October 2003 Archives

Companies awarded $8 billion to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan have been major campaign donors to President Bush. By The Associated Press. [New York Times: NYT HomePage]

by David Remer - PoliWatch.Org

Is Sen. Miller from Georgia a rose by another name or a horse of a different color? An article in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution provides excerpts from a prepared statement issued by Sen. Miller on Wednesday.

In his statement, Miller stressed, as he has before, that he has no plans to become a Republican. But he said he cannot support any of the nine candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. "The next five years will determine the direction of the world that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will live in," he said.

"I do not want to trust that crucial decision to the current Democratic field. So, I plan to vote for George Bush and will help him any way I can. This does not mean I am going to become a Republican. It simply means that in the year 2004, this Democrat will vote for George Bush."

To many, if not most, in the Democratic Party, Sen. Zell Miller's announcement will appear to make him a Republican by another name. But, to those conservative Democrats sometimes formerly referred to as Dixiecrats, Sen. Zell Miller represents their conservative wing of the Democratic Party thus making Sen. Miller a Democrat of a different color from that of centrists and leftists in the party. While Democrats can debate the party traitor vs. party conservative labels, Sen. Miller's announcement underscores the diversity of the Democratic Party which has always been a core strength of the Party. However, the primary purpose of political parties is to promote and extend the core values of the Party's constituency. Sen. Miller has voted with Republicans on a wide range of issues. If Schwarzeneggar remains true to his liberal bent on social issues, he will appear to be Miller's counterpart in the Republican Party.

Which raises the question of whether political parties of the future will have any relevance at all? Should the subdivision of political parties into left, center, and right widen, political parties will begin to look like a tie-dyed shirt where bleeding of affiliation across party lines makes the parties indistinguishable where the Left of the Republican Party reflects the Right of the Democratic Party, and vice versa. Voter apathy, the rise of the Independent voters, and the plethora of third parties all appear to be signs that the basic two party political system is failing to represent an increasing number of American voters.

The Debtor's Empire

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[Washington Post: Editorial] By Kenneth Rogoff Monday, October 20, 2003; Page A23

Isn't it just a little twisted that the United States, the world's richest country, is on track to borrow more than $500 billion from abroad this year? Isn't it even stranger that this borrowing includes sizable chunks from countries such as India and China, many of whose 2.3 billion people live on less than a dollar or two a day? ...

But whatever the reasons, and they are admittedly complex, isn't it still a bit nutty that the world's richest country has become by far the world's biggest borrower, with a net debt to the rest of the world (assets minus liabilities) of more than $2 trillion?

Secrecy in government is antithetical to democracy. Our Constitution carefully attempts to make government employee's actions, from the President on down, accountable to the people, or their elected representatives. Yet, in this complicated world where evil intentions are planned and executed in secret, our government must have secrecy as a tool to be used to fend off harm planned for American citizens, both at home and abroad. Thus, the issue of secrecy in government is not whether our democracy should permit it or not; the issue is how much secrecy and how much oversight?

In the headlines this week is a BBC article entitled 'Justice denied' at Guantanamo. This article raises the issue of whether the Supreme Court of our land should review the legality of holding 100's of individuals, incommunicado and indefinitely, without being charged with any crimes, without judicial review of the justification for their being jailed, without legal representation, and without speedy trial and determination of their fate. U.S. law permits such events to take place during times of war. Currentlythe detention is legal. But, as our history shows many times over, legal does not mean right, nor does legal mean that a law conforms to the checks and balances designed into our Constitution.

The recent issue of leaks allegedly from the Whitehouse, exposing a CIA undercover operative as a means of obtaining political retribution, seriously raises the stakes in the issue of government secrecy. For if the serious leaks like this now occur, the argument will and is being made that secrecy must be even more secret. That is to say, that even fewer representatives of the people, if any, should have access to what is secret. If this argument is acted upon, the government will become less accountable to the people for its actions and pose a serious undermining of the Constitution of the U.S.

In the 103rd Congress, a study was done on secrecy in government, and the PDF summary of that document is highly recommended reading for all voters in America. In the summary, our representatives conclude,

The best way to ensure that secrecy is respected, and that the most important secrets remain secret, is for secrecy to be returned to its limited but necessary role. Secrets can be protected more effectively if secrecy is reduced overall.

The Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA) was signed into law on July 4, 1964, by President L.B. Johnson. A short and easily read history of the FOIA through 1996 was issued by the Society of Professional Journalists. Following is an excerpt of great importance to the subject of government secrecy:

The act had only one day to go before dying of presidential neglect in the form of a pocket veto.

Hardly an auspicious beginning for a law that spawned parallel "sunshine laws" in all 50 states. A law that has served as a model for nations around the world trying to make government more accessible and accountable to their citizens. A law that set out to make manifest the Jeffersonian principle of an informed citizenry.

