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Impeach Bush

BBC warns Minister it will sue
Sunday Herald

Intelligence hit back: 'No 10 did sex up dossier and claims that they didn't are utter rubbish'
By Torcuil Crichton and Neil Mackay

The BBC has issued a stark warning to Alastair Campbell that it will sue him if he repeats his allegations that its journalist Andrew Gilligan lied over claims  that Downing Street “sexed up’ a dossier on Iraq´s banned weapons.

In a defiant signal that the corporation will not be cowed, intimidated or bullied by Number 10 in its increasingly bitter war of words over the Iraq war, the BBC has also authorised its defence correspondent to threaten legal action against a Labour MP who claims that he misled a Commons inquiry.

In a separate development, a senior intelligence officer, who previously briefed the Sunday Herald that the government had misled the public and parliament, last night strongly rebutted Campbell´s denial that he spun the case for war.

“I previously said that there was absolute scepticism among British intelligence over the case for the invasion of Iraq. That is still the case. Campbell´s claims that the dossier wasn´t sexed up are utter rubbish.’

Andrew Gilligan, the BBC journalist who reported that Campbell had “sexed up’ a 45-minute attack warning on weapons of mass destruction, is set to sue Labour MP Phil Woolas over claims he misled a Commons committee. The move has the full backing of the BBC Director General Greg Dyke, who came to the barricades with his senior managers to defend the corporation´s reputation over the accusations.

“Basically, we´re pretty fed up with this bullying and we want to put a stop to it,’ said a senior BBC insider. “We´re fed up of the intimidation and we will sue if Woolas doesn´t retract.

“If we could sue Campbell we would too, but he has been careful to make his statements under privilege while giving evidence to the foreign affairs committee.’

Campbell, the Prime Minister´s communications director, lashed out at the BBC last Wednesday accusing the corporation of having an anti-war agenda and Gilligan of lying in a report that alleged British security officials were unhappy with the way intelligence material was being twisted by Campbell to present the case for war.

Campbell´s attack, made while giving evidence under legal privilege to a Commons inquiry into the reasons for the war, was followed by an exchange of angry letters between himself and the BBC. Campbell is demanding an apology from the BBC and an admission that Gilligan´s story was wrong.

The BBC, fully expecting further attacks from the government´s heavy guns over the weekend, sent out a message last night that it would not be stepping back from the battle.

Although Gilligan would sue Phil Woolas, the deputy leader of the Commons, in a private capacity, the BBC made it clear that he would be backed all the way.

“The letter was issued on BBC paper, through the BBC press office and action would be paid for by the BBC,’ said a senior corporation source. Gilligan wrote to Woolas last night accusing him of the “blatant misrepresentation and selective quotation of my evidence’.

He added: “I now require a full apology and retraction of your claims which were widely reported on Friday morning, are entirely unsupported by evidence and were clearly intended to blacken my character.

“In the absence of this I will have no option but to put the matter in the hands of my lawyers. I should make clear that I write this letter with the full knowledge and support of the BBC.’

The thrust of Phil Woolas´s allegations against Gilligan, written on Thursday, is that Gilligan misled the Foreign Affairs Committee by claiming that he only reported on his source´s allegations.

Last night Woolas said he had not received a letter from the BBC. Far from being apologetic, he was furious.

“The BBC is behaving like a minor opposition party, not like a public corporation. Andrew Gilligan has not responded to the points I raised, or heard the conclusions of the committee, but if the BBC wants to play politics they are welcome.

“If the public is unhappy with me they can sack me, but to whom is the BBC accountable?’

The Battle of the Beeb will be joined again tomorrow when Campbell intends to issue another withering rebuttal to the BBC´s response to his initial questions over its ethics and reporting.

Public trust in Tony Blair has fallen to 36% of the population, according to a Mori poll for today´s News of the World. According to the survey of 1000 voters, Blair is doubted by 58%, a big slip on a similar survey in October 2000. Conservatives and Labour are tied at 35% support in the poll with the Lib Dems on 19%.

The BBC is not alone

The Sunday Herald reported on June 8 that Operation Rockingham, a dirty tricks operation run by British intelligence, was designed to cherry-pick information to produce a misleading picture that Saddam had WMD. Rockingham also ignored intelligence pointing towards Iraq disposing of stockpiles. Its existence was confirmed by former UN weapons inspector and intelligence officer Scott Ritter. The Sunday Times also reported that a dossier was altered before publication, in a deal which would include Tony Blair's assertion that Saddam posed 'a serious threat to UK national interests'.

Former Cabinet minister Clare Short told The Sunday Telegraph: 'The suggestion that there was the risk of chemical and biological weapons being weaponised and threatening us was spin. That didn't come from the security services'.

©2003 smg sunday newspapers ltd. no.176088. all rights reserved.

Commentary:
Isn't it interesting how REAL journalists deal with government propaganda that is proven false? The BBC attacks. The US media roles over and plays dead.


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Once again No 10 attacks the media when the spin begins to unravel
Sunday Herald
June 29, 2003

What we think

You have to worry for a Government that thinks it can distract attention from its own foreign policy 'Horlicks' by bullying the country's leading broadcaster and one journalist in particular. You have to ask why the government has taken a month since the report in question was first broadcast to build itself into a furious indignation over the issue. You have to ask if it is smart politics for us to see Foreign Secretary Jack Straw being publicly -- humiliatingly -- told in a note passed to him to change his testimony while before a Commons committee, in order to maintain the Prime Minister's spokesman's version of events surrounding compilation of the Iraq dossiers. You have to wonder if the awkward questions about the justification for the Iraq war keep hitting a governmental raw nerve, and whether, in response to that, the apparatus of government around Tony Blair is unravelling before our eyes.

The problem for Blair and his communications chief Alastair Campbell is that they are facing tougher opposition at home than they did in the Iraqi desert. While the American media has been too often supine, opting for patriotism and ratings over appropriate professional scepticism, the UK media -- along with some MPs upholding the best traditions of parliament -- have been dogged in asking awkward questions. Downing Street seems much less concerned by attacks in the print media and instead, when under scrutiny and pressure from a House of Commons Select Committee hearing, it tried to deflect criticism by homing in its attack on Andrew Gilligan of BBC Radio Four's Today programme. It says much about the power of the media and the BBC in particular that Downing Street cares so deeply about bullying it into submission. It demonstrates the extent to which the Today programme studio has become a vital debating forum for the nation, in which the government apparently feels it has insufficient control. Campbell should at least take some perverse pleasure from joining the dishonourable tradition of politicians -- in his case unelected -- trying to intimidate the BBC. That now puts him up there with Norman Tebbit, Margaret Thatcher's 'semi-house trained polecat'.

It should be noted there is no coincidence that politicians of different parties attack the BBC. It is susceptible to pressure because the government has the power over renewal of its charter, and because its licence fee funding is increasingly difficult to defend in a multi-channel TV environment. Politicians, and particularly government politicians, know to exert pressure where they have leverage. The BBC is used to seeing it happen, and has a tough job in maintaining its independence, defending its journalists and journalism, and maintaining its integrity. That integrity was in doubt when Blair put in charge of the BBC chairman Gavyn Davies and director-general Greg Dyke, who were attacked on their appointment for being cronies of the Labour Party leadership and contributors to party funds. But in the past few days of pressure, the response from the BBC has been admirably robust, from top to bottom.

The BBC also has a leadership role in the UK media. It is by far the largest news-gathering organisation, and is collectively the dominant, most influential media outlet. So although Downing Street seeks to pressurise one journalist and one radio programme, the attempt to intimidate is being made against the rest of us. When Alastair Campbell expresses his outrage that the story in question was based on only one source, he forgets that numerous other stories have come from him as only one, uncorroborated source, or from the Prime Minister and other ministers. In a country such as Britain, with such an opaque government, that is often what journalists have to rely upon, and in challenging that, big issues are at stake -- issues of journalists' independence, and of trust.

What the spat boils down to is a simple question: do you trust the government and the Prime Minister's spokesman in particular, or do you trust the BBC? It is reminiscent of a question Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath asked during the miners' strike of 1974: who runs the country? On that occasion, the electorate answered with their votes: 'well, you don't any more, Ted'. And by posing the same sort of challenge, with politicians' and spin doctors' stock having fallen a long way in 29 years, the government may find that the faith placed in the BBC comes a long way above that placed in politicians -- and particularly those who are struggling very obviously to dig themselves out of a very large Iraqi hole.

Through all this, we are in the business of defending the independence of British journalism, but not in the business of defending the BBC (they are quite capable of doing that themselves). We remain open to the possibility that Campbell and the government are right, in that the report by the BBC was wrong. Maybe it was even a knowing lie. If so, Campbell is right to say the corporation should be big enough to apologise. But what then? The dossier evidence on which the government went to war still contains the substantial flaws, distortions, forgeries and plagiarism that Campbell admitted to last week. If it was not Downing Street that exaggerated intelligence briefings for public consumption, then the intelligence briefings themselves were unreliable. Or is what lies behind this nothing to do with the BBC and everything to do with Downing Street trying to shift the blame on to the intelligence services?

At least getting this diversionary tactic behind us would have the benefit of a return to the big questions. Why did Britain take part in an apparently illegal war to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, when it seems there were no such weapons and the coalition forces have all but given up looking for them? What precisely are Britain and the United States doing to bring stability to Iraq? And what is their exit plan if that is not achieved? Perhaps Mr Campbell would like to use his communication skills to provide some answers.

Or then again maybe Tony Blair and his chief advisor, Campbell, watched in awe how the US media has covered the war and wondered why Britain can't also have uncritical journalists (in times of war) as cheerleaders for 'our boys'. The winner of the TV ratings war in the US during the war in Iraq was the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox TV. Their coverage, led at one point by disgraced ex-White House aide to Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, was little short of a mouthpiece for George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. In an attempt to punish the BBC last week, the Prime Minister at a press conference refused to take questions from BBC reporters. Instead he chose to talk to Murdoch's Sky TV. However much Downing Street bullies, we at this newspaper will continue to support the BBC in its quest to establish the truth about the reasons for going to war, and the arguments over the so-called dodgy dossier. These are issues too important to be left to the whims, mood-swings and bullying of an unelected Alastair Campbell.

29 June 2003

©2003 smg sunday newspapers ltd. no.176088. all rights reserved.

Commentary:
Bravo to the BBC. Here's the most damning line against the Blair spin doctor: "You have to ask why the government has taken a month since the report in question was first broadcast to build itself into a furious indignation over the issue." Let them spin until the bring the government down. It is the fate that awaits GW.


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Soldiers fear they're acting illegally
Sunday Herald
By Trevor Royle and Neil Mackay
June 29,2003

BRITISH soldiers fear they could be acting illegally while serving in Iraq and could face war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court. Their fears are exacerbated by the row in Britain over whether or not the government exaggerated the threat from Saddam Hussein to persuade the nation to support military action.

Soldiers believe that if the government did lie, or misrepresent the case for war, then the occupation and any actions taken by serving soldiers in the Gulf would be illegal and could leave them open to prosecution.

British officers and squaddies are concerned that there are no clear rules of engagement for dealing with civilians and that firing on civilian rioters could see them charged with war crimes. Last week, six British soldiers were killed in Majar al-Kabir by Iraqi rioters after using baton rounds to defend themselves.

A senior military source told the Sunday Herald that British operations in Iraq were a grey area which has not been cleared up to the Army's satisfaction.

'The International Criminal Court has the power to bring to trial individual soldiers and their commanders if there is evidence that a war crime has been committed against a civilian,' the source said.

'While this is unlikely, as we have our own system of checks and balances, it does concern our guys, as it is often impossible to differentiate between armed civilians and soldiers.

'Now that we're in the peace making phase, the problems are more acute and the issue is becoming more blurred.'

His fears chime with those of Stephen Solley QC, an international human rights lawyer, who warned before the invasion of Iraq that 'no-one has made a legal case for war'.

British soldiers moved back into the town of Majar al-Kabir yesterday. Some 50 light and heavy armoured vehicles moved into the town as four attack helicopters hovered overhead. The soldiers were met by a group of Shia clerics and prominent town officials in a peaceful ceremony aimed at putting the acrimony in the past and quelling Iraqi concerns that the British planned to take revenge on the town for their comrades' deaths.

Meanwhile, two American soldiers who had been missing for a number of days from their checkpoint north of Baghdad were found dead yesterday. Their bodies were discovered 20 miles north-west of the Iraqi capital.

29 June 2003

©2003 smg sunday newspapers ltd. no.176088. all rights reserved.

Commentary:
I suppose we can see now why Bush wanted US troops and himself to be exempt from war crimes. He knew the US (and the Brits) were going to engage in war crimes under his watch. Not good. Of course there are repercussions for doing the right thing. Bush is withholding aid to countries that continue to believe in the "rule of law." The best way to stay out of war crimes tribunals is to not commit war crimes. The followers of Bush are too stupid or too programmed to understand the easy stuff.


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Consumer confidence erodes in June
CNN/Money
June 27, 2003: 10:10 AM EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumers were slightly less optimistic about the economy in June, according to a University of Michigan report seen by market sources Friday, as the job market stayed stagnant and a stocks rally faded.

In its final reading of consumer sentiment, the sources said the university's index fell to 89.7 during June, compared with a preliminary reading of 87.2 and May's final figure of 92.1. Economists polled by Reuters had expected, on average, that the figure would slip to 87.3.

The current conditions index rose to 94.7 in June against May's final figure of 93.2. But the future expectations component deteriorated, hitting 86.4 against May's 91.4.

Michigan's gauge was largely in line with a survey released Tuesday by the Conference Board, a private New York business group. The Conference Board's index showed that sentiment toward the economy's current state had also waned in June, but consumers were increasingly expectant that the business activity would rebound within six months.

Bellwether U.S. stock indexes surged after the end of the war in Iraq but have stalled recently as signs of an economic revival remain tentative. The moribund labor market has shown no sign of turning around and economic growth has not accelerated sufficiently to create new jobs.   

Copyright 2003 Reuters All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

Commentary:
The economy always fixes itself, no matter how bad a presidents policies are. This economy too will be better SOME day, but with any luck not until after Americans have figure out that borrowing money and giving it away is 100% immoral

Supporters of Bush's borrow and give-away policy (otherwise called a tax cut by the media) need to remember that deficits are unpaid taxes and Bush is the king of deficits. Which also makes him the King of Taxes.


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House refuses to expand Iraq intelligence probes
SFGate.com
Edward Epstein, Chronicle Washington Bureau
June 27, 2003

Washington -- The House has turned its back on proposals by Bay Area Democratic Reps.

Barbara Lee and Ellen Tauscher to expand investigations into whether the Bush administration twisted intelligence information to make the case for a war against Iraq.

The two Democrats' proposals were part of the House's debate this week over reauthorizing 13 intelligence agencies and came amid ongoing investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees into what led up to the war in Iraq.

The proposals by Lee of Oakland and Tauscher of Walnut Creek were opposed by the bipartisan leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, who are wading through thousands of documents and promise at some point to hold public hearings.

Democrats, including many seeking the party's presidential nomination, have turned the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq into a campaign issue. They charge that President Bush drew the most dire conclusions he could from intelligence -- that in fact was less damning -- to force a war to bring down Saddam Hussein.

Lee proposed the General Accounting Office investigate whether U.S. intelligence agencies withheld information from United Nations inspectors who were in Iraq seeking banned chemical or biological weapons. The proposal was defeated 239-185 on Thursday in the House of Representatives.

"Our president told the American people, the Congress and the world that inspections had failed, that Iraq unquestionably possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that these weapons posed such a dire threat to the United States that we had no choice but to go to war," Lee said on the House floor.

"All other options, he said, had been exhausted. But, the question we must continue to ask is, were those options truly exhausted? Were they, in fact, fully pursued?"

But House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., opposed Lee's idea as "unnecessary."

Goss said U.S. intelligence may have overwhelmed the U.N. inspectors.

"We shared a lot of information with the United Nations. In fact, more than they could handle. . . . We gave them good information," he said.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, echoing comments by Bush, said critics like Lee and Tauscher "are engaging in revisionist history. It's not resonating with the country," he told reporters.

Tauscher proposed the House create a 15-member special committee to look into "collection, analysis and use" of intelligence before the war. But the idea didn't even get a vote after the House Rules Committee ruled it out of order.

So Tauscher, who unlike Lee voted for the resolution in October that authorized Bush to go to war against Iraq, introduced her idea Thursday as a stand-alone bill.

She wants the special panel to see whether intelligence information really proved that Iraq constituted an imminent threat to the United States, as the administration argued, and to show what information the White House had of Iraqi links to al Qaeda.

"The issue is beyond the scope of the Intelligence Committee," Tauscher said. "We have to be sure our intelligence is providing an accurate view . . . and we need to understand what is being done to intelligence to fit a preconceived position."

But the Intelligence Committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Jane Harman, D- Rancho Palos Verdes (Los Angeles County), said the panel can do the job without a new, special body being appointed.

"It seems we are the right committee to do this," said Harman, who noted the CIA has turned over thousands of documents for study. "We have agreed to hold public hearings as appropriate, and I hope the first one will be in July."

Under House rules, members who sign a confidentiality agreement are free to go to the committee's secure rooms in the Capitol and read the secret documents for themselves. But given the sheer volume, it would take months to read through them.

