The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

NASA’s Goals Delete Mention of Home Planet - New York Times

NASA’s Goals Delete Mention of Home Planet

By ANDREW C. REVKIN
NY Times


From 2002 until this year, NASA’s mission statement, prominently featured in its budget and planning documents, read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.”

In early February, the statement was quietly altered, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted. In this year’s budget and planning documents, the agency’s mission is “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”

David E. Steitz, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said the aim was to square the statement with President Bush’s goal of pursuing human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars.

But the change comes as an unwelcome surprise to many NASA scientists, who say the “understand and protect” phrase was not merely window dressing but actively influenced the shaping and execution of research priorities. Without it, these scientists say, there will be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

“We refer to the mission statement in all our research proposals that go out for peer review, whenever we have strategy meetings,” said Philip B. Russell, a 25-year NASA veteran who is an atmospheric chemist at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “As civil servants, we’re paid to carry out NASA’s mission. When there was that very easy-to-understand statement that our job is to protect the planet, that made it much easier to justify this kind of work.”

Several NASA researchers said they were upset that the change was made at NASA headquarters without consulting the agency’s 19,000 employees or informing them ahead of time.

Though the “understand and protect” phrase was deleted in February, when the Bush administration submitted budget and planning documents to Congress, its absence has only recently registered with NASA employees.

Mr. Steitz, the NASA spokesman, said the agency might have to improve internal communications, but he defended the way the change was made, saying it reflected the management style of Michael D. Griffin, the administrator at the agency.

“Strategic planning comes from headquarters down,” he said, and added, “I don’t think there was any mal-intent or idea of exclusion.”

The line about protecting the earth was added to the mission statement in 2002 under Sean O’Keefe, the first NASA administrator appointed by President Bush, and was drafted in an open process with scientists and employees across the agency.

In the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which established the agency in 1958, the first objective of the agency was listed as “the expansion of human knowledge of the earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space.”

And since 1972, when NASA launched the first Landsat satellite to track changes on the earth’s surface, the agency has been increasingly involved in monitoring the environment and as a result has been immersed in political disputes over environmental policy and spending, said W. Henry Lambright, a professor of public administration and political science at Syracuse University who has studied the trend.

The shift in language echoes a shift in the agency’s budgets toward space projects and away from earth missions, a shift that began in 2004, the year Mr. Bush announced his vision of human missions to the Moon and beyond.

The “understand and protect” phrase was cited repeatedly by James E. Hansen, a climate scientist at NASA who said publicly last winter that he was being threatened by political appointees for speaking out about the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Hansen’s comments started a flurry of news media coverage in late January; on Feb. 3, Mr. Griffin issued a statement of “scientific openness.”

The revised mission statement was released with the agency’s proposed 2007 budget on Feb. 6. But Mr. Steitz said Dr. Hansen’s use of the phrase and its subsequent disappearance from the mission statement was “pure coincidence.”

Dr. Hansen, who directs the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a NASA office, has been criticized by industry-backed groups and Republican officials for associating with environmental campaigners and his endorsement of Senator John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.

Dr. Hansen said the change might reflect White House eagerness to shift the spotlight away from global warming.

“They’re making it clear that they have the authority to make this change, that the president sets the objectives for NASA, and that they prefer that NASA work on something that’s not causing them a problem,” he said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/22/science/22nasa.html

Frank Rich - The Passion of the Embryos

The Passion of the Embryos

By FRANK RICH

HOW time flies when democracy is on the march in the Middle East! Five whole years have passed since ominous Qaeda chatter reached its pre-9/11 fever pitch, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

History has since condemned President Bush for ignoring that intelligence. But to say that he did nothing that summer is a bum rap. Just three days later, on Aug. 9, he took a break from clearing brush in Crawford to reveal the real priority of his presidency, which had nothing to do with a nuisance like terrorism. His first prime-time address after more than six months in office was devoted to embryonic stem-cell research instead. Placing his profound religious convictions above the pagan narcissism of Americans hoping for cures to diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes, he decreed restrictions to shackle the advance of medical science.

Whatever else is to be said about the Decider, he’s consistent. Having dallied again this summer while terrorism upends the world, he has once more roused himself to take action — on stem cells. His first presidential veto may be bad news for the critically ill, but it was a twofer for the White House. It not only flattered the president’s base. It also drowned out some awkward news: the prime minister he installed in Baghdad, Nuri al-Maliki, and the fractious Parliament of Iraq’s marvelous new democracy had called a brief timeout from their civil war to endorse the sole cause that unites them, the condemnation of Israel.

The news is not all dire, however. While Mr. Bush’s Iraq project threatens to deliver the entire region to Iran’s ayatollahs, this month may also be remembered as a turning point in America’s own religious wars. The president’s politically self-destructive stem-cell veto and the simultaneous undoing of the religious right’s former golden boy, Ralph Reed, in a Republican primary for lieutenant governor in Georgia are landmark defeats for the faith-based politics enshrined by Mr. Bush’s presidency. If we can’t beat the ayatollahs over there, maybe we’re at least starting to rout them here.

That the administration’s stem-cell policy is a political fiasco for its proponents is evident from a single fact: Bill Frist, the most craven politician in Washington, ditched the president. In past pandering to his party’s far-right fringe, Mr. Frist, who calls himself a doctor, misdiagnosed the comatose Terri Schiavo’s condition after watching her on videotape and, in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, refused to dispute an abstinence program’s canard that tears and sweat could transmit AIDS. If Senator Frist is belatedly standing up for stem-cell research, you can bet he’s read some eye-popping polls. His ignorance about H.I.V. notwithstanding, he also knows that the facts about stem cells are not on Mr. Bush’s side.

The voting public has learned this, too. Back in 2001, many Americans gave the president the benefit of the doubt when he said that his stem-cell “compromise” could make “more than 60” cell lines available for federally financed study. Those lines turned out to be as illusory as Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction: there were only 22, possibly all of them now contaminated or otherwise useless. Fittingly, the only medical authority to endorse the Bush policy at the time, the Houston cancer doctor John Mendelsohn, was a Bush family friend. He would later become notorious for lending his empirical skills to the Enron board’s audit committee.

This time around, with the administration’s credibility ruined by Iraq, official lies about science didn’t fly. When Karl Rove said that embryonic stem cells weren’t required because there was “far more promise from adult stem cells,” The Chicago Tribune investigated and found that the White House couldn’t produce a single stem-cell researcher who agreed. (Ahmad Chalabi, alas, has no medical degree.) In the journal Science, three researchers summed up the consensus of the reality-based scientific community: misleading promises about adult stem cells “cruelly deceive patients.”

No less cruelly deceptive was the photo op staged to sell Mr. Bush’s veto: television imagery of the president cradling so-called Snowflake babies, born via in vitro fertilization from frozen embryos that had been “adopted.” As Senator Arlen Specter has pointed out, only 128 of the 400,000 or so rejected embryos languishing in deep freeze in fertility clinics have been adopted. Many of the rest are destined to be tossed in the garbage.

If you believe, as Mr. Bush says he does, that either discarding or conducting research with I.V.F. embryos is murder, then fertility clinic doctors, like stem-cell researchers, belong on death row. But the president, so proud of drawing a firm “moral” line, will no sooner crack down on I.V.F. than he did on Kim Jong Il: The second-term Bush has been downsized to a paper tiger. His party’s base won’t be so shy. Sam Brownback, the Kansas Republican who led the Senate anti-stem-cell offensive and sees himself as the religious right’s presidential candidate, has praised the idea of limiting the number of eggs fertilized in vitro to “one or two at a time.” A Kentucky state legislator offered a preview of coming attractions, writing a bill making the fertilization of multiple eggs in I.V.F. treatments a felony.

Tacticians in both political parties have long theorized that if a conservative Supreme Court actually struck down Roe v. Wade, it would set Republicans back at the polls for years. Mr. Bush’s canonization of clumps of frozen cells over potential cancer cures may jump-start that backlash. We’ll see this fall. Already one Republican senatorial candidate, Michael Steele of Maryland, has stepped in Mr. Bush’s moral morass by egregiously comparing stem-cell research to Nazi experiments on Jews during the Holocaust.

Mr. Reed’s primary defeat is as much a blow to religious-right political clout as the White House embrace of stem-cell fanaticism. The man who revolutionized the face of theocratic politics in the 1990’s with a telegenic choirboy’s star power has now changed his movement’s face again, this time to mud.

The humiliating Reed defeat — by 12 points against a lackluster rival in a conservative primary in a conservative state — is being pinned on his association with the felonious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who also tainted that other exemplar of old-time religion, Tom DeLay. True enough, but it’s what Mr. Reed did for Mr. Abramoff’s clients that is most damning, far more so than the golf junkets and money-grubbing. The causes Mr. Reed enabled through manufactured grass-roots campaigns (unwittingly, he maintains) were everything he was supposedly against: Indian casinos and legal loopholes that allowed forced abortions and sexual slavery in the work force of an American commonwealth, the Northern Mariana Islands.

Hypocrisy among self-aggrandizing evangelists is as old as Elmer Gantry — older, actually. But Mr. Reed wasn’t some campfire charlatan. He was the religious right’s most effective poster boy in mainstream America. He had been recruited for precisely that mission by Pat Robertson, who made him the frontman for the Christian Coalition in 1989, knowing full well that Mr. Reed’s smarts and youth could do P.R. wonders that Mr. Robertson and the rest of the baggage-laden Falwell generation of Moral Majority demagogues could not. And it worked. In 1995, Mr. Reed was rewarded with the cover of Time, for representing “the most thorough penetration of the secular world of American politics by an essentially religious organization in this century.”

Actually, the Christian Coalition was soon to be accused of inflating its membership, Enron-accounting style, and was careening into debt. Only three years after his Time cover, Mr. Reed, having ditched the coalition to set up shop as a political consultant, sent his self-incriminating e-mail to Mr. Abramoff: “I need to start humping in corporate accounts!” He also humped in noncorporate accounts, like the Bush campaigns of 2000 and 2004.

By 2005 Mr. Reed had become so toxic that Mr. Bush wouldn’t be caught on camera with him in Georgia. But the Bush-Rove machine was nonetheless yoked to Mr. Reed in their crusades: the demonization of gay couples as boogeymen (and women) in election years, the many assaults on health (not just in stem-cell laboratories but in federal agencies dealing with birth control and sex education), the undermining of the science of evolution. The beauty of Mr. Reed’s unmasking is the ideological impact: the radical agenda to which he lent an ersatz respectability has lost a big fig leaf, and all the president’s men, tied down like Gulliver in Iraq, cannot put it together again to bamboozle suburban voters.

It’s possible that even Joe Lieberman, a fellow traveler in the religious right’s Schiavo and indecency jeremiads, could be swept out with Rick Santorum in the 2006 wave. Mr. Lieberman is hardly the only Democrat in the Senate who signed on to the war in Iraq, but he’s surely the most sanctimonious. He is also the only Democrat whose incessant Bible thumping (while running for vice president in 2000) was deemed “inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours” by the Anti-Defamation League. As Ralph Reed used to say: amen.

What Did You Expect, America?

What Did You Expect, America?
by SusanG (dailykos)


Would you hire a babysitter who hates children and thinks they should be eliminated? Or who declares for years in your hearing that children are irritants who should be starved to be small, unseen and mute?

Would you hire cops who think laws are stupid and useless and should be abolished?

Would you hire a conductor for your orchestra who believes music itself an abomination?

Then why would you hire - and you did hire them, America; they are your employees, after all, not your rulers, despite their grandiose pretensions - members of a political party who think government is useless, ineffective, bloated and untrustworthy?

You've hired for your kitchen the chef who spits in your food because he despises preparing meals.

You've hired for your yardwork the gardener who sets out to kill your roses to demonstrate his assertion that they will die in your climate.

You've hired for your office the accountant who's staked his career on proving no accurate books can be kept.

In electing Republicans, America, you put people in charge of institutions they overtly, caustically loathe and proudly proclaim should not exist. Good thinking, USA, and stellar results: Katrina, Iraq, Medicare D, trade and budget deficits, mine disasters and on and on and on and ...

Conservatives have declared officially for decades that they hate public programs and love private business. Why then, do Americans profess shock when these same people run the public credit card up to bunker-busting levels to line the pockets of friendly corporations, leaving taxpayers - current and the as-yet unborn - the bill? It's the dine and ditch mentality writ large, and American citizens are the unfortunate waiters having their lowly pay docked to cover the deadbeat loss - and their future grandchildren's pay docked as well.

We are witnessing an orchestrated, unprecedented transfer of public wealth to private pockets, a national one-party feeding frenzy that's making beggars and beseechers of us all, and yet many Americans stand around muttering in a daze of semi-apathetic befuddlement about gosh darn how did all this come to be and how sure as shit, uh-huh, those Republicans shore were right, government doesn't do a the little guy a damn bit of good, no sirree bob. Better drown it some more. Cut them taxes, privatize something, anything, pronto!

Kee-rist on a pogo stick.

If you put people in charge of running a project they are ideologically committed to proving a failure, it will fail.

Seems pretty straightforward to me. But hey, I'm a Democrat. You know, one of those people who think universal quality public education is a massive good to society, that maintaining our highways and levees and bridges and dams is part of what makes this country great, that paying first-responders and nurses what they're worth helps guarantee our public health and safety, that providing for fellow citizens who fall on hard times is not only the ethical thing to do, but the pragmatic one, ensuring that this country does not incubate a permanently inflamed and disgruntled underclass ready to drop a match on a pool of social gasoline.

Here's a thought - just a thought, mind you, beloved America: Perhaps it's time to return to government the party that has an ideological stake in making it ... you know ... succeed. Maybe, just maybe, it's time to raise our sights a wee bit and elect people who think public service is more than an opportunity for the "Biggest! Fire Sale! Ever!" for their friends and loved ones. Perhaps it's time to insist on greater - if not great - expectations from the employees we decide to hire or fire every two years to carry out our will under the constitution.

As one-party Republican rule has clearly shown, when you expect incompetence, corruption and deceit from your government, you get exactly what you vote for. In spades.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/7/22/181659/434

Glenn Greenwald - Neoconservatism and the White House -- Still Married

Neoconservatism and the White House -- Still Married
Glenn Greenwald

Apparently, it isn't enough that the U.S. has been defending without reservation the wisdom of the Israeli bombing campaign in Lebanon. Nor is it enough that we have been unilaterally blocking a cease-fire and other diplomatic solutions. Nor is it enough that the American taxpayer pays for enormous amounts of Israel's military equipment -- from the planes flying over Lebanon to the tanks entering it. Now we are handing Israel the very bombs that they drop in order to flatten more and more of Lebanon, on a bomb-by-bomb basis:


The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.


The debate over whether the Israeli war should be "our war" is becoming increasingly academic. Once one country starts supplying another country with bombs in the middle of a war, both are participants -- much the way it is said, as imperfect as the comparison is, that Iran is "behind" the actions of Hezbollah. Whatever else might be true, the bombs that will be blowing up all sorts of things and people (beginning) in Lebanon over the next weeks, likely months and perhaps longer will have come directly from the U.S. And everyone, including the Muslims whose "hearts and minds" were ostensibly the object of our invasion of Iraq, will know that. That doesn't exactly seem like a sound strategy for diffusing Muslim animosity towards the U.S. -- which happens to be the Bush administration's stated goal.

There is palpable and quite unseemly excitement gripping neoconservatives over what the world sees as a horrible and tragic war, but which they glowingly call a "great opportunity." They have an extraordinary goal that they intend to fulfill -- to somehow induce the U.S. to vastly expand its Middle East war to include yet more countries which have not attacked us, and more amazingly, to do so notwithstanding the fact that our current little experiment in Iraq is, arguably, in the worst shape it has been in some time, perhaps since we invaded.

The boldness of their objective, its sheer audacity, is requiring neoconservatives to throw all caution to the wind, to really put all of their rhetorical cards on the table and be open about what they really think and want, unburdened by all of the lofty pretenses about the virtues of spreading democracy and winning hearts and minds. The real underlying premises and impulses of neoconservatism are being laid bare for all to see. And what they really want is more war and destruction -- lots and lots and lots of it -- to rain down mercilessly on their enemies and anyone nearby.

The terms they are using to describe their grand war visions are "annihilation" and "cleaning out." They have had enough with restraint and limited strikes and a war that has been depressingly and weakly confined just to Iraq and Afghanistan. They want full-scale, unrestrained Middle Eastern war -- they always have -- and they see this as their big chance to have it.

And the more one reads and listens to neoconservatives in their full-throated war calls, the more disturbing and repellent these ideas become. So many of them seem to be driven not even any longer by a pretense of a strategic goal, but by a naked, bloodthirsty craving for destruction and killing itself, almost as the end in itself. They urge massive military attacks on Lebanon, Syria, Iran -- and before that, Iraq -- knowing that it will kill huge numbers of innocent people, but never knowing, or seemingly caring, what comes after that. And the disregard for the lives of innocent people in those countries is so cavalier and even scornful that it is truly unfathomable, at times just plain disgusting. From a safe distance, they continuously call for -- and casually dismiss the importance of -- the deaths of enormous numbers of people without batting an eye. And for what?

What is Lebanon going to look like -- let alone Syria and Iran -- once we decimate large parts of their infrastructure, kill, maim and render homeless thousands upon thousands of their citizens, and bring down their governments? Who cares. Let's just stop whining and appeasing and get on with the action. They're bored with Iraq because the killing and destruction part are done with, so they want to move on. It's the war and bombing that interests and excites them. At least for the neoconservatives I've been reading and hearing -- and they have been among the most influential -- the "arguments" aren't much more substantive or complex than that. More on that in a moment.

Ever since neoconservatives began openly salivating over this "great opportunity" -- beginning, I'd say, with Bill Kristol's soon-to-be infamous "Our War" column, followed by Newt Gingrich's declaration that World War III has begun -- there has been a sense that their war-mongering stance is too extreme, too transparently irrational, to really influence the Bush administration's decisions. After the disaster in Iraq, Bush is in no mood to be led by the same people into more wars, that line of thought goes. Cheney and Rumsfeld have been beaten and even humbled by Iraq, and are too preoccupied with it, to entertain thoughts about Syria and Iran. Because of everything from limited resources to electoral concerns, it's been assumed and suggested that it is simply not plausible that the White House will take the crazed neoconservative path with regard to Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

That line of thought seems, at this point, to be more wishful thinking than reality. The administration is still composed largely of adherents to neoconservatism. John Bolton is at the U.N. for a reason. Richard Perle protegee Elliot Abrams is still running Middle East policy out of the White House. And, most importantly, anyone who thinks that Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld or George Bush have changed their mind about anything -- let alone about their biggest signature decision, the invasion of Iraq -- is attributing to them far more flexibility than they have ever before demonstrated. They see Iraq as a success and the rationale that led us there to be the right approach to the Middle East generally.

Neoconservatism is what brought us into Iraq, and there is no persuasive evidence that its influence in the administration has diminished. To the contrary, this article from the Washington Post yesterday reports that Bush and Cheney's working premises and assumptions with regard to the Middle East are indistinguishable from those evangelized by the likes of Daniel Pipes, Richard Perle, Kristol and Gingrich:


Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, said Bush's statements reflect an unambiguous view of the situation. "He doesn't seem to allow his vision to be clouded in any way," said Rosen, a Democrat who has come to admire Bush's Middle East policy. "It follows suit. Israel is in the right. Hezbollah is in the wrong. Terrorists have to be eliminated, and he sees Israel fighting the war he would fight against terrorism."


George Bush is still on board with every neoconservative premise. And as Atrios put it yesterday:


Each crisis is an opportunity to wage a war they wanted to wage. The president believes Iraq is a success story. No one will tell him anything else.


Given what neoconservatism has revealed itself to be, that the administration continues to be driven by its "principles" is nothing short of alarming. The opportunities for even unintentional American involvement and escalation in this new war -- through miscalculation, deliberate provocation or simple accident -- are manifold. Add to that the warmongering rhetoric, our perceived proxy fighting through Israel, and the fact that we have 140,000 soldiers sitting in the middle of a virtual Shiite-Sunni civil war in Iraq, and it is not hyperbole to say that it would be miraculous if we did not become involved in expanded hostilities.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are now seeking full-on unrestrained war, to be fought more aggressively and less "delicately" than the prior and current wars. The neoconservatives are expressly saying so.

When we last heard from Shelby Steele, for instance, he was arguing in a column widely trumpeted by neoconservatives that America's problem is that it suffers from too much "white guilt," which prevents us from fighting wars such as the one in Iraq with the unrestrained "ferocity" we ought to be using, i.e., that we fail to use "the full measure of our military power." In his Townhall column yesterday, Thomas Sowell takes that a step further and, in the context of Israel's bombing of Lebanon, identifies the real problem as being that we don't "annihilate" our enemies -- using that word twice within two paragraphs:


Was World War II ended by cease-fires or by annihilating much of Germany and Japan? Make no mistake about it, innocent civilians died in the process. . .

There was a time when it would have been suicidal to threaten, much less attack, a nation with much stronger military power because one of the dangers to the attacker would be the prospect of being annihilated. . . .


One can find this sentiment everywhere among neoconservatives, who have now really released their war-loving id. The true enemy are those who stand in the way of all-out war, and all-out war is the only way to achieve peace. Peace is War and War is Peace. Listen to Sowell:


"Peace" movements are among those who take advantage of this widespread inability to see beyond rhetoric to realities. Few people even seem interested in the actual track record of so-called "peace" movements -- that is, whether such movements actually produce peace or war.

An aggressor today knows that if his aggression fails, he will still be protected from the full retaliatory power and fury of those he attacked because there will be hand-wringers demanding a cease fire, negotiations and concessions.


In the neoconservative mind, wars happen because we don't annihilate enough people, because we are insufficiently "ferocious," because we place limits on the "the full measure of our military power." Those who oppose such unrestrained destruction are, to use Bill Kristol's description from his new column yesterday, "weak horses" (quoting Osama bin Laden). In the Jerusalem Post yesterday, Daniel Pipes complained that each time it excitingly looks like Israel will finally wipe out the evil-doers, we instead get "an orgy of Israeli remorse and reconsideration, followed by a quiet return to appeasement and retreat." Victor Davis Hanson celebrates how great it is that "Israel is at last being given an opportunity to unload on jihadists."

Most striking is the casualness, even the self-satisfied joy, with which they regard the suffering, maiming, and slaughter of other people -- not "The Terrorists," but people whom even they acknowledge are innocent of wrongdoing. Here is National Review's Cliff May almost bored with having to acknowledge the irrelevant fact that hundreds, more likely thousands, of Lebanese are likely to be killed by the campaign which he urges from a safe distance:


Yes, innocent Lebanese are suffering in this conflict. That suffering at least should produce some good results. Lebanon’s liberation from the suffocating embrace of Hezbollah and its foreign sponsors would qualify.


I am almost done reading John Dean's now #2 NYT best-selling new book, Conservatives Without Conscience, and will likely have a review up tomorrow. But one of the central points he makes is highly relevant here -- that what is called the "conservative movement" these days has no real unifying or cohesive ideas, but instead, what binds it and defines it is an authoritarian impulse to identify the Enemy (the Terrorist, the Liberal, the Communist, the illegal immigrant), followed by a swarming, hateful, rage-fueled desire to destroy it:


Given the rather distinct beliefs of the various conservative factions, which have only grown more complex with time, how have conservatives succeeded in coalescing as a political force? The simple answer is through the power of negative thinking, and specifically, the ability to find common enemies. . . . Today's conservatives. . . define themselves by what they oppose.


That is clearly not only the Republican electoral strategy again, but more disturbingly, it appears to be the full extent of the neoconservative foreign policy. There are bad people over there. The Enemy. And we need to attack and kill them without restraint, regardless of the cost or consequences or alternatives or what might come after that. And anyone who doesn't agree, or who wants to negotiate with the Enemy, is weak, an appeaser, someone who likely is even on the side of the Enemy. That is the crux of our foreign policy at this point.

Beyond all of that, our neoconservative policy in the Middle East has become as incoherent as it is bloodthirsty. The President argued in December of last year that "by helping Iraqis to build a democracy, we will gain an ally in the war on terror." But the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iraq, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has "forcefully denounced" Israel for the bombing campaign which we are defending and supplying -- a fact which led a confused and enraged Laura Ingraham last night on Bill O'Reilly's show to protest the unfairness that the person she called "our guy in Iraq" was supporting the other side.

What is the Iraqi Government's position going to be if we wage war on its Iranian ally? I doubt it will be what we would want from an "ally in the war on terror." So what are we hoping to achieve in Iraq? The whole project makes no sense because there really never was anything that came after the invasion and destruction part.

And the supposed Middle Eastern allies we do have -- the ones who issued the terse anti-Hezbollah statements which neoconservatives have been parading around -- are not democracies, but instead, are the tyrants, dictators, and emirates whom we support and prop up. Conversely, the democratically elected governments in the Middle East beyond Iraq -- such as Lebanon, the Palestinians, and one could even add Iran -- are on the other side of this conflict. And two Middle Eastern democracies, Israel and Lebanon, are at war with one another.

All of this is the exact opposite of the glorious neoconservative promises that invading and bombing countries and bringing democracy to the Middle East will foster pro-U.S. alliances and ensure peace. And literally, the only thing which neoconservatives seem to want to do in response to all of this patent failure is bomb and invade more and more countries because that's worked so well so far.

One can easily lose sight of how bizarre it is that we now so frequently debate whether we should attack countries who have not attacked us nor pose any real threat to attack us. As was true for the "debates" over whether we should use torture (or even "debates" over whether the President can break the law), when something is advocated openly and frequently enough, even the most reprehensible and previously insane ideas can become acceptable and mainstream. We have become a country that now casually and without much trauma debates which countries we should preemptively invade next.

Neoconservatism in its basest and most unadorned form very well may be dangerous, morally repugnant, and completely irrational. But it has also been a leading influence in our country's foreign policy decisions over the last five years, and there is no sign that that has changed. Quite the contrary. The White House seems to be operating in accordance with the neoconservative script as much as ever, and it is hard to imagine why that would stop any time soon.

UPDATE: Anonymous Liberal argues that this event will be seen as the moment when neoconservatives lost all credibility by abandoning any pretenses of rationality or reasonableness. That might be, but he also quotes Paul Krugman today as pointing out:


Mr. Kristol is, of course, a pundit rather than a policymaker.But there's every reason to suspect that what Mr. Kristol saying public is what Mr. Cheney says in private.


If the neoconservatives are articulating crazed and extremist ideas publicly, it is highly likely that it reflects what the Vice President and Defense Secretary are saying privately.

A.L. also links to this excellent video, where Chris Matthews and Pat Buchanan angrily highlight the intellecutal and moral bankruptcy of neoconservatives in a way that ought to be much more common. I don't recall Matthews doing anything of the sort prior to the invasion (although he did question its rationale more than most national journalists), but better late than never. By contrast, Buchanan, whatever else one might think of him, has been among the most prescient and insightful commentators on Bush administration foreign policy in the Middle East for several years now.

http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/07/neoconservatism-and-white-house-still.html

Friday, July 21, 2006

Helen Thomas - Bush Far From Neutral Player in Mideast

Bush Far From Neutral Player in Mideast
by Helen Thomas


President Bush has abdicated the United States' role as an honest broker in the Middle East crisis exploding on two fronts, Lebanon and Palestine.

In failing to call for a U.N-sponsored cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel, Bush has lost his credentials as a neutral player.

In the Arab world, he is viewed as a cheerleader for the Israeli side, not a cheerleader for peace.

A newcomer to the problems of the Middle East, Bush told reporters Tuesday that the root cause of Middle East strife was Hezbollah.

Anyone with knowledge of the region knows most of the problems stem from the nearly 60-year-old Palestinian issue.

While the Arab-Israeli problem has festered, the president has been absorbed with the disastrous U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Bush has gone along with the Israelis in isolating the democratically elected Hamas government in Palestine, which Israel deprives of its tax revenues.

Furthermore, the Bush administration raised no objection when Israel seized and arrested more than two dozen elected Hamas officials in retaliation for a Palestinian guerrilla attack on an Israeli army base and the kidnapping of two soldiers.

Israel also destroyed the only energy plant in Gaza, leaving thousands of Palestinians without electricity.

Against that background, the current issue is more than two Israeli soldiers getting kidnapped by Hezbollah.

In past Middle East conflicts, the president of the United States has always called for a truce as a first step to end hostilities and start peace talks. And past presidents often have dispatched dispassionate mediators to the area.

But Bush has distinguished himself with a tepid call for "restraint," although he is contemplating sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as an emissary.

The U.S. has been standing by during the bombardment of Lebanon's infrastructure -- commercial airport and ports and highways.

During last weekend's siege of Lebanon, a tearful Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora begged Bush to call for a cease-fire, but to no avail.

No presidential predecessor would have turned down such an appeal. It's no surprise that the terms proposed by the United States to end the current hostilities are the same terms as Israel's.

Meantime, both sides are taking a severe civilian toll.

For Lebanon it's been déjà vu all over again, reminiscent of the Israeli invasion in 1982.

On the other front, Bush has made a mockery of the U.S. stated intention of spreading democracy in the Middle East. There was a free and democratic election in Palestine and Hamas won, a fact of life that has greatly pained the Bush administration.

It was a victory the U.S. and Israel refused to acknowledge on grounds that the Palestinians did not recognize Israel's right to exist.

It's a two-way street. Israel should recognize the Palestinians' right to exist within their pre-1967 war borders. Then we will see a final peace settlement.

Meantime, Israel is unilaterally defining its borders. It has also built a wall, much on Palestinian land, and expanded its settlements on the West Bank. The Palestinians continue to be subjected to daily humiliations under Israeli occupation.

The Bush administration likes to brag that it has in its hip pocket the authoritarian leaders of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia who also want to rein in the militant Hezbollah.

By failing to intervene and play its traditional role of peacemaker, however, the U.S. has lost the great esteem it once commanded with all the people in the Middle East.

Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers. E-mail to: helent@hearstdc.com.

© 2006 Hearst Newspapers

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0721-28.htm

Take Newt Seriously

Take Newt Seriously Hotlist
by eugene (Dailykos)
Fri Jul 21, 2006 at 09:17:47 AM PDT


I'm sure you all heard that last week, Newt Gingrich argued the U.S. was facing World War III as a result of developments in the Middle East. I'm sure that most of you reacted as I did to this - with a bit of annoyance and disdain; "there goes Newt again," content to believe he is simply making a lame effort to rally flagging support for Republican policies.

But today, I have been reconsidering this. I think that what Newt has been saying is incredibly significant, and we ought to be paying it a great deal more attention than we have been.

What Newt is proposing is nothing short of the radical mobilization of the entire American nation behind a war effort led by the far right - that "calls for restraint would fall away" if Americans adopted his framing. It could become the pivot around which the GOP shifts into a very new, and extremely ugly, mode of governance - turning the nation into an all-out war state with repressive World War I-esque laws meant to silence dissent and force the population to work even harder to support neo-con policies without any option to do otherwise.


So far, Bush has been running the Iraq War and the bigger "War on Terror" exactly as President Johnson ran Vietnam. Like LBJ, Bush has preferred a limited war. Not limited in terms of what is considered acceptable on the battlefield, but limited in terms of what the American population is asked to sacrifice. Bush, like LBJ, has refused to raise taxes for the war, and has believed that he could promote his economic agenda without the war affecting it. LBJ did not want to mobilize the country as had happened during World War II, he knew there would be no support for it, and Bush has used the exact same thinking.

I believe that Newt wants to change that entirely. What he has concluded is that for the Republican Party to not only survive, but truly leave its stamp on this country, the "limited war" notion must be abandoned, and instead we need to reorient our society, politics, and economy around the war - World War III in his language. It is extremely significant to note what parallel Newt drew (as reported by the Seattle Times' David Postman, who broke the story):

An historian, Gingrich said he has been studying recently how Abraham Lincoln talked to Americans about the Civil War, and what turned out to be a much longer and deadlier war than Lincoln expected.

Like Bush and LBJ, Lincoln initially thought he could fight a limited war, that the South would be quickly crushed and that US society would otherwise go on like normal. You see this in the 1861 call for troops, the early strategy, the fact that in 1861-62 the Republicans pushed an ambitious domestic political program from the transcontinental railroad to homesteading - things that had nothing to do with the war.

After the disaster on the Peninsula in 1862, however, Lincoln began to believe that this limited approach was mistaken. In later 1862 and 1863 he began to mobilize the North for total war. Importantly, one major aspect of this was the clamping down on dissent. "Copperheads" - Northern Democrats who opposed the war - were harassed and jailed. Many rights, like habeas corpus, were suspended - it was a war, after all. Lincoln eventually won the war, but I suspect that isn't what Newt is interested in - instead he seems to be more intrigued by Lincoln's success in reshaping U.S. politics, in constructing a lasting Republican dominance.

If that isn't worrying you yet, let's fast-forward 50 years to World War I. Newt didn't make that parallel, and for good reason - if he had, alarm bells would already have gone off. I say we should raise that alarm, because the parallels are frightening.

In 1914, when World War I broke out, the U.S. was experiencing a wave of Progressive reform. Americans wanted to keep the war at arm's length, and not even the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania could change those attitudes.

But by 1917, things were changing. For reasons I do not yet fully understand, Progressive reforms had run out of steam, and the 1916 elections saw a resurgent conservatism. The result was that by 1917, American politicians had undergone a shift in thinking. By April 1917, President Wilson and most members of Congress had now believed that the war and Germany in particular posed a threat to America's very existence. There was no obvious provocation like the sinking of the Lusitania to cause this. Instead, it was a "sudden and surprising alteration in their habits of thought."

That quoted phrase comes from one of the most important essays of the 20th century - War is the Health of the State by Randolph Bourne. Bourne was a young liberal intellectual who watched in horror as a nation once at peace suddenly shifted into war mode. His reflections are worth quoting at some length:

With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war...

...The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government's disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part.

The backdrop Bourne wrote that chilling description was one of a widespread government effort to silence all dissent. First an Espionage Act was passed in 1917 to silence those accused of helping wartime enemies of the U.S., but far worse was the 1918 Sedition Act, which

made it a crime to utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States' form of government

It was under this law that my namesake, Eugene V. Debs, in whose honor and memory I adopted this username 6 years ago, was thrown into prison for 10 years for speaking out against the draft. Though the law was repealed in 1921, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in Schenck v. United States.

Along with the Sedition Act came the 1917 Immigration Act, which severely curtailed immigration from southern and eastern Europe (immigrants from those regions were scapegoated as bearers of poverty, criminality, and sedition). In 1918 and 1919 the Palmer Raids were conducted against the U.S. left, one consequence of which was the creation of the FBI.

World War II did not see these same events, but only because the war effort was promoted by a liberal Democratic administration. In fact, right after the war ended conservatives took control of Congress and began the Red Scare, silencing left-wing dissent in the name of anti-Communism.

Surely, then, you can see where I am going with this. Newt Gingrich is pushing a frame for Republicans to adopt politically, for Americans to buy into mentally and emotionally, a frame designed to radically reshape American politics and to crush dissent. Newt again:

There is a public relations value, too. Gingrich said that public opinion can change "the minute you use the language" of World War III. The message then, he said, is "'OK, if we're in the third world war, which side do you think should win?"

Ideas like that have dire consequences for us all. If the Republicans adopt Newt's strategy, we will see new Sedition Acts - in fact if not in name. As the nation is placed on a war footing, the creeping desire to silence dissenters that has characterized American discourse since September 11 will explode and be provided with a powerful new impetus.

And why would the GOP want to radicalize the nation, mobilize it for total war? To remain in power.

Realize that we are facing a protracted economic crisis and the likelihood of recession. We are also facing the strong possibility of Republican electoral collapse in November.

Republicans would be able to solve both threats with the adoption of a World War III language. It would allow them to convince Americans that only war - all out war - will bring economic prosperity back. Those reluctant to agree will be convinced on the basis of war - "we're in the third world war, which side do you think should win?" as Newt was quoted. And of course, it would allow them to solidify their political position - "we're in the third world war, so are you sure you want to elect Democrats in a time of war?" as we might assume Newt would say.

Remember the implicit point Newt is making here - the "war on terror" language is not sufficiently motivating Americans to vote Republican. Only all-out war and language reflecting it can achieve that.

If Newt is successful we could see a draft, new wars against Iran and Syria and others, Americans being coerced into taking jobs for the war effort (at lower wages in worse conditions at big defense contractors), a massive disruption of public life - and to top it off, a new set of laws and powers just like in 1862 or 1918 to ensure no dissent can become a political threat.

Of course, I could well be wrong, and Newt may just be pissing into the wind. But I think the road is open for Republicans to do this and do it successfully if they wish, and that means we must be extremely vigilant in preventing it.

One last parallel. In 1938, the Nazi leadership in Berlin began receiving reports that the German economy was about to go bust; the command economy Hitler had put into place, ramshackle to begin with, was on its last legs. Hitler and his advisers did not want to go to war until 1942, but faced with this information, they moved more quickly to provoke war. The Jews, whose roles had been circumscribed but tolerated, were now actively suppressed with Kristallnacht being the prime example. The German people were prepared to go to war - in war, Hitler knew, you could demand any amount of sacrifice from the population and they would never resist.

Is this parallel valid? I, for one, hope we never find out. But that means we must watch Newt like a hawk.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/

Sen. Inhofe: ‘Gore Is Full of Crap

Sen. Inhofe: ‘Gore Is Full of Crap,’ ‘All Recent Science…Confirms This Thing Is A Hoax’ «

Yesterday, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) attacked Al Gore and global warming science, claiming that Gore was “full of crap” on global warming.

Appearing on Glenn Beck’s radio show and CNN television program, Inhofe said that the International Panel on Climate Climate Change (IPCC), which concluded that global warming was real and caused by humans, used “one scientist.” Inhofe added: “[A]ll of the recent science…it confirms that I was right on this thing. This thing is a hoax.”

Actually, “all of the recent science” — without exception — accepts that global warming is real and caused by humans. The IPCC didn’t involve “one scientist.” It involved thousands of scientists from over 120 countries, including so-called “climate skeptics” and industry representatives. The National Academy of Sciences recently concluded that the one study singled out by Inhofe for criticism, which was authored by Michael Mann, “has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence.”

http://thinkprogress.org/2006/07/21/inhofe-gore/

Ivy Leaguers were evacuated first from Lebanon

Ivy Leaguers were evacuated first from Lebanon

RAW STORY
Published: Friday July 21, 2006

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Ivy Leaguers were evacuated first from Lebanon by private security firms, while students from other schools had to wait days for the United States Embassy to make arrangements, according to ABC News.

"When fighting broke out in Lebanon, college students studying there for the summer anxiously awaited their turn to evacuate," reports ABC's The Blotter. "As it turns out, if you were an Ivy League student in Beirut, your turn came first."

"Harvard, Princeton and Yale are insured by International SOS and Medex, two private security companies," reports the Blotter.

International SOS have organized three evacuations since last Saturday. A press release says that the firm's Lebanon Crisis Management team includes "50 people across different alarm centres and on the ground" who "have worked round the clock to achieve the mission of providing support to our clients and moving them to a safe environment."

"Arriving with well-equipped teams, these companies arranged everything for students from land- and air-route evacuations, to hotel rooms, to cold bottles of water at the Syrian border," ABC's The Blotter reports.

"International SOS did a fantastic job," Robert Mitchell, Director of Communications at Harvard University, told ABC.

Students left behind were upset at their schools and the government.

"One student who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons said, 'It was unfair that the private, wealthy schools were afforded the luxury of a quick evacuation,'" ABC reports. "Both her university and her government, she says, failed to help her out of a dangerous situation."

One Harvard student who was evacuated quickly by International SOS still wasn't happy with the government.

In an email to ABC, the student said that the situation in Lebanon "has shown how horrible the State Department has been in evacuating people…keeping people informed and not causing a state of panic."

http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Ivy_Leaguers_were_evacuated_first_from_0721.html

Sources: Negroponte Blocks CIA Analysis of Iraq “Civil War” (Harpers.org)

Sources: Negroponte Blocks CIA Analysis of Iraq “Civil War”
Posted on Friday, July 21, 2006. By Ken Silverstein.
Sources

I reported in May that despite the deteriorating situation in Iraq, no National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has been produced on that country since the summer of 2004. The last NIE, a classified document that the CIA describes as “the most authoritative written judgment concerning a national security issue,” was rejected by the Bush Administration (after being leaked to the New York Times) as being too negative, though its grim assessment subsequently proved to be highly accurate.

The situation has gotten even darker since my initial story—a United Nations report cited in Wednesday's New York Times found that an average of more than 100 Iraqi civilians were killed each day in June—and I've learned from two sources that some senior figures at the CIA, along with a number of Iraq analysts, have been pushing to produce a new NIE. They've been stonewalled, however, by John Negroponte, the administration's Director of National Intelligence, who knows that any honest take on the situation would produce an NIE even more pessimistic than the 2004 version. That could create problems on the Hill and, if it is leaked as the last one was, with the public as well.

“What do you call the situation in Iraq right now?” asked one person familiar with the situation. “The analysts know that it's a civil war, but there's a feeling at the top that [using that term] will complicate matters.” Negroponte, said another source regarding the potential impact of a pessimistic assessment, “doesn't want the president to have to deal with that.”

The sources said that forces at the CIA have been lobbying for the new NIE for about six months. Not only is one overdue, but there's also a fear that if the Democrats win control of at least one chamber of Congress this November, the agency is going to get hammered for not having produced an NIE for so long.

When the topic of a new NIE was first raised, the Directorate of National Intelligence agreed to consider the matter, but advocates heard nothing back. They raised the topic again several months ago and were told that Negroponte was still mulling over the matter. Since then, there's been no indication that the DNI intends to authorize a new NIE. “He's not going to allow [analysts] to call the situation warts and all,” said one source. “There's real angst about it inside.”

A third source, a former CIA officer who served in Iraq, said he had no direct knowledge of Negroponte blocking the NIE but that it jibed with past practice. “The NIE is a crucial document . . . that tells you how to tweak your policy,” he said. “That's hard to do if you don't want to look at it.” He said he had two recent conversations with people in Iraq, one an official at the Ministry of Interior who told him that as of two days ago there were 1,600 bodies piled up at the central morgue in Baghdad. The second conversation, he said, was with an Iraqi general officer who told him, “I never thought I would see my capital like this. It's on fire.”

“[The administration] can call it whatever they want,” said the former CIA officer. “There's a civil war going on in Iraq.”

http://harpers.org/sb-sources-negroponte-nei-cia-1153433546.html

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Robert Scheer | What Bush's Open Mike Revealed

What Bush's Open Mike Revealed
By Robert Scheer
Truthdig.com

Tuesday 18 July 2006

In the midst of a Middle Eastern crisis that threatens to destabilize the entire region and perhaps beyond, it was unnerving that what most seemed to interest President Bush at the G8 summit is that China is a long flight from Western Russia.

Bombs were exploding and innocents dying, from Beirut to Haifa to Baghdad, and yet George Bush managed to pose for yet another photo op, smiling as he gave the thumbs up at the close of the G8 summit. Thanks to an unsuspected open mic, however, we could also glimpse the mindset of a leader unaccountably pleased with his ignorance of the world.

What seemed to interest him most at that farewell get together of leaders bitterly divided over a disintegrating Mideast was not some last-minute proposal for peace but rather the fact that it would take China President Hu Jintao eight hours to fly home from St. Petersburg to Beijing.

Bush had started the exchange by noting, absurdly, that, "This is your neighborhood, doesn't take you long to get home." Uh, yeah, incurious George, sure thing. Never mind that St. Petersburg is in Europe, on Russia's northwestern corner, due north of Turkey, and Beijing is on the eastern edge of mainland Asia.

"You, eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country," he said when corrected, sounding for all the world like an earnest kindergartner, processing new information. "Russia's big and so is China."

Unfortunately, Bush's private remarks to British Prime Minister Tony Blair several minutes later also revealed a cluelessness about more important matters: Israel's bloody assault on Lebanon, its causes and possible solutions.

"See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over," he said, apparently referring to the guerilla force's firing of rockets into Israel. "I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with [Syrian leader Bashir] Assad and make something happen."

While it is refreshing to note that our president employs language that would earn a radio shock jock a fine from his own rabid obscenity-sniffers at the FCC, his profound ignorance is appalling. Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah all have their own hardcore agendas - Syria is just one player in the tortured region. Furthermore, Bush's complete disinterest in the Mideast peace process - especially as an "honest broker" between Israel and the Palestinians - since the Supreme Court handed him the job in 2000 has paved the way for this moment.

But should we be surprised at Bush's poor grasp of the world he supposedly leads? After all, the blundering of the Bush administration has seriously undermined secular politics in the Mideast and boosted the religious zealots of groups like Hezbollah to positions of preeminence throughout the region, from savagely violent Iraq to the beleaguered West Bank and Gaza.

But what is truly "ironic" is that the Bush administration, having overstretched our militarily and generated no foreign policy ideas beyond the willy-nilly "projection" of military force, has become a helpless bystander as the entire region threatens to burn.

Responding to Bush, Blair at least sounded somewhat constructive, offering to go directly to the Mideast and pave the way for a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In this, he seemed to be unwittingly aligned with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who expressed on Sunday frustration with her successor for not leaving the conference to engage in emergency shuttle diplomacy in the Mideast.

Where Albright was critical of the "disaster" in Iraq for distracting from the dormant Mideast peace process, Rice was shrilly defensive.

"For the last 60 years, American administrations of both stripe - Democrat, Republican - traded what they thought was security and stability and turned a blind eye to the absence of democratic forces, to the absence of pluralism in the region," she said Sunday. "That policy has changed."

While this is certainly a dramatic sound bite, the words have no logical meaning: The U.S. continues to embrace the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, as has been the case for sixty years. In fact, Bush has added Libya to the "approved" list. Meanwhile, Israel is attacking elected governments in the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon with U.S. support.

As for the democracy in Iraq that Bush wants Russia to emulate, things haven't worked out as neocons like invasion architect Richard Perle had hoped when he fantasized about Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi leading Baghdad to recognize Israel. On Sunday, according to Reuters, the notoriously divided Iraqi parliament UNANIMOUSLY passed a motion condemning the Israeli offensive and urging the U.N. Security Council and Group of Eight leaders meeting to intervene "to stop the ... Israeli criminal aggression."

Instead of creating a malleable U.S.-Israel ally, the overthrow of the secular Sunni leader Saddam Hussein has extended a fiery arc of Shiite-dominated religious fanaticism blazing across the Mideast skyline that betrays Bush's claim to be bringing democracy and stability to the region.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/071906M.shtml

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. | Democracy in Crisis

Democracy in Crisis - Interview with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
BradBlog.com

Tuesday 18 July 2006

An Exclusive Interview for The BRAD BLOG [1] as Guest Blogged by Joy [2] and Tom Williams…

"The Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, has been using old-fashioned, Jim Crow, apartheid-type maneuvers to steal the last two national elections."
- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Recently, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., (bio [3]) , wrote the article: "Was the 2004 Election Stolen [4]" where he examined the election fraud in Ohio that took place during the last Presidential Election. He also has written a book "Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush & His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy [5]". Mr. Kennedy, along with Mike Papantonio have filed a "qui tam" lawsuit [6] against some of the voting machines companies, in an effort to save our Democracy.

I've long had a deep respect for Robert F. Kennedy for his dedicated work as an environmental advocate. Tom and I enjoyed interviewing him and were moved by his passion and dedication to our country and our Democracy. We spoke to him via phone at his office at Pace University's Environmental Litigation Clinic in White Plains, New York, which he founded, about the election of 2004. This was an experience to remember...

BRAD BLOG: In your book, "Crimes Against Nature," you said that Bush won the 2004 election because of an information deficit caused by a breakdown in our national media. You go on to say that "Bush was re-elected because of the negligence of-and deliberate deception by-the American press." Your recent article in "Rolling Stone" seems to suggest that your opinion has changed, focusing more on the fraud and deception in Ohio with the computerized voting machines. What was the most important thing that made you suspect fraud and decide to investigate the 2004 election?

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: Well, my opinion hasn't changed, that the press has been negligent, and that the large amount of support for the President, and for the people that did vote for the President, that large numbers of them would not have done so, had they known the truth about his policies, and his record. You say my opinion changed, but it hasn't changed.

You know I've known this for many years, because of my anecdotal experience. I give about 40 speeches a year, in red states to Republican audiences, and I get the same enthusiastic responses from those audiences as I get from Liberal college audiences. The only difference is, is that the Republicans often say to me, "How come we've never heard this before?" I made the conclusion many years ago that there's not a huge values difference between Red State Republicans and Blue State Democrats. The distinction is really informational. 80% of Republicans are just Democrats who don't know what's going on. And my anecdotal conclusion was confirmed by a survey done immediately after the 2004 election called the PIPA [7] report, which tested Bush supporters and Kerry supporters based upon their knowledge of current events. It found that among Bush supporters, they were widespread in its interpretations, or there were factual errors in the way that they viewed Bush's major public policy initiatives.

For example, 75% of the Republican respondents believed that Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Center, and 72% believed that WMD had been found in Iraq. And most of them believed that the war in Iraq had strong support among Iraq's Muslim neighbors and our traditional allies in Europe, which of course is wrong. The Democrats as a whole had a much more accurate view of those events. And then PIPA [8] went back twice to these same people. The first time it went back to the people that had these misinterpretations, and asked them where they were getting their news, and invariably they said talk radio and FOX news. And PIPA went back a third time, and made inquiries about their fundamental values, and it did start with a string of hypotheticals:

"What if there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What if Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with bombing the World Trade Center? What if the U.S. Invasion of Iraq had little support among Iraq's Muslim neighbors and was largely opposed by Iraq's Muslim neighbors, and by our troops and allies in Europe? Should we have still gone in?" And roughly 80% of Dem and 80% of Rep said the same thing, "We should not." And so the values were the same. It was the facts, the information, it was the access to information that was different.

BB: Are you then adding a layer of suspicion about the direct manipulation and fraudulent counting through computerized voting?

RFK JR.: That also happened, that was another factor. Our democracy is broken. Our democracy is broken because of our campaign finance system, which is just a system of legalized bribery, which has allowed corporations and the very wealthy to control the electoral results. Let me go back and say our electoral system is broken for three reasons, in three large respects: The first is our campaign finance system, which is a system of legalized bribery, and which has allowed corporations and the very rich to control the results of our electoral process. Number two is the failure of the American press and that is also a function and result of corporate control, as I showed in my book. Number three is the election system itself, which is broken. We've privatized it and allowed four large corporations to count our votes on machines that don't work.

But also the Republican party has inculcated a culture of corruption. The Republican party has adopted a strategy of denying votes to blacks and other minorities, and to other people more traditionally Democratic, suppressing Democratic vote and fraudulently expanding Republican vote. And this is happening all over the country. I would urge you to read Greg Palast's latest book, Armed Madhouse [9]. He does for the national elections what I did for the Ohio election, which is to synthesize the information that's out there into a readable document, in which he shows exactly how this election was stolen-not just in Ohio but in many other states as well.

BB: Have any of your expert witnesses or anyone referred to some of the stringent requirements in the gaming industry which uses computerized slot machines, poker machines and so forth involving the levels of certification and disclosure of the security requirements of its vendors?

RFK JR.: Well, you see this was just another corporate boondoggle that gave the most venal mendacious corporations charge of our most sacred public trust, which is the right to vote. These corporations were making hundreds of millions of dollars. The machines, as it turns out, were manufactured by wireless companies and were just a cheap piece of junk that cost less than $100 to manufacture, and they were selling them for $2400 apiece. And they were using Jack Abramoff and other corrupt lobbyists to persuade federal officials to pass the federal act to appropriate the money and then to persuade state and local officials to purchase the defective machines.

BB: Jack Abramoff was involved in this?

RFK JR.: Oh yes. Jack Abramoff, and Bob Ney [10](R-Oh), the principle figure in the Abramoff scandal and he's the author of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). And Diebold contributed millions of dollars to these guys, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to Abramoff to lobby on behalf of HAVA, and to lobby states like New York and the other states, to adopt the Diebold machines.

BB: So HAVA was "created specifically to disenfranchise voters and verfication"?

RFK JR.: HAVA was written specifically to require the states to buy Diebold machines. I mean one company basically had control of the whole legislative process. That's why HAVA has a provision in it that discourages vote verification by paper ballots. Both Republicans and Democrats tried to reform the HAVA, saying of course we should have paper verification of the vote. Paper verification would allow you to go in, make your vote on the electronic machine, and you get a receipt that is a copy of who you voted for and you are allowed to examine that receipt. You deposit it in a locked box in the voting area. That way, if there's ever any question, if you need to count, you can count the papers, and see if it compares to what the machine says.

But Bob Ney fought tooth and nail against that provision because Diebold made a machine that does not provide a paper ballot. And he went so far, because Diebold contributed a million dollars to an organization that purportedly protects the rights of blind people. And in exchange for that, that organization got one of its officers to testify on Capitol Hill at the HAVA hearings, that blind people in America did not want paper ballots - voter verified ballots - because it would deprive someone of the right to vote secretly. Now the other organizations that support handicapped rights and rights of the blind, do not take that position. This was a position that that organization adopted after accepting a million dollars from Diebold. The whole operation was corrupt and now Bob Ney is going to jail for it.

BB: Also, speaking of those guys, election officials in several states, most notably Ken Blackwell in Ohio and Bruce McPherson here in the state of California, appear to be be deliberately flaunting established law and procedures as well as direct court orders, and they seem to be just "getting away with it". How can that be?

RFK JR.: Well, again, it's because of the failure of the American press. This is the most important issue in American Democracy and the press isn't covering it. So the politicians who want to fix the elections, and who want these fraudulent machines, can get away with it, don't take a position because it gets no traction in the press.

BB: But then why didn't people like Kerry want to contest the results?

RFK JR.: You'd have to ask Kerry.

BB: Why hasn't the DNC done anything about this?

RFK JR.: You'd have to ask the DNC.

BB: We watched Howard Dean on television having a hack demonstrated to him by Bev Harris [11], and he doesn't seem to say anything... I guess we'll have to ask them! But there seems to have been a pattern here in the leadership of the Democratic Party....What I was getting to in those questions was not for you to interpret the actions of the those in the DNC and so forth, but there seems to be a pattern in the leadership of the Dem Party that shies away from direct conflict in this....

RFK JR.: The Democratic leadership on this issue has been abysmal. And particularly since this is a civil rights issue and it's a racial issue. The machines themselves are kind of a distraction because the machines are recent innovations. The Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, has been using, old-fashioned, Jim Crow, apartheid-type maneuvers to steal the last two national elections.

BB: Like in Georgia, who were trying to establish the Poll Tax again...

RFK JR.: And this has been happening all over the country. If you look at who's being denied the right to vote, on absentee ballots, on provisional ballots, it's Hispanics, it's Blacks and it's Native Americans, and the Democratic Party ought to be touting this as the biggest civil rights issue of our time. But they are ignoring it, and that really is shocking. It's shocking that the Republicans are not up in arms about this too, because this should not be a partisan issue. This is a fundamental basis of our American value system, which is representative Democracy. For a party that claims to speak for "American Values" to ignore the fact that other members of the party, that the leadership of the party is involved in an active national campaign to stop black people from voting, and to steal elections, shows the moral bankruptcy of everybody in that party!

Why aren't Republicans standing up and speaking on this issue? Why isn't Republican leadership standing up and speaking on this issue?

BB: California just recently went to Diebold machines, all over the state. If California "goes" Republican, do you think we will be able to say, ok, there's no doubt anymore?

RFK JR.: Listen: all I can say is that the Diebold machines are among the worst. They break down, they are easily hacked, Diebold uses fraudulent misrepresentations to sell the machines, and they should not be part of our voting system.

BB: Are there any plans on a national or state level to contest suspicious results this time around?

