Experience past quickies: one. two. three. four. five. six. seven. eight.
More recent quickies.April 2004
"It is remarkable that a gag provision in the Patriot Act kept the public in the dark about the mere fact that a constitutional challenge had been filed in court," Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director, said in a statement. "President Bush can talk about extending the life of the Patriot Act, but the ACLU is still gagged from discussing details of our challenge to it."
...Blog prose is written in headline form to imitate informal speech, with short emphatic sentences and frequent use of boldface and italics. The entries, sometimes updated hourly, are little spasms of assertion, usually too brief for an argument ever to stand a chance of developing layers of meaning or ramifying into qualification and complication. There's a constant sense that someone (almost always the blogger) is winning and someone else is losing. Everything that happens in the blogosphere — every point, rebuttal, gloat, jeer, or "fisk" (dismemberment of a piece of text with close analytical reading) — is a knockout punch. A curious thing about this rarefied world is that bloggers are almost unfailingly contemptuous toward everyone except one another. They are also nearly without exception men (this form of combat seems too naked for more than a very few women). I imagine them in neat blue shirts, the glow from the screen reflected in their glasses as they sit up at 3:48 a.m. triumphantly tapping out their third rejoinder to the WaPo's press commentary on Tim Russert's on-air recap of the Wisconsin primary.George Packer is an idiot.
She was 71 years old.
She was blind.
She needed her 94-year-old mother to come to her rescue.
And in the middle of the dogfight -- in which Eunice Crowder was pepper-sprayed, Tasered and knocked to the ground by Portland's courageous men in blue -- the poor woman's fake right eye popped out of its socket and was bouncing around in the dirt....
What did Police Chief Derrick Foxworth have to say about the case? "This did not turn out the way we wanted it to turn out," Foxworth said Friday. "Looking back, and I know the officers feel this as well, they may have done something differently. We would have wanted the minimal amount of force to have been used. But I feel we need to recognize Ms. Crowder has some responsibility. She contributed to the situation."
Granted. But Eunice was 71. She was blind. That probably explains why a judge threw out all charges against her and why the city, in a stone-cold panic, settled ASAP.
A truce has brought a reduction in violence in the Iraqi city of Falluja after US troops fought insurgents there during a two-week siege.
There was little media access during the fighting, but eyewitness reports are now emerging.
Thousands of activists from across the US and some 60 other countries have rallied in central Washington to ensure that abortion remains legal in the US.
In many ways, women and women’s rights are the canaries in the mine. What happens to women’s rights signals what’s happening to a nation—a society itself. Look at Afghanistan. The atrocious restrictions, gender apartheid, enjoined by the Taliban and initially all but ignored by the rest of the world with the exception of feminist organizations, signaled something was horribly wrong there and around the globe.
If it wasn’t for the Feminist Majority and the women’s movement, the United States and the United Nations would have recognized the Taliban in 1998 as the official government of Afghanistan and gone on with business as usual. Instead, because of pressure from the women’s movement, President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Kofi Annan came out in March 1998 against recognition of the Taliban regime—in front of a large group of leaders from women’s organizations.
The war on women’s rights domestically and globally continues. The global gag rule—the first measure President Bush promulgated after being sworn in on January 21, 2001—prohibits U.S. funding in developing countries for family planning agencies that use their own money to provide women with information about abortion or even to advocate for legalization of abortion.
This is at a time when the World Health Organization estimates that more than 80,000 women die in developing nations each year from complications of illegal or unsafe abortions, and hundreds of thousands others are maimed and injured. Women seeking treatment for complications of unsafe abortions overwhelm healthcare systems in these poor countries, consuming as much as half of hospital budgets. Experts also believe the number of women dying is twice the official counts. With many women afraid or unable to seek medical treatment, their tragic deaths go uncounted.
What many people in this country don’t know is that U.S. international family planning and abortion policies are contributing to the deaths of these women and girls. That’s why, when we march, we will call attention to these failed U.S. policies.
Do you like it when writers just lie in your face? If so, it seems that Brooks is your man! Indeed, Brooks has done exactly what Stephen Glass did when he almost destroyed the New Republic; because the truth didn’t make a good tale, he invented fake facts to create a great story. As almost anyone would, we thought of Glass when we read Issenberg’s piece because the similarity with Brooks is so obvious. “[I]t became increasingly hard to believe that Brooks ever left his home,” Issenberg writes. This is because Brooks made up facts, just the way Glass had done.
In real life, the New Republic almost went down because of Glass’ endless faking. So if you have a taste for low, mordant chuckles, check Noam Scheiber at the current TNR, hotly defending Brooks’ fake stories (and trashing Issenberg, who got the facts right). Indeed, if you check Scheiber’s defense of Brooks, you’ll get a taste of the deep dysfunction routinely displayed by your modern-day “press corps.” Meanwhile, THE HOWLER waits for Atlantic Monthly to tell readers what Brooks has done.
..."Some of the most beautiful and deep ideas of the 20th century come from engineering. Certainly in America, engineering is very declassé. It has never had the cachet of physics, or even chemistry. And yet the deep insights of computer science, and a lot of the insights of molecular biology, are fundamentally engineering insights. Thermodynamics, too - a lot of it came from work with steam engines. So I think that thinking about machines, and how to get purpose out of material, has been a wonderful source of insight. I don't think it's an accident that some of the greatest artists of all time have been engineers."
