Sunday, June 11, 2006

Does Foreign Aid Work?

Does Foreign Aid Work?

Read this book review by Joshua Kurlantzickin Commentary Magazine June 2006
Planners & Seekers

Of Book The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Goodby William Easterly

The economist Jeffrey Sachs was once known primarily as the doctor who healed the economies of post-cold-war Eastern Europe, but recently he has achieved far greater fame. With the publication last year of The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time,* he almost single-handedly revived a seemingly lost cause. If, Sachs argued, rich countries increased their foreign aid to roughly $150 billion a year, the world could eliminate extreme poverty by 2025.
Support for Sachs’s “end poverty” push now ranges from the musician Bono, who was named one of Time’s Men of the Year (along with Bill and Melinda Gates) for urging rich governments to ante up; to the United Nations, which has set eight Millennium Development Goals for 2015; to Tony Blair, who echoed Sachs in calling for a doubling of aid to Africa. Sachs even helped inspire the music promoter Bob Geldof to hold a globe-spanning rock festival for the cause in July 2005—ten simultaneous shows, collectively titled Live 8 and designed to pressure global leaders to banish poverty.
Who could object to such idealism? William Easterly, for one. A former senior research economist at the World Bank, Easterly has spent his career working for international institutions that try to help the poor. His first book, The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (2001), established him as perhaps the foremost critic of foreign economic intervention in the third world. In The White Man’s Burden, he extends his argument, placing Sachs and his followers squarely in his sights.

As Easterly sees it, the great problem with foreign aid has always been the utopian aims of “Planners”—humanitarians who think they know the answer to problems in advance and insist on imposing their own solutions. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, when Western countries were still colonial powers, leaders like the British abolitionist William Wilberforce and President Woodrow Wilson considered themselves chosen to save the non-white “Rest.” As Wilberforce demanded in the name of Christianity and Enlightenment alike, “Must we not then . . . endeavor to raise these wretched beings?” What he and those like him failed to ask, according to Easterly, was whether their remedies actually helped their impoverished wards.
After World War II, the West’s rhetoric of racial superiority died out, but the frame of mind behind it did not. In the 1950’s and 60’s, private and government organizations inspired by Walt Rostow’s The Stages of Economic Growth decided that poor nations needed big doses of aid, often focused on infrastructure, to escape from the “poverty trap”—the supposed need to spend all of their resources on survival, leaving little for investment in the long-term welfare of their societies.
As Easterly shows, however, the Planners’ big push failed. Advocates like Robert McNamara, the president of the World Bank, focused only on the volume of foreign aid, constantly proposing to double disbursements. But the aid had no discernible effect on growth rates and brought only modest improvements in the quality of life. Tanzania, for instance, received $2 billion worth of gleaming new roads, only to see them deteriorate from lack of maintenance.
In the 1980’s and 90’s, Western givers began to emphasize something called structural-adjustment programs—that is, loans conditioned on market reforms in the recipient countries. But these, too, failed. In the Ivory Coast, which received more than twenty loan packages, per-capita income plunged, leading to “one of the worst and longest depressions in economic history.” In other recent cases—in countries like Bolivia and Malawi—the policies dictated by structural-adjustment loans from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have contributed to a collapse into economic and political turmoil.
Thanks in part to this record, aid to the third world fell out of favor in the late 1990’s. Today, through the efforts of Sachs and his fellow travelers, it has come full circle. But Easterly sees little difference between today’s top-down anti-poverty agenda and the one promoted with such fanfare in the 1950’s—or in the 1850’s. The utopian impulse has remained a constant. As he quotes Sachs: “To do things piecemeal is vacuous. . . . Success in ending the poverty trap will be much easier than it appears.”

The core problem, Easterly contends, is that few Western aid programs ever seek feedback from their consumers, the world’s poor. Aid bureaucrats seldom feel accountable to anyone other than their rich-country principals, who rate results not on how money is used but on how much of it is given out. In Angola, for example, the World Bank disbursed some $180 million to the government between 1992 and 1999, despite rampant corruption. When that sparked little growth, donors just upped the ante. Nor do many donors attempt even a basic cost-benefit analysis of aid flows. If they did, Easterly believes, they might realize that the battle against HIV/AIDS in Africa has taken more lives than it has saved, because the money spent on expensive anti-retroviral treatments diverts funding from HIV prevention and the fight against other diseases, like malaria.
On the basis of this analysis, Easterly’s advice to Western donors is that they should stop thinking of themselves as Planners and begin thinking of themselves instead as “Searchers.” They should investigate what is in demand in impoverished countries, adapt to local conditions, and stress accountability. Indeed, he shows, such programs have already achieved some measure of success. In Bangladesh, for instance, a doctor found that if he charged his poor clients small fees for basic care, they became more active and demanding as patients than those receiving it for free. Another initiative, called, lets potential recipients post their ideas online to win over donors who are “shopping” for worthy projects. Even the World Bank has gotten into the act, with a program begun in the early 1990’s that gives parents small in-kind rewards for their children’s school attendance; enrollment has doubled.
Though Easterly celebrates such efforts, and believes that market instincts are hardwired into all human beings, he does not tout laissez-faire capitalism as a panacea. As he sees it, development agencies simply should abandon the patronizing conviction that they alone can transform the third world. They should allow the poor in Africa and other underdeveloped regions to “be their own Searchers.” At most, the West should provide support for small-scale programs with built-in feedback—just the sort of modest interventions disdained by Jeffrey Sachs and his minions.

