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American Life is Cheap to BushPortland Oregonian – March 25, 2003
(3/17/03) - WASHINGTON -- The Bush White House is pushing federal agencies to slash the dollar value they place on human life, a move that has ignited an ethical debate with administration critics and allies alike.
To calculate benefits of rule changes, such as cutting power plant emissions, agencies typically assign a uniform value to each life saved. The Environmental Protection Agency uses $6.1 million, a value set under President George H.W. Bush and indexed for inflation.
But the method is unfair and economically unsound, according to officials in the current Bush administration, because it fails to recognize differences in quality of life: An elderly person with chronic illness is equal in value to a healthy child with decades to live.
Under the White House approach, agencies would account for the health and age of people who benefit from new rules. It's the same principle used a decade ago to justify the Oregon Health Plan, which sparked national controversy by proposing to ration medical care for the poor.
Leading the charge is John D. Graham, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Graham wants agencies to identify what types of people would benefit from regulation and by how much.
His goal: Get more bang for the buck.
"The method will focus agencies on developing rules that have the most public health promise, measured by both the number of life years saved and improvements in quality of life," he said. "The method is pro-health."
But the approach has produced some unsettling results. In Bush's signature Clear Skies plan, for example, EPA values the lives of some people who benefit from cleaner air as low as $96,000 less than 2 percent of its standard measure.
Business and industry stand to gain from the White House initiative. Regulators must weigh benefits against costs of regulation, so lower life values can limit government's reach in cutting emissions and requiring companies to invest in new equipment.
Indeed, opponents fear that consequences could ripple across the bureaucracy as agencies apply the method to an array of laws intended to protect human health -- from toxic-waste cleanup to workplace safety and food labeling.
"It can prevent EPA and other agencies from taking action they otherwise would have taken," said Wesley Warren, an assistant budget chief under President Clinton.
Potentially more troubling for President Bush is a growing unease among religious conservatives -- some of his most stalwart supporters -- who believe that differentiating lives by age and health would give bureaucrats a God-like power to pick favorites.
"In general, if you're valuing one life over another, we've got lots of problems here," said Walt Grazer, who tracks environmental issues for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.
EPA has served as the boiler room for the White House's new approach, with the first public signs contained in an "alternative analysis" that was included in the fine print of Clear Skies and other recent proposals.
Bush unveiled Clear Skies in February 2002 as a market-based answer to more rigid regulation. To build support, EPA chief Christie Whitman and other officials touted Clear Skies' big payoff -- health benefits valued at $93 billion by 2020.
EPA arrived at its estimate in part by assuming that 12,000 lives could be extended by cleaner air and that each life should be valued at its standard rate of $6.1 million, according to documents on the agency's Web site.
But in comparison, EPA's alternative analysis appeared to undercut the proposal by pegging benefits at a dramatically lower figure -- just $14.1 billion, an amount far closer to the $6.5 billion cost of the plan.
Although benefits still outweigh costs, opponents said, the lower estimate serves as a barrier against more stringent emissions limits. And in the long run, it could discourage agencies from developing new rules that might protect health at higher cost, they said.
"It's not rocket science to see that the purpose is to smother some of these proposals in the cradle," said Warren, now a fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The public will never know they are being denied these protections."
A major factor in the alternative estimate: EPA officials challenged the agency's longstanding method for assigning a dollar value to lives improved by cleaner air.
First, the agency rejected most of the 26 academic studies that served as the basis of its $6.1 million-per-life standard. The agency kept only five studies that were based on public opinion surveys. That cut the estimate to $3.7 million a life.
EPA then cited a single study -- published in 1989 and later challenged by its author -- concluding that elderly people would pay only 63 cents for every $1 that younger people would pay to reduce their risk of death. The result: Elderly lives valued at $2.3 million.
Next, EPA assumed each beneficiary suffered from heart disease and therefore could expect to live just five more years. On that basis, it capped elderly lives at $1.4 million. And it assumed some people would live only six extra months -- a benefit worth $96,000.
Measuring effectiveness Cost-benefit analyses, like those applied to Clear Skies, are required of all regulations expected to have economic impact greater than $100 million. Results rarely dictate a decision, but policy-makers generally regard the exercise as helpful in building consensus.
The White House's effort to refine the analysis is the latest chapter in a long-running conflict over how to balance demands for cleaner air, cleaner water and safer workplaces against the cost to industry and consumers.
Graham, who founded the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis before joining the budget office, is prodding agency leaders to measure the relative effectiveness of proposed rules in addition to simply tallying benefits based on a series of subjective assumptions.
By applying quality-of-life considerations, EPA's alternative analysis allows for comparisons with rules proposed by other agencies, he said. That way, policy makers can determine which course of action achieves the greatest benefit at the least cost.
