Rallying the Troops and Avoiding Reality
By Colbert I. King
There is something almost surreal in the juxtaposition of President Bush's statements on Iraq and news reporting on the war. The two are simply irreconcilable.
Bush's upbeat take collides with recent news reports about events in Iraq as well as with the judgments of senior officials within his administration. If the media have got it wrong, then we deserve to get hammered. If, however, it turns out that Bush is not being straight with courageous U.S. service members and their families, then it will be the Bush presidency and his legacy that will pay dearly.
At the moment he's hitting it off in visits to military posts, where he dons his commander-in-chief hat. One Bush line always draws applause: "We will stay on the offensive. Whatever it takes, we will seek and find and destroy the terrorists, so that we do not have to face them in our own country." It went over well last year with a gathering of applauding Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne, Green Berets of the 5th Special Forces Group and the Night Stalkers, at Fort Campbell, Ky.
In June the president went to Fort Bragg, N.C., and in a televised address described Iraq as the latest battlefield in the war on terrorism, saying: "America's mission in Iraq is to defeat an enemy and give strength to a friend . . . . We will stay in the fight until the fight is won."
And to cheering military families at Nampa, Idaho, this week, Bush said: "Terrorists will emerge from Iraq one of two ways: emboldened or defeated . . . . for the sake of our children and our grandchildren, the terrorists will be defeated."
Bush's portrayal of America as a nation besieged by a cruel enemy that has made Iraq the battleground is one of the reasons America's military families willingly send sons and daughters off to war. Yes, it's hard duty, but what goal is worthier than defending America? Stated that way, there's no argument, at least where I'm concerned. That was one of the reasons that I, along with many in my generation, suited up during the Cold War.
The country should be grateful to all who wear the uniform of the United States and to the families that are sacrificing to achieve Bush's stated mission to fight the terrorists over there, and "stay until the fight is won."
But what if something else is in the works? Suppose staying on the offense "until the enemy is broken," an applause line, is just that -- an applause line?
There are good reasons to ask.
In an Aug. 12 Page One story that included interviews with U.S. officials involved in Iraq policy, The Post's Peter Baker wrote: "Administration officials have all but given up any hope of militarily defeating the insurgents with U.S. forces, instead aiming only to train and equip enough Iraqi security forces to take over the fight themselves." Bush, the piece said, is only trying to buy time until the Iraqi political process moves along and Iraqi troops get up to speed.
Two days later, The Post's Robin Wright and Ellen Knickmeyer reported an even gloomier assessment based on interviews with senior administration officials and analysts who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Washington now does not expect to fully defeat the insurgency before departing, but instead to diminish it," they reported. Said a U.S. official: "We've said we won't leave a day before it's necessary. But necessary is the key word -- necessary for them or for us? When we finally depart, it will probably be for us."
In other words, while Bush is out rallying the troops and reassuring their families that their sacrifices won't be in vain, administration officials in Washington are quietly playing down expectations of what can really be achieved in Iraq.
Far from the cheering crowds, this is the word in the Nation's Capital: Forget all that prewar talk about a secular, modern and united Iraq emerging after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Get ready instead for some form of Islamic republic in Iraq that gives special status to clerics and majority ethnic groups, and less deference to women's rights. A new Iraq free of violence and divisions? Oops, never mind.
Which brings us back to the troops who are doing the suffering and dying. Are their sacrifices worth it?
Consider the Iraq now unfolding on the ground.
What's the value of Americans giving their lives so that cleric-dominated Shiites and northern Kurds can get their hands on political power and oil revenue?
Why are American women and men sacrificing lives and limbs in a country where women may have to settle for less?
Stay the course. What course? So religious-based militia can divvy up the northern and southern portions of the country? So Islam can be enshrined as a principal source of new Iraqi legislation?
Are any of those things worth dying for? Do any of those likely outcomes represent an American victory? They certainly aren't why Bush said we went over there.
Okay, the Bush folks also promised us weapons of mass destruction, and greetings with rice and rose water, and Iraqi oil money to pay for reconstruction, and a model new democracy in the Middle East, none of which has happened.
But this is different.
President Bush is out selling a vision of victory in Iraq while U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad are resigned to settling for less. George Bush can't make good on his original promise, and they know it. They also know that more Americans are going to die in Iraq for what may end up as a theocracy-tinged spoils system.
When those carrying the burden of this war realize what they have sacrificed and died for, the worst days of George W. Bush will have just begun.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Friday, August 26, 2005
Cindy Sheehan Planning Anti-War Bus Tour
Cindy Sheehan, Mother of Fallen Soldier in Iraq, Plans Three-Week Bus Tour to Oppose War
By ANGELA K. BROWN Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press
Aug. 26, 2005 - A fallen soldier's mother said Thursday that the anti-war vigil she started nearly three weeks ago near President Bush's ranch won't end when she and other protesters pack up their camp next week.
Cindy Sheehan said the day after she leaves Aug. 31, she will embark on a bus tour ending up in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24. Then the group will start a 24-hour vigil in the nation's capital.
"I am not alone," she said at a news conference Thursday. "There's the people standing behind me here, but there's thousands of military families ... who want the same answers to the same questions."
Sheehan began her vigil Aug. 6 on the road leading to Bush's ranch, vowing to stay through his monthlong vacation unless he met with her. She left last week to visit her 74-year-old mother in Los Angeles after the woman suffered a stroke. Sheehan said her mother has started physical therapy for paralysis on her right side.
Sheehan returned on Wednesday to "Camp Casey," named after her 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, who was killed last year in Iraq.
On Thursday, Sheehan placed her son's combat boots by a cross bearing his name at the protest site. The boots had been part of the "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit, created by the American Friends Service Committee, a branch of the pacifist Quaker church. The traveling exhibit of rows of black military boots is a reminder of the U.S. troops lost in Iraq.
Sheehan said she realizes that Bush has no intentions of meeting with the protesters, but that her vigil has accomplished other things.
"I absolutely think it's worthwhile because we've galvanized the peace movement," she said. "We've started people talking about the war again."
Sheehan's protest in Crawford has encouraged anti-war activists to join her and prompted peace vigils nationwide. She also continues to draw harsh criticism.
More Bush supporters arrived and pitched tents at the newly dubbed "Camp Reality," located in a ditch across the street from the war protesters' site along the main road leading to the president's ranch.
"People have said, `Enough is enough enough Bush bashing,'" said Gregg Garvey of Keystone Heights, Fla., whose 23-year-old son Justin died in Iraq in 2003. "This (protest) does not represent all of America."
Conservative activists and military families also were en route to Crawford from California on a tour called "You don't speak for me, Cindy!" The caravan coordinated by Move America Forward plans to hold a pro-Bush rally in town Saturday.
Bush has said he recognizes Sheehan's right to protest and understands her anguish, although she does not represent the views of many families he has met with.
Sheehan and other grieving families met with Bush about two months after her son died last year, before reports of faulty prewar intelligence surfaced and caused her to become a vocal opponent of the war.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:57 AM
Judge Asks Status of Gitmo Detainees
Bush Administration Asked What It's Doing About Two Guantanamo Detainees Cleared for Release
By PETE YOST
The Associated Press
Aug. 26, 2005 - A federal judge called on the Bush administration Thursday to explain what it was doing about two detainees who are being held at Guantanamo Bay prison camp even though the military has concluded they are not enemy combatants.
A Justice Department lawyer, Terry Henry, said the two Chinese Muslims, in custody for over 3 1/2 years, will be kept at Guantanamo until the government finds a country to send them to.
The Uighur detainees, members of a minority in their native China, fear persecution if they are returned to their homeland.
"We can continue to hold them as long as it takes," Henry told U.S. District Judge James Robertson.
The judge suggested it was not enough for the two men to be held in improved conditions in a renovated section of Guantanamo Bay that has videogames, a microwave, ice cream and a soccer field for the 10 detainees housed there. All have been found not to be enemy combatants.
The 10 are "free to roam 24/7" at Camp Iguana in Guantanamo Bay, Henry told the judge.
The "big picture" is that the two have already been held for nearly six months after being found not to be enemy combatants, Robertson responded.
A'Del Abdu Al-Hakim and Abu Baker Qassim were captured in Pakistan as they fled a Taliban military training camp near Tora Bora, Afghanistan in 2001. They say they are deeply opposed to the government of China and have no animosity toward the United States.
Hakim has said representatives of the Chinese government tried to interrogate him at Guantanamo Bay, telling him that he was lucky the Pakistanis had turned him over to the Americans rather than the Chinese.
The U.S. government has said it has been unable to find a country that will accept the Uighurs. The judge went into a closed-door session so that the federal attorney could describe the diplomatic efforts the United States has undertaken to place the prisoners.
Sabin Willett, a lawyer for the two, is asking the judge to embark on a legal path that could result in the prisoners' interim release into the United States. A family in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., has offered to take them in.
Robertson took no immediate action on Willett's request.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:54 AM
Library sues over controversial Patriot Act
By Chris Sanders
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A controversial Patriot Act clause allowing the U.S. government to demand information about library patrons' borrowing habits is being challenged in federal court for the first time by a library.
The lawsuit was filed against U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut by an unnamed library and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The suit -- filed on August 9 and made public by the ACLU on Thursday -- calls the FBI's order to produce library records "unconstitutional on its face" and said a gag order preventing public discussion of the lawsuit is an unlawful restraint on speech.
Critical details of the lawsuit were blacked out on the ACLU's Web site in compliance with the gag order. The library is thought to be based in Connecticut since the lawsuit was filed there with the participation of the Connecticut branch of the ACLU.
The ACLU said in its lawsuit that legal changes made under the Patriot Act "remove any requirement of individualized suspicion, (and) the FBI may now ... demand sensitive information about innocent people."
Enacted after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Patriot Act lets U.S. authorities seek approval from a special court to search personal records of terror suspects from bookstores, businesses, hospitals and libraries, in a provision known as the library clause.
The FBI letter requesting the information, called a National Security Letter, is effectively a gag order because it tells the recipient that the request must be kept secret.
As a result, "the Patriot Act is itself gagging public debate about the Patriot Act," said Ann Beeson, the ACLU's lead lawyer in the case.
The civil liberties group has asked the District Court to lift the gag order so its client can participate in the public debate and upcoming congressional hearings on the Patriot Act. A hearing about lifting the gag order is scheduled for Wednesday in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
An FBI spokesman referred calls to the Department of Justice. A Justice spokesman said the department had no comment and declined to say if it had required libraries to turn over records under the Patriot Act.
The U.S. House of Representatives, ignoring protests from civil liberties groups, voted this summer to reauthorize 16 provisions of the act that expire at the end of the year, including the library clause. The Senate is expected to take up the matter after lawmakers return from an August recess.
A copy of the ACLU lawsuit said the library involved "strictly guards the confidentiality and privacy of its library and Internet records, and believes it should not be forced to disclose such records without a showing of compelling need and approval by a judge."
The FBI, in a copy of the letter demanding the library records and attached to the lawsuit, said "the information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:50 AM
The New York Times
My Private Idaho
By MAUREEN DOWD
W. vacationed so hard in Texas he got bushed. He needed a vacation from his vacation.
The most rested president in American history headed West yesterday to get away from his Western getaway - and the mushrooming Crawford Woodstock - and spend a couple of days at the Tamarack Resort in the rural Idaho mountains.
"I'm kind of hangin' loose, as they say," he told reporters.
As The Financial Times noted, Mr. Bush is acting positively French in his love of le loafing, with 339 days at his ranch since he took office - nearly a year out of his five. Most Americans, on the other hand, take fewer vacations than anyone else in the developed world (even the Japanese), averaging only 13 to 16 days off a year.
W. didn't go alone, of course. Just as he took his beloved feather pillow on the road during his 2000 campaign, now he takes his beloved bike. An Air Force One steward tenderly unloaded W.'s $3,000 Trek Fuel mountain bike when they landed in Boise.
Gas is guzzling toward $3 a gallon. U.S. troop casualties in Iraq are at their highest levels since the invasion. As Donald Rumsfeld conceded yesterday, "The lethality, however, is up." Afghanistan's getting more dangerous, too. The defense secretary says he's raising troop levels in both places for coming elections.
So our overextended troops must prepare for more forced rotations, while the president hangs loose.
I mean, I like to exercise, but W. is psychopathic about it. He interviewed one potential Supreme Court nominee, Harvie Wilkinson III, by asking him how much he exercised. Last winter, Mr. Bush was obsessed with his love handles, telling people he was determined to get rid of seven pounds.
Shouldn't the president worry more about body armor than body fat?
Instead of calling in Karl Rove to ask him if he'd leaked, W. probably called him in to order him to the gym.
The rest of us may be fixated on the depressing tableau in Iraq, where the U.S. seems to be delivering a fundamentalist Islamic state into the dirty hands of men like Ahmad Chalabi, who conned the neocons into pushing for war, and his ally Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric who started two armed uprisings against U.S. troops. It was his militiamen who ambushed Casey Sheehan's convoy in Sadr City.
America has caved on Iraqi women's rights. In fact, the women's rights activists supported by George and Laura Bush may have to leave Iraq.
But, as a former C.I.A. Middle East specialist, Reuel Marc Gerecht, said on "Meet the Press," U.S. democracy in 1900 didn't let women vote. If Iraqi democracy resembled that, "we'd all be thrilled," he said. "I mean, women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy."
Yesterday, the president hailed the constitution establishing an Islamic republic as "an amazing process," and said it "honors women's rights, the rights of minorities." Could he really think that? Or is he following the Vietnam model - declaring victory so we can leave?
The main point of writing a constitution was to move Sunnis into the mainstream and make them invested in the process, thereby removing the basis of the insurgency. But the Shiites and Kurds have frozen out the Sunnis, enhancing their resentment. So the insurgency is more likely to be inflamed than extinguished.
For political reasons, the president has a history of silence on America's war dead. But he finally mentioned them on Monday because it became politically useful to use them as a rationale for war - now that all the other rationales have gone up in smoke.
"We owe them something," he told veterans in Salt Lake City (even though his administration tried to shortchange the veterans agency by $1.5 billion). "We will finish the task that they gave their lives for."
What twisted logic: with no W.M.D., no link to 9/11 and no democracy, now we have to keep killing people and have our kids killed because so many of our kids have been killed already? Talk about a vicious circle: the killing keeps justifying itself.
Just because the final reason the president came up with for invading Iraq - to create a democracy with freedom of religion and minority rights - has been dashed, why stop relaxing? W. is determined to stay the course on bike trails all over the West.
This president has never had to pull all-nighters or work very hard, because Daddy's friends always gave him a boost when he flamed out. When was the last time Mr. Bush saw the clock strike midnight? At these prices, though, I guess he can't afford to burn the midnight oil.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:43 AM
CIA Panel: 9/11 Failure Warrants Action
By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer
The CIA's independent watchdog has recommended disciplinary reviews for current and former officials who were involved in failed intelligence efforts before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, The Associated Press has learned.
CIA Director Porter Goss now must decide whether the disciplinary proceedings go forward.
The proceedings, formally called an accountability board, were recommended by the CIA inspector general, John Helgerson. It remains unclear which people are identified for the accountability boards in the highly classified report spanning hundreds of pages. The report was delivered to Congress Tuesday night.
Following a two-year review into what went wrong before the suicide hijackings, people familiar with the report say Helgerson harshly criticizes a number of the agency's most senior officials. Among them are former CIA Director George Tenet, former clandestine service chief Jim Pavitt and former counterterrorism center head Cofer Black. The former officials are likely candidates for proceedings before an accountability board.
The boards could take a number of actions, including letters of reprimand or dismissal. They could also clear them of wrongdoing.
Those who discussed the report with the AP all spoke on condition of anonymity because it remains highly classified and has been distributed only to a small circle in Washington.
Tenet and Pavitt declined to comment. Black could not be reached Thursday.
Goss was among those who requested the inspector general's review as part of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks. At the time, Goss was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. A CIA officer in the 1960s, Goss must now decide whether the current and former agency personnel should be considered for sanctions.
Those who know Goss well question whether the director, who took over the agency last September, will commission the disciplinary reviews.
Despite public outcries for accountability, many in the intelligence community believe Goss would be loath to try to discipline popular former senior officials and cause unrest within the agency.
He may not want to go after less senior people still in the CIA's employ. Intelligence veterans say these CIA employees are the government's mostly highly trained in counterterrorism and before the Sept. 11 attacks, devoted their time to trying to stop al-Qaida. The hearings would force them to defend their careers rather than working against extremist groups.
In addition, the numerous investigations after Sept. 11 determined that an intelligence overhaul was essential to attack Muslim extremism.
Some Congress members — including California Rep. Jane Harman (news, bio, voting record), the Intelligence Committee's senior Democrat — are pushing for the CIA to produce a declassified version of the report so the public can debate these and other issues. Some family members of 9/11 victims have also called for the report's immediate release.
"The findings in this report must be shared with all members of Congress and with the American public to ensure that the problems identified are addressed and corrected, thus moving to restore faith in this agency," a group called Sept. 11 Advocates said in a statement Thursday.
The final version comes after much internal debate at the CIA and new national intelligence director's office about whether to simply scrap the document because it looks backward and is so harsh, said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Beth Marple, spokeswoman for National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, said, "As expected, there has been discussion between Director Negroponte and Director Goss about this report. But there were absolutely no efforts to kill it."
The CIA declined to comment on the substance of the report.
Accountability boards are normally made up of top CIA officials. In the case of the most serious issues, it would not be unusual for the agency's No. 3, the executive director, to lead the proceedings.
People familiar with the inspector general's process said the document largely covers ground already plowed in the 9/11 commission's report and a House-Senate inquiry that issued its own report on the attacks in December 2002. Those 37 Congress members requested the inspector general's review to consider issues of accountability.
Among items that received significant attention in the past: the CIA's failure to put two known operatives, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, on government watch lists and to let the FBI know that the future hijackers had entered the United States.
The new report, however, comes at the events from a different perspective, focusing more narrowly on the agency's performance.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:42 AM
California sues 39 drug makers for inflated prices
By Deena Beasley
California's attorney general said on Thursday the state has filed a lawsuit accusing 37 more pharmaceutical companies of bilking the state's Medicaid program of hundreds of millions of dollars by inflating drug prices.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he has added companies including Amgen Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline Plc to a 2003 complaint accusing Abbott Laboratories and Wyeth of hiding the true costs of their drugs so that payments from Medi-Cal would be artificially inflated.
Medi-Cal is the name for California's Medicaid program for the indigent, which is financed by the state and federal governments.
"We're dragging these drug companies into the court of law because they're gouging the public on basic life necessities," Lockyer said during a press conference held here.
The action was prompted by a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a small pharmacy, Ven-A-Care, alleging that drug manufacturers reported "average wholesale prices" to the government health insurance program that were much higher than the actual cost to the pharmacy.
The state pays pharmacies and doctors based on prices supplied by the drug companies. California charges that the company-reported prices effectively created higher profits for pharmacies, doctors and clinics.
By defrauding the state into paying higher reimbursement rates, the drug makers created a financial incentive for drug dispensers to use their products, the lawsuit alleges.
A spokeswoman for Abbott, Elizabeth Hoff, said the company "has consistently complied with all laws and regulations and we intend to vigorously defend against this lawsuit."
Bristol-Myers is "in full compliance with the law, guidelines and contracts," company spokesman Brian Henry said.
Amgen was named in the complaint because of its 2002 acquisition of Immunex Corp., and the suit does not involve any drugs now sold by Amgen, company spokeswoman Mary Klem said.
Officials at Wyeth and Mylan Laboratories Inc., another defendant, could not be immediately reached.
The state attorney general estimated that each company named in the lawsuit could be liable for up to $40 million. They are accused of violating California's False Claims Act.
About a dozen other states have filed similar lawsuits, and the cases have been consolidated at a federal court in Boston.
Steve Brozak, an analyst with WBB Securities, said the California probe could prompt the federal government to broaden and intensify its own ongoing probes into whether drugmakers are overcharging for drugs taken by Medicaid patients.
He noted that the federal government next year will begin reimbursing patients for prescription drugs taken by patients in the separate Medicare insurance program for seniors.
"The California action increases the perception that drugmakers are gouging the government, even as the federal government prepares next year to become the single biggest payer for drugs in the country's history," Brozak said. "The danger is that perception could eventually energize the U.S. government to protect itself by imposing price controls on prescription drugs."
Many states and the federal government in recent years have launched a number of investigations into whether U.S. and European drugmakers have overcharged for their products by side-stepping requirements that Medicaid clients receive their lowest prices.
Shares of Eli Lilly & Co. fell earlier this month when the drugmaker said it had received a subpoena from the Florida Attorney General's office seeking documents on Medicaid-related sales of the company's Zyprexa schizophrenia drug.
Swiss biotechnology company Serono SA in April took a $725 million charge related to a probe involving U.S. sales of its Serostim AIDS drug.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:40 AM
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Walter Reed Medical Center to Be Closed
By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer
A federal commission voted to close Walter Reed Army Medical Center — the crown jewel of U.S. military hospitals — as it began its second day of decision-making on the Pentagon's sweeping proposal to restructure bases across the country.
Located in the nation's capital, the century-old hospital has treated presidents and foreign leaders as well as veterans and soldiers, including those returning from the Iraq war.
Most of its work would be relocated to a more modern, expanded hospital in Bethesda, Md., to be renamed Walter Reed in a nod to the old facility's heritage.
The nine-member panel was deciding the fate of a host of big-ticket items Thursday. Later in the day it was to begin debating the Air Force's plans, arguably the most contentious of the group, as it steamrolled through hundreds of Pentagon proposals at a brisk pace after four months of study and preparation.
Among decisions earlier Thursday, the commission voted to close the Brooks City-Base in Texas, which is home to the School of Aerospace Medicine. Tang, the orange drink created for astronauts, was developed at the base in the 1960s. The medical school will relocate to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Endorsing the Pentagon's vision of streamlining support services across the armed forces, the commission also signed off on recommendations to merge several education, medical and training programs. The Defense Department calls this "jointness" — the services combining their strengths, rather than working separately, to save money and promote efficiency.
Under the Walter Reed plan, most of the staff and services would move from the old hospital's main post to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, to create the expanded facility. The remaining personnel and operations would move to a community hospital at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
Walter Reed's care is considered first-rate but the facility is showing its age, the commission found.
"Kids coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, all of them in harm's way, deserve to come back to 21st century medical care," Commission Chairman Anthony Principi said Thursday, adding that the hospital is old. "It needs to be modernized."
One-time costs, including construction and renovations, would total $989 million. The Pentagon would save $301 million over 20 years, the commission said. The current hospital has about 185 beds, but the expanded facility would have 340.
Principi said he expected to finish all voting no later than Friday, a day earlier than planned. The commission must send its final report to President Bush by Sept. 8.
The president can accept it, reject it, or send it back to the commission for revisions. Congress also will have a chance to veto the plan in its entirety but it has not taken that step in four previous rounds of base closings. If ultimately approved, the changes would occur over the next six years.
On Wednesday, the panel breezed through proposals to shutter hundreds of small and large facilities in all corners of the country, moving ahead of its schedule.
After finishing the joint-service proposals, the commission was moving next to the Air Force plan, much of which includes recommendations to shake up the Air National Guard, a highly controversial effort. The Air Force also proposes closing both Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.
"We're doing some very large muscle movements," Gen. Gary Heckman, a top Air Force official who helped lead the service's base-closing analysis team, said in an interview.
He said his service branch wasn't hit in previous rounds of closures as hard as the Army and Navy because overhauling the Air Force's structure — which is what has been proposed this time around — is very difficult.
Ellsworth's proposed closing has caused the most political consternation because Sen. John Thune, a freshman senator, had argued during the 2004 campaign that he — rather his Democratic opponent, then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle — would be in a better position to save the facility. Nonetheless, it showed up on the Pentagon's closure list.
Closing Cannon would cost Clovis, N.M., a small town on the Texas-New Mexico line, nearly 3,000 jobs.
Overall, the Pentagon has proposed closing or consolidating a record 62 major military bases and 775 smaller installations to save $48.8 billion over 20 years, streamline the services and reposition the armed forces.
Since the Pentagon announced its proposal in May, commissioners had voiced concerns about several parts of it, including the estimate of how much money would be saved.
By far, the most controversy — both on the commission and off — has surrounded the Air Force.
Most of its proposals cover the Air National Guard and would shift people, equipment and aircraft around at 54 or more sites where Guard units are stationed.
Aircraft would be taken away from 25 Air National Guard units. Instead of flying missions, those units would get other missions such as expeditionary combat support roles. They also would retain their state missions of aiding governors during civil disturbances and natural disasters.
Several states have sued to stop the shake-up, the commission itself has voiced concern that the plan would compromise homeland security, and the Justice Department was brought in to settle arguments over whether the Pentagon could relocate Air National Guard units without a governor's consent. The ruling said it could.
The Pentagon says the Air Force proposals are designed to make the service more effective by consolidating both weapons systems and personnel, given that it will have a smaller but smarter aircraft fleet in the future.
On the Net:
Pentagon's base closing plan: http://www.defenselink.mil/brac/
Base closing commission: http://www.brac.gov
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:34 AM
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
The Huffington Post
CBS Affiliate Will Not Air Sheehan Ad Because There Is “No Proof” Of Absence Of WMD In Iraq!
CBS, FOX Refuse to Air Cindy’s Plea to President
BOISE, ID--A television ad in which Cindy Sheehan asks President Bush questions about the Iraq war has been rejected by Boise affiliates CBS and FOX. The same ad began airing in Salt Lake City on Monday on NBC CBS and FOX affiliates.
The timing of the ads coincides with the President’s visit to nearby Donnelly, Idaho where the President will be staying through Wednesday.
Representatives for the two stations expressed different responses for their rejection of the ad. The Vice President of sales at Fisher Broadcasting Inc., which owns KBCI (CBS) said: “In the spot, Ms. Sheehan accuses the President of the United States of being a liar. She claims the President lied about, among other things, the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There is no proof that we are aware of regarding the truthfulness of her claim. We require proof of claims such as this. Until that is provided, our station will not carry this ad.”
Media buyers were similarly asked to supply proof for a Waco television affiliate. When sent findings from the 9/11 Commission, the local station decided to run the ad. However, the Vice President of sales at CBS Boise responded, “If it was not known until after we took to war then it’s hard to understand how someone could have lied…hindsight is always 20/20…that’s our point.” A representative for KTRV (Fox) said: “We are not accepting the spot because inventory is sold out. A very late order request makes it difficult to clear.”
Three stations in Salt Lake City aired the ad, Mark Weist-a spokesman for one of those stations-said, "There's programming and ads that we would not run because of our ownership and our position in the marketplace, however in this case, we felt this is one person's opinion and that there are others who express this same opinion. The bigger picture is by suppressing the message are we doing what is right under the First Amendment and in an open democratic society?"
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:37 AM
The Huffington Post
Eat The Press
I've Got a Secret
Not me personally. Robert Novak has. Well, we all know that he has many secrets, but the one that Sydney H. Schanberg writes about in The Village Voice is the offer to sell access to "Washington's power elite" in "confidential" sessions for a mere $595.
The request for my presence was very tempting.
The letter from [Tom] Winter [president and editor in chief of Human Events] began: "Dear friend, When was the last time you sat in a room just a few feet from the likes of Vice President Cheney or Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, asked a question and got a straightforward answer?" A straightforward answer. Just the thought of witnessing one in Washington sends a tingle up the spine.
Seriously, folks, there is such a thing as a code of ethics for journalists (now don't laugh), and this kind of enterprise violates so many of the precepts I won't try to list them all. But Novak calls himself a journalist? And other "journalists" don't call him on it?
"This meeting is strictly off the record, and what is said there remains one of Washington's best-kept secrets," according to TPM Cafe's quote from the invitation. Secret? Several blogs (including Bill Diamond at HuffPost) have commented on the semi-annual forums since MediaBistro's FishBowlDC tagged the story nearly a month ago with its Stinky Fish Award, but the traditional media have remained mum.
"Actually, the truth-dedicated Novak has been running these one-day conferences for decades," notes Schanberg. "Sources believe it's an effort to supplement the paltry income from his syndicated column, his political talk shows on television, and other entrepreneurial sidelines."
Gee, now that Mr. Novak has been suspended by CNN, I guess he needs every penny. So if you want to sign up, here's the pitch:
The Ultimate (Secret) Source
It isn't often that you can meet the decision makers of the nation in such an intimate setting. Don't miss out, sign up today.
This is your chance to get frank answers and insight into the state of our nation and economy.
Remember, only 70 people are allowed to attend. Seats are filling up, so reserve your seat today!
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:35 AM
NY subways get cameras, sensors to boost security
By Chris Sanders
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's transit agency said on Tuesday it will spend $212 million to improve security on subways and buses amid criticism, fueled by July's bombings in London, it had not spent available cash to protect America's largest public transport system.
Under a three-year contract, defense contractor Lockheed Martin will install 1,000 surveillance cameras, 3,000 sensors and other equipment to detect potential attacks against New York's subway stations, bridges and tunnels, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Executive Director Katherine Lapp said.
"We hope (this) will detect the terrorists before an incident happens, not just be able to report for forensic purposes after an incident happens and identify who the terrorist is," Lapp said.
Using an array of sensors, closed-circuit television and software, the new technology will spot unattended packages that may contain bombs and alert transit employees to unauthorized intruders in its tunnels and other sensitive areas. But it will not be able to detect explosives placed inside garbage cans or on train cars, Lapp and a Lockheed official said.
The new system will not detect biological agents or explosives either, Lapp said, but the MTA is testing sensors for those potential threats and plans to add them later.
The contract is the first major piece of a $591 million security plan approved in 2002.
New York's transit agency came under fire in recent weeks after it admitted it had spent very little of its security budget after spending several years mulling the various technologies available.
Subway workers have complained recently of a lack of adequate training for what to do in emergencies.
A team of companies led by Lockheed began installing cameras on Tuesday throughout subway stations. The move comes a month after bombers attacked the London transit system on July 7, killing 52 people.
Bombs placed on commuter trains and elsewhere killed 191 in Madrid on March 11, 2004.
Following a second attack in London in July, New York police began random bag searches of subway and bus passengers. Civil liberties groups have sought a court injunction against the searches saying they violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits searches without probable cause.
"This seems like a better idea than paying police overtime to search bags on the subway," Neysa Pranger of the Straphangers Campaign, a group representing commuters, said of the new security measures being put in place.
The MTA also said on Tuesday it will ask companies to bid to provide cell phone coverage for its subway stations.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:24 AM
Chavez assassination row erupts
A row has erupted over a call by US religious broadcaster Pat Robertson for the US to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Visiting Cuba, Mr Chavez would not be drawn but his deputy said Mr Robertson had made "terrorist" remarks and the country was studying its legal options.
The US State Department said the comments were "inappropriate" and did not reflect the policy of the US.
Mr Robertson's remarks come amid tense relations between the two countries.
President Chavez is a regular critic of the US, which regards Venezuela as a possible source of instability in the region.
Mr Chavez has accused Washington of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. US officials have called the accusations ridiculous.
Mr Robertson, 75, said on Monday's edition of the 700 Club: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."
"We don't need another $200bn war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator.
"It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
When asked in Havana what he made of the call, the Venezuelan president said: "I haven't read anything. We haven't heard anything about him.
"I don't even know who that person is."
Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said this was a "criminal statement" and the way Washington responded to the remarks would put its anti-terrorism policy to the test.
"It's huge hypocrisy to maintain this discourse against terrorism and at the same time, in the heart of that country there are entirely terrorist statements like those."
The vice-president also said the Organization of American States could take up the case, saying an inter-American anti-terrorism accord includes provisions against inciting others to kill.
State department spokesman San McCormack said Mr Robertson was speaking as a private citizen and that the US administration did not share his views.
"Any allegations that we are planning to take hostile action against the Venezuelan government are completely baseless," Mr McCormack said.
"We have been very clear that this is not the policy of the United States."
Venezuela is the fifth-largest oil exporter and a major supplier of oil to the United States.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:14 AM
Monday, August 22, 2005
Roberts argued for ID card, against women's rights act
By Joan Biskupic and Toni Locy, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — When he worked in the Reagan White House in 1983, John Roberts made the case for a national ID card, saying in a memo that it would help address the "real threat to our social fabric posed by uncontrolled immigration."
The personal views of Roberts, whom President Bush has nominated to the Supreme Court, continued to emerge Thursday as the National Archives released more than 38,000 pages from his work in the White House counsel's office from 1982 to 1986. Combined with another 13,000 pages released previously, the documents portray Roberts as a young aide who embraced Reagan's conservatism — but who occasionally argued against administration policy.
"I recognize that our office is on record in opposition to a secure national identifier, and I will be ever alert to defend that position," Roberts wrote to White House counsel Fred Fielding on Oct. 21, 1983. "I should point out, however, that I personally do not agree with it. I yield to no one in the area of commitment to individual liberty against the spectre of overreaching central authority, but view such concerns as largely symbolic as far as a national ID card is concerned."
Roberts said the USA already had "for all intents and purposes, a national identifier — the Social Security number." A national ID would not "suddenly mean constitutional protections would evaporate and you could be arbitrarily stopped on the street and asked to produce it."
The idea of a national ID card to protect against illegal immigration and the counterfeiting of documents has gained interest within the U.S. government since the 9/11 attacks made domestic security more of a priority. It remains controversial, largely because of concerns about potential civil liberties violations.
Thursday's documents also reinforced a picture of Roberts as a vigorous conservative, particularly on issues involving women's rights. At times he was derisive, using words such as "purported" and "perceived" to describe discrimination against women.
In a Jan. 17, 1983, memo, Roberts was caustic in reviewing a "Fifty States Project" that Elizabeth Dole had compiled to show states' progress on women's rights. He described it as addressing "perceived problems of gender discrimination." Roberts found the state-by-state breakdown "highly objectionable."
He wrote that California had passed "a staggeringly pernicious law codifying the anti-capitalist idea of 'comparable worth' ... pay scales."
"Comparable worth" was the controversial notion that women and men should receive equal pay for different jobs that had comparable value, based on factors such as the workers' skills and responsibilities.
He advised the White House to exercise caution in showing support for the proposals.
He also said that a Florida plan to charge women less tuition at state schools because they have less earning potential was "presumably unconstitutional."
In a Sept. 26, 1983, memo, Roberts repeated his disdain for the Equal Rights Amendment, which had fallen short of ratification by the states in 1982. A Republican women's group had proposed that the Reagan administration support a new version of the ERA that would guarantee equal rights for women.
Roberts emphatically rejected the proposal. "Any amendment would ... override the prerogatives of the states and vest the federal judiciary with broader powers in this area, two of the central objections to the ERA," he wrote. He said that if Reagan were to support such a change, "the president would be perceived as crassly opportunistic, and would risk losing the devotion of some of this most loyal supporters."
Thursday's papers were not from Roberts' work as deputy U.S. solicitor general from 1989 to 1993, when he helped shape the first Bush administration's legal strategy on divisive issues such as abortion rights and school prayer. The White House has rebuffed requests by Senate Democrats to release those papers.
Thursday's papers also included memos from the lighter side of Roberts' work. In one memo, Roberts, who was born in Buffalo and grew up in Indiana, took aim at newspaper columnists who criticized Reagan's use of the word "keister." In a Feb. 7, 1983, memo, Roberts wrote, "Frankly, I've had it up to my keister with newspaper columns about an expression fairly common to those of us reared in the Midwest."
Contributing: William Risser
Find this article at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:15 PM
William Weld to run for New York governor
NEW YORK (AP) — Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld said Friday he plans to seek the Republican nomination for governor of his native New York next year.
If he wins the race to replace outgoing three-term incumbent George Pataki he would be only the second person in U.S. history to be governor of two states. Pataki has announced he would not seek a fourth term next year.
"We are both looking forward to working together toward a successful result next year," Weld said after meeting with Stephen Minarik, the head of the state Republican Party.
Weld's intention to run was first reported Friday in The New York Times.
His desire for the job hasn't been a secret. Weld, a moderate Republican, has been calling top leaders of New York's Republican and Conservative parties in recent days to talk with them about his interest in the race.
Weld, a partner in the New York investment firm Leeds Weld & Co., moved back to New York in 2000, thus making himself eligible for the 2006 governor's race. New York has a five-year residency requirement for gubernatorial candidates.
Sam Houston was governor of Tennessee from 1827 to 1829 and Texas from 1859 to 1861.
Weld is among a host of Republicans eyeing the GOP nomination for governor. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is, thus far, the only Democrat seeking his party's nomination for the job.
"There's a man named Eliot Spitzer who will be a factor," Weld said of the governor's race. "But the chairman and I both think the race is winnable with a proper campaign."
The millionaire lawyer was elected governor of Massachusetts in 1990 and easily re-elected in 1994. He ran for U.S. Senate in 1996 but was defeated by Democratic incumbent John Kerry. Weld resigned as governor in 1997 when then-President Clinton nominated him to become U.S. ambassador to Mexico, but the nomination was blocked in the Senate.
Find this article at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:12 PM
They Are Stardust, And in Texas
At the Crawford Protest Camp, Growing Echoes of Woodstock
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 21 -- Camp Casey, which started with one mom and a grievance, mushroomed over the weekend into a massive settlement with a party tent for 2,000, a shuttle-bus service and an elaborate catering operation that deposited a 26-foot-long refrigerator truck, generators, and restaurant-quality ranges and warming ovens in a field next to President Bush's ranch.
The hippie crowd that originally was drawn to Cindy Sheehan's protest is still in town -- activists from Food Not Bombs are sleeping in an old school bus that has been painted sky blue and can be started only with jumper cables. But now they have been joined by liberals from throughout the West who are double-parking their hybrid-fueled cars to take part in a peace protest with a budget that is $120,000 and rising.
The grassy field is so close to the president's property that he and his entourage were photographed from there as he bicycled last week before the hordes arrived. Parking attendants wear reflectorized orange vests.
"It's kind of like if Woodstock was really organized," said Chris Voigt, 51, an architect from Fort Worth who was volunteering in the spacious kitchen tent, scraping a frittata pan. "The war's over. Somebody needs to tell Bush."
Voigt was surrounded by pallets of Ozarka bottled water, cases of Sterno gel chafing warmers, 52-ounce tubs of Folgers coffee and six-pound cans of Bush's Best pinto beans. Green-pepper trimmings were composting nearby, and recycling boxes were overflowing with discarded plastic.
The camp includes nine Port-a-Potties but no shower. About 150 protesters have been sleeping in tents or their cars. The rest come for the day, or stay at motels half an hour away in Waco.
"Sorry to Interrupt, Mr. President," says one of the many posters tacked up at the encampment. "But Our Soldiers Are Dying!"
"82 Troops Killed While Bush Goes Fishing," jeers a sign on the side of a U-Haul truck parked by the camp's organizers near Crawford's main crossroads.
None of the visitors to Camp Casey appeared to be local. Yard after yard along the roads leading to the camp is staked with signs such as "Freedom Isn't Free" and "We Support Our Commander in Chief," and scattered Bush supporters set up a counter-rally that they called "Camp Reality."
Canaan Baptist, a weathered wooden country church where the president has attended Easter sunrise services, sits across a narrow road from the peace camp. A parishioner from the neighborhood, Dave Cunningham, closed out this morning's service by praying for the president and his family, for the troops -- and for patience with the onslaught of demonstrators.
Sheehan is still in California tending to her mother, who suffered a stroke Thursday. But Sheehan's supporters said they expect her to return this week, and organizers are making plans to keep the Camp Casey sleep-outs and eat-ins going until Bush returns to Washington shortly before Labor Day.
Sheehan set up camp after Bush declined her impromptu demand for a second meeting to discuss the death of her 24-year-old son, Casey, in Iraq last year. Some in the White House viewed Sheehan as a partisan who could be dismissed: She had appeared on Capitol Hill at the behest of Democrats to discuss the "Downing Street memos" and has charged that Bush "killed" her son. Bush did not agree to a second meeting in part because he had met with her last year during a visit to a military base. He said in remarks last week that he sympathizes with her. He has been mostly out of sight since then, although he rode his mountain bike for 70 minutes in 101-degree heat Sunday.
The sprawling Camp Casey makes it clear that, at least for the moment, Sheehan has produced something larger than herself. Aided by professional publicists and event planners, she has become a logo for opposition to Bush and to the country's attack on Iraq, with minivans marked "Cindy shuttle" ferrying out-of-towners along dirt farm roads that adjoin what Bush has called his "little slice of heaven."
"The whole nation was waiting for a catalyst," said Linda Loden, 57, of Dallas, the line cook in the kitchen. "The best part is that this whole thing is matriarchal: Men are coming up to the women and saying, 'What can I do to help?' "
Folk singer Joan Baez gave a free concert Sunday night for a crowd of 500. The whistle-blower Coleen Rowley -- who retired from the FBI in December after alleging the Bureau had mishandled intelligence before the 9/11 attacks -- was giving interviews amid the camp's rows of 264 white wooden crosses. Each cross has a pair of rubber bands holding a slip of paper bearing the name of a member of the military who has died in Iraq.
Ann Spicer, 46, an event designer from Dallas who is in charge of the kitchen, said she can tell this is not the usual "nuts and berries" crowd that is more typical at peace events because "hardly anyone asked if we had vegan dishes last night."
The menu then was a Tex-Mex casserole called King Ranch chicken, along with manicotti and lasagna. About 700 people were served, organizers said. Breakfast was hash browns, bacon and scrambled eggs. Spicer said a nearby rancher has offered to donate buffalo meat, enabling her to plan chili for the climactic weekend.
The chaos has transformed Crawford (population 705) to the point that at the edge of town, visitors are now greeted by a blinking highway department sign that says, "Heavy traffic ahead. Drive slow."
The protesters are split into three locations. The Crawford Peace House, next to the railroad tracks downtown, is organizing the protest and is decorated with such slogans as "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" The small encampment where Sheehan's followers started, about five miles from Bush's ranch, remains. The main camp -- featuring the white tent, which is so big it has eight peaks and is known to the White House press corps as the "Cirque du Soleil" -- is just outside a Secret Service checkpoint at the back of Bush's ranch.
John L. Wolf, who owns a stage-scenery business in Dallas and runs the Peace House, said about 5,000 donations have come in through the PayPal service used by the group's Web site, and about 1,000 more people have written checks on the spot. He said the average donation was $20 and the biggest was $2,000. He said no corporations or nonprofit groups have made major contributions. He said about $60,000 has been spent so far, most of it this weekend.
"People are putting things on their own credit cards," Wolf said. "When people fly in, we tell them: Don't rent a car. Rent a van, and drive a shuttle!"
An Austin television producer is making a movie about it all, titled "Bushstock 2005."
For a crowd of peace activists, many seemed angry. Andrew J. Weaver, 58, a Methodist minister from Brooklyn, N.Y., who led a brief outdoor service in a clerical collar and a colorful stole from Guatemala, said he wanted to move into the shade before giving an interview. "It's like a near-death experience, here in this sun," the minister said. "Think this is a taste of eternity for George?"
The huge and hungry press corps that covers Bush is gathered eight miles away from his ranch in the gymnasium at Crawford Middle School, and perhaps the real surprise is that no group had figured out how to capitalize on that to the degree that Sheehan's followers have. Wolf said he has not thought that far ahead, but the scale and success of Camp Casey suggest that the Peace House or other groups might try similar extravaganzas during future Bush trips here, such as when he plays host to world leaders on his 1,600-acre property.
The first wave of campers has name tags that mark the number of days they have been in Crawford. One of them is Ann Wright, 59, of Honolulu, whose tag sported 15 hash marks, like an inmate counting down his sentence. She plans to stay until the end of Bush's vacation. "If the president doesn't come out by then," she said, "that ends his opportunity."
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:10 PM
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Dr. Frist: Teach Intelligent Design…Spread Of HIV Possible Through Sweat…Schiavo Can “Respond To Visual Stimuli"…
Bill Frist Backs 'Intelligent Design'
By ROSE FRENCH, Associated Press Writer
Echoing similar comments from President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said "intelligent design" should be taught in public schools alongside evolution.
Frist, R-Tenn., spoke to a Rotary Club meeting Friday and told reporters afterward that students need to be exposed to different ideas, including intelligent design.
"I think today a pluralistic society should have access to a broad range of fact, of science, including faith," Frist said.
Frist, a doctor who graduated from Harvard Medical School, said exposing children to both evolution and intelligent design "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone. I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future."
The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation. Nearly all scientists dismiss it as a scientific theory, and critics say it's nothing more than religion masquerading as science.
Bush recently told a group of Texas reporters that intelligent design and evolution should both be taught in schools "so people can understand what the debate is about."
That comment sparked criticism from opponents, including Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, who called Bush "anti-science."
Frist, who is considering a presidential campaign in 2008, recently angered some conservatives by bucking Bush policy on embryonic stem cell research, voicing his support for expanded research on the subject.
Frist said his decision to endorse stem cell research was "a matter of science," but he said there was no conflict between his position on stem cell research and his position on intelligent design.
"To me, I see no disconnect between that and stem cell research," Frist said. "I base my beliefs on stem cell research both on science and my faith."
Posted by politicalstuff at 7:40 PM
The New York Times
The Swift Boating of Cindy Sheehan
By FRANK RICH
CINDY SHEEHAN couldn't have picked a more apt date to begin the vigil that ambushed a president: Aug. 6 was the fourth anniversary of that fateful 2001 Crawford vacation day when George W. Bush responded to an intelligence briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" by going fishing. On this Aug. 6 the president was no less determined to shrug off bad news. Though 14 marine reservists had been killed days earlier by a roadside bomb in Haditha, his national radio address that morning made no mention of Iraq. Once again Mr. Bush was in his bubble, ensuring that he wouldn't see Ms. Sheehan coming. So it goes with a president who hasn't foreseen any of the setbacks in the war he fabricated against an enemy who did not attack inside the United States in 2001.
When these setbacks happen in Iraq itself, the administration punts. But when they happen at home, there's a game plan. Once Ms. Sheehan could no longer be ignored, the Swift Boating began. Character assassination is the Karl Rove tactic of choice, eagerly mimicked by his media surrogates, whenever the White House is confronted by a critic who challenges it on matters of war. The Swift Boating is especially vicious if the critic has more battle scars than a president who connived to serve stateside and a vice president who had "other priorities" during Vietnam.
The most prominent smear victims have been Bush political opponents with heroic Vietnam résumés: John McCain, Max Cleland, John Kerry. But the list of past targets stretches from the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke to Specialist Thomas Wilson, the grunt who publicly challenged Donald Rumsfeld about inadequately armored vehicles last December. The assault on the whistle-blower Joseph Wilson - the diplomat described by the first President Bush as "courageous" and "a true American hero" for confronting Saddam to save American hostages in 1991 - was so toxic it may yet send its perpetrators to jail.
True to form, the attack on Cindy Sheehan surfaced early on Fox News, where she was immediately labeled a "crackpot" by Fred Barnes. The right-wing blogosphere quickly spread tales of her divorce, her angry Republican in-laws, her supposed political flip-flops, her incendiary sloganeering and her association with known ticket-stub-carrying attendees of "Fahrenheit 9/11." Rush Limbaugh went so far as to declare that Ms. Sheehan's "story is nothing more than forged documents - there's nothing about it that's real."
But this time the Swift Boating failed, utterly, and that failure is yet another revealing historical marker in this summer's collapse of political support for the Iraq war.
When the Bush mob attacks critics like Ms. Sheehan, its highest priority is to change the subject. If we talk about Richard Clarke's character, then we stop talking about the administration's pre-9/11 inattentiveness to terrorism. If Thomas Wilson is trashed as an insubordinate plant of the "liberal media," we forget the Pentagon's abysmal failure to give our troops adequate armor (a failure that persists today, eight months after he spoke up). If we focus on Joseph Wilson's wife, we lose the big picture of how the administration twisted intelligence to gin up the threat of Saddam's nonexistent W.M.D.'s.
The hope this time was that we'd change the subject to Cindy Sheehan's "wacko" rhetoric and the opportunistic left-wing groups that have attached themselves to her like barnacles. That way we would forget about her dead son. But if much of the 24/7 media has taken the bait, much of the public has not.
The backdrops against which Ms. Sheehan stands - both that of Mr. Bush's what-me-worry vacation and that of Iraq itself - are perfectly synergistic with her message of unequal sacrifice and fruitless carnage. Her point would endure even if the messenger were shot by a gun-waving Crawford hothead or she never returned to Texas from her ailing mother's bedside or the president folded the media circus by actually meeting with her.
The public knows that what matters this time is Casey Sheehan's story, not the mother who symbolizes it. Cindy Sheehan's bashers, you'll notice, almost never tell her son's story. They are afraid to go there because this young man's life and death encapsulate not just the noble intentions of those who went to fight this war but also the hubris, incompetence and recklessness of those who gave the marching orders.
Specialist Sheehan was both literally and figuratively an Eagle Scout: a church group leader and honor student whose desire to serve his country drove him to enlist before 9/11, in 2000. He died with six other soldiers on a rescue mission in Sadr City on April 4, 2004, at the age of 24, the week after four American security workers had been mutilated in Falluja and two weeks after he arrived in Iraq. This was almost a year after the president had declared the end of "major combat operations" from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.
According to the account of the battle by John F. Burns in The Times, the insurgents who slaughtered Specialist Sheehan and his cohort were militiamen loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric. The Americans probably didn't stand a chance. As Mr. Burns reported, members of "the new Iraqi-trained police and civil defense force" abandoned their posts at checkpoints and police stations "almost as soon as the militiamen appeared with their weapons, leaving the militiamen in unchallenged control."
Yet in the month before Casey Sheehan's death, Mr. Rumsfeld typically went out of his way to inflate the size and prowess of these Iraqi security forces, claiming in successive interviews that there were "over 200,000 Iraqis that have been trained and equipped" and that they were "out on the front line taking the brunt of the violence." We'll have to wait for historians to tell us whether this and all the other Rumsfeld propaganda came about because he was lied to by subordinates or lying to himself or lying to us or some combination thereof.
As The Times reported last month, even now, more than a year later, a declassified Pentagon assessment puts the total count of Iraqi troops and police officers at 171,500, with only "a small number" able to fight insurgents without American assistance. As for Moktada al-Sadr, he remains as much a player as ever in the new "democratic" Iraq. He controls one of the larger blocs in the National Assembly. His loyalists may have been responsible for last month's apparently vengeful murder of Steven Vincent, the American freelance journalist who wrote in The Times that Mr. Sadr's followers had infiltrated Basra's politics and police force.
Casey Sheehan's death in Iraq could not be more representative of the war's mismanagement and failure, but it is hardly singular. Another mother who has journeyed to Crawford, Celeste Zappala, wrote last Sunday in New York's Daily News of how her son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was also killed in April 2004 - in Baghdad, where he was providing security for the Iraq Survey Group, which was charged with looking for W.M.D.'s "well beyond the admission by David Kay that they didn't exist."
As Ms. Zappala noted with rage, her son's death came only a few weeks after Mr. Bush regaled the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association banquet in Washington with a scripted comedy routine featuring photos of him pretending to look for W.M.D.'s in the Oval Office. "We'd like to know if he still finds humor in the fabrications that justified the war that killed my son," Ms. Zappala wrote. (Perhaps so: surely it was a joke that one of the emissaries Mr. Bush sent to Cindy Sheehan in Crawford was Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser who took responsibility for allowing the 16 errant words about doomsday uranium into the president's prewar State of the Union speech.)
Mr. Bush's stand-up shtick for the Beltway press corps wasn't some aberration; it was part of the White House's political plan for keeping the home front cool. America was to yuk it up, party on and spend its tax cuts heedlessly while the sacrifice of an inadequately manned all-volunteer army in Iraq was kept out of most Americans' sight and minds. This is why the Pentagon issued a directive at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom forbidding news coverage of "deceased military personnel returning to or departing from" air bases. It's why Mr. Bush, unlike Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, has not attended funeral services for the military dead. It's why January's presidential inauguration, though nominally dedicated to the troops, was a gilded $40 million jamboree at which the word Iraq was banished from the Inaugural Address.
THIS summer in Crawford, the White House went to this playbook once too often. When Mr. Bush's motorcade left a grieving mother in the dust to speed on to a fund-raiser, that was one fat-cat party too far. The strategy of fighting a war without shared national sacrifice has at last backfired, just as the strategy of Swift Boating the war's critics has reached its Waterloo before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury in Washington. The 24/7 cable and Web attack dogs can keep on sliming Cindy Sheehan. The president can keep trying to ration the photos of flag-draped caskets. But this White House no longer has any more control over the insurgency at home than it does over the one in Iraq.
Posted by politicalstuff at 7:36 PM
The New York Times
Debtors in Rush to Bankruptcy as Change Nears
By TIMOTHY EGAN
BOISE, Idaho - Rushing to beat an October deadline when the biggest overhaul of the bankruptcy law in a quarter century goes into effect, rising numbers of Americans have filed for protection in the four months since the law was changed, seeking to have their debts erased.
Since President Bush signed the new law in April, bankruptcy filings have jumped, particularly in the heartland. Filings in the four months through July are up 17 percent this year over last in Cleveland, 14 percent in Milwaukee and 22 percent in northern Iowa, according to court filings, matching similar patterns in the Midwest and parts of the South and rural West.
Nationwide, bankruptcy filings for April, May and June were up by 12 percent over the same period last year, according to LexisNexis, the data collection service, which tracks filings ahead of the quarterly reporting done by the federal courts. The rise is coming after bankruptcy had leveled off and even started a slight decline last year.
Under the revised law, debtors who earn more than the median income in their state and who can repay at least $6,000 of their debt over five years will no longer be able to have their debts wiped out for a fresh start under the more generous provisions of Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code. Instead, they will have to seek protection under Chapter 13, which requires a repayment schedule. In addition, under the new provisions, they will have to enroll in a court-supervised financial counseling program.
The rise, which lawyers and bankruptcy experts say is driven in large part by people who say they fear that it will become much more difficult to escape debt and seek a clean slate under the new law, appears to have caught some bankers and lawyers by surprise.
When the new bankruptcy bill was passed by Congress last spring, bankers predicted it would turn many people away from the protection of the courts by making it harder to extinguish debt. That may still turn out to be the case. But thus far, it has been a rush to the courts in many places.
Here in Idaho, the soundless wave of Americans going broke washes up at the clerk's office in bankruptcy court, with nearly 20 fresh declarations of desperation every working day.
There is the Moore family of Boise, Kevin and Linda, listing a $10 cat and a $5 toaster among their meager assets against a medical bill of more than $18,000. There is Delores Hawks, going into debt to learn a skill, and never getting out because of endless credit card interest on the self-loan that once looked so manageable.
"Someday, I think we'll eventually get ahead," said Linda Moore, a 41-year-old part-time school bus driver who said she did not know of her husband's medical bills when she married him. "I don't know when that day will be."
Bankruptcy filings rose eightfold over the last 30 years, from 200,000 in 1978 to 1.6 million last year. Although filings vary from month to month, the pace for this year, if it holds up, projects to about 1.8 million bankruptcies. The overwhelming majority of them are personal, not business.
Economists say bankruptcy has become more likely as household debt has continued to rise while the savings rate has fallen precipitously. The Federal Reserve reported that household debt hit a record high last year, relative to disposable income.
"Bankruptcies historically have risen with debt, and a lot more people are now living near the edge," said Henry J. Sommer, president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. "What we're seeing now is a rush to get in before October. After that, a certain amount of people will be priced out of bankruptcy."
Courts in Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, among other places, report that people are hurrying into bankruptcy in numbers rarely seen.
"I'm probably about four times more busy than normal," said Merv Waage, a bankruptcy lawyer in Denton, Tex. "People are saying, 'Honey, we can't pay our bill. We have no choice. We can't live under the stringent new rules. Let's file now before it's too late.' "
Idaho, a state with an otherwise prosperous sheen to its economy, is among the per capita leaders in a category that no state will brag about. Filings were up 11 percent for July over the same period last year - on a record pace for the year.
Gordon Barry, a bankruptcy lawyer in Toledo, Ohio, where filings are up 21 percent this year, said: "We've been busier than ever. People are running in, trying to beat the deadline."
The new requirements are an incentive to seek protection now, perhaps the last chance for a relatively hassle-free bankruptcy, some of the newly bankrupt say.
Certainly that was case of Ms. Hawks, who is 56, and lives in Ontario, Ore., just over the Idaho state line. After years of odd jobs, she took out loans on credit cards to go to business school and learn office skills. Once out of school, she found she had a rare nerve disease that she said kept her from holding a job. The debts piled up, even after she got rid of her credit cards.
She paid just enough to satisfy the credit card minimum payment, she said, but never advanced out of the loop of perennial debt on the interest.
"I was paying interest on the interest," Ms. Hawks said, "it was $5,000, and I never got ahead of it. Month after month after month. Finally, I just got tired of it. I said, 'I've had enough.' "
She had heard enough about the changes in the bankruptcy law to feel that it was important to file this summer rather than wait until all provisions of the new law took effect in October, she said. "I had to do something," said Ms. Hawks, who now lives on $656 a month in Social Security disability. "I decided to do it now rather than later."
Families with children are three times more likely to file as those without, according to studies done by Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law School and others, and more than 80 percent of them cite job loss, medical problems or family breakup as the reason.
Ms. Moore, an Air Force veteran of the Persian Gulf war who married a carpenter and inherited his outstanding medical bills, said those old debts forced the couple into bankruptcy. Both Ms. Moore and her husband had been divorced before.
But she admits that they brought on some of the problem themselves.
"My husband, he's the kind of guy who when he gets a bill that he can't pay, he just puts it aside," Ms. Moore said.
The monthly math of the Moore family budget leaves little room for unplanned events. Mr. Moore makes about $1,200 a month as a carpenter. Ms. Moore, a mother of three children, drives a school bus part time, and makes $11 an hour. She also receives $300 a month in alimony. Their rent is $700 a month. Their food costs are $400 a month. Their cars, insurance and upkeep are $200 more.
Most months, they barely break even, she said. But what pushed them into bankruptcy were bills from the past, which kept growing with interest - a mountain that finally turned into an avalanche. They detailed the bills in their court filings.
The biggest was an $18,000 medical bill, for Mr. Moore, from a severe knee injury. He also owed $2,469 to a hospital where he went for care during a bout of depression. There was a $205 bill to DirecTV, and a $600 bill to Money Tree and a $615 debt to Capitol One - both lending services. And he owed child support, for $542.
Ms. Moore said she did not know about most of her new husband's debts until she started getting her wages garnished from her bus-driving job. She has health insurance from her Air Force days, but it has not been enough to keep them out of bankruptcy.
"My husband's old medical bills - that's what killed us," she said. Bankruptcy was a chance to start clean, she said. Bankers say the surge in filings is driven in part by misinformation about how the new law will work. They say it will force only the small percentage of people who abuse the system into regular payment schedules, while keeping an open door of debt forgiveness to the vast majority of bankruptcy filers, who are individuals rather than businesses.
"I would hope that consumers are not getting the rush-rush because they're afraid they won't have the same protection in a few months," said Wayne Abernathy, an executive at the American Bankers Association, which lobbied heavily for the new law.
Consumer groups say the law will only make matters worse for the large number of families who are not abusing the system. They say families will be stuck in "debtor's prison without walls," as the Consumer Federation of America, which fought the new bill, calls it.
Many economists and legal experts say that once all provisions of the law take effect in October, bankruptcies should fall again. And some experts say people will be caught in an endless cycle of debt repayment.
Ms. Hawks, who said that she declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month to get out of the endless interest payments on credit cards she had long given up, is puzzled by the financial industry's continued interest in her.
"Couple of times a week, I get a phone call or something in the mail trying to get me to accept a new credit card," she said. "I don't get it - because I'm broke."
Maureen Balleza contributed reporting for this article from Houston.
Posted by politicalstuff at 7:16 PM
Utah station refuses to air anti-war ad
By JENNIFER DOBNER
Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Utah television station is refusing to air an anti-war ad featuring Cindy Sheehan, whose son's death in Iraq prompted a vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch.
The ad began airing on other area stations Saturday, two days before Bush was scheduled to speak in Salt Lake City to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
However, a national sales representative for KTVX, a local ABC affiliate, rejected the ad in an e-mail to media buyers, writing that it was an "inappropriate commercial advertisement for Salt Lake City."
In the ad, Sheehan pleads with Bush for a meeting and accuses him of lying to the American people about Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction and its connection to al-Qaida.
"I love my country. But how many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war?" a weary-looking Sheehan asks in the ad. "I know you can't bring Casey back. But it's time to admit mistakes and bring our troops home now."
Salt Lake City affiliates of NBC, CBS and Fox began running the ad Saturday.
The ads were bought by Gold Star Families for Peace. Washington, D.C.-based Fenton Communications, a public relations firm working for the group, provided a copy of the e-mail received from station sales representative Jemina Keller to The Associated Press.
In a statement Saturday evening explaining its decision, KTVX said that after viewing the ad, local managers found the content "could very well be offensive to our community in Utah, which has contributed more than its fair share of fighting soldiers and suffered significant loss of life in this Iraq war."
Station General Manager David D'Antuono said the decision was not influenced by the station's owner, Clear Channel Communications Inc.
Celeste Zappala, who with Sheehan co-founded Gold Star Families for Peace, said she was puzzled by the decision.
"What stunned me was that it was inappropriate to hear this message," she said. "How is it that Salt Lake City should hear no questions about the war?"
The e-mail read: "The viewpoints reflected in the spot are incompatible with our marketplace and will not be well received by our viewers."
It added that the spot didn't qualify as an issue advertisement.
For the ad to have been considered an "issue" advertisement a ballot measure would have had to be at stake, D'Antuono said.
Mark Wiest, vice president of sales for NBC-affiliated KSL television, said that in the interest of freedom of speech, his station didn't hesitate to run the ad. KSL is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"The bigger picture is, by suppressing the message are we doing what is right under the First Amendment and in an open democratic society?" Wiest said.
Bush received nearly 70 percent of the vote last fall in Utah, one of the most conservative states north of the Bible Belt.
Posted by politicalstuff at 7:09 PM
Republican senator likens Iraq war to Vietnam
By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An influential Republican senator said on Sunday the longer the United States stayed bogged down in Iraq, the more the conflict looked like another Vietnam War.
"What I think the White House does not yet understand and some of my colleagues, is the dam has broken on this (Iraq) policy," said Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee and possible presidential candidate in 2008.
A decorated Vietnam War veteran, Hagel also said the war in Iraq had further destabilized the Middle East and the White House needed to find an exit strategy for Iraq.
Hagel's comments on ABC's "This Week," coincide with President George W. Bush's new offensive to counter growing public discontent over U.S. involvement in Iraq and calls for a pull-out date.
The White House rejected Hagel's remarks and said it was essential the United States complete its mission in Iraq.
"The president knows a free and democratic Iraq will help transform a dangerous region and lay the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said in Crawford, Texas.
"Our policies of the past only allowed the Middle East to become a terrorist breeding ground," he said. "Quitting now wouldn't help anyone except terrorist killers, who certainly aren't quitting their efforts to target innocent people."
Bush is taking his message on the road this week when he will invoke the September 11, 2001, attacks to contend that the United States must stay the course in Iraq.
But the public is showing more discontent with Bush's handling of Iraq, with high-profile protests during his Texas ranch vacation and new poll results showing growing concern over the outcome of the war.
Hagel said there were growing similarities between Iraq and U.S. involvement in Vietnam and he predicted the longer the United States stayed in Iraq the more unpopular it would become.
"We are locked into a bogged down problem not unsimilar or dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam. The longer we stay the more problems we are going to have," he said.
Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, speaking on the same program, strongly disagreed with Hagel's assessment and said there were huge differences between Iraq and Vietnam.
Allen backed the president's view that the Iraq war, which began in March 2003, was a focal point in America's war on terrorism after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
"It is absolutely essential that we win it. We cannot tuck tail and run (from Iraq). We have to prevail. We must win. If we lose, that will destabilize the Middle East," said Allen.
Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin broke ranks with many of his colleagues this week and called for a December 2006 deadline to withdraw from Iraq, arguing this would take the wind out of the sails of the insurgency.
In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," Feingold said if a target date was not set the American public would become more and more disillusioned.
"The president is not telling us the time frame ... what's happening is that the American public is despairing of the situation," said Feingold. "I felt it was time to put on the table an idea and break the taboo," he added.
But fellow Democrat Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, disagreed and said a fixed timetable was not needed.
"The senator (Feingold) is understandably frustrated, like all America is. What we need in Iraq is either a strategy to win or a strategy to get out," he told ABC.
Feingold and Allen are also on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Hagel also did not back Feingold's approach but he said there needed to be a clearer strategy from the White House.
"I don't know how many more casualties we're going to take. We're spending a billion dollars a week now (in Iraq)," said Hagel.
More than 1,800 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq and thousands more have been wounded.
"We should start figuring out how we get out of there. But with this understanding, we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East," said Hagel.
Posted by politicalstuff at 7:06 PM