Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Impeach Bush

Likely Ban on Abortion Technique Leaves Doctors Uneasy
NY Times
MARY DUENWALD
April 22, 2003

As a ban on a procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion makes its way through Congress, many of the doctors who provide abortions say they remain confused about what will be banned and fear it will apply to other procedures used in the second trimester of pregnancy.

The procedure at issue — what doctors now call intact dilatation and extraction, or intact D&X — involves pulling the fetus's legs and torso out of the uterus and then crushing its skull before removing it entirely. It is not known how often it is performed in the United States, but its use is limited to the latter weeks of the second trimester. Even then, it is not always the procedure doctors choose.

In fact, it is practiced very rarely. Many doctors who perform abortions say they do not use the technique at all. Yet they agree that in certain situations, it may be the safest way to perform an abortion.

"There are times, quite frankly, when this is the procedure of choice," said Dr. Deborah Oyer, a family practitioner in Seattle who provides abortions, but not late enough in pregnancy to practice the method.

Doctors say they fear that even if they give up this particular procedure, the law will still apply to other techniques that are regularly used to end pregnancies after 16 weeks. The law, many experts say, is vaguely written. It does not spell out the intact D&X procedure.

"The way they define the procedure in the bill, it could easily be attributed to a wide variety of abortion procedures," said Dr. Paul D. Blumenthal, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Johns Hopkins University. Even if doctors begin abortions intending to obey the law, he added, they may be forced by medical circumstances to perform procedures that violate it.

Only one abortion provider interviewed for this article acknowledged regularly practicing intact D&X, and she spoke on the condition that her name not be used. Many others interviewed declined to describe their procedures in detail, for fear of being singled out by anti-abortion protesters.

On March 13, the Senate passed a bill outlawing the procedure. The House of Representatives is expected to follow soon, and President Bush has promised to sign the legislation. President Bill Clinton vetoed similar bills in 1996 and 1997.

Over the years, an important question has remained unanswered: how many partial-birth abortions are actually done?

In 2000, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, surveyed abortion providers nationwide and estimated that 2,200 such procedures were done that year, by 31 physicians. That would account for less than one-fifth of 1 percent of the estimated 1.31 million abortions performed in the United States that year.

But because not all abortion providers answered the survey, the estimate "could be off by a considerable amount," said Stanley Henshaw, a senior fellow at the institute.

Dr. Warren Hern, director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Colorado, questioned whether any doctors in the survey were actually using a so-called partial-birth procedure, because no such technique had ever been described in a medical journal. "We have no idea how this is done or even whether it is done," he said. "Until it's published in a peer-reviewed journal, it's folklore."

One aspect of the debate has changed. When it began, some opponents of the ban said the targeted form of abortion was used only when a fetus had extreme abnormalities or a mother's health was endangered by pregnancy. Now, both sides acknowledge that abortions done late in the second trimester, no matter how they are conducted, are most often performed to end healthy pregnancies because the woman arrived relatively late to her decision to abort.

A Guttmacher study from 1987 indicates that only 2 percent of abortions done after 16 weeks of pregnancy are done because of fetal abnormalities.

A vast majority of second-trimester abortions are done using a technique called dilatation and evacuation, or D&E, in which the cervix is dilated, the fetal sac is punctured and drained, and the fetus's head is crushed. Then the body is dismembered and removed. The procedure typically takes less than 10 minutes

When a pregnancy has advanced beyond 18 weeks, the process can be more complicated. Because the fetus is larger, it may take three or four days to adequately dilate the cervix. Dr. Hern kills the fetus with an injection of the heart drug digoxin a few days ahead of time. After draining the amniotic fluid, he gives the patient ocytocin to cause contractions of the uterus. This movement aids in expelling the fetus.

Second-trimester abortions can also be done by inducing using labor and delivery alone. Fewer than 2 percent are done this way, however, 1999 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. Physicians largely abandoned the approach after studies in the 1970's indicated that D&E abortions were safer, said Dr. David Grimes, a former chief of the C.D.C.'s abortion surveillance division.

The studies showed that complications — including bleeding and infections — occurred in 25 of every 1,000 abortions done by induced labor but only 7 of 1,000 abortions done by D&E.

Dr. George R. Tiller of Wichita, Kan., who uses a labor-and-delivery technique, injects the fetus with digoxin one to four days ahead of time. The kind of abortion that would be banned under the new law is a variation of D&E. It was first described by an Ohio doctor in the early 1990's, in a talk to the National Abortion Federation. After his description set off a debate, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology described a similar technique, and called it intact D&X.

The technique was designed for abortions done after 18 to 20 weeks, when the fetus's head has grown too large to fit through the cervix easily. By 20 weeks, a fetus is typically about eight inches long.

The physician reaches into the uterus to turn the fetus into a feet-first position. The fetus is pulled through the cervix up to the neck. The doctor then pierces the fetal skull with an instrument and drains some of its contents. This causes the skull to collapse and fit through the opening.

Some doctors do an intact D&X without first adjusting the fetus to a feet-first position, so that it may come out head first.

"From the time I first saw it done, it was clear to me that this procedure was safer and faster and better than the abortions I had been doing before," said the abortion provider who regularly practices intact D&X. The advantage, she said, is that it involves less poking and jabbing inside the uterus.

Rather than mentioning intact D&X, the bill describes a situation in which a doctor "deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus" until either the head or the body up to the navel is "outside the body of the mother" and then intentionally kills it.

Dr. Curtis R. Cook, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., who helped write the law, said he avoided the College of Obstetrics and Gynecology's description of intact D&X so that the law would apply to any abortion in which a live fetus is brought partway out of the uterus, not only to those that follow the college's description to the letter.

Abortion providers say that in some classic D&E operations, part of the fetus may pass through the cervix while it is still alive.

"If the cervix is more dilated than you expect, sometimes a large part of the fetus will come out at a variety of gestational ages, from 15 to 22 weeks," explained the physician who practices intact D&X. "If the fetus comes halfway out, and then you do something to complete the abortion, that would be against the law as they've written it. What would you do then? Try to put the fetus back in?" The physician is usually relieved when a large part of the fetus drops into the vagina, she said, because "it means the fetus is coming out in a more gentle and rapid manner."

Because it is hard to know if a fetus is dead or alive, said Dr. Phillip Stubblefield, director of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston Medical Center, "almost any D&E you do from 13 or 14 weeks on, you're going to violate the statute."

But Dr. Cook said the law would not affect D&E abortions. "We used very clear language," he said. "It has to be an overt act, not an unintentional act."

Dr. Nancy Romer, an obstetrician in Dayton, Ohio, who also favors the ban, said abortion providers could comply with the proposed law by killing the fetus with an injection before starting the abortion. "It adds no additional risk, and it gets around the whole issue," she said.

Abortion providers argue that an injection does make the operation riskier because it involves putting drugs in the uterus, and it requires passing a needle through the woman's abdomen.

Dr. Stubblefield noted that the technique was the same one used to perform amniocentesis in pregnancy, in which doctors pass a needle into the amniotic sac to draw fluid for genetic testing. "It can be tricky," he said. "Every now and then one goes through a loop of bowel with the needle. You can carry bacteria in the uterus, and that can lead to severe sepsis."

If this step is routinely added to the standard abortion, he said, "we'd be exposing a whole lot of women to a risk they don't need to be taking."

The ban before Congress includes an exception for saving the life of the mother, but not for preserving her health because, the bill asserts, "a partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman."

Most abortion providers disagree. Dr. Tiller of Wichita said intact D&X might be the safest procedure for some physicians.

"It doesn't fit my style of practice," Dr. Tiller said, "but there are good practitioners who develop different styles. If you force those physicians to use my technique, they will not get results as good."

In certain situations related to a mother's dangerously high blood pressure, removing the fetus quickly may be desirable, Dr. Oyer of Seattle said. In such a case, intact D&X might be fastest, she said.

Dr. Cook argued that induced labor would be faster because the patient would not have to wait two days for the cervix to dilate. The so-called partial-birth abortions, he said, can "overdilate" the cervix. "Women who have had this procedure have had problems with cervical incompetence afterward," he added.

When physicians cut into fetal skulls in intact D&X procedures, he added, they risk tearing or cutting the uterus.

Dr. Grimes disagreed with both assertions. "There's not a bit of documentation to establish that intact D&X carries these risks, and I would challenge them to provide a citation anywhere," he said.

A question that often enters the debate is whether the fetus senses pain in an intact D&X abortion.

