Krugman – \"Patriots and Profits\"

December 27, 2003 at 3:46 pm
Contributed by:



Krugman column was exceptionally good I thought–it tied together many of the
threads I have been following in recent days, and did so very well. Attached,
for those of you who won’t register with NYT.


Once you’re done with that, if you want to read a really frightening and
somewhat conspiratorial leftist analysis of the Bush team’s “end game,” check this sucker
(note that it was written on 3/17/03!):


On to the Krugman:



The New York Times

December 16, 2003OP-ED COLUMNIST
Patriots and ProfitsBy PAUL

Last week there were major news stories about possible
profiteering by Halliburton and other American contractors in Iraq. These
stories have, inevitably and appropriately, been pushed temporarily into
the background by the news of Saddam’s capture. But the questions remain.
In fact, the more you look into this issue, the more you worry that we
have entered a new era of excess for the military-industrial complex.

The story about Halliburton’s strangely expensive gasoline imports into
Iraq gets curiouser and curiouser. High-priced gasoline was purchased from
a supplier whose name is unfamiliar to industry experts, but that appears
to be run by a prominent Kuwaiti family (no doubt still grateful for the
1991 liberation). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers documents seen by The Wall
Street Journal refer to “political pressures” from Kuwait’s government and
the U.S. embassy in Kuwait to deal only with that firm. I wonder where
that trail leads.

Meanwhile, NBC News has obtained Pentagon inspection reports of
unsanitary conditions at mess halls run by Halliburton in Iraq: “Blood all
over the floors of refrigerators, dirty pans, dirty grills, dirty salad
bars, rotting meat and vegetables.” An October report complains that
Halliburton had promised to fix the problem but didn’t.

And more detail has been emerging about Bechtel’s much-touted school
repairs. Again, a Pentagon report found “horrible” work: dangerous debris
left in playground areas, sloppy paint jobs and broken toilets.

Are these isolated bad examples, or part of a pattern? It’s impossible
to be sure without a broad, scrupulously independent investigation. Yet
such an inquiry is hard to imagine in the current political environment —
which is precisely why one can’t help suspecting the worst.

Let’s be clear: worries about profiteering aren’t a left-right issue.
Conservatives have long warned that regulatory agencies tend to be
“captured” by the industries they regulate; the same must be true of
agencies that hand out contracts. Halliburton, Bechtel and other major
contractors in Iraq have invested heavily in political influence, not just
through campaign contributions, but by enriching people they believe might
be helpful. Dick Cheney is part of a long if not exactly proud tradition:
Brown & Root, which later became the Halliburton subsidiary doing
those dubious deals in Iraq, profited handsomely from its early support of
a young politician named Lyndon Johnson.

So is there any reason to think that things are worse now? Yes.

The biggest curb on profiteering in government contracts is the threat
of exposure: sunshine is the best disinfectant. Yet it’s hard to think of
a time when U.S. government dealings have been less subject to

First of all, we have one-party rule — and it’s a highly disciplined,
follow-your-orders party. There are members of Congress eager and willing
to take on the profiteers, but they don’t have the power to issue

And getting information without subpoena power has become much harder
because, as a new report in U.S. News & World Report puts it, the Bush
administration has “dropped a shroud of secrecy across many critical
operations of the federal government.” Since 9/11, the administration has
invoked national security to justify this secrecy, but it actually began
the day President Bush took office.

To top it all off, after 9/11 the U.S. media — which eagerly played up
the merest hint of scandal during the Clinton years — became highly
protective of the majesty of the office. As the stories I’ve cited
indicate, they have become more searching lately. But even now, compare
British and U.S. coverage of the Neil Bush saga.

The point is that we’ve had an environment in which officials inclined
to do favors for their business friends, and contractors inclined to pad
their bills or do shoddy work, didn’t have to worry much about being
exposed. Human nature being what it is, then, the odds are that the
troubling stories that have come to light aren’t isolated examples.

Some Americans still seem to feel that even suggesting the possibility
of profiteering is somehow unpatriotic. They should learn the story of
Harry Truman, a congressman who rose to prominence during World War II by
leading a campaign against profiteering. Truman believed, correctly, that
he was serving his country.

On the strength of that record, Franklin Roosevelt chose Truman as his
vice president. George Bush, of course, chose Dick

 The New York
Times Company
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Rate \"Bush in 30 Seconds\" Ads

December 22, 2003 at 8:36 pm
Contributed by:



seemed appropriate to wind up this year’s GRL with a little participatory
democracy fun. This was about the most fun I’ve had with this content in a long


year is going to be even better. I have plans for this list. Plans to get YOU
out on the street and on the phone, participating in your democracy like never
before. Yes, you. Gird yourselves. We’re gonna make ourselves heard next year.

—–Original Message—–
From: Eli Pariser, MoveOn Voter Fund
Sent: Friday, December 19, 2003
12:20 PM
Subject: Rate “Bush in 30 Seconds”

Dear MoveOn member,

When we announced the launch of our “Bush in 30
Seconds” ad contest back in October, we expected maybe 300 people would take the
time to make a TV ad that tells the truth about President Bush. But when we
reached the submissions deadline in early December, we had over 1,000 ads —
including some of the best political ads we’ve ever seen.

Now, we’re counting on you to help us narrow the
field from over 1,000 ads to 15 finalists. Our panel of celebrity judges will
pick the winning ad from among those finalists, and we’ll run it in January
during the week of Bush’s State of the Union address. All 15 of the top ads will
be featured in a Bush in 30 Seconds awards show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in
New York on January 12th.

You can start rating the ads right now

We recommend viewing the ads on a high-speed Internet
connection — it’ll take a long time for them to load with dial-up. Also, you’ll
need Apple’s QuickTime software to view the ads. It’s free at:

The range and quality of the ads is remarkable. There
are cartoons, takeoffs, music videos, documentaries, and somber, moving works of
art. Ads have been submitted from every state in the country, and they feature
newborn babies, 95-year-old grandmothers, and everyone in between. And while
some of them probably aren’t grade-A material, even advertising industry
veterans have been impressed with the overall caliber.

When you log in to rate ads, you’ll be presented with
a selection drawn from the entire pool of ads. Our software spreads out the
ratings over all 1,019 of ads by selecting them in a random order. You’ll be
able to evaluate each ad according to four criteria, and submit that information
to move to the next ad — up to 20 randomly ordered ads a day. The online voting
will conclude at the end of the year — midnight, PST, on December 31st.

The success of this phase of the contest depends on
people rating a bunch of ads and inviting their friends to do the same. The
voting begins now at: 


–Carrie, Eli, James, Joan, Noah,
Peter, Wes, and Zack
  The Team
19th, 2003

Subscription Management
This is a message from on
behalf of the Voter Fund. To remove yourself (Chris Nelder) from this
list, please visit our subscription management page at:

Progress Report – Libya, Oil, Environment, and more!

December 22, 2003 at 8:09 pm
Contributed by:



I know
I promised to stop recirculating these, and let you sign up for yourselves. But
I read every issue and want to recirculate it, for fear that you’ll miss it.
They really sock it to ya, every day. Sign up for their email and put my mind at
ease, will ya? OK, just…one…more. Why? Well, here’s the Cliff Notes to
today’s issue (if that isn’t too reductionist):


– This
week we got the exciting news that Libya was going to permit full weapons
inspections and abandon all plans for WMD. Why? Well, if you listen to Bush,
it’s because we put the fear o’ God in them with our little Iraq exploit, and
now they’re going to play ball, just to make the world a safer place (and get
out from under our sanctions). Well, ain’t that just peachy? So, you believe
that? Well, try this:


1. The
Libya deal coincides with the expiration of a 50-year lease signed between U.S.
oil companies and the Libyan regime, and “our
return to active participation in the Waha oil field area remains dependent upon
further authorization from the U.S. government.”


Libya has made veiled suggestions that it could re-tender the fields to European
oil companies, arousing anger in the Bush administration.


3. Cheney has long lobbied on behalf
of the oil industry to lift sanctions on Libya since their
creation. ” Cheney
said oil and gas companies must explore where the reserves are, and that means
doing business in countries that may have policies that the U.S. does not like.”
Cheney said, “The long-term horizon of the oil industry is at odds with the
short term nature of politics.”


OK, still following this? Let’s have
that last line again:

“The long-term horizon of the oil industry is
at odds with the short term nature of politics.”


indeed. Anybody want to take a bet on how much longer before Cheney actually
mentions the Peak Oil problem?


let’s take stock: we have our recent exploits in Iraq, and Liberia, various
countries of South America, now we’ve got Libya in line, anybody else see a
trend here? Is it justice and freedom for the people of Iraq and Liberia? Don’t
be silly. Is it relief from sanctions for humanitarian causes? Not on your life.
Those well-worn covers have served us well again, but the underlying story is
still the same: oil, oil, oil. And we cover that story with whatever else suits
the bill, all in our endless pursuit of denying the truth about “the long-term
horizon of the oil industry,” because we can’t handle the truth, and its
variance with “the short term nature of politics.”  (I’m also of the
opinion that the same dynamic is what keeps us from a reasonable and open and
scientific investigation of UFO phenomena, but that’s another topic.)


just one topic in today’s issue of The Progress Report. A couple more:


Merry Christmas. No more benefits for you long-term out of workers. No more for
you wounded vets, either. Now git out!

Condi’s gonna find a way to avoid having to testify about her part in the Bush
Administration’s lies about 9-11

According to a British report, we didn’t get Saddam at all! The Kurds did,
drugged him, and left him for us!

Don’t miss that buried little gem at the end about
CLOTHING”  It will probably make your eyes glaze over. And that’s the beauty
of it. Shenanigans only a bureaucrat could love.





—–Original Message—–
From: Center for American Progress
Sent: Monday, December 22, 2003
8:39 AM
Subject: The Progress Report

by David Sirota,
Christy Harvey and Judd Legum
Know the most first: Sign
up for email
delivery of The Progress Report
Please send any news tips to

December 22, 2003

Good News &


Murdoch’s Mega

The Soft


Good News
& Questions

The decision by
Libyan dictator Moammar Ghadafi to permit
UN weapons inspectors into his country
validated the argument
that the United States can achieve its strategic international goals
using tools other than military force – namely, diplomatic,
political and economic pressure. According to the LA
, “Libya was virtually isolated from the world” because of
UN economic sanctions since it orchestrated the Pan Am 103 bombing.
Desperate to re-enter the international community, the North African
country has been trying for at least 10 years to have those
sanctions lifted. And while the developments are certainly positive,
they beg a number of questions.

President Bush has repeatedly told Americans
that Saddam Hussein could not be trusted to live up to statements
that he would disarm and allow UN inspectors into Iraq (which he did
before the war). Yet, the Administration is now telling Americans
that we can trust Ghadafi – a man with a similar record of
repression, aggression, and disdain for international law, not to
mention the fact that while Saddam never attacked the U.S., Ghadafi
masterminded the killing of 270 people
aboard Pan Am 103. On
Friday, two days shy of the 15th
anniversary of the airliner bombing
, Bush thanked
Ghadafi for “his commitment to disclose and dismantle all WMD in his
country” – yet failed to explain the disparity between the policy
towards Saddam and the Libyan leader.

Just this weekend, Vice
President Dick Cheney
exacerbated the North Korean situation,
blustering, “I have been charged by the president with making sure
that none of the tyrannies in the world are negotiated with. We
don’t negotiate with evil; we defeat it.” His comments came at the
same time the Administration was using quiet diplomacy and
negotiation with the Libyan dictator, begging the question: why the
disparity in policies towards the two nations?

reports “U.S. officials say they expect the families of the victims
of the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing to raise strong arguments against
lifting the sanctions.” Stephanie Bernstein of Bethesda, MD, who
lost her husband, said the agreement, and the White House embrace of
it, was about “providing a Christmas present to the oil companies
and justifying the war in Iraq.” Other relatives of victims “were
upset that in Mr.
Bush’s announcement
of the Libyan pact he made no mention of Pan
Am 103.”

Oil Questions

Maybe one reason
for Cheney’s differing postures is the expected Libyan
oil bonanza
. Cheney has long lobbied on behalf of the oil
industry to lift sanctions on Libya since their creation. In 1996,
the Journal of Commerce reported that Cheney lashed out at the U.S.
government on foreign soil – a tactic conservatives have
historically attacked. On a visit to Abu Dhabi, Cheney criticized
U.S. sanctions on Libya saying, ”There seems to be an assumption
that somehow we know what’s best for everybody else and that we are
going to use our economic clout to get everybody else to live the
way we would like.” While many oil CEOs were loathe to attack the
U.S. sanctions – especially while visiting foreign nations – Cheney
was not. As the Journal of Commerce reported on 5/6/96, “Cheney,
Halliburton’s chief executive, has publicly slammed the sanctions
while others have not.”

In May of 1997, Cheney criticized the
Congress for tightening sanctions on Libya, and specifically said
the oil industry had a right to do business in countries with deadly
WMD. As Oil and Gas Journal reported, “Cheney said oil and gas
companies must explore where the reserves are, and that means doing
business in countries that may have policies that the U.S. does not
like.” Cheney said, “The long-term horizon of the oil industry is at
odds with the short term nature of politics.” The next year, Cheney
ratcheted up his campaign, once again criticizing the U.S. security
policy on foreign soil. According the Malaysian News Agency
reported, “Cheney hit out as his government for imposing economic
sanctions like the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act.” He told the state news
agency on a visit there that U.S. sanctions on Libya are
“ineffective, did not provide the desire results and are a bad

World Markets Analysis newsletter reports that the
Libya deal coincides with the expiration of a 50-year lease signed
between U.S. oil companies and the Libyan regime. Specifically, the
Oasis Group (which includes Marathon and ConocoPhillips – both major
campaign contributors
to the Administration) leased the Waha oil
fields in Libya, but have been blocked from doing business there
since sanctions were imposed in 1986. With the lease now expiring,
“Libya has made veiled suggestions that it could re-tender the
fields to European oil companies, arousing anger in the Bush
administration.” As a ConocoPhillips spokesperson confirmed to the
“our return to active participation in the Waha oil field area
remains dependent upon further authorization from the U.S.

Murdoch’s Mega Merger

In a devastating
blow for media diversity, the FCC, on a contentious 3 to 2 vote,
approved a “$6.6
billion media mega merger
” between DirecTV satellite television
service and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The merger will add
DirecTV’s 11 million subscriber to Murdoch’s
U.S. empire
which already includes local television stations
reaching more than 44% of the country, a major national broadcast
network, numerous cable and satellite channels, the most widely used
electronic program guide, newspapers, magazines, a publishing house
and movie studios. The unprecedented size and scope of Murdoch’s
holding will, according to FCC Commission Jonathan A. Adelstein, put
News Corp. “in a position to raise
programming prices for consumers
, harm competition in video
programming and distribution markets nationwide, and decrease the
diversity of media ownership.” 

The FCC-approved deal allows News Corp.
to effectively shut out local programming – especially in rural
markets. Although News Corp. initially pledged to provide local
television stations to satellite subscribers, they later revealed
that they intended to do so by incorporating conventional antennas
into its devices and “hope
the customer can receive a signal
.” For people who live in rural
areas, that will frequently mean they receive no signal at all.
Commissioner Adelstein says that News Corp’s position means that
“what could have been the most important public interest benefit of
this merger turns out to be nothing more than a sham.”

