Monday, April 30, 2007

Global Warming Is Okay with U.S., China

Meeting in Thailand to work toward a better and more livable world, the other nations are meeting with a great disappointment in the attitude of the U.S. and China. Instead of working with the body of scientific evidence, we are against it.

The United States and China want to water down a proposed plan for fighting climate change, arguing that action to reduce greenhouse gases will be more costly and time-consuming than scientists claim.

They also play down the benefits of reducing emissions, disputing recommendations by European governments that greenhouse gases be capped at around 445 parts per million in the air. The current level of greenhouse gases is about 430 ppm.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of 2,000 scientists, drew up the plan. Governments have spent the last few weeks reviewing the proposals and are meeting with the scientists this week to work out their differences.

The U.S. and Chinese comments, in documents reviewed by The Associated Press, are a precursor to what delegates expect will be a fight for much of the week to preserve the key conclusions of the draft IPCC report, which says emissions can be cut below current levels if the world shifts away from carbon-heavy fuels like coal, invests in energy efficiency and reforms the agriculture sector.

The plan must be unanimously approved by the 120-plus governments that participate, and all changes must be approved by the scientists. A spokesman for the U.S. delegation declined to discuss the American position until the final report Friday.
But the United States wants to take a longer-term approach with mitigation measures, a position that will likely anger island nations and other developing countries already feeling the effects of climate change.

The U.S. wants language inserted into the report that says the cost of available current technologies to reduce emissions "could be unacceptably high" and calls for putting greater emphasis on "advanced technologies." Many of the latter, like carbon sequestration, are aimed at extending the use of coal.

"Mitigation efforts over the next two to three decades can reduce the rate of growth of greenhouse gas concentrations," the U.S. said. "However, development and commercialization of advanced technology and implementation of advanced practices will have a large bearing on long-term greenhouse gas concentrations."

The United States and China also dispute the economics in the report, which concludes that achieving the 445-534 ppm range might cost under 3 percent of global gross domestic product over two decades.
The United States also raises concern that switching away from coal would be "bad for energy security," questions the benefits of fuel efficient cars and attempts to minimize the economic benefits of mitigation including job creation.

"The co-benefits of balance of trade improvement, wealth creation and employment" are not substantiated," it says. "The supposed benefits are, in most cases, merely a transfer between regions and sectors rather than a general acceleration in global growth. The mitigation policies will have costs and are unlikely to result in a win-win."

Dragging the U.S. kicking and screaming into the effort to save our planet is a disgusting prospect, and shows the world more than ever that we have a leader who is not interested in future generations. We are losing more respect, and more influence, every day the cretin in chief stays in the White House.

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No Mangoes?

The much touted nuclear cooperation deal between the US and India has hit some snags and may very well be in trouble. The devil, once again, is in the details. From today's Los Angeles Times:

The high-profile nuclear cooperation deal that lies at the heart of warming ties between India and the U.S. has run into serious trouble over the fine print. ...

When proposed nearly two years ago, the nuclear pact made headlines as proof that the world's most populous democracy had joined hands with the most powerful to create a new balance of power, especially as a counter to a rising China.

But negotiators have been unable to reach agreement on issues concerning India's right to conduct nuclear tests, its desire to reprocess spent fuel and its demand for assurances of uninterrupted nuclear fuel supplies. ...

Though the proposed nuclear agreement would exempt India from the U.S. ban on technology transfer to countries outside the international nonproliferation treaty, Washington would still be bound by law to suspend assistance if New Delhi conducted more nuclear tests.

"Such a requirement is an affront to India's sovereign prerogatives," the daily Hindu said in an editorial last week, echoing the argument of many critics of the deal. "It is therefore completely unacceptable." ...

Another area of dispute is India's insistence that it be allowed to reprocess nuclear fuel from the U.S. to extract plutonium, which it says would be used only for peaceful purposes as it seeks to increase power production to keep its economy booming.

The U.S. has granted reprocessing rights to its European allies and to Japan for decades. But officials say that Washington's relationship with New Delhi, one marked by distrust and suspicion for most of its history, has not matured enough for the same treatment to be extended to India.

In the early 1960s, the two countries approved an agreement under which Washington guaranteed fuel supplies for the expected lifetime of a reactor installed in Tarapur in western India. But in 1978, four years after New Delhi launched its first nuclear tests, the U.S. Congress cut off fuel shipments.

Under the current deal, India again is seeking assurances of guaranteed fuel supplies. But opponents of the accord are chary of any American promises.

The current administration touted the agreement as proof that it could conduct foreign policy in ways that didn't require Cruise missiles and as a way to provide a counterweight to the increasing influence of China in the region. When the agreement was announced, many of us felt the deal was a bad idea for a number of reasons, among them that it sent the wrong message at a time when the US was working hard to close down the nuclear efforts of Iran and North Korea. We also worried about the effect it would have on the other nuclear power in the region, Pakistan, which didn't then and certainly doesn't now have a completely stable government.

The Bush administration obviously thought it would be able to maintain control over the Indian program, a control that India just as obviously is unwilling to give up. Frankly, that the agreement might very well collapse at this point isn't such a bad thing, to my way of thinking. Unfortunately, the result will be that we've managed to alienate, once again, a major power in that region, possibly pushing India closer to China, which the deal was supposed to prevent.

Way to go, George!

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Poetry: Gwendolyn Brooks

The Lovers of the Poor

arrive. The Ladies from the Ladies' Betterment
Arrive in the afternoon, the late light slanting
In diluted gold bars across the boulevard brag
Of proud, seamed faces with mercy and murder hinting
Here, there, interrupting, all deep and debonair,
The pink paint on the innocence of fear;
Walk in a gingerly manner up the hall.
Cutting with knives served by their softest care,
Served by their love, so barbarously fair.
Whose mothers taught: You'd better not be cruel!
You had better not throw stones upon the wrens!
Herein they kiss and coddle and assault
Anew and dearly in the innocence
With which they baffle nature. Who are full,
Sleek, tender-clad, fit, fiftyish, a-glow, all
Sweetly abortive, hinting at fat fruit,
Judge it high time that fiftyish fingers felt
Beneath the lovelier planes of enterprise.
To resurrect. To moisten with milky chill.
To be a random hitching post or plush.
To be, for wet eyes, random and handy hem.
Their guild is giving money to the poor.
The worthy poor. The very very worthy
And beautiful poor. Perhaps just not too swarthy?
Perhaps just not too dirty nor too dim
Nor--passionate. In truth, what they could wish
Is--something less than derelict or dull.
Not staunch enough to stab, though, gaze for gaze!
God shield them sharply from the beggar-bold!
The noxious needy ones whose battle's bald
Nonetheless for being voiceless, hits one down.
But it's all so bad! and entirely too much for them.
The stench; the urine, cabbage, and dead beans,
Dead porridges of assorted dusty grains,
The old smoke, heavy diapers, and, they're told,
Something called chitterlings. The darkness. Drawn
Darkness, or dirty light. The soil that stirs.
The soil that looks the soil of centuries.
And for that matter the general oldness. Old
Wood. Old marble. Old tile. Old old old.
Note homekind Oldness! Not Lake Forest, Glencoe.
Nothing is sturdy, nothing is majestic,
There is no quiet drama, no rubbed glaze, no
Unkillable infirmity of such
A tasteful turn as lately they have left,
Glencoe, Lake Forest, and to which their cars
Must presently restore them. When they're done
With dullards and distortions of this fistic
Patience of the poor and put-upon.
They've never seen such a make-do-ness as
Newspaper rugs before! In this, this "flat,"
Their hostess is gathering up the oozed, the rich
Rugs of the morning (tattered! the bespattered . . . ),
Readies to spread clean rugs for afternoon.
Here is a scene for you. The Ladies look,
In horror, behind a substantial citizeness
Whose trains clank out across her swollen heart.
Who, arms akimbo, almost fills a door.
All tumbling children, quilts dragged to the floor
And tortured thereover, potato peelings, soft-
Eyed kitten, hunched-up, haggard, to-be-hurt.
Their League is allotting largesse to the Lost.
But to put their clean, their pretty money, to put
Their money collected from delicate rose-fingers
Tipped with their hundred flawless rose-nails seems . . .
They own Spode, Lowestoft, candelabra,
Mantels, and hostess gowns, and sunburst clocks,
Turtle soup, Chippendale, red satin "hangings,"
Aubussons and Hattie Carnegie. They Winter
In Palm Beach; cross the Water in June; attend,
When suitable, the nice Art Institute;
Buy the right books in the best bindings; saunter
On Michigan, Easter mornings, in sun or wind.
Oh Squalor! This sick four-story hulk, this fibre
With fissures everywhere! Why, what are bringings
Of loathe-love largesse? What shall peril hungers
So old old, what shall flatter the desolate?
Tin can, blocked fire escape and chitterling
And swaggering seeking youth and the puzzled wreckage
Of the middle passage, and urine and stale shames
And, again, the porridges of the underslung
And children children children. Heavens! That
Was a rat, surely, off there, in the shadows? Long
And long-tailed? Gray? The Ladies from the Ladies'
Betterment League agree it will be better
To achieve the outer air that rights and steadies,
To hie to a house that does not holler, to ring
Bells elsetime, better presently to cater
To no more Possibilities, to get
Away. Perhaps the money can be posted.
Perhaps they two may choose another Slum!
Some serious sooty half-unhappy home!--
Where loathe-lover likelier may be invested.
Keeping their scented bodies in the center
Of the hall as they walk down the hysterical hall,
They allow their lovely skirts to graze no wall,
Are off at what they manage of a canter,
And, resuming all the clues of what they were,
Try to avoid inhaling the laden air.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Soldiers' Politics

The current issue of The Atlantic has an interesting essay written by Andrew J. Bacevich, a Boston University history professor. Unfortunately, only the opening paragraph is available on-line to non-subscribers to the magazine. Here it is:

On January 16, 2007, Sergeant Liam Madden, an Iraq War veteran and still an active U.S. marine, paid a visit to Capitol Hill. The date marked the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Madden had chosen it consciously: He was hoping to start a political movement of his own. Acting on behalf of hundreds of his fellow soldiers, he presented members of Congress with an “Appeal for Redress From the War in Iraq.”

Here is the text of that appeal (typed out from the paper version of the article):

As a patriotic American, proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.

Here's the problem: Sgt. Madden had about 1700 other active duty soldiers sign his appeal. In other words, Sgt. Madden presented members of Congress with a petition. The distinction is important, according to Prof. Bacevich. Individual soldiers to have the right to file an appeal, a grievance, if you will, with their elected representatives for individual mistreatment. They are, however, barred from collective political activity, and with good reason, in Prof. Bacevich's view.

Fortunately, The Atlantic website has an interview with Mr. Bacevich which clarifies his position.

I see the appeal as new and noteworthy for two reasons. The first is that it represents a collective effort on the part of serving soldiers to influence national security. Secondly, the traditional or standard politicking by the American military typically occurs at the senior ranks of the military, but the organizers and the majority of the participants in the appeal for redress are junior enlisted soldiers. This is military politicking from the bottom up rather than from the top down.

Do you think that soldiers who have signed the appeal are acting within their rights?

No, I don’t. I think that although it’s being styled as an appeal—that is to say it’s being advertised as if it were equivalent to the individual appeal connected to individual grievances, this is in fact a petition. It is a collective political act and it’s not intended to redress a particular problem of either an individual soldier or even of the 1,700 soldiers who have signed it. It’s intended to bring about a change in U.S. national security policy. I myself think that the policy that the appeal addresses—namely the Iraq war—is an utterly misguided policy. I think the war is unnecessary. It has been utterly bungled. But I don’t believe that it ought to be the place of soldiers acting collectively to try to put pressure on members of Congress, or on Congress collectively, in order to bring about a change in policy. That really begins to undermine the principle of civilian control, which we all should be careful to guard.

Prof. Bacevich goes to some length to point out that we've gotten used to the politicking done by the senior officers of the military and he condemns the actions of those generals such as Curtis LeMay who went behind President Eisenhower's back to Congress to get the exorbitant funding he wanted for the Strategic Air Command (which continues to get exorbitant funding) as much as he does Sgt. Madden's appeal. His point is that the US has civilian control of the military for good reason, and that civilian control has to be maintained if we are to avoid the kinds of upheaval we've seen in the juntas in other parts of the world.

Does Prof. Bacevich believe that soldiers give up all their rights at the enlistment office? Hardly:

On matters of policy, those who wear the uniform ought to get a vote, but it's the same one that every other citizen gets--the one exercised on Election Day. To give them more is to sow confusian about the soldier's proper role, which centers on service and must preclude partisanship. Legitimating soldiers' lobbies is likely to warp national-scurity policy and crack open the door to praetorianism.

Although I agree with Sgt. Madden's position on this foul war, I have to agree with Prof. Bacevich on this one.


When Citizenship Isn't Enough

This administration swears it's not profiling Arabs and Middle Easterners who cross American borders, but at least one Arab American finds that hard to believe. From today's NY Times:

Abe Dabdoub calls the day he was sworn in as an American citizen last year the proudest moment of his life, little suspecting that his new identity would set off a bureaucratic nightmare at the hands of the Department of Homeland Security.

Most of his family members live in Canada, and on each of Mr. Dabdoub’s 14 trips to visit them since last August, on his way back across the Ambassador Bridge into Michigan, the Customs and Border Patrol agents have sent him through a security gantlet, he says.

He has been fingerprinted 14 times, his body searched 9 times, been handcuffed 4 times and isolated in a separate detention room 13 times. On the fourth trip, the border patrol agents started subjecting his wife to similar scrutiny.

...the problem continues unabated and, typical of such cases, no one in the federal government nor his elected representatives will tell him why he is being singled out.
[Emphasis added]

Mr. Dabdoub was born in Saudi Arabia of Palestinian parents and moved to Canada at age five. His work took him to Michigan where he currently lives. He's an American citizen now, yet he has gotten stopped at the border each and every time since he's gotten his citizenship, and no one will tell him why, presumably because that is some kind of state secret.

This fellow citizen has made it onto one of the many government "lists" and the chances are he won't be able to get off that list.

A Government Accountability Office report issued last September said that just 31 individuals whose names were mistakenly on the watch list had them taken off in 2005. Thousands of such redress queries have been submitted, most of them from people who are misidentified. But their names cannot be removed because they are not the person on the list, the report said. [Emphasis added]

How's that for a Catch-22?

September 11 should be remembered, but only as the date our civil liberties were stripped from us.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bonus Critter Blogging: Tropical Jumping Spider

(Photo by S. Pollard, published by National Geographic.)

Heckuva Job

Germany's Financial Times has weighed in on the Wolfowitz scandal. The op-ed piece published April 26, 2007 and written by Kenneth Rogoff does more than call for Mr. Wolfowitz's termination, however. It recommends a new way to select Mr. Wolfowitz's successor.

But even if Wolfowitz resigns in the end, nothing will have been accomplished if President George W. Bush is permitted to select his successor, as U.S. Presidents have done since the Bank was establish[ed]. Instead, the head of the World Bank should be selected in a transparent process with the goal of finding the most qualified candidate - whether he or she comes from the U.S., from Europe or from a developing country.

In reality, the way Wolfowitz arrived at his position is the very thing that makes him so vulnerable to attack. His appointment by a U.S. Government, which is hardly cooperative internationally, was a provocation. The World Bank is an institution for financing development. But Wolfowitz' career in the U.S. Departments of Defense and State never prepared him for this role. Instead as is well known, he is the architect of America’s failed War in Iraq. By all accounts, Wolfowitz is brilliant, but it seems inconceivable that he would have been selected as leader of the World Bank in an open, transparent and multilateral selection process.
[Emphasis added]

Mr. Rogoff makes it clear that the American spoils system is no longer appropriate or acceptable for such an international and sensitive position. After living through Mr. Bush's appointments to the UN, FEMA, FDA, MSHA, and many other federal positions, I find it pretty hard to fault Mr. Rogoff's argument.


It's Their Pig Trough And You Can't Have Any Slop

Sports are not of any great interest to me, and I've barely noticed all the doping scandals because I don't read those pages. But I had to admire the attitude of GOP Rep. Davis of Virginia who had the chair of the House Committee on Government Reform, with oversight of the steroid use in baseball. He was using that position to declare that a group including George Soros shouldn't be allowed to purchase the "Nats" from Major League Baseball.

Moreover, Davis dID have a favorite, just happening to be a big Republican fundraiser - Fred Malek. Such reasoned arguments as that Soros is a supporter of legalization of marijuana and so shouldn't be involved with sports, or that Soros has partisan intentions in use of his earnings, kind of pale when you see what the real basis of these efforts had to be. His buddy wanted him to use his influence to be a spoiler of an otherwise aboveboard purchase attempt.

Some Republican lawmakers don't think George Soros should be permitted to
purchase a Major League Baseball team because he's too liberal and he has some
wacky notions. I must have been napping, and that's why I missed the part where
we became a country in which Democrats are no longer allowed to buy things. If lawmakers start banning people from owning ballclubs just because of their politics or because they have a few woo-woo ideas, there are going to be a lot of shuttered ballparks. Anybody who tries to say that MLB owners should meet a certain standard of political correctness will get knocked back on their butts every time by two simple words: Marge Schott.
I don't much care about George Soros, and I don't care at all which rich guy gets the privilege of spending $400 million in heavy sugar on the Nats. But I do care when members of a ruling party start pushing people around, because next, it could be me. This is supposed to be the party that doesn't believe in government telling business or private citizens what to do.
Davis doesn't bother to hide his agenda. He says straight out that baseball needs to cultivate some good will on Capitol Hill at the moment, given the steroid investigations, and that selling the team to billionaire Soros, a critic of President Bush and a massive financial supporter of liberal causes, would anger him.

"They could use some friends on the Hill right now, and this is not the way to make them," Davis said yesterday.

The outright thuggery of the Republics is getting to be more offensive every day. When the pig's trough they made out of the government which they refuse to serve is defended against all comers except their buddies, this is gang warfare instead of politics.

These thugs must be pursued with charges, with subpoenas, with investigations, and then with indictments. Using public positions to limit opportunities to your buds isn't public service, it's theft by deception.

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The Stupid ...

For residents and non-residents alike, "Los Angeles" conjures images of smog and snarled freeways (adding to the smog). The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has decided to add to the image by raising fares for the buses, light rail, and trains that comprise its system. Single fares will go from $1.25 to $2, daily passes from $3 to $5, with comparable raises for weekly and monthly passes, and this is just the first phase of fare hikes, according to an article in today's Los Angeles Times.

After a decade of being largely restricted from raising bus fares by a federal judge, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is proposing a sweeping series of fare hikes that some experts worry will discourage commuters from using mass transit.

The hikes would establish some of the highest bus fares in the country. The basic fare would rise to $2 from $1.25. About 87% of all MTA passengers use some form of bus or rail pass, which would see larger price increases of up to 400% over the next 20 months.

MTA officials say that the hike is needed to help cover rising operating costs and that they have already cut 500 jobs. Without the higher fares, they say the agency would have to slash service.
[Emphasis added]

The fare hikes will hit the most vulnerable of users the hardest:

The MTA records about 1.6 million bus and rail boardings each weekday, many of them low-income riders who do not own cars. According to an MTA survey in 2001, the average family income of a bus rider was $12,000, and $22,000 for rail users.

"It really puts all the burden on the poorest, who are really relying on the bus," Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, chairwoman of the UCLA Department of Urban Planning, said of the fare hike.
[Emphasis added]

It's not like the poor have much of an alternative: the price of gasoline has risen to $3.33 per gallon, so even if a cheap and reliable car could be found, fueling it might not be feasible for the long treks to and from work. While the article makes no connection for the timing of the proposed fare hikes with the rising gasoline costs, that certainly has to be part of the equation. By the way, most MTA buses run on natural gas, so that isn't even being raised as an excuse.

What will happen, and the MTA acknowledges this, is that more affluent riders will go back to their cars, clogging the freeways and streets even more, adding to the poor air quality of the Southern California Basin. At least a 10% drop in ridership is anticipated, but the MTA believes that will just be a temporary phenomenon.

Making the fare hikes almost a fait accompli is the fact that Hummer-driving Governor Schwartzenegger has cut the budget for public transportation in favor of adding to the highway budget, which gives some indication of his priorities.

Hopefully the Riders Union will resurface with the same tenacity it did in the '80s and '90s and force the MTA back into Federal Court on the issue. If it doesn't, we're in for a series of long, hot summers: longer and hotter than they need to be.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

(Photo by Bruce Dale and published at National Geographic)

Military Leadership Ran Out of Patience

Definitely, the Republic pundits are telling us, don't give Congress authority over the war. Forget the Constitution. Give the cretin in chief a chance to end it as he began it, on his own.

That doesn't go over with the most successful tactician in the Iraq history, whose campaign in Tal Afar was used as a model for the security campaign now underway in Baghdad.

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian uthorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.

The Responsibilities of Generalship

Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars. War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, but rather a social activity that involves entire nations.

Lt. Col. Yingling knows as well as Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi know that we are failing in achieving anything positive, and we will continue to fail if the "stay the course" mentality continues to be allowed full sway.

Time for the American public to speak loudly, as it has in the vote and the polls, and tell its leadership to exercise rational judgment in the American interest. If the present leadership isn't capable of it, we need to change, now.

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Expensive Medicine

Major pharmaceutical companies regularly work the FDA over the length of their patents, thereby keeping less expensive generic versions of medications off the market for as long as possible. The claim is always the same: developing new medicines is an extremely expensive process and the company needs the longer patent life to recoup those costs. An article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times suggests that a lot of those costs arise in areas other than research. Marketing the latest medication can be quite expensive as well.

Nearly 95% of physicians in the U.S. receive free food, beverages, drug samples, sports tickets or other benefits from drug company sales reps eager to influence their prescribing habits, according to a report today in the New England Journal of Medicine. ...

In the latest study, researchers sent questionnaires to more than 3,100 doctors in six specialties — anesthesiology, cardiology, family practice, general surgery, internal medicine and pediatrics — asking about their financial relationships with drug companies.

Eighty-three percent of all doctors who responded said they received free food and beverages, the most common benefit. Free drug samples were the second most common item, with 78% of doctors receiving them.

About one-quarter of all doctors said they received full or partial reimbursement from industry for attending continuing educational meetings, and 18% of doctors said they were paid consultants to drug companies.

Seven percent of doctors said they received tickets to cultural or sporting events, items that researchers said clearly fell outside ethical guidelines.
[Emphasis added]

None of this is illegal. In fact, strictly speaking, much of it isn't even unethical according to the voluntary guidelines promulgated by the AMA. Still, that doctors are benefiting financially from their relationships with the drug companies is hardly good news for patients. As the article notes, at least some of the time the "freebies" result in the prescribing of newer, usually more expensive drugs when older, less expensive drugs would be just as effective.

The drug companies spend about $20 billion annually in such marketing efforts, the bulk of which goes to doctors in the "freebies" mentioned in the article. Perhaps the American Medical Association should take a new look at their "voluntary" ethcal guidelines.

Perhaps Congress and the FDA might want to take a look at the system as well.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Executive Branch Can't Be Trusted with State Secrets

I listened transfixed to Senator Dick Durbin yesterday recounting how sadly he watched, voting against but unable to speak out, as the very facts he had been told in the Intelligence Committee's closed and secret briefings were denied by the administration as it terrorized the country into war.

Now when I googled this I found it worded this way at The Corner;



“I was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and I would read the headlines in the paper in the morning and I'd watch the television newscast and I'd shake my head. …[T]he information we had in the Intelligence Committee was not the same information being given to the American people. I couldn't believe it.” (Sen. Dick Durbin, Floor Speech, 04/25/07)

“You see, in the Intelligence Committee, we're sworn to secrecy. We can't walk outside the door and say, ‘The statement made yesterday by the White House is in direct contradiction to classified information that's being given to this Congress.’” (Sen. Dick Durbin, Floor Speech, 04/25/07)

“And so in my frustration, I sat here on the floor of the Senate and listened to this heated debate about invading Iraq thinking the American people are being misled. They are not being told the truth.” (Sen. Dick Durbin, Floor Speech, 04/25/07)


That is as bizarre a statement by K-Lo as I could imagine. DemocratIC committee members were misused, as were all the committee members, by being held to an oath not to reveal state secrets - while those secrets were denied, and lied about, to the Congress and the public. The facts were state secrets. The lie was not - it had already been outed via the Vice President's office to Judy Miller and Co. at the New York Times.

The misuse of oaths of state secrets by the administration was detailed in the events given last night Bill Moyers' "Selling The War". When Cheney told state secrets on Meet The Press, he was not guilty of treason, as he had already had them revealed to Judy Miller and Co. of the New York Times, and they had been published. Only by knowing that they were already out there could he have known to prepare a statement about the aluminum tubes (the lie as to the facts that Durbin could not reveal), even though he knew the information was false. But only by authorizing that release of information - not stopping it as he is sworn to - could the Vice-President have known of its release.

Wait, you may say, treason had been committed then when they were revealed to Judy Miller and Co. Treason can't be committed without knowledge that you are revealing state secrets at the time. Therefore, those charges have not been brought by prosecutor Fitzpatrick, and those that were brought, only against Scooter Libby. Even Libby has not been charged with treason. I know, proving intent is almost impossible. Twisting in knots, yet?

State secrets were revealed in a scripted event on Meet The Press - so Cheney knew they were already out in public and therefore had not exercised his responsibility to protect the U.S. by keeping state secrets. In this instance, though, it was worse. He lied about those state secrets and depended on the Senate Intelligence Committee members with 'Need to Know' to keep their oaths to protect the country. If this were written by Shakespeare, Cheney could be well described as 'thrice damned'. I'm not William Shakespeare. I'll just call Cheney a war criminal of the lowest and most despicable order. Lying while trusting the honorable people around him not to reveal state secrets - which would have stopped us from going to war.

The Hague may be too good for them.

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Thursday Birding

This is what greets me in the morning right now, although as they are peeking out at me over the windowledge, soon the chicks will be flying off. This picture was from the Colorado State site, and although you will see less than the whole bird in this picture, it is the sweetness that it shows that I thought you'd appreciate.

The coo-oo cooo of the call is one of the nicest sounds you will hear in the evening, and if you could hear the babytalk coo-oo cooo of the chicks, you would love it.

The birds are presently in the stage of skittering after each other and are pretty vulnerable as they are not paying any attention to such minutiae as cars and dogs and suchlike.

Cool fact: Mourning Doves feed their nestlings crop milk or "pigeon milk," which is secreted by the crop lining. This is an extremely nutritious food with more protein and fat than is found in either cow or human milk. Crop milk, which is regurgitated by both adults, is the exclusive food of hatchlings for three days, after which it is gradually replaced by a diet of seeds.

This from the same fellas who are looking for the orange-breasted falcon,, and if you want more pictures of the mourning dove, and whole body shots, please do go to their site.


Show Trials

Now, here's a frightening quote:

“There is no right on the part of counsel to access to detained aliens on a secure military base in a foreign country, ...”

This inelegantly phrased assertion appeared in a US Justice Department filing which proposes tight restrictions on lawyers for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, according to an article in today's NY Times.

Under the proposal, filed this month in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the government would limit lawyers to three visits with an existing client at Guantánamo; there is now no limit. It would permit only a single visit with a detainee to have him authorize a lawyer to handle his case. And it would permit a team of intelligence officers and military lawyers not involved in a detainee’s case to read mail sent to him by his lawyer.

The proposal would also reverse existing rules to permit government officials, on their own, to deny the lawyers access to secret evidence used by military panels to determine that their clients were enemy combatants.

And the reasons given in support of such shamefully draconian measures? Fasten your seatbelts:

The filing used combative language, saying lawyers had been able to “cause unrest on the base” and mentioned hunger strikes, protests and disobedience. An affidavit by a Navy lawyer at Guantánamo, Cmdr. Patrick M. McCarthy, that accompanied the filing, said lawyers had gathered information from the detainees for news organizations. Commander McCarthy also said the lawyers had provided detainees with accounts of events outside Guantánamo, like a speech at an Amnesty International conference and details of terrorist attacks. [Emphasis added]

Heaven forfend! These lawyers are trying to provide those detained for years without charge with basic legal services accorded defendants in civilized nations.

The Department of Justice is in even worse shape than I thought, which I didn't believe possible until this morning. Apparently the DOJ would prefer a simpler procedure for those "aliens" held at what one lawyer called a "legal black hole."

Try 'em and then hang 'em.


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Church Leaders Don't Want SMU = Torture U.

Not too long ago, SMU faculty made lots of noise about its opposition to locating the Bush Liebury on the campus, associating this maladministration with their educational institution. A petition was sent out and I among many others signed it, protesting the association with the Methodist Church. Today, one of the organizers of the petition and the protests emailed the people who signed.

I am passing on to you some of the thoughts of a church official not wanting to associate their teachings with the cretin in chief.

I am the Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D. -- the person who organized and maintains the petition at www. I am an ordained United Methodist minister and research psychologist living in New York City.

I want to thank you for signing the petition and for your passionate and heart-felt comments. It is important that United Methodists and other people of faith and conscience express their pain and outrage at the unchristian manner that President George W. Bush has conducted himself while in office. No one in modern history has done more to discredit the witness of Jesus Christ and the good name of the Methodist people worldwide than President Bush. To place a massive partisan Institute on the campus of a university owned by the United Methodist Church (UMC) to "polish his legacy" and "promote President Bush's polices," over which Southern Methodist University (SMU) or the UMC will have no oversight is unacceptable.

The evidence is abundant; Bush has acted in profoundly immoral ways while in office. He chose to launch a "shock and awe" war of aggression against the people of Iraq, based upon a series of falsehoods. The war continues to be a catastrophe and the tragic aftermath will be with us for generations to come. In addition, the President has authorized international kidnapping and torture.

On September 15, 2006, the Washington Post lead editorial was entitled "The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture." The Post reported, "President Bush rarely visits Congress. So it was a measure of his painfully skewed priorities that Mr. Bush made the unaccustomed trip yesterday to seek legislative permission for the CIA to make people disappear into secret prisons and have information extracted from them by means he dare not describe publicly."

Anyone who thinks that the good name of Methodism or Southern Methodist University should be associated with George W. Bush needs to read the book, "Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror" by Dr. Steven Miles, professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Professor Miles has based this volume on painstaking research and highly-credible sources, including eyewitness accounts, army criminal investigations, FBI debriefings of prisoners, autopsy reports, and prisoners' medical records. These documents tell a story strikingly different from the Bush administration version presented to the American people, revealing involvement at every level of government, from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to prison health-care personnel. The book also shows how the highest officials of government are complicit in this pattern of torture, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, United Methodist Vice President Dick Cheney, and United Methodist President George W. Bush. (See my recently published review of Miles' book at

While much of the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Forces troops remains concealed, Dr. Miles documents how nineteen prisoners were tortured to death by American military personnel. The book tells of an Afghan prisoner named Dilawar, an innocent 22-year-old, who drove his taxi to the wrong place at the wrong time. At the U.S. detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, in December 2002, Dilawar was smothered, shackled and then suspended by his arms. When he was beaten with a baton, he cried out "Allah, Allah," which amused the soldiers and triggered more merciless blows. The official report reads that he was beaten over a five day period until his legs were, in the words of the coroner, "pulpified." He was then chained to the ceiling of his cell, where he died. Although an autopsy stated that Dilawar's death was a homicide, General Daniel McNeil told reporters that Dilawar had died of natural causes on the grounds that one of his coronary arteries was partly occluded. The words "coronary artery disease" were typed in a different font on the prisoner's death certificate.

Up to 90 percent of the prisoners detained in the Bush "war on terror" have been found to be unjustifiably imprisoned and without intelligence value. In addition, much of the hideous work of torture is out-sourced by the Bush administration to countries like Uzbekistan, Syria and Egypt, where torture is a long-standing and common practice. In July 2004, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who grew up in a devout Methodist home, protested the Uzbek intelligence service's interrogation practices: "Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the U.S. and U.K. to believe.... This material is useless -- we are selling our souls for dross."

Torture is a crime against humanity and a violation of every human rights treaty in existence, including the Geneva Conventions which prohibit cruel and degrading treatment of detainees. Torture is as profound a moral issue in our day as was slavery in the 19th century. It represents a betrayal of our deepest human and religious values as a civilized society. If The United Methodist Church cannot take a stand against the use of torture and those who employ it, including President Bush, what does it stand for?

We must refuse to allow President Bush to build his partisan Institute to promote his failed and immoral policies on a UMC university campus without the strongest possible objection.

While my association with the Methodist Church is very vague and relates to childhood, I am proud of this public stand and hope that it is joined by a large proportion of the church's members. This and all churches in the U.S. would have much more appeal if they devoted their energies, and their resources, to morally correct and upright activities like this.

Why, that's what christianity was meant to be, from lessons learned in childhood.

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Henhouse, Meet Mr. Fox

This administration rewards those who contribute dollars or time to the GOP with plum jobs in federal agencies. Once there, the appointees are expected to toe the adminstration's line, which usually involves favors to big business. An absolutely chilling article in today's NY Times details the effects of such cronyism on Americans.

The story details the actions, or, more properly, lack of action, of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA) of a documented illness which struck workers at a microwave popcorn plant:

Seven years ago, a Missouri doctor discovered a troubling pattern at a microwave popcorn plant in the town of Jasper. After an additive was modified to produce a more buttery taste, nine workers came down with a rare, life-threatening disease that was ravaging their lungs.

The additive is diacetyl, and the disease is bronchiolitis obliterans, an incurable lung disease which in the case of one 35-year old worker requires a double lung transplant.

NIOSH quickly discovered the potential link and turned the matter over to OSHA, which did ... nothing. The response is typical of how OSHA has operated since the Bush administration took office.

That response reflects OSHA’s practices under the Bush administration, which vowed to limit new rules and roll back what it considered cumbersome regulations that imposed unnecessary costs on businesses and consumers. Across Washington, political appointees — often former officials of the industries they now oversee — have eased regulations or weakened enforcement of rules on issues like driving hours for truckers, logging in forests and corporate mergers.

