Archive for February 2002
03:37 GMT: Permalink
I have ranted elsewhere about the music industry's massive ripoff of artists and consumers, but this time Ted Barlow points out that Ken Layne is doing it even better. Oh, and don't forget fuming about Clear Channel, too. I guess it's too much to hope that Layne will also rant about the FCC, which exists solely to make sure big corporations monopolize the airwaves and prevent the broadcast of accurate English words for genitals and sexual acts....
|ac||Johnny Jackson Jr. (4), thirty-two, has never been to Texas, and his mother swears he never had the middle name “Fitzgerald.” Neither is there evidence that John Fitzgerald Jackson, felon of Texas, has ever left the Lone Star State. But even if they were the same man, removing him from Florida’s voter rolls is an unconstitutional act. Texas is among the thirty five states where ex-felons are permitted to vote, and the "full faith and credit" clause of the U.S. Constitution forbids states to revoke any civil rights that a citizen has been granted by another state; in fact, the Florida Supreme Court had twice ordered the state not to do so, just nine months before the voter purge. Nevertheless, at least 2,873 voters were wrongly removed, a purge authorized by a September 18, 2000 letter to counties from Governor Bush's clemency office. On February 23, 2001, days after the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights began investigating the matters, Bush's office issued a new letter allowing these persons to vote; no copies of the earlier letter could be found in the clemency office or on its computers.|
Wallace McDonald (5), sixty-four, lost his right to vote in 2000, though his sole run-in with the law was a misdemeanor in 1959. (He fell asleep on a bus-stop bench.) Of the "matches' on these lists, the civil-rights commission estimated that at least 14 percent - or 8,000 voters, nearly 15 times Bush's official margin of victory - were false. DBT claims it warned officials "a significant number of people who were not a felon would be included on the list"; but the state, the company now says, "wanted there to be more names than were actually verified." Last May, Florida's legislature barred Harris from using outside firms to build the purge list and ordered her to seek guidance from county elections officials. In defiance, Harris has rebuffed the counties and hired another firm, just in time for Jeb Bush's reelection fight this fall.
16:41 GMT: Permalink
Howard Kurtz shows that Robert Torricelli is good for something.
|ac||Sen. Robert Torricelli tried everything he could think of to get the media to cover his proposal to slash television rates for political ads. No dice.|
So he took to the Senate floor and denounced Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw for hypocrisy. While they "waged a virtual campaign for reform," the New Jersey Democrat says, "their corporate executives, lobbyists and PAC directors were all over Capitol Hill, fighting the reform."
The result? "A conspiracy of silence," says Torricelli.
Forcing the media to inform the public about elections is, of course, vitally important to democracy. And while political ads are frequently a load of rubbish, at least they give us a few hints. But the enormous cost of political advertising does a lot to dissuade people who don't want to sell their souls to big donors from running at all, and increases the likelihood that those who govern us will be those who sold to the highest bidder. Torricelli is at least partly right, here: the whole soft-money argument is of little import when the price of getting your message heard is still so high.
17:01 GMT: Permalink
I can't remember whether I got these links from MWO or Buzzflash, but a popular item on the net this week has been the Aaron Sorkin interview in The New Yorker running Bush down. The spin machine has naturally responded with the claim that it's just sour grapes for Sorkin after an alleged earlier snub from Bush, but this is, as usual, getting the story backwards, as this item from January of last year makes clear:
|ac||"West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin said a low-ranking Bush campaign official contacted "The West Wing" production offices before the primary last year to inquire about Bush making an appearance.|
"They wanted to know if we'd be interested in having him make a cameo -- like as a pizza delivery guy or something," Sorkin said. "I'm sure whoever the call came from is not totally in tune with the pulse of 'The West Wing.' "
|ac||Last week in Britain, some commentators were endorsing calls from the newly ennobled former New York mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, to jail cannabis smokers , and vilifying Brian Paddick, police commander of Lambeth, for telling an internet forum that the drug laws need reform. To arrive in Holland's fourth largest city is to cross a cultural chasm. First there is the obvious: like most Dutch towns, Utrecht, population 300,000, has its coffee shops, 40 of them, each selling dozens of brands of cannabis to smoke at the tables or take away. In Holland, ideas considered dangerously radical in Britain attract little controversy. 'There is no war on drugs in the Netherlands,' says Machel Vewer, a senior police detective who has spent the past decade working with addicts. 'What's the point of making war on part of your own country? Drugs are here and they're always going to be. This is a social problem, not a criminal one, and the whole of society has to tackle it - not leave it to the police on their own.|
'This means accepting that addicts are people too: that they have their backgrounds, their stories, and you have to respect them. They can still lead useful lives, and they're not a lost group. If you look at England, France, Spain, they all have drug problems. But Holland started thinking about how to deal with this much earlier. We're not deluded we can solve the problem entirely, but we can contain it, make it controllable. You are 20 years behind.'
|ac||"Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather."|
In light of the Enron scandal, it is worth recalling that outburst.
You see, Barlow was speaking for a time when the high-tech folks of Silicon Valley were stomping all over government. Emboldened by the hype and glory of ballooning stock prices, they demanded that the Internet be exempt from tax; that antitrust laws and decency laws and copyright laws be suspended when it suited them (but not otherwise); and, just as crucially in retrospect, that an obscure regulatory body called the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) bow down before them.
I like JPB - I've enjoyed his company as well as admiring his work - but I think Mallaby does have a point, here.
|ac||THE PROPHESIED "Ministry of Truth" is the Pentagon’s new Office of Strategic Influence. "The Pentagon is developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policymakers in both friendly and unfriendly countries, military officials said," The New York Times reported this week.|
That other feature of "1984," the notion of endless war, is more troubling.
President Bush makes the case daily for a new kind of open-ended conflict. First, it was al-Qaida we were after. Then, it was the government in Afghanistan that protected al-Qaida.
Next, it was the groups associated with al-Qaida. Then, it was the list of governments that allow such groups to reside in their country. Then, it was the "Axis of Evil" that makes weapons and may or may not be working with terrorist groups.
Where do we stop? How many countries are we talking about here?
Remember how we looked longingly for Lyndon Johnson’s "light at the end of the tunnel" in Vietnam? The current president from Texas is talking about going into a lot more tunnels and never even mentions the notion of any light at the end of them.
|ac||British scientists could soon face a ten-year jail sentence for sending an email or failing to ask for permission before teaching a foreign student.||ac|
|ac||John Frum is the son of God, but he's not Jesus. He's a black Melanesian, but sometimes a white man - or, according to others, a black American GI. He's a kastom messiah, come to turn the people of Tanna back to their old ways before the missionaries - but he's also a universal avatar of change, a successor to Buddha or Jesus or Mohammed. Like Jesus, he's poised to return - or, perhaps, he's already here. He's a volcano god, with an army of the dead who live down in the crater, and a spirit who approaches the men of Tanna when they drink their intoxicating kava and bring their spirits into communion with him. Back in the days of colonial rule when he first appeared, the British thought he was one of the locals dressing up and spouting nonsense to foment rebellion. They arrested a succession of 'troublemakers', pillorying them before their community to expose the deception, but the locals knew perfectly well that John Frum was neither this man nor that one. Apart from anything else, he continued to appear. So, a new tactic: anyone who was found to be talking John Frum nonsense was hauled off to jail in Port Vila, the administrative capital over a hundred miles away. But these 'ringleaders' became martyrs to the growing religion, and the stories of how John appeared to them in jail are now part of the canon of oral traditions, hymns and revelations of the new religion.||ac|
02:15 GMT: Permalink
Where were you on January 30, 2007?
And then go to the NYT and read this one: Protecting Media Diversity.
|ac||I agree with The Post on the need for a serious and rigorous Civil Rights Commission, but the Feb. 11 editorial was most unfair. Since 1957 the commission's job has been to investigate denials of equal opportunity, to monitor federal agency implementation of civil rights laws and policies, and to aid the federal government in assessing the need for new remedies.|
Contrary to The Post's gibe that the commission contributed little beyond noise to discussion of voting denials in the 2000 presidential election, the agency conducted a thorough investigation and issued a thoughtful report that Congress is using in fashioning new legislation.
Nor is the mark of an effective agency the absence of controversy. While I appreciate The Post's good words about the moral authority the commission had during my era of the 1960s, it was frequently under attack then. For example, Attorney General William Rogers labeled the commission's 1959 recommendation for voting registrars as radical, only to see it become law with passage of the Voting Rights Act six years later.
Ever since the Reagan administration took a wrecking ball to the commission's independence, replacing eminent commissioners with people who could not distinguish between fact and opinion, the commission has had hard times. The job of rebuilding has been led by people -- including Mary Berry, Cruz Reynoso, Christopher Edley and the late Leon Higginbotham -- who have made lifelong contributions to scholarship and legal advocacy in the field.
The Post is right that there is much to do. It would be helpful, for example, to have a factual investigation into the efficacy of proposed alternatives to affirmative action policies and to weigh the need for security against the costs of racial profiling and detention of immigrants.
Here is a modest proposal: When the next Republican vacancy arises, the appointment should be a distinguished conservative lawyer in the mold of Erwin Griswold (who served the commission in the '60s) or Lewis Powell. That would contribute to the constructive dialogue The Post seeks.
23:21 GMT: Permalink
Vicki Rosenzweig points out that Salon Premium has posted an article open to all in its entirety in the hope that it's not Too late to stop the hangman:
|ac||As the number of death-row prisoners exonerated by DNA evidence continues to mount, some innocent inmates are still being freed the old fashioned way, when new evidence emerges to implicate another suspect, or supposed witnesses recant their stories. But Joseph Amrine, a black man convicted by an all-white jury of killing a fellow prison inmate 17 years ago, still sits on Missouri's death row, even though all the witnesses against him now say he didn't do it, new witnesses have identified another inmate as the killer, and at least three of the 12 jurors who convicted Amrine, including the jury foreman, now say they think he is innocent.|
Amrine, now 45, was serving a short sentence at the Missouri State Penitentiary (now known as Jefferson City Correctional Center) for check kiting when he was accused of the October 1985 knife slaying of Gary Barber, a fellow prisoner. He is facing execution despite the fact that the three prisoners who testified against him at his trial have subsequently recanted their testimony. They say they were pressured by prison authorities to lie, and then rewarded for it.
The way Amrine's lead appellate attorney, Sean O'Brien, describes his client's legal odyssey might be darkly comic, if a man's life wasn't at stake. When the first two of the prosecution's three witnesses recanted their testimony, the federal judge hearing Amrine's appeal, Fernando Gaitan Jr., ruled that they weren't credible, because the third witness had not disavowed his testimony that Amrine was the killer. But later, after that third witness came forward to say that he too had lied at the trial, the same Judge Gaitan ruled that this recantation was not credible. The judge went on to muse that none of those recanting could really be believed because they were all prison inmates, and thus inherently not believable -- reasoning that of course could have been used to dismiss their earlier testimony against Amrine, but wasn't. Gaitan also ruled that he didn't need to reconsider the earlier recantations, in light of the third one, because he had already considered and rejected them, so they were no longer "new."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, after describing Gaitan's rulings in a May 5, 2000, editorial headed "Executing Without Justice," asked rhetorically, "Should the state execute a person when no evidence is left standing against him?" But that appears to be exactly what Missouri is set to do. Amrine, who was featured in controversial Benetton ads spotlighting death-row prisoners in 2000, could be executed as soon as the governor signs off on a state Supreme Court death warrant, which could happen at any time.
Amrine's case is important beyond his own personal situation, because the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals actually used his appeal in establishing an important precedent limiting the ability of criminals to introduce new evidence of their innocence. A three-judge panel held that the testimony of other inmates who say they saw another prisoner, Terry Russell, kill Barber was not sufficient to require a new hearing, because the defense could have obtained that evidence at the original trial, through due diligence, but did not. Despite acknowledging that Amrine might well be innocent, the appeals court ruled that the witnesses who might prove that could not be heard.
Legal experts say that precedent placed a chilling new limit on death-penalty appeals. In plain language, it means there may be eye witnesses to a murder discovered after a trial, who were never heard by a jury, who can attest to a person's innocence. But if for some reason the defense overlooked them or failed to call them at the trial, the person should die anyway.
It's hard to escape the impression that some of these people regard the legal process as a kind of game played between lawyers, where the issue is whether the lawyer wins or loses; the lives of defendants are like the "lives" of Pacman and count for little in and of themselves. The judges are just referees between the players, I guess.
|ac||The way Dick Cheney tells it, energy tycoons are timid souls, reluctant to give opinions and terrified someone might find out they have been at the White House. Only when the shades are drawn and the tape recorder is off will they confide that they are against regulation of the energy market. It takes a threat of the rack to make them even mention a tax break for their companies or suggest names for big jobs in government. That's the profile Cheney draws for us. Kenneth Lay doesn't fit it very well.||ac|
12:14 GMT: Permalink
'They Did Not Take My Spirit': A statement from Danny Pearl's widow.
|ac||...Revenge would be easy, but it is far more valuable in my opinion to address this problem of terrorism with enough honesty to question our own responsibility as nations and as individuals for the rise of terrorism. My own courage arises from two facts. One is that throughout this ordeal I have been surrounded by people of amazing value. This helps me trust that humanism ultimately will prevail. My other hope now--in my seventh month of pregnancy--is that I will be able to tell our son that his father carried the flag to end terrorism, raising an unprecedented demand among people from all countries not for revenge but for the values we all share: love, compassion, friendship and citizenship far transcending the so-called clash of civilizations.||ac|
|ac||Finally, there's line 47. You haven't heard about that, but you will.|
Here's the story. The Bush administration didn't want to give those famous $300 rebate checks; its original plan would have pumped hardly any money into the economy last year. Under prodding from Democrats the plan was changed to incorporate immediate cash outlays. But those outlays were included only grudgingly, and with a catch: they really weren't rebates. Instead, they were merely advances on future tax cuts.
What that means is that most taxpayers, when they reach line 47 of their 1040's, will discover that they owe $300 more in taxes than they expected. In other words, the one piece of the Bush tax cut that probably did help the economy last year is about to be snatched away. The direct monetary impact will be significant; the psychological impact, as taxpayers realize that they've been misled, may be even greater.
|ac||The lead story in the Tuesday, February 19 NYTimes was headlined: "PENTAGON READIES EFFORTS TO SWAY SENTIMENT ABROAD," and as I read it I first wondered if it were some kind of joke. The subhead read: "New Office Proposes to Send News or Maybe False News to Even Friendly Lands." What it comes down to is the Pentagon is cranking up something called the "Office of Strategic Influence," which will have as its mission the manipulation of public opinion in foreign lands in ways that will win support for our "war on terrorism." The story makes no attempt to disguise the fact that manipulation is at the core of the mission. Unlike the Voice of America or Radio Marti broadcasts to Cuba, which have been kept scrupulously objective in presenting news, the OSI intends to feed “disinformation” into the global population in ways that will lead the people of the world to do what Uncle Sam would like them to do. "Disinformation" is a nice word for "falsehoods," and when applied to official government falsehoods, the dictionary word is "propaganda."||ac|
|ac||T he McLaughlin Group is about to "celebrate" its twentieth anniversary. We might as well "celebrate" the discovery of anthrax.|
The show flatters itself--and its corporate sponsor, GE--that it is providing some kind of public service. It's even offered on PBS in many cities, and its website features such faux educational trappings as classroom guides and discussion-group questions, along with $50 golf shirts. And while ratings have dropped steadily and precipitously for the past seven years, that is due largely to the fact that it has very nearly taken over our media world. Entire cable networks are devoted to its ethos, and even the old reliables of respectable political discourse--like NBC's Meet the Press and CBS's Face the Nation--are dancing to its dissonant tune. Before McLaughlin, public affairs television programs were often dry and pompous, but with the exception of the painfully pompous Agronsky and Company, they were devoted to the proposition that reporters--like everyone else--should appear on news programs only when they've learned something of value of which most people are unaware (hence the word reporter). The McLaughlin Group transformed this essential qualification from specialized knowledge to salable shtick. Not only television but journalism itself has never recovered.
16:28 GMT: Permalink
A thoughtful piece by James Higdon at Online Journal, Where courage dwells:
|ac||In America, at the very least, we overlay a fog of mystique over the acquisition of wealth. We make assumptions that having wealth requires great enterprise, hard work, genius, moral fortitude, or some combination of all of these characteristics. The Enron management, as portrayed by Fisher, represents an attitude that the wealthy are people with the courage to take risks. I've never seen a rich person risk something that he/she couldn't afford to lose, but I've seen poor people literally risk their lives by merely going to the supermarket. Necessity is the parent of more than invention. Courage suckles from an adjacent teat and necessity spends far more time on the porch of the destitute than the wealthy. Regardless, we impose the acquisition of wealth with positive characteristics because the glitter of gold draws our focus. The poor are poor because they are (choose one) lazy, cowardly, mentally inferior, physically inferior, simply not God's chosen people, or drug addicts. But those labels know no social class, they merely afford us an excuse to look the other way, and to deny involvement.||ac|
Not for the first time, I am wondering why being a "risk-taker" is being associated with being a productive wealth-creator when it's well-known that "risk-taker" is on the list of traits for cigarette smokers, and smokers, now more than ever, are among the poorer members of our culture. How come when you apply for a job at a financial house, cigarette smoking isn't seen as a plus? If corporate guys really believed this "risk-taker" stuff, wouldn't they be rushing to kill two birds with one stone by going out to bars and rounding up the unemployed smokers and hiring them on the spot?