News Corp. owns a vast array of
television outlets – including many which feature highly coveted
regional sports programming. The acquisition of DirecTV will give
News Corp even more bargaining clout when it negotiates
retransmission fees with cable and satellite competitors. Even the
FCC recognized that this was a problem. In approving the merger, the
FCC required that “its Fox subsidiary offer
its programming to other cable and satellite operators on the same
as it does to DirecTV.” The FCC also required that News
Corp. accept “arbitration of any disputes” and must continue to
provide programming while the dispute is being resolved. One
problem: “the
benefits of these conditions disappear without a trace after six

When News Corp. pitched the merger to the FCC it
claimed that the merger “will give them the scale and scope to
compete more effectively.”  But News Corp. failed to
“demonstrate that any
of these alleged savings would be passed on to consumers
nor did
they evince great enthusiasm for doing so.” News Corp. produced very
little data as to how the transaction “could possibly discipline
rising cable rates.” FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said that the
likelihood that News Corp’s acquisition of the FCC would lower
prices for consumers “is so
remote as to be invisible

Ever wonder how Murdoch usually gets what he
wants? News Corp. spent nearly
$10 million on lobbying from 1999 to 2002
. Murdoch himself has
met personally with FCC commissioners and key lawmakers several
times. For the 2004 election, News Corp. has already contributed
$200,000. For the 2000 and 2002 cycles the company’s contributions
exceeded $1.7 million dollars.  To read more about Murdoch’s
impact on the Bush Administration, see the Murdoch item in the
December 2nd edition of the Progress

The Bush Administration has announced
plans to “transmit news footage from Iraq for local TV outlets in
an attempt to supplement media coverage
from that war-torn
country.” The government produced programming is “designed to put a
more positive spin on events and circumvent the major networks.” It
was created in response to “White House concern that coverage of
Iraq had focused disproportionately on the casualty count” – and
news stations are outraged. Says one news editor, “I’m kind of
appalled by it. I think it’s very troubling I think the government
has no business being in the news business.” But is coverage really
biased against the Administration? Editor and Publisher magazine
asks the question: “When
will the press stop circulating dubious or fabricated claims

whether from Bush administration officials or intelligence

The Soft Underbelly

According to the
Budget Office
, it turns out we can’t have our cake and eat it,
too. As a new report shows, the country has to either radically rein
in spending or increase taxes unless it wants to be hit with giant
deficits and “soaring public debt.” In fact, the CBO concluded,
“Unless taxation reaches levels that are unprecedented in the United
States, current spending policies will probably be financially
over the next 50 years.” And while the Bush
Administration has said that economic growth will outpace the
deficits created by its tax cuts, CBO says “the problem is so
immense that economic growth alone will not be enough to solve it.”
And the country has lost the luxury of time in dealing with the
problem: “‘The longer that
lawmakers delay
acting to counter an unsustainable budgetary
situation, the larger the spending cuts or tax increases will
eventually have to be,’ the 60-page study warned.” See American
Progress’s perspectives on current fiscal policies HERE.

Yesterday, “more
than 90,000 people
who have been out of work for months [lost]
their federal benefits” as “the program to aid the long-term
unemployed expire[d].” While many progressive lawmakers demanded
Congress and the President extend the jobless benefits, both
refused, and the cutoffs began on December 21 – and they affect a
broad swath of people. According to Maurice Emsellem, public policy
director for the National Employment Law Project, “It’s a really
diverse group of people who are running out of benefits —
higher-income, dot-commers, lower-wage workers, and manufacturing
employees. It’s people from every industry, from all
states…Whatever’s going on with the economy, it’s not translating
into significant job growth.”

Conservatives like Tom “Nothing
is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes
” DeLay
claim there is “no
” to extend benefits to help these struggling Americans.
However, at the same time, the House passed an extension for the
temporary tax breaks designed to provide relief for corporations
during the economic crisis. According to the Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities
, “The House approach implies that corporations
need continued support amidst a still-weak economy, but that
laid-off workers do not. This is despite the fact that firms might
not use the tax breaks to hire new workers.” Even by Scrooge
standards, this doesn’t make economic sense: A study by concluded
that, as a general rule, “each dollar of new federal expenditures
for unemployment compensation generated an increase in…GDP of
$1.73.” The study found, by contrast, that “for each dollar used
for…corporate tax breaks…GDP would rise less than

Why are so many workers being left out of the
economic recovery? According to the
, “while profits have shot up as a percentage of national
income, reaching their highest level since the mid-1960’s, labor’s
share is shrinking. Not since World War II has the distribution been
so lopsided in the aftermath of a recession.” Employment rolls are
down (2.4 million jobs smaller than when the recession began in
March 2001), and the average hourly wage is “rising at an annual
rate of less than 2%, barely enough to keep up with inflation, mild
as it is now.” More and more technological jobs are “offshoring
to India and China, where employees will work for about $20,000 less
than here in the states. As the bargaining power of labor has
deteriorated over the past decade (thanks to union-busters like
Wal-Mart), workers as a whole have suffered the hit. “Rather than
increasing output per worker, many companies maintained existing
output and raised the productivity growth rate by getting rid of
workers.” Read University of Georgia guest columnist Jeffrey
Wenger’s “Jobless Recovery” column HERE.

As workers remain outside of the recovery
loop and require more services from the states, decreased tax
revenues in the states have made that harder to achieve. In many
cases, something’s got to give. Unfortunately for six states, that
“something” is health care for poor kids. According to the Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities
, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Montana
and Utah “have stopped enrolling eligible children in their State
Children’s Health Insurance Programs” due to increased budget
pressures. The result? Tens of thousands of kids left uninsured.
“Because three of the six states with freezes do not maintain
waiting lists, it is impossible to know exactly how many children
nationally are affected by the freezes.” Florida’s waiting list
contained more than 44,000 eligible children as of November

Blog Entry of the
Hit and Run

though, if we did see holiday attacks that ‘rival’ or
‘exceed’ 9/11, would there be any political will whatever to hold
the line on civil liberties? There’s been a gradual return to sanity
among many of the legislators who voted for PATRIOT, and moves to
repeal provisions that threaten privacy without making us
appreciably safer. An attack won’t change the wisdom of those
provisions, but it’d likely make that momentum evaporate.” (Full
Entry HERE)

Email your nominations
for blog entry of the day to

President Bush’s plan to improve schools through the No Child
Left Behind bill is meeting with displeasure by the states
trying to implement it without proper funding. In Pennsylvania,
one school district is suing the Pennsylvania Department of
Education “to prevent the state from imposing any sanctions
until it receives financial assistance that fully funds the
cost of complying with the federal law.” Massachusetts
Superintendent William Travis claims the requirement of
teacher “certification as required under the federal No Child
Left Behind Act is another example of a mandate minus money.”
The state of Utah
is considering turning its back on the legislation altogether
because of funding issues.

The Justice Department has been touting “a list of more than
280 cases that the department cites as evidence that it is
winning the war on terrorism.” The list has been “regularly
highlighted by Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials
in speeches and congressional testimony, and even by President
Bush.” But when the LA
asked for documentation of the Justice Department
claims the “department declined to provide a complete
accounting of the terrorism-related prosecutions that Ashcroft
and others cite.” After the LA Times filed a Freedom of
Information Act request they received “a highly redacted
accounting covering only about half the number that Ashcroft
trumpets.” Included in that list were “two New Jersey men,
operators of small grocery stores, who were convicted of
accepting hundreds of boxes of stolen breakfast cereal, in a
crime that occurred 16 months before the terrorist
hijackings.” A Justice Department spokesman admitted that some
of the cases included in the count “don’t necessarily involve
terrorists or people convicted of terrorism-related

has named the American soldier, “who bears the
duty of ‘living with and dying for a country’s most fateful
decisions,'” this year’s Person of the Year. Maybe the U.S.
government needs to read the article. According to CBS news,
the U.S. is forcing wounded soldiers out of the Army while
making it harder for veterans’ rights groups to get
information used to help the troops plead their case. As
wounded soldiers fight against being elbowed out of the Army
due to their disabilities, one activist group trying to help
them has been faced with a new wall of secrecy. While he
usually has easy access to wounded soldiers, David Gorman,
executive director of Disabled American Veterans, says, “I
don’t know if it’s a clouded secret about who’s coming back,
who’s there, the nature of their disabilities, the nature of
their wounds or not but there is not the kind of unfettered
access that we used to have at Walter Reed.” As explanation,
“a spokesman for Walter Reed Army Medical Center says the
restricted access is the result of post 9/11 security concerns
and new federal guidelines protecting patient privacy, which
by coincidence took
effect just as the war in Iraq was starting
.” For more on
how our troops are being mistreated, see this American
Progress backgrounder

also reports that the “commission investigating
the 9/11 attacks continues to be at odds with the White House
over access to key information and witnesses. Two government
sources tell TIME that National Security Adviser Condoleezza
Rice is arguing over ground rules for her appearance in part
because she does not want to testify under oath or, according
to one source, in public.” As the commission delves into 9/11,
Rice faces tough questions. Rice made a comment last year that
no one “could have predicted that they would try to use
a…hijacked airplane as a missile.” It was later revealed that
“there was years of intelligence about Al Qaeda’s interest in
airplane attacks.”

state is holding strong to its commitment to kids: the state
of Maine has a revolutionary way of addressing the education
problems in the country – a first-in-the-nation program to provide students with
. Former Gov. Angus King “proposed Maine’s
revolutionary laptop program in 2000, and now every
seventh- and eighth-grader
in state public schools is
provided with a laptop computer.” The group of business
leaders and educators that made this happen now “hopes to
raise enough money to add ninth-graders next year and one
grade each year thereafter until students in grades seven
through 12 have laptop computers as part of their education.”
The program to give every student the use of a free Apple
iBook will eventually cost about $18 to $25 million – or 1% of
the money spent on education per year – and carries a lot of
bang for the buck. According to the Maine
Education Policy Research Institute
, the “mid-year
evidence indicates that the laptop program is having many
positive effects on teachers and their instruction, and on
students’ engagement and learning” and “82.7 percent of the
students said the laptops improved their school work.”
Cash-strapped Maine faces fiscal pressure (the shortfall in
Medicaid alone is $113 million), but so far current Gov.
John Baldacci
has resisted cutting the program, saying
he’s “determined” to keep the laptop program alive.

Plenty of progressives talk about making a
difference in their communities; here’s a guy doing it. David
Eggers, best-selling author of A Heartbreaking Work of
Staggering Genius and founder of the cutting-edge literary
society McSweeney’s,
has turned his time and talent to helping school kids. The
result is the phenomenal 826 Valencia. “Called
826 Valencia (after its street address), the
learning emporium
has a reading room done in
Moroccan-style furnishings where young people can study. There
is also a college-scholarship program for students interested
in writing. Eggers and about 400 volunteers teach writing and
comics creation, run workshops on SAT preparation and help
kids launch student publications. They deploy 20 to 30 tutors
at a time into classrooms at the request of teachers for
one-on-one work on student writing.”

According to the Center for American Progress, “The
Administration has opened yet another front in its ongoing
battle to undo years of environmental, health and safety
protections.” The newest salvo: The OMB
has proposed
that independent research on environmental
regulation be subjected to peer review, while research funded
by industries is given “considerably more weight.” The two
problems with this: “First, by OMB design, the peer review
panels would slant toward industry. The proposal warns
agencies away from using panelists who have received federal
funding for research, and from those who are deemed
sympathetic to regulation, thus shrinking the universe of
eligible non-industry researchers. Second, research conducted
by industry for such things as pesticide-licensing or to
request permission to fill in a wetlands area as part of a
construction project would simply be exempt from peer review.”
According to Rep.
Henry Waxman
, “the OMB proposal is a wolf in sheep’s
clothing. Under the guise of promoting sound science, OMB is
advancing a far-reaching policy that will impede efforts to
protect health and the environment and open the door to
conflicts of interest in the regulatory process.”

– “WE” GOT ‘EM?
According to Kurdish newspapers, the
U.S. have been a little hasty in taking credit for the capture
of Saddam Hussein last week. “Washington’s claims that
brilliant US intelligence work led to the capture of Saddam
Hussein are
being challenged by reports
sourced in Iraq’s Kurdish
media claiming that its militia set the circumstances in which
the US merely had to go to a farm identified by the Kurds to
bag the fugitive former president…Little attention was paid
to a line in Pentagon briefings that some of the Kurdish
militia might have been in on what was described as a “joint
operation”; or to a statement by Ahmed Chalabi, head of the
Iraq National Congress, which said that “Qusrat and his PUK
forces had provided vital information and more.” ABC
that, according to one British tabloid, “Saddam
Hussein was captured by US troops only after he had been taken
prisoner by Kurdish forces, drugged and abandoned ready for
American soldiers to recover him.”

that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich refuses to be
cowed, leading the fight for cheaper drugs for Illinois
residents. He “will ask the federal authorities to permit the
state to ignore federal law and buy prescription drugs from
Canada, aides said Sunday.” Blagojevich, who has been trying
to work within the parameters of the law, will ask HHS Sec.
Tommy Thompson to allow “Illinois to be designated for the
nation’s first ‘federally approved drug importation pilot
program.’…Under his proposal, the federal authorities would
waive the law and allow Illinois to save what the governor
estimates could be up to $90.7 million a year by buying
Canadian medicine for state employees and retirees.” Peter
Pitts, FDA associate commissioner for external relations,
claims “safety…is his agency’s central concern.” However,
Chicago Tribune on 9/23/03 reported that, when asked to back
up these safety claims, William Hubbard, another senior
associate commissioner at the FDA, was forced to admit that he
“knows of no” examples of seniors being harmed from buying
cheaper medicines from Canada, and the agency’s director of
pharmacy affairs Tom McGinnis said, “I can’t think of one
thing off the top of my head where somebody died or somebody
got put in the hospital because of these medications. I
just don’t know if there’s anything like


For the December 23 Holiday Edition of the Progress Report, we
will be formulating a list of those who have been naughty and
those who have been nice over the last year. Please submit
entries – with justifications/links to background material –

Why the supposed “recovery” is not helping average

National Security Adviser Condi Rice might refuse to testify
before independent commission.

New state-by-state report on health care

BLOGS: Progress Report unveils its new “Blog
of the day” section, highlighting bloggers each day and
soliciting submissions. See

A permanent link to this Progress
Report can be found in the archives.

 Daily Grill

“We’ve upset the
al-Qaeda networks to the point that they can’t do anything
right now.”

– House Majority
Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), 12/21/03

officials said that because fresh intelligence suggests al
Qaeda is planning multiple catastrophic terrorist attacks in
the United States, they were raising the national threat alert
status to ‘high risk,’ or code orange.”

– WP, 12/22/03


Because Congress
and the Administration refused to act, 90,000
will be cut off from unemployment benefits during
the Christmas week.





Letters the Troops Have Sent Me… by Michael Moore

December 22, 2003 at 8:07 pm
Contributed by:



a must-read. Oh, and did you hear about the new media station that our
government is going to start with your money, so you won’t have to miss
their slant on the news and have all those pesky journalists in the way?




