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Editor, The Konformist
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Are We There Yet? (At the end of time)
William F. Buckley Jr. dies at 82
By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer
William F. Buckley Jr., the erudite Ivy Leaguer and conservative
herald who showered huge and scornful words on liberalism as he
observed, abetted and cheered on the right's post-World War II rise
from the fringes to the White House, died Wednesday. He was 82.
His assistant Linda Bridges said Buckley was found dead by his cook
at his home in Stamford, Conn. The cause of death was unknown, but
he had been ill with emphysema, she said.
Editor, columnist, novelist, debater, TV talk show star of "Firing
Line," harpsichordist, trans-oceanic sailor and even a good-natured
loser in a New York mayor's race, Buckley worked at a daunting pace,
taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine,
the National Review.
Yet on the platform he was all handsome, reptilian languor, flexing
his imposing vocabulary ever so slowly, accenting each point with an
arched brow or rolling tongue and savoring an opponent's discomfort
with wide-eyed glee.
"I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in
composition," he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. "I
asked myself the other day, `Who else, on so many issues, has been
so right so much of the time?' I couldn't think of anyone."
Buckley had for years been withdrawing from public life, starting in
1990 when he stepped down as top editor of the National Review. In
December 1999, he closed down "Firing Line" after a 23-year run,
when guests ranged from Richard Nixon to Allen Ginsberg. "You've got
to end sometime and I'd just as soon not die onstage," he told the
"For people of my generation, Bill Buckley was pretty much the first
intelligent, witty, well-educated conservative one saw on
television," fellow conservative William Kristol, editor of the
Weekly Standard, said at the time the show ended. "He legitimized
conservatism as an intellectual movement and therefore as a
Fifty years earlier, few could have imagined such a triumph.
Conservatives had been marginalized by a generation of discredited
stands from opposing Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to the
isolationism which preceded the U.S. entry into World War II.
Liberals so dominated intellectual thought that the critic Lionel
Trilling claimed there were "no conservative or reactionary ideas in
Buckley founded the biweekly magazine National Review in 1955,
declaring that he proposed to stand "athwart history, yelling `Stop'
at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience
with those who urge it." Not only did he help revive conservative
ideology, especially unbending anti-Communism and free market
economics, his persona was a dynamic break from such dour right-wing
predecessors as Sen. Robert Taft.
Although it perpetually lost money, the National Review built its
circulation from 16,000 in 1957 to 125,000 in 1964, the year
conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater was the Republican presidential
candidate. The magazine claimed a circulation of 155,000 when
Buckley relinquished control in 2004, citing concerns about his
mortality, and over the years the National Review attracted numerous
young writers, some who remained conservative (George Will, David
Brooks), and some who didn't (Joan Didion, Garry Wills).
"I was very fond of him," Didion said Wednesday. "Everyone was, even
if they didn't agree with him."
Born Nov. 24, 1925, in New York City, William Frank Buckley Jr. was
the sixth of 10 children of a a multimillionaire with oil holdings
in seven countries. The son spent his early childhood in France and
England, in exclusive Roman Catholic schools.
His prominent family also included his brother James, who became a
one-term senator from New York in the 1970s; his socialite wife,
Pat, who died in April 2007; and their son, Christopher, a noted
author and satirist ("Thank You for Smoking").
On the Net:
Photo gives face to Anne Frank's "one true love"
By Alexandra Hudson
Tue Feb 26, 2008
A photograph of the boy with the "beautiful brown eyes" who Anne
Frank recalled as her "one true love" in the diary she wrote whilst
in hiding in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands is to go on display in
The photo of Peter Schiff was donated to the Anne Frank museum by
his former childhood friend Ernst Michaelis who realized after
rereading Anne's diary recently there were no known pictures of
Schiff, a museum spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
Frank's Jewish family fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and settled in
Amsterdam. During World War Two the Nazis occupied the Netherlands
and began deporting Jews to the death camps in 1942, prompting the
Frank family to go into hiding.
They lived in a secret annex in a canal-side house for more than two
years before their hiding place was betrayed and the family sent to
Anne recorded her years in the attic hideaway in her diaries. A
Dutch woman who helped the family found them in the annex after
Anne's arrest and gave them to her father Otto who survived the
Holocaust. They became famous around the world.
She writes in her diary: "I forgot that I haven't yet told you the
story of my one true love."
"Peter was the ideal boy: tall, slim and good-looking, with a
serious, quiet and intelligent face," Anne wrote of the 13-year-old
she had fallen for in 1940 when she was just 11.
They would collect each other from school and walk hand in hand
through their local neighborhood.
