Blog Archive

Sunday, February 29, 2004
A Neocon Reader
or
Bedtime for Bonzos
A drop-dead expose!
 
The idea that some of the major Neocon players might be "dual loyalists" has been around for a while, although it's generally been balanced by the idea that one should not rush to over-read what simply might be staunch advocacies of Israeli concerns. This report puts an end to this question. With fact after fact after fact and covering a span of thirty-five years, Stephen Green paints the professional resumes of key Neocons repeatedly compromising or being suspected of compromising U.S. national security interests in favor of those of Israel. Green changes the question from one of dual loyalist or straunch advocate to one of dual loyalist or outright spy.

Consider Stephen Bryen, under investigation for espionage (for Israel) in 1979 and subverting technology transfer rules (for Israel) in 1988, only to find himself in 2001 on a commission to investigate illegal technology transfer (by Israel) to China.

Or consider Michael Ledeen, who in the mid-80's was classified by official CIA documents as an "agent of influence" of Israel. Michael, it seems, has a long history of discomforting his co-workers by hanging around when documents he wasn't cleared to see were present and even asking for those documents by the classified names of then he was not even supposed to know.

And then there are the principles, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith, who have not avoided their own investigations and keep bringing both Bryen and Ledeen back in. At every turn, all of these men seem to be under investigation for some sort of security breach or illegal technology transfer. At every turn, they seem to be losing their Top Secret access. And at every turn, they seem to be conspiring with each other to regain that Top Secret access. But most of all, they all have that access now, and until Richard Perle's resignation last week, they were all employed by or consult to the Bush administration's defense policy apparatus.

A lengthy but alarming expose. Don't miss it!


From Mother Jones:
The Lie Factory
"Feith-based intelligence"
 
Only weeks after 9/11, the Bush administration set up a secret Pentagon unit to create the case for invading Iraq. Headed by Douglas Feith under the leadership of Paul Wolfowitz, the unit set about it's task of "proving" what did not exist.
Both Wolfowitz and Feith have deep roots in the neoconservative movement. One of the most influential Washington neo- conservatives in the foreign-policy establishment during the Republicans' wilderness years of the 1990s, Wolfowitz has long held that not taking Baghdad in 1991 was a grievous mistake. He and others now prominent in the administration said so repeatedly over the past decade in a slew of letters and policy papers from neoconservative groups like the Project for the New American Century and the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Feith, a former aide to Richard Perle at the Pentagon in the 1980s and an activist in far-right Zionist circles, held the view that there was no difference between U.S. and Israeli security policy and that the best way to secure both countries' future was to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem not by serving as a broker, but with the United States as a force for "regime change" in the region.

More Karen Kwiatkowski:
Pygmalion, Neocon-Style
Did I mention that Karen Kwiatkowski doesn't think much of Neocons?
Chalabi, if I may interpret, means to say that words and facts have no intrinsic value, but only instrumental value, as a means to an end. Words don't have to mean anything, and facts exist only to be described in such a way to ensure we get what we want. For neocons and other pre-logic humans, getting what one wants is the only thing that matters.

In fact, like three-year-olds, neocon "thought processes are characterized by great awareness; yet these islands of sophistication exist in a sea of uncertainty. Children during this period still understand relatively little about the world in which they live and have little or no control over it. They are prone to fears and they combat their growing self-awareness of being small by wishful, magical thinking."

Hanging around people like this, and getting his policy advice from them, it's no wonder Secretary Higgins, er, Rumsfeld is often confused about what we know, don't know, think we know, think we don't know, and know we don't think we know. Don't get me started with what we know now, and what we now know we don't know.

Washington Post: Letter
The Fed Chief's Terse Talk
 
Harry Holzer, chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor in 1999, has a longer memory than Alan Greenspan.
Does Alan Greenspan have amnesia? More than 20 years ago he co-chaired a commission to ensure the solvency of Social Security. That commission recommended stiff increases in the payroll tax to create a surplus that would help fund the retirement of baby boomers down the road. The higher payroll taxes, which put a heavy burden on lower-to-middle income taxpayers, were signed into law and remain in effect to this day.

But in 2001 Mr. Greenspan endorsed a fiscally irresponsible income tax cut that effectively gives away the Social Security surplus he created primarily to high-income taxpayers. Now he suggests that those tax cuts be made permanent, while we reduce the enormous deficits that they've created only through cuts in spending, especially on Social Security.

In other words, first Greenspan decides that the low and middle classes should be taxed to create a surplus to insure their future Social Security benefits. Then he decides to give that surplus away to the rich, and that the low and middle classes shouldn't really have those benefits after all.

And the Republicans are crying about wealth re-distribution? What the heck is taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich?



And hey! Did you hear Bob Novak on the Sunday morning squawks? It's "morally reprehensible" for him and his wife to receive Social Security payments. Really, Bob? So what does that make you when you cash those checks? Morally reprehensible? Or did that happen when you outted Valerie Plame?
The shorter Tom Friedman:
 
Outsourcing can be a good thing. Really. Some kids in India told me so.
Justice Antonin Scalia went duck hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney in January, just weeks after the Supreme Court accepted an important case involving Mr. Cheney. There were widespread calls on Justice Scalia to recuse himself, which he refused. Now it turns out that Justice Scalia accepted free air travel from Mr. Cheney, making the case for recusal far stronger. And there are reports of questionable contacts between Justice Scalia and another person with a case before him. In the interest of justice, and of the court's reputation, Justice Scalia should step aside in Mr. Cheney's case.

The Supreme Court has accepted Mr. Cheney's appeal of a lower-court order requiring him to reveal some of the people who appeared before his secret energy task force in 2001. With the appeal pending, Justice Scalia went duck hunting with Mr. Cheney and accepted free rides for himself and his daughter on Air Force Two. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that two years ago, Justice Scalia went pheasant hunting as a guest of the dean of the University of Kansas Law School. Two weeks later, the dean appeared before the Supreme Court, representing the State of Kansas in a prison case.

The law says a federal judge must recuse himself in proceedings where his "impartiality might be questioned." What matters, the Supreme Court has held, is not the reality of bias, but its appearance. By vacationing in a small group with Mr. Cheney and taking things of value, Justice Scalia created an appearance of bias in Mr. Cheney's favor. The Kansas trip is less clear-cut because it was with a lawyer, not a party to a lawsuit. But it still raises an appearance of partiality (the lawyer for the other side in the case would certainly have had reason to feel disadvantaged) and should have been avoided.

Recusal rules protect not only litigants, but also the court itself. Justice Scalia's actions have again made the court fodder for late-night comedy, as it was after the 2000 election. If Justice Scalia stays on the case and votes in Mr. Cheney's favor, the court will no doubt face more criticism. Justice Scalia should recuse himself, either of his own volition or with the encouragement of his colleagues.

