Thursday, December 20, 2007
Jindal lawyer ties troubling
Published: Dec 20, 2007 - Page: 6B
When Bobby Jindal was running for governor, he promised an ethical administration far above the standards of the past. But Jindal’s pick for executive counsel, an enormously influential position as the Governor’s Office attorney, hopes to retain some interest, of some sort, in his law firm in Pineville while serving the state full-time in Baton Rouge.
Unfortunately, among the main clients of Jimmy Faircloth’s Pineville firm is the Coushatta tribe and its giant casino complex in Kinder.
This puts gambling interests in a key position in the Governor’s Office.
What the incoming administration is going to do about this is not clear, but the initial responses to criticism of Faircloth’s appointment are not encouraging.
Jindal spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said that Faircloth is arranging a buy-out of his interest in the firm, but Faircloth said in an interview that he would retain some tie to it.
Faircloth said he would recommend that Jindal appoint a special counsel to handle Indian gambling questions facing the new administration.
We don’t think that’s enough.
For one thing, the governor must sign off on compacts between the state and the Indian tribes. While a special counsel could handle those cases, Faircloth would be in a position to influence decisions behind the scenes.
Further, the Indian tribes often are embroiled in conflicts with other gambling companies over legislation about the scope of competitive gambling operations. As executive counsel, Faircloth would be in a position to help the tribes in a huge way, albeit indirectly.
In the past, executive counsels have included people with direct and continuing financial interests in firms representing clients before state agencies. That’s not appropriate today.
Faircloth’s situation is different, but his once and future financial interest as a lawyer for gambling interests is a potential conflict.It is a distraction in one of the most demanding jobs in state government.
However well Faircloth conducts himself, his desire to return to the firm after his service in the Governor’s Office will raise questions whenever any decision is made by Jindal involving gambling.
Caucuses will be held Jan. 22 in Pineville, Natchitoches and nine other locations in Louisiana to elect delegates to the 2008 Louisiana Republican Convention.
The process for electing delegates was announced by Republican Party of Louisiana Chairman Roger F. Villere Jr.
The state's Republican voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 11 different caucus sites to cast their ballots for delegates and alternate delegates to the 2008 Louisiana Republican Convention. Voters will cast ballots from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. that day.
"We're excited about the upcoming caucuses," Villere said. "I believe this system will allow Louisiana Republicans to have a strong impact on the election of the next president of the United States."
The state convention will choose the bulk of Louisiana's delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention. Louisiana will have a total of 47 delegates and 44 alternates to the national convention in Minneapolis, Minn.
Three of Louisiana's delegate spots are already decided. Under RNC Rules, Villere, National Committeeman Ross Little Jr. and National Committeewoman Kay Kellogg Katz serve as automatic national convention delegates.
State convention delegates will choose the remaining 44 national delegates and alternates and will adopt an official platform for the Republican Party of Louisiana.
Voters will be assigned to caucus sites based on the parish where they are registered to vote.
Fifteen delegates and 15 alternates to the state convention will be elected from each congressional district. Republican voters are eligible to vote in the congressional district where they were registered on Nov. 30 of this year. In order to participate, voters must present a driver's license or valid photo ID.
Those wishing to run for delegate or alternate delegate must submit an application to the Republican Party of Louisiana. Applications must be received at Republican Party State Headquarters, 11440 North Lake Sherwood, Suite A, Baton Rouge, LA 70816, no later than 5 p.m. Jan. 10, along with a qualifying fee of $100 for delegate candidates or $50 for alternate delegate candidates.
Application forms and instructions are available at www.lagop.com or by calling (225) 928-2998.
The state convention will begin at 10 a.m. Feb. 16 at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge. All of Louisiana's 2008 national convention delegates will be uncommitted, except that if a presidential candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the Feb. 9 presidential preference primary, state party rules require 20 of Louisiana's at-large delegates to support that candidate on the first ballot of the national convention.
If no presidential candidate receives a majority on Feb. 9, the at-large delegates will be uncommitted.
