Sunday, October 31, 2004

NRA Ad Falsely Accuses Kerry

----- Original Message -----
From: "FactCheck.org"
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2004 5:48 AM
Subject: NRA Ad Falsely Accuses Kerry
 
NRA Ad Falsely Accuses Kerry
 
It says he's sponsoring a proposal to ban "every pump shotgun" and voted "to ban deer-hunting ammunition." Don't believe either claim.
 
Summary
 
The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund began airing a TV ad Oct. 26 falsely accusing Kerry of voting to ban deer-hunting ammunition. In fact, what Kerry voted for was a proposal to outlaw rifle ammunition "designed or marketed as having armor piercing capability."
 
The NRA ad also claims Kerry is co-sponsoring a bill to "that would ban every semiautomatic shotgun and every pump shotgun." That's false. Kerry co-sponsored extension of the now-expired assault-weapon ban, a measure that would have expanded the ban to cover military-style shotguns but specifically exempts pump-action shotguns.
 
 
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<http://www.factcheck.org/article296m.html>
 
 
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Saturday, October 30, 2004

If Some Have It Their Way ... No More Section 8

Summary Report
Just one of the many issues that no one seems to be discussing.  Not surprising that this was not mentioned during the debates.  plk
 
 
EDITORIAL DESK | October 16, 2004, Saturday
The War on Affordable Housing  


Summary:
Ideologues in the Bush administration would like to dismantle Section 8, the most successful public-and-private housing partnership in the history of the United States.

That's the only way to explain the destructive policies emanating from the Housing and Urban Development Department, which has been hammering at Section 8 all year.

The conflicting signals and general aura of hostility have convinced housing authorities around the country that they need to defend themselves by avoiding new commitments and cutting back on their old ones.

Even worse, the developers who have counted on Section 8 money to build affordable housing for the poor, the elderly and the disabled now think that they can no longer trust this program.

Republican lawmakers whose districts are being hurt have kept quiet in the name of party solidarity.

But this posture of loyal complicity will be difficult to maintain as the housing crisis deepens, which it surely will if HUD continues along its current course.

A landmark program, Section 8 has produced affordable housing for needy Americans since the Nixon years.

It works this way: instead of doing the construction itself, the government guarantees subsidies for rents in the private market.

Families, most of them at or below the poverty level, pay 30 percent of their incomes toward rent, and Section 8 vouchers pay the rest.

At the moment, the program covers about two million people, a majority of them elderly or in families with children.

Unable to dismember the Section 8 program directly, HUD has chosen to destabilize it with a series of rule changes and budget maneuvers that are being felt from coast to coast.

After an outcry from Congress, he retreats to lesser cuts that leave the program diminished, housing authorities confused and the general public mistakenly believing that the status quo has been regained.

The latest incident, laid out by The Times's David Chen, came after HUD released a vaguely worded and irrational proposal that involved reducing the value of housing vouchers for poor residents in some of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

The proposed change was widely thought to have been rescinded after housing advocates and lawmakers raised a fuss.

Faced with the prospect of Section 8 vouchers that pay less than fair-market rents, they have made it clear that they will simply refuse to deal with the program, especially in tight markets where they can pick and choose tenants.

The insanity of this ideologically driven attack on Section 8 is underscored in a bipartisan book -- written by two Republicans and two Democrats -- just out from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. The authors include two former housing secretaries: Jack Kemp, a Republican, and Henry Cisneros, a Democrat. The book argues convincingly that the country is sacrificing both families and neighborhoods by hacking away at the most successful housing program in history.

The book, ''Opportunity and Progress,'' calls for restoring the sane bipartisan effort that produced the federal housing program in the first place. Most significantly, the authors urge Congress to insulate the housing program from partisan sniping by creating a national trust fund. Modeled on similar programs that work well at state and local levels, that national fund would be used to build, rehabilitate and preserve 1.5 million affordable apartments.


Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

 

Friday, October 29, 2004

You Might Be Able to Fight City Hall but Can You Fight the Pharmaceutical Companies?

Summary Report
"Drug makers like Pfizer say they would reduce their shipments of drugs to distributors in Canada and other countries that re-export to the United States. ''We are not going to supply drugs to diverters, in Canada or elsewhere,'' said Hank McKinnell, chairman and chief executive of Pfizer. "

Summary:
Importing Less Expensive Drugs Not Seen as Cure for U.S. Woes

A customer at the Concourse Drugs pharmacy in the Bronx will pay about $118 for a month's supply of 20-milligram Lipitor.

At PharmacyinCanada.com, a Canadian online outlet, the same quantity of the drug, Pfizer's cholesterol-lowering medication, costs $79.

The difference has become a tempting political target.

Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, has made a campaign pledge to help cut Americans' prescription drug costs by allowing them to import drugs from Canada.

President Bush has conceded that the idea is worth a try ''if there's a safe way to do it.'' Bipartisan legislation in Congress would allow the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada and other industrialized countries.

It may make political sense to point to Canada as a solution to high prescription drug prices in the United States.

But many economists and health care experts say that importing drugs from countries that control their prices would do little to solve the problem of expensive drugs in the United States, where companies are free to set their own prices.

Even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that allowing Canadian drug imports would have a ''negligible'' impact on drug spending.

To begin with, there are not enough Canadians, or drugs in Canada, to make much of a dent in the United States.

There are 16 million American patients on Lipitor, for instance -- more than half the entire Canadian population.

Drug makers like Pfizer say they would reduce their shipments of drugs to distributors in Canada and other countries that re-export to the United States.

''We are not going to supply drugs to diverters, in Canada or elsewhere,'' said Hank McKinnell, chairman and chief executive of Pfizer.

And Canadian health officials, fearing shortages and higher prices of their own, would probably clamp down on their own pharmacists and distributors to keep their drugs from leaking into the United States.

Canadian patient-advocacy groups have already complained about shortages from the exports to the United States that already occur, even though they violate American law.

Even the most vehement advocates of forcing big drug makers to lower prices in this country say that imports are a rather clumsy tool.

''It's a pretty crazy solution to a fairly simple problem,'' said James Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, a group advocating a lowering of drug costs.

''Reimportation is not the first thing that would come to my mind.''

But what comes to mind for people like Mr. Love is a political nonstarter: imposing Canadian-style price controls.

No Democrat or Republican will be likely to dare to propose such a thing during an election year, or perhaps anytime soon, having seen the political debacle of the Clinton administration's effort to devise a national health care system -- and knowing that the pharmaceutical industry is one of Washington's most powerful lobbying forces.

Price controls ''wouldn't have a ghost of a chance to pass in the Congress,'' said Senator Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota who is the sponsor of the main drug reimportation bill in the Senate.

Because free-market pricing of drugs and other health care still seems to be so politically sacrosanct, the policy proposals tend to tinker around the margins.

''Is it sensible for the United States to have price controls?'' asked Jean O. Lanjouw, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

But we don't discuss the real questions.''

