Thursday, March 31, 2005

Honor Terri Schiavo by Restoring Budget Cuts for Feeding Tubes

Terri Schiavo, the severely disabled woman who was the subject of a fierce right-to-life battle, died this morning.

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) fought passionately to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted, even marshalling a questionable midnight bill through Congress that was signed by President Bush. Both men went strangely silent once they saw political polls indicating voter base unhappiness at their meddling in the judicial process. So much for deeply-held pro-life sentiments....politics clearly trumped their pro-life posturing.

As the Rev. Jesse Jackson said this morning to CNN, Congress was oddly preoccupied with interfering with the judicial system, which was just doing its job. The job of Congress is to pass legislation, not second-guess the courts.

Congress and the President now have a golden opportunity to honor the life of Terri Schiavo by restoring to the 2006 budget the Traumatic Brain Injury Program that has helped thousands of Terri Schiavos in 49 states since 1997, as well as restoring 13 other programs for the disabled, children and families that were entirely cut by President Bush.

Terri's medications were paid for the Medicaid, which the President also plans for huge, life-altering decreases. Before its Easter break. the Senate delivered a stinging rebuke to the mean-spirited Bush/Delay 2006 budget by entirely restoring all Republican cuts to Medicaid, which provides health services for 50 million disabled, children and low-income families.

To honor the legacy and lessons of Terri Schiavo, the 2006 budget should entirely reinstate all budgets cuts to Health & Human Services programs planned by President Bush and blessed by Tom DeLay.

To do less would make it painfully crystal that Republican pro-life words are merely cheap political rhetoric.

And it would clearly show that the Democrats, who are actively championing lifeline programs for the disabled, children, elderly and low-income families,are the party that celebrates life in deeds, not just words. This is the pro-life ethic in deeds, not just faith.

" without deeds is dead." James 2:26.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Cheney Comes Down on Side of the Torturers

From American Progress....

Military lawyers are making a strong push to make substantial changes to the military tribunals used to try terrorist suspects that would bring them more in line with military courts-martial. The tribunals, created in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, are a significant departure from traditional American military and civil courts.

However, despite repeated setbacks in the federal courts, serious questions regarding their ability to reach accurate judgments, and widespread criticism of the tribunals by foreign governments and human rights groups, Vice President Cheney and his staff are blocking any changes to the tribunals.

Cheney is stifling changes to tribunals even though the federal courts have blocked further prosecutions. It took two years for the Pentagon to finally organize and hold the first hearing before the commissions, but only three months for a federal district judge to rule that the tribunals were "fatally contrary to or inconsistent with" American military or civilian trials. The Pentagon halted the hearings and moved forward on addressing some of the criticisms from the courts and allied governments. Despite the impasse, Cheney's staff has led the campaign to block improvements to the tribunals unless forced to do so by the courts.

Cheney favors the continued use of information obtained by torture. The proposed new rules for the tribunals would make inadmissible any "confession or admission that was procured from the accused by torture." Torture is immoral and has no place in any American legal proceeding. In addition, information gained through torture has long been viewed as suspect at best and often totally inaccurate. It should never be allowed to play any role in a determination that could lead to the execution or indefinite detention of a prisoner, terrorist suspect or not. By blocking even this change, Cheney comes down on the side of the torturers.

Tribunals are no substitute for properly constituted hearings in military or civilian courts. Even with these proposed changes, significant questions remain about the efficacy of the tribunals. One tribunal ordered a detainee to remain in custody despite the conclusion of U.S. investigators that it was a mistake to hold him. And as the legal challenges to the tribunals continue, 540 detainees remain in legal limbo at the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The tribunals should be scrapped altogether and the prisoners at Guantanamo should be given a fair trial as required by U.S. and international law.

Still Lying About Torture and Abuse

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said the abusive interrogation rules used at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq "were drafted 'at the company commander level.' He said he had 'no role in preparing or approving it.'"
– USA Today,


In a memo dated 9/14/03, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top United States commander in Iraq, "authorized prisoner interrogation tactics that were harsher than accepted Army practice, including using guard dogs to exploit 'Arab fear of dogs.'"
– NYT,

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Terri Schiavo & Pro-Life as Progressive Stance

This essays speaks my sentiments quite well. Remember.....Bush and DeLay cut from the 2006 budget the Traumatic Brain Injury Program that has helped Terri Schiavos from 49 states since 1997. And they cut 13 other, similar lifeline programs for children and families.

It was the Senate, in a Democratic-led bipartisan effort, that rebuked the cold-hearted, anti-life Bush/DeLay 2006 budget.

From Common Dreams....Terri Schiavo: A Cause for the Left? by Mark Polit
The battle over Terri Schiavo has been framed as a battle between the radical right which seeks to uphold the sanctity of life, and the left which focuses on an individual's fundamental right to self-determination.

In this case, however, the right has framed it correctly. There is no issue of self-determination, since their is no clear directive to act upon, and Terri is not able to express a preference. Even if Terri had made an off hand comment about what she would prefer, people who acquire a disability typically decide that living "that way" is far superior to dying. It is not up to a judge, a spouse, or a politician to determine when someone else should be rubbed out.

This has not been one of those "difficult cases" of end of life care, since Terri was not chronicly ill. She was not in pain (until they starved her). She was not kept alive artificially (unless you consider food and water artificial). She was not on a "machine" (a tube is merely a fork or spoon for people who can't swallow). Terri was a person with a disability. She was apparently conscious. And she was certainly alive. Since when has it become a progressive position to deny a person the right to their very existence?

Progressives, should not be suckered into an opposing position, because the right is grandstanding. Progressives have a proud history of defending those who cannot defend themselves, seeking to give voice to the needs of the voiceless, and fighting for life over death. It is the right wing that promotes a culture of death, waging a war of aggression, torturing and murdering prisoners of war, supporting the death penalty, and seeking to roll back funding for health care for seniors and the poor.

The powerful have long dehumanized other classes races or groups. And starving to death Terri Schiavo embodies the prejudice and misperceptions of disability that are prevalent in our society, just as similar dehumanizing attitudes have led to the aweful oppression of other minorities.

Progressives need to be consistent and recognize the sanctity of life is more than a political ploy of the fascists in power. Life is fundamental to the progressive position. And Terri Schiavo was a life, with an inherent dignity and an incalculable worth.

Mark Polit has been a disability rights activist for over two decades and currently does research and policy analysis in disability policy for a major US labor union.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Removing a Feeding Tube Is Cruel and Hopefully Unusual

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

So reads the eighth amendment to the US Constitution. I oppose the death penalty in all situations because it's wrong and immoral to take a God-given life, and because it's cruel punishment. The cruelest punishment. This is a pro-life viewpoint.

And the state, when it does take a life, does so quickly to minimize the inmate's cruel suffering.

If a quick, intentional death is cruel punishment for someone who committed a crime, then surely a slow, intentional death is cruel for someone who did nothing wrong.

I am neither a medical professional, nor am I a shrill voice of of the far-right Dobson/Falwell/DeLay contingent.

But I know that intentionally starving to death a severely disabled person is wrong. Obviously and clearly wrong. A convicted murderer, even dog and cats, are accorded more dignity and consideration than has Terri Schiavo. Basic nutrition for the disabled is a right, not a privilege, as is air to breath and shelter from the elements.

Intentionally starving to death anyone is cruel and I hope unusual. But it's apparently not illegal.

