Use a mirror in difficult times:
You will see both cause and resolution.
When faced with adversity, you must ask whether you have done anything to bring misfortune upon yourself. If the present difficulties are the unforeseen outcome of events that you yourself set in motion, then it is necessary both to learn from your mistakes and to search for any possible way to correct them. If the difficulties are die to character flaws, then the situation should be resolved, and the basic fault must afterwards be eradicated.
The wonderful part of all this is that the resources for resolving our problems are also within us. When we watch athletes in competition and they outperform even their own high standards, we often say that they reached deep down and were able to give something extraordinary. When we are in the midst of our own confrontations, we must be the same way. We need to reach deep within and use the utmost of our abilities to overcome our obstacles. This is one manifestation of our continuing efforts at self-development.
When confronted with problems, we have all the more power to respond. when we triumph, we have even more confidence and facility to handle future problems. Therefore, meet life head-on. Maintain your self-cultivation, move forth to confront difficulties, and accumulate the momentum that success will give you.
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Boyle has been nominated to a lifetime position on the federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit -- deciding cases from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.
Boyle, considered a protege of former Senator Jesse Helms, is the third Bush Appeals Court nominee with a horrendous record on disability rights. Appointed to the federal bench by Reagan nearly 21 years ago, Boyle has decided between 11,000 and 12,000 district court cases, repeatedly promoting "states' rights" at the expense of individuals' federally protected civil rights, say critics. "The 4th Circuit -- the very court to which Terrence Boyle has been nominated -- has repeatedly reversed Boyle's decisions because of "plain error" and other fundamental legal mistakes." (Read the Bazelon Center's analysis of Judge Boyle's disability rights record. http://www.bazelon.org/issues/disabilityrights/judicialnominees/boyle.htm)
Boyle has consistently ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act is, in effect, unconstitutional. "Many of his decisions are based on radical interpretations of disability rights laws, which are often completely inconsistent with basic disability law as interpreted by other courts and federal enforcement agencies," says the Bazelon Center. Among his many bizarre rulings, Boyle has said that Congress had no authority to make Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act applicable to the state and that it had no power to apply the ADA to state prisons. He has consistently ruled against disabled people's claims for reasonable accommodation. "Although framed in terms of addressing discrimination, the Act's operative remedial provisions demand not equal treatment, but special treatment...," he ruled in one case.
Boyle is the latest in a string of anti disability-rights judges Bush has nominated to the federal bench. He joins William Pryor, a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, and Jeffrey Sutton, whose nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati was confirmed in 2003, as anti-rights cronies who are being being elevated to positions that will significantly affect the civil rights of people with disabilities.
As Alabama Attorney General, William Pryor hired Jeffrey Sutton to argue against the ADA in the 2001 Garrett Supreme Court case. Pryor argued in Garrett that the protections of the ADA were "not needed" to remedy discrimination by states against people with disabilities. This decision prevents persons with disabilities from collecting monetary damages from state employers. Most significantly, it has resulted in fewer attorneys being willing to represent individuals in ADA cases against state employers.
Pryor said he was "proud" of his role in "protecting the hard-earned dollars of Alabama taxpayers when Congress imposes illegal mandates on our state."
On March 22,The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Sen. Edward Kennedy's challenge to President Bush's recess appointment of Pryor to a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is set to expire at the end of the year. Pryor's nomination has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.
The budget resolution passed the House by a vote of 214 to 211 and the Senate by a vote of 52 to 47. It cuts $10 billion over five years from Medicaid, the first such cut to the program since 1997.
Medicaid plays an increasingly crucial role in helping low-income children and their families, the elderly and Americans with mental and physical disabilities to access needed healthcare.
The resolution does not detail where these cuts should come from; instead lawmakers have picked a number based on a desire to cut federal entitlement programs. However, President Bush's proposed FY 2006 budget suggested specific cuts to Medicaid, and lawmakers will likely look to those changes first.
Among the cuts the President proposed were several that would hurt people with mental illnesses who rely on the public mental health system. In particular, significant cuts to targeted case management services were included. Targeted case management is an important community-based Medicaid service for children who require wraparound services to help them avoid school failure, contact with juvenile justice authorities and other adverse outcomes. For adults, it is equally vital in linking them to a range of critical support services, such as housing and employment.
Furthermore, reductions in the number of people eligible and in services covered by the federal government would almost certainly be needed to meet targets in the House and Senate budget resolutions.
Now that the budget resolution has been passed, Congressional committees will use the $10 billion target as a guideline for making specific policy changes to Medicaid and other programs, as well as for setting appropriation levels for other programs, such as those run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt has reportedly agreed to form a commission or advisory group on Medicaid, but no details have yet been worked out. The need for a commission to examine Medicaid (in place of arbitrary cuts) was initially backed by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Representative John Spratt (D-SC) and others. Hopefully, such a group will be formed and specific decisions on the Medicaid cuts will be held in abeyance pending its report.
Earlier this week, the House voted 348-78 to approve Representative Spratt’s motion to instruct the members charged with reconciling differences between the Senate and House budget resolutions (conferees) to reject indiscriminate Medicaid cuts. Unfortunately, those instructions were ignored, as were the successful effort by Senators Smith and Bingaman (D-NM) that stripped all Medicaid cuts from an earlier Senate version of the budget resolution.
Although advocates’ efforts to stop Medicaid cuts were not entirely successful, the final budget resolution calls for roughly half of the $20 billion initially called for by the House.
According to the Washington Post, the budget resolution assumes $70 billion in lost revenue due to extension of President Bush's tax cuts. In contrast, cuts to entitlement programs equal roughly $35 billion.
They Didn't Teach Me
By Janet Lagto, 16
I used to go to high school in Oakland but I dropped out.
