Friday, September 17, 2004

Former Republican Head of EPA Thrashes Bush On Environment

We all probably suspect by now that Bush will have the worst environmental record of any modern president. From Day One, he has set out to dismantle and undermine our environmental laws - endangering our children, and their children, and their children, and so on.

As an elite, super rich, out of touch, fortunate son, Bush probably doesn't think his children and their children will be effected. No, they'll build an ivory tower and a moat around Crawford and everything will be just dandy for the Bushies.

For the rest of us, however, the guy is a menace. Environmental consciousness is sanity, not lunacy or irrationality. We live in a complex ecology, built up for millenia. We have every reason to want to tread gently in our world - at least as gently as we can. Bush is like a drunken cowboy stomping through the tulips, when what we need is a persuasive leader who can lead the nation in the right direction, even if we're all not educated in the nuances of the particular policies.

With that in mind, this is a cogent statement, from a former head of the EPA and a Republican, who is shocked and appalled by Bush's (lack of) leadership and performance in regards to our environment.

One of the earliest heads of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a lifelong Republican joined a group of Minnesota Republicans on Tuesday in a blistering attack against President Bush's environmental policies.

Russell Train, who headed the EPA under Presidents Nixon and Ford, called the Bush administration's environmental record over the past four years appalling and filled with paybacks to special interests.

In an interview and at a news conference at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Train accused Bush of systematically weakening environmental laws, promoting reckless development on public lands and appointing people with conflicts of interests to key posts.

"He represents a turning back of the clock, environmentally,'' said Train, who, as national chairman of Conservationists for Bush in 1988, supported the environmental policies of Bush's father.

A turning back of the clock indeed. Like we're in a disturbing episode of the Twilight Zone. Kerry is right about Bush - our president lives in a fantasy world based upon John Wayne movies and Big Trouble In Little China, and meanwhile all our delicate ecological china is getting busted up.

We can't tolerate 4 more years of Bush, if only due to the lack of action that will take place on our environmental crises and challenges, not to mention the other global challenges we face, in regards to the global commons, that require urgent and cooperative action amongst individual, civil, state, and global actors.

Noone is less qualified to lead such an effort, or less likely to, than Bush.

"REP Minnesota exists to remind our party that if we are ever to find our way clear of a path toward further environmental degradation, Republicans must return our party to the conservative, conservationist tradition of Teddy Roosevelt and the bipartisan spirit of the 1960s and 1970s, which produced the majority of our modern environmental legislation,'' he said.

As the second EPA administrator, Train witnessed the creation of many of those laws. What he said he never witnessed was the widespread interference in regulatory decision-making that he said is being undertaken by the Bush administration.

"In my time, I do not ever recall ever having an instance of the White House telling me how to make a regulatory decision,'' said Train, who contends the public should be infuriated by the administration's willingness to use political muscle to make those scientific decisions.

The article ends with Train (who plans to vote for Kerry) puzzling over why the environment hasn't been a bigger issue and factor in the election so far, and why Kerry hasn't been highlighting "that to a greater advantage".

I'm wondering the same thing.


We don't necessarily need a big environmental agenda, per se, as its own issue. We just need to honor our environmental challenges, and integrate our ecological insights, into the other issues - embedded, interdependent, and synergistic - true to ecological form.

For instance, proposals for greatly stepping up public and private investment in alternative energy and renewables will strengthen the economy, by encouraging greater efficiency and productivity in energy and materials, not to mention being a big job growth engine.

Our security will be enhanced over the long run if we become more independent of energy imports from any particular world region, and better utilize the energy we do import in areas where local production is not feasible or economically viable.

Our health will be improved, and health care costs go down, if we assure ourselves cleaner air and water, protecting ourselves and our children from modern diseases like asthma, not to mention cancers, ADHD, and depression, among other ailments likely caused by the rampant and disregulated dumping of chemicals into our environment.

