Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Low-wage jobs rise at faster pace

By Barbara Hagenbaugh and Barbara Hansen, USA TODAY

Jobs in lower-wage industries and regions are growing at a faster pace than higher-wage jobs, suggesting job growth is less potent for the economy because the majority of new work isn't accompanied by fat paychecks.

Lower-wage jobs have risen more than 1.5% since U.S. employers started adding to their payrolls in September. Higher-wage jobs have also been created, but at a slower rate. Jobs in that category have increased a little more than 1% in the nine months through May, the period of most recent data.

Nearly 14% of the jobs added have been temporary workers, who typically are paid lower wages. Restaurant workers, who also usually are paid lower wages, have been added, too. Higher-paid computer jobs have been added at a snail's pace.

Jobs will be one of the biggest factors in the Federal Reserve's decision today about interest rates.

Although U.S. firms have added more than 1.4 million jobs in the last nine months, economists and politicians have questioned if workers are finding good, higher-paying jobs or if firms are creating lower-paying work that the jobless are desperately taking.

The difference is key. Higher-wage jobs create more income, which leads to more spending. Lower-wage jobs tend to create just enough income for a household to live without creating extra spending money. Consumer spending is the key driver of the U.S. economy, accounting for more than two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity.

USA TODAY asked two economic consulting firms, Economy.com and Global Insight, to study the recent job creation based on both industry data and geography.

"We're creating a lot more jobs but they are still largely lower-paying jobs," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com. Zandi calls the difference between the higher-wage and lower-wage job creation pace significant.

"It means the jobs we are creating pack less of a punch for the economy," Zandi says. "With less income, there is less spending and less growth."

The results aren't necessarily surprising. Shaken by a sharp slowdown in business spending, the bursting of the stock market bubble, the Sept. 11 attacks, war and corporate scandals, CEOs have been cautious about hiring workers. It stands to reason that firms would be much more comfortable adding a $6-an-hour job vs. a $30-an-hour one.

It's a trend that has been seen in previous job recoveries, Zandi and Global Insight's Phil Hopkins say.

Economists at Global Insight, who found a correlation between job growth and regions with lower-paying work, came up with some ideas that may explain the hiring gap:

•Productivity. Productivity gains are typically easier to make in high-tech areas, which are generally higher-paying. That means firms are more likely to find a way to avoid hiring and instead boost the output per hour of their current workers in high-tech areas.

•Tourism. Tourism and business travel have been bouncing back. Tourism jobs are typically lower-wage.

•Migration. In a long-term trend, workers and firms have been moving to areas of the USA with lower costs of living. But those places also typically have lower wages. Those areas, mainly in the South and Southwest, have been adding the most jobs.

•Bubble. Some regions of the country, particularly Northern California and the Boston area, got carried away during the high-tech boom, hiring like crazy and driving up salaries. After the bubble burst, firms realized those jobs were never really needed to begin with, and they are unlikely to return in force.

•Temps. Nervous CEOs feel more comfortable hiring temporary workers, whom they can let go quickly and who typically make lower wages and do not receive benefits.

The higher-wage vs. lower-wage question has become a campaign issue. Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says newly created jobs are lower-paying with fewer benefits than those cut. The MoveOn.org Voter Fund, a liberal political group, recently spent more than $500,000 to run TV ads with a middle-aged man flipping burgers.

President Bush takes the opposite view. He has been focusing on the increase in after-tax income to show the economy and job market are doing better, thanks in part to tax cuts enacted under his administration.

"American families are doing a lot better," Bush said in a speech in mid-June. "Higher growth and higher productivity are leading to better-paying jobs across America. Families are keeping more of their own money."

While the industry data seem to support the view that more low-paying jobs are being created than high-paying, there could be a hitch. The data, the most-detailed available, look at average hourly wages for entire industries.

When looking at individual industries, it is possible that higher-paying jobs are driving the changes in employment. For example, the nursing home industry is considered a lower-wage sector of the economy. But if the industry were adding a large number of high-level administrators, not lower-paid caregivers, then the data would be misleading because the amount of growth in pay would not be evident.

Some studies, including one out this week from Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill, have shown higher-wage jobs have risen faster than lower-wage. The study says more than three-quarters of jobs created in the past year were in three categories that paid "relatively well."

But this report and others have generally been based on less-detailed data than that used by Economy.com and Global Insight. For example, some reports have pointed to the increase in "professional and business services" as an example of higher-wage job growth. But the biggest driver in that category is temp workers, a lower-wage sector.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

For all you folks who think that going to this unnecessary war in Iraq is voluntary, I got news for you, it's not. I'll tell you what for the first time today, I fear that I may be drafted when I turn 18. But I think we must not forget what our remarkably misleading leader said on the USS Abraham Lincoln. "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."



WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Army is preparing to notify about 5,600 retired and discharged soldiers who are not members of the National Guard or Reserve that they will be involuntarily recalled to active duty for possible service in Iraq or Afghanistan, Army officials said Tuesday.

It marks the first time the Army has called on the Individual Ready Reserve, as this category of reservists is known, in substantial numbers since the 1991 Gulf War.

The move reflects the continued shortage of troops available to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to fight the ongoing war on terrorism as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lt. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck, the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel, said earlier this month of the Army's troop strength, "We are stretched but we have what we need."

Pentagon officials have echoed that statement explaining that while the military is reaching deep into its resources, war planners have long had contingency plans such as this for when troops are really needed.

Several hundred members of the ready reserve have volunteered for active-duty service since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Those who are part of the involuntary call up are likely to be assigned to National Guard or Reserve units that have been mobilized for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Army officials. An announcement is planned for Wednesday.

Members of Congress were being notified of the decision Tuesday, the officials said.

Unlike members of the National Guard and Reserve, the individual reservists do not perform regularly scheduled training.

Any former enlisted soldier who did not serve at least eight years on active duty is in the Individual Ready Reserve pool, as are all officers who have not resigned their commission.

