We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

“I Won’t Rob You”

Byron King has been following developments south of the U.S. border, in Venezuela. Recently, Venezuela was in the news for seizing the oil production assets of several Western oil companies. But there is more going on down there than just an energy play, and here is Byron’s report.

“We're going to pass a law, Rocca,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last week.

Ordinarily, it is no big deal when a nation passes a law or two. The world is full of legislatures that pass laws. And the world is also full of lawyers, who figure out how people can do what they want to do without breaking those laws. But if a law has somebody’s name on it, particularly as a target of that edict, then it makes you sit up and take closer notice.

Hello, Rocca
Rocca refers to Paolo Rocca, the chairman of Ternium SA, an Italian-Argentine conglomerate that is part of the Techint Group. Ternium holds investments in flat and long steel manufacturing, processing, and distribution businesses throughout Latin America. Ternium owns equity interests in Argentina's largest steel company, Siderar. Ternium also controls Hylsamex, one of Mexico's largest steel companies. And Ternium controls 60% of the Venezuelan steelmaker Siderurgica del Orinoco, or Sidor.

Venezuela’s President Chavez has been critical of Sidor for selling the major part of its Venezuelan steel output overseas, thus forcing local producers to import steel products from elsewhere. Due to domestic price controls instituted by the Chavez regime, Sidor has been unable to raise prices locally in Venezuela, while the international market for steel has been strong and rising. Thus, in general, it is more profitable for Sidor to ship its product elsewhere and sell into the international export markets.

But Chavez believes that local Venezuelan industry should receive priority when it comes to a domestic firm, albeit a subsidiary of a foreign conglomerate, allocating local production. The “law” that Chavez threatened to pass was in the context of a warning to Mr. Rocca that the Venezuelan government would expropriate Sidor from the Argentine-controlled company if it resists this effort.

A Summons to Caracas
Chavez has summoned Ternium Chairman Rocca from Buenos Aires to Caracas for talks. The Financial Times of May 8, 2007, confirmed that Chairman Rocca would travel to Venezuela to meet with President Chavez. The meeting was arranged, in part, through the offices of Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, who recently provided Mr. Chavez with the opportunity to lead an anti-American demonstration in Argentina while U.S. President Bush was visiting neighboring Uruguay.

A Clear Warning
President Chavez was quite clear and specific in his warning to Sidor and Ternium. According to an Associated Press report, Chavez said at a news conference, and in no uncertain words, “We're going to force you to supply, first and foremost, the Venezuelan domestic market before you take [the steel] to other countries.” Continuing his blunt warning, Chavez said, “If you don't agree, give it to me. I'll grab your company. Give it to me, and I'll pay you what it's worth. I won't rob you.”

In its own defense, Ternium executives told analysts last Friday that they are not aware of a steel supply issue in Venezuela, according to reports on the Dow Jones wire.

“I would rather not do it,” said Chavez of the prospect of nationalization, but “Sidor takes raw material overseas to produce stainless steel pipes. We cannot allow that.”

“We Should Work on a Different Model”
So Mr. Chavez has said he “won’t rob you,” but they “cannot allow” a privately held company to export its product. What is one to make of this?

Whether there is a steel supply issue or not, Venezuela’s President Chavez was recently granted special powers by his nation’s National Assembly to decree laws. Essentially, Chavez can rule his nation via executive orders, without going through the niceties of a legislative process that includes any political opposition. This is, of course, a form of one-man rule -- although Chavez often qualifies his supreme and unalloyed powers by claiming that he is performing his acts in the “name of the people” or in “defense of the sovereignty” of Venezuela, or with similar words.

Also according to Chavez, “I think we should work on a different model with Latin American business owners.” By this, Chavez distinguished Latin American companies from American-owned or -based entities, particularly Western oil companies. Chavez indicated that he was asking his fellow Latin Americans to "operate differently...at least here in Venezuela.” Chavez also stated that he was prepared to require all businesses in Venezuela to supply domestic demand before exporting goods into the global marketplace.

In other recent comments, Chavez has threatened to nationalize Sidor and private banks if they fail to alter what he called “unscrupulous business practices” that harm local industries.

Venezuelan commentators believe that Chavez does not plan an imminent takeover of the banks and Sidor, but instead intends to bully the Venezuelan private sector so that it falls in line with his intended socialist revolution, a current work in progress. Since early 2007, the Chavez government has been on a drive to nationalize other sectors of the Venezuelan economy, and Chavez has already moved to take state control of telecommunications and electricity companies, as well as foreign-owned investments in the oil sector.

Karl Marx’s Birthday
On Saturday, May 5, 2007, President Chavez rode in a red Volkswagen Beetle to a poor Caracas slum, where he registered his name with a movement to create a single, pro-Chavez ruling party within his country, called the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Chavez also gave a speech, noting that the day was Karl Marx’s birthday.

In words reminiscent of a hard-line Marxist version of so-called “liberation theology,” Chavez said that “If any rich person wants to become a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, he will be welcome, but he must begin by setting aside his wealth to the fight against misery." Note the eerie similarity to the Biblical injunction from Matthew 19:24, which states, "And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."

President Chavez continued his speech along these lines, repeatedly citing the communist ideals of Karl Marx and of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky (who was assassinated on the orders of Joseph Stalin and died on Aug. 21, 1940, in Mexico City). Chavez has stated on other occasions that Venezuela needs a “single socialist party” to control political interests and “more efficiently” lead the country.

Clearly, something is going on inside the head of President Chavez, a mixture of Marx and Jesus, but it is not just about helping people to “enter into the kingdom of God.” So the next time that you read of Venezuelan President Chavez saying something like, “We're going to pass a law,” you will know what he means.

