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Saturday, October 09, 2004

George W. Bush: guilty of human rights violations, disregard for international law

The American Prospect has devoted its current edition to human rights abuses under the Bush Administration. Fifteen essays were published in the issue and I recommend reading every one of them. A few choice excerpts are offered below.

From "The Road to Abu Ghraib" by Anthony Lewis:
At its Guantanamo Bay prison camp for alleged terrorists, the United States has renounced its treaty obligations under the Third Geneva Convention. The convention requires that people held as prisoners of conflict be offered individualized hearings before a competent tribunal to determine whether they are rightly held or, as they may argue, were taken mistakenly. President Bush swept that commitment aside by finding that all the prisoners at Guantanamo were “unlawful combatants,” a term not found in the Geneva Conventions. Then his administration argued that the prisoners could not go to U.S. courts to test their detention -- until the Supreme Court rejected that position... Attorney General Ashcroft ordered legal proceedings in the cases of alien detainees held in secret. Families were not told where the detainees were... In our system, freedom depends on commitment to the supremacy of law. Without that commitment, government lawyers can write memoranda justifying torture. Abu Ghraib can happen.

From "A Lawless State" by John Shattuck:
In the Bush war on terrorism, Washington has shown a reckless disregard for basic principles of international human-rights law like the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It has created a climate of lawlessness in which foreign detainees in U.S. custody overseas have been brutally abused, thousands of foreign citizens are held as “enemy combatants” indefinitely without being accorded the status of prisoners of war, and repressive regimes around the world get a green light to crack down on political dissidents and religious and ethnic minorities in the name of fighting terrorism. The result has been a drastic increase in the number of people convinced that America is their enemy and stepped-up recruiting by terrorist groups throughout the Muslim world and beyond... The United States is squandering one of its greatest assets: its commitment to human rights and the rule of law... In the Middle East, local reformers on the ground report that they no longer dare use the words “democracy” and “human rights” in their own communities. On the Arab street, these terms are now synonymous with U.S. military occupation, high civilian casualties, and the abuse of prisoners.

From "Rights in an Insecure World" by Deborah Pearlstein:
The PATRIOT Act became an important first example: It allows the FBI to secretly access Americans’ personal information (library, medical, telephone, and financial records, among other things) without needing to show to an independent authority (like a judge) that the target is particularly suspected of terrorist activity. Yet the September 11 commission’s report and other studies done since the attacks suggest that our primary intelligence failure on September 10 was not having too little information; our problem was failing to understand, analyze, and disseminate the significant quantity of information we had... After September 11, hundreds of foreign nationals in the United States were wrongly detained, unfairly deported, and subject to mistreatment and abuse under government programs, from special registration requirements to voluntary interviews to the detention of those seeking political asylum from a list of predominantly Arab and Muslim countries. Yet an April 2003 Government Accounting Office report on the effects of these interviews revealed that none of the information gathered from the interviews had yet been analyzed for intelligence, and there were “no specific plans” to do so.

From "Inalienable Rights" by Alison Parker:
Immediately after 9-11, the U.S. government questioned thousands of noncitizens of Arab and south Asian descent who were selected for no reason other than their ethnic or religious backgrounds. A full 752 were arrested for routine immigration violations. While none was ever charged with terrorism, the government gave them the slanderous moniker of being of “special interest” to the terrorism investigation...

8-year-old Brazilian Joso Herbert became the adopted son of an American family in 1987. Two months after his graduation from high school in 1997, he sold 7.5 ounces of marijuana to a police informant. Because he was a first-time offender, he was sentenced to probation and community service. But then he was deported to Brazil -- a place where he knows no one and where he no longer understands the language.

From "On America's Double Standard" by Harold Hongju Koh:
Over the past two centuries, the United States has become party not just to a few treaties but to a global network of closely interconnected treaties enmeshed in multiple frameworks of international institutions. Unilateral administration decisions to bend or break one treaty commitment thus rarely end the matter; rather, they usually trigger vicious cycles of treaty violation. Repeated insistence on a double standard creates the damaging impression of a United States contemptuous of both its treaty obligations and its treaty partners, even as America tries to mobilize those same partners to help it solve problems it simply cannot solve alone -- most obviously, the war against global terrorism, but also the postwar construction of Iraq, the Middle East crisis, and the renewed nuclear militarization of North Korea...

In Bosnia, the United States famously “went in heavy” after the Dayton Accords, supporting the entry of 60,000 NATO peacekeepers, including some 20,000 Americans. But in Afghanistan, a significantly larger geographical area, the United States has committed fewer troops to peacekeeping and called for only a small fraction of the international peacekeepers that were sent to Bosnia. The predictable result: While Hamid Karzai nominally acts as president of Afghanistan, outside of Kabul, much of the country remains under the de facto control of warlords and drug lords. Yet instead of making the additional financial commitments necessary to secure Afghanistan and promote serious nation building, the administration initially allocated zero dollars in its 2004 budget for Afghan reconstruction (until embarrassed congressional staffers finally wrote in a paltry line item of $300 million to cover the oversight). To date, U.S. and other international donors have advanced less than half the sums they originally pledged for Afghan reconstruction.

Enough of this hypocrisy. If subscribing to basic human decency is what John Kerry calls a "global test," then I'm all for it.

Marines voice frustration at war management

Here's what members of a Marine unit stationed in Iraq had to say during interviews with the Washington Post:

"'I feel we're going to be here for years and years and years,' said Lance Cpl. Edward Elston, 22, of Hackettstown, N.J. 'I don't think anything is going to get better; I think it's going to get a lot worse. It's going to be like a Palestinian-type deal. We're going to stop being a policing presence and then start being an occupying presence. . . . We're always going to be here. We're never going to leave'...

'Every day you read the articles in the States where it's like, 'Oh, it's getting better and better,'' said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Snyder, 22, of Gettysburg, Pa. 'But when you're here, you know it's worse every day.'

Pfc. Kyle Maio, 19, of Bucks County, Pa., said he thought government officials were reticent to speak candidly because of the upcoming U.S. elections. 'Stuff's going on here but they won't flat-out say it," he said. "They can't get into it.'

Full story here.

Sinclair Broadcast Group orders its affiliates to preempt regular programming for anti-Kerry film

The conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose television outlets reach nearly a quarter of the nation's homes, is ordering its affiliates to preempt regular programming just days before the election to run a film attacking John Kerry, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Follow this chain.

The film, "Stolen Honor," was made by Washington Times reporter Carlton Sherwood, whose previous work includes the book Inquisition which seeks to vindicate cult leader (and Washington Times owner) Reverend Sun Myung Moon.

Inquisition was published by right-wing organ Regnery Publishing. Regnery publishes high-class fare such as Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Undermines America's Security, a book of Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinions, and God, Guns & Rock and Roll by Ted Nugent.

As for Sinclear, here's a bit of its background:

Last April, Sinclair ordered seven of its affiliates not to air Ted Koppell's roll call of the military dead in Iraq.

The LA Times writes: "Even before the 'Nightline' controversy, Sinclair drew criticism because of the combination of its highly centralized news operations, which often include conservative commentary, and its almost exclusively Republican political giving. In the 2004 political cycle, Sinclair executives have given nearly $68,000 in political contributions, 97% to Republicans, ranking it 12th among top radio and TV station group contributors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group."

If you live in a city with a Sinclair affiliate, I strongly encourage you to call and complain to the station and their advertisers.

A moment of irony

I was watching the campaign rallies on C-Span today. John Kerry's rally in Ohio concluded with two of his theme songs, Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" and U2's "Beautiful Day." Then the programming shifted to Bush's rally. The first words out of the president's mouth? "What a beautiful day."

"Freedom is on the march," the president said. I hope he's right.

For me, "freedom is on the march"-as manifested in the leadership of the United States-means the following: a diverse and robust free press, open government proceedings, fair trials, a strong example for the world, tact, diplomacy, wisdom, humility, honesty, accountability, security without paranoia, and health care for all Americans.

Regime change begins at home.

Reality Check

"The president’s real trouble is less with Kerry than with reality. In the week between the first and second debates, a CIA-appointed investigator concluded that Iraq had dismantled its WMD programs in 1991, Paul Bremer revealed that he had complained to the White House about the shortage of troops in Iraq, the New York Times reported that the administration knowingly covered up the misgivings of our intelligence establishment during the run-up to the war, the job creation figures were underwhelming, and Tom DeLay was reprimanded three times by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee. Kerry took Bush to task on Iraq and job loss, and on the domestic issues that first came into play during this debate: the president’s preferring the drug industry over American patients, the lack of funding for Bush’s own Leave No Child Behind program.

The attack by Bush and Cheney on Kerry’s allegedly 'big government' health care plan is a mark of the nervousness that has come over the president and his consultants. Kerry unveiled his plan, with all its particulars, fully 18 months ago in a speech in Des Moines. During those 18 months, neither health care experts nor the media -- nor all but a handful of Republicans, nor anyone in the president’s campaign, until just recently -- have characterized the plan as big government,” for the simple reason that its not. Its major component is to have the government assume the costs now borne by employers for catastrophic illness that cost more than $50,000. It also extends the coverage of children and the poor under existing programs...

Kerry had several lines of attack on domestic issues he did not embark upon Friday, though he could be saving them for the final debate on Wednesday. The fact that by independent estimates, Kerry’s health care proposal would cover about 27 million currently uninsured Americans, and Bush’s would cover no more than 6 million, has yet to be mentioned. The fact that Bush’s proposed new spending comes to $3 trillion -- nearly a trillion more than Kerry’s -- has yet to be raised..."

-Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect

Full story here.

Cheney opened Halliburton office in Tehran in 2000, federal investigation ongoing

The Associated Press is now reporting on the story previously secluded to the alternative press (and featured earlier on this website): Dick Cheney's secret trade with Iran and other terrorist regimes during the 1990's.

Matt Kelley writes:

"Vice President Dick Cheney, who has called Iran 'the world's leading exporter of terror,' pushed to lift U.S. trade sanctions against Tehran while chairman of Halliburton Co. in the 1990s. And his company's offshore subsidiaries also expanded business in Iran...

Halliburton's foreign subsidiaries did about $65 million in business with Iran last year, company documents say. A federal grand jury is investigating whether Halliburton or its executives deliberately violated the U.S. ban on trade with Iran...

While he headed the Houston-based oil services and construction company, Cheney strongly criticized sanctions against countries like Iran and Libya. President Clinton cut off all U.S. trade with Iran in 1995 because of Tehran's support for terrorism...

Much of Halliburton's business with Iran comes through Halliburton Products & Services Ltd., a subsidiary incorporated in the Cayman Islands and based in the United Arab Emirates. Halliburton Products & Services opened a Tehran office in early 2000, before Cheney left Halliburton to become Bush's running mate."

Heard on the radio

"The only thing the Bushies have to fear is the end of fear in-of-itself."

It's official: George W. Bush will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to lose jobs

The New York Times reports:

"It's official. President Bush will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to face re-election with fewer people working than when he started.

No president may have more than an indirect influence on unemployment, and Mr. Bush had the bad luck to take office in January 2001, just before the economy was about to slide into a recession.

Still, despite the stimulus from three rounds of tax cuts, a spectacular expansion of the federal budget deficit and enormous assistance from the Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates 13 times, the nation has at least 585,000 fewer jobs now than when Mr. Bush took office."

The Times also reports, "The only demographic group with more members at work than in 2001 are those age 65 and older who decided to postpone retirement."

Was George W. Bush pulling a Milli Vanilli?

From Salon:

"Was President Bush literally channeling Karl Rove in his first debate with John Kerry? That's the latest rumor flooding the Internet, unleashed last week in the wake of an image caught by a television camera during the Miami debate. The image shows a large solid object between Bush's shoulder blades as he leans over the lectern and faces moderator Jim Lehrer.

The president is not known to wear a back brace, and it's safe to say he wasn't packing. So was the bulge under his well-tailored jacket a hidden receiver, picking up transmissions from someone offstage feeding the president answers through a hidden earpiece? Did the device explain why the normally ramrod-straight president seemed hunched over during much of the debate?

Bloggers are burning up their keyboards with speculation. Check out the president's peculiar behavior during the debate, they say. On several occasions, the president simply stopped speaking for an uncomfortably long time and stared ahead with an odd expression on his face. Was he listening to someone helping him with his response to a question? Even weirder was the president's strange outburst. In a peeved rejoinder to Kerry, he said, 'As the politics change, his positions change. And that's not how a commander in chief acts. I, I, uh -- Let me finish -- The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence my opponent looked at.' It must be said that Bush pointed toward Lehrer as he declared 'Let me finish.' The green warning light was lit, signaling he had 30 seconds to, well, finish."

Full story here.

The "Wonkette" says, "Yes, we've seen the pictures. But we also watched the debate. If Bush was listening to some kind of radio signal, it was between stations."

George W. Bush's tailor claims the box shape was nothing more than a "pucker" along the jacket's back seam, according to the Knight Ridder news service.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

White House plans to cut spending on homeland security, veterans affairs and education–but keep tax cuts for the wealthy

Jonathan Weisman writes in today's Washington Post:

"One group, led by Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill and White House budget director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., watched anxiously as the government's 2002 balance sheet swung from a record $313 billion surplus projected when Bush took office to a $157 billion deficit projected that August. How could the president demand fiscal discipline from Congress, they argued, then push expensive reforms of Social Security and the tax code if he continued cutting taxes?

The other side, led by White House economists Lawrence B. Lindsey and R. Glenn Hubbard, focused on economic growth...

After weeks of debate, Bush made his choice clear, unveiling a $674 billion tax-reduction package on Jan. 6, 2003, that was larger and bolder than even Hubbard and Lindsey had expected. The proposal locked in Bush's record as a tax cutter. But it also contributed to mounting budget deficits and debt that may prove to be one of Bush's most enduring legacies.

When Bush took office in January 2001, the government was forecasting a $5.6 trillion budget surplus between then and 2011. Instead, it is now expecting to accumulate an extra $3 trillion in debt -- including a record $415 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The government has to borrow an average of more than $1.1 billion a day to pay its bills, and it spends more on interest payments on the federal debt each year -- about $159 billion -- than it does on education, homeland security, justice and law enforcement, veterans, international aid, and space exploration combined...

The consequences are just coming into view. The White House has ordered draft budgets for 2006 that would cut spending on homeland security, veterans affairs and education, according to White House documents. Some economists -- although by no means most -- see a reckoning on the horizon, when foreign lenders reject U.S. debt, interest rates rise, and the value of the dollar crashes."

Story continues here.

Vice-President Cheney, Private Dick

Here's what Dick Cheney had to say during the vice-presidential debate on Tuesday: "The senator's got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11, but there's clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror. And the point is that that's the place where you're most likely to see the terrorist come together with weapons of mass destruction, the deadly technologies that Saddam Hussein had developed and used over the years."

Okay, two problems here. First of all, the CIA just issued a report stating that Saddam Hussein hasn't held any weapons of mass destruction for nearly 10 years. But secondly, Cheney is completely lying when he denies suggesting a connection between Iraq and 9-11.

A case in point. This is from NBC's "Meet the Press," Nov. 14, 2003. Here's what Cheney had to say then:

"If we're successful in Iraq, if we can stand up a good representative government in Iraq, that secures the region so that it never again becomes a threat to its neighbors or to the United States, so it's not pursuing weapons of mass destruction, so that it's not a safe haven for terrorists, now we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

Can I have a receipt with that?

Laura Donnelly writes in TomPaine.com:

"Electronic voting machines have received a lot of news coverage this election season—especially because they are being installed in important swing states, including Ohio and Florida. There are essentially two main concerns about electronic voting and touch-screen machines. The first is technical malfunctions. The machines can freeze, crash, display incorrect information and incorrectly tally votes. They’re also susceptible to bugs and viruses, just like any other computer. The second concern involves malicious activity by hackers or others intending to change voting outcome. Because the machines’ codes in many cases lack the encryption to keep them secure, a hacker could manipulate the machine to corrupt or delete certain votes.

The benefits that touch-screen voting offers—that’s it accessible for voters with disabilities, that it can accommodate non-English speaking voters, that it removes the hanging-pregnant-dimpled chad problem—simply aren’t big enough to outweigh the risks. Electronic voting machines don’t remove the possibilities that a Florida-like scenario will play out again. They simply transfer vote-counting problems from the low-tech hanging-chad variety to a higher-tech electronic variety. But in the case of another recount, the problems would be essentially the same. Electronic voting machines store data on electronic cartridges. If a recount was needed, all officials could do is review the electronic data—without being able to tell where it was wrong. And a recount of corrupted data is meaningless.

The good news is that there’s one immediate fix for both the technical malfunction concerns and the tampering concerns. It’s a printer. That’s right, a printer. Electronic voting machines are computers, and they can be retrofitted with printers for about $500 per machine. The printer prints a receipt that allows voters to verify that the name they touched on the screen is the same one that shows up on the paper. Election officials retain the receipts in case there’s a recount. If that happens, the paper receipts are compared to the electronic data cartridges to see if the counts match. In case they don’t, the paper receipts are considered accurate, since the voters verified them."

Full story here.

A myth of his own making

From Frank Rich at the New York Times:
The administration has been brilliant at concocting camera-ready video narratives that flatter if not outright fictionalize its actions: "Saving Jessica Lynch," "Shock and Awe," the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue (a sparsely populated, unspontaneous event, when seen in the documentary "Control Room"), "Mission Accomplished." Mr. Bush has been posed by his imagineers to appear to be the fifth head on Mount Rushmore; he has kept the coffins of the American war dead off-screen; he has been seen in shirtsleeves at faux-folksy Town Hall meetings that, until his second debate with Mr. Kerry, were so firmly policed in content and attendees that they would make a Skull and Bones soiree look like a paragon of democracy in action...

To enforce the triumphalist narrative of these cinematic efforts, the Bush team had to cut out any skeptical press, or, as Mr. Bush once put it, "go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the people" (as long as they're pre-selected). This didn't just mean avoiding press conferences and blackballing reporters from campaign planes. It also required an active program to demonize "the elite media" while feeding Fox News and its talk-radio and on-line amen chorus at every opportunity. "I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they're more accurate in my experience" is how Dick Cheney put it earlier this year. Thus the first Bush-Kerry debate was preceded by a three-installment interview with the president by Fox's Bill O'Reilly, whose idea of hard-hitting journalism is encapsulated in his boast that his was "the only national TV news program" to shield its viewers from pictures of Abu Ghraib. The highlight of his pre-debate Bush marathon was his expression of admiration for the president's guts in taking questions not submitted to him in advance. This is a "free press" in the same spirit as that championed by such Bush pals as Silvio Berlusconi, Crown Prince Abdullah, Pervez Musharraf, Ayad Allawi and, of course, dear old "Vladimir."

Full story here.

George Bush makes a statement

"Much of the accumulated body of our intelligence was wrong and we must find out why," said George W. Bush, Oct. 7, 2004.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The G.W. Bush Infomercial

Fred Kaplan writes in Slate:

"Did CNN and MSNBC get hoodwinked this morning? Yesterday, the White House announced that President Bush would be delivering a 'major policy address' on terrorism today. The cable news networks broadcast it live and in full. Yet the 'address' turned out to be a standard campaign stump speech before a Pennsylvania crowd that seemed pumped on peyote, cheering, screaming, or whooping at every sentence.

The president announced no new policy, uttered not one new word about terrorism, foreign policy, or anything else. He did all the things he wanted to do in last Thursday's debate—accuse his opponent of weakness, bad judgment, vacillation, and other forms of flip-floppery—though this time without a moderator to hush the audience, much less an opponent to bite back. And Bush loved it, smiling, smirking, raising his eyebrows, as if to say, 'How 'bout that zinger?'

In short, the cable networks were lured into airing an hourlong free campaign ad for George W. Bush..."

Story continues here.

Kaplan also notes:

"[O]n the matter of the Bush administration's efforts to revive Iraq's economy, a report this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies—a conservative Washington-based think tank—finds that for every dollar spent on aid to Iraq, only 27 cents filters down to projects benefiting Iraqis. The rest pays for administrative and management costs. (This is what happens when 85 percent of contracts are awarded to big U.S. or British firms, while just 2 percent go to Iraqi companies.) Add to this the fact that Bush has spent only a small fraction of the $18.5 billion that Congress appropriated for reconstruction, and the verdict can only be that we're doing just slightly more than squat. The evidence is seen in the continued electrical blackouts and the grave shortfall of basic services. The result is that Iraqis who might otherwise have been compliant citizens join the insurgency—or at least let the insurgents pass without turning them in."

No Mullah Left Behind

Thomas Friedman writes in his Oct. 7 column:

"Of all the shortsighted policies of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, none have been worse than their opposition to energy conservation and a gasoline tax. If we had imposed a new gasoline tax after 9/11, demand would have been dampened and gas today would probably still be $2 a gallon. But instead of the extra dollar going to Saudi Arabia - where it ends up with mullahs who build madrasas that preach intolerance - that dollar would have gone to our own Treasury to pay down our own deficit and finance our own schools. In fact, the Bush energy policy should be called No Mullah Left Behind.

Our own No Child Left Behind program has not been fully financed because the tax revenue is not there. But thanks to the Bush-Cheney energy policy, No Mullah Left Behind has been fully financed and is now the gift that keeps on giving: terrorism."

Story continues here.

CIA report: Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction for more than a decade

From the Los Angeles Times:

"Saddam Hussein did not produce or possess any weapons of mass destruction for more than a decade before the U.S.-led invasion last year, according to a comprehensive CIA report released Wednesday.

Saddam intended to someday reconstitute his illicit programs and rebuild at least some of his weapons if United Nations sanctions were eased and he had the opportunity, the report concluded. But the Iraqi regime had no formal, written strategy to revive the banned programs after sanctions, and no staff or infrastructure in place to do so, the investigators found...

[Charles A. Duelfer, head of the CIA's Iraq Survey Group weapons-hunting teams} said... there was no evidence that Saddam sought to import uranium from Africa, as Bush claimed in his 2003 State of the Union speech. Duelfer said investigators also found no evidence that Saddam had passed illicit weapons material to al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations, or had any intent to do so.

Bush, who delivered a national security campaign speech in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, did not mention the weapons report, but White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One that it showed Saddam 'was a threat we needed to take seriously.' He said Saddam 'retained the intent and capability to produce weapons of mass destruction' and was "working to undermine sanctions'...

Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said: 'The Duelfer report is yet another example that there really are two Americas. There's the one that exists in the Bush fantasy world, and then there's the real America.'"

Full story here.

House Ethics Panel: Three Strikes for Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay

From the Washington Post:

"The House ethics committee last night admonished Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for asking federal aviation officials to track an airplane involved in a Texas political spat, and for conduct that suggested political donations might influence legislative action.

The two-pronged rebuke marked the second time in six days -- and the third time overall -- that the ethics panel has admonished the House's second-ranking Republican. The back-to-back chastisements are highly unusual for any lawmaker, let alone one who aspires to be speaker, and some watchdog groups called on him to resign his leadership post.

The ethics committee, five Republicans and five Democrats who voted unanimously on the findings, concluded its seven-page letter to DeLay by saying: 'In view of the number of instances to date in which the committee has found it necessary to comment on conduct in which you have engaged, it is clearly necessary for you to temper your future actions to assure that you are in full compliance at all times with the applicable House rules and standards of conduct.'"

Story continues here.

Cheney gets confused over the facts (and the FactCheck)

From Reuters:
Defending his record as Halliburton's chief executive, Cheney said in the Tuesday night debate that Democratic vice-presidential challenger John Edwards was trying to use Halliburton as a smokescreen. Any voter who wanted the facts, Cheney said, should check out factcheck.com -- which led to the [George] Soros site...

Factcheck.org, run by the Annenberg Center of the University of Pennsylvania, said on its site on Wednesday that Cheney not only got the domain name confused, he had mischaracterized its fact-finding.

