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, October 14, 2006

Bush keeps revising war justification

Bush keeps revising war justification

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press WriterSat Oct 14, 4:23 PM ET

President Bush keeps revising his explanation for why the U.S. is in Iraq, moving from narrow military objectives at first to history-of-civilization stakes now.

Initially, the rationale was specific: to stop Saddam Hussein from using what Bush claimed were the Iraqi leader's weapons of mass destruction or from selling them to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

But 3 1/2 years later, with no weapons found, still no end in sight and the war a liability for nearly all Republicans on the ballot Nov. 7, the justification has become far broader and now includes the expansive "struggle between good and evil."

Republicans seized on North Korea's reported nuclear test last week as further evidence that the need for strong U.S. leadership extends beyond Iraq.

Bush's changing rhetoric reflects increasing administration efforts to tie the war, increasingly unpopular at home, with the global fight against terrorism, still the president's strongest suit politically.

"We can't tolerate a new terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, with large oil reserves that could be used to fund its radical ambitions, or used to inflict economic damage on the West," Bush said in a news conference last week in the Rose Garden.

When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Bush shifted his war justification to one of liberating Iraqis from a brutal ruler.

After Saddam's capture in December 2003, the rationale became helping to spread democracy through the Middle East. Then it was confronting terrorists in Iraq "so we do not have to face them here at home," and "making America safer," themes Bush pounds today.

"We're in the ideological struggle of the 21st century," he told a California audience this month. "It's a struggle between good and evil."

Vice President Dick Cheney takes it even further: "The hopes of the civilized world ride with us," Cheney tells audiences.

Except for the weapons of mass destruction argument, there is some validity in each of Bush's shifting rationales, said Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy scholar at the Brookings Institution who initially supported the war effort.

"And I don't have any big problems with any of them, analytically. The problem is they can't change the realities on the ground in Iraq, which is that we're in the process of beginning to lose," O'Hanlon said. "It is taking us a long time to realize that, but the war is not headed the way it should be."

Andrew Card, Bush's first chief of staff, said Bush's evolving rhetoric, including his insistence that Iraq is a crucial part of the fight against terrorism, is part of an attempt to put the war in better perspective for Americans.

The administration recently has been "doing a much better job" in explaining the stakes, Card said in an interview. "We never said it was going to be easy. The president always told us it would be long and tough."

"I'm trying to do everything I can to remind people that the war on terror has the war in Iraq as a subset. It's critical we succeed in Iraq as part of the war on terror," said Card, who left the White House in March.

Bush at first sought to explain increasing insurgent and sectarian violence as a lead-up to Iraqi elections. But elections came and went, and a democratically elected government took over, and the sectarian violence increased.

Bush has insisted U.S. soldiers will stand down as Iraqis stand up. He has likened the war to the 20th century struggles against fascism, Nazism and communism. He has called Iraq the "central front" in a global fight against radical jihadists.

Having jettisoned most of the earlier, upbeat claims of progress, Bush these days emphasizes consequences of setting even a limited withdrawal timetable: abandonment of the Iraqi people, destabilizing the Middle East and emboldening terrorists around the world.

The more ominous and determined his words, the more skeptical the American public appears, polls show, both on the war itself and over whether it is part of the larger fight against terrorism, as the administration insists.

Bush's approval rating, reflected by AP-Ipsos polls, has slid from the mid 60s at the outset of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to the high 30s now. There were light jumps upward after the December 2003 capture of Saddam, Bush's re-election in November 2004 and each of three series of aggressive speeches over the past year. Those gains tended to vanish quickly.

With the war intruding on the fall elections, both parties have stepped up their rhetoric.

Republicans, who are also reeling from the congressional page scandal, are casting Democrats as seeking to "cut and run" and appease terrorists.

Democrats accuse Bush of failed leadership with his "stay the course" strategy. They cite a government intelligence assessment suggesting the Iraq war has helped recruit more terrorists, and a book by journalist Bob Woodward that portrays Bush as intransigent in his defense of the Iraq war and his advisers as bitterly divided.

Democrats say Iraq has become a distraction from the war against terrorism — not a central front. But they are divided among themselves on what strategy to pursue.

Republicans, too, increasingly are growing divided as U.S. casualties rise.

"I struggle with the fact that President Bush said, `As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.' But the fact is, this has not happened," said Rep. Christopher Shays (news, bio, voting record), R-Conn., a war supporter turned war skeptic.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record) of Virginia, said after a recent visit to Iraq that Iraq was "drifting sideways." He urged consideration of a "change of course" if the Iraq government fails to restore order over the next two or three months.

More than 2,750 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war, most of them since Bush's May 2003 "mission accomplished" aircraft carrier speech. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died.

Recent events have been dispiriting.

The United States now has about 141,000 troops in Iraq, up from about 127,000 in July. Some military experts have suggested at least one additional U.S. division, or around 20,000 troops, is needed in western Iraq alone.

Dan Benjamin, a former Middle East specialist with the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, said the administration is overemphasizing the nature of the threat in an effort to bolster support.

"I think the administration has oversold the case that Iraq could become a jihadist state," said Benjamin, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "If the U.S. were to leave Iraq tomorrow, the result would be a bloodbath in which Sunnis and Shiites fight it out. But the jihadists would not be able to seek power."

Not all of Bush's rhetorical flourishes have had the intended consequences.

When the history of Iraq is finally written, the recent surge in sectarian violence is "going to be a comma," Bush said in several recent appearances.

Critics immediately complained that the remark appeared unsympathetic and dismissive of U.S. and Iraqi casualties, an assertion the White House disputed.

For a while last summer, Bush depicted the war as one against "Islamic fascism," borrowing a phrase from conservative commentators. The strategy backfired, further fanning anti-American sentiment across the Muslim world.

The "fascism" phrase abruptly disappeared from Bush's speeches, reportedly after he was talked out of it by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes, a longtime Bush confidant now with the State Department.

Hughes said she would not disclose private conversations with the president. But, she told the AP, she did not use the "fascism" phrase herself. "I use `violent extremist,'" she said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061014/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_iraq;_ylt=AnZefbi4l7PHuOKYfc7TZAuyFz4D;_ylu=X3oDMTA0cDJlYmhvBHNlYwM-

Bush keeps revising war justification on Yahoo! News

Bush keeps revising war justification

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press WriterSat Oct 14, 4:23 PM ET

President Bush keeps revising his explanation for why the U.S. is in Iraq, moving from narrow military objectives at first to history-of-civilization stakes now.

Initially, the rationale was specific: to stop Saddam Hussein from using what Bush claimed were the Iraqi leader's weapons of mass destruction or from selling them to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

But 3 1/2 years later, with no weapons found, still no end in sight and the war a liability for nearly all Republicans on the ballot Nov. 7, the justification has become far broader and now includes the expansive "struggle between good and evil."

Republicans seized on North Korea's reported nuclear test last week as further evidence that the need for strong U.S. leadership extends beyond Iraq.

Bush's changing rhetoric reflects increasing administration efforts to tie the war, increasingly unpopular at home, with the global fight against terrorism, still the president's strongest suit politically.

"We can't tolerate a new terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, with large oil reserves that could be used to fund its radical ambitions, or used to inflict economic damage on the West," Bush said in a news conference last week in the Rose Garden.

When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Bush shifted his war justification to one of liberating Iraqis from a brutal ruler.

After Saddam's capture in December 2003, the rationale became helping to spread democracy through the Middle East. Then it was confronting terrorists in Iraq "so we do not have to face them here at home," and "making America safer," themes Bush pounds today.

"We're in the ideological struggle of the 21st century," he told a California audience this month. "It's a struggle between good and evil."

Vice President Dick Cheney takes it even further: "The hopes of the civilized world ride with us," Cheney tells audiences.

Except for the weapons of mass destruction argument, there is some validity in each of Bush's shifting rationales, said Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy scholar at the Brookings Institution who initially supported the war effort.

"And I don't have any big problems with any of them, analytically. The problem is they can't change the realities on the ground in Iraq, which is that we're in the process of beginning to lose," O'Hanlon said. "It is taking us a long time to realize that, but the war is not headed the way it should be."

Andrew Card, Bush's first chief of staff, said Bush's evolving rhetoric, including his insistence that Iraq is a crucial part of the fight against terrorism, is part of an attempt to put the war in better perspective for Americans.

The administration recently has been "doing a much better job" in explaining the stakes, Card said in an interview. "We never said it was going to be easy. The president always told us it would be long and tough."

"I'm trying to do everything I can to remind people that the war on terror has the war in Iraq as a subset. It's critical we succeed in Iraq as part of the war on terror," said Card, who left the White House in March.

Bush at first sought to explain increasing insurgent and sectarian violence as a lead-up to Iraqi elections. But elections came and went, and a democratically elected government took over, and the sectarian violence increased.

Bush has insisted U.S. soldiers will stand down as Iraqis stand up. He has likened the war to the 20th century struggles against fascism, Nazism and communism. He has called Iraq the "central front" in a global fight against radical jihadists.

Having jettisoned most of the earlier, upbeat claims of progress, Bush these days emphasizes consequences of setting even a limited withdrawal timetable: abandonment of the Iraqi people, destabilizing the Middle East and emboldening terrorists around the world.

The more ominous and determined his words, the more skeptical the American public appears, polls show, both on the war itself and over whether it is part of the larger fight against terrorism, as the administration insists.

Bush's approval rating, reflected by AP-Ipsos polls, has slid from the mid 60s at the outset of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to the high 30s now. There were light jumps upward after the December 2003 capture of Saddam, Bush's re-election in November 2004 and each of three series of aggressive speeches over the past year. Those gains tended to vanish quickly.

With the war intruding on the fall elections, both parties have stepped up their rhetoric.

Republicans, who are also reeling from the congressional page scandal, are casting Democrats as seeking to "cut and run" and appease terrorists.

Democrats accuse Bush of failed leadership with his "stay the course" strategy. They cite a government intelligence assessment suggesting the Iraq war has helped recruit more terrorists, and a book by journalist Bob Woodward that portrays Bush as intransigent in his defense of the Iraq war and his advisers as bitterly divided.

Democrats say Iraq has become a distraction from the war against terrorism — not a central front. But they are divided among themselves on what strategy to pursue.

Republicans, too, increasingly are growing divided as U.S. casualties rise.

"I struggle with the fact that President Bush said, `As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.' But the fact is, this has not happened," said Rep. Christopher Shays (news, bio, voting record), R-Conn., a war supporter turned war skeptic.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record) of Virginia, said after a recent visit to Iraq that Iraq was "drifting sideways." He urged consideration of a "change of course" if the Iraq government fails to restore order over the next two or three months.

More than 2,750 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war, most of them since Bush's May 2003 "mission accomplished" aircraft carrier speech. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died.

Recent events have been dispiriting.

The United States now has about 141,000 troops in Iraq, up from about 127,000 in July. Some military experts have suggested at least one additional U.S. division, or around 20,000 troops, is needed in western Iraq alone.

Dan Benjamin, a former Middle East specialist with the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, said the administration is overemphasizing the nature of the threat in an effort to bolster support.

"I think the administration has oversold the case that Iraq could become a jihadist state," said Benjamin, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "If the U.S. were to leave Iraq tomorrow, the result would be a bloodbath in which Sunnis and Shiites fight it out. But the jihadists would not be able to seek power."

Not all of Bush's rhetorical flourishes have had the intended consequences.

When the history of Iraq is finally written, the recent surge in sectarian violence is "going to be a comma," Bush said in several recent appearances.

Critics immediately complained that the remark appeared unsympathetic and dismissive of U.S. and Iraqi casualties, an assertion the White House disputed.

For a while last summer, Bush depicted the war as one against "Islamic fascism," borrowing a phrase from conservative commentators. The strategy backfired, further fanning anti-American sentiment across the Muslim world.

The "fascism" phrase abruptly disappeared from Bush's speeches, reportedly after he was talked out of it by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes, a longtime Bush confidant now with the State Department.

Hughes said she would not disclose private conversations with the president. But, she told the AP, she did not use the "fascism" phrase herself. "I use `violent extremist,'" she said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061014/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_iraq&printer=1;_ylt=Atykg0u8Ez0O72bfFmNb6oAGw_IE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

Baker's Panel Rules Out Iraq Victory

Baker's Panel Rules Out Iraq Victory

BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
October 12, 2006
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/41371






WASHINGTON — A commission formed to assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course has ruled out the prospect of victory for America, according to draft policy options shared with The New York Sun by commission officials.

Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.

More telling, however, is the ruling out of two options last month. One advocated minor fixes to the current war plan but kept intact the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections. The second proposed that coalition forces focus their attacks only on Al Qaeda and not the wider insurgency.

Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.

The option papers, which sources inside the commission have stressed are still being amended and revised as the panel wraps up its work, give a clearer picture of what Mr. Baker meant in recent interviews when he called for a course adjustment.

They also shed light on what is at stake in the coming 2 1/2 months for the Iraqi government. The "Redeploy and Contain" option calls for the phased withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, though the working groups have yet to say when and where those troops will go. The document, read over the telephone to the Sun, says America should "make clear to allies and others that U.S. redeployment does not reduce determination to attack terrorists wherever they are." It also says America's top priority should be minimizing American casualties in Iraq.

Both Mr. Baker and his Democratic co-commissioner, Lee Hamilton, have said for nearly a month that the coming weeks and months are crucial for the elected body in Baghdad. More recently, Mr. Baker has said he is leaning against counseling the president to withdraw from Iraq.

Mr. Bush yesterday spoke approvingly of his father's old campaign manager and top diplomat, saying he looked forward to seeing "what Jimmy Baker and Lee Hamilton have to say about getting the job done."

The president also said he was not averse to changing tactics. But he repeated that the strategic goal in Iraq is to build "a country which can defend itself, sustain itself, and govern itself." He added, "The strategic goal is to help this young democracy succeed in a world in which extremists are trying to intimidate rational people in order to topple moderate governments and to extend the caliphate."

But the president's strategic goal is at odds with the opinion of Mr. Baker's expert working groups, which dismiss the notion of victory in Iraq. The "Stability First" paper says, "The United States should aim for stability particularly in Baghdad and political accommodation in Iraq rather than victory."

Mr. Baker in recent days has subtly been sounding out this theme with interviewers. On PBS's "Charlie Rose Show," Mr. Baker was careful to say he believed the jury was still out on whether Iraq was a success or a failure. But he also hastened to distinguish between a Middle East that was "democratic" and one that was merely "representative."

"If we are able to promote representative, representative government, not necessarily democracy, in a number of nations in the Middle East and bring more freedom to the people of that part of the world, it will have been a success," he said.

That distinction is crucial, according to one member of the expert working groups. "Baker wants to believe that Sunni dictators in Sunni majority states are representative," the group member, who requested anonymity, said.

Both option papers would compel America to open dialogue with Syria and Iran, two rogue states that Iraqi leaders and American military commanders say are providing arms and funds to Iraq's insurgents. "Stabilizing Iraq will be impossible without greater cooperation from Iran and Syria," the "Stability First" paper says.

The option also calls on America to solicit aid and support from the European Union and the United Nations, though both bodies in the past have spurned requests for significant aid for Iraq.

Because of the politically explosive topic of the Baker commission, the panel has agreed not to release its findings until after the November 7 elections. The commission, formally known as the Iraq Study Group, was created by Congress in legislation sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican of Virginia and close confidant of Mr. Bush's. Mr. Baker has said he will likely present the panel's findings in December.

http://www.nysun.com/pf.php?id=41371

William Rivers Pitt - The Wretched Years

The Wretched Years
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 13 October 2006

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

- Maya Angelou

George W. Bush gave a press conference this past Wednesday in an attempt to snatch back the conversation from North Korea's nukes and Mark Foley's instant messages. A reporter from CNN asked him about the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report that puts the civilian death toll in Iraq at 655,000. "I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they're willing to - you know, that there's a level of violence that they tolerate," he responded.

