Friday, July 16, 2010

When you need a translator to read the US news

I guess these days we need a translator in America when reading journalism written in English. Lost in translation is the only explanation for some of the ludicrous claims being passed off as facts by numerous outlets.

The headline to Ned Parker's Los Angeles Times piece was "U.S. hands over last prison to Iraqi control" and Parker himself writes, "The U.S. military handed over its last prison facility, Camp Cropper, to the Iraqi government Thursday in a ceremony that all but ends America's role as a keeper of Iraqi detainees." The Washington Post headlines Leila Fadel's article: "Some worry about abuse as U.S. hands over final detention center to Iraq." Fadel opens with, "A U.S. general on Thursday handed an oversize key to Iraq's justice minister and relinquished control of the nation's last American-run detention center." The Christian Science Monitor headlines Jane Arraf's piece "As US Hands over last prison in Iraq, a glimpse at how detainees lived." Arraf's article opens with, "The US closed one of the most controversial chapters of the Iraq war today when it transferred control of its last remaining prison to the Iraqi government." We could provide other examples but those are three of the strongest reporters covering Iraq (today or at any point in the war).

Reading them, what's the take away? The US is no longer in the prison business in Iraq. The US is done. It's over. That's what the articles tell you, that's what the articles sells you. (Arraf's opening hedges due to word choice but most may miss that.)

Matthew D. LaPlante (Salt Lake Tribune) reports on US citizen Shawqi Omar who was tried June 24th and convicted of "a simple immigration violation." Shawqi Omar had been imprisoned by the US in Iraq since 2004. In fact, that's the section we need to quote:

The U.S. military, which has held Omar without charge since his arrest in 2004, said this week it intends to continue to hold about 200 "dangerous" prisoners -- and it has not said whether Omar will be among them.
Iraq took over responsibility for about 1,300 prisoners at Camp Bucca, where thousands of Iraqi citizens have served time after being arrested by the U.S. military during the seven-year war.
[. . .]
American officials have long promised that they would hand Omar over to the Iraqi government as soon as it asked for him -- and would even release him if the Iraqis passed on prosecution altogether. But the U.S. military also said this week that it would keep 200 prisoners in a separate part of the prison known as Compound 5.

Compound 5? We'll come back to it. But this isn't turning over a prison and getting out of the business of running prisons. This is more smoke and mirrors. The US in Iraq remains in the prison business. They'll admit to keeping 200 prisoners. In Compound 5.

Compound 5 was rather infamous earlier in the Iraq War and was run by the US and part of Camp Bucca. Bucca closed in 2009. So where's Compound 5?

Paragraph ten of Parker's report notes Compound 5: "The U.S. military will continue to operate a wing called Compound 5 with 200 detainees, including eight members of Hussein's government."

If I turn over my house to you, if I'm done with it and telling you "It's yours," I'm not saying, "Oh, but I'm going to continue on in the east wing of the house." The US isn't out of the prison business in Iraq and Camp Cropper has not been turned over to Iraqi control. The US remains in the prison business and has only turned over a segment of Camp Cropper to Iraqi control.

Joan Wile is also the author of Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. This is her "GRAY PANTHERS OPPOSE REP. BOEHNER'S PROPOSAL TO RAISE AGE OF SOCIAL SECURITY RECIPIENTS: Advocate Lifting Taxable Income Cap and Reducing War Spending Instead:"

Advocate Lifting Taxable Income Cap and Reducing War Spending Instead
On June 29, House Republican Leader John Boehner made news with his statement that the age for persons eligible for Social Security benefits should be raised from 65 to 70. "If you have substantial non-Social Security income while you're retired, why are we paying you at a time when we're broke?" the Congressman said.

