Friday, February 27, 2009


(Sent to the Albany Herald in response to numerous uninformed comments published in both news and reader comments- as it happened, Ronald Reagan was far and away the worst president at deficit reduction and budget discipline- and he had a Republican Senate his first six years, 1981-1986, so you can't blame a Democratic Congress for the out of control budget deficits and tripling of the national debt. But in sheer numbers, George W. Bush added $5 trillion, mostly through his incompetence, again with a Republican Congress- both houses, his first six years, 2001-2006, except for a brief year- 2001-2002, when the Senate was run by Democrats.)

When discussing the relative impact of Republican and Democratic presidents on spending and deficit and debt reduction (deficit being the amount that spending exceeds income in one year, while the national debt is the total of all amounts owed by the Federal Government at any given moment), it is helpful to have the facts, courtesy of the United States Treasury Department. As the late Senator Patrick Moynihan famously said, everyone is entitled to their own opinions- but not their own facts. Here are the facts. You can draw your own conclusions:

When Jimmy Carter came into office January 20, 1977, the national debt was about $620 billion. When he left office and Ronald Reagan took office January 20,1981, the national debt was under one trillion dollars (about $907 billion, an increase of $287 billion, or 46%, which was an 11.5% increase each year in office). When President Reagan left office in 1989 and his vice president, George H. W. Bush succeeded him, the national debt had more than tripled to $2.8 trillion dollars ($2.1 trillion additional debt in 8 years- a 230% increase, or about 29% per year). When George H. W. Bush's term ended and Bill Clinton took office January 20, 1993, our total national debt was $4.2 trillion ( $1.4 trillion more, an increase of 50% in 4 years, 12.5% per year). When President Clinton left office and George W. Bush took office on January 20, 2001, our total national debt was $5,727,776,738,304.64 (rounded to $5.7 trillion- an increase of 36%, about 4.5% per year). When President Bush left office January 20, 2009, it was $10,626,877,048,913.08 (a $5 trillion increase to $10.7 trillion- an 88% increase, 11% increase per year).

The last four full years of Clinton's presidency, from September 1996 to September of 2000, the national debt increased from $5.3 trillion to $5.7 trillion, a $400 billion increase ($100 billion per year), a less than 10% total increase in the national debt during those years (2.5% per year). In terms of slowing the increase in the national debt, those were the best four years out of the last 32 years.

Now you have the facts.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


How is prosecuting those responsible for murder, kidnapping, rape, and torture, a "political decision?"

Multiple blunt force injuries. Abrasion in upper right forehead. Abrasion on right lower forehead above eyebrow. Multiple contusions on right cheek and lower nose, left upper forehead, back of head. Abrasions on chest, lower costal margin. Contusions on arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, upper inner arm, groin, inner thigh, right back of knee and calf, left calf, left lower leg. Cause of death was pulmonary embolism due to blunt force injuries.

From autopsy report of detainee killed by United States uniformed armed forces and/or CIA agents while in custody in Bagram, Afghanistan, December 3, 2002.

Detainee was found unresponsive restrained in his cell. Death was due to blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease.Contusions and abrasions on forehead, nose, head, behind ear, neck, abdomen, buttock, elbow, thigh, knee, foot, toe, hemorrhage on rib area and leg. Detainee died of blunt force injuries to lower extremities, complicating underlying coronary artery disease. The blunt force injuries to the legs resulted in extensive muscle damage, muscle necrosis and rhabomyolysis. Electrolyte disturbances primarily hyperkalemia (elevated blood potassium level) and metabolic acidosis can occur within hours of muscle damage. Massive sodium and water shifts occur, resulting in hypovolemic shock and casodilatation and later, acute renal failure. The decedent's underlying coronary artery disease would compromise his ability to tolerate the electrolyte and fluid abnormalities, and his underlying malnutrition and likely dehydration would further exacerbate the effects of the muscle damage. The manner of death is homicide.

Autopsy report of second detainee killed by United States uniformed armed forces and/or CIA agents while in custody in Bagram, Afghanistan, December 10, 2002.

Died as a result of asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) due to strangulation as evidenced by the recently fractured hyoid bone in the neck and soft tissue hemorrhage extending downward to the level of the right thyroid cartilage. Autopsy revealed bone fracture, rib fractures, contusions in mid abdomen, back and buttocks extending to the left flank, abrasions, lateral buttocks. Contusions, back of legs and knees; abrasions on knees, left fingers and encircling to left wrist. Lacerations and superficial cuts, right 4th and 5th fingers. Also, blunt force injuries, predominatnly recent contusions (bruises) on the torso and lower extremities. Abrasions on left wrist are consistent with use of restraints. No evidence of defense injuries or natural disease. Manner of death is homicide. DOD 003329 refers to this case as "strangulation, found outside isolation unit."

Report of homicide of Iraqi in United States custody at Whitehorse Detention Facility, Al Nasiriyah, Iraq, June 6, 2003.

Two Iraqi male detainees in U.S custody were killed (one by a shotgun wound to the head, the other by shotgun wound to the chest). The shots were delivered by coalition force guards. DOD 003290 -3292.

Report of two homicides of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, August 18, 2004.

"Mohamed al-Kahtani, one of sixteen people accused of being a "20th hijacker", has recanted his confessions that he had ties to Al Qaeda, had been sent to serve as a hijacker, and that he recognized thirty other captives as bodyguards of Osama bin Laden. He has stated that he was tortured and his family was threatened - in order to force his confessions. A copy of his interrogation log documented that he had been subjected to almost two months of continuous sleep deprivation, with three shifts of interrogators working around the clock to keep him disoriented. His interrogation log documents that he was bound to chairs and force-fed, and administered enemas and IVs, in order to keep his body functioning during his extended sessions."


"Military prosecutors at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp announced charges on Monday [February 11, 2008] against six captives they claim were involved in the planning of the September 11 attacks. The men, each facing the death penalty, will be tried in a single group.

The move could cause legal problems, since the Bush Administration has admitted that some of the confessions were given under torture. In 2006, a source in the Pentagon referred to several of the captives now facing prosecution as "unprosecutable" due to "the techniques" used to secure their confessions."


On December 12, 2007, the ACLU filed a motion asking a federal judge to hold the CIA in contempt, charging that the agency flouted a court order when it destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the torture ("harsh interrogation") of prisoners in its custody.


If these crimes had been committed on American soil, against white, Christian Americans, by agents of the United States government acting under orders from the President, the Vice President, and the heads of the Department of Defense and the CIA, is there any doubt that these crimes would be prosecuted, and that no commentators-- right wing or otherwise-- would dream of suggesting that these were hard political decisions made in a time of war or crisis which should be overlooked as we "move forward"?

These were not political decisions which a subsequent administration is attempting to criminalize for political gain. These acts included murders, kidnappings, torture, rapes, and wrongful imprisonment over a period of years. They occurred with the authorization and knowledge of the President and Vice President of the United States and the highest appointed officials.

Prosecuting those criminals along with the persons who actually carried out the acts which constituted war crimes, violations of international law, crimes against humanity, and violations of U.S. law, will deter those in the highest and the lowest positions of authority from committing such crimes s in the future. Prosecuting them will also send a message to all Americans and to the rest of the world that no one-- high or low--is above the law.