Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Another Embarrassment for Bush
By Robert Scheer, AlterNet
Posted on August 31, 2005, Printed on August 31, 2005
Who lost Iraq?
Someday, as a fragmented Iraq spirals further into religious madness, terrorism and civil war, there will be a bipartisan inquiry into this blundering intrusion into another people's history. The crucial question will be why a "preemptive" American invasion -- which has led to the deaths of nearly 2,000 Americans, roughly 10 times as many Iraqis, the expenditure of about $200 billion and incalculable damage to the United States' global reputation -- has had exactly the opposite effect predicted by its neoconservative sponsors.
No amount of crowing over a fig leaf Iraqi constitution by President Bush can hide the fact that the region's autocrats, theocrats and terrorists are stronger than ever.
"The U.S. now has to recognize that [it] overthrew Saddam Hussein to replace him with a pro-Iranian state," said regional expert Peter W. Galbraith, the former U.S. ambassador to Croatia and an advisor to the Iraqi Kurds. And, he could have added, a pro-Iranian state that will be repressive and unstable.
Think this is an exaggeration? Consider that arguably the most powerful Shiite political party and militia in today's Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its affiliated paramilitary force, the Badr Brigade, was not only based in Iran but was set up by Washington's old arch-foe, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It also fought on the side of Iran in the Iran-Iraq war and was recognized by Tehran as the government in exile of Iraq.
Or that former exile Ahmad Chalabi is now one of Iraq's deputy prime ministers. The consummate political operator managed to maintain ties to Iran while gaining the devoted support of Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, charming and manipulating Beltway policymakers and leading U.S. journalists into believing that Iraq was armed with weapons of mass destruction.
Chalabi is thrilled with the draft constitution, which, if passed, will probably exponentially increase tension and violence between Sunnis and Shiites. "It is an excellent document," said Chalabi, who has been accused by U.S. intelligence of being a spy for Iran, where he keeps a vacation home.
What an absurd outcome for a war designed to create a compliant, unified and stable client state that would be pro-American, laissez-faire capitalist and unallied with the hated Iran. Of course, Bush tells us again, this is "progress" and an "inspiration." Yet his relentless spinning of manure into silk has worn thin on the American public and sent his approval ratings tumbling.
Even supporters of the war are starting to realize that rather than strengthening the United States' position in the world, the invasion and occupation have led to abject humiliation: from the Abu Ghraib scandal, to the guerrilla insurgency exposing the limits of military power, to an election in which "our guy" -- Iyad Allawi -- was defeated by radicals and religious extremists.
In a new low, the U.S. president felt obliged to call and plead with the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, Abdelaziz Hakim, to make concessions to gain Sunni support. Even worse, he was summarily rebuffed. Nevertheless, Bush had no choice but to eat crow and like it.
"This is a document of which the Iraqis, and the rest of the world, can be proud," he said Sunday, through what must have been gritted teeth. After all, this document includes such democratic gems as "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation," and "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam," as well as socialist-style pronouncements that work and a decent standard of living are a right guaranteed by the state. But the fact is, it could establish Khomeini's ghost as the patron saint of Iraq and Bush would have little choice but to endorse it.
Even many in his own party are rebelling. "I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur," said Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel last week, one of a growing number of Republicans who get that "we should start figuring out how we get out of there."
Not that our "what-me-worry?" president is the least bit troubled by all this adverse blowback from the huge, unnecessary gamble he took in invading the heart of the Arab and Muslim worlds. "What is important is that the Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion, not at the barrel of a gun," Bush said.
Wrong again. It was the barrel of a gun that midwifed the new Iraq, which threatens to combine the instability of Lebanon with the religious fanaticism of Iran.
Robert Scheer is the co-author of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq.
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/24797/
A Lipstick President - New York Times
The New York Times
August 31, 2005
A Lipstick President
The president is working up a sweat, keeping that perfectly toned body
perfectly toned. I slide past stone-faced men with earpieces and ask the
how it's going.
"Good," she says, grinning. "People ask me if there could really be a woman
president and I say, Of course, it's the 21st century."
Geena Davis was shooting a rowing scene at the Potomac Boat House on Monday
morning for her new ABC show, "Commander-in-Chief," about the first woman
Luckily, the first woman president is tall, a shade taller than W., so she's
eyeball to eyeball with generals and ambassadors. And she's a redhead.
a recent study showed, have a higher tolerance for pain. In the show's
premiere, a lot of pain is dished up for Ms. Davis's character, Mackenzie
the vice president of a conservative president who keels over before the
first hour is over.
Nobody wants the vice president, a political independent, to be Madame
President. Not the president, who tells her before he dies to resign so his
the archconservative speaker of the House played by Donald Sutherland, can
get the job. Not the president's chief of staff. Not her sulky, sexy
teenage daughter. Even her supportive (and faithful) politico husband gets
skittish after East Wing staffers begin calling him "the first lady" and
his meetings with the White House chef.
Mr. Sutherland's Nathan Templeton condescendingly asks her, "How many
Islamic states do you think would follow the edicts of a woman?"
"Well, not only that, Nathan," she replies sarcastically, "but we have that
whole 'once a month will she or won't she press the button' thing."
He laughs nastily. "Well, in a couple years," he says, "you're not gonna
have to worry about that anymore."
The creator and writer, Rod Lurie, also had an embattled woman vice
president in his 2000 movie "The Contender." (He named his TV president and
Bridges and Allen; the stars playing those roles in 2000 were Jeff Bridges
and Joan Allen.)
He told me he modeled his female president not on Hillary Clinton but on
Susan Lyne, the smart, elegant former president of ABC Entertainment who is
executive at Martha Stewart Inc. He said he wanted someone "of rather
unimpeachable integrity, very kind, very calm."
As Geena Davis was bursting into the Oval Office, and the other TV
president, Martin Sheen, was dropping in on Cindy Sheehan in Crawford,
Hillary was plotting
Her political activism began with her 1969 Wellesley commencement speech,
when she slapped back a Republican senator, Edward Brooke, for criticizing
students' Vietnam War protests. She praised "that indispensable task of
But now Hillary's voice is often pianissimo on the current hot issue: how to
get out of Iraq. Once we made sure Saddam was armed against Iran. Now we may
have to arm an Islamic protégé of Iran if we want to pull out.
But Hillary's not playing the vocal peacenik this time - she's the cagey
hawk. She knows if she wants to be the first woman president, she can't have
beads in her jewelry box.
She has defended her vote to authorize the president to wage war, even
though it was apparent then that the administration was snookering the
she has argued for more troops in Iraq, knowing it sounds muscular but
there's no support for it from the public - or Rummy.
She figures the liberals will stay with her while she scuttles to the
center, even if they get angry when she's not out front on stopping the war
abortion rights. No one knows how she'll vote on John Roberts, so this could
be her own Sister Souljah moment - will she break with the hard-line left
on Judge Roberts?
What Hillary has going for her is exhaustion. Exhaustion kicks in with any
party in power for eight years, let alone one that tricked the country into
And at some point, voters may be too exhausted to resist Hillary's
relentless ambition any longer.
But by hanging back and trimming her positions, by keeping her powder dry
until a more politically advantageous time, she may miss the moment when
are looking for someone to emerge from her cowering party to articulate
their anger about Iraq or their fear about a Supreme Court that will scale
women's rights and civil rights here, as Islamic courts do the same in Iraq.
Hillary may get caught flat-footed. Or she may be right in betting that
there's no need to do anything rash now, like leading.
CORONADO, California - President Bush answered growing antiwar protests yesterday with a fresh reason for US troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country's vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists.
The president, standing against a backdrop of the USS Ronald Reagan, the newest aircraft carrier in the Navy's fleet, said terrorists would be denied their goal of making Iraq a base from which to recruit followers, train them, and finance attacks.
''We will defeat the terrorists," Bush said. ''We will build a free Iraq that will fight terrorists instead of giving them aid and sanctuary."
Appearing at Naval Air Station North Island to commemorate the anniversary of the Allies' World War II victory over Japan, Bush compared his resolve to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's in the 1940s and said America's mission in Iraq is to turn it into a democratic ally just as the United States did with Japan after its 1945 surrender. Bush's V-J Day ceremony did not fall on the actual anniversary. Japan announced its surrender on Aug. 15, 1945 -- Aug. 14 in the United States because of the time difference.
Democrats said Bush's leadership falls far short of Roosevelt's.
''Democratic Presidents Roosevelt and Truman led America to victory in World War II because they laid out a clear plan for success to the American people, America's allies, and America's troops," said Howard Dean, Democratic Party chairman. ''President Bush has failed to put together a plan, so despite the bravery and sacrifice of our troops, we are not making the progress that we should be in Iraq. The troops, our allies, and the American people deserve better leadership from our commander in chief."
The speech was Bush's third in just over a week defending his Iraq policies, as the White House scrambles to counter growing public concern about the war. But the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast drew attention away; the White House announced during the president's remarks that he was cutting his August vacation short to return to Washington, D.C., to oversee the federal response effort.
After the speech, Bush hurried back to Texas ahead of schedule to prepare to fly back to the nation's capital today. He was to return to the White House on Friday, after spending more than four weeks operating from his ranch in Crawford.
Bush's August break has been marked by problems in Iraq.
It has been an especially deadly month there for US troops, with the number of those who have died since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 now nearing 1,900.
The growing death toll has become a regular feature of the slightly larger protests that Bush now encounters everywhere he goes -- a movement boosted by a vigil set up in a field down the road from the president's ranch by a mother grieving the loss of her soldier son in Iraq.
Cindy Sheehan arrived in Crawford only days after Bush did, asking for a meeting so he could explain why her son and others are dying in Iraq. The White House refused, and Sheehan's camp turned into a hub of activity for hundreds of activists around the country demanding that troops be brought home.
This week, the administration also had to defend the proposed constitution produced in Iraq at US urging. Critics fear the impact of its rejection by many Sunnis, and say it fails to protect religious freedom and women's rights.
At the naval base, Bush declared, ''We will not rest until victory is America's and our freedom is secure" from Al Qaeda and its forces in Iraq led by Abu Musab alZarqawi.
''If Zarqawi and [Osama] bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks," Bush said. ''They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition."
Day-After Pill Decision Prompts a Resignation
WASHINGTON -- A high-ranking Food and Drug Administration official resigned Wednesday in protest over the agency's refusal to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception.
Susan Wood, director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, announced her resignation in an e-mail to colleagues at the agency. The e-mail was released by contraception advocates.
The FDA last Friday postponed indefinitely its decision on whether to allow the morning-after pill, called Plan B, to be sold without a prescription. The agency said it was safe for adults to use without a doctor's guidance but was unable to decide how to keep it out of the hands of young teenagers without a prescription -- a decision contrary to the advice of its own scientific advisers.
"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," wrote Wood, who also was assistant commissioner for women's health. "The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health."
Plan B's maker has been trying for two years to begin nonprescription sales, and the FDA's latest postponement of its fate was a surprise: Commissioner Lester Crawford won Senate confirmation to take his job only after promising members of Congress to make a final decision by Sept. 1.
----- Original Message -----
From: "FactCheck.org" <subscriberservices@FactCheck.org>
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 4:00 PM
Subject: [Norton AntiSpam] New FactCheck Article: A Half-true Attack on
A Half-true Attack on McCain
The anti-tax Club for Growth runs an ad in New Hampshire claiming McCain
would "keep the death tax." Actually, McCain favors a big reduction.
August 31, 2005
The conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth targeted 2008 presidential
hopeful Sen. John McCain with a TV ad in New Hampshire. It contains a
half-true claim that McCain would "keep the death tax." In fact, McCain has
long advocated reducing the number subject to the tax, so that it falls only
on the estates of multi-millionaires.
The ad also misleads viewers by saying, "when you die, the IRS can tax you
again. Taking as much as 55 percent of everything you've saved for your
children." In fact, only estates exceeding $1.5 million currently pay any
tax on that wealth. It fell on fewer than 1 percent of all Americans who
died in 2004.
Club for Growth (CFG) announced Aug. 29 that it was running a new round of
ads supporting total repeal of the estate tax, including one aimed at Sen.
John McCain, Republican of Arizona. The ad is airing in New Hampshire, where
McCain could be running in the first presidential primary election of 2008.
Club for Growth Ad "McCain"
Announcer: You're born. You go to school. You work hard. You raise a family.
You pay your taxes.
And when you die, the IRS can tax you again. Taking as much as 55 percent of
everything you've saved for your children. It's called the death tax and
Senator John McCain wants to keep the death tax. Isn't a lifetime of taxes
McCain: Target of Conservatives
The ad says, "Senator John McCain wants to keep the death tax," but that's
misleading. In fact, McCain does not favor keeping the estate tax in its
present form. He has long sought to narrow the tax to apply only to the
estates of the wealthiest multi-millionaires. During his primary race
against George W. Bush in 2000, McCain proposed excluding all estates under
The Club for Growth made clear it hopes to damage McCain's presidential
prospects. In its press release, the group's president Pat Toomey said, "we
hope that politicians have finally learned the lesson that the Death Tax is
both bad for the economy and bad for their careers."
It is true that McCain opposes permanent repeal of the estate tax, which
under terms of the tax cuts enacted in Bush's first term expires for one
year in 2010 and then returns the following year. Many conservatives are
pushing to make repeal permanent, but a McCain spokeswoman confirmed that
the senator stands in "opposition to full repeal of the estate tax" due to
its "long-term fiscal implications." Immediate repeal of the estate tax in
2006 would cost the government almost $290 billion in tax revenue through
2015, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
But McCain's spokeswoman said he is currently backing efforts of bipartisan
Senate negotiators to reach a compromise that would retain the estate tax in
a much-reduced form. Sen. Jon Kyl, McCain's fellow Arizona Republican, plans
to introduce an alternative proposal that would put the exemption level
anywhere from $7 million to upwards of $10 million. Kyl has held talks with
ranking Finance Committee Democrat Max Baucus, but no agreement has been
reached on the exemption level or the tax rate. The Capitol Hill publication
CongressDaily reported Aug. 16 that Kyl is "likely" to reduce the estate tax
rate to 20 percent to match the capital-gains rate in 2010. The current top
rate is 47 percent.
McCain's spokeswoman said he "remains confident" that Kyl and Baucus will
strike a deal he can support. Regardless, McCain clearly supports repealing
the tax for most Americans and would "keep" it only for the wealthiest
multi-millionaires - a position distorted by the Club for Growth's ad.
A Wider Effort - Also Misleading
The misleading attack on McCain is part of a wider effort by the Club for
Growth aimed at repealing the tax. The Senate is expected to take up the
issue upon return from the August recess. Other Club for Growth ads targeted
moderate Democratic senators viewed as swing votes. Repeal advocates need 60
votes to block a filibuster.
Club for Growth Ad, "Cantwell" Version
Announcer: You're born. You go to school. You work hard. You raise a family.
You pay your taxes.
And when you die, the IRS can tax you again. Taking as much as 55 percent of
everything you've saved for your children. It's called the death tax and
With her vote, Sen. Maria Cantwell can eliminate the death tax. Isn't a
lifetime of taxes enough?
The latest targets include Baucus, the leading Democrat on the Finance
Committee, as well as Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Kent Conrad of
North Dakota, and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
The ad creates the misleading impression that all those who see the ad will
face a 55 percent tax their estates. As we've said before, "you" only pay if
you have an estate worth over $1.5 million, under current law. So the ad is
untrue for 99 percent of those viewing the ad - their estates would pay zero
tax at the levels that apply this year. And as we've already noted, even the
top rate is no longer 55 percent - it has come down to 47 percent this year
and is scheduled to go to 45 percent in 2007. Under the Bush tax cut the top
rate would come back to 55 percent in 2011 - after the one-year "repeal" in
Many affluent families escape the estate tax by making systematic gifts to
their heirs before they die, and by using legal but expensive
estate-planning maneuvers. But the fact is that those who actually pay are
relatively few and wealthy. In 2003 2.4 million adults died, and just 28,600
left estates that were liable for any tax, according to the Tax Policy
Center. So the tax fell on only the richest 1.2 percent that year. That was
when the tax fell on estates of $1 million or more. For 2004 the threshold
was increased to $1.5 million, so the tax currently falls on something below
1 percent of all estates, and would fall on even fewer under the $5-million
threshold McCain proposed five years ago.
-- By Brooks Jackson and Jennifer L. Ernst
Joint Committee on Taxation, "Estimated Revenue effects of H.R. 8, 'The
Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act 2005'" 13 April 2005.
Leonard Burman, William Gale, and Jeffrey Rohaly, "Options to Reform the
Estate Tax," Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, Tax Policy Issues and
Options No. 10, March 2005.
Martin Vaughan, "Kyl Mapping An Alternative Strategy For Estate Tax
Measure," CongressDaily, 16 August 2005.
This message was sent by: FactCheck.org, 320 National Press Building,
Washington, DC 20045
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The study, conducted by the London-based Institute of Cancer Research, and published this week on the British Journal of Cancer's Web site, found no increased risks of a rare benign tumor in the nerve that links the ear to the brain.
It echoed the findings of a similar study by Swedish investigators last year and of scores of other studies investigating a possible link between the use of cellular phones and brain cancer.
Researchers questioned 678 patients already diagnosed with the tumor -- acoustic neuroma -- and 3,553 who did not have it, about their cell phone use. There was no increased risk of tumor associated with using the phones for at least 10 years.
Retrospective questionnaires are not considered the most accurate method of determining a link between behavior and disease. Several previous studies, using more rigorous methods, have also found no evidence that the phones pose a health risk.
However, scientists have said it may not be a good idea for children to use the phones for long periods because their brains are still developing. Also, it is too early to tell what the effects of long-term use will be on adults.
"The results of our study suggest that there is no substantial risk in the first decade after starting use," said lead investigator Anthony Swerdlow. "Whether there are longer-term risks remains unknown, reflecting the fact that this is a relatively recent technology."
It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.
-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.
Even though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north of the city and the sun is out, the waters continue to rise in New Orleans as we write this. That's because Lake Pontchartrain continues to pour through a two-block-long break in the main levee, near the city's 17th Street Canal. With much of the Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level, the rising tide may not stop until until it's level with the massive lake.
There have been numerous reports of bodies floating in the poorest neighborhoods of this poverty-plagued city, but the truth is that the death toll may not be known for days, because the conditions continue to frustrate rescue efforts.
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.
Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars. (Much of the research here is from Nexis, which is why some articles aren't linked.)
In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to this Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness:
The $750 million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20% incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.
The Lake Pontchartrain project is slated to receive $3.9 million in the president's 2005 budget. Naomi said about $20 million is needed.
"The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink," he said. "I've got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to raise the levee protection back to where it should be (because of settling). Right now I owe my contractors about $5 million. And we're going to have to pay them interest."
That June, with the 2004 hurricane seasion starting, the Corps' Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:
"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don’t get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can’t stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn’t that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can’t raise them."
The panel authorized that money, and on July 1, 2004, it had to pony up another $250,000 when it learned that stretches of the levee in Metairie had sunk by four feet. The agency had to pay for the work with higher property taxes. The levee board noted in October 2004 that the feds were also now not paying for a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.
The 2004 hurricane season, as you probably recall, was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane- and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs. According to New Orleans CityBusiness this June 5:
The district has identified $35 million in projects to build and improve levees, floodwalls and pumping stations in St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. Those projects are included in a Corps line item called Lake Pontchartrain, where funding is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million this year to $2.9 million in 2006. Naomi said it's enough to pay salaries but little else.
"We'll do some design work. We'll design the contracts and get them ready to go if we get the money. But we don't have the money to put the work in the field, and that's the problem," Naomi said.
There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:
That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.
But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.
The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late. One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer was a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach. The levee failure appears to be causing a human tragedy of epic proportions:
"We probably have 80 percent of our city under water; with some sections of our city the water is as deep as 20 feet. Both airports are underwater," Mayor Ray Nagin told a radio interviewer.
Washington knew that this day could come at any time, and it knew the things that needed to be done to protect the citizens of New Orleans. But in the tradition of the riverboat gambler, the Bush administration decided to roll the dice on its fool's errand in Iraq, and on a tax cut that mainly benefitted the rich.
And now Bush has lost that gamble, big time. We hope that Congress will investigate what went wrong here.
The president told us that we needed to fight in Iraq to save lives here at home, and yet -- after moving billions of domestic dollars to the Persian Gulf -- there are bodies floating through the streets of Louisiana. What does George W. Bush have to say for himself now?
August 31, 2005
U.S. Poverty Rate Was Up Last Year
By DAVID LEONHARDT
WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 - Even as the economy grew, incomes stagnated last year and the poverty rate rose, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. It was the first time on record that household incomes failed to increase for five straight years.
The portion of Americans without health insurance remained roughly steady at 16 percent, the bureau said. A smaller percentage of people were covered by their employers, but two big government programs, Medicaid and military insurance, grew.
The census's annual report card on the nation's economic well-being showed that a four-year-old expansion had still not done much to benefit many households. Median pretax income, $44,389, was at its lowest point since 1997, after inflation.
Though the reasons are not wholly clear, economists say technology and global trade appear to be holding down pay for many workers. The rising cost of health care benefits has also eaten into pay increases.
After the report's release, Bush administration officials said that the job market had continued to improve since the end of 2004 and that they hoped incomes were now rising and poverty was falling. The poverty rate "is the last, lonely trailing indicator of the business cycle," said Elizabeth Anderson, chief of staff in the economics and statistics administration of the Commerce Department.
The census numbers also do not reflect the tax cuts passed in President Bush's first term, which have lifted the take-home pay of most families.
But the biggest tax cuts went to high-income families already getting raises, Democrats said Tuesday. The report, they added, showed that the cuts had failed to stimulate the economy as the White House had promised.
"The growth in the economy is not going to families," said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island. "It's in stark contrast to what happened during the Clinton administration."
The main theme of the census report seemed to be the lingering weakness in compensation and benefits, even as the ranks of the unemployed have dwindled. Fewer people are getting health insurance from their employers or from policies of family members, while raises have generally trailed inflation.
Last year, households kept income from falling by working more hours than they did in 2003, the data showed. The median pay of full-time male workers declined more than 2 percent in 2004, to $40,800; for women, the median dropped 1 percent, to $31,200. When some people switch to full-time work from part-time, they can keep household incomes from dropping even when the pay of individual workers is declining.
"It looks like the gains from the recovery haven't really filtered down," said Phillip L. Swagel, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group in Washington. "The gains have gone to owners of capital and not to workers."
There has always been a lag between the end of a recession and the resumption of raises, Mr. Swagel added, but the length of this lag has been confounding.
In addition, the poverty rate rose last year for working-age people, those ages 18 to 64. The portion of people age 65 and older in poverty fell, while child poverty was essentially flat.
Over all, the poverty rate increased to 12.7 percent, from 12.5 percent in 2003. Poverty levels have changed only modestly in the last three decades, rising in the 1980's and falling in the 1990's, after having dropped sharply in the 1960's. They reached a low of 11.1 percent in 1973, from more than 22 percent in 1960.
In the same three decades that poverty has remained fairly steady, median incomes have grown significantly, lifting living standards for most families. After adjusting for inflation, the income of the median household, the one making more than half of all others and less than half of the rest, earns almost one-third more now than it did in the late 1960's.
But income inequality has also risen in that time and was near all-time highs last year, the bureau reported. The census numbers do not include gains from stock holdings, which would further increase inequality.
In New York, the poverty rate rose last year to 20.3 percent, from 19 percent, making it the only city of more than one million people with a significant change. The reason for the increase was not obvious.
Among populous counties, the Bronx had the fourth-highest poverty rate in the nation, trailing three counties on the Texas-Mexico border.
Many economists say the government's statistics undercount poverty in New York and other major cities because the numbers are not adjusted for cost of living. A family of two parents and two children is considered poor if it makes less than $19,157 a year, regardless of whether it lives in a city where $500,000 buys a small apartment or a mansion.
Households in New Hampshire made more last year ($57,400 at the median) than in any other state, while those in West Virginia made the least ($32,600). Fairfax County in Virginia ($88,100) and Somerset County in New Jersey ($84,900) were the counties with the highest earnings, the census said.
The decline in employer-provided health benefits came after four years of rapidly rising health costs. Some of the increases stemmed from inefficiencies in the health care system; others were a result of new treatments that improved health and prolonged life but were often expensive.
Either way, the bill for health care has risen, and more companies are deciding not to pay it for some workers. The percentage of people getting health insurance from an employer fell to 59.8 percent last year, from 63.6 percent in 2000. The percentage receiving it from the government rose to 27.2 percent, from 24.7 percent.
The trend is likely to continue unless the job market becomes as tight as it was in the late 1990's and companies decide they must offer health insurance to retain workers, said Paul Fronstin, director of the health research program at the Employee Benefit Research Group, a nonpartisan organization in Washington.
The numbers released Tuesday showed a slight decline in median income, but the bureau called the drop, $93, statistically insignificant. Incomes were also roughly flat among whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.