Since George W. Bush became president, OSHA has issued the fewest significant standards in its history, public health experts say. It has imposed only one major safety rule. The only significant health standard it issued was ordered by a federal court.

The agency has killed dozens of existing and proposed regulations and delayed adopting others. For example, OSHA has repeatedly identified silica dust, which can cause lung cancer, and construction site noise as health hazards that warrant new safeguards for nearly three million workers, but it has yet to require them. ...

By the end of 2001, OSHA had withdrawn more than a dozen proposed regulations. The agency, though, soon identified several safety priorities: rules on the hazards posed by dust from silica, used as a blasting agent, and noise from construction sites, which was causing a growing number of workers to suffer hearing loss. The agency has yet to produce either standard, though OSHA officials say they are working on them.
[Emphasis added]

OSHA officials claim they're doing their job and point to statistics showing lower injury and health problem rates in the last several years. What those officials don't mention is that under the Bush administration, the types of injuries which have to be reported have been reduced, thus skewing the statistics.

OSHA officials also claim that by working with industry for voluntary compliance instead of issuing rules, the costs of doing business have been reduced, leading to the creation of more jobs. No surprise there, eh?

OSHA has been getting away with this for over six years because there has been no congressional oversight. That has changed as the 110th Congress has taken over. Unfortunately, it may be too late for that 35-year old microwave popcorn worker, unless, of course, he gets that double lung transplant.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sacrificing Troops For Propaganda

No one in this country has failed to see that the sacrifices being made in the war on Iraq are those of the troops, their families, and our grandchildren. Today the Tillman family, who lost son and brother Pat Tillman, and Jessica Lych, are presenting the simple truth to hearings on Capitol Hill, that they were deliberately misled and purposively lied to by the army they served, to protect army 'brass' from disgrace.

Kevin Tillman, who served in the same platoon in Afghanistan as Pat, said the Pentagon purposefully withheld the true circumstances of his death from the family and sought to distract the public from the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraid prison facility in Iraq.
'The content of the multiple investigations reveal a series of contraditions that strongly suggest delierate and careful misrepresentations,' Tillman said.
Lynch said she was later overwhelmed with repeated stories of 'the little girl Rambo from the hills of West Virginia who went down fighting.'

It was not true,' she said.

As noted in the interview I posted yesterday, Mary Mapes was privileged to have the story of Abu Ghraib brought to her by some one who cared deeply about this country, much more deeply than those military agents who defrauded the Tillman's of the truth about their brother and Ms. Lynch of her own story.

It is an atmosphere that prevails throughout government, that influences a Wolfowitz to place his girlfriend in a high-paying job and lie about his own agency in that event, as Diane posted below. It is an atmosphere of lies that uses torture and denies that it does so, then includes in its conviction that the convicted cannot discuss what methods were used on him/her.

This government is a disgrace, and it should not have the ability to compel service from good honest people. Not the Tillmans, not Jessica Lynch, and not you and me.

(this post also at

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Lawyering Up

While Alberto Gonzales appears more confident in his position now that President Bush has reiterated his confidence in the embattled Attorney General, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz isn't quite so sure the President's confidence is going to be enough in his case. He's hired a lawyer. From today's NY Times:

Paul D. Wolfowitz, signaling anew that he will fight for his job as World Bank president, has enlisted a prominent lawyer who defended President Bill Clinton against accusations of sexual misconduct to help convince the bank’s board that Mr. Wolfowitz has done nothing to justify being ousted. ...

It was unclear whether Mr. Wolfowitz intended to pay his legal fees himself or whether he would seek reimbursement from the bank. His latest sign of apparent determination to keep his job came as the furor over his record continued to spread.

That "furor" has grown beyond Mr. Wolfowitz's alleged special treatment of his girlfriend, which at this point looks like nothing more than a symptom of Mr. Wolfowitz's casual misuse of his position. The article provides at least a partial laundry list of other problems he has caused.

Bank officials said that after several days of canvassing hundreds of employees, about 25 vice presidents of the bank were preparing to document that the overwhelming majority of the employees favor Mr. Wolfowitz’s departure. ...

The Financial Times reported on Monday that the independent agency within the bank that assesses the effectiveness of bank programs concluded last week that “swift changes in management” were needed to restore its credibility.

In addition, a group of more than 40 former top officials at the bank, many of whom departed after clashing with Mr. Wolfowitz, issued a public call for him to resign.

While I suppose an argument can be made that Mr. Wolfowitz was not a popular boss because he came in promising to clean house and to end corruption, that argument won't quite cover the other sins, such as this one:

In the last week or so, concern over two other issues — family planning and the environment — was spreading new rancor in the bank, contributing to the criticism.

Documents have surfaced indicating that one of Mr. Wolfowitz’s two top deputies, Juan J. Daboub, a managing director and former finance official in El Salvador, had deleted language referring to “family planning” and “climate change” in separate bank documents.

Some bank officials charge that these changes were made at the behest of the Bush administration. But they say that Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Daboub have denied during internal meetings that they intended to carry out any kind of policy change.
[Emphasis added]

Sound familiar?

Unlike the Department of Justice and the other agencies corrupted by the GOP agenda, the World Bank is not just an extension of the White House, no matter how much the administration intended to make it so. Mr. Wolfowitz was wise to hire a lawyer. It certainly looks like he needs one.


Monday, April 23, 2007

The Psychology of Walls

The Prime Minister of Iraq and the US Pentagon appear to be on opposite sides of the wall proposed by our military to secure certain neighborhoods in Bagdhad. From today's NY Times:

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said Sunday that he was ordering a halt to construction of a controversial wall that would block a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad from other areas, saying it reminded people of “other walls.”

The announcement, which he made in Cairo while on a state visit, appeared intended to allay mounting criticism from both Sunni Arab and Shiite parties about the project. ...

Mr. Maliki did not specify in his remarks what other walls he referred to. However, the separation barrier in the West Bank being erected by Israel, which Israel says is for protection but greatly angers Palestinians, is a particularly delicate issue among Arabs.

Under an agreement the US has with the Iraqi government, the Prime Minister actually has the last say on the issue, but the US military hasn't exactly rushed to change its plans for the wall.

A spokesman for the American military, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, said the military would remain “in a dialogue” with the Iraqi government about how best to protect citizens. The military did not say whether the wall’s construction would be halted. ...

The military does not have a new strategy of building walls or creating “gated communities,” the spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said in a written statement. He described it as a tactic being used in only a handful of neighborhoods and not an effort to divide the city, much less the country.

However, American military officials said last week in a statement that the Adhamiya wall was “one of the centerpieces of a new strategy.” They also said that the wall was aimed at separating Sunni Arabs in Adhamiya from Shiites to the east.

Adhamiya has been one of the most troubled and troublesome neighborhoods in Baghdad, which was the reason it was selected for the proposed edifice by the US military. Mortar attacks and sectarian violence are a daily occurance for the area. Even so, the Iraqi government (both Sunni and Shi'a members) has made it clear that the wall is an inappropriate response to the security problem, and rightfully so. Walls send the wrong message.

Opposition to the wall has gathered steam since the news release was issued, and on Sunday, Sunni Arab and Shiite groups sharply criticized the idea. The Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic Party and the Shiite group linked to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr both announced that they opposed dividing Baghdad by sect. In sharp statements, they said the wall would increase sectarian hatred and fuel efforts to partition the country. [Emphasis added]

It's impossible to fault the logic of the Iraqis in this case, especially when the two main groups actually agree on something. Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped the US in the past. It will be interesting to see if the construction stops and a new strategy is put into place.

I'm not optimistic.


Questions and Answers: Unexpurgated Interview with Mary Mapes

The interview is written up and featured at correntewire.


Q.What are you doing now? What effect has being?
‘producer fired by CBS’ had on you?? I would like to
know what the effect has been on you of
being “swiftboated”?

A. Right now, I am working on a documentary project.
For a long time, being identified primarily as a
“producer fired by CBS” was like waking up every
morning with an anvil on my head. I was saddened by
how my 15-year career at CBS had ended. I still am,
but as time has passed, as the Bush administration has
begun to stagger under the weight of multiple scandals
and as public opinion has changed, I have made some
peace with it. I believe that at the end of the day, I
will be more comfortable with my choices and actions
than many in the working press. I was fired for
raising a perfectly legitimate question in an age in
which Joe McCarthy would have felt comfortable.
I also am acutely aware that all I lost was my job.
During this president’s tenure, so many people have
lost much more -- a limb, a loved one, their lives. I
am lucky.

Q. (Ruth- you need to explain who C. is. Not everyone
is going to recognize his name)
While?William Campennini, the person claiming to be a
Guardsman with Bush said that he was going to?write a
book, he seems to have faded away without
ever?publishing that book. Do you have any other
knowledge about him and his info? If I were to ask
Powerline if they have ever established his
service?being actually with Bush, do you think I would
hear the truth?

