “center” or “middle ground” is supposedly halfway between the two extremes.

We continue to hear that the Great Budget Debate has two sides: The President and the Democrats want to cut the budget deficit mainly by increasing taxes on the rich and reducing military spending, but not by privatizing Medicare. On the other side are Paul Ryan, Republicans, and the right, who want cut the deficit by privatizing Medicare and slicing programs that benefit poorer Americans, while lowering taxes on the rich.

By this logic, the center lies just between.

Baloney.

According to the most recent Washington Post-ABC poll, 78 percent of Americans oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to reduce the debt, and 72 percent support raising taxes on the rich – including 68 percent of Independents and 54 percent of Republicans.

In other words, the center of America isn’t near halfway between the two sides. It’s overwhelmingly on the side of the President and the Democrats.

I’d wager if Americans also knew two-thirds of Ryan’s budget cuts come from programs serving lower and moderate-income Americans and over 70 percent of the savings fund tax cuts for the rich – meaning it’s really just a giant transfer from the less advantaged to the super advantaged without much deficit reduction at all – far more would be against it.

And if people knew that the Ryan plan would channel hundreds of billions of their Medicare dollars into the pockets of private for-profit heath insurers, almost everyone would be against it.

The Republican plan shouldn’t be considered one side of a great debate. It shouldn’t be considered at all. Americans don’t want it.

Which is why I get worried when I hear about so-called “bipartisan” groups on Capitol Hill seeking a grand compromise, such as the Senate’s so-called “Gang of Six.”

Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, a member of that Gang, says they’re near agreement on a plan that will chart a “middle ground” between the House Republican budget and the plan outlined last week by the President.

Watch your wallets.

In my view, even the President doesn’t go nearly far enough in the direction most Americans would approve. All he wants to do, essentially, is end the Bush tax windfalls for the wealthy – which were designed to be ended in 2010 in any event – and close a few loopholes.

But why shouldn’t we go back to the tax rates we had thirty years ago, which required the rich to pay much higher shares of their incomes? One of the great scandals of our age is how concentrated income and wealth have become. The top 1 percent now gets twice the share of national income it took home thirty years ago.

If the super rich paid taxes at the same rates they did three decades ago, they’d contribute $350 billion more per year than they are now – amounting to trillions more over the next decade. That’s enough to ensure every young American is healthy and well-educated and that the nation’s infrastructure is up to world-class standards.

Nor does the President’s proposal go nearly far enough in cutting military spending, which is not only out of control but completely unrelated to our nation’s defense needs – fancy weapons systems designed for an age of conventional warfare; hundreds of billions of dollars for the Navy and Air Force, when most of the action is with the Army, Marines, and Special Forces; and billions more for programs no one can justify and few can understand.

If Americans understood how much they’re paying for defense and how little they’re getting, they’d demand a defense budget at least 25 percent smaller than it is today.

Finally, the President’s proposed budget doesn’t deal with the scandal of the nation’s schools in poor and middle-class communities – schools whose teachers are paid under $50,000 a year, whose classrooms are crammed, that can’t afford textbooks or science labs, that have abandoned after-school programs and courses like history and art. Most school budgets depend mainly on local property taxes that continue to drop in lower-income communities. The federal government should come to their rescue.

To think of the “center” as roughly halfway between the President’s and Paul Ryan’s proposals is to ignore what Americans need and want. For our political representatives to find a ”middle ground” between the two would be a travesty.

Report: BP received $13 billion tax break for Gulf disaster “losses”

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Chris in Paris

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BP is refusing to say whether or not they are paying any taxes at all for 2010. This group initially thought that BP was getting a $10 billion tax break but then concluded, it was actually $13 billion. Anyone else think the tax code is ever so slightly wrong?

Responding to BP’s monumental catastrophe cost a massive amount of resources from local, state and federal governments. Now, BP is dealing another massive blow to our nation’s tax revenue.

The $10 billion savings comes after BP wrote-off the $32.2 billion it set aside to cover clean-up costs, fines, and a $20 billion victim compensation fund (which has been notoriously slow and stingy in responding to claims, paying out less than 4 billion so far.3)

But there is an excellent precedent that says BP did not have to deduct these costs for tax advantages. Last year, Goldman Sachs waived a tax deduction it could have claimed as a result of paying $500 million in fines to the Securities and Exchange Commission for giving bad information to mortgage investors.


The United States — One nation under contract

Thanks to Scott Horton, we have a good short interview with Professor Allison Stanger, author of the new book,One Nation Under Contract, a book which, in Horton’s words, “takes a close look at the outsourcing of national security and foreign policy functions in the last decade.”