If you ever happen to come by my old school you'll notice that it's the typical Oakland high school: ghetto, dirty, poor. Absolutely horrible.
A lot of my teachers were in their twenties and couldn't even control their students. It's difficult for the kid to have their minds focused on being behaved and trying to learn in that crappy environment. It's probably the same for the teachers, too, right?
One of my teachers was one of the nicest people I have ever known, but he just could not control his students. He never had one class behave for him or try to "learn" what he teaches. One student actually punched him in the face so hard he had to get stitches. He's resigning at the end of the year.
When I was a freshman, the students pushed my Spanish teacher so far over the edge that he actually had a heart attack and his doctor advised him to quite teaching. After that, we kept getting substitutes who would re-teach the class the same exact thing the previous teacher had tried to teach us. Unfortunately, I didn't learn any Spanish.
The same thing happened this year to the new freshmen coming in. There wasn't a permanent teacher for their biology class. When I looked out the window, I'd see them shivering outside the classroom because no one was there to open the door for them.
Most of the teachers didn't teach anything. All they did was put the assignment on the board and expect us to do it. In some of my classes, I never did my work and I still got good grades. What's up with that?
My sister dropped out of the same school when she was 15 because she hated it. She's 18 now and doing fine. My ex-boyfriend and his brother both dropped out because they kept getting into fights. My sister's ex-boyfriend dropped out at 16 because he wanted to go to Job Corps. My friend dropped out when she was 16 because people would call her fat ass and cottage cheese.
Now that I am officially a drop-out, I have become another one of the statistics. My family thinks I am insane and that I should go back to high school. They are the crazy ones because I am never going back to that gutter of a school. I may be weird, but I'm not stupid.
--Lagto is an intern at YO! TV.
More "street" than the street
By Nick Datesman, 16
A lot of my friends who started high school with me are now drop-outs. Me, Mike, Paul and Keith -- we all started high school together and now we are all somewhere else.
If I weren't going to MetWest -- a small alternative high school in Oakland -- then I wouldn't be going to school at all. I sure as hell wouldn't go back to my old school. Well, maybe, but just because I have a lot of friends there, and getting weed is as easy as raising your hand.
When I was a freshman, it didn't really feel like I was at school. I was just in a dirty, loud, dangerous place where I didn't want to be. The most work I did there was coming up with a fake name and writing some quirky little explanation after security guards caught me walking around the school during class time.
There were no consequences for bad behavior. When I was caught burning dank in the boys' bathroom, all the guard did was tell me not to smoke at school, take my lighter, and make me sit in the cafeteria with the rest of the kids caught cutting class.
Why should I be scared of the guards, I thought, when I had hustlers, drug dealers and gangs to deal with every day? My high school was more like the "streets" than the real streets ever were. At least on the real streets, all the hustlers aren't put together behind big gates and fences.
After about three months of mostly slacking off at home and going to various other high schools that I didn't much care for, I stopped going to school altogether. When it came time for tenth grade, I applied for MetWest High School. Finally, I found a school where I would stay the WHOLE day, and where I didn't have to deal with drug dealers and gangs on a daily basis.
At my old school, I'd see-or be in-a fight about every day. Other than a few verbal fights and the occasional "break-up drama," there are never any real fights at Met West.
At MetWest, everybody knows each other. We can all say, "Oh yeah, that's so 'n so, they really love to blah blah blah...." I hate the word "community," but that is what MetWest is. There is no point in fighting with each other. The school is so small, you're not gonna get away with anything. If you do fight, then you probably will have to make a public apology to the entire school and staff-and that's enough to keep most of us calm and cool.
My friend Paul didn't bother finishing high school and is now doing odd jobs like selling records on E-bay to make money. Mike eventually dropped out and got his G.E.D. and is working at UPS and a few other stores. Keith dropped out and then got into an independent study program. He's finding it hard to keep himself entertained every day and is thinking of going back to school.
If I were the superintendent, the first thing I would do for Oakland is get all the drugs and drug dealers out of the schools. I know the students would be devastated that they could no longer get bags at school, but I think the hustlers bring a lot of negativity (besides drugs) to school.
I also think if the schools had the proper equipment -- like chairs that aren't broken, desks, books for everyone -- then students' attitude towards school might change. And maybe getting more good-looking girls, a lot of them ... but that's just me.
--Datesman is an intern at YO!
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the Iraq war mired in chaos, the president's poll numbers are tanking.
Is he pulling the Republican Party down with him?
George W. Bush lost the 2000 presidential election by half a million votes and saw the result as a mandate to rewrite the tax code and redraw the map of the world. So when he won the 2004 election by 3 million votes, liberals could have been excused for wondering what the weather would be like in Vancouver for the next four years.
Bush's second-term agenda was so unapologetically bold -- he wanted to privatize Social Security, flatten federal taxes, remake the courts and, on the side, democratize the world -- it bordered on the revolutionary. In November, as liberals were sunk in the delirium of defeat, their in boxes buzzing with comic maps dividing North America into the United States of Canada and Jesusland, it seemed that nothing could rein the Republican president in.
Six months later, Bush is the dog that didn't bite. He approaches the end of the first 100 days of his second term with approval ratings that fall below those of all other reelected presidents in the modern era. Americans aren't happy with the direction in which the country is heading. They don't like the economy, and they don't like the war. They also don't like Bush's plans for the nation. If it isn't already dead, Bush's signature domestic-policy effort, the plan to privatize Social Security, is in a persistent vegetative state; hated by Democrats, independents and even Republicans, only divine intervention can save it.
