Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Matter of Science, Frist changes

Washington Post Editorial
A Matter of Science
Saturday, July 30, 2005, p. A 18

ON MEDICAL ISSUES, a subject for which his heart surgeon credentials give him unusual expertise and influence, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has a mixed record. Earlier this year he shamed himself with his assessment-by-videotape of Terri Schiavo, in which questioned her doctors' judgment that she was in a vegetative state. Mr. Frist deserves credit, though, for his announcement yesterday that he will break with President Bush and support legislation that would liberalize the administration's policy on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. In the face of evidence that the existing rules are impeding valuable research, this is the only sensible conclusion -- one that ought to make the president reconsider his veto threat.

The emotional debate involves whether to allow scientists to use embryos left over from in vitro fertilization to generate new stem cell lines. The current policy permits federally funded scientists to use only existing stem cell lines, not to destroy additional embryos to develop new ones. Even though the embryos at issue would be discarded in any event, this might have been a reasonable compromise had those lines proved adequate to the promising research that has been taking place in this field.

However, as Mr. Frist related yesterday, only 22 lines are now eligible for federal funding, instead of the 78 originally foreseen by the administration, and some of those are deteriorating or contaminated. As a result, Mr. Frist said yesterday, "the limitation put into place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases." This matters, as Mr. Frist said, because "embryonic stem cells uniquely hold specific promise for some therapies and potential cures that adult stem cells just cannot provide." Moreover, alternative techniques that could produce useful stem cells without requiring embryo destruction, although worthy of funding and further study, remain too uncertain to justify blocking use of existing embryos. "It's not just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science," Mr. Frist said.

The stem cell measure passed the House in May by 238 to 194; a companion bill, sponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), is expected to come to the Senate floor this fall. Mr. Frist's general endorsement -- he said he wanted to see stronger ethical safeguards -- "is a speech that will be heard around the world, especially at the White House," Mr. Specter said yesterday. "I know that the president will listen to what Sen. Frist had to say." We hope that doesn't prove overly optimistic. "The president's made his position very clear," said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. "Nothing's changed in terms of his position." Change will come only if Mr. Bush follows Mr. Frist's example, and lets the facts affect his conclusions.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Monday, July 25, 2005

Osama is winning this war--we are not.

Love and War

No one should lead troops into battle unless he himself has fought and survived the chaos, violence and insanity of war. Without that experience he will be too eager for the glory and hype of war.

George W. Bush planned early to become a War President. His first biographer either quit or was fired. Bush craved being a War President for the power and glory and for his place in history.

9/11 was the gate of his great opportunity. War against Iraq was already planned by his Neocons. His rush to war against Iraq was obvious to a few. Intelligence to support it needed fixing.

Bush did exactly what Osama Bin Laden hoped for. Al-Qaeda now has recruits signing up everywhere. This war has fueled Hate toward us and the West and opened many old wounds, now hate is magnified by our invasion, killing of many innocents, and prison abuses. Osama is winning this war so far. We are not.

In the world created by this President, terrorism is everywhere, No one is safe any longer, anywhere. . Thank you, Mr. President. You have your place in history. Could it be that the American People are finally awakening to how they have been conned by your mojo?

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Anti-NeoCon, Review by David Corn of Robert Merry's new book: Sands of Empire

Go to Original

The Anti-Neocon
By David Corn

Wednesday 20 July 2005

"I'm the anti-neocon." That's how Robert Merry recently described himself to me. After reading his new book-Sands of Empire: Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy, and the Hazards of Global Ambition -I have to say: He got that right.

His book is the most scorching mainstream critique of the neocons and their misadventure in Iraq that I have encountered. Merry, the publisher of Congressional Quarterly and a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, rips apart that small band of ideologically driven chickenhawks and leaves their bones scattered on the floor of a Council of Foreign Relations conference room. Merry is a hard-ass practitioner of global realpolitik. There is not a smidgeon of sentiment in a single sentence of this book. He's certainly not keeping company with one-worlders and those who would identify (or misidentify, in his view) American national security interests with feel-good global humanitarianism. But in a classic example of that old Middle East cliché-the enemy of my enemy is my friend-he has produced a book that liberal-minded foreign policy folks ought to gobble up. And I would dare the neocons to enter Merry's knife-throwing gallery.

His high-minded goal was to pen an intellectual history that traced the ideas that led-over decades-to George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. (Let's assume that ideas had something to do with it.) Merry does reach back far, reviewing the works and notions of such profound ponderers as the Abbé Charles-Irénée Castel de Saint-Pierre (who postulated that humankind was on an inevitable journey toward further enlightenment and civilization), Oswald Spengler (the chronicler of the ups and downs of civilizations), and such big-idea moderns as Frances Fukuyama (the premature prophet of the End of History), Samuel Huntington (the advocate of the Clash of Civilizations), and Thomas Friedman (the cheerleader for the Glory of Globalization). Merry suggests that in the broadest terms there are two ideas that have motivated Western thought: the Idea of Progress (humankind is on a never-ending advance), and the Cycle of History (history is the story of civilizations that rise and then fall; screw progress). And a corollary to the Cycle of History view, he notes, is Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, which suggests that not only is progress not inevitable but that conflict between civilizations is. The capital letters are his.

Out of all this, he notes, American history has yielded four basic strains of foreign policy: conservative interventionism (the hard-headed Cold War policy that came out of World War II), conservative isolationism (poster boy: Pat Buchanan), liberal interventionism (sending U.S. troops to help troubled countries such as Haiti), and liberal isolationism (think of the movement against the Vietnam War). His descriptions invite the charge that he is being overly simplistic. For instance, he claims Reagan's use of force in Central America in the 1980s-which he points to as an example of conservative interventionism-was necessary to "save Western civilization from the threat of Soviet expansionism." No, it wasn't. But the real question for him-and for us-is, which of these four teams is essentially right?

