Friday, December 31, 2004

A 'Long War' Against Whom?

A 'Long War' Against Whom?
By Robert Parry
December 31, 2004
George W. Bush’s vision for America’s future is coming into clearer focus following Election 2004: For the next generation or more, it appears the American people will be asked to sacrifice their children, their tax dollars and possibly the remnants of their democracy to what a top U.S. commander now candidly calls the “Long War.”
While Central Command’s Gen. John Abizaid defines the “Long War” as the indefinite conflict against Islamic extremism around the world, Bush and his supporters have already opened a second front at home, determined to silence or neutralize domestic dissent that they see as sapping American “will.”
Not only has Bush continued to purge his second-term administration of even the most soft-spoken skeptics, but his disdain for criticism has emboldened his supporters to routinely refer to public dissenters as “traitors.”....

Jim Haynes As a Stalking Horse In Torturegate

Jim Haynes As a Stalking Horse In Torturegate:
Why President Bush Renominated Him for A Federal Appellate Judgeship
Friday, Dec. 31, 2004
Recently, President Bush renominated twelve men and women whom he had previously nominated for federal appellate court judgeships. During Bush's first term, the Senate had refused to confirm any of the twelve - and had filibustered the nominations of seven. Now, Bush has asked the Senate to think again.
Bush is not the first president to resubmit judicial nominees. But he is the first to re-nominate seven who were blocked by Senate filibusters.
What is the thinking behind Bush's in-your-face strategy? I believe it is intended to test Senate Democrats in several ways - one obvious, and one much less so.
The first test is this: Will Democrats filibuster again - and risk having Republicans invoke the so-called "nuclear option" of rewriting the rules so a filibuster can be overridden? (I described this option in an earlier column.) If so, Democrats have opted to play a high-stakes game that could forever change the nomination process.
The second, subtler test is this: Will Democrats continue to oppose William J. "Jim" Haynes, currently the general counsel of the Department of Defense, to the point of filibustering his nomination if necessary?
It is the Haynes matter on which I will concentrate in this column....

Three Council Members Vote to Sell City Down River, and Other Grim Jottings

Three Council Members Vote to Sell City Down River, and Other Grim Jottings
by Jim Kunstler
 Claiming to be "family men" with deep concern for the city, council members Lenz, Towne and Curley voted to back state and county Republican bosses in a scheme to promote suburban real estate development by running a water line south from the Hudson River through Saratoga County. In the same Dec 21 council session, the three Republican stooges voted down a motion to keep open the city's option to draw water from Saratoga Lake.
     Lenz, Towne, and Curley voted to cede the city's future control of its water supply to the County Board of Supervisors in the face of warnings from the city's own engineering consultants that the lake proposal was by far a better choice. The three Republicans also voted to not submit the city's completed environmental review for the lake option to the State Department of Public Health, thus throwing out three years and $700,000 worth of work.
     The city plan to draw water from Saratoga Lake, which was fully permitted and ready to construct, would have cost under $20 million. The county plan to draw water from the Hudson River is estimated to cost at least $90 million, with most of the cost to be borne by city residents. Neither the engineering nor the environmental permitting for that project has begun and it is apt to take years. According to maps prepared by the NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the county's proposed water intake between Glens Falls and Corinth is a PCB and toxic chemical hotspot. For most of the 20th century, International Paper operated a pulp plant at Corinth, which flushed factory wastes into the river. Currently, Corinth discharges treated sewage upstream of the proposed county water intake......

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966

Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966
Adjusting body counts for medical and military changes.
By Phillip Carter and Owen West
Posted Monday, Dec. 27, 2004, at 3:34 PM PT
Soldiers have long been subjected to invidious generational comparison. It's a military rite of passage for new recruits to hear from old hands that everything from boot camp to combat was tougher before they arrived. The late '90s coronation of the "Greatest Generation"—which left many Korean War and Vietnam War veterans scratching their heads—is only the most visible cultural example.
Generational contrasts are implicit today when casualties in Iraq are referred to as light, either on their own or in comparison to Vietnam. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, for example, last July downplayed the intensity of the Iraq war on this basis, arguing that "it would take over 73 years for U.S. forces to incur the level of combat deaths suffered in the Vietnam war."
But a comparative analysis of U.S. casualty statistics from Iraq tells a different story. After factoring in medical, doctrinal, and technological improvements, infantry duty in Iraq circa 2004 comes out just as intense as infantry duty in Vietnam circa 1966—and in some cases more lethal. Even discrete engagements, such as the battle of Hue City in 1968 and the battles for Fallujah in 2004, tell a similar tale: Today's grunts are patrolling a battlefield every bit as deadly as the crucible their fathers faced in Southeast Asia....

Where's Bush?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Tsunami Toll Nearly 70,000 and Rising
Where's Bush?
Juan Cole
The known death toll from the tsunami keeps rising so rapidly that a daily weblog cannot hope to keep up with it. Early Wednesday am Reuters was giving 68,000. The largest number of dead were in Indonesia, then Sri Lanka, then India and then Thailand.
The horrific stories of corpses piled up on beaches or in trees, the neeed to bulldoze them into mass graves to dispel the spectre of disease, the wailing of relatives, the threat of cholera and other epidemics, finally filled the US media on Tuesday, as some sense of the full scale of the catastrophe finally began sinking in. The audio I heard of the wailing of relatives was the hardest to experience. The dead don't mourn being dead, that is left to the living.
Such catastrophes can have a political impact and can affect security affairs. The failure of the Turkish government to respond in a timely manner to the 1999 earthquake sounded the death knell for the government of then prime minister Bulent Ecevit, and set the stage for the later victory at the polls of the Muslim reform party, Ak.....

Aid Grows Amid Remarks About President's Absence

The U.S. Role
Aid Grows Amid Remarks About President's Absence
By John F. Harris and Robin Wright
Washington Post
Wednesday, December 29, 2004; Page A01
The Bush administration more than doubled its financial commitment yesterday to provide relief to nations suffering from the Indian Ocean tsunami, amid complaints that the vacationing President Bush has been insensitive to a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.....

Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who as the military's top European commander helped supervise NATO's efforts to respond to a 1999 earthquake in Turkey, said the United States has unique military capabilities in reconnaissance and logistics management that can be useful in the current crisis. He urged Bush to take a higher profile. "Natural disasters happen," Clark said. "One of the things people look for is a strong response that illustrates America's humanitarian values."....

The General Who Got It Right on Iraq

December 26, 2004  
The General Who Got It Right on Iraq
By Frank Gibney,
Frank Gibney, president of the Pacific Basin Institute, is a professor of politics at Pomona College and author of "The Pacific Century" and other books on Asia and foreign policy.
LA Times
When Donald H. Rumsfeld swooped down on the Pentagon in 2001 as President Bush's secretary of Defense, Gen. Eric Shinseki must have looked like a natural ally to him. Like Rumsfeld, Shinseki wanted to "transform" the armed services and had announced his plan for changing the Army when he became chief of staff in 1999.
But Shinseki's notion of transformation differed substantially from Rumsfeld's. To the new Defense secretary, transformation meant greater reliance on technology, not troops, to achieve goals; to Shinseki, it meant more intensified training, featuring highly mobile medium-light brigades of mechanized infantry capable of a variety of missions.
Their philosophical clash became public when the United States went to war against Iraq. The preemptive attack relied on overwhelming air power and deployed a bare minimum of ground troops. Asked by a Senate committee to estimate the number of troops needed for the operation, Shinseki said "several hundred thousand." Rumsfeld's office immediately denounced the number as "wildly off the mark." But the disastrous experience in postwar Iraq has proved the general right: Security remains elusive because the numbers of U.S. and coalition forces on the ground are inadequate.
Since his retirement in June 2003, Shinseki has restricted his public appearances to foreign policy and university audiences. Early this month at Pomona College, he outlined his policy for a post-Cold War Army equipped to deal with a multitude of duties.....

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Cabinet of Incuriosities

The Cabinet of Incuriosities
Published: December 28, 2004
AS President Bush remakes his administration for his second term, the most important member of his new cabinet may turn out to be the one he was unwilling - or unable - to replace: Treasury Secretary John Snow.
In some ways, Mr. Snow was the first selection of this new cabinet, just now settling into its full ensemble. Mr. Snow's prenuptial agreement, when he replaced the obstreperous Paul O'Neill two years ago, is similar to the ones his newly arrived (or at least newly promoted) second-term colleagues have just signed: all policies come from the White House. Read the script with ardor and good cheer.
As Mr. Bush learned in his first term, this is a difficult agreement for some of America's most accomplished people to sign. They may be publicly hailed for their innovation and decisiveness, but those qualities are rarely demanded in their cabinet jobs. Consequently, cabinet members often feel like imposters. This president's mission is to tame the unwieldy federal bureaucracy, not empower it.....

Monday, December 27, 2004

What would Jesus do?