The Army has been reviewing its list of 118,000 eligible individual reservists for several weeks in search of qualified people in certain high-priority skill areas like civil affairs.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Historians vs George W. Bush
By Robert S. McElvaine
Mr. McElvaine teaches history at Millsaps College. He is the author of EVE'S SEED: BIOLOGY, THE SEXES AND THE COURSE OF HISTORY (McGraw-Hill).

Although his approval ratings have slipped somewhat in recent weeks, President George W. Bush still enjoys the overall support of nearly half of the American people. He does not, however, fare nearly so well among professional historians.

A recent informal, unscientific survey of historians conducted at my suggestion by George Mason University’s History News Network found that eight in ten historians responding rate the current presidency an overall failure.

Of 415 historians who expressed a view of President Bush’s administration to this point as a success or failure, 338 classified it as a failure and 77 as a success. (Moreover, it seems likely that at least eight of those who said it is a success were being sarcastic, since seven said Bush’s presidency is only the best since Clinton’s and one named Millard Fillmore.) Twelve percent of all the historians who responded rate the current presidency the worst in all of American history, not too far behind the 19 percent who see it at this point as an overall success.

Among the cautions that must be raised about the survey is just what “success” means. Some of the historians rightly pointed out that it would be hard to argue that the Bush presidency has not so far been a political success—or, for that matter that President Bush has not been remarkably successful in achieving his objectives in Congress. But those meanings of success are by no means incompatible with the assessment that the Bush presidency is a disaster. “His presidency has been remarkably successful,” one historian declared, “in its pursuit of disastrous policies.” “I think the Bush administration has been quite successful in achieving its political objectives,” another commented, “which makes it a disaster for us.”

... More here http://hnn.us/articles/5019.html
Kerry declines to cross picket line

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Sunday canceled an appearance at the U.S. Conference of Mayors rather than cross a promised police union picket line at the event.

"I don't cross picket lines. I never have," Kerry said as he left Mass Sunday night at Our Lady of Good Voyage chapel in South Boston.

His decision came hours after Boston Mayor Thomas Menino called on Kerry to attend, calling the conference "an important event for urban America," and saying the pickets set up by the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association and other union members did not constitute a legitimate picket line.

Menino has been locked in a battle with several city unions over unsettled contracts.

"We know that people on both sides have been working in good faith to resolve the situation, and we hope that they will redouble their efforts to find a resolution," said Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade.

Menino said that he spoke with Kerry on Sunday evening, and that he was "very, very disappointed" with Kerry's decision.

"I would think that he would come and talk to the mayors who are making a difference in America everyday, who are on the front lines of the issues that face working people," Menino said.

"We're very proud of the senator and his stand," said Jim Barry, a spokesman for the police union.

Mayoral reactions
Detroit Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick said he was disappointed and angry.

"This was the opportunity for Sen. John Kerry to give a message for how he's going to help mayors and cities," Kilpatrick said. "I'm concerned whether he's going to support the mayors of this country in delivering for their citizens."

Conference President James A. Garner, mayor of Hempstead, New York, said in a statement released early Monday that the mayors are disappointed, and hoped to meet with Kerry soon to discuss issues facing American cities.

More than 200 mayors are attending the conference, a nonpartisan organization that brings together mayors from cities with populations of more than 30,000.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Bush administration is flat out impotent in regards to properly representing what We the People and America stand for. If there is some kind of Viagra for failing and incompetent leaders then it should be administered intraveniously to Bush and Cheney starting immediately. They can't seem to tell us the truth, or even come up with a decent plan for this country or Iraq for that matter. They also constantly flip-flop on issues. 180 degree reversals of policy are commonplace. Let me give you a few examples of how incompetent this administration is:

Thomas B. Griffith, President Bush's nominee for the federal appeals court in Washington, has been practicing law in Utah without a state law license for the past four years, according to Utah state officials. This is a serious matter. The federal appeals court is no trivial court, it actually matters. Maybe it's just me, but I think that it might be important to have a law license if you're going to be on the federal appeals court.

Have you had to fill up your gas tank lately? I bet you have, and I bet you have paid close to $2.00 a gallon or more for your gas. Now only an incompetent president would think that the economy is doing great when you are paying over $2.00 a gallon for gas. It is obvious that he does not have to fill up the tank on his limo.

And finally, only an incompetent president would send our troops to die in Iraq without proof that they could harm us in any way, when the enemy we should really be worried about is Al Quida and Bin Laden. Kids are dying in Iraq for no reason. No weapons of mass destruction, no Saddam/Al Quida link, and we have introduced instability in Iraq that may take years or even decades to remedy.

George Bush is an incompetent president, it is hard to identify a single significant success he can call his own.

Caleb Hayes

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Judicial Nominee Practiced Law Without License in Utah

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 21, 2004; Page A01

Thomas B. Griffith, President Bush's nominee for the federal appeals court in Washington, has been practicing law in Utah without a state law license for the past four years, according to Utah state officials.

Griffith, the general counsel for Brigham Young University since August 2000, had previously failed to renew his law license in Washington for three years while he was a lawyer based in the District. It was a mistake he attributed to an oversight by his law firm's staff. But that lapse in his D.C. license, reported earlier this month by The Washington Post, subsequently prevented Griffith from receiving a law license in Utah when he moved there.

Under Utah law, Griffith's only option for obtaining the state license was to take and pass the state bar exam, an arduous test that lawyers try to take only once. He applied to sit for the exam, but never took it, Utah bar officials confirm.

Utah State Bar rules require all lawyers practicing law in the state to have a Utah law license. There is no general exception for general counsels or corporate counsels. Lawyers who practice only federal law or whose work is solely administrative can avoid the requirement in some cases.