"Cheney ... wrongly implied that we had rebutted allegations Edwards was making about what Cheney had done as chief executive officer of Halliburton," the site said on Wednesday.

"In fact we did post an article pointing out that Cheney hasn't profited personally while in office from Halliburton's Iraq contracts, as falsely implied by a Kerry TV ad. But Edwards was talking about Cheney's responsibility for earlier Halliburton troubles. And in fact, Edwards was mostly right."

Visitors to factcheck.com found an even stronger rebuttal of the Bush/Cheney campaign: they were redirected to georgesoros.com, a site with a banner headline stating "Why we must not re-elect President Bush." Beneath the banner was an article by the iconoclastic billionaire entitled, "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values." Soros has posted a note on his site stating he does not own factcheck.com and is not responsible for the curious redirection.

But it could have been worse for the vice-president. He could have directed viewers to whitehouse.com.

Net job loss

Dick Cheney and John Edwards disagreed on many things Tuesday night, but nowhere was their differing interpretations of facts more apparent than on the issue of job loss. As the New York Times describes, "Mr. Edwards said that the nation has lost 1.6 million private-sector jobs since Mr. Bush took office, while Mr. Cheney said the nation has added 1.7 million jobs in the past year."

Both numbers have an element of truth to them.

The Times comments:

"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of payroll jobs has declined by about 900,000 since Mr. Bush took office. Mr. Edwards's higher number comes from isolating private-sector jobs, not taking into account increases in state, local and federal government jobs.

Mr. Cheney was correct in saying that the nation has added about 1.7 million jobs in the past year. But employment has yet to return to its level before the 2001 recession and a sharp decline in manufacturing employment continued for nearly two years after the recession officially ended in November 2001.

More importantly, in the view of many economists, employment growth has lagged even further behind the growth in population. The nation's adult work force climbs by more than a million people every year. So even if the number of jobs returns to its level of January 2001, as many as three million more people would still be unemployed or underemployed than they were then."

To put it in plain English: Job creation hasn't kept pace with population growth. Some jobs have returned over the last year but not enough to restore employment to its pre-Bush level.

Cheney creates his own global test

Seeking desperately to tie John Kerry to Americans' fear of the outside world, Dick Cheney continued to harp on Kerry's "global test" comment during Tuesday's report. Republicans are apparently hoping that if they continue to be deaf, dumb and blind to the context in which Kerry used the words "global test" (note to morons: he wasn't calling for an actual test), someone will actually believe them.

The Associated Press reports:

"Cheney took Kerry out of context in quoting him as saying that he favored a global test before he would deploy U.S. troops to pre-empt an attack on the United States. Kerry said in his debate that he would not cede to anyone the right to move pre-emptively against a threat but that he would do so in a way that proved to Americans and the world that he had taken the action for a legitimate reason."

For further discussion of this topic, see below.

Just like meeting for the first time?

During yesterday's debate, Dick Cheney said he had never seen John Edwards before. The vice-president apparently has a foggy memory. At a Feb. 2001 prayer breakfast, Cheney had begun his remarks by acknowledging Edwards' presence. Cheney also saw Edwards at the swearing-in ceremony for North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Malpractice costs

No can say with a straight face that malpractice costs are not a contributing factor to the current health care crisis (though sociologist Amitai Etzioni seeks to do so in the Los Angeles Times).

What is less clear is what should be done about it. Medical liability reform, improperly conceived, runs the risk of denying fair compensation to patients who have suffered, and taking away safeguards that ensure scrupulous care.

Etzioni notes the following (as an example of a good malpractice reform). "Louisiana... has malpractice review panels made up of three doctors and an attorney who are responsible for ruling on the merit of claims. Patients who wish to file a suit first have to submit their cases to these panels. If a panel rules that the case is without merit, a plaintiff still may bring his or her suit, but the panel's report can be filed with the court. Thus such a ruling serves as a major deterrent to inappropriate suits."

Expert panels have also been favored by the Kerry/Edwards campaign. But there is at least one problem with using expert panels as an arbitrator: expert panels would do nothing to reduce the high cost of discretionary "pain and suffering" awards. Do we prioritize just compensation for those who have been ill-treated--or do we prioritize lowering health care costs and keeping physicians in business? This is a question society will have to decide.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Al Qaeda's ranks are being replenished in Pakistan

The Christian Science Monitor published a report today on the new crop of al Qaeda recruits:

"Younger, educated recruits tapped for suicide missions like 9/11 typically came from Middle Eastern countries with long histories of pan-Islamic resistance. What sets this new breed apart is that they are joining from places like Pakistan, where the focus has been on regional grievances, like independence for the disputed area of Kashmir. But as the Al Qaeda leadership ranks begin to thin, men like [Atta-ur] Rehman are starting to climb the ladder.

'It is a new generation of Al Qaeda,' says Riffat Hussain, a leading defense and security analyst based in Islamabad, Pakistan. 'These are new converts to Al Qaeda. They may have no links with Al Qaeda in the past, but now they are willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause as they feel Al Qaeda is the name of defiance to the West. They are young and angry, and their number has swelled in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq.'"

