This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, February 6, 2006


Bush Lies and a Response

Bush used his weekly radio address to echo a theme he stressed in his State of the Union address Tuesday: To stay competitive in the world economic market, this country must invest in basic research, business innovation and give students a firm grounding in math and science.

I must respond to these lies:

1) Bush cut basic research funding:

At the end of 2002, scientists had cause to celebrate: Congress had approved a massive 15 percent increase in research funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and passed legislation that would authorize similar increases for the agency for five years, putting the nation's home of basic research on a doubling track. Both events were viewed as big victories, given the post-9/11 budget situation. Now, however, less than two years later, the Bush administration has announced that it plans to cut funding for NSF in fiscal year (FY) 2006.

The budget figures for NSF have been available since the release of the FY 2005 budget in February, but administration officials had previously maintained that the funding levels for future years were merely based on a formula and would not be binding. However, on 19 May, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a memo to federal agencies instructing them to use the figures for FY 2006 that were in the FY 2005 budget.

The outcome of this guidance is clear: Science funding will be cut beginning in 2006. According to the Bush administration's proposed budget, the NSF budget would shrink by 2 percent in FY 2006 to a proposed level of $5.6 billion, a figure that is 34 percent and nearly $3 billion less than the one that Congress and the administration had agreed upon for FY 2006 in the NSF Reauthorization Act of 2002. This cut would negate the proposed 2 percent increase in NSF funds for next year (FY 2005); FY 2006 funding would be the same as the FY 2004 level. In fact, the funding for FY 2006 would be lower than this year's level because of inflation. The news gets worse: In the five years covered in the administration's budget (2005-2009), NSF would not reach the level of funding originally proposed for FY 2005, thus dashing any hopes for making up for the cuts in future years.

2) Bush eliminated the Advanced Technology Partnership (ATP) program between NIST and business. That program was geared toward stimulating business innovation.

3) Bush cut Pell grants. One estimate is that as many as 90,000 students lost Pell grants since 2004. His latest proposals will make Sallie Mae student loans more expensive. The NCLB program is an empty shell that measures but does not improve education.

In short, Bush has done nothing but speak platitudes.

-Robert Scardapane

What's the Matter with Spying on Americans?

Speaking of spying on Americans, as the Bush White House has admitted doing, how do you think that Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and his campaign, who defeated then-Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) got a recording of the former senate minority leader saying "I am a resident of Washington DC "?

Imagine a scenario like this:

VOICE (on other end of phone): Hi. This is the cable company. Is this the residence of Thomas Daschle?
SEN. DASCHLE: Yes it is. Who is this?
VOICE: This is the cable company. We have two requests under your name for cable service. One in Washington DC and the other in Chevy Chase, MD. Are you a resident of Chevy Chase, Maryland or Washington, DC?
DASCHLE: I am a resident of Washington, DC.

Although this isn't exactly what happened, it might have. Many point to that one statement as the final straw that broke the senator's back. We know that the above scenario isn't exactly the way Daschle lost his seat, but it could have been.

Now imagine a tight congressional race, say in New Jersey's 7th congressional district. The incumbent, Michael Ferguson, was a very inexperienced and unqualified candidate six years earlier and has become a rubber stamp for the Bush administration who only votes as Tom DeLay orders him to vote. (In 1998 Ferguson ran in New Jersey's 6th district and was soundly defeated by incumbent Democrat Frank Pallone.) Now, imagine if someone had a recording of Ferguson saying "I'm really a New Yorker, but I moved to New Jersey to have a better chance of winning a congressional seat." That would have been much worse than what Daschle had said.

Now imagine if Ferguson was caught on tape saying that via an "FISA-less" wiretap set up by the Clinton administration while President Clinton was saying "I have that power because we are in a state of war."

Without the FISA courts there is no "check" in the "checks and balances" built into the US Constitution and the 1978 FISA law. President Bush can spy on anyone he wishes for any reason he wishes. And if, by some unknown means, that close congressional race suddenly had a recording of Ferguson's opponent saying something like "I'm really a New Yorker, but I moved to New Jersey to have a better chance of winning a congressional seat," its not like it had to have come from a "FISA-less" Bush wiretap, does it?

We need to have the FISA oversight because the left doesn't trust President Bush and the right won't trust the next Democrat in the White House, much like they didn't trust the last Democrat who lived there.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

When ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and ABC photographer Doug Vogt, both veteran war correspondents, were wounded January 29th in a roadside bombing in Iraq, the media refocused its dwindling attention on the war. One of their own had been gravely injured, and not just any journalist, but the evening news anchor of the most-watched network newscast, the heir-apparent to the late Peter Jennings.

Woodruff and Vogt's injuries were severe; at press time Woodruff had yet to regain full consciousness or be able to open his eyes. Yet both men are fortunate to be alive although the road to recovery will be long and arduous for each.

If this were any previous war, however, they would be dead. This is not anti-war hyperbole, it is fact.

Iraq is not, like previous wars, a war of the dead. (Cindy Sheehan, mother of a dead soldier and now an anti-war activist, was ejected from her invited place at the January 30th State of the Union Address for wearing a t-shirt with the number of dead emblazoned on it.)

Iraq is, fundamentally, a war of the wounded–the badly, life-alteringly wounded.

The Washington Post reported last fall that the number of those wounded in action has grown so extensive and attacks occur with such frightening regularity–between 200 and 300 IEDs per week in Iraq–that U.S. Central Command now only issues press releases listing injuries when those attacks kill one or more personnel in addition to the injured. As a consequence many injuries go unreported, even to the Pentagon.

Regardless, numbers only ever tell part of the story of war. And that is most true in Iraq. The numbers appear to be specific: There have been 2,449 coalition deaths as of February 2nd: 2,247 Americans, one Australian, 100 Britons, 13 Bulgarians, two Danes, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Hungarian, 26 Italians, one Kazakh, one Latvian, 17 Poles, two Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians in the war in Iraq, according to Pentagon sources. (Go to, click on "War in Iraq" to see the pictures of every dead soldier, his or her age, where they were from and how they died.)

Those same Pentagon sources cite 16,548 U.S. service persons, 86 percent of them Army soldiers, as having been wounded in action (this figure does not include service persons injured in accidents, attempted suicides or those injured by war-related illnesses, such as the severe chemical burns inflicted by allergic reactions to certain medications).

What the numbers *don't* tell us, however, is the extent of the injuries. According to a source at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where the most gruesomely wounded are treated once they have been stabilized enough to be moved to the U.S. is that close to 90 percent–nine in ten injured soldiers–have had an injury so severe that they have required immediate evacuation out of the war zone.

There are no minor injuries in Iraq; only degrees of severity.

Every war has its particular horrors. In Vietnam it was land mines and guerilla warfare; soldiers never knew where the opposition was.

In Iraq the hidden danger is what felled Woodruff and Vogt and what has been responsible for more than three-quarters of the deaths and injuries in Iraq: IEDs–improvised explosive devices.

Woodruff and Vogt were in Iraq reporting on what President Bush refers to as the "good news" aspect of the war: how the Iraqi troops are getting on with taking charge of their own country and the ongoing "insurgency." Both men risked their lives to report on the war and specifically about whether Iraqi troops are able to assume more of the burden from American troops and whether our troops will be able to begin withdrawal.

Alas, Woodruff and Vogt's subsequent injuries explain all too graphically how well that fight is going, because despite Woodruff's anchor status, the two journalists were not safely imbedded nor even traveling with American troops. They were in an Iraqi convoy, standing in the hatch of an Iraqi troop carrier.

One of the so-called "facts on the ground" of the Iraq war is that there is no good armored protection in transport vehicles. For more than two years American soldiers have complained about the lack of armor on their vehicles, many resorting to creating so-called "hillbilly armor" by attaching pieces of scrap metal and even Kevlar vests to the sides of humvees and other trucks and transport. The Iraqi vehicles are even more badly protected against the constant and insidious IEDs. Iraqi soldiers are among the most vulnerable because in general the vehicles they drive are not armored at all, although that was not the case in the convoy in which Woodruff and Vogt were riding.

Many of the American troops who have been killed or badly injured have been in these less-than well-armored vehicles, as were Woodruff and Vogt. When one of those roadside IEDs exploded nearby, they and an Iraqi soldier suffered serious injuries.

Like most American soldiers in the combat zone, Woodruff and Vogt were wearing bullet-resistant Kevlar helmets and body armor. Nevertheless their injuries were, as are a majority of injuries in Iraq, of the head and upper body. Woodruff, the more severely injured of the two men, sustained head injuries so severe as to require brain surgery.

As I stated before, in previous wars, both men would have died. What saved their lives was the immediacy of the treatment and the high quality of that treatment.

According to military officials from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, two-thirds of injured U.S. soldiers sent from Iraq to Walter Reed have been, like Woodruff and Vogt, diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries. This percentage is higher than in any other past U.S. conflict. About 67 percent of soldiers at the hospital wounded by IED blasts, severe falls in combat and motor vehicle accidents have suffered these potentially life-altering brain injuries, according to Dr. Deborah Warden, national director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Walter Reed, where the majority of patients with head injuries from Iraq are sent. And these are not, often, their only injuries.

