Tag: Harpers

Guantanamo homicides; government cover-up

February 15, 2010 | By | 4 Replies More
Guantanamo homicides; government cover-up

I am feeling as though I’m in shock after reading “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides,'” an article by Scott Horton that appears in the March 2010 edition of Harper’s Magazine (available online only to subscribers). The official story offered by the United States government is that these three prisoners, who occupied non-adjacent cells, simultaneously committed suicide on June 9, 2006.

According to the NCI as documents, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s 8-foot high steel mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat area we are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his wash basin, slipped his head through the news, tightened it, and left from the wash basin to hang until he asphyxiated.

Horton’s incredible article names names and provides details with regard to all of the following:

* The United States appears to have murdered at least three of the prisoners at Guantánamo. None of these three men had been charged with any crime. Two of these men were set to be released. There is no credible evidence that any of them were terrorists. Evidence strongly suggests that they were beaten and then further tortured through waterboarding on the night they were killed.
* The United States has worked furiously to cover up these murders, spewing countless lies in the process.
* The United States maintained a special torture building (“a black site”) far from the main prison camp at Guantánamo, and those who worked at Guantánamo were told to not ask any questions about it. It was called “Camp No,” and those who have come forward at considerable risk have reported hearing screaming from that building.
* After the three prisoners were apparently murdered, those in charge of Guantánamo viciously attacked the dead men, arguing to the press that “They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own.”
* In the process of “investigating the suicides,” the U.S. government seized all written communications possessed by the other Guantánamo prisoners, including communications clearly constituting attorney-client privilege.
* When presented with the facts presented in Horton’s article, the Bush administration and the Obama administration’s both refused to conduct any meaningful investigation. Both administrations actively suppressed the truth.
* The Obama administration would simply rather not have to deal with the criminal actions of the Bush administration.

I’m sure that many Americans are disgusted, as I am, that the United States has engaged in this sort of behavior. I’m also sure that millions of Americans would be outraged that Horton would dare to accuse the United States of anything improper; these sorts of people (I’ve met some of them and I’ve heard many on television) don’t care whether the Guantanamo prisoners were really terrorists and don’t care whether they were tortured. It’s disturbing on many levels. It all makes you wonder what has become of us.

The following is from a related article from yesterday’s NYT, where it is reported that the Obama Administration is upset that a British Court released U.S. information indicating that U.S. treatment of prisoners “violated legal prohibitions against torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners.” You’d think that Mr. Obama would abide by his campaign promise to be an open book, but he’s doing the opposite:

A spokesman for President Obama expressed “deep disappointment” in the court’s decision, which might have been shocking except that Mr. Obama has refused to support any real investigation of Mr. Bush’s lawless detention policies. His lawyers have tried to shut down court cases filed by victims of those policies, with the same extravagant claims of state secrets and executive power that Mr. Bush made.

In another a related matter, Dick Cheney reminded the world yesterday that he has long been a big fan of A) waterboarding and B) telling his lawyers what to tell him.

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The big problem with legalized usury

March 20, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More
The big problem with legalized usury

In his recent article called “Infinite Debt” (in the April 2009 issue of Harper’s Magazine), Thomas Geoghegan connects the dots to point out the terrible consequences of having a nation devoid of interest caps. First of all, this situation is something extraordinarily new. The law against usury had “existed in some form and every civilization from the time of the Babylonian empire to the end of Jimmy Carter’s term.” In many ways, however, it no longer exists in the United States.

Here’s what happened: the financial sector bloats up. With no law capping interest, the evil is not only that banks prey on the poor (they have always done so) but that Capitol rushes out of manufacturing and into banking. When banks get 25% to 30% on credit cards, and 500 or more percent on payday loans, capital flees from the honest pursuits, like auto manufacturing. Sure, GM is awful. Sure, it doesn’t innovate. But the people who could have saved GM and Ford went off to work at AIG, or Merrill Lynch, or even Goldman Sachs. All of this used to be so obvious as not to merit comment. What is history, really, but a turf war between manufacturing, labor and the banks? In the United States, we got rid of manufacturing. We got rid of labor. Now it’s just the banks.