—–Original Message—–
Sent: Saturday, December 20,
2003 1:24 PM
Subject: Letters the Troops Have Sent Me… by Michael

Letters the Troops Have Sent Me… by Michael Moore

December 19, 2003

As we approach the holidays, I’ve been thinking a lot about our kids who are
in the armed forces serving in Iraq. I’ve received hundreds of letters from our
troops in Iraq — and they are telling me something very different from what we
are seeing on the evening news.

What they are saying to me, often eloquently and in heart-wrenching words, is
that they were lied to — and this war has nothing to do with the security of
the United States of America.

I’ve written back and spoken on the phone to many of them and I’ve asked a
few of them if it would be OK if I posted their letters on my website and
they’ve said yes. They do so at great personal risk (as they may face
disciplinary measures for exercising their right to free speech). I thank them
for their bravery.

Lance Corporal George Batton of the United States Marine Corps, who returned
from Iraq in September (after serving in MP company Alpha), writes the

You’d be surprised at how many of the guys I talked to in my company and
others believed that the president’s scare about Saddam’s WMD was a bunch of
bullshit and that the real motivation for this war was only about money. There
was also a lot of crap that many companies, not just marine companies, had to go
through with not getting enough equipment to fulfill their missions when they
crossed the border. It was a miracle that our company did what it did the two
months it was staying in Iraq during the war…. We were promised to go home on
June 8th, and found out that it was a lie and we got stuck doing missions for an
extra three months. Even some of the most radical conservatives in our company
including our company gunnery sergeant got a real bad taste in their mouth about
the Marine corps, and maybe even president Bush.

Here’s what Specialist Mike Prysner of the U.S. Army wrote to me:

Dear Mike — I’m writing this without knowing if it’ll ever get to
you…I’m writing it from the trenches of a war (that’s still going on,) not
knowing why I’m here or when I’m leaving. I’ve toppled statues and vandalized
portraits, while wearing an American flag on my sleeve, and struggling to learn
how to understand… I joined the army as soon as I was eligible – turned down a
writing scholarship to a state university, eager to serve my country, ready to
die for the ideals I fell in love with. Two years later I found myself moments
away from a landing onto a pitch black airstrip, ready to charge into a country
I didn’t believe I belonged in, with your words (from the Oscars) repeating in
my head. My time in Iraq has always involved finding things to convince myself
that I can be proud of my actions; that I was a part of something just. But no
matter what pro-war argument I came up with, I pictured my smirking
commander-in-chief, thinking he was fooling a nation…

An Army private, still in Iraq and wishing to remain anonymous, writes:

I would like to tell you how difficult it is to serve under a man who was
never elected. Because he is the president and my boss, I have to be very
careful as to who and what i say about him. This also concerns me a great
deal… to limit the military’s voice is to limit exactly what America stands
for… and the greater percentage of us feel completely underpowered. He
continually sets my friends, my family, and several others in a kind of danger
that frightens me beyond belief. I know several other soldiers who feel the same
way and discuss the situation with me on a regular basis.

Jerry Oliver of the U.S. Army, who has just returned from Baghdad,

I have just returned home from “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. I spent 5
months in Baghdad, and a total of 3 years in the U.S. Army. I was recently
discharged with Honorable valor and returned to the States only to be horrified
by what I’ve seen my country turn into. I’m now 22 years old and have discovered
America is such a complicated place to live, and moreover, Americans are almost
oblivious to what’s been happening to their country. America has become “1984.”
Homeland security is teaching us to spy on one another and forcing us to become
anti-social. Americans are willingly sacrificing our freedoms in the name of
security, the same Freedoms I was willing to put my life on the line for. The
constitution is in jeopardy. As Gen. Tommy Franks said, (broken down of course)
One more terrorist attack and the constitution will hold no meaning.

And a Specialist in the U.S. Army wrote to me this week about the capture of
Saddam Hussein:

Wow, 130,000 troops on the ground, nearly 500 deaths and over a billion
dollars a day, but they caught a guy living in a hole. Am I supposed to be

There are lots more of these, straight from the soldiers who have been on the
front lines and have seen first hand what this war is really about.

I have also heard from their friends and relatives, and from other veterans.
A mother writing on behalf of her son (whose name we have withheld) wrote:

My son said that this is the worst it’s been since the “end” of the war.
He said the troops have been given new rules of engagement, and that they are to
“take out” any persons who aggress on the Americans, even if it results in
“collateral” damage. Unfortunately, he did have to kill someone in self defense
and was told by his commanding officer ‘Good kill.’

“My son replied ‘You just don’t get it, do you?’

“Here we are…Vietnam all over again.

From a 56 year old Navy veteran, relating a conversation he had with a young
man who was leaving for Iraq the next morning:

What disturbed me most was when I asked him what weapons he carried as a
truck driver. He told me the new M-16, model blah blah blah, stuff never made
sense to me even when I was in. I asked him what kind of side arm they gave him
and his fellow drivers. He explained, “Sir, Reservists are not issued side arms
or flack vests as there was not enough money to outfit all the Reservists, only
Active Personnel”. I was appalled to say the least.

“Bush is a jerk agreed, but I can’t believe he is this big an Asshole not
providing protection and arms for our troops to fight HIS WAR!

From a 40-year old veteran of the Marine Corps:

Why is it that we are forever waving the flag of sovereignty, EXCEPT when
it concerns our financial interests in other sovereign states? What gives us the
right to tell anyone else how they should govern themselves, and live their
lives? Why can’t we just lead the world by example? I mean no wonder the world
hates us, who do they get to see? Young assholes in uniforms with guns, and
rich, old, white tourists! Christ, could we put up a worse first

(To read more from my Iraq mailbag — and to read these above letters in full
— go to my website:

Remember back in March, once the war had started, how risky it was to make
any anti-war comments to people you knew at work or school or, um, at awards
ceremonies? One thing was for sure — if you said anything against the war, you
had BETTER follow it up immediately with this line: “BUT I SUPPORT THE TROOPS!”
Failing to do that meant that you were not only unpatriotic and un-American,
your dissent meant that YOU were putting our kids in danger, that YOU might be
the reason they lose their lives. Dissent was only marginally tolerated IF you
pledged your “support” for our soldiers.

Of course, you needed to do no such thing. Why? Because people like you have
ALWAYS supported “the troops.” Who are these troops? They are our poor, our
working class. Most of them enlisted because it was about the only place to get
a job or receive the guarantee of a college education. You, my good friends,
have ALWAYS, through your good works, your contributions, your activism, your
votes, SUPPORTED these very kids who come from the other side of the tracks. You
NEVER need to be defensive when it comes to your “support” for the “troops” —
you are the only ones who have ALWAYS been there for them.

It is Mr. Bush and his filthy rich cronies — whose sons and daughters will
NEVER see a day in a uniform — they are the ones who do NOT support our troops.
Our soldiers joined the military and, in doing so, offered to give THEIR LIVES
for US if need be. What a tremendous gift that is — to be willing to die so
that you and I don’t have to! To be willing to shed their blood so that we may
be free. To serve in our place, so that WE don’t have to serve. What a
tremendous act of selflessness and generosity! Here they are, these 18, 19, and
20-year olds, most of whom have had to suffer under an unjust economic system
that is set up NOT to benefit THEM — these kids who have lived their first 18
years in the worst parts of town, going to the most miserable schools, living in
danger and learning often to go without, watching their parents struggle to get
by and then be humiliated by a system that is always looking to make life harder
for them by cutting their benefits, their education, their libraries, their fire
and police, their future.

And then, after this miserable treatment, these young men and women, instead
of coming after US to demand a more just society, they go and join the army to
DEFEND us and our way of life! It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? They not only
deserve our thanks, they deserve a big piece of the pie that we dine on, those
of us who never have to worry about taking a bullet while we fret over which
Palm Pilot to buy the nephew for Christmas.

In fact, all that these kids in the army ask for in return from us is our
promise that we never send them into harm’s way unless it is for the DEFENSE of
our nation, to protect us from being killed by “the enemy.”

And that promise, my friends, has been broken. It has been broken in the
worst way imaginable. We have sent them into war NOT to defend us, not to
protect us, not to spare the slaughter of innocents or allies. We have sent them
to war so Bush and Company can control the second largest supply of oil in the
world. We have sent them into war so that the Vice President’s company can bilk
the government for billions of dollars. We have sent them into war based on a
lie of weapons of mass destruction and the lie that Saddam helped plan 9-11 with
Osama bin Laden.

By doing all of this, Mr. Bush has proven that it is HE who does not support
our troops. It is HE who has put their lives in danger, and it is HE who is
responsible for the nearly 500 American kids who have now died for NO honest,
decent reason whatsoever.

The letters I’ve received from the friends and relatives of our kids over
there make it clear that they are sick of this war and they are scared to death
that they may never see their loved ones again. It breaks my heart to read these
letters. I wish there was something I could do. I wish there was something we
all could do.

Maybe there is. As Christmas approaches (and Hanukkah begins tonight), I
would like to suggest a few things each of us could do to make the holidays a
bit brighter — if not safer — for our troops and their families back home.

1. Many families of soldiers are hurting financially, especially those
families of reservists and National Guard who are gone from the full-time jobs
(“just one weekend a month and we’ll pay for your college education!”). You can
help them by contacting the Armed Forces Emergency Relief Funds at
(ignore the rah-rah military stuff and remember that this is money that will
help out these families who are living in near-poverty). Each branch has their
own relief fund, and the money goes to help the soldiers and families with
paying for food and rent, medical and dental expenses, personal needs when pay
is delayed, and funeral expenses. You can find more ways to support the troops,
from buying groceries for their families to donating your airline miles so they
can get home for a visit, by going here.

2. Thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed by our bombs and
indiscriminate shooting. We must help protect them and their survivors. You can
do so by supporting the Quakers’ drive to provide infant care kits to Iraqi
hospitals—find out more here: You can also
help the people of Iraq by supporting the Iraqi Red Crescent Society—here’s how
to contact them:, or you can make an online
donation through the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies by going here:

3. With 130,000 American men and women currently in Iraq, every community in
this country has either sent someone to fight in this war or is home to family
members of someone fighting in this war. Organize care packages through your
local community groups, activist groups, and churches and send them to these
young men and women. The military no longer accepts packages addressed to “Any
Soldier,” so you’ll have to get their names first. Figure out who you can help
from your area, and send them books, CDs, games, footballs, gloves,
blankets—anything that may make their extended (and extended and extended…) stay
in Iraq a little brighter and more comfortable. You can also sponsor care
packages to American troops through the USO:

4. Want to send a soldier a free book or movie? I’ll start by making mine
available for free to any soldier serving in Iraq. Just send me their name and
address in Iraq (or, if they have already left Iraq, where they are now) and the
first thousand emails I get at will receive a free copy of
“Dude…” or a free “Bowling…” DVD.

5. Finally, we all have to redouble our efforts to end this war and bring the
troops home. That’s the best gift we could give them — get them out of harm’s
way ASAP and insist that the U.S. go back to the UN and have them take over the
rebuilding of Iraq (with the US and Britain funding it, because, well, we have
to pay for our mess). Get involved with your local peace group—you can find one
near where you live by visiting United for Peace, at: and the Vietnam Veterans Against
War: A large demonstration is being
planned for March 20, check here for more details: To get a
“Bring Them Home Now” bumper sticker or a poster for your yard, go here:
Also, back only anti-war candidates for Congress and President (Kucinich, Dean,
Clark, Sharpton).

I know it feels hopeless. That’s how they want us to feel. Don’t give up. We
owe it to these kids, the troops WE SUPPORT, to get them the hell outta there
and back home so they can help organize the drive to remove the war profiteers
from office next November.

To all who serve in our armed forces, to their parents and spouses and loved
ones, we offer to you the regrets of millions and the promise that we will right
this wrong and do whatever we can to thank you for offering to risk your lives
for us. That your life was put at risk for Bush’s greed is a disgrace and a
travesty, the likes of which I have not seen in my lifetime.

Please be safe, come home soon, and know that our thoughts and prayers are
with you during this season when many of us celebrate the birth of the prince of


Michael Moore 


Your Silence Is Appreciated

December 22, 2003 at 8:06 pm
Contributed by:


Here’s one last volley
for 2003. Dare I say, a year that will live in infamy. Let’s hope that the next
one brings an increasingly aware and politically motivated populace; a
resurgence of peace, justice, and truth; and above all, the replacement of our
country’s leadership with men and women who support the values of individual
working people over those of corporate raider barons. (Hey, we can always

Here’s the first. For those of
us about to board flights during the holidays, just remember one
thing: your silence is not only
appreciated, it’s clearly the fastest way to get where you’re going. While this
is no longer the land of free speech, you’ll clam it if you know what’s good for


Coffee, Tea or Handcuffs?
  By Steven Mikulan

  LA Weekly

  Friday 19 December 2003


just for fun, here’s your chance to try your hand at being an airport security


does anybody else feel like boarding a train instead, with no hassles, no
luggage screens, no delays, and a comfortable seat? Yeah, you think it will take
you twice as long on a train? Did you take into account your 11 hour ordeal with
Homeland Security?


White House Covers Tracks by Removing Information

December 18, 2003 at 3:38 pm
Contributed by:


This one pretty much speaks for itself. Forwarded for those of you who
haven’t elected to sign up for the Daily Mislead yourselves.

—–Original Message—–
From: The Daily Mislead []
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2003 12:49 PM
Subject: White House Covers Tracks by Removing Information



In a high-tech cover-up, the Washington Post this morning reports the White
House is actively scrubbing government websites clean of any of its own
previous statements that have now proven to be untrue. Specifically, on
April 23, 2003, the president sent his top international aid official on
national television to reassure the public that the cost of war and
reconstruction in Iraq would be modest. USAID Director Andrew Natsios,
echoing other Administration officials, told Nightline that, "In terms of
the American taxpayers contribution, [$1.7 billion] is it for the US. The
American part of this will be $1.7 billion. We have no plans for any
further-on funding for this."

The president has requested more than $166 billion in funding for the war
and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan this year. But instead of
admitting that he misled the nation about the cost of war, the president has
allowed the State Department "to purge the comments by Natsios from the
State Department’s Web site. The transcript, and links to it, have
vanished." (The link where the transcript existed until it caused
embarrassment was

When confronted with the dishonest whitewash, the administration decided to
lie. A Bush spokesman said the administration was forced to remove the
statements because, "there was going to be a cost" charged by ABC for
keeping the transcript on the government’s site. But as the Post notes,
"other government Web sites, including the State and Defense departments,
routinely post interview transcripts, even from ‘Nightline,’" and according
to ABC News, "there is no cost."

This story is not the first time the President has tried to hide critical
information from the American public. For instance, the president opposed
the creation of the independent 9/11 investigative commission, and has
refused to provide the commission with critical information, even under
threat of subpoena. Similarly, after making substantial budget cuts, the
president ordered the government to stop publishing its regular report
detailing those cuts to states. And when confronted with a continuing
unemployment crisis, the president ordered the Department of Labor to stop
publishing its regular mass layoff report.

It is also not the first time the administration has sought to revise
history and public records when those records become incriminating. As the
Post reports "After the insurrection in Iraq proved more stubborn than
expected, the White House edited the original headline on its Web site of
President Bush’s May 1 speech, "President Bush Announces Combat Operations
in Iraq Have Ended," to insert the word ‘Major’ before combat." And the
"Justice Department recently redacted criticism of the department in a
consultant’s report that had been posted on its Web site."

