Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!
Fox News: One Bigfoot Story Away From The Weekly World News Yet Won't Show An Ad They Consider Factually Incorrect. Hypocrites!
Tue Nov 22, 2:03 PM ET
Fox News is refusing to air an ad critical of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, citing its lawyers' contention that the spot is factually incorrect.
A spokesman for the groups sponsoring the ad said the network's decision reflects the political right's effort to shield President Bush's choice for the high court.
The ad says that as an appellate court judge, Alito has "ruled to make it easier for corporations to discriminate ... even voted to approve strip search of a 10-year-old girl." Referring to a document Alito wrote in 1985 while seeking a job in the Reagan administration, it quotes him as saying that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."
The groups backing the ad include the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil rights, People for The American Way and abortion rights organizations.
In a 2004 decision, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in the case of four police officers who faced a lawsuit after the search of a mother and her 10-year-old daughter in the course of executing a search warrant for narcotics.
The court said "searching Jane and Mary Doe for evidence beyond the scope of the warrant and without probable cause violated their clearly established Fourth Amendment rights." The court pointed out that "a search warrant for a premises does not constitute a license to search everyone inside."
Alito dissented in the case, saying the best reading of the warrant is that it authorized the search of anyone found on the premises. He added that even if the warrant didn't explicitly give that authorization, "a reasonable police officer could certainly have read the warrant as doing so."
Paul Shur, a spokesman for Fox, said that according to the network's lawyers, the ad is "factually incorrect and we've given them an opportunity to fix it."
Said Jim Jordan, a spokesman for the groups: "The entire right wing establishment, from Pat Robertson to Jerry Falwell to Fox News, has circled the wagons around Sam Alito."
Asked about changing the ad in response to Fox's request, Jordan said, "Roger Ailes doesn't get to edit our ads." Ailes is chairman of Fox News.
Officials said the ad would run on cable television news programs nationally as well as in Maine and Rhode Island, two states that have three moderate Republican senators.
They declined to say how much would be spent, but officials at rival organizations placed the expenditure at less than $65,000, an amount unlikely to make a significant impact.
For a small example of Fox News Distortions see:
Fox's Gibson and Hannity, NY Post falsely claimed that House voted on Murtha's resolution http://mediamatters.org/items/200511220010
Hannity again falsely claimed that Reagan's tax cuts "doubled revenue"
Only on a Fox prompt card: "The Democrats' assault on Bush: Is that bad for America and the markets?"http://mediamatters.org/items/200511190003
And if you don't believe me just Google "Fox New Lies" and read a little.
Bush Lied Twice: Dear Republican Congress, At What Point Does This Become Worse Than Lying About a Blowjob?
I ask again, when does this rise to the level of lying about getting a blowjob from an intern? Let's see, lying about a blowjob led the U.S. into a war in which more than 2000 American's died and tens of thousands of Iraqi's died, and Bush's two lies made him look like a bad husband. Oh wait, scratch that... Anyway read for yourself:
Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel
By Murray Waas, special to National Journal
National Journal Group Inc.
Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.
The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief," a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services, as well as more mundane sources such as news reports and public statements by foreign leaders.
One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.
The September 21, 2001, briefing was prepared at the request of the president, who was eager in the days following the terrorist attacks to learn all that he could about any possible connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
Much of the contents of the September 21 PDB were later incorporated, albeit in a slightly different form, into a lengthier CIA analysis examining not only Al Qaeda's contacts with Iraq, but also Iraq's support for international terrorism. Although the CIA found scant evidence of collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the agency reported that it had long since established that Iraq had previously supported the notorious Abu Nidal terrorist organization, and had provided tens of millions of dollars and logistical support to Palestinian groups, including payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
The highly classified CIA assessment was distributed to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the president's national security adviser and deputy national security adviser, the secretaries and undersecretaries of State and Defense, and various other senior Bush administration policy makers, according to government records.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.
Indeed, the existence of the September 21 PDB was not disclosed to the Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004, according to congressional sources. Both Republicans and Democrats requested then that it be turned over. The administration has refused to provide it, even on a classified basis, and won't say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.
On November 18, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he planned to attach an amendment to the fiscal 2006 intelligence authorization bill that would require the Bush administration to give the Senate and House intelligence committees copies of PDBs for a three-year period. After Democrats and Republicans were unable to agree on language for the amendment, Kennedy said he would delay final action on the matter until Congress returns in December.
The conclusions drawn in the lengthier CIA assessment-which has also been denied to the committee-were strikingly similar to those provided to President Bush in the September 21 PDB, according to records and sources. In the four years since Bush received the briefing, according to highly placed government officials, little evidence has come to light to contradict the CIA's original conclusion that no collaborative relationship existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
"What the President was told on September 21," said one former high-level official, "was consistent with everything he has been told since-that the evidence was just not there."
In arguing their case for war with Iraq, the president and vice president said after the September 11 attacks that Al Qaeda and Iraq had significant ties, and they cited the possibility that Iraq might share chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons with Al Qaeda for a terrorist attack against the United States.
Democrats in Congress, as well as other critics of the Bush administration, charge that Bush and Cheney misrepresented and distorted intelligence information to bolster their case for war with Iraq. The president and vice president have insisted that they unknowingly relied on faulty and erroneous intelligence, provided mostly by the CIA.
The new information on the September 21 PDB and the subsequent CIA analysis bears on the question of what the CIA told the president and how the administration used that information as it made its case for war with Iraq.
The central rationale for going to war against Iraq, of course, was that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons, and that he was pursuing an aggressive program to build nuclear weapons. Despite those claims, no weapons were ever discovered after the war, either by United Nations inspectors or by U.S. military authorities.
Much of the blame for the incorrect information in statements made by the president and other senior administration officials regarding the weapons-of-mass-destruction issue has fallen on the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies.
In April 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in a bipartisan report that the CIA's prewar assertion that Saddam's regime was "reconstituting its nuclear weapons program" and "has chemical and biological weapons" were "overstated, or were not supported by the underlying intelligence provided to the Committee."
The Bush administration has cited that report and similar findings by a presidential commission as evidence of massive CIA intelligence failures in assessing Iraq's unconventional-weapons capability.
Bush and Cheney have also recently answered their critics by ascribing partisan motivations to them and saying their criticism has the effect of undermining the war effort. In a speech on November 11, the president made his strongest comments to date on the subject: "Baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will." Since then, he has adopted a different tone, and he said on his way home from Asia on November 21, "This is not an issue of who is a patriot or not."
In his own speech to the American Enterprise Institute yesterday, Cheney also changed tone, saying that "disagreement, argument, and debate are the essence of democracy" and the "sign of a healthy political system." He then added: "Any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped, or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false."
Although the Senate Intelligence Committee and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly known as the 9/11 commission, pointed to incorrect CIA assessments on the WMD issue, they both also said that, for the most part, the CIA and other agencies did indeed provide policy makers with accurate information regarding the lack of evidence of ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq.
But a comparison of public statements by the president, the vice president, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld show that in the days just before a congressional vote authorizing war, they professed to have been given information from U.S. intelligence assessments showing evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link.
"You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," President Bush said on September 25, 2002.
The next day, Rumsfeld said, "We have what we consider to be credible evidence that Al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts with Iraq who could help them acquire … weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities."
The most explosive of allegations came from Cheney, who said that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, the pilot of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center, had met in Prague, in the Czech Republic, with a senior Iraqi intelligence agent, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, five months before the attacks. On December 9, 2001, Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press: "[I]t's pretty well confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in [the Czech Republic] last April, several months before the attack."
Cheney continued to make the charge, even after he was briefed, according to government records and officials, that both the CIA and the FBI discounted the possibility of such a meeting.
