Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Fiddling While Crucial Programs Starve

Fiddling While Crucial Programs Starve
Has the U.S. become like ancient Rome, in love with costly conquest?
Robert Scheer

April 26, 2005

Notice the price of gasoline lately? Isn't it great that we have secured Iraq's oil? And as Congress signs off on yet another huge supplementary grant to supposedly protect U.S. interests in the Mideast, our president pathetically begs his Saudi buddies for a price break. As the fall of Rome showed, imperialism never pays.

Of course, back in 2003, conquering Iraq looked like a great package deal, what with all that oil — second only to Saudi Arabia — and the manufactured photo ops of cheering Iraqis. So what if those pesky weapons of mass destruction weren't really there? So what if no solid links to Al Qaeda are ever found? This was a win-win, as the corporate guys like to say: Not only would we be able to conduct this operation for next to nothing, we would be welcomed with flowers.

"There is a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money," then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress days before the war, in testimony on the potential costs of invading Iraq. "We are talking about a country that can finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon." In the real world, however, this turned out to be utter nonsense.

With approval of the latest spending bill, taxpayers will have been forced to cough up more than $300 billion for the war to date — above and beyond the annual $400-billion Pentagon budget — and tens of billions for a bungled reconstruction. Even if the United States can lower its troop commitment to 40,000 troops in Iraq by 2010, as some Pentagon strategists optimistically anticipate, the war could still end up costing U.S. taxpayers up to $646 billion by 2015, according to Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. If insurgency, corruption and incompetence continue to plague the U.S. occupation as they have steadily for the last two years, however, the number could surge to a trillion dollars or more.

We need to put such gargantuan numbers in some perspective. The emergency funding that the Senate passed 99 to 0 last week gives the military roughly $80 billion and pays for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan only through September. That is twice what President Bush insists he needs to cut from the federal support for Medicaid over the next decade.

Already the red state of Missouri is set to end its Medicaid program entirely within the next three years because of a lack of funds. As the Los Angeles Times reported, that will save the state $5 billion, but at the cost of ending healthcare for the more than 1 million Missourians enrolled in the program. That sum is less than half of what Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's old company, alone has been paid for reconstruction efforts in Iraq, without much to show for it in terms of improving the Iraqis' quality of life.

Similarly, with roughly 10% of what we've spent in Iraq, we could make up the $27-billion federal funding shortfall in paying for Bush's controversial No Child Left Behind Act, which tells public schools that they will be all but scrapped if they don't improve — yet it doesn't provide the means to do so. This number comes from a lawsuit filed by school districts in Texas, Michigan and Vermont and the National Education Assn., the nation's largest teachers organization.

Sadly, these domestic failures provide a far greater long-term threat to our nation's security than the hyped-up claims surrounding our foreign adventures. Abroad, we must "support our troops" at all costs — even if the cost is their lives — while at home, the nation's leaders are all about tough love.

"Government is not here to do everything for everybody," admonished Missouri state Rep. Jodi Stefanick, a Republican representing suburban St. Louis. "We have to draw the line somewhere." Just not in Iraq, apparently.

Welcome to late-era Rome, where mindless militaristic expansion is considered patriotic and where demagogues who recklessly waste taxes and young lives in empire-building are deemed valorous. Wolfowitz, for example, has been rewarded for his ignorance and arrogance with the top job at the World Bank.

It is not too late, however, for us to wake up and recall that, in the end, once militarism trumped republicanism, the glory that was Rome proved to be a hollow boast.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Tom DeLay, You Crooked Bastard--Prison is your next home--and take your wife.

Print Story: DeLay Airfare Was Charged To Lobbyist's Credit Card on Yahoo! News
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post Staff WriterSun Apr 24, 8:28 AM ET
he airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe, according to two sources who know Abramoff's credit card account number and to a copy of a travel invoice displaying that number.

DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.

House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists. DeLay, who is now House majority leader, has said that his expenses on this trip were paid by a nonprofit organization and that the financial arrangements for it were proper. He has also said he had no way of knowing that any lobbyist might have financially supported the trip, either directly or through reimbursements to the nonprofit organization.

The documents obtained by The Washington Post, including receipts for his hotel stays in Scotland and London and billings for his golfing during the trip at the famed St. Andrews course in Scotland, substantiate for the first time that some of DeLay's expenses on the trip were billed to charge cards used by the two lobbyists. The invoice for DeLay's plane fare lists the name of what was then Abramoff's lobbying firm, Preston Gates & Ellis.

