Sunday, November 27, 2005


A Patriot's Call For Redeployment

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) is "a defense hawk, decorated Vietnam War veteran and retired Marine colonel" who has worked on military issues in Congress for more than three decades. Describing the President's course of action as "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion," Murtha yesterday choked back tears and called for the redeployment of U.S troops from Iraq "at the earliest practicable date," which he said could be six months. Murtha argued that the presence of U.S. troops has now become "a catalyst for the violence," citing a recent poll that found "over 80 percent of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, and about 45 percent of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified." Moreover, the extended deployment of more that 150,000 troops in Iraq has put the "future of our risk." Murtha noted that "our military and their families are stretched thin. Many say that the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on their third deployment." He added, "The main reason for going to war" -- to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- "has been discredited." Murtha's proposal, while on a slightly more accelerated timetable, echoes the themes of the American Progress plan: a steady drawdown of troops out of Iraq, the redeployment of some U.S. troops to better combat terrorist networks, and a strong commitment to diplomatic and other non-military assistance.

WHITE HOUSE RESORTS TO CAMPAIGN-STYLE ATTACKS: The White House responded to Murtha's thoughtful proposal with clumsy, campaign-style attacks. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said "it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing..." They just don't get it. Now that Murtha has called for withdrawal, the White House can no longer claim it's a position only advocated by extremists. Murtha is a conservative Democrat who "has earned bipartisan respect for his work on military issues over three decades in Congress." Rep. John M. McHugh (R-NY), who serves on the on the House Armed Services Committee, said, "When he talks, I listen." Murtha isn't going to take it lying down. Referring to Vice President Cheney's attacks on critics of the administration Iraq policy, Murtha said, "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

WHAT IT MEANS TO HONOR THE TROOPS: Last night on the PBS NewsHour, correspondent Margaret Warner asked Murtha if his proposal would "devalue the sacrifice that the more than 2,000 Americans who died made." Murtha responded that "the flawed policy is what's devalued their service," adding, "These troops are disciplined. They can't speak for themselves. It's up to the Congress of the United States." Murtha's position is strongly motivated by concern for the troops. He's been spending time visiting wounded soldiers at military hospitals and reports "what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support."

DISCOUNTING DISSENT: On Thursday, President Bush said, "Listen, it's patriotic as heck to disagree with the president." Apparently, his right-wing allies in Congress disagree. Responding to Murtha, Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) asked, "Dare we now snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, plagued by poll-driven self-doubt of those who embrace surrender?" Rep. John Carter (R-TX) said, "And I'm here to tell you that the soldiers that are going to war on behalf of this country are the best people on Earth, and they do not deserve to have people bail out on them and take the cowardly way out and say, We're going to surrender." Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) strongly implied that Murtha was not patriotic. "It's easy to be a flag-waver and to be patriotic and to support the troops when you're in the initial attack phase and it looks like you may have only a two-week war."

A Revolt From Within

Conservatives in the House yesterday "suffered an embarrassing and rare defeat when nearly two dozen renegade Republicans teamed with Democrats to shoot down a giant health and education spending bill for the coming year." The vote revealed a growing rift in the House "as conservatives press for lower spending and moderates resist cuts in social safety net programs." The revolt has been brewing for weeks, with the right wing divided over pork-barrel spending, the Bush administration's Iraq policy, and cuts to social programs for the poor. "The conservative coalition," columnist George Will wrote, "is coming unglued for many reasons." Yet hours later, moderates lost their backbone and voted for a budget that slashed Medicaid, student loans, and food stamps to fund more tax breaks for the well-off.

ALL ABOUT PORK: "Historically, the labor, health and human services, and education bill is one of the most project-loaded of the annual spending bills." Yet to the chagrin of some conservatives, "negotiators stripped the bill of special local projects sought by members, a decision that cut into support since House members already unhappy with the cuts had no other incentive to back the bill." "[W]e made the gigantic and controversial step of saying no to projects," said Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. But this move, in combination with cuts in education and health programs, "was too much for them to swallow." The revolt is indicative of the extraordinary growth of pork-barrel spending while conservatives have been in power. "Government," George Will complained, "is more undisciplined than ever."

HOURS LATER, MODERATES FOLD: A few hours after rejecting the Labor-HHS conference report, the House "narrowly approved a broad five-year budget plan...that squeezes programs for the poor, for college students and for farmers." According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the bill "would still deny food stamps to 220,000 to 250,000 low-income people each month by 2008, and would cut basic food aid by $700 million over five years." The bill also "would allow states to impose substantial new co-payment and premium fees on millions of low-income Medicaid beneficiaries," "result in an estimated 330,000 children in low-income working families losing child care assistance in 2010," and "slash funding deeply for child support enforcement efforts."

REVOLT OVER LEADERSHIP: Yesterday's events "focused attention once again on the difficulties of a leadership team that has been somewhat off balance since September, when Representative Tom DeLay was forced to step aside as majority leader after he was indicted in Texas." Roll Call reported, "[S]everal lawmakers and leadership staffers suggested that many Members would still want January elections for a variety of reasons: Some are unhappy with [Rep. Roy] Blunt’s (R-MO) performance, some believe he is doing well and want to give him the Majority Leader post on a permanent basis and some simply want to make a statement that the Conference must move on from the DeLay era."

IT'S A DIFFERENT WORLD: In the Senate, conservatives had to drop "one of the centerpieces of Bush's second-term economic agenda" from their five-year $50 billion tax package. The tax bill "did not include an extension of the deep cuts to the tax rates on capital gains and dividends that passed in 2003 and are set to expire after 2008. Instead, the Senate approved a tax measure largely devoted to hurricane relief and the extension of tax measures with bipartisan appeal." Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) withheld her support for the cuts, saying, "The reality is, this is a very different world than where we were even six months ago."

NOT THEIR MOVEMENT ANYMORE: "[W]e have not reduced the size of government, there is no balanced budget amendment, and pork-barrel and self-interest politics have grown," Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) lamented yesterday. He added, "Now is the time for midcourse corrections to ensure the success of the conservative movement." Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) seems to know why conservatives are having problems: "The reason is we're not governing."

Climate Shift Tied to 150,000 Fatalities

By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post

Thursday 17 November 2005

Most victims are poor, study says.
Earth's warming climate is estimated to contribute to more than 150,000 deaths and 5 million illnesses each year, according to the World Health Organization, a toll that could double by 2030.

The data, being published today in the journal Nature, indicate that climate change is driving up rates of malaria, malnutrition and diarrhea throughout the world.

Health and climate scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who conducted one of the most comprehensive efforts yet to measure the impact of global warming on health, said the WHO data also show that rising temperatures disproportionately affect poor countries that have done little to create the problem. They reached their conclusions after entering data on climate-sensitive diseases into mapping software.

"Those most vulnerable to climate change are not the ones responsible for causing it," said the study's lead author, Jonathan Patz, a professor at the university's Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and its department of population health sciences. "Our energy-consumptive lifestyles are having lethal impacts on other people around the world, especially the poor."

The regions most at risk from climate change include the Asian and South American Pacific coasts, as well as the Indian Ocean coast and sub-Saharan Africa. Patz said that was because climate-sensitive diseases are more prevalent there and because those regions are most vulnerable to abrupt shifts in climate. Large cities are also likely to experience more severe health problems because they produce what scientists refer to as the urban "heat island" effect.

Just this week, WHO officials reported that warmer temperatures and heavy rain in South Asia have led to the worst outbreak of dengue fever there in years. The mosquito-borne illness, which is now beginning to subside, has infected 120,000 South Asians this year and killed at least 1,000, WHO said.

Senior US and international officials said they now regard climate change as a major public health threat. In an interview this week, Howard Frumkin, who directs the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called it "a significant global health challenge."

Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a scientist at WHO's Department of Protection of the Human Environment, said its initial estimates of global warming-related deaths are conservative in light of Europe's massive 2003 heat wave and new research linking climate change to more intensive hurricane activity.

"Climate change makes it even more important to combat diseases of the poor, many of which are highly climate-sensitive," said Campbell-Lendrum, who wrote the Nature paper with Patz. "We already have good evidence that there are a series of significant risks to health, which makes it even more important to curb greenhouse gas emissions in a short period of time."

Some experts, however, questioned whether it was fair to attribute death and illness in the developing world to global warming.

"Wealth is the number one factor in determining vulnerability or adaptability of a country to any of the threats out there," said John R. Christy, a climatologist who directs the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Christy, who lived in Kenya in the mid-1970s, added, "Thugocracies and other non-democratically accountable governments ... have no real incentive to create a healthy populace with free markets and therefore free people."