The development of sophisticated Kevlar body armor and helmets has increased the survival rate of soldiers with traumatic brain injuries; in past wars similar injuries would have been fatal. In addition, the invention of diagnostic tools like MRIs have made it possible for doctors to determine the extent of injury immediately, as they did with Woodruff, who had potentially fatal swelling of the brain.

Diagnosis and treatment are not the only issues, however. The consequences of brain injuries are vast and permanent: soldiers who survive head injuries suffer from a range of cognitive and emotional problems, including difficulty with memory, attention and reasoning, as well as high rates of depression, alcohol and drug use, post-traumatic anxieties and uncontrolled anger. Soldiers who have sustained these injuries are also highly likely to be involved in domestic violence when they return home.

Prior to the attack on celebrity journalist Woodruff, the wounded had almost disappeared from public view. While there has been some controversy over the extensive media attention paid to Woodruff and Vogt, their horrific injuries and resultant coverage have actually renewed media interest in the war and about the injured.

The ranks of the injured are growing and providing appropriate care is an increasing burden for the military and civilian health care systems because those injuries are so severe, so life-altering, that for the majority, there is no true recovery. More than three-quarters of those injured in Iraq are permanently disabled.

There are many shocking numbers from this war: $400 billion dollars spent thus far. A new defense budget proposed February 3rd by the President for another $500 billion does not even include money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of dead is shocking. But the most stunning number is the wounded and the extent of those wounds.

Approximately one in seven soldiers wounded in combat in Iraq has died–dramatically fewer than in previous wars. In World War II, a third of soldiers wounded in combat died. That percentage fell during the Korean War to one in four, the same number as in Vietnam and the first Gulf War. But in Iraq only 15 percent of battle wounds are fatal.

The wounds in Iraq include gunshot and shrapnel wounds, wounds from rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and mortars, burn injuries. But in Iraq, in part because body armor has prevented life-threatening internal injuries, there has been more loss of limbs than in other wars. More than half of the wounded have required amputations of one or more limbs. In addition the same explosions that create severe brain injury also are responsible for another shocking statistic from Iraq: 16 percent of injured soldiers suffers an eye injury leading to blindness.

Other horrors include burn injuries; many soldiers caught in explosions are inside their burning vehicles. Nearly one in four injured soldiers sustains severe third and even fourth degree burns–always disfiguring and usually disabling.

These injuries–amputated limbs, shattered jaws, blindness, irreversible brain damage, breathing problems and severe disfiguration from shrapnel and burns–all can have devastating and life-altering results. More than half of all Iraq veterans are permanently disabled. The very fact that superior and swift medical care results in saving the lives of these severely wounded men and women also means that those who survive often have devastating injuries from which there is no recovery.

So why did it take a news anchor sustaining similar injuries to bring media attention to this devastating issue? And do Americans even know the extent of the casualties from Iraq?

In December 2005, a small group of Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to President Bush urging appropriate and honest reportage of the numbers of injured in Iraq. According to the U.S. Transportation Command, as of December 2005 the military had evacuated an additional 25,289 soldiers *over and above* the 16,548 then *officially listed* as injured from Iraq for injuries or illnesses not caused directly by combat. That number from the USTC includes such serious injuries as Humvee and car wrecks, accidents and illnesses like the outbreak of pneumonia that impacted dozens of soldiers in 2004.

What is inexplicable is why this additional number of injured–clearly war-related since those injuries would not have happened were these men and women not in Iraq are not included in the Pentagon's casualty reports.

The numbers are no better stateside: According to the Department of Veterans Affairs which covers medical care for soldiers after they leave active service, more than 120,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan now out of active service are getting regular health care from the Veterans Administration.

For those being treated, the problems are staggering. Close to 40,000 are being treated for mental disorders; a third of those are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the V.A. benefits analysis, close to 50,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have serious medical problems related to their term of service.

Why have we heard so little about this pandemic of casualties from Iraq? (No one ever even mentions Afghanistan anymore; like the Korea conflict, it's a forgotten war, yet more than 30,000 troops remain stationed there.)

In the December letter, in addition to stating that the Department of Defense was purposefully distorting the number of injured from the war, the Democrats said this: "What we can be certain of is that at least tens of thousands of young men and women have been physically or psychologically damaged for life."

The question remaining for Americans is: The number of injured soldiers, most injured severely enough that in previous wars they would have died on the battlefield, is now, in actuality, not 16, but approaching 50,000. The number of dead in Vietnam was 56,000.

If the numbers were shifted from one casualty column, life-altering injuries, to the other, death where they would have been in previous wars, would more Americans be outraged at how long this war is lasting and its cost in human lives?

