Where are the screams?

 Posted by at 22:41  Politics
Nov 302003
 

Bush Baghdad trip distracts media from black sheep brother

President George Bush’s lightning public-relations strike on Baghdad last week will have provided him with powerful television imagery with which to launch his re-election campaign next year. But the sight of the President serving Thanksgiving turkey to the troops has also served to overshadow – at least for the moment – a catalogue of potential political embarrassments created by his younger brother. Neil Bush caused trouble for their father, President Bush the first, more than a decade ago because of his role in the collapse of a savings and loan company that ended up costing American taxpayers $1.3bn (£750m). Now he is in trouble again, largely as a result of the startling revelations from a highly acrimonious divorce.

Some have been tawdry in a strictly sexual sense. First, that Neil had run off with the female half of a couple he and his ex-wife, Sharon, both once regarded as good friends. (Sharon Bush now suspects the two-year-old son of Neil’s new girlfriend might be his, although she is being sued by the girlfriend’s ex-husband for saying so.)

Or, that he had had sex during business trips to Thailand and Hong Kong with a series of women who, according to his sworn testimony, had spontaneously appeared at his hotel door without expecting payment… Asked whether the women were prostitutes, he told his ex-wife’s lawyers he didn’t know, but acknowledged that the arrangement was “very unusual”.

Potentially more damaging revelations – certainly for the Oval Office – concern business rather than pleasure, and the strong impression that Neil might have taken brazen advantage of his membership of America’s most powerful political family to make a killing on business deals.

Exhibit A is a consultancy with Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing of Shanghai, under which Neil is due to be paid $2m over the next five years to provide occasional “expertized advices” [sic] and attend board meetings. When Sharon’s lawyers confronted him with the fact that he had no background in semiconductors, he answered: “That’s correct.”

Exhibit B is a contract with a Washington-based firm that helps companies secure reconstruction work in post-war Iraq. Neil Bush said that he was providing “miscellaneous consulting services” to Crest Investment, including “answering phone calls”, for about three hours a week. For this he is being paid $60,000 a year.

The suspicion is that Neil Bush’s real role is to provide access to the White House. Both companies have strong political connections – Grace via its co-founder, the son of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, and Crest via Joe Allbaugh, George Bush’s 2000 campaign director, who is in business with Crest’s chief executive, Jamal Daniel.

Whether any of this might damage the President or not, it adds to a conviction that the Bush family has been trading off its political connections for years. In 1993, George Bush Snr took Neil, his brother Marvin and a clutch of outgoing White House officials to Kuwait where they all ended up doing lucrative business deals.

On that occasion, Neil sold anti-pollution equipment to Kuwaiti oil contractors. An executive with the company he was representing told The New Yorker: “There is no conflict of interest … We’re just capitalising on whatever good feelings exist.”

Go back and read this story again. Only this time, take yourself back about five or ten years. Every time you see the words “Neil” and/or “Bush”, substitute the words “Roger” and/or “Clinton.”

Now, imagine the screams coming from the Republican side of the aisle.

Now, take out the words Roger and Clinton and put the words Neil and Bush back in. Hear the screams?

What’s that you say?

No screams? You don’t hear any screams?

How strange.

How very, very strange.

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HIV/AIDS

 Posted by at 18:30  Election 2004
Nov 302003
 

Governor Dean Announces HIV/AIDS Policy

BURLINGTON– Governor Dean, marked tomorrow’s World AIDS Day, by announcing that he would honor the country’s national and international commitments to combat the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. He today released policy proposals aimed at combating AIDS both here in the U.S. and across the globe.

“This is a crisis of pandemic proportions and we must give it the attention it deserves. HIV and AIDS are both a public health and a national security issue. They have the potential to create vast economic and political destabilization in many parts of the developing world. It is time to move beyond the rhetoric offered by President Bush and to focus on real results both across the globe and here at home,” Governor Dean said.

Here in the U.S., more than 800,000 men, women, and children have been diagnosed with AIDS and nearly a million more are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Each year, more than 40,000 Americans become infected with HIV, an average of one person every 13 minutes.

Today, AIDS is also the leading cause of death in many parts of the world. As their parents die, millions of AIDS orphans–as many as 40 million by the end of this decade–will be left without the care and support they need.

Last year alone, 3 million people worldwide died because of AIDS. Another 40 million people are now living with HIV or AIDS, and they will succumb to this disease unless they have access to life-saving treatment. The pace of new infections is accelerating dramatically, with 5 million more people becoming infected each year.

Governor Dean also criticized President Bush for undercutting his State of the Union promise to strongly boost funding to combat AIDS as well as his administration’s nearly 40 percent cut to the U.S. commitment to the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. In both cases, Congress ended up raising the appropriations against the administration’s wishes.

“President Bush has not only failed to live up to his promises to fight AIDS around the world, he has also failed to ensure access to life-saving and life-prolonging medicines for Americans with HIV and AIDS,” Governor Dean said.

Dean promised that he would address AIDS both domestically and internationally. Domestically, he promised to:

  • Provide quality health care for every American. By covering those lacking health insurance we can prevent, and provide critical early treatment for, serious illnesses such as HIV and AIDS.
  • Increase funding for care and treatment. A Dean Administration will promote prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment of HIV. This is especially important for racial and ethnic minorities who are disproportionately affected by this pandemic and who often are diagnosed late or enter treatment later than recommended.
  • Promote sensible and comprehensive prevention efforts. As a physician, Dean has seen the power of prevention in saving lives. There is strong, compelling evidence that HIV prevention initiatives, including condoms, needle exchange programs, accessible testing and progressive education on safe behaviors, can reduce the transmission of HIV. A strong emphasis must be placed on prevention approaches focused on women, communities of color, adolescents, and young gay men.
  • Support research and development of treatment without political interference.

On the international front, Dean promised to:

  • Restore our role as a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
  • Renew the fight against Global AIDS, by providing $30 billion in the fight against AIDS by 2008 to help the Global Fund meet its resource requirements and to fund US bilateral global HIV/AIDS programs, as well as offer debt relief to nations fighting the AIDS pandemic to allow for much needed health investments.
  • Improve the vital healthcare infrastructure of the world’s developing countries.
  • Assist orphans and children cast adrift by the AIDS pandemic.

“As a physician, I understand disease, the need for medical and public health investments, and the role that untreated disease can play in devastating individuals, families, communities, and whole societies. I know the critical importance of prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment. As President, I will not stand silent while this disease continues to claim victims,” Governor Dean said.

On November 17, 2003, Governor Dean signed the Presidential Pledge To Action on Global AIDS, sponsored by the Global AIDS Alliance.

Fooled ya!

 Posted by at 16:28  Politics
Nov 302003
 

The Bush Betrayal

In 2000 George W. Bush campaigned across the country telling voters: “My opponent trusts government. I trust you.”

Little wonder that some of his supporters are now wondering which candidate won that election.

Federal spending has increased by 23.7 percent since Bush took office. Education has been further federalized in the No Child Left Behind Act. Bush pulled out all the stops to get Republicans in Congress to create the biggest new entitlement program — prescription drug coverage under Medicare — in 40 years.

He pushed an energy bill that my colleague Jerry Taylor described as “three parts corporate welfare and one part cynical politics . . . a smorgasbord of handouts and subsidies for virtually every energy lobby in Washington.”

It’s a far cry from the less-government, “leave us alone” conservatism of Ronald Reagan.

Conservatives used to believe that the U.S. Constitution set up a government of strictly limited powers.

It was supposed to protect us from foreign threats and deliver the mail, leaving other matters to the states or to the private sector — individuals, families, churches, charities and businesses.

