Saturday, March 06, 2004
Before this Bush administration, I considered myself a moderate voting for a candidate based on the issues and not based on party. But now, after three years of the Bush administration, I am so disgusted with the Republicans that my allegiance has shifted to the Democratic Party. I plan on voting a straight Democratic ticket in November.
The most disturbing aspect is the policies toward children. For example, the Bush administration slipped into the Homeland Security Bill a provision that makes it so pharmaceutical companies cannot be held accountable when a child is injured by a vaccination. Recently, the Bush administration had 50 of the members of the Advisory Committee on Lead at the Environmental Protection Agency removed after they decided that the current levels in environment were not safe for children. Investigation has shown that some of the replacements were non-experts, hand-picked by the lead industry.
I am a researcher who works with children with pervasive developmental disorder. A disturbing number of these children are found to be lead toxic. I am not sure if the problem is ignorance on the part of the Bush administration or if they just don't care.
In order to support the Bush administration's case for war against Iraq, it was necessary to believe, as Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote at the time, "Here in America, there is general agreement that we are right and everybody else on Earth is wrong." Yet as much of the nation has learned to its chagrin, not only were we not "right," we were deliberately misled about the most foundational aspects of the administration's case.
As the respected intelligence analyst Thomas Powers recently concluded in The New York Review of Books, "In the six months since the President declared an end to major combat in Iraq not a single one of the factual claims about Iraqi weapons and links to al-Qaeda has been robustly confirmed, and in most cases there has been no confirmation of any kind whatsoever."
Add this to the fact that we now know that not only did the Bush administration mislead the nation and the world about its reasons for war, it also failed to do any remotely competent planning for the postwar aftermath — which remains a scene of unending chaos. And one would think those honest analysts who placed their faith in the administration's arguments for war and its ability to carry out a successful plan for Iraqi reconstruction would rethink that support as a result.
This would be particularly true, one would imagine, for the editorial voices of America's major newspapers, whose roles in their respective communities –to say nothing of their charges under the First Amendment—depend on their established record for honesty and clear-sightedness. Alas, based on a thorough examination of the arguments of the editorial pages of four major U.S. newspapers by the journalist Chris Mooney in the new issue of Columbia Journalism Review, those newspapers that supported the Bush administration not only failed their readers during the run-up to the war; they have failed them ever since it ended as well.
President Bush on Saturday hailed a new interim constitution as "excellent progress" toward democracy in Iraq, painting an upbeat picture that ignored the cancellation of Friday's scheduled signing of the document.
An elaborate ceremony planned by U.S. and Iraqi officials for Friday was scotched indefinitely after Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, rejected portions of the charter. The enactment of an interim constitution represents a key step in the U.S. plan to hand over power to Iraqis on June 30.
Bush, delivering his weekly radio address, didn't mention the unwelcome developments at all.
"A year ago, Iraq's only law was the whim of one brutal man," he said. "When the new law takes effect, Iraqis will, for the first time in decades, live under the clear protections of a written bill of rights."
While that plan called for an interim constitution to be in place by Feb. 28, the White House on Friday claimed the delay posed no danger to the ability to meet the June 30 transfer date.
Despite those doubts, Bush told his radio audience the charter "will establish a clear path" for this year's transition to Iraqi sovereignty and a fully representative and free Iraqi government by the end of 2005.
Why pay any attention to what's actually happening when we have such nice dreams?
Friday, March 05, 2004
President Bush rhapsodized Thursday about the possibility that a stock-car firm in this hot, dry community will add two jobs this year, as he refined his campaign message of economic optimism.
Bush, seated on a highchair along with five small-business workers and owners, was speaking at a "conversation on the economy," a talk-show-type event the White House stages regularly in front of television-friendly signs that say, "Strengthening the Economy."
Prompted by the president, chassis-maker Les DenHerder said the tax cuts Bush backed might allow him to hire two or three more people.
"When he says he's going to hire two more, that's really good news," Bush said. "A lot of people are feeling confident and optimistic about our future so they can say, 'I'm going to hire two more.' They can sit here and tell the president in front of all the cameras, 'I'm going to hire two more people.' That's confidence!"
That's what he said. You can't make this stuff up.
The Bush administration, irked that the official arbiter of recessions continues to say the current downturn began on President Bush's watch, has unilaterally changed the official start of the recession to the last months of the Clinton administration.
A new Bush campaign ad released this week proclaims: "January 2001. The challenge: an economy in recession." This backs up the claim often made by Bush and top aides that they "inherited" an economic recession.
The only trouble with this assertion is the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research, which does the official dating of recessions, says the downturn began in March 2001 -- early in Bush's presidency. NBER is examining revised economic statistics to see if the official date should be moved earlier, but spokeswoman Donna Zerwitz said there is "nothing imminent."
This inconvenience, however, did not stop the White House Council of Economic Advisers. In their annual report last month, the president's economists argued that "revisions since the NBER made its decision for the most recent recession strongly suggest that the business-cycle peak was before March 2001." As a result, the CEA decided to "use the fourth quarter of 2000 as the peak of economic activity and the start of the recession."
This is yet another sad example of the belief, widely held in this administration, that they can cause things to become true simply by saying them.
Now, President Bush is at it again.
He recently submitted his budget request for 2005, and while he's bumped military spending up to $401.7 billion, he has deliberately ignored the continuing costs of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Army Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Marine Corps Gen. Michael Hagee and Air Force Gen. John Jumper were so concerned about this omission that they made an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee to voice their displeasure over Bush's budget request.
The generals revealed that they're spending a combined $5 billion a month in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they're worried that if they're not included in the budget, they won't have funds when September arrives.
President Bush has told them not to worry. They'll get their money. He didn't include war costs in his spending request apparently because he wanted to make the budget look smaller to the American people as they head to the polls to vote.
White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten said the Bush administration will cover the gap in military funding by making a supplemental funds request for $50 billion in January - after the election.
President Bush's manipulative shell games fool only his supporters. The rest of us can see that he uses exaggeration and minimization to trick us into supporting things that we wouldn't support if we knew the truth.
Like his presidency.
A federal grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA officer's identity has subpoenaed records of Air Force One telephone calls in the week before the officer's name was published in a column last July, according to documents obtained by Newsday.
Also sought in three grand jury subpoenas to the White House were records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
The subpoenas also asked for a transcript of a White House spokesman's media briefing in Africa and, casting a much wider net than previously reported, records of White House contacts with more than two dozen journalists and news media outlets.
Re "Death Toll in Twin Strikes on Iraqi Shiites Rises to 143," March 3: Isn't it ironic? Hundreds of our fine military people have been killed and thousands maimed since our misleaders sent them to invade Iraq to save the world from Saddam Hussein. The result? More people will be killed and maimed than Hussein could have brought about. And the cheap oil is less safe than it was before. Aren't we proud?
Re "U.S. Has Become Easy Scapegoat for Iraqis," March 3: So some in the Bush administration are baffled that Iraqis take out their frustration on Americans for terror bombs at mosques. It is sad but still human nature. President Bush should look in the mirror: His own response to a terror attack conducted by Saudis led from Afghanistan was to invade Iraq. And our soldiers are caught in the cross-fire. If his cause had truly been Iraqi democracy he would have planned the occupation better — or, more accurately, planned at all.
"This is our line in the sand," says Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Republican group. "We were forced by a sense of history and responsibility to respond immediately and harshly. Our membership demanded it, and our integrity demanded it."
The campaign, scheduled for launch later this month, is targeted at states such as Ohio, Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. One television commercial will reportedly feature Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney recently said he supports Bush's call for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. But in 2000, Cheney, the father of a gay daughter, had a different outlook.
"The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody," Cheney said in a debate against Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, who was Al Gore's vice presidential running mate in the 2000 campaign. "And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard." Asked specifically "whether or not there ought to be some kind of official sanction" of such relationships, Cheney said, "I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area."
That was then; this is now.
The federal government has eased oil and gas drilling restrictions on a large tract of desert grassland in New Mexico in a decision that benefits a large Republican donor in the state.
The donor, George Yates, said his contributions and fund-raising assistance to Vice President Dick Cheney had nothing to do with the decision. The Interior Department says its drilling plan, while opening up more land in Otero Mesa, will be the most restrictive ever.
The Bush administration "would allow 141 oil and gas wells over about 7 million acres; Interior is committed to protecting our public lands," department spokesman Mark Pfeifle said.
However, environmentalists are crying foul.
The Bureau of Land Management "surrendered to the demands of one oil company and the political power of the name to which it was connected," the Campaign to Protect America's Lands said yesterday in contrasting the Bush administration's plan for Otero Mesa with the Clinton administration's.
You could practically hear the fractious left, newly unified under the anyone-but-Bush standard, coming unglued:
The chairman of Florida's Democratic Party told a local newspaper that Nader is a "Benedict Arnold of modern democracy."
"Outside of Jerry Falwell, I can't think of anybody I have greater contempt for than Ralph Nader," said James Carville on CNN's "Crossfire."
The columnist Robert Scheer compared Nader to a "faded chanteuse in a dingy nightclub."
Nader refuses to take the criticism personally. (The fact that his feelings aren't hurt, he avers, proves he's not an egomaniac.) In fact, if you spend more than about 30 seconds with Nader — who was in town the other day to celebrate his 70th birthday — it's pretty clear he thinks Democrats should thank him. After all, he's doing them a favor.
Just like he did in 2000
Thursday, March 04, 2004
"I'm disappointed but not surprised that the President would try to trade on the heroism of those fire fighters in the September 11 attacks. The use of 9/11 images are hypocrisy at its worst. Here's a President that initially opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and now uses its first anniversary as cause to promote his re-election. Here is a President that proposed two budgets with no funding for FIRE Act grants and still plays on the image of America's bravest. His advertisements are disgraceful.