Until we meet again…Byron W. King

Cowboy Capitalism: Is the U.S. economy doing too well?

by J. Christoph Amberger

Just about 15 years ago, the last Republican era petered out with almost the same lack of fanfare as the current Bush administration. On top of the general ennui with 16 years of successive Republican administrations, the Democratic challengers of George H. W. Bush were able to leverage the macro-cyclical downturn in the economy with the slogan "It's the economy, stupid."

Sure, we're still a good year away from the hot phase of the 2008 campaign. But what's been noticeable so far by its glaring absence in the preening and posing of the presidential contenders of the Class of ‘08 is any mention of the economy… apart, of course, from the perennial clattering of the liberal prayer mills, with "taxing the rich" as the recurrent theme.

In fact, the only guy who initially warmed up the slightly used class struggle theme of "Two Americas" was the multimillionaire ambulance chaser with the $400 haircuts who lives in a 28,000 sq. ft. mansion valued at over $6 million -- the largest in Orange County, North Carolina, where over 11% of the population lived below the federal poverty level in 2003 and per capita income is estimated at under $25,000.

I interpret the embarrassed silence that followed as an indication of just how far removed this particular presidential hopeful is from reality.

The avoidance of the economy as a campaign issue is quite unsurprising for the Dem squad. Seen the stock market recently, with both the Dow and the S&P 500 at new records?

But the Republican candidates have been keeping mum on it as well. Striving to establish wholesome personas that combine the well-worn coziness of Mr. Rogers’ favorite cardigan with the backwoods religious posing of snake handlers, they've been flip-flopping on state vs. individual rights issues, well, like Democrats.

And in their effort to distance themselves from the president and Iraq, they eagerly avoid to mention that the Bush supply-side policy of taxing capital less than under the Clinton administration unlocked new investment and unleashed record liquidity just in the nick of time, before recession could deepen into depression. Even despite the money-tightening actions by the Federal Reserve.

In the past years, this supply-side boom has weathered a stock market crash, 9/11, a six-year war, a hurricane knocking out a major U.S. city and commercial center, as well as a historic rise in energy and resource prices -- all that without causing the runaway inflation we remember from the last round of record oil prices.

And despite the current downturn, let's not forget the record runs in the real estate market, which constitutes a large share of U.S. household net worth. In fact, liquidity fueled property appreciation proceeded at such rapid speed, it might take years of stagnation to make a dent in home prices.

That same liquidity has funded new businesses and job creation. Real wages from job creation have climbed at twice the speed during this business cycle than in the first 66 months of the previous one. Unemployment is at historic lows. As a direct result, U.S. household net worth is at an all-time high. Homeownership has increased to levels unknown in any other industrialized country.

The American model of "cowboy capitalism," with its low tax rates, deregulation, contained inflation and free trade, is at the core of the Chinese economic miracle. It has created unprecedented wealth even in the dour and run-down communist backwaters like Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic. Even Germany's straightjacketed economy appears to be on the mend as the government of Angela Merkel is draining the cesspool of decades of welfare-state socialism.

But if you've been trying to hire a U.S. college graduate recently, you wonder how young adults with such ambitious ideas regarding their worth in the marketplace have such limited grasp of how that marketplace works -- which, of course, makes them prime and predictable agents of change in the electoral process.

It may be one of life's little ironies: In France, the infectious stagnation and sloth inherent in socialism has finally triggered a probably short-lived flirt with at least the thought of a true market-based economy. The French electorate told the socialist candidate: "It's the economy, stupid"… although maybe not in so many words.

In the U.S., the historic level of prosperity and economic stability created by the Bush administration's cowboy capitalist economic and tax policy has had the opposite effect: The U.S. electorate currently appears to be so bored with the economic Chardonnay it seems downright giddy to have discovered a case of the clap in the attic among the Carter-era political knickknacks.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Political Crimes: Sandy Berger Vs. Scooter Libby

by Gary D. Halbert
May 8, 2007

Media coverage of Sandy Berger stealing classified documents from the National Archives, and his subsequent plea bargain and punishment, have long been forgotten by most Americans because the liberal media chose largely to ignore this national travesty. To dig into it deeply would risk implications for Bill Clinton, the media's darling.

Scooter Libby's troubles, on the other hand, were front-page news often because he worked for the dreaded George W. Bush administration. Unlike Sandy Berger who got only a fine, community service and a loss of his security clearance for a mere three years for his crimes, Scooter Libby will very likely be going to prison for several years as a result of his crime, unless his fate is overturned on appeal later this year or next.

In this issue of Forecasts & Trends E-Letter, we will look at the latest revelations in the Sandy Berger/Scooter Libby scandals, what crimes they committed, how they were exposed (as best we know) and what their criminal penalties were, or are likely to be in the case of Libby. You can reach your own opinion, as always, but I think most readers will agree with me that Sandy Berger got off with a slap on the wrist for much more serious crimes involving national security, while Libby is likely facing several years in prison for a questionable crime that threatened no one, much less our national security... Let's get started.

Sandy Berger's Theft At The National Archives

First, who is Sandy Berger? Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger is a Harvard Law School graduate who has been an active liberal Democrat during his adult career. He was a distinguished public servant who worked as National Security Advisor for Bill Clinton in 1997-2001 and in various Clinton administration positions prior to that (he and Clinton were very close). He worked in the Carter administration before that, and in various State Department positions in between. At the end of Clinton's second term, Berger left government life to become chairman of an international advisory firm that reportedly runs a large investment fund.

