Nel's New Day

May 10, 2018

Recent Federal Departures

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
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The last two weeks have seen an inordinate number of people moved out of the government with very few arriving. (Another breakdown of disappearances from the White House.) One person did manage to keep his job.

Rev. Pat Conroy is back as U.S. House chaplain after a serious backlash to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) firing him. Ryan said that he was dissatisfied with Conroy’s “pastoral services,” but GOP evangelicals said that they wanted a Protestant instead of a Catholic in the job.  Conroy had prayed before the tax bill that lawmakers guarantee “there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” Ryan warned Conroy to “stay out of politics.” Because the chaplain is selected by a majority vote of House members, Ryan couldn’t fire anyone in that position. Conroy was sworn back in on May 8, 2018, almost seven years after his first swearing in on May 25, 2011 after a unanimous vote. His prayer this week when House members returned from their week off:

“As the members return to Washington, may they be encouraged and empowered by their constituents to be their best selves in serving in the people’s House. May the disagreements that seem to perjure give way to good faith efforts to find solutions to the issues facing our nation in a manner consistent with the great traditions of our republican form of government.”

New York AG Eric Schneiderman has resigned. The man who was supposed to try DDT if he pardoned himself from federal charges has been accused of emotionally and physically abusing at least four women. One person suggested for replacing Schneiderman is Alphonso David, a gay man whose immigrant parents sought asylum from a military coup in Liberia. Another possibility, former U.S. attorney and aggressive prosecutor Preet Bharara, was fired last year by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while Bharara was investigating former HHS Secretary Tom Price. At that time, DDT’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz patted himself on the back for the firing.

Thomas Homan, DDT’s pick for the head of ICE who enthusiastically attacked immigrants, has resigned because he feels left out of administrative decisions. HHS has consistently failed to provide necessary information for a confirmation hearing, and Homan decided to spend more time with his family. Or he may find a more lucrative job: his predecessor, Daniel Ragsdale, works for GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison and detention company. Under Homan, ICE forced separation of immigrant families in detention, tripled arrests of undocumented people without criminal records, prevented pregnant women in detention from appropriate health care, mistakenly arrested almost 1,500 people, and lost almost 1,500 immigrant children last year who were separated from their parents.

Dr. Jennifer Peña, VP Mike Pence’s doctor, disappeared as collateral damage from the controversy about DDT’s doctor, Ronny Jackson, that caused him to withdraw his name as nominee for VA Secretary. Last fall, she was among those who accused Jackson of workplace misconduct for possibly violating federal privacy protections in sharing medical details about Pence’s wife, Karen Pence.

Jackson is also gone as DDT’s personal physician. Also apparently gone are DDT’s medical records. Dr. Harold Bornstein, DDT’s former personal physician, said that DDT’s bodyguard Keith Schiller, who became director of Oval Office operations, seized all DDT-related medical records two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he prescribed hair growth medication for DDT. Schiller had no form authorizing his action, thereby violating HIPAA, a 1996 privacy health care law. DDT is using the Jackson scandal to attack Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), up for re-election this year, but Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), also on the Veterans Affairs Committee as chairman, called foul and brought out the story of Jackson violating Karen Pence’s federal privacy protections. No nominee for Veterans Affairs has appeared although last week’s rumors suggested John Kelly so that DDT could get rid of him as chief of staff.

Lawyer Ty Cobb left DDT’s legal team just as Rudy Giuliani came on. Giuliani unexpectedly quit his job with law firm Greenberg Traurig, that became irritated by Giuliani’s insinuation the firm pays hush money for clients without their knowledge.

Emmitt Flood, recently hired for the legal team, represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment in the late 1990s. DDT’s legal team has no member with a security clearance to handle information in the Russian investigation and Mueller’s negotiations. With 4,095 lawsuits before his election, DDT settled lawsuits since then about a campaign aide leaking to the press, fraud at his university, and a restaurant deal in Washington. His former campaign head has been indicted, three advisers including the one for national security have pled guilty to federal charges, and a porn star and an Apprentice star are suing him for defamation. His son-in-law may be investigated for a bank loan, and his personal lawyer has had his office raided for federal agents.

James Baker, FBI’s top lawyer, and Liz Page, legal adviser to former FBI director James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe, have resigned. Baker will write for the Brookings Institution’s Lawfare blog.

EPA media aide John Konkus was the fourth aide to resign last week and the second in the media department. He follows resignations by EPA communications head, Liz Bowman and political aides Albert Kelly and Pasquale Perrotta as well as 700 other EPA employees. James Hewitt, son of Pruitt-defender Hugh Hewitt, columnist for Washington Post, and radio host for MSNBC remains at the agency. A friend of Pruitt, the elder Hewitt lobbied to clean up a toxic waste area near his California home. Scott Pruitt may be behind recent negative stories about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Elaine Plott reported in The Atlantic that Michael Abboud, one of Pruitt’s press team, passed these stories about Zinke to several media outlets after an Interior staffer worked with former EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski to do the same for the EPA.  Pruitt has added a 14th investigation to his list of woes because he granted a financial hardship waiver to Carl Icahn’s oil refinery. The former DDT adviser left after he made more billions from his advice about investments. In this case, Icahn gains tens of millions of dollars from a regulation meant to help the environment and support corn farmers.

Michael Roman, the Koch brothers’ follower who was hired to vet judicial nominees for White House counselor Don McGahn, has left the WH sinking ship. Most people have never heard of Roman because he’s been secretive since he started working for DDT’s campaign. The primary requirement in selecting DDT’s nominees is loyalty to DDT by doing exactly what he wants and never having said anything negative about him. DDT picked Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State because he admired Tillerson’s swagger and business acumen, and he briefly chose Victoria Toensng and Josephn DiGenova because they defended him on television. Rob Porter, ousted for domestic abuse against two ex-wives, had no vetting file, and early choices only needed to be military generals. A White House official described DDT’s process as “ready, shoot, aim” because DDT announces his choices before they have been vetted. (A better description might be “shoot, ready, aim.”)