Thirty years later, the friends of FOIA in official Washington remain few and far between and the complaints familiar: The FOIA is an unwelcome drain on scarce resources. It is overused by prisoners and aliens to overtax the system. It is abused by lawyers to circumvent court discovery rules. It is employed by businesses to gain unfair advantage over competitors. It is exploited by journalists to invade personal privacy and endanger national security.

Those complaints aside, the FOIA has compelled federal agencies to yield millions of documents relating to government operations and performance. Every week, a news organization, scholar or public-interest group somewhere reports information of significance to public health or safety or good governance - based on material gleaned from FOIA requests.

The history of the FOIA reveals an interesting political fact regarding secrecy in government. A Democrat signed the bill into law. In the link above it is reported that the FOIA

worked more fitfully and slowly during the 1980s, when administration policy confounded much of the act's intentions.

Then, in October of 1993, President Clinton issued a memo to department and agency heads mandating a new attitude toward the FOIA. "The act is a vital part of the participatory system of government," Clinton said to the officials. "I am committed to enhancing its effectiveness in my administration."

At the same time, Attorney General Janet Reno reversed a Department of Justice policy established in 1981. She said that the department no longer would defend an agency's denial of an FOIA request merely because there was a "substantial legal basis" for doing so.

Today, again under a Republican administration, Eweek reports on the Privacy Threat Index (PTI) stating: "Used to track the growing threat to privacy from expanding government surveillance, the PTI level currently is at orange--or "high"--because of ongoing invasive search techniques used by the government." Concluding Eweek's article is the following statement: "When government employees are able to cloak their work in secrecy, the threat not only to privacy but also to civil rights must be made a top priority."

Under President Bush's administration, The Patriot Act, and it's proposed enhancement Patriot Act II, reflect a greater role for secrecy in government, less accountability by the people's representatives, and therefore, a greater potential threat to American liberties. With secrecy comes abuse of power. What is the one thing all perpetrators of crime seek? Keeping their identity secret, is the answer. Under the Patriot Act, government employees are to varying degrees free to pursue the application of the powers of their office while cloaking their identity and their actions with the Patriot Act. Already journalists are uncovering alleged abuses of the Patriot Act by government officials. CBS News reports in an article entitled Patriot Act Abuses Seen,

Over the six-month period that ended in June, the Justice Department's inspector general found 34 complaints of rights violations that appeared credible, reports The New York Times. Some of the charges have yet to be fully investigated. Not all the complaints concerned physical abuse.

The report has been provided to Congress and will soon be publicly released. The complaints concern the way the Justice Department has enforced the 2001 Patriot Act, a law passed in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks that granted wider powers to federal law enforcement officers to conduct surveillance and detain immigrants.

An 2600 News article reporting a photographer's tale of abuse under the Patriot Act provides an eloquent example of how abuse of the Act can take place. Whether one believes the photographer's account or not, his story highlights perfectly how safeguards against such abuse are needed. For if his account is true, the powers of the Patriot Act provide the means for abusers to conceal their abuses. It is no safeguard that the Inspector General for the Justice Department, charged with investigating abuses of the Patriot Act, is employed by the very Justice Department that exercises the powers of the Patriot Act. The potential for cover up of abuse constitutes a real threat to civil liberties of American citizens.

The threats posed by growing secrecy in our government may be very long-lived. The war on terrorism following the 9/11 attacks and which spawned the Patriot Act, is one that the U.S. will be fighting for decades. The root causes of terrorism like fundamentalism, patriotism, a global marketplace for small arms and explosive devices, poverty, lack of education and sustainable living standards, will not be quickly or easily eradicated if they ever are. Therefore, the war on terrorism is one we will be engaged in for at least the next generation or two of young Americans. Therefore, the threats and potential for abuses of our liberties and civil rights enjoyed prior to 9/11, shall be with us for decades.

Americans are divided on this issue. Many feel that some liberty lost is a small price to pay in the prevention of catastrophic lethal and maiming attacks upon American citizens. Others feel that life is inherently dangerous, driving vehicles, walking the neighborhood, spending time in a hospital, or visiting a local convenience store at the wrong time while a robbery commences. These may argue that there never can be such a level of security as to protect Americans from harm and that the threat of abuse toward, and loss of, civil liberties, constitutes as great a threat upon their sense of security in America as terrorist acts do for those willing to sacrifice freedom.

