Top 10 Secrets They Don\’t Want You to Know About the Debates

September 29, 2004 at 2:50 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Not only was the election of 2000 a charade; not only is our current election process fatally flawed; not only has the Help America Vote Act actually worsened the prospects of a free and fair election; not only have all sorts of Republican shenanigans come to light over the last few months, such as immigrant voter registration forms pre-checked with Republican party affiliation, voter intimidation, and voter roll manipulations in key states, not to mention gerrymandering in Texas and elsewhere; but now we have so-called “debates” that are little more than carefully controlled news conferences.

I have to echo Michael Moore: “Dude, Where’s My Country?” Read on.

–C

Connie Rice: Top 10 Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About the Debates

NPR Commentary: Connie Rice

The Tavis Smiley Show, September 29, 2004

The Tavis Smiley Show, September 29, 2004 · After weeks of political wrangling, Sen. John Kerry and President Bush will square off for the first of three key presidential debates. Both camps have agreed to an elaborate, 32-page contract that spells out everything from the size of the dressing rooms to permitted camera angles.

But the controversy over the debates threatens to overshadow the events themselves. Some citizen groups complain that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) isn’t as non-partisan as it should be, and that Kerry and Bush won’t be pressed on urban issues. Commentator Connie Rice says that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and she’s got another Top 10 list — this time: Top 10 Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About the Debates.

(10.) They aren’t debates!

“A debate is a head-to-head, spontaneous, structured argument over the merits of an issue,” Rice says. “Under the ridiculous 32-page contract that reads like the rules for the Miss America Pageant, there will be no candidate-to-candidate questions, no rebuttal to your opponent’s points, no cross questions or cross answers, no rebuttals, no follow-up questions — that’s not a debate, that’s a news conference.”

(9.) The debates were hijacked from the truly independent League of Women Voters in 1986.

“The League of Women Voters ran these debates with an iron hand as open, transparent, non-partisan events from 1976 to 1984,” Rice says. “The men running the major campaigns ended their control when the League defiantly included John Anderson and Ross Perot, and used tough moderators and formats the parties didn’t like. The parties snatched the debates from the League and formed the Commission on Presidential Debates — the CPD — in 1986.”

(8.) The “independent and non-partisan” Commission on Presidential Debates is neither independent nor non-partisan.

“CPD should stand for ‘Cloaking-device for Party Deceptions’ — it is not an independent commission on anything. The CPD is under the total control of the Republican and Democratic parties and by definition bipartisan, not non-partisan. Walter Cronkite called CPD-sponsored debates an ‘unconscionable fraud.'”

(7.) The secretly negotiated debate contract bars Kerry and Bush from any and all other debates for the entire campaign.

“Under what I call the Debate Suppression and Monopolization Clause of the contract, it is illegal for the candidates to debate each other anywhere else during the campaign,” Rice says. “We need a new criminal law for reckless endangerment of democracy.”

(6.) The debate contract effectively excludes all other serious presidential candidates from participating in the debates.

“This is what I call the Obstruction of Democratic Debate Rule, which sets an impossibly high threshold for third-party candidates… Where are we, Russia? Isn’t Vladimir Putin wiping out democracy in Russia by excluding all opposing candidates from the airwaves during his re-election campaigns? Most new ideas come from third parties — they should be in the debates.”

(5.) All members of the studio audience must be certified as “soft” supporters of Bush and Kerry, under selection procedures they approve.

“It’s not enough to rig the debate — they have to rig the audience, too? The contract reads: ‘The debate will take place before a live audience of between 100 and 150 persons who… describe themselves as likely voters who are soft Bush supporters or soft Kerry supporters.’ We should crash this charade and jump up in the middle to declare ourselves hard opponents of this Kabuki dance.”

(4.) These “soft” audience members must “observe in silence.”

“Soft and silent… In what I’m calling the Silence of the Lambs Clause of this absurd contract, the audience may not move, speak, gesture, cough or otherwise show that they are alive and thinking.”

(3.) The “extended discussion” portion of the debate cannot exceed 30 seconds.

“Other than the stupidity of the debate contract, what topic do you know that can be extendedly discussed in 30 seconds?”

(2.) Important issues are locked out by the CPD debate rules and party control.

“Really important but sticky or tough issues get axed, because the parties control the questions and topics,” Rice says. “For example, in 2000, Gore and Bush mentioned the following issues zero times: Child poverty, the drug war, homelessness, working-class families, NAFTA, prisons, corporate crime and corporate welfare.”

(1.) Fortune 100 corporations are the main funders of the CPD-sponsored debates, and the CPD’s co-chairs are corporate lobbyists.

The CPD is run by Frank Fahrenkopf, a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, and Paul Kirk, a top gambling lobbyist,” Rice says. “And the biggest muliti-national corporations write the checks that fund the CPD — Phillip Morris, Anheuser-Busch and dozens more. The audience may have to be silent and motionless, but the corporate sponsors can have banners, beer tents, Budweiser girls handing out pamphlets protesting beer taxes — a corporate-sponsored circus to go along with the Kabuki Debates. Could we get a more fitting description of our democracy?”

Canada, the U.S.\’s Oil Slave

September 28, 2004 at 3:50 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

As the price of crude oil crossed the historic threshold of $50/barrel today, it seems appropriate to return to the subject of oil.

I hope that some of you caught the excellent three-part series by PBS called “Extreme Oil.” It was very good journalism about the worldwide oil situation, including where it comes from, the economics, the businesses who benefit, the environmental and health costs, and a look at the future. You can learn more about the series and find a list of further reading on the PBS web site: Extreme Oil. You can also buy the series in VHS format from the producer’s web site: Thirteen/WNET New York

Last night they broadcast Part Three in my area, which was about oil production and exploration in Canada and Alaska. It offered a fascinating look at the real environmental cost, and the politics, of producing oil from these remote and ecologically sensitive areas. Actually seeing thousands of tons of oil sands strip mined every day in Alberta, and converted into oil for shipment to the U.S., gives one a whole different idea of what exploiting this abundant resource really means. The environmental damage, and the energy cost of producing oil this way, is astounding.

Unfortunately for Canada, they have no choice. Written into NAFTA is a provision that Canada must export oil to the U.S., whether they want to or not:

The U.S. report points out that that, under NAFTA, Canada is not allowed to reduce its exports of oil (or other energy) to the U.S. in order to redirect them to Canadian consumers. Redirecting Canadian oil to Canadians isn’t permitted — regardless of how great the Canadian need may be. Some outside observers, like Colin Campbell over in Ireland, find the situation striking. “You poor Canadians are going to be left freezing in the dark while they’re running hair dryers in the U.S.,” says Campbell.

In the PBS special, one Canadian expert estimated that this little tidbit of information is probably only known to one in 10,000 Canadians. She glumly noted that her country is basically just a big sponge, waiting for the U.S. to squeeze it, while the U.S. is under no compunction to reduce its consumption. Where does an 8,000 pound gorilla sit?

An interesting article on the same topic crossed my desk this week, from an alert Canadian reader. Check it out, this is good reading.

–C

Crude Dudes

US Oil Companies Just Happened to Have Billions of Dollars They Wanted to Invest
in Undeveloped Oil Reserves

By Linda McQuaig

Toronto Star

September 20, 2004

From his corner office in the heart of New York’s financial district, Fadel Gheit keeps close tabs on what goes on inside the boardrooms of the big oil companies. An oil analyst at the prestigious Wall Street firm Oppenheimer & Co., the fit, distinguished-looking Gheit has been watching the oil industry closely for more than 25 years.
Selling the modern world’s most indispensable commodity has never been a bad business to be in ? particularly for the small group of companies that straddle the top of this privileged world. But never more so than now.
“Profit-wise, things could not have been better,” says Gheit, “In the last three years, they died and went to heaven …. They are all sitting on the largest piles of cash in their history.”

But to stay rich they have to keep finding new reserves, and that’s getting tougher. Increasingly it means cutting through permafrost or drilling deep underwater, at tremendous cost. “The cheap oil has already been found and developed and produced and consumed,” says Gheit. “The low-hanging fruit has already been picked.”
Well, not all the low-hanging fruit has been picked.
Nestled into the heart of the area of heaviest oil concentration in the world is Iraq, overflowing with low-hanging fruit. No permafrost, no deep water. Just giant pools of oil, right beneath the warm ground. This is fruit sagging so low, as it were, that it practically touches the ground under the weight of its ripeness.

Not only does Iraq have vast quantities of easily accessible oil, but its oil is almost untouched. “Think of Iraq as virgin territory …. This is bigger than anything Exxon is involved in currently …. It is the superstar of the future,” says Gheit, “That’s why Iraq becomes the most sought-after real estate on the face of the earth.”
Gheit just smiles at the notion that oil wasn’t a factor in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He compares Iraq to Russia, which also has large undeveloped oil reserves. But Russia has nuclear weapons. “We can’t just go over and … occupy (Russian) oil fields,” says Gheit. “It’s a different ballgame.” Iraq, however, was defenceless, utterly lacking, ironically, in weapons of mass destruction. And its location, nestled in between Saudi Arabia and Iran, made it an ideal place for an ongoing military presence, from which the U.S. would be able to control the entire Gulf region. Gheit smiles again: “Think of Iraq as a military base with a very large oil reserve underneath …. You can’t ask for better than that.”

There’s something almost obscene about a map that was studied by senior Bush administration officials and a select group of oil company executives meeting in secret in the spring of 2001. It doesn’t show the kind of detail normally shown on maps ? cities, towns, regions. Rather its detail is all about Iraq’s oil.
The southwest is neatly divided, for instance, into nine “Exploration Blocks.” Stripped of political trappings, this map shows a naked Iraq, with only its ample natural assets in view. It’s like a supermarket meat chart, which identifies the various parts of a slab of beef so customers can see the most desirable cuts …. Block 1 might be the striploin, Block 2 and Block 3 are perhaps some juicy tenderloin, but Block 8 ? ahh, that could be the filet mignon.

The map might seem crass, but it was never meant for public consumption. It was one of the documents studied by the ultra-secretive task force on energy, headed by U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, and it was only released under court order after a long legal battle waged by the public interest group Judicial Watch.
Another interesting task force document, also released under court order over the opposition of the Bush administration, was a two-page chart titled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfields.” It identifies 63 oil companies from 30 countries and specifies which Iraqi oil fields each company is interested in and the status of the company’s negotiations with Saddam Hussein’s regime. Among the companies are Royal Dutch/Shell of the Netherlands, Russia’s Lukoil and France’s Total Elf Aquitaine, which was identified as being interested in the fabulous, 25-billion-barrrel Majnoon oil field. Baghdad had “agreed in principle” to the French company’s plans to develop this succulent slab of Iraq. There goes the filet mignon into the mouths of the French!

The documents have attracted surprisingly little attention, despite their possible relevance to the question of Washington’s motives for its invasion of Iraq ? in many ways the defining event of the post-9/11 world but one whose purpose remains shrouded in mystery. Even after the supposed motives for the invasion ? weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda ? have been thoroughly discredited, talk of oil as a motive is still greeted with derision. Certainly any suggestion that private oil interests were in any way involved is hooted down with charges of conspiracy theory.
Yet the documents suggest that those who took part in the Cheney task force ? including senior oil company executives ? were very interested in Iraq’s oil and specifically in the danger of it falling into the hands of eager foreign oil companies, rather than into the rightful hands of eager U.S. oil companies.

As the documents show, prior to the U.S. invasion, foreign oil companies were nicely positioned for future involvement in Iraq, while the major U.S. oil companies, after years of U.S.-Iraqi hostilities, were largely out of the picture. Indeed, the U.S. majors would have been the big losers if U.N. sanctions against Iraq had simply been lifted. “The U.S. majors stand to lose if Saddam makes a deal with the U.N. (on lifting sanctions),” noted a report by Germany’s Deutsche Bank in October 2002.
The disadvantaged position of U.S. oil companies in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq would have presumably been on the minds of senior oil company executives when they met secretly with Cheney and his task force in early 2001. The administration refuses to divulge exactly who met with the task force, and continues to fight legal challenges to force disclosure. However a 2003 report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concluded that the task force relied on advice from the oil industry, whose close ties to the Bush administration are legendary. (George W. Bush received more money from the oil and gas industry in 1999 and 2000 than any other U.S. federal candidate received over the previous decade.)

The Cheney task force has been widely criticized for recommending bigger subsidies for the energy industry, but there’s been little focus on its possible role as a venue for consultations between Big Oil and the administration about Iraq. One intriguing piece of evidence pointing in this direction was a National Security Council directive, dated February 2001, instructing NSC staff to co-operate fully with the task force. The NSC document, reported in The New Yorker magazine, noted that the task force would be considering the “melding” of two policy areas: “the review of operational policies towards rogue states” and “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.” This certainly implies that the Cheney task force was considering geopolitical questions about actions related to the capture of oil and gas reserves in “rogue” states, including presumably Iraq.
It seems likely then that Big Oil, through the Cheney task force, was involved in discussions with the administration about getting control of oil in Iraq. Since Big Oil has sought to distance itself from the administration’s decision to invade Iraq, this apparent involvement helps explain the otherwise baffling level of secrecy surrounding the task force.

It’s interesting to note that the Cheney task force deliberations took place in the first few months after the Bush administration came to office ? the same time period during which the new administration was secretly formulating plans for toppling Saddam. Those early plans were not publicly disclosed, but we know about them now due to the publication of several insider accounts, including that of former Treasury secretary Paul O’Neill. So, months before the attacks of 9/11, the Bush White House was already considering toppling Saddam, and at the same time it was also keenly studying Iraq’s oil fields and assessing how far along foreign companies were in their negotiations with Saddam for a piece of Iraq’s oil.
It’s also noteworthy that one person ? Dick Cheney ? was pivotal both in advancing the administration’s plans for regime change in Iraq and in formulating U.S. energy policy.

As CEO of oil services giant Halliburton Company, Cheney had been alert to the problem of securing new sources of oil. Speaking to the London Petroleum Institute in 1999, while still heading Halliburton, Cheney had focused on the difficulty of finding the 50 million extra barrels of oil per day that he said the world would need by 2010. “Where is it going to come from?” he asked, and then noted that “the Middle East with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.”
Cheney’s focus on the Middle East and its oil continued after he became Bush’s powerful vice-president. Within weeks of the new administration taking office, Cheney was pushing forward plans for regime change in Iraq and also devising a new energy policy which included getting control of oil reserves in rogue states. His central role in these two apparently urgent initiatives is certainly suggestive of a possible connection between the U.S. invasion of Iraq and a desire for the country’s ample oil reserves ? the very thing that is vehemently denied.

One reason that regime change in Iraq was seen as offering significant benefits for Big Oil was that it promised to open up a treasure chest which had long been sealed ? private ownership of Middle Eastern oil. A small group of major international oil companies once privately owned the oil industries of the Middle East. But that changed in the 1970s when most Middle Eastern countries (and some elsewhere) nationalized their oil industries. Today, state-owned companies control the vast majority of the world’s oil resources. The major international oil companies control a mere 4 per cent.
The majors have clearly prospered in the new era, as developers rather than owners, but there’s little doubt that they’d prefer to regain ownership of the oil world’s Garden of Eden. “(O)ne of the goals of the oil companies and the Western powers is to weaken and/or privatize the world’s state oil companies,” observes New York-based economist Michael Tanzer, who advises Third World governments on energy issues.
The possibility of Iraq’s oil being reopened to private ownership ? with the promise of astonishing profits ? attracted considerable interest in the run-up to the U.S. invasion. In February 2003, as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell held the world’s attention with his dramatic efforts to make the case that Saddam posed an imminent threat to international peace, other parts of the U.S. government were secretly developing plans to privatize Iraq’s oil (among other assets). A confidential 100-page contracting document, drawn up by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Treasury Department, laid out a wide-ranging plan for a “Mass Privatization Program … especially in the oil and supporting industries.”

The Pentagon was also working on plans to open up Iraq’s oil sector. In the fall of 2002, months before the invasion, the Pentagon retained Philip Carroll, a former CEO of Shell Oil Co. in Texas, to draft a strategy for developing Iraqi oil. Carroll’s plans apparently became the basis of a proposed scheme, which became public shortly after the war, to redesign Iraq’s oil industry along the lines of a U.S. corporation, with a chairman, chief executive and a 15-member board of international advisers. Carroll was chosen by Washington to serve as chairman, but the plans were shelved after they encountered stiff opposition inside Iraq.

Still, the prospect of privatizing Iraq’s oil remained of great interest to U.S. oil companies, according to Robert Ebel, from the influential Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Ebel, former vice-president of a Dallas-based oil exploration company, retains close ties to the industry. In an interview in his Washington office, Ebel said it was up to Iraq to make its own decisions, but he made clear that U.S. oil companies would prefer Iraq abandon its nationalization. “We’d rather not work with national oil companies,” Ebel said bluntly, noting that the major oil companies are prepared to invest the $35 to $40 billion to develop Iraq’s reserves in the coming years. “We’re looking for places to invest around the world. You know, along comes Iraq, and I think a lot of oil companies would be disappointed if Iraq were to say `we’re going to do it ourselves’ ”
Along comes Iraq?
How fortuitous. U.S. oil companies just happened to have billions of dollars that they wanted to invest in undeveloped oil reserves when Iraq presented itself, ready for invasion.
Along comes Iraq, indeed.
In the past 14 decades, we’ve used up roughly half of all the oil that the planet has to offer. No, we’re not about to run out of oil. But long before the oil runs out, it reaches its production peak. After that, extracting the remaining oil becomes considerably more difficult and expensive.

