August 14, 2004
By JOEL BRINKLEY
WASHINGTON, Aug. 13 - April 21 was an unusually violent day in Iraq; 68 people died in a car bombing in Basra, among them 23 children. As the news went from bad to worse, President Bush took a tough line, vowing to a group of journalists, "We're not going to cut and run while I'm in the Oval Office."
On the same day, deep within the turgid pages of the Federal Register, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a regulation that would forbid the public release of some data relating to unsafe motor vehicles, saying that publicizing the information would cause "substantial competitive harm" to manufacturers.
As soon as the rule was published, consumer groups yelped in complaint, while the government responded that it was trying to balance the interests of consumers with the competitive needs of business. But hardly anyone else noticed, and that was hardly an isolated case.
Allies and critics of the Bush administration agree that the Sept. 11 attacks, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq have preoccupied the public, overshadowing an important element of the president's agenda: new regulatory initiatives. Health rules, environmental regulations, energy initiatives, worker-safety standards and product-safety disclosure policies have been modified in ways that often please business and industry leaders while dismaying interest groups representing consumers, workers, drivers, medical patients, the elderly and many others.
And most of it was done through regulation, not law - lowering the profile of the actions. The administration can write or revise regulations largely on its own, while Congress must pass laws. For that reason, most modern-day presidents have pursued much of their agendas through regulation. But administration officials acknowledge that Mr. Bush has been particularly aggressive in using this strategy.
"There's been more federal regulations, more regulatory notices, than previous administrations," said Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, though he attributed much of that to the new rules dealing with domestic security.
Scott McClellan, the chief White House spokesman, said of the changes, "The president's common-sense policies reflect the values of America, whether it is cracking down on corporate wrongdoing or eliminating burdensome regulations to create jobs."
Some leaders of advocacy groups argue that the public preoccupation with war and terrorism has allowed the administration to push through changes that otherwise would have provoked an outcry. Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club, says he does not think the administration could have succeeded in rewriting so many environmental rules, for example, if the public's attention had not been focused on national security issues.
"The effect of the administration's concentration on war and terror has been to prevent the public from focusing on these issues," Mr. Pope said. "Now, when I hold focus groups with the general public and tell them what has been done, they exclaim, 'How could this have happened without me knowing about it?' "
The administration has often been stymied in its efforts to pass major domestic initiatives in Congress. Even when both houses have been under Republican control, Senate Democrats, using parliamentary rules, have been able to block legislation eagerly sought by the White House and business groups, including bills on energy, bankruptcy and medical malpractice. So officials have turned to regulatory change.
Chad Colton, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, which approves all new regulations, defends the administration's handling of new rules, saying: "The process is very open, very transparent. Some regulations we post get hundreds of comments, even thousands." Mr. Colton acknowledged that most comments came from industry or from public interest groups. "But those groups represent consumers."
Clarence Ditlow, who directs one of those public interest groups, the Center for Auto Safety, said: "People in my line of work are frustrated. We try to work harder. But the amount of media attention and public attention to consumer issues has gone way, way down since 9/11."
Stuart M. Butler, senior domestic policy analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, while agreeing that the wars "push a lot of other issues off the page, literally and figuratively," said, "It cuts both ways." The White House "also can't get traction on issues they care about, like Social Security reform, because of all the noise from the war in Iraq."
Bush administration officials and their allies say they use regulations because new laws are not needed for many of the changes they have made and going to Congress every time would be needlessly complicated. But Representative David R. Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the Appropriations Committee, said regulatory changes did not benefit from the "checks and balances and oversight" that Congress provides.
New regulations first appear as notices of proposed rule-making in the Federal Register, which is published every weekday. Generally, government officials and others directly concerned with government business read this dense publication.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published the new rule on the public release of auto-safety information on July 28, 2003, but outside the industry hardly anyone took notice. In the following months, allies of tire manufacturers and automakers flooded the agency with comments, and all of them "contended that the release of early warning data is likely to cause substantial competitive harm," the agency said. At the same time, consumer groups argued that the data "should be released because it is important to the identification of potential defects," the agency added.
When the agency published a revised final rule on April 21, 2004, it exempted from public release warranty-claim information, industry reports on safety issues and consumer complaints, among other data, saying that releasing that information would cause "substantial competitive harm."
Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, filed suit, saying consumers needed the data to inform themselves about unsafe vehicles and tires. But Ray Tyson, the chief spokesman for the highway safety agency, said: "The suggestion that the American consumer is missing out is off the mark. I can't believe this information would be of much interest to the general public."
A Pro-Business Tilt
The overall regulatory record shows that the Bush administration has heeded the interests of business and industry. Like the Reagan administration, which made regulatory reform a priority, officials under Mr. Bush have introduced new rules to ease or dismantle existing regulations they see as cumbersome. Some analysts argue that the Bush administration has introduced rules favoring industry with a dedication unmatched in modern times.
"My thoughts go back to Herbert Hoover," said Robert Dallek, the presidential historian. "No president could have been more friendly to business than Hoover" until the Bush administration.
While John D. Graham, administrator of information and regulatory affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, does not dispute the administration's pro-business tilt, he said there had been notable exceptions, which his office approved when government officials "provided adequate scientific and economic justification."
Examples, Mr. Graham added, include "stricter fuel-saving rules for S.U.V.'s" and "a 90-percent reduction in diesel-engine exhaust," as well as "mandatory criteria for the lifesaving performance of side-impact air bags" in cars.
But examples of countervailing, business-friendly changes abound, some that broke through the flak thrown up from the wars, and others that remain little known.
The administration, at the request of lumber and paper companies, gave Forest Service managers the right to approve logging in federal forests without the usual environmental reviews. A Forest Service official explained that the new rule was intended "to better harmonize the environmental, social and economic benefits of America's greatest natural resource, our forests and grasslands."
In March of 2003, the Mine Safety and Health Administration published a proposed new regulation that would dilute the rules intended to protect coal miners from black-lung disease. The mine workers union called the new rules "extremely dangerous," while a mine safety administration official contended, "We are moving on toward more effective prevention of black-lung disease."
In May 2003, the Bush administration dropped a proposed rule that would have required hospitals to install facilities to protect workers against tuberculosis. Hospitals and other industry groups had lobbied against the change, saying that it would be costly and that existing regulations would accomplish many of the same aims.
But workers unions and public health officials argued that the number of tuberculosis cases had risen in 20 states and that the same precautions that were to have been put into place for tuberculosis would also have been effective against SARS.
The next month, the Department of Labor, responding to complaints from industry, dropped a rule that required employers to keep a record of employees' ergonomic injuries. Labor unions complained that without the reporting, it would be difficult to identify dangerous workplaces. But the department, in a statement, argued that the records "would not provide additional information useful to identifying possible causes or methods to prevent injury."
The administration's 2004 budget proposed to cut 77 enforcement and related positions from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, while adding two new staff members whose jobs would be to help industry comply with agency rules. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao explained to a House committee that the agency would "continue to target inspections based on the worst hazards and the most dangerous workplaces." As the budget proposal was announced, President Bush and other senior officials focused most of their remarks on the large increases proposed for defense and domestic security.
A Case of Tired Truckers
In one little-known case, litigants say the administration managed to turn a Congressional mandate on its head. In 1995, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a startling study on fatal truck accidents. Thousands of people die on the highways each year in collisions with heavy trucks. The board studied 107 crashes in which the truck driver survived and found that more than half resulted from truck-driver fatigue. Nineteen of the truckers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel.
As a result of that report, Congress the same year ordered the government to revise driving-hour rules for truckers. Under regulations unchanged since 1939, truckers could drive 10 hours at a stretch and then had to rest for eight hours. The rules, Congress said, were to be changed to "reduce fatigue-related incidents and increase driver alertness." At that time, both the Senate and the House were under Republican control, and lawmakers began debating what to do.
The truck-related accident death toll hit a new high in 1997; 5,398 people died. Congress went further in 1999 and created a new federal agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the Clinton administration set a goal of reducing truck-related accident fatalities by half over the following 10 years.
Consumer and driver-safety groups, including Public Citizen and Parents Against Tired Truckers, started lobbying the new agency to shorten the number of hours drivers could stay behind the wheel. But trucking industry officials argued that shorter shifts would disrupt delivery schedules, which in turn would raise prices on thousands of products delivered by truck.
Last year, the Department of Transportation finally issued a new rule, saying in a prepared statement that it would "save hundreds of lives" and "protect billions in commerce." The change would increase allowable driving time from 10 hours without a break to 11 hours. But after 11 hours, drivers would have to take 10 hours off instead of eight.
Trucking companies said they were satisfied with the rule while truck drivers deplored it, saying the added hours of driving time would increase driver fatigue.
Public Citizen and the other safety groups filed suit, saying the new rule, in all its detail, actually increased driving hours per week by 30 percent. The suit is pending. Joan Claybrook, the president of Public Citizen, said the new rule "does nothing positive, it does a lot of negative, and it's a big waste of four years' effort."
Courts Have Their Say
For all the ambition behind the campaign to remake the government's regulatory structure, courts have forced the administration to pull back a striking number of initiatives.
Last August, for example, the administration relaxed its clean-air rules by allowing thousands of corporations to upgrade their plants without having to install expensive pollution-control equipment, saying that would allow plants to modernize more easily, leading to greater efficiency and lower consumer costs.
Utilities had lobbied for change; environmental groups filed suit. In December, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit blocked the rule, at least temporarily, indicating that the court doubted the administration had authority to modify the Clean Air Act by regulation.
In a case involving air-conditioners, the Department of Energy announced in May 2002 that it would weaken a standard issued during the Clinton administration to make home air-conditioners more efficient. The department did order an efficiency increase, but less than had been mandated under Mr. Clinton. An Energy Department official said: "This is not a rollback. It is an increase" in efficiency.
Major air-conditioner manufacturers had lobbied against the improved efficiency standard, saying the new models would be unaffordable. Right away, the attorneys general from seven states, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California, filed suit to restore the old standard. In January of this year, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled that the Bush administration did not have the legal right to revise the efficiency rule.
While the administration has had some successes in relaxing environmental rules, other changes have been stymied by the courts. A federal judge blocked a plan by the Department of the Interior to allow an energy company to drill for oil at one proposed location, adjacent to the Arches National Park in Utah, saying the government had not adequately considered the environmental impact of the plan. And an Interior Department judicial agency blocked a plan to develop the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.
Still, the administration is pleased with its overall record of regulatory change. Mr. Graham, the budget office official, eagerly acknowledged that the regulatory tilt had been toward business. "The Bush administration has cut the growth of costly business regulations by 75 percent, compared to the two previous administrations," he said.
Representative Obey said he believed most Americans remained unaware of many of the changes.
"Most people are busy just trying to make a living," he said. "And with all the focus on Iraq and bin Laden, it gives the administration an opportunity to take a lot of loot out the back door without anybody noticing."
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Friday, August 13, 2004
August 13, 2004
By EDMUND L. ANDREWS
WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 - Fully one-third of President Bush's tax cuts in the last three years have gone to people with the top 1 percent of income, who have earned an average of $1.2 million annually, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to be published Friday.
The report calculated that households with incomes in that top 1 percent were receiving an average tax cut of $78,460 this year, while households in the middle 20 percent of earnings - averaging about $57,000 a year - were getting an average cut of only $1,090.
The new estimates confirm what independent tax analysts have long said: that Mr. Bush's tax cuts have been heavily skewed to the very wealthiest taxpayers. Those are also the people, however, who pay a disproportionate share of federal income taxes.
The calculations, which were requested by Congressional Democrats, are all but certain to intensify a central debate between Mr. Bush and Senator John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee.
Mr. Bush has argued that the tax cuts provided crucial support to the economy at a time when it was mired in a recession and reeling from the effects of a stock market collapse, terrorist attacks and corporate scandals.
Mr. Kerry has argued that the cuts were tilted so much in favor of the wealthy that they provided relatively little stimulus to the economy and set the stage for record budget deficits. Since 2001, the federal budget has deteriorated from a surplus of more than $100 billion to a deficit expected to exceed $400 billion in 2004.
Mr. Bush's top economic priority has been to make his tax cuts permanent, rather than letting them expire at the end of this decade as they would under current law. Mr. Kerry would seek to roll back the tax cuts for households with incomes above $200,000 a year, a move his campaign estimates would save $860 billion over 10 years, and use that money in large part to pay for a vast new national health care plan.
According to the new report from the Congressional Budget Office, about two-thirds of the benefits from the tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, went to households in the top fifth of earnings, with an average income of $203,740.
But the report also gave Republicans support for their contention that tax reduction had brought some benefit to people in almost all income categories. People with the bottom fifth of income, for example, averaging earnings of only $16,620, saw their effective tax rate drop to 5.2 percent from 6.7. Yet because lower- and many middle-income families had been paying very little federal income tax in the first place, those in that bottom fifth of earnings received an average tax cut of only $250.
"It doesn't matter who you are, the report shows that you are better off now than you were before the tax cuts,'' said a House Republican aide. "It's showing that everybody's tax burden has gone down as a result of the tax cuts.''
The tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 reduced tax rates for people in all income brackets. But they had a disproportionate effect on people at the very highest income levels because they had already been paying a disproportionate share of total federal taxes and in part because stock dividends got a special lower rate.
People in the very top income categories fared better by almost any measure, according to the report. The average after-tax income for people in the top 1 percent of income earners climbed 10.1 percent, while that of those in the middle 20 percent climbed 2.3 percent, and that of those in the bottom fifth only 1.6 percent.
Put another way, people with the top 1 percent of income saw their share of the tax burden drop to 20.1 percent after the tax cuts from 21.9 percent under the old law.
William G. Gale, a longtime tax analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the new Congressional report was consistent with his own calculations on the distribution of benefits from Mr. Bush's tax cuts.
"It's not just that lower-income people are getting smaller benefits,'' Dr. Gale said. "It's also that these tax cuts will eventually have to be paid for with either spending cuts or tax increases, and those are likely to be less progressive than the taxes they are paying now.''
Posted by politicalstuff at 10:24 PM
The Doctored Clip Sean Hannity Doesn't Want You to Know About
August 12, 2004
In June, John Podesta appeared on Sean Hannity's radio program and confronted him with a Center for American Progress document detailing 15 distortions that Hannity had made on the air. Hannity, true to form, changed the subject, instead accusing Podesta of lying. When a New York Observer reporter this week raised the subject again, Hannity was forced to do a little cutting and splicing in order to "prove" that Podesta had lied on his program. This heavily-edited clip now appears on his Web site. It's missing critical audio from the Podesta interview.
Transcript of Hannity's doctored clip:
HANNITY: When Howard Dean advances the theory that George Bush knew about 9/11 ahead of time, I can't find you on record condemning that.
JDP: Howard Dean never said that, Sean.
HANNITY: Howard Dean advanced the theory. He said it was an interesting theory.
JDP: He never said that, Sean.
HANNITY: He advanced the theory, John. John, don't lie. He said—
JDP: Don't call me a liar. Sean, you said that I called you a liar during the whole front hour…
HANNITY: He advanced the theory…
JDP: I never called you a liar. I said you get distant from the facts.
[7 MINUTES, 10 SECONDS OF AUDIO CUT]
DEAN: The most interesting theory that I've heard so far...
[4 SECONDS OF AUDIO FROM MIDDLE OF DEAN SENTENCE CUT]
...is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is.
[50 SECONDS OF AUDIO CUT]
HANNITY: He advanced the theory. Why would he say it if he wasn't advancing it?
JDP: Get him on the air and ask him that.
[8 SECONDS OF AUDIO CUT]
JDP: I just said that I disagreed with him if that's what he meant.
What Hannity Cut Out:
1. Dean said the theory was nothing more than a theory.
Missing from the Dean clip is the crucial middle clause of his sentence. Of the theory, he said, it "is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved." Also missing from the Hannitized version of the interview: Dean said, "No, I don't believe that. I can't imagine the president of the United States doing that."
2. Podesta knew Dean's quotes didn't add up to supporting the theory.
Podesta said both, "I don't think that's what those statements implicate," and, "It didn't sound to me like that's what he said."
3. Podesta called the theory in question "dead wrong."
Podesta disclaimed it completely, saying, "If Howard Dean was suggesting that the President knew about 9/11 and did nothing about it, then I think he's dead wrong."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:21 AM
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Good sport in school.
Sucker punched another player.
Volunteered to serve his country, despite family links that could have gotten him softer duty. Went to Viet Nam.
Used family links to get into National Guard.
Was a hero to many, including acting swiftly and decisively to save the life of one of his men. Every man who served under Kerry would trust him with their lives. Kerry also saved the life of a Republican member of Congress years later by performing heimlich maneuver.
A.W.O.L. from National Guard. Failed to act swiftly and decisively when the USA was under attack.
Posted by politicalstuff at 4:13 PM
Here's the photo.
See the link for the details.
Posted by politicalstuff at 3:36 PM
Statistics from Media Matters for America:
• Former President Jimmy Carter: FOX News Channel aired just over four minutes of Carter's speech; CNN and MSNBC aired almost 14 minutes.
• Former Vice President Al Gore: FOX News Channel aired 45 seconds of Gore's speech; CNN and MSNBC aired 13 minutes.
• Senator Edward Kennedy: FOX News Channel aired a little more than four minutes of Kennedy's speech; CNN and MSNBC aired 25 minutes of his speech.
