Thursday, June 30, 2005

China Is America's Biggest Threat

WASHINGTON - The threat of a trade war with China diminished Thursday when two U.S. senators agreed to postpone a pending vote on legislation that would impose a 27.5 percent tax on all Chinese-made products unless the Asian power revalued its currency.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced their decision after a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury Secretary John Snow.

"They have convinced us that the likelihood of real progress with China on currency revaluation is very real and could occur in a very short while, the next few months," Schumer told reporters. "We have agreed in delaying a vote on our bill."

Added Graham, "We're showing flexibility to create a win-win situation."

The senators' decision to postpone the expected July vote until late fall provides some breathing room for the Bush administration, which has tried quiet diplomacy to encourage China's move to an openly traded currency. So far that approach has been fruitless. On Sunday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reiterated that China is in no hurry to revalue its currency and will do so, if at all, only after careful study on its own timetable.

In a written statement after the meeting, Snow said that Chinese leaders "have agreed that it is in their best interest to adopt greater exchange rate flexibility."

The issue of China's currency and what, if anything, Washington should do about it is one of many arguments raging in the nation's capital over how to respond to the Chinese challenge. With China's economy growing by almost 10 percent a year, it's increasingly perceived not as America's next great rival on the world stage, but as America's rival today.

Already China competes with the United States for scarce commodities such as crude oil. Along with the United States, it's responsible for growth in an otherwise moribund global economy. As Washington debated whether China will be friend or foe, last week China's state oil company bid to acquire California oil giant Unocal.

In that context, the Graham-Schumer legislation drew wide support in Congress, where 67 senators endorsed it. House members led by Reps. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., back a similar effort. Most lawmakers do so recognizing, as Schumer concedes, that the measure is largely symbolic, intended more to send a message to Beijing about playing fair than to become U.S. law.

Schumer and Graham are trying to prod China to play by the same free-market rules as other trading powers. For a decade, China's government has fixed the exchange rate of its currency, the yuan, at about 8.3 to the dollar. All other major currency values are set by markets. China's fixed exchange rate makes its exports cheaper overseas, giving it what U.S. analysts believe is an unfair trade advantage.

After hearing testimony from experts that the Chinese yuan was undervalued vis-a-vis the dollar by 15 percent to 40 percent, the two senators settled on a middle figure of 27.5 percent to levy on each Chinese import until China revalues.

But imposing trade sanctions on China wouldn't bring back U.S. jobs that have been lost to low-wage competition in this era of economic globalization, Greenspan warned in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on June 23.

"At only slightly higher prices than prevail at present, U.S. imports of textiles, light manufactures, assembled computers, toys and similar products would in part shift from China as the final assembler to other emerging-market economies in Asia, and, perhaps, in Latin America as well," he said. "Few, if any, American jobs would be protected."

Moreover, China had threatened to respond in kind to any U.S. trade sanctions, heightening fears of a damaging trade war between the world's largest economy and its fastest-growing one. That could hurt Americans in many ways - perhaps even curbing the housing boom that's powering the U.S. economy.

Here's how. China, along with other Asian governments, has financed America's mammoth trade deficit by buying U.S. Treasury bonds. Through the end of June, China held $338 billion of them.

This has become problematic for the Fed. On Thursday, it raised short-term interest rates by another quarter-point to 3.25 percent, the ninth consecutive time it's done so in an effort to slow U.S. consumption and contain inflation.

Traditionally, long-term lending rates rise with hikes in short-term rates, but not in the current cycle, in part because the foreign purchases of Treasuries are pumping enough capital into the U.S. economy to keep long-term borrowing rates low. Those low long-term rates are fueling the housing boom that many analysts fear is an overheated bubble.

If China stopped or cut back sharply in purchases of Treasuries, long rates would rise, housing prices might fall, and some borrowers could have trouble paying their bills, slowing the economy or even tipping it into recession.

Fearing such consequences, Greenspan and Snow have visited the two senators privately several times in recent weeks, urging them not to provoke Beijing so rudely, even as the two U.S. financial leaders have pressed China diplomatically for similar currency reforms.

On Thursday the foursome invited cameras to record the start of their closed-door meeting in the Capitol - another way to send a message to Beijing that everyone in Washington takes this issue seriously, though they disagree on what to do about it. The message: China should act on its own, before Washington does.

--Knight Ridder Newspapers, June 30, '05

The Iraq War Started Before the War "Started"

Most American media have focused on the allegations from the Downing Street memo that the Bush administration was going to "fix" the intelligence in order to justify the war against Iraq. Now the reporter who broke the original story says they have missed a more substantial allegation to arise from the same set of leaked documents.

Michael Smith, defense writer for the Sunday Times of London wrote this past Sunday that "The American general who commanded allied air forces during the Iraq war appears to have admitted in a briefing to American and British officers that coalition aircraft waged a secret air war against Iraq from the middle of 2002, nine months before the invasion began." (This bombing capaign is referred to in the Downing Street memo.)

Addressing a briefing on lessons learned from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 "carefully selected targets" before the war officially started. The nine months of allied raids "laid the foundations" for the allied victory, Moseley said. They ensured that allied forces did not have to start the war with a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions.

If those raids exceeded the need to maintain security in the no-fly zones of southern and northern Iraq, they would leave President George W. Bush and Tony Blair vulnerable to allegations that they had acted illegally.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times last week on how he received the series of documents from two sources in the government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Smith (who originally strongly supported the war in Iraq) wrote that at first he did not consider the now famous "Downing Street Memo" the most important of the documents he received. Instead, he felt it was a separate briefing paper which showed that the Blair government would support military action, but they had to find way to do that legally.

The Downing Street plan, according to the leaked briefing paper, was to use the United Nations to trap Saddam Hussein into giving them a reason to attack. The US and the British would do this by prodding "the UN Security Council to give the Iraqi leader an ultimatum to let in the weapons inspectors." It was hoped that Hussein would find this unacceptable, giving them a "legal justification for war."

But if that didn't work, the US was already working on "Plan B," and the information on that was in the Downing Street memo.

It quotes British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that "the US had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime." This we now realize was Plan B [and apparently confirmed by Gen. Moseley's comments mentioned above]. Put simply, US aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs in the hope of provoking a reaction that would give the allies an excuse to carry out a full-scale bombing campaign, an air war, the first stage of the conflict.
The number of bombs dropped on Iraq in March and April of 2002 was almost zero. But from May to August, that increased to 10 tons a month.

But these initial "spikes of activity" didn't have the desired effect. The Iraqis didn't retaliate. They didn't provide the excuse Bush and Blair needed. So at the end of August, the allies dramatically intensified the bombing into what was effectively the initial air war. The number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq by allied aircraft shot up to 54.6 tons in September alone, with the increased rates continuing into 2003.

In other words, Bush and Blair began their war not in March 2003, as everyone believed, but at the end of August 2002, six weeks before Congress approved military action against Iraq.
And in another story on June 19th for the Times, Smith reported that another of the leaked documents, a paper on British Foreign Office legal advice, showed that the increased bombing campaign was "illegal" under international law, despite US claims to the contrary.

" ... the leaked Foreign Office legal advice, which was also appended to the Cabinet Office briefing paper for the July [2002] meeting [where the contents of the Downing Street memo wer recorded], made it clear allied aircraft were legally entitled to patrol the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq only to deter attacks by Saddam’s forces on the Kurdish and Shia populations.

The allies had no power to use military force to put pressure of any kind on the regime.
Smith also writes that since Congress did not authorize military action against Iraq until Oct. 11, 2002, "the revelations indicate Bush may also have acted illegally."

In an interview with (an alternative news source that covers stories under-reported by the mainstream media), John Pike of, a military defense analysis group, said his organization had raised questions about the increase in bombing in August of 2002. "The group saw the strikes as a means by which the US could degrade Iraqi defensive capabilities, and as a precursor to a declared war."

"It was no big secret at the time," [said Mr. Pike]. "It was apparent to us at the time that they were doing it and why they were doing it, and that was part of the reason why we were convinced that a decision to go to war had already been made, because the war had already started." Pike says the allied forces used their position in the 'No-Fly- Zone' to engage in pre-emptive action long before war was formally declared.

"They, I think, had decided to take advantage of Southern Watch and Northern Watch to go ahead and take the air defense system apart and attack any other targets that they felt needed to be preemptively destroyed," Pike asserted. "They explicitly altered the rules of engagement, because initially the rules of engagement had been that they would shoot back if [someone] shot at them. Then they said that if they were shot at, they would shoot at whatever they wanted to."
The conservative commentary blog,, however, offers another explanation for the increased bombing – that the US and Britain were trying to force Hussein into complying with coalition requests for him to readmit weapons inspectors. And besides, the site argues, "what if Blair and Bush were trying to goad Hussein into putting a noose around his neck?"

Do you consider that, perhaps, Bush and Blair had determined that Hussein needed to go, once and for all? Perhaps they had good reason to believe that this leopard was not going to change his spots, and wasn't going to stop menacing the neighborhood. Then, maybe Blair and Bush looked around, saw the irresoluteness of the UN, saw the military weakness and political spinelessness of the other major nations on Earth (the nations of "Old Europe", for instance), and determined that, if someone is going to have to fight Hussein – that someone is US! Best fight him now, as opposed to fighting him a few years from now, after UN sanctions have collapsed and he's had a chance to upgun.
The Wall Street Journal reports on how the blogosphere has kept the story of the Downing Street Memo alive despite efforts by Blair and Bush, who have not denied the authenticity of the original document, to put it to rest. On Thursday, Blair admitted that he has been "astonished" by the coverage that the memo had received in the US and Britain.

Finally, in an ironic footnote to the incident, reported that the number of bombs dropped on Iraq actually declined after the start of the war in March, 2003.

--Christian Science Monitor, June 30

Reagan Was

We have to ask ourselves now, not what would Jesus do, but what would Reagan do. Yes, I remember when Ronnie was president for that loooonnng period of time and what it felt like and what he did, yes, what he personally did. Not what Nancy did or TOLD him to do, or what the Ayatollah did or what Gorby did but what Reagan did. Like him or not he was a force to be reckoned with and with Margaret Thatcher by his side they exerted the pressure of two big old fat bulls in the china shop and I don't think you can even compare George W. to Ronnie because there is no comparison and I'm no Republican. Reagan was.

Who to Trust?

Does it boil your bowels that the liberals on the Supreme Court made it possible for a corporation like Wal-Mart to buy your property, whether you like it or not, and determine what a fair price is so that they can then build their Wal-Mart that's so important to society? So important to society that they think that's more important than the pursuit of happiness, I guess. Which means that the American dream of the little house with white picket fence as modern man's castle against the world, a cave to retire to isn't even safe from the Federal government. This Republican government, which is supposed to be so concerned about state's rights. I guess we live in an oligarchy, and the people in charge fail us no matter where they stand according to the political continuum. Who to trust?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Little Humility Would Go a Long Way

Published: June 28, 2005

The reality is that the Bush administration's choices have made Iraq into what it wasn't before the war - a breeding ground for jihadists. Today there are 16,000 to 20,000 jihadists and the number is growing. The administration has put itself - and, tragically, our troops, who pay the price every day - in a box of its own making. Getting out of this box won't be easy, but we owe it to our soldiers to make our best effort.

Our mission in Iraq is harder because the administration ignored the advice of others, went in largely alone, underestimated the likelihood and power of the insurgency, sent in too few troops to secure the country, destroyed the Iraqi army through de-Baathification, failed to secure ammunition dumps, refused to recognize the urgency of training Iraqi security forces and did no postwar planning. A little humility would go a long way - coupled with a strategy to succeed.

So what should the president say tonight? The first thing he should do is tell the truth to the American people. Happy talk about the insurgency being in "the last throes" leads to frustrated expectations at home. It also encourages reluctant, sidelined nations that know better to turn their backs on their common interest in keeping Iraq from becoming a failed state.

The president must also announce immediately that the United States will not have a permanent military presence in Iraq. Erasing suspicions that the occupation is indefinite is critical to eroding support for the insurgency.

He should also say that the United States will insist that the Iraqis establish a truly inclusive political process and meet the deadlines for finishing the Constitution and holding elections in December. We're doing our part: our huge military presence stands between the Iraqi people and chaos, and our special forces protect Iraqi leaders. The Iraqis must now do theirs.

He also needs to put the training of Iraqi troops on a true six-month wartime footing and ensure that the Iraqi government has the budget needed to deploy them. The administration and the Iraqi government must stop using the requirement that troops be trained in-country as an excuse for refusing offers made by Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany to do more.

The administration must immediately draw up a detailed plan with clear milestones and deadlines for the transfer of military and police responsibilities to Iraqis after the December elections. The plan should be shared with Congress. The guideposts should take into account political and security needs and objectives and be linked to specific tasks and accomplishments. If Iraqis adopt a constitution and hold elections as planned, support for the insurgency should fall and Iraqi security forces should be able to take on more responsibility. It will also set the stage for American forces to begin to come home.

Iraq, of course, badly needs a unified national army, but until it has one - something that our generals now say could take two more years - it should make use of its tribal, religious and ethnic militias like the Kurdish pesh merga and the Shiite Badr Brigade to provide protection and help with reconstruction. Instead of single-mindedly focusing on training a national army, the administration should prod the Iraqi government to fill the current security gap by integrating these militias into a National Guard-type force that can provide security in their own areas.

The administration must work with the Iraqi government to establish a multinational force to help protect its borders. Such a force, if sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, could attract participation by Iraq's neighbors and countries like India.

The deployment of capable security forces is critical, but it alone will not end the insurgency, as the administration would have us believe. Hamstrung by its earlier lack of planning and overly optimistic predictions for rebuilding Iraq, the administration has failed to devote equal attention to working with the Iraqi government on the economic and political fronts. Consequently, reconstruction is lagging even in the relatively secure Shiite south and Kurdish north. If Iraqis, particularly Sunnis who fear being disenfranchised, see electricity flowing, jobs being created, roads and sewers being rebuilt and a democratic government being formed, the allure of the insurgency will decrease.

Iraq's Sunni neighbors, who complain they are left out, could do more to help. Even short-term improvements, like providing electricity and supplying diesel fuel - an offer that the Saudis have made but have yet to fulfill - will go a long way. But we need to give these nations a strategic plan for regional security, acknowledging their fears of an Iran-dominated crescent and their concerns about our fitful mediation between Israel and the Palestinians in return for their help in rebuilding Iraq, protecting its borders, and bringing its Sunnis into the political process.

The next months are critical to Iraq's future and our security. If Mr. Bush fails to take these steps, we will stumble along, our troops at greater risk, casualties rising, costs rising, the patience of the American people wearing thin, and the specter of quagmire staring us in the face. Our troops deserve better: they deserve leadership equal to their sacrifice.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

There Are So Many Things Right About This Photograph

This is a pirated photo of Larry "Wildman" Fischer, a Frank Zappa protege from the 1960s and I'm not posting this because I like Frank Zappa or Fischer; I think this photo could serve as a metaphor for our times. Here you have a man, nearly schizophrenic by all accounts, who was used by Frank Zappa (as Zappa and others like Andy Warhol used their acolytes even as they provided them with their "fame"), and ended up making television appearances on TV shows like "Laugh-In" where in the tumultous 60s anybody that "way-out" was "way-in." It's a fucked-up commentary on the Sixties that indeed a man with genuine mental problems fit right in with the countculture, right? Schizophrenics and acid-heads making excellent bedfellows, until the acid wears off, I assume. Most would agree that schizophrenia doesn't "wear-off." Ok, tangent here, acid being to the white middle-class kids who mainly used it some sort of bizarre act of "slumming." Turn on and then one could experience almost like a temporary schizophrenia.

If you look at this photo with your most honest eye, you'll see that it sums up the rebellious nature of the United States nearly perfectly -- and that along with the black and white of the image there are many shades of grey. This photo appears to be of a disheveled man holding a U.S. flag in front of a staircase. Drop out those shades of grey and you would have an incomplete picture. The shades of grey are necessary to make a complete picture. Those who see the world in only black and white have been fooled by charlatans.

Charlatan, n. -- a person who makes elaborate, fraudulent, and often voluble claims to skill or knowledge; a quack or fraud. [French, from Italian ciarlatano, probably an alteration of cerretano, inhabitant of Cerreto, a city of Italy once famous for its quacks] source.

Who would want an imperfect or false picture of the world? More importantly who would *choose* to accept a false picture of the world *knowing* it false? The case could be made that life's complexities in this Age of Information have become too daunting for most.

Ernest Hemingway once said that the key to becoming a great writer was possession of a foolproof "bullshit detector." It seems that many people these days not only are minus their "bullshit detector" but their very will to discover the truth has eroded. I've commented much recently that the "well," meaning the news media, has been poisoned and that many now no longer trust any news source as objective. Objective news is the lifeblood of a democracy. Subjective news pieces, which are merely opinions based on fact and not factual reporting per se, are always used as examples by those who cannot find any facts to support their views. Be very wary of those who use mere opinion to support their views. Opinions are statements which cannot be supported by empirical evidence.

Their goal is to lead you up those stairs and off the roof of the that building. Schizophrenics always smile.

Now They Can Seize Your Property

from Counterpunch, June 26, 05


So much for the right to die in your own home, smoking a joint to take your mind off the pain. Thanks to the liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court, the feds can haul you to prison from from your death bed for smoking medical marijuana and any local authority RAZE YOUR HOUSE AND GIVE THE LAND TO WAL-MART for a parking lot.

On June 6, by a vote of 6-3, the Court ruled that Federal authorities may prosecute sick people who smoke pot on doctors' orders. The court’s apex liberal, Stevens, wrote the majority decision. The conservative Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the dissent, saying that the court was overreaching to endorse "making it a federal crime to grow small amounts of marijuana in one's own home for one's own medicinal use”.

Ranged with Stevens in the majority were Ginsburg and Breyer, along with Kennedy (regarded as more conservative than this first trio), plus the supposed libertarian, Souter and Scalia, the most conceited judge in America. Of course Scalia had to file his own opinion proffering a "more nuanced" analysis, to the general effect that Congress had the right to pass “necessary and proper laws”.

Then, on June 23, the Court’s liberals, plus Souter and Kennedy decreed that between private property rights on the one side, and big-time developers with the city council in their pockets on the other, the latter wins every time.

The issue was one of eminent domain. Stevens wrote the majority opinion, declaring blandly that promoting economic development [translation, a Walmart in every neighborhood] is a traditional and long-accepted function of government," and that if the underpinning of a public authority wielding the bludgeon of eminent domain is “public purpose”, then "Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose."

“Traditionally broad” just about sums it up. In the case of General Motors, as George Corsetti recalled on this site a while ago the “public purpose” invoked by GM’s gofer, Mayor Coleman Young of Detroit, was to destroy a Polish community to turn the land over to GM for a new plant.

Stevens said that state legislatures and courts were best at "discerning local public needs". *(After you’re done with this Diary, you can find Corsetti’s comments on the decision, here on our site this weekend.) And, once again, O’Connor wrote the dissent, a fine one, in which she stated that "The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more” and “Who among us can say she already makes the most productive or attractive use of her property?"

O’Connor added: "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

Thomas also wrote an excellent dissent which I’m sure had Jane Jacobs nodding approval. He called the decision "far-reaching and dangerous," and noting correctly that those displaced by urban renewal and "slum clearance" over the years have tended to be lower-income members of minority groups. "The court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution".

Liberals love eminent domain, as much as conservatives love the death penalty, and like many liberal passions it destroys far more lives than the gas chamber or the lethal needle.

The case on which the Court ruled was known as Kelo v. City of New London. In the decorous prose of Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times, it concerned “a large-scale plan to replace a faded residential neighborhood with office space for research and development, a conference hotel, new residences and a pedestrian "riverwalk" along the Thames River. The project, to be leased and built by private developers, is designed to derive maximum benefit for the city from a $350 million research center built nearby by Pfizer Inc., the big pharmaceutical company.”

I assume every CounterPuncher can figure out what this really means. God help all “faded residential neighborhoods”. Well, if the poor folks work really hard maybe they’ll be able to go live in the Grand Hyatt or Towne Plaza raised on the rubble of their homes.
That GM plant in Detroit? The city said it would clear 465 acres of land in the center of Detroit, 1,500 homes, 144 businesses, 16 churches, a school and a hospital. Some 3,500 were forced out--and turn it over to GM which would build a new Cadillac factory that would employ 6,500 workers.

As Corsetti wrote,

“Ultimately, all 465 acres of Poletown was cleared and GM built the plant. The auto plant opening was delayed a year and employed less than half the promised 6,500 workers. By one account more jobs were lost from the destruction of Poletown than were created by the factory. The city also believed that the new plant would attract other, feeder plants, nearby. They never materialized, and with tax abatements and other incentives, it was a fiscal disaster for the city.”

"Quagmire...Could Force a Draft"

Wisconsin senator says Americans are getting frustrated

By Patty Brandl
Fond Du Lac Reporter, Wisconsin, June 26, 05

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has introduced a resolution in the U.S. Senate calling on President Bush to create a timetable for achieving goals and withdrawing American troops from Iraq.

“Disappointment about Iraq is deepening. The majority of Wisconsinites are very skeptical of the way the war is going,” Feingold, D-Wis., said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning. “We didn’t sign up for an indefinite occupation of Iraq.”

The Wisconsin senator said there are three important questions the administration must answer:

-- What is our mission?

-- What is our time frame in which our mission can be accomplished?

-- And over what period of time can our exit happen?

It’s not a cut-and-run strategy, he said. Troops would have to remain, particularly to provide training for the Iraqi military. And the United States will have to concentrate on making resources available to help the Iraqi people rebuild their government and their country.

According to an Associated Press story, President Bush continues to press his argument that U.S. troops cannot specify a timetable for withdrawal until Iraq is assured of victory over the insurgents.

Bush to address troops

The president will make a direct appeal to the American public in an address to troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Tuesday night with a call “to complete a mission” the United States has started in Iraq. The White House is asking television news networks to make live air time available.

Feingold said a clear plan would help in budgeting more responsibly for current and future military needs.

The resolution does not set up a time frame for troop withdrawal. Feingold said that’s something for the military commanders to decide. It does, however, call for a commitment by Bush to set a tentative schedule for withdrawal within 30 days of its passage.

The senator said he returns to Wisconsin almost every weekend. When he meets with his constituents, he has noticed the number of people who approach him asking when the U.S. government can bring their sons and daughters home has been on the rise.

“Soldiers are dying, the pace is increasing, and the people of Iraq are dying daily,” Feingold said. “Our defense is being weakened.”

With five more Wisconsin soldiers killed in Iraq in recent months, he said it’s time to give people a vision of a plan for U.S. troops coming home.

Volunteer army tested

“About 7,000 of our 10,000 people in the National Guard have had to go over there,” he said. “Our volunteer army concept is great. But some in the army are saying the military is in desperate straits.”

Bush, speaking at a press conference Friday with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, urged support for the U.S. effort in Iraq.

“They (terrorists) know that ... the carnage that they wreak will be on TV,” Bush said. “They know that it bothers people to see death. And it does. It bothers me. It bothers American citizens. It bothers Iraqis. They’re trying to shake our will. ... And so, of course, we understand the nature of that enemy.

“We also understand that there is reason to be optimistic about what’s taking place,” said Bush, pointing to the development of a new, democratic government in Iraq and training of Iraqi security forces that ultimately must defend the nation.

Feingold said he’s concerned that if the military operations extend indefinitely, it could require more troops than would be available under the current volunteer military structure.

“If it becomes a quagmire, it could force a draft,” he said. “I oppose a draft, but I do understand why they might need it if things go on as they are.”

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Rage, rage against the lying of the right!

(Actually, I DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH EVERYONE on the right. My apologies to the author for the hatchet job.)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the lying of the Right.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the lying of the Right.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the lying of the Right.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the lying of the Right.

Dick Cheney, Meet Reality

The Roanoke Times, June 25, 05

The vice president's long-overdue introduction to reality came courtesy of Gen. John P. Abizaid's testimony Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee that directly contradicted Cheney's rosy assessment of an Iraq insurgency in its "last throes." Abizaid made it clear that the insurgency was every bit as strong as it was six months ago and that foreign fighters were still joining the battle. A few days before, Abizaid told the Houston Chronicle that the United States was in for an indefinite fight that would "cost in blood and treasure."

Cheney remained as resistant to such assessments as he was to giving any consideration prior to the war that his belief that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators in Iraq might be wrong. "If you look at what the dictionary says about 'throes,' it can be a, you know, a violent period, the throes of a revolution," Cheney said on CNN after Abizaid's testimony.

As American confidence in President Bush's adventure in Iraq erodes, such persistent disdain for confronting reality will not offer much comfort.
Nor will the kind of partisan rhetoric exercised by White House adviser Karl Rove, who said the liberal response to the 9/11 attacks was to offer "therapy and understanding to our attackers," while conservatives "prepared for war."

Unfortunately, they mostly prepared for the wrong war. From the beginning, the real focus of the Bush administration was on Iraq, not Afghanistan, whose ruling Taliban had provided a safe harbor and training ground for al-Qaida.

Once the Taliban fell, resources were quickly diverted from the fight to wipe out al-Qaida and bring Osama bin Laden to justice to preparing for the invasion of Iraq - which had no connection to the terrorist attacks.

That invasion, according to a report by the CIA, turned Iraq into a training ground that will produce more proficient terrorists than Afghanistan. The report says that Iraqi and foreign fighters are developing a broad range of skills in Iraq's urban environments. Once the insurgency is over, the

CIA fears the terrorists will disperse and take those skills around the globe.

Calls for Rove to apologize for his remarks miss the broader point. Though his comments inexcusably ignored the shared outrage and national unity that marked the months after 9/11, the real apology should come from Cheney, President Bush and the other architects of the disastrous Iraq war.

Friday, June 24, 2005

What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and ....

Across the board we have people in charge who do stupid things like this. It's unbelievable.


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a victory for cities, a divided Supreme Court concluded Thursday that local governments have the authority to seize private land and turn the property over to private developers for economic development.

Government's authority to condemn land for public use traditionally has been used to eliminate slums or build highways, schools and other public works.

But Tuesday's 5-4 ruling found that local officials can use their "eminent domain" power to condemn homes in a working-class neighborhood for private development in hopes of boosting tax revenue and improving the local economy.

Connecticut case

The case pitted the city of New London, Connecticut, against homeowner Susette Kelo and six other families who were trying to keep the municipality from condemning their homes for use as part of a redevelopment project, centered around a $270 million global research facility built by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Kelo and her neighbors filed suit, arguing their property rights were being violated by well-connected developers. But the Supreme Court found the city could go forward with the project and condemn the homes.

"Promoting economic development is a traditional and long-accepted function of government," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

O'Connor: Court overstepped

But writing for the dissenters, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that the court overstepped its authority.

"The court today significantly expands the meaning of public use," O'Connor wrote. "It holds that the sovereign may take private property currently put to ordinary private use, and give it over for new, ordinary private use."

Scott Bullock, the homeowners' lawyer, said, "Every home, church or corner store" would be vulnerable to being replaced by commercial development under the ruling, "since they produce more tax revenue." He said a very high standard should be used when applying eminent domain since "every city has problems and wants more tax revenues."

Stevens concluded that the city's plan "unquestionably serves a public purpose" and the majority appeared to defer to the judgment of local officials over the courts to navigate that standard.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue," he wrote.

Cities hail the decision

The National League of Cities hailed the decision, saying it would allow cities to keep "one of their most effective tools for ensuring economic development."

"Eminent domain is not a power to be used lightly," Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, the group's president, said in a written statement. "We must be sensitive to those who may be displaced. However, as part of a legislative process, with citizen input and discussion, it is one of the most powerful tools city officials have to rejuvenate their neighborhoods."

The case stems from New London's 2000 plan to redevelop 90 acres of the Fort Trumball neighborhood. The city council transferred eminent domain power to the New London Development Corporation, a private, non-profit group of citizens, business owners and community leaders.

The company wants to build a conference center, hotel complex, offices, condominiums and, eventually, an aquarium in New London, located about 125 miles east of New York.

Residents were ordered out of their homes in 2000, but several rejected the city's compensation package and fought the move in court.

"There's no amount of money that can compensate for what the other side of that coin would be," said Matt Dery, who said his family has lived in Fort Trumball for a century. "Truly, my parents don't want to wake up rich ... they just want to wake up tomorrow where they live."

'Blow to homeowners'

The libertarian Cato Institute, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Kelo's behalf, called the decision a "blow to homeowners and small business people."

"With today's decision, no one's property is safe, since any time a government official thinks someone else can make better use of your property than you're doing, he can order it condemned and transferred," Roger Pilon, the group's director of constitutional studies, said in a written statement.

Wesley Horton, an attorney for New London, said the city understands the situation the homeowners face, "but you have to remember that can happen if there was a road going in, or a school. It doesn't make any difference what type of condemnation there is.

"Obviously that's a sad situation, there's no question about it," he said. "But you can't have one rule for roads and another rule for blight and a third rule for economic development. It's all the same thing."

Joining Stevens in the majority were justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and Anthony Kennedy. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined O'Connor's dissent.

In a concurring opinion, Thomas predicted the ruling would cause long-term problems.

"The consequence of today's decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful," he wrote. "So-called 'urban renewal' programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted by uprooting them from their homes."

The case is Kelo v. City of New London (04-0108).

CNN, June 24, 05

Sunday, June 19, 2005

White House Doctors Environmental Reports Again and Again

By Julie Cart
LA Times Staff Writer

June 18, 2005

The Bush administration altered critical portions of a scientific analysis of the environmental impact of cattle grazing on public lands before announcing Thursday that it would relax regulations limiting grazing on those lands, according to scientists involved in the study.

A government biologist and a hydrologist, who both retired this year from the Bureau of Land Management, said their conclusions that the proposed new rules might adversely affect water quality and wildlife, including endangered species, were excised and replaced with language justifying less stringent regulations favored by cattle ranchers.

Grazing regulations, which affect 160 million acres of public land in the Western U.S., set the conditions under which ranchers may use that land, and guide government managers in determining how many cattle may graze, where and for how long without harming natural resources.

The original draft of the environmental analysis warned that the new rules would have a "significant adverse impact" on wildlife, but that phrase was removed. The bureau now concludes that the grazing regulations are "beneficial to animals."

Eliminated from the final draft was another conclusion that read: "The Proposed Action will have a slow, long-term adverse impact on wildlife and biological diversity in general."

Also removed was language saying how a number of the rule changes could adversely affect endangered species.

"This is a whitewash. They took all of our science and reversed it 180 degrees," said Erick Campbell, a former BLM state biologist in Nevada and a 30-year bureau employee who retired this year. He was the author of sections of the report pertaining to the effect on wildlife and threatened and endangered species.

"They rewrote everything," Campbell said in an interview this week. "It's a crime."

Campbell and the other retired bureau scientist who criticized the rules were among more than a dozen BLM specialists who contributed to the environmental impact statement. Others who worked on the original draft could not be reached or did not return calls seeking comment.

A bureau official acknowledged that changes were made in the analysis and said they were part of a standard editing and review process. Ranchers hailed the regulations as a signal of new openness from the administration.

"We're hopeful that some of the provisions will strengthen the public lands grazing industry and give our members certainty in their business," said Jenni Beck of the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. "We are encouraged that this [environmental impact statement] demonstrates the benefits of grazing on public lands."

Livestock graze on public land in 11 Western states, including 8 million acres in California. The vast acreage is needed to support a comparatively small number of livestock because in the arid region topsoil is thin and grass is generally sparse.

About 2% of the nation's beef is produced from cattle on public lands.

The new rules, published Friday by the BLM, a division of the Department of Interior, ensures ranchers expanded access to public land and requires federal land managers to conduct protracted studies before taking action to limit that access.

The rules reverse a long-standing agency policy that gave BLM experts the authority to quickly determine whether livestock grazing was inflicting damage.

The regulations also eliminate the agency's obligation to seek public input on some grazing decisions. Public comment will be allowed but not required.

In recent years, concerns about the condition of much Western grazing land has been heightened by drought, which has denuded pastures in the most arid areas, causing bureau managers to close some pastures and prompting ranchers to sell their herds.

The new rules mark a departure from grazing regulations adopted in 1995 under President Clinton and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. Those regulations reflected the view of range scientists that a legacy of overgrazing in the West had degraded scarce water resources, damaged native plant communities and imperiled wildlife.

Babbitt ordered the bureau to establish standards that spelled out when public lands were open for grazing, and for the first time required range specialists to assess each pasture to ensure it held enough vegetation to support wildlife and livestock. It was the first time in about 50 years that the federal government had tried sweeping overhauls of how Western ranchers operated on public lands.

By 1994, studies from scientists at the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture convinced government land managers that livestock grazing was the most pervasive threat to plant and animals in the arid West.

Some conservation groups seized on the studies to mount a campaign to eliminate grazing on public land altogether, prompting a backlash that accused environmentalists of engaging in "rural cleansing" that would drive families off the land, some of whom had been there since the 19th century.

This week, environmentalists were sharply critical of the new rules.

"It's an explicit rollback," said Thomas Lustig, staff lawyer for the National Wildlife Federation in Boulder, Colo. "What [Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton] did was take Babbitt's regs and found parts where they could put a hurdle in to undermine the reforms."

Bureau officials said the new rules represented a step forward in improving its management of livestock grazing on federal land.

Bud Cribley, the agency's manager for rangeland resources, said the report was written by a number of specialists from different offices within the BLM. When it was finished, in November 2003, the agency believed it "needed a lot of work," Cribley said.

"We disagreed with the impact analysis that was originally put forward. There were definitely changes made in the area of impact analysis. We adjusted it.

"The draft that we published we felt adequately addressed the impacts. We felt the changes we did make were based on good science."

Most of the changes came in sections analyzing projected impact of the rules on fisheries, plant and animal health as well as water quality and quantity.

Bill Brookes, a former hydrologist with the bureau who assessed the regulations' effect on water resources, said in the original draft the proposed rule change was "an abrogation of [the agency's] responsibility under the Clean Water Act."

"Everything I wrote was totally rewritten and watered down," Brookes said in an interview Thursday.

"Everything in the report that was purported to be negative was watered down. Instead of saying, in the long term, this will create problems, it now says, in the long term, grazing is the best thing since sliced bread."

Brookes said work that the bureau's original specialists required more than a year and a half to finish was changed in a matter of weeks. He and Campbell said officials in Washington said the document did not support the new rules so they called in a new team to redo it.

According to the agency officials, the new grazing regulations were meant to give land managers and ranchers more flexibility in making decisions about whether to allow grazing on a particular parcel.

Though an array of conservation and environmental groups decried the new rules, Cribley said changes were minor but necessary.

"We don't look at this as a significant change from the current regulations," he said. "This is fine-tuning and making adjustment in existing rules. We came out with some significant changes in the grazing rule in '95, and we have been implementing changes since that time. We needed to make corrections after almost 10 years of experience."

Downing Minutes Prove Bush Lied About WMD

LONDON (AP) — President Bush’s government has been accused of exaggerating the risks of Saddam Hussein’s weapons and Iraq’s ties to al-Qaida before the war to justify the invasion.

That’s one reason the most quoted section of the eight secret Downing Street memos that have been leaked to the British and American media are the minutes of a meeting that Prime Minister Tony Blair held with his top officials on July 23, 2002.

During it, Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, discussed his recent visit to Washington.

“There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable,” said Dearlove, who’s identified as “C” in the secret minutes of the meeting.

“Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

“The NSC had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.” The NSC is the U.S. National Security Council, which advises the president.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he would discuss the timing of a possible war with then Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing has not yet decided,” the minutes said. “But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”

June 19. 2005

Barfing Through History, or Let 'Em Eat Cake

I'm hungover. When I'm hungover, I get philosophical. I'll drink my V-8 and try to wake up a little bit here, but meanwhile let's take a march through recent history. Yesterday I'm sitting in a doctor's office reading their copy of U.S. News & World Report. Two good op-eds. The first about the Republican effort to eliminate the middle class. Part of the NWO plan? Nothing but workers working round the clock. Paying toll to the trolls who run it. Approximately 2% of the population. Thirty percent more millionaires now than there were before the start of the Iraq war. War profiteers then. Get rid of the Estate Tax forever. Make the tax cuts permanent. Oink, oink, oink. Pigs looking out for their pig friends. So only those making less than $100,000 a year really ever pay any taxes. Meanwhile do away with Medicare and Social Security. All expenses there come from out of pocket. Drive the middle class directly into the ground. Let 'em eat cake.

Meanwhile Afghanistan is producing more opium than ever before. In fact, opium production has doubled in the past year with Hamid at the helm. Who's profiting? Who profits? More opium, thus more heroin. Heroin killing millions worldwide yearly. Stories of black planes, drones, spraying crops. Taliban back in charge, running the show.

Things aren't looking good but no one would know from a Bush press conference. Nothing but platitudes, and good ole boy rosy assessments. Does Bush ever get briefed on anything? Doesn't seem so. Meanwhile...from Kos:

"Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its 'last throes.' 'Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality,' Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq.' "

Who's steering the ship? Shadow government?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

William F. Buckley: Let's Get Out of Iraq

William F. Buckley of all people is coming to his senses...why does it take so long for the Kool-Aide to wear off?

"The moment comes in every military venture, short of national self-defense, when responsible thought is given to the correlation of ends and means. One reason given for venturing into Iraq was the need to impress upon the nations of the world the decisive nature of U.S. intercessions. We effected this by going into Afghanistan.and Iraq. But we have dulled the example we set out to make by tolerating costs without corresponding advances on the strategic goal."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Cheney Profits Off Gitmo: No Wonder He Wants to Keep It Running!

It's no wonder Dick Cheney speaks well of the efforts at Gitmo. His cronies at Halliburton, fat from profits from the "reconstruction" of Iraq, are set to score big off a planned Gitmo redesign.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Halliburton Co. unit will build a new $30 million detention facility and security fence at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States is holding about 520 foreign terrorism suspects, the Defense Department announced on Thursday.

The announcement comes the same week that Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the jail after U.S. lawmakers said it had created an image problem for the United States.

Critics have decried the indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainees, whom the United States has denied rights accorded under the Geneva Conventions to prisoners of war. The prison was called "the gulag of our times" in a recent Amnesty International report.

An air-conditioned two-story prison, known as Detention Camp #6, will be built at Guantanamo to house 220 men. It will include exercise areas, medical and dental spaces as well as a security control room, the contract announcement said.

The contract announcement did not specify whether the new prison would also hold foreign terror suspects.

Under the deal with the Norfolk, Virginia-based U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic, the work is to be wrapped up by July 2006. It is part of a larger contract that could be worth up to $500 million if all options are exercised, the Defense Department said.

The project is to be carried out by Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root Services of Arlington, Virginia. It includes site work, heating ventilation and air conditioning, plumbing and electrical work, the Pentagon said.

The first prisoners arrived at the prison camp in January 2002 after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked airliner attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

The Pentagon has said about 520 detainees from more than 40 countries are being held at the prison, without giving a precise figure.

Rumsfeld said on Tuesday U.S. taxpayers had spend more than $100 million on construction costs and no other facility could replace it.

June 17, 2005