Saturday, March 17, 2007

`Dear Friend' Gonzales Is Expendable to Bush
`Dear Friend' Gonzales Is Expendable to Bush
By Margaret Carlson

March 16 (Bloomberg) -- Could President George W. Bush get away with fingering the wrong guy again?

He's sure trying to in the scandal surrounding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. On Wednesday, in his first comments, Bush criticized Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, expressing annoyance that questions about the scandal were intruding on his Latin America trip. Bush was feeling so much heat he couldn't even wait to clear Mexican airspace before separating himself from the first Mexican-American attorney general in history.

If the firings weren't looking like a White House operation, Bush wouldn't have criticized the man who must be among the most pliant attorney generals in history.

His ``dear friend'' Gonzales has been a cog in the Bush wheel since his earliest days in Texas. As Bush's counsel, he rejected death-row appeals at a pace that won Bush first place in speed and number (119) of executions in the country.

Gonzales, who once described the Geneva Conventions as ``quaint,'' has rubber-stamped every incursion into due process for detainees and enemy combatants. He approved the ``torture memo'' out of the Justice Department that changed techniques permitted in the interrogation of enemies captured in the war against terrorists. He hasn't met a civil right he likes.

But forcing Gonzales's resignation isn't enough, just as it's not enough to have Scooter Libby alone take the rap for the CIA leak investigation.

On Board

As the facts trickle out, prompted by the release of documents, the president has now acknowledged he ``passed on complaints'' to Gonzales last October about prosecutors, although he said he gave no specific instructions.

Thanks to e-mails, it's clear others in the White House were on board: Presidential adviser Karl Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers, a Texas attorney so pliant even Republicans couldn't stomach her nomination to the Supreme Court, and Kyle Sampson, Gonzales's chief of staff, hard-wired to the White House he used to work in.

They were out to punish U.S. attorneys for not moving fast enough to prosecute Democrats, moving too fast to prosecute Republicans, or for ignoring ``administration initiatives.''

And one had to go for no reason other than to make room for a Rove protege.

Open Season

It looks like it's open season on chiefs-of-staff as Sampson follows Libby down the resignation path. Not that Sampson shouldn't go. He stood by while Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty testified before Congress that the firings were ``performance-related,'' when it fact they were politics- related.

``When I hear you talk about the politicizing of the Department of Justice, it's like a knife in my heart,'' McNulty told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.

Gonzales himself told the Senate back in January he would never make a change in prosecutors for political reasons. ``I just would not do it,'' he said, even as his chief of staff was in cahoots with the White House to do just that.

Sampson showed how to use a new provision slipped into the USA Patriot Act to bypass Senate confirmation of new U.S. attorneys. That would clear the way to get a Rove operative, Tim Griffin, appointed U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, after removing the occupant of the office.

A Justice Department official wrote to Senator Charles Schumer that the department was ``not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin.'' But an e-mail to Justice revealed that getting Griffin appointed ``is important'' to Rove.

Contemptuous White House

One of the Sampson e-mails shows just how contemptuous the White House is of anyone outside it.

On the Griffin appointment, he recommended talking it into oblivion. ``Ask the senators to give Tim a chance,'' he said, while telling them ``we'll look for other candidates, ask them for recommendations, evaluate the recommendations, interview their candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All of this should be done in `good faith,' of course.''

As Sampson became the fall guy of the moment, Gonzales went from calling the firings an ``overblown personnel matter'' that didn't ``go smoothly'' to holding a press conference conducted almost entirely in the passive voice. He said ``mistakes were made,'' as if that's an honorable admission and not a pathetic and laughable remnant from Watergate.

By resisting calls for Rove to testify before the Judiciary Committee, Bush is putting his political aide's welfare first just as he did in U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of Libby.

Micromanager Cheney

In that case, sworn testimony from Vice President Dick Cheney's press secretary and notes in Cheney's own handwriting show the vice president micromanaged the effort to rebut former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's claim that Iraq didn't buy yellow cake uranium from Niger.

Cheney was so angered that Rove was going unscathed despite having leaked himself that he put his feelings in writing, ``Not going to protect one staffer (Rove) & sacrifice the guy (Libby) who was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder.''

Substitute Gonzales for Libby and you've got the current state of play. Bush expressed confidence in Gonzales but left himself plenty of wiggle room to let him be the scapegoat for the whole mess.

Blaming the Messenger

The president defended his own actions and then blamed the messenger -- ``what was mishandled was the explanation to Congress'' -- and challenged Gonzales to fix it. ``Al was right,'' Bush said, ``mistakes were made.'' He instructed Gonzales to ``go up to Capitol Hill to correct them.''

And if he doesn't, even dear friends are expendable, if the dear friend isn't Rove. Bush's loyalty to Rove over all others looks ever more curious as the boy genius's political operation crumbles.

This all looks like an unforced error. You can remove prosecutors, you just can't single a few out, then lie that they're being let go because of poor performance, and try to slip their replacements by the Senate. It makes you wonder how much ``loyalty'' the 85 who kept their jobs exhibited.

Gonzales, if he takes the fall, can take comfort from the fact that unlike Libby, he won't need a pardon. Misleading Congress is rarely prosecuted and will be a footnote in the history books compared to enabling the White House to do whatever it wanted in the war on terrorism.

And, like other failures who have gone quietly, like George Tenet and L. Paul Bremer, he may have a Medal of Freedom in his future.

(Margaret Carlson, author of ``Anyone Can Grow Up: How George Bush and I Made It to the White House'' and former White House correspondent for Time magazine, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)


Senators say U.S. should examine detainee treatment

Senators say U.S. should examine detainee treatment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. senators who observed the military hearing of an Al Qaeda suspect at the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said on Friday the man's allegations of mistreatment should be investigated.

"To do otherwise would reflect poorly on our nation," said Sens. Carl Levin and Lindsey Graham in a statement.

The suspect, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, claimed responsibility during the hearing for the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon, as well as direct involvement in other attacks and plots.

The tribunal "was presented with a written statement from (Mohammed) alleging mistreatment during his captivity prior to arriving at Guantanamo," said the senators.

"Allegations of prisoner mistreatment must be taken seriously and properly investigated."

A Pakistani national, Mohammed is among 14 prisoners identified by U.S. authorities as "high-value" terrorism suspects and transferred to Guantanamo last year from secret CIA prisons abroad.

Levin and Graham said they watched the proceeding on closed circuit television in a room adjoining the hearing site. The hearing was held on March 10 to determine whether Mohammed meets the U.S. definition of an enemy combatant.

Levin, a Michigan Democrat, is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, is a committee member.

The president of the three-member military panel has said Mohammed's statement would be reported for "any investigation that may be appropriate."


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dying woman loses marijuana appeal

Yahoo! News
Dying woman loses marijuana appeal
By DAVID KRAVETS, Associated Press Writer

A woman whose doctor says marijuana is the only medicine keeping her alive can face federal prosecution on drug charges, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The ruling was the latest legal defeat for Angel Raich, a mother of two from Oakland suffering from scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea and other ailments who sued the federal government pre-emptively to avoid being arrested for using the drug. On her doctor's advice, Raich eats or smokes marijuana every couple of hours to ease her pain and bolster her appetite.

The latest legal twist once again highlighted the conflict between the federal government, which declares marijuana an illegal controlled substance with no medical value, and the 11 states allowing medical marijuana for patients with a doctor's recommendation.

The Supreme Court ruled against Raich two years ago, saying medical marijuana users and their suppliers could be prosecuted for breaching federal drug laws even if they lived in a state such as California where medical pot is legal.

Because of that ruling, the issue before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was narrowed to the so-called right to life theory: that the gravely ill have a right to marijuana to keep them alive when legal drugs fail.

Raich, 41, began sobbing when she was told of the decision that she was not immune to prosecution and said she would continue using the drug.

"I'm sure not going to let them kill me," she said. "Oh, my God."

The three-judge appeals panel said that the United States has not yet reached the point where "the right to use medical marijuana is 'fundamental' and 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.'"

However, the court left open the possibility that Raich, if she was arrested and prosecuted, might be able to argue that she possessed marijuana as a last resort to stay alive, in what is known as a "medical necessity defense."

"I have to get myself busted in order to try to save my life," Raich said.

One of her physicians, Frank Lucido, said in an interview last year that Raich would "probably be dead without marijuana."

Lucido, of Berkeley, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Leaders in the medical marijuana movement said they would continue fighting.

"This is literally a matter of life and death for Angel and thousands of other patients, and we will keep fighting on both the legal and political fronts until every patient is safe," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.

New Mexico is poised to become the 12th state to allow medical marijuana under a bill lawmakers approved Wednesday. Gov. Bill Richardson, a strong supporter of the measure, is expected to sign it.


Republican says Gonzales should be fired

Yahoo! News
Republican says Gonzales should be fired
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer

Sen. John Sununu (news, bio, voting record) of New Hampshire on Wednesday became the first Republican in Congress to call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' dismissal, hours after President Bush expressed confidence in his embattled Cabinet officer.

Gonzales has been fending off Democratic demands for his firing in the wake of disclosures surrounding the ousters of eight U.S. attorneys — dismissals Democrats have characterized as a politically motivated purge.

Support from many Republicans had been muted, but there was no outright GOP call for his dismissal until now.

