Archive for July, 2004

Shattering Illusions***Kerry Doesn’t Want Anti-War Activists

Friday, July 30th, 2004

by Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls
In the first minute of his July 29 Democratic National Convention (DNC) acceptance speech, John Kerry told us that the Democratic party has “one simple purpose: to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.” The Republicans have set the standard by which a US President will be judged, and listening to peace and social justice activists is not one of the desired qualities. Regardless of who gets elected, the two parties tell us, the next president will be a “Commander-in-chief”: tough on terrorism, national security and Homeland Security, and easy on corporations, while paying lip-service to jobs, healthcare, and education. According to Democrats quoted in the New York Times (July 25th 2004), this year’s DNC was designed so that you “think you’re looking at a Republican Convention.” Kerry is reaching out to the same base that Bush is, so this election year there is hardly even the pretense of progressive values coming from the Democratic elites on the podium. full article

Kerry: Our country needs to be looked up to and not just feared
UK Independent
John Kerry last night vowed to turn America once again into a “beacon for the world”, promising a foreign policy that would make the world’s lone superpower an object of admiration again ­ not an object of dread. full article

It is exactly that ‘beacon for the world’ crap which is the problem.

Democrats hail working stiffs, but party on corporations’ tab *

Thursday, July 29th, 2004

by Mark Sandalow San Francisco Chronicle
Boston — From the podium of the FleetCenter, Democrats talk righteously about the struggle of working families and decry the plight of the forgotten middle class.

In the streets of Boston, conventioneers feast on boiled lobster tails and fine sparkling wine. full article

by Mark Gongloff
This convention brought to you by…
More than 125 companies, unions and private foundations, including some 50 members of the Fortune 500, will pump at least $103.5 million into the conventions of both major U.S. political parties this year, thanks to new election rules that help big donors skirt campaign finance limits.

That amount of money, which does not include the cost of various soirees thrown for politicians and delegates of both parties, will dwarf the amount spent in, say, 1980, when both conventions enjoyed private donations of a mere $1.1 million, according to a study by the Campaign Finance Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research institute affiliated with George Washington University. full article

Billings (Montana) Gazette
Gas group plans party for Baucus, delegation
Members of the Montana delegation to the Democratic Party Convention will be treated to a good time thanks to Sen. Max Baucus’ leadership position in the Senate.

On Monday night, the American Gas Association will give a party in Boston’s wealthy Beacon Hill neighborhood to honor the senator and the state’s delegation.

While Baucus aides and association representatives say it will be a fun and harmless event, Fred Wertheimer, president of the campaign finance reform group Democracy 21, says it represents a corruption of the political process.

Under congressional ethics rules, lawmakers are not permitted to receive gifts or financial favors with a value more than a “de minimis” amount. The party for Baucus and the delegation does not violate this rule because it technically is not a gift or a financial favor, but rather a party in his “honor.” full article

A guy on ABC news said tonight:‘Conventions are the big honey pot for special interests.’ While Ted Kennedy is ranting and raving about corporate special interests inn his speech on the convention floor, a few blocks away Sen. Tom Harkin and others are at a giant liquor-sodden ‘Caribbean’ bash, complete with colorful cocktails, steel bands, and ‘voodoo dancers,’ thrown by 20 major corporations looking, a spokesman says, for ‘regulatory relief.’ At least Republicans don’t front; they don’t pretend to be anti-corporate populists.

Here’s Nader’s description:
I would like to see the bazaar. I’d like to see the alcoholic-musical-political payoff bazaar of accounts receivable.”

Violence Needed Against Chavez, Venezuela Opposition Leader Says. Dictatorship Must Follow

Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

by Martin Sanchez
Venezuelan opposition leader, and two time president Carlos Andres Perez (CAP), made a series of statements calling for violence and hinting at an eventual dictatorial period that the Venezuelan opposition must implement if current President Hugo Chavez is to be removed from office.
“I am working to remove Chavez [from power]. Violence will allow us to remove him. That’s the only way we have,” said CAP in an interview published Sunday in El Nacional, one of Venezuela’s main daily newspapers.

CAP, who was speaking from Miami, denied being involved in a plot to assassinate Chávez, but said Chavez “must die like a dog, because he deserves it.”

Chavez is facing a recall referendum on his mandate to be held Aug 15. Most polls show him as the winner.

