Thursday, November 30, 2006
Justices to Decide Challenge on Greenhouse Gas Emissions
By Robert Barnes
The Supreme Court yesterday cautiously confronted for the first time the issue of global warming, hearing a challenge to the Bush administration's refusal to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases in new vehicles.
Twelve states, led by Massachusetts and joined by the District of Columbia, are objecting to the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to decline to issue emissions standards for new cars and trucks. They and the environmental organizations that support them say the standards should be the first step in a broader effort to reduce carbon dioxide and other gases that they say are harming the atmosphere and leading to global warming and rising sea levels.
But they faced a court sometimes skeptical about whether the remedy they seek would make much difference in the long run, and whether they can even show they are facing the kind of imminent harm that is required before they can press their case.
"I mean," asked Justice Antonin Scalia, "when is the predicted cataclysm?"
Scalia was one of several justices to remark on a lack of scientific expertise during an hour of questioning that touched on whether the states have "standing" to challenge the EPA's refusal, the level of evidence proving the existence of global warming and its causes, and even whether unilateral action by the United States to reduce greenhouse gases would hamper negotiations with other countries on the issue.
The debate inside the court is echoed outside the chamber. Former vice president Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" increased public awareness of the issue. And the Democrats who won control of Congress this month have said they will make the issue a priority: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who is in line to become chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said a failure to limit greenhouse gases will lead to "economic decline and environmental ruin." She would replace Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has called global warming a hoax.
Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General James R. Milkey told the court that 200 miles of the state's coastline are threatened by rising seas, a result of global warming.
"The harm does not suddenly spring up in the year 2100; it plays out continuously over time," Milkey said in answer to Scalia's question. "Once these gases are emitted . . . they stay a long time -- the laws of physics take over."
Milkey faced skeptical questioning from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court's newest members, but the most sustained -- and entertaining -- interrogation came from Scalia.
At one point, he acknowledged the role of carbon dioxide as a pollutant in the air but wondered about it being a pollutant in the "stratosphere."
"Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere," Milkey said.
"Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist," Scalia said to laughter. "That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth."
Milkey had already said that the court need not pass judgment on the science of climate change to find that the EPA did not do its job when deciding not to regulate new vehicle emissions.
The case started in 1999, when an environmental group, the International Center for Technology Assessment, and others petitioned the EPA to set greenhouse gas emissions standards for new vehicles.
In 2003, the agency denied the petition, saying said that it lacked statutory authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, even though the agency in previous administrations had held that it did. Further, the agency said, even if it did have authority, it was not required to use it.
The agency decided, according to Deputy Solicitor General Gregory C. Garre, "now is not the time to exercise such authority, in light of the substantial scientific uncertainty surrounding global climate change and the ongoing studies designed to address those uncertainties."
Even if the court sides with the states, it is only being asked to remand the issue back to the EPA with specifications on what to look at in deciding whether to issue the emissions standards. And both sides agree that vehicle admissions in the United States amount to only 6 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions; tougher standards on new vehicles would only moderately reduce that.
But the court's decision could affect other efforts by environmentalists to force action on emissions from power plants -- stalled in the courts -- and shed light on the appropriateness of individual states' actions. California, for instance, has passed greenhouse gas emissions standards that are to go into effect in 2009 but are being challenged by industry.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer said a change of heart by the EPA could set off a string of similarly small decisions by other agencies, "each of which has an impact, and lo and behold, Cape Cod is saved." He seemed most sympathetic to the states' case, along with Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Justice Clarence Thomas, who as usual asked no questions, is presumed to be in line with Scalia, Roberts and Alito. That leaves Justice Anthony M. Kennedy as a pivotal vote in whether the states have proven they have standing for the case to go forward.
He noted Milkey's "perhaps reassuring statement" that the court does not have to make a judgment about global warming. "But," Kennedy asked, "don't we have to do that in order to decide the standing argument, because there's no injury if there's not global warming?"
By JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY
As the civil war in Iraq fast approaches terminal velocity, the Bush administration is fighting a war of words, and it seems to be losing that one, too.
An administration once famous for sticking to "the message" like a burr on a fuzzy dog is now all over the map, speaking out of both sides of every mouth.
It's a civil war. Is not. Is too.
Last week, we were fighting a homegrown Sunni Muslim insurgency in Iraq. This week, we're fighting a war that's largely the creation of al-Qaeda foreign terrorists. Meanwhile, while we debate what the meaning of civil war is, the war between Iraqi Shiites and Iraqi Sunnis spirals beyond anyone's control.
Last week, the administration said that al-Qaeda was on the ropes in Iraq. It made up no more than 2 percent or 3 percent of the folks killing Americans and Iraqis. Military spokesmen in Baghdad and the U.S. Central Command's Gen. John Abizaid said we'd decimated the al-Qaeda leadership in Iraq and the group wasn't likely to be much of a player in Iraq's future.
This week, President Bush declared that al-Qaeda is the primary enemy in Iraq, fomenting the sectarian slaughter, which he said is definitely NOT a civil war.
If we keep changing enemies, we keep changing allies, too. Last week, and every week this year, the White House line was that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was our guy in Baghdad, and we'd sink or swim with him.
This week, the White House gave The New York Times a classified memo from National Security adviser Steven Hadley - just in time for Bush's scheduled meeting with Maliki in Jordan. It says it's time for our guy to fish or cut bait.
Either Maliki gets the job done - or else. All he has to do is end the civil war (or the "sectarian violence," as the White House prefers to call it); restore security in his own capital; and heave his most powerful supporter, anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, overboard.
From the beginning, Baghdad, Iraq's capital and center of gravity and the place where Shiites and Sunnis co-existed like oil and water, has been at the heart of our problem in Iraq. We didn't invade with enough troops to take the place down hard and then secure it.
Then we thought the problem was the Sunnis in Anbar province to the West - which conveniently fit the administration's "central front in the war on terror" theme - and sent the Marines there to flatten Fallujah and try to put the lid on Ramadi.
Now while Baghdad spins out of control, a leaked Marine intelligence report says, in essence, that we've also lost the fight for Anbar, which has largely fallen to Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda in Iraq. We've ground the Marine Corps down in Anbar, trying and failing to gain control at a staggering cost in American dead and wounded.
Yet all Marine requests for more troops beyond the 30,000 already there have fallen on deaf ears at the Pentagon and the White House - and in fact top commanders have pulled some troops away from Anbar to focus on Baghdad.
All this while Gen. Abizaid tells angry Democrats and Republicans at a Senate Armed Service committee hearing that the American commanders in Iraq are unanimous in their view that sending in more U.S. forces - as if more could be found - isn't the answer and that they don't want any reinforcements beyond a temporary surge of a few thousand.
In Latvia en route to a planned woodshed session with Maliki in Jordan, President Bush said that he'd be flexible in seeking a solution in Iraq, but declared that he'll never withdraw American troops until the mission is accomplished.
If he's to be believed, that pretty much precludes the Baker-Hamilton Commission from suggesting any solutions stronger than a much-too-late international conference with Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and friends, essentially begging them to pull our chestnuts out of the Middle East fire we started.
Even if Bush weren't flirting with plans to overthrow them, why would the rulers of Syria and Iran, who've been spoilers in Iraq throughout, now want to help the Bush administration with anything, anywhere? The Saudis, who counseled against invading Iraq, are weighing their options if the Americans leave. They have no intention of sitting idly by while Shiites and Kurds massacre their brother Sunnis.
As this theater of the dangerously absurd and absurdly dangerous plays to SRO crowds, the war of words goes on without quarter or common sense.
This week we were treated to an official American description of the mass murders on the streets of Baghdad by al-Sadr's Shiite militias as "extra-judicial killings."
We can only hope that the Pentagon - famous for groaning shelves laden with contingency plans for everything from an invasion of Tierra del Fuego to pre-emptive strikes against Iran and North Korea - has a plan for a fighting retreat from a hostile nation where both sides of a civil war take a break from killing one another to concentrate on killing us.
You can be sure that if such a plan does exist, a "fighting retreat" will be called a victory parade or a retrograde movement intended to restore peace in our time.
Or maybe just "Mission Accomplished, Part II."
With his "three-way" with King Abdullah and Nouri al-Maliki canceled, thanks to the timely leak of a nasty memo about the Iraqi prime minister, Bush looks like the blunderer in chief.
By Joan Walsh
The three-way is off! The trilateral is now a bilateral! And the vain hope that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could solve the Iraq crisis is spinning away just as fast as the slimmer hope that a summit in Jordan could make President Bush look like a leader.
In a week of surreal attempts at what administration officials apparently think is "diplomacy," Wednesday's press briefing with deputy press secretary Dan Bartlett is still a standout. The facts are clear: On the heels of an all but official leak of a memo by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, criticizing al-Maliki as either ignorant, dishonest or incompetent, suddenly plans for a Wednesday night meeting between President Bush, Jordan's King Abdullah and the Iraqi prime minister are off.
But pay no attention to the memo, Bartlett says; the need for a "three-way" was obviated by a "two-way" between Abdullah and al-Maliki earlier today. Watch Bartlett try, and fail, to spin reporters in Amman. It's worth quoting at length:
Bartlett: The President is going to have a bilateral and dinner with the King of Jordan. Since the King of Jordan and Prime Minister Maliki had a bilateral themselves, earlier today, everybody believed that negated the purpose for the three of them to meet tonight, together, in a trilateral setting. So the plan, according to -- since they had such a good, productive bilateral discussion, was just for the President to deal with bilateral issues and other issues with the King this evening in a dinner setting, and then the meetings set for tomorrow will still take place as scheduled.
Reporter: So the dinner is off, the three-way.
Reporter: Well, if Maliki -- he was never going to the dinner anyway, right? It was just supposed to be a meeting.
Bartlett: There was going to be a trilateral meeting, and then the dinner with the King. Now, since they already had a bilateral themselves, the King of Jordan and the Prime Minister, everybody felt, well, there's no reason for them to do a trilateral meeting beforehand, because matters had been discussed.
Reporter: So the scheduled trilateral is scrapped.
Reporter: But the dinner -- all three of them are still going to be at the dinner?
Reporter: OK, so Maliki is not doing anything?
Bartlett: The President will see Prime Minister Maliki in the morning...
Reporter: But don't you risk sending a political message that the three were supposed to get together tonight and now they're not, after the memo by Hadley and all? This wasn't a snub, or anything like that.
Bartlett: Absolutely not. And I think that will be demonstrated tomorrow, as well as the fact that the King and the Prime Minister had a good meeting themselves, today. The King is being a gracious host, allowing for the two leaders to meet tomorrow morning. No one should read too much into this, except for the fact that they had a good meeting. This gives an opportunity for the King and the President to catch up on issues that are in the interests of Jordan and the United States, as well as the broader region. The issue -- a discussion specifically about Iraq will be had tomorrow by the two leaders, by themselves.
Reporter: No connection to the memo, whatsoever?
It would be funny if it wasn't tragic. The last two supposed virtues of the Bush administration have crumbled since the election three weeks ago: its strict internal discipline and message control -- leaks are for Democrats! -- and the president's loyalty to his supporters. Now the White House is leaking like a sinking ship. And Bush's loyalty? It's vanished along with his majority in Congress.
First to take the hit was Donald Rumsfeld -- a man who richly deserved his shove under the bus, but still, someone Bush had promised to keep until the end of his term. This week, it's al-Maliki. The president himself began to set up al-Maliki on Tuesday, when he told reporters he'd be asking the besieged Iraqi prime minister for his plans to stop the violence that the U.S. invasion of his country ignited.
"My questions to him will be: 'What do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence?'" It felt like a burglar asking how you're going to replace the goods he just stole, or an arsonist asking how you'll rebuild the house he just burned to the ground. Not surprisingly, on the heels of the disparaging Hadley memo, al-Maliki passed up his chance to answer those questions. But the mess also insults King Abdullah, one of the administration's last allies in the region.
The most disturbing aspect of the diplomatic carnage is that this was supposed to be the week the president got religion and began reaching out to world leaders to find a solution to the mess he's made in Iraq. His Jordan summit was part of an effort to preempt the work of the Iraq Study Group, to show that Jim Baker isn't the only one who can globe-trot and glad-hand with world leaders. "They want to create some activity on the eve of the Baker commission report so that they can point to the fact that they haven't just been sitting in the Situation Room waiting for Iraq to improve on its own," an administration "advisor" told Time this week.
And it's not just political posturing that's provoking the belated Bush effort. While some Democrats are already protesting the Baker group's probable failure to call for a timeline for troop withdrawal, Vice President Dick Cheney is said to be dead set against its almost certain recommendation that the administration reach out to Iran and Syria. And so the administration is suddenly looking globally for its own answers. The problem? "There's complete bewilderment as to what to do," the advisor told Time.
That much is obvious. The only thing worse than Bush's failure to practice diplomacy is what apparently happens when he tries. Maybe it's a use-it-or-lose-it thing. After six years of unilateralism, this administration can't defeat its enemies, but doesn't remember how to treat its friends. For Americans, it's going to be a long two years under an increasingly lame duck administration. But it's going to be much, much worse for Iraqis.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Bradley Burston shows how discourse about the Middle East struggle guarantees permanent conflict.
With the Democrats set to take control of the House and the Senate in January, the GOP may not be able to control the national agenda in the way it once did. In the interests of keeping things fair and balanced, we want to do our part to give Republican leaders some bandwidth for getting their ideas out into the public domain. Here goes:
Newt Gingrich: The former House speaker and potential presidential candidate said Monday that the United States may have to revisit the idea of freedom of speech in the context of the war on terrorism. Speaking in New Hampshire, Gingrich said that we may need to apply a "different set of rules" before "we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade."
Rep. Tom Tancredo: At a gathering of conservative activists in Florida, the Colorado Republican said that Miami has "become a Third World country." "You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace," he said. "You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country.'' Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican who represents Miami in the House, said that Tancredo's remarks were "flat our wrong" and invited him to visit Miami to learn more. A spokesman for Tancredo said he'd take Ros-Lehtinen up on the offer -- provided that it included lodging "at a five-star beachfront resort."
Sen. Elizabeth Dole: The North Carolina senator is on her way out as chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, but she hopes to help the NRSC retire some of the debt she ran up first. In a fundraising e-mail to supporters, Dole says that the NRSC's unsuccessful efforts to hold on to a Senate majority have left it "buried under an avalanche of post-campaign debt." "I just wish I could say I'm writing today to celebrate a Republican victory -- but as you know, we were beaten by the Democrats in a very difficult election year for Republicans nationwide," Dole says. "But even though we were unable to retain our Senate majority, I believe we can still walk away from this election with our heads held high ... Despite the odds against us, we fought hard in all our U.S. Senate races and still managed to keep the Senate extremely close!"
-- Tim Grieve
Step Away From The Constitution, Mr. Gingrich, And Put Your Hands Where We Can See Them
by Bob Cesca
Men like Mr. Gingrich aren't simply afraid of terrorists, they're afraid of you.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
By KATHERINE SHRADER
House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has decided not to choose Rep. Alcee Hastings (news, bio, voting record) as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, according to a Democratic congressional aide who is knowledgeable about the decision.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity about internal party deliberations, said Pelosi has not yet decided who will be given the position when the new Congress convenes in January.
There has been much speculation about whether Pelosi would choose Hastings, a Florida Democrat and an impeached federal judge. He has been making a case for the position, but he had a closed-door meeting with Pelosi on Tuesday, where he learned he would not get the post, the congressional aide said.
Hastings' office and the Congressional Black Caucus, which had endorsed him for the job, had no immediate comment.
Hastings and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (news, bio, voting record), D-Texas, were considered front-runners to take over the chairmanship — a potential snub to the current senior Democrat on the panel, Jane Harman of California.
Harman, whose committee leadership term expires at year's end, could be reappointed by Pelosi, D-Calif., but the two are believed to have deep personal differences.
Monday, November 27, 2006
by Michael Moore
Tomorrow marks the day that we will have been in Iraq longer than we were in all of World War II.
That's right. We were able to defeat all of Nazi Germany, Mussolini, and the entire Japanese empire in LESS time than it's taken the world's only superpower to secure the road from the airport to downtown Baghdad.