Multiple sources, including DeLay's then-chief of staff Susan Hirschmann, have confirmed that DeLay's congressional office was in direct contact with Preston Gates about the trip itinerary before DeLay's departure, to work out details of his travel. These contacts raise questions about DeLay's statement that he had no way of knowing about the financial and logistical support provided by Abramoff and his firm.

Yesterday, DeLay's lawyer, Bobby R. Burchfield, said that DeLay's staff was aware that Preston Gates was trying to arrange meetings and hotels for the trip but that DeLay was unaware of the "logistics" of bill payments, and that DeLay "continues to understand his expenses" were properly paid by the nonprofit organization, the National Center for Public Policy Research.

In 2000, Abramoff was a board member of the group. In a telephone interview yesterday, Hirschmann said the contacts between DeLay's office and persons at Preston Gates occurred because Abramoff "was a board member of the sponsoring organization." Hirschmann added: "We were assured that the National Center paid for the trip."

House rules do not exempt such nonprofit organization board members from the prohibition on lobbyist payments for travel. They also state that this prohibition "applies even where the lobbyist . . . will later be reimbursed for those expenses by a non-lobbyist client."

Burchfield did not dispute that Abramoff used his credit card to pay for DeLay's plane fare, but said in a statement that "the majority leader has always believed and continues to believe that all appropriate expenses for the U.K. trip were paid by the National Center for Public Policy Research." He said that "to the extent that Mr. Abramoff put the charges on his personal credit card, Mr. DeLay has no knowledge of this. But that would be consistent with Mr. Abramoff obtaining full reimbursement from the National Center."

He said further that, in his view, Abramoff's participation on this trip as a board member meant he was permitted to pay for some of the expenses, subject to reimbursement, and that numerous court decisions recognize that different rules may be applicable to the same person acting in different capacities.

Andrew Blum, a publicist for Abramoff's lawyer and spokesman for Abramoff, did not respond to questions relating to the use of Abramoff's credit card for DeLay's plane fare. But he said in a statement yesterday that it was the National Center that "sponsored" the trip, "not Jack Abramoff."

Blum said that DeLay was "one of the center's honored guests on this trip" and that Abramoff "is being singled out for doing what is commonly done by lobbyists -- taking trips with members of Congress and their staff so that they can learn about issues that impact the Congress and government policy." The center's ability to sponsor "this type of educational trip, using contributor funds, is both legal and proper," Blum said.

DeLay was admonished three times last year by the House ethics committee for infringing rules governing lawmakers' activities and their contacts with registered lobbyists. House ethics rules bar the payment by lobbyists for any lawmaker's travel-connected entertainment and recreational activities costing more than $50; they also require that lawmakers accurately report the sponsor of their trips and the full cost.

In an article last month about the same trip by DeLay, The Post reported that an Indian tribe and a gambling services company made donations to the National Center for Public Policy Research that covered most of the expenses declared by participants at that time. The article also said these payments were made two months before DeLay voted against legislation opposed by the tribe and the company. DeLay has said the vote was unrelated to the payments.

The article also reported that Abramoff submitted an expense voucher to Preston Gates seeking a reimbursement of $12,789.73 to cover expenses for meals, hotels and transportation during the London and Scotland trip incurred by DeLay; his wife, Christine; and his two aides.

The new receipts add more detail about these expenses, make clear that the total expenses for all of the participants were at least $50,000 more than was previously known, and connect Abramoff directly to the payment of some charges.

For DeLay, the 10-day trip began on May 25 with a flight to London from Dulles airport and ended on June 3 with a return trip from Europe via Newark and ending in Houston. In between, his itinerary called for stops in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and St. Andrews, in Scotland. DeLay said the purpose of the trip was to hold meetings with "Conservative leaders" in Britain and Scotland, including Margaret Thatcher. The former prime minister's office has confirmed that such a meeting occurred.

DeLay's two aides, Tony Rudy and Susan Hirschmann, had an overlapping itinerary; Rudy participated from May 29 to June 3, and Hirschmann participated from May 22 to June 2. The spouses of Rudy and Buckham also were present.

The travel receipts do not make clear how the expenses for the entire trip -- which involved at least 10 people and which two sources said exceeded $120,000 -- were paid. One source familiar with the billings said yesterday that the National Center reimbursed Abramoff for the charges incurred by DeLay and his staff that were billed to Abramoff's credit card; but the receipts themselves do not indicate whether some of the charges incurred by Abramoff were ultimately reimbursed and, if so, by whom.

