Archive for January, 2005

Report: US Occupation Authority in Iraq Lost Track of Nearly $9B

Monday, January 31st, 2005

VOA News - Report: US Occupation Authority in Iraq Lost Track of Nearly $9B

An audit by a U.S. inspector says the U.S.-led authority that governed Iraq after the 2003 invasion failed to keep track of nearly $9 billion it transferred to Iraqi ministries.

The audit released Sunday by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says the Coalition Provisional Authority failed to establish control systems to verify how the money was spent, which opened it to corruption.

In some instances, money was used to pay what the report calls “ghost” employees, explaining that out of 8,206 guards on the payroll at one ministry, only 602 could be accounted for.

Former CPA chief Paul Bremer rejected the findings, saying the report assumes western-style accounting procedures could have been quickly set up during wartime.

Mr. Bremer says delaying payment to Iraqi public servants could have created additional security threats.

Mailbag

Sunday, January 30th, 2005

Greetings Fellow Democrats!

On Saturday, county officers from across the state met to discuss the upcoming precinct meetings and county conventions. As many of you know, the Democratic precinct meetings will take place on March 10th at 7pm. In Oklahoma County, it has long been our practice to organize our precinct meetings around the state house districts. We have just about secured all our meeting places and these will be posted on the web page (okcountydemocrats.org) on this listserv, in the area newspapers, and through letters. When this information goes out, help us spread the word by passing the information on to friends and places where you know there will be interest in attending.
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The New Boss

Sunday, January 30th, 2005

Magazine > The New Boss” href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/30/magazine/30STERN.html?th”>The New York Times > Magazine > The New Boss

January 30, 2005

By MATT BAI

Purple is the color of Andrew Stern’s life. He wears, almost exclusively, purple shirts, purple jackets and purple caps. He carries a purple duffel bag and drinks bottled water with a purple label, emblazoned with the purple logo of the Service Employees International Union, of which Stern is president. There are union halls in America where a man could get himself hurt wearing a lilac shirt, but the S.E.I.U. is a different kind of union, rooted in the new service economy. Its members aren’t truck drivers or assembly-line workers but janitors and nurses and home health care aides, roughly a third of whom are black, Asian or Latino. While the old-line industrial unions have been shrinking every year, Stern’s union has been organizing low-wage workers, many of whom have never belonged to a union, at a torrid pace, to the point where the S.E.I.U. is now the largest and fastest-growing trade union in North America. Once a movement of rust brown and steel gray, Big Labor is increasingly represented, at rallies and political conventions, by a rising sea of purple.

All of this makes Andy Stern — a charismatic 54-year-old former social-service worker — a very powerful man in labor, and also in Democratic politics. The job of running a union in America, even the biggest union around, isn’t what it once was. The age of automation and globalization, with its ‘’race to the bottom'’ among companies searching for lower wages overseas, has savaged organized labor. Fifty years ago, a third of workers in the United States carried union cards in their wallets; now it’s barely one in 10. An estimated 21 million service-industry workers have never belonged to a union, and between most employers’ antipathy to unions and federal laws that discourage workers from demanding one, chances are that the vast majority of them never will.
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Nimmo Condemns Actions by County GOP Chair

Saturday, January 29th, 2005

Non-partisan elections became partisan through Merten’s Actions

District 2 School Board Candidate James Nimmo today condemns actions by Oklahoma County GOP Chair Al Mertens. The Oklahoma County Republican Party this week released an email encouraging their members to vote for “the only Republican in the race” and releasing Nimmo’s political affiliation.

“This election is specifically a non-partisan race,” said Nimmo. “The rules on this are very clear, and this blatent electioneering by the Republican Party certainly violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. It brings back memories of the last ‘non-partisan’ race we had - the one for Oklahoma City Mayor, when the GOP got involved on the side of Republican Mick Cornett.”

Oklahoma elections for school board are non-partisan, meaning no political affiliations are listed on the ballot.

