Monday, October 31, 2005


Patriot Act Renewed: toughened

Here's the thing: despite claims for wanting to reduce the size and power of government, the Right Wing is authoritarian to the core. It likes the idea of forcing people to conform to standards set by the Right, and it likes the idea of major punishment for those who don't meet their standards. It's almost constant: who wants stronger laws against a constantly expanding list of crimes? Who wants maximum punishments for every single crime? Who believes they are fulfilling God's Law in doing this?

The Republicans do, that's who. They don't want a smaller or less-coercive government. They want a government that can punish and punish and punish.

Here, read this:

Endless sunset
By Rachel Neumann
Posted on October 28, 2005, Printed on October 31, 2005

Most of the provisions of the USA Patriot Act, including access to library records, were supposed to "sunset" this month, five years after the law's passing. Instead, both the House and the Senate have already voted to renew the entire act, with only minor revisions. While they're at it, they'd like to add some decidedly unpatriotic amendments to expand the death penalty.

These new amendments would let prosecutors shop around for another jury if the one they have is deadlocked on the death penalty; triple the number of terrorism-related crimes eligible for the death penalty; and authorize the death penalty for a person who gives money to an organization whose members kill someone, even if the contributor did not know that the organization or its members were planning to kill.

The Patriot Act was enacted during what President Bush called "a state of emergency." It wasn't even read by most of the members who voted for it. But the whole point of the sunset clause was to allow Congresspeople to actually read the bill and debate it in calmer times. Now, the Act is effectively being made permanent with little or no debate or discussion.

Still, the House and the Senate are still in negotiations over the final wording of the bill and so it hasn't been made final yet. The Bill of Rights Defense Commitee is asking people to make one last push to keep it from getting renewed. They list possible actions you can get involved in and ways to educate your communities about threats to civil liberties.

Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:


Endangered Species Hit Men

I see "my" congressional representative's name there in the 1st paragraph: he should be ashamed of himself for signing on with these sleazeballs. Oregon's Second District Congressional Rep., Greg Walden, is sometimes described as a Republican “moderate.”

However, Walden iinevitably sides with land exploiters. He represents a varied area: yuppie outposts like Ashland and Bend, reactionary towns like Madras and White City. Much of his money comes from what are called "Extractive Industries;" the concept of sustained use is foreign to him. He’s a long time friend of the Wise Use Movement, a Republican front organization. He has sided with farmers in the Klamath Basin, who portray themselves as a last hold-out of American yeoman farmers in the tradition of Tom Jefferson. But, at least according to the latest reports, Jefferson was not in favor of agricultural uses of water subsidized by taxpayers—which is what the Klamath farmers are. Some of the major users of this subsidized water grow hay and sugar beets. No, that's not a good use of the water in the first place.

From Counterpunch Oct 21, 2005
Extinction's Big Pay Off
Richard Pombo: Tom DeLay in Cowboy Boots


Cattle rancher, dairy farmer and Chairman of the House Resources Committee, 42-year-old Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) recently accomplished one of the top priorities of the nation's resource extraction industries. On September 29, Pombo, along with co-sponsor Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) and considerable help from Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), was able to push a gutting of the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) called the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act (TESRA) through the House on a 229-193 vote.

Here is what TESRA accomplishes:

* Full compensation for "takings" which has often meant merely denying landowners the ability to pollute or threaten species. Under TESRA, any disputes over value of such "takings" "are to be resolved in the favor of the property owner" (Of course, if a government entity actually does take your property to build a Wal-Mart or some other economic development scheme, as allowed by the recent Supreme Court Kelo v. New London decision, no such resolution in favor of the homeowner is available.)

* No more Critical Habitat designations. Instead, calling habitat designation "irrelevant to recovery," Pombo gained a switch to required "recovery plans" when a species is listed as threatened or endangered;

* Much more power will be vested in the states in determining such "Recovery Plans";

* "No surprises protection." Property owners are protected against any future changes to "Recovery Plans" forever, no matter what changed conditions may require;

* Invasive Species (a huge problem with cattle ranching) are not addressed at all.

Clearly the ESA has not been working. Out of almost 1300 species listed, only 10 have recovered and been de-listed. Obviously, with a less than 1% recovery rate, the protection provisions have not been tough enough! Yet, Pombo has achieved this extraction wet dream of lessening those meager protections, while selling it as protection for private property owners.

Rep. Dennis Cardoza notes: "I am confident that this bi-partisan bill will strengthen the ability of ESA to recover species, while reducing the burden on local economies and landowners."

TESRA supporter Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) adds: "Passing the new legislation will remove burdens that have hampered job creation, community development and other improvements for the Inland Empire."

However, when one looks past the veneer of property rights, economic development and, of course, species recovery (wink, wink), it doesn't take much to find corporate fingerprints all over TESRA.

Industry's main ally in this is something called the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources (IFCNR). This Mother of all Astroturf groups claims in its website that "IFCNR takes a holistic view of protecting wildlife and wild places that includes preserving human cultures. Conservation & preservation of wild resources requires a measured degree of sustainable use." ("Holistic" and "Sustainable" now top of the list of weasel words that mean, well, just about whatever one wants them to mean.)

The shadowy foundation, complete with phantom directors, and Pombo have recently been the subject of an expose conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Marketplace Radio.

These groups found that Pombo broke the law when he accepted overseas trips paid for by IFCNR. Pombo took at least two trips costing more than $23,000 paid for by IFNCR, in clear violation of tax laws. Neither Pombo nor IFNCR paid taxes on the trips. In fact, IFNCR even indicated on all of its 2000 ­ 2004 tax forms that it did not "provide a grant to an individual for travel, study, or other similar purposes."

While taking the 2000 trip to Nelson, New Zealand and a 2002 one to Shimonoseki, Japan, Pombo also was serving as the chairman of a subsidiary of IFCNR called the Sustainable Use Parliamentarians Union (SUPU).

"I really have no idea what is going on with that foundation. Obviously I will have my accountant check into this," the disingenuous Pombo told the Center for Public Integrity.

Just so Mr. Pombo's informed of "what is going on," the Center for Public Integrity thoughtfully provides this list of donors to IFNCR.

The lowlights are topped by the Darden Restaurant chain, which is the parent company of Red Lobster and Olive Garden. Darden contributed over a third of the foundation's total support this millennium --- a total of $574,000.

It all started when the Humane Society angered Darden by launching an effort to get snow crab dropped from the firm's menu as snow crabs being eaten by seals rather than American diners has been a justification for continued Canadian seal hunts.

Humane Society executive vice president for external affairs Michael Markarian said, "As far as we can tell, they are committed to coming out against any sort of humane treatment of animals. They are for commercial whaling. They are for trapping. They include cock fighters as a resource management group."

Other top contributors since 2000 are Monsanto ($115,000); the National Trappers Association ($143,890); the International Fur Trade Association ($120,000) Caspian Star Caviar ($25,000) and the Japan Whaling Association ($11,000). (Now there's a pack of "holistic and sustainable" industries.)

Marketplace's Steve Henn talked with IFNCR president emeritus Stephen Boynton about the illegal trips. Boynton claimed, "I talked to the House Committee on Ethics and they told me at that time-and so did Congressman Pombo-that was not a problem. I acted on that advice."

Pombo claims he has not even spoken with anyone from IFCNR or the Sustainable Use Parliamentarians Union for over four years, even though he was SUPU chairman until July of last year.

He also claims to have no plans to contact the groups again, even with the new info and law-breaking. "I really don't have any reason to talk to them on anything right now," said Pombo.

Really? That may be, Mr. Chairman. But, perhaps your attorney should give them a call.

MICHAEL DONNELLY of Salem, OR has fought long for Endangered Species protection. He's never eaten a snow crab. He can be reached at

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Ralph Reed: political predator

You've heard of sexual predators; well, I have a new term for you: political predators. A political predator is someone who does political action without scruples, simply because it's there. A political predator is someone who knows how the system works, and works it for whatever gratification he gets.

The evangelicals are suckers: we have to face it. They’re like the Mormon flocks in Utah, when it comes to sophistication. If the name of a group sounds right, and one or two members of a church hierarchy say it’s OK, then it’s OK. Out comes the support and the money.

People like Ralph Reed are political predators, out to deceive the faithful and gullible.

For lobbyist Reed, the holy profit reigns
Ex-activist relies on Christian Coalition connections to help his business clients.

By Alan Judd
Saturday, October 29, 2005
ATLANTA -- Ralph Reed's clients wanted to promote a relaxed U.S. trade policy toward China. So, as he has often done since leaving the Christian Coalition to become a corporate and political consultant, Reed tapped into his vast network of conservative religious activists.
Soon the Alliance of Christian Ministries in China was telling Congress that free trade would open doors for missionaries in a nation that is officially atheist.
The alliance, however, was a facade. Reed arranged for its formation and used its evangelical goals to serve the interests of his paying clients, a coalition of businesses including Boeing Co., which had a more secular objective: to sell the Chinese government $120 billion worth of airplanes.
Such stealth defines Reed's eight years as a corporate and campaign consultant, the work that bridged his career from Christian activist to Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia.
By working through grass-roots groups, some of which he formed himself, Reed has let conservative Christian groups make the case for causes that benefit his clients while obscuring the clients' identity and shielding them from controversy.
These efforts, a close examination of his consulting work shows, often capitalize on Reed's connections in the evangelical Christian community even as they contradict positions he advocated as one of the nation's most prominent spokesmen for the religious right.
Reed says his job is to represent clients by pulling together coalitions -- usually including "people of faith," in his vernacular -- to express sympathetic views.
"That is what I've done," Reed said. "I don't spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress. I spend my time at the grass roots, organizing citizens."
The fact that he sometimes stirs grass-roots activism where it didn't exist before does not diminish its authenticity, Reed said. "We (have) formed coalitions and raised funds from a variety of sources. That's the nature of an effective coalition."
The examination of Reed's activities at his Duluth, Ga., consulting firm, Century Strategies, is based on two dozen interviews, congressional records and documents the firm created. It reveals a skilled yet secretive political operative, one whose stands have sometimes shifted to conform to the desires of his paying clients.
In one instance, Reed's company condensed quotes from the Dalai Lama to produce a newspaper ad implying the Tibetan spiritual leader supported free trade with China, the government that drove him into exile. Reed himself had opposed favorable trade status for China when he led the Christian Coalition.
In another case, Reed, a professed opponent of gambling, used a group called the Committee Against Gambling Expansion to mobilize conservative Christians to oppose casinos owned by Indian tribes. The group, however, was secretly funded by another tribe trying to squelch competition for its casinos. Reed's fees for that work totaled $4 million.
In two other instances in which gambling interests paid for his work with grass-roots Christian groups, Reed and his colleagues funneled his fees through third parties to hide the source of the money.
Reed worked for gambling interests as a subcontractor to Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a longtime friend. The work has come under scrutiny by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which is conducting one of several investigations into Abramoff's activities.
Reed's penchant for secrecy as a consultant follows the philosophy of political engagement he has espoused since his days at the Christian Coalition. Using combat metaphors to urge his followers into action, Reed once suggested that Christians adhere to the teachings of Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military strategist and author of "The Art of War," who wrote that "all warfare is based on deception." For years Reed advised conservative Christians to conceal their activism so they could take their adversaries by surprise.
"I want to be invisible," Reed told a Virginia newspaper in 1991. "I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag."
'Premier' strategist

Reed's ties to the religious right account for his initial appeal to corporations trying to generate political support among conservative Christians, said Brian Lunde, a Washington-based consultant who has worked with Reed.
"Then they find out he can look at the world from 30,000 feet beyond that one slice of the electorate," Lunde said. He described Reed as "one of the premier political strategists in the country."
Reed won't name his company's clients, either corporate or political. Because he is a public affairs consultant rather than a lobbyist, Reed does not have to disclose the clients, or the fees they pay him.
"There has probably been as much press coverage of Century Strategies over the last eight years as any public relations or public affairs firm in the country," he said. "I'm confident people know what we do, and a number of our clients have been disclosed in the press."
Indeed, Reed's work for clients such as Microsoft Corp. has drawn extensive, and sometimes unwelcome, attention.
The software giant, which paid Reed a retainer of $20,000 a month, according to numerous published reports, was battling a federal anti-trust case in 2000 at the same time Reed was advising George W. Bush's presidential campaign. When news articles disclosing the arrangement stirred a political controversy, Reed denied lobbying Bush on Microsoft's behalf. Bush has said he didn't know Reed represented the company.
Reed's work for many other clients has attracted little notice.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Oct. 2, for example, that Reed worked in 2000 to defeat a proposed ban on Internet gambling, on behalf of a company in the online gambling business. Reed had earlier used his position at the Christian Coalition to condemn legalized betting as a "cancer" and a "scourge." But he worked for the Connecticut-based firm eLottery Inc. as a subcontractor to Abramoff.
Reed said that he thought the proposed ban actually would have expanded gambling. He said he didn't know eLottery was the client until "the facts emerged" from a criminal investigation into Abramoff's activities in recent months. Reed declined to elaborate.
Reed says he made no secret of his affiliation with the Channel One Network, which broadcasts news and other information, including abstinence programs on which he consulted, to 12,000 middle and high schools. Many conservative Christian organizations have complained the network airs ads for sexually provocative movies and other objectionable material.
When Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a former client of Reed's, scheduled a hearing on the network in 1999, Reed took a furtive approach on its behalf.
Among other strategies, he hired Judson Hill, a Georgia lawyer who later became a state senator. His job, Hill said recently, was to generate letters to Congress from citizens. The letters urging Shelby and other Republicans to refrain from interfering in Channel One's business followed a script he provided.
"If Channel One broadcasts are taken out of the classroom, then something will replace it," Hill's model letter said. "I am concerned that liberal programs without good moral values will be aired in the classroom."
Reed acknowledges that neither the letters nor radio ads that made similar claims disclosed that he was behind the messages or that Channel One had paid for them.
The ads were attributed to a group called Coalition to Protect Our Children.
Reed said he tried to thwart the congressional inquiry into Channel One because he was "supportive of their right to be able to broadcast into the schools."
"I've often contacted Republican members of Congress or officeholders through grass-roots campaigns to urge them to take a particular position," he said. "I want to make sure when we have a Republican majority we adopt sound public policy."
As the eLottery and Channel One examples illustrate, however, Reed often finds himself balancing his close ties to evangelicals, a key element of his campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia, with clients' positions that might offend those same conservative Christians.
'An open China'

No issue more starkly highlights that tension than U.S. trade policy toward China.
"What do Billy Graham and the Dalai Lama have in common?"
In large type above photographs of the two world-famous religious leaders, the June 9, 1998, newspaper ad posed a provocative question.
The answer, the ad asserted, was that both favored "an open door" to China, an extension of most favored nation trading status to a country often accused of abusing religious and human rights.
The full-page ad appeared in The Washington Post as Congress debated the then-annual trade extension. The sponsor listed at the bottom of the page: the Alliance of Christian Ministries in China.
The real sponsors: American manufacturers who stood to make billions if Congress approved relaxed trade with China. To do so, Congress would have to overlook the objections of human rights activists, many of them the religious conservatives to whom Reed gave a political voice during his tenure at the Christian Coalition.
Easing trade restrictions on China was a divisive issue for American Christians. Some thought the climate for human and religious rights in China would improve incrementally if the Chinese government had a greater presence in the worldwide economy. Others countered that the Chinese government would never relax oppressive policies unless the United States drew a hard line against giving China the same trading privileges that most other nations enjoyed.
As late as May 1997, Reed publicly stood with the latter group. Shortly before he left the Christian Coalition, Reed advocated denying favorable trade status until China reversed policies that resulted in forced abortions and intolerance of Christianity.
A year later, at Century Strategies, Reed took a different stance.
A group of companies and business interests, Boeing, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and others, Reed says, hired him to get conservative Christians to urge Congress to extend China's favored trade status another year.
Reed's approach: create a grass-roots group of missionary organizations that worked in China.
He assigned a subcontractor, the DeMoss Group of Duluth, Ga., to ask about four dozen organizations to join the group. About 25 signed on, said Mark DeMoss, the firm's president. Most, DeMoss said, wanted their names kept secret to protect their missionaries.
Then DeMoss produced ads for the newly formed Alliance of Christian Ministries in China. The message: "An open China was important to the ability to conduct Christian ministry in China," DeMoss said.
Many missionary groups that disagreed with that stand had dominated the debate, said Jim Jewell, who managed the project for DeMoss.
DeMoss' firm produced ads that appeared in several major newspapers and on radio stations in the districts of eight members of Congress in seven states. The ads listed neither the members of the alliance nor the corporations footing the bill.
As the congressional vote approached, another full-page ad appeared in The Washington Post, the one suggesting that both the Rev. Billy Graham and the Dalai Lama supported favored nation status for China.
That ad, Jewell said, came not from the DeMoss shop but directly from Reed's firm.
Misleading ad?

Less than a month before the 1998 trade vote, the Dalai Lama told The New York Times that while he favored "friendly relations" between the United States and China, American officials must continue emphasizing "moral standards."
"If you are only concerned about the economic side," he said, "that would be a terrible mistake."
The June 9 ad presented the Dalai Lama's remarks in a different light. Condensing his comments to The Times, the ad quoted him only as saying: "China should not be isolated. Confrontation or condemnation: I don't think it works. The only practical way is to be a genuine friend."
The next day, the Dalai Lama's envoy to the United States complained that the quotations were taken out of context and used without permission and that the ad falsely implied an endorsement of the trade proposal. The envoy's letter was addressed to the alliance's only public spokesman, Jewell, and mailed to its address in Duluth, which actually was the DeMoss Group's office.
The envoy demanded the alliance stop running the ad. By then, though, that demand was moot. Congress was ready to vote, and the ad had not been scheduled to appear again anyway.
But it already had served its purpose. Even two years later, as Congress voted to make China's favored trade status permanent, at least one lawmaker still was citing the Dalai Lama's purported support, according to the Congressional Record.
"My job was to represent the view of the organization," Reed said. As a consultant, "I had a very different role."

Find this article at:


Food Stamps: Repugnican ax-swinging

The key in this piece from Yahoo News, is that the vote is straight party line. The Repugnicans want the poor off the roles, because that's the word that's come down from the Kreml—excuse me, the White House.

House panel votes $844 mln cut in food stamps

By Charles AbbottFri Oct 28, 5:17 PM ET

On a party-line vote, a Republican-run U.S. House of Representatives committee voted to cut food stamps by $844 million on Friday, just hours after a new government report showed more Americans are struggling to put food on the table.

About 300,000 Americans would lose benefits due to tighter eligibility rules for food stamps, the major U.S. antihunger program, under the House plan. The cuts would be part of $3.7 billion pared from Agriculture Department programs over five years as part of government-wide spending reductions.

Agriculture Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte defended the decision, saying only a sliver of food stamp spending was affected and, for the most part, the cuts would eliminate people not truly eligible.

"This is not a giveaway program that results in windfall profits," said North Carolina Democrat G.K. Butterfield in opposing the cuts. "That is not moral. That is not American."

Antihunger activists said hunger rates were up for the fifth year in a row, so the cuts were a mistake.

