Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.
Frustrated by exorbitant gas prices, Kwame Corsi, a taxi driver from the Bronx, had been waiting years for the chance to drive a hybrid car. In New York, where 93 percent of the city's cabs are Crown Victorias (large Ford models that guzzle a gallon every twelve miles), drivers like Corsi often pay up to $100 dollars a day on fuel. Up until last week, New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission had refused to grant medallions for hybrid taxis.
Now, thanks to the City Council's unanimous decision to approve the "Clean Air Taxis Act," Corsi will get his wish and New Yorkers will literally breathe easier. New York, which was ranked by the American Lung Association as one of America's most polluted cities in 2004, suffers from the highest asthma mortality rate in the country. But under the new law, which will put hybrids on the street by this fall, the harmful emissions spewed out by New York's fleet of 13,000 cabs will be dramatically reduced. According to the Sierra Club, hybrids are particularly well-suited for New York City, because the greatest difference in emissions from hybrids comes under conditions of slow traffic and idling.
"The New York yellow taxi is an American icon. What better way to showcase a great solution to our air pollution and oil dependence problems?" said Mark Izeman of the NRDC in a press release from the Coalition Advocating for Smart Transportation (CAST), a group that has been at the forefront of the fight for green cabs in New York City.
New York's high profile win is the latest in a string of victories for the "Green Fleets" movement. A few weeks ago, legislators in Charlotte, NC voted to hybridize the city's municipal fleet, and Denver, Seattle, and Madison have also made strides in converting their fleets to green.
As is increasingly the case, cities across the country are making progressive strides in the face of an obstinate administration that refuses to declare its independence from oil. It's time to tell Congress to seriously invest in a clean energy plan. Take action by supporting the Apollo Alliance and clicking here to send a letter to your Senators and Congressmen.
We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing email@example.com.
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.
Maybe we need sportscasters to ask informed, incisive questions of our pundits and politicians? It certainly was refreshing to watch Bob Costas sub for Larry King the night of Bush's Iraq speech. I happened to flick on CNN's premier talk show, expecting the usual vapid questions and platitudinous replies, and found the veteran sportscaster asking some smart and (relatively) tough questions. (Click here to read the transcript.)
Costas: ...There were no weapons of mass destruction. There has been no contact or connection between Iraq and al Qaeda or 9/11 established. Vice President Cheney says the insurgency is in its final throes. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says the insurgency could last a decade or more. Does the the Bush Administration now face a credibility gap?" (Both Time's Jay Carney and Newsweek's Richard Wolffe said yes.)
I sat up and started listening.
Then, Senator Kerry came on.
Costas: In the aftermath of 9/11, did Democrats, yourself included, do a poor job of playing the role of the loyal opposition? Were they too docile and too compliant, and did they fail to ask the skeptical questions and raise the objections they should have in the run-up to war?
Now I was sitting straight up and listening carefully.
Kerry mumbled, "I plead guilty. And I think a lot of people in the party would. But I think a lot of Americans would."
Senator McCain came on.
Costas: You are, no doubt, familiar with what your Senate colleague, Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said recently. But to refresh the memories of our audience, I 'll read it. 'Things are getting worse. The White is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is, we are losing in Iraq.' What say you to that?"
Even the usually unflappable McCain looked a little shaken, as if he missed Larry King's softball questions.
Costas continued: "Senator McCain, I hope this question doesn't seem impertinent, but we often hear that if these terrorists are not confronted in Iraq, they'll be in New York or wherever. What is to stop them from being in New York simultaneously, if they could get here?"
I was rooting for more impertinent, informed questions.
Costas: Are we up against a situation here that maybe we should take a big-picture look at? Iraq isn't really a natural country. It was cobbled together by force after World War I. There are different regional and religious factions. It was always held together by brutal central governments. And might it not naturally go the way of the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, where these factions just naturally break off once that central force is removed? ..Are we trying to hold together a country that has no democratic tradition and is not really, in the true sense, a country?
McCain looked like he wanted to throttle Costas.
Costas: Senator McCain, we now find that more than 60 percent of Americans recently polled think that President Bush has no clear plan for victory in Iraq, and now more than fifty percent believe it was a mistake to go there in the first place. What would you say to a mother or father whose son or daughter is being recruited--there is no draft--is being recruited to join the military under these circumstances?
Congressman Christopher Shays (R, CT) came on.
Costas: Congressman Shays, you're aware that Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, recently said: 'Public support in my state is turning.' Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, Republican congressman, is among those who have submitted a bipartisan resolution that would call upon the US to begin troop withdrawals from Iraq no later than 2006. This isn't the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party. These are solid Republicans, and they and their constituents are increasingly concerned about where we're doing here.
By this time, I was ready to launch a bye-bye Larry (King) campaign.
Last month, CNN President Jonathan Klein made Costas a regular substitute anchor for the show. (The odious Nancy "You're Guilty Before You're Innocent" Grace was also named a regular sub.)
Maybe Costas towered that night because of the barrenness of the landscape around him, but he certainly was a refreshing antidote to the info-tainment featured on prime cable talk/ news programs these days. If CNN wants to become a news outlet again, one step would be devise an exit strategy for Larry and install Costas as King.
CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Reactions to President Bush's SpeechAired June 28, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITSFINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whenthe history of this period is written, the liberationof Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq will beremembered as great turning points in the story offreedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOB COSTAS, GUEST HOST: Tonight, President Bush tellsAmericans there's difficult and dangerous work to doin Iraq, but it's worth it. Can he persuade anincreasingly skeptical public that his strategy canand will prevail?
Among those joining us, exclusively, former Democraticpresidential candidate and decorated Vietnam veteran,Senator John Kerry, and Republican Senator JohnMcCain, war hero and former White House hopefulhimself. Their views and much more, next, on LARRYKING LIVE.
Continuing with reactions now in the aftermath ofPresident Bush's address to the nation from Ft. Bragg.Bob Costas sitting in tonight for Larry King.
Senator John Kerry's time is short. We will go rightto him. He joins us from our Washington bureau. He isof course, the former Democratic presidentialcandidate, a member of the Senate Foreign RelationsCommittee. This morning, in "The New York Times," heauthored an op-ed piece called "The Speech thePresident Should Give."
Senator Kerry, did President Bush give anything likethe speech you would have liked to have seen him givetonight?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Not quite, no. Ithink the president had an opportunity tonight toreally speak more of the truth of what has happened inIraq and where we need to go.
Let me give you an example. Really, tonight, we heardsort of transformation into the third most significantrationale for the war itself. The first, of course,was weapons of mass destruction. The second wasdemocracy. And now tonight, it's to combat the hotbed> of terrorism.>> But most Americans are aware that the hotbed ofterrorism never existed in Iraq until we got there,and it has in fact grown increasingly as we are there.So the question tonight is not the speech itself. Thequestion is really, did the president lay out a policythat is going to guarantee that our troops are as safeas they could be and that we're doing all that ispossible to be able to have a success?
I believe there is much more that I laid out today.The training, the use of our neighbors, the bordersecurity, the transformation of the Sunni politicalreconciliation. All of these things could be done morerapidly and more effectively.
COSTAS: If you had been elected president lastNovember, by this point what would President JohnKerry have done in Iraq?
KERRY: Well, I laid out -- you know, I don't want toget in -- I mean, I think that's not quite the way togo at it. What I said continually is that you have toput the training on a wartime footing.
I visited Iraq in January. I visited with the leadersof the region, and I was really dumbfounded to listento the king of Jordan or the president of Egypt or thechancellor of Germany or the president of France allsay that they were prepared to do more in terms ofassisting in the training, but they couldn'tunderstand why the administration hadn't taken them upon it.
We now have a requirement that all of that training bein country, in Iraq. That is a huge stumbling block tobe able to produce the number of troops and the levelof training necessary to protect our troops as rapidlyas possible.
