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Archive for December 21st, 2011

Hypocrisy 101 For 2012

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They don’t have much of a choice.

The Republican Party have two options to go up against President Obama: Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney. When the Republican voters go out to the polls at the beginning of the year the majority of them will vote for a person who has a background that these voters blasted years ago.

For instance: A decade ago some Republican voter probably said, “I can’t believe that ole’ Clinton had a daggum affair while in the White House. He has ruined our image and I could never vote for someone who cheated on his wife and lied to God by breaking a vow.” Well, this same person  could very well vote for Newt Gingrich who has had three wives, breaking two vows to God. Uh oh!

Remember back in 2008 when all these Christian die hards said they would “never vote for a non-Christian?” They went around to Hardee’s and started to talk about how we were about to elect a Muslim (which turns out they were wrong). Yet, for decades these Christian voters have said that the Mormons are “non-Christians.” Alright. I’m not going to get into specifics on religion and I’m not going to bash the Church of Latter Day Saints. However, if these people didn’t vote for Mitt Romney in 2008 because of his religion…. will they vote for a “non-Christian” in 2012? It looks that way.

So lets recap for just a moment: the Republican voters didn’t want someone who cheated on his wife and they didn’t want someone who wasn’t a under the Christian label. Then they got Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Looks like those talking points were thrown out the window and forgotten about.

Once the primaries start coming around we will see one of these men win the Republican nomination. Both will defy the early remarks of their voters. Even with moral issues aside, these two men still have an economic record that would benefit the most wealthy and leave the middle class behind. The same ‘average Joe’ who will vote for either Newt or Mitt are the same people who will hurt the most under a Newt or Mitt presidency. Why? Newt Gingrich’s tax policy would overwelmingly benefit the rich while leaving the middle class in the dust and Mitt Romney…. well…. who wants a guy in the White House who’s state ranked at the bottom of job creation while he was governor and who fired thousands of workers while working at Bain to fill his own pockets? Surely not the Republican voters, but they will vote for him anyway.

So, after all this information about their background and records why is it that Republican voters still support them? 2012 will truly be the year of Republican hypocrisy. Hey! I have someone they can vote for!! This guy has never cheated on his wife and is a known Christian that goes to church AND his policies help the middle class! His name? Barack Obama

© 2011, agentleman.

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Lock Them Up And Throw Away The Key Here At Home!

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Did Congress Just Endorse Rendition for Americans?

You’ve heard about indefinite detention in the defense bill. But it also contains some eyebrow-raising language regarding the transfer of terrorist suspects to foreign countries.

—By Nick Baumann

 

A defense spending bill that passed both houses of Congress overwhelmingly and is set to be signed by President Barack Obama as early as this week could make it easier for the government to transfer American terrorist suspects to foreign regimes and security forces.

The National Defense Authorization Act (PDF) contains a section that says the president has the power to transfer suspected members and supporters of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated” groups “to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.”

That means if the president determines you’re a member or supporter of Al Qaeda or “associated forces,” he could order you to be handed over to the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Yemenis (“any other foreign country”), any of their respective security forces, or even the United Nations (“any other foreign entity”). (You can read the relevant section of the law in the document viewer at the end of this article.)

Many legal experts consider the NDAA a congressional codification of war powers the Bush and Obama administrations have claimed they already possess. David Glazier, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and expert on the law of war, argues that Obama already had the power to transfer suspected Al Qaeda members (even Americans) to foreign custody, and the NDAA simply endorses that view. “If the president could lawfully transfer a German prisoner of war to a foreign country, then in theory he could do the same thing with an American prisoner of war,” Glazier explains.

But turning the Bush and Obama administrations’ interpretations of their war powers into an actual law is “no small thing,” as Benjamin Wittes, a legal expert at the Brookings Institution,explains. Under this law, the government has far-reaching powers to detain and try terrorist suspects inside or outside the civilian justice system—or, if necessary, to transfer them to the custody of foreign powers—and it will serve as a signal to judges. “When you put all that in a statute, it becomes a much more permanent fixture of the US justice system,” says Daphne Eviatar, a lawyer with Human Rights First. “It’s not necessarily changing the authority the US government has today, but it’s institutionalizing it.”

Eviatar adds that there are “a whole lot of scenarios” where the government might want to transfer a suspected terrorist—even a US citizen—to foreign custody. For example, the administration might not want to go through the political mess of determining whether to send a suspect to Gitmo, try him in a military commission, or use the civilian system. The administration might also want to avoid the mandatory habeas corpus review that would come if the US held the suspect itself. In such a case, transferring the suspect to a foreign security force might present an appealing option.

An amendment sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says the relevant section of the NDAA doesn’t change “existing law” with regards to the detention of US citizens, permanent legal residents, and terrorist suspects captured in the United States. The problem is that there’s a debate over what “existing law” is.

Civil liberties advocates and some members of Congress argue that the government can only indefinitely detain an American if he is, as Feinstein explained on the Senate floor, “taken an active part in hostilities against the United States and is captured outside the United States in an area of ‘active combat operations,’ such as the battlefields of Afghanistan.”

