Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Rehabilitation of the Cold-War Liberal - New York Times
The New York Times

April 30, 2006

The Rehabilitation of the Cold-War Liberal

This fall, for the third time since 9/11, American voters will choose
between Democrats and Republicans while knowing what only one party believes
national security. In 2002, Democratic candidates tried to change the
subject, focusing on Social Security and health care instead. In 2004,
John Kerry
substituted biography for ideology, largely ignoring his own extensive
foreign-policy record and stressing his service in Vietnam. In this year's
and House races, the party looks set to reprise Michael Dukakis's old theme:
competence. Rather than tell Americans what their vision is, Democrats will
assure them that they can execute it better than
George W. Bush.

Democrats have no shortage of talented foreign-policy practitioners. Indeed,
they have no shortage of worthwhile foreign-policy proposals. Even so, they
cannot tell a coherent story about the post-9/11 world. And they cannot do
so, in large part, because they have not found their usable past. Such
after all, are not born in focus groups; they are less invented than
inherited. Before Democrats can conquer their ideological weakness, they
must first
conquer their ideological amnesia.

Consider George W. Bush's story: America represents good in an epic struggle
against evil. Liberals, this story goes, try to undermine that moral
reining in American power and sapping our faith in ourselves. But a
visionary president will not be constrained, and he wields American might
with relentless
force, until the walls of oppression crumble and the darkest region on earth
is set free.

If this sounds familiar, it should. It was
Ronald Reagan's
story as well. To a remarkable degree, the right's post-9/11 vision relies
on a grand analogy: Bush is Reagan,
Tony Blair
Margaret Thatcher,
the "axis of evil" is the "evil empire," the truculent French are the
truculent French. The most influential conservative foreign-policy essay of
the 1990's,
written by the Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and Robert Kagan of
the Carnegie Endowment, was titled "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy."
since 9/11, most conservatives have seen Bush as Reaganesque. His adherence
to a script conservatives know by heart helps explain their devotion, which
held fast through the 2004 election, and has only recently begun to flag, as
that script veers more and more disastrously from the real world.

Liberals don't have a script because they don't have a Reagan. Since
Vietnam, they've produced two presidents:
Jimmy Carter
Bill Clinton.
Carter's foreign policy is widely considered a failure. Clinton's foreign
policy is not widely considered at all, because he governed at a time when
policy was for the most part peripheral to American politics. Ask liberals
to describe a Carteresque foreign policy, and they tend to wince. Ask them
describe a Clintonesque one, and you'll most likely get a blank stare.

But before Vietnam, and the disappointment and confusion it spawned,
liberals did have a clear story of their own. In the late 1940's and 1950's,
like Reinhold Niebuhr and policymakers like George F. Kennan described
America's cold-war struggle differently from their conservative
counterparts: as
a struggle not merely for democracy but for economic opportunity as well, in
the belief that the former required the latter to survive. Even more
they described America itself differently. Americans may fight evil, they
argued, but that does not make us inherently good. And paradoxically, that
recognition makes national greatness possible. Knowing that we, too, can be
corrupted by power, we seek the constraints that empires refuse. And knowing
that democracy is something we pursue rather than something we embody, we
advance it not merely by exhorting others but by battling the evil in
The irony of American exceptionalism is that by acknowledging our common
fallibility, we inspire the world.

To understand this liberal story, it helps to understand the origins of the
conservative one that we hear all around us today. George W. Bush's foreign
policy is often attributed to neoconservatives, the ex-liberals and radicals
who began moving right in the 1960's. But in fact, the vision Bush inherited
from Reagan dates back a generation earlier, to the birth of the modern
conservative movement itself. Since the mid-1950's, when
William F. Buckley's
new journal, National Review, created the ideological synthesis that still
defines the American right, one overriding fear has haunted conservative
policy: the fear that Americans cannot distinguish good from evil.

Over and over during the last half-century, conservatives have looked at
America and seen a society enfeebled by moral relativism. In the 1950's,
they saw
America's enemies on the march - with China, half of Europe and half of
Korea newly in Communist hands. The culprit, they argued, was liberalism.
The New
Deal, with its collectivist principles, had blurred the distinction between
Soviet Communism and American freedom. And modern culture was undermining
certainties, above all the belief in God. As a result, Americans lacked the
ideological confidence of their fanatical totalitarian foes. And that
was making them weak. Whittaker Chambers, the communist turned conservative
whose 1952 conversion tale, "Witness," strongly influenced the early
right, said Americans would suffer defeat after defeat until their "faith in
God and the freedom He enjoins is as great as Communism's faith in Man." The
West, added James Burnham, the most influential foreign-policy thinker in
the National Review circle, was losing "the will to survive."

After Vietnam, conservatives saw the disease of self-doubt growing even more
acute. Many on the American right hailed "How Democracies Perish," by the
author Jean-François Revel, which declared, "Democratic civilization is the
first in history to blame itself because another power is working to destroy
it." Into this dark, dispirited landscape came Ronald Reagan, saying the
things conservatives had been waiting three decades to hear. "The era of
he announced, "is over." And in perhaps the most famous speech of his
presidency, Reagan in 1983 invoked Chambers to denounce the right's old
moral relativism. Calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire," he admonished
listeners to resist the temptation to "label both sides equally at fault,
. .remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and

When the Soviet empire fell, it became an article of conservative faith that
it was Reagan's policies, and in particular the moral clarity that underlay
them, that had turned the tide. In this way, the old story was transmitted
to a new conservative generation, which made it their guide to the post-9/11

The liberal story also finds its roots in the early cold war. If cold-war
conservatism began with the founding of National Review, cold-war liberalism
slightly earlier, in 1947, when Niebuhr, along with
Eleanor Roosevelt,
Hubert Humphrey and the United Auto Workers' chief Walter Reuther,
established Americans for Democratic Action. The A.D.A. was born amid a
civil war on
the American left, which pitted anti-Communists like Humphrey against Henry
Wallace and those liberals who saw communism less as an enemy than as an
But by 1949, Wallace was vanquished, and the A.D.A. increasingly defined
itself against the right.

The liberal story began with a different fear about America. If cold-war
conservatives worried that Americans no longer saw their own virtue,
cold-war liberals
worried that Americans saw only their virtue. The A.D.A.'s most important
intellectual - its equivalent of James Burnham - was the tall,
theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr was a dedicated opponent of communism,
but he was concerned that in pursuing a just cause, Americans would lose
of their own capacity for injustice. "We must take, and must continue to
take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization," he wrote. "We
exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable
of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise nor become complacent about
degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the
exercise of power is legitimized." Americans, Niebuhr argued, should not
the absolute self-confidence of their enemies. They should not pretend that
a country that countenanced McCarthyism and segregation was morally pure.
they should cultivate enough self-doubt to ensure that unlike the
Communists', their idealism never degenerated into fanaticism.
Open-mindedness, he argued,
is not "a virtue of people who don't believe anything. It is a virtue of
people who know. . .that their beliefs are not absolutely true."

George Kennan, architect of the Truman administration's early policies
toward the Soviet Union, called Niebuhr the "father of us all." And in the
years of the cold war, Niebuhr's emphasis on moral fallibility underlay
America's remarkable willingness to restrain its power. In the aftermath of
War II, the United States represented half of the world's G.D.P., and the
nations of Western Europe lay militarily and economically prostrate. Yet the
Truman administration self-consciously bound America within institutions
which gave those weaker nations influence over American conduct. "We all
have to recognize, no matter how great our strength," Truman declared, "that
must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please." As the historian
John Lewis Gaddis has written: "It was not that the Americans lacked the
to force their allies into line.. . .What is surprising is how rarely this
happened; how much effort the United States put into persuading - quite
even deferring to - its NATO partners."

Kennan believed America's great advantage in the cold war was that the
Soviet Union constituted an empire, which held its alliances together by
force. By
contrast, he argued, if the United States resisted the imperial temptation
and built alliances that respected foreign nationalism, those alliances
endure. In 1947, when the Truman administration announced the Marshall Plan
to help rebuild postwar Western Europe, he resisted using the aid to recast
European economies in America's image. Indeed, his administration assisted
socialist parties, recognizing that while they might not always prove
pliant, they represented home-grown bulwarks against Soviet power. As one
Truman State Department official put it, America should seek European allies
"strong enough to say no both to the Soviet Union and the United States, if
our actions should seem so to require."