This notion that oil production has a “peak” was first conceived in 1956 by geophysicist M. King Hubbert. He predicted that U.S. oil production would peak about 1970 ? a notion that was scoffed at at the time. As it turned out, Hubbert was dead on; U.S. oil production peaked in 1970, and has been declining ever since. Hubbert’s once-radical notion is now generally accepted.
For the world as a whole, the peak is fast approaching. Colin Campbell, one of the world’s leading geologists, estimates the world’s peak will come as soon as 2005 ? next year. “There is only so much crude oil in the world,” Campbell said in a telephone interview from his home in Ireland, “and the industry has found about 90 per cent of it.”
All this would be less serious if the world’s appetite for oil were declining in tandem. But even as the discovery of new oil fields slows down, the world’s consumption speeds up ? a dilemma Cheney highlighted in his speech to the London Petroleum Institute in 1999. For every new barrel of oil we find, we are consuming four already-discovered barrels, according to Campbell. The arithmetic is not on our side.

Particularly worrisome is the arithmetic as it applies to the U.S. With its oil production already long past peak, and yet its oil consumption rising, the U.S. will inevitably become more reliant on foreign oil. This is significant not just for Americans, but for the world, since the U.S. has long characterized its access to energy as a matter of “national security.” With its unrivalled military power, the U.S. will insist on meeting its own voracious energy needs ? and it will be up to the rest of the world to co-operate with this quest. Period.

Canada plays a greater role in this “keep-the-U.S.-energy-beast-fed” scenario than many Canadians may realize. A three-volume report prepared by a bipartisan Congressional team and CSIS, the Washington think tank, highlights how important Canada is in the U.S. energy picture of the future. The report, The Geopolitics of Energy into the 21st Century, notes that Canada is “the single largest provider of energy to the United States,” and that “Canada is poised to expand sharply its exports of oil to the United States in the coming years.”
Fine ? as long as Canada doesn’t want to change its mind about this. Well, in fact, Canada can’t change its mind about this ? a point celebrated in the report. When Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, we gave up our right to cut back the amount of oil we export to the U.S. (unless we cut our own consumption the same amount). Interestingly, Mexico, also a party to NAFTA, refused to agree to this section, and was granted an exemption.
The U.S. report points out that that, under NAFTA, Canada is not allowed to reduce its exports of oil (or other energy) to the U.S. in order to redirect them to Canadian consumers. Redirecting Canadian oil to Canadians isn’t permitted ? regardless of how great the Canadian need may be. Some outside observers, like Colin Campbell over in Ireland, find the situation striking. “You poor Canadians are going to be left freezing in the dark while they’re running hair dryers in the U.S.,” says Campbell. It’s a situation that comforts the U.S. senators, congressmen and think-tank analysts who wrote the report. With obvious satisfaction, they conclude: “There can be no more secure supplier to the United States than Canada.”

Alas, for the U.S., not every part of the world is as pliant as Canada. Most of the world’s oil is in the Middle East. And while different oil regions will reach their production peaks at different times, the Middle East will peak last, underlying Cheney’s point that the region is where “the prize ultimately lies.” Whoever controls the big oil reserves of the Middle East will then be positioned to, pretty much, control the world.

But we’re supposed to believe that, as the Bush administration assessed its options just before invading Iraq in the spring of 2003, the advantages of securing vast, untapped oil fields ? in order to guarantee U.S. energy security in a world of dwindling reserves and to enable U.S. oil companies to reap untold riches ? were far from mind. What really mattered to those in the White House, we’re told, was liberating the people of Iraq.

Adapted from It’s The Crude, Dude: War Big Oil, And The Fight For The Planet, by Linda McQuaig, 2004. Published by Doubleday Canada. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

“With a keen eye and grim wit, McQuaiq’s perceptive inquiry into the world’s energy system strips away layer after layer of deceit, cynicism, racism, sordid manipulation, violence and aggression, in the dedicated effort to extract every possible ounce of profit and power in a race to the edge of disaster, perhaps beyond. It is an urgent wake-up call that should — that must — be read and acted upon, without delay.”
—Noam Chomsky

About the Author: Toronto-based political commentator Linda McQuaig is a past winner of a National Newspaper Award and an Atkinson Fellowship for journalism in public policy. Her column appears Sundays on the Star’s op-ed page.

Getting Real About Iraq and the War on Terror

September 24, 2004 at 9:03 am
Contributed by: Chris

Folks,

Today I’m featuring a small selection of the many recent articles about the growing chasm between Bush’s claims about our progress in Iraq and the War on Terror, and the reality.

First, ya gotta love it when one of your heroes appropriates your theme! In his new article, “Let’s Get Real,” Krugman takes on Bush for his happy talk. (As Jon Stewart cleverly pointed out last night, perhaps Bush’s appearance with Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi to promote their successes in Iraq was held in the Rose Garden in order to match the color of Bush’s glasses.)

Next, the Guardian’s Sidney Blumenthal pursues the same theme in “The Hollow World of George Bush.”

Then, from the Los Angeles Times, we have “Violence Belies Positive Picture.”

And finally, from the New York Times, “Kerry Attacks Bush’s Handling of Campaign Against Terror” covers John Kerry’s plans on what to do about it when he’s president. Kerry deserves special recognition for his comments, making it clear that he intends to do something about our deadly embrace with the Saudi royal family. Despite their absymal record as a ruling force, allowing none of the democratic freedoms we take for granted, and despite the fact that most of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, and despite the fact that much of al Qaeda’s funding comes indirectly from the Saudi royal family, Bush sees no reason to stop being such cozy bedfellows with them (while simultaneously decrying the “dictators” he has chosen to oppose…wouldn’t you love to hear him explain the logic of splitting that hair?). John Kerry intends to wrestle that bear, and more power to him.

Yes, let’s get real, shall we? Can we dispense now with the hollow claims about Iraq’s success as a democracy? Can we admit to our lack of a winning strategy, let alone an exit strategy? Or are we going to deny right up it to breaking point, like we did in Vietnam? Can we put down our savage pride and start grappling with reality here?

[OK, one more: for a good rundown on the differences between claim and reality in Iraq, try this one: Bush at the U.N.: Sugarcoating Failure]

–C

(more…)

Michael Moore: \"Put Away Your Hankies\"

September 21, 2004 at 11:33 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

In keeping with my current focus on strong statements from the Left, today’s message from Michael Moore is just what the doctor ordered. Buck up, folks. Get out there and DO something.

–C

Put Away Your Hankies…a message from Michael Moore

September 21, 2004

Dear Friends,


Enough of the handwringing! Enough of the doomsaying! Do I have to come there and personally calm you down? Stop with all the defeatism, OK? Bush IS a goner — IF we all just quit our whining and bellyaching and stop shaking like a bunch of nervous ninnies. Geez, this is embarrassing! The Republicans are laughing at us. Do you ever see them cry, “Oh, it’s all over! We are finished! Bush can’t win! Waaaaaa!”


Hell no. It’s never over for them until the last ballot is shredded. They are never finished — they just keeping moving forward like sharks that never sleep, always pushing, pulling, kicking, blocking, lying.


They are relentless and that is why we secretly admire them — they just simply never, ever give up. Only 30% of the country calls itself “Republican,” yet the Republicans own it all — the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and the majority of the governorships. How do you think they’ve been able to pull that off considering they are a minority? It’s because they eat you and me and every other liberal for breakfast and then spend the rest of the day wreaking havoc on the planet.


Look at us — what a bunch of crybabies. Bush gets a bounce after his convention and you would have thought the Germans had run through Poland again. The Bushies are coming, the Bushies are coming! Yes, they caught Kerry asleep on the Swift Boat thing. Yes, they found the frequency in Dan Rather and ran with it. Suddenly it’s like, “THE END IS NEAR! THE SKY IS FALLING!”


No, it is not. If I hear one more person tell me how lousy a candidate Kerry is and how he can’t win… Dammit, of COURSE he’s a lousy candidate — he’s a Democrat, for heavens sake! That party is so pathetic, they even lose the elections they win! What were you expecting, Bruce Springsteen heading up the ticket? Bruce would make a helluva president, but guys like him don’t run — and neither do you or I. People like Kerry run.


Yes, OF COURSE any of us would have run a better, smarter, kick-ass campaign. Of course we would have smacked each and every one of those phony swifty boaty bastards down. But WE are not running for president — Kerry is. So quit complaining and work with what we have. Oprah just gave 300 women a… Pontiac! Did you see any of them frowning and moaning and screaming, “Oh God, NOT a friggin’ Pontiac!” Of course not, they were happy. The Pontiacs all had four wheels, an engine and a gas pedal. You want more than that, well, I can’t help you. I had a Pontiac once and it lasted a good year. And it was a VERY good year.


My friends, it is time for a reality check.


1. The polls are wrong. They are all over the map like diarrhea. On Friday, one poll had Bush 13 points ahead — and another poll had them both tied. There are three reasons why the polls are b.s.: One, they are polling “likely voters.” “Likely” means those who have consistently voted in the past few elections. So that cuts out young people who are voting for the first time and a ton of non-voters who are definitely going to vote in THIS election. Second, they are not polling people who use their cell phone as their primary phone. Again, that means they are not talking to young people. Finally, most of the polls are weighted with too many Republicans, as pollster John Zogby revealed last week. You are being snookered if you believe any of these polls.


2. Kerry has brought in the Clinton A-team. Instead of shunning Clinton (as Gore did), Kerry has decided to not make that mistake.


3. Traveling around the country, as I’ve been doing, I gotta tell ya, there is a hell of a lot of unrest out there. Much of it is not being captured by the mainstream press. But it is simmering and it is real. Do not let those well-produced Bush rallies of angry white people scare you. Turn off the TV! (Except Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers — everything else is just a sugar-coated lie).


4. Conventional wisdom says if the election is decided on “9/11” (the fear of terrorism), Bush wins. But if it is decided on the job we are doing in Iraq, then Bush loses. And folks, that “job,” you might have noticed, has descended into the third level of a hell we used to call Vietnam. There is no way out. It is a full-blown mess of a quagmire and the body bags will sadly only mount higher. Regardless of what Kerry meant by his original war vote, he ain’t the one who sent those kids to their deaths — and Mr. and Mrs. Middle America knows it. Had Bush bothered to show up when he was in the “service” he might have somewhat of a clue as to how to recognize an immoral war that cannot be “won.” All he has delivered to Iraq was that plasticized turkey last Thanksgiving. It is this failure of monumental proportions that is going to cook his goose come this November.


So, do not despair. All is not over. Far from it. The Bush people need you to believe that it is over. They need you to slump back into your easy chair and feel that sick pain in your gut as you contemplate another four years of George W. Bush. They need you to wish we had a candidate who didn’t windsurf and who was just as smart as we were when WE knew Bush was lying about WMD and Saddam planning 9/11. It’s like Karl Rove is hypnotizing you — “Kerry voted for the war…Kerry voted for the war…Kerrrrrryyy vooootted fooooor theeee warrrrrrrrrr…”


Yes…Yes…Yesssss…He did! HE DID! No sense in fighting now…what I need is sleep…sleeep…sleeeeeeppppp…


WAKE UP! The majority are with us! More than half of all Americans are pro-choice, want stronger environmental laws, are appalled that assault weapons are back on the street — and 54% now believe the war is wrong. YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO CONVINCE THEM OF ANY OF THIS — YOU JUST HAVE TO GIVE THEM A RAY OF HOPE AND A RIDE TO THE POLLS. CAN YOU DO THAT? WILL YOU DO THAT?


Just for me, please? Buck up. The country is almost back in our hands. Not another negative word until Nov. 3rd! Then you can bitch all you want about how you wish Kerry was still that long-haired kid who once had the courage to stand up for something. Personally, I think that kid is still inside him. Instead of the wailing and gnashing of your teeth, why not hold out a hand to him and help the inner soldier/protester come out and defeat the forces of evil we now so desperately face. Do we have any other choice?


Yours,


Michael Moore
www.michaelmoore.com
mmflint@aol.com

Ron Reagan: \"The Case Against George W. Bush\"

September 20, 2004 at 10:00 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

This essay by Ron Reagan may be the best argument yet about why we cannot afford to give Dubya another term. It’s a month old now, so maybe you’ve seen it already, but I thought it definitely worth recirculating. It’s eloquent, accurate, and balanced enough for any Republican (or son of a Republican president) to see the peril that this administration has gotten us into. Read it. Ask yourself if it’s not true. And especially, forward it to any non-voters you know, for it is likely in their hands that the outcome of the next election rests.

Dubya’s record is long with lies, and we the people must put a stop to it. They have never admitted a single one of them, even when faced with incontrovertible facts. Instead, they have focused all of their energy on tearing apart John Kerry, as if their four years of failed policy could just be forgotten.
John Kerry may not be the perfect candidate that we’d all like to have, but at least he’s honest, and offers a strong set of realistic policies that can help to turn this country around. With one of the longest and strongest records of anyone in Congress on protecting the environment and the rights and basic needs of our citizens, we know that we can can trust him. Dubya has lied to us about so many things, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that he cannot be trusted, and cannot be believed.

Enough with the lies. Enough with the spin. It’s time for the presidency to get real, and join the rest of us.

–C


The Case Against George W. Bush

By Ron Reagan

Esquire

September 2004, Volume 142, Issue 3
It may have been the guy in the hood teetering on the stool, electrodes clamped to his genitals. Or smirking Lynndie England and her leash. Maybe it was the smarmy memos tapped out by soft-fingered lawyers itching to justify such barbarism. The grudging, lunatic retreat of the neocons from their long-standing assertion that Saddam was in cahoots with Osama didn’t hurt. Even the Enron audiotapes and their celebration of craven sociopathy likely played a part. As a result of all these displays and countless smaller ones, you could feel, a couple of months back, as summer spread across the country, the ground shifting beneath your feet. Not unlike that scene in The Day After Tomorrow, then in theaters, in which the giant ice shelf splits asunder, this was more a paradigm shift than anything strictly tectonic. No cataclysmic ice age, admittedly, yet something was in the air, and people were inhaling deeply. I began to get calls from friends whose parents had always voted Republican, “but not this time.” There was the staid Zbigniew Brzezinski on the staid NewsHour with Jim Lehrer sneering at the “Orwellian language” flowing out of the Pentagon. Word spread through the usual channels that old hands from the days of Bush the Elder were quietly (but not too quietly) appalled by his son’s misadventure in Iraq. Suddenly, everywhere you went, a surprising number of folks seemed to have had just about enough of what the Bush administration was dishing out. A fresh age appeared on the horizon, accompanied by the sound of scales falling from people’s eyes. It felt something like a demonstration of that highest of American prerogatives and the most deeply cherished American freedom: dissent.


Oddly, even my father’s funeral contributed. Throughout that long, stately, overtelevised week in early June, items would appear in the newspaper discussing the Republicans’ eagerness to capitalize (subtly, tastefully) on the outpouring of affection for my father and turn it to Bush’s advantage for the fall election. The familiar “Heir to Reagan” puffballs were reinflated and loosed over the proceedings like (subtle, tasteful) Mylar balloons. Predictably, this backfired. People were treated to a side-by-side comparison—Ronald W. Reagan versus George W. Bush—and it’s no surprise who suffered for it. Misty-eyed with nostalgia, people set aside old political gripes for a few days and remembered what friend and foe always conceded to Ronald Reagan: He was damned impressive in the role of leader of the free world. A sign in the crowd, spotted during the slow roll to the Capitol rotunda, seemed to sum up the mood—a portrait of my father and the words NOW THERE WAS A PRESIDENT.


The comparison underscored something important. And the guy on the stool, Lynndie, and her grinning cohorts, they brought the word: The Bush administration can’t be trusted. The parade of Bush officials before various commissions and committees—Paul Wolfowitz, who couldn’t quite remember how many young Americans had been sacrificed on the altar of his ideology; John Ashcroft, lip quivering as, for a delicious, fleeting moment, it looked as if Senator Joe Biden might just come over the table at him—these were a continuing reminder. The Enron creeps, too—a reminder of how certain environments and particular habits of mind can erode common decency. People noticed. A tipping point had been reached. The issue of credibility was back on the table. The L-word was in circulation. Not the tired old bromide liberal. That’s so 1988. No, this time something much more potent: liar.


Politicians will stretch the truth. They’ll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken “normal” mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.


