Saturday, August 30, 2003
From America Two Years after 9/11: 25 Things We Now Know by Bernard Weiner
Last year, close to the time of the first anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks, I wrote "Twenty Things We've Learned One Year After 9/11." Now we're approaching the second anniversary, and it's time for an update.
Things we could only speculate about a year ago have taken place -- to name just three: an invasion and occupation of Iraq (based on misleading intelligence and outright lies), an administration that may have committed the treasonous act of deliberately revealing the identity of a CIA agent, and shocking revelations about the computer-screen voting system now being put into place around the country for the 2004 election.
The abbreviated list below can be used both as a reminder to all of us why we're fighting this good, oppositional battle, and as a place to start from when organizing and talking to others about why you will be voting for someone other than George W. Bush in the presidential vote next year.
This is a great summary of the stubborn facts regarding the Bush administration and 9/11.
From Caught in His Own Lies
George Bush's Iraq scandal is not going away any time soon. His Administration lied six ways to Sunday to browbeat the American public into going along with the war. Now those lies have finally caught up with him, and he is hopelessly entangled in their web, even as he spins more strands.
With U.S. soldiers dying at the appalling rate of one a day in Iraq, those lies are unsustainable. They haunt surviving family members, and they indict our democratic system of checks and balances.
The lies, exaggerations, and distortions go way beyond the one in his State of the Union address about uranium from Africa, though that was a whopper.
There, he repeated the lie that "every measure was taken to avoid a war," that "it was Saddam Hussein himself who made war unavoidable," and that Bush launched the war only "when all else failed." Then he recycled some of the old propaganda about Saddam's threat--"a menace to our future peace and security." One thing Cheney did not recycle, however, was his own claim, back on March 16, that "we believe he [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Instead, Cheney had the chutzpah to quote a National Intelligence Estimate that said, "If left unchecked, it [Iraq] probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade."
Which is it, Mr. Vice President?
From Dirty Politics, Dirty Air
A recent report from the EPA's own inspector general revealed that the agency kowtowed to the White House's national security directives in the days after the September 11 attacks. Under pressure from the Bush administration, EPA officials downplayed the potential health risks posed by pollutants released in the Twin Towers collapse.
The story goes like this: In the 10 days following the attack, the EPA issued a series of reassuring press releases and, on September 18, declared that the air was safe. Those advisories, Inspector General Nikki Tinsley's report declares, were made even though the agency lacked sufficient data to verify such sweeping claims. The report states that the White House, "convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones" by having the National Security Council control EPA communications.
Clearly, the report should be disturbing to New Yorkers -- the people most direcly affected by the executive branch meddling. And Manhattan Congressmen Jerrold Nadler is demanding a congressional investigation. Nadler's furious take on Tinsley's report: "The White House and the EPA chose to increase the threat to the health and lives of New Yorkers by lying about the environmental conditions."
Also check out the Mother Jones Special Report The Ungreening Of America.
From Prove the Weapons Case by Colbert I. King
I've come to discover -- belatedly some might say -- that the Bush administration is great at changing the subject when it comes to Iraq. Pro-administration revisionists would now have us think that the March invasion was really, truly, cross-their-hearts-and-hope-to-die all about liberating Iraqis from a tyrannical regime and bringing democracy to that country and its Arab neighbors.
That's not what Powell told the world. There wasn't a word in his speech about transforming the Arab world. Powell's message was all about the dangers we faced and how time was a wastin.' "The gravity of this moment is matched by the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world," he told the United Nations. Weapons of mass destruction "are real and present dangers to the region and the world."
He described a frightening future unless the world acted quickly. "Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few months or years is not an option," Powell said. And he left no doubt that the United States had the goods on Iraq. "Every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid evidence."
So where are the "real and present dangers?" The administration's failure to produce the goods is deeply troubling, especially for those of us who bought what Powell was selling.
Yeah, we thought he was the Honest One.
From Bush Would Add Review Layer for Rules by Shankar Vedantam
The Bush administration proposed yesterday broad new standards for federal regulatory agencies that would require them to seek independent appraisals of the scientific basis for many new rules before issuing them.
The announcement by the Office of Management and Budget was cheered by groups linked to industry but was questioned by advocates who warned that the proposal would paralyze new regulations and stymie enforcement.
From As '04 Nears, Bush Campaign Works on a Central Theme by Richard W, Stevenson
When George W. Bush ran for president in 2000, his signature issue was a big tax cut, and despite the narrow margin of his victory, he was able to claim that the election was a mandate for that policy and the others he championed.
Now, with the 2004 race getting under way, the White House is beginning to look at possible centerpieces for his re-election effort, convinced that the campaign will have to be about more than Mr. Bush's domestic and foreign policy record as president so far.
Whatever ultimately becomes Mr. Bush's signature issue, his aides and advisers say that one thing is certain: The campaign will be future-looking and feature policy initiatives, not merely point to what he considers his successes: dealing with threats to national security and problems with the economy.
I wouldn't even mention those "successes", George.
From Private Sector Shouldn't Direct Airplane Traffic by John C. Goodin
The White House has put aviation safety on the chopping block. It convinced Republican members of a House-Senate conference committee to contract out the operation of 69 air traffic control towers to the lowest bidder. And the tower at Van Nuys Airport — the busiest general aviation airport in the world — is on the list.
This decision was a direct repudiation of bipartisan votes in the House and Senate for legislation that would permanently prohibit privatization of air traffic control. It comes in the face of strong opposition by the American public and it defies common sense.
Just last year, Congress and the administration mandated that all baggage screeners must be federal employees. After the catastrophic failure of private contractors on 9/11, it was determined that checking passengers' bags as they board aircraft was too important to be left to the private sector. Now, we may decide that the infinitely more complex and critical job of air traffic control can be contracted out to companies more concerned with cutting corners than protecting the safety of our skies.
This administration is 100% for the corporations and 0% for the people, just like Al Gore told us they would be.
Friday, August 29, 2003
From Shifting Sands by Jason Vest
One can only hope that the events of the past week might prompt neoconservatives to reconsider certain fundamental notions about the nature of modern war and peace -- or to at least recognize that their peculiar ideas, put into practice, have proven so problematic that the United States now cannot even create a secure environment for organizations like the United Nations that actually do appreciate the complexities of rebuilding civil society. Such reconsideration is not likely to happen, however, and not just because of simple neocon zealotry. It's bad enough that the neocons default to a combination of denial and spin when confronted with realities that might conflict with their articles-of-faith worldview. What makes it worse is how that default is emboldened by a lack of informed outrage on the part of Congress or the media.
We might consider referring to postwar Iraq as "Operation Cognitive Dissonance" or "Operation Willful Ignorance," as the administration's civilian leadership and its crony generals appear to be unwilling or unable to abide reality. Though President Bush may still be unaware of it, his early July "bring 'em on" invitation to Iraqi insurgents infuriated swaths of officers and enlisted men and women alike. ("Only a frat boy who has no idea what it's like to have his ass under fire would say that," a retired officer seethed to me at the time.) It also enraged their families -- who, thanks to an administration and a Congress that have pledged "unequivocal support" to servicemen and their dependents, are about to see combat pay and family separation allowances cut and enlisted raises capped.
[The American Prospect, 8/26/03]
The author refers to an interesting report called Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario, issued in final form in February 2003. "Without an overwhelming effort to prepare for occupation," the report says, "the US may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making."
From Bush's historic injustice
Worse yet, yesterday's [deficit[ numbers are rosy estimates. They take only limited account of spending needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, assume that Congress will allow several of the largest tax cuts to expire by 2010 and do not measure the impact of major new spending proposals, such as a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Indeed, the CBO's director, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said the 10-year deficit could easily double if President Bush is successful in his push to make permanent the tax cuts of the past three years and to enact almost $900 billion in new tax cuts.
The White House continues to strike its "What, me worry?" pose. Although it is advocating a tax-cut respite during the coming election year, it continues to argue that its tax policies will bolster the economy and improve the fiscal outlook.
But the President omits that he first proposed tax cuts as a response to a surplus that no longer exists, ignores that the cuts mainly benefit the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and pretends that Congress can eliminate sufficient "wasteful" federal expenditures to fund daunting defense and domestic security needs and to avoid deep reductions in vital human services.
The country was far better off with a president whose deceptions were simply about sex.
Those were the days.
From A frantically spinning White House
"See," says Mr. Bush to the friendly crowd at the American Legion convention, "we had it planned all along but the American public wouldn't have understood all this complicated geopolitical stuff. They would have said 'Hey, aren't you the guy who said we wouldn't go 'nation-building' and meddling in everyone else's business?' But trust us. We know what we're doing."
Plainly, no matter how White House political guru Karl Rove spins it, the administration doesn't know what it is doing. It doesn't understand the Middle Eastern people or their history. It doesn't know how to pay for a war that will be much longer and more bloody than they projected in their arrogance. It doesn't know what to say to American soldiers stationed indefinitely as sitting ducks. Now that terrorists have answered the call of president to "bring 'em on" it doesn't know how to stop them. It doesn't know what to say to its corporate friends assured easy pickings rebuilding a grateful, pacified country now encountering a war zone. It doesn't know how to swallow its pride and seek help from other nations under a United Nations umbrella. It doesn't know what to do about Iran -- remember Iran? -- which may indeed be developing the nuclear weapons Iraq was not developing.
It doesn't know much. That should worry us all.
You think they don't know what to do now? Wait till the Iraqi civil war gets going. The recent bombing in Najaf is likely to bring it on.
From White House Deceit Covered Up 9/11 Truths by Marie Cocco
Well, we know now that the White House treated the well-being of the people who live and work in Lower Manhattan as it does everything else. [The 9/11 aftermath] was not a public-health concern to be addressed, but a political problem to be managed. Through deceit, if necessary.
At the direction of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the EPA's inspector general has revealed, the agency that's supposed to protect the public health against environmental hazards added "reassuring statements" to its press releases in the days after the terrorist attack, and deleted "cautionary ones."
"People say, 'Are you shocked?' No. I'm not shocked at all," said Madelyn Wils, who chairs the community board in the neighborhood. About a third of her constituents, she said, have developed breathing problems since the attack.
New York lawmakers call for hearings and investigations, but they do not honestly expect them. Congress is controlled by the president's party and has scant interest. The Justice Department, asked by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) to probe the political meddling, is headed by John Ashcroft. At the moment, Ashcroft is promoting wider government snooping as an antidote to terror.
"In effect, what they said was it's worthwhile to sacrifice the lives of New Yorkers in order to get the economy going faster," Nadler said in an interview.
And this is the city the Republicans are holding their 2004 presidential convention in? Good luck with all that.
From Deficit Delusions
Next year's deficit is on course toward an ugly milestone -- nearly half a trillion dollars -- but that's not the bad news. The bad news, as a report from the Congressional Budget Office makes clear, is that budget deficits -- big ones -- are here to stay under the Bush administration's economic plan. The administration would have everyone stop worrying because, it assures us, spending discipline and robust economic growth will cut the deficit in half by 2008. But a close look at the CBO estimates shows that the more likely picture is annual deficits around $400 billion for the next decade, piling on more than $4 trillion in debt through 2013.
These numbers don't appear explicitly in the CBO report, which projects that the budget will show a deficit of $197 billion by 2008 and a $211 billion surplus by 2013. That is because budgetary rules require CBO to conduct its analysis in a way that ignores reality. CBO's new director, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who arrived earlier this year from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, deserves applause for candidly explaining those limitations and presenting a series of build-your-own-deficit alternative scenarios. As CBO summarized the situation with characteristic mildness, "Various combinations of possible actions could easily lead to a prolonged period of budget deficits, although other scenarios could be more favorable."
From EPA Backs Away From Issue of Auto Emissions by Eric Pianin
Environmentalists said the decision [that the EPA lacks authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles] marked an "abrupt about-face" by the EPA, which testified before Congress in October 1999, during the Clinton administration, that the agency had the necessary authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a global warming pollutant, although it declined to do so.
President Bush disavowed a landmark 1997 international global warming treaty shortly after he took office, and his administration has rejected measures that would force utilities and manufacturers to meet mandatory targets for reducing carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that many researchers have linked to the problem of the earth's rising temperature. Since then, the administration has promoted a series of programs of research and voluntary industry action to slow the growth of emissions over the next 10 years.
Last week, the administration approved a major rollback of clean air enforcement rules for the nation's oldest and dirtiest power plants and refineries in a move hailed by industry.
Yesterday's decision comes a year after the EPA issued a controversial report to the United Nations that concluded that humans are to blame for far-reaching environmental effects of global warming.
"The Bush administration is again ducking its legal and moral responsibility to address global warming," said David Bookbinder, senior attorney with the Sierra Club. "But instead of just admitting that it isn't doing anything about global warming, now the Bush administration is saying it's not their job."
From Ashcroft Taking Fire From GOP Stalwarts by Dan Eggen and Jim VandeHei
One of this state's most prominent politicians, Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R), is leading an effort in Congress to curtail the centerpiece of Ashcroft's anti-terrorism strategy, the USA Patriot Act. Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), who used to croon alongside Ashcroft in a senatorial quartet, said this month that Congress may have to consider scaling back parts of the law. And in a state with an all-GOP congressional delegation, several city councils and the legislature are considering resolutions condemning Ashcroft's tactics in the war on terrorism.
"Ashcroft wants more power," said state Rep. Charles Eberle (R-Post Falls), who has drafted a resolution critical of the Patriot Act. "What a lot of us in Idaho are saying is, 'Let's not get rid of the checks and balances.' . . . People out here in the West are used to taking care of themselves. We don't like the government intruding on our constitutional rights."
"It's pretty reckless to say that 309 members of Congress want to tip off terrorists," said Otter, who noted that more than a third of the votes cast for his amendment came from Republicans. "Instead of hitting the campaign trail, the attorney general should be listening to the concerns that many Americans have about some portions of the act."
I agree with Howard Dean: John Ashcroft is the worst attorney general in the history of the nation. Worse, Dean said, than President Richard M. Nixon's attorney general, John N. Mitchell, "and he was a criminal".
From Fistfuls of Dollars by Paul Krugman
The rule of thumb, according to military experts, is that except during crises, only one brigade in three should be deployed abroad. Yet today 21 of the Army's 33 combat brigades are deployed overseas, 16 of them in Iraq. This puts enormous stress on the troops, who find that they have only brief periods of rest and retraining between the times spent in harm's way. For example, most of a brigade of the 82nd Airborne that is about to go to Iraq returned from Afghanistan only six months ago.
So unless we can somehow extricate ourselves from Iraq quickly, or persuade other countries to bear a lot more of the burden, we need a considerably bigger military. And that means spending a lot more money.
For now, the administration is in denial. "There will be no retreat," President Bush says — Churchillian words, but where are the resources to back them up?
Mr. Rumsfeld won't admit that we need more troops in Iraq or anywhere else. We could use help from other countries, but it's doubtful whether the administration will accept the kind of meaningful power-sharing that might lead to a new Security Council resolution on Iraq, which might in turn bring in allied forces.
Still, even the government of a superpower can't simultaneously offer tax cuts equal to 15 percent of revenue, provide all its retirees with prescription drugs and single-handedly take on the world's evildoers — single-handedly because we've alienated our allies. In fact, given the size of our budget deficit, it's not clear that we can afford to do even one of these things. Someday, when the grown-ups are back in charge, they'll have quite a mess to clean up.