And we haven't even done THAT. After 1,347 days, in the same time it took us to took us to sweep across North Africa, storm the beaches of Italy, conquer the South Pacific, and liberate all of Western Europe, we cannot, after over 3 and 1/2 years, even take over a single highway and protect ourselves from a homemade device of two tin cans placed in a pothole. No wonder the cab fare from the airport into Baghdad is now running around $35,000 for the 25-minute ride. And that doesn't even include a friggin' helmet.
Is this utter failure the fault of our troops? Hardly. That's because no amount of troops or choppers or democracy shot out of the barrel of a gun is ever going to "win" the war in Iraq. It is a lost war, lost because it never had a right to be won, lost because it was started by men who have never been to war, men who hide behind others sent to fight and die.
Let's listen to what the Iraqi people are saying, according to a recent poll conducted by the University of Maryland:
** 71% of all Iraqis now want the U.S. out of Iraq.
** 61% of all Iraqis SUPPORT insurgent attacks on U.S. troops.
Yes, the vast majority of Iraqi citizens believe that our soldiers should be killed and maimed! So what the hell are we still doing there? Talk about not getting the hint.
There are many ways to liberate a country. Usually the residents of that country rise up and liberate themselves. That's how we did it. You can also do it through nonviolent, mass civil disobedience. That's how India did it. You can get the world to boycott a regime until they are so ostracized they capitulate. That's how South Africa did it. Or you can just wait them out and, sooner or later, the king's legions simply leave (sometimes just because they're too cold). That's how Canada did it.
The one way that DOESN'T work is to invade a country and tell the people, "We are here to liberate you!" -- when they have done NOTHING to liberate themselves. Where were all the suicide bombers when Saddam was oppressing them? Where were the insurgents planting bombs along the roadside as the evildoer Saddam's convoy passed them by? I guess ol' Saddam was a cruel despot -- but not cruel enough for thousands to risk their necks. "Oh no, Mike, they couldn't do that! Saddam would have had them killed!" Really? You don't think King George had any of the colonial insurgents killed? You don't think Patrick Henry or Tom Paine were afraid? That didn't stop them. When tens of thousands aren't willing to shed their own blood to remove a dictator, that should be the first clue that they aren't going to be willing participants when you decide you're going to do the liberating for them.
A country can HELP another people overthrow a tyrant (that's what the French did for us in our revolution), but after you help them, you leave. Immediately. The French didn't stay and tell us how to set up our government. They didn't say, "we're not leaving because we want your natural resources." They left us to our own devices and it took us six years before we had an election. And then we had a bloody civil war. That's what happens, and history is full of these examples. The French didn't say, "Oh, we better stay in America, otherwise they're going to kill each other over that slavery issue!"
The only way a war of liberation has a chance of succeeding is if the oppressed people being liberated have their own citizens behind them -- and a group of Washingtons, Jeffersons, Franklins, Ghandis and Mandellas leading them. Where are these beacons of liberty in Iraq? This is a joke and it's been a joke since the beginning. Yes, the joke's been on us, but with 655,000 Iraqis now dead as a result of our invasion (source: Johns Hopkins University), I guess the cruel joke is on them. At least they've been liberated, permanently.
So I don't want to hear another word about sending more troops (wake up, America, John McCain is bonkers), or "redeploying" them, or waiting four months to begin the "phase-out." There is only one solution and it is this: Leave. Now. Start tonight. Get out of there as fast as we can. As much as people of good heart and conscience don't want to believe this, as much as it kills us to accept defeat, there is nothing we can do to undo the damage we have done. What's happened has happened. If you were to drive drunk down the road and you killed a child, there would be nothing you could do to bring that child back to life. If you invade and destroy a country, plunging it into a civil war, there isn’t much you can do ‘til the smoke settles and blood is mopped up. Then maybe you can atone for the atrocity you have committed and help the living come back to a better life.
The Soviet Union got out of Afghanistan in 36 weeks. They did so and suffered hardly any losses as they left. They realized the mistake they had made and removed their troops. A civil war ensued. The bad guys won. Later, we overthrew the bad guys and everybody lived happily ever after. See! It all works out in the end!
The responsibility to end this war now falls upon the Democrats. Congress controls the purse strings and the Constitution says only Congress can declare war. Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi now hold the power to put an end to this madness. Failure to do so will bring the wrath of the voters. We aren't kidding around, Democrats, and if you don't believe us, just go ahead and continue this war another month. We will fight you harder than we did the Republicans. The opening page of my website has a photo of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, each made up by a collage of photos of the American soldiers who have died in Bush's War. But it is now about to become the Bush/Democratic Party War unless swift action is taken.
This is what we demand:
1. Bring the troops home now. Not six months from now. NOW. Quit looking for a way to win. We can't win. We've lost. Sometimes you lose. This is one of those times. Be brave and admit it.
2. Apologize to our soldiers and make amends. Tell them we are sorry they were used to fight a war that had NOTHING to do with our national security. We must commit to taking care of them so that they suffer as little as possible. The mentally and physically maimed must get the best care and significant financial compensation. The families of the deceased deserve the biggest apology and they must be taken care of for the rest of their lives.
3. We must atone for the atrocity we have perpetuated on the people of Iraq. There are few evils worse than waging a war based on a lie, invading another country because you want what they have buried under the ground. Now many more will die. Their blood is on our hands, regardless for whom we voted. If you pay taxes, you have contributed to the three billion dollars a week now being spent to drive Iraq into the hellhole it's become. When the civil war is over, we will have to help rebuild Iraq. We can receive no redemption until we have atoned.
In closing, there is one final thing I know. We Americans are better than what has been done in our name. A majority of us were upset and angry after 9/11 and we lost our minds. We didn't think straight and we never looked at a map. Because we are kept stupid through our pathetic education system and our lazy media, we knew nothing of history. We didn't know that WE were the ones funding and arming Saddam for many years, including those when he massacred the Kurds. He was our guy. We didn't know what a Sunni or a Shiite was, never even heard the words. Eighty percent of our young adults (according to National Geographic) were not able to find Iraq on the map. Our leaders played off our stupidity, manipulated us with lies, and scared us to death.
But at our core we are a good people. We may be slow learners, but that "Mission Accomplished" banner struck us as odd, and soon we began to ask some questions. Then we began to get smart. By this past November 7th, we got mad and tried to right our wrongs. The majority now know the truth. The majority now feel a deep sadness and guilt and a hope that somehow we can make make it all right again.
Unfortunately, we can't. So we will accept the consequences of our actions and do our best to be there should the Iraqi people ever dare to seek our help in the future. We ask for their forgiveness.
We demand the Democrats listen to us and get out of Iraq now.
There are two ways to build a legacy as president. You can do such an amazing job in office that the world remembers you warmly long after you're gone, or you can hire some people to rewrite history after the fact in the hopes that you'll come off better later.
George W. Bush seems to have chosen the latter path.
According to the New York Daily News, the president and his people hope to raise $500 million to build a presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the 'Institute for Democracy,'" Thomas DeFrank writes. "Patterned after Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Bush's institute will hire conservative scholars and 'give them money to write papers and books favorable to the president's policies,' one Bush insider said."
We thought Fox News was already doing that job for free.
How will Bush raise $500 million -- more than twice what he raised for his 2004 reelection run -- when he's not the most popular guy around and won't be in the position to dole out favors down the line? DeFrank says that Team Bush hopes to get "megadonations" of $10 million or $20 million each from "wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry" who won't be susceptible to the limits that apply to campaign contributions and who won't have to have their names revealed to the public.
-- Tim Grieve
By Mark Danner
Anyone seeking to understand what has become the central conundrum of the Iraq war—how it is that so many highly accomplished, experienced, and intelligent officials came together to make such monumental, consequential, and, above all, obvious mistakes, mistakes that much of the government knew very well at the time were mistakes—must see beyond what seems to be a simple rhetoric of self-justification and follow it where it leads: toward the War of Imagination that senior officials decided to fight in the spring and summer of 2002 and to whose image they clung long after reality had taken a sharply separate turn.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court hears arguments this week in a case that could determine whether the Bush administration must change course in how it deals with the threat of global warming.
A dozen states as well as environmental groups and large cities are trying to convince the court that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate, as a matter of public health, the amount of carbon dioxide that comes from vehicles.
Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels are burned. It is the principal "greenhouse" gas that many scientists believe is flowing into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, leading to a warming of the earth and widespread ecological changes.
