bush lies.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

From Veterans plan to exact action at polls by Dennis Camire
"We have the money to pay for a statue of the Roman god Vulcan in Birmingham, Ala. We have money to pay for a bike trail in North Dakota. We have money to fund a Nevada helicopter company that performs Elvis impersonator weddings," [American Legion national commander Ronald F.] Conley said. "And yet we have neither the heart nor the will to ensure that all United States veterans receive the medical care they earned and we owe them."

President Bush may hear more on the issue Tuesday when he is to speak to 13,000 delegates at the American Legion's national convention in St. Louis.

Congress' actions have many veterans talking about political consequences.

"Veterans more and more are beginning to sense a loss of faith and confidence in the administration," said Richard C. Schneider, director of veteran and state affairs for the Non Commissioned Officers Association. "They're no longer willing to be the quiet, accepting veterans that they have been in the past. I think they're actually going to hold some people accountable."
[Detroit News, 8/20/03]

Someone's got to do it.

From The Bush Administration Owes the Public A Complete Accounting about Its Use of Intelligence on Iraq by Rep. Henry A. Waxman
Controversy is growing over President Bush's use of forged evidence in his State of the Union address. Indeed, the issue is fast becoming a whodunit. Who inserted the fabricated claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from an African country into the statements of the President and other Administration officials?

Currently, the White House is saying a speechwriter, not the butler, did it.But even a quick look at the record reveals that's just another fiction. With potentially grave national security implications at stake, it's essential we find out what really happened.

To rebuild the trust that has been lost, we need open congressional hearings and an independent commission to investigate.
[FindLaw's Writ, 8/19/03]

The press seems to have lost interest in this issue, just like they lost interest in the missing WMDs.

From Bush's Energy Policy Stalled by Mike Allen
As a candidate for president, George W. Bush called for greater investment in the nation's electricity transmission grids and criticized "the Clinton-Gore administration" for failing to encourage improvements.

Four months into his presidency, Bush issued an energy policy that warned of kinks in the transmission grids that "could result in price pressures and reliability problems."

In a speech unveiling the policy, Bush said the electricity grid "needs to be modernized, so we can move product from point A to point B." He said he wanted connections as modern as the interstate highway and phone systems.

And then, nothing happened.
After the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Bush stopped talking about electricity grid improvements in public appearances. He argued more generally for broad energy legislation, but lobbyists and others on both sides of the aisle said the administration's focus was on other priorities, especially drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

On the few occasions when more limited proposals surfaced to deal with electricity, such as when Democrats proposed funding to modernize the grid during consideration of spending bills in 2001, the ideas were shot down by the White House and its allies on the Hill.

"He's the president, and the Congress is Republican," said William W. Hogan, research director of Harvard University's Electricity Policy Group. "The buck stops there. They didn't think the grid was that high a priority, and they wanted to bundle those issues with other things they wanted."

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the House energy committee, said, "The debate over the Bush energy bill so far has been dominated by the president's demand that the government get out of the way of big oil."
[Washington Post, 8/23/03]

From Fouling the Air
In defiance of Congress, the courts and the requirements of public health, the administration is on the verge of effectively repealing a key section of the Clean Air Act. According to a report yesterday in The Times, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to issue a final rule next week that would allow thousands of industrial sites, including hundreds of old coal-fired power plants, to make major upgrades without installing new pollution controls, as currently required by law. Eliot Spitzer, New York's attorney general, has rightly vowed to sue the moment the rule becomes final. We are eager to hear Gov. Michael Leavitt of Utah, President Bush's nominee to run the E.P.A., try to defend this decision when he comes up for confirmation in September — especially in light of his own clean-air director's vigorous opposition to the change.
[New York Times editorial, 8/23/03]

From The Illusions of Progress by James Bennet
"Great and hopeful change is coming to the Middle East," President Bush declared on June 4, as he stood with the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, and Mr. Sharon's Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas. Appearing at a summit meeting in Aqaba, Jordan, they presented a picture of shared determination to achieve lasting peace.

Since then, the image the Palestinians have sought to project has been of a unilateral halt to violence. For the Israelis, it has been of earnest concessions, including troops withdrawn and prisoners released.

The White House hoped that reality would bend to match these images, as the adversaries gained some confidence in each other and came to enjoy the benefits of a new atmosphere of calm.

But the images, already blurred, were erased this week, as a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 20 people, including six children, aboard a city bus and Israeli forces raced back to their old positions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Just one crucial image remained from the peace process, that of a new Palestinian leadership, and it was fading fast.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell acknowledged the underlying reality on Thursday when he urged Yasir Arafat, the pre-eminent Palestinian leader and a pariah to Washington, to help the government of Prime Minister Abbas.
[New York Times, 8/23/03]

It is striking, in case after case, how long it takes this administration to "acknowledge the underlying reality", after reality fails to "bend" to match their wishes. Bending reality? What kind of worldview do these people have?

Bush Policies Bring More Danger by Mike Strong
After President Bush signed off on his National Security Strategy, declared Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be a "man of peace" and let Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz lead him into invading Iraq, it seemed obvious that the world would become a much more dangerous place. I feel deep sympathy for the many Israelis and Palestinians who genuinely seek peace but who now see this dream crushed by religious extremists.

I feel the same about the Iraqis and our troops there. Bush's mishandling of the truth, distrust of diplomacy and preference for "first strike" military initiatives imperil not just the lives of those we attack but also our own lives and those of our children. It is a mystery how British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is so smart, could acquiesce in the deception and lack of planning. How long will it take to restore decency, honesty, foresight, courage and credibility in our leadership?
[Letter, Los Angeles Times, 8/23/03]

From Bush Picks Controversial Scholar for Peace Think Tank by Paul Richter
President Bush bypassed the Senate on Friday to name a scholar accused of anti-Muslim bias to the board of a federally funded foreign policy think tank.

Bush appointed Daniel Pipes to the board of the Institute of Peace, which was chartered by Congress to study ways to solve international conflicts.

Pipes has spoken out on the danger posed to the United States by Islamic militants and presides over a group that monitors and critiques what U.S. academics are writing about Israel and the Middle East. Critics, including some Muslim and liberal Jewish groups, have charged that he is an extremist who has no place in an organization aimed at bringing about peace.

Several senators opposed the nomination. But Bush avoided a wrangle in the Senate by using a procedure that enables a candidate to avoid congressional review if he is named during a recess.
[Los Angeles Times, 8/23/03]

As usual, the wrong man for the job.

From Australia Lied About Iraq, Inquiry Is Told
The government lied about the threat of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction to justify involvement in the U.S.-led war, a former senior intelligence analyst told an official inquiry Friday.

Andrew Wilkie, who resigned in March to protest Australia's case for war, said Prime Minister John Howard, a close U.S. ally, created a mythical Iraq by dropping ambiguous references in intelligence reports.

"The government lied every time it skewed, misrepresented, used selectively and fabricated the Iraq story The exaggeration was so great it was pure dishonesty," Wilkie, formerly of the Office of National Assessments, told the inquiry into Australian intelligence on Iraq.

The ONA is equivalent to the U.S. National Security Agency.

"Key intelligence assessment qualifications like 'probably,' 'could' and 'uncorroborated evidence suggests' were frequently dropped. Much more useful words like 'massive' and 'mammoth' were included," he said.
[Los Angeles Times, 8/23/03]

This is like deja vu all over again.

From Who's to blame for blackout? Dim bulbs in D.C. by Greg Palast
Too much news ink has been spent already on trying to guess which of the Three Stooges of the power industry -- First Energy (in Ohio), First Energy (in Pennsylvania), or the Niagara-Mohawk Power Corp. -- started the most recent blackout. Ultimately, the cause of this blackout can be traced to the dim bulbs in the White House. When the lights went out, Spencer Abraham, the secretary of energy, issued a statement that, "We need to [give] the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the authority to impose mandatory reliability standards." This can't be the same guy who, as a senator from Michigan, supported elimination of the department and boosted "deregulation" of the electricity system.

In the '80s, I investigated the Blackout Three utilities for state regulators on charges ranging from incompetence to racketeering. But they need not fear that now because the laws have been changed. Deregulation, signed into law in 1992 by George Bush the First, means that what was once against the rules or even criminal statutes is now OK.
Now the administration has prescribed a cure for the ills caused by deregulation: more deregulation.

Don't look to the guys who took us back to the Dark Ages for answers; ask the ones who kept the lights on. Greenport and Rockville Center in New York just flickered and kept the juice flowing. Both are publicly owned power systems. While the Niagara-Mohawk lines went dead, the neighboring public system, NYPA, never blinked. The first big operator back up was Long Island Power Authority, the publicly owned system that replaced the Long Island Lighting Company. LILCO lost its franchise when voters had enough of its profit-driven incompetence.

Deregulation and decriminalization have put out our lights. It's time for some law and order.
[Boston Globe, 8/23/03]

From EPA softened Sept. 11 statements, report finds by John Heilprin
The Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog says that White House officials pressured the agency to prematurely assure the public that the air was safe to breathe a week after the World Trade Center collapse.

The agency's initial statements in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were not supported by proper air quality monitoring data and analysis, the EPA's inspector general, Nikki L. Tinsley, said in a 155-page report released late Thursday.

The report said an e-mail sent just one day after the attacks, from then-EPA deputy administrator Linda Fisher's chief of staff to senior EPA officials, said that "all statements to the media should be cleared" first by the National Security Council. President Bush is chairman of the NSC, which serves as his main forum for discussing national security and foreign policy matters with his senior aides and Cabinet members.

Approval from the NSC was arranged through an official with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the report said. That council, which coordinates federal environmental efforts, in turn "convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones," the inspector general found.

For example, the report found, the EPA was convinced to omit from its early public statements guidance for cleaning indoor spaces and tips on potential health effects from airborne dust containing asbestos, lead, glass fibers, and concrete.
[Boston Globe, 8/23/03]

It's comforting to know that our president was protecting us from this information.

Friday, August 22, 2003

From Security May Not Be Safe Issue for Bush in '04 by Dana Milbank and Mike Allen
Though Bush has consistently cautioned Americans that the war on terrorism will be long, he has been upbeat about progress. In his May 1 speech proclaiming "victory" in the war in Iraq, he also said "we destroyed the Taliban" in Afghanistan, and predicted that in the war on terrorism, "we do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide."

Top Bush aides have begun to talk about a long and expensive U.S. presence in the Middle East, a generational commitment akin to the half-century presence in Europe during the Cold War. "Today America and our friends and allies must commit ourselves to a long-term transformation in another part of the world: the Middle East," national security adviser Condoleezza Rice wrote this month in The Washington Post.

Foreign policy expert Richard N. Perle, who has close ties to the administration, recommended that Bush caution Americans about the lengthy commitment. "It may be a very long time before we've so substantially eliminated the source of terror that we can pronounce that we are safe," he said.

Bush, however, has not emphasized that point -- which, opponents say, means Americans may believe that he played down the commitment. "Iraq is going to be a long slog," said Democratic pollster Jeremy Rosner. "He hasn't prepared the nation for the reconstruction of Iraq."
[Washington Post, 8/22/03]

From Injustice in Guantánamo
The detainees held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on suspicion of involvement in terrorism have been in custody so long it may seem that they have been found guilty of something. But the detainees, most of them captured in the Afghanistan war, have not had trials, and it is not clear when they will. Relatives and human rights groups say many were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were picked up based on bad intelligence.

The administration has indicated that it intends to start putting the detainees before military tribunals soon. The procedures that have been adopted for these proceedings are unfair. The trials themselves may be held in secret, and lawyers can be prevented from speaking publicly about the proceedings. Secret trials make it impossible for the outside world to determine whether justice is being done.
[New York Times editorial, 8/22/03]

Well, duh.

From Ashcroft Criticized for Talks on Terror by Eric Lichtblau
Attorney General John Ashcroft faced sharp criticism today from Democrats and others over his decision to give more than a dozen speeches around the country in defense of anti-terrorism legislation passed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, told Mr. Ashcroft in a letter that he should either "desist from further speaking engagements" or explain why they do not violate restrictions on political activities by government officials.

Mr. Conyers said that the speeches in defense of the USA Patriot Act, as the antiterrorism law is known, appeared to conflict with Congressional restrictions preventing the use of Justice Department money for "publicity or propaganda purposes not authorized by Congress." He said they might also violate the Anti-Lobbying Act and its restrictions on grass-roots lobbying on legislative matters.

Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union raised similar concerns about Mr. Ashcroft's speaking tour, which began this week in Washington, Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Des Moines and will continue over the next three weeks. The message in all the speeches has been that despite rising criticism the Patriot Act has proved an essential tool in fighting terrorism.
[New York Times, 8/22/03]

From Bush Tries to Put Focus on Domestic Policy, but Events Conspire Against Him by Richard W. Stevenson
With two big forest fires darkening the skies near here, President Bush could hardly have had a more compelling setting today to promote his approach to reduce the risk of devastating blazes. He even took a bumpy helicopter ride for a close-up look, providing another of the made-for-television images that the White House uses skillfully.

But with the ruins from terrorist attacks smoldering halfway across the globe, Mr. Bush's efforts to burnish his environmental credentials, court moderate voters and focus the nation on domestic matters struggled for traction. The attention of the news media and much of the world remained riveted by the Mideast violence and the growing terrorist threat in Iraq. Today served mostly as a reminder of how much Mr. Bush's standing is hostage to his foreign policy and events abroad.
Mr. Bush did his part to stay on message today. In two speeches, he did not mention the announcement by Palestinian terrorists that they were declaring an end to their cease-fire with Israel. Nor did he mention the bombing on Tuesday in Baghdad, and he took no questions from reporters.

Even when he managed to command attention on the domestic front, Mr. Bush faced challenges. As his motorcade whisked him to a $1 million fund-raiser in Portland, he passed unusually large numbers of protesters, despite approaching by what seemed to be a back route.
[New York Times, 8/22/03]

There's a nice image - our president sneaking into a fund-raising event by a "back route".

From Draft of Air Rule Is Said to Exempt Many Old Plants by Katharine Q. Seelye
After more than two years of internal deliberation and intense pressure from industry, the Bush administration has settled on a regulation that would allow thousands of older power plants, oil refineries and industrial units to make extensive upgrades without having to install new anti-pollution devices, according to those involved in the deliberations.

The new rule, a draft of which was made available to The New York Times by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, would constitute a sweeping and cost-saving victory for industries, exempting thousands of industrial plants and refineries from part of the Clean Air Act. The acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency could sign the new rule as soon as next week, administration officials have told utility representatives.

The exemption would let industrial plants continue to emit hundreds of thousands of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere and could save the companies millions, if not billions, of dollars in pollution equipment costs, even if they increase the amounts of pollutants they emit.
Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York, said he would file a challenge to the new rule as soon as it was signed.

"A rule that creates a 20 percent [equipment cost] threshold eviscerates the statute," he said of the Clean Air Act. "This makes it patently clear that the Bush administration has meant all along to repeal the Clean Air Act by administrative fiat."
[New York Times, 8/22/03]

From Return Power to Public Utilities by Robert Kuttner
In theory, it's efficient to trade wholesale electricity. But in practice, it costs a fortune to upgrade transmission lines to transmit all that additional power. Deregulation, by increasing complexity, has also dramatically increased the risk of catastrophic failure. Earlier blackouts were confined to smaller areas because grids were more localized.

Furthermore, the obscure organization responsible for coordinating the whole show, the North American Electric Reliability Council, is a voluntary industry affair. Its own executives and engineers say it lacks the authority to effectively govern the grid.

There's another irony. Everyone now concedes that a "deregulated" electricity industry still needs regulation. Yet the Bush administration and its industry allies believe in as little regulation as possible. So although there is widespread consensus that Congress should legislate reliability standards, the pro-regulation forces don't trust Bush's appointees to deliver adequate regulation. The potential for both mischief and catastrophe is so large that regulation needs to be in the hands of people who believe in it.

The story is complicated by two other factors. Pending federal legislation would give the reliability council and regional coordinating bodies new powers. But the Bush administration and its industry chums want to use the electricity crisis to light up a Christmas tree of special-interest measures — everything from oil drilling in Alaska to other new giveaways to energy interests.
[Los Angeles Times, 8/22/03]

We can't look to the Republicans for meaningful reform in this area.

From Iraqi Officials Fault U.S. on Handoff by Carol J. Williams
Iraqi leaders are eager to see a restored army and police force that can maintain order, but they said they are increasingly frustrated by U.S. missteps that have endangered an already slow transition.

Key leaders said the Americans pay lip service to empowering Iraqis to put their house in order. They said the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority has disregarded crucial intelligence delivered by Iraqi partners and failed to provide sufficient funds, guns and uniforms to the new forces. The authority has made the job of restoring peace all the harder by excluding former Baath Party members who are innocent and willing to help look for Saddam Hussein and his henchmen, said members of the Iraqi Governing Council.
The U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, told the fledgling Governing Council after the U.N. bombing that Iraqi security forces needed to be more visible, said a council official who was at the meeting.

Bremer's assertion that the Iraqis should take greater charge was unrealistic and disingenuous, said Ali Abdel-Amir of the Iraqi National Accord.

"He talks about it, without doing anything about it on the ground," Abdel-Amir said, adding that Iraqis fear the sudden haste by the U.S. to transfer responsibility for security. The occupation authorities have made major mistakes from which they are anxious to extricate themselves, he said, but the council is loath to be held responsible by a disgruntled public.
[Los Angeles Times, 8/22/03]

Disregarding crucial intelligence, failing to take responsibility - who are these guys?

From Bush's non-leap forward by Derrick Z. Jackson
As Bush soars toward $250 million for his reelection campaign, he continues to leave behind a landscape aching for more respect. Early in his presidency, he promised $5 billion over five years to repair facilities in national parks. Bush has "spent" $2.9 billion so far, but $2.5 billion of it was not new money. It was merely siphoned off from other park projects and services such as visitor education, species tracking and, ironically, trail maintenance. Bush might have held a shovel for a photo op, but when no one was looking, he kicked the dirt right back into the hole.

The real problem, I suspect, is that Bush does not give himself the time to truly sink into the woods, climb the mountains, paddle the rivers, and find that special place or moment where you really understand what God's gift is.
Perhaps the moment will come when something that Bush loves at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, is no longer there. He brags about being able to jog in inhospitable 100-degree heat, but just maybe, when something he is used to disappears, a cactus, a flower, a cricket song, he will realize how we have abused the hospitality of the planet. He just might get that awe. That is our best hope for him to take the environment seriously. He needs the awe to forget about the oil.
[Boston Globe, 8/22/03]

From Bush visits fire-ravaged Oregon, touts forest plan by Wayne Washington
Bush said his "Healthy Forests'' initiative would reduce wildfire risk by clearing forests of undergrowth that serve as fuel for the summertime blazes.

"The worst thing that can happen to old stands of timber is these fires,'' Bush said. "They're so explosive in nature that hardly any tree can survive.''

Environmentalists counter that Bush's plan - announced in Oregon last year, but stalled in the US Senate - has more to do with helping logging interests than protecting natural resources.

"His plan is based on the misguided belief that cutting trees can fireproof a forest,'' said William H. Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society.

Meadows and other critics say the administration is cynically using the fires as an opportunity to usher in a new era of logging in national forests. "Most troubling, the plan does not meet the first priority of any wildfire policy: protecting homes and lives,'' he said.
[Boston Globe, 8/22/03]

For Bush, that's not the first priority.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

From Four 9/11 Moms Battle Bush by Gail Sheehy
So afraid is the Bush administration of what could be revealed by inquiries into its failures to protect Americans from terrorist attack, it is unabashedly using Kremlin tactics to muzzle members of Congress and thwart the current federal commission investigating the failures of Sept. 11. But there is at least one force that the administration cannot scare off or shut up. They call themselves "Just Four Moms from New Jersey," or simply "the girls."

[9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser] and the three other housewives, who also lost their husbands in the attack on the World Trade Center, started out knowing virtually nothing about how their government worked. For the last 20 months they have clipped and Googled, rallied and lobbied, charmed and intimidated top officials all the way to the White House. In the process, they have made themselves arguably the most effective force in dancing around the obstacle course by which the administration continues to block a transparent investigation of what went wrong with the country’s defenses on Sept. 11 and what we should be doing about it. They have no political clout, no money, no powerful husbands—no husbands at all since Sept. 11—and they are up against a White House, an Attorney General, a Defense Secretary, a National Security Advisor and an F.B.I. director who have worked out an ingenious bait-and-switch game to thwart their efforts and those of any investigative body.
The four moms are demanding that the independent commission hold a completely transparent investigation, with open hearings and cross-examination. What it looks like they’ll get is an incomplete and sanitized report, if it’s released in time for the commission’s deadline next May. Or perhaps another fight over declassification of the most potent revelations, which will serve to hold up the report until after the 2004 Presidential election. Some believe that this is the administration’s end game.

Kristen sees the handwriting on the wall: "If we have an executive branch that holds sole discretion over what information is released to the public and what is hidden, the public will never get the full story of why there was an utter failure to protect them that day, and who should be held accountable."
[New York Observer, 8/21/03]

This is a long article that tells an amazing story. Definitely worth reading.

From Good Riddance
During his many years in Washington, retired Adm. John Poindexter proved that you can defy the odds. What were the chances that a man convicted of lying to Congress about his key role in the Iran-Contra scandal while he served as President Reagan's national security adviser could ever be re- invited to government service?

But his backers proved to be foolish bettors. The man who came up with the macabre scheme to create a terrorism futures market -- a trading system where investors could speculate on the likelihood of terrorist bombings and assassinations -- will officially leave his post in the Pentagon next week. It's a move that couldn't come soon enough, because Poindexter's main contribution to the Bush administration seemed to be his penchant for cloaking it in controversy.
[San Francisco Chronicle editorial, 8/21/03]

Good riddance, indeed. The question is, who will replace him?

From Troops in Iraq face pay cut by Edward Epstein
The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of its 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are already contending with guerrilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120-degree-plus heat.

Unless Congress and President Bush take quick action when Congress returns after Labor Day, the uniformed Americans in Iraq and the 9,000 in Afghanistan will lose a pay increase approved last April of $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" and $150 a month in "family separation allowances."
Susan Schuman of Shelburne Falls, Mass., said her son, Army National Guard Sgt. Justin Schuman, had told her "it's really scary" serving in Samarra, a town about 20 miles from Saddam Hussein's ancestral hometown of Tikrit.

Schuman, who like Syverson has become active in a group of military families that want service personnel pulled out of Iraq, said the pay cut possibility didn't surprise her.

"It's all part of the lie of the Bush administration, that they say they support our troops," she said.
[Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/14/03]

From Mr. Ashcroft's Roadshow
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft is hitting the campaign trail this week -- not on behalf of a candidate but in defense of the USA Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism legislation enacted in the aftermath of 9/11. It speaks volumes about the administration's assessment of public sentiment that Mr. Ashcroft feels the need to go on the road -- and to presidential battleground states such as Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- to defend a statute that was, after all, approved overwhelmingly in Congress. The House voted last month to repeal the law's "sneak-and-peak" provision that permits the government to delay notifying suspects that their homes or workplaces have been searched. Communities across the country, and three states, have passed resolutions condemning the law, and they're joined by such surprising allies as the American Conservative Union.
But if people are worried about how the Justice Department is wielding its authority under the Patriot Act, a big piece of the blame lies with Mr. Ashcroft himself. Muscular congressional oversight of this new law is critical, but the department has until recently balked at answering reasonable questions from lawmakers. At one point last fall, House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) was so exasperated he was threatening to issue a subpoena to get the information. This is no way to make the public feel better about how the department is handling sweeping new powers.

More important, it strikes us that a great measure of the public's "unease" over the law, as Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) put it, is in fact discomfort -- legitimate discomfort -- over the administration's broader disregard for civil liberties: its insistence that American citizens can be held for months without access to lawyers simply by designating them "enemy combatants"; its sweeping roundup of non-citizens in the days after 9/11; and its unapologetic stance toward the treatment of detainees who had nothing to do with terrorism but were held for months. Technically, these are separate matters from the Patriot Act. In reality, the Patriot Act has become something of a repository in the public mind for wider worries about Mr. Ashcroft's Justice Department. As the attorney general barnstorms the country, he might do a little less preaching to the already converted and a little more listening to the legitimate concerns of the American public.
[Washington Post editorial, 8/21/03]

From GOP Bill Would Add Anti-Terror Powers by Dan Eggen
Recent drafts of the Victory Act, which carry the names of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and four other Senate Republicans, would provide extra penalties for drug dealers alleged to be connected to terrorist groups and would dramatically expand the government's power to seize records and conduct wiretaps in connection with "narcoterrorism" investigations.
Even without official legislation, the proposals have prompted an outcry from the American Civil Liberties Union, the criminal defense bar and some Democrats, who say the Bush administration and Senate Republicans are trying to use the terrorist threat to mask broad changes in drug trafficking laws.