None of this, needless to say, guarantees Bush a one-term presidency. The far-right wing of the country—nearly one third of us by some estimates—continues to regard all who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid (liberals, rationalists, Europeans, et cetera) as agents of Satan. Bush could show up on video canoodling with Paris Hilton and still bank their vote. Right-wing talking heads continue painting anyone who fails to genuflect deeply enough as a “hater,” and therefore a nut job, probably a crypto-Islamist car bomber. But these protestations have taken on a hysterical, almost comically desperate tone. It’s one thing to get trashed by Michael Moore. But when Nobel laureates, a vast majority of the scientific community, and a host of current and former diplomats, intelligence operatives, and military officials line up against you, it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize the opposition as fringe wackos.


Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that’s not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy’s critique of George W. Bush.




THE MOST EGREGIOUS EXAMPLES OF distortion and misdirection—which the administration even now cannot bring itself to repudiate—involve our putative “War on Terror” and our subsequent foray into Iraq.

During his campaign for the presidency, Mr. Bush pledged a more “humble” foreign policy. “I would take the use of force very seriously,” he said. “I would be guarded in my approach.” Other countries would resent us “if we’re an arrogant nation.” He sniffed at the notion of “nation building.” “Our military is meant to fight and win wars. . . . And when it gets overextended, morale drops.” International cooperation and consensus building would be the cornerstone of a Bush administration’s approach to the larger world. Given candidate Bush’s remarks, it was hard to imagine him, as president, flipping a stiff middle finger at the world and charging off adventuring in the Middle East.


But didn’t 9/11 reshuffle the deck, changing everything? Didn’t Mr. Bush, on September 12, 2001, awaken to the fresh realization that bad guys in charge of Islamic nations constitute an entirely new and grave threat to us and have to be ruthlessly confronted lest they threaten the American homeland again? Wasn’t Saddam Hussein rushed to the front of the line because he was complicit with the hijackers and in some measure responsible for the atrocities in Washington, D. C., and at the tip of Manhattan?


Well, no.


As Bush’s former Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, and his onetime “terror czar,” Richard A. Clarke, have made clear, the president, with the enthusiastic encouragement of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, was contemplating action against Iraq from day one. “From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out,” O’Neill said. All they needed was an excuse. Clarke got the same impression from within the White House. Afghanistan had to be dealt with first; that’s where the actual perpetrators were, after all. But the Taliban was a mere appetizer; Saddam was the entrée. (Or who knows? The soup course?) It was simply a matter of convincing the American public (and our representatives) that war was justified.


The real—but elusive—prime mover behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, was quickly relegated to a back burner (a staff member at Fox News—the cable-TV outlet of the Bush White House—told me a year ago that mere mention of bin Laden’s name was forbidden within the company, lest we be reminded that the actual bad guy remained at large) while Saddam’s Iraq became International Enemy Number One. Just like that, a country whose economy had been reduced to shambles by international sanctions, whose military was less than half the size it had been when the U. S. Army rolled over it during the first Gulf war, that had extensive no-flight zones imposed on it in the north and south as well as constant aerial and satellite surveillance, and whose lethal weapons and capacity to produce such weapons had been destroyed or seriously degraded by UN inspection teams became, in Mr. Bush’s words, “a threat of unique urgency” to the most powerful nation on earth.


Fanciful but terrifying scenarios were introduced: Unmanned aircraft, drones, had been built for missions targeting the U. S., Bush told the nation. “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice deadpanned to CNN. And, Bush maintained, “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.” We “know” Iraq possesses such weapons, Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney assured us. We even “know” where they are hidden. After several months of this mumbo jumbo, 70 percent of Americans had embraced the fantasy that Saddam destroyed the World Trade Center.




ALL THESE ASSERTIONS have proved to be baseless and, we’ve since discovered, were regarded with skepticism by experts at the time they were made. But contrary opinions were derided, ignored, or covered up in the rush to war. Even as of this writing, Dick Cheney clings to his mad assertion that Saddam was somehow at the nexus of a worldwide terror network.


And then there was Abu Ghraib. Our “war president” may have been justified in his assumption that Americans are a warrior people. He pushed the envelope in thinking we’d be content as an occupying power, but he was sadly mistaken if he thought that ordinary Americans would tolerate an image of themselves as torturers. To be fair, the torture was meant to be secret. So were the memos justifying such treatment that had floated around the White House, Pentagon, and Justice Department for more than a year before the first photos came to light. The neocons no doubt appreciate that few of us have the stones to practice the New Warfare. Could you slip a pair of women’s panties over the head of a naked, cowering stranger while forcing him to masturbate? What would you say while sodomizing him with a toilet plunger? Is keeping someone awake till he hallucinates inhumane treatment or merely “sleep management”?

Most of us know the answers to these questions, so it was incumbent upon the administration to pretend that Abu Ghraib was an aberration, not policy. Investigations, we were assured, were already under way; relevant bureaucracies would offer unstinting cooperation; the handful of miscreants would be sternly disciplined. After all, they didn’t “represent the best of what America’s all about.” As anyone who’d watched the proceedings of the 9/11 Commission could have predicted, what followed was the usual administration strategy of stonewalling, obstruction, and obfuscation. The appointment of investigators was stalled; documents were withheld, including the full report by Major General Antonio Taguba, who headed the Army’s primary investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib. A favorite moment for many featured John McCain growing apoplectic as Donald Rumsfeld and an entire tableful of army brass proved unable to answer the simple question Who was in charge at Abu Ghraib?


The Bush administration no doubt had its real reasons for invading and occupying Iraq. They’ve simply chosen not to share them with the American public. They sought justification for ignoring the Geneva Convention and other statutes prohibiting torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners but were loath to acknowledge as much. They may have ideas worth discussing, but they don’t welcome the rest of us in the conversation. They don’t trust us because they don’t dare expose their true agendas to the light of day. There is a surreal quality to all this: Occupation is liberation; Iraq is sovereign, but we’re in control; Saddam is in Iraqi custody, but we’ve got him; we’ll get out as soon as an elected Iraqi government asks us, but we’ll be there for years to come. Which is what we counted on in the first place, only with rose petals and easy coochie.


This Möbius reality finds its domestic analogue in the perversely cynical “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” sloganeering at Bush’s EPA and in the administration’s irresponsible tax cutting and other fiscal shenanigans. But the Bush administration has always worn strangely tinted shades, and you wonder to what extent Mr. Bush himself lives in a world of his own imagining.


And chances are your America and George W. Bush’s America are not the same place. If you are dead center on the earning scale in real-world twenty-first-century America, you make a bit less than $32,000 a year, and $32,000 is not a sum that Mr. Bush has ever associated with getting by in his world. Bush, who has always managed to fail upwards in his various careers, has never had a job the way you have a job—where not showing up one morning gets you fired, costing you your health benefits. He may find it difficult to relate personally to any of the nearly two million citizens who’ve lost their jobs under his administration, the first administration since Herbert Hoover’s to post a net loss of jobs. Mr. Bush has never had to worry that he couldn’t afford the best available health care for his children. For him, forty-three million people without health insurance may be no more than a politically inconvenient abstraction. When Mr. Bush talks about the economy, he is not talking about your economy. His economy is filled with pals called Kenny-boy who fly around in their own airplanes. In Bush’s economy, his world, friends relocate offshore to avoid paying taxes. Taxes are for chumps like you. You are not a friend. You’re the help. When the party Mr. Bush is hosting in his world ends, you’ll be left picking shrimp toast out of the carpet.




ALL ADMINISTRATIONS WILL DISSEMBLE, distort, or outright lie when their backs are against the wall, when honesty begins to look like political suicide. But this administration seems to lie reflexively, as if it were simply the easiest option for busy folks with a lot on their minds. While the big lies are more damning and of immeasurably greater import to the nation, it is the small, unnecessary prevarications that may be diagnostic. Who lies when they don’t have to? When the simple truth, though perhaps embarrassing in the short run, is nevertheless in one’s long-term self-interest? Why would a president whose calling card is his alleged rock-solid integrity waste his chief asset for penny-ante stakes? Habit, perhaps. Or an inability to admit even small mistakes.


Mr. Bush’s tendency to meander beyond the bounds of truth was evident during the 2000 campaign but was largely ignored by the mainstream media. His untruths simply didn’t fit the agreed-upon narrative. While generally acknowledged to be lacking in experience, depth, and other qualifications typically considered useful in a leader of the free world, Bush was portrayed as a decent fellow nonetheless, one whose straightforwardness was a given. None of that “what the meaning of is is” business for him. And, God knows, no furtive, taxpayer-funded fellatio sessions with the interns. Al Gore, on the other hand, was depicted as a dubious self-reinventor, stained like a certain blue dress by Bill Clinton’s prurient transgressions. He would spend valuable weeks explaining away statements—”I invented the Internet”—that he never made in the first place. All this left the coast pretty clear for Bush.


Scenario typical of the 2000 campaign: While debating Al Gore, Bush tells two obvious—if not exactly earth-shattering—lies and is not challenged. First, he claims to have supported a patient’s bill of rights while governor of Texas. This is untrue. He, in fact, vigorously resisted such a measure, only reluctantly bowing to political reality and allowing it to become law without his signature. Second, he announces that Gore has outspent him during the campaign. The opposite is true: Bush has outspent Gore. These misstatements are briefly acknowledged in major press outlets, which then quickly return to the more germane issues of Gore’s pancake makeup and whether a certain feminist author has counseled him to be more of an “alpha male.”

Having gotten away with such witless falsities, perhaps Mr. Bush and his team felt somehow above day-to-day truth. In any case, once ensconced in the White House, they picked up where they left off.




IN THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH and confusion of 9/11, Bush, who on that day was in Sarasota, Florida, conducting an emergency reading of “The Pet Goat,” was whisked off to Nebraska aboard Air Force One. While this may have been entirely sensible under the chaotic circumstances—for all anyone knew at the time, Washington might still have been under attack—the appearance was, shall we say, less than gallant. So a story was concocted: There had been a threat to Air Force One that necessitated the evasive maneuver. Bush’s chief political advisor, Karl Rove, cited “specific” and “credible” evidence to that effect. The story quickly unraveled. In truth, there was no such threat.


Then there was Bush’s now infamous photo-op landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and his subsequent speech in front of a large banner emblazoned MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. The banner, which loomed in the background as Bush addressed the crew, became problematic as it grew clear that the mission in Iraq—whatever that may have been—was far from accomplished. “Major combat operations,” as Bush put it, may have technically ended, but young Americans were still dying almost daily. So the White House dealt with the questionable banner in a manner befitting a president pledged to “responsibility and accountability”: It blamed the sailors. No surprise, a bit of digging by journalists revealed the banner and its premature triumphalism to be the work of the White House communications office.


More serious by an order of magnitude was the administration’s dishonesty concerning pre-9/11 terror warnings. As questions first arose about the country’s lack of preparedness in the face of terrorist assault, Condoleezza Rice was dispatched to the pundit arenas to assure the nation that “no one could have imagined terrorists using aircraft as weapons.” In fact, terrorism experts had warned repeatedly of just such a calamity. In June 2001, CIA director George Tenet sent Rice an intelligence report warning that “it is highly likely that a significant Al Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.” Two intelligence briefings given to Bush in the summer of 2001 specifically connected Al Qaeda to the imminent danger of hijacked planes being used as weapons. According to The New York Times, after the second of these briefings, titled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States,” was delivered to the president at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, in August, Bush “broke off from work early and spent most of the day fishing.” This was the briefing Dr. Rice dismissed as “historical” in her testimony before the 9/11 Commission.


What’s odd is that none of these lies were worth the breath expended in the telling. If only for self-serving political reasons, honesty was the way to go. The flight of Air Force One could easily have been explained in terms of security precautions taken in the confusion of momentous events. As for the carrier landing, someone should have fallen on his or her sword at the first hint of trouble: We told the president he needed to do it; he likes that stuff and was gung-ho; we figured, What the hell?; it was a mistake. The banner? We thought the sailors would appreciate it. In retrospect, also a mistake. Yup, we sure feel dumb now. Owning up to the 9/11 warnings would have entailed more than simple embarrassment. But done forthrightly and immediately, an honest reckoning would have earned the Bush team some respect once the dust settled. Instead, by needlessly tap-dancing, Bush’s White House squandered vital credibility, turning even relatively minor gaffes into telling examples of its tendency to distort and evade the truth.

But image is everything in this White House, and the image of George Bush as a noble and infallible warrior in the service of his nation must be fanatically maintained, because behind the image lies . . . nothing? As Jonathan Alter of Newsweek has pointed out, Bush has “never fully inhabited” the presidency. Bush apologists can smilingly excuse his malopropisms and vagueness as the plainspokenness of a man of action, but watching Bush flounder when attempting to communicate extemporaneously, one is left with the impression that he is ineloquent not because he can’t speak but because he doesn’t bother to think.




GEORGE W. BUSH PROMISED to “change the tone in Washington” and ran for office as a moderate, a “compassionate conservative,” in the focus-group-tested sloganeering of his campaign. Yet he has governed from the right wing of his already conservative party, assiduously tending a “base” that includes, along with the expected Fortune 500 fat cats, fiscal evangelicals who talk openly of doing away with Social Security and Medicare, of shrinking government to the size where they can, in tax radical Grover Norquist’s phrase, “drown it in the bathtub.” That base also encompasses a healthy share of anti-choice zealots, homophobic bigots, and assorted purveyors of junk science. Bush has tossed bones to all of them—”partial birth” abortion legislation, the promise of a constitutional amendment banning marriage between homosexuals, federal roadblocks to embryonic-stem-cell research, even comments suggesting presidential doubts about Darwinian evolution. It’s not that Mr. Bush necessarily shares their worldview; indeed, it’s unclear whether he embraces any coherent philosophy. But this president, who vowed to eschew politics in favor of sound policy, panders nonetheless in the interest of political gain. As John DiIulio, Bush’s former head of the Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives, once told this magazine, “What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm.”


This was not what the American electorate opted for when, in 2000, by a slim but decisive margin of more than half a million votes, they chose . . . the other guy. Bush has never had a mandate. Surveys indicate broad public dissatisfaction with his domestic priorities. How many people would have voted for Mr. Bush in the first place had they understood his eagerness to pass on crushing debt to our children or seen his true colors regarding global warming and the environment? Even after 9/11, were people really looking to be dragged into an optional war under false pretenses?


If ever there was a time for uniting and not dividing, this is it. Instead, Mr. Bush governs as if by divine right, seeming to actually believe that a wise God wants him in the White House and that by constantly evoking the horrible memory of September 11, 2001, he can keep public anxiety stirred up enough to carry him to another term.




UNDERSTANDABLY, SOME SUPPORTERS of Mr. Bush’s will believe I harbor a personal vendetta against the man, some seething resentment. One conservative commentator, based on earlier remarks I’ve made, has already discerned “jealousy” on my part; after all, Bush, the son of a former president, now occupies that office himself, while I, most assuredly, will not. Truth be told, I have no personal feelings for Bush at all. I hardly know him, having met him only twice, briefly and uneventfully—once during my father’s presidency and once during my father’s funeral. I’ll acknowledge occasional annoyance at the pretense that he’s somehow a clone of my father, but far from threatening, I see this more as silly and pathetic. My father, acting roles excepted, never pretended to be anyone but himself. His Republican party, furthermore, seems a far cry from the current model, with its cringing obeisance to the religious Right and its kill-anything-that-moves attack instincts. Believe it or not, I don’t look in the mirror every morning and see my father looming over my shoulder. I write and speak as nothing more or less than an American citizen, one who is plenty angry about the direction our country is being dragged by the current administration. We have reached a critical juncture in our nation’s history, one ripe with both danger and possibility. We need leadership with the wisdom to prudently confront those dangers and the imagination to boldly grasp the possibilities. Beyond issues of fiscal irresponsibility and ill-advised militarism, there is a question of trust. George W. Bush and his allies don’t trust you and me. Why on earth, then, should we trust them?


Fortunately, we still live in a democratic republic. The Bush team cannot expect a cabal of right-wing justices to once again deliver the White House. Come November 2, we will have a choice: We can embrace a lie, or we can restore a measure of integrity to our government. We can choose, as a bumper sticker I spotted in Seattle put it, SOMEONE ELSE FOR PRESIDENT.

Bill Moyers Speech: \"This is the Fight of Our Lives\"

September 17, 2004 at 6:00 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

I thought it appropriate to commemorate this 500th GRL entry by reposting an excellent speech by Bill Moyers. I have to agree with him 100%. This is the fight of our lives. We simply cannot afford to let this country be driven any further into the ground.

We have seven weeks left until the election. You can make a difference, especially by talking to friends and family in swing states. If you want some suggestions on other things you can do, from hosting house parties to volunteering to help get out the vote, Moveon.org has a host of suggestions and materials you can use. In particular, you might want to forward around some of the ads that MoveOn has created for the final 10 week push to the election. View them here.

Get out there and make a difference.

–C


This is the Fight of Our Lives

by Bill Moyers

Keynote speech

Inequality Matters Forum

New York University

June 3, 2004

Originally published on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 by Inequality.org

“The middle class and working poor are told that what’s happening to them is the consequence of Adam Smith’s ‘Invisible Hand.’ This is a lie. What’s happening to them is the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of a religious orthodoxy that in its hunger for government subsidies has made an idol of power, and a string of political decisions favoring the powerful and the privileged who bought the political system right out from under us.”
— Bill Moyers, Keynote speech, June 3, 2004

It is important from time to time to remember that some things are worth getting mad about.