We need to change the law. Now. Murder is always wrong. This, too, is a pro-life viewpoint.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Misplaced Green Priorities

An on-target New York Times editoral today, Geo-Greening by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

How will future historians explain it? How will they possibly explain why President George W. Bush decided to ignore the energy crisis staring us in the face and chose instead to spend all his electoral capital on a futile effort to undo the New Deal, by partially privatizing Social Security? We are, quite simply, witnessing one of the greatest examples of misplaced priorities in the history of the U.S. presidency.

"Ah, Friedman, but you overstate the case." No, I understate it. Look at the opportunities our country is missing - and the risks we are assuming - by having a president and vice president who refuse to lift a finger to put together a "geo-green" strategy that would marry geopolitics, energy policy and environmentalism.

By doing nothing to lower U.S. oil consumption, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism and strengthening the worst governments in the world. That is, we are financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars and we are financing the jihadists - and the Saudi, Sudanese and Iranian mosques and charities that support them - through our gasoline purchases. The oil boom is also entrenching the autocrats in Russia and Venezuela, which is becoming Castro's Cuba with oil.
Read the rest here....

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Electrifying Thoughts From A Disabled Voice

Excerpts from a must-read for everyone....liberals, conservatives, progressives, moderates...from The Moderate Voice, in Guest Voice by guest columnist William Strothers.

Warning...this thoughtful, brief essay is electrifying!
First thing: Terri Schiavo is not terminally ill. She is severely disabled with a brain injury. She is not hooked up to any life support systems. For 15 years she has relied on a feeding tube for food and water. Her organs function normally.

So why does anyone want to kill her? "Kill" is the correct word here. Removing her feeding tube will cause her death. She will die by starvation and dehydration. That is a form of execution that is not even imposed on convicted murderers; we electrocute them, or hang them or inject them with swiftly acting chemicals. We don't draw out the act so painfully as Terri is being killed.

For those of us in the organized disability rights movement, it looks like Terri Schiavo is being put to death for the crime of being disabled.

Disability makes many people uncomfortable. How many times have you said, or heard someone say, "I would never want to live like that." Or,"I would rather be dead than be like that." People have said that to me.

I am severely disabled and use a motorized wheelchair as a result of having polio 55 years ago. Terri Schiavo may be even more severely disabled than me, but we are the same in many of the ways we have been discounted and devalued. Doctors told my parents to put me into a "home" and forget about me. He will have no life, they said, move on with your own lives. Read the rest here.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Senator Rick Santorum Feeling the Amtrak Heat

Bush-crony and leading Republican presidential hopeful Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) notoriously admitted on "Meet the Press" a few weeks ago that he finds the Bush plan to close Amtrak "unacceptable."

Amtrak had 24 million riders in 2004, including a multitude from Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania. Amtrak is more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly than the gas-guzzling cars and planes that riders woud be forced to take to their destinations.

Senator Santorum abruptly changed his mind when the Senate voted on the 2006 fiscal budget. Presumably responding to White House pressure, the senator voted to support the President's plan to cut off all Amtrak funding, thereby pushing the national rail service into bankruptcy and closure.

Now comes word from The Hill that Senator Santorum is feeling the heat from his constitutents for his vote....

Pennsylvania union officials are chiding Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) for his vote against an amendment to the budget resolution last week that would have increased funding for Amtrak. The officials, from unions representing firemen, machinists, aerospace workers, transport workers and others, wrote Santorum expressing their “profound shock and disappointment” over his vote.

Taking a further dig at Santorum, who is up for reelection, the officials noted that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) voted for the amendment. Specter has historically been close with union officials in the state. “By standing up for the needs of our state, Senator Specter demonstrated his independence and his refusal to make Amtrak a partisan political issue,” wrote the officials, who are part of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department.

Santorum at one point criticized proposed administration cuts in the program during a television interview. But he also has said that the place to push for an increase isn’t on the budget resolution but on appropriations bills, which carry the force of law. Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman called Santorum’s reelection one of the top GOP goals in 2006.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hunger, Life & The Constitution

I wrote on this same subject here, "Bush Aims to End Life-Saving Programs for Kids & Families: Brain Injury, Trauma, Rural & Urban Services Affected" and here, "The Profound Gifts of Terri Schiavo."
This author also wrote eloquently on the subject...."Living With Dignity" by Heather Boushey, from Tom Paine:

On Friday, a woman in Florida went hungry. Hundreds protested and sent letters to Congress. Congressional leaders became so enraged that they have called a special vote to ensure that this woman is provided with food. Congressional intervention is necessary, they argue, because access to food is her “constitutional right.”

On Friday, a woman in Florida went hungry. No one protested. The Senate was so indifferent to her and her family’s hunger that they voted down a measure that would have prevented $2.8 billion in cuts to the Food Stamp program over the next five years.

While Congress has spent the past few days making heroic efforts to restore the feeding tubes to Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who has been in a vegetative state for 15 years, they have also been debating the federal budget. While Terri Schiavo’s case has sparked passion about her right to live ­and her right to health care and food­, there is no passion for the millions of Americans who go hungry every day or the millions more who lack access to basic health care.

President Bush cut his vacation short to return to Washington so he could sign into law legislation that would restore Terri Schiavo’s feeding tubes. Last month, President Bush proposed a budget to Congress that would cut the Food Stamp program by $500 million over the next five years, leaving more than 300,000 low-income people without food assistance every month.

The proposed budget includes large cuts in federal programs providing food, housing, education and medical assistance to low-income families. It includes cuts in funding to those with HIV/AIDS by $550 million over the next five years. It ends Housing and Urban Development’s 30-year pledge to produce accessible supportive housing for people with disabilities. It will leave 670,000 fewer individuals on the Women, Infants and Children food program by 2010.

The proposed budget would reduce Medicaid's budget by $45 billion dollars over the next 10 years, leaving an estimated 1.2 million fewer children with health care each year between 2006 and 2010. This will mean that in Terri Schiavo’s home state of Florida, 67,400 fewer children will have access to Medicaid each year.

The Senate has acted on its conscience and rejected the president's proposed Medicaid cuts; however, the House has yet to do so. These proposed budget cuts will have devastating effects on the ability of millions of families to meet their basic needs.

The Food Stamp program allows hungry families to purchase food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 11.2 percent of all U.S. households are “food insecure;” of these, 3.9 million households suffer from food insecurity so severe that they go hungry.

Last year, nearly 70 million Americans went without health insurance for some time during the year. Children were more likely to go without it than adults. Medicaid provides health insurance coverage for one in seven children. Since only half of all children (53.0 percent in 2003) receive health insurance from an employer-based health insurance plan, Medicaid plays an important role in ensuring that millions of children have access to the health care system.

Having access to health insurance can mean the difference between life and death. It's been estimated that more than 18,000 people die each year in the United States because they lack access to preventative health care services or appropriate care. Over the long term, those without health insurance have a 25 percent greater probability of dying.

The Schiavo case has sparked debate over what it means to die with dignity and raised moral questions about who decides when a person lives or dies. But the case should also spark debate over what it means to live with dignity.

Why is it that a woman who cannot speak and cannot move should not be denied her constitutional right to food and water, when every day, men, women and children go hungry—without a right to food? Why is Terri Schiavo’s case more important than theirs? Congress wants you to know that they value Terri Schiavo’s life. This does not seem to mean, however, that they value the lives of millions of other Americans denied their constitutional rights to food and health care.