A. Another fabulous book lost to history, I guess. I’m
sorry he didn’t go
forward. I would have loved to have seen it,
particularly since it would have been a quick read.
When it comes to the President’s military record,
there just isn’t that much to say.
I remember the name Campennini coming up during our
look at Bush’s service. Just from memory, I recall
that he was always considered an “F.O.B.,” a friend of
Bush’s who could be counted on to confirm the
President’s version of events in 1972. A reporter
named Corey Pein did a great piece in Columbia
Journalism Review not long after my impaling which
recounted the Bush team’s strategy of relying on a
core team of people like Campennini, Dean Roome, Maury
Udell, Bobby Hodges and Buck Staudt to back up the
President’s claims. These guys are the real
“dead-enders,” (as Dick Cheney called the fanatical
insurgents in Iraq) men who would never give up, never
change their stories no matter how much reality
I don’t know whether the other outlets that ran
interviews or quotations from Campennini ever actually
checked out his bona fides. Maybe the White House gave
them the name. The president’s team was always very
active in pointing the media to the same people again
and again to confirm the president’s story, creating
an echo chamber of agreement on Bush’s military
record. Without taking the initiative to look outside
that group, a reporter could never see the real story,
that there were tremendous contradictions between the
White House version of events and what could be found
in the records, the statements from those in the Guard
who were not aligned with the President and the
reality of how the Guard operated during Vietnam.

Q. Why did the controversy over authenticity of the
papers used in your
story on Bush’s Guard?service (or lack of) become the
main emphasis of that report? Why did the public
accept that so readily??

A. The reason that the font style, typeface and
proportional spacing questions became the dominant
issues in my story is that it was part of a
brilliantly executed, if deceitful, tactic to avoid
the subject at hand. It was also wildly successful.
All of the claims that “typewriters couldn’t do those
things in the early 1970s” were completely baseless.
That fraudulent strategy distracted the media and the
public from one of the really revealing incidents in
President Bush’s background. Focusing on these
peripheral issues allowed competing news organizations
(who had been taking dictation from the White House
for years) to attack someone who wasn’t falling into
line. The tactic also allowed a White House political
operation -- well-versed in changing the subject,
attacking the messenger and using savage personal
attacks on its political opponents -- to try out those
techniques against a news organization.
The strategy worked because our story was basically
about two-and-a-half years too early. I think if the
story ran today that the public and the media would
view it differently. We now all have greater clarity
about how the Bush White House operates. If documents
and records you want to examine don’t reflect
positively on the President, then they can’t be found.
If they are ever located and they aren’t supportive of
the White House version of events, then you can’t see
them because of executive privilege/national security
issues. And if you don’t find those answers
acceptable, YOU have a political bias. That is
standard operating procedure whether the subject is
FEMA during Katrina, the treatment of detainees, the
handling of White House emails, or the President’s
military service records.
I don’t know why the public or the mainstream media
accepted this at the time. Actually, many regular
Americans did not accept this behavior from the White
House, but they had no recourse. They found it
dishonest, but there was no Congressional oversight,
no way of forcing the administration to answer
questions, produce documents or in any way deign to
explain their actions to the country. In 2004, people
who were unhappy with this monarchical arrangement
were in the minority. In 2007, if polls are any
indication, it’s a majority.
After watching Attorney General Gonzales spend a
long day suffering under withering questions, I have
to say I believe we have reached a tipping point. As
an American, I am happy to see a strong two-party
system back in play, greater accountability in
government, and a public that is finally demanding
some answers. I feel like I live in the United States

Q. What do you think of the way that
present?administration behavior, such as the Gonzales
claims of nonparticipation in firing U.S. attorneys,
is?handled by the press?

A. I marveled at Gonzales’ spirited defense of his
actions as being too incompetent to be “improper.” He
just didn’t know or doesn’t recall what anyone in his
office was doing. This would be more amusing if his
work for the President was limited to bureaucratic
hirings and firings. Sadly, this guy was also in
charge of NSA wiretappings, the INS and determining
what constituted torture.
In his time in Texas, he was Bush’s counsel on death
penalty reviews, preparing thumbnail sketches of each
case so the Governor could determine whether to show
leniency or mercy. Not surprisingly, Gonzales’
consistently stellar work overlooked situations in
which the defendant was mentally ill or retarded, had
committed the crimes as a juvenile or had an attorney
who showed up in court drunk and fell asleep during
trial. He wasn’t bothered by cases in which
eyewitnesses had recanted their testimony. The
Attorney General has proudly recounted that he and
Governor Bush devoted a full 15 minutes to the
consideration of each case.
Gee, thanks for the effort, guys. It’s not like this
is a matter of life or death or anything.
Their partnership on Texas death penalty cases
certainly was productive. Then-Governor Bush rejected
only one execution while in office. He approved 152.
Having racked up that kind of death count, this
president and his
personal-attorney-turned-professional-counsel have, I
believe, more profound issues to worry about than
their political approval ratings or press coverage.
I think the mainstream media, particularly
broadcasting, which at this point is a
corporate-driven machine, is seeing that there is a
growing practical advantage in truly serving the
public, asking harder questions and characterizing
situations in a way that is less overtly supportive of
the Administration. That is finally beginning to
happen, and I am glad to see it. No administration,
Republican or Democrat, should be taken at its word.
Skepticism of government should be part of every
reporter’s tool kit. It is the American way and I am
adamantly pro-American.

Q.What would you like to be doing about it if you were
still at Sixty Minutes?

A. I would be looking at the U.S. Attorney scandal and
others, checking out where the next big revelation is
coming from, because there IS more to come. I think
this metastasizing of the problems in the Bush
administration is growing rapidly and raising all
kinds of issues. I would be looking for
whistleblowers. Gosh, I would still love to hear from
whistleblowers, even though I am not at 60 Minutes.

Q. Do you have any doubt as to the authenticity of the
documents that the
public has been led to believe were foisted on you?
And any further info
from the?man who passed them on to you? Or his

A. I know that if the documents we presented were
forgeries, they were a hell of a lot better forgeries
than the Niger documents the President relied on for
his State of Union speech in which he declared that
Iraq had been seeking nuclear weapons material in
This is what else I know: I know that we stated in
our initial report that because these documents we had
obtained were copies, they could not be verified with
ink-testing and the other techniques that provide
tangible physical evidence of their age. But before we
aired them, we did extensive meshing of these
documents with the President’s official records and
found no contradictions. Further, we found that our
new documents filled in some of the gaps in the
chronology of his official documents.
We also looked painstakingly for errors of fact,
date, department, personnel, personnel identification
information, address, 1972 Air Force handbook citings,
timing allowed for mail delivery, classification of
information, and practices in the Air Force/National
Guard at the time. We did not find a single problem.
Before our story aired, the content of the new
documents was corroborated by the commanding officer
of Lt. Col. Killian, who purportedly wrote the memos.
Killian’s secretary also confirmed the accuracy of the
documents’ content. We also had the Killian documents
examined and approved by two tremendously experienced
document and handwriting analysts who were ready to
testify in court as to their belief that these memos
were real.
That is pretty damn good. It is good enough to be
entered into court as evidence. It is good enough to
be presented to the public. It was, as the saying
goes, “good enough for government work”, particularly
when compared to the lax standards this government has
had for the past six years. It was good enough for me
and it still is.
If they had been proved false, so be it. But they
haven’t been, not even by the CBS panel that spent
millions of dollars and many months investigating the
In the ensuing two-and-a-half years, the right wing
blogosphere critics who attacked our story have made
claim after hateful claim about other supposedly false
stories, such as cameramen working in conjunction with
terrorists and exaggerations about the safety and
security of Baghdad. Without exception, their
politically motivated attacks have been proved dead
wrong. Is it possible that they were right about our
story and wrong about everything else? I believe they
were wrong about our story, too. I think they have
batted a thousand. They have always been wrong and as
long as their criticism is so exclusively partisan, it
will always be wrong.

Q.If the furor that was raised over an aspect of
the?documentary on Bush’s
service had not dominated the scene, do you think it
might have raised the kind of doubts that would have
defeated him in the ever so?narrow electoral college
victory he managed?

A. Gosh, I am not an election analyst. I just am not.
And I have not memorized his numbers, precinct by
precinct. I will leave that question to all the other
smart people out there who love to ponder that stuff.
I am a reporter. I deal in what I can see, what I
can hold in my hands, what I think people ought to

Q.Please give a background on how you became
concerned?about Bush’s TX national guard performance?
Do you?think your concerns have been borne out?