Full story here

Little White (House) Lies

"The only physical evidence the administration offered for an Iraqi nuclear program were the 60,000 aluminum tubes that Baghdad set out to buy in early 2001; some of them were seized in Jordan... The tubes-for-bombs theory was the creation of a low-level C.I.A. analyst who got his facts, even the size of the tubes, wrong. It was refuted within 24 hours by the Energy Department, which issued three papers debunking the idea over a four-month period in 2001, and by the International Atomic Energy Agency. A week before Mr. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, in which he warned of an Iraqi nuclear menace, international experts in Vienna had dismissed the C.I.A.'s theory about the tubes. The day before, the International Atomic Energy Agency said there was no evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program and rejected the tubes' tale entirely."

-New York Times editorial

Full story here.

Also, read Sunday's "How the White House Embraced Disputed Arms Intelligence."

Tax cuts for wealthy or homeland security? You decide.

"So far, Mr. Bush has paid no political price for his shameful penny-pinching on domestic security and his refusal to provide effective protection for America's ports and chemical plants. As Jonathan Chait wrote in The New Republic: 'Bush's record on homeland security ought to be considered a scandal. Yet, not only is it not a scandal, it's not even a story.'

But Mr. Kerry raised the issue, describing how the administration has failed to protect us against terrorist attacks. Mr. Bush's response? 'I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises.'

Oh, yes we do. According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, Mr. Bush's tax cuts, with their strong tilt toward the wealthy, are responsible for more than $270 billion of the 2004 budget deficit. Increased spending on homeland security accounts for only $20 billion. That shows the true priorities of the self-proclaimed 'war president.'"

-Paul Krugman, New York Times

Full story here.

Philosopher calls Bush an ethical adolescent

From an interview with Peter Singer in The Nation:

Katherine C. Reilly: You've called George Bush an ethical "adolescent." What do you mean by that?

Singer: Lawrence Kohlberg argues that most people go through certain stages of moral development. Using his categories, and looking at some of the moral judgments Bush makes--not so much the substance of the judgments as the way in which he reaches his judgments--it seems to me that Bush is at a stage that is typical of adolescent boys. Most, though not all of them, later go on to a more reflective view of morality. Bush appears not to have done so.

The question of who bears responsibility for the Abu Ghraib prison scandals is one you tackle briefly in the preface to the paperback edition, saying that President Bush made "scapegoats of those at the bottom of the military ladder." How did the President's moral leadership contribute to the abuses at Abu Ghraib? To what extent is he responsible?

First, the President is responsible because he began the war that led to the need for Americans to run prisons in Iraq. Obviously that's a situation in which the potential for abuse exists. Second, the President appears to have allowed his subordinates to set the standards for interrogation procedures. He did not use the authority of his office to insist on, and remind all Americans serving in Iraq of, the importance of strict adherence to the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners. Indeed, in detaining prisoners without trial at Guantánamo Bay, he himself violated one aspect of the Geneva Conventions. It is not surprising that other Americans under his command should have violated other aspects of them.

President Bush fails a global test: reality

During the Sept. 30 presidential debate, John Kerry said the following:
No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do in a way that passes the test—that passes the global test—where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

Here we have our own secretary of state who's had to apologize to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations. I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy, in the Cuban missile crisis, sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with [French President Charles] de Gaulle, and in the middle of the discussion to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, [the secretary of state] said, "Here, let me show you the photos." And de Gaulle waved them off, and said, "No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me." How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result of what we've done, in that way?

Then it was President Bush's turn to speak. For a moment, the president looked entirely blank. He had no idea what he was supposed to say. After a moment, Bush said, "What does he mean by global test?"

Since the debate, Bush has been trying to use the global test comment-taken entirely out of context-as the mantle upon which to rest his disintegrating campaign. In his stump speeches, Bush has been making observations such as this:
[John Kerry] said that America has to pass a global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves. That's what he said. Think about this. Sen. Kerry's approach to foreign policy would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions. I have a different view. When our country is in danger, the president's job is not to take an international poll. The president's job is to defend America. I'll continue to work every day with our friends and allies for the sake of freedom and peace. But our national security decisions will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals.

In an excellent article for Slate, William Saletan points out that in using the term "global test," John Kerry clearly wasn't asking for an international opinion poll. Rather, Kerry was merely noting that the U.S. has to act in a way that is factually justifiable.

As Saletan says:
The test isn't moral. It's factual. What you and the Frenchman share is the evidence of your senses. The global test is the measurement of the president's assertions against the real world, the world you and I can see...This is the test Bush has failed. He has failed to produce evidence for his prewar claims of Iraqi WMD and operational ties to al-Qaida, or for his postwar claims of success against the insurgency...He frames this as patriotism, boasting that he doesn't care whether he offers evidence sufficient to convince people in France. He shows no awareness or concern that evidence is also necessary to convince people in Ohio... [Bush's] comments show a pattern of blowing off external feedback in general.