Heather Boushey is an economist at the
Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC.

Bush Again Dishes Fear About Social Security

Misleading, fear-stoking numbers were issued yesterday about Social Security by Trustees of the Social Security Administration.

I'm not surprised. Four of the the six Trustees are top Bush appointees or members of President Bush's cabinet....Treasury Secretary John Snow, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Social Security Commissioner JoAnne Barnhart and Health & Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.

Starting with his second term, the President required all cabinet members and top appointees to sign loyalty oaths, stating that they would neither issue nor utter any opinion contradictory to the President's.

And President Bush is stubbornly determined to force his expensive brand of privatization on American taxpayers, regardless of the admitted fact that it does nothing to solve Social Security's long-term funding concerns.

Remember, there is no crisis in Social Security.
A New York Times editorial today on the same subject.....About That Number

The Social Security trustees issued their annual report yesterday and said that by one measure, the shortfall in Social Security's finances jumped from $10.4 trillion last year to about $11 trillion this year. Eleven trillion dollars! The trustees, in service to President Bush's alarmist warnings about the need to do something drastic about Social Security, are dishing up some misleading numbers.

It's bad enough that the trustees began some of their calculations with that $10.4 trillion figure. It's arrived at by projecting the system's shortfall over infinity, rather than the usual 75-year time frame - as if the system's finances 10,000 years from now are a legitimate policy concern. Moreover, no less an authority than the American Academy of Actuaries is already on record debunking infinite projections as conveying "little if any useful information about the program's long-range finances" and "likely to mislead anyone lacking technical expertise ... into believing that the program is in far worse financial condition than is actually indicated."

Compounding the subterfuge is that the difference between this year's $11 trillion eyepopper and last year's number - $600 billion - is being used as evidence of a scary deterioration in Social Security's finances. That's just wrong. The two monster numbers are actually the same quantity - different ways of expressing an unchanging level of debt at two different points in time. If you owe someone $1,000 in 10 years, for instance, you could retire the debt now with $500, or next year with $530. Your level of debt doesn't change, just the time point.

Some people who interpret the numbers as a deterioration appear to be confused. But others, like President Bush, are being deliberately alarmist. Mr. Bush's persistent misstatements on Social Security leave little doubt that he wants Americans to believe that the system is irretrievably broken so that they will buy into his unnecessary privatization plan.

Fortunately, the unpoliticized numbers in yesterday's report are not overly dire. Using a 75-year time horizon, the trustees project that the system will be able to pay full benefits until 2041, at which time it will be able to pay 74 percent of the promised benefits, falling to 68 percent by 2079.

That works out to a gap of $4 trillion, which could be bridged with modest tax increases and benefit cuts, phased in over the next few decades. If people try to tell you different, they need to be set straight.

Bush Grasps Checks & Balances!

At last.....words demonstrating that President Bush finally grasps the meaning of "checks & balances" in our democracy so wisely designed by our country's founders. From this article in the New York Times today....

"You don't have my pledge that Congress will act, because I'm not a member of the legislative branch," Mr. Bush continued. "But you will have my pledge that I will continue to push our Congress to come up with rational, common-sense immigration policy."

As Congress and the President lope into the contentious last stretch of his term. this is welcome news for citizens of our great nation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Unusual Right-Left Coalition Opposes Patriot Act

Encouraging news today from the San Francisco Chronicle, via Common Dreams.

And speaking of the Patriot Act, be sure to pay a visit to that hard-working grassroots organization, The Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
Left and Right Unite to Challenge Patriot Act Provisions by Edward Epstein

An unusual left-right coalition opened a campaign Tuesday to sharply curtail controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act, showing that Congress and President Bush face a pointed debate over renewing the law enacted just 45 days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

It was a Washington rarity to see the American Civil Liberties Union line up with conservative lions like David Keefe of the American Conservative Union and former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga. But they were among those at a Washington press conference held to assail such Patriot Act provisions as those allowing law enforcement agents to look at library users' records or to conduct unannounced "sneak-and-peek'' searches on homes or private offices.

"It is not, and never should be necessary, to surrender our rights under the Bill of Rights to fight the war on terrorism,'' said Barr, who as a House member voted for the Patriot Act, which passed overwhelmingly in the House and provoked only one dissenting Senate vote.

Barr, leader of the new group dubbed Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, concedes that the group faces a difficult fight in making changes to the 4-year-old law. The law's supporters, many of whom point out that the United States hasn't been hit by another terrorist attack since Sept. 11, say it has proven effective and that many of the complaints offered by civil libertarians have nothing to do with the act's provisions.

Key provisions of the bill are scheduled to expire Dec. 31, so Congress must deal with the issue this year. The Senate and House Judiciary Committees plan Patriot Act hearings starting later in the spring.

Instead of seeking wholesale changes, the coalition is focusing on three of the law's most-controversial provisions. And rather than push for their repeal, the group wants the wording clarified to establish that the intention is to fight terrorists -- not let law enforcement agencies engage in fishing expeditions or silence dissent.

The group wants the section giving access to library, medical and firearm- ownership records modified to require that law enforcement officials present evidence to a federal judge supporting a link with suspected terrorism before warrants are served.

The group wants similar limits on the provision allowing secret searches of homes, businesses and personal property. And group members want the language of the section that allows surveillance of protests rewritten to require a definite connection with suspected terrorism.

"These provisions sweep far too broadly. Whenever people ram through legislation with broad and vague authority, it eventually will be abused,'' Barr said.

"If the Constitution stands for anything, it's that government does not have the power to peer into our private lives without evidence of wrongdoing, '' said Laura Murphy, of the ACLU's Washington legislative office.

Grover Norquist, the conservative activist who heads Americans for Tax Reform, noted the unlikely coalition of conservatives and the ACLU. "For too long, conservatives assumed it was someone else's job'' to protect civil liberties, Norquist said.

So far, almost 400 local and state governments have passed resolutions opposing the act, or some of its provisions, the ACLU says.

President Bush campaigned last year in favor of renewing the Patriot Act, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has indicated he doesn't favor any changes except, perhaps, to increase the government's powers in a few instances.

"Debate about government exercise of powers that might infringe upon privacy or civil liberties, I think that's an appropriate debate,'' he told a recent meeting of the National Association of Counties. "But it's got to be a real debate, one based on facts. And I've yet to hear a strong argument as to why the Patriot Act should not be reauthorized.''

At a recent House hearing, FBI Director Robert Mueller praised the Patriot Act and said he'd like to see it expanded to include administrative subpoena power in terrorism cases, something the FBI has in organized crime and health- care fraud investigations. The subpoenas, which require recipients to disclose information, are signed by an FBI agent without prior judicial or grand jury review.

Mueller said the Patriot Act is a key part of the FBI's new post-Sept. 11 approach. "We have changed the way we address terrorism since Sept. 11 to ensure that we have exploited every possibility to gather intelligence about the motivations, the capabilities of these individuals or groups in our communities before we go ahead and make the arrest,'' he told a House panel.

DeLay's "Sanctity of Life" Hypocrisy

"The fact that they're tying a life issue to the budget process shows just how disconnected [they] are to reality."
– DeLay spokesman Dan Allen,


"Lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States."
– Institute of Medicine,

Mr. DeLay, help me understand this. The sanctity of life only applies to situations where you can talk about it in front of news cameras?

More Ways for Bush to Defend Disabled Rights

From American Progress....

