Saturday, September 20, 2008

Celebrity third-person

At the US State Dept today, deputy spokesperson Sean McCormack announced US Secretary of State Condi Rice was meeting with the Prime Minister and President of Kuwait "to talk about regional issues" and to "encourage the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Iraq and Kuwait."  Asked about the status of the treaty between the US and Iraq (wrongly called a SOFA) McCormack fell back on, "I'm not going to talk about the substance of the negotiations.  They continue.  There have been a lot of ups and downs in these negotiations.  But we still believe that we will be able to come to some agreement."  US troops are currently legally covered by a United Nations mandate which expires at the end of the year.  When that expires, if nothing is in place to replace it, as US Senator Joe Biden (also the Democratic vice presidential nominee) declared in a Senate session in April, then US troops would have to leave.  McCormack was asked about instead of attempting a new agreement, attempting to yet again extend the UN mandate.  McCormack dismissed the idea and stated, "The focus is still on getting an agreement between the United States and Iraq."  McCormack stated that the State Dept's David M. Satterfield would be returning to Iraq ("leaving again Monday" for Iraq).  Satterfield's title is Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and Coordinator for Iraq.
While McCormack's trip will focus mainly on the treaty, it's part of a diplomatic push on the part of the State Dept in the final days of the current administration.  Rice trip is part of that push.  In recent weeks, Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have all appointed ambassadors to Iraq; however, only the UAE has stationed their Ambassador to Iraq in Baghdad.  (The continued violence has prevented the other countries from doing so.)
The push comes as puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki makes noises against the treaty.  As Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reported yesterday and also on Wednesday (see Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot"), al-Maliki went on Iraqi TV Wednesday   Steven Lee Myers and Sam Dagher (New York Times) discover the remarks today and report that al-Maliki declares the sticking point is over immunity for American troops in Iraq and that al-Maliki floated the idea of asking for an extension of the UN mandate declaring, "Even if we ask for an extension, then we will ask for it according to our terms and we will attach conditions and the U.S. side will refuse.  U.S. forces would be without legal cover and will have no choice but to pull out from Iraq or stay and be in contravention of international law."
While al-Maliki raises that issue, one-time (and possibly current) CIA asset Ahmad Chalibi makes news.  As one of the proponents (and liars) in the lead up to the illegal war, Chalabi continues to garner attention.  UPI reports that he declared to the Islamic Republic News Agency that the treaties being proposed between the US and Iraq are an attempt by the US to push permanent bases.  He is quoted stating, "Within the framework of the security pact, the United States does not wish to merely have open military bases (in Iraq), rather secret military bases (there). If a security deal is not signed … by Dec. 31, regarding the recent U.S.-Russia row over Georgia and the Iraqi government's decision not to extend the U.S. forces' presence in Iraq for another year, the U.S. presence in Iraq will come across with difficulty in terms of the law."
Turning to the US Congress, Senators Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and John Ensign (Republican) are proposing a plan regarding Iraq's oil to the US State Dept.  Ben Lando (UPI) reports that the two senators are proposing that an oil trust fund be created for the Iraqi people and quotes an aide to Clinton explaining the proposal is similar to the Alaska model which "was 'inspiration for the idea of an oil trust' but that the State Department 'should develop a plan for Iraq so it fits Iraq's needs and provides several options'."  Lando reports the State Dept's reaction: "The department said Iraqi leaders don't feel the time is right for such a trust fund, which demands too much from Iraq's fragile bureaucratic and financial systems."  Lando adds that actions "continue to repair damage from storms in southern Iraq and a pipeline bomb in northern Iraq, bringing exports closer to the 1.9 million barrels per day averaged in August" and that an October 13th oil meeting will take place in London that "is expected to unveil the fields put to tender and the legal and technical specifics. The bidding for the fields is expected to be the first of many opportunities for international investment in Iraq's oil sector."
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) reports on the move for Baghdad's puppet government to take control of "Awakening" Councils next month with "at least 20 percent of the militiamen [due to be brought into] into the state security forces and find civilian jobs for the rest" and the reaction to the Sunnis about that plan which has left them suspicious following the targeting of Sunni "Awakening" leaders by al-Maliki. "Awakening" leader  Khalid  Ibrahim declares, "They [the US] should have consulted us before taking any decisions so we could have given our opinion. Instead they have treated us like a commodity that can be moved at will from one place to another. . . . The aim is to get rid of us. Why? Because of the upcoming provincial elections and then national elections. They fear that we will get power."  The provincial elections were due to take place this month; however, the inability to comes to terms with a basic agreement makes it unlikely that any elections will take place before year's end.  The United Nations is working on a proposal which they hope to present either by the end of this month or the start of October.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Barack and Franklin Raines deny their involvement