For conservatives, this willingness to indulge governments that would not
bend fully to American principles and American wishes was yet another sign
Americans did not truly believe in the righteousness of their cause. While
Kennan saw the Soviet empire as brittle, Burnham envied its lockstep unity
urged America to build its own equivalent. "The reality," he wrote, "is that
the only alternative to the communist World Empire is an American Empire,
which will be, if not literally worldwide in formal boundaries, capable of
exercising decisive world control."

If different views about moral clarity produced different views about
American restraint, they also produced different views on how best to defend
at home and abroad. The Marshall Plan's premise was that the survival of
European democracy depended on its ability to deliver economic opportunity.
"The Vital Center," his famed 1949 statement of cold-war liberalism, Arthur
Schlesinger Jr. compared communism to an intruder trying to enter a house.
The American military could keep it from knocking down the door. But if the
people inside were sufficiently desperate, they might unlock it from the

To conservatives, this talk of communism's root causes looked like an effort
to rationalize evil, to suggest America's real foe was not communism itself,
but the forces that produced it. "The fact that some poor, illiterate people
have 'gone Communist' does not prove that poverty caused them to do so,"
Barry Goldwater, the first National Review-style conservative to win a
Republican presidential nomination.

On domestic policy, the argument was similar. For liberals, the New Deal had
tempered capitalism's instability and inequality, thus preserving Americans'
belief in democracy when people were losing it around the world. America's
ongoing task, Niebuhr argued, was to "make our political and economic life
worthy of our faith and therefore more impregnable." But for conservatives,
the liberal push for equality at home did not strengthen America in its
struggle; it undermined the very ideological clarity upon which that
struggle relied. Viewed from the right,
Franklin Roosevelt
had already moved America perilously far along what the Austrian émigré
economist Friedrich von Hayek famously called the "road to serfdom." And the
the United States aped communism, the less it would recognize its evil. "The
liberal's arm cannot strike with consistent firmness against communism,"
wrote, "because the liberal dimly feels that in doing so he would be somehow
wounding himself."

In the years since 9/11 restored foreign policy to the heart of American
politics, these cold-war debates have returned in another form, with the
difference that only one side knows its lines. Even before the attacks, many
conservatives feared America was emasculating itself yet again. In a
world, they argued, America no longer had to tailor its foreign policy to
the wishes of others. And yet, in the conservative view, the Clinton
had permitted constraints on American power, playing Gulliver to foreign
Lilliputians intent on binding it in a web of international institutions and
law. Predictably, conservatives attributed this submission to America's lack
of faith in itself. The "religion of nonjudgmentalism," wrote William
in the book "Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism," "has
permeated our culture, encouraging a paralysis of the moral faculty."

In his first eight months in office, President Bush aggressively reasserted
American freedom of action, repudiating no fewer than six international
or institutions. And after 9/11, he began depicting this freedom to act
alone as a means not merely of safeguarding American interests but also of
American virtue so it could remake the world. In 2002, the conservative
columnist Charles Krauthammer noted that "people are now coming out of the
on the word 'empire.' " And that discussion had an idealistic cast. For its
proponents, "empire" was usually preceded by the adjective "benign" or
In other words, the United States would rid itself of external impediments
but nonetheless act in the global good, uncorrupted by the temptations of

It has not turned out that way. On
global warming,
an America liberated from international restraint has acted irresponsibly;
in our antiterrorist prisons, we have acted inhumanely. And from the moment
United States invaded Iraq, the Bush administration's complacent certainty
of its own benevolence has blinded it to the dangers of colonial rule. While
the authors of the Marshall Plan avoided remaking Europe's economy, for fear
of sparking nationalist resentment, the head of the Coalition Provisional
L. Paul Bremer III,
unilaterally rescinded Iraq's import tariffs on foreign goods. Bremer may
have thought he was acting on Iraq's behalf, even without its people's
But that is only because he lacked the self-consciousness and humility to
see that he was not. As Larry Diamond, a more reflective C.P.A. official,
"American political leaders need to take a cold shower of humility: we do
not always know what is best for other people, even when we think it is
interests we have in mind. And as I saw during my time in Iraq, it was
frequently our interests that were driving decisions we were trying to
Niebuhr couldn't have said it better himself.

But for all their practical failures, conservatives have at least told a
coherent political story, with deep historical roots, about what keeps
safe and what makes it great. Liberals, by contrast, have offered adjectives
drawn from focus groups and policy proposals linked by no larger theme. In
his 2004 convention acceptance speech, John Kerry used variations of the
word "strong" 17 times. For the 2006 campaign, Congressional Democrats have
a national-security vision they call "tough and smart." It calls for more
spending on homeland security, energy independence and Special Forces. But
disparate, worthy proposals are not grounded in an account of the world
America faces, or the sources of American strength.

In fact, present conditions make liberalism's forgotten story especially
compelling. The unprecedented post-cold-war gap between America's military
and every other nation's does not make international institutions
unnecessary, as the right argues; it makes them even more essential. The
liberals of
the early cold war, who had seen depression and war cross the oceans and
imperil the United States, believed America could guarantee neither its
nor its security alone. And globalization makes that even truer today. The
world's increased integration has left the United States more vulnerable to
pathologies bred in other nations. So more than ever before, American
security requires economic, political and even military interventions in the
affairs of other nations: to stop bird flu from spreading in rural China,
corruption from sparking a banking collapse in Thailand or jihadists from
in Pakistan.

Yet if America pursues those interventions itself they will spark exactly
the nationalist backlash that Niebuhr and Kennan feared. As Princeton's G.
Ikenberry has put it, a one-superpower world is like a town where there is
only one policeman and the houses have no locks. In such a world, America's
challenge isn't proving that it can wield unrestrained power; it is proving
that it won't become a predator.

Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were reaching this conclusion near the end of
Clinton's second term. In Kosovo, NATO waged war so
Slobodan Milosevic's
domestic terror would not again destabilize his neighbors. As the bombs
fell, Blair linked that intervention to the world's efforts to stabilize
East Asian
economies, so that their financial crisis would not spread. "We are
witnessing," Blair argued, "the beginnings of a new doctrine of
international community."
In other words, the more aggressively America and Britain wanted to
intervene in the internal affairs of other states, the more they needed the
that powerful international institutions bestow.

With Clinton crippled by scandal, Blair's vision was stillborn. But it
offers an intellectual foundation upon which liberals can build. In recent
new evidence about global warming and potential pandemics has forcefully
illustrated the need for coordinated action on the environment and public
And of course, 9/11 has showed that distant countries can incubate
fanaticism that can strike America without warning. Unfortunately, liberals
have turned away from Blair's vision. Alienated by the war in Iraq, many
have grown suspicious of intervening in other countries' affairs. A recent
survey shows Democrats twice as likely as Republicans to say that America
should mind its own business internationally. And a 2005 poll by the Century
Foundation and the Center for American Progress found self-described
liberals far less interested than conservatives in promoting democracy.
Indeed, in
their recent manifesto, Congressional Democrats barely mentioned it as a
foreign-policy goal.

But George W. Bush is not wrong to think that America's security depends on
how other countries, particularly in the Islamic world, govern themselves.
the long run, more accountable government can help drain the fury upon which
jihadism feeds. Where Bush - like Burnham before him - goes wrong is in
that America can unilaterally declare a moral standard while exempting
itself. For President Bush, freedom is a one-way conversation. The United
calls on other countries to embrace liberty; we even aid them in the task.
But if they call back, proposing some higher standard that might require us
to modify our actions, we trot out John Bolton. For the rest of the world,
freedom requires infringements upon national sovereignty. But for the United
States, sovereignty trumps all.

Most Muslims, according to polls, do not consider democracy an alien notion;
in fact, they hunger for it. They simply do not believe that it is America's
real goal. And that is largely because they do not feel that America abides
by the principles it preaches. As the Jordanian journalist Rami Khouri has
noted: "George Bush talks in terms of the U.S. having a national mission to
promote freedom in the world. . .everybody in the world looks at the U.S.
asks, Where is the moral and the legal and the political authority for you
to do this? The authority has to come out of some kind of reference point,
legitimate reference point - treaties, international law, international
Security Council resolutions, General Assembly consensus, some mechanism
that has credibility."