The Bush administration intends to argue before the court on Wednesday that the EPA lacks the power under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The agency contends that even if it did have such authority, it would have discretion under the law on how to address the problem without imposing emissions controls.
The states and more than a dozen environmental groups insist the 1970 law makes clear that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that is subject to regulation because its poses a threat to public health.
A sharply divided federal appeals court ruled in favor of the government in 2005. But last June, the Supreme Court decided to take up the case.
The ruling next year is expected to be one of the court's most important ever involving the environment.
This is what we're talking about. We're talking about Sunni neighborhoods shelling Shia neighborhoods, and Shia neighborhoods shelling back.
We're having Sunni communities dig fighting positions to protect their streets. We're seeing Sunni extremists plunging car bombs into heavily-populated Shia marketplaces. We're seeing institutionalized Shia death squads in legitimate police and national police commando uniforms going in, systematically, to Sunni homes in the middle of the night and dragging them out, never to be seen again.
I mean, if this is not civil war, where there is, on average, 40 to 50 tortured, mutilated, executed bodies showing up on the capital streets each morning, where we have thousands of unaccounted for dead bodies mounting up every month, and where the list of those who have simply disappeared for the sake of the fact that they have the wrong name, a name that is either Sunni or Shia, so much so that we have people getting dual identity cards, where parents cannot send their children to school, because they have to cross a sectarian line, then, goodness, me, I don't want to see what a civil war looks like either if this isn't one.
by Brent Budowsky
The tragic milestone has arrived, the Iraq War lasted longer than the Second World War, with the President telling us that many more days are left in his tragedy drenched in blood..
In 1957 Senator John F. Kennedy gave a major address opposing European colonial policies and the French colonial dominance of Algeria. JFK warned that these policies and practices gave aid, comfort and strength to Soviet communists who prayed on misery, exploitation and corruption.
One can reread JFK's speeches between 1957 and Algerian independence after he became President, and substitute "terrorists" for "Soviet communists." It is eerie. It is true. It is a hard lesson for President Bush and the country he so wrongly and disastrously pushed to war, through the politics of fear, and the obsession of ideology.
In a just world, President Bush will take this sad Sunday and apologize to the people of America and the people of Iraq, accept his responsibility, discuss what lessons he has learned, and move to set things right.
That is what JFK did after the Bay of Pigs; he accepted responsibility, grew from his mistakes, and saved the world from nuclear war when he removed the Soviet missiles from Cuba. That is what the President should do.
He will not. George W. Bush is no JFK, nor is he Reagan, nor is he George Herbert Walker Bush, nor is he even Nixon.
I have written here and elsewhere recently of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and would simply state again that what America needs, what the world needs, is the kind of aspirational leadership that Jack and Bobby provided.
It is a time, on this sad Sunday, to revisit Jack Kennedy's criticism of European colonialism in the Third World during the 1950's. George W. Bush speaks of democracy but his war policy is the lineal descendant of the colonial practices that John Kennedy so wisely spoke against.
It was not democracy to seek to install Mr. Chalabi as leader of Iraq after an American invasion. Mr. Chalabi's relationship to freedom and democracy in Iraq was zero. He would have been a leader in Iraq with no support within Iraq, installed by Americans, with the result that would only help the Iranian mullahs.
It was not democracy to raise false fears to drive America to war and spy on Americans who opposed those policies.
It was not democracy to establish an Iraq Reconstruction Authority that was run by an American with the attitude of a Roman Proconsul.
It was not democracy to install political hacks in key reconstruction positions, then allow some of the greatest greed, corruption and incompetence in the history of capitalism.
It was not democracy to steal and waste money that was meant to build hospitals and schools, so some made fortunes, while troops gave their lives and Iraqis suffered unendurable misery.
It was not democracy to peddle lies to promote fear to push for war that corrupted even the front page of the New York Times. It was not democracy to promote propaganda to peddle war that corrupted the intolerant editorial pages of the Washington Post. Nor was it democracy to accuse newspapers of treason when they belatedly printed truth.
It was not democracy to have a Vice President almost universally seen as the free world's leading advocate for torture. It was not democracy to try to keep this torture secret.
It was not democracy force out the Chief of Staff of the Army for daring to speak the truth and it was not democracy to force out the Navy lawyer who won a historic case for justice before the United States Supreme Court.
It was not democracy to hold secret White House meetings with oil company lobbyists where insiders passed around maps of Iraqi oil fields.
This whole project of an invasion, to install an American-imposed shill who only helped Iranians,to install a Proconsul-like American over the people of Iraq, to surround him with corrupt henchmen and cronies who misused money intended for schools and hospitals to help the children and suffering of Iraq was not democracy.
It was rooted in the colonial abuses and executed with the same catastrophic results.
JFK warned about this in the 1950's; saying correctly such practices only helped communist enemies and George Bush was warned about his policies that would only help our enemies in Iraq, Iran.Al Qaeda and elsewhere.
It is time to bring back the American foreign and security policies of John and Robert Kennedy rooted in American purpose and aspirational ideals that offer the hope of a better life, not endless war.
It is time for the United States to once again offer comprehensive plans for peace in the Middle East, a subject I will return to soon, while we rebuil the military from the damage that these catastrophic policies caused.
It is time to recognize that the Project for the New American Century was deadly wrong, catastrophically wrong, historically wrong. The world does not want endless preemptive wars, occupations, proconsuls, and shills surrounded by crony corruption.
Now we know: at this sad time the war in Iraq is longer than the Second World War, so:
On the matter of George W. Bush, Richard B. Cheney, neoconservative fantasists and their partisans and profiteers we should throw out the baby, throw out the bathwater, and throw out whole damn thing.
We should say with finality: George W. Bush was wrong, and John F. Kennedy was right.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
by Tom Hayden
According to credible Iraqi sources in London and Amman, a secret story of America's diplomatic exit strategy from Iraq is rapidly unfolding. The key events include:
First, James Baker told one of Saddam Hussein's lawyers that Tariq Aziz, former deputy prime minister, would be released from detention by the end of this year, in hope that he will negotiate with the US on behalf of the Baath Party leadership.
The discussion recently took place in Amman, according to the Iraqi paper al-Quds al-Arabi.
Second, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice personally appealed to the Gulf Cooperation Council in October to serve as intermediaries between the US and armed Sunni resistance groups [not including al Qaeda], communicating a US willingness to negotiate with them at any time or place. Speaking in early October, Rice joked that if then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "heard me now, he would wage a war on me fiercer and hotter than he waged on Iraq," according to an Arab diplomat privy to the closed session.
Third, there was an "unprecedented" secret meeting of high-level Americans and representatives of "a primary component of the Iraqi resistance" two weeks ago, lasting for three days. As a result, the Iraqis agreed to return to the talks in the next two weeks with a response for the American side, according to Jordanian press leaks and al-Quds al-Arabi.
Fourth, detailed email transmissions dated November 16 reveal an active American effort behind the scenes to broker a peace agreement with Iraqi resistance leaders, a plot that could include a political coup against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Fifth, Bush security adviser Stephen Hadley carried a six-point message for Iraqi officials on his recent trip to Baghdad:
-include Iraqi resistance and opposition leaders in any initiative towards national reconciliation;general amnesty for the armed resistance fighters;
-dissolve the Iraqi commission charged with banning the Baath Party;
-start the disbanding of militias and death squads;
-cancel any federalism proposal to divide Iraq into three regions, and combine central authority for the central government with greater self-rule for local governors;
-distribute oil revenues in a fair manner to all Iraqis, including the Sunnis whose regions lack the resource.
Prime Minister Al-Maliki was unable to accept the American proposals because of his institutional allegiance to Shiite parties who believe their historic moment has arrived after one thousand years of Sunni domination. That Shiite refusal has accelerated secret American efforts to pressure, re-organize, or remove the elected al-Maliki regime from power.
Underlying these developments are three American concerns: first, the deepening quagmire and sectarian strife on the battlefield; second, the mid-year American elections in which voters repudiated the war; and third, the strategic concern that the new Iraq has slipped into the orbit of Iran. It remains to be seen if Iran will exercise influence on its Shiite allies in Iraq (the Grand Ayatollah Sistani was born in Iraq, and the main Shiite bloc was created in Iran by Iraqi exiles). But that is the direction being taken by Baker's Iraq Study Group and former CIA director John Deutch in a New York Times op-ed. The principal US track, in addition to a declared withdrawal plan, should be to work towards a hands-off policy by Iran, at least for an interval, according to Deutch.
