Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Iranian Revolution Is Thriving in Iraq

A Call To Action
latimes.com
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-oe-scheer28jun28,0,2396430.column?track=mostemailedlink
ROBERT SCHEER
Iranian Revolution Is Thriving in Iraq

Robert Scheer

June 28, 2005

Did those wily ayatollahs give us the purple finger again? It sure looks like it after the smashing defeat Iran's religious fanatics dealt reformers in the presidential election Friday.

It was a replay of the election in Iraq, in which candidates groomed by Tehran's theocracy herded loyal Shiite followers to the polls to dip their fingers in purple election ink. Only this time the sight of lines of shuffling, chador-clad women voting away their human rights was not applauded by the White House.

If he were capable of embarrassment or critical thought, President Bush might have caught the irony of celebrating the triumph of democracy in greeting Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari in Washington on Friday and on the same day having his administration condemn the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's new president.

Whether the United States approves or not, the most powerful Iraqi behind the scenes since the occupation began more than two years ago has been Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who, along with Jafari was sheltered and nurtured by Tehran's ayatollahs during Saddam Hussein's secular dictatorship. It was no accident that the first serious independent initiative of the elected Shiite leadership in Iraq was to welcome Iran's foreign minister and to declare, amazingly, that Iran was the moral party in its 1980s war with Iraq.

The elected leaders of Iraq and Iran are borne by the same ill wind — religious fundamentalism — which unfortunately is the first choice of many voters in Iraq, Iran and even the United States.

Elections are only one component of a thriving democracy. Unless restrained by a respected constitution and functioning balance of powers, democracy can be subverted by demagogic leaders. For the Bush White House, such complexity is irrelevant. Because the U.S. militarily controls Iraq, the flawed election there is seen as a triumph of democracy. Because Iran is an independent nation hostile to the U.S., its flawed election shows the country to be "out of step … with the currents of freedom and liberty that have been so apparent in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon," according to the State Department.

Ahmadinejad "is no friend of democracy," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld averred Sunday, probably correctly. Yet when he added, "He is a person who is very much supportive of the current ayatollahs, who are telling the people of that country how to live their lives," he may as well have been talking about Iraq's religious Shiite leaders, who not only beat the United States' handpicked leader in January's historic elections, but are already running much of southern Iraq as an Islamic state.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Shiite militias and religious parties have turned the southern city of Basra into a de facto Islamic theocracy. "Religion rules the streets of this once cosmopolitan city, where women no longer dare go out uncovered," reported The Times. "Conservative Shiite Islamic parties have solidified their grip, fully institutionalizing their power."

Thus, not only is Bush now allied in Iraq with the disciples of the anti-American Tehran tyranny, this foreign policy neophyte claims to be thrilled that the Iraqis have requested the indefinite commitment of U.S. troops to keep them in power by putting down a Sunni-led insurgency.

"I'm not giving up on the mission," Bush promised Jafari on Friday, just hours after more U.S. soldiers were killed and others wounded in a car bombing near Fallouja. Calling it "a mission" implies that our goals in Iraq are clear and finite. In fact, since the moment we easily took Baghdad from Hussein's ragtag loyalists, the situation has become murkier and more open-ended. Is our "mission" to provide security for Islamic fundamentalists hoping to turn Hussein's secular Iraq into Khomeini's theocratic Iran?

The tragic legacy of Bush's overthrow of the defanged secular dictator of Iraq, whom Rumsfeld once embraced as the U.S. ally holding back the Iranian revolution, is the triumph of that revolution in both Baghdad and Tehran.

At the very least, such obvious and looming contradictions in U.S. policy might compel debate in this country about the costs of what has been aptly termed our imperial hubris. So far, the Bush administration has managed to short-circuit that debate with a numbing cheerleader's rant about elections, as if they can always be co-opted.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

Monday, June 27, 2005

Some other blog stuff

A Call To Action

"Words cannot express the contempt I feel for Karl Rove and for the chorus of brainless little yappers applauding his recent remarks on liberal reactions to 9/11.

"I'd like to ask Karl and his puppies to stand anywhere in the vicinity of Ground Zero and repeat Karl's fatuous, lying remarks to a crowd of New Yorkers.

"Whole lotta liberals in New York. Whole lotta those liberal New Yorkers lost someone in the towers. Whole lotta liberal New Yorkers who lost someone in the towers might want to break Karl's jaw today. Karl would be well advised to keep his sorry ass out of New York from now on."

Blondesense wonders how this is playing in the military:

"Perhaps Mr. Rove believes all American soldiers are conservatives. When he made his callous remarks about the differences in liberals and conservatives, he failed to exclude the liberal soldier. He also failed to exclude the liberal soldier's family. Mr. Rove made a large mistake because he apparently forgot that liberal soldiers bleed and die in war just like conservative soldiers do. What does the family of the liberal soldier feel when they read that Mr. Rove said, 'Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers,' and 'Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war.'? What does the liberal soldier feel when he reads those words?"

Josh Marshall sees a calculated strategy:

"For Rove, the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan have always been nothing more than tools of domestic politics. He speaks for the president and the president speaks for him. So all of that applies to the president too unless and until we hear from him.

"The A-list press folks, especially on TV, are too well trained to call Rove out of bounds. So Dems will have to do it all themselves."

Peter Daou, Salon's blog-watcher, defends himself after criticizing Rove's remarks to the Chicago Tribune:

"I'll keep it simple: I challenge any of those outraged by Durbin to demonstrate that the senator, in his heart of hearts, thinks our troops are Nazis. It's painfully obvious that he was illustrating a point and used a hyperbolic analogy. In Durbin's case the outrage is feigned, and a political tool. It defies common sense to think Durbin actually believes 'all US troops are Nazis.'

"Now the same reasoning doesn't hold true for Rove, who expressed a thought that actually is widely held on the right: that liberals can't or won't defend America. Despite the sheer imbecility of it, many on the right really believe it to be true."

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters is equally impassioned about Reid and other Democrats demanding that Rove apologize, resign or otherwise debase himself:

"Would this be the same Harry Reid who called George Bush a loser and a liar, and later said that he would only retract the 'loser' comment? Could this be the same party that has its chairman calling Republicans people who never did an honest day's work in their lives, the party of 'unfriendly . . . white Christians' and who 'hates Republicans and everything they stand for'?

"Surely the party that has stood up and demanded civil trials for captured terrorists instead of the military detention they require and bemoaned the loss of sympathy that the world had for us on 9/11 cannot have taken offense at Rove's assertion that 'liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.'

"What we have here, in this demand for a retraction after a season of personal attacks from Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and the entire leadership of the Democratic Party is pusillanimity at its most hypocritical. Talk about dishing it out and not being able to take it! That the party of Harry Truman has descended to this jaw-dropping level of political cowardice and sheer crybaby status boggles the mind."

The New York Post editorial page is in Karl's Korner:

"To judge from the rising Democratic outrage, you'd think presidential counselor Karl Rove came to town Wednesday and compared liberals to Nazis, or Stalin, or Pol Pot.

"Oh, sorry.

"That was Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the United States Senate -- slandering U.S. soldiers.

"All Rove did was speak about the comparative attitudes of liberals and conservatives on how best to conduct the War on Terror.

And you know what? He was right. . . . Actually, the Democrats' outrage is understandable -- since they can't defend their own record, better to lash out at the White House."

The other emerging theme is, how bad are things in Iraq? In the LAT, Doyle McManus says Bush is being hit by friendly fire:

"For months, President Bush has struggled to maintain public support for the war in Iraq in the face of periodic setbacks on the battlefield. Now he faces a second front in the battle for public opinion: charges that the administration is not telling the truth about how the war is going. . . .

