Easter Lemming Liberal News

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

History repeats itself in Liberia


After a political rival murdered a New York City councilman in City Hall last week, the killer was shot dead by a policeman. Imagine the reaction if, instead, he'd been offered his victim's office in exchange for disarming. But that's the equivalent of what has happened in the past in Liberia and is happening again.

Mr. Bush takes pride in taking tough decisions and in the "moral clarity" of his foreign policy. Yet he has dithered for a month on making a decision about Liberia since suggesting on the eve of his African tour that American troops might become peacekeepers there. And he apparently sees no moral dilemma in turning a deaf ear to Liberia's pleas for help.

The fact is the US doesn't care enough to play the part of policeman and provide a chance for a lasting solution. Instead, the State Department is instructed to patch together the best deal possible. That means accommodating yet again the people who have the guns.

Under the agreement currently being discussed, the rebels will be given the vice presidency and other high government offices. Pursuing political power through the use of violence once again is paying off, and whoever assumes the presidency in Liberia will last only until a bigger thug comes along. In other words, the suffering and the selling out of Liberia goes on and on.






DEFEAT THE RIGHT IN THREE MINUTES


Have you got three minutes. Because that's all you need to learn how to defeat the Republican Right. Just read through this handy guide and you'll have everything you need to successfully debunk right-wing propaganda.

It's really that simple. First, you have to beat their ideology, which really isn't that difficult. At bottom, conservatives believe in a social hierarchy of "haves" and "have nots" that I call "corporate feudalism". They have taken this corrosive social vision and dressed it up with a "respectable" sounding ideology. That ideology is pure hogwash, and you can prove it.

"Cheap labor". That's their whole philosophy in a nutshell – which gives you a short and pithy "catch phrase" that describes them perfectly. You've heard of "big-government liberals". Well they're "cheap-labor conservatives".

"Cheap-labor conservative" is a moniker they will never shake, and never live down. Because it's exactly what they are. You see, cheap-labor conservatives are defenders of corporate America – whose fortunes depend on labor. The larger the labor supply, the cheaper it is. The more desperately you need a job, the cheaper you'll work, and the more power those "corporate lords" have over you. If you are a wealthy elite – or a "wannabe" like most dittoheads – your wealth, power and privilege is enhanced by a labor pool, forced to work cheap.

Also see how cheap-labor conservatives make Freedom equal Tyranny and Tyranny equal Freedom.

His latest blog 'CONSTRUCTIVE DISCOURSE' MY ASS . . . THIS IS A KNIFE FIGHT.'



Cheerleading Bush plays great confidence game


The president is a cheerleader, and the United States is his team. He's been running pep rallies since prep school, when he was the cheerleading captain at Phillips Andover Academy. And, heck -- as he might say -- you can sure see why.

He delivers his pithy, upbeat message in optimistic bursts that defy skepticism.

Feeling down? Worried that American soldiers are losing their lives every day in Iraq, in an occupation without a foreseeable close? Concerned about an economy that's twitching like a fly with a torn wing? Troubled by a burgeoning federal deficit, with war costs of $4 billion a month?

The president was here to reassure the populace, to bolster support from voters in the big industrial state of Michigan. And if his popularity numbers are wavering, Bush's air of invincibility is not.

To the Livonia throng of 250 or so, he promised checks in the mail and already enacted tax breaks -- to small businesses buying new equipment, to stockholders reaping dividends, to parents who qualify for tax credits.

The speech, the formula, is a simple and direct equation: It's all about confidence. Money equals confidence.

The checks will soon be in the mail.




How To Counter "Arab Traditionalism"


Counterspin debunks the "invade and convert" argument out there with a new path "aggressively champion freedom, human rights, the rule of law, and the free exercise of religion...with everything in our arsenal short of military force. And, we should have STARTED with our supposed ALLIES in the "Arab world," not with our enemies."

EL - You can begin at home with these values and change your foreign policy to encourage their spread. I have always thought the Bush policy is a political strategy to keep everyone scared while rewarding their friends with government contracts.




Bush Looking for Means to Prevent Gay Marriage in U.S.


President Bush said today that federal government lawyers are working on legislation that would define marriage as a union between a man and woman.

"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I believe we ought to codify that one way or the other, and we have lawyers looking at the best way to do that," Mr. Bush said at a news conference in the Rose Garden.



Bush Eliminating Right To Overtime Pay For Millions


On March 31, 2003, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed regulatory changes, which if adopted, could make more than eight million white-collar employees ineligible for overtime pay. Under the current Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations adopted in 1938, most workers—an estimated 79% as of 1999—are guaranteed the right to overtime pay, or time and a half, for every hour worked beyond the normal 40-hour workweek. For white-collar workers, three tests determine whether they are exempt, and thus ineligible for overtime pay, or nonexempt, and thereby eligible for overtime pay. The rule changes proposed by the Bush Administration in March 2003 would make drastic changes to these tests, vastly increasing the number of exempt employees and making it likely that millions of them will work longer hours at reduced pay.


Base Anger - Why Howard Dean is leading the Democratic pack.


Highly interesting comments from the neo-con organ. I'll let you decide what organ. ;-)

BY EARLY SPRING, journalists and political activists had begun to notice that former Vermont governor Howard Dean had a knack for firing up crowds. He was little known and badly financed, but his issues were unfudged and easy to understand: budget-balancing, civil unions for gays, a middle-of-the-road states-rights position on guns, and implacable opposition to the war in Iraq. Tying them all together was a hostility to George W. Bush that bordered on loathing. Dean has called the Bush administration a collection of "right-wing wackos," and last week, at a meeting on a New Hampshire lawn, he bluntly described the president's promise to unite Americans as "a lie."

Only in the last month has the general public remarked on Dean's rise. Democrats admire his candor. He's within two points of John Kerry in the latest University of New Hampshire poll on the primary there, taken in early July. In mid-month, one New Hampshire Republican who is considering a statewide bid polled a small sample of Democrats and Independents and found Dean at 30 percent, Kerry at 26 percent, and the others clustered in single digits.

Watching Dean pile up support is like watching Albert Pujols go after baseball's Triple Crown: He's not at the top of every category, but he's the only guy within striking distance of winning each one. Dean could conceivably win Iowa, which Kerry cannot; he could conceivably win New Hampshire, which Dick Gephardt cannot. If Dean wins Iowa, Gephardt's presidential hopes are finished; if Dean wins New Hampshire, Kerry's are badly wounded. People are beginning to speak of a "two-tier" race in New Hampshire and Iowa, with Dean joining Kerry and (to be charitable) Gephardt in tier one. But even that may underestimate Dean's strength. It's more accurate to say the race has become Howard Dean versus a half-dozen blow-dried shills for an intellectually exhausted party who are now, as one New Hampshire newspaper put it, "scurrying around New Hampshire--boring people."

Dean has one overriding strength, and that strength is always in the news. The key to Dean's electoral hopes is George W. Bush. New Republic journalist Jonathan Cohn is one of the few to have stated as much with an appropriate baldness. "If Dean isn't really so liberal," Cohn asked in a recent article, "why do so many liberals love him? A big reason is that he seems as angry as they are." Dean has convinced Democratic voters that he is simply madder at the president than his rivals are--and less capable of doing business with the forces Bush represents. That is the real nature of his extremism. Some Democrats worry--Cohn's New Republic colleague Jonathan Chait, for instance--that Dean will paint himself into a corner by automatically taking the position diametrically opposed to the president's. That may indeed limit Dean's flexibility and cause him trouble in the general election. But the Democratic nominee will be chosen by a base that demands nothing less.

As for the general election, Republicans seem unaware of how riled up Democratic activists remain, even three years after the 2000 elections. A substantial segment of the party's base has been radicalized to the point where it does not recognize the legitimacy of the Bush presidency. This is a very different thing than mere dislike of a president. It means that Democrats are prepared to fight this election as if they were struggling to overthrow a tyrant. One fears that 2004 could wind up--in its rhetoric and its electoral ethics--as the dirtiest general election campaign in living memory. It is not a condemnation of Dean to say that his rise provides another piece of evidence that this fear is well founded.




Playing it Safe Is Not The Best Bet


Caution Is Costly, Scholars Say

Some of the nation's top economists, psychologists and statisticians are coming to see sports as a subject that requires their attention. Trying to understand human decision-making, they are writing papers about such choices as when to punt, or when to take out a basketball player in foul trouble. About 25 of them gathered in the spring for a two-day academic conference in Arizona, where they went to a spring training game once their work was done.

Their research is quickly leading to a theory that will resonate with any fans who have ever screamed for their team to go for it on fourth down: the professors say that managers, coaches and players are often far too cautious for their own good.

"Teams are averse to going for all or none," said Steven J. Sherman, a psychology professor at Indiana University, who came up with the idea for the conference with Thaler when they were having dinner in an Afghan restaurant in Chicago last year. "Teams don't want to do something that puts the game on the line right now."

They intentionally walk Barry Bonds even though statistics offer a clear argument for pitching to him. Giving him an automatic place on first base usually leads to more runs in the inning than one of his at-bats does.

Behind by 2 at the end of a basketball game and playing a superior team, coaches generally do not attempt a 3-point shot. Yet that shot often offers a better chance of winning than the combined odds of making a 2-pointer at the buzzer, then winning in overtime.

In recent years, economists and psychologists have become increasingly interested in the ways that people do not act rationally. Known as behavioral economics, the field examines why stock-market bubbles happen and why many people do not save enough money for retirement, among other things.

Sporting events, which are played out step by step in the most public of settings, allow the researchers to determine the precise moment that somebody veers from good sense.

"My justification for doing this is that it's the one really high-stakes activity where you get to watch all of the decisions," Thaler said. "If Bill Gates invited me to watch all of his decisions, I'd talk more about that."

EL - This is the classic case in business as well, Retailers have the perfect opportunity to try out different strategies at low risk but are usually adverse to doing that because they are afraid of possible failures instead of factoring in the sucesses as well. If you go with the professional advisors on political campaigns they also have that tendency to play it cautious even if it is likely to lose. Look at the DLC after ten years of losing campaigns.



Unveiling Bush's weapons of mass deception


Whether there was an "intelligence failure" or a highly successful manipulation of information by an unscrupulous president and his team of spin doctors was the subject of lively discussion in the Capitol last week. Official Washington is catching up with John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, the PR Watchers who for months have been busy exposing the president's penchant for marketing - as opposed to truth-telling.

Stauber and Rampton, the Madison-based debunkers of corporate spin, have written up their compelling case against the White House's "case" for war in an exceptional new book, "Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq" (Tarcher/Putnam). It is difficult to imagine a more timely text.

Using their knowledge of classic public relations scams, the authors explain how the administration and its willing accomplices in the media hyped the case for an invasion of a distant land that posed no realistic threat to America.

"Weapons of Mass Deception" is thick with case studies and meticulously footnoted examples of how the administration sold a fantasy called "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The book's most important sections detail the administration's preparations for what White House aides referred to as the war's "product launch" last fall, and the propaganda techniques employed by the administration to successfully create the false impression that there was a link between Iraq's secularist Baath Party leadership and the fundamentalist al-Qaida network.

As the president's use of false "evidence" in his State of the Union address leads to calls for an independent investigation of the White House spin cycle in the weeks and months before the war began, "Weapons of Mass Deception" is arguably a more credible intelligence document than anything put together by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. And this book could well turn out to be the essential road map through the burgeoning scandals of the Bush White House.

Equally devastating is Stauber and Rampton's indictment of the American media, which fostered the impression that, after the arrival of U.S. troops in Baghdad, crowds of Iraqis stormed a city square to tear down a statue of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Stauber and Rampton invite readers to step back from the stage-managed scene shown on their television screens and observe a long-shot photo, taken by a top photographer for the Reuters news service at the time the statue went down. That perspective shows a square that was empty expect for the handful of U.S.-linked "celebrants" gathered near the statue itself.

AMAZON - $9.56 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25.



Defying Labels Left or Right, Dean's '04 Run Makes Gains


Long New York Times Profile -- Thanks to his stunning surge as the top fund-raiser among the potential Democratic candidates in the second quarter, Dr. Dean now has a campaign budget to match those of more-established candidates like Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

The $7.6 million Dr. Dean raised in the quarter — mostly in small contributions from 59,000 people — has led to increased attention, greater scrutiny and dogged determination from his rivals to halt his momentum.

With his early and intense opposition to the American-led attack on Iraq, his call for universal health insurance and his signing a bill that created civil unions for gay couples in Vermont, Dr. Dean, 54, is seen as the most liberal of the major Democratic candidates. Many of the people donning his "Give 'em hell, Howard" buttons hail from the left wing of the party and beyond.

But in Vermont, whose political center of gravity lands left of the nation's, one of the secrets to Dr. Dean's success was keeping the most liberal politicians in check.

Over 11 years, he restrained spending growth to turn a large budget deficit into a surplus, cut taxes, forced many on welfare to go to work, abandoned a sweeping approach to health-care reform in favor of more incremental measures, antagonized environmentalists, won the top rating from the National Rifle Association and consistently embraced business interests.

Dr. Dean has gained fluency in the populist language of political revolution, constantly repeating the fact that half his contributors have never before donated to a candidate.

"The way to beat George Bush is not to be like him," he told a rally of 600 people overlooking the harbor in Portsmouth, N.H., on July 22. "The way to beat George Bush is to give the 50 percent of Americans who don't vote a reason to vote again."

Dr. Dean vows to repeal Mr. Bush's tax cuts to pay for health care and other social programs; he insists that all abortion decisions be left to women and their doctors, and advocates alternative energy sources like wind ("I can see Karl Rove chortling about that Birkenstock governor," he says at every stop, referring to Mr. Bush's senior adviser).

And while he sees marriage as a religious issue, Dr. Dean said during the radio show here at the Hotel Ottumwa that all states should find a way to ensure that gay couples have the same rights as straight ones, something that sent several people away shaking their heads.

"I don't think it's their prerogative not to treat Americans equally," Dr. Dean said of the states, adding later that he remained unsure how, as president, he might force individual states to adopt plans for providing benefits. "This is not a country that was built on discriminating against other people."

But over all, Dr. Dean's presidential pitch is more pragmatic than ideological. He is less George McGovern than John McCain, less Eugene McCarthy than Jimmy Carter (his first job in politics was stuffing envelopes for President Carter in the 1980 presidential campaign, and he has adopted President Carter's habit of staying in voters' homes rather than hotels).

Many who met him over four days in New Hampshire and Iowa said they were inspired not by a checklist of issues but by his straight talk — a phrase the campaign is reluctant to use, since it was practically trademarked by Senator McCain in 2000. Several voters said they loved Dr. Dean's willingness to say "I don't know," as he did, for instance, when asked whether pictures of Saddam Hussein's dead sons should be released to the news media.

"Whether you're right or wrong, if you're honest, it won't matter," said Lee Cassenn, a former chairman of the Keokuk County Democrats who turned up on Thursday to meet Dr. Dean at the Copper Lantern restaurant in Sigourney, Iowa.

Between stops at a hospital in Concord, N.H., and an orchard in Canterbury, N.H., last Wednesday, Dr. Dean said that he was selling his character. Voters "give you wide latitude on the issues if they like the way you make decisions," he explained.

Vermont had a comfortable surplus this spring when most other states faced crippling budget shortfalls. On the stump, he blames the federal deficit for the weak economy and derides Mr. Bush for running "a borrow-and-spend credit-card presidency." Mr. Bush's tax cuts, he say, are a gift to "the president's friends like Ken Lay," referring to the former chief executive of Enron.
When he entered office, Dr. Dean was determined to provide health insurance to everyone in the state in one fell swoop. Despite support from liberal lawmakers, his plan failed, along with a similar initiative by the Clinton administration.

So Dr. Dean changed tactics and managed to accomplish much of his goal incrementally. Vermont now offers the nation's most generous health benefits to children, low-income adults and elderly residents of modest means. Almost all children in the state have full medical insurance, and more than a third of Vermont residents on Medicare get state help in paying for prescription drugs.

Under the program, teenage girls can often get counseling about sex and contraception without their parents' knowledge.

Dr. Dean promised that as president he would spend half of the money he would save by repealing Mr. Bush's recent tax cuts to provide free insurance to people under 25 and those who earn less than 185 percent of the poverty rate, and to let everybody else buy into a national plan for 7.5 percent of their gross income.

"My plan is not reform — if you want to totally change the health-care system, I'm not your guy," Dr. Dean told supporters in Lebanon, N.H. "I'm not interested in having a big argument about what the best system is. I'm interested in getting everybody covered."
Dr. Dean earned the National Rifle Association's highest rating in its ranking of governors by signing two bills that protected gun ranges from commercial development and shifted responsibility for background checks to the federal government from county sheriffs. He says he would enforce federal laws banning assault weapons and requiring background checks, but would leave the rest to the states.

But the two most controversial bills Dr. Dean signed were forced on him by State Supreme Court decisions declaring the state's school financing system unconstitutional and demanding the same legal benefits for gay couples as for married heterosexuals.

In both instances, Dr. Dean mostly stayed in the background and left the heavy lifting to the Legislature. He insisted only that income taxes not be raised; the Legislature then turned to property taxes in wealthier communities to subsidize schools in poorer areas. And he pressed the state not to sanction gay marriages, although he allowed civil unions.

"If being a liberal means a balanced budget, I'm a liberal," Dr. Dean said, delighted at the opening. "If being a liberal means adding jobs instead of subtracting them, then, please, call me a liberal."

"I don't care what label you put on me," he finished, "as long as you call me Mr. President!"





Public Opposition to DLC


Interesting Collection of Letters Published in the New York Times -- The Fight for the Democrats' Soul (6 Letters)

All were opposed to the DLC position.

The Democratic Leadership Council (front page, July 29) should heed Harry S. Truman's observation that given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, voters will choose the Republican every time.

CHRIS PROTOPAPAS
New York, July 29, 2003



Washington Summertime Fun


Dowd -- There is no more delightful way to pass a summer's day in Washington than going up to Capitol Hill to watch senators jump ugly on Wolfie.

Many Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee felt they had been snookered by Paul Wolfowitz, and they did not want to be played again.

They waited gimlet-eyed yesterday while Wolfowitz of Arabia shimmied away once more from giving the cost, in lives or troops or dollars, of remaking a roiling Iraq.

Instead, he offered a highly dramatic travelogue of his recent Iraq trip, sleeping in Saddam's palace and flying with members of the Tennessee National Guard, who made him "very unhappy" when they told him about their nearly two years of active duty. (Gee, whose fault is that?) He described Saddam's "torture tree," "unspeakable torture," "torture chamber" and "a smothering blanket of apprehension and dread woven by 35 years of repression."

Senator Joseph Biden excoriated Mr. Wolfowitz for his lack of candor and said his own review of the Iraqi police force — "almost looked like the Katzenjammer Kids" — had convinced him democracy was way off.

"I no more agree, just for the record, with your assessment that Iraq is the hotbed of terror now than I did [with] your assertions about Al Qaeda connections at the front end," Mr. Biden said, adding that if officials did not tell the truth to the public about the costs in Iraq, they would lose credibility.

Spill all the facts? This crowd? Fat chance. Only yesterday, the administration showed ingenious new talent for insidious secrecy. President Bush refused to declassify the 28-page redaction about the Saudi government's role in financing the hijackings, even though the Saudi foreign minister flew to the U.S. to ask the president to do that. (You know you're in trouble when the Saudis are begging you to be more open.)




Financial Backers pressure Gore to run again next year


Former Vice-President Al Gore is coming under pressure from political supporters and friends to jump into the 2004 presidential campaign even though he ruled himself out in December.

Gore’s spokesperson denied that there was any change of plans, but a former Democratic National Committee official close to Gore told The Hill he believes the former vice president may enter the Democratic primary this fall.

A USA Today/Gallup Poll released yesterday shows that no more than 20 percent of the voters likely to pull the Democratic lever back any of the declared candidates.

The fluid situation has apparently kept a core group of Democratic fundraisers who played key roles in Gore’s 2000 campaign to remain aloof from the current candidates despite being courted intensely.

A former Gore campaign aide who surveyed fundraising data on politicalmoneyline.com noted that nine Gore supporters — eight of whom served as finance chairman, or deputy finance chairman at the DNC during the 2000 election — have by and large sat out of the Democratic primary.

Two of the three persons who had served as finance chairmen at the DNC in 2000 have contributed to presidential candidates, but otherwise remain uninvolved.


Tuesday, July 29, 2003

WHY YOU SHOULDN'T BELIEVE THE NEW JOBLESS STATS


The government missed a whopping 440,000 jobs that were lost last year. Why should this year's figures be any more accurate?

Last January the unemployment rate was "adjusted" downward by 0.2 percent for changes in surveying methods. Right now the closely watched rate should actually be 6.6 percent, not 6.4 percent. If the rate does drop - as some on Wall Street are hoping/predicting - so what?

The government recently started seasonally adjusting its employment figures each and every month. Washington may as well let the numbers be picked by a Lotto machine.

Back in the 1990s, the government changed the questions it asked in its household unemployment survey; more recently, it lowered the number of people it canvassed in chronically underemployed inner cities.

The result, not surprisingly: an unemployment rate that is lower than it was in the last recession more than 10 years ago.

In a less widely watched section of its report, the government is reporting that the unemployment rate in June was 10.6 percent, when you include people who are too discouraged to look for jobs and/or not fully employed.

The figure would be worse if the government hadn't booted millions of people from the discouraged worker category into a no-man's-land where they aren't counted at all.


The two surveys the government conducts aren't even close in their picture of the job market.

The survey of households, from which the unemployment rate is calculated, reports that there are 138 million jobs in this country. The survey of employers counts 129 million.

Even when you adjust for things like one person having more than one job, the figures can't be reconciled to within a million jobs of each other.


Senators Rap Administration on Iraq Policies


Senators from both parties on Tuesday assailed the Bush administration for not spelling out the costs of rebuilding Iraq, and for focusing on Iraq's role in terrorism to the exclusion of other threats.

In sometimes testy exchanges with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also accused the administration of glossing over the problems of stabilizing Iraq and the long-term need for a major military presence.

"We just haven't seen any proof of linkages between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda," said Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican who said Liberia had much clearer ties to terrorists.

Sen. Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, said the administration should deal honestly with the situation in Iraq "instead of constantly trying to pretend that Sept. 11 and Iraq are the same issue."



GAO Warns of Social Security Cuts


Social Security benefits promised to retirees would have to be cut by nearly a third by 2039 if no changes are made to the system to keep it afloat, congressional investigators said Tuesday

To avoid cuts in benefits, payroll taxes would have to be raised 46 percent to restore financial solvency to the system, the report said.

The sooner Congress addresses the inevitable decline in Social Security revenue when baby boomers begin retiring in five years, the easier it will be for future generations to keep the system afloat.

Remember Gore's "lock box" that everyone laughed at and Bush threw away?



Swing Voters More Critical of Bush on Iraq


Majority Says President Was Misleading, Slight Majority Says War Not Necessary

Swing voters were defined as respondents who said they were extremely confident that they would vote in the upcoming election and identified themselves as independents.

Swing voters are more critical of Bush's handling of Iraq than is the general population. While the general public leans toward giving him positive ratings overall (49 percent positive, 33 percent negative) swing voters lean toward giving him negative ratings (38 percent positive, 46 percent negative).

Among swing voters 52 percent said the US government was being misleading and just as many -- 53 percent -- said President Bush was being misleading when they "presented the evidence to justify going to war with Iraq." Among the general public 42 percent said the US government was being misleading and only 36 percent said this was true of President Bush.

Swing voters were far more likely to say that the president knowingly presented evidence that Iraq has sought to buy uranium from an African country he was knowingly presenting false evidence. While 27 percent of the general public said he was knowingly presenting false evidence 43 percent of the swing voters felt that way. A majority of swing voters (52 percent) said that "the fact that the president presented information that was in fact false" lowered their confidence in the president some (34 percent) or a lot (18 percent). Only 40 percent of the general public felt this way.



There will be no American Empire


A historian credited with predicting the downfall of the Soviet Union in the 1970s now says that the US has been on its way out for the last decade

Then you are of the opinion that there was an American empire at one point?

The American hegemony from the end of WW II into the late 1980s in military, economic, and ideological terms definitely had imperial qualities. In 1945 fully half the manufactured goods in the world originated in the US. And although there was a communist bloc in Eurasia, East Germany, and North Korea, the strong American military, the navy and air force, exercised strategic control over the rest of the globe, with the support and understanding of many allies, whose common goal was the fight against communism. Although communism had some dispersed support among intellectuals, workers, and peasant groups, the power and influence of the US was by and large with the agreement of a majority throughout the world. It was a benevolent empire. The Marshall Plan was an exemplary political and economic strategy. America was, for decades, a 'good' superpower.

And now it is a bad one?

It has, above all, become a weak one. The US no longer has the might to control the large strategic players, primarily Germany and Japan. Their industrial capacity is clearly smaller than that of Europe and approximately equal to that of Japan. With twice the population, this is no great accomplishment. Their trade deficit meanwhile, is in the order of $500 billion per year. Their military potential is nevertheless still the largest by far, but is declining and consistently over estimated. The use of military bases is dependant on the good will of their allies, many of which are not as willing as before. The theatrical military activism against inconsequential rogue states that we are currently witnessing plays out against this backdrop. It is a sign of weakness, not of strength. But weakness makes for unpredictability. The US is about to become a problem for the world, where we have previously been accustomed to seeing a solution in them.

While a demographic, democratic, and politically stabilizing world recognizes that it is increasingly less dependant on the US, America is discovering that it is increasingly dependant on the rest of the world. That is the reason for the rush into military action and adventures. It is classic.

Classic?

The only remaining superiority is military. This is classic for a crumbling system. The final glory is militarism. The fall of the Soviet Union took place in an identical context. Their economy was in decline, and their leadership grew fearful. Their military apparatus gained in size and stature and the Russians embarked on adventures to forget their economic shortcomings. The parallels in the US are obvious. The process has significantly accelerated in the past few months.



With Treason, Ann Coulter once again defines a new low in America's political debate


Spinsanity - Screed

With her new book Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, syndicated pundit Ann Coulter has driven the national discourse to a new low. No longer content to merely smear liberals and the media with sweeping generalizations and fraudulent evidence, she has now upped the ante, accusing the entire Democratic Party as well as liberals and leftists nationwide of treason, a crime of disloyalty against the United States. But, as in her syndicated columns (many of which are adapted in the book) and her previous book Slander: Liberal Lies Against the American Right, Coulter's case relies in large part on irrational rhetoric and pervasive factual errors and deceptions. Regardless of your opinions about Democrats, liberals or the left, her work should not be taken at face value.

As we documented back in July 2001, Coulter's writing is not just inflammatory but blatantly irrational. For years, she has infused her syndicated columns with cheap shots and asides directed at targets like President Bill Clinton, the American Civil Liberties Union and Hustler publisher Larry Flynt (among many others). Liberals are indiscriminately denounced as a group as "terrorists" or a "cult" who "hate democracy." Slander, her bestseller from last year, quickly became notorious for its errors and distortions of the facts, which we detailed in our examination of the book. From deceptive footnotes to mischaracterized quotes to outright lies, Coulter broke all standards of reasonable political debate in her quest to paint a picture of a media that is unambiguously hostile to conservatives.

...(long article documenting errors)...

In short, Ann Coulter has once again revealed herself as one of the most destructive forces in American politics, repeatedly making outrageously irrational arguments and demonstrably false claims.

Spinsanity takes on both liberals and conservatives for non-factual claims.



West Wing Pipe Dream


The timeline on the discredited threat of those aluminum tubes.

October 2:
In INR's view Iraq's efforts to acquire aluminum tubes is central to the argument that Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, but INR is not persuaded that the tubes in question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors. INR accepts the judgment of technical experts at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment and finds unpersuasive the arguments advanced by others to make the case that they are intended for that purpose. INR considers it far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillery rockets. The very large quantities being sought, the way the tubes were tested by the Iraqis, and the atypical lack of attention to operational security in the procurement efforts are among the factors, in addition to the DOE assessment, that lead INR to conclude that the tubes are not intended for use in Iraq's nuclear weapon program. [emphasis added]

October 5:
Knight Ridder Newspapers reports: "Several senior administration officials and intelligence officers who spoke under the condition of anonymity assert that the decision to publicize one analysis of the aluminum tubes and ignore the contrary one is typical of the way the administration has been handling intelligence about Iraq."

January 28:
In the State of the Union, Bush follows the infamous uranium claim with the aluminum allegation:

"Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide."


Dean Blames Economic Woes on Bush Policy, Timid Democrats


Presidential hopeful Howard Dean is dismissing Democrats in Washington as too timid to challenge President Bush's economic policies, arguing that their reticence reflects a fear of losing.

"Too many Democrats in Washington have become so afraid of losing that they have remained silent or only halfheartedly fought the very agenda that is destroying the democratic dream of America," said Dean in remarks prepared for delivery to a union hall audience Wednesday.

"In order to change America, we are going to have to change the Democratic Party, and make it stand for principles once again," he said.

"Never has a president talked so much about jobs while doing so much to destroy them," Dean said.

The former Vermont governor, who often cites his record on balancing the state budget, proposed several economic steps, including an increase in the minimum wage, broadening unemployment insurance to cover part-time workers, more money for cash-strapped states and expanding high-speed Internet access. The cost and additional details will come in September, he said.

"We must return to fiscal sanity for the sake of future generations, yes, but also for the sake of our national security," Dean said. "We cannot be a world-class country if we are the world's largest debtor."



Jim Hightower - A Wilting Bush


The bloom is fading on the rose – the rose being the carefully tended image of our boy Bush, whose professional handlers are constantly fertilizing, misting, polishing, and arranging him for public display.

The polls – which the Bushites have been citing as proof that 80 percent of the public is in total lockstep with Glorious George, The Warrior President – have headed south on them. Worse, George's fade is due to the personal factor that matters most for a political figure: Credibility.

– A CBS poll shows that, for the first time, less than half of Americans say that the end results of Bush's war in Iraq have been worth the costs.

– Also, two-and-a half months after Bush declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq, wives of our soldiers are openly protesting the continuing presence and almost daily deaths of U.S. troops there, and only 45 percent of Americans now believe that U.S. occupiers are in control of events in Iraq.

– Only 39 percent believe the Bush government was being truthful when it claimed that Saddam Hussein was linked to the al Qaeda terrorists.

– Almost four in ten Americans now believe that the Bushites deliberately misled the people (and our troops) about whether Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Having 40 percent of Americans saying aloud that Bush has lied to them is a big and profound number – and it's growing, as more and more Americans are now beginning to admit their suspicions that their Warrior President is a self-serving fraud.


The Theft of Your Vote Is Just a Chip Away


"A defective computer chip in the county's optical scanner misread ballots Tuesday night and incorrectly tallied a landslide victory for Republicans," announced the Associated Press in a story on Nov. 7, just a few days after the 2002 election. The story added, "Democrats actually won by wide margins."

Republicans would have carried the day had not poll workers become suspicious when the computerized vote-reading machines said the Republican candidate was trouncing his incumbent Democratic opponent in the race for County Commissioner. The poll workers were close enough to the electorate – they were part of the electorate – to know their county overwhelmingly favored the Democratic incumbent.

A quick hand recount of the optical-scan ballots showed that the Democrat had indeed won, even though the computerized ballot-scanning machine kept giving the race to the Republican. The poll workers brought the discrepancy to the attention of the County Clerk, who notified the voting machine company.

"A new computer chip was flown to Snyder [Texas] from Dallas," County Clerk Lindsey told the Associated Press. With the new chip installed, the computer then verified that the Democrat had won the election. In another Texas anomaly, Republican state Senator Jeff Wentworth won his race with exactly 18,181 votes, Republican Carter Casteel won her state House seat with exactly 18,181 votes, and conservative Judge Danny Scheel won his seat with exactly 18,181 votes – all in Comal County. Apparently, however, no poll workers in Comal County thought to ask for a new chip.

The Texas incidents happened with computerized machines reading and then tabulating paper or punch-card ballots. In Georgia and Florida, where paper had been totally replaced by touch-screen machines in many to most precincts during 2001 and 2002, the 2002 election produced some of the nation's most startling results.

USA Today reported on Nov. 3, 2002, "In Georgia, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows Democratic Sen. Max Cleland with a 49%-to-44% lead over Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss." Cox News Service, based in Atlanta, reported just after the election (Nov. 7) that, "Pollsters may have goofed" because "Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland by a margin of 53 to 46 percent. The Hotline, a political news service, recalled a series of polls Wednesday showing that Chambliss had been ahead in none of them."

Just as amazing was the Georgia governor's race. "Similarly," the Zogby polling organization reported on Nov. 7, "no polls predicted the upset victory in Georgia of Republican Sonny Perdue over incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes. Perdue won by a margin of 52 to 45 percent. The most recent Mason Dixon Poll had shown Barnes ahead 48 to 39 percent last month with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points."

Almost all of the votes in Georgia were recorded on the new touchscreen computerized voting machines, which produced no paper trail whatsoever. And nobody thought to ask for a new chip, although it was noted on Nov. 8 by the Atlanta Constitution-Journal that in downtown Atlanta's predominantly Democratic Fulton County "election officials said Thursday that memory cards from 67 electronic voting machines had been misplaced, so ballots cast on those machines were left out of previously announced vote totals." Officials added that all but 11 of the memory cards were subsequently found and recorded.

Similarly, as the San Jose Mercury News reported in a Jan. 23, 2003 editorial titled "Gee Whiz, Voter Fraud?" "In one Florida precinct last November, votes that were intended for the Democratic candidate for governor ended up for Gov. Jeb Bush, because of a misaligned touchscreen. How many votes were miscast before the mistake was found will never be known, because there was no paper audit." ("Misaligned" touchscreens also caused 18 known machines in Dallas to register Republican votes when Democratic screen-buttons were pushed: it's unknown how many others weren't noticed.)

Apparently, nobody thought to ask for new chips in Florida, either.

In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported just a few days before the election (Oct. 30, 2002) that, "Dramatic political developments since Sen. Paul Wellstone's death Friday have had little effect on voters' leanings in the U.S. Senate race, according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll taken Monday night. Wellstone's likely replacement on the ballot, former Vice President Walter Mondale, leads Republican Norm Coleman by 47 to 39 percent – close to where the race stood two weeks ago when Wellstone led Coleman 47 to 41 percent."

When the computerized machines were done counting the vote a few days later, however, Coleman had beat Mondale by 50 to 47 percent. If Mondale had asked for new chips, would it have made a difference? We'll never know.

One state where Republicans did ask for a new chip was Alabama. Fox News reported on Nov. 8, 2002 that initial returns from across the state showed that Democratic incumbent Gov. Don Siegelman had won the governor's race. But, overnight, "Baldwin County took center stage when election officials released results Tuesday night showing Siegelman with 19,070 votes – enough for a narrow victory statewide. Later, they recounted and reduced Siegelman's tally to 12,736 votes – enough to give Riley the victory."

What produced the sudden loss of about 6,000 votes? According to the Fox report: "Probate Judge Adrian Johns, a member of the county canvassing board, blamed the initial, higher number on 'a programming glitch in the software' that tallies the votes." All parties were not satisfied with that explanation, however. Fox added: "The governor claimed results were changed after poll watchers left."

It turns out the "glitch in the software" in Alabama was discovered by the Republican National Committee's regional director Kelley McCullough, who, according to a story in the conservative Daily Standard, "logged onto the county's municipal website and confirmed that [incumbent Democratic Governor] Siegelman had actually only received 12,736 votes – not the 19,070 the Associated Press projected for him. A computer glitch had caused the error. The erroneous tally would have put Siegelman on top by 3,582 votes, but the corrected one gave Riley a 2,752-vote edge."

As the Murdoch-owned Daily Standard noted, "If it hadn't been for one woman, the Republican National Committee's regional director Kelley McCullough, things might have gone terribly wrong for [Republican Gubernatorial candidate] Riley."

Similarly, in Davison County, South Dakota, the Democratic election auditor noticed the machines double counting votes (it's not noted for which side) and had a "new chip" brought in.

Perhaps, after a half-century of fine-tuning exit polling to such a science that it's now used to verify if elections are clean in Third World countries, it really did suddenly become inaccurate in the United States in the past few years and just won't work here anymore. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that the sudden rise of inaccurate exit polls happened around the same time corporate-programmed, computer-controlled, modem-capable voting machines began recording and tabulating ballots.

But if any of this is true, there's not much of a paper trail from the voters' hand to prove it.

You'd think in an open democracy that the government – answerable to all its citizens rather than a handful of corporate officers and stockholders – would program, repair and control the voting machines. You'd think the computers that handle our cherished ballots would be open and their software and programming available for public scrutiny. You'd think there would be a paper trail of the actual hand-cast vote, which could be followed and audited if there was evidence of voting fraud or if exit polls disagreed with computerized vote counts.

You'd be wrong.



A Letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush


PS. Sorry, I still can't get that padded flyboy suit out of my head. I know, I need help. But when you landed on that carrier, and that banner read, "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED," just what mission was that that was accomplished? 'Cause by my count, more than 50 of our young soldiers have died since you said the mission was accomplished. Anarchy still reigns, the Brits are losing kids, too, and wacko fundamentalists now seem to ready to rule the land. Women are already being told to cover their face and shut their mouths, store owners who sell liquor have been executed, and movie theaters showing "immoral" Hollywood movies have been forced to shut down. And hey, this isn't even west Texas! Maybe you could get back into that jumpsuit, fly over to Baghdad and land at the former Saddam International Airport, jump out and give one of those big happy waves -- under a sign that reads, "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE."



In changing sphere, Dean's Net fund-raising outdoes Cheney


Vice President Dick Cheney got up yesterday morning, boarded Air Force Two and flew to Columbia, S.C., where he rode in a motorcade to a private home, shook hands, and posed for pictures with 150 donors at a luncheon. There he raised $300,000 for the Bush-Cheney reelection committee before flying home.

Over four days ending last night, Howard Dean outdid the vice president -- without leaving his campaign headquarters in Burlington, Vt.

In a testament to the power of Internet fund-raising, and the intensity of the Democratic presidential contender's support, Dean raised $344,000 for his campaign by the time of the Cheney lunch. All Dean's staff did was tell their supporters about Cheney's event via the Internet and challenge them to surpass the vice president's total.

By 12:30 this morning, Dean's total stood at $507,150, with contributions from 9,500 people, the campaign said, adding that the counting was expected to continue overnight. The drive, which started late last Thursday, ended at midnight last night. For the Republican-held White House, it was more direct evidence of a fund-raising phenomenon that Dean's eight Democratic rivals witnessed last month, when the former Vermont governor posted the highest total of the group for the second quarter of the year, $7.6 million. In one day in late June, the campaign raised more than $800,000, much of it via the Internet. The latest cybertake had professionals shaking their heads.

''That amount of money raised in that amount of time for an event that wasn't even their own event strikes me as spectacular,'' said Richard Armstrong, a direct-mail specialist in Washington who wrote a book about politics in the electronic era titled, ''The Next Hurrah.''

By noon, when Cheney's lunch started, Dean's total stood at $344,428. The number of donors totaled 6,558 -- about 6,400 more than Cheney's.

Each of the vice president's donors gave $2,000, the maximum allowed for an individual during the primaries, but the average donation for Dean by that hour -- $52 -- meant his campaign could go back and seek additional money from most of the contributors as his primary campaign continues.



Sports Odds


ODDS TO BE ELECTED
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IN 2004

Thursday, July 3, 2003

Name Party Title Odds
George W. Bush (R) President 3/5
John Kerry (D) Massachusetts Senator 4/1
Howard Dean (D) Former Vermont Governor 10/1
Dick Gephardt (D) Missouri Congressman 12/1
Joe Lieberman (D) Connecticut Senator 15/1
John Edwards (D) North Carolina Senator 15/1
Bob Graham (D) Florida Senator 15/1
Carol Moseley-Braun (D) Former Illinois Senator 250/1
Dennis Kucinich (D) Ohio Congressman 250/1
Ralph Nader (G) Consumer advocate 500/1
Al Sharpton (D) Civil rights activist 1000/1

2004 PRESIDENTIAL ODDS
Thursday, May 1, 2003

By DAVID SCOTT
Senior Analyst
Americasline.com

ODDS TO BE ELECTED
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IN 2004

Name Party Title Odds
George W. Bush (R) United States President 3/5
John Kerry (D) Massachusetts Senator 4/1
Joe Lieberman (D) Connecticut Senator 7/1
John Edwards (D) North Carolina Senator 15/1
Dick Gephardt (D) Missouri Congressman 20/1
Howard Dean (D) Former Vermont Governor 25/1
Bob Graham (D) Florida Senator 25/1
Hillary Clinton (D) New York Senator 50/1
Joe Biden (D) Delaware Senator 50/1
Westly Clark (D) Former NATO Commander 100/1
Gary Hart (D) Former Colorado Senator 150/1
Carol Moseley-Braun (D) Former Illinois Senator 250/1
Dennis Kucinich (D) Ohio Congressman 250/1
Ralph Nader (G) Consumer advocate 500/1
Al Sharpton (D) Civil rights activist 1000/1



The Bumper Sticker Primary


499 Dean
397 Anyone But Bush
209 Bob Graham
196 Dennis Kucinich
175 Al Gore
138 John Kerry
108 Al Sharpton
64 Hillary Clinton
43 Bill Clinton
41 Gary Hart
39 Dick Gephardt
35 Carol Moseley-Braun
32 Wesley Clark
28 John Edwards
21 Joe Lieberman
1 Tom Daschle


Democrats Surface in Albuquerque


"This is not about Democrats. It's about democracy," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, at an Albuquerque news conference held by the dissidents.

Van de Putte, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said the dissidents were prepared to remain in Albuquerque for the duration of the new, 30-day session because the redistricting effort threatened minority voting rights.

"When the congressional districts of those Democrats targeted by Republicans are eliminated, over 1.4 million minority Texans will have no advocates because their homes will be drawn into districts in which they will have no voice in choosing their member of Congress," she said.

Gallegos said details of the getaway were arranged by Van de Putte.

He said he didn't know the Democrats' destination until they were airborne. Ten of the senators left from the Capitol and met the 11th, Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, at a private hangar at the Austin airport. They boarded two chartered planes for the flight to Albuquerque



Drug plan for seniors risks replay of 'catastrophic' past


In 1988, President Reagan urged lawmakers to expand Medicare to cover catastrophic medical expenses under a modest plan that was supposed to cost seniors a mere $60 a year and taxpayers nothing. By the time it was enacted, Congress had passed a far more expansive bill. It included drug coverage and required seniors to pay as much as $800 a year for benefits inferior to the less-expensive private coverage many already had. The zero-cost promise to taxpayers also was broken. Within 18 months, the 'catastrophic care' bill turned into a political catastrophe as a revolt by seniors forced Congress to repeal the law.

Fifteen years later, lawmakers are making some of the same mistakes. The drug benefits that House and Senate negotiators are trying to pass threaten to ensnare seniors once again in a drug plan with high costs and glaring coverage gaps, while putting taxpayers on the hook for more than a trillion dollars in new costs over the next 20 years.

Except this time, seniors are recoiling even before the two houses finish ironing out differences between the bills passed in June. This month, the AARP, the powerful retirees group with more than 35 million members, sent a lengthy critique of the drug plans to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. The National Association of Retired Federal Employees announced its opposition to the plans in June.

Doing nothing about the high cost of prescription drugs is not the answer for the quarter of seniors lacking any coverage. Yet passing a flawed bill that makes the problem worse is no solution, either.

EL - Kennedy was wrong, this bill is a disaster nobody but Bush/Rove wants.



Texas Clothing and Shoe Tax Holiday This Weekend


Texas shoppers get a break from state and local sales taxes on August 1, 2, and 3 - the state's fifth annual tax holiday.

The law exempts most clothing and footwear priced under $100 from sales and use taxes, which could save shoppers over $8 on every $100 they spend.

Clothing and footwear used primarily for athletic activities or for protective wear are not eligible for the exemption.

