Bush: Misinforming voters
Bush on Income
Bush seldom fails to tout the benefits of his tax cuts -- selectively -- and lately has added a claim that after-tax incomes have risen 10% since he took office, a figure that is deceptive.
He says "Real after-tax incomes are up almost 10 percent since December of 2000," Clinton's last full month in office. That's from the Department of Commerce, a statistic called "real disposable income." It refers to the total of all inflation-adjusted income earned by all persons, minus taxes.
Bush fails to mention that much of the increase is due to simple population growth. Adjust it for that, and the per-capita growth is less than 6%. And even that doesn't tell you who got the income. Roughly half of all personal income goes to the most affluent one-fifth of the population.
Typical families and households haven't seen such an increase. The Census Bureau's annual survey shows that inflation-adjusted income for the median household -- the midpoint -- fell by $1,535 in Bush's first 3 years, a decline of 3.4 percent. Even after-tax income was still falling in 2002 according to the most recent Census figures available.
It is true as Bush claims that a family of four making $40,000 a year got nearly a $2,000 tax cut (when compared to tax rates in 2000), according to the independent Tax Policy Center and others. That is, if both children were under age 17 and so qualified for the doubled per-child tax credit. Bush doesn't mention that childless taxpayers didn't make out nearly so well, and those in high income brackets made out much better.
Bush on Kerry's Spending
Bush currently is quoting a new study estimating that Kerry's health-care plan will cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years. "He can't pay for it unless he raises your taxes," Bush declares.
The study is from the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington that describes itself as favoring "limited government" and "private enterprise." Previously, the Bush campaign quoted a much lower estimate from Ken Thorpe of Emory University in Atlanta, a health-care finance expert who worked in the Clinton administration. Thorpe disputes the AEI study, saying it is full of mistakes.
The Thorpe study and the AEI study agree on two things. First, both studies estimate that 27 million currently uninsured persons would get health coverage. By both estimates, Kerry's plan would cover several times more additional persons than what Bush proposes. The other thing both studies confirm is that Kerry's plan would reduce health-insurance premiums for those already covered, something it is designed to do. (The AEI study calls this a "windfall" and seems to see it as a flaw, rather than a positive factor.)
Bush's speech is misleading when he says Kerry would have to raise "your" taxes to pay for his health plan. Kerry does propose to raise federal income taxes, but only for those making $200,000 a year or more. Bush would be accurate if he said Kerry would raise taxes for "some of you."
Bush on Jobs
Bush also says "over the past year" the economy has added 1.7 million jobs, and that's true. And he says the 5.4% unemployment rate for August is lower than the average rate for the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's, which is also true. Here are the averages for those decades, derived from Bureau of Labor Statistics figures:
Average Unemployment Rates
1970's . . .6.2%
1980's . . . 7.3%
1990's . . . 5.8%
In fact, the current jobless rate is just a little better than the 5.6% average unemployment rate for each month since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping track.
What Bush leaves out, of course, is that 5.4% is slightly worse than the average for the full eight years of Clinton's two terms, which was 5.2%. And not nearly as good as the under-4% rate reached in several months of Clinton's final year. Bush also says nothing about the fact that as of August, the number of persons employed in payroll jobs was still 913,000 below what it was when Bush took office in 2001. At the current rate of growth it is almost certain that Democrats will be proven right about Bush being the first President since Hoover to suffer a net job loss over a full four-year term.
[What is also not mentioned in the factcheck.org information above is that the new jobs that have been added do not keep pace with the number of new people entering the work force, and also, like every other report, fails to give any clue as to what kinds of jobs are being created vs. those that have been lost.]
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Bush: Misinforming voters
Friday, September 17, 2004
The Pinocchio President
September 17, 2004
With the number of casualties and wounded in Iraq rising daily, and entire cities destabilized by insurgent forces, President Bush's chest- thumping message of progress appears increasingly out of touch and counterproductive. Although the president's own intelligence officials have warned him for months that Iraq was dangerously unstable, his administration has sugarcoated the sobering reality and failed to make necessary changes to win the war.
* The president's own intelligence estimates conclude that Iraq will remain dangerously unstable through 2005. The 50-page National Intelligence Estimate – ignored by President Bush – provides a “dark assessment” and concludes that Iraq is headed toward major political, economic and security difficulties in the coming months, including possible civil war.
* Efforts to rebuild Iraq's economy and create democratic institutions cannot move forward while insurgents run free. The president claims Iraq is on the path to democracy, but months before scheduled national elections, major portions of the country remain under attack as the nationalist insurgency continues to grow. Reconstruction has failed to move forward and the United Nations remains unable to fully assist in planning for the January elections.
* President Bush's grandstanding on Iraq does not help the situation. Putting his own reelection needs ahead of the welfare of American troops and the Iraqi people, the president continues to deny that serious problems exist in his strategy and refuses to make necessary changes to win the war and build peace in Iraq.
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:38 PM
BUDGET -- THE NOT-SO-FRIENDLY SKIES: AP reports that the Bush
administration wants to slash the Federal Aviation Administration's "budget
buying new air traffic control equipment at a time when more planes are
in the air." According to air traffic controllers, backup equipment is
desperately needed to avoid problems such as the shutdown of a radio
system at Los Angeles International Airport Tuesday which "left
controllers unable to talk to pilots and caused a ripple effect of delays across
the country." (In that case, "the loss of voice contact with pilots
caused at least five incidents where planes flew dangerously close to each
other and delayed or canceled hundreds of flights.") Instead of fixing
the problem, President Bush wants to slice next year's FAA budget for
equipment by 12.6 percent, from $2.862 billion to $2.5 billion.
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:37 PM
FEWER PEOPLE WITH HEALTH INSURANCE FROM THEIR EMPLOYER: A new study by
the Economic Policy Institute reveals that over the last four years,
"the persistently weak labor market in tandem with sharply increasing
health costs have led to a related problem for working families: the loss
of employer-provided health coverage
(http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm/issuebrief202) ." Among those who
hold jobs, employer-provided coverage has dropped from 58.9 percent to
56.4 percent since 2000. Children were hit especially hard, "with a net
2.4 million fewer children covered by employer-provided health insurance
in 2003 than in 2000."
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:37 PM
RE-ENLIST...OR TAKE YOUR CHANCES IN IRAQ: The ongoing war in Iraq has
left the U.S. military stretched paper thin. According to the Rocky
Mountain News, the military is strong-arming soldiers into staying in the
Army after their service requirements have been fulfilled. Troops from a
Fort Carson combat unit say they were issued an ultimatum: re-up for
three more years or take their chances in Iraq
. Soldiers were told if they didn't sign the recruitment form extending
their enlistment through December 2007, they would be reassigned to
units likely to ship out to Iraq.
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:36 PM
U.S. COMPANIES USING OVERSEAS SUBSIDIARIES TO AVOID TAXES: A new study
published in the journal Tax Notes reveals that " American
multinational companies booked a record $149 billion of profits in tax-haven
countries in 2002 (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/17/opinion/17fri2.html) ."
American companies have become increasingly adept at setting up
subsidiaries in places with low or no corporate taxes -- places like Ireland,
Bermuda, Luxembourg and Singapore -- to dodge U.S. taxes and increase
their bottom line. According to the study, "the more that American
companies can use foreign subsidiaries to lower taxes, the greater their
incentive to invest and employ staff abroad." The trend is also costing
the treasury "many billions of dollars." Check out Job Tracker
(http://www.workingamerica.org/jobtracker/index.cfm) to find out which
companies are sending jobs overseas.
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:35 PM
CIVIL LIBERTIES: Military Injustice
The administration's last ditch efforts to restore legitimacy to the
prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have hit a major snag. After two
years of delay, the Bush administration has slowly allowed detainees to
have their status reviewed by a military tribunal consisting of six
military colonels. On Sept. 7, however, the Pentagon's chief prosecutor,
Army Col. Robert Swann, " quietly called for three of the six colonels to
be knocked off the panel.
Swann "agreed with defense lawyers that the three officers are
unsuitable" because it was doubtful they could rule impartially. Two of the
colonels were involved in rounding up and transporting detainees to
Guantanamo. A third has admitted to describing all those held at Guantanamo
as "terrorists." Swann also asked the chairman of the panel, Army Col.
Peter Brownback, the only lawyer on the panel, to "closely evaluate his
own suitability to serve."
PANELS DON'T MEET BASIC STANDARDS FOR FAIR TRIALS: Human Rights Watch
has written a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld arguing
that "the failure of the Guantanamo Bay hearing to meet basic standards
for fair trials shows that the U.S. military commissions are fatally
flawed and must be scrapped
." The group has concluded the hearings, where recognized rules of
legal procedure were not used, "fall far short of international fair trial
standards." Early cases have been marred by poor translation and
inadequate resources for defense counsel. Panel members -- most of whom have
no legal training -- have been visibly confused about basic legal
issues. Instead of reinventing a legal system from scratch, the military
could use "existing criminal courts or courts-martial."
