of the ways Bush has hurt the country and the world
OUTSOURCING PUBLIC HIGHWAYS
TO PRIVATE INTERESTS
DANIEL SCHULMAN & JAMES RIDGEWAY,
MOTHER JONES - Over the past few years, the federal government
has rolled out the welcome mat for private road companies. The
2005 highway bill changed the tax code to allow private firms
to raise tax-exempt financing for road projects, something that
only governments were able to do up to now. (For congressional
pork buffs, this was the same legislation that contained Alaska
Republican congressman Don Young's "bridge to nowhere,"
and that, by way of homage to Young's wife, Lu, was named the
Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity
Act - A Legacy for Users, a.k.a. SAFETEA-LU.) The bill also expanded
eligibility for a transportation subsidy program that includes
loan guarantees and lines of credit, and created a pilot program
that lets participating states use tolling to finance interstate
highway construction and invite private-sector participation
on the projects. "It's a very, very sweet deal," says
a veteran congressional transportation committee staffer who
requested anonymity because of his role advising members on highway
On June 29, 2006, Mitch Daniels,
the former Bush administration official turned governor of Indiana,
was greeted with a round of applause as he stepped into a conference
room packed with reporters and state lawmakers. The last of eight
wire transfers had landed in the state's account, making it official:
Indiana had received $3.8 billion from a foreign consortium made
up of the Spanish construction firm Cintra and the Macquarie
Infrastructure Group of Australia, and in exchange the state
would hand over operation of the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road for
the next 75 years. The arrangement would yield hundreds of millions
of dollars in tax breaks for the consortium, which also received
immunity from most local and state taxes in its contract with
Indiana. And, of course, the consortium would collect all the
tolls, which it was allowed to raise to levels far beyond what
Hoosiers had been used to. By one calculation, the Toll Road
would generate more than $11 billion over the 75-year life of
the contract, a nice return on MIG-Cintra's $3.8 billion investment.
The deal to privatize the Toll
Road had been almost a year in the making. Proponents celebrated
it as a no-pain, all-gain way to off-load maintenance expenses
and mobilize new highway-building funds without raising taxes.
Opponents lambasted it as a major turn toward handing the nation's
common property over to private firms, and at fire-sale prices
The one thing everyone agreed
on was that the Indiana deal was just a prelude. . .
MILITARY SPENDING KILLS FREEWAYS
AS WELL AS DECENT HEALTH CARE
ERIC KELDERMAN, STATELINE - State
highway officials warned of a looming $11 billion hole in federal
highway funds and said the growing shift toward tolls and private
leases of roads can't generate enough money to meet the nation's
short or long-term transportation needs. Instead, the federal
gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, last raised 14 years ago, would
have to go up at least 3 cents by 2009 and 7 cents more by 2015
just to maintain the current highway system and keep pace with
the fast-rising cost of roads, according to a new report by the
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
WALTER REED: THE LABOR UNION
JENNY MANDEL, GOV EXEC, 2006
- The Government Accountability Office dismissed a protest filed
on behalf of employees at the Army's Walter Reed Medical Center,
ruling that the employee group had no standing to challenge the
outcome of a public-private job competition initiated prior to
January 2005. GAO's decision concluded that Alan King, Walter
Reed's deputy garrison commander, was not an "interested
party" with standing to pursue the protest on behalf of
the federal employee group bidding in the competition. The dismissal
means that GAO will not consider King's challenge of a contest
for base operations support services at Walter Reed. The competition
began in January 2000. The in-house employee team won in September
2004, but the award was the subject of numerous appeals and a
round of revisions leading to an award to Cape Canaveral, Flordia-based
IAP Worldwide Services last month. . .
While the initial employee bid
was $7 million less than that of IAP Worldwide Services, a mid-stream
solicitation change resulted in a recalculation of the bids by
all parties and in IAP's bid coming in $7 million lower, said
John Threlkeld, a lobbyist for AFGE. Threlkeld said the process
for recalculating the employee bid was flawed, resulting in the
inflation of the estimate that rendered it uncompetitive with
IAP's bid. . .
The entire five-year contract
is valued at more than $120 million, according to the IAP press
release, and includes support and environmental services, transportation
functions, community activities, information management, logistics
and public works
AFGE, 2006 - In a recent letter
to Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey, U.S. Senators Paul Sarbanes
(D-MD) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) highlighted the controversial
and costly nature of privatization reviews. Specifically, they
requested a list of all privatization expenses from June 2000
through the present related to the Walter Reed privatization
review, "including but not limited to costs related to consultant
services, training courses, travel, supplies, legal representation,
and pro-rated salaries of all employees who have participated
in the privatization review.". . .
Walter Reed employees, represented
by the American Federation of Government Employees, initially
won the $120 million base operations support services contract
in 2004. However, the Army failed to complete the privatization
review in the time allowed by law. The Army tried to cancel the
privatization effort, but DOD officials refused the request.
Earlier this year, over the objections of Walter Reed managers,
the Army reversed its earlier decision and awarded the work to
UNBOSSED - There has been a real
war going on for years, if you haven't noticed. In this case,
not the one in Iraq. It's the war at home in which the Bush Administration
has used every means at its disposal to destroy unions, loot
the public treasury, and funnel money to special administration
friends. Now with Walter Reed and the privatization money train
to IAP, we have the collision of both wars, making visible what
was once invisible. . .
Here are some of the things I've
picked up relevant to the Walter Reed disaster.
In late 2005-early 2006, AFGE
was trying to fight corruption: John Gage, President of the American
Federation of Government Employees has asked Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales to appoint a special counsel to launch a criminal
investigation into the Veterans Affairs Department's alleged
misuse of federal funds for deciding whether to contract out
work. Rather than spend money allocated for health care on health
care, the VA is using the money to privatize VA operations. .
About this time and throughout
this time, AFGE was fighting an attempt by the administration
to take away collective bargaining protections for civilian employees
of the Department of Defense. . .
AFGE, JUNE 21 2006 - Calling
it a "wasteful " and illegal, John Gage, president
of the American Federation of Government Employees today applauded
the effort led by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
to stop the Army from carrying out an OMB Circular A-76 privatization
review at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. . . Although a decision
was made in favor of the contractor in January 2006, the award
was not finalized until June, and the work is not scheduled to
be formally handed over to the contractor until October. The
battle now shifts to the Senate.
WALTER REED INQUIRY: FOX IN
THE HEN HOUSE?
WIKIPEDIA - In early 2006, under
[Donna] Shalala's leadership, the [University of Miami] was involved
in a hugely controversial custodial workers' strike, a dispute
between the university's then non-unionized custodial workers
(now represented by the SEIU labor union) and the university's
contractor, UNICCO. The strike, which lasted from February 28
to May 1, 2006, generated extensive campus and off-campus criticism
of UM and UNICCO's labor relationship with its UM-based custodians.
While various studies had shown that UM's custodial workers were
among the lowest paid university-based custodians in the nation,
Shalala failed to act on their wages until the strike. Shalala
also drew criticism from some striking workers and protesters
for appearing to take the side of UM's contractor on how a union
vote should be taken and for not acting earlier to prevent the
strike, following the publication of a report that had clearly
revealed UM's custodial workers not earning a living wage. Still,
Shalala failed to act until the strike forced her involvement.
. . After some pressure from Shalala, UNICCO granted partial
raises and benefits to its workers; however the union supporters
elected to continue the strike (their demands not being met),
causing disruptions in UM life, most notably their occupation
of the Ashe Administration Building, where Shalala's office was
located, and disrupting Shalala's own class.
WALTER REED: THE BACK STORY
PROGRESS REPORT - Despite a dramatic
increase in demand on the Veterans Administration from the Iraq
and Afghanistan wars, federal spending on veterans' medical care
since 2001 has "actually lagged behind overall national
health spending." Veterans are now charged for formerly
free services, including hundreds of dollars each month for food,
so the VA can save money. The VA has a backlog of 400,000 benefit
claims, including many concerning mental health. More important,
two months before the invasion of Iraq, the Veterans Health Administration,
"which previously offered care to all veterans, introduced
severe new restrictions on who is entitled to enroll in its health
On Friday, the House Oversight
and Government Reform Committee headed by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)
released an internal memo from Sept. 2006 describing how the
Army's decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed
was causing an exodus of "highly skilled and experienced
personnel," placing the entire hospital and its patient
care services "at risk of mission failure." In Jan.
