Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Wednesday May 31, 2006
Al Gore has made his sharpest attack yet on the George Bush presidency, describing the current US administration as "a renegade band of rightwing extremists".
In an interview with the Guardian today, the former vice-president calls himself a "recovering politician", but launches into the political fray more explicitly than he has previously done during his high-profile campaigning on the threat of global warming.
Denying that his politics have shifted to the left since he lost the court battle for the 2000 election, Mr Gore says: "If you have a renegade band of rightwing extremists who get hold of power, the whole thing goes to the right."
But he claims he does not "expect to be a candidate" for president again, while refusing explicitly to rule out another run. Asked if any event could change his mind, he says: "Not that I can see."
Mr Gore, who appeared at the Guardian Hay literary festival over the bank holiday weekend, is promoting An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary and book detailing the climate change crisis that he warns "could literally end civilisation".
The new levels of attention he is receiving have led some Democrats to call on him to run again for president, while others have responded with anger that Mr Gore did not show the same level of passion in the 2000 campaign.
He has since acknowledged that he followed too closely the advice of his consultants during that campaign, and - before he started to scoff at the idea of running again - swore that if he ever did so, he would speak his mind.
In the years since, he has been a steady critic of specific Bush administration policies. He opposed the war on Iraq at a time when most prominent Democrats were supporting it, and more recently spoke out against what he called "a gross and excessive power grab" by the administration over phone tapping.
In the interview Mr Gore also distances himself from Tony Blair on the subject of nuclear power, which the prime minister has insisted is "back on the agenda with a vengeance". Mr Gore says he is "sceptical about it playing a much larger role," and that although it might have a part to play in Britain or China, it will not be "a silver bullet" in the fight against global warming.
In the US, Mr Gore's environmental campaign has sparked a backlash from some on the right who accuse him of scaremongering. A series of television advertisements, launched by a thinktank called the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argue that carbon dioxide emissions are a sign of American productivity and progress.
Mr Gore's true attitude towards a potential return to the White House - or, at least, a potential battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination - remains unknown.
At the weekend, Time magazine reported that he was telling key fundraisers they should feel free to sign on with other potential candidates. The magazine quoted unnamed Democratic sources as saying that the former vice-president had also been asking the fundraisers to "tell everybody I'm not running".
Mr Gore would not find it difficult to raise millions of dollars, if he did decide to run. But while public denials might prove a wise campaign strategy - not least by prolonging the period of positive attention Mr Gore is now receiving - actively turning away fundraisers does suggest a firmer resolve not to re-enter electoral politics.
It is significant, however, that Mr Gore refuses to go beyond saying that he has no "plans" for such a campaign. "I haven't made a Shermanesque statement because it just seems odd to do so," he has said - a reference to the famous announcement by the civil war general William Sherman, who unequivocally refused to stand in the election of 1884. "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve," General Sherman said.
Jonathan Freedland's interview with Al Gore will be aired on More4 on Saturday June 3 at 4.55pm.
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it harder for government employees to claim they were retaliated against for going public with allegations of official misconduct.
By a 5-4 vote, justices said the nation’s 20 million public employees do not have carte blanche free speech rights to disclose government’s inner-workings. New Justice Samuel Alito cast the tie-breaking vote.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the court’s majority, said the First Amendment does not protect “every statement a public employee makes in the course of doing his or her job.”
The decision came after the case was argued twice this term, once before Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in January, and again after her successor, Alito, joined the bench.
The ruling sided with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, which appealed an appellate court ruling which held that prosecutor Richard Ceballos was constitutionally protected when he wrote a memo questioning whether a county sheriff’s deputy had lied in a search warrant affidavit.
Ceballos had filed a lawsuit claiming he was demoted and denied a promotion for trying to expose the lie.
Dissenting justices said Tuesday that the ruling could silence would-be whistleblowers who have information about governmental misconduct.
“Public employees are still citizens while they are in the office,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens. “The notion that there is a categorical difference between speaking as a citizen and speaking in the course of one’s employment is quite wrong.”
In a separate dissent, Justice David H. Souter wrote: “private and public interests in addressing official wrongdoing and threats to health and safety can outweigh the government’s stake in the efficient implementation of policy.”
The ruling is significant because an estimated 100 whistleblower retaliation lawsuits are filed each year. Bonnie Robin-Vergeer, an attorney with the Public Citizen Litigation Group which represented Ceballos said that employees may now be fearful of reporting problems with such things as hurricane preparedness and terrorist-related security.
“If that information cannot be aired, government cannot be held accountable and problems cannot be corrected,” she said.
The Bush administration had urged the high court to place limits on when government whistleblowers can sue, arguing that those workers have other options, including the filing of civil service complaints.
Kennedy noted in his ruling that there are whistleblower protection laws. The ruling, which had the votes of the court’s conservatives including new Chief Justice John Roberts, showed great deference to the government.
“Official communications have official consequences, creating a need for substantive consistency and clarity. Supervisors must ensure that their employees’ official communications are accurate, demonstrate sound judgment, and promote the employer’s mission,” Kennedy wrote.
He said government workers “retain the prospect of constitutional protection for their contributions to the civic discourse.” They do not, Kennedy said, have “a right to perform their jobs however they see fit.”
The case is Garcetti v. Ceballos, 04-473.
Low poll numbers must be Kool-Aid. Apparently W now thinks he's Harry Truman. Reaching past Richard Nixon, the Republican predecessor whose cellar ratings and contempt for the law he most resembles, Bush told West Point graduates on Memorial Day weekend that actually he has a Democrat for a Doppelganger.
In Bush's mind, the parallels with HST are obvious.
Truman built NATO; Bush built the coalition of the willing (you know: Poland, Romania, Azerbaijan, the Solomon Islands...). Truman launched the Marshall Plan; Bush launched the Halliburton Plan. Truman fought the Cold War; Bush fights the Long War (though perhaps Wrong War might be a better name for the 9/11-Iraq bait-and-switch).
Bush = Truman? If only. When supporters shouted "Give 'em hell, Harry!," Truman replied: "I just tell the truth about them, and they think it's hell."
But W's West Point speech was an anthology of untruths about the war that these graduates will now be asked to fight. To take just one example: We attacked Iraq pre-emptively, Bush explained to them, because Saddam refused the UN's order to disarm and disclose. No matter that there was nothing to disarm and disclose, as a worrisome chunk of US intelligence was inconveniently reporting to the White House. No matter that UN arms inspectors were doing their job quite nicely until Bush's determination to go to war forced them to withdraw. No matter that Bush flirted with painting a US plane with UN colors in hopes of provoking Saddam into a rationale for invasion.
No matter that shock-and-awe was the plan from the moment the World Trade Center fell, and that the recourse to the UN was a fig leaf.
No matter that the sign Truman put on his desk, "The Buck Stops Here," applies to no one in this administration's accountability-free zone.
It was patriotism, a sense of duty and a love of freedom that led Bush's West Point audience to enter our armed forces. It is that spirit, and that sacrifice, which we honor on Memorial Day. It's tragic that these young men and and women are being asked to clean up the mess that Bush himself made, to mend crockery that Bush himself broke, to pacify a terrorist breeding ground that Bush himself created. They are willing to risk their lives so that those who went before them to Iraq did not do so in vain; the disgrace is that it is Bush's vanity, not the cause of freedom, that makes their own sacrifice necessary.
It's a saving grace, I suppose, that Bush didn't wear a flight suit to address the graduating cadets. But dressing himself as Harry Truman is the rhetorical equivalent of borrowing a warrior's codpiece, and stuffing it with delusional righteousness.
Exclusive: Love Letter from Jeb Bush to Swift Boat Liars - "As someone who truly understands the risk of standing up for something, I simply cannot express in words how much I value their willingness to stand up against John Kerry. Their efforts, like their service to their country, speak volumes about what matters most."
- Jeb Bush, January 19, 2005
So let's get this straight: the value of "standing up to" (i.e. smearing) a man who volunteered to risk his life for America "cannot be expressed in words" because, like service to the nation, it "speaks volumes about what matters most." Yes it does, in the twisted view of America's far right, where vilifying war heroes like Murtha, Cleland, and Kerry is a noble cause. And slandering those who are disgusted by Abu Ghraib and Haditha is laudable. And sitting behind a computer cheering on and "supporting the troops" while they lie dead and dying in the streets of Baghdad is respectable. And impugning the integrity of the majority of Americans who want the troops to come home is commendable. Yes, it's a great mission to slime a decorated veteran.... in the twisted view of people whom Al Gore calls "renegade rightwing extremists."
