Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why The Chapel Hill Shooting Was More Hate Crime Than 'Parking Dispute'

OpEdNews 2-17-15, HuffPo 2-18-15

   
   

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- When word of the execution-style murders of three Muslim students here leaked onto social media on the evening of Feb. 10, the internet exploded with outrage. Frustration with the lack of any major media coverage gave birth to the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter, and within hours, #ChapelHillShooting became the top worldwide trending subject on Twitter.

Overnight, the national and international press picked up the story. Pronounced dead at the scene were Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, three talented and promising young community members, killed in their own apartment in a quiet complex near the University of North Carolina's campus, all shot in the head. This grisly crime came at a time of rising anti-Muslim tensions in North Carolina and nationwide, on a day marked by a nonstop media drumbeat about the confirmed death of U.S. hostage Kayla Mueller, who was being held captive by ISIS militants. Many suspected the students' shooting was hate-related.

Yet early the next morning, Chapel Hill Police released a statement that said their "preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking."

From that point on, corporate media outlets seemed content to follow Fox News' lead in whitewashing any suggestion that the killings were at least partially sparked by hate, trumpeting headlines like "Parking dispute, not bias, triggered triple murder, say NC police."

What is definitively known about the crime is that the murder suspect in the killings, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who turned himself over to police several hours after the shooting, was one of the victims' neighbors. Hicks moved to North Carolina from Illinois in 2004. According to the Los Angeles Times, "a Facebook profile that bore Craig Hicks' name and photo showed he appeared to be a militant atheist who shared anti-Muslim and anti-Christian posts and links."


Chapel Hill shooting suspect Craig Stephen Hicks

One of the last three posts Hicks made to this Facebook page, two days before the shooting, was an atheist-themed photo whose caption asked, "Why are radical Christians and radical Muslims so opposed to each others' influence when they agree about so many ideological issues?" Hicks expressed atheist beliefs in frequent public Facebook posts.

On Jan. 20, he posted a photo of what he said was "my loaded 38 revolver, its holster, and 5 extra rounds in a speedloader." In addition to the handgun Hicks was carrying when arrested, police recovered an arsenal of at least a dozen more firearms from his apartment, including "three handguns, along with several rifles and shotguns...(and) numerous loaded magazines and cases of ammunition."

The murdered women's father, Mohammed Abu-Salha, told WRAL-TV that the students were afraid of Hicks. "who had come more than once to their doorstep with a gun in his waistband."

"They felt he was hateful, and she used that word," Abu-Salha said. "She said, 'Daddy, we feel he hates us for who we are and how we look.' And our daughters dressed in the Muslim attire."

A close friend of the victims, Amira Ata, was interviewed by Dean Obeidallah for The Daily Beast, and explained why she thinks the shooting wasn't just triggered by anger over parking:

"Ata said she believes that Hicks killed them because they were the only Muslims in the apartment complex. 'They were targeted because they're different and this is a hate crime,' she stated emphatically. She also said that on the day of the murders, Deah had just returned by bus. The only one with a car was the younger sister Razan, who had already parked earlier in the day. The point being: There was no 'parking dispute' in close proximity to the actual murders."

It's undeniable that Hicks was a neighborhood bully known for hassling various other residents in the complex, especially when he felt they were parking in what he saw as "his" parking spaces. As Tara McKelvey reported from Chapel Hill for the BBC, "residents say Hicks had two parking spaces he focused on in front of his apartment."

Each apartment in the complex is assigned only one space, with all others reserved for visitor parking. By policing two spaces, Hicks was violating the complex's own parking rules. Deah Barakat's sister, Dr. Suzanne Barakat, confirmed to CNN that when Hicks returned home on the evening of Feb. 10, no cars belonging to any of the three victims were parked in the spaces he considered to be his:

"On the day of the murders, the parking spot that was, quote/unquote, 'disputed' had no parking -- no car in it. I wondered maybe was it Razan who was visiting her sister to keep her company had maybe parked in that spot and that triggered it. No. They all knew not to park in this disputed visitors' parking spot. And by disputed, I mean the one that the neighbor claimed belonged to his wife and had been cleared by the apartment complex agency as open and free to all. And despite that, they did not use it. So, this was not a parking dispute."