"The Victory Act represents a major expansion of federal surveillance, asset forfeiture and other powers under the guise of linking the war on drugs to the war on terrorism," said Tim Edgar, legislative counsel for the ACLU. "It does not address the intelligence problems that led to the September 11th attacks, continuing a failed policy of simply granting more power to the government instead of ensuring the government uses its existing powers effectively."

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor who has sharply criticized the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies, said in a news release this week that the Victory Act is "a dangerous piece of legislation."
[Washington Post, 8/21/03]

The "Victory Act"? Sounds creepy.

From A Price Too High by Bob Herbert
The carnage [in Iraq] from riots, ambushes, firefights, suicide bombings, acts of sabotage, friendly fire incidents and other deadly encounters is growing. And so is the hostility toward U.S. troops and Americans in general.

We are paying a terribly high price — for what?

One of the many reasons Vietnam spiraled out of control was the fact that America's top political leaders never clearly defined the mission there, and were never straight with the public about what they were doing. Domestic political considerations led Kennedy, then Johnson, then Nixon to conceal the truth about a policy that was bankrupt from the beginning. They even concealed how much the war was costing.

Sound familiar?

Now we're lodged in Iraq, in the midst of the most volatile region of the world, and the illusion of a quick victory followed by grateful Iraqis' welcoming us with open arms has vanished. Instead of democracy blossoming in the desert, we have the reality of continuing bloodshed and heightened terror — the payoff of a policy spun from fantasies and lies.
[New York Times, 8/21/03]

From Pump Up the Power Grid
The Bush administration isn't shy about using a crisis to advance a political agenda. It parlayed fear in the wake of terrorist attacks into the broad intrusions and civic roadblocks of the USA Patriot Act. It turned worries over the stalled economy into big tax cuts for the rich. The White House is now enlisting last week's massive Northeastern electric blackout as a reason to pass a hydra-headed energy bill that would open Arctic wilderness to oil and gas drilling and force taxpayers to subsidize ethanol production.
[Los Angeles Times editorial, 8/21/03]

From Bush Looks to the Environment to Sway Swing Vote by Maura Reynolds
Environmental groups complain that one way Bush is trying to disarm such [mobilized environmental] voters is by using words that sound friendly to the environment to talk about policies that are pro-industry.

Take the program he plans to highlight in Oregon, the Healthy Forests Initiative. Bush says it will "thin" the forests so fires are less devastating. Environmentalists say it is a cover to open protected forests to loggers, who are unlikely to cut down only the brush and undergrowth that fuel forest fires and will use the policy to cut down large, even old-growth, trees.

"There is a history of using words to cover up bad environmental policies," said Jonathan Sallet, communications director for the presidential campaign of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), who spent much of last week denouncing Bush's environmental record. "It would appear that Bush is trying to position himself in the center, but his policies aren't in the center. They are far right."

Whether Bush succeeds in convincing voters he is not hostile to the environment, the fact he is taking the time to discuss it suggests that environmentalism has lost some of its "fringe" image and achieved mainstream approval. In a recent Gallup Poll, 61% of respondents described themselves as sympathetic to or active in environmental causes. Only 6% described themselves as "unsympathetic."

"There is a kind of socially correct consensus that has forced conservatives to pay a kind of lip service to conservation," said [political scientist Ross] Baker of Rutgers University.
[Los Angeles Times, 8/21/03]

In other words, they will say whatever they need to say to gain political advantage.

From For Bush, risk in the latest attacks by Peter S. Canellos
In one day, George W. Bush's war on terrorism exploded on three fronts. The bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad destroyed the sense that order was coming to Iraq. A few hours later, a bus blew up in Jerusalem, painting a stop sign on Bush's "road map" to peace. And 10 Afghan policemen were killed by a suspected pro-Taliban militia, part of the bloodiest fighting since the installation of the US-backed government of Hamid Karzai.

The tragedies were of sufficient magnitude to provoke widespread expressions of support for America to stay the course. But the tendency to rally around the flag and the US president won't last forever. Ask Jimmy Carter, whose wave of support after the Iran hostage-taking turned into a sharp undertow in elections the following November.

For the first time in his presidency, Bush appears as much the victim of his own policies as foreign terrorism. It was Bush who targeted Iraq, even as others warned that it would take attention away from Afghanistan. It was Bush who opted to become personally involved in the Mideast conflict, only after avoiding it for the first two years of his presidency, a time when Israelis and Palestinians lived through the worst violence in decades.

Bush responded to the UN bombing in the starkly moral, us-against-the-terrorists terms he often invokes to describe his foreign policies. "The civilized world will not be intimidated," the president declared. "These killers will not determine the future of Iraq."
[Boston Globe, 8/21/03]

Who will then?

From Dems Start Group to Try to 'Recall' Bush by Sharon Theimer
A new committee called the Fair and Balanced PAC plans to launch its www.bushrecall.org Web site Thursday. The PAC's founders include Joe Lockhart, a press secretary to former President Clinton, and Mike Lux, a Democratic political consultant.

The Constitution provides no way to recall a president through a ballot initiative, as California voters have a chance to do to Democrat Gray Davis in October.

Instead, the PAC will work to defeat Bush in next year's election, building lists of supporters through a petition drive and raising money to run ads against the Republican, he said.

"What we hope to do is to remind people that all of the things that are being said about Gray Davis as the reasons for the recall can be applied to George Bush," Lux said Wednesday. "For example, they say Davis turned big surpluses into deficits in a matter of a couple of years. That's the same thing that happened with George Bush."

The Bush campaign declined to comment.
[Washington Post, 8/20/03]

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

From Keep special pays coming
President Bush touched down May 1 on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq. In doing so, he offered a well-deserved salute to service members everywhere who helped win the war. But in the weeks since, his administration has undermined that support with questionable comments and decisions.

One maddening example is the Pentagon’s opposition to two congressional proposals to continue higher rates of imminent-danger pay and family-separation allowance beyond Sept. 30, when raises put in effect in April are set to expire.

Congress included the raises in the supplemental funding bill for the war in Iraq; monthly danger pay was raised from $150 to $225, and monthly family separation allowance jumped from $100 to $250. But to win swift approval of that action, lawmakers had to insert a “sunset” provision under which the rates would revert to their previous lower levels when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
Equally misguided — if not more so — is the Bush administration’s desire to roll back the recent increase in family-separation allowance, or FSA. This money is designed to partially reimburse deployed troops for the “reasonable amount of extra expenses that result from such separations,” such as child care or home and car repairs that a service member, if home, might be able to do himself.

Such expenses increase as deployments get longer; they do not become more manageable. By rolling back danger pay and FSA rates to pre-April levels, Pentagon leaders effectively would cut the monthly income of junior enlisted members by 10 to 15 percent.

Their reason: They say they did not budget for the costs of the higher rates for 2004.
[Army Times editorial, 8/18/03]


From Blackout Focal Point by Brian Ross
Akron-based FirstEnergy, the largest utility in the country, has a long record of troubling safety, operational and financial problems, an ABCNEWS investigation has found.

Unionized employees complain the company cut back on workers who maintain its transmission lines. In addition, its Ohio nuclear plant was shut down by federal regulators last year because of safety violations, including a football-sized hole in the top of the reactor vessel.

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic presidential candidate and former mayor of Cleveland, filed a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to revoke FirstEnergy's operating license for the power plant after the hole in the vessel was found. He said the company has a long history of mismanagement.
In 2002, FirstEnergy gave $1,044,807 to political parties — 70 percent to Republicans and 29 percent to Democrats — the 10th-largest amount contributed by an energy and natural resources company and the sixth-largest amount contributed by an electric utility, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. FirstEnergy spent another $2,259,975 on lobbying in 2002

In June, the CEO of FirstEnergy, Peter Burg, hosted a fund-raiser for Vice President Dick Cheney that raised $600,000 for President Bush's re-election campaign.