William Easterly’s writing is much like that of Thomas Friedman. To explain complex economic questions, he mixes anecdotal reporting with simple descriptions of ideas and theories. To Easterly’s credit, though, he does not fall into the Friedman trap of extrapolating trends from a handful of examples; he backs up his claims with significant research.
As an attack on the international anti-poverty establishment, The White Man’s Burden is difficult to refute. Easterly hits easy targets, like the hydra of United Nations organizations, with their useless “summits” and onerous reporting requirements. But he also debunks the more hardheaded advocates of aid. As against Sachs, Easterly throws cold water on the idea of a “poverty trap,” finding economic mobility among even the poorest states. As for the premise of the Bush administration’s Millennium Challenge Corporation—the idea that aid can be used as an incentive to promote good government—he sees little evidence that donors themselves can make such discriminations, and even offers reason to doubt that democracy makes aid more effective.
Where Easterly fares less well is in his own agenda for improving foreign aid. He is right, no doubt, that assistance must encompass more feedback, accountability, and market-driven solutions. But he cannot see beyond the possibility of piecemeal change, even though at times he appears to understand the contribution it can make to broader developments. Thus, he notes the significance of market reforms in Xiaogang, China during the 1970’s, calling them the “pebble that started the landslide of the Chinese economic miracle,” but he fails to describe how the one might have contributed to the other.
Indeed, there is an unwarranted resignation in Easterly’s advice, especially considering the economic transformation that has swept much of the globe in recent decades. Most of the high-growth Asian economies he cites as success stories actually combined elements of (in his terms) both Searching and Planning. Each country found an economic model suited to it—Hong Kong became a trading entrepot, South Korea, an industrial giant—and formulated national policies accordingly. Today, some private-sector aid donors, like the Gates Foundation, blend elements of Searching and Planning as well, trying to look at problems like malaria control comprehensively while figuring out what works best in particular environments.
If The White Man’s Burden is too dour in these respects, it does serve as a useful warning to the next generation of utopians. After all, two decades before the Live 8 concerts inspired by Jeffrey Sachs’s crusade, rockers held another benefit, Live Aid, to boost assistance to Ethiopia. They raised some $100 million for the cause; today, Ethiopia is even poorer than it was then.
Joshua Kurlantzick is a special correspondent for the New Republic and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
*Reviewed by David Frum in the June 2005 COMMENTARY.
June 2006

Busby Campaigned Lowered Turnout and Cost Her Votes

Could it be the more Busby campaigned it lowered turnout and cost her votes?

Kerry Spot noted “the poll by Democrat leaning polling firm Lake Research showing Busby up 47-40 back on May 17.”

Although Busby got about the same percentage vote in April and June (actually increasing from 43.74% to 45.46%), what do you make of her vote total going from 60,010 to 55,587? (Bilbray, having lots of Republican opponents in April went from 20,952 votes to 60,319).
See election results

Many voters who supported Bilbray’s opponents may well have taken some time to decide to support the Republican nominee. Maybe the more Busby campaigned, it lowered turnout and cost her votes.

Despite the contested 50th Congressional District (and intense Democratic Governor’s race) turnout went down (28% was the State’s average).
For the Special Election April 11, 2006 Registered Voters 353,866, Ballots Cast 137,529,Turnout 38.86%.
For the Primary Election June 7, 2006 Registered Voters 355,409 Ballots Cast 125,882 Turnout 35.42%

By the way on the June 11th ballot, voters elected Bilbray to serve the remaining 7 month’s of Randy Cunnigham’s term, and nominated Busby and Bilbray for the November election for a full term. With the Independents and minor party voters not getting to participate Busby gets 41,000 votes and Bilbray 32,000

My thought is that the voters disgust at the “culture of corruption” dissipated from April to June realizing, perhaps, that Cunningham was a crook, not an example of what all politicians do.

Lucrative Loophole for State Employee Pensions – Screw the Taxpayers

See article in Saturday, June 10, 2006 Sacramento Bee Watchdog report: Lucrative loophole for pensions by John Hill

Quirk in state law lets some earn more from retiring than working.

Imagine collecting a bigger check in retirement than you did while working.
That's more than a fantasy for some former members of the State Police, who went on to become California Highway Patrol officers when the two agencies merged in 1995.

A quirk in state retirement law entitles them to pensions greater than the 90 percent cap for state public safety workers. And an unknown number of other state workers may be sidestepping the limit by earning retirement credit under more than one pension formula.

So far, 14 former State Police officers have exceeded the 90 percent limit, including one who is getting 10 percent more in retirement than on the job, according to the California Public Employees' Retirement System.

That's wrong, said state Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield.

"People should not be compensated for no work at a rate higher than they receive when they are performing work," he said.

Ashburn is the author of Senate Bill 1443, which would close the loophole and apply the 90 percent pension limit to all state public safety workers, even if they change jobs.

State officials say they don't know how many other workers might be in the same situation as the former State Police officers.

Theoretically, any worker who went from a public safety job to another with a different retirement formula could add together the two caps.

That would mean a pension as high as 180 percent of salary. As a practical matter, workers would never reach that level, since it would require at least 60 years on the job. But pensions above 100 percent of pay are well within the realm of possibility.

"People find these loopholes, and they drive through them," Ashburn said.

In fact, Ashburn's legislation was motivated by another case of pensions going higher than pay.

The Bee reported in April that some supervisors in the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection were in line to receive pensions reaching as much as 115 percent of their pay because of a similar quirk in retirement law.

That loophole occurred because the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had not granted supervisors a richer retirement formula given to rank-and-file firefighters under an agreement five years ago. Because most of the supervisors had logged time in the ranks earlier in their careers, their pensions were based on two separate sections of retirement law, making them eligible for more than the 90 percent cap.

Schwarzenegger reversed course, closing the loophole by granting firefighting supervisors the same retirement formula as the rank and file. CalPERS is adjusting monthly allowances to recover overpayments, spokeswoman Pat Macht said.

Starting in 1935, the state created special retirement formulas for public safety jobs, such as CHP officers. The original purpose was to encourage workers whose jobs required them to be young and fit to retire early.

Those special pensions generally came with a cap, to take away the incentive to stay on the job after hitting the ceiling. By contrast, the standard state pension that covers most workers doesn't include a limit -- a moot point, since most employees would have to put in 50 years on the job to qualify for pensions rivaling their pay.

But over the years, the Legislature undermined the purpose of the cap by repeatedly raising it. The limit is now 90 percent for the CHP, prison guards, firefighters and some others, and 80 percent for other prison workers such as nurses and cooks.

Even as the limit went higher, loopholes opened up that allowed some workers to avoid it altogether.

The quirk involving the State Police came about in July 1995, when the department was merged into the CHP.

State Police were given the option of performing some additional training to qualify as CHP officers, along with the CHP retirement plan, CalPERS spokeswoman Macht said.

In all, 259 people transferred to the CHP and therefore qualified for pensions under two separate sections of retirement law. So far, 108 have retired, Macht said, including the 14 who qualified for more than 90 percent of pay.