Hicks' ex-wife Cynthia Hurley said his favorite movie was Falling Down, the 1993 film starring Michael Douglas as a laid-off defense industry worker who goes on a lengthy shooting spree. Hicks reportedly tangled with numerous residents over parking issues, but his own shooting rampage began and ended only with his Muslim neighbors. Why were they the only ones he singled out for repeated, gun-toting harassment? No other residents have come forward to say Hicks ever came to their doors carrying a gun.

This crime has struck a powerful chord in the hearts of Muslim-Americans, Muslims abroad, and everyone else who cares about Islamophobia. The corporate media's willingness to frame these killings as resulting from nothing more than a parking dispute reveals a double standard when it comes to reporting about Muslims as victims of violence.

Mohamad Elmasry, a communications professor at the University of North Alabama, noted:

"When Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims are killed by Muslims, Islam is identified as playing a direct role. When Muslims are killed by Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims, however, the religious identity of the violent perpetrators is downplayed or ignored."

As some have pointed out, if Craig Hicks had been an observant Muslim with a history of posting Facebook rants against secular humanists, and then shot three white college students execution-style in the head, no one would be talking about parking. He would have been labeled a domestic terrorist, and if he had tried surrendering to police after the fact, might have been shot on sight.

Fox's rush to spin these killings as anything but a hate crime was understandable, because to explore otherwise would mean raising questions about the network's role in shamelessly fanning the flames of Islamophobia.

But why did other corporate media go blindly along that path? And why did local police do the same? What kind of thorough investigation into this crime's motives led to such a quick pronouncement?

It didn't help that the department charged with investigating the murders is currently underfunded and short-staffed. Or that despite serving and protecting the most liberal community in North Carolina, Chapel Hill's police department has a history of insensitivity towards the town's minority citizens.

Former resident Cynthia Greenlee, now a doctoral candidate in history at Duke University, describes once driving with her boyfriend, a "tall, bearded black man with a naturally serious (read: threatening) demeanor," when they were pulled over by police:

"When a Chapel Hill police officer pulled a gun on us for a routine traffic stop, we didn't argue. He said we were speeding, but he was the quick one as he drew his weapon the moment he disembarked from his car. I was still wondering if we had a taillight out when he screamed for us to stay in the car and pointed his gun at us."


Victims' family and friends waited for answers in shooting's aftermath

Also troubling is that the killings happened within Durham County, N.C., where law enforcement officials are not known for spotless ethics or competence. Over the past decade, "several scandals have raised questions about the dispensation of justice in Durham County," as the Washington Post reported last year. Two Durham district attorneys have been removed from office for misconduct since 2007, one of them Mike Nifong, of Duke lacrosse case infamy. "Prosecutors are rarely ever removed from office for misconduct," said the Post. "For it to happen twice, in the same county, within five years is extraordinary."

Observers hold out hope that newly-elected D.A. Roger Echols, who one local attorney described as "careful and deliberate," will adhere to a higher standard of justice while prosecuting this case. A Durham grand jury indicted Hicks on Feb. 17 on three counts of murder.

The FBI describes a hate crime as any "traditional offense such as murder, arson or vandalism with an added element of bias." In order to gather statistics, Congress has defined hate crimes as "criminal offense(s) against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation." On Feb. 12, the FBI announced it had "opened a parallel preliminary inquiry" into the students' deaths, "to determine whether or not any federal laws were violated related to the case."

The New York Times reported that "people who have talked with the victims' families say they have some doubts about the capacity of local authorities to handle the case." Linda Sarsour, a spokeswoman for the victims' families, said that "as of (Feb. 12), the family hadn't even been approached by law enforcement. They were already feeling like there was something missing."


Friday prayers outside the White House on Feb. 13 in memory of the shooting victims

Has our country's seemingly endless War on Terror made anti-Muslim bigotry more socially acceptable, and in the process devalued Muslim lives here at home? There are now five times as many hate crimes committed annually against Muslims in the U.S. than there were before 9/11. At the students' memorial service, attended by an estimated 5,000 people, Azhar Azeez, President of the Islamic Society of North America, said, "We are concerned that the anti-Muslim rhetoric may have angered some to commit violence against American Muslims."