In 1992, while he was a military officer, Chavez led an unsuccessful coup against CAP, who was very unpopular at the time, after implementing an economic policy package mandated by the IMF. CAP was later impeached on corruption charges, while Chavez remained in prison for trying to overthrow a democratically-elected government.

During the interview, CAP hinted at a possible dictatorial period to be implemented in case Chavez is removed from office. “We can’t just get rid of Chavez and immediately have a democracy… we will need a transition period of two or three years to lay the foundations for a state where the rule of law prevails… a collegiate body (junta) must govern during that transition and lay the democratic foundations for the future,” CAP said.

“When Chavez falls, we must shut down the National Assembly (Congress) and also the Supreme Court. All the Chavista institutions must disappear,” the opposition leader added. full article

Chavez Would Win Election by 10%

Candidate Kerry

Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

by Alexander Cockburn
I’ve tried shouting “Kerry-Edwards” on the step out to my garden. The cat yawned and the flowers drooped. Democrats know this in their hearts. Twit them about Kerry’s dreariness, reminiscent of thin cold chowder or Weeping Ed Muskie and one gets the upraised hand and petulant cry, “I don’t want to hear a word against Kerry!” It was as though the Democratic candidate has been entombed, pending resurrection as president, with an honor guard of the National Organization of Women, the AFL-CIO, the League of Conservation Voters, Taxpayers for Justice, the NAACP. To open the tomb prematurely and admit the oxygen of life and criticism is to commit an intolerable blasphemy against political propriety. Amid the defilements of our political system, and the collapse of all serious political debate among the liberals and most of the left, the Democratic candidate becomes a kind of Hegelian Anybody, as in Anybody But.. full article

Baghdad is Swamped in the Smell of the Dead

Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

by Robert FiskIndependent UK
The smell of the dead pours into the street through the air-conditioning ducts. Hot, sweet, overwhelming. Inside the Baghdad morgue, there are so many corpses that the fridges are overflowing. The dead are on the floor. Dozens of them. Outside, in the 46C (114F) heat, Qadum Ganawi tells me how his brother Hassan was murdered.

“He was bringing supper home for our family in Palestine Street but he never reached our home. Then we got a phone call saying we could have him back if we paid $50,000 [£27,500]. We didn’t have $50,000. So we sold part of our home and many of our things and we borrowed $15,000 and we paid over the money to a man in a car who was wearing a keffiyeh scarf round his head.

“Then we got another phone call, telling us that Hassan was at the Saidiyeh police station. He was. He was blindfolded and gagged and he had two bullets in his head. They had taken our money and then they had killed him.”

There is a wail of grief from the yard behind us where 50 people are waiting in the shade of the Baghdad mortuary wall. There are wooden coffins in the street, stacked against the wall, lying on the pavement.

Old men–fathers and uncles–are padding them with grease-proof paper. When the bodies are released, they will be taken to the mosque in coffins and then buried in shrouds. There are a few women. Most stare at the intruding foreigner with something approaching venom. The statistics of violent death in Baghdad are now beyond shame. Almost a year ago, there were sometimes 400 violent deaths a month. This in itself was a fearful number to follow the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. But in the first 10 days of this July alone, the corpses of 215 men and women were brought to the Baghdad mortuary, almost all of them dead from gunshot wounds. In the second 10 days of this month, the bodies of a further 291 arrived. A total of 506 violent deaths in under three weeks in Baghdad alone. Even the Iraqi officials here shake their heads in disbelief. “New Iraq” under its new American-appointed Prime Minister is more violent than ever. full article

Lost Record ’02 Florida Vote Raises ’04 Concern

Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

by Abby Goodnough New York Times
MIAMI, July 27 – Almost all the electronic record from the first widespread use of touch-screen voting in Miami-Dade County have been lost, stoking concerns that the machines are unreliable as the presidential election draws near.

The records disappeared after two computer system crashes last year, county elections officials said, leaving no audit trail for the 2002 gubernatorial primary. A citizens group uncovered the loss this month after requesting all audit data from that election.

A county official said a new backup system would prevent electronic voting data from being lost in the future. But members of the citizens group, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, said the malfunction underscored the vulnerability of electronic voting records and wiped out data that might have shed light on what problems, if any, still existed with touch-screen machines here. The group supplied the results of its request to The New York Times.

“This shows that unless we do something now – or it may very well be too late – Florida is headed toward being the next Florida,” said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a lawyer who is the chairwoman of the coalition. full article

Saddam’s ‘Stroke’

Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

by Gary JonesUK Mirror
SADDAM Hussein has suffered a minor stroke and could die before his trial, his defence lawyers claim.

