Saturday, February 5

Indefensible...

There are so many issues. So many ethical challenges that continue to dog this Presidency that at a certain point you have only one or another conclusion to reach. I have tried to document them, to record them, but there are so many it's almost overwhelming. It can't all be true - can it?

Either those who chase the President and continue to accuse him and the Republican Party are simply filled with anger and hate or, at least on some of these matters, they are correct and in order to protect the Party above all, particularly the integrity of the nation, Republicans have taken a position which is in fact, Indefensable.

I can just hear 'em now:


o Despite the thousands of voters who complained of problems in Ohio, the issue whether or not everyone's vote is actually counted or not, simply doesn't matter. We won. You lost. Fair and Square just like the Supreme Court said in 2000, so shut up and deal with it.

o Problems with excessive levels of Mercury? Oh, no. It couldn't have anything to do with EPA policy despite the mounting evidence regarding coal plants, and making many of the rules governing energy corportions voluantary, not to mention the resignation of Christine Todd Whitman as director. She just wanted to be housewife anyway.

o We have a Social Security crisis because it's going to start losing money in 2042, or maybe 2056, or maybe 2075 - but we don't have a problem with Medicare or Medicaid which are starting to see benefit cuts this year. Nope, not a problem.

o Torture? What torture? Oh, that was just few boys (and girls) getting rowdy - just frat hazing on the nightshift - and so what if they decided to play rough with those dirty terrorist bastards anyway? Who do you think deserves it more?

o DUI? Who cares about it or lying about it on a Juror Questionaire and to a judge to get out of Jury duty? Nah. Never happened.

o Thank God GeeDub is going to do something about Hollywood poluting the minds of our youth with "The L Word". "Will and Grace" is funny and all, but we don't need those damn fags messing up OUR right to be married.

o Finally it's been proven that CBS and Dan Rather have no integrity or honor. They had the audacity to tell a true story using a (possibly) false memo. Speaking of false memos, somebody should tell Condi to remember to shred the Yellow cake docs and August 6th PDB. We don't need that stuff getting out after the way we punked Joe Wilson by tossing his wife Valerie out of the clandestine service.

o WMD? We don't need no stinking WMD! Osama bin Hussein Sustani is bad man, and America will never stop chasing him. Wherever and whoever he is.

o Michael Moore is a big, fat (multi-Golden Globe and Oscar winning) idiot!

o Deserter? No, GeeDub served his country well protecting the Texas skies from the Vietcong. Haven't you seen the paystubs yet?

o One secret election in Iraq (following a rigged(?) election in Ohio and Florida) can almost make 4 years of lies, double-crosses, a weak economy, a net job loss and record deficits disappear. Almost.


"It's not like we haven't seen this kind of partisan screed and hysteria before. Farenheit 9/11 - is simply the updated Clinton Chronicles. (Where it was alleged that Arkansian rapist/letch of a Governor, Bill Clinton and his crazy hyper-liberal frump of a wife Hillary were in fact international drug smugglers and murderers) Don't you know they killed Vince Foster in order to cover it all up and hide Hillary's using her law firm to launder the profits they made on Whitewater (just like Harken Energy), used confidential FBI files to gain inside knowledge on their political enemies (Valerie Plame), and unfairly sacked the Whitehouse Travel Office (see Original Whitewater Special Prosecutor Robert Fisk) as they began their Witch-hunt on those poor innocent people (Susan McDougal)

Speaking of Witchhunts, it's a good thing the Right Honorable Judge Starr and Matt Drudge were on the case to prove it all trueand make sure that Clinton scoundrel could be finally brought to justice. That damn commie/socialist bastard deserved every bit of it. Served him right for balancing the budget, creating the greatest economic boom in100 years, preventing the Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel and LAX from being bombed, and ending the Balkan war.

God Bless G.W. Bush for bringing character and dignity back to the Whitehouse."



The problem with all the above is this, just as many Democrats gradually turned a blind-eye to all the many accusations against Clinton as simply Right-wing blather -- eventually they did find Monica Lewinsky.

At some point in time, probably during GeeDub's second term -- one of these scandals is not going to go away. One of them is going to stick, and stick tight. I think Republicans know this - I think they're deathly afraid of it. The shadows of both Watergate and Iran-Control loom large in the memory. That is why they've constructed such an elaborate media wagon-train to circle.

They feel that "Those dummies at CBS thought they had the smoking gun, they thought they had the Prez cold, and the Reeps were sweatin' for about 40 mins until the blogosphere set things right. It was close one , but not close enough."

Still people forget that during the original Watergate investigation the same thing happened. It was all debunked. It was all proven wrong. Tricky Dicky had gotten away with it.

And then suddenly - he didn't.

The same thing happened during Iran-Contra. Reagan was protected and cleared of any wrong-doing due to plausible deniability. That is until he apologized on national tv, and admited he'd known about the weapons for hostages trade all along.

In his case Clinton was brought low by proclaiming "I did not have sexual relations with that young woman, Miss Lewinsky". It was a secret he shared with no one, not even his own attorneys based on a legalistic "parsing" of his view that Monica had relations with him, but he didn't have them with her. Meanwhile GeeDub, Condy and Albert Gonzales have all engaged in a ironically similar legalistic parsing, basically parotting Clinton's "is is" weasle by proclaiming almost in unison that "[America] did not have torture relations with those young muslims, the enemy combatants on foreign soil...", although we continue to reserve the right to use "cruel, unusual and inhuman treament [of them]" based on the "President Executive Powers", which apparently not only circumvent the Geneva Convention, but also the U.S Law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Months ago I (on this blog) I spoke of "Revenge" in the wake of the November election and I can think of no revenge sweeter than the truth. Eventually the truth will be too obvious to ignore and I think history, eventually, will repeat itself once again - and this time it won't end with a neat, pretty, impeachment. We're talking indictments and jail time boys and girls. Just be patient. GeeDubs time will come. I have no doubt. There are too many footprints and fingerprints to cover up. Christine Todd Whitman has already come forward blowing the whistle in our own slightly polite manner, eventually others such Lt. Col Karen Kwiatkowski will follow - some in the administration and some elsewhere. One thread will lead to another and another, unraveling the tapestry of lies and delusion...

...and it will be Glorious.

Either that all half the nation will be in desperate need of a red-hot thorazine injection by 2008.

Vyan

The Ohio pimple continues to fester

Ohio Attorney-General's attack on election protection attorneys draws mountain of documentation on state's stolen election, including new study on exit polls
by Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman
February 3, 2005

Stiff legal sanctions sought by Ohio's Republican Attorney General James Petro against four attorneys who have questioned the results of the 2004 presidential balloting here has produced an unintended consequence -- a massive counter-filing that has put on the official record a mountain of contentions by those who argue that election was stolen.