Saletan's article "The Global Test: It's called reality" can be read here.

Donald Rumsfeld says there is no hard evidence of a Iraq-al Qaeda link

Dick Cheney may want to note the following before tomorrow's vice-presidential debate:

During a press conference today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked to explain the connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

Rumsfeld responded, "To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two."

Poland announces plans to withdraw from Iraq

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski announced today he plans to withdraw all 2,500 of Poland's troops from Iraq next year.

Kwasniewski's name was featured prominently in last week's presidential debate when George W. Bush said, "My opponent [says] we didn't have any allies in this war? What's he say to Tony Blair? What's he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland? I mean, you can't expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq."

According to a recent poll, more than 70 percent of Polish citizens are opposed to their country's presence in Iraq. Seventeen Polish nationals have been killed since the war began.

Fox News caught in another hoax

For the second time this week, Fox News is eating crow. Fox News was so caught up in its own rhetorical inventiveness equating Democrats with communists that their reporters didn't pick up that the "Communists for Kerry" they interviewed after Thursday's debate were actually Republican operatives.

Ironically enough, according to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Republican-run "Communists for Kerry" may have organizational links to freerepublic.com, the site which bit the heels off of Dan Rather.

Looks like this is a good time for humility for all.

Here is a view of the Fox screenshot as posted on the web:

Senate Republican will not support Bush

From the New York Times:

One day after the Supreme Court sealed the 2000 election for George W. Bush, his running mate, Dick Cheney, went to the Capitol for a private lunch with five moderate Republican senators. The agenda he laid out that day in December 2000 stunned Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, sending Mr. Chafee on a painful journey of political conscience that, he said in an interview last week, has culminated with his decision not to vote for Mr. Bush in November.

"I literally was close to falling off my chair," Mr. Chafee said, recounting the vice president's proposals for steep tax cuts, missile defense programs and abandoning the Kyoto environmental accords. "It was no room for discussion. I said, 'Well, you're going to need us; it's a 50-50 Senate, you're going to need us moderates.' He said, 'Well, we need everybody.' ''

For Mr. Chafee, who was a prep school buddy of the president's brother Jeb and whose father, the late Senator John Chafee, was close to the first President Bush, that day was the beginning of an estrangement with the president, whom he had worked to elect. In the months since, he has opposed Mr. Bush on everything from tax cuts to gay marriage and the war in Iraq. Now, this life-long Republican has concluded that he cannot cast his ballot for the leader of his party.

Story continues here.

Presidential race is split down the middle in Gallup poll

A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll conducted over the weekend showed the two presidential candidates in a statistical dead heat, with each candidate receiving 49 percent of the tally. The poll also found Kerry won the debate, 57 percent to 25 percent, among likely voters. Just a week ago, Gallup had been registering an 8-point lead for Bush (other polls had produced a much smaller margin).

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Kerry's position on Iraq: no different today than in 2002

The following is excerpted from FactCheck.org:

The charge that Kerry is "endlessly changing positions on Iraq" is without factual support. In fact, Kerry has never wavered from his support for giving Bush authority to use force in Iraq, nor has he changed his position that Bush should not have gone to war without greater international support, and without making greater efforts at diplomacy backed by the threat of force.

Here's what Kerry said on the Senate floor before voting to give Bush the authority:
Kerry (Oct. 9, 2002) Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him (Saddam) by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances.

That's consistent with Kerry's later criticism of Bush for failing -- as Kerry sees it -- to secure enough help and support from other countries. And that's been Kerry's position ever since.

Network news programs shy away from Fahrenheit 9-11 advertising

"On any given day, the major TV networks rarely demonstrate good judgment, much less morality, when it comes to accepting a litany of nauseating advertisements. Hemorrhoid creams. Vaginal ointments. Erectile dysfunction. Army recruiting ads that portray war as a gee-whiz video game. KFC’s claim that fried chicken is the new health food. And, lest we forget, Bud Light’s farting horse during the Super Bowl.

But ads for the October 5 release of the new Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD?

Now that makes Big Media gag.

L.A. Weekly has learned that CBS, NBC and ABC all refused Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD advertising during any of the networks’ news programming....

And with more money to spend on political ads this election year (hell, every election year), the Republicans are helping Big Media climb out of their recession-caused red ink. As Broadcasting & Cable reported this month, ad spending in markets across the country is “flat to down” this year. But thanks to all those GOP attack ads against Kerry and his own spots to defend against them, ad spending, especially in the battleground states, is “through the roof,” up 14 percent to 15 percent."

-Nikki Finke, LA Weekly

Finke's full story on right-wing control of big media can be read on the LA Weekly website.

Red States and Blue States

"When people ask why this election is so close, I can't explain it. It's like trying to figure out how Billy Ray Cyrus sold 10 million records."
-Jeff Tweedy