That’s what lots of voters assumed they would get with Bush. In his first presidential debate with Al Gore, Bush contrasted his own vision of tax reduction with that of his opponent, who would “increase the size of government dramatically.” Gore, Bush declared, would “empower Washington,” but “my passion and my vision is to empower Americans to be able to make decisions for themselves in their own lives.”

Bush was tapping into popular sentiment.

In fact, you could say that what most voters wanted in 2000 was neither Bush nor Gore but smaller government. A Los Angeles Times poll in September 2000 found that Americans preferred “smaller government with fewer services” to “larger government with many services” by 59 to 26 percent.

But that’s not what voters got. Leave aside defense spending and even entitlements spending: In Bush’s first three years, nondefense discretionary spending — which fell by 13.5 percent under Ronald Reagan — has soared by 20.8 percent. His more libertarian-minded voters are taken aback to discover that “compassionate conservatism” turned out to mean social conservatism — a stepped-up drug war, restrictions on medical research, antigay policies, federal subsidies for marriage and religion — and big-spending liberalism justified as “compassion.”

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I see naked people

 Posted by at 04:15  Election 2004
Nov 302003
 

Dean gathers steam; others question odds of beating Bush

BEDFORD, N.H. — Near the end of five frenzied days when Howard Dean crisscrossed the country campaigning in five states and three time zones, a New Hampshire radio host asked Dean a bottom-line question: “How do you respond to the criticism (that) you might do well in the primaries, but in the general campaign they’ll eat you for lunch?”

As the clear poll leader in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary Jan. 27, and locked in a statistical dead heat with Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., in Iowa, where Democrats vote in caucuses Jan. 19, Dean hears that question increasingly, yet more from the media than from voters.

The former Vermont governor dismisses the question’s very premise: “I’m probably the only Democratic candidate that can be elected in November.”

Dean is moving fast to solidify his front-runner status. Enthusiastic crowds greet him at every stop. Both avid supporters and undecided voters are more likely to ask Dean about the war in Iraq, education, health care or the economy than whether he can win.

(snip)

People at Dean rallies voice no doubt.

“I never saw anything like this, and it’s only the primaries,” said Cindy Montgomery, a professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She was speaking of the excitement Dean generates among true believers as she attended a raucous party celebrating Dean’s 55th birthday this month at a D.C. restaurant.

“He’s a decent man who can do a better job” as president, said Chris Foster of Germantown, Md. “That’s all we want, and that’s what we’re going to get. He’s not Moses come down from the mountaintop. He’s a decent man.”

Dean rolled to his lead for the Democratic presidential nomination by opposing the war in Iraq, but he steadily is adding layers to his relentless attack against Bush policies. Dean wants to overhaul Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education law, repeal his tax cuts entirely and extend health-care insurance to everyone.

He also is stacking up endorsements that should help him expand his initial base of upper-middle-class whites. In New Mexico recently, he won endorsements from the National Congress of American Indians and former Gov. Tony Anaya, a prominent Hispanic American.

Earlier, in Washington, he locked up two big unions and also had Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois stand by his side as he won the symbolically important support of Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Dean insists he’s going to compete for the South; he even campaigned last week in Bush’s home state of Texas.

Texas Republicans say no Democrat can win the state.

“There’s a lot of money in Texas to be donated to both political parties, so Dean had to come drag the bag,” said Court Koenning, executive director of the Harris County Republican Party. But “he’s gonna get his clock cleaned in the general election. I’ll run around naked and you can call me Sally if Bush loses Texas.”

While many analysts say that Dean’s drive for his party’s nomination may be unstoppable if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire in January, Dean says the nominee won’t be determined until the March 2 Super Primary, when 10 states vote, including California, New York, Georgia and Ohio.

“The critical battleground in this election is going to be the state of Ohio,” he said.

Meantime, Dean has a problem the eight other Democratic contenders wish they had — he is weighing whether to upgrade to a larger jet to accommodate the steadily growing corps of media clamoring to travel with him.