What Khouri is talking about - and what international law and international
institutions imply - is reciprocity. To be sure, such institutions must
the realities of power, as did NATO, the U.N. and the other international
bodies born at the end of World War II. But by mildly redistributing power -
by conceding that even the mightiest country must sometimes modify its
behavior in pursuit of a higher good - they build international norms that
legitimate rather than hypocritical. In the liberal story, America's power
to intervene effectively overseas depends on its power to persuade and not
coerce. The power to persuade depends on a willingness to be persuaded. And
that willingness depends, ultimately, on America's willingness to entertain
the prospect that it is wrong.

If liberals have lost faith in promoting democracy abroad, they have also
lost faith in the connection between democracy and economic opportunity.
Franklin Roosevelt's global New Deal to the Marshall Plan (and Truman's
efforts to extend aid to the third world) to
John F. Kennedy's
Alliance for Progress, which promoted land reform and economic development
in Latin America, liberals have traditionally distinguished themselves from
by insisting that to promote liberty, America must promote opportunity as
well. Today, however, in a historic shift, polls show liberals no more
to prioritize foreign aid than conservatives. And this shift, combined with
the perception that Iraq has drained Americans of their willingness to spend
money trying to solve other countries' problems, has left Democratic
politicians virtually mute on the subject of economic assistance.

This is particularly unfortunate, because leading voices in the Muslim
world - for instance, the scholars who wrote the U.N.'s Arab Human
Development Reports
- have themselves highlighted the old link between political freedom and
economic despair. In recent years, exploding populations and stagnating
have left governments from North Africa to South Asia unable to provide
decent schools, free medical clinics, even clean water. And with states
Islamist groups - some violent and theocratic - have filled the void. As
Omar Encarnación of Bard College puts it, the Middle East has experienced a
'Islamization' and radicalization of society ensuing from the rigid
religious and often intolerant character of the civil society organizations
now performing
functions previously in the hands of state authorities."

It is true that jihadists are often middle class. But that's because
terrorist groups are like other employers: they accept the best candidates
who apply.
After examining data on terrorists and would-be terrorists, Ethan Bueno de
Mesquita of Washington University in St. Louis concluded that "individuals
low ability or little education are most likely to volunteer to join the
terrorist organization. However, the terrorist organization screens the
accepting only the best recruits.

But without a sympathetic population, this murderous elite finds it far
harder to operate. Like all insurgents, jihadists rely on those around them
encouragement, legitimacy and protection. When terrorists lack popular
support - think of
Timothy McVeigh
in Oklahoma City - they cannot survive for long. But when they do, they can
menace the world.

Fostering economic opportunity in the Islamic world will require
substantially reducing the Middle East's illiteracy rate among women, which
is twice East
Asia's, and promoting economic reform so more of the world's 57 Islamic
countries - which today receive only slightly more foreign investment than
- can compete in the global economy. And that will require a major
commitment from the United States and its rich allies, along with Islamic
nations themselves.

But while the United States can propose an Islamic Marshall Plan, it cannot
dictate it. To have any chance of success, its specific features must come
the region. And if they do, they will partly diverge from American
preferences, as did the Marshall Plan itself. A serious reform effort, for
will most likely involve those Islamists who have embraced democracy and
oppose violent jihad, but otherwise offend Americans at least as much as did
socialists whom the United States aided after World II.

It is admittedly hard to imagine leaders in today's Washington who are
modest enough to choose the pursuit of local legitimacy over the exercise of
fiat - or ambitious enough to generously finance such an effort. But as
conservatives understand better than liberals, that is the value of a usable
it frees you from the intellectual confines of the moment. In 1947,
Secretary of Defense James Forrestal declared: "At the present time we are
our military expenditures below the. . .minimum which would in themselves
ensure national security. By so doing we are able to increase our
to assist in European recovery." It is that spirit - alien today, but not
alien to the liberal tradition - that liberals must recover to tell a
story of their own.

But generosity abroad also requires generosity at home. At the start of the
cold war, when the United States was helping rebuild Western Europe, it was
also building an economic order that provided tremendous opportunity for
Americans. Between 1947 and 1973, family income roughly doubled, and
it grew even faster for the poor and working class than for the rich.

Since the 1970's, blue-collar families have seen their incomes stagnate. And
the only reason it hasn't dropped outright is that women have entered the
force in droves; today the average two-parent family works a full 12 weeks
more per year than it did in 1969. Facing harsher international competition,
employers have reduced health benefits and eliminated defined-benefit
pensions. And rather than fill the gap, the federal government has retreated
as well.
Unemployment insurance and food stamps have become less generous, and taxes
have become markedly less progressive.

Such issues may seem distant from foreign policy. But for the liberals of
the early cold war, the security of average Americans was essential to
security in the world. "Every courageous and incisive measure to solve
internal problems of our own society," Kennan wrote, "to improve
discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic
victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint

A government that leaves its people to fend for themselves in the face of
rising economic insecurity will face grave difficulty asking them to support
policies aimed at helping people in other corners of the globe. That is the
hidden backdrop to the great popular revolt against the Dubai ports deal
this year - an isolationist, nationalist spasm by a public that feels the
government is more concerned with the interests of foreigners than with its

Since 9/11, President Bush has often been criticized for not asking
Americans to sacrifice. But government cannot just tell Americans we are all
in it together;
it must show them. And in recent decades it has been doing the opposite. One
result has been a rise in public cynicism and a retreat from political
which leaves government easy prey for the forces of private interest and
concentrated wealth, which - in a vicious cycle - further erodes the trust
government needs to call its citizens to action.

In America, no less than in the Islamic world, the struggle for democracy
relies on economic opportunity. To contemporary ears, the phrase "struggle
American democracy" sounds odd. In George W. Bush's Washington, such
struggles are for lesser nations. But in the liberal tradition, it is not
odd at all.
Almost six decades ago, Americans for Democratic Action was born, in the
words of its first national director, to wage a "two-front fight for
both at home and abroad," recognizing that the two were ultimately
indivisible. That remains true today. America is not a fixed model for a
benighted world.
It is the democratic struggle here at home, against the evil in our society,
that offers a beacon to people in other nations struggling against the evil
in theirs. "The fact of the matter," Kennan declared, "is that there is a
little bit of the totalitarian buried somewhere, way down deep, in each and
one of us." America can be the greatest nation on earth, as long as
Americans remember that they are inherently no better than anyone else.

Peter Beinart is editor at large of The New Republic. This essay is adapted
from "The Good Fight: Why Liberals - and Only Liberals - Can Win the War on
Terror and Make America Great Again," which will be published in late May by

Posted by Miriam V.

The Criminal In Chief

Bush challenges more than 750 laws
President Bush asserts that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner

President Not Amused?
By E&P Staff
Published: April 29, 2006 11:40 PM ET

WASHINGTON A blistering comedy “tribute” to President Bush by Comedy Central’s faux talk show host Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondent Dinner Saturday night left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at its close.

Earlier, the president had delivered his talk to the 2700 attendees, including many celebrities and top officials, with the help of a Bush impersonator.

Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,” he said. “If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.”

Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the “Rocky” movies, always getting punched in the face—“and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world.”

Turning to the war, he declared, "I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."

He noted former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the crowd, just three tables away from Karl Rove, and that he had brought " Valerie Plame." Then, worried that he had named her, he corrected himself, as Bush aides might do, "Uh, I mean... he brought Joseph Wilson's wife." He might have "dodged the bullet," he said, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wasn't there.

Colbert also made biting cracks about missing WMDs, “photo ops” on aircraft carriers and at hurricane disasters, melting glaciers and Vice President Cheney shooting people in the face. He advised the crowd, "if anybody needs anything at their tables, speak slowly and clearly on into your table numbers and somebody from the N.S.A. will be right over with a cocktail. "

Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, "When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday - no matter what happened Tuesday."

Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was “surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides of the story — the president’s side and the vice president’s side." He also reflected on the alleged good old days, when the media was still swallowing the WMD story.

Addressing the reporters, he said, "Let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The president makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know--fiction."

He claimed that the Secret Service name for Bush's new press secretary is "Snow Job."

Colbert closed his routine with a video fantasy where he gets to be White House Press Secretary, complete with a special “Gannon” button on his podium. By the end, he had to run from Helen Thomas and her questions about why the U.S. really invaded Iraq and killed all those people.