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
----- Original Message -----
From: "Joe Volk" <email@example.com>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 4:32 PM
Subject: Weapons of Mass Destruction: House Acts to Stop Their Spread - FCNL
For the first time in more then 10 years, members of the House of
Representatives have voted on the House floor to support an arms
control amendment to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Last week,
the House voted to expand efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass
destruction by increasing spending for programs to secure and dispose
of vulnerable nuclear materials that could be used to build nuclear
Reps. Robert Andrews (NJ) and Jim Leach (IA) led the successful
bipartisan effort to add $27.8 million to nonproliferation programs on
the House floor May 24. The amendment passed by a vote of 227-195. The
Energy Department's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) budget
would receive the added funds as part of the annual energy and water
appropriations bill which provides funds for Energy Department
The program's mission is "to identify, secure, remove and/or
facilitate the disposition of high-risk, vulnerable nuclear and
radioactive materials around the world" that pose a threat to the
United States. Last year, Congress appropriated only $97 million for
the program. The House now has added $41 million to the Energy
Department's request of $107 million in fiscal year 2007, a total
increase of 52 percent for the program over last year's funding
Increased funding for GTRI is critical because securing nuclear
materials is proceeding too slowly, in part because of a lack of
funding. Currently, parts of the program are scheduled to be completed
by 2013. This additional funding could accelerate the securing of
highly enriched uranium and other nuclear bomb materials.
A conference committee will still need to reconcile the House energy
and water appropriations bill with the Senate version, scheduled for
debate in June. For GTRI to receive the additional funding provided by
the Andrews-Leach amendment, the conference committee will need to
accept the addition.
Find out how your representative voted on the Anderws-Leach amendment
If your representative voted for the amendment, please thank her or
For additional background, see the article "The Administration Is
Starving Cooperative Threat Reduction Programs" in FCNL's May
newsletter (free registration required).
For more information on nuclear disarmament, please visit
The Next Step for Iraq: Join FCNL's Iraq Campaign, http://www.fcnl.org/iraq/
Contact Congress and the Administration:
Order FCNL publications and "War is Not the Answer" campaign
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AP's Solomon: Sen. Reid (D-NV) voted against state boxing commission after accepting the commission's boxing tickets which Senate rules say he was allowed to accept.
All joshing aside, if I didn't know better I might think that Solomon was developing something of an Ahab complex with that Great White Whale of the Senate, Harry Reid.
Back in February, Solomon produced a lengthy expose on Team Abramoff's alleged efforts to sway Reid to support their Marianas sweatshop clients, without ever mentioning that Reid consistently voted against the Marianas sweatshop owners.
That's a rather salient fact.
And once you knew it, the whole piece pretty much collapsed, leaving Solomon with a quid in search of a quo. And perhaps not even a quid. The whole thing was a genuine embarassment.
Now, Solomon's back reporting that Reid accepted boxing tickets he was allowed to accept from his home state's boxing commission and in exchange voted against the people who gave him the tickets. ( He voted for more federal boxing regs.) When will the corruption end? Paul Kiel has the details.
Monday, May 29, 2006
In a rather subdued effort to rally support for their war of choice as questions arise about their continued tenures in office, a somewhat contrite and stammering President George W. Bush and his war weary, but ever slick talking side-kick, Prime Minister Tony Blair held a joint White House press conference Thursday evening. Due to the increasingly virulent insurgency that has turned their Iraq War game into a costly debacle, their once cocky cheer-leadership is now critically challenged by a credibility crunch with the voters of the U.S. and the U.K.
When asked if they had made any mistakes in the Iraq War, Bush twisted his head, stretched his neck and looked up and away from the eyes of the press corps who have heard so many previous denials of responsibility for his costly miscalculations. Then our self-described, God directed, great decider actually admitted that he had acted like a "cowboy" when he laid down the gauntlet to Iraq insurgents in 2003 to "bring it on". He added it was also a mistake for him to have repeatedly railed that he wanted to get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive". Commenting on the prisoner torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, Bush said it was, “the biggest mistake that’s happened so far, at least from our country’s involvement in Iraq.” Bush said "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner", and it was "kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people."
Since Bush is the commander in chief of all U.S. military forces, I wonder if such Rovian, red meat for red states, ranting by Bush might have "sent the wrong signal to people" like the U.S. Marines who are now under investigation for massacring two dozen innocent civilians, including women and children, last November in Haditha, Iraq. Haditha has been a hotbed for Sunni insurgents. In a post press conference analysis, Bush was praised for his candor in admitting the mistake by Chris Matthews on MSNBC along with other talking heads of our media elite. The New York Times reported on May 26 that the Marines "carried out extensive, unprovoked killings of civilians", according to Congressional, military and Pentagon officials. I wonder if Matthew’s panel of pontificators would praise the Marines for systematically killing innocent men, women and children in Haditha. who could have been acting in response to the irresponsible “bring them on” rhetoric of their cowboy commander-in-chief?
Evidently, the first official report from the military on Nov. 20 about the Haditha massacre was a total cover-up. The truth was indeed a casualty of war when the report said that "a U.S. marine and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb" and that "immediately following the bombing, gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire". Evidence now indicates the civilians were killed during three to five hours of a search and destroy sweep and “included shootings of five men standing near a taxi at a checkpoint, and killings inside at least two homes that included women and children, officials said”, according to the NY Times..
The NY Times also reported that Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline, of Minnesota, said "this was not an accident. This was direct fire by marines at civilians. This was not an immediate response to an attack. This would be an atrocity." Kline is a retired Marine colonel. Last week Marine Corps officers briefed members of Congress and again on Wednesday and Thursday because of their dismay at the part marines played in executing innocent civilians. The killings were said to be “methodical in nature”. Attorneys involved in the investigation revealed that the capital crime of murder might be charged in the most grievous case of misconduct by the U.S. military in Iraq. Another inquiry intends to find out if the atrocities were deliberately covered up.
The LA Times said, “Photographs taken by a Marine intelligence team have convinced investigators that a Marine unit killed... unarmed Iraqis, some of them "execution-style," in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch, Marc Garlasco, said, “What happened at Haditha appears to be outright murder”, and, “the Haditha massacre will go down as Iraq’s My Lai”.
The Abu Ghraib regret by Bush is also very interesting, given his “Bring it On” and “Dead or Alive” rhetoric and his administration’s promulgation of policies that even encouraged such heinous and inhumane conduct. Recently, the United Nations Committee Against Torture sharply criticized the United States for its rendition policies regarding captives it labels “terrorists”. The Bush administration has denied any illegality or wrongdoing in conceiving and carrying out such torture techniques. The Committee denounced our sending suspected terrorists to overseas secret prisons in countries where torture is commonplace. The Abu Ghraib scandal involves siccing dogs on suspected terrorists, sexual humiliation, and frightening them with drowning, and the U.N. Committee mentioned and specifically condemned such types of torture.
American voters disapprove of our cowboy President’s “Bring it On” bravado that brought on such atrocities as Haditha and Abu Ghraib. Bush’s low 30s approval ratings in recent polls are almost as low as Blair’s 26% in Britain. Blair, who fancied himself as another Churchill is expected to be forced to resign due to Iraq within a year. Bush, who now compares himself with Harry Truman, could suffer the fate of Richard Nixon, or worse, if the Democrats win control of Congress.
By Kevin Sullivan Washington Post
LONDON, May 29 -- Prime Minister Tony Blair caved in to White House pressure by sharpening language on Iran and softening it on global warming in a speech he delivered Friday at Georgetown University, according to a British press report Sunday that Blair's office immediately denied.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, Blair made "significant" last-minute changes to his major foreign policy address and "objections by President George W. Bush's inner circle played a key role in the alterations." An official at Blair's 10 Downing Street office, speaking on condition of anonymity as is standard practice here, said it was "categorically untrue that any White House objective played any part" in the speech.
Blair is frequently criticized in Britain for his close relationship with Bush, who is extremely unpopular among Britons. The prime minister is particularly faulted for his alliance with Bush in the Iraq war. Critics have complained that Blair seems too eager to please Bush in what many here view as a lopsided relationship that has benefited Bush far more than Britain.
The newspaper, citing anonymous British sources, said aides to Blair told journalists three hours before the speech that Blair intended to say that "change should not be imposed" on Iran in the current dispute over its nuclear ambitions. The newspaper said the line reflected "the British view that bombing or invading Iran is not a realistic option."