We could do more with respect to the Sunni neighbors.They have a huge stake in the outcome and the successof what happens in Iraq. But many of them feel they'renot consulted with. Many of them feel they're not partof a larger process. I think there is much more thatwe can do on a more active basis. All of us want tosucceed. And I think the president did not lay out thefull measure of those things that he will embrace.
And maybe he will do it in the weeks ahead. Maybetonight he stood his ground, and we'll see atransformation. But I think a lot of people in Americaare looking for less talk about the progress and moretalk about what we're specifically going to do to beable to be successful in creating stability and bringour troops home.
COSTAS: In the aftermaths of 9/11, did Democrats,yourself included, do a poor job of playing the roleof the loyal opposition? Were they too docile and toocompliant, and did they fail to ask the skepticalquestions and raise the objections they should have inthe run-up to war?
KERRY: Many of the questions were raised, but notenough. I plead guilty. And I think a lot of people inthe party would. But I think a lot of Americans would.
The fact is that we all were unified. I think this isreally important in light of Karl Rove's comments theother day. We were all unified as Americans. I mean, Iwill never forget sitting in a leadership meeting inthe Capitol a little after 9:00, when this loudexplosion took place off our right side, and we lookedout and saw this plume of black smoke coming from thePentagon, and we almost simultaneously received wordthat the White House was evacuating and we shouldevacuate.
And I'll never forget the emotions heading out of theCapitol and turning to a friend and saying, "we're atwar." That was our emotion that was shared by allAmericans. And we banded together. All members of theSenate present voted unanimously to give the presidentwhatever he needed and to use force to retaliate. Weall agreed we should go to Afghanistan.
I think questions were raised, however, when thepresident began to raise the specter of going intoIraq. But he guaranteed us in going to the UnitedNations and going through an inspections process, thatwe would go to war as a last resort. I think everybodywould say today we did not do that, and the war wasmorphed from the war of weapons of mass destructioninto democracy, and now, as I said, into the thirdrationale.
And I think a lot of Americans are very uneasy aboutthe current way in which the president keeps talkingin the same language.
Take the training of troops tonight. He says they're167,000. He said there are a lesser number prepared tofight. Well, it's about less than 3,000. There are10,000 to 15,000 that might be able to do somethingwith us.
I think two years after the invasion, Americans have aright to expect a higher level of accomplishment, anda higher level of safety and security.
COSTAS: You know all about the fog of war.Representative Chris Shays will be on this programlater, has made several trips to Iraq, and he contendsthat the significant progress, the successes of Bushpolicy are being lost amid the day-to-day reports fromthe war zone. Is that a valid point? I mean, no onethinks that Iraq is going to be Switzerland, butSaddam is gone. There is a democracy of some kind inplace. The vast majority of the Kurds in the north anda substantial majority of the Shiites in the southwould probably say they're better off than they werejust a couple of years ago. Is Bush getting an unfairshake here?
KERRY: To some degree, I think that's true. And I'vesaid that publicly. We've made progress. There's noquestion we have made some progress.
But the measure here is not whether or not you've madesome progress. The measure is, are you doing allthat's necessary and appropriate and available inorder to provide the best policy for our troops?
You know, the president said tonight that what we cando on July 4th is fly the flag and honor the troops.Well, every American that I know of flies the flag onJuly 4th and we always honor our troops. The questionof honoring the troops, it seems to me, is to providethem with the best protection possible. And when youdon't address the borders that are sieves, when youdon't deal with this training issue, to provideadequate transformation on a rapid basis, we're notdoing all that is possible.
When you underfund the VA by a billion dollars and tryto hide it, you're not doing all that's necessary tohonor the troops.
So, I think Americans are smart. They know how tomeasure this. And, increasingly, as they're beginningto become aware of the gaps in the performance fromthe promise, people want to demand more. We owe thosetroops more. We owe the American people more.
Yes, there is progress, but the measure is, again, todo the best that we can do. And I think a lot ofpeople feel we're failing to do that.
COSTAS: We have less than a minute here, Senator. Inhearings with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld last week,your fellow Democratic senator from Massachusetts, TedKennedy, said that Iraq is becoming, quote, "seeminglyan intractable quagmire." Quagmire, that's thatVietnam-era word that you know much about. Was thatover the top, or was it close to accurate?
KERRY: No, I don't believe it is that yet today. Butit could become that if we don't make the rightchoices. And the key, what I laid out today, were aseries of steps on the border, the inclusion of theneighbors in the region, the building of a strongerregional security plan, the training of troops, theinvestment -- not of the donor countries. It's notjust donors we're looking for. It's investment fromvarious businesses other than Halliburton.
There's a very significant amount that we could dowith respect to border security, and there is more wecould do in the region in the long run to reduce thepotential of radicals joining in to the jihadistmovement.
A lot of those things have been left on the table, andI think what Americans, again, want is the effort tobest honor the troops by providing them with themaximum set of options possible.
We can do better. We owe them the leadership that'sequal to their sacrifice. And I think we have yet toprovide that.
COSTAS: Senator Kerry, thank you for your timetonight.
KERRY: Thank you.
COSTAS: As we continue on LARRY KING LIVE, stillahead, a few moments from now, Senator John McCainwill be with us. LARRY KING LIVE continues from NewYork and from Washington after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We have more work to do. And there will be toughmoments that test America's resolve. We're fightingagainst men with blind hatred and armed with lethalweapons who are capable of any atrocity.
COSTAS: Bob Costas for Larry King on this Tuesdaynight in New York. And from Washington, Jay Carney,the deputy Washington bureau chief of "Time" magazineis joining us. Richard Wolffe, chief White Housecorrespondent from "Newsweek," and from CNN's Baghdadbureau, CNN correspondent Jennifer Eccleston.
Jennifer, let's start with you. From the vantage pointof the Iraqis and the U.S. military personnel watchingin Baghdad, did they hear tonight what most of themhad hoped to hear from President Bush?
JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I thinkfrom the vantage point of the Iraqis, they will bewaking up this morning and they will frame this speechwithin the context of how it's going to improve theirday-to-day lives. And you know, despite the undeniableprogress here in Iraq one year after the handover ofsovereignty today, the grinding violence, the lack ofpersonal security, the day- to-day hardships, notenough water, not enough power, inadequate sanitation-- this limits most Iraqis' abilities to believe thattheir government and the American assertations thatlife is indeed improving, it's hard for them to see,for lack of a better phrase, the forest through thetrees, because day-to-day living is just so tough.
And as far as the American troops are concerned,indeed, they will be out listening from the variousposts around this country. They want to hear thatlevel of support. They want to hear it from theirpresident. All US forces overseas want to know thatthey are facing support, not only from theirpresident, but also from the American people. And ifthat speech tonight went some ways to do that, then,indeed, they will see that as a very positive sign --Bob.
COSTAS: Jay Carney and Richard Wolffe in our D.C.bureau, there's an element of theater in anypresidential address. So the president in this casegoes to Ft. Bragg, well aware that the American publicsupports the troops. A majority now, we are told,according to recent polls, of the American public doesnot support President Bush's policy. He's clearlytrying to blur the distinction between support for thetroops and support for his policy. Was he successfulin that regard?
JAY CARNEY, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME":Well, I think, Bob, there were a lot of distinctionsblurred tonight, as has been pointed out, the, youknow, the fact that the president once againreintroduced and sort of conflated 9/11, the events of9/11 with what's happening in Iraq, and I think thatwhile that has worked for him in the past, making thewar on terror one broad event, that began on September11th, 2001 and continues to this day in Iraq, hasworked for him politically, I'm not sure it willcontinue to work for him. And then there was theblurring of distinctions on, you know, the troops, asyou say, versus what he needs to get done in Iraq andthe plummeting support for the war.
And the problem that the president faces really isthat he's trying to make a public relations pitch,showing that he understands the concerns the Americanshave, but he cannot effect with this speech what'shappening on the ground, and that's what mostAmericans have been watching on television and readingin the newspapers. And unless the situation improveson the ground, I don't think his plight, politically,will improve.
COSTAS: Richard Wolffe, your reaction?
RICHARD WOLFFE, "NEWSWEEK": Yeah, look, there's areason why he has gone after the terrorism angle onthis, because that's the one number the president hasthat has held up over all this period. When you lookat the numbers of people who say, was the war worth itor not? That number has been on the slide since April,May of last year. It really took a downward turn inSeptember, before the president got reelected.
One speech isn't going to turn that around. But yes,he's trying to blur it, he's trying to draw on his ownsupport, but the numbers really don't look good, andthey have been on a bad path for a long time.
COSTAS: Again, to both of you, with less than a minutehere, because Senator McCain is standing by, the word"quagmire" came up in the last segment, a Vietnam-eraword. We are also hearing the term "credibility gap."There were no weapons of mass destruction. There hasbeen no contact or connection between Iraq and alQaeda or 9/11 established. Vice President Cheney saysthe insurgency is in its final throes. Secretary ofDefense Rumsfeld says the insurgency could last adecade or more. Does the Bush administration now facea credibility gap?
CARNEY: I think so. I think that in fact, if you lookat these poll numbers, that's where the president hashis most serious problem, is that if he has come to apoint where the public will not believe what he saysabout Iraq anymore, then no matter what he says or nomatter what the format of his speeches are, hissituation won't improve.
WOLFFE: And on the question of the terrorists, whichis what he presented his whole speech as, you know,the American people are going to be confused, frankly,because for a long time, we were told that the peoplewho were on the other side in Iraq were thedead-enders, the Baathists, and there's a basicproblem there in terms of what the public understands,what it's been told up to this point, and what thepresident said tonight.
COSTAS: Richard, Jay, Jennifer, thanks to all three ofyou.
When we come back on LARRY KING LIVE, we'll be joinedby Senator John McCain.
COSTAS: Senator John McCain of Arizona joins us nowfrom Capitol Hill. Senator McCain, you are, no doubt,familiar with what your Senate colleague, Chuck Hagel,Republican of Nebraska, said recently. But to refreshthe memories of our audience, I'll read it. "Thingsaren't getting any better. Things are getting worse.The White House is completely disconnected fromreality. It's like they're just making it up as theygo along. The reality is, we are losing in Iraq."
What say you to that?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, with respect tomy friend -- and he's a dear friend -- I completelydisagree. There are signs of progress. Yes, it'stough, and it's hard, and we've made mistakes and wepaid a heavy price for those mistakes. Unfortunately,in wars, serious mistakes are made.
But we've seen a number of signs of progress,including that of the capabilities of the Iraqimilitary, agreement with the Sunnis as framing the constitution, a decrease in suicide bombers fromIraqis and more and more coming in from the outside.By the way, that's the good news and bad news piece ofit.
And there is a legitimacy to the Iraqi governmentthat, frankly, the government of South Vietnam neverhad.
So, I think that there is progress.
We cannot afford to fail. I think the president saidthat very articulately tonight, and the benefits ofsuccess throughout the region are already being felt.
COSTAS: Are you satisfied with the message PresidentBush delivered tonight and the way in which hedelivered it?
MCCAIN: I am, and I would like to comment. I watchedJay Carney and Mr. Wolffe there earlier. The reasonwhy I think the president made a reference toterrorists is that those people that are coming in,that I just referred to, that are coming in from theoutside of Iraq through Syria, they are terrorists.They're the same guys who would be in New York if wedon't win in Iraq. And so, we are facing a certainelement of terrorism.
We're also facing an element of people who wouldwantonly take the lives of innocent people. And I dobelieve that that kind of activity, over time, cannotsustain the support of the public. And the reason whythey're focusing most of their attention on the Iraqimilitary and security forces, they know if theysucceed -- those forces succeed, the insurgents fail.
COSTAS: Senator McCain, I hope this question doesn'tseem impertinent, but we often hear that if theseterrorists are not confronted in Iraq, they'll be inNew York or wherever. What is to stop them from beingin New York simultaneously, if they could get here? Weknow that they would if they could, and they stillmight.
MCCAIN: Because I believe, Bob, that Iraq would turninto a hotbed of radical Islamist extremism andtraining, with equipping. It would be a center for> Islamic extremism, and also a failure on the part ofthe United States would set a chain of events inmotion, particularly in the Middle East, that wouldeventually reach the shores of the United States, Ibelieve.
COSTAS: Are we up against a situation here that maybewe should take a big-picture look at? Iraq isn'treally a natural country. It was cobbled together byforce after World War I. There are different regionaland religious factions. It was always held together bybrutal central governments. And might it not naturallygo the way of the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, wherethese factions just naturally break off once thatcentral force is removed? Now, I realize that woulddestabilize -- in the view of many, would destabilizethe Middle East, but are we trying to hold together acountry that has no democratic tradition and is notreally, in the true sense, a country?
MCCAIN: I don't think so. Most polls that we see,Iraqis identify themselves as Iraqi first, and Kurdsecond, Sunni, Shiite third -- I mean, second. But I-- I -- and I believe that what this has more to dowith power within the country of Iraq rather than adesire to break it up. The Shias, as you know, havebeen the underdogs for centuries, and the Sunnis havegoverned.
Someone very smart likened this to a 1950s state ofAlabama. All of a sudden, the African-Americans beginto rule the state. This would be -- this is a hugechange. And yet, I don't see the Sunnis now saying,we're going to have an independent Sunni entity. Theywant power, and many of them are sympathetic to theinsurgents, because they believe that may be a way toregain it.
So, yes, those lines were drawn in an attempt byBritish colonels around 1917 or 1918, but I thinkthey've been a country long enough that that is notthe forces that would drive them apart. I believe whatwould drive them apart is a belief, for example, onthe Kurds' part that they had no rights in agovernment. And that's what I think would cause aproblem like you described.
COSTAS: Are you hopeful about the attempt to splitsome of the Sunnis who support the insurgency, tosplit them away from the outside terrorists who havecome across the borders, to make them feel as if theyhave a place in the mainstream, to change some of theprocedures so they're likely to have more seats inparliament, and thereby, reduce the size of theinsurgency? Is that a realistic hope?
MCCAIN: Yes, and I do believe that the Sunnis'agreement to enter into the framing of theconstitution was a significant step forward.
But I'm a little nervous about including some of theseinsurgent factions into the government and giving themamnesty. There are some pretty bad people out there.So, yes, we want to bring Sunnis in, but I would becareful about some kind of blanket amnesty for somepretty atrocious things that have happened. So I wouldbe a little nervous about it, but clearly, we have toget the majority of the Sunnis into participating inthis new, this young democracy.
COSTAS: Senator McCain, we are where we are, and mostpeople believe that if we just up and left, chaoswould ensue. But suppose, for the purposes of thisexercise, there were two buttons in front of you. Youcould only push one. If you push button number one,the best possible realistic outcome, as we speak now,ensues in Iraq. If you push button number two, wenever went there in the first place. Which buttonwould you push?
MCCAIN: Oh, by far, button number one. Look, I believewe're making progress towards a democracy in Iraq.That's already having an effect in the region. Kuwait,Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya has already had an effect.There was a bad guy. Weapons of mass destruction or noweapons of mass destruction, the sanctions wereeroding, and if Saddam Hussein were still in power, hewould be attempting to acquire and use weapons of massdestruction.
I think the president laid out tonight an excellentscenario of what the realities are and what we face.They needed that. Now we need to show some progress onthe ground.
COSTAS: We have a minute left here, Senator McCain. Wenow find that more than 60 percent of Americansrecently polled think that President Bush has no clearplan for victory in Iraq, and now more than 50 percentbelieve it was a mistake to go there in the firstplace. What would you say to a father or mother whoseson or daughter is being recruited -- there is nodraft -- is being recruited to join the military underthese circumstances?
MCCAIN: First of all, I think the president laid itout pretty well tonight. And I think he did a good jobin his praise of the men and women of the military,and appeal to a cause greater than our self-interest.
If we can bring about a functioning democracy in Iraq,it will be a legacy for generations in the MiddleEast. We will have freed innocent people of the yokeof a cruel and despotic dictator. We will have movedthe effort of democracy and freedom throughout theMiddle East. And, you know, the noblest tradition ofthe United States of America is fighting and sometimessacrificing in defense of someone else's freedom.
COSTAS: We don't have to ask about your own service.So, I take it in this hypothetical, if you had a childwho was liable to be sent to Iraq, you would send himor her there not just proudly, but believe that he orshe was putting his or her life on the line for aworthy and noble cause?
MCCAIN: I cannot tell you the pride I would feel ifone of my children served in that fashion. But I alsocan't tell you that I wouldn't be nervous and worriedas any other parent is.
COSTAS: Senator McCain, as always, a pleasure to speakwith you.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
COSTAS: Thank you for being with us.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
COSTAS: When we come back, we'll be joined by SenatorsJohn Warner and Evan Bayh. Stay with us on LARRY KINGLIVE. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We fight today because terrorists want to attackour country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is wherethey are making their stand. So, we'll fight themthere. We'll fight them across the world. And we willstay in the fight until the fight is won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTAS: Senator John Warner is the chairman of theSenate Armed Services Committee. Senator Evan Bayh ofIndiana is a member of that committee. Senator Bye,you asked President Bush, earlier this week, topresent and unvarnished version of the situation inIraq.
Did he do that tonight?
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Well, Bob, he did a goodjob of saying things that the American people alreadyagree on; all of us Democrats and Republicans. We allwant to be successful in Iraq. We all support thetroops. We all want to be successful in the War onTerror. What the president didn't do as well at, Bob,was to lay out a clear plan with benchmarks forprogress that will end in success and I think that'swhat the American people were looking for and that'sessential that we do that to maintain the moral thatwill be necessary to stay in the course here. And in aword, Bob, we need accountability for progress and Ithink he could've done much better about that tonight.
COSTAS: Senator Bayh, at this point, what defines,realistically, success in Iraq?
BAYH: A country that does not threaten its neighbors,a country that does not harbor terrorists that couldstrike us or the rest of the civilized world, and acountry that is Democratic and more representative,certainly, than Iraq has been in the past. I don'tthink we can expect perfection, Bob, but a combinationof those three things, I think, we would constitute assuccess and would certainly enable to us to come homewith pride.
COSTAS: Senator Warner, are you more satisfied, thanyou were an hour or so ago about the way PresidentBush now stands with his the American public? Did hedo a good job of making his case tonight?
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Well, let the Americanpublic answer that. I'll give you my own thoughts andthey are very clearly that I spoke -- as the presidentspoke with a great confidence, a strong resolve tostay the course and I disagree with my good friendover here. There's more than enough benchmarks forprogress.
Show me one area in which the terrorists have achievedtheir goals. They tried to stop and disrupt theelections; they were held on time. They have tried, inmany ways, to destroy the police force and each timethey inflict terrible harm on police, killing them andso forth, twice the numbers show up the next day tovolunteer to take their places. You can see many, manyexamples of a slow, but steady progress and at thesame time, we're not unmindful for a minute of thelosses of our own men and women in uniform and thosethat are injured.
It's very is at the heart of the president, but I haveto say that if we stay the course and if we take anattitude back home in everything we say and do,whether we're Democrats or Republican, Evan, and nottalk about quagmires and not talk about how maybe theconservatives are more patriotic than the liberals andbe more respectful and send a strong bipartisanmessage that we're behind the men and women of ourarmed forces and the coalition forces and for theIraqi people to move ahead and make steady progresswith their new government and not, hopefully, let thatAugust 15th deadline for the constitution slip.
Those are the types of benchmarks that we look to, tosignal that progress is being made and we don't wantto set any deadlines and the American people spokestrongly today in the polls. They don't want to cutand run, and we're not going to do it.
COSTAS: But in those same polls, more than 60 percentsaid that they felt President Bush had no clear planfor victory in Iraq and now, more than 50 percent sayit was a mistake to go there in the first place. I saythis respectfully. Virtually all Americans stronglysupport the troops. All Americans were horrified by9/11. All Americans know that we face evil andruthless enemies. They're united in their option tothe likes of Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. What theydiffer on, in good conscience; loyal, patrioticAmericans differ about Bush policy.
WARNER: All right. First, you gave two examples, thatthey feel we shouldn't have gone there, but the factsare, as you said earlier in the program, we're wherewe are and we have paid a heavy price in men andwomen, lost lives and those that have been injured andthe families who have suffered tremendously.
Secondly, the president stepped up to the platetonight and in a very convincing way, I believe, saidto the American people: Look, if we don't stop theterrorists where they are in these remote places ofthe world, be it Afghanistan or Iraq, they're likelyto come here in greater numbers.
You pointed out earlier: Well, what's to stop themfrom coming now? Well, I think we've done a great dealin terms of our homeland defense and we've put upchecks and balances and deterrents and we thank thedear Lord, it seems to be working.
But if we do not contain terrorism abroad and send astrong signal that America, together with itscoalition partners, are going to stay the course anddefeat their attempts to bring more harm tocivilization, whether it's in Afghanistan or Iraq orwherever it is, they will most certainly come back atus.
COSTAS: Senator Warner, Senator Bayh, stay with us.
We're going to take a break and when we return, we'llbe joined by Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticutand Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.
So, there will be four on our panel from Capitol Hill,when we continue on LARRY KING LIVE after thesemessages.
COSTAS: Bob Costas sitting in tonight for Larry King.Congresswoman Jane Harman of California sent herregrets a moment ago. There was a congressional votegoing on. If she can cast her vote and get back to ourstudios in time, she'll join us before the end of thehour, but we are joined now by Connecticut RepublicanCongressman Christopher Shays. He is the chairman ofthe Government Reform Subcommittee on NationalSecurity, Emerging Threats and InternationalRelations. He's made eight trips to Iraq in the past25 months, the most recent being in late May, and it'syour contention, Congressman Shays, that the reportsof daily carnage, which are significant and newsworthyand awful, but nonetheless that they have skewedperspective on Iraq and American policy in Iraq. Isthat a fair summary of your view?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I mean,that's part of the issue. The other part is wetransferred power in June of last year. The presidentwas determined to do it, and all of his critics saidhe shouldn't do it. And then when that succeeded, theywent to another criticism, that we shouldn't have theelections when we did. We had the elections, I wasthere on election day. I saw Iraqi women force theirmen to come vote with them, because they were going tovote. Now we're seeing a constitutional convectiontake place. We're seeing the Sunnis, we are seeing theKurds reach out -- excuse me, we are seeing the Shiasand the Kurds reach out to the Sunnis.
The Sunnis have a problem, though. They had 100percent of the power. They say, OK, we'll compromise,we only want 50 percent. But they're only 20 percentof the population. So that's an issue.
The president made it very clear -- we're working onit in two levels. We are training their security,their police, their border patrol, their army. We'retraining them. They are able to take our places indifferent ways, and they're getting the equipment nowthat they need. And there's far more than SenatorKerry said that are capable. We're doing that.
At the same time, we're negotiating with the Sunnis tosay, back off.
The only people who need an exit plan, in my judgment,are the Syrians and the Saudi Arabians and theIranians. They're the ones that need to find a way toexit out of the mess they're getting themselves into.
COSTAS: Congressman Shays, you're aware that LindseyGraham, Republican from South Carolina, recently said:"Public support in my state is turning." CongressmanWalker Jones of North Carolina, Republicancongressman, is among those who have submitted abipartisan resolution that would call upon the U.S. tobegin troop withdrawals from Iraq no later than 2006.This isn't the Michael Moore wing of the DemocraticParty. These are solid Republicans, and they and theirconstituents are increasingly concerned about wherewe're going here.
SHAYS: Well, they're good people. And you know what?Abraham Lincoln would have lost the election if it wasa few weeks or months before the actual election. So,public opinion is obviously huge. And the presidentneeds to bring that public opinion back.
But, you know, what the Iraqis -- the Iraqis aren'tasking us to leave. In fact, when I say what's yourbiggest fear, it's not the Sunnis, it's not thefighting. They say that you will leave us. That'stheir biggest fear, that we will leave them.
COSTAS: Congressman Shays, I put this to you, becauseit is best put, I think, to a member of Congress.President Bush is obviously in his second term. Asituation different from that of most vice presidents,Dick Cheney is not viewed as a presidential hopeful.He has made that clear.
So neither of them will stand for reelection, butRepublican members of Congress will, and with publicsupport for American policy dwindling, this has to bea concern and there has to be some pressure beingbrought to bear behind the scenes by loyal Republicansto President Bush and Vice President Cheney,expressing concern that this is going to doom them orat least effect them in some way in upcomingelections.
SHAYS: Well, I think that's true. I think we all feelimpacted by this war. And some may lose because oftheir position, but I think they're taking the rightposition. And I think the president needs to get offSocial Security a bit, and recognize that when youhave men overseas risking their lives, that itdeserves more of his attention and dialogue andinteraction with the American people.
COSTAS: Senator Bayh, like every other member of thepanel, you voted in favor of the resolution in 2002...
SHAYS: I think I'm going to get on my way.
COSTAS: Congressman Shays has just told us -- I don'tknow if the audience could hear us -- that he isheading for the same congressional vote CongresswomanHarman is presently a part of, and we thank him fortaking a few moments to be with us.
So now it is Senator Bayh and Senator Warner whoremain with us.
Senator Bayh, back in 2002, you voted for theresolution that would empower the president, if he sochose, to use force in Iraq. Do you now regret votingin favor?
BAYH: I think we can still be successful in Iraq, Bob.And I think we need to do everything humanly possibleto achieve that goal. If we are successful, I thinkhistory will record that it's the right thing to do.But in order to get there, we need a game plan forsuccess. My colleague, John Warner, said stay thecourse. And I understand that, but we need sign postsalong the course to tell us that we are, in fact,making progress. The president, for example, tonight,Bob, mentioned 160,000 troops. How many should we havethis time next year? There are about 450 attacks everyweek in Iraq. How many should there be in six monthsor a year, so that we can tell whether we're makingprogress? And, Bob, most importantly of all, thatthere is accountability for success in making thatprogress.
I think there has been much too little of that. And ifwe have that, then we can be successful, and this willbe a contribution to peace and stability.
COSTAS: Senator Bayh, in your view, what is the singlebiggest mistake or miscalculation that theadministration has made?
BAYH: When I was with my friend, Senator Warner, inIraq in December, our top intelligence official saidat that time to us that things would be 100 percentbetter, 100 percent better, Bob, in Iraq today if wehad only not sent the Iraqi army home. These werehundreds of thousands of young, heavily armed men,unemployed. And we sent them home. We needed to removethe generals, the human rights violators, but theprivates, the sergeants, the corporals, they shouldhave been kept in place. We should have said to them-- most of them were Sunnis -- we should have said tothem, this is your country, too. We need you toprovide stability and law and order for your country,even as we're helping you reconstitute a democraticgovernment.
That was a tragic mistake.
COSTAS: Senator Warner, do you buy that?
WARNER: Well, factually, and I followed that conflictdaily, many of the Iraqi troops didn't stand andfight. They dropped their weapons, and put on theirrobes and fled to the desert themselves, in fear ofthe shock and awe of the American forces.
Now, the senator is correct that perhaps some of theleaders we could have recruited and put back in. Notthose that were the hard- line Saddam Hussein, but theprofessional army. And, undoubtedly, history willreflect that perhaps we didn't think through ascarefully as we should the aftermath of the fall ofBaghdad. Because much remained, and we've learned alesson.
But, you know, here we are. And I want to refocus backhere at home, that we need a stronger bipartisan voiceon both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats,in support of our troops, and I think backing ourpresident, who spoke out very courageously tonight. Hedidn't pull any punches. He didn't give a rosypicture. He said it's going to be a long, hard, toughslog, but we're going to stay the course, and we willachieve the goal of enabling the Iraqi people to takeover their nation, have the security forces tomaintain what they need to do to preserve theirsovereignty, and to join the democratic nations in theworld in some form. And I think Americans will lookback on this chapter as one of the most important incontemporary American history.
COSTAS: We'll continue with Senators John Warner fromVirginia and Evan Bayh from Indiana right after thisbreak. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The only way our enemies can succeed is if weforget the lessons of September the 11th, if weabandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and ifwe yield the future of the Middle East to men like binLaden.
For the sake of our nation's security, this will nothappen on my watch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTAS: Back on LARRY KING LIVE, Bob Costas sittingin. A few more moments here with Senators John Warnerfrom Virginia and Evan Bayh from Indiana.
As you both know, army recruitment is down, belowprojected levels. I put this question to each of you.Is there any circumstance under which you could see areturn to the draft? Senator Bayh?
BAYH: No, in a word, Bob. It would take somethingcompletely unexpected. I think a crisis in North Koreaor Iran, for example.
I am worried, however, that we're not doing enough toparticularly shore up the guard and the reserveforces, which are being strained in the maximum.That's why some of us have worked on trying toalleviate the financial hardships that those familiesare facing, so that these service men and women aren'tput in the unconscionable position of having to choosebetween doing right by their families and doing rightby our country. We need to enable them to do both, andwe should do more along those lines.
COSTAS: Senator Warner?
WARNER: I was privileged to be secretary of the Navywhen the decision was made to abandon the draft. Andthat was in the latter stages of the Vietnam conflict,and it was the right decision. It was a toughdecision. And out of that decision grew the finestarmed forces in the history of mankind in manyrespects. A magnificent, all-volunteer force. Everyone of those individuals, brave men and women, whoproudly wear that uniform, raised their hands andsaid, "I volunteer to defend my nation."
But let me just point out, I am concerned. And I'm notgoing to try and gloss over it. I am greatly concernedabout the recruiting, and, as Evan said, the impact onthe guard and the reserve. And it is a function of theArmed Services Committee, on which both of us proudlyserve, to remedy that problem, to work with theDepartment of Defense, and turn that curve around.
COSTAS: Senator Warner, Senator Bayh, our thanks toyou both. When we return in the final segment of thisedition of LARRY KING LIVE, we'll be joined by themothers of two soldiers, each of whom lost his life inIraq. One still supports Bush administration policy.The other was opposed from the outset. They'llarticulate their positions when we come back.
COSTAS: We've just received a CNN-"USA Today" flashpoll of 323 adult Americans, all of whom watchedPresident Bush's speech tonight. This is significant,and the pollsters have asked us to make note of it.The audience was 50 percent Republican, 23 percentDemocratic, 27 percent independent. And the reactionof those 323 adult Americans, very positive reactionto the president's speech tonight -- 46 percent.Somewhat positive, 28 percent. Negative reaction, 24percent. A flash poll from CNN and "USA Today."
We're joined now by Cindy Sheehan, who is theco-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. Her24-year-old son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, waskilled in action in Baghdad on April 4th, 2004. He hadbeen deployed in Iraq for only two weeks.
