Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Ministry of Truth Strikes Again, and Again, and Again...

Huffington Post
Carl Pope
The Ministry of Truth Strikes Again, and Again, and Again...

The reactionary campaign against knowledge and information is reaching frightening new heights.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been ordered by the White House to "shut down [its] libraries, end public access to research materials and box up unique collections on the assumption that Congress will not reverse President Bush’s proposed budget reductions." Fifteen states will lose library service immediately, the rest will follow, and the public is to be turned away as soon as possible.
Unsurprisingly, EPA scientists are protesting, saying that the lack of access to data will impair their research and scientific capabilities. The Administration says its plan is to "centralize" control of all data; EPA scientists say the real goal is to "suppress information on environmental and public health-related topics." The Administration is not yet burning books, but they are getting very close.

They're not much fonder of telling the truth -- the whole truth -- over at the Defense Department. The Department has refused to complete congressionally ordered studies of the potential security threat to radar systems from wind turbines. Until it finishes that study, Defense is blocking all new wind turbines that might help reduce our dependence on what the President calls our "addiction" to oil and natural gas "often from insecure places."

The Sierra Club sued and demanded that Defense finish the study. (Of course, if wind turbines actually were a threat to our air defense systems, you would think that the Department of Defense would be rushing to prove it and make us safer by dealing with the thousands that already exist.)

But Defense has refused to respond to the Club's motion. Now, Defense has informed us that it will miss the 60-day deadline for that response and will need an additional five weeks to answer the complaint. In other words, the Department claims that it needs more than three months to tell a Court why it cannot finish what was supposed to be a six-month study. This is giving stonewalling a whole new meaning.

Nor will the Department of Defense tell us how many wind projects it has stopped, even though it has issued "don't proceed" orders to each one, so the information is obviously available. According to media reports, at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest alone have already been shut down. The list of stalled projects includes one outside of Bloomington, Illinois, that would have been the nation's largest source of wind energy -- generating enough electricity to power 120,000 homes in the Chicago area.

But scientists are good for one thing -- as scapegoats. Only a few weeks ago, reactionary columnist Peggy Noonan was setting up the climate science community to take the fall for Bush Administration inaction on global warming. According to Noonan, if only global warming scientists weren't such obvious liberal hacks, the world would have acted in time. Scientists, Noonan said, are responsible, "for refusing to be honest, for operating in cliques and holding to ideologies. For failing to be trustworthy." She could not, however, cite a single example of such behavior. Perhaps all her evidence had already all been hidden away under lock and key in the EPA's "deaccessed" library system.

This Is What the Scientists Told Us Global Warming Would Be Like

Max Mayfield, director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center, says Katrina was far from the worst hurricane we will experience.
"People think we have seen the worst. We haven't," Mayfield told Reuters in an interview at the fortress-like hurricane center in Florida. "I think the day is coming. I think eventually we're going to have a very powerful hurricane in a major metropolitan area worse than what we saw in Katrina and it's going to be a mega-disaster. With lots of lost lives," Mayfield said.

And This Is What We Can Do About It

The "two-mode" hybrid engine being developed in Detroit by General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and BMW would increase the fuel efficiency of big SUVs and large luxury cars by at least 25 percent.


The Katrina Year | The Next Emergency - Despite Steps, Disaster Planning Still Shows Gaps

The New York Times
The Katrina Year | The Next Emergency
Despite Steps, Disaster Planning Still Shows Gaps

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 — As Tropical Storm Beryl whipped up the seas along the mid-Atlantic coast this summer, officials monitoring the storm inside the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters could watch both sides of the action.

On one computer monitor was the National Weather Service image of the storm, spinning slowly toward New England. Nearby was FEMA’s high-tech counterpunch: a digital map of the United States with a swarm of Pac-Man-like dots representing FEMA trucks moving disaster relief supplies toward the expected impact zone.

The tracking system is a concrete sign of progress for an agency that, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, became an international symbol of dysfunction and incompetence. But the system is set up for only a sliver of the country and includes just a fraction of the aid sent to the field. It is emblematic of how inconsistent progress has been in preparing the nation for disasters, one year after the hurricane and five years after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

In the last year, FEMA, the federal government’s primary disaster response agency and overseer of state and local efforts, has adopted policies to help prevent fraud and wasteful spending, strengthened its ties with other federal agencies for help with evacuations and emergency medical aid and installed high-tech equipment, like the supply-tracking system. After a prolonged search, it hired a new director, R. David Paulison, a former chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Department, and significantly built up its executive ranks with more seasoned emergency managers.

Despite calls by many FEMA critics, though, little has fundamentally changed about the agency itself, which still has less autonomy and power than it did in the Clinton years and a budget for its core mission that has not significantly increased.

The inconsistencies are apparent elsewhere. Along the Gulf Coast and in other locations struck by disaster, like New York City, important advances have been made to prepare for the next catastrophe. In New Orleans, extraordinary steps have been taken to care for the disabled, the elderly and tens of thousands of others without cars if another major hurricane arrives. In New York, city officials say, up to three million people could be evacuated from coastal areas and 600,000 accommodated in shelters stocked with food and supplies.

But in large chunks of the country, far more limited progress has been made to prepare for catastrophe, a recent federal assessment concluded. The Department of Homeland Security, FEMA’s parent agency, rated only 27 percent of the states and 10 percent of the cities evaluated as adequately prepared “to cope with a catastrophic event.” Dallas, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City and Philadelphia were among the low scorers.

In Philadelphia, for example, emergency radio systems are not reliable throughout city, plans to care for the elderly and the disabled are not complete, shelter space is insufficient and contracts for emergency supplies mostly do not exist — all lapses that contributed to the debacle in New Orleans last year.

The uneven preparation has left many emergency-response experts, including senior Bush administration officials, uneasy.

“There is not a governor nor major-city mayor in America who does not know that all eyes will be watching them when the next major disaster occurs,” said George W. Foresman, under secretary for preparedness at the Department of Homeland Security. “But generally speaking, if you ask the question ‘Are they ready?’ it is not where it needs to be. And that is the understatement of the day.”

Mr. Paulison, the FEMA director, acknowledged in a briefing this month that while progress had been made, his agency had not finished the task of retooling itself.

“We cannot let the deaths and the suffering of those Katrina victims go in vain,” he said. “We have to take those lessons learned and make sure that this organization, primarily FEMA, but the entire federal government, is capable of responding in a much more nimble and much more effective way.”

Ready to Roll

At Camp Beauregard, a Louisiana National Guard training ground far from the vulnerable Gulf Coast, FEMA has set up a sprawling disaster depot. Load after load of bottled water, ready-to-eat meals, cots, tarps, blankets and sheets of plastic have been assembled this year, each movement of goods tracked by FEMA’s new satellite system.

But instead of holding the supplies at the centrally located camp as FEMA mostly did last year, the agency distributed them across the state, to sites including New Orleans and surrounding parishes hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. With these and other stockpiles — at least twice the inventory dispersed before the hurricane last August — FEMA officials say they have enough supplies to care for one million people for a week.

“We have moved the trailers by the hundreds,” said Garrison Martin, the FEMA manager of the Camp Beauregard complex, watching as forklifts brought in more goods. “We can meet the need if a disaster was to happen again.”

Mr. Martin and other federal, state and local officials in Louisiana have a palpable sense of urgency in preparing for another hurricane or other disaster. They have pieced together a regional response plan that has few precedents in American history.

Federal officials say that if a major hurricane threatens the Louisiana coast this year, they will be ready before the storm to help move up to 80,000 people by bus and 61,000 by plane or train — almost everyone in the region without cars, including tourists. Federal and state officials have also found shelters safely away from the coast for as many as 250,000 people. The Defense Department, at FEMA’s request, has contracted with suppliers to deliver diesel fuel and gasoline in hurricane-prone states for generators and vehicles along escape routes.

The Pentagon is also prepared to step in and help with rescues, medical evacuations, delivery of heavy equipment and road clearing, as well as to provide 15,000 to 20,000 active duty troops to maintain order and offer other assistance. The Department of Transportation is even paying for 200 buses simply to sit in the Gulf region this summer, just in case they are needed for evacuations.

The most detailed planning involves caring for the sick, the elderly and the disabled, for whom the government and institutional failures last year proved most deadly.

After the hurricane, residents of Maison Hospitalière, a nursing home off Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, had to wait four days in the stifling heat until they were evacuated. Without air-conditioning, the temperatures climbed so high that two residents died while waiting for rescuers.

“Things will be different this year,” said Andrew B. Sandler, the nursing home administrator.

Now Mr. Sandler has a contract with a bus company that vows it will honor an agreement to move his residents if necessary, as well as a contract with a company that manages three nursing homes inland to accept his residents. And if his plans fall through, state and federal officials say they will step in to take care of them.

Federal officials know that some havoc would be inevitable in an evacuation of New Orleans. But they are using every moment of this hurricane season to prepare to deal with another storm.

“Every day we have where we don’t have a hurricane, we will be able to take it a little bit further,” said Gil H. Jamieson, who is coordinating FEMA’s efforts along the Gulf Coast.

Untested in the Northeast

Dr. Harvey Rubin’s expertise is in infectious diseases, not disaster management. But from the top floor of a hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Rubin had no trouble pointing out where catastrophes could unfold in Philadelphia.

To the south, sandwiched among a residential neighborhood, the airport and three sports complexes, is a giant Sunoco oil refinery. It processes a highly flammable product and stores hundreds of thousands of pounds of hydrogen fluoride, an extremely toxic chemical used to make high-octane fuels. If the chemical was released into the air by an accident or a terrorist act, a poisonous, ground-hugging cloud could threaten hundreds of thousands of residents for miles away.

To the east, behind office towers, are the city’s historic icons, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall; beyond them is the container-ship port. All are considered possible terrorist targets.

Philadelphia is not at high risk for a natural disaster, but like many other major metropolitan areas, it is vulnerable to industrial accidents and terrorist strikes. Yet when Mayor John F. Street ordered a review of how prepared the city was for a major catastrophe, the results were far from reassuring.

“We have done well, luckily, with the typical disaster,” said Dr. Rubin, director of the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response and co-chairman of the study. “But the big catastrophe — we have not been tested. It would not be smooth.”

Evacuation plans for the city, even if only part of it had to be cleared, are so unspecific that even some agencies expected to play a critical role do not know what to do, the report said.

The city, which has 1.5 million residents, has few plans to evacuate the elderly or people without cars. Stockpiles of food and supplies would be sufficient for only about 15,000 residents, with few contracts arranged to quickly bring in large amounts of additional supplies.

The police and fire emergency radio communication systems are unreliable on the underground sections of the city subway. The ambulance dispatching system does not allow city rescue crews to communicate directly with hospitals.

So little thought, in fact, had gone into disaster planning that city officials had not even set up antiterrorist traffic barriers around the police headquarters, which also houses the 911 dispatch center. (Barriers have recently been installed.)

Left to Fend for Itself

The findings, issued in June, reflected conclusions reached the same month by the Department of Homeland Security and last month by the United States Conference of Mayors.

“Significant weaknesses in evacuation planning are an area of profound concern,” the department’s report said. The mayors’ conference report noted that communications systems in 80 percent of the cities were not sophisticated enough to allow all public safety and rescue workers to talk to one another, a goal the study’s authors said would take on average four years to achieve.

Some states, including Florida, North Carolina and Texas, received decent grades in the Homeland Security Department survey, largely because of the frequent tests they face from hurricanes. Certain high-risk targets like Washington and New York also did relatively well, thanks to steps taken since 2001.

Some measures FEMA has taken in the last year — like establishing federal reconnaissance teams that can fly in and report back on conditions even if local communications networks are knocked out — could compensate for some of the preparedness lapses. FEMA has also doubled, to 200,000 a day, its capacity to field telephone calls from victims who want to register for financial aid.

Yet many aspects of the enhanced federal response effort are limited to particularly vulnerable areas, like southeastern Louisiana. Much of the rest of the country would have to fend largely for itself after a disaster until federal help could be mobilized, perhaps as much as 48 to 72 hours later. With most areas inadequately prepared, that could be precarious, federal officials and emergency managers acknowledge.

“Time and again, these factors exact a severe penalty in the midst of a crisis: Precious time is consumed in the race to correct the misperceptions of federal, state and local responders about roles, responsibilities and actions,” the federal survey of states and cities warned. “The result is uneven performance and repeated and costly operational miscues.”

Philadelphia officials have been commended for producing such a blunt report that identifies gaps in their preparedness. But for area residents like Theresa Jones, who lives near the oil refinery, and Charlie Tomlinson, who rides the subway, the city’s vulnerabilities are worrisome.

“If something happens here, we are just cooked,” Ms. Jones said. “We will be fried chicken.”

Pedro A. Ramos, Philadelphia’s top administrative official, said residents should rest assured that Philadelphia was moving energetically to fill the gaps in its disaster plan.

“You never know what you don’t know until you go looking for it,” Mr. Ramos said.

But as a subway car pulled into an underground station near City Hall, Mr. Tomlinson said he could not help but wonder why it had taken the city so long to get serious about preparedness.

“You would have thought that now that we are five years past Sept. 11 that someone would have addressed this,” Mr. Tomlinson said. “It is a little scary.”


New Orleans Still Awaits Billions of Dollars in Promised Federal Aid, Year After Katrina

ABC News
New Orleans Awaits Billions in Fed Aid
New Orleans Still Awaits Billions of Dollars in Promised Federal Aid, Year After Katrina
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - First came the floodwaters, then the paperwork. Billions of promised federal dollars to fix New Orleans' crumbling infrastructure have gone largely untapped a year after Hurricane Katrina. City officials complain that a snarl of red tape, restrictions and unexpectedly high costs have kept hundreds of public buildings in disrepair, streets pocked with potholes and most parks too dirty for children to play.

"It's an incredible bureaucracy. It's unbelievable," Mayor Ray Nagin said in an interview with The Associated Press this week.

So far, the city has collected only $117 million to start the repair work in what has been billed as the largest urban restoration in U.S. history.

For every repair project, city officials must follow a lengthy application process and spend their own money before getting a dime of federal aid to fix at least 833 projects such as police stations, courtrooms, baseball fields or auditoriums.

Residents don't care much what the cause is. They're just tired of crater-like potholes, sudden drops in water pressure and debris-clogged storm drains.

"We're not asking for a lot. At this point, we're just looking for basic services: power, gas, water. Sewer that doesn't back up into your house would be nice too," said Jeb Bruneau, president of the neighborhood association in the Lakeview area. "Whatever the snafu was, the result is Joe Blow Citizen isn't seeing the effect of that federal money."

Louisiana eventually expects to get at least $25 billion in federal money for rebuilding projects, including everything from levee repairs to homeowner assistance. Of that money, $6 billion to $8 billion will be doled out statewide to repair broken roads, schools, water pipes and countless other problems.

But to get the money, the city and other agencies such as the Sewerage and Water Board, the Regional Transit Authority and Orleans Parish School Board must fill out worksheets for every construction project.

The worksheets are submitted to FEMA, which determines whether the project is eligible for federal aid. If approved, the federal government releases the approved money to the state, but the local government fronts the money to have the work done. After that, the local government can submit receipts for reimbursement.

The process takes months and can be further complicated if costs surpass the original request a particular concern in New Orleans because of shortages of materials and construction workers.

It also requires the city have cash to pay upfront, forcing money to be diverted from other parts of the budget.

President Bush has acknowledged the problems posed by excessive bureaucracy.

"To the extent that there still are bureaucratic hurdles and the need for the federal government to help eradicate those hurdles, we want to do that," Bush said Wednesday at the White House. But he cautioned that rebuilding will take time.

FEMA has signed off on $4.8 billion worth of rebuilding in Louisiana and $1.7 billion in Mississippi so far, said Darryl Madden, a spokesman for FEMA's Gulf Coast recovery office. Louisiana's larger amount reflects a broader scale of destruction caused by two hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, and the concentration of damage in heavily populated areas.

The procedural requirements for local governments to collect federal aid are designed to ensure the money is spent properly, Madden said.

"We are dealing with very, very large dollars. There has to be accountability," he said.

In the meantime, some federal aid has started to arrive.

About $6 billion has been allocated to the Army Corps of Engineers for repairs to the New Orleans flood-control system, and the first bit of the $8.1 billion to help homeowners repair or move from flooded-out homes was given out this week.

The money for the homeowner program was slower to arrive in Louisiana than in Mississippi because Mississippi was quicker to submit a plan that demonstrated checks and balances on the funding.

The process for seeking federal infrastructure aid is the same for governments across the Gulf Coast. For instance, Bay St. Louis, Miss., needs at least $70 million in repairs, and it's still waiting for federal and state help.

"There's just so much red tape on it," Mayor Eddie Favre said. "It's slowing some things down. It's a lot of headaches and heartaches if nothing else."

Associated Press writers Rukmini Callimachi in New Orleans and Michael Kunzelman in Gulfport, Miss., contributed to this report.


Friday, August 25, 2006

E.P.A. Whistle-Blower Says U.S. Hid 9/11 Dust Danger

The New York Times
E.P.A. Whistle-Blower Says U.S. Hid 9/11 Dust Danger

A senior scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency has accused the agency of relying on misleading data about the health hazards of World Trade Center dust.

The scientist, who has been sharply critical of the agency in the past, claimed in a letter to members of the New York Congressional delegation this week that test reports in 2002 and 2003 distorted the alkalinity, or pH level, of the dust released when the twin towers collapsed, downplaying its danger.

Some doctors suspect that the highly alkaline nature of the dust contributed to the variety of ailments that recovery workers and residents have complained of since the attack.

Tests of the gray-brown dust conducted by scientists at the United States Geological Survey a few months after the attack found that the dust was highly alkaline, in some instances as caustic or corrosive as drain cleaner, and capable of causing severe irritation and burns.

The tests that are being challenged by the E.P.A. scientist were conducted by independent scientists at New York University. Those tests also indicated that larger particles of dust were highly alkaline. But they found that smaller dust particles — those most likely to reach into the lower airways of the lungs, where they could cause serious illnesses — were not alkaline and caustic.

The geological survey’s tests did not differentiate the dust by particle size.

A spokeswoman for the agency, Mary Mears, said in a statement that the E.P.A. stood behind its work on ground zero environmental hazards, as did the N.Y.U. scientists. The scientist making the complaint, Cate Jenkins, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry and works in the agency’s office of solid waste and emergency response, said the test results helped the E.P.A. avoid legal liability. Residents of Lower Manhattan have sued the agency in federal court, claiming that it bungled the cleanup.

Dr. Jenkins said the test reports had a costly health effect, contributing “to emergency personnel and citizens not taking adequate precautions to prevent exposures.”