President Bush said that he intervened in the Terri Schiavo case because he believes in "defending life for all Americans, including those with disabilities." Unfortunately, the president's words don't match his policies. As the Schiavo case is being considered by the federal courts, President Bush has an opportunity to show his commitment to "defending life" by reconsidering his record on assisting the vulnerable.

Eliminating health care for the poor. President Bush and right-wing congressional leaders recently sought to significantly cut funding for Medicaid and the related State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Bush's 2006 budget slashes funding for the programs – which provide vital health coverage to 1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 4 children – by more than $20 billion over five years.

Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) said of Bush's proposed Medicaid cuts: "[P]eople need to remember that to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poorest people in the country is simply unacceptable. You don't pull feeding tubes from people. You don't pull the wheelchair out from under the child with muscular dystrophy."

Leaving the disabled on the street. President Bush's statement about the intervention in the Schiavo case implies that he is somehow a champion for the well-being of the disabled. Not quite. The president's recent budget proposes "to stop financing the construction of new housing for the mentally ill and physically handicapped," according to the New York Times. The program has existed for three decades.

Exposing children to toxic mercury. Mercury is known to directly harm the nervous systems of children causing birth defects and other maladies. Currently, 600,000 babies born in the U.S. every year may be exposed to excessive levels of mercury. Yet, the Bush administration recently issued rules which would allow some power plants to "increase [mercury] pollution, while others turn a profit selling unused pollution allowances," according to AP.

The new "cap-and-trade" policy rolls back a plan created by the EPA in 2000 which "would have mandated curtailing emissions at every plant by the maximum amount possible, which proponents said could bring a 90% reduction in three years using existing technology," according to the LA Times.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Bush Eliminated Traumatic Brain Injury Program in 2006 Budget

The text below is from the homepage of the Federal Traumatic Brain Injury Program, which assists families to support their loved one who sustained brain injuries similar to Terri Schiavo.

George Bush eliminated this progam entirely in his 2006 budget proposal.


Current estimates state that at least 5.3 million individuals live with a TBI1. These individuals and their families are often faced with challenges, such as improper diagnosis, inability to access support or rehabilitation services, institutional segregation, unemployment, and being forced to navigate complicated and cumbersome service and support systems.

Recognizing the large number of individuals and families struggling to access appropriate and community-based services, Congress authorized the Federal TBI Program in the TBI Act of 1996 (PL 104-166). The TBI Act of 1996 launched an effort to conduct expanded studies and to establish innovative programs for TBI.

It gave the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) authority to establish a grant program for States to assist it in addressing the needs of individuals with TBI and their families. It also delegated responsibilities in the areas of research, prevention, and surveillance to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention respectively.

Title XIII of the Children's Health Act of 2000 (PL 106-310) reauthorized the programs of the TBI Act of 1996. The TBI Act reauthorization also recognized the importance of protection and advocacy (P&A) services for individuals with TBI and their families by authorizing HRSA to make grants to State P&A Systems.

The HRSA Maternal and Child Health Bureau administers the Federal TBI Program. Fiscal Year 2003 funding for the program was $9.3 million.

Assist States in expanding and improving State and local capability which, in turn, will enhance access to comprehensive and coordinated services for individuals with TBI and their families;

Use existing research-based knowledge, state-of-the-art systems development approaches and the experience and products of previous TBI grantees in meeting program goals; and

Generate support from local and private sources for sustainability of funded projects after Federal support terminates, through State legislative, regulatory, or policy changes which promote the incorporation of services for individuals with TBI and their families into the State service delivery systems.

Program Vision
All individuals with TBI and their families will have accessible, available, acceptable, and appropriate services and supports.

What Does the Federal TBI Program Do?
Grants to States: Since 1997, 49 States, Territories, and the District of Columbia have received at least one grant. The Program administers three types of grants to State Agencies:
Planning grants are available for up to two years and allow States to build infrastructure through the Program's four core components-establishing a TBI Statewide Advisory Board, identifying of a Lead Agency, conducting a Needs and Resources Assessment, and developing a TBI State Action Plan.

Implementation grants are for three years and up to $200,000 per year for the purposes of improving access to services for individuals with TBI and their families.

Post-demonstration grants, authorized by the Children's Health Act of 2000, are for one year and up to $100,000 to States that have completed three years of implementation. These grants support specific activities that will help States build TBI capacity.

Grants to Protection and Advocacy Systems: The P&A grant program is a formula-based program that allows 57 States, Territories, and the Native American Protection and Advocacy Project to assess their State P&A Systems' responsiveness to TBI issues and provide advocacy support to individuals with TBI and their families.

Traumatic Brain Injury Technical Assistance Center (TAC): The Federal TBI Program supports a TBI TAC at the National Association of State Head Injury Administrators. The TBI TAC was established to help States in the planning and development of effective programs that improve access to health and other services for individuals with TBI and their families. TBI TAC staff specialists provide States with individualized technical assistance. Additionally, the TBI TAC develops and disseminates a variety of specialized documents and initiatives for the Federal TBI Program.

For example, TBI TAC has developed a set of benchmarks that can be used by grantees to assess their progress in meeting Program goals and objectives. The TBI TAC is also developing outcome measures that the Program will be able to use to better assess the impact TBI State and P&A Grants have on person-centered services and sustainable systems change.

Simplistic & Sanctimonious Political Exploitation

The New York Times sums it perfectly in this editorial today, Congress's Midnight Frenzy....

The sight of Congress and President Bush intruding into the sufferings of the Schiavo family was appalling. Washington had years to properly consider the agonizing dilemmas that cases like this one raise for uncounted, less publicized American families. But the Republican leadership did nothing until the issue ripened to a maximum moment for simplistic political exploitation.

Most Americans appreciate the complicated and sensitive concerns at stake here far better than the politicians. Whatever the range of opinion on the underlying issue, polls show that the public recoiled at the sight of elected officials racing to make hay of this family's private pain.

Those findings only underline the hubris of the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, and the other G.O.P. leaders. Their egregious pandering was directed not at the bulk of the populace, but at their base vote among the evangelical and fundamentalist conservatives who have been demanding greater deference since working to deliver Republican victories last year.

The political timidity of potential opponents was woeful. No one dared even demand debate in the Senate. In the House, many opponents seemed simply to prefer to stay away. Arguments against the bill were led by Florida Democrats, who had the most reason to be offended by Congress's crude overriding of state government.

Sanctimonious rhetoric rang out about the value of each individual life even as a strategy memo was reported circulating among G.O.P. lawmakers cynically relishing the points to be scored with the right-to-life political machine in next year's elections. The rush to save Terri Schiavo was mixed with the urge to get rid of Senator Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat who faces re-election next year.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Dr. Frist Plays Politics with Schiavo Case

From an MSNBC story.....

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who pushed the Senate to pass legislation intended to save Schiavo’s life, has presidential ambitions and has already visited New Hampshire, where the first GOP primary will be held in 2008....

Frist issued a press release denying any political motive.

Referring to a memorandum reportedly passed around to Republican senators that called the Schiavo case “a great political issue" which could appeal to Christian conservative voters, Frist said, “I have never seen the memo and “I condemn the content of the memo.

Senator Frist, if you've never seen the memo, how can you condemn it???

Imagine, a physician playing politics with end-of-life issues. Does it come lower for a medical professional?

