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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why Are We Suddenly At War With "Islamic Fascists"? A Neologism that Signals a Change in Strategy As Elections Near

by John W. Dean

The latest orchestrated war-speak from Bush Administration officials, as they ramp up their oratory for the mid-term election, has recast Islamic militants and terrorists as "Islamic fascists." Thus, as we approach the five-year mark since terrorists attacked Americans on our own soil, the Administration is redefining the enemy - once again.

We have gone from the non sequitur of the "war on terrorism" (A war on "the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce for political purposes"?) to the neologism of the "war on Islamic fascists." Or, depending on the speaker, on "Islamofascism." Why the new rhetoric?

The answer is simple: Pure politics. Republicans, for good reason, are worried about losing control of Congress. (For less than rational reasons, many Americans believe Republicans are more effective than Democrats in fighting terrorists.) Should Republicans lose control of Congress, or either chamber, of course, it will mean the effective end of the Bush/Cheney presidency -- with the remaining two years of the presidency likely to be consumed by investigations into the activities of the prior six.

For these reasons, the Administration needs to create a more fearsome enemy. That new enemy is Islamofascists - whoever these people may be, they sound more frightening and important than the previously-named enemy. The Administration is aware that Americans are not sufficiently afraid, and that clear thinking will be its demise. link below >>>


Clearly, Americans Are Less Frightened, And Even Questioning Terrorism's Threat

As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, a New York Times poll shows that while a high percentage (69%) of New York City residents remain very concerned about another terror attack, elsewhere in the nation, the overwhelming majority (78%) of Americans are not worried about another terror attack. This is not good news for Republicans, who have been winning elections because of their tough talk about fighting terrorists.

In addition, more and more studies are showing that when reality and reason are employed to assess the dangers from terrorists (that is, when fear and emotions are set aside), the likelihood of any given American being killed (or injured) by a terrorist, or in a terror attack, is nominal. The risk of death from an act of a terror is at the bottom of any realistic risk assessment list.

For example, John Mueller, a professor of political science at Ohio State University, asserts in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that "the lifetime chance of an American being killed by international terrorism is about one in 80,000 - about the same chance of being killed by a comet or a meteor."

When answering the question "Is There Still a Terrorist Threat?," Professor Mueller concludes that, "Although it remains heretical to say so, the evidence so far suggests that fears of the omnipotent terrorist -- reminiscent of those inspired by images of the 20-foot-tall Japanese after Pearl Harbor or the 20-foot-tall Communists at various points in the Cold War (particularly after Sputnik) -- may have been overblown, the threat presented within the United States by al Qaeda is greatly exaggerated. The massive and expensive homeland security apparatus erected since 9/11 may be persecuting some, spying on many, inconveniencing most, and taxing all to defend the United States against an enemy that scarcely exists."

This is not the kind of analysis that enhances the credibility of Republican candidates. To counter the growing questions about the threat of terrorism, if not Americans' new ability to live with the reality of this risk, the Bush Administration is once again playing the name game, and engaging in rhetorical politics. No president has been better at fear-mongering than Mr. Bush. (In fact, no American president has ever worked so hard to exploit the fears of American voters.)

Bush's White House Is Unsure About What to Call the Enemy

Just as the enemy the Bush Administration is fighting has changed often, so too have the reasons for going to war in Iraq -- from phantom weapons of mass destruction, to implanting democracy that will flower in the Middle East, to the conflation of the war on terror with the occupation of Iraq, and now, to the need to keep fighting in Iraq so that terrorists won't follow American troops home.

The Administration, meanwhile, has been equally confused when it comes to identifying the enemy. Once it was Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. But as bin Laden remained at large, it became embarrassing to identify him as the enemy. Then it was simply "terrorists," but, as Newsweek explains, that label did not work because the White House wanted "a single clean phrase that could both define the foe and reassure Americans who were confused by a conflict that had grown much bigger than Osama bin Laden." For a while the Administration tried "Islamism," but that struck many as a war on another religion. They rejected "jihadism," because the term does not always mean bloodshed.

Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior adviser to Bill Clinton, and now a regular columnist for the Guardian of London, understands the workings of the White House. His recently published book, How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime, collects his columns from November 2003 to April 2006, and they provide week-by-week freeze-frames of an array of significant events over the past three years. (They are, in fact, wonderfully insightful probes by a seasoned journalist with insider experience who knows exactly where to look.)

About a year ago, Blumenthal reported on how the Bush Administration was "stuffing old [war on terror] slogans down the memory hole," looking for something new. Earlier, the war on terror had morphed into the "global war on terror." In fact, Blumenthal reports, they had been so pleased with the "Global War on Terror," they had medals struck with these words to award to brave U.S. soldiers.

Yet by the summer of 2005, they had decided again that the phrase "global war on terror" was not sufficiently descriptive, because they were dealing with more than "terror." Blumenthal suggests that the White House had finally figured out that "war on terror" described a never-ending battle against a tactic, which is a no-win war.

"It's broader than that," National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said at the time. Rather than merely declaring war on the tactic of terrorism, he claimed, the Administration had launched "a global struggle against extremism." Hadley wanted to drop "the gloomy vision" of a no-win war, and "offer a positive alternative." So until recently the Administration called it "a global struggle against violent extremism" - with the implied alternative being peaceable moderation.

As the polls show, most Americans are adjusting to this war; they are far less fearful, and thus, fear is less likely to drive them to the polls or affect their votes when they get there. So the White House has now adopted the favorite buzzword of the hard right wingers: Islamic fascists, or Islamofascists. While it is less than clear who Islamic fascists are, there is no question that the term is pejorative.

Who Are the Islamic fascists?

Bill Maher, who always cuts to the core, believes that one of the reasons the news media buy the Bush Administration's stories about Iraq and the Middle East is that "because like everybody else, even the U.S. military, the [media] don't know whom we're fighting" - but only that "we're fighting bad people."

Calling the enemy "Islamic fascists" provides no help.

Katha Pollitt in explaining why the term is only going to create more enemies for America in the Islamic world, traced its use back to 1990, "when the writer and historian Malise Ruthven used 'Islamo-fascism' in the London Independent to describe the authoritarian governments of the Muslim world." She notes that, after 9/11, the term was picked up by neocons and pro-war pundits "to describe a broad swath of Muslim bad guys from Osama to the mullahs of Iran."

The term appears "analytic," Pollitt explains, "but really it's an emotional one, intended to get us to think less and fear more. It presents the bewildering politics of the Muslim world as a simple matter of Us versus Them." That, of course, is why it is being employed, although Pollitt does not think it "will win back the socially liberal 'security moms' who voted for Bush in 2004 but have recently been moving toward the Democrats." Nonetheless, "the word is already getting a big reaction in the Muslim world." Muslims of all persuasions are offended by it, including our friends and allies.

Pat Buchanan, who addresses the term from the opposite end of the political spectrum, notes that "there is no consensus as to what 'fascism' even means," and observes that Arnold Beichman of the Hoover Institution asserts that "fascism ... has no intellectual basis; its founders did not even pretend to have any."

Buchanan says that using this term "represents the same lazy, shallow thinking that got us into Iraq, where Americans were persuaded that by dumping over Saddam, we were avenging 9/11." Buchanan believes that unless the Bush folks actually want a war of civilizations, he should drop this term, because it is deeply offensive to peaceful Muslims.

In short, adoption of this latest description of the enemy represents more fuzzy thinking; it is another effort to employ fear for political purposes; and it is an action inherent with potential unintended consequences. This, of course, has been the norm for Bush's post-9/11 foreign policy. Word games, from "bring 'em on," to "shock and awe," to "mission accomplished" have been employed to effect a continuing distortion of reality.

The Consequences of Using Word Games In War

Blumenthal -- who draws deeply from history to make his points, when writing about Bush's name games -- quotes Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War: "The meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things, but was changed by them as they thought proper. Reckless daring was held to be loyal courage; prudent delay was the excuse of a coward; moderation was the disguise of unmanly weakness; to know everything was to do nothing. Frantic energy was the true quality of a man."

Thucydides, considered the first coldly objective historian, was referring to the conduct of the Athenians. The words, though, have a distinctly modern ring.

In short, there is nothing new in Bush's term-twisting. But it should also be noted that the Athenians lost the war, just as have other war leaders who distorted language to fool their people, from Napoleon to Hitler and Stalin. Our own leaders who have distorted the truth have failed as well -- as the fates of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon made perfectly clear. And public candor serves both leaders and nations well, as Winston Churchill and Harry Truman proved.

It is, however, too soon to know if the Bush Administration can again play the American voters for fools, and deceive just enough of them to squeak out another victory at the polls. That answer will have to await the results of November 7's voting.

John W. Dean, a FindLaw columnist, is a former counsel to the President.