As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and handshakes, and left immediately.

E&P's Joe Strupp, in the crowd, observed that quite a few sitting near him looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a little too biting--or too much speaking "truthiness" to power.

Asked by E&P after it was over if he thought he'd been too harsh, Colbert said, "Not at all." Was he trying to make a point politically or just get laughs? "Just for laughs," he said. He said he did not pull any material for being too strong, just for time reasons. (He later said the president told him "good job" when he walked off.)

Helen Thomas told Strupp her segment with Colbert was "just for fun."

In its report on the affair, USA Today asserted that some in the crowd cracked up over Colbert but others were "bewildered." Wolf Blitzer of CNN said he thought Colbert was funny and "a little on the edge."

Earlier, the president had addrssed the crowd with a Bush impersonator alongside, with the faux-Bush speaking precisely and the real Bush deliberately mispronouncing words, such as the inevitable "nuclear." At the close, Bush called the imposter "a fine talent. In fact, he did all my debates with Senator Kerry."

Among attendees at the black tie event: Morgan Fairchild, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Justice Antonin Scalia, George Clooney, and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of the Doobie Brothers--in a kilt.

War Costs Skyrocket


Republicans Involved In Lobbyist Sex Scandal

by georgia 10
The Sex for Favors scandals continues to grow.

Chicken Hawks Come Home To Roost

The New York Times

April 30, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Bush of a Thousand Days

LIKE the hand that suddenly pops out of the grave at the end of "Carrie," the past keeps coming back to haunt the Bush White House. Last week was no exception. No sooner did the Great Decider introduce the Fox News showman anointed to repackage the same old bad decisions than the spotlight shifted back to Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury room, where Karl Rove testified for a fifth time. Nightfall brought the release of an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll with its record-low numbers for a lame-duck president with a thousand days to go and no way out.

The demons that keep rising up from the past to grab Mr. Bush are the fictional W.M.D. he wielded to take us into Iraq. They stalk him as relentlessly as Banquo's ghost did Macbeth. From that original sin, all else flows. Mr. Rove wouldn't be in jeopardy if the White House hadn't hatched a clumsy plot to cover up its fictions. Mr. Bush's poll numbers wouldn't be in the toilet if American blood was not being spilled daily because of his fictions. By recruiting a practiced Fox News performer to better spin this history, the White House reveals that it has learned nothing. Made-for-TV propaganda propelled the Bush presidency into its quagmire in the first place. At this late date only the truth, the whole and nothing but, can set it free.

All too fittingly, Tony Snow's appointment was announced just before May Day, a red-letter day twice over in the history of the Iraq war. It was on May 1 three years ago that Mr. Bush did his victory jig on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. It was May 1 last year that The Sunday Times of London published the so-called Downing Street memo. These events bracket all that has gone wrong and will keep going wrong for this president until he comes clean.

To mark the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion last month, the White House hyped something called Operation Swarmer, "the largest air assault" since the start of the war, complete with Pentagon-produced video suitable for the evening news. (What the operation actually accomplished as either warfare or P.R. remains a mystery.) It will take nothing less than a replay of D-Day with the original cast to put a happy gloss on tomorrow's anniversary. Looking back at "Mission Accomplished" now is like playing that childhood game of "What's wrong with this picture?" It wasn't just the banner or the "Top Gun" joyride or the declaration of the end of "major combat operations" that was bogus. Everything was fake except the troops.

"We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools," Mr. Bush said on that glorious day. Three years later we know, courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers, that our corrupt, Enron-like Iraq reconstruction effort has yielded at most 20 of those 142 promised hospitals. But we did build a palace for ourselves. The only building project on time and on budget, USA Today reported, is a $592 million embassy complex in the Green Zone on acreage the size of 80 football fields. Symbolically enough, it will have its own water-treatment plant and power generator to provide the basic services that we still have not restored to pre-invasion levels for the poor unwashed Iraqis beyond the American bunker.

These days Mr. Bush seems to be hoping that we'll just forget every falsehood in his "Mission Accomplished" oration. Trying to deflect a citizen's hostile question about prewar intelligence claims, the president asserted at a public forum last month that he had never said "there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein." But on May 1, 2003, as on countless other occasions, he repeatedly made that direct connection. "With those attacks the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States," he intoned then. "And war is what they got." It was typical of the bait-and-switch rhetoric he used to substitute a war of choice against an enemy who did not attack us on 9/11 for the war against the non-Iraqi terrorists who did.

At the time, "Mission Accomplished" was cheered by the Beltway establishment. "This fellow's won a war," the dean of the capital's press corps, David Broder, announced on "Meet the Press" after complimenting the president on the "great sense of authority and command" he exhibited in a flight suit. By contrast, the Washington grandees mostly ignored the Downing Street memo when it was first published in Britain, much as they initially underestimated the import of the Valerie Wilson leak investigation.

The Downing Street memo — minutes of a Tony Blair meeting with senior advisers in July 2002, nearly eight months before the war began — has proved as accurate as "Mission Accomplished" was fantasy. Each week brings new confirmation that the White House, as the head of British intelligence put it, was determined to fix "the intelligence and facts" around its predetermined policy of going to war in Iraq. Today Mr. Bush tries to pass the buck on the missing W.M.D. to "faulty intelligence," but his alibi is springing leaks faster than the White House and the C.I.A. can clamp down on them. We now know the president knew that the intelligence he cherry-picked was faulty — and flogged it anyway to sell us the war.

The latest evidence that Mr. Bush knew that "uranium from Africa" was no slam-dunk when he brandished it in his 2003 State of the Union address was uncovered by The Washington Post: the coordinating council for the 15 American intelligence agencies had already informed the White House that the Niger story had no factual basis and should be dropped. Last Sunday "60 Minutes" augmented this storyline and an earlier scoop by Lisa Myers of NBC News by reporting that the White House had deliberately ignored its most highly placed prewar informant, Saddam's final foreign minister, Naji Sabri, once he sent the word that Saddam's nuclear cupboard was bare.

"There was almost a concern we'd find something that would slow up the war," Tyler Drumheller, a 26-year C.I.A. veteran and an on-camera source for "60 Minutes," said when I interviewed him last week. Since retiring from the C.I.A. in fall 2004, Mr. Drumheller has played an important role in revealing White House chicanery, including its dire hawking of Saddam's mobile biological weapons labs, which turned out to be fictitious. Before Colin Powell's fateful U.N. presentation, Mr. Drumheller conveyed vociferous warnings that the sole human source on these nonexistent W.M.D. labs, an Iraqi émigré known as Curveball, was mentally unstable and a fabricator. "The real tragedy of this," Mr. Drumheller says, "is if they had let the weapons inspectors play out, we could have had a Gulf War I-like coalition, which would have given us the [300,000] to 400,000 troops needed to secure the country after defeating the Iraqi Army."

Mr. Drumheller says that until the White House "comes to grips with why it did this" and stops "propping up the original rationale" for the war, it "will never get out of Iraq." He is right. But the White House clings to its discredited fictions even though their expiration date is fast arriving. There are new Drumhellers seeking out reporters each day. The Fitzgerald investigation continues to yield revelations of administration W.M.D. subterfuge, president-authorized leaks included. Should the Democrats retake either house of Congress in November, their subpoena power will liberate the investigation of the manipulation of prewar intelligence that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, has stalled for almost two years.

SET against this reality, the debate about Donald Rumsfeld's future is as much of a sideshow as the installation of a slicker Fleischer-McClellan marketer in the White House press room. The defense secretary's catastrophic mistakes in Iraq cannot be undone now, and any successor would still be beholden to the policy set from above. Mr. Rumsfeld is merely a useful, even essential, scapegoat for the hawks in politics and punditland who are now embarrassed to have signed on to this fiasco. For conservative hawks, he's a convenient way to deflect blame from where it most belongs: with the commander in chief. For liberal hawks, attacking Mr. Rumsfeld for his poor execution of the war means never having to say you're sorry for leaping on (and abetting) the blatant propaganda bandwagon that took us there. But their history can't be rewritten any more than Mr. Bush's can: the war's failures were manifestly foretold by the administration's arrogance and haste during the run-up.