2006, against the wishes of numerous progressive members of Congress,
Walter Reed finalized a five-year, $120-million "cost-plus"
contract to IAP Worldwide Services for hospital support services,
including facilities management. IAP is led by Al Neffgen, a
former senior Halliburton official who testified in 2004 "in
defense of Halliburton's exorbitant charges for fuel delivery
and troop support in Iraq," and former Vice President Dan
Quayle serves on the board. IAP has "grown exponentially
in recent years in part because of contracts in Afghanistan and
Iraq"; in 2005, it received a contract to deliver desperately-needed
ice to victims of Hurricane Katrina, but "millions of pounds
of ice were sent to storage, some as far away as Maine."
As Waxman writes, "It would be reprehensible if the deplorable
conditions were caused or aggravated by an ideological commitment
to privatize government services regardless of the costs to taxpayers
and the consequences for wounded soldiers."
HOW BUSH'S BUDGET HITS RURAL
SENATOR JON TESTER - President
Bush's budget will hurt rural Montanans - especially family farmers,
ranchers and small businesses, Montana Senator Jon Tester said.
Tester and eight of his colleagues outlined the cuts in a Rural
Report Card. Some of the key results:
- Agriculture: The President's
Farm Bill proposal cuts crop safety net and insurance programs
by close to $14 billion over ten years and does not provide disaster
assistance for farmers.
- Rural Health Care: The President
proposes slashing rural hospital flexibility grants, the rural
and community access to emergency devices program, and area health
education centers, which provide vital health and health education
services to rural areas.
- Rural Firefighting: The proposed
budget eliminates funding for the Department of the Interior's
rural fire assistance and eliminates the state and local fire
Rural Economic Development and
Energy: The President's budget cuts nearly $260 million from
Rural Housing Assistance funding grants. Loans to rural utilities
would be cut by more than $1.3 billion from the last fiscal year.
The budget also contains severe cuts to the Low Income Home Energy
Assistance Program, and it cuts funding for wind energy development.
Rural Education: The President's
budget freezes funding for two vital programs that benefit children
in rural America.
Rural Law Enforcement: The President's
budget would cut $1.4 billion in funding for all state and local
law enforcement programs in the Department of Justice, including
programs specifically designed to help rural communities.
2006. . .
EPA CLOSING LIBRARIES, DESTROYING
UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS
- The Environmental Protection Agency has begun closing its nationwide
network of scientific libraries, effectively preventing EPA scientists
and the public from accessing vast amounts of ata and information
on issues from toxicology to pollution. Several libraries have
already been dismantled, with their contents either destroyed
or shipped to repositories where they are uncataloged and inaccessible.
The scientific information contained
in the EPA libraries is essential to the agency's ability to
make fully informed decisions that carry out its mission of protecting
human health and the environment. Members of Congress have asked
the EPA to cease and desist.
On the EPA's own library website,
the five libraries that have been closed to date have been removed
from the list and had their websites partially or completely
BUSH REGIME DESTROYING CHILD
RUTH ROSEN, TOM PAINE - According
to a new 50-state report on child care policies just released
by the National Women's Law Center, the Bush administration has
successful dismantled government services for children. State
funds for child care assistance have fallen for the fifth year
in a row. The problem will soon become catastrophic when large
numbers of single mothers bump up against their five-year life
limit on welfare. . .
Low-income children are denied
critical early learning experiences. Parents find it difficult
to access the child care they need to work. And providers, who
are often low-income women themselves, face earning less or going
out of business. Poor working mothers face other barriers as
well. Two-thirds of the states have raised the income eligibility
and co-payments for child care and 18 states have long waiting
lists. All of these barriers to adequate childcare make it extremely
difficult for women to work, feel confident that their children
are safe and to get off welfare.
BUSH: SANCTITY OF LIFE DOESN'T
APPLY TO IMMIGRANT BABIES
ROBERT PEAR, NY TIMES - Under a new federal policy, children
born in the United States to illegal immigrants with low incomes
will no longer be automatically entitled to health insurance
through Medicaid, Bush administration officials said Thursday.
Doctors and hospitals said the policy change would make it more
difficult for such infants, who are United States citizens, to
obtain health care needed in the first year of life.
Illegal immigrants are generally
barred from Medicaid but can get coverage for treatment of emergency
medical conditions, including labor and delivery. In the past,
once a woman received emergency care under Medicaid for the birth
of a baby, the child was deemed eligible for coverage as well,
and states had to cover the children for one year from the date
Under the new policy, an application
must be filed for the child, and the parents must provide documents
to prove the child's citizenship. . .
BUSH JIHADISTS EXTEND ABSTINENCE
CAMPAIGN TO ADULTS - 90% OF WHOM HAVE SEX WITHOUT BUSH'S PERMISSION
SHARON JAYSON, USA TODAY - The
federal government's "no sex without marriage" message
isn't just for kids anymore. Now the government is targeting
unmarried adults up to age 29 as part of its abstinence-only
programs, which include millions of dollars in federal money
that will be available to the states under revised federal grant
guidelines for 2007. The government says the change is a clarification.
But critics say it's a clear signal of a more directed policy
targeting the sexual behavior of adults.
"They've stepped over the
line of common sense," said James Wagoner, president of
Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that
supports sex education. "To be preaching abstinence when
90% of people are having sex is in essence to lose touch with
reality. It's an ideological campaign. It has nothing to do with
BUSH WANTS TO TURN SPACE OVER
TO THE MILITARY
THERESA HITCHENS AND HANINAH
LEVINE, DEFENSE TECH - After four years and some 35 drafts, the
Bush White House has finally released its long-awaited rewrite
of the U.S. National Space Policy. . . When asked about the document,
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow replied: "What, this
old thing? Just something we inherited from our Uncle Bill."
. . . In a further indication that the administration intends
to downplay the significance of the document, insiders have been
characterizing the new NSP as "nothing new," just a
variation on the themes set by the Clinton administration in
the last NSP. . .
Slap down the new NSP, signed
by President Bush on Aug. 31, and the old one, signed by President
Clinton in 1996, side by side, and . . . it's quickly apparent
that we are dealing with two very different beasts. . .
While the Clinton version focuses
on civil and commercial space, the Bush NSP gives primacy to
national security and military space. Example: of Clinton's five
goals for U.S. space programs, two mention national security;
of Bush's six goals, four are related to national security and
While the Clinton policy aimed
to highlight international cooperation and collective security
in space, the Bush NSP takes a go-it-alone stance, using strong
language that asserts U.S. unilateral rights in space while possibly
also being intended to "negate" the rights of other
space-faring nations. In ominous tones, the document threatens
in one section to "dissuade or deter others from either
impeding [U.S.] rights or developing capabilities intended to
do so" - raising the specter of preemptive action against
other nations' dual-use space technology.
Indeed, even as the Bush policy
emphasizes the importance of space security, it goes out of its
way to make clear that this security may not, under any circumstances,
come from (shudder) international law: "The United States
will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions
that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space.
Proposed arms control agreements or restrictions must not impair
the rights of the United States to conduce research, development,
testing and operations or other activities in space for U.S.
While the new NSP doesn't go
as far as some space hawks wanted it to in openly endorsing the
strategy of fighting "in, from and through" space,
neither has it served to put a blanket - even a thin one - on
those ambitions. And in taking a decidedly "us against them"
tone, it is likely to further cement the view from abroad that
the United States has taken on the role of a "Lone Space
BUSH DECLARES HIS REGIME IMMUNE
PROGRESS REPORT - Recently, a
senior EPA scientist accused the agency of "relying on misleading
data about the health hazards of World Trade Center dust."
The Bush administration is now reversing nearly two decades of
precedent by declaring "itself immune from whistleblower
protections for federal workers under the Clean Water Act."
The Secretary of Labor's Review Board "has ruled federal
employees may no longer pursue whistleblower claims under the
Clean Water Act. The opinion invoked the ancient doctrine of
sovereign immunity which is based on the old English legal maxim
that 'the king can do no wrong.'" The Environmental Protection
Agency has taken the more extreme position that absolutely no
environmental laws protect its employees from reprisal. Approximately
170,000 employees working within federal environmental agencies
will be affected by the loss of whistleblower rights.
MICHAEL BROWN SAYS WHITE HOUSE
WANTED HIM TO LIE ABOUT KATRINA
UPI - The ousted head of the
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency says the White House
wanted him to lie about the response to Hurricane Katrina. Former
Director Michael Brown told ABC News' "This Week with George
Stephanopoulos" Sunday he stood by comments in a Playboy
interview, and President Bush wanted him to take the heat for
the bungling. "The lie was that we were ready and that everything
was working as a team. Behind the scenes, it wasn't working at
all," Brown said. "There were political considerations
going into all the discussions. There was the fact that New Orleans
did not evacuate and the mayor (Ray Nagin) had no plan."
Brown said it was natural to "want to put the spin on that
things are working the way they're supposed to do. And behind
the scenes, they're not. Again, my biggest mistake was just not
leveling with the American public and saying, 'Folks, this isn't
BUSH REGIME PLANNING TO UNDERMINE
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAWS
RICHARD WILLING, USA TODAY -
The federal government will pay a Texas law school $1 million
to do research aimed at rolling back the amount of sensitive
data available to the press and public through freedom-of-information
requests. Beginning this month, St. Mary's University School
of Law in San Antonio will analyze recent state laws that place
previously available information, such as site plans of power
plants, beyond the reach of public inquiries. Jeffrey Addicott,
a professor at the law school, said he will use that research
to produce a national "model statute" that state legislatures
and Congress could adopt to ensure that potentially dangerous
information "stays out of the hands of the bad guys.".
. . Critics say the research plan overstates the need for secrecy
and is likely to give state and federal governments too much
discretion to withhold material. "Restricting information
(for) security and efficiency and comfort level, that's the good
story," says Paul McMasters, a specialist in public information
law at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va. "The
bad story is that it can also be a great instrument of control.
... To automatically believe that the less known the better is
really not rational."
70% OF BUSH TAX CUT BENEFITS
WENT TO TOP TWO PERCENT
CNN - President Bush's tax cuts
for investment income have significantly lowered the tax burden
on the richest Americans, reducing taxes on incomes of more than
$10 million by an average of about $500,000, according to a report
Wednesday. An analysis of Internal Revenue Service data by The
New York Times found that the benefit of the lower taxes on investments
was more concentrated on the very wealthiest Americans than the
benefits of President Bush's two previous tax cuts. . . According
to the study, taxpayers with incomes greater than $10 million
reduced their investment tax bill by an average of about $500,000
in 2003, and their total tax savings, which included the two
Bush tax cuts on compensation, nearly doubled, to slightly more
than $1 million. These taxpayers, whose average income was $26
million, paid about the same share of their income in income
taxes as those making $200,000 to $500,000 because of the lowered
rates on investment income.
BUSH WANTS TO SHIFT MEDICAID
COSTS TO STATES
NEWS STANDARD - An independent
economic analysis released yesterday found that under the president's
proposed budget, states would have to pick up billions in Medicaid
expenses, most likely forcing some to reduce services. The federal
spending cuts would come on top of funding those already approved
by Congress this month and after several states unexpectedly
began picking up the tab for the program's recently enacted prescription-drug
The White House budget released
earlier this month would hack more than $35 billion in federal
Medicaid expenditures over the next ten years, about $30 billion
of which would be transferred to the states, the progressive
think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported yesterday.
The analysis found that most of the cuts are regulatory and need
no congressional approval. . .
The regulatory cuts include ending
payments for the transportation and administrative expenses that
school districts incur in educating youths with disabilities,
leaving local and state governments to cover the costs, the study
said. In addition, the Medicaid program would no longer pay matching
funds for developmental treatment and therapy for people with
disabilities and mental illness.
BUSH WANTS TO SELL OFF TENS
OF THOUSANDS OF ACRES OF NATION FOREST LAND
HAL BERNTON SEATTLE TIMES -The
Bush administration on Friday proposed the largest Forest Service
land sale in decades, listing 309,421 acres in more than 30 states
- including nearly 7,500 acres in Washington state. The plan,
which requires congressional approval, would funnel the money
from sales to rural counties, in part to replace proposed cutbacks
of federal dollars that now help pay for schools and roads. Most
of the Forest Service tracts are small, isolated parcels adjacent
to private or state land. Successful bidders could develop, or
possibly log, these lands so long as they complied with state
and local land-use laws
BUSH REGIME PLANS BIZARRE
ANIMAL ID PROGRAM
NO NAIS - The National Animal
ID program was originally designed to give the big beef producers
help in getting export markets which required disease controls.
The idea is that every single livestock animal in the United
States will be identified and tagged. All livestock animal movements
will be tracked, logged and reported to the government. The benefit
is to the big factory farms who probably do need this type of
regulation. They get to do single IDs for large groups of animals.
Small farmers, pet owners and homesteaders will have to tag and
track every single animal.
There are no exceptions - even
small farms that sell direct to local consumers will be required
to pay the fees and file all the paper work on all their animals.
Even horse, llama and other pet owners will be required to participate
in NAIS. Homesteaders who raise their own meat and grandma with
her one egg hen will also have to register their homes as 'farm
premises' and obtain a Premise ID, tag all their animals and
submit all the paperwork and fees. Absurd? Yes - There are no
exceptions under the current NAIS plan. The USDA has slipped
this plan in the back door without any legislation.
SENATE KILLS MINIMUM WAGE
HELEN THOMAS, HEARST NEWS - U.S.
senators -- who draw salaries of $162,100 a year and enjoy a
raft of perks -- have rejected a minimum wage hike from $5.15
an hour to $6.25 for blue-collar workers. The proposed increase
was sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and turned down
in the Senate by a vote of 51 against the boost and 49 in favor.
. . All the Democrats voted for the wage boost. All the negative
votes were cast by Republicans.
Four Republicans voted for it.
Three of the four are running for reelection and were probably
worried about how voters would react if they knew that their
well-heeled senators had turned down a pittance of an increase
in the salaries of the lowest paid workers in the country. The
minimum wage was last increased in 1997.
WOMEN HIT HARDER BY BANKRUPTCY,
NEW LAW WILL MAKE IT WORSE
SANDRA GUY, WOMENS E-NEWS - This
year, more than 1 million women are expected to file for bankruptcy,
outnumbering men by about 150,000 if trends hold. Critics say
that means the new U.S. bankruptcy law, which makes it harder
for filers to expunge debts, is particularly onerous for women.
They expect the law to saddle women with higher debts for longer
periods and erode their economic security and ability to recover
from financial crises not of their own doing.
"Filing for bankruptcy is
the financial equivalent of going to a medical emergency room,"
said Karen Gross, president of the New York-based Coalition for
Consumer Bankruptcy Debtor Education. "The new law significantly
increases the barriers of getting in, the costs once inside and
the hurdles of leaving.". . .
One new provision of the law,
for instance, requires bankruptcy attorneys to verify that they
have investigated the debtor's information and believe it to
be accurate. This added attorney time is expected to drive up
filing costs, on average, by between $1,000 to $2,000. The actual
filing fees with the court will also rise slightly along with
the amount of time a lawyer will take to prepare a bankruptcy
petition, said Howard Ehrenberg, a lawyer and Chapter 7 court-appointed
bankruptcy trustee for the Central District of California.
In order to emerge from bankruptcy,
filers must attend mandatory credit counseling and debtor education.
While some of these courses are free, they can cost as much as
$50 for a 90-minute session.
People may obtain a waiver of
those fees if they are destitute but the new law makes it harder
for filers to prove they are unable to pay.
In April, a nationwide survey
by Visa USA and the Consumer Federation of America found that
42 percent of women who responded had less than $500 in emergency
savings, and 55 percent of women age 25 to 34 did not maintain
an emergency savings account of at least $500.
BUSH LABOR DEPARTMENT MADE
SWEETHEART DEAL WITH WAL-MART
STEVEN GREENHOUSE, NY TIMES -
The Labor Department's inspector general strongly criticized
department officials yesterday for "serious breakdowns"
in procedures involving an agreement promising Wal-Mart Stores
15 days' notice before labor investigators would inspect its
stores for child labor violations. The report by the inspector
general faulted department officials for making "significant
concessions" to Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer,
without obtaining anything in return. The report also criticized
department officials for letting Wal-Mart lawyers write substantial
parts of the settlement and for leaving the department's own
legal division out of the settlement process.
The report said that in granting
Wal-Mart the 15-day notice, the Wage and Hour Division violated
its own handbook. It added that agreeing to let Wal-Mart jointly
develop news releases about the settlement with the department
violated Labor Department policies
BUSH REGIME GIVES FLORIDA
OKAY TO SLASH MEDICAID
ROBERT PEAR, NY TIMES - The Bush
administration approved a sweeping Medicaid plan for Florida
that limits spending for many of the 2.2 million beneficiaries
and gives private health plans new freedom to limit benefits.
The Florida program, likely to be a model for many other states,
shifts from Medicaid's traditional "defined benefit"
plan to a "defined contribution" plan, under which
the state sets a ceiling on spending for each Medicaid recipient.
