Thursday, September 14, 2006
WASHINGTON - A rebellious Senate committee defied President Bush on Thursday and approved a bill on the treatment of terrorism detainees that he has vowed to block, escalating a Republican civil war over the issue in the middle of congressional election campaigns.
Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, pushed the measure through his panel by a 15-9 vote, with Warner and three other Republican lawmakers joining opposition Democrats.
The tally set the stage for a showdown on the Senate floor as early as next week.
The vote came hours after former Secretary of State Colin Powell protested harsh interrogations of terror suspects as the president lobbied personally for it on Capitol Hill.
“I will resist any bill that does not enable this program to go forward with legal clarity,” Bush told reporters back at the White House after his meeting with lawmakers.
The latest sign of GOP division over White House security policy came Thursday in a letter that Powell sent to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of three senators taking on the White House.
Powell said Congress must not pass Bush’s proposal to redefine U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions, a treaty that sets international standards for the treatment of prisoners of war.
White House spokesman Tony Snow, asked if Powell was merely confused about the White House’s goals, said: “Yes.”
Pressed further on why Powell might write such a letter, Snow said: “We didn’t hear from him, so I don’t know.”
The campaign-season development accompanied Bush’s visit to Capitol Hill, where he conferred behind closed doors with House Republicans. His plan would narrow the U.S. legal interpretation of the Geneva Conventions treaty in a bid to allow tougher interrogations and shield U.S. personnel from being prosecuted for war crimes.
Puts troops at risk, Powell argues“The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism,” said Powell, who served under Bush and is a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.”
Bush said that “there’s all kinds of letters coming out” and he cited letters from the Pentagon that support his argument.
Snow said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has weighed in on the issue.
“In a case where the treaty’s terms are inherently vague, it is appropriate for a state to look to its own legal framework, precedents, concepts and norms in interpreting those terms and carrying out its international obligations,” Snow quoted Rice as saying in a letter to lawmakers.
“Such practice in the application of a treaty is an accepted reference point in international law.”
Republican dissatisfaction with the administration’s security proposals is becoming more prominent as the midterm election season has arrived.
The Bush White House wants Congress to approve greater executive power to spy on, imprison and interrogate terrorism suspects.
Leaving his closed-door meeting with the House GOP caucus, Bush said he “reminded them that the most important job of government is to protect the homeland.”
In an effort to drum up support, the White House released a second letter to lawmakers signed by the military’s top uniformed lawyers. Saying they wanted to “clarify” past testimony on Capitol Hill in which they opposed the administration’s plan, the service lawyers wrote that they “do not object” to sections of Bush’s proposal for the treatment of detainees and found the provisions “helpful.”
Two congressional aides who favor McCain’s plan said the military lawyers signed that letter after refusing to endorse an earlier one offered by the Pentagon’s general counsel, William Haynes, that expressed more forceful support for Bush’s plan.
The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Asked if Haynes had encouraged them to write the letter, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, “Not that I’m aware of.”
Bush's existing measure ruled illegalBush was forced to propose the measure after the Supreme Court ruled in June that his existing court system established to prosecute terrorism suspects was illegal and violated the Geneva Conventions. The White House legislation would create military commissions to prosecute terror suspects, as well as redefine acts that constitute war crimes.
For Bush, the election season visit capped a week of high-profile administration pressure to rescue bills mired in turf battles and privacy concerns. It also gave GOP leaders a chance to press for loyalty among Republicans confronted on the campaign trail by war-weary voters.
“I have not really seen anybody running away from the president,” House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters this week when asked about the caucus’ split. “Frankly, I think that would be a bad idea.”
Reuters contributed to this report.
By John Dunbar
The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.
The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report “indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public,” according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that “every last piece” of the report be destroyed.
“The whole project was just stopped _ end of discussion,” he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC’s Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.
In a letter sent to Martin Wednesday, Boxer said she was “dismayed that this report, which was done at taxpayer expense more than two years ago, and which concluded that localism is beneficial to the public, was shoved in a drawer.”
Martin said he was not aware of the existence of the report, nor was his staff. His office indicated it had not received Boxer’s letter as of midafternoon Thursday.
In the letter, Boxer asked whether any other commissioners “past or present” knew of the report’s existence and why it was never made public. She also asked whether it was “shelved because the outcome was not to the liking of some of the commissioners and/or any outside powerful interests?”
The report, written by two economists in the FCC’s Media Bureau, analyzed a database of 4,078 individual news stories broadcast in 1998. The broadcasts were obtained from Danilo Yanich, a professor and researcher at the University of Delaware, and were originally gathered by the Pew Foundation’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The analysis showed local ownership of television stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of “on-location” news.
The conclusion is at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market. It was part of a broader decision liberalizing ownership rules. At that time, the agency pointed to evidence that “commonly owned television stations are more likely to carry local news than other stations.”
When considering whether to loosen rules on media ownership, the agency is required to examine the impact on localism, competition and diversity. The FCC generally defines localism as the level of responsiveness of a station to the needs of its community. The 2003 action sparked a backlash among the public and within Congress.
In June 2004, a federal appeals court rejected the agency’s reasoning on most of the rules and ordered it to try again. The debate has since been reopened, and the FCC has scheduled a public hearing on the matter in Los Angeles on Oct. 3.
The report was begun after then-Chairman Michael Powell ordered the creation of a task force to study localism in broadcasting in August of 2003. Powell stepped down from the commission and was replaced by Martin in March 2005. Powell did not return a call seeking comment.
The authors of the report, Keith Brown and Peter Alexander, both declined to comment. Brown has left public service while Alexander is still at the FCC.
Yanich confirmed the two men were the authors. Both have written extensively on media and telecommunications policy.Yanich said the report was “extremely well done.
It should have helped to inform policy.”Boxer’s office said if she does not receive adequate answers to her questions, she will push for an investigation by the FCC inspector general.
Fucking Idiot Republicans In Congress Would Rather Have Convicted Felons In U.S. Military than Homosexuals.
Gay Groups Renew Drive Against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
By Lizette Alvarez / New York Times
MADISON, Wis. —The three young men who tried to enlist at an Army recruiting station here appeared to be first-rate military material.
Two were college students, and the other was a college graduate. They had no criminal records. They were fit and eager to serve at a time when wars on two fronts have put a strain on American troops and the need for qualified recruits is great.
But the recruiter was forced to turn them away, for one reason: they are gay and unwilling to conceal it.
“Don’t judge me because of my sexuality,” said one of the three, Justin Hager, 20, a self-described Republican from a military family who has “a driving desire to join” the armed forces. “Judge me because of my character and drive.”
As the Pentagon’s search for soldiers grows more urgent, gay rights groups are making the biggest push in nearly a decade to win repeal of a compromise policy, encoded in a 1993 law and dubbed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” that bars openly gay people from serving in the military.
The policy, grounded in a belief that open homosexuality is damaging to unit morale and cohesion, stipulates that gay men and lesbians must serve in silence and refrain from homosexual activity, and that recruiters and commanders may not ask them about their sexual orientation in the absence of compelling evidence that homosexual acts have occurred.
The push for repeal follows years of legal setbacks, as well as discord among gay rights groups about how, or even whether, to address the issue. Now, rather than rely on the courts, advocates are focusing on drumming up support in towns across the nation, spotlighting the personal stories of gay former service members and pushing a Democratic bill in the House that would do away with the policy.
In August the gay rights group Soulforce opened a national campaign by recruiting openly gay people, including the three young men in Madison, who would have enlisted in the military if not for “don’t ask, don’t tell.” [As part of that campaign, two young people who were rejected as applicants on Tuesday at a recruitment center in Chicago returned there on Wednesday and engaged in a sit-in. They were arrested but later released without charges.]
The move to change the policy faces stiff resistance from the Pentagon and Republicans in Congress, who, in a time of war during a tough election year, have no longing for another contentious debate about gay troops. The House bill, introduced last year by Representative Martin T. Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts, has picked up 119 supporters, but only five of them Republicans.