To answer that, Merry has fun batting aside those he consider wrong. He scoffs at Fukuyama's thesis-that America and other Western democracies represent the culmination of human civilization and stand as the obvious (and only) ideal for the rest of the world. From this stance, Merry notes, it's a perilously short distance to presuming a missionary destiny for the United States: Let's make them more like us. He notes that Fukuyama, in his famous 1989 essay "End of History," observed that nationalism and ethnic zeal could no longer threaten a nation and that Islamic fundamentalism "has little appeal for non-Muslims, and it is hard to believe that the movement will take on any universal significance. Ouch. And he whips Thomas Friedman to an inch of his intellectual life, noting that the gaga-on-globalization columnist is deft at analyzing transnational economic forces but willfully naïve in saying that the people of the world, looking toward the United States as "a spiritual value and a role model," will harness these new economic trends and ride off to a better future because they have no choice. "Political analysis as exhortation is not serious political analysis," Merry rightfully huffs, adding, "The impulses of human nature go far beyond the material comforts and options that so preoccupy Friedman."

Why does Merry devote himself to disproving Fukuyama and Friedman? It's because they are idealists whose out-of-touch-with-reality views (as Merry sees it) lead toward danger. But it is the neocons who have put this danger into practice. It's no secret: Merry is with the hardheaded conservative interventionists and quite sympathetic to Huntingtonism. The world is nasty and full of nasty people-most notably, Islamic extremists-and it's our job not to change the world but to define the threat wisely and specifically and to take the practical steps necessary to thwart that threat or at least keep it at bay for as long as possible.

He and I would, no doubt, consume many beers in any full-length conversation about the past glories and mistakes of U.S. foreign policy. But Merry is not interested in raking through the coals of the many past debates. This is what concerns him now:

"Can an effective brand of conservative interventionism be fashioned for the post-9/11 era, when the West is locked in a clash of civilizations with major elements of the world of Islam and cultural instability seems on the rise elsewhere around the globe?"

He adds, "That is probably the most pressing question facing the country-and the world-today." And the biggest obstacle to fashioning a positive response, he argues, is the neocons.

Another obstacle, he claims, are liberal interventionists such as those who supported the U.S. bombing in Kosovo and Bill Clinton's involvement in the Balkans. Merry goes for the jugular in questioning the arguments for and the wisdom of these actions. This section of the book is not for the faint-hearted. ("True, Serbian actions in Kosovo prior to the bombing were barbaric. But in fact they never matched the kinds of abuses the [Clinton] administration had been willing to accept in Turkey, Kashmir, Sudan, and Rwanda-or in Croatia, for that matter. Thus did the United States action reveal a fundamental reality of any moralistic foreign policy: inevitably it exposes a selective morality.") But since the liberal interventionists are not in the driver's seat and did not lead the nation into the wrong war in Iraq, Merry has less reason to worry about them these days. So he unleashes the lion's share of his fury upon the neoconservatives.

He traces the history of this bunch and pokes at the contradictions and inconsistencies that lie in their wake. This band of Democratic-liberals-turned-Republicans-armchair-warriors, he notes, have abandoned the typical "conservative hostility" toward utopian visions and bold government initiatives and have "embraced a Brave New World in which American exceptionalism holds sway everywhere and peoples around the globe abandon their own cultures in favor of Western ideals..

[T]he neoconservatives have arrived at a point where they aren't really conservative at all." The neocons' transition into idealists-hey, let's fight for democracy in the Middle East!-is an odd one and ought to be greeted with skepticism.

Merry points out that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the neocons held firm to a less noble operating premise. It was Jeane Kirkpatrick, the godmother of the neocons, who wrote an influential article that bitterly decried assigning human rights a priority in foreign policy. She scoffed at those who believed "that it is possible to democratize governments, anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances." Such conversions, she said, take "decades, if not centuries." (Hmmmm.) And in a 1978 essay, Irving Kristol, the neocons' godfather (and the actual father of William Kristol, the movement's unofficial student body president), urged the United States to be "less vaguely moralistic in its pronouncements." In 1980, Merry notes, Irving Kristol wrote that it was a "fundamental fallacy" to believe that people in all nations are entitled to a liberal constitutional government. The apple has bounced far from this tree.

So how did we get from there to the point where Bill Kristol and Co. are rah-rahing and egging on a president who justifies invading a country-forget those nonexistent WMDs-with the most lofty rhetoric about exporting democracy and freedom overseas? It's not just 9/11. The neocons were hankering for a war against Iraq long before nineteen al Qaeda recruits stunned the world. The neocons, Merry writes, "have a tendency to make their way to whatever watering hole they can find to quench their need for a rhetorical argument of the moment." And in the years prior to 9/11, they became enthralled with the idea of "American hegemony." Merry considers this quest for a Wilsonian-fueled hegemony nuts, for it obscures the difficult questions and prevents consideration of what to do about complex, centuries-in-the-making, on-the-ground realities.

Merry sees the clash between "the West and Islam" as the fundamental reality of the day. But he is not looking forward to any ultimate confrontation. This reality, he argues, "demands from the West a steady, careful, measured approach to diplomacy and war. Will the West, with all its power and influence, stimulate and aggravate these emerging cultural tensions around the world? Or will it seek an approach aimed at protecting its interests while calming as much as possible the cultural hostilities that are an integral part of our era." He's essentially calling for a Nixonian approach. (I can't bring myself to refer to it as Kissingerian.)

His book half-echoes the critique made by the left (whether it is the isolationist or interventionist left) of the current regime. Merry is talking about wrestling with realities. The neocons speak of redefining reality-which also can become ignoring reality. Remember Dick Cheney's promise that American troops in Iraq would be welcomed as liberators? Merry does, and he catalogues all the false assumptions made by the neocons and Bush's foreign policy team:

"This litany of misstatements, misperceptions, faulty thinking and off-the-mark predictions raises a question: how could so many highly intelligent people be so wrong? The only answer is that they stumbled into a classic case of ideological policymaking-viewing the world through the prism of a rigid ideology, and then placing the pieces together to fit that ideological picture."

Instead of offering a solution to the knotty dilemmas of the post-9/11 threat, the Iraq war has worsened the problem. This war, Merry maintains, can only "enflame anti-Western passions in the world of Islam." That will mean "more jihadists directed against the United States." The war also increases the odds of destabilization in other lands-such as Saudi Arabia (which has oil we need) and Pakistan (which has nukes we don't want to see used or transferred). Merry sums up:

In taking his military into the heart of Islam and planting his country's flag into the soil of a foreign culture based on flimsy perceptions of a national threat, George W. Bush has brought his country and the world closer to that kind of Armageddon than it faced before. He did so on the basis of a world outlook and political idealism that are alluring, comforting, and widely embraced throughout American intellectual circles. They are also false and highly dangerous.

Strong stuff. This book shows that anti-war passion does not reside only on the left. Merry, an Establishment sort, whacks Bush and the neocons for turning America into the "Crusader State." And he calls for a foreign policy with less idealistic zeal. Cut deals with strongman dictators who can contain Islamic fundamentalism. Realize that "missionary democracy in the Middle East is not necessarily our friend, for it likely would foster fundamentalist and anti-American regimes in that strategically important region." Take the swagger out of U.S. diplomacy. Drop the tough talk about who is "evil" and who is not. Such actions, he maintains, only "exacerbate the civilizational war."

Instead, he advises, the United States to "foster the emergence of Islamic core states" and to not fret too much about their records on democracy and human rights. He calls for a rapprochement with Iran. He also suggests Washington does what's necessary to encourage China and Russia to join in a containment policy aimed at Islam. "What is required," he writes, "is an approach that is sustained, measured, defensive in nature, limited in ambition, and based on a sophisticated understanding of the cultural currents in play in the world."

Merry is indeed the anti-neocon. Forget any idealism. Lose the rhetoric about freedom, democracy and human rights. Don't give a damn about American hegemony and exceptionalism. Just figure out what must be done in practical and realistic terms to curtail the threat posed by Islamic extremism. It would be hard for me to endorse an overarching policy so free of sentiment and aspiration. But when idealism has been commandeered by the neocons for this misguided (and so far unending) war, the desire for a foreign policy devoid of such notions is understandable. Merry's provocative book is so hard-edged that it poses a challenge to neocons and their critics on the left. But his skewering of the Kristol crowd is so thorough and delicious that it makes one yearn for more tough-talk from the self-described realists of the foreign policy establishment.


David Corn writes The Loyal Opposition twice a month for Corn is also the Washington editor of The Nation and is the author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers).

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Two Faces of the New York Times, re Judith Miller

Why Was Miller Fit To Print?

from, copyrighted
Russ Baker
July 21, 2005

Investigative reporter and essayist Russ Baker is a longtime contributor to A contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review, he is the founder of the Real News Project, a new organization dedicated to revitalizing investigative journalism. He can be reached at

It would be a great understatement to say that The New York Times is in a difficult position when it comes to reporting on the case of Judith Miller, the paper's reporter who is currently in jail for refusing to identify sources in the Valerie Plame Wilson leak investigation. No one wants to see a journalist in jail—much less one who labors on behalf of the same news organization.

So it is understandable that the paper's owners want to back one of their employees, and uphold the larger principle of source confidentiality. The Times' editorial page, however, speaks for the entire paper and represents its most cherished values of truth and honesty. An editorial on the Miller case published on Tuesday failed to meet those standards. Appropriate compassion notwithstanding, the editors of the Times have failed to clarify the exact role of their controversial colleague, aware as they are of Miller's checkered professional record and her seeming disdain for standards the rest of the profession strives to uphold.

While defending its own, the paper also has a larger responsibility—both to its readers and to journalism—not to serve as a propaganda organ, obscuring key unresolved questions about Miller, her work and this particular case.

Two weeks ago, as Miller went off to serve a likely four-month sentence at a federal detention center, a profile of her by a Times media writer almost cartoonishly obfuscated her crucial role in peddling war with Iraq through her series of completely wrong reports fed to her by sources closely tied to the very same White House figures at the heart of the Plame affair.

Ms. Miller's polarizing personality… may also have led some to make her a symbol of the press's faulty reporting on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Ms. Miller was not alone in writing about the intelligence community's belief that Iraq possessed an impressive and frightening arsenal of such weapons.

Stenographer To Power?

Since then, the paper has done little to provide essential context to her mysterious role in the Plame affair, where, though she was one of several reporters of interest to prosecutors, she was the only one not to cooperate at all—and the only one, therefore, to go to jail. This, despite the perplexing fact that she never wrote a word about the matter, while others did.

Then came Tuesday's New York Times editorial. Headlined "A Jar of Red Herrings," it noted how complicated the affair had become, and sought to establish some basic principles.

"Not all confidential sources are Deep Throat, or heroic corporate whistle-blowers," it said, referring to the likely leakers whose names have surfaced, principally White House strategist Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff. "Sometimes they are government officials who are hoping to spread information that will embarrass their political opponents or promote a particular agenda."

What the editorial did not say was that, wittingly or not, Miller has built a career enabling such misinformation agendas and their propagators. Her recent reporting on scandals at the United Nations has focused almost exclusively on undermining the reputation of the independent-minded Secretary General Kofi Annan, and is entirely consistent with the objectives of a small circle in the highest reaches of the administration who want to reduce the world body's clout—once again, the same gang as in the Plame case.

The same pattern stretches back through much of her career, in which, among other things, she published numerous one-sided, anonymously sourced, alarmist reports in favor of a controversial anthrax vaccine backed by powerful insiders.

Given revelations during the days preceding the editorial, it seems increasingly likely that Miller herself might have been directly involved in an effort to reveal the identity of a covert operative, an effort that involved seeking to use that identity to put out false material designed to discredit a critic of the Bush administration.

Protected And Unaccountable

Despite growing doubts about her role, the paper asserts simply that "It doesn't matter whether we think a source is a good person or has good motivations. A reporter promises confidentiality, and the paper backs up the journalist because otherwise the public will not learn what it needs to know."

Yet, in fairness, how often has the public learned, through Miller's anonymous sources, what it "needs to know?" As for whether the source "is a good person" or "has good motivations," the New York Times' Washington Bureau has had a longstanding policy of voiding any confidentiality agreements when a source provides information that is false.

This was recently affirmed by Bill Kovach, a former Times bureau chief and founding director of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, in an interview with Salon. In the case of the presumed "sources" with whom Miller interacted, they were involved in seeking to discredit a man who had just written a truthful New York Times opinion piece, and to expose the man's wife as a covert CIA operative. In what way did Miller's sources help the public "learn what it needs to know" in this particular instance?

The Time's Tuesday editorial asks us to trust the Times' internal procedures, to take its word for the validity of its position: "It's up to the reporter and editor to determine whether information given under a promise of confidentiality is reliable." But what editor has vetted Miller's source? Is the newspaper willing to at least identify that person and make plain the chain of knowledge and stewardship inside the institution? In the past, when I have inquired about who supervises Miller, I have been told by her colleagues that she generally has no direct supervisor, and moreover, that she frequently appeals, often with success, to those above her editors, to reverse their decisions. Her pipeline is said to extend all the way to the paper's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., whose unwavering support for Ms. Miller over the years, irrespective of the situation, remains a mystery to many in that newsroom.

Smoke And Waivers

The NYT editorial notes that while Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper was able to provide testimony and avoid jail because of a "specific waiver" of confidentiality from Rove, Miller "says she has not received any such thing from her sources." It also says that "coerced waivers of confidentiality are meaningless."

But we don't actually know that the waivers were coerced, and we don't know why, if Rove gave Cooper a "specific [noncoerced] waiver," Miller could not obtain one as well.

How are we to believe Miller, given her past track record, in misrepresenting her sources and their agendas, at great cost to this country? When the people of the United States were reading Miller's articles during the months leading up to the war with Iraq, reasonable people could have concluded that Miller had real, unbiased, credible and diverse sources. Eventually, we learned from an internal memo from Miller herself, that most of her reporting of WMD evidence came from an Iraqi exile with low general credibility who was hoping to lead a post-Saddam regime.

Nevertheless, the editorial asserts, "The reporter, and the editors who are the writer's immediate supervisors, are the only ones who truly understand the nuances of the case."

Fine. But they owe the rest of the country's journalists—whose future ability to work with confidential sources and to operate with public credibility is affected by this—a far greater sense of what Miller's role was in the affair, and of what "nuances" are involved. This can be done without naming the source. For example, Miller could explain what the source told her, and if it was one or more sources, and whether she called the source or the source called her, without revealing the source's identity—which is the only issue involved in the confidentiality pledge.

As the Times editorial points out, Joseph Wilson was being honest in informing the public about the administration's efforts to mislead on WMD. And the White House was using the leak about his wife to deceive and distort.

But if the White House was seeking to put out misleading information, why was that not a Times story? Why did Miller, who covered weapons of mass destruction, not cover the Wilson saga when it first broke? Why did she not think it a worthy story to report the accuracy of Wilson's claims and the essential dishonesty of the White House's response?

In closing, the editorial underlines several conclusions, notably that "Journalists should not tailor their principles to the politics of the moment." By this, the paper means that, although Miller is not protecting honorable sources, that should not matter. Equally important, newspapers should not tailor their principles to the protection of their own interests and then insist that a higher cause is being served.

copyright noted.
home page for more information.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Punishing Pain: Gov's war on prescription drugs.

New York Times
July 19, 2005
Punishing Pain
Zephyrhills, Fla.

When I visited Richard Paey here, it quickly became clear that he posed no menace to society in his new home, a high-security Florida state prison near Tampa, where he was serving a 25-year sentence. The fences, topped with razor wire, were more than enough to keep him from escaping because Mr. Paey relies on a wheelchair to get around.

Mr. Paey, who is 46, suffers from multiple sclerosis and chronic pain from an automobile accident two decades ago. It damaged his spinal cord and left him with sharp pains in his legs that got worse after a botched operation. One night he woke up convinced that the room was on fire.

"It felt like my legs were in a vat of molten steel," he told me. "I couldn't move them, and they were burning."

His wife, Linda, an optometrist, supported him and their three children as he tried to find an alternative to opiates. "At first I was mad at him for not being able to get better without the medicines," she said. "But when he's tried every kind of therapy they suggested and he's still curled up in a ball at night crying from pain, what else can he do but take more medicine?"

The problem was getting the medicine from doctors who are afraid of the federal and local crusades against painkillers. Mr. Paey managed to find a doctor willing to give him some relief, but it was a "vegetative dose," in his wife's words.

"It was enough for him to lay in bed," Mrs. Paey said. "But if he tried to sit through dinner or use the computer or go to the kids' recital, it would set off a crisis, and we'd be in the emergency room. We kept going back for more medicine because he wasn't getting enough."

As he took more pills, Mr. Paey came under surveillance by police officers who had been monitoring the prescriptions. Although they found no evidence that he'd sold any of the drugs, they raided his home and arrested him.

What followed was a legal saga pitting Mr. Paey against his longtime doctor (and a former friend of the Paeys), who denied at the trial that he had given Mr. Paey some of the prescriptions. Mr. Paey maintains that the doctor did approve the disputed prescriptions, and several pharmacists backed him up at the trial. Mr. Paey was convicted of forging prescriptions.

He was subject to a 25-year minimum penalty because he illegally possessed Percocet and other pills weighing more than 28 grams, enough to classify him as a drug trafficker under Florida's draconian law (which treats even a few dozen pain pills as the equivalent of a large stash of cocaine).

Scott Andringa, the prosecutor in the case, acknowledged that the 25-year mandatory penalty was harsh, but he said Mr. Paey was to blame for refusing a plea bargain that would have kept him out of jail.

Mr. Paey said he had refused the deal partly out of principle - "I didn't want to plead guilty to something that I didn't do" - and partly because he feared he'd be in pain the rest of his life because doctors would be afraid to write prescriptions for anyone with a drug conviction.

If you think that sounds paranoid, you haven't talked to other chronic-pain patients who've become victims of the government campaigns against prescription drugs. Whether these efforts have done any good is debatable (and a topic for another column), but the harm is clear to the millions of patients who aren't getting enough medicine for their pain.

Mr. Paey is merely the most outrageous example of the problem as he contemplates spending the rest of his life on a three-inch foam mattress on a steel prison bed. He told me he tried not to do anything to aggravate his condition because going to the emergency room required an excruciating four-hour trip sitting in a wheelchair with his arms and legs in chains.

The odd thing, he said, is that he's actually getting better medication than he did at the time of his arrest because the State of Florida is now supplying him with a morphine pump, which gives him more pain relief than the pills that triggered so much suspicion. The illogic struck him as utterly normal.

"We've become mad in our pursuit of drug-law violations," he said. "Generations to come will look back and scarcely believe what we've done to sick people."


For Further Reading:

For more information on Richard Paey's case and others like it, visit the Pain Relief Network.

Treating Doctors as Drug Dealers: The DEA’s War on Prescription Painkillers (pdf) by Ronald T. Libby. Cato Institute, 28 pp., June 2005.

How Dumb Do They Think We Are

CNN: Inside Politics

Mark Shields, posted 7/18/05

How dumb do they think we are?

WASHINGTON (Creators Syndicate) -- In my line of work, you get lied to a lot.

There are the generally forgettable fibs, like a senator who's making his seventh political trip to New Hampshire since the first of the year insisting he has made no decision about a White House run.

The falsehoods you remember are bold and brassy. I will never forget President George H.W. Bush stating with a straight face that the nominee's race had never even crossed his mind when he picked Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court.

Presidential candidate Bill Clinton demonstrated early his flair for fiction by contradicting all his campaign's previous statements on his non-service in the military when he admitted that, yes, during the Vietnam War he actually had received a draft notice calling him to military service.

Why had Clinton never mentioned this fact before during the endless Q-and-A sessions about his military record? In a polygraph-punishing explanation, Bill Clinton lamely explained he had just "forgotten."

Let's be clear: If you were a young man of draft-eligible age during Vietnam, you might be excused for forgetting your first kiss or your first beer. But you would forever remember that ominous moment when the letter, carrying with it the full force and power of the U.S. government, arrived summoning you to bear arms.

So, too, did George H.W. Bush fully understand that his nomination of Clarence Thomas, an African-American jurist of modest legal achievement, would discomfort and demoralize many Democrats.

Today in Washington, the big, barefaced lie is very much back.

For two years, the George W. Bush White House had asserted that Bush's closest political advisor, Karl Rove, had nothing to do with press leaks revealing that the wife of the former U.S. ambassador whose report had publicly refuted administration claims that Saddam Hussein had attempted to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Africa for nuclear weapons was an undercover CIA officer.

Scratch those assertions: Karl Rove did tell Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper that former Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.

A senior Bush administration official told The Washington Post that, shortly after the publication of Wilson's piece in the New York Times -- which undercut the administration's case for launching a pre-emptive war against Iraq -- two top White House officials had called six journalists to disclose the identity and the position of Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife.

That same senior administration official said: "Clearly it (the leak 'outing' Plame) was meant purely and simply for revenge."

Are you ready for a barefaced lie? Listen to the Republican talking points. It is true that Rove did talk to Matt Cooper. But he was not trying to smear Wilson and thus silence a formidable critic of Bush's Iraq policy.

No, Rove's only motive was to make sure that Cooper and Time did not publish something that could turn out to be false. This is a side of the man we have not seen before -- selflessly saving gullible newsmen from publishing anything inaccurate.

Imagine how busy Rove must have been during Bush's 1994 race for Texas governor, when his campaign was accused of launching a whispering campaign in East Texas about Democratic Gov. Ann Richards' affinity for gays. Try as he must have, Karl just couldn't stop the circulation of those ugly rumors.

In 2000,George W. Bush's campaign was accused of spreading the vicious charge that Bush's main rival, Sen. John McCain, was unstable because of the time he had spent as a POW in isolation.

You just know Karl must have been speed-dialing reporters, valiantly trying to kill that slander. In 2004, the man who bankrolled the Swift Boat Veterans against John Kerry was one of Rove's oldest Texas allies.

Wayne Slater of The Dallas Morning News, who has covered Rove long and well, puts it this way: "Throughout his political career, bad things happen -- sometimes involving dirty tricks -- to his enemies or rivals." Is that because he's evil? "He's amoral. He doesn't set up a plan to damage, defeat or destroy his enemies because he's evil. He does it because he's so unbelievably competitive and amoral.

All of this raises one nagging question: Just how dumb do the Bush people believe we are, that we would swallow, for even a nanosecond, the fabrication that Karl Rove's only motive in calling reporters was to discourage inaccurate stories? Do they really think we are that stupid?

Find this article at: and amoral."

Monday, July 18, 2005

Poop, pomp, puff and . . . .Plame.

Poop, Pomp, Puff, and . . . Plame

USA TODAY, July 18, Three Letters, from New York to California, and places in between.

A. “The president is known for being loyal. Will his loyalty rest with his old friend Karl or with the people who re-elected him? He has promised to dismiss anyone who'd knowingly make a CIA operative's identity public. Is he a man of his word? I think it is the president's identity that will be "outed." --N. W. Koppelman, Santa Barbara, Calif.
B. “President Eisenhower, a man of high principles and character, demonstrated these qualities when, without hesitation, he fired his chief of staff Sherman Adams for accepting a vicuna coat as a gift from a supporter.

Today, Americans can judge for themselves the ethical and moral standards by which our current president conducts himself. White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove has been identified as a possible source for the leak that revealed the name of a CIA officer. This can be a federal offense and treason ("Plame probe heats up, but effects are chilling," Editorial, Thursday).

Yet President Bush hesitates to do what he has promised to do: fire the person who leaked the name of the CIA officer, placing her and her contacts at risk. Rove has demonstrated he can't be trusted with government secrets and does not belong in the White House.

Clearly, Bush is no Eisenhower.” --Philip Brunskill, Mayville, N.Y.
C. ” I find it quite disheartening that President Bush refuses to share any thoughts regarding Karl Rove and the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

Is Mr. Bush trying to hide something? Why is it that he can comment on all news events except those involving his friends? How or why should anyone trust the man for that kind of behavior?

This is a serious matter involving national security. Americans deserve to know the truth.” --Tom Jeffrey, Charleston, S.C.
Could it be that the blind deceit and deception of the Bush White House: “poop, pomp and puff,” is finally coming home to roost?
Paschal Baute

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A New Meanness in the Wortd

There is a new meanness in the world
fueled by a literal interpretation of God’s Word.

Car Bombs humanly guided to kill children.
Spies among us willing to kill the innocent.
Politicians and preachers willing to stereotype
those who believe differently,
to divide the country
for the sake of power and prestige.
Presidents and Governors willing to
jump into private family pain
to take sides for the sake of
political gain.

The bible was never meant to be
an Infallible message, without error.
Those who maintain that are deliberately
blind to facts, and to the deeper meaning
of God’s message, and they are likely to
get it wrong
as did Christians who believed slavery
was (it is) justified by the Bible,
as did males who believed women must
be subordinate to men, because “The Bible
says so.” (it does)
As did religious leaders who punished
scientists who disagreed with the “facts”
in the Bible.
The Bible is full of historical errors,
and was never meant to be Infallible.
The two accounts of creation in Genesis
chapters one and two disagree.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
all quote the Bible wrongly.
Jesus quoted the Bible wrongly when
he said
“Scriptures declare that rivers of living water
shall flow from the inmost being (heart, belly
in various translations) of anyone who
believes in me. . .” in John 7:38.
There is no such scripture anywhere in the
Bible. Did Jesus make it up?
Did the early Christians make it up and
put it in Jesus mouth?
Jesus predicted that he would return before
this generation had passed away. Matthew,
Mark and Luke all have this passage. All the
Christian community, included Paul, expected
Jesus’ return within their lifetimes.
It did not happen.
How come?
How did the entire early Christian community
misunderstand the prediction of Jesus
that he would return in their lifetime?
If Jesus said it that way, was that
not a false prophecy?
Hundreds of other discrepancies.
We cannot and are not intended to
take every word in the Bible literally.
We are bound to read in our
own assumptions and prejudices
as did Christians til our time
and even doing so now,
to judge some of us as further
from God as they are.
None of these prevent us from
accepting this Bible as the
authoritative Word of God to guide
us today, by the stories, life and
preaching of Jesus and the incomparable
Wisdom to be found, in both
But we must ask ourselves what was the
intention of the author. All were human
beings, and every passage had a context
and an intention.

To use God’s word, Allah’s words,
Mohammed’s words to harm others
is the greatest of evils.

See. Dr. Margaret Nutting Ralph
And God Said What
on the literary forms of the Bible
for your introduction.

Paschal Baute.
July 14, 2005

Friday, July 08, 2005

London and Terrorism, July 8, 2005

subtitle: The New Stealth Idolatry

The terrible, stunning news yesterday from London is that our open society continues to be under grave threat from those who will kill in God’s name. Our open society depends on trust, the belief that the person sitting next to you on a bus is not planning to kill you. It is increasingly not so. Terrorism is growing, not deceasing. Even in Iraq, though only the military leaders there will admit it. We all will live now with more fear.

The key source of terrorism is the total reliance on the written word as one’s source of authority from God. The Bible says, The Koran says, and we can and will find justification for anything we choose to do, any judgment we put on others. Any.

When we believe that our holy scripture is the inerrant Word of God, that every word in the Bible comes from God, then we can easily use God’s “authority” to judge others with different views as heathen, as anti-Christian, as even hostile to the faith. Politicans, preachers, and even religious leaders are doing this today, and it even comes from the Right Wingers in the White House.

The new evil in our society, not really new, but new in vigor, blindness and cost, both human and social, is the stealth idolatry of the religious enthusiast. Rather than the core summons to love God and our neighbor as ourselves, we are ready to judge other faith views as not only wrong, but perversely and intentionally wrong.

Preachers, politicians, Governor Jeb Bush, President Bush were willing to wade into the private family dispute of the Schiavo family, even while medical experts had pronounced her brain dead for 15 years. What is new is that the Religious Right, fueled by the Inerrant view of the Bible, is willing to use the bible to judge others and furthermore to divide society for the sake of political gain and power.

We need to ask ourselves what is it that fuels the Inerrant View of the Bible so that anyone can feel the authority of God behind their views simply by reference to God’s Word? Many factors exist, but at the core, I suggest, is the stubborn refusal to see that the Bible has a human history, that it is written by human authors, and that it is full of human error, inconsistencies and even false teaching for us today. It is also the deep fear that if we were to examine those facts, we should have to give up our faith, not just an anchor for faith, but faith itself. Therefore the bible must be fiercely defended against all “liberal” views, and this alone is the way I maintain my certain identity that I am saved by Christ.

It also greatly helps that everyone in my faith congregation and my own minister supports the same inerrant view. This often includes the belief that those who believe differently than we do are ready to undermine our society, our sense of morality, our beliefs, our family values, and even our government. Furthermore it is dangerous to talk to those who believe differently than we do.

I have the opportunity to address college students in central Kentucky, in classes dealing with Ethics, Theology, Philosophy, Bible History and Communication. The core of the new evil emerging in our society is, I suggest, the Stealth Idolatry of our own concepts, engaged in by left and right, believer and non-believer, scientist and non-scientist. It is hidden worship of one’s one way to God, our own belief system, whether theistic or atheistic.

Have we learned anything since we gave up the bible-supported views that slavery was justified, that woman’s role is to be subordinate to men, and the earth is not the center of the universe around which everything else revolves? Does scripture show us how to live in peace with one another?

We should be ready to give witness to our faith, but not to pass judgment on those whose convictions conflict with our own–unless the effects of those convictions are harmful. This means that we must struggle to walk very humbly before God, to seek the truth and stand for it with passion but never act as if we have exclusive claim upon it. When we consider the terrible harm done to millions in the history of religion, we must conclude that no moral crisis can ever dispense people of conscience from full respect for the freedom and responsibility of every other conscience.
You are confused about what has gone wrong, and how to set it right? the prophet asks. Then listen. This is what Yahweh asks of you, only this: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Brasch on Sandy O'Connor and her legacy,

And a Justice for All
by Walter Brasch,
July 3, 2005.

The president of the United States was adamant about how he was conducting his so-called “War on Terror.”

He believed he could classify anyone, even American citizens, as “enemy combatants,” hold them indefinitely in secret without charges ever being filed, deny protections of the Geneva Conventions, refuse the right to legal representation, and when it was in the administration’s best interest to bring to trial prisoners outside the established court system. Under a “gag order” governing those held prisoner at the U.S. Naval base at Guantánamo Bay, anyone who revealed information about anyone’s detention could be charged under the USA PATRIOT Act. The Bush administration further claimed the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay were on “foreign” soil and, thus, not subject to American jurisprudence.

Several times in our nation’s history, the Supreme Court of the United States had ruled that fear and even terrorism might be a dominating concern, but that under the Constitution observation of rights and of law are the best ways to preserve the democracy. A President’s power, even in times of war, is not absolute, the Court several times determined.

In June 2004, that Court dealt the Bush administration a major defeat in how it treated American citizens and, by implication, others as well. In a stinging 33-page page opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor firmly stated:

It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our Nation’s commitment to due process is most severely tested; and it is in those times that we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad. . . . The imperative necessity for safeguarding these rights to procedural due process under the gravest of emergencies has existed throughout our constitutional history, for it is then, under the pressing exigencies of crisis, that there is the greatest temptation to dispense with guarantees which, it is feared, will inhibit government action. . . . It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties, which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.)...

[T]hreats to military operations posed by a basic system of independent review are not so weighty as to trump a citizen’s core rights to challenge meaningfully the Government’s case and to be heard by an impartial adjudicator. . . . .We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the Nation’s citizens. [E]ven the war power does not remove constitutional limitations safeguarding essential liberties. [T]he Great Writ of habeas corpus [is] an important judicial check on the Executive’s discretion in the realm of detentions. . . [I]t would turn our system of checks and balances on its head to suggest that a citizen could not make his way to court with a challenge to the factual basis for his detention by his government, simply because the Executive opposes making available such a challenge.

Any process in which the Executive’s factual assertions go wholly unchallenged or are simply presumed correct without any opportunity for the alleged combatant to demonstrate otherwise falls constitutionally short . . . [T]he constitutional limitations safeguarding essential liberties . . . remain vibrant even in times of security concerns.

Nevertheless, even after the ruling, the “law-and-order” Bush administration continued to delay, trivialize, and attempt to subvert the Court’s decisions.

Justice O’Connor, who last week announced her resignation, was probably the one justice whose stinging rebuke of Presidential excess represented not just her own opinion, but those of both the liberal and conservative wings, and why she had to be the one to write the Court’s decision.

Justice O’Connor was Ronald Reagan’s first Supreme Court nomination, and after unanimous confirmation by the Democrat-controlled Senate became the Court’s first female justice. She had grown up on an isolated Arizona cattle ranch, entered Stanford University at the age of 16, graduated with a B.A. in economics, and then in two years, instead of the usual three, graduated from Stanford Law School, third in her class. (William Rehnquist was first in the class). But, she was denied employment innumerous times because she was female. Eventually, she became a prosecuting attorney, civilian lawyer for the Army, Senate majority leader in Arizona (the first female to hold that position in the nation), and an Arizona appellate court judge.

At the time she was appointed to the Supreme Court, she was a political conservative, recommended to President Reagan by Sen. Barry Goldwater, one of the nation’s most respected conservative politicians. During her 24-year court career, the independent Justice O’Connor usually thought through cases not on the basis of political expediency or entrenched judicial philosophy, but on a case-by-case basis, thus becoming the Court’s swing vote on innumerable issues. On 5-4 decisions, she was in the majority more than 90 percent of the time.

Representing conservative issues, she was firmly a states’ rights advocate, and was the swing vote to uphold both the “three strikes and you’re out law” and to approve the use of public funding for “vouchers” to children to attend private schools. In December 2000, she cast what was the deciding vote that essentially elected George W. Bush to his first term.

Citing the First Amendment freedom of association clause, she was the swing vote that the Boy Scouts could exclude gays. But, she also was the swing vote that not only struck down a Texas law banning homosexual activity, but also forcefully stated that gays have a constitutional right of privacy.

On liberal issues, she consistently voted in the majority in several 5-4 decisions to uphold abortion-rights cases, was the deciding vote to declare school-sponsored prayer and religious displays on public lands unconstitutional, upheld the rights of the disabled to sue states, and determined that affirmative action in university admissions criteria was constitutional.

Her centrist views in a divided court often forced other justices to modify their own views in order to gain her vote. On dozens of critical social issues, “she held the balance on whether the country would tilt all the way to the right or try to find a compromise between ideological poles,” said Kathleen Sullivan, professor of Constitutional Law at Stanford. For more than two decades, said Justice Antonin Scalia, perhaps the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court, “she shaped the jurisprudence of this court more than any other associate justice.” But, that reputation for independence and being the swing vote also brought her scorn. O’Connor’s role on the Court left the perception among many legal scholars that she was opportunistic and lacked an intellectual honesty, Dr. Charles Kessler, professor of government at Claremont-McKenna College, told the Arizona Republic. “Her dilemma is that she’s made a principle of not having a principle,” he said.

Justice O’Connor -- a scratch golfer, who also enjoyed tennis and whitewater rafting -- did not retire because of her age, physical or medical condition, or because she was mentally tired, but because of a long-standing commitment to her family. Known for treating her staff and co-workers as beloved members of an extended family, she retired to care for her husband, also a Stanford Law graduate, who has Alzheimer’s Disease.

Part of President Bush’s legacy will be what he does with the nomination for Justice O’Connor’s replacement. If he continues to disregard the advice of those who aren’t his closest political advisors and sticks to his promise to nominate someone acceptable to the evangelical right wing of his party, his legacy may be further tarnished. Not only would he show disrespect of the legacy of Justice O’Connor, but will have set into motion a political battle that may eventually lead not only to a greater division in the country, but of a Supreme Court that may be responsible for a further reduction of Constitutional freedoms.

Walter Brasch’s latest book is America’s Unpatriotic Acts; The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights (Peter Lang Publishing, 2005). Dr. Brasch is a former newspaper reporter and editor, and is currently a university professor of journalism and a freedom of information officer for the Society of Professional Journalists. You may contact Dr. Brasch at:

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Reality Check for Bush and his views on Iraq

Bush's War on Terrorism Needs a Reality Check,
article by Dan Cohen at
Note there are only two persons speaking the truth about the reality in Iraq
and they are not in the White House, but the Military Generals.
Note also what #43 did not say in his speech and polls taken
since show the American People were NOT persuaded.
The White House has tried to divide this country into
true believers and anti-believers,
patriots and betrayers,
it is no longer working.
Thank God the American People are starting to
realize how thoroughly and wrongly they have
been conned into an unnecessary, illegal, immoral
and impossible war.
Paschal Baute

Friday, July 01, 2005

Dangerous Incompetency in the White House

June 30, 2005
New York Times
By Bob Herbert

The president who displayed his contempt for Iraqi militants two years ago with the taunt "bring 'em on" had to go on television Tuesday night to urge Americans not to abandon support for the war that he foolishly started but can't figure out how to win.

The Bush crowd bristles at the use of the "Q-word" - quagmire - to describe American involvement in Iraq. But with our soldiers fighting and dying with no end in sight, who can deny that Mr. Bush has gotten us into "a situation from which extrication is very difficult," which is a standard definition of quagmire?

More than 1,730 American troops have already died in Iraq. Some were little more than children when they signed up for the armed forces, like Ramona Valdez, who grew up in the Bronx and was just 17 when she joined the Marines. She was one of six service members, including four women, who were killed when a suicide bomber struck their convoy in Falluja last week.

Corporal Valdez wasn't even old enough to legally drink in New York. She died four days shy of her 21st birthday.

On July 2, 2003, with evidence mounting that U.S. troop strength in Iraq was inadequate, Mr. Bush told reporters at the White House, "There are some who feel that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, Bring 'em on."

It was an immature display of street-corner machismo that appalled people familiar with the agonizing ordeals of combat. Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, was quoted in The Washington Post as saying: "I am shaking my head in disbelief. When I served in the Army in Europe during World War II, I never heard any military commander - let alone the commander in chief - invite enemies to attack U.S. troops."

The American death toll in Iraq at that point was about 200, but it was clear that a vicious opposition was developing. Mr. Bush had no coherent strategy for defeating the insurgency then, and now - more than 1,500 additional deaths later - he still doesn't.

The incompetence at the highest levels of government in Washington has undermined the U.S. troops who have fought honorably and bravely in Iraq, which is why the troops are now stuck in a murderous quagmire. If a Democratic administration had conducted a war this incompetently, the Republicans in Congress would be dusting off their impeachment manuals.

The administration seems to have learned nothing in the past two years. Dick Cheney, who told us the troops would be "greeted as liberators," now assures us that the insurgency is in its last throes. And the president, who never listened to warnings that he was going to war with too few troops, still refuses to acknowledge that there are not enough U.S. forces deployed to pacify Iraq.

The Times's Richard A. Oppel Jr. wrote an article recently about a tragically common occurrence in Iraq: U.S. forces fight to free cities and towns from the grip of insurgents, and then leave. With insufficient forces left behind to secure the liberated areas, the insurgents return.

"We have a finite number of troops," said Maj. Chris Kennedy of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. "But if you pull out of an area and don't leave security forces in it, all you're going to do is leave the door open for them to come back. This is what our lack of combat power has done to us throughout the country."

The latest fantasy out of Washington is that American-trained Iraqi forces will ultimately be able to do what the American forces have not: defeat the insurgency and pacify Iraq.

"We've learned that Iraqis are courageous and that they need additional skills," said Mr. Bush in his television address. "And that is why a major part of our mission is to train them so they can do the fighting, and then our troops can come home."

Don't hold your breath. This is another example of the administration's inability to distinguish between a strategy and a wish.

Whether one agreed with the launch of this war or not - and I did not - the troops doing the fighting deserve to be guided by leaders in Washington who are at least minimally competent at waging war. That has not been the case, which is why we can expect to remain stuck in this tragic quagmire for the foreseeable future.