Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Washington Whiners

I seem to remember a lot of Republicans claiming that the Democrats were a bunch of whiners after the 2000 presidential election. I guess what is good for the goose is not good for the gander when it comes to Republicans because they are still fighting court battles to overturn the election in Washington State months after the election. Yes, there were irregularities in Washington. There were irregularities in Florida. The Democrats wanted to focus on one county in Florida. The Republicans want to focus on one county in Washington. At least Gore was man enough to stand up and say, for the sake of the country, he was stopping his legal course of action. I guess Dino Rossi is not that big of a man.

I have refrained from saying this for a long time because it is so juvenile, but:

Republicans... Would you like some cheese with your whine?

GOP Election Challenge Continues

Deep Throat Exposed

No, Boomr, I am not talking about a documentary of your favorite 'adult entertainment,' I am talking about the man, the myth, the mystery... the man who brought down Nixon. Vanity Fair magazine claims to have an interview with Mark Felt, who has admitted to being Deep Throat. The Washington Post will be running a story tomorrow, and Woodward will be commenting in Thursday's Post.

Report: Ex- FBI official says he was 'Deep Throat'

Doctor Arrested by Sudan for Reporting Rapes

For the second time, an aid worker has been arrested for reporting on the atrocities occurring in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Instead of arresting the criminals, the Sudanese government is instead arresting the aid workers who make the news public as 'undermining' the Sudanese government.

Sudan arrests second aid worker for rape report

By Opheera McDoom
Tue May 31, 6:20 AM ET

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan arrested a second aid worker from the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid agency on Tuesday over a report on hundreds of rapes in the troubled Darfur region, the agency said.

Vince Hoedt, Darfur coordinator for MSF Holland, said he was under arrest and police were escorting him to Khartoum. It was not clear if he was charged with the same offences as the country director who was arrested and released on bail on Monday.

"I have been officially arrested but there are no official charges as yet," he told Reuters from Darfur. He was at the airport waiting to be transported to Khartoum, where he would meet with the authorities.

An MSF spokesman in the Netherlands told Reuters Hoedt saw his arrest warrant but could not read it because it was in Arabic.

Sudan arrested and later released on bail the country head of MSF Holland, Paul Foreman, who returned to meet authorities on Tuesday. MSF said in a statement the charges against him were spying, publishing false reports and undermining Sudanese society.

The attorney-general told Reuters on Tuesday the maximum penalty for the charges was three years in prison and then permanent expulsion from the country.

MSF Holland published a report in March detailing about 500 cases of rape over a period of 4 1/2 months in Darfur, where a rebellion has raged for more than 2 years.

The violence has killed tens of thousands and forced more than 2 million from their homes.

The report contained anonymous accounts by victims of their ordeals, including being held and raped repeatedly for several days, beaten and even arrested.

Pregnancy out of wedlock is illegal in Sudan, where Islamic sharia law is in force.

Rights group Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday the Sudanese government should be arresting war criminals in Darfur, not aid workers.

"This attack on the bearer of bad news is another assault on free speech," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director for Human Rights Watch. "There is no conceivable security or military reason for preventing publication of this kind of public health information.


(Full Story)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Uh-Oh... Don't Anger the Hammer

DeLay is P.O'd at Law and order making a reference to DeLay's call to make judges "answer for their behavior." last night Law & Order made reference to DeLay when a judge had been killed, but suspects were few.

"Maybe we should put out an APB [all points bulletin] for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt," says Detective Alexandra Eames, played by Kathryn Erbe, after a black appellate court judge is killed.

Maybe DeLay should have thought a little longer before calling for the reckoning in the first place.

"I can only assume last night's slur was in response to comments I have made in the past about the need for Congress to closely monitor the federal judiciary, as prescribed in our constitutional system of checks and balances. I have explained all such comments — even those inartfully made and taken out of context — on numerous occasions, including with representatives of your network."

If that was what DeLay had actually said, I could see how he could be mad, but what he did say was, "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." I saw the live news conference. It sounded even worse live, then it does in print.

But, DeLay is sure to try to use this as a diversion from the fact that a judge just found his PAC to be violating the law.

DeLay Blasts 'Law & Order'

But wait, there's more:

DeLay wrote Thursday to NBC president Jeff Zucker, accusing them "of reckless and irresponsible behavior." Maybe Delay should have called the behavior "inartfull" instead:

"Last night's brazen lack of judgment represents a failure of stewardship of our public airwaves and as much evidence as anyone needs for the embarrassing state of the mainstream media's credibility,"

Are you freaking kidding me. I now understand why conservatives think there is such a problem with the main stream media... They can't tell the difference between a fictional TV show and news. Listen up people, Will & Grace are not co-anchors of the evening news. Ray Ramono is not a White House correspondent.

The producer of Law & Order did have a nice comeback letter though

"Up until today, it was my impression that all of our viewers understood that these shows are works of fiction," he said. "But I do congratulate Congressman DeLay for switching the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a TV show."

DeLay mad over NBC drama that mentions him

Constructionist Myth

I keep hearing people call out for 'constructionist' judges. This whole notion is quite absurd because the constitution needs to be interpreted. Two different judges will read the same line in the constitution, interpret it 'strictly', and still come out with different answers.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. This is a little exercise I have used with a couple of friends of mine who are want strict constructionist. I have only done this in person, so, I am not sure how it will play out on a blog.

First, Read this sentence and try to determine the authors meaning:

I did not say that he said that

Now, scroll down to part two.

















Part two. Do you think you know what it meat?

What about this:


I did not say he said that - meaning, it was not me who said he said it, but it still was said by someone.

I did not say he said that - meaning, I deny saying anything.

I did not say he said that - meaning, while not verbaly saying it, I may have implied it or non-verbally did say it.

I did not say he said that - meaning, it was said, but not by him.

I did not say he said that - meaning, he may have implied it or communicated it non-verbally.

I did not say he said that - meaning, he said something, just not that.

So, even though, the vast majority of judges are constructionist, they are still going to come up with different rulings. Activist judges get overturned on appeal. So, lets please just call whole issue what it really is... Judges who just interpret the laws differently than you would like.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Tom DeLays Pac Found In Violation of the Law

Things got even a little more dim for the embattled 'hammer' today when a Texas judge ruled that DeLay's political action committee violated Texas state law by not disclosing close to $600,000 in corporate donations. This was only the civil part of the investigation that DeLay's group was in violation of the law. The criminal actions against the PAC are still pending.

CNN: New ethics cloud over Tom DeLay
Texas judge rules against PAC treasurer
Thursday, May 26, 2005 Posted: 3:13 PM EDT (1913 GMT)

HOUSTON, Texas (Reuters) -- Ethics questions swirling around U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay mounted Thursday when a Texas judge ruled that a committee formed by the powerful Republican had violated state law by failing to disclose $600,000 in mostly corporate donations.

State District Judge Joe Hart in Austin made the ruling in a lawsuit filed by five Democratic candidates defeated in 2002 by Republicans who received money from Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee founded by DeLay to help Republicans capture the Texas Legislature.

Hart awarded the Democrats a total of $196,660 in damages.

DeLay, the second-ranking Republican in the House, was not a defendant in the suit, which was filed against committee treasurer Bill Ceverha. But the ruling was the latest setback for DeLay, who has been under fire in recent months for ethics problems involving fund-raising, foreign travel and his relationships with lobbyists.

The Democrats charged that the political committee did not report the corporate money and that it was used illegally, because Texas law forbids the use of corporate donations in political campaigns.

Ceverha argued that the money went toward administrative costs, not campaigns.

The committee's efforts helped Republicans take control of Texas Legislature for the first time since the Reconstruction era after the U.S. Civil War, and led to a controversial remapping of the state's congressional districts which ultimately increased the party's majority in the U.S. House.

Hart, who heard testimony in the lawsuit in March but did not rule until now, said in his written decision the contributions should have been reported to the Texas Ethics Commission because "they were used in connection with a campaign for elective office."

He did not rule specifically on whether the money was raised and spent illegally, saying that was "for another trial."

The decision was a victory for clean politics, said Joe Crews, attorney for the Democrats.

"We're very happy and believe this is the first step in upholding the integrity of the Texas electoral process," he said.

"It sends a very clear message to corporations and lobbyists and other folks that this sort of secretive, underhanded activity is against the law and not allowed in Texas."

(Full Story)

An Unholy Alliance?

David Brooks has a good editorial today regarding a natural alliance between liberals and evangelical Christians on today's social ills (mainly poverty). Often, the goals are the same, but the philosophy is different. If we spent less time fighting each other on the philosophy, and spent more time dealing with the reality, maybe we could get something good accomplished.

A Natural Alliance

...My third thought, which may be more profound than the other two, is that we can have a culture war in this country, or we can have a war on poverty, but we can't have both. That is to say, liberals and conservatives can go on bashing each other for being godless hedonists and primitive theocrats, or they can set those differences off to one side and work together to help the needy.

The natural alliance for antipoverty measures at home and abroad is between liberals and evangelical Christians. These are the only two groups that are really hyped up about these problems and willing to devote time and money to ameliorating them. If liberals and evangelicals don't get together on antipoverty measures, then there will be no majority for them and they won't get done.

Now, you might be thinking, fat chance. There is no way the likes of Jerry Falwell and Barbara Boxer are going to get together as brother and sister to fight deprivation. And I say to you: All around me I see bonds being formed.