Cynthia Greenlee analyzed the reaction of far too many to the media coverage of this crime:

"The fact that many of my Facebook friends are now doing particularly vigorous mental gymnastics to deny that ethnicity, race or religious identity might have anything to do with this act of violence speaks loudly to the needs of a dominant culture to see itself as bearing no responsibility for hatred in its midst--even in a town where a black man simply driving down the street invites a potentially deadly encounter with the law."

We will never know exactly what was going through Craig Hicks' deranged mind at the time these brutal killings were committed. But we should all reflect on the words of Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha's father, Mohammad Abu-Salha, who is a psychiatrist. "The media here bombards the American citizen with Islamic, Islamic, Islamic terrorism and makes people here scared of us and hate us and want us out," said Abu-Salha. "So if somebody has any conflict with you, and they already hate you, you get a bullet in the head."

There is much to suggest these three students weren't murdered solely over a parking space. This heinous act looks more like a hate crime.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Phony Anti-Vaccine Propaganda Is Killing U.S. Children

The Huffington Post, 1-16-15

   
   

When the nation turned our eyes to watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve, we saw actress and former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy urging viewers to kiss her on our TV screens. Thousands of people did, and sent her pictures to prove it. That's the nature of being a celebrity, possessing the ability to influence other people's behavior, and therein lies its potential for abuse.

The idea that vaccines cause autism has been found to be totally false by doctors and scientists, in the same way almost all sane observers agree global warming is man-made. But thanks to anti-vaccine misinformation spread by some celebrities like McCarthy, Miyam Bialik, and right-wing idiot Donald Trump, doctors say preventable diseases like measles are making a comeback across America, and children are dying from them. From mid-2007 through the end of 2014, there were 6,274 U.S. deaths that could have been prevented by vaccines, as documented by CDC reports.

Measles cases in the U.S. reached a 20-year high last May. The CDC estimates that in 2013, ninety-two percent of measles cases occurred in people who weren't vaccinated.

Before the anti-vaccine propaganda campaign heated up, measles were prematurely declared eradicated in this country in 2000. This represented a huge public health victory, since in the 1950s, prior to widespread vaccinations, there were hundreds of thousands of cases annually -- in some years almost a million.

As MedicalDaily.com editor Elijah Wolfson reported in 2013:

Measles cause ear infections in ten percent of the children infected by the disease, and about five percent get pneumonia. Even scarier is the fact that one or two in every 1,000 infected by the disease die, according to the CDC. With numbers as low as they are right now, this isn't yet cause for concern -- but if we return to rates closer to those of the 1950s, it could become a major epidemic. Consider that the disease still kills about 164,000 people globally every year.

In 2001, 6-year-old Abigale Duffy of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, was recovering from the chickenpox when she contracted pneumococcal bacteria. Her parents believed in vaccinations, but according to her mother, Shannon Duffy Peterson, "at that time, we had a pediatrician who did not push vaccinations and did not recommend the most recent vaccines available. Consequently, my children did not have their chickenpox and pneumococcal vaccinations." Abigale developed a fever one Sunday evening, and later that night died in her mother's arms on the way to the hospital.

Three years ago, in early 2012, 2-month-old Brady Alcaide Riffenburg of Chicopee, Mass. died of pertussis, or whooping cough. Brady's mother, Kathryn Riffenburg, had been vaccinated years before, but later learned a vaccine booster shot during pregnancy would most likely have saved him. Barbara Stechenberg, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Baystate Children's Hospital where Brady died, explained that "one of the important things to know is most babies who develop whooping cough get it from an older child or an adult in the family." As Christine Vera from ShotOfPrevention.com reminds us, "since infants don't begin receiving vaccinations for many diseases until they are two months old, they remain vulnerable at a time when they are also most fragile."

Even children who survive bouts with preventable diseases can have their lives altered forever. A 2010 outbreak of meningitis in the Oologah-Talala public school system in Oklahoma killed two children and infected five others. One of the survivors was kindergartener Jeremiah Mitchell. Doctors had to amputate both his arms and legs, plus parts of his eyelids, jaw and ears. "He came out with all his limbs cut off and wrapped up like a mummy -- I fainted," said his mother, Michaela Mitchell. "We cried for a long time."

