Some interesting stuff I found online.
Bush "Changes Tone" on Iraq; Huge Explosion
A massive truckbomb ripped through the UN headquarters in Iraq killing at least 15. The casulties included the chief U.N. official in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The security council issued a statement of resolve, but UN officials acknowledged the attack would seriously setback the UN mission in Iraq.
Meanwhile, President Bush was receiving several updates from Condi Rice while he enjoyed a game of golf. Later, Bush decided he'd better get back to his ranch to 'monitor events' related to the bombing. Recently, Bush has been decidedly upbeat about the 'progress' the occupation is making in Iraq despite all evidence to the contrary. Once again, he's chosen idealogy and faith-based foreign policy over the undue hassle of facts and reason.
He's spoken enthusiastically about international troops and their help in reconstruction as our soldiers die every day, renowned camera men are shot dead at close range, oil lines are blown completely apart, riots erupt in Basra and other parts of the Shia south, the US incites riots in Sadr City ... now, he's decided to 'change the tone':
"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country."
George Bush President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended May 1, 2003
This was his story then. Now, Bush would like to dump that USS Abraham Lincoln speech as historical revisionism. President Bush now admits that combat operations are not over. Dana Milbank at the Washington Post has carefully searched his speeches and found that this is an entirely new revelation for Bush.
Bush Revises Views On 'Combat' in Iraq
"Actually, major military operations," Bush replied. "Because we still have combat operations going on." Bush added: "It's a different kind of combat mission, but, nevertheless, it's combat, just ask the kids that are over there killing and being shot at."
In his May 1 speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush declared: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country." The headline on the White House site above Bush's May 1 speech is "President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended."
Since then, a search of Bush speeches on the White House Web site indicates, the president had not spoken of the guerrilla fighting in Iraq as combat until this interview; he had earlier spoken of the "cessation of combat" in Iraq.
The article also relates several other examples of historical revisionism. I'm sure Tim Russert will be happy to pounce on the fact that Bush wasn't aware of troop strength issues in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, I'm sure Bush will just snap back that all problems stem from Russert and NBC war-mongering. Sheesh.
Holy historical revisionism Batman! The WH has changed the title of the Lincoln speech posthumously. The WaPo article gives the title as 'combat operations' and now the WH gives it 'major combat operations'. Never fear, google has the play by play. How telling that the only folks supporting the WH version are the freepers. Hilarious. I don't know why the WH is so concerned over the word 'major' as it is absolutely evident that both 'major combat operations' and 'combat operations' have not ended. Bush loses either way.
Justo Y. Equilibrado noted the last modified date on the WH Abraham Lincoln page: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 23:53:04 GMT These White House baffoons are sooooooooo sad! Here are some screenshots for posterity: image1, image2, image3, image4. (Thanks for the last one Atrios)
YET ANOTHER UPDATE
These dimwits can't help themselves. The White House web team is systematically going through their archive of the USS Abraham Lincoln speech and inserting 'major' in every document. I don't know which is funnier, their inept attempt to play historical revisionists OR the fact that we're watching this (unbeknownst to them) in real time as they do it. These crackpots should lose their jobs. I wonder which White House staffer saw the Washington Post piece and thought, hey, what a wonderfully idea it'd be to instruct the web team to insert 'major' into the title of all these files. Check out the idiots at work: image5. I'm writing to Dana Milbank to alert the WaPo to what they are doing, but perhaps you folks would like to write too: email@example.com
Posted by Adam in MA at August 19, 2003 01:39 PM
Circle I Limbo
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind
Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow
Circle IV Rolling Weights
Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled
Circle VI Buried for Eternity
Circle VII Burning Sands
Osama bin Laden
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement
Circle IX Frozen in Ice
Bush toy was not much fun.
By MATT LITTLE Special to The Star
Dear Blue Box:
With great disappointment, I am returning the George W. Bush �action figure,� which you will find enclosed in this package. I am seeking a full refund for this defective toy for the following reasons:
� Despite its billing as an action figure to pair up with my GI Joes, it was obviously not made to be a soldier. Never mind the lack of any scar on its face. The bigger problem is that I cannot find any weapons of mass destruction anywhere in the box. Heck, I can't find any weapons at all!
� When I pull the string to make it talk, the results are muffled and unintelligible or make no sense at all. Is this supposed to be some kind of rotten joke on your customers?
� Every time I turn the doll upside down and shake it, white powder comes out. What's with that?