The Midwest, which has been hurt by the weak manufacturing sector, was the only region where the median income fell and poverty rose. Elsewhere, they were unchanged.
Since 1967, incomes have failed to rise for four straight years on two other occasions: starting in the late 1970's and in the early 1990's. The Census Bureau does not report household income for years before 1967, but other data show that incomes were generally rising in the 40's, 50's and 60's.
* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
AM Feed - August 30, 2005
List of 2 items
Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place: Unable to gain
traction in promoting his Iraq War "strategy," President Bush has shifted
to domestic issues in an attempt to change the subject. There's only one
problem: Bush is once again promoting his horribly unpopular Social Security
plan. On Monday President Bush delivered a speech at a California senior
center, where he returned to the Social Security issue that he's virtually
after making his initial push. During the speech, Bush also promoted his
Medicare prescription drug program - another program that the public has not
Although President Bush has been relentlessly positive about the situation
in Iraq, the reality is that experts feel that the new proposed Iraqi
falls far short of initial US goals for the region. Many of the potential
problems stem from the situation that the minority Sunni population now
itself in. "What we have now is a situation which is the beginning of a
countdown to something that will look like civil war in Iraq," predicts
of the Brookings Institution.
Quote of the Day
"Retaliation against employees for providing information to Congress is
illegal and entirely unacceptable." - Excerpt from a letter sent by Sens.
Dorgan (D-ND), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld regarding the recent demotion of Bunnatine
a contract officer who questioned the treatment received by Halliburton
List of 1 items
Which failed domestic policy proposal will President Bush attempt to recycle
next? Will we try to solve Iraq's political issues with secret answers that
can only be found on Mars?
by Helen Thomas
It's time for the Democratic Party to take a courageous stand and call for the withdrawal of troops from the senseless war in Iraq.
Its human cost and the billion-dollars-a-week tab in Iraq should give all Americans pause.
Would the Republicans have hesitated to challenge the Democrats if the shoe were on the other foot? Did the opposition party give President Clinton any slack while he was in office?
What is the logic of Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Joseph Biden, D-Del., and other so-called moderate Democrats still backing the unprovoked war in Iraq when they know they were sold a bill of goods?
Furthermore, they are urging that more troops be sent to Iraq. And they are doing so at a time when the generals in Iraq are giving mixed signals. Some are talking about a draw-down of troops in a year, others in four years.
Are the Democratic leaders afraid to admit they were wrong? Does the credibility of the administration -- and, therefore, the country-- mean anything to them?
Both Clinton and Biden are presumed presidential contenders in 2008. That leaves Democratic voters -- many of whom are anti-war -- with no choice if either wins the party nomination.
Can Biden and Clinton give young men and women any valid reason why they should lay down their lives in a war that we didn't have to fight in the first place?
The fallback position apparently runs like this: "We're there and we have to stay there now. We can't cut and run."
I heard the same refrain during the dying days of the Vietnam War. And so did the moderate Democrats.
Whether viewed as a "mistake" or a "noble cause," the fact is that Vietnam survived and thrived after we departed. It is a participant in the global economy and fairly friendly to us.
I always thought the debacle in Vietnam and its aftermath had taught us a lesson. But apparently not.
Not all Democrats are so clueless. In an opinion article on Wednesday in The Washington Post, former Sen. Gary Hart, D-Col., wrote that "history will deal with George W. Bush and the neoconservatives who misled a mighty nation into a flawed war that is draining the finest military in the world ... diverting Guard and Reserve forces that should be on the front line of homeland defense, shredding international alliances that prevailed in two world wars and the Cold War ... and weakening America's national security."
But he is also tough on his own party and asks: "What will history say about an opposition party that stands silent while all this goes on?"
Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., is proposing a total pullout of U.S. troops by Dec. 31, 2006. Why wait a year?
Some Democrats think the party should simply take a back seat, bide its time and watch the administration defensively struggle for answers to Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who lost her son, Casey, in Iraq. Her vigil continues adjacent the president's Texas ranch.
Bush told the Veterans of Foreign War the United States will accept nothing less than "total victory over the terrorists and their hateful ideology."
His new argument is that anti-war protesters who want the troops brought home quickly "are advocating a policy that would weaken the United States."
Bush himself acknowledged there were no ties between the deposed dictator Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 commission concluded that there was no evidence of "a collaborative operational relationship" between Saddam and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq has changed that equation. The Iraqi resistance is being helped by outsiders -- whether terrorists or sympathizers -- who were not in Iraq before we attacked.
Did Bush think that at least some Iraqis would not stand and defend their country? Is patriotism simply a U.S. phenomenon?
White House reporters have noted that in addressing military families, Bush is citing statistics on Americans killed in Iraq -- a figure now approaching the 2,000 mark. But the candid test will be when he notes the numbers of Iraqis who have been killed since the United States invaded their country.
Democrats have gone about their lives after giving the president a blank check to do anything he thought was necessary. They think they have absolved themselves of responsibility. It's somebody else's war.
But they might find that if they don't get some backbone and take a stand soon, the voters might not be that forgiving.
Monday, August 29, 2005
AM Feed - August 29, 2005
List of 2 items
Bunnatine Greenhouse, a top Army contract official who has been outspoken in
her criticisms of no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton, was demoted on
Greenhouse has worked in her field for 20 years, and received very high
performance ratings - that is, until she spoke out against the treatment
by Vice President Cheney's former company. Greenhouse objected to the
five-year, $7 billion no-bid contract awarded to Halliburton subsidiary
& Root, and further disapproved of a waiver granted to the company back in
December 2003 that allowed for high prices of fuel imports to Iraq.
called the treatment of Kellogg Brown & Root "the most blatant and improper
contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional
By now, indicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff's ties to Rep. Tom DeLay
(R-TX) and other top conservatives are common knowledge. But newly surfaced
now indicate just how far his influence reached in the Bush administration's
Interior Department as well. Emails sent in 2002 reveal that Abramoff was
counting on the then-deputy secretary of the Interior J. Stephen Griles to
help block casino construction in Michigan on environmental grounds (a
used to benefit an Abramoff client). At the same time, Abramoff was
attempting to hire Griles away from the department. It is a potential
federal law for a government official to negotiate for a job while making
decisions that influencing the employer.
Who Says That?
"The terrorists that are watching Cindy Sheehan's protest believe that this
is something that might topple the current administration." - Howard
founder of Move America Forward, and one of the 1,000 or so Bush supporters
who held a rally in Crawford, TX, on Saturday. A recent AP-Ipsos poll found
that nine in ten Americans believe it's acceptable for opponents of the war
to publicly demonstrate their opinions.
List of 1 items
Ah, two leading news stories about corruption and a juicy quote that equates
opposition to President Bush with helping the terrorists. In other words, it
business as usual under the Bush administration.
For more than forty years, Cuban leader Fidel Castro has been the target of countless United States- and CIA-sponsored assassination attempts. I shudder to think what might have happened if Cuba had been endowed with large reserves of oil. Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez may learn the consequences of such a blessing very soon.
If television evangelist Pat Robertson's controversial statements suggesting that the U.S. send in a covert operative to take out Chavez were not just the words of a madman but a trial balloon floated for the administration, the firestorm that met them should stay the president's hand even though, in the bellicose preacher's words, "It is cheaper than starting another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. . .and I don't think any oil shipments will stop.
We may have "the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," as Robertson says, but with the administration's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and its saber-rattling towards Korea and Iran, one would think Bush has his hands full.
Hugo Chavez has set up medical clinics in the poorest neighborhoods in his country, staffing them with Cuban doctors, not that that United States has offered any medical assistance. He has created school music programs that have resulted in lower street crime and a resurgence of classical music: The would-be delinquents are spending their time practicing the violin instead of knocking over old ladies. The nerve of that guy! Wasting our money-or at least the money we pay for oil from Venezuela-on such effete solutions to social problems!
More to the point, his administration has kept entrepreneurs from controlling the oil industry and sucking out all the profits to make themselves wealthy. Chavez has kept a tight rein on it, reinvesting the money for the benefit of the Venezuelan people. He has successfully responded to the needs of its citizens in ways that have made his socialist ideas very popular; the people have elected him twice and overcome a coup against him.
The proper role of the government is to protect and make the best use of a nation's resources for its citizens. There is nothing in our Constitution about making the most money for a politician's supporters. In fact, the Constitution specifically mandates that we "promote the general Welfare." There's nothing communist about it.
The United States has a number of genuine problems with Hugo Chavez. First of all, government control of the oil industry shuts out entrepreneurs and foreign investors-think of Standard Oil, Gulf Oil, and Exxon. Secondly, it has the second largest oil reserve in the Americas. Canada, with 171 billion barrels of oil is first, though second in the world to Saudi Arabia. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Venezuela holds the ninth place in oil reserves with 77 billion barrels of oil. It is also extremely important to the U.S. in part because of its proximity. Recently, we have purchased more of Venezuela's oil than anyone has.
Chavez's trolling for other markets threatens America's access to Venezuelan oil even more though both he and his representatives have been very clear that they are not planning to reduce exports to the U.S. Considering the presumably diminishing Saudi Arabian oil reserves, as well as China's and our increasing demand for oil, this is not an abstract threat except, he says, if we attempt to assassinate or overthrow him.
The Saudis, possessors of the largest oil reserves in the world are extremely secretive about the amount of oil still available in their reserves. The U.S. government estimates that they have 261 billion barrels of oil but we cannot know for sure. They have good reason to play their cards so close to the vest: If they were to confirm that they are approaching their peak of production, it might spur the west to serious efforts to create alternative forms of fuel such as solar, wind and nuclear power. If those forms were to become widely available, it could cut into the Saudi market. It makes one wonder if Iran's claim that it is developing nuclear power because it is an alternative form of power is true. While Iran holds the world's fourth largest reserve of oil, with 126 billion barrels of oil, it would be exercising a rare form of prescience in planning for a future when that oil will be gone.
Aside from America's concerns about oil, Chavez has made a number of pronouncements that have irritated the administration and its friends. He has responded strongly to rumors that the U.S. is planning to invade Venezuela saying that he would stand up to any such invasion. Just what would Bush expect him to say?
Venezuela is right to publicize these rumors. If Cuba's experience with the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis and subsequent assassination attempts on Castro; the CIA-sponsored coups against Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 and against Allende in Chile in 1972 are any measure of our government's willingness to disregard international law for our own ends, Chavez cannot take these rumors lightly particularly with the trigger-happy Bush at the helm.
It is not just the history of American state-sponsored terrorism about which Venezuela is justified in worrying but the arrogant expectation that any government or leader that disagrees with us poses a risk to the American way of life. Latin American leaders are especially endangered.
As Pat Robertson observed, "We have the Monroe Doctrine, and we have other doctrines that we have announced, and without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil that could hurt us very badly.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially repudiated the Monroe Doctrine in 1934 ending U.S. interventionism in Latin America and replacing it with his "Good Neighbor" policy. Those damnable Democrats! But remember that President Gerald Ford issued an Executive Order that banned U.S. government agents from assassinating foreign leaders.
In September 2001, in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center, President Bush rescinded that order and lowered the standard of proof for assassinations to those merely "suspected" of being terrorists. But long before George W. Bush became president the U.S had disregarded its Good Neighbor policy with interventions in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, to name a few.
Golda Meir famously said, "Even paranoids have enemies." Whatever mainstream America may think of Hugo Chavez, he is right to be wary.
It's not the end of the question, of course. Editor & Publisher is predicting that more and more pro-war politicians will soon be pressed to say whether their own kids are enlisting in a cause they think is worth the lives of other people's children.
As E&P notes, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- a potential Republican presidential contender in 2008 and a staunch supporter of the president's "stay the course" policy in Iraq -- got the question from a Boston Herald reporter last week. He didn't much like it.
Romney has five sons, age 24 to 35, and the Massachusetts National Guard will take 'em up to 39. Asked whether he had encouraged his sons to sign up, Romney said: "No, I have not urged my own children to enlist. I don't know the status of my childrens' potentially enlisting in the Guard and Reserve." As he answered, the Herald says, his voice became "tinged with anger."
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Most of what Alan Greenspan said at last week's conference in his honor made very good sense. But his words of wisdom come too late. He's like a man who suggests leaving the barn door ajar, and then - after the horse is gone - delivers a lecture on the importance of keeping your animals properly locked up.
Regular readers know that I have never forgiven the Federal Reserve chairman for his role in creating today's budget deficit. In 2001 Mr. Greenspan, a stern fiscal taskmaster during the Clinton years, gave decisive support to the Bush administration's irresponsible tax cuts, urging Congress to reduce the federal government's revenue so that it wouldn't pay off its debt too quickly.
Since then, federal debt has soared. But as far as I can tell, Mr. Greenspan has never admitted that he gave Congress bad advice. He has, however, gone back to lecturing us about the evils of deficits.
Now, it seems, he's playing a similar game with regard to the housing bubble.
At the conference, Mr. Greenspan didn't say in plain English that house prices are way out of line. But he never says things in plain English.
What he did say, after emphasizing the recent economic importance of rising house prices, was that "this vast increase in the market value of asset claims is in part the indirect result of investors accepting lower compensation for risk. Such an increase in market value is too often viewed by market participants as structural and permanent." And he warned that "history has not dealt kindly with the aftermath of protracted periods of low-risk premiums." I believe that translates as "Beware the bursting bubble."
But as recently as last October Mr. Greenspan dismissed talk of a housing bubble: "While local economies may experience significant speculative price imbalances, a national severe price distortion seems most unlikely."
Wait, it gets worse. These days Mr. Greenspan expresses concern about the financial risks created by "the prevalence of interest-only loans and the introduction of more-exotic forms of adjustable-rate mortgages." But last year he encouraged families to take on those very risks, touting the advantages of adjustable-rate mortgages and declaring that "American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage."
If Mr. Greenspan had said two years ago what he's saying now, people might have borrowed less and bought more wisely. But he didn't, and now it's too late. There are signs that the housing market either has peaked already or soon will. And it will be up to Mr. Greenspan's successor to manage the bubble's aftermath.
How bad will that aftermath be? The U.S. economy is currently suffering from twin imbalances. On one side, domestic spending is swollen by the housing bubble, which has led both to a huge surge in construction and to high consumer spending, as people extract equity from their homes. On the other side, we have a huge trade deficit, which we cover by selling bonds to foreigners. As I like to say, these days Americans make a living by selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from China.
One way or another, the economy will eventually eliminate both imbalances. But if the process doesn't go smoothly - if, in particular, the housing bubble bursts before the trade deficit shrinks - we're going to have an economic slowdown, and possibly a recession. In fact, a growing number of economists are using the "R" word for 2006.
And here's where Mr. Greenspan is still saying foolish things. In his closing remarks he suggested that "an end to the housing boom could induce a significant rise in the personal saving rate, a decline in imports and a corresponding improvement in the current account deficit." Translation, I think: the end of the housing bubble will automatically cure the trade deficit, too.
Sorry, but no. A housing slowdown will lead to the loss of many jobs in construction and service industries but won't have much direct effect on the trade deficit. So those jobs won't be replaced by new jobs elsewhere until and unless something else, like a plunge in the value of the dollar, makes U.S. goods more competitive on world markets, leading to higher exports and lower imports.
So there's a rough ride ahead for the U.S. economy. And it's partly Mr. Greenspan's fault.
August 28, 2005
Winning in Iraq
By DAVID BROOKS
Andrew Krepinevich is a careful, scholarly man. A graduate of West Point and a retired lieutenant colonel, his book, "The Army and Vietnam," is a classic on how to fight counterinsurgency warfare.
Over the past year or so he's been asking his friends and former colleagues in the military a few simple questions: Which of the several known strategies for fighting insurgents are you guys employing in Iraq? What metrics are you using to measure your progress?
The answers have been disturbing. There is no clear strategy. There are no clear metrics.
Krepinevich has now published an essay in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, "How to Win in Iraq," in which he proposes a strategy. The article is already a phenomenon among the people running this war, generating discussion in the Pentagon, the C.I.A., the American Embassy in Baghdad and the office of the vice president.
Krepinevich's proposal is hardly new. He's merely describing a classic counterinsurgency strategy, which was used, among other places, in Malaya by the British in the 1950's. The same approach was pushed by Tom Donnelly and Gary Schmitt in a Washington Post essay back on Oct. 26, 2003; by Kenneth Pollack in Senate testimony this July 18; and by dozens of midlevel Army and Marine Corps officers in Iraq.
Krepinevich calls the approach the oil-spot strategy. The core insight is that you can't win a war like this by going off on search and destroy missions trying to kill insurgents. There are always more enemy fighters waiting. You end up going back to the same towns again and again, because the insurgents just pop up after you've left and kill anybody who helped you. You alienate civilians, who are the key to success, with your heavy-handed raids.