Jeremiah was vaccinated against other illnesses, but not meningitis, because his school didn't require meningitis vaccinations for children his age. As reported by USA Today, "though his family did everything according to medical recommendations, Jeremiah was exposed because someone brought the disease into their community."

Jenny McCarthy has been described as a "Playmate turned pseudoscientist" who "by dint of sheer energy and celebrity...became the nation's most prominent purveyor of anti-vaxxer ideology." She is president of Generation Rescue, a non-profit group founded in 2005 by Lisa and J.B. Handley, which promotes the discredited idea that children with autism can be cured by unscientific, non-medical methods. Its website claims, "Conventional medicine treats the symptoms of autism. Biomedical treatment addresses the root cause." McCarthy stumbled onto this website within weeks of its debut in 2005, shortly after her son was diagnosed with autism, and soon afterwards began her anti-vaccine crusade.

The false theory that vaccines might cause autism came from a now-retracted 1998 UK study on the MMR vaccine (preventing measles, mumps and rubella) which turned out to have been almost entirely fabricated by its author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield. He made up virtually the entire thing, according to CNN, "misrepresent(ing) or alter(ing) the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study." A 2011 investigation by the British medical journal BMJ called it an "elaborate fraud," and concluded that of the 12 cases, "five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism." Wakefield was stripped of his medical license in 2010.

But because it was reported as a credible study at the time, the idea of a vaccine-autism link entered people's minds. It perfectly illustrates how misinformation can spread like a virus. Years later, when the study was exposed as fraudulent, the damage had already been done, since a cottage industry had sprung up around the lies, exploiting the families of children with autism who were desperate for answers to explain why their kids were affected.

What's indisputable is that no real scientific research has ever found evidence vaccines cause autism. "The Earth isn't flat, it's round, and vaccines don't cause autism," says Dr. Paul Offit, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and co-inventor of a Rotavirus vaccine. "That's just a matter of scientific fact."

The original phony 1998 study sparked a worldwide scare despite being based on falsified data about only 12 children. In 2012, a review of actual, rigorous studies covering over 14.7 million children found no vaccine-autism link in any cases, as recently documented by Upworthy in its "All 7 Billion" series about global health and poverty, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Graphic by Adam Mordecai & NowSourcing, used under Creative Commons license.

Is it too much to ask Jenny McCarthy to read a simple, well-researched article like the one published by Upworthy and properly educate herself about how no legitimate scientific studies have linked vaccines to autism? And then, to announce to the world she was wrong? It would help undo at least some of the damage she's done to public health and our country's children by pushing phony anti-vaccine propaganda for the past decade.

Now that long-dormant diseases are reappearing, McCarthy has tried to deny her anti-vaxxer history. Worse, she is still misinforming the public.

"I am not anti-vaccine," she said last November, right before the debut of her new SiriusXM radio show. "I'm in this gray zone of, I think everyone should be aware and educate yourself and ask questions. And if your kid is having a problem, ask your doctor for an alternative way of doing the shots," meaning receiving fewer doses at once, which is not medically recommended, since it increases the time children remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to illness.

"The ironic thing is my position has always remained the same. People just never listened to it," McCarthy continued. "Literally, throughout the years, I have said the same thing over and over again. But people will only read headlines instead of looking back and seeing what I've been saying."

Taking a look back shows that in 2007, McCarthy appeared on Oprah and shared her beliefs:

We vaccinated our baby and something happened...Right before his MMR shot, I said to the doctor, 'I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the 'autism' shot, isn't it?' And he said, 'No, that is ridiculous. It is a mother's desperate attempt to blame something,' and he swore at me and then the nurse gave [Evan] the shot. And I remember going, 'Oh, God, I hope he's right.' And soon thereafter -- boom -- the soul's gone from his eyes.

On CNN, she said, "Without a doubt in my mind I believe vaccinations triggered Evan's autism." In 2009, she told Time magazine:

I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their f-cking fault that the diseases are coming back. They're making a product that's sh-t. If you give us a safe vaccine, we'll use it. It shouldn't be polio versus autism.