Gina Haspel, nominee for CIA director, threatened to withdraw her name last Friday, but DDT convinced her to stay. She worried about the confirmation hearing because she supported torture and destroyed videos showing U.S. torturing at a black site, the secret CIA detention facility in Thailand. Pressure during her hearings included questions from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a former prosecutor, especially the one about whether “the previous interrogation techniques were immoral.” Haspel tried to connect these techniques to preventing further attacks, something never proved. A review of her statements indicates contradictions: she stated that torture did not elicit useful information but believes that it helps prevent further attacks. She said that she wouldn’t restart the torture program but nothing about continuing it. She also said that she would not ask the CIA to do anything “immoral” but refused to answer a question about whether these “interrogations” are immoral. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) issued a statement that “her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying.” After McCain’s statements, Kelly Sadler, who helps manage talking points for DDT allies, said in a White House meeting with two dozen staffers that McCain’s statement “doesn’t matter, he’s “dying anyway.”

Despite the objections of the only senator who has ever been tortured, Haspel will probably be confirmed, joining Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton to become DDT’s triumvirate of war mongering. Other vile comments about McCain show the conservatives’ moral deficiency. Fox guest retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney tried to use McCain as an example of how torture works. He said:

“The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’ The fact is is those methods can work and they’re effective, as former vice president [Dick] Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to.”

A fact check with a great deal of evidence shows that McInerney’s claim, based on a false flyer to denigrate McCain during his presidential run, is wrong. The host of the program, Charles Payne, has issued an apology to McCain and his family, calling the comment “very false and derogatory.”

 

November 22, 2015

‘Religious Freedom,’ Safety from GOP Point of View

Seven GOP presidential candidates gathered last week at the “presidential family forum,” hosted in Iowa by the far-right fundamentalist Christian group called The Family Leader.

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, moderator Frank Luntz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum stand on stage during the Presidential Family Forum, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

From left: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, moderator Frank Luntz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

When seven contenders were asked who they would first call after hearing about a terrorist attack, Fiorina and Huckabee said they’d fall to their knees and pray. Messages from GOP presidential candidates, including these seven, don’t fit the positions that Jesus espoused.

Donald Trump’s first wanted to put surveillance on mosques but moved on to agreeing that Muslims should be forced to wear identifying marks because of their Islam religion. He’s disagreed that he said this, but there’s video of the interview. This morning he doubled down on his call to keep Syrians out of the United States and added that he would torture Syrian refugees.

Marco Rubio goes beyond Trump: “it’s about closing down any place—whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site—any place where radicals are being inspired.” He said on the Fox network this morning that the attacks on Paris were a “positive development.”

John Kasich, sometimes considered a more reasonable GOP presidential candidate, wants a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values throughout the world—specifically in China, Iran, Russia, and the Middle East. He said:

“I will consolidate [U.S. Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting] into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share.”

Questions about his approach:

  • Will he use public money for this endeavor, contrary to the constitution’s First Amendment?
  • Why is Iran not included in the Middle East?
  • Does he want to get rid of all other religions in China with Muslims only 1.7 percent of its population?

A day later, public opinion “softened” his approach to assigning Voice of America to spread his “Judeo-Christian Western values.” Kasich tried to walk back his Christian-only views on this morning’s Meet the Press by saying that the “Western ethic” is “about life … about equality of women … about the freedom of religion.” First, these are not necessarily the ethics of the U.S.; and second,  he assumes that only the Judeo-Christian world has these values.” When he says “they don’t want to negotiate,” he could be referring to the U.S. Congress instead of Muslims.

Ben Carson joined Trump this morning in calling for torturing Syrian refugees. Carson’s advisor, retired US Army Maj. Gen. Robert Dees, also promotes the creation of a Christian active duty military that will “indoctrinate” the people in the United States. In a 2007 video, Dees said:

“We’re in twenty different countries around the world, recognizing that if you could possibly impact the military, you can possibly impact that whole nation for Jesus Christ and for democracy and for proper morality and values-based institutions.”

After Carson compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs,” he called on a gigantic database on everyone in the U.S. According to Carson, Syrian refugees should be left where they are because of his human brain’s “big frontal lobes, as opposed to other animals, because we can engage in rational thought processing.” Still looking for an answer to the problem, he explained that his brain allowed him to “extract information from the past, present, process it, and project it into a plan” while “animals, on the other hand, have big brain stems and rudimentary things because they react.”

Carson’s answer to the Israel/Palestine problem is to leave the Israelis where they are in Palestinian territory and “just slip [the Palestinian territory] into Egypt.” Chris Matthews broke up reading the quote on MSNBC’s Hardball, and Trevor Noah used the clip for part of his takedown of the hapless candidate. While Trump keeps approximately one-third of the GOP support in various polls, Carson has slipped to third in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mike Huckabee uses food analogies in comparing refugees to “tainted milk,” Chipotle’s problem with E.coli, huge bags of peanuts with ten poisoned ones, etc. He also can’t imagine anyone other than extremist Muslims targeting innocent civilians. Yet in the decade after the 9/11 attacks, Christian terrorists have averaged 337 attacks in the U.S. per year, killing at least 254 people. The death toll increased after the release of the study in 2012. During the same time, an average of nine U.S. Muslims were involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots in the U.S. The 20 plots carried out in fewer than 14 years had 50 fatalities.

A few extremist Christian terrorist actions in the U.S.:

The Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church Shooting: On July 27, 2008, devout Christian Jim David Adkisson killed two children and wounded seven other.