Now the question is whether Bush's sinking popularity -- and his desire to stick with the unpopular Social Security plan -- will hurt the Republican Party's agenda over the next two years and beyond. The GOP continues to advocate world-changing plans. Conservatives want to amend the Constitution, alter the Senate's rules on judicial nominees, and disrupt long-standing fiscal, environmental, global and social norms. At the same time, Bush looks boxed in. There's no money in the federal till to implement his tax cuts. The military's stretched too thin for him to invade another country (such as Iran). And the federal courts are holding his social agenda in check.
Some key Republicans are beginning to balk at Bush's extremism. On questions involving the Social Security plan, or the details of the federal budget, or the confirmation of Bush's nominees, a few moderate Republicans have begun to go against White House plans. If the American public continues to turn away from Bush, political strategists say, it's only logical to expect more defections from their Republican representatives on Capitol Hill.
"If this guy was riding a 60 percent approval rating, it would be different," says Ruy Teixeira, the Democratic pollster who runs the popular blog Donkey Rising. But if members of Congress begin to realize that Bush isn't popular with the American public, "that makes them more willing to defy him."
It's not entirely accurate to say that the polls show the country as recently turning against Bush. What's truer is that the country never really liked him. Only a minority of Americans have consistently agreed with his positions on most questions of policy. The main reason the majority chose him last November was his tough stance on a single issue: terrorism. Yet hard-line conservatives saw the 2004 election as a green light for right-wing radicalism -- as a sign that the public wanted Social Security privatization, a change to the tax code, and a generally conservative social agenda (including a prohibition on gay marriage).
Bush was only too happy to oblige. He "has gone very public with very unpopular ideas," says Karl Agne, a consultant who works with Democracy Corps, a political strategy organization dedicated to restoring Democrats to national prominence. Bush believed he could stake out radical positions and bring the public to his side. It's not hard to see why: Even though he won by a slight majority, Bush had good reason to believe that he could push his issues through the Congress. As political scientist Michael Nelson has pointed out, there was something unique about Bush's victory -- he managed to expand his party's grip on Congress, which Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, all of whom were reelected with larger popular-vote margins, failed to do.
According to Frank Newport, who runs the Gallup Poll, Bush's popularity peaked in early February, around the time of his State of the Union address. He was on top of the world -- 57 percent of those surveyed approved of his performance and 40 percent disapproved. In his speech, Bush sought to link his apparent foreign-policy successes, such as the election in Iraq, to his domestic-policy goals. Just as the American people had supported him on the war in Iraq, so, too, did Bush want them to support his judicial nominations, his tax plan and especially his goal to privatize Social Security.
That support failed to materialize -- and his approval numbers have been plummeting. In Gallup's latest poll, Bush scores a 48 percent approval rating and a disapproval rating of 49 percent. (Other surveys report similar numbers.)
Pollsters point to many reasons for Bush's decline, including high gas prices and the Republicans' unpopular decision to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. But by far the main issue pushing Bush down, they say, is his ambition to privatize Social Security. It literally is the case that "the more he talks about it, the lower his ratings go," says Newport.
But as Paul Krugman has noted, Bush's Social Security plan is only one skein of the radicalism that runs through all of his second-term proposals -- on economic policy, on social policy and on foreign policy, Bush favors right-wing ideas that, polls show, appeal to only a minority of Americans. It's possible, then, to see the public's rejection of the Social Security plan as a rejection of radical conservatism. Americans may have given Republicans the keys to Washington, but they didn't want them to run roughshod over the place.
It's not clear, though, that Republican lawmakers interpret Bush's loss on Social Security as a sign that the public doesn't want conservative policies. Indeed, pollsters are of mixed opinion on whether Bush's approval ratings matter to Congress at all.
Approval ratings are by nature volatile. The public's opinion of a politician goes up or down over time and the poll numbers don't always reflect failure. Members of Congress understand this, says Gallup's Newport. He points out that Congress members don't usually decide whether to support a president based on approval ratings. What's more, says Karlyn Bowman, a polling expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, the public has recently lost confidence in all American institutions.
Surveys show that Americans aren't huge fans of either Republicans or Democrats in Congress. In recent months, approval ratings for the military -- consistently the most beloved institution in government -- have also been on the decline. If members of Congress are feeling the heat, they're not likely to balk at the president's low rating.
Moreover, Republicans in Congress have been subject to tremendous pressure from extremists urging them to simply ignore surveys charting American opinion. Around the time of the Schiavo case, when polls showed that the overwhelming majority of Americans rejected federal intervention to keep the brain-damaged woman alive, leaders of the religious right insisted that public opinion didn't matter because the public simply didn't understand the issues involved in the case.
They're at it again. In an e-mail to supporters sent on Wednesday, Tony Perkins, who heads the Family Research Council, wrote that a recent Washington Post poll showing that Americans oppose the elimination of the Senate filibuster should not be trusted, as it reflected the Post's biased liberal view. Gary Bauer told his supporters the same thing: "The Post hopes the poll will buckle Republican knees, particularly those of moderates who want to be thought of as independent-thinking," the former presidential candidate wrote in his daily newsletter on Tuesday. Citing a poll conducted by the Republican National Committee that's more supportive of his own position, Bauer concluded that "there is no reason for any Republican senator to 'wimp out'" on the filibuster vote.
Teixeira, however, believes that Bush's failure on Social Security and his attendant low approval ratings do upset the conventional Washington wisdom about the president -- the thought that "this is a guy who always wins." He says Bush's low ratings may already be shaping actions on Capitol Hill.
In March, for instance, Senate Republicans disappointed the White House by proposing a budget that would reduce the size of future tax cuts over the next five years (instead of the $100 billion in tax cuts that the White House wanted, the senators proposed $70 billion). Then, seven Republican senators crossed the partisan divide to join Democrats in rejecting the Bush administration's proposed cuts to the Medicare program. These seven -- Gordon Smith of Oregon, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine -- are all known as moderates in the GOP (what extremists sometimes call RINOs, Republicans in name only).