Fast-forward to the crime, or should I say crimes, as there were several that Mr. Berger has admitted to. But where to begin? Perhaps we should start with the so-called "9/11 Commission" which was created by President Bush in late 2002 to investigate the terror attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. Well before the 9/11 Commission actually came into being, former president Bill Clinton authorized Sandy Berger to be his representative to the Commission in a letter dated April 12, 2002 according to the National Archives and Records Administration. This letter from Clinton granted Berger access to the National Archives for purposes of reviewing classified documents and representing the former president and himself before the Commission.
During 2003, Berger made several visits to the National Archives. As we now know, Berger stole several top-secret, classified documents from the Archives that had to do with Clinton administration preparations for the terrorist threats associated with the run-up to New Year's Eve on December 31, 1999 just before the "New Millennium." We also now know that Berger destroyed some of these documents. He pled guilty to doing so in federal court.

The initial questions are obvious: 1) Why would a career government veteran and former National Security Advisor risk everything, including prison, to steal numerous classified documents from the National Archives; 2) What did he need to cover up; and 3) Perhaps most importantly, who put him up to it? Can you think of anyone other than Bill Clinton? Who else could ask a career politician to risk going to jail? But I'm getting ahead of myself.

How Berger Finally Got Caught

After Berger's initial visits to the Archives, officials there became suspicious of his motives. Berger would take documents from files and request to be given a private room, supposedly so that he could make secure phone calls. He also reportedly went to the men's room very frequently, and Archives officials suspected he might have taken classified documents with him. Their concerns became so serious that on his last two visits, Archives officials placed secret numbers on documents before giving them to Berger. This was the clincher as he stole some of the secretly numbered documents.

On July 19, 2004, it was revealed that the US Justice Department was investigating Berger for unlawfully mishandling classified documents in October 2003, by removing them from a National Archives'reading room prior to testifying before the 9/11 Commission. The documents we know Berger stole were five classified copies covering a report commissioned by Richard Clarke, a senior National Security Council anti-terrorism officer in the Clinton administration. Clark's report that Berger stole covered internal assessments of the Clinton administration's handling of the 2000 Millennium terrorist attack threats.

When initially questioned by authorities, Berger reported that the removal of the top-secret documents in his attache-case and classified handwritten notes in his jacket and pants pockets was accidental. Later, in a guilty plea, Berger admitted not only to deliberately removing the five documents, but also to destroying three of them (cut up with scissors and trashed). Two of the copies were eventually recovered by DOJ investigators and returned to the archives.

Berger eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material on April 1, 2005. Under a plea agreement, US attorneys recommended a fine of $10,000 and a loss of his security clearance for three years. However, on September 8, 2005, US Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson increased the fine to $50,000 at Berger's sentencing. Robinson stated, "The court finds the fine [recommended by government prosecutors] is inadequate because it doesn't reflect the seriousness of the offense." Berger was also ordered to serve two years of probation and to perform 100 hours of community service.

No jail time.

Critics suggest Berger destroyed primary evidence revealing anti-terrorism policies and actions, and that his motive was to permanently erase Clinton administration pre-9/11 mistakes from the public record. But in the end, two versions of the report were handed over by Berger and are now back on file in the Archives. Case closed? Yes, the case is officially closed, but that is not the end of the story.

Most media reports of the Berger theft concluded that because two of the five stolen documents were recovered, and they were supposedly subsequent drafts of the documents Berger destroyed, no classified information was lost, or at least very little. However, on Berger's first two visits to the Archives, prior to any suspicion, he was allowed to review highly confidential material that was not fully documented, photocopied or catalogued at the individual item level. Only Mr. Berger knows what transpired on his first two visits, when he reviewed collections of confidential memos, e-mails, and handwritten notes, including materials taken from counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke's office.

Again, what could possibly have been in those classified documents that would have persuaded a life-long public servant, and lawyer, to risk everything - including a possible prison term - to steal them from the National Archives? And who put him up to it? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count!

Oh, and one last thing. Sandy Berger lost his national security clearance for three years. Guess what? The three years is up in 2008. That means he will have all his clearances back next year, just in time should Hillary Clinton be our next president. Don't be at all surprised, if that is the case, to see Sandy Berger in another high-level national security position in a Hillary Clinton administration. He took the fall, so payback time may well be in order!

Now For Scooter Libby's Troubles

So, who is Lewis "Scooter" Libby? Libby is a Washington lawyer who held several high-level positions in the Bush administration, including chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. He was also a national security advisor to both the vice president and the president.

On October 28, 2005, Libby was indicted on five felony counts (one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of making false statements, and two counts of perjury) by the US Department of Justice, Office of Special Counsel as part of the CIA leak grand jury investigation.

On March 6, 2007, Libby was found guilty on four of the five counts with which he was charged: two counts of perjury, one of obstruction of justice, and one of making false statements to federal investigators. Libby's lawyers announced that he would seek a new trial, and, if that attempt fails, they plan to appeal Libby's conviction.

Libby became the focus of the Justice Department probe into who in the Bush administration leaked information to the media regarding Valerie Plame-Wilson and the fact that she was an agent with the CIA. The media would have us believe that it was none other than Vice President Dick Cheney, himself, who leaked Ms. Wilson's CIA identity, and that Scooter Libby was simply the "fall guy." When it was all said and done, no one was indicted for outing Ms. Wilson.

Let's quickly review the details in this case. In late 2001, the Bush administration decided to investigate whether Saddam Hussein was purchasing (or attempting to purchase) yellowcake uranium from Niger. The Bush administration inquired with the CIA as to who should be sent to Africa to investigate. The CIA reportedly chose one Joseph C. Wilson, who had been a former ambassador to Africa. It just so happens that Joseph Wilson is the husband of Valerie Plame, and despite his liberal leanings, the Bush administration decided to send him to Niger.