In her statement, Ms. Mears distanced the agency from Dr. Jenkins, who has worked for the E.P.A. since 1979 and has been in conflict with the agency for years over her whistle-blowing activities.

“Dr. Jenkins has not participated in any aspect of the E.P.A.’s work on the World Trade Center,” the statement said. “This appears to be a disagreement about scientific methods and not the validity of the results.” The New York University scientists, who were not directly financed by the E.P.A., denied being pressured by the agency and said Dr. Jenkins’s claims were without scientific merit.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat whose district includes Lower Manhattan, received a copy of Dr. Jenkins’s letter, and he said that he intended to look into the dispute.

“When a scientist who works for the E.P.A. makes serious allegations about the aftermath of 9/11, they must be examined carefully,” he said.

The two scientists named in Dr. Jenkins’s letter are faculty members of the New York University School of Medicine who collected dust samples from ground zero in the days after the attack.

One of them, George D. Thurston, is director of N.Y.U.’s Community Outreach and Education Program. He has helped inform Lower Manhattan workers and residents about health hazards related to the terror attack.

Testifying before a Senate committee in 2002, Dr. Thurston said that more than 95 percent of the dust was composed of comparatively large particles that were highly alkaline. He said that although they were irritating, those dust particles did not pose serious health concerns for residents because they were too large to enter the lower airways of the lungs.

Smaller particles, those less than 2.5 microns in size, are far more dangerous because they can be easily breathed deep into the lungs. Dr. Thurston told the Senate committee that tests showed those particles to be pH neutral, and therefore of less concern.

A year later, the same scientists, in conjunction with the E.P.A., among others, published a report in Environmental Health Perspectives, a professional journal, in which they described a new round of tests in which they found the smallest dust particles to have pH values from 8.8 to 10, which made them alkaline.

To keep the particles in the samples from congealing, however, they used a standard process that involved freeze-drying and soaking the samples in saline. When pH tested, the particles were then found to be “near neutral.”

Lung-Chi Chen, the second N.Y.U. scientist, an inhalation toxicologist with N.Y.U.’s School of Medicine who was responsible for the testing, said the saline could not have diluted the alkalinity of the samples so greatly that they went from alkaline to neutral.

“We were not trying to mislead anyone,” he said.

Dr. Chen said the samples tested prior to Dr. Thurston’s 2002 Senate testimony and those in the 2003 report came from different batches of dust, which probably accounted for the difference in their alkalinity.

He said he was not surprised that the smaller dust particles had characteristics and alkalinity levels different from the larger ones. He explained that the larger particles were made up of building materials that had been pulverized by the pressure of the imploding towers. The smallest particles, he said, were probably a combination of crushed material and the combustion byproducts produced by high-temperature fires that burned for weeks.


In Poll, G.O.P. Slips as a Friend of Religion

The New York Times
In Poll, G.O.P. Slips as a Friend of Religion

A new poll shows that fewer Americans view the Republican Party as “friendly to religion” than a year ago, with the decline particularly steep among Catholics and white evangelical Protestants — constituencies at the core of the Republicans’ conservative Christian voting bloc.

The survey found that the proportion of Americans who say the Republican Party is friendly to religion fell 8 percentage points in the last year, to 47 percent from 55 percent. Among Catholics and white evangelical Protestants, the decline was 14 percentage points.

The Democratic Party suffers from the perception of an even more drastic religion deficit, but that is not new. Just 26 percent of poll respondents said the Democratic Party was friendly to religion, down from 29 percent last year.

The telephone poll, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, was conducted July 6-19 among 2,003 adults. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus three to four percentage points, depending on the question.

The survey examined Americans’ attitudes on such topics as politics, science, the Bible, global warming and Israel. But the most startling change, said John Green, senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum, was the perception of the Republican Party by its core constituency.

“It’s unclear how directly this will translate into voting behavior,” Mr. Green said, “but this is a baseline indicator that religious conservatives see the party they’ve chosen to support as less friendly to religion than they used to.”

He speculated that religious conservatives could feel betrayed that some Republican politicians recently voted to back stem cell research, and that a Republican-dominated Congress failed to pass an amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.

“At the minimum, there will be less good will toward the Republican Party by these conservative religious groups, and a disenchantment that the party will be able to deliver on its promises,” Mr. Green said.

Americans remained critical of the influence of both the right and the left on religion. Sixty-nine percent agreed that liberals had “gone too far in trying to keep religion out of schools and government” — an increase of three percentage points, which is not statistically significant. And 49 percent agreed that conservative Christians had “gone too far in trying to impose their religious values on the country,” also a three percentage point increase.

Asked about “the Christian conservative movement,” 44 percent had a favorable view and 36 percent unfavorable, about the same as a year ago.

The respondents were almost evenly divided on whether the influence of religion on governmental institutions like the presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court was increasing (42 percent) or decreasing (45 percent). Most of those who said the influence was decreasing said that was “a bad thing.”

Americans also disagree on whether churches and houses of worship should express their views on politics, with 51 percent saying they should, and 46 percent saying they should keep out of political matters. This divide has held steady for the last five years, the Pew report said.

Of the topics addressed by clergy members during religious services, 92 percent of respondents who attend religious services regularly said they had heard clergy members speak about hunger and poverty, 59 percent said abortion, 53 percent said Iraq, 52 percent said homosexuality and 40 percent said evolution or intelligent design. Only 24 percent said they heard clergy members discuss stem cell research, and 21 percent immigration.

In the last year, religious organizations, including some representing evangelicals, have made global warming a priority.

In the poll, a large majority (79 percent) said there was “solid evidence” of global warming, and 61 percent said it was a problem that required “immediate government action.” But white evangelicals and mainline Protestants were more skeptical about global warming than Catholics and secular Americans were, and more likely to say that it is the result of natural causes, not human activity.


Antiwar protesters' battle shifts

Detroit Free Press
Antiwar protesters' battle shifts
As driver support grows, cops pose new problems
By Frank Witsil

For nearly four years, Kim Bergier and dozens of other protesters have braved cold and heat, wind and rain, angry shouts -- and even, in one case, fists -- to deliver a simple message: They are opposed to war.

Every Monday evening, they've been gathering at the intersection of 9 Mile and Woodward in Ferndale to hold signs -- "Impeach Bush," "No War" and "2,611 U.S. killed in Iraq" -- and flash peace signs.

In the beginning, the demonstrators acknowledge, they got more middle fingers than thumbs-up.

But, now, the activists say, as the war in Iraq drags on, they're getting more support from passersby but are getting static from the police.

"The vigil empowers us to put our feet where our mouth is and take a stand," said Bergier, 55, of Madison Heights, who began protesting on Dec. 12, 2002, and has been returning to the same corner nearly every week since. "But as the death toll goes up, there is increased tension."

Last month, two protesters -- Victor Kittila, 55, of Eastpointe and Nancy Goedert, 73, of Ferndale -- were charged with disorderly conduct and inciting motorists to honk. Their cases, which are before 43rd District Judge Joseph Longo in Ferndale, were rescheduled from Tuesday to 1 p.m. Sept. 26.

That same month a third person, Joe Plambeck, 27, of Ferndale, was ticketed for tooting his car horn in response to the protesters.

Plambeck, who faces a $110 fine if convicted, appeared for a hearing in 43rd District Court Wednesday and is scheduled to return on Sept. 26.

Deborah Choly, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild in Detroit who represents all three in court, is seeking to have the charges dismissed.

"Our position is it is protected speech, both to hold a sign and to honk," she said Wednesday.

However, Ferndale city officials said the protesters, who have garnered national attention through Internet chats and support from activists such as "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker Michael Moore, are attempting to use the disorderly conduct charges to turn a public safety issue into something else.

"We have no intent to stop the protest," said Ferndale's interim City Manager Warren Renando. "We've had that protest forever."

Ferndale Police Chief Michael Kitchen, who said that the city was working to resolve the two public-disturbance cases, added that the two protesters were charged with misdemeanors after the city received several complaints because protesters were blocking walkways and inciting motorists to honk, which is illegal.

"The sound was deafening," Kitchen said of the honking, before the charges were brought.

Since then, the protesters stopped carrying signs that urged motorists to honk "if you want Bush out."

Demonstrators said they selected this corner of Ferndale because it was not far from the headquarters of the Peace Action of Michigan, one of the organizations involved in the protest.

On Monday, more than 50 gathered from 4:45 p.m. to well past 5:30 p.m. Many said the recent charges have only hardened their resolve.

Jim Grimm added that the possibility of criminal charges are tame compared with what he already has endured. Within the past year, he said, someone who did not agree with his views attacked him. Fortunately, the 78-year-old World War II veteran from Clawson said, passing motorists came to his aid, and the Ferndale police arrested his attacker.

"I took an oath to protect this country," he said. "And that's what I'm doing." And Susan Alderman-Wuchte of Ft. Gratiot said the demonstration was a civics lesson for her two children, Hayley, 12, and Clara, 8, whom she brought to the protest on Monday.

The 46-year-old mother said, "This is our way of standing up for what we believe in."


New rules let air marshals dress how they want

USA Today
New rules let air marshals dress how they want

WASHINGTON (AP) — Air marshals were told Thursday they will be allowed to dress the way they want and choose their own hotels in order to protect their anonymity while on missions.

Federal Air Marshal Service chief Dana Brown, who has been in the job for five months, said he was changing the rules, starting Sept. 1, after listening to air marshals' concerns.