RFK JR.: They make it very difficult to contest crooked elections. Nebraska is one of several states that have now passed laws, and I believe Florida is one of those states, that prohibit counting paper ballots in votes that were originally counted by machines. The only way that you can count votes is the original way in which they were counted. And so, of course, that makes it easy to fix any election and make sure that nobody has the right to challenge it.

Many other states, including Ohio, have made it impossible for anybody to challenge an election, even if it was obviously fixed. And these kinds of initiatives are happening all over the country. Why would any state legislature vote for such a rule unless they were Republicans who felt that elections would be fixed in their favor? Why would any American vote for such a rule? It is completely anti-American and un-American. We should be encouraging Americans to vote and encouraging EVERY American to cast a vote and to make sure that every vote is counted. And both parties should be working toward that.

But instead you have a Republican party that is trying to suppress votes and trying to defraud the public. And you have a Democratic party that is like the deer in headlights. And the Democrats are never going to win another election if they don't fix this issue because they are starting out every election with a 3 million vote deficit, and those are mainly the black voters in this country and who no longer have their votes counted.

And you know, this may sound shrill, but look at the facts. And I challenge anyone who says that this is shrill and inaccurate to read Greg Palast's book, to read my article, to look at the facts, because the facts are infallible.

BB: Do you think we are going to need a reaction like they are having currently in Mexico?

RFK JR.: Well, I wish the Democratic Party had the cojones that the Mexican opposition party has! They're saying "We're not gonna stand for our elections being stolen anymore!" It's great for these (our) political leaders to stand up and say "I will gracefully concede" but what does that mean for the rest of us? We are getting stuck with these governments that are absolutely running our country into the ground.

BB: You said in your recent interview with Charlie Rose, that this is the worst Presidency we've ever had, and they've ruined our reputation in the world. So if you had your ideal President, what kind of things would he or she need to do to restore our credibility?

RFK JR.: Well the first thing we need to do is to restore American Democracy.

Number One: Fix the campaign finance system to get corporate money out of the electoral process. Corporations are a great thing for our country. They drive our economy but they should NOT be running our government because they don't want the same thing for America that Americans want. Corporations don't want democracy, they want free markets, they want profits, and oftentimes the easiest path to profits is to use the campaign finance system to get their hooks into a public official and to use that public official to dismantle the marketplace to give them monopoly control and a competitive edge and to privatize the commons-to steal our air, our water, or our public treasury, and liquidate it for private profits.

Number Two: We have to fix the press: restore journalistic ethics in this country, and that is by bringing back the fairness doctrine and strengthening the FCC. The Fairness Doctrine was abolished by Ronald Reagan in 1988, and it recognized that the airwaves belong to the public; that the broadcasters can be licensed to use them to make a profit, but they use them with the proviso that their primary obligation is to advance democracy and promote the public interest. They have to inform the public because a democracy cannot survive an uninformed public. As Thomas Jefferson said, "An uninformed public will trade a hundred years of hard-fought civil rights for a half an hour of welfare." And they will follow the first demagogue or religious fanatic that comes along and offers them a $300 tax break.

Number Three: We have to fix our electoral system so that every vote is counted. Those are the first three things that any President should do, Republican or Democrat, to restore American Democracy.

BB: Now all these state laws that are being put in place could be trumped by Congress...

RFK JR.: Of course, we should have a federal law that creates federal standards for elections. All federal elections have to be verified by paper ballots. Election officials, whose job is to ensure the integrity of federal elections, cannot simultaneously serve as campaign managers or candidates who are participating in that contest. Many states already have that rule, but Florida and Ohio do not. It's a formula for corruption!

BB: In summary, how optimistic or pessimistic are you about our ability to get our country back?

RFK JR.: Well, you know, my attitude is that I don't try to predict the future, I can only say that those of us who care about this country have to keep fighting, and whether you think you're gonna win or lose, you gotta just keep slugging and you gotta be ready to die with your boots on, because that's what our forefathers did, they started a revolution, and they put their fortunes and their lives at stake. And we need to summon the same kind of courage from our generation, and demand that kind of courage from our leadership.

BB: And we have to get that message out to the Democratic leadership as well.

RFK JR.: And that's what you guys are doing....

--------

Article printed from The BRAD BLOG: www.bradblog.com

URL to article: www.bradblog.com/?p=3079

URLs in this post:
[1] The BRAD BLOG: www.BradBlog.com
[2] Joy: http://fancypantselitist.blogspot.com
[3] bio: www.waterkeeper.org/mainpresident.aspx
[4] Was the 2004 Election Stolen: http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen
[5] Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush & His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy:
www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060746874/airamericarad-20/104-4412599-7091110
[6] lawsuit: www.bradblog.com/?p=3065
[7] PIPA: http://astro.berkeley.edu/~aleroy/Report10_21_04.pdf
[8] PIPA: http://astro.berkeley.edu/~aleroy/Report10_21_04.pdf
[9] Armed Madhouse: www.gregpalast.com/
[11] Jack Abramoff, and Bob Ney : www.bradblog.com/?p=2262
[11] Howard Dean on television having a hack demonstrated to him by Bev Harris: www.bradblog.com/?p=911

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/072006A.shtml

Greg Palast - Ken Lay's Alive!

Ken Lay's Alive!
by Greg Palast


Don't check the casket. I know he's back. When I saw those lights flickering out at La Guardia Airport yesterday and heard the eerie shrieks and moans in the dark, broiling subway tunnels, I just knew it: Ken Lay's alive! We can see his spirit in every flickering lightbulb from Kansas to Queens as we head into America's annual Blackout season.

It wasn't always so. For decades, America had nearly the best, most reliable electricity system on the planet and, though we grumbled, electricity bills were among the planet's lowest. It was all thanks to Franklin Roosevelt and the Public Utility Holding Company Act which allowed for tough regulation of the power monopolies. They were told what they could charge, the maximum profit they could take and -- what I think about when the lights dim -- exactly how much they had to invest to keep the juice flowing.

But then, in 1992, a Texas oil man, George H.W. Bush, ordered to evacuate the White House by two-thirds of the US electorate, gave his Houston crony, Ken Lay, a billion-dollar good-bye kiss: Bush's signature authorizing deregulation of electricity.

But Lay's operation didn't pick up the really big bucks until after December 21, 1994, when the Enron chief wrote to the incoming governor of Texas, George W. Bush, asking the Governor-elect to grant him a special wish for Christmas:

"The Public Utility Commission appointment is an extremely critical one. We believe Pat Wood is best qualified…. Linda joins me in wishing you and Laura and the whole family a joyous holiday. - Sincerely, Ken."

And Georgie-Boy granted Kenny-Boy's wish, appointing Wood and thereby giving Texans an electricity regulator who stumped for Ken Lay's right to earn unlimited profits without any obligation to keep the lights on. Thus, by 1995, electricity deregulation had a foothold in the Lone Star state that would spread nationwide like Dutch Elm Disease.

But, unsatisfied with excessive profits, Lay and his team went for unconscionable profits, flickering the lights in California in the winter of 2000. "Let poor Aunt Millie … use candles," said one of Lay's minions as he deliberately schemed to engineer black-outs. When the public reacted with anger, Bill Clinton, by a December 2000 executive order, ended Enron's right to trade power. Lay's response was, that month, through a lobbyist, to tell President-elect Bush to promote Lay's puppet regulator, Wood, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Kenny-Boy wished it, and again, Georgie-Boy granted it.

Lay's hand-picked federal regulator Wood then kept the game going until, on August 14, 2003, the entire northeast, from Ohio to New York, went dark. Wood had to take the blame and resigned. Bush replaced him with Joe Kelliher, a regulator nominated by -- no points for guessing -- Ken Lay.

In the old, pre-Ken days of regulation, my fellow economists used to complain about something called the Averch-Johnson Effect. The A-J Effect was the result of regulations which gave companies incentives to gold plate the electricity system, making it way TOO reliable. Too much cash was spent on keeping the lights on.

Well, gone are the days of the A-J effect. The gold-plating is gone -- but not the gold. Under regulation, power sellers were limited by law to a profit of about 9%, what the law called a just and reasonable return. Now, the profits can be -- and are -- unreasonable, unjust and just out of sight.

For example, one company, Entergy, owns a nuclear plant in New York called, Indian Point. They get to charge for nuclear power as if it were produced by oil -- that is, they charge New York City residents at a price effectively set by OPEC, prices boosted by the war in Iraq. Not surprisingly, Entergy today reported a record rake-in of profits from their nuclear business. No 9% limit for these good old boys. On top of that, the power company is relieved of all obligations to keep the lights on in New York City.

… And in New Orleans. The same company supplies all of the electricity in the City that Care Forgot. Under deregulation, they hadn't gold-plated the system; they hadn't even water-proofed it. Last year, when the levees burst and the city flooded, Entergy simply turned off the lights and declared their New Orleans subsidiary bankrupt. Leaving New Orleans in the dark was a profitable decision. The company reported a 23% leap in earnings for the third quarter of 2005, the period including Hurricane Katrina, a profit boost they attributed to "the weather." Hey, are these guys droll, or what?

This year, Entergy's profits have stayed up in the clouds, no doubt helped by the cash the company saved by not bothering to restore electricity to a large number of their customers in New Orleans --who remain in the dark even today.

By now, you've got to ask: after the profiteering from Katrina, after the California power scandal of 2000, after the Great Black-out of 2003, even after the hand-cuffing of Ken Lay, why are we still under a deregulation regime that Ken Lay seems to rule from the grave? Why is it that we're still at the mercy of power vampires?