Children under the age of 21 and pregnant women will be exempt
from the spending limits. Florida's plan says "the state
will set aside a specific amount of money for each person enrolled
in Medicaid," based on the person's medical condition and
historic use of health care. . .
Joan C. Alker, a senior researcher
at the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University, said,
"Florida's proposal is one of the most far-reaching and
radical proposals we've seen to restructure Medicaid. The federal
government and the states now decide which benefits people get.
Under the Florida plan, many of those decisions will be made
by private health plans, out of public view.". . .
BUSH'S WAR AGAINST SMALL FARMS
DAILY KOS - Poultry fanciers
and keepers of small flocks are facing a grave threat from a
proposed government intrusion into their innocent choice of pastimes
and way of life. For several years, the USDA has been working
with the largest-scale animal industry organizations (for example,
the National Pork Producers, Monsanto Company, and Cargill Meat)
to develop a mandatory "National Animal Identification System".
However, most small scale livestock
producers, people who raise animals for their own food, and people
who keep horses or livestock as companion animals do not know
about the USDA's plans.
The NAIS will drive small producers
out of the market, will make people abandon raising animals for
their own food, will invade Americans' personal privacy to a
degree never before tolerated, will violate the religious freedom
of Americans whose beliefs make it impossible for them to comply,
and will erase the last vestiges of animal welfare from the production
of animal foods. . .
Every person who owns even one
horse, cow, pig, chicken, sheep, pigeon, or virtually any livestock
animal, will be forced to register their home, including owner's
name, address, and telephone number, and keyed to Global Positioning
System coordinates for satellite monitoring, in a giant federal
database under a 7-digit "premises ID number." . .
Every animal will have to be
assigned a 15-digit ID number, also to be kept in a giant federal
database. The form of ID will most likely be a tag or microchip
containing a Radio Frequency Identification Device, designed
to be read from a distance. . .
The plan may also include collecting
the DNA of every animal and/or a retinal scan of every animal.
The owner will be required to
report: the birthdate of an animal, the application of every
animal's ID tag, every time an animal leaves or enters the property,
every time an animal loses a tag, every time a tag is replaced,
the slaughter or death of an animal, or if any animal is missing.
Such events must be reported within 24 hours. . .
Third parties, such as veterinarians,
will be required to report "sightings" of animals.
In other words, if you call a vet to your property to treat your
horse, cow, or any other animal, and the vet finds any animal
without the mandatory 15-digit computer-readable ID, the vet
may be required to report you. . .
If you do not comply, the USDA
will exercise "enforcement" against you. The USDA has
not yet specified the nature of "enforcement," but
presumably it will include imposing fines and/or seizing your
animals. There are no exceptions -- under the USDA plan, you
will be forced to register and report even if you raise animals
only for your own food or keep horses for draft or for transportation.
Eradication of Small Farms -
People with just a few meat animals or 40-cow dairies are already
living on the edge financially. The USDA plan will force many
of them to give up farming.
The NAIS is touted by the USDA
and agricorporations as a way to make our food supply "secure"
against diseases or terrorism. However, most people instinctively
understand that real food security comes from raising food yourself
or buying from a local farmer you actually know. The USDA plan
will only kill off more local sources of production and further
promote the giant industrial methods which cause many food safety
and disease problems.
Extreme Damage to Personal Privacy
- Legally, livestock animals are a form of personal property.
It is unprecedented for the United States government to conduct
large-scale computer-aided surveillance of its citizens simply
because they own a common type of property. (The only exceptions
are registration of motor vehicles and guns, due to their clear
inherent dangers - but they are registered at the state level,
not by the federal government.) The NAIS would actually subject
the owner of a chicken to far more surveillance than the owner
of a gun. Surveillance of small-scale livestock owners is like
the government subjecting people to surveillance for owning a
couch, a TV, a lawnmower.
Will the government next want
to register all cats, dogs, and parakeets, and demand the global
positioning coordinates of their owners' houses and apartments?
THE BUSH MEDICARE DRUG SCANDAL:
SENIORS AND STATES DUE TO BE RIPPED OFF
ROBERT PEAR, NY TIMES - The Bush
administration notified states on Monday that they would have
to pay billions of dollars to the federal government next year
to help finance the new prescription drug benefit for people
on Medicare. Administration officials said the 2003 Medicare
law required them to charge the states, in exchange for taking
over the states' Medicaid drug costs. But state officials immediately
took issue with the calculations, saying federal officials had
overstated the amounts owed by some states.
The Congressional Budget Office
estimates that the required state contributions, also known as
clawback payments, will total $6 billion in the current fiscal
year and $124 billion from 2006 to 2015. Some states, including
Texas, are openly resisting the requirement for such payments.
But federal officials said that if states did not comply, the
money could be deducted from federal payments to the states for
other programs like Medicaid.
One purpose of the 2003 Medicare
law was to relieve states of prescription drug costs for low-income
Medicare recipients. But as states do the arithmetic, many have
concluded that they will lose money because they must give back
most of the savings.
USA TODAY - Most seniors don't
understand the new prescription-drug program being offered under
Medicare and don't plan to sign up for coverage, even after months
of salesmanship by the Bush administration. A USA TODAY - CNN
- Gallup Poll shows 37% say they understand the program at least
somewhat well, but 61% don't. Those figures haven't changed much
from polls in July and August.
About one in four seniors, 24%,
say they plan to join the program, compared with 54% who say
they don't. Twenty-two percent have no opinion. . .
"The (poll) numbers suggest
an abysmal program," says Robert Hayes of the Medicare Rights
Center, an advocacy group. "This benefit was designed to
make it impossible for consumers to understand it.". . .
Advocates for seniors say the
array of choices can make things more difficult. Ten plans will
be sold nationally. In some states, seniors will have more than
20 companies offering competing versions. Plans vary. Monthly
premiums range from $1.87 to nearly $100. Deductibles range from
zero to $250. Co-payments differ from one plan to another, as
do benefit packages.
GONZALEZ WANTS TO CONTROL COURTS, TOO
JERRY SEPER, WASHINGTON TIMES
- Federal judges should be required to adhere to sentencing guidelines
that set mandatory minimums for prison sentences, Attorney General
Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday, citing a "a drift toward
lesser sentences" since a landmark Supreme Court ruling
challenged the guidelines. Mr. Gonzales, in urging Congress to
approve legislation mandating new rules governing federal sentencing,
said too many convicted criminals were getting sentences lighter
than outlined in the nearly 20-year-old guidelines because of
the high court ruling. . . The Supreme Court voided mandatory
guidelines in January, making them voluntary in a ruling that
said they violated a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights to a
jury trial. The court's ruling affirmed that juries, not judges,
must determine any facts used to set the length of prison sentences.
In a complex set of three opinions, the high court criticized
the federal guidelines and made them advisory, potentially opening
the way for an avalanche of appeals of federal sentences.
MICHAEL JANOFSKY AND DAVID JOHNSTON,
NY TIMES - A Justice Department decision to seek $10 billion
for a stop-smoking program in its suit against the country's
leading tobacco companies, instead of the $130 billion suggested
by one of its expert witnesses, set off a firestorm. Several
Democratic lawmakers with a longtime interest in smoking and
health issues attacked the department for what they said was
a politically motivated decision, as did public health groups.
Judge Gladys Kessler of Federal District Court, who is presiding
in the trial here against the companies, took note of the sudden
change, telling the court on Wednesday, "Perhaps it suggests
that additional influences have been brought to bear on what
the government's case is."
The move infuriated lawmakers
who have long been critics of the tobacco industry. "It
reeks of an administration whose heart isn't really in this case,"
said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, at a news conference
with other Democrats who suggested that Justice Department officials
with ties to the tobacco industry might have grown uncomfortable
with a large financial demand as part of the government's case
against the companies. The payments are intended to finance a
stop-smoking program that a government witness said would cost
$130 billion over 25 years. In court on Tuesday, a government
lawyer, Stephen D. Brody, said the government would ask for a
program costing only $10 billion to be paid out over five years
PROGRESS REPORT - According to
multiple news sources, the abrupt shift was the result of intense
pressure from Deputy Attorney General Robert D. McCallum, who
until 2001 was a "partner in an Atlanta law firm that represented
one of the defendants in the case, R. J. Reynolds." McCallum
ordered the cut "despite objections from career lawyers
who have worked on the trial, in some cases years." Rep.
