Thursday, January 19, 2006
Bummed Out By Thursday
In the photo the writer and his wife listen to Paul Hackett, candidate for the US Senate from Ohio in the upcoming Democratic primary. http://www.hackettforohio.com/
In Zen meditation we think non-thinking---that is, we think nothing. What this means is that our whole psychological mind ceases to function, and as a result, our whole being becomes united with the essence of mind, which we signify by Mind. You call this essence the God within you, absoluteness, ultimate reason---it doesn't matter. No matter what you call it, to unite with this essence is the very reason we are gathered here to meditate.
To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.
---Henry David Thoreau
People with opinions just go around bothering one another.
I woke up this morning with a vow in my head to ignore the news and controversies of the day. Like many people in the United States and around the world, I've come to think the news endangers my health. I know many people who are adamant about not wanting to learn what's going on. They say even if you do find out, what do you believe? Everybody lies and twists and distorts. It's all maddening so for a balanced and positive outlook on life, it's better not to look, think about it or know about it. This morning I tried not to think or to look. How did I do?
I did rotten. I'm going to blame the shipment of news from Wednesday, and hope to do better tomorrow. One day at a time for a news junkie. I can lick this thing! But not today.
The New York Times
January 18, 2006
2002 Memo Doubted Uranium Sale Claim
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 - A high-level intelligence assessment by the Bush administration concluded in early 2002 that the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq was "unlikely" because of a host of economic, diplomatic and logistical obstacles, according to a secret memo that was recently declassified by the State Department.
Among other problems that made such a sale improbable, the assessment by the State Department's intelligence analysts concluded, was that it would have required Niger to send "25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton tractor-trailers" filled with uranium across 1,000 miles and at least one international border.
The analysts' doubts were registered nearly a year before President Bush, in what became known as the infamous "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address, said that Saddam Hussein had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
The White House later acknowledged that the charge, which played a part in the decision to invade Iraq in the belief that Baghdad was reconstituting its nuclear program, relied on faulty intelligence and should not have been included in the speech. Two months ago, Italian intelligence officials concluded that a set of documents at the center of the supposed Iraq-Niger link had been forged by an occasional Italian spy.
White House Silent on Abramoff Meetings
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jan 17, 4:56 PM ET
The White House is refusing to reveal details of tainted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's visits with President Bush's staff.
Abramoff had "a few staff-level meetings" at the Bush White House, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday. But he would not say with whom Abramoff met, which interests he was representing or how he got access to the White House.
Since Abramoff pleaded guilty two weeks ago to conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion charges in an influence-peddling scandal, McClellan has told reporters he was checking into Abramoff's meetings. "I'm making sure that I have a thorough report back to you on that," he said in his press briefing Jan. 5. "And I'll get that to you, hopefully very soon."
McClellan said Tuesday that he checked on it at reporters' requests, but wouldn't discuss the private staff-level meetings.
He has said Abramoff attended three Hanukkah receptions at the White House, but corrected himself Tuesday to say there were only two — in 2001 and 2002.
McClellan said Bush does not know Abramoff personally, although it's possible the two met at the holiday receptions.
Abramoff was one of Bush's top fundraisers, having brought in at least $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney '04 re-election campaign and earning the honorary title "pioneer." The campaign took $6,000 of the contributions — which came directly from Abramoff, his wife and one of the Indian tribes he represented — and donated it to the American Heart Association. But the campaign has not returned the rest of the money Abramoff raised.
Democrats outline ethics reform plan in Ohio
Wednesday, January 18, 2006 3:13 PM
National Democrats promoted their ethics reform package today in battleground Ohio, which party Chairman Howard Dean called the center of Republican corruption scandals.
Dean outlined a package of measures to bar members of Congress from accepting gifts from lobbyists, pointing to a federal investigation of GOP Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, who is accused of taking bribes from former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
"The cost of corruption is real to Ohioans, and it's real to Americans, and we're going to put an end to that," said Dean, standing just a few feet away from the ceremonial Statehouse office of Gov. Bob Taft.
The Republican governor pleaded no contest in August to failing to report golf outings and other gifts he was treated to, becoming the state's first governor convicted of a crime.
Dean's visit gave a national stage to an argument Ohio Democrats have been making for months: voters should end 12 years of Republican domination of state government because of pervasive GOP corruption.
That includes a scandal involving $300 million in investment losses at the state insurance fund for injured workers.
Democratic candidates for several statewide offices including governor are sounding similar themes as they try to win back seats in the state that has failed to elect a president just twice in more than 100 years.
Republicans dismissed the event as a publicity stunt and said GOP leaders have moved quickly to address problems.
The Hartford Courant
What Are They Doing With All Our Data?
Laura K. Donohue
January 17 2006
Congress will soon hold hearings on the National Security Agency's domestic spying program, secretly authorized by President Bush in 2002. But that program is just the tip of the iceberg.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the expansion of efforts to gather and analyze information on U.S. citizens is nothing short of staggering. The government collects vast troves of data, including consumer credit histories and medical and travel records. Databases track Americans' networks of friends, family and associates, not just to identify who is a terrorist but to try to predict who might become one.
Remember Total Information Awareness, retired Adm. John Poindexter's effort to harness all government and commercial databases to preempt national security threats? The idea was that disparate, seemingly mundane behaviors can reveal criminal intent when viewed together. More disturbing, it assumed that deviance from social norms can be an early indicator of terrorism.
Congress killed that program in 2003, but according to the Associated Press, many related projects continued.
The New York Times
January 18, 2006
Spying on Ordinary Americans
In times of extreme fear, American leaders have sometimes scrapped civil liberties in the name of civil protection. It's only later that the country can see that the choice was a false one and that citizens' rights were sacrificed to carry out extreme measures that were at best useless and at worst counterproductive. There are enough examples of this in American history - the Alien and Sedition Acts and the World War II internment camps both come to mind - that the lesson should be woven into the nation's fabric. But it's hard to think of a more graphic example than President Bush's secret program of spying on Americans.
The White House has offered steadily weaker arguments to defend the decision to eavesdrop on Americans' telephone calls and e-mail without getting warrants. One argument is that the spying produced unique and highly valuable information. Vice President Dick Cheney, who never shrinks from trying to prey on Americans' deepest fears, said that the spying had saved "thousands of lives" and could have thwarted the 9/11 attacks had it existed then.
Given the lack of good, hard examples, that argument sounded dubious from the start. A chilling article in yesterday's Times confirmed our fears.
According to the article, the eavesdropping swept up vast quantities of Americans' private communications without any reasonable belief that they could be related to terrorism. The National Security Agency flooded the Federal Bureau of Investigation with thousands of names, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and other tips that virtually all led to dead ends or to innocent Americans.
Human Rights Watch World Report 2006
Author: Human Rights Watch
Published on Jan 18, 2006, 07:49
New evidence demonstrated in 2005 that torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration's counterterrorism strategy, undermining the global defense of human rights, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2006.
The evidence showed that abusive interrogation cannot be reduced to the misdeeds of a few low-ranking soldiers, but was a conscious policy choice by senior U.S. government officials. The policy has hampered Washington's ability to cajole or pressure other states into respecting international law, said the 532-page volume's introductory essay.
"Fighting terrorism is central to the human rights cause," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "But using illegal tactics against alleged terrorists is both wrong and counterproductive."
Roth said the illegal tactics were fueling terrorist recruitment, discouraging public assistance of counterterrorism efforts and creating a pool of unprosecutable detainees.
Ex-EPA Chiefs Blame Bush in Global Warming
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jan 18, 5:48 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Six former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency — five Republicans and one Democrat — accused the Bush administration Wednesday of neglecting global warming and other environmental problems.
"I don't think there's a commitment in this administration," said Bill Ruckelshaus, who was EPA's first administrator when the agency opened its doors in 1970 under President Nixon and headed it again under President Reagan in the 1980s.
Russell Train, who succeeded Ruckelshaus in the Nixon and Ford administrations, said slowing the growth of "greenhouse" gases isn't enough.
"We need leadership, and I don't think we're getting it," he said at an EPA-sponsored symposium centered around the agency's 35th anniversary. "To sit back and just push it away and say we'll deal with it sometime down the road is dishonest to the people and self-destructive."
All of the former administrators raised their hands when EPA's current chief, Stephen Johnson, asked whether they believe global warming is a real problem, and again when he asked if humans bear significant blame.
Agency heads during five Republican administrations, including the current one, criticized the Bush White House for what they described as a failure of leadership.
The Washington Post
Is It Warm in Here?
We Could Be Ignoring the Biggest Story in Our History
By David Ignatius
Wednesday, January 18, 2006; A17
The best reporting of the non-news of climate change has come from Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker. Her three-part series last spring lucidly explained the harbingers of potential disaster: a shrinking of Arctic sea ice by 250 million acres since 1979; a thawing of the permafrost for what appears to be the first time in 120,000 years; a steady warming of Earth's surface temperature; changes in rainfall patterns that could presage severe droughts of the sort that destroyed ancient civilizations. This month she published a new piece, "Butterfly Lessons," that looked at how these delicate creatures are moving into new habitats as the planet warms. Her real point was that all life, from microorganisms to human beings, will have to adapt, and in ways that could be dangerous and destabilizing.
So many of the things that pass for news don't matter in any ultimate sense. But if people such as (Thomas E.) Lovejoy and Kolbert are right, we are all but ignoring the biggest story in the history of humankind. Kolbert concluded her series last year with this shattering thought: "It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing." She's right. The failure of the United States to get serious about climate change is unforgivable, a human folly beyond imagining.