From States to Fight Relaxation of Power-Plant Pollution Standards by David Kocieniewski
The Environmental Protection Agency made changes on Wednesday to its New Source Review program, saying it would no longer require factories and power plants to upgrade their pollution controls if the cost of their expansions or renovations are less than 20 percent of the plant's total cost.
The acting E.P.A. administrator, Marianne Horinko, said that the old regulations, which required stricter environmental controls on plants that perform anything more extensive than "routine maintenance," were too cumbersome and confusing. She predicted that the new policy would spur new investment in an outdated power grid that led to the blackout this month.
But environmentalists and state leaders say that utility companies were pushing for the regulations long before the blackout. They warned that the new regulations would allow an estimated 17,000 factories across the nation to increase their emissions and would lead to hundreds of thousands of tons of additional pollutants being released each year.
"This is an attempt to completely undermine the Clean Air Act," said Peter H. Lehner, chief of the environmental protection bureau for Mr. Spitzer.
From Deepening Doubts on Iraq
On the eve of war, this editorial page said Iraq should be given more time to disarm, otherwise the U.S. "risks being branded as the aggressive and arrogant superpower that disregards the wishes of the international community." The United States now wears that label, especially in light of the administration's vacillations on involving other nations' forces in postwar Iraq.
But worse is the possibility that nearly 300 American personnel and dozens of British soldiers, plus U.N. officials and untold numbers of Iraqis, have died due to incredibly bad or corrupted intelligence. In Britain, a Sunday Telegraph poll showed that 67% of the public thought that their government, the main U.S. ally, had deceived the British people to get them into Iraq.
The war was more popular in the U.S. But Bush, administration officials, intelligence analysts and Congress need to keep asking: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? And if they are not found, was the defiant U.S. insistence that Iraq had them the result of incompetence or lies?
Or maybe both.
Bush Portrayed as Underdog
President Bush's reelection campaign — expected to dwarf Democratic hopefuls by raising $200 million for the primaries — is portraying Bush as an underdog.
"Democrats and their allies will have more money to spend attacking the president during the nomination battle than we will have to defend him," chairman Marc Racicot wrote.
Bush has set several fund-raising records, including the most collected for a presidential primary campaign, and the most raised at a single event.
This is that rare case where the "underdog" is the one with all the power and money.
From Coalition Seeks $350 Million to Fix Iraqi Water, Power Systems by David Streitfeld
More extensive repairs — estimated by Bechtel at $6 billion and by others even higher — are expected to be undertaken by a new Iraqi government and paid for by oil revenue. But establishing that government and restoring oil production are both behind schedule.
[U.S. civil administrator L. Paul] Bremer has warned in interviews that he'll need billions more to get Iraq going again.
The Bush administration is expected to ask Congress for another supplemental spending bill shortly.
Ellen Yount, a spokeswoman for the development agency, cautioned that Congress must approve the additional funding for Bechtel.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) has criticized the way the rebuilding money has been doled out, saying there has not been enough competition or public disclosure.
"This is not the way to protect the interests of the American taxpayer," Waxman said through a spokesman.
Bechtel was invited by USAID to bid on the April contract, as were a handful of other companies. In another case, Halliburton Co. was given a Pentagon contract without any competitive bidding at all. Halliburton's work on the Iraqi oil system, initially described by government spokespeople as very limited, has exceeded $700 million.
From A Bush slap for workers
President Bush has pulled a Labor Day surprise on federal workers, announcing in a letter to vacationing congressional leaders that he is using his authority to cut the size of the pay raise most workers were to receive next year. He blamed the move on the cost of fighting terrorism, but he could as easily have blamed his fiscally irresponsible tax cuts for the rich. This is the second time Bush has limited pay raises for the civilian federal work force while rewarding his political supporters. Two years ago he reinstituted a cash bonus program for 2,100 political appointees at federal agencies, a system that the Clinton administration abolished because it promoted favoritism. It is a pattern with Bush: reward those who are already well off and squeeze the rank-and-file.
[Boston Globe editorial, 8/29/03]
Thursday, August 28, 2003
From Ashcroft's Little Secret by Lisa Danetz
As the top law enforcement officer of the federal government, the Attorney General of the United States has a moral duty to act with honesty and integrity, and to guard his reputation as a law-abiding citizen. This means the Attorney General must -- at the very minimum -- make sure the political committees connected to him follow the nation's campaign finance rules. Respect for the law demands no less.
So why is John Ashcroft stonewalling about charges that his 2000 Senate campaign broke the federal campaign finance law?
A coalition of voters and campaign finance reform groups filed a complaint in March 2001 with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that Mr. Ashcroft's leadership PAC, "Spirit of America," illegally contributed a fundraising list of 100,000 donors to his 2000 Senate campaign in Missouri. Neither the PAC nor the campaign committee reported the contribution.
Two and a half years later, the FEC has not resolved the matter, and its file remains secret -- but Ashcroft could ask to open the file to the public.
And I'm sure he'll do just that, any day now.
From The Same Old Razzle Dazzle by Brigid O’Neil
But hey, if Ashcroft cared at all about upholding a decorum of fairness and impartiality expected of the people’s Attorney General, he never would have kicked-off a whistle-stop political road show in the first place. As the equally wily Billy Flynn of “Chicago”-fame sang, “give ‘em the old three ring circus/Stun and stagger ‘em/When you’re in trouble, go into your dance/…Razzle dazzle ‘em/And you’ve got a romance.”
Although Ashcroft is surely no stranger to “trouble” or controversy, the recent storm surrounding the PATRIOT Act is without equal in a time in which patriotism is often confused with obedience and skepticism with treason. Look at the recent Republican-led efforts in the House to repeal two key provisions of the Act – a feat that would have been unthinkable over a year ago, when most representatives hadn’t bothered to read the entire bill before passing it. Add the fact that 152 communities recently passed Anti-PATRIOT Act resolutions and civil liberties groups filed a suit alleging infringements of the Constitution -- and you’ve got one Chicago-style heat-wave.
Yet for all the Justice Department’s fancy footwork around accusations of civil liberties violations, no amount of smoke and mirrors could obscure this grisly truth. Simply put, the PATRIOT Act is a constitutional abomination, affecting non-citizens and citizens alike in its repeal of the Bill of Rights. Two of the more deplorable provisions, the so-called “sneak and peek” warrants and “librarian espionage”, are currently being questioned in the Senate. The “sneak and peak” warrant allows government agents to secretly search homes or confiscate property, while the “librarian espionage” provision allows agents to search through library records without showing probable cause before a court. Both PATRIOT provisions hardly qualify as a “constitutional course” for the Department, as Ashcroft recently claimed in his first leg of the tour.
From Family of soldier displaying outrage toward president by Tom Johnston
With their 23-year-old son serving as an Army reservist in Iraq, Pat and Paul Vogel are trying as best they can to support the work he and his fellow soldiers are doing. But the Barrington residents are finding it much more difficult to endorse Aaron's commander in chief.
The Vogels accuse President George Bush of using fabricated information about former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's ties with Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and Hussein's potential use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States as the basis for declaring war on Iraq.
"Our primary concern with the president is we feel like a lot of bad decisions have been made leading up to our son's and a lot of other troops' being involved," Paul Vogel said.
To show their disdain, the Vogels have hung a sign outside their business, Assured Staffing, on Main Street, stating: "Proud of our soldier! Ashamed of our president!"
From Classified Spending On the Rise by Dan Morgan
"Black," or classified, programs requested in President Bush's 2004 defense budget are at the highest level since 1988, according to a report prepared by the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The center concluded that classified spending next fiscal year will reach about $23.2 billion of the Pentagon's total request for procurement and research funding. When adjusted for inflation, that is the largest dollar figure since the peak reached during President Ronald Reagan's defense buildup 16 years ago. The amount in 1988 was $19.7 billion, or $26.7 billion if adjusted for inflation, according to the center.