"We can say with confidence the fetus does not feel pain," Dr. Grimes said. "Neurologically, it is not developed enough to feel pain. A fetal brain in mid-trimester doesn't even look like a human brain. The neural pathways aren't there."

Ultimately, the abortion providers say that they should be able to choose the procedure that is best for each patient.

"The goal of any abortion procedure is the destruction of the fetus," said Dr. Felicia H. Stewart of the University of California at San Francisco. "Given that that is the reality, it doesn't seem to me we ought to have a legislative mandate that likely increases the risk to the woman."

© New York Times 2003

Commentary:
Regardless of how you feel about this issue, it's a red herring. Doctors will still preform abortions, but they'll simply kill the fetus with drugs before they remove it.

It's a joke to think these laws have any value, except for the emotionally challenged--that is those who will call this a victory because it makes them feel good.

My understanding is the fetus doesn't have a working brain before the 28th week and so it can't feel anything, including its head being crushed or drugs killing it. So, before 28 weeks, what's the big deal which method is used? After 28 weeks doctors should be more careful since there appears to be evidence the fetus begins to feel pain around that time. And I'm guessing almost all abortions are done before 28 weeks anyway.


Can States Survive Bush?
NY Times
TIMOTHY EGAN
April 21, 2003

LINCOLN, Neb., April 18 — At a time when the governor of Missouri has ordered every third light bulb unscrewed to save money, when teachers are doubling as janitors in Oklahoma and working two weeks without pay in Oregon, when Connecticut is laying off prosecutors and Kentucky is releasing prison inmates early, the veterinarian crisis in Nebraska may seem like small potatoes.

Nebraska has dismissed two of its three state diagnostic veterinarians, meaning a rancher with a sick cow in Scottsbluff now has to drive the length of the state to see what's up with Nellie.

That cutback, the state equivalent of rooting for coins in a car ashtray, is a prime example of how far the pain of anemic state treasuries has spread — and not only in Nebraska, a state where almost 25,000 poor mothers have lost health care and where state college tuition has been raised 20 percent over two years.

Ranchers here have joined a chorus of wounded constituents pleading with state politicians to restore spending. From Lincoln to Honolulu, the reply has been the same: the till is empty.

The states are desperate, struggling with their worst financial crises since World War II. They have tapped rainy day funds, raided tobacco money that was supposed to have provided health care for children and taxed every possible vice.

Last year brought the storm warnings: some layoffs, the inconveniences of libraries closing early and roads without fresh asphalt. Now, as states scramble to find ways to cut nearly $100 billion this year and next from budgets that must by law be balanced, the cuts are much larger, and their effects profound.

It is not just that states are withdrawing health care for the poor and mentally ill. They are also dismissing state troopers, closing parks and schools, dropping bus routes, eliminating college scholarships and slashing a host of other services that have long been taken for granted.

These budget decisions are neither popular nor partisan, the people making them say. Nothing is off the table. Cities and states are stuffing slot machines into gas stations and lending basic services out for commercial bid.

In Pleasant Ridge, Mich., the police are considering a deal to allow companies to advertise on the sides of patrol cars in exchange for cheap vehicle leases. Police Chief Karl Swieczkowski said his budget-pinched force was ready to go ahead if the advertisements get legal approval.

"State governments are under siege," said Angela Monson, president of the National Conference of State Legislatures. "This is the real deal, and it's only going to get worse."

In Ms. Monson's home state, Oklahoma, teachers have driven buses, mopped the floors and even cooked cafeteria food, as support staffs for major school districts have been sharply reduced or eliminated.

A new library stands empty in Hawaii; the state built it but left no money for books. The bookmobile, the only library access for many in the islands, has already been cut.

Here in Nebraska, a museum of dinosaur bones and natural wonders dismissed its only full-time staff member, costing a swath of the prairie a cultural resource that has been around nearly since the Depression.

In a state that has vowed to try to hold onto its young people, a thousand University of Nebraska students have been told their financial aid is over, and 431 college positions were eliminated.

For Neil Obermeyer, a graduate assistant pursuing a master of fine arts here in Lincoln, the cuts mean he will probably leave school, and may go to California, where a good job prospect awaits, he said.

But for Jonathan Bradley, a disabled father of two, the cuts mean the end of medication that has kept him alive, said his wife, Mary. She works as a paralegal in Omaha, but the job offers no health insurance. The family had been eligible for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor and disabled. But to balance its budget, Nebraska raised the eligibility threshold by more than 30 percent.

"We even considered getting a divorce just so one of us would qualify," Ms. Bradley said. "What are we supposed to do, live in a tent?"

Measures that voters approved by wide margins — property tax exemptions for the elderly, teacher salary increases, new parks and open space — have been eliminated or suspended.

Washington State, which has the nation's largest ferry fleet with 25 million passengers a year, has announced plans to drop one of its most popular boats — a foot-passenger-only commuter ferry.

And in Texas, 275,000 fewer children will receive health care. The state already ranks first in the number of children without medical coverage. Ohio is planning to cut 50,000 people from health coverage, which would be the largest increase of uninsured Ohioans in history.

Colorado suspended property tax breaks for 120,000 elderly residents. The tax exemption had saved Carol DeBoer, who lives in suburban Denver, $486 a year.

"I'm just living one day to the next right now," said Mrs. DeBoer, whose husband has Alzheimer's disease. "We worked hard; we paid our taxes. If there is enough money for wars, shouldn't there be enough to help seniors?"

President Bush, who was the governor of Texas, is aware of the problems states are facing, aides said. But he made clear when addressing governors in February that no significant help was on the way from the federal government. "It's because we went through a recession and we're at war," he told the National Governors Association.

Governors point out that Mr. Bush was in his statehouse at a time of record prosperity. Now all but a handful of states have deep economic problems. On top of the recession, states are under new pressure to pay for domestic security and federal school mandates.

Education Is Not Spared

No matter their political stripe, governors and legislators used to be united in one way: they vowed to protect and enhance education. Last year's budget cuts largely spared schools. This year, layoff notices to elementary and high school teachers have appeared in more than a dozen states.

Colleges, the source of new jobs for so many states, have also been hit hard. Even money that was already allocated to colleges is not secure; the University of Oklahoma, for example, was told to return money to the state.

In college towns like Athens, Ga., for-sale signs are ubiquitous.

"You can go around town and see houses for sale that have been empty for months," said Dr. Kristin Boudreau, an associate professor of English at the University of Georgia, which has had a hiring freeze for more than a year.

For administrators, the choices are either to raise tuition or drop staff members. Some are doing both.

The University of Iowa increased tuition by 18 percent — the largest increase in two decades.

In Nebraska, rising tuition and staff cuts sparked a big protest at the Capitol last month. Among those objecting to the cuts was a former quarterback for the University of Nebraska's football team, Steve Taylor, who said tuition increases would make it hard to keep young people in the state, which has an aging population.

The university has been told it will lose the research division of the state museum, where woolly mammoth bones and other prehistoric artifacts draw thousands of tourists.

"Prospective students are talking about not coming here because they are not sure their programs will be here," said Joe Rowson, a spokesman for the university, which has 42,000 students at four campuses.

Nebraska has a $761 million budget shortfall. "Education has been the target," Mr. Rowson said, "even though most of our state leaders know this could do some real long-term damage to the state."

But Gov. Mike Johanns, a Republican in a Republican-dominated state with the nation's only unicameral legislature, said the budget hole was too deep to protect things that most people want.

At the elementary school level, class sizes are increasing in many states as teachers are dismissed. Often, it is the music teacher or special education expert who is the first to be cut, educators say.

Oregon has been hit particularly hard. In Portland, in a last-minute effort to keep schools open for the full school year, teachers agreed to work two weeks without pay — the equivalent of a 5 percent pay cut.

School districts in parts of Colorado have gone to four-day weeks to trim costs. In Idaho, where the Republican governor, Dirk Kempthorne, has proposed a tax increase to stem further cuts, towns have held bake sales and auctions to keep teachers on staff. Teachers in Twin Falls gave up a day's pay to pool enough money to keep a hearing specialist on staff.

In California, the most populous state with the largest budget hole, about $30 billion, layoff notices have been sent to 25,000 teachers, although not all of them will be laid off.

The cuts affect rich and poor districts alike. Summer school will not open for elementary students in San Francisco, and the Laguna Beach school district has announced layoffs of a third of its teachers.

But schools have been squeezed the most in the Plains. Half the school districts in Kansas have cut staff. At two elementary schools, students emptied their coin jars to keep nurses and foreign-language teachers.