Blair eventually used more subtle phrasing: "I emphasize I am not saying we should impose change" -- which the newspaper said was altered to reflect the White House's desire to keep the military option "on the table" to exert maximum negotiating pressure on Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The newspaper also reported that Blair backed away from a plan that called for the United States and Europe to consider giving up their traditional arrangement of having an American head the World Bank and a European run the International Monetary Fund. Instead, Blair simply said there was a "powerful case for reform" in the international financial institutions.
Blair had also planned to "take a tough line" on global warming and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which he supports and Bush opposes, the paper reported. In the end, Blair said only that "we must act on climate change," and international negotiations provide "a way forward, building on Kyoto, which can involve America, China and India."
The paper reported that during the climate change section of the speech, a cellphone rang in the audience and Blair quipped, "I hope that isn't the White House telling me they don't agree with that. They act very quickly, these guys
By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press WriterSun May 28, 6:22 PM ET
The fallout from the killing of as many as two dozen Iraqi civilians by Marines could undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq more than the Abu Ghraib prison scandal did, a lawmaker who is a prominent war critic said Sunday.
The shootings last November at Haditha, a city in the Anbar province of western Iraq that has been plagued by insurgents, were covered up, said Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa.
"Who covered it up, why did they cover it up, why did they wait so long?" Murtha said on "This Week" on ABC. "We don't know how far it goes. It goes right up the chain of command."
A bomb rocked a military convoy on Nov. 19, killing a Marine. Marines then shot and killed unarmed civilians in a taxi at the scene and went into two homes and shot other people, according to Murtha, who has been briefed by officials.
Murtha said high-level reports he received indicated that no one fired upon the Marines or that there was any military action against the U.S. forces after the initial explosion. Yet the deaths were not seriously investigated until March because an early probe was stifled within days of the incident, he said.
"I will not excuse murder, and this is what happened," Murtha said. "This investigation should have been over two or three weeks afterward and it should have been made public and people should have been held responsible for it."
Lt. Col. Scott Fazekas, a Marine Corps spokesman, told The Associated Press that the investigation was ongoing and he would have no comment.
Murtha, a former Marine and a prominent critic of Bush administration policies in Iraq, repeated his view that the war in Iraq cannot be won militarily and needs political solutions, which he said were damaged by such incidents involving the U.S.
"This is the kind of war you have to win the hearts and minds of the people," he said. "And we're set back every time something like this happens. This is worse than Abu Ghraib."
The U.S. effort to win over Iraqis and others in the Arab world by fostering a democratic government was severely damaged when it was revealed that U.S. military personnel had abused and humiliated people held at Abu Ghraib, a prison outside of Baghdad.
The incident at Haditha has sparked two investigations — one into the deadly encounter itself and another into whether it was the subject of a cover-up.
The second, noncriminal investigation is examining whether Marines sought to cover up what actually occurred that day and, in doing so, lied about having killed civilians without justification. The Marine Corps had initially attributed 15 civilian deaths to the car bombing and a firefight with insurgents, eight of whom the Marines reported had been killed.
A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press on Friday that evidence gathered so far strongly indicated that the Haditha killings were unjustified.
Early this year, a videotape of the aftermath of the incident, showing the bodies of women and children, was obtained by Time magazine and Arab television stations. The military then undertook another investigation.
Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he would hold hearings on the killings but cautioned against reaching conclusions until the military concluded its investigation.
"There is this serious question, however, of what happened and when it happened and what was the immediate reaction of the senior officers in the Marine Corps when they began to gain knowledge of it," Warner said.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation into the shootings is not expected to be completed earlier than in June. Whether violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including murder, would be pursued would be determined by a senior Marine commander in Iraq.
The NCIS also is conducting a criminal investigation into another incident, the death of an Iraqi civilian on April 26, involving Marines in Hamandiyah, west of Baghdad.
by Andrew Leonard
May. 26, 2006 Yesterday's gleeful dancing on the grave of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling elicited an unusually large number of anonymous posts from readers eager to pin the blame for Enron on the Clinton administration --"all that bad stuff happened on his watch, so it's his fault!"
How the World Works welcomes readers of all political stripes, though we prefer it if they attach real names, or at least persistent identities, to their arguments. We generally aren't predisposed to take an argument seriously if it's signed "No Name Given."
Then again, the argument that Enron was Clinton's scandal and not Bush's is so absurd that one can understand why no one would put an actual name behind it. Let's review some history, shall we?
Ken Lay was George Bush's number one financial backer. During the 2000 election campaign, Bush frequently flew on Enron corporate jets. Bush's first cabinet included a former Enron executive, Thomas White, as Army Secretary, and two former Enron advisers, Lawrence Lindsey (Bush's first chief economic adviser) and Robert Zoellick (Bush's first United States Trade Representative).
Vice President Dick Cheney met numerous times with Ken Lay to discuss energy policy. Lay was instrumental in the hiring of his hand-picked Texas buddy Pat Wood as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Lay's influence likely led to the Bush administration's do-nothing stance on the California electricity crisis. Do we even need to mention Wendy Gramm, the wife of Texas Senator Phil Gramm (R) and chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission? Just five weeks after a ruling in which she exempted Enron from certain forms of federal regulation that could have cost the company a great deal of money, she quit and joined Enron's board.
It's as simple as this. When George Bush was elected president, Ken Lay and company must have felt like their ship had finally come in.
They'd been backing him to the hilt, he was from their own home town, and he was eager to help the company in any way possible. The great irony of Enron's rise and fall is that it was only the sheer enormity of the company's debacle that prevented Bush from giving assistance. Lay and Skilling botched things so badly they couldn't even capitalize on their hard-earned access to a President who boasts a record of being more in the pocket of Texan oil and gas special interests than any American leader since Lyndon Johnson.
None of this, by the way, should be taken as a whitewash of the Clinton administration's Wall Street-friendly administration. Clinton clearly continued, or at least did not hinder, the deregulatory policies pioneered by Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr. The sad reality is that the only way Clinton can look good is if one compares his record to the devastation wreaked by his successor.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
At 12, a Mother of Two - New York Times
The New York Times
May 28, 2006
At 12, a Mother of Two
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
We're now marking the 25th anniversary of the detection of AIDS, and it has
been a sad chapter in the history of humanity. It's been a quarter-century
self-delusion, dithering and failure at every level.
In America, we may think of AIDS as something that is behind us, but this
year it will kill almost three million people worldwide. And a new victim is
being infected every eight seconds.
Southern Africa is becoming the land of orphans, kids like Nomzamo Ngubeni,
a fifth grader who is now the head of her household.
Nomzamo is 12, a soft-spoken schoolgirl with close-cropped hair here in
central Swaziland, the country with the highest H.I.V. infection rate in the
Two out of five adults here have the virus, and very few get the
antiretroviral medicines that can save their lives.
Although Nomzamo probably does not have the virus (although it's hard to be
sure because she's never been tested for it), her life is entirely framed by
the epidemic. Her parents both died of AIDS, so she and her two younger
sisters moved in with an aunt - only to find that the aunt was dying of AIDS
Nomzamo nursed the aunt for months and buried her last year. So at the age
of 11, she found herself in charge of the family and its thatch-roofed hut,
has no electricity or running water. She is now both mother and father to
her little sisters, Nokwanda, 9, and Temhlanga, 7.
She wakes them up in the morning to go to school, and forces them to take
their baths and do their homework. She washes their clothes and cuts their
She consoles them when they miss their parents. When they misbehave, she
beats them. She fetches water and firewood, and in the evenings she cooks
them - if there is food.
"If there is no food, then we just go to sleep with nothing," Nomzamo
explains. "The kids don't cry. They just go to sleep."
If all of this seems too much for a 12-year-old, it is. The stress is
wearing her down and causing her to do poorly in school.
Like many households in southern Africa, this family no longer has any
able-bodied person to till the ground, so the family's land lies fallow.
get one good meal each day - at school, supplied by the World Food Program -
and they beg or borrow the rest.
There are indeed some heroes in the AIDS saga, including American nuns, the
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, known as the Cabrini Sisters (
Nuns like Sister Barbara Staley, originally from Pennsylvania, live in this
remote pocket of Swaziland and look after the flotsam of the AIDS crisis.
help from CARE, the sisters shelter and school many of the orphans; they pay
the fees that allow Nomzamo and her sisters to attend the public school.
But mostly the last quarter-century of AIDS has been a shameful period of
neglect. In the U.S., President Ronald Reagan didn't let the word "AIDS"
past his lips in public until 1987. And nobody behaved more immorally than
the moralizers, people like Patrick Buchanan, who declared in 1983: "The
homosexuals - they have declared war against nature, and now nature is
exacting an awful retribution." The Rev. Jerry Falwell put it this way:
the wrath of a just God against homosexuals."