Instead of trying to kill insurgents, Krepinevich argues, it's more important to protect civilians. You set up safe havens where you can establish good security. Because you don't have enough manpower to do this everywhere at once, you select a few key cities and take control. Then you slowly expand the size of your safe havens, like an oil spot spreading across the pavement.
Once you've secured a town or city, you throw in all the economic and political resources you have to make that place grow. The locals see the benefits of working with you. Your own troops and the folks back home watching on TV can see concrete signs of progress in these newly regenerated neighborhoods. You mix your troops in with indigenous security forces, and through intimate contact with the locals you begin to even out the intelligence advantage that otherwise goes to the insurgents.
If you ask U.S. officials why they haven't adopted this strategy, they say they have. But if that were true the road to the airport in Baghdad wouldn't be a death trap. It would be within the primary oil spot.
The fact is, the U.S. didn't adopt this blindingly obvious strategy because it violates some of the key Rumsfeldian notions about how the U.S. military should operate in the 21st century.
First, it requires a heavy troop presence, not a light, lean force. Second, it doesn't play to our strengths, which are technological superiority, mobility and firepower. It acknowledges that while we go with our strengths, the insurgents exploit our weakness: the lack of usable intelligence.
Third, it means we have to think in the long term. For fear of straining the armed forces, the military brass have conducted this campaign with one eye looking longingly at the exits. A lot of the military planning has extended only as far as the next supposed tipping point: the transfer of sovereignty, the election, and so on. We've been rotating successful commanders back to Washington after short stints, which is like pulling Grant back home before the battle of Vicksburg. The oil-spot strategy would force us to acknowledge that this will be a long, gradual war.
But the strategy has one virtue. It might work.
Today, public opinion is turning against the war not because people have given up on the goal of advancing freedom, but because they are not sure this war is winnable. Why should we sacrifice more American lives to a lost cause?
If President Bush is going to rebuild support for the war, he's going to have to explain specifically how it can be won, and for that he needs a strategy.
It's not hard to find. It's right there in Andy Krepinevich's essay, and in the annals of history.
opyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Sunday, August 28, 2005
On the talk-show circuit last Sunday, the two-time purple heart winner and leading member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said, "By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq, we're not winning.
"'Stay the course' is not a policy," Hagel added. "What I think the White House does not yet understand -- and some of my colleagues -- the dam has broke on this policy."
Drawing direct comparisons to Vietnam, Hagel said that whatever window once existed to add more troops and stabilize the country has closed. And if Hagel -- previously one of the fiercest proponents of that strategy -- is saying it, you reckon it's actually true.
The Senator, who has blasted the Bush Iraq policy as " completely disconnected from reality -- it's like they're just making it up as they go along" believes the time has come to find the least-worst way to leave.
"We should start figuring out how we get out of there," he said, "But with this understanding -- we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East." And here, Hagel identifies the cruelest Catch 22 of the war: "I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur."
This is the all too real, damned if we do, damned if we don't dilemma we?re stuck with. The trick is to find the least hellish path home. Hagel isn't claiming to have the answers, but he's at least grappling with the problem. Which is better than the president's plan -- which now seems to be: "keep fighting to honor the dead."
August 28, 2005
SOME WHITE House sympathizers have attempted to portray Karl Rove's role in
the Valerie Plame scandal as that of a statesman, seeking to provide
Bush with the best information possible on Saddam Hussein's nuclear
ambitions so that Bush could set policy based on facts. This has been met
skepticism. Rove's career, even before he became Bush's deputy chief of
staff, is rich with reasons to think his motives in helping to identify
a CIA agent were far darker.
After all, Plame's identity was revealed in a Robert Novak column on July
14, 2003, just eight days after her husband, Joseph Wilson, had embarrassed
over his Iraq war rationale. And Rove had talked with Novak on July 9.
As John Roberts, the Supreme Court nominee and federal appeals court judge,
wrote last month in another context, the fact that ''sometimes dogs do eat
is no reason to ignore more-logical explanations.
Rove's record has been consistent. Over 35 years, he has been a master of
dirty tricks, divisiveness, innuendo, manipulation, character assassination,
He started early. In 1970, when he was 19 and active as a college
Republican -- though he didn't graduate from college -- Rove pretended to
a Democratic candidate in Illinois, stole some campaign stationery, and used
it to disrupt a campaign event. Later, in Texas, he gave testimony in court
that was embarrassing to an opponent of one of Rove's clients, even though
it was not true, according to the book ''Bush's Brain," by two veteran Texas
newsmen, James Moore and Wayne Slater.
Negative attacks have often been the center of Rove's strategies. In a race
between Texas Governor Mark White and his Republican opponent, Bill
Rove wrote in a memo: ''Anti-White messages are more important than positive
Often Rove has skated on the edge of being identified with certainty as the
author of dirty tricks. In 1986, the discovery of a planted listening device
in Rove's own office was widely publicized, damaging the Democrats. Many
suspect that the source was Rove himself. This was never proven, but Moore
Slater say, ''Karl Rove remains a prime suspect." In 1989, Texas populist
Jim Hightower was damaged by grand jury leaks for which, Moore and Slater
''Rove remains the most likely source."
Again, most of the personal slurs against candidates who had the temerity to
run against Rove's clients have not been pinned on Rove personally, but they
follow a pattern. George W. Bush ousted Ann Richards from the Texas
governor's office in 1994 after a whisper campaign focused on a small number
appointees who were lesbians and even suggested that Richards was gay. Bush
himself stoked the fire, saying some Richards appointees ''had agendas that
may have been personal in nature."
In 1990, Hightower's integrity was smeared. A federal investigation of his
expenses produced news stories, but no charge, despite Rove's telling
reporters that Hightower and several aides ''face the possibility of
In South Carolina in 2000, rumors circulated that John McCain was gay, had a
black child, had a Vietnamese child, and got special treatment while a POW
in Vietnam. In 2004, a direct link was established between the Bush
campaign -- of which Rove was ''the architect," in Bush's words -- and the
John Kerry from the swift boat veterans. With such a history, is it possible
that Rove encouraged the Catholic bishops who questioned Kerry's fitness to
Earlier this year, he none-too-subtly bestrode the church-state amalgam that
helped elect Bush, telling a sympathetic and enthusiastic audience in
that conservatism is ''the dominant political creed in America." Always on
the attack, Rove said just this June that liberals want to ''prepare
and offer therapy" to terrorists.
According to Moore and Slater, the strategy of attack has been constant
throughout his career. ''Rove didn't just want to win; he wanted the
Rove's connection to the Valerie Plame story was the center of attention in
mid-July but cooled fast after Bush nominated Roberts to the Supreme Court
July 19. A LexisNexis search reveals 1,944 stories mentioning Rove in the
week prior to the nomination, dropping to 1,111 during the week after. Now,
Bush in Crawford for a prolonged vacation, the story has nearly
disappeared -- only 169 references in a late-August week.
Still, more is likely to come out after Labor Day. A special prosecutor,
Patrick Fitzgerald, is expected to finish his two-year investigation this
His goal was to find the person who leaked Plame's identity as an undercover
CIA agent -- a serious offense in the view of Bush's father. He and many
commentators have deplored the idea that the leaker may have been seeking
political retribution at the expense of national security.
So attention will inevitably turn back again to Karl Rove, who did talk with
Novak and other reporters who wrote the story but who is now being portrayed
by some as a neutral researcher in the Valerie Plame case. Yes, and
sometimes dogs do eat homework.
2005 The New York Times Company
28 Aug 2005 12:31:20 GMT
By Saul Hudson
WASHINGTON, Aug 28 (Reuters) - "Since when did Venezuela become a threat?" asked U.S. radio sports talk show host Tony Kornheiser.
"Since gas went over $3," his co-host joked, referring to soaring U.S. prices and the fact Venezuela holds the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East.
The Bush administration has accused leftist President Hugo Chavez of seeking to destabilize Latin American governments and doing too little to combat drug traffickers and Marxist rebels operating around its border with U.S. ally Colombia.
But Washington's campaign to raise the alarm over a major U.S. oil supplier has failed to resonate among members of congress, editorial writers, think-tank analysts and the public.
In the void, Pat Robertson, a former Republican presidential candidate and key supporter of President George W. Bush, called last week for Chavez to be assassinated for exporting communism and Muslim extremism.