"Morale is so low, many teachers are leaving the profession," said Carolyn Crowder, president of the Oklahoma Education Association. In her state, a thousand students have lost bus service, custodial staffs have been slashed and class sizes have increased — all part of an across-the-board cut of about 9 percent.

"We've got students and teachers cleaning the classrooms, parents bringing in furnishings and materials and no more substitute teachers," Ms. Crowder said.

The states that have had to pare teachers and programs say their situation will only worsen as they try to meet the goals of new federal legislation that requires schools to raise standards or risk losing federal money.

The Rainy Day Arrives

The states were flush in the 1990's. The stock market was rolling, incomes were rising and tax receipts soared. Most states chose to give much of the money back in tax cuts at the same time they followed voter directives to spend more on popular concerns like schools, parks and care for the elderly and poor.

Tax rates dropped in 43 states in the 1990's, and many states passed laws that would make it difficult to raise taxes again. It seemed to many that the good times would never end. Still, 42 states put money into rainy-day funds.

Critics said the states could not pander to voters' wishes for good schools and fully financed Medicaid systems while still slashing taxes. The states seemed convinced that they could.

According to an analysis by the Cato Institute, a conservative-leaning organization, spending from the states' general funds rose an average of 5.7 percent a year between 1990 and 2001, nearly double the inflation rate.

At the same time, taxes were cut sharply. For seven years, ending in 2002, a majority of states had net tax cuts.

The two largest areas of state spending, Medicaid and education, are now taking the brunt of the cuts, with prisons not far behind.

But critics say the states should not have promised to raise teacher salaries, say, or provide health care for the working poor, only to turn around and cut those areas now.

Colorado is cutting Medicaid benefits to more than 3,500 legal immigrants, including 120 nursing home residents.

"Without medicine, I will die," said Aleksandr Nukhman through a translator. A 78-year-old Russian immigrant, Mr. Nukhman learned he had prostate cancer last year. He takes 13 medicines daily; his tiny apartment's kitchen table is covered in orange prescription bottles filled with large purple and little pink pills. His other ailments include diabetes and high blood pressure.

Medicaid has paid all his medical bills so far. He does not know how much his medications cost, but says he has no extra money to pay for them on his own.

As the economy staggered, the states turned to their reserve rainy day funds, took settlement money from tobacco companies and used it for general purposes and raised taxes in the areas considered least likely to be politically harmful.

That was in 2001 and 2002. Now the cuts are much larger, and much more unpopular politically. Tax receipts, instead of turning around, have only become worse. States are letting historic sites fade away, or not encouraging new art. In Arizona, for example, plans are under way to eliminate the arts commission.

"It's kind of stunning to be on that list," said Shelley M. Cohn, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, which supports nonprofit arts organizations like the Arizona Opera Company and the Phoenix and Tucson symphonies and works with small arts groups.

"Yes, these are hard times, but we have worked for three decades to change the perception that Arizona is a cultural wasteland," Ms. Cohn said. "To attract the knowledge workers, the business and the level of tourism that Arizona wants to have, we have to maintain an arts community that is high quality."

Ms. Cohn called public support of the arts a "small but mighty" investment, because it identifies deserving arts organizations and encourages private donors to support them.

In Indiana, the cutbacks mean some people cannot return to a favorite park, or camp within the state. Indiana has closed some campgrounds, eliminated a beekeeper inspection program and a program that provided folk music and story-telling at state parks.

And the state will no longer pay for upkeep of 14 historic sites, including the childhood home of Ernie Pyle, the World War II reporter.

"If there's a leak in the roof, the solution is, get a bucket," said Stephen Sellers, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources.

In tiny communities, the cuts can make a huge difference, residents say. The only public swimming pool in Crawford County, in southern Indiana, will be closed because the state cannot afford $1 million in repairs.

Tax Increases Not Enough

At the depth of their desperation, some states with strong no-new-tax traditions raised taxes. Nebraska's legislature last year overrode a veto and raised income taxes and other fees. It is still not enough, and across-the-board slashing has been ordered to fill the shortfall.

Gov. Bob Taft of Ohio, a Republican with a family name synonymous with low taxes and streamlined government, proposed a tax increase to comply with court orders to finance schools adequately. But the legislature rejected it, prompting a round of cuts.

At least 15 states have raised taxes, five of them by 5 percent or more. Other states are turning to gambling, but are finding that the market has gone somewhat soft.

What the states are left with now, in some cases, are extreme measures, and infighting.

In Illinois, some prisons have been asked to reduce pharmaceutical costs by ordering more potent prescription drugs, and then splitting them in half.

In Washington State, after legislators said they would have to renege on a promise to raise the salary of home health care workers to $8.70 an hour from $7.86, the Senate majority leader, James West, a Republican, complained that the health care workers were "perpetual pathetics" who were always whining.

In response, the workers union produced a woman, Sherry Beebe, who had cared for Mr. West's ailing mother.

"I was one of the workers who took care of your mom," said Ms. Beebe in a letter to Senator West. "Stop being so selfish and think about where you would be if you had to care for your mom for almost no pay or benefits."

The bitterness is closer to the land in Indiana, where Mary Craft, 58, and her husband, Oliver, 56, say they can no longer afford to camp in their home state, where they used to spend nights at Shakamak State Park or Lake Monroe with some of their 10 grandchildren.

"Our wiener-roasting days are done," said Mrs. Craft, who lives in Gosport. Camping fees have risen to $23.50 a night, from $12, she said.

"There's no sense in that," she said. "Anything that was affordable, now they're just raising it up to where an ordinary person can't afford it."

© New York Times 2003

Commentary:
If a democrat candidate can get a handle on the state and federal financial problems he'll destroy Bush in the next election.

Republicans, especially Rush and Fox News are great at telling us tax cuts increase revenue. The only problem is it's all a lie.

The US debt alone boggles the mind. It now sits at $6.4 trillion. It was only $5.7 trillion when Bush became president (Only $5.7).

The republicans passed a law in the 1990's that requires the federal government to fund all mandates. Bush has pushed national defense on to the states (calling it homeland security) and education reforms, but he didn't give them the money to pay for it. He and his party say one thing but do the opposite.

Note that no matter how bad the budget looks on the federal or state level, Bush always has enough money for more tax cuts for the rich. Bush and his republican party have done enough damage. It's time to kick them out of office.


top
Ashcroft Creates New Law on Illegal Immigrants
Washington Post/AP
By CURT ANDERSON
The Associated Press
Thursday, April 24, 2003; 12:52 PM

WASHINGTON - Illegal immigrants could be held indefinitely without bond if their cases present national security concerns, under a decision by Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The order means aliens will not be released on bond while their cases are decided by immigration judges if the government can show national security issues are involved.

"Such national security considerations clearly constitute a reasonable foundation for the exercise of my discretion to deny release on bond," Ashcroft said in the 19-page opinion, which was signed last Friday. It has not been made public but is circulating among immigration attorneys and judges.

The opinion was requested by the Homeland Security Department, which now has authority over most immigration matters, after the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld a judge's decision to release Haitian asylum-seeker David Joseph on $2,500 bond.

The judge and appeals board concluded they did not have authority to deny bond based on the national security concerns cited by the government, which has sought to detain more illegal aliens in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Joseph was among the 216 Haitians who arrived in Miami by boat on Oct. 29, then leaped from the craft into Biscayne Bay and ran along a major causeway. The scene was captured on live television.

Several federal agencies have opposed release of the Haitians on bond, arguing that national security would be threatened if the release triggered a huge wave of immigrants to attempt to reach U.S. shores. That would overtax the already-strained Coast Guard, Border Patrol and other agencies that are busy trying to thwart terror attacks, the government said.

In addition, the State Department has warned that Haiti has become "a staging point" for non-Haitians considered security threats, including Pakistanis and Palestinians, to enter the United States.

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights said it will fight to overturn Ashcroft's order. Dina Paul Parks, the New York-based coalition's executive director, said the decision further erodes immigrants' legal rights.

"If you were lucky enough to get a sympathetic judge you could potentially get released on bond. Now even that prospect is taken away," she said.

Other immigrant advocates said they had not seen the decision but in general opposed such a policy.

"It appears that the attorney general is forgetting that the authority of the government to arrest and detain is among the greatest powers the government has, and has to be exercised with great care and the most careful sensitivity to individual rights and constitutional protections," said Lucas Guttentag, the American Civil Liberties Union's immigration rights project director.

Ashcroft's decision applies to all illegal immigrants except Cubans, who by law automatically are permitted to stay in the United States if they reach its shores.