"Bush is calling on the biggest disaster in our country's history, and indeed in the history of the fire service, to win sympathy for his campaign. Since the attacks, Bush has been using images of himself putting his arm around a retired FDNY fire fighter on the pile of rubble at ground zero. But for two and a half years he has basically shortchanged fire fighters and the safety of our homeland by not providing fire fighters the resources needed to do the job that America deserves.
"The fact is Bush's actions have resulted in fire stations closing in communities around the country. Two-thirds of America's fire departments remain under-staffed because Bush is failing to enforce a new law that was passed with bipartisan support in Congress that would put more fire fighters in our communities. President Bush's budget proposes to cut Homeland Security Department funding for first responders by $700 million for next year and cuts funding for the FIRE Act, a grant program that helps fire departments fund equipment needs, 33 percent by $250 million. In addition, state and local programs for homeland security purposes were reduced $200 million.
"We're going to be aggressive and vocal in our efforts to ensure that the citizens of this country know about Bush's poor record on protecting their safety and providing for the needs of the people who are supposed to respond in an emergency."
Looks like the Bush campaign is off to a great start.
[Harold Schaitberger is General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters.]
In 2002 President Bush signed a bill called The Enhanced Border Security and Reform Act designed to shut the borders to terrorists worldwide. A move dictated by law and order. But international writers, musicians and filmmakers have been shut out as well or unfairly harassed.
Havana-based film director Humberto Solas was prevented from attending a tribute to his own work. Kayhan Kalhor, the Canadian-Iranian instrumentalist, was fingerprinted, photographed and searched. The writer, Margaret Atwood, was denied entrance, had to leave the airport and obtain additional documentation, then missed her flight to the United States. The director of a small Michigan music festival said he would no longer consider non-American acts because the financial risk caused by cancellations was too great. We have all become prisoners, those forbidden to speak and those forbidden to listen.
Fear of terrorism invades the air. It invades the air in Lower Manhattan where a permanent wrought iron fence surrounds The New York Stock Exchange. Built as a barricade to terrorism it extends about four feet into the air and down the center of the street. Pedestrians walk on one side, an armed presence stands on the other. Pick-up trucks block intersections. On one bitter cold, unforgiving January morning this year, uniformed guards and police tried to keep warm by moving from one foot to the other. Weather was the enemy that day. Along the small winding streets the armed presence resembled something from old black and white movies, stories of dictatorships in countries far away.
This is how cities are captured. Street by street, block by block, everything fueled by terror and fear. With every radio announcement, every television special report, every multi colored terrorist alert, fear is heightened and the airwaves become filled with jargon, “weapons of mass destruction related program activities”. The plague of fear erodes hope and we rush each day past the obvious.
Is it possible that we have overreacted to 9/11? That everything didn't really change on that day? Of course it was a horrific event, but it did only happen once. As we voluntarily remove our own freedoms in response, are we doing the terrorists' work for them? So many questions.
"It's about confronting and coming clean with the American people, not just slipping a phrase into the state of the union speech," Kay told the Guardian in an interview in Washington.
"I was convinced and still am convinced that there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction at the time of the war," he said.
"There were continuing clandestine activities but increasingly driven more by corruption than driven by purposeful directed weapons programmes."
"He (Bush) should say: 'We were misunderstood and I am determined to find out why,'" he said.
"When you don't say you got it wrong, it leads to the general belief that you manipulated the intelligence and so you did it for some other purpose.
With the Bushies, there is always "some other purpose".
It was the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that convinced a majority of Americans that the world was full of dangerous people who had to be dealt with, and gave the neo-cons the chance to hitch their pax americana project to the war on terror that Mr. Bush proclaimed after 9/11.
The invasion of Afghanistan would probably have happened even if Al Gore had been president: popular pressure to punish the regime that had given the terrorists bases was enormous, and the attack on Afghanistan was seen both in the U.S. and elsewhere as a legitimate and entirely legal response to the terrorist attack.
But Iraq was a very different case.
From the start, Iraq was the vehicle the neo-cons preferred for the launch of their project: the point was to create a horrible example of what happens to countries that consistently defy the United States, in the hope that everybody else would be scared into line lest it happen to them too.
Could the Bush administration ever have persuaded the U.S. public to go along with such a project if not for the terrorist attacks on 9/11? Probably not.
It was the marginal project of the Islamists that gave wings to the equally marginal project of the neo-cons.
In other words, we are in the midst of a genuine train wreck. None of this was bound to happen.
In fact, it was quite unlikely to happen.
Nevertheless, it has happened, and now we are living with the consequences of that. We may be living with them for some time.
[Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.]
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his top aide for Latin America faced fierce questioning on Wednesday from lawmakers who rejected the administration's claims that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti had resigned of his own free will.