Susan Murany, Executive Director of the Gray Panthers, states that her organization opposes such a move. "Instead of taking money from people who need it and raising the eligibility for Social Security benefits to age 70 to balance the budget on the backs of Social Security recipients – people who need it the most – changes could be made by eliminating the annual cap on taxable income, currently $106,800, and raise that cap so that wealthier people are paying more to Social Security," she suggests. According to Ezra Klein at, June 2010, “Completely eliminating the cap without increasing benefits actually creates a long-term surplus, and eliminating the cap while increasing benefits comes close.”

And although House Republican Leader Boehner feels that Americans have “substantial non-Social Security income in retirement”, the data proves him wrong. According to Dean Baker and David Rosnick from the Monthly Review, “Since the vast majority of near-retirees will rely on Social Security for the vast majority of their income in retirement, cuts in Social Security imply large cuts in income for a population that is already not especially wealthy. (Median household income for people over age 65 is less than $30,000.)” According to the Social Security Administration in the year 2000, 40 percent of retirement income comes from Social Security with women especially dependent on Social Security.

Social Security Trustees assure that 100% of Social Security benefits can be paid up through the year 2041. The Congressional Budget Office projects that full benefits can be paid through 2049. The “baby boomers” (1946-1964) will have passed through Social Security by then and so will not increase the number of beneficiaries. Further provision was made for this foreseen increase of beneficiaries by the Greenspan Committee in 1983. Much has been made over the argument that a decreasing number of covered workers will be expected to support an increasing number of Social Security beneficiaries. However, the Social Security Administration (see: reports that the worker/beneficiary ratio actually rose from a ratio of 3.2 in 1975 to that of 3.3 in 2006. Today, more women are in the workforce and worker productivity and wages have both risen.

Murany notes that the money that does come from Social Security goes back into the economy immediately because it is used to pay rent, buy food, provide transportation and other essentials of daily life and points out that Social Security has lower administrative costs than private pension and retirement plans.

The American people have overwhelmingly supported Social Security through taxation. It actually buffers costs to State and Local governments for support of retired and disabled persons. The Gray Panthers clearly oppose any and all efforts to reduce the effectiveness and reliability of the Program. In the past few months, the Gray Panthers have led actions and have demanded the truth be spoken about Social Security. Our members have given notice to their legislators that they are NOT to Balance the Bailout’s (or the Wars) on Their Backs.

The Gray Panthers see a definite connection between funding social programs for Americans (including Social Security) and the massive costs of fighting two wars. "Leaving Iraq completely and setting a firm date to get out of Afghanistan would save billions of dollars," observes Judy Lear, National Gray Panthers Chair. "We want the U.S. to stop building bases in other countries, and we want it to reduce our nuclear weapons and not replace them with other weapons of mass destruction. These measures would be cost effective and do a lot toward protecting Social Security benefits."

These proposals are in direct opposition to what Boehner laid out as the Republican world-view. In a remarkable interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Boehner explicitly called for cutting Social Security in order to pay for the war in Afghanistan . "Ensuring there's enough money to pay for the war will require reforming the country's entitlement system," Boehner said.

In a Statement on War to President Obama, the Gray Panthers declare:

"The Gray Panthers oppose war and advocate for a just, peaceful resolution of conflicts. We hope that you will seek to pursue peaceful alternatives to the war in Afghanistan and a re-building for the country by strengthening international cooperation with the United Nations. A de-escalation of troops would not only save lives, but would give our enemies less of a reason to fight. Afghanistan demands a political solution, not an escalation of violence. We are fighting a war we cannot win and request that our resources be used for job creation in the U.S. and on social needs here and in Afghanistan ."

Gray Panthers is in fact a multi-generational group and as such, Social Security is of vital importance to all their membership, including its young members. In that context, it should be pointed out that Social Security benefits are not only available for retirees but also for spouses and children of deceased family members, people with disabilities, and spouses and children of people with disabilities.

Joan Wile was among the people showing support for political prisoner Lynne Stewart last week. Today on Democracy Now!, Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman and Petra Bartosiewicz discuss yesterday's travesty of justice. And click here for Petra's column on Lynne published before the judge ruled yesterday.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends