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Saturday, October 02, 2004

George Bush stands accused of shirking his presidential duties

Sometimes, a good comic sketch can tell the truth better than any straight delivery can. A case in point is this week's lead story in The Onion.

The satirical newspaper writes (fictitiously of course):

"Freshly unearthed public documents, ranging from newspapers to cabinet-meeting minutes, seem to indicate large gaps in George W. Bush's service as president, a spokesman for the watchdog group Citizens for an Informed Society announced Monday.

'We originally invoked the Freedom Of Information Act to request material relating to Bush's spotty record while in office,' CIS director Catherine Rocklin said. 'But then we realized that the information was readily available at the corner newsstand, on the Internet, and from our friends and neighbors who pay attention to the news.'"

Full story here.

John Kerry's tour of Vietnam

Get a fresh look at the man who could be president. George Butler's documentary Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry is now showing in theaters.

A Salon review says:

"Going Upriver covers the college years of John Kerry, his four-month tour of duty in Vietnam, and, most significantly, his leadership role in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) upon his return. Whether Kerry is your kind of leader or not is immaterial: Going Upriver is really an exploration of what we used to call, when our leaders actually had them, leadership qualities. And it underscores a seemingly basic and essential idea that has somehow been lost over the past four years and continues to be obscured in the campaign currently being waged: that politicians are our servants -- not our bosses."

David Segal writes in the Washington Post:

"If it does nothing else, Upriver will lay bare the calumny that Kerry never truly put himself in harm's way. The Swift boat mission was about as close to suicide duty as the modern U.S. military has ever devised. The job was simply to draw and return fire from Viet Cong hiding in the dense greenery that lined the Mekong Delta, a perfect perch for snipers. As one of the veterans notes in the film, the casualty rate of those killed or wounded ran to 75 percent, in part because the vessels were lined not with armor, but easily pierced aluminum, and their motors were loud enough to be heard two miles away. Footage of the fighting, some of it shot by Kerry, is terrifying."

Two candidates, two health care plans

In today's New York Times, the editorial staff compares the two candidates' health plans. Here are their findings:

"On the vexing issue of how to provide coverage for the 45 million Americans who currently lack health insurance, Senator Kerry would do a far better job. His plan would extend coverage to some 27 million of the uninsured, mostly by expanding Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program to include children and adults whose income is twice to three times the poverty level. Mr. Kerry would also provide subsidies to encourage more employers to offer coverage. In a bow to a favorite nostrum of conservative health analysts, he would set up a new health plan modeled on that serving federal employees. It would be open to individuals and businesses and subsidized with tax credits.

President Bush would rely primarily on a tax credit of up to $3,000 to help lower-income families buy health insurance and on a tax deduction to encourage people to buy high-deductible policies. But the credit will not go far toward paying for policies that can cost $9,000 to $10,000 a year. Independent estimates suggest that the Bush plan would cover at most seven million of the uninsured. "

The New York Times blasts President Bush's medical savings account plan as " unjustified tax break for those who least need it."

Seeking to curry favor with large pharmaceutical companies, Bush has refused to take simple measures to rein in spiralling drug prices. The Times notes, "President Bush has opposed the importation of cheaper drugs from abroad and supports the Medicare drug law that prohibits the federal government from negotiating drug prices with the manufacturers. Mr. Kerry supports drug importation and believes the federal government should use its purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices."

Bush and his Republican allies in Congress claim to be the "pro-life" party. But their deliberate inaction on health insurance and drug prices is downright shameful.

Bush administration chooses politics over success in Iraq

Thomas Friedman is back at the New York Times after a book leave, and in his first column he wastes no time in the blasting the Bush administration's handling of Iraq (a war that Friedman supported).

Notably, Friedman writes:
Being away has not changed my belief one iota in the importance of producing a decent outcome in Iraq, to help move the Arab-Muslim world off its steady slide toward increased authoritarianism, unemployment, overpopulation, suicidal terrorism and religious obscurantism. But my time off has clarified for me, even more, that this Bush team can't get us there, and may have so messed things up that no one can. Why? Because each time the Bush team had to choose between doing the right thing in the war on terrorism or siding with its political base and ideology, it chose its base and ideology. More troops or radically lower taxes? Lower taxes. Fire an evangelical Christian U.S. general who smears Islam in a speech while wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army or not fire him so as not to anger the Christian right? Don't fire him. Apologize to the U.N. for not finding the W.M.D., and then make the case for why our allies should still join us in Iraq to establish a decent government there? Don't apologize - for anything - because Karl Rove says the "base" won't like it. Impose a "Patriot Tax" of 50 cents a gallon on gasoline to help pay for the war, shrink the deficit and reduce the amount of oil we consume so we send less money to Saudi Arabia? Never. Just tell Americans to go on guzzling. Fire the secretary of defense for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, to show the world how seriously we take this outrage - or do nothing? Do nothing. Firing Mr. Rumsfeld might upset conservatives. Listen to the C.I.A.? Only when it can confirm your ideology. When it disagrees - impugn it or ignore it.

Fox News provides "fair and balanced" fiction

The Los Angeles Times reports:

"The chief political correspondent for Fox News wrote a fictitious story yesterday referring to John Kerry as a 'metrosexual' who does manicures. The report was posted temporarily on the network's Web site.

In a piece titled 'The Metrosexual and the Cowboy,' correspondent Carl Cameron quoted Kerry telling supporters at a rally in Tampa, Fla.: 'Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!'"

Apparently, the fiction piece ended on the Fox website by mistake, according to Fox representatives.

"We regret the error, which occurred because of fatigue and bad judgment, not malice," said Fox News in a written statement.

If only a similar excuse could be provided for the rest of Fox's election coverage.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Fact-checking the debates 1.0

The following notes are culled from the Los Angeles Times:

• Kerry... seeking to portray the war as reckless, asserted flatly that Bush had 'no plan' for the aftermath. In fact, the administration had elaborate sets of plans for handling the various crises that officials anticipated, such as oil-well fires and huge refugee flows. The problem they later confronted was that the assumptions behind the plans proved wildly wrong.

• In seeking to show international support for the U.S. effort, the president cited an upcoming meeting this month in Tokyo to discuss $14 billion in aid pledged to the rebuilding effort. He failed to mention that many donors had yet to fulfill their pledges 12 months after they made a commitment to do so.

• Outlining his administration's progress against nuclear proliferation, [Bush] asserted that the network of Pakistani physicist Abdul Qadeer Khan had been 'busted' and 'brought to justice.'

However, Khan himself was pardoned by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February, and of 11 staff members at the top-secret Khan Research Laboratories near Islamabad originally believed to be involved in the nuclear trafficking, none has been charged after lengthy detentions and interrogations.

• Bush said there were currently a 'hundred thousand troops trained' — close to the 96,681 trained police and military forces cited in a Sept. 22 statement by the Defense Department... Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage acknowledged last Friday to Congress that some of the forces were "shake-and-bake" trainees, with three weeks of training or less.

Left Out

Here are some of the topics that were not covered in yesterday's foreign policy debate:
1) Latin America/Western Hemisphere
2) Israel and the Palestinians
3) China (except for in reference to North Korea)
4) India and the Asian Subcontinent


"These days, Mr. Bush and other administration officials often talk about the 10.5 million Afghans who have registered to vote in this month's election, citing the figure as proof that democracy is making strides after all. They count on the public not to know, and on reporters not to mention, that the number of people registered considerably exceeds all estimates of the eligible population. What they call evidence of democracy on the march is actually evidence of large-scale electoral fraud."
-Paul Krugman, New York Times

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Quick Take

Overall, I enjoyed watching today's debate. It was that anomaly in American politics: a moment when the country's political attention span focused on actual issues, namely:
1) What should be the balance between multilateralism and unilateralism?
2) Can Iraq really be labeled part of the war on terror?
3) Should we hold bilateral talks with North Korea?
4) Should we intervene in Sudan?

Any viewer watching could get a clear idea where the candidates stand on these issues. John Kerry wants to rejoin the world of nations and promote peace through diplomacy (reserving military force as a last resort). George W. Bush would like to reshape the map of friends and foes through military force. John Kerry says there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11. George W. Bush says Saddam Hussein posed a threat that needed to be stopped immediately. Kerry wants to negotiate directly with North Korea. Bush wants to try and share that negotiation task with other nations, principally China. Kerry would like to see immediate action on Sudan, where 50,000 people have been killed in what Colin Powell recently described as "genocide." Bush would prefer to throw money at the Sudan ($200 million, or the amount of money spent every day in Iraq) and hope that makes the problem go away.

On November 2, the voters will decide.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Fight to Survive

Soldiers in Iraq, but opposed to the war, have been posting a blog at ftssoldier.blogspot.com called "Fight to Survive."

They state: "This site is the mouthpiece for a group of soldiers who are fighting in a war they oppose for a president they didn't elect while the petrochemical complex turns the blood of their fallen comrades into oil."

TV networks take a stand

The TV networks have announced they do not plan to obey the permissible camera angles fested upon them by the presidential candidates' 32-page memorandum of understanding. One rule had stipulated that the networks would not be allowed to show the reaction of the non-speaking candidate. Another rule had stipulated they couldn't show audience reactions.

"Because of journalistic standards, we're not willing to follow outside restrictions," said Fox News, echoing a statement made by many of the other networks. Such vaulted integrity!

It is easy to forget these are the same networks that refuse to hire fact-checkers or real reporters, consider any idea one of equal merit, drool at the thought of anything sensationalistic but shy away from anything that challenges the privileged and the powerful, played dead as President Bush charged through with his plan to invade Iraq in 2003, and prevent any true campaign finance reform from occurring by refusing to permit free airtime.

When was the last time you saw a detailed television analysis of the comparative merits of national health care vs. private health care, the inner operations of the United Nations or the U.S. Senate, the impact of free trade on the loss of middle class jobs, or the international gun trade?

Oh, but these are journalists with "standards." Right. In actuality, my feeling is that TV today is run by a bunch of quacks who are afraid that if they don't catch that angle of George H.W. Bush glancing at his watch or Al Gore sighing, than there will be nothing for them to talk about after the debate. God forbid they be limited to discussion of the issues.

Two new polls call the presidential race a tie

Two polls conducted last week by the Economist and the Christian Science Monitor show George W. Bush and John Kerry tied in their race for the presidency, with each candidate holding around 45 or 46 percent of the vote in a three-way race with Ralph Nader.

The strong and the weak

Writing about confidential sources today, William Safire describes how the attorneys for Matthew Cooper (of Time Magazine)and other reporters have allowed their clients to be co-opting into testifying about the identity of the Valerie Plame CIA leak. Safire calls the Time, Inc. lawyers "weak-kneed."

Safire contrasts this to the New York Times' Judith Miller, represented by Floyd Abrams, "no pushover"--who will presumably not let Miller testify. But wasn't Abrams the attorney for Cooper? Am I missing something? I'm sure Abrams is an excellent lawyer, but Safire's analogy doesn't seem to hold up.

Bush's hometown newspaper votes against him

The Lone Star Iconoclast, newspaper of Crawford, Texas, has endorsed John Kerry for president. In an editorial entitled "Kerry will restore American dignity," the Iconoclast writes:
Few Americans would have voted for George W. Bush four years ago if he had promised that, as President, he would:
• Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security benefits.
• Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans’ benefits and military pay.
• Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil prices by 50 percent.
• Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and, in fact, by policy encourage their departure.
• Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without competitive bids.
• Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and
• Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the history of the United States, creating a debt in just four years that will take generations to repay.

In 2000, the Iconoclast endorsed Bush. This year, given the above outcomes of Bush's first term, the Crawford newspaper calls John Kerry the candidate with "the proven intelligence, good sense, and guts to make it happen."

For the full article, click here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Al Gore Sighs Again

"The biggest single difference between the debates this year and four years ago is that President Bush cannot simply make promises. He has a record. And I hope that voters will recall the last time Mr. Bush stood on stage for a presidential debate. If elected, he said, he would support allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada. He promised that his tax cuts would create millions of new jobs. He vowed to end partisan bickering in Washington. Above all, he pledged that if he put American troops into combat: "The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished. And the exit strategy needs to be well defined."

Comparing these grandiose promises to his failed record, it's enough to make anyone want to, well, sigh."

-Al Gore, writing in an op/ed piece for the New York Times

Wrong Way W.

"John Kerry has every position. I only have the wrong one."
-Jon Stewart, paraphrasing a recent George W. Bush stump speech

No Question

As has been reported elsewhere in the press in far greater detail than we will bother with here, the two presidential agreements have signed a 32-page memorandum laying out rules for the upcoming debates. Most of these rule negotiations were rather bizarre; e.g., the Bush team's efforts to get the room temperature raised above 70 degrees so that Kerry might sweat.

But there is at least one rule this website finds problematic: the stipulation that neither candidate is allowed to pose questions directly to their opponent. Isn't the essence of debate the opportunity to compare and contrast two views?

Jan. 2003 report warned Iraq war could lead to insurgency, terror

Douglas Jehl and David E. Sanger report in the New York Times:

"The same intelligence unit that produced a gloomy report in July about the prospect of growing instability in Iraq warned the Bush administration about the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion two months before the war began, government officials said Monday.

The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.

One of the reports also warned of a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces, saying that rogue elements from Saddam Hussein's government could work with existing terrorist groups or act independently to wage guerrilla warfare, the officials said. The assessments also said a war would increase sympathy across the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives, at least in the short run, the officials said.

The contents of the two assessments had not been previously disclosed. They were described by the officials after two weeks in which the White House had tried to minimize the council's latest report, which was prepared this summer and read by senior officials early this month.

Last week, Mr. Bush dismissed the latest intelligence reports, saying its authors were 'just guessing' about the future, though he corrected himself later, calling it an 'estimate.'"

Story continues here.

Americans paying more for health insurance, receiving less

The Washington Post reports today:

"In the past four years, Americans have spent an ever-growing portion of their paychecks on health care and for the most part gotten less for their money, forcing millions into the ranks of the uninsured or personal bankruptcy, according to government figures and several independent assessments...

'The cost of family health insurance is rapidly approaching the gross earnings of a full-time minimum-wage worker,' said Drew Altman, president and chief executive of the [Kaiser Family Foundation]...

From 2001 to 2004, the proportion of workers receiving health coverage through an employer fell from 65 percent to 61 percent, according to the latest Kaiser data. That decline translated into 5 million fewer jobs providing health benefits, with the sharpest drop in small businesses.

For full report, click here.

Monday, September 27, 2004

George W. Bush: worst performance on job creation since Herbert Hoover

Walter Williams reviews George W. Bush's economic record in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and comes to these conclusions:

"In assessing President Bush's four-year economic performance, the standard measures show overwhelmingly that his record puts him at the bottom among the post-World War II presidents.

Also, the average family has lost ground during Bush's presidency. Since 2000, median family income (adjusted for inflation) has dropped by $1,535, or 3.4 percent, to $43,318...

George W. Bush has the worst performance on job creation of the postwar presidents with roughly a million net jobs lost since his inauguration. He will join Herbert Hoover as the only presidents to experience such a net decline of jobs.

In 2003, the number of people in poverty and those with no health insurance rose for the third straight year. Since 2000, the ranks of the poor had increased by 4.3 million persons. The number of individuals who were uninsured reached a record high of 45 million. Bush's 2003 budget deficit of $445 billion is the highest in history."

Article continues here.

Not a debate, only an opera

"The press in recent years has spilled a lot more important ink over debate style than substance, with dutiful fact-checking relegated to inside pages, and descriptions of candidates' manners and costumes - and above all, strategy accompanying the front-page accounts of what was actually said. It was not always that way. The accounts of the Kennedy-Nixon debates relied on accounts of what was said. So did the reporting of the 1976 debates. In that year and in 1980, articles pointing out major inaccuracies (like Gerald Ford's assertion that Eastern Europe was not under Soviet domination or Ronald Reagan's denial that he had ever said nuclear proliferation was not the United States's business) made the front pages. Sometime in the 1980's political coverage began to confuse itself with drama criticism. " -Adam Clymer, former New York Times Washington correspondent

Clymer adds, "[A}fter watching the coverage of the Swift Boat story, it is easy to imagine an evenhanded cable exchange revolving around a political ad saying one candidate thought the earth was round. Its sponsor would be challenged on cable by someone who said the earth was flat. In an effort to seem fair to both sides, journalists can forget to be fair to the public."

November 2: Election Day 2004 will provide detailed analysis in the days ahead of any claims made by either candidate.

What Economy?

In Clinton's 1992 campaign office, a sign famously pronounced, "It's the economy, stupid." But Vice-President Dick Cheney has apparently forgotten there is an economy. In many of his recent speeches, Cheney hasn't mentioned domestic policy even once.

The New York Times reports: "At town hall and round-table discussions, every word of Mr. Cheney's remarks was dedicated to terrorism and the Iraq war. At the rallies, where Mr. Cheney delivered his stump speech, he did bring up domestic policy–six minutes of his usual 28-minute speech in St. Joseph were used to discuss the Republican's domestic platform."

It has been left to the audience to ask Mr. Cheney questions on how a second Bush Administration plans to deal with issues such as jobs, health care, education, and outsourcing. Cheney's answer? Let me summarize: not much.

Disaster Relief

In the wake of Hurricane Jeanne, the American Red Cross has expanded relief operations. Persons interested in donating money to the Red Cross's Disaster Relief Fund can go here.

Vanishing Alaska... and GWB's hot air

Image from a January article in The Age

Time Magazine reports this week:

"Global warming, caused in part by the burning of oil and gas in factories and cars, is traumatizing polar regions, where the complex meteorological processes associated with snow, permafrost and ice magnify its effects. A study published in Science last week reported that glaciers in West Antarctica are thinning twice as fast as they did in the 1990s. In Alaska the annual mean air temperature has risen 4°F to 5°F in the past three decades — compared with an average of just under 1°F worldwide. As a result, the state's glaciers are melting; insects are destroying vast swaths of forest; and thawing permafrost is sinking roads, pipelines and homes. Arctic Ocean ice has shrunk 5% to 10%, at an accelerating rate. Says Weller: 'There is natural variability, but the evidence is overwhelming that humanity has altered the climate.'"

Whole Eskimo villages now face "imminent danger" and must relocate, Time reports.

The United States by itself emits 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, according to the OneWorld news service. Other estimates place the U.S. share of greenhouse production as high as 36 percent.

Is global warming causing this year's flux of hurricanes? Geoff Brumfiel writes on Nature.com, "Many climate scientists think that global warming will lead to an increased frequency of extreme weather events. But most argue firmly against linking any specific events - such as this year's batch of hurricanes in the Caribbean - to global warming."

Scientists say global warming only impacts long-term trends. But the outlook for those long-term trends is ominous.

Christopher Doering writes in Reuters, "As Hurricane Ivan and its powerful winds churned through the Gulf of Mexico, scientists told Congress on Wednesday that global warming could produce stronger and more destructive hurricanes in the future."

The position of the Bush administration on the environment is clear. One of Bush's first move as president was to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol--an according signed by over 100 countries committing them to decreased greenhouse gas emissions.

The International Herald Tribune reports: "For many environmental groups, Bush's legacy was ensured in his first year, thanks to a series of highly publicized decisions that effectively repudiated Clinton administration positions. Bush backed off a campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide and abandoned the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, an international agreement to reduce heat-trapping gases linked to global warming.

Then the administration pushed, unsuccessfully, for a law allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It scrapped the phase-out of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park and temporarily dropped a Clinton proposal to cut the permissible level of arsenic in drinking water by 80 percent."

Senator James Jeffords, ranking minority member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, told the Herald Tribune, "I expect the Bush administration will go down in history as the greatest disaster for public health and the environment in the history of the United States."

In conclusion, here is what George W. Bush had to say about his withdrawal from the Kyoto agreement, as quoted on April 24, 2001: "First, we would not accept a treaty that would not have been ratified, nor a treaty that I thought made sense for the country."

With a man who thinks that clearly, there's no end to hot air.

Collateral Damage

In his column today for the Washington Post, Jackson Diehl compares the U.S. dilemma over what to do about Fallujah to Israel's 2002 Jenin offensive.

Diehl writes, at the time of the Jenin offensive, "Images of flattened houses and civilian casualties soon filled the world's television screens: Palestinian spokesmen claimed, falsely, that thousands were being massacred. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan declared himself 'appalled.' President Bush publicly called on Israel to withdraw 'without delay.'"

Two years later, with the help of targeted killings of militants, the violence Israelis have had to suffer has dropped by more than 70 percent, Diehl reports. In 2002, 228 Israelis died in suicide bombings. This year, there have only been 10 suicide bombings and 53 Israeli deaths. Jenin only cost 22 civilian lives, according to Diehl's sources. Sometimes, a military option works.

Diehl is ambivalent about whether a full-fledged attack or continuing negotiations would better resolve the Fallujah situation. He notes several distinctions. Among them: "Thanks to decades of investment in human sources as well as high technology, Israeli forces know who their enemies are and are very good at finding them."

Furthermore, Diehl notes, the U.S. isn't merely seeking to stop bombings. We must also foster a viable political situation.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

National Review columnist supports ideas, not bullets (now there's an idea)

In a Friday column, Michael Ledeen takes fellow conservative George F. Will to task for contending that U.S. efforts at regime change in Iran have been supplanted by the bogged-down mission in Iraq.

Specifically, Ledeen writes:

"I think that Mr. Will got it wrong because he assumes that regime change implies military conquest. But we don't need armies of fighting American men and women to liberate Tehran; the foot soldiers are Iranians, and they are already on the ground, awaiting good leadership with a clear battle plan. The war against the Iranian terror masters will be political, not military. The weapons that will end the dreadful tyranny — so well described by Mr. Will and Mrs. Nafisi — are ideas and passions, not missiles and bullets. To our great shame, we have failed to support the Iranians' battle against their hated regime, but that is a failure of will, not a failure of means."

Indeed, history shows that all true regime changes do occur from within: witness the overturning of Communist power in Russia and Poland, Yugoslavia's election overthrow of Milosevic, and Indonesia's removal of Suharto.

For this reason, the Bush administration's approach to Iraq is all the more puzzling. It severely rescinded the goodwill feelings many world residents once had toward America. By virtue of George W. Bush's droning platitutdes, it has given the noble idea of fighting for freedom a bad name--who calls freedom an ongoing battle between a military administration and bloodthirsty insurgents? The war was launched in clear violation of international law, with inadequate planning and without direct sustainable objectives. Little effort were made to develop stable Iraqi alliances on the ground; instead the U.S. sought to maintain control through the administration of a few yes-men. By the time plans were put in place to develop an Iraqi security force, it was too late; the situation was already chaotic.

Bullets are sometimes necessary, but ideas are the strongest weapons. If democracy and the open society can't win the war of ideas, they won't win at all. At present, the U.S. does not have a leader with ideas. We have a assumed a form of bankrupt morality–a morality where God is seen in putting up a 10 Commandments statue in a park and not in providing health care for the needy. Democracy, as presented by the White House, is not centered around free press, fair trials and high voter turnout. Instead, the Bush Administration has centered its scope toward militarism, polarization, and obsessive secrecy. The citizens of America need to fight their own war of ideas on November 2: I hope you support the many seeking change.

Bush in 2000: Africa isn't my priority

Curious about the newly humanitarian Bush administration's lack of concern about the ongoing genocide in Sudan? Take a look at this excerpt from the 2000 Presidential debates.

First, a bit of context. George W. Bush was asked why he supported U.S. intervention in the Balkans but not in Africa. In his response, Bush outlined his priorities: the Middle East, Europe, the Far East, and the Western Hemisphere. In other words, every continent except for Africa and Australia (Australia hasn't been a cause of many foreign policy crises).

This is the direct quotation:

"And Africa's important. And we've got to do a lot of work in Africa to promote democracy and trade. And there's some -- the vice president mentioned Nigeria. It's a fledgling democracy. We've got to work with Nigeria. It's an important continent.

But there's got to be priorities, and the Middle East is a priority for a lot of reasons, as is Europe. and the Far East and our own hemisphere. And those are my four top priorities should I be the president."

Need Bush's priorities spelled out any more clearly? Bush was asked whether he supported or opposed eight military interventions: Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf War, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo. The two interventions Bush opposed were Somalia and Haiti. Granted, these weren't the two most successful interventions in U.S. history (Somalia was a total disaster). But is it a coincidence the only two interventions Bush opposed were in countries populated largely by blacks? Are you bothered at all that Bush said the U.S. did the "right thing" when it didn't intervene to stop the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda? Or do you too believe that for a humanitarian crisis to take place it must be in a country populated by large oil fields?

For the media to pick up on this story, Bush would have had to put it a bit more bluntly: black people are not my priority.

Many of America's most profitable corporations pay no income taxes

Image courtesy of The Guardian

According to the advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice, 82 of America's most profitable corporations paid no income taxes in one or more years from 2001 to 2003. In the years they paid no taxes, these same 82 corporations made $102 billion in profits.

The corporate income tax rate is 35 percent...one would have thought these companies accumulated $35.6 billion in income tax liability during the years studied. Instead, these companies actually received a collective $12.6 billion in rebate checks on their taxes. The government paid them! Think about that the next time George W. Bush says taxes are being distributed equally (as he contended he would do in the 2000 presidential debates).

The following list of corporations were among those paying 0 taxes–or less–in at least one year from 2001 to 2003, according to CTJ:
AT&T, Time Warner, Boeing, JPMorgan Chase, Consolidated Edison, Southwest Airlines, Verizon, Kelly Services, Toys "R" Us, American Express, Marriott International, Wachovia, Disney, and 3M.

This is at a time when the U.S. is running a $422 billion annual deficit!

These are some of the consequences of corporate tax avoidance:
-Ordinary citizens will have to choose between losing public services or repaying a large federal debt to make up for the shortfall.
-Economic competition in the free market is hindered by government policies which favor certain corporations and bestow on them large tax loopholes which the rest of the economy doesn't share.

For the full article "Bush policies drive surge in corporate tax freeloading," go to the Citizens for Tax Justice website, where the report is available in PDF format.