� Even worse, my GI Joe dolls don't seem to like this one at all, and I'm beginning to understand why:
All last week, during the grueling sandbox battles in my backyard between my GI Joes and the hideous armies of Grog, the GW Bush doll was missing. I thought it was lost for good. But then, after my GI Joes won the day and made the sandbox safe again, there the Bush doll was, front and center, looking splendid and unruffled in pristine army fatigues. Evidently it'd been playing dress-up all week with my sister's Ken doll but was right there to take the credit for the GI Joe's victory.
My GI Joes are all saying that the GW Bush doll is stealing money out of their pockets and giving it to my sister's Ken and Barbie dolls. I didn't believe this at first, but this afternoon I spied a nice, new dollhouse in my sister's room and now I'm thinking it must be so.
I'm certain you can understand my desire to return this toy to you. Your quality control supervisor must be asleep on the job. Frankly, I don't know why you even produced this doll in the first place. If you value your reputation at all, you will recall it immediately.
All this is terrible, but the worst part of all is that this is not the doll I originally ordered! I carefully filled out the order form, yet the toy I received was not the one I expected. I wonder how many other customers ended up with a different �action figure� than the one they requested. I hope the rumor that you cannot correct this error for two more years is untrue.
Please either send me the action figure I ordered or refund my money. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Matt Little is a marketing, communications and design consultant who lives in Overland Park.
Actor Gary Coleman (news) and adult film actress Mary Carey, both candidates for governor of California in the October 7, 2003 recall election, pose at a press conference in Los Angeles, August 15, 2003. Coleman and Carey are two of the five candidates who will be participating in a televised election spoof on Oct. 1. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)
Iraqis Offer Tips Over U.S. Blackout
Fri Aug 15, 9:32 AM ET
By NIKO PRICE, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqis who have suffered for months with little electricity gloated Friday over a blackout in the northeastern United States and southern Canada and offered some tips to help Americans beat the heat.
From frequent showers to rooftop slumber parties, Iraqis have developed advanced techniques to adapt to life without electricity.
Daily highs have soared above 120 degrees recently as Iraq (news - web sites)'s U.S. administrators have been unable to get power back to prewar levels. Some said it was poetic justice that some Americans should suffer the same fate, if only briefly.
"Let them taste what we have tasted," said Ali Abdul Hussein, selling "Keep Cold" brand ice chests on a sidewalk. "Let them sit outside drinking tea and smoking cigarettes waiting for the power to come back, just like the Iraqis."
Here are some tips from the streets of Baghdad:
_ SLEEP ON THE ROOF. Without power � and hence without air conditioning � Iraqis have taken to climbing up stairs in the hot nights. Some install metal bed frames on rooftops, while others simply stretch out on thin mattresses. "It's cooler there," said Hadia Zeydan Khalaf, 38.
_ SIT IN THE SHADE. Many Iraqis head outside when the power's off. "We sit in the shade," said George Ruweid, 27, playing cards with friends on the sidewalk. Of the U.S. blackout, he said: "I hope it lasts for 20 years. Let them feel our suffering."
_ HEAD FOR THE WATER. "We go to the river, just like in the old days," said Saleh Moayet, 53.
_ SHOWER FREQUENTLY. "I take showers all day," said Raed Ali, 33.
_ BUY BLOCKS OF ICE. Mohammed Abdul Zahara, 24, sells about 20 a day from a roadside table.
_ GET A GENERATOR. Abbas Abdul al-Amir, 53, has one of a long row of shops selling generators in Baghdad's Karadah shopping street. When the power goes out, sales go up, he said.
_ CALL IN THE IRAQIS. Some suggested the Americans ask the Iraqis how to get the power going again. "Let them take experts from Iraq," said Alaa Hussein, 32, waiting in a long line for gas because there was no electricity for the pumps. "Our experts have a lot of experience in these matters."
Blackout New york Times Shot 1. A huge power failure swept through parts of the Northeast, Midwest and Canada today, shutting down trains, subways and airports from New York City to Detroit, forcing people into the streets.
Blackout New york Times Shot 2. Passengers on the downtown A train were stuck underground for two hours before being led out by MTA employees.
Blackout New york Times Shot 3. Transit workers escorted riders off a subway car on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Blackout New york Times Shot 4. Pedestrians clogged the Brooklyn Bridge as the power outage brought life to a standstill.
Blackout New york Times Shot 5. The hallways of Saint Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan were dark after the blackout. Power generators lit emergency and patient care areas.
Blackout New york Times Shot 6. The whole of the city was dark and the setting sun painted one building.
People poured onto 8th Avenue, outside the Port Authority, unable to leave the city.
HOW TO POOP AT WORK*
We've all been there but don't like to admit it. We've all kicked back in our cubicles and suddenly felt something brewing down below. As much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, the WORK POOP is inevitable. For those who hate pooping at work, following is the Survival Guide for taking a dump at work.