"But last month, Vice President Dick Cheney broke from the administration's 'message discipline' and declared that the insurgency was in its 'last throes.' The White House has been paying a price ever since. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who supported the decision to go to war in Iraq, complained that the White House was 'completely disconnected from reality.' Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), another supporter of the war, charged that Bush had opened not just a credibility gap, but a 'credibility chasm.' Even Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld distanced himself from the vice president's words."

Newsweek examines a different kind of gap?

"How, then, to explain the very different versions of reality in Iraq that come out of the mouths of top Bush administration officials and of senior generals on the ground in Iraq? On Memorial Day, Vice President Dick Cheney declared that the Iraq insurgency was in its 'last throes.' Yet last week, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Abizaid said that, actually, the insurgency has not grown weaker over the last six months and that the number of foreign terrorists infiltrating Iraq has increased. . . .

"No wonder the American public is confused, unsure what to believe, and that support for the war is down to 42 percent in the latest Gallup poll. What is the reality? And why can't the president and his generals seem to agree?"

You know that conservative guy hired by CPB chief Ken Tomlinson who monitored pro- and anti-Bush guests on Bill Moyers's show "Now"? Frank Rich, checking in with Sen Byron Dorgan, says he had other targets as well:

"Sifting through those pages when we spoke by phone last week, Mr. Dorgan said it wasn't merely Mr. Moyers's show that was monitored but also the programs of Tavis Smiley and NPR's Diane Rehm.

"Their guests were rated either L for liberal or C for conservative, and 'anti-administration' was affixed to any segment raising questions about the Bush presidency. Thus was the conservative Republican Senator Chuck Hagel given the same L as Bill Clinton simply because he expressed doubts about Iraq in a discussion mainly devoted to praising Ronald Reagan. Three of The Washington Post's star beat reporters (none of whom covers the White House or politics or writes opinion pieces) were similarly singled out simply for doing their job as journalists by asking questions about administration policies."

That is pretty chilling.

The Chinese Challenge

A Call To Action
The New York Times
June 27, 2005

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Fifteen years ago, when Japanese companies were busily buying up chunks of corporate America, I was one of those urging Americans not to panic. You might therefore expect me to offer similar soothing words now that the Chinese are doing the same thing. But the Chinese challenge - highlighted by the bids for Maytag and Unocal - looks a lot more serious than the Japanese challenge ever did.

There's nothing shocking per se about the fact that Chinese buyers are now seeking control over some American companies. After all, there's no natural law that says Americans will always be in charge. Power usually ends up in the hands of those who hold the purse strings. America, which imports far more than it exports, has been living for years on borrowed funds, and lately China has been buying many of our I.O.U.'s.

Until now, the Chinese have mainly invested in U.S. government bonds. But bonds yield neither a high rate of return nor control over how the money is spent. The only reason for China to acquire lots of U.S. bonds is for protection against currency speculators - and at this point China's reserves of dollars are so large that a speculative attack on the dollar looks far more likely than a speculative attack on the yuan.

So it was predictable that, sooner or later, the Chinese would stop buying so many dollar bonds. Either they would stop buying American I.O.U.'s altogether, causing a plunge in the dollar, or they would stop being satisfied with the role of passive financiers, and demand the power that comes with ownership. And we should be relieved that at least for now the Chinese aren't dumping their dollars; they're using them to buy American companies.

Yet there are two reasons that Chinese investment in America seems different from Japanese investment 15 years ago.

One difference is that, judging from early indications, the Chinese won't squander their money as badly as the Japanese did.

The Japanese, back in the day, tended to go for prestige investments - Rockefeller Center, movie studios - that transferred lots of money to the American sellers, but never generated much return for the buyers. The result was, in effect, a subsidy to the United States.

The Chinese seem shrewder than that. Although Maytag is a piece of American business history, it isn't a prestige buy for Haier, the Chinese appliance manufacturer. Instead, it's a reasonable way to acquire a brand name and a distribution network to serve Haier's growing manufacturing capability.

That doesn't mean that America will lose from the deal. Maytag's stockholders will gain, and the company will probably shed fewer American workers under Chinese ownership than it would have otherwise. Still, the deal won't be as one-sided as the deals with the Japanese often were.

The more important difference from Japan's investment is that China, unlike Japan, really does seem to be emerging as America's strategic rival and a competitor for scarce resources - which makes last week's other big Chinese offer more than just a business proposition.

The China National Offshore Oil Corporation, a company that is 70 percent owned by the Chinese government, is seeking to acquire control of Unocal, an energy company with global reach. In particular, Unocal has a history - oddly ignored in much reporting on the Chinese offer - of doing business with problematic regimes in difficult places, including the Burmese junta and the Taliban. One indication of Unocal's reach: Zalmay Khalilzad, who was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan for 18 months and was just confirmed as ambassador to Iraq, was a Unocal consultant.

Unocal sounds, in other words, like exactly the kind of company the Chinese government might want to control if it envisions a sort of "great game" in which major economic powers scramble for access to far-flung oil and natural gas reserves. (Buying a company is a lot cheaper, in lives and money, than invading an oil-producing country.) So the Unocal story gains extra resonance from the latest surge in oil prices.

If it were up to me, I'd block the Chinese bid for Unocal. But it would be a lot easier to take that position if the United States weren't so dependent on China right now, not just to buy our I.O.U.'s, but to help us deal with North Korea now that our military is bogged down in Iraq.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


The Chinese Challenge

A Call To Action
The New York Times
June 27, 2005

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Fifteen years ago, when Japanese companies were busily buying up chunks of corporate America, I was one of those urging Americans not to panic. You might therefore expect me to offer similar soothing words now that the Chinese are doing the same thing. But the Chinese challenge - highlighted by the bids for Maytag and Unocal - looks a lot more serious than the Japanese challenge ever did.

There's nothing shocking per se about the fact that Chinese buyers are now seeking control over some American companies. After all, there's no natural law that says Americans will always be in charge. Power usually ends up in the hands of those who hold the purse strings. America, which imports far more than it exports, has been living for years on borrowed funds, and lately China has been buying many of our I.O.U.'s.

Until now, the Chinese have mainly invested in U.S. government bonds. But bonds yield neither a high rate of return nor control over how the money is spent. The only reason for China to acquire lots of U.S. bonds is for protection against currency speculators - and at this point China's reserves of dollars are so large that a speculative attack on the dollar looks far more likely than a speculative attack on the yuan.

So it was predictable that, sooner or later, the Chinese would stop buying so many dollar bonds. Either they would stop buying American I.O.U.'s altogether, causing a plunge in the dollar, or they would stop being satisfied with the role of passive financiers, and demand the power that comes with ownership. And we should be relieved that at least for now the Chinese aren't dumping their dollars; they're using them to buy American companies.

Yet there are two reasons that Chinese investment in America seems different from Japanese investment 15 years ago.

One difference is that, judging from early indications, the Chinese won't squander their money as badly as the Japanese did.

The Japanese, back in the day, tended to go for prestige investments - Rockefeller Center, movie studios - that transferred lots of money to the American sellers, but never generated much return for the buyers. The result was, in effect, a subsidy to the United States.

The Chinese seem shrewder than that. Although Maytag is a piece of American business history, it isn't a prestige buy for Haier, the Chinese appliance manufacturer. Instead, it's a reasonable way to acquire a brand name and a distribution network to serve Haier's growing manufacturing capability.

That doesn't mean that America will lose from the deal. Maytag's stockholders will gain, and the company will probably shed fewer American workers under Chinese ownership than it would have otherwise. Still, the deal won't be as one-sided as the deals with the Japanese often were.

The more important difference from Japan's investment is that China, unlike Japan, really does seem to be emerging as America's strategic rival and a competitor for scarce resources - which makes last week's other big Chinese offer more than just a business proposition.

The China National Offshore Oil Corporation, a company that is 70 percent owned by the Chinese government, is seeking to acquire control of Unocal, an energy company with global reach. In particular, Unocal has a history - oddly ignored in much reporting on the Chinese offer - of doing business with problematic regimes in difficult places, including the Burmese junta and the Taliban. One indication of Unocal's reach: Zalmay Khalilzad, who was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan for 18 months and was just confirmed as ambassador to Iraq, was a Unocal consultant.

Unocal sounds, in other words, like exactly the kind of company the Chinese government might want to control if it envisions a sort of "great game" in which major economic powers scramble for access to far-flung oil and natural gas reserves. (Buying a company is a lot cheaper, in lives and money, than invading an oil-producing country.) So the Unocal story gains extra resonance from the latest surge in oil prices.

If it were up to me, I'd block the Chinese bid for Unocal. But it would be a lot easier to take that position if the United States weren't so dependent on China right now, not just to buy our I.O.U.'s, but to help us deal with North Korea now that our military is bogged down in Iraq.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


Sunday, June 26, 2005

A Glide Path to Ruin

A Call To Action
The New York Times
June 26, 2005

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

The biggest risk we Americans face to our way of life and our place in the world probably doesn't come from Al Qaeda or the Iraq war.

Rather, the biggest risk may come from this administration's fiscal recklessness and the way this is putting us in hock to China.

"I think the greatest threat to our future is our fiscal irresponsibility," warns David Walker, the comptroller general of the United States. Mr. Walker, an accountant by training, asserts that last year may have been the most fiscally reckless in the history of our Republic. Aside from the budget deficit, Congress enacted the prescription drug benefit - possibly an $8 trillion obligation - without figuring out how to pay for it.

Mr. Walker, America's watchdog in chief and head of the Government Accountability Office, is no Bush-basher. He started out his career as a conservative Democrat, then became a moderate Republican and has been an independent since 1997.

Now he's running around with his hair on fire, shrieking about America's finances. Well, as much as any accountant ever shrieks.

I asked Mr. Walker about Paul Volcker's warning that within five years we face a 75 percent chance of a serious financial crisis.

"If we don't get serious soon," Mr. Walker replied, "it's not a question of whether it'll come, but when and how serious."

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-winning economist, says he is also "very worried."

"I find it very difficult to know how to put a number" on the probability of a crisis, he added, "but there's a widespread sense in the market that there is a substantial chance."

Another issue is that three-fourths of our new debt is now being purchased by foreigners, with China the biggest buyer of all. That gives China leverage over us, and it undermines our national security.

On fiscal matters both parties have much to be ashamed of, but Republicans should be particularly embarrassed at their tumble. Traditionally, Republicans were prudent, while Democrats held great parties. But these days, the Bush administration is managing America's finances like a team of drunken sailors, and most Republicans keep quiet in a way that betrays their conservative principles.

Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, wrote a couple of years ago: "Republicans used to believe in balanced budgets. ... We have lost our way." He's right.

Critics have pounded the Bush administration for its faulty intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq. But President Bush peddled tax cuts with data that ultimately proved equally faulty - yet the tax cuts remain cemented in place.

Go to www.whitehouse.gov and read Mr. Bush's speech when he presented his first budget in February 2001. He foresaw a $5.6 trillion surplus over 10 years and emphasized that much of that would go to paying down the debt.

"I hope you will join me to pay down $2 trillion in debt during the next 10 years," Mr. Bush said then, between his calls for tax cuts. "That is more debt, repaid more quickly, than has ever been repaid by any nation at any time in history." His budget message that year promised that the U.S. would be "on a glide path toward zero debt."

Oh?

More than two centuries of American government produced a cumulative national debt of $5.7 trillion when Mr. Bush was elected in 2000. And now that is expected to almost double by 2010, to $10.8 trillion.

Some readers may be surprised to see me fulminating about budget deficits, since often I'm bouncing over ruts abroad trying to call attention to some forgotten crisis, like Darfur. But there is a common thread: These are issues that aren't sexy, that don't get television time and that most Americans tune out - yet demand action on our part for both moral and practical reasons.

America's fiscal mess may be even harder to write about engagingly than Darfur, because the victims of our fiscal recklessness aren't weeping widows whose children were heaved onto bonfires. But if you need to visualize the victims, think of your child's face, or your grandchild's.

President Bush has excoriated the "death tax," as he calls the estate tax. But his profligacy will leave every American child facing a "birth tax" of about $150,000.

That's right: every American child arrives owing that much, partly to babies in China and Japan. No wonder babies cry.

E-mail: nicholas@nytimes.com

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Feels like a draft

A Call To Action
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http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-privacy23jun23,0,113005.story?coll=la-home-headlines
THE NATION
Military Enlists Marketer to Get Data on Students for Recruiters
By Mark Mazzetti
Times Staff Writer

June 23, 2005

WASHINGTON — With the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan making it increasingly hard for the U.S. military to fill its ranks with recruits, the Pentagon has hired an outside marketing firm to help compile an extensive database about teenagers and college students that the military services could use to target potential enlistees.

The initiative, which privacy groups call an unwarranted government intrusion into private life, will compile detailed information about high school students ages 16 to 18, all college students, and Selective Service System registrants. The collected information will include Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages and ethnicities.

The program, run by the Pentagon's Joint Advertising, Market Research and Studies office, is the latest effort to jump-start a recruiting mission hampered by violent images broadcast daily from Iraq.

BeNow Inc., a Massachusetts direct-marketing firm that compiles and analyzes masses of data, will manage the program.

According to the Pentagon's official notice of the program, the new initiative's aim is "to provide a single central facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service."

"The information will be provided to the services to assist them in their direct marketing recruiting efforts," read the notice in the Federal Register, published last month.

The No Child Left Behind Act allows the Pentagon to gather the home addresses and telephone numbers of public-school students. The new Pentagon initiative would be far more extensive, drawing from government databases compiled by state motor vehicle departments and similar agencies.

The program has angered privacy groups, which contend that the Pentagon is risking the misuse of data by handing over such sensitive material to a private firm.

"We think it's a mistake that violates the spirit of the Privacy Act," said Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research group based in Washington.

The privacy center's official response to the initiative — also signed by eight representatives of similar organizations — called the database "an unprecedented foray of the government into direct marketing techniques previously only performed by the private sector."

A Pentagon spokeswoman said the arrangement with BeNow, which was first reported in today's Washington Post, was critical to the military's effort to increase the pool of potential recruits.

"The database is another tool for recruiters to use to find candidates for military service," Air Force Lt. Col Ellen Krenke said late Wednesday.

Krenke pointed out that any students who did not want to be contacted by recruiters could have their names added to a "suppression list" that would keep the information private.

The No Child Left Behind Act, which President Bush signed in 2002, also contains an "opt out" clause allowing parents to sign a form preventing schools from giving information about their children to the military.

The military's ability to obtain student information under No Child Left Behind has sparked a backlash across the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last month against the Albuquerque, N.M., school district, alleging that the district did not notify parents that they could prohibit recruiters from getting their child's information.

In Seattle, the parent-teacher association at Garfield High School adopted a nonbinding resolution last month stating that "public schools are not a place for military recruiters."

The controversy has reached Congress. In February, Rep. Michael M. Honda (D-San Jose) introduced legislation, now before a House Education and the Workforce subcommittee, that would exchange the current "opt out" policy for an opt-in policy.

"Parents and their children should automatically receive privacy protection for students' confidential information, and recruiters should have to wait for explicit consent before they have access to these records," Honda wrote in an op-ed article last month in the San Jose Mercury News. He wrote that the National PTA had endorsed his bill.

The Army and the Marine Corps are having difficulty meeting monthly recruiting goals as images of war broadcast daily from Iraq discourage young people who might otherwise be eager to join the military.

Pentagon officials are increasingly worried that the national recruiting downturn is not a short-term slump but a long-term crisis threatening the viability of the all-volunteer military.

One particular problem, Pentagon officials said, is that many parents are advising their children against joining the military, fearing a deployment to Iraq.

Army officials said it was unlikely that the service would meet its 2005 recruiting goals, and Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, head of Army Recruiting Command, said recently that he expected even more recruiting problems in 2006 than the Army had this year.

With recruiters struggling to meet monthly quotas, dozens of reports have surfaced of overzealous recruiters using unauthorized tactics — even threatening some potential enlistees with jail time — to sign on recruits.

Last month, the Army conducted a national one-day recruiter "stand down" during which every Army recruiter received a refresher course about methods prohibited under Army regulations.




Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times | Privacy

Cruel and Unusual

A Call To Action
The New York Times
June 23, 2005
By BOB HERBERT

"Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" asked Joseph Welch in his famous confrontation with the pathologically cruel Joe McCarthy. "Have you left no sense of decency?"

More than a half-century later, I would ask the same question of Florida's governor, Jeb Bush.

In an abuse of power that has been widely denounced, and has even appalled many of his own supporters in the Republican Party, Governor Bush has tried to keep the Terri Schiavo circus alive by sending state prosecutors on a witch hunt against her husband, Michael.

The state attorney who has been pushed by the governor into pursuing this case told me yesterday he has seen nothing to indicate that a crime was committed. Nevertheless, the inquiry continues.

Governor Bush asked Bernie McCabe, the state attorney for Pinellas County, to "take a fresh look" at this already exhaustively investigated case to determine, among other things, whether Michael Schiavo had perhaps waited too long to call for help after discovering that his wife had collapsed early one morning 15 years ago.

Mr. McCabe did not seem particularly enthusiastic about his mission. "I wouldn't call it an investigation," he told me in a telephone conversation. The word "investigation," he said, "is a term of art in my business."

He then explained: "When I conduct an investigation, it would mean that I have a criminal predicate. In other words, that I have some indication that a crime has occurred. That's my job.

"In this circumstance, that does not exist at this time. So what I'm attempting to do is respond to the governor's request by conducting what I'm calling an 'inquiry' to see if I can resolve the issues he raised."

He chuckled at his use of the word inquiry. "It may be a distinction without a difference," he said.

Whatever term is used, the governor's continued pursuit of Mr. Schiavo in the absence of any evidence that he has done anything wrong is a clear example of government power being used as a club to punish someone for political reasons. The unwarranted harassment of an ordinary citizen by the most powerful political figure in his state is an affront to the very idea of freedom that Mr. Bush and his brother in the White House are so fond of preaching.

The political exploitation of this tragic case has been uniquely grotesque. Ms. Schiavo died March 31 following the court-ordered removal of her feeding tube. An autopsy supported Mr. Schiavo's contention that his wife had been in a persistent vegetative state. She was unaware of anything and incapable of recovering. At her death at age 41, Ms. Schiavo's withered brain was half the normal size for a woman her age.

Governor Bush was one of the leaders of the pack of politicians who vehemently opposed Mr. Schiavo's efforts to have his wife's feeding tube removed. Much of what was said was outrageous. Eleven days before she died, Tom DeLay declared: "Terri Schiavo is not brain dead. She talks and she laughs, and she expresses happiness and discomfort. Terri Schiavo is not on life support."

Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican and a physician from Oklahoma, said: "All you have to do is look at her on TV. Any doctor with any conscience can look at her and know that she does not have a terminal disease and know that she has some function."

All agree that Terri Schiavo is now dead, but Governor Bush insists on keeping the craziness going.

Mr. Schiavo has said over the years that his wife collapsed around 4:30 or 5 o'clock in the morning and that he quickly called 911. He has always stressed that he was making a rough estimate about the time. His call to 911 was recorded at 5:40 a.m.

Quick, try to remember with any precision the exact time of a traumatic incident that happened to you or a relative 10 or 15 years ago. Not only is it difficult to do, but the degree of precision deteriorates as the years pass.

Governor Bush's continued pursuit of Mr. Schiavo is not just pointless, it's cruel and unconscionable.

I pressed Mr. McCabe, the state attorney. If there's no evidence that a crime has been committed, I asked, then what is the purpose of the inquiry?

"My purpose," he said, "is simply to respond to the governor. The governor's asked me to do something, and I'm going to try to do it."

Welcome to power politics, American style.

E-mail: bobherb@nytimes.com

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

U.S. said delaying Saddam interrogations

A Call To Action
Posted on Tue, Jun. 21, 2005


MAGGIE MICHAEL

Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Iraq's justice minister on Tuesday accused the United States of trying to delay Iraqi efforts to interrogate Saddam Hussein, saying "it seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide."

Justice Minister Abdel Hussein Shandal also told The Associated Press he was confident that Saddam's trial on war crimes charges would be over by the end of the year, underlining the Iraqi government's determination to try the ousted leader soon.

"This trial will be accomplished within 2005 - and this will only be in Iraqi courts," he said in an interview on the sidelines of an international conference on his country's future.

U.S. officials had no immediate comment on Shandal's remarks, but the Americans privately have urged caution about rushing into a trial, saying the Iraqis need to develop a good court and judicial system - one of the main topics of discussion at the conference in Brussels, Belgium.

An official at the press office of the Iraqi Special Tribunal that is overseeing the court proceedings in Baghdad stressed it was an independent body and was not bound by the minister's comments. He said no date had been set for Saddam's trial.

"The interrogation of Saddam is taking place regularly and almost daily and neither the justice minister, nor the Americans, have anything to do with it because the IST is an independent court," the official said. "Saddam's trial will start as soon as the investigation finishes."

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, also said things are taking place in stages and as scheduled."

Saddam, 68, has been jailed under American control at a U.S. military detention complex near Baghdad airport named Camp Cropper, which holds 110 high-profile detainees.

But Shandal alleged that U.S. officials deliberately are trying to limit access to Saddam because they have their own secrets to protect, including funneling money and support to Iraqi leader during his rule.

"It seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide," Shandal said.

"There should be transparency and there should be frankness, but there are secrets that if revealed, won't be in the interest of many countries," he said. "Who was helping Saddam all those years?"

Shandal said he was speaking with the authority of a Cabinet minister who personally nominated several of the judges on the tribunal and was in close contact with the investigators.

Saddam has been interrogated by the Iraqi tribunal, which recently released a video of his questioning - without sound.

The tribunal, which was appointed by the now-defunct U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, has released a total of three such videotapes showing the ousted dictator and two others giving testimony and signing statements before the panel.

The tribunal in the past has criticized government officials, including Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's spokesman, Laith Kuba, for suggesting that a timetable had been set. Kuba said in early June that Saddam's trial would start in two months.

The tribunal also has sought to stress its independence from the government. "Any date to start the trials belongs to the judges," the tribunal said in a June 6 statement.

U.S. officials say Iraqis will decide on Saddam's trial but there are concerns that a trial could interfere with the key process of writing a constitution and inflame sectarian tensions. The Iraqi government must finish a draft by mid-August so they can hold a referendum on the charter ahead of December elections for a full-term government.

Shandal acknowledged Tuesday that no trial date would be set until interrogators complete their investigation and send their findings to the tribunal, which then will set a date. But he said he was confident it would be completed before the end of the year.

Saddam was captured in December 2003. He and 11 of his top lieutenants will be tried by the tribunal, which was set up in late 2003 after Saddam was toppled.

"Now we are in the process of interrogation. The process requires collecting evidence ... and we need a lot of evidence, a lot of interrogations," Shandal said.

Saddam faces charges that include killing rival politicians over 30 years, gassing Kurds in the northern town of Halabja in 1988, invading Kuwait in 1990, and suppressing Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in 1991. Shandal said he also would face charges related to the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure.

If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

---

Friday, June 17, 2005

As Toyota Goes ...

A Call To Action
The New York Times
June 17, 2005
As Toyota Goes ...
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

So I have a question: If I am rooting for General Motors to go bankrupt and be bought out by Toyota, does that make me a bad person?

It is not that I want any autoworker to lose his or her job, but I certainly would not put on a black tie if the entire management team at G.M. got sacked and was replaced by executives from Toyota. Indeed, I think the only hope for G.M.'s autoworkers, and maybe even our country, is with Toyota. Because let's face it, as Toyota goes, so goes America.

Having Toyota take over General Motors - which based its business strategy on building gas-guzzling cars, including the idiot Hummer, scoffing at hybrid technology and fighting Congressional efforts to impose higher mileage standards on U.S. automakers - would not only be in America's economic interest, it would also be in America's geopolitical interest.

Because Toyota has pioneered the very hybrid engine technology that can help rescue not only our economy from its oil addiction (how about 500 miles per gallon of gasoline?), but also our foreign policy from dependence on Middle Eastern oil autocrats.

Diffusing Toyota's hybrid technology is one of the keys to what I call "geo-green." Geo-greens seek to combine into a single political movement environmentalists who want to reduce fossil fuels that cause climate change, evangelicals who want to protect God's green earth and all his creations, and geo-strategists who want to reduce our dependence on crude oil because it fuels some of the worst regimes in the world.

The Bush team has been M.I.A. on energy since 9/11. Indeed, the utter indifference of the Bush team to developing a geo-green strategy - which would also strengthen the dollar, reduce our trade deficit, make America the world leader in combating climate change and stimulate U.S. companies to take the lead in producing the green technologies that the world will desperately need as China and India industrialize - is so irresponsible that it takes your breath away. This is especially true when you realize that the solutions to our problems are already here.

As Gal Luft, co-chairman of the Set America Free coalition, a bipartisan alliance of national security, labor, environmental and religious groups that believe reducing oil consumption is a national priority, points out: the majority of U.S. oil imports go to fueling the transport sector - primarily cars and trucks. Therefore, the key to reducing our dependence on foreign oil is powering our cars and trucks with less petroleum.

There are two ways we can do that. One is electricity. We don't import electricity. We generate all of our needs with coal, hydropower, nuclear power and natural gas. Toyota's hybrid cars, like the Prius, run on both gasoline and electricity that is generated by braking and then stored in a small battery. But, says Luft, if you had a hybrid that you could plug in at night, the battery could store up 20 miles of driving per day. So your first 20 miles would be covered by the battery. The gasoline would only kick in after that. Since 50 percent of Americans do not drive more than 20 miles a day, the battery power would cover all their driving. Even if they drove more than that, combining the battery power and the gasoline could give them 100 miles per gallon of gasoline used, Luft notes.

Right now Toyota does not sell plug-in hybrids. Some enthusiasts, though, are using kits to convert their hybrids to plug-ins, but that adds several thousand dollars - and you lose your Toyota warranty. Imagine, though, if the government encouraged, through tax policy and other incentives, every automaker to offer plug-in hybrids? We would quickly move down the innovation curve and end up with better and cheaper plug-ins for all.

Then add to that flexible-fuel cars, which have a special chip and fuel line that enable them to burn alcohol (ethanol or methanol), gasoline or any mixture of the two. Some four million U.S. cars already come equipped this way, including from G.M. It costs only about $100 a car to make it flex-fuel ready. Brazil hopes to have all its new cars flex-fuel ready by 2008. As Luft notes, if you combined a plug-in hybrid system with a flex-fuel system that burns 80 percent alcohol and 20 percent gasoline, you could end up stretching each gallon of gasoline up to 500 miles.

In short, we don't need to reinvent the wheel or wait for sci-fi hydrogen fuel cells. The technologies we need for a stronger, more energy independent America are already here. The only thing we have a shortage of now are leaders with the imagination and will to move the country onto a geo-green path.

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Fw: Thank the House for Blocking FBI From Seizing Library Records - FCNL


----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <kathyguthrie@fcnl.org>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <miriamvieni@optonline.net>
Sent: Thursday, June 16, 2005 3:43 PM
Subject: Thank the House for Blocking FBI From Seizing Library Records -
FCNL

The House of Representatives this week sent a clear message to
President George Bush that Congress will not rubber stamp the
president's request for a blanket renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act. In a
238 to 187 vote, the full House approved an amendment offered by Rep.
Bernie Sanders (VT) that would restrict the FBI's ability to seize
library and bookstore records.

The "Freedom to Read" amendment attached to the Justice
Department's funding bill prohibits the Justice Department from
implementing Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act regarding patron and
customer reading records at libraries and bookstores. Specifically, the
House Wednesday eliminated funding for any "order requiring the
production of library circulation records, library patron lists, book
sales records, or book customer lists."

This is a huge victory for the coalition of groups, including the
American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, the
Bill of Rights Defense Committee and other groups that lobbied for H.R.
1157, the Freedom to Read Protection Act. However, the Bush
administration has reportedly threatened to veto the Justice Department
funding bill if the final version sent to the president includes this
type of language, and House leaders have vowed to remove it in
conference committee.

TAKE ACTION NOW

Please thank your representative if he or she supported the Freedom to
Read amendment, or let your representative know you are disappointed if
he or she opposed this important legislation. Tell your representative
that Congress should review not just the USA PATRIOT Act, but more
broadly examine the effectiveness and unintended consequences of the
new government powers put into place after September 11, 2001.

To find out how your representative voted on Freedom to Read and send a
message to him or her,
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/EQXREUAWPS/EOPTEUAWQQ/

BACKGROUND

Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act (PL 107-56) made it easier for the
FBI to secretly obtain library and bookseller records. The Freedom to
Read amendment approved by the House Wednesday would require the FBI to
obtain a search warrant from a judge or a subpoena from a grand jury
before seizing records about an individual's reading habits.

For more information about this provision, see the web site of the
Coalition for Reader Privacy at
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/EQXREUAWPS/JTLEEUAWQS/

Congress is in the process of reviewing 16 provisions of the USA
PATRIOT Act that are set to expire ("sunset") at the end of
this year. FCNL believes that to be effective, review of the USA
PATRIOT Act sunsets must include review of the broader issue of the
expansion of government powers following September 11, 2001 that
included secret arrests, indefinite detention, shipment of individuals
to countries that practice torture, and the authorization of secret
searches and surveillance not related to individualized suspicion or
specific facts. For more information see the latest edition of the FCNL
Washington newsletter, available at
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/EQXREUAWPS/JOXFEUAWQT/

_______________________________________

Stop New Nuclear Weapons! Find out how,
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/EQXREUAWPS/GFZVEUAWQU/
The Next Step for Iraq: Join FCNL's Iraq Campaign,
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Contact Congress and the Administration:
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/EQXREUAWPS/HBOCEUAWQW/

Order FCNL publications and "War is Not the Answer" campaign
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________________________________________

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fcnl@fcnl.org * http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/EQXREUAWPS/CNOUEUAWRC/
phone: (202)547-6000 * toll-free: (800)630-1330

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Illiterate Surgeon

A Call To Action


June 12, 2005
The Illiterate Surgeon
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

Just about the worst thing that can happen to a teenage girl in this world is to develop an obstetric fistula that leaves her trickling bodily wastes, stinking and shunned by everyone around her. That happened four decades ago to Mamitu Gashe.

But the most amazing thing about Ms. Mamitu is not what she endured but what she has become.