Henry A. Waxman, along with six other members of Congress, have
requested that the Department of Justice Inspector General investigate
"whether the Justice Department's reversal was the result
of improper political influence" and "the role played
by Mr. McCallum and other political appointees."
The Washington Post reports,
"Government lawyers asked two of their own witnesses to
soften recommendations about sanctions that should be imposed
on the tobacco industry." Matt Myers, president of the Campaign
for Tobacco-Free Kids, said he received a phone call on May 9
from the lead trial attorney saying he "wanted him to scale
back the recommendations he had made in written testimony."
Myers refused. Another witness, scientific expert Michael Eriksen,
apparently complied with a request to weaken his testimony. Both
witnesses "were considered crucial in helping the government
establish financial penalties and other sanctions to be imposed
on cigarette manufacturers to help prevent young people from
On the campaign trail in 2000,
Bush said, "I think we've had enough suits. I don't think
you can sue your way to policy. ... The lawyers I talk to don't
feel [the DOJ has] a case." Upon assuming office in 2000,
Attorney General John Ashcroft "allocated $1.8 million to
keep the lawsuit going, instead of the $57 million the department's
lawyers said they would need to mount a vigorous case."
The move "undermined the government's negotiating strength...
paving the way for a potentially weak settlement."
BUSH'S HIDDEN PLAN TO KILL
GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HE DOESN'T LIKE
OSHA GRAY DAVIDSON, ROLLING STONE - The spending plan that President Bush
submitted to Congress this year contains 2,000 pages that outline
funding to safeguard the environment, protect workers from injury
and death, crack down on securities fraud and ensure the safety
of prescription drugs. But almost unnoticed in the budget, tucked
away in a single paragraph, is a provision that could make every
one of those protections a thing of the past. The proposal, spelled
out in three short sentences, would give the president the power
to appoint an eight-member panel called the "Sunset Commission,"
which would systematically review federal programs every ten
years and decide whether they should be eliminated. Any programs
that are not "producing results," in the eyes of the
commission, would "automatically terminate unless the Congress
took action to continue them.". . .
In practice, the commission would
enable the Bush administration to achieve what Ronald Reagan
only dreamed of: the end of government regulation as we know
it. With a simple vote of five commissioners -- many of them
likely to be lobbyists and executives from major corporations
currently subject to federal oversight -- the president could
terminate any program or agency he dislikes. No more Environmental
Protection Agency. No more Food and Drug Administration. No more
Securities and Exchange Commission.
BUSH PREFERS CARING FOR UNBORN
FETUSES OVER LIVING POOR
PROGRESS REPORT - President Bush
is proposing slashing health care funding for the poorest Americans,
leaving cash-strapped states to pick up the pieces. The administration's
budget proposes reducing the federal share of funding for Medicaid
- the joint federal/state program that provides health insurance
for more than 50 million low-income Americans - by $60 billion
over ten years. At the winter meeting of the National Governors
Association, the Bush administration tried to convince state
leaders to accept the cuts in exchange for "flexibility."
Democratic and Republican governors aren't buying it. Gov. Kathleen
Sebelius (D-KS) said, "If flexibility comes with $60 billion
worth of cuts, that will give us the flexibility to cut off people
from health care that they desperately need." Sebelius echoes
the sentiments of Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), who said previously,
"people 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."
President Bush has no problem
spending $2.1 trillion over 10 years to extend his tax cuts for
the wealthy, but calls $60 billion in federal Medicaid spending
unaffordable. The administration suggests states could make up
for the funding shortfall by requiring "low-income people
to make a co-payment before receiving Medicaid benefits."
Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt tried this
as governor of Utah and ended up reducing hospital admissions,
clinic visits and access to prescription drugs for the state's
poorest residents. In other words, the plan would "price
the neediest people out of basic medical treatment and drive
up the number of uninsured people."
Nevertheless, Leavitt claimed
that "he has support among the nation's governors"
for the proposal. That's not true. Interviews conducted by the
New York Times "with numerous governors suggest that the
consensus described by Mr. Leavitt does not exist."
U.S. ALREADY MOVING TO FLAT
DAVID R. FRANCIS, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE
MONITOR - Billionaires are paying not much more taxes, proportionately,
than those Americans who are merely prosperous. It's a sign that,
even without the formal adoption of a so-called "flat tax,"
America's tax system is getting flatter. . . Chalk up President
Bush as not just a tax cutter but also a tax flattener. Under
Mr. Bush and a Republican Congress, big tax cuts since 2001 have
given major tax reductions to those wealthy individuals presumed,
up to now, to be able to afford paying a bigger chunk of their
income in taxes. By one measure of the federal, state, and local
tax burden, just 3.4 percentage points separate the effective
tax rate paid by the top 1 percent of earners from the other
99 percent of American households.
PUBLIC RELATIONS GETS BIGGER
BOOST FROM BUSH THAN PROGRAMS
PR WATCH - Along with doubling
spending on external PR contracts, the Bush administration has
increased PR positions inside government agencies, called public
affairs. Public affairs staffs grew by 9 percent since 2000,
"even faster than the federal work force," for a cost
increase of more than $50 million. The Pentagon "added the
greatest number of PR officials." Other increases occurred
at the State, Agriculture and Interior Departments and the Social
Security Administration. The Forest Service's Communications
Director said "a growing number of advisory panels required
by Congress and a controversial program that opens some forests
to logging" necessitated the PR boost.
BUSH PUTS FOX IN HOMELAND
SECURITY CHICKEN COOP
DECLAN MCCULLAGH, CNET NEWS - The Department of Homeland Security
has named Claria, an adware maker that online publishers once
dubbed a "parasite," to a federal privacy advisory
board. An executive from Claria, formerly called Gator, will
be one of 20 members of the committee, the department said. .
. Claria bundles its pop-up advertising software with ad-supported
networks such as Kazaa. Recently, the privately held company
has been trying to seek credibility by following stricter privacy
guidelines and offering behavioral profiling services to its
partners. . . In the past, Claria's pop-up ad software has riled
some users who claimed it was annoying, installed without permission,
and not easy to delete. Publishers also were irked about pop-up
ads for a rival's product appearing next to their own Web sites.
Catalog retailer L.L. Bean sued Gator for alleged trademark infringement.
BUSH SLASHES IRS SERVICES
TO THE PUBLIC
NY TIMES - After widely publicized
hearings seven years ago, Congress passed a law ordering the
Internal Revenue Service to enhance services to taxpayers, improvements
that were financed by cutting enforcement of the tax laws to
make sure telephones were answered and forms were readily available.
That era is now ending.
The I.R.S. will close up to 105
of its 367 walk-in centers, which dispense forms and advice,
said Mark W. Everson, the agency's commissioner. Hours when the
I.R.S. answers telephone calls will also be reduced, he said.
After the current tax return filing season ends on Friday, people
with simple tax returns will no longer be able to file using
a touch-tone telephone. Last year 3.8 million taxpayers, most
of them with low incomes, used this Tele-File system.
SPECIAL COUNSEL DISMISSES
MORE THAN 1,OOO WHISTLEBLOWER CASES, TAKES FEW TO COURT
[From Public Employees for Environmental
The U.S. Special Counsel has
dismissed more than 1,000 whistleblower cases in the past year,
according to a letter from the Bush-appointed Special Counsel.
The Special Counsel appears to have taken action in very few,
if any, of these cases and has yet to represent a single whistleblower
in an employment case.
In a letter dated February 14,
2005 and addressed to U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA),
Special Counsel Scott Bloch defends his stormy 13 months in office
by pointing to a sharp drop in backlogged whistleblower cases.
"Everyone agrees that backlogs and delays are bad but they
are not as bad as simply dumping the cases altogether,"
stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that this letter
is the first account that Bloch has released of his tenure and
that his office's report for FY 2004, which ended in October,
is overdue. "If the Office of Special Counsel under Scott
Bloch is not helping whistleblowers then there is no reason for
the office to continue to exist. . .
"According to Scott Bloch
there is no waste, fraud or abuse in the federal government that
deserves investigation," stated Ruch, noting that there
may be even more dismissals than Bloch reported because the numbers
cited above are limited to what was defined as a backlog and
do not include new cases.
BUSH BUDGET HITS STATE ECONOMIES
PROGRESS REPORT - Recent studies
by budget and policy groups shed new light on how President Bush's
new budget could devastate state economies. According to the
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one-third of President
Bush's proposed $5.9 billion cut in overall domestic discretionary
funding in 2006 would come from cuts to programs that provide
funding to states and localities. But many states "are ill-prepared
to absorb such cuts." For example, 26 states already facing
2006 budget deficits would be forced to absorb $32 billion worth
of additional budget shortfalls.
