Saturday, June 30, 2007

As Clinton Flip-Flops, Where Does She Stand?

by Helen Thomas
Albany Times-Union
June 29, 2007

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has great political skills, but her war-and-peace compass leaves something to be desired.

Clinton has blown hot and cold on Middle East issues, including Iraq and the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. She is at best pragmatic. Principles? Well, that's another story.

Before and during her early years in the White House, she supported Palestinian statehood, but she apparently forgot this after successfully running for senator from New York as a Democrat.

The rest is history. She obviously had to cater to a new constituency, make the ritual trip to Israel and forget any sympathy she once had for the Palestinians. But is her 180-degree flip-flop on that festering issue a portent of her leadership if she attains the White House?

As for Iraq, she voted in October 2002 to authorize President Bush to do what was necessary to unseat Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Unlike former Sen. John Edwards, she has refused to say she made a mistake when she voted for the war.

She cannot claim she was misled. During the lead up to the war when she was briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence about Iraq, Bush was shouting from the housetops that he was going to attack Iraq.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld often strutted before reporters at the Pentagon two years before the invasion and bragged about the attack the U.S. would wage against Iraq.

Clinton is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a post that will allow her to embellish her credentials as a possible future commander-in-chief to show she would not hesitate to make tough military decisions.

As a member of that committee, she visited Iraq in 2005 and said U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake. But she also criticized the administration for making poor decisions about the war.

In 2007, she voted in favor of a war-spending bill that required Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within a certain deadline; the President vetoed the measure.

But Clinton then voted against a compromise war-spending bill that tied funding to progress by Iraq in meeting certain benchmarks.

It doesn't take her long to switch her stance on the war -- even in 24 hours. On June 19, Clinton told a union audience that she favored keeping some troops in Iraq "to protect our interests" there after a major pullout. But the following day, she told an activist anti-war gathering that she wants U.S. troops withdrawn from Iraq.

On that day, she dazzled the "Take Back America" conference by declaring: "We're going to end the war in Iraq and finally bring our troops home."

A woman has a right to change her mind. But we're talking about war and peace. After dealing with the conflict now in its fifth year, Clinton ought to know where she stands. She has piously stated that the U.S. had given the Iraqis a "chance for free and fair elections" by ousting Saddam Hussein and has provided the Iraqi government the opportunity to demonstrate that it would "make hard political decisions necessary to give the people of Iraq a better future."

And get this: "So," she added, "the American military has succeeded. It is the Iraqi government which has failed to make the tough decisions that are important for their own people."

What gall! The U.S. invades and occupies a country, destroys its infrastructure, tries to privatize its national oil industry, kills and wounds thousands of Iraqis and now tells the ungrateful Iraqis, "It's your problem."

Pretty soon she will echo Bush in saying we are in Iraq to bring them "democracy"!

It's great that a woman is being taken seriously as a candidate for the presidency for the first time in history -- and is even viewed as the front-runner.

She has suffered the rough and tumble of politics.

But Clinton should look to two California Democrats -- Rep. Barbara Lee and Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- both of whom had the courage to vote against the first resolution authorizing the President to go to war.

The question still lingers: What does Clinton stand for?

Copyright 2007 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation

Friday, June 29, 2007

We Have a Moment

by Al Gore
June 29, 2007

On 7.7.07 more than two billion people will come together during Live Earth. That number is unfathomable - more than one-fourth of the world’s population will participate in a single event and demand a solution to the climate crisis. This unique moment presents us with a unique choice.

Do we use this unprecedented opportunity to organize a global movement that will last beyond 7.7.07? Or do we let the moment pass?

I know my answer - and I think I know yours. That’s why I am issuing this challenge: Let’s use this moment to pledge our support to solving the climate crisis. Just as important – let’s ask everyone we know to join us as part of this movement.

Sign the 7.7.07 Live Earth Pledge:

The 7.7.07 Live Earth Pledge:


1. To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

2. To take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become "carbon neutral;"

3. To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

4. To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

5. To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

6. To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

7. To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century

Together we were able to make March’s Congressional hearings a huge moment by collecting more than 500,000 messages and demonstrating the significant public support for solving the climate crisis to our elected leaders and the media. Our next opportunity to demonstrate this growing movement will come on 7.7.07

Live Earth will not just be a 24-hour concert – but the launch of a massive campaign to demonstrate that the political will exists to solve the climate crisis.

As our movement grows larger we will shake loose the paralysis currently gripping our political system. Working together we can get it done.

In Celebration of Jane Jacobs

by Sam Roberts
The New York Times
June 25, 2007

In 1958, a promising but obscure writer for an architectural magazine applied to the Rockefeller Foundation for a research grant.

“Most city planning and rebuilding today is based, fundamentally, on rejection of the city,” she wrote. “I am convinced that any good that is going to come of planning for the city is going to have to foster the city’s diversity instead of obstructing it.”

The grant was approved, and ultimately grew to $18,000. The research helped produce Jane Jacobs’s landmark book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”

Nearly a half-century later, the Rockefeller Foundation is inaugurating the Jane Jacobs Medals, accompanied by a $100,000 prize.

Barry Benepe, the 79-year-old founder of Greenmarket, will receive the first medal for “lifetime leadership.” Omar Freilla, the 33-year-old founder of Green Worker Cooperatives in the Bronx, was named the winner of the first medal for “new ideas and activism.”

The medals, voted by a 12-member jury from hundreds of entries, will be presented in September in conjunction with the opening by the Municipal Art Society of an exhibit titled “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York.”

“We’re experiencing in New York the kind of civic conversation Jane would have loved,” said Judith Rodin, the Rockefeller Foundation’s president.

Miss Jacobs, who championed density, dynamism and diversity in America’s cities, died last year at the age of 89. The Rockefeller Foundation awards will be given in her name annually.

The celebration of her life and legacy follows months of retrospection about her nemesis, Robert Moses, in a new book and in exhibitions that ended last month at the Museum of the City of New York and the Queens Museum of Art.

Mr. Benepe, an architect, planner and bicyclist whose son Adrian is the city’s parks commissioner, founded Greenmarket in 1975. In more than 30 neighborhoods, the organization has demonstrated how temporary farmers’ markets can revitalize empty lots and vacant parks.

Mr. Benepe, who first met Miss Jacobs at a demonstration in City Hall Park, hailed her “microcosmic” view of the city. He said he intends to share a portion of his prize money with other nonprofit groups.

Mr. Freilla, who was born in the South Bronx and returned there after earning a master’s degree in environmental science, founded Green Worker Cooperatives in 2003.

In keeping with Miss Jacobs’s vision, he said, one of the group’s goals was to open a center in the Bronx to transform construction waste “to create a new alternative economy that is community based, empowers workers and is green.” Workers would salvage used and surplus materials from demolition and construction sites for reuse.

Mr. Freilla is donating his prize money to the Green Worker Cooperatives, which has now raised all but $75,000 of its $900,000 goal for the center.

Describing its project on Miss Jacobs, the Municipal Art Society said that in contrast to the 1950s, recent development in the city has been incremental “but almost as powerful in the aggregate.”

“The texture of the city — the tangible and intangible components that create its character, the elements that comprise its soul — is eroding under a steady stream of luxury condominiums and national chain stores,” the society said.

“As the debate about the growth and the development of the city continues,” said Kent Barwick, the society’s president, “I keep thinking to myself: ‘What would Jane say?’ ”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

World Without Oil

World Without Oil is an alternate reality event, a serious game for the public good.

It invites everyone to help simulate a global oil shock. People participate by contributing original online stories, created as though the oil shock were really happening.

The game's masters rank the participants (“players”) according to their contributions to our realistic portrayal of the oil shock. The game also places value on player-created communities, collaborative stories, and collective efforts.

Each contribution helps the game arrive at a larger truth. No team of experts knows better than a given individual what effect an oil shock would have upon that individual's life, or what action he or she will take to cope. Personal reactions to our simulated oil shock, placed in context with many other points of view, will help us all realize what’s at stake in our oil-fired culture.

World Without Oil aims to help fill a huge gap in our nation's thinking about oil and the economy. As people everywhere grapple with the problem of growing global demand for petroleum, no one has a clear picture of oil availability in the future, nor is there a clear picture of what will happen when demand inevitably outstrips supply. That will depend in large part upon how well people prepare, cooperate, and collectively create solutions. By playing it out in a serious way, the game aims to apply collective intelligence and imagination to the problem in advance, and to create a record that has value for educators, policymakers, and the common people to help anticipate the future and prevent its worst outcomes. “Play it, before you live it.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Immigrants Dying in U.S. Jails

by Nina Bernstein
The New York Times
June 26, 2007

Sandra M. Kenley was returning home from her native Barbados in 2005 when she was swept into the United States’ fastest-growing form of incarceration, immigration detention.

Seven weeks later, Ms. Kenley died in a rural Virginia jail, where she had complained of not receiving medicine for high blood pressure. She was one of 62 immigrants to die in administrative custody since 2004, according to a new tally by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that counted many more deaths than the 20 previously known.

No government body is charged with accounting for deaths in immigration detention, a patchwork of county jails, privately run prisons and federal facilities where more than 27,500 people who are not American citizens are held on any given day while the government decides whether to deport them.

Getting details about those who die in custody is a difficult undertaking left to family members, advocacy groups and lawyers.

But as the immigration detention system balloons to meet demands for stricter enforcement of immigration laws, deaths in custody — and the secrecy and confusion around them — are drawing increased scrutiny from lawmakers and from government investigators.

Spurred by bipartisan reports of abuses in detention, the Senate unanimously passed an amendment to the proposed immigration bill that would establish an office of detention oversight within the Department of Homeland Security. Detention capacity would grow by 20,000 beds, or 73 percent, under the bill, which is expected to be debated again today in the Senate.

Complaints focus on a lack of independent oversight and failures to enforce standards for medical care, suicide prevention and access to legal help.

The inspector general in the Department of Homeland Security recently announced a “special review” of two deaths, including that of a Korean woman at a privately run detention center in Albuquerque. Fellow detainees told a lawyer that the woman, Young Sook Kim, had pleaded for medical care for weeks, but received scant attention until her eyes yellowed and she stopped eating.

Ms. Kim died of pancreatic cancer in federal custody on Sept. 11, 2006, a day after she was taken to a hospital.

Some of the sharpest criticism of the troubled system has come from officials at one of the largest detention centers in the country, York County Prison in Pennsylvania.

“The Department of Homeland Security has made it difficult, if not impossible, to meet the constitutional requirements of providing adequate health care to inmates that have a serious need for that care,” the York County Prison’s warden, Thomas Hogan, wrote in a court affidavit last year.

Officials with the immigration agency say that some deaths are inevitable, and that sufficient outside scrutiny comes from local medical examiners. Detention expanded by more than 32 percent last year, and the average length of stay was cut to 35 days from 89, said Jamie Zuieback, a spokeswoman.

“We spend $98 million annually to provide medical care for people in our custody,” Ms. Zuieback said. “Anybody who violates our national immigration law is going to get the same treatment by I.C.E. regardless of their medical condition.”

She declined to release information about the 62 detention deaths since 2004, including names, dates, locations or causes.

Twenty deaths were reported over the same period in a recent briefing paper for the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants from a list compiled by civil liberties lawyers from reports by relatives, advocates and the news media.

Detention standards were adopted by the immigration agency in 2000, but are not legally enforceable, unlike rules for the treatment of criminal inmates. The Department of Homeland Security has resisted efforts by the American Bar Association to turns the standards into regulations, saying that rulemaking would reduce the agency’s flexibility.

“The deaths bring forward in the worst way the systemwide problems,” said Sunita Patel, a lawyer for Legal Aid who prepared the United Nations briefing paper.

Some advocates of curbs on immigration say the solution is quicker deportations.

“The taxpayer cannot be expected to underwrite the elaborate detention facilities that some of these organizations want,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In the case of Ms. Kenley, a legal permanent resident of the United States for more than 30 years, detention interrupted her medical care for high blood pressure, a fibroid tumor and uterine bleeding. An autopsy attributed her death to an enlarged heart from chronic hypertensive disease. But a report by emergency medical services said that she had fallen from a top bunk, and that a cellmate had pounded on the door for 20 minutes before guards responded.

Ms. Kenley’s sister, June Everett, said her questions had gone unanswered.

“How did my sister die?” she asked, as Ms. Kenley’s daughter, Nicole, wept. “It’s a whole set of confusion, so who knows, really? And I would like to know.”

Ms. Kenley had been traveling with her 1-year-old granddaughter when she arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, records show, and she was ordered to return without the baby to discuss two old misdemeanor drug convictions that had surfaced in an airport database.

She obeyed. A transcript shows she admitted a conviction for drug possession in 1984 and one in 2002 for trying to buy a small amount of cocaine. She described a life derailed by drug addiction after 11 years of working in a newspaper mailroom.

“I turned my life around,” Ms. Kenley told the immigration inspector, pointing to three drug-free years after probation and treatment, completion of a nursing course, and legal custody of the granddaughter, Nakita. She also showed that she was taking blood pressure medication and was scheduled for surgery.

The inspector arrested her, invoking the law: two drug-related convictions made her subject to exclusion from the United States.

“I am barely living,” Ms. Kenley later wrote her sister from Pamunkey Regional Jail, in Hanover, Va., “trying to hold on until you get a lawyer to help me.”

She died at Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Va.

Her only court appearances were by video monitor, waiting for a volunteer lawyer who never came.

Even detainees with legal counsel sometimes do not survive.

Abdoulai Sall, 50, a Guinea-born taxi cab mechanic in Washington with no criminal record, died in detention last December.

Mr. Sall, whose boss of 17 years had sponsored him for a green card, was at an immigration interview with a lawyer, Paul S. Allen, when he was unexpectedly arrested on an old deportation order — part of a legal tangle left when another lawyer abandoned his case in the 1990s, Mr. Allen said.

The case file shows that Mr. Allen’s office urged medical intervention for Mr. Sall, who had been taking medication for a serious kidney ailment at the time of his arrest. While in detention at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Va. he complained that he was not getting his medication and that his symptoms were worsening in a barracks-style unit.

Fellow detainees described Mr. Sall huddling next to the unit dryer for warmth, barely able to walk. “The medical staff told him they don’t have what he needs because immigration don’t pay enough money,” one detainee wrote.

The accusation was denied by Lou Barlow, the jail’s superintendent, who said Mr. Sall had received good care, including a visit to the local emergency room.

“We’ve never done anything unethical, illegal or immoral,” Mr. Barlow said.

Autopsy results are still pending.

Some deaths, like Ms. Kim’s, come to light well after the fact. Ms. Kim, a cook of about 60, was swept up in a raid on a massage parlor and detained for a month at the Regional Correctional Center in Albuquerque, a county prison operated by the Cornell Companies, a publicly traded corporation.

Months after her death, a lawyer in Santa Fe, N.M., Brandt Milstein, learned about the case from other Korean detainees, since deported. Mr. Milstein said that under New Mexico law, the death should have been reviewed by the state’s medical inspector, but officials had not reported it as a death in custody.

About two weeks ago — nearly a year after Ms. Kim died — the inspector general’s office called him, Mr. Milstein said. The investigation is now under way.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Truth About Tongass

by Douglas H. Chadwick
National Geographic
July 2007 Issue

Three times the size of the next largest U.S. national forest, the Tongass could hardly be further from most citizens' everyday lives. Yet logging on part of this expanse has fueled decades of acrimony, lawsuits, even intervention by Congress. The controversy—and whatever the outcome may be—has turned the remote Tongass into a central test of how Americans want to manage living resources on public lands.

National forest? National rain forest is more accurate. Make that old-growth temperate rain forest, an exceptionally rich ecosystem that holds more organic matter—more biomass—per acre than any other, including tropical jungles. And that's not counting the equally lush forests of seaweed added to Tongass shores whenever the tide goes out. Temperate rain forest flourished from Alaska to northern California and in nations from Norway to Chile. Much has fallen to the ax and saw. In the lower 48 states, 96 percent of old-growth forest of all types has been cut down. The Tongass now represents not only the greatest remaining reserve of huge trees in the U.S., but also nearly one-third of the old-growth temperate rain forest left in the world.

People joke about tree huggers, but no one laughs when old-growth woodlands are described as cathedral forests. We stand in awe amid columns that soar toward the light. The air takes on weight. It feels preternaturally close and still, yet behind the silence, is alive with faint rustlings, as in the moments before a hymn begins. I wondered whether groves of grand trees didn't in fact inspire the design of humanity's first temples and later edifices: the architecture of praise.

A century ago, President Teddy Roosevelt established the Tongass National Forest. The majority of it is as untamed today as it was then. Nearly two dozen national monuments, preserves, and designated wilderness areas within the national forest guarantee that almost seven million acres (three million hectares) will stay that way. By contrast, half a million acres (200,000 hectares) have been logged. Timber sales pending under the latest management plan will increase the total to about 650,000 acres (260,000 hectares). National forests are supposed to provide for multiple uses, from recreation to industry. So what's the problem?

The basic truth that lies behind the Tongass controversy is threefold. First, big-tree old-growth forests flourish on less than 4 percent of the land. Roughly one-third of the national forest isn't woodland at all but bare rock, glaciers, tundra, open muskeg, and slopes shorn by avalanches. Much of what remains is too high and cold or too soggy to support more than stunted or average-size trees. Most of the giant conifers rise on low-elevation sites with better drained, more fertile soils, notably karst (porous limestone) formations and gravelly riversides and floodplains. Second, those forests have been the primary targets for cutting from the start. Finally, nearly a third of Southeast Alaska's big trees have already been felled. Forests come back, of course. But by the measure of a human life span, conifers hundreds of years high and wide are not really renewable resources, and extracting them is more akin to mining.

Even before the 1920s, big trees had become scarce in stretches where independent hand-loggers had cherry-picked shoreline forests. Alaska officials tried to lure larger timber outfits from the south. But operating so far from ready markets looked like a money-loser, and the companies stayed home. Then, shortly after World War II, the federal government stepped in with an extraordinary incentive: a guaranteed 50-year supply of national forest timber at token prices to investors willing to build pulp mills.

Giveaways of public resources don't get more blatant. However, the Tongass forests seemed vast enough to meet any demand. Neither U.S. Forest Service technicians nor anyone else had yet inventoried the terrain to see how much of it actually grew big trees. Alaska still had the quasi-colonial status of a U.S. territory (it wouldn't become a state until 1959), and ecology was still an unfamiliar word. So why not harvest a heap of wood and set the boondocks up north on the path to development, especially since commercial logging, unlike fishing, held out the promise of jobs year-round?

One objection was to the federal costs of managing the timber sales and building road systems through rough-and-tumble backcountry to reach the trees—tens of millions of dollars annually, coming out of the pockets of U.S. taxpayers and padding company profits. But this subsidy was framed by a concern all too familiar today: national security. With Japan's wartime invasion of the Aleutian Islands fresh in mind, Congress wanted more Americans in Alaska. Moreover, the Cold War had begun, and strategists feared that Japan, struggling to rebuild, might turn to the Soviet Union for timber from Siberia.

In 1999, undeveloped national forest lands across the U.S. were declared off-limits to commercial logging. In 2001, outgoing President Bill Clinton included nearly ten million Tongass acres (four million hectares). The exemption became known as the Roadless Rule. Incoming President George W. Bush rescinded it, giving authority over such decisions to individual states. Lawsuits followed. A federal judge issued a decision in 2006 stating that the Bush Administration was not justified in rolling back those protections for wildland resources.

Lawyers continue to pile on. But in 2003, the undersecretary of agriculture in charge of the Forest Service, Mark Rey, a former timber lobbyist, declared one forest's roadless areas open to timber management no matter how the issue was resolved nationally. That one was the Tongass. It seems to have become a symbol in a much larger contest of beliefs about what frontiers are for and what the truest measure of a nation's progress should be.

With only three modest-size mills and ten small ones scattered around the region today, the Tongass timber industry provides about 200 jobs—less than one percent of total employment in Southeast Alaska. The gargantuan cruise ships plying the waters hire nearly a thousand workers—on each vessel. In Ketchikan alone (city population 8,000), more than 800,000 visitors walk off cruise ship decks and into the stores every year, generating upwards of 120 million dollars in tourism revenue.

The Tongass National Forest itself has a staff of 600 to 700. In an average year, the agency spends some 30 million dollars overseeing timber programs. Many of the logging sales it puts up for bid have no takers. Others stay in limbo because of lawsuits filed by conservationists. For the approximately 50 million board feet (118,000 cubic meters) the Forest Service does manage to sell annually, it receives about $750,000. The deficit therefore comes to $29,250,000. Dividing that by 200 Tongass timber jobs, the government could pay each logger and mill worker $146,250 a year to stay home and let the rain forest be.

Not going to happen? Then what about shifting the focus to repairing streams and enhancing fisheries in some of the worst-hit sites? Or thinning closed-canopy forests to hasten tree growth where the land has already been altered? The Forest Service has been experimenting with these options and more for at least 25 years.

Audubon Alaska proposes that the Forest Service set aside as off-limits the top 50 percent of undeveloped watersheds still open to logging to keep them as intact as possible. "National forest management has been commodity-driven," Schoen says. "The overriding goal was to 'get out the cut.' We're past that. Everybody is trying to figure out how to do a better job of managing all the values the Tongass has to offer. This is a world-class ecosystem. Its resources deserve world-class efforts to sustain them."

With so much of the American frontier in the rearview mirror, we begin to see more clearly that no forest has ever been just a repository of trees. Each is at once a vibrant structure, a community, the live scaffolding within which creation continues to unfold. That is the ultimate natural resource growing out there between Alaska's snow-bright summits and the sea.

© 2007 National Geographic Society

Read the entire article here:

Monday, June 18, 2007

161,000-Acre Parcel in Adirondacks Sold to Nature Conservancy

by Anthony DePalma
The New York Times
June 18, 2007

The last big piece of privately owned timber land in the Adirondacks — a craggy 161,000-acre wilderness of hardwood forests, 80 mountain peaks, 70 crystal clear lakes and ponds, rivers, white water gorges, and secluded bogs — has been sold for $110 million to the Nature Conservancy, a move that is intended to protect the land from future development.

The transaction — one of the largest ever in the Adirondack Park — is also significant because it includes a working forest agreement that will allow selective cutting of timber to continue for 20 years, providing trees to the Finch Paper mill in Glens Falls and helping preserve 850 jobs at the mill, which has been a fixture in the region for over a century.

The land sale was part of a complicated business transaction in which an investment group led by Atlas Holdings and Blue Wolf Capital Management, and operating under the name Finch Paper Holdings, acquired the privately held Finch, Pruyn & Company, a local business that traced its roots back to 1865.

Following the model set by other paper companies in recent years that have sold off their holdings of timberland, the new owners decided to sell Finch, Pruyn’s 161,000 acres, offering the land to the Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation group.

Henry Tepper, New York State director of the Nature Conservancy, said that because of the extraordinary nature of the land that is being protected, the organization had to act quickly to make sure the property was not broken up or sold piecemeal to a developer. Finch Paper Holding first raised the option of selling the land to the conservancy just six weeks ago. Deals of this size and importance often take an entire year.

“Our major accomplishment here, in moving as quickly as we have moved, is that we have kept this extraordinary holding intact,” Mr. Tepper said. “There was a very real chance that the mill and forest could have been broken up and sold in separate sales, which would have meant that we would lose a 100-year tradition of sustainable forestry on this land.”

The Adirondack Park, created in 1892, is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks combined. The park encompasses approximately six million acres, nearly half of which is publicly owned, and half composed of private farms, timber lands, businesses, homes and camps.

The 161,000 acres purchased by the conservancy is located between Long Lake and Keene Valley in the central heart of the Adirondacks. Besides preserving the land as a working forest, the Nature Conservancy said it intended to renew about 140 annual recreational leases with hunting clubs and other organizations that have a long tradition of using the land.

The conservancy will also continue to pay $1.1 million in local property taxes to the 31 towns in six counties where the land is located.

The final disposition of the land has not yet been determined, Mr. Tepper said. One option is to hold the land until the state can purchase it. The conservancy could also sell some of the property to a timber investment management organization that would oversee the sustainable harvest of the trees but keep out residential development.

Eventually, some parts of the property — which has been closed to the public since Ulysses S. Grant was president — could be opened for limited public recreational use, although that has not yet been decided. For now, access is generally limited to scenic views along Blue Ridge Road and other thoroughfares that border Finch lands.

In the recent past, some paper companies in New York have sold only the development rights to their Adirondack lands while retaining ownership. Adam Blumenthal, managing general partner of Blue Wolf Capital Management, one of the partners in the new holding company, said that selling the property outright was a better option because doing so brought an infusion of capital that “provided a strong financial basis for the mill to go forward while also assuring fiber supply for the long term.”

John F. Sheehan, a spokesman for the Adirondack Council, an environmental group, said the 161,000-acre parcel — which includes what he called some of the wildest country in the Adirondacks Park — is “crucial to park’s biological diversity and completeness in terms of ecological protection.” Mr. Sheehan said that continuing timber operations that provide jobs and have been sustainably managed is considered compatible with the Adirondack Park’s preservation goals.

According to biological inventories prepared by the Nature Conservancy, the Finch property is home to 95 different animal species, including 37 that are considered rare in New York. The land also supports 91 species of birds. The Hudson River Gorge, which is sometimes called New York’s Grand Canyon, flows through the property.

With this acquisition, the Nature Conservancy has protected 556,572 acres in the Adirondacks since 1971.

The group financed the $110 million Finch purchase with loans from the Open Space Conservancy, the land acquisition arm of the Open Space Institute. The John Hancock Life Insurance Company is continuing an existing mortgage.

Mr. Tepper said the Nature Conservancy would undertake a major fund-raising project to cover the purchase price of the acquisition. And over the next year to 18 months, the conservancy will meet with community leaders, lease holders and the state to determine how best to manage the land.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Welcome to "Palestine"

by Robert Fisk
The Independent
June 16, 2006

How troublesome the Muslims of the Middle East are. First, we demand that the Palestinians embrace democracy and then they elect the wrong party - Hamas - and then Hamas wins a mini-civil war and presides over the Gaza Strip. And we Westerners still want to negotiate with the discredited President, Mahmoud Abbas. Today "Palestine" - and let's keep those quotation marks in place - has two prime ministers. Welcome to the Middle East.

Who can we negotiate with? To whom do we talk? Well of course, we should have talked to Hamas months ago. But we didn't like the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. They were supposed to have voted for Fatah and its corrupt leadership. But they voted for Hamas, which declines to recognise Israel or abide by the totally discredited Oslo agreement.

No one asked - on our side - which particular Israel Hamas was supposed to recognise. The Israel of 1948? The Israel of the post-1967 borders? The Israel which builds - and goes on building - vast settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, gobbling up even more of the 22 per cent of "Palestine" still left to negotiate over ?

And so today, we are supposed to talk to our faithful policeman, Mr Abbas, the "moderate" (as the BBC, CNN and Fox News refer to him) Palestinian leader, a man who wrote a 600-page book about Oslo without once mentioning the word "occupation", who always referred to Israeli "redeployment" rather than "withdrawal", a "leader" we can trust because he wears a tie and goes to the White House and says all the right things. The Palestinians didn't vote for Hamas because they wanted an Islamic republic - which is how Hamas's bloody victory will be represented - but because they were tired of the corruption of Mr Abbas's Fatah and the rotten nature of the "Palestinian Authority".

I recall years ago being summoned to the home of a PA official whose walls had just been punctured by an Israeli tank shell. All true. But what struck me were the gold-plated taps in his bathroom. Those taps - or variations of them - were what cost Fatah its election. Palestinians wanted an end to corruption - the cancer of the Arab world - and so they voted for Hamas and thus we, the all-wise, all-good West, decided to sanction them and starve them and bully them for exercising their free vote. Maybe we should offer "Palestine" EU membership if it would be gracious enough to vote for the right people?

All over the Middle East, it is the same. We support Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, even though he keeps warlords and drug barons in his government (and, by the way, we really are sorry about all those innocent Afghan civilians we are killing in our "war on terror" in the wastelands of Helmand province).

We love Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, whose torturers have not yet finished with the Muslim Brotherhood politicians recently arrested outside Cairo, whose presidency received the warm support of Mrs - yes Mrs - George W Bush - and whose succession will almost certainly pass to his son, Gamal.

We adore Muammar Gaddafi, the crazed dictator of Libya whose werewolves have murdered his opponents abroad, whose plot to murder King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia preceded Tony Blair's recent visit to Tripoli - Colonel Gaddafi, it should be remembered, was called a "statesman" by Jack Straw for abandoning his non-existent nuclear ambitions - and whose "democracy" is perfectly acceptable to us because he is on our side in the "war on terror".

Yes, and we love King Abdullah's unconstitutional monarchy in Jordan, and all the princes and emirs of the Gulf, especially those who are paid such vast bribes by our arms companies that even Scotland Yard has to close down its investigations on the orders of our prime minister - and yes, I can indeed see why he doesn't like The Independent's coverage of what he quaintly calls "the Middle East". If only the Arabs - and the Iranians - would support our kings and shahs and princes whose sons and daughters are educated at Oxford and Harvard, how much easier the "Middle East" would be to control.

For that is what it is about - control - and that is why we hold out, and withdraw, favours from their leaders. Now Gaza belongs to Hamas, what will our own elected leaders do? Will our pontificators in the EU, the UN, Washington and Moscow now have to talk to these wretched, ungrateful people (fear not, for they will not be able to shake hands) or will they have to acknowledge the West Bank version of Palestine (Abbas, the safe pair of hands) while ignoring the elected, militarily successful Hamas in Gaza?

It's easy, of course, to call down a curse on both their houses. But that's what we say about the whole Middle East. If only Bashar al-Assad wasn't President of Syria (heaven knows what the alternative would be) or if the cracked President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wasn't in control of Iran (even if he doesn't actually know one end of a nuclear missile from the other).

If only Lebanon was a home-grown democracy like our own little back-lawn countries - Belgium, for example, or Luxembourg. But no, those pesky Middle Easterners vote for the wrong people, support the wrong people, love the wrong people, don't behave like us civilised Westerners.

So what will we do? Support the reoccupation of Gaza perhaps? Certainly we will not criticise Israel. And we shall go on giving our affection to the kings and princes and unlovely presidents of the Middle East until the whole place blows up in our faces and then we shall say - as we are already saying of the Iraqis - that they don't deserve our sacrifice and our love.

How do we deal with a coup d'état by an elected government?

© 2007 Independent News and Media Limited

Libby Praised for Felonious Misdeeds

by Bill Moyers
Common Dreams News Center
June 16, 2007

We have yet another remarkable revelation of the mindset of Washington’s ruling clique of neoconservative elites — the people who took us to war from the safety of their Beltway bunkers. Even as Iraq grows bloodier by the day, their passion of the week is to keep one of their own from going to jail.

It is well known that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby — once Vice President Cheney’s most trusted adviser-has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for perjury. Lying. Not a white lie, mind you. A killer lie. Scooter Libby deliberately poured poison into the drinking water of democracy by lying to federal investigators, for the purpose of obstructing justice.

Attempting to trash critics of the war, Libby and his pals in high places-including his boss Dick Cheney-outed a covert CIA agent. Libby then lied to cover their tracks. To throw investigators off the trail, he kicked sand in the eyes of truth. “Libby lied about nearly everything that mattered,” wrote the chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. The jury agreed and found him guilty on four felony counts. Judge Reggie B. Walton-a no-nonsense, lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key type, appointed to the bench by none other than George W. Bush-called the evidence “overwhelming” and threw the book at Libby.

You would have thought their man had been ordered to Guantanamo, so intense was the reaction from his cheerleaders. They flooded the judge’s chambers with letters of support for their comrade and took to the airwaves in a campaign to “free Scooter.”

Vice President Cheney issued a statement praising Libby as “a man…of personal integrity” — without even a hint of irony about their collusion to browbeat the CIA into mangling intelligence about Iraq in order to justify the invasion.

“A patriot, a dedicated public servant, a strong family man, and a tireless, honorable, selfless human being,” said Donald Rumsfeld-the very same Rumsfeld who had claimed to know the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction and who boasted of “bulletproof” evidence linking Saddam to 9/11. “A good person” and “decent man,” said the one-time Pentagon adviser Kenneth Adelman, who had predicted the war in Iraq would be a “cakewalk.” Paul Wolfowitz wrote a four-page letter to praise “the noblest spirit of selfless service” that he knew motivated his friend Scooter. Yes, that Paul Wolfowitz, who had claimed Iraqis would “greet us as liberators” and that Iraq would “finance its own reconstruction.” The same Paul Wolfowitz who had to resign recently as president of the World Bank for using his office to show favoritism to his girlfriend. Paul Wolfowitz turned character witness.

The praise kept coming: from Douglas Feith, who ran the Pentagon factory of disinformation that Cheney and Libby used to brainwash the press; from Richard Perle, as cocksure about Libby’s “honesty, integrity, fairness and balance” as he had been about the success of the war; and from William Kristol, who had primed the pump of the propaganda machine at The Weekly Standard and has led the call for a Presidential pardon. “The case was such a farce, in my view,” he said. “I’m for pardon on the merits.”

One Beltway insider reports that the entire community is grieving — “weighted down by the sheer, glaring unfairness” of Libby’s sentence.

And there’s the rub.

None seem the least weighted down by the sheer, glaring unfairness of sentencing soldiers to repeated and longer tours of duty in a war induced by deception. It was left to the hawkish academic Fouad Ajami to state the matter baldly. In a piece published on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, Ajami pleaded with Bush to pardon Libby. For believing “in the nobility of this war,” wrote Ajami, Scooter Libby had himself become a “casualty” — a fallen soldier the President dare not leave behind on the Beltway battlefield.

Not a word in the entire article about the real fallen soldiers. The honest-to-God dead, and dying, and wounded. Not a word about the chaos or the cost. Even as the calamity they created worsens, all they can muster is a cry for leniency for one of their own who lied to cover their tracks.

There are contrarian voices: “This is an open and shut case of perjury and obstruction of justice,” said Pat Buchanan. “The Republican Party stands for the idea that high officials should not be lying to special investigators.” From the former Governor of Virginia, James Gilmore, a staunch conservative, comes this verdict: “If the public believes there’s one law for a certain group of people in high places and another law for regular people, then you will destroy the law and destroy the system.”

So it may well be, as The Hartford Courant said editorially, that Mr Libby is “a nice guy, a loyal and devoted patriot…but none of that excuses perjury or obstruction of justice. If it did, truth wouldn’t matter much.”

© Copyrighted 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Of Immigration and Campaign Finance Reform

by Doris "Granny D" Haddock
June 11, 2007

The following remarks were offered at a Democracy for America gathering in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Saturday morning, June 9, 2007.

Unauthorized immigration seems to be a big issue right now with our Republican candidates, as they are well-known to be the “law and order party.” That, after all, is why they are insisting that Scooter Libby pay the full price for his perjuries and obstructions of justice. They are for law and order, with the normal exceptions of the Geneva Convention and the U.S. Constitution, especially its Bill of Rights. But we know what they mean: When they say they are for law and order, they are talking mostly about keeping down the uppity poor folk. They are certainly not talking about the big corporations, hotel companies, agribusiness giants, retailers who employ millions of unauthorized immigrants but who make up for that sin many times over with their large campaign donations.

But I do not come here to talk about corrupting campaign donations and the need for public campaign financing. I come to talk of unauthorized immigration and a little about corn and something about tortillas. I call it unauthorized immigration, not illegal, because I don’t want to use words that confuse my Republican friends.

By the way, in saying that Republicans are very interested in the immigration issue, I do not mean to imply that it is less important for any of us.

If you will look around the grocery store check-out lines and notice the widening measurements of our fellow citizens, we can certainly see for ourselves the problem of having too much cheap labor around to do all our yardwork and housework for us. By my calculations, the roughly 3 billion pounds of extra weight now being carried on the hips of working-age American citizens is roughly equivalent to the combined weight of the unauthorized immigrants now in our communities. The math is clear and persuasive. Cheap labor is bad for everybody.

But why are so many people risking their lives to come into our country now? When did this big rush begin?

It began when Mr. Clinton approved NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement, and when he militarized our southern border at the same time. Prior to these combined actions, families crossed the border very commonly and casually, especially during harvest seasons. After harvest, they would go home to Mexico or Central America because that’s where they lived with their families in quite happy communities.

When the border was militarized, it became too risky to go back and forth. So they stayed.

Why did Mr. Clinton militarize the border? He did so because NAFTA was about to pull the rug out from under Mexico’s small family farms. We flooded Mexico with cheap corn–exports that we now subsidize to the tune of some $25 billion dollars a year. Congress gives that money of ours to a handful of agribusiness giants. Of course, I am not here to tell you why Congress does that, and what might be done to stop it, such as with the public financing of campaigns. But they do it, and Mexican family farmers cannot compete. In the years since NAFTA was signed, half of Mexico’s small farms have failed. The only kind of farming that can now compete in Mexico is big agribusiness, which does not employ as many people. Tortillas in Mexico now contain two-thirds imported corn, and they are three times as expensive at retail level than before NAFTA. The people have less money, and the cost of food is rising. We have done that. Our precious Senators and Congressmen and their corporate cronies have enforced that raw and cruel exploitation in our names.

The result of undermining Mexican farms, as Clinton expected, was a rising flood of poor people moving from rural areas into Mexico’s big cities, which have become so poor and overcrowded that all one can do is dream of going north across the border.

Now, if any Democratic candidates for President would like to show a little courage and intelligence, let them address the real cause of our flood of unauthorized immigrants. Will Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama or Mr. Edwards or any of the other candidates face down the agri- gangsters that are behind this problem? Probably they will not, so long as Iowa has a major primary.

Let me say that I am not ranting and raving in the least about these new Americans. When Mexico owned Texas and everything west of Texas, and when Mexico cut off migration across their borders into Texas, our people kept coming anyway –crossing illegally in search of opportunities for their families. When Mexico got upset by this, we trumped-up false reasons for a war, and we illegally took those lands. If that wasn’t enough law and order for you, we also conducted unfettered genocide against the region’s native people. So let’s not stand on any moral high ground regarding that southern border.

The people coming across the border today, with the usual exceptions, are family people with an incredible work ethic. Personally, I welcome them. I congratulate them for their courage and their dedication to their families. I want them to stay and become citizens, or, if some prefer, to return to their homeland at a time when there is international justice and a decent chance for their prosperity at home.

I regret what the political corruption of our system has done to their farms and their communities back home. It is not the peoples’ fault –it is the fault of corrupt leaders of both parties and both nations. We must speak this truth to these powerful people, even to those presidential candidates whom we otherwise admire.

So, candidates Clinton, Edwards, Obama and the rest: Do you understand the reasons why immigration numbers are growing? Are you smart enough to understand the situation? Are you brave enough to do something–to even say something–about it? Or is the truth too big for you?

All of us in this room have a duty to be good citizens and good Democrats. And that means we must ask the toughest questions so that the interests of the people –the people of our nation and of the world –will be served. Isn’t that what we’re here for?

And do you see why I do not need to harp on campaign finance reform, to cut the puppet strings that allow these cruelties to continue? I didn’t have to say a word about that, because you understand it. You understand what must be done in regard to the public financing of federal and state campaigns. And that only begins the reforms we require in this challenging new age.

© Copyrighted 2007

The Democrats Lag on Warming

by The New York Times
June 10, 2007

When Americans elected a Democratic Congress last November, they were voting to end politics as usual and special interest legislation. On the vital issues of energy independence and global warming they are not only in danger of getting more of the same but also, unless Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders step forward, winding up in worse shape than they were under the Republicans.

Exhibit A is a regressive bill drafted by John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat. For starters, the bill would override the recent Supreme Court decision giving the Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, a decision that even President Bush has reluctantly embraced. It would also effectively block efforts by California and 11 other states to regulate and reduce greenhouse gases from vehicles at a time when the states are far ahead of the federal government in dealing with climate change.

The bill’s fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks are weaker than the president’s proposals and weaker still than standards the National Academy of Sciences says can be met using off-the-shelf technology. And the bill would open the door to a new generation of coal-to-liquid fuel plants favored by the coal lobby that could double the global warming gases of conventional gasoline.

The prospects for useful energy legislation are better in the Senate, where the majority leader, Harry Reid, has cobbled together a package that, with strengthening amendments, could do much to increase efficiency, clean up power plants and enlarge the country’s stock of renewable fuels. Mr. Reid must guard against backsliding. But his task is easier than Ms. Pelosi’s. He starts with a half-decent bill. She has to play defense against a bad one whose resourceful architect, Mr. Dingell, while sound on most environmental issues, will do almost anything to protect his constituents in the automobile industry.

We have some advice for Ms. Pelosi that may not work, but is worth a try. Rewind this movie to 1989, when President George H. W. Bush and a Democratic Congress decided to strengthen the Clean Air Act by clamping down harder on the tailpipe emissions that cause smog and acid rain. The automakers said it couldn’t be done, and Mr. Dingell — who had spent the entire decade trying to weaken the law — rose to their defense.

Then something odd happened. Mr. Dingell’s colleagues reasoned with him. The technology existed to clean the air, they pointed out. People would breathe easier, trees wouldn’t die, the companies wouldn’t go broke. Mr. Dingell thought about it, and while he never became a convert, he stepped aside and let the forces of change roll on.

Could it happen again? Mr. Dingell agrees that climate change is a big problem. The task now is to persuade him that having served history once, he can do so again. The alternative is further unnecessary delay in dealing with warming — which would be bad for the Democrats and bad for the world.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Monday, June 11, 2007

Times Corrects a Minor Error, Ignores the Big One

June 11, 2007

Reviewing the London-based anti-Iraq War play Fallujah, New York Times reporter Jane Perlez wrote (5/29/07), "The denunciations of the United States are severe, particularly in the scenes that deal with the use of napalm in Fallujah, an allegation made by left-wing critics of the war but never substantiated."

She followed that complaint by reporting that the play's writer and director, Jonathan Holmes, "makes no pretense of objectivity," paraphrasing him as saying that he "strove for authority more than authenticity."

Unfortunately for the Times, which does make a pretense of objectivity, the U.S. government did use the modern equivalent of napalm in Iraq. In a 2003 interview in the San Diego Union-Tribune (8/5/03), Marine Col. James Alles described the use of Mark 77 firebombs on targets in Iraq, saying, "We napalmed both those approaches."

While the Pentagon makes a distinction between the Mark 77 and napalm--the chemical formulation is slightly different, being based on kerosene rather than gasoline--it acknowledged to the Union-Tribune that the new weapon is routinely referred to as napalm because "its effect upon the target is remarkably similar."

"You can call it something other than napalm, but it's napalm," military analyst John Pike told the paper. In a column that appeared before his play premiered (London Guardian, 4/4/07), Fallujah playwright and director Jonathan Holmes referred to it as a "napalm derivative."

But the major controversy over the use of incendiary weapons in Fallujah involved not napalm but white phosphorus. As with napalm, U.S. officials initially denied that white phosphorus had been used as a weapon there. In London, U.S. Ambassador Robert Tuttle told the Independent (11/15/05) that "U.S. forces do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons," only "as obscurants or smoke screens and for target marking."

After it was discovered that the military journal Field Artillery (3-4/05) had quoted veterans of the Fallujah campaign boasting that white phosphorus was such "an effective and versatile munition" that they "saved our WP for lethal missions," however, the U.S. government was forced to backtrack. "Yes, it was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants," Col. Barry Venable told the BBC (11/15/05).

As Seth Ackerman documented (Extra!, 3-4/06), the New York Times had accepted the initial denials of the use of white phosphorus as a weapon. An article about U.S. intelligence monitoring the foreign press (11/13/05) cited such claims as examples of the flimsy anti-American charges in the overseas media, noting that "the mainstream American news media" had "largely ignored the claim," since its "reporters had witnessed the fighting [in Fallujah] and apparently seen no evidence” of white phosphorus weaponry.

After the Pentagon admitted using white phosphorus, however, the Times ran a strong editorial (11/29/05) calling for a ban on its use. "All of us, including Americans, are safer in a world in which certain forms of conduct are regarded as too inhumane even for war. That is why...the United States should stop using white phosphorus."

Independent correspondent Dahr Jamail, whose reporting from Fallujah inspired one of the play's characters, wrote to the New York Times to take issue with Perlez's dismissal of the play's references to napalm. Jamail pointed out that the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah was an "'allegation'...confirmed by the Pentagon itself nearly one year after it was initially reported by myself, as well as other outlets in the Middle East."

Jamail also noted out that Perlez had incorrectly described him as Canadian, when he is actually a U.S. citizen. The Times ran a correction (6/7/07) on the nationality mistake, but declined to correct the more serious error of dismissing the U.S.'s incendiary weapons attacks as an "allegation" that was "never substantiated."

If Perlez meant to say that the U.S. military had only confirmed the use of a napalm-like weapon elsewhere in Iraq, not in Fallujah, while the only incendiary weapon admitted to have been used in Fallujah was white phosphorus, then that's a very slender technicality with which to call into question the "objectivity" and "authenticity" of a playwright.

It was good of the Times, in its November 2005 editorial, to condemn the use of inhumane weapons that burn their victims alive. But it's too bad that its reporter didn't recall that editorial when presenting the use of similar weaponry as an unsubstantiated left-wing charge.

And it's especially unfortunate that, even when this lapse was pointed out to the paper, it couldn't bring itself to correct the record, choosing to be fastidious only when it comes to secondary details like nationality.

Please contact the New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt and ask him to make sure that the Times sets the record straight on the use of incendiary weapons in Iraq.

Public Editor Clark Hoyt

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Romney's Revision of History Ignored

June 8, 2007

At the Republican candidates' debate on June 5, White House contender Mitt Romney remarkably claimed that weapons inspectors were barred from entering Iraq before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. But Romney's error was little noted by the mainstream media.

Asked if he thought it was "a mistake for us to invade Iraq," Romney declared the question a "null set," and explained:

"If you're saying let's turn back the clock, and Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEA inspectors, and they'd come in and they'd found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein, therefore, not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn't be in the conflict we're in. But he didn't do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the decision to get in."

Romney's suggestion that weapons inspectors were not permitted into Iraq before the war started is, of course, incorrect. Weapons inspectors from UNMOVIC (the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) returned to Iraq on November 18, 2002. Led by Hans Blix, the inspectors spent months in Iraq, issuing reports on Iraqi compliance that were a crucial part of the debate over whether to invade Iraq.

In previous debates, media have demonstrated a keen interest in maligning candidates they considered unworthy. For example, GOP candidate Ron Paul's comments about Al Qaeda's motivations in attacking the United States were seen as proof that he was not to be taken seriously—despite the fact that his comments were basically accurate (FAIR Media Advisory, 5/31/07). In the Democratic contest, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Sen. Mike Gravel were widely criticized for providing "a counterpoint of left-wing ideas that drew rebukes for a lack of seriousness" (David Broder, Washington Post, 4/27/07; FAIR Media Advisory, 5/8/07).

Romney's false statement, though, was barely mentioned in the press. During a post-debate discussion on CNN (6/5/07), Democratic strategist Paul Begala called it a "huge mistake.... like saying the Mexicans bombed Pearl Harbor." But Begala's co-panelists, Republican strategist Mike Murphy and conservative pundit Amy Holmes, challenged Begala's facts. The bizarre discussion closed with host Anderson Cooper saying, "We're not going to get this resolved tonight."

(Unfortunately, Begala accepted another piece of historical revisionism; when Murphy asserted that Iraq threw out inspectors in 1998, Begala agreed with him. The idea that Saddam Hussein expelled those inspectors is a long-running media myth; in fact, the inspectors were withdrawn under pressure in advance of a U.S bombing campaign. See Extra! Update, 10/02.)

Beyond Begala's CNN comments, media have shown little interest in correcting Romney's error. As Media Matters noted (6/6/07), the Washington Post had a "Gaffe of the Night" feature, but that honor went to candidate Mike Huckabee for getting Ronald Reagan's birthday wrong. The New York Times' Paul Krugman (6/8/07) cited the Washington Post's ignoring Romney's clear lack of understanding of the events that led us into the Iraq War in favor of the birthday goof as evidence that "the bad media habits that helped install the worst president ever in the White House haven't changed a bit."

A caller to NPR's Talk of the Nation (6/6/07) brought up Romney's "embarrassing gaffe" and asked NPR political editor Ken Rudin, "I'm just wondering, is he going to pay a price for this? Is anybody going to call him out?" Rudin's response was typical of the elite press—he referred to Romney's disappointing showing in the polls, noted that he's "getting more and more support," before finally declaring, "I'm wondering if it does hurt him down the line because, again, he looks very good, he gives a strong confident presence, but, again, on some basic facts, he may not have all the stuff with him."

Romney's error was serious—as Begala said on CNN, "If this were a general election debate, [it] would be a disqualifier." But if the press were to admit that rewriting of recent history was cause for alarm, they might have to acknowledge that George W. Bush has done the same thing. On July 14, 2003, Bush declared of Saddam Hussein, "We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in." The comment received little media attention, with the Washington Post (7/15/03) saying only that his assertion "appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring." If the current occupant of the White House is given such a pass, perhaps it's no surprise that the same treatment is given to Republican candidates looking to succeed him.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Bush Kills Hopes for Climate Change Plan

Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty
by Julian Borger, David Adam and Suzanne Goldenberg
The Guardian
June 1, 2007

George Bush yesterday threw international efforts to control climate change into confusion with a proposal to create a "new global framework" to curb greenhouse gas emissions as an alternative to a planned UN process.

The proposal came less than a week before a G8 summit in Germany and appeared to hit European hopes that the world's industrialised nations would commit to halving their emissions by 2050.

A UN-brokered meeting in Bali in December, at which it had been hoped to agree to keep climate change to a 2C increase in temperature, is supposed to provide a successor to the Kyoto protocol. All that was thrown in doubt by the initiative announced yesterday by President Bush.

"By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases. To help develop this goal, the United States would convene a series of meetings of nations that produced most greenhouse gas emissions, including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China," Mr Bush said.

Under the Bush proposal, the 15 countries responsible for the overwhelming bulk of greenhouse gas emissions would meet in the autumn with the aim of striking a deal by the end of next year. But it was unclear how this new grouping would be able to agree on a scheme so rapidly, when there are such pronounced differences within the smaller G8, largely between the US and its partners.

British and German officials have stressed in recent weeks that a new climate agreement should be based on binding caps on carbon pollution for developed nations, similar to those set up under the UN's Kyoto protocol. President Bush has consistently opposed such restrictions, which he argues would damage the US economy. He prefers voluntary targets and his administration is keen to measure the carbon intensity of polluting activities - a measure of their efficiency - rather than tot up their overall emissions.

Yesterday's announcement contained only a reference to an unspecified long-term goal.

Tony Blair hailed the Bush initiative as an important step forward. "For the first time America's saying it wants to be part of a global deal," the prime minister told Sky News while on a tour of South Africa. "For the first time it's setting its own domestic targets. For the first time it's saying it wants a global target for the reduction of emissions, and therefore for the first time I think [there is] the opportunity for a proper global deal."

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and host of next week's G8 summit, also welcomed the initiative. "I think it is positive, and the US president's speech makes it clear that no one can avoid the question of global warming any more," Ms Merkel said of the proposal. "This is common ground on which to act."

However, Bernd Pfaffenbach, the chief German negotiator or "sherpa" on climate change was blunter. He told the Suddeutschen Zeitung newspaper that excluding the UN or weakening its role was a "red line" that Ms Merkel "will never cross".

"The leading role of the UN on climate change is non-negotiable," he added. Another German official described the proposal as a "poison pill" aimed at undermining G8 and UN efforts to tackle global warming. "With one stroke you say goodbye to the UN," the official said. "This is a fundamentally different approach, and I'd be very surprised if the other G8 countries abandon the UN course."

Environmentalists were also furious. Daniel Mittler, an analyst at Greenpeace International, said: "It's not even too little too late, but a dangerous diversionary tactic. He doesn't need to start a new process. There already is one. This is meant to slow down the UN process."

The Bush administration moved to dispel the impression that it was an attempt to undermine Europe's position on climate change, or that it represented a transatlantic breach. Jim Connaughton, the former energy lobbyist who heads the Council on Environmental Quality at the White House and is lead negotiator on climate change, claimed that the process the president was advocating was not intended to undercut the influence of the Bali climate conference. "It will run in parallel and reinforce Bali," Mr Connaughton said.

However, he was critical of using emission caps or setting temperature control, the main instruments of Europe's approach, and repeated Washington's opposition to the European goal of limiting climate change to 2C. "We don't think that's a very practical approach," he said. "You can't manage the temperature."

Coming days after the Bush administration's opposition to the 2C goal became public, the new proposal has all but killed off hopes of an agreement on basic principles for combating climate change at the G8 meeting. German officials had hoped the gaps could be narrowed in a meeting between Ms Merkel and Mr Bush on Wednesday but in yesterday's speech the US president appeared to commit himself to an alternative course.

European hopes that the US establishment was now convinced that combating climate change was an urgent global task were also knocked yesterday when the chief of the US space agency said global warming was not an issue of pressing concern. "I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists," Michael Griffin of Nasa told a radio station. "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with."

Interactive guides
Global warming
The slowdown of the Gulf Stream

Special reports
Special report: climate change
Special report: G8

Useful links
UN framework convention on climate change

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

"Democrats Could Stop the War if They Chose"

June 1, 2007

Summing up the media's conventional wisdom about the congressional vote to approve funding for the Iraq War with no timeline for withdrawal, the Los Angeles Times wrote on May 25: "Unable to overcome the president's veto of their plan to set a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops, Democrats have been left to focus on what to do next."

That, in a nutshell, is what was wrong with the coverage of the war funding debate. In fact, if the Democrat-controlled Congress wanted to force the Bush administration to accept a bill with a withdrawal timeline, it didn't have to pass the bill over Bush's veto—it just had to make clear that no Iraq War spending bill without a timeline would be forthcoming. Given that the Constitution requires Congress to approve all spending, Bush needs Congress's approval to continue the war—Congress does not need Bush's approval to end the war.

Democrats may not have wanted to pay the supposed political costs of such a strategy, but news coverage should have made clear that this was a choice, not something forced on them by the lack of a veto-proof majority.

Unfortunately, some leading pundits instead gave deeply misleading, unhelpful summaries of how the American constitutional system works. Here's New York Times columnist David Brooks on CNN's Reliable Sources (5/27/07):

Listen, the Democrats were quite up-front saying, "We're going to fund the troops at the end of the day.... If we have to cave in, we will cave in." And the reason they caved in is because of the Constitution. The Constitution gives the president power to wage war and really to manage this thing. And the Democrats never really had a potential to reverse that.

Actually, the Constitution gives Congress the power "to raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years." The limit on the length of military appropriations was explained by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers (No. 24) as "a precaution which, upon a nearer view of it, will appear to be a great and real security against the keeping up of troops without evident necessity." In Federalist No. 26, he elaborated:

The legislature of the United States will be OBLIGED, by this provision, once at least in every two years, to deliberate upon the propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the matter, by a formal vote in the face of their constituents.

Mark Shields, the "left" on PBS's NewsHour (5/25/07), declared: "The Democrats had a majority. They did not have enough votes to overturn. Without any change in the administration's policy, the president was going to prevail in a showdown over funding troops." This is true only if you suppose that funding the Iraq War was more important to Congress than to Bush.

Conservative Washington Post columnist George Will was one of the few pundits who got it right, declaring himself (ABC's This Week, 5/27/07) to be in rare agreement with a prominent anti-war group: " happens to be right.... They're correct as a matter of constitutional fact, which is that the Democrats could stop the war if they chose. They choose not to."

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