Griffith has declined to discuss the matter, which is expected to be a subject of his nomination hearings tentatively scheduled for next week. But a Justice Department spokesman said Friday that Griffith sought advice from Utah State Bar officials when he inquired last year about obtaining a license, and followed their suggestions for avoiding any ethical missteps.

"The Utah State Bar advised him that to the extent that his duties as general counsel involved giving legal advice, he ought to closely associate himself with a Utah bar member," Justice spokesman John Nowacki said. "It has been Mr. Griffith's practice to closely associate himself with a Utah bar member when giving legal advice."

Nowacki declined to comment on whether the state bar advised Griffith to take the bar exam. According to sources familiar with a letter the state bar wrote to Griffith last year, bar officials recommended that Griffith take the exam, and work closely with a Utah bar member while his license application was pending.

Griffith discovered in November 2001, a year after he joined Brigham Young, that his District law license had lapsed several years earlier, in 1998, for failure to pay his dues. He immediately paid his dues and renewed his D.C. license, Nowacki said. But for the first year in Utah, he was advising Brigham Young, a Mormon university in Provo, without a current law license from any state.

A lawyer who specializes in legal ethics said Griffith's two licensing lapses should disqualify him from a lifetime appointment to one of the nation's most important federal benches, second only to the Supreme Court.

"This moves it for me from the realm of negligence to the realm of willfulness," said Mark Foster, a Zuckerman Spaeder attorney who represents lawyers in ethics matters. "People who thumb their noses at the rules of the bar shouldn't be judges."

One veteran law professor said the two incidents raised significant questions, but that "in and of itself, it is not disabling."

"It begins to look like a pattern of carelessness," said Paul Rothstein, a law professor at Georgetown University Law School. "It should cause your red flags to go up to see if there are other signs of carelessness."

Several lawyers from respected D.C. law firms, and former U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit chief judge Abner Mikva, have written public letters in defense of Griffith's D.C. licensing lapse, calling it a minor mistake. "In our opinion, this matter does not raise a question concerning Tom's fitness to serve on the bench," wrote a group of Williams & Connolly lawyers.

Griffith, 55, is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and was the lead counsel for the Senate during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Married and the father of six, he is a former partner at the D.C. firm of Wiley Rein & Fielding, whose partners served in prominent positions in past Republican administrations.

Most lawyers arriving in Utah are allowed to get reciprocal state licenses, but Griffith did not meet the Utah State Bar requirement that he be a lawyer in good standing in his previous state for three of the previous four years.

Joni Seko, deputy general counsel for the Utah State Bar, said most general counsels overseeing legal work for a university, organization or corporation are required to have licenses because they offer legal advice on a range of subjects, including state law.

"It would surprise me that a general counsel would not get involved in those [state] decisions," she said. "Even in a management capacity, that person would likely have to sign off on major contracts. To do that, you engage in the practice of state law."

Katherine Fox, the bar's general counsel, declined to comment on Griffith's specific situation. She said typically she would ask a general counsel moving into the state about the nature of his work and, if it were broad in nature, she would advise that he obtain a state license. "It is just too easy to cross the line" from managing to providing legal services, she said.

"Unless they were doing things in which they were never practicing law, they need to get licensed," she said.

According to Brigham Young's Web site, Griffith "is responsible for advising the Administration on all legal matters pertaining to the University. . . . The General Counsel directs and manages all litigation involving the University."

On his nomination questionnaire, in an answer about the "general nature of [his] law practice," Griffith lists that he has worked on "higher education law" from 2000 to the present.

A review of state bar membership shows many general counsels for other universities in Utah have their state's bar license. That includes John K. Morris of the University of Utah, Craig J. Simper of Utah State University, and Kelly De Hill of Westminster College. Griffith's predecessor at Brigham Young, Eugene H. Bramhall, has been a member of the Utah bar since 1981.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Bush declined to waive Genevain Afghanistan, papers show

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture laws and treaties covering prisoners of war after the invasion of Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized guards to strip detainees and threaten them with dogs, according to documents released Tuesday.

The documents were handed out at the White House in an effort to blunt allegations the administration had authorized torture against al-Qaida prisoners from Afghanistan and Iraq. "I have never ordered torture," Bush said a few hours before the release.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, disavowed a memo written in 2002 that appeared to justify the use of torture in the war on terror. The memo also argued that the president's wartime powers superseded anti-torture laws and treaties.

That 50-page document, dated Aug. 1, 2002, will be replaced, senior Justice Department officials said. A new memo will instead narrowly address the question of proper interrogation techniques for al-Qaida and Taliban detainees, the officials said.

Bush outlined his own views in a Feb. 7, 2002, document regarding treatment of al-Qaida detainees from Afghanistan. He said the war against terrorism had ushered in a "new paradigm" and that terrorist attacks required "new thinking in the law of war." Still, he said prisoners must be treated humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

"I accept the legal conclusion of the attorney general and the Department of Justice that I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time," the president said in the memo, entitled "Humane Treatment of al-Qaida and Taliban Detainees."

In a separate Pentagon memo, dated Nov. 27, 2002, the Defense Department's chief lawyer, William J. Haynes II, recommended that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approve the use of 14 interrogation techniques on detainees at Guantanamo Bay, such as yelling at a prisoner during questioning and using "stress positions," like standing, for up to four hours.

Haynes also recommended approval of one technique among harsher methods requested by U.S. military authorities at Guantanamo: use of "mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing."

Among the techniques that Rumsfeld approved on Dec. 2, 2002, in addition to that one, the yelling and the stress positions:

* Use of 20-hour interrogations.

* Removal of all comfort items, including religious items.

* Removal of clothing.

* Using detainees' "individual phobias such as fear of dogs to induce stress."

In a Jan. 15, 2003, note, Rumsfeld rescinded his approval and said that a review would be conducted to consider legal, policy and operational issues relating to interrogations of detainees.

Rumsfeld's decision was prompted at least in part by objections raised by some military lawyers, officials said earlier this year.

