Archive for November, 2003

Some Experts Foresee Revolt by Elderly Over Drug Benefits

Sunday, November 30th, 2003

Some Experts Foresee Revolt by Elderly Over Drug Benefits

by Gardiner Harris

With good intentions and bright advisers, Congress overwhelming passed legislation in 1988 that would insure the elderly against catastrophic medical expenses, including crushing drug costs.

Tell the AARP How You Feel About Their Betrayal

Call 1-800-424-3410
Monday - Friday
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AARP President William Novelli, who decided last week to use his position to push the conservative Medicare privatization bill, is the founder of Porter Novelli - the firm that orchestrated the Harry and Louise ads that brought down health care reform in the 1990s. Novelli was an official in the Nixon Administration, and the firm he founded has a long history of producing conservative, anti-health care ads.

E-Mail William Novelli:

But affluent retirees quickly concluded that they were being asked to pay for something that their employers already gave. They rose in revolt. Congress repealed the legislation within months.

Some experts envision a similar fate for the Medicare drug benefit that the Senate sent to President Bush’s desk yesterday. The legislation provides billions in tax incentives to discourage employers from dropping the drug benefits that they provide to about 11 million retirees. But if, as pessimists expect, many large employers calculate that the incentives are not enough, millions more retirees than Congress expects will watch as their relatively rich private drug benefits are replaced by the government’s more meager package.

Iraq, George Bush and Queen Victoria

Wednesday, November 26th, 2003

All of us here at SoonerThought wish you a blessed, safe and happy Thanksgiving.–Editor

Iraq, George Bush and Queen Victoria

By Michael G Gallagher

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

Once upon a time, a superpower became involved in a war in a faraway land. The leaders of this mighty nation thought the war would be easy, so they sent their young soldiers off to war with hardly a second thought about the consequences of their actions. The leaders of the greatest power on earth were unpleasantly surprised when the enemy proved tougher than expected. As their supposed cakewalk of a war became a muddy slog, the empire’s leaders became uneasy over the mounting deaths of their young soldiers - and their citizens’ reactions to those deaths.

No, this is not George W Bush and Iraq in 2003. It’s Great Britain fighting the Boer War in South Africa in 1899.

In 1897, England marked the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign with Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Over 150 ships of the massive Royal Navy sailed in review off Spithead. Troops from every corner of the empire paraded past cheering crowds in a celebration of British might. The Viceroy of India alone ruled over 300 million people.

But there was one spot on the map that wasn’t completely British: South Africa. The British controlled the coastal areas, but had no authority over the gold mines and diamond fields in the interior of the country. Those riches belonged to the Afrikaner-Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Finally, after giving in to a combination of simple greed and imperial pride, the British decided to go to war.

What happened next bears an eerie similarity to what is now happening in Iraq; after thinking the war all but won by the spring of 1900, the British found themselves facing an increasingly fierce resistance from the well-armed Boer guerillas who, being intimately familiar with the local terrain and culture, found it very easy to vanish into the rolling hills and grasslands of the South African veldt.

World public opinion backed the Boers, who were widely perceived as being the victims of an outrageous British land grab. One American magazine described Britain’s African misadventure this way: “A small boy with diamonds is no match for a large burglar with experience.” The French, who had seen their African ambitions blocked by the British at Fashoda in Egyptian Sudan on September 18, 1898, simply gloated. At one point during the conflict, relations between London and Paris had sunk so low that the British press was openly speculating about a French attack on London. The German emperor, Kaiser Wilhem II, demanded that his country be allowed greater international influence - and then launched a massive naval buildup to back up that demand.

At home, British newspapers reported in detail about charred army supply wagons and Boer guerillas galloping off into the bush with the lumbering British army in futile pursuit. Their readers, used to nearly half a century of easy victories over poorly armed and organized native tribes, were totally unprepared for the steady stream of bad news and bodies flowing out of South Africa. Queen Victoria’s twilight years should have been a little quieter.

But modern Iraq isn’t an exact twin of the Transvaal in 1899. The British went on to win their war, while the issue in Iraq has yet to be decided. In the end, the British had to commit 300,000 troops to crush the stubborn Boer guerillas.

The issue of access to natural resources is also more apparent than real. Gold and diamonds are bright and shiny, but oil is by far the more vital resource. If you don’t think so, try putting a handful of diamonds in your car’s gas tank and see what happens when you put the key in the ignition.

American access to Iraqi oil was never more than half of the natural resource equation; the other half was Saddam Hussein’s access to Iraqi oil. Saddam had a long and well-documented history of trying to build weapons of mass destruction. He also had a long and well-documented history of trying to deceive United Nations weapons inspectors. No American administration, especially the present one, and in the aftermath of September 11, was going to allow Iraq to come out of the UN sanctions with Saddam or any other Ba’athist still in power in Baghdad.