"Should we hit a wall, it may be time for another committee or a special committee to take over," added Harman.

E-mail Edward Epstein at eepstein@sfchronicle.com

©2003 San Francisco Chronicle

Commentary:
In Britain the government is in serious trouble because of three things; 1) they have a real opposition party 2) Blair's Party isn't keen to him lying to them and 3) they have a media that demands the government tell the truth. All three are missing in the US.


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Sodomy Ruling May Nullify Parts of Patriot Act
SFGate.com
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
June 27, 2003

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision Thursday to strike down a California child molesting law may have also overturned part of a federal terrorism law.

Like the California law, a section of the USA Patriot Act changes the statute of limitations for certain crimes -- in this case, a variety of terrorism-related offenses -- and allows charges to be filed after the deadline under the previous law has expired. For the same reason that the state law didn't pass constitutional muster, the Patriot Act provision on terrorist suspects is likely doomed as well.

The court said the 1994 state law, which allowed prosecution of decades-old molestation cases, was unconstitutional because it allowed defendants to be charged beyond the deadline that was in effect when the alleged crime occurred.

No other state has a law like California's, but there is a comparable provision in the USA Patriot Act, passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The provision repealed all deadlines for prosecuting terrorist crimes that carry a risk of death or serious injury, ranging from chemical and biological weapons attacks to malicious property damage. Like the California molesting law, it was drafted to apply retroactively to cases in which the previous statute of limitations had expired.

Citing the Patriot Act, the Bush administration filed written arguments urging the Supreme Court to uphold the California molesting law.

"The decision in this case could affect the constitutionality of a recent act of Congress and constrict Congress' authority to enact similar legislation, " Justice Department lawyers said in a brief this February.

The Supreme Court did not mention the Patriot Act in Thursday's ruling, but the basis of the decision -- that a prosecution after the expiration of the statute of limitations was unfair and would amount to retroactive punishment --

appears to apply equally to the federal law.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said the department was reviewing the ruling and declined further comment on the case. He said he knew of no prosecutions to date under the disputed section of the Patriot Act.

E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com

©2003 San Francisco Chronicle

Commentary:
The entire Patriot Act will be found unconstitutional at some point. It's only a matter of time before the court gets off its collective butt and starts defending the Constitution from these fascists in Congress and the White House. I won't hold my breath though...the Court is made up of mostly fascists and neo-cons too. All it takes is one swing vote from O'Connor and the Patriot Act will die. I can't imagine there's a majority willing to rewrite the Constitution so completely without using an amendment.


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Gay Rights and the Right Wing
USA Today
By Mimi Hall and Andrea Stone
Updated 6/27/2003 12:23 AM

WASHINGTON — Conservative activists, outraged by a Supreme Court decision on gay sex that they called another assault on traditional values, said Thursday that their troops are galvanized and will increase pressure on President Bush to nominate conservative replacements for any justices who retire during his presidency.

"The White House should take note of the fact that four of the six justices making this decision were appointed by Republican presidents," Gary Bauer of American Values said. "A conservative, pro-family president must be extremely careful to make sure that any appointments he makes will defend traditional values."

The high court's 6-3 ruling striking down a Texas law banning gay sex promoted a flood of reaction from like-minded groups.

Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family complained that the court has "lifted the boundaries that prevent sexual chaos in our culture." Concerned Women for America said the court had declared "a right to sexual perversion."

But in Washington, where Republicans run the executive and legislative branches of government, reaction was subdued.

At the White House, there was no reaction at all.

Asked for President Bush's response to the ruling, spokesman Ari Fleischer pointed out that the administration did not file a brief on behalf of either side. "This is now a state matter," he said.

On Capitol Hill, where members of Congress were focused on Medicare on Thursday, many lawmakers declined to comment. And some leading conservatives dismissed the decision's impact, saying justices were ruling on privacy rights, not on public policy such as gay marriage. "No one is putting a stamp of approval on homosexual or any other kind of behavior," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.

Political analysts said Republicans might feel greater political pressure to oppose laws that favor gay rights and to promote conservative judicial nominees. But if there is any serious political impact, they said, it would hit Democrats on Election Day.

"Conservatives will talk about it as another example of the decline in Western civilization, which helps to stir up conservative Christians to get them to the polls," said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.

Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg said, "The political benefit often actually turns to the losing side because their supporters are just so outraged ... that they say, 'We have to do something.' "

Democrats made it clear that they'll use the ruling to try to paint Republicans as intolerant.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who is gay, warned that Bush could replace moderate justices who retire or die with conservatives in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia, who denounced the ruling for furthering the "homosexual agenda." Bush could "undo all the good that was done today," Frank said.

Democratic presidential contenders echoed that warning. Said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.: "This ruling reminds us how important the Supreme Court is and why we must stand up against Bush administration attempts to add a radical appointee to the court who will roll back equal rights."

Contributing: Jim Drinkard

Commentary:
Real conservatives don't care what people do in the privacy of their homes. The neo-nut wants a nanny government, running everything we do from cradle to grave. The right to privacy is here to stay. Neo-nuts have to get used to it. Less government used to mean less government, now it all depends on the meaning of the word "less."


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Survey finds 'grueling year' and fiscal woes for states
CNN
Thursday, June 26, 2003 Posted: 12:52 PM EDT (1652 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It's been a "grueling year" financially for states, according to a survey released Thursday, which reports many of the nation's governors have turned to spending cuts and tax increases in an attempt to balance the books.

The lackluster economy continues to bedevil state governments, and many have trimmed a variety of programs in education, Medicaid and public safety, according to the Fiscal Survey of the States, released by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers. This is the third year in a row that the survey has painted a bleak picture of state finances.

"In this report, we find the fiscal condition in the states has not improved; balancing states budgets continues to be a difficult exercise," Scott Pattison, NASBO's executive director, said in a written statement.

In one sign of the difficult economic times, 37 states reduced already enacted budgets by almost $14.5 billion, which the organizations called the largest spending cut in the survey's 27-year history.

Also, governors in 29 states proposed tax and fee increases for fiscal year 2004, for a total tax hike of $17.5 billion. And that is the largest such hike since 1979, according to the survey. The tax and fee increases targeted, among other things, nursing homes, hotels, motor fuel, cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol and the personal incomes tax.

The survey reported that governors used a variety of tactics to keep their governments afloat.

• Twenty-eight states turned to across-the-board cuts.

• Twenty-two states drew from their rainy day funds.

• Seventeen states laid off employees

• Eight states offered early retirement.

Other states reported refinancing state debts, hiring freezes and deferred payments as a means of keeping their financial houses in order.

Overall, state spending grew by 0.3 percent in fiscal 2003 and is expected to fall to 0.1 percent next year.

One particular strain on state budgets cited by the survey was growth in Medicaid, a joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor. Governors reported increased state costs for pharmaceuticals, but, at the same time, program cuts are being made to manage state budgets

"The reality is that poor women and children are either experiencing a reduction in benefits or are being removed from the rolls altogether," Ray Scheppach, executive director of the NGA, said in a statement.

The survey was based on state budget data compiled during the spring of 2003

Commentary:
There are other stories on the Net saying cities and states are pulling back on Fourth of July celebrations because they can't afford to do it anymore. Isn't it amazing how easy it was to be a republican governor during the Clinton years? These republicans took credit for the booming economy under Clinton, and on top of that gave money away instead of saving it for a rainy day. If your state is raising taxes or cutting back, get rid of those in power during the 90's, regardless of party. They didn't save your money.


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Targeting Lobbyists Pays Off For GOP
By Jim VandeHei and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 26, 2003; Page A01

Nearly a decade after Republicans launched a campaign to oust Democrats from top lobbying jobs in Washington, sometimes through intimidation and private threats, they are seizing a significant number of the most influential positions at trade associations and corporate government affairs offices -- and reaping big financial rewards.

Partly because of the "K Street Project" -- and partly because of GOP control of Congress and the presidency -- virtually every major company or trade association looking for new top-level representation is hiring or seeking to hire a prominent Republican politician or staffer, according to Republicans and Democrats tracking the situation.

This year, General Electric, Comcast, Citigroup and many other Fortune 500 companies have hired Bush administration officials and former GOP congressional advisers for top lobbying posts. A Republican National Committee official recently told a group of GOP lobbyists that 33 of 36 top-level Washington positions he is monitoring went to Republicans, according to someone who attended the meeting.

The trend could deeply influence Washington politics, policy and fundraising for years. Already in control of the White House and Congress, Republicans are tightening their grip on the largely unseen but vital world of big-time lobbying. Lobbyists for major trade groups not only represent clients' interests but also play key roles in political fundraising and often help shape legislation.