'STUNNING REVERSAL' ON HAMDI: For more than two years, the Bush
administration argued that Yaser Hamdi was "so dangerous that he had to be
detained indefinitely in solitary confinement with no access to counsel
and no right to trial." In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that " a
state of war is not a blank check for the president
" and Hamdi must be allowed to have a lawyer and challenge his
detention. Now in a "stunning reversal" by the administration, Hamdi "will soon
be released from military prison in South Carolina under an agreement
that will allow him to fly home to Saudi Arabia as a free man." He will
be set free "without ever having been charged with any terror-related
activity." Michael Ratner, president of the New York Center for
Constitutional Rights, said, "The fact that they are letting Hamdi go without
charges proves the importance of courts and attorneys. People ought to
be screaming about this not just for what was done to Hamdi, but for
what it says about what America has become
THE YEE FLIP-FLOP: The Bush administration branded Muslim chaplain Cpt.
James Yee as a spy, placed him in solitary confinement for 76 days and
threatened to execute him
(http://www.pipeline.com/~rougeforum/armychaplain.html) . When it became
clear the case against Yee wasn't there, he was maligned with charges
of adultery and downloading Internet pornography. Eventually, those
charges were thrown out as well. The Army has now agreed to grant Yee an
. He will continue to serve at Fort Lewis until he is discharged in
January. The administration also announced it has dropped all charges
against Jackie Farr
, "a colonel who served as an intelligence officer at the Guantanamo
prison and had been accused of trying to take classified material from
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:34 PM
IRAQ: Reality Check Badly Needed
The White House has a problem recognizing reality. With the U.S. mired
in a bloody war that gets grimmer with each passing day, President Bush
clings to the rosiest projections, no matter how unlikely. Suicide
bombings, kidnappings, rising casualties, cities under siege and ambushes
all paint a picture of a nation descending into intractable violence. In
just 17 days this month, 52 U.S. soldiers have died, threatening to
make September the second deadliest month in the 18 months since the war
. And these clashes came a day after a team of kidnappers grabbed two
Americans and a Briton in an early morning raid on their home. Even the
fortified Green Zone is no longer completely secure
Yet the White House refuses to acknowledge the situation is spiraling
dangerously out of control, preferring disingenuous rhetoric to hard
HEAD IN THE SAND: A classified National Intelligence Estimate, given to
President Bush in July, "spells out a dark assessment of prospects for
Iraq (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/16/politics/16intel.html) ... The
estimate outlines three possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005,
with the worst case being developments that could lead to civil war,
the officials said. The most favorable outcome described is an Iraq whose
stability would remain tenuous in political, economic and security
terms." However, the president is continuing to misrepresent the situation
to the American public. On 8/5/04
(http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/08/20040805-4.html) , he
stated, "[Iraq is] on the path to lasting democracy and liberty." His
press secretary, Scott McClellan, said on 9/15/04
(http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/09/20040915-3.html) , "The
President talks often about the progress we've made in places
CONSERVATIVES SPEAK OUT: The president may be out of touch with
reality, but his fellow conservatives are increasingly concerned about the
deteriorating situation. Conservative Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), noting the
White House's recent plan to divert $3.4 billion from reconstruction
efforts to emergency security efforts, said: "Now, that does not add up,
in my opinion, to a pretty picture, to a picture that shows that we're
winning. But it does add up to this: an acknowledgment that we are in
." Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) also "expressed exasperation at the
administration's rosy prewar assessments that as soon as Hussein was deposed,
a euphoric Iraqi population would embrace democracy." He charged, " The
nonsense of that is [now] apparent
CRESCENDO OF CRITICISM: Some of the nation's editorial boards
criticized the president's lack of candor on Iraq today. USA Today points out,
"While all of the options have downsides, the longer the administration
denies the deepening crisis in Iraq, the longer the crisis will fester
. That places U.S. troops in greater peril, risks turning Iraq into a
terrorist haven and dims hopes of creating a viable government, much
less a model of democracy in the Middle East." Despite the NIE report
projecting "dicey to disastrous" scenarios for Iraq, the Boston Globe
notes, "President Bush and Vice President Cheney nevertheless go on
campaigning on the false pretense
that their Iraq policy has been a great success." Instead, "continuing
mayhem...casts light on the unmistakable failures of the Bush
administration's efforts at peacemaking and nation-building in postwar Iraq."
NO EVIDENCE OF WEAPONS: Before the invasion, President Bush and his
administration hyped the threat of an armed and dangerous Iraq to frighten
Americans into supporting the war. President Bush ominously warned on
10/7/02, " Iraq could have a nuclear weapon
less than a year." Vice President Cheney did him one better, claiming, "
We believe Saddam has
(http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/bush/cheneymeetthepress.htm) , in
fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." And Donald Rumsfeld sounded the
alarm bells, saying, " We know where the [WMDs] are
." A new report by the top American weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles
A. Duelfer, finds " no evidence
that Iraq had begun any large-scale program for weapons production by
the time of the American invasion last year." According to the report,
which will be made public in the upcoming weeks, the sanctions put in
place by the United Nations were holding these desires firmly in check.
The report provides another devastating blow to the administration's
case for rushing to war.
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:32 PM
A Bush ad falsely claims that Kerry "voted five times to raise Medicare premiums." Actually, Kerry voted for maintaining the same premium formula that had been in place since well before he was elected to the Senate.
The Bush ad also falsely implies that Kerry referred to required premium increases as "a day of vindication," when Kerry actually was referring to items such as increased health coverage for children.
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:27 PM
At a September 16, 2004 republican rally in New Jersey, a woman wearing a T-shirt with the words "President Bush You Killed My Son" and a picture of a soldier killed in Iraq was detained after she interrupted Mrs. Bush's speech.
Police escorted Sue Niederer of Hopewell out of the rally after she demanded to know why her son, Army 1st Lt. Seth Dvorin, 24, was killed in Iraq. Dvorin died in February while trying to disarm a bomb.
As shouts of "Four More Years" subsided, Niederer, standing in the middle of the crowd of about 700, continued to shout about the killing of her son. Secret Service and local police escorted her out of the event, handcuffed her and placed her in the back of a police van.
The first lady continued speaking, and several people shouted back at Niederer. One woman yelled, "Your son chose to fight in that war."
This is the sad mentality of the republicans. People shouted down a distraught mother who lost her son, and the First Lady made no attempt to stop them or to try to console her. Instead they all treated this poor mother like dirt.
So explain to me again how the Bush family and the republicans are 'compassionate.'
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:12 AM
Thursday, September 16, 2004
BUSH 'TOOK COCAINE AT CAMP DAVID'
Sep 6 2004
And wife Laura liked dope, says book
By Emma Pryer
GEORGE W Bush snorted cocaine at Camp David, a new book claims.
His wife Laura also allegedly tried cannabis in her youth.
Author Kitty Kelley says in her biography The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, that the US President first used coke at university in the mid-1960s.
She quotes his former sister-in-law Sharon Bush who claims: "Bush did coke at Camp David when his father was President, and not just once either."
Other acquaintances allege that as a 26-year-old National Guard, Bush "liked to sneak out back for a joint or into the bathroom for a line of cocaine".
Bush has admitted being an alcoholic but, asked during the 1999 election if he did drugs, he said: "I've told the American people that years ago I made some mistakes.
"I've learned from my mistakes and should I be fortunate enough to become president I will bring dignity and honour to the office."
Later an aide clarified his remarks saying Bush hadn't taken illegal drugs in the past 25 years.
Kelley says that the Bush family covered up scandals because of their wealth and influence. She claims George W started drinking at school and continued at Yale university to overcome shyness.
Former student Torbery George says in the book: "Poor Georgie. He couldn't relate to women unless he was loaded."
Another says: "He went out of his way to act crude. It's amazing someone you held in such low esteem later became president."
Posted by politicalstuff at 4:44 PM
NY Daily News
Sec'y: Bush flew in face of rules
BY CORKY SIEMASZKO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
President Bush was resented by his fellow flyboys in the Texas Air National Guard because "he didn't really have to go by the rules," a former Guard staffer claimed yesterday.
That charge was leveled last night by 86-year-old Marian Carr Knox, who was the secretary of Bush's former commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian.
"Killian was very friendly with Bush and they had fun together," Knox said on "60 Minutes." "I think it upset him very much that he was being defied."
Controversial new documents claim Killian grounded Bush for being a substandard pilot and for ignoring an order to get a physical.
Asked how Bush was able to get away with it, Knox said, "I think it's plain and simple, Bush didn't think he had to go by the rules the others did."
Knox confirmed that Killian was under pressure to "sugarcoat" Bush's reviews despite his reservations. She said she typed up memos critical of Bush that her boss kept in a secret file.
But when asked by CBS newsman Dan Rather about the authenticity of the memos he used last week to buttress his report that Bush was grounded for disobeying orders, Knox said "I know that I didn't type 'em. However, the information in those is correct."
Posted by politicalstuff at 4:36 PM
Poll: W's convention bounce over; race now virtual tie
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — The GOP convention gave President Bush a double-digit lead, but the race has settled into a virtual tie with voters still worried about the economy and Iraq, according to polling by the Pew Research Center.
The first of two national polls by Pew, done Sept. 8-10, reflected the president’s post-convention bounce. Bush was ahead of Democrat John Kerry 52-40 among registered voters and by an even wider margin, 54-39, among likely voters, a narrower group.
By the second poll, done Sept. 11-14, the Bush lead had evaporated. In that poll, Bush and Kerry were knotted at 46 percent among registered voters. Among likely voters, Bush was at 47 percent and Kerry at 46 percent.