CalPERS could not say how many of the remaining 151 are still with the CHP and would be in line for the higher pensions.

Ashburn's bill, which is before the Senate committee that deals with retirement issues, would prevent any state public safety worker from going higher than the 90 percent cap. It would apply to those who retire after the law goes into effect, not those who are already collecting pensions.

Ashburn said the current cap should be enough for any retiree, far beyond what most people can expect in the private sector.

"Ninety percent is a very generous retirement for people who are able to leave state service at a relatively young age," he said. "In many cases, those workers become otherwise employed."

• Read The Bee's ongoing coverage of the state pension system. The original investigation documents how top-tier California Highway Patrol officers aggressively pursue injury claims, often near the end of 30-year careers, that hike their retirement income. Some go on to demanding second careers while collecting their state disability pensions. Inside the CHP it's known as "Chief's Disease."

About the writer:
The Bee's John Hill can be reached at (916) 326-5543 or

Compromise on Immigration Reform – Mike Pence

Compromise on Immigration Reform – Mike Pence

How about supporting President Bush’s guest worker program, but do it using private companies, and have the path to citizenship be the same as legal immigrants do: from their country, apply. I like it, although I would strictly enforce that naturalized US citizens must renounce their prior citizenship.

Read Op/Ed piece A Middle Ground on Immigration by Mike Pence a Republican congressman from Indiana in the Wall Street Journal June 10, 2006.

President Bush has set out his goals on immigration reform to the American people. "There is," he said, "a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant, and a program of mass deportation." I agree that a rational middle ground can be found -- but amnesty is not the middle ground.

Instead, I will soon be introducing legislation, the Border Integrity and Immigration Reform Act. This bill is tough on border security and tough on employers who hire illegal aliens. It will include a guest worker program -- but it will not include an amnesty (nor require a huge new government bureaucracy to administer the program). I believe this legislation is a strong alternative to the amnesty plan passed by the Senate; and I hope that it will serve as an attractive alternative to my colleagues in the House of Representatives.

Since immigration reform must begin by securing our border, my plan incorporates the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, already passed by the House, in its entirety, with only minor changes. Thus my plan will add port-of-entry inspectors, end the policy of "catch and release," put to use American technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles, require a security fence to be built across our southern border, and require the Secretary of Homeland Security to certify that all these border security measures are substantially completed before any new guest worker program would begin.

But my bill does not include a so-called path to citizenship, i.e., an amnesty, for the some 12 million illegal aliens in this country. Instead, it insists that they leave and come back legally if they have a job opportunity in the U.S. They will be allowed to do so under the terms of a guest-worker program that will be implemented by firms in the private sector, not by a new government bureaucracy.

Private worker-placement agencies -- "Ellis Island Centers" -- would be licensed by the federal government to match guest workers with jobs that employers cannot fill with American workers. These agencies will match guest workers with jobs, perform health screening, fingerprint them, and convey the appropriate information to the FBI and Homeland Security so that a background check can be performed. Once this is done, the guest worker would be provided with a visa issued by the State Department. The whole process will take a matter of one week, or less.

My immigration reform plan does not favor illegal immigrants. Anyone may apply for a guest-worker visa at the new Ellis Island Centers; indeed, the plan may actually work to the advantage of applicants who have never violated our immigration laws, since guest-worker visas will be issued only outside the U.S.

There will initially be no cap on the number of visas that can be issued; for the first three years, the market and the needs of U.S. employers will set the limit on the number of guest workers. This is necessary in order to provide the incentive for illegal aliens in this country to self-deport and come back legally. After three years, however, a reasonable limit on the number of these "W" visas will be determined by the Department of Labor, based on employment statistics, employer needs and other research.

Nevertheless, there will be a limit on the amount of time guest workers can spend in this country. They would be allowed to renew their visas, but only for a period of up to six years. And in order to receive their first renewal, they would be required to study English and pass an English proficiency class.

After six years, a guest worker must decide whether to return home or seek citizenship. But he will do so under the normal rules and regulations of our naturalization laws. There is no path to citizenship in my bill.

Lastly, my immigration bill includes strict employer enforcement. It does so by incorporating the employer-enforcement provisions contained in the House-passed Border Protection bill. Thus, there will be established a nationwide electronic employment-verification system through which employers will confirm the legality of each prospective and current employee.

Employers who choose to operate outside the system would face stiff fines. Once the new enforcement system is in place, jobs for illegal aliens will dry up.

As the grandson of an Irish immigrant, I believe in the ideals enshrined on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. America always has been, and always will be, a welcoming nation, welcoming under the law any and all with courage enough to come here. But a nation without borders is not a nation, and across this country Americans are anxious about our borders.

Every night Americans see news images of people crossing the border illegally. They hear of people paying thousands of dollars to "coyotes" to smuggle them into the country; they worry that drugs will make their way into the hands of their children more readily. And they rightly fear that our porous borders make it more likely that terrorists will cross with deadly intentions against our families.

I believe that my Border Integrity and Immigration Reform Act is a solution that those opposed to amnesty and those who propose a guest-worker program can both support. It offers a solution that those calling for the humane treatment of illegal immigrants can embrace.

And I believe that this solution is one the American people can embrace. This is the real rational middle ground.

Zarqawi Goal Same as Democrats: US Out of Iraq

Read Weekly Standard 6/19/2006 column by Bill Kristol No Posthumous Victory for Zarqawi

Don't let him achieve in death what he failed to do in life.

ON WEDNESDAY, June 7, U.S. military forces, in President Bush's words, "delivered justice to the most wanted terrorist in Iraq," Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

Before considering the possible implications for the war in Iraq and the global struggle against terror, we should pause to celebrate so striking an instance of injustice avenged, and justice vindicated. The unjust--even the barbarically unjust--prevail all too often in this world. It is good for civilized people to see, as Marshall Wittmann put it, that "evil has suffered a setback." In the blunt words of Paul Bigley of the United Kingdom, whose brother Ken was captured and beheaded by Zarqawi, the terrorist "deserved what he got and may he rot in hell."

One might also pause to point out that if we had followed the advice of those who want to pull out from Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi would today be alive and well, and triumphant.