The cuts they rejected have been added back to the final budget bill, which was drafted in a conference committee composed of Republican leaders from the House and Senate and which will come up for a final vote in both chambers of Congress soon -- as soon as Friday. It's not clear if the moderates will risk angering their party by voting down the final bill. Already, Smith has threatened to vote against it. Whatever they do will be a good indication of their fealty to Bush.
Recently, signs of Republican opposition to Bush's plans have become even more pronounced. Last week, in a surprise move, one Republican senator -- Ohio's George Voinovich -- held up Bush's nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. Voinovich has since been joined by a handful of other Republicans who've expressed opposition to Bolton. And several Republicans have been backing away from Bush on his prized Social Security plan.
At a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, Wyoming's Craig Thomas, who isn't anywhere near his party's moderate wing, wondered whether it was a good idea to spend the trillions necessary to implement Bush's plan. And Snowe, who's long signaled her opposition to the Bush effort, stood firm. "Social Security became the bedrock of support for seniors in my state precisely because it's defined and guaranteed," she said. "What cost and what risk is it worth to erode the guaranteed benefit?"
Jeffrey Bell, a Republican political consultant, says that if Bush holds on to his Social Security plan too long, or if he vows to pass it after the 2006 election, Democrats will make it a key issue against Republicans at the polls -- and Republican lawmakers aren't looking forward to running on the platform of Social Security privatization. Bush needs to find a way to back out of the plan without causing trouble for his party, Bell says. "Part of what I'm saying is that Bush had a very successful first term in terms of his domestic legislation, but he isn't going to run again, and he doesn't have quite as much clout over his party members as he once did. It's important for him to know how to take a defeat."
However, Bell doesn't think that Bush's low poll numbers signify a greater problem for the GOP's agenda. He believes, for instance, that Bush may still be able to encourage Congress to approve his tax-cutting plans, including his effort to repeal the estate tax.
But Bell and other Republicans admit that even getting tax cuts through Congress won't be a slam dunk. Bush, after all, has spent a great deal of his time recently pointing out the fiscal imbalances in the Social Security program. In calling for more tax cuts, Bush will need to defend himself against the charge that he's bankrupting the federal government. "It doesn't seem appropriate to point out those problems [in Social Security] and then to say, By the way, please make my tax cuts permanent," Bell says.
Like many Republicans, Bell argues that even if Bush faces difficulty with Congress on his domestic plans, what the president does have going for him is his foreign policy. Recent opinion surveys, however, tell another story. Despite the White House's claim of victory in Iraq, Americans don't like how Bush is handling the war and don't believe the war was worth the cost. In most polls, between 40 and 50 percent of Americans say they approve of the war effort; majorities usually say they disapprove of it.
The reason is obvious, says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics: "A lot of Americans are dying there and people want out."
Americans also don't seem to believe Bush's assurance that democratization of the Middle East is necessarily connected to terrorism on American soil. The public may credit Bush with positive developments in Iraq, but they'll do it the same way that they "gave Jimmy Carter credit for the Camp David Peace Accords -- it pleases them, but it doesn't affect their immediate concerns," Sabato says.
This development has got to be distressing to the White House. For two years, Bush has insisted that his Iraq policy would, in the long run, prove successful. Many in the White House must have expected the public to react positively to Bush when positive signs arose in Iraq. Indeed, after Iraq's elections, Republicans couldn't take enough credit for the wide turnout of Iraqi voters. Remember all those purple-fingered lawmakers at the State of the Union address?
It's turned out that success in Iraq hasn't bolstered support for Bush. The election only prompted Americans to question whether now is the time to bring American troops home. And even the success of the election is beginning to look illusory. As new horrors are emerging from Iraq, the war has once more become Bush's albatross.
So if Bush can't count on gaining the public's support even when things go well in Iraq, what can he count on? Not much, according to Teixeira. "You look forward and to see what's going to take them over that funk, and you do wonder. Is the economy going to come back strong? Probably not. Is he going to be bailed out by the outbreak of democracy in the Middle East? Well, obviously not. The election already happened and his ratings on Iraq have gone nowhere. It's hard to see where he can win."
None of this is to suggest that Bush is destined to fail. He and his political strategist Karl Rove have a history of performing legislative magic tricks. They've outmaneuvered Democrats rather brilliantly for the last five years. And both Republican and Democratic political consultants caution that fortunes change quickly in Washington. Soon, the Republicans may win their effort to eliminate the Senate's filibuster on judicial nominees, or they may pass Bush's energy bill or eliminate the estate tax or claim victory on any one of several policy goals they have for this legislative term.
At the same time, Democrats are not doing particularly well. So far, their primary weapon has been their united stance in opposition to Bush. Bell, the Republican pollster, says Democrats should get some credit for this; it's a smart strategy. And liberals are more than willing to take the credit.
"Frankly our expectation was that with all three branches of government held by the Republicans, we would be in a poor position," says Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org. But "working together with a lot of groups, we've held the line," he says. "It's been quite a surprising and encouraging and hopeful thing."
But to fight the Republicans over the long haul, Democrats will need to do more than just oppose Bush's policies. "I wouldn't say Democrats have benefited from lying low," offers Agne of Democracy Corps. "I would say Democrats are in a bad place right now. The public has a lot of questions about what they stand for."
Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer.
Only America's most jaded and cynical critics could have foreseen what has occurred during the year since CBS News first exposed the terrible abuses at Abu Ghraib.