Wilson went to Niger in early 2002 and returned to advise the Bush administration that he found no evidence that Niger had sold, or was planning to sell, yellowcake to Saddam Hussein. Despite Wilson's report, the Bush administration continued to believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was in the process of redeveloping its nuclear program.

On January 28, 2003, President Bush asserted in his State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." This assertion outraged Joe Wilson. Wilson later told a New York Times reporter that he had told the CIA and the State Department that the uranium story was unequivocally wrong and was based on forged documents - prior to Bush's State of the Union address. Wilson, by the way, was no friend of the Bush administration, even before the controversy on uranium began.

According to the Associated Press "CIA Leak Timeline," here is how Scooter Libby got involved in this controversy. Keep in mind that Libby was Dick Cheney's chief of staff at this time. On May 29, 2003, Libby asked Marc Grossman, an undersecretary of state, for information about Wilson's trip to Niger. It is not known if Libby was ordered to look into Wilson's trip to Niger, or if he simply decided to do so on his own.

In the process of looking into Wilson's trip, Libby learned that Wilson was married to CIA agent Valerie Plame. Libby was also told by Grossman that there were people in the State Department who believed it was Valerie Plame who got the Niger job for her husband, and may well have planned the trip herself. On that same day, or the day after, Libby reportedly asked Vice President Cheney about Valerie Plame, and he confirmed that she was indeed CIA.

On June 14, 2003, Libby met with a CIA briefer and discussed Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame-Wilson. Details of that meeting are not known, but it is probably safe to assume that Wilson and Plame were shortly thereafter made aware that the White House was digging around for information about the two.

So, in early July, Joe Wilson submitted an editorial to the New York Times entitled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," which the Times published on Sunday, July 6, 2003. In the piece, Wilson was critical of the Bush administration, and the editorial set off a firestorm in the media. On that same Sunday, Wilson appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press" and told Tim Russert that he doubted Iraq had obtained uranium from Niger recently, and that Cheney's office was told of the results of his trip. So, Wilson "went public" in a big way to get his story out, and took a direct shot at the Vice President in doing so.

Shortly thereafter, Russert had a conversation with Libby. Libby claimed that it was Tim Russert who told him that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. Russert denied that he ever said such a thing to Libby.

In the days following Wilson's editorial and appearance on Meet The Press, Libby was very busy talking to many reporters and downplaying Wilson's accusations. On July 12, 2003, Libby spoke with Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper. Cooper alleged that Libby told him in that conversation that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.

On July 14, syndicated columnist Robert Novak reported that Joe Wilson's wife was a CIA operative working on weapons of mass destruction, and that two senior administration officials, whom Novak did not name, said it was Valerie Plame who had suggested sending her husband to Niger to investigate the uranium story.

Novak would not reveal his source for the information on Valerie Plame. In the wake of Wilson's public potshot at Vice President Cheney, many in the media assumed that it must have been Cheney who outed Valerie Plame, and if not Cheney, then it had to have been his chief of staff, Scooter Libby.

In late September 2003, a criminal investigation was authorized to determine who leaked Plame's identity to reporters. Disclosing the identity of CIA operatives is illegal. Libby was interviewed by FBI agents in October and November. On December 30, US Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald in Chicago, a tough and aggressive career prosecutor, was named to head the leak investigation after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the case to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In January 2004, a grand jury began investigating possible violations of federal criminal laws. Libby testified on two occasions in March. As noted above, on October 28, 2004, Libby was indicted on five counts: obstruction of justice and two counts each of making false statements and perjury.

Now fast-forward to September 7, 2006 for the blockbuster: Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage admitted publicly that he leaked Plame's identity to Novak and to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post. Armitage said he did not realize Plame's job was covert. Woodward taped his June 13, 2003, interview with Armitage.

Libby Goes On Trial Anyway & Is Convicted

With the truth finally out there as to who outed Valerie Plame, many people just assumed the case against Libby would be dropped. Arguably, it should have been. However, prosecutor Fitzgerald felt that even if he couldn't prove that Libby outed Valerie Plame (before or after Armitage outed her), he still had a case against Libby on the grounds of obstruction of justice, lying and/or perjury. So, the trial was still on.

Since Tim Russert knew that he would be called upon to testify in the Libby trial, he launched a campaign against Scooter Libby well ahead of the trial. In what I would consider to be criminal behavior, Russert used his position at NBC News, in the run-up to the trial, to prejudice the jury pool. He covered and commented on the Libby case before, during and after the trial. This conduct was improper and unethical and a clear-cut violation of the code of conduct of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Bottom line, Tim Russert was orchestrating pre-trial publicity on his own behalf, likely in order to make the jury believe his version of events, and render a conviction of Libby. Russert, being the liberal he is, apparently felt that the end justified the means. No question, the judge in the trial should have put a stop to Russert's actions and kept such information from the jurors.

Libby stayed silent during this period and did not refute Russert, on the advice of his lawyers.
So, on January 16, 2007, Libby's trial began in U.S. District Court. Numerous reporters testified on the question of whether Libby had told them of Valerie Plame's CIA connection. With one exception, all testified that Libby did not mention Plame or her CIA status. The only reporter who testified that Libby did tell him that Plame was CIA was Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper.

Cooper was not a very convincing witness, and could not prove that his version of his conversation with Libby was correct. Cooper didn't e-mail his editor about it, had no written notes to that effect, and did not write about it in print. So there was no hard proof that Libby outed Plame to Cooper. Six other reporters, including Bob Woodward, Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler of the Post, David Sanger of the New York Times and Evan Thomas of Newsweek, spoke with Libby and testified that he never told them anything about Valerie Plame being CIA.