The answer, in part, is that the bloodsucking is a bi-partisan feast. Entergy, the New Orleans nuclear company, is well defended in the US Senate by their former lawyer, Hillary Rodham, who now protects them under her new alias, Senator Clinton.

Ken Lay's gone, but the ghost of Ken Lay -- the marauding ghoul called deregulation -- stays to haunt us.

For more on Ken Lay, Entergy, New Orleans and the politics of power, read Greg Palast's just-released New York Times bestseller, "ARMED MADHOUSE: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War." (Penguin Dutton 2006.) Palast is also co-author of a treatise on the power industry, "Regulation and Democracy" with Jerrold Oppenheim and Theo MacGregor (United Nations ILO 2000/Pluto UK 2002).
www.GregPalast.com.

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0720-22.htm

Dean Baker - Deficit Disorder

Deficit Disorder
By Dean Baker
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 20 July 2006

Last week, President Bush put on a silly charade in which he boasted that better than expected revenue numbers for 2006 vindicated his tax cuts. As many news stories eventually pointed out (after first buying the charade), better than expected tax collections were largely a fluke resulting from an unusually strong stock market performance last year. No one, not even the Bush administration's own economists, is predicting that this uptick in tax revenues will be sustained. Claiming that a one-year upturn in tax revenue proves the success of the tax cuts is like arguing that global warming is not a problem based on a weeklong cold spell.

Unfortunately, the nonsense with the deficit does not end with Bush. Many of the Democrats have been anxious to argue that the Bush deficits have put the country on the road to bankruptcy. The Bush deficits are large - too large - but they are not especially large by historical standards, and running deficits of this size for a few years will not be disastrous for the economy.

As every economist knows, the deficit must be measured relative to the size of the economy in order to assess its impact. The $296 billion deficit currently projected for 2006 can sound scary (most of us will never see $296 billion), but it comes to just 2.3 percent of GDP. The deficit was larger than 2.2 percent of GDP every year from 1980 to 1995. At its post-war peak in 1983, the deficit hit 6.0 percent of GDP. So, we don't have to be too alarmed about the size of the current deficit. The roof is not about to come crashing down.

Unfortunately, this is not quite the whole story. The deficit numbers most often reported don't include $174 billion that the federal government borrowed from Social Security. Reporters like to use the Social Security surplus to hide the true size of the budget deficit. (It is sometimes claimed that politicians use the Social Security surplus to hide the size of the budget deficit. This is not true. Reporters and their editors determine which deficit numbers appear in the news, not politicians.) An accurate measure of the budget deficit must include the money borrowed from Social Security, since this debt must also be repaid under the law.

Adding in the money borrowed from Social Security raises the 2006 deficit to $470 billion, or 3.7 percent of GDP. This should be cause for concern, but again not quite catastrophic. Over the period from 1982 to 1994, the deficit was smaller only in 1987, when it came in at 3.6 percent of GDP. To steal an old line, a deficit of this size is like termites. Termites can't destroy your house immediately, in the way that a fire can, but if you let the problem fester long enough, then the house will collapse. Similarly, it is not a disaster that we have a large budget deficit in 2006, or even 2007 and 2008, but if we run deficits of this large for a long enough period of time, it will reduce economic growth and lead to substantially larger future tax burdens.

That may sound somewhat less impressive than yelling "fire" over the budget deficit, but it is important that we keep our heads on this issue. The country faces many needs, like providing decent health care to all its citizens and ensuring a basic standard of living to the working poor. If the Bush crew ever loses power, there will be a push to address these needs. While taking back the tax cuts to the rich will provide a substantial pot of money, as will ending the war in Iraq, these sums will not be sufficient to both meet the country's needs and balance the federal budget.

Any future Democratic administration will therefore be faced with a fundamental choice as to whether it concentrates on balancing the budget or meeting the country's needs. If progressives have been praying to the god of balanced budgets, then there will be no one to lead the charge for focusing on the nation's unmet social needs.

So, the moral of the story is that Bush deserves criticism over his tax cuts for the rich and his excessive budget deficits. But, we should not dig ourselves into a hole with these criticisms. Deficits do not mean disaster. Running a modest deficit to achieve important social goals is more responsible than balancing a budget to keep the accountants happy.

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (www.conservativenannystate.org). He also has a blog, "Beat the Press," where he discusses the media's coverage of economic issues. It can be found at the CEPR website, www.cepr.net.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/072006N.

Bush to stem cell community — drop dead - Breaking Bioethics - MSNBC.com

Bush to stem cell community: Drop dead
President's veto of embryonic research funding reflects incoherent policy
COMMENTARY
By Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.
MSNBC contributor

Updated: 1:02 p.m. ET July 19, 2006

President Bush’s embryonic stem cell policy began with lies and has now ended with one.

Bush reserved his first veto as president for one of the only valuable things this do-almost-nothing Congress has managed to actually get done.

With a flourish of a veto pen that has remained dormant no matter how dopey Congress has been, the Senate bill allowing public funding of embryonic stem cell research has been consigned to the legislative trash can.

An administration that has shown itself over and over again to have trouble telling the truth is now telling Americans in wheelchairs, those with damaged hearts, babies who are diabetic and those left immobile by Parkinsonism not to worry. The president, whose grasp of science left him unable to identify creationism as a fundamentally religious idea, and his trusty sidekick Karl Rove, rarely seen in a white lab coat but who knows something about rats, having been in Washington for some time now, claim to know best which medical research is most likely to benefit diseased Americans in the future.

When Bush uttered his first confused words on the subject of embryonic stem cell research five years ago in August 2001, he said that he was opposed to embryonic stem cell research since it involved the destruction of human life.

He noted that there were embryos, and many of them, already in existence in infertility clinics and left unwanted by those who created them. But he held it was wrong to use those in research. Instead, he told us, he had found a way out of the dilemma of how to do embryonic stem cell research without destroying any embryos.

What had Bush figured out that no one in the scientific community could see then and remains unable to see now?

There were, he said, 60 stem cell lines that had been made from embryos which held “great promise that could lead to breakthrough therapies and cures.” If he gave federal money to support research on those lines and funded research on adult stem cells, such as bone marrow, fetal blood cells taken from umbilical cords and other adult stem cells found in skin, muscle and the intestine, then all would be well.

Wrong science, flawed ethics
The president’s supporters, a much larger set then than now, blessed his insight and his wisdom in producing a marvelous "compromise" and pronounced the quandary over stem cell research resolved.

Except, as even the president must have known and some of his most vocal supporters knew, the president was talking through his hat.

There were never 60 embryonic stem cell lines available for research. Not even close. Even if there had been, that number would never have been enough to support serious research on diseases and disorders for very long, as experts in embryonic stem cell research found out in less than a year.

Not only was Bush’s science wrong, the ethics behind his so-called compromise were deeply flawed, too.

If the president deemed it moral to use cell lines made from human embryos that had already been destroyed, then why would he argue that other embryos headed inevitably for destruction couldn’t be the source of new stem cell lines?

In fact, if the president was so concerned about the fate of embryos, why did he not speak out to close infertility programs around the country that destroy embryos? Why did he not try to shut down privately funded embryonic stem cell research? And, if the president was so worried about destructive embryo research, why did he not propose a ban on bringing across our borders any cure or therapy that might be discovered overseas if it was based on embryonic stem cell research?

If adult stem cell research were really an alternative to embryonic, then why have nearly all but the tiniest handful of the experts who work on stem cells maintained that this is false? And why has the president failed to secure the agreement of a single medical or scientific society of any standing with his position that a combination of funding a small number of existing stem cell lines made from human embryos and a push behind adult stem cell research is the best strategy to mend damaged brains and heal broken spinal cords?

Evidence that the president’s views rest firmly on a foundation of deception layered with a rich mix of confusion and inconsistency is to be found in the enthusiasm with which Britain, China, India, Israel, Australia, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, Korea, South Africa, France and many other nations have launched embryonic stem cell research programs.

The only people who continue to put faith in the policy of promoting government funding for only adult stem cell research that the president is still babbling on about are the president, his close advisors, some conservative groups motivated by deeply-held religious views concerning embryos and a few neoconservative polemicists who seem desperate to find an issue that might bring them redemption after doing such a fine job contributing to the design of American foreign policy under Bush.

Sending a clear message
With his veto of the bill creating federal funding and regulation over embryonic stem cell research, the president continues to ask us and, more notably, those who are sick and ailing amongst us, to swallow a false, morally incoherent policy.

Not too long after the president’s first speech on the subject, the sick and ailing recognized the president was not wise, but rather wacky, and decided to do something about it. With the help of high-profile efforts involving Nancy Reagan, Christopher Reeve, Mary Tyler Moore, Michael J. Fox and a less visible but incredibly committed and hugely influential phalanx of disease advocacy organizations a sound policy about embryonic stem cell research was articulated.

The policy to permit closely monitored federal funding swung hearts and minds in both houses of Congress. Governors and state legislators and, yes, even those in the media began to understand that the only sensible strategy in the battle against disease, infirmity, disability and death is to put the chips of public funding behind all forms of stem cell research — embryonic and adult.

With his veto the president has now reaffirmed a policy that never made any sense, garnered no scientific support to speak of, was abandoned by both houses of Congress and the leaders of his own party and, most importantly, got no traction with those most in need of the benefits of the research — patients and their families.

The president has now told doctors, researchers and patients to drop dead. Science policy in the Bush administration is best made in the White House, not by scientists and not by Congress.
© 2006 MSNBC Interactive

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13935219/