“In the near term, it has zero chance,” said Daniel Gouré, a vice president at the centrist Lexington Institute. “It’s hard to see how anyone would want to give potential opponents any ammunition to knock them off.”
A 2004 report by the Urban Institute concluded that at least 60,000 gay people were serving in the armed forces, including the Reserves and the National Guard. But since 1993, at least 11,000 members have been discharged for being openly gay, among them 800 in highly crucial jobs, according to the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s investigative arm.
For all of that, gay rights groups, gay veterans and some analysts say much has changed since the policy was adopted. A Gallup poll in 2004 found that 63 percent of respondents favored allowing gay troops to serve openly, and a similar survey, by the Pew Research Center this year, put the number at 60 percent; those majorities did not exist in 1993. Young people in particular now have more tolerant views about homosexuality.
In addition, 24 foreign armies, most notably those of Britain and Israel, have integrated openly gay people into their ranks with little impact on effectiveness and recruitment. In Britain, where the military was initially forced to accept gay troops by the European Court of Human Rights, gay partners are now afforded full benefits, and the Royal Navy has called on a gay rights group to help recruit gay sailors.
The new debate on “don’t ask, don’t tell” also coincides with multiple deployments that are being required of many American troops by a military that has lowered its standards to allow more high school dropouts and some convicted criminals to enlist.
“Would you rather have a felon than a gay soldier?” said Capt. Scott Stanford, a heterosexual National Guard commander of a headquarters company who returned from Iraq in June. “I wouldn’t.”
Lt. Gen. Daniel W. Christman, retired, former superintendent at West Point and onetime assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said both the British experience and the shifts in attitudes at home would cause the American armed forces to change, though slowly.
Stars and Stripes HATES AMERICA! Reporter Writes Story about Hostile Reception of U.S. Troops in Sadr City.
Battalion gets a hostile reception at Sadr City
By Anita Powell / Stars and Stripes
BAGHDAD — Residents of the city’s most virulent Shiite stronghold gave soldiers a heated and hostile reception Sunday as the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team rolled into the eastern Baghdad slum of Sadr City for the first time.
Overall, Sunday’s mission, which was part of a larger operation to clear Baghdad of sectarian violence, was free of major incidents. One company was shot at during an afternoon patrol, though the bullet widely missed its mark.
Many soldiers, though, were barraged with angry rhetoric and crude gestures while rocks pinged off their heavily armored vehicles.
Local policemen joined the Alaska-based soldiers for patrols throughout the day. On some patrols, soldiers said, the policemen were hesitant to get out of their trucks. On some of the others, the policemen carefully distanced themselves from the American soldiers, melting effortlessly into the crowd.
For Capt. Kevin Sharp, commander of Company B of the brigade’s 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, the venture into the infamous slum — which has as many as 3 million inhabitants, according to local estimates — was an exercise in taking abuse with grace.
The ever-smiling Tennessee native met few smiles among the area’s residents. Everywhere he stopped, he quickly drew a large crowd of animated men and boys, demanding to know why the soldiers had come to Sadr City. Boys as young as six spewed expletives, proclaimed their hatred for America and told the soldiers to go home.
“What are you doing here?” demanded a 16-year-old youth named Malik, in English. “You like patrolling in Iraq?”
“You guys hurt us,” he continued in Arabic.
In another area, 19-year-old Mohammed Abdul Kareem, who said he is illiterate, lamented his lack of a job. A man standing next to him offered a different complaint.
“They consider you guys an occupation force,” said Abbas Fadil, 45.
“We do not kill anybody who does not shoot at us first,” Sharp replied. “I’m here to be friends with you. That’s all I want. To be friends with you.”
Another man echoed the day’s most common question: “What are you guys doing here?” he said. “Did we hurt you?”
Later, Sharp said that in future forays into the neighborhood, his actions, not his words, would win the trust of Sadr City residents.
“The last thing we want to do is pick a fight,” he said. “That’s not why we’re here.”
At an outdoor tea shop, young men sucked on water pipes as they eyed the soldiers with suspicion. The sweet smell of strawberry tobacco wafted through the air. A crowd suddenly materialized around the café.
“You guys should leave because people don’t like you here,” warned an elderly man named Ali Nasser. “People are worried now.”
At the police station, members of an U.S. Army police training team pointed to signs that the police force had close ties to the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia headed by radical leader Muqtada Al-Sadr.
A sign on the wall of the station, a translator explained, said, “Anyone who says we’re fixing the problems in this city is liar. The only one who can fix the problems is the Prophet.”
At the end of his tour, Sharp shook his head in consternation in the police chief’s office.
“I didn’t really appreciate the way people were treating me,” he said. “I’ve never been treated this way by Iraqis before.”
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
This is a press release, so let's give it some press, in full.
For immediate release: September 13, 2006
Media contact: Teresa Riordan, (609) 258-9754, firstname.lastname@example.org; Steven Schultz, (609) 258-3617, email@example.com
Researchers reveal 'extremely serious' vulnerabilities in e-voting machines
In a paper published on the Web today, a group of Princeton computer scientists said they created demonstration vote-stealing software that can be installed within a minute on a common electronic voting machine. The software can fraudulently change vote counts without being detected.
"We have created and analyzed the code in the spirit of helping to guide public officials so that they can make wise decisions about how to secure elections," said Edward Felten, the director of the Center for Information Technology Policy, a new center at Princeton University that addresses crucial issues at the intersection of society and computer technology.
The paper appears on the Web site for the Center for Information Technology Policy.
The researchers obtained the machine, a Diebold AccuVote-TS, from a private party in May. They spent the summer analyzing the machine and developing the vote-stealing demonstration.
"We found that the machine is vulnerable to a number of extremely serious attacks that undermine the accuracy and credibility of the vote counts it produces," wrote Felten and his co-authors, graduate students Ariel Feldman and Alex Halderman.
In a 10-minute video on their Web site, the researchers demonstrate how the vote-stealing software works. The video shows the software sabotaging a mock presidential election between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Arnold is reported as the winner even though Washington gets more votes. (The video is edited from a longer continuously shot video; the long single-shot version will be available for downloading from the center's site as well.)
The researchers also demonstrate how the machines "are susceptible to computer viruses that can spread themselves automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- and post-election activity."
Felten said that policy-makers should be concerned about malicious software infecting the Diebold AccuVote-TS and machines like it, from Diebold and other companies. "We studied these machines because they were available to us," the researchers wrote in their Web posting. "If we had gotten access to another kind of machine, we probably would have studied it instead."
Felten said, "There is reason for concern about other machines as well, even though our paper doesn't directly evaluate them. Jurisdictions using these machines should think seriously about finding a backup system in time for the November elections."
Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs who is known for his groundbreaking work in computer security, said that some of the problems discussed in the paper cannot be fixed without completely redesigning the machine.
Other problems can be fixed by addressing software or electronic procedures. "But time is short before the next election," he said.
According to the researchers' paper, the Diebold machine they examined and another newer version are scheduled to be used in 357 U.S. counties representing nearly 10 percent of all registered voters. About half those counties, including all Maryland and Georgia, will use the exact machine examined by Felten's group.
Felten said that, out of security concerns, the Diebold machine infected with the vote-stealing software has been kept under lock and key in a secret location.
"Unfortunately election fraud has a rich history from ballot stuffing to dead people voting," he said. "We want to make sure this doesn't fall into the wrong hands. We also want to make sure that policy-makers stay a step ahead of those who might create similar software with ill intent."
Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy includes members from diverse departments, including computer science, economics, electrical engineering, operations research and financial engineering, sociology and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
More information can be found on the Princeton Engineering News Web site.
News from PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
Office of Communications
22 Chambers St.
Princeton, New Jersey 08542
Telephone (609) 258-3601; Fax (609) 258-1301
From the full paper:
The main findings of our study are:
1. Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss. We have constructed demonstration software that carries out this vote-stealing attack.
2. Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute. In practice, poll workers and others often have unsupervised access to the machines.
3. AccuVote-TS machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruses--computer viruses that can spread malicious software automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- and postelection activity. We have constructed a demonstration virus that spreads in this way, installing our demonstration vote-stealing program on every machine it infects.
4. While some of these problems can be eliminated by improving Diebold's software, others cannot be remedied without replacing the machines' hardware. Changes to election procedures would also be required to ensure security.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted today on various proposals relating to the Specter FISA bill, as well as the other competing FISA bills pending before the Committee. This report from the AP's Laurie Kellman, published in The Washington Post, is completely unclear about what happened, but the gist of it seems to be this:
Senate Republicans blocked Democratic attempts to rein in President Bush's domestic wiretapping program Wednesday amid a sustained White House campaign to give the administration broad authority to monitor, interrogate and prosecute terrorism suspects.
While refusing to give the president a blank check to prosecute the war on terrorism, Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee kept to the White House's condition that a bill giving legal status to the surveillance program pass unamended.
By voice vote and roll calls, Republicans defeated Democratic amendments to insert a one-year expiration date into the bill and require the National Security Agency to report more often to Congress on the standards for its domestic surveillance program.
That report suggests that Democrats proffered a series of amendments designed to soften the Specter bill, but each was rejected by a 10-8 party line vote. I have no idea what Kellman means when she claims that Republicans are "refusing to give the president a blank check to prosecute the war on terrorism" (when haven't they done that?), and that -- giving the president a blank check --is really the best description for what the Specter bill does with regard to eavesdropping powers.
But today, I received this release from the ACLU which paints a somewhat different picture. It reports that the Specter bill -- along with both the DeWine bill and the Specter-Feinstein bill -- all passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 10-8 vote (the Specter and DeWine bills were passed by straight party line vote, while the Specter-Feinstein bill had the support of the 8 Democrats plus Sens. Specter and Lindsey Graham).
Those three bills are mutually exclusive, so one can presume (although the ACLU release doesn't say and the AP report makes no mention at all of those events) that the Committee decided to pass all three bills along to the Senate floor so the full Senate can decide what it will do.
JustAnObserver, who comments regularly here and over at Volokh, among other places, is one of the most knowledgeable commentators anywhere on these issues and he recently wrote this superb and highly informative summary in a comment here of the major features of all of the pending FISA bills. I have written about the Specter bill here and A.L wrote about it here; I wrote about the DeWine bill here and here; and the Specter-Feinstein bill here.
Given that the events of today are somewhat unclear and I am mostly surmising what happened, it seems as though the Judiciary Committee decided to pass on all three bills to the full Senate floor, rather than embrace the Specter bill in full, for this reason, reported by AP:
Specter, sponsor of one administration-backed bill, acknowledged that GOP lawmakers fighting for re-election may not embrace a measure bearing Bush's stamp of approval.
"It is popular to have bills that are not White House bills," Specter, R-Pa., told reporters recently.
Specter was referring specifically to the fact that a competing FISA bill which was introduced by GOP Rep. Heather Wilson -- who is in a tough election fight in her closely divided New Mexico district -- has been endorsed by the GOP House leadership and is opposed by the White House. The House Intelligence Committee, on which Wilson sits, was scheduled to mark-up the Wilson bill today, but the AP reports that that session was cancelled for unknown reasons. Clearly, there is all sorts of intense White House lobbying going on and they are trying to finesse passage of the Specter bill as is.
From what I can discern, the Senate Judiciary Committee essentially passed on responsibility to the full Senate to save the administration by enacting the Specter FISA bill, while simultaneously blocking Democratic efforts on the Committee to dilute the most offensive parts of the Specter bill. Democrats have been reluctant to pay much attention to the Specter bill, but the way in which it (a) abolishes all limits on the President's eavesdropping powers; (b) embraces the Bush administration's most radical executive power theories; and (c) virtually destroys the ability to obtain judicial review for the President's lawbreaking, renders it a bill that is at least as pernicious as anything else that is pending. It deserves full-scale attention and opposition.
UPDATE: This article from The New York Times doesn't add much information but it does confirm the explanation I provided above: "Indeed, the Judiciary Committee voted today to send other provisions to the Senate floor for debate, even though they are not wholly compatible with the Specter-White House agreement." The Times also says that "many Democrats are sure to try to derail or amend the measure when the Senate takes it up," but the only way to really put a stop to this travesty is with a filibuster (assuming, as is wise, that House Republicans cease being a real impediment).
Democrats should have no fear of that -- most polls show that Americans want limits and oversight on this administration, and it is not difficult finally to make the case that this debate is not about whether there will be aggressive eavesdropping on terrorists (since FISA and every other proposal allows that), but whether the Bush administration will be able to eavesdrop on Americans in secrecy and with no judicial oversight, precisely the situation that brought us decades of severe eavesdropping abuses by presidents in both parties.
UPDATE II: As I've documented many times -- the most recent such documentation here -- the notion that Democratic opposition to warrantless eavesdropping will "help Republicans" is transparently false Rovian bravado that has been empirically disproven time and again. As I document here, the opposite is true -- most Americans oppose warrantless eavesdropping, and the throngs of Americans who have abandoned the President are not going to stream back to them based on a non-existent desire to see him have the power to eavesdrop on Americans with no oversight.
The inescapable signs of disillusionment surrounding the Bush administration in its sixth year, facing a second mid-term election, suggest far more than the usual syndrome of incumbent weariness. These are the rumblings of a regime crisis.
President Bush's whole party bears the burden of his accumulated self-generated difficulties not only because of their overwhelming scale but also because the Republicans have sustained disciplined one-party rule in which congressional oversight has been largely suppressed.
The congressional Republicans' feeble assertion of institutional authority has made changing the Congress the only way to revive it and check and balance Bush's radical presidency during his remaining two years.
Bush's radicalism dominates policy and politics, as I document in my book new How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime.
His all-encompassing "war on terror," conflating the disparate al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Iraqi insurgency as "a single movement," is also reflected in his dismissal of diplomatic and political solutions, urgently advocated by U.S. military commanders in Iraq for years, and Vice President Dick Cheney's sneering denigration of "law enforcement" in favor of the militarization of policy.
Bush's belief in an unfettered imperial presidency is apparent in his doctrine of the "unitary executive," his executive order asserting that the commander in chief under wartime can impose his will by fiat, and more than 750 signing statements stipulating that he will enforce enacted laws as he chooses. Bush's radicalism can also be seen in his advocacy of unwarranted domestic surveillance, "alternative" interrogation techniques applied to detainees unbound by the Geneva Conventions against torture ("the dark side," as Vice President Cheney has approvingly called it), and granting Cheney power equal to the president's to control the classification of intelligence.
While Cheney is the true author of Bush's radical presidency as the fulfillment of Richard Nixon's ambition thwarted by Watergate, Steven Bradbury, acting deputy attorney general, has most succinctly stated the droit du seigneur Bush doctrine: "The president is always right."
Bush is the only president, ever, who has been hostile to science. His antagonism is reflected in his restrictions on stem cell research that might lead to cures of many diseases--an issue now at the center of political campaigns from Missouri to California; his rules forbidding groups that receive federal funding from mentioning the words "condom" and "reproductive health" on their websites; his censoring of government scientists on global warming and climate change; and his urging that so-called "Intelligent Design" as an alternative theory to evolution be taught in public schools, despite a federal court's ruling against it.
Bush's radical political strategy depends upon the radicalism of his policies. It cannot be captiously described as mere spin. Bush and his chief political operative Karl Rove's strategy of extreme polarization in order to achieve maximum turnout of the conservative base requires constant agitation around the most abrasive social issues, but above all war without end. But even gay marriage, abortion, and guns would have proved insufficient without politicization of a projected perpetual war in which the opposition is depicted as "appeasers," "pre-9/11," and "Defeatocrats."
In Bush's second term, Rove's deliberately divisive approach failed at achieving a national political realignment, but it has succeeded in restructuring the Republican Party. Rove's imperative of unifying the right-wing base leaves the party in pieces. Bush's earlier political successes have laid the groundwork for possibly profound losses in the future. The religious right has moved to the center of the party, the moderate remnant pushed to the fringes. A potential wipeout of moderate Republicans in the Northeast and Midwest in 2006 and 2008 will make the potential of Republican Party emerging as a moderate force that much more improbable in the future.