“The really odd part is that Mertens is upset about a statement I made that I wanted to help those gay and questioning students who are learning about themselves. I don’t understand why he thinks that’s a bad thing. GLBT youth have the highest suicide rates in any measured population - they need support and positive role models,” Nimmo continued.

Mertens’ email was in support of Oklahoma Corporation Commission employee Gary Walker, who claimed to have not been consulted about the email prior to its release.

Nimmo continued: “Gary Walker is Commissioner Denise Bode’s close friend and staffer. He’s a political appointee with an enormous amount of access to Commissioner Bode. I question whether this is appropriate, given that the school district is a major consumer of industries regulated by the very body that he works for!”

“Rather than attacking my sexual orientation or my desire to help young people, perhaps Mertens should think about this irreconcilable conflict of interest by the candidate that he is endorsing in this ‘non-partisan’ election. This type of power grab by the GOP is what we’ve come to expect from the leadership of the Oklahoma Republican Party. I wish they’d remember that a non-partisan election should be just that - non-partisan.”

Columbia Journalism Review: Let’s Blame the Readers

Saturday, January 29th, 2005

CJR January/February 2005: Essay by Evan Cornog

What do the managing editors of America’s newspapers talk about when they get together? Readers, and why there are fewer of them than there used to be. At the Associated Press Managing Editors convention in Louisville this fall, Topic A was declining readership. Stuart Wilk, the past APME president and associate editor of The Dallas Morning News, delivered a keynote speech that spoke of various ills facing the business — falling readership, sliding profits, circulation scandals. Bennie Ivory, executive editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, warned, “We’re losing a lot of readership right now,” and another speaker, the business consultant Vin Crosbie, diagnosed the industry as being in “critical condition.” The gathering was not, of course, a wake, and much time was spent discussing what news people could do to turn the situation around. Yet for all the can-do spirit and guarded optimism that were in evidence, it was clear that many of the people at the APME meeting were worried about the future.

It is not hard to see why; the data on readership are consistent and depressing. Vin Crosbie pointed to statistics that showed that in 1964, 81 percent of Americans read a daily newspaper, while today that figure hovers around 54 percent. Soon newspaper readers will be a minority of the population, given the even more distressing figures he cited concerning the reading habits of younger Americans. As recently as 1997, 39 percent of Americans 18 to 34 were reading newspapers regularly; by 2001 this had dropped to 26 percent. That statistic is even worse than it seems, because newspaper reading — or nonreading — is a habit, like smoking or a preference for Coke or Pepsi, that once acquired tends to remain in place. The older Americans who are the mainstay of newspaper subscriber lists have been reading newspapers since their teens and twenties, and younger Americans who have not yet picked up the habit are not likely to develop it later in life.
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True Majority Lists ‘04 Victories

Saturday, January 29th, 2005


Yes, It’s True. Your Efforts Paid Off in ‘04

Congress is about to get in full gear again, so it’s a good time to take a look back at last year’s successes for some inspiration. Yes, we know, a lot of us are trying to forget last year, too. But your faxes, e-mails, contributions, and phone calls generated results we can be proud of.


No New Nuclear Bombs

Who would have thought that Congress would ever cut all funding for a weapon called the “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator”? Sounds like just the kind of bomb Tom DeLay would love. But we’re glad to report that after intense grassroots pressure, Congress cut this new bomb—which is designed to burrow underground and destroy bunkers. We should be dismantling the nukes we have, not building dangerous new ones. So this was a good victory.

Sudan
At first, the Bush administration wanted to essentially ignore the genocide in Sudan. Then Bush said he wanted to take action, but not call the atrocities “genocide.” In the end, the administration not only joined Congress in calling the situation “genocide,” which adds a new level of responsibility to the UN’s reaction to the crisis, but Bush eagerly signed the Comprehensive Peace in Sudan bill. This bill puts the teeth of sanctions behind our demands that the Sudan government stop the genocide. This turnaround is directly attributable to grassroots pressure like ours. We are also glad for the media attention that you’ve generated—like the project funded by TrueMajority members that sent a camera crew directly to a refugee camp.