Glenda Kiser's son, Chuck Kiser, 37-year-old staffsergeant, was killed in Iraq a year ago last week, onJune 24th, 2004. She says her son believed he wasbringing freedom to the Iraqis, that he diedprotecting his comrades and doing his duty.
So, I take it, Ms. Kiser, that you are still insupport of American involvement in Iraq?
GLENDA KISER, ARMY SON KILLED IN IRAQ: Verydefinitely. I do support them. I support our presidentand what he's doing.
COSTAS: Mrs. Kiser, President Bush has met with thefamilies of some of those who have been killed inAfghanistan and Iraq. Have you had an opportunity tospeak with the president?
KISER: Yes, I did.
COSTAS: And how did that exchange go?
KISER: I met with him personally.
COSTAS: How did that exchange go?
KISER: It was very good. I couldn't have asked for amore sincere person than talking to our presidentabout losing our son.
COSTAS: Cindy Sheehan, you are the co-founder of GoldStar Families for Peace. You say you hold PresidentBush responsible for your son's death, and you saythat your son opposed the war, although he went anddid his duty, and you opposed the war before hisdeath? Not -- you didn't change your point of viewafter your tragic loss?
CINDY SHEEHAN, SON KILLED IN IRAQ; CO-FOUNDER, GOLDSTAR FAMILIES FOR PEACE: Correct. It was a war basedon deceptions. They told us Saddam had weapons of massdestruction. He didn't have any weapons of massdestruction. He said that -- they said that there wasa link between September 11th and Saddam. There was nolink. And something that people have been mentioningover and over again here tonight, is if we don't fightthem over here, we're going to fight them over here.Why are we making the innocent Iraqi people pay forour battles? We are bringing terrorism to theircountry, and their country is being destroyed?Innocent Iraqi people are being killed. Our ownsoldiers are being killed. And why is that OK to fightour battles on their soil?
This invasion never should have happened. It was amistake from the beginning, and if it was a mistake tobegin with, then it should end as soon as possible. Weshould allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their owncountry, and rebuild their democracy, and buildwhatever government that they want to have, becauseit's their country, and -- and we shouldn't befighting our battles on other people's soil, and weshould bring our troops home.
And that's the way we can support our troops. We alllove our troops. They are doing the best they can. Myson was doing the best he can. And the way we cansupport them now and to honor my son's sacrifice is tobring our troops home.
COSTAS: I apologize that our time is short. GlendaKiser, having heard what Cindy Sheehan just said, youare united in your respective losses. What would yousay in response to what you just heard?
KISER: I totally disagree with her, because my son wasin the military police. He totally believed in what hewas doing. And he saved many lives, and he was so veryproud of what he -- he was doing. And I feel sorrythat she does not -- we shouldn't be fighting overhere. My son felt like he was over there fighting forthe Iraqi freedom, and also for our freedom over herein the States.
COSTAS: Ms. Sheehan, we have to leave it...
KISER: And he totally believed in that.
COSTAS: We have to leave it at that. Cindy Sheehan,Glenda Kiser, we thank you both for being with us, andof course extend our condolences for your loss.
SHEEHAN: Thank you.
COSTAS: That brings us to the end of this edition ofLARRY KING LIVE. Standing by, as always, Aaron Brown,and just guessing here, I believe his program shouldcontain significant speculation and reaction aboutwhat transpired tonight at Ft. Bragg. Am I right inthat assumption, Mr. Brown?
AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": Good to see you.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORMLOCATED AT www.fdch.com
On this July 4th, when it comes to challenges facing America, the Bush Administration demonstrates that the conservative agenda is, to borrow a phrase, part of the problem, not the solution. But progressives need to seize the opening created by the reckless, reactionary and divisive rightwing policies to put forth positive initiatives that address the challenges facing the country.
These initiatives not only need to be large enough to address the festering problems facing us, but also broad enough to engage new allies and attract new supporters, and clear enough to be both compelling and comprehensible.
Anyone interested in a savvy primer on good progressive ideas would have found it at a featured panel--"Five Initiatives for a More Perfect Union,"--at the Campaign for America's "Taking Back America" conference last month in Washington, DC.
Five leading thinkers and organizers argued--as Yale Professor Jacob Hacker put it--that while conservative policies are "in shambles," the Right has managed to "transform the straw of slim margins and unpopular policies into the gold of big policy victories." Progressives, then, need to communicate to the American people that they have good ideas, and that government has a critical role to play in "a new and uncertain era."
Here, then, are five initiatives for the next time you hear some ethically challenged rightwinger (think Tom DeLay) claim that progressives are obstructionists with no good ideas:
1) "America Needs a Raise." Stewart Acuff, the organizing director of the AFL-CIO, called attention to the value of a bill called the Employee Free Choice Act. Among other things, it would require employers to recognize unions when workers signed cards and petitions seeking union representation. Acuff stressed that it was vital that we mobilize and empower workers and secure workers' rights in a new economy and in the face of Bush's ruthless and systematic attack on American labor. (Click here to read Acuff's Nation editorial on the legislation.)
2) "Pre-school for All: The Best Economic Development Investment." Julie Burton, director of Project Kid Smart with People for the American Way, cited the benefits of providing pre-school for every American child. Pre-school would improve kids' lives. Studies in Chicago and Michigan, for instance, found that kids who attend a quality pre-school learn to read faster, are more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, have more stable marriages and, perhaps not coincidentally, are also less likely to commit a crime.
Equally important is that pre-school, as Burton explained, is also a terrific investment in America's economic future. People who attend pre-school develop the skills necessary in a modern workforce, and every dollar spent on pre-school reaps the nation $7 down the road. Pre-school generates higher tax revenues and requires less spending on "remedial services."
3) "Affordable Healthcare for All." Hacker's solution to the health care crisis with 45 million uninsured in this country is to expand Medicare--A program Americans know well and those in it like it a lot. Hacker proposes that employers be required either to provide workers with health care coverage or to enroll their employees in Medicare for a modest fee. This plan would cover virtually all of the uninsured and cost less than other leading health care proposals. This doesn't mean that progressives should stop fighting for universal health care (or what is sometimes --and clunkily-- known as single-payer); yet this idea represents a good step on the road to a more civilized society.
4) "A True Family Values Agenda." Sen. Barack Obama's policy director Karen Kornbluh argues that contrary to the rightwing drumbeat, progressives are the ones who stand up and fight for family values. Progressives need to address the kitchen-table problems that married women and single mothers grapple with every day--and offer solutions that will make a real difference in their lives. Mothers are now working longer hours, commuting more, and have less time to spend with their kids. Kornbluh urges progressives to rally behind ideas like refundable credits that will help families pay for child care and education; early education and after-school programs and lengthening the school year; making college tuition affordable; providing seven days of sick leave for all workers, and ensuring that workers get to keep their pensions and health insurance if they become part-time workers or take off time to care for their kids.
5) "Apollo: New Energy for America." The United Mine Workers' President Cecil Roberts urged the adoption of an Apollo Project to end our nation's crippling dependence on foreign oil. He laid out an agenda crafted by the Apollo Alliance--a coalition of labor unions, environmental groups and urban leaders--which would organize a 10 year drive for energy independence that would create 3 million new jobs and set America free from foreign oil.
This new strategy to achieve energy independence, as Roberts argues, would break the zero-sum framework of jobs vs. the environment and instead make the case that America can simultaneously create good-paying union work while promoting clean air and clean water in communities nationwide.
ApolloAlliance.org reports that Washington State passed the nation's first eco-friendly legislation that will slash utility costs, increase employee production and save taxpayers' money by using state-of-the-art building construction techniques. And Democratic governors from Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Mexico have all urged the White House to "embark on an unprecedented national mission to achieve energy independence within the decade by boldly investing in efficiency, new technology, and alternative energy."
In the end, then, these five initiatives form some of the building blocks that will help define a forward looking domestic progressive agenda and win over people disillusioned with Bush's anti-worker, anti-family policies. Enjoy your July Fourth. Then work to build a country that is healthier, fairer, cleaner and more secure.