The opinion also reaffirms the attorney general's primary authority over immigration law, even though most of the nation's immigration apparatus has been transferred to the Homeland Security Department. Ashcroft's opinion says that the attorney general has "broad discretion" in determining the status of would-be immigrants.

On the Net:

Justice Department: http://www.doj.gov

ACLU: http://aclu.org

© 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
I remember the good ol' days when new laws were passed by Congress and signed by a president. Now we have dictators making new laws on a whim. Why doesn't Ashcroft ask Congress for a new law from Congress? Simple–why bother with the democratic process when it's far easily do it alone.

Is there anyone stupid enough to think Haitians are a national security threat? Only if you're stupid enough to think the Taliban or Iraq were a threat to us also.

Terrorism is an excuse to use extra-Constitutional means of governing in what used to be a democracy of the people.


top
Venezuela President Hugo Chavez: Interview
BBC Newsnight
Greg Palast
Thursday, May 2, 2002

1 Greg Palast: When you were seized during the coup, and you were put on a helicopter to La Orchila, did you think that this might be your last helicopter ride, and that you would never see Rosa Inés or your other children again? Did you ever think, this is it - they're taking me up in the air and I may not make it to the island, they could just throw me out of the helicopter?

Chávez: (translated) Well, Greg, on that helicopter to La Orchila, from Turiamo Bay where they'd kept me for almost 24 hours, on that journey, no I didn't, because during that flight I felt like Zarathustra coming down from the mountain, I was on fire! I was certain, although incommunicado, that I would return.

But the night before, when they also took me by helicopter, from Fort Tiuna here in Caracas, late at night and in a very bizarre manner - I remember flying all over Caracas and along the coastline of the Caribbean, the night was completely clear and I had no idea where we were going. And on that flight, I had that sensation, that feeling, that I was being taken towards my death. That flight, which only took about forty minutes, was a very long one for me. It was like a forty-seven yearlong journey, my whole lifetime!

For various reasons I had the belief, as I've already said, that I was going to die. I had a cross in my hand, I was very relaxed. I was ready to die. I was thinking about Rosa Inés, Maria Isabel, my mother, my father, my friends, all my children, Rosa Virginia, María Gabriela, Hugo Rafael, Raúlito, my granddaughter Gabriela, and above all, the Venezuelan people - I thought about them all, especially the Venezuelan children. And yes indeed, I thought I was going to die and that this would be my last flight.

2 Palast: Now you had help, from a young officer, who helped you put a message into a garbage can, that you had not resigned. Could you tell me about that, how you were able to be helped, to get the message out that you hadn't resigned?

Chávez: I had the assistance of several soldiers and officials during my captivity. One of them gave me a stone to rub, which is part of his religious beliefs. He told me to rub it and nothing bad would happen to me, that was here in Fort Tiuna. Another person gave me a mobile phone, on the first day, and I was able to make two phone calls, to my wife and my daughter Maria. I said to them, I don't know what's going to happen, but tell the world that I am a President held prisoner, that I haven't resigned and I will not resign.

Then, in Turiamo, some more soldiers helped me, mainly giving me moral support. I remember one officer, a nurse, who was sent to check on my heartbeat and vital signs, who was very young. She told me she had a five year-old child who loves me very much. And when she saw me, she said the same thing as someone else, "My President, for many years I've wanted to meet you, to see you close-up and to touch you. And now that I'm here staring at you, I would give anything for it to be under different circumstances." That gave me enourmous strength, spiritually.

Afterwards, someone else arrived, this time a young officer who entered my cell very firmly and directly, but he came up to me and whispered in a very low voice, "My commandante, for us you are still the President." And he said, "The paratroopers are uprising." I asked him, in what way are they uprising? "They are rising up for you," he replied, "I am in touch with them, and we are going to liberate you." He also told me about the people demonstrating on the streets, that was on Saturday morning.

Later, a young professional from the National Guard - he appears for an instant in the video that was released yesterday on television, I don't know if you've seen it - he was talking to me all alone. I was having lunch at a table, barefoot with shorts and a white T-shirt, and he was talking to me. We'd already agreed that I was going to give him a sheet of paper. I was finishing writing it and he was waiting. Suddenly a commission appears with an admiral, announcing that I was to be taken to La Orchila. He immediately says to finish the letter later and leave it in the rubbish, down there, he'd come back afterwards to pick it up. Then he just vanishes. I don't know if you've seen the video but he leaves the room pretty quickly as soon as the commission appears.

Afterwards, he did just as he promised - he's a young man from the same lands as me, from the plains. After we left for La Orchila he went back to my cell, picked up the paper from the rubbish bin and off he went, I don't know how he did it, to the nearest town where he started sending fax after fax after fax. And he got his wife to photocopy it, he went to pick her up and asked her to help him distribute it, to tell the world that his commander hadn't resigned and was still the President! These are the anonymous heroes.

3 Palast: I spoke to Ali Rodriguez today, and he was telling me something very interesting, that he called you a couple of days before the coup to warn you that there were some members of OPEC who were planning to stop or cut production because of the situation in the Middle East. And therefore there was danger for you because the United States could not allow you to remain in control of OPEC and Venezuela's oil if there was a boycott coming. The question I have for you, did you understand this as a warning from Ali Rodriguez that a coup was imminent because of the oil situation?

Chávez: In all honesty, there was no direct relationship between that oil scenario - the possibility that production would be cut - and the imminence of the coup. But it was a call of alert, for us to think clearly, and decrease the risk of a complicated situation getting much more difficult. That call helped me clarify to the world, which we did through the Minister of Energy and Mines, that Venezuela wasn't going to support an oil boycott; that Venezuela, as current leader of OPEC, was committed to fulfilling the 1999 Caracas Resolution that says OPEC countries guarantee worldwide consumers a secure oil supply. We only clarified our position.

4 Palast: Nevertheless you must have known that your actions in rebuilding OPEC into a real - powerful - organisation had to upset the government of the United States and put you in hot water with the American government; that rebuilding OPEC, which was due to your actions, had to incur the wrath of the American government?

Chávez: The truth is that when our government came to power, even before then, we were in touch with countries like Saudi Arabia, Mexico (which is not from OPEC but very close to us here) and all the other OPEC members, in order to find a price balance. The price was way too low, it was $7 per barrel, which was almost a gift. I once gave this speech, initiating the OPEC conference here in Caracas, and I said something that made everybody laugh but it's absolutely true: a barrel of oil costs $14-15 (this was in 1999) while a barrel of whisky costs 10 times that! A barrel of wine costs far more. A barrel of ice-cream costs three times a barrel of oil - sunscreen, which women especially use on the beach, a barrel of that costs three times more than a barrel of oil. And it's not right that the price of oil is so low. This is about finding a fair price, one that is convenient for everybody from the consumers to the producers, in order to incorporate sustainability into the oil business.

Well, sincerely, I don't see how that policy could incur wrath in countries like the US or England, and I've tried to explain that policy to the leaders of almost every developed country. In London, for example, we held a meeting, the first time ever that an OPEC president has had a meeting with the national energy agency there, in which we talked for roughly three hours. I have spoken about this matter with Prime Minister Blair and President Chirac, with President Aznar, with the King of Spain, with President Putin, President Clinton, President Sampaio, with almost every leader of the developed world, Prime Minister Chrétien, the Prime Minister of Japan, trying to explain that it's also important for them to have a balance in the market, that we cannot fall again into that price volatility, when the prices were shooting to $40 and falling to $5.

It is convenient for everyone to have a fair and balanced price, so we in Venezuela produced the 'bands' system that got approved, which was a floor of $22 and a ceiling of $28, that's our strategy. And I believe that it favours the developed countries as well because it eradicates price uncertainty and gives security to their oil supply. I'll tell you something, President Clinton, the first time we met -

Palast: But Clinton isn't Bush.

Chávez: Well, I'm talking abut Clinton, whom I had the opportunity to speak with on three different occasions. The first time we met, he didn't understand the bands system, or to be more honest he didn't like it. They wanted low prices. But the third time we talked, he shook my hand and told me, "Chávez, I like the bands!" He had got it. He understood that a balanced price was necessary for the United States also. A balance between supply and demand of crude oil.

5 Palast: You gave President Clinton a lesson, but now the United States government has said, "Hugo Chávez had better learn the lessons of the coup." What do you think the American government means by "the lessons" you should learn, and have you learned your lesson?

