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Page   1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Washington - Page 42

"No One enjoys pork more than I do." - Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN)

Chao Patronizes Kannapolis Unemployed

Employee Advocate – – February 15, 2004

The U. S. Department of Labor used to be an advocate for the workforce, as its name implies. That was all before G. W. Bush was effectively instated in the White House by the Supreme Court. All the government agencies are now headed by Bush toadies. Beware any “help” offered by these agencies. They will help reduce your pension, help reduce your salary, help reduce you health coverage, and help ensure that you have to work until the day you keel over.

The Charlotte Observer reported that Labor Secretary Elaine Chao “blessed” the people of Kannapolis by visiting. She gave the usual nonsensical Bush spiel. According to her, shipping American jobs overseas is no problem at all.

It’s certainly no problem for Elaine Chao and her puppeteer, G. W. Bush!

Ms. Chao claimed to understand workers' fears. Perhaps Ms. Chao neglected to read her program card. Fear is the dread of something bad that may happen. The people of Kannapolis are not simply fearing the loss of employment, they are experiencing it each day!

Ms. Chao said that 300,000 American jobs are being outsourced overseas. She does not see the big deal. She said “It's very small.”

The she contradicted herself by saying “But the aspect that concerns all of us is that it seems to be a huge trend. It's scary.”

Ms. Chao is not the least bit concerned about American job going overseas, overtime pay evaporation, or pensions not being paid. Her only function is to perform, as Bush pulls her strings.

The whole Bush crowd is parroting the “outsourcing is good for you” line. None other that N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of G. W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, said “Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade.” He added that outsourcing is “probably a plus for the economy in the long run.”

Outsourcing jobs, losing overtime pay, losing pensions, losing health insurance is all good – good for G. W. Bush and the parasites that he represents.

The legislative branch has no power to make laws. G. W. Bush gets around this minor inconvenience by issuing rules to interpret the laws. He does not care who writes the laws, as long as he get to interpret them. That’s how many employees will end up losing overtime pay. Of course, Ms. Chao was touting how great the rule changes were.

Ms. Chao had a plan to thwart any employee who might benefit from the new overtime rules. The Labor Department issued tips to corporations on how to avoid paying overtime! One great tip was to just cut the employees’ pay. This way workers could end up working extra hours just to make what they used to make working only forty hours!

That tip works a lot like a cash balance pension conversion. Employees get to work until age 65 to get the same pension promised at age 55.

The Associated Press reported that Mark Wilson, lawyer for the Communications Workers of America, said “This plan speaks volumes about the real motives of this so-called family-friendly administration.”

He added that cutting workers' pay to avoid overtime is illegal, based on a 1945 Supreme Court ruling and a 1986 memo by the Labor Department under President Reagan.

As if having Ms. Chao in Kannapolis was not bad enough, U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes was also there. He voted to ship out the jobs of Kannapolis workers, even after vowing not to!

There is widespread unemployment in Kannapolis. There is poverty in Kannapolis. Evidently Ms. Chao and Rep Hayes were there to admire the fruits of their labor.

Robin Hayes and Cass Ballenger Sell Out

The Secretary of Labor Is the Enemy of Labor – by David Moberg – February 15, 2004

David Moberg is a senior editor at In These Times, a Chicago-based biweekly news and opinion magazine.

(February 4, 2004) - By law, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao is required "to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States." Given her record, American workers might want to make a symbolic citizens' arrest of the secretary for breaking the law.

At the moment, Chao's prime offense is promotion of changes in overtime pay rules. They would deprive an estimated 8 million workers - such as secretaries, sales representatives, and medical or legal workers - of their right to time-and-a-half premium pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. Last month, Chao testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee that only 644,000 workers would lose that protection. But Economic Policy Institute economist Jared Bernstein explained how the Labor Department ignored large groups of affected workers to come up with its inaccurate, low-ball number.

Chao also insisted that the new rules would make 1.3 million new workers eligible for overtime pay, but Bernstein showed that fewer than 700,000 would benefit. Even many of those workers could be denied the premium overtime pay if employers follow the suggestions that the Labor Department helpfully provided. Departmental guidelines illustrate how employers could first lower workers' base pay, then add the overtime premium, so that the employers will pay no more than they do now.

The law was originally intended to exempt a small number of executive, administrative and highly educated professional employees from the requirement that their employers pay a premium for overtime.

