Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Fw: Woolsey Amendment to Bring the Troops Home

----- Original Message -----
From: "Connie Mancini-Haack" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2005 9:07 PM
Subject: Woolsey Amendment to Bring the Troops Home



Just this morning we learned that House Rules Committee has permitted Rep.
Lynne Woolsey to offer an amendment on Iraq to the Defense Authorization
Bill (H.R. 1815 - the National Defense Authorization Act for FY06).
Woolsey's Amendment is calling for the President to develop a plan for the
withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq and submit a plan to the
Congressional Defense Committees. According to Woolsey?s office, the
amendment will be voted on the House floor this evening during debate of the
Defense Authorization Bill. If the Woolsey amendment is adopted, it will
open the debate about Iraq and how to move towards total Iraqi sovereignty
and U.S. withdrawal. It is urgent that you help move this debate forward
by calling and emailing your representative TODAY and urging him or her to
vote "YES" on the Woolsey amendment.

To find and CALL your representative TODAY click here:

Please follow the link above to send an email to your representative from
UFPJ's legislative action center.

United for Peace and Justice seeks the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops
from Iraq and the restoration of full Iraqi sovereignty. Our full position
on ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq can be found at

Thank you for taking action to bring the troops home,


* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Woolsey's Amendment:

It is the sense of Congress that the President should -

(1) develop a plan as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of
this Act to provide for
the withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq; and

(2) transmit to the congressional defense committees a report that contains
the plan described in
11 paragraph (1).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Fw: Senators Preserve Rights of Minority, Protect Filibuster

But we are going to have 3 extremeist judges. I'm having a hard time with

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <>
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 5:49 PM
Subject: FCNL: Senators Preserve Rights of Minority, Protect Filibuster

Last night, 14 moderate senators orchestrated an historic compromise
that preserves the principle of the Senate's "extended
debate," the filibuster, maintaining protection of the minority
voice that is fundamental to the role of the Senate. Seven Republicans
and seven Democrats joined in a remarkable agreement, taking the
so-called "nuclear option" off the table.

In this courageous action, the 14 senators rejected attempts to turn
the Senate into a rubber stamp for executive nominations and affirmed
the Senate's constitutionally defined role of providing "advice
and consent" to the president.

The Senate action this week is in large part a result of your efforts,
together with the efforts of thousands of other people across the
country who wrote emails, faxes, and letters, and made phone calls to
senators urging them not to eliminate the filibuster.

In the "memorandum of understanding" signed Monday night, the
14 senators agreed not to change the rules of the Senate concerning the
filibuster (the method for triggering the "nuclear option")
during the 109th Congress . In exchange, they also agreed not to
filibuster three controversial judicial nominations (Owen, Pryor, and
Brown), and the Senate is now preparing to consider and vote on these
nominations. Other current judicial nominations made by the president,
however, are not guaranteed a vote (explicitly naming Myers and Saad).

The 14 senators also agreed not to filibuster future judicial
nominations (including those for the Supreme Court) except under
"extreme circumstances." This undefined term leaves open the
possibility of a filibuster of future judicial nominees who are
unqualified or extremist in their approach to the law or the bench. To
read a copy of the text of the agreement between the 14 senators,
follow this link:

The agreement between the senators is governed by a standard that is
nothing short of amazing, given the legalistic procedural struggle over
judicial nominations in the Senate during the past six months: the 14
senators signing the agreement are bound by good faith. That is such a
remarkable development, it bears repeating: the exercise of individual
decisions in the Senate in judicial nomination considerations will be
governed by the good faith of each individual Senator.

In addition, the language of the agreement includes a plea to the White
House and Senate to coordinate and cooperate to present moderate
judicial nominees for consideration rather than candidates who might
appeal to either extreme of the political spectrum. Here's the
language from the agreement itself: "We believe that under Article
II, section 2 of the United States Constitution, the word 'Advice'
speaks to consultation between the President and the Senate with regard
to the use of the President's power to make nominations. We encourage
members of the Executive branch of government to consult with members
of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a
judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration." A clearer
example of an agreement designed to encourage the peaceful prevention
of destructive congressional conflict could not have been drafted.

FCNL's action alerts, educational materials, and communications with
Senators, as well as the FCNL staff's active participation in
coalition with other colleague organizations on the Hill, contributed
to the massive outpouring against efforts to eliminate the filibuster:

In a coalition meeting this morning (Tuesday, May 23) to assess the
impact of the agreement and to plan for "next steps," one
respected civil rights Hill lobbyist remarked, "We cannot do this
work without our grassroots partners. They are absolutely essential to
our work on the Hill."

For more information on these issues, visit the Civil Liberties section
of the FCNL web site at


Stop New Nuclear Weapons! Find out how,
The Next Step for Iraq: Join FCNL's Iraq Campaign,

Contact Congress and the Administration:

Order FCNL publications and "War is Not the Answer" campaign
bumper stickers and yard signs:

Contribute to FCNL:

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from this list, please see the end of this message.

Subscribe to other FCNL legislative, policy, and action alert lists:


Friends Committee on National Legislation
245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795 *
phone: (202)547-6000 * toll-free: (800)630-1330

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored.
If you no longer wish to receive mail from us, please visit

Sunday, May 22, 2005

It's All Newsweek's Fault

A Call To Action
The New York Times
May 22, 2005

IN the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Fareed Zakaria wrote a 6,791-word cover story for Newsweek titled "Why Do They Hate Us?" Think how much effort he could have saved if he'd waited a few years. As we learned last week, the question of why they hate us can now be answered in just one word: Newsweek.

"Our United States military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is treated with care," said the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, as he eagerly made the magazine the scapegoat for lethal anti-American riots in Afghanistan. Indeed, Mr. McClellan was so fixated on destroying Newsweek - and on mouthing his own phony P.C. pieties about the Koran - that by omission he whitewashed the rioters themselves, Islamic extremists who routinely misuse that holy book as a pretext for murder.

That's how absurdly over-the-top the assault on Newsweek has been. The administration has been so successful at bullying the news media in order to cover up its own fictions and failings in Iraq that it now believes it can get away with pinning some 17 deaths on an errant single sentence in a 10-sentence Periscope item that few noticed until days after its publication. Coming just as the latest CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll finds that only 41 percent of Americans think the war in Iraq is "worth fighting" and only 42 percent think it's going well, this smells like desperation. In its war on the press, this hubristic administration may finally have crossed a bridge too far.

Let's stipulate flatly that Newsweek made a serious error. For the sake of argument, let's even posit that the many other similar accounts of Koran desecration (with and without toilets) by American interrogators over the past two years are fantasy - even though they've been given credence by the International Committee of the Red Cross and have turned up repeatedly in legal depositions by torture victims and in newspapers as various as The Denver Post and The Financial Times. Let's also ignore the May 1 New York Times report that a former American interrogator at Guantánamo has corroborated a detainee's account of guards tossing Korans into a pile and stepping on them, thereby prompting a hunger strike. Why don't we just go all the way and erase those photographs of female guards sexually humiliating Muslims (among other heinous crimes) at Abu Ghraib?

Even with all that evidence off the table, there is still an overwhelming record, much of it in government documents, that American interrogators have abused Muslim detainees with methods specifically chosen to hit their religious hot buttons. A Defense Department memo of October 2002 (published in full in Mark Danner's book "Torture and Truth") authorized such Muslim-baiting practices as depriving prisoners of "published religious items or materials" and forcing the removal of beards and clothing. A cable signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez called for interrogators to "exploit Arab fear of dogs." (Muslims view them as unclean.) Even a weak-kneed government investigation of prison abuses (and deaths) in Iraq and Afghanistan issued in March by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III of the Navy authenticated two cases in which female interrogators "touched and spoke to detainees in a sexually suggestive manner in order to incur stress based on the detainees' religious beliefs."

About the Newsweek matter Donald Rumsfeld had a moral to bequeath the land. "People need to be careful what they say," he said, channeling Ari Fleischer, and added, "just as people need to be careful what they do." How true. If one of his right-hand men, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, hadn't been barnstorming American churches making internationally publicized pronouncements that his own Christian God is "a real god" and Islam's god is "an idol," maybe anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, at record highs even before the Newsweek incident, would have been a shade less lethal. If higher-ups had been called to account for the abuses of Abu Ghraib, maybe Newsweek might have had as little traction in the Arab world as The Onion.

Then again, even the administration's touchy-feely proactive outreach to Muslims in the Middle East is baloney: Karen Hughes, appointed with great fanfare by the president in March as our latest under secretary of state for public diplomacy (the third since 9/11), runs a shop with no Muslims at the top - or would, if she were there. As The Washington Post reported, she doesn't intend to assume her duties until the fall and the paperwork for her confirmation has yet to be sent to the Senate. Why rush? It's not as if there's a war on.

Given this context, the administration's attempt to pass the entire buck to Newsweek for our ill odor among Muslims, including those Muslims who abhor jihadists committing murder, is laughable. Yet there's something weirdly self-incriminating about the language it uses to do it. Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman whose previous boss, Colin Powell, delivered a fictional recitation of Saddam Hussein's weapon capabilities before the United Nations Security Council, said it's "shocking" that Newsweek used "facts that have not been substantiated." Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, attacked Newsweek for hiding "behind anonymous sources," yet it was an anonymous source, an Iraqi defector known as Curveball, who fed the fictions that Mr. Powell spouted to gin up America for war. Psychological displacement of this magnitude might give even Freud pause.

The only thing more ridiculous is the spectacle of the White House's various knee-jerk flacks on cable news shoutfests and in the blogosphere characterizing Newsweek as representative of a supposedly anti-American, military-hating "mainstream media." It wasn't long ago that the magazine and the co-author of the Periscope item, Michael Isikoff, were being cheered by the same crowd for their pursuit of Monica Lewinsky and Kathleen Willey.

As for the supposed antimilitary agenda of the so-called mainstream media, the right should look first at itself. In its eagerness to parrot the administration line, it's as ready to sell out the military as any clichéd leftist. For starters, it thought nothing of dismissing the judgment of Gen. Carl Eichenberry, our top commander in Afghanistan, who, according to Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the riots were "not at all tied to the article in the magazine."

The right's rage at Newsweek is all too reminiscent of the contempt it heaped on Specialist Thomas Wilson, the soldier who dared to ask Mr. Rumsfeld at a town hall meeting in Kuwait in December about the shortage of armored vehicles. Mr. Wilson was guilty of "near-insubordination," said Rush Limbaugh; the embedded reporter who helped him frame his question was reviled by bloggers as a traitor. Yet Mr. Wilson's question was legitimate, and Mr. Rumsfeld's answer (that the shortage was only "a matter of production and capability") was a lie. As USA Today reported in March, the Pentagon has known for nearly two years that it didn't have enough armored Humvees but let the problem fester until that insubordinate questioner gave the defense secretary no choice but to act.

It's also because of incompetent Pentagon planning that other troops may now be victims of weapons looted from Saddam's munitions depots after the fall of Baghdad. Yet when The New York Times reported one such looting incident, in Al Qaqaa, before the election, the administration and many in the blogosphere reflexively branded the story fraudulent. But the story was true. It was later corroborated not only by United States Army reservists and national guardsmen who spoke to The Los Angeles Times but also by Iraq's own deputy minister of industry, who told The New York Times two months ago that Al Qaqaa was only one of many such weapon caches hijacked on America's undermanned post-invasion watch.

IT is terrible that Newsweek was wrong, though it's worth noting, as John Donvan of ABC News did, that the Defense Department's claim that its story was "demonstrably" false is also an overreach. Almost nothing that happens in the sealed prison at Guantánamo is as demonstrable as, say, Saddam's underwear. But if something good can come out of something bad, the administration's overkill of Newsweek may focus greater public attention on just how much it is using press-bashing to deflect attention from the fictions spun by its own propaganda machine.

Just since the election, we've witnessed the unmasking of Armstrong Williams and Jeff Gannon. We've learned - thanks to Newsweek's parent publication, The Washington Post - that the Pentagon went so far as to deliberately hide the circumstances of Pat Tillman's friendly-fire death from his own family for weeks, lest the truth mar the P.R. advantages to be reaped from his memorial service. Even as Scott McClellan instructs Newsweek on just what stories it should write to atone for its sins, a professional propagandist sits as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Kenneth Tomlinson, who also runs the board supervising Voice of America and other government-run media outlets. He's been hard at work meddling in the journalism on NPR and PBS.

This steady drip of subterfuge and news manipulation increasingly tells a more compelling story than the old news that Newsweek so egregiously botched.

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Littwin: Senate heats up; Salazar cools off

A Call To Action
Rocky Mountain News,1299,DRMN_86_3795707,00.html
Littwin: Senate heats up; Salazar cools off

May 21, 2005

pictureThis time, for what it's worth, Ken Salazar is trying not to pick a fight.

This time, when everyone's got the gloves off, Salazar is reaching for a whistle.


You have to admire his self-restraint. I mean, when I left him Friday, he hadn't called anyone the antichrist, or any other seven-headed beast from the Bible, all day.

And he was up early.

It's not, as James Dobson would surely understand, that he hasn't been tempted. Where is the surprisingly combative new senator to look for a role model?

Read the reports from the floor of the Senate on Thursday and see if you can find one.

Rick Santorum, the third-ranking Republican, actually compared the Democrats to Hitler in Paris in 1942. And, yes, you're right, it was Santorum - play it again, Rick? - who two months earlier had demanded that Robert Byrd retract his line on Republicans and Nazi Germany.

Democratic senator Frank Lautenberg, meanwhile, likened House Majority Leader Bill Frist to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who is, admittedly, evil - but only in Star Wars movies. At least he stopped himself before comparing him to Jar Jar.

As if to prove the point, Frist said the Democrats were trying "to kill, to defeat, to assassinate" Bush's judicial nominees. He might have been flustered, though, since he had just been reminded that he himself once voted to uphold a filibuster on a judge.

If it wasn't a great day for the country, it wasn't bad if you worked for C-SPAN2. I just kept waiting for someone to hold up a photo of Saddam Hussein in his underwear.

But Salazar didn't take the bait. As you may have heard, he belongs to a bipartisan Senate group some have called the D.C. 12, which has shrunk, I believe, to 10. The D.C. 12 and Falling are trying to find a compromise to avert a nuclear meltdown.

If the Democrats try to filibuster a judicial nominee, Republicans have threatened to change the Senate rules to end judicial filibusters. You need 60 votes to end debate, but apparently only 51 to change the rules on debate. If that happens, Democrats have threatened to slow down the work of the Senate, which you'd think was already slow enough.

In any case, the process began Friday with a call for the end of debate on nominee Priscilla Owen. Salazar was already home Friday, making his case at a news conference on a spit of land next to the Burger King on Broadway. The traffic was loud. The sun was blazing.

"You can tell I'm a new senator," he said, looking around, as an ambulance siren blasted.

But what a time to be a new senator - just in time to see the place blow up.

If you're behind in the news, a brief update.

George W. Bush has renominated Priscilla Owen to be a federal appeals judge. Owen is an extremely conservative Texas Supreme Court justice. She's a Karl Rove favorite who used to be an Enron favorite when there was an Enron. She once had a ruling called "an unconscionable act of judicial activism" - by Alberto Gonzales, now the attorney general. (He now supports her nomination.)

She was one of seven judges Bush has renominated of 10 who had been successfully filibustered. Next up is Janice Rogers Brown, who once said the New Deal "marks the triumph of our own socialist revolution."

You know why these judges have been renominated. If you don't, ask James Dobson. Get your video of Justice Sunday. Listen to people tell you that an up-or-down vote on judges is somehow a moral issue. Watch for the introduction of FDR-as-socialist action figures.

You saw Salazar get caught right in the middle of this battle. Now, he's trying to stay in the middle, with people like John McCain, trying to lure other moderate Republicans.

The compromise Salazar backs would allow some of Bush's nominees to go forward if the Republicans would allow filibusters in what Salazar calls "extraordinary circumstances."

Salazar had 30-minute private meetings with both Owen and Brown. When I asked if he thought they qualified as "extraordinary" cases - as, say, I do - he wouldn't say. He did say both were nice people, which may or may not be the same thing.

Of course, there's no real principle at stake when it comes to a filibuster. It's a rule, not a moral good or ill. It was immoral when it was used to block civil rights legislation - not to block judges you find philosophically unsound.

And Republicans, crying now about Democratic filibusters, had used other methods to effectively block Clinton judicial nominees.

The only principle at stake is whether Democrats will have a say - with 44 votes and one sympathetic independent - when Bush nominates a Supreme Court justice. This fight is all prologue.

Salazar made his case, for Democratic advice and consent, as the traffic zoomed by the Burger King, noting that, with a bare majority of voters, Republicans control the White House and both houses of Congress, while seven of nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican presidents.

"They've already had 96 percent of all the president's judicial appointees confirmed," he said. "One hundred percent of all of his Cabinet appointees have been confirmed. And that's not good enough. They want it 100 percent their way."

He called it a Republican "overreach."

It may have been the nicest thing anyone said all day.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Fw: Another Victory, Another Chance to Cut Funds for New Nukes

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <>
Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2005 4:51 PM
Subject: FCNL: Another Victory, Another Chance to Cut Funds for New Nukes

Your emails and phone calls to the House of Representatives made a
difference. Last week, two committees in the House of Representatives
blocked the administration's plans for the nuclear "bunker
buster." While this is good news, we now need the Senate to follow

The Senate has still not made up its mind on whether to ditch the Bush
administration's plans to research a new nuclear bomb called the
nuclear "bunker buster." This weapon, if ever used, could
lead to a million casualties according to a recent study by the
National Research Council, It is a new weapon
of mass destruction.

Despite the impracticality of this weapon, the Senate may decide as
early as next week whether to restart funding for research into such a
bomb. The Senate will consider legislation that includes millions of
dollars in funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, or bunker
buster bomb. That legislation could reach the Senate floor as early as
next week.

With the remarkable wins in the House, now we need to mobilize again to
get the Senate to slam the door on new nuclear weapons--for good!


Please contact your Senators today! Urge them to eliminate funds for
the bunker buster. Tell them that new nuclear weapons will not make the
world more secure. Developing new nuclear weapons sends a message to
the rest of the world that nuclear weapons are necessary and usable.
This undermines U.S. security.

Contacting your Senators is easy. You can email or fax your Senator for
free by going to
Once there you will also find talking points to help you write your
letter. It is best to write your message in your own words since
congressional staff often ignore "form letters."

Because this issue is so urgent, please forward this FCNL action
message on to family and friends.

Background: The Bush administration has renewed its effort to develop a
"bunker busting" nuclear bomb that would penetrate the ground
before exploding in order to destroy underground targets. This bomb
would be 70 times more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on
Hiroshima. And its explosion would not be contained underground.

The Bush administration is asking for $4 million in the Energy
Department budget to develop this new nuclear bomb, also known as the
"Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator." The administration is also
asking for $4.5 million in the Air Force budget for non-nuclear tests
that would evaluate the bunker buster's ability to penetrate into the
earth before exploding.

While the amount requested is small relative to the overall military
budget, spending any funds on the bunker buster keeps alive a program
that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars once it moves from
research to acquisition. In addition to the cost to the taxpayer, the
program undermines U.S. efforts to convince other countries not to
develop nuclear weapons.

Last year, Congress zeroed out all funding for the nuclear bunker
buster. We need your help again to make sure your victory is not


Stop New Nuclear Weapons! Find out how,

The Next Step for Iraq: Join FCNL's Iraq Campaign,

Contact Congress and the Administration:

Order FCNL publications and "War is Not the Answer" campaign
bumper stickers and yard

Contribute to FCNL:

Subscribe or update your information to this list: To unsubscribe
from this list, please see the end of this message.

Subscribe to other FCNL legislative, policy, and action alert lists:


Friends Committee on National Legislation
245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795 *
phone: (202)547-6000 * toll-free: (800)630-1330

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored.
If you no longer wish to receive mail from us, please visit

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fw: Asbestos Lawsuits: Which Republican is Misleading?

----- Original Message -----
From: "" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 5:27 PM
Subject: Asbestos Lawsuits: Which Republican is Misleading?

Asbestos Lawsuits: Which Republican is Misleading?

Sen. Specter attacks former House Republican Leader Armey as "just another
paid lobbyist spreading disinformation" about his asbestos bill. Neither is
telling the real story.


In ads run in several states, former House Republican Leader Dick Armey
attacks a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and others
to reform the mess created by asbestos litigation.

Armey calls the bill "a new threat to your pocketbook," which it isn't. And
he suggests that the bill is a giveaway to trial lawyers, when the opposite
is true.

Specter counter-attacked with a New York Times opinion piece suggesting that
he wasn't proposing a new tax, though in fact he is.

Specter was closer to the mark when he called Armey "just another paid
lobbyist spreading disinformation." Armey's lobbying firm received $920,000
last year from a British insurance company that was opposing parts of
Specter's bill. In the ads, Armey was speaking as the president of a
nonprofit advocacy group, FreedomWorks, formed last year in a merger between
the Republican-leaning, free-enterprise groups Citizens for a Sound Economy
and Empower America.

Click the link below for the full article:

If the link does not work, copy and paste this link into your browser and
hit "ENTER":

If you wish to un-subscribe, please copy and paste the following link into
your browser and hit "RETURN":

Outrage and Silence

A Call To Action

May 18, 2005
Outrage and Silence
It is hard not to notice two contrasting stories that have run side by side during the past week. One is the story about the violent protests in the Muslim world triggered by a report in Newsweek (which the magazine has now retracted) that U.S. interrogators at Guantánamo Bay desecrated a Koran by throwing it into a toilet. In Afghanistan alone, at least 16 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in anti-American rioting that has been linked to that report. I certainly hope that Newsweek story is incorrect, because it would be outrageous if U.S. interrogators behaved that way.

That said, though, in the same newspapers one can read the latest reports from Iraq, where Baathist and jihadist suicide bombers have killed 400 Iraqi Muslims in the past month - most of them Shiite and Kurdish civilians shopping in markets, walking in funerals, going to mosques or volunteering to join the police.

Yet these mass murders - this desecration and dismemberment of real Muslims by other Muslims - have not prompted a single protest march anywhere in the Muslim world. And I have not read of a single fatwa issued by any Muslim cleric outside Iraq condemning these indiscriminate mass murders of Iraqi Shiites and Kurds by these jihadist suicide bombers, many of whom, according to a Washington Post report, are coming from Saudi Arabia.

The Muslim world's silence about the real desecration of Iraqis, coupled with its outrage over the alleged desecration of a Koran, highlights what we are up against in trying to stabilize Iraq - as well as the only workable strategy going forward.

The challenge we face in Iraq is so steep precisely because the power shift the U.S. and its allies are trying to engineer there is so profound - in both religious and political terms.

Religiously, if you want to know how the Sunni Arab world views a Shiite's being elected leader of Iraq, for the first time ever, think about how whites in Alabama would have felt about a black governor's being installed there in 1920. Some Sunnis do not think Shiites are authentic Muslims, and are indifferent to their brutalization.

At the same time, politically speaking, some Arab regimes prefer to see the pot boiling in Iraq so the democratization process can never spread to their countries. That's why their official newspapers rarely describe the murders of civilians in Iraq as a massacre or acts of terror. Such crimes are usually sanitized as "resistance" to occupation.

Salama Na'mat, the Washington bureau chief for the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat, wrote the other day: "What is the responsibility of the [Arab] regimes and the official and semiofficial media in the countries bordering Iraq in legitimizing the operations that murder Iraqis? ... Isn't their goal to thwart [the emergence of] the newborn democracy in Iraq so that it won't spread in the region?" (Translation by Memri.)

In identifying the problem, though, Mr. Na'mat also identifies the solution. If you want to stop a wave of suicide bombings, the likes of which we are seeing in Iraq, it takes a village. I am a big believer that the greatest restraint on human behavior is not laws and police, but culture and religious authority. It is what the community, what the village, deems shameful. That is what restrains people. So how do we get the Sunni Arab village to delegitimize suicide bombers?

Inside Iraq, obviously, credible Sunnis have to be brought into the political process and constitution-drafting, as long as they do not have blood on their hands from Saddam's days. And outside Iraq, the Bush team needs to be forcefully demanding that Saudi Arabia and other key Arab allies use their media, government and religious systems to denounce and delegitimize the despicable murder of Muslims by Muslims in Iraq.

If the Arab world, its media and its spiritual leaders, came out and forcefully and repeatedly condemned those who mount these suicide attacks, and if credible Sunnis were given their fair share in the Iraqi government, I am certain a lot of this suicide bombing would stop, as happened with the Palestinians. Iraqi Sunnis would pass on the intelligence needed to prevent these attacks, and they would deny the suicide bombers the safe houses they need to succeed.

That is the only way it stops, because we don't know who is who. It takes the village - and right now the Sunni Arab village needs to be pressured and induced to restrain those among them who are engaging in these suicidal murders of innocents.