If history since the signing of the Freedom of Information Act is any indication, those who vote on this issue alone, and who fear terrorists will likely want to vote Republican. Those who fear abuse of power and threat to American freedoms and civil liberties will likely want to vote Democratic or Green. There is no question secrecy can enhance police power. There is also no question that secrecy is the most sought after goal of those who would circumvent laws and abuse power. It is an issue Americans may want to consider in the voting booths in November of 2004.

by David R. Remer PoliWatch.Org

by David R. Remer PoliWatch.Org

Arnold Schwarzeneggar has been declared the new Governor of California. Preliminary stats indicate that he garnered a huge protest vote based on everything from legislative actions, national economy effects on California, Davis's performance, "puke politics" aimed at the Los Angeles newspaper and many other factors. Arnold has set his goal on body building and turned that venture into a success. He turned his sights on Hollywood, and he became a success. It is possible that now that he has set his sights on political leadership, he will be a success in that venture as well.

The election of Schwarzeneggar however, makes a statement about American politics, however, which is not very flattering. This election demonstrates that big money wins of political office is no guarantee of good governance, as Davis has demonstrated. This election also demonstrates that political experience and knowledge of the political system is not a necessary qualification for office. Equally important, it demonstrates that a person with fame and money are all the qualifications needed to lead Americans in economic, policy and legislative decisions. Governor elect Swarzeneggar has no political experience, no educational credentials in law, economics, or political science. Thus, fame and money and the media PR that that money can buy is all that is needed to win the confidence of the American people to lead them.

This I find a sad statement on the political future for California and the country as a whole. Nonetheless, there is hope that Schwarzeneggar's past success will bode well for his learning to meet the needs of the California people for executive government and leadership.

Tide Is Turning

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Posted by David Remer PoliWatch.Org

Former pro-Bush journalist Robert Novak who has been noted for making the case that there is no stopping Bush's reelection, is now asking how he can possibly win? Also, for the first time since the 2000 elections, both houses of Congress may be up for grabs. This is great news for the Green Party which has been making significant inroads at the state level in gaining ballot access through court rulings and grass roots activism. This is also great news for liberals, centrists, and Democrats.

Robert Novak has read the writing on the wall and conceded that he can no longer spin the failed efforts of the Bush administration out of the quagmire it has placed itself in. Novak writes in a recent article entitled, George W. in Trouble:

"Replacing the old mantra that there is no way for Bush to lose, panicky Republicans studying the electoral map wonder whether there is any way that they can win. Dramatic deterioration in the outlook over the last two weeks is reflected in the experience by a Republican businessman in Milwaukee trying to sell $2,000 tickets for Bush's only appearance this year in Wisconsin Oct. 3. In contrast to money flowing easily into the Bush war chest everywhere until now, he encountered stiff resistance. Well-heeled conservative businessmen offered to write a check for $100 or $200, but not $2,000. They gave one reason: Iraq.


Another domestic issue is continuing loss of industrial jobs, and that does not ease Republican anxiety. It causes hard analysis of electoral maps that poses difficult questions.... No wonder the arrogance quotient at the White House is diminishing. Reporters regularly on that beat say they have been getting their telephone calls returned the last two weeks."

The above is reported in an article in Mother Jones which goes on to state: "Boston Globe columnist Robert Kuttner noticed the same thing. Commenting on recent GOP Congressional votes, he seconded Novak's analysis:

"Why this shift [in Republican congressional voting patterns]? Suddenly Bush's own reelection is seen as at risk, and Republican legislators are more worried about saving their own seats. They have walked the plank for Bush one time too many.
Until recently Republican control of Congress in the 2004 election was seen as a sure thing. Now, however, it looks as though both chambers are up for grabs, especially if Bush's own reelection is in jeopardy. Congressmen and senators are keen detectors of shifts in voter sentiment since their own survival depends on it. Bush's reversal of fortune is occurring on multiple fronts... Finally, the press has stopped giving Bush a free ride, and 9/11 no longer serves as a mantra to turn aside all challenges... Those days are simply gone. Nothing succeeds like success. And nothing fails like failure."

For more proof that Abraham Lincoln was right saying You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time, go to Mother Jones.

by David Remer PoliWatch.Org

I received an email regarding a news item I posted elsewhere, entitled Chinese Girl's Toil Brings Pain, Not Riches. The story reflects inequities between standards in the work force in the U.S. and the plight of Chinese workers. The email claimed we should start making plans for war with China to free those people under that horrible Communist system.

Absent a history of the Industrial Revolution in the U.S. and rise of the super capitalists from the close of the Civil War through to the stock market crash of 1929, it is easy to view the oncoming interaction between the U.S. and China in such black and white simplistic terms as exemplified by the author of that email. Absent an understanding of the cultural and demographic differences between the U.S. and China, it is possible to view China now and in the future as a greater threat than the USSR during the post WWII era. Should a President today, or in the future, fall prey to such ignorance, the world as we know it may be lost.