The caucus site in Natchitoches is at the Natchitoches Events Center, and serves Sabine, Natchitoches and Winn residents.
The Pineville caucus will be in Walden Gym at Louisiana College and serves Rapides, Vernon, Avoyelles, Concordia, Catahoula, Grant and LaSalle residents.
The Lake Charles caucus at the Central School Arts & Center will serve Beauregard and Allen residents, among others.
The Lafayette caucus at The Family Church will serve Evangeline residents, among others.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, today released the following statement regarding House passage of a bill that contained language to reauthorize and fully fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through March 31, 2009, without expanding or extending eligibility definitions beyond current guidelines.
“Reaching this conclusion has been a long journey, but today the House of Representatives finally passed legislation that will ensure this vital health program continues to keep its focus on children whose families cannot afford private health insurance,” Alexander said.
“While increasing funds to meet the growing needs of the current program, this bill ensures SCHIP will stay true to the purpose for which it was established without burdening America’s taxpayers with the tax hike previous versions of the bill contained.”
While serving as Chairman of the Health and Welfare Committee in the Louisiana State Legislature, Alexander, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, worked to launch the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program (LaCHIP), which receives funding through SCHIP.
Alexander said thousands of Louisiana children qualify for the program but are not enrolled, and he encourages parents to call the LaCHIP office at (877) 252-2447 to learn if their children are eligible to receive benefits.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
A little known election is approaching. It involves the election at the precinct and district levels for representatives of both political parties. It is the election of individuals to both the Rapides Parish Executive Committees (PEC) for both parties, and the individuals for both parties who will sit on the State Central Committees (SCC) for the next four years. The terms for the current PEC and SCC members will end onMarch 3, 2008.
In the case of the PEC’s, those elected from each party will then choose the slate of officers for the next four years. It should be noted that the Chairman of both PEC’s are automatically on the Parish Board Election Supervisors, along with the Parish Registrar of Voters, the Parish Clerk of Court, a Member appointed by the Governor, and the Registrar of Parish Voters. The Board is responsible for the preparation and conduct of all elections in the parish.
Qualifying for these positions will be December 12, 13, and 14 at the Clerk of Court Office at the Courthouse, and if more than one individual qualifies for a position, the election will take place on February 9, the Presidential Preference Primary, held statewide.Qualifications for these parish positions are stated that “The candidate shall meet the qualifications established by the rules and regulations ofthe state central committee of the political party. (Candidates must be registered voters and affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican party in the precinct or district for which they are qualifying for). The voter registration card issued to each registered voter will indicate which precinct or district each person is in, or individuals may check with the Registrar's Office if he or she is unsure of which district or precinct he or she is assigned.
According to the Rapides Clerk of Court office, it is not publicizing this election because it is not its responsibility, but the responsibility of the Secretary of State’s office. So far, it is not known if the Secretary of State has done so.
At the time of qualification, candidates must submit a qualifying fee. For Democrats, it is $112.00, and for Republicans, the fee is $75.00. The fees collected will be given to the political parties, and it is the political parties that determine what the fees will be for the election, according to the Rapides Clerk of Court office.
Monday, December 10, 2007
McCrery departure, added to others, lessens state power in D.C.
By GERARD SHIELDS
Advocate Washington bureau
Published: Dec 9, 2007 - Page: 1A
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery’s decision not to seek another term next year further dilutes Louisiana’s political power in Washington, where the departure may amount to the state losing close to a century of seniority in four years.
The Shreveport Republican announced Friday that he will not seek a 10th two-year term, taking with him 20 years of experience and the state’s ranking member status on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee that writes the nation’s tax laws.
In 2004, the state lost 52 years of seniority with the retirement of former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, D-La., who had 28 years, and former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay, who had 24. U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, faces a public corruption trial next year that could wipe out another 20 years of service.
“I haven’t done a study, but I can’t think of another state that is in worse condition,” said Elliot Stonecipher, a Shreveport political consultant. “This hurts, this hurts bad.”