Promoter wants Springsteen vs. Bush; 'Concert for Change' would upstage GOP


NEW YORK - A New York concert promoter has mounted an online campaign to “draft” Bruce Springsteen to headline a rock ’n' roll show to upstage the Republican National Convention on the night it nominates President Bush to run for another term.

The “Concert for Change,” would be held Sept. 1 at Giants Stadium, across the Hudson River from the Republicans’ meeting at Madison Square Garden, said promoter and Democratic activist Andrew Rasiej, who has reserved the date at Springsteen’s New Jersey home venue that he routinely sells out when he tours.

“This is a simple idea that captures the imagination of Americans opposed to George Bush,” Rasiej told Reuters.

An online petition at www.draftbruce.com has been signed by about 50,000 people in 10 days since it was launched, Rasiej said, adding he had also reached out to acts such as REM, The Dave Matthews Band, Bob Dylan and Carlos Santana.

“When it gets to half a million or so I would formally try to deliver the petition to Bruce’s people directly,” he said.

REM, Bon Jovi receptive
“I’ve spoken to the manager of REM, to Bon Jovi’s people and the rest of the names I’ve mentioned and they all said, 'If you build it, we will be there.”’

Rasiej said he envisions drawing a big TV audience, but only if he can get a star of the magnitude of Springsteen to get on board and encourage other big acts to take part.

Springsteen’s publicist was not available for comment.

Republicans and Democrats both asked to use his 1984 hit "Born in the U.S.A.” — a song about how unwelcoming America was to returning Vietnam veterans but often mistaken for a patriotic anthem — in political campaigns. Springsteen declined the requests.

The New Jersey rocker has typically stayed out of politics, but in May posted the text of an anti-war speech by former Vice President Al Gore on his official Web site, calling it “one of the most important speeches I’ve heard in a long time.”

Rasiej, founder of popular New York rock club Irving Plaza, said a “VoteAid” show could win a large TV audience, raise money to support voter registration and deliver a message that could affect the November presidential election.

Monday, June 21, 2004

One million black votes didn't count in the 2000 presidential election
It's not too hard to get your vote lost -- if some politicians want it to be lost

San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, June 20, 2004
by Greg Palast

In the 2000 presidential election, 1.9 million Americans cast ballots that no one counted. "Spoiled votes" is the technical term. The pile of ballots left to rot has a distinctly dark hue: About 1 million of them -- half of the rejected ballots -- were cast by African Americans although black voters make up only 12 percent of the electorate.

This year, it could get worse.

These ugly racial statistics are hidden away in the mathematical thickets of the appendices to official reports coming out of the investigation of ballot-box monkey business in Florida from the last go-'round.

How do you spoil 2 million ballots? Not by leaving them out of the fridge too long. A stray mark, a jammed machine, a punch card punched twice will do it. It's easy to lose your vote, especially when some politicians want your vote lost.

While investigating the 2000 ballot count in Florida for BBC Television, I saw firsthand how the spoilage game was played -- with black voters the predetermined losers.

Florida's Gadsden County has the highest percentage of black voters in the state -- and the highest spoilage rate. One in 8 votes cast there in 2000 was never counted. Many voters wrote in "Al Gore." Optical reading machines rejected these because "Al" is a "stray mark."

By contrast, in neighboring Tallahassee, the capital, vote spoilage was nearly zip; every vote counted. The difference? In Tallahassee's white- majority county, voters placed their ballots directly into optical scanners. If they added a stray mark, they received another ballot with instructions to correct it.

In other words, in the white county, make a mistake and get another ballot; in the black county, make a mistake, your ballot is tossed.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission looked into the smelly pile of spoiled ballots and concluded that, of the 179,855 ballots invalidated by Florida officials, 53 percent were cast by black voters. In Florida, a black citizen was 10 times as likely to have a vote rejected as a white voter.

But let's not get smug about Florida's Jim Crow spoilage rate. Civil Rights Commissioner Christopher Edley, recently appointed dean of Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley, took the Florida study nationwide. His team discovered the uncomfortable fact that Florida is typical of the nation.

Philip Klinkner, the statistician working on the Edley investigations, concluded, "It appears that about half of all ballots spoiled in the U.S.A. --

about 1 million votes -- were cast by nonwhite voters."

This "no count," as the Civil Rights Commission calls it, is no accident. In Florida, for example, I discovered that technicians had warned Gov. Jeb Bush's office well in advance of November 2000 of the racial bend in the vote- count procedures.

Herein lies the problem. An apartheid vote-counting system is far from politically neutral. Given that more than 90 percent of the black electorate votes Democratic, had all the "spoiled" votes been tallied, Gore would have taken Florida in a walk, not to mention fattening his popular vote total nationwide. It's not surprising that the First Brother's team, informed of impending rejection of black ballots, looked away and whistled.

The ballot-box blackout is not the monopoly of one party. Cook County, Ill., has one of the nation's worst spoilage rates. That's not surprising. Boss Daley's Democratic machine, now his son's, survives by systematic disenfranchisement of Chicago's black vote.

How can we fix it? First, let's shed the convenient excuses for vote spoilage, such as a lack of voter education. One television network stated as fact that Florida's black voters, newly registered and lacking education, had difficulty with their ballots. In other words, blacks are too dumb to vote.

This convenient racist excuse is dead wrong. After that disaster in Gadsden, Fla., public outcry forced the government to change that black county's procedures to match that of white counties. The result: near zero spoilage in the 2002 election. Ballot design, machines and procedure, says statistician Klinkner, control spoilage.

In other words, the vote counters, not the voters, are to blame. Politicians who choose the type of ballot and the method of counting have long fine-tuned the spoilage rate to their liking.

It is about to get worse. The ill-named "Help America Vote Act," signed by President Bush in 2002, is pushing computerization of the ballot box.