It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003 - Participant at KKK initiation wounded after shots fired into sky - Nov. 25, 2003

The Uncivil War

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003

Op-Ed Columnist: The Uncivil War

November 25, 2003


ne of the problems with media coverage of this administration,” wrote Eric Alterman in The Nation, “is that it requires bad manners.”

He’s right. There’s no nice way to explain how the administration uses cooked numbers to sell its tax cuts, or how its arrogance and gullibility led to the current mess in Iraq.

So it was predictable that the administration and its allies, no longer very successful at claiming that questioning the president is unpatriotic, would use appeals to good manners as a way to silence critics. Not, mind you, that Emily Post has taken over the Republican Party: the same people who denounce liberal incivility continue to impugn the motives of their opponents.

Smart conservatives admit that their own side was a bit rude during the Clinton years. But now, they say, they’ve learned better, and it’s those angry liberals who have a problem. The reality, however, is that they can only convince themselves that liberals have an anger problem by applying a double standard.

When Ann Coulter expresses regret that Timothy McVeigh didn’t blow up The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal laughs it off as “tongue-in-cheek agitprop.” But when Al Franken writes about lies and lying liars in a funny, but carefully researched book, he’s degrading the discourse.

More important, the Bush administration — which likes to portray itself as the inheritor of Reagan-like optimism — actually has a Nixonian habit of demonizing its opponents.

For example, here’s President Bush on critics of his economic policies: “Some say, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper. It bothers me when people say that.” Because he used the word “some,” he didn’t literally lie — no doubt a careful search will find someone, somewhere, who says the recession should have been deeper. But he clearly intended to suggest that those who disagree with his policies don’t care about helping the economy.

And that’s nothing compared with the tactics now being used on foreign policy.

The campaign against “political hate speech” originates with the Republican National Committee. But last week the committee unveiled its first ad for the 2004 campaign, and it’s as hateful as they come. “Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists,” it declares.

Close the School of the Americas

Monday, November 24th, 2003

Thousands demand closing of controversial Fort Benning school

Scaring Up Votes

Monday, November 24th, 2003

Scaring Up Votes

by Maureen Dowd

First came the pre-emptive military policy. Now comes the pre-emptive campaign strategy.

Before the president even knows his opponent, his first political ad is blanketing Iowa today.

“It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known,” Mr. Bush says, in a State of the Union clip.

Well, that’s a comforting message from our commander in chief. Do we really need his cold, clammy hand on our spine at a time when we’re already rattled by fresh terror threats at home and abroad? When we’re chilled by the metastasizing Al Qaeda, the resurgent Taliban and Baathist thugs armed with deadly booby traps; the countless, nameless terror groups emerging in Turkey, Morocco, Indonesia and elsewhere; the vicious attacks on Americans, Brits, aid workers and their supporters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey? The latest illustration of the low-tech ingenuity of Iraqi foes impervious to our latest cascade of high-tech missiles: a hapless, singed donkey that carted rockets to a Baghdad hotel.

Yet the Bush crowd is seizing the moment to scare us even more.

Flashing the words “terrorists” and “self-defense” in crimson, the Republican National Committee spot urges Americans “to support the president’s policy of pre-emptive self-defense” — a policy Colin Powell claimed was overblown by the press.

“Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?” Mr. Bush says.

With this ad, Republicans have announced their intention: to scare us stupid, hoping we won’t remember that this was the same State of the Union in which Mr. Bush made a misleading statement about the Iraq-Niger uranium connection, or remark that the imperial idyll in Iraq has created more terrorists.

Richard Clarke, the former U.S. counterterrorism chief, told Ted Koppel that Mr. Bush’s habit of putting X’s through the pictures of arrested or killed Qaeda managers was very reminiscent of a scene in the movie “The Battle of Algiers,” in which the French authorities did the same to the Algerian terrorists: “Unfortunately, after all the known Algerian terrorists were arrested or killed, the French lost. And that could be the thing that’s happening here, that even though we’re getting all the known Al Qaeda leaders, we’re breeding new ones. Ones we don’t know about and will be harder to find.”

This view of Al Qaeda was echoed by a European counterterrorism official in The Times: “There are fewer leaders but more followers.”

The president is trying to make the campaign about guts: he has the guts to persevere in the war on terror.

But the real issue is trust: should we trust leaders who cynically manipulated intelligence, diverted 9/11 anger and lost focus on Osama so they could pursue an old cause near to neocon hearts: sacking Saddam?

The Bush war left our chief villains operating, revved up the terrorist threat, ravaged our international alliances and sparked the resentment of a world that ached for us after 9/11.