"It's puzzling. It sets the mind to wondering where the money's going and what sort of politically controversial things the administration is doing because they're not telling anybody," said John E. Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a research group in Alexandria that has been critical of the administration's defense priorities.
From Dirty Secrets by Osha Gray Davidson
So why aren't more people aware that George W. Bush is compiling what is arguably the worst environmental record of any president in recent history? The easy explanations-that environmental issues are complex, that war and terrorism push most other concerns off the front pages-are only part of the story. The real reason may be far simpler: Few people know the magnitude of the administration's attacks on the environment because the administration has been working very hard to keep it that way.
Like any successful commander in chief, Bush knows that putting the right person in the right place is the key to winning any war. This isn't just a matter of choosing business-friendly appointees for top positions. That's pretty much standard operating procedure for Republican administrations. What makes this administration different is the fact that it is filled with anti-regulatory zealots deep into its rank and file-and these bureaucrats, unlike James Watt, are politically savvy and come from the very industries they're charged with regulating. The result is an administration uniquely effective at implementing its ambitious pro-industry agenda-with a minimum of public notice.
From Political Opinion, Not Pathology by Arie W. Kruglanski and John T. Jost
In the May issue of Psychological Bulletin, we published a review that statistically summarizes dozens of studies conducted over 50 years dealing with psychological differences associated with left- vs. right-wing thinking. Based on this literature, we found that the likelihood of adopting conservative rather than liberal political opinions is significantly correlated, among other psychological dimensions, with a sense of societal instability, fear of death, intolerance of ambiguity, need for closure, lower cognitive complexity and a sense of threat.
Apparently without reading our original articles or attempting to contact any of us, many commentators and syndicated columnists, including Ann Coulter and Cal Thomas - George Will apparently read but misunderstood our work - assumed that such a psychological analysis of ideology entails a judgment that conservatism must be abnormal, pathological or even the result of mental illness. The British media seem to have settled on the highly stigmatized and equally inaccurate term "neuroses." All of this reflects a crude and outdated perception of psychological research.
You know, new fads like Science, and Reality.
[Arie W. Kruglanski is distinguished university professor of psychology at the University of Maryland. John T. Jost is an associate professor in Stanford's Graduate School of Business.]
From Halliburton's Deals Greater Than Thought by Michael Dobbs
Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Cheney, has won contracts worth more than $1.7 billion under Operation Iraqi Freedom and stands to make hundreds of millions more dollars under a no-bid contract awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to newly available documents.
The size and scope of the government contracts awarded to Halliburton in connection with the war in Iraq are significantly greater than was previously disclosed and demonstrate the U.S. military's increasing reliance on for-profit corporations to run its logistical operations. Independent experts estimate that as much as one-third of the monthly $3.9 billion cost of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq is going to independent contractors.
But, according to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and other critics, the Iraq war and occupation have provided a handful of companies with good political connections, particularly Halliburton, with unprecedented money-making opportunities. "The amount of money [earned by Halliburton] is quite staggering, far more than we were originally led to believe," Waxman said. "This is clearly a trend under this administration, and it concerns me because often the privatization of government services ends up costing the taxpayers more money rather than less."
From Politics and Pollution
President Bush's critics have watched with mounting frustration as his administration has compiled one of the worst environmental records in recent history without paying any real political price. One reason may be that the issues at stake are too regional, like forest fires or salmon recovery, or too remote, like global warming. But the administration itself may now have witlessly altered this dynamic with its reckless and insupportable decision to eviscerate a central provision of the Clean Air Act and allow power plants, refineries and other industrial sites to spew millions of tons of unhealthy pollutants into the air.
As the administration's defense takes shape, the public should beware of half-truths and artful demagogy. One specious line of argument is that the old rule inhibited companies from doing routine maintenance and making plants more efficient. The administration has offered no compelling evidence to support that beyond the anecdotal say-so of a few utilities. A companion argument, made by apologists for the White House, is that the old rule contributed to the blackout. This, too, is nonsense. The blackout was caused by deficiencies in the transmission grid or its management and had nothing to do with environmental regulations or a shortage of power.
This line of reasoning is eerily reminiscent of the efforts to blame environmentalists for the California energy crisis, and is equally as hollow.
From The Kids Left Behind by Bob Herbert
It's hard to believe the president ever intended to adequately fund the No Child Left Behind Act. Mr. Bush fights ferociously for the things he really cares about: enormous tax cuts for the wealthy, for example, or launching a war against Iraq. He has never showed a similar passion for improving the public schools. The administration tried to cut funding for the No Child Left Behind Act less than two weeks after the president signed it into law.
The tax cuts and the ever-increasing costs of the war are submerging the nation in a sea of red ink, and the hopes of millions of school-age youngsters are sinking right along with it.
As for the Texas education miracle — more smoke. The largest and most frequently praised district, Houston, is being monitored by the state after an audit showed that more than half of the 5,500 students who left school in the 2000-2001 year should have been counted as dropouts, but were not.
President Bush was apparently serious about bringing the Texas model to the nation. He made the superintendent of the Houston school district the nation's education secretary.
From For Houston Schools, College Claims Exceed Reality by Diane Jean Schemo
The glowing figures on students who plan to further their education are part of a broad set of statistics Houston school officials submitted to state authorities, figures that painted a wildly optimistic picture of what has been going on in Houston schools over the past few years.
A recent state audit of the Houston schools found vast undercounting of high school dropouts. The figures on college plans suggest that on yet a second measure, Houston put forth data that bear small relation to the hard reality most students face.
The college data, unlike the dropout data, does not affect the Houston school system's performance rankings. It is used largely for research purposes. But critics say that like the dropout data, it reflects a tendency to inflate success by the system that sent Rod Paige, its former superintendent, to Washington, where, as education secretary, he is now the nation's top school officer.
Paige must be part of the No Liar Left Behind initiative.
From The Bottom Line: More Security by Rep. Jim Turner
Despite this catalog of vulnerabilities, the Bush administration's strategy to protect critical infrastructure relies largely on voluntary private-sector action to improve our national security. But as the Brookings Institution pointed out a year ago, corporations accountable to their shareholders to maximize profits do not have the economic incentives to voluntarily make the investments necessary to raise security levels to where they need to be. Good business practice and patriotism will result in corporations raising security somewhat, but businesses will be unlikely to make substantial voluntary investments in security for fear that they would be at a competitive disadvantage with those who declined to take such steps.
President Bush and Congress share a commitment to protect the American people. But when it comes to securing critical infrastructure, this administration's strategy is not equal to the urgency and gravity of the threats we face. It still has not produced a comprehensive national threat and vulnerability assessment for critical infrastructure, which is the starting point for a serious effort to improve homeland security. And the administration's reluctance to require businesses to share the burden of homeland security has led to an underinvestment in infrastructure protection.
Privatization only works when the profit motive and the public-service motive are in alignment and produce similar outcomes. This is not such a case.
[Rep. Jim Turner of Texas is the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security.]
From Trust Left in the Dust
As the World Trade Center towers crumbled, hundreds of tons of smoke and concrete dust choked the air in Lower Manhattan. With gray-white powder coating trees outside and blanketing kitchen tables inside nearby apartments, it was no surprise that rescue workers and residents complained that their eyes stung and their chests burned for months.
Many still report respiratory problems; thousands of New Yorkers worry whether their exposure to toxic chemicals will cause cancers or birth defects. The EPA played a key role in assessing health hazards from the unprecedented amount of airborne chemicals, which included highly toxic dioxin, asbestos and lead. The agency continues to oversee cleanup.