In retrospect, the gross immorality of the 1980's wasn't committed in San
Francisco bathhouses, but in the corridors of power by self-righteous
and religious leaders whose indifference to the suffering of gays allowed
the epidemic to spread.
Misgovernance has been even worse in Africa. South Africa's president, Thabo
Mbeki, refused for years to address AIDS seriously and is probably
for more deaths of blacks than any of his white racist predecessors. And
here in Swaziland, the playboy king sets a horrendous example of sexual
by publicly reviewing tens of thousands of bare-breasted teenage virgins so
he can choose new wives for his harem.
There are some signs that leaders around the world have finally been waking
up to the challenge of AIDS in the last few years. Some countries, like
Zimbabwe and China, may have turned the corner. President Bush has vastly
increased the funds for AIDS in Africa.
But the bottom line remains that for the last 25 years, we've faced an
enormous public health challenge - one expected to be comparable to the
an earlier generation faced from World War II. And in that test, we have
And that is one reason why, in this forgotten part of Swaziland, a
12-year-old looks old beyond her years.
Possted by Miriam V.
Sun May 28, 2006 at 06:06:06 AM PDT
Tomorrow is the day we honor the fallen American heroes of so many wars. To avoid staining our national day of mourning, I felt it more appropriate to dedicate this post at this time to a very different kind of American. They may be clueless neocons, erroneous White House talking heads, or smear artists and their self-appointed town criers. But what they all have in common is that each one bravely ducked when called and later took part directly or indirectly in assaulting the reputation of those who stood in harm's way.
They are known, affectionately, as Chicken-hawks:
President George W. Bush - served four years of a six years Nat'l Guard commitment, some say after daddy's friends pulled some strings to keep him out of Vietnam. The circumstances of his early separation from state-side service are still controversial (details)
Karl Rove, occasional Deputy Chief of Staff and alleged full time smear artist, escaped the draft and did not serve
VP Dick Cheney - several deferments, by marriage and timely fatherhood
Former VP Chief of Staff I. Lewis Scooter Libby - did not serve
Secretary of State and former NSA Condaleeza Rice - did not serve
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist - did not serve.
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert - did not serve.
Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay - did not serve
House Majority Whip Roy Blunt - did not serve
Majority Whip Mitch McConnell - did not serve
Rick Santorum, third ranking Republican in the Senate - did not serve.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott - did not serve
Recently while stammering out a convoluted apology for avoiding service, one budding Yellow Elephant mentioned in part that he 'can support the Yankees without wearing their uniform.' Not too far off: Your average Chicken-hawk does not play for the Yankees because they lack the physical skill required to walk out on that field and compete; likewise, maybe they do not serve in Iraq because they lack the simple courage required to walk into a recruiting office and sign up. But how about his role models?
Rush Limbaugh - did not serve
Sean Hannity - did not serve
Pat Buchanan - did not serve
Ann Coulter - did not serve
Ralph Reed - did not serve
Bill O'Reilly - did not serve
Michael Savage - did not serve
Bill Kristol - did not serve
The 101st Fighting Chicken-shit Keyboardists and assorted neocon shills may be conspicuously absent when their country is in need, but they're always at the ready to order other people's sons and daughters into the meat grinder. They sure seem to pop up on the Quad when the battle is over and the band is a'playin. And they're always on duty, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, to smear any survivors with vicious accusations of cowardice or worse when Neoconia calls. Just a couple of examples of their bipartisan handiwork include smearing Democrat Max Cleland, triple apmutee, awarded both the Silver and Bronze Stars for valorous action in combat. The same treatment was shown to Republican John McCain who won the Silver & Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross and spent over five years being tortured in the Hanoi Hilton.
In another time and place, some of today's not-so-brave might have elbowed little old ladies and children out of the way to secure a berth on the last lifeboat on the Titanic, or maybe they''d have ratted out resistance fighters to the Gestapo in WW2 France. But today is the eve of Memorial Day and this is America, 2006. Ergo, present day Chicken-hawks will pay their respects by milking the courage of war heroes. They will then churn it into buttery lubrication to help coat their lies and incompetence, so as to slip more easily down the collective gullet and penetrate deep into our national psyche.
To a Chicken-hawk on Memorial Day, a bronze plaque inscribed with the names of the fallen is more than an earnest reminder of ultimate sacrifice. It is a convenient shield to protect the latest revelation of bloody negligence or deadly deceit. It matters not if the entombed accept the wisdom of a specific conflict or respect those that dispatched them: After all, dead men tell no tales and thus cannot voice dissent, or refuse to enable neocon affectations.
The current crop of chicken-shits are by no means the first to brandish ideological armor made of hastily fashioned flesh and bone taken from their needless war victims. They did not invent the vicarious pose, wreath in one hand and flag in the other, or write the first poetic speech spoken in the safety provided by such profound tragedy. They're not the first to conflate questions over a massive cluster-fuck with attacks upon those who's shattered remains lay beneath the brass and marble props making up the background of each shameless photo-op. Today's Republican Chicken-hawks are not the pioneers of bloody combat blunder.
But in my opinion, what makes this latest craven breed of prestige parasites particularly loathsome is that once off stage and out of frame, they will insidiously cut VA benefits in favor of corporate welfare and tax cuts for billionaires. The case for contempt rests on the undeniable fact that they spooked us into war against the wrong country. In plush ideological laboratories, senior slime artists will sink their fangs into the broken bodies of war dead, drain the unwitting corpses of the last drops of dignity, and then parade around glowing with the stolen glory.
The final exhibit in this disgusting series is that with distended yellow-bellies now camouflaged red, white, and blue by that theft, they will commence to discredit and destroy any veteran, living or dead, who won't expedite the revolting neocon-authored actions hurting the very soldiers the Chicken-hawks honor in pretense. It's enough to make one vomit.
I reserve tomorrow for those who served with honor. But today, I recognize the puppet masters and their fleshy mannequins, who will shortly swagger over sacred graves, bravely intercept the standing ovation intended for the dead, and unflinchingly bask in the goodwill directed at the lost. They have all but sworn under oath to stay their deadly course, brook no change, and justify every new body bag as giving meaning to the coffin that came before it; an endless procession cleverly contrived to evade responsibility, to forever postpone their day of accountability, the future fallen be damned.
I fear the Chicken-hawks will continue to enlist the dead and maimed in their grotesque media pageants, to cover their blunders and attack any opponent, every week, every month, and yes, even every Memorial Day, ad infinitum. Until We the People finally put an end to this gruesome nightmare.
She could learn a few things from Al Gore.
by Jonathan Chait
Five years ago, Al Gore was on his way to near-pariah status within the Democratic Party, scorned for losing the 2000 presidential election and then avoiding the public stage. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was the toast of the party. She won raves from both parties for her deft and humble Senate debut, and the only question surrounding her future was whether she would scoop up the presidential nomination in 2008 or jump in four years sooner.
Today, it's all been turned on its head. Gore has never been more popular. I haven't seen "An Inconvenient Truth," but every liberal who has seems to walk out of the theater thinking — even before they think "global warming is scary" — that they wish Gore were president.
Meanwhile, New York magazine has published not one but two articles fretting about the prospect of Clinton winning the 2008 nomination.
A recent straw poll in the liberal blog Daily Kos gave Gore an astonishing 68% of the vote, beating his closest challenger by more than 50 points. Clinton's result? Zero percent. (Actually, she pulled down 77 votes, or 1/100th of Gore's total, but it rounded down to zero.)
How did this happen? It appears the grand Clinton strategy is backfiring. As a prospective national candidate, she has two great vulnerabilities. First, many voters think she's too liberal. Second, many voters also see her as cold, calculating and unlikable.
Her response to this was to position herself in the center, cozying up with her former GOP tormenters in the Senate, staking out hawkish positions and making an overture to cultural conservatives. The theory was that her centrist positions would endear her to moderates but that it wouldn't cost her on the left, because years of conservative vilification caused liberals to bond with her emotionally.
But instead of moderates focusing on her positions while liberals focus on her persona, the opposite seems to be happening. Moderates fear she remains too culturally divisive to win. And liberals can't stand her centrist positioning. It's the worst of all worlds.
What Clinton seems not to get is that few people evaluate candidates as the sum of their positions. Voters just don't know enough about the issues to do it. (Nor, for that matter, do most political journalists.) Instead, they have a basic impression of the candidate's character, and the issues feed into that.