This possible endgame has been in the making for some time. Even two years ago, US officials were probing contacts with Iraqi resistance groups distinct from al-Qaeda. Recent polls indicate sixty percent Iraqi support for armed resistance against the United States, while approximately eighty percent of Iraqis support some timetable for withdrawal, an indispensable indicator for Iraqi insurgents laying down some arms.
Even before the 2003 US invasion, peace groups like Global Exchange and the newly-forming Code Pink sent delegations to create people-to-people relations with Iraqi opponents of the occupation and members of civil society. This writer met with Iraqi exiles in London, who suggested further meetings in Amman. Those contacts were facilitated in 2005 by a former Jordanian diplomat, Munther Haddadin, who supported open-ended discussions with Iraqis in exile, Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan, and with intermediaries from the insurgency who made the dangerous 15-hour drive from Baghdad to Amman on more than one occasion. A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Rob Collier, also interviewed Iraqi insurgents and was helpful in providing contacts.
Earlier this year, an American peace delegation, including Cindy Sheehan, found themselves in two days of meetings with Iraqis of every political stripe. US Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) was crucial in making these contacts by his persistent efforts at mid-east dialogue. Dal LaMagna, a self-described "frustrated peacemaker" made both trips to Amman, and provided this writer with videos and transcripts of the interviews on which this article is based.
It must be emphasized that there is no reason to believe that these US gestures are anything more than probes, in the historic spirit of divide-and-conquer, before escalating the Iraq war in a Baghdad offensive. Denial plausibility - aka Machiavellian secrecy - remains American security policy, for understandable if undemocratic reasons.
Yet Americans who voted in the November election because of a deep belief that a change of government in Washington might end the war have a right to know that their votes counted. The US has not abandoned its entire strategy in Iraq, but is offering significant concessions without its own citizens knowing.
Friday, November 24, 2006
By Matthew Rothschild
There’s a certain amount of insanity surrounding the talk about sending 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq.
We already have 144,000 troops there.
There are about 20,000 mercenaries—I’m sorry, I mean contractors—there.
And about 7,000 British troops.
That’s 171,000 total.
How’s adding another 12% going to be decisive?
Iraq is falling apart, and 20,000 additional troops can’t put it back together again.
In October, a record number of Iraqis—3,709—were killed. With a vicious cycle of sectarian violence on top of the insurgency, the idea that 20,000 more troops can do much of anything is deluded.
And what’s all this talk about making a “final push”?
As Rahul Mahajan, author of Full Spectrum Dominance, recently noted, waging war in Iraq is not like storming Stalingrad.
This is not conventional warfare; it’s not even a conventional insurgency or your traditional civil war.
It’s a mutant organism: part religious civil war, part blood feud, part intra-ethnic jockeying, part homegrown insurgency, plus a foreign jihad all rolled into one.
So who are the U.S. troops going to be protecting? The Iraqi government?
But it’s not a government, in any real sense of the world, as Mahajan noted in a talk November 16. The government itself is made up of many factions, with their own militias, which have infiltrated the army and the police. By aiding the army and police by day, the United States ends up aiding some of those militias by night.
There is no large number of Iraqi policemen or troops that puts loyalty to the nation above parochial allegiances.
Now the United States says it wants more U.S. trainers. But as Thomas E. Ricks notes in The Washington Post on November 21, “The U.S. military’s effort to train Iraqi forces has been rife with problems, from officers being sent in with poor preparation to a lack of basic necessities such as interpreters and office materials.”
Finding good interpreters may be harder than you think. “They couldn’t speak English,” one lieutenant colonel told Ricks. Those who can are in shorter and shorter supply.
Because they’re being killed off.
“Iraqi interpreters working with the British army in Basra are being hunted down and killed, according to the Iraqi police,” Phil Sands reported for the San Francisco Chronicle on November 20. “At least 21 have been kidnapped and shot in the head over the last month.” This, after getting letters warning them not to cooperate with the occupation.
And that’s in the south of Iraq, where things are supposed to be going well.
The United States is in a no-win situation in Iraq. The American people realize that. We must now pressure our political leaders to wake up, face facts, and withdraw.
Adding 20,000 more U.S. troops will not solve anything.
But it will have one effect.
More U.S. troops will die.
The speaker-elect should avoid embarrassment -- and honor her promise to clean up Congress -- and not pick compromised Alcee Hastings as intelligence chairman.
By Joe Conason
Whatever urge impels Nancy Pelosi to consider replacing Jane Harman with Alcee Hastings as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence must be extraordinarily powerful. Some say that Speaker-elect Pelosi harbors a personal grudge against her fellow Californian; some say that she feels Harman has been too accommodating to the White House and Republicans as the ranking Democrat on the committee, known as HPSCI (or "hip-see").
Yet neither of those motives seems sufficient to explain why Pelosi would choose to pass over Harman in favor of Hastings, whose elevation can only cause the most severe embarrassment to the speaker-elect and the Democrats she leads. It won't be easy for them to justify entrusting a position of such enormous sensitivity to someone whom Pelosi -- and many of her Democratic colleagues -- once voted to impeach and remove from the federal bench as a corrupt perjurer.
In 1988, the House approved 17 articles of impeachment against Hastings, who was then a federal district judge sitting in the Southern District of Florida. The congressional impeachment stemmed from his unsuccessful 1981 federal prosecution on charges that a lawyer named William Borders had solicited a $150,000 bribe on his behalf from Frank and Thomas Romano, two brothers convicted of racketeering whose sentencing came before Hastings. Borders, a longtime Hastings friend and a prominent African-American attorney, was found guilty and sent to prison.
Although a Miami jury acquitted Hastings of the bribery, despite much circumstantial evidence of his guilt, outraged judges in the 11th Circuit initiated disciplinary proceedings against him. They commissioned a special report on the Hastings case by former assistant attorney general John Doar, who found substantial evidence of his participation in the bribery scheme with Borders as well as reason to believe that he had subsequently lied under oath at his trial.
Hastings has always insisted that he was the innocent victim of a scheme by Borders to profit from the misuse of his name. When Borders was apprehended by an FBI undercover operation in Washington, however, Hastings abruptly fled town before the agents could question him. Over the past two decades, Borders has gone to jail twice on contempt charges rather than testify to the innocence of his friend Hastings.
The Doar report convinced members of the House Judiciary Committee -- then controlled by Democrats and chaired by John Conyers, D-Mich., who is now set to chair the committee again -- to begin the impeachment process. Their decision was historic because Hastings was the first African-American federal judge in Florida, and only the sixth judge ever to be impeached by Congress. The committee unanimously referred to the full House the 17 specific articles against him, which were then ratified on the House floor by a vote of 413-3. Conyers led the special committee of impeachment managers who prosecuted Hastings in the Senate, where they won his conviction and removal. Of the 17 counts, he was convicted on nine and acquitted on two, and the Senate didn't vote on six; each conviction required a two-thirds vote.
That stinging disgrace didn't prevent Hastings from running several years later for a congressional seat in Miami, which he has held ever since. Nobody seems to have noticed, until now, that he has been sitting on the Intelligence Committee long enough to become its second-ranking Democrat. Perhaps that's because his service on the committee has been neither noteworthy nor distinguished. The only reason to award him the chairmanship would be that he has been there a long time -- and that he isn't Harman.
As for Harman, she faces a significant handicap aside from the enmity of the new speaker and her alleged coziness with Republicans. She is reportedly the subject of a federal investigation concerning her relationship with the powerful lobbyists at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In a probe that grew out of the Larry Franklin espionage case, Harman is alleged to have promised to seek leniency for two AIPAC officials in exchange for the powerful lobby's support of her bid for the HPSCI chair. She vehemently denies that accusation.
No doubt Pelosi understands that she, the Congressional Black Caucus and the new Democratic Congress will hear mocking laughter from all sides if they turn HPSCI over to Hastings. They may mumble about the possibility that the FBI crime lab compromised the evidence against him, or claim that they now worry about the fairness of his impeachment trial. Weighed against their own votes to impeach and convict him, and against their promises to clean up the corrupt Congress, those claims will count for nothing. The chairmanship of a select committee is not an entitlement, and grave doubts about the integrity of Hastings should disqualify him.
