Saturday, September 30, 2006
I believe that this word best describes the current president of the U.S. and the members of his administration. Hopefully we can wrest some control back this November by electing a Democratic Congress. I'm not sure that I trust them any better...........
Anyway..........."GOD help us all!!!!".........PEACE...........Scott
monomania \mon-uh-MAY-nee-uh; -nyuh\, noun:
1. Pathological obsession with a single subject or idea.
2. Excessive concentration of interest upon one particular subject or idea.
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 29 September 2006
I have been told a thousand times at least, in the years I have spent reporting on the astonishing and repugnant abuses, lies and failures of the Bush administration, to watch my back. "Be careful," people always tell me. "These people are capable of anything. Stay off small planes, make sure you aren't being followed." A running joke between my mother and me is that she has a "safe room" set up for me in her cabin in the woods, in the event I have to flee because of something I wrote or said.
I always laughed and shook my head whenever I heard this stuff. Extreme paranoia wrapped in the tinfoil of conspiracy, I thought. This is still America, and these Bush fools will soon pass into history, I thought. I am a citizen, and the First Amendment hasn't yet been red-lined, I thought.
Matters are different now.
It seems, perhaps, that the people who warned me were not so paranoid. It seems, perhaps, that I was not paranoid enough. Legislation passed by the Republican House and Senate, legislation now marching up to the Republican White House for signature, has shattered a number of bedrock legal protections for suspects, prisoners, and pretty much anyone else George W. Bush deems to be an enemy.
So much of this legislation is wretched on the surface. Habeas corpus has been suspended for detainees suspected of terrorism or of aiding terrorism, so the Magna Carta-era rule that a person can face his accusers is now gone. Once a suspect has been thrown into prison, he does not have the right to a trial by his peers. Suspects cannot even stand in representation of themselves, another ancient protection, but must accept a military lawyer as their defender.
Illegally-obtained evidence can be used against suspects, whether that illegal evidence was gathered abroad or right here at home. To my way of thinking, this pretty much eradicates our security in persons, houses, papers, and effects, as stated in the Fourth Amendment, against illegal searches and seizures.
Speaking of collecting evidence, the torture of suspects and detainees has been broadly protected by this new legislation. While it tries to delineate what is and is not acceptable treatment of detainees, in the end, it gives George W. Bush the final word on what constitutes torture. US officials who use cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment to extract information from detainees are now shielded from prosecution.
It was two Supreme Court decisions, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that compelled the creation of this legislation. The Hamdi decision held that a prisoner has the right of habeas corpus, and can challenge his detention before an impartial judge. The Hamdan decision held that the military commissions set up to try detainees violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.
In short, the Supreme Court wiped out virtually every legal argument the Bush administration put forth to defend its extraordinary and dangerous behavior. The passage of this legislation came after a scramble by Republicans to paper over the torture and murder of a number of detainees. As columnist Molly Ivins wrote on Wednesday, "Of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place."
It seems almost certain that, at some point, the Supreme Court will hear a case to challenge the legality of this legislation, but even this is questionable. If a detainee is not allowed access to a fair trial or to the evidence against him, how can he bring a legal challenge to a court? The legislation, in anticipation of court challenges like Hamdi and Hamdan, even includes severe restrictions on judicial review over the legislation itself.
The Republicans in Congress have managed, at the behest of Mr. Bush, to draft a bill that all but erases the judicial branch of the government. Time will tell whether this aspect, along with all the others, will withstand legal challenges. If such a challenge comes, it will take time, and meanwhile there is this bill. All of the above is deplorable on its face, indefensible in a nation that prides itself on Constitutional rights, protections and the rule of law.
Underneath all this, however, is where the paranoia sets in.
Underneath all this is the definition of "enemy combatant" that has been established by this legislation. An "enemy combatant" is now no longer just someone captured "during an armed conflict" against our forces. Thanks to this legislation, George W. Bush is now able to designate as an "enemy combatant" anyone who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States."
Consider that language a moment. "Purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" is in the eye of the beholder, and this administration has proven itself to be astonishingly impatient with criticism of any kind. The broad powers given to Bush by this legislation allow him to capture, indefinitely detain, and refuse a hearing to any American citizen who speaks out against Iraq or any other part of the so-called "War on Terror."
If you write a letter to the editor attacking Bush, you could be deemed as purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States. If you organize or join a public demonstration against Iraq, or against the administration, the same designation could befall you. One dark-comedy aspect of the legislation is that senators or House members who publicly disagree with Bush, criticize him, or organize investigations into his dealings could be placed under the same designation. In effect, Congress just gave Bush the power to lock them up.
By writing this essay, I could be deemed an "enemy combatant." It's that simple, and very soon, it will be the law. I always laughed when people told me to be careful. I'm not laughing anymore.
In case I disappear, remember this. America is an idea, a dream, and that is all. We have borders and armies and citizens and commerce and industry, but all this merely makes us like every other nation on this Earth. What separates us is the idea, the simple idea, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our organizing principles. We can think as we please, speak as we please, write as we please, worship as we please, go where we please. We are protected from the kinds of tyranny that inspired our creation as a nation in the first place.
That was the idea. That was the dream. It may all be over now, but once upon a time, it existed. No good idea ever truly dies. The dream was here, and so was I, and so were you.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.
Wednesday 27 September 2006
With a smug stroke of his pen, President Bush is set to wipe out a safeguard against illegal imprisonment that has endured as a cornerstone of legal justice since the Magna Carta.
Austin, Texas - Oh dear. I'm sure he didn't mean it. In Illinois' Sixth Congressional District, long represented by Henry Hyde, Republican candidate Peter Roskam accused his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, of planning to "cut and run" on Iraq.
Duckworth is a former Army major and chopper pilot who lost both legs in Iraq after her helicopter got hit by an RPG. "I just could not believe he would say that to me," said Duckworth, who walks on artificial legs and uses a cane. Every election cycle produces some wincers, but how do you apologize for that one?
The legislative equivalent of that remark is the detainee bill now being passed by Congress. Beloveds, this is so much worse than even that pathetic deal reached last Thursday between the White House and Republican Sens. John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The White House has since reinserted a number of "technical fixes" that were the point of the putative "compromise." It leaves the president with the power to decide who is an enemy combatant.
This bill is not a national security issue-this is about torturing helpless human beings without any proof they are our enemies. Perhaps this could be considered if we knew the administration would use the power with enormous care and thoughtfulness. But of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place.
Death by torture by Americans was first reported in 2003 in a New York Times article by Carlotta Gall. The military had announced the prisoner died of a heart attack, but when Gall saw the death certificate, written in English and issued by the military, it said the cause of death was homicide. The "heart attack" came after he had been beaten so often on this legs that they had "basically been pulpified," according to the coroner.
The story of why and how it took the Times so long to print this information is in the current edition of the Columbia Journalism Review. The press in general has been late and slow in reporting torture, so very few Americans have any idea how far it has spread. As is often true in hierarchical, top-down institutions, the orders get passed on in what I call the downward communications exaggeration spiral.
For example, on a newspaper, a top editor may remark casually, "Let's give the new mayor a chance to see what he can do before we start attacking him."
This gets passed on as "Don't touch the mayor unless he really screws up."
And it ultimately arrives at the reporter level as "We can't say anything negative about the mayor."
The version of the detainee bill now in the Senate not only undoes much of the McCain-Warner-Graham work, but it is actually much worse than the administration's first proposal. In one change, the original compromise language said a suspect had the right to "examine and respond to" all evidence used against him. The three senators said the clause was necessary to avoid secret trials. The bill has now dropped the word "examine" and left only "respond to."
In another change, a clause said that evidence obtained outside the United States could be admitted in court even if it had been gathered without a search warrant. But the bill now drops the words "outside the United States," which means prosecutors can ignore American legal standards on warrants.
The bill also expands the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant to cover anyone who has "has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." Quick, define "purposefully and materially." One person has already been charged with aiding terrorists because he sold a satellite TV package that includes the Hezbollah network.
The bill simply removes a suspect's right to challenge his detention in court. This is a rule of law that goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215. That pretty much leaves the barn door open.
As Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet dissident, wrote, an intelligence service free to torture soon "degenerates into a playground for sadists." But not unbridled sadism-you will be relieved that the compromise took out the words permitting interrogation involving "severe pain" and substituted "serious pain," which is defined as "bodily injury that involves extreme physical pain."
In July 2003, George Bush said in a speech: "The United States is committed to worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes, whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit."
Fellow citizens, this bill throws out legal and moral restraints as the president deems it necessary-these are fundamental principles of basic decency, as well as law.
I'd like those supporting this evil bill to spare me one affliction: Do not, please, pretend to be shocked by the consequences of this legislation. And do not pretend to be shocked when the world begins comparing us to the Nazis.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute
The Washington Post
Friday 29 September 2006
The military trials bill approved by Congress lends legislative support for the first time to broad rules for the detention, interrogation, prosecution and trials of terrorism suspects far different from those in the familiar American criminal justice system.
President Bush's argument that the government requires extraordinary power to respond to the unusual threat of terrorism helped him win final support for a system of military trials with highly truncated defendant's rights. The United States used similar trials on just four occasions: during the country's revolution, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and World War II.
Included in the bill, passed by Republican majorities in the Senate yesterday and the House on Wednesday, are unique rules that bar terrorism suspects from challenging their detention or treatment through traditional habeas corpus petitions. They allow prosecutors, under certain conditions, to use evidence collected through hearsay or coercion to seek criminal convictions.
The bill rejects the right to a speedy trial and limits the traditional right to self-representation by requiring that defendants accept military defense attorneys. Panels of military officers need not reach unanimous agreement to win convictions, except in death penalty cases, and appeals must go through a second military panel before reaching a federal civilian court.
By writing into law for the first time the definition of an "unlawful enemy combatant," the bill empowers the executive branch to detain indefinitely anyone it determines to have "purposefully and materially" supported anti-U.S. hostilities. Only foreign nationals among those detainees can be tried by the military commissions, as they are known, and sentenced to decades in jail or put to death.
At the same time, the bill immunizes U.S. officials from prosecution for cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees who the military and the CIA captured before the end of last year. It gives the president a dominant but not exclusive role in setting the rules for future interrogations of terrorism suspects.
Written largely, but not completely, on the administration's terms, with passages that give executive branch officials discretion to set details or divert from its protections, the bill is meant to provide what Bush said yesterday are "the tools" needed to handle terrorism suspects U.S. officials hope to capture.
For more than 57 months after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush maintained that he did not need congressional authorization of such tools. But the Supreme Court decided otherwise in June, declaring the administration's detainee treatment and trial procedures illegal, and ruling that Bush must first seek Congress's approval.
Now Bush has received much of the authority he desired from party loyalists and a handful of Democrats on Capitol Hill. "The American people need to know we're working together," Bush told senators before yesterday's vote.
But Tom Malinowski, the Washington office director for Human Rights Watch, said Bush's motivation is partly to protect his reputation by gaining congressional endorsement of controversial actions already taken. "He's been accused of authorizing criminal torture in a way that has hurt America and could come back to haunt our troops. One of his purposes is to have Congress stand with him in the dock," Malinowski said.
The bill contains some protections unavailable to the eight Nazi saboteurs who came ashore in the United States in 1942 and were captured two weeks later. Six were executed that year after a closed military trial on the fifth floor of Justice Department headquarters. That proceeding was upheld by the Supreme Court in a decision it explained two months after the electrocutions.
Under the new procedures, trials are supposed to be open, but can be closed to protect the security of individuals or information expected to harm national security. Defendants have a right to be present, unless they are disruptive, and a right to examine and respond to the evidence against them. Proof of guilt must exceed a reasonable doubt.
Many constitutional experts say, however, that the bill pushes at the edges of so much settled U.S. law that its passage will not be the last word on America's detainee policies. They predict it will shift the public debate to the federal courts, a forum where the administration has had less success getting its way on counterterrorism policies.
"This is a full-employment act for lawyers," said Deborah Perlstein, who directs the U.S. Law and Security Program at the New York-based nonprofit group Human Rights First.
Former White House associate counsel Bradford A. Berenson, a supporter of the bill and one of the authors of the rules struck down by the Supreme Court, agreed. "Some of the most creative legal minds are going to be devoted to poking holes in this," he said.
Anticipating court challenges, the administration attempted to make the bill bulletproof by including provisions that would sharply restrict judicial review and limit the application of international treaties - signed by Washington - that govern the rights of wartime detainees.
The bill also contains blunt assertions that it complies with U.S. treaty obligations.
University of Texas constitutional law professor Sanford V. Levinson described the bill in an Internet posting as the mark of a "banana republic." Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh said that "the image of Congress rushing to strip jurisdiction from the courts in response to a politically created emergency is really quite shocking, and it's not clear that most of the members understand what they've done."
In contrast, Douglas W. Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, said Congress "did reasonably well in terms of fashioning a fair" set of procedures. But Kmiec and many others say they cannot predict how the Supreme Court will respond to the provision barring habeas corpus rights, which he said will leave "a large body of detainees with no conceivable basis to challenge their detentions."
There are other likely flashpoints. In the Supreme Court's June decision overturning previous administration policies, four members of the court who joined the majority opinion said conspiracy is not a war crime. The new bill says it is.
Georgetown University law professor Neal Katyal said the bill's creation of two systems of justice - military commissions for foreign nationals and regular criminal trials for U.S. citizens - may violate the Constitution's 14th Amendment, which requires equal protection of the laws to anyone under U.S. jurisdiction.
"If you're an American citizen, you get the Cadillac system of justice. If you're a foreigner or a green-card holder, you get this beat-up-Chevy version," he said.
The Asian Times
Friday 29 September 2006
Washington - After two years of consultations with more than 400 members of the US foreign-policy elite, a project headed by two leading international-relations academics is calling for the adoption of a new grand strategy designed to address multiple threats and strengthen Washington's commitment to a reformed and reinvigorated multilateral order.
In a wide-ranging report released in Washington on Wednesday, the Princeton Project on National Security suggested that the policies pursued by President George W Bush since September 11, 2001, had been simplistic - even counter-productive - for the challenges facing the United States in the 21st century.
To be effective, according to the report, US policy needed to rely less on military power and more on other tools of diplomacy; less on its own strength exercised unilaterally and more on cooperation with other democratic states; and less on rapid democratization based on popular elections and more on building what it called "popular, accountable, rights-regarding [PAR] governments".
The report also calls for performing "radical surgery" on the international institutions created in the aftermath of World War II, including significantly increasing membership in the United Nations Security Council and developing a "Concert of Democracies" that would provide an alternative forum for collective action, including the use of force.
On more specific issues, it calls for Washington to "take the lead in doing everything possible" to achieve a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict; to offer Iran security assurances in exchange for its agreement not to develop a nuclear-weapons capacity; and to neither "block or contain" China, but rather to "help it achieve its legitimate ambitions within the current international order".
The project and its 90-page report, "Forging a World of Liberty Under Law: US National Security in the 21st Century", was co-directed by the head of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and John Ikenberry, a prominent international-relations scholar at the school.
Of greater significance, however, is the high-level and bipartisan cast of its participants. Honorary co-chairs of the project included George Shultz, who served as secretary of state under the late president Ronald Reagan and is considered particularly influential with the current secretary, Condoleezza Rice, and Anthony Lake, national security adviser under president Bill Clinton.
The project's 13 steering committee members and seven task forces that addressed different aspects of national security were also drawn from experts from or identified with both major political parties, while institutional co-sponsors included the major centrist think-tanks, ranging from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Brookings Institution on the left to the Hoover Institution on the right.
In that respect, the report appeared to be an effort to forge a consensus framework for the mainly Republican "realist" and mainly Democratic "liberal internationalist" schools that dominated US foreign-policy-making in the post-World War II era until the September 11 attacks when nationalist and neo-conservative hawks in the Bush administration launched their "global war on terror".
Thus, at the report's official Capitol Hill launch, sponsored by the "radical centrist" New America Foundation, the two keynote speakers were high-level political symbols of both schools - Republican realist Senator Chuck Hagel and Democratic internationalist Senator Joseph Biden - both sharp critics of the administration's conduct of the "war on terror".
Indeed, conspicuously missing among the institutional sponsors of the project were two key think-tanks - the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute and the right-wing Heritage Foundation - that have been most closely associated with the Bush administration's more radical policies, including its 2002 National Security Strategy, as well as the invasion of Iraq.
A few prominent neo-conservatives and aggressive nationalists, such as Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, were among the individuals who participated in the project's consultations.
While Slaughter stressed that the final report and recommendations did not represent a formal consensus of all participants or even necessarily of the two honorary co-chairs, she said, "There was agreement across the political spectrum on a comprehensive approach." Most participants, she said, would agree with most of the analysis and recommendations.
Three specific aims - securing the homeland against hostile attacks or fatal epidemics, building a healthy global economy, and promoting a "benign international environment, grounded in security cooperation among nations and the spread of liberal democracy" - should constitute Washington's basic objectives, according to the report.
To achieve those objectives, the report offers a number of general and specific recommendations, many of which contain implicit criticisms of the Bush administration. It calls, for example, for "fusing hard power - the power to coerce - and soft power - the power to attract"; and for "building frameworks of cooperation centered on common interests with other nations rather than insisting that they accept our prioritization of common threats".
While it applauds Bush's advocacy of democratization in principle, the report calls for greater efforts to bring non-democratic governments "up to PAR" - that is, "a much more sophisticated strategy of creating the deeper conditions for successful liberal democracy - preconditions that extend far beyond the simple holding of elections".
Similarly, with respect to military power and the use of force, "Instead of insisting on a doctrine of primacy, the United States should aim to sustain the military predominance of liberal democracies and encourage the development of military capabilities of like-minded democracies in a way that is consistent with their security interests."
While endorsing Bush's position that "preventive strikes represent a necessary tool in fighting terror networks ... they should be proportionate and based on intelligence that adheres to strict standards". Similarly, the preventive use of force against states "should be very rare, employed only as a last resort and authorized by a multilateral institution - preferably a reformed Security Council".
In addition to calling for greater US effort and balance in promoting an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement and for offering security guarantees to Iran, the report urges Washington to reduce its ambitions in Iraq from full democratization to PAR, to redeploy US troops in ways that would encourage Iraqis to take more responsibility, and, in the event of civil war, to contain its regional impact. At the same time, Washington should promote the construction of regional institutions modeled on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The report also assails administration efforts at "framing the struggle against terrorism as a war similar to World War II or the Cold War" because "it lends legitimacy and respect to an enemy that deserves neither; the result is to strengthen, not degrade our adversary". Instead of a "global war on terror", Washington should employ a "global counterinsurgency" strategy that focuses on global law enforcement, intelligence and special operations.
To combat radicalization in the Islamic world, Washington should also make clear that it is willing to work with "Islamic governments and Islamic/Islamist movements, including fundamentalists, as long as they disavow terrorism".
"It is time to unite our country and our allies, while dividing our enemies - rather than the other way around," said Ikenberry.
On energy, the project called for going much further than the administration has proposed to reduce US reliance on Middle East oil by adopting a tax on gasoline that would begin at 50 cents per gallon (about 13 cents a liter) and increase by 20 cents per year for each of the next years. It also called for stricter automobile fuel-efficiency standards and for US leadership in devising new ways to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Thursday 28 September 2006
An investigation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General reportedly revealed that HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson instructed staff to award HUD contracts to President Bush's political allies and withhold them from his political opponents. The HUD IG, however, has refused to make the full 340-page report public.
ThinkProgress - which has previously published the executive summary - has obtained access to the entire report. Testimony from Jackson, his top deputies, and HUD legal counsel, none of which has previously been reported, show that the agency set aside the rules, assisted its political allies, and made life difficult for its political opponents. Here are some key excerpts:
1. Against the advice of HUD legal counsel, Jackson regularly met with potential HUD contractors. From page 110 of the report:
Regarding JACKSON's involvement with contracting matters, [former Acting HUD General Counsel Kathleen] Koch advised JACKSON would meet with individuals who were either contractors or who wanted to obtain contracts at HUD. Koch stated, "We warned him against it." Koch and her staff used to review the daily schedule for the previous HUD Secretary, Mel Martinez, to advise if there were potential problems, but that practice "just petered out" after JACKSON became Secretary. When potential HUD contractors wanted to meet with Martinez, they would be kept away from Martinez …
On page 156 of the report, Jackson himself admits regularly meeting with potential contractors:
JACKSON acknowledged that he does meet with individuals seeking contracts with HUD, stating "I've met with a lot of them … They come over to me … I say to them sure, we'd love to do business with you … "
2. Jackson explicitly acknowledged that he would not assist people who are critical of President Bush. From page 153:
[W]ell my position is if you're going to castigate me, castigate our President, I'm not going to sit here and lie to you, I'm not going out of the way to call Norm Mineta and say see Officer Medici and make sure that he does X-Y-Z. I'm not going to do it. I will not do it, and I'm not going to say that I will … So I'm not going to go out of my way to help somebody who's castigating the President … Now, if that's my bias, I have it.
3. Jackson's deputies attempted to circumvent competition rules to secure a contract for a Republican PR firm. From page 216:
Cathy MacFarlane, Assistant Secretary, Public Affairs, acknowledged requesting a contract for Spaeth Communications. Spaeth had done previous public relations work for MacFarlane, Baylor and JACKSON, as well as various Republican-affiliated organizations, cited in the contract application documentation. The contract was initially to be awarded under the "Unusual and Compelling Urgency Exemption to the Competition in Contracting Act."
The request for the extraordinary procedures was blocked by Associate Counsel John Opitz. He elaborated on the Spaeth contract on page 218:
There is a "facial" concern in Spaeth's references to her firm's prior politically related work. In retrospect, it does raise questions. Was the award based on her ability to do work or her prior connections, including her connection to JACKSON? I do not know the answer to that.
The HUD IG report also documents that Jackson obstructed a contract for Abt Associates because they supported Democrats, according to Jackson's Chief of Staff. Nevertheless, throughout the report Jackson repeatedly denies that he has ever improperly influenced any HUD contract.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. John Olver have all called on Secretary Jackson to resign.
The Concord Monitor
Thursday 28 September 2006
Former UNH professor and pollster David Moore contends that his new book about the 2000 presidential election - titled "How to Steal an Election" - is not partisan. Moore said he knows it's a "hard sell," but he argues the book simply explains how George W. Bush took the presidency that was rightfully won by Al Gore.
The question of partisanship isn't academic: Moore was fired from his job as a senior editor at the Gallup Poll after he told his bosses about the book last spring. Gallup General Counsel Steve O'Brien said yesterday that writing the book was a "colossally stupid" thing for Moore to do given the polling firm's nonpartisan mission. O'Brien scoffed at the idea that any book with such a title could be impartial.
"I think it's probably as objective as you can be about what really happened," said Moore, who founded the UNH Survey Center in the 1970s and led it until he left for Gallup in 1993. "All I do is present evidence about how an election was stolen."
Moore's book tells the story of election night 2000 by focusing on the folks who crunched the numbers for network television. He argues that the television stations calling Florida - and therefore the election - for Bush in the early morning hours after the election may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Although the networks rescinded the call only a couple of hours later as vote counts tightened, Moore contends that the call made Gore look like a sore loser as he fought for a recount in Florida. That impression influenced not only public opinion but also judicial outlook, making it possible for the U.S. Supreme Court to shut down the recount, Moore argues.
The book kicks off with an explosive anecdote. Fox, the first network to call Florida and the election for George Bush, had a decision team headed by Bush's first cousin, John Ellis. For years, Ellis has maintained that he made the call by looking at the numbers and making back-of-the-envelope calculations.
But Moore has a different account, from the statistician who sat next to Ellis that night. Cynthia Talkov didn't see Ellis making any calculations, Moore writes, but she did hear what he said after he got off the phone with George Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
"Jebbie says we got it! Jebbie says we got it!" Ellis shouted to the Fox decision team, according to Moore's book.
Fox called the race for Bush at 2:15. NBC followed, then CBS/CNN's joint team and finally ABC. Two hours later, they all retracted that projection.
Moore, who said he made no attempt to ask Ellis or Jeb Bush what happened over the phone that night, contends that the president's younger brother "persuaded" his cousin to call the election. It would be naïve to believe Jeb Bush was simply passing Ellis new numbers, he said.
"Why would Jeb Bush care whether Fox called it at 2:15 in the morning or at 8:15 in the morning? Why would he care?" Moore said in an interview. "Why would you care if you know you're going to win, if you absolutely know you're going to win, does it matter whether Fox calls it? Of course not."
Jeb Bush's effort fits into a "broader and sustained effort" to ensure the election for his brother, using some less-than-legal tactics, Moore writes. To make the point, Moore cites a British newspaper's reports on a sweeping and imprecise effort to purge felons from Florida's voter rolls. Democrats were disproportionately cut from the rolls, Moore argues.
Moore further argues that the other networks, blinded by competition, leapt to call the race after Fox. If Ellis hadn't made the first call, he contends, the others would have been more cautious - and would have had time to notice some serious flaws in the data.
But the other networks say they made the decision based on their own reads of the data at 2:15, not based on Fox's call. Moore doesn't believe it. As Moore writes, "none of the network decision teams will admit to being bamboozled by another network."
To prove this, Moore points to his own experience. On election night 2000, Moore observed the team calling the elections for CBS and CNN. Just after 1 a.m., Moore writes, he asked the head of the CBS/CNN team why he hadn't called Florida for Bush.
"Do you want to call the president of the United States on the basis of 30,000 votes?" asked Warren Mitofsky, a veteran of election night operations dating back to 1967.
An hour later, minutes after Fox and NBC had called it, Mitofsky did too. The margin at the time was 51,000 votes, with 179,000 left to be counted and some serious flaws in the data.
Mitofsky, who died this month, always maintained that he was ready to call the election before Fox had. He said he'd already called the control room to let them know the call was probably on its way, according to Moore's book. After the election, Mitofsky and a partner wrote: "We can honestly say that we did not feel any pressure to call the Florida race prematurely."
But Moore disagrees. He said it's because he knew Mitofsky and he talked to people who knew him, who believe he would have held out a little longer and seen the data shift.
Moore warns that the system of calling elections has not been fixed. Far too much blame has been placed on the centralized data-gathering operation, once known as the Voter News Service, and not enough taken by the network decision teams, Moore contends. Among other things, he writes, competition - the rush to be first - still bedevils the need for accuracy in making election calls.
For the record, Bush officially won Florida in 2000 by 537 votes. A media consortium that conducted a manual recount of contested ballots found that the recount Gore sought - limited to a few counties - would have kept Bush the winner, but by a margin of only 225 votes. A full statewide recount conducted under a uniform standard would likely have handed the election to Gore by just about 100 votes, the consortium found.
The book has shipped to some bookstores but is not set for official release until next month. It hasn't been reviewed anywhere yet. Yesterday, it was panned by Gallup's general counsel. O'Brien called the book "embarrassing," and not just because it could hurt the polling operation's image.
"What I saw of it, the theme of the book is so thin," he said. "There's nothing there."
In the interview, Moore characterized his politics as liberal/moderate, though he strenuously argues that it has nothing to do with what's in the book.
Andy Smith, who leads the UNH Survey Center now, said he hasn't had a chance to read Moore's book. It's not unusual to be a Democrat, either in academia or in the world of surveying, Smith said.
But Smith has never heard anyone criticize Moore's work during his decades as a pollster.
"It's impossible not to have political opinions, but it's just a matter of removing those from your day-to-day work," Smith said.
The New York Times
Thursday 28 September 2006
Khori, India - Dilip Pantosh Patil uses an ox-drawn wooden plow to till the same land as his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. But now he has a new neighbor: a shiny white wind turbine taller than a 20-story building, generating electricity at the edge of his bean field.
Wind power may still have an image as something of a plaything of environmentalists more concerned with clean energy than saving money. But it is quickly emerging as a serious alternative not just in affluent areas of the world but in fast-growing countries like India and China that are avidly seeking new energy sources. And leading the charge here in west-central India and elsewhere is an unlikely champion, Suzlon Energy, a homegrown Indian company.
Suzlon already dominates the Indian market and is now expanding rapidly abroad, having erected factories in locations as far away as Pipestone, Minn., and Tianjin, China. Four-fifths of the orders in Suzlon's packed book now come from outside India.
Not even on the list of the world's top 10 wind-turbine manufacturers as recently as 2002, Suzlon passed Siemens of Germany last year to become the fifth-largest producer by installed megawatts of capacity. It still trails the market leader, Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark, as well as General Electric, Enercon of Germany and Gamesa Tecnológica of Spain.
Suzlon's past shows how a company can prosper by tackling the special needs of a developing country. Its present suggests a way of serving expanding energy needs without relying quite so much on coal, the fastest-growth fossil fuel now but also the most polluting.
And Suzlon's future is likely to be a case study of how a manufacturer copes with China, both in capturing sales there and in confronting competition from Chinese companies.
Suzlon is an outgrowth in many ways of India's dysfunctional power- distribution system. Electricity boards owned by state governments charge industrial users more than twice as much for each kilowatt-hour as such customers pay in the United States - and they still suffer blackouts almost every day, especially in northern India.
Subject to political pressures, the boards are often slow to collect payments from residential consumers and well-connected businesses, especially before elections. As a result, they often lack the money to invest in new equipment.
To stay open and prevent crucial industrial or computer processes from stopping, a wide range of businesses - including auto parts factories and outsourcing giants - rely on still more costly diesel generators.
With natural gas prices climbing as well, wind turbines have become attractive to Indian business. The Essar Group of Mumbai, a big industrial conglomerate active in shipping, steel and construction, is now working on plans for a wind farm near Chennai, formerly Madras, after concluding that regulatory changes in India have made it financially attractive.
"The mechanisms didn't used to be there; now they are," said Jose Numpeli, vice president for operations at Essar Power. The electricity boards "know how to cost it, they know how to pay for it."
Roughly 70 percent of the demand for wind turbines in India comes from industrial users seeking alternatives to relying on the grid, said Tulsi R. Tanti, Suzlon's managing director. The rest of the purchases are made by a small group of wealthy families in India, for whom the tax breaks for wind turbines are attractive.
Wind will remain competitive as long as the price of crude oil remains above $40 a barrel, Mr. Tanti estimated. To remain cost-effective below $40 a barrel, wind energy may require subsidies, or possibly carbon-based taxes on oil and other fossil fuels.
Mr. Tanti and his three younger brothers were running a textile business in Gujarat, in northwestern India, when they purchased a German wind turbine - only to find that they could not keep it running. So they decided to build and maintain turbines themselves, starting Suzlon in 1995 and later leaving the textile business.
To minimize land costs, wind farms are typically in rural areas, chosen for the strength of the wind there as well as low prices for land. But that can mean culture shock.
"There were no big changes until the turbines came," Mr. Patil said, pausing from plowing here with his father in this remote, hilly, tribal area 200 miles northeast of Mumbai, where oxen remain at the center of farm life and motorized vehicles are uncommon.
Doing business in rural areas of the developing world carries special challenges. The new Suzlon Energy wind farm in Khori is a subject of national pride. More than 300 giant wind turbines, with 110-foot blades, snatch electricity from the air. But it has also struggled with the sporadic lawlessness that bedevils India.
S. Mohammed Farook, the installation's manager, was far from happy one recent afternoon. At least 63 new turbines, worth $1.3 million apiece and each capable of lighting several thousand homes when the wind blows, could not be put into service because thieves had stolen their copper power cables and aluminum service ladders for sale as scrap.
The copper or aluminum fetches as little as $1 from black-market scrap dealers. But each repair costs thousands of dollars in parts and staff time, in a country that is desperately short of electricity and technicians.
"I am crying inside," Mr. Farook said.
Despite such problems, Suzlon has expanded rapidly as global demand for wind energy has taken off. Its sales and earnings tripled in the quarter ended June 30, as the company earned the equivalent of $41.6 million on sales of $202.4 million.
The demand for wind turbines has particularly accelerated in India, where installations rose nearly 48 percent last year, and in China, where they rose 65 percent, although from a lower base. Wind farms are starting to dot the coastline of east-central China and the southern tip of India, as well as scattered mesas and hills across central India and even Inner Mongolia.
Coal is the main alternative in the two countries, and is causing acid rain and respiratory ailments while contributing to global warming. China accounted for 79 percent of the world's growth in coal consumption last year and India used 7 percent more, according to statistics from BP.
Worried by its reliance on coal, China has imposed a requirement that power companies generate a fifth of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This target calls for expanding wind power almost as much as nuclear energy over the next 15 years. India already leads China in wind power and is quickly building more wind turbines.
Chinese and Indian officials are optimistic about relying much more heavily on wind.
"I believe we may break through these targets - if not, we should at least have no problem reaching them," said Zhang Yuan, vice general manager of the China Longyuan Electric Power Group, the renewable-energy arm of one of China's five state-owned electric utilities, China Guodian.
Kamal Nath, India's minister of commerce and industry, was even more enthusiastic. "India is ideally suited for wind energy," he said. "The cost of it works well and we have the manufacturing capability."
International experts are more skeptical that wind will displace coal to a considerable extent, saying that while electricity production from wind is likely to increase rapidly, the sheer scale of energy demands suggests that coal burning will expand even more.
Suzlon still sees plenty of opportunity in China and has decided to build some of its latest designs in China for the market there, despite the risk of having them copied by Chinese manufacturers.
"Being an Asian leader," Mr. Tanti said, "we cannot afford to ignore China."
A dozen Chinese manufacturers have jumped into wind-turbine manufacturing as well. They have struggled with quality problems and have limited production capacity so far, resulting in long delivery delays.
But the Chinese producers already have an edge on price over imported equipment, according to Meiya Power of Hong Kong, which owns and operates power plants in China and across Asia, and is considering a wind farm in windswept Inner Mongolia.
Mr. Tanti said that rapid innovation and design changes would allow Suzlon to stay ahead of copycats. "It's a time-consuming process," he said, estimating that it would take two to three years for rivals to clone Suzlon turbines because they use unique or proprietary parts.
Suzlon manufactures its turbines at two factories in India, but has begun test production at a just-completed turbine-blade factory in Minnesota, where it already supplies turbines for a wind farm operated by the Edison Mission Group and Deere & Company. It has also begun test production at a Chinese factory that will make both turbines and blades.
To reach the Suzlon wind farm here, the huge rotors travel by night on special trucks for a 300-mile journey from northwestern India on a succession of paved and dirt roads.
Squatter huts have had to be removed along the way to allow the long trucks to turn; Suzlon is not required to pay compensation but often makes donations in these cases, Mr. Farook said.
The truck crews also carry wooden poles to prop up electricity wires across the road and pass underneath. The trucks sometimes attract gawkers, and live wires occasionally burn bystanders.
"With human error, it may touch human flesh," Mr. Farook said. "In that case, we have to pay compensation."
Villagers in Khori said that thievery and even robberies by rock-throwing gangs were nothing new, and were a problem long before Suzlon began setting up wind turbines. The company's response - stepping up patrols by security guards - has reduced everyday crime. That has made villagers more willing to rent land at the edge of their fields for the turbines.
At first, "we were really confused about what was going on," Mr. Patil said. "But now we're O.K. on it."
Thursday 28 September 2006
San Francisco - In a move backers hope will change the US approach to the problem of global warming, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law Wednesday aimed at reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions.
"We have begun a bold new era of environmental protection here in California that will change the course of history," the Republican governor said.
The measure passed by the Democratic-led Legislature last month caps the state's man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The most populous US state seeks to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a cut of about 25 percent.
The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 is also a direct challenge to the Bush administration - which has opposed mandatory caps to fight climate change - by a state that has often led the way nationally in new environmental standards.
President Bush pulled the United States out of the 160-nation Kyoto Protocol in 2001, saying forced reductions in greenhouse gases would damage the economy and unfairly excluded developing nations.
"Other countries like India and China, Brazil and Mexico will join us when they see all the great work that we are doing," Schwarzenegger said. "Also our federal government will follow us - trust me."
Details on how the state will achieve the emission cuts have not been worked out.
By embracing measures such as the global warming bill, Schwarzenegger has benefited in a state dominated by Democrats. British Prime Minister Tony Blair also addressed the bill-signing ceremony by video link, further helping boost the governor's stature as he seeks re-election in November.
"This will echo right around the rest of the world," Blair said. "You are showing brilliant leadership that will inspire a lot of people worldwide." Blair, a close ally of Bush, agreed during a visit to California in July to work with the state in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Opponents of the California measure say it will drive firms to states without such regulations and fail to lead to a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions if other states do not follow California's lead.
Working With Democrats
After a politically disastrous 2005 in which he badly lost a special initiative election he called, Schwarzenegger has worked closely with Democrats in recent months. Two polls out Wednesday showed him with a comfortable lead over his Democratic rival, state Treasurer Phil Angelides.
Joining the event was New York Gov. George Pataki, a fellow Republican, who said states should not wait for Washington to take action. Pataki came a week after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged to work with Schwarzenegger on the issue.
"States should be taking the leadership," Pataki told Reuters. "As more states take these type of actions, as more people become aware that this is right not just for the environment but also for the economy, Washington will follow."
Schwarzenegger also signed a bill that will prohibit California utilities from signing long-term contracts to buy electricity from out-of-state, coal-fired power plants. About a fifth of the electricity used in California comes from coal-fired plants out of state. The law will not affect contracts already in place.
The law requires new out-of-state coal-fired power plants to meet California's stringent emissions rules for new natural gas-fired power plants. This requirement in effect prohibits new coal-fired plants from selling power to California.
Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Los Angeles.
Thursday 28 September 2006
Typical families have not stashed enough money; struggling to pay for home, insurance, and education according to Center for American Progress.
Washington - The typical double-income family is worse off financially than ever, a study released Thursday said, warning that few Americans have saved enough to brace for financial setbacks.
Middle-class families are struggling to pay for a home, health insurance, transportation and their children's college with wages that have not kept pace with higher prices, according to the study by a think tank headed by a former top aide to President Bill Clinton.
The middle class's financial condition has been a key issue ahead of the November elections, as Democrats warn that this group is fast losing economic ground amid skyrocketing prices and tax cuts that offer them little benefit.
"In our estimates, it's becoming harder for families to afford what we consider a typical middle-class lifestyle," said economist Christian Weller of the Center for American Progress, the political think tank headed by John Podesta, a former Clinton chief of staff.
Weller cautioned that while Americans are taking on more debt to cover higher costs, wages have not kept pace.
The majority of Americans have not socked away enough money to brace for financial setbacks such as a job loss or a medical emergency.
According to the study, less than a third of all American families have accumulated income equaling three months of their wages. The trend is particularly pronounced among the 60 percent income distribution that makes up the middle class: those with dual incomes earning from $18,500 to $88,030 a year.
From 2001 to 2004, the proportion of middle-class families that has saved three months' worth of income dropped to 18.3 percent from 28.8 percent, the study said.
Higher prices for a range of things - including health care, energy, transportation, food and education - have put Americans in this position as corporate profits have risen, the study said.
It said, that five years into the current economic recovery, average job growth is one-fifth that of previous business cycles and wages are flat when inflation is factored into the equation.
To maintain day-to-day consumption, families have taken on a record amount of debt, equal to 126.4 percent of disposable income in the first quarter of 2006, according to the study.
Commenting on the study, SEIU Labor Union President Andy Stern said, "Of the total amount of our economy and income, we have the greatest share going to profits in modern history and the least amount going to wages in modern history."
"For most working Americans, things are far worse than any time certainly in recent history and at a time of an incredibly growing economy." said Stern, whose union represents 1.1 million health care workers.
Health care industry leader Abbott Laboratories Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Guidant Corp. edged higher late Thursday in New York.
Friday 29 September 2006
Former president urges Nevada voters to combat administration.
Reno, Nevada - Former President Carter urged Nevadans on Thursday to elect his Democratic son, Jack, to the Senate to help combat a Bush administration he says has brought "international disgrace" to the United States.
"This country is now more sharply divided that it has ever been," the former president told a crowd of at least 300 at the University of Nevada, Reno.
"I've been deeply embarrassed as a civil rights advocate that we have had the American government stand convicted around the world as one of the greatest abusers of civil rights," said Carter, the 2002 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
"What has happened the last five years has brought discouragement and sometimes international disgrace to our great country," he said.
Jack Carter is bidding to unseat Republican Sen. John Ensign. Both father and son said Ensign must go because he has voted 96 percent of the time with the Bush administration, which they said has bungled foreign policy while cutting taxes for the rich to the detriment of working Americans.
"What has happened in the last five years has been a radical departure from what all previous presidents have done, including George Bush Sr., and Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower," the former president said, listing the last five Republican presidents.
"We have never before in this nation had a policy of pre-emptive war, which means we go to war against people not because they are a danger to our country, but because our government feels another leader will not comply with the demands that come out of Washington," he said.
As a result, the US mounted "an ill-advised invasion of Iraq based on false premises, false statements and this has been the major international debacle that our country has brought on Americans," he said.
Ensign's campaign manager, Chris Carr, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Carter, who also planned a speech Thursday night at a fundraiser sponsored by the Washoe County Democratic Party, said when the United States entered Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the country was "perhaps as united as we have been since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941."
"We also had the unanimous support of every country on earth.... Every country pledged to the United States, 'We will stand by you and be a partner with you in a unanimous commitment to root out terrorism around the world,'" he said.
"We frittered that away. We gave it up by going into Afghanistan in the beginning and then in an ill-advised departure from the war on terrorism, we decided to invade Iraq and we let Al-Qaida build up its strength and we let Osama Bin Laden escape."
Charges of Peace Abandonment
Carter also criticized the Bush administration for rejecting or publicly abandoning "every single nuclear arms control agreement ever negotiated since the time of Dwight Eisenhower" and cutting off all attempts to negotiate peacefully with Iran, North Korean and Palestine.
"For the first time in history since Israel became a nation, this administration for the last five years has absolutely refused to have any substantive peace talks between Israel and its troubled neighbors," he said.
"It's a total abandonment of the finer aspects of America that made us great in the past as we brought agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, first of all, secondly with Egypt and also with Jordan," he said.
It was the second consecutive day the former president campaigned for his son, making appearances on Wednesday in the rural communities of Fallon and Elko.
"These are not Democratic strongholds. I'll admit I used Dad a little bit as bait," Jack Carter said, noting that Bush carried 70 percent of the vote in Nevada's rural counties against Democrat John Kerry in 2004.
Jack Carter said his family is pitching in to mount a "retail" campaign to help introduce his ideas, especially to rural voters.
"Our polls show when people meet us, they like us better than the other guy," he said.
"I tell people I'm a Democrat because Democrats are for the working men and women in this country and Republicans are not," he said.
The Los Angeles Times
Friday 29 September 2006
The bill would allow easier monitoring of e-mails and phone records of US citizens during terror probes.
Washington - The House voted late Thursday to rewrite the nation's domestic wiretap laws, giving President Bush new power to monitor the e-mail and phone records of US citizens during terrorism investigations without having to obtain court approval.
But lawmakers were unlikely to deliver final legislation to the White House before leaving this weekend for the election campaign, a setback for the administration, which has made national security a pillar of its strategy to maintain Republican control of Congress.
The House measure would endorse the once-secret program Bush launched after Sept. 11, authorizing the National Security Agency to monitor international communications between terrorism suspects and people in the US without first obtaining warrants. It would also set new rules for warrantless surveillance during emergencies and give Congress a bigger role in monitoring the surveillance.
The measure was approved, 232 to 191, with 18 Democrats supporting it. Thirteen Republicans opposed the bill.
The action came as the Senate was immersed in approving another Bush priority: legislation setting procedures for trials of military detainees and interrogating terrorism suspects.
Some lawmakers said the Senate could still take up the wiretap issue in a lame-duck session after the Nov. 7 election. Failing that, Bush would be deprived of congressional backing for what he has called one of the administration's most important anti-terrorism programs.
The House and Senate bills generally would expand executive power to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance, but they differ in key respects.
Each bill would change the definition of electronic surveillance so that in most cases warrants would be required only if the communication occurred within the US or if a person in the US was intentionally targeted. If the target was outside the US - as Bush has described his NSA program - then court review would not be required.
That would be a big change from current law, which requires a court order to intercept calls or e-mails into or out of the US.
Critics said the bills would greatly expand surveillance of citizens without court approval.
"They would allow more warrantless surveillance of Americans than has ever before been approved by statute in US history," said Lisa Graves, a legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union.
The revisions would alter the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which created a secret court to handle Justice Department requests for electronic surveillance in terrorism and espionage cases. Bush acknowledged that he had bypassed the court when he ordered the NSA program, saying he had the power under the Constitution to ignore the intelligence statute.
Republicans said Thursday that the act needed updating to reflect new technologies used by terrorists. They portrayed critics as putting the country at risk by refusing to give the administration adequate tools to fight the war on terrorism.
"This bill is reasonable," said Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M.), its sponsor. "We are trying to modernize the electronic surveillance act of this country, so we are allowing our intelligence agencies to collect the intelligence to keep us safe while also putting in place rules of the road to protect civil liberties."
Democrats said the legislation abridged civil liberties and invaded the privacy rights of ordinary citizens to be free of unreasonable searches without a court order.
"The president wants to go on a fishing expedition," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), "but he doesn't want to get a fishing license."
The GOP leadership blocked consideration of amendments to the legislation.
A bipartisan group of House members, including Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), had proposed to increase the number of judges who hear wiretap cases and give the administration more time to seek warrants in emergencies.
The action came nine months after the disclosure in media reports that Bush had ordered the NSA to monitor international communications between terrorism suspects abroad and people in this country. The disclosure initially raised broad concern that the administration had violated the FISA law.
On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was skeptical that the NSA bills would be approved in the lame-duck session but said a consensus had developed in Congress "that the program should be authorized by Congress."
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he was hopeful that the Senate would take up the NSA bill after the election.
Bush urged Senate Republicans to pass the NSA bill, Cornyn said in an interview outside the Senate chamber.
"There's been a lot of people in Congress who've been complaining that Congress has been left out of its role in this program, and now this bill specifically provides Congress such a role," he said.
"It would be ironic if we didn't pass it."
The House bill would permit warrantless surveillance in the wake of terrorist attacks and in cases where attacks were considered "imminent," so long as the administration notified selected members of Congress. The law now allows for warrantless surveillance for 15 days only when Congress declares war.
The Senate legislation takes a somewhat different tack. It would enable the president to create surveillance "programs" that were approved in advance by the FISA court and could later monitor individuals without another court order.
The Senate bill also includes language that encourages the president to obtain court review of the NSA program but does not require such a review.
The administration's program suffered another setback Thursday when a federal judge in Detroit, who has declared the NSA program unconstitutional, turned down a Justice Department request for an indefinite stay of her ruling.
The Justice Department asked US Judge Anna Diggs Taylor to allow the program to continue pending an appeal.
Taylor denied that request, but she gave the government seven days to seek a stay from the appeals court to allow the program to continue.
"A stay is necessary to ensure that this vital intelligence-gathering program is not interrupted," Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos. "We believe there would be a dramatic risk of harm to the nation if the Terrorist Surveillance Program was halted by court order at this point."
Taylor ruled Aug. 17 that the program violates the rights to free speech and privacy under the Constitution.
Times staff writer Richard Simon contributed to this report.
t r u t h o u t | Report
Friday 29 September 2006
Richard Clarke was right. So was Paul O'Neill. During the six months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration paid little attention to the threat from al-Qaeda and instead set the stage for a war with Iraq.
Two weeks before 9/11, national security wasn't even a top priority for the Bush administration. Security - job security, health security and national security - was last on a list of major issues Bush planned to deal with in the fall of 2001, according to a transcript of a speech Bush gave on August 31, 2001, to celebrate the launch of the White House's new web site.
Clarke exposed the Bush administration's attitude toward Islamic terrorists in his book Against All Enemies and said the Bush administration was obsessed with Iraq in the months leading up to 9/11. Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury Secretary, made similar accusations in the book The Price of Loyalty, and he, like Clarke, was branded a liar and a disgruntled former White House employee by administration officials.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, in an attempt to rewrite history, told the New York Post in a wide-ranging interview this week that the Clinton administration had failed to leave a comprehensive plan in place for the incoming Bush administration on how to deal with bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist organization - a patently false accusation that smacks of election-season politics at play.
The Rice interview with the New York Post has received a considerable amount of attention in mainstream media circles during the past week and has once again raised questions about who should bear the blame for failing to act on the threat posed by bin Laden - Bush or Clinton.
Rice's assertion that the Bush White House acted swiftly against al-Qaeda is disingenuous at best. An extensive search of more than 400 news stories available on Lexis Nexus between January 1 and September 10, 2001, show that Rice never once spoke about the threat posed by al-Qaeda or its leader Osama bin Laden.
When Rice discussed terrorism in public speeches and interviews in 2001, she applied the word "terrorism" to nations such as Iraq, and then followed it up by promoting President Bush's National Missile Defense strategy. The White House wanted to build a missile defense system to defend the United States against small-scale missile attack by so-called rogue states like North Korea, Iraq and Iran.
As early as January 2000, Rice was trying to sell a war with Iraq. It was then that she wrote an article for Foreign Affairs magazine titled "Campaign 2000 - Promoting the National Interest," in which she promotes regime change in Iraq, but fails to mention threats from Islamic fundamentalist groups such as al-Qaeda.
"As history marches toward markets and democracy, some states have been left by the side of the road. Iraq is the prototype. Saddam Hussein's regime is isolated, his conventional military power has been severely weakened, his people live in poverty and terror, and he has no useful place in international politics. He is therefore determined to develop WMD. Nothing will change until Saddam is gone, so the United States must mobilize whatever resources it can, including support from his opposition, to remove him. These regimes are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them."
Rice echoed that line in August 2000, during an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, in which she said Iraq posed the gravest threat to the US and the world.