The best way to honor the Koran is to live by the values of mercy and compassion that it propagates.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Fw: STEP Forward for Iraq Peace With Your Meeting, Church, or Organization

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <>
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2005 3:54 PM
Subject: FCNL: STEP Forward for Iraq Peace With Your Meeting, Church, or

Your congregation or organization can adopt the Iraq Sustainable
Transition to Enduring Peace resolution to model the behavior that you
want from your member of Congress.

Members of Congress from both major political parties are beginning to
question the rising costs of the war in Iraq, both in terms of lives
lost and money spent. But these concerns did not stop the Senate this
week from unanimously approving an $82 billion supplemental funding for
the continuing U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq.

Your senators fear that voting against new funding for war will cost
them votes next election. Yet, privately, a growing core of members of
Congress from both parties tell FCNL lobbyists that Congress could take
an important step to reduce the violence in Iraq by making a clear
declaration that the United States does intend to leave Iraq. Members
of Congress need political support back home to turn this private
concern into public action.

Your local church, temple, synagogue, mosque, meeting, or local
organization can help build momentum for a congressional resolution
declaring, "It is the policy of the United States to withdraw all
U.S. military troops and bases from Iraq." Let's lock in the
President's stated - but not yet believable - policy that the U.S.
military will leave Iraq. We can argue about benchmarks, conditions,
and exit strategies latter. For now, let's create legislation for the
proposition that, although the U.S. must not abandon Iraq, U.S.
military forces and bases must be withdrawn.

Act Now

Download the Iraq STEP resolution from the FCNL web site at or read the text
at the bottom of this email message. Take a copy of this resolution to
the next gathering of your church, temple, synagogue, temple, or local
organization with a request it adopt a formal minute, resolution, or
otherwise offer public support for this policy. Learn more about the
campaign and lead a discussion in your local community.

If your congregation or local organization does adopt the Iraq STEP
resolution, please send a copy to your elected representative and
senators in Washington, your major local media, and FCNL. Thank you!

Read more about the Iraq STEP resolution campaign:

Read the latest breakdown of the rising costs in lives lost and money
spent compiled by FCNL's Senior Fellow on Military Affairs Col. Dan
Smith (USA, Ret.)
(*PDF--requires Adobe Acrobat reader)

Lobby Alert: Your representative and two senators will be back in your
state for the Memorial Day recess between Friday, May 27 and Monday,
June 6. This is an ideal time to arrange a meeting with your elected
representative. Find tips on how to set up a meeting here:


Text of the Iraq STEP Resolution for meetings, churches, temples,
synagogues, meetings, or local organizations

Iraq STEP Resolution

Sensible Transition to an Enduring Peace

Whereas President George W. Bush stated on April 13, 2004 that "as
a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite
occupation and neither does America" and that the U.S. will remain
in Iraq "as long as necessary and not one day more";

Whereas Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld assured the Senate Armed
Services Committee on February 17, 2005, that "we have no
intention, at the present time, of putting permanent bases in

Whereas the Wall Street Journal reported in February 2005 that 60% of
the people in the United States think that the Bush administration
should set a public or private timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops
from Iraq;

Whereas former Secretary of State James Baker, former Pentagon official
Anthony Cordesman, the International Crisis Group, and other respected
leaders and analysts have said that it is critical that the U.S.
government declare now its intention to fully withdraw from Iraq;

Whereas political parties opposed to the ongoing U.S. military presence
won the overwhelming majority of votes in Iraq's January 2005 election
and a clear majority of voters interviewed in exit polls cited their
desire to see an end to the military occupation as a major impetus for

Whereas the perception that the U.S. intends to permanently occupy Iraq
aids insurgent groups in recruiting supporters and fuels violent

Whereas many insurgent groups have expressed a willingness to engage in
political dialogue if the U.S. clearly states its intention to withdraw
from Iraq;

Whereas we can best honor the lives and memories of all who have died
in Iraq by expediting the end of the war, bringing U.S. troops home as
quickly as possible, and supporting the Iraqi people in rebuilding
their country;

Whereas a clear statement of intent to fully withdraw U.S. troops and
bases does not imply the setting of a particular deadline, time frame,
or exit strategy;

Whereas such a statement would send a strong signal to the people of
Iraq and the international community that the United States does not
have imperial intentions in Iraq and affirms that the Iraqi people will
regain through their elected representatives the full exercise of
national sovereignty, including control over security and public

Therefore, be it resolved that this congregation/meeting/organization
holds in our prayers the people of Iraq, the U.S. troops and
international troops and humanitarian workers in Iraq, the leaders of
Iraq and the United States, and all others affected by this war;

Be it also resolved that this congregation/meeting/organization calls
on the United States Congress to adopt a sense of the Congress
resolution declaring: "It is the policy of the United States to
withdraw all U.S. military troops and bases from Iraq";

Be it also resolved that this congregation/meeting/organization will
present a copy of this resolution to the members of Congress who
represent the district in which the congregation is based;

And be it also resolved that this congregation/meeting/organization
will send a copy of this resolution to the local media.


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phone: (202)547-6000 * toll-free: (800)630-1330

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We seek an earth restored.
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Indignation Grows in U.S. Over British Prewar Documents

A Call To Action

Critics of Bush call them proof that he and Blair never saw diplomacy as an option with Hussein.
By John Daniszewski
Times Staff Writer

May 12, 2005

LONDON — Reports in the British press this month based on documents indicating that President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair had conditionally agreed by July 2002 to invade Iraq appear to have blown over quickly in Britain.

But in the United States, where the reports at first received scant attention, there has been growing indignation among critics of the Bush White House, who say the documents help prove that the leaders made a secret decision to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein nearly a year before launching their attack, shaped intelligence to that aim and never seriously intended to avert the war through diplomacy.

The documents, obtained by Michael Smith, a defense specialist writing for the Sunday Times of London, include a memo of the minutes of a meeting July 23, 2002, between Blair and his intelligence and military chiefs; a briefing paper for that meeting and a Foreign Office legal opinion prepared before an April 2002 summit between Blair and Bush in Texas.

The picture that emerges from the documents is of a British government convinced of the U.S. desire to go to war and Blair's agreement to it, subject to several specific conditions.

Since Smith's report was published May 1, Blair's Downing Street office has not disputed the documents' authenticity. Asked about them Wednesday, a Blair spokesman said the report added nothing significant to the much-investigated record of the lead-up to the war.

"At the end of the day, nobody pushed the diplomatic route harder than the British government…. So the circumstances of this July discussion very quickly became out of date," said the spokesman, who asked not to be identified.

The leaked minutes sum up the July 23 meeting, at which Blair, top security advisors and his attorney general discussed Britain's role in Washington's plan to oust Hussein. The minutes, written by Matthew Rycroft, a foreign policy aide, indicate general thoughts among the participants about how to create a political and legal basis for war. The case for military action at the time was "thin," Foreign Minister Jack Straw was characterized as saying, and Hussein's government posed little threat.

Labeled "secret and strictly personal — U.K. eyes only," the minutes begin with the head of the British intelligence service, MI6, who is identified as "C," saying he had returned from Washington, where there had been a "perceptible shift in attitude. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy."

Straw agreed that Bush seemed determined to act militarily, although the timing was not certain.

"But the case was thin," the minutes say. "Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capacity was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Straw then proposed to "work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam" to permit United Nations weapons inspectors back into Iraq. "This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force," he said, according to the minutes.

Blair said, according to the memo, "that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the U.N. inspectors."

"If the political context were right, people would support regime change," Blair said. "The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work."

In addition to the minutes, the Sunday Times report referred to a Cabinet briefing paper that was given to participants before the July 23 meeting. It stated that Blair had already promised Bush cooperation earlier, at the April summit in Texas.

"The U.K. would support military action to bring about regime change," the Sunday Times quoted the briefing as saying.

Excerpts from the paper, which Smith provided to the Los Angeles Times, said Blair had listed conditions for war, including that "efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine crisis was quiescent," and options to "eliminate Iraq's WMD through the U.N. weapons inspectors" had been exhausted.

The briefing paper said the British government should get the U.S. to put its military plans in a "political framework."

"This is particularly important for the U.K. because it is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action," it says.

In a letter to Bush last week, 89 House Democrats expressed shock over the documents. They asked if the papers were authentic and, if so, whether they proved that the White House had agreed to invade Iraq months before seeking Congress' OK.

"If the disclosure is accurate, it raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of our own administration," the letter says.

"While the president of the United States was telling the citizens and the Congress that they had no intention to start a war with Iraq, they were working very close with Tony Blair and the British leadership at making this a foregone conclusion," the letter's chief author, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, said Wednesday.

If the documents are real, he said, it is "a huge problem" in terms of an abuse of power. He said the White House had not yet responded to the letter.

Both Blair and Bush have denied that a decision on war was made in early 2002. The White House and Downing Street maintain that they were preparing for military operations as an option, but that the option to not attack also remained open until the war began March 20, 2003.

In January 2002, Bush described Iraq as a member of an "axis of evil," but the sustained White House push for Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions did not come until September of that year. That month, Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly to outline a case against Hussein's government, and he sought a bipartisan congressional resolution authorizing the possible use of force.

In November 2002, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution demanding that Iraq readmit weapons inspectors.

An effort to pass a second resolution expressly authorizing the use of force against Iraq did not succeed.


Times staff writer Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at
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Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times | Privacy

A Call To Action

A Call To Action

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Fw: Honor the Promises to American Indians

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <>
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 5:20 PM
Subject: FCNL: Honor the Promises to American Indians

This month Native American and congressional leaders are meeting to
address the most serious issue in Indian Country in the 21st century:
how to hold the federal government accountable for Indian trust funds
flagrantly mismanaged by the Department of Interior.

The federal government's egregious conduct in mismanaging these funds
is of such momentous moral, legal, and financial importance that native
people have written "An Open Letter to the American People"
requesting help:

Long Standing Indian Trust Abuses by Interior

Over the past 100 years, according to accounts from whistle blowers,
money belonging to individual Indians and tribes was pilfered, skimmed,
redirected, or thrown in with general government funds by the U.S.
Department of the Interior or its appointed representatives. Yet, the
Interior Department has not identified or repaid any known thefts and
losses of trust resources, proceeds, or royalties. After struggling for
decades to receive a hearing, American Indian families went to federal
court to plead their case.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a class-action suit in favor
of half a million Native Americans whose funds have been handled
ineptly and unethically. The court stated, "The underlying lawsuit
is both an Indian case and a trust case in which the trustees have
egregiously breached their fiduciary duties." Yet, the U.S.
government has continued to appeal these court rulings and tried to
avoid responsibility. Now the Congress may intervene to help address
the issue.

Native people know this is an historic moment when finally the federal
government may be obliged to correct a hard-hearted and flawed system
and pay redress for a century of negligence. They are keenly aware that
this is a one-time opportunity to receive financial justice and to
reform a totally broken trust management system. They also know
Congress and the White House could support or undercut this


What is all of this about? Parade magazine (September 9, 2001) put it
this way, "When the U.S. government took control of Native
Americans' property rights in 1887, the Indians were assured they
would receive the income from their land. They never did-and now
they're fighting for it." Indians have received checks from the
Bureau of Indian Affairs but they are irregular and smaller than they
should be in far too many instances. A Los Angeles Times Magazine (July
7, 2002) story gives the example of Josephine Wild Gun who receives
less than $1,000 a year even though 7,000 acres of family land were
leased out for grazing, oil, minerals and timber.

The federal government has collected $13 billion in land-use money that
belongs to Indian land owners but cannot show how much money it paid
out. It threw out, lost, or never kept records. Withholding money from
Indian families--or "losing" their money-- is part of a
shameful pattern.

Why should we care?

Although successive administrations have denied the facts affirmed by
the courts, the federal government owes a huge amount of money to
Native Americans-- money that was in earmarked trust funds, money that
was theirs. This is not only wrong but is a troubling precedent that
should gravely concern the public.

All trust funds, including Social Security, depend on a system of
honesty, integrity, and accountability. This is essential to
maintaining the public trust. In the private sector, trustees are
jailed, fined, and otherwise punished for taking or not returning other
people's money. This is true for bankers, lawyers, accountants, and
individuals who manage accounts for the disabled or elderly. The Bush
administration stresses that good government involves transparency,
effectiveness, and accountability in government. The government must
practice what it preaches.

The native plaintiffs in this court case (Cobell v. Norton) are quite
close to getting redress in the court, but will Congress do the right
thing? . The plaintiffs need our support. With our advocacy help,
American Indian families can get back their own money, money that could
bring thousands of families out of stark poverty. You can help.

1. Ask your senators and representatives to find out more about this
issue. You can write them a letter on FCNL's web site:

2. Sign up to receive the FCNL Native American Legislative updates by
email twice a month. Go to and check the box
to sign up for the Native American Legislative Update.

3. Support FCNL's Native American Program work:

Additional Information

An Open Letter to the American People, by Eloise Cobell:

Trust Fund Responsibilities Unmet: The Story of the Cobell v. Norton

Cobell: Native Americans Trying to Recover Funds:


Stop New Nuclear Weapons! Find out how,
The Next Step for Iraq: Join FCNL's Iraq Campaign,

Contact Congress and the Administration:

Order FCNL publications and "War is Not the Answer" campaign
bumper stickers and yard signs:

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Friends Committee on National Legislation
245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795 *
phone: (202)547-6000 * toll-free: (800)630-1330

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored.
If you no longer wish to receive mail from us, please visit

Monday, May 09, 2005

Remember That Fraudulent Election We Had?

A Call To Action
Maybe it's time to make some noise -- at least in Chicago.

logged by Brad on 5/4/2005 @ 11:52pm PT...

Tribune Syndicate Spikes Robert Koehler's Latest Column!
Mainstream Journo Penning Election Reform Column Has Article Rejected
for First Time in Career!

What began innocently enough with a watershed article several weeks ago
by Tribune Media Service's Robert Koehler on the need for Election
Reform and an investigation into the results of Election 2004, has now
erupted into a full-fledged firestorm resulting Wednesday afternoon in
the unprecedented rejection of Koehler's latest column by the
higher-ups at TMS where Koehler is both a columnist and editor!

Tribune Media Services is the syndication arm of the Tribune Company
which, in turn, is the parent company to the Chicago Tribune.

Koehler's original ground-breaking column from April -- the first by an
American Mainstream Media journalist that we know of to out-and-out
charge that the 2004 Election was stolen -- was written a few days
after Koehler attended the National Election Reform Conference last
month in Nashville. The piece was headlined "The Silent Scream of
Numbers: The 2004 election was stolen — will someone please tell the

He followed it up the next week with another stunner headlined
"Democracy's Abu Ghraib — If they can disable an election, what's
coming next?"

While both pieces were distributed via TMS to syndicate member
newspapers, only a handful chose to run either of those two columns.

Most notably, however, despite Chicago Tribune itself having chosen to
run neither column, their "Public Editor", Don Wycliffe, found it
appropriate to write a column in theTrib's pages wherein he rebutted
Koehler's original piece. Wycliff's rebuttal, as reported here
previously, attempted to discredit Koehler's column, Koehler himself,
and those of us who might give a damn about democracy and the
responsibility that the people (and yes, that would include the media)
have to remain vigilant in order to sustain it.

Wycliff's column, citing the "moral example" of Richard Nixon (yes, not
kidding) as the figure whom Americans ought to follow in regards to
potentially stolen elections, has erupted in a torrent of email
directed towards the misguided and/or misinformed Wycliff and in
support of Koehler.

Koehler once again hits a home-run with this week's column in response
to Wycliff's. Or at least he would have had the Masters of Tribune
Media Services not killed the article for the first time in Koehler's

As Koehler explained to The BRAD BLOG this evening, not only is this
the first time that he's had a column spiked by the higher-ups at TMS,
it's the first time they've even bothered to have one of his columns
"shown around" to determine it's appropriateness before it went out!

Koehler took pains to point out that his managing editor, Mary Elson,
has been extremely supportive of his work on both his latest and past
columns and was, in fact, the one who gave him the okay to attend the
conference in Nashville in the first place. It was that conference
which apparently opened his eyes to the crime against democracy which
seems to have occured last November. Actually examining the evidence
will do that to a fellow.

The unprecedented decision to spike his piece, it seems, came not from
Elson, but from higher up on the TMS food chain late this afternoon,
just hours before deadline.

After he was told the piece would not be syndicated, Koehler quickly
cobbled together a replacement column with quotes drawn from the
mountain of Email he has received since this entire affair began.

The spiked column, headlined "Citizens in the Rain — Maybe we can't
have election reform without media reform", which will not apparently
be distributed at all via Tribune Media Services (Hey, Mr. Wycliff!
Sounds like you may have another great opportunity to write a
rebuttal!) is now available only via Koehler's personal website

The higher-ups who spiked the column claimed that Koehler's response to
Wycliff was somehow too "personal". Though having read it -- and having
read Wycliff's direct response to Koehler's original column -- we find
that pill a bit hard to swallow.