U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, remains the dean of the Louisiana congressional delegation with 21 years in office. Rumors have swirled that Baker also may parachute out of the House, which is now controlled by the Democratic Party, though Baker has given no indication of such a move.
Baker could not be reached for comment on Saturday. A call to his Baton Rouge home was not returned.
A quiet congressman who preferred diving into the details of federal policy, McCrery’s behind-the-scenes expertise made him a player on key issues facing the U.S.
McCrery, 58, led President Bush’s failed attempt to privatize Social Security and McCrery made a proposal to do the same to Medicare.
More recently, McCrery has been the GOP point man in the battle to fix the alternative minimum tax. The levy once targeted wealthier income-earners but has increasingly crept into the pockets of the middle class.
A former Democrat, McCrery has been described by Washington media as “pragmatic as a business CEO.” In Louisiana, he has fought to protect Fort Polk and Barksdale Air Force Base in his district, while pushing for more federal money for Interstates 49 and 69.
“Members of Congress can literally wheel and deal for whatever we need,” said Bernie Pinsonat, a pollster for Southern Media and Research in Baton Rouge. “We were once one of the most-powerful states in the country eight short years ago and whether you like it or not, seniority is the game in Washington.”
McCrery’s interest in politics began at age 11 when he made up a “Nixon for President” sign for his front yard. A slight, fair-haired man, McCrery became student-body president in high school, defeating a popular quarterback by setting up a telephone bank and talking to 800 students.
After graduating from LSU’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 1975, the married father of two sons went into private practice in his hometown of Leesville. He then put in two years as an assistant Shreveport city attorney.
As a Democrat in 1981, he worked for former U.S. Rep. Buddy Roemer in Roemer’s Shreveport district office and later became Roemer’s legislative director in Washington.
He returned to the state in 1984 to become a lobbyist for Georgia-Pacific Corp. in Baton Rouge. Political analysts predict that McCrery, after leaving Congress, would join the lobbying ranks in Washington.
“Jim is really a smart guy, he’s not your typical congressman,” Stonecipher said. “He will go the way of Billy Tauzin and the rest of them.”
Tauzin took a $2 million-a-year job as president and chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association.
Breaux joined the top lobbying firm of Patton Boggs before recently announcing the formation of his own lobbying group. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, R-Metairie, resigned in 1998 and also started his own lobbying firm, which now ranks in the top 20 in Washington.
In 1987, McCrery joined a list of Southern conservative Democrats who switched to the GOP. A year later, he succeeded Roemer in Congress after Roemer’s election to the Louisiana governorship.
McCrery’s departure will also be a loss to the House Republican leadership. McCrery has been a chief fundraiser for campaigns of fellow Republicans. In 2004, he raised $1.3 million, giving away a half-million dollars to colleagues.
His campaign support caused fellow Republicans to predict that McCrery would become the Ways and Means chairman in 2004, succeeding his longtime ally, U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif. But the takeover of the House by Democrats crippled McCrery’s political future
McCrery is the 18th Republican serving in this Congress to announce a decision to step down.
“He was disappointed that the House lost the majority because he lost his Ways and Means seat,” said G. Pearson Cross, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette political scientist. “On the House side, we’re losing someone very important.”
Friday, December 7, 2007
We're proud of you, Mike!
(Baton Rouge, LA) – In a special ceremony held at The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Navy Commander Mike Futrell was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his military service in Iraq during 2006 and 2007.
The Bronze Star Medal was awarded to Commander Futrell by Army Chief of Staff General George Casey at a ceremony officiated by Army Director of Staff Lieutenant General Thomas Campbell. The award cites Futrell for exception leadership while serving with Multi-National Forces and the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, noting he traveled extensively in Iraq and was repeatedly exposed to direct threat by the enemy.
The Bronze Star Medal was first authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 4, 1944 and is awarded for heroic or exceptionally meritorious service while engaged in military operations involving armed conflict with an opposing foreign force.
Mike Futrell is a Baton Rouge native and Navy reservist who was mobilized to active duty in 2006 for one year’s service in Iraq. He is Commanding Officer of a joint Army-Navy unit operating in Birmingham, Alabama.
Futrell has previously served as a member of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council and a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. He now works as Louisiana State Director for United States Senator David Vitter.
(Commander Futrell is being highly touted as the potential Republican candidate for Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge.)
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Romney: Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind introduction.
"It is an honor to be here today. This is an inspiring place because of you and the first lady, and because of the film exhibited across the way in the Presidential library. For those who have not seen it, it shows the President as a young pilot, shot down during the Second World War, being rescued from his life-raft by the crew of an American submarine. It is a moving reminder that when America has faced challenge and peril, Americans rise to the occasion, willing to risk their very lives to defend freedom and preserve our nation. We are in your debt. Thank you, Mr. President.
"Mr. President, your generation rose to the occasion, first to defeat Fascism and then to vanquish the Soviet Union. You left us, your children, a free and strong America. It is why we call yours the greatest generation. It is now my generation's turn. How we respond to today's challenges will define our generation. And it will determine what kind of America we will leave our children, and theirs.
"America faces a new generation of challenges. Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us. An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership. And we are troubled at home by government overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family.
"Over the last year, we have embarked on a national debate on how best to preserve American leadership. Today, I wish to address a topic which I believe is fundamental to America's greatness: our religious liberty. I will also offer perspectives on how my own faith would inform my presidency, if I were elected.
"There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adams' words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.'
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
"Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate's religion that are appropriate. I believe there are. And I will answer them today.
"Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president. Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.
"Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.
"As governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution - and of course, I would not do so as president. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.
"As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America's 'political religion' - the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.
"There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers - I will be true to them and to my beliefs.
"Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience.
Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.
"There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.
"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.
"I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims. As I travel across the country and see our towns and cities, I am always moved by the many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life's blessings.
"It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter - on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.
"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
"The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.
"We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders - in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'
"Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?
"They are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They are the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united.
"We believe that every single human being is a child of God - we are all part of the human family. The conviction of the inherent and inalienable worth of every life is still the most revolutionary political proposition ever advanced. John Adams put it that we are 'thrown into the world all equal and alike.'
"The consequence of our common humanity is our responsibility to one another, to our fellow Americans foremost, but also to every child of God. It is an obligation which is fulfilled by Americans every day, here and across the globe, without regard to creed or race or nationality.
"Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government. No people in the history of the world have sacrificed as much for liberty. The lives of hundreds of thousands of America's sons and daughters were laid down during the last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people throughout the world. America took nothing from that Century's terrible wars - no land from Germany or Japan or Korea; no treasure; no oath of fealty. America's resolve in the defense of liberty has been tested time and again. It has not been found wanting, nor must it ever be. America must never falter in holding high the banner of freedom.
"These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements. I am moved by the Lord's words: 'For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me...'
"My faith is grounded on these truths. You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family. We are a long way from perfect and we have surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values, are the self-same as those from the other faiths that stand upon this common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my presidency.
"Today's generations of Americans have always known religious liberty. Perhaps we forget the long and arduous path our nation's forbearers took to achieve it. They came here from England to seek freedom of religion. But upon finding it for themselves, they at first denied it to others. Because of their diverse beliefs, Ann Hutchinson was exiled from Massachusetts Bay, a banished Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, and two centuries later, Brigham Young set out for the West. Americans were unable to accommodate their commitment to their own faith with an appreciation for the convictions of others to different faiths. In this, they were very much like those of the European nations they had left.
"It was in Philadelphia that our founding fathers defined a revolutionary vision of liberty, grounded on self evident truths about the equality of all, and the inalienable rights with which each is endowed by his Creator.
"We cherish these sacred rights, and secure them in our Constitutional order. Foremost do we protect religious liberty, not as a matter of policy but as a matter of right. There will be no established church, and we are guaranteed the free exercise of our religion.
"I'm not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I have visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired . so grand . so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too 'enlightened' to venture inside and kneel in prayer. The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe's churches. And though you will find many people of strong faith there, the churches themselves seem to be withering away.