Of course, risk-takers sometimes do benefit society, but that's not the point, is it? This idea that risk-takers are special and that risk-taking is what makes you rich is just a story these people tell themselves. The reason it's called "risk" is that it has a reasonable chance of failure - instead of getting rich, your "risk-taker" can lose everything. If you happen to have $30,000 going spare and you lose it on the stock-market, yeah, that's a risk. But if you have no liquid assets and the only way you could get thirty grand is to put up your house, you're not just a "risk-taker" if you gamble your home away, you're an idiot. To be able to look at people who have never been in a position to "invest" in "risk" and say that they are poor because they are unwilling to take risks takes a special kind of stupidity.
Well, my household "risks" £52 a year on the National Lottery. It's not that we think we have much chance of winning, but it buys us the right to fantasize winning, and it's also the method that stands the best chance of making us rich. (We usually win back a tenner maybe once or twice a year.) We haven't become rich by working hard and being good at what we do, and we're not going to. So what does that leave? The lottery. That's why "the numbers" were always so popular among the poor. For poor people, playing the numbers was the only available risk with the potential to make you rich.
But leaving all that aside, Higdon also makes good points about, among other things, Ann Coulter.
|ac||But we accept the notion that the wealthy are a superior breed because of their louder voice. Yet the United States Supreme Court was wrong a few years ago when it equated money with speech. Money is not speech because it is not, in and of itself, any kind of a statement. Money is merely a volume control. The more money, the louder the speaker. The wealthy are therefore allowed to define themselves, while the voices of the poor, unless they are threatening to do violence, are lost in the sound of traffic.||ac|
02:38 GMT: Permalink
I give so many phone interviews I can't keep track of them - often they come to nothing, or at least nothing I ever find out about. But going through the mail at the Feminists Against Censorship postbox we found someone had read an article mentioning us and decided to send us a copy of her magazine. Article? What article? A search of The Observer found this piece about women and porn. Man, I hate it when they put words in my mouth I'd never say.
|ac||Asa and me|
I've wondered for years: What does Hutchinson know about Arkansas's biggest drug smuggler? And when did he know it?
Asa Hutchinson and I share a passion for the subject of drugs. As a crusading member of Congress, he talks a lot about them. As a reporter focused on crime, my writing centers on them. Hutchinson wants to intensify this country's war on drugs. I think three decades of failure have proven the war a disaster.
Now President George W. Bush has nominated Hutchinson to head the DEA, the biggest drug-fighting squad in the world. But before Hutchinson assumes that post, there are some questions about high-level cocaine trafficking in Arkansas while he was a U.S. attorney here that he should be required to answer. The questions have hung about for years, but so far he has managed to dodge them.
They relate to the period from 1982 to 1985, when Hutchinson served as the federal prosecuting attorney for western Arkansas. He speaks often of that time.
"During the 1980s, our nation declared a war against drugs," he proclaimed in a 1997 speech to the House. "I was in that battle as a federal prosecutor. It was during that time that our families, our communities, and our law-enforcement officials mobilized in a united effort to fight this war."
In another speech he observed, "I have seen the drug war from all sides - as a member of Congress, as a federal prosecutor, and as a parent - and I know the importance of fighting this battle on all fronts."
But some strange things happened in Hutchinson's district while he was federal prosecutor that he doesn't mention in his speeches. Specifically, a man identified by federal agents as "a documented, major narcotics trafficker" was using facilities at an airport in Hutchinson's district for "storage, maintenance, and modification" of his drug-running aircraft, throughout most of Hutchinson's tenure.
The man was Adler Berriman "Barry" Seal. For the last four years of his life - and throughout Hutchinson's term as U.S. attorney - his base of operations was Mena, Arkansas.
Fascinating little story that makes you wonder, too.
|ac||But isn't the House leadership's behavior just politics as usual? No, it isn't. Politics as usual is trying to attach goodies for yourself to bills that provide goodies to other people. Everyone does that. But extending unemployment insurance in a recession is so standard — and refusing to do so is so cruel — that the House action takes the tax-cut crusade to a whole new level of fanaticism.|
Put it this way: At first, ordinary workers were told that they would benefit directly from lower taxes — remember those "tax families"? Great effort was devoted to obscuring the simple truth that last year's tax cut offered crumbs for ordinary families, but huge breaks for the wealthy.
Then ordinary workers were told that they should support bills like the two House stimulus plans from the fall — bills that offered retroactive tax cuts to corporations, big tax breaks to families with high incomes, and nothing at all to two-thirds of the population — because those bills would create jobs. After all, tax cuts are part of the war on terrorism, or something.
But now tax-cut advocates have moved from promises to threats. Support tax cuts for the elite, the House leadership says, or we'll cut off your unemployment benefits.
So what's next? Support tax cuts or we'll break your legs?
|ac||During the Inaugural weekend, the Republicans delivered on their promise to return dignity to the capital by tying longhorn steers in the foyers of grand hotels. Z-list celebrities, such as Dixie Carter and the Statler Brothers, were the only showbiz types to soil themselves by attending the festivities. Bush wept as he awaited his swearing in. Perhaps he was thinking of all the Texans who gave their lives in the death chamber so that he could be there.|
Laura Bush announced that she would use her position as First Lady to promote abstinence. No one wondered why.
13:54 GMT: Permalink
Instapundit has a link to an article by Barbara Amiel that's worth reading, although I have several quibbles with some of what she says. For one thing, I think she under-estimates the degree to which European culture is informed by lower/working-class values and interests. My experience is that everyday culture over here is actually much more working-class than it is in the US. Just as an example, I once saw a pub that had a non-smoking section. Then again, everyone in it seemed to be smoking. Pubs are pretty much the center of everyone's social life. And as far as places with tablecloths are concerned, they are virtually all smoking, and no sections. Additionally, though I know many people on the left here, I can't say I know any who thought the USSR was a great place to live.
|ac||Let's focus on the key line here: "the American tax system might be driving companies to make such decisions." This is the rich man's version of the argument which holds that inner-city hoodlums shouldn't be held to account for mugging old ladies because of limited job opportunities in the ghetto and persistent underfunding of Headstart.||ac|
|ac||SADDAM Hussein has to go. George W. Bush says so himself.|
The Iraqi leader and his arsenal of weapons pose such a threat to U.S. security that the Bush administration is prepared to pull out all the stops to topple him from power. This could involve a covert campaign to overthrow his government. But if it requires sending troops in, we're prepared to do that, too, the president and his cabinet members have implied.
This prompts me to ask the same question I've been asking for more than a decade. Why is Washington so obsessed with Hussein? Is he truly the personification of evil, the sponsor of terrorism, the potential wielder of mass destruction that Washington makes him out to be? Or is this obsession really about something else?
|ac||The case of Methanex v. United States originated in California in the mid-1990s, when people began to notice a foul taste in their drinking water, a smell like turpentine. Santa Monica had to shut down half its supply wells and purchase clean water from elsewhere. The contamination turned up in thirty public water systems, Lake Tahoe and Shasta Lake, plus 3,500 groundwater sites. The source was quickly identified as methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a methanol-based gasoline additive that creates cleaner-burning fuel, thus reducing air pollution. But even small amounts of MTBE leaking from storage tanks, pipeline breaks or car accidents made water unfit to drink--and extremely difficult to clean up. A study team from the University of California, Davis, added that in lab tests on rats and mice, MTBE was also carcinogenic, raising the possibility of human risk.|
The state government acted promptly. In 1997 the legislature authorized a ban on MTBE if further investigations confirmed the health risks. In March 1999, after more research and lengthy public hearings, Governor Gray Davis issued an executive order to begin the phaseout. Other states were acting too. The oxygenating additive is used in one-fourth of the US gasoline supply, especially in pollution-prone big cities, so New York, New Jersey and other places were also discovering MTBE's unintended consequences for clean water. Up to this point, the story sounded like an alarming but fairly conventional environmental problem.