At a hearing dominated by Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Roger F. Noriega, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, was denounced as insolent and misguided, and faced derisive laughter, as he testified that the United States had not forced Mr. Aristide from office.
"We did not support the violent overthrow of that man," Mr. Noriega told members of a House international relations subcommittee.
Mr. Aristide, who was flown into exile in the Central African Republic aboard an American plane on Sunday, has said he was kidnapped by American officials determined to oust him. Angry Democrats excoriated the administration for effectively carrying out a coup d'état. In the hearing, lawmakers said Mr. Aristide had been coerced into resigning.
"He was forced out," said Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, who spoke with Mr. Aristide by phone on Wednesday. "He told me that he did not go of his own will."
In separate testimony, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell dismissed the notion that Mr. Aristide had been forced out, instead characterizing him as a flawed leader who had not governed democratically.
Something Powell is deeply familiar with.
Two [new Bush] ads refer to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as the Bush campaign seeks to present Bush as a tried and tested leader who has risen to the challenge. One ad, titled “Tested,” shows, among other images, a damaged building from the World Trade Center ruins behind a U.S. flag.
“The last few years have tested America in many ways,” the voice-over says. “Some challenges we’ve seen before. And some were like no others. But America rose to the challenge.”
It concludes: “President Bush. Steady leadership in times of change.”
“These ads are expected to reference Bush’s ‘steady leadership’ as president, but they would be remiss to leave out some ’steady’ facts when it comes to his leadership: a steady loss of jobs, a steady increase in uninsured Americans, a steady decline in education funding, a steady erosion of veterans’ benefits, a steady attack against the Social Security Fund, and a steady rise of the deficit,” he said.
With new polls showing terrorism drifting downwards in Americans' list of concerns, perhaps the president's politicizing of September 11 (which he did right away, in his first ad) doesn't matter.
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
Military veterans have already played a prominent role in the 2004 presidential campaign, helping to propel one of their own -- Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts -- close to the Democratic nomination. If he is the nominee, Kerry is counting on strong support from his fellow veterans in the general election battle against President Bush.
And Kerry may be getting an unintended boost from the Bush administration's proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs in the next fiscal year.
After three years of mostly cordial relations with the administration, leaders of veterans' organizations and a union that represents VA workers are voicing strong criticism of Bush's fiscal 2005 budget plan. They assert that the budget would only worsen the backlog in processing disability claims, reduce the number of VA nursing home beds just as the number of veterans who need long-term care is swelling and force some veterans to pay a fee simply to gain access to the VA health care system.
In a statement issued shortly after the budget was released, Edward S. Banas Sr., commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the VA's health care spending proposal "a disgrace and a sham."
What ever happened to "supporting our troops"?
The Bush Administration's 2005 budget is in the early works, and here's the long-term vision: Cut every domestic program imaginable -- education, health, justice, environmental protection, veterans medical, you name it -- except for space exploration.
That's according to government data analyzed by the Center on Budgetary and Policy Priorities. CBPP also notes: "These cuts are not part of a balanced package; they do not contribute to deficit reduction but rather would be used to help finance tax cuts."
Get it? Tax, tax, tax the working and middle class. Assemble a tremendous pile of money doing so. Then give gargantuan tax breaks to the rich. Wail and moan that there's no money left! (We gave it all to the rich!) Then cry, "Hey, here's a tremendous pile of money!" and seize what's been collected from working Americans for their retirement. Then cry, "Hey, there's no money left for working Americans when they retire, 'the system is in crisis'!" And cut Social Security benefits.
It's a transparent transfer of money, via taxation policy, from the average American (who needs it) to the wealthiest Americans (who don't need it). And the Bushies and allies like Alan Greenspan know exactly why they're doing it. So, who wants four more years of George W. Bush?
A Democrat could win.
Presidents go up and down in polls all the time, of course. But Bush has suffered hard blows this year, and deserved every one of them.
His war in Iraq has turned sour. While it has rid the world of zero caches of weapons of mass destruction, more than 500 Americans and an estimated 10,000 Iraqis have been killed. For what?
The economic recovery has left millions of workers unrecovered. Bush's tax cuts have not only set up the budget for the largest deficits in 50 years, but threatened to break the covenant of Social Security.
Last week, after Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan raised the specter of a future Social Security default, Bush found himself in the dubious position of reassuring those already retired or "near retirement age" not to worry.
How did the tens of millions of Americans planning to retire any time in the not-near future hear this? As one of them, I can tell you I heard it this way: Forget it.
In times like these, a Democrat could win, and I hope he does.
The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is refusing to accept strict conditions from the White House for interviews with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and is renewing its request that Mr. Bush's national security adviser testify in public, commission members said Tuesday.
The panel members, interviewed after a private meeting on Tuesday, said the commission had decided for now to reject a White House request that the interview with Mr. Bush be limited to one hour and that the questioners be only the panel's chairman and vice chairman.