A.I became interested in the President’s service
record when he began making noises about running for
the White House in 1999. Before that, while I was
aware of the issue, I didn’t think it mattered. The
Governor of Texas cannot send men and women to war.
Say amen, everybody.
When George W. Bush did take this country into a war
of choice, this issue became even more important. I do
think those concerns have been tragically borne out.
We appear to be in a war with no exit strategy.
The President sometimes seems to be reading LBJ’s old
speeches: “We cannot let these brave men and women die
in vain; we have to send in more troops.” This is fast
becoming this generation’s Vietnam. And I can’t help
but think that part of the reason we are revisiting
this nightmarish folly may be that President Bush
didn’t learn the lessons of Vietnam the first time.
Now we all get to relearn it with him. It has cost so
many thousands and thousands of lives – American and
otherwise. That is a terrible price to pay in order
for one man to finally begin to grasp the blood,
sacrifice and heartbreak of war.

Q.Do you feel that a military background and/or
good?service record should be prerequisite for a
military?leader or for the presidency? Do you think
the military situation this country is in would have?>
happened if service had
been part of Bush's background? ?

A. I don’t think that a military background is a
necessity for the presidency. I think honesty is. And
I think an honest understanding of the sacrifice our
military makes in time of war, a sense of the terrible
price the families of both soldiers and civilians pay
in war is tremendously valuable for anyone making
those life and death decisions about diplomacy versus
invasion, sanctions versus bombing, war versus peace.

Q. You won an award for the revelations of Abu
Ghraib.?What would be the result of that not having
come out? Please tell how you learned about the
atrocities there.?

A.The irony of the tragedies at Abu Ghraib is that the
Iraqis knew about it, and had known about it for a
long time. It was the Americans who didn’t know. So we
didn’t know that some of our soldiers were being
attacked and killed because of the dark rage that grew
out of the treatment of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. We
didn’t know that we were growing terrorists in our own
holding cells or because of our treatment of
prisoners. We didn’t know that the choices our
government had made in carrying out the war were
deepening and complicating the war.
We got a tip on the Abu Ghraib situation from someone
who did this country a great service, giving us a
chance to right terrible wrongs. I wish we as a nation
would have taken the message to heart and changed our
policies toward detainees across the board.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Poetry: Seamus Heaney


A rowan like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road
Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance
Stand off among the rushes.

There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens.

Seamus Heaney

Working Both Sides

President Bush has been working diligently to promote immigration reform, which in his case, means a guest worker program. Congress has also been working diligently and there are rumors of an actually bipartisan bill being crafted. In the meantime, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, flush with money, are working diligently at raids of various sorts. From today's Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Thanks to an increase in this year's budget, immigration agents expect to conduct more door-to-door searches for wanted illegal immigrants, such as this month's sweep in Willmar. And they foresee more workplace raids, such as last year's operation at a Worthington meatpacking plant.

"You'll definitely see more large-scale [employer] operations," said Claude Arnold, who heads investigations at the regional office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"It's one of our priorities," he said. "We got money and resources for worksite enforcement -- and we will get more." ...

That means searching for and arresting illegal immigrants, in particular those with criminal convictions and orders for deportations; combatting identity fraud; busting employers, and investigating transnational gangs.

The approach hasn't been welcomed by everyone. Immigrant advocates said the ICE searches of immigrant homes in Willmar this month traumatized all immigrants, legal and illegal. In a lawsuit filed in federal court recently, residents charged that ICE agents entered homes without warrants.

While it's hard to fault the ICE's push to arrest those with criminal convictions and deportation orders, the means allegedly used are suspect, albeit only too familiar these days. Warrantless searches? A mere technicality.

"Busting employers," on the other hand, does sound intriguing. Here's what Mr. Arnold is contemplating:

Arnold said he intends to crank up employer arrests, too. The fines faced by employers who hired illegal workers have not been a deterrent, he admitted. But "when you see an executive wearing handcuffs," it can have an impact, he said.

The statistics cited in the article, however, suggests that the employer phase hasn't actually started:

The regional ICE office deported 1,427 people from October 2006 to March 2007. That compares with 3,015 in fiscal 2006. It also made 1,846 arrests of immigration violators who weren't criminals from October 2006 until this month. That compares with 2,702 in fiscal 2006.

Isn't it odd how there's no mention of employer arrests in those numbers? I suppose the arrest of illegal immigrants who weren't criminals is supposed to make up for that.


Not Making Nice And North Korea

For those of you not following the matter closely, this may come as a surprise. North Korea, of the 'Axis of Evil', has not shut down its nuclear facilities as it has agreed to. Yesterday was the date agreed to.

The February agreement hinged on the release of its funds held in Macao banks. The funds have been released, though there is some argument there. The funds were not released when they were supposed to be, and North Korea has said there is not the access they preferred.

A nuclear disarmament deal is on the verge of being crippled on Thursday, with North Korea falling short of taking steps for denuclearization just a couple of days ahead of the weekend deadline amid a dispute over the release of its funds frozen at a Macau bank.

The North's US$25 million held at Banco Delta Asia (BDA) has been available to access by the North Korean holders since Tuesday, when Macau's financial authorities decided to "unblock" the funds.

"I think we have come to a very important juncture which is we consider this BDA matter to be really resolved," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, Washington's chief nuclear negotiator, told reporters in Seoul Wednesday.

"Now the DPRK needs to assess the information and presumably check with their bankers to see their access to the accounts," Hill said, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The U.S. diplomat is on a three-nation trip that will also take him to China. He has extended by one day his visit to Seoul that was to end Thursday. Many believe he extended his trip because his hope to arrange a meeting with his North Korean counterparts in Beijing was not realized.

Seoul and Washington are doing everything to prepare a soft landing should the Saturday deadline for the North to shut down its nuclear facilities be missed. But they both agree it will put the overall schedule of disabling the North's nuclear facilities off track unless changes start to take place on ground before the deadline.

Under the nuclear agreement signed in Beijing on Feb. 13, North Korea has to shut down its key nuclear facilities, including its only operational 5-megawatt reactor, and have the closure verified by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors in 60 days, which is this Saturday.

Foreign Minister Song Min-soon tried to put as little weight as possible on the importance of meeting the deadline, saying a missed deadline means little as long as North Korea has the will to see the agreement through and that it does.

"What is important is not whether the (deadline) date expires or not, but whether we can firmly implement the measures and move on to the next phase based on that," Song told a regular press briefing Wednesday.

"The desirable thing is (for the initial denuclearization measures to be) implemented before April 14. The countries are doing their utmost to this end," he added.

Others are less optimistic as a missed deadline would inevitably lead to a delay in a second -- and more important -- phase of the Feb. 13 agreement, under which the North is called to disable its nuclear facilities and declare a complete list of all its nuclear programs in exchange for 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid.

The energy-for-denuclearization deal does not state an end date for the second disablement phase, but the top U.S. nuclear envoy has expressed hope to draw up a timeline "that will get us through disablement in this calendar year in 2007."
"Obviously the (60-day) deadline is important. We set up the deadline for a purpose," Hill said Tuesday.

"Clearly, if we don't get denuclearization, we are going to have problems on other tracks as well."
U.S. and South Korean officials confirmed Thursday that they have yet to hear any response from North Korea on the Macanese financial authorities' decision.

Chun Yung-woo, Seoul's top nuclear negotiator, said it "could take a few days" for North Korea to realize the funds are now available, without offering a view on whether the communist state would consider the funds' availability as a resolution of the banking issue.

"It's time for North Korea to move. Before North Korea moves, there's nothing we can do," the South Korean told reporters after a near two-hour meeting with his U.S. counterpart Hill at a Seoul hotel.

North Korea had previously demanded the money be released to it via an account at a Chinese bank, a transaction that would have proved to North Korea that it funds can still move freely within the international banking system.

Washington has apparently failed to arrange the proposed transaction due to what it had called "minor technical problems."

Discussions to set a timeline for the disablement phase have yet to take place as North Korea walked out of the six-nation nuclear talks held in Beijing last month, demanding resolution of the BDA issue.

I don't like to post long quotes like this, but you will not see this in your local news. A South Korean negotiator came to D.C. today to talk about this in the U.S.

You may see a reference to that in your local news. But the nuclear facilities are buzzing along merrily. We haven't impressed North Korea that we are doing our part, and since the present maladministration has attacked them without provocation by naming them as part of the "Axis of Evil", there has been no inclination on their part to make nice with us. Unsurprisingly, attacking a country that has not been on the offense against us is not a smart thing to do, and occasions real consequences.

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Apparently Irony Is Not Dead

Ian Williams should get a prize for his opening line in a column composed for the UK's Guardian:

A working definition of chutzpah: a Bush administration prosecuting deserters.

The rest of the column isn't too bad, either, as Williams examines one of the least discussed issues of the Iraq War: desertion.