California decertified some of Diebold Corp.'s digital ballot boxes in response to fears that hackers could pick our next president. But the known danger of black-box voting is that computers, even with their software secure, are vulnerable to low-tech spoilage games: polls opening late, locked-in votes, votes lost in the ether.

And once again, the history of computer-voting glitches has a decidedly racial bias. Florida's Broward County grandly shifted to touch-screen voting in 2002. In white precincts, all seemed to go well. In black precincts, hundreds of African Americans showed up at polls with machines down and votes that simply disappeared.

Going digital won't fix the problem. Canada and Sweden vote on paper ballots with little spoilage and without suspicious counts.

In America, a simple fix based on paper balloting is resisted because, unfortunately, too many politicians who understand the racial bias in the vote- spoilage game are its beneficiaries, with little incentive to find those missing 1 million black voters' ballots.

Greg Palast is the author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy - the New Expanded Election Edition," from which this article is taken.


Saturday, June 19, 2004


Bush has 4 times as much cash on hand as Kerry.

Please consider making a donation to John Kerry's campaign.


Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Rumsfeld ordered prisoner hidden from Red Cross

Iraqi terror suspect hidden from International Red Cross

Pentagon officials tell NBC News that late last year, at the same time U.S. military police were allegedly abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered that one Iraqi prisoner be held “off the books” — hidden entirely from the International Red Cross and anyone else — in possible violation of international law.

It’s the first direct link between Rumsfeld and questionable though not violent treatment of prisoners in Iraq.

The Iraqi prisoner was captured last July as deadly attacks on U.S. troops began to rise. He was identified as a member of the terrorist group Ansar al Islam, suspected in the attacks on coalition forces.

Shortly after the suspect’s capture, the CIA flew him to an undisclosed location outside Iraq for interrogation. But four months later the Justice Department suggested that holding him outside Iraq might be illegal, and the prisoner was returned to Iraq at the end of October.

That’s when Rumsfeld passed the order on to Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, to keep the prisoner locked up, but off the books.

In the military’s own investigation into prisoner abuse, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba said efforts to hide prisoners from the Red Cross were “deceptive” and a “violation of international law.”

Pentagon officials claim it’s entirely lawful to hold prisoners in secret if they pose an immediate threat. But today, nearly one year after his capture, he’s still being held incommunicado.

In fact, once the prisoner was returned to Iraq, the interrogations ceased because the prisoner was entirely lost in the system.

Human rights critics call it a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said, “If they thought he was such a threat that he could not get Red Cross visits, then how come such a threatening prisoner got lost in the system?”

Pentagon officials still insist Rumsfeld acted legally, but admit it all depends on how you interpret the law.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Investigators have found no evidence Iraq aided al Qaeda attempts to strike the United States, a commission investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks said in a report that undermines the Bush administration's arguments for war.

The report by commission staff said al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in 1994 and had explored the possibility of cooperation, but the plans apparently never came to fruition.

According to the report, plot mastermind Khalid
Shaikh Mohammed originally envisioned an attack involving 10 hijacked planes with himself as the pilot of one in which all male passengers would be killed and he would deliver an anti-American harangue upon landing.

The assertion was among new details about the plot revealed in a report by the staff of the independent commission investigating the attacks.

Based on interviews with government officials and documents they reviewed, they said Mohammed initially proposed hitting CIA and FBI headquarters, unidentified nuclear plants and tall buildings in California and Washington state, in addition to the World Trade
Centre, Pentagon and White House or Capitol.

Mohammed, who is in US custody at an undisclosed overseas location, told interrogators that rather than crashing his hijacked plane into a target, he wanted to land and make a political statement.

Mohammed proposed killing every male passenger aboard, landing at a US airport and making a "speech denouncing US policies in the Middle East before releasing all the women and children."

That plan was rejected by Osama bin Laden, who ultimately approved a scaled-back mission involving four planes. Training for it began in 1999.

The report said Mohammed wanted more hijackers - up to 26, instead of the 19 who actually participated.

The commission also identified at least 10 al-Qaeda operatives who were to participate but could not take part for various reasons including visa problems and suspicion by officials at airports in the United States and

Far from a seamless operation, the report portrays a plot riven by internal dissent, including disagreement over whether to target the White House or the Capitol - a conflict that apparently never was resolved before the attacks.

Bin Laden also had to overcome opposition to attacking the United States from Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, who was under pressure from
Pakistan to keep al-Qaeda confined.

The pilot of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, Ziad
Jarrah, nearly quit the plot, leading Mohammed to consider replacing him with Zacarias Moussaoui, who was taking flight training in Minnesota, according to the report.

Mohammed, however, has told his interrogators that Moussaoui actually was being considered for a second wave of attacks still in the early planning stages.

Moussaoui is awaiting trial on conspiracy charges. He is the only person charged in the United States in connection with the September 11 plot.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Meet Enron, Bush's Biggest Contributor

By Pratap Chatterjee

The Progressive.org

Early last October, members of the ninth grade girls' track team and the boys' football team at suburban Houston's Deer Park High School's north campus returned from practice reporting severe breathing problems. That day, Deer Park registered 251 parts of ozone per billion, more than twice the federal standard, and Houston surpassed Los Angeles as the smoggiest city in the United States.

One of the biggest contributors to Deer Park's pollution is a plant owned by Enron, Houston's wealthiest company. Enron and its executives are also the single largest contributors ($550,000 and counting) to the political ambitions of Texas Governor George W. Bush, Republican candidate for President of the United States. Kenneth Lay, the chief executive of Enron, has personally given at least $250,000 in soft money to Bush's political campaigns. He is also one of the "Pioneers"--a Bush supporter who has collected $100,000 in direct contributions of $1,000 or less.

What is Enron? And what does it get in return for this largesse?

Enron is the largest buyer and seller of natural gas in the country. Its 1999 revenues of $40 billion make it the eighteenth largest company in the United States. Enron invests in energy projects in countries around the world, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, and the Philippines.