Here’s one: On March 10 of this year, on page B8, with a headline that stretched across all six columns, The New York Times reported that tuition in the city’s elite private schools would hit $26,000 for the coming school year — for kindergarten as well as high school. On the same page, under a two-column headline, Michael Wineraub wrote about a school in nearby Mount Vernon, the first stop out of the Bronx, with a student body that is 97 percent black. It is the poorest school in the town: nine out of ten children qualify for free lunches; one out of 10 lives in a homeless shelter. During black history month this past February, a sixth grader wanted to write a report on Langston Hughes. There were no books on Langston Hughes in the library — no books about the great poet, nor any of his poems. There is only one book in the library on Frederick Douglass. None on Rosa Parks, Josephine Baker, Leontyne Price, or other giants like them in the modern era. In fact, except for a few Newberry Award books the librarian bought with her own money, the library is mostly old books — largely from the 1950s and 60s when the school was all white. A 1960 child’s primer on work begins with a youngster learning how to be a telegraph delivery boy. All the workers in the book — the dry cleaner, the deliveryman, the cleaning lady — are white. There’s a 1967 book about telephones which says: “when you phone you usually dial the number. But on some new phones you can push buttons.” The newest encyclopedia dates from l991, with two volumes — “b” and “r” — missing. There is no card catalog in the library — no index cards or computer.

Something to get mad about.

Here’s something else: Caroline Payne’s face and gums are distorted because her Medicaid-financed dentures don’t fit. Because they don’t fit, she is continuously turned down for jobs on account of her appearance. Caroline Payne is one of the people in David Shipler’s new book,’ The Working Poor: Invisible in America’. She was born poor, and in spite of having once owned her own home and having earned a two-year college degree, Caroline Payne has bounced from one poverty-wage job to another all her life, equipped with the will to move up, but not the resources to deal with unexpected and overlapping problems like a mentally handicapped daughter, a broken marriage, a sudden layoff crisis that forced her to sell her few assets, pull up roots and move on. “In the house of the poor,” Shipler writes “…the walls are thin and fragile and troubles seep into one another.”

Here’s something else to get mad about. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives, the body of Congress owned and operated by the corporate, political, and religious right, approved new tax credits for children. Not for poor children, mind you. But for families earning as much as $309,000 a year — families that already enjoy significant benefits from earlier tax cuts. The editorial page of The Washington Post called this “bad social policy, bad tax policy, and bad fiscal policy. You’d think they’d be embarrassed,” said the Post, “but they’re not.”

And this, too, is something to get mad about. Nothing seems to embarrass the political class in Washington today. Not the fact that more children are growing up in poverty in America than in any other industrial nation; not the fact that millions of workers are actually making less money today in real dollars than they did twenty years ago; not the fact that working people are putting in longer and longer hours and still falling behind; not the fact that while we have the most advanced medical care in the world, nearly 44 million Americans — eight out of ten of them in working families — are uninsured and cannot get the basic care they need.

Astonishing as it seems, no one in official Washington seems embarrassed by the fact that the gap between rich and poor is greater than it’s been in 50 years — the worst inequality among all western nations. Or that we are experiencing a shift in poverty. For years it was said those people down there at the bottom were single, jobless mothers. For years they were told work, education, and marriage is how they move up the economic ladder. But poverty is showing up where we didn’t expect it — among families that include two parents, a worker, and a head of the household with more than a high school education. These are the newly poor. Our political, financial and business class expects them to climb out of poverty on an escalator moving downward.

Let me tell you about the Stanleys and the Neumanns. During the last decade, I produced a series of documentaries for PBS called “Surviving the Good Times.” The title refers to the boom time of the ’90s when the country achieved the longest period of economic growth in its entire history. Some good things happened then, but not everyone shared equally in the benefits. To the contrary. The decade began with a sustained period of downsizing by corporations moving jobs out of America and many of those people never recovered what was taken from them. We decided early on to tell the stories of two families in Milwaukee — one black, one white — whose breadwinners were laid off in the first wave of layoffs in 1991. We reported on how they were coping with the wrenching changes in their lives, and we stayed with them over the next ten years as they tried to find a place in the new global economy. They’re the kind of Americans my mother would have called “the salt of the earth.” They love their kids, care about their communities, go to church every Sunday, and work hard all week — both mothers have had to take full-time jobs.

During our time with them, the fathers in both families became seriously ill. One had to stay in the hospital two months, putting his family $30,000 in debt because they didn’t have adequate health insurance. We were there with our camera when the bank started to foreclose on the modest home of the other family because they couldn’t meet the mortgage payments after dad lost his good-paying manufacturing job. Like millions of Americans, the Stanleys and the Neumanns were playing by the rules and still getting stiffed. By the end of the decade they were running harder but slipping behind, and the gap between them and prosperous America was widening.

What turns their personal tragedy into a political travesty is that they are patriotic. They love this country. But they no longer believe they matter to the people who run the country. When our film opens, both families are watching the inauguration of Bill Clinton on television in 1992. By the end of the decade they were no longer paying attention to politics. They don’t see it connecting to their lives. They don’t think their concerns will ever be addressed by the political, corporate, and media elites who make up our dominant class. They are not cynical, because they are deeply religious people with no capacity for cynicism, but they know the system is rigged against them. They know this, and we know this. For years now a small fraction of American households have been garnering an extreme concentration of wealth and income while large corporations and financial institutions have obtained unprecedented levels of economic and political power over daily life. In 1960, the gap in terms of wealth between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was 30 fold. Four decades later it is more than 75 fold.

Such concentrations of wealth would be far less of an issue if the rest of society were benefiting proportionately. But that’s not the case. As the economist Jeff Madrick reminds us, the pressures of inequality on middle and working class Americans are now quite severe. “The strain on working people and on family life, as spouses have gone to work in dramatic numbers, has become significant. VCRs and television sets are cheap, but higher education, health care, public transportation, drugs, housing and cars have risen faster in price than typical family incomes. And life has grown neither calm nor secure for most Americans, by any means.” You can find many sources to support this conclusion. I like the language of a small outfit here in New York called the Commonwealth Foundation/Center for the Renewal of American Democracy. They conclude that working families and the poor “are losing ground under economic pressures that deeply affect household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, political participation, and civic life.”

Household economics is not the only area where inequality is growing in America. Equality doesn’t mean equal incomes, but a fair and decent society where money is not the sole arbiter of status or comfort. In a fair and just society, the commonwealth will be valued even as individual wealth is encouraged.

Let me make something clear here. I wasn’t born yesterday. I’m old enough to know that the tension between haves and have-nots are built into human psychology, it is a constant in human history, and it has been a factor in every society. But I also know America was going to be different. I know that because I read Mr. Jefferson’s writings, Mr. Lincoln’s speeches and other documents in the growing American creed. I presumptuously disagreed with Thomas Jefferson about human equality being self-evident. Where I lived, neither talent, nor opportunity, nor outcomes were equal. Life is rarely fair and never equal. So what could he possibly have meant by that ringing but ambiguous declaration: “All men are created equal”? Two things, possibly. One, although none of us are good, all of us are sacred (Glenn Tinder), that’s the basis for thinking we are by nature kin.

Second, he may have come to see the meaning of those words through the experience of the slave who was his mistress. As is now widely acknowledged, the hands that wrote “all men are created equal” also stroked the breasts and caressed the thighs of a black woman named Sally Hennings. She bore him six children whom he never acknowledged as his own, but who were the only slaves freed by his will when he died — the one request we think Sally Hennings made of her master. Thomas Jefferson could not have been insensitive to the flesh-and-blood woman in his arms. He had to know she was his equal in her desire for life, her longing for liberty, her passion for happiness.

In his book on the Declaration, my late friend Mortimer Adler said Jefferson realized that whatever things are really good for any human being are really good for all other human beings. The happy or good life is essentially the same for all: a satisfaction of the same needs inherent in human nature. A just society is grounded in that recognition. So Jefferson kept as a slave a woman whose nature he knew was equal to his. All Sally Hennings got from her long sufferance — perhaps it was all she sought from what may have grown into a secret and unacknowledged love — was that he let her children go. “Let my children go” — one of the oldest of all petitions. It has long been the promise of America — a broken promise, to be sure. But the idea took hold that we could fix what was broken so that our children would live a bountiful life. We could prevent the polarization between the very rich and the very poor that poisoned other societies. We could provide that each and every citizen would enjoy the basic necessities of life, a voice in the system of self-government, and a better chance for their children. We could preclude the vast divides that produced the turmoil and tyranny of the very countries from which so many of our families had fled.

We were going to do these things because we understood our dark side — none of us is good — but we also understood the other side — all of us are sacred. From Jefferson forward we have grappled with these two notions in our collective head — that we are worthy of the creator but that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Believing the one and knowing the other, we created a country where the winners didn’t take all. Through a system of checks and balances we were going to maintain a safe, if shifting, equilibrium between wealth and commonwealth. We believed equitable access to public resources is the lifeblood of any democracy. So early on [in Jeff Madrick’s description,] primary schooling was made free to all. States changed laws to protect debtors, often the relatively poor, against their rich creditors. Charters to establish corporations were open to most, if not all, white comers, rather than held for the elite. The government encouraged Americans to own their own piece of land, and even supported squatters’ rights. The court challenged monopoly — all in the name of we the people.

In my time we went to public schools. My brother made it to college on the GI bill. When I bought my first car for $450 I drove to a subsidized university on free public highways and stopped to rest in state-maintained public parks. This is what I mean by the commonwealth. Rudely recognized in its formative years, always subject to struggle, constantly vulnerable to reactionary counterattacks, the notion of America as a shared project has been the central engine of our national experience.

Until now. I don’t have to tell you that a profound transformation is occurring in America: the balance between wealth and the commonwealth is being upended. By design. Deliberately. We have been subjected to what the Commonwealth Foundation calls “a fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that have shaped public responsibility for social harms arising from the excesses of private power.” From land, water and other natural resources, to media and the broadcast and digital spectrums, to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs, and to politics itself, a broad range of the American commons is undergoing a powerful shift toward private and corporate control. And with little public debate. Indeed, what passes for ‘political debate’ in this country has become a cynical charade behind which the real business goes on — the not-so-scrupulous business of getting and keeping power in order to divide up the spoils.

We could have seen this coming if we had followed the money. The veteran Washington reporter, Elizabeth Drew, says “the greatest change in Washington over the past 25 years — in its culture, in the way it does business and the ever-burgeoning amount of business transactions that go on here — has been in the preoccupation with money.” Jeffrey Birnbaum, who covered Washington for nearly twenty years for the Wall Street Journal, put it more strongly: “[campaign cash] has flooded over the gunwales of the ship of state and threatens to sink the entire vessel. Political donations determine the course and speed of many government actions that deeply affect our daily lives.” Politics is suffocating from the stranglehold of money. During his brief campaign in 2000, before he was ambushed by the dirty tricks of the religious right in South Carolina and big money from George W. Bush’s wealthy elites, John McCain said elections today are nothing less than an “influence peddling scheme in which both parties compete to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder.”

Small wonder that with the exception of people like John McCain and Russ Feingold, official Washington no longer finds anything wrong with a democracy dominated by the people with money. Hit the pause button here, and recall Roger Tamraz. He’s the wealthy oilman who paid $300,000 to get a private meeting in the White House with President Clinton; he wanted help in securing a big pipeline in central Asia. This got him called before congressional hearings on the financial excesses of the 1996 campaign. If you watched the hearings on C-Span you heard him say he didn’t think he had done anything out of the ordinary. When they pressed him he told the senators: “Look, when it comes to money and politics, you make the rules. I’m just playing by your rules.” One senator then asked if Tamraz had registered and voted. And he was blunt in his reply: “No, senator, I think money’s a bit more (important) than the vote.”

So what does this come down to, practically?

Here is one accounting:

“When powerful interests shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they often get what they want. But it’s ordinary citizens and firms that pay the price and most of them never see it coming. This is what happens if you don’t contribute to their campaigns or spend generously on lobbying. You pick up a disproportionate share of America’s tax bill. You pay higher prices for a broad range of products from peanuts to prescriptions. You pay taxes that others in a similar situation have been excused from paying. You’re compelled to abide by laws while others are granted immunity from them. You must pay debts that you incur while others do not. You’re barred from writing off on your tax returns some of the money spent on necessities while others deduct the cost of their entertainment. You must run your business by one set of rules, while the government creates another set for your competitors. In contrast, the fortunate few who contribute to the right politicians and hire the right lobbyists enjoy all the benefits of their special status. Make a bad business deal; the government bails them out. If they want to hire workers at below market wages, the government provides the means to do so. If they want more time to pay their debts, the government gives them an extension. If they want immunity from certain laws, the government gives it. If they want to ignore rules their competition must comply with, the government gives its approval. If they want to kill legislation that is intended for the public, it gets killed.”

I’m not quoting from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital or Mao’s Little Red Book. I’m quoting Time magazine. Time’s premier investigative journalists — Donald Bartlett and James Steele — concluded in a series last year that America now has “government for the few at the expense of the many.” Economic inequality begets political inequality, and vice versa.

That’s why the Stanleys and the Neumanns were turned off by politics. It’s why we’re losing the balance between wealth and the commonwealth. It’s why we can’t put things right. And it is the single most destructive force tearing at the soul of democracy. Hear the great justice Learned Hand on this: “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: ‘Thou shalt not ration justice.’ ” Learned Hand was a prophet of democracy. The rich have the right to buy more homes than anyone else. They have the right to buy more cars than anyone else, more gizmos than anyone else, more clothes and vacations than anyone else. But they do not have the right to buy more democracy than anyone else.

I know, I know: this sounds very much like a call for class war. But the class war was declared a generation ago, in a powerful paperback polemic by William Simon, who was soon to be Secretary of the Treasury. He called on the financial and business class, in effect, to take back the power and privileges they had lost in the depression and new deal. They got the message, and soon they began a stealthy class war against the rest of society and the principles of our democracy. They set out to trash the social contract, to cut their workforces and wages, to scour the globe in search of cheap labor, and to shred the social safety net that was supposed to protect people from hardships beyond their control. Business Week put it bluntly at the time: “Some people will obviously have to do with less….it will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more.”

The middle class and working poor are told that what’s happening to them is the consequence of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand.” This is a lie. What’s happening to them is the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of a religious orthodoxy that in its hunger for government subsidies has made an idol of power, and a string of political decisions favoring the powerful and the privileged who bought the political system right out from under us.

To create the intellectual framework for this takeover of public policy they funded conservative think tanks — The Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute — that churned out study after study advocating their agenda.

To put political muscle behind these ideas they created a formidable political machine. One of the few journalists to cover the issues of class — Thomas Edsall of The Washington Post — wrote: “During the 1970s, business refined its ability to act as a class, submerging competitive instincts in favor of joint, cooperate action in the legislative area.” Big business political action committees flooded the political arena with a deluge of dollars. And they built alliances with the religious right — Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition — who mounted a cultural war providing a smokescreen for the class war, hiding the economic plunder of the very people who were enlisted as foot soldiers in the cause of privilege.

In a book to be published this summer, Daniel Altman describes what he calls the “neo-economy — a place without taxes, without a social safety net, where rich and poor live in different financial worlds — and [said Altman] it’s coming to America.” He’s a little late. It’s here. Says Warren Buffett, the savviest investor of them all: “My class won.”

Look at the spoils of victory:

Over the past three years, they’ve pushed through $2 trillion dollars in tax cuts — almost all tilted towards the wealthiest people in the country.

Cuts in taxes on the largest incomes.

Cuts in taxes on investment income.

And cuts in taxes on huge inheritances.

More than half of the benefits are going to the wealthiest one percent. You could call it trickle-down economics, except that the only thing that trickled down was a sea of red ink in our state and local governments, forcing them to cut services for and raise taxes on middle class working America.

Now the Congressional Budget Office forecasts deficits totaling $2.75 trillion over the next ten years.

These deficits have been part of their strategy. Some of you will remember that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan tried to warn us 20 years ago, when he predicted that President Ronald Reagan’s real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions. Reagan’s own budget director, David Stockman, admitted as such. Now the leading rightwing political strategist, Grover Norquist, says the goal is to “starve the beast” — with trillions of dollars in deficits resulting from trillions of dollars in tax cuts, until the United States Government is so anemic and anorexic it can be drowned in the bathtub.

There’s no question about it: The corporate conservatives and their allies in the political and religious right are achieving a vast transformation of American life that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. In creating the greatest economic inequality in the advanced world, they have saddled our nation, our states, and our cities and counties with structural deficits that will last until our children’s children are ready for retirement, and they are systematically stripping government of all its functions except rewarding the rich and waging war.

And they are proud of what they have done to our economy and our society. If instead of practicing journalism I was writing for Saturday Night Live, I couldn’t have made up the things that this crew have been saying. The president’s chief economic adviser says shipping technical and professional jobs overseas is good for the economy. The president’s Council of Economic Advisers report that hamburger chefs in fast food restaurants can be considered manufacturing workers. The president’s Federal Reserve Chairman says that the tax cuts may force cutbacks in social security – but hey, we should make the tax cuts permanent anyway. The president’s Labor Secretary says it doesn’t matter if job growth has stalled because “the stock market is the ultimate arbiter.”

You just can’t make this stuff up. You have to hear it to believe it. This may be the first class war in history where the victims will die laughing.

But what they are doing to middle class and working Americans — and to the workings of American democracy — is no laughing matter. Go online and read the transcripts of Enron traders in the energy crisis four years ago, discussing how they were manipulating the California power market in telephone calls in which they gloat about ripping off “those poor grandmothers.” Read how they talk about political contributions to politicians like “Kenny Boy” Lay’s best friend George W. Bush. Go on line and read how Citigroup has been fined $70 Million for abuses in loans to low-income, high risk borrowers – the largest penalty ever imposed by the Federal Reserve. A few clicks later, you can find the story of how a subsidiary of the corporate computer giant NEC has been fined over $20 million after pleading guilty to corruption in a federal plan to bring Internet access to poor schools and libraries. And this, the story says, is just one piece of a nationwide scheme to rip off the government and the poor.

Let’s face the reality: If ripping off the public trust; if distributing tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the poor; if driving the country into deficits deliberately to starve social benefits; if requiring states to balance their budgets on the backs of the poor; if squeezing the wages of workers until the labor force resembles a nation of serfs — if this isn’t class war, what is?

It’s un-American. It’s unpatriotic. And it’s wrong.

But I don’t need to tell you this. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t know it. Your presence at this gathering confirms that while an America with liberty and justice for all is a broken promise, it is not a lost cause. Once upon a time I thought the mass media — my industry — would help mend this broken promise and save this cause. After all, the sight of police dogs attacking peaceful demonstrators forced America to recognize the reality of racial injustice. The sight of carnage in Vietnam forced us to recognize the war was unwinnable. The sight of terrorists striking the World Trade Center woke us from a long slumber of denial and distraction. I thought the mass media might awaken Americans to the reality that this ideology of winner-take-all is working against them and not for them. I was wrong. With honorable exceptions, we can’t count on the mass media.

What we need is a mass movement of people like you. Get mad, yes — there’s plenty to be mad about. Then get organized and get busy. This is the fight of our lives.

High Plains Grifter: The Life and Crimes of George W. Bush

September 16, 2004 at 3:01 pm
Contributed by:

Hey folks,

I ran across a pretty interesting series of articles, written last week by Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of CounterPunch.org and the author of several books, including Imperial Crusades. I’d encourage you to read them. Though I’ve read most of the material elsewhere, Mr. St. Clair did a pretty good job of hitting the high points with an ascerbic wit, and a sometimes over-the-top meaness, that, when viewed in the context of the Bush administration’s tactics, seem unfortunately appropriate. As sad as that is to say. Note: Be sure to scroll down once the page loads. There is a subscription section at the top that may take up the full page at lower browser resolutions. The articles are below that section.

Part One: The Ties That Blind

There were two rather shocking quotes in Part One. Barbara Bush on Good Morning America, about the escalating

body count in Iraq: “Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many,” the Presidential Mother

snapped.” It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” In this

article, Mr. St. Clair spares no venom for the elder Mrs. Bush.

George Soros was one of the wealthy investors (as was Mohammad bin Laden, father of Osama) that bailed out Harken Oil (one of Bush’s early business failures). Interesting tidbit, when viewed in the light of how desperately Mr. Soros now is to get Bush out of the White House. One of the investors in Harken was George Soros, who explained the bail out of Bush in frank terms. “We were

buying political influence. That was it. Bush wasn’t much of a businessman.”

Part Two: Mark His Words

(Cheney) later rationalized the decision not to depose Saddam (in the first Gulf war) or support uprisings by

Iraqi and Kurdish rebels, predicting that the fall of the Ba’athists would destabilize the entire region. How

right you were, Dick.

Part Three: More Pricks Than Kicks

This administration’s Iran/Contra doppleganger could be the alleged leaking of state secrets to Israeli

intelligence by members of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, namely Larry Franklin and Douglas Feith.

Here’s something I didn’t know: “Feith himself is no stranger to such inquiries into leaking classified

information to the Israelis. In 1982, Feith was fired from his position as an analyst on Middle East issues in

the Reagan administration’s National Security Council on suspicion of leaking material to the an official with

the Israeli embassy in Washington.” Wow. Didn’t know that. I just hope this story gets the coverage it

needs.

Part Four: Jesus Told Him Where to Bomb

The maintenance of this creepy state of affairs depends on the mainlining of anxiety, inculcating an

ever-tender sense of trauma in the psyche of the populace. Thus, the color-coded terror alerts, issued with the

precision of a metronome.

Look for Part Five: The House Rules on Tuesday, at http://www.counterpunch.org.

Lee

Iraq and 9-11: Wrong About Everything

September 13, 2004 at 6:01 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Today’s Progress Report was so packed with good info, I decided to repost the whole thing here. (And I’ll say it again: sign up to receive their free, daily email, and read it every day! They are simply the best.) It’s a start on something I’ve been wanting to write for GRL for some time now, showing that despite the spin we’re fed every day, the Bush administration has been, as a matter of fact, wrong about everything.

  • We were told that Iraq definitely, absolutely, had WMD, and was a serious threat to our national security. Wrong. No such threat ever existed, and we now know that they did all they could to gin up evidence and distort the truth to push us into war. In fact we know they’d decided to do that a long time before, even before 9-11. We were hoodwinked.
  • We were told that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms and that the war would be short. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The war continues at higher levels of hostilities today than the day after Dubya made his little aircraft carrier photo op. Over 1,000 of our soldiers, and untold thousands of Iraqis, have been killed for no good reason.
  • They said the cost of the war would be $87 billion. As a “supplemental” funding provision, so it wouldn’t mess up the pretty picture of their defense budget. And they fired the administration official who said the real cost would be closer to $200 billion. Guess which one was right?
  • They promised that life would be better for Iraqis after Saddam was gone, that we’d repair their country and they’d be grateful. In fact, there is less of a functioning infrastructure now than there was before we went in. Another “miscalculation,” or an outright lie designed to manufacture consent for their war?
  • They promised that the war would be largely self-financed by Iraqi oil. That’s probably the worst joke of all. Billions in revenue from their oil has gone “missing” while Halliburton et. al. have profited to the tune of billions in no-bid contracts, where most of that money came from you and me. Another “miscalculation?”
  • They promised that Iraq would be self-governing quickly and effectively. That now seems like a distant and unrealistic hope. They can’t even stage a safe and complete election now.
  • Bush promised that taking out Saddam would make America safer. Some of us dissented, saying that it would be more like whacking a hornet’s nest, and in all likelihood would result in fomenting more anti-U.S. sentiment and chaos–a perfect breeding ground for terrorism. We were denounced as unpatriotic, even traitors, for refusing to go along with that “safer” line. Guess who was right? And yet Bush still insists that somehow, he’s made us safer. Without any evidence to support that claim.
  • We were told that there were definitely links between al Qaeda and Saddam. And that the Saudis did not have any direct connection to Islamic fundamentalists. I always said that the inverse was actually true, and guess what, now we have the evidence. The 9-11 Commission debunked any assertion of links between Saddam and al Qaeda, as had others before them, and yet Bush and Cheney have continued to claim that those connections existed. As if were were all too stupid to believe anything other than what they said. And now we have the families of the victims of 9-11 suing the Saudis for their *indirect* support of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, because that’s were a lot of al Qaeda’s money came from. (To be fair, it indirectly came from you and me, via the oil we bought from them. And let’s not forget that bin Laden’s gang was financed and trained by the US to fight a proxy war against the U.S.S.R. for us in Afghanistan.)
  • Bush and Condi and the gang told us that they had no warning about the 9-11 attacks. We now know that in fact they did have numerous and very specific warnings, from the CIA and Richard Clarke, our terrorism expert, that al Qaeda was planning a massive attack, probably using hijacked planes. But somehow, the Bush team didn’t see those warnings as urgent or “actionable.” They were dead wrong.
  • Bush and Giuliani reassured New Yorkers that there was no environmental threat to fear from the WTC collapse. Wrong again. And now the lawsuits are starting to come. Was that a “mis-” something or other? Oh, come on. It was a flat-out lie. They had the evidence that the levels of various toxins were far higher than was safe, and they squelched it.
  • When the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke, Bush assured us that it was the work of “a few bad apples.” Now we know that top lawyers working for Bush had dissembled about Geneva Convention protections, and come up with rationales to permit torture. We know that shadowy military police and CIA figures were at the center of the abuse, and we know that dozens of high ranking officers knew about the abuse and either ordered it, permitted it, or ignored it. What kind of a “mis-” is that?

It’s a long list. Longer than I have time for. In fact it might be easier to ask the opposite question: of all the claims that the Bush administration and the neo-con chicken hawks have made, which of them have been right?

They’ve been wrong about everything. And they have stopped at nothing to discredit, ruin, and paint as traitors anyone who stood for the truth and disagreed with them. So what’s wrong with the Americans who would rather ignore all of the evidence, believe the lies, and continue to support Bush? How can they continue to trust someone who has so blatantly and repeatedly abused that trust? Has fear made us so blind to the truth?

–C

AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND

The Progress Report 9/13/2004
by David Sirota, Christy Harvey, Judd Legum and Jonathan Baskin
www.progressreport.org

Correction: In Friday’s Progress Report, we mistakenly said $145 million has been spent by the U.S. government in Iraq. The figure is actually $145 billion. We regret the error.

IRAQ
Out Of Control

The mission in Iraq is far, far from accomplished. A surge in deadly violence this weekend brought the bloodiest day in Iraq in recent months; suicide bombings, mortar fire and fierce battles between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi security forces, including a firefight between an Iraqi crowd and a U.S. helicopter crew, killed dozens, leaving even more injured. Attacks against U.S. forces now average 87 per day, the worst monthly average, reports Newsweek, “since Bush’s flight-suited visit to the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003.” Casualty figures keep escalating: the U.S. death toll passed 1,000 last week and over 7,000 have been wounded. Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted this weekend, “We did miscalculate the difficulty” of winning the peace in Iraq.

FALLUJAH FAILINGS: In a significant setback for U.S. efforts in Iraq, Fallujah, one of the nation’s biggest cities, is now entirely under the control of rebel insurgents. This weekend, the Iraqi military force put in place in the explosive city by the Marines disbanded. There is strong evidence that many members have been working with insurgents against the U.S. forces that provided them with weapons and paychecks. Last April, the White House withdrew Marine troops from the city, hoping the newly created Brigade would work with the Iraqi government to fight the insurgency. The city quickly fell under the control of the insurgents, as many in the Brigade openly joined the rebel forces against the United States. Today, the city is a safe haven for insurgents, a place to “take refuge, plot attacks and run manufacturing centers for car bombs and other explosives.”

GENERAL DISAGREES WITH APPROACH TO FALLUJAH: Lt. Gen. James Conway, the outgoing U.S. Marine Corps general in charge of western Iraq, said yesterday that he had disagreed with the hasty order that sent his troops to invade Fallujah in April as well as the subsequent decision to withdraw from the city and turn over control to the disloyal Brigade. Conway said the disastrous assault increased tensions while making the region more hostile to U.S. forces: “We felt like we had a method that we wanted to apply to Fallujah, that we ought to probably let the situation settle before we appeared to be attacking out of revenge.” Instead, higher ups insisted on the attack, and then demanded troops pull out when the fighting grew fierce. “I would simply say that when you order elements of a Marine division to attack a city, you really need to understand the consequences of that, and not, perhaps, vacillate in the middle of that. Once you commit to do that, you have to stay committed.” Marine Col. Jerry Durrant agrees: “The whole Fallujah Brigade thing was a fiasco.”

LIGHTS OUT IN IRAQ: Nineteen months after the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has failed to achieve significant reconstruction, contributing to the ongoing frustrations of the Iraqi people. According to Bathsheba Crocker, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, when it comes to economic opportunity, services, and social well-being, “Iraq is actually moving backward.” The Los Angeles Times reports the job of restoring electricity to war-torn Iraq is “steeped in errors and misjudgment.” Electricity for Iraqis was central to White House reconstruction plans, but today, Iraq’s largest source of electricity, the Baiji power plant, “produces less than half the electricity it generated” two years ago. Why is the country still in the dark? Lack of planning, inconsistent leadership and an over-reliance on private contractors. The Bush administration “vastly underestimated the time, money and effort needed to restore the country’s power grid.” It’s indicative of the failures of the entire reconstruction process, still marked by “tainted water supplies, limited sewage treatment and curtailed construction of public buildings.” The ongoing failure has dire ramifications for the unstable security situation, producing “a deep reservoir of confusion and anger that feeds the country’s deadly insurgency.”

PROBLEMS WITH DEMOCRACY: The increased violence has serious ramifications for the scheduled elections. “We’re dealing with a population that hovers between bare tolerance and outright hostility,” says a senior U.S. diplomat in Baghdad. “This idea of a functioning democracy here is crazy. We thought that there would be a reprieve after sovereignty, but all hell is breaking loose.” The Bush White House is blithely insisting elections will occur in January as planned. Security concerns, however, have left others less confident. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated this weekend on Meet the Press that “It would be lovely if they took place in January, but I sure don’t see it.” Iraqi officials are also increasingly skeptical. One senior Iraqi official told Newsweek, “I’m convinced that it’s not going to happen. It’s just not realistic. How is it going to happen?” Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari echoed that thought, saying, “The timetable really depends at the end of the day on the security situation.” Some worry that the Bush administration, desperate to avoid the appearance of yet another setback, will stick to the schedule despite ongoing problems. Ghassan Atiyya, director of the independent Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy, warns, “Badly prepared elections, rather than healing wounds, will open them.”

ASSAULT WEAPONS
Bush’s Deafening Silence

In 1999, then-Gov. George W. Bush supported the ban on assault weapons, saying “it makes no sense for assault weapons to be around our society.” In 2003, then-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that Bush not only “supports the reauthorization of the current assault weapons ban” but would “work with Congress” to make sure it remained the law. But during his presidency, “Mr. Bush has never once demanded that his G.O.P. leaders cease playing first responder to the demands of the gun lobby and take the initiative” to extend the assault weapons ban. When the clock strikes midnight tonight, military assault weapons will – once again – be freely available across the country. (For more Bush flip-flops check out President Bush: Flip-Flopper in Chief.)

NO SURPRISE TO THE NRA: In 2000, NRA First Vice President Kayne Robinson said that if George Bush was elected “we’ll have…a president where we work out of their office” and that the NRA had “unbelievably friendly relations” with Bush. The Los Angeles Times describes the expiration of the ban as “a trophy Bush can lay at the NRA’s feet as the group readies its presidential endorsement.” Pressure from the NRA also caused Sen. Norm Coleman – who supported extending the ban during his 2002 campaign – to switch his position.

ASSAULT WEAPONS POSE ACUTE THREAT TO LAW ENFORCEMENT: According to a 2002 report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, assault weapons “pose an enhanced threat to law enforcement, in part because of their ability to expel projectiles at velocities that are capable of penetrating the type of soft body armor typically worn by the law enforcement officers.” Last week, scores of law enforcement personnel from around the country – including police chiefs from Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Seattle – assembled at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial “to demand that President Bush and Congress reauthorize the federal assault weapons ban before it expires.”

GUN MANUFACTURERS READY: Gun manufactures have already been “taking orders for semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines” that will become legal tonight at midnight. The gun manufacturer Beretta “has been offering customers two free 15-round magazines after Sept. 14 with the purchase of two of its weapons.” Current law “restricts the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.” Armalite Inc. is “allowing customers to order banned assault weapons now and have them shipped once the ban is lifted.” Israel Military Industries Ltd. is expected to reintroduce Uzis to the U.S. market. Robert A. Ricker, a former executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council, predicted “an incredible buying frenzy.”

BROAD SUPPORT FOR EXTENDING THE BAN: A recent poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center showed that 68 percent of Americans support the ban. Support for the ban extends to all demographics: 61 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of people who live in rural areas and 62 percent of conservatives. Among people who have a gun in their home, a solid majority – 57 percent – support extending the ban.

BOON FOR TERRORISTS: The impact of the expiration of the assault weapons ban may be broader than you think: newly legal assault weapons could find their way into the hands of al Qaeda terrorists. An al Qaeda training manual recovered in Afghanistan urged terrorists “to come to America and buy assault weapons.”

INTIMIGATE
Novak’s Duplicity

In a move of stunning hypocrisy this weekend, journalist Bob Novak went on CNN to demand CBS News reveal the confidential sources which gave them President Bush’s National Guard records. On the Capital Gang, Novak, who has strenusously claimed his right as a reporter not to reveal his sources to law enforcement officials in the leak of an undercover CIA agent, said, “I’d like CBS, at this point, to say where they got these documents from.” He then repeated himself: “I think they should say where they got these documents.” The Wall Street Journal’s Al Hunt was perplexed, asking Novak, “You’re saying CBS should reveal its source?” He replied, “Yes.” Hunt asked again, “You think reporters ought to reveal sources?” Novak, then embarrassed said, “No, no. Wait a minute…I’m just saying in that case.” Hunt summed up, “So in some cases, reporters ought to reveal sources?” Novak replied, “Yes.”

