Archive for October, 2003

House Approves More Cash for Iraq

Friday, October 31st, 2003

House approves Iraq spending bill

The House of Representatives voted 298 to 121 today in favor of the Bush administration’s $87.5 billion War Supplemental Conference Report that included almost $2 billion in information technology projects to help wage the war on terrorism.

As part of the package, Congress approved IT spending that included $541.9 million for procurement and $338.8 million for research and development. The Air Force received the largest IT procurement, $239.3 million, including $150.3 million for communications systems in the Central Command region.

Defense Departmentwide programs netted $170.5 million to include $45.4 million for communications and computer security improvements. The Army garnered $121.8 million, including $42.2 million for command and control equipment. The Navy would get $10.3 million for command and control and Global Broadcast System satellite terminal updates.

“No Child Left Behind,” Military Recruiters & Our Kids

Friday, October 31st, 2003

A letter from Educator Lynn Green of Oklahoma City, OK–Editor

(a) POLICY.-
INFORMATION.-Notwithstanding section 444(a)(5)(B) of
the General Education Provisions Act and except as
provided in paragraph (2), each local educational
agency receiving assistance under this Act shall
provide, on a request made by military recruiters or
an institution of higher education, access to
secondary school students names, addresses, and
telephone listings.
(2) CONSENT.-A secondary school student or the parent
of the student may request that the student’s name,
address, and telephone listing described in paragraph
(1) not be released without prior written parental
consent, and the local educational agency or private
school shall notify parents of the option to make a
request and shall comply with any request.
(3) SAME ACCESS TO STUDENTS.-Each local educational
agency receiving assistance under this Act shall
provide military recruiters the same access to
secondary school students as is provided generally to
post secondary educational institutions or to
prospective employers of those students.

Dr. Bob Moore, Superintendent
Oklahoma City Public Schools
900 N. Klein
Oklahoma City, OK 73106

Dear Dr. Moore,

My name is Lynn Green and I am a high school English
teacher at John Marshall in the midst of my 10th year
of teaching for the Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Recently, I have been made aware of a requirement that
the federal government has mandated for our schools.
According to the information I received, a
little-known portion of the No Child Left Behind Act
requires schools to send the names and phone numbers
of all junior and senior high school students to U.S.
military recruiters. Schools that fail to comply with
the law risk the loss of federal funding since federal
aid is contingent on complying with federal law.

If my information is correct, student privacy,
something that school districts otherwise go to great
pains to guard, is in danger. I feel that compliance
with this law violates some very wise principles we
have established that seek to keep student records
confidential, which would include their names and home
information. I am even more disturbed that news this
violation of student privacy has not so far been
communicated to the general public.

Wellstone’s Son Tries to Move Democratic Party

Friday, October 31st, 2003

Monday, October 27, 2003

WASHINGTON — The green Paul Wellstone (search) bumper stickers can still be seen on Minnesota vehicles, a testament of the late senator’s popularity, said his son David Wellstone (search).

“He touched a lot people’s lives and I feel good about that,” the younger Wellstone told Fox News.

It’s been nearly a year since the plane crash that killed the two-term senator, his wife, daughter and several campaign workers. David Wellstone is now working to get the Democratic Party back on what he considers the right track.

David, his brother Mark and other Wellstone fans have put together “Camp Wellstone,” a traveling school that teaches Wellstone-style progressive politics.

“We really believe there has to be a rebuilding of progressive politics in this country, that people on the progressive side have not been winning elections. Last election was a very big example of that,” said Jeff Blodgett, executive director of Wellstone Action! (search)

“I think Paul Wellstone represents exactly what the Democratic Party should be,” said one camper.

David Wellstone said he founded the camp, in part, because he wants to end the string of recent accomplishments by the Republican Party.

“I believe Republicans actually got better, yes, and I think they took over grassroots organizing,” he said.

Wellstone does not blame the memorial service that followed his father’s death for the victory of Democrat-turned-Republican and former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman (search), who defeated Wellstone’s replacement, Walter Mondale, to take the senate seat.

Hudson Accused of Union Busting

Wednesday, October 29th, 2003

By John Greiner
The Oklahoman

A union leader called Tuesday for Oklahoma City School Board Chairman Cliff Hudson to resign because of a proposal to privatize school services performed by school support personnel.

David Gray, president of the Oklahoma City Federation of Classified Employees, said Hudson has a conflict of interest because of business ties with Sodexho, a firm seeking a contract under Hudson’s proposal for privatizing school services, including custodial, food service, transportation and bookkeeping.

Hudson, chairman and chief executive of Sonic Corp., said there is no conflict of interest because Sodexho has no contract with Sonic.

In a news conference Tuesday, Gray released a June 27, 2002, announcement by Sodexho that it “signed an agreement with Sonic Drive-Ins to open Sonics in Sodexho accounts across the country — the first national agreement for Sonic in the contract management sector.”

The news release also quoted a Sonic official.

Hudson on Tuesday said, “In spite of Sodexho’s June 2002 public statement that they hoped to become a Sonic franchisee, in fact, no relationship ever occurred.”

Sodexho, a Maryland-based firm, submitted a proposal to the school district to perform custodial, food service, transportation and bookkeeping services, Gray said.

The proposal would affect 1,000 support staff members, Gray said.

A committee studying privatization was formed in 2002 at Hudson’s request.

Sodexho has proposed it provide food service to Sonic’s new headquarters in Oklahoma City, Hudson said.

Sodexho was asked by Sonic to submit a contract for the service, but no contract has been entered into, Hudson said in the statement.

“To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, Sodexho will not be providing these services to Sonic,” he said.

A spokesman for Hudson said the decision was made Tuesday about food service for Sonic’s headquarters.

Hudson said Gray would have learned the facts if he had asked about them. He said he and Gray met recently in Hudson’s office, but the issue never was raised.

“I work for the patrons of the Oklahoma City Public School District and not special interest groups like David Gray’s,” Hudson said.

Asked if he thought the privatization proposal was union busting, Gray said he did.

Clark would spend $695 billion over 10 years on health plan that would cover all kids

Tuesday, October 28th, 2003

NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
©2003 Associated Press

(10-28) 07:12 PST WASHINGTON (AP) —

Wesley Clark says his health care plan is based on a lesson he learned from 34 years in the military — those who don’t have adequate medical attention won’t live up to their abilities.

The retired Army general says if elected president, he would look to spend $695 billion over 10 years to provide coverage to 31.8 million of the more than 40 million uninsured Americans.

Like the plan offered by his rival John Edwards, Clark would make it law that parents get health insurance for their children. All families making up to five times the poverty limit would be eligible for a tax credit that could help them pay for their children’s health care, either through their employer or a government plan.

Clark said he also would give financial assistance to those who need help to buy insurance, provide incentives for disease prevention and seek to cut costs with better efficiency.

Some of Clark’s rivals, including Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman, are also offering plans that aim to cover nearly all Americans.

Political Threat To Bush Growing

Tuesday, October 28th, 2003

Mr. Bush, this is what your Daddy would call “Deep Doo-Doo.” –Editor

By Ken Fireman

October 28, 2003

Washington - The latest rocket and bomb attacks in Baghdad are only the most recent in a series of setbacks for the Bush administration that threaten to turn Iraq into a political liability just as the 2004 election cycle is beginning.

Only last week, the administration suffered a defeat in Congress when the Senate voted to turn part of an $87-billion supplemental spending bill for Iraq into loans rather than outright grants over strong objections from President George W. Bush.

White House officials quickly threatened that Bush would veto any bill that contained loans, saying Iraq had too much debt already. But their position was undercut on Friday at an international donors conference, where total pledges fell well short of Iraq’s estimated needs - and much of the money from other countries was in the form of loans.

For the past few weeks, Bush and other top officials have waged a well-coordinated campaign to counteract what they called overly negative Iraq coverage by the news media. There were some signs that this was having an impact, judging from polls that showed the president’s approval rating stabilizing just above 50 percent after months of decline.

Now, the bloody attacks yesterday and Sunday in Baghdad on Red Cross headquarters, three police stations and a hotel housing U.S. personnel threaten to undermine those efforts. “It’s been a bad 24 hours,” Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged.

Bush held a council of war in the Oval Office yesterday, calling in the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, to discuss the security situation. Also present were Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers; the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid; and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Bush showed no inclination to change course, arguing that the attacks had been launched precisely because U.S. forces were making progress in restoring order to Iraq. “The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react,” the president said.

But Bush also seemed to plead with Iraqis to support the U.S. effort in the face of the attacks. “The people have got to understand, the Iraqi people have got to understand that any time you’ve got a group of killers willing to kill innocent Iraqis, that their future must not be determined by these kind of killers,” he said.

Bremer acknowledged that the past two days had been “rough days,” but insisted that overall events were moving in the right direction.

Democratic presidential candidates, their onetime reluctance to criticize Bush on Iraq long since set aside, were in full cry. “Does the president really believe that suicide bombers are willing to strap explosives to their bodies because we’re restoring electricity and creating jobs for Iraqis?” asked Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Thousands participate in protests

Sunday, October 26th, 2003


Thousands of war protesters from around the state took to the streets of San Francisco and Washington, D.C., on Saturday, opposing the U.S. occupation of Iraq and urging President Bush to bring the troops home.

Michael Napp went to San Francisco with a dozen peace activists from Modesto.

“I heard a rumor that Iraq is not the property of the United States,” he said. “Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people, so the Iraqi people should decide what their country looks like, not the United States.”

Napp is involved in the Modesto Committee for Peace in the Middle East and International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism), one of the groups that helped arrange transportation for protesters from Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and California.

A different group from Mo-desto included Doug Gilbert, a Modesto Junior College history major and a member of Food Not Bombs, an organization that helps the homeless.

“The support for the war is going down; the support for President Bush is going down,” he said.

Mainstream Americans are losing their resolve for the war, he said, because they have come to realize Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction and no clear links to al-Qaida.

Many in attendance at Civic Center Plaza waved large signs, some of which read “How many lives per gallon?” and “Support our troops. Bring them home.” Some carried Palestinian flags.

Speakers from groups such as the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Bay Area Iranians for Peace, and Military Families Speak Out joined politicians and celebrities to cheer on the crowd.

The crowd grew to as many as 5,000 by 2 p.m., by some police estimates, before it marched down the middle of Market Street to a park about a mile away. Once there, the crowd heard from speakers including Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, the author of “Born on the Fourth of July.” He likened the war in Iraq to the military conflict that left him paralyzed.

Napp said efforts to promote peace are likely to become more visible in the Modesto area. The committee he is involved with had a table each week at the Modesto farmers market and soon will have tables in front of supermarkets.

Gilbert said, “I think rallies like this can put pressure on politicians to make them think about what kind of actions they take.”

Anti-Union Merch Giant Wal-Mart probed over illegal staff

Friday, October 24th, 2003


US officials have arrested 250 workers at retail giant Wal-Mart, as part of a clampdown on the hiring of illegal immigrants.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Bureau, part of the new Department of Homeland Security, said the immigants were hired by a contract cleaning firm, and that Wal-Mart executives had turned a blind eye to the practice.

The ICE’s investigation, known as “Operation Rollback”, targeted workers at 61 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states.

Investigators are still pursuing at least 50 workers.

According to ICE, some Wal-Mart officials had direct knowledge of the recruitment of illegal immigrants.

Federal agents have reportedly conducted searches at Wal-Mart’s Arkansas headquarters.

And federal grand jury subpoenas have been issued for the Wal-Mart executives to testify.

Wal-Mart said it was “committed to cooperating” with federal officials, and stressed that it was not directly responsible for the behaviour of third-party contractors.

The probe is another stroke of bad news for Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer.

The firm already faces a wave of lawsuits alleging sexual discrimination, and has been criticised for its apparently anti-union stance.

Bush Disavows General’s Religious Bigotry

Thursday, October 23rd, 2003

By Matt Kelley
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Wednesday repudiated the views of a top general who cast the war on terrorism in religious terms, but the Pentagon brushed aside congressional calls to reassign the general during an investigation.
Bush, talking to reporters on Air Force One as he flew to Australia, said he had discussed the comments of Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin with Muslim leaders in Indonesia.
“I said he didn’t reflect my opinion,” Bush said. “Look, it just doesn’t reflect what the government thinks. And I think they were pleased to hear that.”
Bush’s comments notwithstanding, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected the urging of the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, and other members of Congress that Boykin be given another job during a Pentagon investigation of the matter.
Boykin came under criticism last week when reports surfaced of his comments during several speeches at evangelical Christian churches. Boykin said the enemy in the fight against terrorism was Satan and that God had put Bush in the White House. He recalled telling one Muslim Somali warlord he captured, “You underestimated our God.”
The Pentagon released a statement from Boykin apologizing to those who were offended.

Rush Limbaugh and the Hypocrisy Smokescreen

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003

by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw

The Center for American Progress “Bill Bennett Hypocrisy” award went to a most deserving recipient this week, Rush Limbaugh. Until last week, Limbaugh was in the service of two masters, playing both the mighty trumpeter for the army of interests waging the costly and devastating war on drugs, and also apparently playing the junkie who scored black market drugs in the service of his need for a fix. The contradiction uncovered by the revelation of Limbaugh’s addiction is breathtaking: perched safely away from the mass policing and incarceration of millions of Americans, Limbaugh sneered at the ruinous consequences of the war on drugs, particularly for people of color. Fairness, he blustered, did not require reductions in the incarceration of people of color, but rather an increase in the incarceration of whites who, all too often, get away with illegal drug use.

Of course no one should hold their breath waiting for Limbaugh or his supporters to submit to Limbaugh’s edict. In fact, one can almost imagine Limbaugh morphing into that old Saturday Night Live character-Jon Lovitz’s pathological liar: “Yeah, that’s the ticket, I’m for incarcerating all white drug users too..No wait, forget about what I just said— that’s not what I meant-what I meant to say was, uh.”

Bill O’Reilly Can Dish It Out, But He Can’t Take It

Tuesday, October 21st, 2003

The NPR Ombudsman is plainly wrong here.–Editor

Gross vs. O’Reilly: Culture Clash on NPR

By Jeffrey A. Dvorkin
National Public Radio

On October 9, Terry Gross, longtime host of NPR’s Fresh Air aired her interview with populist political talk show host Bill O’Reilly. The e-mails and phone calls of outrage are still arriving.

The interview was taped the day before on October 8. The ostensible reason was to talk about O’Reilly’s latest book, Who’s Looking Out For You? The book is about, among other things, the claim that America is in the midst of what O’Reilly calls a “cultural war between left and right.” And he says the battle is being fought in bookstores by pitting sales of his book against those by liberals.


State Dome Financing ‘A Mess’

Tuesday, October 21st, 2003

Ex-Keating Aide Says Situation Should Not Be A Surprise

OKLAHOMA CITY — The fact that $5 million is still owed on the Capitol dome should not come as a surprise, former Gov. Frank Keating’s chief of staff said Monday.

Howard Barnett, a Tulsa businessman, said he could have told anyone a year ago that there would be a liability to the state if a $5 million bond issue for dome work fell through.

“There was never any attempt to hide this, the question never got asked,” Barnett said of a $5 million loan negotiated to finish the dome in the fall of 2002.

The bond issue in question was ruled unconstitutional earlier this month by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Construction on the dome was completed last year at a cost of $20.8 million. At the time, officials reported that private donors had pledged about $20 million, to go with $1.25 million appropriated by the Legislature.

Last week, officials confirmed that a $5 million loan, not counting interest, was still outstanding and would have to be paid off through either a legislative appropriation or another bond issue.

Scott Meacham, Gov. Brad Henry’s finance secretary, described the dome financing as “a mess that we inherited.”

Barnett said because sponsors decided to pay off their pledges over several years, it became evident to him that proceeds from the $5 million bond issue would be needed to pay interest on two loans.

He estimated that “the total cost of the dome, with the financing costs, is going to be $24-plus million.”

A tax-exempt foundation set up as the technical debtor made one loan for $11.3 million to keep construction rolling and another for $5 million to finish the structure in time for dedication on Statehood Day, Nov. 16, 2002. Keating went out of office in January.

At the time, Blake Wade, executive director of the Oklahoma Centennial Commission, said the dome had been paid for by donations and proceeds from the bond issue could be used for other Centennial projects.

“Blake is the eternal optimist,” Barnett said. “I think he was hopeful we would actually raise more private money than we did. Frank Keating was raising money up until the end.”