Since April 28, 2004, we have learned that the images captured inside the notorious military prison revealed only the initial clues to a grim investigation that has reached from Guantánamo Bay into Iraq, Afghanistan and several other countries. We have seen evidence proving that several hundred detainees in those places were subjected to brutal and illegal violence, and that dozens of them died under dubious circumstances. And the ultimate responsibility for many of those abuses can be traced to high-ranking military and civilian officials, notably including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
From the beginning, we were promised complete accountability by the nation's ranking authorities in the White House, the Pentagon and Congress. We were assured by the president, the secretary of state and assorted senators that any guilty soldiers and officers would be punished for their misconduct, but that lowly miscreants would not be made scapegoats for their culpable superiors. We were told, again and again, that the government's response to this scandal would demonstrate the resilience of our system -- and that the cynics at home and around the world were wrong to predict whitewash and coverup.
Now we can assess 12 months of investigation by duly constituted authorities, as well as human rights organizations and media outlets, and the results aren't uplifting. As if to mock those early vows of accountability on the scandal's anniversary, the Army's inspector general has just exonerated the brass, while punishment has been reserved for the grunts. Of all the ranking Army officers who might have been held to account, only Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who plausibly claims she has been singled out for her gender, was relieved of her command and reprimanded.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the Army officers under whose command these abuses occurred, and who appear to have encouraged and abetted them, have evaded any sanctions whatsoever. Indeed, Sanchez was publicly praised the other day by Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while Rumsfeld looked on benignly. Miller, who is strongly suspected of taking the abusive interrogation techniques from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib, has likewise escaped without so much as a scolding.
In this disgraceful story, accountability diminishes with every ascending link in the chain of command. Miller and Sanchez at least were criticized in official reports, but Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet and Gonzales haven't endured even that degree of discomfort. They haven't even been investigated. Instead, all three have been rewarded and lavishly praised by the president. Tenet got the Medal of Freedom. Gonzales got a promotion from White House counsel to attorney general. And Rumsfeld, despite widespread bipartisan demands for his resignation, got to keep his job.
The failure of our "system" in this scandal has not been confined to the White House or the Pentagon, awful as their failures are. Although traditional news organizations such as CBS News, the New Yorker magazine and a few newspapers deserve tremendous credit for their reporting on Abu Ghraib and its sequels, most of the American media has conspicuously hesitated to emphasize this story or to confront the responsible officials. It was remarkable to read the transcript of Rumsfeld's press briefing this week, which reveals the extent of journalistic timidity on this topic. No doubt emboldened by this weakness, Rumsfeld recently placed unprecedented restrictions on the First Amendment freedoms of reporters covering the court-martial of a sergeant at Fort Bragg.
On the anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal, the only appropriately outraged editorial in any major publication appeared in the Washington Post, a paper whose editorial support for the Iraq war hasn't diminished its desire to see national honor restored.
And then there is Congress, which might once have been expected to enforce accountability on rogue officialdom. Not anymore. The House of Representatives is entirely useless under its current leadership, except to echo the excuses of the executive branch and perform whatever favors its corporate sponsors have bought.
The Senate might be expected to perform better -- even under the nominal leadership of the spineless, Bush-appointed Bill Frist -- and several of its most voluble members once said they would not allow a whitewash of Abu Ghraib. It was telling that those outspoken members included three Republican veterans: Lindsey Graham, who served as a lawyer in the Air Force; John McCain, who suffered torture himself as a Navy pilot; and John Warner, the Navy vet who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.
All three distinguished themselves by demanding accountability from their own party's president after the scandal broke, but they have been silent as the coverup proceeded. It isn't too late for them to fulfill those earlier courageous pronouncements.
The most reliable defenders of American values in this yearlong crisis have been that despised minority known as "the lawyers" -- specifically, those who work at the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International League for Human Rights, and Human Rights First (formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights), along with members of various bar associations, notably the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and various retired officers who served in the military's Judge Advocate General Corps.
Those attorneys, and their moral and financial supporters in the broader legal community, have done the difficult, thankless work of digging out documents, analyzing their meaning, presenting the facts to the media, and fighting for accountability. They have brushed aside false and partisan attacks on their patriotism and threats to their funding from people who somehow don't understand that torture is a tactic that damages our country without protecting our security.
And in a discouraging political climate, they haven't faltered. Last month Human Rights First and the ACLU, whose Freedom of Information Act digging uncovered so much vital information, filed civil lawsuits against Rumsfeld on behalf of abused detainees. Last week, Human Rights Watch issued a detailed report on the potential criminal offenses by Rumsfeld and other officials, and called for the appointment of a special counsel and an independent commission to ensure the accountability that was promised a year ago.
How ironic it would be if the lawyers someday proved the cynics wrong.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Joe Conason writes a weekly column for Salon. He also writes a weekly column for the New York Observer. His new book, "Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth," is now available.
What a shock!
The Pentagon high command clears the Pentagon high command of any wrongdoing in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.
By James P. Pinkerton
Of course, Bush doesn't exactly use the words "benefit cut." That wouldn't have been prudent. But the idea he outlines is essentially a benefit cut, one in which, he says, poor people will fare better than wealthy people. The idea is similar to one called "progressive indexation," a plan first proposed by Robert Pozen, a Democratic lawyer who runs the Boston investment firm MFS Investment Management. It's actually one of the more politically feasible ideas to shore up Social Security that you can find in Washington. Instead of cutting everyone's benefits equally, progressive indexation would cut benefits progressively -- that is, low-income workers will face a smaller cut in benefits (or no cut) than high-income people.
In theory, the idea is not a terrible way to fix the long-term finances of Social Security. The problem is that as Bush plans it, it's not a real offer -- it's just a negotiating gambit. That's because Bush still wants to privatize Social Security. Once again, he says that it's crucial to allow people to divert their Social Security taxes into the stock market. But as many experts have pointed out, privatizing Social Security is tantamount to ending Social Security. As long as Bush wants privatization, the progressive indexation plan can be dismissed as nothing more than a sweetener, a way to break the unity of Senate Democrats. Let's hope they don't fall for the trick.