And when he first prepared to move into the White House, Bush appointed the president of FirstEnergy, Anthony Alexander, to serve on the administration's energy transition team.
[ABCNEWS.com, 8/18/03]

Could this be another Enron in the making?

From Standing Against The Fear by William Rivers Pitt
If you read Robert Dallek's new biography of John F. Kennedy, An Unfinished Life, a rather pointed irony greets you before you reach page 100. The book details, as few have before it, the incredible infirmities that Kennedy wrestled with during his life. Stomach problems, Addison's Disease, collapsing vertebrae in his back, and more, made every day of his life an instruction in pain.

No military induction board in its right mind would allow a man so sick to serve. Yet Kennedy used all of his family's considerable influence to pull as many strings as possible in order to get him into the Navy, and into the fight that was World War II. Powerful friends were pressured, and favors were called in, so John Kennedy could serve his country when it needed him. He could have stayed home; his health, arguably, dictated that he should have stayed home. He didn't. He fought for the ability to fight, and came in the end to serve with distinction.

Who does this bring to mind today?

It brings to my mind two groups as different and distinctive as night and day. The members of the Bush administration, of course, leap immediately to mind. Virtually all of the heavies in that crew moved heaven and earth to avoid military service in Vietnam. Dick Cheney "had other priorities," as did Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Andrew Card, John Ashcroft and several others. Some, like George W. Bush himself, had the same kind of powerful family connections that Kennedy enjoyed, and used them to stay as far away from the fight as possible.

These are the fellows who are now in the business of making you afraid.
[truthout.org, 8/18/03]

From Idiot or Liar? Either Way, Bush Is Unfit for Office by John V. Whitbeck
On July 25, President George W. Bush made a truly staggering statement to the press after a meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan: "The fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program?

And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region."

This statement is worth reading carefully. The president of the United States has stated, in a public forum, that he invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein would not allow weapons inspectors back into his country.

So far as I am aware, this statement has not been the subject of any serious critical analysis in the mainstream American media.
[Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 8/19/03]

Whitbeck, an international lawyer, provides his own analysis of this interesting remark.

From Bush unscathed by investigations. Here's why by Susan Page
For nearly a decade, special counsel inquiries and adversarial congressional hearings dominated the headlines, etched bitter partisan lines, led to the impeachment of a president and made the nation's political debates resemble hand-to-hand combat.

Now, some things have changed. The law that provided for special counsels has expired. President Bush's fellow Republicans control both houses of Congress. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has stepped back from challenging the White House after losing a court case that sought to open the records of Vice President Cheney's energy task force.

The result: The White House is better able to control information and prevent a nagging controversy from becoming a full-blown crisis. It's harder for Democrats to demand answers and easier for administration officials to dismiss their charges as political posturing. Fairly or not, Bush faces less of the daily barrage that prompted President Clinton to set up a parallel press operation for investigative inquiries and made Clinton's White House seem at times like an embattled enclave.
''When the Republicans ran the Congress and Clinton was in the White House, there was no accusation too small for them to pursue,'' says California Rep. Henry Waxman, the senior Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee. ''Now that President Bush is in power, there's no scandal so large that they have any interest in examining it.''

He says he'd like to have hearings on the no-bid contract awarded to Halliburton, Cheney's former company, to rebuild oilfields in Iraq, for example.
[USA Today, 8/13/03]

I wouldn't count on that one.

From White House Practicing MINISTRY OF TRUTH Editorializing in Real Time
[Take Back the Media!]

This item shows the Bush Ministry of Truth in operation as they subtly change the text of the White House web site to track the latest Bush prevarication. Very Soviet, George.

From How America Created a Terrorist Haven by Jessica Stern
Yesterday's bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was the latest evidence that America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one.

Of course, we should be glad that the Iraq war was swifter than even its proponents had expected, and that a vicious tyrant was removed from power. But the aftermath has been another story. America has created — not through malevolence but through negligence — precisely the situation the Bush administration has described as a breeding ground for terrorists: a state unable to control its borders or provide for its citizens' rudimentary needs.

As the administration made clear in its national security strategy released last September, weak states are as threatening to American security as strong ones. Yet its inability to get basic services and legitimate governments up and running in post-war Afghanistan and Iraq — and its pursuant reluctance to see a connection between those failures and escalating anti-American violence — leave one wondering if it read its own report.
[New York Times, 8/20/03]

From A Mission Imperiled
What seems clear is that those carrying out the attacks are organized and seek to thwart relief and recovery efforts. They seem intent on fanning hostility to American occupation authorities by prolonging the misery of ordinary Iraqis. Targeting the U.N. is especially chilling because it conveys a message to international organizations that they are not safe. Washington cannot let this message sink in.

To prevent that, the administration will have to radically rethink its approach to postwar Iraq. Unrealistically optimistic assumptions have led the White House to severely underestimate troop and spending requirements and wrongly dismiss the need for more international help through the U.N.

More must be done to reestablish security for Iraqis, aid workers and American troops, without creating a bunker mentality that walls foreigners off from the Iraqi population. Washington needs to accelerate its efforts to restore vital services and normal economic life. The administration should also drop its ideological resistance to a larger U.N. role in Iraq — and prevail on the U.N. to maintain its presence, despite the terrible bloodshed.
[New York Times editorial, 8/20/03]

I wouldn't count on this administration changing its mind about anything.

From Tragic Tests of U.S. Resolve
Around office water coolers and on buses, Americans are questioning the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Less than five months after troops toppled Saddam Hussein's statue in the heart of Baghdad, the grumbling grows louder. President Bush needs to remind Americans that the United States, having invaded Iraq and ousted Hussein, is obliged to repair the damage and help the Iraqis rebuild; he should explain in detail how many years the job will take and how many tens of billions of dollars it will cost.
[Los Angeles Times editorial, 8/20/03]

We're still waiting for that explanation.

From The electricity is back on -- so what's next? by Robert Kuttner
In theory, it's efficient to trade wholesale electricity. But in practice, it costs a fortune to upgrade transmission lines in order to transmit all that power. It's not at all clear that the benefits outweigh the new costs. It's also evident that deregulation has dramatically increased the risk of catastrophic failure. Earlier blackouts were usually confined to smaller areas because long-distance transmission was a rarity.

Further, the obscure organization responsible for coordinating the whole show, the North American Electric Reliability Council, is a voluntary industry affair. Its own executives and engineers say that it lacks the authority to effectively govern the grid.

There's another irony. Everyone now concedes that a "deregulated" electricity industry still needs regulation. But the Republican administration in Washington believes in as little regulation as possible. So while there is widespread consensus that Congress needs to legislate reliability standards, pro-regulation forces don't trust Bush's appointees to deliver adequate regulation. The potential for both mischief and for catastrophe is so large that regulation needs to be in the hands of people who believe in it.

The story is also complicated by two other factors. Pending federal legislation would give the Reliability Council and regional coordinating bodies new powers. But the Bush administration and its energy industry allies want to use the electricity crisis to light up a Christmas tree of special interest measures -- everything from oil drilling in Alaska to new giveaways to oil and gas interests.
[Boston Globe, 8/20/03]

There is no crisis so troubling that it cannot be used by Republicans for political advantage.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

From Bush Revises Views On 'Combat' in Iraq by Dana Milbank and Bradley Graham
President Bush, revising his earlier characterization of the fighting in Iraq, said in an interview released yesterday that combat operations are still underway in that country.

In an interview with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service given on Thursday and released by the White House yesterday, Bush interrupted the questioner when asked about his announcement on May 1 of, as the journalist put it, "the end of combat operations."

"Actually, major military operations," Bush replied. "Because we still have combat operations going on." Bush added: "It's a different kind of combat mission, but, nevertheless, it's combat, just ask the kids that are over there killing and being shot at."

In his May 1 speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush declared: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country." The headline on the White House site above Bush's May 1 speech is "President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended."

Since then, a search of Bush speeches on the White House Web site indicates, the president had not spoken of the guerrilla fighting in Iraq as combat until this interview; he had earlier spoken of the "cessation of combat" in Iraq.
[Washington Post, 8/19/03]

And the story slowly shifts, one word at a time.