Each day, while pharmaceutical companies prosper, 8,500 people in the global South die of AIDS. Thanks to strict intellectual property laws that keep drug prices sky-high, only 7 percent of HIV-positive people in low to middle-income countries have access to antiretroviral medicine.
But last week, Brazil--already renown for having one of the most progressive AIDS policies in the world--took a bold stand against big pharma. On June 25th, health minister Humberto Costa announced that Brazil will break the patent of the antiretroviral drug Kaletra, which is manufactured by the US company Abbott Laboratories, unless the company dramatically reduces its prices. Brazil intends to make a generic version of the drug, which it says will cost barely half of the $2,630 per patient the country annually pays Abbott. In doing so, Brazil will be able to extend its free AIDS treatment program to tens of thousands more HIV-infected citizens.
Brazil maintains that its decision is completely legal under the WTO framework, which allows poor countries to break patents in cases of national health emergencies (Brazil will still have to pay a 3 percent royalty to Abbott). Costa hopes that Brazil's action will embolden other poor and disease-ridden countries--which have been bullied into submission by trade pressure from the United States and other powerful nations--to follow suit.
"Brazil's decision to put people with HIV and public health first, before protecting big pharma's monopolies…will decrease the price of that critical medicine not only in Brazil but also worldwide," says Asia Russell of Health GAP, an organization that advocates for affordable AIDS treatment.
As of last Friday, Brazil has given Abbott a final ten-day window to voluntarily lower prices before creating a generic version of Kaletra. Russell hopes that Brazil will stand firm: "Because generic competition continues to depress prices over time, a compulsory license [to produce the generic version] will help Brazil save more lives than relying on Abbott--a US drug company that recently increased the American price of one of its AIDS drugs 400 percent--with no justification."
You don't have to be a die-hard fair trade activist to agree that when corporate avarice comes before saving lives, enough is enough. To learn what you can do to be a part of the global fight for affordable AIDS treatment, click here .
We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.
As you all have heard, Karl Rove said liberals wanted to offer the terrorists therapy after 9/11. I know a lot of liberals. None of them were talking about counseling Osama bin Laden in that terrible time. But there is one person liberals would like to see in therapy: Karl Rove. How else to understand the enemy?
I'd like to know what terrible childhood trauma caused an Episcopalian from Utah to believe establishing a permanent Republican majority was his life's calling. Was he abused by a homeless man? Did feminists burn his American flag notebook at a pro-choice rally? Was he humiliated by a member of the liberal elite during graduate studies at the University of Texas?
I'd like to see Rove take a word association test. How does Karl feel when he hears the phrase "push pull polls" or "merge/purge" or "dirty tricks"?
But I'm most fascinated by his submissive and self-abnegating relationship with George W. Bush. Does Karl thrill every time Bush calls him by his nickname, "Turd Blossom"?
Yes, liberals would like to offer Rove therapy…and then prepare indictments.
This August marks the fortieth anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Upon sending the bill to Congress, Lyndon Johnson stated, "But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America…to secure for [African-Americans] the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too."
Yet, with approximately 4.7 million US citizens still disenfranchised--a vastly disproportionate number of them African-American--the promise of the Voting Rights Act remains unfulfilled. Today, 13 percent of all American black men are ineligible to vote due to draconian felony disenfranchisement laws.
But last week, Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa announced that on July 4th, he will restore voting rights to thousands of Iowans, reversing an unjust state law that imposes lifetime disenfranchisement for anyone convicted of a felony
Reform was badly needed in Iowa. Despite the state's two percent black population, 25 percent of those affected by the disenfranchisement law were African-American--the highest percentage in the country. "This is a huge victory for voting rights and for civil rights," says Catherine Weiss, of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, one of the partners in the Right To Vote Campaign "… it is a bold strike for justice and equality."
In March, Nebraska also overturned its lifetime disenfranchisement law for convicted felons, and currently only four states--Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia--continue to uphold this absurdly punitive law. For information about felony disenfranchisement laws in your state, click here and to see what you can to be a part of this new wave of the voting rights movement, click here.
We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing email@example.com.
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.
During the Vietnam War, protesters burned draft cards, rallied on campuses and marched on Robert McNamara's Pentagon. Today, with the war in Iraq raging on and on, parents, teachers and other community leaders are spearheading a new antiwar effort, telling the military to keep their hands off the children. The Times' Bob Herbert put it well: "The parents of the kids being sought by recruiters to fight this unpopular war are creating a highly vocal and potentially very effective antiwar movement."
The debacle in Iraq has made recruiting an impossibly difficult job and recruiters are sinking to new lows in the face of growing pressure to fulfill monthly quotas as well as fierce opposition from parents who don't support the President's botched Iraq war mission.
While the stunning list of recruiting abuses has received some needed media attention, it's worth reviewing the extremes to which the military has gone to fill its ranks. In Houston, one recruiter warned a potential recruit that if he backed out of a meeting, "we'll have a warrant" for the potential recruit's arrest. In Colorado, a high school student, David McSwane, who wanted to see "how far the Army would go during a war to get one more soldier," told recruiters that he didn't finish high school and that he had a drug problem. "No problem," the recruiters responded. McSwane was told to create a diploma from scratch and to buy products at a store that would help him beat the drug test.
Recruiters have urged teens to lie to their parents and have ignored medical and police records of potential recruits to not compromise recruiting goals. In Ohio, two recruiters signed up a 21-one-year-old man with bipolar disorder who had just been released from a psychiatric ward. The violations, all told, forced the Army into halting all recruiting for a day last May so it could re-train its recruiters and remind them of the ethical considerations entailed in their jobs.
Despite this recent recruit-at-all-costs mentality, the Army has now failed to meet its monthly recruiting quotas for four months straight. (It's beginning to re-jigger its goals in mid-stream and even then it still can't meet its quotas.) There's even talk among retired military brass and other defense experts that the all-volunteer Army is stretched so thin in Iraq that it can't sustain the mission much longer.
Hence, recruiting violations in the Army have nearly doubled to 320 in 2004 from 199 in 1999, and as my colleague Ari Berman pointed out the Army has added 1,200 recruiters, "upped enlistment bonuses from $6,000 to $20,000 per recruit," and created 15-month enlistments as an alternative to the standard two-year enlistment period. The Army is also accepting into its ranks a greater number of high school dropouts and lower-scoring applicants as well.
"The problem is that no one wants to join," one recruiter recently told the Times. "We have to play fast and loose with the rules just to get by." The standards for those already in are also being adjusted: The Wall Street Journal recently reported on an internal army memo which said that battalion commanders could no longer kick out of the military enlistees who had abused drugs and alcohol, gotten pregnant or were unfit for duty.
If you want to understand just how dire the situation is, you need to know that the Army is busily exploiting a provision in the No Child Left Behind law that allows recruiters to go into public schools receiving federal funding, gain access to students' personal data and cultivate potential recruits with a virtually unfettered hand. According to an Army manual, savvy recruiters should eat in the school cafeteria, befriend administrators, bring coffee and donuts for teachers and buddy up to team captains and student body presidents to win the hearts and minds of other students.
Activists are holding rallies to raise awareness, urging families to tell schools to keep their personal data private. A student-led campaign at a high school in Montclair, New Jersey, convinced more than 80 percent of the student body to keep their private information hidden from recruiters.
Then there's NASCAR. Our US military is spending millions of dollars a year recruiting young men at NASCAR races. As the Air Force's superintendent of motorsports said (according to the AP, that's actually his jobsuperintendent of motorsports), NASCAR is the military's "target market." The Army alone is spending $16 million a year at NASCAR events. Each branch of the Armed Forces sponsors NASCAR race drivers and they set up recruiting booths outside of NASCAR events. This "belly-to-belly selling," the superintendent of motorsports explained, enables the military to woo potential recruits "face to face."