Signed by Bush: Pulling the Plug as Bill Collection Technique

"In cases like this one ... our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life."
– President Bush on the Terri Schiavo Case,


In 1999 then Texas Gov. George Bush signed a law that "allows hospitals ... [to] discontinue life sustaining care, even if patient family members disagree."
– Houston Chronicle,
3/15/05, 3/10/05

FYI....the reason for allowing hospitals to discontinue life-support is financial. Threatening to "pull the plug" is a bill collection technique. Seriously.

Priivitization as Route to Build Billionaires

From AlterNet, "The Cavernous Divide" by Scott Klinger, AlterNe, March 21, 2005

Two magazine covers stood out in poignant contrast on newsstands last week. Forbes magazine released its 29th annual listing of the world's billionaires. Time magazine's cover story wondered "How to End Poverty."

It was a good year for the global billionaires' club. Their ranks grew to 691, up 17 percent from the previous year. Collectively, the wealth of the world's billionaires reached $2.2 trillion, up more than 57 percent over the last two years.

Poverty is growing as well. Time reports that nearly half of the world's 6 billion residents are poor. Over one billion of them subsist on less than $1 a day. In the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of impoverished Americans rose 3.7 percent in 2003. The number of children living in poverty rose 6.6 percent.

Forbes seeks to explain the billionaires' success by noting that a majority of those on the list are "self-made." Forbes' web site features an interactive quiz that asks, "Do you have what it takes to become a billionaire?" and proceeds to explore things like marital status and hobbies. The idea is that many billionaires made it on their own.

But to suggest that membership in the growing billionaires' club requires only a combination of hard work and character traits ignores some dramatic shifts in global economic rules that explain the cavernous divide that has developed between the very rich and the very poor.

Tax rates have fallen on upper-income citizens and corporations worldwide. Fifty years ago in the United States, the highest marginal income tax rate was 91 percent; today it is 34 percent. As recently as 1979, taxes on capital gains from the sale of stock, real estate and businesses were 35 percent; today they are 15 percent. Corporate taxes as a percentage of the U.S. economy have shrunk from 4.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 1965 to just 1.5 percent in 2002.

While corporate taxes have declined throughout the world, they have plummeted in the United States, leaving only Iceland among industrialized countries with a lower corporate tax burden. Several of the wealthiest billionaires capitalized on public assets and made their fortunes by buying formerly public assets.

This was the case with Mexican Carlos Slim Helu, the world's fourth richest man, who used inherited wealth to buy a substantial share of Mexico's privatized national telephone company. U.S. billionaires Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, and Larry Ellison of Oracle would not be in Forbes' top 20 billionaires had the U.S. government not invested tens of billions of public dollars developing computers and the internet.

Some billionaires' fortunes rest upon paying their employees poverty wages. Such is the case for the Walton family (numbers 10 through 14 on the Forbes list.) Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the world. Many of its U.S. workers are so poorly paid that they must rely on food stamps and other forms of public assistance to get by. Such forms of government aid represent an indirect government subsidy to corporations whose business model does not include paying employees enough to live on. Worldwide, billions are gained by outsourcing service, production and manufacturing functions to workers who labor in sweatshop conditions in countries like China.

The role of government policy in determining who has wealth and who does not continues to expand. During the recent debate on the bankruptcy bill, federal lawmakers refused to close the "asset protection trust" loophole increasingly used by millionaires and billionaires to shelter mansions and other assets from creditors in bankruptcy. Those same lawmakers weakened protections that protect the family homes of ordinary people from creditors during bankruptcy.

Forbes is wrong; none of the billionaires did it alone. The chasm between rich and poor is not a divide between who has intelligence and drive and who does not.

Rather it results from a society whose rules allow some to amass wealth greater than could be enjoyed in a thousand lifetimes, while they deny others enough money to scrape through just one lifetime.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Rage at Being Left Behind - James Dobson Unplugged

It's common knowledge that the evangelical far right is so yesterday as a controlling voting force. Its best, most powerful days were left behind back in 2004.

Even George W. has wisely distanced himself from the evangelical far right by backing off his half-hearted gay marriage amendment huffing and puffing. And just last week, one of his closest advisors sent the predictable mixed signals about a complete ban on abortion when she coyly termed herself as "mildly pro-choice."

But I had no idea just how yesterday right-wing evangelical political power was until a dire, desperately raging Focus on the Family (FOF) letter dated March 4 arrived in the mail.

(FOF is the home of ultra-conservative activist Dr. James Dobson. FOF used to be a nonpartisan organization highly helpful to all families. It's now morphed into primarily a political podium for ultra-rightist Dobson.)
Here are a few excerpts from the rambling six-page letter (with my occasional aside) ....

"Election 2004 may not have been the dawn of a new era of conservatism in this country....If the church stays engaged, we may well see a long-term change in the direction of our country."

"Christian values have won a key battle---but not yet the war."

"We know...that we'll be disappointed from time to time during the next four years by those we have trusted to follow through on their promises...."

"We tried and failed last year when the US Senate on July 14 refused to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment....The vote was 48 to 50, 12 short of the 60 needed to keep the measure alive. A distressing number of senators were obviously intimidated...and refused to support the amendment. Their excuses were ridiculous."

"Our society has become increasingly crude, rude, profane, adolescent and hyper-sexualized." (Not to mention angry, mean-spirited , name-calling, dishonest and isolationist.)

"The institution of the family and the values on which it is founded cannot survive unless all of us who care deeply about them help support aggressive action to preserve them." (He's asking for money.)

"The enemies of morality will not stop and will not back off." (Uhh....all non-Republican Americans are immoral? Enemies of morality? I truly wonder if FOF has read Jesus' repeated words about judging others. )

"The Left cannot and will not change." (What about praying for others? What about loving your enemy? What about Jesus' words..."with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26.)

And my favorite...."...national news reporters were stunned when they read the exit polls on election Day and realized the single greatest problem on the mind of voters was not terrorism, not the economy and not even the Iraq War, but moral values." (Uhh..cutting health care from the poor, elderly, children, pregnant woman and the disabled isn't a moral value? The corrupt Iraq War for oil isn't a moral value? Terrorism...violence against innocents...isn't a moral value?)

Dr. Dobson, perhaps many didn't vote to reelect President Bush because they fully realized that he's a liar who never intended to do much at all about abortion or gay marriage. Bush doesn't give a damn about either issue. And Bush conveniently ignored all the other moral issues because you, Dr. Dobson, gave him that free pass.

Dr. Dobson, had you not been living in a paranoid fantasy, you too would have realized that. It was obvious. And you wouldn't have wasted the formidable political power of the evangelical right on an undeserving candidate who planned to use and disappoint you.

Your present pain of disillusionment and rage is self-inflicted, Dr. Dobson.

Remember Matthew 7:1..."do not judge, or you too will be judged."

You have been judged, and your political power is spent.

Republican Senators Sheepish to Face Constituents about Social Security

Republican members of Congress, heading home for a two-week Easter recess, are timidly taking new avenues to attempt to sell the President's Social Security privatization ideas.

The Bush Administration now openly admits that privatization does nothing to solve Social Security's long-term funding challenges, yet Mr. Bush is stubbornly uninterested in solutions that exclude his version of private accounts.

Remember...there is no crisis in Social Security. Even the President has dropped the word crisis.
From Common Dreams....GOP Boards Up the 'Town Hall' by Andrea Stone

Republicans in Congress have a game plan to avoid "March madness" when they go home this weekend to talk to constituents about Social Security during a two-week holiday recess.