The K Street project -- named for the Washington corridor thick with lobbying firms -- also is planting a new crop of Republican lobbyists rich enough to give back to the party in the years ahead.

The list of prominent organizations with Republican representatives could soon grow. The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association is looking to replace its retiring president, Thomas Wheeler -- who has Democratic credentials -- with conservative Rep. Charles "Chip" W. Pickering (R-Miss.).

Pickering has the backing of a group of two dozen GOP lobbyists. He would earn about $750,000 a year if he takes the job, according to people familiar with the situation.

Hollywood's two premier trade associations -- the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America -- are strongly considering replacing their current leaders, who are liberals, with prominent Republicans.

Officials at the motion picture association have privately told Republicans they want a Republican to run the organization if President Jack Valenti, a former aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson, steps down this year as expected.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.), considered by many as a leading candidate for the job, yesterday said he would seek reelection next fall. Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) was mentioned by several Republicans as a possible successor to Valenti, although he has denied he is interested in the job.

Former representative Susan Molinari (N.Y.) is among several Republicans up for the recording industry's CEO position, currently held by Democrat Hilary B. Rosen, according to several sources. Dreier was approached about the job but said he isn't interested.

This trend worries Democrats, who say it gives Republicans both an unfair legislative and fundraising advantage. Former representative Tony Coehlo (D-Calif.), who aggressively targeted business in Congress in the 1980s, said Republicans are "going too far" by pressuring companies to hire Republicans only and threatening retribution to those who disobey.

"They've put the fear of God in these businesses and few of them are able to withstand it," Coehlo said. Indeed, several top officials at trade associations and corporate offices said privately that Republicans have created a culture in Washington in which companies fear hiring Democrats for top jobs, even if they are the most qualified.

Republicans have done this with a few, well-publicized warnings to companies they felt were too cozy with Democrats. The most famous and ominous warning came in 1998 from then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). The two leaders held up a vote on intellectual property legislation in protest of the Electronics Industry Association's plan to hire a Democrat to run the group. The House ethics committee admonished DeLay for his tactics in the incident. It was a slap on the wrist by congressional ethics standards, and Republicans say that was a small price to pay for the fear it put in companies thinking about hiring a Democrat.

Late last year, Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) and his top aides pressured the Investment Company Institute, a consortium of mutual fund companies, to push aside Julie Domenick as its top lobbyist. Oxley's staff suggested to industry officials that a congressional probe of the mutual fund industry might ease up if ICI complied.

ICI did not fire Domenick but recently announced that Daniel Crowley, a former top House aide, was hired to serve as chief government affairs officer, reporting to Domenick. Democrats are pushing the ethics committee to investigate the matter.

A few months before the Oxley incident, the Senate ethics committee warned that a separate GOP campaign to track the political affiliation and campaign contributions of lobbyists could violate Senate rules if Republicans used the information to deny access to Democrats. Once again, the message that the GOP is watching was heard loud and clear on K Street, several lobbyists said.

"I am hearing of a lot of pressure, and it's not subtle," said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who has told lobbyists to call him if they feel Republicans are coming down too hard on their organization. But Hoyer conceded it will be hard to thwart the K Street Project.

In most cases, the Republican campaign is much more subtle than the EIA or Oxley incidents suggest. Here's how it typically works, according to congressional insiders: Several GOP leaders, including Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.), monitor openings on K Street with officials of the RNC and GOP lobbyists.

When lobbyists meet every other week with Santorum, for instance, one item on the agenda is plum jobs opening up around town. They research what the company or trade association is looking for and how much the job pays, and discuss possible Republican candidates.

This part of the process often involves a phone call to Nels Olsen, of Korn/Ferry International, the world's largest executive search firm. Olsen handles most of the blue-chip lobbying job openings in town. It also involves lobbyists lobbying members of Congress and the administration to leave their public-sector jobs.

"A week hasn't gone by that I haven't talked to someone in the administration and Congress, telling them we want to put them on the list for a certain job," a prominent GOP lobbyist involved in the project said.

Once a candidate is picked for a job, Republicans sometimes get fellow GOP lawmakers or government officials to weigh in on behalf of the candidate. Typically, a GOP lobbyist is tapped to monitor each opening until it is filled. A RNC staffer keeps a running tally of which jobs go Republican, according to a GOP lobbyist involved in the effort.

While the K Street Project dates to 1995 and the speakership of Gingrich, it wasn't until President Bush won the White House and Republicans the House and Senate that companies started scrambling to hire prominent conservatives.