"Infinitely worse is the other extreme, the creed of conversion by conquest: violent Jihad, murder as martyrdom... killing Christians, Jews, and Muslims with equal indifference. These radical Islamists do their preaching not by reason or example, but in the coercion of minds and the shedding of blood. We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering these states and groups could inflict if given the chance.
The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed.
In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: We do not insist on a single strain of religion — rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.
Recall the early days of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, during the fall of 1774. With Boston occupied by British troops, there were rumors of imminent hostilities and fears of an impending war. In this time of peril, someone suggested that they pray. But there were objections. They were too divided in religious sentiments, what with Episcopalians and Quakers, Anabaptists and Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Catholics.
Then Sam Adams rose, and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot. And so together they prayed, and together they fought, and together, by the grace of God, they founded this great nation.
In that spirit, let us give thanks to the divine author of liberty. And together, let us pray that this land may always be blessed with freedom's holy light.
God bless this great land, the United States of America.
Have a listen: http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=16969460&m=16969594
Thursday, December 6, 2007; A29
The Washington Post
Rarely has a document from the supposedly hidden world of intelligence had such an impact as the National Intelligence Estimate released this week. Rarely has an administration been so unprepared for such an event. And rarely have vehement critics of the "intelligence community" on issues such as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction reversed themselves so quickly.
All this shows that we not only have a problem interpreting what the mullahs in Tehran are up to, but also a more fundamental problem: Too much of the intelligence community is engaging in policy formulation rather than "intelligence" analysis, and too many in Congress and the media are happy about it. President Bush may not be able to repair his Iran policy (which was not rigorous enough to begin with) in his last year, but he would leave a lasting legacy by returning the intelligence world to its proper function.
Consider these flaws in the NIE's "key judgments," which were made public even though approximately 140 pages of analysis, and reams of underlying intelligence, remain classified.
First, the headline finding -- that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- is written in a way that guarantees the totality of the conclusions will be misread. In fact, there is little substantive difference between the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran's nuclear capabilities and the 2007 NIE. Moreover, the distinction between "military" and "civilian" programs is highly artificial, since the enrichment of uranium, which all agree Iran is continuing, is critical to civilian and military uses. Indeed, it has always been Iran's "civilian" program that posed the main risk of a nuclear "breakout."
The real differences between the NIEs are not in the hard data but in the psychological assessment of the mullahs' motives and objectives. The current NIE freely admits to having only moderate confidence that the suspension continues and says that there are significant gaps in our intelligence and that our analysts dissent from their initial judgment on suspension. This alone should give us considerable pause.
Second, the NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported. It implies that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic persuasion and pressure, yet the only event in 2003 that might have affected Iran was our invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, not exactly a diplomatic pas de deux. As undersecretary of state for arms control in 2003, I know we were nowhere near exerting any significant diplomatic pressure on Iran. Nowhere does the NIE explain its logic on this critical point. Moreover, the risks and returns of pursuing a diplomatic strategy are policy calculations, not intelligence judgments. The very public rollout in the NIE of a diplomatic strategy exposes the biases at work behind the Potemkin village of "intelligence."
Third, the risks of disinformation by Iran are real. We have lost many fruitful sources inside Iraq in recent years because of increased security and intelligence tradecraft by Iran. The sudden appearance of new sources should be taken with more than a little skepticism. In a background briefing, intelligence officials said they had concluded it was "possible" but not "likely" that the new information they were relying on was deception. These are hardly hard scientific conclusions. One contrary opinion came from -- of all places -- an unnamed International Atomic Energy Agency official, quoted in the New York Times, saying that "we are more skeptical. We don't buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran." When the IAEA is tougher than our analysts, you can bet the farm that someone is pursuing a policy agenda.
Fourth, the NIE suffers from a common problem in government: the overvaluation of the most recent piece of data. In the bureaucracy, where access to information is a source of rank and prestige, ramming home policy changes with the latest hot tidbit is commonplace, and very deleterious. It is a rare piece of intelligence that is so important it can conclusively or even significantly alter the body of already known information. Yet the bias toward the new appears to have exerted a disproportionate effect on intelligence analysis.