“There is a great deal of instability and uncertainty in the electorate,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
“This poll finds a lot of the positive impact Bush had in the convention remains. But Bush’s vulnerabilities on Iraq and the economy continue, and these have anchored the race.” After the Republican convention and its well-orchestrated criticism
of Kerry, Bush grabbed a lead ranging from 5 points to 11 points in various national polls. That lead appeared to be shrinking in some polls by late last week, and a Harris poll out Thursday showed the race even.
“This gives Kerry an opportunity to stay in the hunt,” said Kohut.
“Some of the negatives that Kerry accumulated during the Republican convention have worn away.” Kerry’s unfavorable ratings increased after the GOP convention but dropped slightly between the two waves of the poll. Fewer voters in the second poll had an unfavorable view of the Democrat, said Kerry is too quick to change his mind, and believed the risk of terrorism would be higher if he were elected.
Bush continues to hold a commanding lead on who would do the best job of defending the country from terrorists by 58 percent to 31 percent. And he’s seen by more as a strong leader.
But people are more likely to disapprove of Bush’s handling of the economy and are evenly split on his handling of Iraq. Almost six in 10 said it’s not clear what Bush will do about Iraq if he is re-elected.
Two-thirds thought Vice President Dick Cheney went too far when he suggested that if voters “make the wrong choice” on Election Day there is a danger “we’ll get hit again” by terrorists.
Interest in the presidential debates is high with 61 percent saying it’s very likely they will tune in to watch — compared with 43 percent who said that in September 2000. Three in 10 said the debates will matter in their voting decision.
By a 3-1 margin, voters said they think Bush is likely to win re-election in November.
The first poll of 970 registered voters was taken Sept. 8-10 and the second poll of 1,002 registered voters was taken Sept. 11-14. The margin of sampling error for both polls was 3.5 percentage points.
Posted by politicalstuff at 4:33 PM
NY Daily News
September 16, 2004
Bush 'living in a fantasy world' on Iraq, Kerry tells vets
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LAS VEGAS — President Bush is “living in a fantasy world of spin,” failing to tell U.S. troops or the American people the truth about the situation in Iraq, Democratic challenger John Kerry told National Guard veterans Thursday.
Two days after Bush addressed the same group, Kerry said of the president, “I believe he failed the fundamental test of leadership” by failing to level with the veterans.
“Two days ago the president stood right where I’m standing and did not even acknowledge that more than 1,000 men and women have lost their lives in Iraq. He did not tell you that with each passing day we’re seeing more chaos, more violence, more indiscriminate killings,” Kerry said in remarks prepared for delivery to the National Guard Association of the United States.
“You deserve a president who will not play politics with national security, who will not ignore his own intelligence while living in a fantasy world of spin, and who will give the American people the truth about the challenge our brave men and women face on the front lines,” the Democratic senator said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 4:31 PM
How to steal an election
By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist | September 16, 2004
A RECENT story that didn't get nearly the attention it deserved was the New York Daily News report that 46,000 registered New York City voters are also registered to vote in Florida. Nearly 1,700 of them have had absentee ballots mailed to their home in the other state, and as many as 1,000 have voted twice in the same election. Can 1,000 fraudulent votes change an election? Well, George W. Bush won Florida in 2000 by just 537 votes.
It is illegal to register to vote simultaneously in different jurisdictions, but scofflaws have little to worry about. As the Daily News noted, "efforts to prevent people from registering and voting in more than one state rely mostly on the honor system." Those who break the law rarely face prosecution or serious punishment. It's easy -- and painless -- to cheat.
I learned this firsthand in 1996, when I registered my wife's cat as a voter in Cook County, Ill., Norfolk County, Mass., and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and then requested absentee ballots from all three venues. My purpose wasn't to cast illegal multiple votes but to demonstrate how vulnerable to manipulation America's election system has become.
It was a simple scam to pull off. "Under the National Voter Registration Act -- the `Motor Voter Law' -- states are required to accept voter registrations by mail," I wrote at the time. "No longer can citizens be asked to make a trip to town hall or the county office. No longer do they have to provide proof of residence or citizenship. In fact, they don't have to exist. Motor Voter obliges election officials to add to the voter list any name mailed in on a properly filled-out registration form. Anyone so registered can then request an absentee ballot -- by mail, of course. The system is not only open to manipulation, it invites it."
As journalist John Fund shows in an alarming new book, "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy," the United States has an elections system that would be an embarrassment in Honduras or Ghana. It is so unpoliced, he writes, that at least eight of the 9/11 hijackers "were actually able to register to vote in either Virginia or Florida while they made their deadly preparations."
How fouled up are the voter rolls? So fouled up that in some cities there are more registered voters than there are adults. So fouled up that when the Indianapolis Star investigated Indiana's records a few years ago, it discovered that hundreds of thousands of names -- as many as one-fifth of the total -- were "bogus" since the individuals named had moved, died, or gone to prison. So fouled up that when a Louisiana paper filed 25 phony voter registration forms signed only with an "X," 21 were approved and added to the voter list.
Illegal aliens have been registered, too, since under Motor Voter, any recipient of government benefits can sign up to vote, no questions asked. Did that wide-open door to fraud cost former the GOP's Robert Dornan his seat in Congress? An investigation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service following Dornan's 1996 defeat by Democrat Loretta Sanchez found that 4,023 noncitizens may have cast ballots in that election. Dornan lost by 984 votes.
It shouldn't take a degree in rocket science to fix a system this sloppy and chaotic. But not everyone wants to fix it. Some operatives don't mind cheating if it brings more of "their" voters to the polls. Fund cites the findings of Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson and political scientist Larry Sabato, co-authors of a recent book on corruption in American politics. Some liberal activists they interviewed go so far as to justify voter fraud on the grounds that such "extraordinary measures" compensate for the weaker political clout of minorities and the poor.
One simple fix -- requiring every voter to show ID when registering and voting -- would seem to be a no-brainer. Opinion polls show that the vast majority of Americansfavor such a reform. After all, ID is required when boarding an airplane or buying liquor. Why not when voting?
Yet, incredibly, powerful political interests have long fought to block an ID requirement. The NAACP and La Raza liken it to the poll tax that Southern states once used to keep blacks from voting. A Democratic Party official says that "ballot security" and "preventing voter fraud" are simply code for voter suppression. That willingness to play the race card is not merely dishonorable; it is undemocratic. For as Fund notes, "when voters are disenfranchised by the counting of improperly cast ballots, their civil rights are violated just as surely as if they were prevented from voting."
The drift toward Third World-caliber elections in the most advanced democracy in the world is scandalous. Then again, if Americans can't be bothered to scrub the voting rolls or to make sure that voters are properly ID'd, maybe they've got the election system they deserve.
Posted by politicalstuff at 4:08 PM
The Boston Globe
A SHARPENED TONE
Bush offers little except blame, Kerry charges
By Patrick Healy, Globe Staff | September 16, 2004
DETROIT -- Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry yesterday called President Bush's term in office "the excuse presidency," arguing that the Republican has "blamed just about everybody other than himself" for a weak US job market, record budget deficits, a loss of respect after the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, and other problems.
Speaking to 500 business leaders at the Detroit Economic Club, which has a decidedly Republican membership, Kerry asserted that Bush has a stubborn streak that amounts to a character flaw, causing the president to stand by an economic strategy of tax cuts at the same time the economy has lost 1 million jobs.
"This president has created more excuses than jobs," Kerry said, in one of several new attack lines that he crafted for yesterday's speech along with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who joined him here yesterday, and other advisers. "His is the excuse presidency: never wrong, never responsible, never to blame. President Bush's desk isn't where the buck stops -- it's where the blame begins.
"He's blamed just about everybody but himself and his administration for economic problems, as well as for other problems like Abu Ghraib and other things that have taken place," he continued, referring to the Iraqi prison where US soldiers abused detainees.
Earlier, in an interview with radio host Don Imus, Kerry called into question Iraq's ability to hold democratic elections in January, saying he doubted security in the country would be adequate by then. "It is very difficult to see today how you're going to distribute ballots in places like Fallujah and Ramadi and Najaf and other parts of the country," Kerry said, adding that Iraqi officials have pressed for more time to prepare security. "I'm not sure the president is being honest with the American people about that situation, either."
The Bush campaign, meanwhile, bashed two other comments Kerry made during that radio interview as flip-flops over Iraq. Kerry, who voted in 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq, said there were and are no circumstances or threats in Iraq that would have led him to go to war there.
"Not under the current circumstances, no, there are none that I see," Kerry said. "I voted based on weapons of mass destruction. The president distorted that and I've said that. I mean, look, I can't be clearer. But I think it was the right vote based on what Saddam Hussein had done, and I think it was the right thing to do to hold him accountable. I've said a hundred times, there was a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. The president chose the wrong way. Can't be more direct than that."
Kerry also said that in the Senate, he voted for the funding to supply body armor to US troops in Iraq, citing his support for past defense budgets. He did, however, vote against an $87 billion request for those troops that specifically included armor.
Bush campaign official Steve Schmidt charged that Kerry's Iraq position had "descended into incoherence," and pointed to a remark by Imus after the Kerry interview: "I asked [Kerry] a number of questions about Iraq and I can't tell you what he said," Imus said. (Which only shows that Imus is biased, nothing more.)