In filings that include well over 1,000 pages of critical documentation, attorneys Robert Fitrakis, Susan Truitt, Peter Peckarsky and Cliff Arnebeck have counter-attacked. Their defense motions include renewed assertions that widespread irregularities threw the true outcome of the November vote count into serious doubt. That assertion has now been lent important backing by a major academic study on the exit polls that showed John Kerry winning the November vote count.

Petro's suit is widely viewed as an attempt at revenge and intimidation against the grassroots movement that led to the first Congressional challenge to a state's Electoral College delegation since 1876. The attorney general's action was officially requested by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who administered the Ohio presidential balloting while serving as co-chair of the state's Bush-Cheney campaign. Petro and Blackwell have labeled as "frivolous" the election challenge filing. Their demand for sanctions will be reviewed by the Republican justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Though Petro's filing was aimed at backing down further challenges to the Ohio vote, it has allowed the election protection attorneys to enter into the official archives critical documentation detailing dozens of problems with Ohio's presidential balloting. Among the documents now made part of Ohio's legal archives is a congressional investigation report from Rep. John Conyers that seriously questions the November 2 outcome.

The two now-infamous lawsuits in question, Moss v. Bush and Moss v. Moyer, argued that irregularities involving enough votes to switch the state's electors from Bush to Kerry, and from Supreme Court justice Tom Moyer to challenger Ellen Connally, gave the public the right to file suit. Underlying much of the challenge have been wide ranging questions about whether Blackwell administered the election in a partisan manner.

Blackwell refused to testify in the case, and he has removed from public access critical documents relating to the vote count.

Under Ohio law, an original action to contest election allows only deposition testimony. It was impossible during the ten days of discovery to take the depositions of tens of thousands of disenfranchised voters, the majority African-American. But, as a result of Petro’s sanctions motion, the attorneys were able to enter into evidence (as Exhibits 1 & 2) explosive first-hand sworn testimony from November 13 and 15 public hearings in Columbus about voting irregularities. Excerpts from these first-person accounts were published on the House Judiciary Committee Democrats webpage and were used by some three-dozen U.S. Representatives and Senators to challenge Ohio’s Electoral College certification in Congress on January 6.

That historic challenge and ensuing national debate deeply embarrassed Ohio's Republican establishment. Blackwell was explicitly criticized on the floor of Congress for partisan behavior in administering the election. In return, Blackwell -- who is running for governor -- has issued personal attacks against the election protection attorneys who filed the Moss lawsuits, at one point referring to Fitrakis in public as "a complete idiot."

In documents filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, Petro’s office charges that the citizen contestors – Ohio voters - and their attorneys lacked evidence and proceeded in bad faith to file the challenge. Petro says the election challenge was a "political nuisance" lawsuit, and as such, the legal team should be fined -- personally -- many thousands of dollars.

As the sanctions motion moves toward a hearing before Ohio’s Supreme Court, hundreds of sworn statements are now permanently in the public record, documenting the massive voting problems which led to Bush's contested win in Ohio.

Equally significant, the attorneys were able to place into the court record the 102-page Status Report of the House Judiciary Democratic Staff entitled "What Went Wrong in Ohio?" Spearheaded by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) the report concludes, "We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters. Cumulatively, these irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousands of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts whether it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004 were chosen in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and constitutional standards."

A motion was also filed asking the court to allow an amicus curiae brief from Rep. Conyers in support of the contesters counsel. Fitrakis, Truitt, Peckarsky and Arnebeck have entered affidavits swearing that they had proceeded in good faith in contesting the election.

Also entered into evidence was a letter dated December 23, 2004 from Peckarsky to John Zucker, Senior Vice President for Law and Regulation at ABC that outlined an agreement to "maintain intact Mitofsky's exit poll data" and that it "not be altered or destroyed"; and a letter from Truitt dated December 27, 2004 confirming a telephone conversation, with Richard Coglianese, Ohio Assistant Attorney General, "to the effect that regardless of the need for the deposition and regardless of the amount of notice provided (whether days or months) you will not allow the deposition of your client, J. Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio, to occur at any time for any reason."

Arnebeck filed a separate memorandum opposing the sanctions that began: "The Attorney General's motion for sanctions is false and defamatory. It appears to be submitted for the partisan purpose of attempting to discredit those who brought the challenge . . ." Arnebeck told the court that the Attorney General filed the sanctions motion for intimidation purposes and it was aimed at public interest attorneys.

"In this instance the Attorney General of the State of Ohio may unwittingly have placed himself in a position of obstructing justice rather than upholding it through the filing of this partisan motion, which is lacking merit and is intended to terminate the search for truth and accountability in an election of profound importance to the citizens of Ohio, the United States and the world," Arnebeck concluded.

Fitrakis, who also holds a Ph.D. in political science and served as an international observer in the 1994 elections in El Salvador and co-authored and edited the international observer's report to the United Nations, charged that Petro's actions should be regarded as "an act of political retaliation and state repression." In the affidavit he also states that the "Ohio elections fail basic standards of transparency" under international law.

In the meantime, a high-powered team of researchers concluded "the many anecdotal reports of voting irregularities create a context in which the possibility that the overall vote count was substantially corrupted must be taken seriously. The hypothesis that the discrepancy between the exit polls and election results is due to errors in the official election tally is a coherent theory."

The report comes from USCountVotes, which convened ten mathematicians, statisticians and other researchers to evaluate recent assertions by Warren Mitofsky and other pollsters that the November 2 exit polling may have been wrong. Among the assertions by the pollsters is that more Republicans than Democrats may have refused to be polled after casting their ballots.

But the USCountVotes study points out that the numbers of voters polls in Republican precincts was actually higher than in Democratic ones. Mitofsky and others have said the disparities between their exit polls and the final outcome were "most likely due to Kerry voters participating in the exit polls at a higher rate than Bush voters." But, says the USCountVotes study, "no evidence is offered to support this conclusion. In fact, data newly released in the report suggests that Bush supporters might have been OVERREPRESENTED in the exit polls, widening the disparity to be explained."

The report adds that no data in the pollster's report "supports the hypothesis that Kerry voters were more likely than Bush voters to cooperate with pollsters, and the data suggests that the opposite may have been true."

Should Ohio's Republican-dominated Supreme Court decide to take revenge on the four election protection attorneys, it will have a mountain of data to disregard. But whatever the decision, that mountain of assertions about who really won Ohio and thus the presidency is now a part of the state's permanent legal landscape.

--
Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors, with Bob Fitrakis, of OHIO'S STOLEN ELECTION: VOICES OF THE DISENFRANCHISED, 2004, a book/film project from www.freepress.org. Contributions are welcome at www.freepress.org and via the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism, 1240 Bryden Road, Columbus, OH 43205.