For all the shortcomings, the Kerry campaign argues that drug imports should be given a chance.

''If the impact is so negligible, why are the drug companies fighting it so much?'' said Sarah Bianchi, Senator Kerry's policy director.

Even if the overall bulk of imports were not that large, she added, ''they would apply some pressure on the drug industry and make them revisit their pricing policies.''

And some of the drug companies' defensive tactics could be barred by law.

The Senate legislation, for example, would bar pharmaceutical companies from denying supplies to distributors and pharmacies that export to the United States.

But the measures proposed so far would do little to change the fundamental economics of the drug industry as it exists today.

Prescription drugs cost a lot to invent, but once invented cost little to manufacture.

When Pfizer sells drugs in the United States it sets the price at a level intended to sell the most pills at the highest price the market will bear.

Now that it is the nation's best-selling drug, the price is 36 percent higher than it was in 1997 -- helping Lipitor achieve nearly $10 billion in sales last year.

Whatever one thinks of the pricing disparity, efforts to force down American prices to Canadian or European levels could radically change the economics of the pharmaceutical industry -- which effectively depends on United States profits for all of its activities, including a substantial portion of its spending on research and development.

They argue that drug companies are spending large sums in marketing to convince patients to demand expensive new medications even when older, cheaper drugs have the same effect.


Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

 

Monday, October 25, 2004

Los Angeles Times: Recasting Wilderness as Open for Business

Summary Report
Isn't it ironic.  It we maintain the status quo the hunting, fishing, card-carrying NRA members won't have a place to hunt and fish.  plk
 
Los Angeles Times: Recasting Wilderness as Open for Business
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-wild25oct25,1,3791084.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Summary:
A Bush administration policy reversal ends decades of shielding the nation's untamed areas.

PRICE, Utah --- The sculpted buttes of Wild Horse Mesa, the vast escarpment of the Book Cliffs and the soaring ramparts of Upper Desolation Canyon near here have become a prime battleground in the Bush administration's campaign to curb wilderness protection throughout the country.

In 1999, the federal government acknowledged the unique character of the area, where 150 million years of the earth's geologic history unfolds and the forces of nature continue to shape the rugged landscape.

The Bureau of Land Management put more than 440,000 acres off-limits to industrial development.

Under the Bush administration, 2.6 million acres of Utah land that had been shielded from development were suddenly open for business.

Not only does the new policy cancel protection of the Utah land, it withholds the interim safeguards traditionally applied to areas with wilderness potential until Congress decides whether to make them part of the national wilderness system.

But what most distinguishes the administration's position is its claim that under applicable law the Interior Department is barred --- forever --- from identifying and protecting wild land the way it has for nearly 30 years.

Adding to it often has been a struggle.

But if the Bush argument prevails, say conservationists and many Democratic members of Congress, much of America's unprotected wild heritage would be lost to development.

Norton said the changes were necessary to restore balance to the way federal lands would be managed by ensuring that wilderness would not take primacy over other important uses such as energy development.

The Bush policy was set forth in the April 2003 settlement of a lawsuit brought by Utah against the Clinton administration.

Utah had lost that case in federal appeals court in 1998 but was allowed to file an amended complaint five years later.

That agenda was spelled out by the state's lead lawyer in a memo shortly before the settlement with the Bush administration.

The memo was obtained recently by environmental lawyers Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice and Leslie Jones of the Wilderness Society through Freedom of Information Act litigation.

The environmentalists, who were kept out of the settlement talks, say the state got what it wanted, and so did wilderness protection opponents everywhere.

The outcome, which could affect the course of wilderness policy for years to come, may hinge on an interpretation of the Federal Land Policy Management Act.

The court in 1998 ruled that the "plain language" of the act required the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management to continually review land under its control to see if it merited wilderness protection.

In the meantime, Norton is moving ahead with new plans for proposed wilderness areas, including 43,600 acres in western Colorado that she has opened to oil and gas leasing.

Scarlett said in an interview that the BLM, as part of its land-use planning responsibilities, could still look for areas with wilderness character.

The Clinton administration inflamed the antiwilderness sentiment in 1996 by protecting 1.7 million acres as part of a new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The same year, Bruce Babbitt, Interior secretary under Clinton, renewed surveys of Utah lands with wilderness potential after numerous complaints that earlier surveys were faulty.

Five years later, with the Bush administration in office, state officials revived their case in an amended complaint in Judge Benson's court in Salt Lake City.

Settlement papers were filed late Friday, April 11, at the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.

The judge approved the settlement the following Monday afternoon without a hearing.

Lawyers for the Bush administration acknowledge they are taking a position diametrically opposite from the one advanced by the Clinton administration when the case first came before the 10th Circuit Court in 1998.

"The settlement is not invalid merely because it represents a change from BLM's prior interpretations," Justice Department attorneys Thomas L. Sansonetti and Todd S. Aagard said in a brief.

"Agencies have the inherent authority to change their position to conform to applicable law."

The government lawyers also said that "by resolving a long-standing and contentious dispute with Utah, the settlement promoted a more cooperative relationship with the state, an outcome with considerable value to the BLM."

Former Clinton administration officials contend that the policy changes reflect more than a difference of opinion over land-management law.

"This settlement reeks of hostility to wilderness, to the whole idea of taking any steps to protect wild land in its natural condition," said John Leshy, the chief lawyer for the Interior Department under Clinton.

Martha Marks, president of REPAmerica, a Republican environmental organization, has also spoken out against the administration's wilderness policies, including the Utah settlement.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives.


Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

 

Environment Worsened Under Bush in Many Key Areas, Data Show

Summary Report
 
Published on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 by Knight-Ridder
Environment Worsened Under Bush in Many Key Areas, Data Show
by Seth Borenstein


Summary:
WASHINGTON - In the second presidential debate, President Bush said: "I'm a good steward of the land.
The quality of the air's cleaner since I've been the president. Fewer water complaints since I've been the president."

Sen. John Kerry responded this way: "The president, I don't think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment. We're going backwards." He vows to reverse many of Bush's policies.


How has America's environment fared under Bush?

Over the past 30 years, the nation's air and water have become dramatically cleaner, but the steady improvement has stalled or gone into reverse in several areas since Bush took office, according to government statistics.

On Bush's watch, America's environment deteriorated in many critical areas - including the quality of air in cities and the quality of water that people drink - and gained in very few.

Knight Ridder compiled 14 pollution-oriented indicators from government and university statistics.

Nine of the 14 indicators showed a worsening trend, two showed improvements and three others zigzagged.

Statistics that have worsened:

  • Superfund cleanups of toxic waste fell by 52 percent.
  • Fish-consumption warnings for rivers doubled.
  • Fish-consumption advisories for lakes increased 39 percent.
  • The number of beach closings rose 26 percent.
  • Civil citations issued to polluters fell 57 percent.
  • Criminal pollution prosecutions dropped 17 percent.
  • Asthma attacks increased by 6 percent.
  • There were small increases in global temperatures and unhealthy air days.