"It is hard to imagine any congressional action that is more detached from reality," said James Weill of the Food Research and Action Center.

"Cutting food stamps now is a scandal," said David Beckman of Bread for the World, pointing to losses from hurricanes.

Approved 25-20, the committee package now will become part of an omnibus budget-cutting bill.

The House plan would also cut U.S. crop supports by $1 billion, land stewardship by $760 million, research by $620 million and rural development by $446 million.

The Senate's budget reduction plan would not touch food stamps, but would cut $3 billion from other USDA programs.

On food stamps, the House committee agreed to require immigrants to wait seven years, instead of the current five, to apply for aid. That would affect an estimated 70,000 people.

It also would deny food stamps to people who automatically get food stamps because they receive help through other welfare programs but whose income is above food stamp levels. About 225,000 people fall in that category.

North Dakota Democrat Earl Pomeroy complained that 40,000 children would lose free meals at school because of that provision.

"You have not even come clean that kids are going to lose school breakfast and school lunch under this," he said.

Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said states unfairly "have taken the opportunity to expand food stamp eligibility" beyond what the federal government intended. Democrat John Barrow of Georgia said Goodlatte was punishing states for using welfare reform laws to respond to local needs.

A new Agriculture Department report found 38.2 million Americans "were food insecure" in 2004, an increase of nearly 2 million from the previous year. Tufts University food economist Parke Wilde food insecurity "now equals the worst levels" since recordkeeping began a decade ago.

USDA said 11.9 percent of households, "at some time during the year, had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources."

Food stamps help poor Americans buy food. About 25 million people get food stamps monthly.

The USDA had an overall budget of about $85 billion in fiscal 2005. Food stamps and other nutrition programs for the poor accounted for about $51 billion, with the remainder going to crop subsidies for farmers, food aid to foreign countries, farmland conservation, meat plant inspections and other farm-related programs.


Spin Spin Spin

Friday night, Tony Snow, from Fox News, was on Bill Maher's show. He gave the spin about Joseph Wilson lying about what he found in Niger, as well as the his-wife-sent-him schtik. That's the Repupugnican spin on what's happened with the leak investigation. I caught it again last night on Tim Russert's program, and found more of it on the National Review Online. Wilson lied, therefore what happened didn't matter; along with other countries tried to buy yellowcake too, so therefore what happened didn't matter; Valerie Plame wasn't a real spook, so therefore what happened didn't matter—and an even better one: we know Iraq had WMDs, the only question is, where did they go?

You have to hand it to the jolly Rovian Brotherhood: they never quit trying. Even if Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld all stood up and confessed, the neo-cons would still be trying to tell us that Saddam really had WMDs and Joseph Wilson didn't tell the truth. And the Jews really do have a world wide conspiracy....


Friday, October 28, 2005


Trompling the Poor—Again

The Republican conservatives (are there any moderate Republicans left?) are cutting domestic spending programs as much as they can get away with. As I've said before, they're doing it by hurting the poor. They chose the poor because the poor don't make massive campaign donations.

Yahoo! News
House Panel Debates Medicaid Cuts
By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer Thu Oct 27, 7:58 PM ET

A proposal to curb Medicaid spending by about $11 billion by the end of the decade withstood a challenge in a key House committee Thursday as lawmakers worked on a plan to slow the automatic growth of the program, which provides health care to the poor and disabled.

Democrats, saying Republicans were trying to cut the deficit on the backs of poor, lost a vote to block the plan. Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans countered that they were making only modest trims — about 1 percent — in a program estimated to cost $1.1 trillion over the same period.

The Medicaid measure is to be folded into a sprawling budget bill to implement Republican plans that would, for the first time in eight years, take on the automatic growth of federal programs such as food stamps, farm subsidies and student loan subsidies. The plan also would raise revenue by auctioning television airwaves to wireless companies and leasing parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.

The Medicaid plan would impose new co-payments on Medicaid beneficiaries and would allow states to scale back coverage. It also would tighten rules designed to limit the ability of elderly people to shed assets in order to qualify for nursing home care, lower pharmacy profit margins and encourage pharmacies to issue generic drugs.


Panel Democrats who tried to kill the Medicaid curb legislation lost by a 30-24 vote. They lost a series of votes to ease the cuts.


Citing budgetary restraints, the GOP-led Senate rejected mainly Democratic proposals to boost spending significantly for such programs as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, funded at $2.2 billion; Pell grants, budgeted at $13.2 billion; and the Individuals with Disabilities Act, funded at $11.7 billion.

But the chamber did approve, by voice vote, $8 billion in emergency spending to prepare vaccines and antiviral drugs and make sure health facilities are ready for an outbreak of bird flu. The amendment gives the president flexibility to decide when and how the money will be used, depending on the nature and extent of any epidemic.

The legislation now goes to House-Senate negotiations. So far Congress has completed, and the president signed, only three of the 11 spending bills that fund federal programs for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

Separately, the House Financial Services Committee met its $470 million spending cut target by cutting off a program that lets local governments buy and rehabilitate multifamily housing properties that the federal government takes over through default on government-guaranteed loans. A bipartisan package of deposit insurance reforms was also approved.

The Agriculture Committee, meanwhile, postponed until Friday a vote on a $3.7 billion plan to curb farm subsidies and tighten eligibility requirements for the food stamp program. The committee's earlier target was slightly higher but GOP leaders gave panel Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., a break after another committee exceeded its savings goal.

With a lower savings target, Goodlatte dropped one of his more controversial food stamp proposals — which would block states from extending benefits for childless adults facing hardships such as homelessness — and modified another affecting legal immigrants.

The House GOP budget plan was originally intended to cut $35 billion in spending over five years, but after pressure from conservatives, GOP leaders directed committees to cut another $15 billion to help pay the cost of hurricane recovery. The Senate will begin debate on a companion $39 billion measure on Monday.

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
Copyright © 2005 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.


Cheney and Libby Withheld Evidence!

I'm being unnaturally verbose, today. I feel good: it's like the little boy must have felt when somebody else said "You're right: he is naked!"

Cheney, Libby Blocked Papers to Senate Intelligence Panel
By Murray Waas
The National Journal

Thursday 27 October 2005

Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.

Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office - and Libby in particular - pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said.

The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.

The disclosures also come as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wraps up the nearly two-year-old CIA leak investigation that has focused heavily on Libby's role in discussing covert intelligence operative Valerie Plame with reporters. Fitzgerald could announce as soon as tomorrow whether a federal grand jury is handing up indictments in the case.

Central to Fitzgerald's investigation is whether administration officials disclosed Plame's identity and CIA status in an effort to discredit her husband, former ambassador and vocal Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, who wrote newspaper op-ed columns and made other public charges beginning in 2003 that the administration misused intelligence on Iraq that he gathered on a CIA-sponsored trip to Africa.

In recent weeks Fitzgerald's investigation has zeroed in on the activities of Libby, who is Cheney's top national security and foreign policy advisor, as well as the conflict between the vice president's office on one side and the CIA and State Department on the other over the use of intelligence on Iraq. The New York Times reported this week, for example, that Libby first learned about Plame and her covert CIA status from Cheney in a conversation with the vice president weeks before Plame's cover was blown in a July 2003 newspaper column by Robert Novak.

The Intelligence Committee at the time was trying to determine whether the CIA and other intelligence agencies provided faulty or erroneous intelligence on Iraq to President Bush and other government officials. But the committee deferred the much more politically sensitive issue as to whether the president and the vice president themselves, or other administration officials, misrepresented intelligence information to bolster the case to go to war. An Intelligence Committee spokesperson says the panel is still working on this second phase of the investigation.

Had the withheld information been turned over, according to administration and congressional sources, it likely would have shifted a portion of the blame away from the intelligence agencies to the Bush administration as to who was responsible for the erroneous information being presented to the American public, Congress, and the international community.

In April 2004, the Intelligence Committee released a report that concluded that "much of the information provided or cleared by the Central Intelligence Agency for inclusion in Secretary Powell's [United Nation's] speech was overstated, misleading, or incorrect."

Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee say that their investigation was hampered by the refusal of the White House to turn over key documents, although Republicans said the documents were not as central to the investigation.

In addition to withholding drafts of Powell's speech - which included passages written by Libby - the administration also refused to turn over to the committee contents of the president's morning intelligence briefings on Iraq, sources say. These documents, known as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB, are a written summary of intelligence information and analysis provided by the CIA to the president.

One congressional source said, for example, that senators wanted to review the PDBs to determine whether dissenting views from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Department of Energy, and other agencies that often disagreed with the CIA on the question of Iraq's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction were being presented to the president.

An administration spokesperson said that the White House was justified in turning down the document demand from the Senate, saying that the papers reflected "deliberative discussions" among "executive branch principals" and were thus covered under longstanding precedent and executive privilege rules. Throughout the president's five years in office, the Bush administration has been consistently adamant about not turning internal documents over to Congress and other outside bodies.

At the same time, however, administration officials said in interviews that they cannot recall another instance in which Cheney and Libby played such direct personal roles in denying foreign policy papers to a congressional committee, and that in doing so they overruled White House staff and lawyers who advised that the materials should be turned over to the Senate panel.

Administration sources also said that Cheney's general counsel, David Addington, played a central role in the White House decision not to turn over the documents. Addington did not return phone calls seeking comment. Cheney's office declined to comment after requesting that any questions for this article be submitted in writing.

A former senior administration official familiar with the discussions on whether to turn over the materials said there was a "political element" in the matter. This official said the White House did not want to turn over records during an election year that could used by critics to argue that the administration used incomplete or faulty intelligence to go to war with Iraq. "Nobody wants something like this dissected or coming out in an election year," the former official said.

But the same former official also said that Libby felt passionate that the CIA and other agencies were not doing a good job at intelligence gathering, that the Iraqi war was a noble cause, and that he and the vice president were only making their case in good faith. According to the former official, Libby cited those reasons in fighting for the inclusion in Powell's U.N. speech of intelligence information that others mistrusted, in opposing the release of documents to the Intelligence Committee, and in moving aggressively to counter Wilson's allegations that the Bush administration distorted intelligence findings.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee backed the document request to the White House regarding Libby's drafts of the Powell speech, communications between Libby and other administration officials on intelligence information that might be included in the speech, and Libby's contacts with officials in the intelligence community relating to Iraq.

In his address to the United Nations on February 5, 2003, Powell argued that intelligence information showed that Saddam Hussein's regime was aggressively pursuing programs to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons

Only after the war did U.N. inspectors and the public at large learn that the intelligence data had been incorrect and that Iraq had been so crippled by international sanctions that it could not sustain such a program.

The April 2004 Senate report blasted what it referred to as an insular and risk- averse culture of bureaucratic "group think" in which officials were reluctant to challenge their own longstanding notions about Iraq and its weapons programs. All nine Republicans and eight Democrats signed onto this document without a single dissent, a rarity for any such report in Washington, especially during an election year.

After the release of the report, Intelligence Committee, Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said they doubted that the Senate would have authorized the president to go to war if senators had been given accurate information regarding Iraq's programs on weapons of mass destruction.

"I doubt if the votes would have been there," Roberts said. Rockefeller asserted, "We in Congress would not have authorized that war, in 75 votes, if we knew what we know now."

Roberts' spokeswoman, Sarah Little, said the second phase of the committee's investigation would also examine how pre-war intelligence focused on the fact that intelligence analysts - while sounding alarms that a humanitarian crisis that might follow the war - failed to predict the insurgency that would arise after the war.

Little says that it was undecided whether the committee would produce a classified report, a declassified one that could ultimately be made public, or hold hearings.

When the 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee was made public, Bush, Cheney, and other administration officials cited it as proof that the administration acted in good faith on Iraq and relied on intelligence from the CIA and others that it did not know was flawed.

But some congressional sources say that had the committee received all the documents it requested from the White House the spotlight could have shifted to the heavy advocacy by Cheney's office to go to war. Cheney had been the foremost administration advocate for war with Iraq, and Libby played a central staff role in coordinating the sale of the war to both the public and Congress.


Murray Waas is a Washington-based journalist. His previous articles, focusing on Rove's role in the case, Libby's grand jury testimony, the apparent direction of Fitzgerald's investigation, and the Secret Service records that prompted Miller's key testimony also appeared on


Mr Strangelove not yet out of crosshairs

A good chance that Karl Rove, Mr Strangelove, will get nailed just like Scooter LIbby did. The more the merrier. I hope that Libby will crack and ‘fess up that the idea of blowing Ms Plame’s cover came from Sneaky Dick Cheney. I was re-reading the decline and fall of Nixon this morning; this is so familiar with Republican administrations: sooner or later they get caught getting dirty.

Libby indictment names Rove - or 'Official A' - as confirming Plame's identity to Libby

by Jackson Thoreah

The indictment and resignation of Scooter Libby on Good Friday is just the beginning. The best news is that a new grand jury was impaneled.

Libby’s indictment includes a passage in which an "Official A" told Libby that he had talked with conservative syndicated columnist Robert Novak about CIA officer Valerie Plame and that Novak would be writing a story about Plame.

And who is “Official A?” None other than Karl Rove, according to my sources.

Rove and Novak go way back in such dirty tricks. In 1992, Rove, with help from Novak, with whom Rove has often dined, smeared Robert Mosbacher Jr., George H.W. Bush’s then-presidential campaign manager. Mosbacher gave John Weaver, a Rove competitor, the bulk of a $1 million direct mail contract, and Rove spread a story that Mosbacher had been replaced in Texas by another campaign manager, which Novak repeated in a column. Poppy Bush reportedly dismissed Rove from his campaign for doing that, but his son will not do so for doing worse in the Plame case.

But expect Rove to go down eventually. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is just building the case against Rove and possibly others.

It's actually good news that the indictment process didn't end Friday. It keeps the whole matter open and keeps Rove - and Bush since Rove is "Bush's Brain" - squirming.

You can read the 22-page indictment yourself at

There are reports that Rove lied to the FBI and did not disclose that he had ever discussed Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper during Rove's first interview with the FBI. So Rove could be facing obstruction of justice and perjury charges himself, the same kind that got Libby.

Veteran reporter Seymour Hersh goes deeper into Bush’s and Rove’s campaign to influence Iraq’s election and related matters here. It’s long but worth reading, if you want to know more about just how sleazy these aholes are.

Does anyone in the Washington, D.C., area need an idea on where to take your kids trick-or-treating on Monday? How about dressing yourself or your child in an orange jumpsuit and Rove mask and going to Rove’s neighborhood? It’s in northwest D.C. - the address is 4925 Weaver Terrace NW.

You won’t be the first to register your protest there. And you won’t be the last.


Jackson Thoreau is a Washington, D.C.-area journalist/writer. The latest book to which he contributed, Big Bush Lies, was published by RiverWood Books of Ashland, Ore. He is working on another book called "Thou Shalt Not Cheat: How Bush and Rove Broke the Rules, From the Sandlot to the White House." He can be contacted at


Bush Heckled—Finally

When people start heckling George Bush, you know he’s in trouble. He’s been sanctified for so long he’s started believing his own bullshit and he believes having uniforms behind him protects him from the truth. Nope.

I keep telling myself that sooner or later, the harder they come (and that's clearly the roles Bush and Cheney and their junta want to project) the harder they fall.

From The Scotsman, UK
Fri 28 Oct 2005

5:02pm (UK)
Bush heckled during terror speech

At a turbulent point in his presidency, US President Bush has sought to bolster public backing for his war policies, just days after the US death toll in Iraq surpassed 2,000.

"We will never back down, we will never give in and we will never accept anything less than complete victory," the president said.

Bush spoke to an audience largely made up of uniformed service members, delivering a speech which was one of several he has given recently to defend his war policies.

It was nearly the same as the one he delivered recently in Washington.

Outside the Norfolk convention hall, a small group of anti-war protesters greeted him by chanting "Bush lies."

Inside, as the president spoke, a man on the second level interrupted him, yelling "War is terrorism. War is terrorism. Step down now Mr President. Torture is terrorism."

Bush continued speaking as the man left the hall.

Mindful of the public anxiety, the president attempted to underscore the danger the United States faces from terrorists, comparing leaders of al Qaida to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2005, All Rights Reserved.

This article:

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Clear-Cutting Medicaid

Instead of running things through Congress, the Administration is simply cutting programs by sliding around the issues. The new Medicaid program for Florida is a test-run for a new and meaner approach. This approach will put spending caps on each Medicaid patient’s care.

Each Medicaid recipient must join an HMO. The government will then send the HMO a check corresponding to what the recipient’s recent medical history has been. Should that patient in the past needed $500 worth of care, then the check will be appropriate to that amount. Should some major emergency—a transplant, say— come up that will cost, maybe $200,000, more money from Medicaid. The patient will have to argue with the HMO. A cap is put on how much medical care is available for each person. Need radiation? Sorry, there’s no money. You have major broken bones that need fixing? Sorry, you’ve already reached your spending limit.
There’s no money, pleads the federal (and state) governments. Well, there isn’t any money because taxes have been clear-cut. There’s still money to fight a dishonest dirty war—or to build bridges to nowhere special, but none, they say, for health care.

This is obscene.

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 12:00 AM

Washing their hands of the sick and poor.

Let's get something straight right now. Few government programs are "unsustainable." A program is sustainable if government chooses to sustain it. Governments keep programs afloat by giving them money.


True, public resources are finite, and there are things to spend money on other than health care. Education, for example. But then you have leaders like*** George Bush on the federal [level] who refuse to collect enough tax revenues for these programs. They then declare the cupboard bare and pretend there's no choice but to tighten the screws on poor people.

So what happens when unemployment rises or a dozen big employers decide to stop providing health benefits? Government could simply plead poverty, squeeze the per-person limit for coverage and let the insurers deliver the bad news to patients. ...[this] in effect, helps government wash its hands of the very sickest Medicaid patients.


A moral society ensures that basic human needs are met, and health care should be one of them. We all know that the demand for medical services is a bottomless pit, and taxpayers can't fund every expensive treatment someone might want. But a rich society that does not guarantee its citizens a reasonable level of health coverage is not to be admired.

If, rather than tax themselves, Americans let poor and working-class neighbors suffer and die for lack of adequate health coverage, they should at least be honest about it.

Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Colorado: privatization for human services...Err...

This is an addenda to the last post. Privatization, the epitomy of Repugnican thinking about government—except for the military and police, of course—has happened in Colorado. Guess what?
From a friend:

Colorado privatized certain human services programs. Guess what? The
companies outsourced the jobs to India. No kidding. Colorado taxpayers now
pay to employ people from India to help Coloradans find jobs and get
welfare. BRILLIANT.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Food Stamps To Be Sold Off?

It doesn’t matter how much trouble the Repugnicans are in, they’re going to go right ahead screwing everybody they can.

This is part of the dismantling of the remains of the New Deal—the first legislation in America to help those who need it. The Repugnicans hate the New Deal; they hate everybody who isn’t rich and white, whether or not they’ll cop to that. The less money for the poor, the more for them. Besides, God wants the poor to be poor, right?

Lawmakers vote to allow privatizing US food stamps

By Charles Abbott 2 hours, 31 minutes ago

House and Senate negotiators working on a $100 billion agriculture spending bill voted on Tuesday to allow states to privatize the food stamp program, which helps 25 million people put food on the table monthly.