Also excluded from the sales tax holiday are accessories such as jewelry and watches; items that are carried rather than worn, including handbags, briefcases and wallets; clothing rentals, such as formal wear and costumes; and repairs and alterations.


DIEBOLD REBUTTALS DON'T STAND UP


Diebold and two state elections officials have come up with nine rebuttals. Most are posted on the Diebold Election Systems web site http://www.dieboldes.com; some were statements made to the press last week. NONE OF THESE STAND UP.

1) The software that's been examined is old and not used in elections

2) The research "overlooked the total system of software, hardware, services and poll worker training that has been so effective in real-world implementations." / Used the wrong hardware.

3) Diebold voting software is constantly updated and improved

4) Diebold software undergoes a series of certification processes

5) "We have been using the systems now for a year and a half, with great success."

6) The touch screens are never connected to the Internet or a public network, eliminating risk by remote access.

7) "If there is a failure or a compromise of one unit, we go get everyone and ask them to vote again." (From Maryland official).

8) The system could be manipulated only by someone who brought a laptop to the voting booth and modified the voting machine. (From a Georgia official)

9) The Johns Hopkins/Rice University scientists spend too much time in an ivory tower.

All of these are examined, debunked and new questions for smart reporters are given.

Full Coverage of A Very American Coup Is Here.

WHY THE BIG DEAL?

You can overwrite votes. You can vote more than once. The system is vulnerable to both inside and outside attacks. Intruders can overwrite audit logs. You can assign passwords to all your friends.


"Our analysis shows that this voting system is far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts." -- Researchers from Johns Hopkins and Rice Universities, in paper just released: "Analysis of an Electronic Voting System" http://avirubin.com/vote.pdf

"Computer Voting Is Open to Easy Fraud, Experts Say" (New York Times, July 24 2003)



Wall Street Banks Hekped Enron Fraud


Enron lied to investors about its financial condition, but it could not have done so without active help from its friendly bankers. And that help constituted fraud.

"If you know," said Stephen Cutler, the S.E.C.'s enforcement director, that "you are helping a company mislead its investors, then you are in violation of securities laws."

That is not the way financial institutions have seen it in the past. "Our view historically," wrote Marc J. Shapiro, vice chairman of J. P. Morgan Chase in a letter to Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, "was that our clients and their accountants were responsible for the clients' proper accounting and disclosure of the transactions." Now, he said, his bank will "hold ourselves to a higher standard."

The settlements do not create precedents to the extent they would had the cases been litigated, but they serve notice on banks and other financial institutions that they will face major legal difficulties if they are caught engaging in transactions similar to the ones that Citigroup and J. P. Morgan did with Enron before that company went broke.



U.S. White-collar jobs moving abroad


For decades, Americans watched as manufacturing plants set up shop overseas to capitalize on cheap labor. Ross Perot immortalized the anger many workers felt, vividly terming the potential exodus of jobs to Mexico that "giant sucking sound."

Now a growing number of US firms are sending coveted high-tech and service jobs "offshore" in a move that's reviving a debate about the future of the American workforce.

The number of such jobs now outsourced - from information technology (IT) to architecture - is less than half a percent of the US workforce. But it may grow fast:

• Half a million IT jobs - roughly 1 in 20 - will go abroad in the next 18 months, according to Gartner, a research firm in Stamford, Conn.

• Nearly 5 percent of human- resources jobs have moved offshore in the past year, and by 2007 that number will climb to at least 15 percent, says Jay Whitehead, publisher of HRO Today magazine, which tracks outsourcing.

• By 2015, 3.3 million US high-tech and service-industry jobs will be overseas, according to Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. That's 2 percent of the entire workforce, and $136 billion in US wages. Oracle, for instance, already has 2,000 employees in India and expects to move 2,000 software-development jobs, plus accounting, payroll, and customer-service positions.

Corey Goode, for one, has become a self-proclaimed thorn in Microsoft's side. Since June, when he watched his $40-an-hour contracting job sail to India and learned that the jobs of permanently employed colleagues in Las Colinas, Texas, would probably do the same, he's launched a website to protest offshoring and the use of skilled foreign labor in the US through special visas. Mr. Goode insists he's not out to stir up xenophobia. But he wants companies to see American employees as more than numbers. "Globalization is here to stay, and we're experiencing the growing pains," he says.



Rights Group Reports Abuses by Afghan Groups Backed by U.S.


A human rights report has documented widespread extortion, armed robbery and kidnapping by police and intelligence officials and militias in Afghanistan. The report accuses the United States of supporting some of the worst offenders, and blames all countries for not doing enough to intervene and halt the abuses.

The 101-page report, titled "Killing You Is a Very Easy Thing for Us," by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, is a list of violent crimes committed against Afghan civilians in recent months in 12 provinces in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan. It also details threats against journalists, feminists and political activists.

The report, which is being released on Tuesday, accused soldiers, police officers, commanders and even current cabinet ministers of responsibility for much of the violence, which, it said, was occurring across Afghanistan. The perpetrators are people who came to power after the United States-led intervention that overthrew the Taliban government in 2001, and who are now abusing their authority, the report said.

"The United States in particular bears much of the responsibility for the actions of those they have propelled to power, for failing to take steps against other abusive leaders, and for impeding attempts to force them to step aside," it said. "Their continued funding, joint operations and fraternizing with warlords has sent, at best, mixed messages about their goals and intentions."




Anger at High Simmer in Baghdad


"It is not necessary for Uday and Qusay to be dead," Younis says. "We need water and electricity. At night, we have two hours of electricity on and four hours off. It was better before the war."

Iraqis warn that the failure to provide basic services has generated anger and may be helping fuel ongoing attacks against U.S. forces here. "Iraqis want electricity and work," says Mohammed Jassem, an unemployed Sunni electrical engineer. "If I do not have work or a better life, I will attack the Americans. So will many Iraqis."

But getting a constant supply of electricity to Baghdad means overcoming persistent looting and political sabotage and repairing damaged infrastructure. The de facto Iraqi electricity minister, Karim Hassan, admits that getting the power grid working the way it did before the war began is difficult. "We aimed to get to prewar levels by the end of this month," he says. "But the electricity system is fragile."

Hassan puts the current electricity generation figure at 3,200 megawatts, well short of prewar generation levels of 4,400 megawatts. He is cautious about predicting when power levels will increase and become more stable, saying it depends on whether sabotage and looting continue.



U.S. to Fund Polish-Led Peacekeeping Force


The coalition of the paid.

The Pentagon has agreed to pay more than $200 million in airlift and support costs for a multinational peacekeeping division under Polish command that should be deployed to southern Iraq by the end of September, a senior defense official said.



No Choice but to Plead Guilty


The federal government implicitly threatened to toss the defendants into a secret military prison without trial, where they could languish indefinitely without access to courts or lawyers.

That prospect terrified the men. They accepted prison terms of 61/2 to 9 years.

"We had to worry about the defendants being whisked out of the courtroom and declared enemy combatants if the case started going well for us," said attorney Patrick J. Brown, who defended one of the accused. "So we just ran up the white flag and folded. Most of us wish we'd never been associated with this case."

The Lackawanna case illustrates how the post-Sept. 11, 2001, legal landscape tilts heavily toward the prosecution, government critics contend. Future defendants in terror cases could face the same choice: Plead guilty or face the possibility of indefinite imprisonment or even the death penalty. That troubles defense attorneys and some legal scholars, not least because prosecutors never offered evidence that the Lackawanna defendants intended to commit an act of terrorism.



Bush, Republicans losing support of retired veterans


President Bush and his Republican Party are facing a political backlash from an unlikely group - retired veterans.

Normally Republican, many retired veterans are mad that Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress are blocking remedies to two problems with health and pension benefits. They say they feel particularly betrayed by Bush, who appealed to them in his 2000 campaign, and who vowed on the eve of his inauguration that "promises made to our veterans will be promises kept."

"He pats us on the back with his speeches and stabs us in the back with his actions," said Charles A. Carter of Shawnee, Okla., a retired Navy senior chief petty officer. "I will vote non-Republican in a heart beat if it continues as is."

"I feel betrayed," said Raymond C. Oden Jr., a retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant now living in Abilene, Texas.

Many veterans say they will not vote for Bush or any Republican in 2004 and are considering voting for a Democrat for the first time. Others say they will sit out the election, angry with Bush and Republicans but unwilling to support Democrats, whom they say are no better at keeping promises to veterans. Some say they will still support Bush and his party despite their ire.

While there are no recent polls to measure veterans' political leanings, any significant erosion of support for Bush and Republicans could hurt in a close election. It could be particularly troublesome in states such as Florida that are politically divided and crowded with military retirees.




Brentwood bombshell


Arianna Huffington gets ready to run for governor.

Davis is dead. What is the situation if he resigns? Is the recall still on if he is not the governor?