When farting, you walk really fast around the office so the smell is not in your area and everyone else gets a whiff but doesn't know where it came from. Be careful when you do this. Do not stop until the full fart has been expelled. Walk an extra 30 feet to make sure the smell has left your pants.
The act of scouting out a bathroom before pooping. Walk in and check for other poopers. If there are others in the bathroom, leave and come back again. Be careful not to become a FREQUENT FLYER. People may become suspicious if they catch you constantly going into the bathroom.
A fart that slips out while taking a leak at the urinal or forcing a poop in a stall. This is usually accompanied by a sudden wave of embarrassment. If you release an escapee, do not acknowledge it. Pretend it did not happen. If you are standing next to the farter in the urinal, pretend you did not hear it. No one likes an escapee. It is uncomfortable for all involved. Making a joke or laughing makes both parties feel uneasy.
When forcing a poop, several farts slip out at a machine gun pace. This is usually a side effect of diarrhea or a hangover. If this should happen, do not panic. Remain in the stall until everyone has left the bathroom to spare everyone the awkwardness of what just occurred.
The act of flushing the toilet the instant the poop hits the water. This reduces the amount of air time the poop has to stink up the bathroom. This can help you avoid being caught doing the WALK OF SHAME.
WALK OF SHAME
Walking from the stall, to the sink, to the door after you have just stunk up the bathroom. This can be a very uncomfortable moment if someone walks in and busts you. As with farts, it is best to pretend that the smell does not exist. Can be avoided with the use of the COURTESY FLUSH.
OUT OF THE CLOSET POOPER
A colleague who poops at work and is damn proud of it. You will often see an Out Of The Closet Pooper enter the bathroom with a newspaper or magazine under their arm. Always look around the office for the Out Of The Closet Pooper before entering the bathroom.
THE POOPING FRIENDS NETWORK (P.F.N)
A group of co-workers who band together to ensure emergency pooping goes off without incident. This group can help you to monitor the whereabouts of Out Of The Closet Poopers, and identify SAFE HAVENS.
A seldom used bathroom somewhere in the building where you can least expect visitors. Try floors that are predominantly of the opposite sex. This will reduce the odds of a pooper of your sex entering the bathroom.
Someone who does not realize that you are in the stall and tries to force the door open. This is one of the most shocking and vulnerable moments that can occur when taking a poop at work. If this occurs, remain in the stall until the Turd Burglar leaves. This way you will avoid all uncomfortable eye contact.
A phony cough that alerts all new entrants into the bathroom that you are in a stall. This can be used to cover-up a WATERMELON, or to alert potential Turd Burglars. Very effective when used in conjunction with an ASTAIRE.
A subtle toe-tap that is used to alert potential Turd Burglars that you are occupying a stall. This will remove all doubt that the stall is occupied. If you hear an Astaire, leave the bathroom immediately so the pooper can poop in peace.
A poop that creates a loud splash when hitting the toilet water. This is also an embarrassing incident. If you feel a Watermelon coming on, create a diversion.
A case of diarrhea that creates a series of loud splashes in the toilet water. Often accompanied by an Escapee. Try using a Camo-Cough with an Astaire.
A bathroom user who seems to linger around forever. Could spend extended lengths of time in front of the mirror or sitting on the pot. An Uncle Ted makes it difficult to relax while on the crapper, as you should always wait to poop when the bathroom is empty. This benefits you as well as the other bathroom attendees.
Funny email forward.
By GEOFFREY YORK
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Beijing � A senior Pentagon adviser has given details of a war strategy for invading North Korea and toppling its regime within 30 to 60 days, adding muscle to a lobbying campaign by U.S. hawks urging a pre-emptive military strike against Pyongyang's nuclear facilities.
Less than four months after the end of the Iraq war, the war drums in Washington have begun pounding again. A growing number of influential U.S. leaders are talking openly of military action against North Korea to destroy its nuclear-weapons program, and even those who prefer negotiations are warning of the mounting danger of war.
Some analysts predict that North Korea could test a nuclear warhead by the end of this year � an event that could cross the "red line" that would provoke a U.S. attack.
The tensions were heightened by a recent exchange of gunfire across the border between North Korean and South Korean soldiers. Talks between U.S. and North Korean officials are expected to be held in Beijing soon, but nobody is predicting an imminent diplomatic agreement, especially after North Korea denounced a U.S. negotiator as a "bloodsucker" and "human scum."
Military conflict in the Korean peninsula could trigger a catastrophe, not only because of the suspected presence of nuclear bombs in North Korea, but also because of the 11,000 North Korean artillery weapons along the border that could inflict death and destruction on millions of people in the South Korean capital, Seoul, which is within artillery range of the North's guns.