NORTH CAROLINA: North Carolina
is already facing a projected $1.2 billion shortfall in revenue
and struggling to finance hurricane relief. President Bush has
responded by slashing federal money for railroads, police programs
and Medicaid, as well as endorsing massive cuts in funds for
community development grants used to "rehabilitate older
homes, pay for after-school programs and provide housing for
people in unsafe homes." He also wants to eliminate a key
public housing program, HOPE VI, which enabled the state to rebuild
public housing complexes in Raleigh and Durham. According to
the Charlotte Observer, the cuts will force local governments
to "cut services or raise taxes."
GEORGIA: Georgia would lose $297.6
million in discretionary grants, with education funding hit especially
hard. State programs connected to No Child Left Behind would
be underfunded by $366.8 million and Georgia would be one of
eleven states to lose 75 percent or more of its federal adult
education funding. Included in that cut would be the Even Start
family literacy program - Bush said it was "abundantly clear"
the program wasn't working, but education officials in Georgia
say that's "simply not true.
TENNESSEE: The state is slated
to lose $303.9 million in discretionary grants, including $37.3
million for community and economic development and $3.2 million
for low-income home energy assistance (LIHEAP). Health care and
public housing were hit hard in the Volunteer State. According
to FamiliesUSA, the budget would cost Tennessee $1.2 billion
over 10 years in Medicaid funding, affecting "thousands
of Tennessee children and senior citizens." In Memphis,
local officials are concerned that "huge cuts" to HOPE
VI and other federal housing programs will "severely curtail"
plans to rehabilitate several older and decrepit neighborhoods
PR WATCH - Scientists employed
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they have been told
to change their research findings concerning the protection of
plants and animals. A survey of USFWS biologists, ecologists,
botanists and other science professionals sponsored by the Union
of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental
"Nearly half of all respondents
whose work is related to endangered species scientific findings
(44 percent) reported that they 'have been directed, for non-scientific
reasons, to refrain from making jeopardy or other findings that
are protective of species.'
"One in five agency scientists
revealed they have been instructed to compromise their scientific
integrity - reporting that they have been 'directed to inappropriately
exclude or alter technical information from a USFWS scientific
document,' such as a biological opinion.
"More than half of all respondents
(56 percent) knew of cases where 'commercial interests have inappropriately
induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions
or decisions through political intervention.'"
- Handing President Bush a significant victory, the Senate overwhelmingly
approved a measure that would sharply limit the ability of people
to file class-action lawsuits against companies. . . The measure
would prohibit state courts from hearing many kinds of cases
they now consider, transferring them to federal courts. Experts
say many cases will wind up not being brought because federal
judges have been constrained by a series of legal precedents
from considering large class actions that involve varying laws
of different states. . .
The measure has been attacked
by civil rights organizations, labor groups, consumer organizations,
many state prosecutors and environmental groups, who say it would
sharply curtail important cases and provide new protections for
unscrupulous companies. Many federal and state judges and state
lawmakers have also criticized the bill, saying it would strip
states of an important role in judging such contests and could
add a considerable number of cases to already burdened federal
"This bill is one of the
most unfair, anti-consumer proposals to come before the Senate
in years," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority
leader. "It slams the courthouse doors on a wide range of
injured plaintiffs. It turns federalism upside down by preventing
state courts from hearing state law claims. And it limits corporate
accountability at a time of rampant corporate scandals
[This anti-class action lawsuit
is also another assault on the 10th amendment trampling on the
rights of states to decide for themselves how to handles such
KATHLEEN CULLINAN CAPITAL NEWS
SERVICE - The Pentagon unveiled new personnel rules that would
replace the current pay scale with a performance-based pay system
and would reduce bargaining rights for civilian employees. Labor
unions quickly threatened to sue over the sweeping new rules,
which the leader of the American Federation of Government Employees
decried as "a joke."
The new system, which could eventually
affect almost 700,000 civilian Defense Department workers, was
announced just days after the Department of Homeland Security
proposed a similar reform of civil service rules for about 110,000
of its workers.
PROGRESS REPORT - At a time when
overseas outsourcing has left many American workers - especially
in the manufacturing sector - out of work, President Bush will
propose cutting federal spending on job training by a half-billion
dollars. Federal job training programs, including dislocated-worker
training, will be cut by $200 million. Federal aid to states
for job training, including funding to train veterans, will be
cut by $300 million.
The administration's budget is
expected to reduce federal grants to local police forces from
$600 million to $60 million. Grants to local firefighters would
be cut by $215 million dollars.
The Bush budget "would more
than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription
drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year
for the privilege of using government healthcare." Richard
B. Fuller, legislative director of the Paralyzed Veterans of
America, calls the $250 fee "a health care tax, designed
to raise revenue and to discourage people from enrolling."
Prices for home heating oil are
skyrocketing. Nevertheless, Bush's budget proposes cutting the
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program, which helps people
pay their heating bills, by 8.4 percent. At last year's funding
levels, only one-sixth of low-income families who qualified for
the program were able to receive assistance. Last year's funding
for LIHEAP was 23 percent lower than in 2001.
President Bush is relying on
some highly manipulative math tricks to meet his far-reaching
goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009. To begin with, though
he has vowed to cut the 2004 deficit in half, he is not starting
with the actual 2004 deficit but rather "the projected $521-billion
deficit" from the OMB's year-old estimate. By using the
estimated figure, President Bush conveniently is dealing with
a deficit that is $54.5 billion less. Another example is that
the proposed deficit halving is "not in dollars but as a
share of the economy," which makes the incredible shrinking
deficit decline when the economy grows, as it is expected to,
"even if it does not shrink by a single dollar."
On top of all this, the budget
does not include the $80 billion supplement for Iraq and Afghanistan
nor the $754 billion costs of the proposed Social Security private
investment accounts. As Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution
puts things, "It doesn't quite compute." Conveniently,
more and more conservatives are now turning their backs on fiscal
discipline; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform
and unofficial White House advisor, now claims, "The deficit
is merely the uninteresting difference between two very interesting
BUSH REGIME DISMANTLING CIVIL
CHRISTOPHER LEE, WASHINGTON POST
- The Bush administration unveiled a new personnel system for
the Department of Homeland Security yesterday that will dramatically
change the way workers are paid, promoted, deployed and disciplined
-- and soon the White House will ask Congress to grant all federal
agencies similar authority to rewrite civil service rules governing
their employees. The new system will replace the half-century-old
General Schedule, with its familiar 15 pay grades and raises
based on time in a job, and install a system that more directly
bases pay on occupation and annual performance evaluations, officials
said. The new system has taken two years to develop and will
require at least four more to implement, they said. . .
The White House will propose
legislation within a month to allow all agencies to restructure
their personnel systems in a similar way, said Clay Johnson III,
deputy director for management at the Office of Management and
Budget. . .
Leaders of federal employee unions,
however, immediately denounced the new DHS system and any plans
to expand it government-wide. They said the system would undermine
the morale of homeland security employees and make it harder
to attract and keep talented workers. They said they would file
a lawsuit to block its new restrictions on collective bargaining
and employee appeals. They conceded that such a move would do
nothing to curtail the new pay system, however, which by 2009
will cover at least 110,000 of the department's 180,000 employees.
BUSH REGIME TO GUT COMMUNITY
AMERICAN PROGRESS REPORT - One
of the many controversial proposals in Bush's upcoming 2006 budget
will "drastically shrink the Department of Housing and Urban
Development's $8 billion community branch." While some of
the programs are being slashed outright - economic development
projects and rural housing programs - other anti-poverty efforts
are bound to be lost in the shuffle when they are transferred
over to the Labor and Commerce Departments, where they will be
forced to compete for monies in a new arena with a budget that
won't make room for them. Though administration officials claim
the shift is meant to consolidate duplicates and eliminate the
inefficient, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) revealed the truth behind
the simply "appalling" proposal: "I'm always willing
to look at consolidations, but clearly they're using consolidation
as a shield for substantial budget reductions." Ultimately,
the proposal could lead to HUD losing "a quarter of its
$31 billion budget."
BUSH THINKS ASBESTOS VICTIMS
SHOULD DIE QUIETLY WITHOUT SUING COMPANIES
[Even for Bush, the false
logic here is remarkable. Corporations - including a subsidiary
of Haliburton - are properly in trouble for creating a product
that kills people, and Bush thinks it's unfair that victim should
seek rencompense in "junk" lawsuits.]