A new defense or press secretary changes nothing. The only person who can try to save the administration from itself in Iraq is the president. He can start telling the truth in the narrow window of time he has left and initiate a candid national conversation about our inevitable exit strategy. Or he can wait for events on the ground in Iraq and political realities at home to do it for him.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Saturday, April 29, 2006

He Wasn't A Bush Appointee, Was He? I Can't Believe It!

Report: Ex-head of FDA under investigation
Updated 4/29/2006 2:03 PM ET
NEW YORK (AP) — The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration is under federal investigation amid accusations of financial improprieties and making false statements to Congress, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The New York Times, citing attorney Barbara Van Gelder, said a grand jury has begun a criminal investigation of Lester Crawford. She declined further comment.

Van Gelder told a federal magistrate in a telephone hearing Thursday that she would instruct Crawford to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if ordered to answer questions about his actions as head of the FDA, a transcript of the hearing shows.

Crawford did not reply to messages left by the Times seeking comment. FDA spokeswoman Kathleen Quinn also declined comment. A message left Saturday at Van Gelder's office in Washington was not immediately returned.

Crawford resigned in September, two months after the Senate confirmed him, saying it was time for someone else to lead the agency. He had been acting commissioner for more than a year.

A month before he resigned, Crawford sold more than $50,000 in shares in a company regulated by the agency, according to financial disclosure forms obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act. He has since joined a Washington lobbying firm, Policy Directions Inc.

The criminal investigation was disclosed at a court hearing in a lawsuit over the FDA's actions on emergency contraceptive pills, a subject of dispute during Crawford's tenure.

After the pill's maker, Barr Laboratories, applied three years ago to sell Plan B over the counter, the agency repeatedly delayed a decision on its application.

Many lawmakers, abortion rights advocates and former FDA officials said the delays had resulted from politics, but Crawford and other agency officials said their concerns were scientific and legal.

An advocacy group, the Center for Reproductive Rights, sued the agency in federal court in New York over the delays. A judge allowed the case to proceed, giving the center the right to interview top FDA officials, including Crawford.

Crawford was scheduled to be questioned under oath on Thursday, but on Wednesday Van Gelder, his personal lawyer, sought a delay, saying she would instruct him to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, the Times reported. Crawford previously declined to answer questions from the Government Accountability Office about Plan B.

Van Gelder told Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky on Thursday that Crawford had been represented by Justice Department lawyers in the reproductive rights center's suit.

According to the transcript, Van Gelder said Crawford was under criminal investigation and that the issue of his financial disclosures "is within the grand jury."

Before Crawford's confirmation, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt promised the FDA would act on the Plan B application by September 2005, which led Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., to lift their hold on Crawford's nomination. But after he was confirmed, Crawford postponed indefinitely any decision on Plan B.

Simon Heller, an attorney for the reproductive rights center, said the FDA had long insisted its actions over Plan B were not unusual.

"It would be remarkable if the Justice Department was conducting a criminal investigation of Plan B and at the same time asserting in a civil case that everything done was normal," Heller said.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Next they'll want us to eat chips and salsa....

Date : 2006-04-30
Oh, say, can you see xenophobia in a land of immigrants?
By John Chuckman

"One of the important things here is that we not lose our national soul," - George Bush

Was George Bush speaking of some truly shattering event in American affairs? Perhaps the imprisonment and torture of thousands of innocent people? Perhaps the lack of democratic legitimacy in his own coming to power?

No, what Bush was describing is a version of the American national anthem in Spanish - Nuestro Himno (Our Anthem) - which was played on American Hispanic radio and television stations recently.

Now, in many countries with multi-ethnic populations, most people would see this as charming and flattering. Canada's anthem has two official versions, French and English, and were a group of immigrants to offer it in Ukrainian or Mandarin, most Canadians would be tickled. It would undoubtedly be featured on CBC.

But in America, the broadcast of a Spanish version of The Star Spangled Banner has aroused a somewhat different response. Charles Key, great great grandson of Francis Scott, offered the immortal words, "I think it's despicable thing that someone is going into our society from another country and … changing our national anthem."

"This is evoking spirited revulsion on the part of fair-minded Americans," offered John Teeley, representative of one of innumerable private propaganda mills in Washington commonly dignified as think-tanks. Mr. Teeley continued, "You are talking about something sacred and iconic in the American culture. Just as we wouldn't expect people to change the colors of the national flag, we wouldn't expect people to fundamentally change the anthem and rewrite it in a foreign language."

A foreign language? There are roughly thirty-million Spanish speakers in the United States. The analysis here is interesting: an immigrant singing an anthem in his own language resembles someone changing the national flag. This argument does, perhaps unintentionally, reveal the real concern: Hispanics are changing our country, and we don't like it.

So it is not surprising that the American low-life constituency's political and moral hero, George Bush, should declare: "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

Never mind that the American Constitution says nothing about language. Never mind that waves of immigrants from Europe about a hundred years ago founded countless private schools and cultural institutions in the United States where German or Italian or Hebrew were the languages used and promoted. Never mind that after a generation or two, minority immigrants always end up adopting the language of the majority, something which is close to an economic necessity. And never mind that xenophobia in a land of immigrants should have no place.

An entertaining historical note here is that Francis Scott Key did not write the important part of The Star Spangled Banner, its music. Key wrote a breast-swelling amateurish poem whose words were fitted to an existing song. The existing song, as few Americans know, was an English song, To Anachreon in Heaven, a reference to a Greek poet whose works concern amour and wine. The Star Spangled Banner, in any version, only began playing a really prominent role in America during my lifetime, that is, with the onset of the Cold War. In Chicago public schools during the early 1950s, we sang My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, another breast-sweller, written not many years after Key's, by another amateur poet, Samuel Smith, sung to the music of the British national anthem, God Save the King.

It shouldn't be necessary to remind anyone in an advanced country that things change, and they change at increasing rates. Even in the remote possibility, a century or two from now, Spanish or some blend of Spanish and English were to become the dominant language of the United States, what would it matter to today's angry and intolerant people? After all, the English language came from another land, and it grew out of centuries of change from Latin to early versions of German and French layered onto the language of Celtic people.

Throughout history, fascism is closely associated with xenophobia, but then we find many other unpleasant aspects of fascism - from illegal spying to recording what people read in libraries, from torture to illegal invasion - feature in George Bush's America.

John Chuckman is a retired Chief Economist for Texaco Canada. He is a prolific writer and his articles can be found on websites such as, YellowTimes, CounterPunch, SmirkingChimp, Asian Tribune, and Democrats with Spine. He submitted this article for "Asian Tribune"

- Asian Tribune -

Copyright © 2006 All rights reserved. The information contained in the Asian Tribune report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Asian Tribune.

Time To Smell The Coffee

From AlterNet
Removing America's Blinders
By Howard Zinn, The Progressive
Posted on April 24, 2006, Printed on April 29, 2006

Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war, now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled?

The question is important because it might help us understand why Americans -- members of the media as well as the ordinary citizen -- rushed to declare their support as the President was sending troops halfway around the world to Iraq.

A small example of the innocence (or obsequiousness, to be more exact) of the press is the way it reacted to Colin Powell's presentation in February 2003 to the Security Council, a month before the invasion, a speech which may have set a record for the number of falsehoods told in one talk. In it, Powell confidently rattled off his "evidence": satellite photographs, audio records, reports from informants, with precise statistics on how many gallons of this and that existed for chemical warfare. The New York Times was breathless with admiration. The Washington Post editorial was titled "Irrefutable" and declared that after Powell's talk "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."

It seems to me there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain the vulnerability of the press and of the citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived.

One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.

If we don't know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. I am not speaking of the history we learned in school, a history subservient to our political leaders, from the much-admired Founding Fathers to the Presidents of recent years. I mean a history which is honest about the past. If we don't know that history, then any President can stand up to the battery of microphones, declare that we must go to war, and we will have no basis for challenging him. He will say that the nation is in danger, that democracy and liberty are at stake, and that we must therefore send ships and planes to destroy our new enemy, and we will have no reason to disbelieve him.

But if we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to the country, and how they turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials.

We would remind whoever we can that President Polk lied to the nation about the reason for going to war with Mexico in 1846. It wasn't that Mexico "shed American blood upon the American soil," but that Polk, and the slave-owning aristocracy, coveted half of Mexico.