Yes. That's what he said.

This is, to a degree, not terribly surprising. Mr. Bush has a penchant for casually saying the most abominable things imaginable without blinking. Recall, if you will, the days following the attacks of September 11th. A pall of poison smoke still hung low over New York City. Americans were suddenly living in fear of blue skies and airplanes. The as-yet-unsolved anthrax attacks on Congress and the media had us all collecting our mail with oven mitts while holding our breath.

On October 4th, 2001, less than a month after the attacks, Mr. Bush said, "We need to counter the shock wave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates."

Yes. That's what he said.

These two statements serve as bookends for the wretched years we have endured. The worst attack in American history is used to pimp a plan for tax cuts, and the unimaginable slaughter of Iraqi civilians is a platform for praising the survivors of the carnage because they are so darned good at tolerating it.

What will history have to say about these times? History, it has often been said, is written by the victors, but who really wins anything after all this? If the most delectable left-wing fantasies come true - the Democrats take Congress in November, Bush and his cronies are impeached by a fire-breathing Conyers Judiciary Committee - little will be left to win.

People will still be dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. New Orleans will still be destroyed. The environment will still be poisoned. Laws that all but eviscerate the Bill of Rights will still be on the books. The same unimaginably wealthy industrialists will still have the same clout. The news media will still be controlled by people whose interests lie far afield from telling us the truth.

Much of this can be undone or contained, to be sure, except for all the death. The laws can be rolled back. Sensible policies can be applied to the wars we are losing. New Orleans can be rebuilt. The media can be re-regulated. With a proper amount of effort and attention, most of the damage that has been done can be fixed. Except for all the death.

But that is not winning, not really, because the problem is not so much that these things happened and now have to be fixed. The problem is that they were allowed to happen at all. A lot of things have gone astonishingly wrong in America if a passage of time such as this exists in the first place. It has happened, all of it. This is no long nightmare. It is as real as the nose on your face.

It is a disgrace, a scar on our history and our consciousness. Worse, the fact that all this did happen means it can happen again. The power-hungry now have a marvelous blueprint for the unmaking of a republic, and they will likely be surprised at how trifling easy it is to pull off. Americans, it seems, have at least one thing in common with Iraqis. We are great, apparently, at tolerating the intolerable.

Is George W. Bush the cause of all this, or merely a symptom? I used to be fond of telling people that blaming Bush for everything that has gone wrong is like blaming Mickey Mouse when Disney screws up. This is still true, to a large degree. But then again, he said those things. Perhaps he is a little of both.

History is written by the winners. Be it resolved, then, that winning means trying to fix everything that is broken, that it means holding the proper people accountable for their actions. Be it likewise resolved that winning means not forgetting, that it means something good absolutely must come from these wretched years. If that good boils down to two words - "Never Again" - then that is victory enough.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/101306R.shtml

Friday, October 13, 2006

Paul Krugman - Will The Levee Break?

Will the Levee Break?

By PAUL KRUGMAN

The conventional wisdom says that the Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives next month, but only by a small margin. I’ve been looking at the numbers, however, and I believe this conventional wisdom is almost all wrong.

Here’s what’s happening: a huge Democratic storm surge is heading toward a high Republican levee. It’s still possible that the surge won’t overtop the levee — that is, the Democrats could fail by a small margin to take control of Congress. But if the surge does go over the top, the flooding will almost surely reach well inland — that is, if the Democrats win, they’ll probably win big.

Let’s talk about Congressional arithmetic.

Unless the Bush administration is keeping Osama bin Laden in a freezer somewhere, a majority of Americans will vote Democratic this year. If Congressional seats were allocated in proportion to popular votes, a Democratic House would be a done deal. But they aren’t, and the way our electoral system works, combined with the way ethnic groups are distributed, still gives the Republicans some hope of holding on.

The key point is that African-Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, are highly concentrated in a few districts. This means that in close elections many Democratic votes are, as political analysts say, wasted — they simply add to huge majorities in a small number of districts, while the more widely spread Republican vote allows the G.O.P. to win by narrower margins in a larger number of districts.

My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that because of this “geographic gerrymander,” even a substantial turnaround in total Congressional votes — say, from the three-percentage-point Republican lead in 2004 to a five-point Democratic lead this year — would leave the House narrowly in Republican hands. It looks as if the Democrats need as much as a seven-point lead in the overall vote to take control.

No wonder, then, that until a few months ago many political analysts argued that the Republicans would control the House for the foreseeable future, because only a perfect political storm could overcome the G.O.P. structural advantage.

But what’s that howling sound? Every poll taken this month shows the Democrats with a double-digit lead in the generic ballot question, in which voters are asked which party they support in this election. The median Democratic lead is 14 points.

And here’s the thing: because there are many districts that the G.O.P. carried by only moderately large margins in recent elections, a large Democratic surge — one only a bit bigger than that needed to take the House at all — would sweep away many Republicans holding seats normally considered safe. If the actual vote is anything like what the polls now suggest, we’re talking about the Democrats holding a larger majority in the House than the Republicans have held at any point since their 1994 takeover.

So if the Democrats win, they’ll probably have a substantial majority. Whether they’ll be able to keep that majority is another question. But be prepared to wake up less than four weeks from now and learn that everything you’ve been told about American politics — liberalism is dead, whoever controls the South controls Washington, only Republicans know “the way to win” — is wrong. (Are we seeing the birth of a new New Deal coalition, in which the solid Northeast takes the place of the solid South?)

The storm may yet weaken. The Iowa Electronic Markets, in which people bet real money on election outcomes, still give Republicans a roughly 40 percent chance of keeping control of both houses of Congress. If that happens, will it mean that Republican control is permanent after all?

No. Bear in mind that the G.O.P. isn’t in trouble because of a string of bad luck. The problems that have caused Americans to turn on the party, from the disaster in Iraq to the botched response to Katrina, from the failed attempt to privatize Social Security to the sudden realization by many voters that the self-proclaimed champions of moral values are hypocrites, are deeply rooted in the whole nature of Republican governance. So even if this surge doesn’t overtop the levee, there will be another surge soon.

But the best guess is that the permanent Republican majority will end in a little over three weeks.

Arianna Huffington: Memo to Dems Running in Red States: Economic Issues Are Moral Values | The Huffington Post


Memo to Dems Running in Red States: Economic Issues Are Moral Values

In this LA Times article about Red state Democrats trying to win over conservative voters, the debate falls into the tired old storyline of Republicans pushing "Christian values" (ie opposing abortion and gay marriage) vs. Democrats pushing economic issues (ie raising the minimum wage and offering college tuition tax credits).

How 2004.

Someone needs to tell these guys: economic issues are Christian values.

The Times piece focuses on the Senate race in Missouri between GOP incumbent Jim Talent and his Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill. According to the Times, McCaskill's "biggest obstacle" is rural voters who only care about "her liberal views" on abortion and gay marriage.

"I'm a strong Christian, and I believe if you take care of the values, God will take care of the rest," says Talent supporter Joe Hester. "Overall Republicans are more in tune with my values." And that's even in light of the Foley scandal. Another Missourian, Jim Holt, says that economic issues -- what he calls "the money side of it" -- pale when compared to social issues: "I mostly vote Republican because of the Christian values side of it."

Quick, someone from the McCaskill campaign needs to get these so-called values voters a copy of the Bible and point out its admonition that we shall be judged by what we do for the least among us. Indeed, if you removed every reference to poverty in the New Testament, the Good Book would be reduced to little more than a Not Bad Pamphlet. In the words of Rev. Jim Wallis, "The Prophets would be decimated, the Psalms destroyed, and the Gospels ripped to shreds." On the other hand, there is not a single mention of gay marriage or the need to ban it.