At the Economic Club an hour after the radio interview, Kerry adopted a sharply critical tone for what his aides called his most important economic address of the fall. He sounded at times like a salesman determined to win over skeptical buyers, urging the audience to forgo self-interest and give up tax cuts in their high-income brackets so that the revenue could be invested in job creation, college tuition relief, and other domestic priorities. He tried to persuade members of the audience to see themselves as "shareholders of America" and see that their leader had turned a trillion-dollar budget surplus into trillions of dollars in federal debt.
"Imagine what he could do in another four years. By his judgments, by his priorities, by the decisions he's made, he has caused these things to happen or to grow significantly worse," Kerry said. "And he refuses to admit the error of those choices."
"George Bush is proud of the fact that even failure doesn't cause him to change his mind," Kerry said. "George Bush's failures are the result of a misplaced set of values and the wrong choices that always give more and more to those with the most and tells the middle class, 'You are not the priority.' "
The attack, combined with a detailed review of his proposals to create jobs and extend health care to more Americans, drew steady applause and a standing ovation in the Detroit banquet hall, delighting some Kerry advisers who have been advising the candidate that fiercer attacks on Bush's economic record would help the Democrat gain ground in polls that put him slightly behind.
Posted by politicalstuff at 3:48 PM
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
American Progress Action
Bush Administration Losing Iraq
September 15, 2004
The mounting security failures in Iraq are sobering: more than 1,000 Americans killed; more than 7,000 wounded; U.S. forces attacked nearly 90 times a day – a two-fold increase since last winter; a quadrupling of insurgent forces in the past year; new al Qaeda terrorists generated worldwide; and $145 billion in costs that have failed to stop the insurgency and begin real reconstruction efforts. The Iraq war was a strategic blunder of the first order that leaves us more vulnerable to attack and less secure from global terrorism.
* The undeniable benefit of capturing Saddam Hussein has come at an unacceptable cost to U.S. military forces and security. Saddam may be behind bars, but U.S. forces and intelligence assets are now bogged down in Iraq fighting nationalist insurgents and scores of new terrorists. Four months before scheduled Iraqi elections, the administration has been forced to admit that it is unable to secure large areas of Iraq that will be crucial to conducting free and fair national elections.
* The Iraq diversion has allowed Iran and North Korea to further develop their nuclear capabilities. Both Iran and North Korea have taken full advantage of our diversion in Iraq to accelerate their efforts to acquire and deploy nuclear weapons. And the unwillingness of the Bush administration to seriously engage both nations has created new risks and increased global proliferation dangers. The New York Times recently reported that Iran is only one year away from having a nuclear weapon and North Korea has likely quadrupled the number of its nuclear weapons since 9/11.
* President Bush must tell the American people the truth about Iraq. No weapons of mass destruction. No Saddam-al Qaeda connection. The mission is not accomplished. The transition has not been peaceful and stable. Attacks on troops are increasing not decreasing. Terrorist opportunities are growing not abating. These failures belong solely to the president and he owes the public a clear and truthful explanation for his actions.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:40 PM
IRAQ – RISING VIOLENCE DELAYS RECONSTRUCTION: Escalating violence caused by an increasingly sophisticated insurgency in Iraq is forcing the Bush administration to "direct nearly $2 billion away from rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure so it could help add more than 80,000 Iraqi security forces to try to stabilize the country." The move, which will siphon funds from Iraqi water, sewer and electricity projects, signals "an admission from the administration that it will be difficult to spend significant sums of money on things that were long ago identified as meeting Iraq's basic needs until the nation's insurgency can be quelled." Including previous reallocations, the administration hopes to redirect more than 20 percent of $18.4 billion in reconstruction funds to cope with security. With two weeks left in the fiscal year, and 11 months after Congress approved the $18.4 billion, "only $1.1 billion of it has been spent, because of attacks, contracting problems and other issues, according to figures released by the State Department."
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:38 PM
The Progress Report
ENERGY – THE PRICE OF UNCHECKED CONSOLIDATION: According to a new report by leading consumer groups, Americans "have been hit by an average $1,000 increase in their annual household energy bills during the past four years, draining more than $500 billion from the economy." The report by Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America shows "much of these higher prices are due to unchecked consolidation in the oil and gas industry, which has resulted in a lack of competition and increased profits – close to $100 billion – for oil and gas companies since 2000." Instead of addressing this consolidation, the Bush administration has done the bidding of its financiers in the oil industry. According to research by Bloomberg News, "President George W. Bush allowed an increase in oil-refinery mergers to go unchecked since he took office and may have contributed to the highest gasoline prices in 20 years." Specifically, the Bush administration "approved 33 takeovers totaling $19.5 billion" – a far higher rate than the 21 mergers worth $7.3 billion approved under President Bill Clinton. Making matters worse, earlier this year Bush appointed a ChevronTexaco lawyer to head up the Federal Trade Commission – the government agency responsible for approving or rejecting industry mergers.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:37 PM
HEALTH CARE – GOVERNORS DEMAND FRIST ACT: Republican and Democratic governors are demanding Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) stop blocking bipartisan legislation allowing seniors to purchase lower-priced, FDA-approved medicines from Canada. The Hill newspaper reports Govs. Craig Benson (R-NH), Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) and Jim Doyle (D-WI) are demanding Frist live up to his earlier promise to pass the reimportation bill. The White House continues to oppose the legislation, claiming it is unsafe. Yet its own FDA officials say they have no evidence that is the case. And just this week, a top pharmaceutical industry executive said the safety scare tactics are a red herring and that the United States could easily create a safe reimportation system like many other industrialized countries.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:36 PM
The Progress Report
HOMELAND SECURITY – IGNORING NEEDS: The Christian Science Monitor reports that "three years after Sept. 11, emergency radios aren't linked for most first responders" meaning police, firefighters and other rescue workers cannot communicate via radio during a crisis. This despite desperate requests from mayors across the country. Nonetheless, Senate conservatives continued this week to vote down emergency homeland security funding. Congressional Quarterly reports that earlier this week, Republicans rejected amendments to add funding to protect hazardous materials against terrorist attacks, increase trucking security, and beef up defenses at chemical plants.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:36 PM
The Progress Report
TERRORISM – BIN LADEN UNIT UNDERSTAFFED: According to a letter written by senior counterterrorism expert Michael Scheuer and read at a Senate hearing Tuesday, "Three years after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency has fewer experienced case officers assigned to its headquarters unit dealing with Osama bin Laden than it did at the time of the attacks, despite repeated pleas from the unit's leaders for reinforcements." Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA's bin Laden unit, alleges the unit is currently "stretched so thin that it relies on inexperienced officers rotated in and out every 60 to 90 days, and they leave before they know enough to be able to perform any meaningful work." Sheuer's letter underscored wider problems with America's understaffed intelligence: asked about the CIA's current capacity to deal with terrorism, Porter Goss, the president's nominee for intelligence chief, admitted, "On a scale of 10, we're about 3."
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:35 PM
The Progress Report
End Cheney's Shenanigans
For three-and-a-half years, Vice President Dick Cheney has gone to great lengths to conceal who helped him write the administration's ill-conceived energy policy, which is little more than billions in tax giveaways to the energy industry. (We do know, however, through news reports that disgraced Enron CEO Ken Lay was extensively involved.) Cheney repeatedly defied federal court orders to disclose who participated in order to buy himself time to appeal the litigation seeking the information in the Supreme Court. There, five justices did not side with Cheney, but further delayed the ruling by sending the case back to a federal appeals court on technical grounds. (Antonin Scalia, who refused to recuse himself from the case despite going on a hunting trip with Cheney weeks before, subsequently voted to resolve the case in Cheney's favor.) Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) has introduced a resolution, H. Res. 745, that would put an end, once and for all, to Cheney's shenanigans. The resolution would require – within 14 days of passage – that Cheney disclose to the House of Representatives the names of the people who were involved in his energy task force. It is being considered by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce today. Write your representative and say you deserve the truth – urge him or her to vote for the resolution when it reaches the House floor.
BUSH'S ASSAULT ON OPEN GOVERNMENT: A new report by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) details the Bush administration's assault on open government. The report reveals a consistent pattern whereby "laws designed to promote access to information have been undermined while laws that authorize the government to withhold information or operate in secret have been expanded." The administration has withheld from the public and Congress not only information about Cheney's energy task force but also: communications between the Defense Department and the vice president's office regarding contracts awarded to Halliburton, documents describing the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib, memoranda revealing what the White House knew about Iraq's WMD, and cost estimates of the Medicare prescription drug legislation. Read the full report (or, if you're short on time, the executive summary).
THE COST OF SECRECY: A study by the coalition openthegovernment.org reveals that the excessive secrecy of the Bush administration comes at a high price, literally. According to the report, "the federal government spent $6.5 billion last year creating 14 million new classified documents and securing accumulated secrets – more than it has for at least the past decade." For every dollar the administration spent on declassifying documents last year it spent $120 to keep documents secret.
STEPPING OVER THE LINE: The government's efforts to keep Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's speeches secret from the media went so far over the line even the administration was forced to admit it. AP reports the administration "has conceded that the U.S. Marshals Service violated federal law when a marshal ordered reporters with The Associated Press and the Hattiesburg American to erase their recordings of a speech" by Scalia. The Justice Department said that "the reporters and their employers are each entitled to $1,000 in damages and reasonable attorney fees."