There were signs of pollution improvement, though. Major air-emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes dropped 9 percent, and greenhouse-gas emissions were reduced by 0.5 percent.

Statistics that have fluctuated are the number of people living in smoggy cities; the number of people drinking from tainted water supplies; and overall toxic pollution releases by industry.

In land-use policy under Bush, another 12 indicators reveal record-low additions to national parks, wilderness, wildlife refuges and the endangered species list.

The Bush administration also approved 74 percent more permits to drill for oil and gas on public lands in its first three years than were granted in the previous three years.

Bush also has ordered dozens of sweeping changes to existing environmental policies, usually to benefit business interests.

He reversed the government's course on global warming, power plant emissions, roadless areas of national forests, environmental law enforcement and agricultural run-off.

Two major Bush administration proposals still languish in Congress.

One would change the way air pollution from power plants is regulated, with gradually shrinking limits on emissions and the first-ever limits for mercury pollution.

Critics say Bush's approach would require fewer pollution reductions than current law.

The other pending Bush proposal is his energy bill, which calls for more drilling on public lands, including Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - which Kerry has been a leader in opposing.

Kerry vows to reverse Bush's efforts to make it easier for older power plants to expand without additional pollution controls.

He promises to "plug loopholes" in industrial air-pollution regulations, limit suburban sprawl and mount a new program to protect America's waterways.

Over nearly two decades in the Senate, Kerry has gotten extremely high marks from environmental groups, including from the League of Conservation Voters.

Henry Lee, Harvard University's environment and natural resources program director, said Kerry didn't initiate any environmental legislation that became landmark law, but he often was "out in front on the issue."

If Kerry is friendly with environmental activists, "the Bush administration is sympathetic to the concerns of business," said Eban Goodstein, the chairman of the environmental-studies program at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.

"They're bringing in people that are really hostile to the current regulatory framework."

The Bush environmental team says it concentrates more on results than regulations and that, even if enforcement numbers are down, the country is cleaner based on what comes out of industrial smokestacks and sewers.

The Bush administration also took steps to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines and slightly increased auto-mileage standards.

Last month, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Leavitt touted as "a national success story" statistics showing that major air emissions dropped 9 percent nationwide over the first three years of the Bush administration.

But at the same time, the number of times that air in U.S. cities was declared unhealthy increased from 1,535 in 2000 to 1,656 in 2001 and 2,035 in 2002.

And the EPA's inspector general issued a report last month saying that national air-emission reductions don't accurately reflect the stagnating pollution levels in metropolitan areas.

The answers are yes, insists James Connaughton, the director of Bush's Council on Environmental Quality.

"This administration is duplicitous," said Carol Browner, who ran the EPA under President Clinton and now advises Kerry.

He withdrew the United States from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol treaty that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from most industrial countries, saying it would hurt the U.S. economy.

But Bush is spending record amounts of money on global-warming research.

As for the decrease in Superfund cleanups, Connaughton blames that on the remaining sites, saying they're tougher to clean.


Read the complete story at:

 

Kerry's Tax Ad: Literally Accurate, But Misleading

From: "FactCheck.org"

Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2004 2:32 PM
Subject: Kerry's Tax Ad: Literally Accurate, But Misleading

His ad says "the middle class is paying a bigger share of America's tax burden." True. But it's a smaller burden all around. And the richest still pay the most.

Summary

A Kerry ad that claims to tell "the truth on taxes" falls short of doing so. It says that "after nearly four years under George Bush, the middle class is paying a bigger share of American's tax burden and the wealthiest are paying less."

That's true as far as it goes. However, the total federal tax burden on all income groups has been reduced, just more for some than for others. It's true that the top 20% of income earners now pay a smaller share of the reduced tax burden, but so do the bottom 40% of earners.

Those in the middle 20% now pay an average of 14.5% of their income for all federal taxes, a reduction 1.9 percentage points as a result of the Bush cuts. That middle group pays 10.5% of the reduced overall federal tax burden. That share has gone up as the Kerry ad says -- by 2/10ths of one percentage point.

Click the link below for the full article:

http://www.factcheck.org/article280m.html

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http://www.factcheck.org/article280m.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Senate OKs $137 Billion in Corporate, Special Interest Tax Breaks

Summary Report
... your tax dollars at work.  And no I am not making this up.  plk
 
Senate OKs $137 Billion in Corporate, Special Interest Tax Breaks
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/1012-07.htm

Concepts:
tax breaks, bill, Sens, beneficiaries, provision, industry, tobacco, sponsors, support, subsidies.

Summary:
WASHINGTON - The Senate on Monday approved $137 billion in tax breaks for corporations and special interests over 10 years, including a $10 billion buyout for tobacco farmers.

The giveaways were needed to win votes for otherwise unpopular legislation intended primarily to end a trade fight over illegal U.S. subsidies to export industries.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on Oct. 7 by 280-141.

President Bush is expected to sign the bill before Election Day.

Supporters hailed its passage as critical to creating jobs while opponents called the measure a massive corporate giveaway.

It includes tax breaks for Alaskan whalers, natural gas companies, the timber industry, Hollywood filmmakers and cruise-ship companies.

To win support from tobacco-state lawmakers, tax writers included a $10 billion industry-financed buyout for tobacco farmers.

That provision drew heated bipartisan criticism from Sens.

Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, who'd sought to make the buyout contingent upon Federal Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products.

"This bill allows big tobacco companies to market cigarettes to your children," Kennedy said.

The legislation's basic purpose is to end increasingly high tariffs imposed on 1,600 American products.

The European Union had complained that certain export subsidies constituted unfair trade practices.

The World Trade Organization agreed and imposed tariffs, which started at 5 percent and are now up to 12 percent.

In response, the bill would repeal $49.2 billion in export subsidies, a move unpopular with the subsidies' beneficiaries.

To build support for the bill, its sponsors lowered the tax rate for domestic manufacturers from 35 percent to 32 percent, at a cost to the Treasury of $76.5 billion over 10 years.

To spread the benefits more widely, tax writers expanded the definition of manufacturing to include construction companies, engineering and architectural firms, film and music companies, and the oil and gas industry.

NASCAR track owners won a break worth $101 million for grandstand expenses.

George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said the bill would help his constituents, who've been hit hard by the manufacturing slump.

"This bill goes a long way to helping us," he said.

The tax breaks drew criticism from fiscal conservatives.

John McCain, R-Ariz., called the measure the "worst example of the influence of the special interests I have ever seen."

Despite the $137 billion in tax breaks, the bill officially won't add to the record federal deficit.

It includes various revenue-raising provisions such as customs fee extensions and closes alleged tax "loopholes" worth $81.7 billion over 10 years that together will pay for the bill, making it "revenue neutral."