As wild as his charges appeared, the attack came against the backdrop of largely unsubstantiated Bush administration accusations and Chavez said they represented the view of the right-wing U.S. elite.
"The Bush administration has tried to make Venezuela seem like a spooky, murky place," said Larry Birns of the Washington based think-tank the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "But they have cried wolf too often. Without serious evidence, you can't take their accusations seriously."
The Bush administration distanced itself from Robertson and the evangelist leader grudgingly apologized but by the end of the week even sports talk radio was ridiculing the idea Venezuela posed a threat.
ACTIONS LOUDER THAN LOUD WORDS
Venezuela's ambassador in Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, said U.S. complaints were baseless and driven by American right-wingers, who fear Chavez's ideology of spreading oil wealth to the majority poor resonates in a region rejecting American-prescribed free-market models.
Chavez, who routinely insults Bush and claims Washington plots to oust him, can match Robertson's rhetoric.
But this month he let his actions undercut U.S. charges that he funds groups trying to oust Ecuador's government
With Ecuador facing a political crisis where protesters halted oil production, Chavez helped rescue the fragile government by lending its poor neighbor crude so that it would meet its export commitments.
The Bush administration is under pressure to hold off on its accusations.
Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, complained that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's repeated criticism of Venezuela during a Latin American tour could undermine efforts to improve cooperation on such issues as drug trafficking.
"It may well be helpful to at least have a moratorium on adverse comments on Venezuela," the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to Rumsfeld last week.
But that advice seems to go against the administration's instincts.
A congressional official, who asked not to be named because he was relating a private conversation, said a bipartisan delegation of U.S. legislators met Condoleezza Rice before she became secretary of state to urge her to reach out to Chavez.
According to the official, Rice cut the lawmakers off and said, "We just don't like him."
by Ken Lessley
President Bush spoke in Utah Monday defending his policies and practices in Iraq, and I have to say he seems focused solely on getting his agenda accomplished, regardless of who has to die unnecessarily in the process.
Referring to the "sacrifice" of the more than 1,800 American lives lost in Iraq to date, he said we must honor what they died for.
He left out the part about how they died for lack of proper armor, that the money for proper gear and equipment is still largely unaccounted for, that the families of the connected and powerful aren't sending their kids to die, that there weren't enough troops sent from day one, that their deaths will continue to mount for years to come, or that he started this war on false premises.
"What they died for" is a complete mystery. As one grieving mother of a son killed in Iraq said, Bush is asserting that "more people should die because these have died," which makes no sense.
Maybe they died so Iraq can draft a constitution in line with radical Islam, which would suppress women and ultimately destroy Israel.
Maybe they died so Mobil / Halliburton / McDonald's can have free rein and profits galore in the Mideast.
Maybe they died so U.S. Army Inc. can have a permanent base and continue imposing our will by force on another region of the Earth.
Maybe they died so Bush wouldn't have to answer bothersome questions about Karl Rove.
Maybe they died so Iraq can have the same rigged and untraceable elections we do, putting inept but connected people in office to start wars unnecessarily.
If these brave men and women died for something worthwhile, why are their returning coffins kept off the news? Why has Bush yet to attend one funeral of such a brave and noble "sacrifice"?
The other thing I keep getting confused on is: When we defend our country, we're "patriots," but when Iraqis defend their country, they're called "terrorists." So, our patriots kill their terrorists, and this makes it a noble cause worth dying for?
The president has a lot of nerve, talking about "sacrifice,"duty,"honor" and such lofty ideals, when he and "five-deferment" Dick Cheney ran and hid when it was their turn to go to Vietnam.
Bush has no problem sending others to die, as he so deftly demonstrated as governor of Texas in signing the U.S. record number of execution orders of over 150 persons, including minors and the mentally ill.
He has no problem with people dying, as long as his agenda is furthered.
I hope that either a) his agenda doesn't cost me my life soon, or b) someone gets him to change tactics.
August 28, 2005
By FRANK RICH
ANOTHER week in Iraq, another light at the end of the tunnel. On Monday President Bush saluted the Iraqis for "completing work on a democratic constitution" even as the process was breaking down yet again. But was anyone even listening to his latest premature celebration?
We have long since lost count of all the historic turning points and fast-evaporating victories hyped by this president. The toppling of Saddam's statue, "Mission Accomplished," the transfer of sovereignty and the purple fingers all blur into a hallucinatory loop of delusion. One such red-letter day, some may dimly recall, was the adoption of the previous, interim constitution in March 2004, also proclaimed a "historic milestone" by Mr. Bush. Within a month after that fabulous victory, the insurgency boiled over into the war we have today, taking, among many others, the life of Casey Sheehan.
It's Casey Sheehan's mother, not those haggling in Baghdad's Green Zone, who really changed the landscape in the war this month. Not because of her bumper-sticker politics or the slick left-wing political operatives who have turned her into a circus, but because the original, stubborn fact of her grief brought back the dead the administration had tried for so long to lock out of sight. With a shove from Pat Robertson, her 15 minutes are now up, but even Mr. Robertson's antics revealed buyer's remorse about Iraq; his stated motivation for taking out Hugo Chávez by assassination was to avoid "another $200 billion war" to remove a dictator.
In the wake of Ms. Sheehan's protest, the facts on the ground in America have changed almost everywhere. The president, for one, has been forced to make what for him is the ultimate sacrifice: jettisoning chunks of vacation to defend the war in any bunker he can find in Utah or Idaho. In the first speech of this offensive, he even felt compelled to take the uncharacteristic step of citing the number of American dead in public (though the number was already out of date by at least five casualties by day's end). For the second, the White House recruited its own mom, Tammy Pruett, for the president to showcase as an antidote to Ms. Sheehan. But in a reversion to the president's hide-the-fallen habit, the chosen mother was not one who had lost a child in Iraq.
It isn't just Mr. Bush who is in a tight corner now. Ms. Sheehan's protest was the catalyst for a new national argument about the war that managed to expose both the intellectual bankruptcy of its remaining supporters on the right and the utter bankruptcy of the Democrats who had rubber-stamped this misadventure in the first place.
When the war's die-hard cheerleaders attacked the Middle East policy of a mother from Vacaville, Calif., instead of defending the president's policy in Iraq, it was definitive proof that there is little cogent defense left to be made. When the Democrats offered no alternative to either Mr. Bush's policy or Ms. Sheehan's plea for an immediate withdrawal, it was proof that they have no standing in the debate.
Instead, two conservative Republicans - actually talking about Iraq instead of Ms. Sheehan, unlike the rest of their breed - stepped up to fill this enormous vacuum: Chuck Hagel and Henry Kissinger. Both pointedly invoked Vietnam, the war that forged their political careers. Their timing, like Ms. Sheehan's, was impeccable. Last week Mr. Bush started saying that the best way to honor the dead would be to "finish the task they gave their lives for" - a dangerous rationale that, as David Halberstam points out, was heard as early as 1963 in Vietnam, when American casualties in that fiasco were still inching toward 100.
And what exactly is our task? Mr. Bush's current definition - "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" - could not be a better formula for quagmire. Twenty-eight months after the fall of Saddam, only "a small number" of Iraqi troops are capable of fighting without American assistance, according to the Pentagon - a figure that Joseph Biden puts at "fewer than 3,000." At this rate, our 138,000 troops will be replaced by self-sufficient locals in roughly 100 years.
For his part, Mr. Hagel backed up his assertion that we are bogged down in a new Vietnam with an irrefutable litany of failure: "more dead, more wounded, less electricity in Iraq, less oil being pumped in Iraq, more insurgency attacks, more insurgents coming across the border, more corruption in the government." Mr. Kissinger no doubt counts himself a firm supporter of Mr. Bush, but in Washington Post this month, he drew a damning lesson from Vietnam: "Military success is difficult to sustain unless buttressed by domestic support." Anyone who can read a poll knows that support is gone and is not coming back. The president's approval rating dropped to 36 percent in one survey last week.
What's left is the option stated bluntly by Mr. Hagel: "We should start figuring out how we get out of there."
He didn't say how we might do that. John McCain has talked about sending more troops to rectify our disastrous failure to secure the country, but he'll have to round them up himself door to door. As the retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey reported to the Senate, the National Guard is "in the stage of meltdown and in 24 months we'll be coming apart." At the Army, according to The Los Angeles Times, officials are now predicting an even worse shortfall of recruits in 2006 than in 2005. The Leo Burnett advertising agency has been handed $350 million for a recruitment campaign that avoids any mention of Iraq.