In a memo to the air marshals, Brown said the dress code was changed to "allow you to blend in and not direct attention to yourself, as well as be sufficiently functional to enable you to conduct your law enforcement responsibilities."

Air marshals had complained that Brown's predecessor, Thomas Quinn, insisted on a too-formal dress code that allowed people to pick them out. The marshals said, for example, that being forced to wear a jacket and collared shirt made them stand out on flights to Hawaii.

The dress requirements were loosened in October, but the agency kept details under wraps. The change announced Thursday leaves it up to marshals how each of them dresses for duty.

Air marshals also won an agreement from Brown to let them choose their own hotels "within economic and related guidelines" to help keep their identities secret.

Marshals claimed that their undercover status was threatened because they had to stay at designated hotels and show their credentials when checking in.

A recent report to Congress found that the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport Hotel in Florida had designated the Federal Air Marshal Service "company of the month" because of the number of rooms it had reserved at the hotel.

Last week, the Homeland Security Department was ordered to investigate whether it fails to protect the identities of its undercover air marshals from passengers, as alleged by a whistleblowing employee.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel ordered the investigation after finding a "substantial likelihood" that the marshals' policies may have violated laws, resulted in mismanagement or put its employees in danger.

Brown has been reaching out to rank-and-file air marshals since he took the job as director. He has said that morale was worse than he thought after speaking with a number of air marshals.

He praised the marshals for helping to restore order in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, evacuating civilians from Lebanon and providing more security on international flights after the recent terror plot in Britain was broken up.

Air marshals were on the Northwest Airlines Amsterdam-to-Bombay flight that was diverted Wednesday after a dozen passengers acted suspiciously.

Thousands of armed, undercover air marshals were rushed into service after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The exact number is classified. They are now a part of the Transportation Security Administration.


Army reviewing Afghan and Iraq casualty reports

Army reviewing Afghan and Iraq casualty reports

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Army is reviewing casualty reports on American soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere since 2001, a response to complaints that it has not always given families accurate information.

The review covers hundreds of casualties in Operation Enduring Freedom, the campaign in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, two senior military officials said. It also includes American soldiers killed in neighboring countries in support of the two operations.

In coming weeks, the Army will issue a directive formalizing the review, according to the military officials. One spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because officers at the highest levels of the Army are still making minor changes. The other described the initiative in memos obtained by The Associated Press.

"We are actively screening every Criminal Investigation Command report to ensure that there were no disconnects with the Casualty Reporting System. We are about half way through with that mission," one of the memos states.

The purpose of the forthcoming Army-wide order is to tell units in the field that they must tell the Army's headquarters of any change in investigative findings that differs from what a family was initially told, a third official said.

Brig. Gen. Anthony A. Cucolo, who heads the Army's public affairs office, said the Army's move is not new but a continuing "rigorous and routine review of current casualty cases with outstanding issues."

Lt. Col. Dan Baggio, an Army spokesman, said that because of the constant turnover of units in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is important to remind troops that the casualty reports must agree with the actual events that occurred when a soldier was killed.

"It's important to reinforce that the information we provide the families is accurate," he said.

The step follows high-profile mistakes in telling families the circumstances of soldiers' deaths.

The best-known is that of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the one-time NFL star from San Jose, Calif., who quit football to join the U.S. Army Rangers and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004.

Tillman's family was originally told he had been killed by enemy fire. Five weeks later, they learned he was shot dead by fellow Rangers after an ambush.

The military suspected it was a friendly fire death within hours, but failed to tell the Tillmans despite a regulation on the books directing it to do so, said the soldier's mother, Mary Tillman.

She called the move positive, but she said the Army must follow up and deliver any new information to surviving family members.

"People will be able to come to terms with the truth, but if you were lied to once, then you're always going to be distrustful," she said in a telephone interview.

Two months after Tillman died, Lt. Andre Tyson and Spc. Patrick McCaffrey, two California National Guardsmen, were killed by the Iraqi civil-defense soldiers they were training.

The Army initially told the families the two men were killed in a conventional ambush. It was two years before their survivors learned they were slain.

The Army is not reopening investigations into the deaths of all soldiers killed in action, but it is revisiting them to ensure family members were informed of the Army's most accurate and updated findings.

The review has been quietly underway for more than two months, but the directive has not yet been sent to units in the field.

It will order Army units down to the battalion level to dig up so-called 15-6 investigative reports routinely conducted after combat deaths. Battalions that have been or are in Iraq or Afghanistan are being directed to ship copies of the initial casualty reports to top Army officials.

The Army will compare the initial reports to the follow-up investigations, looking for discrepancies in conclusions, according to military officials.

If the Army finds such a discrepancy, it will reappoint a casualty notification team, prepare a new report for the surviving family members and revisit the family to make personal notifications, one official said.

Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Fazekas said he was not aware of any similar review by the Marines.

A soldier's death may result in multiple investigations for a number of reasons. Follow-up inquiries are often launched when a first layer of military investigators concludes they need to probe more deeply. For instance, sometimes a crime is suspected but investigators in the field do not have access to resources such as ballistics testing.

Follow-up inquiries are commonly conducted by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, known as CID, and by the Combat Readiness Center.

The full scope of the effort was not clear Thursday. Officials who spoke said they did not know how many soldiers' deaths would be included, or the circumstances that would trigger review. But it will certainly include several hundred deaths, one official said. Another said the review will include all combat deaths in the two theaters.

That would mean the review would cover some 2,000 reports. Nearly 1,800 Army soldiers have died in Iraq since 2003. More than 230 have died in Afghanistan, according to an Associated Press tally.

Nadia McCaffrey, the mother of Patrick McCaffrey, welcomed the move but said she was cautious in her optimism because the Army has moved slowly to inform her in the past.

"So now again we have to see how long it takes for people to act on it," she said from her home in Tracy.


Democratic Vets Take On Republican Civilians
Democratic Vets Take On Republican Civilians
By Margaret Carlson

Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The most stirring part of the annual white-tie Gridiron Club dinner where the Washington establishment celebrates itself, is the playing of the military anthems. Those who served in each branch stand as the band strikes up the appropriate melody.

Each year fewer rise to be honored as the number of veterans in Congress has steadily diminished from almost three-quarters of the members after World War II to less than a quarter today.

But this year dozens of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq threw their hats into the ring for the 2006 races. Although Republicans cast themselves as the party of the troops, many more Democrats ran than Republicans. Among those who survived the primaries, five are Democrats and one is a Republican.

A few have an excellent chance of winning, even as President George W. Bush himself this week took up the mantra of Karl Rove that Democrats are weak on defense and will make the world a more dangerous place should they be put in charge.

I caught up with retired General Wesley Clark, who has formed a political action committee to support Democratic veterans, as he toured the country fundraising. Clark says having served is the best way to reverse the military inferiority complex inflicted by Republicans.

``These veterans want to win the war on terror,'' Clark said during an appearance at the Amagansett (New York) American Legion Hall in mid-August. ``They just don't believe the Iraq war is the way to do it.''

Pennsylvania Battleground

One of the interesting contenders in what was once an uphill race to unseat an incumbent Pennsylvania congressman is Admiral Joseph Sestak, 54, a 31-year Navy veteran who served six tours of duty, including combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is running against Republican Curt Weldon, who isn't used to getting much of a challenge.

As Sestak has drawn almost even in fund raising, Weldon has gone on the attack. The Pennsylvania Republican Party tried swift-boating Sestak, accusing him of violating the Uniform Military Code by wearing his uniform while campaigning. Sestak struck back with language from the code allowing the uniform to be worn at memorial services, which is where he wore it while reading the names of the war dead at a Memorial Day ceremony.

Some of Weldon's attacks have fizzled. He accused Sestak of plagiarizing his health-care plan from the Progressive Policy Institute until the policy research group said it had offered it to him. Another broadside flopped when Weldon criticized Sestak for having his daughter treated at Children's Hospital in Washington rather than a local hospital in Pennsylvania. Sestak, whose child is recovering from a malignant brain tumor, quickly won that point.

Find the WMDs

One of Weldon's self-inflicted wounds remains open. The congressman, who never served in the military, said the ``jury is still out'' on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a statement at odds with the findings of commissions set up to investigate. Even the president has now said that WMDs weren't in Iraq.

The largest recipient of Clark's PAC money is another veteran, retired Army Major Tammy Duckworth, who is running against Illinois State Senator Peter Roskam to replace retiring Congressman Henry Hyde. It's a race that has attracted national attention.

Duckworth, 38, doesn't have to say much about Iraq -- with two legs lost in a helicopter attack, she is a symbol of what has been lost there. She has made a point of running on other issues -- showing how she differs with Roskam on taxes, embryonic stem- cell research, immigration and abortion. She's done what few candidates dare to do, promising to practice fiscal responsibility by not bringing pork to the district via congressional earmarks.

Race for Cash

The race, which both sides call close, is now a race for cash. Last week, first lady Laura Bush came to raise money for Roskam. Duckworth has had help from her party's stars, including Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Former President Bill Clinton comes on Oct. 23. Both national parties are committed to pouring in money in the fall.

The dearth of leaders with military backgrounds making decisions about going to war brings to mind General George Patton's line that the idea is not for you to die for your country, but for someone else to do so. He meant the enemy. But the admonition now has meaning domestically, as those sending someone else to die are removed from peril, as are their children.

Facts may not matter. Just look at the last presidential race. When the opposition was done besmirching the Democratic nominee's war record, you would have thought Bush, who protected Texas on weekends when he could find the time, had won more medals for bravery than John Kerry, a decorated war veteran.

A poll released this week showed a public growing weary of the administration's efforts to merge the war in Iraq with the war on terror. Voters may take the word of candidates who have fought there: Criticism of the Iraq war doesn't mean weakness on the fight against terror. Then we could have a real debate on just who has made the world a more dangerous place.

(Margaret Carlson, author of "Anyone Can Grow Up: How George Bush and I Made It to the White House" and former White House correspondent for Time magazine, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Margaret Carlson in Washington at


Republican Chutzpah on Iran

Huffington Post
Larry C. Johnson
Republican Chutzpah on Iran
(Thanks to SusanUNPC for help on this).

Chutzpah is a Yiddish term that means "unbelievable gall; insolence; audacity". Got to love Yiddish. No other term captures what the Republican staff members of the House Intelligence Committee accomplished today with the release of a partisan report on Iran. According to the Washington Post account:

A key House committee issued a stinging critique of U.S. intelligence on Iran yesterday, charging that the CIA and other agencies lack "the ability to acquire essential information necessary to make judgments" on Tehran's nuclear program, its intentions or even its ties to terrorism.

Gee whiz, "lack of essential information"? Like what? Nuclear weapons? Which brings me to Valerie Plame.

Valerie's identity was exposed by Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and others in Bush Administration in the summer of 2003 while she was doing undercover work to monitor, detect, and interdict nuclear technology going to Iran. Larisa Alexandrovna broke the story on Raw Story in February 2006. David Shuster confirmed the report on Hardball
on 2 May 2006:

While the heart of the CIA leak investigation is the Bush administration`s aggressive defense of the WMD case for war in Iraq, there is new evidence now the defense may have undermined intelligence efforts on Iran.The key player in the CIA leak story is Valerie Wilson, a CIA operative whose identity was outed by White House officials. As MSNBC first reporter yesterday, Wilson was not just undercover but, according to intelligence sources, was part of an effort three years ago to monitor the proliferation of nuclear weapons material into Iran.

So, the Republicans want to whine about inadequate intelligence on Iran's nuclear program while holding fund raisers for Scooter Libby, one of the men implicated in the leak of Valerie's classified identity? Excuse me? The leak did more than ruin Val's ability to continue working as an undercover CIA officer. The leak destroyed a U.S. intelligence program to collect information about Iran's efforts to get nuclear weapons material.

What is particularly galling about this is how Peter Hoekstra has played politics with intelligence all along. In a letter to the White House earlier this year complaining about the possible appointment of Stephen Kappes as the Deputy Director of the CIA, Hoekstra said:

I am convinced that this politicization was underway well before Porter Goss became the Director. In fact, I have long been convinced that a strong and well-positioned group within the Agency intentionally undermined the Administration and its policies. This argument is supported by the Ambassador Wilson/Valerie Plame events, as well as by the string of unauthorized disclosures from an organization that prides itself with being able to keep secrets.

Instead of mounting an investigation to determine who exposed Mrs. Wilson and the intelligence operation she worked on, Hoekstra attacks CIA officers for being political hacks. Mr. Hoekstra, people who live in glass houses shouldn't chuck stones.

We now see a new effort by the Republicans to bully the intelligence community into identifying an imminent threat that does not exist. Iran has been a threat for 26 years. As reported in the Washington Post and New York Times, the intelligence community does not believe Iran is anywhere near to developing or deploying a nuclear weapon.

Peter Hoekstra wants to use his position as head of the Intelligence Committee to bully analysts and scare Americans. Meanwhile, he has sat idle as the Republican White House destroyed a viable intelligence operation to keep tabs on Iran's nuclear ambitions. That, my friends, is pure Chutzpah.



Iran Exhibits Anti-Jewish Art

The New York Times
Iran Exhibits Anti-Jewish Art

TEHRAN, Aug. 24 — The title of the show is “Holocaust International Cartoon Contest,” or “Holocust,” as the show’s organizers spell the word in promotional material. But the content has little to do with the events of World War II and Nazi Germany.

There is instead a drawing of a Jew with a very large nose, a nose so large it obscures his entire head. Across his chest is the word Holocaust. Another drawing shows a vampire wearing a big Star of David drinking the blood of Palestinians. A third shows Ariel Sharon dressed in a Nazi uniform, emblazoned not with swastikas but with the Star of David.

The cartoons are among more than 200 on display in the Palestinian Contemporary Art Museum in central Tehran in a show that opened this month and is to run until the middle of September.

The exhibition is intended to expose what some here see as Western hypocrisy for invoking freedom of expression regarding the publication of cartoons that lampooned the Prophet Muhammad while condemning President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran for questioning the Holocaust.

The cartoons of Muhammad, first published in September 2005 in a Danish newspaper, were widely condemned by Muslims as blasphemous. They prompted riots in many countries, which left some people dead and several European embassies burned by demonstrators.

The cartoons in the exhibit draw on images both ancient and contemporary, from the fictional “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” to Israeli tanks running over Palestinian children. Each picture is carefully matted and placed in a soft wood frame, hung with great care and illuminated by gentle lighting.

“It is not that we are against a specific religion,” said the show’s curator, Seyed Massoud Shojaei, making a distinction that visitors to the show are certain to question. “We are against repression by the Israelis.”

In February, the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri said it would challenge Western concepts of freedom of expression by exploring one of the West’s taboos and challenging accounts of the Holocaust in the contest. Mr. Shojaei said more than 1,000 pictures from 61 countries had been submitted, proving that “there is a new Holocaust in Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The provocative theme may attract the attention of the West. But it has gone little noticed here. Over a three-day period the gallery was virtually empty. A few visitors stopped by, mostly art students who said they had visited to examine artistic techniques. Many were happy to take away a free poster: a photograph showing three military helmets piled up, two with swastikas on the crown, a third with the Star of David.

“I came here to study the quality of the work,” said Hamid Derikvand, 27, who said he was an art student at the university across the street from the gallery.

What did he think of the message? “I am not interested in politics,” he said.

Technically this is not a government show. The cash prizes that will be awarded to the winners — including a $12,000 top prize — will not come from the government, Mr. Shojaei said. But the theme of the show fit well with the leadership’s efforts to define itself as confrontational with the West and as a leader in challenging Israel’s existence. At the height of the worldwide anger over the Muhammad cartoons there were two protests in Tehran, both organized by government officials.

But while people here say they sympathize with Palestinians and Lebanese and are angry at Israel and the United States, there did not seem to be a rush to see the show.

“Look, these cartoons are the reflections of U.S. and Israelis’ deeds, but wouldn’t it have been better if they were put on display in the U.S. or even in Israel?” said Ali Eezadi, 70, a retired industrial engineer who visited the gallery Thursday afternoon.

“If this were the case,” he said, “certainly there would be a rationale for it. But having this kind of exhibition in Iran does not draw much attention. I mean, these things are said, written and expressed in lots of ways that makes people apathetic.”

At first, Mr. Shojaei was eager to show visitors around. He was proud to point to his own drawing, a rabid dog with a Star of David on its side and the word Holocaust around its collar.

He said there were three reasons for holding the show. The first is that in the West it is all right to insult religion but impermissible to question the Holocaust, he said.

The second is to ask why Palestinians must pay the price for the atrocities of the Holocaust — which he, unlike his president, did not question. And the third is to draw attention to what he called the creation of a new Holocaust against Muslims, primarily Palestinians.

“We have been accused of being advocates for neo-Nazis,” he said, speaking in Persian through an interpreter. “This is not true.”

The show took up three floors of the gallery, and Mr. Shojaei was on the third floor, surrounded by images that at most used the Holocaust as a subtext: a dove chained to a Star of David. President Bush seated at a desk swatting doves. A Jew, or Israeli, asleep with three Arab heads mounted to the wall above his bed.

“We are not saying the Holocaust is a myth,” he said. “We are saying that by this excuse Israelis are repressing other people.”

But Mr. Shojaei was not interested in answering questions or being challenged on his statements. “You will need to make an appointment for an interview,” he said abruptly, and left quickly through the front door after an attempt to engage him.

Cartoons from other countries were on display as well: China, India, Brazil, Syria, Jordan, Pakistan. An Israeli soldier, holding a gasoline can that said Holocaust on the side, pouring the fuel into a military tank. A razor blade in the ground, like the wall Israel is building along the West Bank, with the word Holocaust along the side. Two firefighters, each with a Star of David on his chest, using Palestinian blood to extinguish the word Holocaust, which was ablaze.

Mr. Shojaei said none of the images were intended as anti-Jewish, only anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli — and of course, anti-American and anti-British. As evidence, he said Iranians lived peacefully with this country’s Jews.

But Morris Motamed, the one Jewish member of Iran’s Parliament, said he had not gone to the show, because “it was in line with anti-Semitism and aimed at insulting Jews.”

He added, “I felt if I went, I would get insulted and get hurt.”


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Veteran protests against Iraq war

Colorado Daily
Veteran protests against Iraq war
By Julie Waggoner

Gene Grazer, 82, marched up and down the stretch of sidewalk in front of Boulder's Army and Marine Corps recruiting centers at the corner of 30th and Walnut Streets Monday carrying a sign that read “Support the troops: bring them home now.”

He said public opinion has changed in the past year, and since that time he's gotten more support.

“The tide has changed,” Grazer said. “I get more thumbs up by far than middle fingers.”

Grazer served as a medic in France, Belgium and Germany during World War II and is now a member of the anti-war organization Veterans For Peace.

Grazer said he wants to give additional information to young men and women enlisting in the armed forces because he sees deceit and misinformation in the facts Americans have surrounding the war in Iraq.

“The recruiting center is the source of people who are trying to talk our youth into being ‘all you can be,'” Grazer said. “They don't tell them you can be dead before you get the things they promised. If I can talk one person out of joining, amen.”

Grazer said people interested in enlisting should talk to Veterans For Peace as well as military recruiters to get as much information as possible before making a decision.

Inside the Marine Corps recruiting center, Gunnery Sgt. D. Ryan Cope, 34, said he, too, wants people interested in enlisting to have as much information as possible.

Cope said he encourages recruits to get positive and negative feedback from family, friends and other sources before deciding to enlist, because those who qualify for the Marine Corps sign on for a four-year commitment.

Cope said serving in the Marine Corps is not for everyone, indicating a 1950s poster on the wall that depicts a drill sergeant yelling at a Marine with the words, “We didn't promise you a rose garden,” written below it.

“I don't promise them anything other than the possibility of getting to be a Marine and the opportunity to defend their country,” Cope said. “We have an interest to tell these kids the brutal, honest truth and make sure they want to join for the right reasons.”

He said once recruits pass the educational, medical, emotional and background checks necessary to become a Marine, they get on a waiting list to go to a three-month-long boot camp.

According to Cope, an individual who signs up now wouldn't go to boot camp until November because slots are full at this time. Even then, he added, going to war is not something he guarantees.

Rather, most Marines begin working in a specified field. Before they leave for boot camp, Cope said recruits take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test (ASVABT), which tells them what job they will do in the Marine Corps once they finish boot camp.

And how is recruitment in Colorado?

Cope said the Marine Corps is not struggling with recruiting, and the Boulder office is one of the most successful in Colorado.

Cope attributed part of the success of the Boulder Marine recruiting office to CU-Boulder. Many CU students enlist after a few semesters of school because they want more motivation, he said.

“We're Marines, and Marines accomplish their missions,” Cope said.

He said he began working in Boulder in January but has worked as a recruiter for nine years and Grazer is the first protester he's seen.

Cope said he offered Grazer some coffee and told him he could come into the Marine Corps recruiting office to escape the heat.

“We have a great country here,” Cope said, adding that part of what he loves about America is the people's right to protest.

Members of Veterans For Peace are proud to have defended that right as well.

“Veterans For Peace is not a pacifist organization, we see there are wars of necessity,” Grazer said.

He said fighting fascism in World War II was necessary, but every war since then has not been necessary.

Grazer said he plans to continue protesting against the Iraq war and spreading information, individually and with his colleagues at Veterans for Peace and at the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.

“We work at waging peace seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Grazer said. “We talk to anyone who stands still long enough to hear us.”


Charter schools fail to top their public peers

Charter schools fail to top their public peers
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

Independently run, publicly financed charter schools perform no better than comparable public schools, long-awaited federal data suggested Tuesday.

Long considered a ticket out for students in poor public schools, charter schools have proliferated nationwide and are among reforms favored by the Bush administration. In Washington, D.C., one in four students attends one.

But Tuesday's report, which for the first time compares the performance of students in charters with that of public school peers in similar neighborhoods, finds that charter school students lag slightly.

The data show, for instance, that charter school students in 2003 were several points behind their counterparts in both reading and math in fourth and eighth grades. Standardized math scores in urban charters also lagged, but reading scores were comparable.

The results prompted Mark Schneider, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, to comment that the charter school movement is "not doing harm."

Edward McElroy, president of the American Federation of Teachers, along with other charter school critics, says the report "provides further evidence against unchecked expansion of the charter school experiment."

Proponents say the study relies on flawed 2003 data. But raw 2005 data, posted on the education statistics center's website, show similar results.

Schneider says the report's use is limited — for one thing, it won't help parents choose a school.

"What does this report say to a parent?" he says. "Not much, quite frankly."

Charter schools receive taxpayer money but operate independently of school district rules and teachers' union contracts. Proposed in 1988 by the federation's then-president, Albert Shanker, charter schools first appeared in 1992. Today there are more than 3,600 serving more than 1 million students — about 2% of all students, according to the Center for Education Reform, a charter advocacy group.

The center's president, Jeanne Allen, says the report underestimates how many charter school students are poor. The center says 42% qualify for federal lunch subsidies, but her group's 2005 survey found that 63% qualify.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says many charter schools are relatively new and need more time to show improvement. "I have visited high-performing charter schools all around the country, and I have seen how they take the most at-risk students and refuse to give up on them," she says.

President Bush plans to visit a charter school Monday in New Orleans, where federal aid has prompted dozens of Katrina-affected schools to reopen as charter schools, turning the city into a petri dish for the charter movement.


Bush's New Iraq Argument: It Could Be Worse
Bush's New Iraq Argument: It Could Be Worse
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer

Of all the words that President Bush used at his news conference this week to defend his policies in Iraq, the one that did not pass his lips was "progress."

For three years, the president tried to reassure Americans that more progress was being made in Iraq than they realized. But with Iraq either in civil war or on the brink of it, Bush dropped the unseen-progress argument in favor of the contention that things could be even worse.

The shifting rhetoric reflected a broader pessimism that has reached into even some of the most optimistic corners of the administration -- a sense that the Iraq venture has taken a dark turn and will not be resolved anytime soon. Bush advisers once believed that if they met certain benchmarks, such as building a constitutional democracy and training a new Iraqi army, the war would be won. Now they believe they have more or less met those goals, yet the war rages on.

While still committed to the venture, officials have privately told friends and associates outside government that they have grown discouraged in recent months. Even the death of al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq proved not to be the turning point they expected, they have told associates, and other developments have been relentlessly dispiriting, with fewer signs of hope.

Bush acknowledged this week that he has been discouraged as well. "Frustrated?" he asked. "Sometimes I'm frustrated. Rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. This is -- but war is not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times and they're difficult times and they're straining the psyche of our country."

Presidential counselor Dan Bartlett said Bush and his advisers still believe progress is being made and the war will be won. "No question about it, the last three months have been much more challenging," he said. "Are we always going to be pleased with the pace? No. There are days that are frustrating. But is the overall direction going the right way? . . . The answer to that is yes."

The tone represents a striking change from what critics considered an overly rosy portrayal of Iraq, and the latest stage in a year-long evolution in message.

With sectarian violence flaring into some of the worst bloodshed since the March 2003 invasion, the White House felt the need to connect with the anxiety in the American public. "Most of the people rightly are concerned about the security situation, as is the president," Bartlett said.

But with crucial midterm elections just 2 1/2 months away, Bush and his team are trying to turn the public debate away from whether the Iraq invasion has worked out to what would happen if U.S. troops were withdrawn, as some Democrats advocate. The necessity of not failing, Bush advisers believe, is now a more compelling argument than the likelihood of success.

Using such terms as "havoc" at Monday's news conference, Bush made no effort to suggest the situation in Iraq is improving. Instead, he argued: "If you think it's bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself."

Christopher F. Gelpi, a Duke University scholar whose research on public opinion in wartime has been influential in the White House, said Bush has little choice.

"He looks foolish and not credible if he says, 'We're making progress in Iraq,' " Gelpi said. "I think he probably would like to make that argument, but because that's not credible given the facts on the ground, this is the fallback. . . . If the only thing you can say is 'Yes, it's bad, but it could be worse,' that really is a last-ditch argument."

As recently as two weeks ago, Bush was still making the case that things in Iraq are better than they seem. The new Iraqi government "has shown remarkable progress on the political front," he said on Aug. 7, calling its mere existence "quite a remarkable achievement."

The White House and the Republican National Committee regularly send e-mails to supporters and journalists highlighting positive developments. In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, an article by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad argued that a shift in security operations in Baghdad has shown "positive results" and said that "this initial progress should give Iraqis, as well as Americans, hope about the future."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said on a radio show this week that violence is largely limited to four of 18 provinces and that "the government now is starting to get its legs under it."

But Bush has been ruminating on the different nature of Iraq and the battle with Islamic radicals and how hard it is to define victory. "Veterans of World War II and Korea will tell you we were able to measure progress based upon miles gained or based upon tanks destroyed, or however people measured war in those days," he said in a speech last week. "This is different . . . and it's hard on the American people, and I understand that."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a strong supporter of the war, suggested this week that the Bush team has only itself to blame for setting unrealistic expectations.

"One of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required," McCain said. " 'Stuff happens,' 'mission accomplished,' 'last throes,' 'a few dead-enders.' I'm just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be."

Such statements, he said, have "contributed enormously to the frustration that Americans feel today because they were led to believe this could be some kind of day at the beach." Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) offered a similar assessment. "I think we undersold how hard the war would be," he told reporters this week. "I think we oversold how easy it would be to create democracy. I think we missed by a mile how much it would cost to rebuild Iraq."

Through much of the war, Bush and his advisers focused on meeting benchmarks laid out for rebuilding Iraq -- writing a new constitution, electing a new parliament, bringing disaffected Sunnis into the government and training Iraqi troops. As long as those benchmarks were met, the president had tangible events to point to as evidence of progress.

But the last step in that original timetable, election of a permanent parliament last December, has come and gone with no end to the violence. When Bush mentioned that election at his news conference, he depicted it not as progress but a sign that Iraqis want progress. "It's an indication about the desire for people to live in a free society," he said.

Bush used to mention the number of Iraqi troops trained as another barometer to watch, suggesting that once a new army is in place, it could defend its country. Yet 294,000 Iraqi troops have been trained, just shy of the goal of 325,000, and no U.S. official expects to turn over the war entirely to them anytime soon.

Instead, Bush has publicly emphasized how much his administration is changing tactics to deal with the evolving threats in Iraq, and he has privately reached out for advice about further steps to take. He had lunch at the Pentagon last week with four Middle East experts to solicit ideas about how to stabilize Iraq.

"I would say he was deeply concerned about how many lives are being lost, both American and Iraqi, and how much this is costing the American taxpayer," said Eric Davis, a Rutgers University professor who was among those invited, who urged Bush to launch a New Deal-style economic program in Iraq. "He would like to see progress sooner rather than later."


Evolution Major Vanishes From Approved Federal List

The New York Times
Evolution Major Vanishes From Approved Federal List

Evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of study for recipients of a federal education grant for low-income college students.

The omission is inadvertent, said Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, which administers the grants. “There is no explanation for it being left off the list,” Ms. McLane said. “It has always been an eligible major.”

Another spokeswoman, Samara Yudof, said evolutionary biology would be restored to the list, but as of last night it was still missing.

If a major is not on the list, students in that major cannot get grants unless they declare another major, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Mr. Nassirian said students seeking the grants went first to their college registrar, who determined whether they were full-time students majoring in an eligible field.

“If a field is missing, that student would not even get into the process,” he said.

That the omission occurred at all is worrying scientists concerned about threats to the teaching of evolution.

One of them, Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University, said he learned about it from someone at the Department of Education, who got in touch with him after his essay on the necessity of teaching evolution appeared in The New York Times on Aug. 15. Dr. Krauss would not name his source, who he said was concerned about being publicly identified as having drawn attention to the matter.

An article about the issue was posted Tuesday on the Web site of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dr. Krauss said the omission would be “of great concern” if evolutionary biology had been singled out for removal, or if the change had been made without consulting with experts on biology. The grants are awarded under the National Smart Grant program, established this year by Congress. (Smart stands for Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent.)

The program provides $4,000 grants to third- or fourth-year, low-income students majoring in physical, life or computer sciences; mathematics; technology; engineering; or foreign languages deemed “critical” to national security.

The list of eligible majors (which is online at is drawn from the Education Department’s “Classification of Instructional Programs,” or CIP (pronounced “sip”), a voluminous and detailed classification of courses of study, arranged in a numbered system of sections and subsections.

Part 26, biological and biomedical sciences, has a number of sections, each of which has one or more subsections. Subsection 13 is ecology, evolution, systematics and population biology. This subsection itself has 10 sub-subsections. One of them is 26.1303 — evolutionary biology, “the scientific study of the genetic, developmental, functional, and morphological patterns and processes, and theoretical principles; and the emergence and mutation of organisms over time.”

Though references to evolution appear in listings of other fields of biological study, the evolutionary biology sub-subsection is missing from a list of “fields of study” on the National Smart Grant list — there is an empty space between line 26.1302 (marine biology and biological oceanography) and line 26.1304 (aquatic biology/limnology).

Students cannot simply list something else on an application form, said Mr. Nassirian of the registrars’ association. “Your declared major maps to a CIP code,” he said.

Mr. Nassirian said people at the Education Department had described the omission as “a clerical mistake.” But it is “odd,” he said, because applying the subject codes “is a fairly mechanical task. It is not supposed to be the subject of any kind of deliberation.”

“I am not at all certain that the omission of this particular major is unintentional,” he added. “But I have to take them at their word.”

Scientists who knew about the omission also said they found the clerical explanation unconvincing, given the furor over challenges by the religious right to the teaching of evolution in public schools. “It’s just awfully coincidental,” said Steven W. Rissing, an evolutionary biologist at Ohio State University.

Jeremy Gunn, who directs the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that if the change was not immediately reversed “we will certainly pursue this.”

Dr. Rissing said removing evolutionary biology from the list of acceptable majors would discourage students who needed the grants from pursuing the field, at a time when studies of how genes act and evolve are producing valuable insights into human health.

“This is not just some kind of nicety,” he said. “We are doing a terrible disservice to our students if this is yet another example of making sure science doesn’t offend anyone.”

Dr. Krauss of Case Western said he did not know what practical issues would arise from the omission of evolutionary biology from the list, given that students would still be eligible for grants if they declared a major in something else — biology, say.

“I am sure an enterprising student or program director could find a way to put themselves in another slot,” he said. “But why should they have to do that?”

Mr. Nassirian said he was not so sure. “Candidly, I don’t think most administrators know enough about this program” to help students overcome the apparent objection to evolutionary biology, he said. Undergraduates would be even less knowledgeable about the issue, he added.

Dr. Krauss said: “Removing that one major is not going to make the nation stupid, but if this really was removed, specifically removed, then I see it as part of a pattern to put ideology over knowledge. And, especially in the Department of Education, that should be abhorred.”


US may lift ban on federal funding for stem-cell research

The Times of London
US may lift ban on federal funding for stem-cell research
By Catherine Philp in Washington

THE breakthrough made in a small Massachusetts laboratory could put American embryonic stem-cell research back on track by removing the key objection that has stood in the way of federal funding.

American scientists have been unable to use government money to create new stem-cell lines since 2001, when President Bush ordered a ban on federal funding for research on embryos created after that date.

All their publicly funded work has been confined to the 61 stem cells already in existence at that time when, as Mr Bush said, a “life-or-death decision had already been made”.

Last month, Mr Bush vetoed a Bill lifting that ban on the ground that he opposed the use of public funds for projects involving the destruction of human embryos.

It was the first time in his presidency that Mr Bush had refused to sign into law a Bill approved by Congress. “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it,” he said, flanked by families with children who were born using “unwanted” embryos left over from fertility treatment that could otherwise have been used in the research.

“This Bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. Each of these children was adopted while an embryo. These boys and girls are not spare parts.”

Polls, however, suggest that most Americans back the research, and many within Mr Bush’s party were angered at his move. Although he has consistently opposed embryonic research on moral grounds, it is hard to see how he could oppose it with the issue of embryo destruction resolved.

Pressure has been building for a loosening of restrictions, led by campaigners such as Nancy Reagan.

Several individuals, including Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, and Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, have donated billions to keep stem-cell research alive.

Some states, including California, under the Republican governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger, have brought in legislation to free state funds for the research.

A resolution of the issue may also deprive Democrats of a hot election issue for the mid-term congressional polls in November. Many leapt on Mr Bush’s veto as evidence of his pandering to conservatives and of his losing touch with ordinary American people.


“It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect”

George Bush

“Embryonic stem-cell research has not produced a single human cure. All it has yielded is tumours, rejection and mutations”

Mel Gibson

“Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based on human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory”

Pope John Paul II


“I remain committed to advancing stem-cell research in California, in the promise it holds for millions of our citizens”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

“The fear that therapeutic cloning will lead inevitably down the “slippery slope” to reproductive cloning is an absolute falsehood”

Christopher Reeve


Reaching Low-Information Voters

Huffington Post
Dave Johnson
Reaching Low-Information Voters

The other day I wrote that many people probably don't understand that "GOP" means Republicans. And I often say that those of us who read blogs should keep reminding ourselves that we are hyper-informed, and most people are not. And, of course, we're reminded of this every time we hear that a huge percent of the public thinks WMD were found in Iraq, or that the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis...

Along these lines I recently came across an interesting article, The Uninformed Bloc, at Democratic Strategist,

"So, to put it in provocative terms, how ignorant is the electorate? Bennett found that nearly one-third of adults were unaware that the Republican Party is more conservative than the Democratic Party. And lest the reader think that this is an expression of cynicism rather than a lack of knowledge, Bennett found that whether or not respondents knew there were major differences between the two parties was associated with the amount of knowledge they had of major politicians and the parties but not with their levels of governmental trust.

Only one in ten adults knew who Denny Hastert is. Out of eight similar questions about politicians and the two parties, the average adult got just 4.5 right. One-third of adults said they follow politics "hardly at all" or "only now and then"."

It's so important to understand that we are not the audience we need to reach. We think that others know what we know. And we get so far ahead of regular people in our online discussions that people tuning in for the first time can barely understand what we're talking about -- or can't understand at all. Once, when pondering this I wrote,

We think facts are important. But in fact most of the public knows very little about politics and the news and the issues and understands even less. Many of the people who bother to vote at all base their decisions on things that would make informed people like us just pass out if we heard them.

The key to winning elections is learning how various groups of voters make their decisions, and being there with the information they need in the form they need it and in the channels where they receive it.

Chris Bowers at MyDD discovered that when a certain percentage of people can identify one party as controlling Congress, that party loses seats in the next Congressional election. It doesn't even matter if they identify the correct party.

On this subject I wrote previously,

Regular people are in a different world than the one we are in, get their information in different ways, and retain information for different reasons. The better we understand and utilize this, the better off we will be at getting regular people to see things our way.

So before we work to pump "facts" out there, we need to cover the basics. Let's start by making sure that the public identifies their troubles with Republicans.


New Orleanians heap Katrina blame on govt

New Orleanians heap Katrina blame on govt
By Peter Henderson

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - To hear Agnes Ferrell tell it, the only reason that President Bush has mustered federal hurricane aid for New Orleans is that Mayor Ray Nagin would not leave him alone.

"The president wasn't doing anything until this man (Nagin) go up to him," she said recently while picking up some groceries at what appeared to be the only convenience store open in the Lower Ninth Ward.

A year after Hurricane Katrina swept through, killing more than 1,300 along the Gulf Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center, and flooding 80 percent of New Orleans, many in the city blame the federal government -- and its slow response to the disaster -- most of all for their woes.

But there is plenty of frustration to go around, and a Gallup/USA Today poll released this week shows that anger at Nagin's team is rising.

Some 29 percent of those surveyed said that local officials had done a poor job responding to the hurricane. Respondents were slightly more dissatisfied with the state and federal governments' performance.

But dissatisfaction with the mayor rose sharply, from 20 percent rating his performance as "poor" late last year to 29 percent in this poll.

"The city, the federal government, ain't none of them helping," said Sigma Frazier, 76, sitting at a neighbor's house in the Upper Ninth Ward, an area which was flooded.

Nagin, she said, was on her bad list. "I ain't seen him in the Ninth Ward," she said.


Only about half of the city of New Orleans' residents are back and more than 100,000 families along the Gulf Coast live in government-issued trailers. Meanwhile, many fear the levees will not hold if another monster storm hits.

"If the levees had held, none of it would have happened," said David Fein, pouring daiquiris at a bar on Bourbon Street.

A recent screening of director Spike Lee's Katrina documentary, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" illustrated that ill will against Bush was still high.

Thousands crowded into the city's basketball arena and enormous hisses erupted when clips of Bush played, typically showing the president promising aid or explaining that help was coming as quickly as possible. The mayor generally won applause.

Positive opinions, as registered by "excellent" ratings in the USA Today/Gallup poll, showed Nagin's team with 12 percent, more than twice the level of the federal government and 5 points ahead of the state government.

There are definitely those trying to move beyond blame, though. Charlie Jackson lives in a government-issue trailer in back of his damaged Ninth Ward house with two other adults and four children.

His family climbed up into the attic when flood waters reached the level of the street sign outside their house a year ago, and they escaped in a boat. He now is focused on his grandchildren.

"If I can see them happy and moving, I'm cool," he said.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

An Existential Struggle

An Existential Struggle
Ted Koppel on the tensions between the need to combat terror and the desire to preserve civil liberties. Plus, his views on the new evening news anchors.
By Brian Braiker

Aug. 22, 2006 - Last week a federal judge in Detroit ordered a halt to the National Security Agency’s program of warrantless domestic wiretapping, declaring it unconstitutional. The ruling was a setback for the Bush administration, which defended the program as an essential tool in its “war against terror.” The decision also illustrates the tension that has mounted in the five years since September 11, 2001, between fighting terror and preserving civil liberties. It is a tension that newsman Ted Koppel, the former “Nightline” anchor, explores at length in “The Price of Security,” an upcoming documentary on the Discovery Channel that commemorates the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

Over the course of three hours, Koppel describes the genuine security threat facing the United States. But he cautions that in the course of addressing that threat, the Bush administration has been undermining some of the freedoms on which the country was founded. “The executive branch,” he tells NEWSWEEK’s Brian Braiker in a recent interview, “has taken unto itself certain rights and privileges and powers that it probably should not have without some judicial or legislative oversight.” Koppel also discusses why he’s addressing this topic on a cable channel as opposed to his former network, ABC, and offers his take on the new crop of evening news anchors. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: These tensions are certainly not new. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. World War I saw the abuse of the Espionage and Sedition Acts.
Ted Koppel: Exactly. The difference is that—I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term much in vogue at the Pentagon these days—they refer to this now as the “long war,” by which they mean it is a war without end. We can expect to be in this war for a generation or more to come.

So this tension, then, between civil liberties and fighting this long war is not going to go away any time soon.
That’s correct. Now the question is whether you accept the fundamental premise of the Bush administration, which is that we are in an existential struggle—that is an actual term that they have used. The Bush administration has this nightmare, and it’s a legitimate nightmare, not that there will be another 9/11 but that there could be a 9/11 with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. That would totally undermine almost everything we’ve come to believe in in this country. It could change America in ways we couldn’t even begin to envision.

The Cold War, which was won, was an existential war.
Exactly. I’ve now done about seven or eight interviews and you’ll be happy to learn no one has been smart enough to make that analogy. It’s a really interesting analogy because during the McCarthy era, a certain number of constitutional rights were violated precisely because everything was justifiable in the interests of fighting communism. The notion that we are locked in that kind of a struggle has created in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 a certain psychology. [Democratic Vermont Sen.] Pat Leahy, the then-chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, told me that when the Patriot Act was being proposed, a ranking member of the opposition at one point said, “Let’s just sign it.” Leahy said to him, “but they haven’t finished writing it.” His Republican counterpart said, “That’s all right. The White House fill in the details.” That was the mindset.

So fast-forward five years, what’s the mindset now?
You fast-forward five years and what you see is that there’s been—as there often is in this country—a pendulum effect. The pendulum has swung from concerns that were almost exclusively focused on security five years ago, where people were asking, “Why is it the FBI wasn’t talking to the CIA? And why is it that you didn’t connect the dots? And why is it that you haven’t been bugging any phones?” Over the course of these past five years, people have begun to change their focus and some people now are saying “I didn’t realize you were sending people over to [secret detention center] ‘black sites.’ And I didn’t know that you’d be bugging my phone. I’m not sure I like that.”

Are you worried that we’re over-concerned with privacy and constitutional liberties now?
No. I’m really worried that policy not be made at the end of a pendulum, that in fact we have a national debate about where we want to be. I interviewed Alberto Mora [former general counsel to the United States Navy], who said something very interesting. He said, “If I thought that we had hold of a terrorist who knew about plans to set off a nuclear device in an American city, I might torture that person. But I would want to do that in the knowledge that I would then be held to account for what I’ve done and that there were laws prohibiting that kind of action.” He said, “What I object to is that they were trying to rewrite the law in such a way that people would be relieved of that responsibility.”

Isn’t that splitting hairs?
No, I don’t think so.

But he says he would commit torture anyway.
Yeah, but the difference [is] between knowing that you might spend five years in prison for torturing someone and the long slippery slope that begins if an interrogator knows that he has already been excused of any legal responsibility. I think there’s a huge difference. In one case, you know there’s a price to be paid and you would only do it in the most extreme circumstances and in the other case, the rules under which you do it become more and more relaxed until [torture] just becomes ubiquitous.

You said that you don’t want policy to be made at the end of a pendulum. But this is an election year and the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Is the rhetoric likely to cool off any time soon?
The notion that political rhetoric has an unsavory impact on good policy being made is real, but what else is new? There needs to be a period of A) national debate and B) debate in Congress. Let’s come to terms with the notion that we’re going to be confronting these kinds of tensions and pressures for the next 20 or 30 years. We need to look in a clear-eyed fashion at how much liberty we can afford. And how much security we can afford.

The recent airline plot was undone in Britain. The United Kingdom has less-restrictive surveillance laws, a domestic intelligence agency, almost no rules against watching and tracking Muslims in mosques, and no First Amendment. Could those be ingredients for a more effective fight against terror?
They could be, but you’re only mentioning half of the British equation. The other half is that at some point or another they either have to be released or charges have to be brought against them. Those charges will be adjudicated in a court of law. If they have been mistreated in any way, then whatever confessions they made would be thrown out of court. The fact of the matter is that Jose Padilla was an American citizen, arrested in the United States, sent to a Navy brig and interrogated there for three months without access to a lawyer. That’s not acceptable.

There’s also speculation that eavesdropping by U.S. officials played a roll in thwarting the alleged plot.
And I think it is absolutely appropriate that we debate that.

We’re not hearing a lot of discussion about these issues in the mainstream press. You’re on the Discovery Channel, Dan Rather will be on HDNet. Is cable where people have to go now if they want serious television journalism?
There is a lingering perception of what broadcast journalism is or was in terms of its reach. “Nightline” began in 1980. “Nightline” and “The Tonight Show” and whatever was on CBS back then, among the three of us we had 70 percent of the audience. When I left “Nightline” almost a year ago, “Nightline” and the [David] Letterman show and the “Tonight Show” had 28 percent. Fact of the matter is, when “The Price of Security” goes on Sept 10, I’ll be very happy if we get a couple million viewers. That’s significantly less than we would get if we were on at eight o’clock on ABC. But no such program is going to get on the air at eight o’clock on ABC.

Why not?
Because it will not be perceived as reaching the right demographic.

What’s your take on the new crop of anchors?
Charlie [Gibson] I watch all the time. He’s terrific. I’m an old fart and Charlie’s an old-fashioned kind of news guy. I think Brian Williams has been a very pleasant surprise. I think he’s doing extremely well and I think he’s just going to keep on getting better and better. And Katie [Couric] is in a really excruciatingly difficult position because I don’t know how she comes out of it being perceived as a winner. If she’s No. 1 at the end of the first week, all you guys are going to say, “Yeah, well that was the first week. Let’s see how she does in three months.” And if she’s only No. 2 at the end of the first week or first month, you’ll say, “15 million bucks and she’s only No. 2!”

The networks are experimenting with broadcasting their evening news on the Web. Your thoughts?
The single message that has survived throughout the millennia, and has as much impact today as it did at the time it was delivered, was allegedly carved into two stone tablets by the finger of God. Lousy medium, great message. I sometimes think we place so much value on the medium that we ignore the importance of the message. Media doesn’t survive. Messages do.