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Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that ''if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.'' The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.
''Just in the past few months,'' Bartlett said, ''I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.'' Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: ''This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them. . . .
''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then said, ''But you can't run the world on faith.''
Forty democratic senators were gathered for a lunch in March just off the Senate floor. I was there as a guest speaker. Joe Biden was telling a story, a story about the president. ''I was in the Oval Office a few months after we swept into Baghdad,'' he began, ''and I was telling the president of my many concerns'' -- concerns about growing problems winning the peace, the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and problems securing the oil fields. Bush, Biden recalled, just looked at him, unflappably sure that the United States was on the right course and that all was well. '''Mr. President,' I finally said, 'How can you be so sure when you know you don't know the facts?''' (New York Times)
How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power Rumours of a link between the US first family and the Nazi war machine have circulated for decades. Now the Guardian can reveal how repercussions of events that culminated in action under the Trading with the Enemy Act are still being felt by today's president - "The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism" (London Guardian)
9-11 Mysteries Remain: Three Years After Terror Attacks, Public Still Doubts 'Official' Story Three years after the events of 9-11, half of the residents of New York City believe U.S. leaders had foreknowledge and "consciously failed" to act to prevent the disasters, while two in three want a new investigation of the "still-unanswered questions."
In the first survey of public opinion about allegations of U.S. government complicity and whitewashing of the events of 9-11, a Zogby International poll found that fewer than two in five New Yorkers believe the official 9-11 commission "answered all of the important questions about what actually happened on Sept. 11."
One in two New York City residents say that senior government officials “knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around Sept. 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act,” according to the poll of Aug. 24-26, 2004.
Sixty-six percent called for another full investigation, by Congress or Elliot Spitzer (left), New York’s attorney general, to resolve the “unanswered questions.” (American Free Press)
US Would Close Schools, Restrict Travel In Case of Worldwide Flu Outbreak Among its suggested preparations to limit the spread of infection and care for the ill, the plan stresses major federal research to create "seed strains" of worrisome flu types as potential vaccine candidates. Such work might shave a few months off the typical six to eight months it now takes to brew a new flu vaccine, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health's infectious disease chief. (Associated Press)
Sen. Kennedy Flagged by No-Fly List U.S. Sen. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy said yesterday that he was stopped and questioned at airports on the East Coast five times in March because his name appeared on the government's secret "no-fly" list.
Federal air security officials said the initial error that led to scrutiny of the Massachusetts Democrat should not have happened even though they recognize that the no-fly list is imperfect. But privately they acknowledged being embarrassed that it took the senator and his staff more than three weeks to get his name removed. (Washington Post)
Letter to Thomas Kean from Sibel Edmonds Your report has omitted any reference to this most serious issue, has forgone any accountability whatsoever, and your recommendations have refrained from addressing this issue, which when left unaddressed will have even more serious consequences. This issue is systemic and departmental. Why did your report choose to exclude this information and this serious issue despite the evidence and briefings you received? How can budget increases address and resolve this misconduct by mid-level bureaucratic management? How can the addition of a new bureaucratic layer, "intelligence czar", in its cocoon removed from the action lines, address and resolve this problem? (Asia Times)
Failures of the Sept. 11 Commission For all its somber-faced seriousness, the report of the Sept. 11 commission turns out to be a childlike explanation of what went so tragically wrong nearly three years ago. - "The whole name of the game is to exculpate anyone in the establishment," says McGovern, a 27-year veteran of the CIA and a member of a group of former agents called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. " 'Mistakes were made,' but no one is to blame. Why is it that after all this evidence and months and months of testimony, the commission found itself unable even to say if the attacks could have been prevented?" McGovern has no doubt they could have been. (Washington Post)
9/11 report: Key findings The US 9/11 commission's report has urged sweeping changes to how the intelligence services operate after finding that the government had "failed to protect American people" from the 11 September 2001 attacks.
Here are the key findings of the 576-page report: - Failure to confront -- The report charts how al-Qaeda was allowed to develop into a real danger to the US, concluding that while the attacks "were a shock... they should not have come as a surprise" (BBC)
Extract: 'We have some planes' The report from the bipartisan commission set up to investigate the 11 September 2001 terror attacks describes in detail how the hijackings unfolded, and what is known of the final moments on board the four flights - AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 11 FROM BOSTON TO LOS ANGELES
Among the travellers were Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al-Omari, who arrived at the airport in Portland, Maine.