Fortunately, the choice is not limited to Hastings or Harman. Among the possible alternatives is Rush Holt, D-N.J., a physicist and former State Department intelligence officer who is not only highly qualified to chair HPSCI but also has served on the committee with distinction. His honesty has never been questioned. For this job, above all others, Pelosi should honor her campaign promises and choose the best.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
A Growing Plea for Mercy for the Mentally Ill on Death Row - New York Times
The New York Times
November 23, 2006
A Growing Plea for Mercy for the Mentally Ill on Death Row
LIVINGSTON, Tex. - Scott Louis Panetti says he was drowned and electrocuted
as a child and that he was recently stabbed in the eye in his death row cell
by the devil. Mr. Panetti says he has wounds that were inflicted by demons
and healed by President
John F. Kennedy.
"The devil has been trying to rub me out to keep me from preaching," Mr.
Panetti, explaining why he faces execution, said in an interview from behind
glass in the Polunsky Unit here in East Texas, where condemned prisoners are
held before transfer to the death house 45 miles west in Huntsville.
Despite Mr. Panetti's obvious mental illness - he was a mental patient long
before he gunned down his in-laws in 1992 - he served as his own lawyer at
murder trial, throwing the courtroom into chaos with frequent gibberish. Now
the hyperactive and gangling Mr. Panetti, 48, has become an illustration of
the growing quandary over the application of a 1986 Supreme Court decision
barring execution of the insane.
The ruling appears to be limited to those without the capacity to understand
that they are about to be put to death and why. Whether Mr. Panetti fits
definition is a matter of dispute.
In an appeal to the Supreme Court that could affect the cases of other
mentally ill prisoners awaiting execution, Mr. Panetti's lawyers argue that
he has a "factual awareness" of his execution, he has a "delusional belief"
that it is unconnected to his crime, and that he should therefore be spared
The case of another mentally ill death row inmate, Guy T. LeGrande, who
represented himself and is scheduled to die Dec. 1 in Raleigh, N.C., is
its final state appeals, with his lawyers arguing that he, too, is
delusional, and that he hastened his execution by abandoning his defense.
Charged in the contract killing of a woman whose husband pleaded guilty to
plotting the murder and is serving life, Mr. LeGrande, 47, says he is
and was framed. He appeared in court in 1996 in a Superman T-shirt, cursed
the jurors as "Antichrists" and taunted them, "Pull the switch and let the
times roll." They took less than an hour to sentence him to death.
Experts and advocates in the field say the issue of executing the mentally
ill is the next frontier in death penalty law.
"This is an emerging issue," said Richard C. Dieter, executive director of
the Death Penalty Information Center, a research institute in Washington
opposes capital punishment.
Mr. Dieter cited the Panetti and LeGrande cases as gray areas in which "the
death penalty may be extreme punishment given their reduced culpability."
Franklin E. Zimring, a professor of law at the
University of California
, Berkeley, and author of "The Contradictions of American Capital
Punishment" (Oxford University Press, 2003), said there was something
"We assume people don't want to die," Mr. Zimring said. "But these are
defendants that call the legal system's bluff."
Concern over execution of the mentally disabled prompted the
American Bar Association
last August to join a widening chorus of professionals calling for a halt
to death sentences and executions for defendants with severe mental
that "significantly impaired" their rational judgment or capacity to
appreciate the wrongfulness of their conduct. The moratorium was endorsed
American Psychiatric Association
, the American Psychological Association and the National Alliance on Mental
The groups also opposed death sentences for prisoners with mental disorders
that impaired their ability to assist their lawyers and make rational
on their appeals. The Supreme Court has already barred execution for the
mentally retarded and for juveniles.
"An increasing percentage of people executed are people giving up their
appeals," said Ronald J. Tabak, a lawyer at the firm Skadden, Arps, Slate,
& Flom in Manhattan and a specialist in capital cases who led the bar
association's death penalty task force. "And of these, a significant
serious mental illness."
The Supreme Court's 1986 ruling, on a Florida case, Ford v. Wainwright, left
much unclear. Although no state permitted execution of the insane, the
affirmed that the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment
prohibited it. But they did not provide a standard for determining when
was competent enough to be executed.
In a concurring opinion later adopted as law by lower courts, Justice Lewis
F. Powell Jr. said it was enough "if the defendant perceives the connection
between his crime and the punishment." Justice Powell also said that the
Constitution "forbids the execution only of those who are unaware of the
they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it."
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that Mr.
Panetti had the requisite legal awareness. And the Texas attorney general,
Abbott, has argued that the execution, as yet unscheduled after having been
postponed in 2004, should proceed.
There is no dispute that Mr. Panetti is "profoundly mentally ill," his
lawyers Gregory W. Wiercioch, Keith S. Hampton and Michael C. Gross said in
seeking to overturn the Fifth Circuit ruling. In the decade before the
murders, they said, he was hospitalized 14 times in six institutions for
manic depression, auditory hallucinations and delusions of persecution.
Believing the devil was in his furniture, he buried it in the backyard, and
the devil was in the walls, he hallucinated that they were running with
On Sept. 8, 1992, Mr. Panetti, dressed in military fatigues and carrying a
sawed-off shotgun, a rifle and knives, invaded the Fredericksburg home where
his estranged wife, Sonja Alvarado, had taken refuge with her parents, Joe
and Amanda Alvarado. In front of his wife and their 3-year-old daughter,
as Birdie, he shot the Alvarados to death and took his wife and daughter
captive before releasing them unharmed and surrendering.
In 1994, a first jury deadlocked on his mental competency, but a second
found him able to stand trial.
Waiving legal counsel, Mr. Panetti represented himself, appearing in court
in cowboy garb and seeking to subpoena Jesus before deciding "he doesn't
a subpoena - he's right here with me." He attributed the killings to an
alter ego named Sarge Ironhorse and, testifying in Sarge's voice after
himself as a witness, recounted the killings:
"Sarge is gone. No more Sarge. Sonja and Birdie. Birdie and Sonja. Joe,
Amanda lying kitchen, here, there blood. No, leave. Scott, remember exactly
Sarge did. Shot the lock. Walked in the kitchen. Sonja, where's Birdie?
Sonja here. Joe, bayonet, door, Amanda. Boom, boom, blood, blood. Demons.
ha, ha, oh, lord, oh, you."
When Judge Stephen B. Ables tried to cut him off, Mr. Panetti said, "You
Mr. Panetti does appear to have moments of lucidity, and these disconcerted
the juries at his competency hearing and trial, planting suspicions that he
might have been faking.
"Not to make excuses," he said in the death row interview, "but when someone's
insane, they're insane."
Psychiatrists testified that schizophrenic patients often spoke
Asked in the interview if he understood he was on death row for crimes he
committed, Mr. Panetti said: "Certainly not. They are in a strong
They'll be undeceived by delusionment."
The New York Times Company
Posted by Miriam V.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
>>In Honor of Stupidity . . .
>>In case you needed further proof that the human race is doomed through
>>stupidity, here are some actual label instructions on consumer
>>On Tesco's Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom) -- "Do not turn upside
>>(well...duh, a bit late, huh!)
>>On Sainsbury's peanuts -- "Warning: contains nuts."
>>(talk about a news flash)
>>On Boot's Children Cough Medicine -- "Do not drive a car or operate
>>machinery after taking this medication."
>>(We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we
>>could just get those 5 year-olds with head-colds off those bulldozers.)
>>On Marks &Spencer Bread Pudding -- "Product will be hot after heating."
>>(...and you thought????...)
>>On a Sears hairdryer -- Do not use while sleeping.
>>(That's the only time I have to work on my hair.)
>>On a bag of Fritos -- You could be a winner! No purchase necessary.
>>(the shoplifter special?)
>>On a bar of Dial soap -- "Directions: Use like regular soap."
>>(and that would be???....)
>>On some Swanson frozen dinners -- "Serving suggestion: Defrost."
>>(but, it's only a suggestion.)
>>>>On packaging for a Rowenta iron -- "Do not iron clothes on body."
>>(but wouldn't this save me time?)
>>On Nytol Sleep Aid -- "Warning: May cause drowsiness."