Read the Mis-Lead –>


Subscribe to the Daily Mislead! Go to and enter
your e-mail address in the "Receive the Daily Mislead" box in the
top-left corner of the page.

OPEC wants aid if world shifts to renewable energies

December 16, 2003 at 1:39 am
Contributed by:


Can ya believe it? Just as the US digs in its feet again and refuses to participate with the rest of the world in controlling global warming, now “delegates said that Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, wanted promises of aid if Kyoto spurs a shift to renewable energies like tidal, solar or wind energy at the expense of fossil fuels.” Nice, huh? I guess you can’t blame them–they’ve got a serious cash flow problem and it won’t get any better until the price of oil goes up substantially. Still, the very idea that the public should pay off oil producing nations for not producing oil, well, that’s beyond the pale. Then again, that’s exactly what we do with farm subsidies, isn’t it?
OPEC wants aid if world shifts to renewable energies

Friday, December 12, 2003 Posted: 9:35 AM EST (1435 GMT)

Under the Cover of Darkness

December 15, 2003 at 1:42 pm
Contributed by:



If you haven’t quite been able
to piece together the shenanigans that the House has been pulling in pushing
through its legislation, read this piece by U.S. Congressman
Sherrod Brown
. All of these major bills were pushed through after
midnight, on a Friday, in order to avoid the spotlight of the media. If this
isn’t an intentional subversion of the democratic process, I don’t know what is.
I hope conservative voters who have a conscience will help to vote these guys
out of office next time. No matter your party affiliation, how can anyone
support a representative who doesn’t have the guts to do his dirty work in the
light of day?

Under The Cover Of

U.S. Congressman Sherrod
Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, is the ranking member on the Committee on
Energy and the Commerce Subcommittee on

Editor’s Note: This column was
originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and is reprinted with permission.

Never before has the House of
Representatives operated in such secrecy:

At 2:54 a.m. on a Friday in
March, the House cut veterans benefits by three votes.

At 2:39 a.m. on a
Friday in April, the House slashed education and health care by five votes.

At 1:56 a.m. on a Friday in May, the House passed the Leave No
Millionaire Behind tax-cut bill by a handful of votes.

At 2:33 a.m. on a
Friday in June, the House passed the Medicare privatization and prescription
drug bill by one vote.

At 12:57 a.m. on a Friday in July, the House
eviscerated Head Start by one vote.

And then, after returning from
summer recess, at 12:12 a.m. on a Friday in October, the House voted $87 billion
for Iraq.

Always in the middle of the night. Always after the press had
passed their deadlines. Always after the American people had turned off the news
and gone to bed.

What did the public see? At best, Americans read a
small story with a brief explanation of the bill and the vote count in
Saturday’s papers.

But what did the public miss? They didn’t see the
House votes, which normally take no more than 20 minutes, dragging on for as
long as an hour as members of the Republican leadership trolled for enough votes
to cobble together a majority.

They didn’t see GOP leaders stalking the
floor for whoever was not in line. They didn’t see Speaker Dennis Hastert and
Majority Leader Tom DeLay coerce enough Republican members into switching their
votes to produce the desired result.

In other words, they didn’t see the
subversion of democracy.

And late last month, they did it again. The
most sweeping changes to Medicare in its 38-year history were forced through the
House at 5:55 on a Saturday morning.

The debate started at midnight. The
roll call began at 3:00 a.m. Most of us voted within the typical 20 minutes.
Normally, the speaker would have gaveled the vote closed. But not this time; the
Republican-driven bill was losing.

By 4 a.m., the bill had been defeated
216-218, with only one member, Democrat David Wu, not voting. Still, the speaker
refused to gavel the vote closed.

Then the assault began.

Hastert, DeLay, Republican Whip Roy Blount, Ways and Means Chairman Bill
Thomas, Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin—all searched the floor for
stray Republicans to bully.

I watched them surround Cincinnati’s Steve
Chabot, trying first a carrot, then a stick; but he remained defiant. Next, they
aimed at retiring Michigan congressman Nick Smith, whose son is running to
succeed him. They promised support if he changed his vote to yes and threatened
his son’s future if he refused. He stood his ground.

Many of the two
dozen Republicans who voted against the bill had fled the floor. One Republican
hid in the Democratic cloakroom.

By 4:30, the browbeating had moved into
the Republican cloakroom, out of sight of C-SPAN cameras and the insomniac
public. Republican leaders woke President George W. Bush, and a White House aide
passed a cell phone from one recalcitrant member to another in the cloakroom.

At 5:55, two hours and 55 minutes after the roll call had begun—twice as
long as any previous vote in the history of the U.S. House of
Representatives—two obscure western Republicans emerged from the cloakroom. They
walked, ashen and cowed, down the aisle to the front of the chamber, scrawled
their names and district numbers on green cards to change their votes and
surrendered the cards to the clerk.

The speaker gaveled the vote closed;
Medicare privatization had passed.

You can do a lot in the middle of the
night, under the cover of darkness.

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Published: Dec 11

Bush Seeks Help of Allies Barred From Iraq Deals

December 11, 2003 at 8:19 am
Contributed by:



In another stroke of diplomatic
genius, the Bush administration has simultaneously asked the leaders of France,
Germany and Russia to forgive Iraq’s debts, just a day after it announced that
it was excluding those countries and others from $18 billion in Iraqi
reconstruction projects. But, according to the DoD, “Nobody had the intent of
being punitive when this was being developed.” Riiight. Tell us another one!


As one alert reader quipped,
“Sounds like we’ve got a real consensus in Washington.” Yeah.




The New York Times In America

December 11, 2003DIPLOMACY
Bush Seeks Help of Allies Barred From Iraq

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 — President Bush found himself in
the awkward position on Wednesday of calling the leaders of France,
Germany and Russia to ask them to forgive Iraq’s debts, just a day after
the Pentagon said it was excluding those countries and others from $18
billion in American-financed Iraqi reconstruction projects.

White House officials were fuming about the timing and the tone of the
Pentagon’s directive, even while conceding that they had approved the
Pentagon policy of limiting contracts to 63 countries that have given the
United States political or military aid in Iraq.

Many countries excluded from the list, including close allies like
Canada, reacted angrily on Wednesday to the Pentagon action. They were
incensed, in part, by the Pentagon’s explanation in a memorandum that the
restrictions were required “for the protection of the essential security
interests of the United States.”

The Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, when asked about the
Pentagon decision, responded by ruling out any debt write-off for Iraq.

The Canadian deputy prime minister, John Manley, suggested crisply that
“it would be difficult” to add to the $190 million already given for
reconstruction in Iraq.

White House officials said Mr. Bush and his aides had been surprised by
both the timing and the blunt wording of the Pentagon’s declaration. But
they said the White House had signed off on the policy, after a committee
of deputies from a number of departments and the National Security Council
agreed that the most lucrative contracts must be reserved for political or
military supporters.

Those officials apparently did not realize that the memorandum, signed
by Paul D. Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, would appear on a
Defense Department Web site hours before Mr. Bush was scheduled to ask
world leaders to receive James A. Baker III, the former treasury secretary
and secretary of state, who is heading up the effort to wipe out Iraq’s
debt. Mr. Baker met with the president on Wednesday.

Several of Mr. Bush’s aides said they feared that the memorandum would
undercut White House efforts to repair relations with allies who had
opposed the invasion of Iraq.

White House officials declined to say how Mr. Bush explained the
Pentagon policy to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, President
Jacques Chirac of France and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany.
France and Russia were two of the largest creditors of Saddam Hussein’s
government. But officials hinted, by the end of the day, that Mr. Baker
might be able to show flexibility to countries that write down Iraqi debt.

“I can’t imagine that if you are asking to do stuff for Iraq that this
is going to help,” a senior State Department official said late

A senior administration official described Mr. Bush as “distinctly
unhappy” about dealing with foreign leaders who had just learned of their
exclusion from the contracts.

Under the Pentagon rules, only companies whose countries are on the
American list of “coalition nations” are eligible to compete for the prime
contracts, though they could act as subcontractors. The result is that the
Solomon Islands, Uganda and Samoa may compete for the contracts, but
China, whose premier just left the White House with promises of an
expanded trade relationship, is excluded, along with Israel.

Several of Mr. Bush’s aides wondered why the administration had not
simply adopted a policy of giving preference to prime contracts to members
of the coalition, without barring any countries outright.

“What we did was toss away our leverage,” one senior American diplomat
said. “We could have put together a policy that said, `The more you help,
the more contracts you may be able to gain.’ ” Instead, the official said,
“we found a new way to alienate them.”

A senior official at the State Department was asked during an internal
meeting on Wednesday how he expected the move to affect the responses of
Russia, France and Germany to the American request. He responded, “Go ask
Jim Baker,” according another senior official, who said of Mr. Baker,
“He’s the one who’s going to be carrying the water, and he’s going to be
the one who finds out.”

In public, however, the White House defended the approach. Scott
McClellan, the White House spokesman, said “the United States and
coalition countries, as well as others that are contributing forces to the
efforts there, and the Iraqi people themselves are the ones that have been
helping and sacrificing to build a free and prosperous nation for the
Iraqi people.”

He said contracts stemming from aid to Iraq pledged by donor nations in
Madrid last month would be open to broad international competition.

Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said Wednesday that
while the bidding restriction applied to prime contracts, “there are very
few restrictions on subcontractors.”

He also said the World Bank and International Monetary Fund “may have
different, or their own, rules for how they contract.”

When the committee was drafting the policy, officials said, there was
some discussion about whether it would be wise to declare that excluding
noncoalition members was in the security interests of the United States.
As a matter of trade law, countries are often allowed to limit trade with
other nations on national security grounds.

“The intent was to give us the legal cover to make the decision,” one
official said.

But the phrase angered officials of other nations because it seemed to
suggest they were a security risk.

Moreover, the United States Trade Representative’s office said on
Wednesday that contracts with the occupation authority “are not covered by
international trade procurement obligations because the C.P.A. is not an
entity subject to these obligations.”

“Accordingly, there is no need to invoke the `essential security’
exception to our trade obligations,” the office added.

That raised the question of why Mr. Wolfowitz included the phrase.

The Pentagon was already recasting the policy on Wednesday.

“Nobody had the intent of being punitive when this was being
developed,” said Larry Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H.

“This is not a fixed, closed list,” he said. “This is meant to be
forward looking and potentially expansive.”


Greg Palast – "Baker Takes the Loaf"

December 9, 2003 at 8:57 am
Contributed by:


Here’s another blast from Palast, this time taking aim at James Baker and
his "restructuring" of Iraq’s finances. Boy, I wouldn’t want to be on the
business end of Palast’s pencil.


—–Original Message—–
From: []
Sent: Monday, December 08, 2003 7:11 PM
Subject: Baker Takes the Loaf

The President’s Business Partner Slices Up Iraq
by Greg Palast
Monday, December 8, 2003

Well, ho ho ho! It’s an early Christmas for James Baker III.

All year the elves at his law firm, Baker Botts of Texas, have been working
day and night to prevent the families of the victims of the September 11
attack from seeking information from Saudi Arabia on the Kingdom’s funding
of Al Qaeda fronts.

It’s tough work, but this week came the payoff when President Bush appointed
Baker, the firm’s senior partner, to "restructure" the debts of the nation
of Iraq.

And who will net the big bucks under Jim Baker’s plan? Answer: his client,
Saudi Arabia, which claims $30.7 billion due from Iraq plus $12 billion in
reparations from the First Gulf war.


Let’s ponder what’s going on here.

We are talking about something called "sovereign debt." And unless George
Bush has finally ‘fessed up and named himself Pasha of Iraq, he is not their
sovereign. Mr. Bush has no authority to seize control of that nation’s
assets nor its debts.

But our President is not going to let something as trivial as international
law stand in the way of a quick buck for Mr. Baker. To get around the wee
issue that Bush has no legal authority to mess with Iraq’s debt, the White
House has crafted a neat little subterfuge. The official press release says
the President has not appointed Mr. Baker. Rather Mr. Bush is "responding
to a request from the Iraqi Governing Council." That is, Bush is acting on
the authority of the puppet government he imposed on Iraqis at gunpoint.

I will grant the Iraqi ‘government’ has some knowledge of international
finance; its key member, Ahmed Chalabi, is a convicted bank swindler.

The Bush team must see the other advantage in having the rump rulers of Iraq
pretend to choose Mr. Baker; the US Senate will not have to review or
confirm the appointment. If you remember, Henry Kissinger ran away from the
September 11 commission with his consulting firm tucked between his legs
after the Senate demanded he reveal his client list. In the case of Jim
Baker, who will be acting as a de facto US Treasury secretary for
international affairs, our elected Congress will have no chance to ask him
who is paying his firm.… nor even require him to get off conflicting

This takes the Bush administration’ Conflicts-R-Us appointments process to a
new low.

Or maybe there’s no conflict at all. If you see Jim Baker’s new job as
working not to protect a new Iraqi democracy but to protect the loot of the
old theocracy of Saudi Arabia, the conflict disappears.

Iraq’s debt totals something on the order of $120 billion to $150 billion,
depending on who’s counting. And who’s counting is VERY important.

Much of the so-called debt to Saudi Arabia was given to Saddam Hussein to
fight a proxy war for the Saudis against their hated foe, the Shi’ia of
Iran. And as disclosed by a former Saudi diplomat, the kingdom’s sheiks
handed about $7 billion to Saddam under the table in the 1980’s to build an
"Islamic bomb."

Should Iraqis today and those not yet born have to be put in a debtor’s
prison to pay off the secret payouts to Saddam?

James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, says ‘No!’ Wolfensohn has
never been on my Christmas card list, but in this case he’s got it right:
Iraq should simply cancel $120 billion in debt.

Normally, the World Bank is in charge of post-war debt restructuring.
That’s why the official name of the World Bank is "International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development." This is the Bank’s expertise. Bush has
rushed Baker in to pre-empt the debt write-off the World Bank would
certainly promote.


Why is our President so concerned with the wishes of Mr. Baker’s clientele?
What does Bush owe Baker? Let me count the ways, beginning with the 2000

Just last week Baker said, "I fixed the election in Florida for George
Bush." That was the substance of his remarks last week to an audience of
Russian big wigs as reported to me by my somewhat astonished colleagues at
BBC television.

It was Baker, as consiglieri to the Bush family, who came up with the
strategy of maneuvering the 2000 Florida vote count into a Supreme Court
packed with politicos.

Baker’s claim to have fixed the election was not a confession; it was a
boast. He meant to dazzle current and potential clients about his Big In
with the Big Boy in the White House. Baker’s firm is already a top player
in the Great Game of seizing Caspian Sea oil. (An executive of Exxon-Mobil,
one of Baker Botts’s clients, has been charged with evading taxes on bribes
paid in Kazakhstan.)


Over the years, Jim Baker has taken responsibility for putting bread on the
Bush family table. As Senior Counsel to Carlyle, the arms-dealing
investment group, Baker arranged for the firm to hire both President Bush 41
after he was booted from the White House and President Bush 43 while his
daddy was still in office.