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:33 PM
The Progress Report
CHENEY HYPOCRISY WATCH: A recent Los Angeles Times article proclaimed, "Cheney Says Rivals Too Cozy With Lawyers." The Vice President might want to watch how hard he throws stones from his glass house. Consider his former corporation Halliburton's cozy relationship with lawyers. A watchdog site, HalliburtonWatch.org, has found that while Cheney was at the helm, Halliburton filed 151 claims in 15 states around the nation, petitioning America's legal system an average of 30 times a year; most actions were filed against other corporations. Halliburton currently is suing former employees who complained when the giant corporation sliced retiree health care benefits.
WHAT ABOUT MEL? President Bush claimed, "I don't think you can be pro-patient and pro-trial lawyer at the same time…I think you've got to make your choice." Or do you? The Bush campaign is taking pains to attack trial lawyers, while at the same time quietly handpicking the former president of the Florida trial lawyers' association, Mel Martinez, for a Florida Senate seat. As Greg Casy, president of the Business Industry Political Action Committee, put it, he wasn't "just a trial lawyer, but a big trial lawyer."
LOOKING OUT FOR CORPORATE INTERESTS
President Bush has made an overheated attack against so-called frivolous lawsuits one of the cornerstones of his campaign. Last Thursday, Bush said, "In order to make sure health care is available and affordable, we've got to do something about the frivolous lawsuits that are running good doctors out of practice and running up your health care costs." He also charged, "we must protect small business owners and workers from the explosion of frivolous lawsuits that threaten jobs across America." Scratch below the surface and, as with far too many of Bush's policies, you'll see who really benefits from his drive to curb the right of Americans to sue: powerful corporate interests. Corporate America spends billions of dollars to maintain access to the White House and Congress to make sure their interests are heard. But the average American citizen, lacking access or money for powerful lobbyists, use the courts as a place to be heard and receive justice.
PLAYING POLITICS WITH THE LAW: Yesterday, the Republican-controlled House took his lead and approved a measure "requiring sanctions against lawyers who file lawsuits deemed frivolous." Republicans didn't bother to take any pains to hide the fact that it was a measure driven purely by politics: Tom DeLay of Texas, the majority leader, called it part of "John Edwards Appreciation Week." The legislation, which imposes major financial penalties and potential contempt citations, would be sure to have a "'chilling effect' on bringing suits and could make it harder for less-affluent Americans to retain legal counsel if lawyers were nervous about facing sanctions."
LITIGATION DOWN: President Bush has vilified trial lawyers for everything from driving doctors out of medicine to driving health care costs up to devastating small businesses. The numbers don't back him up. Recent data put out by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics showed, "The number of civil trials in the nation's 75 largest counties dropped by 47 percent from 1992 to 2001." Plaintiffs won about half the time, but the overall damages award shrank from $65,000 in 1992 to $37,000 in 2001.
FOLLOW THE MONEY: Much of Bush's drive to attack trial lawyers comes from the enormous financial support he's received from powerful corporate interests. In this election cycle, Bush's campaign has received over $4.4 million from insurance companies and almost $26 million from miscellaneous business interests. Business interests were also active on Capitol Hill: A study by Public Citizen shows, "at least 100 large companies and trade associations have employed 475 different lobbyists who pushed for class action legislation from 2000 through 2002."
CONTRADICTED BY THE TRUTH: The studies the Bush administration relies on for political attack directly contradict its arguments. Bush and Vice President Cheney have been using a new report by the American Enterprise Institute, a Republican-leaning think tank, to bash Kerry's proposal to overhaul health care. What Bush and Cheney don't mention: that same AEI study reports that there are no cost savings from medical malpractice reform. It cites a Congressional Budget Office study that concluded that medical malpractice reform – in general – would have little or no impact on health care costs. "Malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of healthcare spending," said the CBO. That means even a drastic drop in premiums would cut the nation's health care bill less than one half of one percent.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:29 PM
For those who may have forgotten, Saudi Prince Bandhar, close confidant of the Bush family, stated on national television that he would be helping to get George W Bush reelected by ensuring that gasoline prices would be going down by election day. So when you hear someone say that lower gas prices are a sign of an improving economy, don't be fooled, and bring this Saudi promise to the attention of everyone you know.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:02 PM
September 15, 2004
C.I.A. Unit on bin Laden Is Understaffed, a Senior Official Tells Lawmakers
By JAMES RISEN
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 - Three years after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency has fewer experienced case officers assigned to its headquarters unit dealing with Osama bin Laden than it did at the time of the attacks, despite repeated pleas from the unit's leaders for reinforcements, a senior C.I.A. officer with extensive counterterrorism experience has told Congress.
The bin Laden unit is stretched so thin that it relies on inexperienced officers rotated in and out every 60 to 90 days, and they leave before they know enough to be able to perform any meaningful work, according to a letter the C.I.A. officer has written to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
"There has been no systematic effort to groom Al Qaeda expertise" among C.I.A. officers since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the letter, written by Michael F. Scheuer, the former chief of the agency's bin Laden unit and the author of a best-selling book that is critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror.
Excerpts from Mr. Scheuer's letter were read publicly by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, on Tuesday at a Senate hearing on the confirmation of Porter J. Goss as director of central intelligence. Congressional officials later provided a copy of the letter to The New York Times.
A senior intelligence official who asked not to be identified strenuously disputed Mr. Scheuer's criticism about the resources assigned to the war against Al Qaeda. "The assertions are off the mark," the official said. "There are far more D.O. officers working against the Al Qaeda target both at C.I.A. headquarters and overseas than there were before Sept. 11," the official said, using the abbreviation for the Directorate of Operations, the C.I.A.'s clandestine arm. "Our knowledge of and substantive expertise on Al Qaeda has increased enormously since 9/11. The overall size of the counterterrorism center has more than doubled, and its analytic capabilities have increased dramatically."
In his letter, Mr. Scheuer also described instances in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks in which he said the agency's leadership failed to act decisively in order to target Al Qaeda. "The pattern of decision making I have witnessed," he wrote, "seems to indicate a want of moral courage, an overwhelming concern for career advancement, or an abject inability to distinguish right from wrong."
The intelligence official said Mr. Scheuer had made many of the same claims to independent investigators who had reviewed the C.I.A.'s performance before Sept. 11.
In his letter, Mr. Scheuer the United States had many more opportunities to kill or capture Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks than have ever been made public.
From May 1998 to May 1999, Mr. Scheuer's wrote, "The C.I.A. officers working bin Laden at headquarters and in the field gave the U.S. government about 10 chances to capture bin Laden or kill him with military means. In all instances, the decision was made that the 'intelligence was not good enough.' "
Mr. Scheuer, a 22-year veteran of the C.I.A., served as the first chief of the agency's bin Laden unit from 1996 until 1999.
This year, with the publication of his book, "Imperial Hubris," which he wrote under the name Anonymous, Mr. Scheuer has become the C.I.A.'s leading in-house critic. After he granted news media interviews following the book's publication, the C.I.A. curbed his access to the press. He initially wrote the latest letter in May as an op-ed article. The C.I.A. refused to clear it for publication, but allowed him to send it as a letter to the Congressional oversight committees.
In the letter, Mr. Scheuer provides a number of new details about the history of the C.I.A.'s counterterrorism operations before Sept. 11. For example, he said that the C.I.A.'s bin Laden unit was ordered to be disbanded in the spring of 1998, and that its operations were about to be folded into a small branch office when the C.I.A. director, George J. Tenet, found out about the proposed move. Mr. Tenet reversed the decision just before the August 1998 attacks on two American embassies in East Africa by Al Qaeda. Mr. Scheuer also said that in 1996, the C.I.A.'s bin Laden unit obtained detailed information about Al Qaeda's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. He said that an intelligence report on the matter was initially suppressed within the C.I.A., and was later distributed in an abbreviated form.
"Three officers of the agency's bin Laden cadre protested this decision in writing, and forced an internal review," Mr. Scheuer wrote. "It was only after this review that this report was provided in full to community leaders, analysts and policy makers."
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:58 AM
Media obsesses over CBS documents, ignores uncontested evidence that Bush didn't meet his Guard obligations
Media Matters for America
Media obsesses over CBS documents, ignores uncontested evidence that Bush didn't meet his Guard obligations
The September 14 edition of CNN's Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics began with a lengthy segment that was ostensibly about the controversy surrounding President George W. Bush's National Guard service. But the segment made only passing mention of the allegations against Bush -- and it made no mention at all of the substantial and uncontested evidence that Bush didn't show up for duty when he was supposed to, that he skipped a required physical for as-yet-unexplained reasons, that he was grounded from flying, and that he mysteriously received an honorable discharge anyway.
Show host Judy Woodruff and CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash focused almost exclusively on the Bush team's defense and on controversial documents released by CBS that are not the primary evidence against him; the specific criticisms of -- and evidence against -- Bush have been ignored. CNN aired a clip of Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Terry McAuliffe speaking about the topic, but the clip CNN chose to air showed McAuliffe defending the DNC's decision to criticize Bush, rather than showing him actually criticizing Bush. Woodruff then followed the McAuliffe clip by reading a baseless Republican National Committee allegation -- that Democrats gave the memos to CBS -- without indicating that there is no evidence for the charge.
The Inside Politics report was just one of many recent media reports about Bush's Guard record that have focused on the authenticity of four relatively trivial memos or on the Bush campaign's defenses, while ignoring the facts and evidence against Bush.