Mark Schmitt, an extremely smart liberal at the New America Foundation, coined a saying that captures the dynamic: "It's not what you say about the issues, it's what the issues say about you."
In other words, the literal popularity of an issue often matters less than the way that issue fits into a narrative of a politician's character. John McCain used his support for campaign finance reform to craft a narrative of himself as a brave truth-teller unafraid of special interests. George W. Bush in 2000 used a couple of issue positions relatively minuscule in scale (faith-based initiatives, education reform) to craft an image as a compassionate innovator.
Clinton's problem is that everything she does to staunch her perceived ideology problem compounds her perceived character problem. What she says about the issues may be popular, but what the issues say about her is that she's a shameless self-reinventor.
Gore is winning plaudits because he's in the opposite position. A couple of years ago he appeared to be veering too far left when he denounced the Iraq war and the administration's disregard for civil liberties. But now, almost no one can argue with those positions — certainly not any prospective Democratic voter. And his focus on global warming, which may not rank high on the list of voter concerns in Ohio, points to his genuine conviction on the issue. Gore cared about the environment before it was cool (or, as it were, warm.) The issue helps him more as a character issue than a substance one.
Gore has expressed a reluctance to run, explaining that he lacks much talent or affinity for backslapping and political sound bites. I find his self-awareness admirable. Clinton seems to have even less natural political talent than Gore. Unfortunately, she's less aware of her limitations.
by Scott Ritter
One has to wonder as to what must have been going through the minds of those who were advising George W Bush and Tony Blair to "come clean", so to speak, about their respective shortcomings regarding the conduct of the war in Iraq. With over 2,460 American and 106 UK soldiers killed in Iraq (not to mention untold thousands of dead Iraqis), the two people in the world most responsible for the ongoing debacle in Iraq displayed the combination of indifference and ignorance that got them neck deep in a quagmire of their own making to begin with.
President Bush kicked himself for "talking too tough", while the British prime minister ruminated on the decision to disband the Ba'athist infrastructure that held Iraq together in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein. Neither expressed any regret over the decision to invade Iraq in the first place.
Bush made no reference to the exaggerated and falsified claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction he and his loyal ally bandied about so freely in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Blair, recently returned from a visit to Baghdad where he met with the newly appointed prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, did not reflect on the reality that the Iraq of Saddam Hussein was a more peaceful and prosperous land before British and American troops overthrew the Iraqi president and condemned Iraq to the horrific reality of insurgent-fed civil strife.
"Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing," Bush remarked, although he was quick to add, "Not everything has turned out the way we hoped". That, of course, could qualify for the understatement of the year. For his part, Blair spoke of faulty judgements, perhaps the greatest of which was to underestimate the scope and intensity of the insurgency, which he in typical fashion characterized as fighting against the democratic process, as opposed to struggling against an illegal, illegitimate and unjust occupation.
Blair shared his reflective insights at moment when the people of the United Kingdom were wrestling with new revelations concerning how he misled their attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, into putting forward a legal finding that enabled Britain to go to war with Iraq void of a second United Nations security council resolution. Blair had apparently told Lord Goldsmith that Iraq was in "material breach" of its obligations, despite the fact that no new intelligence on WMD had been unearthed, and UN weapons inspectors were on the ground in Iraq receiving total cooperation from the Iraqi government. Not a peep from the prime minister on this matter, though.
For his part Bush waxed eloquently about the cost of war to America. "No question that the Iraq war has, you know, created a sense of consternation here in America," the president said. "I mean, when you turn on your TV screen and see innocent people die day in and day out, it affects the mentality of our country." He added: "I can understand why the American people are troubled by the war in Iraq. I understand that. But I also believe the sacrifice is worth it and it's necessary."Of course, the president remained mute as to the current visit to Iraq by the commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee, who in the light of recent accusations of excessive force on the part of Marines fighting a life and death struggle in the Anbar province of Iraq, were cautioned to kill "only when justified".
Some 717 Marines have lost their lives in the fighting in Iraq, most in the violence-prone Anbar province, where the Iraqi insurgency is particularly deeply entrenched. Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment are accused of slaughtering scores of innocent Iraqis in the aftermath of a fire-fight that followed a deadly attack on the Marines by a road-side bomb. In the middle of a conflict not of their making, fighting an enemy as deadly and resolute as they themselves are, the Marines are now lectured by general's to destroy only that which needs destroyed, kill only those who need killed, as if war was ever that easy.
Instead of focusing on the horrific reality of the unmitigated disaster that these two politicians are solely responsible for inflicting on their own respective armed forces and the people of Iraq, Bush deflected any talk about bringing American troops home. "I have said to the American people, 'As the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down,'" he said. "But I've also said that our commanders on the ground will make that decision." Blair dutifully chimed in that, in the aftermath of his Baghdad visit, he "came away thinking that the challenge is still immense, but I also came away more certain than ever that we should rise to it."
Both politicians were playing to their respective electorates, Blair in an effort to forestall his inevitable departure from government, Bush trying against hope to prevent a democratic landslide in the mid-term elections upcoming in November. But they both forgot that, to paraphrase an old military saying, "the enemy has a vote, too." And the Iraqi insurgency votes on a daily basis, its ballots counted in the bodies of those killed because of the violence brought on Iraq thanks to the decision by Bush and Blair to invade.
That decision, based upon lies and deceit, and done in pursuit of pure power (either in the form of global hegemony, per Bush, or a pathetic effort to ride Bush's coattails in the name of maintaining a "special relationship", for Blair), underscores the reality that when it comes to Iraq, both are resting on a policy that is as corrupt as one can possibly imagine.
Void of any genuine reflection as to what actually went wrong, and lacking in any reality-based process which seeks to formulate a sound way out of Iraq, these two politicians are simply continuing the self-delusional process of blundering down a path in Iraq that can only lead to more death and destruction.
Perhaps the advisors of Bush and Blair thought they were going to put a human face on two leaders who had been so vilified over the Iraq debacle. If so they failed. The joint press conference was little more than a pathetic show where two failed politicians voiced their continued support of failed policies, which had gotten their respective nations embroiled in a failed war. To quote Blair: "What more can I say? Probably not wise to say anything more at all."
Scott Ritter is a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq (1991-1998) and Marine Corps intelligence officer. He is the author of "Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the U.N. and Overthrow Saddam Hussein."
If the media are going to put candidates' personal lives on the table, it's time they do so for all candidates. If common decency and the shame that should accompany behaving like voyeuristic 10th-graders aren't enough to convince the David Broders and Chris Matthewses and Tim Russerts of the world that the Clintons marriage is none of their damn business -- or ours -- then basic fairness dictates that they treat Republican candidates the same way. Because the only thing worse than a bunch of reporters peering into bedroom windows of candidates is a bunch of reporters peering into the bedroom windows of only one party's candidates.
Take John McCain, for example. He divorced his first wife (after having a series of affairs) to marry (a month after his divorce) a wealthy and politically connected heiress ... just in time to launch his political career. And what of his relationship with the second (and current) wife?
Let's apply the New York Times test to them, shall we? How many days a month do they spend together? How many days are they apart -- she in Arizona and he in Washington, or traveling the country raising money? How close can they really be, given that he reportedly had no idea his wife was addicted to painkillers she was stealing from a charity she founded -- had no clue of an addiction that caused her to check herself into a drug treatment center.
Is this the sort of thing that should be a front-page story in The New York Times? No. Is it the sort of thing that Tim Russert and Chris Matthews and David Broder should tout and hype as a "hot topic" of McCain's presidential campaign, and speculate about endlessly? No. But there is simply no justification for covering John McCain and Hillary Clinton in such disparate ways. If Hillary Clinton's marriage is relevant, so is John McCain's.
And so is George Bush's. The New York Times repeats Globe speculation about Bill Clinton, so when can we expect to read on the front page of the Times about the Globe's report that George and Laura Bush have broken up and are leading "separate lives" in part because of "booze problems"?
We expect that some of our readers are angry that we're raising these matters. Good. You should be angry that anybody would raise John McCain's wife's addiction to painkillers, or a supermarket tabloid report about George and Laura Bush's marriage. It is, as David Broder once wrote, no way to pick a president.
But if you're angry about this, you should be far more angry that for years, the media has employed a double-standard in covering progressives and conservatives. You constantly hear about the Clintons' personal lives on television; you read about it in the newspaper.