The so-called conference committee has the chore of writing a final, compromise version of bills passed by the House and Senate to fund the Agriculture Department and related agencies this fiscal year. The compromise bill then will be presented to each chamber for passage with no amendments allowed.

Although Senate negotiators voted 9-8 to erect barriers to letting private firms take over food-stamp office work, the House side rejected the idea, 9-6. Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, said the vote effectively killed his idea of preventing privatization without proof the change would work.

Texas has requested permission to privatize food stamps as part of an overhaul of its welfare programs. Antihunger activists say Texas wants to close dozens of local offices and do more of the work by telephone, aided by thousands of hours of donated labor from charities and other volunteer groups.

"How many poor people are going to go on the Internet to apply for food stamps?" asked Harkin in arguing that relying on call centers or electronic applications would discourage participation.

Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican, said the government should encourage experiments that could streamline service and save money.

Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited. Copyright © 2005 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.


Test Destruction of Medicaid for Florida

Leon Trotsky was a cold-hearted intellectual, first and last. He was certainly as ideological as Mao or Lenin or Kissinger. Like them, Trotsky was responsible for the death of countless people. He may have loved his wife (and maybe Frieda Kahlo), but not humanity. Hard to separate the messenger from the message.

The Trotskyniks did fight the Stalinists, and they eventually did maintain a school of Marxist thought a lot cleaner than the Soviet version. The World Socialist Web Site, down in Australia provides intelligent commentaries on world affairs—mostly; sometimes they slide into weird Marxist versions of how-many-socialists-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin arguments.

This article is not esoteric. It makes solid points about the new Medicaid rules for Florida. This new plan is a test-run of the deconstruction of Medicaid for the entire country. It ain’t good.

World Socialist Web Site

Florida Medicaid privatization plan approved
Major step in destruction of entitlement program
By Naomi Spencer and Joseph Kay
25 October 2005

Last week US Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt signed off on a Florida plan that will transform the state’s Medicaid program. The new plan, which will come into effect after receiving final approval from the state legislature, will largely privatize the health care program for the poor and elderly. It will also set caps on state expenditures.

The move represents a major step in the drive to dismantle the Medicaid entitlement program. Florida Governor Jeb Bush, brother of the president, voiced confidence that his proposal will have no opposition. The Florida program will serve as a guide to other state governments seeking to transform health care for the needy into a lucrative arm of the private insurance industry.

Medicaid programs are run by the states, which also determine the level and extent of coverage to recipients. However, the programs are jointly funded by the states and the federal government, and the state programs must meet federal standards. The administration and Congress are working out plans for billions of dollars of cuts at the federal level, but measures to undermine the program must be enacted by the states. While Florida’s was one of the most far-reaching of the state proposals, cuts are planned or have already been implemented in virtually every state in the country.

Governor Bush’s proposal, which changes Medicaid from a “defined benefit” to a “defined contribution” plan, caps the amount that can be spent to treat individual beneficiaries through the program. Based on personal health and expense history, Medicaid recipients will be allotted a set annual amount of funds to purchase private insurance. This means that if patients require care exceeding their predetermined allotment, they will be liable for the costs.

Recipients will be given a choice between several private insurers and if they do not choose will be automatically enrolled in a plan selected by the state. They may also choose to “opt out” of Medicaid altogether and receive payments toward an employer-sponsored insurance program.

The Florida proposal will essentially privatize Medicaid by directing funds to private insurance companies, who will have full discretion to limit “the amount, duration, and scope” of medical services. This will replace direct payments to physicians based on medical need. What is essentially involved is the transformation of the Medicaid program into a government-funded private insurance scheme. Effectively, the state would then be responsible only as a purchaser rather than provider or manager of medical care.

In justifying the new plan, Florida authorities have employed all the stock-in-trade phrases used to advance the corporate agenda of eliminating the last vestiges of the social safety net. In the state’s official fact sheet we are told that “beneficiaries are not currently empowered to make choices or rewarded for responsible behavior.” That is, the sick and disabled currently are not held financially responsible for their own desperate positions.

With the new reforms, “Consumers will be active participants in the Medicaid marketplace.” The key elements of the plan, the overview states, are “patient responsibility and empowerment,” “marketplace decisions,” “bridging public and private coverage” and, perhaps most importantly, “sustainable growth rate.” In other words, Medicaid spending will be drastically curtailed, while the program as a whole will be subordinated to the profit interests of giant corporations.

Calling the official announcement Wednesday “a day of transformation” for Medicaid, Secretary Leavitt praised the passage of Jeb Bush’s plan as a political triumph. He declared, “I believe it will be considered a milestone of national leadership.”

Joan C. Alker, a senior researcher at the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University, characterized the Florida Governor’s move to privatize as “one of the most far-reaching and radical proposals we’ve seen to restructure Medicaid. The federal government and the states now decide which benefits people get,” she told the New York Times. “Under the Florida plan,” Alker added, “many of those decisions will be made by private health plans, out of public view.”

With medical decisions now to be made in company boardrooms, there is no guaranteed coverage for those whose conditions may worsen but who are locked into capped accounts. Governor Bush, Leavitt and official statements have been very careful to give reassurances while avoiding specifics on the question of the cost of AIDS treatment. For Medicaid recipients with HIV or other degenerative, terminal diseases, the expense of treatment increases as health worsens. The Florida plan contains no specific provisions to ensure that such individuals would receive the care they need. Instead, they have been issued only general reassurances that private companies will make allowances for them.

The shift to managed care will take effect next July for 210,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in Broward and Duval counties in the first phase of a five-year plan that will eventually encompass all 2.2 million Floridians dependent on the program. Broward County includes a dense swath of the Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach metropolitan region; Duval encompasses the Jacksonville metro area. Both counties are predominantly low-income working class areas, with large minority populations.

The Florida plan is intended as a first shot at the Medicaid entitlement program, which will then be followed in states across the country. Vernon Smith, a former Medicaid director in Michigan and advocate of Medicaid reform, told the New York Times, “Florida’s program is groundbreaking. Every other state will be watching Florida’s experience. South Carolina has developed a similar proposal. Georgia and Kentucky are waiting in the wings.”

Mike Leavitt emphasized, “Florida’s framework will be helpful to other states.”

At the federal level, the Senate Finance Committee has reached a preliminary agreement on cuts to Medicaid and Medicare totaling $10 billion. The reductions, which are being criticized by the White House as not drastic enough, are coupled with $1.8 billion in additional funds for hurricane survivors. The administration has worked actively to scuttle proposals in the Senate to extend Medicaid to victims of the hurricanes. The Bush administration and insurance companies are also angered by attempts to reduce spending by eliminating the role of the private sector in managing Medicare funds.

Copyright 1998-2005
World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved


The rich continue to get richer...

The cherished dream of making a better life for oneself or one’s family slips farther and farther into the fog. In the last 30 years, according to the CIA World Factbook, nearly all gains in income for households has gone to the top 20% of those households. That means the remaining 80% are not doing anywhere near as well. In the last five years, 5 million people who were not in poverty before are now below the poverty level.

This is disgusting and immoral. There is no good reason for the infant mortality rate for black children in Washington D.C. to be higher than that in Kerala, India. None. To attribute it to reasons other than economic and racial...well it is manure—cow or horse, take your pick.

For the 80% who’s incomes either stagnated or declined, things are getting worse and worse. Maybe not perceptably, bit by bit, but to sit down and consider the losses: growing bankruptcy numbers, the professionals who had to take jobs at low pay, the swelling indebtedness of’s bad. We’re headed toward a two-tiered society: rich and poor. You wouldn’t know it to watch TV.

Desperate married women, Flashy sports cars to catch sexy women, friends who work in places that are one joke after another, endless parades of over-paid atheletes and silly celebrities—everything looks hunky-dory. Lots of nice cars to buy, people shopping for half-million dollar houses, great new gizmos, easy re-financing—wow, life’s a bash. Until the bills roll in and keep rolling in.

There it is: the bankruptcy of the American Dream. It’s simply a fantasy, now. 24, 2005

Growing Gulf Between Rich And Rest Of Us

By Holly Sklar

Guess which country the CIA World Factbook describes when it says, "Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20 percent of households."

If you guessed the United States, you're right.

The United States has rising levels of poverty and inequality not found in other rich democracies. It also has less mobility out of poverty.

Since 2000, America's billionaire club has gained 76 more members while the typical household has lost income and the poverty count has grown by more than 5 million people.

Poverty and inequality take a daily toll seldom seen on television. "The infant mortality rate in the United States compares with that in Malaysia -- a country with a quarter the income." says the 2005 Human Development Report. "Infant death rates are higher for [black] children in Washington, D.C., than for children in Kerala, India."

Income and wealth in America are increasingly concentrated at the very top -- the realm of the Forbes 400.

You could have banked $1 million a day every day for the last two years and still have far to go to make the new Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans.

It took a minimum of $900 million to get on the Forbes 400 this year. That's up $150 million from 2004.

"Surging real estate and oil prices drove up several fortunes and helped pave the way for 33 new members," Forbes notes.

Middle-class households, meanwhile, are a medical crisis or outsourced job away from bankruptcy.

With 374 billionaires, the Forbes 400 will soon be billionaires only.

Bill Gates remains No. 1 on the Forbes 400 with $51 billion. Low-paid Wal-Mart workers can find Walton family heirs in five of the top 10 spots; another Wal-Mart heir ranks No. 116.

Former Bechtel president Stephen Bechtel Jr. and his son, CEO Riley Bechtel, tie for No. 109 on the Forbes 400 with $2.4 billion apiece. The politically powerful Bechtel has gotten a no-bid contract for hurricane reconstruction despite a pattern of cost overruns and shoddy work from Iraq to Boston's leaky "Big Dig" tunnel/highway project.