Big Brother IS Watching Dissenters

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003

FBI scrutinizing anti-war protesters / Bureau wants anti-terror units to review suspicious activities

FBI scrutinizing anti-war protesters
Bureau wants anti-terror units to review suspicious activities

Eric Lichtblau, New York Times
Sunday, November 23, 2003
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle

Washington — The FBI has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

Moyers’ Address to the National Conference on Media Reform

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003

by Bill Moyers
Founding Director, Public Affairs Television
President, The Schumann Center for Media and Democracy

November 8, 2003
Madison, Wisconsin

Thank you for inviting me tonight. I’m flattered to be speaking to a gathering as high-powered as this one that’s come together with an objective as compelling as “media reform.” I must confess, however, to a certain discomfort, shared with other journalists, about the very term “media.” Ted Gup, who teaches journalism at Case Western Reserve, articulated my concerns better than I could when he wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education (November 23, 2001)

that the very concept of media is insulting to some of us within the press who find ourselves lumped in with so many disparate elements, as if everyone with a pen, a microphone, a camera, or just a loud voice were all one and the same. …David Broder is not Matt Drudge. “Meet the Press” is not “Temptation Island.” And I am not Jerry Springer. I do not speak for him. He does not speak for me. Yet ‘the media” speaks for us all.

That’s how I felt when I saw Oliver North reporting on Fox from Iraq, pressing our embattled troops to respond to his repetitive and belittling question, “Does Fox Rock? Does Fox Rock?” Oliver North and I may be in the same “media” but we are not part of the same message. Nonetheless, I accept that I work and all of us live in “medialand,” and God knows we need some “media reform.” I’m sure you know those two words are really an incomplete description of the job ahead. Taken alone, they suggest that you’ve assembled a convention of efficiency experts, tightening the bolts and boosting the output of the machinery of public enlightenment, or else a conclave of high-minded do-gooders applauding each other’s sermons. But we need to be – and we will be – much more than that. Because what we’re talking about is nothing less than rescuing a democracy that is so polarized it is in danger of being paralyzed and pulverized.

General Clark on the Hustings: Complexity and Contradiction

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003

General Clark on the Hustings: Complexity and Contradiction


Gen. Wesley K. Clark was losing his voice. He was whispering. It was also true that he was hungry and in a bakery. There was no chance he was leaving empty-handed.

This was on a public-spirited afternoon in the torpid drizzle of Nashua, N.H. He deliberated before the high-caloric options beckoning in the bakery case.

Maybe it simply suited his eye. Maybe it was the name. He selected an Everything Bar.

He paid, swiveled on his heels and walked off.

“What did you get?” one of his phalanx of handlers inquired.

“It’s called an Everything Bar,” he whispered. “I’m an inclusive candidate. I want Democrats. I want Republicans. I want independents. I want people who have never voted before. I want everything.”

Early on, Wesley Clark demonstrated a certainty about what he wanted to make of himself, and it was a lot. To him, stasis is intolerable. He does seem to want, and perhaps expect, everything.

His dizzying expectations come with a particular angle on reality. Dale Vesser, a retired lieutenant general who taught him philosophy at West Point, said: “He’s always been interested in exploring the limits, what are the limits to expanding one’s horizons. He thinks like an epistemologist.”

God Bless John F. Kennedy

Saturday, November 22nd, 2003

A SoonerThought Editorial

JFK–a conundrum to many–handsome, suave, smart, energetic, progressive; also very physically ill, a womanizer and a bit of a scoundrel. Yet he consistently polls as the top or one of the top presidents in history.

His unfullfilled promise, to this writer, equates years of American boys coming home in body bags from a misguided war in Southeast Asia. It stands as the beginning of the American distrust of government. JFK’s murder not only brought us war and decades of strife, it brought us Watergate, riots in urban areas, and malaise at home. The ripple effect from the shots fired in Dealey Plaza that winter day in 1963 cannot be dismissed.

Who did it?

Well, it almost seems pointless now. Those behind the murder are long dead or have certainly enacted enough of their agenda to be satisfied. However, those of us who thirst for justice continue to ask why.

I believe that elements of the CIA, with the assent of the FBI and aid from the Mafia, killed our beloved president. He stood in the way of their dreams of empire, and he threatened to smash the CIA “into a thousand pieces” after they misled JFK about Cuba. The assassins were saving their boss’ asses, and ensuring American expansion in the name of anti-communism for decades to come.

I do not believe LBJ was in on it, but it is widely known that he was suspicious and knew the Warren Commission was a whitewash. He also suffered the guilt of being the accidental recipient of a bloodstained presidency.

Oswald? A patsy–he fired, but probably missed. The assassins? One in the book depository, one in the storm grate under the street, and one on the knoll.