"We're closing loopholes on tax scams to shelter (multinational companies') money offshore," said Sen.

To encourage Hollywood moguls to make fewer films in inexpensive foreign locales, lawmakers included a $336 million tax break over five years to allow studios to expense up to $15 million in the first year of production of small and independent films made in the United States.

Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Bob Graham, D-Fla., the measure would give cruise-ship companies a $28 million tax break by allowing them to delay filing certain expenses.

Murkowski, who's in a tight race to return to the Senate, also won a provision to permit the deduction of charitable contributions that support native Alaskan whaling.

Archery-gear makers, fishing tackle-box makers and foreign gamblers all would benefit, too.

The cost to taxpayers is $11 million, according to the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.


Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

 

A Little Puff n' Stuff

From: "FactCheck.org"
Sent: Tuesday, October 12, 2004 4:36 PM
Subject: Pro-Bush Puffery on Economy, Medicare

New ad claims Bush inherited an economy "already in recession" and that 41 million seniors "now have access to lower cost prescriptions." Wrong on both counts.

Summary

The ad by the pro-Bush group Progress for America Voter Fund claims the economy was already in a recession when Bush took office, but the National Bureau of Economic Research (which dates business cycles) says the recession actually began in March 2001, after Bush took office in January.

The facts also get stretched when the ad claims "41 million seniors now have access to lower cost prescriptions (emphasis added)." Bush's new prescription drug benefit will cover seniors on Medicare for an extra premium of about $35 a month, but not until 2006. Even the currently available drug discount cards have been used much less than expected. Current enrollment is less than 5 million.

Click the link below for the full article:

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The Duelfer Report: IRAQ, WMD, OIL & the War

.... in case you missed it.
 
Duelfer report: Hussein planned on postwar insurgency
 
Classified version of same report says US oil companies and individuals
benefited from UN oil-for-food program.
| csmonitor.com
posted October 12, 2004, updated 10:30 a.m.
http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1012/dailyUpdate.html

 
Last week's report by the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group – now commonly called the Duelfer Report after chief weapons inspector Charles A. Duelfer – has been generating headlines since its release. One key finding highlighted by the media was the acknowledgement that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction, and what programs it did have to create such weapons had been in decline since 1991. Then came the stories about the UN's oil-for-food program and how Saddam Hussein "gamed" the system in order to secretly raise billions of dollars in allegedly corrupt oil deals.

Now the Boston Globe is surfacing more information from the Duelfer report that shows that the United States with its 'shock and awe" campaign may have played into Mr. Hussein's plans for a prolonged insurgency after the country was captured by US troops. The report based its findings on interviews with former top Iraqi generals, along with other sources.

"Saddam believed that the Iraqi people would not stand to be occupied or conquered by the United States and would resist – leading to an insurgency," said the 1,000-page report by chief weapons inspector Charles A. Duelfer. "Saddam said he expected the war to evolve from traditional warfare to insurgency."

The Age, of Melbourne, Australia, says the Duelfer reports says that from August 2002 to January of 2003 Hussein ordered his military commanders to bury weapons around the country. And the report also says that in the months before the US invasion Hussein and his generals read books by Vietnamese communists on how to conduct guerilla warfare.

The Duelfer report, according to the Globe, also says that the CIA "warned in several secret reports before the war that the invasion would likely be followed by a guerrilla campaign." Other top US military commanders, such as retired Army General George Joulwan, the former NATO commander who led the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, say there were many other signs that the Iraqis were planning to fight an insurgency rather than a traditional war.

"The US was meeting organized resistance of a different kind, not Republican Guards but this different sort of fighting. It was an early warning." Even by telegraphing that the US-led onslaught would be a "shock and awe" campaign, the United States unnecessarily played into the Iraqis' hands, according to Joulwan, because from an enemy standpoint it provided additional reason not to confront the United States directly. "There were strong indications this was part of their strategy," Joulwan said.

The Daily Telegraph of London reported on Sunday that a "powerful 'old guard'" at the CIA has launched an "unprecedented campaign" to undermine the Bush administration with a series of negative leaks and briefings about Iraq. The Telegraph reports that there is "anger in the CIA" for being blamed for all of the problems with the prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Bill Harlow, the former CIA spokesman who left with the former director George Tenet in July, acknowledged that there had been leaks from within the agency. "The intelligence community has been made the scapegoat for all the failings over Iraq," he said. "It deserves some of the blame, but not all of it. People are chafing at that, and that's the background to these leaks."

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Monday that several prominent US firms and individuals had received vouchers from Hussein's government that allowed them to buy Iraqi oil under the UN oil-for-food program, and were among the largest purchasers of Iraqi oil right up until the start of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

When the ISG released its report last week, it listed only foreign companies and individuals that had benefitted from the UN plan. US names were withheld for privacy reasons, an explanation that made foreign countries named in the report furious. But the American names were included in classified copies of the reports given to Congress and the White House and these copies were shown to the Times.

The report said US companies Chevron, Mobil, Texaco and Bay Oil, as well as three US individuals, including oil baron Oscar Wyatt, were together allotted 111 million barrels of oil ... Spokesmen for the companies and for Mr Wyatt said the transactions were legal, but confirmed they had received subpoenas from a grand jury investigating the transactions.

Finally, Jack Kinsella of the Omega Letter, a Christian news website, comments on the fact that it was Saddam Hussein who fooled his generals about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, and not the other way around. Until the Iraq Survey Group report appeared, security experts had speculated on the possibility that Iraqi generals had kept Hussein in the dark about the real condition of his WMD programs, in order to protect their lives. But the ISG report, comments Mr. Kinsella, showed that Hussein was "micromanaging" his weapons programs and policies so that he could fool his two biggest enemies – the United States and Iran – into thinking he was still a power with which to be reckoned.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Bill of Rights, the Patriot Act and Internet Privacy

Summary Report
Just in case you missed it.  plk
 
Digitizing the Bill of Rights
By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, September 30, 2004; 9:52 AM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A62105-2004Sep30.html?referrer=email

Summary:

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from conducting "unreasonable searches" of our "persons, houses, papers, and effects" without a warrant. The First Amendment, of course, protects our right to free speech.

In the weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Congress decided that these protections shouldn't apply similarly to Internet records. In passing the USA Patriot Act, lawmakers gave the FBI and other law enforcement agencies the right to secretly subpoena records from Internet service providers without any form of judicial oversight.

Three years later, the Bill of Rights's application to the digital age got a big boost from New York federal Judge Victor Marrero, who ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the government on behalf of an undisclosed Internet service provider that was slapped with a Patriot Act subpoena.

"The ACLU said that although its suit challenged letters issued for electronic communications, the judge's reasoning would apply with equal force to separate provisions that authorized searches for financial and bank records as well as credit reports," The Los Angeles Times reported in its coverage.

