Thursday, June 30, 2005

Time To Walk the Walk

The other night, the President gave us yet another set of justifications in the never ending backtrack of why we‘re in Iraq. This justification is actually something I can accept. We now went to liberate the Iraqi people, and give them the gift of democracy.

What a great gift to give! The right of the people to elect their leaders, a government of laws rather than whims and answerable to its citizens, self-determination, due process, the rights of liberty and persuit of happiness are all values we Americans most cherish. We may disagree whether this was a sufficient reason to make war on a people, but we must unify in full agreement that this gift is precious.

Call me cynical, but show me I'm wrong. After the WMDs, the drone aircraft that would create mushroom clouds in our cities, aluminum tubes, mobile biolabs, secret al Qaeda bases teaching Ricin 101, yellow cake, cakewalks, candy and roses, my bullshit detector has redlined. Show me we're not there to fulfill a PNAC (Project for a New American Century) pipedream. Show me we're not there to control their resources and build permanent American military bases. Show me that we can live our American values and give the people of Iraq our greatest gift, the right of self determination and democracy.

It's time to work with the Iraqi interim government on a timetable for a phased withdrawal of foreign forces. The interim government has been elected by the Iraqi people, their security forces now number over 100,000 to the 10,000 insurgents claimed by the administration. On the one year anniversary of the transfer of power to the Iraqi interim government, their elected prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is requesting a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces. Earlier this year, Zogby international polled the Shia population, who constitute 60% of the Iraqi population, and 69% agree that occupation forces should begin to withdraw.

By January, Iraq will have a new constitution and a fully elected parliament. It's time to begin the transfer our gift to this new Iraq. It's time for the new Iraq to begin their own path, and rebuild their nation. It's time to return the treasures we seized early during the invasion, such as the palates of dollars that were transferred to the United States, with full accounting. It's time for the Iraqi people to manage their own contracts for rebuilding their infrastructure. It's time for them to provide for their own security.

If we can match the words that stated our ideals of a free and democratic Iraq, we can unite in celebration of the gift we gave. We can celebrate the service of our troops, reassure our wounded, and know that those who made the ultimate sacrifice didn't do so in vain.

Our public debate as to whether the Administration violated the public trust, whether incompetents were placed in power as occupation authority, whether contracts were awarded and managed in the best interest of the American people, whether our policies violated the humane treatment of prisoners , etc.. But we can’t deny ourselves a celebration of unity and service of that great gift we gave.

This weekend, we celebrate the 229th anniversary of our own independence. The path was never easy, and the sacrifice was great. But we stand united as a people knowing that the trials and tribulations of our darkest hours were worth price paid. It’s time for the Iraqi people to decide how they’ll be celebrating and sacrificing for their independence.


The Iraq War: Departure Does Not Mean Defeat

President Addresses Nation, Discusses Iraq, War on Terror

On edit. My links don't seem to be working, and I don't understand why. If you want to get to them, cut and paste these:

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

RIP Shelby Foote

Shelby Foote, 88, passed on yesterday. He's best known for his civil war series and appearance in Ken Burns series.

To be honest, I always had reservations about Foote as a historian, but thought he did a masterful job at describing the military history of the Civil War. He always struck me as part apologist and part revisionist whenever he treaded onto the cause and meaning of that war.

In anycase, I appreciate his documentation of our nations greatest wedge and threat to our union. He will be missed.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Candy and Roses or Orwell's Perpetual War?

Roll back to 2003.

"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." - Donald Rumsfeld Feb. 7, 2003


"That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years." - Donald Rumsfeld June 25, 2005

Greg Mitchell asks if Cheney isn't our own Baghdad Bob in the person of D.C. Dick

Sunday, June 26, 2005

I don't care if it rains or freezes...

Let me preface admitting I'm your typical lapsed Catholic. Lot's of hope and I think good acts, but the faith is close to running on empty. I wasn't always this way. I think it had something to do with my univeristy level theology classes. The failure of the church to deal with pedophile priests and naive view of human sexuality didn't help much. Besides, secular humanism provided me with a path to similar ends, with science rather than dogma being the guiding light.