John McCain doesn't get the same treatment; nor does George Bush or Rudy Giuliani. Intrusive, irrelevant tabloid-style coverage of candidates is wrong. Intrusive, irrelevant tabloid-style coverage of some candidates, while others are afforded an appropriate zone of privacy is even worse. And it can't go on.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
By Matthew Rothschild
At West Point’s graduation ceremony, President Bush gave a none too subtle hint that the United States will be waging war in the Middle East for years and years to come. And not just in Iraq.
“So long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place where terrorists foment resentment and threaten American security,” he said. He added, a few sentences later, “The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom, and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation.”
Since Bush delivers the promise of freedom by gunpoint and in a bomb crater, people in Syria and Iran ought to take note.
And we, as citizens of the United States, ought to take note, too, that Bush’s appetite for war is not yet sated.
Neither has he curbed his penchant for distortion.
About his Iraq invasion to topple Saddam, Bush continued to dissemble.
“When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity. So coalition forces went into Iraq and removed his cruel regime.”
Actually, Saddam had been cooperating, to a large extent, with the U.N. weapons inspectors. And he had no weapons of mass destruction to disarm. Weapons inspectors were begging the Security Council for more time, but Bush refused to give it to them. And Bush acted like was doing the Security Council’s bidding by invading when, in actual fact, the Security Council refused to give its blessing to the invasion.
That’s why Kofi Annan called it illegal.
At West Point, Bush also spread the fallacy of the Cold War analogy to terrorism. He spent eleven paragraphs waxing nostalgic about the fight against Communism and exalting Harry Truman and his “ideological struggle between tyranny and freedom.”
Bush did so for a reason: He wants the American public to be at least as afraid of Al Qaeda as it was of Stalin's Soviet Union.
And so Bush did a crude compare-and-contrast.
He acknowledged that “the enemies we face today are different in many ways from the enemy we faced in the Cold War.” But he did so only to make Al Qaeda out to be even more dangerous than Moscow.
“In the Cold War, we deterred Soviet aggression through a policy of mutually assured destruction. Unlike the Soviet Union, the terrorist enemies today hide in caves and shadows. . . . The terrorists have no borders to protect, or capital to defend. They cannot be deterred.”
Bush neglected to point out a much bigger difference: The terrorists cannot destroy the United States, however. Stalin could have.
As Bruce Ackerman reminds us in “Before the Next Attack,” we should not let Bush exaggerate the threat from Al Qaeda and, by sleight of hand, have us believe that we are more imperiled now than ever before. “Osama and his successors won’t ever occupy the country in the manner threatened by Hitler or Stalin,” Ackerman notes. “Territorial conquest is beyond their power. If anybody destroys our freedom, it will be us.”
But Bush wants us to think we face a challenge akin to the ones posed by Hitler and Stalin. Bush said that terrorists are trying to acquire “weapons of mass murder”—evidently, “weapons of mass destruction” is no longer the term of choice.
“If our enemies succeed in acquiring such weapons, they will not hesitate to use them, which means they would pose a threat to America as great as the Soviet Union.”
The Soviet Union had thousands of atomic weapons and the means to deliver them on intercontinental ballistic missiles. It could have incinerated the entire United States several times over.
Islamic terrorists have not been able to obtain one nuclear weapon, much less thousands.
This is fear mongering of the most grotesque sort.
In part, Bush wants to be Winston Churchill, whose name he invoked and whose rhetoric he mimics: “We will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory,” Bush said.
But Bush is no Churchill. And, anyway, he can’t achieve “complete victory” against Islamic terrorism. Even Al Qaeda—much less “Islamic terrorism”—is not a single hierarchical entity under Osama bin Laden’s direct control anymore. Now, in part because of Bush’s botched Afghanistan War and reckless Iraq War, Al Qaeda has disbursed itself.
Groups that are ideologically sympathetic operate independently; there are a lot of freelancers out there. And as Bush’s own CIA has acknowledged, the Iraq War has created new recruits for Al Qaeda and its cohorts.
In typical propagandist fashion, Bush said of the terrorists, “Our enemies believe that the innocent can be murdered to serve a political vision.” And he’s right about that; Al Qaeda demonstrated that on 9/11, and Zarqawi demonstrates it with every bomb explosion in Baghdad markets. The problem is, Bush also believes that “the innocent can be murdered.” To serve his own messianic vision, he has brought about the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis.
There was almost a casual cruelty to Bush’s West Point blessing: “Now the Class of 2006 will leave for the battlefield.”
He, as commander in chief, is sending them off to battle in Iraq, which is a war that had nothing to do, except pretextually, with the so-called war on terror.
And Bush’s terminology at West Point, his constant use of the phrase “war on terror,” serves not only to inflate his own historical importance but also to further his aggressive and repressive purposes.
When he says we’re just in the “early stages” of “the long war with Islamic radicalism,” he is preparing the public for the next stage to come. And if it’s all part of the same war against Al Qaeda, and Congress already gave him a blank check for that one, Bush might easily say he doesn’t have to go back to Congress to wage war against another country—say, Iran. (After all, we’ve already seen how far he stretched that original Authorization of the Use of Military Force; he says it gives him the right to monitor our phone calls.)
And if Bush can convince the American public that we face an enemy as lethal as Hitler or Joe Stalin (a name Bush also conjured up), he can then coerce Americans into giving up more of their freedoms. Forced to choose between survival and civil liberties, Americans will readily give up their liberties. Bush knows that. That’s why he frames the issue this way.
The better to protect you with, my dear
LONDON, England -- It's a question that has baffled scientists, academics and pub bores through the ages: What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Now a team made up of a geneticist, philosopher and chicken farmer claim to have found an answer. It was the egg.
Put simply, the reason is down to the fact that genetic material does not change during an animal's life.
Therefore the first bird that evolved into what we would call a chicken, probably in prehistoric times, must have first existed as an embryo inside an egg.
Professor John Brookfield, a specialist in evolutionary genetics at the University of Nottingham, told the UK Press Association the pecking order was clear.
The living organism inside the eggshell would have had the same DNA as the chicken it would develop into, he said.
"Therefore, the first living thing which we could say unequivocally was a member of the species would be this first egg," he added. "So, I would conclude that the egg came first."
The same conclusion was reached by his fellow "eggsperts" Professor David Papineau, of King's College London, and poultry farmer Charles Bourns.
Mr Papineau, an expert in the philosophy of science, agreed that the first chicken came from an egg and that proves there were chicken eggs before chickens.
He told PA people were mistaken if they argued that the mutant egg belonged to the "non-chicken" bird parents.
"I would argue it is a chicken egg if it has a chicken in it," he said.
"If a kangaroo laid an egg from which an ostrich hatched, that would surely be an ostrich egg, not a kangaroo egg."
Bourns, chairman of trade body Great British Chicken, said he was also firmly in the pro-egg camp.
He said: "Eggs were around long before the first chicken arrived. Of course, they may not have been chicken eggs as we see them today, but they were eggs."
The debate, which may come as a relief to those with argumentative relatives, was organized by Disney to promote the release of the film "Chicken Little" on DVD.
By David Edelstein
As the controversy over The Da Vinci Code makes clear, a vast majority of Americans—among them our president—regard the divinity of Jesus as a fact, not a theory. So what’s a theory? Global warming, of course. And it’s a theory that needs more study, preferably carried out by the unbiased scientists at ExxonMobil and their past or future colleagues in the Bush White House.
On the other hand, someone who would treat as fact the self-serving yammerings of Al Gore must be an environmentalist wacko, right? So let’s have a good laugh at An Inconvenient Truth, a feature-length lecture directed by Davis Guggenheim (there’s a limousine-liberal name for you!) in which the failed presidential candidate (lampooned a few weeks ago on the libertarian-tinged South Park, where he raved about a creature called “ManBearPig”) drones on about cracking ice shelves and disappearing permafrost and soaring temperatures and rising sea levels. It’s obviously just a tedious, 96-minute presidential-campaign commercial, right?
That, in any event, is how much of the mainstream media is likely to characterize this new documentary of Gore and his traveling global-warming slide show: Anything else would invite charges of liberal bias. But the fact is—the fact is—that only a brainwashed audience (and their brainwashers) could portray anything in An Inconvenient Truth as even remotely controversial. Gore has all the graphs and charts and time-lapsed photographs and peer-reviewed scientific studies he needs to underscore his message about where the planet is heading—and sooner than we think. So be afraid. Be very afraid.