The members said the commission had also decided to continue to press the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to reconsider her refusal to testify at a public hearing. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are expected to be asked about how they had reacted to intelligence reports before Sept. 11, 2001, suggesting that Al Qaeda might be planning a large attack. Panel members want to ask Ms. Rice the same questions in public.
"We have held firm in saying that the conditions set by the president and vice president and Dr. Rice are not good enough," said Timothy J. Roemer, a former Indiana congressman who is one of five Democrats on the 10-member commission.
Mr. Roemer said that former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore had agreed to meet privately with the full bipartisan commission, and that Samuel R. Berger, Ms. Rice's predecessor, would testify in public.
Quite a contrast with the current administration's attitude. I'll ask again: what are they hiding?
President Bush's new policy on land mines foolishly discards pledges made by the Pentagon during the Clinton administration. Improvements such as a $20 million increase in funding for the State Department's Humanitarian Mine Action Program are vitiated by Bush's refusal to end use of a weapon that kills and maims civilians and soldiers alike.
Bush's revision of Clinton policy's breaks an American promise to stop using all antipersonnel mines outside of Korea -- including so-called smart mines, which are self-destructing -- by 2003.
It is deceptive to portray smart mines as a humane advance over a policy that insisted on using persistent mines, also called dumb mines. Mines meant to self-destruct after a limited period are every bit as indiscriminate as other mines when it comes to selecting a Cambodian child, an Afghan farmer, or an American soldier for their victims.
Worst of all, Bush set back efforts to outlaw these cruel and unnecessary weapons by reneging on President Clinton's pledge that the United States would sign the Ottawa Treaty banning antipersonnel mines by 2006 if effective replacements for land mines were found by then. As Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said on the Senate floor: "The White House has abandoned any pretext of joining other civilized nations to eliminate these outmoded, indiscriminate weapons."
Are these guys under some kind of mandate to make wrong decisions on every subject?
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Possibly Bush’s most striking departure from his rhetoric as a candidate has been in the area of foreign policy. During the campaign, he called for a “humble” foreign policy and disparaged President Clinton’s interventions to bring stability to international hot spots as fuzzy-headed “nation-building.”
Initially, Bush seemed to be following his rhetoric. He chose to disengage from many of Clinton’s initiatives. Bush turned his back on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, rebuffed South Korea’s efforts to reduce tensions with North Korea, and shifted money and attention away from counter-terrorism projects to iconic Republican initiatives, such as Ronald Reagan’s missile defense system.
Bush’s attitude toward foreign policy changed dramatically after the Sept. 11 attacks. From a disdain for foreign entanglements, Bush pronounced himself the “war president” and vowed that his administration would view all issues through that prism.
But much of Bush’s aggressive strategy has boomeranged. Bush’s division of the world into two camps – either with the United States or with the terrorists – turned post-Sept. 11 sympathy toward the U.S. into unparalleled hostility. The new worldwide ideology of anti-Americanism was cemented by Bush’s defiance of the United Nations and his invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Far from a “humble” foreign policy that treated other nations with respect, Bush chose to browbeat and bully even close U.S. allies, such as France and Germany. Rather than avoiding “nation-building,” Bush’s occupation of Iraq amounts to a wholesale restructuring of the country, including plans to sell off Iraqi national assets to outside businesses.
Talk about a bull in a china shop.
The vice president has high negative ratings in public opinion polls. He is a lightning rod for Democratic criticism of Bush’s policies, partly because of his position as former head of Halliburton Co., the energy company that has been given big reconstruction contracts in post-war Iraq.
He was a prime mover behind the decision to invade Iraq and spoke repeatedly of the danger posed by Baghdad’s weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons have been found.
Bush strongly endorsed his vice president at a fund-raiser last week.
He joked that he had put Cheney in charge of his vice presidential search committee, as he did before the 2000 election when Cheney eventually proposed himself.
“He tells me he’s reviewed all the candidates, and he’s come back with the same recommendation as last time,” Bush said.
Some joke. It just shows who's really in charge.
Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday he supports President Bush's call for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, even though one of his daughters is gay and he has said in the past the issue should be left to the states.
"The president's taken the clear position that he supports a constitutional amendment," Cheney said in an interview with MSNBC. "I support him."
Cheney said during the 2000 campaign, and again last month, that he prefers to see states handle the issue of gay marriage. His openly lesbian daughter, Mary Cheney, is an aide in the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, but the vice president declined to discuss her.
"One of the most unpleasant aspects of this business is the extent of which private lives are intruded upon when these kinds of issues come up," he said. "I really have always considered my private – my daughters' lives private and I think that's the way it ought to remain."
You know, the way the Republicans stayed out of Bill Clinton's private life.
The Department of Defense is continuing to pay millions of dollars for information from the former Iraqi opposition group that produced some of the exaggerated and fabricated intelligence President Bush used to argue his case for war.