But many legal experts, members of Congress, and both the Bush and Obama administrations have argued that existing law allows the US to indefinitely detain all people, including American citizens, who the president determines are part of or “substantially supported” Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces. (You can see an Obama administration argument on this subject here.) The Supreme Court has yet to issue a definitive ruling on the issue.

As I reported in the September/October issue of Mother Jones, the US government has a longstanding program it uses to facilitate the detention and interrogation of US-born terrorist suspects captured abroad. Through the program, which critics refer to as “proxy detention,” the US government encourages foreign regimes to detain and interrogate Americans it suspects of involvement in terrorist activity. The country holding the American terror suspect often receives questions from and transmits answers back to US authorities. Although the program raises civil liberties concerns, especially in cases where American detainees claim to have been abused in foreign custody, it’s not necessarily illegal—and now, with the passage of the NDAA, the transfer of terrorist suspects to foreign countries has formal congressional sanction.

You can read the detention and transfer provisions of the NDAA here:

© 2011, agentleman.

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Reversing US Power And Fortune$

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Grover Norquist’s Real Game: Shifting Power and Wealth to the 1 Percent

 

Norquist’s real mission has been government that serves corporate America.

Grover Norquist is fast becoming the man everyone loves to hate –  except  those who  fear him.  Norquist, the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, is both the architect and enforcer of the Republican Party’s  obsessive opposition  to all  taxes – an obsession that threatens to drive America off a fiscal cliff.

Every Republican running for president (except John Huntsman) has signed Norquist’s no-tax pledge.  So have 13 governors, 1,300 state legislators,  40 of the 47 Republicans in the Senate, and 236 of the 242 Republicans in the House.

Politicians who refuse to sign Norquist’s pledge – or who violate it after getting elected by voting for tax increases —  risk  facing his wrath in the next election. To avoid getting branded as pro-tax, they sign.  Few candidates have wanted to appear “soft” on taxes since Ronald Reagan beat Walter Mondale in 1984  after the Democrat said that, if elected,  he’d raise taxes.

Norquist refuses to identify his donors, but, clearly his anti-tax  small-government rhetoric is  just a clever cover story to help his corporate benefactors.  Last year Norquist supported the Republicans’ plan  to extend the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy and to cut payroll taxes,  which President Obama reluctantly agreed to.     Norquist still embraces tax cuts for the rich.  Atrecent meeting with GOP lawmakers, Norquist said that  permitting the expiration of the Bush temporary tax cuts on the wealthy would  violate the no new taxes pledge.  But, he said, allowing this year’s payroll tax cut to expire wouldn’t breach the no tax dogma.,

Apparently, Norquist’s no-tax pledge doesn’t apply when it’s a tax on middle class families.  In 2011, the payroll tax cut put $120 billion into the hands of millions of middle and working class Americans.

In 2011, the richest one percent of Americans will get an average  tax break of $66,384, thanks to the Bush cuts. That’s larger than the the average income of the other 99 percent — $58,506.   

Norquist’s real agenda is obvious.  Speaking for his corporate funders, he brands ending tax cuts for the rich as an outrageous tax increase while claiming extending payroll tax relief for working families is typical Democratic fiscal irresponsibility.

Norquist claims  that he is committed to  smaller government. He once famously said that he wanted to reduce the size of government to the point that he could drown it in a bathtub.   But his hypocrisy on extending tax cuts – OK for the rich but not for average working families —  reveals Norquist’s true colors.  He’s a front man for the 1%.

How did Norquist become the Machiavelli for the mega-rich?  After earning his MBA at Harvard, Norquist served as was executive director of both the National Taxpayers Union and the College Republicans, then went to work as a speechwriter at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  In 1985, Donald Regan – the former CEO of Merrill Lynch before becoming.   Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff – plucked Norquist out of the Chamber and installed him as head of Americans for Tax Reform.,

Since then, Norquist’s real mission has been government that serves corporate America. He’s supported government subsidies for ethanol and has lobbied on behalf of Microsoft, Seagrams and the gambling industry.

As the head of Americans for Tax Reform he shilled for the tobacco industry. In 1993, tobacco giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds worried that taxes on tobacco products might be included as a source of funding for health care reform. Norquist was an experienced warrior against taxes and had a network of state-level contacts that could be mobilized.  The tobacco firms gave grants to ATR’s educational arm and made payments for ATR’s lobbying services.   It was a marriage of convenience and opportunity for both and another example of Norquists’s real agenda behind his no-tax pledge:    Shift more wealth and power to the already wealthy and powerful.

Norquist also proved useful to the tobacco industry when he held press conferences, wrote op-ed pieces and lobbied against cigarette tax increases in a number of states seeking new revenues to fund health programs for children, including Maine, New Jersey, Alaska, and New Hampshire. He fronted for the tobacco lobby in its opposition to lawsuits seeking damages from states who spent billions of dollars in health care expenses treating the illnesses suffered by long-term smokers.