The multinational legal team is still awaiting permission to visit the deposed Iraqi ruler.

A letter demanding their doctor be given access to the former dictator was yesterday sent by Jordanian lawyer Mohammed al-Rashdan to Salem Chalebi, the head of the Iraqi prosecuting authorities.

Mr al-Rashdan said: “Our information is that he’s in very poor health. We understand from the International Committee of the Red Cross that our client has had a brain scan to discover how badly he has been affected by the stroke. We believe he could die because of his health problems.

“We also think an attempt may be made on his life.

“We’re very worried that we won’t have a client to defend.” He added: “Under the Geneva Convention we’re entitled to have access to our client. But all our requests have been ignored.”

In a form letter delivered by the Red Cross in January to his wife Sajida, living in Qatar, Saddam put a cross in boxes for “good health” and “slightly wounded”.

“His finger appears to have been wounded, possibly by gunshot, when he was captured,” said Mr Rashdan. “But we believe his health has deteriorated.

“We believe any trial could be months, if not years away – I think Bush and Blair would be happier if he died from ill health.”

Globe poll: Delegates, Kerry differ on key issues

Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

by Michael Paulson globe_poll_delegates_kerry_differ_on_key_issues?mode=PF”>full article

Why are they voting for Kerry then? I guess they don’t think the war is a major issue.

Fear of Fraud

Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

by Paul Krugman New York Times

It’s election night, and early returns suggest trouble for the incumbent. Then, mysteriously, the vote count stops and observers from the challenger’s campaign see employees of a voting-machine company, one wearing a badge that identifies him as a county official, typing instructions at computers with access to the vote-tabulating software.

When the count resumes, the incumbent pulls ahead. The challenger demands an investigation. But there are no ballots to recount, and election officials allied with the incumbent refuse to release data that could shed light on whether there was tampering with the electronic records.

This isn’t a paranoid fantasy. It’s a true account of a recent election in Riverside County, Calif., reported by Andrew Gumbel of the British newspaper The Independent. Mr. Gumbel’s full-length report, printed in Los Angeles City Beat, makes hair-raising reading not just because it reinforces concerns about touch-screen voting, but also because it shows how easily officials can stonewall after a suspect election.

Some states, worried about the potential for abuse with voting machines that leave no paper trail, have banned their use this November. But Florida, which may well decide the presidential race, is not among those states, and last month state officials rejected a request to allow independent audits of the machines’ integrity. A spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush accused those seeking audits of trying to “undermine voters’ confidence,” and declared, “The governor has every confidence in the Department of State and the Division of Elections.”

Should the public share that confidence? full article

Groups Challenge Florida Ban on Recounts

Guardian UK

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Election reform groups asked a judge Tuesday to strike down a state rule preventing counties that use touchscreen voting machines from conducting manual recounts from the machines.

State election officers say manual recounts are not needed since the machines tell each voter if they are skipping a race, known as an undervote, and will not let them vote twice for the same race, known as an overvote. The officials also maintain that the computer systems running the machines can be trusted to count the votes accurately as they’re cast, and give the final numbers when needed.

But lawyers representing the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups said the state should require a paper trail in case a physical recount is needed, as it was in the 2000 presidential race in Florida. full article

Sudan government on alert after vowing to resist any Darfur intervention

Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

Agence France Presse

The Sudanese cabinet ordered a general mobilisation alert while vowing to face down any foreign intervention in the crisis in the strife-torn western Darfur region.

The hardening of the Khartoum government’s position came as French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier arrived in the country and the international community continued to step up pressure on it to end a 17-month conflict between rebels and Arab government-backed Janjaweed militias that has cost up to 50,000 lives.

But US Secretary of State Colin Powell, on a visit to Cairo where Darfur was high on the agenda, said it was too soon to talk of military intervention in the crisis.

Sudanese ministers ordered the “political and strategic mobilisation of all government institutions”, Agriculture Minister Majzub al-Khalifa Ahmed told reporters after an emergency cabinet meeting.

They also decided to “strongly resist all (UN Security Council) resolutions calling for despatching international forces to Darfur,” said Ahmed, who is Khartoum’s pointman in the bloody conflict in Darfur.

“The government will from now on harden its attitude in rejection of any foreign intervention in Darfur and will notify the international community of this position,” the minister warned.

“The government will appropriately deal with any soldier who sets foot on Sudanese territory,” he said. full article