Then, four months after Governor Davis's order, a Canadian company from Vancouver, British Columbia, filed a daring lawsuit against the US government, demanding $970 million in compensation for the damage California was inflicting on its future profits. Methanex Corporation, which manufactures methanol, principal ingredient of MTBE, claimed that banning the additive in the largest US market violates the foreign-investment guarantees embodied in Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Under Chapter 11, foreign investors from Canada, Mexico and the United States can sue a national government if their company's property assets, including the intangible property of expected profits, are damaged by laws or regulations of virtually any kind. Who knew?
And the more you read, the worse it gets.
18:06 GMT: Permalink
A poster to the Bartcop Forum has produced a "September 10th" page. Check it out for the stunning photo of the World Trade Center.
|ac||The Nevada Republican Party, perhaps anticipating the need to broaden the base after Bush's decision to create a nuclear dump in the state, has bestowed the title of "Hero" on Rep. Shelley Berkley, who happens to be a Democrat.|
"Since Sept. 11, we have been given a new vision of an American hero," state GOP chairman Bob Seale wrote in a recent fundraising letter sent to Berkley's Las Vegas office. "The heroes of today are the men and women of America who go to work every day and do their jobs! . . . who do the right thing! who believe in America! Well, Shelly [sic] Berkley I consider you a hero," and "the Nevada Republican Party owes you a deep debt of gratitude."
02:39 GMT: Permalink
Remember when George Harrison died and all the right-wing pundits took that opportunity to deride the contributions of Harrison and the Beatles to the arts and culture? Well, here's something from an interview back in 2000 that I like better:
|ac||They're your favorite group, right?|
Oh, yeah. They had something almost impossible to describe. I went to their first concert in Washington, D.C., which was on their first tour. I remember the night they were on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was about fourteen. And the next day, something had changed. There was not only a new sound, there was something else that was new.
What are your favorite Beatles records?
I guess Rubber Soul is my favorite album. I just think that it's an amazing album. I loved Sgt. Pepper, the White Album. Sgt. Pepper was a real tour de force. I'm not enough of a music historian to know whether this is accurate or not, but from my limited knowledge, it seemed to me to be the first time that an album had an integral quality that made it a whole piece of work from beginning to end.
Were you the type of kid who, when a record came out, you had to go down to the store and buy it that day?
Oh, yeah, and then I would sit down with my headphones on and listen to it from the very first note to the very last note, several times.
Who's your favorite Beatle?
Ah, hell, while we're on the subject, here's the eyewitness story.
And next time around? Well, Joshua Micah Marshall is looking at Richard Gephard and asking, "Are liberals hopeless suckers?"
Here's a worrying story at the Center for Digital Democracy:
|ac||In an effort to seal off a portion of the Internet as its own private domain, the cable TV industry is pressing the FCC to classify the cable modem business as an "information service," free of the open-access provisions that have made the Internet so diverse and competitive. In a series of February meetings, phone calls, and other lobbying efforts with commissioners and their key staff, the cable industry has made it clear that it wants to become the major gatekeeper of the broadband Internet. As the exclusive Internet service provider for the millions of household that will subscribe to cable's broadband offerings over the next several years, the cable industry is poised to exercise the same tight control of the online world that it currently wields in the multi-channel video market.|
Both the Comcast Corporation (now in the process of swallowing the country's largest cable operator, AT&T) and the National Cable Telecommunications Association told the FCC that they oppose any policy that would ensure that the Internet remain open and nondiscriminatory. FCC Commissioners were urged not to subject cable to any "forced access" requirements--the industry's pejorative shorthand for the open-access provisions that have made the Internet the diverse marketplace of ideas that it is today. Public interest activists and cable's Internet competitors have continued to call both for an open access policy, which would permit the same kinds of interconnections that govern telephone-based Internet service, as well as guarantees that broadband content will be handled on a nondiscriminatory basis. Without such a rule, cable is free to favor its own content and services, diminishing competition and diversity and altering the fundamental democratic character of the Internet.
Unfortunately, in its campaign against an open broadband Internet environment, the cable industry has found a sympathetic ally in FCC Chairman Michael Powell. Cable lobbyists (and their local telephone monopoly counterparts) claim that "regulatory uncertainty" has forestalled investment in the broadband arena, a theme that Powell has echoed on several occasions. But the experience in Canada--which has both open access requirements and higher levels of broadband investment than the US--suggests that the public interest and corporate interest can in fact coincide. Nevertheless, it is expected that the FCC will soon endorse the cable industry's "closed access" Internet agenda.
Speaking of corporate creepiness, Gary Farber links a biography page on Edwin Howard Armstrong, the engineer who gave us FM radio. Some of Armstrong's significant patents were pretty much stolen out from under him by bigger players like AT&T and RCA. The author's conclusion:
|ac||Armstrong was not a company man, yet he gave more to radio than RCA ever did. He gave to his country as well in both world wars. His example shows how Microsoft has it wrong. The true source of a country's innovations are not its companies, but its citizens.||ac|
13:45 GMT: Permalink
Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo has a new address at http://talkingpointsmemo.com and the re-launched site seems to load faster in my browser, too. I like it.
|ac||What Europeans don't understand is how much America was changed by Sept. 11. The example I use to explain this transformation to my European friends is my parents' neighborhood in Washington. It's a comfortable, old-fashioned place with big houses and tree-lined streets. Before 9-11, you would have had trouble finding an American flag in this comfortable suburb. Today, the stars and stripes are flying above almost every door.|
American patriotism is so loud and self-congratulatory in ordinary times -- think of the ending of your typical Hollywood movie -- that it's hard for Europeans to realize that this time it really is different. Americans feel that they are at war. They feel vulnerable. They want to destroy the enemy before the enemy destroys them. Europeans may find that kind of thinking naive and simplistic, but they can't wish it away.
Now turn over the coin: What Americans don't understand is that Europeans have been fighting terrorism for decades. The British coped with IRA bombs exploding in the center of London; the French lived with bombs in the Metro and assassins in the streets; the Italians lived with Red Brigades that blew up train stations; the Spaniards continue to face regular bombings by Basque terrorists. The Europeans don't need to be lectured to by Americans about how fighting terrorism is a long and bloody war; they've lived it.
Also at the Post, E.J. Dionne has a knee-slapping report on the campaign finance debate.
Editor Of The Courier Newspaper Fired Suddenly. He failed the Political Correctness test.
Hunter S. Thompson himself rants on Domestic terrorism at the Super Bowl.
And if you've got (or want) Flash, you can listen to The Enron Voice Mail System, 2002.
|ac||There are two reasons why Rob Kane, 17, found himself participating in an antiabortion protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic last week with 80 other students from his Catholic high school.|
"One reason is because I think abortion should be stopped," said Kane, a junior at Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Bucks County.
"And also because I got the 10 points. I'm trying to get my grades up and get into a good college."
Kane's morality-class teacher, June Littel, had offered her class extra credit - 10 bonus points on the next test - to stand along Louis Drive, pray the rosary, and wave signs reading "Abortion Kills Children" at passing vehicles for about an hour after school.
Workers inside the clinic said they had never seen so many high school students as on that day in the 25 protest-filled months since it started offering abortions.
Also at Ananova, Toymaker under fire as Hitler dolls unveiled. And Cod liver oil 'officially' good for you
In fact, it's been a good week for old wives tales: mastica kills H. Pylori as well as curing stomach ulcers and halitosis. Wow.
I still can't believe it: John Poindexter! Over at Through the Looking Glass, "Charles Dodgson" offers a quick look at the latest criminal appointee for the Bush administration.
And speaking of weblogs, Ted Barlow has lots of interesting stuff up. I also really like his choice of template: tasteful, simple, and blue. I like blue.
And Oliver Willis has a hilarious review of the Britney Spears flick.
|ac||Deconstructing the National Debt means understanding the difference between GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and BFAP (Bush Fantasyland Accounting Principles).|
According to BFAP, the figure for the publicly stated National Debt is $5.65 trillion. When the National Debt is deconstructed in terms of GAAP, however, you'll find that the accumulated National Debt is closer to $14 trillion.
One reason why the stock markets worldwide came under pressure recently was because of the unwinding of the Clinton confidence factor. It is very likely the final unwinding. When there was a sudden massive liquidation of US dollars, receipt of which were moved into gold, it was an indication that the remaining hope that Bush would follow Clintonomics had finally disappeared. People simply threw in the towel, and the markets reacted worldwide to that realization.
The confidence in the US economy was also shaken worldwide. If George Bush remains in office for one term, we will probably be looking at an aggregate deficit of $30 trillion by the year 2025 -- not including the interest. And there will be a gradual loss of confidence, as it is more widely understood that Bush has firmly returned us to the road of Reaganomics.