It is interesting that people like the newly recess-appointed US Ambassador to Belgium, Sam Fox, spent so much time and money examining the military careers of people like Kerry, but are so uninterested in the eloquent lack of a military career for George Bush. But he won his ambassadorship the same way that Bush won his exemption - with cash and connections.

Back in the day, during the Vietnam war that he supported, young George Bush, "Googen" to his family, abused his family ties to join the Texas Air National Guard, which in those halcyon days guaranteed a free pass from the draft and deployment to Indo-China. He had to do that because President Lyndon Baines Johnson had abolished the graduate student deferment that so many other members of the Bush cabinet had already abused.

Towards the end of his five-year term, young W went missing, and failed to turn up for the occasional duties demanded. The technical term for someone absent without leave for such an extended period is desertion. But Texans are great believers in redemption - at least for sons of important political families - and the local establishment covered up his desertion.

He is now commander-in-chief of the most disastrous war since, well ... Vietnam. Things have changed. Congressmen's sons do not get protection any more. They do not need it since none of them are in the forces. National Guards are posted overseas in Iraq - over and over again. They and regular army recruits have discovered the small print in their contracts that says that they can't leave when they thought they could.

Consequently desertions are rising - as are prosecutions. In the last five years desertions trebled compared with the previous five years - and they are still rising. ...

I have one quibble: several members of Congress have sons or daughters serving in Iraq. That quibble aside, Williams' column does raise some interesting issues with respect to what this administration and the GOP which continues to kowtow to it have done to this country.

After years of bashing Clinton for his lack of military service, the GOP has done all it could (and that turned out to be a lot) to quash any examination of Bush's service (or lack thereof) in the Texas Air National Guard.* It has also smeared those who actually served in the military with honor, in Viet Nam and after, right out of elections.

What this administration and its minions have done to the military itself is even worse: they broke it. In fact, it is so broken that the Pentagon has unilaterally extended tours in Iraq to fight a war that most Americans are so disgusted by that they favor a pull-out. No wonder some soldiers refuse another tour. Being charged with a felony is considered preferable.

And all this from a man who, well, deserted.

*Ruth will have more on this part of the GOP machine in a day or two.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bonus Critter Blogging: Coyote

(Photograph by Michael S. Quinton published at National Geographic)

Maybe You Ought to Go Plough The Backyard

Bloody diarrhea anyone?

As I have previously posted and at the risk of being borrrrriiiiinnnnngggggg.

The Agriculture Department has decided the public interest is quaint. You are expendable. You did tell the IRS that when you filed your income taxes, whether you paid or had it deducted so you filed for an (interest free) return, right?

'E Coli conservatives' is the term being coined at correntewire.

California and Pennsylvania are the most affected in the latest recall.

Recall was cited 74 times in the AG's answers to questions in the hearings Thursday.

We are definitely looking at a situation where the entire nation is in the hands of an element that is only interested in political gain. It is poisoning us all.

As my computer is being cranky, I can't give you the relevant portions of the beef recall, just recommend you click on the above cite and read for yourself. You can't trust this government for safety of any kind.

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Is the Glass Actually Half-Full?

This week's US Supreme Court decision upholding the partial-birth abortion ban stunned the pro-choice community, along with the majority of American women who have made it clear that they favor a woman's right to decide on whether to terminate a pregnancy. An interesting guest op-ed piece written by David J. Garrow and published in today's NY Times suggests that the decision is really not that bad when read closely.

THE Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision this week, in Gonzales v. Carhart, to uphold the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act will undoubtedly harm the future reproductive health of some American women, and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion patronized such women’s ability to make the sad and difficult decisions that late-term abortion often entails.

But let’s not exaggerate what this ruling means. The Carhart decision is an extremely limited upholding of the federal ban, one that promises to affect very few abortion providers and only a tiny percentage of their patients. The most recent and reliable national statistics, from the Guttmacher Institute, show that only about 30 American doctors ever use the “intact dilation and evacuation” method that has now been criminalized. Only some 2,200 of the 1.3 million abortions performed annually in the United States involve the banned procedure.

Moreover, Justice Kennedy explicitly and insistently limited the reach of the new prohibition. ... Reiterating the standard he embraced 15 years ago in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Justice Kennedy stated that the ban would impose an undue burden if it covered standard dilation and evacuation and thus would be unconstitutional.

Justice Kennedy also declared — repeatedly — that only purposeful violations of the prohibition can be prosecuted. What the law covers is the deliberate, almost-complete delivery of a living fetus, followed by a further intentional act that causes its demise. ...
[Emphasis added]

What Mr. Garrow seems to be arguing is that because the partial-birth abortion process under review only affects a tiny fraction of the abortion procedures used in this country, the decision is so limited in its applicantion that most women needn't worry. In other words, only a few women are affected, so there's really no problem. That argument sounds a great deal like the one offered by the White House in justifying warrantless wiretapping on American residents: "Sure, sometimes we spy on the innocent, but there are so few of those mistakes that no one ought to be upset." In other words, it stinks.

Mr. Garrow seems to anticipate my objection.

Critics have suggested that the ruling vitiates the complete protection of women’s health that the Supreme Court had previously recognized. But though Justice Kennedy’s opinion certainly weakens the extent of that protection, it also quotes a unanimous 2006 Supreme Court ruling to state that the new ban would be unconstitutional “if it subjected women to significant health risks.” “Significant” is not a limitation that women’s health advocates should welcome, but the value and importance of this caveat should not be unthinkingly demeaned or ignored. [Emphasis added]

The whole point of Roe v Wade was that of privacy and a woman's right to it under these difficult circumstances. Chipping away at it by using qualifiers such as "significant health risks" is indeed a limitation on that constitutionally guaranteed right, and one that just opened the door to further limitation.

No, Mr. Garrow: the glass most certainly is not half-full.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

(Photo by Michael Nichols at National Geographic)

The Cat Is Out of the Bag

Sorry 'bout that one. But the truth about the poisoned pet food seems to be coming out, and letting my Cleocatra (for one) out of the bag. The kind of bag they're escaping is the one that is used in drowning, as I see it. The motivation for putting poisonous substances into gluten which was being produced by Chinese factories to add to pet food here in the U.S. was money. The more protein their additives tested for, the higher quality it was considered to be, and the more it cost.

Chinese manufacturers may have intentionally added a chemical linked to pet deaths and illnesses into a protein-powder ingredient in pet foods, federal regulators said Thursday.

Stephen Sundlof, chief veterinarian for the Food and Drug Administration, said melamine, which has turned up in more than 100 brands of cat and dog food, may have been used to falsely boost the apparent nutritional content of rice protein.

"That's still a theory but it certainly seems to be a plausible one," he said.

Melamine, an ingredient in plastics and fertilizers that could lead to kidney failure in animals, has contaminated rice protein and wheat gluten in pet foods made in Canada and the U.S.

The chemical compound reportedly also has tainted corn gluten added to pet food sold in South Africa, the FDA said.

FDA officials said they were investigating whether the melamine might have been added intentionally as a way to charge more for an inferior product. The fact that three protein sources from China contained melamine adds credibility to that theory, Sundlof said.

But the FDA added that it would not be able to check its theory without approval from the Chinese government to inspect the factories where the rice protein and wheat gluten were produced. The FDA said it "fully expects" to get such cooperation.

The Chinese government has said that the contaminated wheat gluten was not meant for pet foods and therefore was not its regulatory responsibility.

The FDA said it had traced the contaminated wheat gluten to Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. in Jiangsu province, just north of Shanghai. The company's general manager, Mao Lijun, said this week that his firm was still investigating the matter. He declined to answer questions.

The FDA also said the North American manufacturers shared some responsibility for ensuring the safety of their pet foods.

"There is an industry responsibility to know who their suppliers are and to exercise some diligence," said Michael Rogers, head of the FDA's division of field investigations.

Pacoima-based Natural Balance Pet Foods, which this week voluntarily recalled four types of dog food containing rice protein, said it would be wary of using any Chinese-made ingredients.

"I can't imagine we'll be using Chinese ingredients again. If we do, clearly it will be with much scrutiny," said spokesman Daniel Bernstein.

Putting your pet at risk is not the only problem here. As Chicago Dyke pointed out this morning, With a little research, I’m pretty sure an enterprising investigator could turn this lede into the story of the century. How many sick American children are there, because of our utterly fucked up corporate system of distributing food resources? Moms, are you worried yet? Wheat, rice, corn…what’s next?

Your food isn't safe, as we already learned from the spinach and green onion episodes. If it's being nutritionally boosted with additives of mysterious origin and nature, we need to know about it. And as I have posted previously, the Department of Agriculture is cutting back its safety programs while boosting salaries for top executives.

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