From The Road to Ruin by Paul Krugman
Four years ago, Paul Joskow of M.I.T. told FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission): "Proceeding on the assumption that, at the present time, `the market' will provide needed network transmission enhancements is the road to ruin." And so it was.

Have we learned our lesson? Early indications are not promising. President Bush now says that "our grid needs to be modernized . . . and I've said so all along." But two years ago Tom DeLay blocked a modest Democratic plan for loan guarantees for system upgrades, calling it "pure demagoguery." And press reports say that despite the blackout, the administration will bow to pressure from Senate Republicans and put on ice the only part of its energy plan that had any relevance to the blackout, a FERC proposal for expanded oversight of the transmission system.

This nation needs to invest billions in its power grid, yet given recent history, it's crucial that this investment not be simply another occasion for energy-industry profiteering. Somehow, I'm not optimistic.
[New York Times, 8/19/03]

From Hollywood Isn't Holding Its Lines Against the Pentagon by Jonathan Turley
With the reality of entrenched opposition in Iraq resulting in increasing U.S. fatalities there, the opposition at home to the occupation is hardening by the day. The military appears to have come up with a solution: Change reality.

In what has been described as a "Pentagon infomercial," the Defense Department has hired a former producer of the TV show "Cops" to film postwar Iraq from its perspective. Though producer Bertram van Munster has denied that he is shooting a propaganda piece, it is clear that the Pentagon is gearing up to frame its own account — and history — of the Iraq war.

The Pentagon has a long history of propaganda efforts. Indeed, the Pentagon is hard at work participating in a number of movies that will deliver its message on the legitimacy of the war and its own conduct in Iraq.

Some of these efforts are already the subject of controversy. For example, military and intelligence sources framed an account of Pfc. Jessica Lynch that was almost entirely manufactured for public appeal.
[Los Angeles Times, 8/19/03]

Everything this administration does is phony in some way.

From Bush Tries to Deflect Blackout Criticism by H. Josef Hebert
President Bush, who has been criticized by Democrats for neglecting electric power in his energy priorities, told advisers Monday he wants the reason behind last week's power blackout found "as quickly as possible" so needed changes can be made.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the president, who is in Crawford, Texas, "emphasized the need to find out what caused the blackout and to do so as quickly as possible" in a telephone call to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.
"The president believes strongly that we need a comprehensive solution, not patchwork crisis management," said McClellan in a briefing with reporters.

But some Democratic critics contend that prior to last week's blackout the White House largely has ignored electricity improvements, while concentrating on other energy issues such as getting Congress to allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"If it weren't for this administration's obsession with giveaways to their friends in the oil business, Congress likely would have passed an energy bill last year," said Sen. John Kerry, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Kerry of Massachusetts said Bush also has not put a priority on energy conservation and efficiency improvements that would "reduce the burden on our power grids."
[Los Angeles Times, 8/19/03]

From Down with the plutocrats by Jim Hightower
Any poll that probes an inch beneath the surface shows that while the affable Bush is personally popular, his policies decidedly are not. Endless war, executive secrecy, Patriot Acts I and II, the Homeland Security bully, Ashcroft’s constitutional nuttiness, Bush’s tax giveaways, shameless corporate welfare, the gutting of environmental laws, the goosed-up drug war, the FCC’s shilling for media giants, the expansion ofNAFTA and the World Trade Organization, the ideological assault on Social Security and Medicare— a growing majority of people are opposed to this extremist agenda.

Even more significant, there’s an increasing awareness that the Bushites’ agenda adds up to something worse for America than the sum of its outrageous parts. In my town of Austin, I recently saw a bumper sticker on a pickup truck that asks; ‘‘Where are we going? And what am I doing in this handbasket?’’

People are recognizing that our founding, fundamental values of fairness, justice, and opportunity for all—the very values that define our America—are being shoved aside to create an un-America of plutocracy and autocracy. In my travels, I find widespread dismay, frustration, resentment, and outright anger that no one in power is standing with them against this. The question I hear everywhere, is: ‘‘Where the hell are the Democrats?’’ Well, ask the pundits, if so many people oppose the Bush agenda, why did they vote to give Republicans a sweeping victory—indeed, a ‘‘mandate’’—in last year’s congressional elections?

They didn’t. The majority of voters gagged on their choices and didn’t vote all—only 33 percent of those eligible cast a ballot in races for the House. The bottom line is that Bush’s GOP got only 17 percent of eligible voters. Some ‘‘mandate.’’
[Boston Globe, 8/10/03]

This is what we've been saying all along.

From Even traditional conservatives outraged by radicalism of the right by Clyde Prestowitz
[Conservatives] anticipated that a new Bush administration would embrace long-standing conservative objectives such as smaller government, fiscal responsibility, tax cuts crafted with a goal of balancing budgets, strong protection of individual rights, and support for healthy state and local governments. There was certainly no mention in Bush’s campaign of revolutionary schemes to transform the world.

So imagine our surprise when instead of a new humility, the fledgling Bush administration embraced a new arrogance.
The events of Sept. 11 strengthened the president’s hand, giving him a moral authority that had been lacking after the election. It also allowed a small group of selfstyled neoconservatives in his administration to turn the ship of state onto a dramatically new course.

In foreign affairs, this meant ditching America’s ‘‘no first strike’’ commitment to deterrence in favor of preventive war. Out too were long-term alliances in favor of temporary ‘‘coalitions of the willing.’’ Suddenly America’s ‘‘mission’’ was to recast the world in the American democratic capitalist mold.Neoconservatives have openly called this strategy imperialistic.

Domestically, the administration’s new direction has been even more dramatic and, for traditional conservatives, alarming. Far from being reduced, the size of government has grown larger as spending has been significantly increased to support our imperialist strategy. Passage of the Patriot Act has imposed the greatest constraint on individual American freedoms since the internment of Japanese-Americans during WorldWar II. In the face of budget projections now deep in the red, further tax cuts may cripple all but the most basic of government functions.
[Boston Globe, 8/10/03]

This is what we've been saying all along.

From Bush's fire sale
It has become a summer routine for President Bush to visit some Western area hard hit by wildfire and tout his plan to curb fires by letting timber companies do "fuel reduction" in national forests -- that is, harvesting trees. The photo op last week was in Arizona, the scene of the Aspen fire on Mount Lemmon and the burned-out community of Summerhaven.

The White House could not have picked a scorched area that better demonstrated how flawed his firefighting strategy really is. Even if his "Healthy Forests Initiative," as he calls it, had been in place years ago, it would not have protected the Mount Lemmon area.

The Bush plan encourages timber companies to go deep into national forests on roads that are paid for by taxpayers to cut valuable old-growth trees while they also clear out smaller growth, reducing a forest's overall fuel load. But there is no commercial logging on Mount Lemmon to interest the timber companies.

As for Summerhaven, last year its residents asked the Forest Service to thin trees surrounding the village to create a break against any spreading fire. But the Forest Service said it lacked funds for the $1 million project, the work was not done, and 340 houses and businesses went up in flames.
[Boston Globe editorial, 8/19/03]

From Blair aide doubted level of Iraqi threat by Dominic Evans
The dossier on which Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain based his case for war against Iraq contained no proof of any threat from Baghdad, according to an e-mail from a top aide released yesterday.

The e-mail, sent in September 2002, is the first public sign of questioning within Blair's inner circle about the strength of intelligence used to justify a war that most Britons opposed.

"The document does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein]," Blair's chief of staff and longtime confidant, Jonathan Powell, wrote to a senior intelligence official.

"It shows he has the means but it does not demonstrate he has the motive to attack his neighbors, let alone the West," Powell wrote in an e-mail one week before the dossier was published on Sept. 24, six months ahead of the US-British invasion of Iraq.

Powell's comments, revealed in an inquiry into the suicide of weapons specialist David Kelly, cast further doubt on Blair's own claim in the foreword to the dossier that Iraq's biological and chemical weapons program posed a "serious and current threat."
[Boston Globe, 8/19/03]

This is the kind of thing we'd be learning about our president if we had a formal investigation here.