"I think the president should replace him," Sununu said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think the attorney general should be fired."

Bush, at a news conference in Mexico, told reporters when asked about the controversy: "Mistakes were made. And I'm frankly not happy about them."

But the president expressed confidence in Gonzales, a longtime friend, and defended the firings. "What Al did and what the Justice Department did was appropriate," he said.

Still, Bush left himself room to sack the attorney general.

"What was mishandled was the explanation of the cases to the Congress," Bush said. "And Al's got work to do up there."

The developments unfolded as presidential aides labored to protect White House political director Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers from congressional subpoenas. The Senate Judiciary Committee was considering seeking subpoenas for Rove, Miers, deputy White House counsel William Kelley and five Justice Department officials.

The White House dispatched presidential counsel Fred Fielding to Capitol Hill to negotiate the terms of any testimony by White House aides in an institutional tug of war reminiscent of the Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandals.

Sununu has long been a critic of what he has said were the White House's disregard for civil liberties in its war on terrorism and played a large part in forcing the administration to accept new curbs on its power during the reauthorization of the Patriot Act last year.

On Tuesday, he said firings of the prosecutors, together with a report last Friday by the Justice Department's inspector general criticizing the administration's use of secret national security letters to obtain personal records in terrorism probes, shattered his confidence in Gonzales.

"We need to have a strong, credible attorney general that has the confidence of Congress and the American people," said Sununu, who faces a tough re-election campaign next year. "Alberto Gonzales can't fill that role."

The White House response was curt.

"We're disappointed, obviously," said White House spokesman Tony Snow. A Justice Department spokeswoman refused to comment on Sununu's remarks.

Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., in an interview with The Associated Press while campaigning in Iowa for the GOP nomination for president, said Gonzales shouldn't be forced out and that he should be given ample time to defend himself. Asked if Gonzales should resign, McCain said: "I don't think so. But there certainly are a lot of questions that need to be answered. There are problems here, and I think he should be made to answer for them."

Some of the dismissed prosecutors complained at hearings last week that lawmakers tried to influence political corruption investigations. Several also said there had been Justice Department attempts to intimidate them.

E-mails between the Justice Department and the White House, released Tuesday, contradicted the administration's earlier contention that Bush's aides had only limited involvement in the firings.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., predicted Wednesday that Gonzales would soon be out.

"I think he is gone. I don't think he'll last long," Reid said in an interview with Nevada reporters. Asked how long, Reid responded: "Days."

Fielding, the White House counsel negotiating with lawmakers over possible administration testimony, is a veteran of the Nixon and Reagan administrations. He was hired by Bush this year to handle just these kinds of demands by the Democratic-controlled Congress.

It was unclear whether Bush would grant Democratic requests for his own aides to tell their stories under oath.

For his part, Gonzales, in a brief hallway interview with reporters, said he intended to cooperate where his aides are concerned.

"We want Congress to know, to understand what happened here," he said. "We'll work it out."

Republicans weren't immediately piling behind Sununu's call for Gonzales' firing.

"I don't believe the attorney general should resign over this," said Sen. Judd Gregg (news, bio, voting record), R-N.H. "I don't believe his ability to pursue the terrorist threat has been compromised to the extent that he should resign."

The House and Senate Judiciary committees have invited Rove, Miers and her deputy, Kelley, to testify voluntarily about their roles in the firings. Gonzales has pledged to allow five of his aides involved in the dismissals to testify. As insurance, the Senate panel is expected to consider subpoenas for the whole group.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters after the meeting with Fielding that the counsel promised a yes-or-no answer by Friday.

"He said it was his goal to get us both the documents and the witnesses that we seek to question," Schumer said. The White House was expected to issue some conditions, but Fielding "said his intention was not to stonewall," Schumer added.

U.S. attorneys are the federal government's prosecutors and serve at the pleasure of the president. They can be hired or fired for any reason, or none at all.

However, when the White House dismissed eight federal prosecutors without explanation, Democrats accused the administration of trying to make way for political allies under a new Patriot Act provision that permits the attorney general to appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation.

The fired prosecutors are: Carol Lam and Kevin Ryan of California, Bud Cummins of Arkansas, Paul Charlton of Arizona, John McKay of Washington state, Daniel Bogden of Nevada, David Iglesias of New Mexico and Margaret Chiara of Michigan.

Gonzales and the White House denied the charges of a political purge and said they intended to submit the names of the replacements for confirmation.

They initially said the White House had only limited involvement in the firings. But e-mails released by the agency this week made clear that the firings were the result of a two-year campaign to purge the ranks of U.S. attorneys for various reasons, including chafing at the administration's crime-fighting priorities.

The e-mail exchanges between Gonzales' chief of staff and Miers and Kelley made clear the White House was deeply involved in the plan.

Miers, at that time White House counsel, at one point suggested firing all 93 U.S. attorneys. That idea was rebuffed by Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' top aide. Rove is mentioned in several of the e-mails as key to the process. Kelley gave the green light for the firings in another e-mail, saying the White House offices of legislative affairs, political affairs and communications had signed off on it.

Sampson resigned on Tuesday. Mike Battle, who oversaw the U.S. attorneys, announced his resignation last week in a departure the agency said had been long planned.

Bush, and Gonzales a day earlier, used a phrase made famous in previous scandals — "Mistakes were made" — and pledged to set things right with Congress.

Appearing Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show, Gonzales said he had a "general knowledge" of Sampson's conversations with Miers about the prosecutors, but said, "I was obviously not aware of all communications."


Associated Press writers Lara Jakes Jordan, Erica Werner and Terence Hunt contributed to this report.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Why Do These 38 Republican Senators Hate America? And Where Was McCain?

Huffington Post
Why Do These 38 People Hate America? And Where Was McCain?
Bob Geiger

Here's the 38 U.S. Senators who voted against S. 4, the bill "to make the United States more secure by implementing unfinished recommendations of the 9/11 Commission," which passed in the Senate on Tuesday:

* Alexander (R-TN)
* Allard (R-CO)
* Bennett (R-UT)
* Brownback (R-KS)
* Bunning (R-KY)
* Burr (R-NC)
* Chambliss (R-GA)
* Coburn (R-OK)
* Cochran (R-MS)
* Corker (R-TN)
* Cornyn (R-TX)
* Craig (R-ID)
* Crapo (R-ID)
* DeMint (R-SC)
* Domenici (R-NM)
* Ensign (R-NV)
* Enzi (R-WY)
* Graham (R-SC)
* Grassley (R-IA)
* Gregg (R-NH)
* Hagel (R-NE)
* Hatch (R-UT)
* Hutchison (R-TX)
* Inhofe (R-OK)
* Isakson (R-GA)
* Kyl (R-AZ)
* Lott (R-MS)
* Lugar (R-IN)
* Martinez (R-FL)
* McConnell (R-KY)
* Roberts (R-KS)
* Sessions (R-AL)
* Shelby (R-AL)
* Sununu (R-NH)
* Thomas (R-WY)
* Thune (R-SD)
* Vitter (R-LA)
* Warner (R-VA)

I thought these guys liked to wave the flag and say they love America -- what gives?

Here's the Republicans who voted with the Democrats, Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman (whatever the hell he's supposed to be):

* Bond (R-MO)
* Coleman (R-MN)
* Collins (R-ME)
* Dole (R-NC)
* Murkowski (R-AK)
* Smith (R-OR)
* Snowe (R-ME)
* Specter (R-PA)
* Stevens (R-AK)
* Voinovich (R-OH)

Smart move for Coleman, Collins, Dole, Smith and Stevens, who all need to get elected again in 2008.

And, while Allard has decided to do the country a favor and retire after this term, Alexander, Chambliss, Cochran, Cornyn, Craig, Domenici -- if he makes it that far -- Enzi, Graham, Hagel, Inhofe, McConnell, Roberts, Sessions, Sununu and Warner all just gave their 2008 opponents a good bit of ammunition.

And did you notice that two Senators didn't vote on the 9/11 Commission recommendations on Tuesday? Absent were Tim Johnson (D-SD) who is still out recovering from a brain hemorrhage and a guy named John McCain, who simply suffers from an ever-increasing case of no guts.

Update: I discovered what was so important that McCain had to miss the big Tuesday vote on America's security:

Why McCain Skipped 9/11 Recommendations Vote
I knew there had to be a good reason that John McCain missed a critical vote on the 9/11 Commission recommendations in the Senate on Tuesday… I thought it might have been because he didn’t have the guts to go on the record and join 38 Republicans in opposing increased security for America -- though that may still be part of it.

No, McCain decided it was more important to be way out in California for a series of big-money fundraisers on Tuesday than to be on Capitol Hill voting on the bill intended to "make the United States more secure by implementing unfinished recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to fight the war on terror more effectively."

Here's his aggressive legislative agenda for Tuesday, right from his presidential campaign web site:

He probably figured, what the heck, with Democrats in control of Congress, the country's going to become safer with or without him there -- my vote is for without -- and the private fundraising event in Beverly Hills was expected to snag up to $250,000.

Oh, and by the way, Democratic Senators running for president, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden all managed to show up for the big vote today.