In An Inconvenient Truth, Guggenheim weaves together the ex-vice-president’s speeches before a series of packed houses all over the United States and abroad. Casually dressed, Gore is less stiff than during his last presidential run, and he has learned not to drone. But he is still clearly in his element as a pedant. After introducing himself as the former next president of the United States (a joke that made at least one viewer wince at the thought of what might have been), he shows an image of the planet as it looked in the first pictures taken from space. Then he shows a picture of the planet as it looks now. Then he graphs the differences to show the acceleration of global warming. He debunks the theory that these changes are “cyclical”: Scientists have studied all the environmental cycles since the last Ice Age, he says. These are off the charts.
Guggenheim puts Gore on a pedestal, no doubt. There are biographical interpolations in which Gore discusses the death of his sister from lung cancer and the near-death of his son, and they’re extremely moving. But they do edge the film a little closer to the realm of campaign biographies. That said, his spiritual journey is a great deal more compelling—and transparent—than George W. Bush’s supposed revelation after decades of alcoholism and (alleged) drug abuse. Gore has real gravitas now, and not just because he has gained a bit of weight.
It’s worth dwelling on the mocking responses to Gore and his book Earth in the Balance (and, for that matter, to my friend Bill McKibben’s seminal The End of Nature in the late eighties) because everything Gore is saying should be old, old news. But the people on the other side will do and say anything. Perhaps the most amazing statistic in An Inconvenient Truth is that of 900-plus peer-reviewed studies in recognized journals, not one has challenged the idea of global warming, whereas more than 53 percent of articles in the mainstream media have presented it as a theory or been careful to include the demurrals of a tiny handful of bought-and-paid-for scientists or politicians. In the course of Gore’s lecture tour comes the unsurprising news that Bush aide Philip Cooney routinely red-penciled the conclusions of impartial government scientists; when exposed, he resigned and took a job with ExxonMobil.
But it won’t be long, Gore suggests, before other industries find it in their economic interest to sound the global-warming alarm. The insurance industry will have to pay for all the damage from hurricanes and floods as a consequence of Gulfstream disruptions. The auto industry will register that unless it makes cars more fuel-efficient, it won’t be able to sell them to anyone but Americans. There’s no spinning the images he presents of earth’s dwindling ice caps or, more poetically, the absence of snow on Kilimanjaro.
An Inconvenient Truth is one of the most realistic documentaries I’ve ever seen—and, dry as it is, one of the most devastating in its implications. See it with your kids—and watch closely to see who attacks it and on what grounds. I differ with Gore only on his optimism.
“Political will is a renewable resource,” he says. There’s no accounting for people’s nutty faith.
WASHINGTON, May 26 — What happened to the Texas swagger?
Maybe it went the way of his poll numbers. Maybe this is a newly reflective President Bush. Or maybe the first lady had her say.
Whatever the case, when Mr. Bush said at a news conference on Thursday night that he regretted some personal mistakes, like declaring "bring 'em on" in 2003, he seemed a little like the chastened husband who finally admitted he had done something wrong. Whether it worked or not depends on whom you ask.
"Sad day in Crawford, they're hanging their heads," said William J. Bennett, the former education secretary and conservative radio talk show host. Mr. Bennett said many of his listeners expressed dismay at what they considered Mr. Bush's groveling.
"One of the attractive things about the president is that he talks Texas," Mr. Bennett continued. "But what broke my heart is when he said, 'I need to be more sophisticated.' What is this, Kerry talk? Is he going to use 'elan' the next time he speaks?"
Hold on a minute, said Kenneth M. Duberstein, President Ronald Reagan's last chief of staff. "The country loves mea culpas from the president," Mr. Duberstein said. "It makes them human. This is part and parcel of the influence of Josh — making sure you don't go out there and thumb your nose at the entire world."
"Josh" is Joshua B. Bolten, the new White House chief of staff, who was reared inside the Beltway, educated at Princeton and has never uttered a Texas colloquialism that anyone has heard.
Mr. Bush's Texas twang intensifies and recedes depending on the setting. But he has always prided himself on being plain spoken. When it comes to military and national security, he made the heaviest use of Texas talk in the first term, initially after the Sept. 11 attacks and then after the Iraq invasion.
On Sept. 15, 2001, Mr. Bush declared that he would go after the perpetrators of the World Trade Center attack and "smoke them out of their holes." On Sept. 17, 2001, Mr. Bush declared that he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." On July 2, 2003, Mr. Bush taunted militants attacking American forces in Iraq with "bring 'em on."
White House officials have defended his Texas talk as the kind of plain-spoken language Americans like to hear, but Laura Bush has at times tried to rein him in. In a widely reported comment at the time, Mrs. Bush sidled up to her husband after he said he wanted Mr. bin Laden "dead or alive" and asked, "Bushie, are you gonna git 'im?"
On Thursday, in response to a question about what he thought was his biggest mistake, Mr. Bush termed his words "kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people." He added that "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner" and that "in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted."
White House officials would not say Thursday whether Mr. Bush's response had been planned, but they did say they had prepared for the question. In fact, they have prepared for the question ever since John Dickerson, then of Time magazine, asked Mr. Bush at a news conference in April 2004 if he could name the biggest mistake he had made, and Mr. Bush, struggling, said nothing popped into his head.
But Mr. Bush's comments were his most personal so far about mistakes he has made, and they mirrored, friends said, his private conversations.
"What he did last night, which was obviously thought out, was the most complete public expression of what's happened," said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire Republican with ties to the White House. "Anybody who has seen him talk about it privately has seen that he's been consumed with this for three years."
Others were less impressed and said Mr. Bush had made far worse mistakes. "If there were decisive mistakes, these were not them," said Paul Burka, senior executive editor of Texas Monthly, who closely followed Mr. Bush when he was Texas governor. "It's easy to say that he was popping off. But then you get to issues like should the Iraqi army have been disbanded, did Bremer know what he was doing?"
But Mr. Burka, who was referring to L. Paul Bremer III, the former top American civilian administrator in Iraq, said Mr. Bush's Texas talk was popular in the state.
"I don't think he ever had a self-reflective moment in Texas," Mr. Burka said. "And let me tell you, even worse, we liked it that way."
Despite the conviction of a couple of bad apples at Enron, its top management is not the real culprit in this case. The real culprit is a bad idea: deregulation of the natural gas and electric power industries.
Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, the former chairman and CEO respectively, can be said to be just "sharp traders," businessmen who did what the free market demands of rational players: take advantage of every loophole they could find to make a profit.
Early in 2004, Jacqueline Lang Weaver, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, wrote, "In competitive electricity markets, participants can exploit legal loopholes or use market power to make millions of dollars in profits in a very short time period, and there is every reason to expect them to do so; it is the very nature of profit-based, market capitalism."
Enron played a unique role in deregulation, Weaver said, and the company’s subsequent collapse was, in some important respects, a product of its genius in creating "a business model that tracked the opening of deregulated energy markets…and was accompanied by a powerful and well-financed political lobbying arm that worked to push government regulation out of the markets."
This point was echoed earlier this month when Robert McCullough, an independent analyst of the electric power industry who is a consultant to many of the agencies that were victims of Enron’s trading schemes, testified before the U.S. Senate Policy Committee and described in detail the consequences of what he called "an unfortunate policy decision" made by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in 1993.
"At the urging of Enron and other energy companies," he said, "CFTC relinquished control of energy-based forward transactions…The purpose of Enron’s various market manipulation schemes was to promote an increase in long term prices—an increase that returned over a billion dollars in earnings on an enormous forward position that Enron accumulated just before the onset of the Western [California] Market Crisis."
McCullough did not mention that the CFTC’s 1993 decision was made at the urging of its chairwoman, Wendy Gramm, who is an economist and the wife of then-Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas. Almost immediately after the vote of the commission to forego regulating electricity trading, Mrs. Gramm resigned from the commission and joined the board of Enron where she remained until just after the bankruptcy in 2001.
Another key aspect of the Enron story described by both McCullough and Weaver is the role of EnronOnline, which handled nearly one-quarter of all gas and electric trades by the end of the 1990’s, making it the largest e-commerce system in the world.
Weaver said EnronOnline did not match up buyer and seller for a fee like most commodity trading exchanges. Instead the company was a counterparty to each trade, meaning that it bought products for sale if the price was right and then re-sold them, a business strategy that requires billions of dollars in cash to handle the float.
This need for large amounts of cash for trading, she said, combined with some disastrous deals in hard assets like building a huge power plant in India and overpaying for a water utility in England, neither of which generated any cash flow, sent the company far into debt. It was Enron’s use of the accounting gimmicks called Special Purpose Entities to keep this debt off its books that finally caused the bankruptcy.