Of course Texas Republicans say no Democrat can win this state. What would you expect them to say? Do you really think they would admit that there is every possibility that Governor Dean will carry Texas? He’ll carry every state if people wake up and vote for their own best interests.

I wonder if Court Koenning will keep his promise? “I’ll run around naked and you can call me Sally if Bush loses Texas.” I, personally, have never laid eyes on Mr. Koenning. Does anybody want to see him naked? And, does he really look like a Sally when he is naked? Are these questions to which we really want answers?

Perhaps it’s best that we not hold him to his promise.

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The infamous bus ticket

 Posted by at 00:17  Election 2004
Nov 302003
 

Some newspaper columnists appear to have way too much free time. At least, this one does…

ONE of Howard Dean’s favorite stump-speech lines is a promise to give President Bush “a one-way bus ticket back to Crawford, Tex.”

The trouble is, there is no bus to Crawford, where Mr. Bush has a ranch and would presumably retreat after his stint in the White House. Greyhound’s closest station is in Waco, 18 miles away, and Waco’s local bus service, known as the Hop, stops at the city limits.

There are three options if Dr. Dean gets his wish and sends the president ridin’ the dog to Waco. Mr. Bush could leave at 1:50 a.m. and arrive the next afternoon at 2:50, making 29 stops but only one transfer. Or take the 9:30 a.m. bus, cutting the trip by three hours and 45 minutes but requiring three transfers – which would complicate work for his Secret Service busmates. Or leave at 11 p.m. on the shortest route, although it includes two overnights, landing in Waco – remember, he still needs a ride to the ranch – at 7:30 a.m., two days after leaving Washington.

The cost is not, as Dr. Dean might seem to suggest, getting two million people to donate $100 each to his campaign, but just $145 ($79 with seven-day advance).

Mr. Bush can take solace in the tradition that departing presidents get a final ride home on the presidential airplane. But there appears to be no specific constitutional impediment to alternative transportation on Greyhound One.

Whatever. The point is… well, you know the point. (We might let him use the plane, as long as he has no more than two pieces of carry-on luggage, and they both fit in the overhead bin.)

While a bus ticket from D.C. to Waco may in fact only cost $145 ($79 with seven-day advance), it is going to cost a whole lot more than that to get Mr. Bush out of Washington. Have you done your part yet?

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Drums!

 Posted by at 23:48  General
Nov 292003
 

Whatever you do during the holidays, do not let your kids find this virtual drum set! Fully guaranteed to drive the in-laws right up the wall.

Or, you could try: “I’ll stop playing if you promise to never vote for another Republican as long as you live.”

Could work.

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A view from the right

 Posted by at 22:51  Politics
Nov 292003
 

The embarrassing GOP

by Cal Thomas

The just concluded (thankfully) Congress is an embarrassment to itself and everyone who favors smaller government. This Republican Congress, in addition to increasing spending on entitlements and expanding big government – like the Democrats they once criticized – also dished out $95 billion in tax breaks and pork-barrel projects.

The Heritage Foundation’s Brian M. Riedl says mandatory government spending will reach 11.1 percent of GDP this year, a record high, and non-defense discretionary spending in 2003 will amount to 3.9 percent of GDP for the first time since 1985. Riedl also predicts taxes will inevitably have to be raised to pay for it all. What politician wants to be demagogued about cutting “essential services”?

The Republican “oath” says, “I believe that the proper function of government is to do for the people those things that have to be done but cannot be done, or cannot be done as well, by individuals, and that the most effective government is government closest to the people.” Would some lawyer please sue the Republican National Committee for violating truth-in-labeling laws?

Smaller government and less spending? That’s a joke. Eleven years ago, Newt Gingrich, who would soon become Speaker of the House, blasted Democrats for seeing “no contradiction between adding a billion and a half dollars in pork-barrel (spending) for the politicians in their big-city machines and voting for a balanced budget amendment.” Now that Republicans are doing precisely what Democrats did when they were in the majority, what shall we call these overspending Republicans? Hypocrites? Liars?