The New York Times errs here when it speaks of recusal rules. In fact, there are no recusal rules for the Supreme Court, and there can never be. Recusal rules can only be tested by a higher court, and since their is no higher court that the Supreme Court, recusal is legally irrelevant for a Supreme Court justice. He or she simply cannot be challenged for a refusal to recuse.

This is of course another reason for our caution in appointing Supreme Court justices. If they do not choose to act by the legally-accepted rules of recusal, there is nothing short of impeachment that we can do about it. Scalia indeed should be impeached (and should never have been confirmed to begin with), but how can that process even begin to be addressed in a Congress that is so politicaly biased?

Saturday, February 28, 2004
Oh, my God!
 

 
A pageful of interesting links on religion (click on the graphics above) based on a BBC survey of the religious beliefs of 10,000 people from around the globe. Topics include:The BBC's special report on this will be rebroadcast on their World Service Radio on Sunday, February 29th at 1306GMT [ Real, Windows ]. You can also link to seven summary charts of their survey's results.
Iranian radio: bin Laden captured "a long time ago"
 
Perhaps nothing, but this is something that many have anticipated for a long time. It's easy to say, "Consider the source," but it is equally easy to say, "Consider the source" of the denials.

Booga booga. Big bad mostly mythical al-Qaeda will strike soon, probably in September. It all depends on how well the Dems do against Bush. ...

But maybe it won't be a terrorist attack. Maybe it will be Osama or a Osama double delivered on the eve of the election, just so the numbers line up right and the Neocon Master Plan can move forward.

Nimmo recalls some Republican election antics from the past, and concludes, "these goons will do anything to win an election."
Oh my God! Terrorists everywhere!
BOSTON (Reuters) - The chairman of American International Group Inc., the world's largest insurer by market value, on Tuesday called lawyers opposed to tort reform "terrorists" and said class-action lawsuits are a "blight" on the United States.

AIG Chairman Maurice "Hank" Greenberg's remarks came a day after U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige sparked an uproar when he called the nation's largest teachers' union a "terrorist organization" during a meeting with U.S. governors. The White House said he later apologized.

In remarks to business executives in Boston, Greenberg likened the battle over reforming class-action litigation to the White House's "war on terror." AIG insures corporations against multibillion-dollar claims of damages in asbestos lawsuits, for example.

"It's almost like fighting the war on terrorists," Greenberg told Boston College's Chief Executives' Club. "I call the plaintiff's bar terrorists."

And I thought it was only the teachers.
Ray McGovern:
No Skunks Allowed
 
Not all of the pre-war intelligence on Iraq was wrong. In fact, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) did a pretty good job at figuring out which claims didn't make the grade. So why were they disinvited from the Senate Intelligence Committee's worldwide threat assessment briefing (Tuesday, Feb. 24) for the first time since those briefings began? Ray McGovern, co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, points to Committee Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan):
Roberts and his Republican colleagues decided to preclude the possibility that some recalcitrant senator might ask why INR was able to get it right on Iraq when everyone else was wrong.
In other words, the INR might actually say something at the briefing that might embarass the administration.

This is actually pretty astonishing when you think about it. This is an annual briefing, presumably to provide background needed to guide this committee's work in the coming year. One would think then that the committee would want as thorough a briefing as possible, and that would require the inclusion of the INR. What Chairman Roberts has effectively done then is to place national security concerns second behind protecting the President's backside.

And this is the party that claims to be tough on defense? Tough on defending Bush's image perhaps, but the rest of us? We're only second.

This is dynamite! You MUST see it.
 
This is 28 minutes of Karen Kwiatkowski laying it all bare. To clip a few words would not do it justice. There would have to be too many. Lots of name-dropping.

Just one clip: "Reality has never been a constraint" to Neoconservatives. "A parasitic entity." "They are not the kind of people that America as a nation is proud of."

[NOTE: My link above is high bandwidth. If you are on dial-up, you might want this link instead.]

Friday, February 27, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle:
Why can't they vote?
 
Disenfranchisement by any name is disenfranchisement:
Few people realize that voting rights are left up to the states -- a legacy of the South's post-Civil War effort to prohibit newly freed slaves from voting.

California's voting laws, however, are relatively liberal compared to the 14 states that permanently bar ex-felons from voting and the 29 states that prevent criminals from voting while on probation. Only two states -- Maine and Vermont -- follow the European pattern of allowing all inmates and ex-convicts to vote.

You're probably thinking this has nothing to do with you. But you would be wrong. It could affect your troubled teenager. As New York defense attorney Andrew Shapiro has noted, "An 18-year-old first-time offender who trades a guilty plea for a nonprison sentence may unwittingly sacrifice forever his right to vote."

Felony disenfranchisement is an abomination. Racist in its roots, its supporters today, afraid to state that motivation, resort to agruments that border on ("It's part of the punishment.") and often cross the line of absurdity ("Well, murderers might vote to legalize murder!").
  • "It's part of the punishment." ~ But isn't the threat of punishment supposed to be the deterrent? Has anyone ever not committed a crime because they feared losing their right to vote?

  • "Well, murderers might vote to legalize murder!" ~ So what? How can anyone entertain the sillyness that murders will ever have enough votes to elect a pro-murder candidate?
The fact of the matter is that felony convictions rates among blacks are far higher than among whites. And yes, blacks do commit more crimes per capita than whites, but that is because on a per capita basis, they are simply poorer. When race is removed as a factor, income level proves to be a far greater predictor of felony conviction rates. And poor people tend to vote Democratic.

The bottom line on felony disenfranchisement is that it is a tool being used by the Republican Party to lower opposition voting. Let's call a spade a spade.

[From Black Box Notes.]

The Progressive weighs in:
Alan Greenspan Has Got to Go
Alan Greenspan's got a lot of nerve.

Instead of excoriating Bush for running up a $521 billion deficit, instead of demanding an end to the tax giveaways to the rich, which will bloat the deficit for years to come, Greenspan says slash Social Security and Medicare, and make the poor and the middle class suffer.

The class bias of the Fed chief could not be more clear.

And the Social Security "threat" is garbage too!
Paul Krugman:
The Trade Tightrope
 
Krugman of course is an economist first and an Op-Ed writer second, and that means he saw the Economics 101 argument for free trade and liked it enough to make economics a career. As such, I've always been a bit wary of him when it gets to free trade. It's pretty easy to do the math that shows free trade as good; it's a lot different to present the math for its harms.

As expected, Krugman is too cautious regarding protectionism here for my tastes, but he does make one quite essential point: Up to now, the public defenders of free trade have been making their defense strictly from the economics viewpoint, largely ignoring the political side. Krugman's point is that it is in the total interest of the free traders to fully address the political side, because if they don't, polititians will, and that will not be good for the free traders' cause.