Come to think of it, maybe I’m being a bit too dismissive of the Iraqi
make-believe government. After all, it’s not as if George Bush were elected
by voters either. It would be more accurate to say that TWO puppet
governments have agreed to let the man who has always pulled the strings
come out from behind the curtain, take a bow, take charge — then take the
money and run.

Hear Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, today on Amy
Goodman’s Democracy Now. And listen to "WEAPON OF MASS INSTRUCTION – PALAST
LIVE AND UNCENSORED," the CD from Alternative Tentacles, available this week
only at

Turkeys on the Moon… from Michael Moore

December 9, 2003 at 12:31 am
Contributed by:



don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but ya think Michael Moore’s sounding a
bitter? See below.

We have Democratic candidates who are angry, and apparently
getting some traction for that; we have conservatives expressing puzzlement about why
they’re so angry; or whether or not that will
we have self-hating liberals apologizing for
their anger and conservative pundits leaping at any opportunity to turn an angry
word into a noose(ooooh! He said the F word! Ooooohhh!) I suppose we have a good
year (and hopefully no more!) of this acrimony to look forward to, and even more
invective to come. I just hope that our anger remains righteous, and doesn’t
become a mere posture. There is much to be rightly angry about, and it still
blows my mind that these issues are somehow seen as things that would only make
a liberal angry–don’t conservatives care about fiscal conservatism, leaving a
habitable world for their children, and enjoying a quality life of good health,
air, and water too?

who say the Democrats need to chill out their rhetoric (again, I’ve been one of
them) would do well to remember that, judging from the success of his work,
Michael Moore’s speaking for a lot of people out there.




—–Original Message—–

Turkeys on the Moon… from Michael

December 8, 2003

Dear Mr. Bush,

Well, it’s going
on two weeks now since your surprise visit to one of the two countries you now
run and, I have to say, I’m still warmed by the gesture. Man, take me along next
time! I understand only 13 members of the media went with you — and it turns
out only ONE of them was an actual reporter for a newspaper. But you did take
along FIVE photographers (hey, I get it, screw the words, it’s all about the
pictures!), a couple wire service guys, and a crew from the Fox News Channel
(fair and balanced!).

Then, I read in the paper this weekend that that
big turkey you were holding in Baghdad (you know, the picture that’s supposed to
replace the now-embarrassing footage of you on that aircraft carrier with the
sign “Mission Accomplished”) — well, it turns out that big, beautiful turkey of
yours was never eaten by the troops! It wasn’t eaten by anyone! That’s because
it wasn’t real! It was a STUNT turkey, brought in to look like a real edible
turkey for all those great camera angles.

Now I know some people will
say you are into props (like the one in the lower extremities of your flyboy
suit), but hey, I get it, this is theater! So what if it was a bogus turkey? The
whole trip was bogus, all staged to look like “news.” The fake honey glaze on
that bird wasn’t much different from the fake honey glaze that covers this war.
And the fake stuffing in the fake bird was just the right symbol for our country
during these times.
America loves fake honey glaze, it loves to
be stuffed, and, dammit, YOU knew that — that’s what makes you so in touch with
the people you lead!

It was also a good idea that you made the “press”
on that trip to
Baghdad pull the shades down on the plane.
No one in the media entourage complained. They like the shades pulled and they
like to be kept in the dark. It’s more fun that way. And, when you made them
take the batteries out of their cell phones so they wouldn’t be able to call
anyone, and they dutifully complied — that was genius! I think if you had told
them to put their hands on their heads and touch their noses with their tongues,
they would have done that, too! That’s how much they like you. You could have
played “Simon Says” the whole way over there. It wouldn’t have been that much
different from “Karl Says,” a game they LOVE to play every day with Mr. Rove.

Well, if you’re planning any surprises for Christmas, don’t forget to
include me. When I heard last week that you wanted to send a man back to the
moon, I thought, get the fake goose ready — that’s where ol’ George is going
for the holidays! I don’t blame you, what with nearly 3 million jobs
disappeared, and a $281 billion surplus disappeared, and the
USA stuck in a war that will never end
— who wouldn’t want to go to the moon! This time, take ALL the media with you!
Embed them on the moon! They’ll love it there! It looks just like Crawford! You
can golf on the moon, too. You’ll have so much fun up there, you might not want
to come back. Better take Cheney with you, too. Pretend it’s a medical
experiment or something. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for
every American who’s sick and tired of all this crap.”


Michael Moore


Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq

December 9, 2003 at 12:30 am
Contributed by:


Interesting reading here
on how we’re bringing in assassination and terror squad consultants from Israel
into Iraq. Here are a couple of choice quotes:

“This is basically an
assassination programme. That is what is being conceptualised here. This is a
hunter-killer team,” said a former senior US intelligence official, who added
that he feared the new tactics and enhanced cooperation with Israel would only
inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East.

“It is bonkers, insane.
Here we are – we’re already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and
we’ve just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination

One of the planners behind the offensive is a highly
controversial figure, whose role is likely to inflame Muslim opinion: Lieutenant
General William “Jerry” Boykin.

In October, there were calls for his
resignation after he told a church congregation in Oregon that the US was at war
with Satan, who “wants to destroy us as a Christian army”.

Israel trains US assassination squads in

Julian Borger in Washington
Tuesday December 9,
The Guardian,2763,1102940,00.html

Niiice. Great stuff, guys. This is going to go
over as well as Dubya’s comments about our “crusade.”


\"There They Go Again\" – The Dean candidacy and anti-intellectualism

December 6, 2003 at 1:10 pm
Contributed by:


Here’s an
interesting perspective on the Dean candidacy, and it’s not good. As the alert
reader who forwarded this article quipped, “Dean =
Defeat 2004”

There They Go


Published: December 6,

Unfortunately, I think Kristof
is quite right. And I think it dovetails nicely with Ms. Ivin’s perspective, in
that it demonstrates the rising tide of anti-intellectualism in this

Of course, looking merely at education, this should have been
predicatble. Interesting little factoid I came across recently:
vocabulary of average US 14 year old in 1950: 25,000 words
Average vocabulary
10,000 words

I think that had a lot to do with why Reagan
and both Bushes got elected: they all had that homespun, regular-guy,
unintellectual appeal to Southerners.

And Kristof is also right that this
is why the last several successful Democratic presidential candidates were all
Southerners. (Which is why we must back Clark, right?) If Clinton hadn’t been
from the South, he never would have made it, because he was a Rhodes
scholar. And Kristof is right in that there’s a strong current of anti-New
England sentiment in that same population…’twas ever so. Always New England
vs. the South. But I believe that this traditional view of American politics is
becoming a bit outdated. Southerners and Midwesterners aren’t the only “swing”
blocs anymore; there’s also the West, which has its liberal intellectual
enclaves, and which grows more liberal as it is urbanized.


We have to get used to the fact
that this is not a meritocracy; it’s a straight-up beauty contest. If you
thought you that “popularity contest” politics were to be expected in high
school but weren’t for adults, then think again. Once again, it seems the choice
before core Democrats is to pick the candidate they agree with, or the candidate
who they think can win. And most of us don’t have to think for a second to make
that choice: anyone but Bush.


FTW: Karl Rove: The King of Dirt

December 6, 2003 at 11:45 am
Contributed by:


This article from From the Wilderness is certainly an interesting read. Meet
the man behind the curtain.


—–Original Message—–

DECEMBER 5, 2003

In a scathing new editorial, Wayne Madsen focuses a much-needed spotlight on
the activities of one of the meanest and most powerful members of the Bush
cabal. Character assassination, dirty tricks, and even death seem to follow
the enemies of the meanest man in Washington who — according to some
sources — has his own skeletons to hide.

Read Now:

AOL Users:
<a href="">Click

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The Progress Report, December 05, 2003

December 5, 2003 at 11:25 am
Contributed by: Chris
I know I should just let you all sign up for this newsletter on your own. But I will forward one more, today’s issue, in hopes it will compel you do to so. It’s great stuff. Here are a few highlights:

Is Dennis Kucinich Electable?

December 5, 2003 at 7:11 am
Contributed by:


This pro-Kucinich message takes on the question of where this perception
that Dennis Kucinich is "not electable" comes from, and points the finger
squarely at the media. I suspect that at least some of you can venture other
reasons, but still, I thought it a thought-provoking read.
I think if you could ignore how the media shape the race–if you could make
a presidential race a pure competition of merit–perhaps the author would be
right, and Dennis really might be the man for the job. On the other hand, as
we all know, this is not a meritocracy (if it were, Dubya would be way, way
down the list), and if you ignore the influence of the media, you also
ignore the entire race, for they have got it covered, in more ways than one.


—–Original Message—–

Deception By Omission By Charley Cropley, ND

BOULDER, Colorado–November 21, 2003–I am amazed and frightened to
have discovered only recently how successfully and subtly my
perceptions and my sense of personal power are manipulated by our
media. Until then, I considered myself well aware of the media’s
motives and methods and therefore immune to their manipulation.
However I have been more profoundly deceived and disempowered than I
had thought possible. My deception runs deep; the consequences
enormous. I have come to recognize my deeper, more dangerous level of
deception through a process of inquiring into why so many of my
friends think Dennis Kucinich is not electable. Among my friends,
most say "Yes, nobody better represents me than Dennis Kucinich. But
I don’t think he’s electable." I kept asking my friends, "Why? Please
explain to me why you think that." I have not heard a single answer
that is even slightly satisfying, even from my more intelligent and
politically informed friends.

I love those moments when I recognize that something doesn’t make
sense to me. When I see clearly that I simply do not understand
something and I need to investigate it more thoroughly. I reached
that place with regard to Dennis being "not electable." I realized
that I did not understand what the term "not electable" actually
means. "Why?" I asked myself. "Why is he not electable?’ What
specifically makes him not electable?" Only months ago I had never
heard of Dennis Kucinich. Lila Sophia Tresemer was the first person
that spoke to me of how genuinely moved she was by him. Although I
highly respect Lila, I thought to myself that somewhere, somehow this
man must be another New Age candidate without a chance. It was
precisely because I’d never heard of him that caused me to assume he
mustlack something. I wasn’t sure what it was, but there must be some
reason that I’d not even heard of him. It was hard for me to imagine
that someone whose name I’d never heard could be a serious candidate
for president.

So I began to educate myself about Dennis’ life and political
history. What I learned about this man appeared to be anything other
than "not electable." In fact, he seemed almost heroic, possessing
seemingly unimpeachable integrity. I felt gratitude and a rekindling
of hope that somehow such a candidate actually existed within our
political system; that there actually was an electable candidate who
represented my longings as accurately as Dennis Kucinich. I became
satisfied that the label "not electable" does not match Dennis
Kucinich nor anything he has ever said or done. It is inaccurate. It
is a lie.Why had I never heard of a politician who has spent his
entire political career since age 19 courageously fighting for my
ideals? I shifted the focus of my inquiry from Dennis Kucinich to
finding the source of these false beliefs. I personally have never
actually heard or read the words "not electable" in the media. The
only people I’ve ever heard speak friends why they say this nobody
has yet come forth with an intelligent explanation. For vague reasons
we cannot articulate it just "feels" that way. We believe something
and don’t know why. Interesting. Something strange is going on.

Earlier this month, while listening to "Democracy Now," I heard Amy
Goodman report that during George Bush’s current visit to Great
Britain British authorities were preparing for the possibility of
significant protests. Shethen described a leaked media memo
instructing television camera operatorsto avoid all camera shots of
the president in which any protestors would be visible. Fox, ABC,
NBC, CBS etc. are working diligently not to accurately,truthfully
portray George Bush’s visit.

This is hardly shocking to any of us. We consider ourselves well
aware ofhow corporate media and the government collaborate to
deceive. But the mostinsidious and destructive pattern of deceit
occurs in what is unseen and unspoken: deception by omission.

Media viewers have no awareness of the "politically inconvenient"
fact that over 50 percent of the English population is seething with
animosity toward George Bush. In "media reality," there is no peace
movement. Well, none information primarily from major media sources
to perceive the global peace movement as something to be taken
seriously. The global peace movement, and Dennis Kucinich its’
foremost champion in American politics, when presented at all, is
deliberately presented to us in ways that are not intellectually,
emotionally, morally nor even aesthetically compelling. Our society’s
educated, articulate, dedicated leaders and spokespersons for peace,
social and economic justice and environmental protection are refused
the type of coverage that would make their teachings understandable
and compelling, ie: electable. The voices of Amy Goodman, Noam
Chomsky and Howard Zinn and Dennis Kucinich are excluded.

Media exclusion regarding politics is actually evidence of one’s
capability, one’s power to communicate and inspire people. We should
see Dennis’ exclusion as a badge of honor, evidence of the threat he
is to the existing regime. It is no accident that we perceive him as
someone not to be taken seriously, someone who has no chance of
winning. This unexplainable, irrational feeling that Dennis Kucinich
is "not electable" is, in fact, a media triumph brought about using
deception by omission, the same tactic that was planned for Bush’s
visit to England.Dennis Kucinich is the leading political
spokesperson for the movements for global peace, environmental
protection, economic justice, social justice, living wages, universal
health care and education. Any other democratic candidate would be
more acceptable to corporate America than Dennis Kucinich. In
comparison to Dennis, all the other "electable" candidates pale in
the scope of reform they offer. The business of global war,
environmental destruction and economic terrorism will carry on
undisturbed under their presidencies.

His exclusion from coverage by major media is precisely because he is
supremely electable. Dennis Kucinich is the single greatest threat to
George Bush. He is the one candidate who — when he is heard —
appeals to the intelligence, compassion and goodness of America.
There is no oneelse even in his league. Listen to him and judge for
yourself. You cannot understand who this man is through the media.
Get a video and watch him. He will stir your heart to believe again
in the possibility that our nation can change — profoundly. You will
feel the opportunity to make adifference in our government that had
previously seemed impossible to You will want to get involved, and
you would, except for one thing: you know he’s "not electable."

Dr. Charley Cropley is a naturopathic physician, teacher, author and
peace activist based in Boulder, Colorado. In practice for over 20
years, he
has trained hundreds of doctors in nutrition and has been a frequent
speaker on the lecture circuit. Dr. Cropley is widely regarded as one
of today’s
leading thinkers and teachers in nutrition and natural healing. You can
contact Charley Cropley via Email or by telephone: (303) 579-7889.

