Friday, June 24, 2005

I Believe i asked Someone To Close The Door A Few Posts Ago. I Can Still Feel The Draft, Dammit!!!

i have not read the new york press before that i know of (and had i my press escort would have informed me). but this editorial is very engaging and does provide verifiable info. fun. but scary.

New Millennium Mob War?

this one may get interesting. it may even get play in the newspapers if any of our people open their mouths. notice that our government has said nothing in this article. but it's the first day.
looks like the DC gang invaded someone else's turf.

Very Long (but interestink!) Blogspot
Torture Isn't a Laughing Matter--It's Deadly Serious
From this week's Economist (no link avail), a book review:
Reports of the brutality of American interrogators—or their surrogates in Egypt and Uzbekistan—have become commonplace. Still, this book, by an army sergeant who spent six months at the American prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, has something to add, not because of what it says about the effects of inhumane treatment on suspects, but for what it did to soldiers like himself.
Erik Saar is “every American”. At the age of 22, he had never been outside his own country, had been married for three years and had proudly voted Republican in 2000. Not seeing much future in a marketing job at UPS, he joined the army to pursue a career in intelligence. The army taught him Arabic, and after September 11th, he “couldn't imagine anything more satisfying” than using his training to “flush out the terrorists who wanted to bring on a holy war.”
At Guantánamo, Mr Saar's world crashed. He attended a PowerPoint briefing by an army lawyer on the Geneva Convention, which George Bush decreed did not apply to the men picked up in Afghanistan, or elsewhere, in the “war on terrorism.” It was “nothing but spin,” he says, adding that the administration referred to the men held in Guantánamo as “detainees”, because to call them “prisoners” would have meant regarding them as “prisoners of war”.
As a soldier this bothered Mr Saar. If America ignored the Geneva Convention, “what kind of brutality might we be visiting upon ourselves in the future fight?” Mr Saar had also been taught that torture doesn't work and that it produces less reliable information. When he saw torture being used at Guantánamo, he struggled to “reconcile my beliefs as an American, my conscience, and my religious beliefs with my duty as a soldier.”
The struggle was lost during the interrogation of a 21-year-old Saudi. The man was believed to have taken flight training with two of the September 11th hijackers. Interrogators got nothing from him. After each gruelling session, he returned to his cell and prayed, but a female interrogator sought to break him by making him feel dirty before his God. With the prisoner shackled in an uncomfortable position, she unbuttoned her blouse and began rubbing her breasts against him. “Do you like these big American tits?” she asked. She made another sexually crude remark, then added, “How do you think Allah feels about that?”
The prisoner spat in her face. She grew cruder. She told him she was having her period, unbuttoned her military trousers and wiped what she said was menstrual blood on his face (it wasn't blood; it was from a red magic marker). He screamed but did not break. Outside the room, she began to cry. So too did Mr Saar. “I hated myself.” Tears rolled down his cheeks. He went home, and took a shower, but “there wasn't enough hot water in all of Cuba to make me feel clean.”. [emphasis added]
The Economist reviewer concludes: "Not a policy to be proud of."
No, it's not. But I guess this is the kind of stuff that leaves tough guys from Ye Stolid Heartland like Lileks supremely Not Giving A Shit (or maybe titillated--it's kinda hard to tell from his sophomoric ditty over at the aptly named screed-blog).
Lileks, detailing a different interrogation than the one mentioned in the Economist, writes:
Invasion of Space by Female: Over the next few days, al-Qahtani is subjected to a drill known as Invasion of Space by a Female
Mind you, this is considered punishment. Right now across America there are guys who are seriously peeved because they ordered “Invasion of Space by a Female IV” on pay-per-view and the cable went out. They’re on the phone admitting they wanted it, and demanding they get IV and V no charge, understood?...
...One suspects it isn’t the presence of a woman that bothers him; it’s the fact that she doesn’t take any guff, looks him in the eye, laughs at him, blows smoke rings in his face and generally fails to behave like one of the 72 docile celestial whores he was promised. In short: he was broken by the concise application of cultural insensitivity.
How witty and whip-smart! Applause all around right blogosphere! He writes like a dream and he's one of our own! Hurrah. Or not. Poor Lileks, no? It looks like he's clicked on the Dominatrix-Spankavision-Pay-for-View-Channel one too many times on his travels around Minnesota motels or such. And so gotten a little carried away with his fantasizing about all those prison warden hotties----sultry vixens who don't take any "guff" from assorted sand-nig&*az--whilst going about the hard, patriotic duty of nobly rubbing America's finest D cups in detainees faces so as to Save the Republic. So let's help him climb back on the clue train, shall we? The real issue here, at least for anyone with half a brain, is that we cannot win a long-term war on terror by being widely seen to denigrate the religion and mores of those we seek to win over to our political model. As Michael Ignatieff writes in the New Republic:
Thinking that torture will help us in a war against terror also falsifies what our problem is. We think that our problem is information, and so we need torture to get the truth. In reality, before September 11 there was plenty of information in the possession of the American authorities (noise, but no signal). No, our problem is not a problem of knowledge. It is a problem of belief. It is not what terrorists know that makes them dangerous; it is what they believe. And beliefs cannot be changed by physical duress. Indeed, they may be reinforced. Those who survive torture become living monuments to the brutality that has been inflicted upon them. If they die under torture, they become martyrs to their cause.
Any counter-terror campaign is a battle to persuade as well as to dissuade. Terrorists do need to know that what they believe about us is false. They believe that we are weak and will not fight; and so we should prove them wrong. They believe that we are hypocrites; and so they need to know that we actually believe in the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. They need to know all this if we are to win. Winning is about not losing our nerve, about not losing control in the face of provocation. The military logic of terror is to provoke us into reciprocal atrocity that will lose us the war for legitimacy and the war for opinion.
The barbarians who kidnapped Daniel Pearl undoubtedly tortured him. He was subjected to indecent abuse, followed by horrifying death, because he was an American and a Jew. It is hard not to want to do the same in return, but it would be a mistake. Torturing his captors would set in motion an escalation of reprisals that would probably end up jeopardizing the life of every American in Pakistan. The people who killed Pearl may have violated all humane norms, but we have strong prudential reasons for holding on to these norms, even when our enemies do not.
Controlling the impulse to escalate in a counter-terror campaign is not easy, but other countries have shown that it can be done. British interrogation techniques in Northern Ireland in the early years of the Troubles did fall foul of the European Convention on Human Rights. Then the British realized that their methods were losing them important friends abroad, not to mention the support of the Catholic population in Belfast. Over time, they shifted from interrogation under duress to signal interception and infiltration, and managed to gain the upper hand. Information was never effective enough to prevent all bombings: mistakes and tragedies occurred, but each bombing ended up with the terrorists slowly losing public support.
Also worth noting, of course, in an era of non-stop Internet feeds and 24 hour cable, acts of abuse, felony abuse and torture quickly becomes fodder for our enemies. Perhaps Lileks would have preferred that, as the saying goes--what happens in Abu Ghraib; stays in Abu Ghraib. But as Rumsfeld has awkwardly expressed himself, when he was seemingly dumbfounded that people, you know, have cameras and can jpeg shots of soldiers flashing the thumbs up next to murdered detainees (cool!)--shots that go around the world mighty quickly--well, a big part of this war is going to be making sure such public relations debacles don't occur. One way to help ensure it doesn't is not to have free-ranging improvisation going on in Bagram, in Abu Ghraib, in Gitmo, in other detention centers. We need cohesive top-down directives on what is and isn't permissible. We need real accountability beyond the party line about a few-bad-eggs-on-the-night-crew-at-Abu-Ghraib bullshit (oh, and Colonel Karpinski too, how could I forget?!?). We desparately need some real leadership on this issue (Where are the Wise Men who would step in and intervene as in yester-year? To0 busy making money in Manhattan or just plain extinct, I guess).
Look, I'm not sure Guantanamo needs to be closed down (I'll have more on that topic soon). There has been a huge amount of hyperbole painting Guantanamo as some modern Auschwitz-on-the-Caribbean. The orange jump suits and outdoor cages and shackled detainees being wheel-barrowed around didn't help in the salons of Paris or London or Cairo when the first pics of Gitmo hit the media circus. "Tortured" blared an English tabloid! But, yeah, there are some of the hardest of the hard core al-Qaeda mother fuc*ers in the batch. They have to be somewhere--and that might have to end up being Guantanamo (though shouldn't they be tried, like, some day?). Furthermore, there are strong arguments indeed for why POW status should not extend to al-Qaeda (or even the Taliban) so that the exact letter of the Geneva Convention need not apply (more on this below). But surely the time has comes, as the New Republic editors write, to figure out what the hell is going on in our detention centers worldwide:
More than a year after the revelations of Abu Ghraib, we still lack a sufficient understanding of what goes on in the entire system--from Guantánamo to Afghanistan to the secret facilities run by the CIA--and how well it truly serves the war on terrorism. In order to gain that understanding, rather than simply shutting Guantánamo down, Congress and President Bush should appoint an independent commission of Republican and Democratic security experts to investigate the system and suggest how it should operate.
