I started this page Sept 15, 2005 to express my views as others have written…

Editorials and letters to the editor, mostly from the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield Mass.

If you like President Pinocchio, you should read this, pay attention to the vast variety of media available and think again.


No matter what, we’re all going to pay the terrible price having George W. Bush for our president.

And so will future generations.

I personally don’t think the future of the USA looks good. Not good at all.



Some great, to the point t-shirts!


A Bush supporter will interpret the above photo as pro-Bush, as the posters are inverted…. And ambivalent about Ryan…

A thinking person pays attention to the information available and knows better.



I attended the Peace March on Washington DC Sept 24, 2005.



I must say, I think this is extremely well written.  I don't agree with what he says about the Democrats (I think some people on the right have unfairly demonized Democratic candidates in order to trivialize their message-but that's no surprise to any of you).


Bob G


Doug's apology


By Doug McIntyre

Host, McIntyre in the Morning

Talk Radio 790 KABC

There’s nothing harder in public life than admitting you’re wrong. By the way, admitting you’re wrong can be even tougher in private life. If you don’t believe me, just ask Bill Clinton or Charlie Sheen. But when you go out on the limb in public, it’s out there where everyone can see it, or in my case, hear it.

So, I’m saying today, I was wrong to have voted for George W. Bush. In historic terms, I believe George W. Bush is the worst two-term President in the history of the country. Worse than Grant. I also believe a case can be made that he’s the worst President, period.

In 2000, I was a McCain guy. I wasn’t sure about the Texas Governor. He had name recognition and a lot of money behind him, but other than that? What? Still, I was sick of all the
Clinton shenanigans and the thought of President Gore was… unthinkable. So, GWB became my guy.

For the first few months he was just flubbing along like most new Presidents, no great shakes, but no disasters either. He cut taxes and I like tax cuts.

Then September 11th happened. September 11th changed everything for me, like it did for so many of you. After September 11th, all the intramural idiocy of American politics stopped being funny. We had been attacked by a vicious and determined enemy and it was time for all of us to row in the same direction.

And we did for the blink of an eye. I believed the President when he said we were going to hunt down Bin Laden and all those responsible for the 9-11 murders. I believed President Bush when he said we would go after the terrorists and the nations that harbored them.

I supported the President when he sent our troops into
Afghanistan, after all, that’s where the Taliban was, that’s where al-Qaida trained the killers, that’s where Bin Laden was.

And I cheered when we quickly toppled the Taliban government, but winced when we let Bin Laden escape from Tora-Bora.

Then, the talk turned to
Iraq and I winced again.

I thought the connection to 9-11 was sketchy at best. But Colin Powell impressed me at the UN, and Tony Blair was in, and after all, he was a
Clinton guy, not a Bush guy, so I thought the case had to be strong. I was worried though, because I had read the Wolfowitz paper, “The Project for the New American Century.” It’s been around since ‘92, and it raised alarm bells because it was based on a theory, “Democratizing the Middle East” and I prefer pragmatism over theory. I was worried because Iraq was being justified on a radical new basis, “pre-emptive war.” Any time we do something without historical precedent I get nervous.

But the President shifted the argument to WMDs and the urgent threat of
Iraq getting atomic weapons. The debate turned to Saddam passing nukes on to terror groups. After 9-11, the risk was too great. As the President said, “The next smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud.” At least that’s what I thought at the time.

I grew up in
New York and watched them build the World Trade Center. I worked with a guy, Frank O’Brien, who put the elevators in both towers. I lost a very close friend on September 11th. 103 floor, tower one, Cantor Fitzgerald. Tim Coughlin was his name. If we had to take out Iraq to make sure something like that, or worse, never happened again, so be it. I knew the consequences. We have a soldier in our house. None of this was theoretical in my house.

But in the months and years since shock and awe I have been shocked repeatedly by a consistent litany of excuses, alibis, double-talk, inaccuracies, bogus predictions, and flat out lies. I have watched as the President and his administration changed the goals, redefined the reasons for going into
Iraq, and fumbled the good will of the world and the focus necessary to catch the real killers of September 11th.

I have watched the President say the commanders on the ground will make the battlefield decisions, and the war won’t be run from
Washington. Yet, politics has consistently determined what the troops can and can’t do on the ground and any commander who did not go along with the administration was sacked, and in some cases, maligned.

I watched and tried to justify the looting in
Iraq after the fall of Saddam. I watched and tried to justify the dismantling of the entire Iraqi army. I tired to explain the complexities of building a functional new Iraqi army. I urged patience when no WMDs were found. Then the Vice President told us we were in the “waning days of the insurgency.” And I started wincing again. The President says we have to stay the course but what if it’s the wrong course?

It was the wrong course. All of it was wrong. We are not on the road to victory. We’re about to slink home with our tail between our legs, leaving civil war in Iraq and a nuclear armed Iran in our wake.
Bali was bombed. Madrid was bombed. London was bombed. And Bin Laden is still making tapes. It’s unspeakable. The liberal media didn’t create this reality, bad policy did.

Most historians believe it takes 30-50 years before we get a reasonably accurate take on a President’s place in history. So, maybe 50 years from now
Iraq will be a peaceful member of the brotherhood of nations and George W. Bush will be celebrated as a visionary genius.

But we don’t live fifty years in the future. We live now. We have to make public policy decisions now. We have to live with the consequences of the votes we cast and the leaders we chose now.

After five years of carefully watching George W. Bush I’ve reached the conclusion he’s either grossly incompetent, or a hand puppet for a gaggle of detached theorists with their own private view of how the world works. Or both.

Presidential failures. James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Jimmy Carter, Warren Harding-— the competition is fierce for the worst of the worst. Still, the damage this President has done is enormous. It will take decades to undo, and that’s assuming we do everything right from now on. His mistakes have global implications, while the other failed Presidents mostly authored domestic embarrassments.

And speaking of domestic embarrassments, let’s talk for a minute about President Bush’s domestic record. Yes, he cut taxes. But tax cuts combined with reckless spending and borrowing is criminal mismanagement of the public’s money. We’re drunk at the mall with our great grandchildren’s credit cards. Whatever happened to the party of fiscal responsibility?

Bush created a giant new entitlement, the prescription drug plan. He lied to his own party to get it passed. He lied to the country about its true cost. It was written by and for the pharmaceutical industry. It helps nobody except the multinationals that lobbied for it. So much for smaller government. In fact, virtually every tentacle of government has grown exponentially under Bush. Unless, of course, it was an agency to look after the public interest, or environmental protection, and/or worker’s rights.

I’ve talked so often about the border issue, I won’t bore you with a rehash. It’s enough to say this President has been a catastrophe for the wages of working people; he’s debased the work ethic itself. “Jobs Americans won’t do!” He doesn’t believe in the sovereign borders of the country he’s sworn to protect and defend. And his devotion to cheap labor for his corporate benefactors, along with his worship of multinational trade deals, makes an utter mockery of homeland security in a post 9-11 world. The President’s
January 7th, 2004 speech on immigration, his first trial balloon on his guest worker scheme, was a deal breaker for me. I couldn’t and didn’t vote for him in 2004. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Katrina, Harriet Myers, The Dubai Port Deal, skyrocketing gas prices, shrinking wages for working people, staggering debt, astronomical foreign debt, outsourcing, open borders, contempt for the opinion of the American people, the war on science, media manipulation, faith based initives, a cavalier attitude toward fundamental freedoms-- this President has run the most arrogant and out-of-touch administration in my lifetime, perhaps, in any American’s lifetime.

You can make a case that Abraham Lincoln did what he had to do, the public be damned. If you roll the dice on your gut and you’re right, history remembers you well. But, when your gut led you from one business failure to another, when your gut told you to trade Sammy Sosa to the Cubs, and you use the same gut to send our sons and daughters to fight and die in a distraction from the real war on terror, then history will and should be unapologetic in its condemnation.

None of this, by the way, should be interpreted as an endorsement of the opposition party. The Democrats are equally bankrupt. This is the second crime of our age. Again, historically speaking, its times like these when
America needs a vibrant opposition to check the power of a run-amuck majority party. It requires it. It doesn’t work without one. Like the high and low tides keep the oceans alive, a healthy, positive opposition offers a path back to the center where all healthy societies live.