The other big topic tonight is gas prices. It's hard to believe Americans will be comforted by Bush's answers here. He essentially says that nothing can be done. While he exhorts the Senate to pass his energy bill, he also concedes, "the energy bill is no quick fix -- you can't wave a magic wand" to lower gas prices. What can we do? Bush says that the best way to lower prices is to ask producing nations to increase their capacity. This is what he tried to do earlier this week, in his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, but the Saudis are already thought to be pumping at close to the limit.
Americans are probably smart enough to know that the president can't wave a magic wand to lower the price at the pump. But they probably also wanted to hear that the president was doing something about this problem, or at least that he considered the long-term energy self-sufficiency of this country an important matter. Nothing Bush says tonight supports that idea. There's nothing about fuel economy, or the wonders of new conservation technology, or the possibility of rethinking our reliance on foreign oil. Instead, Bush treats rising gas prices as a convenient political matter of the moment: I feel your pain, he says. Now please pass my unrelated corporate-giveaway legislation.
During the last four years, Bush has repeatedly insisted that his massive tax cuts would eventually lead to enormous economic growth. So what does he have to say, he's asked, about today's news that the economy grew by only 3.1 percent last quarter, the slowest pace of expansion in two years? He says things are OK. "I'm an optimistic fella," Bush says, "and that's based upon the experts that I listen to." Polls show that Americans are not quite as optimistic; most Americans believe the economy's in pretty bad shape at the moment. But Bush has an answer for this, too. "If a President tries to govern based upon polls you're kind of like a dog chasing your tail," he says.
Bush gives no ground on John Bolton, his embattled nominee for U.N. ambassador. Bolton has "been asked a lot of questions and he's given very good answers," Bush says of Bolton's contentious confirmation hearings in the Senate. What about reports that Bolton has been dismissive of subordinates, that he's a bully, that there's nothing at all diplomatic about this prospective diplomat? "John Bolton's a blunt guy," Bush jokes. "Sometimes people say I'm a little too blunt, too." Bush also reports that before he ever decided to nominate Bolton, he held an Oval Office chat with the mustachioed official and asked him point blank, "Do you think the United Nations is important?" Fortunately for us, Bolton, who's previously advocated lopping off ten stories from the U.N. plaza in New York, looked his president in the eye and said, "No, it's important. But it needs to be reformed." Bolton, Bush says, is just the guy to clean up the U.N., and the Senate needs to confirm him now.
This is how it goes with Bush for the whole hour, actually: As far as he's concerned, everyone needs to start moving to implement his plan of action for America. The Senate has to pass the energy bill. The Saudis need to pump more oil. Congress has got to take up the Social Security plan. Democrats need to allow an up-or-down vote on his judicial nominees. Kim Jong Il must agree to join the six-party talks. The Iranians have to abide by their commitments. The "hard-nosed killers" in Iraq need to realize their days are numbered. If everyone just quit whining and did what Bush said, everything would come up roses.
In Britain, An Absurdity: Persuading People They Have A Political Choice
April 29, 2005
By John Pilger
A familiar, if desperate media push is under way to convince the British people that the main political parties offer them a democratic choice in the general election on 5 May. This demonstrable absurdity became hilarious when Tony Blair, leader of one of the nastiest, most violent right-wing regimes in memory, announced the existence of "a very nasty right-wing campaign" to defeat him. If only it was that funny. If only it was possible to read the "ah but" tributes to a "successful" Labour government without cracking a rib. If only it was possible to read warmongers bemoaning the "apathy" of the British electorate without one's laughter being overtaken by the urge to throw up.
Truth can be subverted, but for millions of decent Britons the subversion is over, and the penny has finally dropped. For that, they have Blair to thank. On 5 May, they will silently go on strike against a corrupt, undemocratic system, as they did at the last election, producing the lowest turnout since the franchise, including barely a third in some constituencies. Others will come under extraordinary pressure to put aside considerations of basic morality and vote for this "successful" Blair government. They - allow me to change that to you - ought to be aware of what this will mean for your fellow human beings.
By voting for Blair, you will walk over the corpses of at least 100,000 people, most of them innocent women and children and the elderly, slaughtered by rapacious forces sent by Blair and Bush, unprovoked and in defiance of international law, to a defenceless country. That conservative estimate is the conclusion of a peer-reviewed Anglo-American study, published in the British medical journal the Lancet. It is the most reliable glimpse we have of the criminal carnage caused by Blair and Bush in Iraq, and it is suppressed in this election "campaign".
By voting for Blair, you will be turning a deaf ear to the cries of countless Iraqi children blown up by British cluster bombs and poisoned by toxic explosions of depleted uranium. These unseen victims of Blair and Bush - including Iraqi women who have developed rare "pregnancy cancer", and children with unexplained leukaemia - will not be your concern. According to one of the military experts who cleaned up Kuwait after the 1991 Gulf war, Blair and Bush have created "another Hiroshima" in parts of Iraq. You will be voting to endorse that.
By voting for Blair, you will turn away from the tens of thousands of children left to starve in Iraq by his and Bush's invasion. On 30 March, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights heard that malnutrition rates among Iraqi infants under the age of five had almost doubled since the invasion - double the number of hungry children under Saddam Hussein. The author of the report to the commission, Jean Ziegler, a UN specialist on hunger, said the "coalition" was to blame.
By voting for Blair, you will be affirming that liar's triumph. Blair is a liar on such an epic scale that even those who still protect him with parliamentary euphemisms, like Robin Cook ("He knew perfectly well what he was doing. I think there was a lack of candour") and the Guardian and the BBC, now struggle to finesse his perjury.