UNDER THE RADAR

NATIONAL SECURITY – POWELL DISSES CHENEY: Just days after Vice President Dick Cheney embarrassed himself by claiming terrorists would attack America if people voted for John Kerry, he and the Bush campaign sought to “clarify his remarks.” They said Cheney actually meant that Kerry would not respond as forcefully as Bush when an attack occurs. But Secretary of State Colin Powell disagreed. Asked how he believes Sen. John F. Kerry would respond to a terrorist attack, Powell said, “As commander in chief, I think he’d respond to it in a robust way.” Powell had already made news earlier in the week, as British journalist James Naughtie reported the Secretary of State called neo-cons Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz “f—ing crazies.”

9/11 – MORE POTENTIAL DEATHS THAN ACTUAL ATTACKS: According to the UK Independent, which cited a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Up to 400,000 New Yorkers breathed in the most toxic polluting cloud ever recorded after the twin towers were brought down three years ago, but no proper effort has been made to find out how their health has been affected.” The report “provides the latest evidence of a systematic cover-up of the health toll from pollution after the 9/11 disaster, which doctors fear will cause more deaths than the attacks themselves.” The Bush administration “suppressed evidence of increasing danger” and officially announced that the air around the felled buildings was “safe to breathe.” Another report reveals that it has since “failed at least a dozen times to correct its assurances, even when it became clear that people were becoming sick.” Just days after 9/11, the White House’s Council of Environmental Quality – headed by a former asbestos industry lawyer-lobbyist – doctored EPA press releases to claim the air was safe to breathe. In fact, “Asbestos was found at 27 times acceptable levels” near Ground Zero. After that, the White House refused to immediately fund critical health screening tests for those exposed to toxic chemicals during the attack, instead waiting two-and-a-half years to address the situation.

FOREIGN POLICY – FREUDIAN SLIP?: Apparently, the Bush administration has conflated Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden so many times that even its own officials have become confused. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld mixed up the names of bin Laden and Hussein twice in a speech at the National Press Club on Friday, at one point referring to Hussein as the leader of the al Qaeda-backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. At another point Rumsfeld said, “Saddam Hussein, if he’s alive, is spending a whale of a lot of time trying to not get caught. And we’ve not seen him on a video since 2001.” He meant bin Laden. Rumsfeld might just be following the White House script. After all, in 2002 Bush said, “You can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.”

TERRORISM – PUTIN’S RESPONSE: Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken swift action in response to a spate of deadly terrorist attacks in Russia, but some are concerned he is using terrorism as an excuse to consolidate his own power. In contrast to President Bush’s foot-dragging on creating the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11, Putin has quickly proposed a new federal agency to “engage non-governmental organizations and other groups to mobilize society in the fight against terror.” But some of Putin’s other proposed changes could limit democracy in the country. He is seeking changes in election procedure, for instance, which could “further increase the clout of the pro-Kremlin faction and its allies that already enjoy an overwhelming majority.” Putin also plans to propose legislation providing for regional governors in the Duma to be elected by regional legislatures “on the recommendation of the president. Putin had already seriously cut into the governors’ powers but he appears intent on doing away with any vestiges of their autonomy.”

HOMELAND SECURITY – INSECURE BORDERS: An investigation by Time Magazine supports 9/11 Commission findings that the Bush administration has failed to establish effective border security since 9/11. Time reports, “Despite all the talk of homeland security, sneaking into the U.S. is scandalously easy—and on the rise. Millions of illegal aliens will pour across the U.S.-Mexican border this year, many from countries hostile to America…The U.S.’s borders, rather than becoming more secure since 9/11, have grown even more porous. And the trend has accelerated in the past year.” A nationwide survey of the U.S. Border Patrol conducted last month found the majority of the nation’s customs and border officials believe “they are ill-equipped to prevent another terrorist attack.” Read more about the Bush administration’s inadequate efforts to improve border control and plug other gaps in Homeland Security in American Progress’ report, “Failing Grades.”

DON’T MISS

DAILY TALKING POINTS: Conservatives Aiding and Abetting Terrorists and Criminals.

EDUCATION: American Progress’s Ben Hubbard and David Halperin on the myth of the liberal campus.

ECONOMY: That Rosy Unemployment Rate.

IRAQ: Salem Chalabi, failing to return to Iraq to face murder charges, reportedly removed from overseeing Saddam’s trial.

JUSTICE: Study finds judges appointed by President Bush are the most conservative on record in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties.

9/11: New York’s Port Authority joins lawsuit against Saudi Arabia for terror attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans.

DAILY GRILL

“They could sense I would be one of the great pilots of all time.”

– George W. Bush on his military service, 1988

VERSUS

“George W. Bush began flying a two-seat jet especially designed for training purposes more frequently in the weeks just before he quit flying for the Texas Air National Guard… The T-33 jet is designed to help train pilots early in their career, allowing for a more experienced pilot to sit behind a trainee before the trainee is permitted to fly solo in a single-pilot jet.”

– AP, 9/10/04

DAILY OUTRAGE

Bob Novak, who won’t reveal who helped him disclose the identity of an undercover CIA operative, went on CNN and demanded CBS reveal its confidential sources.

© Copyright 2004 by American Progress Action Fund. All rights reserved.

Project Censored\’s Top 10 Stories of 2004

September 9, 2004 at 6:11 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Every year, Project Censored, “a media research group out of Sonoma State University which tracks the news published in independent journals and newsletters,” rounds up the top stories of the year that were ignored by the major media, even though they are hugely important. Here is a summary of their top stories for 2004. Not surprisingly, most of them are topics that GRL has focused on throughout the year. Top among them, in my view, are the ones about Cheney’s secret energy task force, and its increased support of domestic nuclear energy.

Let’s do some quick math:


  • $140 billion in public subsidies for nuclear energy.

  • $140 billion (so far) for the war on Iraq, in order to maintain control over Middle East oil.
  • International energy subsidies in the early 1990s were anywhere from $US235 billion to $US350 billion a year, according to the World Bank and others. [Source: a very interesting Greenpeace article, “The Subsidy Scandal”]

The amount of total subsidies historically is very difficult to come up with, but let’s say it’s an easy three trillion. Care to hazard a guess as to where we’d be today if we’d spent that money on renewable energy instead?

And they say that renewable energy isn’t economically competitive. Sure it isn’t, if you’ve got a giant thumb on the scale.

–C

Censored!

by Camille T. Taiara

Orlando Weekly

In late July more than 600 people showed up in Monterey, Calif., to speak at a Federal Communications Commission hearing on ownership concentration in the news media. The participants were a diverse group, young and old, activists and workers, but they had a single consistent message: The mainstream news media have been doing a deplorable job of covering the day’s most important stories.

That’s no surprise: Consolidation of the media in the hands of a few corporate Goliaths has resulted in fewer people creating more of the content we see, hear and read. One impact has been a narrower range of perspectives. Another is the virtual disappearance of hard-hitting, original, investigative reporting.

“Corporate media has abdicated their responsibility to the First Amendment to keep the American electorate informed about important issues in society and instead serves up a pabulum of junk-food news,” says Peter Phillips, head of Sonoma State University’s Project Censored.

Every year researchers at Project Censored pick through volumes of print and broadcast news to see which of the past year’s most important stories aren’t receiving the kind of attention they deserve. Phillips and his team acknowledge that many of these stories weren’t “censored” in the traditional sense of the word: No government agency blocked their publication. And some even appeared – briefly and without follow-up – in mainstream journals.

But every one of this year’s picks merited prominent placement on the evening news and the dailies’ front pages. Instead they went virtually ignored.

This list speaks directly to the point FCC critics have raised: Stories that address fundamental issues of wealth concentration and big-business dominance of the political agenda are almost entirely missing from the national debate. From the dramatic increase in wealth inequality in the United States, to the wholesale giveaway of the nation’s natural resources, to the Bush administration’s attack on corporate and political accountability, events and trends that ought to be dominating the presidential campaign and the national dialogue are missing from the front pages.

Here are Project Censored’s 10 biggest examples of major stories that have been relegated to the most obscure corners of the media world.

NO. 1. WEALTH INEQUALITY THREATENS ECONOMY AND DEMOCRACY

As the mainstream news media recite the official line about the nation’s supposed economic recovery, a key point has been missing: Wealth inequality in the United States has almost doubled over the past 30 years.

In fact, the Federal Reserve Board’s most recent “Survey of Consumer Finances” supplement on high-income families shows that in 1998, the richest 1 percent of households owned 38 percent of the nation’s wealth. The top 5 percent owned almost 60 percent of the wealth.

But that’s just part of the problem. “Most Americans believe we take from people at the top to benefit those below,” Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter David Cay Johnston said in a BuzzFlash.com interview. But our tax system is actually set up such that “people who make $30,000 to $500,000 … give relief to those who make millions, or tens and hundreds of millions, of dollars a year.”

The United States isn’t alone: Today, almost one-sixth of the world’s population – 940 million people – “already live in squalid, unhealthy areas, mostly without water, sanitation, public services or legal security,” John Vidal wrote in the U.K. Guardian. A recent United Nations report predicted that, absent drastic change to reverse “a form of colonialism that is probably more stringent than the original,” one in every three people worldwide will live in slums within 30 years. That’s a bigger threat to democracy and global stability than Al Qaeda and international terrorism.

Sources: “The Wealth Divide” (interview with Edward Wolff), Multinational Monitor, May 2003. “A BuzzFlash Interview, Parts I and II” (with David Cay Johnson), BuzzFlash staff, BuzzFlash.com, March 26 and 29, 2004. “Every Third Person Will Be a Slum Dweller Within 30 Years, UN Agency Warns,” John Vidal, Guardian (U.K.), Oct. 4, 2003. “Grotesque Inequality,” Robert Weissman, Multinational Monitor, July-August 2003.

NO. 2. ASHCROFT VS. HUMAN RIGHTS LAW THAT HOLDS CORPORATIONS ACCOUNTABLE

For decades the United States has trained right-wing insurgents and torturers, toppled democratically elected governments and propped up brutal dictatorships abroad – all in the interest of corporate profits. But rarely are the agents of repression ever held accountable for the tens of thousands of deaths and the brutal cycles of poverty, subjugation, environmental destruction and violence they leave in their wake. Indeed, many foreign tyrants go on to enjoy plush retirement right here in the United States.

But recently lawyers have found a way to seek at least a modicum of justice for victims. The Alien Tort Claims Act, a 215-year-old law originally passed to prosecute pirates for crimes committed on the high seas, allows noncitizens to sue any individual or corporation present on U.S. soil.

Human rights lawyers have pursued 100 cases under the ATCA since 1980. Defendants have included former high-ranking government and military officials from El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina, Paraguay, the Philippines (including ex-president Ferdinand Marcos), Indonesia, Bosnia, Ethiopia and elsewhere. And although the law can only be used to pursue monetary damages rather than prison time, it has often resulted in victims being awarded millions of dollars – and in the perpetrators sometimes fleeing the country rather than paying up.

Ten years ago victims began using the act to go after corporate profiteers too: It was thanks to the ATCA, for example, that Holocaust survivors were able to seek redress from the Swiss banks and companies that profited from the slave labor of concentration camp internees during World War II.

But Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Justice Department has set its sights on the act, claiming in a brief last year that the law threatens “important foreign policy interests” associated with the war on terrorism. Yet hardly a word has been written in the mainstream media about the Bush administration’s attack on the main legal recourse left in the United States for victims to seek redress for human rights violations carried out abroad.

Source: “Ashcroft Goes After 200-Year-Old Human Rights Law,” Jim Lobe, OneWorld.net and Asheville Global Report, May 19, 2003.

NO. 3. BUSH ADMINISTRATION MANIPULATES SCIENCE AND CENSORS SCIENTISTS

Tampering with data that threatens corporate profits is much more widespread under Bush than we’ve been led to believe. And the Environmental Protection Agency has emerged as one of the administration’s primary targets.

One of the first White House moves – on the day Bush was inaugurated – was to fire engineer Tony Oppegard, the leader of a federal team investigating a 300-million-gallon slurry spill at a coal-mining site in Kentucky. “Black lava-like toxic sludge containing 60 poisonous chemicals choked and sterilized up to 100 miles of rivers and creeks,” environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote in The Nation. The EPA dubbed it “the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of the Eastern United States.”

Bush then appointed industry insiders to top EPA posts in charge of mine safety and health.

In another case, a week after the EPA released a study to congressional staff about the toxic effects on groundwater of hydraulic fracturing – a process of injecting benzene into the ground to extract oil and gas, used by Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company – the agency revised its findings in response to “industry feedback” to indicate that the practice posed no threat after all.

In the days and months following the World Trade Center attack, the EPA released more than a dozen statements claiming the air quality in the surrounding “control zone” was safe – despite evidence that asbestos dust was present in quantities well above the 1 percent safety benchmark. The agency opened up the area to the public a mere week after the attack, allowing Wall Street to reopen and cleanup activities to begin. As a result, 88 percent of rescue workers suffered ear, nose and throat ailments, and 78 percent suffered lung maladies, according to a Mt. Sinai School of Medicine study. Half suffered persistent respiratory problems up to a year later.

In November the EPA arranged for Syngenta, the Swiss manufacturer of Atrazine, to take over federal research of its product, the most widely used weed killer in the United States. This occurred despite evidence that high concentrations of Atrazine in groundwater may be responsible for 50-percent-below-normal semen counts in men in U.S. farming communities, is associated with high incidences of prostate cancer and has resulted in grotesque deformities in frogs when present “at one-thirtieth the government’s ‘safe’ three parts per billion level,” Kennedy wrote.

The administration has also suppressed scientific findings on global warming in a dozen major government studies over the past two years, according to Kennedy.

The problem isn’t limited to the EPA. In fact, government interference in scientific research has gotten so bad that 60 of the country’s top scientists – including 20 Nobel laureates – issued a statement in February citing the ways the Bush administration has distorted scientific data “for partisan political ends” and calling for regulatory action.

Sources: “The Junk Science of George W. Bush,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr., The Nation, March 8, 2004. “Censoring Scientific Information,” Censorship News: The National Coalition Against Censorship Newsletter, fall 2003. “Ranking Scientists Warn Bush Science Policy Lacks Integrity,” Environmental News Service correspondents, OneWorld.net, Feb. 20, 2004. “Politics and Science in the Bush Administration,” Committee on Government Reform – minority staff, office of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, August 2003 (updated Nov. 13, 2003).

NO. 4. HIGH URANIUM LEVELS FOUND IN TROOPS AND CIVILIANS

Last year Project Censored included the United States’ and Great Britain’s continued use of depleted-uranium weapons – despite ample evidence of their acute health effects – among its top 10 underreported stories. Almost 10,000 U.S. troops died within 10 years of serving in the first Gulf War, researchers had found. And more than a third of those still alive had filed Gulf War Syndrome-related claims.

In study after study, research pointed to the use of depleted uranium in U.S. and British weaponry as the culprit. But authorities concentrated their efforts into obfuscating the problem – downplaying its reach, discrediting scientists and ailing military personnel and erecting a smoke screen around the root causes of the “syndrome.”

More recently, the Uranium Medical Research Center, an independent group of U.S. and Canadian scientists that has conducted studies of Afghan civilians, found overwhelming evidence that the United States is also using nondepleted uranium in its weapons, which is far more radioactive than depleted uranium. “If the use of NDU indicates experimental application of new nuclear weapons, as the UMRC suggests, then it should alert the public that proliferation of small nuclear weaponry, proposed for some future use, has in fact already begun,” Stephanie Hiller wrote in Awakened Woman.

At the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan in Tokyo in December, a team of attorneys from Japan, the United States and Germany indicted Bush on a number of war crimes charges – among them the use of depleted-uranium weapons. Leuren Moret, president of Scientists for Indigenous People, testified at the trial and later reported that a U.S. government study conducted on the babies of Gulf War veterans conceived after the soldiers returned home found that a full two-thirds suffered from serious birth defects or illnesses, including being born without eyes or ears, or with missing or malformed organs or limbs. In Iraq, Moret said, the defects are even worse. But those are just some of the images of war we never see on the evening news.

Sources: “UMRC’s Preliminary Findings From Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom” and “Afghan Field Trip #2 Report: Precision Destruction, Indiscriminate Effects,” Tedd Weyman, UMRC Research Team, Uranium Medical Research Center, January 2003. “Scientists Uncover Radioactive Trail in Afghanistan,” Stephanie Hiller, Awakened Woman, January 2004. “There Are No Words … Radiation in Iraq Equals 250,000 Nagasaki Bombs,” Bob Nichols, Dissident Voice, March 2004. “Poisoned?,” Juan Gonzalez, New York Daily News, April 2004. “International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan at Tokyo: The People vs. George Bush,” Niloufer, Bhagwat J., Information Clearinghouse, March 2004.