• The Los Angeles Times: Provision of Patriot Act Is Ruled Unconstitutional (Registration required)
• FindLaw.com: Text of Judge Marrero's Ruling (PDF)

The New York Times reported that the ACLU's case took issue with the ability of federal agents to issue special subpoenas, or national security letters, under the Patriot Act.

In its challenge, the ACLU said the "provision was worded so broadly that it could effectively be used to obtain the names of customers of websites such Amazon.com or Ebay, or a political organization's membership list, or even the names of sources that a journalist has contacted by e-mail."

The special "letters could be used in terrorism investigations to require Internet service companies to provide personal information about subscribers and would bar them from disclosing to anyone that they had received a subpoena," the article said.

That means, technically, someone could not even tell their lawyer they had been subpoenaed.

In defending his ruling, Marrero "said the subpoena violated the Fourth Amendment because it did not allow for review by a court.

He called it 'an ominous writ' that the F.B.I. issued 'in tones sounding virtually as a biblical commandment.'

He said he worried that anyone who received a national security letter, except 'the most mettlesome and undaunted' targets, would feel barred from consulting a lawyer," the New York Times reported.

• The New York Times: Judge Strikes Down Section of Patriot Act Allowing Secret Subpoenas of Internet Data (Registration required)

The Boston Globe said Marrero, a Clinton appointee, "also said that the letters may violate people's First Amendment-protected right to anonymous speech and freedom of association by enabling the government 'to compile elaborate dossiers on Internet users' -- including Web pages visited, e-mail subject lines, and pseudonyms used for web logging -- without judicial review and oversight."
• The Boston Globe: Provision In Patriot Act Is Rejected


The Los Angeles Times noted: "The FBI has issued hundreds of these letters since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The letters have drawn fire because they are issued without any court oversight or finding of probable cause and prohibit the recipients of the letters from ever disclosing that they have been received.

Authorized by law since the mid-1980s, the letters have become more widely used since the Patriot Act gave the government greater discretion in issuing them in terrorism investigations.

The Patriot Act permits widespread access to electronic communications such as basic subscriber information and call records from phone companies and e-mail and other Web-related information from Internet service providers.

It does not, however, allow the government access to the actual contents of the communications."

Challengers of the Patriot Act don't have an easy time ahead of them.

"The ultimate impact of Marrero's order is unclear.

In addition to having time to pursue an appeal, the government will view the ruling as applying only to New York's Southern District in Manhattan, legal experts said.

I. Michael Greenberger, a Clinton administration Justice Department official who teaches law at the University of Maryland, said Marrero's order is unlikely to have any effect until an appellate court rules.

But the ACLU argues that Marrero's ruling is a warning to the government about some of its tactics in the war on terrorism," The Washington Post reported.

"This is a wholesale refutation of the administration's use of excessive secrecy and unbridled power under the Patriot Act," ACLU lawyer Ann Beeson told the Post.

"It's a very major ruling, in our opinion." • The Washington Post: Key Part of Patriot Act Ruled Unconstitutional (Registration required)

The Bush administration, which has three months to mull the decision, is expected to appeal the ruling, citing national security needs.

"We believe the act to be completely consistent with the United States constitution," Attorney General John Ashcroft said after the ruling, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The ruling "marked the first time that surveillance power granted to federal agents under the USA Patriot Act has been ruled unconstitutional," USA Today said.

• The Associated Press via Newsday: Ashcroft Likely To Appeal Patriot Ruling
• USA Today: Court Strikes Down Patriot Act Provision

USA Today in its coverage noted "Marrero's decision comes as some members of Congress are trying to give U.S. agents more power to investigate terrorism, and President Bush is urging Congress to renew 16 Patriot Act provisions set to expire in December 2005.

When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it significantly expanded the surveillance power of federal law enforcement.

The measure allowed the FBI and CIA to share evidence and gave terrorism investigators access to evidence-gathering tools that agents in criminal probes had used for years.

In doing so, the Patriot Act amended several federal laws by, among other things, loosening standards for obtaining national security letters."

The ACLU blasted Ashcroft in its statement celebrating the ruling: "This is a landmark victory against the Ashcroft Justice Department's misguided attempt to intrude into the lives of innocent Americans in the name of national security," said ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero.

"Even now, some in Congress are trying to pass additional intrusive law enforcement powers.

This decision should put a halt to those efforts."


Read the entire article:

Religious ethics clash with loan practices

Summary Report
from the September 29, 2004 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0929/p17s02-lire.html

Religious ethics clash with loan practices
As easy money becomes the norm in the US, borrowing habits raise more ethical
concerns. 
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

 

"If there be among you a poor man ... thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him,
and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth" (Deuteronomy 15:7, 8).
http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0929/p17s02-lire.htm



Summary:
That's the way the King James version of the Bible defines the morality of lending.

But the ethics of lending is a problem older than the Bible - and one still struggling for resolution.

Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has brought the issue to the forefront by proposing a sweeping ban on a series of "abusive" loan types that he says are costing consumers in the United States upwards of $9 billion a year.

If passed by Congress, the Kerry plan would require lenders to print loan terms boldly in plain language; to end high prepayment penalties; and to curtail high-rate short-term lending that he says unfairly targets military families.

Given current levels of indebtedness in the US, some say it has never been more urgent for society as a whole to tackle questions about the ethics and legality of lending practices.

In 2003, the average US household with at least one credit card carried three times more credit-card debt ($9,205) than in 1990, according to analysts at CardWeb.com.

Yet the nexus of contemporary lending trouble, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, is in mortgage rip-offs.

Its analysis shows 2.1 million households give up more than $6 billion in home equity each year in financing deals that include high up-front fees, prepayment penalties on sub-prime loans, or financed insurance.

Predatory lending practices are another phase of the problem.

"Payday" lenders extend $300 loans to people who struggle two weeks later to pay back the $350 that's then due, says Mark Pearce, executive vice president of the Center for Responsible Lending in Durham, N.C.

"We see people who have borrowed $300 and have paid $3,000 two years later in fees," says Mr. Pearce.

"We think that's predatory lending because the intent of the product, the design of it, is to trap people in their most desperate moments."

Yet closer regulation of lending practices is not necessarily the kindest solution.

Society's moral duty to those in need is to let the market provide ample access to capital, argues Jamie O'Brien, an instructor in business at Notre Dame University.

While he supports state usury laws that cap interest rates, he argues that some high-interest loans are necessary to cover a lender's risks and shouldn't be regulated to the detriment of the would-be borrower.

When lenders can't charge higher rates to high-risk consumers, he argues, such would-be borrowers will simply not get the credit they seek.

"As a Christian, I believe we should all help our fellow man or woman however we can," Mr. O'Brien says, adding that in ideal cases repayment is not expected.

But often, he says, "When a legal protection is put in place, either capping rates or fees, costs will be passed on to customers and you're going to see a lot of people forced out of the market."

Unethical lending practices threaten the health of the whole system, say some financiers.

Many of the world's major religions address the question of lending.

