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A Real ApologyEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – May 9, 2004
The article below was published March 30, 2004. A reporter apologizes for the media’s role in promoting Bush’s personal war on Iraq. Will Congress ever apologize for the grievous error of giving G. W. Bush the power to start war?
Elite print media failed its readers on the Iraq War
By Rick Mercier
Date published: 3/30/2004
THE MEDIA are finished with their big blowouts on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and there's one thing they forgot to say: We're sorry.
Sorry we let unsubstantiated claims drive our coverage.
Sorry we were dismissive of experts who disputed White House charges against Iraq.
Sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us.
Sorry we fell for Colin Powell's performance at the United Nations.
Sorry we couldn't bring ourselves to hold the administration's feet to the fire before the war, when it really mattered.
Maybe we'll do a better job next war.
Of course it's absurd to receive this apology from a person so low in the media hierarchy. You really ought to be getting it from the editors and reporters at the agenda-setting publications, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. It's the elite print media that failed you the most, because they're the institutions you have to rely on to keep tabs on the politicians in Washington (television news cannot do the kind of in-depth or investigative reporting that print media can do--when they're doing their job properly).
In the past several months, the Times, the Post, and other print media have gotten around to asking questions about the quality of prewar intelligence on Iraq and about whether the administration might have misused that intelligence to sell the war to Americans and the rest of the world.
Most of these media outlets, however, also need to conduct self-examinations. From the horrendously distorted coverage of Times reporter Judith Miller (her sins in many ways were far worse than those of plagiarist/fabricator Jayson Blair) to the bewildering (and biased?) news judgment of the Post's editors, journalists at America's most influential publications helped ensure that a majority of you would be misinformed about Iraq and the nature of the threat it posed to you.
Stenographers or journalists?
The main reason you were misinformed is that the major print media were too willing to take the White House at its word. A study released earlier this month by the University of Maryland's Center for International Security Studies at Maryland concluded that much of the prewar coverage about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction "stenographically reported the incumbent administration's perspective" and provided "too little critical examination of the way officials framed the events, issues, threats, and policy options." Too few stories, the study said, included perspectives that challenged the official line.
A study published last month in The New York Review of Books reached a similar conclusion. "In the period before the war, U.S. journalists were far too reliant on sources sympathetic to the administration. Those with dissenting views--and there were more than a few--were shut out," writes Michael Massing, a Columbia Journalism Review contributing editor who authored the study.
Even much of the prewar enterprise or investigative reporting was shaped by the assumption that pro-war sources were above serious scrutiny. This was particularly the case with Iraqi defectors, on whom both the administration and media relied heavily for painting a picture of the Iraqi threat.
As Massing observes, there was vigorous debate inside intelligence circles about the veracity of many of the defectors' claims, but not much of this reached readers. Instead, the print media were repeatedly duped by defectors on the Pentagon's payroll who were busily slipping credulous reporters the same disinformation they were peddling to the administration.
Knight Ridder journalists Jonathan Landay and Tish Wells reported earlier this month that the main Iraqi exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, fed the Times, the Post, The Associated Press (the primary source of world and national news for this newspaper), and other print media numerous unsubstantiated allegations about the Iraqi regime that resulted in over 100 articles worldwide.
Those articles, the Knight Ridder correspondents found, made assertions that still have not been substantiated but that helped build the administration's case for invasion. They included claims that Iraq had mobile biological weapons facilities; that it had Scud missiles loaded with poison that were ready to strike Israel; that Saddam was aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons; and that he had collaborated with al-Qaida.
The Times' diva of disinformation, Judith Miller, had a particularly uncritical fondness for the INC and its leader, Ahmed Chalabi. Last spring, Post media columnist Howard Kurtz obtained an internal Times e-mail in which she wrote: "I've been covering Chalabi for about 10 years. He has provided most of the front-page exclusives on WMD to our paper."
It's hard to imagine a more damning admission, not only in the light of hindsight but also because of the questions many intelligence analysts (both inside and outside the government) had before the invasion about the quality of the INC's information.
The Times cannot argue that it was impossible to get dissenting views from those inside the U.S. intelligence establishment. Knight Ridder was able to develop sources among career intelligence officers who were dismayed by many of the adminis-tration's claims. In an interview with Massing for his study, Knight Ridder Washington bureau chief John Walcott explained the news service's decision to use these "blue-collar" sources:
"These people were better informed about the details of the intelligence than the people higher up in the food chain, and they were deeply troubled by what they regarded as the administration's deliberate misrepresentation of intelligence, ranging from overstating the case to outright fabrication."
Knight Ridder produced some accurate, balanced reporting as a result of their approach, but mid-level intelligence experts remained a missing piece of the puzzle in most print-media coverage.