If we really want to support our troops, shouldn't we show their injuries, shouldn't we expose how many lives have been irreparably altered, should we declare how many of these men and women are coming back mentally scarred if not physically disabled?

It is a tragedy that two talented men like Woodruff and Vogt have been so badly injured. But their wounding has resulted in one superb act of selfless journalism: It has exposed for all to see the vastness and terribleness of the injuries American–and coalition and Iraqi–soldiers are suffering in Iraq.

Now the question is, when we will stop the carnage?

Past Predictions

Old-time (as in 1970's) anarchist writer and professor Murray Bookchin, wrote a long article in one of his books--or maybe it was a pamphlet--about the targeted destruction of the U.S. middle class, with the ultimate aim of dragging America down into Third World status. I lost, lent, or otherwise misplaced it years ago, but Murray, as usual, was perspicacious in his analysis of trends.

The shadow-criminals who were drawing a bead on the middle class weren't the Soviets, Maoists, or left-over Nazis (Muslims weren't even in the equation 30 years ago), but the pseudo-"conservative" politicians of America, captive to the multinational cartels and their lavish lobbyists either from money-worship or blackmail. They could not tolerate a free, well-informed, optimistic middle class with enough collective bargaining clout to be somewhat independent of big capital, and they certainly would not tolerate the children of ditch-diggers and sharecroppers--or women, or homosexuals--enjoying increasing civil rights, rising levels of education, and better jobs.

Murray predicted that propaganda would be the methodology, until lies and truth were twisted. A general public cynicism and mistrust would make all ideas seem worthless. The propagandists would pump up all kinds of phony issues--mistrust of minorities and immigrants, false Christianity indistinguishable from kowtowing Pharaoh-worship, and phony patriotism (since their kind has no loyalty to anyone but themselves)--to eat away at everything that made life worthwhile for ordinary Americans: freedom, the environment, health care, job security, wages, savings, leisure time, life style, education, etc. Faith in each other, hope for a better future, and charity for anybody except the upper-uppers would become dirty words.

Lying propaganda would hide America's slide into oblivion. (How many Americans know that the U.S. for many years has ranked below Turkey in general health and survival rates?) Finally all controlling wealth and power would be in the hands of the upper 1% of the super-rich. Either in this article or in one of our conversations, Murray predicted that many of these top 1% Caesars would not reside in America--or if they did, only in isolated, castle-like communities--and that quite a few would be foreigners. They would no longer (except for propaganda) consider themselves Americans, but as "citizens of the world"--the elite worldwide family of the very rich. No one else would count for anything more than furnishing cannon-fodder for the armies of oppression.

Sound familiar? It does to me.

These villainies aren't new with Bush-Cheney, just more out in the open. They began in the Republigoon-controlled Congress of 1948, some of this (whatever naive Ike wanted) went on during the Eisenhower administration, Democrat warhawks like Kennedy, Johnson and their henchmen were responsible for further erosion, but the destruction of America really started rolling downhill with Nixon and Reagan, however benign they may seem compared to Bush.

-Jenny Hanniver

Media Madman
Chavez and Bush

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned on Saturday he could shut his government's U.S.-based refineries and sell oil to nations other than the United States if Washington decided to cut diplomatic ties, as relations between the two countries continue to worsen.

"If the U.S. government wants to break relations, then they have to take that decision over there, over there. I could easily order the refineries we have over there closed," Chavez told a large crowd of supporters.

"We'll see how high oil prices go, we'll see how much a gallon of gas will cost. I could easily sell the oil we sell to the United States to other countries," he said. "We don't want to get to that extreme, we want them to leave us in peace."

Oh yeah, Mr. Diplomacy George Dumbya Bush - making enemies around the globe!

-Robert Scardapane

Today's Quote

"His message tonight will not deal honestly with the mistakes that he's made. And I believe that the latest revelations about him and his spying on American citizens - no matter how he tries to frame it - are impeachable offenses. I believe that this president is not only spying on American citizens in the way that he's describing it, but to indicate in any shape form or fashion that he's been authorized by Congress to do it on the vote that was taken after 9-11 is plain dishonest. And further to try to imply that he's supported by the Constitution of the United States is even more dishonest. And so, I think that this issue that he's been caught red-handed on is really typical of who he is, how he handles this presidency, and what his leadership is all about: spying and lying. And I think it is important for us to understand that all of the other issues that we're going to talk about today - and particularly the war in Iraq - will continue to exemplify how he has lied and misled the American public."
-Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), prior to President Bush's State of the Union Address


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-Noah Greenberg