Rhetoric and Reality

Molly Ivins

Divide between Bush's rhetoric and reality
February 3, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas -- I don't get it. The divide between the rhetoric and the reality in this administration is larger than I can span. The dissonance between the noble ideals expressed and the nasty actions is too raw for me.

For example, Bush announces: "Our founders dedicated this country to the cause of human dignity, the rights of every person and the possibilities of every life. This conviction leads us into the world to help the afflicted, and defend the peace, and confound the designs of evil men." (I got that nugget from the 2003 State of the Union via an article by Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully.) So how come we give less to the afflicted than any other advanced nation?

And how come we're torturing people? How come we're putting people into high office -- attorney general, Department of Homeland Security -- who unleashed the whole torture scandal? The International Red Cross says torture is still going on today at Guantanamo. Torture has blackened our name around the world and made the president's words about bringing freedom and democracy sound hollow and hypocritical.

Item: Bush finally agreed to go along with the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, asserting nothing was more important than the safety of Americans. But then came lobbyists for the American Chemistry Council, and suddenly our safety wasn't so important. According to Christine Todd Whitman, then-head of the Environmental Protection Agency, she and Tom Ridge of Homeland Security crafted regulations requiring the 15,000 highest-risk chemical plants to take steps to reduce their vulnerability to terrorism. Seems like a sensible idea.

But nope, the administration wouldn't support it, and the lobby fought it. "I sometimes wonder whether those companies spend more money trying to defeat new regulations than they would by simply complying with them," writes Whitman in her book "It's My Party Too." There are no federal regulations today requiring chemical companies to prepare for terrorist attacks.

Here's an administration dedicated to destroying government as much as possible until, as Grover Norquist says, "we can drown it in the bathtub." But they have no hesitation about spending our money on "public relations." The Bushies have spent $250 million on "public relations" during their first term, more than twice as much as in Clinton's last term. But it was not public-interest spending, like trying to get people to eat healthier diets or not drink while driving. This was propaganda for the administration's political agenda.

Then there is the ludicrously loony matter of the budget deficit. Recall these people inherited a whopping budget surplus. For over a year now, the administration has said, "We've got a plan to cut the deficit in half over the next five years." The deficit in 2004 was $412 billion, the largest ever. The White House now says this year's will be $427 billion -- BUT that the plan to cut the deficit is "on track." Man, that's some track.

To this cascading disaster, Bush wants to add $2 trillion in transition costs over the next decade for his scheme to partially privatize Social Security. This is one I'm really having trouble figuring out. There is no crisis in the Social Security program. It is not in trouble. If nothing is done, come 2042 -- or 2052 if you believe the Congressional Budget Office -- SS will have to start paying less than its promised benefits, but will still be able to pay seniors more than it does today in constant dollars. You can easily fix even that minor problem by lifting the cap on FICA taxes now at $90,000.

Why should people who make more than $90,000 have their higher income exempted, when every nickel made by people below the poverty level is taxed?

As Paul Krugman of The New York Times points out, if you accept the Rosy Scenario the administration is using to paint privatization as an effective scheme, then Social Security is in no trouble at all and we don't need to do anything about it -- economic growth will take care of it all. Contrariwise, if you accept the doom-and-gloom scenario the administration uses to prove that SS is in trouble, then there's no way the privatization scheme will be anything other than a disaster.

Dogged if I know what these people have against SS, a program that works just fine and has kept elderly people from having to eat cat food for many years now. Because the right wing has somehow become a cult of anti-government nuthatches, I have no idea where we're headed. The purposes of government, according to the U.S. Constitution, is "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

***

CROW EATEN HERE: Sorry, there were 260 terrorist attacks in Iraq on election day, not 175. And, oops, the British medical journal Lancet estimates 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, not 20,000.

Just a Minor Slip of the Lip

Marine General Is Told To Speak 'More Carefully'

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 4, 2005; Page A05


The Marine Corps commandant yesterday urged a three-star general to choose his words "more carefully," after the general told a San Diego conference this week it was "a lot of fun to shoot" the enemy.

Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, who commanded the 1st Marine Division in the 2003 Iraq invasion, drew the subtle reprimand after making the remarks at a panel discussion Tuesday on lessons of the Iraq war. While many U.S. military commanders speak with blunt bravado about killing, Mattis's remarks sparked criticism from military ethicists for creating the impression that he relished the act.

"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. . . . It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling," he said at the forum in San Diego.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," he added. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

At the Pentagon yesterday, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, also obliquely chastised Mattis. "All of us who are leaders have a responsibility in our words, in our actions, to provide the right example all the time for those who look to us for leadership," he said in response to a reporter's question. Pace added that Mattis has proven his leadership ability in recent combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marine Corps Commandant Michael W. Hagee also praised Mattis in a written statement as "one of the country's bravest and most experienced military leaders," who led his troops "brilliantly."

"While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war," Hagee said. "Lt. Gen. Mattis often speaks with a great deal of candor. I have counseled him concerning his remarks, and he agrees he should have chosen his words more carefully."

The NBC affiliate in San Diego videotaped Mattis's remarks and posted a transcript on its Web site yesterday.

While some Marine officers played down Mattis's remarks as off-the-cuff and in keeping with his brusque style, military ethicists sharply criticized them for showing poor leadership.

"Clearly for an officer from any service to say that publicly is unprofessional and inappropriate and sends a terrible message" to subordinates, said Jeff McCausland, director of the Leadership in Conflict Initiative at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., and a former dean of the Army War College. "Those kinds of comments can translate into horrific events like the Marine who shot the wounded Iraqi," he said, referring to a Marine who was captured on video shooting an unarmed Iraqi prisoner at close range during the campaign to recapture Fallujah last November.

Mattis, who is commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, declined an interview request yesterday. His remarks have raised eyebrows at the Pentagon before. When his troops captured an airstrip in southern Afghanistan in November 2001, he declared: "The Marines have landed, and we now own a piece of Afghanistan."

Before leading the 1st Marine Division back to Iraq in 2004, he wrote his troops a letter stating: "You, my fine young men, are going to prove the enemy wrong -- dead wrong."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A...anguage=printer


Mercury Rising (again)!

February 4, 2005
E.P.A. Accused of a Predetermined Finding on Mercury
By FELICITY BARRINGER

ASHINGTON, Feb. 3 - The Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general charged on Thursday that the agency's senior management instructed staff members to arrive at a predetermined conclusion favoring industry when they prepared a proposed rule last year to reduce the amount of mercury emitted from coal-fired power plants.

Mercury, which can damage the neurological development of fetuses and young children, has been found in increasingly high concentrations in fish in rivers and streams in the United States.

The inspector general's report, citing anonymous agency staff members and internal e-mail messages, said the technological and scientific analysis by the agency was "compromised" to keep cleanup costs down for the utility industry.