Part of the loss of confidence was also due to the Bush Administration reneging on most of its economic campaign promises. When they announced that they had abandoned any effort to pay down the National Debt and they would not only attempt to redeem the previously mentioned worthless Treasury securities from the Social Security fund, but would again begin to raid the Social Security Trust Fund as a preemptory measure to hide the enormous fiscal budget deficits which lay just over the horizon - that was it.
Animation: Addiction and terrorism.
For a change, Bob Somerby's Daily Howler did not get to the re-emergence of the fashion critics of Al Gore first. No, of course not, it was Gary Farber:
|ac||Mind, this has nothing to do with Al Gore's politics or policies, or how you or I feel about them. This is about political reporters, because they personally dislike Al Gore, distorting normal behavior into pseudo-evidence of non-existent mental problems or compulsive lack of self-confidence. I don't care if you utterly disagree with any and all of Gore's policy preferences, but it's distressing if you've been given to believe he's a nut because some days he wears a blue suit, some days a brown suit, and some days a casual shirt, or if you believe the lie that he claimed he invented the Internet, or that he habitually exaggerates.||ac|
There was once a time when I wouldn't have believed it of The Washington Post, a newspaper that serves a city that voted overwhelmingly for Gore, but they are turning out to be the most craven of all in many ways. From Baltimore's CityPaper:
|ac||CENSORSHIP WATCH DEP'T.: Aaron McGruder throws down a challenge to twitchy editors, opening Wednesday's The Boondocks with a quote from George Orwell: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." Then Huey, standing on a snowy hilltop, clears his throat. "Pretzel schmetzel--the guy was drunk!!"|
The Sun sat back and let McGruder and Orwell have their say. But not so its high and mighty neighbor to the south. The Washington Post yanked the strip and replaced it with a rerun. Way to upset the powers that be, you gutless toadies. What, was Sally Quinn afraid she wouldn't get invited to White House parties anymore? The Washington Post: We Took Down One President, and By God We're Not Gonna Take Down Any More.
|ac||But we've been had. This new deployment of troops isn't really about fighting international terrorism, as the Bush administration insists (and perhaps believes, which may be worse).|
Anyone who comes here to the jungles of Basilan, home to the Abu Sayyaf movement that we're supposed to destroy, discovers pretty quickly that Abu Sayyaf isn't a militant Islamic terror group. It's simply a gang of about 60 brutal thugs.
|ac||SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A federal judge has ordered school officials to let a kindergartner say grace out loud before eating lunch.|
Kayla Broadus, 5, had been stopped from praying with friends on Jan. 15 at her elementary school in Wilton, 36 miles north of Albany.
The girl's lawyer argued it was her First Amendment right to say grace, but the Saratoga Springs school system said the prayer, because it was audible, violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
But U.S. District Judge David Hurd issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday, saying the school may not interfere with the girl's praying. He set a hearing for Feb. 15.
In a statement, the school system said the Constitution "sometimes puts a school in a difficult position."
"The school must respect the religious rights of students and parents, while also protecting the rights of others to be free from religious interference during school hours on school premises," the district said.
I hope you didn't miss me too much. Well, obviously, that's not true, but anyway I have been zoned-out on Zone Rings, just so I can be dazzled by my new monitor. Wow, dig the colors, man! Oh, yeah, I like this thing, too - especially the fireworks.
|ac||The Arab American Institute raised the issue in a statement Friday that cited a Nov. 9 radio commentary in which conservative columnist Cal Thomas quoted Ashcroft as saying: "Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for Him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends His son to die for you." |
An Ashcroft spokeswoman said the statement did not reflect his position, and the White House moved to discredit Thomas' report.
|ac||An investigation in Houston Texas by the MadCowMorning News has uncovered significant discrepancies in the official version of the death of former Enron Vice Chairman Cliff Baxter. While Texas officials have been willing to share only a few facts about the case, much of what they have revealed, we have learned, is puzzling, misleading, or, amazingly, wrong.|
Even more amazing is that—with billions at stake—the very real possibility that Baxter might have been murdered has been completely ignored in the press.
|ac||One FBI source told the Wall Street Journal that the warning was based on the same "outdated information we recovered several months ago." The FBI dismissed the plot at the time. So the question becomes, Why would the White House coordinate releasing a laundry list of upsetting terrorist plots, most of which, upon closer inspection, appear to be half-baked at best? And why did an obedient press corps dutifully play up the angle of fear?||ac|
|ac||GOPpollster Frank Luntz raised a few eyebrows during a closed-door meeting with Republican Senators at the recent GOP retreat by lashing out over the fact that his memo bashing Daschle was leaked to the media by a lawmaker.|
Luntz griped to the GOPSenators that the leak "undermined" his effort to burnish nonpartisan credentials and may now hit him in the wallet. Shedding some of his Republican ties had enabled Luntz to rake in lucrative work conducting polls and focus groups for MSNBC as well as various corporate clients, such as the National Association of Broadcasters.
MSNBC officials called Luntz on the carpet for the memo, which leaked out before Christmas and slammed "Daschle Democrats" for obstructing the economic stimulus bill and other legislation. In fact, the network canceled a planned focus group that Luntz was going to conduct after President Bush's State of the Union address.
|ac||Within the next few days, Americans who follow the news are likely to be confronted with one of two headlines. Either "Campaign Finance Reform Succeeds," or "Campaign Finance Reform Fails." Be advised: neither declaration will be true.||ac|
|ac||Would you kill him in his bed?|
Thrust a dagger through his head?
I would not, could not, kill the King.
I could not do that evil thing.
I would not wed this girl, you see.
Now get her to a nunnery.
It's a miracle! I can see! That crummy little CRT is no longer eating up space on my desk, replaced by a Belinea flat-screen, and I just can't believe all the visual real estate I suddenly have. There are colors I've never seen before! It doesn't have the integrated speakers, but it's still like eyesight to the blind.
|ac||Incredibly, Fleischer recently defended the White House insistence on keeping the names of the participants in Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force a secret by claiming that the precedent for such arrogant behavior was set by the drafters of the Constitution.||ac|
|ac||The most imposing secretary of state of recent memory, George P. Shultz, was known in respectable circles as the reasonable moderate in an otherwise hawkish Reagan administration. Liberal columnist Tom Wicker called him the "steady man" on a ship of conservative loonies. So when Shultz, at a congressional hearing in February 1985, suddenly came out swinging for Reagan's controversial Central America policies, literally pounding the table and lecturing committee members about the Communist threat in Nicaragua and El Salvador, the effect was electric. Reagan's stunned opponents were knocked back on their heels. That year and the next Congress voted more than $100 million in aid to anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua. Five years later the Sandinistas were out of power. Did Shultz act out of conviction or out of loyalty to his president? No one knew, and it didn't matter. Shultz threw his prestige and his lineman's body into the pile and pushed it over the goal line. He made the Reagan Doctrine respectable.|
Is history repeating itself? This past week another imposing secretary of state, hero to dovish sensibilities on both sides of the Atlantic, veered sharply to the hard line. In testimony before Congress, Secretary of State Colin Powell went out of his way to show no space between himself and President Bush in the war on terrorism. Articulately defending the new Bush Doctrine, Powell declared his support for "regime change" in Iraq and said the administration is engaged in "the most serious assessment of options that one might imagine." He even warned that the United States would deal with Iraq "alone" if it had to. Powell accused Iranian leaders of "meddling" against the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan and called on the Iranian people to "make a choice": "stop being a state sponsor of terrorism, get out of the axis of evil column." He criticized North Korea for continuing "to develop and sell missiles that can carry weapons of mass destruction at the same time their people are starving to death." And when asked to dissent from, or at least to qualify, President Bush's "Axis of Evil" doctrine, Powell stood with his president: "We will not shrink back from that clarity of purpose."
|ac||As if emboldened by the quick collapse of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the administration appears to have decided that Sept. 11 did not warrant a change in America’s approach to the world. A series of moves in the past two weeks has made it clear that a deeper reassessment of the world simply will not take place.|
Unqualified U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt — regimes that have produced most of the ranks of the Sept. 11 hijackers and al-Qaida’s forces — will not change. The United Nations will not get American endorsement to fill the dangerous vacuums that occur when nations like Somalia or Afghanistan fail. Allies can either support American actions or keep quiet, even on issues of enormous importance to their national security, such as South Korea’s peace initiatives with North Korea.
Gary Farber points out that I referred to being a kid in the '60s, rather than the '50s, in the Colbert King article referenced below. That was a typo, since corrected; I never went to Glen Echo after 1960.
|ac||Policy planners have devoted years to this agenda. A report published in September 2001 detailing a conference held at the Brookings Institution in May 2001 provides clear evidence that the exploitation of Caspian Basin and Asian energy markets was an urgent priority for the Bush administration, and the centerpiece of its energy policy.||ac|
Reading about this stuff makes me feel like I've walked from Fortean Times right into the X-Files.
And, speaking of truth, if you haven't read that Greg Palast interview yet, please do. Here's a nice sample:
|ac||In 1989, I was doing some investigating. There's about six big power companies out there that are worldwide power pirates. And this one company called Southern, was caught with two sets of books. This is a company as big as Enron by the way. They kept one set of books, and they kept another set of books in the trunk of a vice president's car that was keeping track of 117 million dollars in phantom spare parts that they were charging to the public. Now I was involved in the investigation. The grand jury moved to indict this company. Daddy Bush was President, and using the power of the Justice Department; the Justice Department has the right to veto any racketeering indictment brought by a grand jury, and Bush's Department vetoed the criminal indictment. And why? What was the excuse? They said "well, it's really a complex accounting issue." They were audited, and their methods were approved by Arthur Anderson. So there it was. That was twelve years ago. That's when it began. That was the signal, okay boys, do whatever you want. You can literally steal hundreds of millions of dollars. You can create phantom parts, you can have hidden accounts. And it's just okay. And that started with daddy Bush.||ac|
What can we do about these people? Well, here's one suggestion.
The wife of the speechwriter responsible for the phrase "axis of evil" has e-mailed all her friends to brag about it, but it's main function seems to have been to serve as a distraction from all the other rubbish in Bush's State of the Union message; an amazing number of people from both sides of the aisle have criticized it, and now Andrew Marlatt is making fun of it in The Washington Post:
|ac||Bitter after being snubbed for membership in the "Axis of Evil," Libya, China and Syria today announced they had formed the Axis of Just as Evil, which they said would be "way eviler" than the Iran-Iraq-North Korea axis President Bush warned of in his State of the Union address.|
Axis of Evil members immediately dismissed the new axis as having, for starters, a really dumb name.
"Right. They are Just as Evil . . . in their dreams!" declared North Korean President Kim Jong Il. "Everybody knows we're the best evils . . . I mean the best at being evil . . . . We're the best."
Diplomats from Syria denied they were jealous over being excluded, although they conceded they did ask if they could join the Axis of Evil. "They told us it was full," said Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"An Axis can't have more than three countries," explained Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "This is not my rule, it's tradition. In World War II you had Germany, Italy and Japan in the evil Axis. So you can only have three. And a secret handshake. Ours is wicked cool."
|ac||If you sit at an office computer, you may have noticed that half of your E-mail peddles XXX Web sites. Last month Don Wycliff, the Tribune's public editor, wrote to lament this flood of spam into his office, and the particular difficulty newspapers face in doing anything about it.|
"There are technological responses to porn spam, of course -- filters and blocking devices," he wrote. "But any filter or blocking device involves trading off a measure of openness for a reduction in annoyance and the other costs that spam imposes. Newspapers, which must be as open to the public as possible, ought to be loath to close themselves off in any way that can be avoided."
But a few papers have decided to live with that trade-off. The other day William Dobbs, a gay activist in New York who's a critic of hate-crimes laws, explained his case against them in a phone call to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter and followed up by E- mailing her some news stories. One was a column that Alexander Cockburn had written in June 2000 for the New York Press. Cockburn's piece began, "We're just about 31 years away from the great Stonewall riot, which set the tone for years of defiant gay insurgency. Stonewall was about defiance. It was a Fuck You to the forces of repression, to the forces of the state. So where's this spirit of defiance today?"
The Journal Sentinel bounced Dobbs's E-mail right back to him. Dobbs was startled to read an error message that announced: "Banned text appeared in header or body." Dobbs tried again, making it "F/K You" this time, and Cockburn's column sailed through. Then Dobbs called me.
"We're trying to strike a balance between the functionality of the business and free speech, and trying to protect the working environment," explains Jim Herzfeld, the Journal Sentinel's vice president for information technology. But the technology is "pretty crude," which is why the occasional Alexander Cockburn essay is rejected too.
If you have any illusions about the usefulness of filtering software, click here.
|ac||Meanwhile, on the very same day that Enron announced its happy first-quarter results, Mr. Lay met with the Vice President to discuss his company’s recommendations for the Energy Task Force. The Enron boss gave the Vice President a detailed memo that highlighted his most urgent request: Under no circumstances should the federal government take any further steps to hold down the price of electricity in the West. Specifically, the memo urged that "the administration should reject any attempt to re-regulate wholesale power markets by adopting price caps or returning to archaic methods of determining the cost-base of wholesale power." (Those "archaic methods," incidentally, were established to suppress an earlier gang of predators known as the utility trust, with support from Mr. Bush’s supposed idol, Theodore Roosevelt.)||ac|
There's some very good news from Cheryl W. Thompson at The Washington Post. Incarceration Policies Eased, 2 Reports Say:
|ac||More than a dozen states have passed sentencing and corrections reforms that are beginning to reverse three decades of "get tough" incarceration policies, according to two reports scheduled for release by advocacy groups today.|
One study by the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based organization that promotes alternatives to imprisonment, found that lawmakers in four states either scaled back or reversed sentencing policies. It also found that five states expanded drug treatment as a sentencing option and seven states passed legislation to ease prison crowding.
A similar review by the Justice Policy Institute, which also opposes strict incarceration policies, found that tight budgets have impelled governors in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Florida to close prisons and prompted four other states to reduce prison populations. The report contends public support is shifting away from imprisonment of nonviolent offenders and toward prevention, rehabilitation and alternative sentencing.
|ac||WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Monday criticized his church's position against the death penalty, saying that Catholic judges who believe capital punishment is wrong should resign.|
The devout Roman Catholic said after giving it "serious thought" he could not agree with the church's stand on the issue.
|ac||Inevitably, a questioner pressed Mr. Clinton for his thoughts about President Bush's "axis of evil," the nuclear-eager combination of Iran, Iraq and North Korea. "We have to take these countries each in turn," he warned. "They may all be trouble, but they are different." Support for sanctions against Iraq in the United Nations had eroded, he said.|
Iran, he said, "has two governments now," progressive elements that the United States can work with and hard-liners whose every move must be watched.
"On North Korea, I have a totally different take," he said, recounting how close he believed he was to a deal with Pyongyang to end its missile program in December 2000. He nearly went to the Stalinist nation to seal it, he said, but he had to stay in Washington working on a last-minute Middle East peace initiative that, he noted ruefully, fell apart.
With North Korea, he said, "I figure I left the next administration with a big foreign policy win," one that he hinted Mr. Bush had squandered with unnecessarily hard language early last year.
Bartcop also reminds us about that episode of BBC Newsnight: Greg Palast on September 11th and why thousands of people "had to die needlessly."
Patrick says I didn't make it clear that my early-morning post of Tuesday wasn't a cry of despair - that I was just talking about what it sounded like Gary was saying: that it's no longer acceptable to expect Americans to mean what they say about freedom and democracy, no longer reasonable to want America to take diplomacy seriously, and ridiculous to want "the leader of the free world" to rise above exploiting and manipulating the American people's grief and horror over September 11th for his own partisan purposes, because that event "changed everything".
September 11th certainly did change a lot of things. It made it impossible for the media and the White House to continue pretending that terrorism was no big deal, no threat, just something that scamp Bill Clinton tried to use to distract the public from his private peccadillos. It made it obvious, even to the trivia-obsessed Washington press corps, that we really, really aren't bullet-proof and that we can't go on ignoring terrorism.
But it didn't change the importance of freedom and democracy, the need for intelligent diplomacy, or the fact that George Bush doesn't belong in the White House and that his agenda is anti-American, harmful to our economy, and a betrayal of the highest values of our nation.
Do some Europeans hold the US to a double-standard? Sure. Do some hate America or Americans? Sure - as Salman Rushdie makes clear in his New York Times article, America and Anti-Americans. (Although, frankly, I think he overdoes it a little. Most of the attitudes he describes have been here - and annoying the hell out of me - since I moved here in 1985. And I'm not hearing a lot of folks resenting the fact that they were wrong about the US armed services being able to overcome the Taliban. What I'm hearing more of is that people are glad their fears turned out to be wrong. People are delighted to be rid of the Taliban.)