"He had dark hair, beautiful brown eyes, ruddy cheeks and a nicely
pointed nose. I was crazy about his smile, which made him look so
boyish and mischievous."
Peter later died in Auschwitz, while Anne died in Bergen Belsen
concentration camp in 1945.
Michaelis, now 81, had attended a Jewish school with Schiff in
Berlin in the 1930s before both families fled the Nazis. When they
parted, the boys exchanged photographs.
"He read the diary in the 1950s and thought that Peter Schiff was
very likely his friend. But it was only when reading it later that
he saw there were no photos and so he contacted us," said a museum
Anne last saw Peter a few days before she moved into the annexe, but
wrote of him in her diary more than 1-1/2 years later after dreaming
"I've never had such a clear mental image of him. I don't need a
photograph, I can see him oh so well," she said.
(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson)
Did prosecutor get all White House mail?
By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer
Wed Feb 27, 2008
When Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald wanted to find out what was
going on inside Vice President Dick Cheney's office, the prosecutor
in the CIA leak probe made a logical move. He dropped a grand jury
subpoena on the White House for all the relevant e-mail.
One problem: Even though White House computer technicians hunted
high and low, an entire week's worth of e-mail from Cheney's office
was missing. The week was Sept. 30, 2003, to Oct. 6, 2003, the
opening days of the Justice Department's probe into whether anyone
at the White House leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie
That episode was part of the picture that unfolded Tuesday on
Capitol Hill, where Democrats on a House committee released new
information about one of the Bush White House's long-running issues,
its problem-plagued e-mail system.
For the first time, a former White House computer technician went
public with the details. Steven McDevitt revealed in written
statements submitted to Congress how a plan was developed to try to
recover the missing e-mail for Fitzgerald.
Ultimately, 250 pages of electronic messages were retrieved from the
personal e-mail accounts of officials in Cheney's office, but
whether that amounted to all the relevant e-mail is a question that
may never be answered.
McDevitt made clear that it was a sensitive issue inside the White
"I worked with ... White House Counsel on efforts to provide an
explanation to the special prosecutor," McDevitt wrote. "This
included providing a briefing to the special prosecutor's staff on
McDevitt provided no details of the meetings with White House
Counsel Harriet Miers and others in the counsel's office in late
2005 and early 2006. The White House refused to comment on those
The White House put the best face on a bad hearing Tuesday of the
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, defending the
administration's handling of its electronic messages.
McDevitt said that one estimate from a 2005 analysis was that more
than 1,000 days of e-mail were missing from January 2003 to Aug. 10,
2005. McDevitt said "the process by which e-mail was being collected
and retained was primitive and the risk that data would be lost was
high." The "low end" estimate was about 470 days, he added.
The White House says a substantial amount of what had been believed
to be missing e-mail had been located.
"We are very energized about getting to the bottom of this" issue,
Theresa Payton, chief information officer at the White House Office
of Administration, testified to the committee.
"This is a form of sandbagging," replied Oversight Committee
Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who pointed out that by the time
the White House fixes its e-mail problems, "you'll be out of office."
McDevitt's statements detailed shortcomings that he said have
plagued the White House e-mail system for six years. He said:
_The White House had no complete inventory of e-mail files.
_There was no automatic system to ensure that e-mail was archived
_Until mid-2005 the e-mail system had serious security flaws, in
which "everyone" on the White House computer network had access to e-
mail. McDevitt wrote that the "potential impact" of the security
flaw was that there was no way to verify that retained data had not
_A new e-mail archiving system that would have addressed the
problems was "ready to go live" on Aug. 21, 2006.
Payton told Waxman's committee she canceled the new system in late
2006 because it would have required modifications and additional
spending. An alternative system is under way, she said.
Payton's predecessor, Carlos Solari, told the House committee that
he was puzzled that the new system had been rejected and that he
had "absolutely" believed that the system Payton rejected would be
When President Bush leaves office, presidential records and federal
records at the White House will be turned over to the National
Archives. Waxman produced a memo pointing to a lack of cooperation
between the White House and the Archives.
"We still know virtually nothing about the status of the alleged
missing White House e-mails," the Archives' general counsel, Gary
Stern, wrote to his boss last September.
On the Net:
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:
White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov
Nobel laureate estimates wars' cost at more than $3 trillion
Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: February 27, 2008
WASHINGTON When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, the Bush
administration predicted that the war would be self-financing and
that rebuilding the nation would cost less than $2 billion.
Coming up on the fifth anniversary of the invasion, a Nobel laureate
now estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing
America more than $3 trillion.