Among the facts left out of the CNN report, none of which have been seriously contested:
• Bush didn't fulfill the "military service obligation" he signed: An article in the September 20 edition of U.S. News & World Report reported: "Because Bush signed a six-year 'military service obligation,' he was required to attend at least 44 inactive-duty training drills each fiscal year beginning July 1. But Bush's own records show that he fell short of that requirement, attending only 36 drills in the 1972-73 period, and only 12 in the 1973-74 period. The White House has said that Bush's service should be calculated using 12-month periods beginning on his induction date in May 1968. Using this time frame, however, Bush still fails the Air Force obligation standard."
• Even White House methodology shows Bush didn't attend enough drills to meet requirements: The U.S. News article continued: "Moreover, White House officials say, Bush should be judged on whether he attended enough drills to count toward retirement. They say he accumulated sufficient points under this grading system. Yet, even using their method, which some military experts say is incorrect, U.S. News's analysis shows that Bush once again fell short. His military records reveal that he failed to attend enough active-duty training and weekend drills to gain the 50 points necessary to count his final year toward retirement."
• Bush didn't comply with time limits on making up missed drills: The U.S. News article reported: "[D]uring the final two years of his obligation, Bush did not comply with Air Force regulations that impose a time limit on making up missed drills."
• Bush never made up five months of missed drills: According to the U.S. News article, Bush "apparently never made up five months of drills he missed in 1972, contrary to assertions by the administration. White House officials did not respond to the analysis last week but emphasized that Bush had 'served honorably.'"
• Bush twice signed documents pledging to meet requirements; twice violated that oath: According to a September 8 article in The Boston Globe: "Bush fell well short of meeting his military obligation, a Globe reexamination of the records shows: Twice during his Guard service -- first when he joined in May 1968, and again before he transferred out of his unit in mid-1973 to attend Harvard Business School -- Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty. He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show. The 1973 document has been overlooked in news media accounts. The 1968 document has received scant notice."
• Bush skipped a required physical, and was grounded from flying: The Globe article continued: "While Bush was in Alabama, he was removed from flight status for failing to take his annual flight physical in July 1972. On May 1, 1973, Bush's superior officers wrote that they could not complete his annual performance review because he had not been observed at the Houston base during the prior 12 months."
• U.S. representative's son George W. Bush mysteriously escaped punishment: The Globe article reported: "The reexamination of Bush's records by the Globe, along with interviews with military specialists who have reviewed regulations from that era, show that Bush's attendance at required training drills was so irregular that his superiors could have disciplined him or ordered him to active duty in 1972, 1973, or 1974. But they did neither. In fact, Bush's unit certified in late 1973 that his service had been 'satisfactory' -- just four months after Bush's commanding officer wrote that Bush had not been seen at his unit for the previous 12 months."
• Former Texas speaker of the House swore under oath that he helped Bush get into the Guard: According to The Globe: "Ben Barnes, who was speaker of the Texas House of Representatives in 1968, said in a deposition in 2000 that he placed a call to get young Bush a coveted slot in the Guard at the request of a Bush family friend."
• Bush's business school professor said Bush admitted his father's friends got him into the Guard: A September 13 CNN.com article reported that Bush's Harvard Business School professor Yoshi Tsurumi said that Bush told him that family friends had pulled strings to get him into the Texas Air National Guard: "Bush confided in him [Tsurumi] during an after-class hallway conversation during the 1973-74 school year. 'He admitted to me that to avoid the Vietnam draft, he had his dad -- he said 'Dad's friends' -- skip him through the long waiting list to get him into the Texas National Guard,' Tsurumi said. 'He thought that was a smart thing to do.'" But the videotaped interview has been largely absent from CNN's cable broadcasts, as Media Matters for America has noted.
CNN isn't alone in ignoring these significant -- and uncontested -- facts about Bush's failure to fulfill his military commitments. Nor is CNN alone in presenting the CBS documents as though they are the key to the story.
On September 14, a New York Times article about Bush's speech to a conference of the National Guard Association quoted Democratic criticism of Bush, but that criticism was followed directly by five paragraphs about the CBS documents. The article fails to note that there is considerable uncontested evidence about Bush's failure to perform his duty. The Times thus creates the false impression that the question of Bush's failure to meet his requirement hinges on the validity of the CBS documents.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz has noted that the CBS documents were dominating media coverage: "But the only topic of conversation in the media world remains whether CBS's National Guard documents are real or fake. ... The controversy over the 60 Minutes documents has now overshadowed the questions they purport to raise about George W. Bush's military service."
Kurtz then went on to write 1,500 words about the CBS documents, ignoring the voluminous evidence about the things that really matter about the National Guard story: the uncontested -- but not fully explained -- facts that Bush didn't show up for duty when he was supposed to, that he skipped a mandatory physical, and that he was grounded from flying.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:38 AM
September 14, 2004
Kerry Asks F.E.C. for Recount Advice
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Election Day is several weeks away, but Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign is already considering its fund-raising options should Kerry or President Bush pursue a recount like the famous Florida ballot dispute in 2000.
The Kerry-Edwards campaign is asking the Federal Election Commission for guidance on how it could raise money to cover any recount costs, including whether it could use a legal compliance fund it is tapping to pay campaign lawyers and finance other legal and accounting costs. The FEC is expected to rule by the end of the month.
In 2000, Bush and Democratic rival Al Gore could raise unlimited donations from individuals to cover their recount expenses. However, corporate and union contributions to their recount funds were banned.
Bush voluntarily limited his recount donations to $5,000 each and raised nearly $14 million. Gore took unlimited donations and spent about $3.2 million on the recount.
Since then, Congress passed a law that bars presidential and congressional candidates from raising corporate, union or unlimited donations for election costs, allowing them to collect only limited contributions from individuals.
The FEC has not yet said how the soft-money ban applies to recount fund raising.
Depending how the commission answers Kerry's question, legal compliance funds financed with limited individual donations could be one way for the candidates to cover any recount costs.
Kerry's compliance fund had about $1.5 million on hand as August began, while Bush's had about $4.4 million, their most recent reports to the FEC show.
The only contributions Kerry and Bush can accept are those for their legal compliance funds. Both took full government financing for their general-election campaigns, putting a stop to their use of private money for campaign costs after their presidential nominating conventions earlier this summer.
On the Net:
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:12 AM
September 15, 2004
Court Rejects Electronic Voting Lawsuit
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- The state's highest court on Tuesday rejected a demand that citizens who do not trust touch-screen voting machines be given the option of using a paper ballot and that Maryland be required to take additional steps to protect the security of the Nov. 2 election.
The Court of Appeals affirmed a circuit judge's ruling that state election officials have already done everything that is necessary to guard against fraud when voters use the 16,000 Diebold AccuVote-TS electronic machines in the general election.
The decision came in a two-paragraph order issued less than three hours after the judges heard arguments on a suit brought by TrueVoteMD alleging that the electronic machines, used statewide for the first time in March, are vulnerable to fraud and that the state cannot guarantee fair and accurate election results.
Linda Schade, the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit, said the decision means that ``Maryland voters are going to be forced to vote on an insecure system.''
The decision was not a surprise, Schade said. The state delayed the suit so long that ``judges found themselves challenged to find a remedy for this upcoming election that could be implemented in time.''
Schade and Ryan Phair, a lawyer for TrueVoteMD, said while it is too late to do anything about the 2004 election, TrueVoteMD will continue its legal battle to force the state to equip voting machines with printers to make a paper record of each vote cast in future elections.
A paper record would allow voters to confirm that their votes are recorded correctly and would provide a paper trial that could be used to recount votes in disputed elections.
``This is not the end of the suit,'' Schade said.
Phair acknowledged in court that it was too late to require a paper record of every vote cast on Nov. 2. But he argued that it is reasonable to ask the State Board of Elections to take additional security steps and to provide paper ballots for voters who mistrust computer voting system.
``We're basically playing Russian roulette,'' Phair said, as he described a litany of potential problems with electronic machines. ``We know there is vulnerability. It is just a matter of time until it happens.''
Judges interrupted Phair frequently with questions, pressing him for examples of election fraud involving touch-screen machines.
``Is there anything as bad as what was alleged to have happened in Florida?'' Judge Dale Cathell asked. Judge Irma Raker suggested the potential problems cited by Phair might be just ``hypothetical and speculative.''
Phair mentioned allegations of glitches with computerized systems in other states, but said it might be impossible to detect widespread fraud such as rewriting of software to skew election results.
Assistant Attorney General Michael Berman said more than 20 successful state and local elections have been held in Maryland using the Diebold machines over the past three years with no evidence of fraud or allegations of inaccurate vote counts.
``There is no sound reason to change less than two months before the election,'' Berman said.
Linda Lamone, state election laws administrator, said outside the courtroom that making any significant changes in the voting system at this late date could create chaos on election day.
Asked about the security of the Diebold machines, she said, ``I'm very confident they are accurate and secure.''
On the Net:
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:09 AM
Widows of 9/11 Attack Endorse Kerry
By MICHAEL JANOFSKY
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 - Pronouncing themselves frightened and distrustful of President Bush, five women whose husbands died in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and a sixth who was injured that day at the Pentagon said Tuesday that they were supporting Senator John Kerry for president.
"My daughter, who is 5, is being handed a war of a lifetime," said Kristen Breitweiser of Middletown, N.J., who said she had voted for Mr. Bush in 2000. "I am scared for what can happen over the next four years."