Chávez: I would say that we all have to learn the lessons of the coup, including myself. I also believe that some of the political players in Venezuela and the US, and other parts of the world, should also take some time to revise the lessons of the coup. It's not only me. But I humbly say, yes, I am always learning. Especially as leader of a state, a leader of many, a nation's conductor, I should be humble. I studied the principles of leadership, and I try to apply them always, and the first principle I learned, when I was only 17 - I was a young man, skinny, you know what they called me, they used to call me "Tribilin," you know, Goofy from Disney, because I was thin and my feet were too large, I use size 44 shoes. You too? Then you are also "Tribilin!" Well I learned that first principle of leadership, of commanding men, and I can never forget it: "Know thyself, and always look for self-correction."

6 Palast: But the US, when they say "Hugo Chávez better learn his lessons" - do you take that as a threat from the American government? Isn't that a threat?

Chávez: I don't want to take it as a threat. No, they must have their own reasons for saying such things. You know, before publicly answering expressions like this one, I prefer to talk person-to-person, face-to-face, with those who have actually said them, in order to understand their motivations for expressing such things, and consequently give them personally an answer. I insist, not only to the US, but all over the world to those who have expressed themselves on this matter, that this spectacular coup that happened in Venezuela, which received such a beautiful answer from our people - dignified, valiant, democratic, and also the dignified and valiant answer of the central structure of the Venezuelan military, I believe that these elements, along with many others, must be an extraordinary source of lesson.

Looking at all this under the magnifying-glass, as many around the world are, gives a far better understanding of what the revolutionary process in Venezuela is all about. In Venezuela what is happening is indeed a revolutionary process, but with democratic form - peaceful and supported by the great majority of the Venezuelan people. For example, only yesterday there was a demonstration of over a million people supporting the President.

7 Palast: I read your newspapers, and the papers in the United States, and Europe, and they say, 'Hugo Chávez is crazy, Hugo Chávez is a dictator!' So I'm gonna ask you, Mr President, are you crazy, are you loco?!

Chávez: Look Greg, I also read the papers - not as much as you, but that's your business. I have so many activities, but I do read the newspapers and I make analyses of what I read. I love to read, I love social communication, freedom of speech - I sail on it. So when I read in a newspaper in Europe or North America, or even here in South America, "Chávez is crazy," you know what I say? That I should speak like Christ: forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do! I don't feel like they're talking about me at all - I am just a Venezuelan, in a struggle every day for my people's rights. What I am is simply a peasant, a soldier and a political leader, who has a dream of a country that is already written down. Here it is, the future of Venezuela, on paper. (produces copy of the constitution) I carry it here in my head, and here in my heart, and I will fight for it all my life, this is what I am.

8 Palast: They also say you're a dictator, so Hugo Chávez - are you a dictator, are you using, for example, your Bolivarian Circles to intimidate your opponents? And we did see bullet holes in the front of a TV station that opposes you.

Chávez: Look, a dictator is what was installed here in the presidential palace, in an illegitimate way, for a day and a half. That was a dictatorship, what happened after that coup. When a fake president swore himself in - that, yes, is a dictator. I was elected by these people. I was elected once, I was elected a second time, and now I've been elected for a third time. April 13th for me was like a third election, the people brought me back again.

Am I a dictator? In addition to winning the elections on December 6th 1998, the first thing I did when I arrived at this presidential palace was sign a decree - not a dictatorship, it wasn't a decree to eliminate the National Assembly like the one that was signed here on April 12th, a dark day in the history of Venezuelan. On the first day of my presidency, on February 2nd 1999, I didn't try to eliminate all judicial power and concentrate it in myself, nor did I tear up the Constitution, stamping on the people. Mine was a decree, the first such decree in two hundred years of our history, that proposed a national referendum to ask the Venezuelan people what they wanted, what kind of constitution they wanted.

What dictator does that? I have governed for three years so far, and there hasn't been a single political prisoner, not one person persecuted for their political beliefs. No reporter can say I have persecuted them. The media has not been censored. Myself, I was subject to a referendum after one year. All the governers have been elected, all the mayors have been elected, all the representatives to the National Assemby were elected. All the Supreme Court justices were elected. All the provincial government officials were elected, even the trade unions leaders were elected by the rank and file. This is the first time that has happened in Venezuelan history.

So, really, a dictator? Whoever says that must be either crazy, ignorant, or have bad intentions.

9 Palast: Then let me ask you, if according to your own constitution, the National Assembly votes to remove you, will you leave peacefully?

Chávez: The National Assembly could only do it through a series of steps, they don't have the right to take the presidency away from me just like that. There is only one way to do it: democratically, legitimately - and it was this humble servant who proposed to the Constitutional Assembly that it should be included in the Constitution. It's in the shape of a binding referendum, which is applied to every officer elected by the people, after half of their period has been completed. So that's the legitimate and constitutional way through which I could leave government, by the Venezuelan people voting for it.

The National Assembly only has the capability to arrange a political trial, along with the Supreme Court, that after an investigation authorises and orders my resignation. But that has to be justified by some crime I've committed.

10 Palast: If they voted, would you accept their vote?

Chávez: Yes, democratically, yes. If I commit a felony, and the General Attorney accuses me in front of the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court finds merit in the case, and the National Assembly orders my resignation, then I would accept. I would have to leave the presidency, how could I resist? This is about the normal behaviour of democratic institutions, but there must be a solid background for this to happen.

11 Palast: You have two problems it seems. You have pressure from the outside, from the last remaining superpower, and internally from the upper classes. From the outside, isn't it true that the reason you're in hot water with the United States is over the issue of oil?

Chávez: I wouldn't like to believe that, in any case you are stating a hypothesis. I have many friends in the United States that I have have won over because of my fight over oil prices. Those are the American oil producers, who are also affected by a very low price of oil. When I go to Houston and visit them, in Texas, or Lake Charles, or any other oil town in the States, they applaud me, because a fair price of oil is also good for them.

12 Palast: It's very clear that the man on the hill, Ambassador Shapiro, and his boss Mr Bush, they don't like you. What is behind this? Not everyone in America, and obviously the government, appreciates you establishing a base floor on the price of oil. Why does the United States government act so hostile towards you?

Chávez: I believe there is something at the bottom of all this, in fact there are probably many reasons. Some, maybe I don't know about, but I'll tell you a small anecdote. One time, ex-President Bush the father, whom I'd already met in Houston a few months beforehand at the beginning of 1999, came here to Venezuela and I received him in the palace. He told me, "Mr President, I believe that your fundamental problem with the United States is that of perception."

I am perceived in the higher spheres of Washington as a threat, but they're very mistaken. I'm not an enemy of any country in the world. What I am is a friend of peace and sovereignty, and independence of states, international co-operation. A friend of a balanced world, of a multi-polar world, and friend of the people of humanity, of human rights, a friend of the world.

But in Washington, as I've said to a delegation of North American senators which was here, I told them that in Washington a lot of people believe I support terrorism, and that is completely false. Many people believe that I support the Colombian guerrillas, and that is totally false also. Some have the idea I move secretly around the world, conspiring against Washington's interests, and that is complete nonsense. So it's a problem of perception, and we must make a great effort here.

13 Palast: But doesn't it worry you that Otto Reich is in charge of Latin American affairs for the Bush government? He spoke to Carmona, he spoke to other people who may be involved in the coup, he was previously involved in trying to overthrow a government when he worked for Bush the father. Doesn't it worry you that the man in charge of Latin American operations for the United States has made ties to your enemies and has a history of overthrowing governments?

Chávez: We are assessing all this behaviour, but more than concern me, I believe that this man that you mention has been very concerned himself and has been making a lot of effort to explain his behaviour to the world. And also for the image of the US government around the world, they should be concerned to clarify this to the world, for example to the European Union, Latin American countries, to the whole world. I believe the United States must be very concerned to clarify their real position on this coup, this assault on democracy.

I don't want to believe, not even for an instant, that the US actually supported this coup. This would be dreadful for the whole world, that a government that talks so much about democracy and spreads the words of democracy and human rights, would support this humungous atrocity. It would be like the negation of all their moral ethics and truths, their own words would be compromised as well as their credibility, a country as important as the United States.

I think they should be a lot more concerned than me, because of the opinions of the individual you already mentioned. What I have said is that I don't want to believe anything like that, but there is an ongoing process of investigation here, and also in the US. There is a commission of the Senate investigating the facts, I think they are coming here, and we have another process of investigation here as well.

I have, for example, proof, the written proof, I have the time of the entries and exits of the two military officers from the United States into the headquarters of the coup-plotters. I have their names, who they met with, what they said, proof on video and on still photographs. This is being investigated, what those officers from the US military were doing here. I have in my hands a radar image of a military vessel that came into Venezuelan waters, near the Paraguana peninsula, on midday the 13th of April. I have radar images of a helicopter that takes off from that ship, and flies over Venezuela, and of other planes that violated Venezuelan airspace. Again, all this is being currently investigated.