The Pentagon has set aside between $3 million and $4 million this year for the Information Collection Program of the Iraqi National Congress, or INC, led by Ahmed Chalabi, said two senior U.S. officials and a U.S. defense official.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because intelligence programs are classified.
The continuing support for the INC comes amid seven separate investigations into pre-war intelligence that Iraq was hiding illicit weapons and had links to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. A probe by the Senate Intelligence Committee is now examining the INC's role.
Even so, dubious INC-supplied information found its way into the Bush administration's arguments for war, which included charges that Saddam was concealing illicit arms stockpiles and was supporting al-Qaida.
No illicit weapons have yet been found, and senior U.S. officials say there is no compelling evidence that Saddam cooperated with al-Qaida to attack Americans.
It's a story of lies and the lying liars who believe them.
The time has come for us to at least speak the I word out loud: Impeachment. The charges? One accusation dwarfs all others - the highest of the Constitution's "high crimes." It speaks for those human beings, both American and Arab, who would not have died by military violence had this nation not been consciously deceived into war by its chief executive. No crime by a president could rank more rankly. "An immoral war was thus waged," as Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it in a speech in England last week.
George W. Bush lied about the reasons for our instigating war in Iraq. Others may quibble about lied. But to twist, distort, exaggerate, shape, misrepresent, or even "spin" a fact that is not a fact, and which causes the death of even a single person, is the moral equivalent of a monstrous falsehood. The United States has fomented hell on earth in Iraq for premeditated reasons we have too late discovered were made out of sand.
There were no weapons of mass destruction. No biological-chemical agents or factories. No Iraqi ties to al-Qaida or to 9/11. No "imminent threat" of attack by Iraq. In other words, there was no cause for war.
What there was, from this president's first day in office, was a determination to invade Iraq. "It was all about finding a way to do it," asserts Paul O'Neill, Bush's ex-treasury secretary in the recently published The Price of Loyalty by Ron Suskind. The administration, according to O'Neill, seized Sept. 11, 2001, as the pretext it had been looking for to wage war on Iraq.
Granted, impeachment may be unlikely but that is not a reason not to demand it. If William Clinton could be tried by the Congress of the United States for lying about a tryst in the Oval Office, then surely George W. Bush should be brought before the same body, under the Constitution, to answer for a deliberate deceit - or even distortion - that has already cost the lives of more than 540 American citizen soldiers and an estimated 10,000 Iraqi innocents (including women, children and the elderly) and maimed far more.
How many died as a result of Clinton's "high crimes"?
Bush's new Economic Report of the President raises the prospect of fast-food factories by suggesting that cooking a hamburger patty and inserting the meat and fixings into a bun is the equivalent of assembling an automobile.
According to The New York Times, the idea of reclassifying fast-food restaurants as manufacturers is buried in 417 pages of statistics included in the new report.
Beyond the most obvious misstatement, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the White House has come up with some doozies.
To prove the economy is rebounding sharply, go beyond all reasonable expectations and predict that we will generate 2.6 million new jobs this year. To show the administration is concerned about fiscal policy, ignore the record $500 billion shortfall and insist that the White House is working to halve the deficit. To show it's a good idea to preserve the Bush tax cut for those earning over $200,000, claim that most of those folks are small businessmen, entrepreneurs or farmers.
That last assertion is one that hasn't received a lot of attention, but it's neck-and-neck with fast-food factories. It turns out the administration's version of small business entrepreneur includes executives who rent their Aspen chalets for $3,000. The definition is so broad that it includes Vice President and former Halliburton honcho Dick Cheney. It even encompasses President Bush because of compensation he receives from his days as co-owner of the Texas Rangers.
If the Bush team can classify a former pro baseball team owner as a small-time entrepreneur, anything goes. Heck, I think you can even make the case that the White House is in the manufacturing business too.
It manufactures tall tales.
Monday, March 01, 2004
Many American expatriates are flocking to Democratic primaries abroad and pinning hopes on a John Kerry election victory in November.
US expatriate voters number more than 6-million worldwide, but they have long been a nebulous and somewhat neglected bloc whose absentee ballots end up scattered, with limited impact, across 50 states.
But three years of President George Bush's foreign policies have rattled their adopted countries and shaken into action many expatriates weary of hostile questions on Iraq, the environment and other issues.
Some are brimming with enthusiasm for Kerry, a Massachusetts senator and the Democratic front-runner ahead of today's "Super Tuesday" primary races in several states. Others say any candidate would be better than Bush.
"Bush is one of the biggest threats to world peace and to the standing of the US in the world community," Darren Sullivan, a photographer who lives in Amsterdam, said yesterday.
"His reasons for war in Iraq were never convincing," Sullivan said. "It increased hate that people feel for America. My vote won't be so much for Kerry as it will be against Bush."
David Castillo, a businessman and Vietnam veteran living in Saudi Arabia, said he had voted for Bush last time, but would not do so again.
