Saturday, August 20, 2005

Hey, What's That Sound?

The New York Times

Hey, What's That Sound?

Richard Nixon once gave me a lesson in the politics of war.

Howell Raines, then the Washington bureau chief for The Times, took some reporters to meet Mr. Nixon right before the 1992 New Hampshire primary. The deposed president had requested that Howell bring along only reporters who were too young to have covered Watergate, so we tried to express an excess of Juvenalia spirit.

Before the first vote of '92 was cast, Mr. Nixon laid out, state by state, how Bill Clinton, who was not even a sure bet for the Democratic nomination at that point, was going to defeat George Bush.

If, Mr. Nixon said, Bill could keep a lid on Hillary (who had worked on the House Judiciary Committee looking into the Nixon impeachment), he'd have it made.

"If the wife comes through as being too strong and too intelligent, it makes the husband look like a wimp," he said.

In his jaundiced view, the first President Bush had squandered his best re-election card: if the Persian Gulf war had still been going on, Mr. Bush could have been benefiting from that.

"We had a lot of success with that in 1972," Mr. Nixon told us, with that famously uneasy baring of teeth that passed for a smile.

Was he actually admitting what all the paranoid liberals had been yelping about 20 years earlier - that he had prolonged the Vietnam War so he could get re-elected?

Bush Senior made some Republicans worry that he left Iraq too soon. Bush Junior is making some Republicans worry that he is staying in Iraq too long.

"Any effort to explain Iraq as 'We are on track and making progress' is nonsense," Newt Gingrich told Adam Nagourney and David D. Kirkpatrick for a Times article on G.O.P. jitters about the shadow of Iraq over the midterm elections. "The left has a constant drumbeat that this is Vietnam and a bottomless pit. The daily and weekly casualties leave people feeling that things aren't going well."

W. says he can't set a deadline to bring the troops home. But he started the war on an artificial deadline; he declared a "Mission Accomplished" end to major hostilities on an artificial deadline; he was inflexible on deadlines for handing over Iraqi sovereignty and holding elections. And he tried to force the Iraqis to produce a constitution on his deadline when the squabbling politicians of the ethnic and religious factions hadn't even reached consensus on little things like "Do we want one country?"

It isn't only the left that is invoking Vietnam. You know you're in trouble when Henry Kissinger gives you advice on how to exit a war.

The man who won a Nobel Peace Prize for making a botched exit and humiliating defeat look like a brilliant act of diplomacy wrote an op-ed article in The Washington Post drawing the analogy the White House dreads: Iraq as Vietnam, including an unfavorable comparison: "After the failure of Hanoi's Tet offensive, the guerrilla threat was substantially eliminated. Saigon and all other urban centers were far safer than major cities in Iraq are today."

He said Mr. Bush had only a few things to accomplish: train a real Iraqi Army that includes all religious and ethnic groups, make the Shiites stop hating the Sunnis and the Kurds stop hating everyone, and keep the Iranians from creating a theocratic dictatorship in Iraq. Oh, yeah, and a couple of other teensy little things: our troops have to defeat the vicious Iraq insurgency, and Mr. Bush needs to keep domestic support for the war.

Domestic support is waning because the president remains too stubbornly ensconced in his fantasy world - it's worse than Barbie in her dream house - to reassure Americans that he has a plan to get out.

As we approach the 2,000 mark of coffins coming home that we're not allowed to see, it doesn't even look like a war. It looks like a lot of kids being blown to smithereens by an invisible enemy.

The mother of one of the 16 Ohio marines killed in a recent roadside explosion in western Iraq addressed the president from in front of her Cleveland home. "We feel you either have to fight this war right or get out," Rosemary Palmer said.

Tricky Dick suggested that he had a secret plan to get out of Vietnam. Bikey W. doesn't even have a secret plan, unless it's to recreate forever, and never again have to speed past those pesky antiwar protesters in a motorcade.



The Oil Effect

The New York Times

The Oil Effect

Just when it was starting to seem as if consumers were really shaking off high energy prices, Wal-Mart announced this week that its profits stumbled in the second quarter, rising at their slowest rate in four years. Forced to choose between their closets and their gasoline tanks, Americans unsurprisingly chose their tanks. Wal-Mart warned that future sales would be curtailed as well, and no wonder: gasoline is now averaging $2.60 a gallon nationwide, nearly a 39 percent increase from last year. At the same time, natural gas prices are up 60 percent to 90 percent around the country, presaging steep home-heating bills in the months ahead on top of high prices at the pump.

With most other prices relatively tame, consumers could weather the energy squeeze if they had a cushion. They don't.

Wage gains for most Americans are barely keeping up with inflation. And according to a recent Commerce Department report, Americans, on average, are now saving nothing each month, so they obviously cannot pay higher energy bills by reducing the amount they save.

That leaves rising home values to cover growing energy costs. According to a recent report by John Makin, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, the housing boom has offset the economic drag of higher oil prices by enabling homeowners to get cash through refinancing or selling at a profit, and by creating a "wealth effect": as their houses appreciate, homeowners feel rich and thus spend freely, even as they neglect to save.

Mr. Makin estimates that a mere leveling off of housing prices would be sufficient to remove the economic boost from real estate. That would slow consumer spending and, with it, the economy.

No one knows when that leveling off will occur. But homes are already becoming increasingly unaffordable, and refinancings are slowing down. There are early signs that banks are beginning to tighten their lending standards. And the Federal Reserve, which has been trying for more than a year to push up mortgage rates, will probably succeed in that endeavor at some point.

The pain that now seems imminent might have been avoided. Conservation could have reduced energy demand and prices, while properly targeted job growth and savings incentives - not tax cuts for the rich - could have built a stronger job recovery, helping to foster higher wages and new savings. Maybe next time around.


Intelligent Design and the Smithsonian

The New York Times

Intelligent Design and the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Institution can't seem to disentangle itself from the clutches of the anti-evolution crowd. Earlier this year, the Smithsonian's natural history museum discovered to its dismay that it had agreed to be the host and co-sponsor of a movie intended to undercut the theory of evolution and make the case for "intelligent design," the idea that an intelligent agent had a hand in designing the universe. Only after intelligent-design proponents started chortling on the Internet about their stunning coup in co-opting the Smithsonian did museum officials reverse course and withdraw their sponsorship, while allowing the film to be shown.

Now comes word that a little-known government office has accused the Smithsonian of retaliating against a scientist who slipped an article promoting intelligent design into an obscure journal that has only very loose connections to the Smithsonian. That judgment, by the United States Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency set up to protect whistle-blowers, is the latest twist in a case that started with the publication of the article last year in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.

The article contended that evolution theory could not account for the great proliferation of life forms during the so-called Cambrian explosion some 530 million years ago, and that an intelligent agent was the best explanation. It set off an uproar among evolutionary biologists and was later disowned by the professional society that published it.

The editor who authorized publication, Richard Sternberg, filed a complaint contending that he had suffered reprisals. In an 11-page letter not yet officially released, the Office of Special Counsel said it had found support for his complaint but was dropping the investigation because he was not an employee of the Smithsonian, just a research associate.

E-mail notes show that several scientists and managers at the Smithsonian were extremely embarrassed and eager to push Mr. Sternberg out of his research niche, and that some dug around for material to discredit him. That may lead critics of evolution to see Mr. Sternberg as a martyr.

But those who see no place for intelligent design in the realm of science - and that includes us - will ruefully give him credit for maneuvering a brief for intelligent design into a peer-reviewed scientific journal, although how rigorous that review was remains a point of contention.


The Trillion-Dollar War

The New York Times

The Trillion-Dollar War

Cambridge, Mass.

THE human cost of the more than 2,000 American military personnel killed and 14,500 wounded so far in Iraq and Afghanistan is all too apparent. But the financial toll is still largely hidden from public view and, like the suffering of those who have lost loved ones, will persist long after the fighting is over.

The cost goes well beyond the more than $250 billion already spent on military operations and reconstruction. Basic running costs of the current conflicts are $6 billion a month - a figure that reflects the Pentagon's unprecedented reliance on expensive private contractors. Other factors keeping costs high include inducements for recruits and for military personnel serving second and third deployments, extra pay for reservists and members of the National Guard, as well as more than $2 billion a year in additional foreign aid to Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey and others to reward their cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill for repairing and replacing military hardware is $20 billion a year, according to figures from the Congressional Budget Office.

But the biggest long-term costs are disability and health payments for returning troops, which will be incurred even if hostilities were to stop tomorrow. The United States currently pays more than $2 billion in disability claims per year for 159,000 veterans of the 1991 gulf war, even though that conflict lasted only five weeks, with 148 dead and 467 wounded. Even assuming that the 525,000 American troops who have so far served in Iraq and Afghanistan will require treatment only on the same scale as their predecessors from the gulf war, these payments are likely to run at $7 billion a year for the next 45 years.

All of this spending will need to be financed by adding to the federal debt. Extra interest payments will total $200 billion or more even if the borrowing is repaid quickly. Conflict in the Middle East has also played a part in doubling the price of oil from $30 a barrel just prior to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 to $60 a barrel today. Each $5 increase in the price of oil reduces our national income by about $17 billion a year.

Even by this simple yardstick, if the American military presence in the region lasts another five years, the total outlay for the war could stretch to more than $1.3 trillion, or $11,300 for every household in the United States.

Linda Bilmes, an assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce from 1999 to 2001, teaches budgeting and public finance at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.


Frist Urges 2 Teachings on Life Origin

The New York Times

Frist Urges 2 Teachings on Life Origin

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 - Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, aligned himself with President Bush on Friday when he said that the theory of intelligent design as well as evolution should be taught in public schools.

Such an approach "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone," Mr. Frist said in Nashville, according to The Associated Press. "I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future." A Washington spokesman for the senator, Nick Smith, said later that the report was accurate.

The theory of intelligent design holds that life is too complicated to have developed through evolution and that a higher power must be involved. Critics say intelligent design theorists are trying to supplant science with religious beliefs.

The senator's view, expressed after his speech at a Rotary Club meeting, echoed President Bush's remarks of Aug. 2, when he told Texas newspaper reporters that he favored teaching both evolution and intelligent design "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Mr. Frist's agreement with President Bush on one of the more contentious educational, social and political issues of the time comes just a few weeks after he broke with Mr. Bush and with Christian conservatives on embryonic stem cell research.

The senator said on July 29 that he supported a bill to expand federal financing for stem cell research, and that President Bush's four-year-old policy of strictly limiting taxpayer financing "should be modified." The bill has been approved by the House but has been stalled in the Senate.

Mr. Frist is widely assumed to be contemplating a run for the presidency in 2008, so his statements on issues that touch on moral as well as political questions are sure to be scrutinized both by Christian conservatives essential to a Republican candidacy and by people looking for signals that Mr. Frist is willing to move toward the center.

Human embryonic stem cells can grow into any type of body tissue, so scientists and doctors see a potential use in treating a wide variety of diseases and injuries. But the cells cannot be obtained without destroying the embryos, which some people say is tantamount to murder.


Utility to Pay Fine in Campaign Case

The New York Times

Utility to Pay Fine in Campaign Case

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 - Westar Energy Inc., a Kansas electric utility entangled in investigations surrounding Representative Tom DeLay, and three men who worked for the company will pay $40,500 in fines to settle accusations of improper fund-raising, the Federal Election Commission says.

According to documents made public by the commission on Thursday, Westar executives violated campaign finance laws by using company resources like employee work time to organize a drive that raised $32,700 in contributions to Congressional campaigns in 2002. The drive was part of an effort to increase the company's presence in Washington.

Under the settlement, the company agreed to pay civil penalties of $20,000; Douglass Lawrence, former vice president for government affairs, $8,500; Carl M. Koupal Jr., former chief administrative officer, $7,000; and Richard Bornemann, an outside lobbyist who worked for the company, $5,000.

Westar has been caught up in several investigations involving Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader, since making a separate $25,000 contribution in 2002 to a political action committee he created.

That contribution, at a time when the House was considering energy legislation, was given in connection with a fund-raiser where Mr. DeLay met with top executives from Westar and other energy companies. The donation was cited in a case last year in which the congressman was admonished by the House ethics committee.


Friday, August 19, 2005

No Summer Doldrums

No Summer Doldrums
The White House promised that President Bush’s Texas vacation would be busy. But they might have wished for a little less activity around the ranch.

By Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey

Aug. 17, 2005 - When President George W. Bush left Washington earlier this month for a five-week visit to his Texas ranch, the White House seemed more sensitive than ever to criticism that Bush has taken too much vacation during his presidency. Administration officials reminded reporters that Bush, unlike most Americans who take a leave from work, doesn’t really get time off from the job. Every morning, whether he is on vacation or not, Bush receives briefings on national security, signs documents and holds conferences with top aides. On most days, the president receives multiple updates from his staff on Iraq, terrorism and other issues of international significance. While prefacing that Bush would enjoy some “down time” on what is shaping up to be his longest sojourn away from the White House, Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters the president’s visit to his Crawford ranch would be a “working vacation.”

So far, Bush has maintained a relatively busy schedule. Two weeks ago, he hosted Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at the ranch to discuss Colombia’s efforts to combat guerilla groups. Last week, Bush took two quick day trips—to New Mexico, where he signed a new energy bill into law, and to Illinois, where he signed a controversial highway-funding bill, which critics decried as too expensive and bloated with congressional pork. Sandwiched in between those trips: meetings with his economic advisers last Tuesday and a sit-down with his foreign-policy team on Thursday. Both of those events were followed by short news conferences at the ranch, where administration officials hoped to capitalize on a slow news cycle and a captive national press corps to push the president’s agenda.

For the White House, maintaining a sense of momentum this August is perhaps more important than in recent years. Bush is now well into his second term and, like most of his Oval Office predecessors, is staring down a deadline on the degree of his political prowess in Washington. Until recently, Bush had not captured many high-profile legislative victories on the Hill. Social Security reform, his biggest second-term agenda goal, has stalled, and efforts to rewrite the tax code were pushed off until next year. Last month, as Congress approved a flurry of major bills in the last days before the August recess, the White House took a victory lap, citing progress on the energy bill and the Central American Free Trade Agreement as signs that Bush was not yet a lame duck. “The facts say otherwise,” McClellan said. “We are getting things done for the American people.”

Administration officials had hoped to maintain that momentum heading into September, when Congress takes up the Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts and Bush plans to renew his Social Security push. But that momentum—as well as the president’s plan to focus heavily on his domestic agenda—continues to be undermined by worries about the war in Iraq. It’s a story that continues to be front and center thanks to a recent spike in casualties, troubles in the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution and by the story of Cindy Sheehan, the military mom turned antiwar activist who has become the face of poll numbers that suggest a growing number of Americans want to see U.S. troops come home—sooner rather than later. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted the first weekend of August found that 54 percent of those surveyed believe the United States “made a mistake” in sending troops to Iraq. The same survey found that 56 percent of those polled want to see a reduction in the number of troops stationed in Iraq.

While Sheehan met privately with Bush last summer to discuss her son’s death, she has vowed to remain outside the Bush ranch until she meets with the president a second time. Her story has captivated the White House reporters stuck in Texas to cover the president and has galvanized the antiwar movement, prompting dozens of activists from causes not even related to the war to descend on Crawford to protest Bush’s refusal to meet with Sheehan a second time. The protest has proven to be a distraction for Bush, but for the White House, it’s a matter of precedent. Administration officials worry that if Bush were to agree to see Sheehan it would encourage similar protests outside the ranch. “We’re in a lose-lose situation,” a Bush aide told NEWSWEEK. “The president sympathizes with her, but this is where he lives, and if you meet with one person, you attract others.”

Yet Sheehan’s protest isn’t going away and, in fact, is set to move closer to the president’s ranch by the end of the week. “Camp Casey,” named after Sheehan’s son, will move onto a one-acre tract of land adjacent to the Secret Service checkpoint for the Bush ranch, about three fourths of a mile from the main entrance. It’s property owned by Fred Mattlage, a Waco, Texas, businessman and a Vietnam-era Army vet who says he is sympathetic to Sheehan’s cause and wanted to curb neighbors' complaints about the protest. Mattlage’s cousin Larry is the landowner who fired off his shotgun near the protestors Sunday night. On a Wednesday-morning conference call organized by Sheehan’s media advisers, Mattlage said he offered the land because he feels Sheehan and others should have the right to protest. While he says he doesn’t actively support or oppose Bush, Mattlage says he’s against the war. “I think it’s a war that we shouldn’t be in,” Mattlage says. “It reminds me too much of Vietnam.”

On the Ambassadors Front …
Another Bush fund-raiser has scored a plum ambassadorship. On Tuesday, the White House nominated Brenda LaGrange Johnson, a partner in New York-based BrenMer Industries, to be the next ambassador to Jamaica. Johnson was a Bush “Pioneer” during the 2004 election, raising at least $100,000 for the president’s re-election campaign. She also served as a member of the national finance committee for Bush-Cheney ’04 and was appointed by the White House as a Kennedy Center trustee in 2002.



Thursday, August 18, 2005

Nationwide Vigils Call for End of Iraq War

Nationwide Vigils Call for End of Iraq War

Associated Press Writer

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) -- Hundreds of candlelight vigils calling for an end to the war in Iraq lit up the night Wednesday, part of a national effort spurred by one mother's anti-war demonstration near President Bush's ranch.

The vigils were urged by Cindy Sheehan, who has become the icon of the anti-war movement since she started a protest Aug. 6 in memory of her son Casey, who died in Iraq last year.

Sheehan says she will remain outside the president's ranch until he meets with her and other grieving families, or until his monthlong vacation there ends.

Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan but has made no indication he will meet with her. Two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the day she started her camp, and she and other families had met with Bush shortly after her son's death.

More than 1,600 vigils were planned Wednesday from coast to coast by liberal advocacy groups Political Action, TrueMajority and Democracy for America. A large vigil was also planned in Paris.

As the sun set in Crawford, about 200 protesters lit candles and gathered around a wooden, flag-draped coffin at Sheehan's growing camp, about a mile from the Bush ranch.

"For the more than 1,800 who have come home this way in flag-draped coffins, each one ... was a son or a daughter, not cannon fodder to be used so recklessly," Sheehan told the crowd, which then sang "Amazing Grace."

Before the vigil, Gary Qualls, of Temple drove to Sheehan's camp site and removed a wooden cross bearing his son's name. He said he supports the war and disagrees with Sheehan.

"I don't believe in some of the things happening here," Qualls said. "I find it disrespectful."

Near Philadelphia's Independence Hall, a few hundred people strained to hear the parent of another soldier killed in Iraq. "This war must stop," said Al Zappala, 65, whose 30-year-old son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, died in an explosion in Baghdad in April 2004.

Karen Braz, 50, held a pink votive cup and a sign reading "Moms for Peace" as she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with about 150 other people outside the New Hampshire statehouse in Concord.

"My son is 26. It could've been him," she said

Some critics say Sheehan is exploiting her son's death to promote a left-wing agenda supported by her and groups with which she associates.

Before the Crawford vigil began, Gary Qualls, of Temple, walked to the protesters' memorial to fallen U.S. soldiers and removed a wooden cross bearing his son's name. Qualls said he supports the war effort even though his 20-year-old son Louis was killed in Fallujah last fall serving with the Marine Reserves.

"I don't believe in some of the things happening here," he said. "I find it disrespectful."

Those backing Sheehan, though, voiced their support across the country.

In Minnesota, about 1,000 war protesters stood on a bridge linking Minneapolis and St. Paul. "This war has been disgraceful, with trumped-up reasons," Sue Ann Martinson said. "There were no weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqis didn't have anything to do with 9-11."

Nearly 200 people gathered on the courthouse steps in Hackensack, N.J., with many saying they were angry about the war but were supporting U.S. troops.

"I'm a 46-year-old woman who, in my lifetime, has never seen the country so split," said Lil Corcoran. "My heart is broken."

In Charleston, W.Va., a banner bearing the name, age, rank, hometown and date of death of all Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan was unrolled - stretching the length of a city block.

Kenny Jones brought his 6-year-old daughter, Scouten, to a vigil in Portland, Ore.

"I was raised to believe that war is no solution," Jones said. "Her mother and I are raising her that way, too. This war is illogical."

Meanwhile, a group called held a pro-Bush rally in the same Washington, D.C., park where 300 people had gathered for a candlelight vigil. At one point, members of the two sides had a heated exchange over who was more patriotic.

"If they don't want to support it, they don't have to support it," said Iraq war veteran Kevin Pannell, who had both legs amputated after a grenade attack last year in Baghdad. "That's the reason I lost my legs."


On the Net:


Roberts' Indiana Hometown Draws Scrutiny

Roberts' Indiana Hometown Draws Scrutiny

Associated Press Writers

LONG BEACH, Ind. (AP) -- Like many towns across America, the exclusive lakefront community where Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. grew up during the racially turbulent 1960s and '70s once banned the sale of homes to nonwhites and Jews.

Just three miles from the nearly all-white community of Long Beach, two days of looting and vandalism erupted when Roberts was 15, barely intruding on the Mayberry-like community that was largely insulated from the racial strife of that era.

It was here that the 50-year-old Roberts lived from elementary school until he went away to Harvard in 1973, and that decade - as well as the rest of his life - is receiving intense scrutiny as the Senate gears up for its Sept. 6 confirmation hearings on President Bush's first Supreme Court nominee.

Some of the attention focuses on Roberts' civil rights record as Bush replaces retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the key swing voter on affirmative action issues.

Roberts' criticism of racial "quotas" in some documents from his work as a White House lawyer has alarmed civil rights groups and some Democrats, who say he may be a partisan for conservative causes. Other memos from his time in the Reagan Justice Department portray an attorney who urged his bosses to restrict affirmative action and Title IX sex discrimination lawsuits.

It is hard to know how much Roberts' upbringing in this northern Indiana community on the shores of Lake Michigan influenced his views. Some say the fact that there were riots and restrictions on home ownership is not relevant at all.

"I don't think that would have had any bearing on John Roberts' life," said Micky Gallas, a local real estate agent who attended grade school with Roberts, referring to the racial covenants.

Roberts' father, a manager at a Bethlehem Steel mill in nearby Burns Harbor, moved the family to Long Beach in the early 1960s.

The family purchased land a few blocks from the beach in 1966 and built an unassuming tri-level house. The Roberts property did not include a racially restrictive covenant, according to LaPorte County deed records, and the restrictions had begun fading away by then.

Other homes built decades earlier in the town had covenants. Deeds on file from the 1940s in Long Beach ban the sale or lease of houses to "any person who is not a Caucasian gentile."

The covenants date to the community's early days in the 1920s as a summer getaway for Chicagoans.

"Every time you would go to an area you would find there were restrictions against a certain type," said Phyllis Waters, who moved to Long Beach in 1958 and bought Century 21 Long Beach Real Estate in 1967. "What they didn't like, they'd restrict."

Fern Eddy Schultz, the county historian, said the covenants were common for property near Lake Michigan. "They didn't want particular people to have homes around the lake areas," Schultz said.

Covenants have gotten attention in the past. President Bush purchased a house in 1988 in Dallas with a covenant restricting blacks from buying the property. His staff said Bush was unaware of the deed restriction, which was void under Texas law, when he purchased the home.

In Long Beach, nearly all residents were white when Roberts was growing up, a makeup that has changed little in four decades. Today, nearly 98 percent of the town's 1,500 residents are white.

The median income in 1970 topped $18,000, nearly twice that of neighboring communities; today it is more than $71,000, nearly double the state median.

That environment may have sheltered residents from the events of July 1970, when the arrests of three black men over a parking violation outside a bar in Michigan City set off two days of looting, vandalism and fires.