What are the implications for the war in Iraq? That depends on some factors that we can't yet know with any confidence--the resilience of al Qaeda's leadership in Iraq, for one thing, and the true sentiment among the Sunnis of Iraq. But it also depends on what we do. Do we take advantage of this opportunity politically and militarily? Do we pursue the enemy aggressively now when it may be rattled and divided? Or do we do look on this as an excuse to begin to get out--as John Kerry and many others are already advocating? If we do the latter, we will give Zarqawi a victory in death that he could not achieve in life.

What needs to be done now seems clear: a renewed offensive to wipe out what remains of Zarqawi's organization and to defeat the insurgency. We highly recommend the strategy laid out three weeks ago in these pages by Frederick W. Kagan (see "A Plan for Victory in Iraq," May 29) for a comprehensive execution of the clear/hold/build approach in the Euphrates Valley, to be accomplished by Iraqi and U.S. forces working together--something that cannot be accomplished if we draw down U.S. forces. Some counterinsurgency experts would put a priority on sending additional troops to establish order in Baghdad.

But whatever operational choices are made, now is the time to take our best shot at really improving the situation on the ground in Iraq. If this requires 90 percent of the president's time, if it requires stressing the Pentagon and shaking up business as usual elsewhere in the administration--so be it. There is no other successful path forward for the Bush administration than victory in Iraq.

It is also the time to revisit the case for the war. Zarqawi is a perfect reminder of why we had to fight in Iraq. Would we be safer if he were living there, under Saddam's protection, securely planning attacks around the world and working on his chemical and biological weapons projects? Zarqawi's life and death remind us that we are engaged in a global struggle. When he died, Palestinian foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, a leader of Hamas, linked the "resistance" in Iraq to that against Israel, deploring what he termed the "assassination" of Zarqawi. As Saul Singer noted in the Jerusalem Post, we are "witnessing the seamlessness of jihad. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and al Qaeda come from different sides of the Sunni-Shiite divide, but they agree on the need to wage jihad against the West, particularly Israel and the United States. The death of Zarqawi saddens all of them, just as it causes encouragement for free peoples everywhere."

Zarqawi was a cunning and effective leader of the forces of jihadist terror. His brutality against civilians--Shiites mostly, but also Sunnis who wanted to work to create a new Iraq--helped push Iraq dangerously close to a sectarian civil war and ethnic cleansing, and gravely endangered Iraq's brave experiment in democratic federalism and freedom. But he did not succeed, though the threat he helped create is very much with us.

Al Qaeda's top priority remains what it was in Ayman al-Zawahiri's letter to Zarqawi last July: "Expel the Americans from Iraq." To which, surely, Americans must respond: No posthumous victories for Zarqawi.

Marine Says Rules Were Followed in Haditha

Marine Says Rules Were Followed in Haditha

What happened in Haditha, Iraq? Maybe there wasn’t a maasacre of civilians by US Marines. Read Washington Post Sunday, June 11, 2006 article by Josh White Marine Says Rules Were Followed
Sergeant Describes Hunt for Insurgents in Haditha, Denies Coverup

A sergeant who led a squad of Marines during the incident in Haditha, Iraq, that left as many as 24 civilians dead said his unit did not intentionally target any civilians, followed military rules of engagement and never tried to cover up the shootings, his attorney said.

Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, told his attorney that several civilians were killed Nov. 19 when his squad went after insurgents who were firing at them from inside a house. The Marine said there was no vengeful massacre, but he described a house-to-house hunt that went tragically awry in the middle of a chaotic battlefield.

"It will forever be his position that everything they did that day was following their rules of engagement and to protect the lives of Marines," said Neal A. Puckett, who represents Wuterich in the ongoing investigations into the incident. "He's really upset that people believe that he and his Marines are even capable of intentionally killing innocent civilians."

Wuterich's detailed version of what happened in the Haditha neighborhood is the first public account from a Marine who was on the ground when the shootings occurred. As the leader of 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Wuterich was in the convoy of Humvees that was hit by a roadside bomb. He entered the house from which the Marines believed enemy fire was originating and made the initial radio reports to his company headquarters about what was going on, Puckett said.

The reports that Marines wantonly shot unarmed civilians in Haditha, including women and children, allege one of the most shocking, and potentially damaging, incidents of the Iraq war. A criminal investigation looking into possible charges of murder against half a dozen Marines is underway. A separate probe is examining whether Marines tried to cover up the shootings, and whether commanders were negligent in failing to investigate the deaths.

Three Marine officers have been relieved of command. In the absence of a public response from Marine Corps officials -- who are declining to comment to preserve the integrity of the investigation -- reports of what happened in the western Iraqi town have been leaking out piecemeal from the Haditha neighborhood and in Washington.

Wuterich's version contradicts that of the Iraqis, who described a massacre of men, women and children after a bomb killed a Marine. Haditha residents have said that innocent civilians were executed, that some begged for their lives before being shot and that children were killed indiscriminately.

Wuterich told his attorney in initial interviews over nearly 12 hours last week that the shootings were the unfortunate result of a methodical sweep for enemies in a firefight. Two attorneys for other Marines involved in the incident said Wuterich's account is consistent with those they had heard from their clients.

Kevin B. McDermott, who is representing Capt. Lucas M. McConnell, the Kilo Company commander, said Wuterich and other Marines informed McConnell on the day of the incident that at least 15 civilians were killed by "a mixture of small-arms fire and shrapnel as a result of grenades" after the Marines responded to an attack from a house.

McConnell was relieved of his command in April for "failure to investigate," according to McDermott. But the lawyer said McConnell told him that he reported the high number of civilian deaths to the 3rd Battalion executive officer that afternoon and that within a few days the battalion's intelligence chief gave a PowerPoint presentation to Marine commanders.

"It wasn't a situation that dawned on him as the captain of Kilo where it was like, 'Okay, guys, we need to conduct a more thorough investigation,' " McDermott said. "Everywhere up the chain, they had ample access to this thing."

Gary Myers, a civilian attorney for a Marine who was with Wuterich that day, said the Marines followed standard operating procedures when they "cleared" the houses, using fragmentation grenades and gunshots to respond to an immediate threat.

"I can confirm that that version of events is consistent with our position on this case," Myers said. "What this case comes down to is: What were the rules of engagement, and were they followed?"