We would point out that President McKinley lied in 1898 about the reason for invading Cuba, saying we wanted to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control, but the truth is that we really wanted Spain out of Cuba so that the island could be open to United Fruit and other American corporations. He also lied about the reasons for our war in the Philippines, claiming we only wanted to "civilize" the Filipinos, while the real reason was to own a valuable piece of real estate in the far Pacific, even if we had to kill hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to accomplish that.

President Woodrow Wilson -- so often characterized in our history books as an "idealist" -- lied about the reasons for entering the First World War, saying it was a war to "make the world safe for democracy," when it was really a war to make the world safe for the Western imperial powers.

Harry Truman lied when he said the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was "a military target."

Everyone lied about Vietnam -- Kennedy about the extent of our involvement, Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia, all of them claiming it was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanting to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at the edge of the Asian continent.

Reagan lied about the invasion of Grenada, claiming falsely that it was a threat to the United States.

The elder Bush lied about the invasion of Panama, leading to the death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country.

And he lied again about the reason for attacking Iraq in 1991-- hardly to defend the integrity of Kuwait (can one imagine Bush heartstricken over Iraq's taking of Kuwait?), rather to assert U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.

Given the overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to the younger Bush believe him as he laid out the reasons for invading Iraq? Would we not instinctively rebel against the sacrifice of lives for oil?

A careful reading of history might give us another safeguard against being deceived. It would make clear that there has always been, and is today, a profound conflict of interest between the government and the people of the United States. This thought startles most people, because it goes against everything we have been taught.

We have been led to believe that, from the beginning, as our Founding Fathers put it in the Preamble to the Constitution, it was "we the people" who established the new government after the Revolution. When the eminent historian Charles Beard suggested, a hundred years ago, that the Constitution represented not the working people, not the slaves, but the slaveholders, the merchants, the bondholders, he became the object of an indignant editorial in The New York Times.

Our culture demands, in its very language, that we accept a commonality of interest binding all of us to one another. We mustn't talk about classes. Only Marxists do that, although James Madison, "Father of the Constitution," said, 30 years before Marx was born that there was an inevitable conflict in society between those who had property and those who did not.

Our present leaders are not so candid. They bombard us with phrases like "national interest," "national security," and "national defense" as if all of these concepts applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.

Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that -- not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor -- is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.

If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there -- the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances" -- do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.

The deeply ingrained belief -- no, not from birth but from the educational system and from our culture in general -- that the United States is an especially virtuous nation makes us especially vulnerable to government deception. It starts early, in the first grade, when we are compelled to "pledge allegiance" (before we even know what that means), forced to proclaim that we are a nation with "liberty and justice for all."

And then come the countless ceremonies, whether at the ballpark or elsewhere, where we are expected to stand and bow our heads during the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner," announcing that we are "the land of the free and the home of the brave." There is also the unofficial national anthem "God Bless America," and you are looked on with suspicion if you ask why we would expect God to single out this one nation -- just five percent of the world's population -- for his or her blessing.

If your starting point for evaluating the world around you is the firm belief that this nation is somehow endowed by Providence with unique qualities that make it morally superior to every other nation on Earth, then you are not likely to question the President when he says we are sending our troops here or there, or bombing this or that, in order to spread our values -- democracy, liberty, and let's not forget free enterprise -- to some God-forsaken (literally) place in the world.

It becomes necessary then, if we are going to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens against policies that will be disastrous not only for other people but for Americans too, that we face some facts that disturb the idea of a uniquely virtuous nation.

These facts are embarrassing, but must be faced if we are to be honest. We must face our long history of ethnic cleansing, in which millions of Indians were driven off their land by means of massacres and forced evacuations. And our long history, still not behind us, of slavery, segregation, and racism. We must face our record of imperial conquest, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, our shameful wars against small countries a tenth our size: Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq. And the lingering memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not a history of which we can be proud.

Our leaders have taken it for granted, and planted that belief in the minds of many people, that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate the world. At the end of World War II, Henry Luce, with an arrogance appropriate to the owner of Time, Life, and Fortune, pronounced this "the American century," saying that victory in the war gave the United States the right "to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit."

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have embraced this notion. George Bush, in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2005, said that spreading liberty around the world was "the calling of our time." Years before that, in 1993, President Bill Clinton, speaking at a West Point commencement, declared: "The values you learned here ... will be able to spread throughout this country and throughout the world and give other people the opportunity to live as you have lived, to fulfill your God-given capacities."

What is the idea of our moral superiority based on? Surely not on our behavior toward people in other parts of the world. Is it based on how well people in the United States live? The World Health Organization in 2000 ranked countries in terms of overall health performance, and the United States was thirty-seventh on the list, though it spends more per capita for health care than any other nation. One of five children in this, the richest country in the world, is born in poverty. There are more than 40 countries that have better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And there is a sure sign of sickness in society when we lead the world in the number of people in prison -- more than two million.

A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to inflict our power on some other part of the world. It might also inspire us to create a different history for ourselves, by taking our country away from the liars and killers who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join the rest of the human race in the common cause of peace and justice.

Howard Zinn is the co-author, with Anthony Arnove, of “Voices of a People’s History of the United States.”
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Fueling their Anxiety

Skyrocketing gas prices has the GOP on the run.
By Terence Samuel

Print Friendly Email Article With $4-a-gallon Republican gas on the horizon, the GOP is running a little scared, and already it’s funny to watch: When Republican senators start talking about biofuel from switch grass and soy, it’s time to start asking about the drink minimum.

And when the President goes all the way to California to talk about immigration and ends up talking about hydrogen-powered cars and hybrids, you know you got his full attention.

Asked by a 14-year-old girl in Orange County Monday what he thought the country will be like in 10 years, the President passed on the opportunity to talk about his legacy, or how the war on terror will have made us safer, or even about the freedom’s-on-the-march dividend that will have accrued by then.

Instead, the oil man from Texas decided to trash oil.

“Here's what America needs to be like,” he said, adjusting the time frame slightly to 20 years. “You need to be driving an automobile with hydrogen as the main source of power, and, at the very least, with a hybrid, a plug-in battery … that will let you get the first 40 miles without using gasoline. In other words, between 10 to 20 years from now, we got to get off Middle Eastern oil.”

Add your own drum roll, because it gets better.

The next day, back in Washington, Bush tied up all the traffic on Connecticut Avenue on his way to and from a speech to the Renewable Fuels Association at a local hotel, during which he predicted that Americans at some future point will “have choices to choose from” when it comes to energy.

“You know, there's no doubt in my mind that one of these days, instead of people driving up to a gas station, they’re going to be going up to a fueling station, and they'll be able to have choices to choose from,” the President said. “If you've got a hydrogen, you know, powered car, you’ll be able to have that choice. If you want 85 percent -- maybe someday a hundred percent -- ethanol, that'll be an option available, too.”
It would be no fun to have choices you could not chose from: That what it was like for Democrats in the 1980s. But here, in part, is what the President of the United States thinks he owes the American people: “We owe it to the American people to be aggressive in the use of technology, so we can diversify away from the hydrocarbon society,” said the oilman for Texas. You have to love what an election year has done to the man’s politics.

Most polls put Bush's job approval under 35 percent, placing him in some pretty exclusive company, presidents whose approval rating dropped into the 20s -- Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. It both cases, Nixon in 1973 and Carter in 1979, it was gas prices that fueled the decline.

According to the Gallup Poll, even before these latest price spikes, Americans were already unhappy with Bush on the whole gas thing: In an early April survey only 29 percent of Americans thought he was doing a good job on energy. The pollsters predicted that “if gas prices become the dominant issue, Bush's overall approval rating could be pulled in the direction of his approval ratings on gas prices and energy.”

Well, they have and it has been.

The ripple effect has begun to sound like and earthquake on Capitol Hill, where Republicans are worried that their prospects in November can turn to ashes if they don’t get control of this gas business right now.

Still, despite Bush’s evangelizing on the need to give up hydrocarbons, Hill Republicans are proposing $100 rebate plan to ease the burden on consumers that includes the right for oil companies to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

At a press conference Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was flanked by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, Energy Committee Chair Pete Domenici, and three of the most vulnerable incumbents on the ballot this November -- Montana’s Conrad Burns, Jim Talent of Missouri and Pennsylvania’s junior senator, Rick Santorum. But be assured that there is no midterm politicking involved in this one.

