United States News Digest
Obamacare Compared to Nazis by Southern Baptist Leader
Oct. 17 (EIRNS)On Sept 26, Richard Land, the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, compared the Obama health-care program to the policies of the Nazis. "I want to put it to you bluntly," Land told a banquet of the Christian Coalition in Florida, on the night before Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement), "What they are attempting to do in health care, particularly in treating the elderly, is not something like what the Nazis did. It is precisely what the Nazis did! Let's remember, the first 10,000 victims of the Holocaust were not Jews, they were mentally handicapped German children who were gassed and burned in ovens because they were considered to have ... lives unworthy of life." Land then went on to bestow an imaginary "Josef Mengele Award" on Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel for his advocating of rationing.
Land continued that the underlying question was, "about whether we are going to continue to believe our founding documents, which say that we believe that all people are equal, and we're created in the image of our Creator, and that we have certain inalienable rights, and among these is the right to life," and that what is ultimately at stake in the health-care debate "is the definition of a human being." Land compared Emanuel's ideas directly to those of the British, saying, "The British system is biased against old people.... After 59 and one half you lose your right to certain things like bypass operations and dialysis." He included as proof, a comparison between the U.S. and U.K. death rates for certain cancers.
This was all too much for Abe Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who demanded an apology. "While we understand there are deep convictions and passions regarding the healthcare reform," Foxman proffered in an Oct. 9 letter, "whatever one's views are, the Nazi comparison is inappropriate, insensitive and unjustified." On Oct. 14, Land did make a qualified apology. In a carefully worded statement, he stated, "It was never my intention to equate the Obama administration's healthcare reform proposals with anything related to the Holocaust. My concern was about the potential denial of healthcare to the elderly, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn." What Land did apologize for, was "the reference to [Nazi doctor] Josef Mengele," which he claimed was "hyperbole," and that he "never intended to actually equate anyone in the Obama administration" with the Nazi doctor.
In its coverage of Land's apology (probably the only reason this was reported at all), the Associated Baptist Press prominently displays a picture of ... the "Obamastache," with the LaRouche PAC logo and website clearly visible. The caption reads, "Lyndon LaRouche is one of several critics who have compared President Obama's proposals for healthcare reform to Nazi policies."
Bush/Cheney Torture Probe Should Start at the Top
Oct. 16 (EIRNS)Scott Horton, a longtime human rights advocate who teaches humanitarian law at Columbia Law School, contrasted Spain's criminal investigation of the Bush/Cheney regime's torture policies, with the tepid investigation that has been initiated by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. (Holder is known to be under intense pressure from the White House to drop any investigation or prosecution of Bush Administration war criminals.)
The Spanish investigation, which arose from the torture of five Spanish citizens who were held at the Guantanamo prison, targets former Bush Administration officials John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Jim Hanes, David Addington, Alberto Gonzalez, and Doug Feith, because the court decided, in its first opinion on the case, that the focus should be "the intellectual authors of this scheme," rather than the interrogators.
This opinion, Horton said, is the "correct perspective that very well reflects modern jurisprudence and its approach to torture as a conspiracy crime." In contrast, Holder has appointed a lawyer, John Durham, to conduct a preliminary investigation of ten cases identified by the CIA inspector general, but with the focus on the interrogators "at the bottom of the transactional chain." Holder has even indicated that the investigation should rely on the opinions issued by the Bush regime, with no examination of the bona fides of the opinion writers nor examination of their potential legal culpability. "In other words," Horton said, "diametrically opposed to the opinion of the Spanish state security court, which correctly states the law."
Horton was speaking at an event sponsored by Common Cause, whose purpose was to not only call for holding accountable those responsible for the Bush/Cheney Administration's torture policies, but also to commend the military lawyers who resisted the policy, and paid the price with their careers.
Meanwhile, observers have noted that in court cases arising from torture claims, the Obama Administration is increasingly taking virtually the same position as did the Bush Administration: that there is no Constitutional right to humane treatment outside the United States, and that victims of torture and abuse have no legal right to any redress.
Byrd Challenges Obama Over Afghanistan Troops
Oct. 15 (EIRNS)Little attention has been given to the speech that the ailing Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) gave on the Senate floor yesterday, but some see it as, potentially, "the first shot in a politically divisive struggle within the Democratic Party," over the war in Afghanistan.
Byrd said that, in the eight years since the 9/11 attacks, he has become deeply concerned that the reason for the Afghanistan military mission has become lost, "consumed in some broader scheme of nation-building"a scheme which he said Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus have bought into.
Referring to reports that McChrystal has requested 35-40,000 troops, in addition to the 65,000 already there, Byrd said: "What does General McChrystal actually aim to achieve? So I am compelled to ask: Does it take 100,000 U.S. troops to find Osama bin Laden? If al-Qaida has moved to Pakistan, what will these troops in Afghanistan add to the effort to defeat al-Qaida? What is meant by the term 'defeat' in the parlance of conventional military aims when facing a shadowy, global terrorist network? And what of this number 100,000? Does the number 100,000 troops include support personnel? Does it include government civilians? Does it include defense and security contractors? How many contractors are already there in Afghanistan? How much more will this cost? How much in terms of dollars? How much in terms of American blood?
"Given the lack of popularity and integrity of the current Afghan Government, what guarantee is there that additional Afghan troops and equipment will not produce an even larger and better armed hostile force? There is no guarantee," Byrd continued. "The lengthy presence of foreign troops in a sovereign country almost always creates resentment and resistance among the native population." "President Obama and the Congress mustI do not say 'should,' I say 'must'reassess and refocus on our original and most important objective, that of destroying al-Qaida, and should drop the idea of nation-building in Afghanistan."
Pennsylvania Budget Deal: How Long Will It Last?
Oct. 13 (EIRNS)101 days late, the state of Pennsylvania has finally passed a budget. The question now is, how long will it last?
Overall, the $27.8 billion budget is 1.8%, or $524 million, leaner than last year, but specific areas have taken much bigger hits. Of the 657 line items in the budget, 142 were "zeroed out" and 364 (over half) were cut in some way. The state is using Federal stimulus dollars to sustain the state's public welfare program, leading Gov. Ed Rendell to note, "I still have great qualms about what's going to occur" in fiscal year 2011-12, when Federal stimulus money runs out. In suicidal fashion, the Department of Labor and Industry took the biggest hit, with nearly a quarter of its over $100 million operating budget cut, including the elimination of programs for vocational rehabilitation, entrepreneurial assistance, and self-employment assistance. Other large hits were taken by the Conservation and Natural Resources, the Historical and Museum Commission, and the Department of Environmental Protection.
State Treasury workers were on the job through the Columbus Day holiday weekend, to get $3 billion of backlogged checks moving again. Rendell was noncommittal about having the state pay the cost of borrowing for agencies that have taken out loans to keep things functioning during the 100-day standoff.