Climate change can contribute to such diseases as diarrhea, malaria and infectious illnesses in a number of ways. In warmer temperatures the parasite that spreads malaria via mosquitoes develops more quickly, for example, and a 2000 study conducted in Peru found that when the periodic El Nio phenomenon boosted temperatures there, hospital admissions of children with diarrhea increased exponentially.

Researchers have also documented an association between rising temperatures and deaths stemming from air pollution, since warmer, sunnier days trigger atmospheric reactions that worsen harmful smog.

Patrick L. Kinney, a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, was the co-author of a study last year in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that predicted global warming alone could prompt the rise of smog-related deaths in the New York City region by 4.5 percent by the middle of this century, compared with the 1990s.

The study of the health impacts of climate change, Kinney said, "is at a very early research field, but I sense it's beginning to grow rapidly."

Much remains uncertain about the impact of climate change: Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment issued a report this month outlining two possible scenarios with varying degrees of extreme weather events. In one, warming would simply strain the world's resources; the second "would involve blows to the world economy sufficiently severe to cripple the resilience that enables affluent countries to respond to catastrophes."

The center's associate director, Paul Epstein, who helped write the study, said the ecosystems that are now undergoing climate change will shape our future health because they are "our life support systems. They're our food, our air and our water."


Go to Original

Climate Change Map Reveals Countries Most Under Threat
By Steve Connor
The Independent UK

Thursday 17 November 2005

Scientists have compiled one of the first comprehensive pictures of what the world might be like when climate change begins to trigger a dramatic increase in epidemics, disease and death.

Teams of specialists have assessed the scale of the dangers to human health when changes in the climate lead to higher incidences of weather extremes, such as high temperatures, floods and drought.

The findings - published today in the journal Nature - come weeks before world leaders meet in Montreal to discuss climate change at the first Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

Global warming is likely to lead to an increase in the number of infectious diseases and respiratory illnesses. It will also raise the risk and severity of flooding, and reduce the availability of clean drinking water to millions of people. The studies also found that the countries most likely to be affected by global warming were those least able to combat its effects. Meanwhile, the nations who contribute most to climate change are those that will suffer the least.

Professor Jonathan Patz of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the lead author of one of the studies, said that it was incumbent on those countries bearing the greatest responsibility for climate change to show moral leadership.

He said: "Those least able to cope and least responsible for the greenhouse gases that cause global warming are most affected. Herein likes an enormous global ethical challenge."

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that changes to the earth's climate was already causing about five million extra cases of severe illness a year and more than 150,000 extra deaths.

By 2030, however, the number of climate-related diseases was likely to more than double, with a dramatic increase in heat-related deaths caused by heart failure, respiratory disorders, the spread of infectious diseases and malnutrition from crop failures.

Countries with coastlines along the Indian and Pacific Oceans and sub-Saharan Africa would suffer a disproportionate share of the extra health burden, said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, of the WHO, who took part in the latest study.

"Many of the most important diseases in poor countries, such as diarrhoea and malnutrition, are highly sensitive to climate," Dr Campbell-Lendrum said. "The health sector is already struggling to control these diseases and climate change threatens to undermine these efforts," he said.

Scientists estimate that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are likely to lead to increases in global average temperatures of between 1.4C and 5.8C by the end of the century.

The number of people at risk of flooding by coastal storm surges is projected to increase from the current 75 million to 200 million by 2080, when sea levels may have risen by 40 centimetres.

A separate study of how rising temperatures will affect water supplies found that severe shortages were likely to affect up to a sixth of the world's population who currently rely on melting snow and glacial "fossil" ice.

Parts of China and India, where vast population centres rely on melting ice from the Himalayas for their supply of drinking water, are highly vulnerable to global warming, the study found.

People living west of the Andes are also likely to suffer from a dwindling water supply once the glaciers have disappeared, the study found. Peru had already suffered a 25 per cent reduction in water supplies over the past 30 years. "Climate warming is a certainty and the bottom line in this analysis is that the impact of warming and the long-term prognosis is clear and very dire," said Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

"It's especially clear that regions in Asia and South America are headed for a water-supply crisis because once that fossil water has gone, it's gone."


Uncommon Denominator

The Newsletter of the Commonweal Institute

"Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong."
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia


Talking Points: Against originalism

Wit and Wisdom: Karl Rove in ethics class

Eye on the Right: Financing intelligent design

Quoted! A Marine in Iraq; Bill O'Reilly in San Francisc
Featured Article: "A Separate Peace"

Happenings: CI conference funding received

Endorsements: Nancy Pelosi

Get Involved: Spread the word; become a contributor


With the ongoing transition in the Supreme Court, we've been hearing a lot about "originalism" when it comes to Constitutional interpretation. This doctrine, espoused by conservative judges Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, along with much of the American Right, including President Bush, holds that the proper approach to interpreting the Constitution is to be guided by the "original" intent of the framers. It is associated (rhetorically, at least) with "strict constructionism," which stands opposed to the supposedly liberal judicial tendency to "legislate from the bench" by pursuing all manner of social engineering and expanding the scope of the federal government in ways the Constitution does not authorize. As a practical matter, the doctrine of originalism leads to restrictions on the federal government's role in American life (particularly on its ability to help people), and - if the new Supreme Court moves sharply in that direction - it could mean the reversal or evisceration of much of the social legislation of the last half century. Far from the promised "judicial restraint," the originalism of Scalia, Thomas, and their ilk conceals an activist, even aggressive, approach to established precedent that would curtail the gradual expansion and protection of individual freedoms which have been the hallmark of Constitutional jurisprudence since the nineteenth century.

As a theoretical matter, and as a matter of just common sense, originalism is seriously flawed. It sounds good -- for it seems to connect us organically with our founding fathers, and it appeals to our gut preference for the "real thing" over the bastardized knock-off -- but originalism is both unworkable and logically inconsistent. To see why, it is necessary to pull apart its central claims and consider them carefully.

The basic idea is that the intentions of the Constitutional framers - James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, Rufus King, et al. - are enshrined in the document itself, that their meanings are unchanging and eternal, and that the duty of scholars, judges, and justices is to figure out what those meanings are and then apply them to matters of law. The problems with this originalist approach are more complex than can be fully addressed here, but that is all the more reason to identify those problems in their broad outlines. Regular Americans, not just constitutional scholars, need to be conversant in why the judicial philosophy of Scalia and Thomas is misguided.

First, the "intentions" of the framers do not form some kind of monolithic slab. The purposes of human beings engaged in serious political activity are always complex, shifting, various, obscure -- even when they are not represented that way. Get a group of them together, as at Independence Hall in 1787, and the complications undergo what the mathematicians would call "combinatorial explosion." There were many people in that room, many ideas, many motives, many conflicts, many compromises, many shifts of perspective. Which intentions do we go with? Those with which they began the process, or those with which they ended it? What about the personal doubts of the framers, even as they signed the Constitution? Should we make room for the views of those figures who were not officially involved in the Constitutional debates, like Thomas Jefferson, but whose views informed the proceedings? What do we with all the bargaining and horse-trading it took to reach consensus? A consensus was achieved, certainly, but about the only thing the framers seemed to agree on (barely) was the need for a stronger federal government than that which had existed under the Articles of Confederation. It is only sensible to conclude, therefore, that when delegates as different in outlook as William Few of Georgia and John Langdon of New Hampshire signed on to the written testament to that consensus, they had very different ideas about how it should actually work.

A second, related, problem concerns how the framers perceived their own intentions and the degree of deference that later generations should accord them. In fact, one of the principles on which there was greater agreement than not was the idea that the Constitution should be a "living document," that it should be able to respond to changing historical circumstances, and that later generations should -- within reason -- apply it flexibly to their particular needs. The founders recognized that they had produced an imperfect, if extraordinary, document and they did not intend for us to be slaves to their worldview. That is why the Constitution allows for amendments, as we all learned in eighth-grade civics class. The framers did not see their intentions as the final word or the only word. And thank God, for else the intentions that produced the three-fifths clause and the fugitive slave clause would still be in force. Those intentions deserved to be superseded by more modern social and constitutional thought. It's called progress.

Let's assume, however, for the sake of argument, that we do want to reconstruct the intentions of the Constitutional framers for guidance on interpreting the law. This presents such a raft of problems that it's hard to know where to begin. But let's start here: Since we can't read the framers' minds, we have to try to infer their intentions, their meanings, their aims, from the words they left us. Immediately, however, we are brought up short by a striking contradiction in the originalist approach. To reconstruct the framers' intentions fully and responsibly, we would have to consult all sorts of writings besides the Constitution: correspondence, diaries, the Federalist papers, retrospective accounts of the debates, and so forth. And what would this reveal? Exactly the kind of chaos that shows how difficult it is to judge intention accurately. So the originalist or strict constructionist imperative is to narrowly limit the act of interpretation to the words of the Constitution itself (where, for instance, there is no written-down "right to privacy"). We are obliged, in short, only to consider what might be called the deconstructive logic of the text - but this is not really an intentionalist method at all. Indeed, it is antithetical to intentionalism because it rules out an investigation of what lies beyond the text. This contradiction between an approach based on what amounts to biographical research and one based on textual analysis cannot be explained away without exposing the political expediency behind much of what passes for "originalist" Constitutional interpretation.

The third major problem with originalism is that it involves a simplistic and misleading view of the nature of language. The meaning of words is not so clear as the originalists would have us believe. The "referentiality" of language, as the linguists would put it, is both historically contingent and intrinsically murky - which means that there is not a transparent and stable relationship between words and the things or ideas they refer to, their referents. In the first place, the meaning of words evolves over time, sometimes dramatically, as anyone who has thumbed through the Oxford English Dictionary can attest. Words such as "queer" (which acquired connotations of homosexuality around World War I) or "web" (whose recent Internet-related meaning now predominates) are obvious examples. But terms of politics and civic culture also evolve over time. Indeed, as Gerald Stourzh has demonstrated in his essay in Conceptual Change and the Constitution (1988), the word "constitution" itself only came to signify "paramount law" in the late 1700s. So while we may think we know what a person meant centuries ago, we have to reckon with the fact that language is dynamic rather than static, and that words are always responsive to their historical and social environments.

Moreover, linguistic meaning is not a simple matter of one-to-one relationships between words and referents. Meaning is ambiguous, subtle, elusive. It emerges from a wide array of psychological and cultural and textual conditions. This is not, let it be said, some kind of postmodern rant. In fact, this view of language arose during the eighteenth century, in the wake of John Locke's seminal insight, in Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), that words have no "natural connexion" to things, and that "in their primary or immediate signification, [words] stand for nothing but the ideas in the mind of him who uses them." With a deepening sense of the arbitrariness of words, the eighteenth century began to recognize what Anselm Bayly, in his Introduction to Languages (1758), called the "mazes in language," and to question the received wisdom that language functioned as a mere sluice for reality. Indeed, no less central a figure than the great constitutionalist James Madison, in Federalist no. 37, cited the "cloudy medium" of language as a confounding factor in political discourse. The deliberate straightforwardness of the Constitution, therefore, reflected a desire to clear that cloudiness as much as possible, not a desire to dictate meaning to all subsequent generations. The dry simplicity of the document confirms rather than disproves the framers' belief that their language was an imperfect guide to their meaning.

What all this adds up to, then, is a rejoinder to the claims of conservative originalists and strict constructionists that the job of Supreme Court justice is simply to determine and then follow the intent of the framers as expressed in the text. If that's all there was to it, we wouldn't even have constitutional debates. The fact that we do, all the time, just goes to show that interpreting the Constitution and shaping our law accordingly is a robust, messy, animating process rather than the originalist equivalent of plundering the grave and propping up the corpse of "original intent."

There's one more issue that deserves mention. The conservative constitutional approach of the originalists is akin, both philosophically and practically, to scriptural literalism or fundamentalism. These worldviews are linked by the belief that language transcends place and time, remaining always immutable. One invokes the word of the heavenly father and the other invokes the word of the founding fathers. They are also linked by an excessive deference to authority and by a denigration of the critical faculties that allow us to question authority. This harmony between originalism and Biblical literalism should concern us, because it represents another way - admittedly much less overt than school prayer or intelligent design - in which religion is being smuggled into our national politics and civic culture. Hopefully, just as the "higher criticism" displaced literalism in the nineteenth century as the dominant school of Biblical exegesis, so a more sophisticated legal philosophy will stymie the rise of this latest, equally pernicious literalism.


Rove Caught Cheating in White House Ethics Class
Top Aide Seen Looking at Cheney's Paper During Pop Quiz

"Just days after President George W. Bush ordered the White House staff to take what was called a "refresher" course on ethics, his top aide Karl Rove was caught cheating during the first pop quiz given in the course, the White House confirmed today….

" 'The president doesn't understand why Karl would go and do something like this,' one source said on Sunday evening. 'The pop quiz didn't even count that much towards his final grade.'

"But according to the same source, the cheating incident raises an even more perplexing question: 'If you were trying to get a good grade in ethics, why would you copy off Cheney's paper?'"
-- The Borowitz Report


Now that the Kansas Board of Education, in the grip of anti-science conservatism, has voted 6-4 to include "intelligent design" in the state's public school curriculum, and to change the definition of science to include explanations of "supernatural" phenomena, it is worth taking a harder look at the politics involved. Those politics, it turns out, involved some pretty unsavory methods in the 2002 elections that brought the conservative school board majority to power. Four of these six will come up for reelection next year.

It's well known in Kansas that Attorney General Phill Kline and the six-member conservative majority on the state school board attempted earlier this year to evade the state's open meetings act. The Feb. 8 meetings - where Kline told conservatives he supports placing stickers on Kansas Biology textbooks - were kept secret from board moderates and the public. Six Kansas news organizations have filed suit against the board and the attorney general, and some legislators have asked the Shawnee prosecutor to open an investigation.

Less well known, until now, is the network of interlocking conservative political action committees that have been constructed to skirt Kansas campaign finance laws and channel money to conservatives on the school board.

Kansas law limits contributions to state school board candidates from individuals and political action committees to $500 dollars each primary and general election cycle. But just as they found a way to get around the open meetings act, conservative board members - who believe they are doing God's work - have found a way to get around campaign contribution limits, as well:

* Despite the $500 dollar contribution limit, the online database of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission link lists contributions totaling $1,800 to stealth candidate Iris Van Meter from the Free Academic Inquiry and Research Committee (FAIR) during a two month period in 2002.

* Ken Willard, the board member from Hutchinson, reported $2,000 in contributions from FAIR between July 8 and Sept. 20 of 2002.

* Connie Morris, the District 5 board member from St. Francis, reports FAIR donations of $1,000 in 2001 and $500 in 2002.

* Steve Abrams, of Arkansas City, and Kathy Martin both report contributions of $1000 from FAIR in 2004.

* John Bacon, a conservative from Olathe, reports contributions of $1000 from the FAIR in 2002.
How do they do it? These contributions are legal only because they are divided between FAIR's state and federal PACs -- each of which can give up to $500 during the primary and the general election. The state and federal FAIR PACs are astroturf groups (shell organizations that exist only to parcel out money) that share a post office box with the Kansas Republican Victory Fund -- which also has state and federal PACs. Both are associated with and share a post office box with the right-wing Kansas Republican Assembly.

Marilee Martin, the Kansas Republican Assembly Treasurer, is also the Treasurer of FAIR and the Kansas Republican Victory Fund. All three organizations, and their state and federal PACS, list PO Box 626, Topeka, KS 66601 as their address.

According to Federal Election Commission records, the Kansas Republican Victory Fund received $2,900 from FAIR in 2002 and $2,100 in 2004. Although Kansas Republican Victory Fund reported to the FEC that it is unaffiliated with any political party, it nevertheless gives 100 percent of its money to Republican candidates.

In addition to the money she got from FAIR, Iris Van Meter, took in campaign contributions, spread across the primary and general election cycles, of $750 from the Kansas Republican Victory Fund Federal PAC and $800 from the Kansas Republican Victory Fund State PAC in 2002. Van Meter also reports a contribution from the Kansas Republican Assembly, which is run by her son, Kris Van Meteren.

In 2002, Ken Willard, reported contributions of $1,000 from the Kansas Republican Victory Fund Federal PAC and $1,000 from the Kansas Republican Victory Fund State PAC in a two-month period that straddled the primary and general election reporting periods. Connie Morris also reports donations of $500 each from the Kansas Republican Victory Fund state and federal PACs.

Top FAIR contributors include Nancy Hannahan, Harold C. Hutcheson, and Dennis L. Marten who also made substantial contributions to five of the six conservative board members: Steve Abrams, Connie Morris, Kathy Martin, Iris Van Meter, and Ken Willard.

John Calvert, of the Intelligent Design Network, who now seems to have a special relationship with the school board sub-committee which announced recently it will hold Scopes style hearings on evolution later this year, is also a contributor. Calvert made political contributions to Abrams, Morris, and Martin, all members of the conservative sub-committee that has short-circuited the existing curriculum development process in favor of public hearings. Certainly, the privileged relationship granted to John Calvert -- and intelligent design proponent William Harris -- by conservative board members gives the appearance of impropriety.