But Chao's Labor Department vastly expanded the definition of what counts as professional training. Now the training that veterans received in the military could be used as an excuse to deny them overtime pay for such jobs as engineer, accountant or medical technologist.

The Senate voted last fall to deny the Labor Department funds to implement the new rules, but the Bush administration threatened to veto the omnibus appropriations bill if the Senate blocked the rules. Last month, the Senate passed the appropriations bill, giving the president and Chao the green light to implement rules that will cut the pay of many workers and increase employer pressures on others to work longer hours with no extra pay.

The overtime fight, which unions vow to continue, is simply one of many reasons why AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said that "in all my years I've never seen a secretary of labor so anti-labor." Within her first month in office, Chao was defending administration executive orders to restrict labor-management partnerships in federal government, to reverse Clinton-era job protection for janitors in federal buildings and to ban "project labor agreements" for federal construction projects.

These agreements typically provide uniform negotiated work rules and a ban on strikes - benefiting workers while reducing cost and construction time for the projects. Chao also supported canceling new rules on the design of work to prevent debilitating muscular-skeletal injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome that affect millions of workers. Although finally promulgated under Bill Clinton, the rule-making was initiated by the labor secretary in the first Bush administration.

Chao bragged to a conservative think tank that she had cut her department's budget more than any other cabinet secretary. She slashed funds for enforcing federal laws governing the workplace (including safety and labor standards), practically eliminating the department of international affairs - which fights against child labor and for higher labor standards in countries around the world. She removed labor representatives from trade and workplace safety advisory committees. Her Occupational Safety and Health Administration has withdrawn roughly two dozen planned regulations, including a rule that would have required employers to pay for workers' personal protective equipment - leaving low-income and immigrant workers especially vulnerable.

She offered no resistance to administration moves to deny collective bargaining rights for many federal workers, including those in the new Department of Homeland Security. In the fall of 2002, Chao and other Bush administration officials intervened on the side of employers in a West Coast docks contract dispute, ultimately by threatening to issue an injunction prohibiting the union from striking at a time when the employers had locked out the workers and closed the docks.

While Chao was cutting enforcement of worker protections, she stepped up enforcing union reporting requirements. Federal courts first stopped her from implementing massive new financial reporting that largely was costly harassment, then later simply delayed the rules until after July 1.

At the same time, Chao did nothing to renew temporary extended unemployment compensation when that program expired in December, even though workers had just experienced the longest period of job loss since the Depression. The number of unemployed persons for each job vacancy was greater than a year earlier, and the number of long-term unemployed had not declined, but Chao didn't speak up for those workers.

Chao pushes her intense ideological agenda even in the smallest gestures. For example, she appointed anti-union Labor Department officials to the board of the department's Labor Hall of Fame, which pays tribute to famous American labor leaders like Mother Jones, Eugene Debs and John L. Lewis. Last year, Chao's appointees chose chocolate magnate Milton Hershey, whose managers organized a "loyal workers club" in 1937 to beat "with clubs, pipes, blackjacks and fists" 200 sit-down strikers defending the desire of a majority of workers to form a union, according to labor historian Donald Kennedy.

The choice may be an insult to workers, but it's a fitting embodiment of the values of the current Secretary of Anti-Labor.

The Ethics Panel Stirs

New York Times - Editorial – February 11, 2004

Published: February 10, 2004

The House ethics committee, one of Washington's more rubber-toothed watchdogs, will soon hold its first meeting in four months, with Republicans explaining that there simply hasn't been much to talk about. That's true only if you ignore two major ethics issues that have cropped up in those months. But it's not all that surprising that the committee is reluctant to deal with them because one involves last year's biggest piece of legislation and the other one of the most powerful members of Congress.

The committee should fully investigate allegations of attempted bribes and intimidation made by Representative Nick Smith, Republican of Michigan, after the infamous long-count vote last November on the Medicare bill. The second item on the committee's agenda, harder but more important, should be the seamy scheme by the Republican majority leader, Tom DeLay, to exploit a tax-exempt charitable foundation to underwrite his entertaining, fund-raising and political galas at the G.O.P. convention this summer.

Mr. DeLay, of course, was part of the leadership that bent House standards to keep the 15-minute voting period on the Medicare bill open for almost three hours while members were being frantically whipped into line. Representative Smith, a holdout furious at the arm-twisting, dared to complain publicly that "bribes and special deals" had been offered, including "$100,000-plus" for the campaign of his son, Brad, who is running to succeed his father, who is retiring. Representative Smith later retreated as calls were heard for a criminal investigation. He insisted that it was "technically incorrect" to specify bribes. Rather, he said, an offer of "substantial and aggressive campaign support" for his son had come from unidentified colleagues.