The receipts make clear that flights for DeLay and his wife were initially billed to Abramoff. The plane ticket for the husband of one of DeLay's aides -- David Hirschmann -- was billed to the same American Express card used for the DeLay tickets, according to a copy of the invoice.

Although Amy Ridenour, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research, has said she organized the trip, two other sources said that DeLay's round-trip business-class tickets on Continental Airlines and British Airways were booked by Preston Gates employees.

The itinerary and invoice for DeLay's trip, prepared by a travel service in Seattle, was sent by the service to Preston Gates on May 23, 2000, according to a copy of the invoice. That was two days before DeLay's departure. The invoice states that DeLay's business-class tickets on Continental Airlines and British Airways cost $6,938.70.

The records also indicate that the expenses associated with DeLay exceeded those that he declared in a signed statement to the House clerk on June 30, 2000. That form listed the purpose of the trip as "educational" and gave a tally of $28,106 in expenses for DeLay and his wife, or an average of $2,800 a day; it stated that all of these charges were paid by the National Center for Public Policy Research, which provided the data to DeLay.

Receipts from the golfing portion of the trip show that DeLay accumulated additional charges, which, according to fees set by the tour arranger, amounted to nearly $5,000 for each golfer and totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars for the entire group. Fees associated with playing golf are not listed on DeLay's travel disclosure form. Burchfield, DeLay's lawyer, said DeLay "personally paid for two rounds of golf and understands that the other two rounds of golf he played were included in his hotel package" and reimbursed by the National Center.

A copy of the $184 bill for the DeLays' expenses during the trip at a separate hotel in St. Andrews -- the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort & Spa -- states that those charges were paid by the same American Express credit card used on the trip by Buckham, the lobbyist, to pay for his own hotel room at the Glasgow Hilton. Buckham could not be reached by phone at home or his office and did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment. Burchfield said he cannot explain how this happened and did not know who owned this credit card; he also said DeLay was unaware of this fact.

Buckham, a former chief of staff to DeLay, was at the time a registered lobbyist for AT&T, Enron Corp., and the Nuclear Energy Institute. DeLay's wife was employed, at the time of the trip, by Buckham's lobbying firm, the Alexander Strategy Group, and was receiving a salary from it, according to DeLay's personal financial disclosure statement for that year, on file with the House clerk.

Abramoff, at the time of the trip, represented eLottery Inc. , a gambling services company that opposed the Internet gambling bill pending before the House. Preston Gates registered as a lobbyist for eLottery on June 2, 2000, one day before the trip ended; later in the year, Abramoff registered as a lobbyist for other clients who opposed the bill, including several Indian tribes. The federal probe is looking into his handling of his tribal clients and the large fees he was paid.

Hirschmann and her husband ultimately accumulated charges of 2,073 British pounds, or about $3,109 at the prevailing exchange rate for four nights in their "superior" room at the London Four Seasons Hotel. Those charges included $129 at the hotel lounge, $75 from the room bar, $34 from the gift shop, and $422 for chauffeured cars, according to a copy of their hotel bill. Hirschmann said one car was used to reach the meeting with Thatcher.

At least one of the Hirschmanns also played golf at St. Andrews. Susan Hirschmann is now a lobbyist at the Washington firm of Williams & Jensen; the firm's Web site contains a published claim that DeLay and other House Republican leaders are in frequent contact with her. As a staff member at the time of the trip, she would have been covered by the same ethics rules that apply to DeLay and other House members. Rudy, her staff colleague at the time, now works for Buckham's lobbying firm.

DeLay and his wife, for their part, stayed for four nights in a "conservatory" room at the same hotel in London as Hirschmann, accumulating charges of roughly $790 a night for rooms that included a glass-enclosed porch overlooking London's Park Lane, according to a copy of the bill for their stay and the Web site of the hotel.

They also ran up hotel charges of $145 for room service, $13 for a valet pressing and $302 for a private car from Heathrow airport, the bill states. Their room bill also lists a charge of $434 for six theater tickets, but Burchfield said the DeLays do not recall attending any plays in London. He said if the hotel charges were being "picked up" by a representative of the National Center, "they would not necessarily have seen the hotel bill."

DeLay, Burchfield said, "does not know how the logistics . . . [of the bill payments for the trip] were being effectuated."

House ethics rules contain detailed provisions barring the acceptance of any travel funds from private sources if doing so would "create the appearance of using public office for private gain." They also obligate lawmakers to "make inquiry on the source of the funds that will be used to pay" for any travel ostensibly financed by a nonprofit organization -- to rule out the acceptance of reimbursements that come from one organization when a trip is "in fact organized and conducted by someone else."

