POSTED: 1:52 pm PST January 22, 2007
UPDATED: 2:11 pm PST January 22, 2007
Tonight, we will hear the President make his State of the Union address, but what we won't hear is the devastating state of human rights in our nation. The US has abandoned human rights in the name of a "war on terror" and our nation and the world is now paying a steep and painful price. We cannot let this stand and ask you to please urge Congress to adopt our agenda for reversing America's course on human rights.
CLOSE GUANTANAMO: an icon for human rights violations, the U.S. has detained people as young as 13 years old at Guantanamo Bay, subjecting them to torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, all without charge, trial or end. Guantanamo must be closed and anyone remaining there must either be tried or freed.
BAN TORTURE OR OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT: torture or other "alternative interrogation techniques" won't make us safer, won't get us good intelligence and only exacerbates the deteriorating respect for human rights around the world. We cannot tolerate ambiguity in our law when it comes to torture and any action that amounts to torture or ill-treatment must be clearly outlawed.
CLOSE SECRET PRISONS: the U.S. has shamefully defended its practice of "disappearing" suspects into secret CIA prisons. These prisons must be closed, or, at a minimum, anyone in U.S. custody must be registered and visited by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
RESTORE THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS: a clear founding cornerstone of our nation is the right for anyone to challenge their detention before an independent court. The recently passed Military Commissions Act strips this right from many people currently detained in the name of the "war on terror". This centuries old right must be restored to anyone in U.S. custody.
END EXTRAORDINARY RENDITIONS: the Bush Administration has used extraordinary renditions to outsource torture, shipping people to countries notorious for their use of torture in detention and interrogation. The Administration must stop using extraordinary renditions now and uphold our obligations under U.S. and international law.
We must build a drumbeat for action so loud and so strong that not only does Congress take the unequivocal actions we seek, but the rest of the world hears our determination to restore our country as a champion of human rights. Please take action today , and ask everyone you know to do the same.
Health Care -- Tax Incentive
What Bush Will Say: "We need to fix these problems, and one way to do so is to treat health insurance more like home ownership. The current tax code encourages home ownership by allowing you to deduct the interest on your mortgage from your taxes. We can reform the tax code, so that it provides a similar incentive for you to buy health insurance. So in my State of the Union Address next Tuesday, I will propose a tax reform designed to help make basic private health insurance more affordable -- whether you get it through your job or on your own." [1/20/07]
What You Need To Know: Bush's health care plan fails to help the nearly 47 million Americans without health insurance, will cause employers to drop health coverage without any real alternative, and put health care out of reach for millions of Americans.
UNINSURED AMERICANS WILL RECEIVE LITTLE HELP AND MUST TURN TO EXPENSIVE COVERAGE: This scheme would replace one regressive, flawed tax deduction with another -- and since most uninsured Americans pay low or no taxes, they would receive little help from this plan. In addition, Karen Pollitz, a Georgetown University researcher who co-authored a 2001 study on the individual health-insurance market for the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that people who aren't in perfect health are largely unable to buy individual health insurance. In her study, Pollitz found that "roughly 90% of applicants in what's known as less-than-perfect health were unable to buy individual policies at standard rates, while 37% were rejected outright." Individual health insurers may deny coverage to people based on their medial history, or put them in "a high-risk category that it makes health coverage too expensive."
BUSH'S PLAN WILL DISCOURAGE EMPLOYERS FROM OFFERING QUALITY COVERAGE: Sixty-one percent of companies offer at least some of their employees health insurance, a drop of 8 percentage points since 2000. Additionally, the Washington Post notes that there's "a danger that ending the tax privilege for employer-provided insurance will cause companies to discontinue coverage, driving more buyers into the individual market, where it's hard to buy insurance at a reasonable price." American Progress senior fellow Jeanne Lambrew added in a June 2006 piece in Tax Notes, that "the tax exclusion is a thread that, if pulled in isolation, could unravel health coverage in the United States" and even "minor changes to the exclusion could accelerate the recent trends" of employers dropping coverage for the 175 million Americans who receive employer-sponsored coverage.
Health Care -- Health Savings Accounts
What Bush Will Say: "We created Health Savings Accounts, which empower patients and can reduce the cost of coverage." [1/20/07]
What You Need to Know: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) increase the number of uninsured, do not offer savings on health care costs for average Americans, and primarily benefit the wealthy.
HSAS DO NOT OFFER MEANINGFUL SAVINGS FOR AMERICANS: "Low- and middle-income uninsured people will gain meager or no tax savings" from health savings accounts, according to a Commonwealth Fund study. Roughly 50 percent of uninsured adults pay no federal income taxes, meaning that "tax incentives for high-deductible health plans would have little impact on uninsured adults." Moreover, "uninsured people in the middle income tax bracket would see potential savings of just 3 percent to 6 percent on a typical high-deductible health plan premium of $2,000."