Yet, according to last week's report from the agency's own watchdog, the White House began pressuring EPA scientists to soft-pedal their concerns days after the towers collapsed. Political considerations trumped credible scientific concerns. For instance, a draft EPA news release for Sept. 13, 2001, warned that "even at low levels, EPA considers asbestos hazardous in this situation." But, by the time it passed through the White House Council on Environmental Quality, it soothingly declared that this "short-term, low-level exposure is unlikely to cause significant health effects." Another draft, for Sept. 16, was similarly toned down to say asbestos levels were "not a cause for public concern."
"National security concerns and the desire to reopen Wall Street" explain the rewriting, the EPA's inspector general said. Explain, perhaps, but hardly justify deliberately misleading the public.
From Bush trims federal workers' raises, cites 'national emergency' by Leigh Strope
Citing a national emergency that has existed since the 2001 terrorist attacks, President Bush said yesterday he will cut the pay raises that most civilian federal employees were to receive in January. In a letter to congressional leaders, Bush said he was using his authority to change the pay structure in times of "national emergency or serious economic conditions" to limit raises to 2 percent.
Federal employees covered by the government's general schedule pay system were to receive a 2.7 percent across-the-board boost of basic pay and also an increase based on private-sector wages in the areas where they work, called locality pay.
About 1.2 million of the 1.8 million civilian federal workers would be affected by the change, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called the president's move to limit raises "shameful."
"Bush is making federal employees pay for his own fiscal recklessness," he said.
From US says Iraq arms plan relied on deceit by Bryan Bender
Investigators searching for Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction will report next month that Saddam Hussein's regime spread nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons plans and parts throughout the country to deceive the United Nations, according to senior Bush administration and intelligence officials.
Once freed of inspections and international sanctions, the weapons programs were intended to be pulled together quickly to manufacture substantial quantities of deadly gases and germs, the investigators will argue, although the development of a nuclear weapon would probably take many months, if not years.
But some former inspectors and weapons specialists say that unless the US team finds significant quantities of outlawed chemical and biological agents, the Bush administration's case would fall far short of expectations. They cited Bush's prewar assertions that Iraq maintained large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, making it an imminent threat to US security. Some observers also contend that finding that the Iraqi program had been disassembled could prove that international efforts to restrain the regime's weapons ambitions were working.
Even if true, these findings do not make the case for war.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
From Dubious Dossier Fueled Bush Deceits by John Nichols
For the most part, American media is doing a lousy job of following the British investigation of how Blair and his aides spun the case for war with Iraq. Hopefully, that will change this week, as Blair takes the stand in the inquiry. After all, the story of official deceit in Britain is also the story of official deceit in the United States.
When Bush was trying to con Congress into giving him a blank check to launch a war with Iraq last fall, the president's efforts were hindered by his rather serious credibility gap. Veteran members of the U.S. intelligence community were signaling - from behind the scenes and, in some cases, publicly - that they did not buy the argument that Iraq posed a serious enough threat to merit military action.
And senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, including former chair Bob Graham, were asking what had happened that would require a dramatic change in U.S. policy. Other members of Congress, such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Russ Feingold, a Democrat, and Lincoln Chafee, a Republican, said the U.S. should focus on fighting terrorism, as opposed to squandering resources to remove a secular Iraqi leader who was at odds with the Islamic fundamentalists of al-Qaida.
I have been surprised by how little coverage the Iraq hearings in England and Australia are receiving here in America, especially since they are dealing with matters directly involving our president.
From The Mendacity Index: Which president told the biggest whoppers? You decide.
This summer, after it became clear that President George W. Bush had made false statements about Iraq's nuclear weapons capacity and links to al Qaeda in his January State of the Union address, some commentators accused him of being the most dishonest president in recent American history. There has been, however, no scientifically serious attempt to test such accusations--until now.
To come up with our Mendacity Index, we asked a nominating committee of noted journalists and pundits to pick the most serious fibs, deceptions, and untruths spoken by each of the four most recent presidents. We selected the top six for each commander-in-chief, then presented the list to a panel of judges with longtime experience in Washington. Panel members were instructed to rate each deception on a scale of 1 (least serious) to 5 (most serious). Then we averaged the scores for each deception and for each president. We believe their validity rests somewhere between the Periodic Table and the U.S. News & World Report college rankings.
Not to spoil it for you, but guess who wins?
From The Jihad All-Stars by Maureen Dowd
Even though the Middle East has become a phantasmagoria of evil spirits, and even though some Bush officials must be muttering to themselves that they should have listened to the weenies at State and nags at the C.I.A., Team Bush is sticking to its mantra that everything is going according to plan.
As Condoleezza Rice put it on Monday, the war to defend the homeland "must be fought on the offense."
Taking a breather from fund-raisers yesterday, Mr. Bush discreetly ignored his administration's chaotic occupation plan and declaimed, "No nation can be neutral in the struggle between civilization and chaos."
Echoing remarks by other officials implying that it's better to have one big moment of truth and fight our enemies on their turf rather than ours, Mr. Bush said, "Our military is confronting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places so our people will not have to confront terrorist violence in New York or St. Louis or Los Angeles."
So that's the latest rationale for going into Iraq? We wanted an Armageddon with our enemies, so we decided to conquer an Arab country and drive the Muslim fanatics so crazy with their jihad mentality that they'd flip out and storm in, and then we'd kill them all?
Sounds like a plan.
From Tallying the Dead in Iraq
The American intervention in Iraq has reached a disheartening milestone. With the death of an American soldier yesterday in an ambush outside Baghdad, more American military men and women have now died in the postwar period than perished during the war itself. That grim statistic mocks President Bush's triumphant appearance aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1, when he declared an end to major combat operations. More important, it makes clear that the United States will pay a high price in blood and treasure if the Bush administration persists in its misguided effort to pacify and rebuild Iraq without extensive international support.
To turn things around, Mr. Bush needs to enlist help from more experienced officials in Washington and at the U.N. That will not be easy for an administration that openly advertises its contempt for the U.N. The White House should accept a new Security Council resolution broadening U.N. political and economic authority, enabling other countries to make substantial contributions to an international peacekeeping force. The administration should also be honest about the investment — American and international — required to rebuild Iraq.
A stable peace in Iraq cannot be won on the cheap or absent foreign partners. With the death count mounting daily, it is time for Mr. Bush to stop pretending otherwise.
From Cheney's mask force
The General Accounting Office of Congress didn't directly accuse Vice President Cheney of obstructionism in its final report on his energy task force. But citizens can draw their own conclusions: Cheney and others on the task force refused to tell the GAO who attended their meetings and what was discussed; they claimed they couldn't recall whether minutes were kept; and they provided 77 pages of irrelevant or useless information, including pages of indecipherable scribbles. Based on information pieced together from other sources, the GAO report, released on Monday, confirms what is already known: The energy task force was heavily influenced by the petroleum, coal, and nuclear industries, with little input from environmental groups. To no one's surprise, the task force recommendations led to the administration's aggressively pro-industry energy bill, which is, thankfully, stalled in Congress.
From the start, Cheney refused to provide Congress with information about task force deliberations, provoking a constitutional clash over separation-of-powers issues. An obviously frustrated David M. Walker, the nation's comptroller general, said this is the first time since he has been in charge of the GAO that he has not been able to produce a report according to generally accepted auditing principles. "We were absolutely stonewalled," he told The New York Times.
From Bush reiterates resolve on 2-front war by Wayne Washington
In addition to giving Bush a chance to restate his resolve on Iraq, yesterday's speech provided the president with another opportunity to appear before a military audience and served as a reelection reminder to voters of his commander in chief role in the war on terrorism. His tone and posture were firm, and his words were characteristically blunt in describing life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule and in Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
Despite the tough talk, though, the president's standing among America's military veterans is increasingly tenuous, largely because of his administration's belt-tightening on benefits.