Christian Terrorism against Doctors Who Perform Abortions:  Dr. Richard Gunn was killed in 1993, Drs. John Britton and James Barrett were killed in 1994, Dr. Barnett Sleipan was killed in a home in 1998, Dr. George Tiller was shot dead in his church in 2009, and many other doctors were wounded by Christian terrorists in the U.S. because of religious beliefs–17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, 13 wounded, 100 butyric acid attacks, 373 physical invasions, 41 bombings, 655 anthrax threats, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers since 1977. All these were by extremist Christian terrorists on U.S. soil.

The 1995 Oklahoma City Bombings: Member of the Seventh-Day Adventist splinter group Branch Davidians, Timothy McVeigh, killed 168 people when he detonated a fertilizer bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Another 648 were wounded.

Ku Klux Klan: For the past 150 years, the terrorist extremist Christian groups has terrorized people in the name of Protestantism and racism against blacks, Jews, immigrants, LGBTs, and Catholics. Only two weeks ago, Frazier Glenn Cross, the leader of the Carolina Knights of the KKK, was sentenced to death by lethal injection for murdering a 14-year-old girl and two seniors outside the Overland Park Jewish Community Center in Kansas City. He said, “Jews are destroying the white race” but didn’t realize until afterwards that none of his victims was Jewish.

The Massacre at Zion Emmanuel AME Church (Charleston, SC): An extremist Christian white man killed nine black worshippers.

Ted Cruz is willing to take in Syrian refugees as long as they are proved to be Christians. Without the refugee program, the United States would not have Cruz because his father, Rafael Cruz, was granted asylum in the U.S., but the elder Cruz wants radical Christianity imposed on the entire United States while eliminating atheists and LGBT people. Cruz  also asked for more “tolerance for civilian casualties” in President Obama’s airstrikes (aka let’s kill more innocent people) and joined Huckabee in ignorance about extremist Christian killings in the United States.

Jeb Bush, like Cruz, can’t find any Christian terrorists but couldn’t find words when he was asked how to prove that the refugees are Christians. He finally said, “You know, you err on the side of caution.”

Rand Paul introduced a bill to stop refugees from 34 “high-risk” countries and an amendment to a housing and transportation funding bill barring federally-funded social welfare assistance for any refugees from those same “high-risk” nations. Libertarian policy experts oppose discrimination against people from specific countries. Paul’s office calls it a “careful balance of libertarian principles,” meaning that any non-libertarian view is a “balance.”

Rick Santorum opposes bringing Syrian refugees to the United States. Instead, he wants them put into resettlement camps somewhere in the Middle East. Trump made the same suggestion.

Carly Fiorina just keeps doing what she does best—lying. “The vast majority of these refugees are young, able-bodied men looking for work,” she said, perhaps hoping that the media wouldn’t pick up on her false statement. According to a UN database of 4 million registered Syrian refugees, most of them are children under 18. Geoffrey Mock, a Syrian country specialist for Amnesty International USA, said, “The priorities go to torture survivors, people with serious medical conditions, children and teens on their own, and women and children at risk.” Of the 10,000 refugees who President Obama proposes to bring to the U.S., only 22 percent are “young able-bodied men”—2,200.

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s almost-gone governor and the latest GOP presidential candidate dropout, told Fox that his state will ban Syrian refugees and that he’s “ordered the state police to track the ones that are already in Louisiana.” Doug Cain, spokesman for the state police, said that this statement isn’t true. He added, “We are just keeping an open line of communication with federal authorities to make sure everyone is safely settled.”

At the close of the religious gathering in Iowa, Cruz made a prophetic statement:

“If conservatives come together and stand as one, it’s game over.”

Cruz was correct in a very twisted way: the United States may be entering a darker period than even during George W. Bush’s reign—unlimited torture, surveillance by profiling, banning refugees, religious discrimination and forced Christianity, concentration camps, and World War III.

June 18, 2015

Victories Accompanied by Another Tragic Shooting

A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled 2-1 in Turkmen v. Ashcroft that George W. Bush officials can be sued for roundups and illegal detentions. Plaintiffs of Arab and Middle Eastern descent were held for three to eight months in New York for being “suspected terrorists” and claim that they were abused and profiled by guards and other authority figures. That decision was presented the day after 78 senators voted against torture. Twenty-one senators favor torture, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was out of town, presumably campaigning.

In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Sons of Confederate Veterans cannot force Texas to allow the Confederate flag on car license plates. The astonishing part of the ruling is the fifth justice who voted with the four liberal judges—Clarence Thomas. He also dissented with a majority in Virginia v. Black (2003), writing that cross-burning violates the First Amendment right to free speech because it “has almost invariably meant lawlessness and understandably instills in its victims well-grounded fear of physical violence.” Not all Southern states have the same concern about the state’s endorsement of racism: South Carolina still flies the Confederate flag on state capitol grounds and allows Confederate vanity license plates.

One person with South Carolina Confederate plates is the white man in a hoodie who went to a Bible study class last night in an historic Charleston (SC) church where he killed nine people with a gun he bought from the money that his father gave him for his 21st birthday. The killing was on the same date that Denmark Vesey, a former slave, was targeted for what white Charlestonians believed was a revolt. Vesey was captured on June 22 and executed on July 2.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the people, all Black, were murdered because they were Christians, and another presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, agreed with Graham. The Fox network and other conservative media are spreading the same word. To them, the location of killings in a church identifies the murder of a “war on Christians.” Fox & Friends also claimed that the deaths could have been prevented if the congregation had been armed, and they pulled in Virginia’s former lieutenant governor candidate to back them up. Known for calling the LGBT rights movement a “cancer” and President Obama as a “radical anti-American” and “anti-Christian,” E. W. Jackson urged “pastors and men in these churches to prepare to defend themselves,” and host Brian Kilmeade wondered if giving pastors a gun could help with “security.” Later in the show, Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed.