Islam prohibits charging interest, he says, because lending is ordained to be an act of charity, not a business for profit.

For Jews, lending can be either a noble act of charity, as when the lender charges no interest, or a matter of legitimate business, according to Esther Jungreis, an author on Jewish values and president of Hineni, a Jewish outreach organization.

"It's not just getting bread on the table that matters. It's maintaining the dignity," Ms. Jungreis says. "Our faith commands us that anybody who is in trouble you try to help rather than be a scavenger.... Don't make a profit on his pain. That is predatory in our concept."

Among the practices Kerry deems "deceptive and abusive" are loans structured so the first payments cover only interest, leaving borrowers with the entire principal to pay off in full at the end of the term. Kerry also has pledged to ban the practice of hiking interest rates for credit-card users who incur credit problems with another company, such as a utility.


Read the entire article at :

 

From White House to Wallet

Summary Report
An interesting supposition about the President's influence on the economy.  This is just a summary. 
It is worth reading the full article.   plk

From White House to Wallet


 
Summary:
FANTASY has caught on in this presidential election season.

We are told that presidents do not matter much to the course of the economy.

But a brief tour of history starkly suggests the opposite.

In fact, every president at least since John F. Kennedy significantly influenced the course of the economy, even in the short run.

How did this improbable idea of presidential impotence catch on with economists and political analysts?

Most likely the main reason is that fiscal policy - more government spending or lower taxes - is widely thought to be less powerful than monetary policy.

The president has some control over fiscal policy but not over monetary policy, which is the province of the Federal Reserve and its chairman.

And even if fiscal policy were as potent as once thought, it is usually untimely because presidential proposals take so long to wend their way through Congress.

History, however, provides case study after case study to undermine this new conventional wisdom, even if one concedes the dominating influence of monetary policy.

First, there were the Kennedy-Johnson tax cuts, passed in 1964, which had a strong stimulative effect on the economy, leading to the fastest growth rates of any decade after World War II, including the 1990's.

The Federal Reserve under William McChesney Martin accommodated the fiscal stimulus by expanding the money supply and keeping interest rates down.

But President Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson took the policy initiatives.

When Mr. Johnson, against the wishes of his economic advisers, failed to raise taxes in the late 1960's to pay for the escalating Vietnam War, the economy overheated, and economists of all political stripes agree that the age of high inflation then began.

In the late summer of 1971, President Richard M. Nixon, trying to shake off the vestiges of recession, strongly stimulated the economy through fiscal policies to ensure that he faced the 1972 election with a low unemployment rate.

He also, of course, simultaneously adopted wage and price controls to stop the inflation that his stimulus might cause, leading to damaging imbalances later in the decade.

His friend Arthur Burns, chairman of the Federal Reserve, also stepped on the monetary gas in 1972.

Mr. Burns's policies may have been necessary and even more potent than fiscal policy, but it was the president who took the lead.

The economy strengthened, as did underlying inflationary pressures.

Presidents Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter both adopted stimulative fiscal policies in the 1970's, again with the help of the Fed's accommodation.

And again, it was the presidents who largely called the shots, for better or worse.

Many argue that the Federal Reserve's accommodation of presidential fiscal policies changed with the appointment of the strongly independent Paul A. Volcker by Mr. Carter in 1979.

But presidential decisions were as critical as ever.

Consider the radically large tax cuts engineered by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

This time the Federal Reserve did not accommodate the president, but pushed interest rates to damaging heights in an attempt, misguided or not, to suppress the inflationary impact of Mr. Reagan's stimulative policies.

Without those tax cuts, monetary policy would not have been as extreme, and the worst recession of any period after World War II might have been far less severe.

Moreover, the nation would not now be encumbered by a level of debt that was thought unimaginable when Mr. Reagan took office.

President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton also mattered, though on balance arguably for the better.

Their tax increases ultimately calmed the bond market and enabled the Fed under Alan Greenspan to reduce interest rates.

By the late 1990's, at last, the economy grew at the rapid rates of the 1960's.

On the one hand, President Bush himself, sounding quite Keynesian, is arguing that his tax cuts have brought the nation out of recession.

In fact, more economists now agree that fiscal policies can indeed be potent.

In a paper delivered at a conference in Paris last week in honor of John Kenneth Galbraith, Philip Arestis of Cambridge University argued that evidence supports the usefulness of both fiscal and monetary policies, especially when they are put in place in tandem.

The monetary fund research, for example, suggests that arguments about how larger deficits necessarily crowd out private borrowing do not generally hold up.

William Dickens, an economist at the Brookings Institution, argues that the tax cuts were backloaded.

Thus, they unsettled business decision makers and financial markets in the near term in anticipation of huge future budget deficits, while many of the tax-cut benefits did not kick in until later.


Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

 

An Emergency-Room Economy, and No Physician in Sight

Summary Report
 
Published on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
An Emergency-Room Economy, and No Physician in Sight
by Alan G. Nasser

http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0929-02.htm


Summary:
According to a recently released Census Bureau report, family, household and individual incomes have declined steadily since 2000.

And this has been accompanied by a sharp rise in the number of poor and medically uninsured.

These are symptoms of an economy that is, on inspection, currently far more unstable and vulnerable to crisis than it was in the period immediately preceding the Great Depression.

The key to a healthy economy is job- and income-creating investment in capital goods, which in turn generates a virtuous cycle of further growth in investment, jobs and income.

Ominously, the investment, growth, employment and income pictures are unprecedentedly dismal.

Compared to recoveries since 1949, growth rates since 2000 have been half their previous average.

Even this weak performance required historically unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus: 13 rate cuts, three tax cuts, massive government deficits and record growth in money and credit.

Official figures mask the economy's most serious problems.

Growth figures are annualized by U.S. statisticians.

Thus, the much-touted 7.1% growth rate in the third quarter of 2003 was the one that would emerge after twelve months if the current trend were to continue.

The same growth rate would have been reported in the eurozone as 1.8%.

Since the mid-1990s the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has adjusted upward actual business dollar outlays on computers and related equipment to take into account quality improvements (faster processors, bigger hard drives, more memory).

Accordingly, the BEA estimates that business high-tech investment quadrupled between 1996 and 2002, from $70.9 to $283.7.

But in actual dollars spent, the increase was only from $70.9 billion to $74.2 billion, very low by historic standards.

The high-tech boom was both greatly exaggerated and misleading.

After all, neither profits nor wages are taken in "hedonically adjusted" dollars.

The difference between real and hedonic outlays explains what would otherwise be a paradoxical feature of the years 2000-2003: government was reporting big increases in high-tech investment, while manufacturers were bemoaning declining sales.

Hedonic pricing has accounted for a steadily rising percentage of all reported capital investment.

But if we look at actual dollars spent, we find that since 1998 the growth rate of business fixed investment has actually been declining.

Real capital investment has not been this weak since the Great Depression.

The fudging of investment figures also obscures the sorry state of the jobs market.