Later in the same interview, she said, "If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f-cking measles."

If we ever want to see a meaningful public recantation from Jenny McCarthy, we have to make our views known to the people paying her salary and keeping her on television. Public pressure contributed to the non-renewal in 2014 of her contract to co-host ABC's "The View," after only one year on the job.

McCarthy's new reality show Donnie Loves Jenny premiered Wednesday, January 7, airing on cable channel A&E. In November, the network announced an unscripted production and development deal with D&J Productions, the joint production entity between McCarthy and her new husband Donnie Walhberg. Donnie Loves Jenny is only the first project in that deal.

You can let A&E executives know how you feel about their network giving airtime to Jenny McCarthy by emailing Chairman Abbe Raven -- Abbe.Raven@aenetworks.com, or calling her office at 212-210-9007. Or contact Chief Revenue Officer Mel Berning at 212-210-1321, Mel.Berning@aenetworks.com. Mel is in charge of A&E's ad sales, so you can try the subject lines, "Ask Jenny McCarthy to Publicly State Vaccines Work or A&E Advertisers Will Hear About It," or "Why Is A&E Giving Airtime to a Celeb Whose Anti-Vaccine Propaganda is Killing U.S. Children?"

McCarthy has appeared on ABC's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" as a Times Square correspondent since 2011. To reach Disney, the corporate parent of both ABC and A&E, go straight to the top and contact Disney CEO Bob Iger at robert.a.iger@disney.com, or through Disney's main switchboard at 818-560-1000.

Kids like Abigale Duffy and Brady Riffenburg can't advocate for themselves anymore. To protect the rest of America's children from similar fates, more of us must speak up until there's no doubt remaining that vaccines are safe, necessary, and they work.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Steve Scalise's Ties to David Duke Show GOP Can't Escape its Embrace of Racism

   
   

GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) confirmed on Monday that he had addressed a white supremacy conference in 2002 organized by former KKK Grand Wizard and onetime GOP presidential candidate David Duke. The revelation immediately cast doubts on whether Scalise will hang onto his leadership position within the House Republican caucus as the GOP prepares to lead both chambers of Congress in 2015.

Democrats condemned Scalise's appearance and called on his fellow GOP House leaders to do the same. "Steve Scalise chose to cheerlead for a group of KKK members and neo-Nazis at a white supremacist rally and now his fellow House Republican Leaders can’t even speak up and say he was wrong," said Josh Schwerin, National Press Secretary for the DCCC. "Republicans in Congress might talk about improving their terrible standing with non-white voters, but it’s clear their leadership has a history of embracing anti-Semitic, racist hate groups."

As reported by The Hill:

"The news about Scalise will cast a cloud over the first week of Congress...Scalise will be surrounded by reporters upon his return to Washington, and it will distract from the GOP’s official message. Damaging stories touching on racism have the potential not only to distract, but to damage the GOP brand.

Scalise on Monday denounced the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, to which he spoke in 2002. 'I didn't know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group,' he said in an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday. 'For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous,' he said.

Many people have expressed doubt, however, that Scalise could not have known who the group was given its name and David Duke’s prominence in the state of Louisiana. 'By 2002, everybody knew that Duke was still the man he claimed not to be. EVERYBODY,' influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson wrote Monday on RedState.com. 'How the hell does somebody show up at a David Duke organized event in 2002 and claim ignorance?'"

According to David Duke, Scalise knew exactly what company he was keeping. "Scalise would communicate a lot with my campaign manager, Kenny Knight," Duke said on Monday when interviewed by the Washington Post. "That is why he was invited and why he would come." Kenny Knight is one of Scalise's congressional campaign donors.

Yet appearing at the EURO conference was hardly the first time Rep. Scalise has tried to further his political career by appealing to bigotry and dividing people. Past votes and legislation pushed by Scalise show a disturbing pattern that casts doubts on his commitment to equal rights for all Americans.