But instead of making the case that the answer to What Would Jesus Do is "raise the minimum wage and forget gay couples trying to make their lifetime commitment legal," McCaskill is falling into the trap of trying to get conservative voters to put aside their values and focus on "the money side" of the race, touting her support for a minimum wage hike and new tax credits for child care, first-time mortgages, and college tuition.

With that kind of thinking, Republican Senators can start figuring out committee chairmanships for the 110th Congress right now.

In the wake of the 2004 debacle, in a column urging Democrats to take back the moral high ground from Republicans by waging the values debate on their turf, I wrote:

If the Democratic Party is not about bringing focus and urgency to the creation of a more fair, just -- and, yes, moral -- society, it might as well cease to exist. FDR gave expression to the moral principle that should be animating Democrats when he said that "the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." Isn't this the exact opposite of the immoral credo that animates Bush Republicans?

The Democrats need to realize that the values debate is not about triangulating on gay marriage -- it's about passion and principles. And that's what distinguishes an inspiring political vision from a laundry list of policies and four-point plans (or Six for '06).

And I suggested that if Democrats don't know where to find the language and the music to sing out that economic issues are moral values, they should go back and read Barack Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, in which he said:

Alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga: a belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the South Side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. . . . It's that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper -- that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. 'E pluribus unum.' Out of many, one.

I recommended that this powerful -- and deeply spiritual -- statement become the starting point for the rebranding of the Democratic Party, because only with such real "moral values" would Dems be able to counter the GOP's divisive religiosity and win back America's value voters.

It's still not too late for Democrats to make the case -- and make deep inroads in Red States. But it will be very, very soon.


Army chief urges troop pullout on Yahoo! News

Army chief urges troop pullout

By Deborah Haynes and Peter GraffFri Oct 13, 12:36 PM ET

Britain's army chief said his troops should be withdrawn from Iraq soon as their presence was making security worse, in bluntly worded comments seized upon by opponents of the U.S.-led invasion three years ago.

Chief of the General Staff Richard Dannatt told the Daily Mail newspaper that post-war planning for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was "poor" and the presence of troops there was hurting British security globally.

The remarks, extraordinary from such a senior serving officer, could have political fallout on both sides of the Atlantic. The war has damaged the standing of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and is a major issue for U.S. President George W. Bush's allies in congressional elections next month.

Although in later interviews Dannatt denied any split with Blair, he may have added to the storm by warning that overstretching the British army in Iraq could "break it."

Britain should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems," he told the Mail.

"I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them," he said.

"I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning."

Blair told a news conference in Scotland later on Friday that having read the newspaper interview and transcripts of remarks Dannatt made to radio and television stations there was no division between them.

"What he is saying about wanting the British forces out of Iraq is precisely the same as we are all saying," Blair said. "Our strategy is to withdraw from Iraq when the job is done."

"The reason that we have been able to give up two provinces now to Iraqi control is precisely because the job has been done there," he added, noting that Basra was still not secure which was why British forces remained in place.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said after reviewing transcripts of Dannatt's interviews, "The comment was taken out of context and his general point was that, you know, when your work is done you hand over authority to the Iraqis."

"The Iraqis have said that they want continued presence, and they have also made it clear that when they think that they are going to be capable of assuming full control for various areas, they are eager and willing to do so," Snow said.

POLITICAL STORM

Iraq government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said U.S. and British troops were still needed.

"The Iraqi government and the Iraqi people don't want foreign troops to stay in Iraq indefinitely. But we believe the British and Americans are playing a positive role in Iraq and that their presence is necessary to control the security issue."

But Dannatt's remarks were seized upon by anti-war campaigners. Reg Keys, whose son died in Iraq, said: "Here you have an officer, at last, who is prepared to speak how it is, and not be a mouthpiece for the delusions of a prime minister."

In Basra, where most of Britain's 7,200 troops are based, locals told Reuters they agreed it was time for them to go.

"In the last three years, people started to look at these troops in a different way. They simply hate these troops," said school teacher Fatima Ahmed, 35.

A British military source in Basra said Dannatt's comments referred to Maysan province -- one of two regions controlled by British forces. He said co-operation with local residents was better in Basra region.

Asked if Dannatt's comments had hurt troop morale, he said: "He is a popular man. He is a soldier's soldier and he tells things the way they are."

Hours after Dannatt's interview appeared, he made radio and television appearances to calm the political storm. He said his remarks were taken out of context but he did not deny them.

"It was never my intention to have this hoo ha, which people have thoroughly enjoyed overnight, trying to suggest there is a chasm between myself and the prime minister," he told BBC radio.

British troops were targets in some places, but were beneficial in others, he said and insisted he was not proposing an immediate withdrawal. "I'm a soldier. We don't do surrender ... We're going to see this through," he said.

But he added: "I've got an army to look after which is going to be successful in current operations. But I want an army in five years time and 10 years time. Don't let's break it on this one. Lets keep an eye on time."

Britain has launched a large new operation in Afghanistan this year, and commanders have acknowledged that they had hoped they could reduce their force in Iraq faster.

Generals have said they now hope to cut their force in Iraq in half by the middle of next year. They have turned over control of two of the four provinces they patrol to Iraqis.

In Iraq on Thursday, a bomb in a police station in Hilla killed a police colonel and five others. The bodies of 14 construction workers were found in an orchard near a town 40 km (25 miles) north of Baghdad. One policeman and eight insurgents were reported killed in clashes in Mosul.

(Additional reporting by Aref Mohammed in Basra, Hiba Moussa and Ibon Villelabeitia in Baghdad and Katherine Baldwin in St Andrews, Scotland)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061013/ts_nm/iraq_dc_19&printer=1;_ylt=AsHuKlvykHTvoFrjAzb60Q1g.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

Why Do Republicans Divorce More Often Than Democrats?

Why Do Republicans Divorce More Often Than Democrats?

Republicans are the party of family values.

They’re the party that protects the sanctity of marriage. Their morality is stronger than their opposition.

So say the Republicans. But the statistics say differently.

Of the top 15 states for divorce rates in 2005, all 15 voted for Bush in 2004. All fifteen.

Of the 12 lowest states for divorce rates, 11 voted for Kerry.

Massachusetts, where gay marriage is allowed (and where, according to Republicans, civilization would fall apart), has the lowest divorce rate in the country.

This cannot be a coincidence. So what are the reasons behind the fact that Republicans are significantly more likely to divorce than Democrats? And why do the former claim the high ground on marriage, when it is patently clear that their marriages don’t last as long as their political opponents?

Well, Republicans will answer that married couples are more likely to vote for them – and they’re right about that. Republicans control 49 of the 50 [congressional] districts with the highest rates of married people, while Democrats represent all 50 districts that have the highest rates of adults who have never married.

But that doesn’t explain the RATE of divorce, only the actual numbers. Why is it that in Massachusetts the rate of divorce is a third of the Arkansas figure?

I’m no sociologist, so the following is pure speculation. But… what if Republicans are simple greedier? In their economic policies, they tend to favor their own wealth over any kind of taxation that benefits society. In their foreign policy, they prefer protectionism and unilateralism. In their social policy, they cut education and welfare and pass the savings on to big business.

Is it so far-fetched to think that the reason that Republicans divorce more often, is that they’re more selfish – that they’re not generous partners, that they have more affairs that lead to divorce, that they abandon their spouses for younger models?

Other theories gladly entertained…

In case you want to check the statistics for yourself, along with other demographic data, please download the Excel file below. By default it is sorted by divorce rate (scroll all the way to the right), with a few unavailable states at the top. But you can also sort it by education, per capita income, obesity rate, property crime etc. Go to 'Data' at the top, then 'Sort By' and choose a category. Interesting to note that the top 19 states for obesity are also all Republican!

