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Views in brief

February 17, 2006 | Page 8

OTHER VIEWS BELOW:
"Free-speech" hypocrisy
No rights for U.S. soldiers

"I never lied to Congress"

IN THE January 27 issue of Socialist Worker, Chris Murphy states, "In fact, Richard Foster, Medicare's chief actuary, apparently lied to Congress about how much Medicare Part D would cost--because he was threatened with firing if he told the truth that the real projections were hundreds of billions more than his agency admitted at the time." ("Medicare drug disaster")

I wish to assure your readers that I have never lied to Congress. The facts are that in 2003, I was ordered not to respond to certain Congressional requests for information regarding the Medicare Modernization Act. An agency lawyer assured me that this order was legal and proper, although to me it was clearly inappropriate.

It is true that my job was threatened on several occasions, but I complied with the order because I believed it was legal, not because I might be fired otherwise. In fact, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson both assured me that they would prevent any such outcome.

Moreover, I attempted to overturn or work around the order in many ways and generally succeeded, with help from a number of top administration and Congressional officials. I described this experience in detail in the Nov/Dec issue of Contingencies magazine (available at http://www.contingencies.org/novdec04/index.asp).

Many members of Congress knew at the time that the cost estimates prepared by my office for the Medicare prescription drug benefit were significantly higher than those prepared by the Congressional Budget Office. These members, however, also recognized that by law Congress is required to use the CBO estimates when considering the impact of proposed legislation.

I believe it would have been helpful for all members to be aware of our higher estimates, which would have helped convey the substantial uncertainty about the future costs of the new drug benefit. (The different cost estimates, by the way, were the result of this uncertainty, rather than any political or other bias on the part of my office or CBO).

I would like to have been more effective in getting all of our information to all members of Congress, instead of most of it to some members. Since this experience in 2003, we have, in fact, provided Congress with all of the information they have requested.

But please rest assured that my colleagues and I have never lied to Congress or other policy makers, and have worked extremely hard for more than 30 years to ensure that Congress has access to objective technical information about Medicare and Medicaid from nonpartisan actuarial experts.
Richard S. Foster, FSA, MAAA, Chief Actuary, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

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"Free-speech" hypocrisy

THE INCANTATION of "free speech" in the mass media's coverage of Islamic outrage over the crude drawings published in a Danish newspaper of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban reeks of the same hypocrisy and racism that taints the original cartoons. How could any thoughtful person again be taken in by simplistic arguments that "they" hate our freedoms?

Hundreds of millions of Muslims experience the realities of U.S. imperialism each day of their lives. Is it unreasonable to suppose that many such people, conscious of their oppressive conditions, would ask that racist imagery not be published in societies where Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism are expressed in hate crimes?

In many other contexts, as Robert Fisk observes in an excellent recent article on Counterpunch.org, such imagery would constitute hate speech entitled to no legal protection.

As the corporate media divert our attention with what Fisk calls "the childishness of civilizations," a major free speech scandal is passing largely under the radar screen of public attention. The New York Times, a ruling-class newspaper if ever there was one, knew for more than a year that the Bush administration had been conducting an arrogantly illegal program of electronic surveillance of domestic and international communications, ostensibly in the name of preventing another September 11.

Upon being asked by the administration not to publish the story information because it would damage "national security," the paper complied, even though they know all too well that the administration does not have a very fastidious track record when it comes to truth-telling, and in fact could be accused of being pathologically mendacious prevaricators whose noses would put Pinocchio to shame.

Such is the character of the world we live in and seek to transform. When the bourgeoisie use their media to intensify the special oppression suffered by Muslims and the oppressed respond by asserting their dignity and fighting back, the bourgeois media are filled with anguish about the need to defend free speech against the enemies of civilization.

If you ask the Times why it sat on Globocop's big sting on free speech in America--pretty much what happened with the National Security Agency story, in my opinion--five will get you ten that their editors would admit they deferred to the administration's national security argument. It's enough to make me want to vomit.

Anyone who wants to see cartoons that both express the experience of the world from the point of view of oppressed Islamic or predominantly Islamic peoples and frequently are quite sharp in their politics, should check out the work of Shujaat at http://english.aljazeera.net/HomePage.

Thanks for last week's excellent coverage of Hamas, by the way ("Threatened with war for winning an election," February 3). It beat anything I saw in the corporate media hands down.
Mark S. Clinton, Northampton, Mass.

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No rights for U.S. soldiers

I'D LIKE to see an article about the speech rights of military members in Socialist Worker. I don't think it's known publicly, but military members have a very short list of rights.

They are forbidden to participate in demonstrations, forbidden from membership to any organization whose ideology is anti-U.S., from participation in any organization that is deemed "extremist," and are told that if members of the press approach them, that they are to direct those reporters to the Public Affairs Office of their commands. Any military member who goes against this does so at the risk of incurring disciplinary action from the military judicial system.
Bryan Schaefer, from the Internet

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