Shaken by raucous protests at open "town hall"-style meetings last month, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio and other GOP leaders are urging lawmakers to hold lower-profile events this time.

Republicans plan to heed President Bush's call Wednesday "to talk to their constituents not only about the problem, but about solutions" to Social Security's looming financial shortfall. The president wants to allow workers to divert some payroll taxes into private investment accounts.

A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll conducted late last month found that only 35% approve of Bush's handling of the issue. Yet the importance of debate on the matter was reinforced by a separate Gallup Poll on Wednesday, in which nearly one in four adults said Social Security will be the most important problem facing the nation in 25 years. That's more than double the number who said so a year ago.

This month, Republican leaders say they are chucking the open town-hall format. They plan to visit newspaper editorial boards and talk to constituents at Rotary Club lunches, senior citizen centers, chambers of commerce meetings and local businesses. In those settings, "there isn't an opportunity for it to disintegrate into something that's less desirable," says Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Republican leaders are urging their party's lawmakers to take the spotlight off themselves by convening panels of experts from the Social Security Administration, conservative think tanks, local colleges and like-minded interest groups to answer questions about the federal retirement program.

The shift in venues and formats, Santorum says, is aimed at producing "more of an erudite discussion" about Social Security's problems and possible solutions. Santorum was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Two Years After Iraq Attack: Bring Our Troops Home

From American Progress....

This weekend marks the two-year anniversary of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq. Although Iraq's recent elections signal a positive turn, far more remains uncertain. The administration's disastrous post-war occupation has hindered reconstruction and security efforts. Corruption and violence are endemic. And the costs in American lives and taxpayer dollars continue to mount. We know one thing for certain; the administration's predictions and statements before the war were all wrong.

The Bush administration's rationale for war was dead wrong. All of the rationales posed by the White House as justification for the war have been thoroughly debunked. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein had no collaborative ties to al Qaeda. Bush's talk of freedom and democracy appear to be afterthoughts to justify a war of choice. Although these are laudable goals, they were not the stated reasons for sending U.S. servicemen and women to die. The administration misled the nation into war and now wants us to believe its motives were noble.

The war did not pay for itself and U.S. forces were not greeted with open arms. In the days after the invasion two years ago, the White House famously predicted the war would pay for itself. Today, the U.S. is on track to spend close more than $200 billion for the Iraq war. Two years ago, the White House claimed U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators by the Iraqi people. In July 2003, there were an estimated 5,000 insurgents fighting against U.S. troops. Today, that estimate is closer to 18,000. And while a year ago, there was an average of 14 attacks against U.S. troops per day, now it's more than 70.

Americans have spoken: they do not believe the war was worth fighting. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 53 percent of Americans said the war was not worth fighting and 70 percent said the number of U.S. casualties is an unacceptable price. Despite the administration's unrelenting propaganda about Iraq, Americans understand the consequences of the administration's actions and don't like what they see.

Rejoice! Budget Victory for Biblical Morality!

From Call to Renewal, a Sojourners ministry.....Thank your Senator for saying NO to Medicaid cuts!

Dear Deborah White,

Your voice has helped bring a victory in the budget debate!Capitol Hill leaders and staffers have said they have never heard so much from people across the country about the budget.Those efforts paid off today as the Senate voted against reducing Medicaid funding in 2006 by close to $15 billion.

The Senate approved an amendment to the 2006 budget resolution, by a vote of 52-48, that is characterized as a “serious blow” to efforts to cut support for low-income families.The provision was supported by all 45 Democrats and 7 Republicans – Senators Collins (Maine), Specter (Penn.), Chafee (Rhode Island), DeWine (Ohio), Snowe (Maine), Coleman (Minn.), and lead sponsor of the amendment, Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon.

This is one success in the context of a large budget with many misguided priorities, but it is proof that speaking out for moral principles can make a difference.You joined thousands of people in making sure that Washington heard: budgets are moral documents.“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

As we give thanks for our partners and this victory, we ask you to let senators who supported this amendment hear your thanks.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Another Glimmer of Hope & Conscientious Voting

A second glimmer of good. A few Democrats in the House of Representatives have found the courage to vote their convictions of the US continued occupation of Iraq. George Bush may yet turn out to be the great uniter he claims to be....except of liberals and progressives, certainly not Republicans.

From Progressive Democrats of America....

On March 16, 2005, the U.S. House of Represenatives voted 388-43 to provide another $81.4 billion for continued U.S. occupation of Iraq. While the margin has been described as “lopsided” in the press, we know that the Congressional anti-war movement is, in fact, growing fast – thanks in part to YOUR e-mails and phone calls!

Now is the time to join with PDA in congratulating and thanking the fearless forty-three who voted against this funding. They are: Abercrombie (D-HI), Baldwin (D-MN), Blumenauer (D-OR), Capuano (D-MA), Clay (D-MO), Coble (R-NC), Danny Davis (D-IL), Duncan (R-TN), Farr (D-CA), Filner (D-CA), Frank (D-MA), Grijalva (D-AZ), Hastings (D-FL), Hinchey (D-NY), Holt (D-NJ), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Kucinich (D-OH), Lee (D-CA), Lewis (D-GA), Maloney (D-NY), Markey (D-MA), McCollum (D-MN), McDermott (D-WA), McGovern (D-MA), McKinney (D-GA), Meehan (D-MA), George Miller (D-CA), Owens (D-NY), Pallone (D-NJ), Paul (R-TX), Payne (D-NJ), Rangel (D-NY), Sanders (I-VT), Schakowsky (D-IL), Serrano (D-NY), Stark (D-CA), Thompson (D-CA), Tierney (D-MA), Towns (D-NY), Velázquez (D-NY), Waters (D-CA), Weiner (D-NY) and Woolsey (D-CA).

If any of these are YOUR congressional representatives, they need to hear from you now to know they have the active support of their constituents. If your congressional representative is not on the list, they, too, need to hear from you.

Let them know you are watching and that you disapprove. It remains important that you and others who agree with your position call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative.

Two Glimmers of Hope & Conscientious Voting in One Day?

A second glimmer of good. A few Democrats in the House of Representatives have found the courage to vote their convictions of the US continued occupation of Iraq.

From Progressive Democrats of America....

On March 16, 2005, the U.S. House of Represenatives voted 388-43 to provide another $81.4 billion for continued U.S. occupation of Iraq. While the margin has been described as “lopsided” in the press, we know that the Congressional anti-war movement is, in fact, growing fast – thanks in part to YOUR e-mails and phone calls!

Now is the time to join with PDA in congratulating and thanking the fearless forty-three who voted against this funding. They are: Abercrombie (D-HI), Baldwin (D-MN), Blumenauer (D-OR), Capuano (D-MA), Clay (D-MO), Coble (R-NC), Danny Davis (D-IL), Duncan (R-TN), Farr (D-CA), Filner (D-CA), Frank (D-MA), Grijalva (D-AZ), Hastings (D-FL), Hinchey (D-NY), Holt (D-NJ), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Kucinich (D-OH), Lee (D-CA), Lewis (D-GA), Maloney (D-NY), Markey (D-MA), McCollum (D-MN), McDermott (D-WA), McGovern (D-MA), McKinney (D-GA), Meehan (D-MA), George Miller (D-CA), Owens (D-NY), Pallone (D-NJ), Paul (R-TX), Payne (D-NJ), Rangel (D-NY), Sanders (I-VT), Schakowsky (D-IL), Serrano (D-NY), Stark (D-CA), Thompson (D-CA), Tierney (D-MA), Towns (D-NY), Velázquez (D-NY), Waters (D-CA), Weiner (D-NY) and Woolsey (D-CA).