Without Reservation
A biweekly column by Karen Kwiatkowski, Lt. Col. USAF (ret.)
posted 23 December 04
What would Jesus do?
Military Week
In a week that brought forth the single deadliest attack on American soldiers in Iraq, President Bush also launched a public effort to support the troops. In between giving Medals of Freedom to the three "Wise Men" of the Iraq war and getting down to the business of spending mo' money in Washington, he is publicizing the new Defense Department website called "America Supports You."
The website is about how we can help our serving soldiers, and presumably those returning from Iraq in pieces, or missing pieces. Thus far, the site is oriented more towards ordering hats and bumper stickers rather than towards seriously addressing the real help needed by our men and women in uniform, and their families.
It is simply criminal that the injured and recently discharged remain largely invisible to the Department of Defense, the Administration, the American media and to all of us.
At this time of year, we take time to remember the importance of humility and love for our brothers and sisters, even in the face of hate or contempt. We think about Jesus' radical command to turn the other cheek, his rejection of the old law of "an eye for an eye."
Americans are citizens of a nation created with Saint Augustine's distrust of human government foremost in mind. This time of year, we should thankfully recall the primitive Christian message that one's devoted public service to the state is not the same as one's quiet individual service to God.
In the American vernacular, one might say that Ground Zero for Christmas is the Holy Land. This week's events in Mosul and elsewhere in region mock the season and sadden us all.
The American invasion of Iraq was based on lies, as has been the continued American occupation of her major cities. The lies put forth by the administration ought to remind Christians of those lies the Devil told Jesus up on that mountain in the wilderness. Promises of peace, whispers of wealth, visions of total control of the earth....

Army historian cites lack of postwar plan

Army historian cites lack of postwar plan
Military strategist calls effort in Iraq 'mediocre'
Goran Tomasevic / Reuters file
The U.S. military lacked a formal plan for stabilizing Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, a failure that has contributed to a "mediocre" Army effort there, war historian and strategist Maj. Isaiah Wilson III has concluded.
By Thomas E. Ricks
Updated: 12:49 a.m. ET Dec. 25, 2004
The U.S. military invaded Iraq without a formal plan for occupying and stabilizing the country and this high-level failure continues to undercut what has been a "mediocre" Army effort there, an Army historian and strategist has concluded.
advertisement"There was no Phase IV plan" for occupying Iraq after the combat phase, writes Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, who served as an official historian of the campaign and later as a war planner in Iraq. While a variety of government offices had considered the possible situations that would follow a U.S. victory, Wilson writes, no one produced an actual document laying out a strategy to consolidate the victory after major combat operations ended.
"While there may have been 'plans' at the national level, and even within various agencies within the war zone, none of these 'plans' operationalized the problem beyond regime collapse" — that is, laid out how U.S. forces would be moved and structured, Wilson writes in an essay that has been delivered at several academic conferences but not published. "There was no adequate operational plan for stability operations and support operations."
High-level criticism
Similar criticisms have been made before, but until now they have not been stated so authoritatively and publicly by a military insider positioned to be familiar with top-secret planning. During the period in question, from April to June 2003, Wilson was a researcher for the Army's Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group. Then, from July 2003 to March 2004, he was the chief war planner for the 101st Airborne Division, which was stationed in northern Iraq....

Iraqi militants wanted Bush re-elected, says hostage

Iraqi militants wanted Bush re-elected, says hostage
24/12/2004 - 11:26:08
French journalists held hostage for four months in Iraq said their militant captors told them they wanted President George Bush to win re-election.
In a four-page account of their ordeal, one of the reporters, Georges Malbrunot, also wrote that they saw several other hostages who were later decapitated. The journalists said their captors viewed foreign businessmen working in Iraq as their enemies.
One of the captors from the group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq said Bush’s re-election would boost their cause, Malbrunot wrote in Le Figaro, the French newspaper he works for.
“We want Bush because with him the American troops will stay in Iraq and that way we will be able to develop,” Malbrunot cited the captor as saying....

Articles I Didn’t Write (and Merry Miserable Christmas To You, Too)

Sunday, December 26, 2004
Articles I Didn’t Write (and Merry Miserable Christmas To You, Too)
By Elaine Cassel
Press Action
Many people have written to me asking where I have been since the election. I have written only one article, that a personal one about the religious right taking over the country. Yet, there has been much, too much even, to write about.
Here are just a few of the events and issues keeping me awake at night (literally):
John Ashcroft looks like a choirboy compared to Alberto Gonzales. Ashcroft is an idiotic fool; Gonzales a crafty, evil man in the tradition of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Do yourself a favor and read all the memos you can find (all over the Internet) written by Abu Ghraib Al. His position about presidential power is that is has no limits, I repeat none. He insists that King George answers to no one—and I mean no one. I wish I were exaggerating, but I am not.
The Bush Administration continues to get bolder and bolder in its defiance not only of the law and the Constitution, but also of federal court decisions...

History will show U.S. lusted after oil

Dec. 26, 2004. 01:00 AM
History will show U.S. lusted after oil
Toronto Star
Decades from now, historians will likely calmly discuss the war currently raging in Iraq, and identify oil as one of the key factors that led to it.
They will point to the growing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, the importance of oil in the rising competition between the U.S. and China, and the huge untapped store of oil lying unprotected under the Iraqi sand. It will all probably seem fairly obvious.
Just don't expect to hear this sort of discussion now, however, when it might actually make a difference.
In fact, a year-and-a-half into the U.S. occupation of Iraq, with the carnage over there spiralling ever more out of control, don't expect media discussions of Iraq to stray much beyond the issue of "fighting terrorism."
Indeed, while ordinary people around the world apparently suspect Washington was motivated by oil, not terrorism, there continues to be a strange unwillingness in the mainstream media to probe such a possibility.
Perhaps it simply sounds too crass....

The Emperor-in-Chief

    The Emperor-in-Chief
    By Marjorie Cohn
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective
    Monday 27 December 2004
    Rumor has it that George W. Bush's tailor is busily stitching a royal blue cloak to go with the gold crown that will adorn the president as he takes the oath of office on January 20. Now that Bush has secured a second term, it is no longer necessary to hide behind the subtle flight suit that bedecked him on the deck of the aircraft carrier declaring "Mission Accomplished" in May 2003. He can now come out of the closet as full-fledged Emperor of the World.
    Notwithstanding the United States Constitution and the United Nations Charter, Bush nicely qualifies as "the male sovereign or supreme ruler of an empire," as required by Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary.
    Bush wasn't always riding high. Shortly before 9/11, his ratings were falling. It was a mere two weeks after the September 11 attacks that a secret memo prepared for Alberto Gonzales's office concluded Bush had the power to use military force "preemptively" against any terrorist organizations or countries that supported them. Any link to the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon was unnecessary, said the memo, even though Congress had so limited its license for the president to use force.
    Treaties ratified by the United States, such as the Charter of the United Nations, are the Supreme law of the land under our Constitution. The U.N. Charter forbids the use of armed force against another State unless undertaken in self-defense or authorized by the Security Council. The necessity for self-defense must be "instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation," according to the leading Caroline Case of 1841.
    The Charter's prohibition on the use of force has not prevented prior presidents from acting unilaterally. Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada, George H.W. Bush invaded Panama, and Bill Clinton bombed Yugoslavia in 1999, the year after he bombed Afghanistan and the Sudan. Before invading Iraq, George W. Bush made war on Afghanistan to retaliate against the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden. None of these interventions was an exercise of self-defense; none was approved by the Council. All were illegal.
    George W. Bush, however, has taken chutzpah to a higher level with his new doctrine of "preemptive war."...

Bush: Hands off Social Security

I, Publius
Bush: Hands off Social Security
By Alan Chartock
Special to The Eagle
Our politicians are now up against it. It is as old as time itself. It all comes down to taxes versus services.
Now it is Social Security, the "third rail of American politics." George W. Bush and the radical Republican leadership in the Congress have made it their highest priority. They want to take about a third of what someone puts into Social Security and allow that person to open a brokerage account with that money.
Some economists might tell you that if people who are now on Social Security had been allowed to do that, they would be far better off today. On the other hand, there are those who say woe to the person who has to get onto Social Security at that exact moment when the stock market has taken a severe dive. Their entire retirement might have to be postponed or even forgotten.
The whole idea of Social Security was that it would be a safety net. Everyone would be guaranteed a basic minimum. They could play with their 401(k) plans or their savings but this Social Security would be set in stone.....

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Change You Wish to See

The Change You Wish to See
By Torie Osborn, AlterNet. Posted December 25, 2004.
Many Americans donate generously. But strategic giving is important: Your contributions are one of the most powerful tools you have for making the world a better place.
Who among us hasn’t wished we could make the world a better place? This time of year, many of us try. In 2003, individual Americans gave away nearly $180 billion. That’s almost five times more than big foundations and corporations gave away last year....

Will the GOP Nuke the Constitution?

Will the GOP Nuke the Constitution?
By Arianna Huffington, AlterNet. Posted December 22, 2004.
The plan to do away with judicial filibusters is an out-and-out power grab by the president and his Congressional accomplices.
Dec 1, 2004
Right now, somewhere in the White House, administration strategists are hatching plans to go to war. Battle plans are being drawn. Timing and tactics are being finalized. A nuclear option is even being openly discussed.
The designated target? Iran? Syria? North Korea?
No, much closer to home: the United States Senate....