Renewable Energy

One of the Bush administration’s top priorities for last year was enacting an energy policy that would further our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, locking our country into a future of more pollution, economic decline, and, almost certainly, more wars over oil. It was a great victory for us—and the planet—when, after a popular uprising, Congress stopped Bush’s energy bill. We’ve got our work cut out for us this year, but this was a sweet win.

Star Wars

It makes sense only in the Bush administration’s Orwellian mind to declare Star Wars “operable” even though it doesn’t work. But this was Bush’s goal for 2004. Thanks to you, the administration was not able to push this past Congress, due to failed testing, obvious incompetence, and serious grassroots pressure.

Voter Registration

We registered thousands of new voters and put the danger of electronic paperless voting machines in the national spotlight. Eleven states, including California, now plan to require voting systems that allow for recounts and issue verifiable paper ballots. Even Ohio—the home of Diebold, the nation’s largest maker of electronic voting machines—now says it has no plans to buy any if the machines don’t generate a paper trail.

Your Feedback

Going forward, we will continue to be your eyes and ears in Congress, notifying you when your voice really counts on the critical issues. And we will also be more involved this year in key state and local campaigns.

We tabulated all the feedback you gave us recently, and will use it as we plan our work this year. If you want to review the responses we received from our online “IdeaSwap” discussion forum and questionnaire, click here.

Thanks for being a part of TrueMajority.

We will be in touch.

Ben

One Year Should Be More Than Enough

Saturday, January 29th, 2005


Editorial by Mike Schiller
January 19, 2005
Permission automatically granted to post and fwd this article.

The idea for a one-year timeline to get all or most U.S. troops out of Iraq has been gaining momentum over the past month. Interestingly, the first positive sign came from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Christmas Day. In a speech to the troops, he made a statement with which I agree wholeheartedly- that the military needs to begin transferring security responsibilities to Iraqis in order to prevent the Iraqis from becoming too dependent on the U.S. military. He reportedly also began to lay out a plan for the military to begin transferring responsibilities to the Iraqis, which apparently is meant to yield noticeable results within six months. I fully support this approach, and hope that Republicans and Democrats alike can also support this method. Some have questioned whether the Iraqis are ready to take on this challenge, and personally, I believe deeply that they are ready, but that they had been reluctant to take on any responsibility because of the virtual martial welfare state the ongoing U.S. military presence has created in Iraq. If the Iraqi insurgents are allegedly adapting quickly, then the Iraqis in general must be able to adapt quickly, and I do not doubt that the Iraqi people would be able to defend themselves and adapt to any problems with ease, once they had an incentive to do so, that being the absence of someone to do everything for them. Similar sentiments were later echoed by Colin Powell, who went a step further by saying it is likely most troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year. Rumsfeld has, reportedly, already instructed that soldiers stop thinking of the day to day operations of running Iraq as their responsibility, and instead have the Iraqis do that work while troops are there to assist them only when absolutely necessary. If this is what the administration intends to do, I would call this shift in policy and a sign of progress.

For a long time now, there has been a bipartisan chorus of citizens and lawmakers asking for a change in policy which can solve the problems in Iraq. This, in my view, is the best idea for a change in policy we can hope for. I just hope to see signs that the approach laid out by Rumsfeld on Christmas day is actually adopted and implemented, with the goal being to achieve exactly what Colin Powell said- a drastic reduction in troop levels within one year. My only complaint is that Bush technically has yet to agree to a one year timeline. However, it is possible he is avoiding making such a verbal agreement because he doesn’t want to say “mission accomplished” again, setting himself up for possible criticism if things don’t work out as planned. What matters in this case, as always, is what actions the administration takes over the next year. They may not be able to verbally agree to a one year timeline, but the pressure for adherence to a one year timeline needs to be relentless so that the administration understands that it is what people expect them to achieve nonetheless.

