United States News Digest
GOP Threatens TV Stations Over Ads
MoveOn.org has been running television ads in Indiana, Florida, and Pennsylvania, showing an elderly worker, and stating that President Bush's plan would cut Social Security benefits "up to 46%," and could force many Americans into "working retirement." The Republican National Committee moved to stop the ads, saying the cuts wouldn't affect those who are already retired, but not denying the cut levels of 46%. On Feb. 4, an arrogant RNC Deputy Counsel Michael Bayes sent a letter to the managers of all 14 television stations running the ads, demanding that they refuse to put them on the air. The letter is thick with threats: "The sponsor of this advertisement is not a legally qualified candidate, and therefore enjoys no right of access to the airwaves. Your station is under no legal obligation to air this advertisement. Precisely because you are under no such obligation, your station is responsible for the content of the sponsor's advertisement."
It further warns: "As an FCC licensee, you have a responsibility to exercise independent editorial judgment to oversee and protect the integrity of the American marketplace of ideas, and to avoid broadcasting deliberate misrepresentations of the facts.... This letter places you on notice...."
Officials at two stations said they found the wording of the RNC dictats to be threatening. "There was the sense of an underlying threat" to the station's license, said Kevin Sargent, general manager at WSJV-TV in South Bend. None of the stations withdrew the ads.
Unions To File Suit Against New DOD Civil Service Rules
On Feb. 10, Navy Secretary Gordon England and Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management Dan Blair announced that the new rules for the National Security Personnel System, which was rammed through the Congress in 2003, will finally be published in the Federal Register Feb. 14. England, who is functioning as the Pentagon's executive agent for the new system, told reporters at the Pentagon that the new rules will replace the present 50-year-old civil service system and allow the Defense Department to be much more responsive to the national security needs of the United States. Blair made it clear that this latest step is to "give us much more momentum to reform the entire civil service system," confirming what many have suspected for a long timethat the plan was intended from the beginning to target the entire system, not just employees of selected departments, such as Homeland Security, where new rules have already been published, or the Defense Department.
Central to the new rules, is a system of pay for performance, which England said is necessary to attract and recruit "the best people," who expect to be paid and promoted based on their performance, rather than time in service, which is what the present general schedule system is based on. The Secretary of Defense will be free to impose whatever policies he wishes, on a department-wide basis, without collective bargaining.
The American Federation of Government Employees, with four other unions, responded to the new rules by announcing it would be filing a lawsuit in Federal court to challenge the new rules. "To call this a 'National Security' system is a joke," said AFGE President John Gage. "If anything, the Rumsfeld plan makes the nation less secure." The unions charge the Pentagon did not consult with the unions on the development of the new rules, as required by law. "Instead of working with the longstanding representatives of the military's loyal civilian employees, the Pentagon apparently would rather duke this out in Federal court," said Gage.
New Anti-Iran Front Group Forms
A new front organization, the Iran Policy Committee, has been organized among Establishment hawks to push for "regime change" in Iran. The organization is also pushing to remove the MEK and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) from the State Department's terrorist list and to use them as agents of "regime change." In a press conference last week, a member of the Committee presented a policy paper "U.S. Policy Options for Iran."
One of the members, former NSC official Raymond Tanner, is also a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, so there is an obvious interface with them as well as with Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy. Paul Leventhal, who heads the Nuclear Control Institute as a nuclear "watchdog," which he founded in 1981, is one of the spokesmen for the new group. In the early 1990s, Leventhal was one of the key players attempting to stop the Clinton Administration from carrying out the nuclear energy cooperation agreement that Reagan had negotiated with China in 1985. Leventhal came to Washington as the press spokesman for the late New York Sen. Jacob Javits (R). Also included on the committee are a number of retired military figures and retired intelligence operatives. One of the half-dozen representatives of the group gathered at last week's press conference,
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Paul Vallely, obviously a "Dr. Strangelove" clone, and an associate of Gaffney's CSP, explained how the U.S. could shut off the Gulf of Hormuz and, in a variety of ways, cut off the flow of Iranian oil. He also pooh-poohed the problem of deeply buried facilities, by saying the U.S. had the weapons to "shut the cave door" on these facilities. Vallely indirectly corroborated what Seymour Hersh had earlier revealed in his recent New Yorker article, by saying that "the targetting has already been done." When confronted by EIR on the cultural shock effect of such a "surgical strike" on the entire Muslim world, Vallely backtracked a bit, gruffly insisting that you have to "talk tough" so that the Iranians understand that you mean what you say, trying to insinuate that the idea was not to attack, but to "scare" the Iranians. He also assured his listeners that if military action were taken, they would only aim at "regime targets."