The Books of Bokonon


In Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., created a new religion, Bokononism. The holy scripture of Bokononism was the ever-growing "Books of Bokonon", written by Bokonon -- a British Episcopalian Negro from the island of Tobago whose real name was Lionel Boyd Johnson [ 48 ] -- as a way to distract the people of San Lorenzo from their pitiful lives. What is sacred to Bokononists? Not God; just one thing: man. [ 94 ]

All material contained below was written by Kurt Vonnegut and scattered throughout Cat's Cradle wherever it best suited the novel. I have merely tabulated -- as best I could -- his snippets into an order that one might find in a real copy of the Books of Bokonon. I have also tried to cross-reference these snippets to the numbered sections of the novel, where you may read of scripture in the context of Vonnegut's story.

Verse 1: All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.


Liberal Oasis Thinks The DLC Won’t Be A Problem


Liberal Oasis --

It’s old news that the rise of Howard Dean riles the DLC.

The new news from the DLC meeting is that the olive branches are slowly emerging, as indicated in this MSNBC.com report.

DLC leader Bruce Reed, referring to Dean’s comments at the recent NOW forum, sought to lower the temperature of the spat (which Reed and the DLC started):

We’re grateful that he defended us to Al Sharpton. We’re not looking to have this become personal.

Other DLCers defended Dean on the issues.

Ohio Senate candidate Eric Fingerhut:

His health care proposals are excellent…I also appreciate his approach to budget balancing.

And PA Gov. Ed Rendell:

You can be against a particular war and still be strong on national security.

Most importantly, DLCer Dan Kogovsek said if Dean’s the nominee, even though he’s worried about the result, “we’d support him.”

That is key.

As LiberalOasis has stressed, George McGovern didn’t lose because of ideology.

But because the party's moderate-conservative wing deserted him (in addition McGovern’s own non-ideological missteps.)

Therefore, if the DLC and other moderates stand by a Dean nomination, then Dean will not be McGovern redux.

The Liberal Oasis also caught the Sunday talk shows I did (except I switched to CNN and CSPAN instead of FAUX NEWS) and watched Wolfowitz try to defend his policy. Even Tim Russert caught Wolfowitz: So if you don’t have weapons of mass destruction. And you don’t have a direct link to terrorism. And you do have the third [liberating Iraqis], which the administration has been emphasizing, but you yourself said it’s not a rationale to go to war. What now is the rationale for having gone to war?



DLC and The New Republic Connection


They both support Bush-Cheney? (They are also notable for leading the "Democratic" attacks on Dean.)

TAPPED -- So check out this nifty little listing (go here and search for "Steinhardt, Michael") that we discovered while trying to see which big-shot New Democrats were supporting which Democratic presidential candidates: According to this list, Michael Steinhardt, former Democratc Leadership Council stalwart and part-owner of The New Republic, gave $2,000 to Bush-Cheney '04 Inc. on June 20, 2003.

Now, we know that there's often little direct relationship between a magazine owner's politics and the views of its writers, but it is a notable thing when one of the more prominent New Democrats around starts financing the continuation of the Bush administration.



More on Killer D's


"I felt that being one of a small number of rural Democrats, if I wasn't ... fostering the issues that are part of rural Texas, I would have no voice. And that's why I stayed," Armbrister said Monday. Ken Armbrister of Victoria was the lone senator of his party to stay in the Lone Star State.

The Democrats said they got tipped off that Perry was about to call the next special session early to try to surprise them, which could have led to a "lockdown" and forced them to stay in the Senate chamber.

So the lawmakers bolted from the Capitol, got on private planes and traveled to Albuquerque, out of reach of Texas law officers who might be sent to find them.

"Each of us, as I've said before, make our own mind up about what we try to accomplish for the people we represent, and whatever tools that are available in that arsenal, I respect any member of the Senate to use those to their full advantage," he said.

Even one Republican, Sen. Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant, signed the opposition letter in the previous special session. Ratliff did not boycott the Senate on Monday, however.

"It's not something I would do," Ratliff said, though he added that the Democrats were exercising their right as the minority party under the rules of the Legislature.

"I don't consider it any breach of etiquette or any breach of our congeniality, because we have other rules that do provide that the minority can exercise its rights. This is one of them," he said.

One of the absent Democrats, Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, said her decision to leave Texas wasn't made lightly.

By boycotting, Zaffirini has broken an attendance record of 834 consecutive legislative session days since becoming a senator 16 years ago. She has cast 29,577 consecutive votes.

"A perfect attendance record pales in the light of an important issue like redistricting," she said by telephone from New Mexico. "This is about minority rights. This is about voting rights."




Fried Rice?


Another Editor's Cut from the Nation:

Sunday's front page Washington Post story about National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is such a powerful indictment of her role in the runup to the Iraq war that for the sake of her country's credibility Rice should immediately resign.

The article by Mike Allen and Dana Milbank (a master exposer of Bush Administration lies) makes clear that Rice is either incompetent or a liar. Listen to Rep. Henry Waxman:

"If the national security adviser didn't understand the repeated State Department and CIA warnings about the uranium allegation, that's a frightening level of incompetence....It's even more serious if she knew and ignored the intelligence warnings and has deliberately misled our nation...In any case, it's hard to see why the President or the public will have confidence in her office."

Even sources described as "generally sympathetic" to Rice question her many shifting and contradictory statements regarding Iraq's alleged uranium purchase and the WMD (non)threat. Several former officials scoffed at the idea that Rice didn't have time to review the National Intelligence Estimate about an enemy on the eve of war. "It's implausible that the national security adviser would be too busy to pay attention to something that's going to come out of the President's mouth," said a former NSC official.



Could we try to avert the coming riots?


I opposed the war in Iraq because I thought it would lead to the peace from hell, but I'd rather not see my prediction come true, and I don't think we have much time left to avert it.

That the occupation is not going well is apparent to everyone but Donald Rumsfeld. If this thing turns into Vietnam simply because that man is too vain and arrogant to admit that Gen. Eric Shinseki was right when he said we would need "several hundred thousand troops" over there, I hope Rumsfeld rots in a hell worse than the one he's making.

Rumsfeld, with his usual cocksure breeziness, said on May 15: "A few areas have challenges, to be sure. But most areas are progressing and a growing number actually have conditions that are today estimated to be better than prior to the recent war."

What number, from what to what? Out of how many?

When is the Washington press corps going to figure out that's precisely the kind of statement by Rumsfeld that needs extensive deconstruction?

Molly Ivins Archives




The View From the UK -- America is a religion


US leaders now see themselves as priests of a divine mission to rid the world of its demons

"The death of Uday and Qusay," the commander of the ground forces in Iraq told reporters on Wednesday, "is definitely going to be a turning point for the resistance." Well, it was a turning point, but unfortunately not of the kind he envisaged. On the day he made his announcement, Iraqi insurgents killed one US soldier and wounded six others. On the following day, they killed another three; over the weekend they assassinated five and injured seven. Yesterday they slaughtered one more and wounded three. This has been the worst week for US soldiers in Iraq since George Bush declared that the war there was over.

Few people believe that the resistance in that country is being coordinated by Saddam Hussein and his noxious family, or that it will come to an end when those people are killed. But the few appear to include the military and civilian command of the United States armed forces. For the hundredth time since the US invaded Iraq, the predictions made by those with access to intelligence have proved less reliable than the predictions made by those without. And, for the hundredth time, the inaccuracy of the official forecasts has been blamed on "intelligence failures".

The United States is no longer just a nation. It is now a religion. Its soldiers have entered Iraq to liberate its people not only from their dictator, their oil and their sovereignty, but also from their darkness. As George Bush told his troops on the day he announced victory: "Wherever you go, you carry a message of hope - a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'To the captives, "come out," and to those in darkness, "be free".'"

So American soldiers are no longer merely terrestrial combatants; they have become missionaries. They are no longer simply killing enemies; they are casting out demons.

The English Protestants accused the Catholics of breaking faith, and claimed that they had become the beloved of God. The American revolutionaries believed that the English, in turn, had broken their covenant: the Americans had now become the chosen people, with a divine duty to deliver the world to God's dominion.

Gradually this notion of election has been conflated with another, still more dangerous idea. It is not just that the Americans are God's chosen people; America itself is now perceived as a divine project. In his farewell presidential address, Ronald Reagan spoke of his country as a "shining city on a hill", a reference to the Sermon on the Mount. But what Jesus was describing was not a temporal Jerusalem, but the kingdom of heaven. Not only, in Reagan's account, was God's kingdom to be found in the United States of America, but the kingdom of hell could also now be located on earth: the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union, against which His holy warriors were pitched.

Since the attacks on New York, this notion of America the divine has been extended and refined.

The United States of America no longer needs to call upon God; it is God, and those who go abroad to spread the light do so in the name of a celestial domain. The flag has become as sacred as the Bible; the name of the nation as holy as the name of God. The presidency is turning into a priesthood.

So those who question George Bush's foreign policy are no longer merely critics; they are blasphemers, or "anti-Americans". Those foreign states which seek to change this policy are wasting their time: you can negotiate with politicians; you cannot negotiate with priests. The US has a divine mission, as Bush suggested in January: "to defend ... the hopes of all mankind", and woe betide those who hope for something other than the American way of life.