Trips outside the United States are also not supposed to exceed a week in length out of concern, the rules state, for "the public perception that such trips often may amount to paid vacations for the Member and his family at the expense of special interest groups." Research editor Lucy Shackelford and researchers Alice Crites and Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2005 The Washington Post Company.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"They certainly do know how to pick 'em"
Copyright 2005 Cristian Fleming. org

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Nasty Letters staff takes a little time off

Houston, TX (NL) April 7, 2005

As the seasons change and the beauty of spring comes upon us, the one or two dedicated staffers that keep this blog up to date have decided to take a little time off. We have been hard at work since June of 2003 and have a deep archive of fine reading. Please take a moment to look at some of the work in our archive, located on the right of the page in the sidebar.

We all wish you good government and the end of corrosive political reactionaries like Mr. Delay, Mr. Cronyn (R-TX) and Mr. Gonzales (R-Atty Gen US) etc etc.

See you in a few weeks, and if there is any stories that you are particularly interested in, please put your comments....into....Comments...below!

Alan J. Franklin, Editor, Nasty Letters to Crooked Politicians

Monday, April 04, 2005

Curveball the Goofball

Maureen Dowd for The New York Times

"I had an editor once whose wife was in the Audubon Society. There were a lot of articles about birds in that newspaper.

I had an editor once who loved fishing. There were a lot of articles about fish in that newspaper.

Organizations organically respond to please the boss. Bosses naturally surround themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear.

When King Lear's favorite daughter spoke frankly to him, and refused to fawn like her sisters, she was instantly banished. Insincerity pays.

It is absurd to have yet another investigation into the chuckleheaded assessments on Saddam's phantom W.M.D. that intentionally skirts how the $40 billion-a-year intelligence was molded and manufactured to fit the ideological schemes of those running the White House and Pentagon.

As the commission's co-chairman, Laurence Silberman, put it: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policy makers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."

Huh? That's like an investigation into steroids in baseball that looks only at the drug companies, not the players who muscled up.

We don't need a 14-month inquiry producing 601 pages at a cost of $10 million to tell us the data on arms in Iraq was flawed. We know that. When we got over there, we didn't find any.

This is the fourth exhaustive investigation that has not answered the basic question: How did the White House and Pentagon spin the information and why has no one gotten in trouble for it? If your kid lied and hid stuff from you to do something he thought would be great, then wouldn't admit it and blamed someone else, he'd be punished - even if his adventure worked out all right for him.

When the "values" president and his aides do it, they're rewarded. Condoleezza Rice was promoted to secretary of state. Stephen Hadley, Condi's old deputy, was promoted to national security adviser. Bob Joseph, a national security aide who helped shovel the uranium hooey into the State of the Union address, is becoming an under secretary of state. Paul Wolfowitz, who painted the takeover of Iraq as such a cakewalk that our troops went in without the proper armor or backup, will run the World Bank. George Tenet, who ran the C.I.A. when Al Qaeda attacked and when Saddam's mushroom cloud gained credibility, got the Medal of Freedom.

Then the president appoints a compliant Democrat and a complicit conservative judge to head an inquiry set up to let the president off the hook.

Please, no more pantomime investigations. We all know what happened. Dick Cheney and the neocons had a fever to sack Saddam. Mr. Cheney and Rummy persuaded W., "the Man," that it was the manly thing to do. Everybody feigned a 9/11 connection. Ahmad Chalabi conned his neocon pals, thinking he could run Iraq if he gave the Bush administration the smoking gun it needed to sell the war.

Suddenly Curveball appeared, the relative of an aide to Mr. Chalabi, to become the lone C.I.A. source with the news that Iraq was cooking up biological agents in mobile facilities hidden from arms inspectors and Western spies. Curveball's obviously sketchy assertions ended up in Mr. Tenet's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate and Colin Powell's U.N. speech in February 2003, laying the groundwork for an invasion of Iraq.

Curveball's information was used to justify the war even though it was clear Curveball was a goofball. As the commission report notes, a Defense Department employee at the C.I.A. met with him and "was concerned by Curveball's apparent 'hangover' during their meeting" and suspicious that Curveball spoke excellent English, even though the Foreign Service had told U.S. intelligence officials that Curveball did not speak English.