If you use this data, please do link back to this blog. Thanks!

Download 2004_election_demographics_v2.xls


http://www.thinkingliberal.com/the_free_radical/2006/10/why_do_republic.html

Documents Reveal Scope of U.S. Database on Antiwar Protests

Documents Reveal Scope of U.S. Database on Antiwar Protests
by Eric Lichtblau

WASHINGTON - Internal military documents released Thursday provided new details about the Defense Department’s collection of information on demonstrations nationwide last year by students, Quakers and others opposed to the Iraq war.

The documents, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, show, for instance, that military officials labeled as “potential terrorist activity” events like a “Stop the War Now” rally in Akron, Ohio, in March 2005.

The Defense Department acknowledged last year that its analysts had maintained records on war protests in an internal database past the 90 days its guidelines allowed, and even after it was determined there was no threat.

A department spokesman said Thursday that the “questionable data collection” had led to a tightening of military procedures to ensure that only information relevant to terrorism and other threats was collected. The spokesman, Maj. Patrick Ryder, said in response to the release of the documents that the department “views with great concern any potential violation” of the policy.

“There is nothing more important or integral to the effectiveness of the U.S. military than the trust and good will of the American people,” Major Ryder said.

A document first disclosed last December by NBC News showed that the military had maintained a database, known as Talon, containing information about more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” around the country in 2004 and 2005. Dozens of alerts on antiwar meetings and peaceful protests appear to have remained in the database even after analysts had decided that they posed no threat to military bases or personnel.

Some documents obtained by the A.C.L.U. referred to the potential for disruption to military recruiting and the threat posed to military personnel as a result.

An internal report produced in May 2005, for instance, discussed antiwar protests at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and was issued “to clarify why the Students for Peace and Justice represent a potential threat to D.O.D. personnel.”

The memorandum noted that several hundred students had recently protested the presence of military recruiters at a career fair and demanded that they leave.

“The clear purpose of these civil disobedience actions was to disrupt the recruiting mission of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command by blocking the entrance to the recruiting station and causing the stations to shut down early,” it said.

But the document also noted that “to date, no reported incidents have occurred at these protests.”

The documents indicated that intelligence reports and tips about antiwar protests, including mundane details like the schedule for weekly planning meetings, were widely shared among analysts from the military, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security.

“There is simply no reason why the United States military should be monitoring the peaceful activities of American citizens who oppose U.S. war policies,” said Ben Wizner, a lawyer for the A.C.L.U.

Joyce Miller, an official with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group that learned that information on some of its antiwar protests was in the military database, said she found the operation to be a “chilling” and troubling trend.

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/1013-01.htm

Coroner: U.S. forces killed TV reporter on Yahoo! News

Coroner: U.S. forces killed TV reporter

By THOMAS WAGNER, Associated Press Writer 13 minutes ago

A coroner ruled Friday that U.S. forces in Iraq unlawfully killed a British television journalist by shooting him in the head as he lay in the back of a makeshift ambulance during the opening days of the war.

The widow of reporter Terry Lloyd called for the perpetrators to be prosecuted for the "despicable, deliberate, vengeful act." And Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said he would ask the attorney general to take steps to bring to justice those responsible for the death.

But prosecution of U.S. service members seemed unlikely.

The U.S. Defense Department said its forces had followed proper rules of engagement and that a U.S. inquiry into the killing of Lloyd, 50, a veteran reporter for the British television network ITN, "determined that U.S. forces followed the applicable rules of engagement."

"The Department of Defense has never deliberately targeted noncombatants, including journalists," the Pentagon said. "We have always gone to extreme measures to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage."

Walker also said the inquest was unable to determine whether the bullets that killed Lloyd in southern Iraq on March 22, 2003, were fired by U.S. ground forces or helicopters.

Aidan White, the head of the International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest organization of journalists, said: "If this was murder, as the court suggests, and the U.S. is responsible, it is certainly a war crime."

The London-based National Union of Journalists welcomed the coroner's decision and also called the killing "nothing short of a war crime." Jeremy Dear, the group's general secretary, said: "The killing of journalists with impunity must never, ever go unpunished. Any attempt to silence journalists in this way must never succeed."

Witnesses testified during the inquest that Lloyd — who was driving toward the southern Iraqi city of Basra with fellow ITN reporters — was shot by Iraqi troops who overtook his car, then died after U.S. fire hit a civilian minivan being used as an ambulance and struck him in the head.

"Terry Lloyd died following a gunshot wound to the head. The evidence this bullet was fired by the Americans is overwhelming," Walker said. "There is no doubt that the minibus presented no threat to the American forces. There is no doubt it was an unlawful act of fire."

ITN cameraman Daniel Demoustier, the sole survivor of the incident, told the inquest ITN's two four-wheel drive vehicles were overtaken by a truck carrying Iraqi forces and that gunfire erupted.

Demoustier, a Belgian, said he jumped from the flaming car and lay in the sand, waiting for the shooting to stop. Demoustier said he tried to stand to signal U.S. tanks in the area but they resumed firing at the clearly marked ITN vehicles.

Demoustier said he saw a makeshift ambulance arrive and pick up people. He was later taken to safety in the car of a British newspaper reporter.

The coroner said Friday that an Iraqi civilian drove up in a minivan and picked up four wounded Iraqi soldiers, then saw Lloyd with a press card around his neck and helped him into the van. Lloyd was shot in the head as the van drove toward a hospital, the coroner said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Demoustier said after the ruling that the inquest did not make clear whether the bullet that killed Lloyd was fired by a U.S. tank or helicopter. He said the forces in a tank would have been able to see that they were firing at a civilian vehicle, but a helicopter would not.

Lloyd's widow, Lynn, in a statement read by her lawyer, said U.S. forces "allowed their soldiers to behave like trigger-happy cowboys in an area in which there were civilians traveling."

Lloyd and the three other ITN crew members were some of the few Western reporters who covered the fighting on their own, while most others were embedded with U.S. or British forces.

Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman also was killed and cameraman Fred Nerac remains missing and presumed dead.

U.S. authorities didn't allow servicemen to testify at the inquest. Several submitted anonymous statements that the coroner ruled inadmissible.

"I should have heard all evidence from the American personnel," Walker said. "It was not satisfactory or appropriate to read these statements in place of that evidence."

The court watched a video Tuesday, filmed by a U.S. serviceman attached to one of the tanks accused of firing at the reporters' cars. The tape opens with images of Lloyd's vehicle and the Iraqi truck burning amid gunfire. The tanks drive to the cars and inspect them. A minivan — possibly the ambulance — appears and more shots are fired. At the end of the tape, a U.S. soldier shouts, "It's some media personnel! That's media down there!"

A forensic examiner said the first 15 minutes of the tape may have been erased.



http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061013/ap_on_re_eu/britain_reporter_inquest&printer=1;_ylt=AtEbMjDPOIhOCfJu2YA73K9bbBAF;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

Book Says Bush Aides Dismissed Christian Allies

Book Says Bush Aides Dismissed Christian Allies

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 — A former deputy director of the White House office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is charging that many members of the Bush administration privately dismiss its conservative Christian allies as “boorish” and “nuts.”

The former deputy director, David Kuo, an evangelical Christian conservative, makes the accusations in a newly published memoir, “Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction” (Free Press), about his frustration with what he described as the meager support and political exploitation of the program.

“National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy,’ ” Mr. Kuo writes.

In an interview, Mr. Kuo’s former boss, James Towey, now president of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., said he had never encountered such cynicism or condescension in the White House, and he disputed many of the assertions in Mr. Kuo’s account.

Still, Mr. Kuo’s statements, first reported Wednesday evening on the cable channel MSNBC, come at an awkward time for Republicans in the midst of a midterm election campaign in which polls show little enthusiasm among the party’s conservative Christian base.