Wise caution, but will they get it?

[The NY Times arcives ($) it's articles. A permanent link is here.]

E. J. Dionne Jr. is ...
Grateful to Greenspan
... but I'm not.
Leave it to Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan to stir the political pot. Theoretically above politics, Greenspan has more influence on the political class than almost any human being, presidents -- perhaps -- excepted. This week Greenspan did something no Democrat could do: He made Social Security an issue in the 2004 election.
Sure, Social Security needs to be looked at, but is this really a good thing to draw into this election? To my mind, I simply don't want George Bush anywhere near this issue, and I certainly don't want him bringing a $100+ million war chest to the issue.

Dionne well places the issues on this: If we are going to keep these outrageous tax cuts, Social Security as we know it is out the door. The problem is that this is not what Greenspan said. Greenspan acted as if the two were separate issues, and the Bush campaign will use its money to promote that quite rediculous spin.

Dionne sees this as a good wedge issue for the Democrats and it well should be. Are we willing to trade the retirements of the poor and middle class for the benefit of the rich? Classic class warfare.

And that's the problem. Today's Democratic Party hasn't figured out how to fight the class warfare fight yet. And if they fight it poorly here, we might as well just carve the tombstone for our social safety net.

Bob Herbert:
Bliss and Bigotry
 
Herbert writes a very sensitive piece on the issue of gay marriage, concluding:
The opponents of gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. The interests of civilization are not served by driving mature love underground. And the interests of the United States, which is supposed to be the quintessence of a free society, are not served by enshrining bigotry in law.
I've actually been quite surprised by how this issue is developing. I've been listening to a lot of people talking about this, and I've been amazed at how many people "get it." They "get" the fact that this does not belong in the Constitution; that the Constitution is about granting rights and not removing them. They "get" the fact that that this is about discrimination; that the "illegal" marriages in San Francisco (and elsewhere) aren't any different than when Rosa Parks decided to sit in the front of the bus.

George Bush wants a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He wants to place a hard limit on the equal protection clause of our Constitution, the very clause he himself invoked in Bush v. Gore. George Bush doesn't get it.

But that thing about the Constitution granting rights? I heard that from a 10-year old. And that comparison to Rosa Parks? The little girl who said that was eight. People are getting it because it really is that simple. Simple enough for children to understand.

UPDATE: Charles Krauthammer doesn't get it either, but Richard Cohen does.

A good year to be rich:
Billionaires bounce back
Economy, euro fatten net worths
 
Fun facts:
  1. Bill Gates netted a cool $5.3 billion last year, mere peanuts next to Warren Buffett's $12.4 billion take home, but he's still several billion ahead of Warren as the world's richest person.

  2. The sixth thru tenth richest people are all tied at $20 billion, but that's OK because it's all in the family: The Walton Family.

  3. There are 587 billionaires around the world, 111 more than there was last year. Half of these new billionaires are simply returning to the billionaires list after previously falling off.

  4. Three billionaires are currently in jail, two in Russia and one in Japan.
Lot's more fun facts here or check out the whole list of the world's richest people. Or you can just check out George's rich friends in Texas.
 
... the higher hustlers, in search of easy money ...Chris Floyd:
Why did George W. Bush insist -- with such fanatical certainty, despite the well-established, clearly-stated doubts of his own intelligence services -- that Saddam Hussein was hoarding a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction? Why the insistence on this pathological disassociation from reality, which led directly to the death of thousands of innocent people? Why did he tell such lies, such cynical lies, such horrible lies, lies dripping blood, lies breeding more lies like rats on a plague ship?

That's easy -- his family was making money from it.

"The nature of the customer doesn't matter -- king, communist, nazi, sheikh, warlord, poobah -- it all comes down to this: Are they open for business?"
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Unlike others, I don't really mind Nader's entry into the Presidential race, and even understand why he did so when he did. What I don't understand is why he didn't do something else instead.

I don't think Nader has an icicle's chance in hell of influencing the election. Either Bush's $100+ million war chest will baffle voters into submission or voters will be so fed up with Bush that a billion dollars won't save him. Everyone's predicting a close election, but I don't think so. I think it will be a wipe-out. I just haven't figured out yet who will win. Which gets me to my point on Nader.

Nader could have gotten into this a long time ago, and he could have gotten into this in a most effective way: He could have campaigned for Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich's platform is essentially the same as Nader's; removing corporate control of Washington. Why didn't Nader just come out for Kucinich? No, Nader's endorsement wouldn't have "made" Kucinich's campaign, but it might have propelled Kucinich into the national convention with a bit more bargaining power.

I don't buy into that garbage about Nader's ego. To me, that's nothing but more media spin. What I think instead is that Nader can simply not stand to work within a two-party system. If he could, he could have been effective during this election. Because he can't, he will disappear within a few news cycles. Too bad.

While we're at it, the
Federal Marriage Amendment
As long as we're going to do it, let's do it right
  1. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5.)

  2. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

  3. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

  4. Marriage between a believer and a nonbeliever shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

  5. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

  6. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen. 38:6-10; Deut25:5-10)
So it is written.
A few additional comments on Sistani's threat:
  • The history of Iraq is public knowledge. It is an artificial country created by the British back in the 20's. It has never held a single unifying identitiy since then. It has always held it's three major religions as above it's own nationalism. Anyone entering this country as we did was going to run into the exact unresolved issue that we have. That the Neocons could not see this (or simply did not wish to) places as suspect every thought they have and every word they say.

    These people are not sparsely educated. Indeed, most have benefited from their educations at the finest universities in the world. They have been priviledged over others to listen in their training to some of the finest minds in the world. I say this as an Ivy League graduate myself. These people were taught by the finest minds in the world.

    I mention my own education not as a boast. Even thirty years later, I consider it an honor to have even been allowed among these great minds. I mention it rather for contrast: How did these people who had that same honor bestowed upon them turn out so very different? After all, we listened back then to the same brilliant people. We just heard different words. How can that be?

    These people are ideologues. Given access to the education I recieved, they filtered all of it through their own preconceived notions of truth. The benefits of their access to these great thinkers was muted by their unwillingness to actually hear what they were saying.

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

  • The idea that democracy (at least in its American form) could ever take hold in Iraq was insanity from its start. Democracy requires an educated population, and as much as some Iraqis have been given quality educations, this is not the norm. Most education in Iraq is found though religious elders. That is not bad per se; some education is better than none. The problem is that this is just not condusive to democracy. What it is condusive of is theocracy, and this is what Iraq will become.

    It is all well and nice to wish this to not be the case, but the fact is that it is. A theocracy is what Iraq will become because it has no other option. When it does, our troops will die in droves.

    To date, it is the Sunnis who are fighting us. If the Shi'ites join as Sistani has said, we simply do not have the force levels necessary to prevent our own slaughter. We will be forced to either withdraw, or enter into what we faced in Vietnam: An endless war of occupation that we cannot win.