By early 2001, the C.I.A. was receiving messages from our Foreign Service, reporting that Curveball was "out of control" and off the radar. A foreign intelligence service also warned the C.I.A. in April 2002 that it had "doubts about Curveball's reliability" and that elements of the tippling tipster's behavior "strike us as typical of individuals we would normally assess as fabricators."

But Curveball's crazy assertions had traction because they were what the White House wanted to hear.

The report warns the president to watch out for the "headstrong" intelligence agencies. If only the commission had concerned itself with headstrong officials at a higher level. Then its 601 pages would be worth reading."


Saturday, April 02, 2005

Cowardly Chimpers & his thought police chase people out of National Conversation on Social Security

Bush critics barred from "town hall" meetings on Social Security
Hypocite central, where elChimperissimo holds court
By Kate Randall
2 April 2005

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An incident last week shed light on the authoritarian methods of the Bush administration and the absurdity of its claims to champion democracy around the world.

On March 21, Bush addressed a “town hall” meeting in Denver, Colorado, organized by the White House as part of Bush’s nationwide “Conversation on Social Security”—a series of media events staged to promote his plan to partially privatize the government benefits system for senior citizens.

As with virtually all of Bush’s public appearances, these events are meticulously vetted. Nobody is allowed entry who has not been approved by Republican operatives and given a ticket, and the softball questions lobbed to the president are generally rehearsed in advance.

But as the Denver event revealed, even possession of an admission ticket does not suffice to shield one from the Republican thought-police. Three of the ticket-holders at the Denver “conversation” were removed from the venue an hour before the president arrived. They had obtained their tickets in advance through the office of Colorado Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez.

When Karen Bauer and Leslie Weise arrived at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum, an unidentified doorman stopped them. He said they had been “ID’d,” and would have to speak with someone from the Secret Service. The two women’s names were apparently on a list drawn up by Republican Party event planners to weed out potential Bush opponents. They are both members of the Denver Progressives, a group that has protested at other Bush events.

According to the Fargo, North Dakota, newspaper, the Forum, Weise, a 39-year-old attorney, was told the next day by a Secret Service spokesman that the Republicans had identified them as “protest-type people” who were part of the “No Blood for Oil group.” No such political grouping exists, but the Republican operatives had apparently spotted a “No More Blood for Oil” bumper sticker on their car in the parking lot, and fingered the two as they tried to enter the hall.

Bauer, a 38-year-old marketing coordinator, told the Denver Post that another unidentified man with a shaved head, earpiece and red lapel pin then approached them. “He said we were allowed to go in but, if we caused any problems, we’d be taken to jail,” Bauer said. This individual did not explain what kind of “problem” would result in their arrest. They were finally permitted to enter, along with another friend and fellow Progressives member, 25-year-old Alex Young.

But as the three were walking to their seats, they were approached, asked to leave, and escorted out of the hall. Karen Bauer said an individual put his hand on her elbow and steered her towards the door. “We kept asking, ‘Why is this happening?’ Alex Young told the Forum, “The guy said, ‘If the staff asks you to leave, you have to leave. This is a private event.’ ”

The Bush administration is well aware that its effort to open up Social Security for privatization—by allowing the diversion of a portion of payroll taxes into private accounts—is unpopular. Recent polls by Time and Newsweek magazines show that nearly 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s handling of the Social Security issue. All the more reason to bar anything remotely approaching a genuine debate from Bush’s “national conversation” on the issue.

The exclusion of the three Bush critics from the Denver event is by no means an aberration. On February 3, in Fargo, 42 people were on a list to be barred from Bush’s talk on Social Security at the Bison Sports Arena. The Forum reported that a Fargo city commissioner, a liberal radio producer, a Democratic deputy campaign manager and a number of university professors were among those on the blacklist drawn up for the event. White House spokespersons have admitted that the list existed, but have denied responsibility for creating it, saying it may have been the work of an “overzealous volunteer.”

Linda Coates, the city commissioner on the do-not-admit list, commented, “This just shines light on the fact this administration doesn’t like to deal with dissent or disagreement. I find it ironic that at this event, where we’re talking about standing up for freedom, this can happen. It’s just kind of pitiful.” Coates was able to get into the event using a ticket given her by the city’s mayor.

In another incident, in Tucson, Arizona, on March 22, a University of Arizona student was denied entrance to a Bush “Conversation on Social Security” held at the Tucson Convention Center. Steven Gerner, a political science and pre-pharmacy sophomore—and member of the University of Arizona Young Democrats (UAYD)—was waiting in line for the event along with three other UAYD members. They all held tickets with their names printed on them.