If any of these are YOUR congressional representatives, they need to hear from you now to know they have the active support of their constituents. If your congressional representative is not on the list, they, too, need to hear from you.

Let them know you are watching and that you disapprove. It remains important that you and others who agree with your position call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative.

Seeds of War Lie in Materialism & Love of Money

Sojourners had this quote in their newsletter for this week.... The Seeds of War

"O, that we who declare war against wars, and acknowledge our trust to be in God only, may walk in the light, and therein examine our foundation and motives in holding onto money! May we look upon our estates, our treasures, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these, our possessions."

- John Woolman, Quaker abolitionist

Exactly...the seeds of war lie in our materialism and our love of money.

Glimmer of Good Grassroots News Amid Economic Rape

From Senator John Kerry the midst of the depressing 2006 budget battles, I welcome the good news about our growing ranks of angry Americans speaking out about the economic rape of our beloved country.

(Be sure to read my article on Bush's now close-to-reality plan to entirely shut down Amtrak and interconnected national rail service. 24 million passengers last year, and Bush plans to put them all in gas-guzzling cars and planes.)

Someday, just like in mid-20th century Germany, Americans who aren't now listening will cry "Why didn't you tell me?"

Dear Deborah,
Yesterday, we saw a relentless Republican attack on one of our most treasured natural wonders sneak through the Senate on a 51 to 49 vote. But, we also saw more than 260,000 Americans act in less than 24 hours to add their names to our Citizens' Roll Call in favor of protecting the Arctic Refuge.

It was the first time ever that I or anyone else could stand on the Senate floor and announce that, in a day's time, a quarter of a million Americans had gone online to express their passionate support for a given course of action.

That awesome display of grassroots power rattled our opponents. They even railed against my e-mail message on the Senate floor and entered its text into the Senate record. So, think of it this way. The Republican leaders of the Senate have 51 reasons to celebrate today, but you and I have 260,000 reasons to do the same.

If we keep working together - committed pro-environment Senators and a powerful grassroots movement all pulling in the same direction - we can still stop the plan for drilling in the Arctic from making it the rest of the way through Congress. And we can win the larger battle over two very different visions of America's energy future.

George W. Bush and the Washington Republicans have a plan to sell off our public lands to powerful special interests. As a result of their ruthless drive to undermine America's most beautiful natural treasures, the oil rigs are closer to the Arctic Refuge than they have ever been.

But, the Bush administration's own scientists and economists admit that the Republicans' plan will not make us less dependent on foreign oil and will not lower prices at the pump. We have to put America's energy future in the hands of Americans - by inventing our way to real energy independence and having energy sources that create jobs and lower prices.

With your help, we will continue to wholeheartedly resist their special interest-funded partisan agenda. And, if we act with the same energy and determination as we have on this critical Arctic Refuge vote, sooner than later, our power and commitment will carry the day. I know you will be with me every step of the way and I thank you for the passion and energy that you bring to our work together.

John Kerry
P.S. I told you that more than a quarter of a million people signed our Citizens' Roll Call in the first 24 hours after we launched it. Actually the news is even more impressive. As of this moment, there are over 400,000 signers to our Roll Call, including tens of thousands who signed after the vote to express their determination to keep fighting. Let's keep working.

Audits Reveal Halliburton Fraud, But President Hides Reports

According to Defense Department auditors, Halliburton may have overcharged the U.S. government more than $100 million in Iraq.

And that's not all. Eight other audits into possible wrongdoing by Halliburton subsidiaries were completed in October 2004.

Want to know more? Too bad. The White House is hiding the reports from public view, despite repeated requests from Congress for details.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Brutality & Madness: 108 Prisoners Died Violently in US Custody

Need any more proof of the shocking brutality, moral corruptness and sheer evil madness of the Bush Administration than this story from AP today?...."Many Died in U.S. Custody in War "By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer

At least 108 people have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them violently, according to government data provided to The Associated Press. Roughly a quarter of those deaths have been investigated as possible abuse by U.S. personnel.

The figure, far higher than any previously disclosed, includes cases investigated by the Army, Navy, CIA and Justice Department. Some 65,000 prisoners have been taken during the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although most have been freed.

The Pentagon has never provided comprehensive information on how many prisoners taken during the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have died, and the 108 figure is based on information supplied by Army, Navy and other government officials.

Of the prisoner deaths:
-At least 26 have been investigated as criminal homicides involving the abuse of prisoners.
-At least 29 are attributed to suspected natural causes or accident.
-Twenty-two are blamed on an insurgent mortar attack on April 6, 2004, on Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

-At least 20 are attributed to "justifiable homicide," where investigations found U.S. troops used deadly force appropriately, primarily against rioting, escaping or threatening prisoners.

To human rights groups, the deaths form a clear pattern.

"Despite the military's own reports of deaths and abuses of detainees in U.S. custody, it is astonishing that our government can still pretend that what is happening is the work of a few rogue soldiers," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "No one at the highest levels of our government has yet been held accountable for the torture and abuse, and that is unacceptable."

Fake Government News to Continue Under Bush

Fake News and stealth propaganda will continue under the Bush administration, and not just on Comedy Central cable programs. Unashamedly, it appears. (From a remark the President made in this morning's new conference, his test is legal based on Justice Dep't interpretation, not ethical or moral.)
From Common Dreams.....White House to Agencies: Ignore GAO's Ruling On 'illegal' TV News Releases by Ken Herman

The White House, intent on continuing to crank out "video news releases" that look like television news stories, has told government agency heads to ignore a Government Accountability Office memo criticizing the practice as illegal propaganda.

In a memo on Friday, Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the lawyers the White House depends on disagree with the GAO's conclusions.

Accompanying Bolten's memo was a letter from Steven Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, who said video news releases "are the television equivalent of the printed press release."

"They can be a cost-effective means to distribute information through local news outlets, and their use by private and public entities has been widespread since the early 1990s, including by numerous federal agencies," Bradbury said.

Comptroller General David Walker of the GAO said Monday that his agency is "disappointed by the administration's actions" in telling agency heads to ignore the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.

"This is not just a legal issue, it's also an ethical matter," Walker said. "The taxpayers have a right to know when the government is trying to influence them with their own money."

Bradbury's memo said video news releases are legal and legitimate as long as they don't "constitute advocacy for any particular position or view."

The GAO, in a Feb. 17 memo to agency heads, said its review of video news releases distributed to television stations by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy showed violations of federal law barring the use of government money for propaganda. The GAO said, "Television-viewing audiences did not know that stories they watched on television news programs about the government were, in fact, prepared by the government."

Giving no indication that the administration would change its policy, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "It's very clear to the TV stations where they are coming from."
But the GAO, in the Feb. 17 memo from Walker, said that's not enough.

"They are intended to be indistinguishable from news segments broadcast to the public by independent television news organizations," Walker wrote. "To help accomplish this goal, these stories include actors or others hired to portray 'reporters' and may be accompanied by suggested scripts that television news anchors can use to introduce the story during the broadcast."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Senator Feinstein Says NO on Arctic Oil Drilling

March 15, 2005

Dear Mrs. White:

Thank you for contacting me about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). I appreciate hearing from you. It is helpful to know that you oppose drilling in ANWR.