"OMB's role is to strive for some consistency across agencies in how they address analytic issues," Graham said in an interview in his office overlooking the West Wing. "It is not desirable to have the same disease, for example Alzheimer's disease, evaluated differently by the various federal agencies."
Federal agencies have been dabbling with quality-of-life analysis at least since the Clinton administration, Graham noted. And some leading social researchers favor the approach because they think it serves both common sense and economic efficiency.
"I'd rather save my life when I'm healthy than when I'm sick," said Richard Zeckhauser, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "It's giving people what they say they want."
But the approach opens the door to difficult ethical questions: Who's to say that a heart patient doesn't value his life as much as a perfectly healthy person? And what about the terminally ill, whose life quality and expectancy could pencil out to zero?
"Any effort to try to gauge the relative value of a human life in the context of a public safety issue like this is inherently suspect," said Andy Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities.
Similar questions have haunted relatives of those who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Many have received compensation based on a hodgepodge of factors -- age of the deceased, income, insurance, number of dependents and more -- and some have decried the formula as unfair.
Experimenting in Oregon In the early 1990s, Oregon political leaders also tried an experiment in valuing lives to make government more effective. But instead of encouragement from the White House, they received threats.
The goal was to extend coverage to more low-income people under the Oregon Health Plan. Money was limited, so state officials commissioned a public-opinion survey to rank more than 700 procedures in order improvement in quality of life.
"I always said it was rational care, not rationed care," recalled former Gov. Barbara Roberts, a Democrat. But groups representing the disabled and the elderly attacked the plan, saying it was based on prejudices of able-bodied people. Religious groups joined in, hoping to head off what they regarded as government intrusion on "the sanctity and dignity of life," recalled Robert J. Castagna of the Oregon Catholic Conference.
They found a powerful ally in the first President Bush. The White House regarded the Oregon plan as a dangerous precedent, and Bush's advisers launched an administration effort to block it.
In a letter dated Aug. 3, 1992, Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan told Roberts that the plan would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. And on Bush's last full day in office, Jan. 19, 1993, a top Justice Department lawyer outlined the legal case against assigning relative values to people's lives.
"(A)ny methodology that would intentionally ration health care resources by associating quality-of-life considerations with disabilities does not comport with the mandate of the ADA," wrote Timothy J. Flanigan, who later served as deputy White House counsel in the current Bush administration.
Putting value on lives Ultimately, state health officials abandoned the telephone survey results, said Darren Coffman, director of the Oregon Health Services Commission. They substituted opinions of health-care professionals and were allowed to proceed by the Clinton administration.
Since then, the debate has been confined largely to circles of academics, mostly economists, who are trained to focus on questions of efficiency. Ethical and moral considerations have taken a back seat. EPA has yet to grapple with those issues, but it is considering how to solicit ethical advice, said Jeffrey Holmstead, an assistant administrator. In the meantime, the agency will continue looking for ways to improve its quality-of-life analysis.
"I don't disagree that it certainly raises some difficult issues to be valuing one life different from another," Holmstead said. "But it's the only way we feel like we at least have a tool that can help inform these sorts of policy decisions."
Likewise, there has been little debate in Congress about the method used in EPA's alternative analysis. But leaders of several advocacy groups said they hoped to raise public awareness as members take up Bush's Clear Skies initiative.
"This looks on the surface like a really technical, geeky, wonky thing, so it's hard to pull out moral arguments," said Daniel Swartz, executive director of the Children's Environmental Health Network. "But as people figure out what's going on certainly as they see things like 63 cents on the dollar for the elderly -- there's starting to be some outrage."
Was Iraq ‘Evidence’ Manufactured?N. Y. Times –by James Risen – March 24, 2003
WASHINGTON, March 22 — The recent disclosure that reports claiming Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger were based partly on forged documents has renewed complaints among analysts at the C.I.A. about the way intelligence related to Iraq has been handled, several intelligence officials said.
Analysts at the agency said they had felt pressured to make their intelligence reports on Iraq conform to Bush administration policies.
For months, a few C.I.A. analysts have privately expressed concerns to colleagues and Congressional officials that they have faced pressure in writing intelligence reports to emphasize links between Saddam Hussein's government and Al Qaeda.
As the White House contended that links between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda justified military action against Iraq, these analysts complained that reports on Iraq have attracted unusually intense scrutiny from senior policy makers within the Bush administration.
"A lot of analysts have been upset about the way the Iraq-Al Qaeda case has been handled," said one intelligence official familiar with the debate.
That debate was renewed after the disclosure two weeks ago by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that the claim that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger was based partly on forged documents. The claim had been cited publicly by President Bush.
"The forgery heightened people's feelings that they were being embarrassed by the way Iraqi intelligence has been handled," said one government official who has talked with C.I.A. analysts about the issue.