Starting with Tuesday's US House Committee on the Budget's hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus.  We're focused on the first panel where the witness was the Government Accountability Office's Joseph A. Christoff.  Tuesday's snapshot covered some of the statements by the committee chair John Spratt Jr., US House Rep Chet Edwards and US House Rep Lloyd Doggett.  Tuesday night, Mike noted some of US House Rep James McGovern's questioning as did Wednesday's snapshot which also noted Bob Etheridge, Dennis Moore and Tim Bishop.
Marion Berry: I also think anytime we have a hearing like this, we should first and foremost recognize the contribution and sacrifice that our men and women in uniform and their families have made and we should never ever fail to be appreciative of that.
Joseph Christoff: Absolutely.
Marion Berry: And show that appreciation in every possible way.  As I've listened to this testimony and we can talk about numbers, we can talk about policy and all of those things -- it seems to me that we're in a situation where it reminds me of a bumper sticker you see from time-to-time: "DON'T FOLLOW ME, I'M LOST."  You just said a while ago, that there's not a plan.  I don't know who doesn't have a plan.  It seems to me to be pretty obvious that nobody does.  I cannot imagine a more ridiculous situation than we're in right now.  I would like to think from some of the things you've said that we may actually have a reasonable expectation that it'll get a little better but at the same time we don't have any reason to think it's going to be cleared up and every thing's going to be in really good shape over there in the next few years.  Don't know how you define "few."  I'd say anything under five years.  But I just -- I don't see any, I'm like Mr. McGovern, I don't see any way to end this.  We just keep pouring money into that place.  We continue to make deals that no responsible person would enter into, it seems to me.  And we thank you for bringing us this information too, at least letting us know what is really going on as best as you're able to determine it and I'm confident that you've done that.  And we appreciate all of that.  Beyond that, I think it's time for the Congress, the American people, the administration and anyone else in a position of responsibility to being to start figuring out how we're going to get out of there and how we're going to bring this to a conclusion because the American people can't stand much more of it.  And I thank you for the work that you've done.
We have two more Democrats to note.  Other than Pete Ryan (Ranking Minority Member), Republicans elected to skip to the first panel. 
Allyson Schwarts: I also thank you for this information.  And it's important for us to be having this hearing today and I thank the chairman for doing it because we -- and in some ways, you're offering suggestion on how we can see our way out of this if we just really look at things really quite differently which is that -- as has been pointed out, you pointed out and many of the speakers before me have pointed out -- we have, we're looking at working with the Iraqis to make sure that they use their almost $80 billion surplus to start spending their money on reconstruction.  And I was particularly struck that recently there was a -- I guess it was back in August -- some discussions about rebuilding police stations in Iraq and spending American dollars to do that.  I have to say representing the city of Philadelphia and the suburbs, I go to police stations and fire stations all across my district and they need reconstruction.  And so instead of a president saying we're going to spend our dollars on reconstructing our police stations and helping our first responders we're spending American dollars on reconstruction in Iraq when the Iraqis are actually sitting on $79 billion.  Now you talked about the politics of why it hasn't happened but my question really is how can we -- is there a way for us to, one, start to say  -- we've tried to in Congress -- to say Iraqis should start paying for reconstruction.  I believe the last bill we passed actually had the condition of their spending 50%
Joseph Christoff: Right.
Allyson Schwartz:  -- on going forward on that.  Is there anyway that you would actually -- that we could insist upon that happening?  Is there a way that we could get back some of these dollars that we're spending now that are committed into the future?  We were led to believe several years ago that we would not have to pay for this war at all.  And that's been pointed out as well.  And yet we are right now spending billions of American tax payer dollars to reconstruct Iraq when Iraq has the money.  And adding insult to injury we're spending a whole lot, every American family, on the price of gasoline that we're buying from the Iraqis. I mean something about this picture just isn't right no matter how you feel about this war or our going into it.  I've been asked just recently this weekend was asked about how we could -- why we're not doing enough to make sure that we get the Iraqis to spend their money on reconstruction.  And I understand the politics of it.  And I understand even the difficulties on some of the buerocrats.  But even if we lend expertise even if we help them figure out how to do this -- why -- is there more that we could be doing to make sure that going forward the Iraqis are spending their money, particularly the surplus  -- $80 billion dollars surplus, rather than the American tax payer on reconstruction of basic infrastructure for the Iraqi people which we all agree needs to get done.  But why not the Iraqis?  And why is this administration -- that's political. What could we be doing even from your perspective to make sure that going forward this is really a changed world, we're not spending American tax dollars on reconstruction, the Iraqis are?
Joseph Christoff: Well let's just talk about this concept of trying to get repayment for perhaps what we did.  I think we began in 2004 with good intentions.  With good intentions to the fact that the Iraqis at that time did not have the resources.  So when you appropriated the $18.4 billion dollars in IRRF 2 (Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund) it was "to jump start the reconstruction process" under two premises that generaly did not pan out.  One that it would be a benign environment where you could do reconstruction without violence and secondly the Iraqis would step up to the plate and third the international community would contribute.  Those premises never really panned out until quite frankly recently where we see the Iraqis now have a substantial amount of money.  I shouldn't say recently. They had surpluses in '05, '06 and '07 as well because they didn't spend on the investments.
Allyson Y. Schwartz: But you're making a good point, if things are more secure if the issues around violence allows them to do some of this reconstrutcion without spending so many dollars on security can we actually get them to both repay us and get them to pay going forward?
Joseph Christoff: Yeah, I don't know if we want to take back our generous contributions to try to jump start -- because I thought they were good intentions back in 2004. But again going forward I do think you should have the healthy debate about cost sharing.  And you began it with the roughly three billion dollars that you put and the restrictions you put on the economic support fund -- that it should be a dollar for dollar cost sharing. The State Department in two weeks has to send a report to the Congress certifying that the Iraqis are engaged in cost sharing on the ESF so it will be interesting to see exaclty  how the State Department can confirm that that is actually occurring
Allyson Y. Schwartz: I should say not just interesting but also important to our financial security here at home and to respond to the Amercian people that we've actually said that there had to be cost sharing dollar for dollar and it will be important for us to see that that is actually happening going forward.   And of course we'd like to see at some point the Iraqis pick up much more of the reconstruction if not all of it.
The last Congress member to question Christoff was Marcy Kaptur.  Pay close attention to his final answer to her.  She's asking for very basic information, stats and figures (including arrests) and that information, according to Christoff, isn't public.  It recalls his earlier comment to House Rep Tim Bishop who merely asked about the possible impact of the de-Baathifcation legislation (passed but not implemented) which resulted in Christoff informing Bishop that it was classified information he could not reveal in an open hearing.  What are the possible effects of that legislation -- labeled a benchmark by the White House -- can't be made public.  Now Bishop and Kaptur both have clearance.  They can get the information as members of Congress.  But what Christoff's testimony repeatedly underscored was how much information is being kept from the American people.
Marcy Kaptur: I've been looking over one of the charts that we've been provided that shows the increase in spending by the people of the United States on the war in Iraq and I think everyone knows that every year it gets larger.  I remember Secretary [Paul] Wolfowitz coming up before our defense committee saying that we didn't have to worry about this because it would all be paid for. Well, where is he now?  I have no idea where he is but he certainly wasn't correct in those statements which I think influenced a lot of the members of this Congress to vote in the way that they did.  But one of the bits of information that I have here, that I want you to clarify for me deals with the, what appears to me to be two structures operating in Iraq -- one by the United States and one by the government of Iraq.  It says: "While the United States has spent 70% of the $33 billion that it has allocated for  key security, oild, water and electricity sectors." In other words, we're spending down the money that the American people have allocated for this.  Iraq has only spent 14%  of the $28 billion it allocated to those sectors or less than 3% of the 10 billion that it had programmed from the year 2005 to 2008.  So as I read these numbers and I'm looking at the expenditure of our dollars and we look at how much we have spent versus how much they have spent, it seems to me then that there may be two structures operating in Iraq: The American paid for structure and then the Iraqi structure. Because how could the Iraqis be doing such a poor job?  Is my perception correct that in fact there are two structures operating there?  
Joseph Christoff: Well in terms of the --
Marcy Kaptur: For electricity, for water, for oil and security>
Joseph Christoff: Well in terms of how things are spent, obviously when the US spends its money, the majority of that is being spent through the Corp of Engineers -- they've been the big builder using US appropriated dollars.  So they're using Corp of Engineering contracting, procurement, budgeting procedures.  When you look at how the Iraqi government is spending its resources, it's going through its own ministries -- oil and electricity, water  -- to try to do the types of contracting and procurement.  So yes there are seperate procedures because there are seperate pots of money.  
Marcy Kaptur: I appreciate that because if in fact oil production has gone up it's been because of US expenditures because obviously the Iraqi expenditures aren't locking in.
Joseph Christoff: Right.  Most of the money on oil infrastructure has been the US funding.
Marcy Kaptur: Then why would Iraq sign its first contract with China? You have any --
Joseph Christoff: I don't know. 
Marcy Kaptur: -- clarity on that?
Joseph Christoff: No.
Marcy Kaptur: And Royal Dutch Petroleum, Royal Dutch/Shell is the next one they signed a deal with? I just find all of this very, very strange.  Could you also tell me in terms of the sabatoge and the smuggling --
Joseph Christoff: Mmh-hmm
Marcy Kaptur: -- it's estimated by some that at least a third of what is occurring in the oil sector -- and again, it's unclear to me who is really managing the oil sector? Is it the US dollars that have been allocated or is it the Iraqi dollars that really have a handle on what is happening in the oil sector?  But regardless, if you have any comments on that I would appreciate it, of the dollars being expended, why is so much being smuggled out of there?  Who doesn't have control of what's happening in the oil fields?
Joseph Christoff: Well I think actually the smuggling and the diversions have declined over the past couple  years.  The biggest problem that occurred back in 2006 was massive smuggling -- estimates of up to two million dollars out of the Baiji refinery because there was not sufficient protection forces around it.  The US and the Iraqi government have responded by putting more protection forces around the majory refinery in Iraq at Baiji and also trying to set up these oil facility police forces that are trying to manage and protect the oil pipelines and the infrastructures particularly in the north. But there are still interdictions that are occuring because you can't cover everything and --
Marcy Kaptur: May I ask you, sir, who hires those security officers for those oil installations?
Joseph Christoff: Yeah, right now it's the Ministry of OIl but it's supposed to eventually be subsumed in the Ministry of Interior's police forces
Marcy Kaptur: But if we look at the expenditure of Iraqi dollars to do all of this, it looks like the US contracted operations are spending their dollars down without them, Iraq wouldn't be able to function.  Am I correct?  If you just pulled the US contracts and llet them fly on their own.
Joseph Christoff: Well we have lots of reconstruction projects in all of the critical sectors including the oil sector so we have been investing over the past several years in trying to build pipelines, trying to improve the refinery capacity -- a lot of individual projects have added up to billions of dollars.  The Iraqis are trying to spend more money in terms of the oil sector.  One of the problems with the Ministry of Oil is that, unlike the Ministry of Electricity,  it has not developed any type of a plan to determine what its needs are, its priorities and exactly where it should be spending its future resources. And the Ministry of Electricity has a pretty good plan.  The Ministry of Oil does not yet have a plan to try to set its own priorities.  And he himself has estimated that he needs $30 billion to try to improve the oil infrastructure in Iraq.
Marcy Kaptur: I know my time has expired. If I wanted to read one clear report on what is really going on inside the Iraqi oil sector what would I read?
Joseph Christoff: Inside the Iraqi oil sector? 
Marcy Kaptur: For security officers.  Who's paying for it, how much is being smuggled, who did the smuggling, was anybody aprehended?  Where do I find that?  
Joseph Christoff:  Well I'd probably have to go back to some of the CIA reports that I read that you wouldn't be able to read in public domain.
Marcy Kaptur: Thank you.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
 Again, Kaptur is asking for very basic information.  She's not asking for information on how to build a weapon.  Stats is all she's asking for and she's informed that the information isn't for the public.  The operations Christoff is reporting on are paid for by the tax payer and the tax payer is repeatedly told that things are 'improving' in Iraq.  So why is very basic information being kept from the tax payers.  And if, dropping back to Bishop's question, the US anticipates that there will be some awful bloodbath as a result of the de-Baathification legislation, since the White House has labeled it a benchmark and since it has yet to be put into effect, shouldn't both the American people and the Iraqi people have a right to know the projections that have been made on that?
[. . .]
Staying with politics,  this weekend's NOW on PBS offers:
How have women in politics changed America and the world? NOW on PBS investigates with an hour-long special hosted by Maria Hinojosa: "Women, Power and Politics: A Rising Tide?"

See the show on television this weekend or watch online STARTING SATURDAY
 [. . .]

Show Description: 
Given the hoopla surrounding Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton's historical political ascendance, why does the U.S. rank so low among countries for percentage of women holding national office? On Friday, September 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), in a one-hour special, NOW's Maria Hinojosa talks to women leaders around the world and here in the United States for an intimate look at the high-stakes risks, triumphs, and setbacks for women leaders of today and tomorrow.
Among these women are President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, the first woman leader in Latin America who did not have a husband precede her as President, and former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, now in a tight race for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

We also travel to Rwanda, where, 14 years after a horrific massacre left nearly one million people dead, women make up nearly half of parliament; and to Manhattan, where ambitious high school girls are competing in a high-stakes debate tournament.

"Women, Power and Politics," is also about the personal journey of mother and award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa as she strives to answer the question: "What does to mean to be a woman in power?"

Watch a preview and excerpt of this special program at this web address:

Use this directory tool to find out where the show is airing in your area:

The NOW website ... will feature web-exclusive commentary from noteworthy women including Maria Bartiromo, Sandra Cisneros, and Tina Brown; a personal essay from Maria Hinojosa; an interactive debate over Sarah Palin's candidacy; as well as opportunities for all women to post and share their stories of ambition, success, and discouragement.

(The "interactive debate" over Sarah Palin's candidacy is live now ...)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Next stop, The Surreal Life!

Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Committee on the Budget's hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus and since the hearing's gotten so little attention, we'll note some more of it.  (Ironically, Katrina vanden Heuvel's insisting that it's time to 'get real' but to read anything at The Nation is to grasp Katrina's as ignored at The Nation as she is in the rest of the world.  Katha Pollitt's 'getting real' about the issues by writing about . . . castrating bulls.)  US House Rep John Spratt Jr. chairs the committee with Paul Ryan being the Ranking Member of the Republican Party.  The first panel is our focus and that was when the committee heard testimony from the Government Accounting Office's Joseph A. Christoff.  Spratt noted that while the US budget deficit was "expected to exceed $400 billion for the current fiscal year," Iraq is expected to see a huge budget surplus in the billions.  Christoff explained that the estimate for Iraq's surplus this year is between $67 billion and $79 billion dollars.  US House Rep Chet Edwards was noted yesterday and he highlighted the physical costs to the US (the lives of US service men and women), the financial cost, the predictions by then Dept. Sec of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in 2003 that Iraq would be paying "for its own reconstruction" and the new $3 billion dollar deal Iraq had just signed with the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation.  US House Rep Lloyd Doggett was also noted yesterday and he wanted to focus on the failure of the benchmarks -- set by the White House.  Christoff wanted to dicker with Doggett over this so Doggett used his time to go through as many as possible to illustrate that the benchmarks are not being met.  He noted at the end, "And I see my time's up but, Mr. Chairman, we can keep going down the objectives that President Bush set himself for success, for victory, in Iraq and you'll find that it continues to fail, that this policy has been a failure.  American tax payers are having to fund the failure while the Iraqis pay a fraction of the price we pay for a gallon of gasoline."   Last night, Mike noted some of US House Rep James McGovern's testimony and we'll note some of the hearing beginning with McGovern.
James P. McGovern: And the government of Iraq, the Maliki government, I know that you didn't look at the issue of corruption, but it is corrupt. I wouldn't trust them to tell me the correct time. . . . And we're hearing people kind of rationalizing and explaining away why they don't need to spend their surplus, you know why we need to continue to shoulder the burden. Why would the Iraqi government want to change this sweet deal that they have with the US government? We are a cheap date in this whole matter. I mean we are giving and giving and giving and sacrificing and sacrificing and sacrificing and yet they have this incredible surplus. So what are the incentives and what should we be doing, what should this administration be doing, what should Congress be doing, to kind of force this issue?  You have obviously talked to the people in the administration and people in the department.  What is the plan?  What is the plan to kind of, to transition, to kind of force the Iraqi government's hand, you know, to take more responsibility that we can get out, we can end our occupation, we can end our involvement here and stop sacrificing so much of our resources in this effort?
Joseph Christoff:  Uhm, I don't know if I've seen a plan that would actually talk about transitioning so that the Iraqis begin spending more money.  But I think you all have begun that debate within the Congress.  As I mentioned before, when you passed a portion of the supplemental in June you had about $3 billion for what's called the Economic Support Fund.  That was the first time that there was legislation that called for Iraq to have  a dollar for dollar cost share for the small reconstruction projects that this ESF fund supports. I also know that in part of the NDA discussion there is discussion about also extending that type of cost-sharing to what we provide for the continued training and equipping of Iraq security forces.  That area alone, we've appropriated -- you've appropriated -- $20 billion dollars.
James P. McGovern: Well I realize that's a step in the right direction but quite frankly it's kind of a modest -- less than modest -- step in the right direction. We've been doing this for years now, we've been involved in this war for many years.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, about this war  has turned out as advertised by the proponents of this war and it just seems to me that given the nature of the Iraqi government, given the problem of corruption in that government and given what I believe is an unwillingness to take more responsibility in light of the fact that they don't need to.  I mean, again, we're spending $10 billion a month.  Ten billion dollars a month in Iraq and they have these surpluses.  I guess my frustration is that there isn't more frustration by those who -- proponents of this war to force the Iraqi government's hand to take more responsibility.  But I appreciate your testimony.  I think it's very helpful.  
Next up was US House Rep Bob Etheridge.
Bob Etheridge: I guess as I look at that and think of the numbers and where we are, I happen to represent a lot of men and women at Fort Bragg and Pope [Air Force Base] who spent an awful lot of time oversees.  At the same time, their children attend the public schools here in the United States and my question, I think, sort of fits in a little different area than what we've heard as you've mentioned we're spending about $10 billion a month of US revenues in Iraq and your report tells us that Iraqi government is not spending its own funds to maintain these reconstruction projects at a level they should.  Actually only about 14% of the 28 that's allocated for security, water, oil, electricity, etc. And we have a myriad of spending needs here at home. I won't even go through the list, I just want to talk about one of them because we need to be building some school buildings in and around my district [second district of North Carolina] where we've got children in trailers and we've got one school that has 50% of our military children in buildings that ought to be able to have modern buildings. My question to you is what factors are keeping the Iraqis from taking more responsibility for its own reconstruction? And how can we address that problem or how should we address it?
Joseph Christoff: Well the factors that were cited in terms of their low expenditure rates for investment -- that's for reconstruction --  were the fact, again, that they have weak procurement budgeting, contracting procedures in place, they have low thresholds in terms of the approving authorities.  They have to go the highest levels to get actually approving authority for the contracting.  They have a brain drain in terms of the many technocrats that left the country that were responsible for many of these budgeting procurement issues.  I've spoken with DoD advisors to the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior. They have difficulties just teaching basic accounting and spreadsheet technology to some of the Iraqis.  And also keep in mind, this is a cash-based economy.  Things are done by cash.  They have hand ledgers to keep track.  There is not -- there is not an automated financial management sytem in place within Iraq.
Bob Etheridge: I think the thing that bothers me and I think a lot of folks who remember, you know the US tax payers have financed nearly $50 billion in Iraqi reconstruction in addition to all the other funds we've put in place and now we're spending about 10 billion a month and at the same time we see almost 80 billion in surplus.  And then I'm reminded, and I think most folks are, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said in 2003 that the Iraqis could pay for reconstruction themselves and relatively soon.  And I think we have a chart here, chart one, that shows that.  Now it's quite obvious he was wrong or overstated or something because we pay twice.  We've paid a 50 billion dollar reconstruction bill and now we're spending 10 billion a month and we're paying billions of dollar at the pump with gasoline.  Is this a fair assessment?  I mean, I just this weekend had people climb on my shoulders and I don't disagree with them.  They are paying a ridiculous price for gasoline and at the same time in Iraq they're subsidizing their citizens and we're paying more for it over there to keep our troops in Iraq.
Joseph Christoff: Well I think in terms of the Secretary's original statement Iraq does have now the capabilities to begin financing its reconstruction.  It didn't have it in the part of 2003 or 2004.  When you're talking about paying at the pump . . . Now I mentioned the $1.18 per gallon but frankly that's the price in the region.  That's what Kuwaitis pay, Saudis pay.  So the IMF goal was to try to get them to raise their prices  to at least the regional level and they have dramatically reduced their subsidies for gasoline, kerosene and diesel.  Trying to give them a little bit of credit for their achievements.