"I'm definitely going to jump ship," Castillo said.
"Bush is quick to draw the gun but hasn't a clue how to make the peace. I would vote for anybody else. I would even vote for Donald Duck."
Even Americans who don't live in America are united against this guy.
When the Administration proposes to cut these programs or fails to provide adequate resources for them, it's because it has no personal understanding of the plight of America's workers and how much the President's budget cuts affect middle-class America.
Only a President who never had to apply for unemployment benefits would oppose extending them when so many workers are without a job. Only a President who never needed overtime pay would advocate taking it away from those workers who rely on it to make ends meet. Only a President who never needed federal aid to attend college would advocate cutting it back for those students who cannot attend college without it.
When this Administration leaves office, its legacy will be an enormous debt burden that will weigh heavily on the middle-class. In the process, it will have severely weakened their safety net, and have left little means for fixing it.
But it won't matter to this president at that point. He'll move back to Texas knowing that his pension and health care benefits are secure, and that corporate CEOs and Texas oil men are wealthier and more comfortable than ever before. He'll never have to rely on the safety net that his Administration has worked so hard to dismantle.
[Senator Byrd delivered these remarks as the Senate Budget Committee prepared to debate and vote on the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2005. The Budget Committee is expected to work on that budget beginning on Wednesday, March 3, 2004.]
The Bush administration on Monday vehemently denied ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's claim that he "did not resign" and was "kidnapped" by U.S. diplomatic and military officials.
Aristide's first day in exile, spent in the Central African Republic, was as contentious as his four-year rule, as two members of the U.S. House of Representatives who have supported Aristide relayed his message that he was physically forced to leave by U.S. forces. He later made the charges himself in telephone interviews.
"I'm telling you the truth. I'm a victim of a coup d'etat," Aristide told CNN during a phone interview from the Central African Republic. He said that U.S. forces "kidnapped" him and forced him to leave Haiti.
"That's nonsense," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "It was Mr. Aristide's decision to resign."
Secretary of State Colin Powell also vigorously denied the kidnapping charge, calling it "absolutely baseless, absurd," and offered new details about Aristide's hasty departure from Haiti Sunday morning.
The secrecy surrounding the operation and lack of witnesses also fueled rumors about what happened.
Secrecy? Lack of witnesses? Gee, that M.O. seems familiar somehow.
When Alan Greenspan told a congressional committee last week that Social Security benefits for baby boomers should be cut to help reduce the growing federal budget deficit, the third move in a game I call the Social Security Shell Game was played out.
The Social Security Shell Game has distracted voters while bringing about a significant shift in the tax burden from the rich to the middle class.
This is breathtaking. Imagine if Congress had come forward in the 1980s with a proposal that recommended cutting Social Security benefits to future retirees while raising taxes on wage income. The monies collected would be used to provide a windfall gain to big estates by eliminating a tax that they had fully expected to have to pay and to cut taxes disproportionately on the income of the rich.
Hard to imagine such a policy, isn't it? But that's what the Social Security Shell Game is doing.
How do they get away with this, you ask? Simple. While you're distracted by the moving shells, the money gets snatched.
Alphonso Jackson, the former Dallas housing chief nominated to run the Housing and Urban Development Department, faced tough questions Thursday in his confirmation hearing from senators angry about proposed cuts in low-income housing and a plan to change real estate settlement rules.
Several senators expressed dismay about the Section 8 voucher program, which helps low-income families pay their rent. President Bush's 2005 budget is $1.6 billion less than needed to serve everyone already using vouchers, and critics say that jeopardizes housing for 250,000 families and individuals.
Mr. Jackson, who has been deputy secretary for three years, said lost funds would be offset by block grants that give states and cities more flexibility – an option he said he wished he'd had when he ran the Dallas Housing Authority.
Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., called that approach a "shell game." He also criticized a proposed HUD policy that would let some landlords opt out of their agreements to provide low-rent units in apartment buildings financed with federal help. About 100,000 rental units could be affected.
Sounds like the perfect guy for HUD.
[Interior Secretary Gale] Norton added some political sidetrips to her visit to Washington state, planning to attend Republican Lincoln Day dinners Friday night in Spokane and Saturday in Everett.
The funding is needed for the administration’s “Healthy Forests” law that calls for reducing hazardous fuels that feed wildfires and improving forest and rangeland management, she said.
Thinning should be more intense near communities, in the so-called “urban-wildland interface,” while more natural and environmental methods should be employed in the back country, he said.
“We’re not sure the administration appreciates that distinction,” Watson said. “It’s not the same method across the entire landscape.”
While the law does not prohibit fuels reduction money from being spent on nonfederal lands, “the likelihood of that happening is very, very low,” Watson said.
The administration is “playing a cynical shell game” with the law, because very little of the $760 million budget request would go toward fuels reduction, Watson contended.