  • Most of the Neocons began as war hawk Democrats. They moved to the Republican party because it was more conducive to their war hawking.

    We have an election coming up. We have a "gay" issue being forced upon us by a Bush team that cannot run upon their own dismal record. We have an economic situation that this administration wishes to ignore in its own denials. And we have Iraq.

    Go figure.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
The Prince of Darkness
Richard Perle Resigns
Controversial Figure Quits Advisory Panel Post
A controversial associate of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has resigned from his seat on a key Pentagon advisory panel, ABCNEWS has learned.

Richard Perle, a lightning rod for critics of the Bush administration's national security policies, informed Rumsfeld more than two weeks ago he was quitting the Defense Policy Board. He confirmed the decision in a letter to the defense chief last Wednesday.

"We are now approaching a long presidential election campaign, in the course of which issues on which I have strong views will be widely discussed and debated," Perle wrote. "I would not wish those views to be attributed to you or the President at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign."

What this means, I'm not sure. Perhaps it is simply a Rovian distancing. After all, we must focus on the queers.
Get out of Iraq!
 
It wasn't on any of the news services when I first reported this (below), but here it is:
Iraqi Shiite Leader Seyyid Ali Al-Sistani yesterday warned that he would call for an intifada (uprising) if American soldiers stayed in Iraq after the handover of power on June 30, 2004. He also insisted that there should be a significant role for the Shiite in the future administration of the country, as they make up the majority of the population.

Sistani spoke to the German magazine Der Spiegel and said: "The U.S. presence in Iraq should not be prolonged. The Iraqi public knows how to act. If the U.S. presence is drawn out longer than necessary, I will call for an intifada." The necessary posters reportedly have already been printed and are awaiting distribution to every corner of the country.

Remember, you heard it first here on Benedict! And remember too the 14 million marchers just a year ago, trying to warn these idiots that they didn't know what they were doing!

[Thanks to Norm Jenson at American Samizdat for the link.]

So says a "political pit bull" and "a foot soldier" for
Attorney General John Ashcroft     . . . of course
Viet Dinh has been called a "political pit bull" and "a foot soldier" for Attorney General John Ashcroft. But the 36-year-old author of the Patriot Act prefers to be called an "attendant of freedom."

In May 2001, the professor of law at Georgetown University was tapped by the Justice Department to work for two years as an assistant attorney general, working primarily on judicial nominations for the department. But three months later the World Trade Center towers collapsed, and Dinh was drafted to work on the USA Patriot Act, a bill that would give the government some of its most controversial surveillance powers. The bill, coupled with the government's subsequent treatment of immigrants and native-born citizens, prompted critics to charge the administration with overthrowing "800 years of democratic tradition."

Now, Viet Dinh is hardly a dumb man. Obviously from Vietnam, he got his law degree from Harvard, but I think he's kind of stuck on some sort of Southeast Asian concept of "freedom", a concept quite different from mine. This one best characterizes Dinh's denial:
  • To the claim that 5,000 people have been detained using the Patriot Act with only five being actually charged under it and only one conviction, he responds that the number is probably closer to 500. Wonderful. Apparently it is OK to arrest 100 people for each person actually charged. Viet Dinh justifies all of the rest of these as anticipatory fishing expeditions.
Keep the tax cuts,
 The poor can eat cake
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testifies before the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. CHARLES DHARAPAK, AP
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, stepping into the politically charged debate over Social Security, said Wednesday the country can't afford the benefits currently promised to the baby boom generation.

He urged Congress to trim those benefits to get control of soaring budget deficits, which he said threatened a "very debilitating" rise in interest rates in coming years. ...

The central bank chairman also repeated his view that Bush's tax cuts should be made permanent to bolster economic growth. He said the estimated $1 trillion cost should be paid for, preferably, with spending cuts so the deficit would not be worsened.

See also:
Iraq: Call to rebel?
Cleric sets June 30th as final pull-out date
 
Via the Marianne Williamson Show: Dennis Kucinich has reportedly informed Marianne that a major Iraqi cleric has indicated that a full pull-out of U.S. troops there must occur by June 30th or he will call for a full-scale rebellion by the Iraqi people.

Note: I have been unable to confirm this by any other source. Officially (via Defenselink), the June 30th date applies only to the return of Iraqi sovereignty, and that Iraqis favor a continued U.S. troop presense beyond that date.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Crumbs to Angels
Being a fairly obscure blogger can get lonely from time to time. I've been encouraged of late however. Over the last three months, my visit count has doubled and I've picked up a few more "regulars". Thanks to those of you who have "signed on" to both Benedict@Large and Black Box Notes.

A lot of all of this increase in visits has come from a few selected "big bear" bloggers who have featured some of my articles recently. A special thanks to them. It's hard to get noticed, and so they are my angels for this.

My crumbs? For those of you who visit regularly, take a few minutes to visit "my angels" if you don't do so already:

Give these folks a checkout. They'll know you linked from here. Just my way of throwing crumbs to angels.
A Pair on the Prince of Darkness:

 
Jude offers an introduction to a Pat Buchanan review of Richard Perle's book, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror.
When Richard Perle and his neo-con henchman David Frum decided to write a book about "How to Win the War on Terror," they knew they been successful in persuading President Bush to go to war with Iraq. As their manuscript went to the publisher, it was clear the US-led coalition forces had won a quick and easy victory over Saddam Hussein. All that was left was some mopping up, installing their buddy Ahmad Chalabi as Saddam's successor, and then move on to the next war against the "axis of evil." But by the time the book arrived in the bookstores, it was even clearer that the war they and their Cabal had cooked up was a total mess, with no end in sight to either Iraq's miseries or to the costs to America in blood and treasure. Whoops!
Buchanan's quite negative review does come somewhat late, but Jude's observation is quite on target. When Perle wrote the book, he was riding high. Now with the Iraq situation in shambles, Perle's urgings seem much more the ravings of the madman he is.

 
AntiWar.com takes a look at some of Richard Perle's more recent activities: putting down the CIA, speaking before a a terrorist group, and agitating for a war with Iran. The man has dug himself a hole, and he seems to think that his only choice is to continue to dig.

Keep digging, Rick. I'll pick out the headstone.

From Nathan Newmann:
  • Journalists Views on Trade to Change? ~ This should make the debate on outsourcing a bit more interesting. It seems that Reuters news service has decided to outsource some of its routine business analysis to India.

    Imagine that. Now even reporters are being outsourced.