"His budget is not enough to take care of veterans' needs," Ronald Conley, national commander of the American Legion, said in an interview.
"There is this general misperception people have that Republicans are strong on defense and that will carry them all the way with veterans," Tierney said. "But veterans are smarter than that."
Lots of people are smarter than that.
From Study says deficit could soar by Stephen J. Glain
Sharply at odds with the Bush Administration, the Congressional Budget Office yesterday forecast that if the president's tax cuts become permanent and his prescription drug plan and increased defense spending all go ahead, the federal budget deficit could total $5 trillion over the next decade.
The CBO's biannual budget and economic outlook undercuts a recent White House prediction that the budget deficit -- which can lead to higher interest rates -- would decline significantly in two years. Spiraling deficits could prove a thorny reelection issue for President Bush, who insists economic growth stimulated by tax cuts will wear away a budget shortfall that in fiscal 2000 was a budget surplus of $236 billion.
Democrats seized on the CBO report to skewer Bush, whose tax cuts they blame for inflating the deficit in the first place. "George Bush is managing this economy the way his friend Ken Lay managed Enron," Senator and presidential candidate Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat, said in a statement. "He's running it into the ground."
From Clark Alleges White House Pushed CNN to Fire Him
The White House pressured CNN to fire former military analyst Gen. Wesley Clark (search), the retired Army chief told a Phoenix radio station on Monday.
"The White House actually back in February apparently tried to get me knocked off CNN and they wanted to do this because they were afraid that I would raise issues with their conduct of the war," Clark told Newsradio 620 KTAR. "Apparently they called CNN. I don't have all the proof on this because they didn't call me. I've only heard rumors about it."
CNN had no immediate comment on the general's allegations. White House officials told Fox News that they are "adamant" that they "never tried to get Wesley Clark kicked off the air in any way, shape or form." Beyond that, the White House "won't respond to rumors."
Nor anything else.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
From The Best of George W. Bush by William Saletan and Ben Jacobs
The story: "Last November, the U.N. Security Council passed a unanimous resolution finding Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and vowing serious consequences in the event Saddam Hussein did not fully and immediately comply. When Saddam Hussein failed even to comply then, President Bush, on March 17th, gave him and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq. … I have watched for more than a year now as President Bush kept the American people constantly informed of the dangers we face, and of his determination to confront those dangers. There was no need for anyone to speculate what the President was thinking; his words were clear, and straightforward, and understood by friend and enemy alike. When the moment arrived to make the tough call—when matters came to the point of choosing, and the safety of the American people was at stake—President Bush acted decisively, with resolve, and with courage." (Vice President Cheney, July 24, 2003)
Reality check: The course was actually set in the summer of 2002, when the United States intensified its bombing of Iraqi military targets to soften them up for the invasion. By the eve of the invasion, there was no "tough call" to be made. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops had been sent to the Persian Gulf, at a cost of many billions of dollars. It would have been far more politically difficult to pull them back than to send them in.
From They Cannot Tell a Lie: Bush's deceptions are not to be named by Jim Naureckas
Even reporters who take the issue of political lying more seriously are reluctant to call a lie by its right name. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank was justly credited with journalistic courage for his front-page article (10/22/02) that laid out three specific examples of Bush deception--on Iraqi drones and nuclear weapons, and on a labor dispute at Customs. But his language was coy, saying Bush's statements were "dubious, if not wrong"; they "outpaced the facts." The subhead read, "Presidential Tradition of Embroidering Key Assertions Continues."
The truth is that for Bush, the bar on "lying" has been set impossibly high. During his recent Africa trip, he rewrote the history of the prewar conflict with Iraq over weapons inspections, telling reporters on July 14, "We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in." Describing this remarkable statement, Milbank (along with Dana Priest) could only bring himself to write that Bush's assertion "appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring." The reporters seemed to need to acknowledge the possibility that everyone who remembers the inspectors returning to Iraq in November 2002 was suffering from a mass delusion.
From Unprepared for Peace in Iraq by Sen. Robert C. Byrd
The administration's reconstruction effort is costing the American people $1 billion a week. It is costing the lives of American soldiers and of civilians from many nations. Only an entirely closed mind could fail to grasp the need for a change in course. Close cooperation with the international community might yet yield a plan for peace and security for the people of Iraq. Haughty statements and unilateral actions will not advance our cause. We must work with other countries to forge what we cannot achieve alone: a lasting peace for Iraq and, in fact, for the Middle East region as a whole.
A hallmark of true leadership is the ability to admit when one is wrong and to learn from errors. Candidate George W. Bush spoke about the need for humility from a great and powerful nation. He said, "Let us reject the blinders of isolationism, just as we refuse the crown of empire. Let us not dominate others with our power -- or betray them with our indifference. And let us have an American foreign policy that reflects American character. The modesty of true strength. The humility of real greatness." It is time for the Bush administration to swallow its false pride and return to that philosophy of humility before it is too late.
From Not Up to Code? Embellishing the Flag, Then the Web Site by Dana Milbank
The main eyebrow-raiser is the posting on the official White House Web site of speeches by Bush and Vice President Cheney at fundraisers for their reelection campaign. The government Web site, www.whitehouse.gov, displays, for example, Bush's speech to a Bush-Cheney luncheon last week in Oregon, in which Bush pronounced the event "a record fundraiser," and the previous week's fundraiser in California, in which he said, "We're laying the foundation for next year's campaign."
Foul, judges Larry Noble, the executive director of the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. "It's inappropriate. It's a government Web site. It's the use of government property for political work, which is illegal. They have to be careful."
The Democrats' all-purpose gumshoe, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee, protested that "a government Web site paid for by taxpayer funds is being used to disseminate partisan, political information." Particularly irksome to Waxman was a Cheney speech on the White House site joking that those present "probably paid a little more to get in than I did," and noting that "every dollar we raised was important."
From Patience On Iraq Policies Urged by Dana Milbank
"We must remain patient," [Condoleezza] Rice said in her address to the [Veterans Of Foreign Wars]. "When Americans begin a noble cause, we finish it. We are 117 days from the end of major combat operations in Iraq. That is not very long." In front of the same group, [Donald] Rumsfeld said "it would be a mistake" to conclude that more troops are needed in Iraq.
Criticism of Bush's commitment to Iraq has been intensifying from Democrats and Republican foreign policy hawks following a wave of violence in Iraq and throughout the region. At the same time, public uneasiness over the occupation has increased.
The twin speeches to the 104th VFW national convention came one year after Vice President Cheney spoke at the 103rd VFW convention in what became the beginning of the administration's efforts to confront and disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. It was then that Cheney said, amid growing doubts about the wisdom of war against Iraq: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."
I'm sure yesterday's speeches were just as honest as that one was.
From Dust and Deception by Paul Krugman
Last week a quietly scathing report by the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed what some have long suspected: in the aftermath of the World Trade Center's collapse, the agency systematically misled New Yorkers about the risks the resulting air pollution posed to their health. And it did so under pressure from the White House.
The Bush administration has misled the public on many issues, from the budget outlook to the Iraqi threat. But this particular deception seems, at first sight, not just callous but gratuitous. It's only when you look back at budget politics in 2001 that you see the method in the administration's mendacity.
All in all, the people running Washington, while eager to invoke 9/11 on behalf of whatever they feel like doing, have treated the city that bore the brunt of the actual attack very shabbily. In September 2004 the Republicans will hold their nominating convention in New York. Will New Yorkers take the occasion to remind them about how the city was lied to and shortchanged?
From Bush 'Compassion' Agenda: An '04 Liability? by Elisabeth Bumiller
But supporters, some administration officials among them, acknowledge that Mr. Bush's "compassionate conservative" agenda has fallen so far short of its ambitious goals, in a number of cases undercut by pressure from his conservative backers, that they fear he will be politically vulnerable on the issue in 2004.