Home Foreclosures At Highest Level In Almost 40 Years
Mortgage Report Rattles Markets
Dow Down 2% On a Big Rise In Delinquencies
By David Cho and Dina ElBoghdady
Washington Post Staff Writers

A national survey showing that a soaring number of homeowners failed to make their mortgage payments in the last quarter of 2006 rattled lawmakers in Washington and the markets in New York yesterday, as the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted 2 percent, or nearly 243 points.

The report, which sent every major stock market indicator tumbling when it was released at noon, revealed that the problems in the market for "subprime" mortgages -- loans made to home buyers with blemished credit histories -- might be spilling over to the broader mortgage industry, analysts said.

While the number of risky borrowers who missed payments climbed to a four-year high, the number of foreclosures on all homes jumped to its highest level in nearly four decades, according to the survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association. Home buyers who relied on loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration also had record default rates.

Several lawmakers, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), said they would offer legislation to rein in risky mortgages. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) told reporters that Congress will have to consider providing several billion dollars of aid to at-risk homeowners.

The survey was released as the market for high-risk mortgages is collapsing. Over the past few years, highflying lenders of these loans helped millions of Americans buy homes they otherwise could not afford. The firms have seen their businesses unravel as these homeowners could not make their monthly payments. Some companies have been delisted from stock exchanges in recent weeks, while more than two dozen have shut their doors.

The consequences of the subprime mortgage meltdown now are extending beyond those lenders. Washington Mutual, the nation's largest savings and loan, told analysts that its loans to risky home buyers were performing "exceedingly poorly" and would be a drag on its earnings. H&R Block said it will delay reporting its third-quarter results because woes in the mortgage market forced the firm to recalculate its earnings, resulting in a $29 million loss that wasn't included in its previous filings.

Shares of Washington Mutual fell 5 percent, to $39.79, its lowest in 16 months. H&R Block fell 4 percent during the day and another 5 percent to $19.05 after its announcement.

"It's pretty clear that the fear is the increase in delinquencies in the subprime market will work its way through the entire financial systems," said Alan Kral, managing director of Trevor Stewart Burton & Jacobsen.

Traders said the impact of the delinquency survey was immediate. After the numbers were released, the Dow shed 70 points in half an hour. The survey measured the last three months of 2006, and some on Wall Street are worried the beginning of this year will be worse.

"People are concerned that the subprime problems are going to infect all of housing and the rest of the economy," said Donald H. Straszheim, an economist at Roth Capital Partners.

Federal and state investigators are looking at what has been going on in the mortgage industry. New Century, one of the largest subprime mortgage lenders, said yesterday it had received a federal grand jury subpoena for its trading and accounting practices. New Century, which stopped making loans last week, was delisted by the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.

Massachusetts' top securities regulator, Secretary of State William Galvin, said yesterday that he issued subpoenas to two Wall Street investment banks, UBS Securities and Bear Stearns, as part of a probe into whether the firms' researchers ignored the mounting problems among subprime lenders.

On top of these investigations, other prominent subprime lenders shed more light on their financial woes yesterday. Shares of Accredited Home Lenders Holding, another large subprime lender, lost 65 percent of their value after the San Diego firm said that it had not met the financial terms of its creditors, which are now demanding money that Accredited does not have. This is the same situation that New Century is facing.

Locally, Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group is considering selling its First NLC subprime mortgage loan business after cutting costs and tightening loan policies. The Arlington company said in a statement that it "will explore strategic alternatives to maximize the value" of the division.

Selling loans to people with questionable credit was a popular trend over the past few years. Lenders could repackage these mortgages as bonds and sell them on the market for high returns. These lenders believed homeowners simply could sell or refinance their homes if they had trouble making payments.

But when the market cooled, and home prices leveled off, millions of those borrowers could not afford to refinance or sell their homes, wreaking havoc on the once-thriving subprime market.

Especially onerous were the adjustable-rate mortgages, which offered low teaser rates that spiked in later years.

Those types of mortgages grew in popularity in spring 2004, when interest rates hit a low, said Barry Glassman, senior vice president of financial planning firm Cassaday & Co. But now that these mortgages are starting to adjust, some borrowers face interest payments that are at more than double the original rate.

Yesterday's Mortgage Bankers Association report, which surveyed 43.5 million loans, shows how this phenomenon played out in the last three months of 2006.

According to the report, 4.95 percent of all home mortgages were delinquent, meaning they were at least 30 days late. The most dramatic rise was among subprime borrowers. The survey also showed that lenders initiated foreclosures against 0.54 percent of borrowers -- or about one in every 200 -- the highest in the 37-year history of the survey.

While most of the turmoil has been driven by the subprime market, even credit-worthy borrowers appear to be facing some of the same issues. Their delinquency and foreclosure rates also inched upwards. The rate of foreclosures that started during the fourth quarter more than doubled since the start of 2006 for credit-worthy borrowers.

"There's some indication here, and it's not apocalyptic by any means, that the problems might not be contained in the subprime market," said Nicolas Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Staff writer Tomoeh Murakami Tse contributed to this report.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Special Report: How the Right Continues to Dominate the Sunday Talk Shows
If It's Sunday, It's Still Conservative
Special Report: How the Right Continues to Dominate the Sunday Talk Shows

On the Sunday after the midterm elections, in which Democrats took control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years, viewers tuned in to NBC's Meet the Press to hear what the Democratic win meant for the country -- only to discover that host Tim Russert did not have any Democrats on at all. Instead, Russert's guests were Republican Sen. John McCain (AZ) and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (CT), who ran in the general election as an Independent after losing the Democratic primary. And after an election in which the public's opposition to the Iraq war was a central issue, Meet the Press hosted two guests who support the war.

But that incident is hardly an aberration. In a new report by Media Matters for America -- If It's Sunday, It's Still Conservative: How the Right Continues to Dominate the Sunday Talk Shows, we show that the Sunday shows -- Meet the Press, ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday -- have consistently given Republicans and conservatives an edge over their Democratic and progressive counterparts in the last two years, the period of the 109th Congress. And, as our analysis shows, the recent shift in power in Washington has yielded mixed results, at best.


* Despite previous network claims that a conservative advantage existed on the Sunday shows simply because Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, only one show, ABC's This Week, has been roughly balanced between both sides overall since the congressional majority switched hands in the 2006 midterm elections.
* Since the 2006 midterm elections, NBC's Meet the Press and CBS' Face the Nation have provided less balance between Republican and Democratic officials than Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday despite the fact that Fox News Sunday remains the most unbalanced broadcast overall both before and after the election.
* During the 109th Congress (2005 and 2006), Republicans and conservatives held the advantage on every show, in every category measured. All four shows interviewed more Republicans and conservatives than Democrats and progressives overall, interviewed more Republican elected and administration officials than Democratic officials, hosted more conservative journalists than progressive journalists, held more panels that tilted right than tilted left, and gave more solo interviews to Republicans and conservatives.

Now that Congress has switched hands, one would reasonably expect Democrats and progressives to be represented at least as often as Republicans and conservatives on the Sunday shows. Yet our findings for the months since the midterm elections show that the networks have barely changed their practices. Only one show - ABC's This Week - has shown significant improvement, having as many Democrats and progressives as Republicans and conservatives on since the election. On the other three programs, Republicans and conservatives continue to get more airtime and exposure.

In the months ahead, will the networks address the imbalance in their guest lineups? Or will they continue with business as usual?

We urge you to read the report and take action. Tell the networks to address our findings and consider whether the Sunday shows serve the public interest by continuing to give conservatives the edge in setting the terms of the national debate.

Download the Report


Elizabeth Holtzman: Testimony regarding the Impeachment of President George W. Bush

Huffington Post
Elizabeth Holtzman
Testimony to the Washington Legislature

Elizabeth Holtzman
Senate Joint Memorial 8016
Before the Government Operations and Elections Committee
of the Washington State Legislature
regarding the
Impeachment of President George W. Bush

At the request of State Senator Eric Oemig, I respectfully submit this testimony in support of Senate Joint Memorial 8016 calling on the US Congress to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for and if so to commence the constitutional process of impeachment with respect to President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach President Richard M. Nixon, a process that has withstood the test of history, I developed a niche expertise on the subject of presidential impeachment.

It is from that perspective, that I have reached the sad conclusion that the systematic and grave abuses of power of President George W. Bush warrant his impeachment and removal from office.

No one can take any pleasure in reaching this conclusion. When the House Judiciary Committee voted its first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon, the chair of the committee, Representative Peter Rodino, went back to his office and cried. He needn't have done so. The impeachment vote, which prompted the resignation of President Nixon, vindicated the deepest values that guide our republic--commitment to the constitution and the rule of law. Impeachment did not divide our country but strengthened it: we recognized that as Americans more important than party, more important than any single president was the rule of law.

That is what is at stake again. Once again, we are confronted with a president who has put himself above the rule of law to the grave detriment of the people of the United States.

The impeachment power was placed in our constitution to preserve our democracy. The framers understood human nature. They knew that even though they had created powerful checks on the presidency, a president could still, during his term of office, create such a threat to our democracy that he would have to be removed. In other words, the framers anticipated Richard M. Nixon--and they anticipated George W. Bush. And, they gave us the remedy to address their abuses.

Impeachment was designed to remove a president who committed treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. High crimes and misdemeanors, we know from the constitutional debates, are "great and dangerous offenses that subvert the constitution."