Here are a few excerpts from that interview — I urge you to read the rest (my emphasis below):

1. You track the growing dependence of the federal government on contractors–from a little more than $200 billion in 2000 to about $440 billion in 2007. What shifts in policy account for this explosive growth in the use of contractors?

The main factor was the privatization of war. Iraq and Afghanistan are America’s first contractors’ wars, with contractors often outnumbering uniformed personnel on the ground in both conflicts. This development is new and unprecedented. At the height of the Vietnam War, contractors represented just 14 percent of the American presence on the ground. Without contractors, we would need a draft to wage these two wars, and with a draft, we would obviously have a very different political situation.

While wartime contracting and successive supplemental appropriations have fueled these dramatic trends, this is not a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans alike embraced outsourcing the work of government to the private sector whenever possible, both as a perceived cost-savings measure and as a mechanism for getting things done more efficiently. But the unprecedented explosion of contracting—to use Defense Secretary Gates’s language, “willy-nilly” contracting—to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan was a tale of unprecedented waste, fraud, and abuse (PDF). Taxpayer money obviously cannot be well spent when government is not following the money.

And what about the current president’s role in this?

The trends mapped in the book have continued unabated under the Obama Administration, and in many ways our dependence on contractors has grown. When the State Department replaces the U.S. military in Iraq, they will be wholly reliant on contractors to pursue the mission. To make matters worse, Congress is currently poised to slash funding for open government initiatives from $35 million to $8 million on President Obama’s watch.

She goes on to talk about the still-incomplete, invaluable government site USASpending.gov, which was vital to her in her research. The current proposed spending cuts are implemented, she thinks that site would be closed.

Stanger calls that “ironic.” To me, that sounds like the goal.

This is one of those topics on which many of us think we know the broad strokes (we do; this is looting on a massive scale), and don’t realize or expose ourselves to the wealth of detail that makes those broad strokes broad.

Professor Stanger has the numbers and the analysis. The information is accessible and shocking. For example: “Department of Defense spent $133.2 billion on contracts and by 2008, that figure had grown to $391.9 billion, an almost three-fold increase.” And phrases like taxpayer money “flowing through subcontracts into the pockets of the Taliban” come up.

There’s more where that came from, and Horton recommends the book highly. Please do click through if government contracting and privatization is on your reading radar.

ENVIRONMENT

“Hold Both Parties to High Standards”: Van Jones, Obama’s Ex-Green Jobs Czar

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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Van-jones-powershift-webMore than 10,000 people converged in Washington, D.C., this past week to mobilize around the issue of climate change at the Power Shift 2011 conference. Van Jones, a longtime environmental advocate and former green jobs adviser in the Obama White House, gave the keynote address. “We pull out of the ground death, and we burn it in our engines. And we burn death in our power plants, without ceremony,” Jones said. “And then we act shocked when, having pulled death out of the ground and burned it—we act shocked when we get death from our skies in the form of global warming and death on our oceans in the form of oil spills and death in our children’s lungs in the form of asthma and cancer.” [includes rush transcript]

Bill McKibben of 350.org Calls House Vote on Global Warming “One of the Most Embarrassing Votes Congress Has Ever Taken”

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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Mckibben_okAt this week’s Power Shift 2011 conference in Washington, D.C., longtime environmental activist Bill McKibben critiqued how the United States has failed to take steps to address climate change. He is the founder of the environmental organization 350.org—the name references the 350 parts per million many scientists say is the safe limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. “Think about our own country—historically, the biggest source of carbon emissions. Last summer, the Senate refused to even take a vote on the tepid, moderate, tame climate bill that was before it,” says McKibben. “Last week, the House voted 248 to 174 to pass a resolution saying global warming wasn’t real.” [includes rush transcript]

“Now Is Our Time to Take a Stand”: Tim DeChristopher’s Message to Youth Climate Activists at Power Shift 2011

Dechristopher_webIn March, a federal jury convicted environmental activist Tim DeChristopher of two felony counts for disrupting the auction of more than 100,000 acres of federal land for oil and gas drilling. He faces up to 10 years in prison. Last weekend he spoke at the Power Shift 2011 conference and urged youth climate activists to make more sacrifices. “We hold the power right here to create our vision of a healthy and just world, if we are willing to make the sacrifices to make it happen,” DeChristopher said. “Where is the point where our movement is going to say that stopping this injustice is more important than my career plans?” [includes rush transcript]

Greenpeace occupies oil rig bound for Arctic

Imagine how easy it will be in an emergency in the distant Arctic when something goes wrong. Greenpeace:

Activists are demanding an end to reckless deepwater oil drilling and taking bold action to stop the oil rig Leiv Eiriksson as it departs Turkey to the Arctic waters of Greenland to begin drilling.

In the early hours of the morning activists began their mission to intercept the oil rig as it attempted to leave Besiktas port near Istanbul and head to the Arctic to start exploratory drilling. Eleven activists scaled the 53,000 tonne rig to impede its progress and are prepared for a sustained occupation, with sufficient supplies to last for days.

The Leiv Eiriksson is operated by Cairn Energy and is the only rig in the world currently set to begin new deep sea drilling in the Arctic – making it a clear and present danger to the pristine arctic environment. Sound familiar? If it does it is because we’ve told you about Cairn energy and their quest for Arctic drilling before. Read about how activists stopped Cairn energy from drilling last year.

Extreme arctic weather conditions mean that Cairn has a very short window to drill four new exploratory wells at staggering depths of around 1500m – these are similar depths to the ill-fated BP Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. Freezing temperatures, severe weather and a highly remote location pose unprecedented challenges to any oil spill response in the Arctic and mean a spill would be impossible to contain and clean up.

Earth Day Special: Vandana Shiva and Maude Barlow on the Rights of Mother Earth

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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Vandana_maude_okThis week the United Nations General Assembly discussed international standards that grant nature equal rights to humans. Similar protocols have been adopted by over a dozen U.S. municipalities, as well as Bolivia and Ecuador. Renowned environmentalists Maude Barlow and Vandana Shiva join us. Says Shiva, “Most civilizations of the world, for most of human history, have seen the world in terms of relatedness and connection,” says Shiva. “And if there’s one thing the rights of Mother Earth is waking us to, is: we are all connected.” [includes rush transcript]

BP funds for environmental research dragging

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Chris in Paris

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To be fair to BP, it’s only been one year since they destroyed the Gulf of Mexico and it’s not fair to ask them to fulfill their financial commitments as quickly as their profits have increased due to the high price of oil. Maybe someone in Congress or the White House would be interested in fast tracking this so that scientists can collect this critical information? Anyone? 

Why not hand out the federal dollars today and simply charge BP interest so that scientists can start now and the federal government doesn’t lose any money? There are plenty of easy solutions, but the apologists in DC need to step aside and a few leaders need to emerge.

Rita Colwell, a University of Maryland scientist who chairs the board overseeing the money, said the protocol for distributing the remaining $450 million would be announced Monday at the National Press Club Washington. After that, scientists will be allowed to submit proposals, but it could take months for research to be chosen.

Michael Carron, a Mississippi marine scientist selected to head the BP-funded post-spill research project, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, doubted money would be available before June. He acknowledged not being able to study the spring spawning of shrimp, crabs and other animals would be a problem.

“This will be the first good glimpse of what happened to larvae, the first class” of species born during and after the spill, he said.

With the BP funds so slow to get out the door, scientists are trying to get funding from federal grants and other sources. And it’s possible the BP money will be handed out on an expedited basis, Carron said.


Coast Guard report notes Transocean’s safety “deficiencies”

Why does it appear as though the loser of the fight between Transocean and BP will be the one with less money and fewer government connections? Either way, neither appears to have had much of a focus on safety. Reuters:

A Coast Guard investigation “revealed numerous systems deficiencies, and acts and omissions by Transocean [RIG 75.41 -0.20 (-0.26%) ] and its Deepwater Horizon crew, that had an adverse impact on the ability to prevent or limit the magnitude of the disaster,” the agency said in a statement on last April’s blowout at the BP well.

The 288-page report found Transocean had piled up “numerous deficiencies in the area of safety” in the years leading up to the April 20 explosion and spill that killed 11 people and fouled a wide section of the Gulf.

A team of investigators from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the Coast Guard found poor maintenance of electrical equipment, bypassing of automatic shutdown systems, and lack of training of personnel for emergencies, the report said.




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This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Background & Analysis, Bradley Manning, Civil Liberties, Counterinsurgency, Events, Human Rights, Imperialism, Military, Obama. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to In the Belly of the Beast: 4/25/11: WikiLeaks Documents Reveal U.S. Knowingly Imprisoned 150 Innocent Men at Guantánamo

  1. Pingback: Blackwater Watch » Blog Archive » In the Belly of the Beast: 4/25/11: WikiLeaks Documents Reveal …

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