Friday, December 24, 2004

Back to the '50s? We'd rather pass

Back to the '50s? We'd rather pass
Richard Walter
December 24, 2004 WALTER1224
We romanticize and idealize the 1950s. How else to treat that deplorable decade?
The era of "Father Knows Best" and "Ozzie and Harriet" was also that of McCarthyism, of Jim Crow, of unspeakable kitsch in food, fashion, architecture and design. Music, too, was Guy Lombardo and Lawrence Welk until sweetly corrupting rock 'n' roll finally liberated mainstream audiences.
How many of us would want "The Simpsons" canceled in favor of a resurrected "Leave It to Beaver"?
For women in the '50s, careers didn't have glass ceilings; they had ceilings of high-tensile steel. As late as 1967, a woman runner was plucked from the still men-only Boston Marathon she had tried to join.
Yet the notion persists that those days were solely sweet, serene and secure. Public discourse was civilized. God -- a wise and kindly old white man with a long white beard -- was not only in heaven but at long last in the Pledge of Allegiance. Kids reciting that pledge, however, upon the command "Take cover!" dove under their desks, trembling in terror over nuclear annihilation. Did we believe our state-issue pressed-board tables would protect us from a hydrogen bomb?
Comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested, handcuffed and hauled off to jail for using language in a private grown-ups' club that Tony Soprano now speaks routinely to millions of TV viewers on a Sunday night. Does this demonstrate the coarsening of the culture?
In a word: no. In those days, as now and always, the older generation saw the culture as already debauched....

Empires prefer a baby and the cross to the adult Jesus

Empires prefer a baby and the cross to the adult Jesus
From Constantine to Bush, power has needed to stifle a revolutionary message
Giles Fraser
Friday December 24, 2004
The Guardian
Every Sunday in church, Christians recite the Nicene Creed. "Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven. And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures." It's the official summary of the Christian faith but, astonishingly, it jumps straight from birth to death, apparently indifferent to what happened in between.
Nicene Christianity is the religion of Christmas and Easter, the celebration of a Jesus who is either too young or too much in agony to shock us with his revolutionary rhetoric. The adult Christ who calls his followers to renounce wealth, power and violence is passed over in favour of the gurgling baby and the screaming victim. As such, Nicene Christianity is easily conscripted into a religion of convenience, with believers worshipping a gagged and glorified saviour who has nothing to say about how we use our money or whether or not we go to war.
Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire with the conversion of the emperor Constantine in 312, after which the church began to backpedal on the more radical demands of the adult Christ. The Nicene Creed was composed in 325 under the sponsorship of Constantine. It was Constantine who decided that December 25 was to be the date on which Christians were to celebrate the birth of Christ and it was Constantine who ordered the building of the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem. Christmas - a festival completely unknown to the early church - was invented by the Roman emperor. And from Constantine onwards, the radical Christ worshipped by the early church would be pushed to the margins of Christian history to be replaced with the infinitely more accommodating religion of the baby and the cross.
The adult Jesus described his mission as being to "preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and to set at liberty those who are oppressed". He insisted that the social outcast be loved and cared for, and that the rich have less chance of getting into heaven than a camel has of getting through the eye of a needle. Jesus set out to destroy the imprisoning obligations of debt, speaking instead of forgiveness and the redistribution of wealth. He was accused of blasphemy for attacking the religious authorities as self-serving and hypocritical....

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Ten Things President Bush Doesn't Want You To Know About Scalia and Thomas

Ten Things President Bush Doesn't Want You To Know About Scalia and Thomas
December 20, 2004
SCALIA OPPOSES EFFORTS TO DESEGREGATE SCHOOLS: In his concurrence on Freeman v. Pitts, Scalia indicated he would favor stripping the authority of Federal courts to regulate school desegregation, "even for those schools that remain significantly segregated." [Freeman v Pitts 1992]
THOMAS FAVORS STATE-SPONSORED RELIGION: Thomas has "advanced the position" that constitutionally mandated church/state separation applies "to the federal government, but not to individual states – a position that would allow Virginia, for example, to declare a state religion." He would allow individual states to "adopt particular religions and use tax money to proselytize for them." [Elk Grove v. Newdow, 2004]....

Bush backers made a sucker’s bet

Bush backers made a sucker’s bet
Gene Lyons
Posted on Wednesday, December 22, 2004
In making President Bush its "Person of the Year," Timegushed that he had successfully "reframed reality to match his design." Ponder that phrase. A cynic might think it a backhanded way of calling him a particularly accomplished liar. Indeed, Bush prevailed in November largely because many Americans simply cannot believe that their president would deliberately mislead them about matters of life and death. Consider, however, Bush’s doomsday pronouncements about the impending bankruptcy of Social Security. They’re sheer fiction, contrived to conceal this administration’s own fiscal recklessness—the combination of tax cuts for the wealthy and runaway spending that has increased federal outlays some 29 percent since his 2001 inauguration. After pledging during the 2000 campaign to set aside $2.6 trillion of the projected surplus in a Social Security "lockbox," Bush has, instead, produced swelling deficits. Now he promises strict "fiscal discipline." Do not hold your breath. Here’s the real problem: Over the past two decades, ever since a commission led by Alan Greenspan convinced the Reagan administration to raise payroll taxes to fund the retirement of the socalled Baby Boom generation, Republican and Democratic administrations alike have "borrowed" the proceeds to finance the year-to-year operations of the U.S. government. Instead of cash reserves, the Social Security Trust Fund, roughly $1.5 trillion to date, consists of "specialissue" Treasury bonds pledging repayment with interest whenever the money is needed to pay Social Security benefits.
Under current projections, that’s supposed to start happening in 2018, when the excess payroll taxes paid by Baby Boomers over 35 years to fund their own retirement will be needed. By then, the trust fund should be worth approximately $3 trillion—enough to keep the system solvent for at least another 30 years with no benefit adjustments whatsoever....

Mayhem in the kitchen

Mike Shannon: 'Mayhem in the kitchen'
Posted on Thursday, December 23 @ 10:45:47 EST
By Mike Shannon
If the fact that the road to the Baghdad airport is still so dangerous that the US Embassy has advised its staff members that they are no longer permitted to drive on it, or that the embassy itself is located in the middle of a gigantic fortress that rivals the size of the ancient Chinese Forbidden City, or that lethal car bombings are so routine that many do not even make the pages of your local newspaper, or that an American company has just informed the Bush administration that it is walking away from its 320 million dollar contract in Iraq has not convinced you that the war in Iraq is going horribly awry, perhaps the images of American dead being carried from the mess hall in Camp Merez will finally drive the point home.
The attack in Mosul was much more than a horrific tragedy to those immediately affected, it was a significant setback to the entire United States' effort to pacify Iraq. For a human bomb to enter an American military base any where in the world would mark a breakdown in force protection that would seem almost inconceivable, but for it to happen in a forward area base in the middle of a combat zone may very well be unprecedented in American history. And for that said bomber to unleash his mayhem in a communal dining hall filled with soldiers eating their lunch, the damage goes far beyond the torn and mangled bodies left in its wake. If you do not feel safe sitting down for a well deserved bite to eat in your own kitchen; you've got problems.
The immutable fact that the average American soldier or civilian contractor no longer feels entirely safe anywhere in Iraq is a malignant tumor threatening the very heart of what the United States is trying to now accomplish. To even the most diehard supporter of the war effort in Iraq it is next to impossible to argue that things are going well. Yes, the troops in place in Iraq are still fully capable of unleashing un-Godly firepower on the enemy whenever and wherever they make a concerted stand. But even with that being the case, the situation at this point in time -- twenty one months after those forces entered Iraq -- is undeniably more dangerous now for any and all Americans, both civilian and military, then it was in the days immediately following the fall of Baghdad. And that is not an opinion: The casualty figures for American service personnel are at their highest since the onset of the war. Look it up....

Bush relaxes forest wildlife protection

Bush relaxes forest wildlife protection
New rules immediately come under attack by environmentalists
Replacing rules written by the Reagan administration to govern national forest plans, the Bush administration has adopted sweeping new regulations that relax protections for wildlife and eliminate a requirement for the public to weigh in on mining, logging and other activities.
The new rules covering more than 191 million acres -- including more than one-fifth of Washington -- undo an obligation at the heart of the battles over Pacific Northwest old-growth forests and spotted owls: that federal managers "maintain viable populations" of wild animals in national forests.
Unveiled yesterday to criticism by environmentalists but approval by the timber industry, the new rules also allow forest supervisors to skip a complicated "environmental impact statement" providing a detailed look at different options for managing a forest. Instead, forest managers gain more discretion to simply pick the plan they think is best.
Bush administration officials portrayed the changes as a way to fix a forest-planning system that has grown unwieldy and bureaucratic to the point of irrelevance, provoking an endless stream of court battles....

Artist makes a Bush of monkeys

Artist makes a Bush of monkeys
Reuters in New York
Thursday December 23, 2004
The Guardian
Bush Monkeys, a portrait of US president George Bush using monkeys, by artist Chris Savido is projected on a New York billboard after being banned from an art show. Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty
At a glance, it is just another picture of George Bush. Take a closer look and it's obvious that the artist is making a monkey of the president.
Chris Savido used a patchwork of simians to create the portrait of the commander in chief, and in doing so stirred a controversy that has rumbled on in Manhattan for a week.
Titled Bush Monkeys, it was displayed at the Chelsea Market public space last week, but provoked enough complaints for the management to close the show. That led to accusations of censorship. ....

Bush Monkeys

Christmas Eve of Destruction

Christmas Eve of Destruction
NY Times
Published: December 23, 2004
In Iraq, as Yogi Berra would say, the future ain't what it used to be.
Now that the election's over, our leaders think it's safe to experiment with a little candor.
President Bush has finally acknowledged that the Iraqis can't hack it as far as securing their own country, which means, of course, that America has no exit strategy for its troops, who will soon number 150,000.
News organizations led with the story, even though the president was only saying something that everybody has known to be true for a year. The White House's policy on Iraq has gone from a total charade to a limited modified hangout. Mr. Bush is conceding the obvious, that the Iraqi security forces aren't perfect, so he doesn't have to concede the truth: that Iraq is now so dire no one knows how or when we can get out.
If this fiasco ever made sense to anybody, it doesn't any more....

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

City backs plan to draw from Hudson, rejects Saratoga Lake idea

Council boosts water proposal
City backs plan to draw from Hudson, rejects Saratoga Lake idea
By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
Times Union
First published: Wednesday, December 22, 2004
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A $72.5 million plan to supply parts of Saratoga County with water from the upper Hudson River received a boost Tuesday when the City Council narrowly approved it and rejected a competing plan to draw water from Saratoga Lake.
The council, however, also voted at Mayor Michael Lenz's request to refuse to commit to the 4 million gallons of water usage a day that county leaders have said they need to proceed with the county plan.
The council's three Republicans -- Commissioner of Accounts Stephen Towne, Commissioner of Public Safety Thomas Curley and Lenz -- voted for the county plan, which would treat water and pipe it from Moreau to as far south as Clifton Park. The 3-2 vote took place after more than two hours of discussion and in front of a packed and sometimes hostile crowd in City Hall.
"It's the safest, most affordable, best choice for Saratoga Springs families," Lenz said.
Finance Commissioner Matthew McCabe, an independent, joined Democratic Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue in opposing the county plan. Prior to that, the council's Republicans defeated, by another 3-2 vote, a motion made by McTygue to approve the final environmental impact statement for a $17 million proposal that called for using Saratoga Lake as the city's water source.
McTygue charged that the county plan lacked specifics, was more costly and posed environmental risks due to PCBs in the Hudson River. He said GOP members of the council would pay politically for their vote.
"They are going against the will of the people of this community," McTygue said.
The price for the water under the county water plan is $1.95 per 1,000 gallons. The projected cost for the city drawing water from Saratoga Lake had been $1.35 per 1,000 gallons. But both sides of the debate insisted their proposal would be cheaper for city residents.
Lenz portrayed the county plan as a permanent, long-term water supply that would not cost the city any upfront costs. McTygue asked who will pay for the trunk lines that would bring water to different parts of the county.
Saratoga Lake organizations and three towns surrounding the lake opposed the lake plan, saying it could threaten the lake's recreational value and surrounding property values.
"I think the council did the absolute right thing," city resident David Bronner said after the vote. "It is a quality source of water, a 100-year solution for our community."
Cheryl Keyrouze, co-chairwoman of Saratogians For Responsible Water Sources, opposed the county plan on environmental and planning grounds. She said the PCB issue needed to be addressed.
"It's just a big mistake all over the place," Keyrouze said.
The county and city will next discuss specifics of the arrangement.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The deceptions add up on Social Security

The deceptions add up on Social Security
By Thomas Oliphant
Boston Globe
December 19, 2004
FOUR YEARS ago, the commission on Social Security that Richard Parsons was co-chairing for President Bush warned with a bit too much hype that "the promise of Social Security to future retirees cannot be met without eventual resort to benefit cuts, tax increases, or massive borrowing."
Speaking for himself, the Time Warner executive said simply that "there is no pain-free way and no quick way" to deal with a problem of this size and complexity.
Last week, however, Parsons put aside his once-balanced view of Social Security to serve as a prop for Bush's stink bomb of a conference to promote his "vision" for second-term economic policy. This time around, the word was that the White House wanted stark portrayals of impending crisis, not comprehensive ideas for solution.
This time around, Parsons was on message, calling the status quo that collects payroll taxes to pay current benefits impossible to maintain as the ratio of taxpaying workers to check-cashing retirees continues to narrow....

Sorry, Mr. Bush. Your (ahem) mandate just isn't big enough

Peter Lee: 'Sorry, Mr. Bush. Your (ahem) mandate just isn't big enough'
Posted on Monday, December 20 @ 10:30:52 EST
By Peter Lee
George Bush's second-term Stud-in-Chief act isn't really working, is it?
He's rubbing the nose of his dad and his dad's advisors -- not to mention the nation-- in the fact of his election, trying to present himself as America's Godfather, scowling officiously as his bespoke puppets are sworn into the Cabinet, doing that half-assed MC act at his choreographed "Economic Summit."
But the Fallujah fiasco, the dollar crisis, and the Kerik debacle demonstrate that Bush's unreliable gut reliably trumps his putatively higher organs. The brain and heart -- those supposed repositories of reason, diligence, and foresight that are expected to pitch in and help the president deal with the tedious, omnipresent demands of guiding the fortunes of the world's greatest superpower--are left pacing disconsolately on the sidelines.
George lacks the focus, passion, and integrity to deal with the day-to-day grind of managing his administration.
When things go bad, he gets bored, disengages, and blames other people....

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Supporting Our Troops? The defense secretary we have

Supporting Our Troops? The defense secretary we have
Lynn Woolsey
Friday, December 17, 2004
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has finally gone too far. Confronted last week by a Guardsman who described soldiers rummaging through landfills for protective metal for their vehicles, Rumsfeld's cavalier reply was unconscionable: "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have ... not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

As if Rumsfeld were dealt a poor hand and had no choice but to play it. Whose Army is this if not Rumsfeld's and George W. Bush's? They chose this war and its timing. For Rumsfeld to claim that we were caught flat-footed, forced to march into Baghdad without time to get our act together and assemble "the Army you want" is beyond disingenuous.

On the other hand, maybe we were caught flat-footed, thanks to the scandalous incompetence of Rumsfeld and the war planners. This was, after all, the team that believed in "Mission Accomplished" and pooh-poohed warnings of a ruthless insurgency. This was the team that told us grateful Iraqis in tears would be tossing flowers at our soldiers' feet. If conservative columnist Pat Robertson is to be believed, President Bush himself did not even think there would be any U.S. casualties. Under this fantasy scenario, you wouldn't need a whole lot of protective armor.

But this only shows how little they knew or cared, and it certainly doesn't let them off the hook. The magnitude of the war has been apparent for some time. Even if we were low on armored metal in the summer of 2003, has no one seen fit to do something about it in the subsequent year and a half? It's not as if Congress hasn't responded each time the Bush administration has rattled its tin cup for Iraq funds. We have provided more than enough resources for Rumsfeld to build the Army he wants.

It's a question of will and priorities. It's hard to escape the conclusion that this is the Army they want -- one whose front-line personnel are forced to wait in line for lifesaving safety equipment (in some cases paying for it out of their own pockets) because a missile defense shield and no-bid Halliburton contracts had to come first.....

Beastly Behavior

Global Eye
Beastly Behavior
By Chris Floyd
Published: December 17, 2004
Moscow Times
It was a largely secret operation, its true intentions masked by pious rhetoric and bogus warnings of imminent danger to the American way of life. Having gained the dazed complicity of a somnolent Congress, U.S. President George W. Bush calmly signed a death warrant for thousands upon thousands of innocent victims: a native population whose land and resources were coveted by a small group of powerful elites seeking to augment their already vast dominance by any means necessary, including mass slaughter.

A flashback to March 2003, when Bush finally brought his long-simmering brew of aggressive war to the boil? Not at all -- it happened just last week. This time, however, the victims were not the Iraqi people, but one of the last remaining symbols of pure freedom left in America itself: the nation's herd of wild horses, galloping unbridled on the people's common lands.

With an obscure provision smuggled without any hearings or public notice into the gargantuan budget bill -- 3,000 pages of pork and chicanery approved, unread, by Bush's rubber-stamp Republicans and that wiggly bit of protoplasm known laughingly as the "Democratic opposition" -- Bush stripped the nation's wild horses of long-standing legal protections against being sold off, slaughtered and shipped overseas for meat. The Bush plan, spearheaded by Montana Senator Conrad Burns -- longtime bagman for Big Cattle interests -- sets a production goal of up to 20,000 wild horse corpses in the coming year, The Associated Press reports.

Why must these magnificent beasts be massacred, after decades of bipartisan protection? If they could speak, no doubt they'd look at the state terrorists of the Bush Regime and say: "They hate us for our freedom." And certainly, anyone cramped within the narrow confines of a harsh, blinkered worldview would be offended, even unmanned, by the sight of such splendid exemplars of liberty. First brought to America by the Spanish conquistadors, these bold rebels broke free of their masters and have roamed wild and unfettered for centuries....

U.S. isn't winning against Iraqi insurgents, agencies warn

Posted on Fri, Dec. 17, 2004
U.S. isn't winning against Iraqi insurgents, agencies warn
By Warren P. Strobel, John Walcott and Jonathan S. Landay
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - The CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department have warned President Bush that the United States and its Iraqi allies aren't winning the battle against Iraqi insurgents who are trying to derail the country's Jan. 30 elections, according to administration officials.
The officials, who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity because intelligence estimates are classified, said the battle in Iraq wasn't lost and that successful elections might yet be held next month.
But they said the warnings -including one delivered this week to Bush by CIA Director Porter Goss - indicated that U.S. forces hadn't been able to stop the insurgents' intimidation of Iraqi voters, candidates and others who want to participate in the elections....

Guard Reports Serious Drop in Enlistment

Guard Reports Serious Drop in Enlistment
Published: December 17, 2004
Correction Appended
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 - In the latest signs of strains on the military from the war in Iraq, the Army National Guard announced on Thursday that it had fallen 30 percent below its recruiting goals in the last two months and would offer new incentives, including enlistment bonuses of up to $15,000.
In addition, the head of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, said on Thursday that he needed $20 billion to replace arms and equipment destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan or left there for other Army and Air Guard units to use, so that returning reservists will have enough equipment to deal with emergencies at home....

The Reality-Based Environment

The Reality-Based Environment
By Molly Ivins, AlterNet. Posted December 16, 2004.
The Bush solution to global warming is to declare it does not exist – whereas those of us in the reality-based community understand differently.
"The aide (a senior adviser to President Bush) said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." – Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004.
This is the quote that now has some noted bloggers identifying themselves as, "Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community."
Of all the problems that arise from having an administration that chooses not to believe in reality, the ones most likely to have irretrievably disastrous consequences are environmental.....

Thursday, December 16, 2004

What Is Conservatism? - John Dean

What Is Conservatism?
Friday, Dec. 17, 2004
Given the growing importance of "conservatism" in American politics and government, it seems worth posing a basic question: What does the term mean, exactly?
The public position of political conservatism is certainly clear. But consider the wide variety of organizations and persons who call themselves "conservative": economic conservatives, religious conservatives, social conservatives, libertarians, neo-conservatives, and the traditional conservatives (such as my former colleague Pat Buchanan) who are now sometimes called paleo-conservatives.
Among them, there are many philosophical and practical conflicts. But what is it that they have in common? Why are they all under the same tent, and (for now, anyway) in the Republican Party?...

Democrats must find a way to compete with Rove Inc.

Seattle Times
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Democrats must find a way to compete with Rove Inc.
WASHINGTON — Democrats have come down with a serious case of Rove Envy. It is a form of jealousy that could have some useful consequences.
The longing is for the strategic clarity and organizational acumen that Karl Rove, President Bush's political top gun, brought to the 2004 campaign. Put aside that Rove has been mythologized by both his friends and his enemies. Ignore (just for the moment) that Bush's campaign against John Kerry was relentlessly negative. What really irks Democrats is that they did a lot of things right this year and were still out-hustled by the GOP. Figuring out why is — and should be — a Democratic obsession....

It's Time to Stop Being Hit...a letter from Michael Moore

Monday, December 13th, 2004
It's Time to Stop Being Hit...a letter from Michael Moore
Dear Friends,
It is no surprise that the Republicans are sore winners. They have spent the better part of the past month beating their chests, threatening to send to Siberia any Republican who doesn’t toe the line (poor Arlen Specter), and promising everything short of martial law if the Democrats don’t do what they are told.
What’s worse is to watch the pathetic sight of the DLC (the conservative, pro-corporate group of Democrats) apologizing for being Democrats and promising to “purge” the party of the likes of, well, all of US! Their comments are so hilarious and really not even worth recognizing but the media is paying so much attention to them, I thought it might be worth doing a little reality check.
The most people the DLC is able to get out to an event of theirs is about 200 at their annual dinner (where you have to pay thousands of dollars to get in).
Contrast this with the following:
*Total members of Move On: More than 2,000,000
*Total Attendance at Vote for Change Concerts: An estimated 280,000
*Total Union Members in U.S.: Around 16,000,000
*Total Number of People Who Have Seen “Fahrenheit 9/11”: Over 50 million
*Total number of you reading this: Perhaps 10 million or more
The days of trying to move the Democratic Party to the right are over. We lost a very close election (a one-state difference) by running the #1 liberal in the Senate. Not bad. The country is shifting in our direction, not to the right. But the country was attacked and people were scared. They were manipulated with fear. And America has never thrown a sitting president out during wartime. That’s the facts. Oh, and our candidate could have run a better campaign (but we’ll have that discussion another day).
In the meantime, while we reflect on what went wrong, I would like to pass on to you an essay that a friend who works with abuse victims sent to me. It was written by a woman who has spent years working as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse and she sees many parallels between her work and the reaction of many Democrats to last month’s election. Her name is Mel Giles and here is what she had to say…
Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the ‘new’ language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"
And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.
They will tell you: Every single day.
The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.
As victims we can't stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can't seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.
Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won't; we will never be worthy).
And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See the Democrats cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.
How to break free? Again, the answer is quite simple.
First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of affairs unacceptable. Next, you must promise to protect yourself and everyone around you that is being victimized. You don't do this by responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You also don't do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring its over faster and hurts less if you don't resist and fight back.
Instead, you walk away. You find other folks like yourself, 57 million of them, who are hurting, broken, and beating themselves up. You tell them what you've learned, and that you aren't going to take it anymore. You stand tall, with 57 million people at your side and behind you, and you look right into the eyes of the abuser and you tell him to go to hell. Then you walk out the door, taking the kids and gays and minorities with you, and you start a new life. The new life is hard. But it's better than the abuse.
We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 57 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying, because we are trying to break free and we don't know how.
Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: Stop responding to the abuser.
Don't let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (he'll win, not because he's right, but because force works). Sure, we can build a better grassroots campaign, cultivate and raise up better leaders, reform the election system to make it fail-proof, stick to our message, learn from the strategy of the other side. But we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, "loose,” irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.
Even if you do everything right, they'll hit you anyway. Look at the poor souls who voted for this nonsense. They are working for six dollars an hour if they are working at all, their children are dying overseas and suffering from lack of health care and a depleted environment and a shoddy education.
And they don't even know they are being hit.
How true. And that is our challenge over the next couple of years; to hold out our hand to those being hit the hardest and help them leave behind a party that only seeks to keep beating them, their children, and the kid next door who’s on his way to Iraq.
Michael Moore

Conyers "prepared" to contest Ohio Electoral Vote

December 15, 2004 | 11:07 p.m. ET
Conyers "prepared" to contest Ohio Electoral Vote (Keith Olbermann)
NEW YORK - The ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee told us tonight on Countdown that he and others in Congress are considering formally challenging the slate of electors who cast Ohio’s votes, when those votes are opened and counted before a joint session of Congress on January 6th.
“We’re prepared to do that,” Conyers said. “And we understand the law as well as you.” After the on-air interview ended, the Michigan representative added that he and his colleagues had not yet decided whether or not to take the extraordinary constitutional step, and he had not sought the support of a Senator who would have to co-sign the challenge....

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bush will overreach at his peril

Bush will overreach at his peril
By Robert Kuttner
Boston Globe
December 15, 2004
PRESIDENTS get into trouble in their second terms, especially when they interpret reelection as a huge mandate. The details differ, but most of them involve overreaching.
Franklin Roosevelt was overwhelmingly reelected in 1936, and almost immediately overreached in his scheme to pack the Supreme Court. Ronald Reagan won reelection by a landslide in 1984, but found that his tax cuts were creating serious deficit problems, bogged down in the Iran-Contra scandal, and ended losing the Senate in 1986. And Bill Clinton, reelected in 1996, imagined that he could treat the Oval Office as a boudoir.
What of Bush? His bungling of the nomination of Bernard Kerik to head the Homeland Security Department -- there was much more than a nanny scandal that would have led to a messy confirmation battle -- is pure second-term hubris. And there is a lot more to come.
In the wake of John Kerry's defeat -- and I mean wake in both senses -- Democrats have been going through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's famous stages of grieving, including denial, anger, and depression. They particularly need to avoid her final stage -- acceptance. For Bush is strikingly vulnerable.
Consider his big plans for 2005: Social Security privatization, tax "simplification," making tax cuts permanent, and a forward strategy for US power in the Middle East and the world.
Every one of these is shaky....

War funding request may hit $100 billion

War funding request may hit $100 billion
By Bryan Bender
Boston Globe
December 15, 2004
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration plans to ask for between $80 billion and $100 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, rather than the $70 billion to $75 billion the White House privately told members of Congress before the election, according to Pentagon and White House officials.
Administration officials said yesterday they have not concluded how much money they will request in a "supplemental" spending package that is scheduled to go to Congress in January.
"There's work going on inside the department to understand what's needed, and there's work going on with the Office of Management and Budget," the Defense Department's chief spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, told reporters yesterday.
But some analysts and government officials said the request is expected to run as high as $100 billion, bringing the total cost of operations in Iraq alone to well over $200 billion since the March 2003 invasion....

Saturday, December 11, 2004

US Army plagued by desertion and plunging morale

December 10, 2004
US Army plagued by desertion and plunging morale
From Elaine Monaghan in Washington
Times of London

WHILE insurgents draw on deep wells of fury to expand their ranks in Iraq, the US military is fighting desertion, recruitment shortfalls and legal challenges from its own troops.
The irritation among the rank and file became all too clear this week when a soldier stood up in a televised session with Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, to ask why the world’s richest army was having to hunt for scrap metal to protect its vehicles.
The same night, interviews with three soldiers who are seeking refugee status in Canada, where they have become minor celebrities, dominated prime time television. They are among more the than 5,000 troops that CBS’s 60 Minutes reported on Wednesday had deserted since the war began.
Many experts say that America’s 1.4 million active-duty troops and 865,000 part-timers are stretched to the point where President Bush may see other foreign policy goals blunted.
The bleed from the US military is heaviest among parttimers, who have been dragged en masse out of civilian life to serve their country with unprecedented sacrifice. For the first time in a decade, the Army National Guard missed its recruitment target this year. Instead of signing up 56,000 people, it found 51,000....

Campaign Money Watch: Tom Delay

Tom DeLay is the most corrupt and vindictive politician in Washington. It’s time to take him on his district and educate Texas voters.

Friday, December 10, 2004

National Day of Mourning for American Democracy

National Day of Mourning for American Democracy

Please join us in mourning on January 20th, and invite others to join you.

The purpose shall be to express our Deep Sadness over the results of the Election and the Consequences we believe a second Bush term will have for the Safety and Welfare of the Nation. When enough of us participate, we can deflect attention from the Coronation in Washington. When we make our show of Grief without anger, violence or the appearance of Riot, we will lead our fellow citizens to understand the Gravity of the Situation we face....

Join the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee on January 20, 2004

Counter Inaugural Event hosted by the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee. Join us at the Partying Glass on on Thurdsay January 20, 2005, starting at 7 pm. The Not Ready for Not Ready for Prime Time Players will be performing once again. We may be asking for a donation at the door to go to a designated group (such as Move On) and we are trying to get someone special (Michael Moore, Jon Stewart??) to call in.

Voices of Reason, or Voices of Treason?

Without Reservation
A biweekly column by Karen Kwiatkowski, Lt. Col. USAF (ret.)
02 December 04
Voices of Reason, or Voices of Treason?

Voices of reason are rising in unison. The Bush war in Iraq is increasingly recognized as unwinnable.
Military historian and strategist Martin Van Creveld provides a re-reading of the diaries of General Moshe Dayan as the famous one-eyed warrior toured Vietnam in 1966. In preparation for his visit to the battlefields, Dayan attended a small private dinner in Washington with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, where questions about the situation in Vietnam were asked and answered. Van Creveld writes,
[McNamara] admitted that many of the figures being floated by the Pentagon – particularly those pertaining to the percentage of the country and population "secured" – were meaningless at best and bogus at worst. No more than anybody else could he explain to Dayan how the Americans intended to end the War. What set him apart was the fact that he was prepared to admit it, albeit only in a half- hearted way; as we now know, he already had his own doubts which led to his resignation in the next year. He consoled himself by saying that the War was not hurting the US economy. In other words, it could go on and on until one side or the other gave way.
Van Creveld concludes his article by reminding us of the three problems Dayan saw in America’s military conduct of Vietnam: lack of intelligence, a failed campaign for "hearts and minds" and the problem faced when "an armed force ... keeps beating down on a weaker opponent ... [The stronger force] will be seen as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will end up by losing the support of its allies, its own people, and its own troops." One needn’t open one’s eyes or heart far to see the similarities in Iraq.....

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Howard Dean: 'The future of the Democratic Party'

Howard Dean: 'The future of the Democratic Party'
By Howard Dean
Remarks made by Governor Howard Dean on the Future of the Democratic Party. Given at The George Washington University on December 8, 2004
Thank you for that introduction. It's a pleasure to be here.
Let me tell you what my plan for this Party is:
We're going to win in Mississippi
...and Alabama
...and Idaho
...and South Carolina.
Four years ago, the President won 49 percent of the vote. The Republican Party treated it like it was a mandate, and we let them get away with it.
Fifty one percent is not a mandate either. And this time we're not going to let them get away with it.
Our challenge today is not to re-hash what has happened, but to look forward, to make the Democratic Party a 50-state party again, and, most importantly, to win.
To win the White House and a majority in Congress, yes. But also to do the real work that will make these victories possible -- to put Democratic ideas and Democratic candidates in every office -- whether it be Secretary of State, supervisor of elections, county commissioner or school board member.
Here in Washington, it seems that after every losing election, there's a consensus reached among decision-makers in the Democratic Party is that the way to win is to be more like Republicans.
I suppose you could call that philosophy: if you didn't beat 'em, join them.
I'm not one for making predictions -- but if we accept that philosophy this time around, another Democrat will be standing here in four years giving this same speech. we cannot win by being "Republican-lite." We've tried it; it doesn't work.
The question is not whether we move left or right. It's not about our direction. What we need to start focusing on... is the destination.
There are some practical elements to the destination.
The destination of the Democratic Party requires that it be financially viable, able to raise money not only from big donors but small contributors, not only through dinners and telephone solicitations and direct mail, but also through the Internet and person-to-person outreach.

The destination of the Democratic Party means making it a party that can communicate with its supporters and with all Americans. Politics is at its best when we create and inspire a sense of community. The tools that were pioneered in my campaign -- like blogs, and meetups, and streaming video -- are just a start. We must use all of the power and potential of technology as part of an aggressive outreach to meet and include voters, to work with the state parties, and to influence media coverage.
The most practical destination is winning elective office. And we must do that at every level of government. The way we will rebuild the Democratic Party is not from consultants down, but from the ground up.
We have some successes to build on. We raised more money than the RNC, and we did so by attracting thousands of new small donors. This is the first time in my memory that the DNC is not coming out of a national campaign in debt. We trained tens of thousands of new activists. We put together the most sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation our Party has ever had. We registered millions of new voters, including a record number of minority and young voters. And we saw those new voters overwhelmingly vote Democrat.
Now we need to build on our successes while transforming the Democratic Party into a grassroots organization that can win in 50 states.
I have seen all the doomsday predictions that the Democratic Party could shrink to become a regional Party. A Party of the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest.
We cannot be a Party that seeks the presidency by running an 18-state campaign. We cannot be a party that cedes a single state, a single District, a single precinct, nor should we cede a single voter.

As many of the candidates supported by my organization Democracy for America showed -- people in places that we've too long ignored are hungry for an alternative; they're hungry for new ideas and new candidates, and they're willing to elect Democrats.
Since we started Dean for America last March, we raised over $5 million, mostly from small donors. That money was given to 748 candidates in 46 states and at every level of government.
We helped a Democratic governor get elected in Montana and a Democratic mayor get elected in Salt Lake County, Utah.
We helped Lori Saldana in San Diego. Lori, a Latina grassroots environmental organizer was outspent in both the primary and the general, won a seat on the state assembly.
We also helped Anita Kelly become the first African-American woman elected to her circuit court in Montgomery Alabama.
Fifteen of the candidates who we helped win last month never ran for elective office before.
And in Texas, a little known candidate who had been written off completely ran the first competitive race against Tom Delay in over a decade.
There are no red states or blue states, just American states. And if we can compete at all levels and in the most conservative parts of the country, we can win ... at any level and anywhere.
People will vote for Democratic candidates in Texas, and Alabama, and Utah if we knock on their door, introduce ourselves, and tell them what we believe.
There is another destination beyond strong finances, outreach, and campaigns.
That destination is a better, stronger, smarter, safer, healthier America.
An America where we don't turn our back on our own people.
That's the America we can only build with conviction.
When some people say we should change direction, in essence they are arguing that our basic or guiding principles can be altered or modified.
They can't.
On issue after issue, we are where the majority of the American people are.
What I want to know is at what point did it become a radical notion to stand up for what we believe?
Over fifty years ago, Harry Truman said, "We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing. And we don't need to try it."
Yet here we are still making the same mistakes.
Let me tell you something: there's only one thing Republican power brokers want more than for us to lurch to the left -- and that's for us to lurch to the right.
What they fear most is that we may really begin fighting for what we believe -- the fiscally responsible, socially progressive values for which Democrats have always stood and fought.
I'll give this to Republicans. They know the America they want. They want a government so small that, in the words of one prominent Republican, it can be drowned in a bathtub.
They want a government that runs big deficits, but is small enough to fit into your bedroom.
They want a government that is of, by, and for their special interest friends.
They want a government that preaches compassion but practices division.
They want wealth rewarded over work.
And they are willing to use any means to get there.
In going from record surpluses to record deficits, the Republican Party has relinquished the mantle of fiscal responsibility.
And now they're talking about borrowing another $2 trillion to take benefits away from our Senior Citizens.
In going from record job creation to record job loss, they have abandoned the mantle of economic responsibility.
In cutting health care, education, and community policing programs... and in failing to invest in America's inner cities, or distressed rural communities... they certainly have no desire to even claim the mantle of social responsibility.
In their refusal to embrace real electoral reform or conduct the business in government in the light of day, they are hardly the model of civic responsibility.
In their willingness to change the rules so that their indicted leaders can stay in power, they have even given up any claim on personal responsibility.
And in starting an international conflict based on misleading information, I believe they have abdicated America's moral responsibility, as well.
There is a Party of fiscal responsibility... economic responsibility.... social responsibility... civic responsibility... personal responsibility... and moral responsibility.
It's the Democratic Party.
We need to be able to say strongly, firmly, and proudly what we believe.
Because we are what we believe.
And we believe every person in America should have access to affordable health care. It is wrong that we remain the only industrialized nation in the world that does not assure health care for all of its citizens.
We believe the path to a better future goes directly through our public schools. I have nothing against private schools, parochial schools and home schooling. Parents with the means and inclination should choose whatever they believe is best for their children. But those choices must never come at the expense of what has been -- and must always be -- the great equalizer in our society -- public education.
We believe that if you put in a lifetime of work, you have earned a retirement of dignity -- not one that is put at risk by your government or unethical business practices.
The first time our nation balanced its budget, it was Andrew Jackson, father of the Democratic Party, who did it. The last time our nation balanced its budget, it was Bill Clinton who did it. I did it every year as Governor. Democrats believe in fiscal responsibility and we're the only ones who have delivered it.
We believe that every single American has a voice and that it should be heard in the halls of power everyday. And it most certainly must be heard on Election Day. Democracies around the world look to us as a model. How can we be worthy of their aspirations when we have done enough to guarantee accurate elections for our own citizens.
We believe in a strong and secure America... And we believe we will be stronger by having a moral foreign policy.
We need to embrace real political reform -- because only real reform will pry government from the grasp of the special interests who have made a mockery of reform and progress for far too long.
The pundits have said that this election was decided on the issue of moral values. I don't believe that. It is a moral value to provide health care. It is a moral value to educate our young people. The sense of community that comes from full participation in our Democracy is a moral value. Honesty is a moral value.
If this election had been decided on moral values, Democrats would have won.
It is time for the Democratic Party to start framing the debate.
We have to learn to punch our way off the ropes.
We have to set the agenda.
We should not hesitate to call for reform -- reform in elections, reform in health care and education, reforms that promote ethical business practices. And, yes, we need to talk about some internal reform in the Democratic Party as well, and I'll be discussing that more specifically in the days ahead.
Reform is the hallmark of a strong Democratic Party.
Those who stand in the way of reform cannot be the focus of our attention for only four months out of every four years.
Reform is a daily battle.
And we must pursue those reforms with conviction -- every day, at all levels, in 50 states.
A little while back, at a fundraiser, a woman came up to me. She identified herself as an evangelical Christian from Texas. I asked her what you are all wondering -- why was she supporting me. She said there were two reasons. The first was that she had a child who had poly-cystic kidney disease, and what that illness made it impossible for their family to get health care.
The second thing she said was, "The other reason we're with you is because evangelical Christians are people of deep conviction, and you're a person of deep conviction. I may not agree with you on everything, but what we want more than anything else from our government is that when something happens to our family or something happens to our country -- it's that the people in office have deep conviction."
We are what we believe. And the American people know it.
And I believe that over the next two... four... ten years...
Election by election...
State by state...
Precinct by precinct...
Door by door...
Vote by vote...
We're going to lift our Party up...
And we're going to take this country back for the people who built it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

George's multicoloured parlour trick

George's multicoloured parlour trick
Linda Colley
Wednesday December 8, 2004
The Guardian
In Washington and the White House, the game of musical chairs is still going strong: but it is more than a game. Since the election on November 2, eight of the 15 members of Bush's first-term cabinet have resigned. This is already a higher rate of turnover than occurred at this transition stage under the last two presidents who won a second term, Reagan and Clinton, and more departures are predicted. Yet the number of outgoing cabinet members is less significant than the kind of individuals who have been chosen to replace them....

Ohio election fraud uproar blasting to new level

Election 2004
Ohio election fraud uproar blasting to new level
by Steve Rosenfeld, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
The Free Press
December 7, 2004
The bitter battle over the stolen November 2 election in Ohio has turned into a rapidly escalating all-out multi-front war with the outcome of the real presidential vote count increasingly in doubt. 
In Columbus, major demonstrations on Saturday, December 4, have been followed by an angry confrontation between demonstrators and state police at the office of Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, the Bush-Cheney state chairman who is also officially in charge of certifying the election, at least for now.   Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson has called on Blackwell to recuse himself from dealings with the election, saying his role as Bush-Cheney chairman has compromised his objectivity in delivering fair election results.   
New revelations about voting machine allocations in Franklin County emerged on Tuesday, December 7. William Anthony, Chair of the Franklin County Board of Elections, told WVKO radio listeners that the Board begins “stationing voting machines four weeks out” before Election Day. Security questions were raised after a machine in Gahanna Ward 1B at the New Life Church recorded 4258 votes for Bush where only 638 voters cast ballots.....

Choose The Blue

Choose The Blue - support companies that support Blue (Democratic) politics.

From Altercation:
December 8, 2004 | 11:09 AM ET
Name: Barry L. Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture
Hey Doc,

Politics & Shopping
Are you donating your money to a party that holds the opposite of your political views?

advertisementYou may be doing so, albeit indirectly. Every time you spend money somewhere, some of it (a few cents, anyway) ends up as a political donation.  While most companies play both sides of the aisle, some seem to be strictly Red or Blue outfits, donating money to just one side.
It used to be exceedingly difficult to determine who was giving what.  Thanks to recent disclosure legislation -- and a slew of webtools -- it's now quite easy to determine where your shopping dollars are going.

Check out:

Special mention should go to Choose The Blue for their incredibly easy to use page.  Choose a shopping category, and their crossed reference menu shows you where your money is going.
For example, GM splits their donations 60/40 GOP/Dem; Ford is 71/29. Toyota was the only Blue manufacturer at 74%.  Progressive Insurance was 91% Blue (no surprise there), while State Farm was 81% Red.

Tech firms were surprisingly Blue (Sun, Cisco, HP and IBM), with Siebel, Intuit and Activision the Red exceptions.

Terrific guide if you want to know where your dollars are going this holiday...

(Worth noting that Target is 72% Red, Wal-Mart is 81% Red, while the cooperative Costco is 91% Blue, by the way.)

Katha Pollitt adds:

In 2004, gave 61% of its political donations to Republicans!  It seems strange to me that a bookseller should support the party of fundamentalists, creationists, book banners and privacy-violators, but that is unfortunately the case.  Click here for details.

You can send Amazon a protest e mail by going here.

Good online alternatives to Amazon are Barnes & Noble, which is on the "good list" of blue companies at and Powell's.  And don't forget your local independent bookstore!  If they don't have the book you want in stock, they may be able to order it.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

NY League of Conservation Voters - Environmental Action Agenda for Saratoga Springs

New York League of Conservation Voters
Capital District Chapter
An Environmental Action Agenda for Saratoga Springs, 2004-2005
---- On the City-in-the-Country, the city's overall growth concept in the adopted Comprehensive Plan is a good model for guiding Smart Growth, providing that the City Council and the Planning Board adhere strictly to the principles of the new Conservation Development District regulations for protecting the rural character of the outlying parts of the city. The conservation subdivision and mandatory cluster development provisions will help to save open space in accordance with the City's adopted open space plan. Implementation of the 2001 Community Land Preservation Bond Act will also help to achieve the City-in-the-Country vision of the city.
---- On the SEQRA process for a new source of drinking water, the City Council needs to re-consider its lead agency responsibilities under the State Environmental Quality Review Act for managing the review process for the Saratoga Lake alternative in a timely, fair, factual and apolitical manner. The Council should complete the SEQRA process for the Saratoga Lake alternative, gathering all the facts required for a decision about one of the several alternatives under consideration and responding substantively in the FEIS to all of the public's comments. The public should have time to consider the FEIS and make its final comments before the Council makes its decision.
---- With regard to a new major source of drinking water, the City Council, through the present SEQRA process, should proceed objectively towards making a sound apolitical decision based on facts, selecting the alternative that will be most economical for the city's ratepayers in terms of ongoing operational costs as well as immediate and future capital costs. The City should be in a position to control all costs, while providing a sufficient volume of safe drinking water for the long term. Since at least one alternative that meets all of these criteria is available right now, the City Council should not opt for a short term, band-aid solution, such as tapping some wells for a million or two million gallons. This would be an extra cost for the ratepayers because, in the end, a long term solution that meets all of the above criteria will have to be selected anyway and, meanwhile, its capital costs will keep going up.
---- On watershed protection, the City Council should aggressively seek the cooperation of Wilton and Greenfield in reviewing and modifying the present town and city zoning ordinances to maximize surface water and groundwater protection in the Loughberry Lake and Bog Meadow Brook watersheds. Working with these municipalities, the City also should develop and implement a joint project review system for certain types of land development projects having the potential for significant impacts on water quality in these watersheds. This review system also would serve as a demonstration project whose lessons will be applied in cooperation with other communities when the City's new source of drinking water is on line.
---- On the implementation of the new City Charter, the City Council should appoint the new Administrator of Parks, Open Land and Historic Preservation early in 2004. The person in this position will have a significant role in developing and overseeing the City's park and open land system, including making recommendations regarding acquisition of scenic, environmentally sensitive and recreational land under the 2002 Community Land Preservation Bond Act. Similarly, the Administrator of Human Resources and the Administrator of Planning and Economic Development positions should be filled as a first priority in 2004 as required by the Charter. The experience of this professional will be critical in strengthening the City's planning functions as required by the Charter.
---- On the plan for the Weibel Ave.-Gilbert Road study area, it is important that the City Council retain the rural character of this gateway area in the "country" part of the city by ensuring that only low density, low traffic-generating development occurs here. This also means that high traffic generating uses such as a large indoor recreation field house should not be located there. The "mix and match" plan submitted to the Council by the City-in-the-Country Land Protection Committee should be used as a guide for planning for this area in that it combines some of the better ideas of the Weibel-Gilbert Study Committee.
---- On proposals for parking garages in downtown, the Council should keep sight of the fact that "stand-alone" garages will be a magnet for drawing even more cars downtown, creating more traffic and a need for even more garages as well as creating a hostile environment for pedestrians and precluding commercial activity. The Council should consider other alternatives, including peripheral parking lots and shuttle buses. If garages are built, they should not be located on major commercial streets or avenues where their sterile facades will be the antithesis of a lively, pedestrian-friendly streetscape. A mixed-use design, with commercial shops along the street and a garage to their rear, can obviate this problem.
---- On making the City more pedestrian friendly, the City Council should consider closing some streets to create pedestrian malls, as has been done in many other cities. The present system of bike routes on city streets needs to be made safer and more useable by pavement marking and sign improvements. Cross-walk improvements for pedestrians should be made in downtown and at numerous locations throughout the city. A citywide sidewalk plan, recommended in the 1987 Master Plan, should be completed and fully implemented. Truck re-routing and ticketing should receive higher priority.
---- On a truck bypass, the City Council should seek a regional solution in cooperation with adjoining communities and should obtain DOT's involvement in the solution.

Afraid to look in the moral abyss

Afraid to look in the moral abyss
By James Carroll  |  December 7, 2004
Boston Globe
WHY DON'T we Americans look directly at the war? We avert our gaze, knowing that the situation in Iraq grows more desperate by the day. Vaunted "coalition" efforts to "break the back" of the "insurgency" have only strengthened it. The violence among Iraqis would surely qualify as civil war -- except that only one side is fighting. The structures of relief and repair are gone. Whole cities are destroyed, populations displaced. The hope of Iraqi elections is mortally compromised. "Coalition" members are dropping out. The mission of American force is to secure the country, but it can't secure itself. The performance of US intelligence has been consistent: Its strategic failures caused the war, and its tactical ignorance of the enemy is losing the war.
Meanwhile, in America, this, the gravest foreign policy crisis in a generation, source of a crisis of conscience for tens of millions of citizens, is not a subject of political debate. For many months, overt opposition to the war was sublimated in the effort to defeat George W. Bush in the November election. John Kerry's fatal ambivalence about Iraq sealed the war off from the great quadrennial decision, with the result that the voices of those who hated the war were muted, and the uneasiness of those who were troubled by it was never addressed.
Astoundingly, the Democrats cooperated with the Republicans in assuring that the war in Iraq -- the one thing that might have defeated Bush -- was not an issue. That marginalization of the anti-war impulse continues in the suspended animation of a period after the American election and before the Iraqi election.
The new Bush administration has moved to reconfigure itself in most ways but one. The president's affirmation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in combination with his naming of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, reflects a blind determination to "stay the course" in Iraq, never mind that the course is heading off a cliff....

The disappearing dollar

The disappearing dollar
Dec 2nd 2004
From The Economist print edition
How long can it remain the world's most important reserve currency?

Get article background

THE dollar has been the leading international currency for as long as most people can remember. But its dominant role can no longer be taken for granted. If America keeps on spending and borrowing at its present pace, the dollar will eventually lose its mighty status in international finance. And that would hurt: the privilege of being able to print the world's reserve currency, a privilege which is now at risk, allows America to borrow cheaply, and thus to spend much more than it earns, on far better terms than are available to others. Imagine you could write cheques that were accepted as payment but never cashed. That is what it amounts to. If you had been granted that ability, you might take care to hang on to it. America is taking no such care, and may come to regret it....

Social Security: Inventing a Crisis

Inventing a Crisis
NY Times
Published: December 7, 2004
Privatizing Social Security - replacing the current system, in whole or in part, with personal investment accounts - won't do anything to strengthen the system's finances. If anything, it will make things worse. Nonetheless, the politics of privatization depend crucially on convincing the public that the system is in imminent danger of collapse, that we must destroy Social Security in order to save it.
I'll have a lot to say about all this when I return to my regular schedule in January. But right now it seems important to take a break from my break, and debunk the hype about a Social Security crisis....

Monday, December 06, 2004

Muckraker: No McCain, no gain

Muckraker: No McCain, no gain
McCain ruffles GOP feathers with continued calls for action on climate change
Presiding over his final hearing as chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee last week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) delivered a feisty swan song assuring GOP colleagues and environmentalists alike that he won't be giving up his fight for climate-change regulations anytime soon -- even if the Bush administration and the 109th Congress seem likely to thwart his efforts.
The hearing took place just two weeks after President Bush's reelection, setting the stage for a rancorous debate inside the Republican-dominated Beltway over the next four years, likely deepening the divide between moderate, pro-environment Republicans and the more right-wing, anti-regulation members of the party....

Green Building Growing in Popularity

Green Building Growing in Popularity
12/3/2004 10:36:00 AM
Cox News Service
NEW YORK _ In the world's most environmentally friendly office building, the electrical lifeblood for a bank's shining lights and whirring ATMs isn't coal or oil or gas. It's lunch.
Sandwich scraps and cafeteria castoffs plummet down a chute to a treatment plant where feasting bacteria turn the leftovers, along with shredded bank paperwork, into methane and sludge. Burning the methane powers a turbine, creating electricity, while a nearby park gets the sludge for compost.
The system is one of dozens of features expected to earn the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park in Manhattan the highest rating for environmental design when it is completed by 2008.
It would be the first high-rise office tower certified "platinum" by the United States Green Building Council, a Washington-based coalition that includes builders, government agencies and universities.
"You start out by being good for the planet and you end up being good for the people working in the building," said Bob Fox, one of the tower's principal architects.
With plans to use less than half the energy and water of a typical office building, the tower is at the forefront of a growing movement to construct new buildings and refit old ones to reduce costs and pollution while creating a healthier and more pleasant indoor environment.
With buildings using 70 percent of U.S. electricity and people spending about 90 percent of their time indoors, the council said, the potential impact of building green is enormous.
The council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system has certified about 150 finished projects. More than 1,600 are under way.
The LEED system has four levels _ certified, silver, gold and platinum _ and doles out points in areas such as energy and water efficiency, indoor air quality and use of recycled materials.
"The green building movement really is about understanding the building as an organism and understanding how all the systems play together," said Rick Fedrizzi, the council's president and chief executive.
"We are living in a much different age than we did in the 1970s and 80s, when everything was fast and cheap and quick and glitzy," he said. "Now it's about thoughtful construction, safe construction and enduring construction."
The green building industry didn't take off until after the council issued its voluntary standards in 2000, Fedrizzi said. Three years later, the annual market for green building products and services was $5.8 billion, according to the council.
Many local governments have adopted the standards as guidelines for public construction and offer private developers financial incentives to follow them.
Last month, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said the silver rating would be the goal for new and renovated city government buildings.
Atlanta's city council adopted an ordinance a year ago requiring large city-funded projects to meet the silver level. Three airport buildings, planned before the ordinance, also should be LEED certified, said Ben Taube, Atlanta's environmental manager.
"This is a new area for us, but there's a lot of excitement," Taube said. "It's good for us to lead by example."
Atlanta has three certified buildings, including the Arthur M. Blank Family Office building, which this summer became the Southeast's first gold-rated building. Nearly two dozen other projects seeking certification are under way in Atlanta, which will host the council's annual Greenbuild Expo in November.
The city council in Austin, Texas passed a resolution in 2000 requiring LEED certification for large public projects. The city's Combined Transportation, Emergency and Communications Center earned a silver rating earlier this year.
As green buildings garner more attention, a popular misconception is that they cost more, Fedrizzi said.
"If you start the process early, with an educated team, you can do it for not a penny more than conventional construction," he said.
One Bryant Park is an exception. Less than half of the project's $1 billion price tag comes from construction costs, but innovative and extensive environmental features add about $15 million.
Energy savings, tax benefits and increased worker productivity should quickly make up the extra expense, Fox said.
Bank of America and the Durst Organization, a real estate firm experienced with building green in New York, broke ground in August for the 52-story, crystalline skyscraper. Its designers plan to rack up many points to join the handful of platinum-certified buildings.
Recycled construction materials will abound. Nearly half of the 56,000 tons of cement will be made from pulverized slag, a waste material from steel blast furnaces.
Lights will dim when more sunlight streaks in and two teams will examine all mechanical equipment to ensure energy efficiency.
A 5.1-megawatt natural gas power plant will meet 70 percent of those reduced electric needs, diverting excess energy at night to make ice that bolsters daytime air conditioning.
A ventilation system in the floor will blow filtered air and give each person temperature control, addressing the No. 1 office building complaint that it's too hot or cold.
A planted roof will collect rain, and waterless urinals will save 3 million gallons of water a year. Storing ground water drawn to a 60-foot-deep cellar will reduce flooding in surrounding buildings and lessen the burden on city sewers.
That ground water's heat will help warm and cool the same street-level branch bank powered by food scraps from the corporate cafeteria.
Building green "will become a baseline for the way that all construction happens," Fedrizzi said. "To build any other way really is embarrassing."
On the Web:

U.S. Green Building Council:

Greenbuild Expo:

One Bryant Park:

Atlanta sustainable design:

David Ho's e-mail address is