Let me briefly describe the impeachable offenses that I believe President George W. Bush has committed. (More details are contained in my book, The Impeachment of George W. Bush, co-authored with Cynthia Cooper, and in two articles published in the Nation. )

First, President Bush repeatedly and systematically violated the laws of the United States, in particular the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, by refusing over a period of several years to seek court approval for an extensive wiretapping program of telephone calls or other electronic communications involving Americans in the United States. FISA, the violation of which is a federal crime, was enacted in the wake of revelations of illegal wiretapping by President Richard Nixon. That wiretapping constituted one of the grounds for the impeachment of President Nixon. Seeing what unchecked presidential wiretapping produced, Congress enacted FISA which requires court approval for all foreign intelligence wiretaps. No president was going to be permitted to conduct wiretaps on his own say so ever again. Nonetheless, President Bush has admitted to ordering repeated wiretapping without the FISA court's approval.

Court approval, the President and his team said, could not accommodate the exigent circumstances in the war against Al Qaeda. Yet, once the Democrats took control of Congress in the November 2006 elections and asked for an explanation of the wiretaps, the Administration announced that it was going to abandon its past practice and obtain court approval for all wiretaps. What was "impossible" was now possible, creating grave questions about the bona fides of the President's claim that that seeking FISA court approval would hinder intelligence gathering.

In any case, no president can be permitted to violate the law or take the law into his own hands, whether in the interests of national security or anything else. Otherwise, we go down the long road to tyranny. The plain language of the constitution mandates that the president obey the law. Moreover, there is a Supreme Court case directly in point, involving President Truman's effort to seize steel mills to keep them running during the Korean War in the face of a possible strike. The Court told the President hands off. The President, the court noted, was only the commander in chief of the army and navy, not the commander in chief of the country.

If President Bush thought FISA was unwieldy or hampered him in his intelligence gathering efforts, he needed to ask Congress to amend the statute or else he had to obey it. He never sought to amend FISA to permit his wiretapping program to go forward.

Second, President Bush drove us into the war in Iraq--a war now acknowledged by most Americans to be a disastrous mistake--by lies, deception and exaggerations. This, too, is a great and dangerous offense that subverts the constitution. The framers placed the power to go to war in the hands of the Congress, as well as the president. They did so not only because going to war, the gravest decision a nation can make, should be made only after the most careful and thorough consideration, but also because they believed that Congress would be a brake on the historical tendency of executives to engage in needless war making.

But lying, deception and exaggeration subvert the constitution by depriving Congress and the American people of the true facts on which to make a decision to go to war and thwarting their ability play the role the constitution requires of them.

As we know now, many of the President's claims about the reasons for going to war were untrue. In some cases, it is clear that the President personally knew that his claims were untrue.

The President falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were in cahoots, thus justifying any attack on Saddam as retaliation for 9/11. The connections were so frequently suggested by the President and his team that by the time of the invasion, most Americans thought Saddam was responsible for 9/11 and US soldiers were saying their presence in Baghdad was "payback" for 9/11. But, the President knew that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. He was personally told this by Richard Clarke, one of the top counterterrorism figures in the US government, right after 9/11.

Similarly, the President said in his January 2003 State of the Union address that the British government had found that Saddam was trying to buy uranium in the African country of Niger. This was proof, supposedly, that Saddam was reconstituting his nuclear weapons capacity. But US intelligence knew that the claim was phony and based on forged documents. So, President Bush could not cite US intelligence to make the Saddam/uranium argument in his speech. On the other hand, he was on notice that something was wrong, since as President, he was asking the American people to go to war based on British information. If he had asked what US intelligence had to say about the British claim, then he was simply lying to the American people about the uranium; if he didn't ask, he was reckless in taking us to war without satisfying himself about what US intelligence had to say on the subject. Full investigation will show exactly what the President knew and when he knew it about the reasons for going to war and the extent to which he deliberately deceived the Congress and the American people. The same holds true for Vice President Cheney whose repeatedly false statements about the war are legion.

Third, the President facilitated the mistreatment of detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions and US statutes (including the War Crimes Act of 1996) by in effect removing the protections of the Conventions from Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. Further, after abuses at Abu Ghraib became public, the President, in violation of his obligations under the Geneva Conventions and under the constitution to faithfully execute the laws, failed to ensure that thorough investigations were conducted into the highest echelons of the chain of command and that those responsible, including higher ups, were brought to justice.

Finally, the President failed to take care that the laws were faithfully executed in connection with his gross disregard for human life that occurred in the wake of Katrina. In a video conference, the President was personally warned that a catastrophe was about to engulf New Orleans and that the impending hurricane could breach the levees. Despite the fact that under the structure of laws governing disaster relief, the president is the only one who can mobilize all government resources, President Bush asked no questions at the briefing as to what preparations had been made and what else could be done by the federal government to help. Instead, he called for prayers and went back to his vacation. When thousands of lives, the future of one of the world's great cities and billions of dollars of property are at stake, and when the president is given unique powers to act to ameliorate the disaster, President Bush's failure to lift a finger is not just morally reprehensible, it is a failure to execute his oath of office and a failure to take care that the laws are faithfully executed--it is an impeachable offense.

Failure to hold the President accountable for his actions is to condone them and to signal to future Presidents that lying to drive us into wars or refusing to obey the laws of this country are acceptable modes of conduct.

But these are not acceptable. We cannot, we dare not turn over to future generations a shriveled and shrunken constitution. Some say impeachment is a distraction from a more important policy agenda. But that argument insults Americans. As important as better health care, education and job creation are, Americans understand that these objectives become possible only in the context of a vibrant democracy. There is nothing more important that we can do to for the achievement of a policy agenda than to make sure that our constitution is intact and the rule of law governs.

During the Nixon impeachment effort, it was not the Congress that put impeachment on the table. It was the American people who said enough is enough when President Nixon fired the special prosecutor investigating him. Americans did not want to see the rule of law destroyed; they did not want to see this great country become a banana republic. Congress commenced impeachment proceedings only in response to the firestorm of public anger.

That is why passage of the Senate Joint Memorial 1816 by the legislature of the State of Washington is so important. It is a way of telling Congress that the American people all over this great land want to see constitutional sanity restored and the rule of law prevail, which can happen only after full investigations of the actions of the President and Vice President are conducted and they are held accountable, if warranted, under the impeachment provisions of the US constitution.

Thank you for your consideration of my views.


The Clintons: The Times They Are a Changing

Huffington Post
David Mixner
The Clintons: The Times They Are a Changing

I will never forget sitting in the first row of the California delegation at the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco and watching Gary Hart, a young and vibrant United States Senator from Colorado, challenge Vice President Mondale for the Democratic nomination for president. While the Vice President was a good man with a distinguished record, he was the establishment candidate and represented the status quo.

On the other hand, Senator Hart embodied the excitement of youth as the first baby boomer to seek the presidency. He was one of us and a reformer with a dynamic vision for the future. His candidacy marked the beginning of the baby boomer era in Democratic Party politics.

The peak of my generation's political power was the ascent of Governor Bill Clinton to the presidency in 1992. His campaign was exhilarating, driven by a candidate cool enough to wear stylish sunglasses and play the saxophone on Arsenio Hall. Clinton campaigned without a jacket and with his shirt sleeves rolled up. He seem fearless and overflowed with hope for resolving the policy issues of the day. He articulated a vision and, for the first time, told us that we were part of it. The youthful and reform-minded Clinton led his baby boomer generation in vanquishing the entrenched Washington establishment created by Reagan and Bush, Sr.

When blocked by traditional politics or political machines who wanted to continue the status quo, Clinton filled up arenas with young people, organized thousands and thousands of volunteers, bypassed traditional ways of campaigning and appealed directly to the constituencies of the Democratic Party to create a new coalition to lead into the new millennium. It was an extraordinary time to be in politics.

It sounds almost sounds like Barack Obama or John Edwards today, doesn't it?

How ironic that, in many ways, Senator Hillary Clinton represents the end of that era. She may just be the baby boomer generation's last hurrah.

Today, the Clintons run the political machine trying to save the status quo in the Democratic Party. Their fundraising operation is notorious for its ruthlessness and elitism. Their circle of advisors and friends are tough and aggressive with anyone who refuses to pledge allegiance. They are surrounded by money collectors like Terry McAuliffe who shakedown donors with warnings that they will be punished if they give to another candidate. Senator Clinton's position on the Iraq War is by far the most calculated of any candidate. And on so many other issues, her positions are measured and break no new ground. Each appearance is predictable and perfectly arranged. Whether by necessity or choice, the spontaneity, exuberance and hope we saw in both of the Clintons in 1992 is gone.

In many ways, Senator Barack Obama is today's Bill Clinton. Like Clinton in 1992, he is packing arenas with young voters, campaigning in shirtsleeves, and calling America to believe in a new generation of politics. His candidacy stands in stark contrast to the safe predictable status quo Clinton campaign. Unlike Senator Clinton, he understood the consequences of invading Iraq and refused to support the war from day one. Like President Clinton in 1992, he is mobilizing thousands of cynical and disenfranchised voters and welcoming them back into the Democratic Party.

Ted Sorenson, President John F. Kennedy's legendary speechwriter, recently endorsed Obama saying he represents the spirit of President Kennedy's campaign in 1960.