The Pentagon insider-turned-Bay Area activist says the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq are tragic and inescapable. Why, he asks, have our leaders failed to learn from the mistakes of 40 years ago?.
Daniel Ellsberg, 72, is hoarse after speaking for two hours last December about the similarities between the Vietnam and Iraq wars to an overflow Berkeley bookstore crowd. He knows he's drained the air out of the room with his somber monologue, so he concludes the evening by tugging scarves out of his pocket to perform some magic. A lifetime ago, his magic tricks brought smiles to the faces of Vietnamese orphans in bombed-out villages he passed through as a State Department observer from 1965 to 1967. His audiences these days are different, but they, too, appreciate the diversion.
When he wonders aloud which trick to perform, someone wisecracks, "Make Bush disappear."
Two plus two -- I have this on good authority -- equals four.
So how do you feel about that? Do you support that interpretation or do you think it should be changed?
Yes, I know. You're wondering if I've lost my mind. Well, asking that question tells me something about you.
Namely, that you're not a member of the Bush administration.
Because in that administration, how you feel about a fact is often more important than the fact itself. And political expediency is more important than both.
I refer you to a statement recently issued by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Union of Concerned Scientists. It accused the White House of manipulating and distorting scientific fact for political gain and censoring and suppressing the findings of government scientists.
And if you say, well yes, but the facts of those matters -- war, budget, gay marriage -- are largely open to interpretation, fine. But what about science? What about a discipline whose truths are supposed to be objective, verifiable, demonstrable? Yet even here, the Bush administration feels free to censor, manipulate and ignore. That ought to frighten you.
Unless I've been wrong about this two-plus-two thing all along.
Sunday, February 29, 2004
If Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has his way, Diebold will receive a contract to supply touch screen electronic voting machines for much of the state. None of these Diebold machines will provide a paper receipt of the vote.
Diebold, located in North Canton, Ohio, does its primary business in ATM and ticket-vending machines. Critics of Diebold point out that virtually every other machine the company makes provides a paper trail to verify the machine’s calculations. Oddly, only the voting machines lack this essential function.
State Senator Teresa Fedor of Toledo introduced Senate Bill 167 late last year mandating that every voting machine in Ohio generate a “voter verified paper audit trail.” Secretary of State Blackwell has denounced any attempt to require a paper trail as an effort to “derail” election reform.
Wired News reported that “. . . a former worker in Diebold’s Georgia warehouse says the company installed patches on its machine before the state’s 2002 gubernatorial election that were never certified by independent testing authorities or cleared with Georgia election officials.” Questions were raised in Texas when three Republican candidates in Comal County each received exactly the same number of votes – 18,181.
Following the 2003 California election, an audit of the company revealed that Diebold Election Systems voting machines installed uncertified software in all 17 counties using its equipment.
And this is who we trust with our votes for Anyone But Bush?
Three months after the GOP-controlled Congress expanded Medicare to include prescription drug benefits that Americans have long wanted, the political bounce that Republicans had hoped for is eluding them, as critics rail against the new law and voters say they still trust Democrats more on the issue.
The criticisms and setbacks for the party have come rapidly, just as Republicans enter an election season in which they had hoped their work on Medicare would shine as one of their brightest domestic achievements. The House ethics committee is investigating a GOP lawmaker's vote on the bill, and a federal agency is questioning the legality of the Bush administration's $9.5 million advertising campaign to promote the law. Several Republicans are angry that the White House's most recent cost estimate for the changes in the program is a third more than Congress had been led to believe.
"I have a hard time differentiating this 30-second television message from any partisan political ad," said Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.), the Senate Budget Committee's ranking Democrat, who voted for the law. "Taxpayers' money should not be used to sell a political position -- mine or anybody else's."
Faced with a refusal by the Bush administration to provide certain documents related to prewar intelligence on Iraq, the Senate intelligence committee voted in a closed session on Thursday to move toward a possible subpoena, according to senior Congressional officials.
The bipartisan vote on the Republican-led panel sets a three-week deadline for a voluntary handover by the administration, after which the committee would employ unspecified "further action," which could only mean a subpoena, the officials said.
In a brief telephone interview, the top Democrat on the panel said that "there's no other interpretation" of the committee's action if the White House fails to turn over the documents by late March.
"We need these things, we want them, and if we don't get them, we will resort to other means," said the Democrat, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, who declined to discuss the committee's deliberations in detail.
After the independent commission looking into the Sept. 11 attacks issued its own subpoena threat, the White House and the commission agreed earlier this year on a plan that is to allow representatives of that panel to review some copies of the presidential briefings, which are highly classified. But in discussions with the Senate committee, the White House has so far insisted that the documents be kept away from Congress, on the ground that they are covered by executive privilege.
It's unbelievable that two separate investigation commissions have called for subpoena power over White House officials in connection with stonewalling and withholding vital information. And when Bush hides the facts from Congress, he's hiding them from us.