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Impeach Bush

CBO projects worst budget shortfall in history
SFGate.com/AP
JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer
August 25, 2003

The federal government faces another record deficit in 2004 -- possibly as high as $500 billion -- and will have a tough time trying to carve out a surplus while the country is saddled with the rising twin costs of war and homeland security.

The Congressional Budget Office is expected to issue a forecast Tuesday that would likely put the federal deficit for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 at near $500 billion, Democrats said. That would be up from the record $401 billion the nonpartisan budget analysts have projected for this year.

The estimate could exceed $500 billion if the war and rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are included, they said.

In its last budget estimates in March, the CBO predicted that the deficit would be $246 billion this year, but would move gradually back toward the black and result in an accumulated surplus of $891 billion in the 2004-2013 period. But the latest figures, reflecting the rising costs of the military campaign in Iraq, are certain to be more pessimistic.

Even before the report was released, congressional Democrats on Monday argued that the CBO numbers underestimate the coming deficits because the office generally does not anticipate future changes in spending policy.

The Bush administration's drive to pass new tax cuts and make existing tax breaks permanent, coupled with efforts to give seniors a Medicare prescription drug benefit and meet sharply rising defense costs, will eliminate the possibility for a return to surpluses in the next decade, they said.

"It is clear that these estimates will provide yet more evidence of the nation's fiscal deterioration under the irresponsible tax cut and spending policies of the Bush administration," said Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.

The Budget Committee Democrats said their analysis shows that the deficit will hit $495 billion in 2004, and will never go below $300 billion in the 2004-2013 period, reaching a total over the decade of $3.7 trillion.

If money from the Social Security surpluses now being used to pay for other federal programs is not factored in, the decade-long deficit will be $6.3 trillion, they said.

Sean Spicer, spokesman for House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, disputed the Democratic conclusions, saying Republicans do have a blueprint for getting the budget back in balance. He said the keys were promoting a strong economic recovery and controlling federal spending and "we're trying to do both."

The Bush administration has blamed the swift reversal from budget surpluses to perennial deficits to the faltering economy, the Sept. 11 attacks and the sharp rise in defense and homeland security costs. The White House says the fiscal situation will improve as the economy, bolstered by the Bush tax cuts, becomes more robust.

But Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, contended that budget projections already assume strong growth of more than 3 percent a year over the next few years. "Even with growth we still have deep deficits getting even deeper," he said.

The CBO numbers, he said, do not take into account the $1.2 trillion that will be lost if tax cuts scheduled to expire over the next decade are made permanent, and another $878 billion in new tax cuts over the decade being sought by the White House.

This fiscal year's deficit has already exceeded the old record of $290.4 billion set in 1992 when President Bush's father was president. Republicans argue that the economy is much larger today than it was then, so the budget shortfall has less of an impact and is not a record when measured as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product. Many economists look more at the percentage of GDP than raw dollars in assessing the impact of federal budget deficits on the economy.

On the Net:
CBO: www.cbo.gov

©2003 Associated Press

Commentary:
Try to imagine the fit republicans would be having if we had a democrat president giving us half a trillion dollars of deficit spending in one year? Now try to imagine if that democrat president had a democrat congress helping him do it.

With republicans in complete control of the government we have the largest deficits in US history--is anyone shocked? Why is it that when republican give us deficits and debt it's ok, but during the Clinton years balancing the budget was a moral imperative? It seems a balanced budget is something republicans talk about a lot because they can't seem to find a way to do it.

If you still support Bush after reading this article, you're hopeless.

Republicans continue to attack Gray Davis in California for the deficit he has, but at the same time don't attack Bush. Amazing isn't it? Deficit are bad only when democrats have them--in fact so bad the democrat has to be removed from office. How do they do that? I mean, are republicans really that stupid?


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Does the GOP Subvert Democracy?
Slate
By Timothy Noah
Thursday, August 21, 2003, at 4:20 PM PT

According to Adam Nagourney of the New York Times, Bill Clinton has provided California Gov. Gray Davis with an interesting way to look at the movement to recall him from office. Here is how the Clinton-coached Davis put it in the Aug. 19 kickoff of his anti-recall campaign:

This recall is bigger than California. What's happening here is part of an ongoing national effort to steal elections Republicans cannot win.

It started with the impeachment of President Clinton, when the Republicans could not beat him in 1996. It continued in Florida, where they stopped the vote count, depriving thousands of Americans of the right to vote.

This year, they're trying to steal additional congressional seats in Colorado and Texas, overturning legal redistricting plans. Here in California, the Republicans lost the governor's race last November. Now they're trying to use this recall to seize control of California just before the next presidential election.

Al Sharpton, who is a lousy presidential candidate but an excellent phrase-maker, calls the GOP's strategy, "Let's do it again until I win."

Is the criticism fair? To answer that, let's break the accusation down into two parts:

1) Republicans are subverting democracy to unseat the opposition.

and

2) They're doing this more than the Democrats.

Now let's consider whether these two assertions apply to Clinton and Davis' litany of examples. Chatterbox clarified his thinking on these topics by consulting two smart opinion journalists who hold opposing views—Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo and David Tell of the Weekly Standard. Neither should be held responsible for the conclusions that appear below. These are Chatterbox's own and inevitably reflect distinctions that are somewhat subjective.

"It started with the impeachment of President Clinton, when the Republicans could not beat him in 1996." This one's pretty simple: Clinton's impeachment did subvert his democratic election, and Democrats haven't lately tried to do the same to a Republican president (unless you count the movement 30 years ago to impeach Nixon, which was a bipartisan response to crimes of the state that stemmed from the Nixon White House's own effort to subvert the 1972 election). Chatterbox's only quibble is that the Republican effort to unseat Clinton actually preceded the 1996 election, though it didn't really snowball until afterward. (The "vast right-wing conspiracy" began as a small conspiracy conducted by a shockingly well-funded nut fringe.) From the start it was very clearly motivated by the desire to remove Clinton from office; the conservative groups that funded Jones v. Clinton surprised no one when they failed, subsequently, to persist in combating the social evil of sexual harassment.

Tell argues that the removal of Clinton from office wouldn't have subverted any elections because Clinton would have been replaced by Vice President Al Gore, whom the electorate twice approved as Clinton's replacement, should one be needed. (In that respect, the Clinton impeachment was more democratic than Nixon's near-impeachment, which resulted in Nixon's resignation and the installation of Gerald Ford, whom the national electorate had not approved.) "I would have been perfectly content if Al Gore had been president," says Tell, "and he's no Republican." But if Gore had been needed to take Clinton's place, it would have been because of Clinton's forced removal from the office to which he was twice elected. Voters had approved not a Gore presidency but the contingency of a Gore presidency. The person they'd elected president was Clinton.

"It continued in Florida, where they stopped the vote count, depriving thousands of Americans of the right to vote." This is a much harder case, and in many respects, Marshall points out, it's sui generis. "Neither side planned to get into that situation ahead of time," Marshall says, and that makes it "different in kind from these other cases where arguably the Republicans planned to win political contests by illegitimate or unconventional means." To the extent people behaved badly, it was spontaneous bad behavior.

Deciding whether it was the Democrats or the Republicans who behaved anti-democratically during the Long Count, Tell observes, "would depend entirely on how you viewed the merits of each respective side." Conservatives can (and do) argue that Gore started the whole thing by demanding a recount, something presidential candidates (notably, Nixon in 1960) had customarily avoided doing publicly for many years. (Privately was another matter; as Slate's David Greenberg has pointed out, the GOP, though it lacked candidate Nixon's public support, nonetheless waged various recount challenges and ended up moving Hawaii's three electoral votes from Kennedy to Nixon. The outcome was unaffected.) However, if we focus on the fact that Gore was trying to count votes while Bush was trying to stop the counting of votes, and that Bush ultimately persuaded the (unelected) Supreme Court to do just that even though the Florida counts were very, very close, it's the Republicans who subverted democracy.

The real villain of the Long Count, though, was neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. It was the Electoral College, which denied Gore the presidency even though he won the popular vote. Let's get rid of it.

"This year, they're trying to steal additional congressional seats in Colorado and Texas, overturning legal redistricting plans." This one's a split decision. It's undeniable that the departure from the orderly tradition of reapportioning congressional seats once every 10 years was brought about by Republicans. Marshall, who has written extensively on this subject, points out that before Republicans starting redrawing political maps in Texas and Colorado, no state legislature had second-guessed a decennial redistricting for purely political reasons since the 1950s. "This is completely unprecedented in modern political history," he says.

Clearly, it's disruptive and poisonously partisan to redraw congressional districts every time control of a state legislature shifts from one party to another. But you can't really say it subverts democracy. Quite the opposite: It empowers democracy too much. Allowing a momentary change in the popular will to force unwarranted changes, though bad government, is nonetheless democratic government. It's democracy on steroids, which can be just as harmful as democracy subverted.

"Here in California, the Republicans lost the governor's race last November. Now they're trying to use this recall to seize control of California just before the next presidential election." Davis is mostly on firm ground here. He is the victim of a uniquely Republican practice; Chatterbox is unaware of any previous instance in which Democrats managed to get a gubernatorial recall vote onto the ballot less than a year after the governor in question, who had not been accused of committing any crimes, was elected. (Slate's Andy Bowers informs us that only once in American history has a governor been removed by recall, and that was more than 80 years ago.)

Is it anti-democratic? No, in the limited sense that the gathering of recall petitions is a democratic process. Seen in this light, California's recall mechanism is another example of democracy on steroids. In a more meaningful sense, though, it is anti-democratic because if Davis is removed from office, it's entirely possible—indeed, likely—that he will be replaced by someone who received fewer votes than Davis did in last year's election. (The recall vote and the "who should replace Davis" vote are on the same ballot, dealt with as two separate questions. That eliminates the winnowing you'd get in a primary.)

Would the removal of Davis and his replacement by a Republican affect the presidential contest in 2004? Possibly. But that's fairly speculative. And the ways in which a governor can influence a presidential vote are sufficiently indirect that, were the recall to install a Republican in the nation's most populous state, Chatterbox would still hesitate to call that a subversion of democracy in the next presidential election.

So, in assessing the components of the Clinton-Davis message, we have one yes, one maybe, one yes and no, and one mostly yes. The chair therefore rules Republicans more or less guilty as charged of conducting "an ongoing national effort to steal elections Republicans cannot win."

©2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved

Commentary:


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Pity the Winner
The New York Times
Page 2 only
August 24, 2003

The touchstone issue on which California Republicans solidly reflect voter sentiment is in their opposition to tax increases, a position they see as Ronald Reagan's legacy. Yes, Mr. Reagan was elected governor in 1966 after promising to "squeeze, cut, and trim" the budget, and he made some trims, to be sure. But he balanced the deficit he had inherited the old-fashioned way — by raising taxes.

In the first week of his governorship Mr. Reagan proposed a $1 billion tax increase, then the largest tax hike ever sponsored by any governor of any state. It was a relatively progressive proposal, too, imposing higher rate increases on banks and corporations than on individuals. The Reagan tax increase was equivalent to $5.3 billion in 2003 dollars. This year Republicans in the legislature unanimously opposed a Democratic proposal for a half-cent sales tax increase that would have raised at most $2 billion.

In addition, Governor Reagan signed a permissive abortion-rights bill that was supported by most Republican legislators. Subsequent Republican governors were similarly pragmatic. Gov. George Deukmejian defied the National Rifle Association after the Stockton schoolyard shooting and in 1989 signed legislation limiting assault weapons. Pete Wilson, confronted with a growing deficit in 1991, his first year in office, followed the Reagan example and proposed a budget that combined spending cuts with tax hikes. Republican legislators grumbled at the tax increases and Democrats at the cuts, but they passed the budget and solved a fiscal crisis.

Today California faces a more serious fiscal crisis than in the Reagan or the Wilson years. This is partly the fault of Mr. Davis, who based his budget estimates on the fool's gold of the dot-com boom. Deeply in political debt to unions representing prison guards and other public employees, he made no effort to reduce state payrolls. Bill Simon, the Republican who lost to Mr. Davis in the 2002 election and who pulled out of the recall race yesterday, has a point when he says that the governor misrepresented California's fiscal situation during his re-election campaign.

  But State Senator Tom McClintock, the remaining avowed Republican conservative now seeking the governorship, is even less realistic than Mr. Davis. He resolutely opposes any tax increases in 2004 despite growing evidence that even draconian budget cuts will fail to solve California's fiscal crisis. Peter Ueberroth, another serious Republican candidate, is less dogmatic but also unwilling to acknowledge the need for new taxes. His panacea is a one-time amnesty on penalties for those who owe back taxes, which he claims would raise $6 billion.

Mr. Bustamente, at least, acknowledges that new taxes are necessary. But his proposal to raise commercial property taxes, which might accelerate the business flight from California, would require a vote of the people to change Proposition 13, the 1978 measure that slashed property taxes and has become the third rail of California politics. That isn't going to happen.

In this milieu, and in this field, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only candidate with the potential to be realistic about California's financial situation. He isn't tied into Republican antitax ideology or beholden to the unions like the Democrats. Things seemed promising when the financial wizard Warren Buffett, a fiscal adviser to Mr. Schwarzenegger, said some higher taxes were necessary. The candidate himself sent out mixed signals at his press conference on Wednesday, saying that "additional taxes are the last burden we need" but, significantly, declining to pledge that he would never sign a budget including a tax increase.

Mr. Schwarzenegger is no Ronald Reagan, who had a political track record when he ran for governor in 1966. He may fail to survive the media scrutiny in the six weeks before the election, and he may lose votes on the right to Mr. McClintock and on the left to Mr. Bustamante. But the actor supports abortion rights and gay rights — and thus is the Republican best suited to play to the vital center.

This may be enough to send him to Sacramento. If so, he should look to the Reagan example of a balanced solution — higher taxes and budget cuts — which could rescue California and its out-of-touch Republican Party. Otherwise, a victory at the polls may mean only a short stay in Sacramento, and a quick return to the Democratic status quo.

Lou Cannon is author of five biographies of Ronald Reagan, including the forthcoming ‘‘Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power.''

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Commentary:
Wasting time on Arnold doesn't interest me, but there are some nice Reagan myths that bite the dust in this article. Every Reagan myth that is easily proven wrong must be exposed. Those who push the Reagan way of doing things either forget the facts or don't know them. Reagan raised taxes, just like Davis will have to and almost all the other governor's. That's how it's always been done and it's the way it'll always be.


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It's official - Saddam was not an imminent threat
Clare Short
Saturday August 23, 2003
The Guardian

After eight days of the Hutton inquiry and enormous quantities of media coverage, it is worth pausing to try to take stock. Many of us have said that, deliberately or otherwise, Alastair Campbell's decision to go to war with the BBC had the potential to distract attention from the most important questions arising from the Iraq crisis - whether the nation was deceived on the road to war, and where responsibility lies for the continuing chaos and loss of life in Iraq. Lord Hutton has been charged with inquiring into the narrower question of the circumstances that led to the death of Dr David Kelly and will report on this very important question. But his inquiry is revealing important information that casts light on the bigger question of how we got to war.

There is an unfortunate tendency among some commentators to seek to narrow the issue to a blame game between the BBC and 10 Downing Street. This has led to comment to the effect that Dr Kelly was the unfortunate victim of a battle between two mighty institutions, accompanied by a campaign of vilification against Andrew Gilligan and the Today programme. It is important to remain constantly aware of the vested interests at play: the Murdoch empire and other rightwing media operations would like to weaken and break the BBC so that British broadcasting might be reduced to the sort of commercially dominated, biased news reporting that controls the US airwaves. It is extremely unfortunate that a Labour government has been willing to drive forward this campaign against the BBC.

We must not allow the barrage of biased comment to mislead us into a fudged conclusion that it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. And we must focus both on the pressures that were placed on Dr Kelly and the wider question of how we got to war in Iraq.

The inquiry has already established beyond doubt that, despite government briefing that Dr Kelly was a medium-level official of little significance, he was in fact one of the world's leading experts on WMD in Iraq. It is also clear that Dr Kelly chose to brief three BBC journalists - and presumably others - to the effect that the 45-minute warning of the possible use of WMD was an exaggeration. He said to the Newsnight reporter Susan Watts, as well as to Gilligan that Campbell and the Downing Street press operation were responsible for exerting pressure to hype up the danger. The inquiry is exploring the reality of that claim. But it is already clear that Dr Kelly made it, to Gilligan and Watts.

The BBC would have been grossly irresponsible if it had failed to bring such a report - from such an eminent source - to public attention. It is a delicious irony that Alastair Campbell castigates the BBC for relying on one very eminent source for this report ... and yet the 45-minute claim itself came from only one source.

As a result of the Hutton inquiry, we now know that two defence intelligence officials wrote to their boss to put on record their disquiet at the exaggeration in the dossier. Moreover, one official asked his boss for advice as to whether he should approach the foreign affairs select committee after the foreign secretary had said that he was not aware of any unhappiness among intelligence officials about the claims made in the dossier.

We know through emails revealed by Hutton that Tony Blair's chief of staff made clear that the dossier was likely to convince those who were prepared to be convinced, but that the document "does nothing to demonstrate he [Saddam Hussein] has the motive to attack his neighbours, let alone the west. We will need to be clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent threat. The case we are making is that he has continued to develop WMD since 1998, and is in breach of UN resolutions. The international community has to enforce those resolutions if the UN is to be taken seriously."

I agree completely with Jonathan Powell's conclusion. But it follows from this that there was no need to truncate Dr Blix's inspection process and to divide the security council in order to get to war by a preordained date.

If there was no imminent threat, then Dr Blix could have been given the time he required. He may well have succeeded in ending all Iraq's WMD programmes - just as he succeeded in dismantling 60-plus ballistic missiles. Then sanctions could have been lifted and a concentrated effort made to help the people of Iraq end the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein - just as we did with Milosevic in Serbia.

Or if Blix had failed, we would have been in the position President Chirac described on March 10, when the issue would have come back to the security council. And in Chirac's view, this would have meant UN authorisation of military action.

The tragedy of all this is that if we had followed Jonathan Powell's conclusion, and the UK had used its friendship with the US to keep the world united on a UN route, then, even if it had come to war, a united international community under a UN mandate would almost certainly have made a better job of supporting Iraq's reconstruction. In this scenario the armed forces would have concentrated on keeping order; the UN humanitarian system would have fixed the water and electricity systems; Sergio Vieira de Mello, as Kofi Annan's special representative, would have helped the Iraqis to install an interim government and begin a process of constitutional change, as the UN has done in Afghanistan; and the World Bank and IMF would have advised the Iraqi interim authority on transparent economic reform, rather than a process of handover to US companies.

Following the terrible bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, there is a danger that those who favour chaos in Iraq will make further gains, at great cost to the people of Iraq and coalition forces. The answer remains a stronger UN mandate and internationalisation of the reconstruction effort. The worry is that the US will not have the humility to ask for help, and the chaos and suffering will continue.

In the meantime, Lord Hutton will draw his conclusions about the tragic death of Dr Kelly. My own tentative conclusion is that Downing Street thought they could use him in their battle with the BBC, and that the power of the state was misused in a battle to protect the political interests of the government.

· Clare Short resigned as international development secretary in May

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Commentary:
According to this sources cited in this article, Blair's chief of staff said, "does nothing to demonstrate he [Saddam Hussein] has the motive to attack his neighbours, let alone the west." What more do we need to know?

The US media was caught up in the uranium lie, the British press is caught up in the 45-minute lie. Both are side-shows. The real issue is clear, neither the US nor British governments had evidence or proof that Saddam was a threat to the US or the world. Bush and Blair lied and aren't fit to lead great democracies.


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Conan the Deceiver
The New York Times
By PAUL KRUGMAN
August 22, 2003

he key moment in Arnold Schwarzenegger's Wednesday press conference came when the bodybuilder who would be governor brushed aside questions with the declaration, "The public doesn't care about figures." This was "fuzzy math" on steroids — Mr. Schwarzenegger was, in effect, asserting that his celebrity gives him the right to fake his way through the election. Will he be allowed to get away with it?

Reporters were trying to press Mr. Schwarzenegger for the specifics so obviously missing from his budget plans. But while he hasn't said much about what he proposes to do, the candidate has nonetheless already managed to say a number of things that his advisers must know are true lies.

Even Mr. Schwarzenegger's description of the state economy is pure fantasy. He claims that the state is bleeding jobs because of its "hostile environment" toward business, and that California residents groan under an oppressive tax burden: "From the time they get up in the morning and flush the toilet, they're taxed."

One look at the numbers tells you that his story is fiction. Since the mid-1990's California has added jobs considerably faster than the nation as a whole. And while the state has been hit hard by the technology slump, it has done no worse than other parts of the country. A recent study found that California's tech sector had actually weathered the slump better than its counterpart in Texas. Meanwhile, California isn't a high-tax state: through the 1990's, state and local taxes as a share of personal income more or less matched the national average, and with the recent plunge in revenue they're now probably below average.

What is true is that California's taxes are highly inequitable: thanks to Proposition 13, some people pay ridiculously low property taxes. Warren Buffett, supposedly acting as Mr. Schwarzenegger's economic adviser, offered the perfect example: he pays $14,401 in property taxes on his $500,000 home in Omaha, but only $2,264 on his $4 million home in Orange County. But the candidate quickly made it clear that Mr. Buffett should stick to the script and not mention inconvenient facts.

When Mr. Schwarzenegger threw his biceps into the ring, he seemed to think that, like George W. Bush, he could adopt a what-me-worry approach to budget deficits. "The first thing that you have to do is not worry about should we cut the programs or raise the taxes and all those things," he told Fox News. Then someone must have explained to him that a governor, unlike a president, can't just decide that red ink isn't a problem. In fact, one reason Gray Davis is so unpopular is that, unlike the challengers, he has actually had to take painful steps to close the budget gap. Although news reports continue, inexplicably, to talk about a $38 billion deficit, the projected gap for next year is only $8 billion.

So Mr. Schwarzenegger now says that he will balance the budget, while bravely declaring that he is against any unpleasant measures this might involve. He wants to roll back the increase in the vehicle license fee, which was crucial to the state's recent fiscal progress, and he says he won't propose any offsetting tax increases. And while these promises mean that he must come up with large spending cuts, he refuses to say what he will cut. His excuse is that his advisers couldn't make "heads or tails" of the California budget.

Please. The details are complicated, but the broad picture isn't. Education dominates the budget, accounting for more than half of general fund spending. Medical care dominates the rest. The last remaining big chunk is corrections.

Yet the candidate says he won't touch education. Sharp cuts in medical spending would be not only cruel but foolish, since in many cases they would mean losing federal matching funds. And prison spending is largely determined by the state's "three strikes" law. In short, he's not leveling with voters: there's no way to balance the budget while honoring all his promises.

But the candidate says that specifics don't matter, that the public just wants someone "tough enough." Does he really think that voters will confuse him with the characters he plays?

So here's the question: Can a celebrity candidate muscle his way into public office without ever being held accountable for his statements?  

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Commentary:
As of this writing (August 26), Arnold has dropped far behind the democrat and the number of people wanting to recall Davis is falling like a bomb. It's around 50% now. When the democrat takes the lead in the poll, it's all but ignored, When Davis starts to come back from all the media lies, that too is all but ignored. There are a few news sources out there telling you the facts but you won't around the clock media saturation with facts. When we have around the clock anything on TV these days (Arnold and WMD) you can bet your bottom dollar it's fluff.


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Texas Democrats in Exile in New Mexico
MoveOn.org
Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis
August 18, 2003

Dear friends,

I am writing to you from a hotel room in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I and 10 of my colleagues in the Texas Senate have been forced to reside for the past 20 days. If we return to our homes, families, friends, and constituents, the Governor of Texas will have us arrested.

I know, it sounds more like a banana republic than the dignified democracy on which we have long prided ourselves. We are effectively exiled from the state due to our unalterable opposition to a Republican effort -- pushed by Tom Delay and Karl Rove, and led by Texas Governor Rick Perry -- that would rewrite the map of Texas Congressional districts in order to elect at least 5 more Republicans to Congress.

You may not have heard much about the current breakdown in Texas politics. The Republican power play in California has obscured the Republican power play in Texas that has forced my colleagues and me to leave the state.

Recognizing that public pressure is the only thing that can break the current stalemate, our friends at MoveOn have offered to support our efforts by sharing this email with you. In it, you will find:

Background information on how the situation in Texas developed;
Analysis of what's at stake for Democrats and the democratic process; and
How you can help by contacting Texas politicians, signing our petition, contributing funds, and forwarding this email!
The Republican redistricting effort shatters the tradition of performing redistricting only once a decade immediately after the Census -- making redistricting a perpetual partisan process. It elevates partisan politics above minority voting rights, in contravention of the federal Voting Rights Act. It intends to decimate the Democratic party in Texas, and lock in a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. And Republican efforts to force a vote on this issue by changing the rules of legislative procedure threaten to undermine the rule of law in Texas.

We do not take lightly our decision to leave the state. It was the only means left to us under the rules of procedure in Texas to block this injustice. We are fighting for our principles and beliefs, and we can win this fight with your support.

Sincerely,

Rodney Ellis
Texas State Senator (Houston)

Background

During the 2001 session of the Texas Legislature, the legislature was unable to pass a Congressional redistricting plan as it is required to do following the decennial Census. A three judge federal panel was forced to draw the plan. Neither Governor Rick Perry or then Attorney General John Cornyn, both Republicans, objected to the plan, which was reviewed and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 2002 Congressional elections, the first held under the new redistricting plan, resulted in a Congressional delegation from Texas consisting of 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans. However, five of the 17 Democrats prevailed only because they were able to win the support of Republican and independent voters. All statewide Republican candidates carried these five districts. Most experts agree that the current plan has 20 strong or leaning Republican districts and 12 Democratic districts.

Meanwhile, the 2001 redistricting of Texas legislative seats (which was enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislative Redistricting Board, after the legislature again gridlocked in its efforts) resulted in wide Republican majorities in both the Texas House and Texas Senate. Now Tom Delay has made it his priority to force the Republican-controlled Legislature to enact a new redistricting plan to increase the number of Republican-leaning Congressional districts. Republicans believe they can manipulate the districts to elect as many as 22 Republicans out of the 32 member Texas Congressional delegation. They achieve this by packing minority voters into as few districts as possible and breaking apart rural districts so that the impact of independent voters will be reduced and suburban Republican voters will dominate.

During the regular session of the Texas Legislature, Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives exercised an unprecedented parliamentary move to prevent the House from passing Tom Delay's redistricting plan. While Democrats are in the minority of the House of Representatives, the state constitution requires that at least 2/3 of the House be present for the House to pass a bill. Because it was clear that the Republicans would entertain no debate and brook no compromise in their effort to rewrite the rules by which members of Congress are elected, the Democrats were forced to break the quorum to prevent the bill from passing. Because the Republican Speaker of the House and Governor called on state law enforcement officials to physically compel the Democrats to return, the lawmakers removed themselves to a Holiday Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma -- outside the reach of state troops(1). In there effort to apprehend the Democrats, Tom Delay officially sought the help of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice.

The House Democrats (nicknamed the "Killer D's", based on an earlier episode in Texas history in which a group of Democratic state senators called the "Killer Bees" broke the quorum in the Senate over a similarly political stalemate) succeeded in stopping Delay's redistricting plan during the regular session, returning to Texas after the legislative deadline had expired for the House to pass legislation. However, because the Texas Legislature meets in regular session only every two years, the state constitution gives the Governor the power to call a 30-day special legislative session at any time between regular sessions. Despite statewide protests from Texas citizens who oppose Tom Delay's redistricting plan, the Governor has called two special sessions(2) already this summer to attempt to force the legislature to enact a new plan.

The first called session expired in a deadlock, as 12 of 31 Texas Senators(3) opposed the plan. Under Senate rules and tradition, a 2/3 vote is required to consider any bill on the floor of the Senate, giving 11 Senators the power to block a vote(4). The Republican Governor and Lieutenant Governor then determined they would do away with the 2/3 rule, and called another special session, forcing 11 Democratic Senators to break the quorum and leave the state.(5) These Senators have spent the past 22 days in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Governor has indicated he will continue calling special sessions until the Republican redistricting plan is enacted, despite the fact that the Republican-controlled Texas Supreme Court recently rejected the Governor's writ of mandamus filing to compel the Senators to return to the Senate. Meanwhile, eleven Democratic state senators are exiled from their state, unable to be with their families, friends, and constituents, for fear of being arrested as part of a partisan power play by Republicans. In the most recent indignity, Republican Senators voted to fine the absent Democrats up to $5,000 per day, and to revoke parking and other privileges for their staffs as long as the Senators are away.

What's at stake

At stake, on the surface, is whether Tom Delay will succeed in exploiting Republican control of the Texas Legislature to add to the Republican majority in the United States Congress. But deeper issues are also at stake.

If the Republicans succeed in redrawing the Texas Congressional lines to guarantee the election of five to seven more Republicans, it will ensure that Republicans hold the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for the entire decade and will likely result in Tom Delay becoming Speaker of the House.(6)
The Republican advantage would be gained by removing many African American and Hispanic voters from their current Congressional districts and "packing" them into a few districts that already have Democratic majorities. The voting power of these minority voters would be dramatically diluted by the Republican plan, in contravention of the federal Voting Rights Act. If the Republicans succeed, over 1.4 million African American and Hispanic voters will be harmed. It would be the largest disenfranchisement of minority voters since the Voting Rights Act was passed.
Redistricting exists for the purpose of reapportioning voters among political districts to account for population shifts. The purpose of this reapportionment is to ensure a roughly equal number of voters in each district, to preserve the principle of "one man, one vote."(7) For this reason, redistricting has always been conducted immediately following the U.S. Census' decennial population reports. Tom Delay now proposes a new redistricting plan two years after the Census report simply because Republicans gained control over the Texas Legislature in 2002 and now have the power to enact a much more Republican-friendly plan than the one drawn by the federal courts two years ago. This is an unprecedented approach to redistricting, one that subordinates its original purpose of ensuring the principle of "one man, one vote" to the purpose of perpetual partisan politics. Redistricting, in this model, would never be a settled matter, and districts would constantly be in flux depending on the balance of political power in the Legislature. The Texas Legislature has traditionally been defined by a spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation. This issue has polarized the legislature in a way that threatens to destroy that tradition. The Republicans have effectively exiled their Democratic counterparts in a power play that makes our state look more like a banana republic than a dignified democracy. The arbitrary decision to discard the 2/3 rule in the Senate sets a precedent that undermines that body's tradition of consensus and cooperation. The deployment of state law enforcement officials to apprehend boycotting legislators erodes the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government, and diminishes legislators' ability to represent their constituents as they see fit. The unilateral Republican effort to penalize Democratic Senators and their staffs
What is needed

The Democratic Senators currently in Albuquerque have two critical needs. The first is to generate increased public awareness of the situation. By all reason, every day the Senators are out of the state this story should get bigger. Instead, news media have gradually lost interest in the story. The California recall has dominated the attention of the national media, and the Texas media has largely lost interest in the story -- out of sight, out of mind. Without public attention to this story, the Republicans have all the leverage -- if it does not cost them politically, it costs them nothing(8) to continue calling special sessions until the Texas 11 are forced to come home.

The second critical need is funding. The cost of hotels, meeting rooms, staff support, and public relations efforts is mounting. In addition, the Senators must defend themselves legally against Republican efforts to compel their return, while also filing legal claims against the Republican power play. The Senators are actively raising money for the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus Fund to offset these costs and prepare themselves for a stay of indefinite duration in Albuquerque.

Notes

1. A recent Department of Justice investigation chronicled Republican state officials' illegal attempts to use federal resources -- including anti-terrorism resources from the Department of Homeland Security -- to compel the Democratic lawmakers' return. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51520-2003Aug12.html for a news report on the Justice Department investigation, or http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/03-08a/final.pdf for a copy of the complete Justice Department report.
2. At a cost to taxpayers of over $1.5 million per session.
3. House Republicans passed a redistricting bill in the special session despite an outpouring of public opposition in hearings across the state. All 12 Democratic state senators opposed the plan, along with Republican state senator (and former Lieutenant Governor) Bill Ratliff.
4. The "2/3 rule" requires the Senate to reach broader consensus on difficult issues than a simple majority vote. It is a combination of official Senate rules and tradition. The rules of the Senate require a 2/3 vote to suspend the "regular order of business" to consider a bill that is not the first bill on the Senate calendar. By tradition, the Senate has always placed a "blocker bill" at the top of the Senate calendar, so that every bill requires a suspension of the regular order of business to be considered. The process requires compromise and consensus to achieve a 2/3 majority on each bill. One Texas insider has said that the 2/3 rule is "what separates us from animals."
5. In fact, the Governor and Lt. Governor attempted to "surprise" the Senators by calling the second special one day early and "trap" them in the Senate Chamber. The Senators were able to escape the Capitol with literally minutes to spare.
6. Republican party activist Grover Norquist, head of the Washington D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform, was quoted as follows in the August 17 Fort Worth Star Telegram: "Republicans will hold the House for the next decade through 2012 if Texas redistricts…It depresses the hell out of the Democrats and makes it doubly impossible to take the House and probably depresses their fund raising…Anything that helps strengthen the Republican leadership helps DeLay become speaker someday if he wants it."
7. Established in the landmark case Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962)
8. Notwithstanding the millions of dollars it is costing taxpayers.

Commentary:
Why isn't the media covering this story? Too many facts and too complicated for them to deal with? Yeah, that's it. It's so much easier to cover Arnold's fluff campaign and pretend Bush didn't lie about WMD in Iraq.