This testimony should have proved that Libby was not out to get revenge on Joe Wilson or Valerie Plame.

But thanks largely to Tim Russert and others in the media, the jury came in pre-convinced to convict Scooter Libby. And they did. On March 6, 2007, the federal jury found Scooter Libby guilty of: 1) lying about his role in the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity; 2) two counts of perjury; 3) one count of making false statements; and 4) one count of obstruction of justice, while acquitting him of a single count of lying to the FBI.

Interestingly, as of this writing, Scooter Libby still has not been sentenced. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Libby should receive a minimum of at least 1 1/2 - 3 years in federal prison, and perhaps considerably more given the multiple felony convictions. Plus, he will almost certainly be assessed large fines for his convictions. His life and career are ruined.


Drawing conclusions in two cases such as these is difficult, at least for me. Unfortunately, I am left with many more questions than answers. The obvious questions are:

1. What is worse: A high-level government official who steals and destroys highly classified 9/11 documents from the National Archives that might negatively impact the legacy of former president Bill Clinton; or a Bush administration staffer who forgot (or perhaps lied) about how he learned that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative?

2. Who got the correct sentence: Sandy Berger who got a $50,000 fine, a three-year suspension of his security clearance and no prison time; or Scooter Libby who was convicted of four felonies and will very likely spend several years in federal prison, plus possible large fines?

3. Why would a distinguished public servant like Sandy Berger risk his career and the possibility of going to prison if he were caught (as he was) for stealing classified documents from the National Archives?

4. Who other than Bill Clinton could have made such a request of Sandy Berger, and convinced the former National Security Advisor to carry it out at great risk to himself?

5. Will Sandy Berger be offered another high-level position in a Hillary Clinton administration should she win the presidency in 2008? I wouldn't rule it out, since the Clintons must now be in Berger's debt for attempting to bail Bill out.

Unfortunately, these are the easy questions. Never mind that they will probably never be answered. While Scooter Libby's sentencing and his subsequent appeal will be minor news items in the months ahead, we will not hear any more about Sandy Berger's illegal indiscretions - case is closed. The next we will hear about Sandy Berger, if anything, will be if Hillary wins and if he is granted a position in her administration.

But I have one final question that you don't hear discussed in the mainstream media, to round out this week's discussion. Pardon me in advance for the simplicity of my question, but...

What if Sandy Berger had been a Republican?

Follow me here. What if a Republican had stolen classified documents from the National Archives that could have negatively affected a Republican president? God forbid if it had been someone working for George W. Bush, who is so hated and reviled by the Left. There is no way in the last few years that a Republican would have gotten such a lenient sentence for stealing highly-classified and sensitive documents from the National Archives as Sandy Berger did.

Next, if Bill Clinton was able to convince (or coerce) Sandy Berger to risk his entire career by stealing classified documents from the National Archives, what is the payback for Sandy Berger? Perhaps he will get a high-level post in a Hillary Clinton administration, should she win. That would be a travesty on multiple levels, in my opinion.

Finally, let us not forget that Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr's report to Congress alleged that President Clinton committed perjury, obstructed justice, tampered with witnesses and abused power. Of the 11 counts laid out by Starr, five alleged that Clinton lied under oath in his January 17, 1998 deposition in the Paula Jones case and again in his August 17, 1998 Grand Jury testimony.

Did Bill Clinton serve any time in prison? Did he pay any fines? Was his career ruined? Hardly! He remains an international icon today. Go figure.

That's all for this week. Hope I made you think.

Is Global Warming a Sin?

By Alexander Cockburn

In a couple of hundred years historians will be comparing the frenzies over our supposed human contribution to global warming to the tumults at the latter end of the Tenth Century as the Christian millennium approached. Then as now, the doomsters identified human sinfulness as the propulsive factor in the planet's rapid downward slide.

Then, as now, a buoyant market throve on fear. The Roman Catholic Church sold indulgences like checks. The sinners established a line of credit against bad behavior and could go on sinning. Today a world market in "carbon credits" is in formation. Those whose "carbon footprint" is small can sell their surplus carbon credits to others less virtuous than themselves.

The modern trade is as fantastical as the medieval one. There is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide is making any measurable contribution to the world's present warming trend. The greenhouse fearmongers rely on unverified, crudely oversimplified models to finger mankind's sinful contribution — and carbon trafficking, just like the old indulgences, is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism and greed.

Now imagine two lines on a piece of graph paper. The first rises to a crest, then slopes sharply down, levels off and rises slowly once more. The other has no undulations. It rises in a smooth, slow arc. The first wavy line is the worldwide CO2 tonnage produced by humans burning coal, oil and natural gas. It starts in 1928, at 1.1 gigatons (i.e., 1.1 billion metric tons), and peaks in 1929 at 1.17 gigatons. The world, led by its mightiest power, plummets into the Great Depression and by 1932, human CO2 production has fallen to 0.88 gigatons a year, a 30 percent drop. Then, in 1933, the line climbs slowly again, up to 0.9 gigatons.

And the other line, the one ascending so evenly? That's the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, parts per million (ppm) by volume, moving in 1928 from just under 306, hitting 306 in 1929, 307 in 1932 and on up. Boom and bust, the line heads up steadily. These days it's at 380. The two lines on that graph proclaim that a whopping 30 percent cut in manmade CO2 emissions didn't even cause a 1 ppm drop in the atmosphere's CO2. It is thus impossible to assert that the increase in atmospheric CO2 stems from people burning fossil fuels.

I met Martin Hertzberg, Ph.D., the man who drew that graph and those conclusions, back in 2001. Hertzberg was a meteorologist for three years in the U.S. Navy, an occupation that gave him a lifelong mistrust of climate modeling. Trained in chemistry and physics, a combustion research scientist for most of his career, he's retired now in Copper Mountain, Colo., but still consults from time to time.