NO. 5. WHOLESALE GIVEAWAY OF OUR NATURAL RESOURCES

Adam Werbach, executive director of the Common Assets Defense Fund and former Sierra Club president, reviewed the Bush administration’s environmental policy record and came to a disturbing conclusion: The record is not only bad, it’s “akin to an affirmative action program for corporate polluters,” he wrote in In These Times.

Cheney’s infamous, secretive, industry-laden energy task force produced what can be boiled down to two main recommendations, “lower the environmental bar and pay corporations to jump over it,” Werbach wrote.

For example, Congress has promised $3 billion in tax cuts to mining corporations to help them access natural gas embedded in underground coal deposits in Georgia’s Powder River Basin. The Bureau of Land Management has calculated that miners will waste a full 700 million gallons of publicly owned water a year in the process – thereby sucking the region’s underground aquifers dry and decimating local farms and wildlife.

The Bush administration’s Healthy Forests Initiative essentially entails granting logging companies access to old-growth trees – and then subsidizing them for brush clearing. And even the giant sequoias former president Bill Clinton sought to protect, by creating a 327,000-acre national monument in the southern Sierra Nevada just four years ago, are at risk for being logged at a rate of 10 million board-feet of lumber a year – a higher rate than allowed on surrounding national forest lands – in the name of “forest management.”

All in all, the administration has launched the greatest giveaway of public natural resources in more than a century. Yet few in the mainstream media have bothered to analyze these plans and uncover the lies behind the administration’s rhetorical manipulations.

Sources: “Liquidation of the Commons,” Adam Werbach, In These Times, Nov. 23, 2003. “Giant Sequoias Could Get the Ax,” Matt Weiser, High Country News, June 9, 2003.

NO. 6. SALE OF ELECTORAL POLITICS

The Help America Vote Act required that states submit blueprints for switching to electronic voting systems by Jan. 1, 2004, and implement plans in time for the 2006 elections. Some regions are already using the machines. But those who’ve bothered to look into the new systems are sending up warning flares. Critics say that if Americans don’t want a repeat of the 2000 Florida election fiasco – on a much grander scale – the administration’s plans must be halted in their tracks.

A switch to electronic voting might seem innocent enough at first – until you look at who’s implementing it, and how. Indeed, the transfer represents the privatization of the voting process in the hands of a select few fervent GOP supporters who’ve insisted on keeping their operating systems and codes a trade secret – meaning they enjoy absolute control over the entire voting process, including ballot counting and oversight. There’s no paper trail.

One prime example is Diebold, one of the nation’s top electronic voting machine manufacturers, whose equipment was responsible for the Florida debacle. Diebold already operates more than 40,000 machines in 37 states across the country. Many of these are in Georgia, which in November became the first state to conduct an election entirely with touch-screen machines. Oddly enough, incumbent Democratic governor Roy Barnes lost to Republican candidate Sonny Perdue, 46 percent to 51 percent – “a swing from as much as 16 percentage points from the last opinion polls,” Andrew Gumbel wrote in the U.K. Independent. In the same election, incumbent Democratic senator Max Cleland lost to his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss, thanks to “a last-minute swing of 9 to 12 points.” And in and around Atlanta, 77 memory cards went missing or were otherwise temporarily unaccounted for before the votes they’d registered could be counted.

Similar upsets occurred “in Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois and New Hampshire – all in races that had been flagged as key partisan battlegrounds, and all won by the Republican Party,” Gumbel continued.

“It makes it really hard to show their product has been tampered with if it’s a felony to inspect it,” Rebecca Mercuri, a voting systems specialist and research fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, told the Independent.

The other top two electronic voting machine manufacturers, Sequoia and Election Systems and Software, are equally suspect. Several of their executives have troubling track records of corruption and conflict of interest. All three companies are prominent Republican Party donors.

Sources: “Voting Machines Gone Wild,” Mark Lewellen-Biddle, In These Times, December 2003. “All the President’s Votes?,” Andrew Gumbel, Independent (U.K.), Oct. 13, 2003. “Will Bush Backers Manipulate Votes to Deliver G.W. Another Election?,” Amy Goodman and the staff of Democracy Now!, Sept. 4, 2003.

NO. 7. CONSERVATIVE ORGANIZATION DRIVES JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS

Ever since the Reagan administration, the neo-conservatives have pursued an aggressive campaign to stack the federal courts with right-wing judges. Their main vehicle: the Federalist Society of Law and Public Policy, an organization founded in 1982 by a small group of radically conservative law students at the University of Chicago.

The effort has been a resounding success. With the help of Republicans in Congress, 85 extra federal judgeships were created under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; 9 were created under Clinton. Now seven out of 12 circuit courts are antiabortion. Seven of the nine Supreme Court justices are Republican appointees – and it’s been 11 years since a post has opened up, meaning another right-winger or two could be appointed sometime soon. During Bush Sr.’s tenure, one White House insider boasted that no one who wasn’t a Federalist ever received a judicial appointment from the president.

One of George W.’s earliest moves in office was to consolidate the Federalist Society’s power even further: He “simply eliminated the long-standing role in the evaluation of prospective judges by the resolutely centrist American Bar Association, whose ratings had long kept extremists and incompetents off the bench,” Martin Garbus wrote in the American Prospect. “Today the Federalists have more influence in judicial selection than the ABA ever had.”

The Federalist Society now counts Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and prominent members of the conservative American Enterprise Institute among its leadership. Ashcroft, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Solicitor General Theodore Olson and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez – charged with approving judicial nominations before passing them on to Congress – are all members.

The Federalists have consistently in favor of business deregulation, creationist teachings, property rights over the rights of individuals and much of the rest of the right-wing agenda. But one of the principal victims has been the democratic process itself: Remember, it was the Supreme Court that stopped a hand count of 175,000 uncounted (largely Democratic) ballots in Florida, which could have cost Bush the 2000 presidential election. Conservative jurists have interfered with redistricting efforts to reverse the deliberate segregation of African-American and Latino voters and have erected barriers to the participation of third-party candidates in the electoral process.

Unless liberals miraculously bring about a radical turnaround in how federal judges – who enjoy lifetime terms – are appointed, one of George W.’s most long-standing legacies may very well be a hard-right judiciary that lasts for decades to come.

Sources: “A Hostile Takeover: How the Federalist Society Is Capturing the Federal Courts,” Martin Garbus, American Prospect, March 1, 2003. “Courts vs. Citizens,” Jamin Raskin, American Prospect, March 1, 2003.

NO. 8. SECRETS OF CHENEY’S ENERGY TASK FORCE COME TO LIGHT

As the Bush administration continues to protect the iron wall of secrecy it’s erected around Cheney’s energy task force, at least two documents confirm long-standing suspicions that the administration’s foreign policy is being driven by the dictates of the energy industry.

When Bush took office in January 2001, he said tackling the country’s energy crisis would be a top priority. The United States faced nationwide oil and natural gas shortages, and a series of electrical blackouts were rolling across California. The president established the National Energy Policy Development Group and appointed former Halliburton CEO Cheney as its head.

One of the big issues on the table was oil, which accounted for 40 percent of the nation’s energy supply and provided fuel for the vast majority of the country’s transportation – as well as its expansive war machine. And for the first time in history, the United States had become reliant on foreign imports for more than 50 percent of its oil supply.

But rather than lay the groundwork for converting the economy to alternative, renewable sources, the task force’s report, later released by Bush as the “National Energy Policy” report in May 2001, promoted a central goal of “mak[ing] energy security a priority of our trade and foreign policy.” In other words, Cheney’s group wanted to find additional sources of oil overseas and ensure U.S. access to that oil – whatever it took.

Documents recently obtained from the task force as the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch indicate Cheney and his colleagues had their sights on the black gold under the Iraqi desert well before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In July 2003 the Commerce Department turned over records that included “a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and ‘Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts,'” according to Judicial Watch’s press release. The documents were dated March 2001.

“The major news media are beginning to pay much closer attention to the links between political turmoil abroad and the economies of oil at home,” Michael Klare wrote in Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Stories. “Still, the media remains reluctant to explain the close link between the energy policies of the Bush Administration and U.S. military strategy.”

Sources: “Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Map of Iraqi Oilfields,” Judicial Watch staff, Judicial Watch, July 17, 2003. “Bush-Cheney Energy Strategy: Procuring the Rest of the World’s Oil,” Michael Klare, Foreign Policy in Focus, January 2004.

NO. 9. WIDOW BRINGS RICO CASE AGAINST U.S. GOVERNMENT FOR 9/11

As the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, completed its first year, Ellen Mariani and her attorney held a press conference on the steps of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to announce her own startling conclusions. Mariani, wife of Louis Neil Mariani, who died when terrorists flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center’s south tower, had come to believe top American officials – including Bush, Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others – had foreknowledge of the attacks, purposefully failed to prevent them and had since taken pains to cover up the truth.

The administration, she argues in a federal lawsuit, allowed 9/11 to happen so Bush and company could launch their seemingly endless, global “war on terror” for their own personal and financial gain. The suit uses the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act – a law created to go after the Mafia – to charge the nation’s leaders with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wrongful death.

Her lawyer, Philip J. Berg, a former deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania, filed a 62-page complaint that included 40 pages of evidence. “Compelling evidence … will be presented in this case through discovery, subpoena power by this Court and testimony at trial,” he wrote in a press release sent to 3,000 journalists announcing the lawsuit and a press conference on the court steps that day.

The case has the potential to uncover and publicize critical documents and testimony about the Bush administration’s handling of the Qaeda threat and its aftermath. But only Fox News showed up to the press conference, and it never ran anything on the topic.

Sources: “9/11 Victim’s Wife Files RICO Case Against GW Bush,” Philip Berg, Scoop (scoop.co.nz), Nov. 26, 2003. “Widow’s Bush Treason Suit Vanishes,” W. David Kubiak, Scoop, Dec. 3, 2003.

NO. 10. NEW NUKE PLANTS: TAXPAYERS SUPPORT, INDUSTRY PROFITS

If you thought nuclear energy was dead, think again: The Bush administration’s energy bill – yet another product of Cheney’s industry-stacked energy task force – provides taxpayer cash for companies that build new nukes.

A secretly crafted provision of the bill, released late on a Saturday night in November, offers energy companies as much as $7.5 billion in tax credits to build six nuclear reactors. This is in addition to almost $4 billion set aside for other nuclear energy programs.

“Nuclear power already has had 50 years of subsidy totaling over $140 billion,” Nuclear Information and Resource Service’s Cindy Folkers reported.

The administration also removed terrorism protection provisions included in the House version of the bill and reversed a previous ban on the export of enriched uranium.

The press has been “woefully silent on the bill’s nuclear provisions,” Folkers and Michael Mariotte wrote in their update for Project Censored’s new book, Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Stories. And while both Democrats and Republicans managed to defeat the version of the bill NIRS warned about last fall, supporters – particularly Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. – are still trying to push those provisions through, in some cases as riders on other bills. Estimates on the amount of tax credits being considered have since risen to “as much as $15 or even $19 billion.”

Sources: “Nuclear Energy Would Get $7.5 Billion in Tax Subsidies, U.S. Taxpayers Would Fund Nuclear Monitor Relapse if Energy Bill Passes,” Cindy Folkers and Michael Mariotte, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Nov. 17, 2003. “U.S. Senate Passes Pro-Nuclear Energy Bill,” Cindy Folkers and Michael Mariotte, WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor, Aug. 22, 2003.

Welcome to 1980

September 2, 2004 at 9:06 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

An alert reader sent this in last night, and highlighted her favorite parts. It’s Jimmy Carter’s speech to the Democratic Convention of 1980. I (sorta) remember that speech, his last great speech before losing to Ronald Reagan. What’s worthy about it today is that it’s stunningly accurate and applicable to the situation in which we find ourselves today. Chillingly so. The Republican aims are the same, and their tactics are the same. Carter put solar panels on the roof of the White House; Reagan had them torn down because he didn’t like the way they looked.

Tonight the Republicans trot out their biggest guns, and Bush makes his case for another term. So far, the convention has been utterly devoid of any talk about energy policy. The Progress Report’s analysis of the convention last night did a great job of reviewing the many hyprocrisies and flat-out lies that it included, and did this word count on Cheney’s speech, which of itself offers a good profile of the convention as a whole:

In a 2,800-word speech, Cheney devoted just 50 words of his speech to health care, 92 to the economy and 102 to education. There was no mention of energy policy, trade or the environment. Even Iraq, undoubtedly the focus of Cheney’s term in office, merited just 34 words. Number of words Cheney devoted to personally attacking and distorting the record of John Kerry: 671.

Contrast that with Carter’s speech in 1980, which was completely about policy. (Maybe that’s why Reagan beat him with happy talk.)

I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that this election is a defining moment in the history of Man. By the time of the next election in 2008, we will have reached the global peak of oil production and we will be beginning our descent to a post-carbon world. If the Republicans win this election, with their hydrocarbon-based energy policy and their illegitimate wars of hegemony against oil-producing nations, we are sunk. As goes the U.S. with its energy policy, so will go the world. The party who wins will determine whether we have a chance to use our precious little remaining time and energy to execute a rapid transition to energy effiency and renewable generation, or whether we will squander it while denying scientific fact and maximizing profits for the energy companies. Literally, everything is on the line here.

As we wrap up a week of listening to the GOP carrying on about 9-11 and their endless war on “terror,” while the elephant of energy policy makes itself comfortable in the living room, Carter’s warnings and assessment of the world in 1980 are a good jolt back to reality.

Of course we’re at a different point with energy now than we were 24 years ago. Increasing domestic drilling won’t help us out of this mess any more–it’s but a drop in the bucket. And we know that increased coal use has cost us dearly in damage to our health and the environment. But Carter was generally pointing us in the right direction: energy independence. If we had only used the last 24 years to keep going in that direction, we’d be in a very different place today. Indeed, in all likelihood, 9-11 would have never even happened.

Thanks to the alert reader for digging this up and highlighting the best parts.

–C
THE
AMERICAN PRESIDENCY

Selected Resources: An Informal
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bunting
Jimmy
Carter
in an address to the Democratic National Convention
accepting its nomination for President
August 11, 1980 in New York
City

Fritz and I will mount a campaign that defines the real issues, a campaign
that responds to the intelligence of the American people, a campaign that talks
sense. And we’re going to beat the Republicans in November.


We’ll win because we are the party of a great President who knew how to get
reelected–Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And we are the party of a courageous
fighter who knew how to give ’em hell–Harry Truman. And as Truman said, he just
told the truth and they thought it was hell. And we’re the party of a gallant
man of spirit–John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And we’re the party of a great leader of
compassion–Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the party of a great man who should have
been President, who would have been one of the greatest Presidents in
history–Hubert Horatio Hornblower–Humphrey. I have appreciated what this
convention has said about Senator Humphrey, a great man who epitomized the
spirit of the Democratic Party. And I would like to say that we are also
theparty of Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Edward Kennedy.

I’d like to say a personal word to Senator Kennedy. Ted, you’re a tough
competitor and a superb campaigner, and I can attest to that. Your speech before
this convention was a magnificent statement of what the Democratic Party is and
what it means to the people of this country and why a Democratic victory is so
important this year. I reach out to you tonight, and I reach out to all those
who supported you in your valiant and passionate campaign. Ted, your party needs
and I need you. And I need your idealism and your dedication working for us.
There is no doubt that even greater service lies ahead of you, and we are
grateful to you and to have your strong partnership now in a larger cause to
which your own life has been dedicated.

I thank you for your support; we’ll make great partners this fall in whipping
the Republicans. We are Democrats and we’ve had our differences, but we share a
bright vision of America’s future–a vision of a good life for all our people, a
vision of a secure nation, a just society, a peaceful world, a strong
America–confident and proud and united. And we have a memory of
Franklin Roosevelt, 40 years ago, when he said that there are times in our
history when concerns over our personal lives are overshadowed by our concern
over “what will happen to the county we have known.” This is such a time, and I
can tell you that the choice to be made this year can transform our own personal
lives and the life of our country as well.

During the last Presidential campaign, I crisscrossed this country and I
listened to thousands and thousands of people-housewives and farmers, teachers
and small business leaders, workers and students, the elderly and the poor,
people of every race and every background and every walk of life. It was a
powerful experience–a total immersion in the human reality of America.

And I have now had another kind of total immersion–being President of the
United States of America. Let me talk for a moment about what that job is like
and what I’ve learned from it. I’ve learned that only the most complex and
difficult task comes before me in the Oval Office. No easy answers are found
there, because no easy questions come there.

I’ve learned that for a President, experience is the best guide to the right
decisions. I’m wiser tonight than I was 4 years ago. And I have learned that the
Presidency is a place of compassion. My own heart is burdened for the troubled
Americans. The poor and the jobless and the afflicted-they’ve become part of me.
My thoughts and my prayers for our hostages in Iran are as though they were my
own sons and daughters.

The life of every human being on Earth can depend on the experience
and judgment and vigilance of the person in the Oval Office. The President’s
power for building and his power for destruction are awesome. And the power’s
greatest exactly where the stakes are highest–in matters of war and peace.