'Positive thinking' can be a route to spiritual and political disaster
 
Karen Armstrong, arguably the most talented writer on religion today, addresses the consequences of using "positive thinking" to avoid our fears.
At a literary festival, where I had been describing the fear that lies at the heart of religious fundamentalism, a man in the audience told me that he found this quite incomprehensible. If you have true faith, he argued, you cannot suffer. I suggested that if he lived in a more troubled part of the world ..., he might find it more difficult to maintain his equanimity. But he seemed to regard religion as an anaesthetic that would even numb the pain of a concentration camp.

This is lazy, inadequate religion. ...

A very different kind of article than I usually feature.
 
Education Secretary Rod Paige must have gotten his color codes mixed up yesterday when he called the 2.7-million-member National Education Association a "terrorist organization" while speaking to the nation's governors. Paige went on to clarify that he was referring to the union itself and not its members, apparently seeing a difference between the two. Paige also said that there are two other groups like the NEA, but he declined to identify them, noting how he had already made himself look like an asshole.

Paige later said he was sorry. Yes you are, Mr. Paige, but I wonder if you've heard of the words "election year" and "liability"?

Monday, February 23, 2004
Karen Kwiatkowski:
Soldier for the Truth
Exposing Bush's talking-points war
 
This lady kick's ass, and I feature her often. Before Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski's recent retirement, she was busy soldiering at the Pentagon and just happened to be there to watch the games being played by the Office of Special Plans. She's got a lot to say about that time, and she's saying it everywhere she can. This, from her recent interview with L.A. Weekly:
The Office of Special Plans would take issue with those who say they were doing intelligence. They would say they were developing policy for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the invasion of Iraq.

But developing policy is not the same as developing propaganda and pushing a particular agenda. And actually, that?s more what they really did. They pushed an agenda on Iraq, and they developed pretty sophisticated propaganda lines which were fed throughout government, to the Congress, and even internally to the Pentagon -- to try and make this case of immediacy. This case of severe threat to the United States. ...

Like most people, I've always thought there should be honesty in government. Working 20 years in the military, I'm sure I saw some things that were less than honest or accountable. But nothing to the degree that I saw when I joined Near East South Asia.

Kwiatkowski also mentions in this interview that while she was still at the Pentagon, she began publishing "Insider Notes from the Pentagon", a series of over two dozen articles that appeared then on a website called "Soldiers for the Truth". (Her pen name for these ("Deep Throat") was not her idea.) In case you want to read these, check out Warning Shots. Links to all of these (and more) are there.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
Tell me something I didn't know.
 
A rather general explanation of E-vote technology problems:
The problem, however, is that most state election officials are not demanding this extra security. Instead, many of these officials believe that the machines are secure because they've been "certified" by a private independent testing authority (ITA) that keeps both the tests and the results of the tests secret from the public.
Well, yes, but no. The problem is that we have literally thousands of people making these purchasing decisions, and few of them have any real experience in making them. They simply do not understand what a computer system should look like when it comes out of the box; namely, that they should be able to plug it in and it should work correctly as soon as they do. Even the manufacturers themselves know that they are not offering a product of this quality because if they really thought they were, they wouldn't be sending out so many on-site reps whenever the machines are being used.

Compounding this of course is the fact that most people selecting these systems operate in highly political environments; environments where it can be fatal to admit one's mistake. This results in a lot of the inertia we are seeing with these systems. Once the purchase is made, it must be defended regardless of any new evidence showing that the decision may have been less than perfect when made.

The shorter Tom Friedman:
 
We're all going to be rich some day, so long as you don't mind being poor first.
Election Briefs:
  • So Ralph Nader is running. Good for him! Look, the Democrats really have no right to ask Nader not to. The party, drawn to the right by years of DLC dominance, was literally dead in the water. It was the Progressives (Nader-types) under Dean (and to a lesser extent, Kucinich) that put life back into it. And what did they get for it? They got a DNC that stood by silent when the media decided to go after Dean like a pack of wild dogs. Note that the DNC is now quite vocal as Kerry is being attacked. What's the difference?

    The difference is that to today's Democratic Party leadership, the Progressives are much like the Blacks, groups of voters the party wants but is willing to do little to get. Indeed, the operating prinicple in the party seems to be to expect these votes because "they have no place else to go." Well, sorry, but now they do.

    Some additional points:

    • As Nader pointed out, he was hardly the only third party candidate to run in 2000; he was simply the most successful. To ask him and not others to stay out of the race is to say that third party candidacies are acceptable only when they are marginal. This is avery dangerous way to think.

    • Special interests. All the main candidates are talking about them, hurling accusations back and forth. Nader didn't use that term. He used the term "corporations", and there's a big difference. Yes, corporations form SIGs, but so do environmentalist, gay rights advocates, pro-life proponents, and many more. All of these latter groups however are people coming together to influence legislation, and that's what people are supposed to do in a democracy. Corporate SIGs are different entirely. They are capital coming together to influence legislation, and we need to decide if this is how we want to run our country.

    Finally, VoteNader.org, and no, that's not an endorsement.

  • The "Chickenhawk Defense!" I was wondering what Kerry was going to pull out against the "Hanoi Jane" charge, and this is fairly clever: He's simply pointing out that if the Republicans want to question his Vietnam record, they probably shouldn't be sending out chickenhawk front men to do it. The real question is whether the Republicans actually have any front men who are not chickenhawks to do this. I hardly expect John McCain to be volunteering for the job anytime soon.

    Of course, the RNC is already trying to dodge this bullet, claiming that we really shouldn't "revisit old wounds" from 30 years ago, a faint attempt to sideline both the chickenhawk tag and Bush's own service record. But the fact of the matter is that to many in the far right core of the Republican Party, Vietnam is still very much an issue. These are the people who, in spite of the revealed statements of every President invovled in that conflict, in spite of the more recent admissions of Robert MacNamara, and in spite of the personal testimonies of so many who fought in that conflict, still believe that the only reason we "lost" Vietnam was that we stopped "supporting our troops" there. It was these people after all who dusted off the old "Hanoi Jane" label, and it is these very same people to whom that label is as fresh today as it was when it was first minted.

    The RNC then, when it says we should not "revisit old wounds", is actually being quite disengenuous. The fact of the matter in fact is that many of their base are still living there.

Friday, February 20, 2004
Benedict@Large:
Discovering Fundamentalism



... not guided by spiritual generosity but by some deeper pathological condition.
Alan Bisbort:
Thy People's Will Be Done
Flying the fanatical skies with
American Airlines
 
Lest any armchair fundamentalists out there get the wrong idea, none of this is stated from a position of areligious "humanism." Each Sunday, in fact, during silent prayer at my church I ask that the anger I feel toward these people be lifted from my heart and that the darkness they have visited upon my land be whisked away in the healing light of truth. And I ask that when George W. Bush and his self-appointed God squad are gone that I never again disturb my gray matter on them. I pray only that they disappear into their inner darkness and leave the rest of us alone.