While serving as a state representative, Scalise joined former U.S. Senator and notorious bigot Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) in the dubious club of Republicans who tried to stop the nation from honoring Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, when he twice voted against establishing an MLK holiday in Louisiana. In 1997, he voted no on a bill designed to "prohibit hate crimes based on race, class or sexual orientation." Exploiting anti-gay bigotry to win votes for the GOP in 2004, Scalise was the lead author of a bill that put a constitutional amendment on the Louisiana ballot banning gay marriage.

In 2009, Scalise was one of the leading Republicans who joined Glenn Beck in a campaign to smear black Obama Administration official Van Jones, forcing him to resign his post. Beck, Scalise, and the rest of the GOP scalp-hunters targeted Jones after it was discovered that his name appeared on a 2004 petition calling for more investigations into the 9/11 attacks, and also questioning whether any Bush Administration officials knew about the attacks in advance. Jones had agreed to lend his name to the petition without reading it first. "The last green jobs czar we had left in disgrace," Scalise crowed about Jones' departure, "because he expressed comments embracing communism and actually tried to blame the government, the American government, for September 11th attacks."

Currently, as pointed out by Vocativ:

"(Scalise) is a regular on Tony Perkins' radio show, Washington Watch With Tony Perkins. Perkins heads the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center condemns as virulently anti-LGBT."

Tony Perkins is also pals with David Duke, having once paid $82,500 for Duke's mailing list. Perkins filed a false campaign disclosure form to hide the payment, for which he was eventually fined $3,000.

The Republican Party needs to decide whether this is the face it wants to keep showing at a time when it has a demographic imperative to improve its standing with non-white voters. As Steve Scalise's political career makes clear, the ghosts of racism past and present still haunt the GOP.

#stevescalise #davidduke #gop #whitesupremacy #resign

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jeb Bush's Ties to Terrorists and Corrupt Cuban Exiles

   
   

Today, President Obama announced the historic news that he is moving to normalize relations with Cuba. This move comes after 50 years of failed U.S. policy that attempted to undermine the Cuban Revolution by isolating the island and keeping Cubans and Americans apart. It didn't work, ensured Cuba would remain economically dependent on the Soviet Union for decades, and delayed the day when the revolution's original promise will be fulfilled and true democracy will come to Cuba.

The wealthy, right-wing Cuban exiles who fled the revolution have had outsized influence on U.S. politics ever since the early 1960s. And Republican politicians in Florida have long cozied up to them. Which brings us to almost-declared GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush. Jeb's political connections are as shady as his father's and brother's were before him. While building his political and financial career in Florida, Jeb Bush became tightly linked to some of the most corrupt, far-right members of the Cuban exile community.

As reported by award-winning investigative journalist Ann Louise Bardach in the book Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana (2002):

"The Bush family connections go back to 1984 when Jeb Bush began a close association with Camilo Padreda, a former intelligence officer with the Batista dictatorship overthrown by Fidel Castro. Jeb Bush was then the chairman of the Dade county Republican party and Padreda its finance chairman. Padreda had earlier been indicted on a $500,000 embezzlement charge along with a fellow exile, Hernandez Cartaya, but the charges were dropped, reportedly after the CIA stated that Cartaya had worked for them. Padreda later pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development of millions of dollars during the 1980s.

Jeb Bush was also on the payroll in the 80s of the prominent Cuban exile Miguel Recarey, who had earlier assisted the CIA in attempts to assassinate President Castro. Recarey, who ran International Medical Centres (IMC), employed Bush as a real estate consultant and paid him a $75,000 fee for finding the company a new location, although the move never took place, which raised questions at the time. Jeb Bush did, however, lobby the Reagan/Bush administration vigorously and successfully on behalf of Recarey and IMC. "I want to be very wealthy," Jeb Bush told the Miami News when questioned during that period.

In 1985, Jeb Bush acted as a conduit on behalf of supporters of the Nicaraguan contras with his father, then the vice-president, and helped arrange for IMC to provide free medical treatment for the contras. Recarey was later charged with massive Medicare fraud but fled the US before his trial and is now a fugitive."

Jeb Bush's most controversial connection to right-wing Cuban exiles may be convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch, who died in 2011.

