title>Lady Liberty Defended: November 2006
It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation's intelligence agencies. Instead, Democratic leaders may create a panel to look at the issue and produce recommendations, according to congressional aides and lawmakers.
Because plans for implementing the commission's recommendations are still fluid, Democratic officials would not speak for the record. But aides on the House and Senate appropriations, armed services and intelligence committees confirmed this week that a reorganization of Congress would not be part of the package of homeland-security changes up for passage in the "first 100 hours" of the Democratic Congress.
"I don't think that suggestion is going anywhere," said Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee and a close ally of the incoming subcommittee chairman, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.). "That is not going to be their party position."
It may seem like a minor matter, but members of the commission say Congress's failure to change itself is anything but inconsequential. In 2004, the commission urged Congress to grant the House and Senate intelligence committees the power not only to oversee the nation's intelligence agencies but also to fund them and shape intelligence policy. The intelligence committees' gains would come at the expense of the armed services committees and the appropriations panels' defense subcommittees. Powerful lawmakers on those panels would have to give up prized legislative turf.
But the commission was unequivocal about the need.
"Of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important," the panel wrote. "So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need."
Now Democrats are balking, just as Republicans did before them.
The decision will almost certainly anger commission members, as well as families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, many of whom have pressed hard for implementation of the recommendations.
"The Democrats pledged to implement all the remaining 9/11 reforms, not some of them," said former representative Timothy J. Roemer (D-Ind.), who served on the commission.
Carie Lemack, whose mother was in one of the jets that hit the World Trade Center, echoed that sentiment: "It wasn't a Chinese takeout menu, the 41 recommendations. You have to do all of them."
Democratic leadership dust-ups this month severely limited the ability of House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) to implement the commission's recommendations, according to Democratic aides.
Pelosi strongly backed Murtha for House majority leader, only to see him soundly defeated by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.). That chain of events made it difficult for her to ask Murtha, a longtime ally, to relinquish control of the intelligence budget from his consolation prize, the chairmanship of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, according to Democratic sources.
Likewise, a controversy over the choice of a new chairman of the House intelligence committee proved to be a factor in the decision. The Sept. 11 commission urged Congress to do away with traditional term limits on the intelligence committees to preserve continuity and expertise, a recommendation the House implemented in 2003. But in her search for a reason to drop the committee's most senior Democrat, Jane Harman (Calif.), from the panel, Pelosi fell back on the tradition of term limits. She has decided to pass over the intelligence committee's second-ranking Democrat, Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.), as well.
To the Sept. 11 commission, the call for congressional overhaul was vital, said former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean (R), the commission's co-chairman. Because intelligence committee membership affords lawmakers access to classified information, only intelligence committee members can develop the expertise to watch over operations properly, he said. But because the panels do not control the budget, intelligence agencies tend to dismiss them.
"The person who controls your budget is the person you listen to," Kean said.
Those people, the appropriators, do not seem to care much, he said. The intelligence budget is a small fraction of the nearly $500 billion overseen by the armed services committees and the appropriations panels' defense subcommittees. Kean said that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), an Armed Services Committee member, told the Sept. 11 commission that if his panel spends 10 minutes considering the intelligence budget, it has been a good year.
"We think this is extremely crucial," Kean said of a reorganization shifting budget authority to the intelligence committees. But, he added, there are "a lot of old bulls in both parties who just don't want to do it."
In 2004, the Senate tried to reach a compromise on the issue, proposing to create intelligence subcommittees under the House and Senate appropriations committees. The appropriators would maintain most of their power, but at least distinct panels would have to watch over intelligence spending.
The idea went nowhere in the House. To make it work, total spending on intelligence would have to be declassified, another commission recommendation that Congress has rejected. Besides, Young said, an intelligence subcommittee effectively exists in the form of the Appropriations defense subcommittee chairman and ranking member, who have taken serious interest in intelligence spending.
Democratic aides yesterday chose to talk up what they will do in the opening hours of the 110th Congress. Plans are not complete, but the incoming Democratic majority is likely to expand efforts to stop the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; ensure the interoperability of communications equipment so first responders can communicate more effectively; develop a comprehensive screening system for air cargo; and establish a civil-liberties board to protect the public against intelligence agencies expanding their reach.
Are Soldiers Black and Poor?The men and women with who I served were among the best that the USofA has to offer. Charlie makes me think that they are indeed better than the idiots currently posing as leaders in Congress. For certain most of them got better grades in college than Kerry and Gore. This is particularly true of the National Guard where some rather successful men and women are junior enlisted (grade E-4 and below) because they've only recently enlisted. They didn't enlist for the money or education benefits either as they've already accomplished enough in life for that to be a non-issue.
by Steve Sailer
UPI National Correspondent
From the Washington Politics & Policy Desk
Published 1/16/2003 12:19 PM
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a Korean War veteran, has introduced a bill to reinstate the military draft, arguing, "A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the [volunteer] military..."
Indeed, in a little noticed development, the percentage of military personnel who were minorities shot upward during the years from 1995 to 2000, with enlisted ranks rising from 28 percent to 38 percent minority (compared to 30 percent of the national population), and the officer corps growing from 11 percent to 19 percent.
The booming economy of the late 1990s may have made it harder for the Pentagon to recruit whites, who tend to enjoy more lucrative opportunities in the civilian economy than do blacks or Hispanics.
Blacks are found disproportionately in the military, while Hispanic residents, many of whom are not citizens, are slightly underrepresented. Blacks are found most heavily in the Army and are least common in the Air Force.
Contrary to popular belief, blacks have not died in combat in disproportionate numbers, even in Vietnam. Two leading military sociologists, Charles Moskos of Northwestern and John Sibley Butler of the University of Texas, researched this carefully for their 1996 book "All We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way."
They reported, "Black fatalities amounted to 12.1 percent of all Americans killed in Southeast Asia -- a figure proportional to the number of blacks in the U.S. population at the time and slightly lower than the proportion of blacks in the Army at the close of the war."
(Moskos favors reinstituting the draft. He says Rangel's argument "persuasive" but that the most important reason is that the military is undermanned and relies too heavily on reserves.)
In recent decades, blacks have tended to gravitate away from combat jobs. In arguing against Rangel's bill, the Department of Defense noted, "Blacks today account for 21 percent of the enlisted force, but make up only 15 percent of combat arms (e.g., infantry, armor, artillery)."
African-Americans make up about 13 percent of young adults, so they are still somewhat over-represented in combat positions.
"In contrast, blacks account for 36 percent of Functional Support and Administration and 27 percent of Medical and Dental career fields. "
Interestingly, the military today seems to attract pugnacious whites and pragmatic blacks. Analysts have suggested that more young white men see the infantry as a way, in the words of one, to "play Rambo" from age 18 to 22, then go to college using military tuition benefits. In contrast, blacks often view the military as either a long-term career in itself, or as a way to get practical training for a civilian white-collar career.
Are soldiers the products of particularly poor families? In general, the enlisted ranks come from neither the top nor the bottom of society, but from working and middle class backgrounds. Very few enlistees appear to be the scions of the wealthy. (Some officers are from rich families, however; but a larger proportion of officers are the sons and daughters of officers.)
White enlistees tend to come from households somewhat lower in income than the general white population: $33,500 per year versus $44,400 for the average white, according to 1999 Defense Department statistics. Strikingly, black enlistees come from households above the black national average: $32,000 vs. $27,900.
In fact, on a number of measures, African-American enlistees tend to stand well above the black average and very close to, or above, the mean for white enlistees. The celebrated high degree of racial equality and amity found in the military, especially in the Army, would appear to benefit from the similar backgrounds that black and white soldiers bring to the Army.
Not only do black and white soldiers come from households of almost equal income, but their educational attainments are virtually identical. In 1994, 99 percent of black and 97 percent of white Army enlisted personnel were high school graduates, figures above the national average.
When the Volunteer Army began three decades ago, black recruits had much higher graduation rates that whites. In the late 1970s, according to Moskos and Sibley, 90 percent of black Army enlistees had their degrees, versus only about 40 percent of whites. After the large pay raises of the early 1980s, the Army was able to recruit a better-educated group of youth, so the black advantage narrowed as both groups' graduations rates approached 100 percent.
The racial gap in test scores that bedevils American civilian society is a much smaller problem in the Army.
Moskos and Sibley found that in 1994: "83 percent of white recruits scored in the upper half of the mental aptitude test (compared with 61 percent of white youths in the national population), while 59 percent of black recruits scored in the upper half (compared with 14 percent of the black youths nationwide)."
African-American enlistees are also more likely to come from two-parent families than is the norm among blacks, the Defense Department says.
Copyright © 2001-2003 United Press International
Charlie Rangel: Volunteer army composed of unemployed youngsters who don't want to fightYou know, don't you, that there are folks who become doctors, nurses, teachers, EMTs, firemen, policemen, soldiers, priests/pastors, nuns, and so forth for no reason other than that they want to serve their fellow man, their fellow citizens. As I said, Charlie must only be in Congress to serve himself.
This is a partial transcript of Congressman Charlie Rangel's appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today.
Chris Wallace: [begins by citing Heritage Foundation's recently-published study showing US military is better educated and from higher-income neighborhoods than the average American] Congressman, in fact, contrary to what you've been saying, isn't the volunteer army better educated and well-to-do than the general population?
Rangel: Of course not. I want to make it abundantly clear that I have been advocating a draft ever since the President's been talking about war. [snip]I want to make it abundantly clear if anyone believes that these youngsters want to fight -- as the Pentagon and some generals have said -- you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life he would not be in Iraq. So anyone who supports the war, and is against everyone sharing in the sacrifice is just being hypocritical about the whole thing. The record is clear, and once we are able to get hearings on this, everyone will see what they already know, and that is that those who have the least opportunities at this age find themselves in the military , as I did when I was 18 years old.