The defense attorneys said the rules of engagement -- which vary depending on the mission, level of danger and other factors -- are likely to become a central element of their cases because those rules guide how troops can use deadly force on the battlefield. One Marine official said such rules usually require positive identification of a target before shooting but noted that the rules are often circumstantial.

"Once you go back over it, you have to determine if they applied the rules," the Marine official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the Marine Corps does not discuss rules of engagement. "Did they feel threatened? Did they perceive hostile intent or hostile action?"

On Nov. 19, Wuterich's squad left its headquarters at Firm Base Sparta in Haditha at 7 a.m. on a daily mission to drop off Iraqi army troops at a nearby checkpoint. "It was like any other day, we just had to watch out for IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and any other activity that looked suspicious," said Marine Cpl. James Crossan, 21, in an interview from his home in North Bend, Wash. He was riding in the four-Humvee convoy as it turned left onto Chestnut Road, heading west at 7:15 a.m.

Shortly after the turn, a bomb buried in the road ripped through the last Humvee. The blast instantly killed the driver, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, 20. Crossan, who was in the front passenger seat, remembered hearing someone yell, "Get some morphine." Then he passed out.

Wuterich, driving the third Humvee in the line, immediately stopped the convoy and got out, Puckett said.

Puckett said that while Wuterich was evaluating the scene, Marines noticed a white, unmarked car full of "military-aged men" lingering near the bomb site. When Marines ordered the men to stop, they ran; Puckett said it was standard procedure at the time for the Marines to shoot suspicious people fleeing a bombing, and the Marines opened fire, killing four or five men.

"The first thing he thought was it could be a vehicle-borne bomb or these guys could be ready to do a drive-by shooting," Puckett said, explaining that the Marines were on alert for such coordinated, multi-stage attacks.

Iraqis in the Haditha neighborhood interviewed in recent weeks said the vehicle was a taxi carrying a group of students to their homes and that the driver tried to back away from the site, fleeing in fear. One account said that the Marines shot the men while they were still in the car.

Wuterich officially reported to his headquarters that there had been a makeshift bomb and called for a Quick Reaction Force, Puckett said. The first group encountered an unexploded bomb on another route -- fueling concerns that insurgents were mounting an attack on the daily morning convoy -- and a second force headed out. That group, including Marines with the 3rd Squad and the platoon's leader, a young second lieutenant, arrived minutes later.

Wuterich told Puckett that no one was emotionally rattled by Terrazas's death because everyone had a job to do, and everyone was concerned about further casualties. As Wuterich began briefing the platoon leader, Puckett said, AK-47 shots rang out from residences on the south side of the road, and the Marines ducked.

A corporal with the unit leaned over to Wuterich and said he saw the shots coming from a specific house, and after a discussion with the platoon leader, they decided to clear the house, according to Wuterich's account.

"There's a threat, and they went to eliminate the threat," Puckett said.

A four-man team of Marines, including Wuterich, kicked in the door and found a series of empty rooms, noticing quickly that there was one room with a closed door and people rustling behind it, Puckett said. They then kicked in that door, tossed a fragmentation grenade into the room, and one Marine fired a series of "clearing rounds" through the dust and smoke, killing several people, Puckett said.

The Marine who fired the rounds -- Puckett said it was not Wuterich -- had experience clearing numerous houses on a deployment in Fallujah, where Marines had aggressive rules of engagement.

Although it was almost immediately apparent to the Marines that the people dead in the room were men, women and children -- most likely civilians -- they also noticed a back door ajar and believed that insurgents had slipped through to a house nearby, Puckett said. The Marines stealthily moved to the second house, kicking in the door, killing one man inside and then using a frag grenade and more gunfire to clear another room full of people, he said.

Wuterich, not having found the insurgents, told the team to stop and headed back to the platoon leader to reassess the situation, Puckett said, adding that his client knew a number of civilians had just been killed.

Neighborhood residents have offered a different account, saying that the Marines went into the houses shooting and ignored pleas from the civilians to spare them.

Marine Reserve Lt. Jonathan Morgenstein, who served in Anbar province from August 2004 to March 2005, said that the account offered by Wuterich's attorney surprised him a bit.

"When I was in Iraq," Morgenstein said, "the Anbar-wide ROEs [rules of engagement] did not say we had the authority to knock down any door, throw in a hand grenade and kill everyone." Still, he said, if someone in a house in Haditha was shooting at them, the Marines' response may have been within procedure. "If they felt they took fire from that house, then that may be authorized."

A Marine who served near Haditha in November said it was not unusual for Marines to respond to attacks "running and gunning" and that it was standard practice to spray rooms with gunfire when threatened. "It may be a bad tactic, but it works," he said. "It keeps you alive."

After clearing the second house, Puckett said, Wuterich immediately got on the radio and reported the "collateral damage." When the company radio operator asked him to estimate how many civilians had been killed, he said he thought it was about 12 to 15.

McConnell, the company commander, "knew the number was high" and reported it to the battalion executive officer, a major, according to McDermott, his lawyer. McConnell also said that a Marine intelligence team investigated the civilian deaths and reported their findings to senior Marine commanders, the lawyer said.

Wuterich told his attorney that he never reported that the civilians in the houses were killed by the bomb blast and maintains that he never tried to obscure the fact that civilians had been killed in the raids. Whether Wuterich gave false information to his superiors is the focus of one of the military investigations. He said the platoon leader, who was on the scene, never expressed concern about the unit's actions and never tried to hide them.

Marine Corps public affairs officers reported that the civilians had been killed in the bomb blast, a report that Puckett believes was the result of a miscommunication.

After going through the houses, Wuterich moved a small group of Marines to the roof of a nearby building to watch the area, Puckett said. At one point, they saw a man in all-black clothing running from one of the houses they had searched. The Marines killed him, Puckett said.

They then noticed another man in all black scurrying between two houses across the street. When they went to investigate, the Marines found a courtyard filled with women and children and asked where the man was, Puckett said.

When the civilians pointed to a third house, the Marines attempted to enter and found a man with an AK-47 inside, flanked by three other men; the first Marine to enter tried to fire his weapon, but it jammed, Puckett said. The Marines then killed those four men.

The unit stayed at the scene for hours, helping to collect bodies as photos were taken. Wuterich, who remains on duty in California, where he lives with his wife and two young daughters, told Puckett that for months no one questioned his actions.