Powell's really big show
There were other important pieces of the puzzle to which the media had access but downplayed or ignored. Take Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, who was Iraq's weapons chief until his defection in 1995. He was cited by Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and just about every other invasion supporter as an important source of intelligence on Saddam's arsenal. However, while he was describing all of Saddam's awful weapons during his post-defection debriefings, Kamel added one little thing that the administration and its mouthpieces forgot to mention: All of Iraq's prohibited weapons had been destroyed.
Newsweek obtained the transcript of the interview in which Kamel made this assertion and reported on it about two weeks before the start of the invasion, but the magazine did not give the story the prominence it deserved.
Elsewhere in the U.S. print media, only the Post and the Boston Globe picked up the story, according to the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Both of these papers placed the news deep inside their A sections.
The Kamel example illustrates a common problem with prewar coverage: Even when reporters did good investigative work, it often got buried. Post staff writer Walter Pincus told Massing that his paper's editors "went through a whole phase in which they didn't put things on the front page that would make a difference."
It's not clear from Massing's article when that phase might have been, but at least some of it must have fallen in the period after Powell's presentation to the United Nations and before the beginning of the invasion.
The day after Powell's big show, an editorial in the Post titled "Irrefutable" declared it "hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction." The Post's news pages, and those of other elite publications, seemed to have been operating under that assumption for months, but Powell's performance sealed the deal.
Yet there was plenty to question about Powell's case: the ammunition depot that supposedly stored prohibited weapons; the alleged mobile bioweapons labs; the aluminum tubes that were said to have been bought to further Iraq's nuclear-weapons program; and the claims of a Saddam/al-Qaida connection. Even the recorded conversations between Iraqi military personnel that Powell presented as evidence of the regime's trying to hide banned weapons raised skepticism among some experts who had knowledge of Iraqi security protocol. (See the Robert Greenwald documentary "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War" for a full dissection of Powell's presentation.) But most mass media weren't interested in drawing too much attention to these weaknesses in Powell's case or in doing further investigative work to scrutinize the secretary of state's claims. Instead, they played it safe and geared up for war.
'We were taken for a ride'
Earlier this month, the president of Poland, which has over 2,000 troops in Iraq, said "We were taken for a ride" by the administration in the run-up to the war. It's now clear that the major media helped navigate for the White House during that long, strange trip.
Yet a couple of things should be said in the media's defense.
First, it's not easy to ask tough questions amid war hysteria, and those who do a good job of it will be attacked by the überpatriots. (I can attest from personal experience that some may even clamor for your head.)
Second, there were a few mainstream journalists who did ask the tough questions when it counted.
But there were too many reporters who weren't asking them, and there were some who acted as little more than cogs in the White House propaganda machine.
Most disturbing of all, some of these journalists still don't get it. When Massing asked the Times' Miller--an investigative reporter covering intelligence--why she didn't include more comments in her stories by experts who contested White House assertions, she replied: "My job isn't to assess the government's information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq's arsenal."
But even a cub reporter should know that if the government tells her the sky is blue, it's her job to check whether it might not be red or gray or black. And skepticism must be exercised most strongly when the matter at hand is whether the nation will go to war.
By neglecting to fully employ their critical-thinking faculties, Miller and many of her colleagues in the elite print media not only failed their readers during the countdown to the Iraq invasion, they failed our democracy. And there's no excusing that failure. The only thing that can be said is, Sorry.
Rick Mercier is a writer and editor for The Free Lance-Star.
The Costs of SecrecyTaxpayers for Common Sense – The Waste Basket - May 8, 2004
(5/7/04) - The control of classified government information is necessary to keep our nation safe and secure. However, over the last three years, the breadth and extent of secrecy in Washington has gotten out of control. Now many critical aspects of federal government operations are cloaked with an unprecedented level of secrecy. After a decades-long trend of increasing government openness, this Congress and administration are making increasing amounts of information unavailable to taxpayers. Some point to the different world we live in after the tragic events of September 11th as justification for this lack of transparency. However, there are a number of well-reported examples, such as the Energy task force, that do not have a credible link to national security.
While the free flow of information is a hallmark of the Internet age, Congressional committees are becoming known for closing hearings and bill mark-ups when there's even a whiff of national security and issues of security clearance. A small portion of Hill legislation may deal with national security items, but the whole process is becoming more and more closed. For example, appropriations subcommittees have taken to meeting in tiny rooms that don't have adequate space to accommodate the number of people interested in watching the deliberations and decisions of their legislators.
Also, too common these days is the regularity with which no one knows what is in the key legislation that is been debated by Congress. Republican or Democrat, members of Congress don't seem to want their constituents to see what they're putting in legislative sausage. Here are several ways legislation is becoming more secret and more expensive:
Rewritten behind closed doors - After the House and Senate have each passed legislation, conference negotiators are rewriting the legislation behind closed doors, and often in the dead of the night. The resulting bills wind up containing "sweetener" provisions that were never included in either of the two original versions. This process undercuts the legislative process and gives undue influence to those who have friends in high places. Spending bills, energy, Medicare and the Iraq spending legislation are just a few examples this phenomenon.
Massive bills aren't properly evaluated - Instead of following the normal legislative procedure, final versions of bills are only being made available a few days, or even hours, before the House or Senate vote is scheduled to take place. Not only does the public not know what are in these bills, many lawmakers are forced to rely on "cliff notes" write-ups to determine whether or not to vote for the legislation. Congress has passed several massive spending bills with virtually no accountability and the sheer size of these thousand-page legislative tomes enable a lot of special interest pork in be hidden in plain sight.
Billions added at the last minute - In the recent transportation bill, more than $390 million was added at the last minute for two Alaskan projects, which is represented by Rep. Don Young, chairman of the committee that wrote the legislation. Most lawmakers learned about these provisions after the legislation was passed and there was nothing they could do to fix it.
Limited Disclosure - In 1995, following up on a "Contract with America" promise, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich announced the creation of Thomas, an Internet site of Library of Congress that provides copies of bills and Congressional records. While a significant advance over what was previously available - virtually nothing - there are still large gaps of information, such as the versions of legislation as it makes its way through the legislative process. Thomas includes versions of bills as they are first introduced and versions of them as they passed the chamber, but any interim steps are impossible to find unless the Committee makes it available. Another arm of the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, provides unvarnished information to Congress on a wide range of topics in their reports and issue briefs. But Congress treats this taxpayer-funded service as their private research arm, denying the public access to these reports.
There's no doubt that most Americans understand the need for increased security and some of the sacrifices that have to be made to achieve it. But, complete and robust disclosure and transparency of government information has a positive, beneficial impact on government. Any effort to wrap information under the veil of security or any other matter has a disastrous impact on the public's trust in the federal government and simply adds to general cynicism about the political process.
Democracy: Version BushTomPaine.com – by Arianna Huffington - May 8, 2004
(5/7/04) - Welcome to George W. Bush's version of America—Bush Democracy. Apparently, he's had his fanatical neocon programmers working overtime to iron out all those bothersome bugs and kinks that have been holding the United States back for the last 228 years—exasperating glitches like openness, integrity, accountability, responsibility and the value of an informed public.
I have to admit, this new edition has been a little hard for me to get used to; it's a lot different than the America that I grew up studying—and revering.
You might be having a similar problem. So, as a public service, I've decided to provide this helpful primer. Think of it as Bush Democracy for Dummies.
In Bush Democracy, the messy concept of the public's right to know has been replaced by the far more user-friendly "Don't worry, we know what's right for you." Why clutter up the citizenry's hard drive with all sorts of unimportant facts and information?
Which is why, just to be on the safe side, Bush Democracy comes with a helpful, one-step fact-check-and-delete program. No need to bother with taping or even transcribing important meetings like the president's three-hour appearance in front of the 9/11 Commission last week—Bush Democracy decides what's pertinent and discards the rest into the unrecoverable recycle bin of history.
That's why the White House helpfully confiscated the notebooks of the 9/11 commissioners as they were leaving the Oval Office. Hard copies are so 20th century.
To see how liberating this kind of updated Democracy can be, look no further than the reports of the frequent laughter that occurred during the commission's two-birds-with-one-stone questioning of Bush and Cheney. No longer burdened with having to fill the public in on whether our leaders did all they could to prevent 9/11—and have done all they can to make sure something like it never happens again—the president and his inquisitors were free to trade quips and zingers like a gang of Borscht Belt second bananas at a Friars Roast.
"The president got off a couple of good shots," said Commission member John "Shecky" Lehman, while Commissioner Jim "Soupy" Thompson labeled the president a "bit of a tease." We don't know the specifics of anything important that was said, or if anything important was said at all, but, hey, at least they had some fun. For his part, the president stressed the importance of his and Cheney's tandem testimony: "I think it was important for them to see our body language... how we work together." Body language experts agree that subtle shifts in physical positioning—such as Cheney sticking his hand up the president's back and making his mouth move—can often provide significant behavioral clues.
Bush Democracy also automatically eliminates a number of pesky problems historically associated with that overrated First Amendment. For example, this convenient feature allows President Bush and his Man in Mesopotamia, Paul Bremer, to tout the freedom of speech now permitted in post-Saddam Iraq while simultaneously shutting down Iraqi-run newspapers and radio and television stations. And whereas previous versions of Democracy were systemically incompatible with the quashing of dissent, Bush Democracy makes clamping down on the free flow of information as easy as hitting a hot key and issuing a Pentagon ban on media coverage of flag-draped coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base.
What's more, Bush Democracy's state-of-the-art media manipulation software makes it incredibly easy to get away with misstatements, half-truths and out-and-out lies.
Witness the lack of outraged coverage of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's astounding assertion in front of Congress last week that the U.S. death toll in Iraq was "approximately 500"—when, in fact, at the time of his testimony, the correct number was 722. But what are a couple hundred dead Americans among friends? Especially when they're other people's children?
Or observe the scarcity of critical voices when, on the anniversary of Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" photo op, the president boldly declared that, as a result of the removal of Saddam, "there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq"—a statement directly contradicted by a top-secret Army report completed two months before the president indulged in his soaring rhetoric. And last week we had the ultimate contradiction: the release of enough vile, barbaric and disturbing photographs to stock a triple-X S&M website.
But Bush Democracy's killer app has got to be its ability to retain the outward appearance of unabashed patriotism while sacrificing the lives of American soldiers on the altar of its tax-cutting fanaticism. Thus, candidate Bush is able to cloak his campaign in red, white and blue at the same time a defense industry study concludes that major budgetary shortfalls have left U.S. soldiers seriously underequipped—leading to the preventable deaths of close to 200 brave Americans, and the maiming of thousands more. Shortfalls caused, in large measure, by the president's tax cuts. So while many of our soldiers have to make due without body armor, combat helmets and properly protected vehicles, America's millionaires are receiving an average tax cut of $130,783. And yet Bush is still able to continue painting himself as the war president. How's that for performance?
The guiding principle behind George Bush's rebooted Democracy is a deep mistrust of the American people and an undying faith in the ability of "the elites" to decide what is best for America—and the world. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the old 1776 version, where We the People get to make up our own minds.
Bush Democracy has crashed in Iraq and crashed here at home. I personally can't wait for November to press the Escape key and shut it down for good.
Seeds of DestructionEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – May 7, 2004
When corporations and political regimes sow corrupt seed, they often reap a bitter harvest. On September 17, 2001, G. W. Bush boasted that he wanted Osama bin Laden “dead or alive.” A price of millions of taxpayer dollars was put on his head.
Bin Laden has now placed a price on the heads of U. S. and U. N. officials in Iraq, according to the Associated Press. A bounty of 10,000 grams of gold has been offered for the killing of certain officials.
Bush has no room to complain. Osama bin Laden is merely playing by the “Bush rules of engagement.”
Bush appeared surprised by the vicious killing of four American security officers in March. A mob dragged the burned bodies through the streets. At least two corpses were hung from a bridge. The New York Times reported that a boy no older than 10 ground his heel into a burned head and yelled ``Where is Bush? Let him come here and see this!''
At the time, most Americans were not aware of the way American troops were abusing Iraqi prisoners. Now it is crystal clear why the Iraqi people reacted so violently against the Bush occupation. It is obvious that the citizens of Iraq knew of the abuse, and repaid it in kind.
The New SaddamEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – May 5, 2004
U. S. citizens have lost in every way possible because of G. W. Bush’s insane rush to attack and occupy Iraq. The people of Iraq are unquestionably worse off than before the war and occupation. It used to be Saddam Hussein’s regime that abused the Iraqi people. Now the Bush regime abuses the same people.
With all of the reports of prisoner abuse, one wondered how long it would be before the prisoner murder reports began to roll in. These reports have already started, according to Reuters: “Two Iraqi prisoners were murdered by Americans and 23 other deaths are being investigated in Iraq and Afghanistan…”
A U. S. military official admitted that a solider has already been convicted of killing a prisoner. He executed the prisoner by bashing him with a rock. His punishment was a reduction in rank and discharge from service. A CIA employee also committed homicide against a prisoner.
The Associated Press in Tokyo reported that two Japanese men, who were kidnapped by Iraqis, actually expressed sympathy for their captors. The men were held captive for nine days. They did not view their captors as terrorist, but soldiers and resistance fighters.
Soichiro Koriyama said "They were resistance fighters, defending themselves against US troops."
Saddam Hussein Preferred Over BushEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – May 3, 2004
The most damming account of G. W. Bush’s occupation of Iraq comes from a former Iraqi prisoner, according to an Associated Press report. Dhia al-Shweiri was incarcerated twice in Abu Ghraib prison under Saddam Hussein's rule and once under the Bush occupation. He prefers Saddam's physical torture to the torture, humiliation, and sexual abuse inflicted by American guards.
He said "I hated Saddam so much that when the Americans came, I viewed them as liberators. I was happy and supported them. But soon it became clear that they are no liberators but occupiers. I had seen how oppressed people were under Saddam and I refused to give in to oppression and injustice. We must fight oppression."
He was so disgusted by his treatment by the Americans, that he has joined al-Mahdi Army, to fight the occupiers. He said "If Seyed Muqtada orders us to disband, we will. If he orders us to die, we will die. And if he tells us to live, we will live. We have nothing to do with the Americans and what they demand from us."
So much for the “compassionate conservative” winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people!
Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation, citing a "pattern of torture" of Iraqi prisoners by coalition troops.
The New Yorker magazine obtained a fifty-three-page report, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, which was not intended for public release. The report mentions numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. Evidence was listed: “detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.”
Janis Karpinski, an Army reserve brigadier general, was commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade and in charge of military prisons in Iraq. In December, she spoke of Abu Ghraib prison to the St. Petersburg Times. She said “living conditions now are better in prison than at home. At one point we were concerned that they wouldn’t want to leave.”
The concerns turned out to be unwarranted. General Karpinski has been quietly suspended.
AFP provided a quote from Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi. He said "One year after Saddam's collapse, the Iraqis dare not celebrate his fall, but they are fighting the Americans, which means that the Iraqis believe that the US has taken Saddam's place."
British soldiers have also been accused of prisoner abuse, according to The Telegraph, in London. Six British soldiers are to be arrested by Military police under suspicion of torturing and abusing Iraqi prisoners.
G. W. Bush and Tony Blair are attempting to act surprised. Perhaps they are surprised – surprised that the news got out to the public. These investigations have been going on for some time. It is highly unlikely that Bush and Blair were completely ignorant of the situation. Now they are playing the outrage card.
Deny it to the GraveEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – May 2, 2004
May 1 was the anniversary of G. W. Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” photo op extravaganza, aboard an aircraft carrier. For full dramatic effect, Bush arrived on the carrier by military jet. Wearing a flight suit, Bush strutted and boasted beneath a gigantic “Mission Accomplished” banner.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel said "This was clearly a case of spiking the ball on the 50-yard line."
138 Americans had been killed in Iraq when Bush said "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
At least 594 more U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since Bush’s boastful speech one year ago.
As the caskets of Americans killed in Iraq continue to roll in, Bush would like to downplay his Iraq war. He tried to hide the carnage from the public by placing restrictions on taking photographs of military coffins. At the same time, Bush tried to exploit pictures of coffins in campaign ads! Almost every move by this administration has been a blunder, including the war.
The reasons for attacking an already weakened country were based entirely on lies:
But do not expect Bush to ever admit any mistakes. He could not think of a single mistake made in the war, when asked at a press conference.
Bush uses the same tactic that many CEO’s use: the deny it to the grave approach:
Bush made an attempt to justify his “Operation Flight Suit” performance, according to the Seattle Times.
Bush said: "their sacrifice will not go in vain."
This may be one of the few times that G. W. Bush has told the truth. If the American people throw this blood-thirsty administration out of office, that will be some consolation. It will be the only possible consolation. The world is not safer. The United States is not safer; it is despised by more people than ever.
Bush said "And as a result (of the war on Iraq), there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq.”
That is a bogus statement. Iraqis are still being tortured and humiliated, only now it is being done by the troops sent in by Bush. CBS covered the story on “60 Minuets II,” complete with pictures, only a few days ago.
Former Marine Lt. Col. Bill Cowan said "We went into Iraq to stop things like this from happening, and indeed, here they are happening under our tutelage.”
“60 Minuets II” reported that an Army investigation turned up a charge that a male juvenile prisoner was raped. The accused was a translator, hired to work at the prison. "They covered all the doors with sheets. I heard the screaming. ...and the female soldier was taking pictures."
Rape rooms may now be the barracks. The victims are often American soldiers. On Jan. 24, 2004, the Denver Post reported that at least 37 female service members have sought sexual-trauma counseling after returning from war duty in Iraq, Kuwait and other overseas stations. These women have reported poor medical treatment, lack of counseling and incomplete criminal investigations by military officials. Some reported being threatened for reporting the assaults. It is estimated that only a small number of such assaults are ever reported.
On Feb. 25, 2004, UPI reported: “At least 112 women in the military have reported being sexually assaulted at the hands of fellow service members in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years, military officials told the Senate Wednesday.”
Fresh graves have not been eliminated in Iraq. The number of Iraqis killed far exceeds the number of Americans killed. Bush thought that he spit out a clever sound bite to explain away everything. But it was all lies.
On April 28, 2003, the London Daily Mirror reported that American troops were forcing naked Iraqis to walk through parks, at gunpoint, with insults written on their chests. Photos taken by Tomm W. Christiansen were published.
One of the Iraqi victims said "Now I want to find a hand grenade and throw it at the soldiers. I hate them for this."
Such is the legacy of G. W. Bush.