The Associated Press reported in a July 13, 1970, story that a police officer addressed one of those arrested as "boy" and that the man vowed to get some of his friends and "take this town apart."

The mayor declared a state of emergency, and Indiana National Guard troops were called in to restore order.

The News-Dispatch of Michigan City reported more than a dozen people were arrested for violating a curfew imposed to quell the violence. Those detained included several who worked in a job-training program for Bethlehem Steel's Burns Harbor plant, where the younger Roberts worked summers to help pay for Harvard.

David Myers, a University of Notre Dame sociology professor who studies race riots, said the uprising was typical of an industrial area that had seen an influx of blacks from the South.

"There were a lot of labor market tension and lots of unemployment issues that were driving unrest," he said.

Waters said many Long Beach residents were unaware of the disturbances until they picked up the Michigan City newspaper.

"We didn't even know it happened," she said.

That insulation extended to the all-boys Catholic boarding school Roberts attended in nearby LaPorte.

Bob MacLaverty, a longtime friend and Roberts' roommate at La Lumiere School, said students rarely discussed race and the civil rights movement.

The school admitted its first black students in 1970. By Roberts' graduation in 1973, about 7 percent of its roughly 100 students were minorities, he said.

Richard Freer, a professor of law at Emory University in Atlanta who has studied the Senate confirmation process, says Roberts' life experiences are relevant if they speak to his character and ability to be impartial. But he said there should be limits.

"I think it's legitimate to look at the past if it tells you anything about the person. But so what if there were race riots? Did he cause them? No. He was a 15-year-old kid. We don't shape the events that take place in our hometown."


In U.S. heartland, anxiety over Iraq, oil


In U.S. heartland, anxiety over Iraq, oil

By Alan Elsner

BROKEN BOW, Nebraska (Reuters) - In the solidly Republican state of Nebraska, voters are expressing deep anxiety about rising gasoline prices and the war in Iraq, a possible early warning sign for President George W. Bush in one of his most reliable strongholds.

When Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel traveled around his home state this week, citizens at every stop brought up Iraq policy and the inexorable rise in fuel prices.

"Is there anything the United States can do to get some stability in crude oil prices in the world, because it affects everything we do?" Larry Ahlers, a manager at medical device manufacturer Becton and Dickinson in Broken Bow, asked Hagel in one of dozens of such encounters.

Hagel, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2008, responded that gasoline prices were likely to stay high for the foreseeable future because of rising world demand and the U.S. failure to develop new energy sources and conserve.

Earlier the same day in Lincoln, an elderly woman asked about Iraq. "Why are we there in the first place?" she asked.

On Tuesday in the central Nebraska town of Lexington, after a meeting with law enforcement officials on drug problems, three sheriffs expressed serious doubts about what the United States was doing in Iraq and whether it could succeed.

Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, acknowledged the U.S. military presence was becoming harder and harder to justify. He believes Iraq faces a serious danger of civil war that would threaten Middle East stability, and said there is little Washington can do to avert this.

"We are seen as occupiers, we are targets. We have got to get out. I don't think we can sustain our current policy, nor do I think we should," he said at one stop.


In an interview, Hagel said uncertainties over Iraq and oil prices fed off and reinforced each other.

"The mood is one of a certain sense of unsteadiness," he said. "I have sensed that since September 11, 2001. Our people have still not found an equilibrium and when you get these shocks, like gasoline at $2.50 a gallon and projecting natural gas costs doubling and tripling from what they paid last year, that further shakes them."

"I don't think there's panic, I don't think there's cynicism. I think there's this steady unsure sense about where is this all leading -- the constant daily reports on Iraq, our people being killed there, the money being spent there," he added.

Nebraska has been a solid Republican state in presidential elections for decades. Republicans dominate state politics and hold most elective offices.

But Hagel said even some who had previously backed Bush strongly on Iraq now felt deep unease.

"The feeling that I get back here, looking in the eyes of real people, where I knew where they were two years ago or a year ago -- they've changed," he said. "These aren't people who ebb and flow on issues. These are rock solid, conservative Republicans who love their country, support the troops and support the president."

Hagel said Bush faced a growing credibility gap. "The expectations that the president and his administration presented to the American people 2 1/2 years ago is not what the reality is today. That's presented the biggest credibility gap problem he's got," he said.

"I hope he has some sense that something's going on out in the country, that there's a lack of confidence that has developed in our position."


US senators: Global warming obvious in far north


US senators: Global warming obvious in far north

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Fresh from visits to Canada's Yukon Territory and Alaska's northernmost city, four U.S. senators said on Wednesday that signs of rising temperatures on Earth are obvious and they called on Congress to act.

"If you can go to the Native people and walk away with any doubt about what's going on, I just think you're not listening," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democrat Hillary Clinton of New York told reporters in Anchorage that Inupiat Eskimo residents in Barrow, Alaska, have found their ancestral land and traditional lifestyle disrupted by disappearing sea ice, thawing permafrost, increased coastal erosion and changes to wildlife habitat.

Heat-stimulated beetle infestation has also killed vast amounts of the spruce forest in the Yukon Territory, they said.

Such observations provide more ammunition in the fight for a bill, co-sponsored by McCain and Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman, to cap U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, McCain said. That bill has repeatedly failed to pass the Senate.

"People around the country are going to demand it," McCain said. "It's the special interests versus the people's interest."

The United States is the biggest emitter of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, which many scientists have linked to global warming.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has dismissed global warming as a hoax and questioned scientific evidence supporting rising temperatures.

The White House has warned that mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions could stunt U.S. economic growth. President George W. Bush supports a voluntary plan for industry to cut greenhouse gas output.

The senators said they were headed Tuesday for a visit to Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward, where the National Park Service has been tracking retreating glaciers.


US sets last-minute drive to scrap UN reform plan


US sets last-minute drive to scrap UN reform plan

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States has launched a last-minute drive to scrap much of a draft plan for comprehensive U.N. reform just weeks before it is to be adopted at a world summit, Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

One option put forward by Washington would be to return to square one and launch line-by-line negotiations on the document, the diplomats said, insisting on anonymity so as not to anger Washington.

But another top diplomat involved in the negotiations dismissed the others' concerns, saying the initiative was a negotiating tactic the United States fully expected would be rejected by U.N. General Assembly President Jean Ping, who is leading the talks.

"Their position is still evolving. They are looking at other ways forward," this diplomat said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. effort comes in the final stages of the drafting process, with negotiators last Friday unveiling what they hoped would be a near-final draft. Negotiations resume on Monday.

It also falls two weeks after the arrival at U.N. headquarters of U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, President George W. Bush's contentious choice to press for U.N. reform despite his inability to win U.S. Senate approval for the post.

The aggressive and sometimes abrasive Bolton is a longtime U.N. critic and a skeptic on the value of multilateral action who was accused by Senate Democrats of seeking to twist intelligence findings to advance Bush foreign policy goals.

The U.N. document, intended to serve as a blueprint for bringing the world body into the 21st century, touches on a broad range of issues from U.N. management reform -- a top U.S. priority -- to eliminating poverty, protecting human rights and ending the spread of nuclear arms.

Adoption of the document, currently weighing in at 38 single-spaced pages, is meant to mark the climax of a September 14-16 U.N. summit expected to draw more than 170 world leaders to New York. Bush is among those expected to attend although he has not formally responded to an invitation.


Diplomats involved in the drafting process said they feared such an extensive rewrite at this point would reopen many contentious issues thought to be settled, and could end up sinking the document altogether.

"The U.S. objections are not unexpected, but it is very late in the process," said a diplomat close to the drafting process, who also asked not to be identified by name.

A U.S. official expressed surprise that other delegates would find it unusual that Washington would seek major revisions and line-by-line negotiations at this point.

"We have been giving our input and continue to do so," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. "It is a thorough and exhaustive process that we will continue to work on until it's finished."

The United States has been a regular participant in the negotiations, and diplomats involved in the drafting said Washington has had a major impact on the document to date.

They said that was why they were surprised to learn that the United States had at this stage circulated a document that proposed eliminated most of the latest draft and suggested starting line-by-line reconsideration with all 191 U.N. members invited to the table.

The drafting has been conducted informally to date, to keep the focus on the whole package and off the details.

"Their concern is that the draft is not in their view summit-worthy -- that it would be hard to convince Bush that it would be worth his while to come to New York to sign it," said an envoy involved in the talks, who also asked not to be identified by name.

"To be fair, they are not a voice crying in the wilderness," said this diplomat, adding that developing nations also had reservations about much of the text.

But the section of the document on development and poverty was the top target of the U.S. revisions, a tactic certain to anger developing nations, which make up the overwhelming majority of the U.N. membership, the diplomats said.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Roberts once wrote of 'abortion tragedy'
Roberts once wrote of 'abortion tragedy'

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As a young lawyer in the Reagan White House, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts concluded that a group's memorial service for aborted fetuses was "an entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy."

Roberts' wrote the advice in an October, 1985 memo after he was asked to review a proposed telegram from President Reagan to the memorial service promoted by the California Pro Life Medical Association.

"The president's position is that the fetuses were human beings, or at least cannot be proven not to have been, and accordingly a memorial service would seem an entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy," wrote Roberts.

Roberts, during his confirmation hearing to be a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, had referred to Roe v. Wade, the case that legalized abortion in the United States, as "settled law." Senate Democrats have been aggressively seeking the nominee's innermost thoughts on the 1973 abortion ruling by the Supreme Court, and the documents released Tuesday shed more light on it.

The memorial service came at the end of a three-year battle over how to dispose of some 16,000 fetuses discovered in February 1982 in sealed plastic bags of formaldehyde and stored in a bin outside the California home of a man who had managed a medical laboratory. The then-closed laboratory routinely examined aborted fetuses for clinics and hospitals.

The Feminist Women's Health Center of Los Angeles, which endorsed women's right to abortion, had sued to stop Los Angeles county from giving the fetuses to the Catholic League for religious burial.

The dispute reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld lower court decisions that the county could bury or cremate the fetuses but could not arrange or join in religious services.

Other documents showed that Roberts, 50, in 1985 voiced support for the notion of allowing prayer in public schools, writing that a ruling to the contrary "seems indefensible" under the Constitution.

As a young Reagan administration lawyer, he wrote he would have no objection if the Justice Department wanted to express support for a constitutional amendment permitting prayer.

Referring to a Supreme Court ruling issued earlier that year that struck down an Alabama school prayer law, he said, "The conclusion ... that the Constitution prohibits such a moment of silent reflection - or even silent `prayer' - seems indefensible."

The Alabama law, ruled unconstitutional by a divided court, mandated a one-minute period of silence for meditation or prayer.

Roberts' two-paragraph memo, written to White House counsel Fred Fielding, was among nearly 5,400 pages of records released by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. They comprise a portion of the material relating to Roberts' tenure as a member of the office of White House counsel.

An additional 478 pages that cover the same subject areas remain under seal, according to Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States. White House spokesman Steve Schmidt said the library had withheld material based on requirements in the Freedom of Information Act to protect privacy and national security.

The White House "did not hold any back" after reviewing those cleared for release by the library, Schmidt said.

The library contains an additional 40,000 pages relating to Roberts, expected to be made public before Senate confirmation hearings convene Sept. 6.


$7.5M awarded to study electronic voting
$7.5M awarded to study electronic voting

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Armed with a $7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Johns Hopkins University is leading a new effort to improve the reliability of electronic voting machines.

The project's goal is to design the most foolproof, transparent voting system possible, officials said Monday.

"I don't think with today's technology we can have a voting system that is fully electronic that can be trusted," said Avi Rubin, a computer science professor. He will head a new Hopkins center called ACCURATE, short for A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable and Transparent Elections.

Rubin told The (Baltimore) Sun he hopes the center will provide information in time for the 2008 presidential contest, but that its research will take longer.

Rubin has been an outspoken critic of computerized voting. In 2003, he co-authored a report that found voting machines from Diebold Elections Systems were vulnerable to hackers, multiple votes and vote-switching.

The Hopkins grant is part of the National Science Foundation's 2005 Cyber Trust program, a $36 million initiative to support cybersecurity research and explore ways to increase the dependability of computers.

Hopkins is leading the effort, but the money will also support research at Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Iowa; Rice University; and SRI International, the nonprofit research group in Menlo Park, Calif.


Sen. Biden says Bush should fire Rumsfeld

Sen. Biden says Bush should fire Rumsfeld

Associated Press Writer

DOVER, Del. (AP) -- President Bush needs to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and level with the American people about the situation in Iraq, said U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden, who is testing the political waters for a possible White House run in 2008.

Following up on remarks he made Sunday, Biden said the Bush administration is downplaying expectations in Iraq, and that he wouldn't be surprised if a partial withdrawal of U.S. troops is announced before parliamentary elections scheduled for December.

But the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said a premature withdrawal of U.S. troops would be unwise, given that the biggest problem in Iraq, as he sees it, is "the lack of order."

Biden disputed administration claims that more than 175,000 Iraqis have been trained to take over security duties from U.S. troops.

In reality, only a few thousand Iraqi troops are capable of carrying out security operations on their own, and another 12,000 or so can operate successfully only with the help of U.S. troops, Biden said. He said there is "no possibility" of Iraqis being able to maintain control themselves without at least another year of training.

"Why doesn't the president just tell the truth?" said Biden, adding that Rumsfeld should have been fired a year ago for incompetence - whether it be sending too few U.S. troops or failing to equip them adequately - that approaches "criminal."

"The president's got to get rid of Rumsfeld," he said.

Closer to home, Biden said he is continuing to travel around the country to gauge whether he has enough public support to run for president in 2008.

"There's no campaign yet," said the Delaware Democrat, who has made trips to several "red states," many in the South, won by Republicans in past elections.

Biden said Democrats and Republicans previously have focused campaign strategies on energizing their core voters, which has led to an increasingly polarized electorate. Biden said his challenge is to strike a chord with middle-class voters from both parties who he believes share common hopes and frustrations.

"You're not going to solve Social Security with a 51 percent solution," said Biden, referring to President Bush's share of the popular vote in his re-election last year over Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "If you cant unite the states, then you can't govern."

While trying to find common ground among voters, however, Biden doesn't plan to abandon his Democrat pedigree.

"I'm not going to start trimming my sails," said Biden, who believes fundraising will be his biggest obstacle. "I know what I think. I know what I believe. ... If I can't do it on my own terms, ... then I don't want to do it."


On the Net:

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New poll reflects growing U.S. worry over Iraq

New poll reflects growing U.S. worry over Iraq
By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new survey shows the U.S. public is unhappy with U.S. handling of Iraq and with how the Bush administration deals with the Muslim world in general.

The latest poll reflects a growing disquiet seen in other recent surveys over U.S. involvement in Iraq and a dip in President George W. Bush's overall job approval rating.

The poll, to be published in next month's edition of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, found nearly six in 10 Americans were worried about the outcome of the war in Iraq.

"Soon the grumbling may become too loud for the Bush administration to ignore," wrote Daniel Yankelovich, who heads Public Agenda, a nonprofit research group that did the poll for the council. It is the first in a new "foreign policy index" to be conducted every six months.

The Bush administration insists that Iraq is on the road to establishing a democracy that would help bring about peace, but the president's credibility on Iraq has been slowly eroding among the U.S. public in recent months amid a continuing bloody insurgency.

Asked whether the United States was meeting its objectives in Iraq, 56 percent in the poll said the United States was not while 39 percent said it was.

The findings were based on a random sample of 1,004 adults over the age of 18 who were interviewed between June 1 and June 13, 2005, before a surge of violence in Iraq in recent weeks. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

When asked to name the most important global problems facing the United States, Iraq and terrorism were the top concerns. Immigration and U.S. relations with the Muslim world were also becoming hot-button topics.


Three quarters of those polled worried the United States might be losing the trust and friendship of other countries and that there might be growing hatred of the United States in Muslim countries.

When asked an open-ended question on how the rest of the world saw the United States, nearly two-thirds said the rest of the world had a negative view and one in 10 used the word "bully" or "bullying."

"So far, public thinking is a disquieting mix of high anxiety, growing uncertainly about current policy and virtually no consensus about what else the country might do," said the report accompanying the poll.

A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll last month found a majority of the U.S. public doubted the United States would win the war in Iraq and believed the Bush administration deliberately misled Americans over Iraq's weapons capabilities when it went to war in 2003.

Bush has also taken a public relations battering while on vacation in Texas -- where hundreds of anti-war demonstrators, led by the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, have camped outside the president's ranch.

The president has said repeatedly the United States will not prematurely withdraw troops from Iraq because doing so would betray that country and put U.S. security at risk.

In the latest poll, the United States did get high marks for aiding other countries in need. Asked about America's performance in helping other nations during natural disasters, 83 percent of the respondents gave the United States high grades.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Cindy Sheehan's War
Tom Hayden
Cindy Sheehan's War

Cindy Sheehan inhabits an alternative world of meaning that more Americans need to experience before this war can end. She represents the survivors' need to define a meaning in her son's death - and her life - that is counter to the meaning offered by President Bush. That is why she refuses any condolences, and why she continues to ask the President what was the "noble purpose" for which Casey Sheehan died.

All wars take on a new momentum when the survivors believe that those killed represent a "noble sacrifice" and hear repeated assurances from authority figures that they "shall not have died in vain." The momentum begins to reverse when the survivors question deeply the justification for all the suffering.

Robert Jay Lifton reported this phenomenon among Vietnam-era soldiers and their families. He wrote that "when the alternative survivor mission takes hold, victims become ignoble sacrifices, products of crual deception. Their deaths then have meaning only in serving to expose the grotesque truths of the war. The alternative survivor mission can become one of oppostion to the war, its advocates, and their policies." Lipton writes further: "[we become] survivors of a death encounter, and survivors of all kinds are hungry for the meaning of that encounter - meaning that is inevitably associated with the authority of the dead."

An alternative survior mission took hold of Americans after World War I and Vietnam. It is taking hold among Americans once again because of Iraq. Cindy Sheehan's war is for this alternative meaning. She is bringing many Americans to confront the awful fact that nearly 2,000 soldiers have died and 13,000 been wounded in a war fought for fabricated reasons.

She is challenging George Bush never to use those deaths as justification for more killing. She wants the truth, nothing more than the truth, because that will stop George Bush from desecrating the dead all over again through deceit. By embracing an alternative meaning, Cindy's war suggests to young Americans and their families that they are under no obligation to keep the faith with the dead by continuing to die or kill Iraqis.

The reason she is such a threat to Bush is that she claims the "authority of the dead" as a justification for peace. So do an increasing number of Gold Star mothers and military families and Iraq veterans. What is striking so far is that the Bush operatives have been unable to organize a committee of pro-war families who lost sons or daughters in the war. [Nixon did so against John Kerry and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War]. The White House has only been able to mobilize the Bill O'Reilly, who never fought a war, and Cindy Sheehan's in-laws.

Cindy is winning the war for meaning. Only the families, friends, and buddies of the dead can carry this lonely burden for the rest of us. As they do, peace movement slogans like "bring them home now" will have deep resonance with all Americans.


Writings from a New Kind of Base: An Update from Camp Casey
Tim Goodrich
Writings from a New Kind of Base: An Update from Camp Casey

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I can barely see as I type this because I am extremely exhausted. Today was a phenomenal day at Camp Casey. The day started off with a rally near the Crawford Peace House in which members of Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace, and Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke. A crowd of approximately 1,000 attended, shouting and clapping wildly as the speakers took the stage and delivered their message.

After the morning rally, everybody regrouped outside Camp Casey. On their way in, they were greeted by Cindy Sheehan and members of the other groups. While we were greeting the newly arrived, we looked up the road and realized that the line of cars stretched farther than the eye could see and around the corner. It was as if we were looking at a "field of dreams". We later learned that the line stretched for miles. It was a beautiful sight to be seen and it brought tears to the eyes of many.

Throughout the day, more people continued to appear. By the end of the day, several thousand people, including soldiers from Fort Hood, had made their way to Camp Casey to show their support. Many of these visitors stopped to talk to the members of IVAW, thanking them for their service and their stance against the war. While speaking with many of the visitors, I began to see the scope of Camp Casey. In my conversations, I spoke with people from Little Rock, Kansas City, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and San Diego, just to name a few. As a sign of the growing movement, we've learned that another Camp Casey was set up in Chico, California. As you read this, please think about the power of multiple Camp Caseys being established all across the United States. The power is with the people, and with everybody's help, we will get one step closer to ending the occupation of Iraq.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The heat and humidity are not letting up outside Bush¹s ranch at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas. Although it's not as hot as, say, Iraq, the heat can still take a toll on those not used to it. Luckily, through the generous outpouring of others from across the country, we have managed to stay well supplied with fluids and food.

Friday was day seven since the establishment of Camp Casey and still no meeting with Bush. I was kept from arriving at camp due to an extended secret service blockade on the only road into the ranch. Apparently, Bush had fundraising activities to attend and drove by the camp for the first time, ignoring all who stood ready to receive him. My question is this: Why is it that those who can afford to donate thousands of dollars to Bush get to meet him?

Meanwhile, Cindy, veterans, and other Gold Star and military families, all of whom have sacrificed tremendously, brave the heat and fire ants waiting for the chance to meet with Bush.

The tensions escalated a bit when rumors circulated that there may be a group of counter-protestors showing up in the late afternoon. True to their word, a group of counter-protestors arrived in the late afternoon on a chartered bus, allegedly paid for by a right-wing Dallas radio DJ. The bus pulled up, unloaded, and the counter-protestors, each armed with a miniature flag, aligned on the side of the road. The local authorities and secret service placed themselves in the middle of the two groups in order to prevent any aggressive acts. To everybody's surprise, after fifteen minutes and callous chants of "I don't care" directed at Cindy, the bus began to load again. A short time later, the fully loaded bus was headed down the road back to Dallas.

Now, in these fifteen minutes, the media was swarming over the newly arrived. Time will tell if they were provided an equal amount of coverage. It would hardly seem fair if this was the case, seeing as the people at Camp Casey are camped out 24 hours a day, seven days a week and not merely making a "media appearance." It seems to me that if these people felt so strongly about the war, they would have stayed longer than fifteen minutes and done more than only talk to the media.

The good news is that Camp Casey continues to grow and our message is resonating around the world. On another positive note, we continue to see other Iraq war veterans come to investigate and meet the people who have traveled from around the country to make their voice heard. In one particular case, a mother and her two sons who had both been to Iraq, came to voice their support for the cause. Amazingly, one of the sons had just returned from Iraq the day before.

So far, all the Iraq war veterans have been very receptive about joining Iraq Veterans Against the War. As the war rages on, we will see more returning disgruntled vets and military families who have suffered the ultimate loss. With continued momentum, we can end the occupation of Iraq before the costs become greater.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Good things come in small packages. Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas may not have the people of a 500,000 strong anti-war march, but it's making at least as powerful a statement. Today was only my first day here outside the ranch, but this has already been one of the most moving events I have attended.

Almost immediately, I recognized the standard tactics of the right wing; deceit and hatred. Upon waking up at the Crawford Peace House, I noticed a news van for the local AM radio station sitting outside. I watched him for a while, but he never bothered to step outside of the van. Later on, I heard the radio station reporting that the people at the Crawford Peace House had chased him away by throwing bottles and rocks at him. This was obviously a lie; designed to paint us, who have gathered peacefully, as militants.

Upon arrival at Camp Casey one of the first new people I met was a Gulf War Marine veteran who now works driving trucks out of Augusta, Georgia. While listening to his satellite radio, he heard about the encampment here in Crawford. Since he was running ahead of schedule and didn't have to be to San Antonio until the next morning, he took a detour to investigate. As a few of us veterans had a good conversation with him, I realized one important thing: He gets it. This former marine was just another of countless veterans across the United States that realize the war in Iraq is a tremendous waste of life and resources.

The weather is very hot and humid here, as evidenced by the few who succumbed to heat stroke. Despite the lack of most creature comforts, the spirit and will of the people here amazes me. In the end the world will know the truth, but in the meantime, I have a request for my former Commander-in-Chief. Come meet with us who served in your imperial war. Come meet with the military families who have loved ones serving in Iraq. Come meet with Cindy and the other Gold Star families. It¹s about time you're honest with the American people.


Critics Decry Roberts' Environment Record

Critics Decry Roberts' Environment Record

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court nominee John Roberts once offered the National Mining Association some unpaid advice on how to intervene in other people's court cases. Two years later he was hired by the group to argue against a citizens group trying to stop coal companies from shearing off the tops of West Virginia's mountains.

That relationship is among a number of situations where Roberts - as a government lawyer, private attorney and federal appeals judge - has become involved in environmental issues. His critics say he tended generally to side with the views of industry.

"He defers to economic interests over the public health, to executive agencies over the Congress, and to secrecy over the public's right-to-know," complains Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, a major environmental protection group. "He's always tweaking the facts to the benefit of insiders."

But lawyer Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which advocates reducing government regulation, says Roberts views on environmental issues do not stray far from those of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"She may have been liberal on some things, but she was not liberal on environmental regulation and property rights," said Bader.

A review of Roberts' record as an attorney and more recently a U.S. Court of Appeals judge provides a glimpse of how he has looked upon issues like federal mining law, the Endangered Species Act and land use issues.

Roberts has not always argued in favor of development, as demonstrated in a case involving protection of Lake Tahoe. Representing the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in 2002, Roberts persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a moratorium on developing the lake's shoreline.

While in the Reagan administration as an aide to White House counsel Fred Fielding, Roberts helped run damage control in 1982 over the refusal by then-Environmental Protection Agency head Anne Gorsuch to provide Congress documents on irregularities in the Superfund toxic waste program.

In a memo, Roberts cautioned that Reagan himself might become entangled in the controversy since Gorsuch was "a presidential appointee carrying out a presidential directive" when she refused to share subpoenaed documents with a House subcommittee.

If that happened, wrote Roberts, it "could be very politically damaging. With Mrs. Gorsuch in the case there is at least a 'buffer' separating the president from the dispute."

Years later, in 1999, as a partner in the Hogan & Hartson law firm here, Roberts was asked to give a presentation at a conference held by the National Mining Association. He offered "several pointers" on how the group might get their views heard by judges.

The "flood of increasingly partisan" friend-of-the-court briefs in recent high-profile appeals cases "raises the question of whether the briefs are read at all, let alone whether they influence the eventual outcome of a case," he advised the mining group.

In 1990, Roberts persuaded the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling in a lawsuit brought by the National Wildlife Federation challenging mining operations in Wyoming and Arizona. He argued successfully that the lower court shouldn't have heard the case since it was based on "vague" claims by two federation members that the mining activities impaired their enjoyment of the land.

Bader said Roberts may be "a hair more conservative" than O'Connor on the issue of when someone has legal standing to sue in court. Roberts may be "a bit more willing to kick out lawsuits from people who don't really have injuries," Bader said.

Just two months ago, Roberts backed the Interior Department in a case challenging oil leases it had issued. Writing for an appeals court majority, Roberts said courts should defer to an agency's view where regulations are complex and highly technical.

A hint of Roberts' views on land use and endangered species may be found in a 2003 case in which the judge took a minority view over the protection of a California toad.

Noting that the federal government's authority was based on its regulation of interstate commerce, Roberts wondered why the Interior Department should be "regulating the taking of a hapless toad that, for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California."

Many environment laws are based on government's constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, says Glenn Sugameli of Earthjustice, a law firm devoted to environmental protection. He said Roberts' views expressed in the California toad case "does raise serious questions" about how he might view "the constitutionality of important protections under the Endangered Species Act."


On the Net:

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

So you won't meet with her?

So you won't meet with her?


Directions are for Girlie Men

Directions are for Girlie Men


Now there's a Hummer owner

Now there's a Hummer owner


Someone Tell the President the War Is Over

The New York Times

Someone Tell the President the War Is Over

LIKE the Japanese soldier marooned on an island for years after V-J Day, President Bush may be the last person in the country to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over. "We will stay the course," he insistently tells us from his Texas ranch. What do you mean we, white man?

A president can't stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him. The approval rate for Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend's Newsweek poll - a match for the 32 percent that approved L.B.J.'s handling of Vietnam in early March 1968. (The two presidents' overall approval ratings have also converged: 41 percent for Johnson then, 42 percent for Bush now.) On March 31, 1968, as L.B.J.'s ratings plummeted further, he announced he wouldn't seek re-election, commencing our long extrication from that quagmire.

But our current Texas president has even outdone his predecessor; Mr. Bush has lost not only the country but also his army. Neither bonuses nor fudged standards nor the faking of high school diplomas has solved the recruitment shortfall. Now Jake Tapper of ABC News reports that the armed forces are so eager for bodies they will flout "don't ask, don't tell" and hang on to gay soldiers who tell, even if they tell the press.

The president's cable cadre is in disarray as well. At Fox News Bill O'Reilly is trashing Donald Rumsfeld for his incompetence, and Ann Coulter is chiding Mr. O'Reilly for being a defeatist. In an emblematic gesture akin to waving a white flag, Robert Novak walked off a CNN set and possibly out of a job rather than answer questions about his role in smearing the man who helped expose the administration's prewar inflation of Saddam W.M.D.'s. (On this sinking ship, it's hard to know which rat to root for.)

As if the right-wing pundit crackup isn't unsettling enough, Mr. Bush's top war strategists, starting with Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, have of late tried to rebrand the war in Iraq as what the defense secretary calls "a global struggle against violent extremism." A struggle is what you have with your landlord. When the war's über-managers start using euphemisms for a conflict this lethal, it's a clear sign that the battle to keep the Iraq war afloat with the American public is lost.

That battle crashed past the tipping point this month in Ohio. There's historical symmetry in that. It was in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, that Mr. Bush gave the fateful address that sped Congressional ratification of the war just days later. The speech was a miasma of self-delusion, half-truths and hype. The president said that "we know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade," an exaggeration based on evidence that the Senate Intelligence Committee would later find far from conclusive. He said that Saddam "could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year" were he able to secure "an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball." Our own National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1 quoted State Department findings that claims of Iraqi pursuit of uranium in Africa were "highly dubious."

It was on these false premises - that Iraq was both a collaborator on 9/11 and about to inflict mushroom clouds on America - that honorable and brave young Americans were sent off to fight. Among them were the 19 marine reservists from a single suburban Cleveland battalion slaughtered in just three days at the start of this month. As they perished, another Ohio marine reservist who had served in Iraq came close to winning a Congressional election in southern Ohio. Paul Hackett, a Democrat who called the president a "chicken hawk," received 48 percent of the vote in exactly the kind of bedrock conservative Ohio district that decided the 2004 election for Mr. Bush.

These are the tea leaves that all Republicans, not just Chuck Hagel, are reading now. Newt Gingrich called the Hackett near-victory "a wake-up call." The resolutely pro-war New York Post editorial page begged Mr. Bush (to no avail) to "show some leadership" by showing up in Ohio to salute the fallen and their families. A Bush loyalist, Senator George Allen of Virginia, instructed the president to meet with Cindy Sheehan, the mother camping out in Crawford, as "a matter of courtesy and decency." Or, to translate his Washingtonese, as a matter of politics. Only someone as adrift from reality as Mr. Bush would need to be told that a vacationing president can't win a standoff with a grief-stricken parent commandeering TV cameras and the blogosphere 24/7.

Such political imperatives are rapidly bringing about the war's end. That's inevitable for a war of choice, not necessity, that was conceived in politics from the start. Iraq was a Bush administration idée fixe before there was a 9/11. Within hours of that horrible trauma, according to Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies," Mr. Rumsfeld was proposing Iraq as a battlefield, not because the enemy that attacked America was there, but because it offered "better targets" than the shadowy terrorist redoubts of Afghanistan. It was easier to take out Saddam - and burnish Mr. Bush's credentials as a slam-dunk "war president," suitable for a "Top Gun" victory jig - than to shut down Al Qaeda and smoke out its leader "dead or alive."

But just as politics are a bad motive for choosing a war, so they can be a doomed engine for running a war. In an interview with Tim Russert early last year, Mr. Bush said, "The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me, as I look back, was it was a political war," adding that the "essential" lesson he learned from Vietnam was to not have "politicians making military decisions." But by then Mr. Bush had disastrously ignored that very lesson; he had let Mr. Rumsfeld publicly rebuke the Army's chief of staff, Eric Shinseki, after the general dared tell the truth: that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. To this day it's our failure to provide that security that has turned the country into the terrorist haven it hadn't been before 9/11 - "the central front in the war on terror," as Mr. Bush keeps reminding us, as if that might make us forget he's the one who recklessly created it.

The endgame for American involvement in Iraq will be of a piece with the rest of this sorry history. "It makes no sense for the commander in chief to put out a timetable" for withdrawal, Mr. Bush declared on the same day that 14 of those Ohio troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha. But even as he spoke, the war's actual commander, Gen. George Casey, had already publicly set a timetable for "some fairly substantial reductions" to start next spring. Officially this calendar is tied to the next round of Iraqi elections, but it's quite another election this administration has in mind. The priority now is less to save Jessica Lynch (or Iraqi democracy) than to save Rick Santorum and every other endangered Republican facing voters in November 2006.

Nothing that happens on the ground in Iraq can turn around the fate of this war in America: not a shotgun constitution rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline, not another Iraqi election, not higher terrorist body counts, not another battle for Falluja (where insurgents may again regroup, The Los Angeles Times reported last week). A citizenry that was asked to accept tax cuts, not sacrifice, at the war's inception is hardly in the mood to start sacrificing now. There will be neither the volunteers nor the money required to field the wholesale additional American troops that might bolster the security situation in Iraq.

WHAT lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson's March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam: some kind of negotiations (in this case, with Sunni elements of the insurgency), followed by more inflated claims about the readiness of the local troops-in-training, whom we'll then throw to the wolves. Such an outcome may lead to even greater disaster, but this administration long ago squandered the credibility needed to make the difficult case that more human and financial resources might prevent Iraq from continuing its descent into civil war and its devolution into jihad central.

Thus the president's claim on Thursday that "no decision has been made yet" about withdrawing troops from Iraq can be taken exactly as seriously as the vice president's preceding fantasy that the insurgency is in its "last throes." The country has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We're outta there. Now comes the hard task of identifying the leaders who can pick up the pieces of the fiasco that has made us more vulnerable, not less, to the terrorists who struck us four years ago next month.


Bush raises option of using force against Iran


Bush raises option of using force against Iran

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President Bush said he could consider using force as a last resort to press Iran to give up its nuclear program.

But German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, one of the most prominent European opponents of the U.S.-led war on Iraq, told an election rally on Saturday the threat of force was not acceptable.

In what appeared to be a reference to Bush's remarks that "all options are on the table," Schroeder told the crowd in his home city of Hanover:

" ... let's take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn't work."

Iran angered the European Union and the United States by resuming uranium conversion at the Isfahan plant last Monday after rejecting an EU offer of political and economic incentives in return for giving up its nuclear program.

Tehran says it aims only to produce electricity and denies Western accusations it is seeking a nuclear bomb.

The EU -- represented by Britain, France and Germany -- has been trying to find a compromise for two years between arch foes Iran and the United States.

Bush, speaking at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, was asked in the interview broadcast on Saturday whether possible options included the use of force.

"As I say, all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any president and you know, we've used force in the recent past to secure our country," he told state-owned Israel Channel One television.


Washington last week expressed a willingness to give negotiations on Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program more time before getting tougher with the country, and Bush made clear he still hoped for a diplomatic solution.

"In all these instances we want diplomacy to work and so we're working feverishly on the diplomatic route and we'll see if we're successful or not," Bush said in the Israeli interview.

Bush has also previously said that the United States has not ruled out the possibility of military strikes. But U.S. officials have played down media speculation earlier this year they were planning military action against Iran.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Friday that negotiations were still possible with Iran on condition the Iranians suspend their nuclear activities.

The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency unanimously called on Iran on Thursday to halt sensitive atomic work.

If Iran continues to defy global demands, another IAEA meeting will likely be held, where both Europe and Washington will push for a referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Schroeder, whose Social Democrats are lagging the opposition conservatives in opinion polls ahead of September elections, said he was worried about developments in Iran because no one wants it to gain possession of atomic weapons.

"The Europeans and the Americans are united in this goal. Up to now we were also united in the way to pursue this," he said.

Schroeder's opposition to the Iraq war was seen as a decisive factor in his unexpected victory in the 2002 general election, which he won narrowly after coming from behind.

But his critical stance caused serious ruptures in Germany's traditionally strong relations with the United States.


Senate Democrats demand certain Roberts documents


Senate Democrats demand certain Roberts documents

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats on Friday again demanded documents from what they said was U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' most important period of executive service and asked to meet with the attorney general to resolve an impasse over the material.

Preparing for confirmation hearings early next month, Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats wrote another letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales demanding documents from 16 cases Roberts dealt with as deputy solicitor general for President George H.W. Bush. The lawmakers said the material "may particularly illuminate his views on judicial decision-making."

The administration has refused to release that material, saying in a Justice Department letter that they reflected "internal discussions" that "have always been considered privileged."

The White House on Monday is to issue about 5,300 pages from Roberts' work as associate counsel to former President Ronald Reagan, a less senior position.

The White House assured committee members they will receive up to 40,000 pages of additional material by August 22, the deadline sought by Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican.

Democrats have complained that much of the material they have received so far from the career of the conservative jurist was already in the public domain, and that much was from his work before he moved into a higher-level position.

Material from Roberts' work as deputy solicitor general, which the Bush administration has refused to release, "may well be the most relevant for evaluating the Supreme Court nomination," committee Democrats said.

They said those documents would show whether views expressed publicly in administration legal briefs "were also shared by Judge Roberts personally, and to evaluate the progression and consistency of his legal reasoning and analysis throughout his career."

Democrats disputed the White House argument that releasing the material could chill the free flow of internal discourse among administration lawyers.

They said Roberts was a "political appointee in a leadership position, politically responsible for making high-level policy decisions" who should not be afforded the same confidentiality as career staff attorneys.


Iraq war boosted Islamic extremist threat- Carter


Iraq war boosted Islamic extremist threat- Carter

KINGS BAY, Georgia (Reuters) - The 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake that has boosted the ranks and morale of extremist Islamic groups and made them a greater threat to U.S. interests, former President Jimmy Carter said on Friday.

"We have not lessened the strength of terrorists around the world and have not lessened but have increased both the number and the fervor and the organizational capabilities of terrorists," Carter said in a news conference at this U.S. naval base in southeastern Georgia.

Carter, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 and one of the fiercest U.S. critics of the war in Iraq, added that he was opposed to a sudden withdrawal of U.S. troops "because it would lead to a "debacle" in the Middle Eastern nation.

Carter's comments came one day after President George W. Bush rejected calls for a quick pullout. Bush, who is vacationing at his ranch in Texas, said a premature withdrawal would betray the Iraqis just as they are being trained to defend themselves and eventually take over from U.S. soldiers.

More than 1,800 U.S. soldiers have been killed since a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in the spring of 2003, toppling Saddam Hussein from power.

Carter was in Kings Bay, Georgia, to tour the U.S.S. Jimmy Carter, a newly commissioned nuclear submarine. Carter, a former Navy submarine officer, and his wife, Rosalynn, spent Thursday night on the submerged vessel.