Bob Etheridge: But my concern is that our troops aren't getting that benefit over there and we aren't getting it in terms of paying for it by the American citizens buying that fuel to help protect them.
Joseph Christoff: Yeah I think in fact that when we look at receipts where Iraq actually sold its oil about a third of the oil did come to the United States.
Etheridge's time was up and Moore went next.
Dennis Moore: Do you know the projected United States' deficit for this year?

Joseph Christoff: Well the latest CBO was approaching over $400 billion
Dennis Moore: So we are approaching, according to CBO projection, a $400 billion deficit as a nation to add to our 9.6 trillion debt now is that correct?
Joseph Christoff: Based upon what I read in the CBO projections that correct.  
Dennis Moore: And Iraq has a projected surplus this year of $70 billion dollars?
Joseph Christoff: Up to $79 billion.
Dennis Moore: Up to $79 billion.  What's wrong with this picture that we have a huge projected deficit, they have a good projected surplus and they're asking us basically to pay for reconstruction in Iraq?  I guess I'm asking a rhetorical question because I think you've already answered that. What incentive, from your perspective, does the Iraqi government have to step up and assume responsibility for this if they've got us paying for everything right now? Not only money, but 4,000 American lives.
Joseph Christoff: Well I think that remains a concern in terms of how you incentivize the Iraqi government to begin spending of its own money.  The incentives are also going to have to come on the part of the Iraqi people.  They are still only getting about ten hours of electricity a day.  They're still not getting potable water.  Only a third of the children in Iraq have clean water even despite our reconstruction efforts.  So there has to be some incentivizing on the part of the Iraqi people to demand more from their own government.
Dennis Moore: And the Iraqi people have to step up to the plate and support their own government, don't they?
Joseph Christoff: Mmm-hmm.
Dennis Moore: If anything's going to change here? 
Joseph Christoff: Yes.
Dennis Moore: But they do have gasoline for $1.18 a gallon and we have gasoline for $3.50 a gallon in this country.  Is that about right?
Joseph Christoff: I bet disiel cars pay a little bit more.
Dennis Moore: Good.  Good.  And so basically right now what we're doing -- and this is the last question I have -- we're just charging the reconstruction cost to our national charge card and passing the bill on to our children and grandchildren and future generations in this country, isn't that correct?
Joseph Christoff: Well we have spent -- you have appropriated $48 billion for reconstruction and stabilization
Dennis Moore: Yes sir.
Joseph Christoff: Of the big infrastructure projects are tapering off so the additional money you've been providing through the economic support fund is for smaller reconstruction projects.  But we still have spent a chunk of change in trying to rebuild that country. 
Tim Bishop went next and note that when Moore was saying "Good. Good." he was also attempting to shut off his cell phone which had begun ringing, 
Tim Bishop: My understanding, the first Iraq War, total cost was about $61 billion.  The net cost to the United States was about $2.1 billion.  And the difference between gross cost and net cost was in some cases in-kind contributions from some of our coalition partners and in other case our coalition partners simply reimbursed us for monies that we laid out.  Does that comport with your understanding?
Joseph Christoff: I don't know sir.  I know we did reports back in 91 and 92 in which we saw that -- we actually made a bit of a profit on the last war?
Tim Bishop: I won't comment.  What structural and/or legal impediments exist right now -- if any -- that would prevent Iraq from simply reimbursing us from their surplus for some portion of what we have already laid out?
Joseph Christoff: I don't know.  I would have to look into that and perhaps get back to you for the record.

Tim Bishop: Does that not represent a reasonable course of action for this country? To try to recoup some of the enormous amounts that we have laid out while Iraq is sitting on this very substantial surplus?
Joseph Christoff: Sir, I would think that was a policy decision that I would reserve to the Congress because I don't think it's appropriate for GAO to comment.
Tim Bishop: Secondly, if I understand your summary correctly, Iraq has spent approximately $4.3 billion dollars over a three year period on its reconstruction and on provision of services, is that about right?
Joseph Christoff: The $4.3 billion dollars is for the four critical sectors that we looked at.
Tim Bishop: And we have spent about $42 billion?
Joseph Christoff: Well that's $42 billion in total for all of our reconstruction.
Tim Bishop: For reconstruction --
Joseph Christoff: Beyond those four sectors.
Tim Bishop: So if I've done my math correctly, $42 billion -- every dime of which has been borrowed --  the annual interst on that is about 2.2 billion dollars or there about, if I've done my math correctly.  And Iraq is spending less than that on an annual basis for four critical areas so we're spending more on interest on the amount we've borrowed to rebuild their country than they are spending in total to rebuild their country on an annual basis?
Joseph Christoff: I'm from an accountability organization.  I'd have to take your numbers and go back and check them.
Tim Bishop: Okay.
Joseph Christoff: Before I could comment on them.
Tim Bishop: These are back of the envelope numbers, I acknowledge but they appear to be consistent with what you have reported. One last thing.  You and Ranking Member Ryan were engaged in a bit of a discussion about budget execution.
Joseph Christoff: Mmm-hmm.
Tim Bishop: To what extent do you believe that the decision to de-Baathify which deprived the Iraqi government of in effect a professional civil servant class, to what extent do you believe that decision has contributed to their inability to execute their budget plans?
Joseph Christoff: De-Baathi --  Were you going to interject?
That was said not to Rep Bishop who had the floor but to Republican Ranking Member Paul Ryan.
Paul Ryan: I just wanted to tack onto that because I think it's an excellent question.  Mr. Bishop, do you mind if I just tack onto the end of that question?
Tim Bishop: No, I would just like to --
Paul Ryan: It's a good question!  And the question is are any of these technocrats coming back now that the de-Baathifcation reforms have passed?  I'd like to know if you'd track that as well.
Joseph Christoff: Sure.  De-Baathifcation certainly was a factor in terms of the brain drain that has resulted in the lack of the kind of technocrats that Iraq needs for these ministry capacity -- for budgeting, procurement and contracting. Those type of Sunni technocrats are part of the over 2 million refugees in Syria and Jordan.  The extent to which they're coming back, it's a very small amount.  Ambassador Foley said two days ago that only about 16,000 of the 2 million refugees have actually returned to Iraq. I know I met some doctors when I was in Syria who wanted to return but they have no intentions of returning until they believe that the security situation is improved and they got a house.
Tim Bishop: One final question, you presided over the report that assessed performances on the benchmarks
Joseph Christoff: Yes, sir.
Tim Bishop: And one of those benchmarks was moving away from de-Baathification and restoring people to their jobs.
Joseph Christoff: Right.
Tim Bishop: In Mr. [Lawrence] Korb's [prepared] testimony [Korb would speak on the panel that followed], I don't know whether you've had the opportunity to see it, he makes the point that the current effort to address de-Baathification may well result in fewer Baath Party members working in the government under the new law than under the old law.  To what extent did you address that point in your assessment of the benchmark?
Joseph Christoff: Two parts in answering that question.  First of all, Iraq did pass a de-Baathification law which they passed in February.
Tim Bishop: The point of my question is what is the impact or ethicacy of that law?
Joseph Christoff: When we issued our progress report in June we had classified information that discussed that very issue that I could provide later for the record but I could not provide in an open session.
[. . .]
Governor Sarah Palin is McCain's running mate and the object of non-stop sexism.  Marie Cocco (Washington Post Writers Group) addresses some of it in her latest column:
This has a lot to do with a graphic image of Palin I just saw in which she is dressed in a black bustier, adorned with long, black gloves and wielding a whip. The image appeared in the Internet magazine Salon to illustrate a column titled: "The dominatrix," by Gary Kamiya. Kamiya calls Palin a "pinup queen," and says she not only tantalized the Republican National Convention with political red meat, but that her "babalicious" presence hypercharged the place with sexual energy, and naughty energy at that. "You could practically feel the crowd getting a collective woody as Palin bent Obama and the Democrats over, shoved a leather gag in their mouths and flogged them as un-American wimps, appeasers and losers."
That's some sexual mother lode. Dare I point out that I have never -- ever -- in three decades of covering politics seen a male politician's style, even one with an earthy demeanor, described this way?
Salon editor Joan Walsh says she agrees the "dominatrix" piece had a "provocative cover,'' and that her columnists enjoy great freedom. "One day Gary (Kamiya) called Palin a dominatrix, the next day Camille Paglia called her a feminist." The magazine exists, Walsh says, to "push the envelope."
No sooner did Walsh give me this explanation than another Salon contributor, Cintra Wilson, pushed that envelope again. Wilson described Palin as follows: an "f---able ... Christian Stepford wife in a 'sexy librarian' costume" who is, for ideological Republicans, a "hardcore pornographic centerfold spread." That is, when Palin is not coming across as one of those "cutthroat Texas cheerleader stage moms."
What is it about a woman candidate that sends the media into weird Freudian frenzies?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I feel your pain! Gotta jet!