I don't know if it was a US military ship yet, it could be from another country. In any case, I cannot give you any insights, it's a very serious investigation. I repeat what I already said, I am very interested in a fast resolution of all this, and I hope that the name and the democratic image of the United States government, that represents a people who love democracy, Abraham Lincoln's people, George Washington's people, Martin Luther King's people, the people of great poets, the American people who are brothers of the Venezuelan people, that's why I repeat -

Palast: Well who was it that the military men from the United States spoke to, you said that you know who they spoke to?

Chávez: I cannot give details, please understand that I am Head of State and there is a process of investigation currently in the Court Martial of the Republic, and if I did this I would be violating national secrets which would compromise the investigation. I beg for your understanding in this, Greg, I have more information but it belongs to a military trial that is currently open in Venezuela.

14 Palast: Finally, a very last question. You said that you were a simple man - a peasant, a soldier. Do you think this is one of the reasons why the rich hate you here? I've met many rich people and most of them, they don't just dislike you, they hate you! Do you think it's because of your background, or the colour of your skin?

Chávez: Well, I have many friends who are rich, so not all of them hate me, fortunately!

What I believe is that a sector of the Venezuelan high class is the victim of a psychological campaign - systematic, cold, calculating, Goebellian - so they have seen with their own eyes through Venezuelan television so many lies, they have heard with their own ears so many lies told, that I'm sure they have in their heads a phantom, a ghost, which they believe is Chávez, but it's not me. I love the people. I don't care if you're the richest man on earth, you are a son of God, and I love them all. I wish them the best, to their children, to their wives, I wish happiness.

What happens though is that I'm obliged to fight for the weakest. To struggle, from my soul, for the poor and the most needy. That's why I'm here. I have faith that as time passes and these people who are poisoned against me and have this ghost Chávez who is not me, at some point they are going to recognise the truth. I have faith that this will occur.

After everything that has occured recently, I received emails and phone calls from people that used to hate me but now have realised that they'd been tricked and manipulated. Recently a woman wrote a letter to me that was published in a newspaper, a woman that went on the opposition march that day of the bloodshed. And she told me she had been tricked, along with so many others, and had been led like a lamb to its slaughter. She realised the truth, and there's deep reflection in those sectors of the middle classes in Venezuela. I am sure that is one of the biggest lessons we are collectively going to learn after this horror that we've all lived through.

###

Palast's first book is, "THE BEST DEMOCRACY MONEY CAN BUY: An Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth about Globalization, Corporate Cons and High Finance Fraudsters." At www.GregPalast.com you can read and subscribe to Palast's London Observer and Guardian columns and view his reports for BBC Television's Newsnight, including his interview with President Hugo Chavez.

Commentary:
In light of the Venezuelan claim that it has proof the US government was involved in the coup, it's worth the time to go back and see who this man is. I've been following this story since Impeach 14, and like so many stories it takes a long time for the real truth to come out.

Obviously the number of lies Bush tells in a given time period exceeds my ability to find and correct each, but it's the press that lets Bush get away with these lies and his failure to defend democracy or the rule of law.


top
US Media and Venezuelan Coup
The Nation
Scott Sherman
Posted May 9, 2002

Cold war journalism made a comeback last month. On April 11 Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was ousted in an ill-fated coup attempt. On April 14 he returned in triumph to the presidential palace. During the interregnum, the New York Times published an editorial celebrating the dethroning of a "would-be dictator." In what the Times called "a purely Venezuelan affair," Chávez, "a ruinous demagogue," stepped down "after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona." The editorial itself was news in Latin America. The next day, the Mexico City daily La Jornada's front-page headline read, The New York Times Celebrated the Fall of a 'Would-Be Dictator.'

When Chávez, riding a wave of populist fury, reclaimed the presidency, the Times backpedaled, confessing on April 16 that it had "overlooked the undemocratic manner in which he was removed. Forcibly unseating a democratically elected leader, no matter how badly he has performed, is never something to cheer." Replying to a critical e-mail from Jules Siegel of Cancun, Mexico, editorial page editor Gail Collins admitted, "You're right, we dropped the ball on our first Venezuela editorial."

The Times was not the only US newspaper to drop the ball. On April 13 Long Island's Newsday published an editorial headlined Chávez's Ouster Is No Great Loss. Four days later, another editorial acknowledged, "Like him or not, Chávez had won his post in a free election and should be removed only by constitutional means." Few newspapers matched the rhetorical venom of the Chicago Tribune, which lashed Chávez on April 14 for "toasting Fidel Castro, flying to Baghdad to visit Saddam Hussein, [and] praising Osama bin Laden." When Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting asked the Tribune to document its assertion that Chávez had praised bin Laden, the editorialist admitted he had "misread" his source--a Freedom House report. (The Tribune printed a correction on April 20.)

The journalistic missteps were numerous. Newspapers tended to accept the legitimacy of the short-lived provisional government of Pedro Carmona--"a mild-mannered businessman," "slight and meek," according to the Times. The Economist's characterization of Carmona's government as "a cabinet full of conservative fanatics which excluded labour" was closer to the truth. In addition, the initial editorials in the Times, Washington Post, Newsday and Chicago Tribune--along with many news articles and commentaries in publications including The Nation--blamed Chávez and his supporters for the gun violence that killed seventeen on April 11, whereas subsequent dispatches from Caracas have portrayed a firefight between pro- and antigovernment forces.

Most newspapers simply parroted the White House, which welcomed Chávez's overthrow and insisted that a "coup" had not taken place. "That is not a word we are using," an unnamed official told the Post on April 12. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer announced on the same day, "Chávez resigned." Leading newspapers were quick to embrace the official rhetoric. "President Hugo Chávez...resigned this morning," Scott Wilson wrote in the April 13 Post. Writing from Caracas, Times reporter Juan Forero avoided the word "coup"--except to note, ominously, that the Cuban government was using that term to define Chávez's ouster.

What to call it, then? Within the pages of the Times, a lively debate ensued. Writing from Santiago on April 13, Times correspondent Larry Rohter expressed satisfaction over Chávez's ouster ("Chávez was a left-wing populist doomed by habitual recklessness") and argued that Chávez's fall cannot "be classified as a conventional Latin American military coup." The next day, Times Mexico correspondent Tim Weiner ridiculed that claim in a pungent "Week in Review" article. "When is a coup not a coup?" asked Weiner. "When the United States says so, it seems." Rohter later reversed himself and used the word "coup" in his story about Chávez's resurrection, while also reassuring his readers that "there were no obvious American fingerprints on the plot that unseated Mr. Chávez."

On April 16, however, the Times published a front-page story by Christopher Marquis titled Bush Officials Met With Venezuelans Who Ousted Leader, in which a Defense Department official noted, "We were not discouraging people. We were sending informal, subtle signals that we don't like this guy." In a follow-up article on April 17, Marquis outlined a web of connections between US officials--including Otto Reich, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs--and the men who ousted Chávez. And on April 24 Marquis reported that the United States provided funds to the Venezuelan opposition through the National Endowment for Democracy. The Post's Scott Wilson subsequently noted that coup plotters Vice Adm. Carlos Molina and Col. Pedro Soto had "each received $100,000 from a Miami bank account for denouncing Chávez." By and large, though, news organizations have been slow to follow up on these revelations.

What explains the media's shoddy performance? Some see laziness and ignorance. "These people weren't thinking!" said Arturo Valenzuela, senior director for western hemispheric affairs in the second Clinton Administration. "Even if you're not really familiar with the situation in Venezuela, you ask yourself: Where did Carmona come from? Is he the vice president? Did the Senate appoint him?" Others see a deferential attitude toward the Bush Administration. "There is no love for Chávez among most policy-makers, and it spills over into the editorial pages, I think," says Marquis of the Times, whose articles enraged the White House. For Valenzuela, the press's timidity had much to do with the war on terror: "The newspapers have been pulling their punches on anything that could be viewed as going against national interests after September 11," he says. Marquis himself, who is based in Washington, feels the chill. "I think you perhaps run your story ideas through an additional filter: Will this somehow compromise national security? Is this going to jeopardize American interests?"