The company has recently expanded onto the Internet, buying and selling a dizzying array of products ranging from pulp and paper to petrochemicals and plastics, as well as esoteric products like clean air credits that utilities purchase to meet emission limits.

Texas activists say that the tight connection between Bush and Lay bodes ill if Bush is elected. Andrew Wheat, from Texans for Public Justice, a campaign finance advocacy group in Austin, compares the symbiotic relationship between Enron and the governor to "cogeneration"--a process used by utilities to harness waste heat vented by their generators to produce more power. "In a more sinister form of cogeneration, corporations are converting economic into political power," he says. "A Bush election fueled by Enron dollars could ignite in the public policy arena, and consumers would get burned."

And so may people in the Third World.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both criticized Enron for colluding with police who brutally suppressed protests at the company's giant power plant in western India. The plant's operating firm is called the Dabhol Power Company. From 1992 to 1998, Enron owned 80 percent of it, with General Electric and Bechtel each holding a 10 percent share. (In 1998, the Indian state electricity board bought a 30 percent share of the company, which reduced Enron's stake to 50 percent.)

For years, the plant has been the site of many nonviolent protests.

"The project has met with opposition from local people and activists from elsewhere in India on the grounds of its social, economic, and environmental impact," Amnesty wrote in a July 1997 report. "Protesters and activists have been subjected to harassment, arbitrary arrest, preventive detention under the ordinary criminal law, and ill treatment. Amnesty International considers those who have been subjected to arrest and temporary periods of imprisonment as a result of undertaking peaceful protest to be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression."

Amnesty's report found that "women, who have been at the forefront of local agitation, appear to have been a particular target."

Just before dawn on June 3, 1997, police stormed the homes of several women. "The policemen forcibly opened the door and dragged me out of the house into the police van parked on the road. (While dragging me) the police kept beating me on my back with batons. The humiliation meted out to the other members of my family was similar to the way I was humiliated. . . . My one-and-a-half-year-old daughter held on to me but the police kicked her away," says Sugandha Vasudev Bhalekar--a twenty-four-year-old housewife who was three months pregnant at the time of her arrest, according to Amnesty's report. Amnesty found that another pregnant woman was beaten and several other women sustained injuries, including bruising, abrasions, and lacerations on arms and legs.

Amnesty said the police involved in suppressing protests included "the Special Reserve Police [SRP] on the site of the company." It added: "The involvement of the SRP in the harassment of protesters indicates the need for the three U.S. multinationals participating in the joint venture to take steps to ensure that all the management and staff of the DPC [Dabhol Power Company]--in particular, any security staff subcontracted to, seconded to, or employed by the company--are trained in human rights and are fully accountable for their actions."

A January 1999 investigation by Human Rights Watch came to a stronger conclusion. "Human Rights Watch believes that the Dabhol Power Corporation and its parent company Enron are complicit in these human rights violations," it said. "The company, under provisions of law, paid the abusive state forces for the security they provided to the company. These forces, located adjacent to the project site, were only stationed there to deal with protests. In addition, contractors (for DPC) engaged in a pattern of harassment, intimidation, and attacks on individuals opposed to the Dabhol Power project. . . . The Dabhol Power Corporation refused to acknowledge that its contractors were responsible for criminal acts and did not adequately investigate, condemn, or cease relationships with these individuals."

Enron denies any wrongdoing. "While we respect the mission of Human Rights Watch, we do not feel that its report on the Dabhol Power project is accurate," says an Enron spokesperson. "The report refers to peaceful protests, when, in fact, the reason the police were positioned near our site is that there have been many acts of violence against our employees and contractors. Dabhol Power Company has worked hard to promote positive relations with the community. Unfortunately, the good relationship we have built with a large percentage of the community was not reflected in the report. Enron is committed to providing energy and communications services while preserving the human rights of citizens and our workers."

Enron has also raised a stink in Bolivia with its involvement in the Cuiabá Integrated Energy Project. The project is run by Transredes, Bolivia's hydrocarbon transport company, which came into being in 1997 after Bolivia privatized its oil sector under the influence of the World Bank. A joint venture of Enron and Shell owns 50 percent of Transredes. On January 31, 2000, a Transredes oil pipeline erupted and dumped an estimated 10,000 barrels of refined crude oil and gasoline into the Desaguadero River, which supports indigenous communities such as the Uru Muratos.

"This problem is Transredes's number one priority, and we are committed to continue to work hard to mitigate the short- and long-term social and environmental impact," wrote Steve Hopper, president of Transredes, in a letter addressed "To the People of Bolivia" on February 7.

Facing starvation from the loss of their life-sustaining waterfowl and fish, the Uru Muratos left their ancestral lands at the southern shores of Lake Poopó in April and marched eighty-five miles to the city of Oruro to ask for government help.

"We subsequently reached an agreement with them to provide certain levels of relief and assistance," says Keith Miceli, general manager for public relations for Enron, South America.

In its actions overseas, Enron has made a practice of taking advantage of corporate welfare. And it has enlisted George W. Bush in this effort.

For example, in March 1997, Lay wrote a letter to Bush that was subsequently released to the press under Texas open records laws, asking him to contact every member of the Texas delegation in Congress to explain how "export credit agencies of the United States are critical to U.S. developers like Enron, who are pursuing international projects in developing countries." These agencies include the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which provides political risk coverage and financial support to U.S. companies investing abroad.

"OPIC provided financing or insurance coverage worth almost $300 million for Enron's foreign projects just last year, according to government records," The New York Times reported. "Enron officials have in the past asked Mr. Bush to help lobby lawmakers to appropriate funds of OPIC, as well as for the Export-Import Bank, another federal agency that aids American companies abroad."

Enron received $200 million in political risk insurance for the Dabhol project in 1996. And it received $200 million in insurance from OPIC in 1999 for its Bolivian project.