In an email earlier today in which he shared an advance of his
now-spiked column, Koehler generously writes:

Note on the strange fate of this column: It won't be going out as my
regular syndicated column this week, because it was thought to be too
much of a personal response to Don Wycliff and therefore not
sufficiently national in scope; I will post the column on my website,
however ( While at first I thought this
might be censorship, that doesn't seem to be the case. I was told to
keep writing on the issue of election reform and vote fraud, and in
fact I will pull another column together this week based on reader mail
on this issue, sort of an "editor's mailbag," so maybe that will be OK.
At least people's voices on this issue will find expression through my
column. -- Bob

As to the piece so "personal" and "not sufficiently national in scope"
that it dare not show itself via Tribune Media Services (remember, his
columns are sent out to member papers who may choose or not to run
them), it is again another important piece of work.

We hope you'll read the entire column on Koehler's website once it's
generally available since it makes several important points. (It's now
available here.)

Here's just one or two that are spot on and a notable rebuttal to those
who claim (as Wycliff did in his piece and in many of the subsequent
emails he's been sending in response to angry emailers) that because
Kerry conceded, neither Journalists nor Americans in general should
care about who may have actually won the 2004 Presidential Election. On
that point, Koehler writes:

Isn't our democracy at stake? Doesn't that matter?

"If John Kerry and the Ohio Democratic Party and all the other folks
who had the most to gain from the election were making this challenge,
I would get interested. But when the people with the most at stake
don't step up, I'm suspicious."

So Don Wycliff, the Chicago Tribune's public editor, wrote to me in an
e-mail exchange a few days ago, explaining why he, if not the Tribune
itself, had no intention of investigating the issue with any
Of all my objections to what he wrote, his contention that Kerry has
the most at stake in all this is the most dispiriting, and most
reflects the wrongheaded, "horse race" coverage of elections the media
have shoved down our throats for as long as I can remember.

In his column, Wycliff even used a sports analogy, pointing out that
"it's not the pregame prognostication and expert opinions that count,
but the numbers on the scoreboard after the contest has actually been
played." The Bush team won; the Kerry team lost. And the voters must be
the equivalent of sports fans then, either jubilant or disappointed
when the game is over, but couch potatoes either way, not participants.

Anyone else just a little bit offended?

Yes, Bob. We are. More than a little bit. But we're used to it. Welcome
to our 21st Century American Nightmare.

Koehler also goes on to mention...

Nearly a week after Wycliff's column ran, the Tribune has printed only
one letter in response to it -- and this letter was about Nixon. It
didn't have a word to say about the 2004 election. So much for my naïve
optimism that an actual debate would ensue on the pages of the Trib.

Those of us who've been at this game a bit longer than Koehler are
likely not as surprised as he is, what with a fair amount of our naïve
optimism having been burned away months ago.

In any case, the naïve optimism still burns eternal enough that we hope
the Chicago Tribune might find it somewhere within themselves to become
the advocates for the people they are supposed to be, and run -- at the
very least -- the original Koehler column which Wycliff rebutted and
now the one that TMS has spiked in response to Wycliff's piece that
they did choose to run. We do still have enough naïve optimism left to
believe that 6 or 7 of you out there might send email encouraging them
to do so (see bottom of this item for Contact information).

At the end of Koehler's piece comes the heart breaking finale, and
perhaps an appropriate epitaph for democracy as Koehler's common
wonders lead him to question if we will ever see the media in this
country ever give a damn again:

How do we make them care? How do we make them look for themselves? How
do we make them stand outside with us in the rain, waiting to cast our
ballot for democracy?

We don't know. But we will keep at it and trust that Koehler will as
well. He has told us that he plans on it.

To that end, Koehler appeared on the premiere episode of our radio show
several weeks ago (the MP3 archive of that interview is here) and he
has also agreed to appear this Saturday Night again on The BRAD SHOW to
update us on all of the latest hullaballoo.

We have invited Wycliff to give his side of the story on air as well --
either with or without Koehler. We are still awaiting Wycliff's reply.


Tribune Media Services Contact Page
Robert Koehler, Editor/Columnist/American Hero

Chicago Tribune Contact Page
Ann Marie Lipinski, Editor
R. Bruce Dold, Editorial Page Editor
James O'Shea, Managing Editor
N. Don Wycliff, Public Editor

The Final Insult

A Call To Action
The New York Times
May 9, 2005
The Final Insult

Hell hath no fury like a scammer foiled. The card shark caught marking the deck, the auto dealer caught resetting a used car's odometer, is rarely contrite. On the contrary, they're usually angry, and they lash out at their intended marks, crying hypocrisy.

And so it is with those who would privatize Social Security. They didn't get away with scare tactics, or claims to offer something for nothing. Now they're accusing their opponents of coddling the rich and not caring about the poor.

Well, why not? It's no more outrageous than other arguments they've tried. Remember the claim that Social Security is bad for black people?

Before I take on this final insult to our intelligence, let me deal with a fundamental misconception: the idea that President Bush's plan would somehow protect future Social Security benefits.

If the plan really would do that, it would be worth discussing. It's possible - not certain, but possible - that 40 or 50 years from now Social Security won't have enough money coming in to pay full benefits. (If the economy grows as fast over the next 50 years as it did over the past half-century, Social Security will do just fine.) So there's a case for making small sacrifices now to avoid bigger sacrifices later.

But Mr. Bush isn't calling for small sacrifices now. Instead, he's calling for zero sacrifice now, but big benefit cuts decades from now - which is exactly what he says will happen if we do nothing. Let me repeat that: to avert the danger of future cuts in benefits, Mr. Bush wants us to commit now to, um, future cuts in benefits.

This accomplishes nothing, except, possibly, to ensure that benefit cuts take place even if they aren't necessary.

Now, about the image of Mr. Bush as friend to the poor: keep your eye on the changing definitions of "middle income" and "wealthy."

In last fall's debates, Mr. Bush asserted that "most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans." Since most of the cuts went to the top 10 percent of the population and more than a third went to people making more than $200,000 a year, Mr. Bush's definition of middle income apparently reaches pretty high.

But defenders of Mr. Bush's Social Security plan now portray benefit cuts for anyone making more than $20,000 a year, cuts that will have their biggest percentage impact on the retirement income of people making about $60,000 a year, as cuts for the wealthy.

These are people who denounced you as a class warrior if you wanted to tax Paris Hilton's inheritance. Now they say that they're brave populists, because they want to cut the income of retired office managers.

Let's consider the Bush tax cuts and the Bush benefit cuts as a package. Who gains? Who loses?

Suppose you're a full-time Wal-Mart employee, earning $17,000 a year. You probably didn't get any tax cut. But Mr. Bush says, generously, that he won't cut your Social Security benefits.

Suppose you're earning $60,000 a year. On average, Mr. Bush cut taxes for workers like you by about $1,000 per year. But by 2045 the Bush Social Security plan would cut benefits for workers like you by about $6,500 per year. Not a very good deal.

Suppose, finally, that you're making $1 million a year. You received a tax cut worth about $50,000 per year. By 2045 the Bush plan would reduce benefits for people like you by about $9,400 per year. We have a winner!

I'm not being unfair. In fact, I've weighted the scales heavily in Mr. Bush's favor, because the tax cuts will cost much more than the benefit cuts would save. Repealing Mr. Bush's tax cuts would yield enough revenue to call off his proposed benefit cuts, and still leave $8 trillion in change.

The point is that the privatizers consider four years of policies that relentlessly favored the wealthy a fait accompli, not subject to reconsideration. Now that tax cuts have busted the budget, they want us to accept large cuts in Social Security benefits as inevitable. But they demand that we praise Mr. Bush's sense of social justice, because he proposes bigger benefit cuts for the middle class than for the poor.

Sorry, but no. Mr. Bush likes to play dress-up, but his Robin Hood costume just doesn't fit.


* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Row of Loosely Guarded Targets Lies Just Outside New York City

A Call To Action
The New York Times
May 9, 2005
Row of Loosely Guarded Targets Lies Just Outside New York City

KEARNY, N.J., May 7 - It is the deadliest target in a swath of industrial northern New Jersey that terrorism experts call the most dangerous two miles in America: a chemical plant that processes chlorine gas, so close to Manhattan that the Empire State Building seems to rise up behind its storage tanks.