But, of course, zealots never disappear. Like Dave Koresh, Jim Jones, Osama and Robertson, they're not guided by spiritual generosity but by some deeper pathological condition. There is a sadistic element to their religion, a need to punish and condemn rather than to lift up and inspire.

Alan Bisbort identifies an important point here when he suggests that religious zealots are guided by "some deeper pathological condition." Allow me to address this at length.

I consider myself fairly well studied on world religions. As an Atheist (or more formally, a classical pantheist), I find them especially fascinating and often even beautiful. Here are these various groups of people who believe differently than I do. Where are their beliefs different from mine? Where are they the same? Are all of the variations simply "different flavors" of a greater whole? These are the questions that have fascinated me throughout my 30+ years of Atheism and even beyond.

It was about four years back (when I began my "internet life") that I first began conversing with fundamentalists. Now I had ran into evangelicals before (there is overlap between the two groups (fundamentalists and evangelicals), but they are not identical), and mostly I had had no problems with them. So all of this was something new to me. For all of my study of world religion, I realized that I had no idea what it was that drove a person from a more centrist belief in a religion to a fundamentalist belief in that same religion. Certainly this occurred in all regions, but what was it? Was it a single thing across all religions, was it different between religions, or did it vary from individual to individual? I set out to find the answer.

The answer was illusive. I interviewed (via chat rooms and e-mail) many self-professed fundamentalists (mostly Christian, but that was my upbringing), and many of them over long periods of time. I never hid my own Atheism, nor did I hide my goal. Better to be honest up front, I felt, than to be later accused of fraudulent representation. In fact, this proved quite helpful, since none of the fundamentalists I spoke with had ever run into a "real live" Atheist before, and most were as curious about me as I was about them.

But still, my answer was illusive. In my previous studies, I had been concerned about what someone believed, and it is fairly easy to get people to tell you that. Now I was concerned with a quite different question: why did someone believe what they believed?

Try asking someone that question about their religion some time. Here's the answer you'll get: "Because it's true."

But here is what fundamentalists believe. They believe that theirs is the "one true religion". Yet many non-fundamentalists believe the exact same thing. They believe in the primacy of their own religious text (e.g., the Bible, the Koran). Yet many non-fundamentalists believe the exact same thing. They believe that their god will punish those who err and reward those who do not. Yet many non-fundamentalists believe the exact same thing. Where they differ is in their belief that their own religious text is inviolate; that it must be interpreted as the literal truth.

This last item is most curious. Here we have people who will turn on their coffee pots each morning, knowing full well that science says that the flow of electrons through the wires will heat the water that makes their coffee. Here we have people who will drive their cars across a long bridge, knowing full well that it is science that prevents them from falling into the waters below. Here we have people who will board a jet and fly across the country, knowing full well that it is science that even allows that jet to get off the ground. And yet these very same people (Christian fundamentalist, in this case), when presented with scientific evidence that the earth is more than 6,000 years old, invent excuses as to why that very same science is wrong. These very same people, when presented with scientific evidence that human beings evolved from earlier species, invent more excuses as to why that very same science is wrong.

Here is something else fundamentalists believe: They believe that science is a religion. And that as a religion, it competes with their own. To the extent that they can drink their hot coffee, cross rivers, and travel thousands of miles through the air, that "religion" is fine. To the extent that it refutes their sacred texts however, it is nothing less than evil itself.

Of course, they misunderstand entirely what science is (as do most people). Science is not some assembled body of "truths". Science is merely a methodology. It is a methodology that simply asks that those who propose "truths" do so in a fashion that they might be tested as such by independent analysts. It is nothing more. "Scientists" are allowed to propose "truths", but these same "truths" are open to refutation by anyone who choose to try. This is hardly the trappings of a "religion" however. Refutations of religious doctrine by outsiders is simply not allowed by the religious "elders", at least not in Western monotheism. But this leaves us nowhere, because the question is really why fundamentalists, who quite regularly avail themselves of the benefits of science, suddenly abandon it in favor of their contrary religious beliefs.

My search for an answer as to why fundamentalists take such extreme beliefs actually lasted the better part of three years, and it was almost accidental when I fell upon the answer. I was reading an article about Osama bin Laden, and suddenly drew the extremely important parallels between his fundamentalism and the fundamentalism of the many Christians I had interviewed over this time. It was my third point about what fundamentalists believe (above, "(t)hey believe that their god will punish those who err and reward those who do not") that was the operating principle behind what draws people to fundamentalism. Theirs is a god of fear. It is not a god of love.

What drew my conclusion here was my previous work with people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). If you have never encounter a sufferer of this, here is how they re-act. The PTSD sufferer imagines a threat. They believe this to be threat quite real. We who do not suffer from this disease of course quickly recognize the imagined threat to be exactly that: imagined.

But this is where it gets critical. If you act in any way before the PTSD sufferer that suggests to them that you do not also believe their imagined threat to be real, they will attack you (even physically) as if you are the very embodiment of that fear itself.

Now I'm not suggesting here that all fundamentalists suffer from PTSD. What I have learned instead is that all real fundamentalists suffer from a pathological paranoia; a fear response that causes them to lash out at anyone who does not share their paranoia of an avenging god, in the exact same fashion that PTSD suffers do. No, not all who suffer from pathological paranoia become fundamentalists. But all who suffer from pathological paranoia who also turn to religion as a comfort will also turn to a fundamentalist version of it.

Fundamentalists are fundamentally paranoid. They are control freaks who sense that they cannot actually control. They are just as mad about this as any pathologically paranoid person would be. And they will always respond against those who do not share their own imagined threats as somehow "real". They will respond with exactly as we are seeing today; a vitriolic hatred of everyone who questions their percieved fear. The exact definition of pathological paranoia.

This is what we have leading our nation now. The pathologically paranoid. This is why we pathologically exaggerate our national threats. This is why we cannot spend too much on a military that is already so far in advance of any of our competitior's.

Because we are ruled by the insane.

 
... dwarfing the combined fortunes of Bush and Cheney -- the most bloated pair of plutocrats ever to rule the country.Chris Floyd:
This is no ordinary election. It's emergency surgery -- a desperate operation in the field, using whatever comes to hand to keep the patient from dying.
Indeed, Kerry has vested interests, usually in the millions of dollars, in almost every aspect of U.S. commerce. Finance, media, electronics, food, energy, health care, agriculture -- the list is staggering in its reach. It will be practically impossible for him to take any action as president that will not have a substantial impact on his family assets. These are conservatively estimated at more than $550 million, dwarfing the combined fortunes of Bush and Cheney -- the most bloated pair of plutocrats ever to rule the country. A Bush-Kerry contest will offer about as much democratic authenticity as Crassus and Pompey bribing their way to consulships in the death throes of the Roman Republic.
"Kerry might be a rusty knife, but the life of a patient in extremis takes precedence over questions of hygiene. When the worst is past, then judge the knife -- discard it if necessary -- and get on with the work of restoring the Republic."
Watching Wal-Mart

The BLACK CoMMentator:
Remaking America in Wal-Mart's Image
Grocery strikers fight for ALL of us
 
As good as The BLACK CoMMentator can be, they have outdone themselves here.

