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Archive for June, 2005

The Pentagon has promoted or nominated for promotion two senior Army officers who oversaw or advised detention and interrogation operations in Iraq during the height of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal.The Army promoted Maj. Gen. Walter Wodjakowski, the former deputy commander of American forces in Iraq, earlier this month to be the head the Army’s infantry training school at Fort Benning, Ga. It has also nominated Col. Marc Warren, the top military lawyer for the American command in Baghdad at the time, to be a one-star, or brigadier, general.

[…]

An independent inquiry led by a former defense secretary, James R. Schlesinger, last August faulted all three officers for their actions in Iraq, but a subsequent review by the Army’s inspector general exonerated all of them, clearing the way for their advancement, military officials said.

Source: NYT

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The President’s lack-luster primetime address confirmed what we have all long suspected: the Bush administration is out of ideas when it comes to defeating the ever-growing insurgency in Iraq. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has endorsed a voting system that would elect candidates via provinces, not national lists, giving the Sunni minority greater political power.

Will the insurgency abandon its violence in favor of joining the legitimate political process? Only time will tell… meanwhile our president still has no plan…

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The Bush administration claims that the Central American Free Trade Agreement would bring tougher labor standards to Central American workers. But the agreement, which would encompass the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, would have just the opposite effect. Such was the conclusion of the Department of Labor, only it chose to dismiss the inconvenient findings as “inaccurate and biased.”

Here is what the department was hiding:

Several countries the administration wants to be granted free-trade status have poor working conditions and fail to protect workers’ rights.

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The Washington Post is reporting that President Bush’s proposed budget would “eliminate many of the federal rules requiring public housing authorities to serve extremely low income people” resulting in “one of the most dramatic policy shifts in the 68-year history of public housing.” The President has wrapped the rule change in the rhetoric of “self sufficiency and encouraging home ownership.”

And while Republicans frequently lecture Americans on fiscal discipline, they rarely apply the same standards to large multi- national corporations. Take, for instance, the example of Defense Department officials providing Dick Cheney’s Halliburton with some $1.4 billion in “unjustified fees.”

  • $152,000 in movie library costs
  • $1.5 million in tailoring costs
  • $560,000 worth of unnecessary heavy equipment

The list goes on. Read the full report here.

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The Senate has voted to approve an additional $1.5 billion in emergency funds for Veterans Affairs health programs. The House is expected to vote similarly tonight. Yet President Bush and Republicans in Congress have previously obstructed Democratic efforts to make up for the anticipated shortfall. In a rather embarrassing “mistake,” (foreseen by many lawmakers and veteran advocates) the V.A. used pre Iraqi invasion statistics to estimate the number of veterans expected to be in need of treatment in the wake of the invasion.

If we are to view this latest snafu in conjunction with the president’s broader veteran policy, his incompetence, aloofness and lack of foresight all become apparent. The Center for American Progress reports on Bush’s veteran record. Consider the following:

Under President Bush, the VA…

    Following the lead of top administration officials (who have continuously miscalculated the strength of the Iraqi insurgency and the resilience of the Taliban in Afghanistan) Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson placed the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at 23,000 soldiers. The actual number is close to 103,000, “leaving a funding gap of $2.6 billion for the next fiscal year.”

    One thing is clear: for a president who manipulated Americans into supporting his re-election bid by politicizing war, veterans and soldiers, the ever growing gap between rhetoric and action has reached its breaking point.

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    For those who heard or read President Bush’s Saturday June 25th radio address, his speech last night, touting a connection between 9/11 and Saddam, was hardly surprising. In an article published on Scoop, investigative reporter Jason Leopold, the journalist who broke the California Blackout and Enron stories, weighed in on Bush’s radio deception– providing the context and framework within which Bush’s lies can be identified. (Jason Leopold was also a guest on my radio show, click here to listen in mp3 format).

    That the President can still tout a connection in the wake of reports to the contrary by the 9/11 Commission and Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee is truly astounding. It speaks volumes of our failed media system and the ignorance of most Americans.

    The Bush administration is deliberately deceiving the public. Last night President Bush claimed that we must “defeat [the terrorists] abroad before they attack us at home.” But Bush-appointed CIA chief Porter Goss has previously claimed that Iraq is only increasing the terror threat and this latest CIA study substantiates his theory. Yet government reports have little affect on a pathetical administration. It is far easier to tell a lie than to dispute one. And in this case, delivering a “repeat of a speech he delivered 13 months ago,” and offering no new ideas for defeating an ever-growing Iraqi insurgency only goes to explain the president’s plummeting approval ratings.

    One thing was made clear last night: President Bush has ridden us into a dangerous war quagmire with no plan for reconstruction or evacuation. But if you read the Downing Street Memo you already knew that.

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    A classified CIA assessment has revealed that young jihads are leaving Iraq “experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism” and “form a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.”

    According to the report, President Bush’s invasion is “likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispensing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.”

    I have long argued that Iraq is the Afghanistan of the ’80s, and the authors of this report listened. From the NYT piece:

    “They said the assessment had argued that Iraq, since the American invasion of 2003, had in many ways assumed the role played by Afghanistan during the rise of Al Qaeda during the 1980’s and 1990’s, as a magnet and a proving ground for Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries.”

    For more on this, read this column published in Marist’s “The Circle” on February 24, 2005.

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    The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) by 25% in October. The original proposal would have completely eliminated “funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2008, but a Democratic amendment earmarked $400 million so that public broadcasting could use the money in the future.”

    CPB “provides less than 10% of PBS’s annual budget and less than 1% of NPR’s. But CPB is a vital source of funding for individual public radio and TV stations. And CPB provides crucial development money for a number of PBS shows, such as “Sesame Street,” “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” and “Washington Week in Review.” [Emphasis added]

    Democrats Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Frank R. Lautenberg (N.J.) sent a letter to Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the Bush-appointed CPB chairman, “expressing ‘serious concerns about reports of your interference in the programming decisions and governance’ of the agency.”

    News reports indicate that “Tomlinson and his fellow Republicans who dominate the CPB board are moving quickly to appoint Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, to be the corporation’s new president and chief executive.”

    This is somewhat ironic since Tomlinson has attacked PBS/NPR for being too liberal. He himself is now politicizing the organization. But according to F.A.I.R. PBS and NPR are no Air America.

    The public agrees. A recent poll financed by Tomlinson himself found that “80 percent of Americans saw PBS programming as “fair and balanced” … while 90 percent believed that PBS “provides high quality programming.” Furthermore, a majority of respondents called PBS “more trustworthy than CNN, Fox News Channel and other mainstream news outlets.” Tomlinson “buried [the results] in an annual report to Congress” without releasing them to the
    press or even sharing them with PBS and NPR.”

    Thoughtful soundbites:

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    Thirty U.S. lawmakers gathered in the basement of the U.S. Capital on Thursday to discuss the so-called Downing Street Memo. Chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the hearing featured former ambassador Joseph Wilson, veteran CIA analyst Ray McGovern, and attorney John Bonifaz.

    Audio excerpts of the hearings:
    Part I
    Part II
    Part II

    Ray McGovern introduces and discusses the memo on the May 6th edition of Political Thought. McGovern analyzes the media’s failure to properly cover the memorandum.

    Professor Bruce Luske and Igor Volsky discuss the Downing Street Memo and all other related documents on the June 13th edition of the Luske-Volsky Show.

    [More]

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    Kevin Danaher, founder of Global Exchange explains the politics of debt relief (mp3, 50 sec)

    Finance ministers of the world’s wealthiest nations agreed to wipe out “$40 billion in debt owed by 18 of the world’s poorest countries as part of a major assault on global poverty.” G8 nations (Britain, the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia) will replenish the reserves of the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund in order to relieve debtor nations of $15.6 billion in payments on the $40 billion over the next 10 years.

    “The 18 countries that would qualify immediately for debt relief have already been approved under the World Bank’s Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative, in which they commit to good governance, adhering to an IMF-endorsed financial plan and rooting out corruption.”

    Danaher discusses the “structural reforms” countries have to adopt (mp3, 2m-57s)

    Critics claim that relief “amounted only to about $1.5 billion in relief per year for the eligible countries. Western experts believe an extra $50 billion a year is needed by African nations to overcome a legacy of poverty, political instability, corruption and disease.”

    Danaher details his strategy for greater debt relief. (mp3, 3m-30s)

    More Thoughtful Coverage:
    John Perkins author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
    Why do third-world nations find themselves in debt?
    What role do U.S. corporations play in their plight?
    How does world debt threaten our security?

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