Former CIA director James Woolsey, a Pentagon adviser and close ally of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, gave the most explicit glimpse into the thinking of U.S. military planners this week when he revealed the details of a possible plan of attack against North Korea.
The plan would include 4,000 daily air strikes against North Korean targets, the deployment of cruise missiles and stealth aircraft to destroy the Yongbyon nuclear plant and other nuclear facilities, the stationing of U.S. Marine forces off the coasts of North Korea to threaten a land attack on Pyongyang, the deployment of two additional U.S. Army divisions to bolster South Korean troops in a land offensive against North Korea, and the call-up of National Guard and Reserve units to replace U.S. combat forces that are currently bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Massive air power is the key to being able both to destroy Yongbyon and to protect South Korea from attack by missile or artillery," Mr. Woolsey wrote this week in the Wall Street Journal in an article co-written by retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant-General Thomas McInerney.
"We believe the use of air power in such a war would be swifter and more devastating than it was in Iraq," the article said. "We judge that the U.S. and South Korea could defeat North Korea decisively in 30 to 60 days with such a strategy."
Mr. Woolsey and Lt.-Gen. McInerney said the U.S. should already be preparing "to assess realistically what it would take to conduct a successful military operation to change the North Korean regime."
They acknowledged the risk that U.S. military strikes could trigger an explosion of radiation from North Korean nuclear plants, along with massive artillery attacks against Seoul by the North Korean heavy guns that are hidden in hardened underground bunkers on the border.
But U.S. cruise missiles and stealth aircraft could launch precision bombing attacks that would "minimize radiation leakage" at Yongbyon, while also sealing shut the underground bunkers where the artillery pieces are hidden, they said.
They warned that a war could soon become necessary to prevent North Korea from selling weapons-grade plutonium to "rogue states" and terrorist organizations. "The world has weeks to months, at most, to deal with this issue, not months to years," Mr. Woolsey and Lt.-Gen. McInerney wrote.
Similar warnings were issued recently by William Perry, the former U.S. defence secretary, who said North Korea and the United States were drifting toward war � perhaps as early as this year.
Mr. Perry said the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is "losing control" of the North Korean nuclear crisis, making it possible for Pyongyang to begin selling nuclear weapons to terrorists soon. "The nuclear program now under way in North Korea poses an imminent danger of nuclear weapons being detonated in American cities," he told The Washington Post.
He said North Korea seems to have begun reprocessing some of the 8,000 spent fuel rods from a closed nuclear plant. This could allow Pyongyang to build up to six nuclear bombs in the next six months. "I have thought for some months that if the North Koreans moved toward processing," he said, "then we are on a path toward war."
By GEOFFREY YORK
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Former Vice President Al Gore
Remarks to MoveOn.org
New York University
August 7, 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for your investment of time and energy in gathering here today. I would especially like to thank Moveon.org for sponsoring this event, and the NYU College Democrats for co-sponsoring the speech and for hosting us.
Some of you may remember that my last formal public address on these topics was delivered in San Francisco, a little less than a year ago, when I argued that the President's case for urgent, unilateral, pre-emptive war in Iraq was less than convincing and needed to be challenged more effectively by the Congress.
In light of developments since then, you might assume that my purpose today is to revisit the manner in which we were led into war. To some extent, that will be the case - but only as part of a larger theme that I feel should now be explored on an urgent basis.
The direction in which our nation is being led is deeply troubling to me -- not only in Iraq but also here at home on economic policy, social policy and environmental policy.
Millions of Americans now share a feeling that something pretty basic has gone wrong in our country and that some important American values are being placed at risk. And they want to set it right.
The way we went to war in Iraq illustrates this larger problem. Normally, we Americans lay the facts on the table, talk through the choices before us and make a decision. But that didn't really happen with this war -- not the way it should have. And as a result, too many of our soldiers are paying the highest price, for the strategic miscalculations, serious misjudgments, and historic mistakes that have put them and our nation in harm's way.
I'm convinced that one of the reasons that we didn't have a better public debate before the Iraq War started is because so many of the impressions that the majority of the country had back then turn out to have been completely wrong. Leaving aside for the moment the question of how these false impressions got into the public's mind, it might be healthy to take a hard look at the ones we now know were wrong and clear the air so that we can better see exactly where we are now and what changes might need to be made.
In any case, what we now know to have been false impressions include the following:
(1) Saddam Hussein was partly responsible for the attack against us on September 11th, 2001, so a good way to respond to that attack would be to invade his country and forcibly remove him from power.
(2) Saddam was working closely with Osama Bin Laden and was actively supporting members of the Al Qaeda terrorist group, giving them weapons and money and bases and training, so launching a war against Iraq would be a good way to stop Al Qaeda from attacking us again.
(3) Saddam was about to give the terrorists poison gas and deadly germs that he had made into weapons which they could use to kill millions of Americans. Therefore common sense alone dictated that we should send our military into Iraq in order to protect our loved ones and ourselves against a grave threat.
(4) Saddam was on the verge of building nuclear bombs and giving them to the terrorists. And since the only thing preventing Saddam from acquiring a nuclear arsenal was access to enriched uranium, once our spies found out that he had bought the enrichment technology he needed and was actively trying to buy uranium from Africa, we had very little time left. Therefore it seemed imperative during last Fall's election campaign to set aside less urgent issues like the economy and instead focus on the congressional resolution approving war against Iraq.
(5) Our GI's would be welcomed with open arms by cheering Iraqis who would help them quickly establish public safety, free markets and Representative Democracy, so there wouldn't be that much risk that US soldiers would get bogged down in a guerrilla war.
(6) Even though the rest of the world was mostly opposed to the war, they would quickly fall in line after we won and then contribute lots of money and soldiers to help out, so there wouldn't be that much risk that US taxpayers would get stuck with a huge bill.
Now, of course, everybody knows that every single one of these impressions was just dead wrong.
For example, according to the just-released Congressional investigation, Saddam had nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks of Sept. 11. Therefore, whatever other goals it served -- and it did serve some other goals -- the decision to invade Iraq made no sense as a way of exacting revenge for 9/11. To the contrary, the US pulled significant intelligence resources out of Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to get ready for the rushed invasion of Iraq and that disrupted the search for Osama at a critical time. And the indifference we showed to the rest of the world's opinion in the process undermined the global cooperation we need to win the war against terrorism.
In the same way, the evidence now shows clearly that Saddam did not want to work with Osama Bin Laden at all, much less give him weapons of mass destruction. So our invasion of Iraq had no effect on Al Qaeda, other than to boost their recruiting efforts.
And on the nuclear issue of course, it turned out that those documents were actually forged by somebody -- though we don't know who.
As for the cheering Iraqi crowds we anticipated, unfortunately, that didn't pan out either, so now our troops are in an ugly and dangerous situation.
Moreover, the rest of the world certainly isn't jumping in to help out very much the way we expected, so US taxpayers are now having to spend a billion dollars a week.
In other words, when you put it all together, it was just one mistaken impression after another. Lots of them.
And it's not just in foreign policy. The same thing has been happening in economic policy, where we've also got another huge and threatening mess on our hands. I'm convinced that one reason we've had so many nasty surprises in our economy is that the country somehow got lots of false impressions about what we could expect from the big tax cuts that were enacted, including:
(1) The tax cuts would unleash a lot of new investment that would create lots of new jobs.
(2) We wouldn't have to worry about a return to big budget deficits -- because all the new growth in the economy caused by the tax cuts would lead to a lot of new revenue.
(3) Most of the benefits would go to average middle-income families, not to the wealthy, as some partisans claimed.
Unfortunately, here too, every single one of these impressions turned out to be wrong. Instead of creating jobs, for example, we are losing millions of jobs -- net losses for three years in a row. That hasn't happened since the Great Depression. As I've noted before, I was the first one laid off.
And it turns out that most of the benefits actually are going to the highest income Americans, who unfortunately are the least likely group to spend money in ways that create jobs during times when the economy is weak and unemployment is rising.
And of course the budget deficits are already the biggest ever - with the worst still due to hit us. As a percentage of our economy, we've had bigger ones -- but these are by far the most dangerous we've ever had for two reasons: first, they're not temporary; they're structural and long-term; second, they are going to get even bigger just at the time when the big baby-boomer retirement surge starts.
Moreover, the global capital markets have begun to recognize the unprecedented size of this emerging fiscal catastrophe. In truth, the current Executive Branch of the U.S. Government is radically different from any since the McKinley Administration 100 years ago.
The 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, George Akerlof, went even further last week in Germany when he told Der Spiegel, "This is the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history...This is not normal government policy." In describing the impact of the Bush policies on America's future, Akerloff added, "What we have here is a form of looting."
Ominously, the capital markets have just pushed U.S. long-term mortgage rates higher soon after the Federal Reserve Board once again reduced discount rates. Monetary policy loses some of its potency when fiscal policy comes unglued. And after three years of rate cuts in a row, Alan Greenspan and his colleagues simply don't have much room left for further reductions.
This situation is particularly dangerous right now for several reasons: first because home-buying fueled by low rates (along with car-buying, also a rate-sensitive industry) have been just about the only reliable engines pulling the economy forward; second, because so many Americans now have Variable Rate Mortgages; and third, because average personal debt is now at an all-time high -- a lot of Americans are living on the edge.
It seems obvious that big and important issues like the Bush economic policy and the first Pre-emptive War in U.S. history should have been debated more thoroughly in the Congress, covered more extensively in the news media, and better presented to the American people before our nation made such fateful choices. But that didn't happen, and in both cases, reality is turning out to be very different from the impression that was given when the votes -- and the die -- were cast.
Since this curious mismatch between myth and reality has suddenly become commonplace and is causing such extreme difficulty for the nation's ability to make good choices about our future, maybe it is time to focus on how in the world we could have gotten so many false impressions in such a short period of time.
At first, I thought maybe the President's advisers were a big part of the problem. Last fall, in a speech on economic policy at the Brookings Institution, I called on the President to get rid of his whole economic team and pick a new group. And a few weeks later, damned if he didn't do just that - and at least one of the new advisers had written eloquently about the very problems in the Bush economic policy that I was calling upon the President to fix.
But now, a year later, we still have the same bad economic policies and the problems have, if anything, gotten worse. So obviously I was wrong: changing all the president's advisers didn't work as a way of changing the policy.
I remembered all that last month when everybody was looking for who ought to be held responsible for the false statements in the President's State of the Union Address. And I've just about concluded that the real problem may be the President himself and that next year we ought to fire him and get a new one.
But whether you agree with that conclusion or not, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican -- or an Independent, a Libertarian, a Green or a Mugwump -- you've got a big stake in making sure that Representative Democracy works the way it is supposed to. And today, it just isn't working very well. We all need to figure out how to fix it because we simply cannot keep on making such bad decisions on the basis of false impressions and mistaken assumptions.
Earlier, I mentioned the feeling many have that something basic has gone wrong. Whatever it is, I think it has a lot to do with the way we seek the truth and try in good faith to use facts as the basis for debates about our future -- allowing for the unavoidable tendency we all have to get swept up in our enthusiasms.
That last point is worth highlighting. Robust debate in a democracy will almost always involve occasional rhetorical excesses and leaps of faith, and we're all used to that. I've even been guilty of it myself on occasion. But there is a big difference between that and a systematic effort to manipulate facts in service to a totalistic ideology that is felt to be more important than the mandates of basic honesty.
Unfortunately, I think it is no longer possible to avoid the conclusion that what the country is dealing with in the Bush Presidency is the latter. That is really the nub of the problem -- the common source for most of the false impressions that have been frustrating the normal and healthy workings of our democracy.
Americans have always believed that we the people have a right to know the truth and that the truth will set us free. The very idea of self-government depends upon honest and open debate as the preferred method for pursuing the truth -- and a shared respect for the Rule of Reason as the best way to establish the truth.
The Bush Administration routinely shows disrespect for that whole basic process, and I think it's partly because they feel as if they already know the truth and aren't very curious to learn about any facts that might contradict it. They and the members of groups that belong to their ideological coalition are true believers in each other's agendas.
There are at least a couple of problems with this approach:
First, powerful and wealthy groups and individuals who work their way into the inner circle -- with political support or large campaign contributions -- are able to add their own narrow special interests to the list of favored goals without having them weighed against the public interest or subjected to the rule of reason. And the greater the conflict between what they want and what's good for the rest of us, the greater incentive they have to bypass the normal procedures and keep it secret.
That's what happened, for example, when Vice President Cheney invited all of those oil and gas industry executives to meet in secret sessions with him and his staff to put their wish lists into the administration's legislative package in early 2001.
That group wanted to get rid of the Kyoto Treaty on Global Warming, of course, and the Administration pulled out of it first thing. The list of people who helped write our nation's new environmental and energy policies is still secret, and the Vice President won't say whether or not his former company, Halliburton, was included. But of course, as practically everybody in the world knows, Halliburton was given a huge open-ended contract to take over and run the Iraqi oil fields-- without having to bid against any other companies.
Secondly, when leaders make up their minds on a policy without ever having to answer hard questions about whether or not it's good or bad for the American people as a whole, they can pretty quickly get into situations where it's really uncomfortable for them to defend what they've done with simple and truthful explanations. That's when they're tempted to fuzz up the facts and create false impressions. And when other facts start to come out that undermine the impression they're trying to maintain, they have a big incentive to try to keep the truth bottled up if -- they can -- or distort it.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, the White House ordered its own EPA to strip important scientific information about the dangers of global warming out of a public report. Instead, the White House substituted information that was partly paid for by the American Petroleum Institute. This week, analysts at the Treasury Department told a reporter that they're now being routinely ordered to change their best analysis of what the consequences of the Bush tax laws are likely to be for the average person.
Here is the pattern that I see: the President's mishandling of and selective use of the best evidence available on the threat posed by Iraq is pretty much the same as the way he intentionally distorted the best available evidence on climate change, and rejected the best available evidence on the threat posed to America's economy by his tax and budget proposals.
In each case, the President seems to have been pursuing policies chosen in advance of the facts -- policies designed to benefit friends and supporters -- and has used tactics that deprived the American people of any opportunity to effectively subject his arguments to the kind of informed scrutiny that is essential in our system of checks and balances.
The administration has developed a highly effective propaganda machine to imbed in the public mind mythologies that grow out of the one central doctrine that all of the special interests agree on, which -- in its purest form -- is that government is very bad and should be done away with as much as possible -- except the parts of it that redirect money through big contracts to industries that have won their way into the inner circle.
For the same reasons they push the impression that government is bad, they also promote the myth that there really is no such thing as the public interest. What's important to them is private interests. And what they really mean is that those who have a lot of wealth should be left alone, rather than be called upon to reinvest in society through taxes.
Perhaps the biggest false impression of all lies in the hidden social objectives of this Administration that are advertised with the phrase "compassionate conservatism" -- which they claim is a new departure with substantive meaning. But in reality, to be compassionate is meaningless, if compassion is limited to the mere awareness of the suffering of others. The test of compassion is action. What the administration offers with one hand is the rhetoric of compassion; what it takes away with the other hand are the financial resources necessary to make compassion something more than an empty and fading impression.
Maybe one reason that false impressions have a played a bigger role than they should is that both Congress and the news media have been less vigilant and exacting than they should have been in the way they have tried to hold the Administration accountable.
Whenever both houses of Congress are controlled by the President's party, there is a danger of passivity and a temptation for the legislative branch to abdicate its constitutional role. If the party in question is unusually fierce in demanding ideological uniformity and obedience, then this problem can become even worse and prevent the Congress from properly exercising oversight. Under these circumstances, the majority party in the Congress has a special obligation to the people to permit full Congressional inquiry and oversight rather than to constantly frustrate and prevent it.
Whatever the reasons for the recent failures to hold the President properly accountable, America has a compelling need to quickly breathe new life into our founders' system of checks and balances -- because some extremely important choices about our future are going to be made shortly, and it is imperative that we avoid basing them on more false impressions.
One thing the President could do to facilitate the restoration of checks and balances is to stop blocking reasonable efforts from the Congress to play its rightful role. For example, he could order his appointees to cooperate fully with the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, headed by former Republican Governor Tom Kean. And he should let them examine how the White House handled the warnings that are said to have been given to the President by the intelligence community.
Two years ago yesterday, for example, according to the Wall Street Journal, the President was apparently advised in specific language that Al Qaeda was going to hijack some airplanes to conduct a terrorist strike inside the U.S.
I understand his concern about people knowing exactly what he read in the privacy of the Oval Office, and there is a legitimate reason for treating such memos to the President with care. But that concern has to be balanced against the national interest in improving the way America deals with such information. And the apparently chaotic procedures that were used to handle the forged nuclear documents from Niger certainly show evidence that there is room for improvement in the way the White House is dealing with intelligence memos. Along with other members of the previous administration, I certainly want the commission to have access to any and all documents sent to the White House while we were there that have any bearing on this issue. And President Bush should let the commission see the ones that he read too.
After all, this President has claimed the right for his executive branch to send his assistants into every public library in America and secretly monitor what the rest of us are reading. That's been the law ever since the Patriot Act was enacted. If we have to put up with such a broad and extreme invasion of our privacy rights in the name of terrorism prevention, surely he can find a way to let this National Commission know how he and his staff handled a highly specific warning of terrorism just 36 days before 9/11.
And speaking of the Patriot Act, the president ought to reign in John Ashcroft and stop the gross abuses of civil rights that twice have been documented by his own Inspector General. And while he's at it, he needs to reign in Donald Rumsfeld and get rid of that DoD "Total Information Awareness" program that's right out of George Orwell's 1984.
The administration hastened from the beginning to persuade us that defending America against terror cannot be done without seriously abridging the protections of the Constitution for American citizens, up to and including an asserted right to place them in a form of limbo totally beyond the authority of our courts. And that view is both wrong and fundamentally un-American.
But the most urgent need for new oversight of the Executive Branch and the restoration of checks and balances is in the realm of our security, where the Administration is asking that we accept a whole cluster of new myths:
For example, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was an effort to strike a bargain between states possessing nuclear weapons and all others who had pledged to refrain from developing them. This administration has rejected it and now, incredibly, wants to embark on a new program to build a brand new generation of smaller (and it hopes, more usable) nuclear bombs. In my opinion, this would be true madness -- and the point of no return to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty -- even as we and our allies are trying to prevent a nuclear testing breakout by North Korea and Iran.
Similarly, the Kyoto treaty is an historic effort to strike a grand bargain between free-market capitalism and the protection of the global environment, now gravely threatened by rapidly accelerating warming of the Earth's atmosphere and the consequent disruption of climate patterns that have persisted throughout the entire history of civilization as we know it. This administration has tried to protect the oil and coal industries from any restrictions at all -- though Kyoto may become legally effective for global relations even without U.S. participation.
Ironically, the principal cause of global warming is our civilization's addiction to burning massive quantities carbon-based fuels, including principally oil -- the most important source of which is the Persian Gulf, where our soldiers have been sent for the second war in a dozen years -- at least partly to ensure our continued access to oil.
We need to face the fact that our dangerous and unsustainable consumption of oil from a highly unstable part of the world is similar in its consequences to all other addictions. As it becomes worse, the consequences get more severe and you have to pay the dealer more.
And by now, it is obvious to most Americans that we have had one too many wars in the Persian Gulf and that we need an urgent effort to develop environmentally sustainable substitutes for fossil fuels and a truly international effort to stabilize the Persian Gulf and rebuild Iraq.
The removal of Saddam from power is a positive accomplishment in its own right for which the President deserves credit, just as he deserves credit for removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. But in the case of Iraq, we have suffered enormous collateral damage because of the manner in which the Administration went about the invasion. And in both cases, the aftermath has been badly mishandled.
The administration is now trying to give the impression that it is in favor of NATO and UN participation in such an effort. But it is not willing to pay the necessary price, which is support of a new UN Resolution and genuine sharing of control inside Iraq.
If the 21st century is to be well started, we need a national agenda that is worked out in concert with the people, a healing agenda that is built on a true national consensus. Millions of Americans got the impression that George W. Bush wanted to be a "healer, not a divider", a president devoted first and foremost to "honor and integrity." Yet far from uniting the people, the president's ideologically narrow agenda has seriously divided America. His most partisan supporters have launched a kind of 'civil cold war' against those with whom they disagree.
And as for honor and integrity, let me say this: we know what that was all about, but hear me well, not as a candidate for any office, but as an American citizen who loves my country:
For eight years, the Clinton-Gore Administration gave this nation honest budget numbers; an economic plan with integrity that rescued the nation from debt and stagnation; honest advocacy for the environment; real compassion for the poor; a strengthening of our military -- as recently proven -- and a foreign policy whose purposes were elevated, candidly presented and courageously pursued, in the face of scorched-earth tactics by the opposition. That is also a form of honor and integrity, and not every administration in recent memory has displayed it.
So I would say to those who have found the issue of honor and integrity so useful as a political tool, that the people are also looking for these virtues in the execution of public policy on their behalf, and will judge whether they are present or absent.
I am proud that my party has candidates for president committed to those values. I admire the effort and skill they are putting into their campaigns. I am not going to join them, but later in the political cycle I will endorse one of them, because I believe that we must stand for a future in which the United States will again be feared only by its enemies; in which our country will again lead the effort to create an international order based on the rule of law; a nation which upholds fundamental rights even for those it believes to be its captured enemies; a nation whose financial house is in order; a nation where the market place is kept healthy by effective government scrutiny; a country which does what is necessary to provide for the health, education, and welfare of our people; a society in which citizens of all faiths enjoy equal standing; a republic once again comfortable that its chief executive knows the limits as well as the powers of the presidency; a nation that places the highest value on facts, not ideology, as the basis for all its great debates and decisions.
Former Vice President Al Gore
Remarks to MoveOn.org
New York University
August 7, 2003
McDonald's calls this promotion and brand extension. But, a growing number of nutritionists call it a blitzkrieg that perverts children's eating habits and sets them on a path to obesity.
While it's no surprise that Big Oil runs the Whitehouse, a recent news story reveals that Bush regime related operations like Halliburton will be given carte blanche to do whatever they please in Iraq. Unreported in the mainstream media, Executive Order 13303, issued last May, gives an oil company complicit in human rights violations or guilty of environmental destruction in Iraq, immunity from lawsuits. According to Earth Rights International, "the document is apparently intended as a sweeping grant of immunity to individuals, corporations, agencies and others involved in Iraqi oil sales, marketing, or other oil-related activities."
Last week, The Institute for Policy Studies and the Government Accountability Project urged Congress to investigate and repeal the sweeping order. Like the recently reported U.S. corporate mobile phone monopoly being instituted in Iraq, Executive Order 13303 is yet another example of corporate colonization and a U.S. regime gone out of control.
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