Some news organizations, in their initial response to the Venezuela situation, didn't allow "national security" concerns to stand in the way of criticism. A San Francisco Chronicle editorial affirmed that "Chávez was...occasionally a bully. But he repeatedly won democratic elections. The United States must stay true to its principles and condemn his overthrow." The Los Angeles Times, which waited until the dust settled before passing judgment, spoke with cool-headed authority on April 17: "The United States, proclaimed champion of democracy, embarrassed itself by not denouncing the coup and was further shamed by the revelation that Bush Administration officials had talked to the Venezuelan opposition for months before the coup." Concluded the LA Times, wisely: "Whatever its intentions, the White House failed to stay on the side of democracy."

Copyright © 2003 The Nation

Commentary:
What happened to the American I grew up in? Today the media and this administration support(ed) a military coup and went against the OAS Democratic Charter: "At news of the coup, 19 Latin American heads of states immediately issued a joint statement, saying, "we condemn the interruption of constitutional order." Invoking the Democratic Charter, they called for a special session of the OAS General Assembly. Leading the charge was Mexican President Vicente Fox, President Bush's closest ally in the region."

Where was Bush? Where was his support of democracy and his support of the rule of law? In recent days we've learned the US government took part in that coup. Read Venezuela has proof Washington was behind failed coup from Impeach 83.

It's easy now to see why South America didn't side with the US during the Iraqi war debate. They don't trust us anymore and we can't blame them.

There was a time (perhaps an innocent time) when the US believed in democracy and the rule of law. Then 9/11 happened and that America ceased to exist.

For more information read an interview with the president of Venezuela which precedes this article and Bush's coup in Venezuela from Impeach 14.


top
Powell Threatens France
Voice of America
23 Apr 2003, 18:02 UTC

France has defended its opposition to the Iraq war, despite a warning by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that Paris will face consequences for its stance.

Speaking in an American television interview Tuesday, Mr. Powell said the Bush administration will have to look at all aspects of Washington's relations with Paris. He did not elaborate.

Responding to Mr. Powell's comments, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Wednesday France will continue to defend international law "in all circumstances."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher confirmed that Mr. de Villepin called Mr. Powell Wednesday, and said the two men talked about a number of issues, including U.N. resolutions on Iraq. Mr. Boucher said France and the United States have had strong disagreements lately, but are still allies and continue to work together on a daily basis on a number of issues.

He would not comment on what sort of consequences Mr. Powell may have meant. Asked Wednesday about what kind of consequences France may face, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said one consequence is the strained relations between Paris and Washington.

France Tuesday called for the immediate suspension of United Nations sanctions against Iraq and also proposed the U.N.-supervised oil-for-food program for Iraq should be phased out. The French proposal calls for keeping the arms embargo against Iraq in place, but immediately lifting the 12-year-old ban on trade and investment.

President Bush has also called for lifting sanctions against Iraq. A White House spokesman said Mr. Bush believes the ban no longer serves a useful purpose since the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein is no longer in control of the country.

However, Russia says U.N. inspectors should certify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction before sanctions are lifted. The United States says the U.S.-led coalition has taken over the responsibility of disarming Iraq.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters

Commentary:
Before Powell gets his panties in a bind, he may want to recall how fast the US needed China with the North Korea crisis. Also, you don't want to piss off the other guy when you know you're going to need his vote. Powell must be a complete idiot or have a very slow mind.

Again, it needs to pointed out how quick Bush needs the UN (and China in North Korea) to pay for his little war and reconstruction but he didn't give a damn about the UN before the war. Too bad Daddy Bush isn't there to bail him out (financially) again.

And finally, don't forget the US doesn't really believe in democracy. The government of France was following the will of the people, a concept unknown to Powell or Bush. The US under this president thinks democracies only have value if they do what we tell them to do.

This foreign policy team borders between rank amateurs and childish. You decide.


top
Santorum: Bigotry or morality?
CNN
COLLINS/SCHNEIDER
Wednesday, April 23, 2003

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top Democrats and gay rights advocates blasted comments by Sen. Rick Santorum in which he appeared to compare homosexuality to incest, bigamy and adultery, and they called on the Pennsylvania Republican to repudiate the remarks.

One prominent Democratic group Tuesday also called on Santorum to resign his leadership post in the Senate.

Santorum made the comments during an interview with The Associated Press. During that interview, Santorum criticized homosexuality as he discussed a pending Supreme Court case over a sodomy law in Texas.

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," Santorum said in the interview published Monday.

CNN's Bill Schneider offered his analysis of the controversy for CNN's Heidi Collins:

SCHNEIDER: I believe the statement he originally made, that first statement equating consensual gay sex with bigamy, incest, polygamy, those things are crimes, clearly, under the law. They're prosecutable crimes. And adultery, at least, is widely considered an immoral act, even if it's not a crime. He is essentially criminalizing or saying the Supreme Court should endorse the criminalization of consensual gay sex.

That is a statement that a lot of Americans would regard as prejudiced. The problem is a lot of Americans regard it as prejudice, but a lot of Americans regard it as a statement of morality. It's a statement that divides the country more or less down the middle.

COLLINS: Gay rights groups and Democrats alike are comparing this to the comments that Trent Lott made about segregation. What do you think? Are there differences in what he said and what Trent Lott said?

SCHNEIDER: Well, many people would condemn both of them as statements of bigotry. The difference is that bigotry against homosexuals is still widely accepted in the United States, primarily because to many Americans it's based on religion. A lot of religious Americans of different faiths and creeds believe that homosexuality being condemned by the Bible is something that is immoral and unacceptable.

Senator Santorum tried to get out of it by saying, I think somewhat puzzlingly, that he likes or accepts homosexuals, he just condemns homosexual activity or behavior, which is a very strange distinction to make. But a lot of Americans agree with that particular form of prejudice and say it's a statement of moral principal.

In the case of racism, well, to a lot of Southerners 75, 80 years ago, racism was a statement of moral principal.

COLLINS: You raise an interesting point. I actually heard some of the Republicans who were defending him say last night on television morality is not bigotry. What's your reaction to that?

SCHNEIDER: That is exactly the problem. About half the country -- I'm not sure of the percentages here -- a lot of Americans consider it bigotry. But some Americans consider it a statement of morality. That's the difference between this and the race issue. And the basic problem here is that to many Americans this is a religiously dictated statement of morality and when things are deeply rooted in religion, like people's views on abortion, for instance, It's very hard to say that's simply a prejudice.

© 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

Commentary:
Bigotry, Homosexuality and Morality

When is bigotry moral? Let's take a simple example. If a Jewish man says he belongs to the one true religion, but a Catholic man says he does, is one of them a bigot? No, but why not? Simply believing you're right isn't enough to make you a bigot, no matter how wrong you may be. It's how you act that makes you a bigot.

Bigotry comes into play when you say you're right and then you pass laws (or elect politicians to do it for you) that hurt the guy you think is wrong. In the above case, a Jewish lawmaker making laws that support his religious belief to the exclusion of Catholic beliefs, or vise versa would be bigotry. The act of bigotry is a sin.

Santorum and his party have a long history of being anti-gay. The Party has passed laws that harm gay people in that they deny gays the right to get married, deny gays the right to serve openly in the military (lying is not only accepted but expected) and they refuse to pass laws giving gays equal rights. In this case, Santorum says gays don't have a right to have sex.

Does a gay person having sex harm Santorum or does Santorum's support of anti-gay laws harm gays? Since Santorum believes in harming gays he's a bigot. It's that simple. You can't hide behind religion when you're a bigot, though bigots almost always do.

On the issue of religion, everyone knows Christ never say a word about homosexuality or same sex consensual sex. In fact, there isn't a single reference to same sex love in the Bible. Suggesting the anti-gay belief is a Christian belief borders on blasphemy because Christ never taught such nonsense.


top
North Korea and US begin talks in China
The Independent (UK)
By Rupert Cornwell
24 April 2003

After six months of standoff, the US and North Korea opened talks in Beijing yesterday about Pyongyang's suspected secret nuclear weapons programme – but with scant prospect of an immediate breakthrough.

After the first of three scheduled days of meetings, in which China is also participating, James Kelly, the US Assistant Secretary of State, was tight-lipped. But officials here say the best to be expected is an agreement to hold further discussions.

At this early stage, insiders warn, the basic disagreement between the superpower and the country named by George Bush as a member of the "axis of evil" is as wide as ever North Korea is demanding aid and a cast-iron security guarantee from Washington while America insists that the alleged nuclear programmes be scrapped as a precondition for any meaningful negotiations.

But the fact that direct contacts are under way at all may attest to the shock effect on the North of the overwhelming US military victory in Iraq, combined with strong pressure from China, the regional power with the most influence on the secretive Communist state.

