Sunday, July 31, 2005

Triumph of the Machine

A Call To Action

August 1, 2005
Triumph of the Machine
The campaign for Social Security privatization has degenerated into farce. The "global war on terrorism" has been downgraded to the "global struggle against violent extremism" (pronounced gee-save), which is just embarrassing. Baghdad is a nightmare, Basra is a militia-run theocracy, and officials are talking about withdrawing troops from Iraq next year (just in time for the U.S. midterm elections).

On the other hand, the administration is crowing about its success in passing the long-stalled energy bill, the highway bill and Cafta, the free-trade agreement with Central America. So is the Bush agenda stalled, or is it progressing?

The answer is that the administration is getting nowhere on its grand policy agenda. But it never took policy, as opposed to politics, very seriously anyway. The agenda it has always taken with utmost seriousness - consolidating one-party rule, and rewarding its friends - is moving forward quite nicely.

One of President Bush's great political talents is his ability to convince people who do care passionately about policy that he is one of them. Foreign-policy neoconservatives believe he shares their vision of a world transformed by American power. Economic conservatives believe he shares their dedication to dismantling the welfare state.

But a serious effort either to transform the world or to dismantle the welfare state would require sacrifices Mr. Bush hasn't been willing to make.

On the foreign policy front, the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emption and unilateralism sounded very impressive at first. But Mr. Bush's tough-guy attitude wasn't matched by his willingness to commit resources. His administration sought global dominance on the cheap, with an undermanned, underplanned invasion of Iraq that has, indeed, transformed the balance of power in the Middle East - in favor of Iran.

On the domestic policy front, talk of an "ownership society" appealed to conservatives who dreamed of rolling back the New Deal. But Mr. Bush has expanded, not reduced, middle-class entitlements. Only the poor and powerless have faced cuts. (I don't think those middle-class entitlements should be cut. But Mr. Bush claims to be against big government.)

Social Security privatization was to the crusade against the welfare state what the invasion of Iraq was to G-Save: an attempt to achieve radical goals on the cheap. Rather than openly propose reductions in entitlement spending, the administration tried to sell a phaseout of traditional Social Security benefits in return for the magic of investing. But the public didn't buy it.

So what about those legislative successes? Roy Blunt, the House Republican whip, called the victories "verification that this is a governing party." But governing means more than handing out goodies.

Let's start with the energy bill. Even the bill's supporters barely pretend that it will do anything to reduce America's dependence on imported oil. It's simply an exercise in corporate welfare, full of subsidies and targeted tax breaks.

Then there's the pork-stuffed highway bill. I guess we'll have to stop making fun of Japanese public works spending: now America, too, is building bridges to islands that have almost no inhabitants, but lie in the districts of influential legislators.

Finally, Cafta contains "free trade" in its title, but that's misleading. The administration rammed the bill through the House by, among other things, promising to limit imports of clothing from China; over all, the effect may well be to reduce, not increase, international trade. But pharmaceutical companies got measures that protect and extend their monopoly rights in Central America.

These bills don't have anything to do with governing, if governing means trying to achieve actual policy goals like energy independence or expanded trade. They're just machine politics at work, favors granted in return for favors received.

In fact, you can argue that the administration does a bad job at governing in part because its highest priority is always to reward its friends. Most notably, the Iraq venture would have had a better chance of succeeding if cronyism and corruption hadn't undermined reconstruction.

Still, Republicans should feel good. Those legislative successes show that the political machine can still deliver the goods, even at a time when a majority of Americans disapprove of Mr. Bush's leadership and believe that his administration deliberately misled us into war.


Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Another Face of Terror

A Call To Action
The New York Times
July 31, 2005


Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, is supposed to be our valued ally in the war on terrorism. But terror takes many forms, not all of them hijacked airplanes or bombed subways.

For the vast majority of humans, terror comes in more mundane ways - like the violent hands that woke Dr. Shazia Khalid as she lay sleeping in her bed, and the abuse she's suffered at the hands of Mr. Musharraf's government ever since.

I mentioned Dr. Shazia briefly in June when I wrote about General Musharraf's quasi-kidnapping and house arrest of Mukhtaran Bibi - the Pakistani rape victim who used compensation money to open schools and start a women's aid group. But at that time Dr. Shazia was still too terrified to speak out.

Now, for the first time, Dr. Shazia has agreed to tell her full story, even though this will put herself and her loved ones at risk. Her tale is simultaneously an indictment of General Musharraf's duplicity, a window into the debasement that is the lot of women in much of the world - and a modern love story.

Dr. Shazia, now 32, took a job by herself two years ago as a doctor at a Pakistan Petroleum plant in the wild Pakistani region of Baluchistan, after Pakistan Petroleum also promised a job for her husband there (that job never materialized). Dr. Shazia's family worried about her safety, but her residence was in a guarded compound and she felt strongly that the women in that region needed access to a female physician.

Then on Jan. 2, Dr. Shazia woke up in the middle of the night, and at first she thought she was having a nightmare. "But this person was really pulling hard on my hair, and then he started pressing on my throat so I couldn't breathe. ... He tied the telephone cord around my throat. I resisted and struggled, and he beat me on the head with the telephone receiver. When I tried to scream, he said, 'Shut up - there's a man standing outside named Amjad, and he's got kerosene. If you scream, I'll take it and burn you alive.' ... Then he took my prayer scarf and he blindfolded me with it, and he took the telephone cord and tied my wrists, and he laid me down on the bed. I tried hard to fight but he raped me."

The man spent the night in her room, beating her, casually watching television, raping her again and boasting about his powerful connections. A 35-page confidential report by a tribunal describes Dr. Shazia tumbling into the nurse's quarters that morning: "semiconscious ... with a swelling on her forehead and bleeding from nose and ear." Officials of Pakistan Petroleum rushed over and took decisive action.

"They told me to be quiet and not to tell anybody because it would ruin my reputation," Dr. Shazia remembers. One official warned that if she reported the crime, she could be arrested.

That was a genuine risk. Under Pakistan's hudood laws, a woman who reports that she has been raped is liable to be arrested for adultery or fornication - since she admits to sex outside of marriage - unless she can provide four male eyewitnesses to the rape.

Dr. Shazia wasn't sure she dared to report the crime, but she begged for permission to contact her family. So, she says, officials drugged her into a stupor and then confined her in a psychiatric hospital in Karachi.

"They wanted to declare me crazy," Dr. Shazia said bitterly. "That's why they shifted me to a hospital for crazy people."

Dr. Shazia's husband, Khalid Aman, was working as an engineer in Libya, but he finally was notified and rushed back 11 days later. Dr. Shazia, by then freed, couldn't face him, but he comforted her, told her that she had done nothing wrong, and insisted that they report the rape to the police so that the criminal could be caught.

That was, perhaps, naïve, particularly because there were rumors that the police had identified the rapist as a senior army officer and were covering up for him.

"When I treat rape victims, I tell the girls not to go to the police," Dr. Shershah Syed, a prominent gynecologist in Karachi, told me. "Because if she goes to the police, the police will rape her."

That's the way the world works for anyone unfortunate enough to be born female in much of the world. In my next column, on Tuesday, I'll tell how our ally, General Musharraf, then inflicted a new round of terrorism on Dr. Shazia.


Frank Rich is on vacation.

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Manners and Morons

A Call To Action

By Molly Ivins, AlterNet
Posted on July 29, 2005, Printed on July 30, 2005

Sheesh, all I knew about John Roberts was that everyone says he has lovely manners -- and already I was prepared to be against him. Knee-jerk liberal? No, congratulations to the White House, Sen. John Cornyn, Fred Thompson and everyone else involved in "managing" Roberts' confirmation process. Can't these people do anything without being devious about it?

My first reaction to Roberts was: "Sounds like that's about as good as we can get. Quick, affirm him before they nominate Bork, Bolton or Pinochet." A conservative with good manners and no known nutball decisions or statements on his record? Hey, take him. At least he's not (whew!) a member of the Federalist Society.

No such luck. Cornyn, who I would have sworn is not this stupid, apparently signed off on having the nominee "forget" he was a member of the Federalist Society, and Roberts obliged, which is strange considering his reputation for brilliance and a spectacular memory.

Turns out the guy is listed in the society's 1997-98 "Leadership Directory" as a member of its steering committee in Washington. How many steering committees have you been on that you've forgotten about?

The reason that matters is that the Federalist Society is the alpha-primo ultraconservative legal group in the whole country. Since we have only two years worth of Roberts' decisions on the bench (in itself unheard of for nominations to the Supremes), the information about how this society plans to steer the country can be very revealing of his positions.

So Roberts already looks disingenuous at best, and then the White House up and decides it's entirely too risky to let the public in on his record as a government lawyer and refuses to release documents requested.

Excuuuuuse me, that is public record. Roberts worked for us, he was paid by the taxpayers, this is not a matter of national security. Where does this White House get off pulling this kind of stuff? Right away, it looks like they're trying to cover something up. Lawyer-client privilege? Are they nuts? Everyone's first reaction is, so what's he guilty of?

As Jay Leno notes, this is an important job -- these are the people who pick the president. Of course we're entitled to know what the man's public record is.

So, now all we know about John Roberts is that he has nice manners and is being managed by a bunch of morons -- and he's willing to say what they spin for him. Then we start getting the record. He's defended the often violent Operation Rescue. He went to Florida to advise Jeb Bush during the 2000 election recount. Other Federalists, Timothy Flanigan (who's now in confirmation hearings for deputy attorney general) and Ted Olson (who became solicitor general of the United States) signed onto the brief to convince the Supremes to stop the count in Florida and install Bush. It's all classic, right-wing judicial activism -- the very "activism" they complain bitterly about if it doesn't fit their radical agenda.

Restrict the right of courts to end school segregation, slow down on enforcing laws against discrimination, divest lower courts of jurisdiction over school prayer cases, go easy on Title IX for women and so on. All that was when Roberts was a junior White House lawyer and the records were opened during the Clinton administration. The records from his time as assistant solicitor general during Bush I are what they're trying to keep under wraps.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page (the People Who Don't Read Their Own Paper) tried to describe the Federalist Society as an anodyne debating society. No, it is not -- it is a radical right organization, which explains why the White House made calls to national media to deny that Roberts was a member.

Jerome Shestack, president of the American Bar Association in 1998, said, "So much of the society's leadership consists of active politicians and others whose slouching toward extremism is self-proclaimed."

The society is funded by millions of dollars from right-wing and libertarian foundations. It attempts to influence legal education and works with right-wing legal advocacy and litigation organizations.

Alfred Ross, of the Institute of Democracy Studies, explains that "through its own 15 practice groups, the society is busy developing new legal theories for every area of American jurisprudence, from civil rights law to national security law, international law, securities regulations law and so on. And if one goes through the publications of their practice groups, one can only gasp not only at the breadth of their agenda, but the extremism of their ideology."

The society has argued for the abolition of the Securities and Exchange Commission, severely limiting the Environmental Protection Agency, and rolling back gender equity laws (Title IX) and voting rights law. Its publications have criticized teaching evolution and attacked the principle of separation of church and state.

According to Ross, they recently launched a state judicial selection project to try to dominate the state, as well as federal, bench. This is all standard, ultra-right-wing claptrap. It's all about control.

If we can't shake loose the actual records on John Roberts, we certainly should pay attention to the group he's most identified with.

Molly Ivins writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Rove's mug shot

A Response to O'Reilly on Health Care

The following is a recent column by the Republican polemicist, Bill O’Reilly, along with my paragraph-by-paragraph response. I am going to try to find columns by members of the right wing media machine on various subjects and respond in the same way. Perhaps in this way I can help illustrate the difference between cynical political talking points and reasoned argument backed by facts. The column is complete and unedited, broken up only by my responses. I have changed the typeface of my responses, put them in italics and made the font size larger. I hope that it is not too difficult to distinguish between O’Reilly’s words and mine. If it is, please let me know and I will try to make the distinction even greater. I can be reached at
Bruce Rosen

Unhealthy and Unwise
By: Bill O'Reilly for BillOReilly.comThursday, Jul 21, 2005
The devil has frostbite because hell has just frozen over. The New York Times, the elite media champion of government entitlements, has printed a "knock your socks off" investigation of Medicaid fraud in New York State.The headline is that 40% of New York's $45 billion a year Medicaid tab is paid to crooks who have figured out how to beat the chaotic system. The Times ran down a list of thieves including doctors, dentists, transportation providers and individuals. The paper did a nice job exposing the scams and fraud but just dented the crime wall, because to steal about $20 billion a year, there has to be an army of villains and there are.

What does the above imply about the right wing myth that the New York Times is a biased, liberal newspaper? If the Times truly had a left wing agenda would they have published an article like that? Would Faux News ever do a story that contradicted their established right wing bias? If so, please show me an example. If not, then a fair minded person would have to admit that the Times is an unbiased news source that tells the truth, whatever the ideological consequences and that Faux News is merely a propaganda organ of the Republican party.

Now, I don't think anyone is surprised that entitlement fraud is rampant in New York State, which is the highest taxed state in the union and has two U.S. Senators that love the entitlement gravy train: Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton. But the state also has an allegedly conservative governor, George Pataki. However, Pataki has little power because the State Assembly is controlled by perhaps the worst elected official in the country, Speaker Sheldon Silver, who makes Boss Tweed look like Elliot Ness. Silver has consistently and unrepentedly stalled bills that would provide more legal oversight on entitlement fraud.

The reference to Schumer and Clinton is a gratuitous statement that O’Reilly, as usual, does not back up. He just pulls nonsense out of his butt. The Presidential administration of Bill Clinton greatly reduced the amount of government entitlements. It also streamlined the government bureaucracy. The worst elected official in the country sits in the White House and he makes Elmer Fudd look like Albert Einstein. His chief advisor makes Benedict Arnold look like Nathan Hale. As chief executive of New York, Governor Pataki is responsible for enforcing the law. Fraud is illegal. Any failure in stopping that is ultimately his responsibility.

So why should you care if you don't live in New York? Well, because the liberal mantra that all Americans are entitled to government-funded health care has gained momentum over the years, and is likely to be one of the cornerstones of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid.

I certainly hope so! It is long overdue that in the most advanced and wealthiest nation on Earth, basic health care be available to everyone.

Can you imagine the federal government sending checks out to hundreds of millions of Americans and their health providers? Can you just picture the chaos and the theft potential? We have massive fraud now with targeted health plans for the poor and elderly. Universal health entitlements would send the country into fiscal disaster.

Medicare actually works remarkably well, with the exception of the recent change, which the White House pushed through after deliberately lying to Congress about its cost. The only beneficiaries of this “reform” are big Pharmaceutical companies. Our present system of private health care is already sending this country into fiscal disaster. Of course, you will never hear about all of the corporations and families on the verge of financial ruin due to runaway medical expenses if your only news source is Faux News.
General Motors recently announced another downsizing, in which they will lay off 25,000 employees. They attributed most of their problem to out of control medical costs. Many jobs are moving to countries like Canada, where the government relieves the burden of health care from corporations or to third world countries, where corporations do not have to offer any medical insurance and life expectancy is much lower.

The truth is that our Constitution does not mandate any responsibility on the part of the feds to pay you anything. There wasn't even a federal income tax withholding before 1913. But now the American left has decided that a "compassionate" society must provide health care, even though it is virtually impossible to do that in a nation of 300 million. The national health system in Canada is chaotic and they have just 33 million citizens.

The constitution was written in 1787 and leaves provisions for future generations to pass laws as they see fit. Is an unsupported grand pronouncement from O’Reilly enough to convince anyone that universal health care is impossible? Is anyone truly that gullible? The Canadian system, on balance, works quite well and the overwhelming majority of Canadians support it.

I am not talking about an "every man for himself" national policy. Clearly, the federal government should provide responsible and effective safety nets for Americans who cannot provide for themselves. Nobody should live under a bridge, nobody should die for lack of a doctor. But government assistance should be well thought out and delivered in a targeted, disciplined way. So far, that has not been case, not only in Medicaid, but in most "Great Society" programs.

The fact is that in our country many people do live under bridges and many more, including middle class people, die for lack of proper medical care. If someone is uninsured and lacking the necessary financial reserves, who is going to provide them with chemotherapy or bypass surgery or any of a number of medical procedures or medications necessary for their survival? It is unconscionable that the America of the twenty-first century does not have a system guaranteeing all of its citizens basic, affordable health care.Anyone looking for anything well thought out needs to steer clear of Bill O’Reilly.

Rampant entitlements have bankrupted Germany and France and the high taxation that fuels these programs has made it impossible for the German and French economies to grow. More entitlements and higher taxation in the USA would lead to the same situation. We have been warned.

So why is the Euro so strong in relation to the dollar? The present health system in the U.S. is far more wasteful than those in Europe and far more costly. There are too many insurance company and HMO bureaucracies, many of which exist mainly to deny doctor mandated treatments. Does anyone really think we deliver medical care efficiently?A single payer system would be far more efficient than the bloated, top-heavy system we have now.

It must be galling to the left-wing columnists at The New York Times that their own newspaper has illustrated the economic dangers of massive entitlement programs. People like Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman envision a quasi-socialist paradise where the feds provide you with everything from tranquilizers to a colonoscopy. And judging from the exposition of out-of-control Medicare fraud in New York State, the colonoscopy reference is disturbingly appropriate.

Facing the truth never galls Liberals and they always welcome intelligent debate. What does gall them is when mindless talking points are substituted for reasoned discourse. Of course corruption must be rooted out and punished. God knows there is plenty of that in the present medical system. There is also plenty of corruption in this administration and its relations with its large donors, who will no doubt continue spending huge amounts of money to lie, distort and frighten people into maintaining our present, broken health care system.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Fw: Anti-Torture Legislation in Senate: August Action Needed - FCNL

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <>
Sent: Wednesday, July 27, 2005 12:11 PM
Subject: Anti-Torture Legislation in Senate: August Action Needed - FCNL

Anti-Torture Legislation in Senate: August Action Needed

Speak out to stop torture! The August congressional recess is an ideal
opportunity to contact your senators while they are home from
Washington. Urge your senators to support the McCain amendment (#1557,
as modified) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
2006 (S. 1042).

Torture -
* is inhumane;
* doesn't reflect our country&rsquo;s moral values;
* undermines human rights standards worldwide;
* creates legions of enemies of the U.S.;
* brings danger of retaliation on U.S. troops and travelers abroad; and
does not work - it does not produce reliable intelligence information.


Write or call your senators in their district offices nearest you. You
can find your senator's district contact information here:

Tell them to send a message loud and clear to the U.S. military that no
intelligence information is worth spoiling our country&rsquo;s
long-standing moral position that the we in the U.S. do not condone
torture, ever. Urge them to support Sen. McCain's amendment.

Below are some talking points that you can use in your message. You may
also want to identify yourself as part of your community (where you
live, your occupation) and include a sentence about why you care about
this issue. The more specific you can be, the better.

* I am deeply appalled to know that my government condones and
participates in torture. This must be stopped.

* I urge you to support Sen. McCain&rsquo;s amendment to the
National Defense Authorization Act (FY 2006) requiring that U.S. armed
forces must observe the humanitarian standards in international,
national and military law - the Geneva Conventions, the U.N. Convention
Against Torture, our own U.S. Constitution, and our
military&rsquo;s effective rules governing military interrogations.

* Civilized cultures treat all human beings with dignity. The rule of
law must be recognized as governing the behavior of our troops and
agents overseas. Torture by U.S. agents is morally wrong. It puts our
soldiers overseas in danger of retaliation. It doesn&rsquo;t yield
reliable intelligence information because those being tortured will say
anything, true or not, to make the torture stop.

* Please, make it clear that the U.S. does not and will not condone the
use of torture.


Sen. McCain's amendment #1557 provides a clear directive to the
military that torture is an unacceptable technique to use for
intelligence gathering anytime, anywhere, and under any circumstances.

Sen. McCain (AZ), himself subjected to more than five years of torture
as a POW during the Vietnam War, introduced the "Uniform Standards
for the Interrogation of Persons Under the Detention of the Department
of Defense." The amendment provides that: (1) all U.S. military
interrogations must be governed by the Army Field Manual on
Intelligence Interrogation; (2) no interrogation technique may be
included in the manual that would constitute torture or cruel,
inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment prohibited by the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the U.S.; and (3) all U.S. military
detainees must be registered
with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In addition, Sen. McCain plans to introduce a second amendment to the
Defense Department authorization bill. Amendment #1556 (printed but not
yet introduced - wording under scrutiny as of this legislative action
alert) would prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or
punishment of persons under custody or control of the U.S. government.
The amendment uses the definitions of the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva
Conventions, and the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

For more information, see Sen. McCain's statement in support of
amendment #1557 (under the heading "Congressional Action"),
as well as other background information about the use of torture:

Reminder: August 6 and 9 this year mark the 60th anniversary of the
U.S. atomic bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Download
the FCNL flier as a resource to help your community remember the
civilians who lost their lives in the bombings and to say "never


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:

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:


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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I'm just asking.....

A Call To Action
uesday WH Briefing: John Roberts and Iran-Contra

By E&P Staff

Published: July 26, 2005 5:00 PM ET

NEW YORKVirtually giving up, at last, on getting Press Secretary Scott McClellan to comment on the Plame/CIA leak affair, reporters at today's White House briefing concentrated on another hot issue, the Democrats' attempt to get the White House to release more of a paper trail on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

The White House says it will hand over more than enough documents, while the Democrats want more.

One emerging hot button issue revolves around the holding back of Roberts documents from his days in the Bush I administration as a deputy in the Solicitor General's office, on grounds of client-attorney privilege. Of particular interest here, for some Democrats, is what advice Roberts might have offered leading up to President George H.W. Bush's pardon of Caspar Weinberger and others in the Iran-Control scandal.

But some feel that that client-attorney privilege argument may not hold, legally, so the White House may also be prepared to deny documents on “national security” grounds. This prompted perhaps the most pointed question of today's briefing (from a “Dana,” presumably Dana Milbank of The Washington Post), who asked near the end of the session, “Do you consider Iran-Contra a national security issue?”

“I haven't even thought about that, Dana,” McClellan replied, “to tell you the truth.”

Here are excerpts from the official transcript related to the Roberts documents:

Q Do you plan to make any claims for executive privilege for any of those documents? We know you're -- you have some attorney client privilege concerns.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this was something we consulted with Chairman Specter about and Chairman Specter expressed his appreciation for what we are doing. We wanted to make sure that all appropriate information was getting to the Senate, so that they could move about in a timely and fair fashion on Judge Roberts' nomination. I think you need to look back at what you're referring to. There are seven former solicitor generals who have publicly expressed concerns when it comes to information related to attorney-client privilege. They rely on open, candid and thorough assessments or advice from their attorneys during the decision-making process, and you cannot have that if attorneys in the Office of the Solicitor General fear that that information might be disclosed.

Q What's the case law that establishes attorney-client privilege for the work of the Solicitor General's Office?

MR. McCLELLAN: There is ample case law that is available that --

Q Specifically.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- talks about the importance of government attorneys having attorney-client privilege. And I'll be glad to provide you that information. There is ample case law available.

Q Seth Waxman, himself, argued that the attorney-client privilege applies to the White House Counsel's Office, under the Clinton administration--and the courts found that that was not the case.

MR. McCLELLAN: The Solicitor General's Office comes under the Federal Records Act. The White House Counsel's Office comes under the Presidential Records Act. And under the Presidential Records Act, there is a presumption of disclosure. All of us who come here and work at the White House know that what we are doing is going to be disclosed publicly.

Q So that doesn't compromise the integrity of the discussions within the White House Counsel's Office, but it does the Solicitor General's Office?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying there are two different acts that govern these issues, and that's why I was pointing back to what the solicitor general said when it came to the decision-making process in their office.

Q Does the solicitor general work for the people or the President?

MR. McCLELLAN: The solicitor general represents the U.S. government in issues. And so they are the attorney for the U.S. government.

Q How many documents fall under this category, and what are they?

MR. McCLELLAN: Fall under what category?

Q The attorney-client privilege. How many are you holding back, and what do they consist of, exactly?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, we're providing all appropriate information to the Senate. And I wanted to make that clear. That's why we went ahead and made this decision so that we could expedite that process at the Reagan Library to make that information available --

Q Right, but how many are you holding back?

MR. McCLELLAN: Wait, hang on -- available before they return so that they can get about moving forward on the confirmation process in a timely manner. We think that's important. And much of this information may not have been made available if it had gone through the normal review process.

Q How many are you holding back and what does it consist of?

MR. McCLELLAN: But in terms of the Solicitor General's Office, the White House hasn't seen or reviewed any of those documents. It wouldn't be appropriate for us to do so, for the reasons I just stated.

Q Wouldn't his later work be more relevant than thousands of pages of what he did 25 years ago?

MR. McCLELLAN: His work on the court is absolutely something for people to look at, the last two years that he has served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. And that's why I pointed back to the confirmation hearing process that he had been through previously….

Q On the solicitor general documents, which you are not going to release, that is non-negotiable, the end of story, as far as the White House is concerned?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've made our views known.

Q Back to Roberts and the documents. Does the White House maintain that what it's doing now related to the DOJ and the Counsel documents is, in effect, expediting the process? It's not that these documents wouldn't be available to members of Congress in the absence of the White House's assistance?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are expediting the process when you're talking about the Reagan Library documents, absolutely.

Q Democrats are arguing that, in effect, however, those documents were in the process of being made public anyway, and that the documents at the Archives were available, thank you very much, and their argument is that they haven't gotten anything that they couldn't have gotten under themselves, and what they're seeking in the solicitor general's documents, they're being denied.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, on the Reagan Library documents, there is a process that they are going through to make those documents available publicly, but it is a process that tends to make months. At a minimum, it takes weeks and weeks and weeks. I think everybody recognizes the importance of moving forward in a timely manner on this confirmation hearing.

And this is documents that we're talking about from 20 years ago . I mean, these documents essentially show a young White House staffer providing his legal analysis to support the President's agenda at the time. That's what these documents are. But we wanted to make sure that they had all the appropriate information they needed. And that's what this is about.

Q Did you waive any attorney-client privilege in the documents that are being released?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, the documents that are being released?

Q Correct.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the documents in the Archives are all available publicly and the documents -- like I said, the documents at the Reagan Library, I mean, they're covered under the Presidential Records Act, and I think only documents that you're talking about that might not be disclosed would be related to issues of national security concerns or privacy concerns.

Q And you can't waive any attorney-client privilege under the solicitor general's documents -- is that right?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I expressed the views of the former solicitor generals and why they believe it's important to protect the attorney-client privilege, and members of the Senate have expressed that, as well.

Q But you would have the authority to waive it if you chose to do so?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, what we're doing is moving forward and making available all appropriate information for the Senate to do their job and do it in an expedited fashion.

Q Can I just ask a quick follow-up on that?


Q Do you consider Iran-Contra a national security issue?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't even thought about that, Dana, to tell you the truth.

E&P Staff (

Energy Deal Has Tax Breaks for Companies

A Call To Action
- By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, July 26, 2005

(07-26) 16:17 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) --

Lawmakers scaled back support for energy conservation and efficiency programs as part of a $11.5 billion tax package expected to be added Wednesday to a sweeping energy bill that Congress hopes to complete this week.

The agreement, worked out in closed meetings of House and Senate negotiators, funnels about 60 percent of the tax breaks, about $8.5 billion, to traditional energy industries including coal, natural gas and electric companies. Many of the incentives are aimed at promoting new energy technologies.

Efficiency and conservation programs would get $1.3 billion, about a third of what the Senate had approved for such programs when it passed its energy legislation in June. In many cases the savings were achieved by shortening the duration that tax breaks will be available. About $3 billion goes to renewables, mostly tax breaks for wind turbines.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, the ranking Senate Democrat on the panel that forged the energy compromise with the House and also involved in the tax negotiations, said the reductions in tax breaks for energy efficiency "is greater than I had wanted."

Nevertheless, said Bingaman, he supports the overall bill.

"Given the makeup of the Congress today and given the policies of the administration, this is as good a bill as I think we could hope to get," said Bingaman. He also failed in the House-Senate negotiations to get a provision requiring utilities to use renewable fuels to generate at least 10 percent of their electricity, a measure that the Senate has passed several times but was opposed by House Republicans.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-M.M., who headed the Senate side negotiating the bill, said the measure will help diversify the nation's energy portfolio by spurring development of new technologies from the next generation of nuclear reactors to ways to burn coal with less smog-causing and climate-changing pollution.

"We mandate more conservation and higher efficiency," said Domenici, citing among other things new efficiency standards for 14 commercial appliances such as large refrigerators and cooling systems.

Completion of the tax package, which includes about $14.1 billion worth of tax breaks and incentives offset by $2.6 billion in new tax revenue set the stage for final approval of the bill in the House and Senate.

The House was likely to take up the measure as early as Wednesday, followed by the Senate on Thursday or Friday. President Bush had challenged Congress to complete an energy bill before leaving for the August recess after four years in which repeated attempts to enact a broad national energy agenda failed because of regional disputes or environmental fights.

While the bill was expected to get bipartisan support, some lawmakers criticized the legislation Wednesday for failing to do enough to curtail the country's thirst for oil.

"The bill does little to nothing to reduce our dependence on Middle East oil," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., citing lawmakers' refusal to take even modest measures to increase automobile fuel efficiency.

Bingaman agreed the bill "does not reduce our dependence on foreign oil significantly" and noted that the House had rejected a "modest provision" approved by the Senate to require the president to outline how to reduce oil use by 1 million barrels a day by 2025. Critics of that proposal called it a backdoor way to impose tougher requirements on automakers.

Some House Democrats, meanwhile, criticized giving billions of dollars or subsidies to mature industries including oil companies already flush with money in this era of $60 per barrel of oil.

The bill would provide more than $4 billion in tax breaks and direct royalty relief for the oil and gas industries and an equal amount for the coal industry, while providing loan guarantees and other subsidies for the nuclear industry to build new reactors.

"There is a strong rationale for providing government financial support to new technologies and industries" but not to "giving taxpayer dollars to mature and wealthy industries," said California Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman, Hilda Solis and Lois Capps, and Edward Markey, D-Mass.

The watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense estimated the total cost of the bill, including authorized programs that may never get funding from Congress, at $80 billion.

"The bill is filled to the brim with massive giveaways for mega-rich energy companies," said Jill Lancelot, the group's president. "By stuffing the measure with so much pork, the(y) have attempted to buy off enough votes to guarantee passing a so-called energy bill."

Myron Ebel of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute also criticized the bill over its government subsidies. "A lot of these tax subsidies and loan guarantees look an awful lot like the failed energy policies of the 1970s," said Ebel in an interview.


On the Net:

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:

House Energy and Commerce Committee:

©2005 Associated Press

A Call To Action

A Call To Action
Rove Scandal: Looking for One Outraged GOPer (It Ain't McCain)
The Political-Security Gap in Iraq

by David Corn

Washington scandals often have ritualistic moments. The Plame/CIA leak matter (also known as the Rove scandal) has had its share. There was the lack of attention from the establishment press for months (until the news leaked that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate the leak). There has been dismissal from spinners. (Watergate was derided at first by Nixonites as a "third-rate burglary"; the Plame/CIA leak has been pooh-poohed by Bushies as no big deal.) There has been absurd stonewalling from the White House. ("We'd be delighted to tell the public what we know, but, alas, we cannot even say it's a no-no to leak classified information because an investigation is under way.")

And there has been the inconvenient quote. Nixon had "I am not a crook." Scott McClellan has his 2003 claim that it would be "ridiculous" to suggest Karl Rove was involved in the Plame/CIA leak. (No, Rove only confirmed the leak--which was classified information--to at least two reporters, by his lawyer's account.) But there is one ritualistic action that has yet to occur: a member of the president's own party publicly criticizing the White House for the wrongdoing being investigated.

Now that it is known that Rove and Scooter Libby passed information about Valerie Wilson's classified relationship with the CIA to reporters, no prominent GOPers has said boo. The Republicans who talk about the scandal on the chattering-head shows have followed the White House's lead and have suggested that (a) no one should judge Rove and Libby's actions--or the White House's previous and false denials--until the inquiry is over and (b) the only real issue is whether a crime was committed.

Look at Bay Buchanan on CNN. "What we're hearing is rumors," she said, adding "we do not know anything at this point." That's utterly wrong and misleading. We know, for instance, the White House misinformed the public about Rove's involvement in the leak. She also argued that the White House is right to say, "We have no facts." No facts? The White House--well, at least Rove and Libby and maybe other White House aides--possess many relevant facts. And the chief dogcatcher at 1600 Pennsylvania, if he reads the newspapers, can find plenty of facts--that is, information confirmed by Rove's attorney--about Rove's role in this episode. (Could Rove's lawyer be lying?) But as I have previously (and repeatedly) pointed out, it's the job of the Rove spinners to deny and distort reality.