I recently went to a U2 concert in Philadelphia with a group of evangelicals who have been working with Bono to fight AIDS and poverty in Africa. A few years ago, U2 took a tour of the heartland, stopping off at places like Wheaton College and the megachurch at Willow Creek to urge evangelicals to get involved in Africa. They've responded with alacrity, and now Bono, who is a serious if nonsectarian Christian, is at the nexus of a vast alliance between socially conservative evangelicals and socially liberal N.G.O.'s...

And when I look at the evangelical community, I see a community in the midst of a transformation - branching out beyond the traditional issues of abortion and gay marriage, and getting more involved in programs to help the needy. I see Rick Warren, who through his new Peace initiative is sending thousands of people to Rwanda and other African nations to fight poverty and disease. I see Chuck Colson deeply involved in Sudan. I see Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals drawing up a service agenda that goes way beyond the normal turf of Christian conservatives.

I see evangelicals who are more and more influenced by Catholic social teaching, with its emphasis on good works. I see the historical rift healing between those who emphasized personal and social morality. Most of all, I see a new sort of evangelical leader emerging.

Millions of evangelicals are embarrassed by the people held up by the news media as their spokesmen. Millions of evangelicals feel less represented by the culture war-centered parachurch organizations, and better represented by congregational pastors, who have a broader range of interests and more passion for mobilizing volunteers to perform service. Millions of evangelicals want leaders who live the faith by serving the poor...


(Full Op-Ed)

More on the Bolton Nomination

Senate Democrats are threatening to delay the vote on Bolton. The GOP will undoubtedly call this 'obstructionist' as usual, but it is being done in protest to the White House refusing to release documents that would show if Bolton manipulated intelligence information and inappropriately intercepted other communication. I think it is proper for the Senate to withhold a floor vote until the White House is forthcoming with the information that would finally show if Bolton is truly innocent or not. I don't think that is too much to ask when talking about the nomination of the #2 diplomat in the US.

The records for which Democratic senators are pressing the State Department deal with Bolton's role in assessing Syria's potential threat in 2003 and his seeking out information from secretly intercepted conversations of foreigners and, in some cases, U.S. citizens. The administration has said the documents contain classified information and are not relevant to the Bolton nomination.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), who opposes Bolton, said, "We have reason to believe, though cannot prove without the documents," that Bolton misled Congress about his role in preparing State Department testimony in 2003 about Syria's possible possession of unconventional weapons.

I fail to see how information regarding a person intentionally misleading people is irrelevant. But call me silly, I just want someone I can trust.

Bolton Nomination Nears Key Senate Vote

Debate Starts on Bolton's Nomination

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

House defies Bush on Stem Cell Research Money

50 Republicans defied the president yesterday and came across the isle to work with Democrats in passing a House bill that would ease restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. Bush has already said that he would veto it because it is "killing human beings." Supposedly, the culture of life means that killing innocent life to save life is evil... but then you have Iraq with hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians killed in order to "protect life." There, killing innocent life to save life is good. Does this mean he wouldn't veto a bill that used Arab embryos? I'm confused by his culture of life.

House Defies Bush on Stem Cells
50 Republicans Help Pass Bill to Repeal Restrictions on Federal Funding

By Mike Allen and Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 25, 2005; Page A01

Defying President Bush's threat to impose his first veto, a broad swath of House Republicans voted with an overwhelming number of Democrats yesterday to repeal his restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and plunge the government deeper into the controversial science that supporters say could lead to cures for debilitating diseases.

The 238 to 194 vote, unusual because 50 Republicans broke with Bush and top House leaders, followed a highly personalized, occasionally tearful debate in which a parade of lawmakers recounted medical tragedies that had afflicted their families, while opponents contended that the science is built on destroying human lives.

The legislation, which has strong support in the Senate, would make federal money available for research on embryonic stem cells extracted from frozen embryos donated by couples who no longer need them for fertility treatments. It would lift a restriction imposed by Bush nearly four years ago that limits federally funded research to fewer than two dozen embryonic stem cell colonies, or lines.

The president and other opponents focused on the fact that the embryos are destroyed in obtaining the cells. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) called it a "vote to fund with taxpayer dollars the dismemberment of living, distinct human beings for the purposes of medical experimentation."

"The best that can be said about embryonic stem cell research is that it is scientific exploration into the potential benefits of killing human beings," said DeLay, who set up pro-adoption posters as a backdrop. DeLay, who had lowered his profile amid the storm over his travel and dealings with lobbyists, spent the afternoon on the House floor leading opposition to the bill.

The vote carried an echo of Monday's Senate deal that averted a showdown over Bush's judicial appointments, with moderate lawmakers working across the aisle to triumph over their party leaders. The stem cell bill, which was opposed by 14 Democrats, was sponsored by Rep. Michael N. Castle (Del.), president of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who spent two years building a winning coalition. House leaders scheduled yesterday's vote so that the contentious issue would not be raised repeatedly as an amendment to other critical bills.

(Full Story)

H/T Richie

Frist Vs. McCain

I have seen a lot of debate on who in the GOP comes out the winner and who comes out the loser in the filibuster deal.

Some are claiming the Frist has martyred himself for judges and is the big loser. Others claim that McCain has permanently divorced himself from the religious right. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out, but here is my take.

Frist loses the biggest. First, he has shown that he can't hold together his own party when it comes down to the wire. This hurts his appearance as a leader. Second, he has shown himself as being inflexible, which the American people are getting fed up with. Third, it shows him beholden to the extremist right, and not in the main stream.

McCain, loses, but much less. He loses support from the extremist right, but looks strong to the moderate Republicans and Democrats that are his traditional base.

Both are presumed candidates for the 2008 election. The filibuster fight will help Frist in the primaries, but would kill him in the general election. McCain loses ground in the primaries where support from the religious right is needed, but picks up support from fiscal conservatives and moderate Democrats in the general election. Either way, I am hoping Frist is the GOP nominee. He is possibly the only man with less charisma than Al Gore.

Update: interesting take by Broder

Iran's Nuclear Ambition

I saw a very interesting documentary on PBS's Frontline last night titled Searching for Secrets. It chronicled an inside look at the Iran nuclear crisis through interviews with US, IAEA, and Iranian officials, along with actual footage inside Iran.

The show pretty much confirmed my assertions made in a prior post, nuclear illogic, where I put forth the theory that Bush's pre-emptive war in Iraq has precipitated the current situation. Iran feels that it has never been stronger than it currently is, and the that US has never been weaker in its ability to confront Iran. Iran feels that the pre-emptive action doctrine is too threatening to ignore.

So, once again, it shows that while reactive actions like Afghanistan can be a stabilizing factor, pre-emptive actions lead to destabilizing our own security.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Polls, Polls, Polls

I never take too much stock in polls, but they do give us an interesting barometer of current opinion.

Bush Approval rating has dropped to the lowest since taking office
46% approve of him and 50% disapprove.

But, what is more interesting comes from beliefs on if the government is interested in what the American people are interested in.

For Bush, 40% agree that he shares their interest, while 57% don't think he does.

For congress, it does not look very good for the Republicans.
36% think the Republicans should be in control of congress while 47% believe the country would be better served by Democrats in the drivers seat.

This just goes to show that while a few extremists on the right may have helped the Republicans land on top in the last election, those values that the extremists hold are not mainstream. Hopefully this will take of the wind out of the sales of the legislators who are beholden to the whims of the far right in their party, and maybe we can get back to a government that works for the majority of Americans, not the fringe elements.

USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll results

A Stitch In TIme...

Saves 300 million. 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans reached a compromise that will, for the time being, hold off the power grab of the extremes. 3 of the judges being held up will get a vote soon. 2 more will be continued to be held. An additional 2 will likely be dropped during committee hearings.

The winners: 14 centrists Senators who know it is better to compromise than to be greedy; Judges Owen, Brown, and Pryor; 300 million Americans who still have some form of protection from the tyranny of the majority.

The losers: Senator Frist, James Dobson, William Myers III and Henry Saad.

I am not sure how I feel about the nominations of Owens and Brown going through. Owens has disdain for juries and anything that is not corporate. Brown has disdain for anything that is the federal government. But, I am happy that the Senators where able to reach compromise and avoid the nuclear winter that would have followed Senator Frist pushing the button on the nuclear option.

For the full run down

Wasthington post

LA times

New York Times

Update: This is the statement from Hary Reid's office

Statement of Democratic Leader Harry Reid

There is good news for every American in this agreement. The so-called
³nuclear option² is off the table. This is a significant victory for
our
country, for democracy, and for all Americans. Checks and balances in
our
government have been preserved.

The integrity of future Supreme Courts has been protected from the
undue
influences of a vocal, radical faction of the right that is completely
out
of step with mainstream America. That was the intent of the Republican
³nuclear option² from the beginning. Tonight, the Senate has worked
its
will on behalf of reason, responsibility and the greater good.

We have sent President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the
radical arm of the Republican base an undeniable message: Abuse of
power
will not be tolerated, and attempts to trample the Constitution and
grab
absolute control are over. We are a separate and equal branch of
government. That is our founding fathers¹ vision, and one we hold
dear.

I offered Senator Frist several options similar to this compromise, and
while he was not able to agree, I am pleased that some responsible
Republicans and my colleagues were able to put aside there differences
and
work from the center. I do not support several of the judges that have
been
agreed to because their views and records display judicial activism
that
jeopardize individual rights and freedoms. But other troublesome
nominees
have been turned down. And, most importantly, the U.S. Senate retains
the
checks and balances to ensure all voices are heard in our democracy and
the
Supreme Court make-up cannot be decided by a simple majority.

I am grateful to my colleagues who brokered this deal. Now, we can
move
beyond this time-consuming process that has deteriorated the comity of
this
great institution. I am hopeful that we can quickly turn to work on
the
people¹s business. We need to ensure our troops have the resources they
need
to fight in Iraq and that Americans are free from terrorism. We need
to
protect retiree¹s pensions and long-term security. We need to expand
health
care opportunities for all families. We need to address rising
gasoline
prices and energy independence. And we need to restore fiscal
responsibility and rebuild our economy so that it lifts all American
workers. That is our reform agenda, the people¹s reform agenda.
Together,
we can get the job done.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Death Penalty Debate

I am not particularly fond of the current status of the death penalty in the US. I am not opposed to it in principal, but in practice, it is not applied uniformly, and too many people have been found innocent while waiting for their execution. But, even this debate in the SC goes a little too far for me. Is there really that much to be debated on the cruelty of death by injection compared to 'old sparky'?

Court Split Over Death Penalty Method

By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer
Wed May 18, 4:36 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court's latest clash over the death penalty involves the lethal chemical cocktail used by many states and whether it is an unnecessarily cruel way to die.

The high court temporarily stopped a Missouri execution early Wednesday so justices could consider a last-minute appeal. A few hours later, Vernon Brown was put to death, after justices lifted the stay.

The 5-4 vote was illustrative of the court's sharp division on the death penalty. Earlier this year, by the same vote, the justices issued a landmark ruling barring executions of juvenile killers on grounds they were cruel and unusual punishment.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion on that case; in the Brown case, he voted to allow the execution.

Brown was convicted of strangling a 9-year-old girl with a rope after luring her into his home as she walked home from school in 1986. His lawyers contended his execution would be cruel because the drug combination of sodium pentathal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride can paralyze inmates before subjecting them to suffocation, a burning sensation and a heart attack.

"People are raising this issue across the country. It needs to be addressed," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the anti-capital punishment Death Penalty Information Center.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said state leaders could head off a Supreme Court showdown by reviewing their methods of performing executions.

"It doesn't cost much to do it and it's cheaper than to litigate," he said.

The Supreme Court has never found a specific form of execution to be unconstitutional. A 1999 case challenging Florida's electric chair, known as "Old Sparky," was dropped at the high court after Florida added lethal injection as an option.

Lethal injection is used in 37 states because it is considered more humane than options like the gas chamber and hanging. Chemical solutions vary some by state.

Other issues related to lethal injection have reached the court. Last year, justices looked at the case of an Alabama death row inmate who claimed his damaged veins made it impossible to insert an intravenous line without cutting deep into flesh and muscle.

At the time, several members of the court pressed for assurances that Alabama prison staff would consider the best medical procedures for the inmate. In a unanimous ruling, David Larry Nelson won the right to pursue an appeal.

Although Nelson's case did not involve a direct challenge to lethal injection, it prompted lawsuits over the types of drug cocktails used in other states and justices divided on 5-4 votes in a string of emergency appeals from inmates seeking temporary reprieves.

(Full Story)

EPA Reverses Course

I guess the power of my blog and the tens of people who read it has positivly effected the EPA's position on allowing contaminated sewage to be dumped in our rivers and streams. I'm so proud of me...

EPA Reverses on Partial Sewage Treatment
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer
Thu May 19, 7:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will not allow sewage treatment plants to skip a process for killing some disease-causing micro-organisms after heavy rains or snow melts. The decision reverses a plan proposed in November 2003.

Just hours after EPA's announcement, the House approved a measure to block the agency's 2003 proposal from taking effect. Reps. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., E. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Jeff Miller, R-Fla., had offered it before EPA's about-face.

If the EPA had adopted the policy, U.S. sewage plants might have avoided an estimated $90 billion or more in facility upgrades to allow for oxidation of pollutants in wastes after heavy rains. That lets microbes feed on organic materials, removing viruses and parasites.

The agency normally requires sewage to be treated using a three-step process. But during peak flows from storms, it routinely lets plants discharge a blend of fully and partially treated sewage. The agency had proposed letting that become the official policy for handling the huge volume of waste water that storms bring, but changed its mind after reviewing 98,000 public comments and the testimony at some congressional hearings.

"Blending is not a long-term solution," said Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for the Office of Water. "Our goal is to reduce overflows and increase treatment of wastewater to protect human health and the environment."

Agency officials haven't decided what their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements should be for municipal wastewater treatment during wet weather. They said they were looking at "the most feasible approaches to treat wastewater and protect communities, upstream and downstream."

Tiernan Sittenfeld, legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters, which supported the House measure, said EPA's reversal is "a victory for health" and will help ensure cleaner lakes, rivers and streams.

(Full Story)

Now if we could just get them to retract their statement that they don't need more funding to keep our aging water treatement plants running at par, we will be good to go.

You Know Something is Wrong When...

... a government agency says they have enough money to fully do their job. That is exactly what the EPA is claiming. The new director claims that the EPA can function properly with the reduction in budget proposed by Bush. I have dealt a lot with the EPA in the past. Why were they never able to do anything that they were mandated to do because they didn't have the money to do it in the past, but don't need money now? Simple, they just aren't doing their jobs. Bush has repealed and rolled back so many of out environmental standards, that there is just nothing left for them to do. Bush latest proposal is to allow sewage plants to dump sewage into our lakes and rivers again. I guess the lessons of cholera in the past are lost on our lusterless leader.

Oh, did I mention that 3 years ago, the EPA approved using human sewage as fertilizer on crops that you eat?

New E.P.A. Chief Says Budget Is Sufficient

By MICHAEL JANOFSKY
Published: May 20, 2005
WASHINGTON, May 19 - In his first appearance before Congress as the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Stephen L. Johnson told a Senate appropriations subcommittee on Thursday that he was satisfied with President Bush's budget for the agency even though it represented a 5 percent decrease from the current fiscal year.

The president's request of $7.6 billion for the 2006 fiscal year, which begins on Sept. 1, "supports the work of the E.P.A. and its partners across the nation," Mr. Johnson said, adding that the agency was doing its part to help Mr. Bush reach his goal of cutting the overall budget deficit in half by 2009.

But by saying that the money would be sufficient to "carry out our goals and objectives," Mr. Johnson left the strong impression that he would take his lead from the White House, rather than cast a higher profile, as his immediate predecessors, Christie Whitman and Michael O. Leavitt, did on occasion.

In the case of Mrs. Whitman, a former New Jersey governor who was viewed by the White House as too moderate, it cost her her job. Mr. Leavitt, a former Utah governor considered a rising star on the national level, was promoted to secretary of health and human services.

Mr. Johnson, a career scientist at the agency who was confirmed by the Senate last month, received a warm welcome from subcommittee members. But the chairman, Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, opened the questioning by telling Mr. Johnson that he was "really concerned" about the decrease and its potential effect on a variety of agency programs.

Mr. Burns expressed particular concern about the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which distributes money to states to upgrade their old and eroding water supply systems.

In his budget two years ago, Mr. Bush asked for $6.8 billion to be spent on the program from 2004 through 2011. But the financing schedule, which allocated $850 million a year for 2004 and 2005, now falls to $730 million a year through 2011.

Calling the program "one of the most sought-after ways to finance water systems across America," Mr. Burns said the proposed allocation was "simply not enough" and he asked Mr. Johnson how the administration could justify reducing the annual allocation when many communities were in need of help, especially rural areas. Without more money, he said, problems will grow worse.

Mr. Johnson did not answer the question directly, but he told Mr. Burns that the agency was developing other ways to help communities improve their water systems, through technological advances and more efficient uses of water.


(Full Story)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I've Been Pimped

Maxed out Mama has passed on a baton to me because she claims I am "far, far too serious." Apparently my dry wit and sarcasm is lost in print because that is an accusation I have rarely heard. So, here goes....

10 Things I've Never Done

1. Lied to my dentist and claim I floss every day.
2. Have a fake ID
3. Had my name sewn into my underwear
4. Cheated on an exam
5. Cooked Coq au Vin
6. Named my tape worms
7. Gone over my cell phone minutes
8. Won a spelan bee
9. Bet on a horse named 'Giacomo'
10. Understood women

Lets see... who to torment... I pass the baton to Devils Advocate and Smokey

Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Frist

Filibuster hypocrisy continues to flow from the GOP in their attempt for complete world domination. First, there was the claim that the filibuster is "unprecedented" in judicial nominations. This has long since been shown to be a lie since the GOP filibustered way back in 1968. Now the next big GOP hypocrisy has shown its ugly head.
As recently as March 2000, several Republicans voted to filibuster two Californians whom President Clinton had named to the 9th Circuit appellate court: Richard A. Paez and Marsha L. Berzon. Paez had to wait more than four years for a final vote, a record delay. Ultimately, the Republican stalling tactics failed, and both jurists now sit on the appellate court. [1]

In 2000, Cloture votes were necessary to obtain floor votes (up-or-down) on Clinton judicial nominees Richard A. Paez. Hmmmm, who could that have been trying to filibuster the nomination? Who, oh who? Well, look-see there, it was several Republican senators, including current Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), who voted against cloture. [2]

Voted against cloture Mr. Frist? An attepmted filibuster Mr. Frist? No up-or-down vote Mr. Frist?... that's just down right unconstitutional of you, ain't it?

1 - Republicans force filibuster all-nighter

2 - MMA

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Disingenuous Right.

Ok, I have heard enough out of you righties out there claiming that the Newsweek debacle was some kind of left wing media conspiracy. I am guessing you guys are forgetting that the reporter, Michael Isikoff is no darling of the Left. He was the one who relied on 'thin' sources in his reporting on the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. You didn't seem to mind his relying on sketchy sources then, did you? No, you ate it up, regardless of the source.

Fox News host Sean Hannity called Isikoff a "respected journalist" back in 1998 for his role in the Clinton sex scandal [Hannity & Colmes, 6/15/98-6/19/98].

In the book, The Clinton Wars (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), author and former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal wrote: "[T]he reporter most indispensable to the advancement of the [Clinton sex] scandal from the moment Paula Jones appeared at the conservative conference in Washington in 1993 to the breaking of the Lewinsky story in 1998 was Michael Isikoff" [p. 94].

You think he is some fanatic anti-Bush person? He even wrote a book on the Clinton scandal that made his career, Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter’s Story. The man doesn't care if it is Bush or Clinton or Mother Theresa in the white house. He just wants to make his name known.

I think it is disingenuous of the right to now claim this is a liberal media conspiracy with Isikoff's history. It has nothing more than one reporters attempt to gain 'prestige' by breaking a story.

BTW, I would just like to point out the irony of the blogs, which are now supposed to be checking the 'left wing media bias' need to be checked themselves. Have we really created such a new and better way to inform ourselves?

H/T MMA

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ronco Gold Maker

Since Republicans will believe anything they are told, I am surprised that this didn't get tons of bids.

REAL TIME MACHINE ALL GOLD REPLICATOR CAR BUSINESS

H/T Linnet

Torture and Its Justifications.

There is a good discussion going on at SC&A regarding the issue of torture and its application by a 'civilized' nation. Is there a such thing as justified torture?

Some comments I found of interest:

Most of me believes that to purposely inflict pain on another human being in the name of a 'cause' is wrong, wrong, wrong. It reduces us to the level of those we claim to have risen above.
There is, however, a part of me that would willingly and enthusiastically inflict pain upon anyone who had deliberately laid any kind of violent hand on my children, or threatened them in any way. Such people forfeited their basic civil rights when they, of their own free will, chose to wreak harm on the innocent.
I supposed one could use the second analogy to apply to anything. . . .
The core of me would have trouble rationalizing it, but that other part of me wouldn't.

And my answer is no, absolutely not. No to half drowning people over and over again. No to handcuffing people in extreme positions over and over again. No, no, no. We will inflict worse damage upon our society than they ever can if we, as a country, say these practices are allowable...
In the end, remember, it is humanity which must win. In the end, it will be the great mass of humans who will either reject terrorism as a legitimate tactic or decide to embrace it. In the end, do unto others as you would have them do unto you is a very good rule because it does seem to work out that way in practice. We cannot make the case that we have a better way if we will not live in a better way.

I think torture as an institution is wrong, and it's dangerous if used often or as a first resort. It breeds resentment and fundamentalism and rebellion and all kinds of other badness.


There is obviously no easy answer. How many individuals does this apply to? 1 individual? 2? 10? an entire community? And how broad does this go? When is someone a material witness? How much information do they need to know and how much proof does the government need that a person knows something before the government can torture an individual for information? How far out may the string go? Can you seek information from someone who knows someone, who knows someone who might be a threat?

Oil Wars?

This is a very interesting hypothesis I found on the causes of the Iraq war. The author contends that the war was not precipitated by actual control of oil, but in which currency oil is bought and sold in (dollars vs. euros). The main currency for oil is dollars, if there were to be a switch from the dollar to the euro, it would be disastrous to the US economy (along the same lines of China selling all of it US currency it holds). I highly recommend the read as an alternative hypothesis.

Revisited - The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War With Iraq:
A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth
by William Clark

Although apparently suppressed in the U.S. media, one of the answers to the Iraq enigma is simple yet shocking. The upcoming war in Iraq war is mostly about how the CIA, the Federal Reserve and the Bush/Cheney administration view hydrocarbons at the geo-strategic level, and the unspoken but overarching macroeconomic threats to the U.S. dollar from the euro. The Real Reasons for this upcoming war is this administration's goal of preventing further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an oil transaction currency standard, and to secure control of Iraq's oil before the onset of Peak Oil (predicted to occur around 2010). However, in order to pre-empt OPEC, they need to gain geo-strategic control of Iraq along with its 2nd largest proven oil reserves. This essay will discuss the macroeconomics of the `petrodollar' and the unpublicized but real threat to U.S. economic hegemony from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency. The following is how an individual very well versed in the nuances of macroeconomics alluded to the unspoken truth about this upcoming war with Iraq:

"The Federal Reserve's greatest nightmare is that OPEC will switch its international transactions from a dollar standard to a euro standard. Iraq actually made this switch in Nov. 2000 (when the euro was worth around 82 cents), and has actually made off like a bandit considering the dollar's steady depreciation against the euro. (Note: the dollar declined 17% against the euro in 2002.)

"The real reason the Bush administration wants a puppet government in Iraq -- or more importantly, the reason why the corporate-military-industrial network conglomerate wants a puppet government in Iraq -- is so that it will revert back to a dollar standard and stay that way." (While also hoping to veto any wider OPEC momentum towards the euro, especially from Iran -- the 2nd largest OPEC producer who is actively discussing a switch to euros for its oil exports)."

Although a collective switch by OPEC would be extremely unlikely barring a major panic on the U.S. dollar, it would appear that a gradual transition is quite plausible. Furthermore, despite Saudi Arabia being our `client state,' the Saudi regime appears increasingly weak/threatened from massive civil unrest. Some analysts believe civil unrest might unfold in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Gulf states in the aftermath of an unpopular U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq [3]. Undoubtedly, the Bush administration is acutely aware of these risks. Hence, the neo-conservative framework entails a large and permanent military presence in the Persian Gulf region in a post-Saddam era, just in case we need to surround and control Saudi's large Ghawar oil fields in the event of a Saudi coup by an anti-western group. But first back to Iraq.

"Saddam sealed his fate when he decided to switch to the euro in late 2000 (and later converted his $10 billion reserve fund at the U.N. to euros) -- at that point, another manufactured Gulf War become inevitable under Bush II. Only the most extreme circumstances could possibly stop that now and I strongly doubt anything can -- short of Saddam getting replaced with a pliant regime.

"Big Picture Perspective: Everything else aside from the reserve currency and the Saudi/Iran oil issues (i.e. domestic political issues and international criticism) is peripheral and of marginal consequence to this administration. Further, the dollar-euro threat is powerful enough that they will rather risk much of the economic backlash in the short-term to stave off the long-term dollar crash of an OPEC transaction standard change from dollars to euros. All of this fits into the broader Great Game that encompasses Russia, India, China."

This information about Iraq's oil currency is not discussed by the U.S. media or the Bush administration as the truth could potentially curtail both investor and consumer confidence, reduce consumer borrowing/spending, create political pressure to form a new energy policy that slowly weans us off Middle-Eastern oil, and of course stop our march towards a war with Iraq. This quasi `state secret' is addressed in a Radio Free Europe article that discussed Saddam's switch for his oil sales from dollars to the euros, to be effective November 6, 2000:

"Baghdad's switch from the dollar to the euro for oil trading is intended to rebuke Washington's hard-line on sanctions and encourage Europeans to challenge it. But the political message will cost Iraq millions in lost revenue. RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel looks at what Baghdad will gain and lose, and the impact of the decision to go with the European currency." [4]


Full Essay

Monday, May 16, 2005

Pulpit Fallout

For anyone who has been following the story of the East Waynesville Baptist Church where 9 of its memebers were expelled for not going along with the pastor's political agenda, here is a good follow up story.

Political Split Leaves a Church Sadder and Grayer

By SHAILA DEWAN
Published: May 16, 2005
WAYNESVILLE, N.C., May 15 - From the pulpit of East Waynesville Baptist Church, the temporary pastor offered an unusual message for his adopted flock: "I don't mind telling you before I start off this morning, this is not where I want to be."

No one blames him. Over the past two weeks, the modest brick church with baskets of artificial lilies on the doors has found itself at the center of a national debate, a crash test site in the mixing of politics and religion. The Rev. Chan Chandler, the young minister who led the congregation of about 100 people for the last three years, is gone, having resigned under fire last week and taken his mostly younger followers with him. And nine longtime church members who said he had ousted them because they did not support his increasingly political sermons are back.

When Mr. Chandler, 33, resigned on May 10, some said the battle had been won. But the congregation that regrouped on Sunday was smaller and grayer, teary-eyed and leaderless.

"All the young people left, the young couples," Ernestine Parton, a white-haired woman in pastels that matched the church's colored windows, said after services on Sunday, the first without Mr. Chandler at the head of the congregation. "That's what really hurts."

The turmoil here began last October - near the end of a heated presidential race that divided the nation, families, friends and, ultimately, East Waynesville Baptist Church - when Mr. Chandler told members: "The question then comes in the Baptist Church, 'How do I vote?'; let me just say this right now, if you vote for John Kerry this year you need to repent or resign. You have been holding back God's church way too long."

Mr. Chandler, according to a tape recording of his sermon, added, "And I know I may get in trouble for saying that, but just pour it on."

The split over his comments amounted to more than ordinary congregational squabbling. It involved critical fault lines pitting conservative, and generally older, Democrats of the Old South against younger Republicans, who seemed to be looking to the pulpit for political as well as spiritual guidance.

Even Mr. Chandler's opponents acknowledged that he brought new life and new members to the 52-year-old church.

"He was energizing them," said David Wijewickrama, a lawyer for the ousted members. "But he was not energizing them with religion, he was energizing them with hate."

The ousted members had considered suing the church but eventually decided against it. Two congregation members said that some people who had left the church because of Mr. Chandler's sermons returned on Sunday.

One of the ousted members - Lewis Inman, who had been a deacon - welcomed the 50 worshipers and said he would like to honor the oldest and the youngest mother present, a yearly Mother's Day tradition that had been skipped amid the turmoil.

The oldest was 81. The youngest, it turned out - after an auctioneer-like "I'll start at 25, do we have one 25 or younger?" - was 42.

The guest pastor, Jack Sammons, the head of the Waynesville Baptist Association, spoke at length about the conflict, saying, "Satan has attacked the church."

"It's time to quit taking sides," Mr. Sammons said. "The only side that's here that's worth anything is the side of Jesus."


(Full Story)

Nebraska Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Found Unconstitutional

I have seen a lot out there on the blogs regarding the recent decision by Judge, Joseph Batiallon, string down Nebraska's constitutional amendment defining a marriage as between one man and one woman (the decision). The amendment passed with an overwhelming majority of the Nebraska voters. I do not contend that the amendment was not the "will of the people." It obviously was. But, to this point, no one has produced a rationale to exclude gay marriage that is not based upon traditional religious tenets.

What is the difference between forbidding same-sex marriages and forbidding interracial marriages (Loving v Virginia)? What purely legal rationale can you provide me that gays should be excluded that does not also apply to couples of opposite-sex marriage?

H/T Maxed out Mama for the decision link

Friday, May 13, 2005

Tom Delay Love Fest '05

It was a Tom DeLay love fest last night as conservatives circled the wagons to protect the embattled DeLay.

The crowd dined on filet mignon and salmon and a dessert of red-white-and-blue frosted cake decorated with candy hammers, a reference to the nickname DeLay earned when he was House majority whip.

Does it bother anyone that these people worship someone who is known for being a bully and a tyrant. Not only that, but make baked goods idolizing his being a bully. Nice message to send to our kids... its bad to be a bully, unless you are a Congressional leader or a nominee to the UN.

"Tom DeLay is the most effective leader the House has seen in 50 years," Rep. Tom Feeney, a Florida Republican

To know more about Tom Feeney, see my next post down. He is so far up DeLay's back side, he could tell you what kind of gum DeLay is chewing.

As you would expect, it turned quite ugly inside the gala.

Instead, DeLay told the crowd that as Republicans helped Americans find jobs and helped the country recover from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Democrats offered the country nothing.

This was the most repulsive thing that I think DeLay has said to date. First, the Republicans try to claim religion. Now, they are trying to claim 9/11? The days and months after 9/11 was the first time this nation had come together in many years. liberals and conservatives, young and old, black and white, we stood as one nation. We survived and rebuilt as one nation. I rarely swear on my or any other blog, so please excuse my French, but FUCK YOU DELAY!

I would go on, but I really feel like even giving this man the value of my spittle.

DeLay fires back during gala, says Dems have 'no class'

A Heaping Helping of Devotion

The DeLay Tracker

This little list put together by the Public campaign Action Fund tracks how deep your Republican Congressman is in Tom DeLay's pocket. It reports how much money they have received from the Hammer, and how much money they have given the Hammer's legal defense fund. The top of the list is Tom Feeney of FL. Congratulations Tom.

The DeLay Tracker

Bolton Moves to Senate Floor Vote

With no surprise, Bolton's nomination was passed out of committee yesterday without recommendation. The vote was again on party lines (10-8). The one surprise for me was how vociferously Republican, Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, spoke out against Bolton, and how little opposition Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) presented. Lugar who is an ardent "internationalist" who believes in fostering ties with allies did show some subtle indication of his disapproval by repeatedly calling Mr. Bolton the "presidents choice."

I was able to see some of the hearings yesterday on C-Span (yes, I know, I'm a polinerd). Voinovich, while agreeing to vote Bolton out of committee, laid into Bolton for his temperament and lack of credibility.

"I'm afraid that his confirmation will tell the world that we're not dedicated to repairing our relationships or working as a team, but that we believe only someone with sharp elbows can deal properly with the international community,"

"What message are we sending to the world community?" Mr. Voinovich said of Mr. Bolton's nomination, when "we have sought to appoint an ambassador to the United Nations who himself has been accused of being arrogant, of not listening to his friends, of acting unilaterally, and of bullying those who do not have ability to properly defend themselves. Those are the very characteristics that we are trying to dispel."

"The United States can do better than John Bolton," Voinovich said.

Dick Lugar was much more mellow

"Secretary Bolton's actions were not always exemplary," Mr. Lugar said. "On several occasion, he made incorrect assumptions about the behavior and motivations of subordinates. At other times, he failed to use proper managerial channels or unnecessarily personalized internal disputes. The picture is one of an aggressive policy maker who pressed his missions at every opportunity and argued vociferously for his point of view. In the process, his blunt style alienated some colleagues. But there is no evidence that he has broken laws or engaged in serious ethical misconduct."

I give Bolton a 95% chance of passing the floor vote, but I am still hoping there are some moderate Republican Senators who can see what needs to be done to repair relationships and how Bolton will only create more of a divide.



Nominee for U.N. Moves to Senate; No Endorsement


One Slim Win After Another for Bush

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Nuclear Illogic

The Bush administration has thrust us into a scenario of nuclear illogic. As shown by the re-emergence of the nuclear programs of Iran and Korea, the pre-emptive action doctrine, used as a deterrence, does not work. For and foreign policy doctrine to work, you must view the problem not only from your our security standpoint, but also the standpoint of your adversary. In this manner, Bush's neo-con pre-emptive doctrine has had several fatal flaws.

First, intelligence must be right. For this doctrine to work as a deterrent against rogue nations, our invasion of Iraq would have had to have produced verifiable WMDs and WMD programs. Our claims of Saddam's programs of WMD have turned out to be a conglomeration of poor intelligence, misleading evidence, and possibly out right lies. From Kim Il Sung's view, even if he does not have WMDs or programs to develop them, the survival of his regime is subject to inept intelligence reports and the whims of Washington policy makers who 'selectively' present evidence. And the susequent rational of 'Saddam was a bad guy,' while true, doesn't affect Pyongyang or Terran's view of the matter. From North Korea's standpoint, there is no incentive to actually remain WMD free. Regardless of actual actions, their survival is in peril.

Second, the pre-emptive doctrine becomes moot once one of these rouge nations is able to produce enough nuclear weapons to actually provide a deterrent of their own. If Pyongyang can develop enough nuclear weapons, the US is no longer able to attack North Korea pre-emptively. We, once again, enter an age of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) d├ętente. The US is unable to invade a country that can hit the US with its nuclear arsenal.

Third, because US forces are tied up in Iraq, the US is not able to pose a substantial threat to Iran or North Korea for the foreseeable future. This, has in turn, given the two rogue nations a window of opportunity to develop nuclear weapons without fear of military intervention. Thus, this speeds up the incentive to develop WMDs while the US is unable to act. From the standpoint of Iran and North Korea, the window of opportunity is open as long as the US is tied up in Iraq. Once the US is able to disengage our forces from Iraq, we will once again become a threat to Iran and North Korea, so they had better develop their arsenals as quickly as possible before pre-emptive action is once again a viable action for the US.

Those who believe in the pre-emptive doctrine argue that it is negligent to wait for someone else to attack us before we attack them (reactive instead of pre-emptive). This is a very meritorious argument. Do we have to wait for Americans to die before we should act? This is not an easy question to answer, either morally or policy wise. Afghanistan was a reactive action after 9/11. Few can argue that our actions there were not merited. The question becomes, would our actions in Afghanistan have been a deterrent to others who may have wished to also inflict harm against us? My argument is that our actions in Afghanistan would have had more of a deterrent affect on the spread of WMDs than our pre-emptive actions in Iraq. We had shown the world that, regardless of direct or indirect involvement, a nation would be held responsible for their actions. If Kim Il Sung knows that if his direct or indirect actions lead to the deaths of Americans, that his regimes destruction is assured, he will be less likely to act then if he has got a 50/50 chance that we will invade regardless of his actions.

In my opinion, the pre-emptive doctrine has made us less safe that a reactive doctrine.

North Koreans Claim to Extract Fuel for Nuclear Weapons

Iran Poised to End Nuclear Activity Freeze

P.S. this is also why Bolton is such a bad choice for the UN. He is already seen as someone who's own world view can lead to skewed fact presentation.

John R. Bolton has told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that a policy maker should maintain the right to "state his own reading of the intelligence" even when it differs from that of intelligence agencies.

Senate Panel Is Set to Vote on Bolton Nomination Today

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Voter Fraud and Photo IDs

I just saw this post over at SC&A linking to a story about voter fraud in Milwaukee, WI. Voting fraud is a serious issue and needs to be addressed. Some of the allegations were of people voting twice and/or using false names. The proposed solution to this problem is requiring a government issued photo ID at the polling place. This sounds like a simple solution, and one that I am not opposed to per se. But there is one problem. Not everyone has a drivers license. I know that may sound absurd to many of you, but in places like New York City, there is no need for one. I have a car sitting up in Connecticut that I haven't driven in months.

So, you may say, "well, that is a small percentage of the population." There are 2 million people on the island of Manhattan alone. Then you have the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and some may even include Staten Island as a borough (although that is very disputable). This number is only a small percentage of the number of Americans who do not drive and do not have drivers licenses.

So, you may say, "well then they can get a state ID." True, they can. But they are not free. It varies by state ($10-$45), but lets say $25. While $25 to pick up a State ID card may seem trivial to most of us, ask someone making minimum wage if $25 is trivial to them.

My point is this. I have no problem requiring a photo ID card when voting as long as getting a state ID card is free. Otherwise, it is basically a poll tax which is unconstitutional. If it comes to be that the federal government passes legislation that mandates states to check IDs, the federal government should also ensure that barriers to getting an ID are approaching zero.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More on the Bolton Nomination

Here is some more stories on Bolton's nomination to the UN. Bolton is a poor choice for the position. His strong will and outspokenness can be a plus, but only if he is able to control his tongue and be seen as credible. Bolton can do neither. Whereas Powell is about the only person in the Bush administration I had any respect for (and somewhat for Armitage) and neither of them liked the guy, there is no way I can have any respect for him.

Powell Aide Says Armitage, Bolton Clashed

No. 2 at State Dept. Was Said to Put Restrictions on Bolton

Filibuster Roundup

I am rather busy today and have spent most of my free time rebutting on other blogs, so I just put together a couple of good articles from today on the filibuster.

This one is a good op-ed.
Filibuster standoff: A battle not worth the winning

This one is on the unfortunate failure of the seeming compromise between some GOP and Dems that will be rejected by Frist's all or nothingness.
Judicial resolution still out of reach

This one explores the MAD (mutual assured destruction) both parties are facing and the criticism of one of one of the nominees by Bush's own AG.
Bush, Gonzales push Democrats on jurist votes

Monday, May 09, 2005

Minister Ex-Communicates Democrats

For any of you who have been claiming I should have no fear of the religious right, read the below stories. Now, there is no more denying that there is any attempt from the religious right out there to define Christianity as Republican. This story is about how a Baptist minister ex-communicated any petitioner that would not vote for Bush in the last election. When did Christianity become only about abortion and gay rights? What happened to the whole feed the poor and heal the sick thing?

Minister ex-communicates members for not backing Bush

The Associated Press

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. -- The minister of a Haywood County Baptist church is telling members of his congregation that if they're Democrats, they either need to find another place of worship or support President Bush.
Already, the Reverend Chan Chandler has ex-communicated nine members of East Waynesville Baptist Church. Another 40 members have left in protest.

During last Sunday's sermon, he acknowledged that church members were upset because he named people, and he says he'll do it again because he has to according to the word of God.

Chandler could not be reached for comment today, but says his actions weren't politically motivated.

One former church member says Chandler told some of the members that if they didn't support George Bush, they needed to resign their positions and get out of the church, or go to the altar, repent and agree to vote for Bush.

A former church treasurer says she's at church to worship God and not the preacher.


And the follow up story: A spirited spat steals church calm

Update: Pastor Accused of Running Out Dems Quits

Darfur Part IV

This is the fourth section of a Darfur proposed solution submitted to Congress. For the background, read Part I, Part II, and Part III

IV. PEACEKEEPING STRATEGY

Estimates of the number of troops needed to constitute an effective peacekeeping force in Darfur vary widely. Professor Eric Reeves of Smith College has written that “authoritative military assessments” put the number at 50,000. The African Union has agreed to provide 3,500 soldiers, although only 1,405 troops had been deployed as of March 4, 2005.

On March 24, 2005, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to send 10,000 troops and more than 700 civilian police to southern Sudan for an initial period of six months to support the peace agreement between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A, which ended more than two decades of civil strife between the north and south .

After considerable analysis and discussion, it has become apparent that it is virtually impossible to come up with any meaningful estimate of the number of troops or their makeup, that would be required. The refugee problem is complicated by the sheer magnitude of the number of people involved (1.85 million), the complicity of the Khartoum government in the terroristic activities of the Janjaweed militias, the sabotaging by the militias of relief activities, (including the murder of unarmed relief workers), the geographic location of the camps, and the harsh climatic conditions prevailing in the area. To suggest a number at this point would be completely arbitrary, given the limited information available regarding the overall situation.

A number of factors need to be evaluated before even considering the deployment of a peacekeeping force. A few of them are as follows:

1. The reaction of the Sudanese government to the insertion of a peacekeeping team into their state. Without their approval and support, it is likely that any peacekeeping effort by a third party force must fail. The government would have to commit at the very least to adopting a neutral position and “no fly” zones over the camps and areas in which the force would be stationed. Given their actions to date, this may not be a realistic expectation. Without Khartoum’s approval, the peacekeepers could find themselves in another Mogadishu.

2. The reaction of the other African nations to the concept of a peacekeeping force. Would they support such a proposal or regard an action of this nature as a blow to the sovereignty of the nations of Africa?

3. Who would provide the troops and support personnel, in what numbers, and for what length of time? The United States, which is one of the few nations in the world that can project and support armed forces in foreign locations, is stretched to the breaking point by its present commitments around the world, most notably in Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq. It is hard to imagine another nation taking the lead in sponsoring a peacekeeping force in Darfur, although for political reasons an alternative force may be necessary. A United Nations sponsored group may be the only answer. Regardless of the source of the unit, the nation or group providing the troops will determine the number it is willing to commit, and for what length of time.

4. What is the mission statement of the peacekeeping unit? Is it to patrol actively and defend the refugees and relief workers aggressively, or is it merely to observe and monitor the situation?

5. What are the rules of engagement? Given the savagery exhibited by the janjaweed to date, this needs to be spelled out clearly. Even a passive monitoring force has to have the ability to defend itself. When the shooting starts, what do the peacekeepers do?

6. How will the cost of the peacekeeping effort be funded? This is a critical question. Who foots the bill and for how much? As stated in Section III A above, $176 million has been contributed to the A.U. ceasefire monitoring mission by the international community.

7. A peacekeeping force must integrate its actions with diplomatic efforts to relieve the existing situation. In the long run, diplomatic efforts by the U.S., Great Britain, and other nations, coupled with international pressure on the government of the Sudan, may offer the best hope for bettering the refugees’ situation.

8. What is the exit strategy? If a force is provided, what is the time frame projected for its involvement and when and how does it extricate itself from the country.

Given the fact that the Sudanese government has not acted against the Janjaweed militias, has provided them with arms and monetary support, has not provided information on the size of the militia units, their leadership, or government troop units in the area, and generally appears predisposed to continue the suppression and elimination of its African citizens, it is probably unrealistic to think that a peacekeeping unit of sufficient size and possessing the armament necessary to defend the IPDs effectively can be deployed in Sudan at this time. The Blair five point program (discussed below), while recommending only a limited number of 3,500 African Union troops as monitors, may be most workable proposed troop deployment plan.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Ad Nauseum

Here is the run down on the DeLay scandals.

Two Former Aides to DeLay Paved Way for Lobbyist's Deal
Two of Tom DeLay's top aides brokered a political deal in the Northern Mariana Islands five years ago that helped to land government contracts worth $1.6 million for a Washington lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, now the target of a federal corruption probe.

Fees Were Cloaked in Guam Lobbying Deal
More on Tom DeLay's good friend, Jack Abramoff.

Lobbyist Had Close Contact With Bush Team
A story that makes some preliminary links between the Bush administration and Abramoff.

DeLay Calls for Greater Humility
And one that is just so full of irony and hypocrisy, it makes you both want to laugh and cry.

Bush in Europe

Bush's European tour have brought a couple of good quotes in. The first, I neither agree nor disagree with, just thought it was interesting to see his response.

Dutch TV asked the President about the Dutch being on the opposite end of the spectrum from him on abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, drugs and how Republicans and some Americans don't want to move toward the Netherlands on these issues. Asked if he shares that concern, Bush said that Holland is a free country where people decide policy and the government reflects the will of the people. "And so if that's what the people of Holland want, that's what the government should reflect."


The second, I both agree and disagree with.

Bush brought up the International Criminal Court as an example of where the U.S. and the Netherlands will differ and explained why the U.S. will not join it: "We don't want our soldiers being brought up in front of unelected judges. But that doesn't mean that we're not going to hold people to account, which we're doing now in America. And nor does it mean that even though we may disagree on the court, that we can't work for other big goals in the world."

First, Bush has it a little backwards. ICC judges are actually elected, whereas military curt judges are most certainly not.

Second, I think the US should join the ICC, but I do share his concerns. Whereas the US is often the largest deployer of military personnel to troubled regions, we would have the greatest exposure to abuse of the ICC as a propaganda tool against us. We do, for the most part, hold soldiers accountable for their actions. But many times it does look like many soldiers only get a slap on the wrist when a more harsh punishment is warranted. If we are t be respected and refrain from being subject to the ICC. We must make sure our punishments are at least comparable to what a soldier would receive from the ICC. There is little case law on this so far, but it is something we must be cognizant of.

Source: The Note

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Christian Complex

This is a good editorial piece by George Will regarding the growing divide and mistrust between sectarians and secularists.

The Christian Complex

By George F. Will

Thursday, May 5, 2005; Page A25

The state of America's political discourse is such that the president has felt it necessary to declare that unbelievers can be good Americans. In last week's prime-time news conference, he said: "If you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship."

So Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes and a long, luminous list of other skeptics can be spared the posthumous ignominy of being stricken from the rolls of exemplary Americans. And almost 30 million living Americans welcomed that presidential benediction.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey, Americans who answer "none" when asked to identify their religion numbered 29.4 million in 2001, more than double the 14.3 million in 1990. If unbelievers had their own state -- the state of None -- its population would be more than twice that of New England's six states, and None would be the nation's second-largest state:

California, 34.5 million.

None, 29.4 million.

Texas, 21.3 million.

The president, whose political instincts, at least, are no longer so misunderestimated by his despisers, may have hoped his remarks about unbelievers would undo some of the damage done by the Terri Schiavo case. During that Florida controversy, he made a late-night flight from his Texas ranch to Washington to dramatize his signing of imprudent legislation that his party was primarily responsible for passing. He and his party seemed to have subcontracted governance to certain especially fervid religious supporters.

And last Sunday Pat Robertson, who is fervid but also shrewd, seemed to understand that religious conservatives should be a bit more meek if they want to inherit the Earth. Robertson was asked on ABC's "This Week" whether religious conservatives would be seriously disaffected if in 2008 the Republicans' presidential nominee were to be someone like Rudy Giuliani.

Although Giuliani's eight years as New York's mayor, measured by such achievements as reduction of crime and welfare rolls, constitute perhaps America's most transformative conservative governance in the past half-century, he supports abortion rights, gay rights and gun control. Still, Robertson's relaxed reply to the question was, essentially: What's a little heresy among friends? "Rudy's a very good friend of mine and he did a super job running the city of New York and I think he'd make a good president."

Some Christians should practice the magnanimity of the strong rather than cultivate the grievances of the weak. But many Christians are joining today's scramble for the status of victims. There is much lamentation about various "assaults" on "people of faith." Christians are indeed experiencing some petty insults and indignities concerning things such as restrictions on school Christmas observances. But their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic.


(Full Story)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Senate to Do Away with NEPA

The Senate's energy bill would exempt energy companies from complying with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) when drilling for oil and gas. As the process currently works, when an energy company wants to drill, it must prepare an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that says how the drilling will effect the surrounding environment. This ranges from how it will effect the air, to the ground water, to the animals in the area. Three EISs are prepared. A worst case, a best case, and a most likely scenario. After the EIS is prepared, there is a public comment period where private citizens are given time to let their voices be heard in regards to the EIS and anything else they think may affect them. After the comment period, the government agency reviews the EIS and the comments. If they feel the project should go forward, then the project goes forward. If they think the costs to the environment are greater than the benefits, then the project is scrapped. The only thing a judge can overrule the government agency on is if the decision to allow the project to go forward is 'arbitrary or capricious.' That means, if the governmental agency can show just cause for letting it go forward, the judge throws out suits in summary judgment.

So, in essence, what NEPA really does is say 'look before you leap' and gives private citizens a chance to be heard. It does not block legitimate projects. It just says look before you leap. I don't think that is such a bad thing. I know there are times I wish I had followed that advice in my own life.

Oil projects may get less scrutiny

By Tom Kenworthy, USA TODAY
Wed May 4, 6:11 AM ET

When a Denver-based energy company proposed to explore and drill for natural gas in an area rich with ancient Indian art panels, the plan kicked off a rigorous environmental review.

The company, Bill Barrett Corp., spent two years and $1 million to comply with the federal law that requires studying what the drilling would do to the environment. The 1969 environmental law also requires consultations with government agencies, Indian tribes and residents before drilling and exploring can begin.

The result: The federal Bureau of Land Management forced changes in the project to protect thousands of rock art and artifacts, as well as wildlife and streams.

"It slowed things down a little bit, so the (Bureau of Land Management) could do it right," says Pam Miller of the College of Eastern Utah's Prehistoric Museum.

But in the future, companies like Barrett that produce oil and gas in the Rocky Mountain West may not have to undergo that kind of environmental analysis.

A section of the energy bill approved by the House of Representatives last month would exempt many federal energy projects from the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act.

(Full Story)

Support for the War Slips

While support for the war in Iraq slips, lets not let this also be seen in our support of the troops.

Poll: Most Americans say Iraq war not worth it

On a related note... In a war I did support - The War on Terror - efforts are still paying off. Al-Libbi, Al Qaeda's number three man was caught in Pakistan after a firefight.

al-Qaida's No. 3 Man Arrested in Pakistan

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Hopefuller Country


Kids are smart Posted by Hello

In recognition of National Teachers Appreciation Week, I thought I would post a quote from our lusterless leader about education.

I believe the results of focusing our attention and energy on teaching children to read and having an education system that's responsive to the child and to the parents, as opposed to mired in a system that refuses to change, will make America what we want it to be — a more literate country and a hopefuller country.
-George Bush, January 2001

Too bad that his teachers didn't focus enough of their attention and energy on teaching him.

H/T Linnet

Right to Life?

It will be interesting to see if DeLay will rear his little head for this one. My guess is no.

Jackson Lee urges support for ill baby

By TODD ACKERMAN
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee intervened in Houston's latest end-of-life controversy Monday, asking that a terminally ill infant not be taken off life support.

Jackson Lee appealed to Memorial Hermann Children's and Texas Children's hospitals in the case of Knya Dismuke-Howard, a 6-month-old girl whose leukemia has spread to her brain. After doctors said they'd exhausted all treatment options, a Memorial Hermann ethics committee decided last week to remove her from life support May 9.

Jackson Lee called for Memorial Hermann to reconsider, or for Texas Children's to assume care. "I am concerned the custodial family members are being left out of the decision-making process (during) a difficult and tragic time," Jackson Lee, D-Houston, wrote both hospitals in letters faxed late Monday. "I am pleading on behalf of the baby, for its loved ones and its future."

She met with Memorial Hermann Children's CEO Steve Allen and other physicians on the case Monday night. They told her they would take her plea under advisement.

Texas Children's already had declined Dismuke-Howard's case twice, the second time Monday morning. After reviewing the infant's charts, they said they couldn't provide anything more than what Memorial Hermann was doing. Texas Children's CEO Mark Wallace will send Jackson Lee a letter to that effect today, officials said.

The Dismuke-Howard case marks the third Houston controversy this spring over a 1999 state law that allows hospitals to stop treatment even if the patient's family members disagree. The doctor's recommendation must be approved by the hospital's ethics committee, and family members must be given 10 days written notice of the decision.

Memorial Hermann's ethics committee decided Thursday, five months after diagnosing Dismuke-Howard with leukemia, that further care would be futile.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Pat Robertson is Drinking His Own Kool-Aid Again

There is no question that the man is nuttier than a Pay Day candy bar, but once again he has topped himself. Robertson, appearing on ABC's This Week, claimed that federal judges are more dangerous to us than Al Qaeda, one of our supreme court justices is a communist, and, basically, were all going to hell unless we do exactly as he says. I also loved it when he claimed that only Christian judges should be allowed to serve on the bench. I have been searching all day for the full transcripts of the interview, but have not yet found them. But, here is a taste of the interview. The fact that he has millions of followers is what scares me the most.

Robertson: Judges worse than Al Qaeda

BY DEREK ROSE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Federal judges are a more serious threat to America than Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 terrorists, the Rev. Pat Robertson claimed yesterday.
"Over 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," Robertson said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

"I think we have controlled Al Qaeda," the 700 Club host said, but warned of "erosion at home" and said judges were creating a "tyranny of oligarchy."

Confronted by Stephanopoulos on his claims that an out-of-control liberal judiciary is the worst threat America has faced in 400 years - worse than Nazi Germany, Japan and the Civil War - Robertson didn't back down.

"Yes, I really believe that," he said. "I think they are destroying the fabric that holds our nation together."

Robertson's comments came with a showdown looming in the Senate over seven of President Bush's conservative judicial nominees who have been blocked by Democrat filibusters. Republicans have threatened a "nuclear option" to pass the judges by rewriting Senate rules to stop the filibusters.

Sources told the Daily News that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist lacks the 50 votes he needs, which could be a blow to his presidential hopes. "I don't think Frist has the votes," a GOP aide said. "He's now in his own corner. If he doesn't have the votes, he's really screwed."

Robertson echoed that sentiment. "I just don't see him as a future President," Robertson said.


Update: I finally found the quote on Muslims not serving on the court.

"They have said in the Koran there's a war against all the infidels," he said. "Do you want somebody like that sitting as a judge? I wouldn't."

Darfur Part III

This is Part III of our report to Congress on the Darfur crisis. For the history, read Part I and Part II

III. HUMANITARIAN AID

A. Historical Funding Levels

A total of $1.14 billion has been contributed towards the Darfur crisis from the international community since September 2003. This covers contributions to U.N. agencies, NGOs and the Red Cross in Chad and Darfur and contributions to the African Union ceasefire-monitoring mission, the latter amounting to $176 million. Out of the total amount $ 824 million is registered as cash contributions and $313 million as in-kind contributions.

The United States was the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Darfur in 2004, accounting for 33% of total funding, followed by the European Commission with 17%, and the United Kingdom with 14%.

The food sector was the largest recipient of funds accounting for close to 35% of the total funds for the Darfur crisis, followed by health with 7% of the total funding, coordination and support services with 7%, shelter and non-food items with 4%, and water and sanitation with 3% of the total funding. Donors also funded multisectoral activities amounting to close to 24% of the total funding.

Although a humanitarian catastrophe was averted in 2004, the outlook for 2005 remains very poor. While the presence of humanitarian providers has increased considerably, the increases in assistance have not been enough to keep up with the increase in needs.

B. OCHA 2005 Work Plan
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (“OCHA”) in its 2005 Work Plan for the Sudan (the “Work Plan”) lists the following humanitarian challenges in Darfur:

· Food Security and livelihoods: An estimated 465,000 households in Darfur will be in need of agricultural assistance early in 2005 due to crop failure. Without such assistance, food aid will continue to be needed in large quantities. In addition, 90% of Internally Displaced Persons (“IDPs”) have lost their livestock, which hampers income generation, water gathering and hinders return.

· Food aid: In September 2004, 70% of IDPs and conflict-affected residents received some form of food assistance. Increasing numbers of people are becoming dependent on food aid, including 1.4 million IDPs and 21% of residents. Another 26% of the resident population requires close monitoring.

· Malnutrition: The malnutrition situation remains fragile and well beyond emergency thresholds. Global Acute Malnutrition (“GAM”) rates are at 21.8%, with 3.9% severe malnourishment. Among the affected population an estimated 50,000 children will be in need of supplementary feeding programs and a further 9,000 will be in need of therapeutic feeding programs.

· Water and sanitation: About 60% of IDPs and conflict-affected residents do not have access to safe drinking water. Some 70% do not have access to sanitary means of excreta disposal.

· Health: 48 of an estimated 148 IDP locations are covered by one or more primary health care centres, serving around 70% of the war-affected population. The main morbidities are malaria, diarrhea, and acute respiratory infections. There were two main disease outbreaks in 2004; Hepatitis E, with nearly 12,300 clinically diagnosed cases and 142 deaths, and Shigellosis dysentery type 1, with 68 deaths out of 42,700 reported cases. Strengthening of surveillance and management of communicable disease outbreaks remain a priority as does routine immunization.

OCHA’s 2005 U.N. food aid project will be carried out under the aegis of the U.N. World Food Programme (“WFP”). WFP’s principal objectives are to:

(i) ensure that the basic food needs of vulnerable populations affected by conflict and drought are met, thereby saving lives; and
(ii) improve the nutritional status of vulnerable groups by reducing and maintaining GAM rates below 15%.

In the 2005 Work Plan, the United Nations and its partners requested $1.56 billion to meet needs in Sudan in 2005, with $691 million of the sum required for activities in Darfur. As of March 4, 2005, a total of $345 million had been provided by donors, of which $256 million has been dedicated to support the United Nations Work Plan projects in Darfur. Although this response has been positive, it remains insufficient. In addition, with $240 million of the total sum allocated for food aid, donors have not concentrated on other equally important sectors, such as shelter and non-food items. In order to prevent funding shortfalls, the United Nations has produced a timeline for requirements within the Work Plan during 2005. According to the timeline projection, a total of $322 million was required for United Nations activities in Darfur by the end of January 2005. Unfortunately, this funding target was not met.

However, the good news is that despite funding shortfalls, food assistance is generally being provided according to the schedule contained in the Work Plan so far this year. WFP reported that, as of March 6, 2005, a total of 7,963 metric tons (“MT”) of food were dispatched by road and air from Khartoum and El Obeid to the Darfur state capitals, representing 22 percent (or approximately the amount required to be delivered that week) of the monthly distribution plan of 36,795 MT and 18 percent of the overall monthly dispatch plan of 43,120 MT. WFP is currently pre-positioning commodities in West Darfur in advance of the rainy season to prevent the disruption of food distributions.

C. U.S. Government Aid
As of March 11, 2005, $329 million in aid had been provided by the U.S. in this Fiscal Year.
In March , 2005, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed H.R. 1268 (an emergency supplemental appropriations bill), which among its many other appropriation provisions restores $150 million in emergency humanitarian [food] aid to Sudan. The bill is now being considered by the Senate.
The WFP reported on March 9, 2005, that two vessels containing a total of 65,847 MT of wheat provided by the USAID Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) through the Bill Emerson Trust arrived in Sudan in February, 2005.
The following charts summarize U.S. government assistance to Darfur and Chad in Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005 as of March 11, 2005. A list of abbreviations follows the charts.

(charts not repostable)

D. Security and Environmental Challenges to Provision of Food Aid
Lack of security continues to hamper the effective distribution of food this year as was the case in 2004. According to the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, incidents of banditry are on the rise in West Darfur. On March 8, 2005 two NGO vehicles were stopped outside Habila by armed attackers on horseback who looted the vehicles. On March 10, 2005 two humanitarian vehicles were stopped on the road between Geneina and Kerenik. One vehicle was allowed to proceed; however, money and communications equipment were stolen in North Darfur during that week. In the first incident, a driver en route from El Fasher to El Obeid escaped after his truck was fired upon. The truck, which was empty, remains missing. In the second incident, eight leased trucks were stolen in Al Kuma near Um Kadada. Four of these trucks were loaded with WFP commodities. In the third incident, three leased trucks that were empty were stolen in Sherif Katashi. One driver was injured and the convoy leader was detained.

In December 2004, Save the Children, U.K., a major relief organization, pulled out of the region completely after four of its staff were killed in Darfur, where it provided health care, food support, child protection and education to some 250,000 children and family members. Less than a week later, the WFP stopped its deliveries temporarily when rebels attacked police stations in the neighboring state of West Kordofan. Road closures prevented 70 trucks carrying rations for some 260,000 people from reaching Darfur.

WFP reports that it is preparing to deploy an additional six “security professionals” to perform “security assessments” from March to June 2005. The “security assessment” is intended to assist in the expansion of WFP food assistance, which is currently distributed predominately in IDP locations.

In addition to security concerns, food delivery efforts are hampered by the physical environment of the region. Darfur is a difficult context in which to operate logistically, with minimal infrastructure throughout the region. Darfur’s only paved roads connect the three state capitals. During the rainy season, sections of these roads become impassable. Taking into account the large distances to travel, the remote and dispersed location of much of the population, and the effect of the rainy season, air operations are essential in order to provide uninterrupted humanitarian assistance. Air operations are minimized as much as possible outside of the rainy season via the provision of a common trucking service. As part of its nationwide program to rehabilitate transport infrastructure, WFP plans to rehabilitate the Er-Rahad/Nyala rail corridor this year to reduce transport costs of humanitarian aid. However, if IDPs and conflict-affected persons are to receive services during the rainy season, a large and flexible (e.g. helicopter) air fleet will remain a necessity.

E. Remedial Actions
We strongly urge the Senate to pass, and President Bush to sign into law, the authorization for $150 million in emergency humanitarian [food] aid to Sudan which is contained in H.R. 1268. We also urge the president to accelerate the release of humanitarian assistance funds earmarked for Darfur that have been already authorized by prior legislation. Even if funding targets for the provision of food aid keep pace with levels projected in the Work Plan, security and logistical problems will remain daunting. To address these problems, we would recommend that U.S. government funding be allocated to provide armed civilian security contractors to “ride shotgun” with WFP food convoys and to provide the WFP with additional means of air transport (e.g. helicopters). As noted above, $176 million has been provided by the international community since 2003 to support A.U. ceasefire monitoring efforts. However, as of March 4, 2005, this expenditure had resulted in the deployment of only 1,405 A.U. soldiers. By contrast, only $1 million has been earmarked in 2005 by U.S. AID for emergency food airlift operations. Serious questions must be asked about the priorities reflected in this allocation of resources. The A.U. has no real mandate or inclination to provide security to IDPs or humanitarian aid workers. The organization has been extremely slow to deploy its promised 3,500 troops. Furthermore, it has been quick to blame its lackluster efforts on inadequate U.S. logistical support and funding, according to anecdotal reports from the field.

While civilian security contractors would probably be no match for coordinated military attacks, they would likely discourage disorganized opportunistic bandits and common criminals who seem to pose the greatest threat to humanitarian food deliveries at this time. It is to be noted that the U.S. relied almost exclusively on civilian security contractors to successfully safeguard Ambassador Paul Bremmer during his entire tenure in Iraq. Delivery of food by helicopters instead of by truck would reduce both security and environmental obstacles.