At this time, I believe that it is not necessary to drill in ANWR. Improving energy efficiency; conservation; encouraging the development and use of fuel-cell technology and renewables, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy; and increasing automobile fuel economy standards are much better solutions to meeting the long term energy needs of California and the rest of the United States.

That is why on January 30, 2003, I re-introduced the "Automobile Fuel Economy Act" (S. 255). Once fully enacted, S. 255 would require light trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) to meet the same fuel efficiency standards that passenger cars do today. This bill would also require the federal fleet of cars and trucks to meet a higher fuel economy standard than currently required.

Closing the ASUV loophole@ would prevent 240 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year, save one million barrels of oil a day (which is much more oil than is projected to be in ANWR), and reduce our dependence on foreign oil imports by ten percent. Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.

I value your opinion and I hope you will continue to keep in touch on issues important to you. If you have any questions or need assistance, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C. staff.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Another Bush Plan to Reward Corporate Polluters

From American Progress Action .....Administration to Unveil Polluter-Friendly Mercury Plan , March 15, 2005

The Bush administration's new plan to curb mercury emissions is a gross handout to polluters and industry. It will reduce toxic mercury pollution at a much slower rate than other more environmentally favorable plans while instituting a cap-and-trade system, which lets dirty power plants buy credits from cleaner ones.

The president's plan would make mercury pollution worse not better. Every year, power plants emit 48 tons of toxic mercury into the atmosphere. President Bush likes to claim his plan will reduce mercury pollution by 70 percent by 2018. But he won't tell you that this represents a large step backwards from previous efforts. The Bush administration rolled back a plan a 2000 Clinton White House plan which "would have mandated curtailing emissions at every plant by the maximum amount possible, which proponents said could bring a 90 percent reduction in three years using existing technology," according to the LA Times.

The administration allowed the polluters to write their own laws and regulations. The EPA's mercury emission rules were partially drafted by the very energy companies they're supposed to regulate. In April 2003, a group of eight power plants reviewed the administration's plan and submitted a "wish list" of changes to weaken regulations. The Washington Post last year found that, in a side-by-side comparison of the rules and the power-plant memo, at least "a dozen paragraphs were lifted, sometimes verbatim, from the industry suggestions."

Under the president's plan, some power plants will be allowed to increase mercury pollution while others will profit from selling their credits to the worst offenders. The cap-and-trade system will produce so-called "hot-spots," localized areas of severe pollution and contamination. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes today: "There's no gentle way to put it: The White House is ignoring the public's will, betraying the public's trust and endangering the public's health by proposing weak mercury regulations for the nation's power plants."

Monday, March 14, 2005

Senator Boxer Urgent Request to Sign Petition

From Senator Barbara Boxer....

Now we face the ultimate special interest issue: Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. For six months of oil, not to be realized for ten years, my colleagues seem bent on handing over this most pristine land to the big oil companies.

Never mind that we can save the equivalent of an infinite number of ANWR fields by simply raising fuel economy a modest amount -- that doesn't matter. The Republicans don't care about the native peoples whose lives will be ruined; they don't care that President Eisenhower set this land aside; they don't care about the more than one hundred species of wildlife that depend on this refuge.

What they do care about is the precedent. If they open up ANWR, they'll think they can do anything to the environment -- anything at all. Drilling in Yosemite? In the Grand Canyon? What's next?

Stand with me and reject any attempts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling -- sign my petition today!

I urgently need your help. Last week, the Republican leadership snuck a provision into the Budget bill that moves us one step closer to opening ANWR to drilling. It's a sneaky way of trying to get what they want without having to vote on it directly.

We can't let that happen! I urge you to
sign my new petition to Republican Leader Bill Frist -- tell him that any Republicans who vote to open up the Alaska wilderness to oil drilling will pay a price in the next election. The Budget bill with this terrible ANWR provision will be up for a vote in the Senate by the end of the week. Let the Republican leadership know that we won't forget the votes they cast.

Sign my petition to Bill Frist today -- stand firm against Republican efforts to open up ANWR!

I need you now more than ever. Please stand with me on this critical issue.

In Friendship,
Barbara Boxer

U.S. Senator

George Bush Sends Mixed Signals on Abortion

When the George Bush wants to send mixed signals on a hot potato issue, the President takes the high road with the correct voter-base-friendly message, and one of his closest advisors unblinkingly confides, in a national media venue, to personally hold a different view.

It's often called a good cop-bad cop routine. I think of it as playing both sides of the political street. The purpose of the Bushian mixed signal strategy is to keep the voter base happy with cheap rhetoric while actually doing something else.

They did it quite successfully on gay marriage during the 2004 campaign. The President huffed and puffed self-righteously in front of news cameras about an amendment to ban gay marriage. Meanwhile, Dick and Lynne Cheney openly cooed about their gay daughter and whispered that they disagreed with the President's position.

Predictably, after the election, a ban on gay marriage disappeared from the Bush Administration agenda. They didn't really care about it much at all. It was election year rhetoric. Nothing more.

Can you ever imagine Cheney, Rumsfeld or Rice disagreeing publicly with the President on say, Social Security, the War in Iraq or Homeland Security ? Of course not. No President in recent memory has been less amenable to actual disagreement.

But public disagreement as contrivance to send mixed messages is Bushian strategy. George Bush is a grossly underestimated politican. This ploy works brilliantly and without exception on a gullible voter base.


It happened again yesterday. A close advisor confessing, in hushed voice, disagreement with one of George Bush's far right-friendly election stances. From NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday....

"MR. RUSSERT: You told the Washington Times on Friday you were mildly pro-choice. What does that mean?

DR. RICE: It means that like many Americans I find the issue of abortion very difficult. I believe it ought to be as rare as possible. Nobody wants to see anyone go through that. I favor parental notification. I favor a ban on late-term abortion. But I, myself, am not a fan of having the government intervene in the laws.

MR. RUSSERT: You would not outlaw it?

DR. RICE: No."

Last Thursday, the US backed off its long-held insistence that the UN declaration on women's equality make clear there is no international right to abortion. US Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey announced the change, saying that abortion policy should be decided on a national, not global, level.

The very next day, Dr. Rice suddenly confided to a newspaper that she's "mildly pro-choice." Once again, the President stays pure with the voter-friendly stance, and his aide sends the mixed message. Good cop, bad cop.

So.......we now know that the Bush Administration doesn't really care about abortion all that much. Abortion is a negotiable value, depending on the political circumstance.

So the two key reasons the "faith and values" voters used to ratchet up support for George W., gay marriage and abortion, are actually negotiable. Bush doesn't care THAT much about abortion and gay marriage. He never did.

He saves his strongest non-negotiable passions and values for war, tax breaks for the wealthy, tearing down Social Security and passing bankruptcy "reform" that rewards credit card companies.

The ten states hit the hardest by the Bush bankruptcy "reform" are all Republican-red states. The ten states most negatively affected by the Bush 2006 budget are all Republican-red states. And if his Social Security "reform" passes, the ten states hit hardest by it would all be Republican-red states.

Hmmmm.....are those the moral or religious values George Bush claims to monopoiize within his far-right voter base?

Truthfully, I feel a bit sorry for the "faith and values" voters who got sucked into the Bush/Cheney campaign cheap talk about gay marriage and abortion. They must feel terribly betrayed and more than a bit naive.