Mr. DeLay is raising money for his charity, Celebrations for Children, which is supposed to help abused and neglected children but operates more like Mr. DeLay's personal political fund.

A brochure says the organization's "marquee event" for 2004 will be the Republican National Convention in New York. Promised events include a "luxury suite" where wealthy favor-seekers can mingle with congressmen, senators and high-ranking staff members, a golf tournament at Bethpage Black Course, private receptions, dinners, yacht cruises, tickets to Broadway shows "and more."

The furor over the Medicare vote has at least penetrated the hibernation of the ethics panel, prompting an "informal fact-finding." The panel has a responsibility to surprise the nation, and certainly the House, by producing a thorough accounting of what truly happened. Likewise, the committee cannot honorably ignore Mr. DeLay's misuse of a charity to underwrite his own personal and political agenda. A real ethics watchdog would retain an independent counsel to investigate Mr. DeLay's circumventions, and warn members away from the partying and politicking he has planned in the name of helping children.

Medicare Bill Rewards Insurers and AARP

Resignations Over Leaked Documents

Employee Advocate – – February 7, 2004

Another Republican staffer has resigned over unauthorized access and the leaking of Democratic documents, according to the Associated Press. Republicans are not supposed to have access to on-line documents that belong to the Democrats. But republicans have been accessing these documents for a year – and then leaking them to the press.

Bill Frist's computer had been seized during the probe by the Secret Service, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, and outside investigators.

A staff member of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist resigned Friday. Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch had previously placed an aide on leave. That aide no longer works for the government.

The memos related to the political strategy used to block confirmation of some judicial nominations. The leaked memos have been reported on by The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times.

The unauthorized access and leaking of documents were not the only “dirty tricks” involved in judicial appointments. Democrats had blocked the nomination of U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering Sr. to a federal court of appeals for over two years. G. W. Bush merely waited until Congress was recessed and appointed the judge anyway. The Senate confirmation process will now be sidestepped for at least a year.

Utility Bailout Considered

Employee Advocate – – February 7, 2004 posted a document proving that G. W. Bush considered bailing out utilities during the California energy crises. The White House asked the Treasury to study a taxpayer guaranteed bailout, such as Chrysler received in 1980.

FBI Probes Cheney's Staff

Employee Advocate – – February 6, 2004

There appears to be a break in the case of the CIA officer's identity being exposed last year, according to Richard Sale, in the February 17, issue of Insight. Federal officials cite hard evidence of possible criminal misconduct by two employees of V. P. Dick Cheney's office.

Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby and John Hannah are under investigation.

A source said “We believe that Hannah was the major player in this.”

This problem ties back to other festering issues of this administration. It is believed that the CIA agent was exposed to punish her husband for revealing the truth about Bush’s weapons of mass destruction claims.

Richard Sale is an intelligence correspondent for UPI, a sister wire service of Insight magazine.

Critics Blast EPA's New Mercury Proposal – February 3, 2004

The Bush Administration on Friday released a dramatically weakened plan for regulating toxic mercury from coal-burning power plants, a proposal that was written in part by industry and one that is drawing sharp criticism from its own children's health advisers.

Exposure to mercury by pregnant women and women of childbearing age can cause permanent brain damage to fetuses, infants and young children. But utilities -- the largest source of mercury emissions -- had lobbied against stiffer mercury regulations as too difficult and costly.

The EPA's own panel of experts on children's health lodged a protest with the agency over the proposal last week. The Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee, which includes pediatricians, businesspeople and scientists, said it was concerned that the agency's plan "does not sufficiently protect our nation's children," in a letter to EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt.[1] "While cost effectiveness is important, the priority should be to protect children's health in a timely manner."

Friday's formal publication of the proposal kicked off a 60-day public comment period, during which EPA will hold three hearings and citizens can submit written comments.[2]

The Administration is proposing to allow the single largest unregulated source of mercury -- coal-fired power plants -- to continue emitting high levels for at least the next decade, leaving children exposed to risks of developing problems with walking, talking and learning, clean air advocates charge.

In 2000, the EPA determined that because of the serious health threats posed by mercury, it should regulate mercury from power plants. In 2001, EPA estimated that under the Clean Air Act, available technologies could reduce 90 percent of mercury from power plants.