The Forbes 400 is a group so small they could have watched this year's Sugar Bowl from the private boxes of the Superdome.

Yet combined Forbes 400 wealth totals more than $1.1 trillion -- an amount greater than the gross domestic product of Spain or Canada, the world's eighth- and ninth-largest economies.

The number of Americans in poverty is a group so large it would take the combined populations of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, plus Arkansas to match it. That's according to the Census Bureau's latest count of 37 million people below the poverty line.

Millions more Americans can't afford adequate health care, housing, child care, food, transportation and other basic expenses above the official poverty thresholds, which are set too low. The poverty threshold for a single person under age 65 was just $9,827 in 2004. For a two-adult, two-child family, it was just $19,157.

By contrast, the Economic Policy Institute's Basic Family Budget Calculator says the national median basic needs budget (including taxes and tax credits) for a two-parent, two-child family was $39,984 in 2004. It was $38,136 in New Orleans and $33,636 in Biloxi, Mississippi.

America is becoming a downwardly mobile society instead of an upwardly mobile society. Median household income fell for the fifth year in a row to $44,389 in 2004 -- down from $46,129 in 1999, adjusting for inflation.

The Bush administration is using hurricane "recovery" to camouflage policies that will deepen inequality and poverty. They are bringing windfall profits to companies like Bechtel while suspending regulations that shore up wages for workers.

More tax cuts are in the pipeline for wealthy Americans who can afford the $17,000 watch, $160,000 coat and $10 million helicopter on the Forbes Cost of Living Extremely Well Index.

More budget cuts are in the pipeline for Medicaid, Food Stamps and other safety nets for Americans whose wages don't even cover the cost of necessities.

Without a change in course, the gulf between the rich and everyone else will continue to widen, weakening our economy and our democracy. The American Dream will be history instead of poverty.

Holly Sklar is co-author of "Raise the Floor: Wages and Policies That Work for All Of Us" ( She can be reached at Copyright (c) 2005 Holly Sklar

Monday, October 24, 2005


More Secret Police Activity at Home

On the home front, this report out of the Washington Post on FBI violations of what laws there are against certain forms of domestic spying. I doubt the U.S. has ever quit spying on it's own citizens; the problem is that now the government has massive powers to do so.

Secret warrants, secret trials, secret judges, secret detentions—all in the name of National Security. Even what guarantees that are left are violated. And the secret police as well as the not-so-secret police want more powers. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

FBI Papers Indicate Intelligence Violations
Secret Surveillance Lacked Oversight

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 24, 2005; A01

The FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as 18 months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight, according to previously classified documents to be released today.

Records turned over as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit also indicate that the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations, which have been stepped up dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but are largely hidden from public view.

In one case, FBI agents kept an unidentified target under surveillance for at least five years -- including more than 15 months without notifying Justice Department lawyers after the subject had moved from New York to Detroit. An FBI investigation concluded that the delay was a violation of Justice guidelines and prevented the department "from exercising its responsibility for oversight and approval of an ongoing foreign counterintelligence investigation of a U.S. person."

In other cases, agents obtained e-mails after a warrant expired, seized bank records without proper authority and conducted an improper "unconsented physical search," according to the documents.

Although heavily censored, the documents provide a rare glimpse into the world of domestic spying, which is governed by a secret court and overseen by a presidential board that does not publicize its deliberations. The records are also emerging as the House and Senate battle over whether to put new restrictions on the controversial USA Patriot Act, which made it easier for the government to conduct secret searches and surveillance but has come under attack from civil liberties groups.

The records were provided to The Washington Post by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group that has sued the Justice Department for records relating to the Patriot Act.

Catherine Lotrionte, the presidential board's counsel, said most of its work is classified and covered by executive privilege. The board's investigations range from "technical violations to more substantive violations of statutes or executive orders," Lotrionte said.

Most such cases involve powers granted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs the use of secret warrants, wiretaps and other methods as part of investigations of agents of foreign powers or terrorist groups. The threshold for such surveillance is lower than for traditional criminal warrants. More than 1,700 new cases were opened by the court last year, according to an administration report to Congress.

In several of the cases outlined in the documents released to EPIC, FBI agents failed to file annual updates on ongoing surveillance, which are required by Justice Department guidelines and presidential directives, and which allow Justice lawyers to monitor the progress of a case. Others included a violation of bank privacy statutes and an improper physical search, though the details of the transgressions are edited out. At least two others involve e-mails that were improperly collected after the authority to do so had expired.

Some of the case details provide a rare peek into the world of FBI counterintelligence. In 2002, for example, the Pittsburgh field office opened a preliminary inquiry on a person to "determine his/her suitability as an asset for foreign counterintelligence matters" -- in other words, to become an informant. The violation occurred when the agent failed to extend the inquiry while maintaining contact with the potential asset, the documents show.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


Back By Unpopular Demand: Body Counts

United States of Amnesia again. Body counts have reappeared in reports from the front in Iraq.

Body counts first came into fashion back in the war against Viet Nam. They were ordered by military brass as p.r. b.s. to show how well the American side was doing against the N.L.F. (National Liberation Front) and the North Vietnamese. The spin was that the more bodies of the enemy, the more we were winning. As you remember, we lost. The body counts became a minor scandal, since it was revealed that any Asian body was considered an "enemy" body.

Once again we're given numbers of "enemy" dead—seventy here, fifty there, 65 somewhere else. Only there are these nagging reports that women and children are being counted as enemies, regardless of their actual status. Unless we're at the point where any dead Iraqi is, ipso facto, an enemy combatant. That's what it looks like.

Enemy Body Counts Revived
U.S. Is Citing Tolls to Show Success in Iraq
By Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 24, 2005; A01

Eager to demonstrate success in Iraq, the U.S. military has abandoned its previous refusal to publicize enemy body counts and now cites such numbers periodically to show the impact of some counterinsurgency operations.

The revival of body counts, a practice discredited during the Vietnam War, has apparently come without formal guidance from the Pentagon's leadership. Military spokesmen in Washington and Baghdad said they knew of no written directive detailing the circumstances under which such figures should be released or the steps that should be taken to ensure accuracy.

Instead, they described an ad hoc process that has emerged over the past year, with authority to issue death tolls pushed out to the field and down to the level of division staffs.

So far, the releases have tended to be associated either with major attacks that netted significant numbers of enemy fighters or with lengthy operations that have spanned days or weeks. On Saturday, for instance, the U.S. military reported 20 insurgents killed and one captured in raids on five houses suspected of sheltering foreign fighters in a town near the Syrian border. Six days earlier, the 2nd Marine Division issued a statement saying an estimated 70 suspected insurgents had died in the Ramadi area as a result of three separate airstrikes by fighter jets and helicopters.

That Oct. 16 statement reflected some of the pitfalls associated with releasing such statistics. The number was immediately challenged by witnesses, who said many of those killed were not insurgents but civilians, including women and children.

Privately, several uniformed military and civilian defense officials expressed concern that the pendulum may have swung too far, with body counts now creeping into too many news releases from Iraq and Afghanistan. They also questioned the effectiveness of citing such figures in conflicts where the enemy has shown itself capable of rapidly replacing dead fighters and where commanders acknowledge great uncertainty about the total size of the enemy force.
Nevertheless, no formal review of the practice has been ordered, according to spokesmen at the Pentagon and in Baghdad. Several senior officers and Pentagon officials involved in shaping communications strategies argued that the occasional release of body counts has important value, particularly when used to convey the scale of individual operations.

"Specific numbers are used to periodically provide context and help frame particular engagements," said Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, director of communications for the U.S. military command in Baghdad. He added, however, that there is no plan "to issue such numbers on a regular basis to score progress."

During the Vietnam War, enemy body counts became a regular feature in military statements intended to demonstrate progress. But the statistics ended up proving poor indicators of the war's course. Pressure on U.S. units to produce high death tolls led to inflated tallies, which tore at Pentagon credibility.

"In Vietnam, we were pursuing a strategy of attrition, so body counts became the measure of performance for military units," said Conrad C. Crane, director of the military history institute at the U.S. Army War College. "But the numbers got so wrapped up with career aspirations that they were sometimes falsified."

The Vietnam experience led U.S. commanders to shun issuing enemy death tallies in later conflicts, through the initial stages of the Iraq war. "We don't do body counts on other people," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in November 2003, when asked on "Fox News Sunday" whether the number of enemy dead exceeded the U.S. toll.

That policy appeared to shift with the assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah in November, an operation considered crucial at the time to denying safe havens to enemy fighters. U.S. military officials reported 1,200 to 1,600 enemy fighters killed, although reporters on the scene noted far fewer corpses were found by Marines after the fighting.
A surge in enemy activity this year has generated a corresponding increase in offensives by U.S. and Iraqi forces -- and a rise in the number of U.S. military statements containing numbers of enemy killed.

High-ranking commanders also have contributed to the trend. In January, Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. officer in Iraq, said U.S. and Iraqi forces had killed or captured 15,000 people last year. In May, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, mentioned the killing of 250 of insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi's "closest lieutenants" as evidence of progress in Iraq.

The Pentagon says its policy is still to try to avoid publicizing enemy body counts. But the U.S. military command in Baghdad does keep a running tally of enemy dead that is classified, and field commanders now have authority to release death tolls for isolated engagements in the interest, officials said, of countering enemy propaganda and conveying the size and presumed effectiveness of some U.S. military operations.

"For a discrete operation, it's a metric that can help convey magnitude and context," said Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman.