Weaver concludes her report by saying that the darker side of the market system is that it is controlled by and primarily benefits two "power elites…the elected political elite and the managerial elite that control business enterprises. However, between the two, corporations have the upper hand, because they must be induced with incentives to produce and provide jobs and tax revenues to society. he corporate elite have a privileged position of power in the political system, and political leaders will act to provide business with whatever it says it needs to do its job."
The ultimate danger, she said, of this "enormous influence of the business elite on the legislative policies at all levels of government seriously distorts the democratic nature of our society."
And the ultimate irony is that Enron collapsed by choking on the apple of deregulation which it tried to swallow whole, and that Lay and Skilling, the corporate cheerleaders for deregulation, are victims of their own delusion.
Wallace Roberts is an independent journalist writing on public policy issues. His work on deregulation of the electric power industry was assisted by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
Friday, May 26, 2006
A Test of Our Character - New York Times
The New York Times
May 26, 2006
A Test of Our Character
In his new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore suggests that there are
three reasons it's hard to get action on global warming. The first is
syndrome: because the effects of greenhouse gases build up gradually, at any
given moment it's easier to do nothing. The second is the perception,
by a careful disinformation campaign, that there's still a lot of
uncertainty about whether man-made global warming is a serious problem. The
the belief, again fostered by disinformation, that trying to curb global
warming would have devastating economic effects.
I'd add a fourth reason, which I'll talk about in a minute. But first, let's
notice that Mr. Gore couldn't have asked for a better illustration of
campaigns than the reaction of energy-industry lobbyists and right-wing
media organizations to his film.
The cover story in the current issue of National Review is titled "Scare of
the Century." As evidence that global warming isn't really happening, it
the fact that some Antarctic ice sheets are getting thicker - a point also
emphasized in a TV ad by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is
financed by large oil companies, whose interests it reliably represents.
Curt Davis, a scientist whose work is cited both by the institute and by
National Review, has already protested. "These television ads," he declared
a press release, "are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public
about the global warming debate." He points out that an initial increase in
the thickness of Antarctica's interior ice sheets is a predicted consequence
of a warming planet, so that his results actually support global warming
than refuting it.
Even as the usual suspects describe well-founded concerns about global
warming as hysteria, they issue hysterical warnings about the economic
of environmentalism. "Al Gore's global warming movie: could it destroy the
economy?" Fox News asked.
Well, no, it couldn't. There's some dispute among economists over how
forcefully we should act to curb greenhouse gases, but there's broad
even a very strong program to reduce emissions would have only modest
effects on economic growth. At worst, G.D.P. growth might be, say, one-tenth
of a percentage point lower over the next 20 years. And while some
industries would lose jobs, others would gain.
Actually, the right's panicky response to Mr. Gore's film is probably a good
thing, because it reveals for all to see the dishonesty and fear-mongering
on which the opposition to doing something about climate change rests.
But "An Inconvenient Truth" isn't just about global warming, of course. It's
also about Mr. Gore. And it is, implicitly, a cautionary tale about what's
been wrong with our politics.
Why, after all, was Mr. Gore's popular-vote margin in the 2000 election
narrow enough that he could be denied the White House? Any account that
the determination of some journalists to make him a figure of ridicule
misses a key part of the story. Why were those journalists so determined to
Mr. Gore? Because of the very qualities that allowed him to realize the
importance of global warming, many years before any other major political
his earnestness, and his genuine interest in facts, numbers and serious
And so the 2000 campaign ended up being about the candidates' clothing,
their mannerisms, anything but the issues, on which Mr. Gore had a clear
(and about which his opponent was clearly both ill informed and dishonest).
I won't join the sudden surge of speculation about whether "An Inconvenient
Truth" will make Mr. Gore a presidential contender. But the film does make a
powerful case that Mr. Gore is the sort of person who ought to be running
Since 2000, we've seen what happens when people who aren't interested in the
facts, who believe what they want to believe, sit in the White House. Osama
bin Laden is still at large, Iraq is a mess, New Orleans is a wreck. And, of
course, we've done nothing about global warming.
But can the sort of person who would act on global warming get elected? Are
we - by which I mean both the public and the press - ready for political
who don't pander, who are willing to talk about complicated issues and call
for responsible policies? That's a test of national character. I wonder
Posted by MIriam V
Today, Democrats have once agreed not to fight another Bush nominee. So, Beelzebub will be confirmed as the Secretary of Transportation. Senator Reid praised Mr. Beelzebub for his long work in public service and said he had an inspiring background story -- he rose up from anonymity and poverty to take on God himself.
Democrats were immediately forced to cave in and vote for the nominee. This marked the 666th straight concession by the Democrats. When asked if their base might be bothered by the confirmation of one of Satan's minions, they said, "Ahh, our base is loony anyway! Screw 'em, we're running to the right, baby."
This event coincided with the unveiling of the new Democratic slogan: Slightly Less Vile Than the Republicans, But Far Weaker!
When someone asked Senator Feinstein why the Democrats in the Senate gave the Republican Party political cover for their lawbreaking when they confirmed a person already known to break every law known to man (he is Beelzebub, for Christ's sake), she answered, "Well, after we already confirmed Lucifer and Mephistopheles, this was a no-brainer. We figured we couldn't get any lower, we've already sold our soul, might as well finish the Satanic hat trick."
Senator Biden said, "Wait a minute, that's not fair, we're keeping our powder dry for when Bush nominates the big guy. We'll definitely fight a little bit if Satan himself is put forward. I bet I can get half the Democrats to vote no on Satan. Almost half. Doesn't that send a strong signal?"
At that point, Senator Schumer jumped up maniacally screaming, "We can't do anything unless we win in '06. We have to win. We have to win. That's why we're laying down and not fighting him at all. Our strategy for victory is defeat!"
Senator Rockefeller added, "On the upside, Mr. Beelzebub does have a lot of experience in the transportation field. He has been paving the road to hell for a long time now. Yes, he sucks out human souls for a living, but he is eminently qualified for the position. Did we thank him for his public service already?"
Senator Lieberman concluded by saying, "Opposing Beelzebub would dangerously undermine the President in a time of war. I hate all Democrats. I hate myself. I want to kiss George Bush again. Did I say all that out loud?"
----- Original Message -----
From: "Tim Karr" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 10:26 AM
Subject: SavetheInternet Update: Small Vote, Big Victory for Internet
Dear SavetheInternet.com Member,
The fight for Internet Freedom took a major step in the right direction
A bipartisan majority on the House Judiciary Committee passed the "Internet
Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act" -- a good bill that would protect Network
Neutrality and prohibit large phone and cable companies from turning the
Internet into their private domain.
Yesterday's vote is a milestone in our campaign. It would have been
unthinkable just four weeks ago -- when we lost a vote on Net Neutrality in
the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In the weeks since that first vote, we have ignited a prairie fire across
America. And Washington is beginning to feel the heat:
a.. More than 700 groups from all 50 states are now a part of the
SavetheInternet.com Coalition - a diverse list that includes MoveOn.org, the
Christian Coalition, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU),
Consumers Union and the American Library Association
b.. A-list musicians such as REM, Moby, The Roots and the Dixie Chicks
have joined the coalition with many more to be announced soon.
c.. Major U.S. newspapers -- including the San Jose Mercury News, New York
Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times and Houston Chronicle -- have
written editorials supporting our position.
d.. More than 5,000 bloggers have linked to the SavetheInternet.com Web
site and blog -- urging their readers to take action on this issue.
e.. And yesterday, the Coalition's petition drive surpassed 750,000
With little money and through the efforts of many, we have turned momentum
against a handful of phone and cable giants that are spending untold
millions of dollars to squash Internet freedom.
Through their high-priced lobbyists, slick ad campaigns and fake grassroots
groups, companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are trying to drown out
genuine grassroots and consumer advocacy. Yesterday's vote proves, however,
that our voices are being heard. But we're still far from saving Net
The full House will take up the bipartisan Judiciary bill in June. The
Senate is also considering legislation that currently fails to protect Net
Neutrality, though a bipartisan group of Senators are lining up behind an
excellent bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and
Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota).
We need to continue to mobilize our resources, engage the public and put
Congress on notice. I've added some links below to new information about the
campaign. I'll be soon sharing some new ideas as we proceed. I welcome your
But for now, take a moment to savor this win.
Free Press Campaign Director
1. For regular updates on the campaign, read the SavetheInternet.com blog:
2. Read our new report debunking the telco propaganda: Why Consumers Demand
Internet Freedom (PDF).
3. Also yesterday, Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott testified before the
Senate Commerce Committee on behalf of the coalition. Read his statement
4. Check out the pro-Net Neutrality ad sponsored by MoveOn and the Christian
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