PETER BAKER, WASHINGTON POST
- President Bush urged Congress to find a way to settle tens
of billions of dollars in claims by victims of asbestos in hopes
of stanching a flood of litigation that he blamed for driving
scores of companies out of business. "This is a national
problem . . . that requires a national solution," the president
said at a forum he hosted here in this Detroit suburb. "These
asbestos suits have bankrupted a lot of companies, and that affects
the workers here in Michigan and around the country.". .
The appeal was the president's
third event in as many days promoting restrictions on what he
calls "junk lawsuits," one of his top legislative priorities
for the beginning of his second term. . .
BUSH REGIME FOISTED ILLEGAL,
FAKE VIDEO ON TV STATIONS
JOHN FILES, NY TIMES - The Government
Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said
on Thursday that the Bush administration violated federal law
by producing and distributing television news segments about
the effects of drug use among young people. The accountability
office said the videos "constitute covert propaganda"
because the government was not identified as the source of the
materials, which were distributed by the Office of National Drug
Control Policy. They were broadcast by nearly 300 television
stations and reached 22 million households, the office said.
The accountability office does not have law enforcement powers,
but its decisions on federal spending are usually considered
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS TOOK PAYOLA
FROM WHITE HOUSE
GREG TOPPO, USA TODAY - Seeking
to build support among black families for its education reform
law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000
to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show
and to urge other black journalists to do the same. The campaign,
part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind, required commentator
Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during
the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education
Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during
the show in 2004. Williams said Thursday he understands that
critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted
to do it because it's something I believe in."
PROGRESS REPORT - The budget President Bush submitted
to Congress yesterday imposes $5.3 billion in new, regressive
taxes. (They are conveniently listed in table 18-3 on page 305
of the Analytic Perspectives supplement to the budget.) The administration's
budget contains new taxes that will increase the price of a six
pack of beer, an airline ticket and prescription drugs for veterans.
The budget includes over a billion
dollars in revenue from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge, even though Congress hasn't authorized such drilling
and has rejected President Bush's proposal to open ANWR to oil
exploration for the last four years. Budget Director Josh Bolten
defended the move, claiming, "the budget is the right place
to present the entirety of the president's policies, so all of
his proposals are reflected in there." Really? The Bush
budget excludes all funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan
and the administration's $2 trillion Social Security package.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities sums it up: "The
number of poor went up for the third straight year in 2003, the
share of total income that goes to the bottom two-fifths of households
has fallen to one of its lowest levels since the end of World
War II, and the number of people lacking health insurance rose
to 45 million in 2003, the highest level on record." Yet
the Bush administration is cutting programs that help people
get back on their feet. For example, the administration's budget
proposes "a five-year freeze on child care funding that...will
result in cutting the number of low-income children receiving
child care assistance by 300,000 in 2009." The Bush budget
also cuts $45 billion from Medicaid, the program that provides
basic health coverage to the poor.
Apparently, President Bush isn't
concerned that abstinence-only programs are misleading the nation's
children about sex. A study last year found that some of the
most popular programs pushed lies, such as claiming that mutual
masturbation can cause pregnancy and condoms fail to prevent
the transmission of HIV 31 percent of the time. President Bush's
budget increases funding for abstinence-only education by $39
million, to a total of $209 million.
President Bush proposes reducing
federal funds states use to improve water quality by $369 million.
The federal contribution to the program is now just $730 million,
down from $1.98 billion four years ago.
AND THE WINNER IS. . .
ERIC LICHTBLAU, NY TIMES - The
big winner in the president's budget among law enforcement agencies
- as it has been since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 - is the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, with state and local police
agencies again facing major cutbacks in federal assistance. The
budget proposes an 11 percent increase in financing for the F.B.I.,
to $5.6 billion. The proposal continues the sharp rise in F.B.I.
financing since 2001, when the bureau's budget was $3.3 billion.
. . . Some members of Congress
have sharply criticized the way the F.B.I. has spent its money,
particularly in the lagging, half-billion-dollar effort to shore
up its computer capabilities.
. . . But as the administration
has done for the last several years, the budget moved to curtail
sharply spending for some local law enforcement programs.
WHAT THE BUSH ECONOMY HAS COST YOU
PROGRESS REPORT - With the federal
government cutting funding for programs, states are stuck with
the tab. Across the country, that means higher property taxes.
And according to the Christian Science Monitor, "the levies
are squeezing the middle class and senior citizens - leaving
them less to spend on everything from restaurants to roof repair."
Lehigh County in eastern Pennsylvania, for example, is considering
a 70 percent hike in property taxes. In New York, "Mayor
Michael Bloomberg is proposing a 25 percent hike, which he says
is needed to bridge a projected $6.5 billion budget gap next
year. In Westwood Hills, an upscale suburb of Kansas City, residents
are facing a 19.2 percent property-tax hike. And in Philadelphia,
hundreds of homeowners are appealing recent recent property tax
increases as high as 100 percent."
According to a new study by the
AARP, drug prices over the past year rose an average of 7.4 percent,
"or more than three times the 2.3 percent rate of general
inflation in that period." The reason? The AARP "didn't
examine the reason for the price trends, but noted that the Medicare
drug-discount cards came out in June." To get ready for
the discount cards created by the White House's industry-backed
Medicare bill, many companies decided to protect their profits
by jacking up the price of their most popular medications.
It's getting more expensive to
go to college and, thanks to the White House, harder to pay for
it. The average tuition for a four-year public university "jumped
10.5 percent this year." In the omnibus spending bill President
Bush signed last week, the formula used to calculate financial
aid in the form of Pell grants has been adjusted to to "adjust"
its formulas for calculating financial aid, a move which will
"reduce grants for 1.2 million students and cut off aid
completely to about 90,000."
The growth in wages fell dramatically
over the past four years. In 2000, median weekly wages grew by
4.9 percent. This fell to a mere 2.0 percent in 2003. Adjusted
for inflation that means "that wages fell slightly in real
terms in 2003 for the first time since 1996." This trend
continued in 2004. After taking account of inflation, earnings
in October 2004 were below those in December 2003.
Twenty-five years ago, the federal
government spent $27.3 billion on the federal job training program.
Today, that's been cut by over 84 percent, to about $4.4 billion.
Federal job training budgets have dropped $597 million since
2000 alone, making it that much harder for Americans trapped
in poverty to find work and get off government assistance.
EPA'S DEAL WITH CHEMICAL COMPANIES TRIPLES
RAT POISONING RATE IN KIDS
- ORGANIC CONSUMERS - In 2001, the Bush led EPA struck a deal
with chemical companies to remove two important rat poison regulations
designed to protect the safety of children. Specifically, the
safety measures had required rat poisons contain an ingredient
that makes the candy-like pellets taste bitter to kids and a
dye to make it more obvious to adults when a child has ingested
the poison. As a result of no longer requiring those safety additives,
the nation is now seeing a record number of children poisoned
by the toxic pellets. This year more than 50,000 children were
poisoned by rodenticides, which is three times as many as were
affected prior to the removal of safety regulations. According
to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the EPA met five
times behind closed doors with representatives of the chemical
industry, which ultimately resulted in the removal of the safety
BUSH REGIME GIVES OUT FALSE SEX INFORMATION:
CECI CONNOLLY WASHINGTON
POST - Many American youngsters participating in federally funded
abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three
years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half
the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive
for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can
result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has
found. Those and other assertions are examples of the "false,
misleading, or distorted information" in the programs' teaching
materials, said the analysis, released yesterday, which reviewed
the curricula of more than a dozen projects aimed at preventing
teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
In providing nearly $170 million
next year to fund groups that teach abstinence only, the Bush
administration, with backing from the Republican Congress, is
investing heavily in a just-say-no strategy for teenagers and
sex. But youngsters taking the courses frequently receive medically
inaccurate or misleading information, often in direct contradiction
to the findings of government scientists, said the report, by
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a critic of the administration
who has long argued for comprehensive sex education. . .
Among the misconceptions cited
by Waxman's investigators:
- A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking
- HIV, the virus that causes
AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.
- Condoms fail to prevent HIV
transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual
One curriculum, called "Me,
My World, My Future," teaches that women who have an abortion
"are more prone to suicide" and that as many as 10
percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition
of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not
affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said.