• Ret. General Wesley Clark: FOX News Channel aired none of Clark's speech; CNN aired about two minutes and MSNBC aired almost 11 minutes.
• Reverend Al Sharpton: FOX News Channel aired two and a half minutes of Sharpton's speech live; CNN aired almost 20 minutes, and MSNBC aired almost 17 minutes.
• Overall, Fox aired 3 hours 40 minutes live—an hour and 16 minutes less than CNN, and an hour and 47 minutes less than MSNBC.
Posted by politicalstuff at 3:17 PM
A Republican National Committee practice of having people sign a form endorsing President Bush or pledging to vote for him in November before being issued tickets for RNC-sponsored rallies is raising concern among voters. When Vice President Dick Cheney spoke July 31 to a crowd of 2,000 in Rio Rancho, a city of 45,000 near Albuquerque, several people who showed up at the event complained about being asked to sign endorsement forms in order to receive a ticket to hear Cheney.
"Whose vice president is he?" said 72-year-old retiree John Wade of Albuquerque, who was asked to sign the form when he picked up his tickets. "I just wanted to hear what my vice president had to say, and they make me sign a loyalty oath.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:52 PM
Filmmaker Moore Quotes Goss on Lack of CIA Credentials
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Congressman Porter Goss, President Bush's nominee for CIA director, could be his own worst enemy when it comes to making the case that he deserves to lead the U.S. intelligence agency.
"I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified," the Florida Republican told documentary-maker Michael Moore's production company during the filming of the movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Full article at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:42 PM
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
NEW YORK - Satirist-commentator Al Franken will return to his TV roots next month when his radio show begins appearing on cable's Sundance Channel.
Beginning Sept. 7, "The Al Franken Show," heard live each weekday from noon to 3 p.m. Eastern on Air America Radio, will go on display in a one-hour edition on Sundance each night at 11:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., executives at both networks told The Associated Press on Monday.
The "Franken" TV hour is currently scheduled through the November election, but all parties voiced hope the show would continue on Sundance indefinitely.
"It would be nice if it were a permanent home," Franken said.
A writer-performer who helped launch NBC's "Saturday Night Live" three decades ago, Franken in recent years has been more identified as a left-leaning political humorist whose best-selling books include "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."
He became a talk-show host when Manhattan-based Air America signed on in March as a response to the mostly conservative world of talk radio. At Air America, Franken joined a roster of other liberal personalities including actress-comedian Janeane Garofalo (news), radio veteran Randi Rhodes and Lizz Winstead, a co-creator of "The Daily Show."
The Air America network includes stations in 19 markets and growing. Markets include New York, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Anchorage, Alaska, and San Diego. It is also heard on the XM and Sirius satellite radio networks, as well as through the Internet on streaming audio.
Distribution through Sundance will mean welcome added exposure for the show, and Air America overall, said Doug Kreeger, the network's chairman.
"It takes the network and lets people see how it works," he said. "It puts a face to our voice."
Each day, with co-host Katherine Lanpher, Franken offers irreverent commentary, interviews and comedy segments often with an anti-Bush Administration theme: "Anything I can do to get this guy out of office I'll do, and to get (John) Kerry in," he said.
Franken's unabashedly partisan slant was somewhat beside the point in bringing him to Sundance, said Larry Aidem, president of the network (a venture between Robert Redford, NBC Universal and Showtime Networks Inc.).
"In a digital television environment, it is important to be relevant and talked about," said Aidem, "but that's not to say we'll do anything to get on the radar screen."
More important, he said, was the effect the Franken show would have on broadening the scope of the network, whose primary focus is independent feature films and documentaries.
"This is an opportunity for us to be in partnership with a personality who we think is extremely attractive to our audience," he said — "someone funny, smart, insightful."
"They just approached us, and we said yes," Franken explained when asked how the Sundance alliance happened.
"I don't know how much I'm going to make an effort to adapt the show to TV," he added, suggesting he might follow the example of Don Imus, whose widely syndicated radio show has been simulcast on cable's MSNBC since 1996.
"Imus does nothing to adapt to TV but sit up straight," Franken said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 7:02 PM
How the GOP milks a bogus doctors' insurance crisis.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:09 PM
August 10, 2004
As a sequel to their dishonest TV ads, SBVT is planning the release of a new book on Aug. 15. The book -- which has already soared to number one on the Amazon bestseller list -- is expected to expand on the same discredited allegations featured in the TV spot.
It is co-authored by Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D. MediaMatters.org has complied a dossier of Corsi's screeds (http://mediamatters.org/items/200408060010) which he has been posting on an Internet bulletin board for the last three years.
Corsi on Islam: "a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion."
Corsi on Hillary Clinton: "Anybody ask why HELLary couldn't keep BJ Bill satisfied? Not lesbo or anything is she?"
Corsi on Muslims: "Ragheads are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters -- it all goes together."
The book's author, John O'Neill -- member of the SBVT steering committee -- is a longtime Republican operative. O'Neill was recruited by President Richard Nixon (http://mediamatters.org/items/200405040004) in the 1970s to be a counterfoil to Kerry when he was advocating for the end of the Vietnam War.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:21 AM
August 10, 2004
What a difference a decade makes. According to the 7/14/92 Washington Post, George W. Bush wrote a letter in 1992 on behalf of his father's presidential campaign to 85,697 campaign contributors condemning an operation attempting to smear Bill Clinton and encouraging them not to contribute to the effort.
E-mail George W. Bush (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell him to follow his own example by condemning the smear tactics of the SBVT and urging his contributors not to finance their activities.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:17 AM
August 10, 2004
Just one day after attending a church service where the topic was the excesses of wealth (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0808-06.htm) , President Bush joked about taxes, saying "the really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes (http://www.wtopnews.com/?sid=243903&nid=25) anyway." The statement was a sharp departure from his past tough talk on tax enforcement. Just four months ago, the president claimed he wanted "to make sure that tax cheaters are found (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/04/20040415-7.html) , make sure the IRS gets after those who don't pay taxes; make sure that the system is fair for those of us who do pay taxes. We want everybody paying their fair share." Unfortunately, though, yesterday's quip was far more indicative of the White House's record on taxes than the tough talk from before. The Bush administration has simultaneously reduced audits of the biggest corporations (many of which finance its political campaigns) while increasing scrutiny of indivduals. More specifically, that increased scrutiny has fallen on the working poor, even as high-income and corporate tax cheating increases.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:00 AM
In an Aug. 10 opinion piece in the conservative Wall Street Journal , Jim Rassmann -- the man Kerry rescued to win the Bronze Star -- says the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad was "launched by people without decency" who are "lying" and "should hang their heads in shame."
Rassmann said that after the first explosion that disabled PCF-3:
Rassmann: Machine-gun fire erupted from both banks of the river and a second explosion followed moments later. The second blast blew me off John's swift boat, PCF-94, throwing me into the river. Fearing that the other boats would run me over, I swam to the bottom of the river and stayed there as long as I could hold my breath.
When I surfaced, all the swift boats had left, and I was alone taking fire from both banks. To avoid the incoming fire I repeatedly swam under water as long as I could hold my breath, attempting to make it to the north bank of the river. I thought I would die right there. The odds were against me avoiding the incoming fire and, even if I made it out of the river, I thought I thought I'd be captured and executed. Kerry must have seen me in the water and directed his driver, Del Sandusky, to turn the boat around. Kerry's boat ran up to me in the water, bow on, and I was able to climb up a cargo net to the lip of the deck. But, because I was nearly upside down, I couldn't make it over the edge of the deck. This left me hanging out in the open, a perfect target. John, already wounded by the explosion that threw me off his boat, came out onto the bow, exposing himself to the fire directed at us from the jungle, and pulled me aboard.
Rassmann said he recommended Kerry for the Silver Star for that action, and learned only later that the Bronze Star had been awarded instead. "To this day I still believe he deserved the Silver Star for his courage," he wrote. Rassmann described himself as a retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "I am a Republican, and for more than 30 years I have largely voted for Republicans," Rassmann said. But he said Kerry "will be a great commander in chief."
"This smear campaign has been launched by people without decency," Rassmann said. "Their new charges are false; their stories are fabricated, made up by people who did not serve with Kerry in Vietnam."
Posted by politicalstuff at 10:51 AM
August 11, 2004
By PHILIP BOBBITT
London — Within the last week, both the United States and the British governments have come in for criticism about how they alert their publics of impending terrorist attacks. In London, the minister for home affairs, David Blunkett, was accused of keeping the public in the dark over the extent of the terrorist threat to Britain; Tory opponents challenged him to release as much detail as the Bush administration had in the United States. In America, the secretary for homeland security, Tom Ridge, was accused of playing election-year politics by ratcheting up the alert level while praising "the president's leadership in the war against terror." The problem reached such a crisis that it now appears that a substantial intelligence asset was compromised in one official's desperation to convince the news media that yes, there really was information about an imminent attack even though some of it was years old.