Not so long ago, Hertzberg sent me some of his recent papers on the global warming hypothesis, a thesis now accepted by many progressives as infallible as Papal dogma on matters of faith. Among them was the graph described above, so devastating to the hypothesis.

As Hertzberg readily acknowledges, the CO2 content of the atmosphere has increased about 21 percent in the past century. The world has also been getting just a little warmer. The not very reliable data on the world's average temperature (which omit data from most of the world's oceans and remote regions, while overrepresenting urban areas) show about a 0.5 degree Celsius increase between 1880 and 1980, and still rising.

But is CO2, at 380 ppm in the atmosphere, playing a significant role in retaining the 94 percent of solar radiation that the atmosphere absorbs, as against water vapor, also a powerful heat absorber, whose content in a humid tropical atmosphere can be as high as 20,000 ppm?

As Hertzberg says, water in the form of oceans, snow, ice cover, clouds and vapor "is overwhelming in the radiative and energy balance between the earth and the sun. … Carbon dioxide and the greenhouse gases are, by comparison, the equivalent of a few farts in a hurricane." And water is exactly that component of the earth's heat balance that the global warming computer models fail to account for.

It's a notorious inconvenience for the Greenhousers that data also show carbon dioxide concentrations from the Eocene period, 20 million years before Henry Ford trundled out his first model T, 300 to 400 percent higher than current concentrations. The Greenhousers deal with other difficulties like the medieval warming period's higher-than-today temperatures by straightforward chicanery, misrepresenting tree ring data (themselves an unreliable guide) and claiming the warming was a local European affair.

We're warmer now because today's world is in the thaw that follows the recent ice age. Ice ages correlate with changes in the solar heat we receive, all due to predictable changes in the earth's elliptic orbit around the sun and in the earth's tilt. As Hertzberg explains, the clinical heat effect of all of these variables was worked out in great detail between 1915 and 1940 by Milutin Milankovitch, a giant of Twentieth Century astrophysics.

In past post-glacial cycles, as now, the earth's orbit and tilt give us more and longer summer days between the equinoxes.

Water covers 71 percent of the surface of the planet. As compared to the atmosphere, there's a hundred times more CO2 in the oceans, dissolved as carbonate. As the post-glacial thaw progresses, the oceans warm up, and some of the dissolved carbon emits into the atmosphere, like fizz from soda.

"The greenhouse global warming theory has it a— backwards," Hertzberg concludes. "It is the warming of the earth that is causing the increase of carbon dioxide and not the reverse." In vivid confirmation of that conclusion, several new papers show that for the last 750,000 years CO2 changes always lagged global temperatures by 800 to 2,600 years.

It looks like Poseidon should go hunting for carbon credits. The human carbon footprint is of zero consequence amid these huge forces and volumes, not to mention the role of the giant reactor beneath our feet: the earth's increasingly hot molten core.

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com.

To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Is Global Warming being exaggerated for political gain?

SYDNEY, February 19 (CNA) - Cardinal George Pell is calling for caution regarding exaggerated claims of severe global warming and says he’s “deeply skeptical about man-made catastrophic global warming, but still open to further evidence.”

In his weekly Sunday Telegraph column, the cardinal-archbishop of Sydney said people have been “subjected to a lot of nonsense about climate disasters as some zealots have been painting extreme scenarios to frighten us.”He called those who make claims about ice caps melting and ocean levels rising spectacularly “doomsdayers” and “scaremongers.”

He also called to account journalists who have called for Nuremberg-style trials for global warming skeptics and who have compared skeptics with “Holocaust deniers.”

The media during the last 100 years, he also noted, has flip-flopped between promoting fears of a coming Ice Age and fears of global warming.“What we were seeing from the doomsdayers was an induced dose of mild hysteria, semi-religious if you like, but dangerously close to superstition,” he said. “I would be surprised if industrial pollution, and carbon emissions, had no ill effect at all. But enough is enough.”

The cardinal acknowledged that enormous climate changes have occurred in world history, such as the Ice Ages and Noah’s flood. Long and terrible droughts are not infrequent in Australian history either, he pointed out.He cited some scientific evidence to try to make sense of it and noted that the evidence on warming is, in fact, mixed.

He noted that:
• Global warming has been increasing constantly since 1975 at the rate of less than one-fifth of a degree centigrade per decade.
• The concentration of carbon dioxide increased surface temperatures more in winter than in summer and especially in mid and high latitudes over land, while there was a global cooling of the stratosphere.
• The East Anglia University climate research unit found that global temperatures did not increase between 1998 and 2005.
• A recent NASA satellite found that the Southern Hemisphere has not warmed in the past 25 years.

“The science is more complicated than the propaganda!” he concluded.

Greenspan Criticizes Politicians on Medicare

This week Bloomberg reported that “Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan criticized politicians for their 'awesome' silence on the U.S. government’s own projection that Medicare will run out of money for some programs by 2019.”

At a Washington panel discussion hosted by the American Hospital Association, Greenspan said, “The silence in the political system is awesome. We may be in a position where we are promising more than can physically be delivered. That is not ethical in government.”

Our current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, has also pleaded for our government to take some action on this issue to avoid disaster.

Silence Speaks Volumes

In our view, the political silence is indeed awesome, but it is not surprising.

Successive governments, particularly under Democratic presidents, have purchased votes by offering financial “goodies” to our electorate. These “enticements” were financed not out of earnings or savings, but largely by a combination of inflation, massive government debt, and unfunded promises of future delivery.