The goal of senior management, the report said, was to allow the agency to say that the utility industry could do just as good a job through complying with the Bush administration's "Clear Skies" legislation as it could by installing costly equipment that a stringent mercury-control rule would require.

Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for the environmental agency, responded that the criticism "is not true." The agency, she said, has "wide latitude" in determining which data should be used to set a pollution control standard based on the best available technology. She said the mercury rule scheduled for release by March 15 "would take us from no regulation to a mandatory 70 percent cut."

Coal-fired power plants are the largest remaining domestic source of mercury emissions in the United States, according to agency figures, although the agency believes that factories and utilities in Asia, which emit more than 1,000 tons of mercury annually, contribute significantly to the mercury that enters the food chain in the United States. Domestic coal-fired power plants emitted 48 of the 113.2 million tons produced in the United States in 1999.

The Clear Skies legislation is under consideration in the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, and the release of the inspector general's report gives new ammunition to Democrats and environmental groups, which had accused the Bush administration of giving preferential treatment to the utility industry in the legislation.

Clear Skies is intended to achieve a 70 percent cut in mercury and two other major pollutants, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, but extends to 2018 the amount of time that previous legislation would have given the industry to comply. It also proposes a system of trading pollution credits, similar to the one used successfully in the 1990's to reduce acid rain. Even if the legislation fails, the environmental agency has prepared a regulation that mirrors it.

Like the mercury proposal, this proposal on nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide incorporates a mechanism for trading pollution credits.

The report said the agency's staff was instructed to determine that the best pollution-control methods available to power plant owners would cut mercury emissions to 34 million tons from 48 million tons, a result that was approximated the third time the agency made its computer calculations. Earlier results showing that this technology might achieve greater reductions were rebuffed by senior managers, the report said.

It concluded that the agency should go back to the drawing board and "conduct an unbiased analysis of the mercury emissions data."

Senator James M. Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who is chairman of the Environment and Public Works committee, lashed out at the inspector general, Nikki Tinsley, a Democrat who has recently issued another harsh critique charging the agency's senior management with politically driven interference in regulatory deliberations.

"This is another example that Nikki Tinsley has politicized the office," he said in a statement. And Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, an industry trade group, said the new report and an earlier critique appear "to go well beyond the expertise of the office."

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the defeated Democratic presidential nominee, issued a statement saying that Ms. Tinsley's report revealed "one of the most disturbing examples I've seen of an administration allowing spin and junk science to endanger the health of our children." And Bill Becker, the executive director of a coalition of state and local air pollution control officials, said: "The I.G.'s findings are troubling, but not unexpected. Nearly every state in the country has issued fish consumption advisories due to mercury-poisoned waters. E.P.A. must comply with the law and require stringent cleanup measures at utilities."


Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/04/national...=print&position

Friday, February 4

Frivolous Asbestos Suits?

When the President mentioned that our Health Care would be better with the curbing of "Frivolous Asbestos Suits" - I have to admit to a "What the F---?" reaction.

From Reuters:

The president said the lawsuits were hurting victims of asbestos-related illness because bankruptcies by companies resulting from claims lacking merit were leaving those with valid claims nowhere to turn for compensation. The issue of asbestos lawsuits is a concern for Detroit's automobile companies, which have been sued by people who worked around brake parts with asbestos fibers.

Pardon me, but isn't the determination of whether there is a prima facie claim the job of a judge at a preliminary hearing? Oh wait, that must only refer to all the judges who don't "legislate from the bench", by doing their job of denying frivolous claims.

Why is the President making such an issue of this? Maybe it has nothing to do with keeping victims from being hurt- maybe it has more to do with Dick Cheney's pocket book.



Halliburton: Asbestos Cases Done
HOUSTON, Jan. 3, 2005


Halliburton Co.'s $4.17 billion settlement of thousands of asbestos claims has been finalized, the company announced Monday.

The Houston-based oil services conglomerate's construction and engineering subsidiary, KBR, and other subsidiaries that filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2003 as part of the settlement have emerged from Chapter 11.

The reorganization plan, which included a $2.775 billion cash payment with the rest in stock to settle 400,000 asbestos and 21,000 silica claims, received court approval in July last year and went into effect this past Friday, Dec. 31. Halliburton said the company anticipates funding trusts to pay the claims by the end of this month.

"The asbestos chapter in Halliburton's history is closed," said Dave Lesar, chairman and chief executive of Halliburton.

Halliburton inherited the claims when the company acquired Dresser Industries, Inc. for $7.7 billion in 1998, during Vice President Dick Cheney's 1995-2000 tenure as CEO. Most of the asbestos claims were filed against a former Dresser subsidiary, Pittsburgh-based Harbison-Walker Refractories Co.

Halliburton announced in September that KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root, may be sold or spun off if its stock performance fails to improve after the conclusion of the asbestos litigation. The unit's efforts to cut $80 million in costs include eliminating positions and re-examining project costs.

Halliburton and KBR have been criticized for multibillion-dollar contracts in Iraq and Kuwait to serve food, deliver fuel, handle mail and provide other services for U.S. troops. Several federal agencies are investigating allegations of overbilling and favoritism stemming from Cheney's past tenure as company head. Halliburton has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/01/03/...ble664479.shtml



You would think that proposing a legislative fix which will have a direct impact on the financies of a prominent member of the executive branch, since Dick Cheney is still receiving deferred payments from his time as CEO of Halliburton, would be a conflict of interest - wouldn't you?

Obviously not in the Bush Whitehouse.

(Technically, Cheney has insulated himself from a potential Halliburton bankruptcy by purchasing an insurance policy against his future payments from the company while he is vice president, however this policy has an escape clause that allows it not to pay if a Halliburton Bankruptcy is the result of "directly or indirectly" of changes in law or regulation)

What the Kids think of Social Insecurity

POLL OF YOUNG ADULTS FINDS
SUPPORT FOR PRIVATE ACCOUNTS PLUMMETS
IN FACE OF BENEFIT CUTS, BORROWING

The more young people learn about private accounts, the less they like them


Washington, DC - Feb. 03, 2005

A new poll shows young voters may not be the political base that some politicians expect for phasing out Social Security in favor of private investments. Released by Rock the Vote, AARP, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the poll finds that nearly sixty percent of 18-39 year olds oppose private accounts if it would mean “a lower guaranteed benefit in retirement.”

The survey of 1000 adults, conducted by Roper Public Affairs, reaches similar conclusions to previous polls: many young people doubt they will receive Social Security and are receptive, at first blush anyway, to the idea of investing their own Social Security money. But when they consider the price of creating private accounts, young people, like the majority of Americans, no longer support them.

In releasing the poll, Rock the Vote’s Washington Director Hans Riemer said, “This poll shows that young people do not support changing Social Security if it means dismantling the basic safety net, cutting benefits dramatically, or massively increasing the national debt. We get all three at once under most private account plans. We hope the politicians who say they want to help younger generations are paying attention.”