According to federal Environmental Protection Agency records, the plant poses a potentially lethal threat to 12 million people who live within a 14-mile radius.

Yet on a recent Friday afternoon, it remained loosely guarded and accessible. Dozens of trucks and cars drove by within 100 feet of the tanks. A reporter and photographer drove back and forth for five minutes, snapping photos with a camera the size of a large sidearm, then left without being approached.

That chemical plant is just one of dozens of vulnerable sites between Newark Liberty International Airport and Port Elizabeth, which extends two miles to the east. A Congressional study in 2000 by a former Coast Guard commander deemed it the nation's most enticing environment for terrorists, providing a convenient way to cripple the economy by disrupting major portions of the country's rail lines, oil storage tanks and refineries, pipelines, air traffic, communications networks and highway system.

Since 9/11, those concerns have only been magnified. Law enforcement officials have warned of the need to prepare for an assault on one of the four major chemical plants in the area or an attempt to ship nuclear or biological weapons through its two port complexes.

Trying to safeguard more than 100 potential terrorist targets in two miles surrounded by residential communities, industrial areas and commuter corridors has proved a daunting challenge. Federal, state and local officials have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to install gates, roadblocks and security cameras and to provide additional patrols, surveillance and intelligence operations.

But even those in charge of the effort say the job is incomplete, bogged down by obstacles that are a microcosm of the nation's struggle against potential terrorist threats.

After distributing tens of billions to state and local governments since 9/11, the federal Department of Homeland Security cut New Jersey's financing this year to about $60 million from $99 million last year. Many security experts have complained that the formula - which provides Montana with three times as much money per capita as New Jersey - is guided more by politics than by the likelihood of an attack.

Meanwhile, security at Newark Airport, while more rigorous and time-consuming for passengers, has been marred by embarrassing breakdowns, as screeners have repeatedly failed to prevent federal officials from sneaking weapons and fake bombs onto planes.

The time and expense of screening shipping containers has slowed attempts to tighten security at Port Newark and Port Elizabeth, where customs officials say their radiation screening devices are ineffective and need replacement.

The private companies that own 80 percent of the most dangerous targets have given varying degrees of cooperation, officials said, and the chemical industry has effectively blocked attempts in Washington to mandate stricter regulations.

As a result, many of the most crucial security tasks are left to local police departments, some of which say they are too understaffed and poorly equipped to mount a proper counterterrorism effort.

"They tell us to patrol, do this, do that, but don't give us the money or equipment," said Sgt. Michael Cinardo of the Kearny Police Department, one of several law enforcement agencies responsible for patrolling around the chlorine plant.

He said the department requires patrol officers to stop by the plant at least five times each shift.

Security against terrorism is a particularly sensitive issue in New Jersey. More than 700 people killed on 9/11 lived there. And, in October 2001, the first major bioterrorism attack on United States soil was launched from a New Jersey post office when a series of anthrax-laced letters were mailed to members of Congress and the news media. The State Health Department's muddled response came to symbolize the nation's need to prepare itself to face new threats.

Since then, New Jersey officials have spent more than $350 million in state tax money on counterterrorism, building an apparatus that is run by seasoned law enforcement experts and is generally well regarded.

New Jersey's Homeland Security Department, established in 2002, has helped to train, coordinate and increase staffing at local law enforcement and emergency medical agencies; assembled a 1,000-person task force to focus on urban areas; and purchased boats, decontamination suits, radio systems and a computerized intelligence network so federal agents and the New Jersey State Police can share information with all 566 municipalities.

In the most dangerous two miles, they have erected concrete barriers outside hospitals and office buildings and put fences along elevated highways that pass chemical plants. The State Police patrol the skies, highways and coastal waters, and federal officials have used various surveillance techniques. On the New Jersey Turnpike, troopers try to check any vehicle that stops for as little as five minutes.

But given the sheer number of vulnerable sites - three major oil and natural gas pipelines, heavily traveled rail lines and more than a dozen chemical plants - many security experts acknowledge that the response is inadequate.

In the months after 9/11, government officials routinely refused to discuss the most mundane aspects of security, saying that they did not want to offer inside information to potential enemies. Now, said Sidney J. Caspersen, the director of the state's Office of Counterterrorism, there is more risk in remaining silent.

"The terrorists already know what's out here," Mr. Caspersen said. "They have been found with blueprints of our buildings, and a lot of the information is available over the Internet or at a public library. The only question is whether we will find a way to protect these targets before they find a way to attack them."

The answer to that question will depend largely on the ability to operate with limited money and a tangle of bureaucracies.

In several instances, counterterrorism money sent to the state has been used for questionable purposes: the city of Newark spent $300,000 on two air-conditioned garbage trucks, and New Jersey Transit has proposed using $36 million in security money to overhaul the Hoboken Ferry terminal. Even groups like Taxpayers for Common Sense say that places like New Jersey, Houston and Long Beach, Calif., deserve more federal dollars.

As for the ports, the federal Homeland Security Department's inspector general's office recently criticized the agency for directing much of its $517 million in port security money to relatively low-risk sites in places like Kentucky and Tennessee, and not giving enough to busy, vulnerable facilities like Port Newark. Although the Port of New York and New Jersey recently received an additional $42 million for counterterrorism efforts, Port Newark lacks the up-to-date equipment now used to search cargo at ports like Hong Kong.

"We put more resources into securing the average large bank in Manhattan than we do for the entire security of Port Newark," said Stephen Flynn, a former Coast Guard commander who is now a security analyst for the Council on Foreign Relations and who conducted the study that first identified this part of North Jersey as the nation's most terror-prone two miles. "That's just irresponsible."

Some New Jersey officials have hoped that the newly appointed secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, will be sympathetic to the state's situation because he is a native of Elizabeth. But when he visited New Jersey during a terror drill last month, Mr. Chertoff was noncommital about restoring cuts.

"Frankly, it's not a matter of spending a great lot of money," he said. "It's a matter of taking resources we have and having a plan in place so we use them effectively."

New Jersey officials say that the cuts will force them to reduce surveillance of possible targets, cancel training sessions for first responders and counterterrorism experts, and forestall the purchase of equipment to detect chemical, nuclear or biological agents. The state has said it will also have to scale back plans to fortify storage facilities and rail lines near the Pulaski Skyway, an area known as "chemical alley."

Even if New Jersey were to receive more money, however, its counterterrorism effort would still face other difficulties.

At Newark Airport, which handles 32 million passengers a year, the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have spent tens of millions of dollars on high-tech baggage screening equipment, more guards and other security improvements. But Transportation Security Administration employees failed to detect weapons or fake bombs in about a quarter of the 81 tests conducted between last June and September. In December, when a machine detected a simulated explosive, baggage screeners lost track of it and it was loaded onto a flight to Holland.

Meanwhile, even less has been done to secure the nation's greatest vulnerability to terror attacks, its 15,000 chemical plants, 123 of which pose a threat to at least 1 million people, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A spokeswoman for the Chemistry Council, an industry group representing 150 of the nation's largest chemical plants, said its members had already invested $2 billion in improved security and were working with Congress to establish federal safety guidelines.

"We want to work with the Department of Homeland Security and Congress to make these plants safer in a way that works for everyone," Kate McGloon, the spokeswoman, said.

Michelle Petrovich, a Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, said agency officials had visited more than half the nation's 300 most dangerous plants and urged the companies to enhance perimeter security and switch to less hazardous chemicals and processes. As a result, Ms. Petrovich said, she believes North Jersey is "one of the safer areas because it has received the most attention in terms of protective measures."

But Richard A. Falkenrath, a former deputy homeland security adviser to the White House, said that effort has done little to make the public safer. "Saying that you're doing something doesn't mean you're actually making a difference," said Mr. Falkenrath, who recently testified before Congress, urging tighter regulation of the chemical industry.

Since 2001, at least two major efforts to bolster chemical plant security have been stalled, in part by industry lobbyists.

The latest proposal to tighten security at chemical plants, which appears to be gaining support in Congress, would establish safety guidelines. But Senator Jon S. Corzine said that it is only a half measure because it would not mandate that plants in densely populated areas stop using highly dangerous chemicals like chlorine gas and switch to more benign alternatives, like sodium hypochlorite. The plants use such chemicals to make antiseptics for water purification plants.

For those who live in the shadow of these plants, there is little expectation that the federal government will mount a more vigorous security response.

Carolyn M. Chapluske of Kearny, who has lived in North Jersey all her life, said, "People pay taxes and deserve to be protected. But they probably won't. It's just the way things work."