Credit card and phone records appear to demonstrate that Atta was in Virginia Beach, Va., at the time of the alleged meeting, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials. Al-Ani, the Iraqi intelligence official with whom Atta was said to have met in Prague, was later taken into custody by U.S. authorities. He not only denied the report of the meeting with Atta, but said that he was not in Prague at the time of the supposed meeting, according to published reports.
In June 2004, the 9/11 commission concluded: "There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between Al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."
Regarding the alleged meeting in Prague, the commission concluded: "We do not believe that such a meeting occurred."
Still, Cheney did not concede the point. "We have never been able to prove that there was a connection to 9/11," Cheney said after the commission announced it could not find significant links between Al Qaeda and Iraq. But the vice president again pointed out the existence of a Czech intelligence service report that Atta and the Iraqi agent had met in Prague. "That's never been proved. But it's never been disproved," Cheney said. (Classic Disinformation: the Editor.)
The following month, July 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in its review of the CIA's prewar intelligence: "Despite four decades of intelligence reporting on Iraq, there was little useful intelligence collected that helped analysts determine the Iraqi regime's possible links to al-Qaeda."
One reason that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld made statements that contradicted what they were told in CIA briefings might have been that they were receiving information from another source that purported to have evidence of Al Qaeda-Iraq ties. The information came from a covert intelligence unit set up shortly after the September 11 attacks by then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith.
Feith was a protégé of, and intensely loyal to, Cheney, Rumsfeld, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, and Cheney's then-chief of staff and national security adviser, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. The secretive unit was set up because Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Libby did not believe the CIA would be able to get to the bottom of the matter of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties. (Editor's Note: OR the secretive unit was set up so that Bush and Cheney could claim the CIA provided the intelligence when in fact they did not, OR they could have set up the unit because the CIA wasn't giving them the answers they wanted.) The four men shared a long-standing distrust of the CIA from their earlier positions in government, and felt that the agency had failed massively by not predicting the September 11 attacks.
At first, the Feith-directed unit primarily consisted of two men, former journalist Michael Maloof and David Wurmser, a veteran of neoconservative think tanks. They liked to refer to themselves as the "Iraqi intelligence cell" of the Pentagon. And they took pride in the fact that their office was in an out-of-the-way cipher-locked room, with "charts that rung the room from one end to the other" showing the "interconnections of various terrorist groups" with one another and, most important, with Iraq, Maloof recalled in an interview.
They also had the heady experience of briefing Rumsfeld twice, and Feith more frequently, Maloof said. The vice president's office also showed great interest in their work. On at least three occasions, Maloof said, Samantha Ravich, then-national security adviser for terrorism to Cheney, visited their windowless offices for a briefing.
But neither Maloof nor Wurmser had any experience or formal training in intelligence analysis. Maloof later lost his security clearance, for allegedly failing to disclose a relationship with a woman who is a foreigner, and after allegations that he leaked classified information to the press. Maloof said in the interview that he has done nothing wrong and was simply being punished for his controversial theories. Wurmser has since been named as Cheney's Middle East adviser.
In January 2002, Maloof and Wurmser were succeeded at the intelligence unit by two Naval Reserve officers. Intelligence analysis from the covert unit later served as the basis for many of the erroneous public statements made by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others regarding the alleged ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, according to former and current government officials. Intense debates still rage among longtime intelligence and foreign policy professionals as to whether those who cited the information believed it, or used it as propaganda. The unit has since been disbanded.
Earlier this month, on November 14, the Pentagon's inspector general announced an investigation into whether Feith and others associated with the covert intelligence unit engaged in "unauthorized, unlawful, or inappropriate intelligence activities." In a statement, Feith said he is "confident" that investigators will conclude that his "office worked properly and in fact improved the intelligence product by asking good questions."
The Senate Intelligence Committee has also been conducting its own probe of the Pentagon unit. But as was first disclosed by The American Prospect in an article by reporter Laura Rozen, that probe had been hampered by a lack of cooperation from Feith and the Pentagon. (Editor's Note: Obstruction of Justice? It ain't just Scooter Libby.)
Internal Pentagon records show not only that the small Pentagon unit had the ear of the highest officials in the government, but also that Rumsfeld and others considered the unit as a virtual alternative to intelligence analyses provided by the CIA.
On July 22, 2002, as the run-up to war with Iraq was underway, one of the Naval Reserve officers detailed to the unit sent Feith an e-mail saying that he had just heard that then-Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz wanted "the Iraqi intelligence cell … to prepare an intel briefing on Iraq and links to al-Qaida for the SecDef" and that he was not to tell anyone about it.
After that briefing was delivered, Wolfowitz sent Feith and other officials a note saying: "This was an excellent briefing. The Secretary was very impressed. He asked us to think about possible next steps to see if we can illuminate the differences between us and CIA. The goal was not to produce a consensus product, but rather to scrub one another's arguments." (Editor's Note: For More Information See: Downing Street Memo.)
On September 16, 2002, two days before the CIA produced a major assessment of Iraq's ties to terrorism, the Naval Reserve officers conducted a briefing for Libby and Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser to President Bush.
In a memorandum to Wolfowitz, Feith wrote: "The briefing went very well and generated further interest from Mr. Hadley and Mr. Libby." Both men, the memo went on, requested follow-up material, most notably a "chronology of Atta's travels," a reference to the discredited allegation of an Atta-Iraqi meeting in Prague.
In their presentation, the naval reserve briefers excluded the fact that the FBI and CIA had developed evidence that the alleged meeting had never taken place, and that even the Czechs had disavowed it.
The Pentagon unit also routinely second-guessed the CIA's highly classified assessments. Regarding one report titled "Iraq and al-Qaeda: Interpreting a Murky Relationship," one of the Naval Reserve officers wrote: "The report provides evidence from numerous intelligence sources over the course of a decade on interactions between Iraq and al-Qaida. In this regard, the report is excellent. Then in its interpretation of this information, CIA attempts to discredit, dismiss, or downgrade much of this reporting, resulting in inconsistent conclusions in many instances. Therefore, the CIA report should be read for content only-and CIA's interpretation ought to be ignored."
This same antipathy toward the CIA led to the events that are the basis of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity, according to several former and current senior officials.
Ironically, the Plame affair's origins had its roots in Cheney and Libby's interest in reports that Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium yellowcake from Niger to build a nuclear weapon. After reading a Pentagon report on the matter in early February 2002, Cheney asked the CIA officer who provided him with a national security briefing each morning if he could find out about it.
Without Cheney's knowledge, his query led to the CIA-sanctioned trip to Niger by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband, to investigate the allegations. Wilson reported back to the CIA that the allegations were most likely not true.
Despite that conclusion, President Bush, in his State of the Union address in 2003, included the Niger allegation in making the case to go to war with Iraq. In July 2003, after the war had begun, Wilson publicly charged that the Bush administration had "twisted" the intelligence information to make the case to go to war.
Libby and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove told reporters that Wilson's had been sent to Niger on the recommendation of his wife, Plame. In the process, the leaks led to the unmasking of Plame, the appointment of Fitzgerald, the jailing of a New York Times reporter for 85 days, and a federal grand jury indictment of Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly attempting to conceal his role in leaking Plame's name to the press.
The Plame affair was not so much a reflection of any personal animus toward Wilson or Plame, says one former senior administration official who knows most of the principals involved, but rather the direct result of long-standing antipathy toward the CIA by Cheney, Libby, and others involved. They viewed Wilson's outspoken criticism of the Bush administration as an indirect attack by the spy agency.
Those grievances were also perhaps illustrated by comments that Vice President Cheney himself wrote on one of Feith's reports detailing purported evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. In barely legible handwriting, Cheney wrote in the margin of the report:
"This is very good indeed … Encouraging … Not like the crap we are all so used to getting out of CIA."
-- Murray Waas is a Washington-based writer and frequent contributor to National Journal. Several of his previous stories are also available online.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
by Josh Righter
Proponents of sheer idiocy -- the theory that people should spend their time thinking up and then discussing improvable, wacky ideas about things -- were dealt a small victory over evolution today in the formerly scientific hotbed state of Kansas, where the Board of Edukason approved new scientific standards in order to make evolution look silly.
In contrast to evolution, which is only based on decades of research, thousands of peer-reviewed academic papers, and hard evidence including observed phenomenon and the fossil record, sheer idiocy is based on the more concrete method of stupid statements.
"This universe is so complex, it must have been higher power been created by," drooled one member of the Board, smashing his head with an enormous block of carbon. "This higher power is so created, it must have been a universe."
"Evolution," snorted another, guffawing and scratching his tailbone. "More like stupidlution."
Other Board members, such as Republican John Bacon, were not so hard on stupidlution, but said that they merely wanted "all the alternatives" taught to children, who are typically not very interested in scientific theories, preferring sheer idiocy.
"I'm just saying, sheer idiocy has just as much a place in Kansas high schools as evolution," he said defensively. "Probably even more of a place."
The Board also took it upon itself to revise the definition of science, from "the search for natural explanations of phenomena" to "searching for answers in the Bible". It is also considering adding a clause in the definition of "mathematics" to include daily prayers.
The sheer idiocy movement in Kansas comes hot on the heels of the one occurring in Dover, Pennsylvania, where a judge will soon rule on whether or not it is acceptable to teach the theory to high school students there alongside evolution and phrenology. There, proponents of idiocy say that it is just like any other scientific theory, and that they would back off if it was proven wrong, like evolution practically already is.
"If someone -- say, a scientist -- could devise a way to disprove the fact that the complex is so higher, the universe was a power, then I would go home," said one man who is sitting outside the Dover courthouse where the judge will eventually decide whether or not he believes in idiocy. "But the fact that science just can't seem to make a rocket powerful enough to fly up to Heaven and ask the 'higher power' makes me think that I'm right."
Critics of sheer idiocy charge that it is idiotic, and that they seriously can't fucking believe this. But they have the most powerful man of the free world to answer to -- President Bush has already endorsed teaching sheer idiocy in schools, as well as using it to enhance one's speaking abilities.
"I think our children need to hear the other side of the coin," he said in August of this year. "Only then will they have all the qualifications necessary to become President someday."
Tony Blair, Prime Minister of a place located towards the edge of the Earth, appeared to agree with the President, quite happily.
"Oh, gosh," he said, laughing hysterically. "Oh my God."
With the victory in Kansas and another possible in Dover, sheer idiocy would gain momentum, and begin spreading over the United States more than it already has already.
Those Guys At the Onion Are Brilliant....
November 16, 2005 | Issue 41•46
WARREN, PA—Although respondents to a Pew poll taken prior to the 2004 presidential election characterized Bush as "the candidate they'd most like to sit down and have a beer with," Chris Reinard lived the hypothetical scenario Sunday afternoon, and characterized it as "really uncomfortable and awkward."
Chris Reinard and President Bush try to think of something to talk about.
Reinard, a father of four who supported Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections, said sharing a beer with the president at the Switchyard Tap gave him "an uneasy feeling."
"I thought he'd be great," Reinard said. "But when I actually met him, I felt real put off."
The president arrived at the bar via motorcade close to 3 p.m. After a sweep by Secret Service agents, Reinard was asked, for security reasons, to move from his favorite stool. Shortly after he had reseated himself, Reinard said he "was pleased" to welcome the president to the Switchyard.
"Boy, it sure is a good day for a cool one," Bush reportedly told the assembled patrons, who were watching the DolphinsPatriots game.
"When he first walked in, everything seemed fine," bartender Bob Kern said. "He told everyone 'Hi' like he was one of the regulars, then sat next to Chris."
Reinard ordered two Budweisers, but Bush interrupted him, saying he'd prefer an O'Doul's non-alcoholic beer.
"I completely forgot he stopped drinking," Reinard said.
Following the initial gaffe, Bush attempted to smooth things over, asking Reinard to call him "George." Reinard complied, but later said "it felt a little unnatural."
"I guess I was supposed to tell him to call me Chris," Reinard said. "I didn't like him calling me 'Mr. Reinard' the whole time, but I didn't know if it was okay to interrupt him to say 'Call me Chris.' And then also, it felt weird to just say it out of nowhere. Like, 'Call me Chris.'"
Bush asked Reinard if he had any hobbies, and Reinard told the president that he enjoys spending weekends with his children on local lakes in his small aluminum boat.
"Mr. Bush, I mean George, seemed to like that, and I felt that we finally made a connection," Reinard said. "But then he started telling me about this one time he was on a yacht with some Arab prince and they spent four hours landing a sailfish."
"It was a good story, but I just like catching a few bass with my kids is all," Reinard added. "I know he didn't mean to make me feel bad, but still."
Reinard told the president that he has lived most of his life in the Warren area, except for several years he spent in nearby Jamestown, where he attended community college for a year. Bush told Reinard he was born in New Haven, CT, and grew up in Texas before attending Yale University as an undergraduate and earning his MBA from Harvard, all while maintaining membership in many exclusive clubs.
"I asked George how much it costs to be in those social clubs, but he said he didn't remember," Reinard said. "I think he just didn't want to say the amount. He'd change the subject on me a lot, say he did a lot of partying back then, but that was all behind him now, since he found the Lord, or whatever."
Bush asked Reinard what he did for a living, and Reinard said he runs a small carpentry business.
"He asked me how it was going, what with the economy bouncing back. I said that if things didn't pick up soon, I was going to have to close up shop and work for my uncle in Youngstown," Reinard said. "George was quiet for a while after that. Then he told me about when his second oil company was going under. He suggested using my connections to get some outside investment capital."
"I don't have any connections," Reinard added.
When the conversation reached a dead end, Reinard and Bush were silent once again, their eyes tracking the game.
"We were sitting there watching the game, and some cheerleaders were up there waving their pompoms," Reinard said. "Then George mentioned that he used to be a cheerleader at Yale. I didn't know what to say to that one, so I just drank the rest of my beer real fast."
After nearly a minute of silence, Bush drained the remainder of his O'Doul's and wished Reinard goodbye, saying that he'd stay longer if he could, but had "some business to tend to."
"He shook my hand and smiled, said he had to run," Reinard said. "Something about a conference or a summit. It seemed like he was actually relieved to go."
Reinard and Kern both estimated Bush's stay at the bar as no longer than 15 minutes. This included Kern's attempt to pay for Bush's beer. Bush only smiled and waved at Kern, and a member of his Secret Service escort pulled a $10 bill from his coat pocket and tossed it on the bar.
Reinard likened the encounter with Bush to "being cornered at a company Christmas party by your boss."
"It was like, do you act and drink like normal, or are you on your best behavior?" Reinard said. "Are you up-front with the guy or do you choose your words carefully? What does he want out of you, anyway? Or does he just want to connect with somebody, because it's lonely at the top? You just don't know for sure."
"Overall, it was okay, I suppose," Reinard said. " One thing's for sure, though—I still wouldn't want to have a beer with that stuck-up Kerry."
A Friend Recently Told Me Michael Crichton Debunked Global Warming in his book State of Fear. I say Crichton is a Hack and Paid Shill for EXXON.
Forty public policy groups have this in common: They seek to undermine the scientific consensus that humans are causing the earth to overheat. And they all get money from ExxonMobil.
May/June 2005 Issue WHEN NOVELIST MICHAEL CRICHTON took the stage before a lunchtime crowd in Washington, D.C., one Friday in late January, the event might have seemed, at first, like one more unremarkable appearance by a popular author with a book to sell. Indeed, Crichton had just such a book, his new thriller, State of Fear. But the content of the novel, the setting of the talk, and the audience who came to listen transformed the Crichton event into something closer to a hybrid of campaign rally and undergraduate seminar. State of Fear is an anti-environmentalist page-turner in which shady ecoterrorists plot catastrophic weather disruptions to stoke unfounded fears about global climate change. However fantastical the book’s story line, its author was received as an expert by the sharply dressed policy wonks crowding into the plush Wohlstetter Conference Center of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI). In his introduction, AEI president and former Reagan budget official Christopher DeMuth praised the author for conveying “serious science with a sense of drama to a popular audience.” The title of the lecture was “Science Policy in the 21st Century.”
Crichton is an M.D. with a basketball player’s stature (he’s 6 feet 9 inches), and his bearing and his background exude authority. He describes himself as “contrarian by nature,” but his words on this day did not run counter to the sentiment of his AEI listeners. “I spent the last several years exploring environmental issues, particularly global warming,” Crichton told them solemnly. “I’ve been deeply disturbed by what I found, largely because the evidence for so many environmental issues is, from my point of view, shockingy flawed and unsubstantiated.” Crichton then turned to bashing a 1998 study of historic temperature change that has been repeatedly singled out for attack by conservatives.
There is overwhelming scientific consensus that greenhouse gases emitted by human activity are causing global average temperatures to rise. Conservative think tanks are trying to undermine this conclusion with a disinformation campaign employing “reports” designed to look like a counterbalance to peer-reviewed studies, skeptic propaganda masquerading as journalism, and events like the AEI luncheon that Crichton addressed. The think tanks provide both intellectual cover for those who reject what the best science currently tells us, and ammunition for conservative policymakers like Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who calls global warming “a hoax.”
This concerted effort reflects the shared convictions of free-market, and thus antiregulatory, conservatives. But there’s another factor at play. In addition to being supported by like-minded individuals and ideologically sympathetic foundations, these groups are funded by ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company. Mother Jones has tallied some 40 ExxonMobil-funded organizations that either have sought to undermine mainstream scientific findings on global climate change or have maintained affiliations with a small group of “skeptic” scientists who continue to do so. Beyond think tanks, the count also includes quasi-journalistic outlets like Tech CentralStation.com (a website providing “news, analysis, research, and commentary” that received $95,000 from ExxonMobil in 2003), a FoxNews.com columnist, and even religious and civil rights groups. In total, these organizations received more than $8 million between 2000 and 2003 (the last year for which records are available; all figures below are for that range unless otherwise noted). ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Lee Raymond serves as vice chairman of the board of trustees for the AEI, which received $960,000 in funding from ExxonMobil. The AEI-Brookings Institution Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, which officially hosted Crichton, received another $55,000. When asked about the event, the center’s executive director, Robert Hahn—who’s a fellow with the AEI—defended it, saying, “Climate science is a field in which reasonable experts can disagree.” (By contrast, on the day of the event, the Brookings Institution posted a scathing critique of Crichton’s book.)
During the question-and-answer period following his speech, Crichton drew an analogy between believers in global warming and Nazi eugenicists. “Auschwitz exists because of politicized science,” Crichton asserted, to gasps from some in the crowd. There was no acknowledgment that the AEI event was part of an attempt to do just that: politicize science. The audience at hand was certainly full of partisans. Listening attentively was Myron Ebell, a man recently censured by the British House of Commons for “unfounded and insulting criticism of Sir David King, the Government’s Chief Scientist.” Ebell is the global warming and international policy director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which has received a whopping $1,380,000 from ExxonMobil. Sitting in the back of the room was Christopher Horner, the silver-haired counsel to the Cooler Heads Coalition who’s also a CEI senior fellow. Present also was Paul Driessen, a senior fellow with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow ($252,000) and the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise ($40,000 in 2003). Saying he’s “heartened that ExxonMobil and a couple of other groups have stood up and said, ‘this is not science,’” Driessen, who is white, has made it his mission to portray Kyoto-style emissions regulations as an attack on people of color—his recent book is entitled Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death (see “Black Gold?”). Driessen has also written about the role that think tanks can play in helping corporations achieve their objectives. Such outlets “can provide research, present credible independent voices on a host of issues, indirectly influence opinion and political leaders, and promote responsible social and economic agendas,” he advised companies in a 2001 essay published in Capital PR News. “They have extensive networks among scholars, academics, scientists, journalists, community leaders and politicians…. You will be amazed at how much they do with so little.”
THIRTY YEARS AGO, the notion that corporations ought to sponsor think tanks that directly support their own political goals—rather than merely fund disinterested research—was far more controversial. But then, in 1977, an associate of the AEI (which was founded as a business association in 1943) came to industry’s rescue. In an essay published in the Wall Street Journal, the influential neoconservative Irving Kristol memorably counseled that “corporate philanthropy should not be, and cannot be, disinterested,” but should serve as a means “to shape or reshape the climate of public opinion.”
Kristol’s advice was heeded, and today many businesses give to public policy groups that support a laissez-faire, antiregulatory agenda. In its giving report, ExxonMobil says it supports public policy groups that are “dedicated to researching free market solutions to policy problems.” What the company doesn’t say is that beyond merely challenging the Kyoto Protocol or the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act on economic grounds, many of these groups explicitly dispute the science of climate change. Generally eschewing peer-reviewed journals, these groups make their challenges in far less stringent arenas, such as the media and public forums.
Pressed on this point, spokeswoman Lauren Kerr says that “ExxonMobil has been quite transparent and vocal regarding the fact that we, as do multiple organizations and respected institutions and researchers, believe that the scientific evidence on greenhouse gas emissions remains inconclusive and that studies must continue.” She also hastens to point out that ExxonMobil generously supports university research programs—for example, the company plans to donate $100 million to Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project. It even funds the hallowed National Academy of Sciences.
Nevertheless, no company appears to be working harder to support those who debunk global warming. “Many corporations have funded, you know, dribs and drabs here and there, but I would be surprised to learn that there was a bigger one than Exxon,” explains Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which, in 2000 and again in 2003, sued the government to stop the dissemination of a Clinton-era report showing the impact of climate change in the United States. Attorney Christopher Horner—whom you’ll recall from Crichton’s audience—was the lead attorney in both lawsuits and is paid a $60,000 annual consulting fee by the CEI. In 2002, ExxonMobil explicitly earmarked $60,000 for the CEI for “legal activities.”
Ebell denies the sum indicates any sort of quid pro quo. He’s proud of ExxonMobil’s funding and wishes “we could attract more from other companies.” He stresses that the CEI solicits funding for general project areas rather than to carry out specific sponsor requests, but admits being steered (as other public policy groups are steered) to the topics that garner grant money. While noting that the CEI is “adamantly opposed” to the Endangered Species Act, Ebell adds that “we are only working on it in a limited way now, because we couldn’t attract funding.”
EXXONMOBIL’S FUNDING OF THINK TANKS hardly compares with its lobbying expenditures—$55 million over the past six years, according to the Center for Public Integrity. And neither figure takes much of a bite out of the company’s net earnings—$25.3 billion last year. Nevertheless, “ideas lobbying” can have a powerful public policy effect.
Consider attacks by friends of ExxonMobil on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). A landmark international study that combined the work of some 300 scientists, the ACIA, released last November, had been four years in the making. Commissioned by the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum that includes the United States, the study warned that the Arctic is warming “at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the world,” and that early impacts of climate change, such as melting sea ice and glaciers, are already apparent and “will drastically shrink marine habitat for polar bears, ice-inhabiting seals, and some seabirds, pushing some species toward extinction.” Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was so troubled by the report that he called for a Senate hearing.
Industry defenders shelled the study, and, with a dearth of science to marshal to their side, used opinion pieces and press releases instead. “Polar Bear Scare on Thin Ice,” blared FoxNews.com columnist Steven Milloy, an adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute ($75,000 from ExxonMobil) who also publishes the website JunkScience.com. Two days later the conservative Washington Times published the same column. Neither outlet disclosed that Milloy, who debunks global warming concerns regularly, runs two organizations that receive money from ExxonMobil. Between 2000 and 2003, the company gave $40,000 to the Advancement of Sound Science Center, which is registered to Milloy’s home address in Potomac, Maryland, according to IRS documents. ExxonMobil gave another $50,000 to the Free Enterprise Action Institute—also registered to Milloy’s residence. Under the auspices of the intriguingly like-named Free Enterprise Education Institute, Milloy publishes CSRWatch.com, a site that attacks the corporate social responsibility movement. Milloy did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article; a Fox News spokesman stated that Milloy is “affiliated with several not-for-profit groups that possibly may receive funding from Exxon, but he certainly does not receive funding directly from Exxon.”
Setting aside any questions about Milloy’s journalistic ethics, on a purely scientific level, his attack on the ACIA was comically inept. Citing a single graph from a 146-page overview of a 1,200-plus- page, fully referenced report, Milloy claimed that the document “pretty much debunks itself” because high Arctic temperatures “around 1940” suggest that the current temperature spike could be chalked up to natural variability. “In order to take that position,” counters Harvard biological oceanographer James McCarthy, a lead author of the report, “you have to refute what are hundreds of scientific papers that reconstruct various pieces of this climate puzzle.”
Nevertheless, Milloy’s charges were quickly echoed by other groups. TechCentralStation.com published a letter to Senator McCain from 11 “climate experts,” who asserted that recent Arctic warming was not at all unusual in comparison to “natural variability in centuries past.” Meanwhile, the conservative George C. Marshall Institute ($310,000) issued a press release asserting that the Arctic report was based on “unvalidated climate models and scenarios…that bear little resemblance to reality and how the future is likely to evolve.” In response, McCain said, “General Marshall was a great American. I think he might be very embarrassed to know that his name was being used in this disgraceful fashion.”
The day of McCain’s hearing, the Competitive Enterprise Institute put out its own press release, citing the aforementioned critiques as if they should be considered on a par with the massive, exhaustively reviewed Arctic report: “The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, despite its recent release, has already generated analysis pointing out numerous flaws and distortions.” The Vancouver-based Fraser Institute ($60,000 from ExxonMobil in 2003) also weighed in, calling the Arctic warming report “an excellent example of the favoured scare technique of the anti-energy activists: pumping largely unjustifiable assumptions about the future into simplified computer models to conjure up a laundry list of scary projections.” In the same release, the Fraser Institute declared that “2004 has been one of the cooler years in recent history.” A month later the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization would pronounce 2004 to be “the fourth warmest year in the temperature record since 1861.”
Frank O’Donnell, of Clean Air Watch, likens ExxonMobil’s strategy to that of “a football quarterback who doesn’t want to throw to one receiver, but rather wants to spread it around to a number of different receivers.” In the case of the ACIA, this echo-chamber offense had the effect of creating an appearance of scientific controversy. Senator Inhofe—who received nearly $290,000 from oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, for his 2002 reelection campaign—prominently cited the Marshall Institute’s work in his own critique of the latest science.
TO BE SURE, that science wasn’t always as strong as it is today. And until fairly recently, virtually the entire fossil fuels industry—automakers, utilities, coal companies, even railroads—joined ExxonMobil in challenging it.
The concept of global warming didn’t enter the public consciousness until the 1980s. During a sweltering summer in 1988, pioneering NASA climatologist James Hansen famously told Congress he believed with “99 percent confidence” that a long-term warming trend had begun, probably caused by the greenhouse effect. As environmentalists and some in Congress began to call for reduced emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, industry fought back.
In 1989, the petroleum and automotive industries and the National Association of Manufacturers forged the Global Climate Coalition to oppose mandatory actions to address global warming. Exxon—later ExxonMobil—was a leading member, as was the American Petroleum Institute, a trade organization for which Exxon’s CEO Lee Raymond has twice served as chairman. “They were a strong player in the Global Climate Coalition, as were many other sectors of the economy,” says former GCC spokesman Frank Maisano.
Drawing upon a cadre of skeptic scientists, during the early and mid-1990s the GCC sought to emphasize the uncertainties of climate science and attack the mathematical models used to project future climate changes. The group and its proxies challenged the need for action on global warming, called the phenomenon natural rather than man-made, and even flatly denied it was happening. Maisano insists, how ever, that after the Kyoto Protocol emerged in 1997, the group focused its energies on making economic arguments rather than challenging science.
Even as industry mobilized the forces of skepticism, however, an international scientific collaboration emerged that would change the terms of the debate forever. In 1988, under the auspices of the United Nations, scientists and government officials inaugurated the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global scientific body that would eventually pull together thousands of experts to evaluate the issue, becoming the gold standard of climate science. In the IPCC’s first assessment report, published in 1990, the science remained open to reasonable doubt. But the IPCC’s second report, completed in 1995, concluded that amid purely natural factors shaping the climate, humankind’s distinctive fingerprint was evident. And with the release of the IPCC’s third assessment in 2001, a strong consensus had emerged: Notwithstanding some role for natural variability, human-created greenhouse gas emissions could, if left unchecked, ramp up global average temperatures by as much as 5.8 degrees Celsius (or 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2100. “Consensus as strong as the one that has developed around this topic is rare in science,” wrote Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy in a 2001 editorial.
Even some leading corporations that had previously supported “skepticism” were converted. Major oil companies like Shell, Texaco, and British Petroleum, as well as automobile manufacturers like Ford, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler, abandoned the Global Climate Coalition, which itself became inactive after 2002.
Yet some forces of denial—most notably ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, of which ExxonMobil is a leading member—remained recalcitrant. In 1998, the New York Times exposed an API memo outlining a strategy to invest millions to “maximize the impact of scientific views consistent with ours with Congress, the media and other key audiences.” The document stated: “Victory will be achieved when…recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’” It’s hard to resist a comparison with a famous Brown and Williamson tobacco company memo from the late 1960s, which observed: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”
Though ExxonMobil’s Lauren Kerr says she doesn’t know the “status of this reported plan” and an API spokesman says he could “find no evidence” that it was ever implemented, many of the players involved have continued to dispute mainstream climate science with funding from ExxonMobil. According to the memo, Jeffrey Salmon, then executive director of the George C. Marshall Institute, helped develop the plan, as did Steven Milloy, now a FoxNews.com columnist. Other participants included David Rothbard of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow ($252,000) and the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell, then with Frontiers of Freedom ($612,000). Ebell says the plan was never implemented because “the envisioned funding never got close to being realized.”
Another contributor was ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol, who recently retired but who seems to have plied his trade effectively during George W. Bush’s first term. Less than a month after Bush took office, Randol sent a memo to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The memo denounced the then chairman of the IPCC, Robert Watson, a leading atmospheric scientist, as someone “handpicked by Al Gore” whose real objective was to “get media coverage for his views.” (When the memo’s existence was reported, ExxonMobil took the curious position that Randol did forward it to the CEQ, but neither he nor anyone else at the company wrote it.) “Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the U.S.?” the memo asked. It went on to single out other Clinton administration climate experts, asking whether they had been “removed from their positions of influence.”
It was, in short, an industry hit list of climate scientists attached to the U.S. government. A year later the Bush administration blocked Watson’s reelection to the post of IPCC chairman.
PERHAPS THE MOST SURPRISING aspect of ExxonMobil’s support of the think tanks waging the disinformation campaign is that, given its close ties to the Bush administration (which cited “incomplete” science as justification to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol), it’s hard to see why the company would even need such pseudo-scientific cover. In 1998, Dick Cheney, then CEO of Halliburton, signed a letter to the Clinton administration challenging its approach to Kyoto. Less than three weeks after Cheney assumed the vice presidency, he met with ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond for a half-hour. Officials of the corporation also met with Cheney’s notorious energy task force.
ExxonMobil’s connections to the current administration go much deeper, filtering down into lower but crucially important tiers of policymaking. For example, the memo forwarded by Randy Randol recommended that Harlan Watson, a Republican staffer with the House Committee on Science, help the United States’ diplomatic efforts regarding climate change. Watson is now the State Department’s “senior climate negotiator.” Similarly, the Bush administration appointed former American Petroleum Institute attorney Philip Cooney—who headed the institute’s “climate team” and opposed the Kyoto Protocol—as chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. In June 2003 the New York Times reported that the CEQ had watered down an Environmental Protection Agency report’s discussion of climate change, leading EPA scientists to charge that the document “no longer accurately represents scientific consensus.”
Then there are the sisters Dobriansky. Larisa Dobriansky, currently the deputy assistant secretary for national energy policy at the Department of Energy—in which capacity she’s charged with managing the department’s Office of Climate Change Policy—was previously a lobbyist with the firm Akin Gump, where she worked on climate change for ExxonMobil. Her sister, Paula Dobriansky, currently serves as undersecretary for global affairs in the State Department. In that role, Paula Dobriansky recently headed the U.S. delegation to a United Nations meeting on the Kyoto Protocol in Buenos Aires, where she charged that “science tells us that we cannot say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided.”
Indeed, the rhetoric of scientific uncertainty has been Paula Dobriansky’s stock-in-trade. At a November 2003 panel sponsored by the AEI, she declared, “the extent to which the man-made portion of greenhouse gases is causing temperatures to rise is still unknown, as are the long-term effects of this trend. Predicting what will happen 50 or 100 years in the future is difficult.”
Given Paula Dobriansky’s approach to climate change, it will come as little surprise that memos uncovered by Greenpeace show that in 2001, within months of being confirmed by the Senate, Dobriansky met with ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol and the Global Climate Coalition. For her meeting with the latter group, one of Dobriansky’s prepared talking points was “POTUS [President Bush in Secret Service parlance] rejected Kyoto, in part, based on input from you.” The documents also show that Dobriansky met with ExxonMobil executives to discuss climate policy just days after September 11, 2001. A State Department official confirmed that these meetings took place, but adds that Dobriansky “meets with pro-Kyoto groups as well.”
RECENTLY, NAOMI ORESKES, a science historian at the University of California at San Diego, reviewed nearly a thousand scientific papers on global climate change published between 1993 and 2003, and was unable to find one that explicitly disagreed with the consensus view that humans are contributing to the phenomenon. As Oreskes hastens to add, that doesn’t mean no such studies exist. But given the size of her sample, about 10 percent of the papers published on the topic, she thinks it’s safe to assume that the number is “vanishingly small.”
What do the conservative think tanks do when faced with such an obstacle? For one, they tend to puff up debates far beyond their scientific significance. A case study is the “controversy” over the work of University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann. Drawing upon the work of several independent teams of scientists, including Mann and his colleagues, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2001 report asserted that “the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years.” This statement was followed by a graph, based on one of the Mann group’s studies, showing relatively modest temperature variations over the past thousand years and a dramatic spike upward in the 20th century. Due to its appearance, this famous graph has been dubbed the “hockey stick.”
During his talk at the AEI, Michael Crichton attacked the “hockey stick,” calling it “sloppy work.” He’s hardly the first to have done so. A whole cottage industry has sprung up to criticize this analysis, much of it linked to ExxonMobil-funded think tanks. At a recent congressional briefing sponsored by the Marshall Institute, Senator Inhofe described Mann’s work as the “primary sci- entific data” on which the IPCC’s 2001 conclusions were based. That is simply incorrect. Mann points out that he’s hardly the only scientist to produce a “hockey stick” graph—other teams of scientists have come up with similar reconstructions of past temperatures. And even if Mann’s work and all of the other studies that served as the basis for the IPCC’s statement on the temperature record are wrong, that would not in any way invalidate the conclusion that humans are currently causing rising temperatures. “There’s a whole independent line of evidence, some of it very basic physics,” explains Mann.
Nevertheless, the ideological allies of ExxonMobil virulently attack Mann’s work, as if discrediting him would somehow put global warming concerns to rest. This idée fixe seems to have begun with Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Both have been “senior scientists” with the Marshall Institute. Soon serves as “science director” to TechCentralStation.com, is an adjunct scholar with Frontiers of Freedom, and wrote (with Baliunas) the Fraser Institute’s pamphlet “Global Warming: A Guide to the Science.” Baliunas, meanwhile, is “enviro-sci host” of TechCentral, and is on science advisory boards of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and the Annapolis Center for Science-based Public Policy ($427,500 from ExxonMobil), and has given speeches on climate science before the AEI and the Heritage Foundation ($340,000). (Neither Soon nor Baliunas would provide comment for this article.)
In 2003, Soon and Baliunas published an article, partly funded by the American Petroleum Institute, in a small journal called Climate Research. Presenting a review of existing literature rather than new research, the two concluded “the 20th century is probably not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium.” They had, in effect, challenged both Mann and the IPCC, and in so doing presented global warming skeptics with a cause to rally around. Another version of the paper was quickly published with three additional authors: David Legates of the University of Delaware, and longtime skeptics Craig and Sherwood Idso of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change in Tempe, Arizona. All have ExxonMobil connections: the Idsos received $40,000 from ExxonMobil for their center in the year the study was published, while Legates is an adjunct scholar at the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis (which got $205,000 between 2000 and 2003).
Calling the paper “a powerful new work of science” that would “shiver the timbers of the adrift Chicken Little crowd,” Senator Inhofe devoted half of a Senate hearing to it, bringing in both Soon and Legates to testify against Mann. The day before, Hans Von Storch, the editor-in-chief of Climate Research—where the Soon and Baliunas paper originally appeared—resigned to protest deficiencies in the review process that led to its publication; two editors soon joined him. Von Storch later told the Chronicle of Higher Education that climate science skeptics “had identified Climate Research as a journal where some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common.” Meanwhile, Mann and 12 other leading climate scientists wrote a blistering critique of Soon and Baliunas’ paper in the American Geophysical Union publication Eos, noting, among other flaws, that they’d used historic precipitation records to reconstruct past temperatures—an approach Mann told Congress was “fundamentally unsound.”
ON FEBRUARY 16, 2005, 140 nations celebrated the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. In the weeks prior, as the friends of ExxonMobil scrambled to inoculate the Bush administration from the bad press that would inevitably result from America’s failure to sign this international agreement to curb global warming, a congressional briefing was organized. Held in a somber, wood-paneled Senate hearing room, the event could not help but have an air of authority. Like the Crichton talk, however, it was hardly objective. Sponsored by the George C. Marshall Institute and the Cooler Heads Coalition, the briefing’s panel of experts featured Myron Ebell, attorney Christopher Horner, and Marshall’s CEO William O’Keefe, formerly an executive at the American Petroleum Institute and chairman of the Global Climate Coalition.
But it was the emcee, Senator Inhofe, who best represented the spirit of the event. Stating that Crichton’s novel should be “required reading,” the ruddy-faced senator asked for a show of hands to see who had finished it. He attacked the “hockey stick” graph and damned the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment for having “no footnotes or citations,” as indeed the ACIA “overview” report—designed to be a “plain language synthesis” of the fully referenced scientific report—does not. But never mind, Inhofe had done his own research. He whipped out a 1974 issue of Time magazine and, in mocking tones, read from a 30-year-old article that expressed concerns over cooler global temperatures. In a folksy summation, Inhofe again called the notion that humans are causing global warming “a hoax,” and said that those who believe otherwise are “hysterical people, they love hysteria. We’re dealing with religion.” Having thus dismissed some 2,000 scientists, their data sets and temperature records, and evidence of melting glaciers, shrinking islands, and vanishing habitats as so many hysterics, totems, and myths, Inhofe vowed to stick up for the truth, as he sees it, and “fight the battle out on the Senate floor.”
Seated in the front row of the audience, former ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol looked on approvingly.
Chris Mooney is a senior correspondent for the American Prospect, where he helped create the popular blog Tapped. His writing focuses on the intersection of science and politics, and his first book, The Republican War on Science, will be published in September.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Rush Limbaugh Supports The Troops -- If You're Dumb Enough To Pay For It.
America's most famous gasbag has just come up with a despicable new way to exploit the troops. (Or as he likes to call it, "support the troops.")
Here's how it works: non-military members sign up to adopt a soldier on Rush's website, while current military members sign up to be adopted. Once an adopter and an adoptee are matched up, the adopted soldier receives a free subscription to "The Limbaugh Letter" and to the premium content on Rush's website.
Fabulous! And all at the low, low cost of $50, which goes directly into Rush's pocket.
Oh, I'm sorry - you didn't think he was doing this out of charity did you? Nope, despite the fact that Rush's site claims to be offering "complimentary RUSH 24/7 subscriptions," if you want to be able to say you've adopted a soldier through Rush's program then you have to cough up the cash. Because someone's got to pay for those "complimentary subscriptions," and it sure as hell ain't gonna be Limbaugh.
Bottom line: Rush's idea of supporting the troops is to use them as a prop in his scheme to flog more subscriptions. Nice.
To downplay the political impact of revelations that U.S. forces used deadly white phosphorus rounds against Iraqi insurgents in Falluja last year, Pentagon officials have insisted that phosphorus munitions are legal since they aren’t technically “chemical weapons.”
The media have helped them. For instance, the New York Times ran a piece today on the phosphorus controversy. On at least three occasions, the Times emphasizes that the phosphorus rounds are “incendiary muntions” that have been “incorrectly called chemical weapons.”
But the distinction is a minor one, and arguably political in nature. A formerly classified 1995 Pentagon intelligence document titled “Possible Use of Phosphorous Chemical” describes the use of white phosphorus by Saddam Hussein on Kurdish fighters:
IRAQ HAS POSSIBLY EMPLOYED PHOSPHOROUS CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGAINST THE KURDISH POPULATION IN AREAS ALONG THE IRAQI-TURKISH-IRANIAN BORDERS. […]
IN LATE FEBRUARY 1991, FOLLOWING THE COALITION FORCES’ OVERWHELMING VICTORY OVER IRAQ, KURDISH REBELS STEPPED UP THEIR STRUGGLE AGAINST IRAQI FORCES IN NORTHERN IRAQ. DURING THE BRUTAL CRACKDOWN THAT FOLLOWED THE KURDISH UPRISING, IRAQI FORCES LOYAL TO PRESIDENT SADDAM ((HUSSEIN)) MAY HAVE POSSIBLY USED WHITE PHOSPHOROUS (WP) CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGAINST KURDISH REBELS AND THE POPULACE IN ERBIL (GEOCOORD:3412N/04401E) (VICINITY OF IRANIAN BORDER) AND DOHUK (GEOCOORD:3652N/04301E) (VICINITY OF IRAQI BORDER) PROVINCES, IRAQ.
In other words, the Pentagon does refer to white phosphorus rounds as chemical weapons — at least if they’re used by our enemies.
The real point here goes beyond the Pentagon’s legalistic parsings. The use of white phosphorus against enemy fighters is a “terribly ill-conceived method,” demonstrating an Army interested “only in the immediate tactical gain and its felicitous shake and bake fun.” And the dishonest efforts by Bush administration officials to deny and downplay that use only further undermines U.S. credibility abroad.
To paraphrase President Bush, this isn’t a question about what is legal, it’s about what is right.
By DAN LOVERING, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 23 minutes ago
"The public turned against this war before I said it," said Murtha, a key Democrat on military issues. "The public is emotionally tied into finding a solution to this thing, and that's what I hope this administration is going to find out."
Murtha, 73, a decorated Vietnam veteran and the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said he has received support from the public since calling for the troop pullout on Thursday. He spoke at a news conference after a speech to a civic group in his hometown of Johnstown, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh
He said he has gotten e-mails from World War II veterans and parents of American soldiers in Iraq.
Murtha, first elected to Congress in 1974, said his great-grandfather served in the Civil War, his father and three uncles in World War II, and that he and his brothers were Marines. Murtha said western Pennsylvania, where his district is located, is a "hotbed of patriotism and they've lost confidence in this effort."
He said Iraqis must take control of their own destiny.
"We cannot win this militarily. Our tactics themselves keep us from winning," Murtha said.
House Republicans on Friday pushed for a vote on a nonbinding resolution to pull out the troops after Murtha's comments. It was rejected 403-3, but Democrats said the quick call for the vote was a political stunt designed to undermine Murtha's comments.
"The guys in Congress are scared to death to say anything because they might be vilified," Murtha said. "The soldiers can't speak for themselves. We sent them to war and, by God, we're the ones that have to speak out."
Murtha said he was unmoved by criticism he's received from President Bush, others in Congress and the public.
Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, spoke on the House floor Friday about a phone call she got from a Marine colonel who said, "cowards cut and run, Marines never do." Asked about it, Murtha called the comment ridiculous.
"You can't spin this. You've got to have a real solution," Murtha said. "This is not a war of words, this is a war."
Murtha said he specifically asked more liberal members of his party not to step forward to support him because "I didn't want (the public) to think this was a Democrat position plotted from the left wing." And he expressed confidence that terrorist bombings in Iraq would cease once U.S. troops were gone and Iraqis became solely responsible for their destiny.
from Media Matters:
Reporting that Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq during a press conference on November 17, a photo caption on the front page of The Washington Post's website the evening of November 17 (pictured below) labeled him a "pro-military Democrat." In stories published November 18, Associated Press writer Liz Sidoti and CBS News described Murtha as "usually pro-military," implying that his calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq is somehow "anti-military." Knight Ridder reporter James Kuhnhenn also applied the "pro-military" label to Murtha.
Murtha's announcement was significant in that he is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on defense, having initially voted to support the Iraq war, and was the first Vietnam veteran -- a recipient of the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts -- to serve in Congress.
The Post's and the others' labeling of Murtha as "pro-military" or a "pro-military Democrat" raises several questions. First, would these news organizations characterize any of the 184 Democrats in the House who voted* to compensate for a $1 billion shortfall in spending for veterans caused by the federal deficit -- but many of whom also voted against the Iraq war resolution -- "anti-military"? What about those 216 Republicans who voted against increasing veterans' benefits, the vast majority of whom voted for the war resolution? Are they pro or anti-military? And what about the 44 Senate Democrats who voted for Sen. John F. Kerry's (D-MA) amendment increasing death benefits to military families -- many of whom also voted against the Iraq war resolution? And the 25 Republicans who voted against the Kerry amendment?
As recently as June, the Post reported that the Senate Republican majority had repeatedly rejected amendments put forth by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) that would have increased spending for veterans. Pro- or anti-military Republicans?
In 2004 Republican Rep. Christopher H. Smith (NJ), then-chairman of a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee, called for such increases; his own party summarily removed him as chairman two years shy of the end of his term. A Media Matters for America search has found no instances of the Post or others reporting that "anti-veteran" Republicans ousted their own Veterans Affairs chairman.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
I totally ripped this off from eschaton:
The AP reports that President Bush, speaking from South Korea, is rejecting calls for a troop drawdown in Iraq:
President Bush on Saturday swatted down calls in Congress for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, saying that American military leaders believe that retreat now would be “a recipe for disaster.”
“So we will fight the terrorists in Iraq and we will stay in the fight until we have achieved the victory our brave troops have fought and bled for,” said Bush, facing mounting criticism from home about his war policy.
But these White House attacks are hypocritical in light of new information that the administration itself is preparing for withdrawal. Here’s what NBC Nightly News reported tonight:
There’s word now that the Pentagon, where planning, after all, is everything, has drawn up a plan to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Iraq… Pentagon and military officials tell NBC news the plan calls for the substantial withdrawal of more than 60,000 American troops from Iraq. The plan was drafted by Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, the top two U.S. commanders of the war. If Iraqi elections are successful in December, and a new parliament seated in January, the withdrawal could begin almost immediately. Military officials say it would be an incremental or phased withdrawal.
So it appears the administration is now trying to have it both ways — attacking those who advocate a troop drawdown while leaking a potential exit strategy. President Bush previously said, “Setting an artificial timetable would… send the wrong message to our troops.” Will Bush put a stop to these “mixed messages” being sent to the troops by his own administration?
One War Lost, Another to Go
From The NY Times
By Frank Rich
IF anyone needs further proof that we are racing for the exits in Iraq, just follow the bouncing ball that is Rick Santorum. A Republican leader in the Senate and a true-blue (or red) Iraq hawk, he has long slobbered over President Bush, much as Ed McMahon did over Johnny Carson. But when Mr. Bush went to Mr. Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania to give his Veterans Day speech smearing the war’s critics as unpatriotic, the senator was M.I.A.
Mr. Santorum preferred to honor a previous engagement more than 100 miles away. There he told reporters for the first time that “maybe some blame” for the war’s “less than optimal” progress belonged to the White House. This change of heart had nothing to do with looming revelations of how the new Iraqi “democracy” had instituted Saddam-style torture chambers. Or with the spiraling investigations into the whereabouts of nearly $9 billion in unaccounted-for taxpayers’ money from the American occupation authority. Or with the latest spike in casualties. Mr. Santorum was instead contemplating his own incipient political obituary written the day before: a poll showing him 16 points down in his re-election race. No sooner did he stiff Mr. Bush in Pennsylvania than he did so again in Washington, voting with a 79-to-19 majority on a Senate resolution begging for an Iraq exit strategy. He was joined by all but one (Jon Kyl) of the 13 other Republican senators running for re-election next year. They desperately want to be able to tell their constituents that they were against the war after they were for it.
They know the voters have decided the war is over, no matter what symbolic resolutions are passed or defeated in Congress nor how many Republicans try to Swift-boat Representative John Murtha, the marine hero who wants the troops out. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey last week found that the percentage (52) of Americans who want to get out of Iraq fast, in 12 months or less, is even larger than the percentage (48) that favored a quick withdrawal from Vietnam when that war’s casualty toll neared 54,000 in the apocalyptic year of 1970. The Ohio State political scientist John Mueller, writing in Foreign Affairs, found that “if history is any indication, there is little the Bush administration can do to reverse this decline.” He observed that Mr. Bush was trying to channel L. B. J. by making “countless speeches explaining what the effort in Iraq is about, urging patience and asserting that progress is being made. But as was also evident during Woodrow Wilson’s campaign to sell the League of Nations to the American public, the efficacy of the bully pulpit is much overrated.”
Mr. Bush may disdain timetables for our pullout, but, hello, there already is one, set by the Santorums of his own party: the expiration date for a sizable American presence in Iraq is Election Day 2006. As Mr. Mueller says, the decline in support for the war won’t reverse itself. The public knows progress is not being made, no matter how many times it is told that Iraqis will soon stand up so we can stand down.
On the same day the Senate passed the resolution rebuking Mr. Bush on the war, Martha Raddatz of ABC News reported that “only about 700 Iraqi troops” could operate independently of the U.S. military, 27,000 more could take a lead role in combat “only with strong support” from our forces and the rest of the 200,000-odd trainees suffered from a variety of problems, from equipment shortages to an inability “to wake up when told” or follow orders.
But while the war is lost both as a political matter at home and a practical matter in Iraq, the exit strategy being haggled over in Washington will hardly mark the end of our woes. Few Americans will cry over the collapse of the administration’s vainglorious mission to make Iraq a model of neocon nation-building. But, as some may dimly recall, there is another war going on as well – against Osama bin Laden and company.
One hideous consequence of the White House’s Big Lie – fusing the war of choice in Iraq with the war of necessity that began on 9/11 – is that the public, having rejected one, automatically rejects the other. That’s already happening. The percentage of Americans who now regard fighting terrorism as a top national priority is either in the single or low double digits in every poll. Thus the tragic bottom line of the Bush catastrophe: the administration has at once increased the ranks of jihadists by turning Iraq into a new training ground and recruitment magnet while at the same time exhausting America’s will and resources to confront that expanded threat.
We have arrived at “the worst of all possible worlds,” in the words of Daniel Benjamin, Richard Clarke’s former counterterrorism colleague, with whom I talked last week. No one speaks more eloquently to this point than Mr. Benjamin and Steven Simon, his fellow National Security Council alum. They saw the Qaeda threat coming before most others did in the 1990’s, and their riveting new book, “The Next Attack,” is the best argued and most thoroughly reported account of why, in their opening words, “we are losing” the war against the bin Laden progeny now.
“The Next Attack” is prescient to a scary degree. “If bin Laden is the Robin Hood of jihad,” the authors write, then Abu Musab al-Zarqawi “has been its Horatio Alger, and Iraq his field of dreams.” The proof arrived spectacularly this month with the Zarqawi-engineered suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman. That attack, Mr. Benjamin wrote in Slate, “could soon be remembered as the day that the spillover of violence from Iraq became a major affliction for the Middle East.” But not remembered in America. Thanks to the confusion sown by the Bush administration, the implications for us in this attack, like those in London and Madrid, are quickly forgotten, if they were noticed in the first place. What happened in Amman is just another numbing bit of bad news that we mentally delete along with all the other disasters we now label “Iraq.”
Only since his speech about “Islamo-fascism” in early October has Mr. Bush started trying to make distinctions between the “evildoers” of Saddam’s regime and the Islamic radicals who did and do directly threaten us. But even if anyone was still listening to this president, it would be too little and too late. The only hope for getting Americans to focus on the war we can’t escape is to clear the decks by telling the truth about the war of choice in Iraq: that it is making us less safe, not more, and that we have to learn from its mistakes and calculate the damage it has caused as we reboot and move on.
Mr. Bush is incapable of such candor. In the speech Mr. Santorum skipped on Veterans Day, the president lashed out at his critics for trying “to rewrite the history” of how the war began. Then he rewrote the history of the war, both then and now. He boasted of America’s “broad and coordinated homeland defense” even as the members of the bipartisan 9/11 commission were preparing to chastise the administration’s inadequate efforts to prevent actual nuclear W.M.D.’s, as opposed to Saddam’s fictional ones, from finding their way to terrorists. Mr. Bush preened about how “we’re standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes” even as we were hearing new reports of how we outsource detainees to such regimes to be tortured.
And once again he bragged about the growing readiness of Iraqi troops, citing “nearly 90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists alongside our forces.” But as James Fallows confirms in his exhaustive report on “Why Iraq Has No Army” in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly, America would have to commit to remaining in Iraq for many years to “bring an Iraqi army to maturity.” If we’re not going to do that, Mr. Fallows concludes, America’s only alternative is to “face the stark fact that it has no orderly way out of Iraq, and prepare accordingly.”
THAT’S the alternative that has already been chosen, brought on not just by the public’s irreversible rejection of the war, but also by the depleted state of our own broken military forces; they are falling short of recruitment goals across the board by as much as two-thirds, the Government Accountability Office reported last week. We must prepare accordingly for what’s to come. To do so we need leaders, whatever the political party, who can look beyond our nonorderly withdrawal from Iraq next year to the mess that will remain once we’re on our way out. Whether it’s countering the havoc inflicted on American interests internationally by Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo or overhauling and redeploying our military, intelligence and homeland security operations to confront the enemy we actually face, there’s an enormous job to be done.
The arguments about how we got into Mr. Bush’s war and exactly how we’ll get out are also important. But the damage from this fiasco will be even greater if those debates obscure the urgency of the other war we are losing, one that will be with us long after we’ve left the quagmire in Iraq.
Sunday, November 20, 2005; Page B07