But Friday's proposal instead would allow some power plants to avoid reducing mercury emissions by letting plants sell pollution "credits" to others that fail to meet their own mercury targets. EPA proposes allowing power plants to emit six to seven times more mercury pollution into the air for a decade longer than its 2001 determination.

Critics charge that the only beneficiaries of the EPA plan are electric utilities that rely on coal-fired plants. They note that President Bush has been by far the top recipient of campaign contributions since year 2000.[3]

The Washington Post noted in a story Saturday that whole passages of the EPA's proposal were taken directly from a memo written by a law firm representing the utility industry -- "at least a dozen paragraphs were lifted, sometimes verbatim, from the industry suggestions."[4]

White House records show that while utility representatives were invited to discuss the mercury emission proposal with the White House several times last fall, no consumer or public health groups were included.[5]

[1] Letter to EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt, Jan. 26, 2004
[2] Federal Register notice
[3] "Proposed Mercury Rules Bear Industry Mark," Jan. 31, 2004
[4] Center for Responsive Politics
[5] White House records, Mercury MACT rule

The Schizophrenic EPA

Cheney Cannot Shake Halliburton

Employee Advocate – – February 2, 2004

V. P. Dick Cheney cannot shake the bad press due to his being the former CEO of Halliburton. But he really does not want his relationship with Halliburton to be completely severed. He is still receiving millions of dollars from the corporation, according to the Chicago Tribune and government disclosures. Cheney received $162,392 in 2002 and has his eye on over $400,000 in Halliburton stock options.

The Bush administration has handed Halliburton $7 billion in Pentagon-related work over the past year.

Why have there been no hearings about the alleged Halliburton sweetheart deals? Republican House and Senate leaders have blocked all attempts to have the matter investigated. When the White House and Congress rubber stamp the Halliburton agenda, who is to stop it? When the Supreme Court rubber stamps the White House agenda, what is likely to change?

This administration does not pass the smell test. The stench gets worse day by day.

Howard Opinsky, media adviser to Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., in 2000, addressed the likelihood of Halliburton becoming an election issue. He said “I think it already has become an issue, I suspect it will continue to be one. It's up to the Democrats to run against the Bush-Halliburton ticket, not the Bush-Cheney ticket. And the challenge for the Republicans is that it's difficult to explain.”

Halliburton is using the failed Duke Energy approach to make the issue go away: advertisements. Trust no company that has to buy “I’m Not a Crook” ads!

Halliburton President David Lesar wrote, "Halliburton is one of the few companies in the world capable of contracting to assist in rebuilding Iraq. Critics imply this contract was somehow related to special interests. Nothing is further from the truth."

How many times have corporate executives made such statements over the past two years – right before they went up in flames? It is similar to a red neck shouting “Watch this!” – it’s likely to be his last words.

Halliburton ads have stated that it is uniquely qualified for the work in Iraq. Point well taken. Only Halliburton has its former CEO serving as V. P. of the US.

G. W. Bush and Dick Cheney have been all about catering to the energy corporations and then hiding all the details. Lawsuits have not been able to pry any energy information out of Dick Cheney. Even the General Accounting Office had to sue the Bush administration, in an attempt to get details of the energy task force meetings. To date, no one has been able to get any energy information out of this administration.

Enron probably had the strongest ties to G. W. Bush. But Enron made too many mistakes and had to be sacrificed. Political cronies look out for one another, unless one makes too big of a mistake. In that case, the offending party gets its throat slashed. Hey, better to sacrifice one that to let the whole crowd be exposed!

Senator John Kerry said “This president has an open hand for his friends at Halliburton, but he has turned his back on our friends and neighbors.”

Congressmen Want Scalia Off Energy Case

From Legislator to Lobbyist

Employee Advocate – – January 29, 2004

Public Citizen has called for an ethics investigation of Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-La.). The question is: Did he negotiate a lucrative job with a pharmaceutical lobbying group while promoting an industry-friendly Medicare drug bill?

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a lobbying group, offered employment to Mr. Tauzin after he helped get the Medicare bill passed. The offer is said to be worth $2.5 million.

Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen's president, said “The record size of the PhRMA contract and the fact that the offer became public less than two months after the drug industry scored a major victory with this legislation raises serious questions about whether Rep. Tauzin's actions were tainted. While Rep. Tauzin was writing the bill, he put out the word that he was retiring from Congress and looking for new work. This doesn't pass the smell test.”

Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, said “It is distressing that Rep. Tauzin has negotiated private employment with a business interest that was so actively engaged in lobbying for the Medicare legislation. Apparently, the prescription drug bill was not only a windfall for the pharmaceutical industry, but also for several public officials involved in negotiating the measure. Members of the public already have low confidence in the ethics of congressional lawmakers. This is another scandal that will taint the image of Congress. The ethics committee needs to act to clean up its House.”

In December, Public Citizen filed an ethics complaint against Thomas Scully, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He represented the Bush administration in discussions about the new drug bill. At the same time, he was negotiating employment with two investment firms and three lobbying firms. These firms had a major stake in the legislation he was working on.

Advisor Ties to Defense Contractors

Evidence Shows No WMD

Employee Advocate – – January 28, 2004

Former chief inspector David Kay said yesterday that new evidence was discovered indicating that Iraq’s weapons were destroyed in the mid-1990’s, according to the Washington Post. The evidence was in the form of documents and interviews with Iraqis.

G. W. Bush keeps changing his story as the evidence unfolds. First he said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. When none could be found, he said that some might be found yet. Now he is backing off of that statement.

Bush’s latest spin: “I said in the run-up that Saddam was a grave and gathering danger -- that's what I said.”

Mr. Kay said that the Iraqis tried to "come clean, but we wouldn't believe them."

9/11 Warning Was Ignored

9/11 Warning Was Ignored

Employee Advocate – – January 27, 2004

German secret service agents testified that the United States was warned of the impending 9/11 attacks, but chose to ignore it, according to The Guardian. An alleged al-Qaida terrorist, Hamid Reza Zakeri, provided the information to the CIA.

The alleged bag man is now charged with 3,066 counts of aiding and abetting murder.

McNamara on Vietnam and Iraq

McNamara on Vietnam and Iraq

Employee Advocate – – January 26, 2004

Doug Saunders interviewed Vietnam War architect Robert McNamara for The Globe and Mail. Everyone should read it.

Even though the parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq wars are undeniable, Mr. McNamara has tried to stay out of the fray. He has broken his silence and says the United States is making the same mistakes all over again.

Robert McNamara admitted that he was wrong about the Vietnam war nine years ago when he wrote “Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.”

At age 87, Mr. McNamara is undoubtedly a tad wiser. He said “We're misusing our influence. It's just wrong what we're doing. It's morally wrong, it's politically wrong, it's economically wrong… There have been times in the last year when I was just utterly disgusted by our position, the United States' position vis-à-vis the other nations of the world.”

Paul O'Neill Exposes Bush

'It's Just Wrong What We're Doing'

Government by Corporations

Employee Advocate – – January 17, 2004

Government of the Corporations, by the Corporations, for the Corporations

A government task force ran a mercury bait-and-switch routine of sorts, according to the Washington Post. For over 20 months, task force gave the impression that it was going to recommend forcing coal-fired power plants to reduce mercury emissions. Mercury exposure can inflict humans with such things as developmental and neurological damage.

The group was sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It agreed that all fossil power plants must reduce pollutants, such as mercury.

Without warning, the panel was dismantled in April, 2003. Co-Chairman John A. Paul said that no one knew why.

In November, 2003, it was revealed that the Bush administration was using a “more flexible” portion of the Clean Air Act!

The danger of mercury pollution would be downgraded, utilities would get 10 more years to upgrade equipment, and polluters would be able to buy a license to pollute! The license would be in the form of emission “credits,” purchased from less polluting utilities.

Some task force members believed the administration had hoodwinked them. One member said “It is as though the working group never existed. Just when we think we have a process in action to control mercury from every power plant, they walk away from it.”

S. William Becker, panel member, said “It was a huge decision that demonstrated that [the EPA's] desire wasn't to regulate mercury in the way that Congress and a federal advisory committee and other stakeholders had anticipated.”

Panel member, John Stanton, said “This is a case of politics polluting science.” He said that the administration’s slight-of-hand will let utilities off the hook for 60 other toxins!

Jeffrey R. Holmstead, EPA senior air quality official, designed this rule-bending contortion. He was formerly an industry lawyer, with ties to H. W. Bush.

The Clinton administration rejected a similar approach, as possibly being illegal. An EPA official said that Mr. Holmstead was even warned that the ploy may not be legal.

Philip S. Angell, an advisor to EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt, said “Sure, there's concerns about legal problems with this approach, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try it or that it doesn't have value.”