Staff writers Steve Fainaru in San Diego and Thomas E. Ricks in Washington, and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Monday, June 05, 2006

U.S. Airlines Profitability Staging a Recovery – Really?

With the rising price of oil, the airliners must be hurting more than ever. Right? No, see Wall Street Journal June 5, 2006 article by Evan Perez and Melanie Trottman

Major Airlines Fuel a Recovery By Grounding Unprofitable Flights

Despite the burden of record fuel prices, major U.S. airlines are staging a recovery from five years of brutal losses, something many analysts and airlines didn't think possible as recently as six months ago.

The improving financial results posted by seven of the nation's 10 big airlines in recent months reflect a fundamental shift in strategy that goes beyond the efforts of older network carriers to wrest billions in concessions from their unions. The big carriers, which for decades have doggedly pursued market share at any cost, now are focusing just as aggressively on the profitability of each route and flight.

The so-called legacy carriers -- those like American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, with big pension and other obligations that predate the industry's deregulation in 1978 -- have abandoned many of the tactics that have led to their cyclical weakness. They are increasingly unwilling to fly half-empty aircraft to stay competitive on a given route just for the sake of feeding their nationwide networks. Though their recovery is still in its early stages and could be derailed by a further run-up in oil prices or other factors, the airlines' new emphasis on profitability appears to be paying off.

The six largest legacy carriers -- AMR Corp.'s American, Continental Airlines, Delta, Northwest Airlines, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and US Airways Group -- are putting far fewer planes in the sky these days, streamlining their fleets and pushing up prices where they can. New statistics for 2005 show those airlines had a combined mainline operating fleet of 2,747 aircraft, down 21% from the 3,469 they had at the end of 2000, according to the Air Transport Association.

American, the world's biggest carrier by passenger traffic, recently decided to ground 27 MD-80 aircraft, which it had used for years to help meet peak summer travel demand. It concluded that the cost of operating the older, gas-guzzling aircraft during the rest of the year outweighed the benefit of having the extra summer capacity.

Delta and Northwest, both operating under Chapter 11, shrank their fleets by getting bankruptcy-court approval to return dozens of their aircraft to the leaseholders. Ed Bastian, Delta's chief financial officer, said that until Delta was allowed to break the aircraft leases, it continued to operate many planes on unprofitable routes simply because parking the aircraft was even more expensive than flying them at a loss.

Meanwhile, thanks to a strong U.S. economy, demand for the industry's smaller number of available seats has remained robust. Last year, U.S. airlines filled an average 77.6% of their seats on domestic and foreign flights, up from 75.5% in 2004 -- the highest levels since 1946, according to the ATA. The industry group's chief economist is predicting that the percentage will rise to around 85% this summer, potentially the highest ever recorded. That means that many more planes will be flying completely full.

In the first two months of this year, domestic available seat miles, a measure of U.S. industry capacity, dropped 2.8% to 113.2 billion from 116.5 billion a year earlier, while U.S. airlines filled more seats -- 74.3%, up from 70.7%.

With the cuts in capacity and strong demand, big airlines are enjoying their strongest pricing power in five years, and for the first time the ability to pass on a substantial share of lofty fuel costs to their customers.

As a result, the Air Travel Price Index, a quarterly measure of changes in airfares, rose 9.1% in the fourth quarter of last year from a five-year low a year earlier. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics says the latest number is the highest since just before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which plunged the big U.S. airlines into a depression. Passenger volume remains consistently above the pre-9/11 level as well.

Airline executives, however, believe the industry still has a way to go. "This industry, just like any other industry that is dependent on oil, has to turn around and pass this cost on to its customer or else it won't be an industry," Gerard Arpey, American's chief executive, said recently.

It's far from certain, however, whether the industry's recovery will continue. A new surge in fuel prices could offset the recent fare increases, and renewed pricing power could tempt airlines to raise fares so high that demand begins falling. For some airlines it still could be another year before the increased revenue translates to profits. And more restructuring is bound to occur.

American's Mr. Arpey has told workers at his airline, which has avoided bankruptcy proceedings, that American needs to make more cost cuts to keep pace with rival carriers that used their stay in bankruptcy court to shed costs. Meanwhile, outside the U.S., where the airline industry began its rebound last year, some European and Asian airlines are trying to offset rising jet-fuel prices by redoubling efforts to cut other operating costs.

Some U.S. airline executives worry that 2006 might be a peak year for their historically cyclical industry, giving airlines little time to prepare for another downturn. William Warlick, airline analyst at Fitch Ratings, says that while capacity is down, the industry still has too many airlines. "In the next downturn, the industry will still be vulnerable to irrational capacity behavior and pricing actions," he said.

Nonetheless, it's clear that a confluence of strong demand and the new discipline among big carriers has altered the competitive landscape. Last week, Delta reported its first monthly operating profit in five years. The U.S. industry, which has accumulated more than $40 billion in financial losses and shed 165,000 jobs since 2001, is expected to see its losses narrow to no more than $2 billion this year.

For the first time since discount airlines began their assault on the major carriers in the 1990s, airlines such as Continental, American, and United appear to be gaining the upper hand against competitors.

At the same time, some of the luster is fading from many discount carriers like JetBlue Airways. Hedging helped some discount carriers insulate their profits from the recent run-up in oil prices. But as those hedging deals have begun to expire, the discount carriers are having to purchase aviation fuel at higher prices.

Squeezed by pricier fuel, Southwest Airlines recently broke through its self-imposed fare cap. JetBlue, which has run into operational troubles as it introduces a new aircraft type, has announced plans to delay delivery of 12 aircraft and sell as many as five others. Spirit Airlines, which has expanded into the Caribbean, has raised prices, initially causing its passenger traffic to fall about five percentage points.

Spirit was "traditionally an irrational low-price player," says Ben Baldanza, chief executive of the airline. "We're trying to be smart about pricing."

Meanwhile, rival legacy carriers showed restraint after the shutdown of upstart Independence Air earlier this year, largely resisting the urge to rush in with new capacity on the routes served by the defunct carrier. In many markets vacated by Independence, other airlines made no effort to grab market share by adding unprofitable new service. As a result, one-way business fares from Atlanta to Washington, for example, are up 52% from a year ago, to $614 from $404.