I am sorry to say I cannot support Senator Kerry’s recent mass email calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation. That would be both unproductive and blatantly dangerous. My view on that subject is much more similar to what Senator Lugar said, which is that Donald Rumsfeld needs to remain defense secretary, and he also needs to be accountable to congress and the people. Given that Rumsfeld’s Christmas Day speech laid out the best solution anyone from either side of the aisle has suggested since the inception of this misadventure, I cannot understand why Kerry would now be emailing people asking for such a thing. I’ve read some of the editorials written by some of those outspoken Rumsfeld opponents - not the ones in congress but the ones within the actual military/pentagon infrastructure, the ones who either would seek his job or seek to install an ally into his job - and quite frankly, the things these people say about their vision for what the military should be, is completely sickening. There has been conflict between those people and Rumsfeld since the day he took office and it has been an ongoing thing for four years. On many of those areas, Rumsfeld has correctly resisted much of what those people have sought to do with the military, and given how much influence that crowd has in the media and in Washington, that is no small accomplishment. I cannot imagine any Democrat or Republican wanting to create an opening for some of those people to try and get someone into that position or gain influence over whoever it were, not in wartime nor in peacetime.

Instead, I call upon both parties to take positive, proactive action to build public momentum for the one year timeline. Rather than saying what we oppose, we should say what we support, and ironically, the best ideas happen to be things which have been said by people who work with or have worked with Bush, so it is a realistic thing to ask for and rally in favor of. I believe the administration may privately agree with Colin Powell on this issue, but may not publicly say it because they might be worried about another “mission accomplished” criticism fiasco. It is worth noting that in every statement where an administration official has declined to support a timeline, their statements included the phrase “until the mission is accomplished”, which is a sign that their response on this issue may partially have something to do with that past rhetorical blunder. They may still like the idea of a timeline and make an effort to get the work done within a timeline.

That said, the public should ask congress to keep the up pressure for a timeline, so that the administration understands what people’s expectations are. Members of congress would be wise to attempt to shape legislation according to the assumption that a timeline exists, so that the administration is guided by the way the legislation is shaped. This approach should be something that people of both parties should be able to unite behind, because it addresses the concerns of both sides of the debate. One year is an extremely long time, so I cannot imagine any reason why they would still need many U.S. troops to be there a year from now. If the administration takes steps to get out of Iraq within one year, and succeeds, but never verbally agrees to the timeline, that would be understandable. If troops are still in Iraq a year from now, I think most people would have a very difficult time understanding. The time has arrived for Iraqis to take responsibility for Iraq. Within one year, I believe deeply that American troops should be able to return home to their families.

Mike Schiller is an editorialist, poet, and founder of an internet based policy analysis group, Dem-Elections-Strategy©2004 Michael A. Schiller

Researchers Who Rushed Into Print a Study of Iraqi Civilian Deaths Now Wonder Why It Was Ignored

Friday, January 28th, 2005

http://chronicle.com/free/2005/01/2005012701n.htm

By LILA GUTERMAN

When more than 200,000 people died in a tsunami caused by an Asian earthquake in December, the immediate reaction in the United States was an outpouring of grief and philanthropy, prompted by extensive coverage in the news media.

Two months earlier, the reaction in the United States to news of another large-scale human tragedy was much quieter. In late October, a study was published in The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, concluding that about 100,000 civilians had been killed in Iraq since it was invaded by a United States-led coalition in March 2003. On the eve of a contentious presidential election — fought in part over U.S. policy on Iraq — many American newspapers and television news programs ignored the study or buried reports about it far from the top headlines.

The paper, written by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and Baghdad’s Al-Mustansiriya University, was based on a door-to-door survey in September of nearly 8,000 people in 33 randomly selected locations in Iraq. It was dangerous work, and the team of researchers was lucky to emerge from the survey unharmed.
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“the dumbest ******* guy on the planet.” Resigns

Friday, January 28th, 2005

Telegraph | News | Top Pentagon policymaker to step down

Top Pentagon policymaker to step down
(Filed: 27/01/2005)

Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy who helped plan the American invasion of Iraq, has decided to resign after a four-year term, Pentagon officials have said.