US House Rep John Spratt Jr. chairs the Budget Committee (Paul Ryan is the Ranking Member of the Republican Party). Appearing before the committee were (first panel) the GAO's Joseph A. Christoff, (second panel) Congressional Research Service's Christopher M. Blanchard, AEI's Frederick Kagan and the Center for American Progress' Lawrence J. Korb.   We'll focus on some of the first panel only.
Spratt called the hearing to order and noted:
This hearing will be the first opportunity for the Congress to receive testimony on this report, the GAO report, since the Government Accountability Office released it several weeks ago.  GAO reports that Iraq is now running a substantial budget surplus -- it may reach $79 billion.   At the same time the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] reported last week that in contrast to Iraq's growing surplus, the budget deficit for the United States. is expected to exceed $400 billion for the current fiscal year.  That's the second largest deficit in our history.  Even bigger deficits are projected next year. This hearing will give the Budget Committee the chance to develop some insight into Iraq's fiscal situation and its ability to help pay for its own reconstruction.  So far the United States has provided more than $650 billion dollars for efforts in Iraq, $50 billion of which were for reconstruction and security forces training.  We're spending today at the rate of more than $10 billion a month which is by anybody's calculus a significant sum of money.  Given our budget deficits here at home, some find it difficult to understand why American tax payers are still funding Iraqi reconstruction and security training.  In funding the Gulf War, the first President Bush was able to secure much critical sharing from allies which greatly reduced the bill that the tax payers ultimately had to pay.  Let me say at the outset that this hearing is not a debate on the war, not a debate on the surge or plans for redeploying any troops we may have.  In fact, even the strictly budgetary issue of the total cost of the war -- military and reconstruction -- is larger than today's topic. We invited the Department of Defense to address a broader budgetary issue in our hearing this fall.  They declined to appear.  Thus today's hearing is called to examine the issue of the Iraqi budget surplus.  We on the Budget Committee want to asses for the purpose of projecting the bottom line whether the burden of Iraq's reconstruction can finally begin to shift from the United States to Iraq itself given the surplus they're currently enjoying.
Following the ranking Republican speaking, a cry of "End the occupation by defunding the occupation!" was chanted by one woman.  "You gonna call 'em?" asked Ryan leading Spratt to bang the gavel and declare to the woman, "I'm sorry you're out of order and you'll be removed from the room if you persist in doing what you're doing."  Ryan chuckled at that.
"Iraq has an estimated 115 billion barrels of crude oil reserves," declared Christoff at the start of his testimony.  "It's the third largest in the world.  And oil revenues are critical to Iraq's economy accounting for over half of the country's GDP [Gross Domestic Product] and over 90% of its revenues.  My statement today is based on the report we issued last month on Iraq's revenues, expenditures and surpluses from 2005 to 2008."
Christoff then reviewed some findings. From 2005 to 2007, $96 billion was generated in revenues (oil accounting for more than 90% of that money) and in 2008 $73 to $86 billion is the estimate for revenues "nearly as much as it generated in the prior three years."  By contrast, 2005 to 2007 saw the puppet government spent "$67 billion on operating expenses and investments.  Operating expenses such as salaries and goods and services consumed 90% of that total.  The remaining 10% was spent on investments such as structures and vehicles. In general, Iraq has spent less on investments than operating expenses."  Christoff estimates the surplus will be between $67 billion and $79 billion for this year.  He noted the claim that this would all be spent and how "a similar claim" was made from 2005 to 2007 but that never happened and instead "ended each of these years with budget surpluses."
John Spratt: If the will was there they could be spending it at a faster rate than they are?
Joseph Christoff: Well they can spend it on their operating budget with no difficulties.  They spent a large percent -- almost 80 percent -- on their operating budget. They can pay salaries.  They can buy certain operating goods and services but when it comes to the actual investment side to reconsruct bridges, roads, electricity and water facilities they fall short.
During his time, US House Rep Chet Edwards asked that Paul Wolfowitz ' statements be put up from 2003 when he was then Deputy Secretary of Defense and testified to the House Appropriations Subcommittee (March 27, 2003): "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon."
Chet Edwards: Given the GAO report, I guess I rank that administration prediction right up there with some of the predictions that we would be greeted as liberators, the war would be short-lived, it would cost the American tax payers less than a hundred billion dollars and we're turning the corner.  We've turned so many corners in Iraq I think we're all dizzy from that. Every time we turn one corner we find another roadbloc down the way.  I would like to ask you, just again, to get the facts on the table, in fact, let me ask staff to put up the chart on how much Iraq has spent and how much less it has spent than the US.  I just want to verify, Mr. Christoff, that according to this chart, the United States tax payers that are now facing historic deficits of over $400 billion this coming year, US tax payers have spent $23.2 billion on Iraq reconstruction.  Is that correct, Mr. Christoff?
Joseph Christoff: That's for four sectors that we looked at.
Chet Edwards: Okay.
Joseph Christoff: Security, oil, electricity and water.
Chet Edwards: Okay.  So reconstruction in those four sectors.  And the Iraqi government which I think now has an approximately $79 billion surplus has spent only $4.3 billion.  Is that fact --
Joseph Christoff: That's correct.
Chet Edwards: -- correct?
Joseph Christoff: Yes.
Chet Edwards: So the US tax payers -- in addition to something you can't put a dollar value on, we've sacrificed over 4,000 of our young men and women in combat there -- we've then also spent five times what the Iraqis have spent on reconstruction despite Secretary Wolfowitz' prediction that Iraq would very quickly be able to pay for its own reconstruction.  Let me ask you about this.  Am I correct in understanding from your report that the same Iraq for which we have sacrificed over 4,000 American lives has just signed a $3 billion agreement with the Communist Chinese National Petroleum Corporation to develop the Ahdab  oil field, is that correct?
Joseph Christoff: I don't have any first-hand information on it, sir.  It's just what I've read in the paper as perhaps you have as well.
Chet Edwards: Okay. Well for the record, I think that is, Mr. Chairman, correct. The Iraqi government, the same one that's building up a $79 billion surplus while American tax payers are paying for most of their reconstruction efforts has just signed a $3 billion agreement with the Communist Chinese National Petroleum Corporation.  And Mr. Chairman, it just boggles my mind to think that there would be any evidence that the Communist Chinese ability to develop oil fields is better than US corporations ability to do so.  So once again, we turn a corner and we're hit in the face with something I consider to be insulting.  
Edwards is correct re: CNP's contract.  August 29th snapshot: "Meanwhile, China scores big!  Erica Goode and Riyadh Mohammed (New York Times) announce that China National Petroleum signed a contract with the puppet government in Baghdad. With the DNC speeches this week repeatedly hitting on the borrowing from China, that will probably not go over well in this country."  Sept 3rd snapshot: " Eric Watkins (Oil & Gas Journal) states the oil contract to China National Petroleum Co (CNPC) has been approved by the Iraqi Oil Ministry today.  Today's Azzaman sees an exclusion of the US from the oil deals and insists this is due to pressure from Iran.  David Berman (Globe & Mail) dismisses 'the concern about China cornering Iraqi oil, it's nonsense'.  BBC via redOrbit documents the press conference in Baghdad today, presided over by Husayn al-Shahrastani."
US House Rep Lloyd Doggett was among the other Democrats asking questions and we'll note this exchange.