Sadly, John McCain has been drawn into this dishonest campaign. McCain has tried to promote himself as the straight-talking politician. You might even think he would be a candidate to perform the specific ritual I mentioned above: the from-within-the-party blast. But scratch him from that list. On Hardball a few nights ago, McCain once again placed politics and loyalty to Bush (the guy who dragged McCain's reputation through the mud in 2000) above straight talk. He repeatedly defended Rove, saying that when Rove confirmed Valerie Wilson's CIA ID for Bob Novak and Matt Cooper he was merely countering "false information" being put out by former Joseph Wilson "concerning whether Dick Cheney sent him to Africa." McCain went on: "It's understandable why Rove would say to a reporter, 'Hey, look, the vice president did not send Wilson to Niger.   It was done at the recommendation of his wife, etcetera, etcetera.'"

Regular readers will know this is the same-old disinformation being hurled by GOP spinners. One need only look at Wilson's July 6, 2003 New York Times op-ed piece--the article that precipitated the White House assault on Wilson--to see that Wilson did not claim he was sent to Niger by Cheney. Wilson wrote:

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake--a form of lightly processed ore--by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.

Yet here was McCain promoting one of the biggest canards being pushed by the Save Rove dissemblers: that Wilson had claimed he was personally dispatched by Cheney and that Rove was only making sure reporters did not report that falsehood. That's really being a team player. McCain went further and said, "Karl Rove has stated that he did not do anything wrong and break any law. I take him at his word." How Jesus-like of McCain, turning the other cheek in this fashion. The Bush campaign that Rove ran in 2000 spread lies about McCain. When Chris Matthews reminded McCain of that, the senator just chucked and said, "politics is not beanbags."

McCain was back in POW-mode--like when he addressed the GOP convention in 2000 and praised Bush. Back then, he looked like a hostage force-reading a script that had been handed to him. Now he's being the good solider and misinforming the public to protect the man who undid his presidential campaign in 2000, presumably to keep intact the possibility of a presidential bid in 2008.

During the interview, Matthews remarked to McCain, "You are known to have a higher ethical standard than most politicians." McCain responded, "I hope."

Anyone who ties himself to Rove ought to be careful about claiming the ethical high ground.

When it comes to discussing Iraq on talk shows, I often am a broken record. For over a year or so, I've repeatedly said that there is a significant gap between the security dilemma in Iraq and the political developments. Whenever there is good news on the political or PR front in Iraq--Saddam Hussein captured, elections held, Sunnis brought into the constitution-drafting committee, etc.--pro-war commentators claim the event of the moment is going to demoralize the insurgency and hasten the path to peace and security in Iraq. But such statements are more wishes than analysis. And so far no corner has been truly turned concerning security and the insurgency in Iraq.

Look at these two portions from articles that appeared Sunday in the nation's leading newspapers. The Washington Post noted,

"Finishing the draft constitution on time is seen by U.S. officials and many Iraqis as vital to countering Iraq's insurgents, whose attacks have eroded public confidence in the U.S.-backed government."
However, a front-page article in The New York Times reported:

"Despite months of assurances that their forces were on the wane, the guerrillas and terrorists battling the American-backed enterprise here appear to be growing more violent, more resilient and more sophisticated than ever.
A string of recent attacks, including the execution of moderate Sunni leaders and the kidnapping of foreign diplomats, has brought home for many Iraqis that the democratic process that has been unfolding since the Americans restored Iraqi sovereignty in June 2004 has failed to isolate the insurgents and, indeed, has become the target itself....

American commanders say the number of attacks against American and Iraqi forces has held steady over the last year, averaging about 65 a day.

But the Americans concede the growing sophistication of insurgent attacks and the insurgents' ability to replenish their ranks as fast as they are killed.

We are capturing or killing a lot of insurgents, said a senior Army intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make his assessments public. But they're being replaced quicker than we can interdict their operations. There is always another insurgent ready to step up and take charge."

So what's the evidence that the drafting of the constitution has any impact on the insurgency? It's certainly true that it would better for the Iraqis if they manage to form a government that is democratic, that works, and that is able to establish (eventually) effective security forces. Perhaps if that is accomplished--in say, five or more years--the Iraqi government will be in a position to put down the insurgency (if the insurgency does not peter out). But none of the interim steps appear to have made a difference in terms of the development, growth and strength of the insurgency.

A constitution is supposed to be written by August 15. If the Iraqis manage to meet that deadline, there will be many cheers from the White House and from the war's champions on Capitol Hill and within the commentariat. But my hunch is that if this occurs, August 15 will be just another day for the getting-stronger insurgents.


Monday, July 25, 2005


A Call To Action

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Eight Days in Julyu

A Call To Action

July 24, 2005
Eight Days in July
PRESIDENT BUSH'S new Supreme Court nominee was a historic first after all: the first to be announced on TV dead center in prime time, smack in the cross hairs of "I Want to Be a Hilton." It was also one of the hastiest court announcements in memory, abruptly sprung a week ahead of the White House's original timetable. The agenda of this rushed showmanship - to change the subject in Washington - could not have been more naked. But the president would have had to nominate Bill Clinton to change this subject.

When a conspiracy is unraveling, and it's every liar and his lawyer for themselves, the story takes on a momentum of its own. When the conspiracy is, at its heart, about the White House's twisting of the intelligence used to sell the American people a war - and its desperate efforts to cover up that flimflam once the W.M.D. cupboard proved bare and the war went south - the story will not end until the war really is in its "last throes."

Only 36 hours after the John Roberts unveiling, The Washington Post nudged him aside to second position on its front page. Leading the paper instead was a scoop concerning a State Department memo circulated the week before the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife, the C.I.A. officer Valerie Plame, in literally the loftiest reaches of the Bush administration - on Air Force One. The memo, The Post reported, marked the paragraph containing information about Ms. Plame with an S for secret. So much for the cover story that no one knew that her identity was covert.

But the scandal has metastasized so much at this point that the forgotten man Mr. Bush did not nominate to the Supreme Court is as much a window into the White House's panic and stonewalling as its haste to put forward the man he did. When the president decided not to replace Sandra Day O'Connor with a woman, why did he pick a white guy and not nominate the first Hispanic justice, his friend Alberto Gonzales? Mr. Bush was surely not scared off by Gonzales critics on the right (who find him soft on abortion) or left (who find him soft on the Geneva Conventions). It's Mr. Gonzales's proximity to this scandal that inspires real fear.

As White House counsel, he was the one first notified that the Justice Department, at the request of the C.I.A., had opened an investigation into the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife. That notification came at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003, but it took Mr. Gonzales 12 more hours to inform the White House staff that it must "preserve all materials" relevant to the investigation. This 12-hour delay, he has said, was sanctioned by the Justice Department, but since the department was then run by John Ashcroft, a Bush loyalist who refused to recuse himself from the Plame case, inquiring Senate Democrats would examine this 12-hour delay as closely as an 18½-minute tape gap. "Every good prosecutor knows that any delay could give a culprit time to destroy the evidence," said Senator Charles Schumer, correctly, back when the missing 12 hours was first revealed almost two years ago. A new Gonzales confirmation process now would have quickly devolved into a neo-Watergate hearing. Mr. Gonzales was in the thick of the Plame investigation, all told, for 16 months.

Thus is Mr. Gonzales's Supreme Court aspiration the first White House casualty of this affair. It won't be the last. When you look at the early timeline of this case, rather than the latest investigatory scraps, two damning story lines emerge and both have legs.

The first: for half a year White House hands made the fatal mistake of thinking they could get away with trashing the Wilsons scot-free. They thought so because for nearly three months after the July 6, 2003, publication of Mr. Wilson's New York Times Op-Ed article and the outing of his wife in a Robert Novak column, there was no investigation at all. Once the unthreatening Ashcroft-controlled investigation began, there was another comfy three months.

Only after that did Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, take over and put the heat on. Only after that did investigators hustle to seek Air Force One phone logs and did Mr. Bush feel compelled to hire a private lawyer. But by then the conspirators, drunk with the hubris characteristic of this administration, had already been quite careless.

It was during that pre-Fitzgerald honeymoon that Scott McClellan declared that both Karl Rove and Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, had personally told him they were "not involved in this" - neither leaking any classified information nor even telling any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the C.I.A. Matt Cooper has now written in Time that it was through his "conversation with Rove" that he "learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A." Maybe it all depends on what the meaning of "telling," "involved" or "this" is. If these people were similarly cute with F.B.I. agents and the grand jury, they've got an obstruction-of-justice problem possibly more grave than the hard-to-prosecute original charge of knowingly outing a covert agent.