Adding to the mercury madness, yet another mercury regulation was simultaneously proposed, to meet a deadline.

Under the Bush administration, it is obvious that federal agencies, created to protect the public, now cater to corporate demands. Corporate cronies were the only people allowed on the Cheney Energy Task Force and the details are still hidden from the public.

The Associated Press reported that the Bush administration wants to give corporations even more control of the federal government. The report stated “The Bush administration is proposing a new presidential council to give U. S. companies a greater voice in government decisions, officials said Thursday.

Corporations are pretty much writing their own laws now. Can you imagine corporations having a greater voice? The only voice you will have is at the polls. Use your vote wisely!

Debating Mercury Policy Behind Closed Doors

Paul O'Neill Exposes Bush

Employee Advocate – – January 12, 2004

The 60 Minutes program, on Sunday, was even better that expected. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is going public because he thinks the Bush Administration has been too secretive about how decisions have been made. Mr. O’Neill is just the guy to do the job.

Paul O'Neill said the very first agenda discussed by the Bush administration was the removal of Saddam Hussein. Mr. O’Neill put all his cards on the table and backed them up with 19,000 internal documents.

The documents included everything from thank you notes to transcripts of private, high-level National Security Council meetings.

The full story will be in the book: The Price of Loyalty. Mr. O’Neill refused to accept any money from the book sales.

Mr. O’Neill was asked if he was prepared for the impending White House attack. Mr. O’Neill appeared puzzled and said “Well, I don't think I need to be because I can't imagine that I'm going to be attacked for telling the truth. Why would I be attacked for telling the truth?”

A Time article summed up Mr. O’Neill’s view of the matter. V. P. Cheney asked him to announce that it was O'Neill's decision to leave his post. Mr. O’Neill replied “I'm too old to begin telling lies now.”

Mr. O’Neill said “Loyalty to a person and whatever they say or do, that's the opposite of real loyalty, which is loyalty based on inquiry, and telling someone what you really think and feel—your best estimation of the truth instead of what they want to hear.”

Mr. O’Neill added “I'm an old guy, and I'm rich. And there's nothing they can do to hurt me.”

Senator Kerry On Iraq War Charges

CBS provided a transcript of the 60 minutes program:

Bush Sought ‘Way’ To Invade Iraq?

Senator Kerry On Iraq War Charges

Senator John Kerry – Press Release – January 11, 2004

John Kerry Responds to Secretary O’Neill’s Iraq Charges

(January 10, 2004)
“These are very serious charges by a former high ranking Administration official. We already knew the Administration failed to focus on the threat from Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda. We already knew the Administration broke every promise they made to work through the U.N., use the resolution to enforce inspections, build a coalition, and plan for peace. But Secretary O’Neill’s revelations would mean the Administration never intended to even try to keep those promises. It would mean they were dead-set on going to war alone since almost the day they took office and deliberately lied to the American people, Congress, and the world. It would mean that for purely ideological reasons they planned on putting American troops in a shooting gallery occupying an Arab country almost alone. The White House needs to answer these charges truthfully because they threaten to shatter their already damaged credibility as never before.”

‘So What’s the Difference?’

The Schizophrenic EPA

Employee Advocate – – January 11, 2004

The Associated Press reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims to be trying to enforce the law, even as it makes new rules to render the laws useless.

EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt said that air pollution lawsuits against eight coal-fired power plants would proceed. The Bush administration tried to effectively kill these laws through new regulations. A federal court has blocked the attempt to water down the EPA rules. Out of the other side of Leavitt’s mouth, came the statement that the administration would fight the court ruling to block the regulations!

Bill Becker heads a group for state and local air-pollution-control officials. He said “It is very difficult to pursue the enforcement of existing lawsuits with rules that EPA no longer supports. While the agency says they're going to pursue these lawsuits, their heart has led them into a totally different direction, and one that provides huge loopholes in the enforcement of that program.”

Strange things happen in election years, as politicians try to straddle as many fences as possible.

The fifty air pollution investigations that were dropped were not mentioned.

EPA Officials are Bailing Out

Energy Firms Paying Tab for GOP Trip

USA Today – by Jim Drinkard – January 8, 2004

(1/6/04) - WASHINGTON — A dozen or more congressional Republicans will gather at a resort in balmy Phoenix this week to hear the legislative wish lists of Western coal, power and mining companies — and raise money from them.