"We're making progress on K Street because the times they are a-changin,' " said Dan Cohen, a GOP lobbyist involved in the project. "When Newt called for a change on K Street, it was too soon -- the dynamics were not in place."

The trickle-down effect also benefits the GOP because Republicans tend to hire more Republicans for lower-paying positions, which often fetch at least $175,000 or more annually.

That means big money for Republicans -- in more than one way.

Since 1995, when Republicans launched the effort to oust Democrats, there has been a dramatic swing in corporate contributions to the GOP. While this swing is mostly attributable to Bush and the GOP's takeover of Congress, the lobbyists have played an instrumental role in expanding the party's fundraising base by advising clients to steer their money away from Democrats. It "translates into a lack of money for Democrats," Coehlo lamented.

Before Republicans won control of the House in 1994, they received about 40 percent of business contributions. Now they get 60 percent or more, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the shift is ending a "disconnect" in which Democratic lobbyists persuaded companies to give to Democrats.

Moreover, by placing Republicans in these high-paying jobs, a whole new class of wealthy donors has been created. Most high-level lobbying jobs pay at least $300,000 per year, and some lobbyists are pulling down two or three times that amount annually.

Dan Mattoon -- who left the National Republican Congressional Committee a few years ago to partner with Democrat Tony Podesta to represent several corporations -- and his wife contributed $90,000 in the last election, with almost all of it going to GOP candidates.

"There is a recognition that Republicans are in a position to continue to control both houses of Congress for the next 10 years, and the K Street community should be reflective" of the party with power, Mattoon said.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

The conservative Supreme Court says money is free speech, which of course flies in the face of all bribery laws. If money is free speech, then how is that we have a crime called bribery? When the government is owned and run for the common good again our democracy may return. But I don't see it happening soon. Those who give money get the most back. It 100% pure corruption of our political system and our democracy. It may even be why the press is so unwilling to force Bush to tell the truth. The media is owned by powerful corporations and they're getting their taxes cuts (using borrowed money). Why would the media cut the hand that's feeding it?

The Courts seem intent on keeping the current crop of corrupt politicians in power.


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Task Force 20 was in Iraq before the war
ABC News.com
By Martha Raddatz
June 20, 2003

June 20— Secret teams of special U.S. forces — part of what's called Task Force 20 — are now searching for Saddam Hussein. They are convinced that the former Iraqi leader is likely alive — and still in Iraq.

"There is increasing evidence reflected in some of the signals, intelligence that he is alive," said ABCNEWS consultant Vincent Cannistraro, former CIA counterterrorism chief. "And then there is the purported letter that he's written to an Arabic-language newspaper in England which appears to be authentic — that it is Saddam writing the letter."

The belief that Saddam is alive is a turnaround for U.S. officials — and that change raises questions about the reliability of prior intelligence.

Many officials were convinced that the Iraqi dictator was killed the first night of the war or, if not then, several weeks later when a B-1 bomber dropped four 2,000-pound bombs on a Baghdad residence.

Special forces teams have been successful in finding other Iraqi fugitives, nabbing Saddam's most trusted aide, Gen. Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti (No. 4 on the Bush administration's list of most-wanted Iraqi fugitives) earlier this week.

Hoping for a Breakthrough

Task Force 20 was in Iraq well before the war began, conducting surveillance. The team later was involved in the capture of two top Iraqi scientists — "Mrs. Anthrax," Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, and "Dr. Germ," Rihab Rashida Taha. The secret team took part in the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, and the seizure of huge caches of conventional weapons.

But the task force has had no success in finding evidence of chemical or biological weapons, which it began seeking even before the war officially began. Trying to find Saddam may prove equally frustrating.

"Unless we get a sudden breakthrough, either through human intelligence, or Saddam makes a very serious mistake in the way he communicates, we can't find an individual or know where he is at any given moment," said ABCNEWS military consultant Anthony Cordesman.

And U.S. officials have learned the hard way —even "reliable" intelligence can turn out to be wrong.

Copyright © 2003 ABCNEWS Internet Ventures.

Commentary:
There's not a lot in this story but I wanted it in the record that the US had forces on the ground in Iraq for a very long time and they were trained in finding WMD. So while Bush was claiming he had all this evidence, the UN and US forces couldn't verity a single word of it. Task Force 20 has to be questioned by the Congress. What did the president know and when didn't he know it?


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