While many conservative Christians considered President Bush “a brother in Christ,” Mr. Kuo writes, “for most of the rest of the White House staff, evangelical leaders were people to be tolerated, not people who were truly welcomed.”

The political affairs office headed by Karl Rove was especially “eye-rolling,” Mr. Kuo’s book says. It says staff members in that office “knew ‘the nuts’ were politically invaluable, but that was the extent of their usefulness.”

Without naming names, the book says staff members complained that politically involved Christians were “annoying,” “tiresome” or “boorish.”

Eryn Witcher, a spokeswoman for the White House, said that the administration would not comment without reading the book but that the faith-based program was “near and dear to the president’s heart.”

Suevon Lee contributed reporting.



http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/13/washington/13faith.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&ref=washington&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

FLASHBACK: Rumsfeld Sat On Board Of Company That Sold Nuclear Reactors To North Korea

FLASHBACK: Rumsfeld Sat On Board Of Company That Sold Nuclear Reactors To North Korea

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell lauded what is known as the Agreed Framework that the Clinton Administration signed with North Korea. “Lots of nuclear weapons were not made because of the Agreed Framework and the work of President Clinton and his team,” Powell said. Now, conservatives are faulting President Clinton for selling light water reactors to North Korea under the agreement, but in doing so, they overlook Donald Rumsfeld’s role in the deal.

Rumsfeld was the only American to sit on the board of a company which six years ago sold two light water reactors to North Korea. The Guardian reported in May 2003:

Rumsfeld was a non-executive director of ABB, a European engineering giant based in Zurich, when it won a $200m contract to provide the design and key components for the reactors. The current defense secretary sat on the board from 1990 to 2001, earning $190,000 a year.

Rumsfeld has never acknowledged that he knew the company was competing for the nuclear contract. In response to questions about his role in the reactor deal, former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told Newsweek in February 2003 that “there was no vote on this” and that her boss “does not recall it being brought before the board at any time.” But an investigation by Fortune magazine revealed that Rumsfeld probably did know:

ABB spokesman Bjoern Edlund told Fortune magazine at the time that “board members were informed about this project.” … “This was a major thing for ABB,” the former director [who sat on the board with Rumsfeld] said, “and extensive political lobbying was done.” The director recalls being told that Rumsfeld was asked “to lobby in Washington” on ABB’s behalf. … Although he couldn’t provide details, Goran Lundberg, who ran ABB’s power-generation business until 1995, says he’s “pretty sure that at some point Don was involved,” since it was not unusual to seek help from board members “when we needed contacts with the U.S. government.”

Rumsfeld has since refused media requests to talk about his role in the light water reactor deal and has instead criticized it.

http://thinkprogress.org/2006/10/10/rumsfeld-abb/

Stirling Newberry - At 0135 GMT A Seismic Event Consistent with an Atomic Test Was Registered

At 0135 GMT A Seismic Event Consistent with an Atomic Test Was Registered


While political fallout from scandals at home has hammered Bush at home, the real failure registered on seismic instruments at 0135 GMT with a 4.9 magnitude event which has the signature, not of natuaral techtonic activity, but of an explosion. North Korea claims that they conducted an atomic weapons test. Initial reports had the event lower than expected for such a test, however, the USGS is reporting a figure in line with expectations. While it is possible until the wave has been analyzed that the regime in Pyongyang is bluffing, for the time being, the world is taking the statements at face value.

Beijing issued a sharply worded denunciation, using the word "brazen", traditionally reserved for criminal acts, to describe the test. There is a round of Washington led diplomacy for further sanctions. However, the North Korean nuclear train left the station years ago, even as the United States was boarding the Baghdad Express.

For those of us who grew up in the shadow of nuclear war, the the return of the ticking of the atomic clock represents a proof that the post-Cold War moment has been wasted in the wastelands.

section break

George Bush and his bully boys talk the talk of being tough, but they do not walk the walk. Instead of dealing with the emerging atomic states - Pakistan, North Korea and Iran, the decision was made to wage a war of aggression in Iraq. We did not invade Iraq because Saddam had WMD, but because he did not. We did not invade Iraq because Saddam was a threat, but because he was not. It was seen as a cheap way of creating the impression of an America willing to used armed force. It seemed that the oil would pay for the war. It seemed a way of gaining partisan political advantage. It seemed a series of blank checks for military pork.

It certainly delivered the on the political advantages, allowing Bush to appoint Alito and Roberts - the Iraq justices - and to spend or borrow trillions of dollars. But the biblical wisdom that he who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind has particular force. Bush sowed the whirlwind of an unstable non-polar world, where the United States would act solely in the narrow interests of its ruling party. Such behavior is the paradigm of banana republic. Even mere regional and global powers are expected to look after larger interests than the reëlection campaigns of their incumbents.

The long road to North Korea's atomic test is one that trails through several decades. However, the problem became particularly acute during the period where the Republican Congress of the late 1990's focused all of the country's attention on a sex scandal witch hunt. There is a fearful symmetry in a party that decided that partisan advantage permitted the use of trumped up sex charges to paralyze the country, finding, in turn, that their own sexual predators are dragging their chances at election into the swamp.

North Korea pursued a two track strategy towards achieving atomic weapons, a plutonium program, and an enriched Uranium program. It admitted to the first, and began negotiations to end the program in return for light water reactors, fuel deliveries and cash. By 1998, the Clinton administration was aware of the second track, and negotiated a framework to end the plutonium program, believing, correctly, that the uranium program was years away from success, and would be less dangerous in the long run. Simple containment would have been sufficient to end the the Uranium program on similar terms. In the words of America's chief negotiator: "We can lease, but not buy, the North Korean atomic program."

When Bush took the executive powers, one of the first actions was to deep six the agreed framework, freeeing the North Koreans, in their own minds, to return with full speed to their weapons work. Confident that China would not allow the regime to collapse into a failed state black hole, particularly because of the economic and political consequences, the decided that whatever the international community could do would be ineffectual. With the invasion of Iraq, North Korea moved to a stance of testing as an objective.

During this same period, North Korea began doing more than advancing its own program - it began proliferating. It traded technology with Pakistan, allowing Pakistan to weaponize its atomic program more quickly. It sold centrifuges to Iran and Libya. Libya would later make an handsome profit selling these out in return for a reëntry into the international community.

By 2002 the US intelligence community was estimating that North Korea would be atomic capable. This was pushed aside in favor of forgeries accusing Saddam of acquiring Uranium in quantity, and being years closer to an atomic weapon than he was. The obsession with Iraq allowed a far more dangerous, and difficult to deal with, regime to flower into a proliferator and deterent state.

- - -

However, this is so much heavy water under the bridge. the present question is what is going to be done. The answer is:

Nothing.

The United States is paralyzed by an idiot king, and a corrupt Congress. It has no military capability which frightens Pyongyang, simply because Pyongyang has both a protected research capability, and disproportional retaliation within its reach. This combination means that whatever sanctions are on tap, they will simply result in North Korea passing the pain on to China's border region, and selling more atomic technology to more willing bidders. North Korea does not even need to knowingly aid proliferation, merely sell technology which is "dual use" on terms which are easier than could be obtained from other nations.

I will leave others to speculate what fig leaf tough talk that the UN will approve on the prodding of the United States. There is no relevant sanction within reach. Pyongyang is willing to starve its population, and its most important export is one which is illegal already. Instead I would like to point people at what is important to think about - how to replace the present regime with a better one at the earliest possible opportunity, and what to do when that occurs. Speculating on what the United States should do now is a complete waste of time, the regime in Washington will do whatever it needs to do present this in the light of fear and hysteria to gain momentary electoral advantage.

Therefore, we are going to have to accept that before any positive actions will be taken, that further deterioration will occur. Once there is a regime change in the United States, the actual solving of problems will begin. This is going to mean making difficult choices - the United States has the military and diplomatic capacity to deal with 1.5 international crisis points. North Korea, plus Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan - makes 4.5.