The Enron Methanol plant in Pasadena, Texas, lies in the Houston Ship Channel area, the nation's largest concentration of petrochemical plants just east of the city. The plant has won special concessions from Governor Bush, allowing the company to pollute without a permit, as well as giving it immunity from prosecution for violating some environmental standards.

Plants like this in Texas cumulatively emit twice as much nitrogen oxide, a key ingredient of smog, as do all the nine million cars in Texas put together.

Only 7 percent of the more than 3,500 tons of nitrogen oxide emitted by the Enron Methanol plant in 1997 would have been permitted had Enron not gotten away with this under the "grandfather clause" of the 1971 Texas Clean Air Act, which allows plants built before 1971 to continue their polluting practices. Bush extended this clause under the 1999 Clean Air Responsibility Enterprise (CARE) program that his office drew up in a series of secret meetings with representatives of the top polluters in the state, as Molly Ivins reported. CARE waives permit requirements for plants that volunteer to cut emissions.

The CARE program is backed up by an act that Bush signed in May 1995 giving sweeping protections to polluters that perform internal environmental or safety audits. The law makes these audit documents confidential and allows polluters to escape responsibility for environmental violations. To date, Enron has conducted five such audits and filed for immunity from prosecution for violations of the law, according to the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the state equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Tamara Maschini, who lives about five miles from the Enron plant, is one of the founders of a local environmental group called Clean Air Clear Lake.

"Whole families in this neighborhood have asthma because of the pollution from plants like Enron," she says.

Mark Palmer, head of public relations for Enron, says that the company's contribution to local pollution is minimal.

"If the grandfather clause was canceled right now, we would benefit the most of any of the companies in Texas because our nitrogen oxide emissions add up to less than half a percent of the total," he says.

Last year, the Bush campaign borrowed Enron's corporate jets eight times to fly aides around the country, more times than any of the thirty-four other companies that made their company aircraft available to the Presidential hopeful.

And Lay often acts as George W. Bush's chaperone.

On April 7, 2000, he played host to Bush and his father, the former President, at the Houston Astros' first home game of the season. The game was held in the baseball team's brand new stadium--Enron Field--which was built with the help of a $100 million donation from Enron. (The company got free advertising, a tax break, and a $200 million contract to supply power to the stadium in return.)

Less than three weeks later, Lay joined candidate Bush in Washington, D.C., for a Republican fundraiser that topped all previous records by bringing in a staggering $21.3 million, easily the biggest one-night haul for any political party in history.

"Ken Lay is a noted business leader in Texas who has long been active in Republican politics," says Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for the Bush campaign. "He is chair of the Governor's Business Council. But the governor has his own agenda based on what he believes is best for Texas and for the country."

For his part, Lay tries to put his contributions in a favorable light. "When I make contributions to a candidate, it is not for some special favor, it's not even for access--although I'll be the first to admit it probably helps access," he told The New York Times. "It is because I'm supporting candidates I strongly believe in personally."

In January 1999, Enron pitched in $50,000 to help pay for Bush's inaugural bash in Austin, Texas, after he won reelection for governor. Today, the polls show that George W. Bush has a better than even chance of winning the Presidential election. If he does, it is very likely Ken Lay will be pitching in for another inaugural bash.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

What would Jesus do? Why, vote Republican
Sunday, June 06, 2004
N ear as Tony Campolo can tell, it was sometime in the late Eighties when Jesus switched political parties and registered as a Republican.

True, the official voter registration form has never surfaced, but the word on the street is that Jesus apparently wearied of those evangelicals for social action and the liberal church's preoccupation with poverty, racism and injustice.

Whatever his issues, we're told Jesus spent the early Nineties helping Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed pull the GOP farther and farther to the right. He was credited with rigid opinions on abortion and homosexuality, issues he barely (if at all) addressed in his apolitical youth. He became a hard-liner on capital punishment and individual responsibility, even as he lost interest in those silly verses in the Gospels that are fixated on serving the poor or suggest "from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded."

The Republicans, not surprisingly, were delighted to find Jesus on board and lost no opportunity to declare that the interests of the party and Christ's church were identical. As Campolo -- an evangelical Baptist minister -- wrote in 1995, "There is no better way for a political party to establish the legitimacy of its political point of view than to declare that Jesus is one of its members."

It's a little harder to understand what the church gained in all of this. I've always thought the church should be a thorn in the side of the power brokers --conservatives and liberals alike -- because the meek, the mourners and the peacemakers require its advocacy.

I've assumed the church needed to keep its distance from the body politic, if only to remind us that Jesus -- the original, at least -- made a distinction between giving to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.

And I've hoped the church was above allowing itself to be fashioned into a partisan weapon, a role various hypocritical Catholic bishops have embraced while selectively disqualifying pro-choice politicians from a place at the Lord's Supper.

I guess I'm not grounded in Scripture. Clearly, I was wrong.

The Christian church, however, now has a rare opportunity to rethink its political goals, courtesy of the president's re-election team. Five days ago, a campaign e-mail revealed that Bush-Cheney '04 wants to "identify 1,600 'Friendly Congregations' in Pennsylvania where voters friendly to President Bush might gather on a regular basis."

As reported by The New York Times, the campaign wants to select a volunteer in each church body "who can help distribute general information to other supporters." This plan to turn "friendly" Pennsylvania church sanctuaries into campaign field offices, a Bush spokesman confirmed, is part of an extensive national grass-roots crusade.

Onward, Christian soldiers. Given Jesus' current party affiliation, I trust hundreds of congregations will step forward, the separation of church and state be damned.

But I do hope these churches aren't willing to sell out too cheaply. The Bush campaign's quest to make sure born-agains vote Republican again is so relentless that the church should be able to demand a little more than the usual lip service to the "sanctity of marriage" amendment and stem-cell research.