Friday, May 06, 2005

Fw: Are Democrats Causing Delays in Court?

----- Original Message -----
From: "" <>
To: <>
Sent: Friday, May 06, 2005 12:27 PM
Subject: Are Democrats Causing Delays in Court?

Are Democrats Causing Delays in Court?

Contrary to a pro-Bush TV ad, Republicans share the blame for "empty
courtrooms," and delays are shorter now than they were before Bush.


A multimillion-dollar ad campaign blames Democrats for the fact that
"courtrooms sit empty." In fact, there are now half as many judicial
vacancies as when Bush took office. And of the 46 federal judgeships that
remain vacant, Bush has named only 16 replacements.

The ad also says cases are being delayed in federal courts for "thousands of
Americans." Actually, official statistics show cases typically being decided
more quickly now than they were in 1999, when it was Republicans opposing
Clinton's judicial nominees.

Click the link below for the full article:

If the link does not work, copy and paste this link into your browser and
hit "ENTER":

If you wish to un-subscribe, please copy and paste the following link into
your browser and hit "RETURN":

A Serious Drug Problem

A Call To Action
The New York Times
May 6, 2005


There was a brief flurry of outrage when Congress passed the 2003 Medicare bill. The news media reported on the scandalous vote in the House of Representatives: Republican leaders violated parliamentary procedure, twisted arms and perhaps engaged in bribery to persuade skeptical lawmakers to change their votes in a session literally held in the dead of night.

Later, the media reported on another scandal: it turned out that the administration had deceived Congress about the bill's likely cost.

But the real scandal is what's in the legislation. It's an object lesson in how special interests hold America's health care system hostage.

The new Medicare law subsidizes private health plans, which have repeatedly failed to deliver promised cost savings. It creates an unnecessary layer of middlemen by requiring that the drug benefit be administered by private insurers. The biggest giveaway is to Big Pharma: the law specifically prohibits Medicare from using its purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices.

Outside the United States, almost every government bargains over drug prices. And it works: the Congressional Budget Office says that foreign drug prices are 35 to 55 percent below U.S. levels. Even within the United States, Veterans Affairs is able to negotiate discounts of 50 percent or more, far larger than those the Medicare actuary expects the elderly to receive under the new plan.

After the drug bill's passage, Jacob Hacker and Theodore Marmor of Yale University estimated that a sensible bill could have delivered twice as much coverage for the same price.

Needless to say, apologists for the law insist that the prohibition on price negotiations had nothing to do with catering to special interests - that it was a matter of principle, of preserving incentives to innovate. How can we refute this defense?

One way is to challenge claims that the pharmaceutical industry needs high prices to innovate. In her book "The Truth About the Drug Companies," Marcia Angell, the former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, shows convincingly that drug companies spend far more on marketing than they do on research - and that much of the marketing is designed to sell "me, too" drugs, which are no better than the cheaper drugs they replace. It should be possible to pay less for medicine, yet encourage more real innovation.

Another answer is to point to the haste with which key players in the drug bill's passage cashed in - making the claims that they wrote a pharma-friendly Medicare bill out of genuine concern for the public's welfare look ludicrous.

Let's look at just two examples.

Billy Tauzin, who shepherded the drug bill through when he was a member of Congress, now heads the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the all-powerful industry lobby group, for an estimated $2 million a year. In his new job, he's making novel arguments against allowing Americans to buy cheaper drugs from Canada: Al Qaeda, he suggests, might use fake Viagra tablets to get anthrax into this country.

Meanwhile, Thomas Scully, the former Medicare administrator - who threatened to fire Medicare's chief actuary if he gave Congress the real numbers on the drug bill's cost - was granted a special waiver from the ethics rules. This allowed him to negotiate for a future health industry lobbying job at the very same time he was pushing the drug bill.

If all this sounds like a story of a corrupt deal created by a corrupt system, it is. And it was a very expensive deal indeed. According to the Medicare trustees, the fiscal gap over the next 75 years created by the 2003 law - not the financing gap for Medicare as a whole, just the additional gap created by legislation passed 18 months ago - will be $8.7 trillion.

That's about three times the amount President Bush proposes to save by cutting middle-class Social Security benefits.

In fact, I have a suggestion for Mr. Bush. One way to prove that he's really sincere about addressing long-run fiscal problems, that his calls for benefit cuts aren't just part of an ideological agenda, would be to put Social Security aside for a while and fix his own Medicare program. Oh, never mind.

Nonetheless, someone will eventually have to take on the health care special interests. Who might do that? I'll write about that in the next installment of this series.


* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Fw: Write a Letter to the Editor Opposing Bunker Buster Nukes

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <>
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2005 4:21 PM
Subject: FCNL: Write a Letter to the Editor Opposing Bunker Buster Nukes

The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) meeting in New York this
month will be receiving lots of press coverage. This is an ideal
opportunity to write a letter to the editor of your local paper warning
that congressional approval of funds to develop a new generation of
"bunker buster" nuclear weapons would seriously undermine
global non-proliferation efforts.

Developing new nuclear weapons contradicts the U.S. obligation to
prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It undermines the
Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has significantly limited the number of
countries which have nuclear weapons.


Write a letter to the editor of your local newspapers. Refer to their
coverage of the Non-Proliferation Treaty meeting in New York. Urge them
to publish more articles on the Bush administration proposals to
develop bunker buster weapons. Explain that 189 countries - including
the U.S. - have committed through the NPT to work toward the goal of
nuclear disarmament. But now the Bush administration is proposing a
step in the wrong direction - toward developing new nuclear weapons.

See a list of your local newspapers and a sample letter to the editor:

Read talking points about writing a letter to the editor:


President Bush's budget request for 2006 includes $4 million for the
first stages of developing a "bunker-busting" nuclear bomb.
This weapon would penetrate the ground before exploding in order to
destroy underground targets. Grassroots pressure from you and thousands
of others around the country last year forced Congress to eliminate
funding for this program. Now President Bush is trying to revive the

While the amount requested for the bunker buster weapon is small
relative to the overall military budget, the significance of asking for
funds for new, more "usable," nuclear weapons goes far beyond
budgetary issues. It is important in how the world perceives the United
States' stance towards nuclear weapons. At the same time that the
administration is criticizing other countries for pursuing nuclear
weapons technology, it is seeking to upgrade its own weapons arsenal.

Furthermore, the nuclear bunker buster is not just another nuclear
weapon. It would have a destructive force 70 times greater than the
bomb that fell on Hiroshima. While burrowing underground before
exploding, the bunker buster still would cause tens of thousands to
millions of deaths from the fallout.

The Bush administration asserts that the nuclear bunker buster is
necessary because it would allow the United States to destroy
underground bunkers that are used for nuclear, chemical, or biological
weapons. Yet the administration also claims that developing such a
weapon does not lower the threshold for nuclear use.

These two claims cannot both be true. In order for the United States to
deter countries from developing nuclear, chemical, or biological
weapons, such countries must believe that the United States would
actually use its nuclear bunker busters. But if the U.S. were to use
them, the nuclear threshold would be lowered, thereby increasing the
chance of a nuclear war.

Furthermore, if potential adversaries believe that the United States
would use a nuclear bunker buster against a non-nuclear country, it
legitimates the view that "nuclear might makes right." It
suggests that the only way for countries to defend themselves is by
developing their own nuclear weapons. If the U.S., the most powerful
military in history, needs nuclear weapons to protect itself, every
other country will believe it needs them as well.

Bunker Buster Weapons and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

By signing the NPT, the United States agreed "to pursue
negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to...nuclear
disarmament" (Article VI). The administration claims that this
language is vague and permits the United States to develop new nuclear
weapons. However, the rest of the world is watching to see whether the
NPT is in fact a fair deal between nuclear-weapons-possessing countries
and non-nuclear countries. They are likely to see this interpretation
as the United States dropping its end of the bargain.
Furthermore, the U.S. and Russia still have thousands of nuclear
weapons pointed at one another on hair-trigger alert. President Bush
will be meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in July in Scotland.
Taking these nuclear weapons off of hair trigger alert and eventually
eliminating them would be an important step toward achieving the goals
NPT and should be on their agenda.

Lobby Alert: Your representative and two senators will be back in your
state for the Memorial Day recess between Friday, May 27 and Monday,
June 6. This is an ideal time to arrange a meeting with your elected
representative. Find out tips on how to set up a meeting here:

For more information on bunker buster weapons and the NPT, go to

For more information on how to write a letter to the editor, follow
this link


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