I could write volumes (as others have) on facts to back up those theories. But today, perhaps we should just think of the man–the great man–who never heard the final gunshot that was heard around the world. : Theories Surround JFK Assassination

Controversial Corporate Handout Recipient Bass Pro Opens

Friday, November 21st, 2003

Welcome to

According to this report, people waited all night to be the first customers of this corporate welfare recipient. I believe the phrase is “get a life.”–Editor

Bricktown Bass Pro opens
By Elizabeth Camacho Wiley
The Oklahoman

Despite shivering the night away in the back of a pickup parked across the street from Bricktown’s new Bass Pro Shops, three Harrah teenagers lost their opportunity at being the first customers at the outdoor sports retailer’s grand opening Thursday.
Watch the video

Drew Brady, 19, Nathan Legrand, 18, and Jeremy Allbaugh, 17, arrived for Bass Pro’s opening at noon Wednesday. They stayed up all night roasting hot dogs on a portable grill and playing baseball in the empty parking lot.

“Then this guy showed up at, like, 4 a.m.,” Legrand said.

And the race began.

The Harrah trio darted from their truck toward the entrance in time to find Chickasha resident Bill Myhand, 39, and his 10-year-old son, David, hovering at the store’s entrance.

“That was something else,” Bill Myhand said of the friendly scuffle.

Bass Pro management thought all five guys deserved prizes for their tenacity (little David had been awake since midnight) and awarded them $10 gift cards and free Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The first 500 customers who made small purchases received Bass Pro ballcaps. And downtown’s Westin hotel gave free coffee to the about 1,000 customers that lined up outside Bass Pro early Thursday.

But that may not have been enough to keep them warm. The chilly air prompted Bass Pro to let customers indoors at 8:20 a.m., instead of the scheduled 9 a.m. opening time, store spokeswoman Jill Devereaux said.

By 10 a.m., a steady flow of traffic had ensued, making it easier for about a half-dozen Oklahoma City police officers to direct traffic in and out of three large parking lots near the store.

Inside the store, the ratio of men to women was about five to one, with no lines in the women’s restroom. A continuous short line marked the way to the men’s restroom.

Most of the women who visited Bass Pro on Thursday weren’t just tagging along with male companions. Oklahoma City resident Marsha Bennett, 67, and pal Barbara Hofmaier, 56, of Yukon, say they came to scope the store’s merchandise.

“We just wanted to see what the new place looked like,” Hofmaier said, loading her cart with gifts for her husband, Reggie, who was at work Thursday.

Bennett said visiting Bass Pro was a way for her to reconnect with her childhood, when she often fished and hunted with her father.

“I’m too old for that now,” she said, adding that the casual women’s clothing and shoes at Bass Pro appealed to her more.

Nothing about Bass Pro appealed to about 10 activists — including longtime Bass Pro opponent and Bricktown property owner Moshe Tal — who picketed across the street from the store. The protesters were from various organizations and quietly held signs that read “fishy deal” and “$20 million political payoff.”

Oklahoma City paid about $19 million to build the 113,000 square-foot Bass Pro store, near Reno and Lincoln avenues.

Our Contract Won and Lost in Our Lifetime?

Friday, November 21st, 2003

COPE Corner by Lynn Green
This summer I attended an Oklahoma City city council
meeting and watched in dismay as our mayor, who is now
a candidate for the United States Senate gleefully
predicted that the next legislature would work to
curtail or eliminate our rights as teachers to a fair
contract arrived at by collective bargaining. The
topic of the meeting was a city charter change which
would guarantee collective bargaining for city
workers, including fire, police, and maintenance
workers. Mayor Humphries stated, “The only reason
that the city workers want this charter change is that
they know that the legislature take them [collective
bargaining rights] away if the legislature changes

Too many teachers believe that our collective
bargaining rights are somehow the “normal order” of
things, that they are some sort of inalienable right.

Brothers and sisters, collective bargaining rights
are not even a part of the Oklahoma state
constitution. They were granted to us by the state
legislature in 1970, well within the lifetime of many
of us. And what old lawmakers gave to us, new
lawmakers can take away from us.

We are in real danger of this very thing happening
after the next round of elections in November 2004.
For the first time, term limits will have a big impact
on who can run for office and who must step aside. In
Oklahoma, 28 members of the House are term limited. Of
these 18 are Democrats, the party that usually favors
the rights of teachers in matters of collective
bargaining. In the Senate, 8 Democrats and 5
Republicans are term limited. There are 52 Democrats
and 49 Republicans in the House while the Senate is
divided into 28 Democrats and 20 Republicans. This
election will determine if we go forward to securing a
fair contract or if we go back to the bad old days
where we served at the whim of those in power.