Why not insist on universal health care and cheaper drug prices for the elderly so middle-class Republicans can focus on immediate family needs? Why not order the administration to replace John Ashcroft at the Justice Department with Eliot Spitzer so the White House can train its guns on white-collar criminals rather than septuagenarians seeking autonomy at their own end times?

Why not trade tax-exempt space in those church lobbies for sincere tax relief for Christians whose tithe goes to their church rather than congressional incumbents?

Anything less is crumbs from the table. Anything less and you'd have to conclude church leaders, like tired Hollywood celebrities sitting courtside at the Laker games, want nothing more than to rub shoulders with the power elite.

Steve Duin: 503-221-8597; Steveduin@aol.com; 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, OR 97201

Copyright 2004 Oregon Live. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 07, 2004

I constantly hear the right saying, "John Kerry is a flip-flopper!" I guess they fail to realize that anyone that has been in the Senate for 20 years is not going to have a perfectly consistent voting record. Kerry, like all lawmakers should, changes his mind, considers all the evidence, and makes deals; these critics also unfairly refuse to acknowledge that bills are often huge and are not single-issue propositions.

But these attackers are also blind to another fact: George W. Bush is quite the flip-flopper himself.

In February 2000, Bush remarked on gay marriages on Larry King Live: "The state can do what they want to do. Don't try to trap me in this state's issue like you're trying to get me into." But now he says, "Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife."

After September 11 Bush said about Osama bin Laden: ''I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'" But in March 2003 he said, "I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him… I truly am not that concerned about him."

In March 2002, Bush said in Peru: "I believe strongly that if we promote trade, and when we promote trade, it will help workers on both sides of this issue." It didn't take him long to change his mind again. In a decision largely driven by politics, Bush set aside his free-trade principles and imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel, a huge reversal.

Bush also vacillates when it comes to his fake al-Qaeda/Iraq "link": "You can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the War on Terror." (9/25/02) But I guess you can, Mr. Bush. Because you yourself said so: "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11." (9/17/03)

Bush also flip-floped on having a UN Resolution vote. In March 2003 he vowed to have a vote. "No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It's time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam." [President Bush 3/6/03] But then Bush withdrew his request. "At a National Security Council meeting convened at the White House at 8:55 a.m., Bush finalized the decision to withdraw the resolution from consideration and prepared to deliver an address to the nation that had already been written." [Washington Post, 3/18/03]

All of these questions raise doubts about the credibility of those whom claim that Kerry is a "flip-flopper." Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Caleb Hayes

Sunday, June 06, 2004

From Capitol Hill Blue

Bush Leagues
Bush's Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides
Publisher, Capitol Hill Blue
Jun 4, 2004, 06:15

President George W. Bush’s increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express growing concern over their leader’s state of mind.

In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as “enemies of the state.”

Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.

“It reminds me of the Nixon days,” says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. “Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That’s the mood over there.”

In interviews with a number of White House staffers who were willing to talk off the record, a picture of an administration under siege has emerged, led by a man who declares his decisions to be “God’s will” and then tells aides to “fuck over” anyone they consider to be an opponent of the administration.

“We’re at war, there’s no doubt about it. What I don’t know anymore is just who the enemy might be,” says one troubled White House aide. “We seem to spend more time trying to destroy John Kerry than al Qaeda and our enemies list just keeps growing and growing.”

Aides say the President gets “hung up on minor details,” micromanaging to the extreme while ignoring the bigger picture. He will spend hours personally reviewing and approving every attack ad against his Democratic opponent and then kiss off a meeting on economic issues.

“This is what is killing us on Iraq,” one aide says. “We lost focus. The President got hung up on the weapons of mass destruction and an unproven link to al Qaeda. We could have found other justifiable reasons for the war but the President insisted the focus stay on those two, tenuous items.”

Aides who raise questions quickly find themselves shut out of access to the President or other top advisors. Among top officials, Bush’s inner circle is shrinking. Secretary of State Colin Powell has fallen out of favor because of his growing doubts about the administration’s war against Iraq.

The President's abrupt dismissal of CIA Directory George Tenet Wednesday night is, aides say, an example of how he works.

"Tenet wanted to quit last year but the President got his back up and wouldn't hear of it," says an aide. "That would have been the opportune time to make a change, not in the middle of an election campaign but when the director challenged the President during the meeting Wednesday, the President cut him off by saying 'that's it George. I cannot abide disloyalty. I want your resignation and I want it now."

Tenet was allowed to resign "voluntarily" and Bush informed his shocked staff of the decision Thursday morning. One aide says the President actually described the decision as "God's will."

God may also be the reason Attorney General John Ashcroft, the administration’s lightning rod because of his questionable actions that critics argue threatens freedoms granted by the Constitution, remains part of the power elite. West Wing staffers call Bush and Ashcroft “the Blues Brothers” because “they’re on a mission from God.”

“The Attorney General is tight with the President because of religion,” says one aide. “They both believe any action is justifiable in the name of God.”

But the President who says he rules at the behest of God can also tongue-lash those he perceives as disloyal, calling them “fucking assholes” in front of other staff, berating one cabinet official in front of others and labeling anyone who disagrees with him “unpatriotic” or “anti-American.”

“The mood here is that we’re under siege, there’s no doubt about it,” says one troubled aide who admits he is looking for work elsewhere. “In this administration, you don’t have to wear a turban or speak Farsi to be an enemy of the United States. All you have to do is disagree with the President.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the record.

© Copyright 2004 Capitol Hill Blue

Friday, June 04, 2004

What happens when Bush goes to Europe?

Republicans will say, "Bush has gone to Europe to gain support for the war in Iraq." But here is the truth...

Italian police engage in clashes during a Bush protest Friday in Rome's Piazza Venezia.

The only way we will be able to restore relations with the world is to elect John Kerry. Then maybe we can look at fixing some of the issues that have been completely screwed up by W.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Michael Moore's latest FAHRENHEIT 911 is coming Click Here to check out the trailer.

What do you think?

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