The Wall Street Journal editorialized (Nov. 24): “The Republican Congress is turning into something of an embarrassment, if not a crackup.” Who is going to pay for all of this stuff? Who will pay for the new prescription drug benefit that will not even be means-tested? There are no cost controls in this bill. Without them, congressional spending will be out of control.

The Bush administration was supposed to hold the line on spending as a justification for the tax cuts. The president has criticized Washington for spending too much money, yet without a peep he signs legislation that increases the budget of the Department of Education and many other agencies. And the justification for more federal education spending is that we are going to make sure the kids are held accountable. Accountability takes money?

The federal government will now spend $21,000 per household, up from $16,000 in 1999, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Riedl. How much of that $21,000 could you spend that would produce better results for yourself and family?

We are moving rapidly, under Republican “leadership,” past the nanny state and the welfare state to what might be called the state as family. The government will be our keeper (we shall not want). Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of poverty, the federal government will be there to comfort us. Anyone who complains about this will be called “rich” and (by definition) insensitive and uncaring about his fellow man.

The time when the Republican Party stood for something worth standing for is over. The “G” in GOP might as well stand for government. Smaller, less intrusive government with less spending and lower taxes is the stuff of history books and fond memories for a party that once had a purpose. But Republicans, having tasted power, are now drunk with it. Like the Democrats before them who became inebriated with the wine of success, Republicans now seem interested only in preserving their elective offices.

Truly there is less than a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties. If only term limits would catch on! But the very people who are the problem would have to vote for the idea and there isn’t any money in it.

Defense and anti-terrorism spending aside, there is no excuse for much of the rest of it. It is a pathetic betrayal of the faith many had put in the Republican Party to reduce the size and role of government in our lives.

Is it time for another revolution yet? Who’s got the tea?

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Cheap labor

 Posted by at 18:44  Politics
Nov 292003
 

Europe’s Cheap U.S. Labor

It’s time again to overeat and commemorate the Pilgrims coming to these shores to build their democratic theocracy and share some grub with the natives. The natives, we all know, didn’t make out so well as the European conquest progressed, but that, at least, was then.

Or was it? In fact, right now, in the opening years of the 21st century, Europeans are still coming here to exploit the American workforce.

The irony is that these European-based global enterprises are the kind of model corporate citizen over there that has all but vanished over here. In Europe, they pay their workers decently, tend to health and safety concerns and actually encourage their employees to unionize.

When they cross the Atlantic, however, they find themselves in a brave new world where wages have eroded (a new Russell Sage Foundation study concludes that 24 percent of U.S. workers make less than $8.70 an hour) and employees’ rights to unionize have been effectively abolished. And rather than bring their Euro standards with them, the companies go native.

(snip)

So it’s come to this: When European employers look to the United States, they see roughly the same thing that U.S. employers see when they look to China: millions of low-wage workers who have all but lost the right to organize and a government intent on keeping things just the way they are.

The erosion of worker power and the growth of employer supremacy here have transformed the bottom half of the U.S. workforce into a vast exploitable mass worthy of a colonial backwater.

Something to chew on as we give thanks for the marvel that once was America.

It’s kind of ironic that we are always hearing about U.S. corporations sending their jobs overseas because labor is cheaper there. It seems that to European corporations, we are “overseas.” Read the full article for just a couple of shining examples.

Howard Dean: Supporting America’s Workers

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Tax cuts?

 Posted by at 17:25  Politics
Nov 292003
 

George W. Bush thinks his tax cuts are stimulating the economy. Louis Uchitelle of the New York Times tells the real story…

As Stimulus, Tax Cuts May Soon Go Awry

LAUDING the Bush tax cuts isn’t easy. They have turned a comfortable budget surplus into a constraining deficit, and they are enriching the wealthy far more than families with only five-figure incomes.

The one mitigating factor is stimulus. The tax cuts are helping to revive the economy by putting more spending money into people’s pockets. But even that will soon backfire.