Take his latest lie. On 13 March, Jonathan Dimbleby asked Blair about the leaked memo of David Manning, the Prime Minister's foreign policy adviser, in which Manning confirmed to Blair in March 2002 that he had assured the Americans "you would not budge in your support for regime change". Blair lied to Dimbleby that "actually he didn't say that as a matter of fact": Manning "[made] clear that the development of WMDs in breach of the United Nations resolutions will no longer be tolerated".
Following are the words Manning wrote to Blair: "I said [to Condoleezza Rice] that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different [from] anything in the States." There is no mention, nothing, about United Nations resolutions, or weapons of mass destruction.
By voting for Blair, you will invite more lies about terrorist scares in Britain so that totalitarian laws can be enacted. "I have a horrible feeling that we are sinking into a police state," said George Churchill-Coleman, the former head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad. Like the fake reasons for Blair's tanks around Heathrow on the eve of the greatest anti-war demonstration in British history, so anything, any scare, any arrest, any "control order", will be possible.
By voting for Blair, you will fall for the spin, the myth, of the social reformism and "economic achievements" of his government. The ban on fox-hunting and the lowering of the age of gay consent are political and media distractions that do nothing to protect a social democracy being progressively shorn of ancient liberties, such as those enshrined in Magna Carta.
The ballyhooed "boom" and "growth" in Britain have been booms for the rich, not for ordinary people. With scant media attention, the Blair government has transferred billions of pounds' worth of public services into private hands under the private finance initiative (PFI). The "fees", or rake-off, for PFI projects in 2006-2007 will be in the order of 6.3bn pounds, more than the cost of many of the projects: a historic act of corporate piracy.
Neither is new Labour "supporting" the National Health Service, but privatising it by stealth; by 2006-2007 private contracts will rise by 150 per cent. Under Treasurer Gordon Brown, Britain has the distinction of having created more than half the world's tax havens, so that the likes of Rupert Murdoch are able to pay minimal tax. "Growth" has meant the rapid growth in the gap between rich and poor. Top executives' pay has risen by 500 per cent while the average rise in earnings is 45 per cent.
Contrary to Blair's and Brown's claims, poverty among adults of working age without children is increasing. In 2002-2003, the last year for which figures are available, 12.4 million people, or 22 per cent of the population, were living in poverty. As for the myth of almost full employment, this government's skill at constantly massaging figures has, for example, allowed jobcentres to reclassify workers as long-term sick or disabled in order to meet targets for "reducing" unemployment.
There has indeed been a boom - in insecure, part-time and temporary employment with few rights and poor conditions. Trapped in this half-world are some 8.8 million workers, many of whom are lucky to get a couple of days' paid work a week. For middle-class Britons who believe they are beneficiaries of the "boom", there is the spectre of personal debt - which, under Labour, is rising at the rate of 15m pounds an hour, faster than even in America.
Little of this is up for discussion. In 2005, we have an election, not politics; a media court, not critical debate. True politics is about all of humanity, and our responsibility for those who commit crimes in our name. No reverence for the sanctity of a debased vote or a false choice - or the lesser evil of a non-existent, sentimental, pre-Blair Labour Party - will change that. We owe that truth to the people of Iraq, at least.
In the same order, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth denied a request by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior military officials to disclose the identities of the Doe plaintiffs.
The Army has implemented a "stop loss" policy that prevents tens of thousands of soldiers designated to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan from leaving the military when their volunteer service commitment is over. Critics contend the policy amounts to a backdoor draft, a claim the military has strongly rejected.
The three John Does are among seven soldiers who joined in a federal lawsuit in January to fight the policy. All were serving in Iraq or headed to Iraq from Kuwait.
The lead plaintiff, Spec. David Qualls, was the only one named in the suit. The others, each described as John Doe, asked to remain anonymous because they feared retaliation.
"Fears of embarrassment or vague, unsubstantiated fears of retaliatory action by higher-ups do not permit a plaintiff to proceed under a pseudonym," Lamberth wrote.
"None of the evidence demonstrates that Doe plaintiffs are likely to face physical retaliation as a result of filing this lawsuit," the ruling said.
"The court will not permit Doe plaintiffs to proceed under pseudonyms. However, the court will not give the defendants the specific relief they request - the unsealing of the Doe plaintiffs' filing that contains real names and addresses," Lamberth said in a ten-page ruling.
Lamberth dismissed the claims of three of the John Does who declined to submit their real names to the court under seal. He ordered the others to submit their names within five days or have their claims against the military thrown out.
"The three are alive and Romanian authorities have asked for the early release of Marie Jeanne Ion, hoping for sensitivity because she is a woman," a source close to the authorities involved in solving the crisis told news agency Reuters.
Prima TV reporter Ion, 32; cameraman Sorin Miscoci, 30; Romania Libera journalist Ovidiu Ohanesian, 37; and their Iraqi translator, Mohamad Munaf, were taken captive on March 28, five days after arriving in Iraq.
The kidnappers had extended the first deadline for executing their hostages by a day to 3pm yesterday and demanded that Romania withdraw its 800 troops from Iraq.
The Romanian government pleaded for another extension but 3pm passed with no word on the reporters' fate.
Campaigning organisation Reporters Without Borders and its Romanian partner, the Media Monitoring Agency, have asked for moderation from all sides.
"It is counter-productive to fuel controversy and put forward sterile hypotheses. This is not the moment for settling scores," the two groups said.
"What counts is the evidence that the four hostages are still alive, and the fact that the Romanian government has established contact with the kidnappers, which is essential."
The MMA held a press conference in Bucharest today asking Romanian TV stations to display a photos of the four hostages for 24 hours on 28 April, exactly a month after they were abducted.
Meanwhile the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly has urged media organisations working in war zones to declare that no payments or political concessions will be made to abductors.
In reaction to a spate of kidnappings in Iraq, the council has also passed a resolution stating that reporters in war zones should make it clear before they begin work in a conflict zone that any political statement they may make in the event of being taken hostage will be under coercion.