Other findings of the poll among 18-39 year olds include:

63 percent would oppose private accounts if it meant “massive new federal debt in order to pay current benefits.” The plan commonly viewed as a “consensus” version from the President’s Social Security Commission, as the press has widely reported, would require $2.2 trillion in new borrowing over just the next ten years (and much more after that).

70 percent would oppose private accounts if it meant “cuts to your guaranteed benefits would be so severe that you could not make up the difference with money from your private account.” Many plans include a benefit cut (often called the switch toprice indexing of benefits) that is so severe it will produce a net loss of income on average, with a massive loss for people whose investments do not work out. Consider the planintroduced by Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, as analyzed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (02/03/05):

Under the plan, the retirement benefits for typical wage earners who are 25 to 35 today —including the monthly income from their private accounts — would be 27 percent or $4,900lower (in today’s dollars) than what they would receive under the current benefit structure. (These figures are based on the Congressional Budget Office’s methodology for estimating the gains from private accounts.) This benefit cut is larger than the cut that would beneeded if no action were taken to shore up Social Security’s finances.

65 percent would oppose private accounts if it meant “changes in the way Social Security benefits are calculated would result in cuts in guaranteed benefits for everyone not just people who choose to participate in private accounts program.” Again, this is a critically important aspect of most privatization plans that has not received significant attention. While, as the President said last night in his State of the Union Address,the plans offer “voluntary personal retirement accounts,” the benefit cuts are mandatory for everyone, regardless of whether they choose to invest. For young people whose choice wouldbe to stick with a guaranteed benefit, the plans exact a devastating price—cuts approaching 50% within our own lifetimes.

Additional comments from Hans Riemer, Rock the Vote’s Washington Director, follow:

“Right now, Social Security is 100% funded for 40-50 years and 80% funded after that. Young people should know this because when we understand the real financial picture for Social Security, we are in a much better position to deal with politicians who want to talk us into giving upour benefits—which is precisely what many of them are trying to do.

We want elected officials to get to work now on bolstering Social Security so that it can payfull benefits for future retirees. We support private accounts on top of Social Security, and we hope tolead the politicians to a compromise here.

A lot of what we are hearing about potential benefit cuts and borrowing for private accounts concerns us. The benefit cuts fall almost entirely on our shoulders. So does paying back the debt. Now is the time for young people to cut through the hype and start asking some hard questions about Social Security.”

Fact Check on Social Security

Summary

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In his State of the Union Address, President Bush said again that the Social Security system is headed for "bankruptcy," a term that could give the wrong idea. Actually, even if it goes "bankrupt" a few decades from now, the system would still be able to pay about three-quarters of the benefits now promised.

Bush also made his proposed private Social Security accounts sound like a sure thing, which they are not. He said they "will" grow fast enough to provide a better return than the present system. History suggests that will be so, but nobody can predict what stock and bond markets will do in the future.

Bush left out any mention of what workers would have to give up to get those private acounts -- a proportional reduction or offset in guaranteed Social Security retirement benefits. He also glossed over the fact that money in private accounts would be "owned" by workers only in a very limited sense -- under strict conditions which the President referred to as "guidelines." Many retirees, and possibly the vast majority, wouldn't be able to touch their Social Security nest egg directly, even after retirement, because the government would take some or all of it back and convert it to a stream of payments guaranteed for life.

Analysis

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Bush made Social Security the centerpiece of his Feb. 3 State of the Union address. He gave more details of how he proposes to change the system -- but left out facts that don't help his case.

Social Security "Headed Toward Bankruptcy?"

The President painted a dire picture of Social Security's finances:

Bush: The system, however, on its current path, is headed toward bankruptcy . And so we must join together to strengthen and save Social Security.

"Bankruptcy" is a scary term that Democrats have used too, when it suited them, but it could easily give the wrong idea. Nobody is predicting that Social Security will go out of business the way a bankrupt business does. It would continue to pay benefits -- just not as many.

The President was a little more specific about that later in his address, while repeating the word "bankrupt":

Bush: By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt . If steps are not taken to avert that outcome, the only solutions would be dramatically higher taxes, massive new borrowing, or sudden and severe cuts in Social Security benefits or other government programs.

But how severe would those benefit cuts be? In fact there are two official projections -- one by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and a somewhat less pessimistic projection by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The President referred to the SSA projection, which calculates that the system's trust fund will be depleted in 2042. After that, the system would have legal authority to pay only 73 percent of currently promised benefits -- and that figure would decline each year after, reaching 68 percent in the year 2075.

The CBO doesn't project trust-fund depletion until a decade later, in 2052, and figures that the benefits cuts wouldn't be so severe, a reduction to 78% of promised benefits. But either way, even a "bankrupt" system would continue to provide most of what's promised currently.

Furthermore, the President did not specify what he would do to fix the problem. He again urged creation of private Social Security accounts. But those would be of no help whatsoever in shoring up the system's finances, as acknowledged earlier in the day by a senior Bush administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity:

"Senior Administration Official:" So in a long-term sense, the personal accounts would have a net neutral effect on the fiscal situation of the Social Security and on the federal government.

And that "net neutral effect" is just over the long term, 75 years or more. In the shorter term, creation of private accounts would require heavy federal borrowing to finance the payment of benefits to current retirees while some portion of payroll taxes is being diverted to workers' private accounts. The administration projects it will borrow $754 billion (including interest) through 2015 to finance the initial phase-in of the accounts, and much more thereafter. The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities -- which opposes Bush's proposal -- projected that $4.5 trillion (with a "t") would be required to finance the first 20 years of the accounts after they start to be phased in in 2009.

Private Accounts: A Sure Thing?

The President made those private accounts -- which he now prefers to call "personal" accounts -- sound like a sure bet:

Bush: Here's why the personal accounts are a better deal. Your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver -- and your account will provide money for retirement over and above the check you will receive from Social Security.

History suggests that the President is correct -- the stock market has averaged a 6.8 percent "real" rate of return (adjusted for inflation) over the past two centuries, according to Jeremy Siegel, professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. The administration says a conservative mix of stocks, corporate bonds and government bonds would return 4.6 percent, even after inflation and administrative costs. And the administration also figures that private accounts would need to generate only a 3 percent rate of return to beat what Social Security provides.

But there's no guarantee that history will repeat itself. Markets are inherently unpredictable and volatile. At present, for example, all major stock-market indexes are still well below where they were five years ago.

Benefit Offsets

The President made no mention of one crucial aspect of the proposed accounts -- anyone choosing one would also have to give up an offsetting portion of their future guaranteed retirement benefits. If their investments in private accounts returned more than 3 percent annually over the years, they would end up better off than under the current formula. But if those investments did worse, they wouldn't make up for the portion of benefits that were given up, and the owner of an account would end up worse off. The President didn't explain that trade-off.