Last year, Delta, which is based in Atlanta, broke with airline orthodoxy by abandoning its unprofitable hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, drastically reducing its flights to the city. That not only cut Delta's costs but also improved the fortunes of Fort Worth-based American, which lost a major competitor on those routes.

While economic conditions are the best that major airlines have had in years, the new climate isn't friendly to price-sensitive fliers. This summer passengers are expected to face higher fares, and many flights are expected to be packed to capacity.

Legacy airlines have simplified and slashed their most expensive business fares -- luring back corporate travelers -- but have held back from mimicking the aggressive discounting offered by low-fare carriers. Their renewed pricing power has lifted last-minute fares, purchased mostly by business travelers, by 21% from a year ago, according to Harrell Associates, a New York consulting firm that analyzes fares. Corporate travelers don't appear dissuaded yet because "they understand there is a premium to be paid for holding that seat to the last minute," says Bob Harrell, the firm's president.

Behind the scenes some carriers are further improving margins with more sophisticated pricing strategies and by employing a new generation of so-called origin-and-destination, or O&D, revenue-management systems. Those systems are designed to reduce the number of inexpensive -- and unprofitable -- seats that travelers can find on the Internet. Delta, the third-largest U.S. carrier, credits a computerized system called OMNI, which it launched in February 2005, for improving its revenue.

Scott Nason, American's vice president for revenue management, says American's system helps decide when to sell a seat on a flight from Austin, Texas, to Dallas to a passenger whose final destination is Dallas, and when to save it for a more-lucrative passenger who is passing through Dallas en route to Shanghai. Old revenue-management systems made it difficult for airlines to differentiate between those passengers, costing them potential revenue.

OPEC Facing Lower Demand – Can’t Sell All Oil Produced

OPEC Facing Lower Demand – Can’t Sell All Oil Produced

How’s this for a counterintuitive article; that is if one doesn’t believe in the law of supply and demand.

In the Wall Street Journal June 5, 2006 by Bhushan Bahree
Saudi Arabia's oil minister confirmed his country's crude output has fallen but said it was due to a drop in demand and denied the kingdom aims to limit supply.

Saudis Cite Market Forces For Lower Crude Output

Kingdom Denies Any Effort To Curb Global Oil Supply; Stores Are Near Capacity

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Saudi Arabia's oil minister confirmed that his country's massive crude-oil output has declined in recent months, but he attributed the trend to a drop in demand and denied the kingdom is aiming to limit supply.

In an interview after a meeting here of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Ali Naimi said other cartel members are having trouble finding buyers for all the crude they are producing, at a time when global stores are near full and many refiners have closed facilities for routine maintenance. One Saudi official said an estimated three million barrels a day of refining capacity is out of action and unable to process crude, at a time when the world is using some 84 million barrels a day of oil products like gasoline and jet fuel.

"It's not just heavy oil. Even light oil is having problems" finding buyers, Mr. Naimi said, referring to premium grades of crude known as light crude that are highly prized by refiners because they have high gasoline yields.

Asked if the kingdom was easing up on supply because of concern about the buildup of inventories in the U.S. and other importing countries, Mr. Naimi rejected such a motive, replying: "At $70 a barrel?" Mr. Naimi suggested that producers will sell all the oil they can at such high prices.

The implication of Mr. Naimi's remarks is that Saudi Arabia would again open its oil spigots when buyers ask for more oil. For the past two years, the Saudis say, their policy has been to sell as much oil as buyers want, to the limit of the kingdom's production capacity.

U.S. benchmark crude for July delivery settled at $72.33 a barrel, up $1.99, on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday. So far in 2006, crude oil is up $11.29 a barrel, or 18%, and the price has more than doubled since the end of 2003 due to rising global demand and supply constraints.

The Saudi minister said the kingdom's oil output fell to 9.1 million barrels a day in April, the most recent figures available. Saudi output averaged nearly 9.5 million barrels a day in the first quarter, according to data compiled by the International Energy Agency.

The Saudi oil czar shrugged off concerns about large inventories, a trend that some in OPEC have cited as warranting a cutback in production. Mr. Naimi said producers must focus not only on stockpiles but also on spare oil-pumping capacity world-wide. Because there is little extra oil that exporters can produce, oil held in inventories can act as a cushion against supply disruptions.

But he ruled out the idea of Saudi Arabia discounting its oil to sell more barrels. "We will not leave money on the table" for others, Mr. Naimi said.

Saudi Arabia prices its oil according to a formula that takes into account prevailing prices on futures markets and on refinery margins -- or the difference between the price of crude and the price of crude-based fuels -- in different regions. It adjusts prices monthly for America, Europe and Asia. Many other exporting countries follow the kingdom's lead. OPEC's members assert that by basing prices on futures markets and on refining margins, they in effect let markets set the price of their oil.

With prices near a nominal high -- though still shy of highs reached in the early 1980s when adjusted for inflation -- OPEC's ministers on Thursday brushed aside a proposal by Venezuela to trim output and decided to maintain current output quotas totaling 28 million barrels a day, excluding Iraq.

OPEC and industry officials say the cartel's output is currently below that. In part that is because of supply shortfalls in Nigeria, whose production has been hobbled by political violence. But cartel officials say the production shortfall is also because Saudi Arabia and others in the cartel are encountering problems selling oil. Buyers have cut back purchases from other exporters, including Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

Iran's response has been to keep pumping oil and storing it, some of it in tankers, while it looks for buyers on the spot market. Some industry estimates put the oil Iran has stored in the past six weeks or so at more than 20 million barrels.

A senior Iranian oil official attending the OPEC meeting confirmed that his country, OPEC's second-largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia, was having trouble selling heavy oil and was storing it. But he didn't specify the volumes involved.

In contrast, Saudi Arabia has reduced output to match demand for its crude. Saudi Arabia sells oil exclusively under long-term contracts with buyers that have some latitude in deciding how much crude to take every month at the prices specified by the kingdom. "We don't sell on the spot market," Mr. Naimi said.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Newspapers Pay Up Rather Than Chance Being Required to Reveal Their Sources

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee wins big time. Will this change Main Stream Media and there use of anonymous sources?