Atta and Omari boarded a 0600 flight from Portland to Boston's Logan International Airport.
When he checked in for his flight to Boston, Atta was selected by a computerised pre-screening system known as Capps (Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System), created to identify passengers who should be subject to special security measures.
Under security rules in place at the time, the only consequence of Atta's selection by Capps was that his checked bags were held off the plane until it was confirmed that he had boarded the aircraft... (BBC)
In-flight cell phones 'worked great' in test The race is on to enable airline passengers to make and receive cell phone calls in flight.
Cell phone company Qualcomm (QCOM) has teamed with American Airlines (AMR) to develop satellite-based air-to-ground cellular service. Several smaller companies are working on rival systems. In-flight cell service could be introduced within two years and become commonplace within four, developers believe.
Last week, American and Qualcomm officials circled over West Texas in a jetliner making calls from their cell phones. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission authorized the flight to test the technology's safety and transmission quality. (USA Today)
The Gleam Team "Edwards had wowed the business and political elite at last month's Bilderberg conference in Italy, a secretive annual session where international business and political leaders discuss the state of the world" (Time Magazine)
A Deal for the Ozo 3 It was face-saving time last week when three members of the band Ozomatli agreed to plead no contest to class C misdemeanor charges in a deferred adjudication agreement with Travis Co. prosecutors (The Austin Chronicle)
The Truth About the Drug Companies Every day Americans are subjected to a barrage of advertising by the pharmaceutical industry. Mixed in with the pitches for a particular drug—usually featuring beautiful people enjoying themselves in the great outdoors—is a more general message. Boiled down to its essentials, it is this: “Yes, prescription drugs are expensive, but that shows how valuable they are. Besides, our research and development costs are enormous, and we need to cover them somehow. As ‘research-based’ companies, we turn out a steady stream of innovative medicines that lengthen life, enhance its quality, and avert more expensive medical care. You are the beneficiaries of this ongoing achievement of the American free enterprise system, so be grateful, quit whining, and pay up.” More prosaically, what the industry is saying is that you get what you pay for.
Is any of this true? Well, the first part certainly is. Prescription drug costs are indeed high—and rising fast. Americans now spend a staggering $200 billion a year on prescription drugs, and that figure is growing at a rate of about 12 percent a year (down from a high of 18 percent in 1999).1 Drugs are the fastest-growing part of the health care bill—which itself is rising at an alarming rate. The increase in drug spending reflects, in almost equal parts, the facts that people are taking a lot more drugs than they used to, that those drugs are more likely to be expensive new ones instead of older, cheaper ones, and that the prices of the most heavily prescribed drugs are routinely jacked up, sometimes several times a year.
Before its patent ran out, for example, the price of Schering-Plough’s top-selling allergy pill, Claritin, was raised thirteen times over five years, for a cumulative increase of more than 50 percent—over four times the rate of general inflation.2 As a spokeswoman for one company explained, “Price increases are not uncommon in the industry and this allows us to be able to invest in R&D.”3 In 2002, the average price of the fifty drugs most used by senior citizens was nearly $1,500 for a year’s supply. (Pricing varies greatly, but this refers to what the companies call the average wholesale price, which is usually pretty close to what an individual without insurance pays at the pharmacy.) - This is an industry that in some ways is like the Wizard of Oz—still full of bluster but now being exposed as something far different from its image. Instead of being an engine of innovation, it is a vast marketing machine. Instead of being a free market success story, it lives off government-funded research and monopoly rights. Yet this industry occupies an essential role in the American health care system, and it performs a valuable function, if not in discovering important new drugs at least in developing them and bringing them to market. But big pharma is extravagantly rewarded for its relatively modest functions. We get nowhere near our money’s worth. The United States can no longer afford it in its present form. (The New York Review of Books)
Microchips implanted in Mexican officials Attorney general, prosecutors carry security pass under their skin - Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha and 160 of his employees were implanted at a cost to taxpayers of $150 for each rice grain-sized chip. More are scheduled to get "tagged" in coming months, and key members of the Mexican military, the police and the office of President Vicente Fox might follow suit, Aceves said. Fox's office did not immediately return a call seeking comment. (Associated Press)
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