Archive for category National Politics
Even since the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last December detailed the CIA torture program established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, no one has been held accountable. Human Rights Watch is renewing its calls to change that.
The Obama administration did commission a two-year investigation led by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham that ended in 2012, but no indictments resulted.
So far John Kiriakou, the former CIA official who wasn’t involved in the torture program but told a reporter about it, has been the only one prosecuted in connection with the program. He served two years in prison, and was released last February.
A new report on the Human Rights Watch website points out that a new investigation is warranted (and required under the UN Convention Against Torture) because so much new evidence became public with the release in redacted form of the 499-page summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report in December 2014.
The group is calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor who would have access to the full Senate report, and the power to bring charges against everyone connected with the CIA torture program including top government officials.
These guys are not terrorists.
They know a terrorist when they see one in Minnesota. Last April, federal authorities arrested six Minneapolis men of Somali descent, aged 19 to 21, for the alleged crime of wanting to join ISIS. They now face up to five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.
But these guys? Not terrorists. Abundant evidence indicates they were engaged in a conspiracy to disrupt a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. One of them shot five protesters, including a man who nearly died.
What are the charges? The shooter has been charged with one count of second-degree riot while armed and five counts of second-degree assault, and may be subject to a long prison term if found guilty. The other three defendants were charged with second-degree riot.
No charge of attempted murder. No conspiracy charges. No terrorism charges. No hate crime charges.
Here is a brief synopsis of Minneapolis terrorism statutes from a legal website (emphasis added):
Terrorism is not treated lightly in the Minnesota criminal justice system. It has a broad definition in Minnesota, including both personal and public threats and acts. Personal threats of substantial bodily harm to another can be classified as terroristic threats in certain contexts. Threats with the intent of causing public disorder are certainly terroristic, and carry a heavier penalty than most personal threats…
…Minnesota criminal law increases the penalty for any felony by 50% if the premeditated intent was to further terrorism (Minn. Stat. 609.714). The intent to further terrorism is the intent to:
1. terrorize, intimidate, or coerce a considerable number of members of the public in addition to the direct victims of the act; and
2. significantly disrupt or interfere with the lawful exercise, operation, or conduct of government, lawful commerce, or the right of lawful assembly.
There is a chance the U.S. Department of Justice will step in and bring more serious charges.
Josh Marshall, like many other political observers, is still trying to explain why Donald Trump remains the front-runner for the Tea-GOP presidential nomination. He has led the polls since he announced his candidacy in July.
Parties and politics inflect and harness trends in the broader society. They don’t create them. There’s nothing new under the sun about Trumpism. It’s just a turbo-charged, more media savvy version of the resentment politics the GOP has been tapping for fuel and riding for decades.
…Trump, in his current incarnation, is no more than right wing politics turned up to eleven.
BTW kudos for the Nigel Tufnel reference from the hilarious “This is Spinal Tap” (1984). Yes, what Trump is saying isn’t really different – only he says it louder.
The right-wing and the Republicans have merged into what I starting calling the Tea-GOP last year (after John Boehner famously said that there was no difference between the Tea Party and the GOP). This means that there is no way for Trump’s primary opponents to attack his actual policy positions as too extreme. On the contrary, they copy his rhetoric.
Before this election cycle, Tea-GOPers used to talk about a border fence (e.g. John McCain’s call to build the “danged fence”). Now everybody calls it a “wall” because Trump wants a wall. When Trump started complaining about so-called “anchor babies,” even John Ellis (“Jeb!”) Bush started using that derogatory term. Now Trump is setting the terms of the hysterical debate regarding Syrian refugees.
None of the serious political journalists think Trump will emerge as the eventual Tea-GOP presidential nominee. Josh Marshall is predicting either Rafael (“Ted”) Cruz or Marco Rubio. Even if he doesn’t win, the Tea-GOP brand is now defined by Trump – and he’ll be giving a big speech at the nominating convention.
Nate Silver: Dear Media, Stop Freaking Out About Donald Trump’s Polls
Worst National Security Advisor Ever
Politico provides even more evidence, some of which was left out of the 9/11 Commission’s report, that the Worst President Ever had the Worst National Security Advisor Ever. Not that we needed any more evidence.
By May of 2001, says Cofer Black, then chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, “it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.”
…The drama of failed warnings began when Tenet and Black pitched a plan, in the spring of 2001, called “the Blue Sky paper” to Bush’s new national security team. It called for a covert CIA and military campaign to end the Al Qaeda threat—“getting into the Afghan sanctuary, launching a paramilitary operation, creating a bridge with Uzbekistan.” “And the word back,” says Tenet, “‘was ‘we’re not quite ready to consider this. We don’t want the clock to start ticking.’” (Translation: they did not want a paper trail to show that they’d been warned.)
…That morning of July 10, the head of the agency’s Al Qaeda unit, Richard Blee, burst into Black’s office. “And he says, ‘Chief, this is it. Roof’s fallen in,’” recounts Black. “The information that we had compiled was absolutely compelling. It was multiple-sourced. And it was sort of the last straw.” Black and his deputy rushed to the director’s office to brief Tenet. All agreed an urgent meeting at the White House was needed. Tenet picked up the white phone to Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. “I said, ‘Condi, I have to come see you,’” Tenet remembers. “It was one of the rare times in my seven years as director where I said, ‘I have to come see you. We’re comin’ right now. We have to get there.’”
Tenet vividly recalls the White House meeting with Rice and her team. (George W. Bush was on a trip to Boston.) “Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.’” [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”
“What happened?” I ask Cofer Black. “Yeah. What did happen?” he replies. “To me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone.”
Just as a reminder, several of the al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 9/11 terror plot were already in the USA. Their identities were known to the FBI. If the Bush administration had heeded the numerous warnings, could the pieces of the puzzle have come together before September 11, 2001?
Last night’s Tea-GOP presidential debate was a miserable slog through two hours of lies, myths, and disinformation. I gave up after the first hour. But Donald Trump set the tone right away with the very first question from Neil Cavuto. And the Wisconsin audience must have been composed almost entirely of millionaires, because they applauded for every one of the deeply unpopular proposals coming from the eight candidates.
…And so we begin. Candidates, as we gather tonight in this very august theater, just outside and across the country, picketers are gathering as well. They’re demanding an immediate hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Just a few hours ago, near Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed doing the same for all state workers, the first governor to do so.
Mr. Trump, as the leading presidential candidate on this stage and one whose tax plan exempts couples making up to $50,000 a year from paying any federal income taxes at all, are you sympathetic to the protesters cause since a $15 wage works out to about $31,000 a year?
I can’t be Neil. And the and the reason I can’t be is that we are a country that is being beaten on every front economically, militarily. There is nothing that we do now to win. We don’t win anymore. Our taxes are too high. I’ve come up with a tax plan that many, many people like very much. It’s going to be a tremendous plan. I think it’ll make our country and our economy very dynamic.
But, taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum. But we can not do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can’t do it.
So do not raise the minimum wage?
I would not do it.
We all laughed when John Ellis (“Jeb!”) Bush told Americans to forget about a raise, just “work longer hours.” Last night, Trump said roughly the same thing.
Americans work an average of 47 hours a week. Our wages have stagnated since 1979. None of the Tea-GOPers on stage last night offered any help at all for the struggling middle class or entry-level workers. Nor did they address the injustice of the low-wage business model, which forces taxpayers to subsidize some of the nation’s most profitable corporations when their employees are not paid a living wage.
Unemployment keeps going down. So why aren’t wages going up?
Overworked America: 12 Charts That Will Make Your Blood Boil
Americans are spending $153 billion a year to subsidize McDonald’s and Wal-Mart’s low wage workers
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returns to the White House next week, looking for more of our money. Israel currently gets $3.1 billion per year in U.S. military aid, which has been used to finance war crimes. After Afghanistan, Israel is already the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid.
Now Netanyahu wants a new 10-year deal for $4.5 billion a year, which would be close to a 50 percent raise. The answer ought to be a resounding NO. The current Israeli government is adamantly opposed to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, they are meddling in American politics, and they are a strategic liability, so why are we paying them anything?
Netanyahu Is Bringing a $4.5 Billion-a-Year Arms Wish List to Obama
US only country to oppose UN holding Israel accountable for war crimes, yet again
Israel is supposedly the only democracy in the Middle East, yet 4.5 million Palestinians under its control can’t vote
Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch points out that Tea-GOP presidential front runner Dr. Ben Carson’s federal budget numbers add up to an out-of-control annual deficit.
1. Carson proposes a 10 percent flat income tax according to the biblical practice of tithing. This would raise taxes on the poorest 47 percent of Americans, tax the rich at about 1/4 the current rate, and result in an estimated $1.1 trillion in annual revenue.
2. Carson wants a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is unlikely to pass. Such an amendment would make deficits unconstitutional. Carson also says that, as President, he would never sign legislation to raise the debt limit.
Slate’s Jordan Weissmann points out that even if “you were to cut all federal outlays, including Medicare, Medicaid, military spending, and Social Security, by 4 percent, you would save less than $150 billion.” Weissmann also noted that a strict government hiring freeze “would only save about $50 billion over a decade.”
Here’s the arithmetic:
Subtract 4% from the current approximately $3.2 trillion in non-military spending, and you get $3.072 trillion. Add the $600 billion Pentagon budget (which does not include the cost of overseas military operations, BTW). So President Carson would spend $3.672 annually to fund the federal government. Subtract $1.1 trillion in revenues. The answer: Carson would have a $2.572 trillion annual budget deficit, which is more than 6 times the FY 2015 $426 billion deficit.
But wait a minute, he’s for a balanced budget and not adding to the National Debt.
I really hope he gets called on this nonsense in tonight’s debate.
Just before midnight on Monday, congressional leaders and the White House tentatively agreed on a major budget deal. The plan is to end debt limit standoffs through March 2017, and keep the federal government in operation with some sequestration relief. So-called “entitlement reform,” meaning cuts to Medicare and Social Security, was kept within limits.
Presumably, Speaker John Boehner will send this budget bill to the House floor before turning over the gavel to Rep. Paul Ryan.
The good news is, it looks like the U.S. government and economy will survive in the near term. We’ll avoid a looming default on our National Debt, and there will not be a government shutdown on December 11.
The bad news is the Shutdown Caucus, a key block of Tea-GOP members of Congress, still wants to bring about a government shutdown and/or default any way they can. Because of gerrymandering, they are likely to survive the next election. And nobody except Bernie Sanders is talking about taxing the rich anymore.
Don’t listen to the demagogues who want to blame the economic problems of the middle class and poor on new immigrants, whether here legally or illegally. The real problem is the economic game is rigged in favor of a handful at the top, who are doing the rigging.
Media Matters nails it.
Conservative media outlets are characterizing support among Democratic presidential candidates for raising the minimum wage, making college tuition affordable, and reducing income inequality as giving away “free stuff,” ignoring that tax plans favored by the GOP field are tantamount to huge giveaways for the wealthiest Americans.
In an October 14 article for The New York Times, CNBC’s John Harwood explained that the so-called “populist” tax reform proposals endorsed by most of the Republican presidential candidates are actually giveaways for top income earners. Harwood used estimates from the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation to show that tax plans put out by Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump primarily benefit the wealthy and reflect “a party still wedded to the theories of supply-side economics 35 years after President Reagan championed them under far different circumstances”…