A staffer, who refused to give his name, approached Gerner and asked to look at his T-shirt, which bore a Democratic Party slogan. The staffer asked for Gerner’s ticket and crumpled it up in front of him. He returned in 20 minutes and told the student that his name had been added to a list of those banned from the event.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, people seeking to attend Republican National Committee rallies for Bush-Cheney were regularly required to sign endorsement forms pledging their support for Bush’s reelection. Tony Cani, president of Young Democrats of Arizona, told the Arizona Daily Wildcat, “If this would have been paid for by the Bush-Cheney campaign and they discriminated entrance, it would have been unethical, undemocratic and wrong, but they would have had the right. The distinction is that this was paid for with taxpayers’ dollars.”

Jonathan Cherry, a Secret Service spokesman, said, “Secret Service agents are not ticket takers,” and added that the local Republican Party “host committee controls who gets in and gets out.” Kate Calhoun, Tucson Convention Center sales and marketing manager, commented that “the venue does not issue or check or take tickets,” concluding that such tactics are “coming straight from the White House.”

After he was refused entry to the Bush event in Tucson, Steven Gerner joined protesters outside the convention center. According to the Wildcat, about 1,000 protesters lined the streets as the president’s motorcade arrived. After a 13-year-old girl threw an egg at the motorcade, she and her aunt were rushed by three police officers, dragged across the street, arrested and handcuffed."

Friday, April 01, 2005

Bush-appointed intelligence commission whitewashes war based on lies

By Bill Van Auken
1 April 2005

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The report released Thursday by the White House-appointed Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction was entirely predictable. It follows the same pattern as the whitewashes performed last year for the Bush administration by the 9/11 Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Like those earlier investigations, the WMD panel’s document serves up recommendations promoting an intensification of militarism abroad and police-state measures at home.

This so-called “independent” commission was handpicked by Bush and directed to concern itself solely with “intelligence failures” concerning the war in Iraq. It was constituted a little over a year ago for the political purpose of countering incontrovertible evidence that the Bush administration went to war against Iraq on the basis of lies.

Presenting the report at a White House press conference Thursday, Bush read out a prepared statement praising the very intelligence community that, according to the document, had been “dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” After completing his statement, Bush turned on his heels and walked through a door that shut behind him.

The gesture was unmistakable: as far as the administration was concerned, the controversy over non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was now closed.

Bush concluded his remarks by declaring, “ an age in which we are at war, the consequences of underestimating a threat could be tens of thousands of innocent lives.” He continued: “And my administration will continue to make intelligence reforms that will allow us to identify threats before they fully emerge so we can take effective action to protect the American people.”

Yet, if one were to take the report at face value, the lesson would be that the consequences of overestimating a threat have already included the destruction of the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis and over 1,700 US, British and other foreign troops. For both the Iraqi and American people, moreover, the result of acting on unfounded threats “before they fully emerged”—the policy of preventive war—has proven an unmitigated disaster.

The issue in the Iraq war, however, was not one of false estimations in either direction, but rather the deliberate deception of the American people on a massive scale for the purpose of executing plans for conquering Iraq that had been drawn up well before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and even before the Bush administration took office.

“Scathing” is the adjective that the media has invariably used in describing the assessment in the 618-page public version of the report of the performance of the Central Intelligence Agency and other US intelligence organizations in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. What has drawn less attention is how the panel’s slavish defense of the Bush administration has left the US president and all of his senior advisors unscathed.

Over a dozen times in the document, the commission dismisses charges that the false intelligence used to justify the war on Iraq was the product of political pressure or outright fabrication on the part of the White House and the Pentagon’s civilian leadership. Yet the charges themselves are referred to only in a footnote that lists a series of news stories detailing instances in which such pressure was more than evident.

These includes the attempts by Vice President Dick Cheney to extort damning evidence against Iraq by browbeating CIA analysts, and the retaliation against Joseph Wilson—who blew the whistle on the phony intelligence concerning alleged Iraqi uranium purchases in Niger—by exposing his wife as a covert CIA agent. Also listed are articles that quoted CIA and State Department officials saying that they were coerced into producing intelligence that indicted Iraq on weapons violations.

Dismissing all of the evidence, the report states baldly: “The Commission found no evidence of political pressure ...Link..."