Chao Exposed by ExpertEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 30, 2004
Those who scheme to take pensions, health care, and overtime pay from employees hate it when they get caught. It is not that these ploys are all that hard to detect. The takeaways are usually about as subtle as blowing a hole in a bank vault with a cannon, and hauling out the money in wheelbarrows.
If anyone happens to notice the heist, the perpetuators try to explain everything away, citing "misinformation." It only looks like we are carting off all the money; nothing could be further from the truth.
To aid corporations in shaking down employees, G. W. Bush has appointed his lapdogs to head federal agencies. Speaking of lapdogs, take U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao – please! G. W. Bush has been trying for some time to reduce the overtime pay earned by workers. Labor Secretary Chao is the puppet that Bush is manipulating to accomplish this takeaway.
Instead of enforcing the laws, this administration is trying to water down the laws. Less overtime pay means more money for CEO cronies and political donations. The little scheme by Bush and his puppet has been thoroughly exposed to the public.
Ms Chao is dismayed that everyone is wise to her role as the enemy of labor. Bloomberg News reported that she is pleading the old standby excuse of "misinformation." It is true that a lot of misinformation has been spread around. And, it was spread by G. W. Bush and Ms Chao!
This is far from an isolated incident. With Bush over the federal agencies, a lot of strange things are happening:
Karen Dulaney Smith is a former wage investigator for the Labor Department. She said that some wording in the regulations "artfully weakens current regulation in very subtle, but significant ways that will surprise employers and employees when businesses begin the implementation process."
Ms Smith said that many employees earning between $23,660 and $100,000 a year are at risk of losing overtime pay.
The Bush/Chao regulations were even worse than they are now. They had to back off of them some after strong public protests. People resent it when someone, who has never worked a day in his life, attempts to restrict their pay.
A Vision of PowerNew York Times – by Paul Krugman – April 29, 2004
(4/27/04) - There's a deep mystery surrounding Dick Cheney's energy task force, but it's not about what happened back in 2001. Clearly, energy industry executives dictated the content of a report that served their interests.
The real mystery is why the Bush administration has engaged in a three-year fight — which reaches the Supreme Court today — to hide the details of a story whose broad outline we already know.
One possibility is that there is some kind of incriminating evidence in the task force's records. Another is that the administration fears that full disclosure will highlight its chummy relationship with the energy industry. But there's a third possibility: that the administration is really taking a stand on principle. And that's what scares me.
Could there be a smoking gun in the records? Well, maybe Mr. Cheney was already divvying up Iraq's oil fields in 2001, but I'd be surprised to find anything that clear-cut. It's more likely that the administration fears that releasing the task force's records would alert the public to the obvious.
Those of us who have been following such things know that the Bush administration is so deeply enmeshed in the energy industry that it's hard to know where one ends and the other begins. Campaign contributions are part of it, but it's also personal: George Bush and Dick Cheney are only two of the many members of the administration who grew rich by relying on the kindness of energy companies. Indeed, the day after the executive director of Mr. Cheney's task force left the government, he went into business as an energy industry lobbyist.
In return, the Bush administration has given energy companies a lot to celebrate. One policy decision alone, effectively scrapping "new source review" in regulating power plant pollution, is worth billions of dollars to industry donors.
But if we know all this, why does the release of the task force's records matter? The answer, I think, is that there's a big difference between compelling circumstantial evidence and a more or less official confirmation.
Consider, as a parallel, the case of the nonexistent W.M.D. It was pretty clear by last summer that Saddam didn't have the weapons that were the ostensible reason for war. But it wasn't until January, when David Kay admitted that there was nothing there, that the absence of W.M.D. got traction with the broad public.
The main public justification for the Cheney task force was the 2000-2001 electricity crisis in California. For at least two years, we've known that this crisis was largely the result of market manipulation by energy companies — and surmised that some of those same companies were advising Mr. Cheney on energy policy. But the public will pay a lot more attention if it turns out there is documentation that any energy executives were telling Mr. Cheney how to solve power shortages even as their traders were busily creating those shortages.
Still, Mr. Cheney's determination to keep his secrets probably reflects more than an effort to avoid bad publicity. It's also a matter of principle, based on the administration's deep belief that it has the right to act as it pleases, and that the public has no right to know what it's doing.
As Linda Greenhouse recently pointed out in The New York Times, the legal arguments the administration is making for the secrecy of the energy task force are "strikingly similar" to those it makes for its right to detain, without trial, anyone it deems an enemy combatant. In both cases, as Ms. Greenhouse puts it, the administration has put forward "a vision of presidential power . . . as far-reaching as any the court has seen."
That same vision is apparent in many other actions. Just to mention one: we learn from Bob Woodward that the administration diverted funds earmarked for Afghanistan to preparations for an invasion of Iraq without asking or even notifying Congress.