That estimate from Noble Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz
also serves as the title of his new book, "The Three Trillion Dollar
War," which hits store shelves Friday.
The book, co-authored with Harvard University professor Linda
Bilmes, builds on previous research that was published in January
2006. The two argued then and now that the cost to America of the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is wildly underestimated.
When other factors are added such as interest on debt, future
borrowing for war expenses, the cost of a continued military
presence in Iraq and lifetime health-care and counseling for
veterans they think that the wars' costs range from $5 trillion to
"I think we really have learned that the long-term costs of taking
care of the wounded and injured in this war and the long-term costs
of rebuilding the military to its previous strength is going to far
eclipse the cost of waging this war," Bilmes said in an interview.
The book and its estimates are the subject of a hearing Thursday by
the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.
The White House doesn't care for the estimates by Stiglitz, a former
chief economist of the World Bank who's now a professor at Columbia
"People like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of
doing nothing and the cost of failure. One can't even begin to put a
price tag on the cost to this nation of the attacks of 9-11," said
White House spokesman Tony Fratto, conceding that the costs of the
war on terrorism are high while questioning the premise of
"It is also an investment in the future safety and security of
Americans and our vital national interests. $3 trillion? What price
does Joe Stiglitz put on attacks on the homeland that have already
been prevented? Or doesn't his slide rule work that way?"
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated Marine Corp colonel and Vietnam
veteran, welcomed the effort by Stiglitz and Bilmes to quantify how
much the wars will cost taxpayers.
"It's astounding that here we are about to mark the fifth
anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and this administration still
refuses to acknowledge the long-term costs of the war in Iraq," he
By any estimate, the Bush administration's predictions in March 2003
of a self-financing war have proved to be wildly inaccurate.
Stiglitz cites operational spending to date of $646 billion for the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, working off estimates from the
nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, presumes that spending on
these wars over the next decade probably will amount to another $913
Pentagon officials had no immediate comment on Stiglitz's book or
Stiglitz and Bilmes first estimated war costs of $1 trillion in
January 2006. Their research proved controversial and sparked debate
about the costs of replacing equipment used by the regular armed
forces and National Guard. In the new book, they offer a figure of
$404 billion for replacing equipment, planes and tanks and bringing
military hardware back from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an interview, Stiglitz said that too much of the public debate
had been over the wars' operational costs while the real budget
strains would show up only years from now.
"The peak expenditures are way out," he said, noting that the peak
expenditures for World War II vets came in 1993.
The pair estimated that future medical, disability and Social
Security costs for veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan
range from a best-case $422 billion to what they call a more
probable long-term expense of $717 billion.
It's why the two call in the book for creating a Veterans Benefits
Trust Fund to set aside money in a "lock box" to pay for future
health-care needs of Iraq and Afghanistan vets. Although veterans'
health care amounts to a future promise, they said, it isn't an
entitlement and instead is funded through discretionary spending. In
the future, funding for vets will compete with other government
"We should not have an unfunded entitlement program like this,"
Stiglitz said. "This is more like deferred compensation. . . . We
require corporations to put money away but we don't require the
government to put money away, and we should be doing that . . . so
when the focus turns away to some other problem, veterans aren't
given the shaft."
The book divides war costs into two main categories: budgetary and
social. The budgetary costs are the more quantifiable spending on
operations, equipment, future benefits paid to veterans and the
like. In a best-case scenario they total about $1.7 trillion; in a
more probable scenario almost $2.7 trillion.
The social costs that Stiglitz and Bilmes offer are more
theoretical, and represent the thought-provoking part of their war-
When a soldier is killed in combat, they said, the U.S. armed forces
pay a $100,000 death gratuity and make a $400,000 payment to his or
her survivors in the equivalent of insurance for an unexpected death.
If these men and women had died in private-sector employment or in
some kind of disaster, compensation to family members generally
would be settled in court after determining what economists and
lawyers call "the value of statistical life." This measures the
economic contribution that a person would have made over the rest of
his or her life if they hadn't died.
Stiglitz and Bilmes settled on a statistical value of life that they
say the Environmental Protection Agency uses when people are killed
in environmental disasters: $7.2 million.
There have been 4,456 U.S. military fatalities in the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan from 2001 to Feb. 26, 2008. The direct cost to the
Pentagon from these deaths has been $2.2 billion, but if lives are
valued as they are outside the armed forces, the researchers
conclude, the hypothetical economic cost rises to more than $30
billion. Include contractors killed while working for U.S.
operations and the number rises to more than $50 billion.
In a best-case outlook, the social and societal costs of the Iraq
and Afghanistan wars would be $295 billion; $415 billion in a
moderate-realistic case scenario.