Most fertile - and apparently ground zero for Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation - is the period at the very outset when those plotting against Mr. Wilson felt safest of all: those eight days in July 2003 between the Wilson Op-Ed, which so infuriated the administration, and the retaliatory Novak column. It was during that long week, on a presidential trip to Africa, that Colin Powell was seen on Air Force One brandishing the classified State Department memo mentioning Valerie Plame, as first reported by The New York Times.

That memo may have been the genesis of an orchestrated assault on the Wilsons. That the administration was then cocky enough and enraged enough to go after its presumed enemies so systematically can be found in a similar, now forgotten attack that was hatched on July 15, the day after the publication of Mr. Novak's column portraying Mr. Wilson as a girlie man dependent on his wife for employment.

On that evening's broadcast of ABC's "World News Tonight," American soldiers in Falluja spoke angrily of how their tour of duty had been extended yet again, only a week after Donald Rumsfeld told them they were going home. Soon the Drudge Report announced that ABC's correspondent, Jeffrey Kofman, was gay. Matt Drudge told Lloyd Grove of The Washington Post at the time that "someone from the White House communications shop" had given him that information.

Mr. McClellan denied White House involvement with any Kofman revelation, a denial now worth as much as his denials of White House involvement with the trashing of the Wilsons. Identifying someone as gay isn't a crime in any event, but the "outing" of Mr. Kofman (who turned out to be openly gay) almost simultaneously with the outing of Ms. Plame points to a pervasive culture of revenge in the White House and offers a clue as to who might be driving it. As Joshua Green reported in detail in The Atlantic Monthly last year, a recurring feature of Mr. Rove's political campaigns throughout his career has been the questioning of an "opponent's sexual orientation."

THE second narrative to be unearthed in the scandal's early timeline is the motive for this reckless vindictiveness against anyone questioning the war. On May 1, 2003, Mr. Bush celebrated "Mission Accomplished." On May 29, Mr. Bush announced that "we found the weapons of mass destruction." On July 2, as attacks increased on American troops, Mr. Bush dared the insurgents to "bring 'em on." But the mission was not accomplished, the weapons were not found and the enemy kept bringing 'em on. It was against this backdrop of mounting desperation on July 6 that Mr. Wilson went public with his incriminating claim that the most potent argument for the war in the first place, the administration's repeated intimations of nuclear Armageddon, involved twisted intelligence.

Mr. Wilson's charge had such force that just three days after its publication, Mr. Bush radically revised his language about W.M.D.'s. Saddam no longer had W.M.D.'s; he had a W.M.D. "program." Right after that George Tenet suddenly decided to release a Friday-evening statement saying that the 16 errant words about African uranium "should never have been included" in the January 2003 State of the Union address - even though those 16 words could and should have been retracted months earlier. By the next State of the Union, in January 2004, Mr. Bush would retreat completely, talking not about finding W.M.D.'s or even W.M.D. programs, but about "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

In July 2005, there are still no W.M.D.'s, and we're still waiting to hear the full story of how, in the words of the Downing Street memo, the intelligence was fixed to foretell all those imminent mushroom clouds in the run-up to war in Iraq. The two official investigations into America's prewar intelligence have both found that our intelligence was wrong, but neither has answered the question of how the administration used that wrong intelligence in selling the war. That issue was pointedly kept out of the charter of the Silberman-Robb commission; the Senate Intelligence Committee promised to get to it after the election but conspicuously has not.

The real crime here remains the sending of American men and women to Iraq on fictitious grounds. Without it, there wouldn't have been a third-rate smear campaign against an obscure diplomat, a bungled cover-up and a scandal that - like the war itself - has no exit strategy that will not inflict pain.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Myth of Marriage

A Call To Action

By Monica Mehta, AlterNet
Posted on July 21, 2005, Printed on July 23, 2005

The institution of traditional marriage is in a state of crisis.

There's a misstatement in that sentence. But it's not that marriage is in crisis. It's that the institution of marriage is, or was at any time, traditional. As Stephanie Coontz reveals in her new book, Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, human unions have gone through a number of evolutions. We would be remiss to think that it was ever a stable institution. Instead, it has always been in flux. It has only been based on the concept of love for 200 years; before that, it was a way of ensuring economic and political stability. Through painstakingly-detailed descriptions and anecdotes from hunter-gatherer days to the modern era, Coontz points out that "almost every marital and sexual arrangement we have seen in recent years, however startling it may appear, has been tried somewhere before." So when we think of cohabitation, gay marriage, or stepfamilies as deviating from the "norm," we are wrong, because there has never really been a "norm."

For a country obsessed with the perfect image of the nuclear family -- mother, father and two kids -- this is eye-opening. We are trying to force ourselves to be something we never really were, or were for a very brief period of time. Instead, Coontz argues, we need to be more tolerant of and open to different forms of union. People with traditional "family values" lack the skills to adapt to social realities that have changed marriage, such as the increased independence of women.

Coontz argues that many of our familial woes come from an unrealistic, idealized version of marriage, and advocates a more liberal interpretation of marriage. Many have had this idea before, but Coontz's centuries-long historical survey confirms it. Below, she answers our questions about gay marriage, the government's support (or lack thereof) of the institution, and what really makes a marriage work.

What is the central thesis of your book?

The basic argument for this book is that what we think of as the traditional marriage -- the marriage based on love, and for the purpose of making peoples' individual lives better -- this was not the purpose of marriage for thousands of years. Instead, marriage was about acquiring in-laws, jockeying for political and economic advantage, and building the family labor force. It was only 200 years ago that people began to believe that young people could choose their own mates, and should choose their own mates on the basis of something like love, which had formerly been considered a tremendous threat to marriage. As soon as people began to do that, all of the demands that we now think of as radical new demands -- from the demand for divorce, to the right to refuse a shotgun marriage, to even recognition of same-sex relations -- were immediately raised.

But it was not until the last 30 years that people began to actually act on the new ideals for beloved marriage. Social conservatives say that there has been a crisis in the last 30 years, and I agree with them, that marriage has been tremendously weakened as an institution. It's lost its former monopoly over organizing sexuality, male-female relations, political social and economic rights, and personal legitimacy. Where I disagree with them, is in how to evaluate that change and its consequences. I agree that it poses tremendous challenges to us, the breakdown of this monopoly of marriage, but I disagree with the idea that one could make marriage better by trying to shoehorn everyone back into the older forms of marriage. Because the main things that have weakened marriage as an institution are the same things that have strengthened marriage as a relationship. Because marriage is now more optional, because for the first time ever, men and women have equal rights in marriage and outside it. Because women have economic independence. This means that you can negotiate a marriage, and make it more flexible and individualized than ever before. So a marriage when it works is better for people, it's fairer, it's more satisfying, it's more loving and fulfilling than ever before in history.

But the same things that make it so are the things that allow people not to marry, or to leave a marriage that they find unsatisfying. My argument then is that you can't have one with out the other. And so we'd better learn to deal with the alternatives to marriage. Alternatives to marriage being singlehood, cohabitation, divorce and stepfamilies, all of these kinds of alternatives to marriage that have arisen.

So it's not about necessarily strengthening the union of marriage as it's been known for years, but adapting better to new forms of marriage?

I think of the revolution in marriage very much like the industrial revolution. It opened up some new opportunities for many people. It also created havoc in some peoples' lives. But the point is that it was not reversible, there was no way to go back to turn everyone into self-sufficient farmers. So we had to reform the factories, and we had to deal with the reality we faced. I would say that the revolution in marriage is the same. There is no way to force men and women to get married and stay married. There is no way to force women to make the kinds of accommodations they used to make, to enter a shotgun marriage or to stay in a marriage they find unsatisfying. So we have to learn with both the opportunities and the problems that raises for us.

You mention that evangelical Christians are just as likely to remain single or divorce as atheists.

Yes. One of the signs that this is in fact a huge, irreversible revolution in personal life on the same order as the industrial revolution, is that it doesn't matter what your values are. Everyone is affected by this. Even people who want or think they are in a traditional marriage are not exempt from these changes. So that the divorce rates of evangelical Christians are the same as those of agnostics and atheists. And in fact, the highest divorce rates in the country are found in the Bible Belt. First of all, the Bible Belt is a more poor area of the country, and poverty is a huge stress on marriage and other relationships. But I also think that there's something in the values of the Bible Belt. People who are extremely traditional, people who believe that sex outside of marriage is immoral, tend to get married early. And in today's world, that is a risk factor for divorce. So that's one of the reasons that they tend to divorce more. We are experiencing a revolutionary change in the way that marriage operates, and the dynamics of marriage. It's so much more important now to meet as equals, to be good friends as well as lovers, to have values that allow you to change through your life and negotiate. And a lot of people with so-called traditional values in fact don't have those skills.