The release of such figures also can serve to boost the morale of U.S. forces and bolster confidence "that their plans and weapons work effectively," said Marine Lt. Col. David Lapan, spokesman for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, which operates in western Iraq.
Lapan said in an e-mail message that no "threshold" exists for deciding when to release an enemy death toll, adding that such decisions are made "on a case-by-case basis."
He indicated that the numbers are frequently derived from advance estimates of how many enemy fighters are at a targeted site, which explains why the death counts can sometimes get released so soon after an attack. Lapan said improvements in surveillance and targeting techniques allow for "greater certainty about the numbers of casualties we inflict in some situations."

In the case of the disputed Oct. 16 tally in Ramadi, Lapan stood by the figure of 70 enemy dead, saying the Marines "had information from a variety of sources that gave us confidence in the number of enemy fighters killed in the engagements."

Still, defense specialists such as Crane cautioned that enemy body counts in Iraq and Afghanistan are prone to inaccuracy and are of questionable significance. The murky nature of the conflicts, they said, make it difficult to know at times who is an insurgent, a criminal or an innocent civilian.

"There still are problems in identifying who is who, just as there were in Vietnam," Crane said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Ripping off The Government; Ripping off The Taxpayers

A couple of articles today about overcharging the government on defense and Homeland Security contracts. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, once again, that this goes on. The thing is it’s so blatant.

I suppose it’s just free-market economics doing it’s free-market thing with a little help from it’s friends in the federal government. If I was a cynic, I'd say there was something not quite right about this.

You have to admit, $20 for a plastic ice-cube tray is amazing.

Pentagon purchases: Millions in markups

By Lauren Markoe and Seth Borenstein
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon paid $20 each for plastic ice-cube trays that once cost 85 cents. A supplier was paid more than $81 each for coffee makers that for years were purchased from the manufacturer for $29.
That's because instead of receiving competitive bids or buying directly from manufacturers as it once did, the Pentagon now uses middlemen who set prices. It's the equivalent of shopping for weekly groceries at a convenience store.
And the practice is costing taxpayers 20 percent more than the old system, an investigation found.
The higher prices are the result of a Defense Department purchasing program called prime vendor, which favors a handful of firms. The program, run by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), is based on a military procurement strategy to speed delivery of supplies such as bananas and bolts to troops in the field.
Military bases still have the option of seeking competitive bids, but the Pentagon encourages them to use the prime-vendor system. At the DLA's main purchasing center in Philadelphia, prime-vendor sales increased from $2.3 billion in 2002 to $7.4 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Contractor Accused Of Overbilling U.S.
Technology Company Hired After 9/11 Charged Too Much for Labor, Audit Says
By Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Scott Higham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 23, 2005; A01

Federal auditors say the prime contractor on a $1 billion technology contract to improve the nation's transportation security system overbilled taxpayers for as much as 171,000 hours' worth of labor and overtime by charging up to $131 an hour for employees who were paid less than half that amount.
Three years ago, the Transportation Security Administration hired Unisys Corp. to create a state-of-the-art computer network linking thousands of federal employees at hundreds of airports to the TSA's high-tech security centers.
The project is costing more than double the anticipated amount per month, and the network is far from complete -- nearly half of the nation's airports have yet to be upgraded. Government officials said last week that the initial $1 billion contract ceiling was only a starting point for the project, which they recently said could end up costing $3 billion.
Procurement specialists said the Unisys contract illustrates the pitfalls of relying on corporations to manage ambitious homeland security contracts with little oversight from a thinly stretched federal procurement force. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, several projects have experienced similar problems with cost and performance, including efforts to hire federal airline passenger screeners and to place bomb detectors and radiation monitors at airports and seaports.

In two reviews conducted last year, federal auditors found that Unisys charged higher per-hour labor rates than were justified for lower-level employees, according to copies of the audits obtained by The Washington Post. For example, Unisys billed taxpayers $131.12 an hour for a technical writer who should have made no more than $46.43 an hour. The extra money was generally not passed along to the employees but was kept by the company.

Last spring, the auditors referred findings of "suspected irregularity" to the Office of the Inspector General at the Homeland Security Department, which includes the TSA, according to copies of the audits and referral.

Contractor Accused Of Overbilling U.S.
Technology Company Hired After 9/11 Charged Too Much for Labor, Audit Says
By Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Scott Higham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 23, 2005; A01

Federal auditors say the prime contractor on a $1 billion technology contract to improve the nation's transportation security system overbilled taxpayers for as much as 171,000 hours' worth of labor and overtime by charging up to $131 an hour for employees who were paid less than half that amount.

Three years ago, the Transportation Security Administration hired Unisys Corp. to create a state-of-the-art computer network linking thousands of federal employees at hundreds of airports to the TSA's high-tech security centers.

The project is costing more than double the anticipated amount per month, and the network is far from complete -- nearly half of the nation's airports have yet to be upgraded. Government officials said last week that the initial $1 billion contract ceiling was only a starting point for the project, which they recently said could end up costing $3 billion.

Procurement specialists said the Unisys contract illustrates the pitfalls of relying on corporations to manage ambitious homeland security contracts with little oversight from a thinly stretched federal procurement force. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, several projects have experienced similar problems with cost and performance, including efforts to hire federal airline passenger screeners and to place bomb detectors and radiation monitors at airports and seaports.

In two reviews conducted last year, federal auditors found that Unisys charged higher per-hour labor rates than were justified for lower-level employees, according to copies of the audits obtained by The Washington Post. For example, Unisys billed taxpayers $131.12 an hour for a technical writer who should have made no more than $46.43 an hour. The extra money was generally not passed along to the employees but was kept by the company.

Last spring, the auditors referred findings of "suspected irregularity" to the Office of the Inspector General at the Homeland Security Department, which includes the TSA, according to copies of the audits and referral.

Pentagon purchases: Millions in markups

By Lauren Markoe and Seth Borenstein
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon paid $20 each for plastic ice-cube trays that once cost 85 cents. A supplier was paid more than $81 each for coffee makers that for years were purchased from the manufacturer for $29.
That's because instead of receiving competitive bids or buying directly from manufacturers as it once did, the Pentagon now uses middlemen who set prices. It's the equivalent of shopping for weekly groceries at a convenience store.
And the practice is costing taxpayers 20 percent more than the old system, an investigation found.
The higher prices are the result of a Defense Department purchasing program called prime vendor, which favors a handful of firms. The program, run by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), is based on a military procurement strategy to speed delivery of supplies such as bananas and bolts to troops in the field.
Military bases still have the option of seeking competitive bids, but the Pentagon encourages them to use the prime-vendor system. At the DLA's main purchasing center in Philadelphia, prime-vendor sales increased from $2.3 billion in 2002 to $7.4 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Contractor Accused Of Overbilling U.S.
Technology Company Hired After 9/11 Charged Too Much for Labor, Audit Says
By Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Scott Higham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 23, 2005; A01

Federal auditors say the prime contractor on a $1 billion technology contract to improve the nation's transportation security system overbilled taxpayers for as much as 171,000 hours' worth of labor and overtime by charging up to $131 an hour for employees who were paid less than half that amount.

Three years ago, the Transportation Security Administration hired Unisys Corp. to create a state-of-the-art computer network linking thousands of federal employees at hundreds of airports to the TSA's high-tech security centers.

The project is costing more than double the anticipated amount per month, and the network is far from complete -- nearly half of the nation's airports have yet to be upgraded. Government officials said last week that the initial $1 billion contract ceiling was only a starting point for the project, which they recently said could end up costing $3 billion.

Procurement specialists said the Unisys contract illustrates the pitfalls of relying on corporations to manage ambitious homeland security contracts with little oversight from a thinly stretched federal procurement force. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, several projects have experienced similar problems with cost and performance, including efforts to hire federal airline passenger screeners and to place bomb detectors and radiation monitors at airports and seaports.

In two reviews conducted last year, federal auditors found that Unisys charged higher per-hour labor rates than were justified for lower-level employees, according to copies of the audits obtained by The Washington Post. For example, Unisys billed taxpayers $131.12 an hour for a technical writer who should have made no more than $46.43 an hour. The extra money was generally not passed along to the employees but was kept by the company.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Howard Zinn: Telling it like it is.

Reading Howard Zinn turned on lots of lights. They're still on.

Zinn's People's People's History of the United States is the most exciting history book I've read. Ever. It's in the title "People's."

There are few solid histories written that do not represent the official views of this country; most of them, these days, like to present history as celebrity biography. None of them go present our country's history as it really was: gritty, greedy, mean, and violent. How many history texts include the 600,000 Filippinos who died fighting the American occupation of their lands? How foolish of them to think that once Spain was evicted they would be free. America had to take on the White Man's Burden: our destiny demanded it—and so did our business and military groups. Most of us know, finally, that the "Indian Wars" were wars of conquest; it's just hard to learn the real human costs. Conquests: the War with Spain, the War with Mexico—not to mention our attempts to grab Canada... Not too much is said about the use of troops to suppress the union movement—what we're taught is that in New York there were bad places called "sweat shops" but it's all better, now.

Howard Zinn: Vision and Voice
By Terrence McNally, AlterNet
Posted on October 21, 2005, Printed on October 21, 2005

I first saw Howard Zinn when I was in college in the Boston area in the late 60s. Along with William Sloane Coffin of Yale and Noam Chomsky of MIT, he was a leader of protests against the Vietnam War. Nearly 40 years later, as Zinn speaks against another misguided foreign adventure, he's still vital at 83 and his voice and vision still vitally important. His classic, A People's History of the United States, has sold over a million copies.