From In heat of August, the whiff of scandal fades into distance by Peter S. Canellos
On a stormy August afternoon in 1998, Bill Clinton testified in the Monica Lewinsky matter and then delivered his clipped, angry non-apology to the nation. For the entire summer of 2001, D.C. police searched the city for missing Hill staffer Chandra Levy. Those of a certain age remember the long, hot summer of Watergate hearings back in 1973. The following August brought Richard Nixon's resignation. Other summers produced spectacles both lavish and tawdry: There was Ollie North dripping with medals as he testified in the Iran-Contra affair; there was Dick Morris dripping with sweat on the balcony of the Jefferson Hotel after his dalliances with a prostitute.

This year, fireflies once again are swirling around the Washington Monument, and lightning crackles on the horizon. And, as if on cue, June, July, and the beginning of August brought a sloshing gutter-full of revelations about the Bush administration's use of discredited intelligence reports to build its case for the war in Iraq.

But not much has taken root in the loamy soil. There was no call for an independent counsel investigation -- the independent counsel law expired before Bush took office. There was no convening of a bipartisan committee -- there would have been, if the Democrats held one of the houses of Congress, but they don't.

The press, of course, has raised some allegations. Without an investigation, however, they're unlikely to be resolved. The only claim of wrongdoing by the administration to achieve critical mass was the one acknowledged by the administration itself -- the inclusion in President Bush's State of the Union speech of a dubious report that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Niger. The administration is unlikely to fall on its sword again.
[Boston Globe, 8/19/03]

So in other words, they're still getting away with it all.

Monday, August 18, 2003

From Republicans out to steal another election by Billl Press
As a weekend hacker, I enjoy the game of golf, but I don't take it too seriously. I know I'll never qualify for the PGA – not even the senior PGA. I'm out to have a good time. I'm out to hit a good shot. So if I don't hit a good shot the first time, I keep dropping more balls and hitting more shots until I hit a good one.

In other words, I cheat and steal at golf. Which is what Republicans do at elections. If they don't win the first time, they keep doing it over and over again until they do win.
Last November, California had an election. Like every other state, California has a lot of budget problems – thanks to a sinking Bush economy – but voters still decided to re-elect Democrat Gray Davis.

That should have settled it for four years. But a band of right-wing Republicans, bankrolled by multimillionaire Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, refused to accept the results of the election. Adopting the new Republican ethic of "Keep Trying Till You Win," they forced a rerun of the election, only 11 months later.

Result: this colossal embarrassment called the California recall. One hundred thirty-five candidates on the ballot. A totally unnecessary election, costing taxpayers $67 million. A totally unfair election, where the incumbent governor could get 49.9 percent of the vote and lose, while a challenger could get only 10 percent of the vote and win. The chance for a porn star or smut peddler to become leader of the largest state in the union, with no more credentials than the ability to collect the signatures of 65 friends and fork over $3,500.

And they call this democracy? No, this isn't democracy. This is pure anarchy. But make no mistake about it. It didn't just suddenly happen, like a tremor of the San Andreas fault. This is part of an organized, continuing, nationwide Republican plot to undermine and reverse legitimate elections. This is nothing but pure contempt for democracy. Starting in Florida, this is the legacy of George W. Bush.
[WorldNetDaily.com, 8/15/03]

I'll ask again. Are the Republicans destroying our system of government?

From Bush's not-ready-for- prime-time players by Anna Mulrine
President George W. Bush says he isn't interested in spin or stagecraft. But that doesn't mean he won't try to outfox the White House press corps as often as he can--as he did at last week's press conference in the Rose Garden, his first solo run in nearly five months. Bush and senior aides, including new press secretary Scott McClellan, had been planning the encounter for weeks, and Bush had gone over possible questions the day before in the Oval Office. (His staff predicted nearly every one.) To leave nothing to chance, the team decided in advance which journalists Bush would call upon and created a crib sheet of their names. And White House officials gave reporters only 90 minutes' notice--a ploy to prevent them from preparing their questions too carefully and generally to keep them off balance.
[US News, 8/11/03]

There's another phrase we will have to put quotes around -- next time Bush holds a "press conference".

From For Bush, Loss of Jobs May Erode Support in South Carolina by Michael Janofsky
"Something's got to give," said Ms. [Lynn] Mayson, a mother of three, as she left a state-run jobs center the other day. "I'm not going to vote for Bush unless things change. The economy has got to get better, and it's only going to do that if someone makes something happen."

Mr. [Roger] Chastain, whose company, Mount Vernon Mills, has laid off 1,000 workers in recent years, is part of a coalition of textile executives who have formally complained to the White House about trade practices they contend are driving Americans out of jobs and manufacturers out of business, while giving huge advantages to China and other countries.

"Bush can forget about the Solid South," Mr. Chastain said. "There's no Solid South anymore."
Textile industry leaders blame the administration for not demanding that China alter trade practices that enable Chinese companies to sell goods cheaper in the United States than American businesses do, making it harder to compete. J. Richard Dillard, a spokesman for Milliken & Company, a major manufacturer in the Carolinas, said Mr. Bush promised such protections, called "safeguards," before and after he was elected but had not followed through.
[New York Times, 8/18/03]

From Federal Standards for Utilities Face Partisan Hurdles by David Firestone
"We need to pass an energy bill that gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the authority to impose mandatory reliability standards," [Secretary of Energy Spencer] Abraham said on CNN's "Late Edition." "The people who use the system have to adhere to high standards of conduct, or be punished if they fail to do so." Those standards have been included in energy bills before Congress for several years but have been held up by partisan disputes over the administration's desire to drill for oil in the Alaskan wildlife refuge and other environmental issues. Democrats today called on the administration and Congressional Republicans to drop the drilling provision from an energy bill that is now in a House-Senate conference committee so the power standards can be quickly approved.

"This issue has been held hostage to the Republican agenda of trying to drill in the most pristine wilderness, environmentally sensitive areas of the country," Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on CNN. "We could have broken this issue off three years ago, five years ago. But they refused to allow it to move as a separate piece of legislation."

But Republicans appeared reluctant to separate the issues, for fear that the controversial provisions might not pass if they were not tied to the electrical standards that are widely considered vital.
[New York Times, 8/18/03]

Typical. Their policies are not popular enough to stand on their own, so they hijack a measure that is "widely considered vital" and use it as cover. Disgusting.

From Let Judges Be Judges
Federal sentencing laws, especially for drug possession, are often irrational, unfair and rigid, and judges know it. However, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft thinks the problem is that too many federal judges are falling for the sob stories criminals tell them and cutting them a break on prison time.

In a July 28 memo, Ashcroft directed all U.S. attorneys to notify him whenever a federal judge imposed a criminal sentence that was less than U.S. guidelines called for. The attorney general says he wants the case numbers and judges' names so his prosecutors can appeal these sentences. But Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Justice Anthony Kennedy and dozens of outraged federal judges regard this order as an attack on judicial independence and a veiled threat to would-be nominees.
[Los Angeles Times editorial, 8/18/03]

From US shifting focus, agents from Kabul to Baghdad by Bryan Bender
As the hunt for Saddam Hussein grows more urgent and the guerrilla war in Iraq shows little sign of abating, the Bush administration is continuing to shift highly specialized intelligence officers from the hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to the Iraq crisis, according to intelligence officials who have been involved in the redeployments.

The recent moves -- involving both analysts in Washington and specially trained field operatives -- follow the transfer of hundreds of elite commandos from Afghanistan duty to service in Iraq, Pentagon officials said.

The activity reflects the priority of capturing Hussein quickly, ending the guerrilla war, and locating possible weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, officials said. It also gives further ammunition, however, to critics who have long claimed that fighting the Iraq war would divert resources and attention from the hunt for bin Laden, the primary architect of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and other Al Qaeda fugitives.
[Boston Globe, 8/18/03]

Given what's happening, it would make more sense to transfer resources from Iraq to Afghanistan. The truth is, Osama poses a far greater danger than Saddam ever did.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

From Bush a 'very weak' man
Brady Kiesling, who was political counsellor at the US embassy in Athens at the time of his resignation in February, said in an open letter published by Greek daily To Vima that [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld exploited the war to increase his own power.

Kiesling - whose warning that US aims in Iraq were "incompatible with American values" struck a chord with the predominantly anti-war Greeks - described Bush as "a politician who badly wants to appear strong but in reality is very weak."

He said Rumsfeld led Bush by the hand into war, marginalised the secret services who had doubts about the war, and emerged as the top politician in Washington.

"Easy to convince, (Bush) blindly believed in Rumsfeld's assurances that the occupation of Iraq would pay for itself," Kiesling said.
[News24.com (South Africa), 8/17/03]

Even the Grecians see through this adminstration.

From Myth and Denial in the War on Terrorism by William Blum
It dies hard. It dies very hard. The notion that terrorist acts against the United States can be explained by envy and irrational hatred, and not by what the United States does in and to the world -- i.e., US foreign policy -- is alive and well. The fires were still burning intensely at Ground Zero when Colin Powell declared: "Once again, we see terrorism, we see terrorists, people who don't believe in democracy ..."

George W. picked up on that theme and ran with it. He's been its leading proponent ever since September 11 with his repeated insistence, in one wording or another, that "those people hate America, they hate all that it stands for, they hate our democracy, our freedom, our wealth, our secular government." (Ironically, the president and John Ashcroft probably hate our secular government as much as anyone.)
This idée fixe -- that the rise of anti-American terrorism owes nothing to American policies -- in effect postulates an America that is always the aggrieved innocent in a treacherous world, a benign United States government peacefully going about its business but being "provoked" into taking extreme measures to defend its people, its freedom and democracy. There consequently is no good reason to modify US foreign policy, and many people who might otherwise know better are scared into supporting the empire's wars out of the belief that there's no choice but to crush without mercy -- or even without evidence -- this irrational international force out there that hates the United States with an abiding passion.
[CounterPunch, 8/12/03]

There's an irrational force out there all right.

From $20,000 bonus to official who agreed on nuke claim by Paul Sperry
A former Energy Department intelligence chief who agreed with the White House claim that Iraq had reconstituted its defunct nuclear-arms program was awarded a total of $20,500 in bonuses during the build-up to the war, WorldNetDaily has learned.

Thomas Rider, as acting director of Energy's intelligence office, overruled senior intelligence officers on his staff in voting for the position at a National Foreign Intelligence Board meeting at CIA headquarters last September.

His officers argued at a pre-briefing at Energy headquarters that there was no hard evidence to support the alarming Iraq nuclear charge, and asked to join State Department's dissenting opinion, Energy officials say.

Rider ordered them to "shut up and sit down," according to sources familiar with the meeting.

As a result, State was the intelligence community's lone dissenter in the key National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, something the Bush administration is quick to remind critics of its prewar intelligence. So far no banned weapons have been found in Iraq to confirm its charges.
[WorldNetDaily, 8/12/03]

If you can't tell the truth, just buy it.

From Lessons in how to lie about Iraq by Brian Eno
In the wake of the events of 11 September 2001, it now seems clear that the shock of the attacks was exploited in America. According to Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber in their new book Weapons of Mass Deception , it was used to engineer a state of emergency that would justify an invasion of Iraq. Rampton and Stauber expose how news was fabricated and made to seem real. But they also demonstrate how a coalition of the willing - far-Right officials, neo-con think-tanks, insanely pugilistic media commentators and of course well-paid PR companies - worked together to pull off a sensational piece of intellectual dishonesty. Theirs is a study of modern propaganda.

What occurs to me in reading their book is that the new American approach to social control is so much more sophisticated and pervasive that it really deserves a new name. It isn't just propaganda any more, it's 'prop-agenda '. It's not so much the control of what we think, but the control of what we think about. When our governments want to sell us a course of action, they do it by making sure it's the only thing on the agenda, the only thing everyone's talking about. And they pre-load the ensuing discussion with highly selected images, devious and prejudicial language, dubious linkages, weak or false 'intelligence' and selected 'leaks'.
When I was young, an eccentric uncle decided to teach me how to lie. Not, he explained, because he wanted me to lie, but because he thought I should know how it's done so I would recognise when I was being lied to. I hope writers such as Rampton and Stauber and others may have the same effect and help to emasculate the culture of spin and dissembling that is overtaking our political establishments.
[The Guardian (UK), 8/17/03]

From . . . Or Maybe Not at All by George F. Will
Blair seems to think: Boston, Baghdad, Manchester, Monrovia -- what's the difference? Such thinking is dangerous. Blair's argument is true only if it is trivial: "Ordinary" people choose freedom, democracy and the rule of law because those who do not so choose prove thereby that they are not ordinary.

But there are a lot of them in the world. Some of them are waging guerrilla war against American forces in Iraq.

Blair's thinking is Bush's, too. "There is a value system that cannot be compromised, and that is the values we praise," the president says. "And if the values are good enough for our people, they ought to be good enough for others."

But one must compromise in the face of facts, those stubborn things. It is a fact that not everyone is inclined to praise "the values we praise." And not every society has the prerequisites -- of institutions (political parties, media) and manners (civility, acceptance of pluralism) -- of a free society.

Bush and Blair and many people called neoconservatives believe that moral objectives in politics are universally applicable imperatives. If so, then either national cultures do not significantly differ, or they do not matter or they are infinitely malleable under the touch of enlightened reformers. But all three propositions are false and antithetical to all that conservatism teaches about the importance of cultural inertia and historical circumstances.
[Washington Post, 8/17/03]

Like other right-wing folk, Will is beginning to draw a distinction between the dangerous, delusional neo-conservatives and "plain conservatives" like himself.

From No Time for Half Measures
The greatest challenge remains security, both for Iraqis and for Americans. Fifty-nine American fighters have been killed in action since May 1, when Mr. Bush declared an end to major combat operations. Sabotage is endemic and demoralizing. Many Iraqis do not feel safe on their streets, especially in Baghdad. U.S. generals say they are making progress in rooting out the remnants of the old regime that they believe pose the greatest threat, and they express confidence in eventual success. But time may not be on their side. The security threat impedes the U.S. ability to improve Iraqis' daily life, to deploy civilian contractors and to enlist Iraqis in the new administration.

All of this argues for a maximum effort now. Yet the administration seems oddly reluctant to make such an effort. It continues to resist on an international level the steps that would be required to attract broader participation from countries that could contribute serious numbers of troops or police. Ms. [Condoleezza] Rice wrote [in an earlier editorial] that the transformation of the Middle East "will require the broad engagement of America, Europe and all free nations, working in full partnership with those in the region who share our belief in the power of human freedom." That partnership ought to begin in Iraq.

Domestically, the administration continues to resist an honest accounting to Congress or the public of the resources that likely will be needed.
[Washington Post, 8/17/03]

From Batteries Not Included by Maureen Dowd
Holy Enron! Who knew, until 21 plants shut down in three minutes, that they worked on the discredited domino theory? Who knew our grid was more stressed than we are?

When the blackout began, President Bush said he thought the grid needed to be modernized, "and have said so all along." The White House and Congress have been warned repeatedly by engineers that the tattered links needed to be fixed fast.

You would think that the first White House team from the energy bidness — the Houston Oilers, as they were dubbed during the campaign — would have jumped all over that.

But all Dick Cheney's secret meetings with unnamed energy officials were, sadly, not about saving us from this day. The White House has been too busy ensuring that Halliburton has no competitors for rebuilding Iraq to worry about rebuilding our own threadbare grid.

Tom Ridge would have been better off fixating on this weakness than playing with his color swatches.
[New York Times, 8/17/03]

From Bush waging a war on parks, forests by T.A. Barron
Our national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands total 623 million acres -- 14 times the size of all six New England states, or almost six times the size of California. They constitute a natural engine that cleans our drinking water, purifies the air, produces medicines, provides resources, and enhances our quality of life in countless other ways. Most important, these lands connect Americans directly with the miracle of God's creation.

These natural treasures are also an important part of our heritage. The idea of a national park was born in America: Yellowstone became the world's first in 1872. However we define homeland security, our wilderness and public lands must be at the core of what we seek to defend.

Not for President Bush and his team, however. Fueled by zealous anti-environmentalism and corporate special interests, they have launched what amounts to a sustained and systematic attack on America's public lands. Instead of honoring the public trust that requires protecting these national assets for our children and grandchildren, they have aggressively pushed exploitation by the mining, timber, oil and gas, and snowmobile industries. Well aware of the public outcry that such radical policy changes would provoke, they have pursued this war with stealth and deception.
[Boston Globe, 8/17/03]

That's the way they pursue all their wars.

[Also check out this related editorial by former Secretary Of the Interior Bruce Babbitt.]