Once again Fox spreads the insanity. An analysis of 62 mass public shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones found no cases in which an ordinary civilian with a gun stopped an attack although some instances showed that a gun caused the death or injury of that person.

Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told an audience of social conservatives:

“There’s a sickness in our country. There’s something terribly wrong. But it isn’t going to be fixed by your government. It’s people straying away, it’s people not understanding where salvation comes from. I think if we understand that, we’ll have better expectations of what to expect from government.”

Paul did not give any solutions about curing the “sickness.”

confederate flagThe day after this tragedy, flags at the South Carolina capitol are at half mast—except for the Confederate flag. Gov. Nikki Haley cried at the news conference about the killings but earlier said that she didn’t think that the Confederate flag presented an image problem. Today Haley’s press secretary said that only the General Assembly had the legal authority to do something about the flag. No one from that body has responded to any requests about it. South Carolina is one of five states without a state hate crime law and celebrated “Confederate Memorial Day” last month.

South Carolina has 19 known hate groups, including two Ku Klux Klans and four “white nationalist” organizations. Of course, they aren’t “terrorist groups” because they aren’t Muslims. Six neo-Confederate groups listed include two branches of the League of the South, which advocates for Southern secession and “the advancement of Anglo-Celtic culture.” The Council of Conservative Citizens is opposed to racial integration and affirmative action “and similar measures to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people.” One of its key figures, Kyle Rogers, said, “I don’t see a legacy of oppression. Blacks have always benefited from being in the United States.” Other hate groups include three neo-Nazi cells, a chapter of the racist skinhead movement Confederate Hammerskins, a branch of black separatist organization Nation of Islam, an “anti-gay” church and an anti-immigration protest group called Americans Have Had Enough.

Graham and other conservatives have been spreading the fear about foreign terrorists and claiming that the U.S. needs to go to war in order to be safe. At the same time, these people ignore heavily armed, violent domestic terrorists, many of them supported by the law. How many of these groups exist in the country is unknown because the Department of Homeland Security stopped an investigation into homeland terrorism six years ago.

Daryl Johnson, a top government counterterrorism analyst, spent six years working at Homeland Security, collecting extensive data on far-right extremist groups posing threats to people in the United States. After the first election of President Obama, these groups went farther right, and Johnson reported that radical Islam is just a small portion of the terrorism groups within the nation. He noted that five totally domestic groups considered using weapons of mass destruction during his investigation, and the same warnings were expressed by the two principal non-government groups that track domestic terrorism: the New York-based Anti-Defamation League and the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Last year the SPLC listed 13 major incidents and arrests last year, almost double the annual number in previous years. In 2010, the number of hate groups topped 1,000 in 2010, for the first time in at least two decades.

After Johnson was forced out of his position, President Obama has received an unprecedented number of death threats, hate groups have gained ground, and white supremacist attacks are regularly occurring. In places such as Nevada’s Bundy ranch, terrorists successfully faced down the federal government. Congress holds hearings about Muslim extremism but says nothing about domestic terrorism. Their silence allows the extremist movement to grow as the common statement after tragedies such as the one at the South Carolina church is that the event shouldn’t be politicized and people need to have time to mourn before taking action. The only action that occurs after mass shootings at this time is an increasing laxness of gun laws.

The killer’s license plate had three Confederate flags, and the patches on his jacket were flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa with brutal segregation policies. He also shouted, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” That’s racism, not an attack on Christianity. And people with these beliefs aren’t going to change them just because Rand Paul thinks that it’s a good idea.

March 1, 2015

If the U.S. Becomes a Theocracy

The Republicans want to take over the United States, and the first thing they might do with control is to make the nation a Christian theocracy—if they decide to please their constituency. According to a Public Policy Polling survey, 57 percent of Republicans “support establishing Christianity as the national religion” while 30 percent are opposed. Another 13 percent said they were not sure. Those 57 percent are most likely the ones who like to refer to themselves as “Constitutional Conservatives,” ignoring the First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

This past week, an Idaho county Republican party pushed a resolution to make the state a “formally and specifically declared a Christian state.” A local activist said, “We’re a Christian community in a Christian state and the Republican Party is a Christian party.” The county is in northern Idaho heavily populated by white supremacist groups like Christian Identity and the Aryan Brotherhood. Although the resolution was defeated by the state GOP, it received support.

U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Hluchaniuk does understand equal access. In Michigan, he ruled that the city of Warren would have to allow a “reason station” at the city hall if it has a “prayer station.” Without any reference to “freedom of religion” or “separation of church and state,” he ruled that in “the reason station will be allowed to operate on terms not less favorable than the terms granted to the prayer station.”  Hluchaniuk also ordered the city of Warren to pay the ACLU $100,000 for costs and attorney fees. In his denial to atheist Douglas Marshall for the reason station, Mayor James Fouts had written, “To my way of thinking, your group is strictly an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion.” For the past six years, Warren had allowed volunteers to distribute religious material, offer to pray with passersby, and discuss their religious beliefs. Marshall wanted to offer philosophical discussions with passersby who express an interest in a secular belief system.

The American Family Association was so outraged that it put the win for freedom of religion second on its list of anti-Christian bigotry. The first one is “Anti-Christian SPLC admits their hate misdirected” after the organization removed Ben Carson from its extremist watch list despite his hatred of LGBT people.

Last month, June Griffin, a “longtime crusader for Christian values,” gave the opening prayer for the Tennessee Senate, starting by asking the Lord to protect the people of the state from Medicaid. She wanted to “let the people know that our coverage is the same as with Moses and the children of Israel when they went through the wilderness with only the divine providence of almighty God.” In the past, she had stolen a Mexican flag from a grocery store, saying that the flag  was an “act of war” and it “insulted my citizenship.”