But it's all a lot more complex than that. Many people here absolutely love America and Americans. They admire our freedoms, our can-do spirit, our willingness to demand what we want (and our ability to get it). I often get interviewed by journalists who say they talk to me rather than more famous native activists because, "Americans are more interesting." Europeans felt embarrassed on our behalf when they saw Reagan's brain-dead performance as president. They cheered Bill Clinton because he seemed more like a real president. They were crushed when the loser of the 2001 presidential election was awarded the White House; they felt betrayed.
And of course, they were, and so were we. Just as we were betrayed when the Republicans and the Washington press corps chose to ignore the Clinton administration's warnings about terrorism, even while Americans were being killed by bin Laden's minions. Just as we were betrayed when George Bush eliminated Clinton administration safeguards against terrorism and shelved the Homeland Security report. And now these same people are actually profiting from bin Laden's wrath.
As an American, I am outraged. But you don't have to be an American to know that this is wrong - and to say so.
Why Bush really fainted.
Reason for scary polls.
This has been nagging at me all day. Gary Farber has blogged the Guardian leader that I also linked here, George Bush's delusion, but I agreed with it and he thinks it expresses some sort of European attitude, a double-standard. I'm frankly mystified by this; the article castigates a number of world leaders, including Tony Blair, for exploiting September 11th for political gain. It's a fair cop as far as I can see, and it's truly chilling to me that this blatant manipulation seems to be looking like an acceptable - even winning - strategy for Bush. Gary thinks there's something unfair about saying it's especially bad when the leader of America does it - that's the alleged double-standard. But no, he's wrong - we set that standard. We usually refer to the President of the United States as "the leader of the free world" - that's not a title we share around. We say of ourselves that we are "the beacon of freedom" and other such phrases that indicate that we hold ourselves to a higher standard and expect to be seen as towering above the crowd. And most Americans have never had any problem with the idea that, by god, we should always be trying to rise to that standard. Here in Europe and in other parts of the world there are many, many believers in the dream of America who thrill to see us do this and cheer us on. They have a right to be disappointed when we suddenly decide we're too good to live by our own promises.
Gary takes issue when the Guardian says: "The principal falsehood is that the policies Mr Bush now advocates are dictated by an ongoing terrorist menace. They are not. Primarily they are the products of conservative Republicanism, set dangerously loose in September 11's aftermath." Says Gary:
|ac||This is what they don't get: this is largely untrue. Yes, it has some truth regarding domestic policy. I've pointed that out, and will go on pointing it out. But what they completely lack understanding of is that September 11th changed everything.|
I'm not a Bush supporter. I'm a political eclectic, but I have a lot of left in my background, some in my foreground, and I've had no problem identifying at least partially as a liberal all my life. I don't regard Bush as legitimately elected, and I expect it's likely I'll work for the Democratic nominee in 2004. I oppose many of the Administration's domestic policies. I overwhelmingly support Democrats over Republicans, as a rule.
But post-September 11th, much of what goes on isn't partisan for me.
Maybe so, but Bush's domestic policies, to which the article also referred, haven't really changed - the White House has only become bolder about pushing them, even expanding on them. And few of Bush's policies can be justified on the basis of the fight against terrorism; indeed, some of them are clearly contraindicated. You don't, for example, give away your treasury when you're embarking on a long and arduous war. Nor is "missile defense" any more workable today than it was a year ago. It is not "partisan" to observe this.
"September 11 undoubtedly bound the American nation. But it did not blind it," said the Guardian. "Sooner or later, Mr Bush, self-styled universal soldier for truth, will have to stop pretending that tragedy gave him a free hand to remake America and the world to fit his simplistic, narrow vision - or risk having voters and US allies end the pretence for him. For this is the delusion under which he labours. And a very dangerous delusion it is too."
Gary replies, "The Guardian is wrong. George Bush is not pretending to remake America. September 11th remade America."
I'm afraid what I take from this is that the Guardian is indeed wrong. September 11th did blind America, and now George Bush can remake it however he likes.
|ac||Ben Laden: La Verite Interdite ("Bin Laden: the Forbidden Truth") by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie is a well-researched piece of mainstream French journalism. It is not a scandal-mongering knock off - in some places it is so well documented as to be tedious. Besides ample research in print media, the authors received information from disgruntled US sources, together with the French and (presumably) the Israeli intelligence services.||ac|
Emerson says the book contains no smoking gun for the most serious conspiracy theorists, but even so, the more I read, the more I feel sure that the Twin Towers might very well still be standing if the Supreme Court had not handed the White House to George W. Bush.
|ac||Attorney General John Ashcroft and his underlings are showing their puritanical colors in draping the "Spirit of Justice" and "Majesty of Law" sculptures at the Department of Justice [Reliable Source, Jan. 29].|
Instead of spending $8,000 on drapes, they might as well buy a couple of the head-to-toe garments that the Taliban forced the women of Afghanistan to wear.
Leave it to right-wing Republicans to obscure Justice and Law when they do not fit their fundamentalist world view. [Shane Robinson]
|ac||Cheney has spent enough years on Capitol Hill, and in the Executive Branch, to know that GAO auditors and examiners play it straight. Indeed, that must be what concerns him.||ac|
Gary Farber has a pointer up on his site to this interview with ex-spy Robert Baer, which reminded me that I meant to post a link to One Angry Spy, an article about him in The Guardian Weekend a few weeks ago. I will refrain for the moment from my standard kvetching about what certain people have turned our intelligence agencies into.
Michael Tomasky says in The Washington Post that the Democrats are the party of values:
|ac||But liberals have acquiesced in letting conservatives paint them as libidinous traitors and moral relativists for three decades, and have only occasionally, and tremulously, defended their values.Those values -- more central to the task of governing than the realm of personal mores -- have brought the nation the 40-hour work week, the G.I. Bill, civil rights, Social Security, Medicare, cleaner rivers, lower poverty rates and the first federal budget surplus in a generation (now gone), among many other benefits. I'll go out on a limb here: I daresay most Americans find these gains rather useful in their day-to-day lives. But I don't recall hearing Al Gore invoke much of that history at critical moments in 2000.||ac|
A little bit, yes, but the DLC types got really nervous whenever he "veered to the left", even though his poll ratings went up every time he did. Maybe he'll take that lesson more deeply to heart in the upcoming campaigns, now that Gore Is Ready to 'Rejoin the National Debate'.
Over at The American Prospect, meanwhile, Sean Wilentz has provided a short history of graft, corruption, real scandals, regulation, trumped-up scandals, de-regulation, and more real scandals, graft and corruption - well worth reading - ending up with his own assessment on character issues:
|ac||George W. Bush campaigned for the presidency largely on the character issue, as though character were purely a personal matter. But character is not just personal. Regardless of whether Bush himself is unblemished in the usual way of taking bribes or pushing graft, the Enron scandal testifies to the character of his politics and beliefs. It also testifies to those of the modern Republican Party.|
Enron shows us what happens when tiny groups of corporate special interests manipulate government to their own benefit; when matters of corporate governance are left entirely to the corporations; and when a company's treatment of its employees is considered a purely private matter.
|ac||Kaziah Hancock was told she could meet Jesus in the flesh if she handed over land and water rights to the Salt Lake City church.|
When he didn't show up, she sued the church for breach of contract, fraud and emotional distress and won the £191,000.
|ac||Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of sXXXch, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to XXXemble, and to peXXXion the government for a redress of grievances.||ac|
Some people call him "the Resident", some say "President-Select", some write "pResident" (I don't know how they pronounce it). Informally, I just call him by his name, but formally I use his proper title: Former Governor Bush. Denizens of one of my favorite forums have taken to calling him "President Bunnypants," in honor of both his side-trips on 11 September and his shaking-in-his-boots performance in his earliest speeches that followed. And, of course, for closing the White House to the public. Bush apologists always explain that the administration is just being sensible, but I don't buy it.
I'm tired of hearing about how everything has changed and we have to forgo all the rights, freedoms, and privileges that used to go with being an American. The Constitution was drawn up by people who had just fought a war in their own country, and our rights were reaffirmed after another war fought on US soil. Life doesn't really get any more dangerous than that.
And, as a native of the The Beltway, I'm particularly ticked about the way Bush treats what is becoming Fort White House, as Melanie Scarborough calls it, noting that he was doing this kind of thing even before September 11th, and his excuses are wearing thin:
|ac||Largely forgotten in the wake of Sept. 11 is what happened Sept. 5, when President and Mrs. George W. Bush hosted their first state dinner. The evening was capped with a fireworks display kept secret from the public until the last minute because the White House feared citizens would gather to watch and deemed that "a security concern." Although taxpayers were sent the six-figure tab, they were prevented from enjoying the show.|
This is important because it demonstrates that the Bushes' willingness to co-opt public festivities as private entertainment predates the terrorists' attacks. So when they refuse to let the people who pay for lavish White House Christmas decorations see them; when they restrict the National Christmas tree lighting ceremony to invited guests and let the public view only from a guarded pen; as they bar from the White House all tourists except photogenic schoolchildren, it is fair to recall their prewar preference for keeping the unbidden at bay.