"The Money is Yours?"

The President also glossed over some severely restrictive aspects of the accounts he is proposing, saying flatly "the money is yours."

Bush: In addition, you'll be able to pass along the money that accumulates in your personal account, if you wish, to your children and -- or grandchildren. And best of all, the money in the account is yours, and the government can never take it away .

That's not exactly true.

As described by the "senior administration official," the owners of personal accounts wouldn't be able to touch the money while they are working, not even to borrow. The money would remain in the hands of the federal government, which would administer the personal accounts for a fee which the official said would be about 30 cents per year for every $100 invested.

And even at retirement, the government would control what becomes of the money. First, the government would automatically take back a portion of the money at retirement and convert it to a guaranteed stream of payments for life -- an annuity. The amount taken back -- called the "clawback," descriptively enough -- would depend on the amount of money the retiree requires to remain above the official poverty guideline. That's currently $12,490 for a couple or $9,310 for a single person. Only after the combination of traditional Social Security benefits and the mandatory annuity payments from the private account equal the poverty level would any remaining portion in the account be "yours."

"Senior Administration Official:" They would be permitted to leave those (leftover) funds in the account to continue to appreciate; they could withdraw those amounts as lump sums to deal with a pressing financial need -- and, obviously, any additional accumulations in the accounts could be left as an inheritance. But the main restriction, again, to repeat, is that people would not be permitted to withdraw money from the accounts to such a degree that by doing so they would spend themselves below the poverty line.

The President didn't mention the "clawback" or the mandatory nature of these restrictions, calling them only "guidelines" and describing them only in positive terms:

Bush: (W)e will set careful guidelines for personal accounts. We'll make sure the money can only go into a conservative mix of bonds and stock funds. We'll make sure that your earnings are not eaten up by hidden Wall Street fees. We'll make sure there are good options to protect your investments from sudden market swings on the eve of your retirement. We'll make sure a personal account cannot be emptied out all at once, but rather paid out over time, as an addition to traditional Social Security benefits. And we'll make sure this plan is fiscally responsible, by starting personal retirement accounts gradually, and raising the yearly limits on contributions over time, eventually permitting all workers to set aside four percentage points of their payroll taxes in their accounts.

Sources

George W. Bush, "State of the Union Address ," The White House, 2 Feb 2005.

"The Short- and Long-Term Outlook for Stocks," Knowledge@Wharton website, The Wharton School, University of Pennsyvania: 2 June 2004. (Free subscription required.)

White House Office of the Press Secretary, "Background Press Briefing on Social Security," press release, 2 Feb 2005.

US Department of Health and Human Services, "Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines," Federal Register 13 Feb 2004: 7336.

Related Articles

MoveOn.org Social Security Ad

Liberal group's ad falsely claims Bush plan would cut benefits 46 percent.

Does Social Security Really Face an $11 Trillion Deficit?

Bush and Cheney say yes. But actuaries say the figure is "likely to mislead" the public on the system's true financial state.

Social Security Ads: Risk or Protection?

Pro-Bush group's first TV ad states the problem correctly. But the AARP uses a misleading photo.

Thursday, February 3

State of Dis-union

President Bush made quite a showing at his 5th state of the Union address. Following closely on the heals of the recent Iraqi Election (My, wasn't that fortunate timing?), he predictably spent quite a bit of time basking in the glow of this success.

As many commentators have stated, he cut a very different swath than he had during previous States of the Union and during the election. Gone for once, was the smirking chimp, he resembled during the debates he resoundly lost against Senator Kerry. Gone was the strident, desperate tone. In it's place was a calm and quiet confidence; bouyed by a difficult victory, snatched from the jaws of exit-poll defeat and the hopeful courage and defiance of the Iraqi people.

One has to stop to acknowledge the true emotion two mothers, one a Kurd who lost her husband to Saddam Hussein's gas attacks, the other a midwestern woman who lost her son fighting in Iraq. A moment that rose far above the obviously staged proximity of their seating.

It was so magical a moment it almost erased the hoakiness of various members of congress holding up their ink stained fingers in pseudo-solidarity with Iraqi voters (which actually had more in common with another recent Republican show and tell prop that I think displayed their character in a far more telling manner - purple heart band-aids.)

Bush was clearly riding a high.

The question still remains, where will he lead the country with this new found confidence? Well, that is where things get a bit muddy.

He spoke at length about Social Security, and his private account proposal without explaining how it would be paid for or how it would do anything to actually fix the demographic shortfall that faces the system. The spontaneous cries of "No" from the Democratic side of the isle as he claimed that the fund would become "bankrupt" (a statement which assumes a 1.5% growth in GNP) unless his plan is adopted were telling.

He talked about No Child Left Behind, without mentioning the increasing drop-out rate of students under the system and increasing incidents of teachers aiding and abetting their students in cheating just to protect their own jobs. None of this was surprising in the least. He talked of submitting a "Comprehensive Energy Strategy"- which is very interesting since we still haven't heard any of the details of Vice President Cheney's Energy meetings with Enron's Ken Lay and others. He talked about making the his tax cuts permenent and simultaneously cutting the deficit in one half. (That'll be a nice trick, particularly with the 1.5% GNP from above - except that this statement is based on an assumed 3.5% GNP. It's it great to have a President who can be so flexible with reality?). He spoke of cutting 150 "redundant and unneccesary" federal programs - which of course is always true for all those people who aren't a recipient of those programs, and the reverse for everyone else - without specifying what any of those programs might be. He spoke of Syria and Iran, sending up the red-flag that they might just be next on his imperial - uh, I mean democratic - expansion schedule. (Including Iran in the statement was quite striking considered the tentative agreement which has just recently been reached between several European nations and Iran concerning their Nuclear efforts - an agreement that this Whitehouse appears determined to derail)

What's also interesting is what he didn't speak of.

He didn't mention Osama Bin Ladin!

He didn't speak of Humvee's with "Hillbilly Armor".

He did not speak tens of thousands of Iraqis, many of them innocent of any crime or terrorism - who have been killed by U.S. bombing raids.

He didn't speak of torture.

He didn't mention WMD's.

I truly think that the Iraqi election was a good thing, even if at this point the preliminary results seem to indicate that mostly Shiite Clerics and their supporters were elected and will have the dominant voice in the new Iraqi Constitution. Even though those who voted weren't able to truly deliberate on how well the candidates will address the issues and challenges before them. Even if their were no international monitors and the likelyhood of an accurate and fair accounting of the vote is unlikely in the midst of provisional government that is far from free of corruption, having apparently misplaced nearly as much money in two years as Saddam Hussein stole from the UN Oil for Food program in seven.

The Iraqi people stood up and that has to be respected.

