November 23, 2005

My Letter from Howard Dean

I got a letter from Howard the other day asking me if I have seen enough, meaning enough of the Republicans to contribute to the Democratic National Committee and work to get "Republican corruption, incompetence and arrogance" out of Washington DC.

The letter is a really good bill of particulars about the disgraceful behavior of the Republicans (Delay, Frist, Rove), the Bush administration's abject failures with Katrina, its packing of the courts with right-wing ideologues, its broken promises to the seniors, children, and working families of America. Four pages of a kind of evil-doer listing of how bad things are under the Republicans and how supporting Democrats can make the Republicans "pay the price for caring more about their own power than the best interests of the American people."

What is not in the letter is what really bothers me. In fact, it astounds me that there is not one mention anywhere in the letter about the war in Iraq.

Granted, there is nothing in the letter about the health care crisis, the exploding trade deficit, the record-setting national debt, the increasing concentration of wealth in America, or the takeover of our national and local media by corporate power. But to leave out what is the dominating issue of our time, a war that is killing American men and women daily, along with hundreds of Iraqis, and which is bankrupting the country, is unconscionable.

No discussion of how the Democratic Party must find a way to campaign effectively on this issue, to offer some answers, some solutions. The gorilla in the room is simply ignored.

Here is what Howard Dean wants me to do, however. In bold letters on the first page, he exhorts me to

First, please help to increase the visibility of citizen opposition to the Republican special interest agenda -- by proudly displaying the enclosed "Enough is Enough! Vote Democratic!" bumper sticker in a prominent place."

Can you guess what the second thing is he wants me to do? Yep, send money now.

Almost three pages are spent describing the Republican outrages, and I am asked to put a bumper sticker on my car and send money. In all fairness, he does mention that there is something called the 2006 Election Action Plan and that we need to recruit strong Democratic candidates, provide financial, strategic and technical support to them, and conduct effective voter outreach campaigns and extensive get-out-the-vote efforts. I am inspired now!

I started my politicial career in 1968 as a campaign worker for a Democratic candidate for the California assembly in San Diego, and worked for Alan Cranston who was running for the US Senate. In 1972, I was an advance man for Henry "Scoop" Jackson in his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. I know that we have to give money, and we have to put bumper stickers on our vehicles, and we have to put signs up, and we have to organize precinct workers, and telephone call centers, and we need to register voters, and we need to organize get-out-the-vote efforts, and we need drivers to take people to the polls, and we need to drink alot of coffee and work 24 hours a day. But isn't there something more? What's missing? Could it have something to do with what we stand for?

I know that the Democratic Party attacks the Republicans for giving huge tax breaks to the rich, but what is the Democratic Party plan to redistribute wealth in this country at a time when the concentration of wealth is worsening?

I know that the Democratic Party opposes the Republicans on privatization of Social Security, but why isn't the Democratic Party supporting raising the cap on the social security tax on the rich which would solve any problem the program might have for the foreseeable future?

I know the Democratic Party is outraged by record oil profits, but what is it doing to rally the country around the only thing that will solve our energy crisis, a Marshall Plan to conserve energy immediately and to develop and build alternative energy sources for the medium and long term?

And finally, I know that most Democrats are critical of the Bush war in Iraq, but why did they turn their backs on John Murtha who has spoken truth to all the lies? Democrats ignored Wayne Morse in 1964 and we had ten more years of death and horror in Vietnam.

My reaction to Howard Dean's letter was basically this: it felt like a playground fight between two boys, one that has the ball, and the other one who wants the ball. Other than one boy calling the other all kinds of names, I am left to wonder which boy really deserves the ball more.

It has to be more than this. Until the Democratic Party really starts addressing the issues that are destroying our country's democracy, it will only win because the Republicans are incompetent, or corrupt, or lose their minds.

I know that in the short term things will be better if the Democrats take control of the government. They generally have better instincts about social and economic justice issues. I have no confidence, however, that things will change sufficiently to reverse the slide into plutocracy and oligopoly.

November 22, 2005

Remembering November 22

Forty-two years ago today, I was in a Catholic weekend retreat (I had asked if I could attend it, despite the fact that I was Episcopalian) at my school, St. Mary's International School, in Tokyo, Japan. From Friday evening through Sunday morning all the boys who attended were to remain silent and contemplative, charged, as I remember, by The Brothers (as they were known) with concentrating on how we could save our poor souls.

On Saturday morning, after an evening of whispers among ourselves (in all likelihood, committing an enormous mortal sin in the process), we were spoken to by Brother Andrew on Saturday morning this way: "I have sad news for you all. President Kennedy has been killed." And that was it. No time for discussion, no break, no allowance for any normal human reaction. Now go back to your prayers and contemplation.

I am sure that The Brothers, among themselves, discussed whether to pospone the retreat, but it didn't happen. I am equally sure that many parents called to inquire whether it ought to be cancelled. It wasn't. So we spent all Saturday concentrating on everything but ourselves, high schoolers, sons of diplomats and international businessmen, sophisticated and worldly enough to know the portent of those few words from Brother Andrew. Our minds were spinning, and we could not shut up. But the retreat went on.

My father (he was Military Attache at the US embassy) and mother picked me up on Sunday morning, and we went to our church, St. Alban's, almost directly under Tokyo Tower, for a memorial service. It was the only time I ever saw my father in his full dress blues with tears streaming down his face. Then we were off to the embassy (where thousands of Japanese lined up outside for days and days to sign the condolences book) to meet the Ambassador, Edwin Reischauer, who was giving a brief statement. (Reischauer, by the way, was one of the finest diplomats this country has ever produced. Fluent in Japanese, admired by the Japanese, he also warned the American government, early on, of the folly of getting mired down in Vietnam).

To this day, I remember watching, in black and white on Japanese TV, the cortege, "Black Jack," the riderless horse, Arlington cemetery, the people lining the streets of Washington DC, and the Kennedy family, who carried the rest of the nation on their faces and on their backs. Their strength and character kept the country whole, and united it behind a new President, almost seamlessly. The memories are still strong, and reading and writing words about these events still bring tears to my eyes -- that's how strong they remain. As I, and millions of others like me, pass from the scene, the memories will fade, and certainly the tears will be gone.

Kennedy was a flawed man who simultaneously sustained and contradicted his myth. I know his legacy has been marred by real mistakes and miscalculations, both personal and political. Nevertheless, there is something about the hope, and wisdom, and character of those times, and about John Kennedy himself, that is so sorely missing today. I look around today and see so little of what I saw and felt back then.

Many of us are attacked as being unpatriotic, for criticizing our government, and for demanding that Bush be accountable. Look at the feeding frenzy of the vultures sitting on John Murtha's body. Behaving democratically, exercising our rights, speaking out, all are excoriated by a pack of political jackals led by the likes of Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Tom Delay, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly, men who represent what is dishonorable and anti-democratic about this country, and who pale in comparison to the likes of John Kennedy.

I know there are men and women of character in America with the potential for leadership of this country, but given the stench and corruption and greed that dominates, I understand why most of them won't come near it with a ten-foot pole. I worked on Capitol Hill in the 1970s and the money corruption was bad, then. Today, it s rule is virtually complete. It is going to take someone who is free of that money corruption to take America back.

November 21, 2005

Death Penalty Kills Another Innocent

Here is yet one more example of an innocent man being put to death under our hideous, anti-deluvian death penalty laws. I am certain that the good Christian people of Texas thought they were dishing out the justice he deserved, but the problem is, he was innocent, and they can't take it back.

Texas is not, of course, the only state in this country where people are being executed, but it is the state that seems to take the most credit for government killings, and I mean credit in the cheerleading, we-do-it-best kind of way. For instance, between 1993 and 2003, 38% of all executions in the United States were carried out in the state of Texas.

Because of the way government is structured in Texas, because there is a dispersal of executive power among several members of the executive branch, the Governor of Texas has relatively fewer executive powers than many other state chief executives. When George Bush was Governor, 134 inmates were put to death. If there was ever any doubt in his mind that any of them might possibly be innocent, he never spoke up. Whatever evidence he was shown, he obviously did not think it was sufficient. All 134 are dead. And even though the Governor of Texas cannot commute a sentence, if he has doubts, he can speak up, and delay a sentence for 30 days and take the case to the appropriate authorities. He never did that.

Here is Bush during the 2000 debates:

Q: Are you proud of the fact that Texas is number one in executions?

BUSH: No, I’m not proud of that. The death penalty is very serious business. It’s an issue that good people obviously disagree on. I take my job seriously, and if you think I was proud of it, I think you misread me, I do.
I was sworn to uphold the laws of my state. I do believe that if the death penalty is administered swiftly, justly and fairly, it saves lives. My job is to ask two questions. Is the person guilty of the crime? And did the person have full access to the courts of law? And I can tell you, in all cases those answers were affirmative. I’m not proud of any record. I’m proud of the fact that violent crime is down in the state of Texas. I’m proud of the fact that we hold people accountable. But I’m not proud of any record, no.

Is that conflicted, confused and double-edged?

"...if you think I was proud of it, I think you misread me, I do?" My take on that is that he was proud of it.

He's proud that crime is down, and that he holds people accountable, but not proud of any record. Bush is trying to have it both ways.

Bush believes that the death penalty serves as a deterrent despite the fact that only 12% of criminologists believe it serves that purpose. In addition, chiefs of police around the country rank it at the absolute bottom of deterrents to violent crime.

There have been 122 exonerations of death row inmates since 1973. In Texas, alone, there have been 8 exonerations while in Florida there have been 22. Death penalty advocates claim that this shows the system works. The innocent are freed by a justice system that works, and the guilty get what they deserve. Of course, that is the faultiest kind of self-serving logic, not supported by any evidence.

The number of people who have been executed but who were probably innocent will never be known. As the Death Penalty Information Center points out, after they are dead, most people, especially the attorneys involved in any appeals, move on to other cases, and no one really takes up the cause. But here are a few examples of people executed who were probably innocent. Another important source of information is the Innocence Project which has the figure of 163 exonerations on the front page of its website.

According to Amnesty International, the United States is among the leading countries as a practitioner of the death penalty. In 2004, 97 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Viet Nam and the USA. Executions are known to have been carried out in the following countries in 2004:AFGHANISTAN, BANGLADESH, BELARUS, CHINA, EGYPT, INDIA, INDONESIA, IRAN, JAPAN, JORDAN, KOREA (NORTH), KUWAIT, LEBANON, PAKISTAN, SAUDI ARABIA, SINGAPORE, SOMALIA, SUDAN, SYRIA, TAIWAN, TAJIKISTAN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, UZBEKISTAN, VIET NAM, YEMEN.

What good company we are in!!

Around the world, executions have been carried out by the following methods since 2000:- Beheading (in Saudi Arabia, Iraq)- Electrocution (in USA)- Hanging (in Egypt, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Pakistan, Singapore and other countries)- Lethal injection (in China, Guatemala, Philippines, Thailand, USA)- Shooting (in Belarus, China, Somalia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam and other countries)- Stoning (in Afghanistan, Iran).

Perhaps we might consider other forms of death in the US? We might be able to increase our deterrent effect if we began stoning people to death. How about public firing squads? Maybe we should, like the Taliban, open up stadiums around the country on special days, and provide popcorn for sale.

Another disturbing fact about the death penalty in this country is that 34% of those who have been executed since 1976 have been black. And worse, almost 42% of those currently on death row are black. An Amnesty International report paints a stark picture:

Even though blacks and whites are murder victims in nearly equal numbers of crimes, 80% of people executed since the death penalty was reinstated have been executed for murders involving white victims.
More than 20% of black defendants who have been executed were convicted by all-white juries.

It is time for Americans to join the the majority of countries in banning the death penalty, to join all of the industrialized democracies (except Japan) in making the death penalty a thing of the past.

November 20, 2005

Bush's Heroes

Enigma4Ever has a piece on her blog, Watergate Summer, about George Bush's choices to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Whom he does and does not give it to are telling, revealing and just plain fun to think about, and Enigma's take on the whole matter is pointed, intelligent and humorous. So if you want to learn something and laugh at the same time (can't we all use alot more laughs these days?), read it! Her musings about who Bush might pick and how he did pick Andy Griffith are hysterical and worth the admission (which is free, by the way).

It is also worth visiting, as she recommends, Crook and Liars to see the video of Muhammad Ali giving Bush the cuckoo sign (scroll down the page). We'll never know exactly what Ali meant by it, but it's fun imagining.

November 19, 2005

Cheney, The Liar, Lies Over and Over, Telling More Lies And Still Doesn't Get Hit By Lightning

Thanks to Ed Bremson, via America Blog, we have another very important document from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) which provides a long list, in significant detail, of the lies of, among others in this lying administration, Dick Cheney.

Bush's Heroes

Enigma4Ever has a piece on her blog, Watergate Summer, about George Bush's choices to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Whom he does and does not give it to are telling, revealing and just plain fun to think about, and Enigma's take on the whole matter is pointed, intelligent and humorous. So if you want to learn something and laugh at the same time (can't we all use alot more laughs these days?), read it! Her musings about who Bush might pick and how he did pick Andy Griffith are hysterical and worth the admission (which is free, by the way).

It is also worth visiting, as she recommends, Crook and Liars to see the video of Muhammad Ali giving Bush the cookoo sign (scroll down the page). We'll never know exactly what Ali meant by it, but it's fun imagining.

November 18, 2005

The Republicans are Running Scared, According to Their Own Website

According to its website, the Grand Old Party is running scared.

On its front page, where there is a link to DONATE to the cause, there is a flashing message beneath the word DONATE:

232 GOP House members
15 GOP Senators
22 GOP Governors
Thousands of Local GOP Officials
Could All Be Lost in 2006 Without Your Support

That's pretty dramatic. "All could be lost?" I don't think they really mean they could lose every seat. What they mean is that they could lose their monopoly on power. That's what scares them.

Given Bush's historically low ratings, given that Republican candidates are running from him likes rats from a sinking ship, given his numerous foreign and domestic failures and the indictments of his pals (with the valid fear of more to come), it is, indeed, actually possible for progressives to envision taking back at least one chamber of the Congress.

Also on the website's main page is an attack video against Democratic critics of George Bush's war, with Hillary Clinton's face prominently displayed.

The video takes footage of Albright, Bill Clinton, Howard Dean, and Sandy Berger in 1998 talking about the threat of Iraq and Saddan Hussein. It then follows with footage from 2002 and 2003 with Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Evan Bayh either talking about Iraq having WMD or supporting President Bush in his actions against Iraq because of the WMD.

The video concludes with Bush's recent speech on November 11 in which he tells his audience that he had bi-partisan support from Congress, criticizing Democrats for trying to rewrite history by claiming that they did not see the same intelligence the President saw. His message is that it was the Congress that sent our troops to war and Congress should stick by them now. He also claims (falsely) that a Congressional committee found that there was no evidence of political pressure on the intelligence community and implies the Democrats should be ashamed for saying otherwise.

Here's the new Republican strategy on Iraq in a nutshell --

The Democrats share equal responsibility and accountability for the invasion because they supported it, based on the same intelligence everyone else saw and they voted to send our troops into Iraq. Not only did President Bill Clinton in 1998 believe Iraq had WMD, but Hillary Clinton did, too, in 2002 and 2003. To attack Bush now is unpatriotic and hypocritical. So, shut up.

The Rebulicans want to use the Democrats support of the invasion as a way to avoid discussing how wrong the war was, how wrong the intelligence was, how wrong the war was fought, and how bad things are now. Whether the Democrats saw the same intelligence or not, whether they supported the invasion or not, does not make the Bush invasion right, nor does it justify our continued presence there.

Below the video is a clickable link entitled Iraq Facts which consists primarily of military boasting:

-- At The Iraqi Army Basic Training Academy In Taji, Iraq, All Instruction Is Now In Arabic And Courses Are Taught By Iraqi Noncommissioned Officers (Wow, 2 1/2 years after the invasion we finally have courses taught in Arabic!)

-- The Counter-Insurgency Center For Excellence Provides Coalition Forces And Iraqi Security Forces "With The Latest And Best Practices For Conducting Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Operations In Iraq." (Did Rush Limbaugh name this place? The Counter-Insurgency Center for Excellence?)

-- 1,000 Iraqi Army Soldiers Are Participating In Operation Steel Curtain, An Offensive "Intended To Rid The [Syrian] Border Area Of Havens For Foreign Insurgents, Particularly Members Of Al Qaeda In Iraq." (1000? That's it? The Iraqis can't muster more than a 1000 men to defend their borders?)

-- The U.S. Military And Iraqi Forces Killed About 50 Terrorists During A Broad Offensive This Week In Western Iraq. (Shades of Vietnam, body counts are back)

Finally, under a link entitled Safety and Security, this is the sentence that summarizes their priorities for the nation's safety and security:

President Bush is committed to keeping the nation strong and secure through strengthening our military, deploying a missile defense system, strengthening the NATO alliance and supporting military families and veterans.

It never occurs to these Republicans that having the largest deficit in history, cutting education and job training, attacking worker's rights, destroying our reputation around the world, undermining our civil rights at home, appointing political hacks to important governmental positions requiring actual experience, increasing our dependence on the oil and gas industry, ignoring our poor, our underfed, and our ill, failing American survivors of natural disasters, turning our government over to corporate officials and religious fundamentalists, undermining our voting systems, attacking consumer protections, rewriting science, and packing our judiciary with religious and political ideologues endangers America's safety and security more than any terrorist threat ever will.

Under the Republicans, we can have the largest, best equipped military in the world with the only missile defense system in the world, with the best paid military in the world, and the best cared for veterans in the world. Without taking care of the things that really count in keeping America safe and secure, Americans' lives will be miserable, insecure and unsafe.

John Murtha's Plea

John Murtha's statement on Iraq, yesterday, in which he recommends announcing that we will leave Iraq has two salient points that are worth considering, whether you are Donald Rumsfeld or Cindy Sheehan. It does not matter, at this point, whether the invasion was right or wrong. What matters is that the Iraqi people do not want us in their country, and the longer we stay there with 160,000 troops, the longer the Iraqis, themselves, have no pressing motivation to take up the fight against the insurgency on their own. They simply have no incentive to do so while Americans are doing most of the fighting.

Murtha's statement is worth reading.