Ms. Mamitu's story begins when she was an illiterate 15-year-old in a remote Ethiopian village unreachable by road and with no doctor nearby. She married a local man, became pregnant and after three days of labor, she lapsed into unconsciousness and the baby was stillborn.

"After I woke up, the bed was wet" with urine, she remembers. "I thought I would get better after two or three days, but I didn't."

That's typically how an obstetric fistula arises: a teenage girl, often malnourished and with an immature pelvis, tries to deliver her first baby. The fetus gets stuck, and after several days of labor it is stillborn - but some of the mother's internal tissues have been damaged in that time, and so to her horror she finds herself constantly trickling urine or sometimes feces from her vagina.

Soon she stinks. Her husband normally abandons her, the constant trickle of urine leaves her with terrible sores on her legs, and if she survives at all she is told to build a hut away from the rest of the village and to stay away from the village well. Some girls die of infections or suicide, but many linger for decades as pariahs and hermits - their lives effectively over at the age of about 15.

Fistulas were common in America in the 19th century. But improved medical care means that they are now almost unknown in the West, while the United Nations has estimated that at least two million girls and women live with fistulas in the developing world, mostly in Africa.

This should be an international scandal, because a $300 operation can normally repair the injury. A major effort to improve maternal health in the developing world should be a no-brainer, for it could prevent most fistulas and reduce deaths in childbirth by half within a decade, saving 300,000 lives a year.

But maternal health is woefully neglected, and those suffering fistulas are completely voiceless - young, female, poor, rural and ostracized. They are the 21st century's lepers.

Ms. Mamitu was exceptionally lucky in that she was brought to a hospital here in Addis Ababa that offered free surgery by a saintly husband and wife pair of gynecologists from Australia, Reginald and Catherine Hamlin. Reg is now dead, while Catherine is the Mother Teresa of our time and is long overdue for a Nobel Peace Prize.

After that operation, 42 years ago, Ms. Mamitu was given a job making beds in the hospital. Then she began helping out during surgeries, and after a couple of years of watching she was asked by Dr. Reg Hamlin to cut some stitches. Eventually, Ms. Mamitu was routinely performing the entire fistula repair herself.

Over the decades, Ms. Mamitu has gradually become one of the world's most experienced fistula surgeons. Gynecologists from around the world go to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital to train in fistula repair, and typically their teacher is Ms. Mamitu.

Not bad for an illiterate Ethiopian peasant who as a child never went to a day of school.

A few years ago, Ms. Mamitu tired of being an illiterate master surgeon, and so she began night school. She's now in the third grade.

The Fistula Hospital where Ms. Mamitu works is nicknamed "puddle city" - because patients stroll around dripping urine - but it abounds with joy and hope.

President Bush has increased aid to the developing world generally and to Africa in particular, but a few days ago he rejected Tony Blair's appeal for a further dramatic increase in assistance for Africa. The real stakes in that rejection will be measured in lives like Ms. Mamitu's. I hope that Mr. Bush will reconsider - for the sake of people like those girls with fistula living in huts alone on the edges of hundreds of thousands of villages.

Ms. Mamitu shows us what a tragedy it would be to write them off. A couple of Australians once gave Ms. Mamitu a break, and so today Ms. Mamitu is not a victim at all, but an inspiration.

And, I hope, an inspiration to us to be more generous.

E-mail: nicholas@nytimes.com



Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Monday, June 13, 2005

SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY

A Call To Action
As originally reported in the The Times of London, May 1, 2005

SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY
DAVID MANNING
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02
cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell
IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING, 23 JULY

Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.

This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.

John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action. CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August. The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:

(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.

(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.

(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.

The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change. The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. 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.

On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary. The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN. John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.

Conclusions:

(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.

(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.

(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.

He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.

(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.

(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.

(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)

MATTHEW RYCROFT
[Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide]
[emphasis added]

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Circus Maximus Syndrome

A Call To Action
The New York Times
June 11, 2005
By JOHN TIERNEY

If you love cities, this is a week to rejoice. Now that the stadium planned for New York's West Side is dead, no one can fantasize anymore about the Olympics coming to New York.

If the city had gotten the 2012 Games, its leaders would have basked for seven years in Olympic photo opportunities, and mayors across America would have watched enviously. They would have succumbed further to what I think of as the Circus Maximus syndrome.

The victims of this urban-planning syndrome believe, like some Roman emperors, that a leader's prime civic responsibility is to build entertainment palaces for the masses. American mayors haven't yet built anything quite like the Circus Maximus, where a quarter of a million Romans watched chariot races, but their combined output makes it look puny.

They've endowed downtowns with stadiums, arenas, theaters, concert halls, museums and aquariums. They imagine drawing hordes of out-of-towners to the new convention center, and when the visitors don't materialize, the mayors' solution is to build an even bigger convention center with a subsidized hotel next door.

The mayors hire consultants to project grand economic benefits from their projects, but these dreams virtually never come true. The only realistic way to justify one of these public projects is by considering the noneconomic benefits.

You have to ask if the project performs a core function identified by Joel Kotkin in his new book, "The City," a global history of urbanity starting with Ur. He finds that successful cities have always done three things, two of which are straightforward: protecting the lives of inhabitants and providing a congenial home for a commercial marketplace.

The third function is the creation of "sacred space" that gives people a sense of identity with the city. In Ur, it was the shrine of the moon god, Nanna, a 70-foot-high ziggurat towering over the Mesopotamian plain. In Athens, it was the Parthenon. In Venice, it was the Basilica of San Marco.

"In New York, it's Central Park and Fifth Avenue," Mr. Kotkin said. "In Chicago, it's the lakefront. In Los Angeles, it's the Hollywood sign and the sight of the hills ringing the city. It can be a signature building or a distinctive neighborhood - something iconic that makes the city special and binds people together."

Given the fervor of some cities for their sports teams, you could argue that a few stadiums qualify as sacred spaces worthy of subsidy, like the Packers' home in Green Bay. While Camden Yards has been a net economic loss for Baltimore, costing the average household about $15 per year, according to economists at Johns Hopkins, most city residents would probably say that's worth paying to keep the Orioles in town.

But does anyone think that New Yorkers will have an identity crisis if the Jets and the Olympics don't come to Manhattan's West Side? The proposed stadium would have been a generic hulk like most other new arenas and convention centers, sitting empty most of the time and preventing the surrounding area from becoming the kind of space that urbanites really revere: a neighborhood with homes and businesses and street life.

Those neighborhoods are hurt by grand public buildings that take up valuable real estate and must be paid for with higher taxes, which drive businesses and the middle class to the suburbs. Older cities have made comebacks the past decade by getting back to that core function of protecting people's lives, but most still haven't figured out how to restore their commercial marketplaces.

Instead, their leaders build projects whose economic benefits go to the Circus Maximus industrial complex: real estate developers, construction workers, bond traders, owners of hotels and sports teams. Aside from the thanks of these groups, politicians also get a pleasant distraction from their mundane duties.

It's more fun to pose next to a model of a model of a new stadium than a new water main. Announcing plans for the Olympics gets better coverage than announcing plans for bridge repairs. If you want immediate gratification, there is nothing like a circus, as a moralist named Salvian observed in the fifth century.

By then Rome bore certain resemblances to a lot of American cities. While emperors were investing in monuments, commerce and manufacturing suffered. The population declined along with the port, the roads, the bridges and the water system, but the circuses went on. "The Roman people," Salvian wrote, "are dying and laughing."

For Further Reading:

The City : A Global History by Joel Kotkin. (Modern Library, 256 pp., April 2005)
More from Joel Kotkin at www.joelkotkin.com.