I support at least in principle the idea of a new nationalized personal saving account system which is independant of Social Security, while we once again consider the idea of isolating the current Social Security surplus from the deficit and possibly letting some of or all of those funds be invested to protect the Social Security for far longer than anything the President has suggested.

I strongly support the idea of a guest-working program. Our immigration policies are clearly bigotted and do not reflect the market realities that the U.S. has a demand for certain types of workers and certain latin countries have a ample supply of workers willing to meet that need. The only reason these people are forced to become "illegal" is because of state department quotas which bar them from access to legal visas, and a failure of many of the companies who eagerly employ these people to be willing to pay them a honest living wage.

For many of the reasons stated above, I don't trust President Bush to honestly and seriously address these issues in a way that is well considered and free of partisan agenda. IMO He got lucky that after many many years of death and fear, the Iraqi people - possibly inspired by the people of the Ukraine - showed what they are made of.

Hope springs eternal, and I hope that America, if not neccesarily President Bush and his various plans, continue to be this lucky.

Vyan

Monday, January 31

Those Darn Lefties...

On the day of the big iraq vote, as expected the Presidents supports such as Bill O'Reilly were out in force - claiming this to be a big victory for the President("he looks like a sage") and that left were appolectic and powerless ("the far-left websites have gone silent") - it's not hard to find evidence to the contrary.

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Elections Are Not Democracy : The United States has essentially stopped trying to build a democratic order in Iraq, and is simply trying to gain stability and legitimacy

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Audit: $9 billion unaccounted for in Iraq: WASHINGTON --The U.S. occupation authority in Iraq was unable to keep track of nearly $9 billion it transferred to government ministries, which lacked financial controls, security, communications and adequate staff, an inspector general has found.

The U.S. officials relied on Iraqi audit agencies to account for the funds but those offices were not even functioning when the funds were transferred between October 2003 and June 2004, according to an audit by a special U.S. inspector general.

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Judge Backs Guantanamo Detainee Challenges : WASHINGTON - A federal judge ruled Monday that foreign terror suspects held in Cuba can challenge their confinement in U.S. courts and she criticized the Bush administration for holding hundreds of people without legal rights.

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Halliburton to End Iran Operations : HOUSTON — Halliburton Co. will pull out of Iran after its current contracts there are wound down, its chief executive said Friday.

"The business environment currently in Iran is not conducive to our overall strategy and objectives," Chief Executive Dave Lesar said in a conference call.

The Houston-based company, formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been criticized for its work in Iraq, where it is the largest private contractor with revenue totaling more than $10 billion.

The company is under investigation for possible overcharges for fuel and food services connected to its Iraq contracts.

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Election Can't Vindicate a Misguided War: HEADLINE: LEADING ARTICLE: THESE ELECTIONS INSPIRE HOPE FOR DEMOCRACY, BUT CANNOT VINDICATE A MISGUIDED WAR

THERE IS no need to indulge in the soaring rhetoric of freedom so beloved of George Bush to feel heartened by what happened in Iraq yesterday. Whether it turns out that 50, 60 or more than 70 per cent of all registered Iraqis voted, a sufficient number risked the walk to the polling station to make this first attempt at a free election for half a century a credible exercise in democracy.

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Bush says he's 'unfamiliar' with Voting Rights Act : President George W. Bush met with the Congressional Black Caucus Wednesday for the first time as a group in nearly four years, but what CBC members said stood out the most was the president's declaration that he was "unfamiliar" with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed in the history of the United States.

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Vyan

Sunday, January 30

Iraq Vote Commentary

My first viewing of News on the Iraqi elections today was watching a commentary by Neal Cavuto of Fox News. In his commentary Mr. Cavuto stated that it was amazing to see to so many Iraqis bravely defying the intimidation of the insurgents and going to the polls, and shouldn't we Americans be humbled by their bravery when we do not face such intimidation in our own country?

What a crock.

Just as I predicted the wrong-wing has already begun to crow it's success and deride the left, but in doing so seems to have completely obliterated fact and history. This country was not founded on a basis of one person:one vote. It was founded on the basis that only property owners had the right to vote. It took nearly one hundred years for Negros to be granted the right to vote (Amendment XV; Ratified 1869). Women were not granted the same honor until 1919 (Amendment XIX).

50 years ago, when Iraq had it's last Democratic Election, and despite the clear and obvious intent of the then updated Constitution, the U.S. was in the midst (100 years prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act) of ongoing violence and intimidation to restrict the rights of certain people to vote. There were murders, there were bombings, there was terrorism.

It's only been recently, in the last decade and over 30 years after the fact, that the Murderer of NAACP leader Medger Evers was brought to trial. It was only recently that the person responsible for the Selma Church Bombings was brought to justice. It's only been this year that the person responsible for the murders of Freedom Riders has finally been brought back to court.

The idea that American Voters have not faced violence and intimidation is flatly ridiculous, and insulting to all those who risked their lives during those times in the fight for liberty. Furthermore, it's not as though that fight is completely over. The Wrong-wing would have people believe that no one was ever intimidated against voting in America, let alone this past November in Florida or Ohio.

This is untrue.

From the House Judiciary Commitee Report on Voting in Ohio

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• The Ohio Republican Party’s decision to engage in preelection “caging” tactics, selectively targeting 35,000 predominantly minority voters for intimidation had a negative impact on voter turnout. The Third Circuit found these activities to be illegal
and in direct violation of consent decrees barring the Republican Party from targeting minority voters for poll challenges.

• There were widespread instances of intimidation and misinformation in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Equal Protection, Due Process and the Ohio right to vote. Mr. Blackwell’s apparent failure to institute a single investigation into these many serious allegations represents a violation of his statutory duty under Ohio law to investigate election irregularities.

The caging tactics were clearly both discriminatory and illegal. All three district court cases ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding the challenges to be politically and racially charged, and burdening the fundamental right to vote. As one court stated, “This Court recognizes that the right to vote is one of our most fundamental rights. Potential voter intimidation would severely burden the right to vote. Therefore, the character and magnitude of Plaintiffs’ asserted injury is substantial.”178 It went on to note that the right to vote is paramount to any interest in challenging other people: “...Plaintiff’s right to cast votes on election day is a fundamental right. The challengers, however, do not have a fundamental right to challenge other voters.179 These decisions correctly overturned these caging and challenging activities because they violated the right to equal protection, due process, and Ohioans’ fundamental right to vote.
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Accordin to the Wrong-wing any election, regardless of a fair and accurate representation by the people - regardless of intimidation - is a "Good" election. That freedom for the few or the majority, is somehow freedom enough.

This too, is false.

Those of us who've experienced partial freedom, and partial democracy know the truth that the Wrong-wing doesn't want us to believe, and that truth is... Freedom for some, is ultimately freedom for none.