These "strategists" allege that their main task is to help pave the way for "regime change" by the people of Iran. For that purpose, they want to lift the ban on the Iranian Mujaheddin el-Khalq (MEK) and the National Council of Resistance of Iran. While they are prepared to await the result of the present negotiations between Iran and the European Union, as represented by France, Britain, and Germany, they are confident that these will never result in the type of "intrusive inspections" that they insist are needed.
At one point, Leventhal even said that the Tehran regime was the real problem. If it were a "democratic Iran" with nuclear weapons, it would not necessarily be such a threat, but in the hands of the mullahs, nukes are unacceptable. Leventhal reiterated more forcefully what Dick Cheney seemed to say during his Inauguration Day interview with Don Imus: that if the U.S. doesn't disarm Iran, the Israelis will. When asked what they would be looking for before urging a decision to commence military action, Leventhal said, "The bottom line is the possession of highly enriched uranium."
Gonzales Asked To Recuse His Aides
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been asked to seek recusal of his three top aides in the Justice Department's investigation of the leak by a Bush Administration official of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame's identity, an investigation underway since December 2003. Congressmen John Conyers (D-Mich) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif), ranking members of, respectively, the House Committees on the Judiciary and on Government Reform, wrote Gonzales Feb. 8, noting that his recusal of himself would be superfluous if his aides, who went with him from the White House to the DOJ, did not follow suit.
Nuclear Bunker-Buster Proposal Assailed
In a Feb. 8 press release, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif) strongly criticized President Bush's request from both Energy and Defense Departments for $8.5 million for nuclear bunker-buster research. The President has also asked for $14 million in FY 2007 for the research of the same weapon. "That's a waste of money on a weapon commanders in the field have not asked for, is of highly questionable utility, and may trigger a new global nuclear arms race," Tauscher said.
The nuclear bunker-buster research was included in the FY 2004 budget proposal, but Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, had cut it off.
There is no doubt that the nuclear bunker-buster research is being promoted to threaten Iran in particular. Reports indicate Iran has hardened its nuclear-enrichment facilities significantly. Bunker busters are designed to penetrate deep into the Earth before exploding, making them capable of destroying "hardened and deeply buried targets (HDBTs)."
One flank used by the Congressmen earlier, in cutting money for the research, is the fact these weapons need testing, violating the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The violation could trigger an arms race by other nuclear powers, such as China, India, and Pakistan.
Reid Demands Bush Call Off the GOP Attack Dogs
Speaking on the floor of the Senate Feb. 7, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) said that President Bush had called for bipartisanship, and had even called him after the election to say he hoped they could "get along." Now, the Republican National Committee plans to release a "research document" character attack on Reid. RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt described the document as portraying "the real Harry Reid, ... an obstructionist who is out of the mainstream and we will hold him accountable as the Senate leader of the party of 'no.' "
Reid said Bush should repudiate and pull the "hit piece."
David Kay Warns U.S. Not To Repeat Iraq Mistake in Iran
David Kay, the former top U.S. weapons inspector, who led the search for banned WMDs in Iraq, in an op-ed in the Feb. 7 Washington Post, said that while there is no doubt that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran would be a grave danger, "what is in doubt is the ability of the U.S. government to honestly assess Iran's nuclear status and to craft a set of measures that will cope with that threat, short of military action by the United States or Israel." Citing remarks by Cheney which suggest the United States is gung-ho to go into Iran militarily, Kay said, "Now is the time to pause and recall what went wrong with the assessment of Iraq's WMD program and try to avoid repeating those mistakes in Iran.... It is nonsense to talk about eliminating Iran's nuclear capabilities short of war and occupations." He pointed out that the United States would only invite international derision by relying Iranian exiles for material to support its case, as it did in Iraq.
America's High Schools Are Failing
A survey of college instructors, employers, and recent high-school graduates finds America's high schools are failing. The survey, conducted by Achieve Inc., a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, headed by the nation's governors, reveals that "four out of ten high school graduates say they have been inadequately prepared to enter college or hold down a job. College instructors estimated that about two out of five college students were not prepared to succeed in higher education," lacking core skills and knowledge in work habits, ability to read and understand complicated materials, and math, science and writing skills. "Employers surveyed estimated that at least 39% of recent high school graduates lack basic skills to hold down a job."