Exxon Shouldn't Be Able To Use it's $40 Billion Profit To Bury Evidence It's Killing Our World
Britain's respected newspaper The Guardian reported that scientists have been offered $10,000 by an Exxon-backed think tank to trash today's landmark UN study finding global warning is on a collision course with life on earth and 90% likely to be caused by human activity (aka the fossil fuel economy).
Just yesterday, Exxon reported a $4.5 million per day profit, more than any corporation in the history of the world.
$40 billion per year in profit made not only at the expense of gouged motorists and a fragile economy but at the cost of human life on earth.
Isn't it time Exxon is forced to disclose every payment it makes to scientists, researchers and experts to hide the evidence of its crimes? Second hand smoke may have killed many Americans, but Exxon's products are killing the earth. It's time Congress forced oil companies to come clean about the junk science they fund.
According to The Guardian, the Exxon-financed American Enterprise Institute (AEI) was offering scientists and economists $10,000 each to write articles undercutting the report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Travel expenses were also being offered.
The AEI has received more than $1.6 million from Exxon Mobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration, which has resisted reports of global warming. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees, "The Guardian" reported.
The IPCC report released today in Paris says scientists' "best estimate" is that temperatures will rise 3.2 to 7.8 degrees by 2100. In contrast, the increase from 1901 to 2005 was 1.2 degrees. The report also projects that sea levels could rise by 7 to 23 inches by the end of the century.
Madame Speaker, it's your move, for motorists and for the planet.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
The Cheney Trial, Within The Libby Trial
Note: for six years I was one of the original writers of the CIA Identities Law working for its orignal sponsor, Senator Lloyd Bentsen.
For the judge and jury, it is the Libby trial.
For America and American politics, it is the Dick Cheney trial and the stakes are far higher than reported in the media.
What has emerged in evidence so far, is not
surprising, but it is astonishing. Vice-President Cheney was so deeply involved and obsessed with discrediting Joe Wilson that the impact and implications are enormous and underestimated.
The Vice President was choreographer of the attack on Wilson. He acted as though he was the Deputy White House political director and the Deputy White House press secretary. He was organizing meetings, drafting talking points and assigning which staff would talk to which reporter.
This is not what Vice Presidents do. This is more than an attack on his enemy Wilson. Most of us who have had high government positions have faced these situations, and launching a counter-attack could have been done far more discreetly and professionally.
Plus: the naming of the Plame name, at the very least, created harm to national security and was an unpatriotic act. The minute the Vice President, Libby, Rove, knew Valerie worked at the Agency in a Bureau that insiders would know immediately was highly sensitive, without any doubt triggered red lights, immediately.
When we were writing the original law, not one of us, could have ever imagined that identity disclosers would be high officials in the U.S. government. The law was aimed at people very hostile to the U.S., who were acting in a manner that helped the KGB.
It was unthinkable to all of us, that anyone involved in these disclosures, felonious or not, would be high in the U.S. government. Anyone who goes on television and says otherwise is a liar.
My theory, with substantial evidence to back it up, is that the danger of Joe Wilson was not the damage that Wilson's view did to the Administration policy. It was the danger that Wilson's work would unravel a long term, well planned, highly deceptive campaign that preceded Joe's involvement to deceive the country to drive us to war.
Prediction: major plea bargaining either has begun, or will begin, before the verdict and watch out if Libby sings in a plea deal.
Prediction: the original defense argument that Libby was a fall guy for others, would only anger and inflame the judge and jury. It is no defense to say that others might have committed similar or related crimes and that is the impression this argument created.
Watch this: the sequence of events that could be explosive includes a) the original Cheney deposition to Fitzgerald, then b) testimony on the record of extensive and absurd involvement by the Vice President to the micro-level on the attack against Wilson, leading to c) Cheney's testimony in the trial if it happens.
The prosecutor and jury will compare what Cheney said in the deposition, what facts emerged in the trial, and Cheney's testimony at trial. Do not be surprised if the word pardon appears in the press, though the reaction would be as strong as the Saturday Night Massacre in the Nixon years.
The Surprise: what will shock people will be when the Senate Intelligence Committee releases its report on pre-war intelligence, which was covered up by the Republican Committee before the elections.
The Senate report will, I predict, show major deceptions that well preceded the events in the Wilson case. This will put the whole case in context. It will turn the spotlight on the misrepresentations prior to Wilson, that will explain the obsessive attack of Cheney and Libby against Wilson.
Fasten your seat belts.
Nobody is out of the woods yet, and these woods are dark and deep.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:58 AM
Glenn Beck: A Cause for Concern
Glenn Beck represents a truly troubling trend in television journalism. Since May 2006, the radio talk show host has had his own one hour nightly program on CNN's Headline News channel. While the network may have hoped that Beck's flamboyant style would increase ratings, the cost to their integrity has been staggering.
It is important to note, from the outset, that Beck doesn't stand alone. The insertion of the personalities and style of radio talkshow hosts into mainstream television news programming has been taking place for a number of years now. Their crude, cynical and cutting edge commentary, their feigning the role of the common man, and their inflammatory "us versus them" rhetoric is now standard fair on many of the major networks.
The result of this trend is evident on a number of levels. There has been a coarsening and dumbing down of our political discourse on several issues of national importance. When Beck refers to President Carter as a "fathead" or speaks of Saudi leaders as "nut-jobs," serious discussion is displaced by crude and demeaning jabs.
There is the additional problem that instead of educating the public, this new breed of television pundits reduces issues to their lowest common denominator, thereby reinforcing preexisting, uninformed biases. Never shy to share an unenlightened view, Beck, for example, will note "I'm not an expert, but..." and then proceed to make his case using a mishmash of clichés that reflect the prejudices of conventional wisdom.
While much of the same could be said about a number of other similar personalities that now populate the airwaves, Beck comes with a significant difference. I have carefully reviewed the transcripts of Beck's shows and his so-called, obsessive crusade against radical Islam left me both horrified and profoundly concerned. In just the past two months, for example, one half of Beck's shows have focused on matters Muslim. Beck insists that he is not opposed to all Muslims, only what he refers to as the "10 percent who are evil." He then counters this observation by stating that the vast majority of good Muslims have been cowered into silence by the extremist 10 percent, so that they too stand indicted by their cowardice. Only when they do speak out, Beck says, will radical Islam be defeated and the rest of us be safe from their scourge. The net result of this circumlocution is that the majority of Muslims are to blame.
When Beck is not venting his own prejudiced view of Islam, he invites on-air guests who amplify his views. They are of three types: Israelis, right-wing Americans with a long-established axe to grind against Arabs and Muslims, and lastly, a handful of Muslims who are largely alienated and self-styled outcasts who have found their shtick striking out against their co-religionists.
His right-wing guests or Israelis, like former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who was Beck's guest for an entire hour on a special program that aired three times in one month) are only too happy to reinforce Beck's views. His Muslim guests similarly serve to validate Beck's complaint about the broader Muslim community. In all of this, there is not even the pretense of balance.
The impact has been predictable and frightening. After I raised some concern that ABC's Good Morning America was hiring Beck to serve as a commentator on that once respected program, I received a taste of what Beck's impact has been. Emails from Beck's supporters have called me "an animal Muslim" (I'm a Catholic). They've told me that I don't belong in America (when in fact my family has lived in this country for over 100 years, serving in every branch of the military), and that I am shielding terrorists by refusing to protest against them (wrong on both counts, but my critics have obviously never read my denunciations of terrorism and terrorists).
And it is this that concerns me. We are, in fact, engaged in a troubling conflict against extremism fueled by religious fervor, both ours and theirs. What this period and this conflict require is intelligent discussion, not inflammatory rhetoric. To guide us through this, we need journalists like Walter Cronkite, Edgar R. Murrow and Peter Jennings; we don't need flame-throwers like Sean Hannity, Don Imus and Glenn Beck. Unfortunately, it's the later we are getting more of. And it is this I find disturbing.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:57 AM
Army officer court-martial tests free speech
By Daisuke Wakabayashi
A U.S. Army officer, whose public refusal to go fight in Iraq made him a champion of the anti-war movement, faces a court-martial next week when a military panel could determine the limits of free-speech rights for officers.
First Lt. Ehren Watada faces up to four years in prison if convicted on a charge of missing movements and two charges of conduct unbecoming an officer when his court-martial starts on Monday at Fort Lewis, an Army base near Seattle.
Watada, a 28-year-old artillery officer, refused to deploy with his brigade to Iraq last summer and called the war illegal and immoral. He refused conscientious-objector status, saying he would fight in Afghanistan but not Iraq.
The court-martial gets under way at a time of waning public support for the war in Iraq in the face of President George W. Bush's proposal to send 21,500 more troops to war.
Supporters of Watada say he is the first Army officer to publicly refuse to fight in Iraq and refuse conscientious objector status.
"It's not that I am scared. It's that I strongly believe this war is illegal and immoral and participation in it would be contrary to my oath to this country," Watada said in an interview this week.
The two charges of conduct unbecoming an officer stem from public comments Watada made encouraging soldiers "to throw down their weapons" to resist an authoritarian government at home.
Earlier this month, a military judge rejected the defense's argument that Watada's statements were completely covered by the U.S. constitutional right to freedom of speech.
"If you do go out with public statements, you have to be prepared for what are the potential repercussions of that," said Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman.
A military panel will decide if his criticism of the war amounted to officer misconduct -- whether the comments pose a danger to the loyalty, discipline, mission and morale of the troops.
"This case will test the limits of what is free speech and what is speech that can be curtailed in the military," said Kathleen Duignan, executive director of the National Institute of Military Justice, a non-profit organization.
"Of course, when you join the military you give up some of your constitutional rights, such as the right to complete unfettered free speech," she said, referring to the military justice code that individuals must agree to before enlisting.
Demonstrators plan to rally for Watada, who has become a focus of anti-war protesters, outside the gates of Fort Lewis when his court-martial starts next week.
Watada, a native of Hawaii who served for a year in Korea, joined the Army in 2003 after the United States had already invaded Iraq. Upon returning to America, Watada began to question the reasons behind the U.S. involvement.
The officer said he decided to speak out against the war, because he feared that the administration was emboldened by the ability to use "lies and deception" to engage in war in Iraq and could repeat that course of action with Iran or Syria.
"When you have leaders that are unaccountable, who have already deceived people over something as serious as war and are willing to do it again, you have to ask yourself, 'where do you stand?"' said Watada.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:49 AM
Friday, February 02, 2007
2006 personal savings fall to 74-yr. low
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer
People once again spent everything they made and then some last year, pushing the personal savings rate to the lowest level since the Great Depression more than seven decades ago.
The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the savings rate for all of 2006 was a negative 1 percent, meaning that not only did people spend all the money they earned but they also dipped into savings or increased borrowing to finance purchases. The 2006 figure was lower than a negative 0.4 percent in 2005 and was the poorest showing since a negative 1.5 percent savings rate in 1933 during the Depression.
For December, consumer spending rose a solid 0.7 percent, the best showing in five months, while incomes rose by 0.5 percent, both figures matching Wall Street expectations.
In other news, a key gauge of factory activity flashed recession warnings in manufacturing in January.
The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index registered 49.3 last month, down from a December reading of 51.4. A reading below 50 indicates that manufacturing activity is contracting rather than expanding.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported that the number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 20,000 last week to 307,000. That improvement pushed the four-week average for claims to the lowest level in a year, indicating that the labor market remains healthy.
The savings rate has been negative for an entire year only four times in history — in 2005 and 2006 and in 1933 and 1932. However, the reasons for the decline in the savings rate were vastly different during the two periods.
During the Great Depression, when one-fourth of the labor force was without a job, people dipped into savings in an effort to meet the basic necessities of shelter and clothing.
Economists have put forward various reasons to explain the current lack of savings. These range from a feeling on the part of some people that they do not need to save because of the run-up in their investments such as homes and stock portfolios to an effort by many middle-class wage earners to maintain their current lifestyles even though their wage gains have been depressed by the effects of global competition.
Whatever the reason for the low savings, economists warn that it the phenomenon exists at a particularly bad time with 78 million baby boomers approaching retirement age. Instead of building up savings to use during retirement, baby boomers are continuing to spend all their earnings.
"These low savings levels are coming right as baby boomers are starting to retire and after your retire, your savings rate typically goes down as you live off previous savings," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York.
The savings rate is computed by taking the amount of personal income left after taxes are paid, an amount known as disposable income, and subtracting the amount of spending. Since the figure has dipped into negative territory, it means consumers are spending all of disposable income and then some.
For December, the savings rate edged down to a negative 1.2 percent, compared to a negative 1 percent in November. The savings rate has been in negative territory for 21 consecutive months.
The 0.7 percent rise in personal spending was the best showing since a similar gain in July. It followed increases of 0.5 percent in November and 0.3 percent in October and reflected solid spending by consumers during the Christmas shopping season.
Consumer spending posted a solid rebound in the final three months of the year, helping to lift overall economic growth to a rate of 3.5 percent during that period, up significantly after lackluster growth rates in the spring and fall.
Incomes were up 0.5 percent in December, the best showing since a similar increase in September.
On the inflation front, a gauge tied to consumer spending that is preferred by the Federal Reserve edged up by 0.1 percent in December. This gauge, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was up 2.2 percent over the past 12 months ending in December, still above the Fed's comfort zone of 1 percent to 2 percent.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:47 AM
US sex offender 'posed as pupil'
A 29-year-old convicted sex offender has spent four months at a US school after successfully posing as a 12-year-old boy, officials say.
They say Neil Rodreick shaved his body hair, covered his stubble with make-up and took a new name to attend Imagine Charter School in Phoenix, Arizona.
The 173cm (5ft 6in) man was eventually expelled for poor attendance in 2006.
He was arrested after trying to enrol at another school. He has since been charged with forgery and fraud.
Mr Rodreick spent seven years in jail after being convicted of lewdly propositioning a six-year-old boy in 1996.
Mr Rodreick adopted the name Casey Price to attend Imagine Charter School, investigators say.
We are just shocked
Mindy Newlin, pupil's parent
They say he blended well with the other pupils, many of whom were actually taller and bigger than him.
He attended classes and always handed in his homework on time.
"He absolutely looked age-appropriate," school spokeswoman Rhonda Cagle told the New York Times newspaper.
"By all accounts from the teachers, he was fairly quiet and withdrawn," she said.
Mindy Newlin, parent of one of the pupils at the school, said: "We are just shocked."
Mr Rodreick even convinced two men who had been looking for boys on the internet to pretend to be his relatives.
He was caught earlier in January, after teachers at another school in Arizona - where had gone for a day - became suspicious.
In all, Mr Rodreick spent nearly two years disguised as a boy.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:40 AM
Student Tapes Teacher's Sermon saying "you belong in hell" if you "reject" Christianity; School Says 'No More Taping'
John R. Bohrer
Student Tapes Teacher's Sermon, School Says 'No More Taping'
Over at Blue Jersey, we revisit the story of a Kearny high school teacher, David Paszkiewicz, who told his students that 'that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah's ark,' and "you belong in hell" if you "reject" Christianity. He also singled out a Muslim student to tell her that she is definitely going to hell.
Kearny school officials have certainly taken their time in handling the incident, which occurred at the start of the school year and became public in November.
In December, the Kearny school board continued to obfuscate who was at fault, silently implicating the young student who had secretly taped Paszkiewicz's classroom sermons for fear officials wouldn't believe him. In January, the teacher published a rambling letter in the local paper, explaining why the Constitution allows him to tell his students they are going to hell. He even insinuated the student who taped him was a part of a broader conspiracy:
It is my firm conviction that there is an effort afoot to undermine the very underpinnings of our freedoms.
This morning, the New York Times tells of Kearny's official reaction:
Student's Recording of Teacher's Views Leads to a Ban on Taping
After a public school teacher was recorded telling students they belonged in hell if they did not accept Jesus as their savior, the school board has banned taping in class without an instructor's permission, and has added training for teachers on the legal requirements for separating church and state.
In response, the student's father said it the best, "Adoption of this rule at this time sends all the wrong messages."
And while the school board says they've taken some undefined "corrective action" against the teacher, Paszkiewicz still seems intent on berating anyone who disagrees with him.
Meanwhile, [the student] said that Mr. Paszkiewicz recently told the class that scientists who spoke about the danger of global warming were using tactics like those Hitler used, by repeating a lie often enough that people come to believe it.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:37 AM
Engineers: 122 levees at risk of failing
By BEVERLEY LUMPKIN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- One hundred twenty-two levees from Maryland to California are at risk of failing, according to a list released Thursday by the Army Corps of Engineers.
There could be danger to people who live in communities near some of the levees as well as a chance that they will have to pay more for insurance, said Butch Kinerney of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's national flood insurance program.
The list was released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by news organizations, including The Associated Press.
If the Corps of Engineers determines a levee to be at risk of failing, homeowners in the area could be required to purchase flood insurance, though exceptions can be made.
Communities near the levees have been notified that they have received an "unacceptable maintenance inspection rating." That means a levee has one or more problems, which can include movement of floodwalls, faulty culverts, animal burrows, erosion or tree growth, according to a statement released by the Corps.
California, with 37 suspect levees, and Washington state, with 19, led the list.
FEMA's Kinerney said he was concerned that the levees present not only a chance of higher insurance costs but a danger to those living nearby. FEMA maps flood plains and helps determine the flood risks that communities face.
Kinerney said people living near the levees should have an evacuation plan, a family emergency plan, and a disaster supply kit, along with flood insurance.
The Corps has been warning communities they need to take care of routine levee maintenance, said Larry Larson, director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers. Larson said he was glad the Corps was putting out the word on the levees.
"The feds are saying, 'Wait a minute, we haven't been doing our job,'" Larson said. "'We better get on top of this. Your people are at risk. You need to get something done.'"
The Corps historically has constructed the levees and has turned most of them over to local communities for operations and maintenance. Some communities may not have kept up with needed repairs, while others may merely lack the documentation, Kinerney said.
As the Corps decertifies the adequacy of a particular levee, it also notifies FEMA, which can take away the credit communities get on their flood insurance rate for having a levee.
Kinerney added that if residents of the communities at risk were to purchase flood insurance now, before the community's designation changes, they can still pay the cheaper rate.
The Corps can give communities 12 months to make corrections - sometimes it's just a matter of "filling gopher holes," Kinerney said.
Also, FEMA can issue for up to 24 months a provisional accreditation if a community requests it, giving it up to two years to correct the problems or contest the finding that the levee is not sound. During that period, residents are not required to purchase flood insurance.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:35 AM
Fla. gov. wants $32M for voting machines
By BRIAN SKOLOFF
Associated Press Writer
Governor Charlie Crist says his new legislative budget proposal will fund a paper trail for Florida voting machines.
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday he wants to spend $32 million to get rid of touch-screen voting technology adopted after the 2000 presidential election, and proposed a system that would create a paper trail of votes instead.
The proposal, which still needs legislative approval, aims to have all counties producing paper trails by the 2008 presidential election.
"What we're talking about here is democracy and it is precious," Crist told a crowd of several hundred people at a gathering of the nonpartisan Voters Coalition of Palm Beach County. "You should, when you go vote, be able to have a record of it."
Fifteen of Florida's 67 counties use paperless touch-screen voting machines. The remaining counties use optical scan machines where a voter marks a paper ballot with a pencil and it is electronically scanned.
Critics of the paperless machines say voters are disenfranchised because there is no record for a manual recount should questions arise about an election.
The state will pay to replace touch-screen machines with optical scanners, but supervisors will be given the option to use the now paperless devices for early voting if they retrofit them to produce a paper trail, said Secretary of State Kurt Browning.
"We want to ensure that every ballot cast in Florida will be able to be counted and verified," Browning said.
Florida's voting system attracted national attention in 2000 when dimpled, pregnant and hanging chads on punch card ballots held up a final count in the presidential election. Florida was eventually decided by 537 votes after the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in, handing the election to George W. Bush.
The state has since banned the punch cards and moved to all electronic voting machines. But problems arose again in November in the race to replace former U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris in Florida's 13th District.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican, was seated last month after a recount showed him ahead 369 votes. More than 18,000 electronic ballots recorded no vote in his contest against Democrat Christine Jennings. His supporters say voters skipped the race intentionally, but Jennings' backers believe the voting machines malfunctioned.
People For the American Way, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based elections watchdog group, said Crist's plan is a good first step, but that more needed to be done to ensure fairness.
Mitchell noted that blind voters, for instance, still need assistance from a poll worker or a family member, and that language barriers would inhibit others from voting alone in some counties.
"We're excited about the money he is putting behind this issue, but we're not suggesting that this is the perfect solution," said Reggie Mitchell, the group's Florida attorney.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:32 AM
U.S. says Oregon man sought missile parts for Iran
By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. immigration agents have charged an Oregon businessman with trying to buy batteries used in U.S.-built Hawk surface-to-air missiles for shipment to Iran, court documents showed on Thursday.
Robert Caldwell, 56, of Portland, Oregon, is charged with conspiring to export regulated items without a license under rules governing international arms trade. He was freed on $50,000 bond pending trial.
Caldwell was arrested last week after giving an undercover agent a check for the $5,000 batteries during a meeting at a hotel across from the historic Alamo mission, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jerry Robinette said. "There is no way to get a license," Robinette said. "He would not have been able to acquire a license to ship something like that to Iran."
Hawk missiles, which are launched from fixed positions and considered highly lethal, downed dozens of Iraqi Air Force jets at the start of the Gulf War in 1990. They are believed to be among weapons the United States sent to Iran as part of the Iran-Contra weapons-for-hostages exchange in the 1980s.
But the United States now strictly bans weapons exports to Iran, which it designates as a sponsor of terrorism.
Robinette said Caldwell is an import-export broker in Oregon. He did not say how many batteries Caldwell allegedly attempted to buy. They cost $5,000 each, officials said.
Caldwell's, Van Hilley, said his client was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Mr. Caldwell is a broker, and he met this fellow from England and got involved in something that was well beyond his comprehension," Hilley said.
The federal documents show Caldwell is the second person arrested for attempting to buy the batteries. The other suspect is said to have told investigators that the plan was to send the batteries to Iran.
That suspect allegedly fingered Caldwell as a middle man in the scheme, prompting agents to set up the sting in San Antonio.
"Our concern is to make sure that this battery or any other components of a Hawk missile don't make it to Iran," Robinette said. "We want to make sure they never get ... used against our troops or against our allies."
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:31 AM
U.S. jury acquits two men of Hamas conspiracy
By Andrew Stern
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A U.S. jury found two Palestinian-born men not guilty on Thursday of carrying out what prosecutors said was a 15-year conspiracy to illegally finance Hamas terrorist activities in Israel.
Muhammad Salah, 53, and co-defendant Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 48, were acquitted of racketeering conspiracy, the major charge against them and one that could have drawn a sentence of 40 years to life.
They were found guilty on lesser obstruction of justice charges, relating in Salah's case to a statement denying membership in Hamas. Ashqar was found guilty on two counts for refusing to answer questions from two grand juries. The obstruction charges call for up to a five-year sentence, but also allow for probation, lawyers said.
"It is better than we thought," a tearful Salah, a businessman from the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Illinois, said as he hugged supporters just outside the courtroom. "We are good people, not terrorists."
"It's a great victory," his lawyer, Michael Deutsch said.
The verdicts will be appealed, defense attorney Matthew Piers said.
The judge set sentencing for June 15, and allowed both defendants to remain free on bond.
Women were on their knees outside the courtroom praying before and after the jury's verdict was read, which came following three weeks of jury deliberations and a 10-week trial.
The 2004 federal grand jury indictment said Salah, who became a U.S. citizen in 1979, was the point person from 1988 until 2003 for money transfers that went to Hamas, and also provided recruits and delivered messages on behalf of the accused Hamas leader in the United States, Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook.
A former U.S. doctoral student, Marzook is believed to be in Syria.
Prosecutors described Ashqar, who has taught at Howard University in Washington, as a coordinator and archivist for Hamas' military wing.
Hamas leads the Palestinian government, but Israel, the European Union and the United States regard it as a terrorist group and it is illegal for U.S. citizens to contribute to it.
John Ashcroft, the attorney general at the time of the indictment, said the defendants had been "taking advantage of the freedoms of an open society to foster and finance acts of terror."
"This is the second time the United States government has tried to bring this (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict into a criminal court of law," Ashqar's attorney, William Moffitt, said. He referred to a Tampa, Florida, jury's acquittal of a computer sciences professor on most terror funding charges in 2005.
In January 1993, Salah was arrested at an Israeli checkpoint and found to be carrying nearly $100,000 in cash. His two-month interrogation produced written and tape-recorded confessions that helped send him to an Israeli prison for 4 1/2 years.
Lawyers for both Salah and Ashqar said they were only involved in charitable work.
Prosecutors used Salah's confession extensively in the trial, but his lawyers said he was tortured into confessing.
"I'm not sure Salah did anything wrong before he was incarcerated by the Israelis, and I'm quite sure he did nothing wrong after," Piers said.
The lone guilty finding against Salah related to a written response in which he denied being a Hamas member that was made in a civil suit won by the family of David Boim, a 17-year-old American killed in Israel in 1996. Piers said he expected the $156 million judgment in that case to be overturned on appeal.
The trial saw an unprecedented appearance by agents of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence service, who testified in disguise to a cleared courtroom. They reportedly said Salah was not tortured.
Another high-profile prosecution witness was former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who toured Salah's prison in Israel and saw part of his interrogation -- later writing a front-page article relating to it.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:30 AM
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Comedian Al Franken to run for Senate in Minnesota
by Rob Hotakainen
WASHINGTON -- Comedian and radio talk show host Al Franken has begun calling Democratic members of Congress and prominent Minnesota Democrats to tell them he will definitely challenge Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in 2008, McClatchy Newspapers has learned.
On Monday, Franken announced that he was quitting his radio show on Feb. 14, and he told his audience that they'd be the first to know of his decision. But Franken has been working the phones in recent days, telling his political friends he's ready to declare his candidacy. McClatchy Newspapers confirmed Wednesday that Franken made calls to at least two members of the Minnesota congressional delegation in Washington to break the news. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity, not wanting to pre-empt Franken's announcement.
"From his voice to my ears, he's running," said one House member, who relayed the remark via his press secretary.
"I can tell you we got one of those calls," said a top-ranked aide for another House member.
Franken declined to be interviewed.
"He's not going to comment on his private conversations," said Andy Barr, his spokesman. But he added that Franken has "made no secret" of his interest in Coleman's seat.
No other Democrats have announced plans to challenge Coleman, who's expected to be among the most vulnerable GOP incumbents next year.
Franken, who grew up in St. Louis Park, Minn., achieved fame in New York as a comedy writer for NBC-TV's "Saturday Night Live" and went on to become a best-selling author. He moved his radio show to Minneapolis last year and has become increasingly active in Minnesota and national politics.
His Midwest Values political action committee raised more than $1.1 million and he distributed checks of $10,000 each last year to Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Claire McKaskill of Missouri and Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz, and he gave smaller amounts to dozens of other national and state candidates.
Coleman has had little to say about Franken, but in an interview last year he said he expected him to be "a very strong voice for the far left" and a strong fundraiser. Republicans will try to exploit Franken's ties to Hollywood: Contributors to his political action committee included Barbra Streisand, Phil Donahue, Larry Hagman and Norman Lear from the entertainment industry.
That list of contributors prompted Coleman to say that Franken "obviously has a sense of humor" by calling his PAC Midwest Values.
"Hollywood values aren't Midwest," Coleman said, "and the money isn't Midwest."
Franken expects his years in New York to be an issue in the campaign but has had a ready line as he promotes himself to Minnesota audiences: "If I do run against Norm Coleman in '08, I'll be the only New York Jew in the race who actually grew up in Minnesota."
Coleman grew up in New York and moved to Minnesota as an adult.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:06 AM
Ailing NY Ground Zero workers demand more help
By Tom Hals
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rescue workers with chronic illnesses they attribute to exposure to the rubble at the World Trade Center site demanded long-term support from the government on Wednesday, and one advocate feared it could become "America's Chernobyl."
As President George W. Bush met the son of a World Trade Center rescue worker who died of lung disease, a group of residents, paramedics and union members gathered at the site and demanded hundreds of millions of dollars to help workers who cleared the area after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
"This could be America's Chernobyl, but it doesn't have to be," said Mariama James, a resident of the neighborhood near the World Trade Center.
While Washington is spending billions of dollars protecting the country from terrorism, it is doing nothing to help those who worked to clear the site, she said.
Carpenter Jimmy Nolan, who worked and slept at the site for three weeks, said, "The government didn't think they'd see these problems for 20 to 30 years, not in five years."
Showing hands he said were blistered from exposure to the rubble, he said he needed financial support and health care that would allow him to quit a job that could aggravate his lung and liver problems.
About 40,000 rescue workers were exposed to toxic dust that was as caustic as drain cleaner, according to a doctor involved with a study by the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, which was released in September.
Nearly 70 percent of 9,500 workers surveyed have suffered new or worsened respiratory problems after working at the trade center site, the study found. In some cases, the symptoms lingered for years.
"There is so much evidence to link 100-plus deaths to each individual's involvement in the World Trade Center disaster," said Jonathan Sferazo, an ironworker who helped the rescue effort.
Sick rescue workers and their families have been putting pressure on Washington for a comprehensive plan to support rescuers who have lost health insurance because they can't work.
Advocates also want funding to provide medical training about symptoms and to perform an environmental study of lower Manhattan. But they say the government is reluctant to back such steps, fearing it would become liable for long-term costs.
The White House announced plans on Tuesday to spend $25 million to care for sick rescue workers. Bush met with the son of a deceased New York police officer on Wednesday.
Ceasar Borja Jr., who attended Bush's State of the Union address as a guest of New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton on the night his father died, attributes his father's lung disease to exposure to the air at the site.
Clinton has called for nearly $2 billion over several years to treat Ground Zero workers.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:05 AM
TV network ad campaign sparks Boston security scare
By Jason Szep
BOSTON (Reuters) - A television network's marketing campaign went badly awry on Wednesday, causing a day-long security scare in Boston that closed bridges, shut major roads and put hundreds of police on alert.
Apologizing for Boston's biggest security alert since the September 11 attacks more than five years ago, Turner Broadcasting said it had placed electronic devices at bridges and other spots to promote an animated cartoon.
Police mistook the small, battery-powered electronic billboards as possible improvised bombs.
The discovery of the first one on a bridge led police to stop morning rush-hour traffic on an interstate highway just north of Boston, halt a busy train line, cordon off the area and deploy a bomb squad, which blew it up.
By afternoon, at least nine more of the "suspicious" devices were found. Authorities mobilized emergency crews, federal agents, bomb squads, hundreds of police and the U.S. Coast Guard as traffic froze in parts of the city.
The billboards, encased in dark plastic, consisted of blinking lights wired to an electronic circuit board to project an animated cartoon image in an outdoor promotion for a show on Turner's Cartoon Network called "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."
"The 'packages' in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger," Turner Broadcasting System Inc., a unit of Time Warner Inc., said in statement.
It said the devices, which police said resembled improvised exploding devices, had been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Philadelphia.
"We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger," Turner said.
LEGAL ACTION THREATENED
"I am deeply dismayed to learn that many of the devices are a part of a marketing campaign by Turner Broadcasting," said Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, adding that he will consult with the state's attorney general for a response.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he was prepared to sue.
"It is outrageous, in a post 9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme," he said. "I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today's incidents."
The alarm prompted the Coast Guard to close the Charles River that runs through the city and caused authorities to shut down major bridges along with several roads.
"This has taken a significant toll on our resources," Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis told reporters.
The packages were discovered near the New England Medical Center, two bridges and several other locations.
(Additional reporting by Svea Herbst and Scott Malone)
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:04 AM
Court urged to rule on eavesdropping program
By Andrea Hopkins
CINCINNATI (Reuters) - A U.S. civil rights group urged a federal appeals court on Wednesday to uphold a ruling against the Bush Administration's domestic spying program, although the White House has agreed a special court can monitor the eavesdropping.
The American Civil Liberties Union said its challenge to President George W. Bush's domestic wiretapping program should not be dropped simply because the government had volunteered, for now, not to renew the eavesdropping activities.
"It's this court's duty to serve as check on the arbitrary exercise of government power to wiretap American citizens on American soil," ACLU lead attorney Ann Beeson told a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
She noted the Bush Administration was still claiming the "inherent authority" to engage in eavesdropping without a warrant, and that nothing would stop it from withdrawing from the monitoring system in the future.
"A failure to decide the case could leave it up to the president to decide when and whether to obey the law," Beeson said.
A lawyer for the government urged the court to dismiss the case, saying Bush's decision to allow a secret panel of judges who oversee the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor the program meant there was no longer a civil rights issue at stake.
"Those orders have eliminated the central premise for the plaintiffs' legal challenge in this case," said U.S. Justice Department lawyer Greg Garre. "What's left of this case is ... whether the president can authorize electronic surveillance outside of FISA in the future."
The panel of judges, two Republicans and a Democrat, questioned both sides but made no immediate ruling. It may be weeks before a decision is taken.
The surveillance program, exposed by The New York Times in December 2005, was authorized by Bush to monitor the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens, without first obtaining a court warrant.
It caused a political uproar among Democrats and some Republicans, as well as civil rights activists, who said it violated U.S. law.
A U.S. district court in August ruled the program violated the Constitution and a 1978 law prohibiting surveillance of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil without the approval of the special surveillance court, but the government appealed.
The ACLU plaintiffs include lawyers who say they cannot defend clients accused of terrorism because the government, under they wiretapping program, can listen into attorney-client conversations.
White House officials defended the program for more than a year, saying the warrantless surveillance that began soon after the 2001 attacks had helped protect against terrorism.
Under threat of investigation by a new Democratic-controlled Congress, the Bush administration announced in mid-January an end to the program and said it would work with the secret federal court that issues warrants for electronic surveillance inside the United States.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Wednesday he would let selected members of Congress see secret court documents that authorized Bush's newly revised domestic spying program.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:03 AM
U.S. lets lawmakers see court spying documents
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Wednesday he would let selected members of the Democratic-led U.S. Congress see secret court documents that authorized President George W. Bush's newly revised domestic spying program.
Lawmakers and civil liberties groups called it a significant first step for an administration that in the past often refused to provide information to Congress, but they urged the Bush administration to provide full details about the program.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said he would review the documents and then decide if "further (congressional) oversight or legislative action is necessary."
In Cincinnati on Wednesday, the American Civil LibertiesUnion urged a federal appeals court to uphold a lower-court ruling against the domestic spying program, even though the White House had agreed a special court could monitor the eavesdropping.
A U.S. district court in August ruled the program violated the Constitution and a 1978 law prohibiting surveillance of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil without the approval of the special court. The government appealed.
On January 17, the administration announced an end to the 5-year-old warrantless surveillance program, two weeks after Democrats took control of Congress and vowed to bring the program in line with the law. The surveillance program will now be subject to approval from the secret U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Critics had charged Bush overstepped his power after the September 11 attacks with warrantless domestic spying as well as actions such as holding terrorism suspects indefinitely without charges and interrogations that some said amounted to torture.
At a January 18 Judiciary Committee hearing, Democrats and Republicans alike demanded that Gonzales provide details about the agreement the Justice Department had reached with the secret court.
They cited a letter from the presiding judge stating the court would have no objections to giving the committee confidential information, but that it would be up to the Justice Department.
After considering it for nearly two weeks, Gonzales said he was now prepared to allow certain members of Congress to see the court's orders and other related documents.
'JUST THE BEGINNING'
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, called Gonzales' decision "a significant step forward. I'm going to reserve judgment on the program itself until I have had a chance to review it," he said.
Gonzales said the Bush administration was prepared to provide access to the secret court documents to Leahy and Specter as well as to members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.
The highly classified documents would not be released publicly, he said.
The ACLU called making the documents available to key lawmakers a good first step, but urged Gonzales to provide Congress with full details about the program.
The ACLU's lead attorney in the appeals court case argued the group's legal challenge to the domestic wiretapping program should not be dropped simply because the government had volunteered not to renew the warrantless eavesdropping activities.
Saying the Bush administration was still claiming the "inherent authority" to engage in eavesdropping without a warrant, Ann Beeson told the three-judge panel that "a failure to decide the case could leave it up to the president to decide when and whether to obey the law."
(Additional reporting by Andrea Hopkins in Cincinnati and James Vicini in Washington)
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:00 AM
Texas liberal political wit Ivins dies of cancer
By Bruce Nichols
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Molly Ivins, the best-selling author and columnist who aimed her razor-sharp barbs at politicians and dubbed President George W. Bush "Shrub," died on Wednesday. She was 62.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, Ivins had been undergoing her third series of treatments when she died at home.
Ivins was one of the most prominent critics of Bush in print -- her columns ran in 400 newspapers twice weekly -- and on the speaking circuit.
"She was sort of a modern Mark Twain," said Jake Bernstein, editor of the liberal journal Texas Observer.
Ivins, a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, tempered her strong liberal views with humor.
"I never saw her angry, 'kicking the dog' angry," said longtime friend and writer Kaye Northcott. "She could always find something funny and that was her salvation. She stayed optimistic."
Her newspaper columns and essays were turned into four books, and she co-authored two others about Bush, whom she knew from the time they were both teenagers in Houston.
"Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" was published in 2000. "Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America" in 2003.
Bush and first lady Laura Bush extended their condolences to Ivins' family and friends.
"Molly Ivins was a Texas original. ... I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words and her ability to turn a phrase. She fought her illness with that same passion. Her quick wit and commitment to her beliefs will be missed," the president said in a statement.
Born in California, Ivins moved with her family to Houston as a child and grew up in a wealthy neighborhood, although she rejected her high-toned Republican upbringing.
Ivins graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts, earned a master's degree in journalism at Columbia University in New York and studied politics in Paris.
She started her journalism career in the complaint department at the Houston Chronicle, worked as a police reporter at the Minneapolis Tribune in Minnesota and was Denver bureau chief for The New York Times.
But her voice as a writer and speaker was Texan, a physically imposing, salty-tongued but genteel Southerner who could punctuate her sharpest jabs with a sudden smile.
"She always had a love affair with Texas," Bernstein said.
Ivins co-edited the Texas Observer with Northcott from 1970 to 1976, winning the job with a witty letter that complained that Minnesota was short on scandals.
She attained fame at The Dallas Times-Herald and, when that paper folded, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. But she hit her stride at the Observer, a cheeky, muckraking periodical.
"That's when she ... developed her voice," Bernstein said. "We like to joke Texas is the strangest state and Molly really channeled that."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:58 AM
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
U.S. may have botched training of Iraqis
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer
Training the police is as important to stabilizing Iraq as building an effective army there, but the United States has botched the job by assigning the wrong agencies to the task, two members of the Iraq Study Group said Wednesday.
"The police training system has not gone well," said former Rep. Lee Hamilton, who co-chaired the bipartisan commission.
For a second day, a key Republican directly challenged President Bush to do more than pay "lip service" to this and other recommendations on how to resolve the troubled conflict in Iraq.
"As a nation we'd be much better off if the executive branch were not so insular," said Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa. "I'd think the executive branch would be well advised to do more than have a meeting and a news conference to give in-depth consideration to what is being proposed here."
According to the report, co-authored by Hamilton and former Attorney General Edwin Meese, the U.S. erred by first assigning the task of shaping the judicial system in a largely lawless country to the State Department and private contractors who "did not have the expertise or the manpower to get the job done."
In 2004, the mission was assigned to the Defense Department, which devoted more money to the task. But department officials also were insufficiently trained for the job, Hamilton and Meese said.
As a result, Iraq has little if any on-the-street law enforcement personnel or a functioning judicial system free of corruption, they said.
Justice Department officials, they said, should lead the work of transforming the system. Police executives and supervisors should replace the military police personnel now assigned.
And the FBI should expand its investigative and forensic training in Iraq, Hamilton and Meese told the panel.
The recommendations about the Iraqi judicial system were included in the Iraq Study Group's report last year, but got little attention. Hamilton and Meese said Wednesday that unless the U.S. helps create a capable, trained professional police force and functioning criminal justice system, "ordinary Iraqis will not live in peace and will not have confidence in their new government."
"Long-term security depends as much on the Iraqi police and judicial system as the Iraqi Army," they testified.
The hearing comes as lawmakers increasingly line up against President Bush's escalation of the unpopular war in Iraq, many citing the findings of the Iraq Study Group as they urge an end to U.S. involvement there.
Wednesday's hearing gave committee Democrats a fresh opportunity to take a swipe at the White House.
"If the administration had been serious and competent about establishing a functioning democracy in Iraq, it would have seen the need for a trustworthy criminal justice system in which all Iraqis could have confidence," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record), D-Vt., said in prepared remarks.
With a Senate showdown just days away, No. 2 GOP leader Trent Lott (news, bio, voting record) of Mississippi said he had concerns with each of a host of resolutions introduced so far on the war. If Republican leaders do not rally behind a single proposal, the party could avoid taking a clear, united stance on the widely unpopular Iraq war — a consequence Lott suggested he wouldn't mind.
"To herd the cat some times you have to let them stray," he said. "Think about that. Keeping them together by letting them stray."
The Iraq Study Group recommended the administration pull U.S. combat brigades out of Iraq by early 2008, launch new diplomatic initiatives with Iran and Syria and vastly increase the number of U.S. military advisers in the country.
Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, in subtle disagreement with the Bush administration, told Wednesday's hearing that the United States should always be ready to negotiate, including with Iran and Syria as part of a regional conference that he proposed for dealing with Iraq.
But Kissinger described radical Islamic fundamentalism promoted by Iran as the biggest threat to the area, and said that "I see little incentive Iran has to help us solve the Iraq problem."
In prepared testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright appeared to line up with senators opposing President Bush's buildup in Iraq.
"I could have supported an increase in troops if that increase had been tied to a clear, important and achievable mission, and if we were guaranteed that our troops would have the best training and equipment," she said.
AP Diplomatic Writer Barry Schweid contributed to this report from Washington.
On the Net:
Iraq Study Group: http://www.usip.org
Senate Judiciary Committee: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:35 AM
Congress can halt Iraq war, experts tell lawmakers
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress has the power to end the war in Iraq, a former Bush administration attorney and other high-powered legal experts told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.
Facing mounting opposition over his Iraq troop increase plan, President George W. Bush insisted it would be "too extreme" if lawmakers pass a resolution condemning his Iraq policy.
Four out of five experts called before the Senate Judiciary Committee said Congress could go even further and restrict or stop U.S. involvement in Iraq if it chose.
"I think the constitutional scheme does give Congress broad authority to terminate a war," said Bradford Berenson, a Washington lawyer who was a White House associate counsel under Bush from 2001 to 2003.
"It is ultimately Congress that decides the size, scope and duration of the use of military force," said Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general, the government's chief advocate before the Supreme Court, in 1996-97.
The hearing was frequently punctuated by outbursts from more than a dozen anti-war protesters, who were asked several times to be quiet but not thrown out.
A subcommittee chairman who ran the hearing, Sen. Russ Feingold, said he would introduce a bill prohibiting the use of funds for the war six months after enactment.
"Today we've heard convincing testimony and analysis that Congress has the power to stop the war if it wants to," said Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat.
The Senate is poised to take up a resolution opposing Bush's recent decision to add 21,500 troops in Iraq. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said this debate would take place next week.
"I wouldn't say it's unpatriotic. I think it's -- I think it is too extreme," Bush said in an ABC News interview when asked whether it would be unpatriotic for Congress to pass a resolution condemning his Iraq policy.
Any such resolution would not be binding on the president, while legislation to cut funds -- assuming it passed -- would be. However, cutting funds is much more controversial as many lawmakers do not want to do so when troops are abroad.
Despite growing rancor over the troop build-up, the White House said Bush won agreement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a bipartisan advisory group on Iraq. Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said the panel's makeup would be announced shortly and it would meet next week.
WHO'S THE DECIDER?
The expert who took a more limited view of Congress' powers, Robert Turner of the University of Virginia, echoed Bush's assertion that in matters of war, he is in charge.
"In the conduct of war, in the conduct of foreign affairs, the president is in fact the decider," he said. He suggested lawmakers might need to "run for president" if they wanted to manage war policy. A half-dozen U.S. senators already have expressed an interest in running for the White House in 2008.
One presidential hopeful, Illinois Democrat Barack Obama, unveiled a bill to cap U.S. troops in Iraq at the January 10 level, before Bush added more; start a phased pullout in May, and get all combat brigades out by March 31, 2008.
The other experts at the hearing said that while the Constitution makes the president commander-in-chief of U.S. forces, Congress' constitutional power to declare war and fund the military gave it power to stop what it had set in motion.
Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said: "I would respectfully suggest to the president that he is not the sole 'decider' ... The decider is a shared and joint responsibility."
Perino said: "The president is not the only decision-maker, but he is the only commander-in-chief". If they (in Congress) have a better plan for securing Baghdad and turning a corner in Iraq, he wants to hear it."
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick)
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:35 AM
Congress to test bounds of its war powers
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate Republican on Tuesday directly challenged President Bush's declaration that "I am the decision-maker" on issues of war.
"I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said during a hearing on Congress' war powers amid an increasingly harsh debate over Iraq war policy. "The decider is a shared and joint responsibility," Specter said.
ON DEADLINE: The 'decider' debate
The question of whether to use its power over the government's purse strings to force an end to the war in Iraq, and under what conditions, is among the issues faced by the newly empowered Democratic majority in Congress, and even some of the president's political allies as well.
No one challenges the notion that Congress can stop a war by canceling its funding. In fact, Vice President Dick Cheney challenged Congress to back up its objections to Bush's plan to put 21,500 more troops in Iraq by zeroing out the war budget.
Underlying Cheney's gambit is the consensus understanding that such a drastic move is doubtful because it would be fraught with political peril.
But there are other legislative options to force the war's end, say majority Democrats and some of Bush's traditional Republican allies.
The alternatives range from capping the number of troops permitted in Iraq to cutting off funding for troop deployments beyond a certain date or setting an end date for the war.
"The Constitution makes Congress a coequal branch of government. It's time we start acting like it," said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., who is chairing a hearing Tuesday on Congress' war powers and forwarding legislation to eventually prohibit funding for the deployment of troops to Iraq.
His proposal, like many others designed to force an end to U.S. involvement in the bloody conflict, is far from having enough support even to come up for a vote on the Senate floor.
Closer to that threshold is a non-binding resolution declaring that Bush's proposal to send 21,500 more troops to Baghdad and Anbar province is "not in the national interest." The Senate could take up that measure early next month.
But some senators, complaining that the resolution is symbolic, are forwarding tougher bills.
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, for example, is a sponsor of a bill that would call for troops to come home in 180 days and allow for a minimum number of forces to be left behind to hunt down terrorists and train Iraqi security forces.
"Read the Constitution," Boxer told her colleagues last week. "The Congress has the power to declare war. And on multiple occasions, we used our power to end conflicts."
Congress used its war powers to cut off or put conditions on funding for the Vietnam war and conflicts in Cambodia, Somalia and Bosnia.
Under the Constitution, lawmakers have the ability to declare war and fund military operations, while the president has control of military forces.
But presidents also can veto legislation and Bush likely has enough support in Congress on Iraq to withstand any veto override attempts.
Managing a war — in effect what Boxer and Feingold are proposing — is the president's job, some lawmakers and scholars say.
"In an ongoing operation, you've got to defer to the commander in chief," said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. But the veteran senator and former Navy secretary said he understands the debate over Congress' ability to check the executive branch.
"Once Congress raises an army, it's his to command," said Robert Turner, a law professor at the University of Virginia who was to testify Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In recent decades, presidents have routinely bypassed Congress when deploying troops to fight. Not since World War II has Congress issued an official declaration of war, despite lengthy wars fought in Vietnam and Korea.
Congress does not have to approve military maneuvers.
John Yoo, who as a Justice Department lawyer helped write the 2002 resolution authorizing the Iraq invasion, called that document a political one designed only to bring Democrats on board and spread accountability for the conflict.
The resolution passed by a 296-133 vote in the then-GOP-run House and 77-23 in the Democratic-led Senate, but it was not considered a declaration of war.
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Posted by politicalstuff at 1:30 AM
Soldier's Death Strengthens Senators' Antiwar Resolve
Kerry, Dodd Demand Stronger Challenge to Bush
By Jonathan Weisman and Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Just before Christmas, an Army captain named Brian Freeman cornered Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) at a Baghdad helicopter landing zone. The war was going badly, he told them. Troops were stretched so thin they were doing tasks they never dreamed of, let alone trained for.
Freeman, 31, took a short holiday leave to see his 14-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son, returned to his base in Karbala, Iraq, and less than two weeks ago died in a hail of bullets and grenades. Insurgents, dressed in U.S. military uniforms, speaking English and driving black American SUVs, got through a checkpoint and attacked, kidnapped four soldiers and later shot them. Freeman died in the assault, the fifth casualty of the brazen attack.
The death of the West Point graduate -- a star athlete from Temecula, Calif., who ran bobsleds and skeletons with Winter Olympians -- has radicalized Dodd, energized Kerry and girded the ever-more confrontational stance of Democrats in the Senate. Freeman's death has reverberated on the Senate floor, in committee deliberations and on television talk shows.
"This was the kind of person you don't forget," Dodd said yesterday. "You mention the number dead, 3,000, the 22,000 wounded, and you almost see the eyes glaze over. But you talk about an individual like this, who was doing his job, a hell of a job, but was also willing to talk about what was wrong, it's a way to really bring it to life, to connect."
"When I returned from war, almost 40 years ago now, I stood up and spoke from my heart and my gut about what I thought was wrong," Kerry said on the Senate floor last week as he recounted his meeting with Freeman. "I asked the question in 1971: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? . . . I never thought that I would be reliving the need to ask that question again."
On Thursday, Freeman will be memorialized at his home in California, just days before the Senate takes up a resolution formally stating Congress's opposition to the president's plan to add 21,500 troops to the U.S. force in Iraq. There is no way to know what Freeman would have thought of it, but he would not have been shy about offering his opinion, Dodd said.
Freeman had served out his five-year active-duty tour well before he was sent to Iraq. He graduated from West Point in 1999, then in 2002 was accepted into the Army World Class Athlete Program, training with the U.S. bobsled and skeleton teams in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"It's no exaggeration, he was definitely one of the nicest guys in the start house," said Steve Peters, a team official.
In 2004, eager to get on with his career and family life, Freeman moved into the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), a pool of trained soldiers not assigned to any unit, to serve out the rest of his eight-year mandatory obligation.
He was in California with a civilian job, a 1-year-old son named Gunnar and another baby on the way in the fall of 2005 when a shortage of officers prompted a large call-up by the IRR of West Point graduates from the classes of 1998 and later -- many of whom had only a few months of service left.
"He was an augmentee, who happened to be called up to fill a slot," said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Edmond, a full-time staff member at the 412th Civil Affairs Battalion in Whitehall, Ohio, which Freeman was called to join. "It's almost to fill a void," he said, commenting on the Army's deepening manpower shortage, especially in the reserve, which requires it to cobble together units with people from across the country.
Charlotte Freeman, Freeman's wife, recalled her husband's shock upon receiving an Army telegram ordering him back to active duty. "He walked into the house and was totally white," she said yesterday. "He had moved on" from the Army.
"For my sake, he tried to get out" of the deployment, she said. But she knew he felt torn. "A part of him felt very guilty, because he had never gone to Iraq. He had dodged that bullet," she said.
Concerned about leaving his wife while she was pregnant, Freeman was able to obtain a three-month deferral and spend time with their newborn daughter, Ingrid. Just after Christmas in 2005, he grew so concerned about his pending deployment -- and his lack of qualifications to be a civil affairs officer -- that he anxiously contacted a reporter for The Washington Post.
Maj. Tony Nichols, who commanded a tank company that Freeman served in during his active duty, said Freeman "would have gone with a tank crew . . . in a heartbeat" but felt uneasy going with an unfamiliar civil affairs team.
Once in Iraq, Freeman was dismayed to find that his training "had no relation to what they were actually doing," Charlotte Freeman said. "He was appalled," enduring danger but seeing no clear mission, she said. Moreover, he believed that the Iraqis "didn't want us there."
Still, he did his best, working with the governor of Karbala to try to improve security and touching individual lives, such as helping an Iraqi boy who needed heart surgery and obtaining death benefits for an Iraqi interpreter's family. "He truly wanted to make a difference," Charlotte said.
Late last year, Freeman approached the senators at Landing Zone Washington, in Baghdad's Green Zone, "almost out of the shadows," Dodd recalled.
Even though he felt nervous, he told his wife later, he delivered his message with urgency. Soldiers were being deployed to do missions that they were utterly untrained to do; Freeman, for example, an armor officer, had been sent to help foster democracy and rebuild an Iraqi civil society. State Department personnel who could do those jobs were restricted in their travel off military bases by regional security officers who said it was unsafe for them to venture out.
"Senator, it's nuts over here," Dodd quoted Freeman as saying.
Calling him "ridiculously" bright, Nichols said Freeman did not oppose the war but "wanted it to be done better and smarter."
After Dodd mentioned an unnamed Army captain's concerns on NBC's "Meet The Press," Freeman e-mailed him to bring up another concern: the mistreatment of Iraqi interpreters by military contractors.
The connection between Dodd and Freeman went beyond a chance encounter and an exchange of e-mails. On Jan. 20, the day of Freeman's death, his wife was visiting his mother in Utah when a neighbor called to say that a military vehicle had stopped by the Freeman home. Frantic for news, Charlotte Freeman contacted Dodd's staff. The senator's aides learned of Brian Freeman's fate from the Defense Department and helped get military officials dispatched to his wife.
Kerry took the news personally, aides said. In Freeman, he saw something of himself -- a promising young officer, articulate and politically minded. But Kerry made it back from Vietnam.
"All that loss, for what?" Dodd asked.
It was not just Freeman's death that deeply troubled and provoked the two senators, but the way he died, in an apparent betrayal by Iraqi allies. In the days after Freeman's death, Dodd drafted legislation to cap the number of troops in Iraq. Last week in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry backed Dodd in a failed effort to attach the legislative cap to the nonbinding resolution of opposition.
And both men are demanding that the Senate push the confrontation with Bush further. Kerry has resurrected his call for legislation setting a date certain for the withdrawal of troops.
"The notion of sense-of-the-Senate resolutions, what the hell does that mean?" Dodd asked yesterday. "Is that all you got?"
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:28 AM
Joseph A. Palermo
Judith Miller and the Bloodbath in Iraq
W. Bush, New York, Syria, Scooter Libby, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Baghdad
When Judith Miller appears on our TV screens milking her latest fifteen minutes of fame because she's a star witness in the Scooter Libby trial, we should be reminded that she, perhaps more than any other member of the press, greased the propaganda wheels in the lead up to the Iraq invasion.
In their infamous September 8, 2002, above the fold, front-page story in the New York Times, "U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts" -- the same story that Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Dick Cheney cited in their appearances that Sunday morning on the political talk shows, the reporters Judith Miller and Michael Gordon offered the following tidbits:
"Senior administration officials insist that the dimensions, specifications, and numbers of the tubes Iraq sought to buy show that they were intended for the nuclear program."
"Although administration officials say they have no proof that Baghdad possesses the smallpox virus, intelligence sources say they cannot rule that out."
"Still, Mr. Hussein's dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions, along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq's push to improve and expand Baghdad's chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war."
And who could ever forget the coup de grace?
"The first sign of a 'smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud."
Judith Miller went on to write several more propaganda pieces for the Bush Administration doing everything in her "journalistic" power to sell her fellow citizens on the imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein's WMDs, and the need for the United States to strike preemptively against the regime. She teamed up again with Gordon, who has become a darling on the television news circuit, to write the September 13, 2002 piece, "White House Lists Iraq Steps to Build Banned Weapons," which only expanded on their earlier falsehoods. Several members of Congress mentioned the story of the nuclear threat as a reason for voting to authorize the war.
On April 21, 2003, Judith Miller, now working as an embedded reporter with the U.S. military's MET Alpha, wrote the story, "Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert." In this piece of propaganda, Miller claims without evidence or proof that the Iraqis destroyed or shipped to Syria their vast stockpiles of WMDs. Miller's anonymous source was a guy claiming to be an "Iraqi scientist," and she tells her readers that she "was permitted to see him from a distance at the sites where he said that material from the arms program was buried. Clad in nondescript clothes and a baseball cap, he pointed to several spots in the sand where he said chemical precursors and other weapons material were buried."
This "Iraqi scientist," who turned out to be bogus, allowed Miller to appear on PBS's Newshour with Jim Lehrer and have the following exchange:
Q. Has the unit you've been traveling with found any proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
A. Judith Miller: Well, I think they found something more than a smoking gun. What they've found . . . is a silver bullet in the form of a person, an Iraqi individual, a scientist, as we've called him, who really worked on the programs, who knows them first hand.
Q. Does this confirm in a way the insistence coming from the U.S. government that after the war, various Iraqi tongues would loosen, and there might be people who would be willing to help?
A. Judith Miller: Yes, it clearly does. . . . That's what the Bush administration has finally done. They have changed the political environment, and they've enabled people like the scientists that MET Alpha has found to come forth.
But Miller kept on shilling for the Neo-Cons long after her role as an apparatchik in the Bush Administration's Propaganda Ministry had been exposed. On September 16, 2003, the New York Times ran yet another Miller story with the headline: "Senior U.S. Official To Level Weapons Charges Against Syria." The scoop was handed to her to create a buzz for the testimony to Congress the following day. The "senior official" was none other than the bellicose Neo-Con, John R. Bolton, who was then the undersecretary of state for arms control. Miller wrote that the leaked testimony came to her from "individuals who feel that the accusations against Syria have received insufficient attention." At a time when the Neo-Cons were riding high and hunting for fresh game, Miller offered her stenography services to them so they could vent their warmongering against Syria.
Judith Miller should be held accountable for serving as the chief stenographer for George W. Bush's lies that have produced the horror in Iraq. As the occupying power, the United States is responsible under international law for the civilian deaths and suffering in Iraq. Judith Miller shares this responsibility for the bloodbath in Iraq. At a critical time, Miller was in a unique position of influence in America because of her high perch at the nation's "paper of record," her perfectly timed repetition of official lies, and because it was her articles to which Bush, Cheney, and Rice pointed to give their own lies the credibility they needed to reverberate convincingly throughout our political discourse.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:24 AM
Judy Miller's Note-Triggered Memories
What an afternoon at the Scooter Libby trial. This is what I came to Washington for -- that sense of being right in the middle of the action, totally engrossed in the moment, never once looking at my watch, and when 5:00 came, wishing we didn't have to go home.
The day began slowly enough, with David Addington still on the stand and Libby lawyer Ted Wells questioning him about documents for almost two hours.
Enough about that.
The main attraction was journalist and former New York Times reporter Judith Miller. She looked stunning, very pretty and impeccably groomed. The reporters in the courtroom all turned to watch her stride into the courtroom, chin up. Her lawyer, Washington powerhouse Bob Bennett, took a seat behind the Government's table. She was calm as she took the stand.
Fitzgerald did a crisp and clean direct examination, taking only 40 minutes to go through her career, how she hooked up with Libby, their meetings, her legal fight over being subpoenaed, her 85 days in jail, and her two subsequent grand jury appearances. Judy and Fitz were like a well-oiled machine. Unlike Ari who played to the jury, Judy directed her answers to Fitz, occasionally turning to the jury to explain a term, but then returning her attention to Fitz. The jury hung on to every word.
For the whole story, read Marcy Wheeler's great live-blogging. Shorter version: She met with an agitated, frustrated Scooter Libby on June 23, 2003. Libby complained to her about Joseph Wilson, whom he called "that clandestine guy," and Wilson's attack on the Administration's WMD claims, which he called "an irrelevant ruse." During this off-the-record meeting, Libby told her Wilson's wife worked in "the Bureau" which at first she interpreted as being the F.B.I., but then figured out he meant the C.I.A. and its non-proliferation division.
They met again on July 8, spending two hours in the dining room of the St. Regis hotel. Libby again was agitated. They had a wide-ranging discussion on the intelligence leading up to the war, and Libby asked her to not to mention him, but to attribute his statements to a former Hill staffer. He told her Joseph Wilson's wife worked at the CIA's WINPAC, the unit focused on WMD's.
She spoke to Libby twice on the phone on July 12. He didn't tell her where he got the information about Valerie Wilson and they had no discussions about whether her status was covert. Fitz then took her through her legal fight to avoid testifying which she said was the result of her not having received a personal, voluntary waiver from Scooter. As soon as she did, and as soon as Fitz agreed to limit her questioning to the topic of Libby, Wilson and Plame, she agreed to testify. The day after leaving jail, she went before the grand jury and told them about the July 8 meeting and July 12 calls, but had forgotten the June 23 meeting. That night, she found notes of the June 23 meeting, had Bennett call Fitz, and returned to the grand jury to describe that meeting in detail, her memory having been refreshed by her notes.
Judy, you see, has a note-triggered memory. She can forget an event even happened, but upon finding notes that it did, she remembers not only the event itself but details beyond those contained in the notes. Until she found those notes, she had zero recollection of having met with Libby on June 23, let alone what he told her. Once she reviewed her notes, she regained her independent memory of the meeting, Scooter's demeanor and his disclosures about Joseph and Valerie Wilson.
Enter Libby lawyer Bill Jeffress. He's a little guy, but a dynamo. Focused, no nonsense, polite but firm and pressing. He challenged Judy again and again on her selective memory, eliciting answers like, "I don't remember what I remembered then" and "Counselor, I already said, I didn't remember it, I just didn't remember it." Yet, she's now sure Libby told her about Wilson's wife working for the CIA. It's not that she was repeating what was in her notes, she said, it's that her notes brought back her independent memory.
Jeffress, being a skilled lawyer, began to test her credibility on her note-triggered memories. And that's what brought the trial to a standstill. She told him that she had no memory of discussing Valerie Plame Wilson before her June 23 meeting with Libby. He introduces a paragraph from an affidavit she signed, in which she mentions other sources for information related to Wilson's July 6 New York Times op-ed. Jeffress wants to know whether she can remember who those sources were and if so, he's going to ask her to identify them. Sidebar after sidebar results.
This isn't about the First Amendment, it's about Libby's right to impeach Miller's credibility, Wells argues. Fitz says asking her about sources related to the op-ed as opposed only to sources of information about Valerie Plame Wilson and her employment is too broad and not relevant to the case. Bennett weighs in. They go back and forth, and I'm nodding my head in agreement with each of them as they argue opposite sides. The Judge leans toward Fitz's position but is clearly concerned about not wanting to infringe on Libby's 6th Amendment right to confront and impeach Miller.
Judy by this time is clearly frustrated and anxious. She's repeatedly sorting her bangs, blowing her nose and taking sips of water. Finally, the Judge says he's going to sleep on it and he'll have an answer in the morning.
It's going to be a long night for Judy Miller. In the end, I think the Judge will split the baby, telling Jeffress he can ask about her other sources for information about Joseph and Valerie Wilson, but not other sources for the broader topic of everything in Wilson's July 6 oped.
What's the best that can happen for Libby? That the jury will conclude Miller's memory is so unreliable and selective they can't trust any of it. The worst? That some of the jurors will recognize themselves in Judy's account of her note-triggered memory. I know I do.
Matthew Cooper will follow Judy Miller. He and his lawyer were at the courthouse, waiting in the wings today, relieved I think they had another day before facing what's sure to be a grueling grilling by Jeffress.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:23 AM
Scientists charge White House pressure on warming
By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. scientists were pressured to tailor their writings on global warming to fit the Bush administration's skepticism, in some cases at the behest of a former oil-industry lobbyist, a congressional committee heard on Tuesday.
"Our investigations found high-quality science struggling to get out," Francesca Grifo of the watchdog group Union of Concerned Scientists told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
A survey by the group found that 150 climate scientists personally experienced political interference in the past five years, for a total of at least 435 incidents.
"Nearly half of all respondents perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words 'climate change,' 'global warming' or other similar terms from a variety of communications," Grifo said.
Rick Piltz, a former U.S. government scientist who said he resigned in 2005 after pressure to soft-pedal findings on global warming, told the committee in prepared testimony that former White House official Phil Cooney took an active role in casting doubt on the consequences of global climate change.
Cooney, who was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute before becoming chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, resigned in 2005 to work for oil giant ExxonMobil.
Documents on global climate change required Cooney's review and approval, Piltz said.
"His edits of program reports, which had been drafted and approved by career science program managers, had the cumulative effect of adding an enhanced sense of scientific uncertainty about global warming and minimizing its likely consequences," Piltz said.
Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who chairs the committee, complained that the White House has balked at supplying documents requested over six months to investigate these allegations.
"The committee isn't trying to obtain state secrets or documents that could affect our immediate national security," Waxman said. "We are simply seeking answers to whether the White House's political staff is inappropriately censoring impartial government scientists."
Kristen Hellmer of the Council on Environmental Quality said the council had been cooperating with Congress. When asked about allegations of political interference in scientific documents, she said, "We do have in place a very transparent system in science reporting."
The hearing was one of two on Tuesday spotlighting global climate change; a Senate forum featured testimony from members including presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois among Democrats and Republican John McCain of Arizona.
President George W. Bush's position on global warming has evolved over his presidency, from open skepticism about the reality of the phenomenon to acknowledgment at a global summit last year that climate change is occurring and human activities speed it up.
In his State of the Union address on January 23, Bush called climate change "a serious challenge" that should be addressed by technology and greater use of alternative sources of energy. But he stopped short of calling for mandatory limits on U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas blamed in part for global warming.
These discussions are part of the run-up to release of a major United Nations report on climate change, scheduled for Friday in Paris. Drafts of the report strengthened the case that humans are the principal cause of global warming after 1950.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:21 AM
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
The New York Times
Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.
In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.
This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.
The White House said the executive order was not meant to rein in any one agency. But business executives and consumer advocates said the administration was particularly concerned about rules and guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In an interview on Monday, Jeffrey A. Rosen, general counsel at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said, “This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable.”
Business groups welcomed the executive order, saying it had the potential to reduce what they saw as the burden of federal regulations. This burden is of great concern to many groups, including small businesses, that have given strong political and financial backing to Mr. Bush.
Consumer, labor and environmental groups denounced the executive order, saying it gave too much control to the White House and would hinder agencies’ efforts to protect the public.
Typically, agencies issue regulations under authority granted to them in laws enacted by Congress. In many cases, the statute does not say precisely what agencies should do, giving them considerable latitude in interpreting the law and developing regulations.
The directive issued by Mr. Bush says that, in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify “the specific market failure” or problem that justifies government intervention.
Besides placing political appointees in charge of rule making, Mr. Bush said agencies must give the White House an opportunity to review “any significant guidance documents” before they are issued.
The Office of Management and Budget already has an elaborate process for the review of proposed rules. But in recent years, many agencies have circumvented this process by issuing guidance documents, which explain how they will enforce federal laws and contractual requirements.
Peter L. Strauss, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the executive order “achieves a major increase in White House control over domestic government.”
“Having lost control of Congress,” Mr. Strauss said, “the president is doing what he can to increase his control of the executive branch.”
Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said: “The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government’s own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests.”
Business groups hailed the initiative.
“This is the most serious attempt by any chief executive to get control over the regulatory process, which spews out thousands of regulations a year,” said William L. Kovacs, a vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce. “Because of the executive order, regulations will be less onerous and more reasonable. Federal officials will have to pay more attention to the costs imposed on business, state and local governments, and society.”
Under the executive order, each federal agency must estimate “the combined aggregate costs and benefits of all its regulations” each year. Until now, agencies often tallied the costs and the benefits of major rules one by one, without measuring the cumulative effects.
Gary D. Bass, executive director of O.M.B. Watch, a liberal-leaning consumer group that monitors the Office of Management and Budget, criticized Mr. Bush’s order, saying, “It will result in more delay and more White House control over the day-to-day work of federal agencies.”
“By requiring agencies to show a ‘market failure,’ ” Dr. Bass said, “President Bush has created another hurdle for agencies to clear before they can issue rules protecting public health and safety.”
Wesley P. Warren, program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who worked at the White House for seven years under President Bill Clinton, said, “The executive order is a backdoor attempt to prevent E.P.A. from being able to enforce environmental safeguards that keep cancer-causing chemicals and other pollutants out of the air and water.”
Business groups have complained about the proliferation of guidance documents. David W. Beier, a senior vice president of Amgen, the biotechnology company, said Medicare officials had issued such documents “with little or no public input.”
Hugh M. O’Neill, a vice president of the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, said guidance documents sometimes undermined or negated the effects of formal regulations.
In theory, guidance documents do not have the force of law. But the White House said the documents needed closer scrutiny because they “can have coercive effects” and “can impose significant costs” on the public. Many guidance documents are made available to regulated industries but not to the public.
Paul R. Noe, who worked on regulatory policy at the White House from 2001 to 2006, said such aberrations would soon end. “In the past, guidance documents were often issued in the dark,” Mr. Noe said. “The executive order will ensure they are issued in the sunshine, with more opportunity for public comment.”
Under the new White House policy, any guidance document expected to have an economic effect of $100 million a year or more must be posted on the Internet, and agencies must invite public comment, except in emergencies in which the White House grants an exemption.
The White House told agencies that in writing guidance documents, they could not impose new legal obligations on anyone and could not use “mandatory language such as ‘shall,’ ‘must,’ ‘required’ or ‘requirement.’ ”
The executive order was issued as White House aides were preparing for a battle over the nomination of Susan E. Dudley to be administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget.
President Bush first nominated Ms. Dudley last August. The nomination died in the Senate, under a barrage of criticism from environmental and consumer groups, which said she had been hostile to government regulation. Mr. Bush nominated her again on Jan. 9.
With Democrats in control, the Senate appears unlikely to confirm Ms. Dudley. But under the Constitution, the president could appoint her while the Senate is in recess, allowing her to serve through next year.
Some of Ms. Dudley’s views are reflected in the executive order. In a primer on regulation written in 2005, while she was at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University in Northern Virginia, Ms. Dudley said that government regulation was generally not warranted “in the absence of a significant market failure.”
She did not return calls seeking comment on Monday.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:37 AM