Lloyd Doggett: Do I understand from your testimony to Mr. Edwards a moment ago that a time when we were squandering our money and the Iraqis were saving their's that Iraqi citizens were paying about four cents a gallon for gasoline?
Joseph Christoff: Two years ago that's correct.
Lloyd Doggett: It's risen some since then?
Joseph Christoff: It's up to about $1.18 per gallon.
Lloyd Doggett: I think there are probably a lot of Americans who are paying for this so-called reconstruction in Iraq that would be mighty glad if they could get $1.18 gasoline. Did you play a role in the analysis of the benchmarks that the Government Accountability Office provided last year?
Joseph Christoff: Yes, sir.
Lloyd Doggett: What was that role?
Joseph Christoff: I was the director in charge of that report.
Lloyd Doggett: And have you also played the same role in responding to questions about the benchmarks from [House Armed Services Committee] Chairman [Ike] Skelton this year with the report that you just did in the last few weeks?
Joseph Christoff: Yes, I was the director on the progress report as well.
Lloyd Dogget: All of us remember, except maybe President Bush, that in January of 2007, he selected the benchmarks, the guidelines by which to measure success, by which to measure victory in Iraq and when we sought an analysis so we would have an objective information instead of just the propaganda from the administration about whether those benchmarks had been met the Congress turned to the Government Accountability Office. And my recollection is that when you came out with your report on August the 30th of last year that you determined that . . . 11 of the 18 benchmarks that President Bush had set were not met. Is that correct?
Joseph Christoff: Based on that prior report correct.
Lloyd Doggett: Yes, sir.  And you found that of the 18 benchmarks the president set himself to measure success in Iraq that only three had been met as of August 30, 2007. Now this year, a year later, you did some evaluation again.  You did not evaluate every single benchmark but you really found that there had been very little progress in the year.  We know that fortunately fewer Americans are being killed there. But in terms of the objective of the Bush policy in Iraq, you had a grand amount of success in that they met one more benchmark than they had the year before, isn't that correct?
Joseph Christoff: Well we didn't go through a benchmark by benchmark analysis but we did provide a report that talked about progess on the security front, the legislative front and the economic front in our June report.  
Lloyd Doggett: Right and I believe you found one more benchmark met than the year before.
Joseph Christoff: Again we didn't do a benchmark by benchmark analysis, sir.
Lloyd Doggett: Well if you look at the -- it may not have been called a benchmark analysis -- but you looked at some of the same factors you had the year before.  Just to begin to go through them, on the Constitutional Review Committee, you found that they'd formed the committee but the committee hadn't done anything.  Right?
Joseph Christoff: And that's still true.
Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met that.  On enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification you found that they had enacted the legislation but they hadn't implemented and of it, right?
Joseph Christoff: That's correct.
Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met the second benchmark.  On the question of enacting the hydrocarbon or oil legislation, you concluded that they had not met that again this year, did you not?
Joseph Christoff: Correct, and no progess this year either.
Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions -- that was the fourth benchmark President Bush had -- you found that that was only partially met.  Again they passed a law to allow the provinces to act but it hadn't been implemented.
Joseph Christoff: Well on that one it will be implemented when provinces come together to form regions so that's  an open --
Lloyd Doggett: Right, but we're not there yet.
Joseph Christoff: Well no provinces have voted to form regions other than the KRG originally.
Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation for an Independent High Electoral Commission you found only partially meeting it.  Again, they passed a law but hadn't implemented it.
Joseph Christoff: The commission was established.  The provincial election law -- the date was established for October 1 but the implementing laws have not been enacted.
Lloyd Doggett: Right. And they won't have the elections they've been promising us they'd have for a year in October.
Joseph Christoff: October 1, they will not meet that date.
Lloyd Doggett: On the enacting and implementing legislation for a strong militia disarmament program --
Joseph Christoff: That's not met.
Lloyd Doggett: That's not met.  And I see my time's up but, Mr. Chairman, we can keep going down the objectives that President Bush set himself for success, for victory in Iraq, and you'll find that it continues to fail.  That this policy has been a failure, American tax payers are having to fund the failure while the Iraqis pay a fraction of the price we pay for a gallon of gasoline.  Thank you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It was supposed to be easy