Ms. Breitweiser spoke at a news conference where the women criticized the Bush administration over the war in Iraq, which they said had diverted resources from fighting terrorism and had fueled hatred of the United States. The other women endorsing Mr. Kerry were Patty Casazza of Colts Neck, N.J.; Monica Gabrielle of West Haven, Conn.; Mindy Kleinberg of East Brunswick, N.J.; Lorie Van Auken of East Brunswick, N.J.; and April Gallop of Woodbridge, Va., who was in the Pentagon.
As a group, the women have pressed the Bush administration and Congress to examine how the attacks happened and to recommend ways the country can protect itself. Their efforts played a major role in the creation of the Sept. 11 commission, which made recommendations for changes this summer.
But Ms. Breitweiser and the others said Tuesday that they could not trust Mr. Bush because they had encountered so much resistance from the government about the investigation and recommendations. They said efforts to meet with Mr. Bush were rebuffed. But Mr. Kerry "was gracious enough to meet with us," said Ms. Casazza, who also said she had voted for Mr. Bush in 2000.
Mr. Kerry said in a statement that the women's endorsement "sends a clear signal that much more needs to be done to make America safe."
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:05 AM
Absentee Votes Worry Officials as Nov. 2 Nears
By MICHAEL MOSS
As both major political parties intensify their efforts to promote absentee balloting as a way to lock up votes in the presidential race, election officials say they are struggling to cope with coercive tactics and fraudulent vote-gathering involving absentee ballots that have undermined local races across the country.
Some of those officials say they are worried that the brashness of the schemes and the extent to which critical swing states have allowed party operatives to involve themselves in absentee voting - from handling ballot applications to helping voters fill out their ballots - could taint the general election in November.
In the four years since the last presidential election, prosecutors have brought criminal cases in at least 15 states for fraud in absentee voting. One case resulted in the conviction of a voting-rights activist this year for forging absentee ballots in a Wisconsin county race. In another case, a Republican election worker in Ohio was charged with switching the votes of nursing-home residents in the 2000 presidential race. And last year in Michigan, three city council members pleaded guilty in a vote-tampering case that included forged signatures and ballots altered by white-out.
The increasing popularity of absentee voting is reshaping how and when the country votes. Since the last presidential election, a growing number of election officials and party operatives have been promoting absentee balloting as a way to make it easier for people to vote and alleviate the crush of Election Day. At least 26 states now let residents cast absentee ballots without needing the traditional excuse of not being able to make it to polling places. That is six more states than allowed the practice in 2000.
As a result, as many as one in four Americans are expected to vote by absentee ballot in the presidential race, a process that begins today, nearly two months before Election Day, as North Carolina becomes the first state to distribute ballots.
But some experts say that concerns about a repeat in problems with voting machines is overshadowing the more pressing issue of absentee ballot fraud.
"Everybody was worried about the chads in the 2000 election,'' said Damon H. Slone, a former West Virginia election fraud investigator, "when in fact by loosening up the restrictions on absentee voting they have opened up more chances for fraud to be done than what legitimate mistakes were made in Florida."
Yet many states - including battlegrounds in the presidential campaign - have abandoned or declined to adopt the safeguards on absentee voting that election officials have warned they will need to prevent rigged elections, an examination by The New York Times has found.
Only 6 of the 19 states where polls have shown that voters are almost evenly divided between President Bush and Senator John Kerry still require witness signatures to help authenticate absentee ballots. Fourteen of the 19 states allow political parties to collect absentee voting applications, and 7 let the parties collect completed ballots, raising the possibility that operatives could gather and then alter or discard ballots from an opponent's stronghold.
Most of the swing states even let party operatives help voters fill out their absentee ballots when the voters ask for help. And political parties are taking advantage of vague or nonexistent state rules to influence people who vote at home. In Arizona this month, a county judge ruled that a campaign consultant had improperly held on to more than 14,000 absentee ballot applications he collected this summer to help nearly a dozen Republican candidates in the primary. But holding on to such applications for at least a few days is now common practice by both major parties in states like Arizona, which require only that they be turned in within a "reasonable" period of time. This allows campaigns to bombard voters with mailings and house calls just as their ballots arrive.
Some operatives boast that this absentee electioneering lets them avoid the century-old anti-fraud rules that force them to stay out of polling places. But while acknowledging the value of legitimate get-out-the-vote campaigns, election officials say absentee voting is inherently more prone to fraud than voting in person since it has no direct oversight.
"Loosening the absentee balloting process, while maybe well intentioned, has some serious consequences for both local races and the general election," says Todd Rokita, secretary of state in Indiana, where fraud investigations are under way in at least five communities.
The more blatant cases of criminal misconduct have prompted some state officials to seek new legal powers in fighting fraud, including making it a crime to lie about not being able to vote in person in those states that require an excuse.
A Matter for the States
The Justice Department says the Constitution mandates that states run elections, and it generally can intervene only on civil rights matters like ensuring that non-English-speakers are not excluded.
In the mayoral race last year in East Chicago, Ind., federal officials declined to act on the pleas of one candidate's supporters, who foresaw trouble in absentee voting. Two weeks before the election, in the Democratic primary, the campaign of the challenger, George Pabey, was tipped to shenanigans, and his supporters asked the United States attorney there to safeguard the balloting. The prosecutor referred the matter to the Justice Department's civil rights division, which did not show up until a year later, to monitor a different election.
Mr. Pabey lost the race. Last month, the state Supreme Court voided the election after a judge found that the "zealotry to promote absentee voting" resulted in residents being coerced into voting with offers of jobs and other assistance.
There are now criminal investigations of the election by local, state and federal authorities, with five people already charged. Some voters who agreed to vote absentee in return for polling-place jobs say they had no idea this was improper.
"That's how I thought it was, you get paid to vote," Larry Ellison of East Chicago, 32, said in a recent interview, adding that he needed the $100 he received for his vote to buy medicine for his seizures.
In North Carolina, three university students were charged with felonies last year, accused of voting both absentee and at the polls after they responded to campus fliers that offered free concert tickets worth $22.50 for voting absentee.
Signatures and Excuses
Since 2000, when mail-in votes became crucial to President Bush's narrow victory in Florida, several groups that studied election irregularities have issued warnings about absentee voting. One commission, whose co-chairman was former President Jimmy Carter, found that most election officials had grown lax in handling absentee ballots.
"For practical reasons, most states do not routinely check signatures either on applications or on returned ballots, just as most states do not verify signatures or require proof of identity at the polls," wrote John Mark Hansen, dean of the social sciences division at the University of Chicago, who directed research for the commission's 2001 report.
Also in 2001, an international association of election officials called the Election Center produced a report that noted the growing importance of absentee voting and concluded, "Strict procedures and penalties to prevent undue influence and fraud must be adopted by jurisdictions seeking expanded absentee access or all-mail elections."
Gary Bartlett, an association member and the director of elections in North Carolina, said, "It seems like whenever there is hanky-panky in elections, it's usually through absentee voting."
In 2002, North Carolina stopped requiring an excuse to vote absentee, but at the same time it barred anyone but voters and their relatives from handling absentee applications. In addition, the state requires two witness signatures on absentee ballots, which Mr. Bartlett says is a powerful tool against fraud.
In Oregon, where all voters now cast their ballots by mail, officials have adopted several safeguards, including the use of a scanner that produces an image of the voter's registration signature for instant comparison with the signature on the absentee envelope. But Melody Rose, an assistant professor of political science at Portland State University, who has studied the state's elections, said she was concerned that political operatives could still collect ballots.
"We are a battleground state, and it is likely to be a very tight race," Ms. Rose said. "What is to stop some individual from saying, 'This is a red neighborhood' or 'This is a blue neighborhood and I'm going to go and volunteer to take ballots and dump them in the river.' ''
The Ballot Gatherers
This year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court barred election officials from letting political operatives collect completed ballots, citing fraud concerns. But some efforts to limit the role of operatives in absentee voting have been derailed by political jockeying, and the fears, expressed mostly by Democrats, that such controls could diminish turnout.
Three towns in Connecticut tested a program last summer that barred political parties from handling ballot requests. But while the effort was deemed a success, the Legislature declined to make the ban permanent statewide, said Jeffrey B. Garfield, executive director of the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
Campaign workers "tend to target people who are elderly, infirm, low-income, non-English-speaking," Mr. Garfield said. "So there is a psychology of almost fear and intimidation.''
In other cases, new controls have caused interest groups to seek new ways to grab absentee votes. Two years ago, after Iowa placed new restrictions on who can handle ballot applications, political activists discovered an arcane rule that lets almost any people who can gather 100 signatures set up their own polling place where residents can vote early.
After several churches did so last year to fight a casino initiative, unions in Cedar Rapids said they hoped to collect 1,000 votes for Mr. Kerry on Oct. 10 by setting up voting booths at a Teamsters hall during a rally for workers and their families.
The local elections director, Linda Langenberg, said the law required only that their voting booths be set up more than 30 feet away from any electioneering; nonetheless, Ms. Langenberg said, she is concerned. "I won't let them have voting in the same building where they are having a rally," she said.
Elsewhere, some experts contend that regulators have undermined efforts to fight voting fraud. In West Virginia, Mr. Slone said that three years ago he was forwarding information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about absentee votes being swapped for $15 and flasks of whiskey when a new secretary of state replaced him with compliance officers who he said did not have the skill to ferret out fraud.
"Absentee voting is one of the most abused things in the state," Mr. Slone said in an interview. And while it mostly surfaces in local elections, he said, the same culprits may be turning out votes in national races, too.
The West Virginia secretary of state's office denies that it has diminished its antifraud effort.
In East Chicago, many voters said their faith in the election process was shaken by the debacle last year in the mayor's race.
The challenger, Mr. Pabey, won the race based on polling-place votes but lost to Mayor Robert A. Pastrick by 278 votes when the absentee ballots were counted. Within days, a civic group, Women for Change, sent 50 volunteers - nurses, secretaries, mill workers - knocking on doors of absentee voters to investigate.
The admissions they got from dozens of voters led Judge Steven King of Lake County Superior Court to render a 104-page decision chock-full of testimony from poor residents like Shelia Pierce. Ms. Pierce said she had been facing eviction when she let an operative working for the mayor's campaign, Allan Simmons, fill out her absentee ballot in return for the promise of a $100 job working outside the polls on Election Day. She said he later threatened her to keep her from testifying.
Mr. Simmons has been charged with three counts of attempted obstruction of justice and six counts of ballot fraud. He has denied the charges. Mr. Pastrick has not been charged with wrongdoing and has denied any involvement in fraud.
In the same election, Elisa Delrio says a local official offered her a $160 job at the polls and even took her absentee ballot to the hospital where she was having surgery. But when she voted instead for Mr. Pabey, her ballot, which she handed to the official, disappeared and was not counted, election records showed.
"It made me so angry," Ms. Delrio says. "Voting is sacred."
Judge King stopped short of voiding the election, saying the 155 votes he had thrown out did not change the outcome, but the Supreme Court of Indiana concluded that it was impossible to determine the true winner. A new election is scheduled for Oct. 26.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:03 AM
September 15, 2004
Kerry Says Washington Hides Medicare's Cost to People
By JODI WILGOREN
TOLEDO, Ohio, Sept. 14 - Senator John Kerry ratcheted up his character-based critique of President Bush on Tuesday, turning health-care forums here and in Milwaukee into attacks on his opponent's honesty.
Mr. Kerry accused the Bush administration of manipulating reports to obscure the fact that Medicare premiums will eat up 37 percent of the average person's Social Security income by 2006.
"They hide the truth about Iraq, they hide the truth about No Child Left Behind, they hide the truth about what's happening in Medicare," Mr. Kerry, the Democratic nominee, told a union-heavy crowd here in the northwestern corner of one of the most contested states. "It's time we had a president who tells the American people the truth."
In Milwaukee, at a center for the elderly, Mr. Kerry used blowups from the annual trustees' report on Medicare and Social Security to show how a table that projected the percentage of Social Security income that the average person would spend on Medicare had been replaced this year with a line graph with a different bottom line.
"They're playing games with the American people again," he declared. "They hid it from you. They didn't want you to know what the costs were. Once again, this administration hides the truth from the American people."
The policy director for Mr. Bush's campaign, Tim Adams, called the attack baseless, saying the Treasury Department had prepared the pamphlets without consulting the White House. Mr. Adams said the table had been replaced with the line graph to illustrate costs and benefits better.
"By and large,'' Mr. Adams added, "what the chart shows is that, yes, costs are going up. They've been going up since the 1970's, but benefits are going up, too. When you compare the costs over time with the benefits received, seniors are better off, because the benefits exceed the costs."
Medicare has grown as a focus in the presidential race after an announcement 10 days ago that premiums would jump 17 percent next year, as each side tries to win over older people, who are among the most reliable voters.
Mr. Kerry has frequently criticized Mr. Bush for the Medicare overhaul that he pushed last year, saying its prescription drug benefit is better for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries than for elderly beneficiaries. The Bush campaign has started using a television advertisement on the broader issue of health care, declaring that the president's plan was to "stop frivolous lawsuits" and help small businesses band together for lower rates, while Mr. Kerry and his fellow Democrats want a "government-run health care program" with a $1.5 trillion price tag.
Mr. Kerry said here that he had learned the lessons of President Bill Clinton's failed effort in the early 1990's to establish universal health insurance. He said his plan "is not a government plan," but one that would reduce costs and expand access through tax credits and options for businesses and governments to enroll in federal programs.
Mr. Kerry's emphasis on "truth," a word he repeated often in both talks, is part of the effort of his new communications team to clarify his case.
On Tuesday, Michael D. McCurry, a former White House press secretary, became the third Clinton veteran to join the campaign full time in recent weeks. He plans to travel with Mr. Kerry for the remainder of the campaign, beginning on Thursday at a major speech to the National Guard convention in Las Vegas.
As Mr. Kerry and the party hammered Mr. Bush, his running mate, Senator John Edwards, accused the president of withholding details on his proposed spending, comparing him to Kenneth L. Lay, the disgraced former Enron chairman.
"He's making proposals that are in the trillions of dollars in costs for which he has no idea how he is going to pay for," Mr. Edwards told an audience in Oregon City, Ore., "I think he believes that he's Ken Lay and America is his Enron."
Aides to Mr. Edwards said he was reacting to a report in The Washington Post that put the cost of proposals that Mr. Bush laid out at the Republican National Convention at $3 trillion, compared with the $2 trillion that the administration has said Mr. Kerry's proposals would cost.
The Post said the administration had not publicly accounted for some costs, but Mr. Bush's campaign said most of the money was accounted for in his budget proposal in February.
Mr. Edwards's use of Mr. Lay reflected his stepped-up attacks on the administration in the past two weeks. His standard campaign speech is now chock full of references to Halliburton, the energy company Vice President Cheney once headed, and accusations it overcharged the military on contracts related to the Iraq reconstruction.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:00 AM
September 15, 2004
Bush Administration Opposes Move to Delay Medicare Premium Increase
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 - The Bush administration came out Tuesday in opposition to Democratic proposals to hold down the scheduled 17 percent increase in Medicare premiums next year, saying that a one-year freeze would lead to much higher premiums in 2006.
Dr. Mark B. McClellan, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the premiums would rise 20 percent in 2006 if Congress blocked the increase planned for next year. Under current law, the monthly premium is scheduled to be $78.20 next year, up $11.60 from the premium this year. In most cases, the amount is deducted from Social Security checks.
Democrats and a few Republicans have expressed concern about the increase planned for 2005. Dr. McClellan said it reflected higher projected Medicare spending, attributable in part to an increase in payments to doctors and improvements in benefits.
The elderly "will be getting more benefits than ever,'' he said.
John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has charged that Medicare premiums are increasing 56 percent since Mr. Bush took office in 2001, when they were $50.
But Senator Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, said: "President Bush is not to blame for this. He is following the law.'' A 1997 law specified that premiums should be set to cover roughly 25 percent of the cost of Part B of Medicare, which pays for doctors' services and other outpatient care.
Dr. McClellan, testifying Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee, gave an upbeat assessment of the new Medicare law, which Republicans pushed through Congress last year, over the opposition of most Democrats, who said the measure did more to help insurance and pharmaceutical companies than elderly people or the disabled.
New insurance for the cost of drugs under Medicare is scheduled to begin in 2006. Since June, beneficiaries have been able to save money by using Medicare-approved drug discount cards.
The government had estimated that by December, 4.7 million low-income people would have discount cards and would qualify for extra assistance of $600 a year in 2004 and 2005. But to date, Dr. McClellan said, only 1.3 million low-income people have signed up for such "transitional assistance.''
Discount cards are available to Medicare beneficiaries with higher incomes as well. As of Sept. 2, Dr. McClellan said, cards have been issued to a total of more than 4.3 million beneficiaries, or nearly 60 percent of the 7.3 million expected to enroll by the end of the year.
Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, voted for the new Medicare law, but said he detected little enthusiasm for the discount cards.
"I believe there are too many choices,'' Mr. Baucus said. "Too many choices, too many options can result in paralysis.''
A Web site, www.Medicare.gov, displays prices for more than 60,000 drug products that can be purchased with 73 discount cards at more than 50,000 pharmacies.
Democrats stepped up pressure on the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, to allow a vote on legislation permitting imports of inexpensive prescription drugs from Canada.
Dr. Frist indicated that he had no immediate plans to bring up such legislation, because he feared it could expose consumers to unsafe drug imports. But Democrats said they would find a way to get a Senate vote on the issue before Congress adjourns for the Nov. 2 election.
In July 2003, the House voted to allow Americans to import drugs from Canada and Europe, despite intense efforts to defeat the bill by officials of the Food and Drug Administration, including Dr. McClellan, who was then head of the agency.
To speed the confirmation of Dr. McClellan in his new job, Senator Frist said on the Senate floor, on March 11, that "the Senate will begin a process for developing proposals that would allow for the safe reimportation of F.D.A.-approved prescription drugs.'' Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said Tuesday that the process had "led to nothing.''
The new Medicare law offers subsidies to employers as an incentive for them to continue providing drug benefits to retirees.
Dr. McClellan said "retiree coverage has been in decline for many years,'' and he said the new law could reverse that trend.
But Gerald M. Shea, assistant to the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., told the Finance Committee: "We are very nervous. We are nervous and afraid.'' Rules proposed by the Bush administration "offer too few protections for retirees'' and could "produce some momentum to further reduce retiree coverage, just the opposite of what was intended by Congress,'' Mr. Shea said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 10:56 AM