Among Washington's Democrats, the only one with a clue seems to be Russell Feingold, the Wisconsin senator who this month proposed setting a "target date" (as opposed to a deadline) for getting out. Mr. Feingold also made the crucial observation that "the president has presented us with a false choice": either "stay the course" or "cut and run." That false choice, in which Mr. Bush pretends that the only alternative to his reckless conduct of the war is Ms. Sheehan's equally apocalyptic retreat, is used to snuff out any legitimate debate. There are in fact plenty of other choices echoing about, from variations on Mr. Feingold's timetable theme to buying off the Sunni insurgents.
But don't expect any of Mr. Feingold's peers to join him or Mr. Hagel in fashioning an exit strategy that might work. If there's a moment that could stand for the Democrats' irrelevance it came on July 14, the day Americans woke up to learn of the suicide bomber in Baghdad who killed as many as 27 people, nearly all of them children gathered around American troops. In Washington that day, the presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a press conference vowing to protect American children from the fantasy violence of video games.
The Democrats are hoping that if they do nothing, they might inherit the earth as the Bush administration goes down the tubes. Whatever the dubious merits of this Kerryesque course as a political strategy, as a moral strategy it's unpatriotic. The earth may not be worth inheriting if Iraq continues to sabotage America's ability to take on Iran and North Korea, let alone Al Qaeda.
As another politician from the Vietnam era, Gary Hart, observed last week, the Democrats are too cowardly to admit they made a mistake three years ago, when fear of midterm elections drove them to surrender to the administration's rushed and manipulative Iraq-war sales pitch. So now they are compounding the original error as the same hucksters frantically try to repackage the old damaged goods.
IN the new pitch there are no mushroom clouds. Instead we get McCarthyesque rhetoric accusing critics of being soft on the war on terrorism, which the Iraq adventure has itself undermined. Before anyone dare say Vietnam, the president, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld drag in the historian David McCullough and liken 2005 in Iraq to 1776 in America - and, by implication, the original George W. to ours. Before you know it, Ahmad Chalabi will be rehabilitated as Ben Franklin.
The marketing campaign will crescendo in two weeks, on the anniversary of 9/11, when a Defense Department "Freedom Walk" will trek from the site of the Pentagon attack through Arlington National Cemetery to a country music concert on the Mall. There the false linkage of Iraq to 9/11 will be hammered in once more, this time with a beat: Clint Black will sing "I Raq and Roll," a ditty whose lyrics focus on Saddam, not the Islamic radicals who actually attacked America. Lest any propaganda opportunity be missed, Arlington's gravestones are being branded with the Pentagon's slogans for military campaigns, like Operation Iraqi Freedom, The Associated Press reported last week - a historic first. If only the administration had thought of doing the same on the fallen's coffins, it might have allowed photographs.
Even though their own poll numbers are in a race to the bottom with the president's, don't expect the Democrats to make a peep. Republicans, their minds increasingly focused on November 2006, may well blink first. In yet another echo of Vietnam, it's millions of voters beyond the capital who will force the timetable for our inexorable exit from Iraq.
* Copyright 2005 The New York Times
Saturday, August 27, 2005
It's time now for all those in power who expressed doubts about Mr. Bolton
to step up and shout about what he's doing.
Our Congressional representatives should be contacted immediately to put
this man on a short leash.
To contact you Senator go to www.senate.gov to contact your Representative
go to www.house.gov. You can look them up by name or State.
Don't let this pass by folks our future depends on it.
Leaked Document Exposes Bolton's Reforming Genius
(31 comments )
So the verdict seems to be in: John Bolton's charm offensive is proving
every bit as effective at the U.N. as it was with the Senate, which
had to bypass to install him as ambassador.
As the London Independent
Block quote start
Any hopes that John Bolton, the new US ambassador to the United Nations,
would have been chastened by the way he was elevated to his position have
dashed by the emergence of a leaked document detailing his negotiating
demands for next month's UN summit.
Block quote end
No wonder that the leaked
[pdf] gutting so many
proposed reforms has been causing great turmoil at the State Department. As
Block quote start
Condi -- When does the "supervision" promised to Senators Voinovich, Hagel,
and Chafee begin?
Block quote end
Virtually every change made in the reform document seemed designed to
undermine important goals.
Here is perhaps the most immoral deletion:
Block quote start
Provide, as a priority, assistance for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and
treatment in African countries on a grant basis, and encourage
to make anti-retroviral drugs affordable and accessible in Africa and ensure
increased support for bilateral and multilateral assistance to combat
tuberculosis and other infectious diseases in Africa. (p.14)
Block quote end
Then there are the deletions in the climate change section intended to leave
the impression that the jury is still out on global warming. You know, we
shouldn't come to any hasty conclusions about this, or, god forbid, act on
any such conclusions.
Block quote start
...taking into account the Rio principles, inter alia the principle of
common but differentiated responsibilities. We recognize that climate change
serious and long-term challenge that has the potential to affect every part
of the world..
Undertake concerted global action to address climate change, including
through meeting all commitments and obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.and
relevant international agreements, increase energy efficiency, technological
innovation, and to initiate negotiations to develop a more inclusive
framework for climate change beyond 2012, with broader participation by both
developing and developed countries, taking into account the principle of
but differentiated responsibilities. (p.8)
Block quote end
And here are just a few other highlights:
Block quote start
We rededicate ourselves to support all efforts to uphold, as enshrined in
the United Nations charter.and the right of self-determination of peoples
remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation... (p.1)
Block quote end
I can't imagine what could possibly be Bolton's problem with "colonial
domination and foreign occupation".
Block quote start
We reaffirm the vital importance of an effective multilateral system, with a
strong United Nations at its core, in order to better address.challenges and
threats confronting our world and to achieve progress in the areas of
development, security and human rights, and commit to spare no efforts in
and strengthening the effectiveness of the organization and implementation
of its decisions. (p.1)
Block quote end
I thought "strengthening the effectiveness of the organization and
implementation of its decisions" were the explicit reasons Bolton's
was so badly needed at the U.N.
Block quote start
We agree recognize that current developments and circumstances require that
we build consensus on major threats and challenges. We commit to translate
consensus into concrete action, including addressing the root causes of
those threats and challenges. (p.2)
Block quote end
We recognize, but god knows we don't agree with it, which, given Bush's
history of "consensus-building," is pretty consistent.
Block quote start
We pledge to make the United Nations more relevant, more effective, more
efficient, more accountable and more credible and to provide the
the resources needed to fully implement its mandates. This is our shared
responsibility and our common interest. (p.2)
Block quote end
It takes a lot of chutzpah to pledge to make the United Nations "more
relevant, more effective, more efficient, more." while crossing out the line
providing it with the resources to achieve these goals.
The list goes on and on.
Clearly, Senator George Voinovich knew what was coming when he gave his
on the floor of the Senate:
Block quote start
"This appointment is very, very important to our country. At a strategic
time when we need friends all over the world, we need somebody up there
going to be able to get the job done. I know, some of my friends say, 'Let
it go, George. It's going to work out,' I don't want to take the risk. I
back here and ran for a second term because I'm worried about my kids and my
grandchildren. And I just hope my colleagues will take the time and...do
serious thinking about whether or not we should send John Bolton to the
Block quote end
I have continually asked George Bush to quit using Casey's name and the
names of the other Gold Star Families for Peace loved ones to justify his
killing. He continues to say this: "We have to honor the sacrifices of the
fallen by completing the mission." So the mission is now this: WE MUST
KILLING AMERICANS BECAUSE AMERICANS HAVE ALREADY BEEN KILLED!!!
How can anyone, anyone in their right minds support this line of reasoning?
I have been silent on the Gold Star Moms who still support this man and his
war by saying that they deserve the right to their opinions because they are
in as much pain as I am. I would challenge them, though, at this point to
start thinking for themselves. Iraq DID NOT have WMD; Iraq WAS NOT linked to
Al Qaeda and 9/11; Iraq WAS NOT a threat or danger to America. How can these
moms who still support George Bush and his insane war in Iraq want more
innocent blood shed just because their sons or daughters have been killed? I
understand it. I don't understand how any mother could want another mother
to feel the pain we feel. I am starting to lose a little compassion for
I know they have been as brainwashed as the rest of America, but they know
the pain and heartache and they should not wish it on another. However, I
feel their pain so acutely and pray for these "continue the murder and
mayhem" moms to see the light.
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