It's true that the Pentagon has conducted numerous reviews of its detention and interrogation policies and practices in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay. But important doubts remain about their independence and thoroughness. Consider the March report of Vice Admiral Albert Church on Defense Department interrogations, which found "no link between approved interrogation techniques and detainee abuse." This week, Time published excerpts from the interrogation log of would-be September 11 hijacker Mohammed Al Qahtani, whose resistance to questioning prompted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to expand the list of approved interrogation techniques. That expansion resulted, among other things, in Qahtani being intravenously fed 312 bags of fluid and forced to urinate on himself. With the Pentagon defending his interrogation as taking place under "active supervision and oversight," it's difficult to accept Church's conclusion that official policy was unrelated to Qahtani's clear abuse. Then there's the question of what the abuse gained us. Church refers directly to Qahtani when praising "effective interrogation policy," but Time, citing senior Pentagon officials, reports that true breakthroughs came not from stripping Qahtani nude or intimidating him with dogs, but from confronting him with information gleaned from other detainees--in short, traditional intelligence work.Whatever the problems with the Pentagon's investigations, the CIA hasn't conducted any policy reviews. All we know about its detention facilities comes from press reports: In March, The Washington Post published an account of a CIA-operated prison near Kabul known as the Salt Pit, where an uncooperative inmate was allowed to freeze to death and was buried in an unmarked grave. The CIA contends that it has had legal authority for all its conduct in the war on terrorism--but the administration won't disclose the sources of that authority.
I won't hold my breath for some bipartisan national commission to be appointed. Washington (both parties) has become all about 'stay on message' and political courage and character are often in low reserve indeed. But, who knows? If enough of us clamor for it--and weren't seen as Mooreian types mindlessly trying to turn the torture issue into a political football to hurt Chimpie and BushCo and Big Oil and so on--but instead as allies of this Administration on the War on Terror (I'm thinking of people like Tacitus, Jon Henke, John Cole, Andrew Sullivan), maybe? Well, one can hope at least...
But I digress. Permit me to return to the beginning of this post and the Economist book review. Simulating the slopping of menstrual blood on a detainee's face is repulsive, it is grotesque--it should never have happened in a U.S. run detention center. Period. It also most assuredly constitutes an "outrage(s) upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment"--in contravention of the Third Geneva Convention. (I know, I know--the Geneva Conventions don't apply, but I'm blogging from Geneva, so let's just pretend for a second). And wait, maybe, to a fashion, they do apply somewhat:
On February 7, 2002, President Bush announced that the U.S. government would apply the "principles of the Third Geneva Convention" of 1949 to captured members of the Taliban, but would not consider any of them to be prisoners-of-war (POWs) under that convention. As for captured members of al-Qaeda, he said that the U.S. government considered the Geneva Conventions inapplicable but would nonetheless treat the detainees humanely.
Was the treatment of the detainee Dick Durbin recounted "humane"? Was the sexual degradation involved in the menstrual high jinx in Gitmo "humane"? Is the death of some 108 detainees in U.S. custody "humane"? Well, not from where I'm sitting friends. And at least a quarter of these deaths may have been homicides (I suspect the proportion is actually higher). But, hey, who gives a shit? We didn't put them through some Saddamite-shredder, or pour nitric acid on them, or rape their daughters in front of them for kicks, or hack an arm or tongue off--it's torture lite, the cool, American, Gitmo-way. 'Cept 108 people are dead. A footnote, you might say. Get on board you sap; there's a war on!
I want to make a few additional points here because this is very tricky, sensitive terrain indeed. I'll start by reiterating that I found Lilek's treatment cretinous and infantile. But he did pick an easy example to crack jokes about. The specific interrogation that he wrote of, in my view and all told, was probably handled mostly appropriately. The individual in question, al-Qahtani, was the likely 20th hijacker, had tremendously important intelligence to impart, and clearly was an avowed, deadly enemy of these United States. So I agree with Andrew Sullivan who writes:
It may well be that the important interrogations were indeed professionally handled and that abuse was kept to a minimum, although some of the techniques are still offensive. Perhaps the real story of the last couple of years is how these techniques filtered down the ranks, how unprofessional individuals got the message from above that the gloves were off and went further, with far less significant figures.
I do think that could be a big part of the larger story. After all, of course, Rumsfeld himself wasn't poring over each detainee's approved methods of interrogation regimen (like he did for al-Qahtani's) stating specifically what was and wasn't allowable. He's got a war to run (rather poorly)--and he doubtless only scrutinized the specific interrogation techniques of a handful of detainees. But in an era when 'socialite' Paris Hilton (no Brooke Astor, she!) doesn't care a whit to fellate on camera; or junior high girls in private schools on the Upper East Side jpeg and videotape masturbatory acts to E-mail around so as to egg guys on to date them--we do have a quite sad pornification of the culture. This maybe helps explain why a not insignificant amount of the top-down authorized interrogation procedures involved sexual degradation (and also that Muslims are deemed to be sensitive to such tactics so that intel would get dished out quicker). Guys like Lileks can't resist the 'dude, wouldn't you like to have tits rubbed in your face?' idiocy, which is unfortunate. I guess it's part of the new and exciting, middle-brow porned-out US culture. But don't let these empty screeds divert you from the bigger story. Part of which, at least, is that top-down authorized tactics for specific high-value detainees--like the sexual humiliation tactics used with the presumed 20th hijacker--got transmongrified into more frequent, unapproved techniques used by varied free-lancers from Bagram to Gitmo. Like, say, the simulated menstrual blood smears and such assorted grotesqueries.
Finally, let me close with a little noticed part of Dick Durbin's recent speech that caused so many marathon bloviations like the one about the war effort being imperiled in the Weekly Standard and so on:
Former Congressman Pete Peterson of Florida, a man I call a good friend and a man I served with in the House of Representatives, is a unique individual. He is one of the most cheerful people you would ever want to meet. You would never know, when you meet him, he was an Air Force pilot taken prisoner of war in Vietnam and spent 6 1/2 years in a Vietnamese prison. Here is what he said about this issue in a letter that he sent to me.
Pete Peterson wrote:
From my 6 1/2 years of captivity in Vietnam, I know what life in a foreign prison is like. To a large degree, I credit the Geneva Conventions for my survival....This is one reason the United States has led the world in upholding treaties governing the status and care of enemy prisoners: because these standards also protect us....We need absolute clarity that America will continue to set the gold standard in the treatment of prisoners in wartime. Abusive detention and interrogation policies make it much more difficult to win the support of people around the world, particularly those in the Muslim world. The war on terrorism is not a popularity contest, but anti-American sentiment breeds sympathy for anti-American terrorist organizations and makes it far easier for them to recruit young terrorists.
Polls show that Muslims have positive attitudes toward the American people and our values. However, overall, favorable ratings toward the United States and its Government are very low. This is driven largely by the negative attitudes toward the policies of this administration. Muslims respect our values, but we must convince them that our actions reflect these values. That’s why the 9/11 Commission recommended: “We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors.”
No, it's not all Mr. Rogers-in-the-Hood, hunky-dory fare, popularity contests. But our basic values, not least that we will not countenance the torture of detainees in American detention, must be abided by. This must be a red-line for all thinking conservatives. The President says this is our policy. That torture will not be tolerated. But how can we know for sure this is the case now? The dismal record of these past years provides little comfort or confidence on this score, alas. At the end of the day, a not insignificant part of our national greatness stems from America being the 'gold standard' in its respect for its fellow man, in its role as ultimate guarantor of democratic liberties in the international system, on, yes, the standards governing the detention of our detainees and POWs. Sober wisdom and our better angels must prevail as we move forward towards what will doubtless be a difficult, troubled decade ahead. There will likely be more chaos and bloodshed on our shores. What will we do when, say, there is a WMD attack that kills 12,000 in Tulsa or San Diego or Peoria in 2009? Round up the Muslims in our midst and place them in pens governed by Lileks-compliant standards of detainee treatment? No, better that we standardize the rules and have a top-tier, bipartisan outside commission thoroughly look at America's detention facilities and policies from the bottom-up, the inside-out. There's simply too much rot that has been accumulated these past years. And the bright sunlight of judicious, wholly unbiased and serious scrutiny is needed to disinfect it. This will help America re-gain its footing as undisputed avatar of the rule of law and standard-bearer of human rights on the world stage. We owe this to ourselves, to our country, to our grandchildren. It's the right way. And it's not a joke. It's deadly serious.

The Big Boobie Woman Is Back!!!
Ashcroft Gone, Justice Statues Disrobe
By MARK SHERMANThe Associated PressFriday, June 24, 2005; 7:24 PM
WASHINGTON -- With barely a word about it, workers at the Justice Department Friday removed the blue drapes that have famously covered two scantily clad statues for the past 3 1/2 years.
Spirit of Justice, with her one breast exposed and her arms raised, and the bare-chested male Majesty of Law basked in the late afternoon light of Justice's ceremonial Great Hall.
The drapes, installed in 2002 at a cost of $8,000, allowed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to speak in the Great Hall without fear of a breast showing up behind him in television or newspaper pictures. They also provoked jokes about and criticism of the deeply religious Ashcroft.
The 12-foot, 6-inch aluminum statues were installed shortly after the building opened in the 1930s.
With a change in leadership at Justice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced the question: Would they stay or would they go?
He regularly deflected the question, saying he had weightier issues before him.
Paul R. Corts, the assistant attorney general for administration, recommended the drapes be removed and Gonzales signed off on it, spokesman Kevin Madden said, while refusing to allow The Associated Press to photograph the statues Friday.
In the past, snagging a photo of the attorney general in front of the statues has been somewhat of a sport for photographers.
When former Attorney General Edwin Meese released a report on pornography in the 1980s, photographers dived to the floor to capture the image of him raising the report in the air, with the partially nude female statue behind him.
The first attorney general to use the blue drapery was Republican Richard Thornburgh, attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He had the drapery put up only for a few occasions when he was appearing in the Great Hall, rather than permanently installed as it was under Ashcroft.
Most news conferences now are held in a state-of-the-art conference room, although the Great Hall still hosts speeches and other special events.

Democracy: The Next Mad Cow?

Hardline mayor wins Iran election in landslide
By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Ultra-conservative Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad swept to a landslide win in presidential elections on Saturday, spelling a possible end to Iran's fragile social reforms and tentative rapprochement with the West. Ahmadinejad, 48, won the backing of the religious poor to defeat veteran political heavyweight Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was supported by pro-reform parties and wealthy Iranians fearful of a hardline monopoly on power in the Islamic state. "The figures show that Ahmadinejad is the winner," Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani told reporters. He will be Iran's first non-cleric president for 24 years when he takes office in August.
An official at the Guardian Council, which must approve the election results, said that out of 24.8 million votes counted, Ahmadinejad had 61.7 percent, defying forecasts of a tight race.
Officials said turnout was about 26 million, or 56 percent, down from the 63 percent of Iran's 46.7 million eligible voters who cast ballots in an inconclusive first round on June 17.
"It's over, we accept that we've lost," said a close aide to Rafsanjani, who was president from 1989 to 1997.
Although Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word on all matters of state, a hardline presidency removes the moderating influence on decision-making exercised by outgoing reformist President Mohammad Khatami since 1997.
"This all but closes the door for a breakthrough in U.S.-Iran relations," said Karim Sadjadpour, Tehran-based analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Washington broke ties with Iran in 1980 and now accuses it of developing nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism. Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, denies the charges.
"I think Ahmadinejad is less amenable to compromise on the nuclear issue, but it is unclear how much influence he will have on it," said Sadjadpour.
The result was a crushing blow to Rafsanjani, 70, who has been at the forefront of Iranian politics since the 1979 Islamic revolution and was widely considered Iran's second most powerful figure before the vote. His last venture to the polls in 2000 parliamentary elections also ended in failure.
"Today is the beginning of a new political era," Ahmadinejad said after voting on Friday.
His victory was the latest by a new breed of hardline politicians, many of them former Revolutionary Guardsmen, who won local council and parliamentary elections in 2003 and 2004 amid widespread disillusionment with the slow pace of reform.
Friday's vote exposed deep class divisions in the nation of 67 million people.
A former member of the special forces of Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards, Ahmadinejad's humble lifestyle and pledges to tackle corruption and redistribute the country's oil wealth appealed to the urban and rural religious poor.
"I vote for Ahmadinejad because he wants to cut the hands of those who are stealing the national wealth and he wants to fight poverty," said Rahmatollah Izadpanah, 41.
Rafsanjani voters had said they feared Ahmadinejad would reverse modest reforms made under Khatami that allow women to dress in brighter, skimpier clothes and couples to fraternise in public without fear of arrest.
Washington repeated accusations that the vote was unfair due to the disqualification of more than 1,000 hopeful candidates.
"We remain skeptical that the Iranian regime is interested in addressing either the legitimate desires of its own people or the concerns of the broader international community," said a State Department spokeswoman.
Supreme Leader Khamenei banned victory celebrations after a fractious campaign marred by allegations of dirty tricks.
Aides to Rafsanjani had accused the hardline Basij militia of intimidating voters to back Ahmadinejad. The Interior Ministry also complained of illegal election-day campaigning.

$806 Million Cut From No Child Left Behind

House Approves Cuts to Labor Programs
Friday June 24, 2005 10:16 PM
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Funding for job training, rural health care, low-income schools and help for people lacking health insurance would face big cuts under a bill passed Friday by the House.
The measure, which passed 250-151, contains $142.5 billion in spending under Congress' control for labor, health and education programs. That's essentially a freeze at current levels.
But new demands, including $870 million to administer the new Medicare prescription drug program, have forced cuts in scores of programs.
The cuts include the outright elimination of 48 programs whose current budgets total $1 billion. Among the programs to be eliminated is the Healthy Communities Access Program, currently funded at $83 million, which helps communities offer health care to the uninsured.
Also eliminated is the $205 million budget for an Education Department grant program targeted at low-income and underachieving schools.

Democrats said the overall bill falls far short of what's needed for education, health research, help for the poor and many other programs.
``This bill just doesn't measure up to our national obligations,'' said Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.
Republicans said they had done they best they could under President Bush's tight budget for domestic programs.
``We made some tough decisions,'' said Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, who led the floor effort to get the bill passed. ``But when looked at as a whole, this bill provides $142.5 billion to over 500 discretionary programs. It is a lot of money and it does a lot of good.''
Regula added that the bill's program terminations and other cuts were used to fund high-priority items such as Pell Grants and the budget to run the Medicare drug program.
Still, a steady parade of both Republicans and Democrats came to the floor over the two-day debate seeking restoration of cuts to favored programs such as an initiative that trains doctors and nurses willing to work in underserved rural areas and inner cities. But without acceptable cuts elsewhere, most lawmakers had to settle for a promise from Regula to keep their requests in mind during negotiations with the Senate.
The cuts are the result of Bush's tight budget for federal programs outside of the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. Congress hewed to Bush's demands when passing its budget in April and is implementing an almost 1 percent cut to domestic programs through passage of 11 spending bills.
In practice, that translates to an 84 percent cut - from $300 million down to $47 million - in training programs for doctors and nurses, and $806 million in cuts to Bush's No Child Left Behind education initiative, a more than 3 percent drop. Grants for local community-action agencies that help the poor would be cut in half, to $320 million.
The National Institutes of Health, whose budget has doubled in recent years, would be held to a less than 1 percent increase. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would absorb a 5 percent cut from current funding.
In a high-profile vote Thursday, lawmakers turned back an effort to slash federal public broadcasting subsidies by $100 million, demonstrating the enduring political strength of the Public Broadcasting Service, whose supporters rallied behind popular programs such as ``Sesame Street,'' ``Postcards From Buster'' and ``The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.''
PBS and National Public Radio benefited from a nationwide lobbying effort. But no such national constituency exists for dozens of lower-profile programs that would be cut by the measure.
On Friday, the House also voted 219-185 to go on record against a Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation agreement with United Airlines letting United dump its employee-pension plans and their $9.8 billion shortfall on the PBGC, which could mean pension cuts of 25 percent to 50 percent for more than 120,000 United workers and retirees.
United says the move is required to emerge from bankruptcy and supporters of the airline said that without the pension relief, 62,000 United employees could lose their jobs.

9/11 Widow Speaks Out

06.23.2005 Kristen Breitweiser
Karl Rove's "Understanding of 9/11"
Mr. Rove, the first thing that I would like to address is Afghanistan - the place that anyone with a true “understanding of 9/11” knows is a nation that actually has a connection to the 9/11 attacks. One month after 9/11, we invaded Afghanistan, took down the Taliban, and left without capturing Usama Bin Laden - the alleged perpetrator of the September 11th attacks. In the meantime, Afghanistan has carried out democratic elections, but continues to suffer from extreme violence and unrest. Poppy production (yes, Karl, the drug trade) is at an all time high, thus flooding the world market with heroin. And of course, the oil pipeline (a.k.a. the Caspian Sea pipeline) is better protected by U.S. troops who now have a “legitimate” excuse to be in that part of Afghanistan. Interesting isn't it Karl that the drug “rat line” parallels the oil pipeline. (Yet, with all those troops guarding that same sliver of land, can you please explain how those drugs keep getting through?)
Now Karl, a question for you, since you seem to be the nation's self-styled sensei with regard to 9/11: Is Usama Bin Laden still important? Lately, your coterie of friends seems to be giving out mixed messages. Recall that in the early days, Bin Laden was wanted “dead or alive.” Then when Bin Laden slipped through your fingertips in Tora Bora, you downgraded his importance. We were told that Bin Laden was a "desperate man on the run,” and a person that President Bush was not "too worried about". Yet, whenever I saw Bin Laden's videos, he looked much too comfortable to actually be a man on the run. He looked tan, rested, and calm. He certainly didn't look the way I wanted the murderer of almost 3,000 innocent people to look: unkempt, panicked, and cowering in a corner.
Karl, I mention Bin Laden because recently Director of the CIA, Porter Goss, has mentioned that he knows exactly where Bin Laden is located but that he cannot capture him for fear of offending sovereign nations. Which frankly, I find ironic because of Iraq--and let's just leave it at that. But, when you say that “moderation and restraint” don't work in fighting terrorists, maybe you should share those comments with Mr. Goss because he doesn't seem to be on the same page as you. Unless of course, Porter is holding out to announce that Bin Laden is in Iran. (Karl, I want Bin Laden brought to justice, but not if it means starting a war with Iran - a country that possesses nuclear weaponry. The idea of nuclear fallout in any quadrant of the world is just not an acceptable means to any ends, be it capturing Bin Laden, oil or drugs. But, Afghanistan and Bin Laden are old news. Iraq is the story of today. And of course, it appears that Iran will be the story of next month. But, I digress.)
More to the point, Karl when you say, “Conservatives saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and prepared for war,” what exactly did you do to prepare for your war? Did your preparations include: sound intelligence to warrant your actions; a reasonable entry and exit strategy coupled with a coherent plan to carry out that strategy; the proper training and equipment for the troops you were sending in to fight your war? Did you follow the advice of experts such as General Shinseki who correctly advised you about the troop levels needed to actually succeed in Iraq? No, you didn't.
It has always been America's policy that you only place soldiers' lives in harm's way when it is absolutely necessary and the absolute last resort. When you send troops into combat you support those troops by providing them with proper equipment and training. Why didn't you do that with the troops that you sent into Iraq? Why weren't their vehicles armored? Why didn't they have protective vests? Why weren't they properly trained about the rules of interrogation? And Karl, when our troops come home – be it tragically in body bags or with missing limbs – you should honor and acknowledge their service to their country. You shouldn't hide them by bringing them home in the dark of night. Most importantly, you should take care of them for the long haul by giving them substantial veteran's benefits and care. To me, that is being patriotic. To me, that is how you support our troops. To me, that is how you show that you know the value of a human life given for its country.
For the record Karl, does Iraq have any connection to the 9/11 attacks? Because, you and your friends with your collective “understanding of 9/11” seem to be contradicting yourselves about the Iraq-9/11 connection, too. First, we were told that we went to war with Iraq because it was linked to the 9/11 attacks. Then, your rationale was changed to "Iraq has WMD". Then you told us that we needed to invade Iraq because Saddam was a "bad man". And now it turns out that we are in Iraq to bring them "democracy."
Of course, the Downing Street memo clarifies many of these things, but for the record Karl: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11; there were few terrorists in Iraq before our invasion, but now Iraq is a terrorist hot-bed. America had the sympathy and support of the whole world before Iraq. Now, thanks to your actions, we find ourselves hated and alienated by the rest of the world. Al Qaeda's recruitment took a nose-dive after the 9/11 attacks, but has now skyrocketed since your invasion of Iraq; and most importantly, nearly 2,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed because of your war in Iraq. These facts speak for themselves. (And, they speak very little about effectively winning any war on terror.)
Karl, you say you “understand” 9/11. Then why did you and your friends so vehemently oppose the creation of a 9/11 Independent Commission? Once the commission was established, why did you refuse to properly fund the Commission by allotting it only a $3 million budget? Why did you refuse to allow access to documents and witnesses for the 9/11 Commissioners? Why did we have to fight so hard for an extension when the Commissioners told us that they needed more time due to your footdragging and stonewalling? Why didn't you want to cooperate so that all Americans could “understand” what happened on 9/11?
Since the release of the 9/11 Commission's Final Report, have you helped bring to fruition any of the commission's recommendations? Have you truly made our homeland safer by hardening/eliminating soft targets? Because, to me rebuilding a tower that is 1,776 feet tall where the World Trade Center once stood seems to be only providing more soft targets for the terrorists to hit. Moreover, your support for the use of nuclear energy seems to be providing even more soft targets. Tell me, while you write your nifty little speeches about nuclear power, do you explain to your audience how our nuclear plants will be protected against terrorist attack or infiltration? What assurances do you give that nuclear waste will not find its way into terrorist's dirty bombs and onto our city streets? And, how do you assure your audience that the shipment of radioactive material will not become a terrorist target as it rolls through their own backyards?
To date, you have done practically nothing to secure our ports, nuclear power plants, and mass transportation systems. Imagine if the billions of dollars you spent in Iraq were spent more wisely on those things here at home. Imagine what sort of alternative energy resources (bio-diesel, wind power, solar power, and hybrid automobiles) could have been researched and funded in the past three years. Talk about regaining the respect and support of the world, that is the one way to do it.
Karl, if you “understand 9/11”, then why don't you understand that until we have a more environmentally friendly energy policy, we cannot effectively fight the war on terrorism. By being dependent on foreign oil, we have no choice but to cozy up to nations that sponsor terrorists. Moreover, because of oil, we may end up placing our troops and our nation at greater risk by having to invade certain oil-rich countries. Our invasion of these countries merely serves to inflame would-be terrorists by reinforcing their notion that we are gluttonous and self-centered -- invading sovereign nations solely to steal their oil. Forgive me Karl, but is that how you think you "win hearts and minds"? Does that help in any way to "spread democracy"?
Finally Karl, please “understand” that the reason we have not suffered a repeat attack on our homeland is because Bin Laden no longer needs to attack us. Those of us with a pure and comprehensive “understanding of 9/11” know that Bin Laden committed the 9/11 attacks so he could increase recruitment for al Qaeda and increase worldwide hatred of America. That didn't happen. Because after 9/11, the world united with Americans and al Qaeda's recruitment levels never increased.
It was only after your invasion of Iraq, that Bin Laden's goals were met. Because of your war in Iraq two things happened that helped Bin Laden and the terrorists: al Qaeda recruitment soared and the United States is now alienated from and hated by the rest of the world. In effect, what Bin Laden could not achieve by murdering my husband and 3,000 others on 9/11, you handed to him on a silver platter with your invasion of Iraq - a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.
Which leads me to my final questions for you Karl: What are your motives when it comes to 9/11 and are you really sure that you understand 9/11?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

How to stir up a hornet’s nest. A self-review of my recent blog article. Plus Radio Go Daddy’s next show.
This past Sunday I decided to write an article about the Gitmo controversy.As you may or may not know, this Sunday I got the bright idea to write an article concerning my slant on the controversy surrounding our military prison at Guantanamo Bay “Gitmo.” While I knew that the article would be controversial I had no idea that it would cause such a stir.I was prompted to write the article after reading about Senator Durbin’s (Democrat – Illinois) public statement comparing the prison at Gitmo to concentration camps run by Nazis, Soviets and Pol Pot. In my article I said that I thought that the interrogation techniques used at Gitmo were mild, that I did not consider them to be torture and that I supported their use. I made an incorrect assumption.One good thing about having an active blog is when you are incorrect you find out in a hurry. Many readers pointed out that the methods being used at Gitmo were not only inhumane but also were not very effective. So I checked the references that I was provided and sure enough I was wrong. It seems that interrogation methods that are based on humiliation and mild physical discomfort, aren’t nearly as effective as certain psychological techniques that take a completely different approach. Not only are the psychological techniques more effective, they are more humane.I immediately corrected the article.After learning that I was wrong, I immediately corrected the article and admitted the mistake in a special note to the reader. I also added that I agree with Senator John McCain’s request that each detainee be put on trial to determine if they belong at Gitmo or not. But the damage had already been done.But it appears that the correction was a bit too late. It seems that the original article was circulated in what some readers call the liberal blogsphere, and comments continued to stream in that addressed not the revised article, but the original article. I do not advocate the use of torture.One individual even posted a comment in a liberal forum that the CEO of Go Daddy supports the use of torture. Nothing of course could be further from the truth. At least it was never my intent to ever advocate the use of torture. Many blog readers actually liked the article.Not everyone was upset about the article. In fact, I heard from a good number of readers who were very supportive. Based on the survey that is taken at the end of the article, about 40% of those visiting the blog indicated that they liked the article. Those that disliked the article however were far more likely to comment. Many dissenting readers commented several times, and voted each time they commented. Adjusting for those who voted many times, my guess is that the split is at least 50-50.I received a healthy dose of education.While the article did get many people upset (people who I would rather not have gotten upset) I received a healthy dose of education. I got to see in an unvarnished and uncensored fashion how important this issue is to us as Americans. It is now obvious to me that this is no trivial issue and it is one that our Government (both executive and legislative branches) needs to consider carefully. I know now that those involved with deciding what happens at Gitmo have a difficult task on their hands. It’s going to be interesting to see how the political firestorm ends up. I sincerely appreciate everyone who took the time to read the article and those who also took the time to comment.To those of you who commented on the article, and even those who referred to me using various obscenties (there were more than a few of you), I want you to know that I appreciate the fact that you read the article and took the time to tell me your thoughts. You've helped me understand just how powerful blogging can be.If you're not listening to Radio Go Daddy, you should be!On Wednesday, at 7 pm PST/10 pm EST Radio Go Daddy will be broadcasting its 12th Show. The show is available on Satellite (XM and Sirius) and via live audio stream. It’s best to listen on the internet audio stream by clicking the "listen" button at The "listen" icon appears on the page 9 minutes before the show starts. Full details on each show are always available at Here’s the lineup for this week’s show:• .XXX domain names. Does selling them make Go Daddy a supporter of pornography?. • Millions of MasterCard numbers hijacked! How it happened. What you can do.• Downloading television shows. Is it legal? What you need to know.This week's special guests.We've got two unrelated and very special guests. One is adult film star Ashton Moore. Ms. Moore is a contract star for Club Jenna and has her own adult site She’ll tell us what the adult industry thinks of .XXX domain names. We also have Bill Hely, author of “The Hacker’s Nightmare.” Bill will tell us how you can bullet proof yourself and your computer against viruses, spyware, phishing attacks and the like.Everything you need to know about this week's show.So for more information concerning this week’s show, please visit We suggest you listen to the live internet feed. It’s easy. A monkey could do it, but then again, a monkey just might not understand everything we’re saying. So go to the web page and click on the Listen button. There are added bonuses for those who listen on the internet feed.• There's a live chat room where you can chat with other Radio Go Daddy listeners (as well as Radio Go Daddy staff) during the show. Just click the live chat button at• There are no commercials on the internet only stream.• There’s an uncensored “internet only” discussion where we talk about some of the strange domains registered at and why we think they’re weird.• We talk “uncensored” about other unusual and hilarious things.Plus there's a half hour of bonus extended coverage for the internet feed group.Nima and I will talk uncensored about the recent purchase of an iPod by the Queen of England, Britney Spears' name being used by hackers to spread viruses, why Cingular (the #1 cell phone provider) asked the FAA to continue to ban cell phone use on airplanes and some other weird and unusual stuff.Who to blame.This week's show is produced by David Lawrence and yours truly, Bob Parsons.In case you miss this week's or any week's show.You can listen to any show at any time you choose by visiting our archives at Just go to the site and click on the show you want to check out. There are full descriptions of each show at the archives.How to see our new commercials.To see all of our new, current and past commercials, as well as the Internet-only version of our Super Bowl commercial, just click on the following link:
Posted by Bob Parsons in Hot Points at 23:22

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Very Intriguing Iraqi Blog

p.s. i never mean to appear downtrodden about our country or our government...even though i somewhat often am. there are many people and organizations doing their best to make sense of what we're going through. what i'm trying to do is give you a journalistic experience outside anything you might read in your local newspaper or see on your evening news. feel free to send me links through the comments section or email me directly. i will read them and post them if i can corroborate their veracity.

Ahnold (it's the teacher union thing that really got him)

Support for governor plunging, poll finds Special election, budget unpopular among Californians
John Wildermuth, Chronicle Political Writer
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suddenly ranks among the most unpopular governors in modern California history, as residents grow increasingly unhappy about the action hero-turned-politician's budget plans and his call for a special election, according to a new Field Poll.
Less than a third -- 31 percent -- of the state's adults approve of the job the governor is doing in Sacramento, down from 54 percent in February. The numbers are only slightly better among registered voters, 37 percent of whom are happy with Schwarzenegger's performance and 53 percent dissatisfied.
"There's very little for the governor to cheer about in this poll,'' said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. "There's a very broad-based view that the governor is off on the wrong track.''
Schwarzenegger's approval rating among registered voters is lower than any number recorded by the Field Poll for governors Ronald Reagan, Jerry Brown and George Deukmejian. He now ranks fourth in unpopularity, behind Democrats Gray Davis and Pat Brown and Republican Pete Wilson.
For more than a year, the governor has been surfing a wave of popularity, gathering support not only from his fellow Republicans but from the Democrats and non-partisans who make up the bulk of California's voters.
But Schwarzenegger's high-profile battle with the Democrat-led Legislature and his continuing disputes with groups representing California teachers, nurses and public employees have taken a toll. Only 16 percent of registered Democrats approve of the job the governor is doing, while his support among nonpartisan voters has shrunk to 35 percent, down from 48 percent four months ago.
Schwarzenegger's sinking support even shows up among Republicans, where his approval numbers have fallen from 84 percent in February to 66 percent in the new survey.
The governor's numbers haven't sunk to the dismal levels of former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, who was recalled in October 2003 and replaced by Schwarzenegger. Davis's 22 percent approval rating in August 2003 was the lowest ever recorded by a Field Poll, DiCamillo said.
Besides Davis, the only governors to fall below Schwarzenegger's current 37 percent approval were Pete Wilson, at 33 percent in September 1992 and May 1993, and Pat Brown, at 35 percent in October 1961. Despite those low numbers, both won re-election.
"We've seen these type of reversals and downturns before, but almost always because of an external event, like the declining economy for Wilson or the energy crisis for Davis,'' DiCamillo said. "But here, almost nothing has changed. It's almost a self-inflicted thing.''
The governor's increasing unpopularity is showing up in his other numbers. Only 17 percent of the state's voters have a great deal of confidence in Schwarzenegger's ability to resolve the state's budget problems, compared with 49 percent who don't have much confidence he will do the right thing.
While the survey was taken in the week following the governor's announcement of the Nov. 8 special election, his argument that the election is a desperately needed effort to reform the way the state operates didn't convince the voters.
Support for the special election among registered voters fell to 37 percent from 51 percent in February. That backing dropped to 28 percent when the election's cost of $45 million to $80 million was mentioned.
Although the poll numbers for the three initiatives Schwarzenegger is backing in November won't be released until today, an unpopular messenger won't help the message, said Gale Kaufman, a Democratic consultant who's running the union-backed effort against the governor's initiatives.
"He's been on the air, he's the messenger,'' Kaufman said Monday. "Obviously, voters aren't buying what he's selling.''
While unions and other groups have spent millions on television ads attacking Schwarzenegger this year, the governor and his allies fought back with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign of their own that ran through much of May. The ads, which featured the governor talking with average Californians about the need for government reform, weren't enough to stop Schwarzenegger's political bleeding.
"This doesn't change our strategy one iota,'' Kaufman said. "It just gives us more confidence to go ahead.''
The governor's political team dismissed the Field Poll numbers, saying their own surveys put Schwarzenegger's approval rating above 50 percent and show that a strong majority of Californians back his plan for government reform.
"Anyone who believes that the governor is down to 66 percent support among Republicans is in for a big wake-up call in November,'' Mike Murphy, the governor's political consultant, said. "The real campaign for these reforms has not even begun, and our opponents are already declaring victory.
"They can declare victory all summer long, for all I care. We are squarely focused on November.''
A sour and hostile public can hamstring a governor's ability to get anything done, said Steve Maviglio, who was a spokesman for Davis when the former governor's approval ratings were in free fall.
"It makes it more difficult to make deals since you're negotiating from a position of weakness,'' he said. "The voters are suspicious of everything you do, since they don't trust you.''
The poll wasn't all roses for Maviglio's current employer, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles. As low as Schwarzenegger's ratings were, the Legislature was even less popular: 24 percent of the registered voters were pleased with the job it was doing, and only 5 percent said they had a great deal of confidence in the Legislature's ability to deal with the state's budget deficit.
Voters also are convinced that Schwarzenegger and the Legislature are more interested in confrontation than compromise when it comes to solving the state's problems. About one-third of those surveyed said the governor was negotiating in good faith, while 25 percent thought the Legislature was working hard to come to agreements with Schwarzenegger.
"If the governor and the Legislature attack each other, it's a lose-lose situation, since people lose their faith in government,'' Maviglio said. "The bottom line is that voters want the people they sent to Sacramento to get things done.''
But the most ominous news for Schwarzenegger could be his growing loss of support among the state's nonpartisan voters.
Voters would back the Legislature over the governor in a confrontation over important issues by 44 percent to 33 percent. While Democrats support the Legislature and Republicans line up behind the governor, nonpartisan voters now back the Legislature over Schwarzenegger 2 to 1: 49 percent to 24 percent.
"The governor has turned off nonpartisans enough to turn them toward the Legislature, which they don't particularly like,'' DiCamillo said. "This is a Democratic state, and nonpartisans are the swing voters. There are not enough Republicans to carry the day by themselves.''
The poll is based on a telephone survey of 954 California adults, including 711 registered voters, and was conducted June 13-19. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 percent for all Californians and 3.8 percent for registered voters.
E-mail John Wildermuth at

Winn-Dixie (yes virginia, there is unemployment)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Bankrupt supermarket chain Winn-Dixie said Tuesday it will cut 22,000 jobs, or 28 percent of its work force, as it shutters 326 stores in an attempt to emerge from bankruptcy.
The company is closing 35 percent of its outlets under a proposed Chapter 11 reorganization plan. An additional 500 workers will lose their jobs at its Jacksonville headquarters.
Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. will cease operations in four states — Tennessee, Virginia and North and South Carolina — and trim businesses in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. It will exit the Atlanta market.
The company said it will try to sell six dairy plants, its pizza plant in Montgomery, Ala., and its Chek Beverage/Deep South Products plant in Fitzgerald, Ga., which produces Chek soda, shelf-stable juices and condiments. If buyers are not found, the company said it would continue to operate the Chek Beverage plant and its dairies in Hammond, La., and Plant City, Fla.
Winn Dixie also said it is working to find a third party to produce elsewhere the items made at its Astor Products plant in Jacksonville and the condiments at the Deep South plant. The plants will then be closed.
"We made a very detailed announcement, and I am confident we are making the right decision," said Peter Lynch, company president and CEO. Lynch had said for months that the reorganized company must be smaller and that it was difficult to determine which stores to close.
"We've done a deep dive in every store," he said at a news conference.
Winn-Dixie is leaving a number of larger markets, including Augusta and Savannah in Georgia; Charleston, Columbia and Greenville-Spartanburg in South Carolina; Charlotte, Greensboro-High Point and Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Columbus, Tupelo and Jackson in Mississippi and Alexandria, La.
Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resources Group in New York, said he doesn't believe the changes will save Winn-Dixie, which must still battle rivals Publix Super Markets Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
"They really need to close over 500" stores, Flickinger said. "Sadly, they cut too far at corporate headquarters and haven't sufficiently cut the number of stores."
"Their sales, merchandising and operations plan has gone from bad to worse. It's going to kill the company between this Christmas and next Christmas," Flickinger said.
Mark Hamstra of Supermarket News said Winn-Dixie still needs to define itself and find a niche. But he thinks the decision to close stores should help.
"It looks like they are getting rid of their weakest performing stores. That should help reduce their overhead and bring them closer to profitability," Hamstra said.
Winn-Dixie, which filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 21, was No. 182 on the 2005 Fortune 500 list of the country's largest corporations. It ranked No. 8 among 19 food and drug store companies, while Lakeland-based Publix was ranked No. 6 among supermarkets and No. 117 overall.
The Jacksonville-based supermarket chain listed assets of $2.2 billion and liabilities of $1.9 billion in a February bankruptcy filing.

General Motors

Now, remember this is the same company that is offering its cars to you right now at the same price it offers to its employees. I wonder if it would have done this if it wasn't in the process of publicly admitting that it is downsizing at a time that our president says the economy is robust again. The president is also touting GM as a pioneer in the new environmentally aware society of ours (and that part may bear out, but so far GM's ad efforts have been in the arena of "we're making coal cleaner" while scantily clad models cavort with picks in a subterranean set. somehow, cleaner coal will make me look like a Calvin Klein body). And job loss in June has overreached estimates by 42%. June normally is a month in which employment rises due to college kids needing something for the summer.
Finally, GM says it employs 100,000 people nationally. So, this would be a 25% cut. The numbers below are different than the ones I just stated, but I stand by mine...for now. Even if theirs are correct, this is still a huge loss to the job market. Many of these workers are skilled in special areas and need to be reemployed by similar outfits to make the best use of their skills. That's not going to happen. Car makers are not hiring. So, the costs of retraining these people, the costs of new competition that drives down wages of those in other areas will affect many of us.
As a side note, all automakers are suffering losses in the SUV category. The backlash concerning these vehicles has been such that buying one at cost has never been easier. Add to that the government tax deduction that we no longer get when we buy a hybrid car and you have SUVs driving off the lots at rediculously low prices. Instead of just getting rid of them as should be done. When carmakers are pulling electric cars and sending them to the demolition lot, when hybrids are no longer leased in any any affordable manner, when dealers are not offering to sell leased hybrids or electrics as they are recalled by the maker (but not because they're dangerous, rather because they are not profitable), I do wonder where the collective wisdom is being stored in terms of a cleaner world. Which is why I am not yet applauding GM and its ad blitz. Or those who use GM's "cleaner and meaner" to sell more SUVs.

GM to cut 25,000 jobs by '08
CEO says automaker plans unspecified number of plant closings.June 7, 2005: 5:30 PM EDT By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money senior writer
GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said the company can't be sure it can win needed health care cost savings from the union, but it will keep trying.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - General Motors Corp. is cutting 25,000 jobs and closing an unspecified number of plants over the next 3-1/2 years, CEO Rick Wagoner told shareholders Tuesday, as the world's largest automaker struggles to stem huge losses.
Wagoner, who is also chairman of GM, did not offer more details other than to say the troubled automaker needs to cut capacity by the end of 2008. GM, which has lost $1.1 billion in the first quarter, is facing its worst financial crisis in more than a decade.
The 25,000 jobs represent about 17 percent of GM's U.S. work force, which includes 111,000 unionized employees and another 39,000 salaried staff.
Speaking at GM's annual shareholders meeting in Wilmington, Del., Wagoner said the company's goal is to trim capacity so that plants are running full out. He noted that the cuts announced Tuesday and other moves this year will reduce its production capacity to 5 million cars and trucks by year-end, down from 6 million in 2002.
GM (Research) stock rose as much as 2.4 percent following the announcement, but showed only a 1.4 percent gain in the last hour of trading.
GM also announced plans to buy more components from suppliers outside the United States, and reported it couldn't be sure it would win needed health care cost cuts from the United Auto Workers union.
A spokesman for the union wasn't immediately available for comment.
GM's UAW contract essentially forces it to pay union employees during the life of the contract even if hourly workers are laid off and their plants are closed. But those protections only run through September 2007, when the current four-year pact with the union ends.
GM spokesman Ed Snyder said the automaker has yet to reach any agreement with the UAW yet on the nature or the manner of the work force reduction.
GM may be able to handle much of the reduction by offering early retirement incentives, said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, an independent research group, estimating that more than 25,000 of the company's U.S. workers are near retirement age.
Cole said he was surprised that GM was ready to announce cuts of this magnitude at the Tuesday meeting, and suspected that union leadership was willing to go along with any voluntary staff reductions that GM is likely to use through 2007.
"I can't believe he'd make an announcement of that without labor being supportive of it," Cole said. "They (the union) are in a position where they are very vulnerable. Without strong employers, their job protections don't mean anything."
In fact a drop of 25,000 U.S. jobs for GM by the end of 2008 is not much steeper than the normal attrition rate the automaker's seen in recent years.
In January Wagoner told reporters at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that attrition among hourly workers had been running about 5 percent annually, and about 2 percent for salaried staff.
If the work force kept to last year's attrition rates, there would be a reduction of 7,000 to 8,000 employees this year without any plant closings, and three more years of those kind of gradual trimming could achieve much if not all of the 25,000 reduction in active staff.
"As things currently stand, GM has too many brands, workers, managers, capacity and bureaucracy," said Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland and a critic of GM's management who says the cuts announced Tuesday were too little and too late.
"Offered the challenge to rescue GM from the dust heap of history, occupied by other formerly mighty icons like Bethlehem Steel, AT&T and Packard, Wagoner demonstrated he will not be making any history worth remembering," he said in an e-mail.
In his remarks, Wagoner noted GM is talking to the unions about the health care issue.
"In recent weeks, we have been in intense discussions with the UAW and our other unions focused on a cooperative approach to significantly reduce our health care cost disadvantage," he said. "All parties are working hard on it, in the spirit of addressing a huge risk to our collective futures while providing greater security and good benefits for our employees."
Wagoner's prepared remarks suggested that there are other options available if the union does not agree to changes, although he added, "I don't believe that it serves a useful purpose to speculate on that."
Weak sales, share price
Cole said the cuts are deeper than he expected at GM, but they solve only part of the major problems the company is facing.
"You've got the revenue side and the cost side," he said. "On the revenue side, you've got to still sell product profitably. But the important thing at this point is to define a trajectory to get them to sustainable profitability."
GM's sales have tumbled 7 percent for the first five months of the year, and the company has also been hurt by what Wagoner has called "fewer high-profit SUVs, more lower profit cars."
Its share of the U.S. market has fallen to 25.7 percent from 27.2 for the same period a year ago.
While shares are trading up from the 12-year low they hit in April, they have not recovered from the hit taken in March when GM warned of a steep loss in the first quarter.
GM ended up reporting a loss of $839 million, or $1.48 a share, excluding special items, for the quarter. Despite the plans announced Tuesday, Wagoner's prepared remarks did not include guidance on when the company might turn a profit.
During the two hour, 20-minute meeting, Wagoner faced investor discontent and at least one call for his resignation.
"We're going broke. It's time for a change," said Jim Dollinger, a long-time Buick salesman.
GM's weak stock price prompted veteran financier Kirk Kerkorian to make a tender offer for 5 percent of GM shares outstanding at $31 a share a month ago, on top of the nearly 4 percent he had purchased at a lower price.
That offer, which helped lift GM stock, expires Tuesday. Wagoner declined to say what steps GM's board might take if the offer is successful.
"The issue obviously gets ample attention and discussion on the board and we are well informed," Wagoner said.
Kerkorian has said he was making the purchase as an investment and, despite a reputation as an activist shareholder, he was not at the shareholders' meeting.
GMAC staying put?
GM's credit ratings were recently cut to junk-bond status by Standard & Poor's and Moody's, the nation's two leading bond-rating agencies, hurting GM's profitable finance unit, GMAC.
Since the credit downgrade, there has been some speculation that GMAC might be spun off to improve its credit rating while freeing up cash for GM. But Wagoner suggested the automaker intended to keep the finance arm.
"GMAC is a business that is very important to GM," he said. "Besides their steady contribution to our overall earnings and financial strength, GMAC provides significant support in the sale of GM's cars and trucks around the world, at both the wholesale and retail level."
"This 'hand-in-glove' working relationship between GM Auto and GMAC provides ample benefits to our dealers and our stockholders, and is critical to our ability to compete in the marketplace," said Wagoner.
But, he added, "We are now in the midst of a detailed study of the strategic options that are available to us."
What does Kirk Kerkorian really want from GM? Click here.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Odds and Ends

First off, someone in the White House Press Corps is finally not settling for the pat answer (or non-answer in this instance) :
Terry Moran vs. Scott McClellan on 'Last Throes' of Insurgency in Iraq By E&P Staff Published: June 16, 2005 4:00 PM ET
With polls showing rising public concerns about the war in Iraq, and even some Republicans calling for a withdrawal timetable, White House correspondents and White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan responded in their separate ways today. At his daily briefing, McClellan announced that the President was going to bring a “sharper focus” to the issue in new discussions with the public, while reporters seemed respond not only to that but to rising criticism of their performance in holding the administration's feet to the fire. After McClellan outlined the president's plans, leading up to a key June 28th speech, ABC correspondent Terry Moran asked a pointed question, which referred back to an assessment recently made by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Q Scott, is the insurgency in Iraq in its 'last throes'?
McCLELLAN: Terry, you have a desperate group of terrorists in Iraq that are doing everything they can to try to derail the transition to democracy. The Iraqi people have made it clear that they want a free and democratic and peaceful future. And that's why we're doing everything we can, along with other countries, to support the Iraqi people as they move forward….
Q But the insurgency is in its last throes?
McCLELLAN: The Vice President talked about that the other day -- you have a desperate group of terrorists who recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. A free Iraq will be a significant blow to their ambitions.
Q But they're killing more Americans, they're killing more Iraqis. That's the last throes?McCLELLAN: Innocent -- I say innocent civilians. And it doesn't take a lot of people to cause mass damage when you're willing to strap a bomb onto yourself, get in a car and go and attack innocent civilians. That's the kind of people that we're dealing with. That's what I say when we're talking about a determined enemy.
Q Right. What is the evidence that the insurgency is in its last throes?
McCLELLAN: I think I just explained to you the desperation of terrorists and their tactics.
Q What's the evidence on the ground that it's being extinguished?
McCLELLAN: Terry, we're making great progress to defeat the terrorist and regime elements. You're seeing Iraqis now playing more of a role in addressing the security threats that they face. They're working side by side with our coalition forces. They're working on their own. There are a lot of special forces in Iraq that are taking the battle to the enemy in Iraq. And so this is a period when they are in a desperate mode.
Q Well, I'm just wondering what the metric is for measuring the defeat of the insurgency.
McCLELLAN: Well, you can go back and look at the Vice President's remarks. I think he talked about it.
Q Yes. Is there any idea how long a 'last throe' lasts for?
McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve....

Wording in red and italicised is my highlight :
Red Cross hits back at U.S. Republican critic
17 Jun 2005 11:01:51 GMTSource: ReutersBy Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, June 17 (Reuters) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) hit back at a U.S. Republican report which questioned its impartiality, dismissing the accusations as false and unsubstantiated.
ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger vowed the Swiss-based agency would stick to its principles of neutrality and expressed confidence the United States would remain its top donor.
A policy adviser for the U.S. Senate Republican majority said this week the ICRC had lost its impartiality and was advocating positions at odds with U.S. interests.
"The paper's purpose appears to be to discredit the ICRC by putting forward false allegations and unsubstantiated accusations," Kellenberger told a news briefing.
The humanitarian agency has visited foreign terrorism suspects held by U.S. forces in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as part of its regular operations.
Kellenberger denied ICRC staff had compared U.S. soldiers to Nazis and that the organisation had leaked any confidential reports submitted to U.S. authorities on its prison visits.
A confidential ICRC memorandum which appeared in the New York Times last November accused the U.S. military of tactics "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay -- an accusation rejected by the Pentagon.
The ICRC regularly pays extensive visits Guantanamo Bay, which holds 520 people detained during the 2001 U.S. war to oust al Qaeda and the ruling Taliban from Afghanistan and in other operations in the U.S.-led war against terrorism.
It also visits 10,000 inmates in Iraq and a few weeks ago visited deposed leader Saddam Hussein.
Kellenberger, a former Swiss diplomat, stressed the "good and trustful relations" with the U.S. government, despite "differences of view".
The United States had contributed 167 million Swiss francs ($131 million) towards the ICRC's 940-million-franc budget last year, making it the largest contributor once again.
"It is even likely that the American contribution will be higher this year than last year," he said.
The report was written by Dan Fata, who directs national security studies for the Republican Policy Committee, a group chaired by influential Senator John Kyl.
It accused the ICRC of reinterpreting international law "so as to afford terrorists and insurgents the same rights and privileges as the military personnel of countries like the United States, who have signed the Geneva Conventions".
But Kellenberger said the ICRC's independence was key to getting access to civilians and detainees caught up in conflicts. It deploys 12,450 aid workers in 79 countries.

Rice Says Administration Told Americans Iraq Would Be A “Generational Commitment”
This morning (6/19/05) on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked if “the Bush administration fairly [can] be criticized for failing to level with the American people about how long and difficult this commitment will be?” Rice responded:
"[T]he administration, I think, has said to the American people that it is a generational commitment to Iraq. "
That’s not true. To build support for the war the administration told the American people that the conflict in Iraq will be short and affordable.

Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/16/03:
[M]y belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly. . . (in) weeks rather than months

Donald Rumsfeld, 2/7/03:
It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.

Former Budget Director Mitch Daniels, 3/28/03:
The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid…

Sen. Chuck Hagel (that damned "liberal" Republican [see article above about the the CPB] )speaks out :
Hit by friendly fire
With his polls down, Bush takes flak on Iraq from a host of critics--including some in his own party
By Kevin Whitelaw
Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

In Fallujah, Americans and Iraqis are brothers in arms.
That's strikingly blunt talk from a member of the president's party, even one cast as something of a pariah in the GOP because of his early skepticism about the war. "I got beat up pretty good by my own party and the White House that I was not a loyal Republican," he says. Today, he notes, things are changing: "More and more of my colleagues up here are concerned."
Indeed, there are signs that the politics of the Iraq war are being reshaped by the continuing tide of bad news. Take this month in Iraq, with 47 U.S. troops killed in the first 15 days. That's already five more than the toll for the entire month of June last year. With the rate of insurgent attacks near an all-time high and the war's cost set to top $230 billion, more politicians on both sides of the aisle are responding to opinion polls that show a growing number of Americans favoring a withdrawal from Iraq. Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee and Lindsey Graham have voiced their concerns. And two Republicans, including the congressman who brought "freedom fries" to the Capitol, even joined a pair of Democratic colleagues in sponsoring a bill calling for a troop withdrawal plan to be drawn up by year's end. "I feel confident that the opposition is going to build," says Rep. Ron Paul, the other Republican sponsor and a longtime opponent of the war.
Sagging polls. The measure is not likely to go anywhere, but Hagel calls it "a major crack in the dike." Whether or not that's so, the White House has reason to worry that the assortment of critiques of Bush's wartime performance may be approaching a tipping point. Only 41 percent of Americans now support Bush's handling of the Iraq war, the lowest mark ever in the Associated Press-Ipsos poll. And the Iraq news has combined with a lethargic economy and doubts about the president's Social Security proposals to push Bush's overall approval ratings near all-time lows. For now, most Republicans remain publicly loyal to the White House. "Why would you give your enemies a timetable?" asks House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. "[Bush] doesn't fight the war on news articles or television or on polls."
Still, the Bush administration is planning to hit back, starting this week, with a renewed public-relations push by the president. Bush will host Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari and has scheduled a major speech for June 28, the anniversary of the handover of power to an Iraqi government from U.S. authorities. But Congress's patience could wear very thin going into an election year. "If things don't start to turn around in six months, then it may be too late," says Hagel. "I think it's that serious."
Bush's exit strategy--which depends on a successful Iraqi political process--got a boost last week when Sunni and Shiite politicians ended weeks of wrangling over how to increase Sunni representation on the constitution-writing committee. Now, however, committee members have less than two months before their mid-August deadline. And given how long it took to resolve who gets to draft the document, it's hard to imagine a quick accord on the politically explosive issues they face.