Would you say that Republicans with "family values" have better marriages?

No, and I wouldn't say that Democrats have better marriages either. I think that you really cannot predict how well a marriage is going to go by the values that people have entering it. And in fact, one thing we do know for sure is that women with higher egalitarian ideas about gender are still slightly more likely to divorce than women with more traditional ideas. The opposite is true for men. Men with more traditional ideas about male bread-winning and female roles are more likely to divorce today than men with more egalitarian liberal views.

What is the analysis of that? Do you think it's that both parties have to come halfway to meet each other?

I think it's because for thousands of years marriage was set up to benefit men more than women. Most of the emotional expectations and the kinds of tasks that people brought to marriage involved women shouldering the physical work and emotional work that makes life goes on. So it is women that have an interest in changing the traditional terms of marriage. They are the ones most likely to ask for change. And people who actually study marital dynamics report that it is one of the best predictors that a marriage will last and be happy is when a women asks for change and the man responds positively. So I think that the difference in divorce rates is that if the woman is more egalitarian than the man, she's more likely to not get the changes she wants. But if the man is equally or more egalitarian, she is likely to get the change she wants and that marriage is going to work better, for the man as well as the woman.

So what about gay marriage? You mention that states in favor of gay marriage don't have higher divorce rates.

Massachusetts is one of the states with the two lowest divorce rates, and even though it's the poster-state for non-traditional values. It seems to me tremendously perverse to say that the institution of marriage is threatened by the one group that is clamoring to enter it, when so many heterosexuals are refusing to enter it. But I think that there's a lot of magical thinking going on in people who believe that we should campaign against gay and lesbian marriage. They are I think arguing that if we could just draw this one line in the sand we might be able to reverse all the other changes that have occurred in marriage. But in fact, I would argue that gay and lesbian marriage is not at all a cause of the changes in married life. It's a result of the revolution that heterosexuals have made in how marriage is organized.

I think we have to deal with reality. People have different moral values and I certainly would not say that any church that opposed gay marriage would have to conduct a ceremony in the church. But I think that we have to deal with the fact that marriage has always been evolving and that particularly right now we have to have some sort of recognition and rules for people who are taking on caregiving outside of traditional marriage.

Gay and lesbian relationships are not going to go away. There are millions of gays and lesbians who live together and many of them have children. So the best argument for gay and lesbian marriage, in my opinion, is the fact that gays and lesbians are no better at keeping their relationships going than heterosexuals are. So there are going to be divorces, de facto or real, and you need exit rules. If people are taking on responsibilities for children or for dependent care and one person is sacrificing, they should get the benefits of that, but they should also be subject to the same rules for dissolving their relationships so that it's not terribly unfair and a free-for-all battle when they do.

How do you think that the current government is faring in terms of supporting marriage?

I think almost all of its support is at the totally abstract level of values, family values and family rhetoric that doesn't really help either married people or unmarried people. So much of the government campaign to promote marriage has been about telling people how good marriage is for them, coaxing them to get married, sometimes offering incentives to get married, but never really investing in long-term ways to build healthy relationships, married or unmarried. There's a sort of attitude, again, magical thinking, that if we get you married, then you'll be fine and we don't have to worry about anti-poverty programs, we don't have to worry about job training for men and women, we don't have to worry about child-care. And if we can't get you married, well then we don't want to bother with you either, for a different reason. If we get you married we say you're fine, you don't need anything else. And if you don't get married, it's like you're not fine and you don't deserve anything else. So I find the rhetoric and the millions of dollars that are being spent to promote marriage very frustrating because it seems to me that we would make a better effort to do two other approaches. 1. If you're going to fight poverty, the best way to fight that is to get good child-care, affordable child-care, and decent jobs. And 2. If you want to help people do their relationships better, I'm all for that. And if we help people with healthy relationships many of those people will marry. But those counseling skills ought to be available to people who have no plans to marry or who are divorcing.

What do you think of the current emphasis on marriage counseling and therapy?

Well, we're still in the early stages of figuring out what interventions work and what ones don't. I think that it is important to allow people better access to counseling, but as I said, I think that we would do better to not confine that to people who marry or have intentions to marry, but to any couple who wants that kind of counseling. So that's the first thing I would say that is a problem with this new emphasis on marriage preparation, that it excludes so many couples. The second is that a lot of people are getting themselves certified as marriage counselors in two or three days, and then they go into communities with which they're not familiar. And we don't know exactly what some of them will be teaching. Some of these people are sincere people but people whose values about how a marriage should operate may be quite different than the on-the-ground reality for the impoverished couple who they're trying to help. So I'm concerned about that too. What I'm trying to say is that tested interventions to help people strengthen their relationships, married or unmarried, are a very good thing. But I worry about untested ones.

So from all of your research, if you were to sum up what does make marriage work, what would you say?

Well, first of all, there are two different things: one is interpersonal relations, and one is social context. You cannot produce one success without support from the other. Married couples in their interpersonal way certainly have to be deeper friends and more respectful of each other than at any time in the past. It used to be that people basically fell in love with the gender role. "This is a manly man, he'll take care of me." "This is a womanly woman, she'll take care of my kids." Nowadays, people need to like each other as much as they love each other, and they need to respect each other. That's one important thing. They need to learn how to negotiate and how to handle conflict more than they had to in the past when the rules of marriage just said that women had to obey.

But in addition to that, people need support systems. We live in a very unfriendly environment for families. Married couples, if they're going to keep their marriages going, need things like parental leave, subsidized parental leave so it's not a class privilege to take some time with your kids. They need family-friendly work policies. They need high quality, affordable child-care. So that they don't have to call in sick or quit a job or spend hours agonizing about their kids. The lack of these social supports for families really stresses families. So it's very ironic that many of the people who claim to be most in favor of marriage do not spend any time building these support systems.

Monica Mehta is an associate editor at AlterNet.
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Friday, July 22, 2005

Giving the Hatemongers No Place to Hide

A Call To Action

July 22, 2005
Giving the Hatemongers No Place to Hide
I wasn't surprised to read that British police officers in white protective suits and blue gloves were combing through the Iqra Learning Center bookstore in Leeds for clues to the 7/7 London bombings. Some of the 7/7 bombers hung out at the bookstore. And I won't be surprised if today's bombers also sampled the literature there.

Iqra not only sold hatemongering Islamist literature, but, according to The Wall Street Journal, was "the sole distributor of Islamgames, a U.S.-based company that makes video games. The video games feature apocalyptic battles between defenders of Islam and opponents. One game, Ummah Defense I, has the world 'finally united under the Banner of Islam' in 2114, until a revolt by disbelievers. The player's goal is to seek out and destroy the disbelievers."

Guess what: words matter. Bookstores matter. Video games matter. But here is our challenge: If the primary terrorism problem we face today can effectively be addressed only by a war of ideas within Islam - a war between life-affirming Muslims against those who want to turn one of the world's great religions into a death cult - what can the rest of us do?

More than just put up walls. We need to shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears. The State Department produces an annual human rights report. Henceforth, it should also produce a quarterly War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others.

I would compile it in a nondiscriminatory way. I want the names of the Jewish settler extremists who wrote "Muhammad Is a Pig" on buildings in Gaza right up there with Sheik Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, a Saudi who is imam of Islam's holy mosque in Mecca. According to the Memri translation service, the imam was barred from Canada following "a report about his sermons by Memri that included Al-Sudayyis calling Jews 'the scum of the earth' and 'monkeys and pigs' who should be 'annihilated.' Other enemies of Islam were referred to by Sheik Al-Sudayyis as 'worshipers of the cross' and 'idol-worshiping Hindus' who must be fought."

Sunlight is more important than you think. Those who spread hate do not like to be exposed, noted Yigal Carmon, the founder of Memri, which monitors the Arab-Muslim media. The hate spreaders assume that they are talking only to their own, in their own language, and can get away with murder. When their words are spotlighted, they often feel pressure to retract, defend or explain them.

"Whenever they are exposed, they react the next day," Mr. Carmon said. "No one wants to be exposed in the West as a preacher of hate."

We also need to spotlight the "excuse makers," the former State Department spokesman James Rubin said. After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed. When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow "understandable" is outrageous. "It erases the distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism," Mr. Rubin said, "and an open society needs to maintain a clear wall between them."