Read Associated Press June 2, 2006 article by Mark Sherman 5 News Organizations Agree to Pay Lee

WASHINGTON (AP) - Wen Ho Lee, the former nuclear weapons scientist once suspected of being a spy, settled his privacy lawsuit Friday and will receive $1.6 million from the government and five news organizations in a case that turned into a fight over reporters' confidential sources.

Lee will receive $895,000 from the government for legal fees and associated taxes in the 6 1/2-year-old lawsuit in which he accused the Energy and Justice departments of violating his privacy rights by leaking information that he was under investigation as a spy for China.

The Associated Press and four other news organizations have agreed to pay Lee $750,000 as part of the settlement, which ends contempt of court proceedings against five reporters who refused to disclose the sources of their stories about the espionage investigation.

Lee said of the settlement: "We are hopeful that the agreements reached today will send the strong message that government officials and journalists must and should act responsibly in discharging their duties and be sensitive to the privacy interests afforded to every citizen of this country."

The payment by AP, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and ABC is the only one of its kind in recent memory, and perhaps ever, legal and media experts said.

The companies said they agreed to the sum to forestall jail sentences for their reporters, even larger payments in the form of fines and the prospect of revealing confidential sources.

"We were reluctant to contribute anything to this settlement, but we sought relief in the courts and found none," the companies said. "Given the rulings of the federal courts in Washington and the absence of a federal shield law, we decided this was the best course to protect our sources and to protect our journalists."

The statement noted that the accuracy of the reporting itself was not challenged.

The government agencies did not admit that they had violated Lee's privacy rights.

Betsy Miller, one of Lee's lawyers, said the payments show "that both the government and the journalists knew that they had significant exposure had this case gone to trial."

Lee was fired from his job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, but he was never charged with espionage. He was held in solitary confinement for nine months, then released in 2000 after pleading guilty to mishandling computer files. A judge apologized for Lee's treatment.

Two federal judges held the reporters in contempt for refusing to reveal their sources to Lee. The journalists had argued that he could obtain the information elsewhere.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer signed an order Friday vacating the contempt proceedings against the reporters, H. Josef Hebert of The Associated Press, James Risen of The New York Times, Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times, Walter Pincus of The Washington Post, and Pierre Thomas, formerly of CNN and now working for ABC News.

CNN, in a separate statement, said it declined to join in the settlement "because we had a philosophical disagreement over whether it was appropriate to pay money to Wen Ho Lee or anyone else to get out from under a subpoena."

The reporters had appealed the contempt rulings to the Supreme Court. The justices recently delayed a decision on whether to take up the reporters' case after being told a settlement was near.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, called the payment unusual and perhaps unprecedented.

"I'm certainly not happy about this, but I'm not sure I could have dreamed up a better result," Dalglish said. "On the positive side, it appears that this result will allow these reporters to continue to protect their sources."

The settlement underscores the need for a federal law that would shield reporters from having to disclose their sources, she said.



Read New York Post May 24, 2006 by Kyle Smith

AL GORE'S global-warming documentary, "An Incon venient Truth," is sure to get an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, but Gore should campaign for Best Actor, too.

Avoiding the usual vein-popping diatribes, he comes across as learned, calm and folksy. But much of what Gore says in this slide show he gives to people whose minds are not yet fully formed (undergraduates, actors) is absurd, and his assertions often contradict each other.

He implies that no reputable scientists dispute anything he says - basically, that the ice caps are melting and people on the 50th floor of the Empire State Building had better learn to swim. But there is wide disagreement about whether humans are causing global warming (climate change preceded the invention of the Escalade) and about whether we should be worried about the trends. Look carefully at Gore's charts and you'll see that the worst horrors take place in the future of his imagination.

His implication that he is our only hope - every ticket bought for this movie amounts to a soft-money contribution to his 2008 campaign - is ridiculous. He and his friends were in charge for eight years. His charts say global warming got worse in that time. The environment doesn't seem to care whether the president is a Texas oilman or the Man from Hope.

Global warming hasn't noticed that we got the lead out of our gasoline or that Stage One smog days in Los Angeles fell from 121 in 1977 to zero in 2004. All regulations and taxes to date have done nothing. Does this hint that pollution isn't the cause?

Gore claims, with pie-chart-in-the-sky dreaminess, that unspecified measures can reduce emissions to 1970 levels. He assesses the tradeoff between the economy and the environment with the kind of buffoonery you'd expect in a Marxist comic book, displaying a cartoon of a scale with Earth on one side and bars of gold on the other. "OK, on one side we have gold bars," he says. "Mmm, mmm, don't they look good!"

Why doesn't he get specific and replace the "gold bar" side of the scale with, say, a $50,000 tax on SUVs? The ensuing destruction of the car business would hurt blue-collar workers, not the rich. What if global warming continued unabated? Gore's faith-based pessimism would lead him to call for even more taxes.

People are skeptical about global warming because it builds up to the same chorus as every other lefty hymn: more taxes, more hypocritical scolding (the film is the brainchild of Larry David's wife, Laurie, part of the community of people who drive a Prius to the private plane) and especially more America-bashing.

Gore says that America, alone, is the problem. Taking us to China, he ignores the filth spewed into the air by its coal-fired cities. He does not meet with bronchitic citizens who wear surgical masks outdoors and pause to hawk up brown gunk every few minutes. Instead, he tells us America is lagging behind. "China," he says, "is on the cutting edge" of environmentalism. Nonsense.

Gore is a dangerous evangelist for whom all roads lead to his sole, holy revelation. Remember how his son was injured in a car accident, the story he told at the 1992 convention? He's still telling it, and what was once touching has become exploitative. This time, the accident's meaning is that he wondered whether the Earth would still be there for his son. (Never mind that earlier in the film, he dates his eco-awakening to his Harvard years).

A sister who smoked and died of lung cancer? The lesson is that those who used to deny that smoking caused disease were wrong, so anyone who doubts catastrophic global warming must also be wrong.

Still not convinced that Gore's mind has only one emission? "We have to think differently about war," he says, referring to environmental effects of weapons. "We can't just mindlessly continue the patterns of the past." It's a chilling statement: Even when bombs are flying, Gore promises to measure CO2 first.

The man's shamelessness is astounding when he compares himself to Churchill, but that's not the worst of it. The final shot of Gore shows him bravely silhouetted against the cosmos, a lone figure tenderly surveying the firmament. The job he really wants, no recount can give him.