There was a time when societies at war were willing to trust their leaders to decide when, from a strategic point of view, information could be safely released. In a way, this trust was responsible for the famous Coventry legend, the false story that Winston Churchill, despite knowing through decoded intercepts that the city of Coventry was about to be bombed, did not warn the residents so that he could preserve the secret that the British were reading encrypted German radio signals.
Different attitudes prevail today, even in Britain, and one must have some sympathy with the governments of both countries. On the one hand, no official wants to neglect giving a warning to the public that might save lives; on the other, such action awards the terrorists a costless if minor victory by terrorizing the population and using government channels to do it. If officials then try to minimize the impact of the warning with suggestions that the public go about its business as usual, they dilute the effectiveness of the announcement and encourage a complacency that they were trying to pierce in the first place.
There is always going to be some threatening chatter among our enemies. There are more than 4,000 Web sites maintained by terrorist groups, and specific targets, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or financial institutions in the United States and Britain, are openly discussed. Since Osama bin Laden's expressed goal is to weaken the West financially, every family that avoids a ballpark or decides not to take a vacation is advancing the aims of terrorists. It may be that people like Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft can take their children to the Statue of Liberty while maintaining the recommended "heightened awareness," but it sounds like a trip to hell to me.
While there are no perfect solutions to this conundrum, we could vastly improve our rules for warning if we stepped back and looked more closely at the strategy of alert systems.
First, let's distinguish between informing, alerting and warning. Informing, in this context, means simply putting into the public domain as much of what we know as we can without compromising intelligence sources and countermeasures. Alerting means contacting public officials and managers of the infrastructure in the private sector when we have a good reason for them to be on the alert. Warning means cautioning the public at large when we have something specific to warn them about and when we can couple that warning with advice on substantially reducing risks.
Now how does that play out in practice?
If the government believes it knows something is coming, but not where or when, it should inform the public about the nature of the threat - general information about Al Qaeda's activities and its expressed intentions. For example, Osama bin Laden has openly discussed his desire to acquire nuclear weapons and has, on at least one occasion, attempted to purchase nuclear materials. If the government thinks something is about to happen and believes it knows either where or when, but not both, it should alert not the public generally, but federal, state and local officials and private operators of the critical national infrastructure (banks, hospitals, energy links and power grids, etc.) that it, for example, believes Al Qaeda has targeted the Statue of Liberty but the attack could come five years from now. If the government believes it knows an attack is coming, and where and when it will occur, it should warn the public directly through the sort of press conference they have been using to announce general changes in the color-coded system.
The rationale for these distinctions arises from the strategic costs imposed on the United States and Britain by terrorists. If we confuse the terms inform, alert and warn, we inadvertently shift the calculus of costs to the terrorists' advantage. For example, if we alert when we should be informing, we unnecessarily increase costs and make the long-term (or the widespread) precautions that are imposed impossible to sustain. If we warn when we should be alerting, we invite the Chicken Little (or perhaps the Boy Who Cried Wolf) costs of making real warning more expensive to achieve. If we merely inform when we should be warning, we lose the trust of our people and make them prey to conspiracy theorists of all kinds, including the calculatedly malevolent.
The terrorists want the maximum effect with the minimum of risk. By confining our costs, we force them to escalate theirs - we force them, that is, to be more specific - and sooner or later we learn how to cross-hatch their threats to track down their operatives.
The general approach of empowering millions of persons by putting them on the lookout is a good one. It was, after all, an alert Border Patrol guard, not anyone in Washington, who foiled the so-called millennium plot to bomb the Los Angeles airport. But the color-coded system is too broad, too indiscriminate; there is a reason it is so easy to ridicule. The underlying problem is not so easy, but it is amenable to more careful thinking.
Philip Bobbitt, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author of the forthcoming "The War on Terror.''
Posted by politicalstuff at 10:03 AM
August 11, 2004
As the Sept. 11 commission made clear, the nation urgently needs to reorganize its intelligence agencies. Nominating a new candidate for the old, unreformed job of director of central intelligence, as President Bush did yesterday, is not the logical or appropriate place to start. Last week, Mr. Bush attempted to transform the powerful new position of national intelligence director, as proposed by the commission, into a neutralized bureaucratic cipher by depriving the office of any real authority. Now he once again seems intent on draining momentum from the idea of systematic intelligence reform.
Even under normal circumstances, it's questionable whether a president should try to install a new C.I.A. chief a few months before an election. Mr. Bush seems to be deliberately inviting a confirmation battle by turning to Representative Porter Goss of Florida, a partisan Republican and a man criticized for his close, protective relationship with that intelligence agency - where he once worked. After the catastrophic intelligence failures and oversight lapses of recent years, the Senate must rigorously examine Mr. Goss's suitability and political independence. But contentious confirmation hearings are likely to distract the Senate's attention from the far more important job of figuring out how to coordinate America's disparate and overlapping intelligence agencies and streamline a largely dysfunctional system of Congressional oversight.
Mr. Goss, who has served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee since 1997, shares some of the responsibility for the oversight breakdown. His embrace of the Sept. 11 report has been little better than lukewarm. While calling the committee back for August hearings, he has taken a go-slow attitude. The most important service he could perform for the country at this time would be to put his experience to work shaping reform legislation. Instead, he has been nominated for a job that will have to be thoroughly redefined.
The nation is now well aware that American intelligence operations are too far-flung and disorganized to respond to the complexities of the post-cold-war world. The Sept. 11 commission concluded that there should be a single official responsible for coordinating the intelligence work that is now spread among the C.I.A., the Defense Department and numerous other agencies.
To make the new coordinator more than a figurehead, the commission proposed that the job be endowed with power over the budgets of the various intelligence agencies and the appointment of their leaders. President Bush, in an attempt to get the credit for reform without the substance, announced his support for creating the new position - minus the budget and appointment powers. Congress has hardly begun to tackle the issue, but the president is already in the process of changing the conversation.
There is no reason the C.I.A.'s current acting director, John McLaughlin, cannot be kept in his job while the new structure is being designed. And no reason the appointment of a permanent successor cannot be delayed, at least until after the next presidential term begins in January.
Posted by politicalstuff at 9:56 AM
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
By PAUL KRUGMAN
August 10, 2004
When Friday's dismal job report was released, traders in the Chicago pit began chanting, "Kerry, Kerry." But apologists for President Bush's economic policies are frantically spinning the bad news. Here's a guide to their techniques.
First, they talk about recent increases in the number of jobs, not the fact that payroll employment is still far below its previous peak, and even further below anything one could call full employment. Because job growth has finally turned positive, some economists (who probably know better) claim that prosperity has returned - and some partisans have even claimed that we have the best economy in 20 years.
But job growth, by itself, says nothing about prosperity: growth can be higher in a bad year than a good year, if the bad year follows a terrible year while the good year follows another good year. I've drawn a chart of job growth for the 1930's; there was rapid nonfarm job growth (8.1 percent) in 1934, a year of mass unemployment and widespread misery - but that year was slightly less terrible than 1933.
So have we returned to prosperity? No: jobs are harder to find, by any measure, than they were at any point during Bill Clinton's second term. The job situation might have improved somewhat in the past year, but it's still not good.
Second, the apologists give numbers without context. President Bush boasts about 1.5 million new jobs over the past 11 months. Yet this was barely enough to keep up with population growth, and it's worse than any 11-month stretch during the Clinton years.
Third, they cherry-pick any good numbers they can find.
The shocking news that the economy added only 32,000 jobs in July comes from payroll data. Experts say what Alan Greenspan said in February: "Everything we've looked at suggests that it's the payroll data which are the series which you have to follow." Another measure of employment, from the household survey, fluctuates erratically; for example, it fell by 265,000 in February, a result nobody believes. Yet because July's household number was good, suddenly administration officials were telling reporters to look at that number, not the more reliable payroll data.
By the way, over the longer term all the available data tell the same story: the job situation deteriorated drastically between early 2001 and the summer of 2003, and has, at best, improved modestly since then.
Fourth, apologists try to shift the blame. Officials often claim, falsely, that the 2001 recession began under Bill Clinton, or at least that it was somehow his fault. But even if you attribute the eight-month recession that began in March 2001 to Mr. Clinton - a very dubious proposition - job loss during the recession wasn't exceptionally severe. The reason the employment picture looks so bad now is the unprecedented weakness of job growth in the subsequent recovery.
Nor is it plausible to continue attributing poor economic performance to terrorism, three years after 9/11. Bear in mind that in the 2002 Economic Report of the President, the administration's own economists predicted full recovery by 2004, with payroll employment rising to 138 million, 7 million more than the actual number.