The Commerce Department's figures on nonresidential investment for the third and fourth quarters of 2003 reported increases of, respectively, 12.8 and 9.6%.

A closer look reveals that the "adjusted" hi-tech sector is the only bright spot, with production and capacity rising, respectively, 24.6% and 11.1% over the past year.

But hi-tech is not where significant jobs increases are found.

Employment in hi-tech has declined steadily through the so-called "recovery" since its 2001 peak.

In non-hi-tech manufacturing, where investment figures are not adjusted, production from January 2003 to January 2004 rose only 0.9%, while capacity actually declined -0.2%.

This represents a record nineteen-straight-month decline in mainline manufacturing capacity.

Since it is mainline manufacturing which employs almost 95% of all manufacturing workers, it comes as no surprise that for the first time since the Great Depression the economy has gone more than three years without creating any jobs.

The jobs crisis is even worse than it appears.

Here again statistical sleight-of-hand, this time by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), obscures economic reality.

Based on data gathered employing the "net birth/death adjustment," BLS announced in April that the long-awaited jobs recovery had finally arrived.

Nonfarm payrolls had allegedly surged by a whopping 308,000 in March.

The birth/death model uses business deaths to "impute" employment from business births.

Thus, as more businesses fail, more new jobs are imputed to have materialized through business births.

This improbable statistical artefact accounts for about half of the reported 308,000 March payroll increase.

The birth/death model is based on statistics covering 1998-2002.

This was a period of explosive telecom and dot.com startups, quite unlike today's flat economic landscape.

Thus, two thirds of the 947,000 new jobs BLS "imputed" for March-May were never actually counted by BLS and never reported by any firm.

BlS's household and establishment surveys tell a more sobering story.

March employment by private industry actually fell by 175,000, and the number of self-employed workers declined by 288,000.

Without the simultaneous increase of 439,000 government jobs, the March job announcement would have been a calamity.

And both average weekly hours and total hours worked declined markedly, even as (according to the dubious birth/death findings) the work force increased.

This is the first time ever that net job growth has been negative 26 months into a recovery.

During the current recovery, wage and salary growth has actually been negative, at -0.6%, in contrast to the average increase of 7.2% characteristic of this point into each of the other eight post-War recoveries.

For the first time ever, in March 2001, overall debt levels (mortgage debt plus consumer debt, mainly credit card debt and car loans) rose above annual disposable income.

Since the collapse of stock market/hi-tech bubbles in 2001, the illusory "wealth effect" has been sustained, and consumer spending thereby encouraged, by another bubble, the enormous inflation of house prices.

Bloated home equity then provided rising collateral to underwrite still more borrowing.

What makes this especially problematic is that over the last ten years, the average family has suffered under large increases in health premiums, housing costs, tuition fees and child care costs.

The mortgage refi boom has fizzled, and consumer spending is beginning to decline.

Late last year the Fed's quarterly Beige Book reported a disturbing shift in the composition of credit spending: more and more families are using their credit cards to finance spending on essentials, such as food and energy.

What is required is a shift from bubble-, debt-, and consumption-driven growth to investment- and income-driven growth. This in turn necessitates a decline in Americas principal export, jobs. Domestic job growth, a higher minimum wage, tax cuts aimed predominantly at low- and middle-income families, a sharp reduction in defense spending and a redirection of these funds to long-neglected and pressing social needs such as health care reform, the provision of universal pre-school, and across-the-board repair and upgrading of America's deteriorated infrastructure of roads, highways,tunnels and bridges, all these should be at the forefront of a Democratic administration's agenda.

The restoration of infrastructure is especially labor intensive, and would generate an enormous number of productive jobs. And as a national project spearheaded by government initiative, government would emerge as a major employer.

The author teaches political economy at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and has written articles and essays that have appeared in The Nation, Commonweal, Monthly Review, and a range of professional journals in economics, sociology and law

Friday, October 1, 2004

Action Call: Support Legislation to Provide Health Insurance for National Guardsmen & Reservists

The following is a message from Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and Executive Director, Operation Truth.   Regardless of your views on the Iraqi war, US service personnel really need your support.   Thanks in advance for taking a moment to read this.  plk. 

********************************

We have until October 8th (just about one week!) to help Support Our Troops by encouraging our lawmakers to push through a critical piece of legislation currently being considered in Congress. Click here to help!

TRICARE is the health insurance system offered to servicemembers and their families through the Department of Defense. Earlier this year, in a bi-partisan move, Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Tom Daschle (D-SD) introduced and pushed legislation through the Senate that would enable National Guardsmen and Reservists to have access to TRICARE at an affordable rate (but it hasn't passed in the House yet!).

40% of our National Guardsmen and Reservists between the ages of 18-25 do not have health insurance, and yet, the Department of Defense opposes this legislation!

We need to make our voices heard to overcome the opposition, as this legislation is now up for final consideration in Congress. Taking only a couple of minutes to follow the steps outlined on our website can make a strong impact on our troops lives!

Help our National Guardsmen and Reservists, by immediately visiting the OpTruth.org Legislative Center, and following four easy steps that will help put pressure on Congress to pass this vitally needed legislation!

Thank you for supporting our troops,

Paul Rieckhoff
Founder and Executive Director
Operation Truth
www.optruth.org

 

FactCheck.org Document: Distortions and Misstatements At First Presidential Debate

The great thing about debates is that you get the chance to hear the candidate's views from their own mouths.  Overall, last night's presidential debates were interesting and well moderated.  If you've been following the campaigns closely you did not learn anything new.  However, for those that catch an occasional speech here and there it was an opportunity to hear each candidate's foreign policy position ( albeit in a condensed form).  The moderator, Jim Lehrer made several attempts to make sure that the candidates had the opportunity to explain how their position differs from their opponent.    However, each candidate did take a few liberties ( let's be nice) in some of their statements.  Here are a few clarifications. plk
 
 
Distortions and Misstatements At First Presidential Debate

Bush and Kerry both have problems with the facts at their meeting in Coral Gables


Summary

In the first of three scheduled debates between Bush and Kerry both candidates sometimes departed from the facts.

Bush glossed over significant problems with US reconstruction efforts in Iraq when he claimed that the US is "spending money" and that 100,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained. And Kerry overstated the case when he said Bush allowed Osama bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora by "outsourcing" fighting to Afghans.

Bush misquoted Kerry, distorting his position on withdrawing troops from Iraq. And Kerry said the Iraq war has cost $200 billion, when the cost so far is actually just over $120 billion.



Analysis

Bush gave a rosy picture of progress in Iraq, glossing over significant problems with reconstruction contracts and training of Iraqi security forces.

"Spending Reconstruction Money"

Bush: (Referring to Iraq) There will be elections in January. We're spending reconstruction money. And our alliance is strong.