It must not be easy for President Clinton to see a youthful figure like Senator Obama rise to become the hope and future of the Democratic Party. That is a place he has held for more than 14 years. And that is exactly the Clintons' problem. He was elected almost 15 years ago and they have become the establishment. The people around them have a vested interest in preserving power and not making change.

Then there is John Edwards - the 2008 issues candidate - who is articulating bold policy positions and giving voice to the powerless. The former Senator recently mailed more than 70,000 DVDs to Iowa voters on universal health care and his pragmatic plan to make it happen. Clearly declaring his opposition to the Iraq War, Edwards' speech at Riverside Church remains the best political address in the campaign so far.

I think famous progressive Robert Scheer captures the essence of the Edwards campaign. He recently posted on these comments about Edwards after Anne Coulter's outrageous statement at the CPAC convention:

No wonder Coulter hates him: Edwards is a Democrat who believes in the progressive heritage of his party and is not afraid to tell the world.

"I want to say something about my party," Edwards said in a speech at UC Berkeley on Sunday. "I'm so tired of incremental, careful caution. Where is our soul?" He was referring to, among other issues, the party's failure to deal boldly with "the bleeding sore that is Iraq."

Unlike rival Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, he has forthrightly apologized for his Senate vote to authorize the war and called for ending it, starting with "immediately" cutting troop levels by half and then withdrawing all troops within the next 12 to 18 months. In a pointed rebuke to the Democratic leadership of Congress, Edwards states on his website, "We don't need non-binding resolutions; we need to end this war, and Congress has the power to do it. They should use it now." Edwards_2

On domestic issues, Edwards has hewed to the progressive line he maintained in the 2004 campaign, warning about the growing income inequality in the "two Americas." As opposed to the Clintons, who still insist that they solved the poverty problem with Bill's putting an end to the federal welfare program, Edwards points out correctly, "Every day, 37 million Americans wake in poverty." Stating that "our response to that reality says everything about the character of America," Edwards has called for a national program to eliminate poverty instead of leaving the poor to the tender mercy of the states as called for in the Clinton welfare reform.

It is also refreshing for a politician to invoke the image of Jesus, as Edwards did Monday, not as a divisive symbol of intolerance but rather as the inspiration for social justice and peace. "I think that Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs," he said. "I think he would be appalled, actually."

As he did in the 2004 campaign as the Democrats' vice presidential candidate, Edwards has once again made relief for the struggling middle class a signature issue, strongly attacked tax breaks for the rich and the mindless globalization that is widening the class divide. He is equally strong on environmental issues, following 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore's leadership on global warming, and he has had the courage to bluntly oppose the Clinton-era "don't ask, don't tell" hypocrisy on gays in the military.

"Gay men and women have continually served our country with honor and bravery, and we should honor their commitment and never turn away anyone who is willing to serve their country because of sexual orientation," he said. These words were of particular resonance, coming on the heels of the announcement by the first U.S. Marine seriously wounded in Iraq that he is gay.

So, there it is. While the Clintons lead the party in a chorus of "The Way We Were," the charismatic Barack Obama and the substantive John Edwards are giving us a glimpse at the future of the Democratic Party. My baby boomer generation has had our run and the next generation is boldly stepping up to lead and to create a new vision for America.

That is a good thing.

Originally posted at


Monday, March 12, 2007

Poll: 69 percent oppose pardon for Libby in CIA leak case

Monday, March 12, 2007
Poll: 69 percent oppose pardon for Libby in CIA leak case

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby leaves a Washington courthouse after being convicted in the CIA leak case last Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nearly 70 percent of Americans oppose a presidential pardon for former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby after his conviction on perjury and other charges related to a CIA agent's exposure, according to a CNN poll out Monday.

Just 18 percent said they would support a pardon for Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, while 69 percent said they opposed the idea. Meanwhile, a narrow majority said they believe Cheney was part of a cover-up in the case.

The new poll was conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corp. between Friday and Sunday. Pollsters quizzed 1,027 adults for the survey, which had a sampling error of 3 percentage points.

President Bush's job approval rating increased slightly, rising to 37 percent from the 34 percent he received in the earlier poll. Cheney's approval rating in the survey fell from 39 percent in a January poll to 34 percent in the latest survey, while 54 percent said they disapproved of the vice president's job performance.

Though he has a lengthy resume in Republican administrations dating back to Gerald Ford's presidency, 60 percent of those polled said they did not consider him qualified to serve as president should it become necessary; only 32 percent said he would be qualified to lead the country himself.

And asked whether the vice president was "part of a cover-up" to keep special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald from learning who leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, whose husband had become a critic of the war in Iraq, 52 percent said yes; 29 percent said no. Another 20 percent had no opinion.



The Forbes 4,000,000,000! Let's Hear it for Trickle-Up!

Huffington Post
Tony Hendra
The Forbes 4,000,000,000! Let's Hear it for Trickle-Up!

Once again it's that time of year when Forbes reminds us that over the last 12 months the poor got poorer and the rich much, much richer! The total collective net worth (real property, liquid assets, stocks, jewelry, artwork, slaves) of the world's 946 billionaires, was way up over 2006 for a grand total of $3.5 ter-illion!
Way to go, robber barons and baronesses!

Amusingly the total collective net worth (see above) of the world's four billion poorest plunged for the twentieth year running, to an all-time low of just under 35 bucks! For you Eng-Lit majors that's a barely measurable one-hundred-billionth of what the big guys have stashed in Monaco, Geneva and Grand Cayman. Surging oil prices, protectionist G8 food and cotton subsidies, over-fishing by global fleets, privatization of local water supplies, environmental die-offs of crops, animals and marine life due to climate change, all combined to widen the global income-gap to historic proportions! Break out the Cristal, you red-suspender hedge-funders!

Meet just two of the Forbes Four Billion Poorest, those pathetic, scarcely sentient humans who form the fastest growing segment of the global economy and whose pathetic few coins trickling up the global opportunity pyramid (or GOP) helped make those 946 'self-made' men the financial titans they are!

#2,445,616,179: Lakshmi Patel 33, Calcutta, India. Net worth: one obsolete 1966 3-paisa piece (face value $.0016) which was his wife's dowry. Lakshmi grew up in northern India, eighth son of a subsistence lentil farmer, dispossessed in an illegal real-estate grab by corrupt Congress Party officials. His land was converted into a landing strip for Transmile Group, the global air-freight company owned by Malaysian Robert Kuok (net worth $7.0 billion; world's #104 richest man). Lakshmi now makes his home in slums of Calcutta with his wife and seven children, the smallest of whom the family was recently forced to eat. For shelter they've scavenged a sheet of rusty steel manufactured by Lakshmi's namesake and countryman, Lakshmi Mittal (Net worth $32 billion, world's #5 richest man). Says Patel:"I thank the gods each day for Mr Mittal's fine product"

#1,980,875,440 Alberto Ortega 43, Mexico City, Mexico. Net worth: a pair of pet crickets. Alberto comes from Michoacan where he raised corn on the family milpa, as his ancestors had for centuries. Post-NAFTA, hardscrabble Al couldn't compete with US-Congress-subsidized corn flooding Mexico, courtesy of Archer Daniels Midland. (Best known ADM partner Donald Tyson tragically fell OFF the current Forbes 400 Richest this year: couldn't make that $1 billion mark boo-hoo-hoo!). Alberto moved to Mexico City where he lives in a drain with wife Concepcion; together they make a peso a week picking over waste at the local Wal-Mart de Mexico, thus trimming disposal costs for the Walton family (total net worth $78 billion, #6-#11 Forbes 400) and fellow Mexican Jeronimo Arango (net worth $4.3 billion, world's #194 richest man). When Al has a nickel to his name he bets on the ponies, boosting off-track mogul Emilio Azcarraga Jean's bottom line (Net worth $2.1 billion, world's #458 richest man) and dreams of owning a share in a cellphone so he can keep in touch with Concepcion when she has to turn a trick, putting more dough in the pocket of Mexican Tel-com Bandito Carlos Slim Helu (at $49 billion net worth, world's #3 richest man - and that's in dirt-poor Mexico!)

In the time it took you to read this far, fifty kids worldwide have died from malnutrition and related diseases. The way we see it, that's a lot less hungry mouths and sick bodies needing no-return cash outlays and burdening our planet's already over-taxed resources. Bluntly put: there's no future in demand where there's no supply. Solution: end demand.

Just imagine if the bleeding-hearts got their way and we had a more "equitable" worldwide distribution of wealth. Instead of being simply opted out of the system, these "people" would remain alive, clamoring for more costly food and medical treatment. Where's the money going to come from, sooner or later? Your friendly neighborhood billionaire. And where's it going to end up sooner or later? Your friendly neighborhood billionaire. What's the point, folks? What's the point?

That said, there's been pressure on billionaires recently to let some of the hard stuff trickle down to the Forbes Four Billion. "No way!" says John P. Manning (#354 Forbes 400) the Boston Capital genius who squeezed blood from a stone - $1.1 billion worth - brokering low-income housing! (File under: How Does He Do It?) Rather than bend over for the bleeding-hearts as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have, "it's time for pushback" declares Manning who proposes launching a global union of the super-rich: The Fraternal Order of Billionaires Local 1, to protect "the inherent human right to make more money than you'll ever need or spend."