The effects of Bush's radicalism since 2004 have dramatically driven Republican Party identification down to 32 percent from 37 percent in October 2004, and now trailing Democratic identification by almost 6 points. Nearly everywhere, Republican candidates are not campaigning as Republicans but as supra-party local figures. When Bush arrives, candidates flee from the photo opportunity. By August, Bush had a greater approval than disapproval rating in only three small western states: Idaho, Oklahoma and Wyoming. Even in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas, more than 50 percent consider his performance unfavorably. Bush has the most sustained unpopularity of any president since Herbert Hoover.
Some Republicans have begun to express anxious recognition of their party's fundamental transformation. "I think we've lost our way," Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has reversed his falling fortunes by embracing Democratic positions across the board, is a party of one. William F. Buckley, Jr., a founding father of the modern conservative movement, declared that Bush's radicalism is not conservative at all, but the "absence of effective conservative ideology." Buckley predicted, "There will be no legacy for Mr. Bush... So therefore I think his legacy is indecipherable."
In response to his catastrophic policies, Bush stays the course, and turns up the heat on ever more inflammatory rhetoric to electrify his base as its energy runs down. Rather than rethinking his counterproductive policies, he is redoubling his bets on his polarizing strategy.
Bush's radical presidency has recast the character of the party, its purposes and appeal, and Republicans' disorientation in the 2006 mid-term campaign is only the first inkling of coming disintegration. His radicalism is unique, but the consequences are pervasive and lasting. In the future, to the extent Republican presidential candidates adhere to his legacy they will be undermined beyond the party hardcore; to the extent they reject his legacy they will be undermined within the hardcore. Bush may contaminate the Republican Party brand for perhaps a generation to come.
PHOENIX (Reuters) - U.S. citizens concerned that Latino immigrants will have them singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in Spanish can rest easy, according to an academic study published on Wednesday.
A report in the Population and Development Review found that far from threatening the dominance of English, most Latin American immigrants to the United States lose their ability to speak Spanish over the course of a few generations.
The study by sociologists Frank Bean and Ruben Rumbaut of the University of California, Irvine, and Douglas Massey from Princeton, drew on two surveys investigating adaptation by immigrant communities in California and south Florida.
It concluded that by the third generation, most descendants of immigrants are "linguistically dead" in their mother tongue.
"Based on an analysis of language loss over the generations, the study concludes that English has never been seriously threatened as the dominant language in America, nor is it under threat today," the researchers said.
"Although the generational life expectancy of Spanish is greater among Mexicans in Southern California than other groups, its demise is all but assured by the third generation," it added.
Third-generation immigrants are American-born with American-born parents, but with three or four foreign-born grandparents.
The study, which also included some data from immigrant groups from Asian countries, weighs into a polarizing debate in the United States on the desirability, or otherwise, of linguistic assimilation for immigrant minorities.
Differences flared earlier this year when a group of Latino and Caribbean artists recorded a version of the "The Star-Spangled Banner" in Spanish, prompting condemnation from some public figures including President George W. Bush.
"The national anthem ought to be sung in English," Bush said of the version, dubbed "Nuestro Himno" by the artists. "And I think people who want to be citizens of this country ought to learn it in English."
Bush's Folly: "Everyone is just taking sides to prepare for a big civil war"
Even Dating Is Perilous In Polarized Baghdad
Rising Tension Between Sunnis, Shiites Nearly Puts End to Mixed Relationships
By Amit R. Paley / Washington Post
BAGHDAD -- He was a dashing young computer engineer. She was a shy student at his alma mater. They fell in love over lunch last year in the university cafeteria and promptly became engaged.
As they prepared for a future together, the couple barely discussed a subject that, under Saddam Hussein's rule, amounted to a footnote in matters of the heart: He was a Shiite Muslim; she was a Sunni Kurd.
But now those labels are tearing the couple apart. Barred by their families from marrying anyone of the opposite sect, the couple has erased one another's cellphone numbers and stopped speaking.
"There is no hope in this country anymore for Sunnis and Shiites to fall in love," said Husham al-Gizzy, a 25-year-old engineer, as he buried his face in his hands and recounted the story.
For decades, marriages between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq were as ordinary as the daily call to prayer. But the sectarian warfare gripping the country has created a powerful barrier to Sunni-Shiite romances.
Married couples have filed for divorce rather than face the scorn of their neighbors. Fiances have split up as a result of death threats. And, increasingly, young single Iraqis have concluded that it is simply easier to stick to their own kind when it comes to love and family.
In a country where intermarriage was long considered the glue that held a fragile multi-ethnic society together, the romantic segregation of Sunnis and Shiites is more than just a reflection of the ever more hate-filled chasm between the two groups. It is also a grim foreboding of the future.
"Everyone is just taking sides to prepare for a big civil war," said Adnan Abdul Kareem Enad, manager of Sot al-Jamayaa, a radio station that has aired tales of star-crossed Sunni and Shiite lovers. "You can see the polarization of Iraq in the tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in marriage and dating."
The new taboo on Sunni-Shiite romances is only one of many impediments to love in this war-ravaged country. Religious authorities have forbidden casual dating. Women fearful of the bloodshed have become prisoners in their own homes. Couples have shunned posh restaurants once filled with lovebirds because they fear suicide bombers or kidnappers.
"This is the age of cellphone love," said Omar al-Azzawi, 33, an Internet cafe owner who has a Sunni father and a Shiite mother. "If I marry someone, we'll have to get married on the phone. We'll probably have to make love on the phone, too."
Still, the burgeoning obstacles to Sunni-Shiite romances remain among the most ominous signs of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the two sects. Although underlying tensions always simmered between Hussein's Sunni government and the country's oppressed Shiite minority, few expected them to flare so violently and so quickly after his government collapsed.
For Hameed Ayad, a 24-year-old Sunni, the disintegration of his engagement to a Shiite classmate came swiftly after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. His betrothed shocked him by expressing newfound pride in once-suppressed Shiite customs such as public self-flagellation and pilgrimages to the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.
Ayad accused his fiancee of fanaticism and broke off the relationship. But to hear him describe Shiite Islam as a "backward" religion suggests that he, too, has sided with his own.
"Even if she were the last woman on Earth, I wouldn't marry a Shiite," Ayad, a recent graduate in business administration from al-Turath University, said as he picked at a breakfast of scrambled eggs and cucumbers. "You could even put her in a frame of gold, but if I will break this gold, I would find mud inside of her."
Like many young Iraqi men, Ayad is so busy just trying to stay alive that he has given little thought to dating over the past three years. "I cannot guarantee my own life," he said. "How can I get married and be responsible for others?"
So when will it be safe enough in Iraq for him to get married?
"When the rooster will lay eggs," he replied, stone-faced.
For young Iraqi women, the isolation is often more extreme. The relentless carnage in the city so petrified Areej Abbas, 25, that she did not leave her home a single time for more than three years. She had no cellphone. No friends. No guests. All day she watched television.
"I was miserable," she said in a Sot al-Jamayaa studio, where she started working as a science show host this month in her first venture out of the house. "I probably would have committed suicide if it weren't for the satellite television."
Universities remain perhaps the safest place for a romantic rendezvous, though religious Shiites have begun to infiltrate campuses such as Baghdad University, posting signs warning about the evils of dating and promiscuity. Still, high school students now say the primary reason they want to attend university is to meet members of the opposite sex, according to a recent survey by Sot al-Jamayaa.
"It's becoming impossible to meet girls outside of the college," said Enad, the Sot al-Jamayaa manager. "Even older men now are desperate to go back to school if they are single."
But even if soul mates find each other on a university campus, sectarian differences can quickly split them apart. Many young people say it is primarily parents who are driving a wedge between members of mixed couples.
Samar Hussein, now a 27-year-old Shiite civil servant, said her parents initially rejoiced when a Sunni classmate asked for her hand in marriage four years ago. Her older brother and aunt had both married Sunnis, and the family cared little about religious affiliation.
But Hussein's family now worries about the practical considerations of intermarriage. Vast swaths of Baghdad have become no-go zones to members of certain sects. Those who do venture there face abduction or death.
"If a Shiite gets married to a Sunni guy, how will her mother be able to go and visit her?" Hussein asked. "And when the country is divided into Sunni and Shiite areas, there will be a difficult question: Will the women choose to go with their husbands or stay with their families? And the kids? Who is going to take care of them?"
She paused. "It will be a great tragedy," she said.
Hussein's parents forbid her to see the Sunni man, but she continues to trade covert I-love-you's with him on the phone. She will not break a tradition that requires parental approval for marriage, but she hopes their families might one day change. "We will leave it up to God," she said. "Maybe He will plant love between our families and show them the right way."
Many couples -- particularly well-educated, secular city-dwellers -- continue to intermarry. But even when the lovers and their parents consent to the marriage, mixed relationships are often fraught with danger.
Qais Jassim, 26, a Shiite from the Adhamiyah section of Baghdad, spent his wedding night petrified that his Sunni wife's relatives would abduct and behead him. After three months of one-on-one meetings with the woman's father, Jassim had finally persuaded her parents to support their marriage. But her cousins disagreed.
"Leave her alone or we'll kill you," the cousins screamed at him, Jassim recalled.
Such disputes, however, arise only after lonely Iraqi souls manage to find a potential mate, an increasingly daunting proposition in a country with curfews, limited mobility and the constant threat of death squads. Some teenage boys have taken to dialing random numbers in hopes that a girl will answer. Other young Iraqis have tried to connect via ubiquitous Internet chat rooms.
In cyberspace, like almost everywhere in Iraq these days, one of the first questions is often: Are you Sunni or Shiite? Give the wrong answer, and the conversation is over. Manal Hussein, a 34-year-old biology student at Baghdad University, recalled someone in a chat room inquiring about her sect.
"When I told him I was Sunni, he said, 'Okay, bye-bye,' " she recalled.
Each thwarted Sunni-Shiite relationship etches the gulf between the two groups a little deeper and foils another opportunity to produce the next generation of children with mixed backgrounds -- those living testaments to the not-so-distant peace between the sects.
Ayad, the 24-year-old Sunni who said he would never marry a Shiite, fears that Iraq has already begun a free fall into carnage.
He shook his head and pointed at a dirty white ashtray filled with five crumbled cigarette butts. "The future of Iraq will be like this," he said.
Special correspondents Salih Dehema, Waleed K. Asmaeel and other Washington Post staff contributed to this report.
Senior American Commander In Iraq CONFIRMS THAT U.S. NOT TRYING TO DEFEAT THE INSURGENCY.
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military WriterTue Sep 12, 9:06 PM ET
A senior American commander in Iraq said Tuesday that U.S.-led military operations are "stifling" the insurgency in western Anbar province but are not strong enough to defeat it.
Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told reporters in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Fallujah that he has enough U.S. troops — about 30,000 — to accomplish what he called his main mission: training Iraqi security forces.
"For what we are trying to achieve out here I think our force levels are about right," he said. Even so, he said the training of Iraqi soldiers and police had not progressed as quickly as once expected.
"Now, if that mission statement changes — if there is seen a larger role for coalition forces out here to win that insurgency fight — then that is going to change the metrics of what we need out here," he added.
Zilmer, who has commanded U.S. forces in western Iraq since February, said increasing the number of U.S. troops there would help in the short term, "but at the end of the day I don't think it's going to be the significant change that is necessary to achieve long-term security and stability out here in Anbar."
What is needed, he said, is progress on the economic and political fronts that will undercut support for the insurgency. (Editor's Note: Ironically this is EXACTLY WHAT RUMSFELD SAID WE DIDN'T NEED TO DO WHEN HE REJECTED PLANS FOR POSTWAR IRAQ.)
The situation in Anbar, with its heavily Sunni population, is a barometer for the entire Sunni Arab minority, which lost its favored position to the majority Shiites and the Kurds when Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed in 2003.
As long as the insurgency rages, it is unlikely that Sunni Arab politicians in Baghdad can win over significant numbers of Sunnis to support the government of national unity, which took office May 20.
Some areas in Anbar have shown significant progress, such as the border city of Qaim, once an al-Qaida stronghold. Trouble has increased in other areas, like the rural stretch between Ramadi and Fallujah. Insurgent killings of Iraqi police in Fallujah have become commonplace, according to officials there.
Zilmer dismissed a reporter's suggestion that the war in Anbar — a province the size of North Carolina that stretches west from Baghdad to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia — has been lost.
"I think we are winning this war," he said.
In the long run, the war will not be won on the battlefield, Zilmer said. The outcome will be determined by the Iraqis' ability to compromise on their political goals, accommodate their sectarian differences and demonstrate to ordinary people that a democratic central government can serve their needs. (Editor's Note: AGAIN I ASK WHO'S RESPONSIBILITY WAS IT TO PLAN FOR POSTWAR IRAQ?)
"Until those things change, until those long-term effects are realized, then trying to solve the insurgency out here is going to be problematic," he said.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said President Bush would be talking to Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, later this week.
"If the president gets a recommendation from the combatant commanders to send more troops to al-Anbar province, they will get them," Snow said.
As of Monday there were 147,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, the highest number since December 2005. Most of the recent increase was for Baghdad, where U.S. and Iraqi forces are trying to avert a civil war.
Pentagon officials hastily arranged the interview with Zilmer in response to a series of news reports about a classified report by the chief of intelligence for the Marines in western Anbar province, Col. Pete Devlin. Zilmer said he agreed with the assessment by Devlin, who works for Zilmer, and he did not dispute news reports that characterized it as depicting Anbar as locked in a military stalemate with inadequate political progress.
The classified report was first reported by the Washington Post.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Devlin report concluded that Anbar's political and security situation will continue to deteriorate unless it gets a major infusion of aid and substantially more U.S. troops.
Zilmer would not discuss specifics of the Devlin report, but said he did not want more U.S. troops as long as his mission did not include defeating the insurgency.
The Devlin assessment was made in mid-August.
Before the telephone interview, Zilmer issued a written and a video statement.
"Recent media reports fail to accurately capture the entirety and complexity of the current situation," Zilmer said in his written statement.
He added that the assessment "which has been referred to in these reports, was intended to focus on the causes of the insurgency. It was not intended to address the positive effects Coalition and Iraqi forces have achieved on the security environment over the past years."
Zilmer acknowledged, however, that "there is an active insurgency in Anbar. The enemy we face has no concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people, nor any peaceful vision for their future. We believe the Iraqi people want something more and are willing to fight and die for it."
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
From The Onion: America's Finest News Source.
NYC Unveils 9/11 Memorial Hole
NEW YORK—Days before the fifth anniversary of the destruction of New York's World Trade Center by terrorists, city officials gathered on the site where the Twin Towers once stood to dedicate the newly completed 9/11 Memorial Hole.
"From the wreckage and ashes of the World Trade Center, we have created a recess in the ground befitting the American spirit," said New York Governor George Pataki from a cinderblock-and-plastic-bucket-supported plywood platform near the Hole's precipice. "This vast chasm, dug at the very spot where the gleaming Twin Towers once rose to the sky, is a symbol of what we can accomplish if we work together."
A birds-eye view of the magnificent new memorial.
Pataki then cut a ceremonial ribbon to release a giant blue plastic tarpaulin, reportedly the largest of its kind, which fluttered and snapped while slowly settling into the detritus and mud at the bottom of the 70-foot Hole, drawing a long, tired sigh of resignation from the estimated crowd of 50,000 who had assembled to watch and shake their heads.
Begun only days after the 2001 attacks, the Hole covers almost the entire footprint of the original World Trade Center, contains over 16 acres of empty space, and is visible as far away as Hoboken, NJ. Over $175 million has been spent on the Hole's development, and thousands of pages of proposals and designs concerning the site in which the Hole was excavated were reviewed in over 2,800 hours of meetings. Work crews comprising more than 7,500 welders, equipment operators, excavators, and other construction specialists spent long, often unpaid shifts in its depths.
"These five years have been admittedly difficult," Pataki said. "Inevitably, we heard from the naysayers who said we would never accomplish anything on this site. To those people, I invite them to gaze down at this magnificent pit if they want proof of New Yorkers' dedication to this project."
The Hole contains several symbolic features: A massive reinforced-concrete foundation known before 9/11 as the "Bathtub" now serves as the renamed "Remembrance Facing." According to official memorial literature, a gently declining plane into the heart of the memorial stands for the gradual but steady passage of time, and permits construction vehicles to enter and exit the site. Chain-link fences symbolize the present but nonetheless scalable barriers between different cultures. Lastly, the "Eternal Puddle," perhaps the Hole's most notable and arresting, as well as bottommost, feature, allows visitors to reflect on the tragedy, while the rainwater-and-seepage-fed Puddle itself reflects muddy swirls and oil slicks.
Officials did not immediately explain the significance of the ubiquitous yellow "Keep Back" tape present at the site.
Onlookers tolerate the unveiling ceremony at Ground Zero.
Pataki refused to take sole credit for the Hole's completion, instead congratulating former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and current Mayor Mike Bloomberg, saying awareness of the World Trade Center site as a political symbol was important in ensuring the future of the Hole. Pataki also praised The Port Authority Of New York And New Jersey, "whose expert management of the site saw to it that nothing would obstruct the Hole once commuter-train service was restored.
The governor also thanked site developer and leaseholder Larry Silverstein, whose "keen business sense and stubborn desire for the area to be profitable was instrumental in this effort."
Pataki expressed deep admiration for the families of the victims, saying that "their endless and highly vocal input about the memorial were crucial to making the Hole possible in time for the fifth anniversary of the attacks."
"And of course, I commend President George W. Bush, whose administration provided the kind of ample, unquestioning financial support to the rebuilding project for which they are famous, from New York to New Orleans," Pataki said. "Mr. President, you as much as anyone have made the dream of this hole a reality."
The ceremony concluded with a somber wreath-laying ceremony at the Grand Scaffold by former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerek.
"Let this circle of flowers—brief, beautiful, and too soon gone—symbolize the respect we have shown for the memories of those innocents who lost their lives on that sorrowful morning by creating this great hole," said the Reverend Charles Bourne of Lower Manhattan's Trinity Chapel as the flowers sank into the brown, debris-strewn runoff at the bottom of the cavity. "I firmly believe, as does every person here, that this deep, empty hole has come to stand not only for the New York City of today, but also for the transformation of the entire United States since Sept. 11, 2001."
Keith Olbermann: Seemingly The Only Voice Of Reason On Television News Anymore. Thank You Mr. Olbermann.
And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.
And all the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and — as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul — two more in the Towers.
And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.
I belabor this to emphasize that, for me… this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.
And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft", or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here — is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante — and at worst, an idiot — whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.
However. Of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast — of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds… none of us could have predicted… this.
Five years later this space… is still empty.
Five years later there is no Memorial to the dead.
Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.
Five years later this country’s wound is still open.
Five years… later this country’s mass grave is still unmarked.
Five years later… this is still… just a background for a photo-op.
It is beyond shameful.
At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial — barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field, Mr. Lincoln said "we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.
Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We can nto dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground." So we won’t.
Instead they bicker and buck-pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they’re doing — instead of doing any job at all.
Five years later, Mr. Bush… we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir — on these 16 empty acres, the terrorists… are clearly, still winning.
And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.
And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation.
There is, its symbolism — of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.
The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it… was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.
Those who did not belong to his party — tabled that.
Those who doubted the mechanics of his election — ignored that.
Those who wondered of his qualifications — forgot that.
History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government, by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation’s wounds, but to take political advantage.
Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.
The President — and those around him — did that.
They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused; as appeasers; as those who, in the Vice President’s words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."
They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken… a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated Al-Qaeda as much as we did.
The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had ’something to do’ with 9/11, is "lying by implication."
The impolite phrase, is "impeachable offense."
Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space… and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.
Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.
Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible — for anything — in his own administration.
Yet what is happening this very night?
A mini-series, created, influenced — possibly financed by — the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.
The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.
How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death… after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections… how dare you or those around you… ever "spin" 9/11.
Just as the terrorists have succeeded — are still succeeding — as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero…
So too have they succeeded, and are still succeeding — as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.
This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney’s continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.
And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."
In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm.
Suddenly his car — and only his car — starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man’s lights go on.
As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced.
An "alien" is shot — but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help.
The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials areseen, manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there’s no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it’s themselves."
And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight.
"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices - to be found only in the minds of men.
"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own — for the children, and the children yet unborn."
When those who dissent are told time and time again — as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus — that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American…
When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"… look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:
Who has left this hole in the ground?
We have not forgotten, Mr. President.
May this country forgive you.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I'd like us to resolve on this 5th Anniversary of 9/11, that we as Americans no longer need live in fear
I think there are two clear paths ahead. This nation can listen to the dictates of fear and hubris as the administration alternately ignores Al Qaeda and then trumpets their success. Alternately brags about success in Iraq and then ignores it, and all the while beats the tom-toms for war with Iran.
Yes, our country could slide that way if we listen to the dictates of fear. But we have nothing to fear in this country. We're still the greatest power in the world. And we can be the greatest force of good in the world. And we can keep ourselves safe.
I'd like us to resolve on this 5th Anniversary of 9/11, that we as Americans no longer need live in fear. We should live in determination that we'll protect ourselves. Support our friends and allies around the world. Work together to solve the common problems that face mankind.
And above all, we'll make sure that at home that we never sacrifice the liberties and rights that define our country. Even in an effort to protect ourselves.
We can have it all. We can do it all.
We just have to be courageous and face the facts as they are and work for the future as we want it to be.
ABC/Disney's Hatchet Job "Path to 9/11" A Total Propagand Gift to the Republican Party two Months before an Election.
"Media Matters"; by Jamison Foser
ABC's heavily promoted miniseries, The Path to 9/11, billed as being "based solely and completely on the 9/11 Commission Report" has now proven to be a fraudulent attack on former President Bill Clinton and whitewash of President Bush's record.
Filmmakers have acknowledged basing the film in part on a book by a Bush administration PR official.
They acknowledge making up scenes.
The film's star, Harvey Keitel, said the film has factual errors that should be fixed.
ABC News completely disavows the film.
Five members of the 9-11 Commission -- including one who served as a consultant to the film -- said The Path to 9/11 is flawed.
Nine prominent historians have asked ABC to cancel the broadcast.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace said of the film: "[W]hen you put somebody on the screen and say that's Madeleine Albright and she said this in a specific conversation and she never did say it, I think it's slanderous, I think it's defamatory and I think that ABC and Disney should be held to account."
Everyone, it seems, is getting in on the act. Conservative columnist John Podhoretz wrote that "[e]x-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's anger is unquestionably justified." Former Reagan administration cabinet secretary and right-wing pundit Bill Bennett said, "The Path to 9/11 is strewn with a lot of problems, and I think there were problems in the Clinton administration. But that's no reason to falsify the record, falsify conversations by either the president or his leading people. And, you know, it just shouldn't happen." Conservative author Richard Miniter said parts of the film are "based on an Internet myth" and have "no factual basis."
But there are some, as of this writing, who continue to stand by the fake-umentary. ABC and Disney, for starters, still plan to broadcast an account of the events leading up to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that they know to be false.
This despite Disney's 2004 refusal to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11, which was highly critical of President Bush, even though it was produced by a Disney subsidiary, Miramax Films. Then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner explained that the company "did not want a film in the middle of the political process where we're such a nonpartisan company and our guests, that participate in all of our attractions, do not look for us to take sides."
Disney is not only taking a different approach to a film that is critical of former President Clinton than it took to a film that criticized President Bush -- its stance is also inconsistent with the hard-line Disney took toward a 2005 book about the company. Disney reportedly threatened to sue the publisher of James B. Stewart's DisneyWar (Simon & Schuster, February 2005) if the book contained inaccuracies. Now Disney is allowing its subsidiary to broadcast a film that it knows contains inaccuracies.
Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean (R), the former chairman of the 9-11 Commission, is also standing by the film, even as he acknowledges that it contains events that simply never occurred. Kean seems to suggest that the film is fake-but-true: "I know there are some scenes where words are put in characters' mouths. But the whole thing is true to the spirit of 9/11."
Even more troubling, Kean suggested that he has political motives in standing by the film. Kean's son, Tom Kean Jr. is the Republican Senate nominee in New Jersey. Asked if he had apologized to President Clinton for inaccuracies in the film, Kean responded: "No, he was out campaigning against my son yesterday, so I didn't reach out to him at all!"
Perhaps Kean, ABC, and Disney are just too embarrassed to walk away from the film at this point.
But what's Tucker Carlson's excuse? The MSNBC host argued on the September 7 edition of MSNBC's Tucker that the film's inaccuracies are fine because "this docudrama does not purport to be a documentary." According to Carlson, the fact that the film portrays real people doing and saying things they never did is no problem at all, because the filmmakers acknowledge that it is "partially fictionalized."
According to Carlson's logic, it would be fine for ABC to broadcast a miniseries titled "Tucker Carlson beat his wife" in which an actor portraying a character named "Tucker Carlson," complete with bow tie, beats another actor portraying Mrs. Carlson -- as long as ABC called the miniseries a "partially fictionalized docudrama." That wouldn't be fine with us, and we doubt it would really be fine with Tucker Carlson, either.
But at least Carlson is consistent -- or so he said. Carlson said that efforts to persuade ABC to cancel the miniseries constitute "censorship." And he said that he took the same position when conservatives successfully pressured CBS into canceling a planned docudrama about former President Ronald Reagan.
Well, we checked on that -- and it turned out that Carlson wasn't telling the truth. In 2003, during the CBS controversy, Carlson specifically rejected the "censorship" description, saying, "[Y]ou devalue the term censorship when you apply [it] to the CBS scenario. CBS admitted this thing was inaccurate. That's why they pulled it."
What's the difference between now and 2003 that would cause Carlson to not only change his position, but deceive his audience about it as well? Two possibilities come to mind. First, Carlson in 2003 was defending conservative critics of CBS. In 2006, he's attacking progressive critics of ABC. And second, Carlson has a relationship with ABC: He has traded in his trademark bow tie for a satin shirt in order to appear on that network's Dancing With the Stars.
The ABC film's most vicious smear is its reported depiction of the Clinton administration as unwilling and unable to take Osama bin Laden seriously because it was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky matter. According to Editor & Publisher, the film "explores the terrorist threat starting with the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center, and there is little question that President Clinton is dealt with severely, almost mockingly, with the Lewinsky scandal closely tied to his failure to cripple al-Qaeda." E&P went on to describe one scene in which former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke is depicted telling then-FBI special agent John O'Neill, who died on 9-11, that Clinton won't order a strike against bin Laden because of the Lewinsky investigation:
Clarke explains to O'Neill afterward that "they are worried about political fallout" and "legalities." O'Neill complains that terrorism is "perceived by this administration as a law and order problem." A CIA planner angrily declares, "It's not about sitting around a conference room covering your ass."
Right away comes a quick cut to Clinton making his famous statement about not having "sexual relations" with Lewinsky. Clarke tells O'Neill that Clinton won't give the order to get bin Laden in this climate, with Republicans calling for his impeachment. O'Neill says that Clinton wants bin Laden dead -- but not if he has to order it. "It's pathetic," he declares.
In a review of the film, The New York Times endorsed the lie that Lewinsky distracted the Clinton administration from pursuing bin Laden. The Times reported that "[t]he Sept. 11 commission concluded that the sex scandal distracted the Clinton administration from the terrorist threat."
Everyone involved in the decision had, of course, been aware of President Clinton's problems. He told them to ignore them. Berger recalled the President saying to him "that they are going to get crap either way, so they should do the right thing." All his aides testified to us that they based their advice solely on national security considerations. We have found no reason to question their statements.
Former National Security Council senior director for counterterrorism Roger Cressey has previously debunked claims that Clinton was not fully engaged in pursuing bin Laden in 1998. In a 2003 op-ed in The Washington Times, co-written with special assistant to the president for African affairs Gayle Smith, Cressey and Smith wrote:
Mr. Clinton was, in fact, ready and willing to undertake a special forces or other paramilitary assault on bin Laden, particularly after our missile attacks on bin Laden in the summer of 1998, and often pressed his senior military advisers for options. But Mr. Clinton's top military and intelligence advisers concluded that a commando raid was likely to be a failure, given the potential for detection, in the absence of reliable, predictive intelligence on bin Laden's whereabouts.
Mr. Clinton approved every request made of him by the CIA and the U.S. military involving using force against bin Laden and al Qaeda.
To be sure, some people were distracted by the Lewinsky matter and did their nation a grave disservice by obsessing over it rather than on dealing with serious matters, like bin Laden.
Foremost among those people are the congressional Republicans who tried to impeach the president for having lied about an affair. Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) illustrated his party's obsession with investigations of the president's personal life when he declared in April 1998 that "I will never again, as long as I am speaker, make a speech without commenting on this topic." Fortunately, the American people showed better judgment and rejected the GOP during that year's midterm elections, bringing Gingrich's tenure as speaker to an end much sooner than he must have expected.
Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), a member of the 9-11 Commission, "criticized the film for appearing to omit the role the GOP Congress played in neglecting the growing threat," according to journalist and blogger Greg Sargent. Kerrey told Sargent: "If you say Clinton was distracted by impeachment, I promise you the Congress was distracted by impeachment. ... Members of Congress who focused on impeachment bear some significant responsibility. Apparently the [film] doesn't show that. It's incomplete, then."
While Kerrey is a Democrat, he cannot be dismissed as a knee-jerk Clinton defender: His most famous public comment may be his 1996 statement that Clinton is "an unusually good liar."
But congressional Republicans weren't the only ones who put the nation's most important business on hold while focusing on affairs and blue dresses. Our nation's most respected news organizations embraced their inner Enquirer, devoting non-stop, round-the-clock coverage to the Lewinsky controversy at the expense of far more serious matters.
Take ABC, the network that now wants you to think that Bill Clinton was too focused on Monica Lewinsky to deal with Osama bin Laden. In the ABC News file in the Nexis database, there are 137 transcripts from 1998 that mention the words "bin Laden." Most of those are passing mentions: Only 58 transcripts use bin Laden's name four times or more. And remember: 1998 is the year in which the United States launched military strikes against bin Laden. So, what was ABC spending its time and resources on? Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky's name appears in 1,738 ABC transcripts in 1998 alone; 629 of them used the word "Lewinsky" four times or more.
It is little wonder, then, that, in 2005, the Project for Excellence in Journalism of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press "found that 75% of Americans believed that news organizations were more concerned with 'attracting the biggest audience,' while only 19% thought they cared more about 'informing the public.' "
There is little doubt that the Lewinsky investigation distracted some people from far more important matters -- matters of life and death. But it was not the Clinton administration, as ABC alleges, that took its eye off the ball. It was Congress -- and ABC and most of the rest of the nation's news organizations.
ABC's attempt to smear Clinton administration officials appears to be a classic case of projection.
Speaking of "ABC" and "projection," ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper used his weblog to lecture critics of ABC's The Path to 9/11. Tapper wrote:
If you're a fan of the 9/11 Commission, I might suggest that your energy could perhaps be well channeled by trying to get our political leaders to carry out the recommendations of that Commission, which have not been fully implemented.
That, it would seem to me, might be a more constructive (at least in the long-term) use of time as opposed to focusing on one TV show -- either in trying to get scenes edited, or in insisting that they remain untouched. I understand both sides of the debate, and I don't take either lightly, but I wonder -- what would bin Laden prefer us to focus on? A TV show, or improving this country's defenses? It need not be an either/or, but there are in fact only so many minutes in the day.
This from a guy who, just two days earlier, had devoted a post to Dancing With the Stars appearances by country music singer Sara Evans and Carlson, whom Tapper described as "[m]y personal favorite contestant" and "my pal." So, Mr. Tapper, we'll toss your question right back at you: "[W]hat would bin Laden prefer us to focus on? A TV show, or improving this country's defenses?"
There is another obvious -- and more substantive -- flaw with Tapper's logic: Some of the most pointed and credible critics of The Path to 9/11 are the very same 9-11 Commission members whose recommendations have not been fully implemented.
Maybe Tapper can explore why those recommendations haven't been implemented, on an upcoming Nightline broadcast. Surely, that would be a better use of his time -- and ours -- than another report, like the one he offered on August 25, about "this year's Emmy swag." Wonder what bin Laden thought of that?
The Path to 9/11 couldn't have come at a better time for President Bush and the Republicans, their political fortunes sagging amid growing public discontent with their leadership. The anniversary of the 9-11 attacks should serve as a reminder that Osama bin Laden remains at large five years after ordering the attacks; that it is Bush's decisions that led to bin Laden's escape at Tora Bora; that his tough talk that the United States will not tolerate nations who "harbor" terrorists has not been backed up with tough actions; and that in response to 9-11, Bush blundered and lied the nation into war against a country that didn't have anything to do with the attacks rather than focusing on catching the man who did.
But, with less than two months before Election Day, Republicans continue to catch a break from the media. ABC's plan to broadcast a hatchet job blaming President Clinton for 9-11 while omitting important facts about Bush's actions prior to the attacks -- the film reportedly omits, for example, Bush's dismissal of a pre-attack briefing about bin Laden's plans to attack the United States -- is only the latest example of the news media failing to thoroughly and effectively examine Bush's record.
This week, Media Matters highlighted several explosive revelations in journalist Ron Suskind's book, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside American's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (Simon & Schuster, June 2006), that have been inexplicably ignored by major news organizations. Among Suskind's revelations:
- Despite daily efforts by the Bush administration and its allies to claim credit for the fact that Al Qaeda has not attacked the United States since 2001, CIA analysts believe that the lack of such an attack is a reflection of a strategic decision on Al Qaeda's part rather than a successful Bush administration policy. Not only have news organizations failed to report Suskind's disclosures, they often unquestioningly repeat the administration's spin.
- Bush dismissed a pre-9-11 briefing about bin Laden's desire to attack the United States by telling his briefer, "All right ... You've covered your ass, now."
- After the 9-11 attacks, Bush was personally told that if he did not send more U.S. troops to capture bin Laden at Tora Bora, the terrorist leader would escape. Bush didn't, and bin Laden did.
Dick Cheney Says Marine Corps Col. Pete Devlin Abetting Terrorists. I Guess This Is How Republicans Support The Troops.
He Cites Allies' 'Doubts' About U.S. Will
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 11, 2006; A12
Vice President Cheney offered a veiled attack yesterday on critics of the administration's Iraq policy, saying the domestic debate over the war is emboldening adversaries who believe they can undermine the resolve of the American people.
"They can't beat us in a stand-up fight -- they never have -- but they're absolutely convinced they can break our will, [that] the American people don't have the stomach for the fight," Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The vice president said U.S. allies in Afghanistan and Iraq "have doubts" the United States will finish the job there. "And those doubts are encouraged, obviously, when they see the kind of debate that we've had in the United States," he said. "Suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists."
Cheney unapologetically defended the 2003 invasion that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, saying the administration would have done "exactly the same thing" even if it knew before the war what he acknowledged knowing now -- that Iraq did not have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Yet he also gave a bit of ground, as he was pressed repeatedly by interviewer Tim Russert about statements that turned out to be wrong or damaging to his credibility.
The vice president acknowledged he had been overly optimistic in predicting a quick demise to the Iraqi insurgency that continues to bedevil U.S. forces. More than a year ago, in May 2005, Cheney proclaimed the insurgency was in its "last throes." Since then, more than 1,000 U.S. troops have died and sectarian violence has intensified.
"I think there's no question . . . that the insurgency's gone on longer and been more difficult [than] I had anticipated," Cheney said. But he added that 2005 will be seen as a "turning point" in Iraq's history because of elections that have led to a democratic government.
He did not mention warnings from the intelligence community and others that the post-invasion Iraq could be consumed by religious violence, and that pacifying the country would require many thousands more troops than those committed by the White House.
Cheney's appearance came on the eve of the five-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and as the Bush administration ratchets up efforts to convince Americans that the war in Iraq is part of a global struggle against Islamic terrorism and extremism. As it tries to keep GOP majorities in Congress, the White House is hoping to make the elections more about battling terrorism in general than about the unpopular war in Iraq.
In sending out Cheney to do a nearly hour-long interview with Russert, the administration chose one of the principal authors of its national security strategy -- but one whose stature has been eroded, in part, by assertions that Democrats and even some administration allies consider as lacking credibility.
Democrats reacted with scorn to Cheney's latest comments.
"Vice President Cheney's influence over our nation's foreign policy and defense has made America less safe," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.). "The vice president was a chief architect of the effort to manipulate intelligence to build a case for invading Iraq; he ignored the threat of insurgencies, he took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, and today he made clear that he would do nothing different."
Cheney appeared unruffled as Russert asked him again and again about his past remarks or about policies that have lost popularity with Americans.
When Russert presented polling data suggesting that most Americans do not view Iraq as part of a war against terrorists, Cheney replied, "I beg to differ. . . . The fact is, the world is much better off today with Saddam Hussein out of power."
Russert pushed Cheney on his repeated assertions that Sept. 11 plotter Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague, which the vice president has used to raise the possibility of a connection between Hussein and the Sept. 11 attacks.
Cheney said yesterday the CIA had presented a Czech intelligence report to him of the meeting but later "backed off" it; U.S. intelligence reports, however, repeatedly cast doubt on that meeting, even in the months before Cheney discussed it publicly in September 2002, according to a declassified report released Friday by the Senate intelligence committee.
Separate from the issue of Sept. 11, the vice president maintained, prewar Iraq was a state sponsor of terrorism. He quoted former CIA chief George Tenet in saying there was a relationship between Hussein and al-Qaeda going "back at least a decade" before the U.S. invasion.
Cheney asserted that the slain al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had fled Afghanistan and "set up operations in Baghdad in the spring of '02 and was there from then, basically, until basically the time we launched into Iraq." The Senate intelligence committee reported that, by October 2005, the CIA had debunked the idea of any prewar relationship between Zarqawi and Hussein's government.
Cheney told Russert that he had not read the Senate report.
Cheney said it is "hard to say" whether there are more terrorists now than five years ago. But the fact that al-Qaeda has launched no successful attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, shows that the administration's policies are working, he added.
"I don't know how you can explain five years of no attacks, five years of successful disruption of attacks, five years of, of defeating the efforts of al-Qaeda to come back and kill more Americans," Cheney said. "You've got to give some credence to the notion that maybe somebody did something right." (Editor's Note: I guess by DICK LOGIC then Clinton did a pretty good job from 1993 WTC attack until 2001. And amazingly he did it without Guantanamo Bay, Wiretaps, Invading Two Countries etc. etc. etc.)
Cheney said he sees "part of my job is to think about the unthinkable, to focus upon what, in fact, the terrorists may have in store for us." He said the threat that drives administration thinking is "the possibility of a cell of al-Qaeda in the midst of one of our own cities with a nuclear weapon, or a biological agent. In that case, you'd be dealing -- for example, if on 9/11 they'd had a nuke instead of an airplane, you'd have been looking at a casualty toll that would rival all the deaths in all the wars fought by Americans in 230 years." (Editor's Note: More shameless Fear Mongering by the Liar-In-Chief)
Staff writer Walter Pincus contributed to this report.