“The package we're introducing today also takes steps to get at the root of the cause of the rising gas prices: our dangerous dependence on foreign sources of oil,” Frist said, “Our plan would take steps to both reduce demand for oil and increase supply right here at home … And it would increase our domestic supply by opening a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to environmentally sensitive explorations.”

Which gave Democrats, who have their own plan which you’ll hear nothing about, a chance to have a little fun: “Let's get this straight," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “The oil companies are making record profits. They're getting billions of dollars of subsidies and royalty holidays from the Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration. The American people are paying a terrible price at the pump. And what do the Republicans suggest? Let's do away with the environmental rules. Let's drill in the ANWR.”
Easy shot, but it’s not like that is all they suggested.

“You all remember,” Domenici said, “the country was very pleased to hear the President speak of us being addicted to crude oil, and then saying that we wanted to do something about it.” The GOP proposal, said the New Mexico Republican, is, in part, the President's vision come to life. “It authorizes $1.1 billion for research into new sources of ethanol, such as -- and we all know about this -- switch grass and soy," he said.

Actually, we all don’t know about it. But it sure sounds like some people are getting really, really worried.

A Gouging Market

By Matthew Rothschild

Accusing oil companies of price gouging is like accusing sharks of swimming.
read more

The power to do nothing about fuel economy

by Tim Grieve

George W. Bush has a plan to address the staggeringly high prices Americans are paying at the pump, and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention: Give me more power.

Posing in front of a gas station in Biloxi, Miss., Thursday, Bush said Congress should give his administration "a capacity to raise CAFE standards on automobiles." The president noted that he already has such authority when it comes to light trucks, and he vowed to use the power "wisely" if Congress extends it to cars as well.

Notice what the president didn't say: While he said he wants the power to increase fuel-economy standards for cars, he didn't say anything to suggest that he'd use that power to, you know, increase fuel-economy standards for cars. You'd think that maybe it was implied in what he said -- why talk about fuel-economy standards in the course of a discussion of gas prices unless you're talking about raising those standards? -- but the Bush administration's track record on the issue suggests otherwise.

Last summer, Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta unveiled the Bush administration's new CAFE standards for light trucks. Rather than raising standards across the board, Mineta said the administration would be creating six subgroups of trucks, each with its own fuel-economy requirement. The result: Automakers would be free to continue to build massive, gas-guzzling SUVs without having to worry about offsetting their consumption by offering more oil- and environment-responsible minivans and smaller trucks. And the largest of the large SUVs? They're not even included in the administration's CAFE standards until 2011.

So while it's high time for somebody to do something about the standard for automobiles -- it hasn't changed since 1990 -- there's little reason to believe that the Bush administration would actually do so. Indeed, even as Bush is pushing for the power to set fuel-economy standards for cars, the White House is making it clear -- don't worry, Detroit! -- that Bush won't be rushing off to raise any requirements. In a letter to Congress, Mineta says that simply increasing CAFE standards for cars might increase fatalities and raise healthcare costs by prompting automakers to make smaller, lighter and less safe vehicles. "As a result," Mineta says, "the administration would oppose any increase in passenger car CAFE standards without corresponding reform."

Other administration aides said that Bush might ultimately support higher fuel-economy standards for cars but only after what the Detroit Free Press called a "scientific review." And if you've been following the Bush administration's handiwork on, say, global warming or the morning-after pill, you know exactly what that means.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Web sites I like

FOX NEWS blowhard Bill O'Reilly, sex fiend, liar and
soon to join Rush, Bush and Robertson in the trash can
of history, gets his here.

There Is A God!

Rush Limbaugh arrested!
April 28, 2006 06:25 PM EDT

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. AP -- The Palm Beach County, Florida, sheriff's Office says Rush Limbaugh has been arrested on prescription fraud charges.

Limbaugh turned himself into authorities on a warrant issued by the state attorney's office, said agency spokesperson Teri Barbera.

The conservative radio commentator came into the jail about 4 p.m with his attorney, Roy Black, and was released an hour later on $3,000 bail.

The warrant was for fraud to conceal information to obtain prescription. Barbera said.

"My job is to make decisions"

by Elwood Dowd

"My job is to make decisions." That's what the President said this morning.

It was an improvement in coherence over "I'm the decider," his words from a few days ago. But it has been gnawing at me -- there's something very odd about that statement.

Most everyone has a quick summary about what their job is. "I sell houses" or "I'm a firefighter" or "I write novels." It's usually pretty evident how to judge our success based on these descriptions: if I haven't sold a house in six months, if houses are burning to the ground with people inside, if novels are late and unread -- we're not doing so good.

GWB refuses to accept any such clear accountability. I want a Management By Objective list like the one that the Leader of the Free World has given himself: Make Decisions. Not good decisions, necessarily, though we will all agree that good decisions would be frosting on the cake.
Most of us work under much more demanding standards. Sell the house or the car. Put out the fire. Fix the transmission. Fill the cavity in the tooth.

Here's a secret: so does the President. Here is the job description he signed onto:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Mr. President -- You did not sign on to Make Decisions. You committed to protecting the Constitution, and you are not just failing -- you are actively working to undermine it.

Mr. President -- Your job is not to Make Decisions, any more than Curt Schilling's job is to "hold the baseball." Yes, he will hold the baseball and yes, you will make decisions -- but if it stops there no one will care. If he shuts out the other team, if you lead the nation to a better place, people will care.

There is not a single corporation in America that would accept a CEO who claims that his or her job is to "make decisions." Corporations will demand that the CEO knows that the job is to make things better.

You owe the American people an apology, and you owe us an honest attempt to do your real job -- or a resignation.

The Rape of the Working Class

By David Podvin

Illegal immigration is a means by which corporations savage America’s working class. Although the media conglomerates have misrepresented the undocumented worker influx as primarily being a racial issue, it is actually an economic bludgeon. Business interests encourage illegal immigration for the purposes of depressing wages and subverting workplace safety laws. The Wall Street brokerage firm Bear Stearns uses the word “systematic” when describing the replacement of lower income American wage earners with illegal aliens, noting management prefers to employ help that is not documented because laborers who lack legal standing are more easily exploited.

Corporate concubine George W. Bush has assisted business by reducing border security while coddling companies that subject undocumented employees to inhumane conditions. Despite the recent election year charade that involved arresting a few managers at IFCO Systems, there has been a ninety percent drop in illegal immigration-related employer arrests since 2000. Employment laws that were occasionally enforced by Bill Clinton are almost never enforced by Bush.

Just as both major political parties support free trade agreements that place American workers into untenable competition against foreign slave labor, the bipartisan establishment also facilitates the illegal immigration that enables management to pay substandard wages. The stated positions of the parties differ greatly, but on mega-money issues involving war and commerce the Fortune 500 ultimately gets its way. Political posturing notwithstanding, many congressional Democrats and all congressional Republicans refuse to deny business the peonage it so cherishes.

Corporate America opposed twentieth century labor reforms and has never relinquished its goal of exploiting employees with impunity. Companies can maximize profits only when their workers are unwilling to complain about being abused, so Mexican migrants are most useful in driving down wages while they are fearful of law enforcement. As illegal aliens become documented and gain the rights that accompany citizenship, the servant class must be restocked with new arrivals.

It is a tribute to the political sophistication of the monied elite that employers can brazenly violate labor laws without incurring liberal wrath. In almost any context, a brutal assault on the working class would provoke vigilant opposition from progressives. However, the business community has learned the disarming effect of playing the race card, and now the mainstream media equates opposing illegal immigration with fostering ethnic bigotry. Business is reaping the windfall profits of camouflaging corporate predation as inclusiveness.

This Machiavellian construct represents a quantum public relations leap forward for the reprobates of Wall Street. Gone are the days when ham handed businesspeople justified gouging American workers by claiming that laborers were merely insignificant peons. As the story now goes, American workers must be gouged due to humanitarian regard for Third World migrants. It is the siren song that seduces the keepers of the multicultural flame.

Yet the operative color in the illegal immigration debate is not brown…it is green. American workers of all races are being economically raped by profiteers. In Southern California, which is the epicenter of illegal immigration, African Americans were once a significant presence in the construction industry. Today black participation in that sector is scant because contractors prefer sub-minimum wage foreign hirelings.