Annual dues of $10 million a year should keep riff-raff out; the multi-billion-buck war-chest will go towards taking out busybody outfits like UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO and the "whole hyena-pack of NGOs"; and to underwrite traditional union strong-arm tactics like busting up anti-globalist demonstrations at G8 summits and arranging "accidents" for uncooperative politicians. Collective bargaining by the FOB Local 1 should lead to unprecedented increases in net-worth for hard-working financial titans. Nations and regional trade-groups, that won't play ball can be brought to their knees in days by an FOB "strike" Manning sees trillionaires replacing billionaires in just a few short years.

To which we at Forbes can only say: Solidarity brothers! Link arms and write new words to the "Internationale"!

(Note: All numbers and bio-info from Forbes 400 Richest Americans and World's Billionaires are verbatim)


Citizens Who Lack Papers Lose Medicaid

The New York Times
Citizens Who Lack Papers Lose Medicaid

WASHINGTON, March 11 — A new federal rule intended to keep illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid has instead shut out tens of thousands of United States citizens who have had difficulty complying with requirements to show birth certificates and other documents proving their citizenship, state officials say.

Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia have all reported declines in enrollment and traced them to the new federal requirement, which comes just as state officials around the country are striving to expand coverage through Medicaid and other means.

Under a 2006 federal law, the Deficit Reduction Act, most people who say they are United States citizens and want Medicaid must provide “satisfactory documentary evidence of citizenship,” which could include a passport or the combination of a birth certificate and a driver’s license.

Some state officials say the Bush administration went beyond the law in some ways, for example, by requiring people to submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency.

“The largest adverse effect of this policy has been on people who are American citizens,” said Kevin W. Concannon, director of the Department of Human Services in Iowa, where the number of Medicaid recipients dropped by 5,700 in the second half of 2006, to 92,880, after rising for five years. “We have not turned up many undocumented immigrants receiving Medicaid in Waterloo, Dubuque or anywhere else in Iowa,” Mr. Concannon said.

Jeff Nelligan, a spokesman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the new rule was “intended to ensure that Medicaid beneficiaries are citizens without imposing undue burdens on them” or on states. “We are not aware of any data that shows there are significant barriers to enrollment,” he said. “But if states are experiencing difficulties, they should bring them to our attention.”

In Florida, the number of children on Medicaid declined by 63,000, to 1.2 million, from July 2006 to January of this year.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of people who don’t qualify for Medicaid because they cannot produce proof of citizenship,” said Albert A. Zimmerman, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families. “Nearly all of these people are American citizens.”

Since Ohio began enforcing the document requirement in September, the number of children and parents on Medicaid has declined by 39,000, to 1.3 million, and state officials attribute most of the decline to the new requirement. Jon Allen, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, said the state had not seen a drop of that magnitude in 10 years.

The numbers alone do not prove that the decline in enrollment was caused by the new federal policy. But state officials see a cause-and-effect relationship. They say the decline began soon after they started enforcing the new rule. Moreover, they say, they have not seen a decline in enrollment among people who are exempt from the documentation requirement — for example, people who have qualified for Medicare and are also eligible for Medicaid.

Wisconsin keeps detailed records listing reasons for the denial or termination of benefits. “From August 2006 to February of this year, we terminated benefits for an average of 868 people a month for failure to document citizenship or identity,” said James D. Jones, the eligibility director of the Medicaid program in Wisconsin. “More than 600 of those actions were for failure to prove identity.” In the same period, Mr. Jones said, the state denied an average of 1,758 applications a month for failure to document citizenship or identity. In 1,100 of those cases, applicants did not provide acceptable proof of identity.

“Congress wanted to crack down on illegal immigrants who got Medicaid benefits by pretending to be U.S. citizens,” Mr. Jones said. “But the law is hurting U.S. citizens, throwing up roadblocks to people who need care, at a time when we in Wisconsin are trying to increase access to health care.”

Medicaid officials across the country report that some pregnant women are going without prenatal care and some parents are postponing checkups for their children while they hunt down birth certificates and other documents.

Rhiannon M. Noth, 28, of Cincinnati applied for Medicaid in early December. When her 3-year-old son, Landen, had heart surgery on Feb. 22, she said, “he did not have any insurance” because she had been unable to obtain the necessary documents. For the same reason, she said, she paid out of pocket for his medications, and eye surgery was delayed for her 2-year-old daughter, Adrianna.

The children eventually got Medicaid, but the process took 78 days, rather than the 30 specified in Ohio Medicaid rules.

Dr. Martin C. Michaels, a pediatrician in Dalton, Ga., who has been monitoring effects of the federal rule, said: “Georgia now has 100,000 newly uninsured U.S. citizen children of low-income families. Many of these children have missed immunizations and preventive health visits. And they have been admitted to hospitals and intensive care units for conditions that normally would have been treated in a doctor’s office.”

Dr. Michaels, who is president of the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that some children with asthma had lost their Medicaid coverage and could not afford the medications they had been taking daily to prevent wheezing. “Some of these children had asthma attacks and had to be admitted to hospitals,” he said.

In Kansas, R. Andrew Allison, the state Medicaid director, said: “The federal requirement has had a tremendous impact. Many kids have lost coverage or have not been able to obtain coverage.” Since the new rule took effect in July, enrollment in Kansas has declined by 20,000 people, to 245,000, and three-fourths of the people dropped from the rolls were children.

Megan J. Ingmire, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Health Policy Authority, which runs the state Medicaid program, said the waiting time for applicants had increased because of a “huge backlog” of applications. “Applicants need more time to collect the necessary documents, and it takes us longer to review the applications,” Ms. Ingmire said.

The principal authors of the 2006 law were Representatives Charlie Norwood and Nathan Deal, both Georgia Republicans. Mr. Norwood died last month.

Chris Riley, the chief of staff for Mr. Deal, said the new requirement did encounter “some bumps in the road” last year. But, he said, Mr. Deal believes that the requirement “has saved taxpayers money.” The congressman “will vigorously fight repeal of that provision” and will, in fact, try to extend it to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Mr. Riley said. He added that the rule could be applied flexibly so it did not cause hardship for citizens.

In general, Medicaid is available only to United States citizens and certain “qualified aliens.” Until 2006, states had some discretion in deciding how to verify citizenship. Applicants had to declare in writing, under penalty of perjury, whether they were citizens. Most states required documents, like birth certificates, only if other evidence suggested that a person was falsely claiming to be a United States citizen.

In Virginia, health insurance for children has been a top priority for state officials, and the number of children on Medicaid increased steadily for several years. But since July, the number has declined by 13,300, to 373,800, according to Cindi B. Jones, chief deputy director of the Virginia Medicaid program.

“The federal rule closed the door on our ability to enroll people over the telephone and the Internet, wiping out a full year of progress in covering kids,” Ms. Jones said.

State and local agencies have adopted new procedures to handle and copy valuable documents. J. Ruth Kennedy, deputy director of the Medicaid program in Louisiana, said her agency had received hundreds of original driver’s licenses and passports in the mail.

Barry E. Nangle, the state registrar of vital statistics in Utah, said, “The new federal requirement has created a big demand for birth certificates by a group of people who are not exactly well placed to pay our fees.” States typically charge $10 to $30 for a certificate.


Care for Injured British Troops Is Faulted; Allegations of Poor Medical Treatment Detailed in Relatives' Letters to Defense Ministry
Care for Injured British Troops Is Faulted
Allegations of Poor Medical Treatment Detailed in Relatives' Letters to Defense Ministry
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service

LONDON, March 11 -- British troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving appalling care in British hospitals, according to families who have made complaints similar to those leveled against Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"We gloriously see them off to war and then neglect them when they come back," said Phillip Cooper, whose son, Jamie, 18, is a soldier who was severely injured in a mortar attack in Iraq in November. "They lay down their lives for their country, then they get treated appallingly."

Detailing a long list of problems in a telephone interview, Cooper said his son's colostomy bag has twice been allowed to overflow, forcing him to lie in his own feces. On one occasion, Cooper said, he and his wife changed the bag themselves after nurses on duty at the Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, Britain's principal medical center tending to wounded soldiers, said they did not know how.

"We didn't mind doing it -- he's our son -- but we shouldn't have had to," Cooper said.

Allegations of poor care for British service members were first reported Sunday in the Observer newspaper, which quoted from several letters of complaint sent to the Defense Ministry by families of the wounded. The letters alleged that troops had suffered from a lack of basic medical care, including some who had been deprived of adequate pain medication after wards ran out of supplies.

"They are not getting what they expect, nor are their family members getting what they expect," said Sue Freeth, welfare director for the Royal British Legion, which represents 450,000 service members and veterans. Freeth said many soldiers are waiting 18 months or longer for critical mental health care services, which she called "a national disgrace."

"It's just unacceptable to have substandard care for those who are willing to put their lives on the line for their country," said Liam Fox, a Conservative Party member of Parliament who specializes in defense issues. Fox, a physician, said in an interview that he planned to raise the issue with Defense Minister Des Browne and in Parliament. Browne told the BBC on Sunday that an investigation was underway in Jamie Cooper's case.