Finally, many apologists have returned to that old standby: the claim that presidents don't control the economy. But that's not what the administration said when selling its tax policies. Last year's tax cut was officially named the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 - and administration economists provided a glowing projection of the job growth that would follow the bill's passage. That projection has, needless to say, proved to be wildly overoptimistic.
What we've just seen is as clear a test of trickledown economics as we're ever likely to get. Twice, in 2001 and in 2003, the administration insisted that a tax cut heavily tilted toward the affluent was just what the economy needed. Officials brushed aside pleas to give relief instead to lower- and middle-income families, who would be more likely to spend the money, and to cash-strapped state and local governments. Given the actual results - huge deficits, but minimal job growth - don't you wish the administration had listened to that advice?
Oh, and on a nonpolitical note: even before Friday's grim report on jobs, I was puzzled by Mr. Greenspan's eagerness to start raising interest rates. Now I don't understand his policy at all.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:40 AM
Monday, August 09, 2004
From The Oregonian
August 07, 2004
BAGHDAD -- The national guardsman peering through the long-range scope of his rifle was startled by what he saw unfolding in the walled compound below.
From his post several stories above ground level, he watched as men in plainclothes beat blindfolded and bound prisoners in the enclosed grounds of the Iraqi Interior Ministry.
He immediately radioed for help. Soon after, a team of Oregon Army National Guard soldiers swept into the yard and found dozens of Iraqi detainees who said they had been beaten, starved and deprived of water for three days.
In a nearby building, the soldiers counted dozens more prisoners and what appeared to be torture devices -- metal rods, rubber hoses, electrical wires and bottles of chemicals. Many of the Iraqis, including one identified as a 14-year-old boy, had fresh welts and bruises across their back and legs.
The soldiers disarmed the Iraqi jailers, moved the prisoners into the shade, released their handcuffs and administered first aid. Lt. Col. Daniel Hendrickson of Albany, Ore., the highest ranking American at the scene, radioed for instructions.
But in a move that frustrated and infuriated the guardsmen, Hendrickson's superior officers told him to return the prisoners to their abusers and immediately withdraw. It was June 29 -- Iraq's first official day as a sovereign country since the U.S.-led invasion.
Complete article at: http://www.oregonlive.com/special/oregonian/iraq/index.ssf?/base/front_page/1091880082213032.xml
Posted by politicalstuff at 8:15 PM
Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that's not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy's critique of George W. Bush.
Read the article here.
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:43 PM
From the official Kerry-Edwards blog.
This morning we headed for the Grand Canyon. While John Kerry went on a hike with his family, the staff and traveling press also had the opportunity to look around and enjoy this natural wonder.
We also saw several California Condors. According to a guide there are only 84 condors living in the wild, 37 of them in Arizona. In 1982, the California condor was nearly extinct with only 22 of the majestic birds remaining.
Last night we passed through Winslow, Arizona. The plan was to slow down the train so John Kerry could wave to supporters who had gathered near the tracks. On the way into town we saw a group of people carrying two bed sheets which read, “You give us 10 minutes, we’ll give you eight years.” John Kerry asked the engineer to stop the train and then gave an impromptu fifteen minute speech to the delight of the assembled crowd.
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:22 PM
In the NY Times, the Center for American Progress shows how the $144 billion spent in Iraq could have been used to make us safer.
Posted by politicalstuff at 3:08 PM
Destroying a Key Source
Last week, U.S. officials revealed their major terror warning -- timed
one week after the Democratic National Convention -- was based on old
. Now, it appears that the Bush administration was so eager to reap
political gain from the war on terror, it exposed an undercover al Qaeda
mole who was providing authorities with key leads to nab the terrorist
group's top leadership. According to MSNBC, Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan,
the suspect whose computer information led to the recent increased terror
warning level, "had been actively cooperating with intelligence agents
(http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/080804Z.shtml) to help catch al-Qaida
operatives." The Bush administration told reporters Khan was the source
of the information that led to the terror alert level being raised. "By
exposing the only deep mole we've ever had within al Qaeda, it ruined
the chance (http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2004/8/7/221841.shtml)
to capture dozens if not hundreds more," said former Justice Department
prosecutor John Loftus. All told, more than a third of Americans
now believe the Bush administration would use terror warnings for its
own political gain.
RICE ADMITS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION LEAKED: On CNN's Late Edition,
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice admitted it was the Bush
administration (http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0408/08/le.00.html) -- not
career intelligence officers -- who opted to leak Khan's name. Rice tried
to defend the White House by saying they only disclosed the name "on
background." When Sen. George Allen (R-VA) tried to spin the leak later
in the show, CNN's Wolf Blitzer reminded him that Rice "confirmed that
on background" the administration "did release the name of this Muhammad
Naeem Noor Khan." See more American Progress analysis of current
Administration terrorism policies here
DISCLOSURE VIOLATES JUSTICE DEPT'S OWN POSITION: The Bush
administration's deliberate disclosure of Khan's name directly violated the Justice
Department's own stated position on such matters. In the Supreme Court
case (http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/01/12/scotus.terrorism.secrecy/) in
which the department tried to keep detainee names secret, its top
terrorism prosecutor filed an affidavit
(http://www.cnss.org/dojreynoldsdeclaration.htm) outlining the
administration's opposition to such disclosure. In the affidavit, the
administration said disclosing names of those "who may be revealed to have
knowledge of or a connection to terrorism could lead to the public
identification of individuals associated with them" and that "divulging the
detainees' identities may deter them from cooperating with the Department
of Justice." The affidavit also said such disclosures "could allow
terrorist organizations and others to interfere with the pending proceedings
by creating false or misleading evidence."
KHAN'S OUTING MAY HAVE HAMPERED BRITISH INVESTIGATION: MSNBC reported
that, "In addition to ending the Pakistani sting, the premature
disclosure of Khan's identity may have affected a major British operation in
which 12 suspects were arrested in raids this week." The London Telegraph
reported, "British intelligence officials said American leaks had left
to pick up Khan's British-based contacts."
BRITS AND PAKISTANIS ARE OUTRAGED: The New York Daily News reports,
"British and Pakistani intelligence officials are furious
(http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/219869p-188947c.html) " with the
Bush administration "for unmasking their super spy - apparently to
justify the orange alert - and for naming the other captured terrorist
suspects." Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat "expressed
dismay the trap they had hoped would lead to the capture of other top Al
Qaeda leaders, possibly even Osama Bin Laden, was sprung too soon."
Pakistan, of course, had been under intense pressure
the Bush administration to produce "high value terrorist targets"
during the Democratic convention. Similarly, a British security official
said the disclosure "makes our job harder" as British Home Secretary
lashed out at the administration for its behavior.
INDEPENDENT INTELLIGENCE EXPERTS DISMAYED: Tim Ripley, security expert
for Jane's Defense publications, said, "The whole thing smacks of
either incompetence or worse
. You have to ask: what are they doing compromising a deep mole within
al Qaeda, when it's so difficult to get these guys in there in the
first place? It goes against all the rules of counter-espionage [and]
counter-terrorism." Rolf Tophoven, head of the Institute for Terrorism
Research and Security Policy in Essen, Germany, commented that allowing
Khan's name to become public was "very unclever" and said "it's another
Posted by politicalstuff at 3:00 PM
In the last few days, it appears Fox News' Bill O'Reilly has outdone even his own previous efforts to insult people. On Thursday, O'Reilly denigrated Muslims, in an
effort to attack the new movie Outfoxed (http://www.outfoxed.org/) .
Debating reporter Alex Ben Block, O'Reilly equated the term "Muslim" to
other denigrating labels, as if it were an insult: "I could make you,
Mr. Block, look like a communist, a fascist, a Muslim, or a
mud-wrestling woman." Then in a debate this weekend with New York Times columnist
Paul Krugman, O'Reilly equated a nonprofit organization with a racist
organization for having the nerve to publicize his most offensive quotes.
When Krugman read O'Reilly one of those quotes, O'Reilly said they were
transcribed by Media Matters (http://www.mediamatters.org/) , which he
said is "like me calling some Klan operation." Though O'Reilly did not
dispute that the quote was accurate, he said, "Why don't I call the Ku
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:58 PM
From the Economic Policy Intstitute's jobwatch.org website
Job growth has stalled in the last two months. Payroll jobs increased by only 78,000 in June and a meager 32,000 in July, after rising 295,000 a month the previous three months. The Bush Administration called the tax cut package, which was passed in May 2003 and took effect in July 2003, its "Jobs and Growth Plan." The president's economics staff, the Council of Economic Advisers (see background documents), projected that the plan would result in the creation of 5.5 million jobs by the end of 2004—306,000 new jobs each month starting in July 2003. The CEA projected that the economy would generate 228,000 jobs a month without a tax cut and 306,000 jobs a month with the tax cut. Thus, it projected that 3,978,000 jobs would be created over the last 13 months. In reality, since the tax cuts took effect, there are 2,565,000 fewer jobs than the administration projected would be created by enactment of its tax cuts. As can be seen in the charts at the jobwatch.com website, job creation failed to meet the administration's projections in 11 of the past 13 months.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:51 PM
By BOB HERBERT
August 9, 2004
I suppose there are people who still believe that enormous tax cuts for the very wealthy will lead to the creation of millions of good jobs for working people. In the twilight of his first term, the president, stumping for votes in regions scarred by the demon of unemployment, continues to sing from the tattered pages of his economic hymnbook:
"The economy is strong,'' he says again and again and again, "and it's growing stronger."