The ideological divisions between conservatives who support intelligent design or creation science on the one hand and moderates who support evolution on the other has meant that once sleepy state school board elections -- most often run out of pocket by candidates -- are now much more costly.

In 2002, conservatives who were up for election such as Connie Morris raised $18,279. Iris Van Meter, who did not speak to the media during her campaign, raked in the most, reporting $31,539 in contributions. Ken Willard took in $28,959.

The incestuous relationships between FAIR, Kansas Republican Victory Fund, Kansas Republican Assembly, their state and local PACs, and their leading contributors, raise serious questions about whether the spirit of the campaign finance law has been skirted.

In the wake of the pro-intelligent design vote, Kansans may be wondering whether that decision was influenced by large sums of money channeled to conservative board members by a shadowy network of right-wing PACs that have found a way around limits on campaign contributions.

-- Pat Hayes

Pat Hayes is a writer and editor who lives in Kansas. He is married and has two kids who attend Kansas public schools. Check out his blog, Red State Rabble.


"On the current course we will have two options: We can lose in Iraq and destroy our army, or we can just lose." -- an unidentified Marine lieutenant colonel, on the failure of the American military to train a viable Iraqi security force, as quoted in The Atlantic, December 2005

"Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, 'Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead.
And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead." -- Fox News Host Bill O'Reilly, on "The Radio Factor," November 8, 2005


The following is an excerpt from Peggy Noonan's "A Separate Peace," which appeared in the October 27, 2005, issue of the Wall Street Journal. (Noonan, incidentally, served as a speechwriter in the Reagan administration. Perhaps, as this article implies, she has finally come around to a recognition that we're all in this together, and that working for the common good is the only responsible way forward).

"I think there is an unspoken subtext in our national political culture right now. In fact I think it's a subtext to our society. I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can't be fixed, or won't be fixed any time soon. That our pollsters are preoccupied with 'right track' and 'wrong track' but missing the number of people who think the answer to 'How are things going in America?' is 'Off the tracks and hurtling forward, toward an unknown destination'….

"Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it."
Click here to read the whole article.


Major Funding Awarded for CI-Sponsored Progressive Conference -- The A. H. Zeppa Family Foundation, of Duluth, MN, has generously committed to providing full funding for a major new Commonweal Institute project, Progressive Marketing and Communications: Convening a Working Group to Build Progressive Infrastructure. Marketing and communications represent parts of the nascent progressive infrastructure that will be of immediate benefit in implementing a long-term strategic vision and in moving the national policy and values agenda. In executing this new project, CI will bring together approximately 50 leaders in communications, marketing, framing, media, and strategy from around the country to make decisions about how to market progressive ideas more effectively and how to coordinate progressive communications. The convening will take place in the San Francisco Bay Area in early March, 2006. Invited participants are responding enthusiastically to the potential of this new initiative. A pre-conference website, which will be launched by the end of this year, will make more information available to the wider progressive community. We thank both the Zeppa Foundation and the California Teachers Association for their support. CTA's earlier gift enabled CI to do the preliminary design work and fundraising for the convening project. You can find more information about progressive infrastructure on the CI website, at

Presentations on Various Subjects -- CI President Leonard Salle had a busy November making presentations to education and civil justice groups. He was invited to Rochester, NY, by the Coalition for Common Sense in Education for several days of presentations and group meetings on strategies to promote public education. Speaking on the topic of "Strategy: It Works for Our Adversaries, It Can Work for Us," he made two presentations at St. John Fisher College, one to a group from the education community, and the other to a consortium of progressive community activist groups. On November 11, Mr. Salle spoke in Carmel Valley, CA, to the Board of Governors of the California Applicants Attorneys Organization about ways in which their professional organization could raise public awareness of problems with the current workers compensation system and push for change. On November 15, Mr. Salle addressed the Governmental Affairs Conference of the National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives, in La Jolla, CA, about the need for more effective public education about the role and value of the civil justice system in American society.


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The Internet Under Control

Le Monde | Editorial

Wednesday 16 November 2005

Must the United States keep hold of the Internet's reins? Many countries, from those of the European Union to Argentina, but also countries with undemocratic regimes, from China to Iran, plead for the "internationalization" of the Internet's management. This debate should animate the Global Summit on the Information Society that takes place in Tunis until November 18. Even if that issue was removed at the summit's opening with the announcement of a "compromise" maintaining the status quo - over which the American negotiator David Gross immediately congratulated himself - the fundamental debate, just like the question of reducing the "digital fracture" between rich and poor countries, will continue into the future.

How to "internationalize' the Internet? The options, liberal or governmental, all aim at breaking the relationship that submits the Net's management and administration to the American Commerce Department's authority. Historically, the Internet is an American creation. American companies, researchers, and engineers invented it for the most part. Ever since, the United States has held virtually all related powers. It could, if it wanted, "unplug" a country. If Washington conceived the notion, it could make all sites inscribed ".fr" inaccessible. It would be enough for it to act through a single computer, the "ultimate root," which orchestrates the operation of the twelve "root servers" on the planet. Maintained in a secret location, this Grand Master of the Net is controlled by Icann, a private non-profit company placed under the authority of the American Commerce Department.

The United States pleads for maintenance of this structure, arguing the necessity of "preserving the security and stability" of the operation Icann assures. If the US admits the legitimacy of countries' demands to manage their "domain name" and considers that dialogue must be continued, it is difficult to see any change in US insistence on maintaining the status quo. The reaffirmation, in an official declaration June 30, of the "capital importance" the Internet assumes for the United States clearly expresses the US will to retain ultimate control over it.

Is this position tenable? Or, reversing the question, will the Internet gain from passing into international control? Two visions clash. That of the American "guarantee" is legitimated by the Internet's history. Internationalization is inscribed in its development. The Internet is already used by a billion people. In number of those "connected," Asia leads, followed by Europe; North America is now behind. In two decades, the Internet has escaped sole exercise by the United States. The greater part of its development today is commercial, cultural, or scientific. Its political role has become unavoidable and its strategic importance, vital.

Washington refuses to give way to the international community, by invoking the necessity of excluding any hold over the Net by non-democratic states. A weighty argument, when one knows that the UN agreed to have the Global Summit in a country that imprisons its own Internet users. Certainly, if authoritarian states were to have control over their principal domain name, they would see their power strengthened. But the Internet conveys as much propaganda as it does dissent. Democracy can only gain when such a means of communication and expression develops. Supposing that the desire for democracy to prevail is not a mere pious wish, to confide the keys of the Internet to an international organization commonly accepted by all then seems to be plain common sense. Unless one assumes that today only Washington is capable of assuring the security of the virtual network, as it does that of the real world.


Go to Original

Lesser Evil
By Patrick Sabatier

Thursday 17 November 2005

Kofi Annan should have begun by applying the principle he enunciated yesterday in Tunis ("The information society is unthinkable without freedom.") to himself first. That way he would have avoided the ridiculous spectacle of this Summit on the Information Society taking place in a Sultanate where the UN's own experts observe that freedom of information is an extinct species.

The "digital fracture" between developed countries and others is, of course, a real problem. Just as the question of governance of the network of networks is legitimate. In its essence as well as by multinational vocation, the Internet cannot remain eternally under the control of a single country, the United States, through the guardianship it exercises over Icann, the private company that manages "domain names" - the addresses that allow traffic to flow over the information highways. Icann must cut the umbilical cord that links it to Washington.

But it's a good thing, a lesser evil, that the offensive that authoritarian regimes - which would like Net governance to be consigned to the UN under cover of the struggle against "American dominance" - should have failed. The compromise, a European inspiration adopted in Tunis, leaves management of the network to Icann. At the same time, it also opens an international forum for discussions in which questions of regulation (anti-spam and anti-virus fights, cyber-criminality) could be addressed. Furthermore, this forum must place at the head of its agenda the issue of freedom on the Internet, from censorship and repression, especially in the fifteen countries - with Tunisia at their head - that imprison their internet users as the report from Reporters Without Borders, the conclusions of which we are publishing, establishes.

Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.

Bush, meet Taft

Nov. 14, 2005


In the American political system that existed then, Taft's right to speak his mind on policy was a given, and no high-ranking Roosevelt official launched a major public attack."

(The American Prospect) This column was written by Michael Tomasky.

Watching and reading George W. Bush's Veterans' Day speech last Friday confirmed my belief that it's a good thing Karl Rove wasn't indicted. If this is the best these people can do, Rove is doing Bush a lot more damage from his White House office than he would as an indictee.

The speech was humiliating to Bush and the United States of America on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin. OK, actually, I do. I'll begin with the outright lie.

My critics, Bush whimpered, "are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs."

No such thing ever happened. That bipartisan investigation — the so-called "Phase II" probe into administration manipulation of pre-war intelligence — is ongoing right now. It's taken this long to start because, as Laura Rozen reported in our October print issue, Senate intelligence committee chairman Pat Roberts dragged his feet; and, as Murray Waas reported in The National Journal online, once Roberts did haltingly begin the probe, Dick Cheney and his staff refused to turn over crucial documentation. The delays and stonewalls, of course, are exactly what led the Democrats to call the closed session of the Senate. The probe is finally proceeding — but it sure hasn't "found" anything.

There is no other way to interpret Bush's sentence: It is a direct, unmediated, Nixonian lie. What kind of pathetic man would utter such a lie on Veterans' Day, when over 2,000 U.S. soldiers have died?

But what may be even more embarrassing is the old dissent-is-disloyalty saw: "These baseless attacks," Bush said, "send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will." In other words, criticizing my case for the war is giving comfort to the enemy.

Comfort to the enemy. Interesting phrase. It's been used before — by a Republican; in fact, by "Mr. Republican," Robert A. Taft, who was speaking against the Roosevelt administration.

I wrote this up for Salon in 2002. But back then, before the Iraq War had even started and long before Democrats started growing a spine, no one paid attention. I'm not in the habit of recycling my hits, but this one is worth reintroducing — not for what I wrote, but for the material I quoted.

Taft, the conservative Ohio senator who is a hero to many of today's conservatives, gave a speech at the Executive Club of Chicago in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. There are a number of paragraphs that are just grand, but here's the best one, which is worth quoting in full:

"As a matter of general principle, I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government ... too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism. If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned, because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur."

Drink in those words. That's not William Fulbright two years into the Vietnam War. It's not Ted Kennedy last week. It's Mr. Republican, speaking — when? Not mid-1943, or even March 1942. Taft delivered this speech… on December 19, 1941!

That's right: Twelve days after the worst attack on American soil in the country's history, perhaps with bodies still floating in the harbor, the leader of the congressional opposition said to the president, we will question, we will probe, we will debate.

And he was right to do so. In fact, when I was researching this, I came across no evidence that Taft's assertion was even controversial. As I wrote in Salon: "Taft's speech hardly caused a ripple. If The New York Times covered it at all, it did so in a small enough way to escape my notice as I looked through newspapers from that time. The Washington Post did mention the speech, but only at the tail end of a larger story that was mostly about [Secretary of State Cordell] Hull. In the American political system that existed then, Taft's right to speak his mind on policy was a given, and no high-ranking Roosevelt official launched a major public attack."

Taft said much more in that speech. (The full speech doesn't seem to exist online; if you Google it, you get my piece and blogs linking to my piece. Some Democrat staffer ought to shoot over to the Madison Building and dig up the original.) And every word of it demolishes the Bush administration's horrendously un-American posture.

There is a carillon on the Capitol Hill grounds, 100 feet high, on the Senate side, named for Taft. Senators see it every day. Democratic senators might point it out to their Republican colleagues, and remind them of a time when their party was led by people who, whatever their ideology, understood the principles on which the United States was founded and honored them.

Michael Tomasky is the Prospect's executive editor.

FCNL's Rights and Liberties Weekly

Volume 3, No. 10
November 14, 2005

Interrogation: In the first week of November, the Department of Defense
(DoD) issued a new directive on intelligence interrogation. The
directive applies to all DoD personel and contractors, but not other
agencies such as the CIA. The directive states that, "All captured or
detained personel shall be treated humanely, and all intelligence
interrogations, debriefings, or tactical questioning to gain
intelligence from captured or detained personnel shall be conducted
humanely, in accordance with applicable law and policy." Read the full
directive here:

Censorship: Sign up to receive news about controversies and actions from
the National Coalition Against Censorship. Email to
subscribe. Your privacy will be protected and you can unsubscribe at
any time.

Freedom to Read: Congressional civil liberties champions in Congress,
stymied in efforts to move bills, have increasingly turned to spending
bills as the vehicle for policy-changing legislation. Rep. Sanders'
(VT) H.R. 1157, the Freedom to Read Protection Act, was successfully
attached to the Science-State-Justice Subcommittee appropriations bill
in the House, but now has suffered defeat in conference committee. See
the news from the American Library Association:

Torture Policy: The Vice President has been putting significant effort
to create an exemption for the CIA from Sen. McCain's anti-torture
amendment. The Washington Post reports:

National Security Letters: The FBI has dramatically stepped up its use
of these secret requests for information, now over 30,000 in the past
year, a one-hundred fold increase. These letters permit the FBI to
demand information about third party consumers from service providers.
This new disclosure about the number of national security letters
challenges the FBI's assertion that NSL's are not being used solely for
anti-terrorism efforts. Read the full report from the Washington Post:


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The bigger the stakes, the bigger the lies.

by Geov Parrish

American public shouldn't be surprised by unraveling justification for war

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...
One by one, President Bush's lies are unraveling -- the lies that were used to justify talk of mushroom clouds over America, the lies that led a majority of the country to believe Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9-11. The yellowcake uranium in Niger. The weapons stories peddled by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi and by Ahmad Chalabi's exile goons. The meeting between Mohamed Atta and Iraqi operatives in Prague. The aluminum tubes for processing uranium. All these are now known to be lies, cherry-picked intelligence that had all been discredited and discarded by the CIA and State Department before being seized upon as war rationales by the eager chickenhawks of the White House Iraq Group.

Lies, all of it. Once stripped away, there remains not one shred of evidence that in 2002-03 Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed any threat whatsoever to the security of the United States. Much less an imminent threat -- the only rationale, under both American and international law, which makes permissible the short-circuiting of the diplomatic process and the launching of an unprovoked invasion. We now know all this, too late for over 2,000 American soldiers and untold scores of thousands of Iraqis.

Why are we surprised?

In modern times, this is what Presidents, Democrats as well as Republicans, do. The bigger the stakes, the bigger the lies, and there are no bigger stakes than war. They lie to Congress, they lie to the American public, they lie to the world.

In 1964, it was the infamous Gulf of Tonkin resolution, in which LBJ parlayed a fictitious assault upon a U.S. battleship into a dramatic escalation of the war in Vietnam.

In 1990, even with the world mortified over Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the Bush 41 White House overcame fierce public and congressional resistance to war with a wholly concocted story about Iraqi soldiers pulling the plugs on the incubators of Kuwaiti babies.

In 2002-03, it was -- well, everything.

In each case, Congress, as well as the public, was kept in the dark. The fundamental checks and balances of the Constitution, which allow only Congress to declare war, were subverted.

Let this be a lesson for the next time elected leaders try to cajole a reluctant public into war. There are tremendous institutional incentives for chief executives to call the military into action. Eisenhower knew what he was talking about when he warned of the dangers of the permanent military-industrial complex. The patriotism war whips up is always good for a bump in the poll numbers and a pass from an uncritical media. A lot of people make a lot of money from war, and a lot of other people -- people that don't matter to the leaders -- suffer. Power is seductive, and the people who crave power enough to want the most powerful job in the world are invariably never satisfied. They always want more. It's a story as old as humankind.

After the fall of Saigon, something called the "Vietnam Syndrome" set in, a very healthy response in which citizens and leaders were wary of committing troops to another foreign war. Then Ronald Reagan came along, and invaded Grenada, and waged covert wars in Central America, and people forgot.

Perhaps, given how catastrophic the invasion of Iraq has been -- for Iraqis, for the American military, for the federal budget, and for America's moral standing in the world -- there will come to be a similar "Iraq Syndrome." But we're not there yet. Powerful people, particularly in and around the Bush White House, continue to peddle war as the answer of first resort for a variety of diplomatic conflicts, from Syria to Iran to North Korea to Venezuela and even to China. They would be easy to dismiss as Strangelovian lunatics, had it not proven so ridiculously easy to sell wars in the past.

All you have to do is lie. Once you're in -- as we saw in Vietnam, and are seeing again in Iraq -- no matter how badly it goes, even the war's critics will be reluctant to call the whole thing off.

The anger of Democrats (and a few Republicans) over the recent revelations of the lies of George W. Bush and the White House Iraq Group is completely justified. There is no greater betrayal to our nation than the misuse of its military, and no greater moral sin than ordering up a policy which effectively ensures the murder of thousands.

But Democrats like John Kerry and John Edwards, who are only now slowly coming around to criticizing the war, have themselves to blame as well. History and common sense told us at the time that there was a high probability the White House was lying. Such Democrats -- and Republicans -- owed it to themselves, their party, their constituents, and their country to question and investigate White House claims far more closely than they did.

The lies of George W. Bush's White House are, in my opinion, an impeachable offense. I've said so publicly for two and a half years.

But if there is no "Iraq Syndrome" -- if Democrats as well as Republicans seize upon these misdeeds but then continue to call for the casual projection of American military power anywhere and everywhere in the world -- then the lives lost in Iraq really will have been in vain.

It's up to us to learn the lesson.

Geov Parrish is a Seattle-based columnist and reporter for Seattle Weekly, In These Times and Eat the State! He writes the daily Straight Shot for WorkingForChange. He can be reached by email at -- please indicate whether your comments may be used on WorkingForChange in an upcoming "letters" column.

The bigger the stakes, the bigger the lies.

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The Progress Report

by Judd Legum, Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney
Amanda Terkel, Payson Schwin and Christy Harvey

November 14, 2005
Bush's Reverse Slam Dunk

Senate Set to Preserve Indefinite Detention

Go Beyond The Headlines

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Bush's Reverse Slam Dunk

On Friday, President Bush skipped the traditional Veterans Day wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in order to deliver a promised "hit back" against those calling for a strategy for success in Iraq. One senior administration official described the speech as the "most direct refutation" of Iraq critics "you've seen probably since the election," and said it marked the first stage of a coordinated "offensive" that "will play out over several weeks." (The offensive continued this weekend with remarks by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Ken Mehlman, former White House deputy to Karl Rove.) Before the war, the Bush administration presented its pre-war intelligence as a "slam dunk"; now it wants to engage in revisionist history. President Bush's latest case (which is notably similar to past efforts) is based upon three fundamentally flawed arguments: 1) that Congress had access to the same intelligence as the White House prior to the war; 2) that the bipartisan Senate investigation found that the Bush administration did not misrepresent prewar intelligence; and 3) that intelligence agencies around the world agreed with the Bush administration's assessment of the Iraqi threat. Bush is entitled to his own opinion as to how the administration got it so wrong on Iraq; however, he is not entitled to his own facts.

FACT: CONGRESS DID NOT HAVE THE "SAME INTELLIGENCE" AS THE WHITE HOUSE: In his speech, President Bush claimed that members of Congress who voted for the 2002 Iraq war resolution "had access to the same intelligence" as his administration. This is false. As the Washington Post pointed out Saturday, "Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material." For instance, in the lead up to war, the Bush administration argued that Iraq had made several attempts to "buy high-strength aluminum tubes used in centrifuges to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." The White House sent 15 intelligence assessments to Congress supporting this notion, but according to the New York Times, "not one of them" informed readers that experts within the Energy Department believed the tubes could not be used to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program. Even Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) -- who has led efforts to delay and downplay the need for investigating prewar intelligence -- confirmed this broader point yesterday. Asked whether the differences between the intelligence available to the White House and to Congress was a "legitimate concern," Roberts acknowledged that it "may be a concern to some extent."

FACT: SENATE INTEL REPORT SHOWED MANIPULATION OF THE EVIDENCE: Bush claimed that "a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs." That argument is wrong on at least two counts. First, "the only committee investigating the matter in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials mischaracterized intelligence by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions." The so-called Phase II of the pre-war intel investigation is not expected to be completed this year. Second, the Senate Intelligence Committee's Phase I report found, according to the Los Angeles Times (7/10/04), that the unclassified public version of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was manipulated. "[C]arefully qualified conclusions [in the classified NIE] were turned into blunt assertions of fact." For example, the classified version of the NIE said, "Although we have little specific information on Iraq’s CW stockpile, Saddam Hussein probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons" of certain poisons. The phrase "although we have little specific information" was deleted from the unclassified version. Instead, the public report said, "Saddam probably has stocked a few hundred metric tons of CW agents."

FACT: THE WORLD WAS NOT IN AGREEMENT WITH BUSH: One frequent talking point of Bush's defenders is that the pre-war intelligence failure was a global failure. "Every intelligence agency in the world, including the Russians, the French...all reached the same conclusion," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on CBS's "Face the Nation." Similarly, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) claimed, "This was a worldwide intelligence failure," citing the French and Russians, among others. In fact, many of our friends and allies believed that, based on the intelligence they had, the threat of Iraq did not rise to the level of justifying immediate force. French President Jacques Chirac said, "[W]e just feel that there is another option, another way, a less dramatic way than war." German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he did not believe the threat rose to the level requiring the "'ultima ratio,' the very last resort." And Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said, "It is our deep conviction that the possibilities for disarming Iraq through political means do exist."

Senate Set to Preserve Indefinite Detention

Last Thursday, the Senate voted 49-42 in support of Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) amendment to "strip away the right of war-on-terror prisoners held at the military's Guantánamo Bay jail in Cuba to challenge their detentions in court." The amendment is designed as an end-run around last year's Supreme Court decision in Rasul v. Bush, which upheld the right of detainees in Guantánamo Bay to file habeas corpus petitions, since Guantánamo is within federal jurisdiction. Gita Gutierrez, a lawyer with New York's Center for Constitutional Rights, said of the vote, "This is one of the worst things the Senate has ever done. On the back of a cocktail napkin, they have tossed aside protections of individual liberty that have been in existence for centuries." Graham's amendment is not all bad: it also bars the use of coerced evidence at military tribunals. But the seriousness of suspending habeas corpus is evidenced by its rarity in American history -- Abraham Lincoln was the last president to take that step. Today, the Senate is set to vote on a substitute amendment offered by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) that would restore habeas corpus rights. Write or call your Senator today and urge them to support the Bingaman amendment. America's struggle against terrorism should be designed to protect and preserve our most fundamental rights, not to undo them.

THE GOOD NEWS - COERCED EVIDENCE WOULD NOT BE PERMISSIBLE: The Graham amendment would address "one of the biggest complaints about tribunals, barring them from relying on evidence obtained through 'undue coercion' that may be unreliable." The status of inmates at Guantanamo Bay would fall under a mandated automatic review, and the proceedings "would exclude coerced confessions from that review, and place important new controls over Guantanamo operations." "These safeguards," writes the New York Times, "are long overdue."

THE BAD NEWS - A RARE, SUDDEN MOVE TO SUSPEND HABEAS CORPUS: "Habeas corpus is the legal term for the power of courts, dating back to the English Magna Carta, to force a king or president to justify a person's imprisonment," Newsday reported. "It was last suspended for U.S. citizens by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War." "That's one reason legal experts were stunned when the Senate, after an hour of debate, voted Thursday to overturn the Supreme Court's extension of habeas-corpus protection to 500-plus detainees at the Guantánamo Bay base in Cuba." While many of the detainees held in Guantanamo are not U.S. citizens, the basic human right to hear the charges against oneself, as outlined in the Magna Carta, has rarely been suspended in this country, and only under the most dire circumstances. "These are the kind of weighty problems which we have not sorted through," Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) warned. "When you undertake to remove habeas corpus, you better know where you are, and you better have a comprehensive plan."

UNFETTERED EXECUTIVE POWER: Law scholars from around the country warned the provision would undermine our constitutional rights, while handing over too much power to the executive branch. In a letter urging the Senate to reject the language, three faculty members from Yale, Harvard, and New York University Law Schools wrote, "The Graham amendment embodies an effort to alter fundamental precepts of our constitutional order. It consigns the protection of fundamental human liberties to unilateral executive determination." "The proposed [habeas corpus] amendment would sanction unreviewable executive detention that cannot be harmonized with our nation's long-standing adherence to the rule of law," said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice. "Military detention without due process is antithetical to our fundamental values."

OVERRIDING THE JUDICIAL BRANCH: These efforts come on the heels of a Supreme Court decision to allow Guantánamo detainees to file petitions for habeas corpus hearings. In Rasul v. Bush, the Court decided to extend this fundamental right to the detainees. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the decision, "What is presently at stake is only whether the federal courts have jurisdiction to determine the legality of the Executive’s potentially indefinite detention of individuals who claim to be wholly innocent of wrongdoing. Answering that question in the affirmative, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand for the District Court to consider in the first instance the merits of petitioners’ claims." Although only around 200 of the 500 prisoners at Guantanamo have filed petitions so far, the Senate has decided to challenge this decision outright. Scott Silliman, a former Air Force lawyer now at Duke University, said the Senate is "trying to reverse a Supreme Court case of great magnitude and scuttle another one. ... This is momentous."

Under the Radar

SUPREME COURT -- ALITO WROTE 'CONSTITUTION DOES NOT PROTECT A RIGHT TO ABORTION': Today, the White House will release the documents of Alito's career in the Reagan administration, demonstrating "his conservative bona fides." In his appointment form, Alito stated, "I am and always have been a conservative" and in a 1985 document, that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion" and "I personally believe very strongly [in this legal position]." When in the office of the Solicitor General, Alito wrote he was proud to "help to advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly."

CIVIL RIGHTS -- BUSH ADMINISTRATION POLITICIZES CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION: The Bush administration has been firmly on the side of political appointees and against enforcing civil rights and competence in Justice Department's civil rights division. Prosecutions for traditional racial and gender discrimination crimes have declined 40 percent over the past five years, battles against discrimination begun in earlier administrations were "simply abandoned," "friend-of-the-court" briefs have gone from 22 in 1999 to three in 2004, and the division "now spends nearly half its time defending deportation orders rather than pursuing civil rights litigation." The Bush administration's changes have "driven away dozens of veteran lawyers and has damaged morale for many of those who remain" and "many [experienced career employees] have been forced to move to other divisions or to handle cases unconnected to civil rights."

KATRINA -- FEMA NEVER FOLLOWED THROUGH ON PROMISE TO REBID NO-BID CONTRACTS: The Associated Press reports, "Despite a month-old pledge, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has yet to reopen four of its biggest no-bid contracts for Hurricane Katrina work and will not do so until the contracts are virtually complete. A promise to hire more minority-owned firms also is largely unfulfilled." Taxpayers and evacuees lost big when Akima's high cost, remote geographic location, and negligence were overlooked and the company received the contract because of the its strong political connections. Akima Management Services, which received a $40 million no-bid contract, has constructed portable classrooms at a cost of $90,000 each, "double the wholesale price and nearly 60 percent higher than the price offered by two small Mississippi businesses dropped from the deal." In addition, the New York Times reports the buildings were "not secured in a concrete foundation" as required by state regulations.

MEDIA -- O'REILLY STANDS BY APPROVAL OF TERRORIST ATTACK ON SAN FRANCISCO: Even for Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly, last week's remarks approving of a terrorist attack on San Francisco marked a new low. "If you want to ban military recruiting [in public schools], fine. But I’m not going to give you another nickel of federal money,” O’Reilly said on his syndicated radio program. “If Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, 'look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.'" John Hanley, president of the San Francisco Firefighter's Union Local 798, was particularly "incensed," since Coit Tower is a monument to the city's firefighters. "Mr. O'Reilly, maybe we should bring you into some of our burning buildings and see how brave you are," Hanley said. Responding to critics on Friday, O'Reilly was unapologetic. "What I said isn't controversial. What I said needed to be said. ... [T]he left-wing, selfish, Land of Oz philosophy that the media and the city politicians have embraced out there is an absolute intellectual disgrace."

DARFUR -- CONGRESS' WORDS ARE NOT FOLLOWED UP BY ACTION: The Christian Science Monitor reports that a year ago the House of Representatives acted to call the violence in Sudan's Darfur region "by its rightful name: genocide. ... But earlier this month a House committee - in a budget-cutting mode and amid what Darfur experts say is a mistaken sense that violence in the traumatized region has been quelled - voted to trim the $50 million that lawmakers had approved earlier in the year for the African Union force." Jonathan Morganstein, co-author of a new report on Darfur by Refugees International, said genocide could be staved off for less than 15 percent of the funding for the "bridges to nowhere" in the recent transportation appropriations. Meanwhile, the new report suggests Darfur is "losing control because of a weak mandate, poor equipment, and woefully inadequate troop numbers."

Tomdispatch: Michael Klare

We know one thing about the Bush administration, despite the President's Veterans Day speech on the "irresponsibility" of "rewriting history," he and his top officials -- possibly the greatest gamblers in our history -- had no hesitation about writing their own ticket to history and rejiggering the facts wherever necessary in the run-up to war. History like intelligence was seen a malleable thing, something that would, in the end, go to the victor anyway. It could be whatever they desired it to be, whatever they thought would best help them panic the American people and Congress into backing an invasion of their country of choice. And it could be brought to bear whenever they thought it most useful -- or, in White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card's now infamous September 2002 formulation (speaking of the timing of promo! ting an invasion of Iraq), ``From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.''

They had no qualms about elbowing the CIA aside, or using forged, unreliable, or clearly inaccurate intelligence, or simple disinformation, or just repeating endlessly things they certainly knew to be fictions in order to make Democrats (who knew better) run for their lives and put a full-court press on the media. They were happy to raise rhetorical mushroom clouds over all-too-real American cities to panic Americans into their war of choice. They had no hesitation (as far as we know) -- to cite a conveniently forgotten absurdity of that prewar moment -- about sending the President out in front of television cameras to announce the ridiculous in all fearful solemnity: That, for instance, there was a danger Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) armed with chemical or biological weapons might be sent to spray their deadly mists over East coast cities o! r even hundreds of miles inland. (Forget that the planes didn't exist and that, if they had, and if the CBW weaponry had been available, the Iraqis had no way to get them to the coast, or anything to launch them from.) When people want to talk about what we may or may not have known about subjects like Iraqi WMDs, they forget the baldfaced absurdity of some of the administration's claims -- or exactly how unchallenged they went in the mainstream media. (I saw the President make the UAV claim on television with my own eyes, by the way.)

And that was when they were riding high. Imagine what they might do in desperation. In fact, Michael Klare, author of the indispensible Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum, does just that below, evaluating the various wag-the-dog scenarios this administration might seriously consider using if its situation grows too desperate and elections too near.

After considering these possibilities yourself, think about the context. The signal from the recent hotel bombings in Jordan seems clear enough in its own horrific way. Through its invasion and uniquely inept occupation, the Bush administration has already created a "failed state" not on the failed continent of Africa or in an economically or politically peripheral land like Afghanistan, but exactly in the heart of the richest oil lands of the planet. Iraq is now largely an anarchic world with a central government hardly capable of commanding its own fortified heart -- the Green Zone of Baghdad -- no less much of the rest of the country; where religious militias, terrorist organizations, and fractured insurgent groups have the run of the land; where internecine killing is on the rise; and the delivery of such basics of modern life as electricity and potable water (or water of any kind) are no longer givens.

Whether some in the Bush administration meant to turn Iraq into a land of "chaos" or not, they have certainly succeeded in doing so. Now, the chaos is spreading across borders. The Jordanian bombers, after all, were Iraqis. The targets, American hotels, were both soft and symbolic. But in the future, they may be harder and even more vital -- oil pipelines or other facilities outside Iraq, for instance.

Add into this formula for disaster, an "administration" in Washington that is "uninterested in governing," as Jonathan Schell wrote recently in the Nation magazine (focusing on what the post-Katrina world has revealed to us, but Iraqis already knew all too well). "We all keep referring to the ‘Bush administration,'" he added, "yet administering seems to be the last thing on its mind... If the Bush outfit is not governing, what is it doing? The answer comes readily: It wishes to acquire, increase and consolidate the power of the Republican Party."

If administration is nothing to Bush's people and power is all, the Klare scenarios that follow only seem that much more likely to be used, and what the implementation of any one of them will certainly do is add yet another chaotic pressure to the crumbling structure of our ever less safe and secure world and way of life. Tom

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Jeff Milchen
November 15, 2005

Jeff Milchen directs, a non-profit organization working to restore citizen authority over corporations. Their extensive library of information on Wal-Mart and big box stores includes a discussion guide just created for screenings of the Wal-Mart movie.

When I took a current-issues course in high school (before standardized testing drove many such courses from the curriculum), our teacher started by providing ideas for critically evaluating the media we used. He considered such skills a prerequisite for intelligent analysis of public affairs. Among more obvious points, like watching for biased language, was asking a question of whatever we saw: “What’s missing?”

That question came to mind watching Robert’s Greenwald’s new film, “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” as the film wrapped up without addressing any chain other than Wal-Mart Corporation and its Sam’s Club subsidiary. What was missing, as in most anti-Wal-Mart campaigning, was the bigger picture.

For example, Wal-Mart’s most direct competitor—Target Corporation—escapes any scrutiny for paying similarly poor wages, extracting public subsidies, weakening downtowns, and selling clothes from Chinese sweatshops.

Of course, Greenwald’s focus is obvious from the title, and the film skillfully nails its intended target with compelling and disturbing stories—many from former company executives. The focus on Wal-Mart is appropriate to a point because the corporation is in a class by itself for its sheer size and its power to drive industry trends. Yet we need to acknowledge that dozens of big box chains operate on the same exploitative business model.

Even Costco—justifiably praised for providing above-normal wages and benefits (but over-hyped by corporate media as an “anti-Wal-Mart”) follows the Wal-Mart model closely in most other realms. And though Costco has avoided the publicity many Wal-Mart lawsuits generate, it, too, faces a class-action lawsuit alleging systemic discrimination against women.

The Greenwald film mirrors media coverage and labor activism, which both have focused overwhelmingly on this single corporation.

Don’t get me wrong, Wal-Mart richly deserves the public-relations beating it’s getting, and I’ve spoken in more than a dozen communities about why they should slam the door in the company’s smiley face. But campaigns portraying Wal-Mart as a singular problem, rather than as a particularly vile symptom of a larger disease, obscure the real problem we face.

Suppose the campaigns against Wal-Mart succeed in diverting customers to Target or Kmart. Or perhaps they win a few labor concessions from Wal-Mart that help smooth the way for the corporation’s continued dominance and evisceration of community-based businesses. Would that be a victory?

Those who have broader concerns about the concentration of power in the hands of giant corporations should consider where else our dollars could be going. As I argued in an article for one year ago, “dispersing economic power among millions of small, independent businesses is one key to restraining corporate power and sustaining democracy.”

Working toward that end, some 200 communities, organizations and businesses are participating this Saturday in “America Unchained,” a campaign created by the American Independent Business Alliance (disclosure: I’m a co-founder). Unchained and the growing network of Independent Business Alliances seek to go beyond damage control to persuade people to keep their dollars recirculating in their local economy rather than sending them to distant corporate headquarters.

In my home of Montana, citizens of Plentywood, Malta and Glendive all recently decided they had no need to lure a big-box store or drive out of town to shop. Instead, they re-tooled the corporate model of pooling investments in order to build community-owned and operated department stores. These are true anti-Wal-Marts in many ways, promoting democracy, community stability and cohesiveness. All of the profit goes to the locals who invested in themselves and their neighbors.

Notably, these truly progressive alternatives are arising largely in conservative, rural communities. The two newest Independent Business Alliances hail from El Paso, Texas and Reno, Nev. (Several progressive communities are home to these alliances, too).

Citizens in these places aren’t buying the defeatist mentality of accepting Target or Kmart as the “better alternative.” They’ve recognized that communities are perfectly capable of meeting their needs without depending on absentee-owned businesses.

Digging Deeper

The backlash against chain stores clearly cuts across partisan and ideological divides and provides great opportunity for the political party that first decides to tap into it. But once that occurs, the positive grassroots alternatives are likely to take a back seat to attacks on individual corporate behaviors and band-aid “solutions.”

We should demand a deeper discussion. Is Wal-Mart a scapegoat for some larger societal failures? After all, there will always be corporations ready to evade taxes or cheat employees if given the chance. To stop such activity, we need to generate political pressure for certain and substantial punishment of corporate criminals—not rely on pressuring one company at a time to reform itself.

To move from critiquing the practices of individual corporations to tackling these root-level questions is the core challenge for those striving to reclaim our country from corporate domination. Hopefully, viewers of the Wal-Mart film and organizers of public screenings will seize the opportunity to do just that

Variable Geometry Democracy

By Claude Lévesque
Le Devoir

Monday 14 November 2005

Arbitrary detentions, secret prisons, torture: accusations against the United States pile up.

Yesterday, 350 prisoners with wrists handcuffed and eyes blindfolded had to parade in front of the media assigned to Baghdad. According to the American authorities, more than 42,000 people have been arrested for insurrection since 2003. No less than13,000 of them are still in detention.
(Photo: Reuters)

The American government, which claims to lead a campaign against terror so that democracy and freedom may triumph in the world, is ever more often forced to explain itself about the way its agents treat prisoners.

The questions and the criticisms are not coming only from the pacifist left or the partisan opposition, but also from milieus that one would have thought more in favor of executive power, such as Republican Senators and Supreme Court judges.

Last Monday, the United States' highest court agreed to rule on the legality of military commissions put in place to judge the presumed terrorists detained at the Guantánamo base in Cuba. The matter refers to the first tribunals of this kind to be created since the aftermath of the Second World War.

Wednesday, the Washington Post "revealed" a network of secret prisons established by the CIA to detain and interrogate the same kind of individuals, certain of whom are considered to be important leaders of the al-Qaeda network.

This pair of news stories occurred at the same time as the two houses of the American Congress were debating whether the prohibition against torturing prisoners may suffer certain exceptions.

When the Supreme Court hears the Guantánamo case, we'll hear a lawyers' debate over the extent of presidential war powers and the field of application for the Geneva conventions, to which the United States is signatory.

The two other matters will take place in the less muffled confines of the United States' Congress.

The test case submitted to the high court concerns Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemenite citizen who has been Osama bin Laden's chauffeur. Captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and detained at Guantánamo since 2002, he is accused of belonging to al-Qaeda. Hamdan is one of the some 500 inmates at the base of whom a dozen are supposed, like him, to soon be called before the famous military commissions.

Just last week, American authorities announced the upcoming appearance of five of them, including Omar Kadr, a Canadian who was only fifteen years old when he was arrested in Afghanistan. According to Amnesty International (United States section), which sponsors this prisoner, the young Kadr has been subjected to torture on very many occasions.

No less than 500 legal scholars from the major American law schools have supported Hamden's defense lawyers' case, writing that the prolonged detention of 500 men in complete legal confusion is unworthy of a government of laws.

Everyone knows about the existence of the prison located at Guantánamo and administered by the Pentagon.

The issue of the secret prisons is a little different. It throws a certain light on the "shadow world" that some would like to keep shadowy.

New Leak

The file published Wednesday by the Washington Post provides details about the existence of these slammers established by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in several countries. In fact, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others, had denounced this situation for the last few months already, basing themselves on a rather abundant amount of documentation. But the fact that several active or retired agents supplied information for the article in a prestigious newspaper no doubt explains the uproar it created.

Consequently, the Republican leaders of the House of Representatives and of the Senate demanded a Congressional inquiry into the source of this new "leak." For their own account they borrowed the arguments their Democratic colleagues had invoked a few weeks earlier to reproach Lewis Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, with having put CIA personnel in danger by exposing the status of secret agent Valerie Plame.

For its part, the CIA demanded that the Justice Department make an investigation to learn whether the confidential intelligence could have been divulged to the press last week.

It remains to be seen whether an eventual Congressional investigation will cover the leaks only or whether - as Democratic politicians would like - it will also cover the existence of secret prisons, i.e., the fundamental question. Some Republicans in Congress desire that also.

Where could this new leak have come from? Republican Senator Trent Lott - who is no lefty - formulated this hypothesis: it was Vice President Dick Cheney himself who could have said too much during a recent meal with the Senate's Republican Caucus.

The meeting in question had a slightly different objective, one about which the media had already reported copiously. Cheney was "lobbying" to convince his party's Senators to change their positions with regard to a piece of legislation sponsored by one of their number, John McCain.

The latter is a veteran of the Vietnam War, who knows torture from personal experience when he fell into enemy hands. Keeping in mind the Abu Ghraib scandal also, Senator McCain took advantage of the October debates on the 2006 military budget to propose an amendment prohibiting torture and "cruel or degrading" treatment. The McCain Amendment was adopted by a majority of 90 against 10.

Consequently, Dick Cheney and the new CIA Director, Porter Goss, pressured the Senators to "amend" the McCain Amendment to exempt CIA agents.


The two houses are presently negotiating with the objective of harmonizing their legislative texts. The threat of a presidential veto hangs over the McCain Amendment.

"We were champions of the Geneva Conventions for a long time because we want our citizens to be treated humanely when they're captured," read the Washington Post's editorial page.

Echoing several human rights defense organizations, the Post also wrote: "Americans don't join the CIA with the objective of practicing torture. And yet that's what could happen if Vice President Cheney's proposition becomes law."

At the end of last week, as he stopped in Panama on the way back from the Summit of the Americas in Argentina, President George W. Bush reaffirmed that the United States does not practice torture.

Not a day goes by without the big American media reporting new information about these issues. For example, we learned that the Pentagon has just adopted a new code to frame prisoner interrogations. New details have also appeared on the subject of two memoranda sent by the Justice Department to the White House in 2002 and in 2003.

The existence of these texts shows that the highest officials of the American government tried to prepare the ground on prisoner treatment ever since September 11, 2001. At the same time, the indiscretions with regard to their contents indicate that this preparation was - at best - hazy and contradictory; at worst, that they were written in such a way as to incite the interrogators to obtain intelligence by any means.

Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.