"Where there are individual cases that fall short of the very high standards that I and others demand, then we need to address these and I will address them," Browne said. "They are unacceptable."

The army's top medical officer and a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair played down the complaints.

"In a survey this year of military patients undergoing treatment at Selly Oak they all rated their treatment as excellent, very good or good," Lt. Gen. Louis Lillywhite, the military's surgeon general, said in a statement. Lillywhite said the military would investigate complaints of poor care, "and if we need to do things better, we shall."

Blair's spokesman said in an interview that the government remains confident in the overall quality of care for wounded troops. "These stories are clearly distressing individually, but we still think the NHS is the best place for these people to be treated," the spokesman said, referring to the National Health Service. The spokesman spoke on condition he not be named, following standard British government policy.

It is unclear how many casualties the British armed forces have suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they are the largest contingent after the United States. According to the Defense Ministry Web site, 366 military personnel and civilians from the United Kingdom have been treated at U.K. medical facilities in Iraq "as a result of hostile action" since March 2003. In that same period, the Web site states, nearly 4,800 military and civilian personnel have been medically airlifted out of Iraq for any reason, including illness.

Freeth said her organization believes the Defense Ministry is not being fully forthcoming about casualty figures to deemphasize the total number of troops who have been injured.

Cooper said his son, the youngest British soldier wounded in Iraq, received "wonderful" surgical care after he was struck by shrapnel from two mortar shells that shattered his right hand, left leg and abdomen. But he said the follow-up care his son received at Selly Oak has been a "catalogue of errors."

He said that his son has been denied pain medication for long periods and that during his hospital stay, he had contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a dangerous infection often caused by poor hospital hygiene, and is being treated for it.

Cooper said his son was moved from a mainly military ward to a ward filled with elderly patients suffering from dementia. When the family complained, he was moved to a room with no other patients. Cooper said both experiences were painful for his son, who wanted to be kept on a ward with other injured soldiers for support and camaraderie.

Other soldiers and family members quoted by the Observer offered similar complaints.

Britain once maintained a network of military hospitals, but the last one -- the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar in Gosport -- is scheduled to be turned over to the National Health Service at the end of this month. Selly Oak Hospital is operated by NHS but also houses several military-run wards and is home to Britain's Royal Center for Defense Medicine, the military's primary medical organization.

Critics have said the British military needs its own hospitals. But the government, and groups such as the Royal British Legion, argue that the military is not large enough to warrant separate hospitals. They said Britain's top specialists in trauma, burns and other major injuries commonly suffered in combat tend to work in NHS hospitals, so troops should be treated there.

"Serious casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan need and receive advanced levels of care across a wide range of medical disciplines that can only be found in a major trauma hospital," Lillywhite said in his statement. "Our numbers of casualties would not sustain a separate military hospital with the modern specialist equipment and skills of medical staff needed to give them the treatment they deserve."

Cooper said the Observer obtained his letter of complaint from military sources but that he was glad his family's concerns were being publicized.

"We don't speak out enough," he said.

Cooper said his son is "getting stronger all the time" and is now in a mixed military and civilian ward at Selly Oak. He said his son faces at least six more months in the hospital, followed by two or more years of physical therapy.

Despite the improvement, Cooper said, it was still a struggle to get hospital officials to heed his complaints.

"From our experience, they always seem to forget," he said. "They will make improvements, then a few weeks down the road, things slip back to the way they were. It's all been fake promises."


Injured Soldiers, Unfit to Fight, Forced to Go Back to Iraq

Huffington Post
Shelley Lewis
Injured Soldiers, Unfit to Fight, Forced to Go Back to Iraq

Now that some heads have rolled and some hearings have begun in the Walter Reed scandal, you might have thought you'd read the last awful story of shoddy treatment of our injured soldiers. Well, sorry. There's more.

Salon's Mark Benjamin, who has been writing about the shamefully poor treatment of wounded soldiers for more than two years, now has this story, entitled "The Army is Ordering Injured Troops to go to Iraq." It tells of soldiers at Ft.
Benning, Georgia, who had been classified as medically unfit for combat, who now have been reclassified as fit to go back. Some of them have already re-deployed to Iraq. The Army denies the soldiers' accusations, including one that some injured soldiers were re-classified as fit without even having a physical. Read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Now read this story, "Mentally Unfit, Forced to Fight," a heartbreaking report by the Hartford Courant last May about soldiers sent to Iraq, or kept there, despite serious mental health problems, including suicide threats that ultimately were carried out. No doubt there are other stories, too. This is how we support our troops, apparently.

The Courant's story didn't get a lot of attention when it was published, and Mark Benjamin's first reporting on inadequate treatment at Walter Reed also got less notice than it deserved. But now, after the scandal stirred up by the Washington Post stories, maybe the Bush war machine will be forced to react.

What exactly are the Pentagon's policies regarding injured troops returned to battle? What about the new guidelines on soldiers who are deemed to have recovered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The Walter Reed investigation needs to be expanded, before the Decider's request for more troops and more money is even considered.


New Democratic Mass. governor reels after blunders

New Democratic Mass. governor reels after blunders
By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) - Deval Patrick rode a populist wave to become Massachusetts' first Democratic governor in 16 years and the second African American elected governor in U.S. history.

But nine weeks into the job, he faces a possible ethics investigation after missteps that threaten his reforms and have added a whiff of scandal to his brief tenure.

The former top U.S. civil-rights enforcer in the Clinton administration has publicly apologized twice in recent weeks over separate errors of judgment in what some expected to be a honeymoon period marked by the return of a bold, liberal agenda to one of the nation's most socially progressive states.

The most recent mea culpa followed a February 20 telephone call he made to a senior executive at financial giant Citigroup, which has businesses regulated by the state, to personally vouch for a controversial lending firm where he was once a board member.

The call to Robert Rubin, a former U.S. treasury secretary, was made on behalf of the owners of Ameriquest Mortgage as they sought financial assistance from the financial services giant.

The call was seen as a conflict of interest and roundly criticized in part because Ameriquest has been accused of predatory lending, a practice that has led to a rise in property foreclosures in Massachusetts.

Republicans have called for an ethics investigation.

Patrick apologized on Wednesday. "I will make mistakes, but don't give up on me, because I don't intend to give up on Massachusetts," he told reporters.

That incident followed an outcry over decisions to upgrade his state car to an expensive Cadillac that cost taxpayers $1,166 a month and to spend $27,000 on drapes and other new office fittings while asking other departments to curb spending.

"Oh, we screwed up," he said of the Cadillac and office decorations. He also announced he would contribute $543 a month to its lease.

Liberal and conservative columnists alike are blasting Patrick, a 50-year-old Harvard-educated former corporate lawyer. Patrick, who has a rags-to-riches life story, campaigned as a grass-roots reformer to win 56 percent of the vote in November.

"His constituents have a right to expect that he's going to be governor, all the time, and not take some time out to help out old employers," Charley Blandy, a left-wing blogger who supported Patrick's campaign, wrote of the Citigroup call.

"The Caddy didn't matter. The drapes don't matter. This matters," he said.


The state, which preferred Republican governors to maintain a check on spending by the Democratic-controlled legislature, embraced Patrick after a slide in the popularity of his Republican predecessor, White House hopeful Mitt Romney.

Romney, elected as a moderate, was heavily criticized for tacking to the political right in his single term and carving out conservative stances on hot-button policy issues such as abortion to rally conservative Republicans ahead of his presidential bid -- stands that angered liberal Massachusetts.

"The expectations couldn't have been higher for governor Patrick," said Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University. "Democrats in this state wanted to see the return of some old-time liberal religion. Patrick promised that.

"But so far he's been awfully slow in setting his priorities."

Added Boston University U.S. history professor Julian Zelizer, "When anyone comes in with expectations so high it's almost inevitable that you will have a quick letdown."

Patrick told reporters last week he was concerned about his loss of momentum. "But it's a four-year term. We have a very ambitious agenda."

Last month, he unveiled his first big policy initiative, proposing changes that would close what he calls corporate "tax loopholes" and raise $500 million annually in new revenue that would help balance the state budget.

Businesses have objected and Patrick will need the state legislature's support for his reforms to succeed, but political analysts say that now could be difficult.


New York town defies U.S. on Hispanic voting rights

New York town defies U.S. on Hispanic voting rights
By Daniel Trotta

PORT CHESTER, New York (Reuters) - A dispute over voting rights reminiscent of the U.S. civil rights era has broken out in this New York town, where the federal government has thrust itself into the debate and a judge suspended an election.

The U.S. Justice Department told the village of Port Chester to rewrite its election laws because they have denied Hispanics a seat in the local government, and the all-white board is fighting back.

At issue is whether Port Chester is violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a hallmark of the black struggle for equal rights, by insisting its board of trustees be elected by a villagewide vote.

Although they make up 46 percent of Port Chester's population, no Hispanic has been elected to the board governing the town of 28,000 people. The Justice Department sued Port Chester in December, after a complaint by Cesar Ruiz, a Hispanic who made an unsuccessful bid to be a trustee in 2001.

Unlike the turbulent 1950s and 1960s, there are no water cannons or dogs unleashed on protesters, no federal troops. The judge who halted the March 20 election called his action an "extraordinary remedy" that "should not be routinely granted."