The southern California supermarket strike and lockout of 70,000 grocery workers by the Safeway, Kroger, and Albertsons chains has entered its fifth month. At stake is a 65% reduction in healthcare coverage for these workers as well as a two-tiered healthcare funding plan that will provide new workers with benefits far below those of existing workers. The significance of this is not lost on these workers; not only are they being asked to transform their middle class jobs into low class jobs, but there will be a constant pressure on store managers to replace long-term employees with new hires.

Safeway, Kroger, and Albertsons of course offer the standard claim for their need to do this: "The devil (Wal-Mart) made me do it." Wal-Mart, they claim, is well-known for its low wages and benefits, and this is placing the three chains under an increasing competitive disadvantage. Not so, says Forbes Magazine:

The real problem the traditional grocery chains face is weak demand and an inability to raise prices in a deflationary environment ? not Wal-Mart pricing pressure. Kroger and Safeway are gaining or maintaining share in about half or more of the top 100 markets where they have a presence. The only two big chains to suffer inroads from Wal-Mart in 2002 were Albertson's and Winn-Dixie ...
So if this is not the case, why are the three chains claiming it is?
Let's make it plain: The problem is not that there is too much competition in the retail food business, even of the cutthroat, Wal-Mart kind. Rather, the chains have loaded themselves down with debt to eliminate the previously existing competition, and there are not enough customers with enough income to buy enough goods to pay off creditors and satisfy the ever more ravenous demands of investors at the same time. So they decided to cut labor costs by forcing a strike and lockout of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members throughout southern California. Wal-Mart provided the excuse to do what comes naturally to the corporate class in George Bush?s America. Wal-Mart is leader of the pack, but they are all wolves.
In other words, it is not so much a fear of Wal-Mart that is driving Safeway, Kroger, and Albertsons to try and cut their employee compensation but rather an envy of Wal-Mart. And the race to the bottom goes on.

Gov't subsidizes average Wal-Mart employee over $2,100
 
According to a report released Monday by the Democratic staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, taxpayers would have to pay $420,750 per year in government subsidies for a hypothetical Wal-Mart store employing 200 people. These include subsidies for food, housing, education, healthcare, and energy, as well as various federal tax credits and deductions.

The report also provides a comprehensive review of Wal-Mart?s numerous anti-worker practices, including:

  • Low wages
  • Off-the-clock work and unpaid overtime
  • Unaffordable and unavailable healthcare
  • Union-busting activities
  • Discrimination against women
  • Discrimination against disabled workers
  • Violation of child labor laws
  • Use of undocumented workers
  • Exploitation of foreign labor
  • Unsafe workplace policies
Additional Resources:
If George W. Bush is the result of affirmative
  action then we have to end it immediately.
"I'm also not very analytical. You know I don't spend a lot
of time thinking about myself, about why I do things.
"

~ George W. Bush, June 4, 2003

When President Bush sat down for an interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press he single-handedly proved that affirmative action is a bad thing. George W. Bush is the poster child for affirmative action. He attended prep school at Andover Academy because his father was an alumnus. He didn’t get good grades at Andover but got into Yale because the Bushes were alumni there as well. His father’s connections got him into a National Guard unit and helped him avoid serving in Vietnam. When he didn’t feel compelled to complete his National Guard duty he just walked away and didn’t suffer because of his decision. He then went to Harvard where he earned his MBA. He was admitted to Harvard despite earning only a C average while at Yale.

George W. Bush has participated in a racial preference program his entire life. But after all those years of entitlement and connections to the best America has to offer, George W. Bush has emerged as a man who can’t put together more than two coherent sentences and stumbles and pauses when attempting to express very simple ideas.

Have fun!
Thursday, February 19, 2004
Chicago mayor gives green light to gay marriage
Mayor Daley said Wednesday he would have "no problem" with County Clerk David Orr issuing marriage licenses to gay couples -- and Orr said he's open to a San Francisco-style protest if a consensus can be built.

"They're your doctors, your lawyers, your journalists, your politicians," the mayor said. "They're someone's son or daughter. They're someone's mother or father. . . . I've seen people of the same sex adopt children, have families. [They're] great parents.

So let's roll, all you righty freaks. Tell your pResident to put up of shut up.

It ain't just one state anymore. Now you all have to spend some serious money. Don't worry. You have it. That and nothing else.

It delays setting restrictions on how to spend soft money

I'm sorry. I try not to reduce myself to profanity, but this is bullshit. MoveOn's Voter Fund and every Democratic voter registration effort have just been declared illegal in their funding. Let's just silence any opposition.

Get with it, people. These folks in power are not content to have it. They are insisting on total control. To them, your voice does not matter. They don't pay attention to "focus groups", and that's all you are. Just some slime that does not "understand larger issues". You are nothing to these people.

Well, perhaps not. You will all make very good butlers and maids for them. So long as you are not too uppity.

The Pakistan Daily Times:
A guide to Israeli hawks
 
So much of the debate on Israel is so instantaneously polarized, that even my mouth hesitates to tread there. But this article is refreshing. A simple explanation without taking sides.

Knowledge is strength, and this article provides it.

HANDCUFFS !


Check this out!

That's Jeffrey Skilling in the middle, former CEO of Enron. Notice his hands behind him? That's called HANDCUFFS!

42 counts. We must have an election coming up.

A few stories on this:

CBS News: Feds Throw Book At Ex-Enron CEO

ABC News: Former Enron CEO Skilling Faces 42 Counts

BBC News: Enron's dream of world domination

 
&#034Kenny Boy&#034 Lay. Will he still be smiling with handcuffs on?You know what gets me about all of this? Both Skilling and "Kenny Boy" Lay (right, smiling) are trying to claim that as the top two executives at Enron, neither of them had a clue as to what was going on. Consider for just a moment that this is true.

Then what the hell were they being paid for?

But let's say they get off with that excuse. Sounds to me like the basis of a quite solid class action by Enron shareholders. If they really didn't know what was going on, then why should they have ever been compensated?

But if you're like me, someone who has actually had the pleasure of wearing handcuffs, then you'll delight in seeing a few more pics of Skilling in handcuffs. Glad to oblige! [ 1 ] [ 2 ] And you can actually see the cuffs on the second! Too cool!

"The worst president in our lifetime" is how many Americans view George W. Bush. But Bush is not merely the worst president in recent memory. He's the worst in all US history. And he's won the distinction not on a weakness or two, but in at least nine separate categories, giving him a triple trifecta.