This sorry situation is a direct result of the "fight-lose-fight" strategy of invading Iraq before Afghanistan was stabilized, and hence losing both Iraq and Afghanistan. This allowed North Korea to metastasize, it required that we accept Pakistan as a military dictatorship with an Islamic fundamentalist undercurrent that has atomic weapons and the means to deliver them. It created the economic conditions which made an Iranian bomb affordable. In short, the strategy chosen, and approved by a cowering Congress, could almost not have been calculated to allow more minor states to become dangers. More over, by making the United States more economically dependent on both China and Russia than before - it reduced the pull that the US had in the Security Council. Multiplying problems while reducing freedom of action is a sure course to long term disadvantage.

However, while the American position is cramped, it is not yet indefensible. The important point to realize is that almost all of the problems flow from a single nexus of decision making - a single complex of policies which include massive revenue reductions, inflationary monetary policy, stagnationary economic policy and invasion of Iraq in pursuit of an imaginary World War III.

Let us not get in the wonkavator to nowhere and talk about counter-factuals of what Bush could do to deal with North Korea. He isn't going to do any more than engage in window dressing designed to feed right wing hacks on the radio and editorial pages with talking points. His sole objective will be his domestic base of support, on the belief that nothing all that bad is going to happen in the next two years if he does nothing. Instead, the day after the elections, if the Republicans are in control of either house of Congress, then the 2008 election has begun, and Bush will do anything, regardless of its effect on the national interest, to leave the White House to a Republican and a Republican Congress. If this is accusing him of treason, then so be it.

If North Korea is a immediate crisis, then the sole alternative involves defacto regime change in the United States. Let me repeat that, if something needs to be done about North Korea before January 21, 2009, then the only alternative is a constitutional crisis which is designed to hobble Bush and force a government of national unity. This is only possible with a Democratic sweep of Congress this year. A politically courageous people, with some degree of what Machiavelli called virtu would do it. However, the United States has become weak and corrupt, and will have to, with great difficulty, return to a position where it can actually act in its own best interests, rather than out of short term fear and gratification.

The reality is that while matters will be much worse in 2009, they will not be yet untenable. The fact is that ultimately the resources for engaging in nuclear proliferation are supplied by the United States, and the excessive focus on domestic consumption of the last 6 years. If you want to find out where North Korea, Iran and Pakistan get their ability to flout the international community - look the the river of dollars coming out of the Federal Reserve and the Republican Congress.

At that time the United States will have to accept that periodic recession is the price for restraining the global economy enough to prevent spandrels such as North Korea from siphoning off enough money to fund destabilizing proliferation. The means to righting the US economy is a tigher monetary policy, a less profligate defense budget, and a foreign policy which is centered on being a superpower, rather than a piggy bank for the corrupt. These actions are not difficult, though politically unpalatable.

Strong international condemnation might as well be a form letter offering a high credit card rate - easily printed and rapidly shredded. What the world should do now is declare a complete blockade on North Korea, no traffic by air land or sea, no commerce, freeze all tranfers of funds, confiscate all of its foreign assets of any kind. This isn't going to happen. Since effective action is not going to be taken, talking about "what we should do now" has a certain partisan utility, to prove "our" side is better than "their" side of the domestic political wars, doing so is violating the cardinal rule of diplomacy, namely, to deal with the facts on the ground.

Both Bush and Kim Il Jong are facts on the ground, and neither of them are going any place for a while. However, if America is capable of learning from mistakes, it should be clear that the current course is recklessly endangering the future, and creating an environment friendly for the creation of rogue regimes and failed states. This does not end well. Because as instability grows, the danger is that states such as China or Russia will travel down the unilateralist road at some point in the future, and unlike Iraq, Iran, Pakistan or North Korea, these states are capable of lasting and continual threats to the outside world.

http://www.tpmcafe.com/blog/coffeehouse/2006/oct/09/at_0135_gmt_a_seismic_event_consistent_with_an_atomic_test_was_registered

Monday, October 09, 2006

The U.S. economy is booming - for billionaires

The U.S. economy is booming - for billionaires

By HOLLY SKLAR
MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
10/8/2006


Millionaires are so last millennium. The new Forbes 400 list of richest Americans is billionaires only.

If your net worth is a mere $999 million, forget it. A billion means a thousand million, and that's the Forbes 400 minimum - up from $900 million in 2005.

Donald Trump and two of his kids grace the Forbes 400 cover, but they ranked No. 94 with $2.9 billion, Trump's a long way from No. 1 Bill Gates with $53 billion.

The combined wealth of the 400 richest Americans is a record-breaking $1.25 trillion. That's about the same amount of wealth held by half the U.S. population, numbering 57 million households.

The economy is booming for billionaires. It's a bust for many other Americans.

A record 400 Americans are billionaires - and a record 47 million Americans have no health insurance. America has 400 billionaires - and 37 million people below the official poverty line.

The official poverty line for one person was just $9,973 in 2005 (latest data). That wouldn't cover the custom-made men's shoes ($4,128) and Hermes purse ($6,250) on the Forbes Cost of Living Extremely Well Index. The official poverty line of $15,577 for a three-person family is lower than the cost of the Patek Philippe men's gold watch ($17,600).

The Forbes 400 minimum is up $100 million since 2005, but the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 an hour - just $10,712 a year - since 1997. GOP leaders in Congress have been holding a raise for minimum wage workers hostage to more giant tax cuts for wealthy inheritors.

Wealth isn't trickling down. It's flooding up - from workers to bosses, small investors to big, poorer to richer.

The heirs to Wal-Mart founders Sam and Bud Walton have a combined $82.5 billion - while the children of Wal-Mart workers swell the ranks of state health insurance programs for the needy.

In today's corporate America, workers see gutted paychecks and pensions despite rising worker productivity, while CEOs get golden pay, perks, pensions and parachutes. The pay gap between average workers and CEOs has grown nine times wider since the 1970s.

The number of billionaires is a record high, but the share of national income going to wages and salaries is at a record low.

U.S. corporate profits increased 21 percent in the past year, Market Watch reported in March. "Profits have been so high because almost all of the benefits from productivity improvements are flowing to the owners of capital rather than to the workers," said Market Watch.

The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans (minimum net worth $6 million) owned 62 percent of the nation's business assets, 51 percent of stocks and 70 percent of bonds as of 2004, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances - which excludes the Forbes 400. That's way up from 1989, when the wealthiest 1 percent owned 54 percent of business assets, 41 percent of stocks and 52 percent of bonds.

Our growing economy is not producing a growing middle class, but a richer aristocracy.

The high point for median household income - the income of the household in the middle - was $47,671 in 1999, adjusted for inflation. In 2005, median household income was $1,345 less at $46,326. In the same period, the Forbes 400 gained more than 100 billionaires.

Government policies are fueling rising inequality. Taxpayers with incomes above $1 million will see their after-tax income grow by about 6 percent this year thanks to tax cuts the nation can't afford.

In an economy where money is flowing up to the very top, even college-educated workers are going backward. Inflation-adjusted median household income was lower in 2005 than 1999 even when the householder had a bachelor's degree, master's degree, professional degree or doctorate.

The problem is much bigger than the rich getting richer, while the poor get poorer. The really rich are getting richer at the expense of most everyone else.

Solutions include restoring the link between rising worker productivity and pay, raising the miserly minimum wage, narrowing the obscene pay gap between workers and CEOs, rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy - and stop taxing income from work more than income from capital gains.

Paul Krugman - The Paranoid Style

The Paranoid Style

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Last week Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, explained the real cause of the Foley scandal. “The people who want to see this thing blow up,” he said, “are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros.”

Most news reports, to the extent they mentioned Mr. Hastert’s claim at all, seemed to treat it as a momentary aberration. But it wasn’t his first outburst along these lines. Back in 2004, Mr. Hastert said: “You know, I don’t know where George Soros gets his money. I don’t know where — if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from.”