At a riverfront rally under cloudy skies in Davenport, Iowa, last week, Mr. Bush told a crowd of 5,000, "We are turning the corner and we're not going back."
In another four years, he says, "The economy will be better."
His tax cuts, he insists, couldn't have been better timed.
The true believers were jolted Friday by the news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that employers added a meager 32,000 jobs in July. In an economy the size of America's, that's roughly equivalent to no jobs at all.
July's poor job-creation performance was widely described as unexpected. But it's important to keep in mind that it didn't occur in a vacuum and that there is no quick fix coming. American workers are hurting.
"The weak job market continues to put downward pressure on wage growth," said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. He noted that nominal wage growth on a year-over-year basis has been decelerating even as inflation is increasing, which is bad news for an economy so dependent upon consumer spending.
In a report released by the institute on Friday, Mr. Bernstein wrote, "These job and wage dynamics erode workers' buying power, and this has negative implications for the strength of the recovery."
Retail sales in July were disappointing, hampered by high gasoline prices as well as anemic wage growth. And the stock market is in a prolonged swoon.
Despite the rosy rhetoric that comes nonstop from the administration, millions upon millions of American families, including many that consider themselves solidly in the middle class, are in deep economic trouble. Friday's Wall Street Journal featured a page-one article with the ominous headline: "New Group Swells Bankruptcy Court: The Middle-Aged."
Personal bankruptcy filings in the U.S. are at an all-time high. The Journal story focused on "an emerging class of middle-age, white-collar Americans who make the grim odyssey from comfortable circumstances to going broke." Among the villains of this disturbing piece are the unstable job market and staggering amounts of personal debt.
It's getting harder and harder to close our eyes to the growing economic devastation. Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor and co-author of "The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke," wrote in 2003:
"This year, more people will end up bankrupt than will suffer a heart attack. More adults will file for bankruptcy than will be diagnosed with cancer. More people will file for bankruptcy than will graduate from college. And, in an era when traditionalists decry the demise of the institution of marriage, Americans will file more petitions for bankruptcy than for divorce."
The Century Foundation, in a recent study, addressed the problem of outstanding debt. For many families borrowing has morphed from a tool that, used judiciously, can enhance their standard of living into a nightmare that threatens to destroy their economic viability.
"Debt burdens," the study said, "are at record levels because families have been stretched to the limit in recent years. With more income going to housing and other rising expenses related to medical care, education, vehicles, child care, and so forth, families are relying on credit as a way to meet everyday needs. Remarkably, a family with two earners today actually has less discretionary income, after fixed costs like medical insurance and mortgage payments are accounted for, than did a family with only one breadwinner in the 1970's."
There is no plan from the administration that I've heard of to brighten this bleak picture of the American economic landscape. John Kerry and John Edwards have an opportunity in the presidential campaign to offer their prescriptions. The first essential step for anyone serious about a search for solutions would be to recognize and acknowledge the sheer enormity of the problem.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:25 PM
HALLIBURTON: According to a new filing by four former Halliburton employees, Vice President Cheney's former company was guilty of inflating its financial results, overbilling for services, overstating its accounts receivable due from customers, and understating accounts payable owed to vendors. The employees “contend that a high-level and systemic accounting fraud occurred at the company from 1998 to 2001,” including during the two years when Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive. “The filing accuses the company of accounting improprieties that go far beyond those outlined by the Securities and Exchange Commission in its civil suit against Halliburton, which the company settled on Tuesday, paying $7.5 million.” It notes that one former employee in accounting said superiors told her to do “whatever it took” to make projects appear profitable and to meet Wall Street estimates for the company's earnings. According to a quarterly filing it also made on Tuesday, Halliburton is under investigation by the Justice Department for possibly overbilling on work done in the Balkans from 1996 through 2000.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:51 AM
Cheney Stopped Reforms
With President Bush flip-flopping on whether to support the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, a new report from the nonpartisan Federation of American Scientists shows that the person who has blocked many similar changes is Dick Cheney. Specifically, FAS documents that in 1992, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney refused to support many of the same intelligence reforms that the 9/11 Commission is proposing now, including the creation of a director of national intelligence. While the President has offered rhetorical support for creating the director position, top Republican Commissioner Slade Gorton said the White House's actual proposal falls far short of what the Commission recommended.
CHENEY OPPOSED CREATION OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: According to FAS, "In a March 1992 letter to Congress, Defense Secretary Cheney "defended the status quo and objected to proposed intelligence reform legislation, particularly the Director of National Intelligence position." Cheney wrote that proposed intelligence reforms proposed by Congress "would seriously impair the effectiveness" of government and specifically opposed empowering a director of national intelligence. He wrote that such a new office would "assign inappropriate authority" to the new director and said intelligence "must remain under the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of Defense" (i.e. himself).
CHENEY ISSUED VETO THREAT: In his letter, Cheney not only voiced opposition to the plan, but threatened to put the full weight of the first Bush administration behind stopping them. He wrote, "I would recommend that the President veto [the measure] if [it] were presented to him in its current form." As FAS notes, "Cheney's unyielding opposition stifled the first initiative for post-Cold War intelligence reform. As a result, we now face many of the same problems, and the same proposed solutions, more than a decade later."
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:43 AM
Churches See an Election Role and Spread the Word on Bush
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
August 9, 2004
ST. LOUIS, Aug. 8 - Susanne Jacobsmeyer, a member of the West County Assembly of God in a St. Louis suburb, voted for George W. Bush four years ago, but mostly out of loyalty as a Republican and not with much passion.
This year, Ms. Jacobsmeyer is a "team leader" in the Bush campaign's effort to turn out conservative Christian voters. "This year I am voting for him as a man of faith," she said over breakfast after an early morning service. "He has proven that he will do what is right, and he will look to God first."
Jan Klarich, her friend and another team leader, agreed. "Don't you feel it is a spiritual battle?" she asked to nods around the table.
The Bush campaign is seeking to rally conservative churches and their members to help turn out sympathetic voters this fall, and West County Assembly of God, a 600-member evangelical congregation in a Republican district of a pivotal swing state, is on the front lines of the effort.
The church's pastor, John A. Wilson, has led a prayer for the president every Sunday for 10 years. His sermons often extol the importance of opposing abortion, stem cell research and same-sex marriage, and he says he supports Mr. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq.
Before Missouri voted last week to add a ban on same-sex marriage to the state's Constitution and keep in place a restriction on gambling, the church newsletter endorsed both measures so vigorously that the post office denied the church its usually discounted postal rate for engaging in political activity.
To promote involvement on social issues, Mr. Wilson said, the church has formed a dozen-member "moral action team."
They hold open meetings for parishioners each month. They inform church members about socially conservative electoral issues. They register them to vote at stands outside the sanctuary on designated "voter registration" Sundays. Last week, the "moral action team" even drove church members to the polls, and they plan to do the same for this fall's general election as well.
Ms. Klarich, a former state Republican Party official and former state chairman of the Christian Coalition, founded a local Republican organization meeting in an office park next to the church, and many members of the congregation attend.
Last year, the Bush campaign sent Ralph Reed, its Southeast regional chairman and the former chairman of the Christian Coalition, to speak to her group.
"I have Bush speakers, and we distribute bumper stickers and all kinds of things," Ms. Klarich said.
Still, Mr. Wilson, the pastor, said that even in his politically active and socially conservative congregation he stops short of endorsing candidates or parties from the pulpit, partly for fear of alienating some members of the congregation and distracting from his spiritual mission.
Socially conservative pastors and priests are wrestling with their potentially pivotal role in the tight presidential race. In interviews with more than a dozen religious leaders in the St. Louis area, several said they felt a duty to speak up for what they consider biblical values like opposition to abortion and same sex-marriage. Some also mentioned the longstanding role of African-American pastors in encouraging their members to vote for Democrats.
But all of the clergy members also expressed a fear of letting partisanship distract from their spiritual mission. They also worried about endangering their churches' tax-exempt status. The tax code restricts churches and other charitable organizations from engaging in partisan politics, although church leaders can speak about social issues and register voters. All of the pastors said they neither expressly endorse political candidates from the pulpit nor permitted explicit campaigning within their churches, no matter how clear they felt the implications of their religious teachings to be.