"At the request of Jeb, President George H.W. Bush intervened in 1989 to release the convicted Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch from prison and then granted him US residency. According to the Justice Department in George Bush Sr's administration, Bosch had participated in more than 30 terrorist acts. He was convicted of firing a rocket into a Polish ship which was on passage to Cuba. He was also implicated in the 1976 blowing-up of a Cubana plane flying to Havana from Venezuela in which all 73 civilians on board were killed.

CIA memorandums strongly suggest, according to Bardach's book, that Bosch was one of the conspirators, and quotes the then secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, as writing that the "US government had been planning to suggest Bosch's deportation before Cubana airlines crash took place for his suspected involvement in other terrorist acts and violation of his parole."

This is the company Jeb Bush kept during his rise to political power. It shows a stunning lack of judgment and tolerance for corruption that by itself should be enough to disqualify him from high office. But most voters will never hear of these episodes from Jeb's past. His last name alone ensures he can't be ruled out as a serious contender for the 2016 GOP nomination.

#cuba #jebbush #havana #orlandobosch #election2016 #florida #BushClintonDynasties

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Skeletons in Jeb Bush's Closet

   
   

Jeb Bush is gearing up for his own presidential run, hoping to take advantage of Hillary Clinton being the likely Democratic nominee in 2016. Analysts predict a Bush-Clinton dynasty rematch will be seen as stale and boring by voters, and depress turnout to the extent that a GOP candidate could win nationwide again, despite the nation's browner, less Republican-friendly, changing demographics.

Veteran political journalist Joe Conason recently reminded us there are many things voters don't know yet about Jeb's years in Florida, from his shady business dealings to his tenure as an extremely right-wing Governor. For example:

"If Bush runs, extremism and corruption in the Sunshine State during his tenure will provide ample fodder for investigative reporters and primary opponents, as will many episodes in his long business career. Five months after he left the governor's mansion in 2007, he joined Lehman Brothers as a 'consultant.' No doubt he was well-compensated, as reporters may learn if and when he releases his tax returns someday. The following year, Lehman infamously went bust—and left the state of Florida holding about $1 billion worth of bad mortgage investments.

There are many equally fascinating chapters in the Jeb dossier, rooted in his declaration three decades ago that he intended to become 'very wealthy' as a developer and, yes, a 'consultant.' His partners back then included a certain Miguel Recarey, whose International Medical Centers allegedly perpetrated one of history’s biggest Medicare frauds. Indicted by the feds, Recarey fled the country—but not before Jeb placed a call on his behalf to his presidential dad’s health and human services secretary, Margaret Heckler. For serving as the flunky of a crook, he received a generous tip of $75,000 from Recarey, a mob associate."

Today's announcement by Jeb that he would "actively explore" running for President comes as no surprise. The Bush family has been grooming him for the presidency for the past quarter century, and originally planned for him to run in 2000. Until something called democracy got in the way when Jeb lost his first race for Governor of Florida in 1994, thanks to legendary Florida Democrat Lawton Chiles. Jeb had to wait to win until his second try in 1998, the same year George W. was re-elected to the top job in Texas. Which is how W. ended up with just enough experience mis-governing a large red state to be a credible GOP contender for the 2000 nomination.

And we all know how that turned out. After the debacle of W.'s presidency, why would anyone vote for another Bush? Unfortunately, history fades fast in America, even more so now that we're living in a 24-7 news cycle when the latest shiny distraction is all that seems to matter. As Conason warns, "If Jeb runs for president, it will be fascinating to see whether the mainstream press, which vetted his brother George W. so inadequately during the 2000 presidential race, performs any better this time." America shouldn't count on it.

Congress Secretly Voted Themselves a CRomnibus Luxury Car Perk

Huffington Post, OpEdNews, 12-16-14

   
   

Over the weekend, the CRomnibus budget deal passed the Senate by a 56-40 margin after narrow approval by the House. The outcome is a win for big corporations and wealthy campaign donors, and a huge letdown for 99% of Americans, who once again have been shafted by back room negotiations and legislation written to favor the rich and powerful.