Many of the Latino immigrants whose rights are at stake remain at the margins of the debate, whether due to a language barrier, economic hardship or fear of deportation.

The board of trustees of the New York City suburb last year refused to adopt the Justice Department's recommendation to divide the town into districts, which might give Hispanics a better chance to elect one of their own.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Robinson then suspended the March 20 election for two trustee spots, pending a trial on the merits of the Justice Department's recommendation.

Robinson found the government was likely to win at trial, but the board still declined to settle.

"We've never had a problem with our elections or anything else. Now all of a sudden we have the federal government coming here, dictating to us they want us to have districts," said Port Chester Mayor Gerald Logan.

"There's such greater issues that the federal government could be working on, like what we are doing with our borders," he said, a reference the influx of immigrants -- many of them Spanish speakers from Latin America -- into the United States.


Small at 2.4 square miles, Port Chester is largely divided into a mostly white and wealthy north end and a center and south home to many immigrants from across Latin America and their descendants.

It is unclear how many are legal and how many illegal aliens. Relatively low rents and jobs in wealthier surrounding suburbs attract immigrants to Port Chester.

"We immigrants are usually working all the time. We don't have time. To talk to a politician, that means taking time off work, and that makes it harder to pay the rent," said Juan Velazquez, a construction worker from Mexico.

"Some people ... think it's a takeover by Hispanics," said Blanca Lopez, a low-income housing advocate.

"You would think people would learn lessons of the past. Is this Selma, Alabama, in 1950 or is this Port Chester in 2007?" said Lopez, who cites slumlords renting to immigrants as evidence Hispanics suffer from a lack of representation.

Mayor Logan said in time the demographics would tilt in Hispanics' favor and they will dominate the board.

"I talk to some Hispanics who say we're willing to wait because a lot of these people didn't even vote in their country, probably, I'm thinking," Logan said. "They want to move along slowly. They want to understand the system."

Ruiz was not willing to wait.

A Port Chester resident of Peruvian origin, he came in last when he ran for the board of trustees.

He believes his campaign for affordable housing, a health clinic and soccer fields was catching on until he reached the northern part of town. He filed suit claiming a Voting Rights Act violation, and the Justice Department took up his case.

"If you're not part of their clan, they're not going to open the door for you," Ruiz said. "I should have won that election. I definitely want to run again because I feel my election was stolen from me."


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Déjà vu in Iraq?

Huffington Post
Richard Klass
Déjà vu in Iraq?

by Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, US Army (ret.) and Col. Richard Klass, USAF (ret.)

For those of us who served in Vietnam, the war in Iraq seems to have reached the same point where we were in Vietnam in 1967.

In the documentary The Fog of War, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara recounts how he told President Johnson as early as 1967 that the war in Vietnam could not be won.

He then went on to muse that it just kept going because we did not know what else to do. More than half the names on the Vietnam War Memorial are from the last five years of the war, after the judgment was made that we could not win.

Today there is general agreement that military force cannot resolve the Iraq conflict. Yet the President has decided to throw more soldiers and marines at the problem because he does not know what else to do. How can the President be made to change course and begin an orderly redeployment?

If the parallels are accurate, the task will not be easy.

Both conflicts were started by presidents apparently looking for a fight. In Laos and Vietnam, President Kennedy wanted to show U.S. will and capability to combat Soviet-sponsored "wars of national liberation." And President Johnson was not going to be the first American president to lose a war. President Bush had his sights on Saddam from the first days of his administration. Both conflicts were erroneously set in the context of a wider struggle, the Cold War and the "War on Terror." In each war the military strategy emphasized technology and firepower to kill the enemy instead of boots on the ground to protect the population; the current move toward a counterinsurgency strategy is too late. In neither case was the existing or created government able to gain enough popular support to sustain the effort. And it appears that this President also seems committed to leaving the resolution of the conflict to his successor.

But one parallel offers hope. Only after the election of a Republican president was a Democratic Congress willing to assert its Constitutional authority and do what it was unwilling to do under a Democratic president. Now the new Democratic controlled Congress must do the same. President Bush is unlikely to change course based on "recommendations," as his rejection of the core recommendations of the Iraq Study Group shows. Only Congress can show the nation the way out of Iraq and thereby avoid more years of war with no attainable political purpose or defensible military mission.

Several proposals are now circulating in Congress, from the Senate's rescinding or modifying the resolution that underpins the war to the House's consideration of placing conditions on the supplemental appropriations bill such as requiring that troops be sent to Iraq only if they were properly trained and equipped. There are those who argue that these conditions limit the powers of the President as Commander in Chief. We find these arguments unpersuasive.

We acknowledge that the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; however, Congress also has Constitutional authority such as the power the purse and a mandate to provide oversight of the Executive Branch. The President often cites the original resolution as the basis for his authority to conduct the war, thus acknowledging the Congressional role. The resolution authorizing the invasion and occupation of Iraq is no longer relevant to the current situation of civil war and sectarian violence. What Congress grants, Congress can modify. In no way does this micro-manage the President. No commander, not even the Commander-in-Chief, should be allowed to send troops not properly trained and equipped into harm's way. Conditioning funding so as to protect the troops and ensure proper training and equipment increases their chances for survival and success. This is a more urgent responsibility of Congress in light of the continued failures of the administration to do so.

Congress must not let this conflict drag on for lack of will or imagination. As retired armed services officers, we believe from our experience that there are sound military reasons to support proposals to achieve a change of course in Iraq. Many these proposals will help recruitment and retention and lessen the need for continued lowering of standards for enlistment. Above all they respect the service our fighting men and women give each day in the Iraq cauldron.

There are potential parallels between Vietnam and Iraq we hope never to see. Vietnam broke the U.S. Army and it took more than a decade to rebuild it. The current Army and Marine Corps are severely overstretched and showing the strain. We cannot afford another broken force, a force that is needed in Afghanistan and the real war on terrorism. And there is a strong case to be made that a Vietnam settlement no worse than the one eventually concluded could have been reached in 1967-68. We do not want to look back in three to five years and see that the Iraq outcome was no better than could have been achieved in 2007-08.

Col. Richard Klass, USAF (ret) is currently a Director of the Veterans Alliance for Security and Democracy Political Action Committee (VETPAC). Lt. Gen. Gard is the Senior Military Advisor for the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation and a member of the VETPAC Advisory Board. Both were awarded the Silver Star during their service in Vietnam.


NYC Firefighters union assails Giuliani

Yahoo! News
NYC Firefighters union assails Giuliani
By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

The nation's largest firefighters union has accused Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, of committing "egregious acts" against firefighters who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In a letter to its members Friday, the International Association of Fire Fighters, excoriated Giuliani for his November 2001 decision to cut back the number of firefighters searching the rubble of Ground Zero for the remains of some 300 fallen comrades.

The 280,000-member union accused him of carelessly expediting the cleanup process with a "scoop-and-dump" operation after the recovery of millions of dollars in gold, silver and other assets from the Bank of Nova Scotia that had been buried.

Giuliani's campaign insisted that he respects and supports first responders.

The former mayor and the union have feuded for years over his policies in the aftermath of the attacks, but the firefighters' latest criticism comes as several polls show Giuliani ahead by wide margins in the GOP nomination race.

Seeking to blunt the impact of the accusations, his campaign announced the support of nearly 100 South Carolina firefighters and countered with its own letter from Lee Ielpi, a retired New York firefighter.

"There is no one who respects firefighters and first responders more than Rudy Giuliani," Ielpi wrote. "Firefighters have no greater friend and supporter."

The union's latest broadside initially was included in a scathing letter dated Feb. 28. Union officials say that letter was drafted as leaders were weighing whether to invite Giuliani to a presidential candidate forum but never was distributed to members because the union ultimately invited Giuliani. Giuliani, however, declined the invitation to next week's forum, citing scheduling conflicts.

"We decided to fall on the side of taking the high road and extend an invitation to him," said Harold Schaitberger, the union's general president. "That letter was never intended to be released."

Nevertheless, the letter showed up on Web sites this week. After it surfaced, the union decided to send a revised letter with the same criticisms to its members on Friday and posted it on the union's Web site.

"Mayor Giuliani's actions meant that firefighters and citizens who perished would either remain buried at Ground Zero forever, with no closure for families, or be removed like so much garbage and deposited at the Fresh Kills landfill," the letter said, adding: "Hundreds remained entombed in Ground Zero when Giuliani gave up on them."

"What Giuliani showed is a disgraceful lack of respect for the fallen and those brothers still searching for them," it added.

The union said the purpose of the letter was "to make all our members aware of the egregious acts Mayor Giuliani committed against our members, our fallen on 9/11 and our New York City union officers following that horrific day."

Ielpi, for his part, said he was "deeply disappointed and disheartened" by the union's recent political activities and called the letter offensive and inaccurate.

Tim Brown, a former firefighter and executive director of Firefighters for Rudy who is also a Giuliani campaign aide, added: "We are honored by the support of so many first responders from across the country and are appreciative of their continued enthusiasm for Mayor Giuliani's candidacy."

The union says it's bipartisan. It endorsed Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004.

At least 10 Republican and Democratic candidates plan to attend Wednesday's forum, including Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record), and former Sen. John Edwards. On the Republican side, the only top tier candidate who has committed is GOP Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) of Arizona. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, declined an invitation.