Recruiters are paying a high price, suffering from depression, headaches and stomach problems brought on by the tremendous pressure of having to find two new recruits per month to meet their quotas, avoid their commanders' wrath and fulfill their mission. One Texas recruiter told the New York Times' Damien Cave that he'd rather be fighting on the front lines of the war in Iraq than recruiting weary teenagers and coping with anxious parents in the states.
"The evidence is overwhelming that the Army is slowly being worn down by its commitment in Iraq," a Pentagon adviser and military analyst at the Lexington Institute told Newsday. The handwriting is on the wall: This is a failed war, and the American people are refusing in their wisdom to fight it.
"We see this as the beginning of the end," said Tom Andrews, a former Democratic representative from Maine who is executive director of the antiwar group Win Without War. "It's the very beginning of a new wave of activism on this war. There's a real sense that something is beginning to move."--Los Angeles Times, Friday June 17, 2005
Earlier that day, a friend and longtime antiwar activist left me a voice mail message. Just ten days earlier he told me that he was more depressed about our politics than at anytime in the last 40 years. "Hello, this is..." he said. "I was in Washington yesterday at the rally and at the Conyers hearings. And since I laid a heavy statement on you last week, I just wanted to make a correction. It's finally over. My despair is over. Something has happened these last ten days that has revived the antiwar issue. It has to do with public opinion polls and casualties and Republicans like Walter Jones and more Democrats standing up. I won't say how optimistic I am. But something is coming together--you can feel it."
You can feel it.
*Every day brings news of public opinion turning against the occupation--and the President's conduct of the war. Last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that for the first time since the war began, more than half of the public believes the US invasion has not made the US more secure; and nearly 40 percent described the situation there now as analagous to the Vietnam War. A new Gallup survey finds that almost 60 percent of Americans say the US should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, the largest number in that category ever. And for the first time, most Americans say they would be "upset" if President Bush sent more troops. Gallup also found that 56 percent now feel the war was "not worth it," and 73 percent consider the number of casualties unacceptable.
* Every day brings news of more Democrats coming forward, standing up and introducing "exit strategy" resolutions. (Though, as of yet, leadership isn't coming from the leadership.) Lynn Woolsey forced a Congressional vote on bipartisan legislation that would have asked Bush to submit a plan to Congress explaining the outlines of an exit strategy from Iraq. Senator Russell Feingold has introduced a nonbinding resolution calling on the Bush Administration to set specific goals for leaving Iraq.
In the House, the International Relations Committee last week voted overwhelmingly, 32 to 9, to call on the White House to develop and submit a plan to Congress for establishing a stable government and military in Iraq that would "permit a decreased US presence" in the country. Congresswomen Maxine Waters (D/CA)--along with 41 Congressional progressives, including Woolsey, John Lewis, Charles Rangel, Jim McGovern, Rush Holt, Marcy Kaptur and Jan Schakowsky--has just formed the "Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus." Its sole purpose, Waters says, "is to be the main agitators in the movement to bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan." And Rep John Conyers' impassioned efforts to bring attention to the Downing Street Memo--on Thursday he held hearings on Capitol Hill and then delivered to the White House letters that contained the names of more than 560,000 Americans demanding answers to questions raised by the British memo--has reenergized and refocused opposition to the war.
While the Administration and its allies in Congress are trying to make it seem as if these new initiatives merely reflect Democrats' reading of the polls, I say--bring it on. Let's welcome more Democrats--and sane Republicans--giving legislative expression and voice to the majority of Americans who want to see our Iraq policy changed. (In fact, according to the recent Gallup poll, Congress appears to be lagging behind the public on the issue: Some 72 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents and 41 percent of Republicans say they favor a partial or complete withdrawal.)
*Every day brings news of another Republican signing on to the bipartisan resolution introduced last Thursday by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)--the man who brought us "Freedom Fries"--and Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii). That resolution calls for the Bush Administration to announce a plan for the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq by the end of the year and to initiate the plan as soon as possible. Maverick Congressman Ron Paul (R/Texas) is already a sponsor, Jim Leach (R/ Iowa) signed on Friday and Howard Coble (R/North Carolina) is considering adding his signature. (With 2006 midterms fast approaching, more Republicans will be hearing from constituents who are growing uneasy about the war. And more GOP members up for reelection may start sounding like Jones, who said in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopolous last weekend that he votes his conscience first, his constituents second, and his party third.)
But much hard and grinding organizing work remains ahead.
On Monday afternoon, Abercrombie and others are going to sit down with Congressman Jones and other House members to discuss options to advance the resolution and build activism against the war.
They'll be supported by a national coalition, that includes Win Without War, MoveOn.org, The National Council of Churches, True Majority, Sojourners, Working Assets and the National Organization of Women, which is planning a grassroots outreach campaign encouraging Members of Congress to sign onto the newly introduced bipartisan resolution.
These organizations are going to be concentrating on those members of Congress who should be particularly susceptible to constituent demand about the war. (As Tom Andrews of the invaluable Win Without War group says, "Take it from one who has been there, in Congress loyalty to one's party leaders and president stops at the 'waters edge' of the voters at home.")
"A prairie fire of activism has started," Andrews argues. "Our job now is to fan these flames and get a conflagration of opposition spreading across the country. We are working with our member groups as well as others on a range of action options to build momentum over the next several months. These will include a major action in Washington in September with what I hope will include a complementary Internet based component. Between those marching in DC and those joining through the Internet around the country I am certain that we could have a million Americans demonstrating against the Bush war in September."
The combination of dropping poll numbers, the grinding images of chaos and violence in Iraq, the daily news of young Americans dying in what seems a senseless war and the increasingly active and visible opposition of constituents is bad news for the president and his Congressional allies.
This really can be the beginning of the end of a disastrous war and a bankrupt national security strategy.
Today, voters in Iran cast ballots for a new President--choosing from a field of eight candidates that includes hardline clerics and reformers. The campaign has underscored how dramatically political life inside Iran has changed in recent years.
Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, has been in Iran during the final days of the presidential election, interviewing a wide range of people. In an article this past week, he reported: "The Moin campaign [Mostafa Moin is the leading reformist candidate who polls show as the second choice. He is also the only candidate with an active blog] drew 10,000 people to a rally at Tehran stadium Tuesday night. A number of speakers emphasized that the campaign is aiming to lay the groundwork for a movement--and this election is just the beginning...The Tehran Time reported Wednesday [that] the outspoken Moin 'referred to the upcoming establishment of a Democracy and Human Rights Front in Iran to defend the rights of all Iran's religious and ethnic groups, the youth, academicians, women and political opposition groups whose rights are often neglected..'"
"In a country, " Solomon observed, "where political imprisonment and torture continue, such public statements are emblematic of a courageous movement struggling to emerge from the shadows of the Islamic Republic. "
But that movement for human rights and democracy needs to develop indigenously. As Nobel Peace Prize winner--and Iranian human rights lawyer and activist--Shirin Ebadi warned last year, US government support for Iran's dissidents might not only deprive them of authenticity in their own land but, worse, could stigmatize them as proxies of American neocons intent on regime change.
Or, as Solomon argues: "Iran's most repressive clerics and the USA's most militaristic neocons share a common interest: They're very eager to see the failure of Iranian activism for democracy and human rights...The hardliners in both countries need each other. Theirs is a perverse, mutual dependency that dares not speak its name."
If you want to diversify your newsfeed about this fascinating election--and understand what it may mean for the future of that country--check out the ten blogs I wrote about earlier this month.
As one of Iran's leading bloggers Hossein Derakhshan recently pointed out, the country's many blogs (Iran has 75,000 bloggers) are generating "an unprecedented amount of information." In fact, as he observed: this election "will probably be one of the most open and transparent" Iran has ever seen.