Fifth, many involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence. These officials had relatively benign views of Iran's nuclear intentions five and six years ago; now they are writing those views as if they were received wisdom from on high. In fact, these are precisely the policy biases they had before, recycled as "intelligence judgments."
That such a flawed product could emerge after a drawn-out bureaucratic struggle is extremely troubling. While the president and others argue that we need to maintain pressure on Iran, this "intelligence" torpedo has all but sunk those efforts, inadequate as they were. Ironically, the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions in an essentially unmolested fashion, to the detriment of us all.
John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad." He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Peter Foster, Financial Post
Published: Thursday, December 06, 2007
The fate of the Earth hangs in the balance in Bali, but the issue is not whether humanity will succumb to a "climate crisis," or how the international community might craft a successor to the tattered Kyoto Accord (Let's call it KyoTwo). The real theme of this United Nations gabfest -- like that of its 12 predecessors, and of the hundreds, if not thousands, of related meetings --is whether globalization and trade liberalization will be allowed to continue, with a corresponding increase in wealth, health and welfare, or whether the authoritarian enemies of freedom (who rarely if ever recognize themselves as such) will succeed in using environmental hysteria to undermine capitalism and increase their Majesterium. Any successor to Kyoto will be rooted in hobbling rich economies, increasing the poor world's resentment, unleashing environmental trade warfare, and blanketing the globe with rules and regulations that benefit only rulers and regulators. Bali is not about climate; it symbolizes the continued assault on freedom by those who seek -- or pander to -- political power under the guise of concern for humanity.
Just at the point where Marxism was being consigned to the dustbin of history, the more or less concealed power lust that had fed it found a new cause in the environment. The fact that the UN's 1992 Rio conference followed hard on the collapse of the Soviet Union represented almost the passing of a poisoned baton. Capitalism had once been the enemy because it was alleged to make people poor. Now it was the enemy because of the alleged side effects of making them rich. The emissions of carbon-based industrial society would lead to a climate in turmoil:We would be beset by Biblical plagues of floods, droughts and monster hurricanes.
This simplistic narrative depended on carbon dioxide being the main driver of climate. Scientists who pointed that there were likely other more important factors, that climate science was in its infancy and that earth's climate had varied dramatically long before the invention of the steam, internal combustion or jet engine, were not scientifically refuted; they were howled down as "deniers" or industry shills.
The environmental left, centred in the UN, has achieved stunning success in building and pushing the climate change/sustain-ability bandwagon. They have done this first by funding, then hijacking, scientific research via the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They have also promoted and allowed access to an ever-proliferating group of activist NGOs (Bali, significantly, is overrun by the non-elected "representatives" of scores of radical organizations, who have in turn forced similar numbers of industry representatives to follow them). NGOs have also had great success in pushing their alarmist message through a sympathetic media and thus --along with more direct lobbying--in achieving grossly disproportionate influence with democratic politicians. "Progressive" pols, meanwhile, have embraced environmental alarmism because it gives a much-needed boost to their flagging relevance.
Climate-change alarmism couldn't be presented as simply a new justification for power-seeking, so it had to be cloaked--as social-ism has always been cloaked, both consciously and unconsciously -- in concern for "the poor." Addressing climate change has always been linked in the UN script with Third World development, even though it in fact represents the greatest threat to such development. Nevertheless, the prospect of more international redistribution has meant that poor countries' corrupt and/or incompetent governments have become enthusiastic supporters of the Kyoto "process."
The rapid and unexpected explosion of economic growth -- and emissions -- in China and India has created a wrinkle. The United States and Canada claim that the ballooning emissions of these prospective economic superpowers mean that they must be part of any "solution." China and India, by contrast, assert --encouraged by their "poor" colleagues in the Third World bloc -- that since this "problem" was created by the developed countries, the developed countries must deal with it.