In 2001, as George W. Bush was coming into the White House, Norquist penned an article in the right-wing American Spectator that outlined a Bush Administration strategy to create a permanent conservative Republican majority.  His goal was, and is, to relegate the Democratic Party to minority status to head off progressive taxes and regulations on business that upset his corporate clients.

Norquist’s article laid out a straightforward five point battle plan.  Today, flush with cash, Republican elected officials are aggressively targeting Norquist’s “five pillars” of the Democratic party’s support.

  • Unions

This year’s campaigns against public sector worker in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana are the merely latest chapter in concerted campaigns to shrink unions and limit their participation in politics. Conservative legislators and governors have proposed “right to work” measures, so-called “paycheck protection” measures that would make it harder for unions to represent workers in politics and privatization schemes designed to break unions while slashing wages and benefits.

  • Trial lawyers

Business interests, under the benign sounding banner of “tort reform,” have been trying to limit corporate liability for decades.  (The new documentary film, “Hot Coffee,” describes the business/Republican assault in great detail).  The Bush presidency made it a centerpiece of his agenda.  In 2005, George W. Bush signed a law moving class action suits from state courts to federal courts where fewer classes would be certified.  The Bush Administration also regularly inserted pre-emption language into federal rulemaking at the FDA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Homeland security.  For example, a 2006 FDA rule shifted on prescription labeling preempted state laws and helped Merck that was fighting thousands of lawsuits by consumers harmed by the arthritis drug Vioxx that was recalled in 2004 after it was linked to increased heart attacks and strokes.  Similar preemptions were slipped into regulations covering mattress flammability, sunscreen labeling, and auto safety standards.

  • Voter registration groups

GOP-controlled state legislatures are passing laws to restrict the right for Democratic-leaning constituencies – the poor, minorities, young people, and immigrant citizens.  Dozens of laws have been proposed that restrict early voting days to make it more difficult for working people who aren’t given time off to vote on Tuesdays;  reduce the number of college students that can vote by making it impossible for parents to claim their child as a dependent on their taxes if they register to vote while away at school; and require onerous identification cards for voters that will make it more difficult for seniors and others lacking drivers licenses or their birth certificates.

  • Progressive organizations receiving federal funding

Efforts to defund non-profit organizations that receive federal funding to serve low income people began during the Reagan administration.   In the last decade, the GOP has targeted funding for Planned Parenthood,  NPR, and  environmental groups such as the Defenders of Wildlife that receive federal grants and reimbursement of legal fees for non-profits that successfully sue the federal government for failure to enforce existing law.

  • “Big City” mayors

Since the New Deal, Washington has sent job-creating funds – for housing, infrastructure, social services, and economic development and other goals – to urban areas, but when Reagan took office he began slashing these programs that primarily benefit low-income and minority populations, who tend to vote for Democrats. George W. Bush worked to finish the job started by Reagan.  He proposed completely defunding the Community Development Block Grant (CDGB).  He failed to eliminate the program but slashed the budget by over $1 billion during his second term.  Norquist viewed this as money to help Democratic mayors gain support among their urban constituencies, who could then be mobilized to vote for Democratic candidates for President and Congress.

Norquists’s plan has begun to hit roadbumps.  Voters have opposed the attacks on the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers. In November, Ohio voters soundly rejected Governor’s Kasich’s law restricting union rights. Wisconsin residents recalled two state legislators and are signing petitions by the thousands to recall Governor Scott Walker.   Republicans’ attempts to defund Planned Parenthood’s family planning clinics failed.  In fact, the organization, the nation’s largest provider of women’s health services, has been gaining new members and supporters.

American’s are even tiring of dogmatic no-new taxes pledges that only really apply to taxes on the wealthy. Voters in every poll show that the public wants a balanced approach to the public budget deficits – cuts and revenues.  They want to see the end of the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy that cut a trillion dollar hole in the federal budget since 2001.

And Norquists’s threats to destroy the careers of  elected officials who support new taxes  are now attracting enemies with the GOP’s  own ranks.  Allen Simpson, the former Senator from Wyoming, recently said that Norquist is an “egomaniac” with an agenda of  “no taxes, under any situation, even if your country goes to hell.” Even the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote that  Norquist  “enforces rigid ultimatums that make governance, or even thinking, impossible.”

Last month, seven Republican House members who had signed Norquist’s pledge announced that their commitment has expired. They reminded their supporters that  Republicans once put country over party and ideology, and  supported tax increases  when absolutely necessary. Norquists’ no-tax pledge may very well take American off a fiscal and economic cliff.   Will his  corporate sponsors eventually  wake up and realize that their own futures are intertwined with the fate of the entire country?

Peter Dreier, who teaches politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College, is author of The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, which Nation Books is publishing next year. Donald Cohen is the chair of In the Public Interest, a national resource center on privatization and responsible contracting. Dreier is chair and Cohen is director of the Cry Wolf Project, a nonprofit research network that identifies and exposes misleading rhetoric about the economy, regulation and government.

Donald Cohen is the chair of In the Public Interest, a national resource center on privatization and responsible contracting. 

© 2011, agentleman.

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