The forged documents were not created by the C.I.A. or any other United States government agency, and C.I.A. officials were always suspicious of the documents, American intelligence officials said.
But the information still ended up being used in public by Mr. Bush. Intelligence officials said there was other information, which was deemed to be credible, that raised concerns about a possible uranium connection between Niger and Iraq.
Several analysts have told colleagues they have become so frustrated that they have considered leaving the agency, according to government officials who have talked with the analysts.
"Several people have told me how distraught they have been about what has been going on," said one government official who said he had talked with several C.I.A. analysts. None of the analysts are willing to talk directly to news organizations, the official said.
A senior official of the agency said no analysts had told C.I.A. management that they were resigning in protest over the handling of Iraqi intelligence. At the State Department, by contrast, three foreign service officers have resigned in protest over Mr. Bush's policies.
The official said some analysts had been frustrated that they had frequently been asked the same questions by officials from throughout the government about their intelligence reports concerning Iraq. Many of these questions concern sourcing, the official said.
The official added that the analysts had not been pressured to change the substance of their reports.
"As we have become an integral component informing the debate for policy makers, we have been asked a lot of questions," the senior C.I.A. official said. "I'm sure it does come across as a pressured environment for analysts. I think there is a sense of being overworked, a sense among analysts that they have already answered the same questions. But if you talk to analysts, they understand why people are asking, and why policy makers aren't accepting a report at face value."
Another intelligence official said, however, that many veteran analysts were comparing the current climate at the agency to that of the early 1980's, when some C.I.A. analysts complained that they were under pressure from the Reagan administration to take a harder line on intelligence reports relating to the Soviet Union.
The official said the pressure had prompted the agency's analysts to become more circumspect in expressing their analytical views in the intelligence reports they produced.
"On topics of very intense concern to the administration of the day, you become less of an analyst and more of a reports officer," the official said.
The distinction between an analyst and a reports officer is an important one within the C.I.A. A reports officer generally pulls together information in response to questions and specific requests for information. An intelligence analyst analyzes the information in finished reports.
War Plunder BlunderN. Y. Times – by Maureen Dowd – March 24, 2003
(3/23/03) - WASHINGTON
It's Richard Perle's world. We're just fighting in it.
The Prince of Darkness, a man who whips up revelatory soufflés and revolutionary pre-emption doctrines with equal ease, took a victory lap at the American Enterprise Institute on Friday morning.
The critical battle for Baghdad was yet to come and "Shock and Awe" was still a few hours away. (The hawks, who are trying to send a message to the world not to mess with America, might have preferred an even more intimidating bombing campaign title, like "Operation Who's Your Daddy?")
Yet Mr. Perle, an adviser to Donald Rumsfeld, could not resist a little pre-emptive crowing about pre-emption, predicting "a general recognition that high moral purpose has been achieved here. Millions of people have been liberated."
His conservative audience at the Reagan shrine's "black coffee briefing" (they're too macho for milk and sugar) was buzzed that their cherished dream of saving Iraq by bombing it was under way.
The chesty "you repent, we decide" Bush doctrine was cooked up pre-Bush, fashioned over the last 12 years by conservatives like Mr. Perle, Mr. Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Douglas Feith and Bill Kristol.
The pre-emption doctrine prefers ad hoc coalitions, allowing an unfettered America to strike at threats and potential threats. At A.E.I., Mr. Perle boasted that far from going it alone, the Bush administration had a coalition of "more than 40 countries and . . . growing." (Including Micronesia, Mongolia and the Marshall Islands, all of them.)
And he was already looking forward to giving makeovers to other rogue regimes. "I'm rather optimistic that we will see regime change in Iran without any use of military power by the United States," he said.
Michael Ledeen, an A.E.I. scholar on the same panel, called Iraq "just one battle in a broader war. Iran is . . . the mother of modern terrorism."
As Bush 41 learned, waging holy wars can be dicey. After pressing the morality of Desert Storm, he faced questions about his postwar conduct. Critics excoriated Mr. Bush, who had labeled Saddam another Hitler, for turning his back as Saddam laid waste to Kurdish refugees and to Kurds and Shiite Muslims rising up against him after the war.
Now Mr. Perle, who urged America to war with moral certitude, finds himself subject to questions about his own standards of right and wrong.
Stephen Labaton wrote in The Times on Friday that Mr. Perle was advising the Pentagon on war even as he was retained by Global Crossing, the bankrupt telecommunications company, to help overcome Pentagon resistance to its proposed sale to a joint venture involving a Hong Kong billionaire.
The confidant of Rummy and Wolfy serves as the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an influential Pentagon advisory panel. That's why Global Crossing agreed to pay Mr. Perle a fat fee: $725,000. The fee structure is especially smelly because $600,000 of the windfall is contingent on government approval of the sale. (In his original agreement, Mr. Perle also asked the company to shell out for "working meals," which could add up, given his status as a gourmand from the Potomac to Provence, where he keeps a vacation home among the feckless French.)