I do remember a time when the religious left held the moral high ground. They were prominent leaders and thinkers in the civil rights and Vietnam anti-war movements. Back in those good old days when they had folk music during mass, there was an emphasis social justice, and acceptence of the dignities of man. I don't recall many religious leaders of that day obsessing over whether a cartoon character visits a family with two mommies. The preachers and priest seemed more concerned with Christian acceptence of all humanity.

We all know the current state of affairs. A congressman tries to amend an appropriations bill, to control Officers in the Air Force Acadamy from using their position of power to evangelize cadets, many who are Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, non-evangelical Christian, agnostics, or atheists. This simple request was based on complaints by constituents, who said it was resulting in religious bigotry and a hostile environment, which had the potential of impacting unit cohesion. It resulted in this litany:

"Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians," said Rep. John Hostettler.

I won't go into the Federalist and anti-Federalist arguments made by our founders (who were Christian, Universalist, Deist, and even agnostic), as to why there was a need for a wall of separation for the benefit of both government and religion. I was just wondering where our progressives of faith were hiding, since I hadn't heard much from them in awhile.

It seems like they wish to reemerge into the public discourse.

A new, well-organized religious group has emerged. And guess what: It actually supports Christian values.

The Reverend Timothy F. Simpson, a Presbyterian minister and the group’s director of religious affairs, said in an interview Wednesday that the Christian left has for too long allowed the Christian right to be the public face of his religion in America. “The language of our faith has been placed in the service of policy ends that don’t reflect the Gospel, and we have become deeply troubled over that,” he said.

The Christian right, he says, in the persons of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson, has come to stand for bigotry, intolerance, and division. Simpson says that his organization will try to repair the damage done by the right’s insistence that the United States is a “Christian nation” that ought to be governed according to their narrow interpretation of Scripture.

“I understand that the truth can be spoken by Muslims, and the truth can be spoken by Jews. The truth can be spoken by atheists,” said Simpson. “And listen: An atheist who stands for the interests of the neighbor, an atheist who stands for the interests of poor people at the margins, for the oppressed, is worth more than a hundred Christians who have made their bed with the fat cats, because that atheist is actually articulating the ends of the kingdom of God.”


Visit their website: Christian Alliance for Progress

Articles of Note:

The Armstrong Williams NewsHour, by Frank Rich at the NY Times

The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense. If you liked the fake government news videos that ended up on local stations - or thrilled to the "journalism" of Armstrong Williams and other columnists who were covertly paid to promote administration policies - you'll love the brave new world this crowd envisions for public TV and radio.

"Fair and balanced" -- the McCarthy way

Tomlinson's conviction is so strong he once suggested to the CPB board that Fox News anchor Brit Hume be invited to "talk to public broadcasting officials about how to create balanced news programming," according to a report broadcast May 20 on National Public Radio.

Tomlinson's charge of liberal bias runs counter to two nationwide polls conducted by the CPB in 2002 and 2003, which found little concern among Americans about bias in public broadcasting. The CPB is a federally funded agency that serves as an umbrella organization for public radio and television. Created by Congress, its purpose is both to help raise money and awareness for public broadcasting and to protect it from political pressure. But now the CPB itself has become the source of such pressure.

Tomlinson's attempt to push back the so-called liberal media is not surprising given his journalistic past -- which is where Fulton Lewis Jr., the broadcaster with the intriguing, albeit distant, connection to the ongoing debate, comes in. A prominent radio broadcaster in the '40s, '50s and '60s, Lewis was known for his complete lack of objectivity. At his commercial peak he was heard on more than 500 radio stations and boasted a weekly audience of 16 million listeners. An erstwhile Rush Limbaugh, Lewis was the master of the partisan smear who rarely strayed from GOP talking points. In 1948, New York Herald Tribune radio columnist John Crosby suggested that Lewis "ought to be recognized as a campaigner, not as a commentator, and his national air time be paid for and so listed by the Republican National Committee."

Active Iraq Soldier: Karl, Come over _here_ and say that, Chickehawk...

Deadly immunity, by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

When a study revealed that mercury in childhood vaccines may have caused autism in thousands of kids, the government rushed to conceal the data -- and to prevent parents from suing drug companies for their role in the epidemic.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Karl Rove's Rabbit Hole

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. - Karl Rove

September 11th, 2001 I was driving to work when the NPR station I was listening to interupted Morning Edition to say that a jet liner had crashed into the World Trade Center. The first thought I had was "I hope this is just an accident." I recalled the 1993 bombing. Tom Clancy's "Debt Of Honor" crossed my mind. Less than a year before, we had witnessed the tenacity of Bin Laden to strike us with the suicide bombing of the Cole. I knew that this was probably not an accident.

As I pulled into the parking lot, NPR announced that a second plane had crashed into the South Tower. I was positive that we were under attack.

I went to the office, ran into a few coworkers, and of course we were all stunned and asking everyone who wandered by "did you hear"? We turned on a TV in our conference room, and watched the video of the second plane crashing over and over. We watched the scene as it unfolded with rescue worker, police and fire fighters, summoning all their skills and courage, trying to save as many people as possible. At 9:30, people started showing up for a planned meeting. As stunned as we were, we turned off the TV, and made a feeble attempt at preserving normalcy. About 20 minutes into the meeting, a coworker came in, and spoke to one of my colleagues, who was also a Disaster Medical Assistance Team worker in the Public Health Service. He then told us that the Pentagon had been hit. He knew that he'd probably be activated shortly, and we cancelled the meeting. While he was contacting his DMAT team to get their stuff together, we were implementing our own informatics disaster recovery plan.

Our building was closed, and I hurried home to wait on my children returning from school, I glued myself to the television waiting for the next shoe to drop. I watched as people chose to jump to their death rather than perish in the inferno. I watched as the towers collapsed, knowing that they were filled with rescue workers. I knew we were now at war.

I grew up in Hoboken, NJ, directly across from midtown Manhattan. The Trade Center was being built while I was in high school. There were parks and other spots along the smallish Hoboken palisades, where teenagers would gather to watch the submarine races, with the fantastic backdrop of the New York skyline. Between the amore, we'd sit and watch what was then becoming the worlds largest buildings and how it defined that view. Having left the area, it was always the first thing you'd see driving up the New Jersey turnpike that reminded you that you were almost home.

I did not say to myself, "that's some bad pilot." I did not sit there, after hearing that we're under attack, reading a story to second graders. My first reaction was shock, turned to fear, turned to grief, turned to anger, turned to a desire to deal with those who made this happen. I turned to our government, in the expectation that they would present a solution to what happened, and make it unlikely that this would ever happen again. Those, Mr. Rove, were my first thoughts. And yes Mr. Rove, I am a proud liberal.

But my feelings aren’t as important as my expectation of my leadership. One being that my elected leader show good judgment and contribute to the best solution to the problems we faced as people. In the face of the al Qaeda threat I almost laugh at your characterization of liberals wanting to understand our enemy.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” - Sun Tzu

Just as Yosemite Sam, who muttered “Of course you know this means war” at every opportunity, could never defeat Bugs Bunny, you will not defeat terrorism or make us more secure by making war your first, last, and only solution. You will not defeat terrorism with the false frames of nonexistent Iraq threats. You will not defeat terrorism until you fully understand what motivates people into putting their cause and beliefs ahead of their own self interest, and makes them willing to blow themselves up. Until you understand that perpetual war is only a small part of an overall solution, you, your administration, and unfortunately the rest of us are doomed to repeat this history, never learning its lessons.

You helped take us to war, Mr. Rove. Not only against the real enemy, but you manipulated public opinion to wage a more serious war against a people who posed marginal or no threat to us. You chose to ignore the international communities concerns and moved almost unilaterally, save a faux guise of a coalition of the arm twisted and bought off. You violated the trust of not only the world, but your own people with exaggerated claims, third hand accounts of criminals and drunks, and discredited evidence. Professionals in your administration and military, who warned you that the lack of planning, false facts, and consensus building, might lead to a morass were fired, retired, or subject to character assassination. Those who supported the myths and distortions, and otherwise lacked good judgment were promoted, given solemn awards, or keys to the public bank. The goodwill toward America that was almost unanimous after 9/11, has since been squandered on a poorly planned, poorly executed, and poorly managed pipedream.

Perhaps you understand this and chose to use your sickening soundbites to create a good feelings among the heehawing Governor Pataki, the silent Mayor Bloomberg, and the rest of the conservatives who continue to reward failed leadership. Perhaps your arsenal is so strained that all you can do is blame those of us that expected more of our leaders, and are sincerely concerned with their lack of wisdom and judgment. Perhaps you understand that your message rings hollow, after attacking an innocent people, while those states who continue to actively support terrorists are called “friends” by your boss.

You took your best shot, Mr. Rove, but we aren’t quite laughing with you.

Update: Visit our friends at Daily Kos, and check out noinfo'sRove: The Paragraph before. The boy's got soul and spunk in his rant.

Also of note, is Joe Conason's Salon article, Karl Rove is a liar. It's worth the wade through the madnatory ad view.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Saving Big Bird's Privates

The Assault On Public Broadcasting

In 1967, President Johnson signed The Public Broadcasting Act , which established Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The act begins with the simple words, “It is in the public interest…” In signing the bill, President Johnson spoke these words:

In 1862, the Morrill Act set aside lands in every State--lands which belonged to the people--and it set them aside in order to build the land-grant colleges of the Nation.

So today we rededicate a part of the airwaves--which belong to all the people--and we dedicate them for the enlightenment of all the people.

Enlightenment is often in the eyes of the beholder.

“The character [Tinky-Winky], whose voice is obviously that of a boy, has been found carrying a red purse in many episodes and has become a favorite character among gay groups worldwide. Now, further evidence that the creators of the series intend for Tinky Winky to be a gay role model have surfaced. He is purple -- the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle -- the gay-pride symbol.” - Jerry Fallwell

I guess you can't please everyone.

The decades long conservative attack on Public Broadcasting has entered a new phase. It’s a two pronged pincer attack. On one hand, congressional conservatives are keeping up the fight to defund the institution. On June 16th, for instance, the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut various public broadcasting budgets nearly in half. Cooler minds prevailed and much of the cut proposed by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) was restored. The CPB Funding Restoration Amendment passed the House by 2-1 margin.

It’s clear that the outpouring of public activism swayed the minds of the GOP dominated House. Countless phone calls, letters, petitions, and lobbying have won the skirmish. Has the public interest won? Not so fast...

The more insidious prong of the pincer attack is the stacking of the CPB with conservative ideologues. If they can't defund the public airwaves, at least they can transform it into a version of FOX lite. From encouraging local stations to broadcast shows like "Journal Editorial Report", to hiring an ombudsman and consultant to root out so-called liberal bias in shows like Bill Moyers' "NOW" program. CPB Chair, Kenneth Tomlinson's latest move is the appointment of Republican National Committee Co-Chair Patricia de Stacy Harrison as President of CPB.

If they can't rid themselves of a public interest institution, they'll turn it into a beast that progressives and moderates won't support.

Having done our part in the restoration of funding, it's more important now to keep PBS and NPR to turning into another cog in the right wing noise machine. Here's some links that I hope will help us keep the CPB and public broadcasting an independent media, free from the political fray, and the rare bit of excellence it has been to date.

Sign The People For The American Way's petition to dump Kenneth Tomlinson

Media Matters' Hands Off Public Broadcasting

Bill Moyers: "The Radical Right Wing is Very Close to Achieving a Longtime Goal of Undermining the Independence of Public Broadcasting"

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"The American people should be made aware of the trend toward monopolization of the great public information vehicles and the concentration of more and more power over public opinion in fewer and fewer hands."

- Spiro T. Agnew

Sometimes even Spiro Our Hero can be right. Yet, in this information age it is at times possible to separate the signal from the noise of eight figure salaried bloviating gas bags of talk radio, partisan spin doctors, and The Fighting 101st Keyboarders on the op-ed pages of major dailies.

I came across an article written by an undergraduate communications major, for the Oregon State University's Daily Barometer. Ryan Greene frames the case for official inquiry into the President's violation of public trust and misrepresentation before congress with the conciseness and elegant simplicity of Occam's razor. It succeeds where our so-called liberal media has failed.

"Smoking gun" or no gun at all?

So now the cat is out of the bag. The Downing Street Memo (known among us cynics as the "smoking gun memo") has been released to the public, and it points its finger directly at Bush and his administration's attempts to justify a war we never should have fought. The fight over why we went to war and, perhaps more importantly, whether the American people and Congress were lied to has flared up once again.

Let's back up. What exactly is the Downing Street Memo? What does it say? Why is everyone so fired up? The memo itself is from a meeting held by the British Prime Minister, eight months before the invasion of Iraq. The main point everyone seems to be focusing on -- and rightly so -- is the memo's commentary on Bush's agenda in the Iraqi conflict. At one point, the memo states, "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

This is why more than 120 Democrats from both the House and the Senate are banging down Bush's door, demanding answers. It is also why more than 560,000 American citizens led by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., have signed a petition asking that Bush address the memo in detail. And why shouldn't he?

Let's get one thing straight here -- this memo doesn't exactly mean we've caught anyone red-handed. At best, it means that sources inside Great Britain understood the gist of the White House's intent on Iraq and its methods in reaching its goal. It is insider information, yes, but it is British insider information, not American. So it won't have quite the same effect as the Watergate tapes. Perhaps calling the document the "smoking gun memo" is reaching a little bit. It's not enough to condemn anyone.

It is, however, enough evidence for America as a whole to want to start looking for more. And this is why Bush needs to stand up and speak out now.

Every advance made by Democratic congressmen has been stymied by Republicans, both within Congress and from the White House. When the Democrats in Congress tried to hold a meeting discussing the memo and its implications, the Republicans managed to relegate them to the basement, and hold 11 votes at the same time as the meeting. No matter what your stance on the issue, there is one thing you have to admit: that's a little underhanded.

When 122 Democrats sent Bush a letter, no reply. When Conyers brought the petition with more than half a million American signatures on it, they weren't even admitted in to deliver it. Why? Why such resistance?

If the Bush administration hasn't misled Congress or the country, if they are innocent of this accusation, then what is there to fear? Why not address the public? Tell them what they want to know. Confront the memo, publicly, with your chest bared; knowing full well that, once a full and proper impartial investigation is complete, the country will know once and for all that George W. Bush is no liar.

But that's not happening. Big surprise. Instead, the White House sends back retorts insisting that Conyers and his allies are "simply trying to rehash history." The Republican majority in Congress has clamped their figurative hands around their ears, declaring that they do not wish to seek, hear, or otherwise know whether they were deceived by the Bush administration.

I'm not even sure why there is a debate over this. The demand from the side of the Democrats is one of further investigation. No one is demanding impeachment yet, but misleading Congress is defined by the Constitution as an impeachable offense. Now we have evidence that the Bush administration may have (repeat: MAY HAVE) misled Congress, and there is a huge fight over whether or not we should even investigate!

The bottom line is that there are people in the administration that are afraid to confront this situation. They are trying to avoid it, and they are trying to outlast the American people's attention span. Thus far, the White House has been unwilling to even defend itself to the public, choosing instead to ignore those who demand answers and trying to hush up debate.

We, as a nation, have found ourselves in a situation where someone high up may have done some dishonest things. Half the country has become suspicious, and started asking some uncomfortable questions. The shame of it all is that the other half thinks we shouldn't even be asking these questions at all.

"Holy Mudhead, Mackerel! More Science High, it's, it's disappeared!"

As a follow-up to Monday's entry, two more reports have been released, which are critical of the Bush administration policies of hiding, distorting, and obfuscating scientific reports.

First, the ACLU has put together a compelling summary....Let them speak for themselves:

Science Under Siege By Bush Administration, ACLU Charges

WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union released a report today examining government policies and practices that have hampered academic freedom and scientific inquiry since September 11, 2001. The report sheds new light on how these policies curtail basic rights and put all Americans at risk. "Attacks on scientific freedom have the same effect on our democracy as attacks on political freedom," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Curtailing scientific freedom in the name of national security is bad for science, bad for freedom and simply not effective in increasing the safety of America."

The report, Science Under Siege, connects the dots between several different areas where misguided government policies are affecting science. Among the abuses the ACLU examines in the report are:

  • moves to overclassify information and designate whole areas of research as "sensitive but unclassified;"

  • outright censorship and prescreening of scientific articles before publication;
    exclusion of foreign students from access to research projects;

  • suppression of environmental and public health information; and

  • increased restrictions on materials and technology commonly used in basic scientific research.

Throughout the report, the ACLU challenges claims by the Bush administration that such policies are ultimately beneficial for national security, and points to documented cases in which the administration has distorted scientific and academic inquiry for particular political purposes.

"This report makes clear the extent to which the Bush administration has hampered the pursuit of knowledge and scientific inquiry," said Tania Simoncelli, the Technology and Science Fellow with the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project. "It has diminished America’s standing as a magnet for students and intellectuals around the world, had a chilling effect on many practicing scientists, and set terrible precedents for the government control of information."

According to the ACLU, restrictions on the free flow of information have jeopardized America’s current global leadership in the sciences. In addition to policies implemented post-9/11, the report notes an ongoing erosion of environmental and public health standards, including mercury emissions, global climate change, sexual education and mountaintop removal mining.

The ACLU recommends a series of reforms including a halt to overclassification, the elimination of the "sensitive but unclassified" designation, the removal of censorship and publication restrictions, dropping unnecessary restrictions on foreign students and scholars, maintaining the fundamental research exemption and protecting science from undue political interference.

"The future security of our nation will flow from our global scientific strength and leadership," said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project. "Attempts to achieve security through control and repression of information will never work, and will only undermine that leadership. The administration must reverse its misguided and damaging policies."

The full report is available at: PDF Document

In a related story, 163 scientists, sent US Game and Wildlife officials an open letter of concern about new rules prohibiting government biologists to consider genetic diversity of endangered species, when deciding whether they should be romoved from the list.

In their press release, Sally Stefferud, a former FWS biologist and signatory to the letter says, "This new policy is a clear violation of the agency's mission under the Endangered Species Act to use the best available science. It lessens the agency's ability to protect the nation's wildlife and mandates irrevocable risks to the genetic diversity that is the very basis of their survival."

Update: Check out Chris Bowers' take on Bush's fact fudging

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Representive John Conyers Slams Washington Post Coverage Of the Downing Street Memo And Hearing

By the way, the "Downing Street Memo" is actually the minutes of a British cabinet meeting. In the meeting, British officials - having just met with their American counterparts - describe their discussions with such counterparts. I mention this because that basic piece of context, a simple description of the memo, is found nowhere in Milbank's article.

Anyone who missed the hearing, you can watch it by going to CSAPAN and searching out "House Judiciary Cmte. Democrats Meeting on Downing Street Memo and Iraq War (06/16/2005)"

The Downing Street Memo is an excellent site, following this story.

An open letter to the Penguin Group from David Brock

How responsible should a publisher be for fact checking their authors?

Monday, June 20, 2005

The American Prospect just released an analysis by Chris Mooney, regarding the rewritting of the Report on Global Warming. Check out the memo written by Rick Piltz, who resigned in protest.

Low-Ball Warming

"I believe the overarching problem is that the administration … does not want and has acted to impede forthright communication of the state of climate science and its implications for society." As Piltz goes on to say, although he has worked in different administrations, none has been so bad: "I have not seen a situation like the one that has developed under this administration during the past four years, in which politicization by the White House has fed back directly into the science program in such a way as to undermine the credibility and integrity of the program in its relationship to the research community, to program managers, to policymakers, and to the public interest."

Update: The folks at Think Progress put together a list of scientific reports similary doctored by the administration.

The White House’s White-Out Problem

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I came accross this article from the Longview Institute that I thought would be worth sharing.

The New Right-Wing Permissiveness

Despite the Justice Department’s report that violent crime in the United States has been declining, two recent crime waves raise serious questions about our national morality in an era of right-wing dominance. One was the corporate crime spree that led to the collapse of ENRON and WorldCom in 2001 and 2002. The other is the abuse of prisoners at Abu Gharib prison in Iraq that produced those gruesome photographs. Both crime waves raise parallel questions: are these the acts of a few misguided individuals or do they reflect some deeper problems in our culture?

Right-wing commentators have insisted that in both cases the problem was caused by a few misguided and troubled individuals. No need for any further scrutiny; the only issue is to punish the bad guys. But this resort to the “bad apple” theory is actually the leading edge of “the new right-wing permissiveness”. Conservatives have long blamed the permissiveness of liberals for many of our society’s most intractable problems–crime, delinquency, and drug use. But the Right now has embraced a more insidious form of permissiveness that is creating an “anything goes” moral culture. The elements of this new permissiveness are the bad apple theory and the idea that reliance on a “higher authority” eliminates the need for moral judgments. Together these undermine a culture of moral responsibility.

The case of Wal-Mart is instructive on the bad apple theory. In the last year, there were allegations that Wal-Mart’s store managers were running their stores like sweatshops. Night shift workers were being locked in to avoid theft when they were unsupervised. Other employees were routinely required to work overtime without compensation. The firm’s public relations people insisted that if such abuses were occurring, they were the actions of a few rogue store managers. They didn’t mention that Wal-Mart sets extremely ambitious profit targets for its store managers who are then forced to squeeze labor costs to the bone since they have no control over other costs. In short, those at the top of organizations use the bad apple theory to hide their own responsibility for encouraging illegal actions. Whenever one hears the powerful talking about a few “bad apples,” one should immediately suspect “rot at the top” instead.

The other source of these crime waves is the right-wing’s belief that individual actions that are blessed by “higher authority” are always morally correct. Today's conservatives prefer this approach to the Nuremberg principle that those who were just following orders should be held responsible for their crimes. They act as though God is on our side in the “war on terrorism” so there is no need to worry about human laws that outlaw torture and nonjudicial imprisonment. They have insisted that U.S. soldiers be exempted from prosecution by the International Criminal Court, regardless of what crimes they might commit. In the war against terrorism, “anything goes” to defeat the enemy; there is no need for our soldiers to worry about whether their orders are lawful. In this poisoned moral climate, it is shocking that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Gharib has been blamed on a few low level enlistees.

The same dynamic is at work in the corporate scandals. Here, the higher authority is the market’s “invisible hand” that is supposed to transform the individual’s pursuit of wealth into the common good, turning the vice of greed into the greatest of virtues. But when people are told that becoming rich is glorious, they quickly find shortcuts to wealth that involve reaching into other people’s pockets. The alchemy of the invisible hand cannot convert stealing into the common good; theft in all its varieties destroys wealth. Hence, the right’s misguided celebration of greed produces an “anything goes” economy in which both individuals and firms increasingly take immoral and illegal shortcuts to riches. The indicted corporate criminals are not “bad apples” but the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Reversing the moral decay produced by this right-wing permissiveness involves three steps. First, we have to rebuild a culture of individual responsibility in which following orders or responding to market signals is no longer an excuse for immorality. Second, we have to take collective responsibility for the workings of our institutions. When a crime spree is detected, we have to ask the hard questions about the kinds of incentives and organizational practices that encourage or tolerate the transgressions of individuals.

Finally, we have to acknowledge the grave threat to society posed by those deeply religious individuals who “know” that their actions are in accordance with a “higher authority”. Whether they are jihadist terrorists or Christian Fundamentalists, their absolutist certainty is an evasion of moral reasoning and the careful balancing of means and ends on which civilization depends.