BUSH REGIME TRASHES CONFLICT OF INTEREST
RULES - WASHINGTON
POST - The timing was perfect: On Nov. 23 -- exactly three weeks
after the election and as a flurry of top Bush administration
officials announced their departures -- the Office of Government
Ethics declared that it was relaxing prohibitions on lobbying
by former Cabinet secretaries and other top officials. Until
now, senior officials at Cabinet departments and agencies had
not been allowed to lobby former colleagues for a full year after
leaving office -- a rule designed to prevent an obvious conflict
of interest. But, in a notice in the Federal Register, the ethics
office issued a new rule invoking its power to declare that "a
former senior employee who served in a 'parent' department or
agency is not barred . . . from making communications to or appearances
before any employee of any designated component of that parent."
180,000 HOMELAND SECURITY WORKERS CAN'T
REPORT WRONG DOING - Leaders
of two government unions called on Homeland Security Secretary
Tom Ridge to stop requiring all 180,000 department workers to
sign nondisclosure agreements that prohibit them from sharing
sensitive but unclassified information with the public.
GOP ENDS BARGAINING RIGHTS FOR TEMPS
- Temporary workers
will no longer be able to bargain for job benefits as part of
a unit with permanent employees, the National Labor Relations
Board has ruled, reversing a Clinton-era precedent. In a 3 to
2 vote that was issued Friday, the three members appointed by
President Bush -- Robert J. Battista, the chairman; Peter C.
Schaumber and Ronald E. Meisburg -- said there is a difference
between temporary and permanent workers.
CUTTING BACK STUDENT LOANS - The federal government will be able to
require millions of college students to shoulder more of the
cost of their education under the new spending bill approved
yesterday by the House and Senate. The government moved to change
its formula for college aid last year, but was blocked by Congress.
Now, however, no such language appears in the appropriations
bill lawmakers are considering, clearing the way for the government
to scale back college grants for hundreds of thousands of low-income
students. Nearly 100,000 more students may lose their federal
grants entirely, as Congress considers legislation that could
place more of the financial burden for college on students and
their families. -New York Times
FROM PETER DIZIKES, SALON
- SENATE COMPUTER THEFT: From 2001 to 2003, Republican staffers
on the Senate Judiciary Committee illicitly accessed nearly 5,000
computer files containing confidential Democratic strategy memos
about President Bush's judicial nominees.
- HALLIBURTON'S NO-BID BONANZA
- In February 2003, Halliburton
received a five-year, $7 billion no-bid contract for services
in Iraq. The Army Corps of Engineers' top contracting officer,
Bunnatine Greenhouse, objected to the deal, saying the contract
should be the standard one-year length, and that a Halliburton
official should not have been present during the discussions.
- HALLIBURTON: PUMPING UP
PRICES - Halliburton
overcharged the army for fuel in Iraq. Specifically, Halliburton's
subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root hired a Kuwaiti company,
Altanmia, to supply fuel at about twice the going rate, then
added a markup, for an overcharge of at least $61 million, according
to a December 2003 Pentagon audit.
- HALLIBURTON'S VANISHING
IRAQ MONEY - In mid-2004,
Pentagon auditors determined that $1.8 billion of Halliburton's
charges to the government, about 40 percent of the total, had
not been adequately documented.
- MISAPPROPRIATION OF AFGHAN
FUNDS - According to
Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," the Bush administration
diverted $700 million in funds from the war in Afghanistan, among
other places, to prepare for the Iraq invasion.
- BOEING SCANDAL - In 2003, the Air Force contracted with
Boeing to lease a fleet of refueling tanker planes at an inflated
price: $23 billion. The problem: The deal was put together by
a government procurement official, Darleen Druyun, who promptly
- PAYOLA TO MEDIA TYPES -
The Department of Education
paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to
promote its educational law, No Child Left Behind.
- INSIDER DEALING - In early 2001, chief White House political
strategist Karl Rove held meetings with numerous companies while
maintaining six-figure holdings of their stock -- including Intel,
whose executives were seeking government approval of a merger.
- SCALIA'S LEGAL CONFLICTS
- Supreme Court Justice
Antonin Scalia refused to recuse himself from the Cheney energy
task force case, despite taking a duck-hunting trip with the
vice president after the court agreed to weigh the matter.
- FALSE STATEMENTS ABOUT WMDS
- Bush and many officials
in his administration made false statements about Iraq's military
capabilities, in the months before the United States' March 2003
invasion of the country.
- NIGER FORGERIES - In his January 2003 State of the Union
address, Bush said, "The British government has learned
that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of
uranium from Africa." The problem: The statement was untrue.
- TORTURE - American soldiers physically tortured
prisoners in Iraq and kept undocumented "ghost detainees"
in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.. . . The U.S. military is also
alleged to have abused prisoners at the U.S. Navy's base in Guantánamo
FROM KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, NATION
- MORE HALIBURTON CURRUPTION
- Nine different reports compiled by the GAO, the Coalition
Provisional Authority's IG and the Defense Contract Audit Agency
faulted Halliburton's performance in Iraq.
- MORE ILLEGAL PROPAGANDA
- In May  the GAO concluded that the Health and Human Services
Department conducted a secret propaganda campaign that illegally
spent taxpayer money to produce and distribute videos touting
the administration's Medicare prescription drug law. And this
January, the GAO said that the Office of National Drug Control
Policy ads warning of the dangers of drug abuse (aired just before
last year's Super Bowl) were a form of "covert propaganda"
because they promoted their policies without identifying their
- SEX MISEDUCATION - A
report that comes thanks to Rep. Henry Waxman revealed that most
of the government-funded abstinence-only sex education programs
were giving students false information. One curriculum rejects
"the popular claim that condoms help prevent the spread
of STDs [sexually transmitted diseases]" because it "is
not supported by the data."
- MISESTIMATING THE COST OF
THE WARS - In July the GAO criticized the administration
for underestimating by $12.3 billion the cost of the Iraq and
ENVIRONMENT WORSENED UNDER
BUSH IN MANY AREAS
SETH BORENSTEIN, KNIGHT RIDDER
- 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
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
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.
by Shaun in Upper Left]
1. Cheney's secret
Energy Task Force
illegal campaign contributions in 2000
3. Boeing I -
the $23 billion tanker lease deal
4. Boeing II
- the $1.3 billion surveillance aircraft boondoggle
2000's failure to report $14 million spent on "recount"
8. The Valerie
information about the Medicare bill costs
10. Daniel Montgomery,
Director of the ATSB, accepting illegal gifts from airlines.
11. John Korsmo,
FHFB chair and his wife Michelle, a DOL official, illegal political
12. The suspension
of Parks Police Chief Teresa Chambers in violation of Title 5
13. The Iraqi
National Congress' use of government funds to lobby for war.
14. Misuse of
the Secret Service and other security to shield the President
and Vice President from dissent on the campaign trail.
15. Abuse of
the Presidential Records Act, to shield Reagan, Bush I and Bush
II from scrutiny, and leaking information about Clinton pardons.
16. DOJ and Interior
blocking the investigation of oil leases that cheated American
17. Charges by
John Dean that Bush knowingly violated the terms of the Iraq
of $700 million in Afghan war funds to preparations for Iraq
19. Failure to
account for $40 billion in 9/11 emergency response funds
20. Use of IRS
web site to disseminate political messages from RNC press releases
by Shaun in Upper Left]
1. Senate Judiciary
Committee computer theft.
2. The Nick Smith
3. Tom DeLay's
illegal Texas legislative contributions.
4. Tom DeLay's
bogus "Celebrations for Children" charity, used as
a front for political receptions.
5. Tom DeLay's
abuse of Treasury Department personnel for political purposes
by ordering a partisan analysis of John Kerry's tax plan.
6. Bill Frist's
financial stake in a medical malpractice insurer, while pushing
malpractice "reform" in the Senate.
7. Rep. Henry
Bonilla's American Dream PAC, which has contributed less than
9% of its funds to the minority candidates it was chartered to
8. The NRCC's
illegal transfer of $500,000 in soft money to ineligible recipients
during the 1999 primary season.
TOP TEN BUSH LIES WE ALREADY KNOW ABOUT
[From the New Hampshire Gazette]
10. "I have been very candid
about my past."
9. "I'm a uniter not a divider."
8. "My [tax] plan unlocks
the door to the middle class of millions of hard-working Americans."
7. "This allows us to explore
the promise and potential of stem cell research."
6. "We must uncover every
detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th."
5. "[We are] taking every
possible step to protect our country from danger."
4. "I first got to know
Ken [Lay] in 1994."
3. "Intelligence gathered
by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime
continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons
ever devised." And, "[Saddam Hussein is] a threat because
he is dealing with Al Qaeda."
2. "We found the weapons
of mass destruction."
1. "It's time to restore
honor and dignity to the White House."