The four-day conference begins today with a $1,500-per-person round of golf and private dinner, dubbed "Mulligans and Margaritas." The money raised from industry officials will be divided among the re-election campaigns of the lawmakers, most of whom serve on committees that oversee the mining and energy industries.

Members of Congress often take privately sponsored trips. Such trips are allowed under ethics rules if they are primarily for fact-finding or other official business.

But guidelines issued by the House ethics committee warn the chamber's members "to avoid even the appearance that solicitations of campaign contributions are connected in any way with an action taken or to be taken in their official capacity."

The conference includes panel discussions with policymakers interspersed with cocktail receptions, dinners and two other golf tournaments. One agenda item: drawing up a "Top Ten To-Do List" for Congress for 2004.

"It is a festival of access-buying," says Frank O'Donnell of the Clean Air Trust, an environmental group often at odds with the conference's industry sponsors.

The event was organized by the Western Business Roundtable, which lobbies for reduced government regulation and other pro-business policies. Its members include utilities, mining companies, railroads and energy companies.

On its Web site, the group claims credit for a long list of lobbying successes. Among them: getting the Environmental Protection Agency to loosen rules governing toxic mercury emissions from power plants.

Jim Sims, the group's executive director, said industry sponsors will pay the food and lodging tab for members of Congress and other government participants. Rooms at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa start at $395 a night. Sims rejected O'Donnell's characterization, calling the event "an open-ended Western issues conference" that will focus on proposals to rewrite clean-air laws and the energy bill stalled in Congress.

Attendees include Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and representatives of the Energy and Interior departments and the EPA.

Sims said House members confirmed as attending include Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Cannon of Utah; Jim Kolbe of Arizona; Denny Rehberg of Montana; Darrell Issa of California; and Tom Tancredo of Colorado.

$5 Million Spent to Woo Senators

EPA Officials are Bailing Out

Employee Advocate – – January 7, 2004

The Environmental Protection Agency, that once protected the environment, is now a shill for corporations. According to The New York Times, disgusted EPA officials are bailing out of the agency.

J. P. Suarez, EPA enforcement division head, is going to work for a Wal-Mart division.

In August, the Bush administration changed rules that let 50 power plants off the hook for air pollution violations. A federal court has blocked the new rules, for now.

Rich Biondi, EPA associate director, air enforcement division, said “The rug was pulled out from under us. You look around and say, ‘What contribution can I continue to make here?’ and it was limited.”

Within the last two weeks, the head of air enforcement division and his deputy retired. Other enforcement lawyers have resigned or retired. Eric Schaeffer, EPA head of civil enforcement, resigned in 2002. He wrote a scathing letter condemning the Bush administration for lax enforcement of the Clean Air Act.

Sylvia K. Lowrance, acting assistant administrator for enforcement, also left in 2002. She said “We will see more resignations in the future as the administration fails to enforce environmental laws.”

Agreements that had been reached with some power companies fell apart when G. W. Bush rode into town. V. P. Dick Cheney's secret energy task force helped get the violators off the hook.

There have also been secret meetings to weaken the laws on mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants.

Debating Mercury Policy Behind Closed Doors

G. W. Bush is oblivious to the economic damage that environmental degradation causes.

104 Economists Warn Bush

‘So What’s the Difference?’

Employee Advocate – – December 26, 2003

The AFP reported that US Senate Republicans are finally ready to resume the probe of what G. W. Bush knew before the Iraq war. Did he know for a fact that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was he lying through his teeth?

Republicans halted the probe over six weeks ago because Democrats would not cater to their demands that “Democrats disavow their strategy paper, identify its author and present a formal apology for allegedly trying to manipulate the probe.”

The CIA recently admitted that it “lacked specific information” about WMD when it compiled a 2002 intelligence estimate to justify the invasion.

Bush was asked on TV whether he had hard facts about Iraqi weapons or just feared Baghdad may acquire them. Bush replied “So what’s the difference?”

Senator Carl Levin said the remark was “a stunning revelation (of Bush’s) thinking and of his decision to go to war. There is a huge difference between having something and seeking something.”

The sad part is that Bush probably really does not know the difference. He sees no distinction between being truthful and lying to the American people and Congress. He sees no difference between a war for national security and a war for his personal reasons.