November 17, 2005

A Story the Press Seems to Find Boring -- The Loss of Our Voting Rights

I commend to you a story from my fellow blogger Hume's Ghost at the Daily Doubter -- a story that outlines, in detail, what has been happening to our most fundamental democratic right in this country, the right to vote.

He provides a link to the GAO Report which exposes the serious weaknesses and flaws in the electronic voting systems which are spreading throughout the country. He highlights the chilling list of threats to our entire democratic system of voting.

He also links to a report from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) which summarizes the GAO Report and also lists the specific recommendations made by the GAO Report.

Our friend at the Daily Doubter says it best:

How low must the press in this country sink before the public has had enough? A story about the potential loss of our franchise, the very right to exercise our citizenship and give the consent of the governed is found to have significant flaws and the press can't be bothered to inform the people of it? Does no one understand the implications of what it means if your vote is taken from you by fraud?

Just where are all the stories about this report? Isn't this a story of national concern to the entire nation?

When I Googled the GAO Report, I found these citations in the top 50 results or so: Rock River Times, IL Consumer Protection for Voting A New Zealand website reprints the Rock River Times piece The Online Journal covered it SF Indymedia covered it Global News Matrix covered it The Oregon Voter Rights Coalition reported it

I then decided I would use Google to search specific news sources. That was unsuccessful. I then searched the specific news sources themselves (see below) for any stories about this GAO Report.

I was unable to find any reference in the following news sources about the GAO Report (if you can, email me or put something in the comment section):

-- The New York Times
-- The Los Angeles Times
-- The Wall Street Journal
-- The Washington Post
-- CNN

November 16, 2005

Libby and The White House Omerta

Political commentators of every kind agree that silence and secrecy are two hallmarks of the Bush administration. I like to think of it as a kind of omerta, defined as a rule or code that prohibits speaking or divulging information about certain activities, especially the activities of a criminal organization. So far, this administration, per se, has not been convicted as a criminal organization, although some of its members, current and former, have been indicted, and many Americans regard its behavior as criminal. Nevertheless, give it time.

I finally had the time to read the actual Libby indictment issued by Patrick Fitzgerald against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and I was amazed at how easy it must have been for the grand jury to be convinced that Libby was lying. Reading between the lines, it also seems clear to me that Libby was lying to protect at least one person who was higher up, someone like Vice President Cheney himself.

On page 18 of the indictment, here are Libby's own words in describing how he says he learned about Valerie Plame (Wilson) from reporter Tim Russert:

. . . . And then he (Russert) said, you know, did you know that this – excuse me, did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife works at the CIA? And I was a little taken aback by that. I remember being taken aback by it. And I said – he may have said a little more but that was – he said that. And I said, no, I don't know that. And I said, no, I don't know that intentionally because I didn't want him to take anything I was saying as in any way confirming what he said, because at that point in time I did not recall that I had ever known, and I thought this is something that he was telling me that I was first learning. And so I said, no, I don't know that because I want to be very careful not to confirm it for him, so that he didn't take my statement as confirmation for him.
Now, I had said earlier in the conversation, which I omitted to tell you, that
this – you know, as always, Tim, our discussion is off-the-record if that's okay with
you, and he said, that's fine.
So then he said – I said – he said, sorry – he, Mr. Russert said to me, did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife, or his wife, works at the CIA? And I said, no, I don't know that. And then he said, yeah – yes, all the reporters know it. And I said, again, I don't know that. I just wanted to be clear that I wasn't confirming anything for him on this. And you know, I was struck by what he was saying in that he thought it was an important fact, but I didn't ask him anymore about it because I didn't want to be digging in on him, and he then moved on and finished the conversation, something like that.

He was throwing pixie dust in their faces, and the investigators knew it. Can you imagine Libby being "taken aback" by learning from Russert that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA? In reality, he would have been very curious, if not actually salivating.

In other testimony regarding his conversation with Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, quoted on page 20, Libby responds this way to questions:

Q. And it's your specific recollection that when you told Cooper about Wilson's wife working at the CIA, you attributed that fact to what reporters –
A. Yes.
Q. – plural, were saying. Correct?
A. I was very clear to say reporters are telling us that because in my mind I still didn't know it as a fact. I thought I was – all I had was this information that was coming in from the reporters.
. . . .
Q. And at the same time you have a specific recollection of telling him, you don't know whether it's true or not, you're just telling him what reporters are saying?
A. Yes, that's correct, sir. And I said, reporters are telling us that, I don't
know if it's true. I was careful about that because among other things, I wanted to be clear I didn't know Mr. Wilson. I don't know – I think I said, I don't know if he has a wife, but this is what we're hearing.

What strikes me is how artless and amateurish he seems, how utterly unprepared and scattered his testimony comes across. It's as if he has concluded that the way to coverup and camouflage the truth is to appear hazy and simple-minded about it all saying things like "something like that" and "I think I said" and "all I had was this information coming in from reporters."

In what I believe was almost a slip of the tongue on Libby's part, here is another of his responses on page 21 to questions:

Q. And let me ask you this directly. Did the fact that you knew that the law could turn, the law as to whether a crime was committed, could turn on where you learned the information from, affect your account for the FBI when you told them that you were telling reporters Wilson's wife worked at the CIA but your source was a reporter rather than the Vice-President?
A. No, it's a fact. It was a fact, that's what I told the reporters.
Q. And you're, you're certain as you sit here today that every reporter you told that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, you sourced it back to other reporters?
A. Yes, sir, because it was important for what I was saying and because it was – that's what – that's how I did it.

Why was it so important to him, as he says, that he sourced all his knowledge back to reporters? And in so doing, tell what was a patent lie? In his second answer, he says "it was important for what I was saying and because it was -- that's what -- that's how I did it" which to me is almost like saying "it was important for me to say it was the reporters who told me so you guys don't find out who really told me."

The indictment quotes more:

Q. The next set of questions from the Grand Jury are – concern this fact. If you did not understand the information about Wilson's wife to have been classified and didn't understand it when you heard it from Mr. Russert, why was it that you were so deliberate to make sure that you told other reporters that reporters were saying it and not assert it as something you knew?

A. I want – I didn't want to – I didn't know if it was true and I didn't want people – I didn't want the reporters to think it was true because I said it. I – all I had was that reporters are telling us that, and by that I wanted them to understand it wasn't coming from me and that it might not be true. Reporters write things that aren't true sometimes, or get things that aren't true. So I wanted to be clear they didn't, they didn't think it was me saying it. I didn't know it was true and I wanted them to understand that. Also, it was important to me to let them know that because what I was telling them was that I don't know Mr. Wilson. We didn't ask for his mission. That I didn't see his report.

Basically, we didn't know anything about him until this stuff came out in June. And among the other things, I didn't know he had a wife. That was one of the things I said to Mr. Cooper. I don't know if he's married. And so I wanted to be very clear about all this stuff that I didn't, I didn't know about him. And the only thing I had, I thought at the time, was what reporters are telling us. . . . . Well, talking to the other reporters about it, I don't see as a crime. What I said to the other reporters is what, you know – I told a couple reporters what other reporters had told us, and I don't see that as a crime.

Truly remarkable stuff. If Libby was being told by reporters like C ooper about Wilson's wife, why would he feel the need to say things like "I didn't know he had a wife," as if his having a wife was something unusual. Why would he feel compelled to tell the prosecutors and the grand jury that talking to reporters about things he learned from reporters was not a crime, in his eyes. I just told reporters what other reporters told me, "and I don't see that as a crime." Why is he so worried about whether he commited a crime?

I believe Libby is scared to death. I believe it is quite possible that Libby is so way over his head with this that he will crack and deliver the truth to Fitzpatrick. I am not certain that these people are the committed self-sacrificial ideologues that we fear. Like omerta, within the Cosa Nostra, it only works if everyone keeps their mouths shut. And we know that plenty of mobsters never kept their mouths shut. And if Libby opens up, don't be surprised if Vice President Cheney's health suddenly worsens and he is forced to resign. And if the Democrats take back the Senate next year, all bets are off.

November 15, 2005

November 14, 2005

Does It Matter Whether Bush is Lying or Delusional?

Andy Ostroy, in his latest blog entry on The Ostroy Report, has offered a piece entitled Despite Bush's New Rhetoric, He and Cheney Lied About WMD.

And it got me to thinking.

So what?

Ostroy's piece is an indictment of the Bush lies and misrepresentations about Iraq, a laundry list of the Bush arrogance, war-mongering, duplicity and impeachable offenses. His conclusion is that either Bush is lying or is delusional. Either way he ought to be impeached and run out of town.

The delusional label is one I like, because it's so emotionally satisfying. It fits Bush's inarticulate, goofy ways. I can easily imagine him delusional, Howard Hughes-like, sipping from a pint bottle he keeps near to hand, eyes glazing over while Rove and Cheney try to tutor him in basic English, science, history, geography, and logic. But the delusional label is all-too-simple an explanation for what has been a mammoth undertaking of an imperial foreign policy unlike any in American history -- the invasion of a sovereign country that has not attacked the United States. So, if he is delusional, then everyone around him is delusional to the extent that they feed his delusions, and I can't but that. It may be that when he repeats over and over again that things are going splendidly in Iraq, he sounds delusional. But he isn't, really.

And so what if he lied about certain things that got us into Iraq in the first place? What if he and Cheney "fit" the intelligence to their purpose? And what if, from the Bush and Cheney perspective, it doesn't matter whether we believe they lied or are crazy, or whether they are arrogant, or had poor judgement or are war-mongering? It's the outcome of their policy that counts.

Bush and Cheney believe that had they told the truth about why they felt the need to invade Iraq (and how 9/11 gave them good cover to do so), they would not have had the support of the American people. While the American people are ready to send their young men and women to die in a war (Afghanistan) to strike back at the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, and to overthrow a regime thatwe were told sponsored and supported that terrorism (Iraq) and which threatened us directly, the American people would not have been equally ready to send its young to die for a strategic military invasion that serves American imperial corporate interests. That argument would n ot have gotten off the ground.

It's the very presence of our military in Iraq and the long-term goal of keeping that presence there that matters to them. They could care less how we got there and, other than from a public relations point of view, they don't care about all of the rest of us arguing about who is crazy, delusional, lying or who should be impeached or not. In the end, they believe what they have accomplished will be justified and confirmed by the resulting US hegemony in that region of the world.

No matter what kind of government evolves in Iraq -- radical Islamic or democratic, or something in between -- someone, at some time, is going to develop Iraq into the significant world oil supplier that it has the potential to be (exceeding even that of Saudi Arabia). The strategic presence of our troops, eventually concentrated in a half-dozen or so enclaves of substantially smaller numbers of troops than we have now, throughout Iraq, is the point. This presence, for decades to come, along with our presence in Afghanistan, as well as various American bases in a few key central Asian countries, guarantees an unimpeded distribution channel of oil and gas to American capital. At a time when China is exploding economically, controlling that supply is imperative.

It also helps that our military presence serves as a bulwark against and warning to the governments of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Our presence also serves as a reassurance to friendly governments like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. Our presence will, in all likelihood, affect a certain leverage and flexibility with respect to an eventual US imposition of a peace in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

I worry that progressives will flail away for the next three years, talking of impeachment, delusion, war-mongering, lying, the Downing Street memos, Abu Ghraib, GITMO, and perhaps new outrages we can add to our litany. We may even elect a Democratic Senate in 2006, perhaps a Democratic President in 2008, but, in the end, whatever the composition of a "new" American leadership, it will, in all probability, recognize the ultimate "good" of our strategic presence in Iraq, in spite of whatever calumny led us there. This future Democratic or Republican government will, to be sure, go through all sorts of hoop-jumping, apologia, and prevaricating spin, but it will, in the end, endorse and preserve the fait accompli created by Bush's War, recognizing a facts-on-the-ground necessity that, in their view, benefits America much more than it hurts it.

I opposed the war from the outset because I saw it as a capitalist enterprise, not delusion, not arrogance, not war-mongering. First, big wars like this are certainly beneficial to the arms industry. But I opposed it because it is a conscious imperial choice made by oilmen and their corporate allies to dominate, as best they can, and in their own interests, a dwindling energy resource needed by the entire world. They believe it is especially important as China and India explode as world economies which will demand more and more energy. Read my entry at Oilygram from the 60 Minutes program of December 15, 2002. While Rumsfeld ran from it, the oil industry was not afraid to say what the Iraq invasion was all about - oil.

To explain away the Bush Iraq agenda as arrogant, or as delusional, or as a matter of poor judgement, or as war-mongering, weakens our understanding of these men and what they are about. We need to find a way to communicate to the American people how any semblance of economic democracy is long gone from the American way of life, and how our political democracy is being stolen from us. We can't do that by calling Bush and Cheney names or by analyzing their psychology. We can only do it by explaining what they do, and why and how they do it, and why it is contrary to the interests of the average working American.

Start here: Isn't there some better way we could be spending hundreds of billions of dollars of American taxpayer money than this?

November 12, 2005

Remember the Workers At Wal-Mart

In all the uproar about the juicy details of Wal-Mart's evils and faults, I want to urge individual progressives, liberals, and pro-trade unionists to remember that the vast majority of workers at Wal-Mart are not management types seeking to exploit overtime, pay workers less, avoid providing benefits as much as possible, and working to bust unions. Yes, let's be outraged at what Wal-Mart does and what it represents. But let's not lose sight of the fact that there are some 1.3 million workers at Wal-Mart, and most are not our enemies.

Most of the workers are low income, struggling women and men, who are trying to make a living, buy food for their kids, pay their rent or mortgage (in the unlikely event that they own a home), stay out of bankruptcy, keep their vehicle running, heat their homes, and maybe even try to get a GED or an associates degree while they are at it. Many of them work two jobs. Many of them get food assistance from the government. Half of their kids don't even have health insurance coverage, much less dental coverage.

Those of us who are opposing Wal-Mart, attacking Wal-Mart ceaselessly in our blogs and organizational websites and sending money to the anti-Wal-Mart websites, need to keep in mind that those Wal-Mart workers are our potential allies. Do we want to destroy Wal-Mart and lose them all their jobs? Or do we want to help them change Wal-Mart so that they keep their jobs, but receive better pay, better working conditions, and better benefits? How can we support these workers and those trade unions who are trying work directly with the workers take this fight directly to the floor of all the Wal-Marts nationwide?

I am not suggesting we do not need to support the organizations that are doing the research, making the films, and helping to expose Wal-Mart's anti-worker nature. That educational and informational effort is much needed and valued. But let's not lose sight of what we are trying to do -- change a corporate culture of exploitation.

Here is one specific thing you can do to help the workers organize and to help the unions that are working to organize them.:

Every one of you who is a writer of any kind (a journalist, blogger, newsletter writer, poet, novelist or short story writer, essayist, editor), join the National Writers Union.

The only really effective way we can confront and defeat the plutocracy, that government which is ruled by corporate wealth and power, is if we are stronger. And the only way we can be stronger is if, as writers, as intellectuals, as progressives, and as workers, we unite to become stronger.

Why do you think that corporations fight so aggressively and viciously against union organizing by their workers? Corporations don't think twice about breaking the law to prevent their workers from organizing.

Trade unions threaten their monopolistic and overarching power. It's that simple.

Wal-Mart Wants to Start Its Own Bank

Here something to warm your hearts. Wal-Mart, already an unregulated, un-unionized, labor exploiting behemoth, has applied to the FDIC to charter its own bank. Imagine Wal-Mart as the largest retailer in the world, but also as the largest banking institution in the world.

November 11, 2005

Drunken Sailors and Self-Righteous Sailors

The Bush administration has borrowed more money from foreign governments and foreign banks than all previous 42 US government administrations combined, according to a study done by the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 36 self-described "moderate to conservative" Democrats.
All the data used was from the US Treasury Department.

From their report:

Throughout the first 224 years (1776-2000) of our nation’s history, 42 U.S. presidents borrowed a combined $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions according to the U.S. Treasury Department. In the past four years alone (2001-2005), the Bush Administration has borrowed a staggering $1.05 trillion.

"The seriousness of this rapid and increasing financial vulnerability of our country can hardly be overstated,” said Rep. John Tanner (TN), a leader of the Blue Dog Coalition and member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “The financial mismanagement of our country by the Bush Administration should be of concern to all Americans, regardless of political persuasion.”

The Blue Dogs have long expressed tremendous concern over mounting U.S. debt and are particularly troubled by our growing dependence on foreign governments to finance our debt. Earlier this year, the Coalition offered a 12 Step Plan to cure our nation’s addiction to deficit spending. The Blue Dog plan required, among other things, that all federal agencies pass clean audits, a balanced budget, and the establishment of a rainy day fund to be used in the event of a natural disaster.

“No American political leadership has ever willfully and deliberately mortgaged our country to foreign interests in the manner we have witnessed over the past four years,” continued Rep. Tanner. “If this recklessness is not stopped, I truly believe our economic freedom as American citizens is in great jeopardy."

Here is a summary of their 12 Step Plan:

1. Require a balanced Budget
2. Don't let Congress buy on credit - Pay as you go
3. Put a lid on spending
4. Require federal agencies to put their fiscal houses in order
5. Make Congress tell taxpayers how much they're spending
6. Set aside a rainy-day fund
7. Don't hide votes to raise the debt limit
8. Justify spending for pet projects
9. Ensure that Congress reads the bills it's voting on
10. Require honest cost estimates for every bill that Congress votes on
11. Make sure new bills fit the budget
12. Make Congress do a better job keeping tabs on government programs

When this 12 Step Plan was published, Mike Ross (D-AR), Blue Dog Whip said: "American families strive every month to live on a balanced budget at home, and I don't think it's asking too much to hold the government to these same standards."

The problem is that this same Mike Ross voted for George Bush's Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act which has made it much harder for families in deep trouble because of medical emergencies, business losses, job loss, and other reasons to declare bankruptcy. It is a bill that restricts consumer rights and protection, and expands the rights and protections for creditors. 31 of the 36 Blue Dog Democrats voted for the bankruptcy bill.

The blue Dog Democrats are trying to have it both ways. Criticize Bush for his budget and yet vote for anti-consumer, pro-finance and pro-banking legislation at the same time. By the way, 4 of the CAFTA 15 were Blue Dog Democrats.

Here is the membership of the Blue Dog Coalition. Here is their website.

November 10, 2005


From: Rachel's Democracy and Health News #829, Oct. 27, 2005

By Peter Montague

In 1999, cancer surpassed heart disease as the number one killer of
people younger than 85 in the U.S.[1] Now a detailed report on the causes of cancer tells us why: cancer has been steadily increasing in the U.S. for 50 years as people have been exposed to more and more cancer-causing agents, including chemicals and radiation.
Richard Clapp, Genevieve Howe, and Molly Jacobs Lefevre have just
published "Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer; A Review of Recent Scientific Literature" and it is a real eye-opener.
But before we dive into this report looking for nuggets, let's set the

About half of all cancer cases are fatal, and death by cancer is often
prolonged, painful, and very expensive. Those who manage to survive
cancer live out their lives molded by the after-effects of harsh
treatments popularly known as "slash and burn" -- surgery,
chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination of the three.

As more people are kept alive each year with their breasts or
testicles removed, the "cancer establishment" chalks up another
"victory" -- and no doubt the victims are glad to be alive -- but we
should acknowledge that there's something very wrong with calling this
"victory." Slash and burn seems more like a dreadful defeat.
The truth is, an epic struggle has been going on for 50 years between
the "slash and burn=victory" camp, versus those who think the only
real victory is prevention of disease. The struggle occurs across a
fault line defined by money. To be blunt about it, there's no money in
prevention, and once you've got cancer you'll pay anything to try to
stay alive. Cancer treatment is therefore a booming business, and
cancer prevention is nowhere. That is the basic dynamic of the debate.
Cancer surgeons can achieve the status of rock stars among their
peers. Those who advocate prevention will most likely find themselves
without funding, ridiculed and despised by the chemical industry, the
pesticide industry, the asbestos industry, the oil industry and all
their minions -- lawyers, bankers, engineers, reporters, professors,
and politicians -- who make a fat living off those who pump out
cancer-causing products and dump out cancer-causing by-products, aka
toxic waste.

The debate began 50 years ago when a powerful voice for prevention
spoke out from inside the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In 1948.
Wilhelm Hueper, a senior NCI scientist, wrote,
"Environmental carcinogenesis is the newest and one of the most
ominous of the end-products of our industrial environment. Though its
full scope and extent are still unknown, because it is so new and
because the facts are so extremely difficult to obtain, enough is
known to make it obvious that extrinsic [outside-the-body] carcinogens
present a very immediate and pressing problem in public and individual

In 1964, Hueper and his NCI colleague, W. C. Conway, described
patterns in cancer incidence as "an epidemic in slow motion":
"Through a continued, unrestrained, needless, avoidable and, in part
reckless increasing contamination of the human environment with
chemical and physical carcinogens and with chemicals supporting and
potentiating their action, the stage is being set indeed for a future
occurrence of an acute, catastrophic epidemic, which once present
cannot effectively be checked for several decades with the means
available nor can its course appreciably be altered once it has been
set in motion," they wrote.[pg. 28]

Hueper of course was right. This is why 50% of all men and 40% of all
women in the U.S. now hear the chilling words, "You've got cancer" at
some point in their lives. That's right, 1 out of every 2 men now get
cancer in the U.S., and more than 1 out of every 3 women.
Clapp, Howe and Lefevre tell us that between 1950 and 2001 the
incidence rate for all types of cancer increased 85%, using
age-adjusted data, which means cancer isn't increasing because people
are living longer. People are getting more cancer because they're
exposed to more cancer-causing agents.

Contrary to well-funded rumors, the culprit isn't just tobacco or the
hundreds of toxic chemicals intentionally added to tobacco products.

Tobacco products remain the single most significant preventable cause
of cancer, but they have not been linked to the majority of cancers
nor to many of the cancers that have increased most rapidly in recent
decades including melanoma, lymphomas, testicular, brain, and bone
marrow cancers.[pg. 1]

No, it's more complicated than just tobacco with its toxic additives.
Most plastics, detergents, solvents, and pesticides and the
toxic-waste by-products of their manufacture came into being after
World War II. From the late 1950s to the late 1990s, we disposed of
more than 750 million tons of toxic chemical wastes.[pg. 27] Over 40
years, this represents more than two tons of toxic chemical wastes
discharged into the environment for each man, woman and child in the
U.S. No wonder some of it has come back to bite us.

Since the U.S. EPA began its Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program in
1987, total releases have been reported as declining (though EPA does
not check the accuracy of industry's self-reporting). Despite the
reported decline, in 2002, the most recent year reported, 24,379
facilities in the U.S. reported releasing 4.79 billion pounds of over
650 different chemicals. (And TRI data do not include other enormous
discharges: toxic vehicle emissions, the majority of releases of
pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and fertilizers, or releases
from numerous other non-industrial sources.) In 2001, more than 1.2
billion pounds of pesticides were intentionally discharged into the
environment in the United States and over 5.0 billion pounds in the
whole world.[pg. 27]

While all this chemical dumping has been going on, incidence rates for
some cancer sites have increased particularly rapidly over the past
half century. From 1950-2001, melanoma of the skin increased by 690%,
female lung & bronchial cancer increased by 685%, prostate cancer by
286%, myeloma by 273%, thyroid cancer by 258%, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
by 249%, liver and intrahepatic duct cancer by 234%, male lung &
bronchial cancer by 204%, kidney and renal pelvis cancers by 182%,
testicular cancer by 143%, brain and other nervous system cancers by
136%, bladder cancer by 97%, female breast cancer by 90%, and cancer
in all sites by 86%.[pg. 25]

In the most recent 10-year period for which we have data (1992-2001),
liver cancer increased by 39%, thyroid cancer increased by 36%,
melanoma increased by 26%, soft tissue sarcomas (including heart) by
15%, kidney and renal pelvis cancers by 12%, and testicular cancer
increased by 4%.[pg. 25]

OK, so dumping chemicals into the environment has been a major
industrial pastime for 50 years, and cancers are increasing. But why
do we think these things are connected? What real evidence do we have
that environmental and occupational exposures contribute to cancer?
That's what the new Clapp-Howe-Lefevre report is about. It is a
review of recent scientific literature -- with emphasis on human
studies, not studies of laboratory animals. Indeed, the bulk of the
new Clapp-Howe-Lefevre report is a cancer-by-cancer compendium of what
recent human studies tell us about environmental and occupational
exposures that contribute to cancers of the bladder, bone, brain,
breast, cervix, colon, lymph nodes (Hodgkin's disease and non-
Hodgkin's lymphoma), kidney, larynx, liver and bile ducts, lungs,
nasal passages, ovaries, pancreas, prostate, rectum, soft tissues
(soft tissue sarcoma), skin, stomach, testicles, and thyroid, plus
leukemia, mesothelioma, and multiple myeloma. (It is worth pointing
out -- and Clapp-Howe-Lefevre do point it out -- that this compendium
owes a great debt to a data spreadsheet on cancer and its
environmental causes prepared by Sarah Janssen, Gina Solomon and Ted
Schettler, for which thanks are due the Collaborative on Health and

Many of the bad actor chemicals are well-known to us all: metals and
metallic dusts (arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium,
nickel); solvents (benzene, carbon tet, TCE, PCE, xylene, toluene,
among others); aromatic amines; petrochemicals and combustion
byproducts (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs); diesel
exhaust; ionizing radiation (x-rays, for example); non-ionizing
radiation (magnetic fields, radio waves); metalworking fluids and
mineral oils; pesticides; N-nitroso compounds; hormone-disrupting
chemicals (found in many pesticides, fuels, plastics, detergents, and
prescription drugs); chlorination byproducts in drinking water;
natural fibers (asbestos, silica, wood dust); man-made fibers (fiber
glass, rock wool, ceramic fibers); reactive chemicals (such as
sulfuric acids, vinyl chloride monomer, and many others); petroleum
products; PCBs; dioxins; mustard gas; aromatic amines; environmental
tobacco smoke; and outdoor air pollution.

But there is additional evidence linking chemicals with cancer:

** Elevated cancer rates follow patterns -- the disease is more common
in cities, in farming states, near hazardous waste sites, downwind of
certain industrial activities, and around certain drinking-water
wells. Patterns of elevated cancer incidence and mortality have been
linked to areas of pesticide use, toxic work exposures, hazardous
waste incinerators, and other sources of pollution.[pg. 26]

** The U.S. EPA's long-delayed and heavily industry-influenced "Draft
Dioxin Reassessment" released in 2000 admitted that the weight of the
evidence from human studies suggests that, "the generally increased
risk of overall cancer is more likely than not due to exposure to TCDD
[dioxin] and its congeners [chemical relatives]." The report goes on
to conclude, "The consistency of this finding in the four major cohort
studies and the Seveso victims is corroborated by animal studies that
show TCDD to be a multisite, multisex, and multispecies carcinogen
with a mechanistic basis."[pg. 26]

** Farmers in industrialized nations die more often than the rest of
us from multiple myeloma, melanoma, prostate cancer, Hodgkin's
lymphoma, leukemia, and cancers of the lip and stomach. They have
higher rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and brain cancer. Migrant
farmers experience elevated rates of multiple myeloma as well as
cancers of the stomach, prostate, and testicles.[pg. 26]

** The growing burden of cancer on children provides some of the most
convincing evidence of the role of environmental and occupational
exposures in causing cancers. Children do not smoke, drink alcohol, or
hold stressful jobs. Their lifestyles have not changed appreciably in
recent years. In proportion to their body weight, however, "children
drink 2.5 times more water, eat 3 to 4 times more food, and breathe 2
times more air" than adults." In addition, their developing bodies may
well be affected by parental exposures prior to conception, exposures
while growing in the uterus, and the contents of breast milk.
Clapp-Howe-Lefevre put it this way: "We have learned how to save more
lives, thankfully, but more children are still diagnosed with cancer
every year. The incidence of cancer in all sites combined among
children ages 0-19 increased by 22% from 13.8/100,000 in 1973 to 16.8
in 2000 and most of this increase occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.
Epidemiologic studies have consistently linked higher risks of
childhood leukemia and childhood brain and central nervous system
cancers with parental and childhood exposure to particular toxic
chemicals including solvents, pesticides, petrochemicals, and certain
industrial by-products (namely dioxins and polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons [PAHs])."[pg. 26]

All in all, the Clapp-Howe-Lefevre report makes a compelling case that
many industrial chemicals contribute to many kinds of cancers. But
where this report really shines is in its clear call for
prevention. In all, there are relatively few products or substances
associated with cancer.[pgs. 10-11, 37-40] Everything doesn't cause
cancer, and many of the things that do could be shunned and phased
out. In principle, a great deal of prevention is possible.

Thirty years into the prevention-vs-treatment debate -- in 1981 -- two
famous British scientists -- Sir Richard Doll and Sir Richard Peto
-- published an extremely influential study in which they estimated
that "only" 2 to 4% of all cancers are caused by environmental or
workplace exposures. With 1.2 million new cases of cancer each year in
the U.S., half of them fatal, 2% to 4% = 12,000 to 24,000 deaths each
year, most of them preventable. Doll and Peto said tobacco caused 30%
of all cancers and food caused another 35%. We now know that cancer
results from the interaction of our genes with exposure to several
cancer-causing agents. All the necessary exposures must occur to cause
a cancer -- if any one of them is missing, the cancer will not occur.

This is why prevention is important -- it really can work.
Because cancer requires multiple exposures to cancer-causing agents,
it is wrong and misleading to say that "Exposure to product A causes X
percent of all cancers." It simple doesn't work like that. Perhaps
Doll and Peto in 1981 did not know how such things worked, and they
boldly proceeded to estimate what percent of all cancers were
attributable to particular exposures. It was wrong, but their report
served as powerful ammunition for the prevention-is-pointless crowd.

If "only" 2 to 4% of all cancers were caused by environmental
exposures, then there was little incentive to prevent human exposure
to environmental agents, the argument went. What a welcome message
this was for the cancer-creation industries (petrochemicals, metals,
pesticides, asbestos, radiation, and others) and for the cancer
treatment industry! Damn the torpedoes -- full speed ahead!
The prevention-is-pointless crowd latched onto the Doll and Peto study
and spread it everywhere. By the end of 2004, the original 1981
Doll-and-Peto paper had been cited in 441 subsequent scientific
papers.[pg. 4] But even more importantly, the federal National Cancer
Institute and the American Cancer Society (which, together, you could
call the "cancer establishment") adopted the Doll-Peto perspective,
that cancer is a lifestyle disease -- the victims themselves are
responsible -- and that prevention of environmental and occupational
exposures is not worth the effort. Remember this was the beginning of
the Reagan counterrevolution and the Doll-Peto paper fit right into
the new ideology -- government is bad, big corporations are good,
we're all individually responsible for whatever bad things happen to
us, and greed is good because it makes the world go 'round. In any
case, the NCI and the ACS largely adopted the Doll-Peto perspective,
and they poured the bucks into new cancer treatments, pretty much
ignoring prevention. Meanwhile, cancer incidence rates climbed
relentlessly -- making the cancer-treatment industry healthier and
wealthier, which allowed it to further erode support for prevention.

Now we are starting to shake off the stupor induced by the misleading
Doll-Peto arithmetic, which pretended to prove that environment and
occupational exposures are of no consequence. Listen to this marvelously clear-eyed conclusion from the Clapp-Howe-Lefevre report: "Comprehensive cancer prevention programs
need to reduce exposures from all avoidable sources. Cancer prevention
programs focused on tobacco use, diet, and other individual behaviors
disregard the lessons of science."[pg. 1]

And this: "Preventing carcinogenic exposures wherever possible should
be the goal and comprehensive cancer prevention programs should aim to
reduce exposures from all avoidable sources, including environmental
and occupational sources."[pg. 6]

And this: "Further research is needed, but we will never be able to
study and draw conclusions about the potential interactions of
exposure to every possible combination of the nearly 100,000 synthetic
chemicals in use today. Despite the small increased risk of developing
cancer following a single exposure to an environmental carcinogen, the
number of cancer cases that might be caused by environmental
carcinogens is likely quite large due to the ubiquity [presence
everywhere] of carcinogens. Thus, the need to limit exposures to
environmental and occupational carcinogens is urgent."[pg. 29]

And this: "The sum of the evidence regarding environmental and
occupational contributions to cancer justifies urgent acceleration of
policy efforts to prevent carcinogenic exposures. By implementing
precautionary policies, Europeans are creating a model that can be
applied in the U.S. to protect public health and the environment. To
ignore the scientific evidence is to knowingly permit tens of
thousands of unnecessary illnesses and deaths each year."[pg. 1]

What a blast of fresh air!

The latest strategy from the cancer-creation industries is to claim
that we can't take action to prevent environmental and occupational
exposures because we don't have enough information. We're simply too
ignorant to make a move. More study is needed. [See Rachel's #824,
#825.] Clapp-Howe-Lefevre allow the eloquent writer Sandra
Steingraber to answer this argument. They say, "A main concern for
Sandra Steingraber, author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks
at Cancer and the Environment
, is not whether the greatest dangers
are presented by dump sites, workplace exposures, drinking water,
food, or air emissions:

"I am more concerned [writes Steingraber] that the uncertainty over
details is being used to call into doubt the fact that profound
connections do exist between human health and the environment. I am
more concerned that uncertainty is too often parlayed into an excuse
to do nothing until more research can be conducted."[pg. 29]
Clapp, Howe and Lefevre go on: "At the same time, uncertainty and
controversy are permanent players in scientific research. However,
they must not deter us from enacting regulations and policies based on
what we know and pursuing the wisdom of the precautionary principle.
This is not new thinking, as demonstrated by Sir Austin Bradford

1965 address to the Royal Society of Medicine:
"All scientific work is incomplete [wrote Sir Austin Bradford Hill] --
whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is
liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not
confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or
to postpone action that it appears to demand at a given time."[pg. 29]
Clapp, Howe and Lefevre then offer some guidelines for preventive

(1) The least toxic alternatives should always be used.

(2) Partial, but reliable, evidence of harm should compel us to act on
the side of caution to prevent needless sickness and death.

(3) The right of people to know what they are being exposed to must be

Clapp, Howe and Lefevre observe that "the United States has much to
learn" from the proposed European chemicals policy, known as REACH:

(1) requiring that industry be responsible for generating information
on chemicals, for evaluating risks, and for assuring safety; another
way of saying this is, "No data, no market."

(2) extending responsibility for testing and management to the entire
manufacturing chain -- everyone who uses a chemical has a duty to
familiarize themselves with the consequences;

(3) using safer substitutes for chemicals of high concern; and,

(4) encouraging innovation in safer substitutes.[pg. 29]

In the words of ecologist Sandra Steingraber: "It is time to start
pursuing alternative paths. From the right to know and the duty to
inquire flows the obligation to act."[pg. 29]

But while we're working in clear-eyed mode here, let's take our
exploration a bit further and look this problem squarely in the face.
The U.S. economy and culture are premised on endless growth. If I
loan you $100 in the expectation that you will pay me back $103 next
year, that extra 3% must come from somewhere. That "somewhere" has
physical dimensions -- something must be dug up or grown to produce
the additional 3%. That something must also be moved, processed, moved
again, packaged, promoted and sold, moved again, used, moved again,
and eventually discarded. Even if it is recycled many times,
ultimately it will be discarded into a natural ecosystem somewhere (at
which point nature begins moving it once again). The inescapable
second law of thermodynamics tells us that each of these steps will
inevitably be accompanied by waste, disorder and other disruptive
unintended consequences. Even if you create the extra 3% per year by
providing a "service" instead of a "product," you still require food,
water, shelter, energy, clothing, tools, transportation, commercial
space, medical care, municipal support services (like police, fire,
emergency services, and sewage treatment), leisure activities,
communications and information, schooling, and on and on.

An economy that is growing at 3% per year is doubling in size every 23
years -- requiring, every 23 years, a doubling in the number of
cities, food sources, mines, factories, power plants, vehicles,
highways, parking lots, schools, sewage treatment plants, hospitals,
prisons, discards, trash and dumps. For a very long time this kind of
rapid growth seemed tolerable. But now things are different -- the
earth is full of people and their artifacts. We can no longer throw
things "away" without affecting someone somewhere.

Something else is new as well. The modern, globalized financial
environment (in which money flows easily across international
borders), creates tremendous competitive pressure to attract
investment by increasing return to investors. That in turn creates
pressure to pass costs along to the general public. Economists call it
"externalizing" costs. If I dump my chemicals and make you sick, I
gain if I can get you to pay your own medical bills, and I gain again
if I can get taxpayers to clean up my mess. Firms have a natural
incentive to externalize their costs to the extent possible, but the
present "globalized" financial environment has increased that
incentive greatly, to improve return to investors.

In sum, let us review the pressures that prevent prevention.

(1) In general, it is difficult to make prevention pay, but
remediation can pay handsomely; this is certainly true for the cancer
industry. In general, financial-political-legal incentives are set up
to reward those who create problems and those who supply remedies.

(2) Economic growth entails the continual creation of ever-more and
ever-larger messes. Even if we managed to "green" commerce in every
way we can think of today, damage to nature would still be roughly
proportional to the size of the human economy because the second law
of thermodynamics cannot be evaded. And we now know that damage to
nature gives rise to human disease in myriad ways. (For evidence,
follow leads found here, here, here, and here.) Now that the
is full, a growing economy creates palpably-growing health problems,
including immune system degradation giving rise to cancers.

(3) The modern economy creates irresistible pressure to increase stock
prices, which in turn creates relentless pressure to externalize costs
by hook or by crook.
So let's not kid ourselves. Yes, cancer must be prevented
because for the most part it can't be cured -- it can only be slashed
and burned away at enormous cost, personal, social and monetary.
But saying cancer must be prevented is one thing. Expecting
that it can be prevented within the framework of the modern
economy is another. We can never stop working to prevent cancer -- and
precautionary policies will always make sense no matter what kind of
economy we have -- but until we shift to an economy that doesn't
require growth, we'll find ourselves right where we are now -- on an
accelerating rat wheel. As a result, we can expect to be living with
more and more cancer at greater and greater cost to ourselves and to
our children, accompanied by ever-increasing pain. It is not a pretty
picture. But at least we can now see it clearly.

[1] Richard Clapp, Genevieve Howe, and Molly Jacobs Lefevre,
Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer; A Review of Recent
Scientific Literature (Lowell, Mass.: University of Massachusetts at
Lowell, The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, September, 2005.
Available here and here and here. Unless otherwise noted,
throughout this issue of Rachel's, footnote numbers inside square
brackets refer to pages in this report.

November 08, 2005

A Game Plan for Democrats

For those who read my piece, Moral Persuasion , which proposes five major areas of concentration for the Democratic Party, I want to add the voice of George Packer from The New Yorker to the mix.

In his piece entitled "Game Plan", he enumerates the faults and sins of the Republican rule of the last five years and then proposes his own game plan for the Democrats. In many ways, it overlaps mine.

Here is what he proposes:

Energy: The Republicans have made America more dependent on foreign oil while gas prices are skyrocketing; the Democrats will push for energy independence.

Health care: The Republicans have allowed private companies to eliminate choice while costs go up and millions of Americans lack insurance; the Democrats will enact national coverage that restores choice and holds down costs.

Taxes: The Republicans have shifted the burden from the top to the middle; the Democrats will reverse that trend, and will end the Administration’s ruinous fiscal policies.

National security: Republican incompetence has squandered our power abroad and failed to make us more secure at home, as the country learned after Katrina; the Democrats will rebuild the armed forces—making it at least possible for the Iraq insurgency to be defeated—and bring competence to homeland security.

But Packer goes a step further in suggesting that the Democrats need to overcome their self-esteem problems. The leaders of the Party need to start acting as if what they do and say matters, that the incumbent Republican failures can be swept out of office, and that they need to do it in a language that is moral and righteous.

I agree. No doubt many others are urging a concentration on key issues. Nevertheless, we can have five or four or six of the best issues to campaign on, but if we don't have the moral will and the moral confidence, it won't resonate with the voters.

Just who are the leaders of the Democratic Party who can project this will and confidence?

A Bush Out of Water

This little vignette helps us understand the rigidity and narrow-mindedness of President Bush. He is incapable of adapting. And I sense a serious level of social dysfunction in the way he handles himself in these kinds of situations. I believe he is uncomfortable and stressed around people who are unlike him -- white, rich, small-minded, parochial, and unsophisticated.

Poor President Bush. Over the weekend he was an American fish out of water trapped in an Argentinean nightmare.

During the first-leg of his four-day Latin America trip for a trade summit with Western Hemisphere leaders, Bush, normally fed by 7 and in his Doctor Dentons by 9pm and in dreamland shortly thereafter, was at the mercy of his foreign hosts who kept him out till--get this--12:40am Saturday.

As is the culture in Latin America and Europe, for example, dinner isn't typically served until at least 10pm. To say Bush was a bit miffed would be an understatement. As such, his aides announced that he'd of course be attending the next day's session, but would miss the scheduled two-hour lunch with these same leaders because of "time served" the night before. An early exit was planned to get Bush on Air Force One by 4:05 to get to his next destination, Brazil.

But again, poor Bush. The summit was a bit contentious and the talks ran three hours later than planned, and event organizers decided to cancel lunch. So there was the president, at 3:30pm, no lunch, stomach gurgling, miffed again, abruptly leaving to make his flight and leaving an aide behind to represent the U.S. And, leaving the rest of the gathered dignitaries wondering if the leader of the free world was simply a grumpy, hungry and tired old man.

Remember the famed Clinton all-nighters? Now there was a president.


From the Ostroy Report

November 07, 2005

Having It Both Ways

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a new study that exhibits all the symptoms of bipolar illness. It is the World Energy Outlook 2005 -- Middle East and North Africa Insights, 600 pages, ISBN 92-64-10949-8 (2005). I have not spent the $250 or so to buy this study and read it thoroughly, but the press release covering its release and the summation of it found on the IEA website are both informative.

The IEA projects a substantial (over 50%) rise in world energy demands by 2030. It says that world energy resources are adequate to meet this demand, but investment of $17 trillion will be needed to bring these resources to consumers. Thus, it urges a huge increase in investment in new refinery capacity to answer that demand. In lieu of this kind of huge investment, the world economy will suffer great hardships.

From the IEA press release:

“The importance of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to global oil and gas markets cannot be underestimated. These countries have vast resources, but these resources must be further developed. Investment should not be delayed,” said Mr. William C. Ramsay, Deputy Executive Director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, as he presented findings from the World Energy Outlook 2005: Middle East and North Africa Insights (WEO-2005) today in London.

But then, only a few lines down in the same press release, we have this:

Energy-related CO2 emissions also climb -- by 2030, they will be 52% higher than today. “These projected trends have important implications and lead to a future that is not sustainable – from an energy-security or environmental perspective. We must change these outcomes and get the planet onto a sustainable energy path,” added Mr. Ramsay.

The press release goes on to describe a number of scenarios which show some rosy and not-so-rosy predictions for oil prices in the $35 to $40 range in 2010, as well as other "alternative" scenarios that Middle East and North African-producing countries might follow. But all these "alternative" scenarios involved varying levels of oil production and natural gas production, as well as increases in refinery capacity.

Although I have not read the actual report, I don't see anywhere in its summation or conclusions, or in the press release, any attention paid to the need to develop alternative, non-CO2 producing energy sources. You'd think that if you stated flatly that "These projected trends have important implications and lead to a future that is not sustainable," you might mention somewhere obvious and publicly that there is a need to develop alternative energy sources. But, of course, if your salary is paid for by the 26 major industrialized nations and largest consumers of oil who make up the IEA, then there is probably little motivation to do so.

November 06, 2005

Dark and Unhappy Expectations

A team of scientists at Purdue University's Climate Change Research Center has predicted a dramatic deterioration of the weather for the United States over the next 100 years.

"This is the most detailed projection of climate change that we have for the U.S.," said team leader Noah S. Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in Purdue's College of Science and a member of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. "And the changes our model predicts are large enough to substantially disrupt our economy and infrastructure."

"The climate model, run on supercomputers at Purdue University, takes into account a large number of factors that have been incompletely incorporated in past studies, such as the effects of snow reflecting solar energy back into space and of high mountain ranges blocking weather fronts from traveling across them," he said.

Diffenbaugh said a better understanding of these factors – coupled with a more powerful computer system on which to run the analysis – allowed the team to generate a far more coherent image of what weather we can expect to encounter in the continental United States for the next century. Those expectations, he said, paint a very different climate picture for most parts of the country.

Some of the unhappy expectations reached in the team's research include:

• The desert Southwest will experience more heat waves of greater intensity, combined with less summer precipitation. Water is already at a premium in the four-corners states and southern Nevada and, as years pass, even less water will be available for the region's burgeoning populations, with extreme hot events increasing in frequency by as much as 500 percent.

• The Gulf Coast will be hotter and will receive its precipitation in greater volumes over shorter time periods.

• In the northeastern United States – roughly the region east of Illinois and north of Kentucky – summers will be longer and hotter.

•Similarly, the continental United States will experience an overall warming trend: Temperatures now experienced during the coldest two weeks of the year will be a past memory, and winter's length will diminish as well, according to the model.

Commenting on the study, Stanford University's Stephen H. Schneider said the results confirm scientists' suspicions about the future of climate change. "This study is the latest and most detailed simulation of climatic change in the United States," said Schneider, who is Stanford's Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies. "Critics have asserted that the coarse resolution of previous studies made their sometimes dire predictions suspect, but this new result with a very high resolution grid over the United States shows potential climatic impacts at least as significant as previous results with lower resolution model. As the authors wisely note, such potential impacts certainly should not be glibly dismissed."

In response to questions posed by Orwell's Grave, two Purdue University professors reflected on the study.

From Gerald Shively, Professor of Agricultural Economics

Anticipating economic impacts and making good public policy decisions requires good science. One of the reasons that it has been difficult to reliably forecast economic and social impacts arising from climate change is that there has been considerable uncertainty about the range of physical changes that will take place in our environment over the next 50-100 years. The value of Noah's work is that it narrows this band of uncertainty and provides better information for those of us working in the realm of economic and social science. It will now be possible for us to develop better forecasts of likely economic changes. To a large extent, our work can now begin.

I'm not prepared to attach dollar values to potential impacts or to speculate as to who might be most affected by climate changes. That said, the scenarios Noah's team highlights -- regional changes in temperature, rainfall, the length of growing seasons, etc. -- will clearly have economic impacts. Noah's work will help us to identify and anticipate likely changes and begin to think about ways to adapt to them (or mitigate their negative effects) sooner rather than later. In this way we may be able to avoid large scale disruptions to the agricultural sector, our general economy and society at large. I think adaptation is the operative word here – for example, I would highlight new crop varieties that are robust to climate variability and pest pressure, new approaches to water management that are sensitive to drought and rainfall variability, and enhanced “early warning systems” that allow the global community to respond more quickly to climate-induced crises in food production in vulnerable areas of the globe. My sense from reading the literature is that the climate has a lot of inertia and therefore it might be overly optimistic for us to think we can “undo” the changes underway.

From Leigh Raymond, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University

If our society wants to take steps to limit global warming impacts, it seems clear from the preponderance of science that I've read that we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions substantially, particularly in countries like the U.S. where per capita emissions of CO2 are an order of magnitude higher than many other nations.
I think higher fuel and energy taxes are a very good idea if implemented in a "revenue neutral" way by reducing regressive taxes on labor like the payroll tax. This also can minimize the impact on poorer individuals of higher fuel costs. This idea of "tax shifting" doesn't get enough serious attention in my view.
I also think we have to get serious about negotiating or agreeing upon a global distribution of emissions rights, so that countries like China and India are convinced to participate in future climate agreements. I am already on record (in Science, Baer et al 2000) as supporting the idea of equal per capita emissions rights as a basis for such an international agreement as a long-term goal to be achieved gradually in a very incremental manner (although I have some concerns about a strict equal per capita distribution compared to one that distinguishes between "subsistence" and "luxury" emissions, as Henry Shue has put it. Strict equality might not actually make the most sense, but it is still a worthwhile place to start the discussion).
I am intrigued by Peter Barnes idea of a "sky trust" as another approach within the U.S., although I think tax shifting might achieve many of the same goals with less trouble. But I like his approach as well in many ways and think it, too, deserves serious consideration.
In general, we have to find creative ways, in my view, to take advantage of what we know about the strengths of market-based approaches to environmental policy in general, while paying very careful attention to issues of distributive equity and political reality. The EU emissions trading system, for example, is a good step in the right direction. But it is just a small step.

There is an MP3 here of a talk given by Prof. Raymond entitled "State of Fear or State of Denial: The Increasing Isolation of the US Federal Government on Climate Change."

November 05, 2005

Moral Persuasion

In response to The Straw that Breaks The Elephant's Back? , suggests the possibility of a third party, and asks "any ideas?" It got me to thinking.

Norman Thomas, Henry Wallace, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Ralph Nader won certain percentages of the vote of the American population because their positions resonated, at the time, with a minority (in some cases, larger than others) segment of the voters. In other cases, "independents," not aligned with a national Third Party, like James Jeffords, Jesse Ventura, and Bernie Sanders actually won their races because a sufficient number of voters in their states were ready to "throw the bums out," meaning the Democrats and Republicans.

But overall, third parties have remained marginalized and unsuccessful. I believe it will be easier to build a majority by working within the Democratic Party than otherwise.

Ralph Nader's basic political analysis and positions were sound. It was his denunciation of the Democratic Party as being as bad as the Republican Party that was unconvincing and unappealing. Some say his personality hurt him, others that the press never covered him adequately. Nevertheless, Nader knew what was wrong with the Democrats. And, most importantly, he was right about the substantial influence in both parties of corporate power. And we owe him and others, like Bill Moyers, for communicating early and often to us about the threats of corporate control of our government and intrusion into our lives.

What we need is the moral persuasion of Nader and Moyers, encapsulated in a few compelling issues, combined with a renascent and motivated Democratic Party. We need a movement directed toward the American people that speaks of their lives, in their everyday terms, not in sound bites of extremism and division.

The Republicans used the language of good and evil very effectively. They appealed to the lowest common denominators in the American people, and they won. In 2004, the GOP juggernaut attacked Kerry as a fake soldier and traitor. It fearmongered the American people with another terrorist attack -- vote for us or the terrorists will win. It defended God, painting Kerry as anti-God, unbelieving, pro-gay sex, and a baby-killer. It pounded on these few simple issues over and over and over, in every forum possible, in TV and radio ads, in churches, at political rallies, everywhere, always. It sustained this message with hundreds of millions of dollars for months on end.

Bush and Cheney basically avoided talking about the failures of the Iraqi war, and its consequences. They avoided talking about universal health care. They avoided talking about alternative energy solutions for America. They avoided talking about poverty and economic justice. And they avoided talking about the intrusive ownership and control of America's political, economic and social life by corporations. I suggest that choosing these five most important issues that affect the everday lives of the average American and beating the drums constantly on them might be our best strategy right now.

1. The War - Lies, lies and more lies -- dead American men and women, making us less safe not more safe, ruining the future of our children's lives, bankrupting us now, and bringing shame to America's vaunted democratic ideals.

2. Health care -- the more the country ages, the more this one issue cuts across party lines -- oppose big PHARMA and its theft from the American taxpayer -- emphasize the influence of big PHARMA money, AMA money, and hospital chain money on preserving a system that benefits the wealthy over the working class. Make health care a right, not a privilege. Support universal health care and show why and how. Contrast our system with the health care systems of all other industrialized nations.

3. Energy -- Pound this one for all its worth -- alternative energy sources, wind, solar, biofuels, a national Marshall Plan is needed -- pull out all the stops. Show how the influence of the oil industry and its allies serve to retard America's progress in developing alternative energy resources.

4. Poverty and Economic Justice -- If Katrina showed the American people one thing, it was that we live in a country where the disparity between the haves and the have-nots is worse than it has ever been. Economic democracy should be the cornerstone of our message. It is something that the majority of Americans can understand. We don't want give-aways, but we want equal pay for equal work, and we want to be paid well and treated well for the work we do. Support trade unionism and explain why. Show that in every field of employment where trade unions exist, workers have higher wages and better working conditions. Educate the American people about what trade unions have helped produce for all of us -- social security, medicare and medicaid, the five-day work week, outlawing of sweatshops and safer working conditions for all workers, the minimum wage, the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act, the right to bargain for federal employees. How can we have political democracy without economic democracy?

5. Corporate Domination of Our Lives -- I saved the most important one for last, but it is actually the first thing we need to concentrate on. This one is not easy, but it is absolutely a sina qua non of any success in any other endeavor. If we do not reclaim our democracy from the plutocracy, we cannot succeed.

We need to get corporations out of our government, we need to get them out of our Congress, we need to reform electoral giving, we need to take back the airways from them, we need to control their charters and make them responsible and accountable to the people of this country. This challenge, more than any other, is the most difficult and complex, but also the most indispensable. If we continue to allow corporate control of our media, our elections, our culture, our consumer choices, our energy choices, our transportation choices, our courts, our family life, and our children's educations, we will not regain our democracy, political or otherwise. This is the most difficult because most people in this country don't feel the way some of us do about corporations. They don't view them with the same antagonism and concern. They do not personalize the negative effect of corporations on their lives. And certainly, the vast majority of Democratic officeholders, beholden to corporate coffers, don't feel the same sense of urgency I do.

I am not suggesting that we eliminate corporations. I am not suggesting that corporations play a hugely important role in our daily lives. I am not suggesting that there should not be a relationship ebtween corporations and government. I am not, per se, against the corporate model. I am saying that their influence on our lives and our democracy has gone way, way beyond what our forbears imagined when they permitted the creation of corporations.

The marriage of government and corporations - this plutocracy -- has become an insidious partnership that serves a very narrow range of interests. Corporations behave now as if they have the same rights as people. They behave as if money is free speech. It is not, and it is an insult to our founding principles and our democratic ideals to suggest it is. If that were so, then we should endorse the idea of one dollar, one vote, instead of one person, one vote. We need to explain why this is anathema to democracy and freedom. America is a democracy of, by, and for the people, not of, by, and for corporations.

Can a progressive/liberal/Democratic/labor/working poor/minority movement be built on these five issues? Is it enough? Is it too much?