China has over 1 billion people, more than 3 times the U.S. population. Just a few decades ago, China was largely agricultural with 100's of millions of self sustaining farms and villages. Life expectancy was far lower than in the U.S., life was hard and the monetary system did not even reach the majority of those self sustaining farms. In just 60 years China has come from virtual medieval standards of living into the 20th century. This kind of growth in the U.S. was accomplished through sweatshops in the garment district that spanned decades. Through sharecropping labor that just met subsistence living standards. The U.S. brutalized children in the labor force, breaking their backs and their spirits during the industrial age of the North and in the coal mines of the South.

This history was all part of the transition in the U.S. from an agriculturally based economy to an industrial based economy. Such a history of industrialization was not unique to America. Great Britain and most of the modern free European nations on the west side of the iron curtain experienced similar exploitation of the work force in their transition to an industrial economy.

While it is heartbreaking to read of child labor in China especially through the eyes of a young girl, we must not forget that our own prosperity and burgeoning middle class with comfortable 41.2 hour work weeks and two cars, home, DVD players and PC's, resulted from moving the agricultural workers into industrial jobs and using labor as a cheap consumable to grow the capitalist enterprises that would employ ever more and more farm workers in the cities. It is just such a transition that is taking place in China but at an accelerated rate, since, they have almost a magnitude of order more people to move from the farm into productive industrial and technological positions than the U.S. had during its industrial growth period.

China has no other option but to make this transition from agricultural to industrial/technological economy. Millions of Chinese were starving a little more than a decade ago. China faced another revolution and civil war had it not laid plans to move the people in China into the 21st century with all of the benefits that a modern economy can offer. The people of China are demanding more freedom, more prosperity, and more security. China's government has made believers of its people and for the most part, the people have faith and trust in their government to guide their nation into the 21st Century world marketplace. It is difficult, but, the Chinese people are seeing more democracy in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore. And more democracy is promised. They are seeing more jobs and money is becoming common place even in many rural villages.

It is a mistake, a very great and grave mistake, for Americans to superimpose their current worker and work place values on China as it experiences the same transition today that the U.S. has now placed deep in its history books. There is no question, that current trade imbalances between the U.S. and many nations undergoing this transition from agriculture to industrial and technological economies are hurting the job growth in America and forcing the U.S. to give up its hold on manufacturing for the world marketplace. To politicize and base foreign policy on the negative trade imbalances in America is easy game for politicians. It is seductively easy for politicians to use the trade imbalances as a means of creating the illusion of predatorial third world nations and painting American workers as victims. Such an illusion will not however lead to any solution for American workers. The third world's only resource to enter the global marketplace and the 21st Century is cheap labor. They must exploit it or cease to exist economically.

Further, if such an illusion is used to create a hostile foreign policy toward China, which has a well developed nuclear arsenal and is eyeing military objectives in space, a new era of nuclear brinkmanship will inevitably result; one which the world may not survive. Americans must make intelligent choices at the ballot box in November of 2004 and beyond. And American political leaders must yield manufacturing to other growing countries since, we can no longer be competitive in that arena. The U.S. must make its own transition from manufacturing to technology, innovation, and services which can be marketed globally.

It is one thing for the American people to elect political pundits who have no experience in government or Hollywood stars with lots of money to be Governor of California. The world will survive a poor choice there. It is quite another issue should the American people so cavalierly vote in a President with a similar lack of credentials. The world, including the U.S., may not survive it.

by David R. Remer PoliWatch.Org

NY Times reports: "The Bush administration is seeking more than $600 million from Congress to continue the hunt for conclusive evidence that Iraq had unconventional weapons." I thought weapons of mass destruction were now a moot point. What does it matter now whether those weapons are found or not? If they are found now, we will destroy them and spend $600 million tax payer dollars to find them. If they are found later, the new Iraqi government can destroy them at their expense. The only advantage to spending $600 million tax dollars to find them now is to Bush's credibility. The only reason to shore up his credibility on this issue is get reelected.

This appears to be a very unethical way of circumventing the laws prohibiting the President from using tax dollars to reelect himself. But, reelection apparently is more important than using that $600 million dollars for education, prescription drugs, homeland defense, or a host of other needs which the tax payers of this nation have.

And what of this tax windfall for corporations? That will reduce tax revenues, increase the deficit and debt and tax payers will not only pay for the windfall but also for the interest on it for years to come.

Finally, there is this in the current headlines. Bush-Appointed Panel Finds U.S. Image Abroad Is in Peril. How much is this impaled American image going to cost in tax dollars and interest payments to rectify? More hundred's of millions, I am sure. And then it is not certain that our image can be corrected as long as George W. Bush remains in office. This is truly shaping up to be one of the most important presidential elections the American tax payer has faced since the year 2000.


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