Does Mr. Hastert really believe that George Soros and his operatives, conspiring with the evil news media, are responsible for the Foley scandal? Yes, he probably does. For one thing, demonization of Mr. Soros is widespread in right-wing circles. One can only imagine what people like Mr. Hastert or Tony Blankley, the editorial page editor of The Washington Times, who once described Mr. Soros as “a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust,” say behind closed doors.

More generally, Mr. Hastert is a leading figure in a political movement that exemplifies what the historian Richard Hofstadter famously called “the paranoid style in American politics.”

Hofstadter’s essay introducing the term was inspired by his observations of the radical right-wingers who seized control of the Republican Party in 1964. Today, the movement that nominated Barry Goldwater controls both Congress and the White House.

As a result, political paranoia — the “sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” Hofstadter described — has gone mainstream. To read Hofstadter’s essay today is to be struck by the extent to which he seems to be describing the state of mind not of a lunatic fringe, but of key figures in our political and media establishment.

The “paranoid spokesman,” wrote Hofstadter, sees things “in apocalyptic terms. ... He is always manning the barricades of civilization.” Sure enough, Dick Cheney says that “the war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization.”

According to Hofstadter, for the paranoids, “what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil,” and because “the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated.” Three days after 9/11, President Bush promised to “rid the world of evil.”

The paranoid “demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals” — instead of focusing on Al Qaeda, we’ll try to remake the Middle East and eliminate a vast “axis of evil” — “and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration.” Iraq, anyone?

The current right-wing explanation for what went wrong in Iraq closely echoes Joseph McCarthy’s explanation for the Communist victory in China, which he said was “the product of a great conspiracy” at home. According to the right, things didn’t go wrong because the invasion was a mistake, or because Donald Rumsfeld didn’t send enough troops, or because the occupation was riddled with cronyism and corruption. No, it’s all because the good guys were stabbed in the back. Democrats, who undermined morale with their negative talk, and the liberal media, which refused to report the good news from Iraq, are responsible for the quagmire.

You might think it would be harder to claim that traitors are aiding our foreign enemies today than it was during the McCarthy era, when domestic liberals and Communist regimes could be portrayed as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. What does the domestic enemy, which Bill O’Reilly identifies as the “secular-progressive movement,” have to do with the religious fanatics who attacked America five years ago?

But that’s easy: according to Mr. O’Reilly, “Osama bin Laden and his cohorts have got to be cheering on the S-P movement,” because “both outfits believe that the United States of America is fundamentally a bad place.”

Which brings us back to the Foley affair. The immediate response by nearly everyone in the Republican establishment — wild claims, without a shred of evidence behind them, that the whole thing is a Democratic conspiracy — may sound crazy. But that response is completely in character for a movement that from the beginning has been dominated by the paranoid style. And here’s the scary part: that movement runs our government.

Olbermann news commentaries target Bush on Yahoo! News

Olbermann news commentaries target Bush

By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television WriterSun Oct 8, 5:09 PM ET

Keith Olbermann's tipping point came on a tarmac in Los Angeles six weeks ago. While waiting for his plane to take off he read an account of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's speech before the American Legion equating Iraq War opponents to pre-World War II appeasers.

The next night, on Aug. 30, Olbermann ended his MSNBC "Countdown" show with a blistering retort, questioning both the interpretation of history and Rumsfeld's very understanding of what it means to be an American.

It was the first of now five extraordinarily harsh anti-Bush commentaries that have made Olbermann the latest media point-person in the nation's political divide.

"As a critic of the administration, I will be damned if you can get away with calling me the equivalent of a Nazi appeaser," Olbermann told The Associated Press. "No one has the right to say that about any free-speaking American in this country."

Since that first commentary, Olbermann's nightly audience has increased 69 percent, according to Nielsen Media Research. This past Monday 834,000 people tuned in, virtually double his season average and more than CNN competitors Paula Zahn and Nancy Grace. Cable kingpin and Olbermann nemesis Bill O'Reilly (two million viewers that night) stands in his way.

Olbermann stood before Ground Zero on Sept. 11 and said Bush's conduct before the Iraq war was an impeachable offense. "Not once, in now five years, has this president ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space and to this, the current and curdled version of our beloved country," he said.

His latest verbal attack, this past Thursday, criticized the president's campaign attacks on Democrats.

"Why have you chosen to go down in history as the president who made things up?" he asked.

Olbermann has become a hero to Bush opponents, who distribute video files and transcripts of his commentaries. One poster on the Daily Kos who's been trying to spread his own four-year boycott of cable news wondered: "Is it time to modify the boycott to allow for Keith's show `Countdown' — and only his show?"

On the right, he's known as Krazy Keith and OlbyLoon, and the Olbermannwatch.com Web site is devoted to picking apart his words.

"Look in the mirror, Keith," an Olbermannwatch.com blogger wrote. "You have become that which you claim to despise — a demagogue."

Olbermann has never been a Bush fan. He's gone on crusades before, pounding on alleged voting irregularities in Ohio in 2004 when the story went dry elsewhere. He's also waged war against O'Reilly. None of these match his most recent campaign for ferocity.

Liberal activist Jeff Cohen is thrilled for Olbermann's success, but admits that it's bittersweet.

Cohen was a producer for Phil Donahue's failed talk show. Less than four years ago Donahue's show imploded primarily because MSNBC and its corporate owners were afraid to have a show seen as liberal or anti-Bush at a time those opinions were less popular, he said.

In his new book "Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media," Cohen alleges that NBC News forced Donahue to book more conservatives than liberals and eventually wanted one of the nation's best-known liberal media figures to imitate O'Reilly.

Same time as Olbermann, same channel.

That Olbermann has been permitted to do what he's doing is evidence that "the political zeitgeist has changed dramatically in four years, and especially (at) MSNBC," Cohen said.

While it's true a different political atmosphere has helped Olbermann, NBC News senior vice president Phil Griffin disputed Cohen's interpretation that politics doomed Donahue. While MSNBC could be faulted for giving up on Donahue too fast, the show never caught its rhythm and was extremely expensive, he said.

"People try to ascribe motives to us, that somehow we're trying to keep liberals off the air and it's all about ideology," Griffin said. "If you get ratings, there's no issue."

Even before this fall, Olbermann's ratings had been on a slow rise as viewers connected with his entertaining way of delivering the news, Griffin said.

Early in his second tenure at MSNBC, Olbermann said he wanted to do a segment on whether some of the more heroic elements of former POW Jessica Lynch's rescue were exaggerated. He was told by NBC News executives that he had to balance it with a commentary by conservative radio host Michael Savage, and he refused. He was prepared to walk, he said, but it never came to that.

Olbermann said he hasn't spoken to NBC Chairman Bob Wright or anyone at corporate owner General Electric Co. about his commentaries. No one's asked him to tone things down; in fact, "I've had to calm them down a little bit," he said.

Such is the almighty power of the Nielsen meter.

"As dangerous as it can sometimes be for news, it is also our great protector," Olbermann said. "Because as long as you make them money, they don't care. This is not Rupert Murdoch. And even Rupert Murdoch puts `Family Guy' on the air and `The Simpsons,' that regularly criticize Fox News. There is some safety in the corporate structure that we probably could never have anticipated."

What he's doing now is little different from what he did in sports, he said. "You see the events happening before you and you describe them to the audience."

As for his hero worship on the left, Olbermann said, "I'd love to say it's totally irrelevant. I'd say it's 99 percent irrelevant."

More important to him was when he was approached by a Republican media operative on Sept. 11, who complimented him on the commentaries despite utterly disagreeing with them.

"The purpose of this is to get people to think and supply the marketplace of ideas with something at every fruit stand, something of every variety," he said. "As an industry, only half the fruit stand has been open the last four years."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061008/ap_en_tv/tv_keith_olbermann&printer=1;_ylt=AhdK5Yqv6xZOi7HpR8xb1gq2GL8C;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-