The Progress Report

December 3, 2003 at 2:04 pm
Contributed by:



is today’s issue of an excellent daily newsletter I recently started receiving.
I highly recommend it. I’ve been tempted to pass along every issue to you,
but I’ll resist and let you sign up for yourself if you’re interested. They
pack a lot of material into each day, but it’s all worthwhile.


issue has a very good section in the middle that addresses Ahnold’s new budget
plan for California. Surprise, surprise: he promised the impossible (balancing
the budget while protecting critical programs and without raising taxes) and
then proved it’s impossible by not having a plan to balance the budget,
while blithely passing on $15 billion in debt to the future. Brilliant, Ahnold!
You’re certainly living up to my expectations. Can’t wait to see your energy




—–Original Message—–
From: Center for American Progress
Sent: Wednesday, December 03,
2003 8:13 AM
Subject: The Progress Report

by David Sirota,
Christy Harvey and Judd Legum
Know the most first: Sign
up for email
delivery of The Progress Report
Please send any news tips to

December 3, 2003


State Crises

Terminating the
Most Needy


Neglecting Afghanistan

In a November 6
speech, President Bush used Afghanistan as an example of the
successful application of democratic principles, lauding the
nation’s progress in “building
a modern and peaceful government
.” But a report issued just five
days later by a U.N. delegation, including U.S. ambassador John
Negroponte, that visited Afghanistan starkly contrasted with the
President’s optimistic assessment. The U.N. delegation
that “insecurity caused by terrorist activities,
factional fights and drug related crime remain the major concern of
Afghans today.” Insecurity is especially a problem in the southern
part of the country where “attacks against non-governmental
organizations was contributing to the slowing of reconstruction.”
Throughout the nation “individuals and communities suffer from
abuses of their basic rights by local commanders and factional
leaders.” The problems are exacerbated in many areas of the country
“by terrorist attacks from suspected members of the Taliban and Al
Qaeda.” Also of serious concern: “Arbitrary control exercised by
local commanders and factional armies [that] has resulted in heavy

: The LA
reports that, “[s]ecurity in large areas of Afghanistan
has so deteriorated that U.S. and U.N. officials fear that plans to
hold presidential elections in June may be in jeopardy.” The
security situation threatens to undermine the goals of the 2001 Bonn
agreement which placed the U.N. in charge of supervising
Afghanistan’s transition to a constitutional democracy. The violence
in Afghanistan “has worsened
dramatically in the last six months
” and now “at least five of
Afghanistan’s 32 provinces are virtually off-limits to foreigners.”
That means that registering voters and holding elections in those
five, mostly rural, regions may not be possible. If rural voters are
excluded, the results of the election could be seen as illegitimate.
Yesterday, only 100 of 330 delegates attended a preliminary session
of the loya jirga (the council that elects the Afghan leadership) –
which some suggest is the result of intimidation from the resurgent
Taliban. Barnett Rubin, a professor at NYU and an Afghanistan
expert, said that “The election in Afghanistan was supposed to be a
benchmark of success for the Bush administration.”

: The Vice President of Mercy Corps, Nancy Lindborg,
who visited Afghanistan in October, summed up the problem: “In the
twenty-two months since the Taliban fell, the international
community has failed to provide the two essential ingredients for
democracy and reconstruction: security and sufficient financial
assistance.” While President Bush declared a ” Marshall Plan for
Afghanistan” in April 2002, the nation has “received
only a fraction
of the $10.2 billion” that the World Bank said
was necessary over the first five years. In 2002 the international
community spent an average of $250 per person in East Timor, Kosovo
and Bosnia, but only $64 dollars in Afghanistan. In Iraq, where
estimates indicate $20 billion dollars will be spent this year
alone, spending will exceed $880 per person. Using population
estimates of Iraq
and Afghanistan,
an analysis of the Administration’s latest
funding bill
shows the U.S. spends just $41 per person on
reconstruction in Afghanistan, while spending $753.54 in Iraq. Most
shockingly, was the White House’s 2004 budget. As Paul Krugman
wrote, “President Bush promised that our interest wouldn’t end once
the war was won; this time we wouldn’t forget about Afghanistan, we
would stay to help rebuild the country and secure the peace. So how
much money for Afghan reconstruction did the administration put in
its 2004 budget? None. The Bush team forgot about it.” Krugman
concluded “This administration does martial plans, not Marshall
Plans: billions for offense, not one cent for

: While there are nearly 130,000
troops in Iraq
, there are only a little more than 15,000
in Afghanistan
– a country 50% larger than
Iraq. Per
capita, that means that while the Administration has deployed 1
soldier for every 189 people in Iraq, it has deployed 1 soldier for
every 1,913 people in Afghanistan – a stark difference considering
Afghanistan – not Iraq – was the country that aided the 9/11
terrorists and who is now seeing a resurgence from the Taliban. That
is a dramatically worse
than Kosovo (1 per 48), Bosnia (1 per 58) and East Timor
(1 per 86).  

: Even though International restrictions
have been lifted, security forces are still largely limited within
the city of Kabul “while the rest of Afghanistan has spiraled into
unrest and violence
.” Plans to create a national army and a
national police force are “far behind schedule, with only 4,000 of
70,000 proposed army forces trained to date.” Even under the most
optimistic scenario “the central government will only have 9,000
soldiers to deploy by mid-2004.” (Question: Why has the U.S. been
able to train more than 131,000 Iraqis as security forces in just a
few months but only 4,000 Afghans in three years?) The situation has
led the NYT to conclude that, under the present circumstances, a new
constitution would effectively be “no more than the
Kabul City Charter
.”  Click HERE
to see a recent piece by American Progress analysts Mirna Galic and
Michael Pan suggesting more Turkish military involvement in

: A recent study by the White House Office of National
Drug Control Policy reveals that, since 2001, poppy production in
Afghanistan has increased
36 fold
– reaching 152,000 acres in 2003. This has lead to the
production of 2,865 metric tons of opium, used to make heroin and
morphine. Reuters reports that “opium production complicates the
task of restoring central government authority in Afghanistan
because it enables the warlords to run small armies and gives them
extra financial incentives to retain their autonomy.”

: The process of disarmament in Afghanistan is going
very slowly. Although recent agreements brokered by the U.N. could
lead to the disarmament of “6,000 men in the most pliant provinces”
complete success would still leave 94,000
militia men to disarm
. The $41 million disarmament project,
sponsored by Japan “was delayed for months, due in part to
difficulties in getting warlords and commanders to cooperate.” The
difficulties relate back to the security situation. As one midlevel
commander put it: “If I personally return my gun, who will guarantee
my safety? I’ve got lots of enemies after 20 years of war, and I
need to worry about that.”

State Crises Worsen

The Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities
has a new report outlining the ongoing budget
crises in states across the country and the subsequent threats to
public services they face. Giant budget gaps for the next fiscal
year “could increase to $50 billion or more,” and although many
states have raised taxes or enacted spending cuts, “the new
shortfall estimates show that those measures in many states will not
be sufficient.” (According to the most recent Vanity Fair, the
approximate aggregate amount of state budget gaps for the past three
years was $200 billion, the highest it’s been since WWII.) And the
damage is widespread. Along with California’s projected $17.6
billion deficit, for example, for FY2005 (which begins next June)
New York faces a $5.7 billion shortfall, New Jersey will be $4
billion in the hole, Illinois has $3.2 billion worth of red ink, and
Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan and Missouri are all also
facing billion dollar deficits.  Many states are balancing
their budgets using reserved money and federal fiscal relief,
one-time funds that won’t be available come 2005. A report by the
United Auto Workers titled “States
in Crisis”
lays part of the blame on the federal government for
not ponying up funding for federally mandated, expensive new
programs “such as President Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ education
act, the new election reform law, Medicaid, welfare and homeland

: Another reason so many states still
face trouble? The CBPP report explains that states aren’t bringing
in sufficient tax revenue – for the most recent quarter, state tax
revenue was 0.6% higher than last year, although GDP was up 8.2%.
And it’s tough to raise taxes. In September, after a concentrated,
negative campaign by the GOP, Alabama
defeated Gov. Bob Riley’s proposal to shift the tax burden by
raising taxes on wealthy corporations. The state has suspended
jury trials
to save money and is now set to release
5,000-6,000 prisoners
early, unable to pay to keep them in
bulging prisons. Oregon, with the highest unemployment in the
country and an $800 million budget gap, has been wrestling with the
tax cut issue, with voters
vociferously opposed
. The state has had to close courthouses one
day a week and postpone criminal proceedings, at times for months
letting “property
like shoplifting and arson” to go unpunished. Said one
state official, “People are telling us you have got to run your
state government more like a business. But when a business’s revenue
goes down, you can cut your product or service. In government, when
times are bad, everyone needs…services more.”

: The president winds up his week of tours to tout the
economy Friday with a speech in Baltimore. Just this week, he told
Michigan that its economy  “looks
pretty good
,” despite the fact that Michigan has lost 180,000
jobs since January 2001 and has a 7.6% unemployment rate – the
highest in the country. The question is whether he will make
similarly out-of-touch comments in Maryland, a state that has been
particularly hard hit by a fiscal crisis, and has yet to see much of
an economic upswing. The state
is facing a $730 million budget gap
, and Gov. Robert Ehrlich
announced last month that “except for public education and Medicaid
health spending…every area of Maryland’s operating budget has to
be cut next year.” The economic recovery simply “won’t produce
enough tax revenues to pay for all the spending” necessary for the
state. On top of that, a lack of job growth and a “remarkable
cutback in the number of hours that workers are paid for,” leads to
decreased spending, which “could drag down sales tax collections” as
well. Baltimore itself is in fiscal crisis as well; the city’s
school system
is in dire straits; facing the threat of
bankruptcy and a $52 million budget deficit, the district has had to
layoff teachers, slash salaries and freeze hiring.

: This year will “go down as one of the absolute
worst years for the federal budget
in U.S. history,” writes Stan
Collender for “The budget decisions made this
year have been so monumentally and uniformly bad that in the years
ahead, 2003 is likely to be seen as the demarcation point that led
to tough fiscal times for the nation.” The four reasons things are
so out of control: “First, every part of the budget went in the
wrong direction as far as the deficit was concerned. Can you think
of another year that saw a tax cut, a significant increase in
appropriations, a major new entitlement program, and a substantial
appropriation for waging a war and rebuilding the country we fought
— all at the same time?…Second…the budget debate approached
rock bottom. With so many misstatements, misleading arguments and
outright misdirections by those who were budget-be-damned adamant
about doing what they wanted to do, it became harder than ever to
separate fact from fiction…. Third, there was no budget discipline
of any kind in 2003….Fourth, 2003 will go down in the budget
history books because of the long-term fiscal damage that was done.
Almost all the policies that were put in place are permanent tax and
spending changes that will have an impact for years to

writes that this year’s Christmas won’t be quite as merry
for American workers this year. According to a new survey by Hewitt
Associates Nearly two-thirds of companies won’t offer a holiday
bonus this year.”  And a poll by the Mercer Human Resource
Consulting group shows that “only about a quarter of employers said
incentive payments such as annual bonuses would be larger in 2003
than they were in 2002…Far more said their payouts would be equal
or less.” And many say farewell to the tradition of the office
Christmas party. “It’s a little more pessimistic than we expected,
and it’s a dramatic turnaround from what we saw several years ago,”
says Steven Gross at Mercer. “The recovery hasn’t been as robust as
companies expected.” (It’s not just decreased profits driving this
trend, though. Unfortunately, a “6% jobless rate means employers
don’t need to shower bonuses on workers to keep them.”)

Terminating the Most Needy

With California
facing a budget shortfall of $17.6 billion next
year, the WP
reports newly elected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is barnstorming
the state
with his plan to slash at least $2 billion from “state
aid for the elderly and mentally disabled,” education,
transportation, and health care for the indigent. Among other cuts,
Schwarzenegger is proposing to slash $160 million out of education,
$530 million out of transportation, and $440 million out of the
state Department of Health and Human Services. While Schwarzenegger
ran as a moderate, State Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg said, “This
is not a centrist, bipartisan view of the world. This is a radical
right view of the world.” To deal with the rest of the budget
shortfall, the LA
reports Schwarzenegger is proposing to float a bond – and
simply pass the debt on to future generations. “The proposed
$15-billion bond would refinance last year’s $10.7-billion deficit
and other obligations over 15 to 20 years,” writes the Times. “No
matter how the bond dealt with the old debt, it would do nothing to
resolve the $14-billion shortfall expected to haunt the coming
year’s budget.” Schwarzenegger said he has never quite thought about
the real-world implications of such draconian cuts: “I
didn’t quite understand what that meant
. Those are painful
decisions, to take money away from people.”

: The LA Times reports that
Schwarzenegger’s top budget official actually testified that the
state’s education/health
care system was too well-funded
. State Finance Director Donna
Arduin “said health and human services programs are not restrictive
enough in whom they serve.” She said this about the agency that
helps poor people get minimal health care despite California having
almost 19% of its
population without any health insurance
. Arudin also “suggested
that taxpayers may be too heavily subsidizing public universities,
and that local schools have been consistently over-funded.” She said
this even after the state had proposed big
cuts to education just a year ago
, and with state universities
are considering enrollment
limits and tuition increases

: State
Treasurer Phil Angelides
“launched a statewide counterattack
against Schwarzenegger ‘s plan,” calling the new governor’s
bond/borrowing proposal “morally repugnant” and “fiscally
objectionable” because “it would burden future generations and
compete with other needs.” The Modesto
editorial board writes, “Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s
proposal to issue pass-the-buck bonds isn’t a budget solution… The
governor’s plan simply delays the day of budget reckoning, raises
the true costs and shifts all those costs to the next generation.”
Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger
himself admits he has no backup

: Schwarzenegger’s plan to freeze
the state’s Healthy Families
– a program that provides low-cost
health insurance for children – has child advocates outraged.
Currently, there are “about 300,000 children” on the waiting list
for the program.  The Contra
Costa Times
reports, “Angered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s
budget proposal to scale back aid for needy families, child welfare
advocates rallied yesterday in Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
Families and advocates turned out at the San Francisco Department of
Human Services to protest the plan to carve out $440 million from
health and human services and reduce CalWORKS grants (assistance for
needy families) by 5%. Opponents “say they feel broadsided by a
governor who stumped for child welfare while on the campaign trail.”
And at least some are taking their battle to court. As KTVU-TV
reported, “Schwarzenegger was sued in San Francisco Superior Court
today by three welfare mothers who say the governor’s car tax
reduction should trigger an increase in their welfare benefits.”
Specifically, the lawsuit says a 1999 state law ties cost-of-living
increases in welfare to the state vehicle tax. Under the law, “if
the car tax is reduced during a fiscal year – as Schwarzenegger did
in his first day in office –  welfare families are entitled to
a cost-of-living adjustment.”

: AP
reports “Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cap services for the disabled
has critics charging that California would be abandoning a
35-year-old promise to its most vulnerable citizen.” As part of his
proposal to trim $3.8 billion from this and next years’ budgets,
Schwarzenegger “has proposed suspending the Lanterman Act, a
35-year-old law that advocates call a civil rights guarantee for the
disabled. The act was signed into law by Gov. Ronald Reagan, a
Schwarzenegger hero.”

: Counties, cities and towns across the state are
bracing for the cuts. The Times-Standard
reports, “how the cuts will affect Humboldt County, running on
bare-bones budgets the past two years, remains anybody’s guess. But
already some are speculating the effects will be wide-ranging. Road
maintenance money could dry up, the library could be open fewer
hours, services to the poor and disabled could be trimmed

: While Schwarzenegger on the campaign
trail expressed his desire to get aid from the Bush Administration,
so far that has not happened. And when state services are cut,
average Californians should not expect much help from tax cuts,
either. As Citizens for
Tax Justice
reports, 49% of Californians will get less than $100
from Bush’s latest tax cut, and by 2006, 13.4 million California
taxpayers—87 percent of all state residents—will receive less than
$100 in tax cuts.”