The same phenomenon holds true for the Hispanic American citizens who were heavily involved in the manual trades. Jobs that were once working class are now subsistence level and are held either by undocumented workers or by desperate Americans compelled to accept artificially low wages. This situation exists in industries ranging from textiles to agriculture to meatpacking. On April 10, chicken processing conglomerate Tyson Foods had to close numerous plants because its predominantly illegal alien workforce was attending immigration rallies. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, undocumented workers currently hold over seven million American jobs. Most of the employees they have displaced are females and minorities, the very people liberals have sworn to protect.

The argument made by corporate sophists is that there are some jobs Americans refuse to do. Left unsaid is that those jobs offer noncompetitive wages or provide insufferable working conditions or both. The problem is solved by requiring business to honor market forces and obey the law. The grape grower who refuses to pay the going rate should witness his crops rot in the field. The manufacturer who creates a treacherous workplace should be incarcerated. Absent accountability, employers have found that hiring illegal aliens provides carte blanche to circumvent labor standards.

There are many victims in the illegal immigration saga, foremost among them blue collar American workers who are besieged from all sides. The right wing disdainfully views them as mere fodder for the corporate juggernaut. The left wing empathizes with employees’ angst while sacrificing their interests at the altar of political correctness. Trapped in a thirty-five year trend of falling real wages, working class Americans are steadily losing ground. To make matters worse, whenever workers bemoan the pernicious effects of illegal immigration they are smeared as being nativist, as though demanding a fair wage in exchange for hard work somehow reveals malice.

Mexican migrants are also victims. Business lures them here so they can be cheated and used as scapegoats. Undocumented workers are often denied the pay they have earned, subjected to racial animus, housed in squalid conditions, and physically abused. When persecuted they have no recourse, which makes them the ideal employees. While the corporatists and their dupes promote illegal immigration as being some sort of civil rights struggle, they have never advocated a plan insuring that everyone who is working in America will be protected by law. The serial amnesties (of which McCain-Kennedy is the most recent) merely guarantee that corporations can perpetually victimize undocumented laborers.

The Democratic Party is another victim, albeit in a poetically just way. The party’s decline has coincided with its ongoing betrayal of the working class. Democrats began their excruciating electoral descent precisely at the moment they decided to embrace centrist economic policies, which is a euphemism for romancing the mercantile aristocracy. The erstwhile champions of the underdog should be assailing the corporate brigands who exploit workers. Holding management accountable is what a labor party does, but for decades the United States has been without a relevant labor party.

The winners in the illegal immigration struggle are major corporations and their favorite political acolytes. For robber barons the status quo provides an ideal scenario in which they bleed their employees while generating societal strife that can be demagogued by Republican politicians. The GOP cannot win when Americans vote based on economic self-interest, so it is essential that the electorate vote its resentments. By destroying this nation’s working class and benefiting politically from the fallout, Corporate America is achieving a tour de force of malevolence.

Meanwhile, liberals are achieving a tour de force of irrelevance. If modern liberalism means anything more than hating Bush it must stand for economic and social justice. Working Americans deserve to have their living standards protected. Mexican migrants deserve to be treated as human beings. Allowing people into this country illegally assures that neither objective will be attained as business ruthlessly exploits one group to dispossess the other.

Illegal immigration must be stopped. It can be stopped by completely closing the border or it can be stopped by completely opening the border. It can be stopped by implementing guest worker programs or it can be stopped by enforcing labor laws. The methodology is less relevant than the result. The imperative is that all employees must be here legally to insure they are vested with formal protections. Only then can corporatists be defeated in their never-ending war against the American working class.

For Rove, a time to panic?

by Tim Grieve

Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury is scheduled to meet again Friday, and MSNBC, relying on the word of someone close to Karl Rove, says the president's chief political advisor is more worried than before that he's going to be indicted.

Raw Story has the transcript of the MSNBC report. The network says that Rove has described his three-and-a-half hour session before the grand jury Wednesday as "hell," and that he was surprised by the intensity and the subject matter of the questioning he faced there.

Bush does something right

OK, he may be America's worst president ever. But Bush seems to be willing to compromise on immigration reform -- and that's worth applauding.
By Joe Conason

Apr. 28, 2006 As president, George W. Bush divides more often than he unites. He spurns bipartisanship and moderation. He habitually panders to the social prejudices of the Republican base. He serves corporate lobbyists and undermines workers' rights. He pursues electoral advantage at the expense of the public interest. He avoids inconvenient truths, intentionally misleads and refuses to admit error, no matter how grave.

For all those reasons and more, he is earning a reputation as America's "worst president."

And yet over the past several days, he confounded all those weary expectations by seeking a decent compromise on immigration policy that includes a "pathway to citizenship" for illegal aliens. Reaching out to Democrats as well as Republicans on Capitol Hill, he rejected the bigots in his party and changed his own position to reflect a more realistic and humane approach to this difficult question. Still more surprising, he appears to be acting on principle -- at the risk of alienating GOP leaders and many grass-roots conservatives, and perhaps even forfeiting the Republican congressional majority.

Those gestures deserve fair acknowledgment. For once, Bush has changed course for the better. Perhaps the best way to measure how far he has come is to listen to Sen. Ted Kennedy, who has spent years fighting for immigration reform.

In January 2004, when the president finally addressed immigration after doing nothing for three years, he proposed a "guest worker" program that would have institutionalized downward pressure on wages, without providing any ladder toward legal status for the millions of undocumented migrant laborers. Kennedy swiftly denounced the Bush proposal as "very disappointing," "woefully inadequate" and "far short of the serious reform our country needs to fix our broken immigration system."

Last Tuesday, however, the Massachusetts Democrat expressed very different sentiments after meeting in the White House with Bush and several other senators, including both Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Harry Reid. (Right-wing Republicans who oppose the bill, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the immigration subcommittee, weren't invited.) Kennedy told reporters he feels "enormously grateful" for the "strong leadership" that he expects the president will bring to bear on passage of a comprehensive reform bill.

Like any compromise, the legislation that eventually emerges in Washington is certain to be imperfect. It may create barriers to citizenship that some immigrants will find impassable. It will require tougher border enforcement. It could attract more millions across the southern border by rewarding those who are already here.

Even a flawed solution is preferable to the punitive fantasy promoted by right-wing House Republicans, who would stigmatize all illegal immigrants as felons -- and presumably envision their incarceration in gigantic detention camps prior to deportation. They want to criminalize those impoverished workers or at best consign them to subcitizen status until they can be kicked out.

The most extreme nativists imagine cruel mass deportations of Latino families, or worse, in order to preserve "white America." Those extremists have branded Bush a "traitor" -- and some who were once his most fervent supporters on the far right are attacking him bitterly now. Jerome Corsi, coauthor of "Unfit for Command," the scurrilous Swift Boat Veterans diatribe against John Kerry, recently published a column in Human Events that accuses Bush of swindling "moral conservatives" on immigration and paving the way for Democratic electoral triumph. Corsi mocks the president for saying that it is impossible to deport more than 10 million illegal immigrants -- and hints that a nation capable of winning wars abroad can solve the immigration problem by force of arms.

How Bush plans to soothe such angry critics isn't clear yet. Embracing an idea associated with Kennedy (and his Senate colleagues John McCain and Chuck Hagel) has further irritated the Republican base, which is increasingly disenchanted with his presidency anyway. That may be why he didn't come out of that meeting with an explicit endorsement of the Senate bill. He is holding back, according to press reports, because he hopes to broker an agreement with the House leadership, which remains strongly opposed to anything resembling amnesty.

It is possible, of course, that Bush's outreach to the Senate on immigration is merely a political feint, intended to defuse an explosive issue until after the midterm elections. He and Karl Rove both have long sought to bring more Hispanics into the Republican Party -- a strategy that began to achieve traction two years ago but has since been stalled by the party's anti-immigrant image. They may believe that the pathway to citizenship will bring back Latino voters, and that they can retain the party's traditional conservatives with the usual tactics of gay-bashing, flag waving and tax cutting.

Whatever the president's ultimate intentions may be, he is behaving for the moment more like a sober leader and less like a partisan zealot. His tragedy, and ours, is that such moments are so much the exception in his presidency rather than the rule.

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