HSAS PRIMARILY BENEFIT THE RICH: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found "that the average income of HSA users was $133,000 in 2004, compared to $51,000 for all non-elderly tax filers." Additionally, these HSAs are being used as tax shelters for the wealthy. In 2004, the "majority of people with HSAs withdrew no funds from the accounts...and HSA participants in the focus groups that the GAO convened spoke of using their HSAs for tax sheltering purposes." Most low-income individuals "do not face high enough tax liability to benefit in a significant way from tax deductions associated with HSAs" and people "with chronic conditions, disabilities, and others with high-cost medical needs may face even greater out-of-pocket costs under HSA-qualified health plans."
HSAS INCREASE THE NUMBER OF UNINSURED: HSAs are "not likely to be an important contributor to expanding coverage among uninsured people" because most of uninsured Americans "do not face high-enough marginal tax rates to benefit substantially from the tax deductibility of HSA contributions." Another study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that Bush's proposal "would induce some currently uninsured individuals to purchase insurance, but also would encourage some employers to drop health insurance or to reduce the amounts they contribute toward their employees' health insurance costs, since employers would know their workers could get a tax deduction if they purchased coverage on their own. The number of people who would lose coverage due to actions that their employers would take would likely exceed the number of uninsured people who would gain insurance."
AMERICANS ARE DISSATISFIED WITH HSAS: Just 33-42 percent of enrollees in consumer-driven health plans were satisfied with their health care, compared to 63 percent of those people with traditional coverage. Two-thirds of people prefer an employer-selected set of plans over an employer-funded account and choosing insurance on their own
Energy -- Climate Change
What Bush will say: President Bush will discuss climate change in his State of the Union address for the first time, but remains opposed to mandatory caps on global warming pollution. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said, "If you're talking about enforceable carbon caps, in terms of industry wide and nationwide, we knocked that down. That's not something we're talking about."
What you need to know: Any comprehensive solution to the climate crisis must involve enforceable caps on global warming pollution.
BUSH'S VOLUNTARY APPROACH HAS FAILED TO CURB EMISSIONS: Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. have increased by 354 million metric tons since 2001. The Energy Department's latest analysis projects America's carbon dioxide emissions will increase by one third from 2005 to 2030.
BUSH STILL DENIES FUNDAMENTAL CLIMATE SCIENCE: Last February, President Bush claimed there is still "a debate over whether [global warming] is man-made or naturally caused." There is no real scientific debate over this question. Most recently, the National Academy of Sciences has unequivocally stated that natural causes cannot explain the unprecedented warmth over the last 400 years. Rather, "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming," the report states.
Rosey and Donald, did you know there was Amazon and Jimmy ?
A copy of the petition, some 16,200 signatures, and supporting materials
were sent to Bezos and his staff on Friday, Jan. 19. The following morning,
the "Editorial Reviews" section of the page listing Carter's book was
completely overhauled for first time in almost a month: It now begins with a
glowing tribute from Amazon to the former president's achievements and an
interview with him about the book, plus a photo of him and graphic links to
some of his other books - all new material, and all of it posted ahead of
the negative review.
"This is a huge victory," said Henry Norr, the Berkeley, CA-based former
journalist who initiated the petition. "The whole tone of the page is
different now. Instead of saying, in effect, 'Stay away from this vile
book,' what it now conveys is the truth: that this is an important and
fair-minded, even if controversial, book by a distinguished American who has
unique qualifications to address the issue of Palestine."
Added Paul Larudee, an El Cerrito, CA, piano technician and activist who
helped organize the protest campaign, "Of course Amazon deserves credit for
responding after initially refusing to make a change. However, the real
credit goes to the thousands of petition signers who exercised their power -
in this case the nonviolent power to take their business elsewhere. It gives
hope that boycotts and other nonviolent efforts can help to end the larger
injustices that Carter addresses in his book."
"I'm sorry Amazon continues to display the review by Jeffrey Goldberg,
because I think it's horribly unfair and misleading, and I still wish they
would add one of the other reviews we suggested," said Norr. "Some people
who signed the petition have let me know that they still intend to close
their accounts if Amazon doesn't make more changes, and I understand their
feelings. But what the petition was really demanding was fair and balanced
treatment for the book, and on the whole I think we've come pretty close to
The change was the second involving Carter's book that Amazon has made in
response to the campaign. Last week, its version of the latest New York
Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list initially omitted Palestine:
Peace Not Apartheid altogether, even though the book actually ranked fifth
on the list - Amazon's version jumped directly from number 4 to number 6!
This extraordinary "mistake" persisted for days, until two hours after an
earlier version of this press release was delivered to scores of reporters
and publications. (A saved copy of the original page, missing item number
five, is available on request.)
Other assessments of Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid:
Ali Abunimah, "A Palestinian view of Jimmy Carter's book," Wall Street
Journal, Dec. 26, 2006:
George Bisharat, "Truth at last, while breaking a U.S. taboo of criticizing
Israel," Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 2, 2007:
Chris Hedges, "Get Carter," The Nation, Jan. 8, 2007:
Saree Makdisi, "Carter's apartheid charge rings true," San Francisco
Chronicle, Nov. 20, 2006:
Henry Siegman, "Hurricane Carter," The Nation, Jan. 22, 2007:Norman Finkelstein, "The Ludicrous Attacks on Jimmy Carter's Book,"
CounterPunch, Dec. 28, 2006: