Saturday, February 28, 2004
President Bush on Friday dismissed two members of his Council on Bioethics — a scientist and a moral philosopher who had been among the more outspoken advocates for research on human embryo cells.
In their places he appointed three new members, including a doctor who has called for more religion in public life, a political scientist who has spoken out against the research that the dismissed members supported, and another who has written about the immorality of abortion and the "threats of biotechnology."
The turnover immediately renewed charges by scientists and others that Bush is increasingly allowing politics to trump science as he seeks advice on ethically contentious issues.
Some in Congress, led by Rep. Henry D. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), have been vocal on the topic, as have academics, scientific organizations and science journal editors.
Scalia still thunders at calls that he recuse himself from a pending case involving chum Dick Cheney. How dare anyone insinuate, he growls, that the duck-hunting trip he took with the vice president last month would sway his vote in a case involving Cheney's closed private meetings with energy executives?
What then to make of another Scalia jaunt, to Kansas?
As Times staffers Richard A. Serrano and David G. Savage reported Friday, the Supreme Court justice went on a combined college lecture and pheasant hunting trip in Kansas a little over two years ago. His hosts were the then-governor of Kansas, the recently retired state Senate head and a Kansas law school dean. The jaunt was bracketed by two Supreme Court cases, a few weeks apart, in which the dean argued on behalf of the state government. Both cases involved the constitutionality of a Kansas law allowing prison officials to confine sex offenders beyond their sentences.
I am amazed and disappointed that such a blatantly dishonest man is allowed to sit on the Supreme Court. Remember, our president identified Scalia and the execrable Clarence Thomas as his "favorite Justices".
In recent weeks, however, Texas prosecutors have broadened a year-old grand jury investigation into the possibly illegal use of corporate funds to benefit the Republicans in the 2002 elections. They are now concentrating on a political action committee set up by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay that was a critical factor in the GOP's 2002 sweep: Of the 21 GOP candidates it backed in key races for the Texas House, all but three won.
The investigation began within weeks after the November 2002 elections, when the Texas Association of Business, which functions as the state's chamber of commerce, publicly boasted of its success in fundraising and took credit for the sweeping Republican victories. In particular, it cited its $2 million mailing campaign, which targeted crucial swing districts where most of the Republican candidates won.
That drew the attention of prosecutors, who were soon saying publicly that the business association had illegally coordinated its campaign efforts with the Republicans in violation of state law.
Tom DeLay is a truly ugly man - ugly face, ugly soul. He is a disgrace to America.
To the extent that Mr. Bush addresses the need to keep in place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, he wraps it in the flag of encouraging small businesses, many of which pay taxes at the individual income tax rates. But that argument, too, is misleading. Most small businesses do not earn anywhere near enough to have to pay the top tax rates: in 2001, only 3.8 percent of taxpayers with small business or farm earnings had taxable incomes of more than $200,000.
And he expresses outrage that the tax cuts are set to expire -- as if that cynical, dishonest budgeting dodge wasn't part of a deliberate plan on the part of the administration and its allies to muscle the tax cuts through Congress. One of the arguments back then for making the tax cuts temporary was concern that the projected surpluses would turn out to be illusory. Now those fears have been proved truer than ever imagined, yet Mr. Bush presses recklessly forward. Indeed, an analysis of Mr. Bush's budget released Friday by the Congressional Budget Office shows that following the Bush plan -- even assuming spending is kept to the spartan level the president proposes -- would result in a cumulative deficit of $2.75 trillion over the next decade, $737 billion more than if current policy were kept in place.
I sure hope we can get rid of the parasitic virus infecting the White House this November. I don't want to post items like this for four more years!
The IRS reported that through Feb. 20, more than 40 million returns have been filed, a 2.6 percent increase over this time last year. Refunds have totaled $72.8 billion, up from $66.9 billion, while average refunds have climbed $97, to $2,292.
Last week, the Treasury predicted that because of last year's tax cut, average refunds would be $300 higher than they otherwise would have been. Between higher refunds and lower tax payments this filing season, taxpayers should have an added $50 billion, Bush predicted.
Treasury spokeswoman Tara Bradshaw stressed that the $300 estimate was not an attempt to predict average refund levels this year compared with last year. And she said most taxpayers have yet to file returns.
But independent economists have said the levels are markedly off predictions. L. Douglas Lee, who publishes the Economics From Washington newsletter, said last week that refunds in the first six weeks of tax season were up $6.5 billion, "substantially less" than most estimates, which expected increases of $20 billion to $30 billion.
Have you noticed the pattern in which administration estimates on just about anything are always (a) way off; and (b) way off in a direction that favors the administration? Random errors would be sometimes up, sometimes down. People, wake up.
President Bush's fiscal 2005 budget proposals would reduce the deficit over the next five years, the Congressional Budget Office said Friday, but at the expense of an enormous increase in red ink in the following five years.
Bush had pledged that his plan would cut the annual deficit in half in five years, and White House projections of the effects of his proposals suggested he would meet that goal. The CBO estimated that the Bush budget would fall slightly short of that 50% reduction.
And although the White House did not project what the deficit would be after five years, the CBO — Congress' nonpartisan fiscal analyst — did. The CBO found that the annual deficit would remain greater than $200 billion through 2014. For the 10 years beginning in 2005, the cumulative deficit would total $2.75 trillion.
"In short," Bixby said, "these numbers do not support the administration's assertion that it has a plan to cut the deficit in half over five years. Worse yet, even under this scenario, the deficit is beginning to rise at the end of the 10-year outlook — just as the [baby] boomers begin their retirement.
"If we follow this path, we will have done nothing to prepare for the enormous fiscal challenge of the demographic tidal wave," Bixby said. "In fact, the strategy behind this budget appears to be, 'Here comes the tidal wave. Let's all go for a swim.' "
Friday, February 27, 2004
At approximately 8:48 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001, the first pictures of the burning World Trade Center were broadcast on live television. The news anchors, reporters, and viewers had little idea what had happened in lower Manhattan, but there were some people who did know.
By that time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon, the White House, the Secret Service, and Canada's Strategic Command all knew that three commercial airplanes had been hijacked. They knew that one plane had been flown deliberately into the World Trade Center's North Tower; a second plane was wildly off course and also heading toward Manhattan; and a third plane had abruptly turned around over Ohio and was flying back toward Washington, D.C.
So why, at 9:03 a.m. - fifteen minutes after it was clear the United States was under terrorist attack - did President Bush sit down with a classroom of second-graders and begin a 20-minute pre-planned photo op? No one knows the answer to that question. In fact, no one has even asked Bush about it.
Bush's actions on September 11 have been the subject of lively debate, mostly on the internet. Details reported that day and in the week after the attacks - both the media reports and accounts given by Bush himself - have changed radically over the past 18 months. Culling hundreds of reports from newspapers, magazines, and the internet has only made finding the "truth" of what happened and when it happened more confusing. In the changed political climate after 9/11, few have dared raise challenging questions about Bush's actions. A journalist who said Bush was "flying around the country like a scared child, seeking refuge in his mother's bed after having a nightmare" and another who said Bush "skedaddled" were fired. We should have a concise record of where President Bush was throughout the day the US was attacked, but we do not.
What follows is an attempt to give the most complete account of Bush's actions - from Florida to Louisiana to Nebraska to Washington, D.C.
This is a remarkably complete analysis of Bush's actions on that fateful day. Perhaps it's time to raise those challenging questions once again.
"The worst president in our lifetime" is how many Americans view George W. Bush.
But Bush is not merely the worst president in recent memory. He's the worst in all US history. And he's won the distinction not on a weakness or two, but in at least nine separate categories, giving him a triple trifecta.
It's a record unmatched by any previous president.
Let's count the ways:
TRIFECTA ONE: Economy, Environment, Education
TRIFECTA TWO: Corruption, Constitution, Global Contempt
TRIFECTA THREE: Military madness, Messianic delusion, Macho Matricide
Much more could be said. These modest nine points omit Bush's attacks on organized labor, health insurance, retirement benefits, renewable energy and much much more.
But if you ever have a pinge of doubt about Shrub being the worst president ever, just repeat the phrase "Triple Trifecta" three times. Then go out and organize, organize, organize.
The author of this must-read article expands on each of his nine categories. It is astonishing to observe what a miserable failure this administration has been, and over such a broad range of policy areas. Incompetence and arrogance certainly make a displeasing combination, n'est-ce pas?
Record-breaking federal budget deficits, the war in Iraq, the rising cost of health care and fears about losing Social Security benefits also was on the minds of the Democratic electorate [in this month's Michigan primary election].
"The only reason I don't like Bush is he's done things that are too radical for me," said Harold H. Havens, a 52-year-old Bridgeport Township resident who receives disability payments. "I don't believe in the huge tax cut he put out, because I don't see how you can continue to pay for the programs you want."
Louvenia Colvin, 68, a retired chemical worker from Buena Vista Township, voted for Kerry because "we need more focus on health benefits and prescription drugs."
Bush has "wrecked this country," said an angry Robert DeCoa, a GM tool-and-die worker from Tuscola County's Fremont Township. "He's lied. ... He's the worst president we have ever had."
DeCoa, who chose Kerry, listed a litany of issues from health care to the ballooning budget deficit for his wrath.
"Almost everyone has mentioned the arrogance of the current president," said Kathleen Packard, a county Democratic Party official who worked the polls Saturday. "They're ready to vote."
I'm not sure if our government thinks we're retarded or if it is simply filled with retarded people. Either way there are an odd number of chromosomes involved in the governing of our country. Last week, the White House released the Economic Report of the President. This report, written by Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors N. Gregory Mankiw, is presented to Congress every year and is meant to discuss the health of the United States economy.
One part of this report attempted to address the 2.6 million manufacturing jobs our country has lost during Mr. Bush's tenure. The report discussed many potential reasons for the loss of manufacturing jobs, and a number of solutions for the problem, but one seemed to stick out in particular. The report states that the definition of a manufacturing job is not "straightforward," and should be updated. Then, it suggests we re-define manufacturing jobs to include fast food workers as manufacturing, instead of service, employees. The report argues that, "When a fast-food restaurant sells a hamburger, for example, is it providing a 'service' or is it combining inputs to 'manufacture' a product?"
My God, and the inspiration for the name of this column, David Cross, said it best, when he said: "There is a very strong possibility George W. Bush may go down in history as the worst President we've ever had. And I don't mean in a Millard Fillmore kind of way." What he meant was that Bush won't be viewed by history as a bad President because he has a funny name or because he's obscure. Mr. Bush will be remembered as a bad President because he's sneaky and dishonest. He's like a kid on the last day of school taking whatever he wants and knowing he can't get in trouble because school is over. And the worst part about it is, he thinks he's robbing the special ed class.
There is nothing to hate about George W. Bush. He is one of our nation’s sons, and as such we love him. But he has a problem.
He is a sick person, incapable of being honest. If you give him the nation’s credit cards, he runs them up to the max immediately. If you give him the nation’s car keys, he takes it on a wild joyride all over the planet, crashing it again and again, hurting lots of people and doing great, expensive damage to the car. And if you give him the keys to the nation’s house, you come back to find it trashed, things broken, prized things that you held dear stolen.
This, simply, is who and what our President is. The nation’s credit cards are maxed out, and of course we get excuse after excuse of how he will pay it all back down the road, the magical job – or in this case jobs – that he will get… someday. The nation’s all-terrain vehicle is stuck in the sand over in the Middle East, and the repair bill gets bigger and bigger. Even worse, we trusted George and let him take the car to the repair shop he recommended, one run by one of his friends, and we are getting bilked there and the car isn’t getting fixed. And prized things like basic constitutional rights and separation of church and state are missing from our house.
As an American son, the nation will likely never stop loving George W. Bush. But at some point they need to deal with the reality, that this child is the nation’s problem child. We should give him all the love we have, let him know we love him and always will, but take back the damned car keys, credit cards, and keys to the house. This is the child that we have to show our love for by throwing him out of the house.
Now, junior, behave yourself!
Congressman [Jerrold] Nadler's [D-NJ] statement on the matter follows:
Mr. Chairman, this is a cover up. Plain and simple. Someone in the Bush Administration deliberately disclosed the identity of a CIA operative. If the President really wanted to find out who did this, he would call a meeting and demand to know who did it. The person would be fired immediately (I hope), justice could take its course, and the issue would be resolved.
Revealing the identity of a covert agent is a serious criminal matter. It endangers lives. It is indefenseable for this committee to turn a blind eye. We need to know who committed this national security crime. I don’t know why any member would oppose this resolution. I don’t know why any member would not want to get the facts in this case. If we reject this resolution, we risk sending the message that Members of Congress are complicit in working with the Administration on a cover up. I don’t want to send that signal. And I can’t imagine any member of this committee would want to send that message either.
That is why we must support this resolution and do our job to perform oversight of the Department of Justice on matters of serious national concern.
We know from Robert Novak himself, who wrote the published article, that "two senior administration officials" gave him the information. It appears that the Bush Administration is hiding the identity of these criminals in their midst. We don’t know why. We can only speculate. It may be difficult to conceive of who would be willing to perform such a serious criminal act. But if those people are "senior officials," it is even more important that they, who presumably have considerable power and influence, be brought to justice. During the war on terror, we cannot afford to have criminals who reveal our sources or put lives in jeopardy working at the highest levels of power.
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Before George W. Bush's political operatives started pounding on John Kerry for voting against certain weapons systems during his years in the Senate, they should have taken a look at this quotation:
"After completing 20 planes for which we have begun procurement, we will shut down further production of the B-2 bomber. We will cancel the small ICBM program. We will cease production of new warheads for our sea-based ballistic missiles. We will stop all new production of the Peacekeeper [MX] missile. And we will not purchase any more advanced cruise missiles. … The reductions I have approved will save us an additional $50 billion over the next five years. By 1997 we will have cut defense by 30 percent since I took office."
The speaker was President George H.W. Bush, the current president's father, in his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 1992.
They should also have looked up some testimony by Dick Cheney, the first President Bush's secretary of defense (and now vice president), three days later, boasting of similar slashings before the Senate Armed Services Committee:
"Overall, since I've been Secretary, we will have taken the five-year defense program down by well over $300 billion. That's the peace dividend. … And now we're adding to that another $50 billion … of so-called peace dividend."
Cheney proceeded to lay into the then-Democratically controlled Congress for refusing to cut more weapons systems.
"Congress has let me cancel a few programs. But you've squabbled and sometimes bickered and horse-traded and ended up forcing me to spend money on weapons that don't fill a vital need in these times of tight budgets and new requirements. … You've directed me to buy more M-1s, F-14s, and F-16s—all great systems … but we have enough of them."
The Republican operatives might also have noticed Gen. Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the same hearings, testifying about plans to cut Army divisions by one-third, Navy aircraft carriers by one-fifth, and active armed forces by half a million men and women, to say noting of "major reductions" in fighter wings and strategic bombers.
Granted, these reductions were made in the wake of the Soviet Union's dissolution and the Cold War's demise. But that's just the point: Proposed cuts must be examined in context. A vote against a particular weapons system doesn't necessarily indicate indifference toward national defense.
This is the way that Bushes run for president when they fall behind: They plunge us into culture wars.
It was only when Poppy Bush fell behind Michael Dukakis in the summer of '88 that he made an issue of Willie Horton and the Pledge of Allegiance. It was only when George W. fell behind John McCain in the winter of 2000 that he went to Bob Jones University to align himself with the old white South.
And now the president has fallen behind John Kerry. Abruptly, it is the season of doctored photos showing Kerry alongside Jane Fonda, of Internet and Murdoch-media rumor campaigns about affairs that never were. Like father, like son; like Atwater, like Rove; no one spreads sewage quite like the Bushes.
The White House is opposing addition of gun show and assault weapons restrictions to a bill shielding firearms makers and dealers from lawsuits, prompting angry complaints from Democrats that President Bush is reneging on earlier support for the two proposals.
In a statement Tuesday evening, the White House urged passage of the lawsuits measure without amendments that might delay its enactment. "Any amendment that would delay enactment of the bill beyond this year is unacceptable," the statement said. Democrats interpreted this as an effort to undermine support for the gun-control measures.
"For the president to say he is for the assault weapons ban but then act against it is a flip-flop if there ever was one," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of several sponsors of the assault weapons proposal in the Senate.
Democrats said Bush endorsed a continuation of the controls on assault weapons during his 2000 campaign and has also indicated he supports legislation to require criminal background checks at gun shows.
Hoping to mollify its critics, the Bush administration said Wednesday that it would conduct a yearlong study of how prescription drugs might be safely imported from Canada. But it then infuriated the critics by selecting Dr. Mark B. McClellan, the commissioner of food and drugs, to lead the study.
Dr. McClellan has adamantly opposed any relaxation of the rules barring drug imports. He says such imports would be unsafe, and his agency has threatened legal action against cities and states that help people import Canadian drugs.
"It's like putting the fox in charge of the chicken house," Mr. Dorgan said. "Dr. McClellan has clearly made up his mind not to allow importation and has done everything in his power to stop it."
A spokeswoman for Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who like Mr. Dorgan has long been involved in the issue of drug imports from Canada, said he believed that the administration should have chosen "a more objective person."
They don't know any objective people.
Richard N. Perle, a prominent advisor to the Bush administration known for his hawkish views, has resigned from the Defense Policy Board, saying he wanted to avoid being a lightning rod for criticism of the administration during an election year.
Perle submitted his resignation from the board — a bipartisan advisory group with no decision-making power — in a Feb. 18 letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
"We are now approaching a long presidential election campaign, in the course of which issues on which I have strong views will be widely discussed and debated," Perle wrote. "I would not wish those views to be attributed to you or the president at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign."
Perle really puts the "chicken" in "chickenhawk", doesn't he? It sounds like he's afraid to try to defend his own views.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said Wednesday that he would block legislation to extend the deadline for a commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — a serious setback to the panel, which also on Wednesday expressed disappointment over limits on its access to President Bush and other administration officials.
The commission also put out a statement Wednesday pointing to new difficulties in its efforts to interview Bush and other White House officials.
Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have agreed to meet privately with the co-chairmen of the commission, but are not willing to meet with all 10 members of the panel.
"We hope the president and the vice president will reconsider," the co-chairmen, former Republican New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean and former Democratic Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, said in the statement.
President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore have agreed to sit down with the full commission.
Asked why Bush and Cheney objected to meeting with the full commission, Healy said: "There are lots of ways in which they can share information, and we felt this was the best way to do that. We're confident the chair and the vice chair can share the information with the rest of the commission."
Previously, the administration had restricted access to classified White House briefing materials to a few members of the panel.
The commission also said Wednesday that national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, who recently met privately with the commission, had declined an invitation to testify in public. "We are disappointed by this decision," Kean and Hamilton said.
The United States Constitution has not been amended to address the rights of citizens in 33 years. Like other adjustments, the 26th Amendment expanded those rights -- in that case, of 18-year-olds to vote. It is a sad day when the president of the United States supports restricting civil rights in the Constitution simply to deny equal justice to Americans who happen to be gay or lesbian.
Luckily, it is not easy to amend the Constitution. It requires a two-thirds vote of Congress and 38 states to ratify. The Founders knew something Bush has forgotten: that the essential truths of our nation should be shielded from the heat of emotion or the imperatives of political campaigns.
Bush argues that court actions in Massachusetts have sown confusion, requiring federal clarity. But what is the crisis, exactly? Gay and lesbian couples want to participate in a fundamentally conservative institution. It is Bush and fellow opponents who are creating confusion and crisis by appealing to base prejudice, distracting voters from other concerns and fighting the inevitable tide of justice that will eventually embrace us all.
Those now supporting this mean-spirited proposal will look in later years like those who tried to keep African-Americans out of sports (and the military) look now.
Lawmakers who represent Massachusetts in Congress unanimously oppose a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, calling the proposal a political ploy that would codify discrimination and diminish the integrity of the Constitution.
"The real threat here is not to the institution of marriage. The real threat here is to the Constitution of the United States," said Representative William Delahunt, Democrat of Quincy.
Representative John Olver, Democrat of Amherst, agreed, saying the proposed amendment would "enshrine discrimination in our basic law."
Representative Martin Meehan, Democrat of Lowell, predicted there was "no way" the proposal would get through Congress.
"This is demagoging at best by the Republicans. Even people who will vote in favor of this constitutional amendment recognize the fact that in 10 years, the vote will be an embarrassment," Meehan said.
Said Representative Edward Markey, Democrat of Malden: "You can absolutely smell the White House political machine overriding any policy concerns that might be raised by more moderate Republicans."
You say you'll change the Constitution - well, you know, we all want to change your head.
President Bush should be greeted with protests not pleasantries when he comes to Ireland in June according to Labour Dublin Euro election candidate Ivana Bacik.
"President Bush will visit Ireland in June as our Presidency of the EU draws to an end. Unlike the Taoiseach I do not think that George Bush's visit is "an honour" for Ireland. George Bush's period in the Oval office has been deeply destructive. He has unleashed an illegal war upon the Iraqi people, flouted the fundamental principles of international law and undermined the authority and standing of the UN. For these, and many other reasons, President Bush should be greeted with protests, not pleasantries, when he arrives in Ireland."
"Bush's visit is timed to be of maximum benefit to him in the forthcoming presidential election. A similar stunt was employed by Ronald Reagan when he visited Ireland the summer before the 1984 presidential election. However, the mass protests that greeted Reagan across Ireland that summer upset the plans of the Whitehouse image makers. I for one don't want to see Ireland used as some sentimental backdrop in advance of Bush's re-election campaign and believe that the vast majority of people are of a similar mind."
"Just over twelve months ago tens of thousands of people took to the streets to express their opposition and outrage at the illegal war in Iraq. It was a magnificent event that clearly demonstrated the power of public demonstration. Bush's disregard for human rights and international law continues unabated. A similar public expression of our opposition to his debased foreign policy would be fitting when he arrives on our shores," concluded Ivana.
I don't remember hearing this kind of comment when Bill Clinton was president.
But when it comes to the wounded, an astonishing situation has arisen: the Pentagon's figures clash wildly with those of the US Army.
The Pentagon lists 2,604 wounded in action and just 408 "non-hostile wounded".
But the Army says many thousands more have been medically evacuated from the conflict zone.
Why the discrepancy? Well, the Pentagon doesn't count as victims soldiers who come back with brain injuries or psychiatric disorders, those hit by friendly fire or those who've crashed in their military vehicles.
You could call them "the missing wounded" of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Some suspect the government's been deliberately massaging the figures.
If the US government was to admit to the true human cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the wounded as well as the dead, then how many Americans would support George Bush and his war?
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Our newspapers and TV news have been full of reports lately on how the Bush administration "cherry-picked" intelligence to shore up the various claims it was making as it prepared for a long-desired, long-planned invasion of Iraq. As it turns out, though, that wasn't all it was cherry-picking. This week a group of 60 eminent scientists, 20 Nobel laureates among them, issued a statement through the Union of Concerned Scientists on the way this administration has cherry-picked its science as well to support its various industry backers and cash cows (all stark raving mad).
In the most recent Nation magazine, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who some months back wrote the single best account I've seen of the Bush assault on the environment, penned a hair-raising new report on Bush science in the raw, included below, in which he concluded:
"Today, flat-earthers within the Bush Administration - aided by right-wing allies who have produced assorted hired guns and conservative think tanks to further their goals - are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition. Sometimes, rather than suppress good science, they simply order up their own. Meanwhile, the Bush White House is purging, censoring and blacklisting scientists and engineers whose work threatens the profits of the Administration's corporate paymasters or challenges the ideological underpinnings of their radical anti-environmental agenda. Indeed, so extreme is this campaign that more than sixty scientists, including Nobel laureates and medical experts, released a statement on February 18 that accuses the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific fact 'for partisan political ends'"
On no subject, perhaps, has this administration gone further in flattening the earth and then threatening to push the rest of us off of it than in the way it's protected the worst global warmers on the planet, the people who want us to use all their oil all the time.
The Bush administration's recurring separation from reality has led some to wonder if it suffers from a kind of "psychosis." Hans von Sponeck, former UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, pondered this possibility while commenting about Bush's State of the Union speech during an interview on the radio program "Democracy Now."
"My immediate reaction is that there is truly a frightening disconnect between the rhetoric of President Bush and the reality, as it exists, as we see it, as you know it, as we know it in Europe, as the Iraqis know it, the reality outside the White House," von Sponeck said. "I would say that President Bush's assessment of that reality is really deeply, deeply flawed. One is presented with facts which really are fantasies, very, very dangerous fantasies. One wonders whether there is an element of psychosis here in the White House."
Von Sponeck said Bush's failure to deal with the real world extends to his understanding of the present political situation in Iraq and what is signified when 100,000 people march through the streets of Baghdad demanding "free elections, not forced selections." Also, von Sponeck said Bush is lacking realism when he insists that the Iraqi insurgency consists of "only a few remnants of a thug called Saddam Hussein, and foreign terrorists." To the contrary, von Sponeck said, "the anger is widespread. And it's getting wider and wider every day."
Very few members of the U.S. political or media establishments seem willing to draw the obvious conclusion: that the Bush administration either lied repeatedly to justify the invasion of Iraq or that top officials of the U.S. government are living in a fantasy world.
[You can listen to the "Democracy Now" program featuring von Sponeck on the Pacifica web site.]
Fiscal responsibility is a trendy concept these days in Washington. For instance, in the FY2005 budget the White House says "the Government must exercise fiscal responsibility by limiting spending growth, focusing on the results of Government programs, and cutting wasteful spending." And now, congressional Republicans are "exploring" how to curtail spending more than President Bush has proposed. All this newfound rhetoric about fiscal responsibility is welcome. But as Ronald Reagan said, "Trust but verify."
President Bush's previous budgets increased spending dramatically, but the administration is arguing that much of the recent increase in nondefense spending stems from higher homeland security spending. Whether or not this is correct, the fact that overall spending has risen so rapidly indicates that no serious trade-offs are being made in the budget. If the administration and Congress want more security spending they should find significant savings elsewhere in the budget.
And that's what this budget is supposedly doing, mostly by imposing limits on the growth of non-homeland nondefense spending. But the portion of the budget Bush wants to restrain represents a ridiculously small portion -- $386 billion -- of the $2.4 trillion budget. In other words, these spending limits are rather meaningless, akin to speed limits in a school zone that only apply to one-sixth of the cars.
These numbers are based on Budget Authority, the amount of spending that Congress authorizes each year. The figure that matters, by contrast, is the actual amount the government is spending, which is measured by outlays. The administration has deliberately chosen a less accurate measure of the growing burden of government to camouflage its dismal fiscal track record.
And isn't that just like them?
After putting Social Security reform on the back burner for several years, President Bush is making a new push for a plan that would let workers divert part of their payroll taxes into personal savings accounts. Bush touted the proposal in his State of the Union address and again in his economic report to Congress this month.
From the way supporters describe it, the concept is simple and appealing. Workers would invest a portion of their Social Security taxes into stocks and bonds that typically yield higher returns than the current government-managed system. What's more, they say, the step is crucial in saving Social Security from insolvency as 75 million baby boomers retire during the coming years.
But much like a miracle weight-loss plan that promises stunning results without diet or exercise, the proposals to create private accounts avoid the difficult reforms required to ensure Social Security's long-term financial health: reduced benefits, higher taxes or a combination of the two.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised when Bush ignores the findings of his own commission, since he has already made up his "mind".
The first thing Democrats must do is to stop asking, "Where is Osama bin Laden?" and to start asking, "Why is it taking the administration so long to capture Osama bin Laden?" The difference is subtle but important: the capture of bin Laden can easily render the first question moot, but not the second question.
By constantly harping on the delay in the capture of bin Laden and making that the focus of criticism rather than merely pointing to the failure to capture him so far, Democrats can not only protect themselves politically if and when bin Laden is captured, but can steadily push the much stronger and less vulnerable argument that had bin Laden been nabbed earlier, his terrorist network would have been decapitated when it had the one head to decapitate. Now, more than two years after September 11, with bin Laden and his closest associates in deep hiding but still on the loose, the al-Qaeda network has morphed into an even more lethal multi-headed hydra and has adopted a far more decentralized modus of operation, and worse, has had time to acquire skills for survival that make it much harder to disrupt, let alone destroy.
Democrats need to stir the counterfactual imagination of the electorate by asking them to imagine where we would be today had the 200,000 soldiers that have seen action in Iraq been deployed in Afghanistan. Where would we be today if the billions of dollars poured into the invasion and occupation of Iraq had been spent on stabilizing Afghanistan, a place where the Taliban are, incredibly, not only on the move, but on the ascent? Where would we be today had the administration cultivated the good will and the spirit of cooperation extended to the United States by the rest of the world after September 11, and had used that capital to wage with the world community a relentless campaign against international terrorism?
Now, attacking Kerry for voting for the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind is fair game, as he has entirely waffled on those issues. But what you see here is the President’s inability to stick to facts if they are not good enough for the sales pitch he wants to make.
And this, as we have pointed out throughout the election, is what should be – indeed must, if anyone would unseat the President – the central issue of this campaign: President Bush’s constant dishonesty. It is about character and integrity. The situation in Iraq could stabilize, the economy turn around, and Osama could be caught, and still President Bush must be replaced because he is entirely without integrity and lies on a constant basis purely for self-promotion.
Throughout the last Presidential election cycle, the nation sat there while Gore took Bush on on the issues, but Bush took on Gore’s character, calling him a serial exaggerator, waffler, etc. People don’t like debating the issues so much, because one side says their tax plan is better, the other the same, and very few people want to spend the time going into the details. So policy criticisms often are ineffective.
Character attacks, on the other hand, are indeed the issue. A President can change his stand on an issue, but he can’t change the fact that he is a liar or a waffler or indecisive.
So there it is, the first time President Bush publicly and openly joins the campaign fracas, and the first thing out of his mouth is a string of provable lies and exaggerations. It was a perfect opportunity to hammer his lack of integrity from the get go, to draw the parallel between his lying yesterday, his lying to lead us into war in Iraq, his dishonest Clear Skies environmental policies, and lay out for the people what you know is coming, a campaign that will highlight again and again the simple fact that President Bush is a horribly dishonest man.
The very point I try to demonstrate every single day.
Gracing the cover of the Feb. 16 issue of Time Magazine were two pictures of George W. Bush accompanied by the question, "Does Bush Have a Credibility Gap?"
As if on cue, the Bush administration has come forward with a resounding affirmative.
In the days since the magazine cover ran, controversy surrounding Bush's questionable military record has exploded, and Bush's own administration has, according to CNN, had to retract the president's guarantee of 2.6 million new jobs in the next year.
Most recently, the Los Angeles Times has reported that a group of scientists (including 12 Nobel Prize winners) has accused the Bush administration of manipulating scientific research for political ends.
To lie about one's military history may offend fellow soldiers, but to revise published Center for Disease Control findings to "raise doubts about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS," as the Union of Concerned Scientists' report alleges the Bush administration has done, could, quite literally, kill people.
Many of Bush's policies threaten the lives of Americans. But which Americans?
Much of the world sees President George W. Bush as a persona non grata. Unilateral actions, false intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and scandals from Halliburton to the president's National Guard service are giving America and its president a bad name. A raft of offensive statements by top diplomats have left the president with a major international image problem.
President Bush's latest boast--"I'm a war president"--was apparently meant to demonstrate his guts in an election year. But for many nations, his statement constituted an outright threat. In the aftermath of the Kay report on WMDs (or lack thereof) in Iraq, foreign editorials have railed against a strategy of ends justifies the means in bringing about regime changes that respond to U.S. interests.
Given that the United States is not currently involved in a formal war, the president's bellicose language--"I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind"--has set other nations, allies and foes alike, on edge. Around the world, the administration's approach to international affairs has governments and their citizens feeling alienated and apprehensive.
Sadly, as global hostility grows, we could all be painted with the same brush.
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
The Sierra Club yesterday called on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to remove himself from a case involving the vice president, because of a "troubling" hunting trip the two men took last month. Until now, only outside groups have complained that the vacation, hosted by an energy executive, may have compromised Scalia's impartiality in considering whether names and details of Dick Cheney's energy task force must be released.
The Sierra Club, which had sued to get the information, said Scalia should stay out of the case "to redress an appearance of impropriety and to restore public confidence in the integrity of our nation's highest court."
Scalia has said there was nothing improper about the trip he took with Cheney three weeks after the Supreme Court agreed to consider the case. The two men flew together last month on a government jet to the Louisiana hunting camp of a multimillionaire oil-services tycoon.
Twenty of the country's 30 largest newspapers have called on Scalia to recuse himself, the Sierra Club said in the filing.
Evidently Scalia doesn't listen to "focus groups".
President Bush last week caused a stir when he declined to endorse a projection, made by his own Council of Economic Advisers, that the economy would add 2.6 million jobs this year. But that forecast, derided as wildly optimistic, was one of the more modest predictions the administration has made about the economy over the past three years.
Two years ago, the administration forecast that there would be 3.4 million more jobs in 2003 than there were in 2000. And it predicted a budget deficit for fiscal 2004 of $14 billion. The economy ended up losing 1.7 million jobs over that period, and the budget deficit for this year is on course to be $521 billion.
These are not isolated cases. Over three years, the administration has repeatedly and significantly overstated the government's fiscal health and the number of jobs the economy would create, but economists and politicians disagree about why.
The Energy Department said Monday that it was suspending its proposal to have the contractors who run nuclear weapons plants take charge of planning for how to ensure worker safety.
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an oversight body created by Congress, had complained that the proposal could wipe out 50 years of rule making.
Spencer Abraham, the energy secretary, said in a letter to the chairman of the board that the department would work with the board to redraft the rule and that "any final rule will reflect my policy that safety standards will not be written by contractors." Mr. Abraham said the department would continue to seek a new rule that safety plans be reviewed by its headquarters, not field offices.
Every now and then we win one.
Pentagon officials say they do not expect to be able to provide space for representatives of human rights advocacy groups to observe any military tribunals at the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, prompting complaints from those groups that the military is trying to shut out potential critics.
In letters last week to Amnesty International, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch, a senior military official said it was unlikely that they would be allowed to attend any military tribunals at Guantánamo. The official, Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Hemingway, a chief legal adviser in the office of military commissions, wrote that space would be limited if and when tribunals were held at Guantánamo.
"It is expected that limited courtroom seating and other logistical issues will preclude attendance by many who desire to observe military commission proceedings," he wrote.
General Hemingway noted that there would be seats for the news media as well as for representatives of the International Red Cross.
Last Friday, the groups wrote to the defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, asking him to reconsider the matter, saying, "There can be no legitimate governmental reason for denying our access to the proceedings."
Wendy Patten, a Washington representative of Human Rights Watch, said Monday that the reasons given were implausible and that the groups should be entitled to at least one seat that they could rotate among themselves. She noted that the Bush administration had defended itself from critics of the possible tribunals by saying that the proceedings were to be open to wide scrutiny.
Wendy, that was what they said. This is what they're doing. There's a world of difference.
The Pentagon said Monday it had opened a criminal investigation into a subsidiary of Halliburton over allegations of overcharging for fuel delivered to Iraq.
The fraud investigation focuses on Halliburton subsidiary KBR, formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root, a Pentagon spokeswoman said.
"The Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the criminal investigative arm of the inspector general's office, is investigating allegations on the part of KBR of fraud, including the potential overpricing of fuel delivered to Baghdad by a KBR subcontractor," she said.
Halliburton, an oil services company based in Houston, is the biggest contractor for the U.S. military in Iraq.
The contracts have drawn intense scrutiny from Democrats because of the firm's ties to Vice President Dick Cheney, who ran the company from 1995 to 2000.
And it's still the same old Halliburton.
Earlier this year, First Lady Laura Bush formed an unusual alliance with the White House National Security Council to fund a new state-of-the-art children's hospital in Iraq.
But rather than being embraced as a welcome addition to a nation with a shattered healthcare system, the proposed hospital has quietly become a battleground.
Critics have questioned not only the wisdom of a high-end hospital in a country without basic healthcare, but the politics behind the proposal. The hospital would be operated under the guidance of Project Hope, a charity whose president is a Bush family acquaintance from Texas.
The clash, believed to be one of the few between the White House and Congress over a specific reconstruction project, has left the National Security Council bargaining for the hospital's fate and legislators questioning the administration's overall plan to rebuild Iraq.
Congressional staffers who reviewed the proposal expressed skepticism about whether it was better to fund a high-end medical facility or pay for basic public health measures such as clean water and vaccinations.
Sounds like Laura should stick to her knitting.
Monday, February 23, 2004
"His teeth were there," says the gently mocking Web page. "Was he?"
The teeth - and the now-famous dental chart - belong to George W. Bush, who as president continues to fend off questions about his National Guard service.
On Monday, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau offered a $10,000 reward in his syndicated newspaper comic strip for anyone who "personally witnessed" Bush reporting for drills at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Alabama between May and November 1972. Trudeau explains in strips later this week - and on his Web site, doonesbury.com - that the reward money will be given to the USO in the witness's name.
"Sounds like a stunt worthy of a comic strip," Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson said Monday.
Well, he is sort of a cartoon president.
Move over, Howard Dean. Piece by piece the Bush administration is self-cannibalizing, offering future administrations a detailed tutorial on political implosion. Each week brings another misstep, another miscalculation, another boneheaded move.
Yet there may be more in play than the sum of individual missteps and riddled credibility. There may also be a growing kind of gestalt thing happening at the White House in which the systematic correction of specific missteps will have little positive effect. What I suspect [Republican operative] Tony Blankley was thinking during his "Hardball" appearance, and might have come close to uttering had the host permitted elaboration, is that for conservatives, quite simply, George W Bush is becoming an embarrassment.
Once that emotion takes root among the base, there isn't much a president can do in the way of lancing it. In fact, the more conscious steps Bush takes to overcome the embarrassment he's inflicted on himself and his party, the more self-conscious the process seems and the more obvious the embarrassment's original cause becomes. Again, I reference the National Guard fiasco.
The effect is political quicksand: The harder Bush struggles to free himself, the deeper he'll sink. The Tony Blankleys of the Republican Party likely are sinking into a daunting realization as well. They're stuck and they feel it. They had a winner who could do no wrong; now they have a guy who realistically cannot do anything right.
Although the Bush administration is hardly the first to politicize science, no administration in recent memory has so shamelessly distorted scientific findings for policy reasons or suppressed them when they conflict with political goals. This is the nub of an indictment delivered last week by more than 60 prominent scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates. Their statement was accompanied by a report published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, listing cases where the administration has manipulated science on environmental and other issues.
President Bush's supporters promptly denounced the statement and the report as an overdrawn and politically motivated work issued in an election year by an advocacy group known for its liberal disposition. Tellingly, however, neither Mr. Bush's friends nor the White House denied that any of the incidents listed in the report — all had been reported before in newspapers, trade magazines and scientific journals — had occurred. The best they could muster was a lame rejoinder from Dr. John Marburger III, Mr. Bush's science adviser, who said that these were disconnected episodes reflecting normal bureaucratic disagreements, none of them adding up to a "a pattern" of distortion or disrespect for science.
We respectfully urge Dr. Marburger to look again. On global warming alone, the administration belittled, misrepresented, altered or quashed multiple reports suggesting a clear link between greenhouse gas emissions and the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. A study detailing the impact of mercury emissions from power plants was sanitized to industry specifications. Another study suggesting that a Congressional clean-air bill would achieve greater pollution reductions than Mr. Bush's own plan, at approximately the same cost, was withheld. It does not take much effort to find a pattern of suppressing inconvenient facts that might force Mr. Bush's friends in the oil, gas and coal industries to spend more on pollution control.
The report details similar shenanigans involving other agencies, including Agriculture, Interior and even, on reproductive health issues, the Centers for Disease Control. It also criticizes the administration for stacking advisory committees with industry representatives and disbanding panels that provided unwanted advice. Collected in one place, this material gives a portrait of governmentwide insensitivity to scientific standards that, unless corrected, will further undermine the administration's credibility and the morale of its scientists.
On the one hand is George W. Bush, the self-described "war president" who never experienced war firsthand. His father's influence helped him avoid service in Vietnam. Thirty-five years later, he's become one of those gray-haired men of every generation who, somewhere on this ravaged blue globe, send other people's children off to kill or be killed for one cause or another.
On the other hand is John Kerry, who surrounds himself with Vietnam veterans and wears the mantle of war hero.
Had we gone looking for the single middle-Eastern nation with the fewest ties to al-Qaida, we could hardly have done better than to choose Iraq.
Likewise, claims of weapons of mass destruction were twisted and exaggerated, as were claims about how we would be received, how we would pay for the war, when it would end and our strategy for leaving. Even Bush's latest budget proposal tells a whopping lie of omission by leaving out the true costs of Iraq.
This man is a pathological liar. What else can you conclude?
What the spin-miesters are avoiding, however, is the beta-star in the Bush constellation of lies: Lt. Bush's "missed" flight physical and subsequent suspension from flying. It is not spin-able because Bush, unwisely and uncharacteristically, told an itsy-bitsy white lie about the flight physical that was so disingenuous and transparent that it has now become an egregious damn-lie. Bush flippantly explained that he did not comply with the requirement to get his flight physical because his personal physician was not available. Pants on fire!
Lt. Bush lost his qualification to fly the F-102 when he failed to take his flight physical in July of 1972 and was suspended from flying the next month, August 1972. This is the most salient point of Bush's short, and oh-so-sweet, service record. As a former military pilot and airline captain, I can only imagine the reasons for not taking a mandatory flight physical, and none of those reasons are pretty.
Why did Lt. Bush, apparently on his own, decide not to submit to a mandatory flight physical and incur a suspension from the flying that he told Tim Russert on Meet the Press (February 8, 2004) he "loved"? There is no record that Lt. Bush ever obtained the medical qualification required by regulations, nor is there any record of Bush ever flying a military sortie after his suspension in mid-1972.
The missed flight physical becomes the crux of Lt. Bush's problems with his guard service. Why would TANG want him back in the unit if he were not qualified to fly? Why would AANG take him, even into a non-flying billet, given that he had, de facto, disobeyed an order to take a flight physical? Submission to the annual flight physical, required of all pilots operating under the auspices and regulations of the air force (as was TANG), was not an option; it was a mandate. In July 1972, by skipping his flight physical, Lt. Bush also failed to comply with new USAF regulations concerning mandatory drug testing.
And what conclusion can we draw from that?
So where did the fanciful 2.6 million estimate [for 2004 job creation] come from? Economic models, like opinion polls and computers, follow the same "GIGO" pattern. ("Garbage in, garbage out.") But it's easy to see where this administration might come up with this particular number, and it harkens back to Herbert Hoover.
Hoover, who presided over the beginning of the Great Depression, was the last American president who actually lost jobs on his watch; fewer Americans were working at the end of his term than at the beginning. Bush & Co. are now poised to wrest that distinction from Mr. Hoover; roughly 2.2 million jobs have been lost since Mr. Bush took office.
A gain of 2.6 million would, however slightly, offset that loss and allow Mr. Bush to avoid being saddled with this damning accomplishment. Unfortunately, job creation requires more than wishful thinking, and there's no evidence those in power are rethinking the failed economic policies that produced the problem in the first place. Nor, of course, does the issue of job creation alone address the further problems confronted by unemployed Americans - such as the quality of the jobs created, or the benefits offered by those jobs.
It's always interesting to see how Mr. Bush and his people attempt to deal with the nightmarish discrepancies they create. On this issue, for instance, Mr. Bush assures us "I'm not a statistician. I'm not a predictor." That leaves other, less flattering, alternatives, but you can fill in those blanks for yourself.
Ladies and gentlemen, our text for the day is this quote from the president’s campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, which appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post.
“There is a big stylistic difference going forward,” said Mehlman, “between a president who is a straight shooter, who when he says something you can put it in the bank, and an opponent who has consistently shown through this campaign that he says one thing and does something else.”
If the Democrats can’t knock this one out of the park, then they’re truly hopeless.
Of course, you’d expect me to say that. I was a critic of the president when his numbers topped 80 percent. But it’s not just me. Those falling poll numbers for the president have also been showing that his reputation as a truth-teller is on the skids, too.
According to the new CBS News poll out this week, 57 percent of registered voters think the president intentionally exaggerated the Iraq threat to build the case for war. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from late last week pegged that number at 54 percent. And the latter poll showed that only 52 percent believed Bush is “honest and trustworthy,” the worst rating the president has ever gotten on this key measure that has long been the lynchpin of his political strength.
A straight shooter?
I've never understood the "honest and trustworthy" thing. Bush's entire life has been one big lie. Going AWOL from the National Guard is just one tiny example.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
The problem today is not simply that "Bush is a liar." While only he knows whether he's intentionally saying untrue things, it is a provable fact that he says untrue things, again and again, on issues large and small, day in and day out. The problem is not "16 words" in last year's State of the Union but 160,000 words on stem cells, global warming, the "death tax," the Iraq-9/11 connection and the Saddam-al Qaeda connection, the rise of deficits, cuts to Americorps, the air in downtown Manhattan after 9/11. On and on. It is beyond controversy that W "has such a high regard for the truth," as Lincoln said of a rival, "that he uses it sparingly."
Why this penchant for falsehoods?
First, George W. Bush begins any policy consideration with three fundamental questions: What does the religious right want? What does big business want? What do the neo-conservatives want? If he has stood up to any of these core supporters in the past three years, examples don't come readily to mind. Convinced by political advisor Karl Rove that the way to a second term is to "activate the base," his policy process is more catechismic than empiric – instead of facts leading to conclusions, conclusions lead to "facts."
Second, he is openly uninterested in learning and reading – the Bushes "aren't serious, studious readers" he has said, also admitting that he now reads headlines, not articles. The point is not that he's stupid, only that he knew less about policy and the world as a presidential candidate than the average graduate student in government. Lacking Eisenhower's worldliness or JFK's intellect, however, Bush is prone to grab onto a politically useful intellectual framework like a life preserver and then not let go – whether it's Myron Magnet's sour interpretation of the 60s in The Dream and the Nightmare or Paul Wolfowitz's Pollyannaish analysis of the likely consequences of an American invasion of Iraq.
The result: the most radical, messianic and misleading presidency of modern times. Frankly, no one else comes close. It has gotten to the point that President Bush appears to believe that he can do almost anything if he says the opposite: hence "no child left behind," "clean skies law," "healthy forests," and "love the poor" are mantras repeated in the hope that he can bend reality to his will. Arthur Miller calls it "the power of audacity."
I call it "a grave and gathering danger".
Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters.
A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.
The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.
'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'
The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.
Symons said the Bush administration's close links to high-powered energy and oil companies was vital in understanding why climate change was received sceptically in the Oval Office. 'This administration is ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and oil companies,' he added.
The Bush administration liberated Iraqis 10 months ago. But it still does not trust them -- not even the 25 Iraqis chosen to help manage their country's transition to freedom. They have been rewarded for their cooperation with disdain and denigration from Washington.
The steady belittling of America's chosen allies and natural friends in Iraq sends a chilling signal throughout the Middle East, which President Bush has proclaimed to be the center of his "forward strategy of democracy."
An Egyptian or Saudi dissident tempted to take the chance of supporting Bush's vision will draw little comfort or encouragement from the treatment of Iraqi risk-takers, who are being told they are not ready to hold elections or exercise independent leadership.
Bold in its destruction of Saddam Hussein's detested dictatorship, the administration's top echelon has been timid in its creation of the political structures needed to replace the tyrant.
In the 2000 presidential election, Bill Flanagan a semiretired newspaper worker, happily voted for George W. Bush. But now, shaking his head, he vows, "Never again."
"The combination of lies and boys coming home in body bags is just too awful," Mr. Flanagan said, drinking coffee and reading newspapers at the local mall. "I could vote for Kerry. I could vote for any Democrat unless he's a real dummy."
Mr. Flanagan is hardly alone, even though polls show that the overwhelming majority of Republicans who supported Mr. Bush in 2000 will do so again in November. In dozens of random interviews around the country, independents and Republicans who said they voted for Mr. Bush in 2000 say they intend to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate this year. Some polls are beginning to bolster the idea of those kind of stirrings among Republicans and independents.
While sharing a sandwich at the stylish Beachwood Mall in this Cleveland suburb, one older couple — a judge and a teacher — reluctantly divulged their secret: though they are stalwarts in the local Republican Party, they are planning to vote Democratic this year.
"I feel like a complete traitor, and if you'd asked me four months ago, the answer would have been different," said the judge, after assurances of anonymity. "But we are really disgusted. It's the lies, the war, the economy. We have very good friends who are staunch Republicans, who don't even want to hear the name George Bush any more."
Welcome to the club.
The Bush administration says it improperly altered a report documenting large racial and ethnic disparities in health care, but it will soon publish the full, unexpurgated document.
"There was a mistake made," Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, told Congress last week. "It's going to be rectified."
Mr. Thompson said that "some individuals took it upon themselves" to make the report sound more positive than was justified by the data.
By contrast, the final report has an upbeat tone, beginning, "The overall health of Americans has improved dramatically over the last century."
The report was prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, led by Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy. Administration officials said that she and her researchers had fought hard, at some professional risk, to protect the integrity of the report, but eventually went along with the revisions.
"No data or statistics in the report were altered in any way whatsoever," Dr. Clancy said. But a close reading of the evolving report shows that some entries in statistical tables were deleted from the final version.
You don't have to be much of a detective to see a pattern of deception in this administration's actions.
As he campaigns for re-election, President Bush hopes to capitalize on the law, known as No Child Left Behind, as one of the pillars of his domestic agenda. But the Democratic presidential candidates have made it a frequent target of criticism and ridicule. And things are not going that well even [here in Utah], one of the most Republican of states.
The Feb. 10 vote by the Utah House [supporting non-compliance with No Child Left Behind] was the strongest action by any state legislature to date, but more than a dozen other states have passed or introduced laws or resolutions challenging the federal law or commissioning studies of the costs of carrying it out.
Last month, the Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution, 98 to 1, urging Congress to exempt Virginia from the law. That vote came after Rod Paige, the education secretary, and other administration officials met with Virginia lawmakers, said James H. Dillard II, chairman of the House Education Committee.
"Six of us met with Paige," Mr. Dillard, a Republican, said. "He looked us in the eye and said, 'It's fully funded.' We looked him back in the eye and said, 'We don't think so.' "
"We got platitudes and stonewalls, but no corrective action," he said.
Welcome to Bushtopia.
An uproar over illegal immigration roiled the state Republican convention on Saturday as party leaders struggled to keep the rank and file united behind Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Bush.
Hundreds of GOP loyalists booed the president at a rally where U.S. Senate hopeful Howard Kaloogian and his allies denounced Bush's plan to give temporary legal status to undocumented workers.
"Enough is enough!" the crowd shouted. "Enough is enough!"
That's what we're saying too.