Copyright © 1994-2006 FindLaw

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We got to move into the future maybe, And think about a new tomorrow

I'm 57 tears old, have been a political junky since watching the '56
Election coverage, considered supporting AuH20 briefly, but became a
Kennedy Dem. I was a peace protester all during Viet Nam, marched with
black friends here in SoCal in '66 against racist rental practices, and
believed in Gene McCarthy, who was the most conservative of all the
candidates in '72, because he was against the war.

been aware, at all time, of sleazy backroom deals by both major
parties, as well as similar misdeeds and idiocies by minor parties as
well, so I'm no niaf lost in the wilderness.

I'm aware of some of the bad sides of "The New Deal",
as well as its good sides. So I feel that while coming from a
definitely leftist opinion, I have a pretty clear understanding of all
political views, the true conservative, the Randian libertarian, and the extremists on all sides.

With that as a background, I'm scared shitless by the far right in this country, more so than at any time in my life, including when my lottery number (I was in the very first one) came back as 13. If Cheney, Abu Gonzales, Alito, et al have their way, we will end up a 3rd world land mass, with a plutocratic theocracy running all aspects of government, no middle class, and most of us working service jobs for below poverty wages. The "investor class" will do well, while those of us who actually do work, like me in the music industry, will be out on the streets.
read the rest:
Steve Audio Blog

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Justice for G.I.s? Say Iraq Uranium Caused Ills - by Juan Gonzalez

Say Iraq Uranium Caused Ills

Three years after returning from Iraq with persistent ailments they believe were caused by inhaling uranium dust from exploded U.S. shells, a group of former New York National Guardsmen finally got their first day in court this week against the federal government.

In a two-hour hearing late Wednesday before Manhattan Federal Judge John Koeltl, lawyers for the eight veterans argued that the Army caused the soldiers' illnesses when it violated its own safety protocols and exposed them to radioactive depleted-uranium dust.

Army doctors also covered up information about any exposures and failed to provide the soldiers proper medical treatment, the lawyers claimed. "Read More" click link below


The case is the first to reach a courtroom from Iraq war soldiers claiming harm from depleted uranium - a low-level radioactive metal the Pentagon began using during the first Persian Gulf War to harden artillery shells so they could penetrate enemy tanks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan, representing the Army, urged Koeltl to dismiss the lawsuit immediately.

Cronan repeatedly referred to a 1950 Supreme Court decision, commonly known as the Feres Doctrine, that prohibits soldiers from suing the government for injuries "incident to [military] service."

"Any trial of this would be second-guessing sensitive military matters that civilian courts should not be discussing," Cronan said.

As the government's lawyer spoke, Gerard Matthew, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, who was sitting with his wife Janise in a courtroom packed with supporters, quietly shook his head.

A former Army specialist who transported destroyed tanks from Iraq back to Kuwait during the first months of the war, Matthew returned home in September 2003 with a variety of ailments for which Army doctors could not explain the cause. They included constant migraine headaches, blurred vision, blackouts and a burning sensation whenever he urinated.

On June 29, 2004, his wife gave birth to a baby girl, Victoria, who was missing three fingers on one hand. Tests of Matthew's urine sponsored by the Daily News in early 2004 showed that he had been exposed to depleted uranium, according to Axel Gerdes, the scientist at Goethe University in Frankfurt, who performed the analysis.

Gerdes also found that four of nine other returned soldiers from a different National Guard unit, the 442nd Military Police, had been exposed to the radioactive dust.

Reports in The News created a firestorm that reached to Congress and received coverage around the world - especially when the New York soldiers, several of them cops and correction officers in civilian life - accused military doctors of refusing to test them for depleted uranium, or losing or delaying their test results.

Since then, the Pentagon has tightened its testing procedures and some two dozen state legislatures have either passed or are considering bills to require depleted uranium testing for their own National Guard troops returning from Iraq.

Tuesday's hearing was a chilling review of how the courts have dealt over more than half a century with massive injuries inflicted by our own military weapons against American troops.

Both Cronan and the lawyers for the plaintiffs, George Zelma and Elise Hagouel Langsam, referred repeatedly to prior cases of soldiers exposed to atom bomb testing during World War II, to the massive illnesses that afflicted Vietnam War soldiers from Agent Orange, even to secret LSD testing among soldiers by the Army during the 1970s.

"It can't be that Congress intended our government to betray its own troops," Zelma said at one point.

By his dogged questioning of lawyers from both sides, it appeared that Koeltl was giving the claims from the soldiers serious attention. But he gave no hint of how he might rule.

"We're here to speak for all our fellow soldiers who don't even know what they've been exposed to in Iraq," Matthew said afterward. "The Army didn't even follow its own procedures to protect us, and someone needs to answer for that."

All contents © 2006 Daily News, L.P.
Justice for G.I.s? Say Iraq Uranium Caused Ills

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Sen. Feingold Stands Up...Again - by Dave Lindorff

Once again, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), has nailed it, doing exactly the right thing, acting in a courageous manner as a progressive politician should act.

It is clear to everyone in Congress that President Bush knows he's in deep political and legal trouble over his warrantless NSA spying program. It has been declared a violation of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence law passed by Congress in 1978, and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, by a federal judge in Detroit. His justification for breaking those laws--that he is the commander in chief in a so-called ³war² on terror--was summarily slapped down and tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court in the course of itsHamdi v. Rumsfeld decision in June. And anyone who thinks honestly about why the president would have decided to violate the FISA law and avoid seeking warrants for the spy program from a group of secret, top-security-clearance-rated judges in a special FISA court that has only rejected four such requests in 28 years has to admit that Bush is clearly doing something outrageous (most likely spying on his political enemies in a replay of Nixon¹s actions‹the very crime that led Congress to pass FISA in the first place).

My own Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican who keeps playing at liberal to the home crowd in Pennsylvania but who has shown himself to be nothing but an enabler of Bush¹s constitutional crime wave, held hearings on the NSA spying. He huffed and puffed a little about its being illegal, and then came up with a proposal that, if passed by Congress, would retroactively exonerate the president of his crime against the Constitution, while establishing a new shortcut to permit the warrantless spying to continue unabated, and unmonitored by either Congress or the FISA court. "Read More" click link below


It looked like this atrocity of Specter¹s was going to pass into law, but Sen. Feingold, with the help of, not Democrats, but three Republican senators he rounded up who still respect the Bill of Rights and rule of law, managed to fend it off by way of a filibuster threat.

Feingold deserves all of our thanks for this move--so uncharacteristic of his feckless Democratic colleagues, who continue to cower at the thought of an attack by Karl Rove and his media minions.

The amazing thing is that when Feingold introduced a censure motion against Bush late last year, his approval rating among Democrats and among the general population soared--a clear indication that he has the political positions that American voters are looking for. It is likely that Feingold¹s numbers will jump again as news of his latest action in the Senate spreads. And yet most Democrats in Congress still remain supine when it comes to standing up to the Bush administration.

Part of the problem, as always, is the mass media, which largely ignore Sen. Feingold, or as they did in the case of his censure motion, ridicule his actions. When Feinfold proposed censuring the president, which was a bold move that only two of his Senate colleagues endorsed (and then only after intense pressure from their constituents), the New York Times buried the story on page 19. Two days later though, the paper, in a textbook example of inappropriate news judgment, ran a page-one ³reaction² story, reporting that Republicans were claiming to be happy to see censure and impeachment in the news, as this would presumably ³energize² their political base. Nowhere in that story was there any mention of how censure or impeachment would similarly energize the Democratic base in November.

Hopefully, Feingold will not be deterred by threats from the right, abuse by the media, or the cowardice and lack of support of his fellow Democrats, and will continue to press the fight against the Bush administration¹s assault on the Constitution and on American democracy and freedom. So far, based upon his consistent opposition to ³free-trade² legislation, his opposition to the Iraq War, his opposition to the Patriot Act, his censure motion, and now his effort to block passage of a law exonerating Bush expost facto of his domestic spying crimes, it doesn¹t look like he is going to back down.

Right there, he has distinguished himself from the pack of weasels and poll-hugging opportunists lining up to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Dave Lindorff is co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of "The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office"(St. Martin's Press, May 2006)
Sen. Feingold Stands Up...Again

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"The Mighty Clenis" on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Media Matters [Path to 9-11 wrap-up] by Jamison Foser

Deconstructing Hate Sites

Bigotry and hatred thrive on ignorance, fear, false information and half-truths. But if readers are able to deconstruct any messages of hate that come their way, much of the messages’ power is reduced. This makes critical thinking skills an indispensable part of an anti-hate tool kit.

Common Characteristics

Journalist Keith Ferrell notes that, in their efforts to draw readers' support, most hate sites: link below >>>


1. Capitalize on Paranoia

Conspiracy theories abound on hate sites, which often blame the groups they target for any number of social, economic or political problems. Such theories rely on their readers’ ignorance, plus invented "evidence," to back up their claims.

One of the most infamous conspiracy theories is contained in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The book was written by agents of the Russian czar at the end of the 19th century, and falsely “documents” the existence of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Although such a theory has been thoroughly debunked, hate-mongers continue to invoke the Protocols.

2. Suggest Sanction from Above

Hate sites often make use of scriptural references, religious writings and holy tracts to give the impression that their claims are sanctified by moral righteousness and guided by a higher power.

For example, the site God Hates Fags portrays gays and lesbians in a hateful and demeaning way. Embedded in its homophobic rhetoric are scriptural references to support the position that God has "given up" on gay persons.

3. Exploit Fear of Armageddon

Hate groups take advantage of people’s fears of social and economic uncertainty by blaming the woes of modern society on the particular group they target. Canadian sites like National Skinhead Front, CFAR and the Canadian Heritage Alliance focus on the “dangers” of immigration and the need to return to a “traditional European way of life.”

Common Strategies

1. Racialism

White power and white supremacy sites typically deny that they are racist organizations. Instead, they focus on the need to protect white people from assimilation and/or direct threats from non-white groups. They call this perspective "racialist" as opposed to racist.

The 14/88 Society is a good example of this dynamic. The site’s name combines two hate slogans popular in the white supremacy movement:

  • 14 refers to the 14-word slogan: “We must secure the existence of our race and a future for white children”
  • 88 represents HH (H being the eighth number in the alphabet), which stands for Heil Hitler

Overtly racist sites, like 14/88, are the easiest to identify because they conform to the mainstream image of the neo-Nazi skinhead hate group. However, Canadian researcher Matthew Lauder warns that many hate sites attempt to conceal a racist agenda behind a more moderate message.

For example, Melissa Guille of the Canadian Heritage Alliance (CHA) denies the CHA is a hate site, arguing instead that the site is concerned about “keeping Canada for Canadians” and “removing the anti-white sentiment in society.”

Racist messages are also used by non-white hate groups, such as Aztlan, a site dedicated to the establishment of a greater Hispanic empire in North America, and Libre Opinion, a Spanish-language ISP providing free hosting services to racist sites.

2. Pseudo-Science and Intellectualism

Many hate-mongers use pseudo-scientific intellectualized language and incorporate the work of university-based academics to make their views seem more credible.

Canadian professor Phillip Rushton’s work on the different intellectual and physical abilities of different “races” is a case in point. In addition, the late Dr. William Pierce operated a publishing company that released a steady stream of neo-Nazi literature. Pierce’s fictionalized account of racialist revolution in The Turner Diaries is said to have inspired the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

3. Historical Revisionsim

Holocaust denial is a frequently used strategy. Haters who “revise” history argue that the Holocaust either did not occur, or was less significant than the historical record indicates. The Zundelsite, for example, houses a collection of revisionist writings, including Zundel’s pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die?

Patriot's Prayer4. Patriotism

A number of hate sites clothe their messages in patriotic language. For example, the High Desert Militia of Southern California includes quotes from Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin on their home page, beside the “Patriot’s Prayer” (see right).

5. Misinformation

A number of hate groups seek to embed their messages in sites that purport to exist for non-hateful purposes.

At first glance, the site appears to contain historical information about King and the civil rights movement; however, it in fact promotes racism and anti-Semitism. Similarly, the Canadian Association for Free Expression purports to advocate for civil liberties, but its founder, Paul Fromm, admits that the site was created to promote “conservative discussion especially of race and immigration.”

6. Nationalism

Sites such as the U.S.-based League of the South and the Canadian Heritage Alliance use the language of national pride and heritage to advocate for a return to white, “anglo-Celtic civilization.”

7. Hate Symbols

The hate movement continues to use well-known symbols such as the Nazi swastika and the KKK's burning cross to "brand" its message. However, it is increasingly common for hate groups to co-opt mainstream symbols such as the Celtic cross and pagan runes, re-signifying them as emblems of white supremacy.

The Anti-Defamation League argues that hate symbols are more than mere signs: “These symbols are meant to inspire a sense of fear and insecurity. [They] give haters a sense of power and belonging, and a quick way of identifying with others who share their ideology.”

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Damn! If he wants to be creative, get him a coloring on picture to "embiggen" view.

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The Torturer's Apprentice - by Ray McGovern

Addressing the use of torture Wednesday, President George W. Bush played to the baser instincts of Americans as he strained to turn his violation of national and international law into Exhibit A on how “tough” he is on terrorists. His tour de force brought to mind the charge the Athenians leveled at Socrates—making the worse case appear the better. Bush’s remarks made it abundantly clear, though, that he is not about to take the hemlock.

Continued on "Print Article and/or Read More" below >>>
As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches and with the midterm elections just two months away, the president's speechwriters succeeded in making a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of torture. The artful offensive will succeed if—but only if—the mainstream media is as cowed, and the American people as dumb, as the president thinks they are. Arguably a war criminal under international law and a capital-crime felon under U.S. criminal law, Bush’s legal jeopardy is even clearer than when he went AWOL during the Vietnam War. And this time, his father will not be able to fix it.

Bush in jeopardy? Yes. The issue is torture, which George W. Bush authorized in a Feb. 7, 2002, memorandum in contravention both of the Geneva Accords and 18 U.S. Code 2441—the War Crimes Act that incorporates the Geneva provisions into the federal criminal code which was approved by a Republican-led Congress in 1996. Heeding the advice of Vice President Dick Cheney’s counsel, David Addington, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, the president officially opened the door to torture in that memorandum. His remarks yesterday reflect the determination of Cheney and Bush to keep that door open and accuse those who would close it of being "soft on terrorists."

The administration released that damning memorandum in the spring of 2004 after the photos of torture at Abu Graib were published. It provided the basis for talking points that the president wanted “humane” treatment for captured al-Qaida and Taliban individuals. And—surprise, surprise— mainstream journalists like those of The New York Times swallowed the bait, clinging safely to the talking points and missing altogether Bush’s remarkable claim that “military necessity” trumps humane treatment. That assertion, over the president’s signature, provided the gaping loophole through which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then-CIA Director George Tenet drove the Mack truck of officially-sanctioned torture.

Using the arguments adduced by the Addington/Gonzales/Bybee team, Bush’s 2002 memo made the point that the bedrock provision of Geneva—Common Article 3—does not apply to al-Qaida or Taliban detainees, but that the U.S. would “continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity , in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.” (Emphasis added.)

Sounding very much like Mafia lawyers, the president’s legal troika felt it necessary to warn him that playing fast and loose with the U.S. War Crimes Act (Section 2441) could conceivably come back to haunt him. The bizarre passage that follows is the best they could offer in terms of reassurance:

It is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section 2441. Your determination would create a reasonable basis in law that Section 2441 does not apply, which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution.

While the imaginative lawyering of Addington (now Cheney’s chief of staff), Gonzales (now attorney general), and Bybee (now a federal judge) may have qualified for a presidential “heck-of-a-job” at the time, Bush is learning the hard way that, while sycophants are fun to have around, they can do a president in. Between the lines of Bush’s rhetoric yesterday lies belated acknowledgement that his decision to condone the torture of al-Qaida and Taliban captives is now back to haunt him—big time.

The Supreme Court decision on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , announced on June 29, 2006, stripped the president of the magic suit of clothes approved by his courtiers when it found the “military tribunals” invented by the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal to try terrorists illegal. The Court rejected the artifice of “unitary executive power” used by the Bush administration to “justify” practices like torture, indefinite detention without judicial process, and warrantless eavesdropping. In other words, the Supreme Court of the United States reaffirmed that ours should be a government of laws, not of the caprice of the vice president or president. And in condoning torture, they are outlaws.

The Defense Rests Not

The president’s performance yesterday reflects the time-honored adage that the best defense is an aggressive offense—and especially with a mere two months before the midterm elections. Bush devoted fully half of his speech to cops-and-robbers examples, none of them persuasive, of how “tough” interrogation techniques have yielded information that prevented all manner of catastrophe. Someone in the White House apparently forgot to tell the Army, for the head of Army intelligence, Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, sang from a very different script at a Pentagon briefing yesterday , as he explained why the new Army manual for interrogation is in sync with Geneva. Conceding past “transgressions and mistakes,” Kimmons said:

No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.

Grabbing the headlines today is the fact that Bush has admitted that the CIA has taken high-value captives to prisons abroad for interrogation using “tough” techniques. More telling is the fact that CIA interrogators are not bound by the strictures of the new Army field manual, and that the president is determined to maintain in place detention centers where CIA interrogators can ply their trade at his bequest.

The president brags about how his government “changed its policies,” giving intelligence personnel “the tools they need” to fight terrorists, and makes it clear that the CIA was given permission to use “an alternative set of procedures.” He said he could not describe the specific methods used, “but I can say the procedures were tough.” The alumni of this school of hard knocks are now on their way to Guantanamo, but Bush made it clear that he wanted to keep the schools open for incoming students.