It's a record unmatched by any previous president.

  • TRIFECTA ONE: Economy, Environment, Education
  • TRIFECTA TWO: Corruption, Constitution, Global Contempt
  • TRIFECTA THREE: Military madness, Messianic delusion, Macho Matricide
Have fun!
Another trifecta:
3 Reports on Bush and Science
Union of Concerned Scientists:
Scientific Integrity in Policymaking
An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science
Science, like any field of endeavor, relies on freedom of inquiry; and one of the hallmarks of that freedom is objectivity. Now more than ever, on issues ranging from climate change to AIDS research to genetic engineering to food additives, government relies on the impartial perspective of science for guidance.

~ PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH, 1990

That was then; this is now.

The Bush administration has deliberately and systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad, a group of about 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, said in a statement issued Wednesday. The group, the Union of Concerned Scientists, has documented its findings and accusations in a 38-page report.

From the report's Executive Summary:

The U.S. government runs on vast amounts of information. Researchers at the National Weather Service gather and analyze meteorological data to know when to issue severe-weather advisories. Specialists at the Federal Reserve Board collect and analyze economic data to determine when to raise or lower interest rates. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control examine bacteria and viral samples to guard against a large-scale outbreak of disease. The American public relies on the accuracy of such governmental data and upon the integrity of the researchers who gather and analyze it.

However, at a time when one might expect the federal government to increasingly rely on impartial researchers for the critical role they play in gathering and analyzing specialized data, there are numerous indications that the opposite is occurring. A growing number of scientists, policy makers, and technical specialists both inside and outside the government allege that the Bush administration has suppressed or distorted the scientific analyses of federal agencies to bring these results in line with administration policy. In addition, these experts contend that irregularities in the appointment of scientific advisors and advisory panels are threatening to upset the legally mandated balance of these bodies.

The quantity and breadth of these charges warrant further examination, especially given the stature of many of the individuals lodging them. Toward this end, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) undertook an investigation of many of the allegations made in the mainstream media, in scientific journals, and in overview reports issued from within the federal government and by non-governmental organizations. To determine the validity of the allegations, UCS reviewed the public record, obtained internal government documents, and conducted interviews with many of the parties involved (including current and former government officials).

The report's findings?
  1. There is a well-established pattern of suppression and distortion of scientific findings by high-ranking Bush administration political appointees across numerous federal agencies. These actions have consequences for human health, public safety, and community well-being.

  2. There is strong documentation of a wideranging effort to manipulate the government's scientific advisory system to prevent the appearance of advice that might run counter to the administration's political agenda.

  3. There is evidence that the administration often imposes restrictions on what government scientists can say or write about "sensitive" topics.

  4. There is significant evidence that the scope and scale of the manipulation, suppression, and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration is unprecedented.
The White House predictably has denied the accusations.

Additional Resources:

From the Union of Concerned Scientists:In the media:
Will there be
A New Ice Age?
 
This is actually a continuation of my article from yesterday, "The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare", in which I addressed Pentagon's concerns regarding a "stalling" of the Gulf Stream and the security concerns that the United States might face as a result. Mark Hertsgaard also addresses this issue in the latest issue of The Nation (a subscriber only article, but my link works).

I heard Mark today on Thom Hartmann, and it seems that there is a bit of intrigue to this story. It seems that the Global Business Network (GBN) report that started all of this was not only deliberately leaked to Fortune magazine, but that the Fortune magazine report itself was actually vetted before it was published by the same Pentagon staffers who leaked the report in the first place. But here's where it gets interesting. These staffers report directly to Andrew Marshall, a "legendary figure who has done 'big picture' strategic planning for the military for decades and been a trusted associate of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld since the 1970s". While it is not known whether or not Rumsfeld has read this report, it is a virtual certainty that Marshall did and actually approved the leak of the report to Fortune magazine in advance.

This may well become a huge problem for the administation, whose legions of supporters view environmentalists as "tree huggers". What then if the Pentagon itself becomes a "tree hugger"? And right before the election?

The administration simply does not have time to reverse its anti-environmental record before the election. This leak will force them into a spin mode that likely will defy all credibility.

Alas, the fall from grace, once begun, has a momentum all to itself.

The Detroit News (Op-Ed):
Environmental record may hurt Bush
Bush giveth and Bush taketh away
Under pressure to win votes, political candidates will often try to blur their records. Confronted with confusing or conflicting charges, voters can sometimes use simple arithmetic to help them sort out the truth. Take the question of whether President George W. Bush is a friend of the Great Lakes.

The president sent Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt to Michigan in late January to announce a $45 million package to clean up the lakes. Days later, Bush revealed that his proposed 2005 budget would sharply cut federal support for these same lakes.

In spite of the hoopla associated with the EPA chief’s visit, the president called for a deep slash in EPA funding, including a 40 percent cut in grants and loans to support pollution-reduction projects such as upgrades in Michigan’s municipal sewage treatment plants. Add up what Leavitt promised with what the Bush budget takes away and Michigan will end up with a $26 million cut next year in its Great Lakes protection dollars.

It's amazing to me that the Bush administration is still trying to pull this bait and switch funding scam. Sure, it worked for them up front, but it worked because no one was noticing it. By now, it's the oldest trick in the book, and everytime Bush promises something, legions of analysts, professional and not, begin to look for how Bush will reneg on the promise. You'd almost think that the guy didn't know that an election was coming up, but that's not it. It's simply called arrogance, the absolute corruption that comes with absolute power.
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then, by George, it's an outrageous affront to public integrity.

I'm referring to this incestuous intersection of politics, the judiciary and big business. It's the first place people ought to look whenever Vice President Dick Cheney turns up missing.

Who knows? They just might run into that right-wing ideologue of a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia.

This is a story that begs the vexing question: Which is more offensive, the incident or Justice Scalia's reaction?

For democracy, read fantasy. Iraq is getting so nasty for our great leaders these days that anything - and anyone - is going to be thrown to the dogs to save them.

The BBC, the CIA, British intelligence - any journalist that dares to point out the lies that led us to war - get pelted with more lies. The moment we suggest that Iraq never was fertile soil for western democracy, we get accused of being racists. Do we think the Arabs are incapable of producing democracy, we are asked? Do we think they are subhuman?

This kind of tosh comes from the same family of abuse as that which labels all and every criticism of Israel anti-Semitic.

Reams of pulp have already been wasted about the neo-cons, the Leo-cons, this chickenhawk roster of misfits and dweebs. As befits all adherents of a bizarre ideology, they've become objects of scorn and derision: "Fat boys with asthma talking tough" Gore Vidal sneered, as only he can. The darlings of the day, these new would-be emperors have been touted, assailed, and much discussed. Arab oil still commands top dollar, but after the first Gulf War, Arab blood became very cheap.