Tragically, the Democrats have allowed crackpots, leftists and demagogic cowards to snipe from the sidelines while taking no responsibility for anything. In fairness, I don’t believe a Democrat president would have gone into
Iraq. Unfortunately, I don’t know if President Gore would have gone into Afghanistan. And that’s one of the many problems with the Democrats.

The two party system has always been clumsy and imperfect, but it has only collapsed once, in the 1850s, and the result was civil war.

I believe, as I have said countless times, the two party system is on the brink of a second collapsed. It’s currently running on spin, anger, revenge, and pots and pots and pots of money.

We’re being governed by paper-mache patriots; brightly painted red, white and blue, but hollow to the core. Both parties have mastered the cynical arts of media manipulation and fund raising. They’ve learned the lessons of Watergate and burn the tapes. They have learned to divide the nation for their own gain. They have demonstrated the willingness to exploit any tragedy for personal advantage. The contempt they have for the American people is without parallel.

This is painful to say, and I’m sure for many of you, painful to read. But it’s impossible to heal the country until we’re willing to acknowledge the truth no matter how painful. We have to wean ourselves off sugar coated partisan lies.

With a belated tip of the cap to Ralph Nader, the system is broken, so broken, it’s almost inevitable it pukes up the Al Gores and George W. Bushes. Where are the Trumans and the Eisenhowers? Where are the men and women of vision and accomplishment? Why do we have to settle for recycled hacks and malleable ciphers? Greatness is always rare, but is basic competence and simple honesty too much to ask?

It may be decades before we have the full picture of how paranoid and contemptuous this administration has been. And I am open to the possibility that I’m all wet about everything I’ve just said. But I’m putting it out there, because I have to call it as I see it, and this is how I see it today. I don’t say any of this lightly. I’ve thought about this for months and months. But eventually, the weight of evidence takes on a gravitational force of its own.

I believe that George W. Bush has taken us down a terrible road. I don’t believe the Democrats are offering an alternative. That means we’re on our own to save this magnificent country. The
United States of America is a gift to the world, but it has been badly abused and it’s rightful owners, We the People, had better step up to the plate and reclaim it before the damage becomes irreparable.

So, accept my apology for allowing partisanship to blind me to an obvious truth; our President is incapable of the tasks he is charged with. I almost feel sorry for him. He is clearly in over his head. Yet, he doesn’t generate the sympathy Warren Harding earned. Harding, a spectacular mediocrity, had the self-knowledge to tell any and all he shouldn’t be President. George W. Bush continues to act the part, but at this point whose buying the act?

Does this make me a waffler? A flip-flopper? Maybe, although I prefer to call it realism. And, for those of you who never supported Bush, its also fair to accuse me of kicking Bush while he’s down. After all, you were kicking him while he was up.

You were right, I was wrong.


Voices of reason

By Milton Bass

Sunday, January 29, 2006 RICHMOND, MA

In 1979, our son encountered three freshmen roommates at college, but only one of them became special in his life and remained close after graduation.

His name is Daniel Benjamin and he is now a key figure among the pundits in this country who are trying to point ways to protect the American public from both internal and external enemies.

A Connecticut native, Danny has close Berkshire connections, working for six months as an editorial writer at The Berkshire Eagle in 1986 and frequently joining us at our dinner table. After graduating magna cum laude in history and literature from Harvard in 1983, Danny also received a degree from Oxford University where he was a Marshall Scholar. Princeton gave him a four year scholarship toward a doctorate, but it took only a year for Dan to decide that the academic life was a bit cramped for him. He became a foreign correspondent for Time magazine before shifting to the Wall Street Journal as head of their Berlin bureau.

He left this in 1994 to become a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, who named him the National Security Council director for speechwriting. In 1998, he was named director for Transnational Threats where his major responsibility was counterterrorism. Following his government service, Danny was named a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and in January 2001 he became a Senior Fellow in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

In 2002, Danny co-wrote with colleague Steven Simon a book titled "The Age of Sacred Terror," which told the story of the birth of al-Qaida and religiously inspired terrorism. This book won the Arthur Ross Book Award of the Council on Foreign Relations, the premier award for a book on international affairs.

Last October a new book by the duo, "The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right," was published by Henry Holt/Times Books, and immediately received highest praise from such commentators as Frank Rich of The New York Times, Walter Isaacson, Richard A. Coll and several experts who have written books on al-Qaida and the war in Iraq.

In their prologue, the authors start off by saying "We are losing." They then go on to demonstrate how the Bush administration has no clear conception of what they are facing in the threat posed by the jihadists and, by their Iraq attack, have turned that nation into a "country-sized training ground" for terrorists. They show that we are not facing any kind of threat by nations, but by "independent cell-based terrorist groups" that have spread throughout the world and can erupt at any moment from any direction.

Benjamin and Simon have no doubts that there will be another terrorist attack inside the continental United States. The only question in their mind is when and where. They do not feel that we are fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we won't have to fight them here because they know that eventually they will come here in some form or shape not expected.

They also warn about "self-starting" terrorist groups without links to al-Qaida who have already caused such devastation in Spain and London.

The writers are devastating in their assessment of the capabilities of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney (the Rasputin of the present administration) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. When Benjamin and Simon left government, they also left behind explicit warnings about the terrorists for their successors, all of which information was disregarded by the Bush administration as it started its already-determined attack against Iraq.

Benjamin and Simon, despite their experience and brain power, can only point out possible means of rectifying the mistakes that have been made, are being made and will be made. It is one thing to talk of defeating terrorists and quite another to root them out. It is great to monitor the Internet for possible dangers but we all know that the hackers, and this includes terrorists, are usually one jump ahead of the authorities.

And most difficult of all is how are we going to create a dialogue with the Islamic world when we have built up such a wall of hatred and distrust that it will be eons before hands might be proffered to shake rather than kill.

However, of all the books I have read about Iraq and terrorism and where we have gone wrong and where we might go right, "The Next Attack" makes the most sense and offers the best we can wistfully hope for. Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon are voices that we must listen to if there is to be hope for the future.




Dangerous times

Editorial Berkshire Eagle

Sunday, January 29


With Osama bin Laden still sending tapes more than four years after September 11, 2001 and Iraq a newly created haven for terrorists, President Bush is on a campaign-style swing around the country defending his abuse of power as necessary in a fight against terrorism that the U.S. is losing. By the logic of Mr. Bush and Karl Rove, the worse things get, the more right the White House has to whittle away at civil liberties and the more reason there is to vote for Republican congressmen in November. Perhaps the White House can win for losing in the bizarro world of Washington.

These are dangerous times for America, and not just because Mr. bin Laden has still eluded an administration that may find it useful to have him in the role of bogeyman. That the White House cynically used the horrible tragedy of September 11 as an excuse to try to fulfill neocon, think tank dreams of reconfiguring Iraq and the Middle East in ways more to its liking is old news, but not something that should be forgotten. Looked at in the context of the White House's defense of torture, the president's illegal domestic spying program and related abominations, the larger picture of an administration that believes the chief executive — specifically this chief executive, not necessarily a Democratic one — has virtually unobstructed authority in times of "war" emerges in all its ugliness.

On Wednesday, the president raised the convenient specter of Mr. bin Laden, suggesting that those opposed to his domestic spying program don't believe there are "still people willing to attack." In truth, people opposed to the president's violation of the Constitution don't doubt that terrorists are still willing to attack America, they simply wish the president had done something constructive about it since he took office.

The all-but-forgotten 9/11 Commission, comprised of both Republicans and Democrats, found that the federal apparatus had the information and the resources it needed to anticipate the attacks of September 11 but failed to do so, largely because of communication problems and institutional lethargy. An intelligence report labeled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within the United States" was shrugged off by the White House. Specific warnings about the dangers presented by al-Qaida left by the Clinton administration were disregarded because of their source.

In short, to paraphrase a favorite statement of the National Rifle Association, there is no need for new laws to fight terrorism, we just have to enforce the laws we have.

In that regard, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 enables an administration to quickly get a court order permitting domestic wiretapping. The White House could go that route but prefers a large-scale domestic spying program that fits in snugly with its efforts to stretch executive powers to unprecedented extremes. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales argued last week that Congress authorized this surveillance program when it signed on to the president's efforts to fight terrorism. Congress has done many foolish things, such as back in the war in Iraq, but in no way shape or form did it authorize the White House to gut the Fourth Amendment.

The president, with the assistance of a Republican congressional leadership apparently determined to make the body it heads irrelevant, has launched an assault against the very foundations of our system of government. Worse, it is doing so in the name of a fight against enemies of America who have been strengthened by the administration's invasion of Iraq, which took the heat off al-Qaida while opening Iraq to terrorist elements. Dangerous times.




I laid off for a while, there’s too much going on against the present administration now, it’s overwhelming!

But Milton Bass hits the nail on the head again, so here is his opinion January 15, 2006 (Happy New Year):

Why can't they see?

By Milton Bass

Sunday, January 15


WHY SO many million Americans do not see through President George W. Bush's inability to comprehend the havoc he has caused in the world is beyond my understanding. Are they so taken in by the smirking piousness he tries to project that they fail to see the chinks, the cracks, the ruptures in the Republican con game that is leading this country down such a bleak and forbidding road? It is our children and grandchildren who will have to try to crawl out of the pit into which they are being dumped.

The latest outrage might seem small potatoes to some, but to me it perfectly illustrates the obliviousness of this person to what he has done to all Americans. On one of the final days of his Christmas vacation where he spent the days mountain biking and clearing brush on his Crawford, Texas, ranch, Bush took a few hours to visit wounded military personnel at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He pinned Purple Hearts on seven soldiers and thanked them for their service to their country, and then lightened the atmosphere with one of his usual jokes.

According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Bush "kidded in a way that again showed his jarring lack of empathy with the amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan." "As you can possibly see," he said, "I have an injury myself — not here at the hospital, but in combat with a cedar. I eventually won. The cedar gave me a little scratch. As a matter of fact, the colonel asked if I needed first aid when she first saw me. I was able to avoid any major surgical operations here, but thanks for your compassion, colonel."

Even though I wasn't there, I am sure that the audience, wounded and hospital personnel alike, responded to this joke by their commander in chief with hearty laughter. That is why Bush speaks only to captive audiences — military personnel and Republican fund-raisers — because their counted-on reactions to whatever he says range from politely thrilled to enthusiastically affirmative.

It has long been public knowledge that many of the wounds suffered in Iraq are horrible, with victims being kept alive by modern medical miracles. There have been a great many amputations necessary, some of them multiple.

That's what you see in a military hospital. What you don't see are the actual situations in which these horrors occur. Many great writers have tried to re-create the situations that occur in a war but no one has ever really succeeded. You have to go through it in order to get an inkling of the terror that ensues and even then there is the feeling that you are only on the edge of the precipice, that you have no idea what it is like at the bottom of the hellhole.

So President Bush thought he was lightening the seriousness of the moment, that he was giving "his" troops a respite from their daily tasks of possible rehabilitation. He knew that the scratch he received from the recalcitrant cedar tree was nothing to what these people are undergoing and which may remain with them for the rest of their young lives. But he did not make the connection between his scratch and their loss of limbs or internal injuries or mental damage. There is no depth to his thinking.

What he said was as ignorant as his compliment of former FEMA director Michael Brown during the Katrina disaster: "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie."

What do we do with those who do not see through this transparency of a man? Who are the people who think he is the one protecting them from the terrorists when in reality he is running this country straight into the bog? Do they care that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 or al-Qaida? Do they care that while the country is running trillions of dollars into debt, tax cuts are being given to the rich? Do they care that the poor, the weak, the sick and the old are being made poorer, weaker, sicker and dead? Do they care that there is so much corruption in the government? Do they care that our president still considers himself capable of ordering torture if he so decides? Do they care that our civil rights are needlessly being dissipated? What do they care about?

To me, the core support for Bush in this country is from the single-issue voters who are focused on only one particular consequence. Foremost among these is abortion. Secondly, comes gay marriage. Thirdly, comes just plain homosexual rights. Fourthly, comes security. And lastly come everything else. If a politician is for any of the above, these voters don't care what he or she does on any other matters no matter how vital they might be. These are the people who can't tell the difference between a scratch and a grievous wound, the people who are supporting the Republicans right down the wire and are helping to bleed the American heritage into insignificance.

How can their blinders be removed? How can they be made to practice the values they continually bleat about?




A joke?

George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are flying on Air Force One.

The President looks at the Vice President, chuckles and says, "You know, I could throw a $1,000.00 bill out the window right now and make somebody very happy."  The Vice President shrugs and says, "Well, I could throw ten $100.00 bills out the window and make 10 people very happy."

Not to be out done, the Secretary of Defense says, "Of course then, I could throw one-hundred $10.00 bills out the window and make a hundred people very happy."

The pilot rolls his eyes and says to his co-pilot, "Such big shots back there... hell, I could throw all of them out the window and make 56 million people very happy".


God save America

By Milton Bass

Sunday, October 09


AMERICANS HAVE always believed the United States was the greatest country in the world — in size, in wealth, in technology, in health care, in comfort, in pride, in can-do, in peace-loving, in war, in innovation, in manufacturing, in agriculture, in safety, in cars, in planes, in generosity, in democracy, in common sense, in charity, in good will, in fairness, and a host of other great things that just don't spring forth from the mind of a geezer.

For the past four and half years we have had a president who keeps reassuring us about these qualities, and tells the world that we are also nobody to mess with because we are straight shooters who will beat you in the long run, and also blow your house down even with the pig in it and solid brick construction. These threats are being made by who our media constantly refer to as "the most powerful man in the world."

Right now George W. Bush holds not only the title of omnipotence, but he also believes it religiously. As many of his followers have claimed and as Bush has not denied, God wanted him to be president of the United States. A book, "The Faith of George Bush," written by Stephen Mansfield, states that Bush once said to an evangelist minister, James Robinson: "I feel like God wants me to run for president. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen — I know it won't be easy on me and my family, but God wants me to do it."

A person who has this thought in his head is not helped by what has become the cult of the White House. The presidential bureaucracy has become so stylized that it matches the ridiculous behavior of the French kings who at one point moved their bowels in the midst of all the grandees of the court.

It reached the point where there was even a noble who was rewarded with the clean-up detail. The president of the United States is surrounded by so many yes-people that they are close to our troop strength in Afghanistan. Every word the president utters is studied in detail by the pundits of the press and diplomats around the world. And this is a man who had never gone abroad before becoming president, who does not read newspapers, never held a job that wasn't tailored for him, and never acted responsibly toward his obligations.

When you think back on his immediate reactions, or non-reactions, to the tragedies of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, you realize that he has learned nothing in his four and a half years in office. He is still playing political games with human lives and the future of his country.

It is hard to understand why so many people in this country do not hold the man and his party responsible for all the terrible things that have happened during his terms in office.

It is true that we have an outstanding military force even though it has been brutally splintered in the past three years. It is true that we have weapons of mass destruction that could be launched against any country in the world. It is true that our economy is so large that it keeps rolling along despite record deficits that keep piling up every second of every day. The Chinese and South Koreans hold more paper on us than the mills in Lee and Dalton could produce in a billion years. It does not behoove them to call it in like the new bankruptcy law might dictate, but we owe them, we owe them beyond belief.

Meanwhile the war in Iraq goes on and on and on despite the rosy reports we receive from the government. Osama bin Laden is lying on warm rugs in a cozy tent somewhere, oil barrels are being dropped on our heads on a perpetual basis, deficits are piling up, and Congress is so bent on porking every bill that comes before it that we are building bridges over dry washes and laying down roads to nowhere.

And meanwhile we are facing God's outrage at what his chosen candidate and president persists in doing. It has to be that God wanted all United States citizens to know how miserably the country has been treating its poor ethnic groups, because why else would he have roiled up Katrina to wreak such havoc. It has to be that God wanted all of us to know how bungled this administration is when it comes to waging war and supervising organizations like FEMA and Homeland Security. Why else would he have plunked in Hurricane Rita as an exclamation point?

It is pointless to blame George W. Bush for what has happened in the past four years and what is happening to this country right now. He is an ordinary man caught in extraordinary circumstances, and is able only to generate problems rather than solutions. The blame lies with the people who elected him twice, and are continuing to support him even though he has more than aptly demonstrated how inept he is in governing and government.

God save the people of the United States, because nobody else seems capable at the present moment.



Bush's muddled priorities

Friday, October 14

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

In responding to Jack Murphy's letter published in The Eagle on Oct. 6 about the unfairness of blaming President Bush for Hurricane Katrina, let me say this: The only reason we have a government is to protect the American citizenry. Otherwise, there would be no point in having a federal government at all.

The federal government has focused for years on three likely catastrophes: a terrorist attack in New York City or Washington, D.C., a major earthquake in San Francisco, and a powerful hurricane making a direct hit on New Orleans with the accompanying disastrous flood. It is inconceivable that Bush had no plan for getting people out of New Orleans just as he has had no plan for getting our troops out of Iraq. It is one thing for the local and state authorities to issue a mandatory evacuation order. But if you have no means of evacuation, then you depend on your elected government to get you out.

The military should have been in there before the storm struck with whatever heavy machinery was necessary in order to evacuate those people too old, too weak, and too poor to reach safety on their own.

And where was Bush this time? Not in the school house, but flying out to San Diego to buy a guitar. The poor, black people in New Orleans simply didn't matter to him or any of his cronies. All the after-the-fact flying into the region hit by the hurricane is nothing more than political maneuvering for damage control. Anyone not blinded by right-wing ideology can see through that charade. Finally, the Bush people, who talk about nothing but terrorism, have been asleep at the switch when it comes to Mother Nature, the greatest terrorist of them all.

Avian flu has been a disaster in the making for almost two years. Why is Bush just now starting to talk about the threat of a catastrophic pandemic capable of killing more than 100 million people? Why wasn't his administration out in front of this problem when it first became known? Once again Bush & Co. were failing to protect the American people.

Instead of spending most of the year trying to privatize social security (which is just round one in their long-term goal of eliminating all entitlement programs), George Bush should have had his priorities on straight. A vaccine to protect Americans and the rest of the world from the deadly avian flu virus would be far more worthy of a leader than trying to undo the safety net for people near the end of their lives.

President Bush has been a great embarrassment to this country, and his administration has done incredible damage both here and abroad in such a brief period of time. It is hard to believe that we have another three years to endure this ongoing fiasco.


Sheffield, Oct. 7, 2005



Co-opting the penguins
By Clellie Lynch

Thursday, September 22


CLIP, CLOP, plip, plop, whooosh, whoosh, whoosh. . . the long line of emperor penguins marches and bellyskates inland across crusty snow fields surrounded by etched mountains glistening in the fading sun. It is late March and it is once again breeding time at Terre Adelie in the fierce, cold Antarctic.

This time, though, the plumped-up penguins are followed and photographed by Luc Jacquet, the French biologist, and his intrepid team. The result. . . the second grossing documentary of all time: "The March of the Penguins."

We watch enthralled as the spiffy-looking birds burst from a water hole and comically teeter onto land, one after another, until there are hundreds ready to begin the annual trek to the colony's breeding ground. For this colony, the trek is 70 miles, 70 miles across rough terrain which takes them about a week, not bad for flightless birds who are prepared to spend the next few months intent on the propagation of the species.

Once inland, the birds mate. The female produces a hefty egg which she immediately and awkwardly rolls from between her feet to between her mate's.

As soon as the egg roll off is completed, she returns to the open water to gorge on fish and krill.

While she is feasting on food, papa is standing with his male comrades, each of whom harbors an egg. When a bitter winter storm rages across the bottom of the world, the males huddle closer together. After a few weeks the eggs hatch and the chicks start to grow; the mamas, the babies main source of food, return. The hungry men, relieved of familial duties for the time being, flee to the sea for their own feeding frenzy.

The chicks grow, chirp like plovers, bond with parents and each other until spring comes when they stare perplexedly at the departing adults. Gradually the instinct bulb lights up and the chicks follow. The fuzzy gray youngsters waddle along until they come to the sea which by this time is only a few miles from the breeding ground. They stare at the water for a bit before plopping in and swimming away looking like a flock of fat, furry murres or auks. It is a powerful, beautiful film about nature.

The film's narration tells the story of these magnificent creatures in quite general and gentle terms. It is not an outwardly scientific film as it does not mention — though it certainly does depict — evolution, natural selection, adaptation, climate changes or global warming. Yet it has become a favorite of the religious right, co-opted by the evangelical Christians as a "moral tale." Their magazines, newspapers and Web sites rejoice that here is a family film, one that represents excellent family values, in particular monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing. Take the kids, make notes, go to a "March of the Penguins" Leadership Workshop.

Did they see the same film I did? Did they even listen to the narration? Let's take monogamy. These birds are only seasonally monogamous, which is not unlike having a different lover every summer. Not sure this is what you would want your children to emulate. And sacrifice. . . doesn't sacrifice implies choice? Do the penguins choose to breed in the winter, in the dark, without food? Perhaps they are referring to the penguin's natural protective instincts of caring for the egg during adversity.

And child rearing. . . penguin parents do go to extraordinary efforts to produce young, but again this is instinctual and determined over the years as the best possible way for insuring that the next generation will reach adulthood. But if these birds represent steadfast parenting, why didn't the adult penguins protect the youngsters from the hungry Southern Giant Petrel? Now there's a bird that monogamous, that believes in marital fidelity!

There is a brief mention that Antarctica was tropical millions and millions of year before the continents started drifting, but the narration carefully omits any discussion of whether the penguins were there originally and evolved to adapt to living in such a uninhabitable land. One Christian beacon of a woman noted on her Web site the narration mentions that the earth is millions of years old. But not to worry she writes. . . there is no point in getting upset about that anymore than you would "be offended by living next door to a geologist." Huh? Just tell the kiddies that the filmmakers made a mistake.

Other reviews claim that the film could be a treatise for Intelligent Design, that penguin life is too complex to have arisen through random selection. . . therefore must be God-given. . . that the film does not focus on the birds' history or the instinctive adaptations to environment. In fact, that is exactly what is depicted by the film, the right once again just chooses to ignore what is presented in front of their blinkered eyes.

If "March of the Penguins" is Christian film, was Winged Migration an INS film?

The religious right picks and chooses which portions of the film to highlight for inspiration without understanding the film as a whole. The Christian Spotlight at the Movies Web site not only reviews the film but also discusses the penguin values of love, perseverance, friendship/ camaraderie) in terms of the Bible, chapter and verse given.

Didn't know there were penguins in the bible, now did you? Personally I think the penguin colony represents socialist values. . . they may follow the leader to the land of loving, but do have minds and lives of their own. . . they work in concert to keep warm and protect the young. . . the young are given food and direction and then are trusted to fend for themselves. Hmmm. It is a grand epic of a working commune, of communal living. Maybe penguins are (gasp!) communist?

Clellie Lynch is a regular Eagle contributor.



Meehan's message on extremism

By Scot Lehigh  |  September 20, 2005

© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.

REPRESENTATIVE Martin Meehan recently returned from a 10-day fact-finding trip to the Middle East -- and the message he brings back is sobering.

Meehan, who met with political and government leaders from Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, and Israel as well as US officials there, says his take-away impression is that the United States needs to do much more to stop the spread of radical Islam.

''We are not rising to meet the long-term challenges we face in the region," Meehan says. ''We need an approach that uses every tool we have. The military is part of it, but it also has to be political, diplomatic, economic, and educational."

This is hardly the first venture into foreign policy for Meehan, the ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee on terrorism, unconventional threats, and capabilities.

Earlier this year, after his second trip to Iraq, Meehan proposed a 12- to 18-month phase-down of US troops there, saying that the perception of an open-ended US occupation was helping fuel the insurgency. His idea sparked some discussion, though the Bush administration's public posture remains that US troops will stay in Iraq as long as it takes.

''If the Democrats could unite behind a proposal like that, I think we'd have a stronger rationale for opposing the president's policy in Iraq," Meehan says.

Now the Fifth District congressman has a new policy paper on nonmilitary measures the United States should undertake in the region. In it, he writes that the Iraq war and the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict have fueled a surge of anti-American animus, which provides fertile ground for Islamic extremism.

The Bush administration has not done nearly enough to counter that or to advance our values and our image in the region, the Lowell Democrat says.

''We talk a good talk about freedom, but we really aren't doing what's necessary to make it work," he says. ''We have the rhetoric, but not the resources."

The United States, which has so far spent $200 billion in Iraq, each year devotes only $500 million to diplomacy and only $25 million to outreach programs in the Middle East, the congressman says. In his proposal, Meehan underscores the finding of an April report by the Government Accountability Office that the US government ''does not yet have a public diplomacy communications strategy."

''Our enemies seek to exploit ideas that have unfortunately gained in resonance: suspicion of the West, fear of modernity, hatred of the United States, and persistent anti-Semitism," he writes.

To combat that poisonous mix, US strategy must engage much more vigorously in public diplomacy, says Meehan. That means mounting a ''sustained large-scale cross-cultural conversation," one that should include a reinvigorated United States Information Agency, a sixfold increase in Arabic speakers (from about 50 to 300) in the State Department, US cultural centers at our embassies, public information programming for Arab cable channels, and cultural exchanges.

The difficult question , of course, is how the United States should go about trying to alter attitudes in a region where problems such as the second-class status of women are religiously justified. One of Meehan's recommendations: Focus on reforming educational systems that by default often leave families relying on madrassas, the religious schools that in some instances indoctrinate young people in radical Islam. The problem is not just the madrassas but ''the absence of schools altogether or schools that produce students who are neither skilled nor prepared for the modern workplace," he writes.

The United States, Meehan adds, should commit $5 billion to $10 billion annually to increase ''the availability of effective public education," education that should stress science and math and that would include girls.

The battle against extremism won't be won until Middle Eastern economies hold real opportunities for their people, the congressman says.

To that end, Meehan says, the region needs a central development bank like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development -- started in 1991 to promote private enterprise in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe -- to spark development in the Arab world.

There's no quick fix, the congressman says. Instead, we face a long struggle, but it's one we must engage. Before Sept. 11, he says, we failed to comprehend the threat we faced from radical Islam.

''In the war on terror, we can't afford another failure by doing too little in the struggle against violent extremism," he concludes. ''This is a critical moment in history, and it demands a comprehensive strategy to deal with the threat of radical Islam."

Scot Lehigh's e-mail address is lehigh@globe.com.


A joke?

Three Texas surgeons were playing golf together and discussing surgeries they had performed.


One of them said, "I'm the best surgeon  in Texas. A concert pianist lost 7 fingers in an accident. I reattached them, and 8 months later he performed a private concert for the Queen of England."

One of the others said, "That's nothing. A young man lost both arms and legs in an accident. I reattached them, and 2 years later he won a gold medal in field events in the Olympics."

The third surgeon said, "You guys are amateurs. Several years ago a cowboy who was high on cocaine and alcohol rode a horse head-on into a train traveling 80 miles an hour. All I had left to work with was the horse's ass and a cowboy hat. Now he's president of the
United States."



United States of Shame

by Maureen Dowd

Stuff happens.

And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.

America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America.

W. drove his budget-cutting Chevy to the levee, and it wasn't dry. Bye, bye, American lives. "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," he told Diane Sawyer.

Shirt-sleeves rolled up, W. finally landed in Hell yesterday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins. He was clearly moved. "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute," he said on the runway at the New Orleans International Airport, "but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." Out of the cameras' range, and avoided by W., was a convoy of thousands of sick and dying people, some sprawled on the floor or dumped on baggage carousels at a makeshift M*A*S*H unit inside the terminal.

Why does this self-styled "can do" president always lapse into such lame "who could have known?" excuses.

Who on earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.

Who on earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the C.I.A.'s prewar reports.

Who on earth could have known that New Orleans's sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy's uneasy fishbowl.

In June 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, fretted to The Times-Picayune in New Orleans: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Not only was the money depleted by the Bush folly in Iraq; 30 percent of the National Guard and about half its equipment are in Iraq.

Ron Fournier of The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans last year. The White House carved it to about $40 million. But President Bush and Congress agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-filled highway bill with 6,000 pet projects, including a $231 million bridge for a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.

Just last year, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials practiced how they would respond to a fake hurricane that caused floods and stranded New Orleans residents. Imagine the feeble FEMA's response to Katrina if they had not prepared.

Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.

Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., yesterday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle - Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended "Spamalot" before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine - lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

When the president and vice president rashly shook off our allies and our respect for international law to pursue a war built on lies, when they sanctioned torture, they shook the faith of the world in American ideals.

When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans - most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line yesterday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first - they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.

Who are we if we can't take care of our own?

© Copyright 2005 New York Times



Bush defenders can only attack

Thursday, September 22

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

I'm writing this letter in response to the Sept. 12 letter "Hopelessly lost in miasma" by Frederick Austin.

Over the years, I've read countless letters to the editor regarding politics written by people both for and against the Bush administration. Some are well thought out, and some aren't, from both perspectives.

The writers who are against Bush almost always demand accountability. These people want answers to questions about the war, the economy, the environment, and government policies regarding such issues. These people focus their dissatisfaction exclusively on the government 99 percent of the time.

The pro-Bush writers, on the other hand, rarely address the issues or concerns raised such as WMDs, no-bid contracts, the skyrocketing deficit, and so forth. They simply attack those who question and dissent. Mr. Austin's letter is perfect example of this.

In it, he refers to any liberal as a "left-wing extremist," and writes about how "lies," "tax breaks for the rich," "all about oil," and others are code words to recognize these "extremists." At one point in his letter, he pounds on his intellectual drum by calling for "civility, original intellectual thought, respect for differing opinions, and omit the name-calling, insults, and Web-site drivel." This contrasts greatly with what he writes two paragraphs earlier when he states "personal rancor drips from the pens of an otherwise insignificant cadre of pathetic souls, masquerading as political analysts who feel compelled to write their odious gibberish to the newspaper's editor."

You'd think that someone with such writing skill would be aware of his own hypocrisy. As for his own "original intellectual thought," he didn't convey anything that I haven't heard on conservative-talk radio. In essence, Mr. Austin wrote a letter attacking the opinions of a large segment of society, and disguised it with his own self-righteous mumbo jumbo. His letter is heavy with contempt toward, and intolerance of, those who question the powers that have control over our taxes, economy, military and global standing.

As a staunch member of the hold-our-government-accountable-for-its-actions crowd, I felt compelled to retaliate for Mr. Austin's thinly veiled swipe at us. Unlike him, it makes me feel that there's hope for our country whenever I read a letter from someone who doesn't buy the garbage being sold to us. I derive a certain measure of satisfaction knowing that some people in this country still hold truth, fairness, compassion, and government responsibility in high regard. They understand what makes democracy work.


Pittsfield, Sept. 15, 2005



Impeach Clueless George

Monday, September 19

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

I did not take well the alleged re-election of King George the Compassionate Smirker. It took four years to recover from his appointment to the throne by the less than Supreme Court. I was, however, hopeful that the pathetic performance of George the Inept would inspire the peasantry to banish him back to Texas. Unfortunately, as most of us are painfully aware, this was not allowed to happen — thanks to Ohio. So, on the sorry saga goes.

I console myself by reading the many excellent letters to the editor published in The Eagle on a daily basis. I have been tempted to join in the fray, but the volume and the quality of the letters left me with little to say except that they have my complete respect and admiration. That being said, I have been inspired to join in a hopefully growing chorus to call for the impeachment and removal from office of George the Strutter. For someone who cloaks himself in a flight suit of self-righteous patriotism, he has proven that he is no patriot.

The damage he and his band of unmerry men have inflicted on this great nation is monumental and unforgivable! They have destroyed in a few years what took us centuries to develop. We have lost the respect and admiration of most of the world and have become hated and despised. Many Americans who are able to travel abroad no longer admit they are American and pretend to be from anywhere else.

The worst thing that Clueless George and his team have done, however, is to get us as a nation involved in the needless quagmire of Iraq. The cost in lives lost or destroyed is unforgivable, and the financial cost is so colossal that our grandchildren will be paying it off at the expense of domestic needs. There are many other solid reasons that all those great letters written have long since listed.

Some of the loudest critics of George the Tongue Tied are a few prominent Republicans. They should be joined by all elected representatives of like minds, especially the spineless Democrats who have been cowering in the shadows like Dick the Artful Draft Dodger and get the job done. The sooner the better!

Realistically, any move toward impeachment would probably result in failure. The attempt should at least be made if for no other reason than to make those in power squirm and give at least half the nation a badly needed morale boost!


Canaan, N.Y., Sept. 6, 2005


Blame it on reign of Bush

By Robert F. Jakubowicz

Tuesday, September 20


AMAZINGLY, PRESIDENT Bush has finally taken responsibility for at least one of the many mistakes of his administration. He publicly bore the blame for the bungling of the immediate response to Hurricane Katrina.

The refusal to admit a mistake, or take responsibility for a mistake, has become a cardinal rule for politicians. The political wisdom is that such an admission only encourages critics and does nothing for the official's approval ratings or his or her chances for re-election. And many officials get away with passing the buck, because they are not involved in a series of serious, high-profile mistakes. But Bush is an exception. He has been mistaken about more serious national matters than any president or other high-office holder in my memory.

His bungled policies include an economically disastrous tax cut that is now coming to roost with a large budget deficit that will be exacerbated by the high cost of rebuilding after the hurricane; an equally disastrous occupation of Iraq in terms of national resources and American lives; an inadequate policy to address the poverty of minority groups in America, which was exposed in part by the storm; a so-called Medicare reform providing little for senior Americans while lining the pockets of pharmaceutical companies; a divisive style of governance tearing America into two politically warring camps, and now the failure of a national policy dealing with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, which even in Bush's words raises the question: "Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm?"

Most elected officials only take responsibility for a failure if they are forced into it. And that is what occurred in Bush's case. He first publicly praised his former head of FEMA, Michael D. Brown, for "doing a heck of a job" in responding to the hurricane. But the public knew better because of the firsthand coverage by the American media, and the television pictures of the devastation and the human misery. Bush's administration could not control the press coverage and hide what was really going on like it did in Iraq. This time, Americans were able to see what was actually happening on the Gulf Coast.

And what Americans saw was an appalling lack of adequate and quick response, which led to unnecessary suffering by too many people. This caused a sharp drop in the public's approval of Bush's leadership. Bush's administration and right-wing talk show hosts tried to stem the falling poll numbers by first discrediting critics by saying they were playing an unfair "blame game," rather than trying to help the victims of the storm. That ploy failed to stop Bush's plunging approval ratings. The next political cover was the forced resignation of Brown, but that did nothing to halt the still falling approval ratings. And equally futile was the administration's attempt to blame local and state governments for what happened.

So Bush's handlers told him that he had to be honest and take responsibility (something he should have done at the outset) for the lack of preparedness for this disaster. The obvious political benefit to Bush's move is that Americans tend to be forgiving when a political leader or high-profile individual takes responsibility for his or her action. For example, Harry Truman was admired for his often repeated quote: "The buck stops here!"

The lesson of taking responsibility seems to escape politicians and others. Former President Clinton was subjected to impeachment in part because of his refusal to admit his sexual involvement with Monica Lewinsky. Martha Stewart had little public sympathy for her prosecution and incarceration, because she refused to admit any mistake.

It remains to be seen whether Bush's reversal from the buck-stops-everywhere-but-here attitude will improve his approval rating.

Now that Bush has finally owned up to a mistake, maybe he will begin to admit some of his other mistakes and take steps to correct them, such as creating an exit strategy from Iraq, and calling for the repeal of his tax cuts for the wealthy to make resources available not only for the cleanup and the rebuilding of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, but to address the issue of poverty in this country.

But on the other hand perhaps hell has not yet sufficiently frozen over for such a complete reversal of policies by Bush.



A White House built upon empty slogans

By Milton Bass

Thursday, September 15


PROBABLY THE biggest legacy the Bush administration will leave to history is its plethora of advertising slogans. In response to their mistakes, the White House slogan team has come up with some of the most blatant misrepresentations of truth ever presented to a semi-gullible public in history.

The slogan of the month was "blame game." President Bush and his people kept telling everybody they were not going to play "the blame game." The irony was that they were the ones being blamed. The White House press secretary, the bumbling Scott McClellan, reportedly used the term "blame game" 22 times as reporters hammered him on where the federal government had gone wrong in its response to the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

And then when the president himself was asked the tough questions, he replied that he, too, was not going to play the "blame game." It has to be presumed that presidential adviser

Karl Rove was the one who came up with the solution to this problem: Make believe you are taking the blame."

Last week the president announced "I take responsibility." And then he went on to say, "I am going to defend the people saving lives." Apples and oranges. Nobody was attacking the people saving lives. The ones being attacked are the people who didn't adequately send in the people who could save lives.

Rove sent Bush down to the devastated areas three times so there could be all kinds of photo ops of the president looking grave as he listened to relief officials, smiling as he thanked relief workers, shaking hands with the military, hugging black people and kissing them on the cheek.

On his first trip down he thanked FEMA chief Mike Brown for the great job he was doing: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Then the bewildered Brownie was given the heave-ho.

Bewildered is the perfect word for Brown. He had no idea what he was doing as head of FEMA and he still cannot understand why he was fired. The problem is that Bush stuffed FEMA with a whole group of political hacks and those people are still screwing things up if they are not smart enough to stay out of the way of real workers.

How many lives were lost because of the political hacks? It's one of those intangibles.

On his second trip down the president pointed to where Trent Lott's house was washed away and said: "We got a lot of rebuilding to do — the good news is and it's hard for some to see it now but out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast — out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house — the guy lost his entire house — there's going to be a fantastic house. I look forward to sitting on the porch."

Meanwhile, the television cameras were showing the pictures of the black people who had lost everything, everything, and didn't have a shot in hell of ever getting back any of the little they had. There is also enough blame to go around for state and local authorities in the disaster areas, but what they could have done is trifling compared to the powers of the federal government.

The Bush administration has been lucky in that under their so-called governance new disasters keep pushing the old ones under Trent Lott's rug (the one in his house, not the one on his head). Iraq has taken a back seat until some major disaster there reminds us once again of what a futile task Bush has set for us there. The president vows that he will never abandon the fight in Iraq so it is likely that it will take his successor to accomplish the deed.

In the same manner, when the president was asked whether the reaction to Katrina indicated this country was not prepared for another terrorist attack, he said: "Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack? That's a very important question and it's in the national interest that we find out what went on so we can better respond."

One of the big pluses with the people who voted for and still back Bush is that he is a "Can do" guy who can best protect this country from terrorists. This is especially true among the frightened women who feel he has this quality and the macho young men who like his gung ho style.

But the only thing his group has come up with in the past four years are those platitudes that sound zippy to him and enrage those of us who find his policies and statements phony. Think of all those slogans to justify Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction. The capability and desire to manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction. Shock and awe. Is the world better off without Saddam in charge? We are fighting the terrorists over there so we don't have to deal with them here. We are spreading democracy all over the globe. Bring 'em on. Dead or alive? Come to think of it, where is that man who is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and requires dialysis? And the best one of all: Mission accomplished.

When you think of that flight-suited figure striding around the deck of that aircraft carrier, you think of all the things that have happened to this country since then and you ask yourself why the most important matter in the world for this man is to keep cutting the taxes of the very, very rich? Why? Why? Why?



When politics trumps science

By Michelle Gillett

Tuesday, September 13


POLITICAL DELAYS seem to be par for the course these days. No one is unaware of how local, state and federal officials' slowness in response to what they knew was guaranteed disaster in Louisiana left thousands abandoned and desperate. On Aug. 27, while Katrina was bearing down on Louisiana's coast and government administrators dilly-dallied over sending adequate help, the Federal Drug Administration was doing its own version of procrastination as it once again delayed the decision on over-the-counter sales of Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s "morning-after" contraceptive. It's becoming obvious that the repeated delays in making the drug available are motivated by politics rather than science.

According to Elliott Millenson who used to be president and CEO of Direct Access Diagnostics, a company that applied to the F.D.A. to sell an at-home drug test for HIV infection in the '80s and '90s, "On sensitive issues, politics are business as usual at the F.D.A."

Like a broken levee, business-as-usual politics does not hold much water these days. As the House and Senate begin to investigate what went wrong with the recovery effort in New Orleans, judges in some parts of the country are opting out of making decisions on abortion cases. Eighteen states require minors to obtain a parent's permission before they can have an abortion. But in a number of those states, pregnant teenagers can ask a judge for permission to let them decide for themselves. Like pharmacists, who refuse to fill prescriptions for drugs related to contraception for moral reasons, judges are recusing themselves from making decisions about abortions because of their moral or religious views.

But elected officials have a responsibility to the law — even when it conflicts with their personal ideologies. An article in the New York Times last week mentioned Susan P Koniak, a professor of legal ethics at Boston University, who said that judges were free to express their moral disagreement with a law but were not free to decline to enforce it: "I expect them to bring their moral sense to a case. But the law comes first."

When the law comes first, basic human rights also come first. The F.D.A.'s on-going and deliberate delays in making over-the-counter sales of the morning-after-pill available is jeopardizing the health and psychological well-being of many women as well as the proper use of scientific evidence.

The pill, called Plan B, includes a high dose of the hormone progestin and can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after intercourse. It works by either delaying ovulation or blocking fertilization of an egg. It can also hinder the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus. But if the fertilized egg is already implanted into the uterus — in other words, if a woman is already pregnant — the pill has no effects.

Scientific facts show that those standing on moral high ground by insisting on including the pill in the abortion debate are simply wrong.

A week after the agency announced the latest delay, the director of the F.D.A's office of women's health resigned in protest. "I feel very strongly that this shouldn't be about abortion politics," said Susan F. Wood in an interview in the New York Times. "This is a way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and thereby prevent abortion. This should be something that we should all agree on."

Approving the drug sales would certainly let those moral judges off the hook. It would also put politics where it belongs — working to improve the lives of Americans, women and poor people included.

Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington released a combined statement saying that Wood's resignation "is just the latest in the Bush administration suppressing science when it doesn't fit their political agenda." We have seen plenty of that suppression lately — the warnings about what would happen to New Orleans if a Level 4 or 5 hurricane hit were suppressed, teaching evolution is being suppressed.

Susan F. Wood explained her resignation in an e-mail to her staff saying she could no longer serve the agency "when scientific and clinical evidence fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled." The social, health, and environmental issues we are wading through of late are becoming more and more contaminated by politics. As ideology increasingly undermines science and political agendas delay and diminish our rights there seem to be fewer ports in the storm that offer protection.


The disaster that is Bush

Saturday, September 17

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

The Bush administration's lack of planning, and its inept and derelict response to Hurricane Katrina is no surprise.

What is shocking, if you can believe polls, is that the pathetically feeble response has a 46 percent approval rating. Who are those people? What news are they watching and reading? What are their standards? What wouldn't merit their approval?

By his own standard, Bush's response was an abysmal failure.

Bush set the standard himself during the 2004 campaign assuring that he would protect and keep America safe. Could the monumental and disgraceful failure of Bush's Homeland Security and FEMA be made more evident to us and to the world?

And, this was with plenty of advanced warning. But then again, Bush had plenty of advanced warning to plan for, and ward off, the attack of 9/11.

The similarities between Iraq and Katrina are striking, but not unexpected of Bush and his group of mean-spirited, unqualified cronies. Their disregard of intelligence and information while vacationing in Crawford, and their complete paralysis following two of our nation's greatest catastrophes are stunning. Their subsequent lack of planning and incompetent response defies reason.

Barbara Bush's comments in the Houston Astrodome in reference to American refugees who lost everything, including family, was both disgusting and inhumane. ("Many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.")

Just wait until these poor refugees, and the thousands who lost small businesses, encounter the harsh new personal bankruptcy laws enacted by the Bush compassionate conservatives.

Just wait until they permanently do away with the estate tax!

What we are experiencing is dereliction of duty. The irresponsible and reprehensible self-serving policies enacted by this administration are exacting a mighty toll on the American people and our world.

The national debt continues to increase an average of $1.66 billion per day since September 2004. Concerned? Just wait until the impact of their failed economic policy hits! And, Bush gets to pick two Supreme Court justices, including the chief justice. As frightening as all that has gone before, herein lies Bush's greatest opportunity to do long-term harm.

The crawl on a recent British television news program sums it all up: "Bush: One Of The Worst Disasters To Hit The U.S." And, he is a category 5. We, the people, are being left with the cleanup and the bill while they rake in their windfall profits.

What we need is a 51 percent impeachment rating.


North Adams, Sept. 11, 2005




Bush and his sorry sycophants

Saturday, September 17

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

Frank Mahan's letter (Sept. 9) was a cry from the aggrieved GOP fraternity that cannot understand why the rest of us don't think that W. is just about the finest president we have ever had. Mr. Mahan's statement that Bush has lowered his taxes immediately places him in the affluent segment of the community, and what follows is entirely in keeping with that group's Pollyanna outlook. He is also a firm believer that we are winning the war in Iraq, one of W.'s favorite lies. "We have turned the corner," and all that claptrap.

The writer suggests that all who disagree with current policies are bereft of all rational thought. This strikes me as being a little odd since most of us had that same feeling about the oddballs who comprise the administration. What a sinister collection they are — Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, John Bolton (shooed into office while the Congress was on vacation), Rummy, Richard Myers, Chertoff (the Screaming Skull), and the ludicrously under-qualified Michael Brown. The last person named has been removed for his appalling mishandling of Hurricane Katrina and the abrupt canceling of the debit card distribution.

Scott McClellan insists that he has not been canned, because that would suggest that the president made a mistake. The president, of course, never makes mistakes. It is reported that Brown's résumé contained a number of false statements. This ought to assure him of some other appointment since the administration features some of the most accomplished liars that we have witnessed for decades.

In addition they have displayed a classic study in mismanagement, and these high-ranking sycophants owe their continuing existence to judicious boot-licking. Karl Rove's careful study of Joseph Goebbel's techniques of "The Big Lie" provided Bush with some of the most astounding propaganda statements ever to have emanated from the White House — any White House.

George W. Bush, who tries tirelessly to come across as a Texan, gained the presidency twice, once by appointment by the Supreme Court and the second time courtesy of Ohio and some creatively accomplished vote rigging. By now it is generally recognized that he has become the laziest president in U.S. history, and his shameless self-indulgence will continue for the next 3 1/2 years. He cannot possibly be unseated through impeachment (no matter how far he may plunge the country into ever-mounting debt), and so he will remain the smirking jackanapes, beloved of big oil and the super-rich, but held in contempt and ridicule by the rest of the world. This sorry bonehead will drag the country down to the depths of idiocy as yet unplumbed, and may yet rattle his saber in Iran; perhaps North Korea, within reach of nuclear confrontation, in his obsession with being a wartime president.


Lanesborough, Sept. 11, 2005




End of the Bush Era

By E. J. Dionne Jr.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 Washington Post

The Bush Era is over. The sooner politicians in both parties realize that, the better for them -- and the country.

Recent months, and especially the past two weeks, have brought home to a steadily growing majority of Americans the truth that President Bush's government doesn't work. His policies are failing, his approach to leadership is detached and self-indulgent, his way of politics has produced a divided, angry and dysfunctional public square. We dare not go on like this.

The Bush Era did not begin when he took office, or even with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It began on Sept. 14, 2001, when Bush declared at the World Trade Center site: "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." Bush was, indeed, skilled in identifying enemies and rallying a nation already disposed to action. He failed to realize after Sept. 11 that it was not we who were lucky to have him as a leader, but he who was lucky to be president of a great country that understood the importance of standing together in the face of a grave foreign threat. Very nearly all of us rallied behind him.

If Bush had understood that his central task was to forge national unity, as he seemed to shortly after Sept. 11, the country would never have become so polarized. Instead, Bush put patriotism to the service of narrowly ideological policies and an extreme partisanship. He pushed for more tax cuts for his wealthiest supporters and shamelessly used relatively modest details in the bill creating a Department of Homeland Security as partisan cudgels in the 2002 elections.

He invoked our national anger over terrorism to win support for a war in Iraq. But he failed to pay heed to those who warned that the United States would need many more troops and careful planning to see the job through. The president assumed things would turn out fine, on the basis of wildly optimistic assumptions. Careful policymaking and thinking through potential flaws in your approach are not his administration's strong suits.

And so the Bush Era ended definitively on Sept. 2, the day Bush first toured the Gulf Coast States after Hurricane Katrina. There was no magic moment with a bullhorn. The utter failure of federal relief efforts had by then penetrated the country's consciousness. Yesterday's resignation of FEMA Director Michael Brown put an exclamation point on the failure.

The source of Bush's political success was his claim that he could protect Americans. Leadership, strength and security were Bush's calling cards. Over the past two weeks, they were lost in the surging waters of New Orleans.

But the first intimations of the end of the Bush Era came months ago. The president's post-election fixation on privatizing part of Social Security showed how out of touch he was. The more Bush discussed this boutique idea cooked up in conservative think tanks and Wall Street imaginations, the less the public liked it. The situation in Iraq deteriorated. The glorious economy Bush kept touting turned out not to be glorious for many Americans. The Census Bureau's annual economic report, released in the midst of the Gulf disaster, found that an additional 4.1 million Americans had slipped into poverty between 2001 and 2004.

The breaking of the Bush spell opens the way for leaders of both parties to declare their independence from the recent past. It gives forces outside the White House the opportunity to shape a more appropriate national agenda -- for competence and innovation in rebuilding the Katrina region and for new approaches to the problems created over the past 4 1/2 years.

The federal budget, already a mess before Katrina, is now a laughable document. Those who call for yet more tax cuts risk sounding like robots droning automated talking points programmed inside them long ago. Katrina has forced the issue of deep poverty back onto the national agenda after a long absence. Finding a way forward in -- and eventually out of -- Iraq will require creativity from those not implicated in the administration's mistakes. And if ever the phrase "reinventing government" had relevance, it is now that we have observed the performance of a government that allows political hacks to push aside the professionals.

And what of Bush, who has more than three years left in his term? Paradoxically, his best hope lies in recognizing that the Bush Era, as he and we have known it, really is gone. He can decide to help us in the transition to what comes next. Or he can cling stubbornly to his past and thereby doom himself to frustrating irrelevance.




September 14, 2005 New York Times

Singapore and Katrina



There is something troublingly self-indulgent and slothful about America today - something that Katrina highlighted and that people who live in countries where the laws of gravity still apply really noticed. It has rattled them - like watching a parent melt down.

That is certainly the sense I got after observing the Katrina debacle from half a world away here in Singapore - a city-state that, if it believes in anything, believes in good governance. It may roll up the sidewalks pretty early here, and it may even fine you if you spit out your gum, but if you had to choose anywhere in Asia you would want to be caught in a typhoon, it would be Singapore. Trust me, the head of Civil Defense here is not simply someone's college roommate.

Indeed, Singapore believes so strongly that you have to get the best-qualified and least-corruptible people you can into senior positions in the government, judiciary and civil service that its pays its prime minister a salary of $1.1 million a year. It pays its cabinet ministers and Supreme Court justices just under $1 million a year, and pays judges and senior civil servants handsomely down the line.

From Singapore's early years, good governance mattered because the ruling party was in a struggle for the people's hearts and minds with the Communists, who were perceived to be both noncorrupt and caring - so the state had to be the same and more.

Even after the Communists faded, Singapore maintained a tradition of good governance because as a country of only four million people with no natural resources, it had to live by its wits. It needed to run its economy and schools in a way that would extract the maximum from each citizen, which is how four million people built reserves of $100 billion.

"In the areas that are critical to our survival, like Defense, Finance and the Ministry of Home Affairs, we look for the best talent," said Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy. "You lose New Orleans, and you have 100 other cities just like it. But we're a city-state. We lose Singapore and there is nothing else. ... [So] the standards of discipline are very high. There is a very high degree of accountability in Singapore."

When a subway tunnel under construction collapsed here in April 2004 and four workers were killed, a government inquiry concluded that top executives of the contracting company should be either fined or jailed.

The discipline that the cold war imposed on America, by contrast, seems to have faded. Last year, we cut the National Science Foundation budget, while indulging absurd creationist theories in our schools and passing pork-laden energy and transportation bills in the middle of an energy crisis.

We let the families of the victims of 9/11 redesign our intelligence organizations, and our president and Congress held a midnight session about the health care of one woman, Terri Schiavo, while ignoring the health crisis of 40 million uninsured. Our economy seems to be fueled lately by either suing each other or selling each other houses. Our government launched a war in Iraq without any real plan for the morning after, and it cut taxes in the middle of that war, ensuring that future generations would get the bill.

Speaking of Katrina, Sumiko Tan, a columnist for the Sunday edition of The Straits Times in Singapore, wrote: "We were shocked at what we saw. Death and destruction from natural disaster is par for the course. But the pictures of dead people left uncollected on the streets, armed looters ransacking shops, survivors desperate to be rescued, racial divisions - these were truly out of sync with what we'd imagined the land of the free to be, even if we had encountered homelessness and violence on visits there. ... If America becomes so unglued when bad things happen in its own backyard, how can it fulfill its role as leader of the world?"

Janadas Devan, a Straits Times columnist, tried to explain to his Asian readers how the U.S. is changing. "Today's conservatives," he wrote, "differ in one crucial aspect from yesterday's conservatives: the latter believed in small government, but believed, too, that a country ought to pay for all the government that it needed.

"The former believe in no government, and therefore conclude that there is no need for a country to pay for even the government that it does have. ... [But] it is not only government that doesn't show up when government is starved of resources and leached of all its meaning. Community doesn't show up either, sacrifice doesn't show up, pulling together doesn't show up, 'we're all in this together' doesn't show up."




September 14, 2005 New York Times

A Fatal Incuriosity


I hate spending time in hospitals and nursing homes. I find them to be some of the most depressing places on earth.

Maybe that's why the stories of the sick and elderly who died, 45 in a New Orleans hospital and 34 in St. Rita's nursing home in the devastated St. Bernard Parish outside New Orleans, haunt me so.

You're already vulnerable and alone when suddenly you're beset by nature and betrayed by your government.

At St. Rita's, 34 seniors fought to live with what little strength they had as the lights went out and the water rose over their legs, over their shoulders, over their mouths. As Gardiner Harris wrote in The Times, the failed defenses included a table nailed against a window and a couch pushed against a door.

Several electric wheelchairs were gathered near the front entrance, maybe by patients who dreamed of evacuating. Their drowned bodies were found swollen and unrecognizable a week later, as Mr. Harris reported, "draped over a wheelchair, wrapped in a shower curtain, lying on a floor in several inches of muck."

At Memorial Medical Center, victims also suffered in 100-degree heat and died, some while waiting to be rescued in the four days after Katrina hit.

As Louisiana's death toll spiked to 423 yesterday, the state charged St. Rita's owners with multiple counts of negligent homicide, accusing them of not responding to warnings about the hurricane. "In effect," State Attorney General Charles Foti Jr. said, "I think that their inactions resulted in the death of these people."

President Bush continued to try to spin his own inaction yesterday, but he may finally have reached a patch of reality beyond spin. Now he's the one drowning, unable to rescue himself by patting small black children on the head during photo-ops and making scripted attempts to appear engaged. He can keep going back down there, as he will again on Thursday when he gives a televised speech to the nation, but he can never compensate for his tragic inattention during days when so many lives could have been saved.

He made the ultimate sacrifice and admitted his administration had messed up, something he'd refused to do through all of the other screw-ups, from phantom W.M.D. and the torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo to the miscalculations on the Iraq occupation and the insurgency, which will soon claim 2,000 young Americans.

How many places will be in shambles by the time the Bush crew leaves office?

Given that the Bush team has dealt with both gulf crises, Iraq and Katrina, with the same deadly mixture of arrogance and incompetence, and a refusal to face reality, it's frightening to think how it will handle the most demanding act of government domestic investment since the New Deal.

Even though we know W. likes to be in his bubble with his feather pillow, the stories this week are breathtaking about the lengths the White House staff had to go to in order to capture Incurious George's attention.

Newsweek reported that the reality of Katrina did not sink in for the president until days after the levees broke, turning New Orleans into a watery grave. It took a virtual intervention of his top aides to make W. watch the news about the worst natural disaster in a century. Dan Bartlett made a DVD of newscasts on the hurricane to show the president on Friday morning as he flew down to the Gulf Coast.

The aides were scared to tell the isolated president that he should cut short his vacation by a couple of days, Newsweek said, because he can be "cold and snappish in private." Mike Allen wrote in Time about one "youngish aide" who was so terrified about telling Mr. Bush he was wrong about something during the first term, he "had dry heaves" afterward.

The president had to be truly zoned out not to jump at the word "hurricane," given that he has always used his father's term as a reverse playbook and his father almost lost Florida in 1992 because of his slow-footed response to Hurricane Andrew. And W.'s chief of staff, Andy Card, was the White House transportation secretary the senior President Bush sent to the rescue after FEMA bungled that one.

W. has said he prefers to get his information straight up from aides, rather than filtered through newspapers or newscasts. But he surrounds himself with weak sisters who don't have the nerve to break bad news to him, or ideologues with agendas that require warping reality or chuckleheaded cronies like Brownie.

The president should stop haunting New Orleans, looking for that bullhorn moment. It's too late.