Bali will see nothing but posturing and preening, "tough" negotiations, and an agreement to talk further, in yet more exotic locations. But we should remember that the object of the exercise is not to deal practically with the problems of poverty, or to realistically address the challenges of extreme weather, whether caused by humans or otherwise. Bjorn Lomborg has eloquently pointed out why Kyoto-style approaches represent a very poor return on investment, and why we would be much better to deal directly with the specific threats of drought, flooding, malaria or hurricane damage, and with the broader issue of how to promote development. But that criticism misses the real significance of Kyoto and KyoTwo. They are not about effectively addressing specific problems, they are about exploiting ignorance about climate science, and continuing to demonize capitalism, in order to make ecocrats feel good, make others feel bad, pad incomes, and expand travel schedules.
Democratic governments have no choice but to cater to the ignorance/alarm/hypocrisy engendered in their electorates. This catering in turn reflects greater or lesser degrees of cynicism, skepticism, or moralistic bloviation.
The Australian delegation was feted on the first day of Bali because the subcontinent's new government chose at last to sign on to Kyoto, even though the agreement lay in ruins, and would have had virtually zero impact on the climate anyway. Canada's Environment Minister John Baird -- who must cope with the fact that his Liberal predecessors signed Kyoto without any plan or intention of fulfilling their obligations-- must sing from the U.N. hymnbook while keeping a firm hand on the nation's collective wallet. And preparing for the next meeting.
Hat tip: Rush Limbaugh
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Meeting with the President
I met with President Bush at the White House yesterday to discuss our state’s continuing recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. During the meeting, I thanked the President for the support that Louisiana has received thus far and asked for his help in speeding recovery aid to our state that is tied up in bureaucratic red tape. Our state faces critical needs, such as improving and upgrading our levees, restoring our coast, and making sure that the Road Home program is fully funded, and I asked the President for additional resources to fill those needs.
I also took the opportunity to urge the President to locate the Air Force Cyber Command at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport. The President knows of the importance of Barksdale to not only our state, but to our nation’s defense. While a final decision is weeks, or even months away, the Cyber Command will be a strong economic engine for North Louisiana, as well as the rest of the state. In addition to talking to the President, I have already spoken with the Secretary of the Air Force, met with local advocates from Bossier, and toured Bossier Parish Community College where important degree programs will be offered. I will continue to do everything possible to ensure the federal government places the Cyber Command permanently at Barksdale.
Reforming our State
The Transition Advisory Councils continue to meet around the state to make recommendations regarding the detailed policy chapters that I introduced during the campaign. In addition, residents throughout the state contact my office daily to offer their innovative ideas for our state.
Last week, we held hearings all over the state on issues ranging from education, government reform, and emergency preparedness to economic development issues such as small business and business retention.
At the advisory council meetings, we hear one thing time and again – now is the time to make dramatic changes in our state and to address the problems that have plagued Louisiana for too long. For example, during the education hearing last week we heard about the need for high school students to receive the skills and training necessary to provide a skilled workforce for businesses and to ensure the students will have good paying jobs right here in Louisiana. Without these trained employees, businesses will not locate in our state.
During the business retention and recruitment hearing held in Monroe, council members spoke about the importance of leveling the playing field with other states by reducing burdensome regulations and taxes on businesses and improving our national image by enacting strong ethics laws.
Working with Governors from across the country
This week, I joined Governors from across the nation in California and shared with them the critical work we are doing in Louisiana to reform our ethics laws and revitalize our economy to grow businesses and create jobs. As I said on election night, Louisiana is on the rise and everyone in the nation should keep their eyes on our state.
At the meeting, I was honored to be elected to serve on a four-member Executive Committee – joining Governors from Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Hawaii – to help develop and share innovative best practices that are working around the nation. I look forward to serving in this leadership role and working with Governors from around the nation to remind them that Louisiana is on the move.
I want to congratulate Coach Les Miles and the entire LSU football team for earning the right to play in the BCS championship game in New Orleans. I told the President when I met with him yesterday that he would be hosting the LSU Tigers at the White House again in the coming weeks after we win another National Championship.
Congratulations and Geaux Tigers!