Turning to the US race for president.  Senator Hillary Clinton campaigned for Barack Obama, Democratic presidential nominee, in Ohio.  It's among the many states Hillary won during the primaries. Translation, among the many big states Barack lost in the primaries.  Toby Harnden (Telegraph of London) reports a large crowd turned out for Hillary in Akron and the ones he spoke with after have no plans to vote for Barack which would explain why Hardin observers that "the response to her remarks about him" Barack "was relatively muted."  Many speak of hoping for a 2012 run by Hillary, Sandy Wierzbicki wishes Hillary had been picked at the v.p. nominee, and Paul Barry may speak for a number when he declares, "I'll probably stay at home. It's all a media love fest with Obama. It's like it's 'American Idol' to choose the president. I don't like all the mystical, transcendental stuff from him.  Anyone can be in favour of change and brotherly love. Yes, he's inspirational. So why not give him his own show after Oprah? I'm into reality. I want to know the facts about what he'll get done. We need the meat and the potatoes, not just pie in the sky."
Riverdaughter (The Confluence) writes for many who will not vote for Barack, "One of the things that sets PUMAs apart from other Democrats is our built-in BS detectors.  The other thing is that we were supporters of Hillary Clinton because we saw her as the true Democrat in the race.  We liked her stands on the issues, her ability to reach out to every voter and her grace under pressure.  But the PUMA movement is not about Hillary.  It is about us, the voters.  The Obama campaign, the DNC and the media targetted *US*, Hillary's voters, for a peculiar brand of derision, disrespect and disenfranchisement this year."  Meanwhile Peggy Simpson (WMC) reports, "The Sarah Surge is unmistakable. GOP presidential nominee John McCain's support rose markedly after he named Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate--although after two solid weeks of Palin-all-the-time media attention, McCain still hasn't broken 50 percent. Republicans now are far more fervent backers of McCain, a candidate that the religious right and social conservatives opposed in past races and were lukewarm about in this one. Post-Palin, Republicans' strong backing of McCain nearly has doubled, from 39 percent in July to 71 percent in September, in a Newsweek poll."  Dr. Violet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) has compiled a series of quotes by Palin on feminist issues.  While Socks compiles what Palin has said, Joseph (Cannonfire) focuses on what was left out of an interview last week: "ABC News deliberately edited the interview with Governor Palin to make her appear bellicose and ignorant. You'll be shocked when you see what they left out. "  Palin was a hit in Carson City, Nevada Saturday. Scott Conroy (CBS News) describes it as a "rally in front of a raucus crowd of several thousands"  Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times) has posted the transcript which includes Palin noting one person attending, "I'm honored to hear that we have with us in our midst, so many of us who admire, Chuck Yeager, and I hear that he may be here. (Cheers, applause.) Now, he is a true American hero and maybe the first man to break the sound barrier. Hopefully he has a good idea maybe how that first woman can break the glass ceiling once and for all! (Cheers, applause.)"
Jo Freeman's "The 1976 Republican Convention" ( is a photo essay of a historic convention:
In this fractious atmosphere women and women's issues took a back seat to the Presidential campaigns. Feminists, acting through the Republican Women's Task Force (RWTF) of the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC), were part of the Ford campaign. The anti-feminists, acting through Phyllis Schlafly's STOP ERA, were Reagan supporters. 
These two groups fought over whether support for the Equal Rights Amendment should remain in the Republican Party Platform. It had been in the Platform from 1940 until 1964, when it disappeared without actually being removed. Even though all of the candidates for the 1964 Republican nomination (Goldwater, Rockefeller, Scranton, Smith) supported the ERA, a decision to write a very brief platform that year caused removal of many planks which had traditionally been in the Platform. In 1972, Republican feminists put it back in without opposition. Serious opposition to the ERA emerged the following year as the states debated whether or not to ratify the proposed Constitutional amendment
Both Ford and Reagan had supported the ERA when it was sent by Congress to the states on March 22, 1972. Between then and 1976, Ford strengthened his support. His wife, Betty, was an ERA champion. While Governor of California, Reagan had also supported the ERA. When he decided to run for the 1976 nomination he switched sides to court the large number of conservative women who did not like it. 
Again, it's a photo essay with many photos from her own personal collection.  (She covered both the Democratic and Republican 1976 conventions and may be posting a photo essay of the Dems shortly.) Staying with photos and journalism, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press).  He is in the midst of a book tour and some of the upcoming dates include:
Sept 16
Photography exhibition and reception, 6:30PM
Living Under the Trees
Exhibition 9/1-10/1
Santa Paula Family Resource Center
940 E. Main Street, Santa Paula, CA
Sept 17
Book discussion, Illegal People, 2:30PM
Transborder Institute, University of San Diego
5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA
Sept 21
Presentation at REFORMA Conference, 10AM
National Association to Promote Library and Information Services
to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking,
El Paso, Texas
Sept 22
Book presentation, Illegal People,12:30PM
Fall for the Book, Grand Tier III, Center for the Arts,
Photography exhibition, Johnson Center's Gallery 123, 9/21-26
George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Sept 29
Book discussion, Illegal People, 6PM
World Affairs Council, 312 Sutter St., #200, San Francisco
Sept 30
Book discussion, 7:30PM
Illegal People and The Accidental American, by Rinku Sen
Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia St., San Francisco