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Posts tagged ‘President Barack Obama’

A Legal Black Hole

A Legal Black Hole

Our country continues to preserve the disgrace of Guantanamo bay. How is it in the United States of America that people cleared for release continue to rot in a legal black hole for years on end? Either there are 86 people there cleared for release or else there are not. Either they were wrongfully detained or else they were not. And if they deserve to be freed, then they must be freed.

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Close Guantanamo Now Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum1126.php

And yet cowards of both parties would rather heap injustice on a multitude of innocents, lest some right wing nut accuse them of accidentally letting someone go who might, BECAUSE of our torture and mistreatment of them, turn to future violence. How can we call ourselves a just and civilized country, and continue to operate on the principle that it doesn’t matter who we lock up as long as we’re locking up somebody?

Guantanamo was conceived of as an outlaw garrison, contrived to be beyond the reach of any manner of justice. Even our currently reactionary Supreme Court could not swallow that one whole. We have lots (and we do mean lots) of perfectly good prisons here in America, that hold lots of convicted terrorists right now. And we did not need kangaroo court tribunals to put them there. We need to either convict these people fair and square or we need to let them go.

The most cowardly suggestion of all is that we should be afraid of housing anyone so convicted in actual American prisons. “I don’t want these terrorists in prisons in MY state,” you hear members of Congress say. If our supermax prisons cannot protect local people from the criminals inside the prisons, what’s the point of having prisons at all?

Close Guantanamo Now.

Though our corporate news media have avoided the subject like a plague, the hunger striking detainees at Guantanamo are being brutally force-fed, itself a form of torture. Torture by America has not stopped, they’re just trying to keep it quiet. And you should know there are some amazingly valiant activists who are on indefinite hunger strikes themselves, to try to force attention on this issue.

Here is what Cynthia Papermaster has to say.

We are asking President Barack Obama to immediately begin releasing the 86 cleared for-release Guantanamo detainees. My hunger strike is now 31 days old. I have not eaten solid food for 31 days, and am existing on less than 300 calories a day. I’ve lost about 20 pounds. I am committed to continuing my hunger strike until the President, who has the clear authority to do so, begins to release the cleared, innocent men from the prison. Cynthia Johnson has been fasting on mostly liquids for nearly 25 days.

Our City Council in Berkeley passed a Resolution co-authored by me, Peace and Justice Commissioner Rita Maran, and the national group “No More Guantanamos”, in October 2011, which welcomes one or two cleared detainees to settle in our community, at private expense. We’ve been successfully raising funds for this purpose.

The Resolution also said that the Council would urge Obama to close Guantanamo Prison and Congress to lift the ban against detainees resettling in the United States. Well, that hasn’t happened, yet we think that if the men had a place to live, a safe and welcoming place, that Obama could use his Executive Order privilege to allow them to live in the USA, in Berkeley.

We also know that there is a waiver in the National Defense Authorization Act that allows him to release detainees. So there’s really no reason for him to refuse, especially since I, Elliot Adams and Tarak Kauff are on long-term, open-ended hunger strike. Elliot is on day 60 of his hunger strike. Tarak is on day 47. We are all taking less than 300 calories a day. You can see our profiles and hunger strike statements at www.closegitmo.net. Click on “Hunger Strikes/Fasts” tab.

Because my health is at risk, I think it’s time to step up the actions for helping the men go free.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said- “These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Peaceteam.net

Accountable Tax Reform

From Nation of Change
by Simon Johnson
22 April 2012

That Old Tax Magic

Tax time in the United States – the dreaded mid-April deadline for filing annual income-tax forms – has come and gone. The system, Americans have been reminded, has become painfully complex, with many a loophole through which one might try to squeeze. The fear of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service lurks in homes across the country.

At such a sensitive time, it is no surprise to hear politicians pitching the idea of “tax reform” – suggesting that they can simplify the system, close loopholes, and use the proceeds to reduce tax rates. The allure of such appeals is that a crackdown on others’ tax avoidance will mean that you personally will pay less in taxes.

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Simon Johnson, click here.

In the policy jargon increasingly heard in today’s political discourse, tax reform will be “revenue neutral” – meaning that it will not worsen the budget deficit or drive up the national debt. The broader subliminal message is that you can have whatever you currently expect in terms of government services for less than it costs you now.

The problem with this vision of tax reform is that it is magical – an attractive illusion with no basis in reality. Consider the recent pronouncements of Mitt Romney – now the presumptive Republican candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in November. Romney wants to cut tax rates, mainly benefiting those at the upper end of the income distribution. He also wants to close loopholes, but none of the details that he has offered add up to much. His boldest proposal – eliminating deductions for interest paid on mortgages on second homes – is trivial in terms of generating revenue.

Obama is only slightly better. While he talks less about “tax reform,” he is currently communicating the message that merely raising taxes on rich people – the infamous 1% – will bring the budget and national debt under control. That, too, is a pipedream.

Americans – and taxpayers in many other countries – need a more transparent approach to assessing candidates’ budget proposals. In the US, there are groups that offer their own assessments. For example, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget performed an admirable service in “scoring” the fiscal plans of rival candidates for the Republican nomination.

The problem is that in an election with high stakes and deep polarization, who, exactly, can voters trust? Everyone has an agenda, perceived or real. The veracity of any organization that is funded by particular individuals, or through less transparent corporate channels, will be called into question.

What the US and many other countries need is an independent, competent, and experienced body that leans neither right nor left. Fortunately, the US has the Congressional Budget Office, which scores legislation in terms of its budgetary impact, assesses official budget proposals, and formulates its own economic projections. (I serve on the CBO’s Panel of Economic Advisers, which comments on the draft forecast twice a year, but does not assess budget proposals or anything else.)

Because the CBO reports to the relevant congressional committees – those dealing with tax and budgets – both Republicans and Democrats watch its every move. But the CBO, created in the 1970’s precisely to bring greater transparency and accountability to the rather byzantine congressional budget process, really is independent and run by professionals.

The CBO does not, however, score proposals by political candidates, and that is part of the problem. In the run-up to the pre-election debates between Obama and Romney, both sides should agree to submit detailed budget proposals in the correct format for CBO assessment. The relevant congressional committees also should agree to this exercise.

Read entire article at Nation Of Change.

Sasha and Malia

From The Adventures of Sasha and Malia at the White House by Carol Francois and P Segal.

Preface by Carol Francois

The Adventures of Sasha and Malia at the White House is a story that came to me in a dream one night not long after the inauguration of President Barack Obama. At the time I didn’t know what (if anything) I would do with the story, but because it was interesting to me, I decided to write down what I could remember, just in case I wanted to do something it it in the future. Eventually I asked my friend P Segal to help me develop it into the book that you now hold in your hands.

I met Jay Mazhar, the illustrator, online through Craigslist. I still don’t know what he looks like, but thanks to his expert skills, he was able to bring the story to life.

I decided to publish this book because young people are not always taught about racism, slavery and the unpleasant parts of America’s past. I realized that children growing up today might think that because we have a Black president, such opportunities might have always existed for people of color in this country. Throughout U.S. history, many Black leaders have fought for a more fair and ust society, thus paving the way for President Obama to achieve this great honor.

Someone once said to me, “The pioneers don’t always get to settle the land.” It was because of courageous leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan and even my own father, the late Terry A. Francois, that people of color have been able to manifest the great works that they were destined to achieve.

Read more about The Adventures of Malia and Sasha at the White House.

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