Jesse Jackson at the Schiavo hospice: Democrats makes common cause with Christian right

By Patrick Martin
31 March 2005

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The appearance by the Reverend Jesse Jackson in Florida, in support of the right-wing religious hysteria over Terri Schiavo, was a public demonstration of the position taken by virtually all the leading figures of the Democratic Party. On an issue where the actions of the Bush administration and the congressional Republican leadership are opposed by the vast majority of the American people, the Democrats have abandoned any pretense of being an “opposition” party and joined forces with the ultra-right.

Jackson, one of the best-known public figures in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and a two-time candidate for the party’s presidential nomination, solidarized himself with the right-wing campaign against the withdrawal of life support from the severely brain-damaged woman. He echoed the language of the Christian fundamentalists, comparing Schiavo’s condition to martyrdom and demanding the restoration of the feeding tube, removed March 18 at the behest of Terri’s husband Michael.

Jackson held a private discussion with Robert and Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s parents, outside the hospice where she was dying. The topic was the resurrection of Christ, a family spokesman said. Jackson made phone calls to several black Democrats in the Florida state legislature, urging them to reverse their opposition to a bill that would require restoration of the feeding tube. He joined with a Roman Catholic priest in a publicity stunt, offering to participate in administering holy communion to Schiavo.

(Michael Schiavo, himself a Catholic, authorized the last rites for his wife, including communion, but rejected demands by clerics allied with the Schindlers to administer communion to the vegetative woman every day. Since Terri is incapable of swallowing the wafer, communion is administered in the form of a few drops of wine on her tongue.)

Afterwards, Jackson appeared on the sidewalk in front of the hospice to speak with the media. “Today we pray for a miracle,” he declared. Referring to Terri Schiavo, he said, “She is being starved to death. She is being dehydrated to death. That is inhumane.”

This represents a clear stand on the side of religion and against science. Jackson never addressed the well-established facts of the case: that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, that her brain has not functioned for 15 years, that she has no sensation, no thought, no emotion, no control of her own movements.

Instead, Jackson suggested that Schiavo was fighting to live: “Without water or food, without even ice cubes for her lips, for 12 days she is still alive,” he said. “That should send a message to all of us.” Actually, Terri Schiavo’s slow deterioration after the shutoff of life support is typical. It says nothing about her internal state of mind, which, according to electrical monitoring, is nil. Terri Schiavo is not conscious and does not feel hunger or thirst, nor the will to live, nor anything else.

Calling the Schiavo case “one of the profound moral and ethical issues of our time,” Jackson indirectly condemned the position of Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband, as immoral and unethical. “This is a global issue, and oftentimes the big issues of life are reduced to a single person who brings clarity,” he continued. “We cannot hide behind the law and not have mercy.”

He continued: “We watch her struggle. We see her on TV. She is now part of our lives. We are all potentially Terris.” He added that Terri Schiavo was a symbol of the starvation and lack of medical care afflicting so many people today, declaring that one lesson of this case was that “no one should be left behind.”

Behind this display of sympathy is a lie: Jackson equates Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband, with those who are really responsible for the suffering of hundreds of millions of people around the world: the financial oligarchy which places its profits above basic human needs like food and medical care, and above human life itself.

Michael Schiavo is not George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld. He is not Merck or Enron. He is a working class man who has made the agonizing decision to terminate life support in accordance with Terri’s wishes, expressed not only to him, but to his brother and his brother’s wife. The three have testified repeatedly in court and their testimony has been found credible in dozens of court hearings.

The flip side of Jackson’s lie is to present the right-wing campaign against Michael Schiavo as an effort to vindicate the rights of the disabled. Misguided groups such as Not Dead Yet play a similar role, grotesquely identifying themselves with a woman who lacks precisely what they possess: a conscious life and the will to fight for it, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Jackson’s arrival was greeted with applause by the demonstrators who have assembled in small numbers outside the hospice and made repeated efforts to invade the premises, as well as threatening violence against Michael Schiavo and his supporters. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense League, who initiated the invitation to Jackson but was not at the hospice on the day of his visit, expressed regret: “I wish I could have been there to see people who probably cursed the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the past suddenly cheering him.”

Jackson lent the prestige of his association with the civil rights struggles of the 1960s to this group of fascists and religious fanatics, saying, “It’s a transcendent moment and a transcendent opportunity. This is where blacks and whites find common ground. Conservatives and liberals.”

The former Democratic presidential candidate once claimed to favor the building of a political movement that would unite ordinary people across lines of color, ethnicity and religion, which he dubbed a Rainbow Coalition, to enact progressive reforms. But in Florida Tuesday, he embraced a different kind of coalition: a unity of “left” and right, on the basis of the anti-democratic program of the extreme right.