Japanese government officials described Pyongyang as "very nervous" before the meeting. Any jitters will not have been assuaged by the tough language of Colin Powell, the Secretary of State and the strongest advocate in the Bush administration for negotiations with the North. On the eve of the talks, General Powell declared the US would not be intimidated by the North and would do "whatever might be required" to deal with such a threat.

In an apparent response, Pyongyang ordered its air force to start long-distance flight training, a move aimed at countering the US air tactics used in the war in Iraq.

In December, North Korea restarted its nuclear facilities, expelled UN inspectors from suspect sites and withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Last week came the announcement that reprocessing had started of some 8,000 spent fuel rods at the Yongbyon reactor facility north of Pyongyang. That would enable the regime to produce enough plutonium for half a dozen nuclear devices. That statement was amended to say that it was "successfully going forward to reprocess" the rods, which fits in with intelligence assessments that the Yongbyon reprocessing plant is not yet operational

© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

Commentary:
After spending six months promising to never speak to North Korea while it has a nuclear program Bush in now finally giving in to their "nuclear blackmail."

Bush is showing the world how weak he and his policies are. A few days after Bush announced "first strike" North Korea called his bluff and said they have nukes. Now the world can witness Bush folding his hand as he gives in to one demand after another.

As I've said many times before this game was over the day North Korea called Bush's bluff. All we have to wait for now is how much we're going to give them to go back to the Clinton deal of 1994. Mostly likely a lot.

Finally, it's got to hurt big time to be forced to deal with and/or beg China for help after China promised to veto Bush's Iraq and North Korea UN resolutions.


top

Bush bars UN weapons teams from Iraq
An Impeachable Offense
The Sydney Morning Herald (AU)
By Caroline Overington in New York and Marian Wilkinson in Washington
April 24 2003

The United States will not permit United Nations weapons inspectors to return to Iraq, saying the US military has taken over the role of searching for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

In simultaneous briefings in New York and Washington, both the White House and the US ambassador to the UN said they saw no role in postwar Iraq for the UN weapons inspection teams.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in Washington to "make no mistake about it. The United States and the coalition have taken on the responsibility for dismantling Iraq's WMD [weapons of mass destruction]".

Asked if the White House saw any role at all for the UN's weapons teams and, in particular, for chief inspector Hans Blix, Mr Fleischer said: "Well, the President is looking forward, not backward."

One diplomatic source described US feelings towards Dr Blix as "visceral", saying US officials claim he did not fulfil his mandate "fairly". They insist Dr Blix should have reported before the war that Iraq had failed to co-operate in disclosing its weapons of mass destruction.

Dr Blix and most members of the Security Council still believe successive UN resolutions call for the UN weapons inspection agency, UNMOVIC, to verify any weapons discoveries by the US-led military coalition. The UNMOVIC role in verification has not yet become a pressing issue, say UN diplomatic sources.

Even France, which has taken a pragmatic stand since the war, supports a role for UN inspectors in verifying any weapons finds.

Various compromises are already being unofficially discussed. One would be to delay a decision on UNMOVIC's role until Dr Blix's contract expires at the end of June. He has indicated he will not seek a new term.

This would allow the council to ask a replacement to lead the verification process. Names of former inspectors have been discussed, but one possibility would be Dr Blix's low-profile Greek deputy, Dimitri Perricos.

In New York, the US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, told reporters that "the coalition has assumed responsibility for the disarming of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction".

Mr Negroponte said the US military would "interview scientists, examine documents, go to the different suspected sites, and so forth. For the time being, and for the foreseeable future, we visualise that as being a [military] coalition activity", he said.

Mr Negroponte said "the entire atmosphere" in Iraq had changed since Saddam was deposed and "hopefully now this will enable Iraqis who are familiar with past activities to speak more freely, and without fear of retribution".

The US also asked the UN Security Council to lift those sanctions on Iraq that severely limit the amount of oil it can produce and sell. As it stands, Iraq is only allowed to sell oil if it puts the money in a UN account, which is then used to pay for food, medicine and other essential supplies under the oil-for-food program.

The sanctions can be lifted only when Iraq is declared free of weapons of mass destruction.

Several key members of the Security Council, including Russia, believe this is best verified by a team of international inspectors - not the US military.

France has said it is willing to "suspend" sanctions so essential goods and services can flow to the Iraqi people.

Copyright © 2003. The Sydney Morning Herald.

Commentary:
UN resolution 1441 gives the UN the sole authority to do weapon's inspections in Iraq. Bush has no legal claim otherwise and is in violation of said resolution. He wants the UN to lift other resolutions, but then openly defies those he disagrees with (like 1441). Too bad the rule of law doesn't work that way. If it did all of us could break laws whenever we wanted and never accept the consequences.

Bush remains a child-man. We're still waiting for him to grow up.


top
Controversy over Iraq reconstruction becoming curiouser
Hindu Net (India)
By K.K. Katyal
Thursday, Apr 23, 2003

NEW DELHI APRIL 23. With the United States calling for the removal of sanctions on Iraq, and France and Russia favouring the U.N. route for this purpose, the controversy over reconstruction of the shattered country is becoming curiouser and curiouser. The divergence, according to diplomats here, is not unexpected, but the pungency of the rhetoric is surprising.

It marks a reversal of the roles of the two sides of the global divide before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The U.S. then was not prepared even to look at any arrangement, remotely suggesting the lifting of sanctions. France and Russia, on the other hand, wanted the U.N.-mandated inspections to be continued, the implied suggestion being that the absence of any evidence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction could facilitate the removal of the 12-year-old embargo.

Why the change of positions now? The sanctions are governed by a resolution of the U.N. Security Council, which stipulated the conditions for lifting them. The resolution also provided for a framework — oil-for-food programme — for the intervening period, under which Iraq's oil was sold and its essential supplies purchased through the U.N.-supervised channels. Now that it is in occupation of Iraq, the U.S. wants the U.N.-supervised arrangement to end.

According to a U.S. spokesman, "we need to transition from the oil-for-food programme as soon as possible and help restore a normal trading relationship with the global economy". This was followed by a categorical statement by the U.S. President, George W. Bush, — "Now that Iraq is liberated, the United Nations should lift economic sanctions on that country."

The sanctions could not be removed without a resolution of the Security Council. The U.N., thus, would have to come into the picture in matters related to post-Saddam Iraq — a prospect not to the liking of the U.S. A no-holds-barred blame-game is on now, with each side reading motives into the stand of the other. France has now suggested immediate suspension of the civilian sanctions — obviously to avert a confrontation with the U.S. Washington, however, is not impressed. Here are two samples, one each from the rival sides.

A commentator in New York Times, William Safire, has this to say: "The Chirac-Putin bedfellowship wants to maintain control of the U.N.'s oil-for-food programme under which Iraq was permitted to sell oil and ostensibly use the proceeds to buy food and medicine for its people. Iraqis now desperately need all that the country's oil production can buy. But Jacques Chirac cares little about reconstruction of basic services; he is more concerned about maintaining U.N. control — that is, French veto control — of Iraq's oil." The commentator approvingly quotes a Senator's remark that this was "sophisticated international blackmail".

Some in the U.S. have urged Moscow to write off the debts incurred by Saddam's Iraq for purchase of weapons from Russia. "Here's the way the government of new Iraq can save some of the money it now loses by Russia's eager participation in blackmail in the Security Council: Declare that the $10 billion owed by Iraq under Saddam to Russia for unused tanks and planes will be repaid on the day Vladimir Putin repays the debts incurred by Russia under the Czars," the paper's commentator says, with biting derision.

According to a Russian daily, Nezavisimaya, from Moscow, "the lifting of sanctions only because the Americans have occupied Iraq and established `peace, freedom, equality and brotherhood' is not a legally acceptable reason. Russian experts believe that the world must play by the accepted rules. The U.S. may neglect them and present — for propaganda or any other purpose — the demand for compliance with the U.N. procedure as an attempt to `stifle' the Iraqi people."

Another daily says that the main purpose is not that "Washington's puppets would snatch the oil money" but that the lifting of sanctions would provoke a dramatic fall in the prices of energy resources, which is vital for the U.S. economy.

Copyright © 2003, The Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu

Commentary:
Bush is in a very weak position. He violated International Law and the will of the Security Council and now he's begging the UN to lift sanctions because the cost is going up every day and the US taxpayer is footing the bill. Poor Bush, he should have thought of that before he became an International Criminal.

It seems Bush only has use for the UN and the rule of law when he needs money to pay for his silly war reconstruction. Too bad Daddy Bush isn't there to bail him out again.


top