Of course, the reality for funding or “ratting” on such a bogus package will eventually rest with some future government. So, our politicians reason, why face the issue now and risk being voted out?

Meanwhile, as the “true” financing gap widens, today’s politicians listen in terror, but do nothing.

They know that once you give a dog a bone, you can’t take it away. Social unrest would most probably result if Medicare and other social benefits were to be reduced.

The Cost of Votes

Our politicians also know that financing the real costs would lose votes. Yet they vote hundreds of billions of our tax dollars and debt to finance the restructuring and rebuilding of a foreign county — Iraq.

The failure of our politicians to face financial reality at home, will lead inevitably to increased financial and social tension within our country.

Clearly, now is the time for strong leadership. It is of great concern, therefore, that with few exceptions, the list of presidential hopefuls is so lackluster.

It is important to emphasize that Alan Greenspan was appointed to his job as Fed chairman by both Republican and Democratic presidents. His warning is therefore not a party-political electioneering point. It is a national cry for our government to face this reality before it is too late and so avoid future social and financial disaster within our great country.

Spice Wreck

I'm not sure what makes me angrier; the fact that dangerous trans-fats are everywhere in our food supply, the fact that FDA officials pretend to do something about trans-fats but really do very little, or the fact that the FDA has actually gone out of its way to demonize saturated fats and dietary cholesterol by tying them to trans-fats, as if the comparison were perfectly natural. These guys never cease to infuriate me!

-------------------------------------------- Hiding in plain sight --------------------------------------------

While shopping the other day I checked the ingredients label on a bottle of mixed black and red pepper. (I'm allergic to garlic, so I have to check labels to make sure it's not hidden in the mix.) What WAS hidden in with the pepper came as a shock: partially hydrogenated oil. In other words: trans-fats!

I expect to see the word "hydrogenated" on packaging for baked goods, crackers, chips, etc. - but ground pepper? I recently read an FDA report on trans-fats that included this unsettling fact: The average daily trans-fat intake for American adults is 5.8 Grams. Nearly six grams per day! And if we're even picking up trans-fats in spices, it's no wonder we're getting so much of this deadly junk in our diets. And how much is too much?

According to the FDA: "While scientific reports have confirmed the relationship between trans-fat and an increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease), none has recommended an amount of trans-fat that the FDA could use to establish a Daily Value."

That's 100 percent partially hydrogenated hogwash. In previous e-Alerts I've told you about a 2002 report from a National Academy of Sciences panel that attempted to set a safe intake level for trans-fatty acids. The panel's conclusion: "The only safe intake of trans-fat is zero." Hello? FDA? This is the National Academy of Sciences calling. We've had your Daily Value of trans-fats ready for five years now. You can drop by and pick it up at any time.

-------------------------------------------- FDA math grade: F --------------------------------------------

The FDA report on trans fats does two very annoying things. 1) It requires food manufacturers to note the trans-fat content in every product that contains more than half a gram of trans-fats per serving. Any product with less than 0.5 grams per serving can claim "zero trans-fats."

This is a classic bait-and-switch, and you have to imagine that one of the reasons our average daily intake of trans-fats is unacceptably high is because there are so many products with "No trans-fats!" prominently displayed on the packaging, when in many cases that's completely false. "No trans-fats" should mean NONE, not "less than 0.5 grams of trans-fats per serving." 2)

The report demonizes saturated fat and cholesterol by lumping them together with trans-fats. Quote: "Consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL)...which increases the risk of coronary heart disease." Humans have been consuming saturated fats and cholesterol for eons. They're natural components of our diets.

Trans-fats, on the other hand, are the byproducts of oil processing. They're not natural, they're completely man-made, and they're very dangerous (linked to cancer risk as well as heart disease). Of course, the FDA - the Big Kahuna of mainstream nutrition - must always give the impression that saturated fats and dietary cholesterol are the primary sources of heart disease. With this report, it almost seems as if FDA officials are thinking: "Okay, if we have to recognize the dangers of trans-fats, then saturated fats and cholesterol are going down with the ship."

-------------------------------------------- On the level -------------------------------------------

If the FDA and other mainstream powers-that-be have convinced you that saturated fats and dietary cholesterol really should be considered just as dangerous as trans fats, consider this quote from the March 2006 issue of The Douglass Report Newsletter: "Last year, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a review of saturated fat studies from the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California.

The authors concluded that reducing saturated fat does not prolong life or lower the incidence of coronary heart disease. The UC authors wrote: 'The conclusion of an analysis of the history and politics behind the diet-heart hypothesis was that after 50 years of research, there was no evidence that a diet low in saturated fat prolongs life... Overall, dietary intervention by lowering saturated fat intake does not lower the incidence of nonfatal coronary artery disease; nor does such dietary intervention lower coronary disease or total mortality.'"

And in another issue of The Douglass Report, Dr. William C. Douglass II takes on margarine, which is a partially hydrogenated nightmare: "Margarine dramatically increases the risk of coronary heart disease as compared to butter. In fact, according to a 1999 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53 percent over eating the same amount of butter."

I honestly don't expect the FDA will ever level with the public about the real dangers of trans-fats or the truth about saturated fats and dietary cholesterol.

Vicious victuals' veterinary victims...

The Pet-food Protein-gate, part one

A couple of weeks ago (Daily Dose, 4/10/2007), I wrote to you about the breaking story of contamination in mass-produced pet foods that has so far sickened and killed untold numbers of beloved American pets - dog and cats, specifically. And because it was so early on in the crisis, I had very little information to impart to you about exactly what was causing these casualties...

But I did have some recommendations on how to safeguard your kitties and pups against this fate: To feed them ONLY raw liver, chicken necks (most other uncooked meats are OK as well), and at least one daily raw egg - including the shell - rounding out their diet with cut vegetables added to the bowl.