Gen Franks called Feith ‘dumb’
Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary, said Mr Feith told him after the November elections that he would step down before summer 2006 to return to private life.

Mr Rumsfeld said: “I’m hopeful he’ll stay until we find an appropriate successor. We have not started looking for one.”

Mr Feith, a former lawyer, has been an influential adviser to Mr Rumsfeld and played a part in America’s strategy of preemptive war and its withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

Retired general Tommy Franks, who commanded the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, memorably referred to Mr Feith in a pep talk with military planners as “the dumbest ******* guy on the planet.”

“Feith was a master of the off-the-wall question that rarely had relevance to operational problems,” the general wrote in his memoir, adding that he largely ignored his contributions.

Love for Sale

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Love for Sale” href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/27/opinion/27dowd.html?oref=login&th”>The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Love for Sale

By MAUREEN DOWD

‘m herewith resigning as a member of the liberal media elite.

I’m joining up with the conservative media elite.

They get paid better.

First comes news that Armstrong Williams got nearly a quarter of a million from the Education Department to plug No Child Left Behind.

The families of soldiers killed in Iraq get a paltry $12,000. But good publicity? Priceless.

Mr. Williams helped out the first President Bush and Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill scandal. Mr. Williams, who served as Mr. Thomas’s personal assistant at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when the future Supreme Court justice was gutting policies that would help blacks, gleefully attacked Professor Hill, saying, “Sister has emotional problems,” and telling The Wall Street Journal “there is a thin line between her sanity and insanity.”
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JIM CROW RETURNS TO THE VOTING BOOTH

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

DOES AMERICA HAVE APARTHEID VOTE-COUNTING SYSTEM?” href=”http://www.gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=411&row=0″>JIM CROW RETURNS TO THE VOTING BOOTH
DOES AMERICA HAVE APARTHEID VOTE-COUNTING SYSTEM?

by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Greg Palast

The inaugural confetti has been swept away and with it, the last quarrel over who really won the presidential election.

But there is still unfinished business that can’t be swept away. After taking his oath, the president called for a “concerted effort to promote democracy.” The president should begin with the United States.

More than 133,000 votes remain uncounted in Ohio, more than George W. Bush’s supposed margin of victory. In New Mexico, the uncounted vote totals at least three times the president’s plurality — and so on in other states.

The challenge to the vote count is over, but the matter of how the United States counts votes, or fails to count them, remains.

The ballots left uncounted, and that will never be counted, are so-called spoiled or rejected ballots — votes cast by citizens, but never tallied. This is the dark little secret of U.S. democracy: Nationwide, in our presidential elections, about 2 million votes are cast and never counted, most spoiled because they cannot be read by the tallying machines.
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Now They Want to Cut All Fed Financial Aid to Students!

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Report Blames Federal Student Aid for Rising Tuition and Urges Elimination of Aid Programs
By SILLA BRUSH
Congress should gradually phase out federal student aid when it drafts legislation to renew the Higher Education Act this year because the act has driven up the cost of tuition since it was passed, in 1965, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Cato Institute.

The report concludes that increased financial aid through Pell Grants and other federal assistance programs has led more students to attend college. That increase in demand has had the “unintended consequence” of increasing the price of higher education.

The report does not specify to what degree tuition has increased because of the Higher Education Act, the federal law that governs most federal student-aid programs and is up for reauthorization this year.

The author of the report is Gary Wolfram, a professor of political economy at Hillsdale College, an institution in Michigan that does not accept any federal money and does not allow its students to do so either. The Cato Institute is a research institution in Washington founded on what it describes as libertarian principles.

The report echoes comments made during the 1980s by William J. Bennett, then the education secretary, about cutting federal student-aid programs.

The report recommends phasing out federal assistance to higher education over a 12-year period. That would cut the price of tuition, the report says, and encourage the private sector to be more involved in tuition assistance.

The full text of the report, “Making College More Expensive: The Unintended Consequences of Federal Tuition Aid,” is available on the institute’s Web site.