Geoghegan explains that this is why the middle-class is shrinking. In 2003, financial firms accounted for 40% of the profits that accrue to US corporations. Geoghegan points out that this is more than double the share of the financial industry (18%) when Ronald Reagan left office.

As Geoghegan explains, “we use our credit cards to help liquidate our own jobs, the kind we used to have in Michigan and Ohio. By little teaspoons, the people who go into debt for kitty litter pull a bit more capital out of one sector and pour it into another.”

Geoghegan correctly explains that the dam broke when the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Marquette National Bank v. First of Omaha Service Corporation, a decision issued in 1978. In that case, the Court held that Minnesota could not cap the credit card of a Nebraska bank because that bank was subject to the National Banking Act of 1864. Therefore, only the state where the bank is located (headquartered) can set the interest rates charged by that bank. In other words, all you need is a few disreputable states (such as Nebraska) for there to be effectively no interest cap on any bank in the United States willing to set up its headquarters in that state. Given that banks can now charge all kinds of hidden fees and penalties, in addition to interest rates at 25 to 50% (or even 500% for payday lenders), they no longer really want us to pay off those loans. Rather, “they want us to be irresponsible, or at least to have a certain amount of bad character.”

To put this on perspective, think of the terrible old banker, Mr. Potter, featured in the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Mr. Potter drove a very hard bargain. He wanted everyone to actually ay off their loans. What’s fascinating is that Mr. Potter was lending out money at the exorbitant rate of 2%.

But now Mr. Potter would have more choices. If you could charge 35%, he might not necessarily think, “the law must be repaid”-at least not right away. And if he can charge 200%, he actually may not want the loan ever to be repaid.

Therefore, we have a terribly bloated financial sector that employs immense numbers of people to do… what do they do? I do remember only about 1/3 as many people working in the financial sector 30 years ago (or so it seemed). It didn’t seem like we needed these kinds of folks back then, certainly not so many of them. I really wonder whether most of these people are adding any value to society by doing what they do, or whether they are simply participating in an insane “arms race,” by which they fight to get ahead of each other in order to suck vast amounts of money out of the lives of regular folks.

Sounds like it’s time to starve the beast by putting a 20% cap on all interest rates. That’s what Geoghegan recommends.

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In by the hair on our chinny chin chins

January 21, 2009 | By | 12 Replies More
In by the hair on our chinny chin chins

Yes, the Bush Administration is now gone, with Bush himself finally helicoptered out.  And just look at this exquisite satellite photo of yesterday’s crowd for the swearing in! We’d like to think that the American people have now seen the light, and that we can now rationally approach solutions to the massive problems we now […]

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Question the significance of the “gross domestic product” (GDP)

July 20, 2008 | By | Reply More
Question the significance of the “gross domestic product” (GDP)

I just finished reading a terrifically clear and concise article on measuring “the economy” by Jonathan Rowe, published by Harpers. It is entitled “Our Phony Economy.” Please allow me to set the scene. Haven’t you wondered why politicians and the news media so often obsess about the rising and falling of the Gross Domestic Product […]

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The U.S. government is consciously misrepresenting our sick economy

April 16, 2008 | By | 2 Replies More
The U.S. government is consciously misrepresenting our sick economy

How bad is the economy?  In the May issue of Harpers Magazine, Kevin Phillips cuts through the numbers in an article entitled “Numbers Racket:  Why the economy is worse than we know.” The revelations Phillips makes are shocking.  The U.S. government has been consciously cooking the books for decades. How do you make inflation look […]

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Who are the Congressional elite?

February 22, 2008 | By | 1 Reply More
Who are the Congressional elite?

According to this article in Harpers, the Congressional elite include most of the members of Congress.   Consider this, for example: Since 2005, at just ten of D.C.’s priciest restaurants, House membvers have spent more than $5.4 million of political funds. The title to the article is “Beltway bacchanal: Congress lives high on the contributor’s dime.”  […]

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