Bush defends such extreme precaution by saying he is acting on the advice of the Secret Service, which is like a principal saying, "On the advice of students, we will no longer assign homework." Of course the Secret Service wants the White House closed, along with the streets around it and the skies above. The more isolated the president, the easier their job. That is an inadequate reason for the White House doors to close on an open society.
And isn't this a wonderful title? Donald Rumsfeld, Matinee Idol or Prevaricator-in-Chief?
Bernie Goldberg is a story that just keeps on giving. He nearly blew his previous gig by publicly saying mean things about his colleagues in a Wall Street Journal article, and then wrote a whole book doing the same - but when Michael Kinsley ridicules the book in his column, Bernie can't understand why these awful liberals say mean things. I actually laughed out loud at Bob Somerby's recounting of Goldberg's appearance on Bill O'Reilly's show, Easy to be hard.
Among the too-numerous-to-count laughable claims being made by the illiberal media on behalf of George W. Bush, it's hard to pick the zaniest. Normon Solomon looks at one of the contenders in You are no Franklin Roosevelt :
|ac||Hammering on the comparison until it seems like a truism, the Washington press corps is providing the kind of puffery for the man in the Oval Office that no ad budget could supply. But the oft-repeated analogy doesn't only give a monumental boost to Bush's image. It also -- subtly but surely -- chips away at FDR's historic greatness, cutting him down to GWB's size.||ac|
Meanwhile, it's too bad Bush is only pretending to read that book on Teddy Roosevelt. David Broder points out that Bush could get a lot from heeding TR's Lesson For Bush:
|ac||Reading the second volume of Morris's TR biography in the age of Enron is a sure-fire way to remind yourself of the cyclical recurrence of certain great struggles -- regional, ideological and economic -- in American history. And if President Bush took the same lesson from his perusal of the Morris book that I did, it will prompt him to action to save the current generation of runaway capitalists -- embodied in bankrupt Enron and its disgraced auditing firm, Arthur Andersen -- from themselves.||ac|
Paul Krugman, who reckons Enron is a much more important issue than the press is saying, has similar thoughts:
|ac||So now what? At the moment, demands for reform are scattershot and confused. Some people want new rules for 401(k) plans; some want new rules for accountants; some want campaign finance reform; some want a return to regulation. These seem like unrelated agendas, but I think they have a common theme: they're all about ending an era of laxity, in which nobody asked hard questions as long as everything looked O.K.
That era is now over.|
The political speculation right now focuses on who will take the blame for what happened. I admit it: that's a very interesting question. But I suspect that for those who are not directly implicated — and most politicians won't be — what will matter is not what they did but what they do. Do they act as if they get it — that they understand that the old laxity is no longer acceptable?
|ac||[bob] Paul, you are a fervent believer in "aggressive progressive" politics. Unfortunately, since the Supreme Court appointed George Bush President on 12/12/00, Democrats - even the most progressive ones - have been anything BUT aggressive. Bush lost the popular vote by 540,000, so he has no mandate for his conservative agenda. When will the Democrats stand up for the majority of Americans who oppose Bush's right-wing policies?|
[paulbegala] I could not agree more. A generation ago the dominant Democrats were Bobby Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Both were attacked for being ruthless. I think we could use some of that toughness today. Too many Democrats are too weak. And it's today's Republicans who are ruthless. Case in point: Someone is trying to murder Tom Daschle. Someone with access to weapons-grade anthrax. Some law enforcement leaks in the paper have hinted at a right-wing American ala Timothy McVeigh. Knowing that, the GOP has embarked on a strategy of demonizing Daschle -- one of the most decent people in the business. Cheney went so far as to embrace an ad which linked Daschle to Saddam Hussein. That's lower than a snake's ass in the Grand Canyon. But did any "major Democrat" call them on it? Did anyone take to the Floor in a speech to excoriate these jerks? Friends, we Democrats had better toughen up, or they're going to keep stealing elections -- and surpluses -- from us for a long time.
Begala usefully emphasizes the point that it's up to individuals to phone and write letters to the media and to our representatives if we want our views to be heard. Don't waste your time on petitions (which make hardly a dent in the consciousness of legislators or media), and don't wait for other people to organize you. Send an e-mail or fax to an individual columnist immediately when you see factual errors or blatant bias in their writings. Fax your Senators and Congressional Reps (don't bother with e-mail - most don't pay attention to it) right now to tell them what you think about the tax cut, Enron, or the current scared-bunny behavior of the Democratic leadership. Let them know you will not forgive them if they let any more creeps from the Heritage Foundation get onto the bench.
What Begala doesn't say, but you should take to heart, is this: Be concise, and be polite. Don't swear, don't call people names, don't meander all over the map. Make a clear statement of your beliefs and expectations as briefly as possible in measured, reasoned tones. Do this even when you are writing to people who are not of this earth. (You do not, however, have to refer to G.W. Bush as "president". Just use his name, that'll do fine.)
|ac||Because most of these books are highly critical of the Supreme Court's ruling in Bush vs. Gore, I was particularly interested in any that defended the high court's action. They are few, with the most prominent being "Breaking the Deadlock: The 2000 Election, the Constitution, and the Courts" by Federal Court of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner. While a partisan, Judge Posner is always judicious.|
Having read many of the prolific judge's writings -- indeed I'm reading his latest on "Public Intellectuals" as I write this -- I found that his Election 2000 apologia may be the worst book he has ever written. It is poorly organized and so thinly argued that it is difficult to find justification for his conclusion "that the Florida Supreme Court acted unreasonably and that the U.S. Supreme Court did not -- which is not the same thing as saying that the Court's decision was correct. That is a close question, perhaps unanswerable."
Posner's less than ringing defense of Bush vs. Gore is typified by his claim that the "decision is not lawless merely because the majority opinion is weak, especially when pressure of time made it impossible for merely human judges to do a good job." But this rushed-ruling argument ignores the fact that each of the four dissenting justices managed to assemble well-reasoned, articulate arguments that eviscerated their conservative colleagues' thoughtless work. Judge Posner's public intellectualism on Election 2000 will disappoint even his most ardent fans. It did me, anyway.
A book that I consider a great "little" find is Fordham law professor Abner Greene's "Understanding the 2000 Election: A Guide to the Legal Battles That Decided the Presidency." This concise volume does exactly what it promises. Greene explains what happened during the various legal proceedings and why.
He offers commentary rather than criticism. This book can serve as a terrific summary reference work for students, journalists and others interested in getting a quick handle on the many legal actions involved during the Florida vote count.
However, for a fuller account of the legal machinations -- and a similarly dispassionate, scholarly and accessible analysis -- there is the work of University of Southern California political science professor Howard Gillman, "The Votes That Counted: How the Court Decided the 2000 Presidential Election." Gillman's analysis is often striking, not by reason of his rhetoric, but rather because of his cold logic and lucid arguments.
Particularly powerful (as well as carefully and tightly reasoned) is Gillman's analysis and conclusion -- which is the exact opposite of Posner's -- that the Florida Supreme Court acted in a nonpartisan manner while the U.S. Supreme Court acted in a partisan fashion.
He states: "The five justices in the Bush v. Gore majority are ... the only judges involved in this election dispute who fall uniquely within the category that is most indicative of partisan justice: they made a decision that was consistent with their political preferences but inconsistent with precedent and inconsistent with what would have been predicted given their views in other cases."
|ac||Bush and his people rode into town swearing that they would restore "honor" and "dignity" to the White House and civility to the government. Sometimes one of them would also use the word "integrity" and somewhere in there was the new craze that was sweeping the GOP (at least until the "election" was over), "compassionate conservative."|
All these buzzwords were focus group tested - these were words that people responded to after years of being bombarded with the concept that consensual oral sex was about as evil a thing as could be imagined. The word to the wise was that if we somehow lost our collective minds, bought what they were selling, and elected their boy to the hardest job in the world, he wouldn't have oral sex in the Oval Office. Drug arrests, DUI's, even going AWOL from keeping America's borders safe from Mexico during the Vietnam War didn't count as measures of "integrity". Neither does having as your only talent the ability to get your dad to bail you out of every dumb thing you ever did. That stuff's okay, you just won't catch this guy getting a tune up in the White House.
Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, February 2002
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And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.