: While Schwarzenegger ran on a platform of
cleaning up state government, the Foundation for Taxpayer and
Consumer Rights has issued a report showing how his Administration
is chock-full of appointees
from major corporate interests that have business with the state.
Additionally, Schwarzenegger is now raising boatloads of cash from
these same interests. For instance, the foundation reports,
Schwarzenegger just took “a total of $36,200
from Safeway
” at the same time the company is trying to cut
worker health care benefits below the level state legislation
mandates. Coincidentally, just after taking the campaign money,
Schwarzenegger endorsed a bid for a referendum to repeal that very
same state legislation. Similarly, the Capitol is “abuzz with news
that Governor Schwarzenegger is considering eliminating
the four year old Department of Managed Health Care
in the
interest of ‘efficiency’ and ‘consolidation.'”  Not
surprisingly, Schwarzenegger’s new “Chief of Staff was formerly the
top lobbyist for the HMO Health Net – a company the Department of
Managed Health Care fined $100,000 for failing to pay physicians on

reports the “Bush administration is working to undo
regulations that would force power plants to sharply reduce
mercury emissions and other toxic pollutants.” The action
would block new rules set to take effect this month that would
“require the nation’s 1,100 coal- and oil-fired power plants
to install equipment to achieve the maximum possible
reductions in mercury and nickel emissions.” Mercury and
nickel emissions can “cause severe neurological and
developmental damage in humans” posing the most acute danger
to “children and pregnant women.” A recent study by the Center
for Disease Control found “8% of women of childbearing age had
mercury in their blood exceeding levels deemed safe by the
EPA.” The Administration is considering a market-based
alternative that environmentalists say would “save the utility
industry hundreds of millions of dollars while ensuring a
relatively high level of mercury pollution for years to come.”
For more about how Mercury emissions can impact your health,
click HERE.

reports that yesterday, the day before a government filing to
the Supreme Court was due on the case, the Bush Administration
reversed course and announced Yaser Esam Hamdi, “a U.S.
citizen jailed after being captured with Taliban soldiers in
Afghanistan, would be allowed access to a lawyer.” Defense
Department officials said “Hamdi would be allowed to see a
lawyer ‘as a matter of discretion and military policy.’ But
the statement emphasized that the government did not feel
obligated to make a lawyer available and that the decision
‘should not be treated as a precedent.'” The government has
been under fire over treatment of alleged enemy combatants in
the war on terror, claiming the military has the right to
detain suspects indefinitely without giving them access to
legal counsel. While this was a victory for Hamdi, yesterday
other detainees lost counsel; the UK Guardian reports, “A team of military
lawyers recruited to defend alleged terrorists held by the US
at Guantanamo Bay was dismissed by the Pentagon after some of
its members rebelled against the unfair way the trials have
been designed.” And the Washington Times reports the government
has been practicing for eventual trials: “The U.S. military
has held a dress rehearsal of planned tribunals for al Qaeda
and Taliban combatants, complete with a defendant who acted up
and had to be restrained and ejected.”

Although conservative Rep. Butch Otter (R-ID) was successful
this summer at getting the House block searches known as “sneak
and peek
,” which “are executed without the property
owner’s or resident’s knowledge and with warrants delivered
afterward,” hard lobbying from the Justice Department kept it
out of the massive omnibus bill currently in front of
Congress. The provision is part of the Patriot Act, but it
would be used for non-terror-related crimes: “The law permits
agents to search the home of a suspected drug dealer, or plant
a listening device in the car of a reputed mobster, or copy a
computer hard drive of a terror suspect, without notifying the
suspect until a later date.”

: The WP
that the U.S. “has decided to form a paramilitary
unit composed of militiamen from the country’s five largest
political parties to identify and pursue insurgents who have
eluded American troops and Iraqi police officers.” The militia
force – consisting of a total of 750-850 militiamen working
with U.S. Special Forces – is “weaker than the force the party
leaders had hoped to create,” but “the unit would nevertheless
give the five political organizations an unrivaled role in the
country’s internal security.” Iraqi Governing Council has
opposed this new military group, saying they “fear that it
could be used after the U.S. occupation ends to suppress
political dissent or target enemies. ‘This is a very big
blunder,’ said Ghazi Yawar, an independent council member. ‘We
should be dissolving militias, not finding ways to legitimize
them. This sends the wrong message to the Iraqi people.'”
American military and civilian officials “acknowledge the risk
in forming a new force with members of militia organizations,
but they have agreed to support the venture largely because of
pressure from the five parties.”

: In contrast to the President’s bold public
statements about democracy promotion in the Middle East, the
, “the Bush administration has settled on a
combination of gentle nudging and modest funding to achieve
its ambitious goals.” The reality is that the
“administration’s closest Arab allies are still cited by the
State Department as among the world’s worst human rights
abusers.” Funding for democracy building is relative modest –
“$129 million for 2002 and 2003, with as much as $120 million
next year” – for the entire 22 nation Arab block. In contrast,
“$1.3 billion, still goes to Egypt’s security forces, which
have been repeatedly cited by the State Department’s human
rights report for torture, prolonged detentions without charge
and other abuses.” As an American
Progress backgrounder
notes, this underfunding comes even
as a report released in October by the State Department
Advisory Commission called for “an immediate end to the absurd
and dangerous underfunding of public diplomacy in a time of
peril.”  The report found that the U.S. public diplomacy
infrastructure faced significant problems in organization,
staffing, and training. 

: The NYT
reports, “The federal official who runs Medicare and was
intimately involved in drafting legislation to overhaul the
program is the object of a bidding war among five firms hoping
to hire him to advise clients affected by the measure.” After
finishing Medicare legislation which included
corporate-friendly privatization measures and a prescription
drug policy with sops to the pharmaceutical companies, Thomas
A. Scully
, the administrator of the agency that oversees
Medicare and Medicaid last night turned in his resignation.”
While working on the Medicare legislation, Scully was in talks
with different health care lobbying/law firms about a future
job. Despite this, Scully says “he had seen no reason to
recuse himself from work on the legislation.” One of the firms
he is negotiating with is Ropes and Gray, a firm that
“represents the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of
America and many drug companies including Abbott Laboratories,
AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Novartis and
Pfizer” – all who stand to make billions from the bill and who
made sure the final White House-backed legislation prevented
the government from negotiating lower drug prices
. Gail E.
Shearer, a health policy analyst at Consumers Union, “said Mr.
Scully’s discussions with prospective employers were
troubling. ‘At a time when there are questions about whether
the Medicare legislation serves special interests or
consumers, we want to know that our public officials have
their minds totally focused on doing what’s best for

polarizing President strikes again. The Hill
writes, “Conservative Republican frustration
over the failure of the Bush administration and the House
Republican leadership to restrain federal spending has boiled
over in recent days, producing a rare confrontation between
GOP lawmakers and party leaders.” The story: Freshman Rep. Tom
Feeney (R-FL), “a former Speaker of the Florida House of
Representatives whom many see as a rising star in the party,”
refused to vote in favor of the expensive Medicare bill,
reportedly telling the President: “I came here to cut
entitlements, not grow them.” According to The Hill, “Sources
said Bush shot back, ‘Me too, pal,’ and hung up the

strong-arming on the Medicare bill by the White House and
congressional leadership became so severe that one congressman
implied that bribery was taking place. Rep Nick Smith (R-MI)
“says that sometime late Nov. 21 or early in the morning Nov.
22, somebody on the House floor threatened
to redirect campaign funds away from his son Brad, who is
running to succeed him, if he didn’t support the Medicare
prescription bill.” Columnist Robert Novak further reports, “on the House floor, Nick
Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000
in return for his father’s vote.”


Tell a friend
about The Progress Report: Send
an e-mail now

White House moves to allow power plants to emit more poisonous

: The White House reverses course and
Yaser Esam Hamdi, “a U.S. citizen jailed
after being captured with Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan,
would be allowed access to a lawyer.”

: Military lawyers defending alleged terrorists
at Guantanamo Bay were dismissed by the Pentagon after they
complained that the trials are designed unfairly.

See a fun website where you can customize the now-famous
backgrounds the White House uses for its photo-ops. Check out
fictional one
from the Progress Report staff.

A permanent link to this Progress
Report can be found in the archives.

 Daily Grill


“I think we
should learn a lesson from the previous engagement in the
Afghan area that we should not just simply leave after a
military objective has been achieved.”

– President Bush,


caused by terrorist activities, factional fights and drug
related crime remain the major concern of Afghans
today…Attacks against non-governmental organizations is
contributing to the slowing of reconstruction…Individuals
and communities suffer from abuses of their basic rights by
local commanders and factional leaders…[There are] terrorist
attacks from suspected members of the Taliban and Al

– U.N. Report on
Afghanistan, 11/11/03

Medicare Administrator Tom
Scully – who was “intimately involved in drafting recent
Medicare legislation” that gave billions to the health
care/drug industries – has announced that he is now
negotiating for a job with health care lobby/law firms that
represent the same
who benefit from the bill. Scully “made no
secret of the fact that he has been looking for jobs outside
the government for more than six months” – the same time he
was crafting the Medicare bill.






\"Bottom of the Barrel\" – The Guardian on Peak Oil & Gas

December 3, 2003 at 2:04 pm
Contributed by:


I’m very pleased to see The
Guardian taking up the issue of Peak Oil & Gas. (Maybe this will break the
ice enough to persuade the U.S. media to seriously take it up as
well.) This is a well-written and mercifully short piece that covers the
important points, and is definitely worth a read if you haven’t been able to
bring yourself to read the longer ones I’ve sent around. A choice quote: “Given
a choice between a new set of matching tableware and the survival of humanity, I
suspect that most people would choose the tableware.” Indeed.

Original URL:,11319,1097672,00.html

Reposted with threaded discussion
(including a rebuttal from yours truly):


Peak Oil and Industrial

posted by Daniel Bouchard-White on Tuesday
December 02 2003 @ 09:26PM PST

Environmental News Bottom of the barrel

The world is running out of oil – so why do politicians refuse to
talk about it?

Tuesday December 2, 2003 The Guardian

The oil industry is buzzing. On Thursday, the government approved
the development of the biggest deposit discovered in British
territory for at least 10 years. Everywhere we are told that this is
a “huge” find, which dispels the idea that North Sea oil is in
terminal decline. You begin to recognise how serious the human
predicament has become when you discover that this “huge” new field
will supply the world with oil for five and a quarter days.

Every generation has its taboo, and ours is this: that the
resource upon which our lives have been built is running out. We
don’t talk about it because we cannot imagine it. This is a
civilisation in denial.

Oil itself won’t disappear, but extracting what remains is
becoming ever more difficult and expensive. The discovery of new
reserves peaked in the 1960s. Every year we use four times as much
oil as we find. All the big strikes appear to have been made long
ago: the 400m barrels in the new North Sea field would have been
considered piffling in the 1970s. Our future supplies depend on the
discovery of small new deposits and the better exploitation of big
old ones. No one with expertise in the field is in any doubt that
the global production of oil will peak before long.

The only question is how long. The most optimistic projections
are the ones produced by the US department of energy, which claims
that this will not take place until 2037. But the US energy
information agency has admitted that the government’s figures have
been fudged: it has based its projections for oil supply on the
projections for oil demand, perhaps in order not to sow panic in the
financial markets.

Other analysts are less sanguine. The petroleum geologist Colin
Campbell calculates that global extraction will peak before 2010. In
August, the geophysicist Kenneth Deffeyes told New Scientist that he
was “99% confident” that the date of maximum global production will
be 2004. Even if the optimists are correct, we will be scraping the
oil barrel within the lifetimes of most of those who are middle-aged

The supply of oil will decline, but global demand will not. Today
we will burn 76m barrels; by 2020 we will be using 112m barrels a
day, after which projected demand accelerates. If supply declines
and demand grows, we soon encounter something with which the people
of the advanced industrial economies are unfamiliar: shortage. The
price of oil will go through the roof.

As the price rises, the sectors which are now almost wholly
dependent on crude oil – principally transport and farming – will be
forced to contract. Given that climate change caused by burning oil
is cooking the planet, this might appear to be a good thing. The
problem is that our lives have become hard-wired to the oil economy.
Our sprawling suburbs are impossible to service without cars. High
oil prices mean high food prices: much of the world’s growing
population will go hungry. These problems will be exacerbated by the
direct connection between the price of oil and the rate of
unemployment. The last five recessions in the US were all preceded
by a rise in the oil price.

Oil, of course, is not the only fuel on which vehicles can run.
There are plenty of possible substitutes, but none of them is likely
to be anywhere near as cheap as crude is today. Petroleum can be
extracted from tar sands and oil shale, but in most cases the
process uses almost as much energy as it liberates, while creating
great mountains and lakes of toxic waste. Natural gas is a better
option, but switching from oil to gas propulsion would require a
vast and staggeringly expensive new fuel infrastructure. Gas, of
course, is subject to the same constraints as oil: at current rates
of use, the world has about 50 years’ supply, but if gas were to
take the place of oil its life would be much shorter.

Vehicles could be run from fuel cells powered by hydrogen, which
is produced by the electrolysis of water. But the electricity which
produces the hydrogen has to come from somewhere. To fill all the
cars in the US would require four times the current capacity of the
national grid. Coal burning is filthy, nuclear energy is expensive
and lethal. Running the world’s cars from wind or solar power would
require a greater investment than any civilisation has ever made
before. New studies suggest that leaking hydrogen could damage the
ozone layer and exacerbate global warming.

Turning crops into diesel or methanol is just about viable in
terms of recoverable energy, but it means using the land on which
food is now grown for fuel. My rough calculations suggest that
running the United Kingdom’s cars on rapeseed oil would require an
area of arable fields the size of England.

There is one possible solution which no one writing about the
impending oil crisis seems to have noticed: a technique with which
the British and Australian governments are currently experimenting,
called underground coal gasification. This is a fancy term for
setting light to coal seams which are too deep or too expensive to
mine, and catching the gas which emerges. It’s a hideous prospect,
as it means that several trillion tonnes of carbon which was
otherwise impossible to exploit becomes available, with the likely
result that global warming will eliminate life on Earth.

We seem, in other words, to be in trouble. Either we lay hands on
every available source of fossil fuel, in which case we fry the
planet and civilisation collapses, or we run out, and civilisation

The only rational response to both the impending end of the oil
age and the menace of global warming is to redesign our cities, our
farming and our lives. But this cannot happen without massive
political pressure, and our problem is that no one ever rioted for
austerity. People tend to take to the streets because they want to
consume more, not less. Given a choice between a new set of matching
tableware and the survival of humanity, I suspect that most people
would choose the tableware.

In view of all this, the notion that the war with Iraq had
nothing to do with oil is simply preposterous. The US attacked Iraq
(which appears to have had no weapons of mass destruction and was
not threatening other nations), rather than North Korea (which is
actively developing a nuclear weapons programme and boasting of its
intentions to blow everyone else to kingdom come) because Iraq had
something it wanted. In one respect alone, Bush and Blair have been
making plans for the day when oil production peaks, by seeking to
secure the reserves of other nations.