Acknowledging that other terrorists are waiting in line to take the place of captured leaders, the president made it clear that he wants the “CIA program” for interrogating advanced placement terrorists to continue. Bush conceded that, after the Hamdan decision, “some believe” that intelligence personnel “could now be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act—simply for doing their jobs in a thorough and professional way.” So he is asking Congress to pass legislation squaring the circle; that even while using “alternative” procedures, CIA personnel can be said to be in compliance with Common Article 3 of Geneva. (The not-so-hidden threat, of course, is the virtual certainty that any member of Congress opposing this kind of legerdemain will be branded soft on terrorism in the weeks leading up to the November election.)

In a bizarre twist, the retroactive nature of this legislation, which the president said “ought to be the top priority” over the next several weeks, would hold Bush himself harmless, at least under the U.S. criminal statute, as well as intelligence practitioners of “alternative” procedures.

And so the stage is set. There is one more Bush speech to go on this general theme. It’s a safe bet that the next one will present an equally impassioned defense of warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, branded unconstitutional and illegal by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit because it violates the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Sen. Arlen Specter, R- Pa., who initially called that activity extralegal, has now come full circle and drafted legislation that would hold harmless the president and others involved in that program—and, again, retroactively. It is hard to tell what brought Specter 180 degrees around; not to be ruled out is the kind of “alternative procedure” employed so successfully by former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who was the inadvertent catalyst for the FISA law.


Is there no one to hold our leaders to account? The Bush Crimes Commission, a grassroots citizens’ initiative determined not to follow the example of the obedient, passive Germans of the 1930s, has taken testimony on torture and other key issues to establish whether President Bush is guilty of war crimes. Testimony was taken in October 2005 and January 2006, indictments have been brought and served on the White House, and the judges will issue their verdict on Sept. 13 in Washington. (Full disclosure: I am proud to have taken part in the proceedings of the Bush Crimes Commission.) Join us next week.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer, then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Copyright 2006 (A Project of The Institute for America's Future)
The Torturer's Apprentice

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Bush Declares Eco-Whistleblower Law Void for EPA Employees

KING GEORGE does it again! Forefathers Spin in Graves!--pseudolus
The Bush administration has declared itself immune from whistleblower protections for federal workers under the Clean Water Act, according to legal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result of an opinion issued by a unit within the Office of the Attorney General, federal workers will have little protection from official retaliation for reporting water pollution enforcement breakdowns, manipulations of science or cleanup failures.

Citing an "unpublished opinion of the [Attorney General's] Office of Legal Counsel," the Secretary of Labor's Administrative Review Board has ruled federal employees may no longer pursue whistleblower claims under the Clean Water Act. The opinion invoked the ancient doctrine of sovereign immunity which is based on the old English legal maxim that "The King Can Do No Wrong." It is an absolute defense to any legal action unless the "sovereign" consents to be sued. "Read More" click link below


The opinion and the ruling reverse nearly two decades of precedent. Approximately 170,000 federal employees working within environmental agencies are affected by the loss of whistleblower rights.

"The Bush administration is engineering the stealth repeal of whistleblower protections," stated PEER General Counsel Richard Condit, who had won several of the earlier cases applying environmental whistleblower protections to federal specialists. "The use of an unpublished opinion to change official interpretations is a giant step backward to the days of the secret Star Chamber." PEER ultimately obtained a copy of the opinion under the Freedom of Information Act.

At the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking a more extreme position that absolutely no environmental laws protect its employees from reprisal. EPA's stance would place the provisions of all major federal environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, beyond the reach of federal employees seeking legal protection for good faith efforts to enforce or implement the anti-pollution provisions contained within those laws.

These actions arose in the case of Sharyn Erickson, an EPA employee who had reported problems with agency contracts for toxic clean-ups. After conducting a hearing, an administrative law judge called EPA's conduct "reprehensible" and awarded Erickson $225,000 in punitive damages but the Labor Secretary overturned that ruling.

"It is astonishing for the Bush administration to now suddenly claim that it is above the law," said PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, who is handling Erickson's appeal of the Labor Secretary's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit based in Atlanta. "Congress could end this debate by simply declaring that it intends that the whistleblower protections of these anti-pollution laws apply to the federal government."

Congress is now debating Clean Water Act clarifications in the wake of a confusing U.S. Supreme Court decision (Rapanos et ux., et al. v. United States) handed down this June that muddies the extent of federal jurisdiction over wetlands. Unless Congress also resolves the Clean Water Act sovereign immunity question, scores of federal employee whistleblower cases may be dismissed or languish in limbo while the issue is litigated.

Bush Declares Eco-Whistleblower Law Void for EPA Employees

Read the unpublished opinion of the Attorney General's Office of Legal Counsel.

View the EPA's brief advocating sovereign immunity from all environmental statutes.

Look at the PEER brief against the Bush sovereign immunity claim.

See how Labor Secretary Elaine Chao invited the reopening of the sovereign immunity issue.

More EPA-related articles

EPA Employee Responds to Official Spin on Library Closures

EPA Begins Closing Libraries Before Congress Acts on Plan.

EPA's response: EPA expanding library info access.

Latest update on closures: EPA Enforcement Threatened by Library Closures

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Sure makes Bushie's job easier

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Wired News: Quickest Patch Ever

If you really want to see Microsoft scramble to patch a hole in its software, don't look to vulnerabilities that impact countless Internet Explorer users or give intruders control of thousands of Windows machines. Just crack Redmond's DRM.

Security patches used to be rare. Software vendors were happy to pretend that vulnerabilities in their products were illusory -- and then quietly fix the problem in the next software release.

That changed with the full disclosure movement. Independent security researchers started going public with the holes they found, making vulnerabilities impossible for vendors to ignore. Then worms became more common; patching -- and patching quickly -- became the norm.

But even now, no software vendor likes to issue patches. Every patch is a public admission that the company made a mistake. Moreover, the process diverts engineering resources from new development. Patches annoy users by making them update their software, and piss them off even more if the update doesn't work properly. "Read More" click link below


For the vendor, there's an economic balancing act: how much more will your users be annoyed by unpatched software than they will be by the patch, and is that reduction in annoyance worth the cost of patching?

Since 2003, Microsoft's strategy to balance these costs and benefits has been to batch patches: instead of issuing them one at a time, it's been issuing them all together on the second Tuesday of each month. This decreases Microsoft's development costs and increases the reliability of its patches.

The user pays for this strategy by remaining open to known vulnerabilities for up to a month. On the other hand, users benefit from a predictable schedule: Microsoft can test all the patches that are going out at the same time, which means that patches are more reliable and users are able to install them faster with more confidence.

In the absence of regulation, software liability, or some other mechanism to make unpatched software costly for the vendor, "Patch Tuesday" is the best users are likely to get.

Why? Because it makes near-term financial sense to Microsoft. The company is not a public charity, and if the internet suffers, or if computers are compromised en masse, the economic impact on Microsoft is still minimal.

Microsoft is in the business of making money, and keeping users secure by patching its software is only incidental to that goal.

There's no better example of this of this principle in action than Microsoft's behavior around the vulnerability in its digital rights management software PlaysForSure.

Last week, a hacker developed an application called FairUse4WM that strips the copy protection from Windows Media DRM 10 and 11 files.

Now, this isn't a "vulnerability" in the normal sense of the word: digital rights management is not a feature that users want. Being able to remove copy protection is a good thing for some users, and completely irrelevant for everyone else. No user is ever going to say: "Oh no. I can now play the music I bought for my PC on my Mac. I must install a patch so I can't do that anymore."

But to Microsoft, this vulnerability is a big deal. It affects the company's relationship with major record labels. It affects the company's product offerings. It affects the company's bottom line. Fixing this "vulnerability" is in the company's best interest; never mind the customer.

So Microsoft wasted no time; it issued a patch three days after learning about the hack. There's no month-long wait for copyright holders who rely on Microsoft's DRM.

This clearly demonstrates that economics is a much more powerful motivator than security.

It should surprise no one that the system didn't stay patched for long. FairUse4WM 1.2 gets around Microsoft's patch, and also circumvents the copy protection in Windows Media DRM 9 and 11beta2 files.

That was Saturday. Any guess on how long it will take Microsoft to patch Media Player once again? And then how long before the FairUse4WM people update their own software?

Certainly much less time than it will take Microsoft and the recording industry to realize they're playing a losing game, and that trying to make digital files uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet.

If Microsoft abandoned this Sisyphean effort and put the same development effort into building a fast and reliable patching system, the entire internet would benefit. But simple economics says it probably never will.


Bruce Schneier is the CTO of Counterpane Internet Security and the author of Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World. You can contact him through his website.

Wired News: Quickest Patch Ever

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Eat The Press | Max Blumenthal: Discover the Secret Right-Wing Network Behind ABC's 9/11 Deception

Less than 72 hours before ABC's "The Path to 9/11" is scheduled to air, the network is suddenly under siege. On Tuesday, ABC was forced to concede that "The Path to 9/11" is "a dramatization, not a documentary." The film deceptively invents scenes to depict former President Bill Clinton's handling of the Al Qaeda threat.

Now, ABC claims to be is editing those false sequences to satisfy critics so the show can go on -- even if it still remains a gross distortion of history. And as it does so, ABC advances the illusion that the deceptive nature of "The Path to 9/11" is an honest mistake committed by a hardworking but admittedly fumbling team of well-intentioned Hollywood professionals who wanted nothing less than to entertain America. But this is another Big Lie.

In fact, "The Path to 9/11" is produced and promoted by a well-honed propaganda operation consisting of a network of little-known right-wingers working from within Hollywood to counter its supposedly liberal bias. This is the network within the ABC network. Its godfather is far right activist David Horowitz, who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, he is working with a secretive evangelical religious right group founded by The Path to 9/11's director David Cunningham that proclaims its goal to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision. "Read More" click link below


Before The Path to 9/11 entered the production stage, Disney/ABC contracted David Cunningham as the film's director. Cunningham is no ordinary Hollywood journeyman. He is in fact the son of Loren Cunningham, founder of the right-wing evangelical group Youth With A Mission (YWAM). The young Cunningham helped found an auxiliary of his father's group called The Film Institute (TFI), which, according to its mission statement, is "dedicated to a Godly transformation and revolution TO and THROUGH the Film and Televisionindustry." As part of TFI's long-term strategy, Cunningham helped place interns from Youth With A Mission's in film industry jobs "so that they can begin to impact and transform Hollywood from the inside out," according to a YWAM report.

Last June, Cunningham's TFI announced it was producing its first film, mysteriously titled "Untitled History Project." "TFI's first project is a doozy," a newsletter to YWAM members read. "Simply being referred to as: The Untitled History Project, it is already being called the television event of the decade and not one second has been put to film yet. Talk about great expectations!" (A web edition of the newsletter was mysteriously deleted yesterday but has been cached on Google at the link above).

The following month, on July 28, the New York Post reported that ABC was filming a mini-series "under a shroud of secrecy" about the 9/11 attacks. "At the moment, ABC officials are calling the miniseries 'Untitled Commission Report' and producers refer to it as the 'Untitled History Project,'" the Post noted.

Early on, Cunningham had recruited a young Iranian-American screenwriter named Cyrus Nowrasteh to
write the script of his secretive "Untitled" film. Not only is Nowrasteh an outspoken conservative, he is also a fervent member of the emerging network of right-wing people burrowing into the film industry with ulterior sectarian political and religious agendas, like Cunningham.

Nowrasteh's conservatism was on display when he appeared as a featured speaker at the Liberty Film Festival (LFF), an annual event founded in 2004 to premier and promote conservative-themed films supposedly too "politically incorrect" to gain acceptance at mainstream film festivals. This June, while The Path to 9/11 was being filmed, LFF founders Govindini Murty and Jason Apuzzo -- both friends of Nowrasteh -- announced they were "partnering" with right-wing activist David Horowitz. Indeed, the 2006 LFF is listed as "A Program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center."

Since the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1992, Horowitz has labored to create a network of politically active conservatives in Hollywood. His Hollywood nest centers around his Wednesday Morning Club, a
weekly meet-and-greet session for Left Coast conservatives that has been graced with speeches by
the likes of Newt Gingrich, Victor Davis Hanson and Christopher Hitchens. The group's headquarters are at the offices of Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a "think tank" bankrolled for years with millions by right-wing sugardaddies like eccentric far right billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. (Scaife
financed the Arkansas Project, a $2.3 million dirty tricks operation that included paying sources for
negative stories about Bill Clinton that turned out to be false.)

With the LFF now under Horowitz's control, his political machine began drumming up support for Cunningham and Nowrasteh's "Untitled" project, which finally was revealed in late summer as "The Path to 9/11." Horowitz's PR blitz began with an August 16 interview with Nowrasteh on his FrontPageMag webzine. In the interview, Nowrasteh foreshadowed the film's assault on Clinton's record on fighting terror. "The 9/11 report details the Clinton's administration's response -- or lack of response -- to Al Qaeda and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests," Nowrasteh told FrontPageMag's Jamie Glazov. "There simply was no response. Nothing."

A week later, ABC hosted LFF co-founder Murty and several other conservative operatives at an advance
screening of The Path to 9/11. (While ABC provided 900 DVDs of the film to conservatives, Clinton administration officials and objective reviewers from mainstream outlets were denied them.) Murty returned with a glowing review for FrontPageMag that emphasized the film's partisan nature. "'The Path to 9/11' is one of the best, most intelligent, most pro-American miniseries I've ever seen on TV, and conservatives should support
it and promote it as vigorously as possible," Murty wrote. As a result of the special access granted by ABC, Murty's article was the first published review of The Path to 9/11, preceding those by the New York Times and LA Times by more than a week.

Murty followed her review with a blast email to conservative websites such as Liberty Post and Free Republic on September 1 urging their readers to throw their weight behind ABC's mini-series. "Please do everything you can to spread the word about this excellent miniseries," Murty wrote, "so that 'The Path to 9/11' gets the highest ratings possible when it airs on September 10 & 11! If this show gets huge ratings, then ABC will be more likely to produce pro-American movies and TV shows in the future!"

Murty's efforts were supported by Appuzo, who handles LFF's heavily-trafficked blog, Libertas. Appuzo was instrumental in marketing The Path to 9/11 to conservatives, writing in a blog post on September 2, "Make no mistake about what this film does, among other things: it places the question of the Clinton Administration's culpability for the 9/11 attacks front and center... Bravo to Cyrus Nowrasteh and David
Cunningham for creating this gritty, stylish and gripping piece of entertainment."

When a group of leading Senate Democrats sent a letter to ABC CEO Robert Iger urging him to cancel The Path to 9/11 because of its glaring factual errors and distortions, Apuzzo launched a retaliatory campaign to paint the Democrats as foes of free speech. "Here at LIBERTAS we urge the public to make noise over this, and to demand that Democrats back down," he wrote on September 7th. "What is at stake is nothing short of the 1st Amendment."

At FrontPageMag, Horowitz singled out Nowrasteh as the victim. "The attacks by former president Bill Clinton, former Clinton Administration officials and Democratic US senators on Cyrus Nowrasteh's ABC
mini-series "The Path to 9/11" are easily the gravest and most brazen and damaging governmental attacks on the civil liberties of ordinary Americans since 9/11," Horowitz declared.

Now, as discussion grows over the false character of The Path to 9/11, the right-wing network that brought it to fruition is ratcheting up its PR efforts. Murty will appear tonight on CNN's Glenn Beck
show and The Situation Room, according to Libertas in order to respond to "the major disinformation campaign now being run by Democrats to block the truth about what actually happened during the Clinton years."

While this network claims its success and postures as the true victims, the ABC network suffers a PR catastrophe. It's almost as though it was complacent about an attack on its reputation by a band of political terrorists.



Eat The Press | Max Blumenthal: Discover the Secret Right-Wing Network Behind ABC's 9/11 Deception | The Huffington Post

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Bush Fears War Crimes Prosecution, Impeachment - by Marjorie Cohn

With great fanfare, George W. Bush announced to a group of carefully selected 9/11 families yesterday that he had finally decided to send Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 13 other alleged terrorists to Guantánamo Bay, where they will be tried in military commissions. After nearly 5 years of interrogating these men, why did Bush choose this moment to bring them to "justice"?

Bush said his administration had "largely completed our questioning of the men" and complained that "the Supreme Court's recent decision has impaired our ability to prosecute terrorists through military commissions and has put in question the future of the CIA program."

He was referring to Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, in which the high court recently held that Bush's military commissions did not comply with the law. Bush sought to try prisoners in commissions they could not attend with evidence they never see, including hearsay and evidence obtained by coercion.

Continued on "Print Article and/or Read More" below >>>
The Court also determined that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to al Qaeda detainees. That provision of Geneva prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment."

Bush called on Congress to define these "vague and undefined" terms in Common Article 3 because "our military and intelligence personnel" involved in capture and interrogation "could now be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act."

Congress enacted the War Crimes Act in 1996. That act defines violations of Geneva's Common Article 3 as war crimes. Those convicted face life imprisonment or even the death penalty if the victim dies.

The President is undoubtedly familiar with the doctrine of command responsibility, where commanders, all the way up the chain of command to the commander in chief, can be held liable for war crimes their inferiors commit if the commander knew or should have known they might be committed and did nothing to stop or prevent them.

Bush defensively denied that the United States engages in torture and foreswore authorizing it. But it has been well-documented that policies set at the highest levels of our government have resulted in the torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of U.S. prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo.

Indeed, Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act in December, which codifies the prohibition in United States law against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners in U.S. custody. In his speech yesterday, Bush took credit for working with Senator John McCain to pass the DTA.

In fact, Bush fought the McCain "anti-torture" amendment tooth-and-nail, at times threatening to veto the entire appropriations bill to which it was appended. At one point, Bush sent Dick Cheney to convince McCain to exempt the CIA from the prohibition on cruel treatment, but McCain refused.

Bush signed the bill, but attached a "signing statement" where he reserved the right to violate the DTA if, as commander-in-chief, he thought it necessary.

Throughout his speech, Bush carefully denied his administration had violated any laws during its "tough" interrogations of prisoners. Yet, the very same day, the Pentagon released a new interrogation manual that prohibits techniques including "waterboarding," which amounts to torture.

Before the Supreme Court decided the Hamdan case, the Pentagon intended to remove any mention of Common Article 3 from its manual. The manual had been the subject of revision since the Abu Ghraib torture photographs came to light.

But in light of Hamdan, the Pentagon was forced to back down and acknowledge the dictates of Common Article 3.

Bush also seeks Congressional approval for his revised military commissions, which reportedly contain nearly all of the objectionable features of his original ones.

The President's speech was timed to coincide with the beginning of the traditional post-Labor Day period when Congress focuses on the November elections. The Democrats reportedly stand a good chance of taking back one or both houses of Congress. Bush fears impeachment if the Democrats achieve a majority in the House of Representatives.

By challenging Congress to focus on legislation about treatment of terrorists - which he called "urgent" - Bush seeks to divert the election discourse away from his disastrous war on Iraq.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is president-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists.
Bush Fears War Crimes Prosecution, Impeachment

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Know Nothing News - by Jerry Lanson

It’s time for news media organizations to have the guts to turn down George Bush’s megaphone, not amp it up. On some days recently, that megaphone has resonated so loudly in the world of instantly breaking broadcast news and web site headlines that any Democratic response has quickly been drowned out. Which, of course, is just what Karl Rove wants.

No matter how outrageous Bush's assertions, no matter how they fly in the face of the reality of what even his Pentagon is saying about Iraq, the news media dutifully trot after the president, giving him lead play on the news in speech after speech. Whether he’s howling about “cut and run” Democrats or asserting, yet again, that the mire of Iraq is a central battlefield in his War Against Terror (read War Without End), the format of news is predictable: Amplify the president's dire predictions, let him brainwash the public a little bit more, then dutifully -- for the sake balance, of course -- give the opposition a quick soundbite or a few lines to disagree.

Continued on "Print Article and/or Read More" below >>>
I realize, like it or not, that George Bush is the president. And, as a former reporter and editor, I know the norms of news: As the holder of the nation’s highest official, the president has the luxury of setting the agenda. Fair enough. But saying the same things over and over is not really setting an agenda. It is running a political campaign, one of the few things this president has ever done effectively.

The news media have no responsibility to help him campaign. To the contrary. Once it's clear what the president's game is, the news media should walk away, shut off the megaphone. News has always had to be selective. On the air and in print, time and space are finite. News also has some standards. It should be based on verifiable fact. It should emphasize what is new. It should place today's speeches in the context of yesterday's promises and actions. When the president says the same thing day after day -- "be afraid," he tells us earnestly -- the news media do not have to cover each utterance as if it is a revelation.

Give the president his shot. On the first day of what appears will be a monthlong 9/11 anniversary campaign, the news media were right to give good play to the newest version of his same old "we've got to win" speech. Day one, however, was several days ago. On day two, news organizations should have either (a) analyzed his words in the context of history, recent and past and/or (b) given the Democratic Party's perspective at the top of the news in rebuttal. And on days three, four, five and so forth, especially given the unabashed (and unattributed) Republican acknowledgement that the president and his minions will be giving the same speech all month, the news media should have moved on. Journalists with a "nose for news" know their job is to ignore anything that is not new. There's plenty out there in the real world that is. And if the White House press corps needs something to do, sometimes what's new can be found in the contradictions between the administration's words and its record.

One small example of this kind of reporting appeared on the opinion page of my Boston Globe the other day. Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador, wrote about the contact that key members of the current Bush administration had with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s when the Reagan Administration sought to improve its relationship with Saddam despite the fact that he had already begun using banned nerve gas.

Noted Galbraith: "In 2003, Cheney, Powell, and Rumsfeld all cited Hussein's use of chemical weapons 15 years before as a rationale for war. But at the time Hussein was actually doing the gassing -- including of his own people -- they considered his use of chemical weapons a second-tier issue."

Now that was interesting news. But yet again it appeared in views, on the back page of the newspaper's first section.

In the meantime, big-time journalists reprint and rebroadcast ad nauseum the White House's version of the same-old, same-old. Need evidence?

Look no further than Wednesday night's CBS Evening News. There was Katie Couric on the second night of her $15-million-a-year job as CBS news anchor, proving in an "exclusive" interview with President George W. Bush that she should also be awarded a second new title: The First Booster.

Just how tough was she on W? You be the judge. "You have said we can't cut-and-run on more than one occasion," she asks the president in a clip posted on the CBS News website "... Otherwise we'll be fighting the terrorists here on our own streets. What do you mean by that Mr. President?" What do you mean by that Mr. President?! There was no real follow-up to the president's self-serving answer. But then the question itself, with such Republican-powered perversions of language as "cut-and-run" and "fighting the terrorists here on our own streets" made clear whose script Couric was reading even before Bush even bothered to answer.

The CBS news web site trumpeted the interview this way: "As President Bush appeals to the American people to support him in the global war on terror, he insisted to Katie Couric that it cannot be won without succeeding in Iraq."

We all know that this is not news. There is nothing new about it. It's September's broken record, the one Bush and the Republicans intend to play over and over again, without an iota of evidence that any of it is true. They know that few television reporters ask for evidence these days -- just good sound bites.

It really wouldn't take much effort to inform the White House's "news" with a little historical context. Remember Vietnam? Remember the Domino Theory that got us there ("if Vietnam falls to the Reds, country after country will fall like dominoes until those Reds are knocking on our doors")? Apparently George Bush doesn't (given his National Guard record, why would he). It took a decade of heartbreak and dead GIs, more than 50,000, before we extricated ourselves from that war, leaving millions of Vietnamese corpses behind.

Nor, sadly, does the new CBS News seem to remember that it was the old CBS News, with Walter Cronkite reporting in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, that finally set America on the excruciatingly slow path of extricating itself from Vietnam. And what happened after we pulled out? Nothing. No Red masses marched on our borders -- just as no "islamo-fascist" masses would march on our borders today.

Today the new CBS News seems to be falling over itself to join most of the other broadcast media as a public relations arm of the White House. And Katie Couric, America's sweetheart, the pioneer trumpeted for breaking the gender barrier as prime-time network TV's first solo female anchor, is quickly proving herself to be just another shill.

Sadly, neither contextual facts of history nor the president's words and actions from a year or two ago regularly inform what passes for news in this 24-7 world. It is the loudest megaphone of the day that increasingly draws reporters, drowning out the whispers in the well of past records that could put news in perspective. And since the president will always hold that loudest megaphone, the news media, in direct proportion to how much they gravitate toward the megaphone's amplified noise, risk becoming little more than the most power campaign ad available to the Republican Party. (I can see it now. It's late October. And Couric's "exclusive" is replayed across the country in paid Republican campaign ads. Implication: "Katie likes us. Why don't you?")

Ultimately, whether the media's role in promulgating Republican PR is inadvertent or not doesn't much matter. It's a potentially dangerous role -- and, especially at the network of Murrow, Cronkite and Sevareid, it's a sad one, too.

Jerry Lanson is a professor of journalism at Emerson College in Boston. He can be reached at
Know Nothing News

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Clearing the Air with the Truth - by Juan Gonzalez

After nearly five years of lies from top city and federal officials about the health dangers from the toxic dust released by the World Trade Center collapse, the truth has finally begun to emerge.

Back on Oct. 26, 2001, in a Daily News front-page story headlined "A Toxic Nightmare at Disaster Site," I reported that hundreds of tests conducted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency revealed far more elevated levels of toxic pollutants in the air and dust in lower Manhattan than the public had been told.

That shocking story was immediately attacked by top officials in then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani's administration, by the EPA boss at the time, Christie Whitman, and even by the city's main business group, the Partnership for New York City, whose top official labeled it "irresponsible journalism."

Yes, there were some "spikes" in toxic emissions, Whitman and Giuliani Health Commissioner Neal Cohen admitted, but no long-term danger.

Despite their assurances, thousands who returned to lower Manhattan came down with new physical ailments, especially among the city's first responders and recovery workers, but also downtown residents and office workers.

Continued on "Print Article and/or Read More" below >>>
Yesterday came the first conclusive proof that those assurances from City Hall and the EPA were horribly wrong. We got an inkling, as well, of the huge public health toll our city now faces.

Nearly 70% of 9,500 Ground Zero responders and workers monitored by Mount Sinai Medical Center over the past five years have new or worsened respiratory problems. Some may be sick for the rest of their lives.

But this astonishing illness rate cannot simply be attributed to honest human error.

Three years ago, an investigation by the EPA's own inspector general's office revealed that in the first days after 9/11, White House aides rewrote agency press releases to downplay any dangers in order to reopen Wall Street quickly.

Government documents uncovered by this column since 9/11 showed city and federal officials hid important information about the true extent of contamination.

The city's Department of Environmental Protection, for example, found high levels of asbestos in 27 of the first 38 air samples it took in lower Manhattan before Sept. 17, 2001. But the city didn't publicly disclose those results until five months later.

On Sept. 12, 2001, Dr. Ed Kilbourne, a top federal scientist, warned in a strongly worded memo to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against the quick reoccupation of buildings in lower Manhattan because of possible dangers from asbestos and other toxic material, but he was ignored.

On Oct. 6, 2001, Associate City Health Commissioner Kelly McKinney complained that health and safety protections for Ground Zero workers were not being enforced. McKinney offered to have "[Department of Health] personnel ... issue [violations] for non-compliance." But City Hall did not immediately act on his recommendation.

Those at the top simply ignored the warning signs.

Now, thousands are sick, more will get sick in the years to come and an unknown number will die before their time.

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg finally recognized this huge problem. He announced the city will provide health treatment to anyone sickened by Ground Zero contaminants — at no out-of-pocket cost to the victim. His program also will treat office workers and nearby residents, thus implicitly recognizing that more than Ground Zero workers have been affected.

It is, however, small consolation to the sick New Yorkers who expected their leaders to tell them the truth when it mattered.

Juan Gonzalez is a Daily News columnist.

© 2006 Daily News, L.P.
Clearing the Air with the Truth

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I Want Future Generations to Know This: Many from Our Generation Never Sold You Out - by Rex Weyler

Dear colleagues,

Thanks to Paul Watson for circulating the story (below) about James Lovelock and his assessment of the global ecology. This information needs to reach the hands of our citizens and alleged leaders. Thanks to David and Rafe, Alexandra and Adriane, and all of you who are helping bring some common decency and urgency to these discussions about our environmental future.

I have long felt that Ehrlich and even Malthus would eventually be proven correct in their fundamental concerns regarding exponential human population growth and consumption. We might well be reminded that this is not a disaster to come, it is a disaster that is here, now, for most of the world.

About 9 million people die each year from malnutrition and dehydration. That's 25,000 per day starving to death, most of them children, all of them poor. That's equivalent to 60-70 jumbo jets dropping out of the sky every day, killing everyone on board. Eight 9/11s. Every day. Those who claim Malthus was wrong suggest there is no mass starvation, that industrial agriculture will defeat nature and mathematics. Excuse my poor English, but the chirpy industrialists are wrong and, with each passing day, getting wronger.

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In Argentina last year, I witnessed bulldozers moving like panzer divisions across the landscape, clearing and burning the forest with astounding efficiency, creating plantations for Monsanto and Cargill to grow soya feed for European and Chinese pigs. Somehow I don't believe this promises more bacon for the babies in Darfur. We watched night and day as the fires lit up the horizon, soil blew across the sky, and ash fell on our tortillas.

With the local Greenpeace team, and considerable support from celebrities and politicians, we managed to save 18,000 hectares as a homeland for the Wichi Indians, the poorest of the poor by modern economic standards, but people who actually have a sustainable civilization as long as they have a forest to live in. However, every year, in Argentina alone, over 400,000 hectares of forest disappears under the blades of bulldozers. A million acres per year literally up in smoke. This is the great plan of industrial agriculture. The share price of Monsanto is thriving.

[For those of you in Canada: A documentary of our work in Argentina, and a short Greenpeace retrospective, will air on Global Television, Saturday September 23, 7PM. The film is also a tribute to our late colleague and friend Bob Hunter.]

As we wait for the frat-boy, coke-head president and his northern affairs staffer, the Canadian Prime Minister, to finally notice that hydrocarbon civilization is baking the planet, our communities dutifully send their bright-eyed boys and girls to die in the deserts and keep the oil flowing in the right direction at the right price. This is the apogee of the great democratic dream?

Still, I don't get depressed when I read predictions such as those from Lovelock, below. I get energized. I thank Gaia that someone has the courage to speak up. I know that those of you working in the media and in the sciences face huge challenges to get this information through the fine screen of feel-good, support-the-troops, pop journalism, and you are the earth's saints for persisting.

To future generations I want to say, "I'm sorry," but more precisely I want to say: "Not everyone bought the lie. A lot of us stood up. A lot of us dedicated our lives to averting these disasters perpetrated by greed, ignorance, and denial. Some of us passed on the first-class ride and stood our ground in the neighbourhoods, in the newsrooms, in the academic journals, in the forests, on the oceans."

I want future generations to know this: Many from our generation never sold you out. We witnessed the truth, kept our eyes open, and did our best to warn our bumbling, myopic, spin-doctored civilization.

All the best to you, my heroes.


Rex Weyler is a journalist, writer, and ecologist. Between 1974 and 1982, he served as a director of Greenpeace, editor of the Greenpeace Chronicles magazine, and was a co-founder of Greenpeace International.

The End of Eden
James Lovelock Says This Time We've Pushed the Earth Too Far

By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 2, 2006; C01

ST. GILES-ON-THE-HEATH, England -- Through a deep and tangled wood lies a glade so lovely and wet and lush as to call to mind a hobbit's sanctuary. A lichen-covered statue rises in a garden of native grasses, and a misting rain drips off a slate roof. At the yard's edge a plump muskrat waddles into the brush.


A lean, white-haired gentleman in a blue wool sweater and khakis beckons you inside his whitewashed cottage. We sit beside a stone hearth as his wife, Sandy, an elegant blonde, sets out scones and tea. James Lovelock fixes his mind's eye on what's to come.

"It's going too fast," he says softly. "We will burn."

Why is that?

"Our global furnace is out of control. By 2020, 2025, you will be able to sail a sailboat to the North Pole. The Amazon will become a desert, and the forests of Siberia will burn and release more methane and plagues will return."

Sulfurous musings are not Lovelock's characteristic style; he's no Book of Revelation apocalyptic. In his 88th year, he remains one of the world's most inventive scientists, an Englishman of humor and erudition, with an oenophile's taste for delicious controversy. Four decades ago, his discovery that ozone-destroying chemicals were piling up in the atmosphere started the world's governments down a path toward repair. Not long after that, Lovelock proposed the theory known as Gaia, which holds that Earth acts like a living organism, a self-regulating system balanced to allow life to flourish.

Biologists dismissed this as heresy, running counter to Darwin's theory of evolution. Today one could reasonably argue that Gaia theory has transformed scientific understanding of the Earth.

Now Lovelock has turned his attention to global warming, writing "The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity." Already a big seller in the United Kingdom, the book was released in the United States last month. (He will speak in Washington, at the Carnegie Institution, Friday at 7 p.m.) Lovelock's conclusion is straightforward.

To wit, we are poached.

He measured atmospheric gases and ocean temperatures, and examined forests tropical and arboreal (last year a forest the size of Italy burned in rapidly heating Siberia, releasing from the permafrost a vast sink of methane, which contributes to global warming). He found Gaia trapped in a vicious cycle of positive-feedback loops -- from air to water, everything is getting warmer at once. The nature of Earth's biosphere is that, under pressure from industrialization, it resists such heating, and then it resists some more.

Then, he says, it adjusts.

Within the next decade or two, Lovelock forecasts, Gaia will hike her thermostat by at least 10 degrees. Earth, he predicts, will be hotter than at any time since the Eocene Age 55 million years ago, when crocodiles swam in the Arctic Ocean.

"There's no realization of how quickly and irreversibly the planet is changing," Lovelock says. "Maybe 200 million people will migrate close to the Arctic and survive this. Even if we took extraordinary steps, it would take the world 1,000 years to recover."

Such dire talk no doubt occasions much rolling of eyes in polite circles, particularly among scientists in the United States, that last redoubt of global-warming skeptics. Lovelock's so intemperate , and more than a few of his peers distrust his preference for elegant nouns and verbs served with no crusting of jargon. His grim predictions tend to be twinned in the press with those of the skeptics, each treated as a radical diversion -- purveyors of "climate porn," an English think-tank called them recently -- from a moderate mean.

Lovelock's radical view of global warming doesn't sit well with David Archer, a scientist at the University of Chicago and a frequent contributor to the Web site RealClimate, which accepts the reality of global warning.

"No one, not Lovelock or anyone else, has proposed a specific quantitative scenario for a climate-driven, blow the doors off, civilization ending catastrophe," writes Archer.

The headline on Archer's essay, which is in fact respectful of Lovelock's science, calls the Englishman a "renegade earth scientist." It's a curious description.

Lovelock works independently on various biochemistry projects, in a lab in an old barn behind his farmhouse in Devon. He often quarrels with the scientific establishment, which he sees as crippled by clubby orthodoxy. (Nor does he hesitate to tweak environmentalists -- Lovelock is a passionate backer of nuclear power as a carbon-clean palliative for global warming.) But it's difficult to see Lovelock, an inventor with 50 patents to his name, a fellow in the Royal Society -- England's scientific society -- as a Gaian bandito.

What's perhaps as intriguing are the top scientists who decline to dismiss Lovelock's warning. Lovelock may be an outlier, but he's not drifting far from shore. Sir David King, science adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, saluted Lovelock's book and proclaimed global warming a far more serious threat than terrorism. Sir Brian Heap, a Cambridge University biologist and past foreign secretary of the Royal Society, says Lovelock's views are tightly argued, if perhaps too gloomy.

Then you dial up Paul Ehrlich, the eminent Stanford University biologist, at his cottage in the mountains of Colorado, where he's been meeting with other scientists. Three decades ago Ehrlich wrote "The Population Bomb," a best-selling jeremiad in which he warned that the Earth's population was expanding much too fast.

Disaster did not arrive precisely as Ehrlich foretold, and he was treated as a doomsayer debunked. Maybe Ehrlich just was too early to the party.

Today Ehrlich sees global warming and population growth, with its attendant pressures on natural resources and demand for oil and gas, as menaces dancing in tango step. "Technically speaking, most scientists I know are scared [expletive]," Ehrlich says. "Lovelock and I are doomsayers because I'm afraid we see doom."

"Like the Norns in Wagner's Der Ring des Niebelungen, we are at the end of our tether, and the rope, whose weave defines our fate, is about to break."

You read such lines in "The Revenge of Gaia" and ask this wiry Jeremiah: Why so gloomy? Lovelock grins, his face a web of smile lines, and demurs: No, no, no. You have him all wrong. He started a family in the darkness of the London Blitz -- he has nine grandchildren, whom he loves, and a country of which he's very proud.

"I'm an optimist," he says. "I think that after the warming sets in and the survivors have settled in near the Arctic, they will find a way to adjust. It will be a tough life enlivened by excitement and fear."

That still sounds a tad short of good cheer.

Lovelock and Sandy, whom he married after the death of his first wife, take afternoon walks in Devonshire, and he quotes Shakespeare on the joy of finding oxlip by a stream. Lovelock finds too much delight in the mysteries of the universe to call himself an atheist. But he remains at heart a biochemist, a rigorous empiricist who refuses to shrink from the reality of hard times.

Lovelock grew up in working-class London. He could not afford Oxford or Cambridge and so attended at night. During World War II Lovelock walked sentry duty with professors on the roof of the lab. They watched the twinkling lights of German V-1 missiles draw close.

"A missile would veer off and explode and the professors would feel an immediate need to impart their wisdom." Lovelock chuckles. "It was like a graduate course. Terrible to say, but war makes us more alive."

Lovelock was a prodigy, earning degrees in chemistry and medicine. In the 1950s he designed an electron capture machine, which provided environmentalist Rachel Carson with the data to prove that pesticides infected everything from penguins to mother's milk. Later he took a detector on a ship to Antarctica and proved that man-made chemicals -- CFCs -- were burning a hole in the ozone.

"Gaia, shmaia," says Ehrlich, the Stanford biologist, who has been critical of Lovelock's latest theory. "If Lovelock hadn't discovered the erosion of the ozone, we'd all be living under the ocean in snorkels and fins to escape that poisonous sun."

In 1961 Lovelock worked with NASA. The space agency wanted to design a lander to search for life on Mars. That, Lovelock thought, was silly. What if a lander set down in the wrong spot? What if Martian life wasn't bacterial?

Lovelock took a conceptual leap. If Mars bore life, bacteria would be obliged to use oxygen to breathe and to deposit their wastes as methane. Lovelock found that Earth's atmosphere contained massive quantities of oxygen and methane, gases that are the very signature of life. Mars's atmosphere was thick with carbon dioxide, the calling card of a dead planet.

That discovery changed his life. He came to see Earth as a self-regulating biosphere. The sun has warmed by 25 percent since life appeared, so Earth produced more algae and forests to absorb carbon dioxide, ensuring roughly constant temperatures. In 1969, Lovelock lacked only a name for his theory. He took a walk with novelist William Golding.

A big concept needs a big name, Golding said. Call it Gaia.

Gaia proved controversial, and not just because the name made New Age priestesses go weak in the knees. ("Gaia's not 'alive' and I'm afraid I'm not a very good guru," Lovelock notes dryly.) Biologists nearly choked -- they argued that organisms cannot possibly act in concert, as that would imply foresight.

Lovelock recalls being denounced at a conference in Berlin.

The intolerance gave him a pain. Lovelock said that the world's biomass can act without being "conscious." "The neo-Darwinists are just like the very religious," Lovelock says. "They spend all their time defending silly doctrine."

Forty years later, talk of an interconnected planetary system is the lingua franca of Earth science. The queen has handed Lovelock a prize, Oxford has invited him to teach, and his small forest lab had more government contracts than he could handle. (In his lab, the octogenarian scientist follows few safety protocols save the dictates of self-preservation. "I can kill only myself; it's a splendid freedom," he says.)

But friends say he's restless.

"Maybe Jim thinks the world has gotten too comfortable with his theory," says Lee Kump, a prominent geologist at Penn State. "He sees Gaia treating us as a body does an infection -- it's trying to burn us out."

"The meltdown of Greenland's ice sheet is speeding up, satellite measurements show." -- BBC, 2006

"Dr. Deborah Clark from the University of Missouri, one of the world's top forest ecologists, says the research shows that 'the lock has broken' on the Amazon ecosystem. She adds: The Amazon is 'headed in a terrible direction.' " -- CNN, 2006

How will our splendid Spaceship Earth so quickly become the oven of our doom? As we sit at his table in Devon, Lovelock expands on his vision.

It begins with the melting of ice and snow. As the Arctic grows bare -- the Greenland ice cap is shrinking far faster than had been expected -- dark ground emerges and absorbs heat. That melts more snow and softens peat bogs, which release methane. As oceans warm, algae are dying and so absorbing less heat-causing carbon dioxide.

To the south, drought already is drying out the great tropical forests of the Amazon. "The forests will melt away just like the snow," Lovelock says.

Even the northern forests, those dark cool beauties of pines and firs, suffer. They absorb heat and shelter bears, lynxes and wolves through harsh winters. But recent studies show the boreal forests are drying and dying and inducing more warming.

Casting 30, 40 years into the future, Lovelock sees sub-Saharan lands becoming uninhabitable. India runs out of water, Bangladesh drowns, China eyes a Siberian land grab, and local warlords fight bloody wars over water and energy.

Lovelock sees the look on your face and pauses.

"Look, this is why it's a gloomy book," he says. "Would you care for some more tea?"

The mind reels off objections. Doesn't this amount to a great piling up of what-ifs and could-bes? "The Day After Tomorrow," "On the Beach," Helen Caldicott, Nostradamus, a thousand tipping-point predictions of doom fade into the mists of human history. We humans are clever. We'll send a space shade into outer space to deflect sunlight (as a couple of California professors have proposed)?

Lovelock nods, weary; he's heard this before.

"We like to think of Hurricane Katrina, or a killer heat wave in Europe, as a one-off," he says. "Or we like to think that we'll come up with a technological fix."

Lovelock reminds you that the Mayan seers, to name another maligned bunch of doomsayers, were spot on. Their great civilization died of an environmental apocalypse. He's not romanced by the primitive. Across the world, from the American Indians to the aborigines of Australia to European hunters, research is suggesting that native peoples played a key role in the burning of forests and the extinction of thousands of species. Today the environmentally conscious seek salvation in solar cells, recycling and ten thousand wind turbines. "It won't matter a damn," Lovelock says. "They make the mistake of thinking we have decades. We don't."

Lovelock favors genetically modified crops, which require less water, and nuclear energy. Only the atom can produce enough electrical power to persuade industrialized nations to abandon burning fossil fuels. France draws 70 percent of its power from nuclear plants.

But what of Three Mile Island? Chernobyl? Lovelock's shaking his head before you complete the litany. How many people died, he asks. A few hundred? The radiation exclusion zone around Chernobyl is the lushest and most diverse zone of flora and fauna in Eurasia.

Sir Brian Heap accepts this. But he worries that South Asia and Africa are about to suffer the terrible consequences of First World excesses. What of our responsibility to them? "The poor aren't our problem," Heap says. "We're their problem."

Lovelock acknowledges the moral conundrum. But he sees no we-are-the-world solutions. The heat waves that kill millions, the powerful typhoons, the droughts that suffocate cities, will force a retreat to nationalism.

After a couple of hours, you wonder about his own good cheer. His internal combustion engine shows few signs of flagging; he wakes up 5:30 a.m. and reads, writes and tramps through the countryside. The studiously polite Lovelock seems a touch annoyed only at the suggestion he's frivolous about what the future holds.

"People say, 'Well, you're 87, you won't live to see this,' " he says. "I have children, I have grandchildren, I wish none of this. But it's our fate; we need to recognize it's another wartime. We desperately need a Moses to take us to the Arctic and preserve civilization.

"It's too late to turn back."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
I Want Future Generations to Know This: Many from Our Generation Never Sold You Out

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