"The containment of Iraq should be aimed ultimately at regime change, because as long as Saddam is there no one in the region is safe - most especially his own people," she said during the August 9, 2000, interview. "If Saddam gives you a reason to use force against him, then use decisive force, not just a pinprick."
On July 29, 2001, Rice was interviewed by CNN's John King. She was asked how the United States would respond to missiles Iraq fired at US war planes patrolling the no-fly zones. She didn't mince words with her answer.
"Well, the president has made very clear that he considers Saddam Hussein to be a threat to his neighbors, a threat to security in the region, in fact a threat to international security more broadly," Rice said. "And he has reserved the right to respond when that threat becomes one that he wishes no longer to tolerate."
"But I can be certain of this, and the world can be certain of this: Saddam Hussein is on the radar screen for the administration. The administration is working hard with a number of our friends and allies to have a policy that is broad; that does look at the sanctions as something that should be restructured so that we have smart sanctions that go after the regime, not after the Iraqi people; that does look at the role of opposition in creating an environment and a regime in Baghdad that the people of Iraq deserve, rather than the one that they have; and one that looks at use of military force in a more resolute manner, and not just a manner of tit-for-tat with him every day."
The question of whether the Bush administration targeted Iraq prior to 9/11 has long been the center of heated debate between Democrats and Republicans. The Bush administration says Iraq was not in its crosshairs prior to 9/11. But former White House officials, such as Clarke and O'Neill, claim the administration was searching for reasons to attack Iraq as soon as Bush took office in January 2001.
A January 11, 2001, article in the New York Times, "Iraq Is Focal Point as Bush Meets With Joint Chiefs," should finally put an end to that debate.
"George W. Bush, the nation's commander in chief to be, went to the Pentagon today for a top-secret session with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review hot spots around the world where he might have to send American forces into harm's way," reads the first paragraph of the Times article.
Bush was joined at the Pentagon meeting by Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
The Times reported that "about half of the 75-minute meeting ... focused on a discussion about Iraq and the Persian Gulf, two participants said. Iraq was the first topic briefed because 'it's the most visible and most risky area' Mr. Bush will confront after he takes office, one senior officer said."
"Iraqi policy is very much on his mind," one senior Pentagon official told the Times. "Saddam was clearly a discussion point."
On June 22, 2001, President Bush spoke briefly about terrorism during a speech in Alabama, but, like Rice, Bush uses the word "terrorist" to describe rogue nations, not terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, and to gain support for his National Missile Defense policy.
"It's time to come together and to think about a new security arrangement that addresses the threats of the 21st century," Bush said, according to a transcript of his remarks.
"And the threats of the 21st century will be terrorist in nature, terror when it comes to weaponry. What we must do - freedom-loving people must be willing to think differently and develop anti-ballistic missile systems that will say to rogue nations and leaders who cannot stand America, or what we stand for: you will not blackmail us, nor will you blackmail our allies."
Clarke was right. Our government failed us. Worse, they lied too.
Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.
Inter Press Service
Thursday 28 September 2006
New York - Demonstrations, marches, rallies, vigils and prayer meetings continue to take place in dozens of cities across the United States this week as part of a nationwide campaign aiming to force the administration of President George W. Bush and Congress to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Since last Thursday, when more than 500 anti-war groups and religious organisations signed on to the "Declaration of Peace", some 250 activists have been arrested in various cities for taking part in nonviolent actions.
In addition to demanding a "prompt timetable" for the withdrawal of the 130,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Iraq, the declaration calls for the closure of bases, a peace process for security, reconstruction, and reconciliation; and a shift of funding from the military to meeting human needs.
Organisers conducted more than 375 actions of civil disobedience and protest in all parts of the country, including Lincoln, Nebraska; Houston, Texas; Des Moines, Idaho; Little Rock, Arkansas; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Fayetteville, North Carolina - which is home to Fort Bragg, the largest U.S. army installation in the world.
Though the campaign is heavily dominated by faith-based groups, many lawmakers, former military veterans, women's groups and immigrant organisations are also actively participating in the ongoing protests, which were scheduled to wind down Thursday.
The first arrests took place in Washington last week when activists tried to deliver copies of the declaration to officials in the George W. Bush administration as part of their pledge to get involved in actions of civil disobedience.
Other actions that involved arrests were organised at the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as at Congressional offices, military bases and military recruitment centres.
Aware that many politicians are reluctant to join the campaign because they do not want to be branded as unpatriotic, religious leaders are hoping that their call for peace might give the government moral courage to set a firm deadline to end the occupation of Iraq.
"As citizens and people of faith, we must be our country's conscience," said Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, one of 34 activists arrested for taking part in the White House action.
Meanwhile, over 100 Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders have planned other actions to prevent a possible attack on Iran. They said they will be calling on the U.S. Congress this week to assert its "oversight function" to prevent such an eventuality.
As part of the campaign, many activists are staging sit-ins outside the residences of their elected representatives who have not voiced opposition to the Bush policy on the war in Iraq.
"We are spending billions of dollars a week on the occupation of Iraq. This money can be spent on health and education," said Molly Nolan, a 62-year-old activist who joined others in a protest outside the home of New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.
"New Yorkers need schools and jobs, not this endless war," the crowd shouted in front of Schumer's house.
"Along with other politicians, you did not speak out," said Carolyn Eisenberg, cofounder of a group called Brooklyn Parents for Peace, while directly addressing the senator. "We call upon you to show courage, to stand for principle."
Like Schumer, many Democratic lawmakers have kept their distance from the anti-war movement, but some have publicly denounced the Bush policy on Iraq.
"As a participant in the Civil Rights Movement, I have confronted violence with nonviolence. I have been beaten and left bloody in the streets to die," said Rep. John Lewis of the southern U.S. state of Georgia after signing the declaration last week.
"And what I came to realise is that our strongest weapons as a nation are not bombs and missiles," he added. "Our strongest defence is the power of our ideas. It is what we believe about democracy and respect for human dignity."
Other lawmakers who have signed the Declaration for Peace include Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Danny Davis and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, and Sam Farr, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey of California.
Despite protests and growing criticism of the war from various quarters, including several retired generals and prominent intelligence analysts, there is no sign of any flexibility in the administration's policy towards Iraq and its military strategy in the region.
Just two weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed a motion backing the president's handling of the war and rejecting a deadline for recalling U.S. forces.
With the Senate having already rejected the troop withdrawal plan, the House motion was passed 256-153 on a party-line vote. The House also endorsed a resolution rejecting "an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of troops.
Signers of the peace declaration have said if their demands are not met by the administration and the Congress towards the end of this phase of civil disobedience, they will organise another round of nonviolent actions beyond September.
"The breath and depth of actions taking place this week is a testament to the growing sentiments of the people of this country," said Leslie Cagan of United for Peace for Justice, a national antiwar coalition, who was arrested in Washington last week. "They are against the occupation of Iraq."
Since the invasion of Iraq started in March 2003, at least 100,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. military action and the subsequent suicidal attacks carried out by insurgent forces. The war has cost the United States billions of dollars and more than 2,500 human lives.
According to the latest CNN poll conducted Sep. 22-24, 59 percent of respondents oppose the Iraq war, while 33 percent say things are going "very badly" for U.S. forces in the country.