The stimulus is at its peak right now. During the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, the nation’s taxpayers pocketed $117 billion, mainly from rebates and from reductions in paycheck withholding as lower tax rates went into effect. That $117 billion, which is the portion of the tax cut going only to individuals and not to companies, rises to $200 billion in the current fiscal year, the Congressional Budget Office reports.

Most of the windfall from both fiscal years is packed into the 12 months that started last summer and will end next summer. Not surprisingly, this front-loading of the tax cuts coincides with the improving economy. But then the payout declines gradually, snuffing out the stimulus – unless there is another big tax cut. Or as Chris Varvares, president of Macroeconomic Advisers, put it, “We have reduced the scope of using fiscal policy to cushion the economy in the next downturn.”

Tax cuts function as stimulus only when they increase the amount that people spend. If America’s $10 trillion economy expands by $117 billion in a given year, to a total, say, of $10.117 trillion, there is growth. Among other good things, the additional spending on goods and services generates jobs for people entering the labor force as the population expands. And the rising demand for workers begins to absorb those who lost jobs during the 2001 recession and the weak recovery that followed. The unemployment rate thus falls.

The $200 billion flowing to taxpayers in the current fiscal year includes the second installment of the $117 billion they received the previous year and an additional $83 billion. If all $200 billion is spent on goods and services, then there is still work for the people hired a year earlier, as well as job creation to satisfy the additional $83 billion in spending. All else being equal, the economy expands to a total of $10.2 trillion.

A big chunk of the $200 billion will come to people as tax refund checks in the next six months – a timely shot in the arm in a presidential election year. Then the shrinking begins as the tax cuts run their course. For fiscal 2005, which starts next Oct. 1, just a month before the election, the tax windfall for individuals will total only $168 billion. There will be another drop in fiscal 2006, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, basing its calculations partly on the tax cuts themselves (80 percent will have been paid out by 2005) and partly on an assumption about how much taxable income the economy will generate.

The Bush tax cuts are not designed as a long term solution to a failing economy. They are designed with one goal — to ensure that Mr. Bush and the Republican party stay in power after the 2004 election. The moral of this story is that if you are planning on voting for George Bush or any other Republican because you got a “tax cut,” you will be making a very big mistake. Your tax cut will be short lived, but the atrocities committed by these people are going to be with us for a long, long time.

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Deeper in the hole

 Posted by at 02:30  Politics
Nov 292003
 

No Escaping the Red Ink as Bush Pens ’04 Agenda

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 — President Bush is heading into 2004 facing a growing budget deficit, frustration among some Republicans about what they see as a lack of fiscal discipline and a challenge in putting together an election-year agenda that will not plunge the government all the deeper into debt, lawmakers, analysts and administration officials say.

The legislative victories chalked up by the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress this year, including a new round of tax cuts and the final approval this week of a Medicare prescription drug benefit, came with a price tag that further weighed down a budget already saddled with the costs of fighting terrorism and stabilizing Iraq.

The deficit, projected a few months ago to be around $475 billion for the fiscal year that started on Oct. 1, now seems likely to hit $500 billion, up from $374 billion last year. The White House’s goal of cutting it at least in half within a few years will be hard to achieve despite the economic rebound and the growth in tax revenue it is expected to generate, budget analysts in the government and on Wall Street say.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Bush administration official who is now director of the Congressional Budget Office, said bringing the deficit down to some $250 billion in the next five years “is going to be very hard to do” even if the economic recovery remains strong and unemployment falls sharply.

(snip)

Saying the economic rebound had been “built on a foundation of reckless and irresponsible tax cuts and record-setting levels of debt,” one Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean, issued a statement this week asserting that the White House’s fiscal policy would ultimately come back to haunt the country.

“This president’s approach,” Dr. Dean said, “is the equivalent of mortgaging your house to get spending money for the weekend.”

I repeat — it is time to get the Republicans out of Washington and put the grown-ups back in charge again.

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