Some traditionalists on social issues also expressed some uncertainty about other aspects of the Bush administration, like its emphasis on tax cuts and its conduct of the war in Iraq.
"I don't see how a president could call on so many young men and women to sacrifice in our nation's service and not call the rest of us to sacrifice financially as well," said Rudy Pulido, pastor of Southwest Baptist Church, a member of the theologically conservative Southern Baptist Convention, and the president of the local chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Many conservative pastors bristled at the notion that they are being enlisted by a campaign, instead describing their voter registration efforts as fulfilling biblical obligations.
"They know that to a degree they are a target of candidates and campaigns, and there is this natural tendency to say, we need to insulate ourselves," said Kerry K. Messer, a Southern Baptist layperson and founder of the socially conservative Missouri Family Network. "I see it more as a grass-roots movement. People are starting to say, we have got this figured out. These are the bad guys, we are the good guys, why is it that we can't talk about this at our local church?''
But the Bush campaign is doing everything it can to encourage those grass-roots efforts. Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, has often said he believes that four million fewer conservative Christians turned out to vote than he projected in the 2000 election, almost costing Mr. Bush the presidency, and the campaign is determined not to let that happen again.
So the Bush campaign sent Mr. Reed to recruit pastors at the annual meeting of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention. According to campaign memorandums, it has asked "people of faith team leaders" to help identify thousands of "friendly congregations" around the country. It asked religious outreach volunteers to petition their pastors to hold voter registration drives, and to speak on behalf of the campaign to Bible studies and church groups.
The campaign has asked volunteers to send in copies of congregational directories for comparison with voter registration rolls - a move some conservative religious leaders have denounced as a violation of the privacy of the church and its members.
The Republican Party has sent has organized a special Catholic outreach tour, including a speech by the party chairman, Ed Gillespie, in St. Charles, a St. Louis suburb.
As about 500 people gathered for the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass at the St. Peter Parish Church in St. Charles, his appeals appeared to fall on fertile ground. The Rev. John J. Ghio included a prayer for "reverence for all human life from conception" in the service. A Catholic voting guide in the program noted that Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of the Archdiocese of St. Louis has said it is a sin to vote for candidates who support abortion rights, a group that includes Senator John Kerry. The guide listed "non-negotiable" issues of abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, human cloning and same-sex marriage.
"I don't know how a Catholic in good conscience could vote for a candidate who was pro abortion," Father Ghio said after the service.
Just around the corner, the Rev. Richard J. Tillman of St. Charles Borromeo Church took a different approach, arguing that concerns about life also applied to the invasion of Iraq, which the Catholic Church has opposed. After an invitation to give an invocation when Mr. Bush spoke in St. Charles, he said, he was disinvited because of his opposition to the war.
Pastors at several typically conservative evangelical Protestant churches said they were more determined than ever to get their parishioners to the polls.
The Rev. Gerald Davidson of the 5,000-member First Baptist Church of Arnold, Mo., put it like this: "I say, Don't let your labor union, don't let the teachers groups and all the other different groups tell you how to vote - you vote the way the way the word of God tells you to vote."
In an interview, Ms. Klarich said that she sometimes discussed political matters in a Bible study group she attends with 300 women each week. "Politics is a no-no, so you have to be very careful," she said. "But if they tend to respect you, they tend to take your view on things."
At breakfast after the service at West County Assembly of God, Bob Payne, a church member, said he had seen photographic evidence of Mr. Bush's faith. The leader of the local chapter of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International had passed around a picture of Mr. Bush and his cabinet with their heads bowed in prayer, he said.
Ms. Klarich said that she had planned to send a copy of the church's directory to the Bush campaign, which she said was a common practice, and that she and Mr. Payne planned to write letters to their neighbors in their subdivision. Soon the conversation turned to wondering if promoting the Bush campaign at the church was really just "preaching to the choir." But then they were reminded of the crucial question of turnout.
"Do you think it would help to have friends-and-neighbors coffees?" Ms. Klarich asked.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:38 AM
By EDMUND L. ANDREWS
August 9, 2004
WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 - The stunningly slow pace of job creation, which sank to growth of just 32,000 in July, has provided new ammunition in an intense political debate over job quality.
For months, Democrats have said that the long-delayed employment recovery was concentrated in low-wage jobs that paid far less than those that were lost. White House officials replied that the available data failed to settle the matter one way or the other.
The data is still inconclusive. But the weakness in job creation and the apparent weakness in high-paying jobs may be opposite sides of a coin. Companies still seem cautious, relying on temporary workers and anxious about rising health care costs associated with full-time workers. Many economists say that over the long term, the most vulnerable positions are those at the low end of the wage scale that require fewer skills and are easily replicated.
Even now, at a time when a disproportionate number of new jobs appear to be lower-paying ones, there has been growth in some high-income occupations like accounting, architecture and software.
Yet the earnings gap between the highest-paid employees and the rest of the work force is still widening, as it has over most of the last 30 years. The trend is most striking in factories, which accounted for the bulk of job losses in the last three years and tended to pay above-average wages.
In contrast to previous recoveries, when companies rehired a large proportion of laid-off workers, manufacturers have added only 91,000 jobs this year, having eliminated more than two million jobs in the previous three years.
The largely permanent decline in manufacturing employment, which has been more acute after this recession than in previous ones, spans all levels from blue-collar workers through senior management. It has coincided with a bulge in the number of jobs in low-paying fields that are comparatively easy to enter: retail sales, hotel services and clerical work.
The ragged pattern of the recovery has given rise to the political debate, with Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, saying that new jobs pay, on average, $9,000 a year less than the jobs that were lost.
White House officials disagree, saying that such calculations are based on an erroneous comparison of median wages between industries that are expanding and contracting. The main error, they say, is that even low-wage industries like retailers and fast-food chains hire high-income executives and managers.
" McDonald's has C.E.O.'s and accountants, and investment banks hire janitors,'' said N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers. "Simply knowing what broad categories are rising and falling doesn't tell you anything about the jobs people are getting.''
But a growing number of analysts say the evidence increasingly suggests that the current recovery has indeed been tilted toward lower-paying jobs. Industries ranked in the bottom fifth for wages and salaries have added 477,000 jobs since January, while industries in the top fifth for wages had no increase at all, according to an analysis of Labor Department payroll data by Economy.com, an economic research firm.
"Since employment peaked, we've lost many more higher-paying jobs than lower-paying jobs,'' said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com. "In recovery, we've created more lower-paying jobs than higher-paying jobs."
Though acknowledging that the payroll data was inconclusive, Mr. Zandi said that the pattern had become firmer over the last month and that it was increasingly similar to what had been found in the Labor Department's household survey, which categorizes work by occupation as well as industry.
But many economists say the long-term pattern, and problem, are quite different.
Daniel Aaronson, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said the pattern of high-paying and low-paying jobs routinely fluctuates with economic cycles. "When aggregate employment growth is strong,'' Mr. Aaronson said, "you see more jobs created in higher-income sectors, and when employment growth is weak, the number of those jobs just tanks. We shouldn't be concerned about short-term wiggles in the data, but on the bigger issues of increasing productivity and increasing worker education.''
Other economists say the more enduring pattern is the widening gap between people with different levels of education.
"You want to think of two job markets - roughly speaking, one for college graduates and the other for high school graduates,'' said Frank Levy, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author of a new book on the subject, "The New Division of Labor.''
"The market for college-grad jobs over the last four years has been expanding,'' Professor Levy said. "But the market for high school graduates has been deteriorating, with production and clerical jobs shrinking and being replaced by lower-paying service sector jobs.''
Other analysts say the long-term trend is more complicated, noting that real wages for middle-income workers have been losing ground to those in the top 10 percent of earners over most of the last 30 years.
The problem confronting President Bush is that job creation of all kinds has been slower in this recovery than in other ones, and White House officials acknowledged they were disappointed by Friday's report.
Employment finally seemed to surge in March and the economy added just over a million jobs in the first six months of the year. But the nation still has about 1.2 million fewer jobs than when Mr. Bush took office, and the work force has expanded by more than a million since that time.
Adjusted for inflation, average hourly wages have fallen slightly in the last year. And for many who have lost their jobs as a result of plant closings and layoffs, the impact has been more acute: a recent survey of displaced workers by the Labor Department found that 57 percent of those who had found work were earning less than they did in their old jobs. As of December, when the survey was taken, 4 of 10 displaced factory workers had yet to start a new job.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:24 AM
By ADAM COHEN
August 8, 2004
KINGMAN, Ariz. — The elections director of Mohave County, Ariz., was so proud of his new electronic voting system that Bev Harris barely had the heart to point out its vulnerabilities. But she did, and before long she was ticking off the ways that she said an outsider could hijack his central tabulator - the computer that stores all of the county's votes - and steal an election.
