Under the Radar
ETHICS — CONTROVERSIAL INTERIOR DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL RESIGNS: Julie A. MacDonald, a senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department, resigned yesterday ahead of her upcoming appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The committee is set to hold a hearing next week “on accusations that she violated the Endangered Species Act, censored science and mistreated staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” A civil engineer with no training in biology, MacDonald, as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, often overruled and disparaged the findings of scientists on her staff, instead relying on the recommendations of political and industry groups to decide which imperiled animals and plants should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Under MacDonald and other Bush administration appointees, just 56 species have been listed under the Endangered Species Act as of Nov. 2006, a rate of about 10 a year. Under President Clinton, officials listed 512 species, or 64 a year, and under President George H.W. Bush, the department listed 234, or 59 a year. MacDonald’s departure also “came as the agency was discussing plans to demote her,” an Interior Department official told the Washington Post. In a report by the inspector general of the Interior Department earlier this year, MacDonald was chastised for “disclosing confidential documents to ‘private sector sources’ such as the Pacific Legal Foundation and the California Farm Bureau Federation, both of which have challenged endangered-species listings.” Environmental groups praised her departure. “Increasing transparency in the decision-making process would make other political appointees think twice before altering or distorting scientific documents,” said Francesca Grifo, director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
IRAQ — STATE DEPARTMENT CLAIMS IRAQ HAS BEEN ‘GOOD FOR THE EFFORT TO REDUCE TERRORISM’: On Monday, the State Department released its annual terrorism report, showing that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide rose by 20,000 (40 percent) last year. Iraq accounted for nearly two-thirds of last year’s terrorism-related deaths. The number of terrorism “incidents in Iraq rose 91 percent, from 3,468 in 2005 to 6,630 in 2006.” At Monday’s briefing on the report, a reporter asked whether, in light of the skyrocketing death count in Iraq, the Iraq war has “been good for the effort to reduce terrorism generally.” Frank C. Urbancic, the State Department’s Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, agreed and defended the war, stating that “if the battle against terrorism isn’t in Iraq, it’s going to be somewhere else” He then added, “I mean, Iraq is at least a relatively friendly place. The people of Iraq are deserving people and they deserve better and it’s good for us to help them” (See the video HERE). The rapid rise of worldwide terrorist attacks was not inevitable. It is a direct result of the Iraq war, as the new State Department report proves. Last year’s National Intelligence estimate also concluded, “The Iraq conflict has become the ’cause celebre’ for jihadists, … cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.” In a recent survey of foreign policy experts, 81 percent said they believe that the world is becoming less safe. But according to Urbancic’s logic, it is good that the terrorists are in Iraq — rather than in another country — because it is a “relatively friendly place” and the “people of Iraq are deserving people.”
IRAQ — SUSTAINED WAR WILL LEAD TO ‘FEWER JOBS AND SLOWER ECONOMIC GROWTH’: According to the Congressional Research Service, the vetoed $124 billion Iraq supplemental and the President’s new “request for $116 billion” to fund the war in the next fiscal year will “push the total for Iraq to $564 billion.” That amount is “about ten times more than the Bush administration anticipated before the war started four years ago, and no one can predict how high the tab will go.” Before the war, the White House estimated the “conflict would cost about $50 billion” and “White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey lost his job after he offered a $200 billion estimate.” Robert Hormats, author of The Price of Liberty, worries that the Bush administration’s “painless” approach to war funding in which the “average American” feels “no economic consequence” will hamper our nation’s ability to address domestic concerns like Social Security and Medicare. A new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that Hormats’s concerns are legitimate and that sustained expenses of the war in Iraq will likely lead “to fewer jobs and slower economic growth.” The study shows that while some short-term benefits to increased military spending are likely, the long-term strains on the economy produces “considerably higher” inflation and interest rates, reduces the number of available jobs, and “diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment.” As Hormats said of the war time economy, “You can’t have business as usual.”