“Space Available: The Realities of Convention Centers as Economic Development Strategy” by Heywood Sanders. (Brookings Institution, 35 pp., January 2005)

"Baltimore's Camden Yards Ballparks” by Bruce W. Hamilton and Peter Kahn. The Economics of Sports Stadiums, Brookings Institution, working paper.

E-mail: tierney@nytimes.com

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

A Call To Action

A Call To Action

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Fw: Act Now for a Safe, Secure, Sustainable Energy Future for Our Grandchildren


----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <kathyguthrie@fcnl.org>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <miriamvieni@optonline.net>
Sent: Thursday, June 09, 2005 3:51 PM
Subject: FCNL: Act Now for a Safe, Secure, Sustainable Energy Future for Our
Grandchildren

Next week (June 13), the Senate is expected to begin floor debate on
the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Act now to make the Senate bill better
than the harmful bill passed by the House in April. The Senate can do
much more to reduce our country's dangerous, unhealthy dependence on
oil and greenhouse gas emissions. It must do much more to promote
conservation, improved energy efficiency, and renewable fuels.

Our country cannot continue to drill, pump, mine, radiate, and burn its
way through another century. This is a prescription for disaster for
our grandchildren. Instead, now is the time for Congress to set a new
course toward a more secure, safe, and sustainable energy future.

TAKE ACTION NOW

Please urge your senators to support strong provisions and amendments
to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that dramatically reduce U.S. oil
dependence and greenhouse gas emissions as they consider the energy
policy act of 2005. Urge them to reduce demand for fossil fuels and
nuclear energy by enacting policies that promote conservation, improved
energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources.

FCNL makes it easy to contact your members of Congress. Go to
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OPNKETLRNZ/JNYNETLROD/ to see a sample
letter. Then write an email or fax in your own words.

FCNL letter to the Senate

http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OPNKETLRNZ/KNDAETLROE/

FCNL letter to the House

http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OPNKETLRNZ/AHXBETLROF/

BACKGROUND

Our oil dependence has fueled increasingly deadly conflicts in the
Persian Gulf region for decades. It enriches authoritarian regimes and
violent extremists, and, in oil-rich developing countries, it often
leads to corruption and stymies economic development. Rising demand for
imported oil accounts for more than a quarter of the runaway U.S. trade
deficit ($160 billion plus). Our search for new domestic sources of oil
threatens to permanently damage fragile ecosystems, jeopardizing their
immense, but uncounted, life-sustaining ecological services. Burning
oil fouls our air, harms public health, and contributes greatly to
increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (e.g. carbon dioxide
(CO2)) in our atmosphere.

The answer to our rising dependence on oil imports is not to subsidize
the domestic oil industry, roll back environmental protections, or open
more public lands, coastal areas, and fragile ecosystems to oil
exploration and production. These are the dangerous, harmful, and
short-sighted policies of the past. Rather, Congress must make a
different choice. Our country does not have to remain dependent on oil.
Feasible, safe, affordable technologies and renewable fuels exist that
can dramatically reduce our oil dependence now. But Congress must first
create a new policy framework to accelerate transition to these new
technologies and fuels.

Read more from FCNL, http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OPNKETLRNZ/BLGAETLROG/

_______________________________________

Stop New Nuclear Weapons! Find out how,
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OPNKETLRNZ/DMVBETLROH/
The Next Step for Iraq: Join FCNL's Iraq Campaign,
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OPNKETLRNZ/KPIPETLROI/

Contact Congress and the Administration:
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OPNKETLRNZ/OXNPETLROJ/

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________________________________________

Friends Committee on National Legislation
245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795
fcnl@fcnl.org * www.fcnl.org
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.
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Crumbs for Africa

A Call To Action
The New York Times
June 8, 2005


President Bush kept a remarkably straight face yesterday when he strode to the microphones with Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, and told the world that the United States would now get around to spending $674 million in emergency aid that Congress had already approved for needy countries. That's it. Not a penny more to buy treated mosquito nets to help save the thousands of children in Sierra Leone who die every year of preventable malaria. Nothing more to train and pay teachers so 11-year-old girls in Kenya may go to school. And not a cent more to help Ghana develop the programs it needs to get legions of young boys off the streets.

Mr. Blair, who will be the host when the G-8, the club of eight leading economic powers, holds its annual meeting next month, is trying to line up pledges to double overall aid for Africa over the next 10 years. That extra $25 billion a year would do all those things, and much more, to raise the continent from dire poverty. Before getting to Washington, Mr. Blair had done very well, securing pledges of large increases from European Union members.

According to a poll, most Americans believe that the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent. As Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist in charge of the United Nations' Millennium Project, put it so well, the notion that there is a flood of American aid going to Africa "is one of our great national myths."

The United States currently gives just 0.16 percent of its national income to help poor countries, despite signing a United Nations declaration three years ago in which rich countries agreed to increase their aid to 0.7 percent by 2015. Since then, Britain, France and Germany have all announced plans for how to get to 0.7 percent; America has not. The piddling amount Mr. Bush announced yesterday is not even 0.007 percent.

What is 0.7 percent of the American economy? About $80 billion. That is about the amount the Senate just approved for additional military spending, mostly in Iraq. It's not remotely close to the $140 billion corporate tax cut last year.

This should not be the image Mr. Bush wants to project around a world that is intently watching American actions on this issue. At a time when rich countries are mounting a noble and worthy effort to make poverty history, the Bush administration is showing itself to be completely out of touch by offering such a miserly drop in the bucket. It's no surprise that Mr. Bush's offer was greeted with scorn in television broadcasts and newspaper headlines around the world. "Bush Opposes U.K. Africa Debt Plan," blared the headline on the AllAfrica news service, based in Johannesburg. "Blair's Gambit: Shame Bush Into Paying," chimed in The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia.

The American people have a great heart. President Bush needs to stop concealing it.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Fw: Progress on Iraq, Nuclear Weapons, and Bolton--FCNL


----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <kathyguthrie@fcnl.org>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <miriamvieni@optonline.net>
Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 4:50 PM
Subject: Progress on Iraq, Nuclear Weapons, and Bolton--FCNL

Dear Key FCNL Contact,

Your efforts are having an impact. Three recent and remarkable
accomplishments demonstrate how much we depend on you:

* After five months of lobbying Congress to declare that the United
States will ultimately withdraw from Iraq, there are signs that this
message is getting through. Find out more below.

* The House of Representatives has rejected president Bush's request
for funding to develop the next generation of "usable"
nuclear weapons <anchor link to the House Eliminates Bunker Busters
heading>. Now we have to persuade the Senate. Find out more below.

* The Senate has refused to rubber stamp the nomination of John Bolton
as the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The final vote may
be next week. Find out more below.

There is still much work that needs to be done here in Washington, but
these victories demonstrate that, working together, we can make
progress and we can begin to promote a debate on critical issues, even
in these dangerous and difficult times. I hope you'll read on to find
out more about some of these important developments here in Washington.

Your letters, faxes, and email and your financial contributions make
this work possible.

Thank you,
Kathy Guthrie
Field Program Secretary

Your Efforts Are Having An Impact

Progress on Iraq

Earlier this year, FCNL learned the U.S. military is planning up to 14
"permanent" bases in Iraq (see a map of the bases at
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/DXUIETHJRJ/CCCVETHKAE/). But around the
country there is widespread opposition to a permanent U.S military
presence in iraq. The list of churches, meetings, and other
organizations adopting, endorsing, or otherwise supporting FCNL's Iraq
STEP resolution is growing every day. In Congress, FCNL lobbyists
report that there are several legislators considering a bipartisan
effort to pass a resolution declaring "It is the policy of the
United States government to withdraw all U.S. military troops and bases
from Iraq."