The dangers of national divinity scarcely require explanation. Japan went to war in the 1930s convinced, like George Bush, that it possessed a heaven-sent mission to "liberate" Asia and extend the realm of its divine imperium. It would, the fascist theoretician Kita Ikki predicted: "light the darkness of the entire world". Those who seek to drag heaven down to earth are destined only to engineer a hell.


Monday, July 28, 2003

Warnings On Looming Pension Crisis


Top government officials have begun a calibrated campaign to bring attention to corporate pension plans, which they say may be on a road to collapse. But underneath their measured words are proposals that could fundamentally change the $1.6 trillion industry, altering the way pension money is set aside and invested.

On Wednesday, the comptroller general placed the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the agency that guarantees pensions, on a list of "high risk" government operations. Elaine L. Chao, the secretary of labor, issued a statement on the same day warning that the decades-old system in which workers earn government-guaranteed pensions "is, unfortunately, at risk."

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, a former railroad chief executive who had responsibility for a $1.3 billion pension fund, warned recently that a financial meltdown similar to the savings-and-loan collapse of 1989 might be brewing.

Steven Kandarian, the executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, gave a speech earlier this month in which he foresaw a possible "general revenue transfer" — polite words for a bailout of the agency.



Responsibility: A Capital Minuet


Dana Milbank -- For President Bush and the press corps that covers him, the month of July has been one long cat-and-mouse game. Five times, questioners have invited the president to take responsibility for the Iraq-uranium allegation that found its way into his State of the Union address. Five times, Bush has deflected the question.

Later, he reports on one White House smear counterattack -

The White House reacted with indignation when ABC News broadcast a report from Iraq with soldiers complaining about their mission. Conservative Internet gossip Matt Drudge said that a White House operative told him the ABC report's author was a gay Canadian, an apparent effort, denied by the White House, to discredit the report. Drudge said the ABC report had become "talk radio fodder" for liberal media bias.

But the very same day of the ABC broadcast, a similar report went largely unnoticed. The source: The July 15 European edition of Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper. The paper quoted Sgt. Robert Page in Germany saying it was "too late" for Bush to promise not to overextend the military. "Right now we're only 50 percent staffed where I work because of all the deployments." Air Force Staff Sgt. Tom Yingling borrowed a phrase from Vice President Cheney, saying, "We are already overstretched -- big time."

"I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq." -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, July 21.



Pacific Views


First called mars-or-bust, then the watch, now it has moved and renamed to Pacific Views.



Latest Krugman


Are Tony Blair's troubles the shape of things to come for George Bush? Or does the aftermath of the Iraq war show, once again, that we are two nations divided by a common language?

Now the Bush administration was at least as guilty of hyping the case for war. It was a campaign not so much of outright falsehoods — though there were some of those — as of exaggeration and insinuation. Here's what the public thought it heard: Last month, 71 percent of those polled thought the administration had implied that Saddam Hussein had been involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

And when it comes to domestic spin, Mr. Blair isn't remotely in Mr. Bush's league. Whether pretending that the war on terror — not tax cuts, which have cost the Treasury three times as much — is responsible for record deficits, or that those hugely elitist tax cuts are targeted on working families, or that opening up wilderness areas to loggers is a fire-prevention plan, Mr. Bush has taken misrepresentation of his own policies to a level never before seen in America.

But while Mr. Bush's poll numbers have fallen back to prewar levels, he hasn't suffered a Blair-like collapse. Why?

One answer, surely, is the kid-gloves treatment Mr. Bush has always received from the news media, a treatment that became downright fawning after Sept. 11.


DLC - Out of Touch, Without a Clue


Centrist Democrats Warn Party Not to Present Itself as 'Far Left'

In contrast to last year, when four Democratic presidential contenders delivered addresses at the council's summer meeting, this conference did not feature a single candidate.

That said, the council has become increasingly politically radioactive in this primary season, with many liberals accusing it of abandoning traditional Democratic positions. An invitation to the candidates would have put them in a politically difficult position.

Even though the council has close ties to many Democratic presidential candidates, its president, Bruce Reed, was at a loss today when asked to name the candidates in this race that embodied the council's philosophy the way Mr. Clinton did in 1992.



Howard Dean's Low-Rent Allure


Another hint that the media is beginning to recognize the populist roots of Dean's appeal.

Slate

"I was actually surprised at how many people came up and said they were going to support us." At a barn in Chariton, Dean spoke to about 40 people, the kind who wear trucker hats and American-flag belt buckles unironically. One supporter gave Dean a $5 check. "That is not the educated, cultural elite" that the national media say comprises the bulk of his supporters, Dean emphasizes.

"People have no idear"—Dean always says "idear"—"what kind of politician I am," the candidate continues. "Because they have no idear what governing Vermont is like for the most part, because they've never come up and seen it. That [crowd in Chariton] was classic Vermont. Farmers, working people, smart, maybe not so well-educated, but they read a daily newspaper every day. Literate, product of good high-school systems. Work with their hands, rural. Conservative social values, but open-minded." Later, Dean returns to the point. "It took me about three minutes to figure out what that crowd was like, and it was rural Vermont." He smiles and raises his eyebrows in a self-satisfied way.

The man clearly feels he's on a roll, and it's hard to disagree. On his two-day journey through southeastern Iowa, Dean continues to draw unexpectedly large crowds.

Everywhere he goes, Dean offers up a Unified Field Theory of Bush Lies: If Bush will lie about the Iraq war, he will lie about anything. No Child Left Behind is "an ill-conceived bill which turns out to be just like the Iraq war, built on misinformation." Because Houston's high-school dropout rate turned out to be inaccurate, "The whole Texas record on education was fraudulent." Bush's estate tax cut is actually "the largest inheritance tax increase in our history" because the increasing national debt will have to be paid for by our children. Bush's tax cuts aren't even really tax cuts because they've led to increases in local property taxes on the middle class. Bush is a "promise everything, do nothing" president.

"I've known the president," he says. "I knew him when he was governor. And I believed him when he said he was going to be a compassionate conservative. I believed him when he said he was going to increase AmeriCorps. The only thing the president has kept his word on, as far as I can see, is he said he was going to invade Iraq. And he did, but he wasn't even able to be truthful about why."

During our talk, Dean doesn't say anything really shocking or provocative, but he doesn't appear to be doling out canned b.s., either (even when he is). It's the approach he takes with voters, and it works.

At the speeches I've watched Dean give, he attacks the president quite a bit. (He began one speech, "We're going to have a little fun at the president's expense.") But he reserves his real fury for his own party. His face reddens and his voice raises when he delivers one of his biggest applause lines, that Democrats need to "stop apologizing for who we are." Why does this part of the speech make him so agitated?

"Well, I wouldn't call myself agitated about it," he says, preferring—of course—the word "passionate." Of Democratic leaders, he says: "They're consumed by the notion that they have to win, whatever the cost is. And that's why they don't win." Of his fellow candidates, he claims that "their fundamental analysis of the election is wrong. They're doing what Bill Clinton did, but they're not Bill Clinton, and neither am I."

At this point in the trip, I'm in the midst of a full-fledged Dean swoon. Sure, I think he's pandering on ethanol, his claim that he's going to bring in 3 million to 4 million new voters to win the election sounds far-fetched, and his idea to raise $100 each from 1 million voters sounds perilously close to Orrin Hatch's "skinny cat" flop from four years ago. But I like him anyway. Barring an implosion like the one McCain had when he attacked Pat Robertson in Virginia Beach, I think Dean has a real chance to win the nomination.



Can't People See the Emperor's Pants on Fire?

Common Dreams copies Sheryl McCarthy at Long Island Newsday

George W. Bush is a big fat liar.

There, someone had to say it.

In the midst of the controversy over how a dubious claim about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium got into the president's State of the Union speech, why hasn't the president been called on the carpet?

What should be clear by now is that the Bush administration used its intelligence on Iraq selectively, promoted only the bits and pieces that fit its argument, and ignored the rest. According to a New York Times article that appeared last week, this intelligence consisted of no more than scraps and fragments, some of them dating as far back as the first Gulf War, which were then patched together with assumptions that were made after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Now that this smoke-and-mirrors scenario has been revealed, we're still tiptoeing around the obvious. We ask polite questions like whether we were "misled"; if the intelligence data were "hyped"; were the government's claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons "exaggerated"; and did they put a little extra "spin" on what they knew. We avoid the "L" word altogether.

Americans find it hard to accept that their leaders can't be trusted about something as serious as war. Forget the many presidential lies of the past: Harry Truman about the necessity to bomb Hiroshima; John F. Kennedy about the missile gap with the Russians; Lyndon Johnson on the Gulf of Tonkin; Ronald Reagan about the reasons for invading Grenada. Patriotism and the need to feel united in wartime cause us to give presidents a wide berth, even when later revelations show they deceived us.

No one is saying the obvious: that when you take the country to war based on sparse and unreliable evidence that's disputed by your own experts, a war in which thousands of people died and more are being killed daily in its aftermath, that's the moral equivalent of lying.

Say you heard it here.


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