According to Bryan Fischer, torture is a “Christian principle,” and terrorists deserve to be tortured because Americans value Christian values. Despite the Eighth Amendment, which prevents legal torture, he says that neither the U.S. Constitution nor the Geneva Convention protects terrorists from torture.

In South Carolina, a first-year state representative Jonathon Hill issued a survey with 30 questions to judicial candidates including their “personal relationship” with the “Supreme Being,” whether they would perform a gay marriage, and how they would rule if a woman sued for equal pay. The South Carolina legislature selects judges. Staffers emailed candidates to tell them that they didn’t have to answer most of these questions. Hill said he would do a better job next year.

A mentor program receiving Ohio taxpayer funding from “Community Connectors” requires that the schools partner with both a church and a non-profit business.  Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman, Rob Nichols, said, “The governor believes faith-based organizations play an important role in the lives of young people.” The law does not mandate the religious involvement—but the governor does.

According to Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, the White House and governments in Europe have been “infiltrated” by Muslims. His claim was made on Bill O’Reilly’s program who has been highlighted for several of his lies in the past week, including his explanation that seeing photographs of killed nuns is exactly the same thing as seeing the dead nuns themselves. In a segment about the “persecution of Christians” by ISIS, O’Reilly asked Graham why the world is reluctant to enter a holy war in the Middle East. Graham explained that the reason is that Muslims are advising President Obama. At least O’Reilly asked for names of the advisers, but Graham needed to “get those for you, Bill.” He said he has been told about this by a number of people, the same answer that is becoming increasingly common when people make outrageous claims that they cannot support.

viral plea for identityThe growing popularity of “Christian homeschooling” gained some unwanted media coverage when 19-year-old Alecia Pennington created a viral plea for help to prove that she really existed. Her parents had refused to get her a social security number, a birth certificate, or any form of medical history; technically she is undocumented, despite having been born in Texas. She can’t get a job, she can’t attend college, she can’t rent or buy a home or car. She managed to escape her home with the help of her grandparents. Her mother, Lisa Pennington, writes extensively about homeschooling and speaks at conferences. In her blog, she blames Alecia for taking advice from a “godless woman.”

Jennyfer Austin had a similar experience. Adopted by a fundamentalist Christian family, her birth certificate and Social Security number were hidden from her. Her parents forbid her from dating, and she couldn’t even hold hands with a boy. She was forced to wear long skirts and blouses with high necklines and long sleeves. She recalled, “Even my swimsuit went down to my knees and had sleeves.” Her parents told her that she had been “sold” to a man twice her age, something that she and her friends call commonplace in her community. The parents asked only $25,000, half the average price, because she was “damaged goods” after being molested as a child. Refusing to marry the man, she was ordered to pay the would-be husband his $25,000. Austin fled her home at the age of 27 after finding the hiding place for her documents. The AHA Foundation has uncovered at least 3,000 cases like that of Austin in the past two years.

Imagine what the Fox network would have done if a Christian church had received the following:

“We are praying for civil war so we can start shooting you slime bags” — “We can’t wait until it’s ok to start bombing you f***ers and your kids so we can reduce the number of slime bags being born into this world, of ours” — and “You like your radical relatives serve no positive purpose on earth. Keep you (sic) eyes open.”

There was no publicity, however, because the letter was sent to a mosque in McHenry County (IL).

What do Christians do when they encounter alternative opinions?  Roland Hesse, a student at Billy Graham’s alma mater Wheaton College, threw an apple at another student, Philip Fillion, who questioned the theological consistency of the school’s position against homosexuality and threatened him with “destruction.” The altercation happened during the same week that another Wheaton student at the religious school was arrested for allegedly secretly filming a female Wheaton student in her shower since October 2014.

One blogger has written about a woman accosted by a Christian evangelist with the typical speech about persecuted Christians and the need for more God in schools, government, etc. The woman responded, “If God needs government to defend Him, doesn’t that make him pretty weak?” As the blogger wrote, “How omnipotent is a Supreme Being whose influence will wane without His glory being touted daily in public schools?” The conclusion: “[No conservative] wants to be seen worshiping some lame-ass, welfare-moocher, 47%ish, taker God.”

 

December 9, 2014

Senate Releases CIA Torture Report

Today’s big news was the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s $50 million investigation into Bush-era CIA interrogation tactics on detainees after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The long-delayed report isn’t even the final result, but instead a redacted 525-page summary of the complete 6,300 pages. The study was first commissioned in March 2009 with Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO). GOP panel members withdrew a few months after it was commissioned. Bond failed to run for re-election in 2010. Without participating in the study, all the GOP members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have released their dissenting report without studying the CIA classified materials.

Secretary of State John Kerry surely knew how bad the results would be when he asked the committee chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), to “consider” the timing “because a lot is going on in the world, and he wanted to make sure that foreign policy implications were being appropriately factored into timing,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The factors “include our ongoing efforts against ISIL and the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world,” according to Psaki. The same conservatives who claimed that Michael Brown deserved to be shot because he should have known he was doing something wrong are now claiming that the United States should hide all its wrongdoings.

Feinstein summarized four key findings of the report on the Bush/Cheney “enhanced interrogation techniques”(EITs), the CIA euphemism for torture:

  1. The CIA’s EITs were not effective.
  2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
  3. The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
  4. The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.

Beyond a condemnation of the brutal methods, banned by Obama in 2009 and repudiated by the three most recent CIA directors, the report showed that the methods also failed to find life-saving intelligence. At the same time the CIA lied about the program to White House officials, the Justice Department, and the congressional oversight committees.

Some of the report’s revelations:

The EITs killed some detainees: For example, one detainee died from suspected hypothermia after chained partially nude to a cement floor. CIA’s leadership said they had little knowledge about EITs at that detention site. The CIA inspector general admitted that there was wrongdoing, but no one was punished.