By the time she had shown him a "backdoor" way to gain access to his software without a password, the elections director was visibly concerned. Before she left, he asked her to send him a list of things he could do to safeguard this year's election.
Ms. Harris's visit to Mohave County was part of a monthlong trip in which she and her deputy, Andy Stephenson, traveled to 10 states, investigating flaws in electronic voting and giving on-the-fly computer security tutorials.
The trip started out in Ohio, where they knocked on the doors of employees of Diebold, one of the largest and most criticized voting machine companies. It ended in late July in Las Vegas at Defcon, a hackers' convention, where the consensus was that cracking a voting machine might not be so hard.
Ms. Harris, the director of Black Box Voting (the Web address is www.blackboxvoting.org), has made herself public enemy No. 1 for voting machine manufacturers, and some elections officials, with her hard-edged attacks on electronic voting and her investigative style. (She acknowledges that at one point in Ohio, she and Mr. Stephenson hid in the bushes with a microphone, eavesdropping on Diebold workers.)
But there is no denying that Ms. Harris, a onetime literary publicist from the Seattle area, is responsible for digging up some of the most disturbing information yet to surface about the accuracy and integrity of electronic voting.
"I wouldn't want to play her role," says Aviel Rubin, a Johns Hopkins computer science professor and a leading critic of electronic voting. "But we're all better off that she's out there."
When they're in road-trip mode, Ms. Harris and Mr. Stephenson are a high-tech public-interest group on wheels. With a laptop computer connected to the Internet by cellphone, they toggle between MapQuest, hunting down directions, and Google, searching for the latest electronic voting information. The phone rings frequently with leads to be investigated. As they drove through San Bernardino, Calif., Ms. Harris took a call from a small-town official in Indiana, who claimed a voting machine salesman picked up a top elections official in his county in a limousine and took her on a shopping spree.
In the San Bernardino County elections office, Ms. Harris asked the registrar of voters to explain why, in the presidential primary in March, the vote totals went down in the days after the election. He explained that the county's electronic voting system had faulty software that accidentally held on to some test votes, and added them to the real votes that were cast. He insists that the story showed that the system worked well, since the extra votes were eventually found. Ms. Harris is skeptical.
Even many of Ms. Harris's detractors concede that her past investigations have shaken up the electronic voting field.
While surfing the Internet last year, she came across secret source code - programming instructions - for Diebold voting machines, and made it publicly available. Mr. Rubin relied on the code she found in a report last July in which he identified what he called "stunning, stunning flaws" in Diebold software.
Ms. Harris also found software updates, or patches, that Diebold added to Georgia's electronic voting machines before the 2002 election, even though the software had not been properly certified. More recently, she caused waves in King County, Wash., her home county, when she revealed that one of the main designers of its elections management computer system was a convicted felon, who had embezzled $465,361 from a Seattle law firm.
Ms. Harris worries a lot about this year's election. One of the key vulnerabilities, she says, is the central tabulator, which could control a million or more votes in some counties. There will be thousands of election workers - including temporaries who may not even have had their backgrounds checked - with access to these computers, who she believes could change vote totals rapidly. "It isn't hacking an election," she says. "It's editing an election." She and many computer scientists worry that modems on the machines will make them vulnerable.
Ms. Harris hopes to expand her small Black Box Voting organization into a consumer-protection agency for electronic voting and election procedures.
There is clearly a need. When electronic voting was rolled out, with even less security than is in place now, groups like the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union did little to warn about the dangers, and large public interest organizations and foundations are still doing too little.
The burden has been carried by a small group of public-minded citizens. Dr. Rebecca Mercuri of Harvard (www.notablesoftware.com), Prof. David Dill of Stanford University (www.verifiedvoting.org) and Professor Rubin have done heroic work in academia to investigate and explain electronic voting. Organizations like the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, which found a significant flaw in the audit function in Florida voting machines, and the Computer Ate My Vote movement are also making a real difference.
For now, Ms. Harris is continuing to work her leads. She has to follow up on an e-mail message she picked up on the road in Arizona, from an elections judge in Santa Clara, Calif., saying there was a problem there. "Usually when it's an elections judge, it's something good," she says.
Most disturbing of all, she has heard reports that one of the big machine manufacturers may be including a modem connection between a county's tabulating computer and the manufacturer's own headquarters, which could allow it to change vote totals from afar.
"It's pretty much never-ending," Ms. Harris says with a sigh.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:02 AM
Sunday, August 08, 2004
By THOMAS CRAMPTON
August 9, 2004
LAWRENCE, Kan., Aug. 8 - Outsiders could be forgiven for thinking that no one on a presidential ticket would visit Kansas before Election Day.
For this small university town in a Republican county in a strongly Republican state, there would be no need for a Republican candidate to visit and no point for a Democratic one to, either.
But the loud cheers of a highly charged crowd lining railway tracks outside this town past midnight Friday briefly adjusted the national political calculus and brought John Edwards, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, flying into a state his party has little hope of winning.
On Friday, the crowd of several thousand had waited for more than three hours for the perpetually tardy Kerry-Edwards campaign to arrive aboard a 15-car train that includes an antique caboose used by President Harry S. Truman during his famed whistle-stop tour.
Members of the crowd amused themselves by chanting and accidentally cheered the arrival of an Amtrak train before the campaign train blasted by at top speed, leaving signs flapping and supporters disappointed.
Campaign officials blamed the conductor for failing to slow down, but Elizabeth Edwards, Mr. Edwards's wife, took the incident to heart.
Writing on the campaign's Web log the next morning, Mrs. Edwards declared she would repay the town for the loud cheers and for the kindness of a mechanic in the town who had once fixed a borrowed car that she and her then husband-to-be drove from North Carolina to the Grand Canyon in 1976.
"We owe you twice," Mrs. Edwards wrote in a posting Saturday morning. "Don't worry, we'll repay that debt. And soon."
To follow through on that promise, the campaign abandoned a long-planned day of campaigning alongside John Kerry in the important swing state of New Mexico.
The advance team worked overnight to prepare a park that included a train as backdrop, but torrential rains on Sunday swamped the venue.
Help came hours before the event in the form of Mike J. Elwell, a registered Republican and owner of a bar called Abe & Jake's Landing.
"I happened to drive by, and they really looked miserable there in the mud,'' Mr. Elwell said. "My place was empty, so I told them to come over if they wanted. Call it Kansas hospitality.''
Come over they did. Hand-drawn signs in the park and a message on the local cable channel sent about 1,000 people to the former barbed wire factory on the banks of the Kaw River, filling it to capacity and leaving more than 2,000 people stuck outside.
"I waited on the train tracks for three hours on Friday and for 90 minutes in the rain today, but it was worth it,'' said Mary De Coste, a Lawrence resident and longtime Democrat. "This country needs a change.''
Dispensing with the normal series of introductory speeches, Larry Gates, chairman of the state's Democratic Party, spoke only a few words before declaring, "You're a rock star in Kansas, Elizabeth.''
The Edwardses and their children, Cate, 22, Jack, 4, and Emma Claire, 6, took to the stage. Jack and Emma Claire waved American flags.
"Y'all called this rally and we're glad to be here with you,'' Mrs. Edwards said, as members of the audience let loose screams worthy of a rock concert.
Following his wife to the microphone, Mr. Edwards declared every state worthy of campaigning.
"For all those politicians and pollsters who say, wait a minute, why are you taking one valuable day to come back to Kansas to campaign, Kansas is a red state,'' Mr. Edwards said. "To John Kerry and I, there is no red state, there is no blue state, there is only one United States of America.''
After delivering a speech replete with his calls for a one America and ending with his declaration that "hope is on the way,'' Mr. Edwards went to a footbridge outside to deliver a shortened repeat performance to the crowd amassed there.
While the visit may not win Kansas for the Democrats, it may have left an impression on a few Republicans in the audience, including Mr. Elwell, the owner of the bar.
"I voted for Bush in the last election,'' Mr. Elwell said, "but let's just say I am undecided for now.''
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:12 PM
Ad features vets who claim Kerry "lied" to get Vietnam medals. But one accuser quickly recants, and other witnesses disagree.
A group funded by the biggest Republican campaign donor in Texas began running an attack ad Aug. 5 in which former Swift Boat veterans claim Kerry lied to get one of his two decorations for bravery and two of his three purple hearts. However, one of the veterans who appears in the ad has already recanted his principal accusation against Kerry, in an interview with the Boston Globe
Some other veterans who accuse Kerry are contradicted by Kerry's former crewmen. One of the accusers says he was on another boat "a few yards" away during the incident which won Kerry the Bronze Star, but the former Army lieutenant whom Kerry plucked from the water that day backs Kerry's account.
Get the facts from factchecker.com
Posted by politicalstuff at 10:35 PM