Although his position on the Defense Policy Board is not paid, Mr. Perle is still bound by government ethics rules that forbid officials from reaping financial benefit from their government positions. He and his lawyer told Mr. Labaton that his work for Global Crossing did not violate the rules because he did not lobby for the company and was serving in an advisory capacity to its lawyers.
But that distinction is silly because Global Crossing has so many other big names on its roster of influence-peddlers that it doesn't need Mr. Perle's Guccis for actual lobbying footwork or advice on the process. His name alone could be worth the $725,000 if it helps win the Pentagon's seal of approval.
His convictions of right and wrong extend to the right and wrong investments. On Wednesday he participated in a Goldman Sachs conference call to advise clients on investment opportunities arising from the war, titled, "Implications of an Imminent War: Iraq Now. North Korea Next?"
Maybe Mr. Perle should remove the laurel wreath from his head and replace it with a paper bag.
War is Red for Some, Green for OthersAssociated Press – by Mark Sherman – March 23, 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) Richard Perle, a Defense Department adviser, said Friday he is helping bankrupt Global Crossing Ltd. try to win government approval of its sale to foreign companies, a deal that has prompted concerns about national security.
Perle would receive $725,000 for his work, including $600,000 if the government approves Global Crossing's sale to a joint venture of two Asian firms, according to lawyers and others involved in the bankruptcy case.
As chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Perle is covered by the government ethics prohibition on using public office for private gain. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld named him to the board in 2001.
Perle, an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration and a presidential campaign adviser to George W. Bush, said he has not violated ethics rules.
''The guiding principle here is that you do not give advice in the Defense Policy Board on any particular matter in which you have an interest,'' Perle said in an interview. ''And I don't do that. I haven't done that.''
Among his other business dealings, Perle is a director of Autonomy, a data mining company that lists the Defense Department and the Homeland Security Department among its U.S. government customers.
Global Crossing built a 100,000 mile, high-speed fiber optic network before it collapsed under $12.4 billion in debt in January 2002. Its plan to emerge from bankruptcy would leave its investors with nothing, while debtholders would receive pennies on the dollar and a minority stake in the re-emerging firm.
Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa and Singapore Technologies Telemedia purchased the company for $250 million in August. But the deal requires federal approval and is under review by a government group that includes representatives from the Defense Department.
That review will take longer than expected, a result of concerns about having the telecommunications network controlled by a company with close ties to China.
Perle said he is helping Global Crossing figure out how to structure the deal to allay national security concerns. In a statement, the company said Perle is aiding it in the regulatory review process.
He said he has no conflict of interest because the Defense Policy Board is not part of the review.
Perle said the issue of a conflict was raised by what he called an irrelevant and inappropriate reference to his Defense Policy Board role in a document that is being prepared for submission in the Global Crossing bankruptcy case.
The document is being revised, he said.
Bush’s Bogus ProofWashington Post – Dana Priest, Karen DeYoung – March 23, 2003
(3/22/03) - CIA officials now say they communicated significant doubts to the administration about the evidence backing up charges that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from Africa for nuclear weapons, charges that found their way into President Bush's State of the Union address, a State Department "fact sheet" and public remarks by numerous senior officials.
That evidence was dismissed as a forgery early this month by United Nations officials investigating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. The Bush administration does not dispute this conclusion.
Asked how the administration came to back up one of its principal allegations against Iraq with information its own intelligence service considered faulty, officials said all such assertions were carefully tailored to stay within the bounds of certainty. As for the State of the Union address, a White House spokesman said, "all presidential speeches are fully vetted by the White House staff and relevant U.S. government agencies for factual correctness."
Questioned about the forgery during a recent congressional hearing, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said, "We were aware of this piece of evidence, and it was provided in good faith to the [U.N.] inspectors."
But in the days preceding the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq, some intelligence officials had begun to acknowledge more openly their doubts about how this and other information was used to support charges that Iraq has a significant covert program to produce weapons of mass destruction.
"I have seen all the stuff. I certainly have doubts," said a senior administration official with access to the latest intelligence. Based on the material he has reviewed, the official said, the United States will "face significant problems in trying to find" such weapons. "It will be very difficult."
According to several officials, decisions about what information to declassify and use to make the administration's public case have been made by a small group that includes top CIA and National Security Council officials. "The policy guys make decisions about things like this," said one official, referring to the uranium evidence. When the State Department "fact sheet" was issued, the official said, "people winced and thought, 'Why are you repeating this trash?' "
Some have questioned whether the United States was duped by a foreign government or independent group. "There is a possibility that the fabrication of these documents may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq," Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) wrote last Friday to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. An FBI inquiry, Rockefeller wrote, "should, at a minimum, help to allay any concerns" that the U.S. government itself created the documents to build support for the war.
Others have been more direct in suggesting a plot closer to home. In a letter sent to Bush on Monday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) asked for a full accounting of "what you knew about the reliability of the evidence linking Iraq to uranium in Africa, when you knew this, and why you and senior officials in the administration presented the evidence to the U.N. Security Council, the Congress, and the American people without disclosing the doubts of the CIA."
The first public charge that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium for nuclear weapons in Africa came from Britain, in a document published last Sept. 24. In December, a State Department "fact sheet" said that the African country in question was Niger, and that Iraq's failure to declare the attempted purchase was one of the many lies it told about its weapons of mass destruction.
In his State of the Union address in January, Bush said "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." In separate statements in January, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made the same charge, without mentioning the British.
British officials said they "stand behind" the original allegation. They note they never mentioned "Niger," the subject of the forged documents, and imply, but do not say, that there was other information, about another African country. But an informed U.N. official said the United States and Britain were repeatedly asked for all information they had to support the charge. Neither government, the official said, "ever indicated that they had any information on any other country."
U.S. intelligence officials said they had not even seen the actual evidence, consisting of supposed government documents from Niger, until last month. The source of their information, and their doubts, officials said, was a written summary provided more than six months ago by the Italian intelligence service, which first obtained the documents.
Shortly after receiving the documents, the United States turned them over to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Within weeks, U.N. inspectors, along with an independent team of international experts, determined that the documents were fake.
One of the documents was a letter, dated July 2000 and apparently signed by the Niger president, discussing Iraq's agreement to purchase 500 tons of uranium oxide, and certifying that it was authorized under the Niger constitution of 1965. But U.N. officials quickly noted that Niger had promulgated a new constitution in 1999, and that the letter's signature bore little resemblance to the actual signature of President Tandja Mamadou.
Another letter, dated in 1999, was signed by the Niger foreign minister. But the letterhead belonged to the military government that had been replaced earlier in 1999, and the signatory had left the job of foreign minister in 1989.
The apparent genesis of the letters, or at least the U.S. and British willingness to believe in them, was a 1999 tour of African countries, including Niger, by Iraq's ambassador to Italy, noted at the time by a number of Western intelligence agencies. At some later point, a U.N. official recently told reporters, a Niger diplomat turned the letters over to Italian intelligence, which provided summaries of the information to Washington and London.
Two weeks after the Sept. 24 British publication, the Niger story appeared in a classified version of the National Intelligence Estimate, a summary of U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusions about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, although the report noted that the information had not been verified and the CIA had not confirmed that the uranium sale had gone through.
The State Department's December fact sheet, issued to point out glaring omissions in a declaration Iraq said accounted for all of its prohibited weapons, said the declaration "ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger." Asked this week to comment on the fact sheet, a CIA spokesman referred questions on the matter to the State Department, where a spokesman said "everything we wrote in the fact sheet was cleared with the agency."
Staff writer Glenn Kessler contributed to this report.
Senator Seeks FBI Probe of Iraq Documents
Granny D Speaks Out on Warwww.TomPaine.com – by Doris Haddock - March 22, 2003
Doris Haddock is better known as Granny D., a 92-year-old grandmother who walked across America on behalf of campaign finance reform.
In my lifetime, I have seen the Bill of Rights stretched and twisted, but never so far that these rights did not spring back with the help of brave activists and vigilant courts. FDR stretched them hard during World War II, as Japanese Americans well know. They were stretched again in the McCarthy era, when the rights of free speech and of free association were for a time put on the shelf. These were learning experiences for our nation. We have learned that we are capable of grave mistakes, and that our greatest security comes from closely adhering to our founding documents, even in times of danger, not fearfully casting them aside.
We Americans have a dream of independence, of responsible self-governance and individual freedom. We want to see ourselves as a beacon in the world for the great dreams of freedom and justice, and for simple kindness and common sense. We want to offer the world that dream of freedom and plenty -- that dream that humans have always held in their hopes for themselves and for their children. We enshrine our Declaration of Independence and our Bill of Rights with greatest pride, for they are the roadmaps to this pursuit of happiness.
We hold this dream in spite of the reality of our history. We have engaged in slavery and we have wiped out noble races who lived here first. We hold our dreams in spite of everything, because it is our duty to hold this dream, imperfect as we are. All the nations of the world remind us of our duty when they send us their children to educate or to assimilate into a culture where individuals have a chance to freely live up to their unique potentials. The French reminded us of our duty with their gift of Lady Liberty that stands today in New York Harbor -- oh, I hope they do not take her back!
For in our slow and wobbly path forward to a better world, we sometimes find ourselves taking a great step backward. And so it is now, as we discard our Bill of Rights and discard international cooperation of all kinds and remake the world for power instead of cooperation, and for naked self-interest instead of justice. It has happened before. We have invaded and bombed before, when we might have negotiated, or when we might have worked cooperatively. Americans have gone to jail before, and suffered popular abuse before, because they stood against great wrongs. Their lonely job has been to hold that torch for us in dangerous times. And so it is now, as many prepare to go to jail rather than pretend that nothing serious is happening in America. Can our shaky old hands hold that great torch? Well, we must do our best until the nation awakes again and embraces its dream again.
Many of us worked hard for a peaceful way forward in Iraq. But one man, who became president by a quirk of the Electoral College and supported by a few other quirks on the Supreme Court, has a different view and has taken us down a most radical road. The idea of an unprovoked attack -- when it was being handled peacefully -- is the most radically perverse thing America has done in my long life. And I shudder to think that it is only one thing among many radical things done during this dark presidency. The holding of people without charges, without lawyers -- that is shameful and a violation of any oath made to uphold the Constitution. Would it have really been an extra risk to honor the Constitution? Is it not a greater risk to discard it? And since when do we not have the courage of our Constitution? Since when are we not ready to die for our freedoms?
It is a dark time, but it is no coup. This is not the end of American democracy or the beginning of some fascist regime. We are too big, we are too willful and brave a people for that to ever be so, though there is great cause for worry.
Those of us who might worry the most must work the hardest now. Here is the good news: We still have elections. True, Mr. Bush’s people are trying to cancel presidential primaries in several states. It is the kind of work that fuels our paranoia. But there will be an election in November of 2004 or there will be hell and blood to pay.
And those of us who care for the direction of the American dream have one job now to do, and that is to begin working toward that election day in November of next year. We need not wait for a good candidate. We have work to do now with our neighbors, so that they have refreshed in their hearts the idea of a great America -- one that takes care of its people and one that acts as a force for reason and peace and justice throughout the world -- one that abides by its Bill of Rights.
We stand here together today because we care about each other. We care about our brothers and sisters who struggle in poverty and injustice, not only here but everywhere in the world. We have a vision and our vision is a copper-clad lady in the harbor of New York. We are for freedom. We are for the justice that allows all people the proper pursuit of happiness. We are for the elimination of poverty. We are for equal rights. We are for the protection of our fragile environment. We are for the education of our children. We are for treating the ill and housing all the people. We are for jobs and decent livings. That is all to say that we are for love. We are for love. And most of all and forever, while others are for bombs and death and great lies, we are for love and its truth.
Doris Haddock is speaking on Saturday, March 22, in the historic Cooper Union hall in NYC. For more information on Granny D and her efforts, visit GrannyD.com.
Social Security Lost to Tax CutsN. Y. Times – by Paul Krugman – March 22, 2003
(3/21/03) - The Onion describes itself as "America's finest news source," and it's not an idle boast. On Jan. 18, 2001, the satirical weekly bore the headline "Bush: Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over," followed by this mock quotation: "We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."
Whatever our qualms about how we got here, all Americans now hope that the foreign front proceeds according to plan. Meanwhile, let's talk about the fiscal front.
The latest official projections acknowledge (if you read them carefully) that the long-term finances of the U.S. government are in much worse shape than the administration admitted a year ago. But many commentators are reluctant to blame George W. Bush for that grim outlook, preferring instead to say something like this: "Sure, you can criticize those tax cuts, but the real problem is the long-run deficits of Social Security and Medicare, and the unwillingness of either party to reform those programs."
Why is this line appealing? It seems more reasonable to blame longstanding problems for our fiscal troubles than to attribute them to just two years of bad policy decisions. Also, many pundits like to sound "balanced," pronouncing a plague on both parties' houses. To accuse the current administration of wrecking the federal budget sounds, well, shrill — and we don't want to sound shrill, do we?
There's only one problem with this reasonable, balanced, non-shrill position: it's completely wrong. The Bush tax cuts, not the retirement programs, are the main reason why our fiscal future suddenly looks so bleak.
I base that statement on a new study that compares the size of the Bush tax cuts with that of the prospective deficits of Social Security and Medicare. The results are startling.
Accountants estimate the "actuarial balance" of Social Security and Medicare the same way a private insurance company would: they calculate the present value of projected revenues and outlays, and find the difference. (The present value of a future expense is the amount you would have to invest today to have the money when the bill comes due. For example, if $1 invested in U.S. government bonds would be worth $2 by the year 2020, then the present value of $2 in 2020 is $1 today.) And both programs face shortfalls: the estimated actuarial deficit of Social Security over the next 75 years is $3.5 trillion, and that of Medicare is $6.2 trillion.
But how do these shortfalls compare with the fiscal effects of recent and probable future tax cuts?
The new study, carried out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, estimates the present value of the revenue that will be lost because of the Bush tax cuts — those that have already taken place, together with those that have been proposed — using the same economic assumptions that underlie those Medicare and Social Security projections. The total comes to $12 trillion to $14 trillion — more than the Social Security and Medicare shortfalls combined. What this means is that the revenue that will be sacrificed because of those tax cuts is not a minor concern. On the contrary, that revenue would have been more than enough to "top up" Social Security and Medicare, allowing them to operate without benefit cuts for the next 75 years.
The administration has tried to deny this conclusion, inventing strange new principles of accounting in the process. But the simple truth is that the Bush tax cuts have utterly transformed our fiscal outlook, for the worse. Without those tax cuts, the problems of an aging population might well have been manageable; with them, nothing short of an economic miracle can save us from a fiscal crisis.
And there's a lesson here that goes beyond fiscal policies. On almost every front the outlook for the United States now seems far bleaker than it did two years ago. Has everything gone wrong because of evildoers and external forces? In the case of the budget — and the economy and, yes, foreign policy — the answer is no. The world has turned out to be a tougher place than we thought a few years ago, but things didn't have to be nearly this bad.
The fault lies not in our stars, but in our leadership.
Vets' Losses to Fund Tax CutGannett News Service – March 21, 2003
(3/18/03) - WASHINGTON - With hundreds of thousands of American troops poised for combat in Iraq, veterans groups are criticizing a budget plan expected on the House floor this week that would slash Veterans Affairs money by $15 billion in the next decade to help make room for President Bush's proposed tax cuts.
"Cutting already underfunded veterans' programs to offset the costs of tax cuts is indefensible and callous," said Edward R. Heath, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans. "It is unconscionable to cut benefits and services for disabled veterans at a time when we have thousands of our service members in harm's way."
The Republican plan, which the House Budget Committee adopted last week on a party-line vote, would chop $467 billion - 1 percent - from mandatory spending programs including the Veterans Affairs Department, Medicare and Medicaid in the next 10 years to offset $1.5 trillion in tax cuts the president proposes in the same period. The proposal also contains major increases in spending for defense programs and homeland security while achieving a balanced federal budget by 2010.
The VA cuts would take place in disability compensation, education benefits, pensions and health care, according to veterans advocacy groups.
When the Budget Committee adopted the budget blueprint last week, committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, said priorities were focused on defense, homeland security and the president's economic growth plan.
"We are in a time of war, and the No. 1 task before us is protecting Americans," he said. "I am absolutely committed to providing our men and women in uniform with the resources they need to do their jobs effectively and safely as possible."
Ronald F. Conley, national commander of the American Legion, argued that veterans' pensions and disability compensation are part of the costs of using the U.S. military to carry out national policies. The House's proposed budget "defies common sense," he said.
"Our nation cannot, in good conscience, commit men and women to battle and reduce the meager, yet well-deserved, compensation for those who are wounded," Conley said.
A Senate budget plan, also adopted in committee last week, doesn't call for the cuts but produces a balanced budget in 2013 by using some unrealistic assumptions on spending levels.
Already in the House, leaders are scrambling to find votes for the budget plan after 11 moderate Republicans said they would not vote for it.
Ray Sisk, commander in chief of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said cutting the VA budget even 1 percent would worsen many of the agency's problems such as a backlog of 200,000 veterans waiting more than six months to see a doctor.
"We cannot expect sick and disabled veterans to wait months for earned health care," he said. "Equally troubling is that further cuts in funding would cause VA to curb further enrollment or to remove certain veterans from the health-care system altogether."
Nuclear Linked to 65 Million Deaths
Profiting From WarBloomberg News – Glen Justice, Alex Canizares – March 21, 2003
WASHINGTON - Washington Group International Inc. and other construction companies are looking past the looming war to a reconstruction job in Iraq that analysts say may rival the Marshall Plan after World War II.
Companies are seeking contracts worth more than $1 billion now being offered by the U.S. government to rebuild Iraq and are betting the job will only get bigger after the war.
"It's much easier to get the work if you're there," said Jack Herrmann, a spokesman for Washington Group, the fourth- largest U.S. construction firm. "I'm sure there'll be a lot more detailed planning once the dust settles, and we'd likely be positioned to benefit from that."
Contracts are being offered to repair airports, power plants and oil fields. More than a dozen companies are bidding on work that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Agency for International Development will award this month. Among the firms are Fluor Corp., Bechtel Group Inc., Parsons Corp., Louis Berger Group Inc. and Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., which Dick Cheney ran before becoming U.S. vice president.
"I think there's unlimited potential," said Steve Schooner, co-director of the Government Procurement Law Program at Georgetown University. "Big construction firms salivate over airports. The same can be said of roads and water and sanitation stuff, too."
The rebuilding of Iraq, a country about the size of France with 24 million people, will take an estimated 18 months, U.S. officials said.
Under a plan presented Feb. 19 by the Agency for International Development, construction will include repairs to the port of Umm Qasr, Basra International Airport and about 1,400 miles of roads.
An agency document entitled "Vision for Post-Conflict Iraq" sets out goals over the next year including providing basic health services to 25 percent of the population within 60 days, opening private banks within 18 months and re-establishing a dependable water supply in 15 cities within six months.
While the Bush administration hasn't released reconstruction cost estimates, a report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences puts the figure at $30 billion to $105 billion during the next decade. The Marshall Plan cost the U.S. $13.3 billion over four years, or $138 billion in today's dollars.
The administration won't include reconstruction funds in a supplemental spending bill to cover the cost of the war, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said. Rebuilding costs will be in separate legislation, he said.
Business behind war?
Links between the oil and weapons industries and key members of the Bush administration have been widely reported on, but the administration rejects notions that big business is greasing the slide toward war. Halliburton helped reconstruct Iraq's oil industry following the last Persian Gulf War. Cheney was the secretary of defense during that war, and he became chief executive officer of Halliburton after he left office.
The company's Brown & Root subsidiary has profited from the war on terrorism by building cells for prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and feeding American troops newly stationed in several Central Asian nations.
This time around, the Pentagon awarded Brown & Root a contract to extinguish oil fires. Iraq's oil fields provide 3 percent of the world's daily oil supply. Company and Pentagon officials declined to reveal the value of the contract.
The Pentagon estimates that and rebuilding the oil fields would cost as much as $40 billion.
Washington Group, which emerged from bankruptcy protection in January, hopes to win contracts for "battlefield cleanup," neutralizing chemical weapons and securing radiological materials, said spokeswoman Rhonda Clements.
The scope and price of the work is difficult to gauge because much depends on the damage caused by an attack, the possibility of oil-field fires and whether chemical and biological weapons are used.
While the work may represent an important opportunity to smaller companies, it will be less significant to engineering and construction firms that routinely do large international projects, some executives said.
"I don't think Iraq is a windfall for a company of our size," said John Marshall, a spokesman for Bechtel, a private company with $13.4 billion in revenue in 2001.
Michel Jichlinski, chief operating officer at engineering firm Louis Berger, said that in general, for international construction businesses, "any war anywhere is not helpful."
Circumventing bidding rules
U.S. government officials are inviting companies to bid under rules that allow agencies to circumvent open, competitive bidding in the name of emergency preparations.
The Agency for International Development invited companies to bid on a master contract for construction management worth as much as $900 million, according to interviews with company officials. Bidders include Brown & Root, Fluor, Bechtel, Parsons, Louis Berger and Washington Group.
At least seven additional contracts will be signed to handle projects such as airport and seaport repairs, said Ellen Yount, a spokeswoman for the agency.
The administration's bidding process has sidelined smaller companies and humanitarian groups whose participation is critical to rebuild Iraq, said Brian Atwood, a former director of the agency under President Bill Clinton.
"It really wasn't an open process," Atwood said.
Yount said the process was as open and comprehensive as it could be under the time frame.
Today I Weep for My CountryReuters – by Thomas Ferraro - March 20, 2003
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The oldest voice in the U.S. Congress rose on Wednesday to offer a final pre-war warning that President Bush's march to battle is dangerously misguided.
"Today I weep for my country," said West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd. "No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. ... Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.
"We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance," Byrd said, adding: "After war has ended the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe."
Byrd, a leading foe on Capitol Hill of war with Iraq, spoke in a nearly empty Senate chamber about four hours before Bush's 8 p.m. EST deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face a U.S.-led invasion.
"May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us," Byrd said.
As the white-haired senator concluded his remarks, a number of people in the visitor's gallery rose and applauded before they were admonished to be quiet.
At 85, Byrd is now the oldest member of Congress as well as the longest serving. He was first elected to the Senate in 1958, after six years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Byrd was among those who voted last year against the congressional resolution that authorized Bush to use force in his showdown with Saddam, and the senator has given frequent floor speeches since then warning against war.
Polls on Wednesday showed strong American support for a war but widespread opposition to it overseas.
"The case this administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence," Byrd said.
Despite administration suggestions to the contrary, Byrd said, "There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11."
The senator said, "We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice."
Byrd said that instead of negotiating, Washington demanded obedience or threatened recrimination. "Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves."
He said many questions about the looming war were unanswered -- including how long it would last, what it would cost, what its ultimate mission was.
"A pall has fallen over the Senate chamber," Byrd said. "We avoid our solemn duty to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their duty in Iraq."