The EITs were far more brutal than previously revealed: Detainees suffered from hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia and self-mutilation. Abu Zubaydah, a high-value al Qaeda suspect, became totally unresponsive after waterboarding with “bubbles rising through his open full mouth.” Others were subjected to forced “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” even with no medical need. 

Waterboarding was used with other harsh EITs: Other practices included extended exposure to cold temperatures, slapping, and sleep deprivation of up to 180 hours—usually standing or in painful stress positions such as hands shackled above the detainees’ heads. And even worse.

EITs were not effective in obtaining information or cooperation from detainees: Seven of 39 detainees subject to these experiences produced no intelligence, and others had provided significant, accurate intelligence before, or without having been, tortured.

The CIA lied about the EITs’ effectiveness: CIA officials claimed that their “interrogation” led to Osama bin Laden, but Senate investigators reported that the information came from a detainee in foreign custody before he was tortured. While lying about the EITS’ “saving lives” from thwarted terrorist plots, the CIA rejected information that was not obtained through torture. [The CIA later lied about not hacking into congressional computers, later admitting that the agency had spied on the process of the torture study as well as destroying dozens of videotapes after the beginning of the study.]

Inexperienced contract psychologists devised the EITs: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the psychologists who had created the operation, assessments, and management of the program, had only prior experience in coping with torture. Although they had no experience as interrogators or specialized knowledge of al Qaeda, counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise, they received $80 million out of $180 million contract before President Obama shut it down in 2009. According to the report, “By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.”

Non-suspects also suffered from EITs: Of 119 known detainees, at least 26 did not meet the detention standard, including an “intellectually challenged” man who was detained to force family members to provide information. Two others were intelligence sources for foreign liaison services and were former CIA sources, and two others were considered to have al Qaeda connections because another detainee suffering the CIA’s EITs made up the information. Even after the CIA determined that they did not meet the standards of suspect, the CIA kept them in custody for months. Records were also insufficient to justify other detainees’ detentions.

One GOP member of Congress who praised the release of the report is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), possibly the only person in that legislative body who has experienced military torture. Declaring that the people of the United States have the right to know what has been done under the pretense of protecting them, he said on the floor of the Senate:

“They must know when the values that define our nation are intentionally disregarded by our security policies, even those policies that are conducted in secret. They must be able to make informed judgments about whether those policies and the personnel who supported them were justified in compromising our values; whether they served a greater good; or whether, as I believe, they stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good.”

Speaking from personal experience, McCain said:

“The abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering.

“Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.”

Jose Rodriguez, a top CIA operations officer who ran the EIT program, claimed that critical Democratic lawmakers were fully briefed about what many people call torture. He wrote, “In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, lawmakers urged us to do everything possible to prevent another attack on our soil.” Feinstein disagreed, saying that the CIA mischaracterized the EITs that she referred to on the Senate floor in March as “chilling,” ”brutal” and “un-American.” Other senators also refused Rodriguez’s claim.

Outraged, the right-wing swears that the report is wrong although they lack any information to support their beliefs. They believe that even if the information were correct, the United States should never reveal how wrong it has been in its torturing of detainees. People gave up their privacy for what they perceive as safety, and now conservatives want to bury the truth for the same reason.

A group of highly religious people who will control the Congress in less than a month need to check their moral compass. They need to question their belief that the country’s illegal and unethical actions should not have consequences.

As Kevin Drum wrote:

“[A]ll it will take for torture to become official policy yet again is (a) secrecy and (b) another horrific attack that can be exploited by whoever happens to be in power at the moment. And while there may not be a lot we can about (b), we can at least try to force the public to recognize the full nature of the brutality that we descended to after 9/11. That might lower the odds a little bit, and that’s why this report needs to be released. It’s not just because it would be the right thing to do. It’s because, in the long run, if it really does reduce the chances of America adopting a policy of mass torture again in the future, it will save American lives.”

People who expect individuals to admit their wrongdoing need to expect the same of the United States government.

May 4, 2014

GOP Moves U.S. toward Theocracy

Last Thursday, the fundamentalist Christians got their chance to strut their stuff on Capital Hill as James Dodson, founder of the Focus on the Family, repeatedly called President Obama “the abortion president” during the ceremony on the National Day of Prayer. Part of his rationale, as he explained to Megyn Kelly on Fox network, is that he believes contraception to be equal to abortion. Two years ago, the Dodsons used the National Day of Prayer Task Force, established by George W. Bush, to pray that President Obama would lose the election.

Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) called Dodson’s speech a “10- or 15-minute rant against President Obama.” Fed up with his statements, she told him that his speech was “completely inappropriate for this day.” and walked out. Hahn is the co-chair of the weekly congressional prayer breakfast.

Four of Iowa’s GOP candidates for U.S. Senate all want only judges—and that includes on the federal level—with a “biblical view” of justice, according to a debate organized by The Family Leader, a far-right religious group. One judge who follows the biblical directive can be found in Alabama. Only Christians are protected by the Constitution, according to Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore at the Pastors for Life Luncheon:

“Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures. They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship. Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.”

Moore gave custody of a child to an abusive man instead of the mother because she is a lesbian. He has already been removed from this position for using tax-payer money to install a 2.5 ton monument of the Ten Commandments outside the state’s supreme court building. Moore said that the monument should remind people “that in order to establish justice we must invoke ‘the favor and guidance of almighty God.’” It was removed only after U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled a fee of $5,000 every day until Moore complied. The other judges decided not to spend the money and had it taken down.

Alabama-Ten-Commandments-Monument

SatanA seven-foot statue of Satan in Oklahoma is still in limbo as the legislature can’t figure out what to do. Insisting on putting up a Ten Commandments monument outside the state Capitol in 2012, lawmakers had to agree that other religious monuments could also be placed there. The Satanic group has raised $30,000 and released a mock-up of the final statue.