>>(..I'm taking this because???....)
>>On most brands of Christmas lights -- "For indoor or outdoor use only."
>>(as opposed to what?)
>>On a Japanese food processor -- "Not to be used for the other use."
>>(now, somebody out there, help me on this. I'm a bit curious.)
>>On an American Airlines packet of nuts -- "Instructions: Open packet, eat
>>(Step 3: say what?)
>>On a child's Superman costume -- "Wearing of this garment does not enable
>>you to fly."
>>(I don't blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)
>>On a Swedish chainsaw -- "Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or
>>(Oh my God..was there a lot of this happening somewhere?)
Posted by Miriam V.
by Larry Beinhart
George Bush went to Vietnam. He was asked how that war compared to this war and his answer was, "We'll succeed unless we quit."
It is time to get serious about the history of the war in Vietnam. The failure to do so is part of what permits idiocies like this war.
The great myth, and it's clearly the myth that George Bush believes, is that the US lost the war in Vietnam because liberals, Hollywood actresses, hippies and CBS News subverted our will to fight.
That's not true.
We lost the war in Vietnam because we were fighting for something we could not achieve.
We were fighting to convince the Vietnamese to accept a variety of Western backed dictators, crooks, and cowboy colonels as their leaders. We were opposed by an idealistic, disciplined, organized and relative uncorrupt movement with a charismatic leader.
That was our goal in the conflict. It's not the reason we went to war.
We went to war because of a mythology.
It was a mythology very like the one that George Bush has created as the context for the War in Iraq.
Back then, we saw the world in bi-polar terms. The Free World vs. Communism.
Because the world was bi-polar we had to count anyone who was anti-Communist as good and support them. So dictators and juntas and mini-fascists all over the globe got to be counted as members of the Free World.
It also meant that all Communists had to be the enemy, and, indeed were part of a world that was united against. Any step forward for any one of them was a loss for us in the overall war.
It was clear that Vietnam could never invade the United States. They were no direct threat to us. Indeed, Ho Chi Minh expressed a great deal of admiration for the United States and offered friendship.
But we had to stop South Vietnam from going Communist because if we didn't lots of bad things would happen. All of South East Asia would fall like dominoes. After that, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Australia, India, and soon we would be surrounded and alone.
So we went to war. We fought for ten years. 58,000 Americans died.153,000 were wounded. At least 1,000,000 Vietnamese died.
Then we withdrew.
What happened? Was the vast Communist bloc strengthened?
Not exactly. Within five years, China went to war with Vietnam.
It was fairly short war. Vietnam won.
Meantime, Cambodia had been taken over by the Khmer Rouge. They were communists too, but too extreme for the Vietnamese. So Vietnam invaded Cambodia to get rid of Pol Pot and his madmen. That went on for nine years.
We continued to treat Vietnam as a pariah nation for twenty years.
Finally in 1995 we 'normalized relations.'
When George Bush got there in 2006 he found a Communist country. But a friendly one. Willing to do business. A great tourist destination.
In short, what he found, was what we could have had for the asking back in 1961. Or in 1947 for that matter.
It's easy to say that's 20-20 hindsight.
Could that have been known before we went to war in Vietnam?
The answer is that, yes, it could.
Was that known to the people in power, before we went to war? Or, if not then, early in the course of the war?
The answer to that is also yes.
Not, perhaps, with absolute certainty, but certainly it was known.
So why do we go ahead? Why were we trapped in the myths?
Not fear of communism. The fear on the part of our politicians of being called, "soft on Communism."
Both Kennedy and Johnson, at least at times, knew we couldn't win. Yet said they were afraid to be a president who "lost Vietnam." Then Richard Nixon came into power and lost Vietnam.
Nixon never got blamed for it. That's because he sort of owned the "soft on communism" franchise and he wasn't about to use it on himself.
Is this an argument that somehow we should not have fought Communism then and we should not fight terrorism or Islamo-fascism now or whatever else threatens us in the future?
No, it's not.
Actually, there were many places where we stood up to, subverted, or acted against the communists where we were very successful. And those countries are almost certainly better off for it.
Yet here's a real oddity. There are only five countries that remain Communist today: Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, Cuba and China.
We fought wars in the first three.
We should divide the Korean into two parts, two separate wars even. In the first part the North invaded the South and we entered the war to repel the invasion. That was very successful. In the second part, we invaded the North to make the whole country non-Communist. That was a great failure.
We backed an invasion of Cuba, we attempted numerous assassinations, and we have it embargoed to this day.
As for China, we backed the Nationalists against the Reds. Then we defended Taiwan (a success story) and tried to keep Red China isolated and ostracized.
Roughly speaking, the countries we fought the hardest are the ones that remain Communist today.
People will unite against a common enemy. Left to their own devices, they will, slowly, begin to question what's wrong with themselves.
The next lesson is this. Even if we agree to think of the War on Terror as something like the Cold War, we still have to think of the various battles one at a time. They are separate events and require separate responses.
The threat of force, as a deterrent, is extremely useful.
Actual force, going to war, is extremely good for repelling an invader and restoring a regime. It worked in South Korea. It worked when Saddam invaded Kuwait.
But actual force has it's limits. It's very dangerous to invade a country.
It can be done. But only if there's a viable replacement and we can get in and get out, as we did in Panama and Grenada.
But if we have to stay and put in or prop up a regime and become an occupying power, then it's a disaster.
But if there isn't one, it's Vietnam. Or Iraq.
There, very briefly, are some of the lessons that George Bush should have learned by comparing the two. The strictly practical ones, this does not address moral or legal issues.
Since he failed, the media which surrounds him should have done the job and pointed it out to us. Particularly since he failed. They were skeptical of him. They raised their eyebrows. Some even said quagmire. But they didn't attack the myths, the lies and the ignorance.
There are real threats in the world. But they need real solutions. Our guide to real solutions, is real history. Otherwise, we are led by panic and fear into stupidity.
by Lawrence O'Donnell
Charlie Rangel is angry about the Iraq war, the one that Henry Kissinger has told us we can't win. Thanks, Henry, but most Americans figured that out before you did. Rangel saw combat in Korea. Kissinger has only seen combat on TV. That might have something to do with why Kissinger thinks our troops should stay in Iraq even though we can't win.
Kissinger says that if we leave now, all hell will break loose and Iraq will never achieve stability. Never mind that all hell has already broken loose. Never mind that Kissinger said the same thing would happen if we left Vietnam--all hell would break loose and Vietnam would never achieve stability. Vietnam has become so stable that Presidents Clinton and Bush, both combat cowards during the Vietnam war, have made well publicized, utterly safe visits to the country Kissinger used to think didn't have a chance without us.
In my one conversation with Kissinger, which occurred on TV, I asked him if he knew anyone who got killed in Vietnam. He was completely thrown. He doesn't go on TV to be asked such small-minded questions, he goes on TV to pontificate and TV interviewers are happy to let him do it. Kissinger sputtered and ran away from the question, leaving the distinct impression that he did not know anyone who was killed in the war he managed. His memoir of the period does not mention a single casualty. If you have ever stood at the Vietnam Memorial and run your hand over the name of a relative on the wall, as my mother and I did last month, you can get as angry as Charlie Rangel does about people like Kissinger deciding how long our soldiers should be exposed to enemy fire in a war we know we can't win.
Rangel announced on Sunday that he wants to reinstate the draft. He said the same thing a few years ago but quickly let on that he wasn't serious. He's playing it straight this time and has already introduced a bill. Local New York TV news has given Rangel saturation coverage. You can see his anger and frustration building each time he answers another reporter's question about the draft. The point he keeps repeating is: "There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way."
Rangel could never get such attention to that message without introducing his bill. Nancy Pelosi should let it come to a vote. She should let the House debate the draft. Let the Republicans give speeches listing all the good reasons why we should have a volunteer Army. But let's hear Rangel's speech about how the burden of war is not fairly shared in this country. Let's get America thinking about exactly who is being left in the line of fire in the war Americans have turned against and know we can't win. Let's get America thinking about John Kerry's line about Vietnam--who is going to be the last soldier to die for a mistake? A real debate on the draft will do that. Don't worry, the bill has no chance of passing.