The Wrong-wing would have us believe that the entire point of the War was to reach this day - the first day of a new Iraqi democracy. And it is true that for the Iraqi people and for America's democractic ideals - this is a good day. However, it's not a day that has never occured before under the guidance of America. We have seen in the last decade the first free elections in countries such as Haiti and the Balkans.

Iraq has had elections before. They had election regularly under Saddam Hussein - but those elections were shams. Those elections were corrupt, without observance and documentation by international observers, who were scared by the violence, without the Iraqi people knowing who or what they were voting for, without accurate exit polling to ensure that the final tabulations of votes reflects the action desires of the electorate - there's is no way to verify the legitimacy of this election.

Do they now have Democracy in Iraq? I don't know, and neither does anyone else. They've gone through the motions of an election - and that is a good thing - but it doesn't mean that they have a true democracy.

The re-establishment of democracy in Iraq was far from the only goal included among the many reasons given for this War. Those reasons according to House Joint Resolution 114, were the following:

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Whereas in 1990 in response to Iraq's war of aggression against and illegal occupation of Kuwait, the United States forged a coalition of nations to liberate Kuwait and its people in order to defend the national security of the United States and enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq;

Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;

Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated;

Whereas Iraq, in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on October 31, 1998;

Whereas in 1998 Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in `material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations' and urged the President `to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations' (Public Law 105-235);

Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;

Whereas Iraq persists in violating resolutions of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population thereby threatening international peace and security in the region, by refusing to release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman, and by failing to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;

Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people;
Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council;

Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;

Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens;

Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;

Whereas Iraq's demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself;

Whereas United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 authorizes the use of all necessary means to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 and subsequent relevant resolutions and to compel Iraq to cease certain activities that threaten international peace and security, including the development of weapons of mass destruction and refusal or obstruction of United Nations weapons inspections in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, repression of its civilian population in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688, and threatening its neighbors or United Nations operations in Iraq in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 949;

Whereas Congress in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1) has authorized the President `to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security Council Resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677';

Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it `supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1),' that Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and `constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region,' and that Congress, `supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688';

Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;

Whereas on September 12, 2002, President Bush committed the United States to `work with the United Nations Security Council to meet our common challenge' posed by Iraq and to `work for the necessary resolutions,' while also making clear that `the Security Council resolutions will be enforced, and the just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable';

Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq's ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary;


Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;


Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;

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None of the above should be forgotten by Repubs and Dems alike.

Vyan

Dawn of a New Iraqi Day

Today is the big day. The first time in 50 years where the Iraqi people will be able to vote.

And I have a few predictions.

I predict that the Wrong-wing of the Republican Party will unilaterally declare victory, for returning Democracy to the region. This is only obvious. Other obvious events will be a high turn-out of Shia and Kurds, along with a low turnout of Sunni's for the vote. There will be violence, which many Iraqi's will ignore and risk anyway. Those killed in this day will be considered martyrs by both sides. The death toll will certainly be in the double-digits and possibly even in the triple-digits.

But the vote will occur, and ultimately it will be a good thing.

Democrats and Liberals will have very difficult time admitting this. They may eventually do so, but it won't be easy. Too much of the results have been tied to the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war, but most importantly too much of what brought us into this conflict was based on lies and mis-information. That fact remains and will continue to remain the primary fueling point for the insurgency. If the President had begun this conflict with the tone that he's is attempting to complete it with - that of a humanitarian and human rights effort - the situation would be vastly different. Much of the fire that has driven Iraqi nationals as well as foreign fighters into the insurgency would have been doused. (Clearly without the hypocracy of the President attempting a human rights relief effort by using torture and murder in clear violation of international standards of human rights - things would be far better) Without this he would most certainly have had Democrats on board (not just at the beginning when he claimed Saddam had WMD's - they would be on board still rather than aggressively grilling his Cabinet nominees) , he might have had a much more difficult time with the hawks in his own party who opposed similar "national building" when it was undertaken by President Bill Clinton in Bosnia, but the U.S. would be far more united behind it's support of this war and that support would have been better reflected by the Iraqi people. This war was bungled from the start.

It wasn't entirely the wrong war, but it was certainly entered in the wrong way - on the backs of those who died in 9/11, rather than on the hopes of the Iraqi people. The Repubs will rejoice, and declare that the hard part is over. But this conflict is a long way from over. The difficult part is just beginning.

From the news reports I've heard there is nearly a 50/50 split between Shia's who support Interim Prime Minister Allawi and those who support Muslim Cleric Sustani. Under Allawi, Iraq is likely to have many of the trappings of democracy and freedom, but practical civil rights will be as difficult for them to maintain in the midst of ongoing insurgent violence as it has become for Russian President Putin to maintain in in the midst of attacks by Chechen Seperatists. Sustani on the other hand is likely to attempt the implement of a governmental system which is largely founded on Islamic law in a manner similar to Iran. I suspect neither will be an absolute winner or an absolute loser in this election, and the eventual conferences to write the Iraqi Constitution will be extremely contentious.

Again, all this is fairly obvious.

What isn't obvious is my own opinion that despite the violence at the polls and the boycott called by Sunni's against this election, once the election is done some Sunni's will manage to take hold of public office and some of those Sunni's will in fact not be loyal to the government, but will be loyal to the insurgency. On the one hand this could be a positive thing for the Sunni's as the influence of these people may help to quell the potential tyranny of the Shia majority, a tyrannical retaliation for the decades of oppression that the Sunni's under the rulership of Saddam Hussein had heaped upon the Shia and Kurds. On the other hand, these insurgent infiltrators in the Iraqi government will present a massive security risk.

I think it's inevitable that this will occur, particular since the main power of the insurgents is their ability to remain annonymous and the primary danger of this election is the fact that many of those on the ballot are also similarly - annonymous. With access to the government itself, insurgent forces will be able to better pinpoint and target their attacks, taking out political rivals and using their government access to frustrate the security forces. Without knowing where the leak is coming from - the violence will be unstoppable. The murder and death will escalate rather than abate as the brand new Iraqi Government turns on itself with finger-pointing mistrust and blame. It's going to be very, very ugly.

I don't hope that this will occur, I suspect and fear it. I'm sure there are some liberals who would actually welcome it, as their hatred of Bush and his cronies is so strong that they wish him to fail in all things, and that eventually his failures will pile upon themselves to high that their truth will be clear for all to see - even for the most rabid of ditto-heads. I do admit some sympathy with that goal, for I believe that Bush and his neo-fascist cronies are a pox upon this nation and this world - but I don't believe that fortunes of the Iraqi people should be treated in such a callous and manipulative way. I do hope that long and short term result of this election are more positive that I've predicted even if it makes Bush look good, I just don't think they will be.

But that's just my opinion. I'm sure wrong-wingers will claim that this election represents the "begining of the end" of our problems in Iraq. I think it's only the begining of a entirely new - and potentially very dark - begining.

Mission NOT YET Accomplished IMO.

Vyan