Women have had the right to vote for fewer than 100 years in the United States, but history-revisionist David Barton thinks they don’t deserve the right. The Christian conservative who founded Wallbuilders, the organization to destroy separation of church and state, claims that society and culture is destroyed by women voting. His rationale is that husband and wife are “considered one” which means that they have only one vote—naturally by the husband. Could his reason be that women tend to lean toward the pro-family Democrats who support education, domestic violence/sexual assault laws, healthcare, equal pay, family planning, etc.?

One candidate for president has a good idea—capping CEOs’ and sports’ coaches’ pay at $300,000 a year, but his plans go south from there. Darrell Trigg also wants to form a new political party, the Christian Party, because it is God’s will that he will “be the next President of the United States of America.” In that way he can take the country back to Christian principles and lead millions to a personal relationship with God. Obviously that would require getting rid of the separation of Church and State and make Christianity the official religion. His platform includes forcing schools to teach the Bible and have prayer at the beginning and ending of every school day. Other controls over people are subject matter of TV shows and Internet content.

Oklahoma may have that curriculum even without Trigg. Steve Green, president of the Hobby Lobby, has provided an elective curriculum to the state’s Mustang School District this coming fall. Those public schools will teach “Museum of the Bible Curriculum”; Green hopes that his curriculum will be in hundreds of schools by 2016 and thousands by 2017. The Supreme Court thinks that the curriculum is just fine, according to Abington School District v. Schempp. Someday, Green said, teaching the Bible in high school “should be mandated.”

The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee has passed a measure mandating the teaching of creationism and sent it to the State Board of Education.

The way to get around the Constitutional block on teaching Christianity in public school is to get rid of them. That’s Ray Moore’s idea. The GOP candidate for South Carolina’s lieutenant governor wants all the state’s public schools replaced with those run by churches. His reason is that the Bible doesn’t advocate for public school education. According to Moore, public high schools are “the Pharaoh’s schools”; putting 25 to 35 percent of the public school children into the church-run schools would force South Carolina to dump its public education system.

Average cost for religious private school education is about $8,549 a year, but that issue didn’t enter into Moore’s plans. Ray Moore has company in Texas. The GOP lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick thinks that public schools there specialize in left-wing indoctrination.

After Georgia passed a law allowing guns anywhere except in the state Capitol, there is one place where people can be safe from weapons—Catholic and Episcopal churches. The law allows religious leaders to determine whether guns can be permitted in churches. These two denominations have decided that their churches are not the places for guns.

Most of the time, the disappearing veil between church and state benefits evangelical Christians who want to force the United States into become a theocracy. More sensible religious groups have argued that the First Amendment also protects religion in the U.S. When North Carolina passed Amendment 1 in 2012, one of the provisions was to fine ministers and put them in jail if they married anyone without a legal state marriage license.

North Carolina is the first state in the nation to criminalize clergy for their choices in expressing their religious faith. The law is so vague that even blessing a marriage could be considered a criminal act. The United Church of Christ (UCC) church, founded in North Carolina in 1748 and with over 150 congregations in the state, is suing for its religious rights. Three UCC ministers have been joined by two Unitarian Universalist clergy, one Lutheran pastor, one Baptist minister, and one rabbi as plaintiffs in the case that includes eight couples they seek to marry.

sarah palin

In an act once thought to be impossible, Sarah Palin has gone too far in her vicious rhetoric. She was rewarded by a cheering crowd at the NRA/NRAAM annual meeting when she said, “If I were in charge, they would know that water-boarding is how we baptize terrorists.” However, Faithful America, an organization founded to combat the hatred and violence from far-right Christians, started a petition in opposition to Palin’s message:

“This is what we’ve come to in America: A former candidate for vice-president can equate torture and Holy Baptism, and one of the nation’s most powerful political lobbies erupts into cheers and applause. As usual, Palin’s remarks are already making international headlines, once again portraying Christianity as a religion of hatred and violence. But this time, let’s show just how many Christians are appalled by Palin’s twisted misrepresentation of our faith.”

Even conservative Christians are shocked—shocked, I tell you—that a Christian would endorse torture as a Christian method of punishment. They skipped the chapters in history about Christians burning heretics and Jews during the Inquisition, destroying Native American religion, and whipping slaves to evangelize them in not-so-long past in the South.

I guess we’re lucky that Sarah Palin isn’t in charge. And let’s do something before the country becomes the United States of a Vengeful Christian God. In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt citied four freedoms: freedom of speech and expression; freedom to worship as the person prefers; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. Let’s regain these freedoms.

April 25, 2013

‘Mission Accomplished’–Bush Has Library

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:55 PM
Tags: , , , ,

One of my GOP friends, who is very socially progressive, keeps asking me when I’m going to stop blaming George W. Bush for the problems that we have now. I tell her that I’ll stop when the messes he caused get cleaned up. Today is the 10th anniversary of “Mission Accomplished,” when Bush made his misguided statement and the victorious banner was bravely unfurled over eight years before troops were withdrawn.

Today is also the day that Bush was joined by the current president and the other three living ex-presidents to dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. The word “library” for this $250 million edifice is a misnomer: it is more of a museum and a Bush policy institute.