The symbol of this unity was Jackson’s appearance side by side with Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. “I’m honored to stand with the Rev. Jesse Jackson,” Terry said. He is more used to blockading abortion clinics or making statements that give political and moral support to violent attacks on abortion providers.

One of Terry’s supporters assassinated Dr. Bernard Slepian, a doctor in Buffalo, New York who performed abortions. According to the New York Daily News, Terry added this comment about his new and unexpected alliance with Jesse Jackson: “I couldn’t have written this script if I was on acid.”

This leading Democrat is allying himself with Christian fundamentalists and other elements of the fascistic right, the principal social base of support for the Republican Congress and the Bush administration. These forces are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. They support social policies in the United States and around the world that impoverish the majority of humanity and kill millions. They embrace capital punishment. They endorse torture and indefinite imprisonment without trial in the name of the “war on terror.” And yet in the Schiavo case, they claim to represent a “culture of life.”

Jackson is far from alone. Congressional Democrats by and large supported, or refused to oppose, the blatantly unconstitutional bill pushed through the House and Senate last week by the Republican leadership, giving the Schindlers the right to litigate the feeding tube shutoff in federal court. Eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Jesse Jackson Jr., a congressman from Chicago, voted for the Republican bill.

The Reverend Al Sharpton, also a former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, endorsed Jackson’s views on the Schiavo case, although he opposed the congressional intervention as intrusive. He said in a press interview, “I do as a minister support her being reconnected, but I do not feel that I could respond to the request and at the same time criticize the president for intervening.”

In the Senate, where a single senator could have blocked a vote on the legislation by objecting, not one Democrat did so. Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa liberal, was the only Democrat present and he voted aye.

According to at least one press report, Harkin had the support of former President Bill Clinton for his stance.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, an opponent of abortion rights, assured the Republican leadership that there would no resistance. Senator Hillary Clinton did not oppose the measure, and has made no public comment on the Schiavo case over the past two weeks. She did find time, however, to join with fundamentalist Republican senators Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback in supporting a $90 million effort to suppress violent videogames.

Then there is the defeated Democratic presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry. According to a spokeswoman, Kerry supported the legislation giving Robert and Mary Schindler the right to take the Schiavo case into federal court, adding only the characteristic Kerry quibble that “any intervention by Congress is temporary and Mrs. Schiavo’s family must come together. It’s a question for her family, and their doctors, and their faith.” Given that Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers have been locked in legal combat for seven years, Kerry’s appeal for them to “come together” only underscores his refusal to take sides on a clear question of democratic and constitutional principle.

It is worth recalling that 45 years ago, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, issued a public pledge to strictly uphold the separation of church and state, addressing both anti-Catholic bigotry and legitimate concerns that the Vatican would have undue political influence over his administration. No Democrat would make such a pledge today, for fear of being branded hostile to religion or, even worse, an atheist. In last year’s presidential campaign, for example, Kerry went out of his way to legitimize church interference in political matters, even when several Catholic bishops called for his excommunication because of his position on abortion rights.

The Democratic Party has moved steadily to the right over the past three decades, abandoning any association it once had, particularly in the civil rights era, with the defense of democratic rights. This process has been especially pronounced over the past decade, as Democrats retreated before the right-wing campaign of subversion against the Clinton administration, culminating in impeachment, then capitulated to the theft of the 2000 presidential election, then embraced repressive measures like the USA Patriot Act after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and, finally, lined up behind a war of aggression in Iraq launched on the basis of lies.

Their stance on the Schiavo case, however, is the most craven surrender yet to the extreme right. And it cannot be attributed—despicable as that would be—merely to opportunist calculations about what is popular. On the Schiavo case, the vast majority of the American people oppose congressional intervention and regard the right-wing antics outside the Florida hospice with disgust. There is no immediate electoral advantage to be gained for the Democrats by pandering to a right-wing fringe that alienates even some sections of the Republican Party. The Democrats are supporting the Christian fanatics because they are in agreement with them.

This is the reality that confronts working people in America. The two-party system is an instrument of political and social control wielded by a financial oligarchy that is repudiating any commitment to democratic rights and constitutional procedures. The defense of basic rights and all of the social interests of working people requires an uncompromising break with the Democratic Party and the building of a new, independent mass political party of the working class, based on a democratic and socialist program.

See Also:
Right-wing propaganda and scientific fact in the case of Terri Schiavo
[28 March 2005]
‘Culture of life’ culture of lies: an exchange with WSWS readers on the Terri Schiavo case
[25 March 2005]