There is no political justification for 9/11, 7/7 or 7/21. As the Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen put it: "These terrorists are what they do." And what they do is murder.

Finally, we also need to shine a bright light on the "truth tellers." Every week some courageous Arab or Muslim intellectual, cleric or columnist publishes an essay in his or her media calling on fellow Muslims to deal with the cancer in their midst. The truth tellers' words also need to be disseminated globally. "The rulers in these countries have no interest in amplifying the voices of moderates because the moderates often disagree with the rulers as much as they disagree with the extremists," said Husain Haqqani, author of the new book "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military." "You have to deal us moderates into the game by helping to amplify our voices and exposing the extremists and their amen corner."

Every quarter, the State Department should identify the Top 10 hatemongers, excuse makers and truth tellers in the world. It wouldn't be a cure-all. But it would be a message to the extremists: you are free to say what you want, but we are free to listen, to let the whole world know what you are saying and to protect every free society from hate spreaders like you. Words matter.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Thursday, July 21, 2005

----- Original Message -----
From: "Joe Volk" <>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <>
Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2005 5:26 PM
Subject: Engaging Congress on Iraq - FCNL

To: FCNL Key Contacts
From: Joe Volk

Get ready for laboring with your members of Congress about the Iraq war
and occupation during the August recess.

On November 14, 2004, FCNL's General Committee included Iraq on its
list of legislative priorities. They said , FCNL will work to
"Remove all U.S. military forces and bases from Iraq, and fulfill
U.S. moral and legal obligations to reconstruct Iraq through
appropriate multinational, national, and Iraqi agencies." We
don’t have a majority in Congress for withdrawal, and, as a
recent House vote demonstrates.

Wednesday, July 20, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 291 to 137
against a "premature withdrawal" of U.S. troops from Iraq and
declared that even establishing a specific date for beginning the
withdrawal of U.S. troops would "embolden" the anti-U.S.
insurgents. That vote provides a good indication of the challenges we
face in the U.S. Congress. The majority in this Congress is not yet
prepared to support a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq. But, the good
news is that, the Congressional leadership and the White House see
public support for the war eroding and that erosion is picking up
momentum. They introduced this legislation to try to slow the loss of
support for their policy on Iraq.

The next two months provide you and FCNL a critical opportunity to
further shift the debate in the U.S. Congress from rejection of any
specific U.S. plan for military withdrawal to consensus for a declared
policy for U.S. withdrawal of military forces and bases.

Why do I think this? In the last six months, FCNL lobby teams have
engaged more than 50 different congressional offices on Iraq policy. We
focused mostly on Republicans, as they are the majority, but we also
met with some Democrats. What we are hearing – from those who
supported the war and support the president – is agreement
that U.S. policy should be to ultimately withdraw all U.S. troops and
military bases from Iraq. But we also see a continuing fear of the
political consequences if they say the "W" word, withdraw.

Movement from staying the course to withdrawal is evident. We've moved
from a situation in January when most members of Congress were afraid
to even question U.S. policy toward Iraq for fear of appearing
unpatriotic to a position where more and more elected officials are
troubled by the static U.S. policy, which seems to them to be a
downward spiral of conflict heading toward quagmire.

The change in congressional attitude is evident in new legislation.
FCNL counts at least five amendments that have already been offered
that attempt to turn U.S. policy toward withdrawal from Iraq, as well
as six pieces of pending legislation (for an analysis of this
legislation, go to
Some of these had bipartisan sponsorship and votes.

Many in our FCNL network have asked: What should we do? Which of these
several bills or amendments does FCNL support? We believe Congress will
have to shift its mindset from "responsible withdrawal" to
"responsibility to withdraw." The U.S. military presence is
the problem, not the solution. Therefore, the United States should
remove all U.S. military forces and bases from Iraq. But we also know
that, as I said at the top of this email, that's not where the Congress
is right now. Here’s what we can accomplish in the next two

The first step that could win majority support in the Congress is a
declaration that the policy of the United States government is to
withdraw all U.S. military forces and bases from Iraq – that
is the core of FCNL's Iraq STEP resolution (see Rep. Tom Allen
(ME) has introduced legislation (H.R. 3142) that includes the principal
points of the Iraq STEP resolution and there are now groups in 30
states supporting the FCNL Iraq STEP resolution.

Act Now

FCNL continues to believe that a congressional resolution declaring
that it is "the policy of the United States government to withdraw
all U.S. military troops and bases from Iraq" has the best chance
of shifting the debate in Congress. Find out more information on how
you can support this effort go to At the same time,
it is important that we demonstrate public support for other
legislation that seeks to shift the direction of U.S. policy. I'm
including with this email links to background documents that provide an
FCNL analysis of the different pieces of legislation on Iraq currently
pending before Congress. To read the full analysis, click here go to To read a summary
chart of Iraq legislation currently pending before the Congress, see

Many bills and amendments will be offered before a U.S. withdrawal from
Iraq is accomplished. Some will clearly call for withdrawal and can be
vehicles for building a grassroots movement. Some will propose specific
programs of action to accomplish withdrawal and will help to build a
core of congressional support for the "responsibility to
withdraw." Some will condition or cut appropriations (funding) for
the continuing war and occupation. And, some, like the FCNL STEP
Resolution, will advance a change-strategy to win over opponents of
withdrawal to join the core of congressional support for withdrawal.
FCNL will try to support the full range of withdrawal legislation, but
we will focus on our main job of "friendly persuasion" to win
over opponents or those who sit on the fence.

The beauty of the STEP Resolution is that it is designed to bring unity
where division now reigns. Whether you opposed the war or strongly
supported the war, whether you stand for withdrawal or for continuing
the occupation, everyone can join in unity on the policy that the U.S.
should have no imperial agenda for Iraq and that all U.S. military
forces and bases should be withdrawn. A voter can say to a member of
Congress, "You supported the war; I opposed it. You stand for
staying the course; I advocate withdrawal. We disagree on those points,
but, surely, you can join with me in affirming a declared policy that
the U.S. will withdrawal all military forces and bases. Period."


Last night, July 20, the House of Representatives approved an amendment
by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) that specifically warns against the
"premature withdrawal" of U.S. troops from Iraq. The
amendment was to the State Department authorization (H.R. 2601). It
passed by a 291 to 137 vote, after lengthy debate on the floor of the
House. Go to to
find out how your representative voted on this amendment.

The good news is that Rep. Ros-Lehtinen felt compelled to offer this
amendment because support is building in the Congress for a discussion
of when the U.S. will withdraw from Iraq and there are several pieces
of legislation pending that seek to shift the debate toward withdrawal.

Rep. Tom Allen (ME) has introduced legislation (H.R. 3142) declaring
that it is the policy of the United States not to maintain a long term
or permanent military presence in Iraq. Reps. Abercrombie (HI), Woolsey
(CA), Lee (CA), and Jones (NC) have introduced bipartisan legislation
(H.J.R. 55) that specifically states that the United States should
begin withdrawing from Iraq by October 1, 2006. And Rep. Barbara Lee
has introduced legislation (H.R. 197) that declares that the U.S. will
not establish permanent bases in Iraq. FCNL believes that working to
increase the numbers of members of Congress supporting any or all of
these pieces of legislation is an important priority in the next few

The bad news is that it is our assessment there are not enough votes to
pass such legislation this year. If we do our work well in the next few
months, we may have enough votes to pass some of these bills in the
second session of the 109th Congress.

FCNL's Col. Dan Smith (USA Ret.) has prepared an in-depth analysis of
legislation introduced in the 109th Congress about Iraq, see I encourage you to
read this analysis. Although none of this legislation would pass today
if it came to a vote on the House floor, we believe that building up
the lists of cosponsors of several of these pieces of legislation would
be an important part of any advocacy program in the next few months.
Members of Congress can cosponsor more than one bill.

We’ve also prepared a chart that provides a quick summary of
Iraq legislation in the 109th Congress and indicates which legislation
FCNL supports. Go to

Finally, I'd like to draw your attention to an important article
prepared by Helena Cobban, a Friend who has written several important
analytical articles for FCNL in the last few months. The article,
"Next step in helping Iraqis: Set a withdrawal date",
appeared in the July 21, 2005 edition of the Christian Science

Special Note: FCNL is moving back into our Capitol Hill offices at the
end of July. As a result, we will have a temporary interruption in our
telephone and email communications systems starting July 28 at 5 pm
Eastern time. The office should be functioning again by the middle of
the following week. Watch our web site for more details.
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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