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'Chemical Ali' Is Captured
The New York Times
By BILL BRINK
August 21, 2003

Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin and trusted adviser of Saddam Hussein who earned a reputation for ruthlessness by using poison gas to supress a Kurdish uprising in 1988, has been captured, the American military said today.

The United States Central Command in Tampa, Fla., announced the capture of Mr. Majid but gave no details on where he was detained or how. Mr. Majid was No. 5 on the allied forces' list of the 55 most wanted Iraqis.

The capture of Mr. Majid represents another step in the military's effort to wipe out any lingering influence of the fragmented remnants of Mr. Hussein's government.

Last month, a United States raid in Mosul killed two of Mr. Hussein's sons, Uday and Qsay, and soon afterward soldiers seized four men they believed to be important members of Mr. Hussein's former government, including one who was thought to be a longtime bodyguard to Mr. Hussein. Earlier this week the former Iraqi vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, was arrested, also in Mosul.

United States forces continue to search for Mr. Hussein. Soldiers raided a house overnight in Baquba, a town 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, Reuters reported, after receiving intelligence that Mr. Hussein was there, but they failed to find him.

"We found some relatives and associates but he was not there," said Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the Fourth Infantry Division, based in Mr. Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

General Odierno, according to Reuters, told reporters that he believed Mr. Hussein was still hiding in the "Sunni triangle" area to the north and west of Baghdad, where many local residents say they still support the deposed Iraqi president.

The capture of Mr. Majid removes one of the most feared and despised members of the Hussein regime. He earned the nickname "Chemical Ali" after he used chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1988. Human rights groups say that Mr. Majid inspired the murder or disappearance of about 100,000 Kurds, the forced removal of many more, as well as the destruction of hundreds of Kurdish villages and communities.

His notoriety increased in 1990 when he was appointed Iraq's chief administrator in Kuwait in the months before the gulf war. He was also linked to the brutal crackdown on Shiites in Southern Iraq following their uprising after that war.

American military officials believed that Mr. Majid had been killed in a bombing raid in April, but in early June, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said there was a chance he was still alive. "There was some speculation afterwards that they thought that he had been killed," Mr. Rumsfeld said at the time. "Now there's some speculation that he may be alive. But I just don't know."

Mr. Majid belonged to a clan that intermarried with Mr. Hussein's family in the Tikrit region north of Baghdad. According to military specialists, he rose through the ranks of Iraq's intelligence and internal security services to become one of Mr. Hussein's closest aides. His brother, Hussein Kamal al-Majid, was appointed oil minister after the invasion of Kuwait.

In mid-March, during the American invasion of Iraq, Mr. Hussein appointed Mr. Majid to direct the defense of southern Iraq. At the time, American officials speculated that Mr. Majid had been appointed either to ensure that the restive Shiites of southern Iraq remained loyal to Baghdad or to implement a military strategy devised to blunt or undermine the American-British invasion.

"We fully recognize his image and his track record," a military official said at the time.

After the fall of Mr. Hussein's regime in April, Mr Majid's Baghdad house was explored. A storehouse behind the house portrayed a man with a large taste for Western indulgences. Among items carried away by the looters was a battery-powered model of a Ferrari, a Japanese motorized water scooter, a parachute, a video library that included dozens of Hollywood movies of the past decade, more than 100 racing car wheels and the entire fittings for a luxury European kitchen.

Commentary:
Read this story, then read the next. We have two versions of reality. In this story, Chemical Ali is captured. But in previous stories dating back to April, he was killed. I don't expect you to believe either and certainly there's no way of knowing if either is true.

The lies coming out of our government are so pervasive we can't believe anything they say anymore. The sad part is the media pushed the story about Ali being dead, but now doesn't mention that they mis-reported, mis-led, lied or pushed the party-line (propaganda).


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Chemical Ali's body found, say British
SMH (AU)/Associated Press
Date: April 8 2003

Ali Hassan al-Majid, dubbed Chemical Ali by opponents of the Iraqi regime for ordering a poison gas attack that killed thousands of Kurds, has reportedly been found dead.

Major Andrew Jackson of the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment

said his body had been found near that of his bodyguard and the head of Iraqi intelligence services in Basra.

Al-Majid was a first cousin of President Saddam Hussein.

One of the most brutal members of Saddam's inner circle, al-Majid led a 1988 campaign against rebellious Kurds in northern Iraq in which whole villages were wiped out. An estimated 100,000 Kurds, mostly civilians, were killed during that campaign.

Al-Majid was apparently killed on Saturday when two coalition aircraft used laser-guided munitions to attack his house in Basra.

British troops sent an armoured column deep into Basra on Sunday.

Yesterday they followed with light-armoured infantry - 50 to 75 vehicles and 700 troops.

Major Jackson said the discovery of al-Majid's body was one of the reasons the British had decided to move their infantry into the city - because with the leadership gone, resistance might fall apart.

Al-Majid was a warrant officer and motorcycle messenger in the army before Saddam's Ba'ath party led a coup in 1968.

He was promoted to general and served as defence minister from 1991 to 1995, as well as a regional party leader.

In 1988, as the Iran-Iraq war was winding down, he commanded a scorched-earth campaign known as Anfal to wipe out a Kurdish rebellion in northern Iraq.

Later, he boasted about the attacks, including a poison gas strike on March 16, 1988 on the village of Halabja where an estimated 5,000 people died.

During peace talks in Baghdad in April 1991 the Kurdish delegation leader, Jalal Talabani, told al-Majid that more than 200,000 Kurds had lost their lives in the Anfal campaign.

Al-Majid replied that the figure was exaggerated and that no more than 100,000 had died.

After the 1991 Shiite uprising was crushed, Iraqi opposition groups released a video they said had been smuggled out of southern Iraq.