What Mr. Cheney is defending, in other words, is a doctrine that makes the United States a sort of elected dictatorship: a system in which the president, once in office, can do whatever he likes, and isn't obliged to consult or inform either Congress or the public.
Not long ago I would have thought it inconceivable that the Supreme Court would endorse that doctrine. But I would also have thought it inconceivable that a president would propound such a vision in the first place.
Power Lobby Defeats the EPAEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 19, 2004
The New York Times published “How Power Lobby Won Battle Of Pollution Control at E. P. A,” by Christopher Drew and Richard A. Oppel Jr. Haley Barbour, lobbyist for electric power companies, started twisting Dick Cheney’s arm, within six weeks of the Bush inauguration. Mr. Barbour did not want environmental concerns to ''trump good energy policy.'' Little arm twisting was likely required for an old energy man like Cheney to get on board.
Energy lobbyist Barbour was a former Republican party chairman. Energy lobbyist Marc Racicot would become the chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found it difficult to do their jobs and several resigned. They soon realized that a new game was in town and the EPA was now only a front organization for the energy companies.
Dozens of coal-fired power plants were facing EPA air pollution lawsuits. To possibly save these corporations billions of dollars, G. W. Bush revered his promise to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide. Champaign promises can be easily dismissed. What was important was not to offend the heavy Champaign contributors!
While he was on a roll, Bush also proposed weakened standards for emissions of mercury. The administration’s line was that the burden of cumbersome and costly regulations on industry was being eased. There is no doubt of this. But the “burden of cumbersome and costly” premature death to citizens was increased, as the corporations were let off the hook. The more pollution the public has to breathe, the greater the death toll, due to lung disease.
Senator James M. Jeffords said ''Rather than work with Congress to move us forward on environmental issues, the Bush administration is working with the special interests to undermine them.''
In 1999, the EPA, under the Clinton administration, sued nine companies, including Duke Energy. Waves of lobbyists were sent to Washington. The rules that the energy companies were sued under were eventually weaken by the Bush administration.
Eric V. Schaeffer, EPA head of the Office of Regulatory Enforcement, resigned in disgust. He wrote: ''We seem about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.'' He added that the White House ''seems determined to weaken the rules we are trying to enforce.''
The Associated Press reported that the EPA has filed a joint motion that the court rule in Duke Energy's favor, in the air pollution suit. This move was to gain an immediate appeal.
Retired General Says Warnings IgnoredEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 17, 2004
One by one, former members of the Bush administration are coming forward to expose the lies told to the public. Rick Rogers interviewed Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, before his speech at the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice. Comments by Gen. Zinni were published in The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The general can not conceive of how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could be caught off guard by the recent slaughter in Iraq. After all, Gen. Zinni, and others, warned of the folly of attacking and occupying Iraq.
Gen. Zinni was Marine for 39 years and the former commander of the U.S. Central Command. He said "I'm surprised that he is surprised because there was a lot of us who were telling him that it was going to be thus. Anyone could know the problems they were going to see. How could they not?"
The general cautioned U.S. officials for years that Iraq would be more dangerous without Saddam Hussein than with him. He warned of the potential violence from inevitable ethnic and religious clashes.
Gen. Zinni said "I think that some heads should roll over Iraq… We're betting on the U.N., who we blew off and ridiculed during the run-up to the war. Now we're back with hat in hand. It would be funny if not for the lives lost."
Energy Companies Underpaid Indianswww.IndianTrust.com – Press Release – April 7, 2004
SPECIAL MASTER ALAN BALARAN RESIGNS IN COBELL V. NORTON INDIAN TRUST CASE Accuses Bush administration of allowing energy companies to pay Indians far less than non-Indians; administration pursued Balaran’s recusal to cover up conflicts of interest and evade liability in Cobell in the “billions of dollars”
WASHINGTON, DC (April 6, 2004) – With a stinging rebuke of the Bush administration and the U.S. Department of the Interior, respected Washington D.C. attorney Alan Balaran resigned as Special Master in the Cobell v. Norton Indian Trust case, stating that the administration has been pursuing his recusal to silence criticisms of the Department of Interior’s handling of individual Indian trust accounts.
Balaran cites findings made in the course of his investigation that the Bush administration knowingly allowed energy companies to pay Indians far less than non-Indians for oil, gas and other leases. Balaran states that this conflict of interest is the reason the administration has refused to settle the case—instead seeking repeatedly to have Balaran recused as Special Master and delaying a final resolution of the matter.
“Alan Balaran served the Court with fairness and honor,” said Elouise Cobell, lead plaintiff in Cobell v. Norton. “We are sorry that he felt the need to resign, and we are disturbed that the Bush administration seems determined to remove any court official critical of its handling of the individual Indian trust and this litigation.”