And I’ve learned something else, something that I have come to see with
extraordinary clarity: Above all, I must look ahead, because the President of
the United States is the steward of the Nation’s destiny. He must protect our
children and the children they will have and the children of generations to
follow. He must speak and act for them. That is his burden and his glory.

And that is why a President cannot yield to the shortsighted demands, no
matter how rich or powerful the special interests might be that make those
demands. And that’s why the President cannot bend to the passions of the moment,
however popular they might be. That’s why the President must sometimes ask for
sacrifice when his listeners would rather hear the promise of comfort.

The President is a servant of today, but his true constituency is the
future
. That’s why the election of 1980 is so important.

Some have said it makes no difference who wins this election. They are wrong.
This election is a stark choice between two men, two parties, two sharply
different pictures of what America is and what the world is, but it’s more than
that–it’s a choice between two futures.

The year 2000 is just less than 20 years away, just four Presidential
elections after this one. Children born this year will come of age in the 21st
century. The time to shape the world of the year 2000 is now. The decisions of
the next few years will set our course, perhaps an irreversible course, and the
most important of all choices will be made by the American people at the polls
less than 3 months from tonight.

The choice could not be more clear nor the consequences more crucial. In one
of the futures we can choose, the future that you and I have been building
together, I see security and justice and peace.

I see a future of economic security-security that will come from
tapping our own great resources of oil and gas, coal and sunlight, and from
building the tools and technology and factories for a revitalized economy based
on jobs and stable prices for everyone.

I see a future of justice–the justice of good jobs, decent health care,
quality education, a full opportunity for all people regardless of color or
language or religion; the simple human justice of equal rights for all men and
for all women, guaranteed equal rights at last under the Constitution of the
United States of America.

And I see a future of peace–a peace born of wisdom and based on a
fairness toward all countries of the world, a peace guaranteed both by American
military strength and by American moral strength as well.

That is the future I want for all people, a future of confidence and hope and
a good life. It’s the future America must choose, and with your help and with
your commitment, it is the future America will choose.

But there is another possible future. In that other future I see
despair–despair of millions who would struggle for equal opportunity and a
better life and struggle alone. And I see surrender–the surrender of our energy
future to the merchants of oil, the surrender of our economic future to a
bizarre program of massive tax cuts for the rich, service cuts for the poor, and
massive inflation for everyone. And I see risk–the risk of international
confrontation, the risk of an uncontrollable, unaffordable, and unwinnable
nuclear arms race.

No one, Democrat or Republican either, consciously seeks such a
future, and I do not claim that my opponent does. But I do question the
disturbing commitments and policies already made by him and by those with him
who have now captured control of the Republican Party. The consequences of those
commitments and policies would drive us down the wrong road. It’s up to all of
us to make sure America rejects this alarming and even perilous destiny.

The only way to build a better future is to start with the realities of the
present. But while we Democrats grapple with the real challenges of a real
world, others talk about a world of tinsel and make-believe.

Let’s look for a moment at their make-believe world.

In their fantasy America, inner-city people and farm workers and
laborers do not exist. Women, like children, are to be seen but not heard. The
problems of working women are simply ignored. The elderly do not need Medicare.
The young do not need more help in getting a better education. Workers do not
require the guarantee of a healthy and a safe place to work. In their fantasy
world, all the complex global changes of the world since World War II have never
happened. In their fantasy America, all problems have simple solutions–simple
and wrong.

It’s a make-believe world, a world of good guys and bad guys, where
some politicians shoot first and ask questions later. No hard choices, no
sacrifice, no tough decisions–it sounds too good to be true, and it is.

The path of fantasy leads to irresponsibility. The path of reality
leads to hope and peace. The two paths could not be more different, nor could
the futures to which they lead. Let’s take a hard look at the consequences of
our choice.

You and I have been working toward a more secure future by rebuilding our
military strength–steadily, carefully, and responsibly. The Republicans talk
about military strength, but they were in office for 8 out of the last 11 years,
and in the face of a growing Soviet threat they steadily cut real defense
spending by more than a third.

We’ve reversed the Republican decline in defense. Every year since I’ve been
President we’ve had real increases in our commitment to a stronger Nation,
increases which are prudent and rational.  There is no doubt that the
United States of America can meet a threat from the Soviet Union. Our modernized
strategic forces, a revitalized NATO, the Trident submarine, the Cruise missile,
the Rapid Deployment Force–all these guarantee that we will never be second to
any nation. Deeds, not words; fact, not fiction. We must and we will continue to
build our own defenses. We must and we will continue to seek balanced reductions
in nuclear arms.

The new leaders of the Republican Party, in order to close the gap between
their rhetoric and their record, have now promised to launch an all-out nuclear
arms race. This would negate any further effort to negotiate a strategic arms
limitation agreement. There can be no winners in such an arms race, and all the
people of the Earth can be the losers.

The Republican nominee advocates abandoning arms control policies which have
been important and supported by every Democratic President since Harry, Truman,
and also by every Republican President since Dwight D. Eisenhower. This radical
and irresponsible course would threaten our security and could put the whole
world in peril. You and I must never let this come to pass.

It’s simple to call for a new arms race, but when armed aggression threatens
world peace, tough-sounding talk like that is not enough. A President must act
responsibly.

When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, we moved quickly to take action. I
suspended some grain sales to the Soviet Union; I called for draft registration;
and I joined wholeheartedly with the Congress and with the U.S. Olympic
Committee and led more than 60 other nations in boycotting the big propaganda
show in Russia–the Moscow Olympics.

The Republican leader opposed two of these forceful but peaceful actions, and
he waffled on the third. But when we asked him what he would do about aggression
in Southwest Asia, he suggested blockading Cuba. [Laughter] Even his running
mate wouldn’t go along with that. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with the
Russians. He’s not sure if he wants to feed them or play with them or fight with
them.

As I look back at my first term, I’m grateful that we’ve had a country for
the full 4 years of peace. And that’s what we’re going to have for the next 4
years-peace. It’s only common sense that if America is to stay secure
and at peace, we must encourage others to be peaceful as well.

As you know, we’ve helped in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia where we’ve stood firm for
racial justice and democracy. And we have also helped in the Middle East.

Some have criticized the Camp David accords and they’ve criticized some
delays in the implementation of the Middle East peace treaty. Well, before I
became President there was no Camp David accords and there was no Middle East
peace treaty. Before Camp David, Israel and Egypt were poised across barbed
wire, confronting each other with guns and tanks and planes. But afterward, they
talked face-to-face with each other across a peace table, and they also
communicated through their own Ambassadors in Cairo and Tel Aviv. Now that’s the
kind of future we’re offering–of peace to the Middle East if the Democrats are
reelected in the fall.

I am very proud that nearly half the aid that our country has ever given to
Israel in the 32 years of her existence has come during my administration.
Unlike our Republican predecessors, we have never stopped nor slowed that aid to
Israel. And as long as I am President, we will never do so. Our
commitment is clear: security and peace for Israel; peace for all the peoples of
the Middle East.

But if the world is to have a future of freedom as well as peace,
America must continue to defend human rights.

Now listen to this: The new Republican leaders oppose our human rights
policy. They want to scrap it. They seem to think it’s naive for America to
stand up for freedom and democracy. Just what do they think we should stand up
for?

Ask the former political prisoners who now live in freedom if we should
abandon our stand on human rights. Ask the dissidents in the Soviet Union about
our commitment to human rights. Ask the Hungarian Americans, ask the Polish
Americans, listen to Pope John Paul II. Ask those who are suffering for the sake
of justice and liberty around the world. Ask the millions who’ve fled tyranny if
America should stop speaking out for human principles. Ask the American people.
I tell you that as long as I am President, we will hold high the banner of human
rights, and you can depend on it.

Here at home the choice between the two futures is equally important.

In the long run, nothing is more crucial to the future of America
than energy; nothing was so disastrously neglected in the past. Long after the
1973 Arab oil embargo, the Republicans in the White House had still done nothing
to meet the threat to the national security of our Nation. Then, as now, their
policy was dictated by the big oil companies.

We Democrats fought hard to rally our Nation behind a comprehensive
energy policy and a good program, a new foundation for challenging and exciting
progress. Now, after 3 years of struggle, we have that program. The battle to
secure America’s energy future has been fully and finally joined. Americans
‘have cooperated with dramatic results. We’ve reversed decades of dangerous and
growing dependence on foreign oil. We are now importing 20 percent less
oil–that is 1 1/2 million barrels of oil every day less than the day I took
office.

And with our new energy policy now in place, we can discover more,
produce more, create more, and conserve more energy, and we will use American
resources, American technology, and millions of American workers to do it with.

Now, what do the Republicans propose? Basically, their energy program has two
parts. The first part is to get rid of almost everything that we’ve done for the
American public in the last 3 years. They want to reduce or abolish the
synthetic fuels program. They want to slash the solar energy incentives, the
conservation programs, aid to mass transit, aid to elderly Americans to help pay
their fuel bills. They want to eliminate the 55-mile speed limit. And while they
are at it, the Republicans would like to gut the Clean Air Act. They never liked
it to begin with.

That’s one part of their program; the other part is worse. To replace
what we have built, this is what they propose: to destroy the windfall profits
tax and to “unleash” the oil companies and let them solve the energy problem for
us. That’s it. That is it. That’s their whole program. There is no more. Can
this Nation accept such an outrageous program?

AUDIENCE. No !

THE PRESIDENT. No! We Democrats will fight it every step of the way, and
we’ll begin tomorrow morning with a campaign for reelection in November.

When I took office, I inherited a heavy load of serious economic problems
besides energy, and we’ve met them all head-on. We’ve slashed Government
regulations and put free enterprise back into the airlines, the trucking and the
financial systems of our country, and we’re now doing the same thing for the
railroads. This is the greatest change in the relationship between Government
and business since the New Deal. We’ve increased our exports dramatically. We’ve
reversed the decline in the basic research and development, and we have created
more than 8 million new jobs–the biggest increase in the history of our
country.

But the road is bumpy, and last year’s skyrocketing OPEC price increases have
helped to trigger a worldwide inflation crisis. We took forceful action, and
interest rates have now fallen, the dollar is stable and, although we still have
a battle on our hands, we’re struggling to bring inflation under control.

We are now at the critical point, a turning point in our economic history of
our country. But because we made the hard decisions, because we have guided our
Nation and its economy through a rough but essential period of transition, we’ve
laid the groundwork for a new economic age.

Our economic renewal program for the 1980’s will meet our immediate need for
jobs and attack the very same, long-range problem that caused unemployment and
inflation in the first place. It’ll move America simultaneously towards our five
great economic goals–lower inflation, better productivity, revitalization of
American industry, energy security, and jobs.

It’s time to put all America back to work–but not in make-work, in real
work. And there is real work in modernizing American industries and creating new
industries for America as well. Here are just a few things we’ll rebuild
together and build together:

–new industries to turn our own coal and shale and farm
products into fuel for our cars and trucks and to turn the light of the sun
into heat and electricity for our homes;
–a modern
transportation system of railbeds and ports to make American coal into a
powerful rival of OPEC oil;
–industries that will provide the convenience
of futuristic computer technology and communications to serve millions of
American homes and offices and factories;
–job training for workers
displaced by economic changes;
–new investment pinpointed in regions and
communities where jobs are needed most;
–better mass transit in our
cities and in between cities;
–and a whole new generation of American
jobs to make homes and vehicles and buildings that will house us and move us
in comfort with a lot less energy.

This is important, too: I have no doubt that the ingenuity, and dedication of
the American people can make every single one of these things happen. We are
talking about the United States of America, and those who count this country out
as an economic superpower are going to find out just how wrong they are. We’re
going to share in the exciting enterprise of making the 1980’s a time of growth
for America.

The Republican alternative is the biggest tax giveaway in history. They call
it Reagan-Kemp-Roth; I call it a free lunch that Americans cannot afford. The
Republican tax program offers rebates to the rich, deprivation for the poor, and
fierce inflation for all of us. Their party’s own Vice Presidential nominee said
that Reagan-Kemp-Roth would result in an inflation rate of more than 30 percent.
He called it “voodoo economics”. He suddenly changed his mind toward the end of
the Republican Convention, but he was right the first time.

Along with this gigantic tax cut, the new Republican leaders promise to
protect retirement and health programs and to have massive increases in defense
spending-and they claim they can balance the budget. If they are serious about
these promises, and they say they are, then a close analysis shows that the
entire rest of the Government would have to be abolished, everything from
education to farm programs, from the G.I. bill to the night watchman at the
Lincoln Memorial–and their budget would still be in the red. The only
alternative would be to build more printing presses to print cheap money. Either
way, the American people lose. But the American people will not stand for it.

The Democratic Party has always embodied the hope of our people for justice,
opportunity, and a better life, and we’ve worked in every way possible to
strengthen the American family, to encourage self-reliance, and to follow the
Old Testament admonition: “Defend the poor and the fatherless; give justice to
the afflicted and needy.” We’ve struggled to assure that no child in America
ever goes to bed hungry, that no elderly couple in America has to live in a
substandard home, and that no young person in America is excluded from college
because the family is poor.

But what have the Republicans proposed?–just an attack on everything that
we’ve done in the achievement of social justice and decency that we’ve won in
the last 50 years, ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first term. They would
make social security voluntary. They would reverse our progress on the minimum
wage, full employment laws, safety in the work place, and a healthy environment.

Lately, as you know, the Republicans have been quoting Democratic Presidents.
But who can blame them? Would you rather quote Herbert Hoover or Franklin Delano
Roosevelt? Would you rather quote Richard Nixon or John Fitzgerald Kennedy?

The Republicans have always been the party of privilege, but this year their
leaders have gone even further. In their platform, they have repudiated the best
traditions of their own party. Where is the conscience of Lincoln in the party
of Lincoln? What’s become of their traditional Republican commitment to fiscal
responsibility? What’s happened to their commitment to a safe and sane arms
control?

Now, I don’t claim perfection for the Democratic Party. I don’t claim that
every decision that we have made has been right or popular; certainly, they’ve
not all been easy. But I will say this: We’ve been tested under fire. We’ve
neither ducked nor hidden, and we’ve tackled the great central issues of our
time, the historic challenges of peace and energy, which have been ignored for
years. We’ve made tough decisions, and we’ve taken the heat for them. We’ve made
mistakes, and we’ve learned from them. But we have built the foundation now for
a better future.

We’ve done something else, perhaps even more important. In good times and
bad, in the valleys and on the peaks, we’ve told people the truth, the hard
truth, the truth that sometimes hurts.

One truth that we Americans have learned is that our dream has been earned
for progress and for peace. Look what our land has been through within our own
memory–a great depression, a world war, a technological explosion, the civil
rights revolution, the bitterness of Vietnam, the shame of Watergate, the
twilight peace of nuclear terror.

Through each of these momentous experiences we’ve learned the hard way about
the world and about ourselves. But we’ve matured and we’ve grown as a nation and
we’ve grown stronger.

We’ve learned the uses and the limitations of power. We’ve learned the beauty
and responsibility of freedom. We’ve learned the value and the obligation of
justice. And we have learned the necessity of peace.

Some would argue that to master these lessons is somehow to limit our
potential. That is not so. A nation which knows its true strengths, which sees
its true challenges, which understands legitimate constraints, that nation–our
nation–is far stronger than one which takes refuge in wishful thinking or
nostalgia. The Democratic Party–the American people-have understood these
fundamental truths.

All of us can sympathize with the desire for easy answers. There’s often the
temptation to substitute idle dreams for hard reality. The new Republican
leaders are hoping that our Nation will succumb to that temptation this year,
but they profoundly misunderstand and underestimate the character of the
American people.

Three weeks after Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill came to North America and
he said, “We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the
oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar
candy.” We Americans have courage. Americans have always been on the cutting
edge of change. We’ve always looked forward with anticipation and confidence.

I still want the same thing that all of you want–a self-reliant
neighborhood, strong families, work for the able-bodied and good medical care
for the sick, opportunity for our youth and dignity for our old, equal rights
and justice for all people. I want teachers eager to explain what a civilization
really is, and I want students to understand their own needs and their own aims,
but also the needs and yearnings of their neighbors.

I want women free to pursue without limit the full life of what they want for
themselves.

I want our farmers growing crops to feed our Nation and the world, secure in
the knowledge that the family farm will thrive and with a fair return on the
good work they do for all of us.

I want workers to see meaning in the labor they perform and work enough to
guarantee a job for every worker in this country.

And I want the people in business free to pursue with boldness and freedom
new ideas.

And I want minority citizens fully to join the mainstream of American life.
And I want from the bottom of my heart to remove the blight of racial and other
discrimination from the face of our Nation, and I’m determined to do it.

I need for all of you to join me in fulfilling that vision. The
choice, the choice between the two futures, could not be more clear. If we
succumb to a dream world then we’ll wake up to a nightmare. But if we start with
reality and fight to make our dreams a reality, then Americans will have a good
life, a life of meaning and purpose in a nation that’s strong and secure.

The Truth Behind the Republican Convention

September 2, 2004 at 6:04 am
Contributed by: Chris

Folks,

As the GOP performs its dog and pony show for the nation this week, one must wonder how much of America is actually going to fall for their charade.

(more…)


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