Walter Reed Photo-Op

Walter Reed Photo-Op

The Daily Mis-Lead - – December 24, 2003

Bush Pays Lipservice to Vets, Then Slashes Their Health Care

(December 23, 2003)
Late last week President Bush visited combat veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center. During his visit, he said "We have made a commitment to the troops, and we have made a commitment to their loved ones, and that commitment is that we will provide excellent health care - excellent care - to anybody who is injured on the battlefield." 1

His comments stand in stark contrast to the policies he has pushed - and the record he has amassed - as President. Just this year alone, the President "announced his formal opposition to a proposal to give National Guard and Reserve members access to the Pentagon's health-insurance system"- a slap in the face to thousands of troops, especially considering "a recent General Accounting Office report estimated that one of every five Guard members has no health insurance." 2 The President also this year proposed to cut $1.5 billion (14%) out of funding for military family housing/medical facilities. This followed his 2002 budget which, according to major veterans groups, "fell $1.5 billion short" of adequately funding veterans care. 3

This is not the first time the President has staged a photo-op to thank veterans at Walter Reed and then proposed policies that hurt veterans. A little less than a year ago, the President visited the medical hospital 4, and then on the same day announced his proposal to cut off 164,000 veterans from the VA's prescription drug discount program. 5

The result of the President's harsh treatment of veterans is that "more than 235,000 veterans are currently waiting 6 months or more for initial medical appointments" with "many veterans waiting 2 years just to be seen by a doctor." 6 At Ft. Stewart, Georgia, UPI reported "hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait - sometimes for months - to see doctors." 7 And CBS News reports that the administration appears, in some cases, to be denying benefits to soldiers wounded in Iraq. Specifically, many soldiers say they are seeing their pay and health benefits severely reduced after they are badly wounded. 8

1., 12/18/2003.
2. Gannett News Service, 10/23/2003.
3. Independent Budget, 01/07/2002.
4., 12/17/2003.
5. “VA Cuts Some Veterans' Access to Health Care", Washington Post, 01/17/2003.
6. Independent Budget, Paralyzed Veterans of America.
7. “Sick, wounded U.S. troops held in squalor", UPI, 10/17/2003.
8. “Wounded Troops Denied Benefits?", CBS News, 12/18/2003.

The High Price of Awards

The High Price of Awards

Employee Advocate – – December 23, 2003

Time magazine has named the American soldier as “Person of the Year.”

The American forces are really racking up lately. In addition to this award, a few “pre-selected” soldiers recently received a plastic turkey from G. W. Bush! Those not on the list were turned away from the dinner. Some soldiers ate survival rations for Thanksgiving dinner.

Those who have been betrayed on pay and benefits always seem to get awards and plastic turkeys as compensation. The same thing happened to the emergency workers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. G. W. Bush heaped praise on all the emergency workers that responded initially and those that dug through the rubble of the World Trade Center afterwards.

G. W. Bush gave the 343 firefighters that died responding to the attacks a lot of lip service. But when it came time for him to approve a bill to fund fire departments, he developed amnesia. Bush rejected the bill. The wealthy get tax cuts; real heroes get awards and plastic turkeys.

Because of the actions of Bush, The International Association of Fire Fighters voted unanimously to boycott a national tribute to firefighters who died.

Bush lied to Congress and the American people to get the Iraq war started, to suit his own agenda. The supposed reason for the was changes on a daily basis. And, what real compensation has Bush provided to the soldiers for their sacrifices?

G. W. Bush has given the armed forces praise and plastic turkeys, but he has also curtailed pay and benefits. Combat pay was cut out in Iraq. It must be safe in Iraq now, Bush declared the major fighting was over on May 1, 2003.

Soldiers have been forced to pay their own travel costs when they were allowed to visit home. Wounded soldiers have been forced to pay for their meals in military hospitals. Veteran health benefits have been reduced. Even military pensions have been under assault.

Military personnel are often used as guinea pigs to test experimental vaccines. Just Monday, a federal judge ordered the Pentagon to stop forcing U.S. service members to take an anthrax vaccine, according to the Associated Press. Only this month, an Ohio National Guard soldier was court-martialed and sentenced to 40 days in jail for refusing the take the vaccine.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that that troops cannot be forced to “serve as guinea pigs for experimental drugs.”

Awards and plastic turkeys may be nice, but things do not seem to balance out for military personnel or emergency responders.

Washington Does Not ‘Support the Troops’

Firefighters to Boycott Bush

Veterans Protest Loss of Health Care

Bush’s Fake Populism

Essential Jobs Deserve More Pay, Respect

Senators Vow to Protect Military Pensions

The Hypocrisy of Labor Day

Washington - Page 41