Of his newest book, Voices of a People's History of the United States (co-edited with Anthony Arnove), Zinn has said, "Educators and politicians may say that students ought to learn pure facts, innocent of interpretation, but there's no such thing! Long before I decided to write A People's History, which came out in 1980, my partisanship was shaped by my upbringing in a working-class immigrant family, by my three years as a shipyard worker, by my experience as a bombardier in World War II, and by the civil rights movement in the South and the movement against the war in Vietnam. So I've chosen to emphasize voices of resistance -- to class oppression, racial injustice, sexual inequality, nationalist arrogance -- left out of the orthodox histories."

Terrence McNally: You weren't necessarily destined to be a college professor, were you?

Howard Zinn: No. I wasn't destined to be one, I wasn't prepared to be one, and certainly my parents didn't expect me to be one. I think my parents, like most working-class parents, just hope their kids will survive and be healthy and make a living of some sort. I was a shipyard worker for three years from the age of 18-21, then I was in the Air Force. But somewhere along the line I got interested in reading, in history, in politics. When I was a teenager I read Upton Sinclair and I read Karl Marx -- I'm not supposed to say that!

I think the remarkable thing is that you actually read him.

I did not read Volume Three of Das Kapital, but I read a lot of him. I read Sinclair and Jack London and Lincoln Steffens and all sorts of people who got me excited about the world around us, and interested in things like fascism and socialism and democracy and all of that.

When I got out of the Air Force, I was married and we had a kid and then two kids, and I was knocking around in various jobs and my wife was working. We were sort of a typical struggling young working class family living in a low income housing project in Manhattan, and I just decided to go to college under the G.I. Bill. Marvelous thing the G.I. Bill. Today not just Republicans but Democrats like Clinton say "the era of big government is over, we must get government out of this and government out of that." Well, the government can do marvelous things. Private enterprise was certainly not going to give working class kids an education. You leave things to the free market and the rich will go to college and the poor will go to work.

My dad, also a bombardier in World War II, came back and got an Ivy League education on that G.I. Bill, graduating with three children. Very similar situation. That isn't available today.

No, not at all. In fact, the way tuition has skyrocketed even in the state schools, it's very very difficult now for working-class kids to go to college. College is becoming again more and more a place for the well-to-do. That's just part of what has been a polarization of wealth in this country over these last decades, the rich becoming richer, the poor having children.

Was Spelman College your first teaching gig?

I had a couple of part-time teaching jobs while I was in graduate school, but Spelman was my first real, full-time teaching job. I didn't actually choose Spelman -- a black women's college.

I was thinking that was an odd fit, how did it happen?

Really an accident, I'm not black and I'm not a woman, right? I can't say I was such a socially conscious person that I wanted to teach at a black college in the South. No, not so at all. I was just looking for a job, and the president of Spelman was up north talking to my advisor at Columbia, and my advisors recommended me. So I met with the president of Spelman and he offered me a job as chair of a department. Imagine, my first job as chair of the department! I mean, a small department, but still. Frankly I hadn't even considered teaching at a negro college. I wasn't really even aware of that phenomenon, you see. Though of course at that time I was certainly very conscious of the race question.

How much did that odd turn in the road affect the rest of your life?

Oh, I think that it was critical. Seven years at Spelman, in the South, involved in the movement and involved with SNCC. I went from Atlanta to Albany, Georgia to report on the demonstrations there. Then to Selma, Alabama and Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Those seven years, those years of what is called the movement, were very exciting years and educational years and important years. I'm sure I learned more from that experience than my students learned from me.

How did you come to write first A People's History of the United States and now Voices of a People's History of the United States?

I think that those seven years in the south had a lot to do with my writing A People's History. Because here I was, a participant in some of the most exciting things happening in the country and writing about them. And realizing that so much of what was going on in the south at the grassroots in these little towns in southwest Georgia and Mississippi and Alabama, was not being reported in the newspapers. They were reporting the big events. Sure they would report the march on Washington, they would report when 10,000 people demonstrated in Birmingham. But so much was happening that was not being recorded for history.

It made me realize fully what I had up to then only realized partially: the necessity to tell the history of ordinary people and people's movements. To tell history from the point of view of people who had been left out of history; tell history from the point of view of the indigenous peoples, to tell the history of the Mexican war from the standpoint of the Mexicans.

Had you been in the ivory tower of an Ivy League school, you might have had an intuition that something was left out, but you were right among those people so the omission was all the more glaring.

That's right. So when I set out to write this book, I knew what I wanted to do. I was going to tell the story of the anti-slavery movement from the standpoint of the black abolitionists. I had been taught about the abolitionist movement in graduate school, but it seemed like mostly a white movement. We were taught about Garrison and Phillips and Lovejoy, and yes, there was Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman, but there was no real understanding of the part that black people played in their own liberation and in their own struggle against slavery.

I realized that if you look at history from the point of view of black people, of native Americans, of women, of working people, everything looks different. A lot of the heroes suddenly are not heroes any more. It's still true, in traditional history Andrew Jackson still represents democracy, and Theodore Roosevelt represents I don't know what, but...

-- trust busting, maybe ...

Trust busting, yeah. He busted more human beings in war than he busted trusts. He engineered the invasion of the Philippines, a bloody war.

I learned in your book that 600,000 Phillipinos died in that war.

I know it's startling because we don't learn that in school. We learn about the Spanish American War, which was a short and victorious war, and then there's some little item about how we went and took the Philippines. Well, the Philippine war was a long and bloody war, in many ways a precursor of the Vietnam War, with its massacres and atrocities. It was so blatant as an act of aggression, preventing a people from running their own country. Once the Spaniards were out, the Philippinos wanted to run the Philippines themselves, but no, the United States wanted the Philippines, and would take it at a cost of 600,000 lives.

Let me read a quote of yours: "I want to point out that people who seem to have no power, whether working people, people of color, or women -- once they organize and protest and create movements -- have a voice no government can suppress." Do you find that's still true today?

Well, the exercise of power by people is always something in process. It's always something that's ongoing. and so it depends on what point in the process you look at. If you look at the movement against racial segregation at an early point, you won't see the power of the people, it won't have been realized yet. It won't have resulted yet in racial desegregation or in laws passed by Congress to allow black people to vote.

If you look at the movement against the war in Vietnam. ... In the early years when it was still a minority movement and the war was still going full blast, you don't see that power. Movements suffer defeat after defeat after defeat before they break through. There's a certain moment in history where they break through. And we are at a moment now in the war in Iraq where a movement is growing against the war. You can see it in public opinion polls. You can see where two years ago Bush had 70 percent of the public behind him, now he has less than half of the public behind him in the war.

Would it be fair to say that Cindy Sheehan is a current incarnation of the people who speak in Voices of a People's History of the United States?

Oh, absolutely. You know Anthony Arnove and I carry this up to the current war. We bring it up to war resisters, to G.I.'s who refused to go to Iraq. Cindy Sheehan has become a phenomenon just in the last few months. If we were doing a new edition of Voices, we certainly would include her.

In fact, now when we have public readings from the Voices book, we include some things that aren't in the book, and one of the things we include is the voice of Cindy Sheehan.

In 1967 you wrote Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal. What would you write today in Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal?

First let me cite a couple of generals on the matter. The L.A. Times reported October 1st that "The U.S. generals running the war in Iraq presented a new assessment of the military situation in public comments and sworn testimony this week: The 149,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq are increasingly part of the problem. During a trip to Washington, the generals said the presence of U.S. forces was fueling the insurgency, fostering an undesirable dependency on American troops among the nascent Iraqi armed forces and energizing terrorists across the Middle East."

What's the military case for withdrawal and the political case for its happening?

Certainly, from the generals' own point of view, from the military point of view, it's just disaster or loss. And when they say so, then you know that all of the elements are falling into place for a withdrawal. The only question is when, how soon?

The longer we wait to withdraw the more people will die. All the arguments about how if we withdraw it'll be chaos are absurd because there is chaos now. And the chaos in fact is to a large extent -- and those generals indicated that -- caused by our occupation. It's the occupation that's fuelling so much of the anger and so much of the violence. So the most healthy thing we can do is to get out of there as quickly as possible. Even from a military point of view, we're losing, we have to get out.

From a larger moral point of view, of course, we didn't belong there in the first place, we don't deserve to be there. Even if we were winning, it would be an immoral victory. We have won before at certain times where the winning was not something we could be proud of.

We won in the Philippines -- we defeated the Philippinos, and what was the result? The result was fifty years of occupation, dictatorship and poverty. So the real question, the moral question is not "are we losing or are we winning?" The question is, "why are we there?"

And we seem to be there for oil, for military bases, for the psychological kicks that people in power get from extending the American Empire. So both from a practical and military point of view, the fact that we're losing -- and from the long term moral point of view, which asks are we doing the right thing -- the best thing that we can do is to get out of there as quickly as possible.

I remember you as one of the first speakers I saw at some of the earliest demonstrations against the Vietnam war. You followed how long it took to get out of there. How do you see this one playing out? In other words, you've made the case that both politically and militarily it's really the only choice, how do you suspect it's going to play out?

Exactly how it will happen, I don't know. I can say confidently it will happen. I can't say confidently when it will happen, I can't say confidently how it will happen. I can say in a general sense it will become more and more obvious that it's a disaster.

Public opinion, which is already heavily against the war, will become even more so. The press following public opinion, always lagging behind, will finally speak up strongly. Some of the very timid politicians of the Democratic Party, who talk half-heartedly about "Oh, let's withdraw in a year or so," maybe they will be induced by their constituents and by the rise of public opinion, to come out more strongly against it.

At a certain point I think the administration will have to find a way out, and a way to explain that to the American public, to give the public a reason. They're good at that. I mean, they have a huge staff of people making up reasons for the stupid things they do. This time they'll be making up reasons for a good thing that they do.

Interviewer Terrence McNally hosts Free Forum on KPFK 90.7FM, Los Angeles (streaming at, where he interviews people he believes can help create 'a world that just might work.'

© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?