News clips, interactive screens, artifacts—even “hanging chads” from Florida’s punch cards—comprise the exhibits. The museum invites visitors to make the presidential decisions. A display makes the case for the Iraq war although the word “Iraq” was not mentioned at any time during today’s speeches. The “Mission Accomplished” banner isn’t in the library either. (Check this out for what else is missing–and a history of real presidential libraries. Clue: Busts of presidential pets Barney and Miss Beazley are there,)

bush_library2-620x412

As Bush stays invisible, his popularity grows. The GOP didn’t even invite him to their convention last summer. In time, memories fade. Here are some of Bush’s actions that we should remember:

  • Stole the presidency in 2000 when the Supreme Court ruled in his favor by stopping a recount of Florida votes that would actually have provided Al Gore with the necessary electoral votes.
  • Most likely stole the 2004 election as well, gaining vital electoral votes from Ohio despite unresolved questions about whether the former GOP Secretary of State altered the Election Night totals from rural Bible Belt counties.
  • Claimed he was a “uniter, not a divider” while campaigning for office before he launched his extremist right-wing agenda.
  • Hid his past as a party boy and a deserter during the Vietnam War when he went AWOL for over a year from the so-called “Champagne Division,” the Texas Air National Guard.
  • Signed more execution orders—152 people, including the mentally ill and domestic abuse victims—than any other governor in U.S. history while sparing only one life, that of a serial killer.
  • Raised more campaign money from corporate boardrooms than anyone at that time, paid for by CEOs who “educated” him about political wish lists.
  • Assaulted reproductive rights by cutting funds for U.N. family planning programs, barring military bases from offering abortions, putting right-wing evangelicals in regulatory positions where they rejected new birth control drugs, and issuing regulations making fetuses—but not women—eligible for federal healthcare.
  • Cut Pell Grant loans for poor students, affecting 1.5 million low-income students, and eliminated other federal job training programs that targeted young people.
  • Allowed corporations to destroy the environment through over 300 actions beginning with abandoning a campaign pledge to tax carbon emissions and then withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases as well as putting industry lobbyists in charge of agencies to keeping energy policies secret.
  • Allowed schools to reduce evolution to the same standing as the religious belief in “intelligent design.”
  • Destroyed learning in school through his “No Child Left Behind” initiative that made preparation for standardized tests and resulting test scores the top priority in schools.
  • Appointed Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who promote extremists pro-business and social conservative interests.
  • Gutted the DOJ’s voting rights section, including firing seven U.S. attorneys who did not pursue overtly political cases because of lack of evidence.
  • Caused average household incomes to fall 4.2 percent, the only recent two-term president to preside over such a drop.
  • Caused millions of people to fall below the poverty line, increasing that number by 26.1 percent.
  • Caused poverty among children to explode by 21 percent.
  • Increased the number of people who lacked access to health care by 8 million while people steadily lost employer-provided benefits.
  • Let black New Orleans drown during Hurricane Katrina and did almost nothing to help thousands in the storm’s aftermath and rebuilding.
  • Pandered to religious right, for example by flying back to the White House to sign a bill to try to stop  the comatose Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube from being removed, using the term “sanctity of life” that wasn’t present months later during Katrina.
  • Set record for fewest press conferences.
  • Took the most vacation time—1,020 days in two four-year terms equaling more than one out of every three days.
  • Gutted global political progress by pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol which set requirements for 38 nations to lower greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.
  • Embraced global isolationism by withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
  • Ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden from White House briefings while proceeding with his determination to invade Iraq, even before 9/11.
  • Ramped up war on drugs instead of terrorists.
  • Kept reading the picture book The Pet Goat to school children for seven minutes after he knew that the World Trade Centers were attacked in 9/11.
  • Turned to Iraq instead of Afghanistan, despite Iraq’s lack of Al Qaeda link.
  • Attacked the credibility of United Nation weapons inspectors who were correct about no nuclear weapons in Iraq.
  • Lied about Iraq’s weapons that did not exist.
  • Launched a preemptive war, ignoring the U.N.’s refusal to authorize an attack on Iraq, caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, and forced more than a million refugees in an attack that killed almost 6,700 soldiers.
  • Abandoned the international Criminal Court by withdrawing from the ratification of the International Criminal Court Treaty, necessary to protect American troops from persecution.
  • Forced Colin Powell to present false evidence at the U.N.
  • Declared a war on CIA whistleblowers, leaking the name and destroying the career of Valerie Plame in retribution for her husband’s denial about a nuclear threat from Iraq.
  • Pardoned Scooter Libby, the man who actually leaked Plame’s name to the press.
  • Looted Baghdad except for the oil ministry.
  • Made the U.S. more dangerous by increasing Islamic radicalism and worsening the terror threat.
  • Allowing companies to give U.S. troops unsafe gear–from inadequate vests as protection against snipers to Humvees that could not protect soldiers from roadside bombs—resulting in an epidemic of brain injuries.
  • Continued war propaganda that used soldiers as PR props.
  • Failed to attend any soldiers’ funerals, even those in Arlington National Cemetery, about two miles from the White House.
  • Promoted the surge of war profiteering surged as corporate employers of top Bush officials made billions in Pentagon contracts starting with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Halliburton, which made $39.5 billion, and his daughter, Liz Cheney, who ran a $300 million Middle East partnership program.
  • Ignored an international ban on torture and created a secret system of detention.
  • Opened the Gitmo, the offshore military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, filled with men turned over to the U.S. military by bounty hunters.
  • Evaded domestic and military justice systems through renditions to secret detention sites in eastern Europe.
  • Violated U.S. Constitution by ignoring basic civil liberties, most notably his massive domestic spying program that used big telecom companies to monitor online activities of millions of Americans without search warrants or court authority.
  • Built a federal debt crisis of $4 trillion to $6 trillion through his preemptive war.
  • Cut veterans’ healthcare funding by several billion dollars, military housing by another $1 billion, and opposed extending healthcare to National Guard families when the members were deployed overseas.
  • Cut income taxes in a manner that sent approximately one-fourth of the cuts to the top 1 percent of incomes with only 8.9 percent going to the middle 20 percent of earners.
  • Turned the power-hungry, arrogant operators Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld loose on the people of the United States.
  • Escaped accountability for any of his actions.
  • And more about torture, Wall Street, lack of worker protections, etc.

How dumb is George W. Bush? Jonathan Chait has an assessment.

According to his autobiography, his favorite job ever was being a sporting goods salesman at Sears. Would that he had stayed there!

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