Balaran issued a report in August, 2003, that detailed how energy companies were paying Indians “a fraction” of what they were paying non-Indians, based on Department of Interior appraisals that were intentionally set far below market value. The Chief Appraiser admitted to Balaran and Justice and Interior department lawyers that he had been doing this for more than 20 years, and that he intentionally destroyed valuable trust information in order to conceal evidence of his complicity.
After Balaran released his findings, the Bush administration began to seek his recusal.
“The reason for this dramatic shift in policy is obvious,” Balaran writes in his letter. “[m]y… findings implicated the agency’s systemic failure to properly monitor the activities of energy companies leasing minerals on individual Indian lands. The consequences of these findings could cost the very companies with which senior Interior officials maintain close ties, millions of dollars.”
“If you want to know why this case hasn’t settled, here’s your answer: the energy companies don’t want it,” said Dennis Gingold, attorney for the plaintiffs in the Cobell suit. “The big Bush campaign contributors know a sweetheart deal when they see one—and so the administration decided to make the Special Master the issue, in order to delay, divert and, ultimately, destroy the case.”
The resignation letter also marks the first time a court official has officially stated that the Cobell litigation is worth “billions.” Up until now, the Special Master had not commented on the monetary impact of the case.
“Justice has been much too long in coming for the hundreds of thousands of Native Americans whose land the government supposedly held in trust, in some cases for over a century,” Balaran wrote in his letter. “Billions of dollars are at stake. It is past time to get systems in place that will enable the Departments of the Interior and Treasury to track trust date accurately in the future, as well as render and honest and reliable accounting in the present.”
Balaran added: “I hope that, with my resignation, the parties will be able to move rapidly toward fundamental reforms.”
Cobell v. Norton was originally filed in 1996 by lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, who had tried for years to get an accurate accounting of funds held in trust by the U.S. government for individual Indian-owned land that had been leased by the federal government for mining, grazing, oil and gas exploration and other uses. In two separate trials, a federal judge found that the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Treasury engaged in "fiscal and governmental irresponsibility in its purest form” in maintaining and accounting for the trust assets belonging to 500,000 individual Indians.
Misplaced EnergyThe Washington Post – Editorial – April 6, 2004
(Monday, April 5, 2004; Page A16) - THE BUSH administration's struggle to keep secret the workings of Vice President Cheney's energy task force has been going on since early in the president's tenure. The White House fought the General Accounting Office's examination of the task force and won. It is currently litigating before the Supreme Court to keep task force records from being disclosed in the lawsuit most famous for Justice Antonin Scalia's ill-timed duck hunt. And in a separate legal skirmish, it is fending off Freedom of Information Act lawsuits from environmentalists and a conservative watchdog group that seek to force federal agencies to release information about their employees' work for the task force. Last week, in that latter case, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman ordered the administration to search for and release a large volume of material, rejecting the government's arguments that it could lawfully be kept under wraps. The government can appeal, and it probably will -- just as it has appealed other adverse judicial rulings related to the task force. But it ought to think hard about simply releasing the information and letting the matter rest.
There is no great secret about what the information would reveal: The task force spent a lot more time meeting with energy executives than with environmentalists, and the energy industry greatly influenced its work. One can glean that much simply by reading its recommendations. Whatever embarrassing tidbits there might be in the underlying records themselves are surely less embarrassing than years of protracted efforts to prevent basic information about how important policy decisions were made from reaching the public -- and the inevitable suspicions such secrecy creates.
The White House has long argued that an important issue of principle is at stake: the president's and vice president's ability to get candid advice. That is indeed an important principle. But it is one that the Freedom of Information Act balances carefully against the public's right to know what its government is doing. The law exempts White House records from disclosure, for example, and it exempts as well material that is part of an agency's deliberative process. Had the government used only presidential staff to prepare its report, the Freedom of Information Act would require no records to be released. But the White House staffed the group with employees from the Department of Energy and elsewhere, and Mr. Friedman's opinion makes clear that it can't now pretend that the records they generated were White House records.
That seems right. The Bush administration does no service to the principle it purports to uphold when it withholds information to which the public is entitled.
New Whistleblower Exposes BushEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 2, 2004
Andrew Buncombe reported in The Independent that a new whistleblower has come forth to expose the Bush administration’s lackadaisical defense of America.
Former translator Sibel Edmonds said “I saw papers that show US knew al-Qa'ida would attack cities with aeroplanes.” She added that the claims made by National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that there was no such information was "an outrageous lie."
Ms. Edmonds spent more than three hours in a closed session with the 9/11 commission. The Bush administration is trying to silence her through a court gag order, by invoking "state secrets privilege."
She told The Independent "I gave details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily."
Senior US senators testified to her credibility in 2002, when she blew the whistle on alleged incompetence and corruption within the FBI's translation department.