In the video, which was shown on several Arab TV networks, al-Majid was seen executing captured rebels with pistol shots to the head and kicking others in the face as they sat on the ground.

He was no less brutal with his own family.

His nephew and Saddam's son-in-law, Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamel, was in charge of Iraq's clandestine weapons programs before defecting in 1995 to Jordan with his brother, Saddam Kamel, who was married to another of Saddam's three daughters.

Both brothers were lured back to Iraq in February 1996 and killed on their uncle's orders.

Syria and Lebanon ignored international calls to arrest al-Majid when he visited in January. Egypt refused to receive him and the Jordanian Government denied a visit had ever been planned earlier this year to raise Arab opposition to the looming invasion.

Associated Press

This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.

Commentary:
Was his body found? Scroll up one article and you find the government now says he was captured. Truth has become a variable. It changes to fit the day. When Bush needs a story, he simply makes it up (Ali is killed one day---Ali is captured the next).


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Chief Justice Roy Moore and the 10 Commandments
WTMV.com

The eight associate justices overruled Chief Justice Roy Moore today and directed that his Ten Commandments monument be in compliance with a federal court order for its removal from its public site in the Alabama Judicial Building.

The senior associate justice, Gorman Houston, said the eight instructed the building's manager to quote -- "take all steps necessary to comply ... as soon as practicable."

A federal judge recently ruled the monument violates the constitution's ban on government promotion of religion and must be removed from its public place in the rotunda. Moore said he would not move it.

The monument was briefly walled off from public view earlier today. Then the plywood-like wall came down, displaying the monument again.

Houston said the building manager may have put up the partition in order for the state to be in compliance until the associate justices made a decision.

Their seven-page order, signed by all eight, was issued about 10 a.m. The partition had blocked public view of the monument for about three hours.

Moore's spokesman, Tom Parker, said he was out of town for a family funeral but decided to return to Montgomery when he learned the monument had been walled from public view for about three hours earlier today. The makeshift partition has since been removed In a statement issued by Parker, Moore said quote -- "This is an example of what is happening in this country: the acknowledgment of God as the moral foundation of law in this nation is being hidden from us."

All content © Copyright 2001 - 2003, WorldNow and WTVM, a Raycom Media station. All Rights Reserved.

Commentary:
I don't think we need to spend a lot of time on the 10 Commandments, but from my experience I've never seen giant granite or marble slabs in a Church that I've been in. I find it odd that these nuts feel it's necessary to display their religious beliefs in public places but don't have them displayed in their churches (or their homes). If you want a granite slab with the 10 Commandments on it in your backyard, go for it. But, don't force this nonsense on everyone else. Btw, the Sabbath is not Sunday.


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Bush doesn't know number of troops in Afghanistan
Washington Post
By Dana Milbank and Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 19, 2003; Page A15

President Bush, revising his earlier characterization of the fighting in Iraq, said in an interview released yesterday that combat operations are still underway in that country.

In an interview with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service given on Thursday and released by the White House yesterday, Bush interrupted the questioner when asked about his announcement on May 1 of, as the journalist put it, "the end of combat operations."

"Actually, major military operations," Bush replied. "Because we still have combat operations going on." Bush added: "It's a different kind of combat mission, but, nevertheless, it's combat, just ask the kids that are over there killing and being shot at."

In his May 1 speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush declared: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country." The headline on the White House site above Bush's May 1 speech is "President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended."

Since then, a search of Bush speeches on the White House Web site indicates, the president had not spoken of the guerrilla fighting in Iraq as combat until this interview; he had earlier spoken of the "cessation of combat" in Iraq.

A White House spokesman said Bush was not making a distinction between combat and military operations. "What the president declared on May 1 is that major combat operations were over," he said. "He did not say that combat was over."

The description of active combat in Iraq was one of several statements Bush made in the interview that differed with earlier administration positions as he discussed his foreign policy while visiting a military facility in Miramar, Calif.

Asked about U.S. force presence in Afghanistan, Bush said the U.S. presence is being "gradually replaced" by other troops.

"We've got about 10,000 troops there, which is down from, obviously, major combat operations," he said. "And they're there to provide security and they're there to provide reconstruction help. But both those functions are being gradually replaced by other troops. Germany, for example, is now providing the troops for ISAF [International Security Assistance Force], which is the security force for Afghanistan, under NATO control. In other words, more and more coalition forces and friends are beginning to carry a lot of the burden in Afghanistan."

In fact, the 10,000 troops in Afghanistan represent the highest number of U.S. soldiers in the country since the war there began. By the time the Taliban government had been vanquished in December 2001, U.S. troops numbered fewer than 3,000 in Afghanistan. And three months later, in March 2002, when the last major battle against remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda took place in eastern Afghanistan, about 5,000 U.S. troops were in the country.

Germany has participated in the 29-nation ISAF since January 2002. The 4,600 troops in ISAF provide security only in the Kabul area, and the United States, which is not part of ISAF, has operations throughout Afghanistan.

In the interview, Bush, asked about the burden on U.S. troops in Iraq, said other nations will be providing troops. "Polish troops are now moving in and will be in, I think, by September 4th of this year, which is in two weeks -- that's a major Polish contingent," he said. "There will be other nations going in to support not only the Polish contingent, but the British contingent."

The Poles have agreed to send 2,400 troops to lead a multinational division including 1,640 troops from Ukraine, 1,300 from Spain and smaller units expected from Hungary, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mongolia and the Philippines. The Pentagon has agreed to pay much of the cost of the Polish troops.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
Dean was brutalized for not knowing the exact number of troops in Afghanistan on Meet the Press and then the rest of the media. But when Bush gets the number wrong, oh well----! Good grief, will we ever have a media that's fair and balanced again? I want to hear one political commentator say Bush isn't ready for prime time like they did with Dean. Betcha won't hear it.


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