As you'll recall, this advice of mine directly contradicts not only everything you'll hear down at your local PetSmart store (or Petco, whatever), but also what several mainstream books recently published in wide release have to say about canine and feline diets. Believe me, though - I'm right and they're wrong.

Today, there's even more proof of this. More information has surfaced about exactly WHY our precious pets are dying. And as usual when it comes to nutrition - human or animal - one thing lies at the root of all the evil... Vegetarianism. In case you haven't heard, the U.S. FDA is all but certain the source of the contamination that's sickening and killing our cats and dogs is melamine, a toxic chemical used in the manufacture of plastics, pesticides, and as a fertilizer.

Melamine is high in nitrogen. Now stay with me here, this last little factoid is the heart of this whole insidious issue... Though deemed safe in low concentrations - like what might be found in vegetables grown in fields fertilized or insect-controlled with melamine - direct ingestion of the substance can be deadly.

Yet according to the FDA, melamine poisoning is likely what's sickening and killing so many of our pets nowadays. This kind of contamination would be VERY DIFFICULT without somebody adding melamine directly to pet foods, or to their ingredients.

Despite the fact that it's horrible for pets, most brands of modern pet foods - especially the dry varieties - are made almost entirely of vegetable ingredients.

There are several reasons for this, foremost among them being cost. It's far cheaper to make pet foods from soy this and wheat gluten that than it is to use real meats (which is impossible in the dry foods anyway)... But since the average pet owner is at least aware of the fact that animals, like people, need PROTEIN to survive, pet food makers are big on adding things to their food to boost the appearance of nutrition. And in this case, that "additive" was very likely poisonous melamine.

Remember how I said before that nitrogen was the key here? According to a recent USA Today article, the agricultural industry typically gauges a raw grain's protein content by measuring its nitrogen content. Nitrogen levels generally correspond quite closely with protein levels...

Are you starting to see how this shakes out? That's right. The FDA and other groups strongly suspect that nitrogen-rich melamine fertilizer was added in raw form to large quantities of ALREADY HARVESTED wheat and rice earmarked for pet foods in order to create the illusion that these worthless grains were higher in protein that they actually are. But this is only part of the story. Read on

The Pet-food Protein-gate, part two

To sell more pet food by deceiving pet owners into believing the dry vegetable junk food they're feeding their cats and dogs is protein-rich and good for them (it's actually horrible for them, melamine-laced or not).

As this crisis has unfolded, more information about how this toxic stuff may have gotten into the foods has surfaced... And it doesn't look good on the pet-food industry, or on big-box pet supply retailers. As it turns out, like everything else in this country nowadays, the raw ingredients for ALL of the banned varieties of pet foods came not from hard-working American grain farmers - whose products (though still bad for us and our pets) and harvesting practices are strictly regulated by the USDA, FDA, and other agencies...

But from communist CHINA, where pollution and environmental waste is rampant, regulation scare, and where the jack-booted government values nothing (not even life) so much as the influx of American dollars. And that river of money is enhanced if Chinese raw grains are thought to be richer in protein than grains from other places - even the U.S. of A.

According to FDA sources (like their Chief Veterinarian, for one), raw melamine has been found - not just in the U.S, but in other nations, too - in rice protein concentrate, wheat gluten, and corn gluten supplies earmarked specifically for pet foods. All of these tainted stockpiles were imported from China.

Now, we might have been alerted to this sooner if the FDA were able to monitor more of the foodstuffs we import. According to the AP and CBS, the agency can only test 1% of the food or raw ingredients that cross our borders. I guess their budget is stretched too thin from testing all those drugs - because they're SO good at that, right?

But that's another story... Of course, U.S. regulators can't PROVE that the Chi-comms are lacing Fido's food with melamine without inspecting the Chinese plants and farms themselves. And so far, that invitation hasn't been forthcoming. What HAS been coming out of China (besides killer grains) is a lot of double-talk and denials. Keep reading...

Silent after the first few weeks of the scandal, China is finally acknowledging that shipments of gluten and other food ingredients tainted with melamine originated on their shores.

They've also instituted a new ban on the chemical from all food products they export... But of course, China is rejecting melamine as a cause for any pets' deaths. China's Foreign Ministry is also claiming that the tainted supplies slipped through their normally rigorous customs inspections because they were destined to be used as pet food.

Yeah, I'm so sure - according to the AP/CBS piece, Chinese farmers have a well-documented history of exporting food products contaminated with human waste (ugh), pesticides that are banned in the U.S., and other problems... Aside from this, FDA investigators are getting the runaround from the Chinese.

One of the 3 exporting companies the agency is focusing on claims that food ingredients aren't even part of its core business - but that employees often make side deals to buy, sell and export such items... Nah, nothing corrupt or unregulated here.

All this brings up an interesting point: Do the big-box retail companies (PetSmart, Petco, etc.) that represent themselves as knowing all about how to raise healthy pets actually even know the least bit about what kinds of foods they're selling - or where they come from?

Think about it for a minute... If they knew that they were buying foods made by companies who bought their likely-contaminated raw ingredients from unregulated sources in shady, off-the-books back room deals - yet sold these foods anyway - what does that say about their scruples?

And if they DIDN'T know about all this, what's that say about their level of expertise in helping your pet lead a long and healthy life? On the one hand, they're heartless criminal killers - and on the other, clueless dunces.

But again, there are still more layers to this "onion" of a story. Like how the risks of melamine-contaminated pet food aren't limited to Fido, but perhaps have spread to the one who holds his leash, too. More in the next Daily Dose...

Always un"leash"ing the truth, William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.