"Wide publicity and fulfilment of demands of terrorists such as the payments of large sums... increase the risk for journalists in dangerous areas," said the resolution.
The assembly urged media organisations to send only experienced journalists on war assignments and provide them with safety, first-aid and communications equipment, psychological counselling and comprehensive insurance.
"Journalists' rights to life, liberty and security... must not be compromised by growing market pressures for more direct reports from risk areas and a dubious growth of public desire for sensational reporting," the resolution said. Florence Aubenas, a reporter for French daily newspaper Liberation, and her Iraqi guide, Hussein Hanoun, have been missing since they disappeared in Baghdad on January 5.
The release of two reporters just before Christmas after four months in captivity sparked reports that the French government had paid their kidnappers a ransom to secure their release, a claim the government has denied.
Journalists in danger
27.04.2005: Kidnappers threaten to execute Romanians
08.04.2005: CBS cameraman shot by US troops
29.03.2005: Romanian journalists kidnapped in Iraq
07.03.2005: Italian hostage accuses US
18.02.2005: Journalist group calls US to account over Iraq
16.02.2005: Kidnapped journalist makes video plea for freedom
04.02.2005: Italian reporter kidnapped in Iraq
09.02.2005: Journalist killed with son in Iraq
04.05.2004: Media death toll highest for a decade
27.08.2004: Media war toll rises
18.01.2005: Do more to protect journalists, governments told
18.01.2005: Journalists' killers 'not being brought to justice'
International News Safety Institute
13.09.2004: War toll: journalists killed and missing in Iraq
31.01.2005: World's news channels play to prejudices
18.01.2005: Broadcasters send in reinforcements for Iraq poll
French and Italian journalists kidnapped
09.02.2005: France 'doing all it can' to free journalist
04.02.2005: Italian reporter kidnapped in Iraq
07.02.2005: France and Italy consider link between kidnappings
02.02.2005: French PM fuels fears for missing reporter
31.01.2005: Aubenas: we're doing what we can, say French
17.01.2005: Journalist 'kidnapped for ransom' says Iraq
10.01.2005: French reporter probably abducted, employer says
07.01.2005: Keep out of Iraq, Chirac tells media
07.01.2005: French journalist missing in Iraq
22.12.2004: Freed hostages speak of ordeal
22.12.2004: France did not pay ransom for hostages' release
22.12.2004: Iraqi captors free French journalists
30.09.2004: Spin doctors wear beards and kaftans, too
28.09.2004: David Aaronovitch: We must stop bolstering the beheaders
23.11.2004: Cameraman breaks silence on prisoner's shooting
23.11.2004: Why I broadcast shooting: open letter to marines
16.11.2004: Inquiry into shooting of wounded Iraqi shown on TV
19.11.2004: Rules of engagement: embedded in Falluja
Media casualties of Iraq war
19.11.2004: Award for Iraqi cameramen
19.11.2004: US military 'still failing to protect journalists in Iraq'
17.11.2004: US troops 'not to blame for death of journalists'
02.11.2004: Reuters disputes US version of cameraman's death
27.08.2004: Killing of Italian journalist condemned as 'barbaric'
13.08.2004: British hostage freed
21.05.2004: Al-Jazeera man killed in Iraq
23.04.2004: US swells Iraq media death toll
13.01.2004: US military 'brutalised' journalists
BBC crew attacked in Saudi Arabia
28.06.2004: Funeral for BBC man killed in Saudi shooting
14.06.2004: BBC man regains consciousness
14.06.2004: Journalists are now combatants, says Simpson
14.06.2004: Jeremy Bowen: Now we're the target
08.06.2004: Simon Cumbers obituary by Orla Guerin
ITN's Terry Lloyd and crew
22.03.2004: ITV journalists 'killed by US troops'
22.03.2004: Wife of missing cameraman fights on
10.09.2003: ITN rejects new Lloyd claims
16.04.2003: Wife of missing ITN man in fresh appeal
15.04.2003: Lloyd 'caught between crossfire'
24.03.2003: Terry Lloyd obituary by David Mannion
BBC's John Simpson survives attack
11.11.2003: Libby Brooks talks to John Simpson
09.04.2003: Simpson: journalists 'taking a hammering'
07.04.2003: Simpson recovering from 'friendly fire' attack
07.04.2003: Simpson: 'I saw the bomb come down'
Journalists under attack
30.05.2003: BBC brings in 'safety tsar'
25.04.2003: Powell defends attack on Baghdad hotel
16.04.2003: First female journalist dies in Iraq
10.04.2003: Editors blast Rumsfeld over 'reckless' US strike
09.04.2003: Fury at US as attacks kill three journalists
08.04.2003: Army admits firing on hotel
08.04.2003: Reuters man killed in US attack
08.04.2003: Journalists injured as Baghdad hotel attacked
Kaveh Ibrahim Golestan and Stuart Hughes
20.05.2003: Do not rely on embedded journalists, urges BBC man
08.04.2003: BBC producer has foot amputated
03.04.2003: BBC film maker killed by landmine
04.04.2003: Obituary: Kaveh Golestan
18.05.2003: Writer hanged by Iraq 'no spy'
18.05.2003: Donald Trelford: Simply a journalist after a scoop
NBC's David Bloom
07.04.2003: Blood clot kills NBC's star correspondent
08.04.2003: Obituary: David Bloom
Channel 4 News' Gaby Rado
13.06.2003: Rado among winners at media awards
27.05.2003: Amnesty creates award in honour of Rado
31.03.2003: Viewers and colleagues pay tribute to Rado
31.03.2003: Gaby Rado obituary by Jon Snow
MediaGuardian.co.uk special report
Iraq - the media war