Well over 95% of Americans, including Congress and White House staff, have no personal connection to this war--no relative or friend serving in Iraq. Over 99% of us have made no sacrifice for this war--we have not paid one more penny of taxes nor shed a drop of family blood. One of my military relatives thinks of it this way: "The American military is at war, but America is not at war."
Advocating war is easier when you and your family are not endangered by it. I've reached a Rangel-like breaking point with my TV pundit colleagues who championed the Iraq war and now say we can't leave even if we went there for the wrong reasons. For every one of them, I have a simple question: Why aren't you in Iraq? Or why did you avoid combat in your generation's war? The one unifying characteristic that all of us men in make-up on political chat shows share is fear of combat. Every one of us has done everything we can to avoid combat or even being fitted for a military uniform. Just like George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Dick Cheney, we are all combat cowards. It takes a very special kind of combat coward to advocate combat for others. It's the kind of thing that can get you as angry as Charlie Rangel.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
by Peter Daou
Hate merchants: Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Coulter, Beck, Savage, Ingraham and their ilk poison the airwaves and do the GOP's dirty work. Why are they given a platform by the media? And with so many right-wing liberal-bashers, why do reporters feel the need to pile on? Jamison Foser tackles the second question:
"Given the magnitude of the Republicans' loss, we might expect the journalists and pundits who have so mercilessly mocked Democrats as bumblers and fools, the political equivalent of the Washington Generals, to turn their snide comments and patronizing jokes on the GOP. With Karl Rove apparently wandering around in a daze, wondering what the hell happened, surely his spectacularly incompetent reading of the electorate has earned him months, if not years, of ridicule by the likes of Norah O'Donnell, Chris Matthews, and Mark Halperin.
We all know how the pundits would chortle if Democrats took an electoral thumpin', then responded by elevating their most liberal members to the party leadership. We'd hear how their policies and their demeanor were anathema to "real Americans" -- and how their reaction to defeat shows just how clueless these effete liberals are.
But those waiting for similar treatment of the GOP at the hands of the nation's political reporters and pundits shouldn't hold their breath. It isn't coming.
Over at The Note, ABC's political tipsheet and unofficial headquarters of the Rove/Mehlman Fan Club, Halperin & Co. have given no indication that they've removed the pictures of their hero Karl from their wall.
In eight editions of The Note since the Thumpin', its authors steadfastly avoid Rove's miscalculation; indeed, his name barely appears, except in passing. Is it because they like him too much? Because they remain in awe of his genius even as he loses? Or is it because undermining that genius could hurt sales of Halperin's mash note of a book, The Way to Win?
The political media aren't becoming more responsible; they're simply continuing to direct their scorn at Democrats and progressives. Just this week, media have hyped purported Democratic disarray while downplaying or ignoring altogether GOP infighting; falsely suggested that Nancy Pelosi is as unpopular as President Bush; asserted that Democrats -- who do not yet actually control Congress and won't until next year -- are "starting to feel some of the pressure" of catching Osama bin Laden without explaining how Bush and the GOP let him get away; and suggested that Nancy Pelosi, who hasn't even become speaker of the House yet, is already "damaged goods."
Meanwhile, Trent Lott, who has as good a claim on being "damaged goods" as anyone, is the beneficiary of a media whitewash of his history of associating himself with racist organizations and ideas. Fox News, not typically known for subtlety or for downplaying controversy, told viewers that Lott "ran into a little bit of difficulty, but now he's making a comeback." Yes, that unpleasantness about his suggestion that America would be better off had a segregationist been elected president is behind him, and Lott is now ready, we presume, to act as a uniter, not a divider. Right....
And it's only going to get worse, as anyone who remembers the media's behavior during the Clinton-Gore era can tell you. The media that treated Bill Clinton's haircut as a bigger story than George W. Bush's avoidance of both the draft and his obligations to the National Guard is most certainly not going to react to the public's strong preference for progressive policies and leaders by treating them more accurately than they have in recent years.
Digby told it like it is:
There are no honeymoons for Democrats. Remember that. And "moral authority" is about haircuts and Hollywood, not torture and illegal wars. It is not merely a fight against the Republicans or a fight over politics and policy. It is a non-stop battle with the press to cover events with seriousness and responsibility. For some reason, when Democrats are in power the press corps immediately goes from being merely shallow to insufferable, sophomoric assholes.
No, it will only get worse. Matt Drudge rules their world, after all. And the Republican National Committee rules Drudge's world. The media's commitment to believing that they hold those in power accountable (if not to actually doing so) coupled with the Right's success in browbeating journalists into doing their bidding, will lead to all-too-predictable results. Don't take our word for it; here's former Washington Post reporter William Powers, writing for the National Journal:
Journalists are more aggressive under Democratic rule. This doesn't jibe with the stereotype of reporters as liberals, but it's the stereotype that winds up undermining itself. When Democrats are in power, there's a huge incentive for reporters not to appear too sympathetic and thereby confirm the old liberal-bias charge. Thus, despite the friendly coverage we're seeing in this honeymoon period, the Democratic restoration will eventually produce tougher coverage than we saw of the GOP Congress, as media outlets strive to prove that they aren't soft on the Democrats.
by Jesse Jackson
When American families gather to give thanks this week, all of us should say a prayer for the young men and women putting their lives at risk in Iraq and Afghanistan and serving in Bosnia and hundreds of other bases across the world. They are of all races and creeds. Some come from proud military families with generations of service. Some are new Americans, whose families have only recently come to this country. In Iraq and Afghanistan, their duty is hazardous and difficult. They deserve our thanks and respect.
They have served with courage and honor, but have been deeply misled by their leaders. They are stuck in a catastrophic occupation in Iraq. Even the political generals, like Gen. John Abizaid, who have learned to trim their views to fit the White House's needs, now say we have only ''four to six months'' before the civil war already under way spins out of control. More objective analysts say it is already out of control, with death squads murdering and kidnapping hundreds each day, ethnic cleansing taking place from the Kurdish region in the north to the Shiite areas of the south, and Baghdad a bloody gangland, with private militias splitting into rival tongs.
In the midst of this disaster, its architects are abandoning ship. The very neoconservative ideologues who lobbied for this war of choice even before Bush came to office, who wanted to invade Iraq even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, are bailing out. These are the zealots who eagerly promoted exiles like Ahmed Chalabi to propagate lies about Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons programs. These are the pundits who filled the op-ed pages and radio and TV shows with lies about Hussein's connections with al-Qaida. They were so intent on launching this war that they were prepared to prey on American fears and mislead the country into war. It would be, as Kenneth Adelman said, a ''cakewalk.'' We would be greeted as liberators. Democracy would break out in what they painted as a secular Iraq, then sweep the region.
Now they rush to disavow any responsibility. Adelman is shocked to see that ''there are lots of lives that are lost.'' He now blames the leaders of the administration that he once adored: ''This didn't have to be managed this bad. It's just awful.'' Richard Perle, a leader of the Chalabi lobby, now says that he didn't realize the invasion would lead to an occupation. The occupation, he says, ''was a foolish thing to do.'' He apparently thought the troops could just overthrow a dictator and democracy would follow as dawn follows night. It's a problem of execution, according to Joshua Muravchik, the neocon publicist, who lays the blame on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Besides, he now writes, few neocons actually served in the Bush administration, and our ''woes in Iraq'' may be ''traced to the conduct of the war rather than the decision to undertake it.''
Now the American people have begun to understand the scope of the fiasco. They went to the polls to demand a change in course in Iraq. Bush dismissed Rumsfeld, leader of the neocons, and brought in the pros -- James Baker, Robert Gates -- from his father's administration. They, with the new Democratic leadership in the Congress, will have the impossible task of trying to extricate America, with as little damage as possible, from the mess the neocons got us into.
So the neocons are positioning themselves to blame the mess on those left to clean it up. Soon they will be filling the op-ed pages with cries of being betrayed, and with calls for a new military adventure, packaged once more with deceptions and distortions. America will have squandered priceless lives and, in the end, over one trillion dollars on their folly. But the neocons will learn nothing. They will lose nothing. The only question is whether the rest of us will know better the next time.
Our soldiers are still at risk. Many believe in their cause. Many understand the situation is out of control. They follow their orders; they put their lives on the line. They deserve our deepest thanks for their heroism. To honor them, we must not fail to hold accountable those that misled them and us into this catastrophe.
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