At the same time, some religious supporters of Mr. Bush say they feel betrayed by promises he made as a candidate and now, they maintain, has broken as president.
"After three years, he's failed the test," said one prominent early supporter, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leader of Call to Renewal, a network of churches that fights poverty.
Mr. Wallis said Mr. Bush had told him as president-elect that "I don't understand how poor people think," and appealed to him for help by calling himself "a white Republican guy who doesn't get it, but I'd like to." Now, Mr. Wallis said, "his policy has not come even close to matching his words."
Oh, you noticed.
From UN can pick up pieces in Iraq if US will let it by Jonathan Moore
In all the time building up to the war, the United States insisted on its objective of regime change and its vision of a stable, democratic Iraq exerting a salutary influence on peace and progress in the Middle East. The problem is that the administration did not heed sensible, professional warnings of the inherent dangers and obstacles that would be faced and cautions about the enormous investments that would be required to pull it off. Instead, the administration proceeded by itself in an arrogant and ill-prepared manner.
While the problems the United States has encountered since the war was declared over could not have been predicted with certainty (and who would have wanted to), some were probable, all were possible, and none, even occurring together, should have come as a surprise.
Two factors in the current situation are predominant: establishing and maintaining security in Iraq and the role of the United Nations. The United States is in the process of botching both of them, and they are intertwined. The administration has failed to control security in Iraq by underestimating the problem and by refusing to take the measures required to achieve it.
All the while lying to us about "accomplishing" our "mission".
From Unclearing the air
Of all the favors dished out by the Bush administration to its campaign contributors, none has the potential to cost the public as much as its easing of clean air rules for power companies, oil refineries, and other big industrial plants. Under the old rules these firms were supposed to install antipollution equipment whenever they did more than routine maintenance to upgrade the 17,000 facilities built before the 1970 Clean Air Act set high air quality standards for new plants. The new rule expected to be announced this week exempts polluters from such a cleanup unless an upgrade costs more than 20 percent of a plant's value -- even if the work increases the plant's total pollution. This exception, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, could allow 7 million tons of harmful emissions each year. That is just counting the 51 oldest, biggest, and dirtiest coal burning power plants, which were the focus of enforcement by the Clinton administration. John Walke of the council describes the new regulation as a "loophole that swallows the rule."
Bush's nominee to head the EPA, Governor Mike Leavitt of Utah, should be quizzed closely about the rule at his confirmation hearing. In the past, his own air quality director in Utah, Rick Sprott, has spoken against the administration's plan to weaken the rule, calling it a "train wreck."
[Boston Globe editorial, 8/26/03]
It might look better from Gov. Leavitt's new office.
From GAO Cites Corporate Shaping of Energy Plan by Mike Allen
The White House collaborated heavily with corporations in developing President Bush's energy policy but repeatedly refused to give congressional investigators details of the meetings, according to a federal report issued yesterday.
The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in the report that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham privately discussed the formulation of Bush's policy "with chief executive officers of petroleum, electricity, nuclear, coal, chemical, and natural gas companies, among others."
An energy task force, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, relied for outside advice primarily on "petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, electricity industry representatives and lobbyists," while seeking limited input from academic specialists, environmentalists, and policy groups, the GAO said.
The task force was one of Bush's highest priorities after his inauguration and was launched on his 10th day in office. None of the group's meetings was open to the public, and participants told GAO investigators they "could not recollect whether official rosters or minutes were kept," the report said.
What's that shredding sound?
Monday, August 25, 2003
From The Truth Meter by Suzanne Blanchard
Some awfully stinky mud has been slinging around inside the Beltway lately, some of it apparently sticking to the Bush administration. So this week I thought we would hold the truth meter up to the White House and see what registers. From what I've witnessed in the past few years, I may be putting the meter in for repairs after this exercise.
Last month, the media was briefly on fire about the sixteen words in the State of the Union speech that were blatantly untruthful. Even though it seems the scandal left one insider dead and one WMD spy's cover blown, the fire has dimmed considerably as the pack moves on to the next, more photogenic disaster. But that momentary glimpse into the extreme lengths to which the current administration will go to get its way got me to thinking about truth.
Let's take three levels of commitment and examine the Bush record for truthfulness on each. First, George W. Bush positioned himself as a rock-ribbed Republican, a "new traditional" "compassionate conservative." How well has his administration hewn to the Republican platform? Second, more than two and a half years into his presidency, how is President Bush faring on those campaign promises? And finally, the President has made especially crucial representations and commitments to Americans and to the world in the face of unimaginable devastation and menacing threats. How has he made good on those promises?
This is a really comprehensive list of presidential falsehoods, each cogently exposed. A fantastic resource!
From A Weapons Cache We'll Never See by Scott Ritter
Yet these eyewitnesses have provided me with a troubling tale. On April 8, they say, the buildings [of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate] were occupied by soldiers from the Army's Third Infantry Division. For two weeks, the Iraqi scientists and administrators showed up for work but, according to several I have spoken to, no one from the coalition interviewed them or tried to take control of the archive.
Rather, these staff members have told me, after occupying the facility for two weeks, the American soldiers simply withdrew. Soon after, looters entered the facility and ransacked it. Overnight, every computer was stolen, disks and video records were destroyed, and the carefully organized documents were ripped from their binders and either burned or scattered about. According to the former brigadier general, who went back to the building after the mob had gone, some Iraqi scientists did their best to recover and reconstitute what they could, but for the vast majority of the archive the damage was irreversible.
Obviously, I am relying on the word of former directorate officials, but these are people I knew well in my days as an inspector, and none would seem to have anything to gain by lying today. In any case, the looting of the building, if not the previous presence of American troops, has been well documented by Western news reports.
Why was this allowed to happen? I am as puzzled as the Iraqis. Given the high priority the Bush administration placed on discovering evidence of weapons of mass destruction, it seems only logical that seizing the directorate archive would have been a top priority for the coalition forces — at least as important as the Iraqi Oil Ministry or the National Museum. And it seems highly unlikely that coalition leaders didn't know what the archive contained.
It sounds like they knew exactly what the archive contained.
From An Unpatriotic Act
Attorney General John Ashcroft has embarked on a charm offensive on behalf of the USA Patriot Act. He is traveling the country to rally support for the law, which many people, both liberals and conservatives, consider a dangerous assault on civil liberties. Mr. Ashcroft's efforts to promote the law are misguided. He should abandon the roadshow and spend more time in Washington working with those who want to reform the law.
When the Patriot Act raced through Congress after Sept. 11, critics warned that it was an unprecedented expansion of the government's right to spy on ordinary Americans. The more people have learned about the law, the greater the calls have been for overhauling it. One section that has produced particular outrage is the authorization of "sneak and peek" searches, in which the government secretly searches people's homes and delays telling them about the search. The House last month voted 309 to 118 for a Republican-sponsored measure to block the use of federal funds for such searches.
From U.S. Said to Plan Bigger Afghan Role, Stepping Up Aid by David Rohde
In the next several weeks, the Bush administration is expected to announce a major increase in aid to Afghanistan that would greatly expand the American role in this country, senior American officials here and in Washington say.
The administration appears set to embark on a vast American-led effort at top-to-bottom rebuilding and recasting of Afghanistan, those officials said in recent days.
A senior American diplomat said President Bush, viewing the situation "like a businessman," had decided that investing more reconstruction money here now could lead to an earlier exit for American forces and save money in the long run. The United States currently spends $11 billion a year on its military forces in Afghanistan and $900 million on reconstruction aid.
But officials of aid groups here contend that the presidential election in the United States next year will be the motivating factor. They say the White House is eager to have Afghanistan appear to be a success story to American voters.
It would be even better if it could actually be a success story.