All of these operating together, in a positive synergy, aren't stifling our economy and vibrance as a society, they're making us fitter and more innovative. This isn't old-school "tree-hugging" we're talking about, but new school economics and natural capitalism. We need to be able to step up and compete in the global economy while at the same time being able to participate and cooperate in the challenges and crises of the global commons.

This is how we go forward and do that. By integrating ecological and scientific insights into our way of life, day to day and over the long term, instead of stifling and distorting science and information for ideological and political purposes, and in favor of special interests, like the Bush Administration.

Monday, September 06, 2004

9/06 - Time To Have A Look At Bush's Leadership And Verifiable Performance

Today is 9/06, and you'll know what I mean shortly. Though 9/11 has often been described as something that ought not be used for political reasons (and ought not to be), Bush has violated this to the point where adhering to this would only be a handicap in determining who ought to be our president in 2005.

Many on the Right, and many Republicans, have over the months since 9/11 cast aspersions that it was Clinton's fault, for this and that reason (neglecting this, overemphasizing that) that 9/11 happened, and that Bush wasn't responsible, even though he was president when 9/11 happened, i.e. it occurred on his watch, and for over 10 months at that point (how long does it take to start doing your job?).

But that's not the point of little essay, just part of the motivation. What is 9/06? It's about who is more fit to be our commander-in-chief, and an examination of Bush claims that he is the heroic and decisive leader we need in this time of historical crisis.

9:06 AM

Bush is in a Booker Elementary School second-grader classroom. His chief of staff, Andrew Card, enters the room and whispers into his ear, "A second plane hit the other tower, and America's under attack."

Intelligence expert James Bamford describes Bush's reaction: "Immediately [after Card speaks to Bush] an expression of befuddlement passe[s] across the President's face. Then, having just been told that the country was under attack, the Commander in Chief appear[s] uninterested in further details. He never ask[s] if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks.... Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turn[s] back to the matter at hand: the day's photo op."

At 9:06am, Bush knew we were under attack, that not just any plane crashed into the WTC, but a hijacked plane. Bush did nothing, and sat with children for over 10 minutes, even as another hijacked plane would soon after crash into the Pentagon, and another into the ground in Pennsylvania.

Is this leadership?

Bush and his team didn't need knowledge of the second plane crashing into the WTC to know America was under attack. It was already well known that Flight 11 had been hijacked, as the pilot had secretly turned on communications from the plane to ground control (allowing them to overhear the hijackers), and as two of the flight attendants had been on the phone with authorities describing dead passengers, stabbed flight attendants, bombs, and hijackers in the cockpit.

This all happened well before 9:06am, but something else occurred at 9:06am that leaves no doubt what was going on:

9:06 AM

All air traffic facilities nationwide are notified that the Flight 11 crash into the WTC was probably a hijacking. [House Committee 9/21/01; Newsday 9/23/01]

Indeed, at 8:43am it was known by NORAD that Flight 175 (2nd plane into WTC) was hijacked, and this information must have been transmitted to Bush, or everyone in a leadership position should have been fired.

So, how do we evaluate our commander-in-chief, on the day that "changed everything", on the day that Rudy Guilani thought to himself, "thank God that George W. Bush is president"?

We can only go by the available information. Our commander-in-chief sat in a classroom, continuing a photo op, and reading a children's story, while America was being attacked, while it was known that multiple planes were hijacked, while two of these planes had already crashed into the World Trade Center, and while confusion reigned in our real-time response!

Some leadership.

If anything, the timeline of Flight 77 (which crashed into the Pentagon at 9:38am) will tell us all we need to know about the performance of our commander-in-chief. He was not our commander-in-chief, at that moment, as he was not engaged. If someone ran into the room and told him muggers were assaulting his daughter in the next room, would he just sit there and continue to reading to children, or would he jump up and go help his daughter?

Is he really in charge? How could he not jump into action? If you had told me America was under attack, under my watch, as president, I would have instantly formed a war room. I couldn't imagine being president/commander-in-chief and not engaging with an attack on the country in favor of a photo op with kids reading a story about a goat - just as I couldn't imagine not coming to the defense of a family member being assaulted in the next room.

And the response after that, with the Secret Service flying him all over the country, is even more abominable. What's more important as a first priority: protecting the president, or having the commander-in-chief take action and lead in our defense!

George Washington, the great president, leader, and warrior, must be rolling in his grave, and nodding his head in agreement: George W. Bush must be fired, as he has already shown himself clearly to be unfit to be commander-in-chief!!!

Indeed, he makes one wonder if this is even true, that the president really is our commander-in-chief, and really in charge, or just some symbolic king that needs protection before the protection of our nation that he ought to be leading the defense.

9/06. Today is 9/06. Evaluate accordingly.

Friday, September 03, 2004

More On Max Boot, and His Rhetoric
There is plenty of precedent for guerrillas trying to affect a U.S. election. In 1900, American troops were embroiled in another nasty counterinsurgency halfway around the world that was not going as well as planned. After the Democratic nominee, William Jennings Bryan, promised to pull out of the Phillippines, the insurrectos launched a fall offensive in order to secure his election.

Is there any evidence to back up Max's statements, or is he merely providing testimony riddled with assocation equals causation fallacies? As a reminder, association does not equal causation, so one would expect at least a sliver of evidence here to support the claim, rather than a timeline. As I mentioned in the last post, I went looking for evidence, and at least on Google, there doesn't seem any to be found.

And this seems to bespeak a problem we have with media, and specifically our editorial writers. In the old days, it wasn't really feasible to put all your evidence, or even footnotes, in the op/ed, because you're obviously limited in space, needing to keep your spiel within a certain number of words (not much unlike Fahrenheit 9-11, I might add, which is like a documentary op/ed, and clearly couldn't have balanced every argument and still provided as much information or remained as entertaining for moviegoers).

In these prior days, one would expect that editors would at least vet op/ed submissions for truth claims, and expect documentation to back them up. It's one thing to state an opinion on a matter, quite another to make the categorical statement (a truth claim) that "there is plenty of precedent for guerrillas trying to affect a U.S. election".

And keep in mind that I'm not saying Max is wrong, but only that I would expect the editor of a newspaper to be able to query Max on his truth claims, even if this is not available to the reader, before allowing it to be printed. In addition, now that we are in the Internet age, there is no reason that these footnotes ought not be provided in the web version of op/eds.

These thoughts are not only motivated by Max. I've noticed a disturbing trend of letters to the editor, in various newspapers, that make categorical and clearly false claims about the Berger affair involving the National Archives, directly lying and mischaracterizing the facts of this episode, which are that Berger was always working with copies, and not originals (not to mention noone 'on record' seemingly having yet confirmed the 'pants and sock stuffing' accusations).

The letters to the editors all share in common claims that Berger could have destroyed evidence and hindered the 9-11 investigation, even though the 9-11 Commission itself has issued a public statement that the Berger investigation had no impact on its activities, and that there was no risk that documents were kept from the commission due to this affair.

This seems an easy and obvious enough intervention for an editor to make, in determining whether an op/ed, either from a reader or paid contributor, is worthy of being published. If it's frankly false, based upon the available information, not in the opinion portion but in the truth claims supporting the opinion, then the submission should be rejected, or at least corrected for truth claims in an editor's note following the item.


I first noticed the Berger letters to the editor in the Orange County Register, sometime in the past month, which devoted an entire page of Berger-focused letters to the editor that were infested with obviously false truth claims (apparently not bothering the so-called reason loving editors of this rag, notorious for its overt libertarian character).

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Max Boot - Pacifying The Phillippines, English Language

Max Boot in today's LA Times:
There is plenty of precedent for guerrillas trying to affect a U.S. election. In 1900, American troops were embroiled in another nasty counterinsurgency halfway around the world that was not going as well as planned. After the Democratic nominee, William Jennings Bryan, promised to pull out of the Phillippines, the insurrectos launched a fall offensive in order to secure his election.

They failed. Republican William McKinley was reelected, and the U.S. went on to pacify the islands.

Before I get on to my criticism of Max Boot, and the abuse of the English language and history by referring to pacifying the Phillippines, an interesting observation arises from this. First, granting (for a moment) the Phillippine insurrection was motivated "to secure...election" of William Jennings Bryan, if Filipinos could have looked into a crystal ball at that time, it would be hard to fault them for resisting and hoping to influence a U.S. election, since they would have seen that over the course of their pacification, from 1899-1903, 200,000 Filipino civilians died, along with another 25,000 rebels (insurgents/resisters/local militia).

American occupation forces identified their objective as the capture of Aguinaldo. They initially perceived conquest and pacification as dependent on the fall of the Aguinaldo government. Because of their superiority in weapons, they also believed that the war would be short and swift in their favor. But the Americans were shocked at the courage and tenacity of the Filipinos who dragged the Americans into several years of battle.

The Filipinos waged a guerrilla warfare which was suitable for the country’s terrain and their limited firearms. Many of them were peasants by day and revolutionaries by night. They were sustained in their struggle by the unrelenting support of entire towns...receiv[ing] food, supplies, and shelter from the people. It was dangerous for an American to stray away from the U.S. garrison lest he be hacked to death by the guerrillas and their sympathizers.

Towards the end of 1900, the Americans declared martial law. To combat guerrilla warfare, they launched a scorched-earth "pacification" campaign. Every Filipino was viewed as an enemy regardless of whether he or she took up arms. Entire towns were held responsible for the actions of guerrillas. Mere objection to the Americans was termed treason. Villages sympathetic to the guerrillas were burned and people indiscriminately killed. Torture was systematically used to elicit information from suspected guerrillas or their sympathizers. One form of torture was the "water cure" treatment where the victim was forced to drink excessive amounts of water after which he was stomped on the stomach. One U.S. soldier bragged in a letter that Americans were shooting Filipinos "like rabbits."

Part of the strategy was the introduction of "reconcentration", a policy of hauling thousands of Filipinos (whom Americans referred to as their "little brown brothers") into concentration camps to flush out the guerrillas among them and to cut their material support to the resistance movement. In the process of reconcentration, whole towns suffered from starvation and disease. Villagers were taken from their sources of livelihood and were not decently fed. Worse, living conditions were less than adequate, with people confined in overcrowded camps without proper sanitation. Camps then became breeding grounds for the spread of deadly diseases such as cholera.

The guerrilla war for independence did not immediately end with Aguinaldo’s capture on March 23, 1901; the insurrection lasted until July 1902. In the end, it took over three years to “pacify” the Philippines. More than 120,000 American soldiers served in the Philippines, 4,200 of whom died. It was estimated that 25,000 Filipino rebels and 200,000 civilians also died.

Let's leave aside the imaginative scenarios, and the torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos by a Republican hero and American president, and get to the point of this essay. Does pacification mean concentration camps, torture, murder, burning villages, declaring any dissent as treason, and systematic wiping out of locals and villages to secure an environment for American investment and markets? Methinks pacification is not the right word, or we should change our opinion of the "sense" of this word (i.e. negatively like 'cleansing').

Further, should we be bringing up this adventure in any way other than with profound sorrow and regret? Do we really consider the systematic rape, torture, murder, and repression of Filipinos (our "little brown brothers") as a success to be emulated?

Last, there are some very clear parallels from the passage quoted above, in terms of the assumptions and the consequences of those assumptions by the president and military planners, and the current situation in Iraq. So there is no excuse for President Bush to claim that he could not have been prepared for the events there.

In the Phillippines adventure, we had such superior firepower, we felt the war would be easy. Only after we made our initial advance, did we determine they had no intention of fighting us in a conventional way that would reflect our superiority, and instead melted into towns and the populace and engaged in guerrilla warfare.

When all was said and done, this shameful adventure should have taught us something, just as Vietnam should have taught us something. But, it seemingly hasn't. Not only that, but our leaders seem to want us to believe that they're not even aware of the mistakes made in these adventures, which seem to be largely the same as we've made in Iraq. We never should have invaded Iraq as we did, and when we did, and even having done so there is no excuse for our poor planning.

And, to my knowledge, there is no basis for Max Boot's claim that the Filipinos actively sought to influence the 1900 U.S. presidential campaign. I'm not saying it isn't true, but from a short, cursory search, I find no evidence for this claim, and Boot offers none in its defense.



Today, the Right continues their campaign to rehabilitate military action in the wake of Vietnam, even by attempts to redefine and rewrite the history of Vietnam itself. Max Boot, unwittingly, has even brought up our epic failures and atrocities of the Phillippines, which have been largely ignored to date, as part of this effort. The clear lesson of history, of both of these campaigns, is that military invasions and brutalization of local peoples by foreigners (we being the foreigners in these cases) ought only be justified under the most stringent requirements, where our safety is imminently threatened, with full private and public review, and if we do take action every effort should be made to have every expert voice heard so that we do it right, and always act with an eye towards peace.

The world hasn't changed that much since the last century turned, as we can see. The battles that Mark Twain and William James, among others, were fighting against deviant political, corporate, and military elites, and for human decency, respect, and dignity, are still going on full bore. Don't fool yourself. That's why there is 500,000 people in the streets of New York, and millions more around the world before the Iraq invasion.

For a short synopis of the Anti-Imperialist League, and its initial platform, follow this link. For an update of what you can do today, start here.

Our Brilliant Blog Hubs

It seems every one of the most populous and trafficked blogs on the Left has embraced and adopted Michael Baruba. They must feel this will really influence people, that Beruba comes up with mildly amusing allusions to surrealists.

This is exactly what's wrong with the blogosophere. The ones who have gained the most advantageous position, the most traffic hits, somehow feel a wannabe political surrealist writer is the next guy to plug, and they infect everyone else with his witty but irrelevant analysis, which has nothing to do with the real world.

Why do they all hit him at the same time? Collusion? It doesn't make sense. I've seen Beruba's name instantaneously all over the heavy hitter blogosphere, and his analysis is nothing to brag about. It's a bit witty, but I'm a surrealist zen poet, and I don't pretend to throw around Breton's name like people care, or even that's he is a great poet.

Now, Robert Desnos is a great poet.

The point of all this is that the blog leadership just have no clue at all what people want to hear, and especially everyday American people. I suspect they don't know these people. Do they ever hang out in bars in non-university towns? I doubt it. They're apparently all a bunch of intellectual wonks who don't know the pulse of American voters just living their lives.

On this site, the pulse is reflected, along with a fidelity to the values we learned as children growing up in our schools. Patriotic values. My arguments, and my little pithy essays, are the kind of communication that works across ideological boundaries. Do I feel special? Hell no. I just care about my country, my friends, my neighbors, and our freedom. But the gateways are too easily entranced by some pretender who drops Breton a few too many times for anyone who plans on voting Democrat to take seriously.

A few words of advice. If this election goes bad, the Democrats will have nowhere to hide, and they won't be able to find comfort in thinking that surrealists or situationalists ever cared about their propaganda or platform. That's just plain fact.

I'm a poet. A zen poet. A lover of surrealism. Read Baruba, he's kind of funny, but keep in mind he will have no impact on this election. I hope our lead bloggers get over their infatuation, and start pointing to everyday arguments that will actually mean something to potential voters.


I went a little overboard with the use of 'clown' and so on in this post last night. Mark it down as frustration at our continuing national dysfunctionality when it comes to dealing with political issues and challenges. I've edited it a bit, to smooth it out, while not losing the message. Let it be said that Baruba is pretty funny too, and I enjoyed his writing the first time I was steered to it. Later, I got annoyed, but it's no fault of Baruba's for people digging his material. Peace.