I refuse to believe that there is not a better means of averting
disaster than this. I refuse to believe that human beings are
collectively incapable of making rational decisions. But I am
beginning to wonder what the basis of my belief might be.,11319,1097672,00.html

The sources for this and all George Monbiot’s recent articles can
be found at

Interview with Richard Heinberg


Molly Ivins – "The Uncompassionate Conservative"

December 3, 2003 at 12:24 pm
Contributed by:



again, the great Molly Ivins puts her finger right on it:

“What we have here is a man shaped by three intertwining
strands of Texas culture, combined with huge blinkers of class. The three Texas
themes are religiosity, anti-intellectualism, and





     Go to Original

     The Uncompassionate Conservative

     By Molly Ivins
Mother Jones

     November/December 2003 Issue
It’s not that he’s mean. It’s just that when it comes
to seeing how his policies affect people, George W. Bush doesn’t have a

     In order to understand why George W. Bush
doesn’t get it, you have to take several strands of common Texas attitude,
then add an impressive degree of class-based obliviousness. What you end
up with is a guy who sees himself as a perfectly nice fellow — and who is
genuinely disconnected from the impact of his decisions on people.

     On the few occasions when Bush does directly
encounter the down-and-out, he seems to empathize. But then, in what is
becoming a recurring, almost nightmare-type scenario, the minute he visits
some constructive program and praises it (AmeriCorps, the Boys and Girls
Club, job training), he turns around and cuts the budget for it. It’s the
kiss of death if the president comes to praise your program. During the
presidential debate in Boston in 2000, Bush said, “First and foremost,
we’ve got to make sure we fully fund LIHEAP [the Low Income Home Energy
Assistance Program], which is a way to help low-income folks, particularly
here in the East, pay their high fuel bills.” He then sliced $300 million
out of that sucker, even as people were dying of hypothermia, or, to put
it bluntly, freezing to death.

     Sometimes he even cuts your program before he
comes to praise it. In August 2002, Bush held a photo op with the Quecreek
coal miners, the nine men whose rescue had thrilled the country. By then
he had already cut the coal-safety budget at the Mine Safety and Health
Administration, which engineered the rescue, by 6 percent, and had named a
coal-industry executive to run the agency.

     The Reverend Jim Wallis, leader of Call to
Renewal, a network of churches that fight poverty, told the New York Times
that shortly after his election, Bush had said to him, “I don’t understand
how poor people think,” and had described himself as a “white Republican
guy who doesn’t get it, but I’d like to.” What’s annoying about Bush is
when this obtuseness, the blinkeredness of his life, weighs so heavily on
others, as it has increasingly as he has acquired more power.

     There was a telling episode in 1999 when the
Department of Agriculture came out with its annual statistics on hunger,
showing that once again Texas was near the top. Texas is a perennial
leader in hunger because we have 43 counties in South Texas (and some in
East Texas) that are like Third World countries. If our border region were
a state, it would be first in poverty, first in the percentage of
schoolchildren living in poverty, first in the percentage of adults
without a high school diploma, 51st in income per capita, and so on.

     When the 1999 hunger stats were announced,
Bush threw a tantrum. He thought it was some malign Clinton plot to make
his state look bad because he was running for president. “I saw the report
that children in Texas are going hungry. Where?” he demanded. “No children
are going to go hungry in this state. You’d think the governor would have
heard if there are pockets of hunger in Texas.” You would, wouldn’t you?
That is the point at which ignorance becomes inexcusable. In five years,
Bush had never spent time with people in the colonias, South Texas’
shantytowns; he had never been to a session with Valley Interfaith, a
consortium of border churches and schools and the best community
organization in the state. There is no excuse for a governor to be unaware
of this huge reality of Texas.

     Take any area — environment, labor,
education, taxes, health — and go to the websites of public-interest
groups in that field. You will find page after page of minor adjustments,
quiet repeals, no-big-deal new policies, all of them cruel, destructive,
and harmful. A silent change in regulations, an executive order, a funding
cutoff. No headlines. Below the radar. Again and again and again. Head
Start, everybody’s favorite government program, is being targeted for
“improvement” by leaving it to the tender mercies of Mississippi and
Alabama. An AIDS program that helps refugees in Africa and Asia gets its
funding cut because one of the seven groups involved once worked with the
United Nations, which once worked with the Chinese government, which once
supported forced abortions.

     So what manner of monster is behind these
outrages? I have known George W. Bush slightly since we were both in high
school, and I studied him closely as governor. He is neither mean nor
stupid. What we have here is a man shaped by three intertwining strands of
Texas culture, combined with huge blinkers of class. The three Texas
themes are religiosity, anti-intellectualism, and machismo. They all play
well politically with certain constituencies.

     Let’s assume the religiosity is genuine; no
one is in a position to know otherwise. I leave it to more learned
commentators to address what “Christian” might actually mean in terms of
public policy.

     The anti-intellectualism is also authentic.
This is a grudge Bush has carried at least since his college days when he
felt looked down on as a frat rat by more cerebral types. Despite his
pedigree and prep schools, he ran into Eastern stereotypes of Texans at
Yale, a common experience at Ivy schools in that time. John F. Kennedy,
the consummate, effortlessly graceful, classy Harvard man, had just been
assassinated in ugly old Dallas, and Lyndon Johnson’s public piety gave
many people the creeps. Texans were more or less thought of as yahoo
barbarians somewhere between the Beverly Hillbillies and Deliverance. I do
not exaggerate by much. To have a Texas accent in the East in those days
was to have 20 points automatically deducted from your estimated IQ. And
Texans have this habit of playing to the stereotype — it’s irresistible.
One proud Texan I know had never owned a pair of cowboy boots in his life
until he got a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard. Just didn’t want to let
anyone down.

     For most of us who grow up in the “boonies”
and go to school in the East, it’s like speaking two languages — Bill
Clinton, for example, is perfectly bilingual. But it’s not unusual for a
spell in the East to reinforce one’s Texanness rather than erode it, and
that’s what happened to Bush. Bush had always had trouble reading — we
assume it is dyslexia (although Slate’s Jacob Weisberg attributes it to
aphasia); his mom was still doing flash cards with him when he was in
junior high. Feeling intellectually inferior apparently fed into his
resentment of Easterners and other known forms of snob.

     Bush once said, “There’s a West Texas populist
streak in me, and it irritates me when these people come out to Midland
and look at my friends with just the utmost disdain.” In his mind, Midland
is the true-blue heartland of the old vox pop. The irony is that Midland
along with its twin city, Odessa, is one of the most stratified and narrow
places in the country. Both are oil towns with amazingly strict class
segregation. Midland is the white-collar, Republican town; Odessa is the
blue-collar, Democratic town. The class conflict plays out in an annual
football rivalry so intense that H.G. Bissinger featured it in his
best-selling book, Friday Night Lights. To mistake Midland for the volk
heartland is the West Texas equivalent of assuming that Greenwich,
Connecticut, is Levittown.

     In fact, people in Midland are real nice
folks: I can’t prove that with statistics, but I know West Texas and it’s
just a fact. Open, friendly, no side to ’em. The problem is, they’re way
isolated out there and way limited too. You can have dinner at the
Petroleum Club anytime with a bunch of them and you’ll come away saying,
“Damn, those are nice people. Sure glad they don’t run the world.” It is
still such a closed, narrow place, where everybody is white, Protestant,
and agrees with everybody else. It’s not unusual to find people who think,
as George W. did when he lived there, that Jimmy Carter was leading the
country toward “European-style socialism.” A board member of the ACLU of
Texas was asked recently if there had been any trouble with gay bashing in
Midland. “Oh, hell, honey,” she drawled, “there’s not a gay in Midland who
will come out of the closet for fear people will think they’re Democrats.”

     The machismo is what I suspect is fake. Bush
is just another upper-class white boy trying to prove he’s tough. The
minute he is questioned, he becomes testy and defensive. That’s one reason
they won’t let him hold many press conferences. When he tells stories
about his dealings with two of the toughest men who ever worked in
politics — the late Lee Atwater and the late Bob Bullock — Bush,
improbably, comes off as the toughest mother in the face-down. I wouldn’t
put money on it being true. Bullock, the late lieutenant governor and W’s
political mentor in Texas, could be and often was meaner than a skilletful
of rattlesnakes. Bush’s story is that one time, Bullock cordially informed
him that he was about to fuck him. Bush stood up and kissed Bullock,
saying, “If I’m gonna get fucked, at least I should be kissed.” It
probably happened, but I guarantee you Bullock won the fight. Bush never
got what made Bullock more than just a supermacho pol — the old son of a
bitch was on the side of the people. Mostly.

     The perfect absurdity of all this, of course,
is that Bush’s identification with the sturdy yeomen of Midland (actually,
oil-company executives almost to a man) is so wildly at variance with his
real background. Bush likes to claim the difference between him and his
father is that, “He went to Greenwich Country Day and I went to San
Jacinto Junior High.” He did. For one year. Then his family moved to a
posh neighborhood in Houston, and he went to the second-best prep school
in town (couldn’t get into the best one) before going off to Andover as a

     Jim Hightower’s great line about Bush, “Born
on third and thinks he hit a triple,” is still painfully true. Bush has
simply never acknowledged that not only was he born with a silver spoon in
his mouth — he’s been eating off it ever since. The reason there is no
noblesse oblige about Dubya is because he doesn’t admit to himself or
anyone else that he owes his entire life to being named George W. Bush. He
didn’t just get a head start by being his father’s son — it remained the
single most salient fact about him for most of his life. He got into
Andover as a legacy. He got into Yale as a legacy. He got into Harvard
Business School as a courtesy (he was turned down by the University of
Texas Law School). He got into the Texas Air National Guard — and sat out
Vietnam — through Daddy’s influence. (I would like to point out that that
particular unit of FANGers, as regular Air Force referred to the “*censored*ing
Air National Guard,” included not only the sons of Governor John Connally
and Senator Lloyd Bentsen, but some actual black members as well — they
just happened to play football for the Dallas Cowboys.) Bush was set up in
the oil business by friends of his father. He went broke and was bailed
out by friends of his father. He went broke again and was bailed out again
by friends of his father; he went broke yet again and was bailed out by
some fellow Yalies.

     That Bush’s administration is salted with the
sons of somebody-or-other should come as no surprise. I doubt it has ever
even occurred to Bush that there is anything wrong with a class-driven
good-ol’-boy system. That would explain why he surrounds himself with
people like Eugene Scalia (son of Justice Antonin Scalia), whom he named
solicitor of the Department of Labor — apparently as a cruel joke. Before
taking that job, the younger Scalia was a handsomely paid lobbyist working
against ergonomic regulations designed to prevent repetitive stress
injuries. His favorite technique was sarcastic invective against workers
who supposedly faked injuries when the biggest hazard they faced was
“dissatisfaction with co-workers and supervisors.” More than 5 million
Americans are injured on the job every year, and more die annually from
work-related causes than were killed on September 11. Neither Scalia nor
Bush has ever held a job requiring physical labor.

     What is the disconnect? One can see it from
the other side — people’s lives are being horribly affected by the Bush
administration’s policies, but they make no connection between what
happens to them and the decisions made in Washington. I think I understand
why so many people who are getting screwed do not know who is screwing
them. What I don’t get is the disconnect at the top. Is it that Bush
doesn’t want to see? No one brought it to his attention? He doesn’t care?

     Okay, we cut taxes for the rich and so we have
to cut services for the poor. Presumably there is some right-wing
justification along the lines that helping poor people just makes them
more dependent or something. If there were a rationale Bush could express,
it would be one thing, but to watch him not see, not make the connection,
is another thing entirely. Welfare, Medicare, Social Security, food stamps
— horrors, they breed dependency. Whereas inheriting millions of dollars
and having your whole life handed to you on a platter is good for the grit
in your immortal soul? What we’re dealing with here is a man in such
serious denial it would be pathetic if it weren’t damaging so many lives.

     Bush’s lies now fill volumes. He lied us into
two hideously unfair tax cuts; he lied us into an unnecessary war with
disastrous consequences; he lied us into the Patriot Act, eviscerating our
freedoms. But when it comes to dealing with those less privileged, Bush’s
real problem is not deception, but self-deception.



Stop Bush\’s looting

December 3, 2003 at 10:12 am
Contributed by:



again, having failed to advance his agenda by playing by the rules, Bush is
trying to force a vote on a monster $820 billion spending package before
Democrats have even had a chance to read it…a package which overturns recently
won, hard-fought victories for the People over Big Business. These guys really
have no shame.


express your opposition to Congress.




—–Original Message—–
From: Peter Schurman,
Sent: Wednesday, December 03,
2003 10:30 AM
Subject: Stop Bush’s looting

We’re launching a petition calling
on Congress to stop the looting by rejecting the giant
corprate giveaways in this spending bill. Join the call now

Then please forward this email to
your friends and
Dear MoveOn member,

Over the last eight months, we’ve fought to stop President
Bush from getting rid of overtime and to stop the FCC from changing its media
ownership rules. Amazingly, we’ve won. But today, both of these victories are at

Bush is now pushing Congress to approve one of the biggest
spending bills in its history — 820 billion dollars. He’s also cutting lots of
last-minute, back-room deals that would reverse our victories on overtime and on
media ownership, while taking corporate giveaways to a whole new level.

And he’s trying to force votes on this 400 page bill before
Democrats have had a chance to read it.

Join us in calling on Congress to stop this bill, at:

Giveaways in the bill include:

  • Allowing media giants to monopolize even more local media
    outlets than before. Companies like Fox that have bought more outlets than
    current law allows would now be allowed to keep them. In fact, this bill
    raises the limit to just the amount that Fox needs. (Washington Post, 11/30/03)

  • Rolling back rules requiring that people be paid for
    overtime. Eight million hard-working families count on these fair compensation

These terrible provisions, and others, were added at the
last minute by top Republican negotiators. The final bill was first shared with
Democrats the day they were leaving for Thanksgiving (Tues., Nov. 25th), in an
obvious attempt to force an immediate vote, sight unseen.

Instead, Congress is returning for a special session next
week. The House is expected to vote on the bill on Monday, December 8th. The
Senate is being asked to approve it on Tuesday the 9th.

But as Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “A legislator would
have to have rocks in their head to agree to something they haven’t yet read.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Especially when you consider that majorities in both houses
of Congress have already rejected both the media ownership change and the
overtime rollback — with strong support from MoveOn members in both cases.
President Bush couldn’t get what he wanted through a straight democratic
process, so now, once again, he’s trying to force his agenda down our throats
with strong-arm tactics.

Process aside, the spending itself is also outrageous. It’s
part of a long pattern of Bush spending billions of our tax dollars to reward
his friends and campaign contributors, a pattern the Nobel prize-winning
economist George Akerlof has described as “a form of looting.” (Der
Spiegel, 7/29/03

And our nation is suffering as a result.

Congress recently approved $87 billion for the Iraq war,
much of it going to contractors like Halliburton through expensive no-bid deals.
Now, other countries won’t help fund the Iraq effort because they know their
money will go to American contractors — not reconstruction. And when we could
be developing a real middle class in Iraq, 60% of Iraqis can’t find work because
multinational corporations are sucking up all the jobs.

We’re hurting at home too. While Bush deals out giant
subsidies to corporations and tax cuts for the super-rich, our kids go without
healthcare, our teachers get laid off, and the deficit gets bigger and bigger.
So the kids we’re shortchanging today will get stuck with the bill tomorrow.

You just can’t govern a nation this way. And even the
Republicans know it. That’s why John McCain and other Republicans will likely
vote against the bill. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s common sense.

Please join our call to Congress to stop the looting, at:

Thanks for all you do.

– Carrie, Eli, James, Joan, Noah, Peter, Wes,
and Zack
  The Team
  December 3rd, 2003


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