From Intelligence Agencies in a Swamp of Doubt by Jonathan D. Pollack
Yet, in December 2001, a declassified NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] concluded that "the intelligence community judged in the mid-1990s that North Korea had produced one, possibly two nuclear weapons." This was the first time that a declassified U.S. intelligence document made such an assertion.
A second estimate, released to Congress in November 2002, placed these weapons even earlier, claiming that "the U.S. has assessed since the early 1990s that the North has one or possibly two [nuclear] weapons."
Finally, in a July 30 interview on PBS' "NewsHour," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice asserted that "before the ink was dry on the [Agreed Framework], they [the North Koreans] were seeking another route to a nuclear weapon, a highly enriched uranium route."
These claims are highly troubling. References to the early and mid-1990s and to North Korean efforts to acquire enriched uranium immediately after the signing of the Agreed Framework all coincide with the Clinton administration's tenure. However, none of the routinely declassified CIA reports published since the latter 1990s, or those since the 2001 NIE, lends credence to any of these claims.
It's as simple as ABC: Always Blame Clinton.
From No Path in Iraq Is Risk-Free for Mission or Bush's Presidency by Ronald Brownstein
As president, Bush has been far less flexible than he was as governor of Texas. At times in Washington, when faced with incontrovertible evidence he was barreling into a dead end, he's been willing to shift direction; Bush displayed that instinct in dropping his initial resistance to a Department of Homeland Security.
More often, he's dug in his heels even when circumstances seemingly demand a change. He's continued to push through massive tax cuts initially designed as a response to government surpluses even after the surpluses melted into record deficits. He's displayed an equally stubborn streak in continuing to nominate aggressively ideological judges he knows are virtually certain to provoke filibusters from Senate Democrats. Far more than in Texas, Bush in Washington equates resolve with rigidity.
From that overall pattern, the easiest course for Bush in Iraq would be to stay the course, or to make only cosmetic changes. This has been his initial instinct.
That's the ticket!
Sunday, August 24, 2003
From Enronization of the Bush administration by Steven C. Clemons
The fall of Enron and the ongoing prosecution of the worst at the company's helm depended on whistleblowers and average people at the firm who were willing to tell the truth about the crimes committed by Enron executives. Accountability rests on exposure and on a personal morality of honesty and commitment to public trust that many in this nation do feel and that did exist among many Enron employees whose livelihoods were ruined by Lay and his collaborators.
Today a national whistleblower is needed, someone in Bush's administration who can copy the foot-thick file of official secrets in his or her desk to reveal the overreach, fabrication and distortions of intelligence that the president used to deceive Congress, America's allies and the public in order to conduct the invasion of Iraq.
Bush has called those who question his assault on Iraq and the legitimacy of this incursion "historical revisionists." But the term applies more appropriately to this Ken Lay-like president/CEO who seems to have only disdain for the constraints of our kind of government. For all the pretense of his early statements that his would be a "presidency defined by humility and honesty," and an administration that "would inspire trust from its citizens," it has turned out to be anything but.
[Steven C. Clemons is executive vice president of the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based centrist policy institution.]
Ashcroft Speech Interrupted by Protester
A room packed with police officers failed to shield Attorney General John Ashcroft on Thursday from a protester who accused him of lying about the Sept. 11 attacks on America and Washington's declared war on terror.
Ashcroft was in Detroit as part of a nationwide tour he kicked off on Wednesday, aimed at defending provisions of the controversial anti-terrorism law passed soon after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
He was about midway through a 25-minute speech, at an event closed to the public but attended by more than 150 top policemen from across Michigan, when a self-described follower of perennial presidential campaigner Lyndon LaRouche interrupted him.
"Mr. Ashcroft, I'm with Lyndon LaRouche. We would like to know which of your terrorists are going to be used for a new 9/11, you or Dick Cheney," said the heckler, who got into the room in a downtown Detroit convention center by posing as a TV reporter.
"Tell them how you lie to the American people," he added.
Ashcroft and more than one red-faced police officer were visibly angered by the outburst from the man, who then left the convention center unescorted and joined dozens of anti-government demonstrators outside.
People are wising up. Even Lyndon LaRouche people.
From Lawsuit for Gulf War Veterans Targets WMD Businesses by Heather Wokusch
A lawsuit on behalf of over 100,000 Gulf War veterans has the Bush administration on edge and businesses running for cover.
The class action suit names 11 companies and 33 banks alleged to have helped Iraq with its chemical weapons program in the 1980's, despite knowledge Saddam Hussein was actively using WMD against both Iranians and his own people.
At the time, Reagan's Middle East envoy was one Donald Rumsfeld, hard at work opening doors for Hussein's regime to purchase millions in aircraft, hardware and other potential weaponry.
But after the invasion of Kuwait bumped Hussein from Pentagon friend to the "Most Wanted" list, coalition forces got stuck with the nasty task of dealing with the same chemical weapons that businesses had profited by helping Iraq amass.
Check out this Military.com item for additional information.
From Wrong Time to 'Stay the Course' by Michael McFaul
Reflexively, Bush administration officials and their supporters reacted to these horrors [in Iraq, Israel and Afghanistan] by reaffirming the need to "stay the course." If offered only two choices -- stay the course or turn back -- then Bush and his team are most certainly right. Quitting Iraq, Afghanistan or the road map would produce greater chaos in these places and eventually new security threats to the United States.
But why must this debate be confined to two choices? Now more than ever the search for third ways demands more attention and resources. The current polarized, simplistic debate is getting in the way of creative thinking and effective policymaking. The Bush administration, especially as the presidential election draws nearer, is playing defense precisely when innovation is needed.
The call for "staying the course" is even more indefensible when one tries to find it. What course are we staying on in Iraq or Afghanistan? The president has boldly outlined the objective or endpoint of our policy: democratic regime change in the greater Middle East. But the president has never articulated or written down the strategy for getting there. Without a plan in hand, the Bush administration instead is compelled to move reactively from crisis to crisis, making up "the course" as it goes along.
It's obvious: we deserve a better government than this.
From Dueling Timelines in Iraq
There's no magic solution for the challenges the United States faces in Iraq, but a key first step would be to face them honestly. Even before the war, we and many others urged the administration to level with Congress and the American people about the likely costs of postwar occupation. It failed to do so, perhaps, it now seems, because the administration itself harbored an unrealistic view. Has that changed? Last week, asked about the challenges of attracting more troops from countries that resent sole U.S. authority, Mr. Powell said, "I don't think there is a problem."
But there is a problem. There aren't enough troops, there aren't enough police and there aren't enough contributions from countries with competent militaries. In Karbala, a city in southern Iraq where occupation has been fairly successful, 1,000 Marines are about to withdraw in favor of 455 Bulgarian troops. But the Bulgarians have no intention of assuming the civil administration functions the Marines have been carrying out, as the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, and a civilian team that was supposed to deploy there hasn't even been named. Given the stakes, and the potential for new problems, this kind of ragged, improvised, resource-poor effort is inexcusable and incomprehensible.
Also check out this item about John McCain urging Bush to "level with the public".
From Gotta Lotta Stigmata by Maureen Dowd
Conservatives want to co-opt all this free-floating testosterone and copyright the bravery shown on 9/11. They disparage liberals as people who scorn "traditional" male traits and sanction gay romance.
The cover of the American Enterprise Institute's magazine bellows: "Real Men: They're Back."
A round-table discussion by conservative women produced the usual slavering over W. in his flight suit and Rummy in his gray suit.
"In George W. Bush, people see a contained, channeled virility," said Erica Walter, identified as "an at-home mom and Catholic writer." "They see a man who does what he says, whose every speech and act is not calculated."
Yeah. Nothing calculated about a president's delaying the troops from getting home and renting stadium lights so he can play dress up and make a movie-star landing on an aircraft carrier gussied up by his image wizards, at a cost of a mil.