There's a lot to make ordinary citizens sick about the CRomnibus. Republicans used the legislation as an end-of-year Trojan Horse to pass numerous stealth provisions that benefit the few at the expense of the many. Two of the worst are rolling back Dodd-Frank financial regulations so banks can once again gamble with money insured by taxpayers, which re-opens the door to more bank bailouts; and further gutting campaign finance reform by letting rich donors give up to $1.5 million a year to political parties, ten times the current limit.

But the one CRomnibus secret that wasn't reported anywhere in the media until after the bill cleared both the House and Senate was that the budget deal renews a lucrative perk for members of Congress: the ability for each member to spend $1000 of our tax dollars per month per car on a luxury car allowance. The number of cars members can lease is limited only by the total pool of money funding Congressional operations.

Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado was the first to alert the public to this perk's renewal, when he posted about it on Facebook last Wednesday, the day after House Republican leaders filed the legislation. The relevant language was hidden on page 982 of the 1,603-page bill:

"None of the funds made available in this Act may be used by the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives to make any payments from any Members' Representational Allowance for the leasing of a vehicle, excluding mobile district offices, in an aggregate amount that exceeds $1,000 for the vehicle in any month."

At a time when U.S. families are finally getting their feet under them again after our economy's long climb back from the Great Recession, the audacity of Congress to vote itself a luxury perk like this is breathtaking. It passed only because it was buried in an enormous spending bill, with no public discussion or media coverage.

President Obama has said he will sign the CRomnibus, but he deserves to hear the American people's opinions about it. Act right now to tell President Obama to veto this deal, and send it back to Congress for an honest debate over its Congressional luxury car cash and many other unacceptable provisions. You can call the White House at 202-456-1111, or send him a quick e-mail using this tool powered by Represent.Us:

The silver lining in this battle was that it showed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is willing to take on Wall Street and the super wealthy when it comes to fighting for the rest of us. The CRomnibus fight boosted her national profile overnight, and cemented her status as the Democrat who could most likely wrest the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Where was Hillary when the CRomnibus reared its ugly head? As Politico made clear, "Clinton has not commented on the $1.1 trillion spending bill, which Warren claims will undo (financial) reforms made under the Dodd-Frank law."

According to The Hill:

"The reason for Clinton's silence, some of her staunchest supporters say, is that she likely supported the spending bill — even if she didn't want to go on record with that support. 'I don't think she would have considered the legislation deeply flawed,' said one ally. 'She would have some issues with it, of course, and she'd think that it's not a perfect bill but I don't think she would have taken Warren's stance.'"

Other CRomnibus provisions that advance the GOP's agenda include allowing corporations to cut up to ten million workers' pensions; slashing $300 million from housing assistance to the homeless; reducing the EPA's budget by $60 million, which will lead to massive cutbacks and layoffs; and cutting $300 million from grants to low-income students.

It's good for the wealthy, the powerful, and Washington, D.C.'s luxury car rental companies. But the CRomnibus is bad for America, and President Obama needs to step up with his veto pen and do the right thing.

(UPDATE 11:30 pm: With little fanfare, earlier tonight President Obama signed the CRomnibus, a bill which also tonight was immortalized by Jon Stewart as unappealing enough to be the "Bill Cosby of legislation." Passage of the CROmnibus is sorry evidence of how corporate interests firmly control Washington, and how badly real change is needed.

President Obama's stated reason for signing it was that it was the best deal Democrats could get before the GOP assumes control of the Senate in January, and he was wrong. The GOP's brand is now so linked with government shutdowns that they don't want to be blamed for another. If more Democrats had stood unified and rejected the poison pill-packed CRomnibus, Republicans were prepared to pass a three month spending bill with current levels of funding, not shut the government down. As reported by The Hill:

"Republicans prepared a three-month stopgap spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, just in case anything went awry. 'That was always the fallback but we were going to do everything we could to pass the bill,' said one source."
Three months from now, Obama could have then insisted the GOP pass a longer-term budget stripped of the riders the Republicans had crammed into the CRomnibus to force their agenda through, or face a veto. The unpopular provisions it was packed with could never survive up and down votes on their own. Instead, he and Congressional Democrats got rolled again.)

(CORRECTION 12/18: An earlier version of this post misstated the taxpayer-subsidized vehicle perk as new for FY2015, not a renewal of an existing perk.)

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