Wrapping the Budget in the Flag

The Bush budget report delivered on February 4 was wrapped in a flag, literally and figuratively. Physically, the document's cover is a red, white, and blue representation of the American flag. Rhetorically, the Bush administration is trying to use the war on terrorism to stifle criticism of the fiscal debacle it has created. As Paul Krugman pointed out recently, while the war on terrorism is "emotionally, morally, ... indeed a big deal; ... fiscally it's very nearly a rounding error." The administration cites the war on terrorism as a justification for a huge military buildup, but it's apparently not important enough to justify reconsidering future tax cuts. In fact, the administration proposes another $600 billion in tax cuts. And for all the discussion of the need to defend against "asymmetric threats" -- low-tech methods used to attack a high-tech adversary -- the proposed defense buildup includes $15 billion for 70-ton artillery weapons manufactured by a subsidiary of the Carlyle Group -- virtually a Bush family enterprise. The budget also calls for investing in three different types of fighter aircraft; according to the New York Times, prior to September 11, even administration officials agreed this was too many. The inconsistency between rhetoric and reality pervades the Bush budget, as it does the administration. Despite talk of hard choices and sacrifice, the administration apparently does not want to make any choices at all when it comes to defense spending, nor will sacrifice be called for from the wealthiest Americans, many of whom are Bush contributors. The wealthiest will not only receive most of the money from tax cuts already enacted, they will receive most of the additional $600 billion (which is really more like $1 trillion when properly accounted for) of the newly proposed tax cuts.

Convicted Iran-Contra Figure to Head New Office

As John Sutherland, writing for The Guardian (UK) noted, on February 13, 2002 "The American population was instructed to panic." Undefined acts of terrorism were predicted, but none materialized, although six men on an FBI wanted list were arrested in Yemen later in the week. What did happen is that retired Admiral John Poindexter, convicted in 1990 of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and destruction of evidence in connection with the Iran-Contra affair, was appointed to head the Information Awareness Office, a new offshoot of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The IAO's job is essentially to conduct domestic electronic espionage, and "supply federal officials with 'instant' analysis on what is being written on e-mail and said on phones all over the US." During the Reagan administration, in addition to his Iran-Contra exploits, Poindexter was involved in the creation of the infamous National Security Decision Directive 145. NSDD-145 gave the Defense Department the responsibility for security of the electronic communication of classified and other sensitive information. Two years later, Poindexter tried to create a new classification for "sensitive but unclassified" information, which was widely viewed as applying to private sector Federal contractors, and perhaps even more broadly. "It took three administrations and both political parties over a decade to correct those mistakes," former Senate Judiciary Committee counsel Marc Rotenberg told the New York Times.

George Bush's delusion

guardian unlimited

A tendency among politicians to exploit the September 11 tragedy has been apparent from the very first. In Israel, Russia and China, governments were quick to use America's agony to justify the unjustifiable in Palestine, Chechnya and in Xinjiang. Pakistan's ostracised regime found in September 11 a return route to international acceptance. Its arch rival India, in its turn, used one crisis to dramatise another, in Kashmir. From Tehran to Khartoum to Harare, political leaders climbed aboard the anti-terrorism bandwagon with a view to domestic advantage as well as Washington's aid and approbation. Even Tony Blair's post-September 11 empathy offensive was not totally devoid of similar calculations.

Enron: a Metaphor for the Bush Administration

In his press conference on January 9, Ari Fleischer was asked "Can the administration say categorically that no one in the White House ever discussed Enron's financial situation with the company.?" His answer: "I'm not aware of anybody in the White House who discussed Enron's financial situation." The next day Fleischer revealed that Enron CEO Kenneth Lay had, in fact, spoken to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill on October 28 and November 8, and with Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans on October 29. According to Fleischer, Lay discussed Enron's deteriorating financial situation with O'Neill, and asked Evans to help prevent Moody's Investor's Service from downgrading Enron debt. (Lowering the rating of Enron's debt was a contributing factor in Enron's eventual bankruptcy.) Later that day Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the Justice Department's criminal investigation of Enron's collapse, which had just been announced. He was joined by the entire Houston U.S. attorney's office. As Republicans and the administration sought to spin the Enron debacle as a bipartisan scandal, the office of Representative Henry Waxman issued a report documenting the extent to which administration policies benefited Enron. Some observers pointed to the firing of FERC chairman Curtis Hébert as a clear indication of Enron influence in the White House; others noted that the Enron scandal "threatens perceptions that the right has spent decades creating."

While You Were Watching the War

On December 27 while much of the nation was on vacation, the Bush administration quietly announced a rollback of regulations that would have prevented companies with a history of environmental or safety violations from receiving government contracts. According to the Washington Post, a congressional report had identified $38 billion in contracts in one recent year, awarded to 261 corporations whose work sites were unhealthy or unsafe. Former President Clinton signed the rules into law toward the end of his term in office, eighteen months after they were drafted, and several months after a report by the Associated Press showed that hundreds of vendors and service providers were technically eligible to receive contracts, despite convictions or lawsuits on charges including fraud. "To ordinary citizens who play by the rules every day, the Bush administration has said that it's OK for corporations that violate the law to be rewarded with millions of taxpayer dollars," an AFL-CIO spokesperson told the Associated Press. To the delight of the right, rolling back the regulations represented a simultaneous slap in the face to labor and environmentalists. Environmental groups largely fell silent after September 11. Meanwhile, hiding behind the fog of war and the banner of partisanship disguised as patriotism, the administration quietly promoted exploitation of labor and the environment by its big-business cronies.

Der Tagesspiegel - Andreas Von Bulow Interview

by Stephan Lebert and Norbert Thomma

"There are tracks like those of a stampeding herd of elephants."

The first suspicion came to him when he was in the German Parliament. Intelligence agencies were his theme. Andreas von Bülow believes them capable of the worst: involvement in the attacks on New York

He was Minister for Research and Technology in the cabinet of [former German Chancellor] Helmut Schmidt, and was for 25 years an SPD member of the German parliament. While serving on a committee investigating the Schalck-Golodkowski affair [a corruption scandal involving the former East German intelligence service] Andreas von Bülow, 64, experienced the work of intelligence agencies, and subsequently wrote a book on this subject, Im Namen des Staates (In the Name of the State). Von Bülow is currently a lawyer in Bonn.

Education Bill Arrives 'Not With a Bang but a Whimper'

At a public school in Hamilton, Ohio, today, Dubya signed into law an education bill that was one of his key campaign promises. "As of this hour, America's schools will be on a new path of reform and a new path of results," Bush said. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said the bill "will launch a new era of American education." After Senate passage of the bill in mid-December Bush proclaimed, "These historic reforms will improve our public schools by creating an environment where every child can learn...." In reality, the bill is what the Boston Globe called "an evolutionary move down a path that education has taken for more than a decade." Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy agreed. "This is not a new bill," he said. "It's like many political changes: It's an evolution, not a revolution." Educators around the country questioned the ability of the federal government to communicate provisions of the law to state and local organizations, and to integrate it with existing accountability mechanisms. Others noted that key provisions were logistically impossible in many urban and rural school systems.

Pentagon Media Blackout Hid Afghan Civilian Deaths

On January 5, the death of Nathan Ross Chapman, the first uniformed American soldier killed by hostile fire in the war in Afghanistan, received wide coverage in the mainstream media. (Johnny "Mike" Spann, killed November 25 in a Taliban prison uprising, was a CIA operative.) Relatively unnoticed, however, was a report by University of New Hampshire professor Marc Herold, which charges that the U.S. military killed an average of 62 Afghan civilians per day between October 6 and December 7, 2001. U.S. mainstream media, according to Herold, has for the most part accepted Pentagon casualty information. Reports of civilian casualties usually receive the qualification that "the report cannot be independently verified." Herold's research demonstrates that information distributed by the Pentagon could be checked against non-U.S. sources with relative ease using web sites of foreign journals and organizations. His data derive from a wide range of non-U.S. media and organizational sources, including The Times of India, the Guardian (UK), Agence France Presse, and the BBC.


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