This morning, Zalmay Khalilzad, the man nominated to be the next U.S.
Ambassador to Iraq, felt compelled to say in an open hearing before the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "we will not stay in Iraq
militarily and we have no plans for permanent military installations in
Iraq." This statement, by itself, is an important victory. But
FCNL believes it is still important for Congress to follow up this
declaration with a formal resolution stating that the U.S. will
withdraw. Find out more about this campaign at
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/DXUIETHJRJ/HXIMETHKAF/

House Eliminates Bunker Buster

FCNL has been leading the effort in Washington to persuade Congress to
eliminate funding for the "bunker-buster" nuclear weapon. Focusing on
40 members of Congress who are key to this effort, FCNL and colleague
organizations have sent out tens of thousands of letters and emails
educating the public about this dangerous Bush administration
initiative to develop the next generation of "usable" nuclear
weapons. Network participants around the country in turn flooded the
offices of these elected officials with thousands of letters and emails
urging that funding for this weapon be eliminated. In May, two critical
House committees completely eliminated funding for the nuclear bunker
buster.

David Culp, FCNL's nuclear disarmament lobbyist, believes it is
extremely likely that - with a little more effort - this year the
Congress will refuse to provide even one penny for development of
bunker buster nuclear weapons. For more information about this effort
go to http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/DXUIETHJRJ/FZZWETHKAG/

Senate Did Not Rubber Stamp Bolton Nomination

When President Bush first nominated John Bolton as the next U.S.
Ambassador to the United Nations, the White House predicted a quick
confirmation. But your letters, and the efforts of thousands of others,
persuaded a bipartisan group of Senators to question the wisdom of
sending a man with a reputation for bashing the United Nations and
undermining arms control to represent the United States at the world
body.

Three months later, Bolton still has not been confirmed in large part
because Senators in both parties said there must be a full debate
before this critical nomination is approved. There may be a final vote
in the Senate on the Bolton nomination next week, but we have already
achieved our most important victory in persuading the Senate to fully
debate this important nomination.

_______________________________________

Stop New Nuclear Weapons! Find out how,
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/DXUIETHJRJ/BGUIETHKAH/
The Next Step for Iraq: Join FCNL's Iraq Campaign,
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/DXUIETHJRJ/MZDWETHKAI/

Contact Congress and the Administration:
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/DXUIETHJRJ/AHKJETHKAJ/

Order FCNL publications and "War is Not the Answer" campaign
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________________________________________

Friends Committee on National Legislation
245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795
fcnl@fcnl.org * www.fcnl.org
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
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Monday, June 06, 2005

Fw: Estate Tax Malarkey


----- Original Message -----
From: "FactCheck.org" <subscriberservices@factcheck.org>
To: <miriam@panix.com>
Sent: Monday, June 06, 2005 4:57 PM
Subject: Estate Tax Malarkey

Estate Tax Malarkey

Misleading ads exaggerate what the tax costs farmers, small businesses and
"your family."

Summary

In TV and radio ads two conservative groups greatly overstate the burden
that the federal estate tax puts on heirs to a family farm or business.

One ad claims the federal estate tax "can bury your family in crippling tax
bills," which is untrue for nearly all of those who will see the ad,
including the large majority of farm and business owners. Both ads claim the
estate tax is a "double tax," which is only partly true, and mostly false
when it comes to very wealthy families.

We take no position on whether the estate tax should or should not be
repealed permanently. The claims made in these one-sided ads, however,
present a misleading picture of who is actually affected by the tax.

Click the link below for the entire article:

http://www.factcheck.org/article328m.html

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

http://www.factcheck.org/article328m.html

If you wish to un-subscribe, please copy and paste the following link into
your browser and hit "RETURN":
http://www.factcheck.org/list/maillist/unsubscribe.php?mail=miriam@panix.com&id=22

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Fw: Could Abu Ghraib Happen Again?


----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <kathyguthrie@fcnl.org>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <miriamvieni@optonline.net>
Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2005 4:52 PM
Subject: FCNL: Could Abu Ghraib Happen Again?

The U.S. government's failure to hold senior level military or
civilian officials responsible for the command failures that led to the
torture vividly documented in the photos from Abu Ghraib leaves open
the very real possibility that this type of abuse could happen again.
Investigations by the Army's Inspector General and by a former
Secretary of Defense have suggested that high ranking officials bear
some responsibility for these abuses, but so far none of these
officials has been called to account and there have been no official
recommendations of "next steps" to change any policies that
are in place.

On May 27, Rep. Henry Waxman (CA), minority ranking member of the House
Committee on Government Reform, was joined by senior congressional
leaders to announce that they would introduce legislation to open the
door for meaningful examination and change. The bill would establish a
bi-partisan House select committee to investigate the genesis and
extent of abuse of detainees held in U.S. custody in connection with
the war in Iraq and the global war on terrorism. Here's a link to that
announcement: http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OMXNETANBZ/LGNTETANGP/

Please urge your representative to co-sponsor this legislation that
would create an independent, bi-partisan House select committee to
investigate prisoner abuse and suggest changes in policy to lessen the
possibility that such abuse will happening in the future.

TAKE ACTION NOW

Please email or call your representative today to encourage him or her
to cosponsor Rep. Waxman's effort to establish a bi-partisan House
select committee that would investigate U.S. allegations of torture. If
your representative is already one of the 15 members who has signed the
letter, please thank him or her.

CONTACTING YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IS EASY: To view a sample letter and
write your own message, go to:
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OMXNETANBZ/NBLEETANGQ/ enter your zip
code, and click <Go> in the <Take Action Now> box.

BACKGROUND

Despite 11 investigations into allegations of torture by U.S. personnel
at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere, no senior level official
has been either implicated with responsibility for the torture scandal
or explicitly cleared of such responsibility. Why? None of the 11
investigations have been independent, bi-partisan probes into the
policies and directives that created the conditions for torture of U.S.
detainees.

None of the 11 investigations completed to date reported investigation
of high-ranking officials or suggestion of "next steps" to
change policies that are in place. Yet the conclusions of these
investigations are devastating:

* The initial military probe conducted by Major Gen. Taguba revealed
examples of "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" of
prisoners, clear violations of the Geneva Conventions, which the Bush
administration asserts applies to Iraqi and Taliban captives. Breaking
the Geneva Conventions violates and invites prosecution under the War
Crimes Act.

* The Department of Defense probe by former Secretary of Defense
Schlessinger determined that, "There is both institutional and
personal responsibility at higher levels."

* The Army's Inspector General concluded that Lt. Gen. Sanchez and his
actions at Abu Ghraib perpetuated the abuses.

So far, at least 130 low-ranking officers and enlisted soldiers have
been held responsible for their abusive actions towards captives abroad
as a result of the administration's 11 investigations into allegations
of torture by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and
elsewhere.

These 11 investigations did not report on the actions of high level
officials - the military and government personnel who generated the
policies carried out through brutal and abusive detention and
interrogation techniques. Rep. Waxman's proposed bi-partisan House
select committee of 14 members would have subpoena power to enable it
to investigate officials from all levels of government in order to
fully understand who was responsible and whether legislative or
executive action should result.

For more information on torture and detainee abuse, please visit our
web site at: http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OMXNETANBZ/EJZPETANGR/

_______________________________________

Stop New Nuclear Weapons! Find out how,
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OMXNETANBZ/ILGLETANGS/
The Next Step for Iraq: Join FCNL's Iraq Campaign,
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OMXNETANBZ/BLPWETANGT/

Contact Congress and the Administration:
http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OMXNETANBZ/FWTVETANGU/

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________________________________________

Friends Committee on National Legislation
245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795
fcnl@fcnl.org * http://capwiz.com/fconl/utr/1/OMXNETANBZ/NUSGETANHA/
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
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