Bush's "Reconstruction" & "100,000 trained now"

Bush cited as a sign of progress in Iraq that the US is "spending reconstruction money," when in fact the slow pace of spending has become a major problem for US officials.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage testified to a House Appropriations subcommittee Sept. 24 that only $1.2 billion in reconstruction money had actually been spent so far , out of the total of $18 billion that was appropriated last December in "emergency" funds for Iraq and Afghanistan.

"100,000 trained now"

Bush: Let me first tell you that the best way for Iraq to be safe and secure is for Iraqi citizens to be trained to do the job.
And that's what we're doing. We've got 100,000 trained now, 125,000 by the end of this year, 200,000 by the end of next year. That is the best way.

-0-

Bush: There are 100,000 troops trained, police, guard, special units, border patrol. There's going to be 125,000 trained by the end of this year. Yes, we're getting the job done. It's hard work.

Bush also said "100,000 troops" and other Iraqi security personnel have been trained to date. That's the official figure, but the President failed to mention that many trainees have received nothing more than a three-week course in police procedures -- what Armitage referred to as "shake-and-bake" forces.

Only 8,000 of the total are police who have received a full eight-week course of training, Armitage told the House:

Armitage: It's 100,000 total security forces, and I don't want anyone to make the mistake that security force equals soldier -- could be policemen, and it could be the eight-week trained policemen, of which there are a little over 8,000, or it could be what I refer to as the shake-and-bake three-week police force, which are previous policemen who are now given a three-weeks course. So it's a mixed bag , but there are about 100,000 total security forces.

Tora Bora "Outsourcing"

"Outsourcing" Osama's Capture  

Kerry: I would not take my eye off of the goal: Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, he escaped in the mountains of Tora Bora. We had him surrounded. But we didn't use American forces, the best trained in the world, to go kill him. The president relied on Afghan warlords and he outsourced that job too. That's wrong.

Kerry said U.S. forces allowed Osama bin Laden to escape in 2001 during the battle at Tora Bora in Afghanistan because the administration "outsourced" fighting to Afghan "warlords." Actually, it's never been clear whether bin Laden actually was at Tora Bora.

It is true that military leaders strongly suspected bin Laden was there, and it is also true that the Pentagon relied heavily on Afghan forces to take on much of the fighting at Tora Bora in an effort to reduce US casualties. But Kerry overstates the case by stating flatly that "we had him surrounded."

 

Out of Iraq in 6 Months?

Bush: I know putting artificial deadlines won't work. My opponent at one time said, "Well, get me elected, I'll have them out of there in six months." You can't do that and expect to win the war on terror.

-0-

Kerry: The time line that I've set out -- and again, I want to correct the president, because he's misled again this evening on what I've said. I didn't say I would bring troops out in six months. I said, if we do the things that I've set out and we are successful, we could begin to draw the troops down in six months.

Bush's False Quote

The President misquoted Kerry's position on how quickly troops might be withdrawn from Iraq. Bush claimed Kerry once said "I'll have them out of there in six months," which is false. Kerry complained, "he's misled us again."

What Kerry actually said was that he believed he could "significantly reduce" US troop levels in Iraq within six months of taking office -- not at all the same thing as having all troops "out of there."

Kerry's remark was on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" Aug 6, in an interview with Steve Inskeep:

Kerry: I believe that within a year from now, we could significantly reduce American forces in Iraq, and that's my plan. I believe we can.

Q: Within a year from right now?

Kerry: I believe we can. Absolutely we can.

Q: A year from August.

Kerry: I believe we can. Absolutely we can reduce the numbers. You bet.

Kerry "$200 Billion"

Kerry: And so, today, we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the cost: $200 billion -- $200 billion that could have been used for health care, for schools, for construction, for prescription drugs for seniors, and it's in Iraq.

Kerry's $200 Billion Exaggeration

Kerry continued to refer to "the cost" of the Iraq war as $200 billion, when it fact the cost to date is just over $120 billion, according to budget officials. Kerry is counting money that has been appropriated to be spent in the fiscal year that started Friday, Oct. 1. Much of the money Kerry counts has not even been requested formally by the Bush administration, and is only an estimate of what will be sought sometime in the coming year, to be spent later. We've pointed this out before  in detail.

Al Qaeda

The President said twice that "75 percent" of al Qaeda leaders have been "brought to justice." But as The Associated Press reported Oct. 1, Bush was referring to the deaths or arrests of 75 percent of bin Laden's network at the time of the September 11 attacks -- not those who are running the terrorist organization today. The AP also reported that the CIA said earlier in the year two-thirds of those leaders are gone; at his acceptance speech in September, Bush increased his count to three-fourths based on unreleased intelligence data.

Furthermore, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies reported May 25 that the occupation of Iraq has helped al Qaeda recruit more members. The institute quoted "conservative" intelligence estimates as saying that al Qaeda has 18,000 potential operatives and is present in more than 60 countries.

Other Factual Stumbles

Bush said that 10 million people had registered to vote in the coming presidential election in Afghanistan, which he called a "phenomenal statistic." But that's a disputed figure. Human Rights Watch issued a report  Sept. 29 citing "widespread multiple registration of voters." It said the 10 million figure is probably inflated.

Bush said he has increased spending on curbing nuclear proliferation by "about 35 percent" since he took office. But The Washington Post reported Oct. 1 that Bush proposed a 13 percent cut in his first budget as President -- about $116 million. Much of the increases since then have been added by Congress, the Post reported. 

The Post also said Kerry misspoke when he asserted that Bush is spending "hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons" when in fact the budget for research on that weapon is less that $35 million. The Post said the administration has set aside nearly $500 million for future budgets -- but that's contingent on Congress approving production of such a weapon.

The AP noted that Kerry misspoke when he said "we got weapons of mass destruction crossing the (Iraq) border every single day, and they're blowing people up." Kerry meant terrorists were crossing the border, not nuclear weapons.

The AP also caught Kerry's mistake when he referred to looking at KGB records in Treblinka Square in a visit to Russia. Treblinka was a Nazi death camp. Kerry meant Lubyanka Square.


Sources

Federal News Service, "Testimony of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage," Hearing of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Subcommitee of the House Appropriations Committee, 24 Sept. 2004.

Carolyn Skorneck, "Senate Clears War Spending Bill Over Objections From Byrd and Hollings," Congressional Quarterly Daily Monitor, 3 Nov. 2003.

"The Rule of the Gun: Human Rights Abuses and Political Repression in the Run-up to Afghanistan’s Presidential Election," Human Rights Watch 29 Sept. 2004.

"Strategic Survey 2003/04," International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, 25 May 2004.

Glenn Kessler and Walter Pincus, "Few Factual Errors, But Truth at Times Got Stretched ," The Washington Post , 1 Oct. 2004; A10.

Calvin Woodward, "Iraq And Terrorist Record Stretched Two Ways In Debate ," The Associated Press , 1 Oct. 2004.


Please visit
http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docid=271 to view this FactCheck article in full.