Very few engineers, however, write with anything approaching Dennett's fizz and sparkle. Consciousness Explained (1991) or Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995) are packed with ideas, anecdotes and jokes. All philosophers to some extent write science fiction - it's how they make their ideas clear - but Dennett's thought experiments would make wonderful short stories. "Perhaps we should be wary of trying to communicate with other planets; after all, we might succeed and find their first message is a heart-rending plea for help - together with detailed instructions on just how we could be of assistance. "
His entire professional life has been spent looking at various aspects of one great question: how can meaning, design and morality arise in a universe that began as meaningless, void and without form?...
at 17 he was expected to read and understand Wittgenstein's Tractatus . He already had an interest in philosophy. "I read Descartes [and I thought] this is really interesting, but it's wrong. Let me think if I can figure out why.
"Then, one night in the maths library, I found Quine's book From a logical point of view ." Willard van Orman Quine, who died in 2000, was one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. "Since I was reading his maths logic, I thought I might as well see what this guy had to say in these essays. I stayed up all night reading it, and the next morning, I wrote to Harvard saying I wanted to transfer because I had to work with this guy. I thought he was wrong - like Descartes, but in a different way. And I thought, I have to get where the action is, so I transferred. "
...The Oxford philosopher John Lucas had published a paper - still famous - arguing that Gödel's theorem disproved any theory that humans must be machines, and that human thought could be completely simulated on a computer. This is the position Dennett became famous for attacking.
"I didn't know anything about computers. I got interested in computers at Ox-ford. I read John Lucas's paper and decided that was wrong. I thought his application of Gödel's theorem was mistaken. As you see, I had this instinct for the jugular. I'd think 'Descartes is wrong, Quine's wrong; Lucas is wrong!' But that's what philosophers do: they find an eminent target, and they think, let's see if I can figure out how to say what's wrong with this. "
No doubt, you’ve heard of Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress.
You may not have heard of his nephew, Salem Chalabi....
After American troops deposed the former regime, you see, Salem put out a shingle offering help to companies trying to land lucrative Iraqi reconstruction deals paid for with U.S. tax dollars. Salem’s shop is called the Iraqi International Law Group. And you can still visit it online at www.iraqlawfirm.com.
If you were a company looking to get on the Iraq-reconstruction gravy train, Salem was probably a good place to start. Not only did he have the ear of his uncle Ahmed Chalabi, with his close ties to the Pentagon and his seat on the Interim Governing Council, but his business partner Marc Zell was pretty well-connected, too.
Who’s Marc Zell, you ask? Allow me to explain.
Zell is the longtime law partner of Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith, one of the Bush administration’s prime architects of the drive for war with Iraq. Feith’s Pentagon office, meanwhile, is the one charged with doling out Iraqi reconstruction contracts....
At this point, I’m going to assume you’ve heard enough that you’re either laughing or crying at the mix of insiderism, cronyism and ridiculousness that Chalabi and his crew are making of the lofty ideals we’re supposedly fighting for in Iraq.
We may have banished dictatorship and gross human rights abuses from Iraq — at least for the moment, that is — but cronyism and clan dynasticism seem to have weathered the invasion quite nicely.
At any rate, we at the HOWLER aren’t overwhelmed by the official clips from Plan of Attack. We have been impressed by the press corps’ skill at overlooking obvious points and sticking to safe interpretations. How hackneyed has the press corps been in interpreting highlights from the book? Consider one of the book’s most widely-discussed scenes—that “slam dunk” briefing given to Bush in December 2002....
Since Saturday, this episode has been discussed again and again. And everyone knows what the episode means—George Tenet blew it again. But no one has raised an obvious question, a question concerning the date of this brief. The question virtually leaps off the page—but everyone knows not to notice.
Readers, why was this briefing given in December 2002? As Woodward’s book makes perfectly clear, this was very late in the game for Bush to be checking the evidence. This ballyhooed briefing is described on pages 247-250 of Plan of Attack. But as the book makes perfectly clear, Bush Admin types—including Bush—had been making unequivocal assertions about WMD for about four months when this briefing occurred. The briefing occurred in December 2002—but Bush and Cheney had been saying “slam dunk” themselves ever since the previous August....
WOODWARD (page 189): Repeating the new unequivocal charge about Iraq’s WMD program she had adopted three weeks earlier, Bush said, “The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons. The Iraqi regime is building the facilities necessary to make more.” Ratcheting up another notch, he added, “And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order were given.”
Tenet and the CIA had warned the British not to make that allegation, which was based on a questionable source…Tenet referred privately to this as the “they-can-attack-in-45-minutes-shit.”
By the way, where was Bush’s National Security Adviser while the president was out talking “shit?” She was on Sunday network TV, talking “shit” about intel herself. Condi was swearing that those aluminum tubes could only be used for nuclear weapons—a bogus claim which completely misstated the state of American intel (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/24/03).
In short, what’s the striking thing about that December briefing? The fact that it occurred in December! The press corps knows how to play this item: Tenet gave Bush a lousy briefing, and the wise president said to do better. But everyone knows not to mention the obvious. At the time this briefing occurred, Bush and Cheney had already spent four months making flat statements about the intelligence. Why was Bush being briefed in December when his statements had started that fall?
This question would occur to almost anyone—except to the Washington “press corps.” Do you mind if we tell you the truth? Woodward’s book is full of scripts—scripts that flatter a bold, daring president. (Such may be the price of full access.) The December briefing is one such narration. Tenet is the fall guy here, brought up short by an eagle-eyed president. And everyone knows not to ask the obvious: Why was this president making “unequivocal statements” long before this briefing occurred?
Readers, you have to keep an eye peeled for scripts. What follows is a priceless example—the pleasing conclusion to Woodward’s account of that December briefing:
WOODWARD (page 249-250): From McLaughlin’s presentation, [Bush chief of staff Andrew] Card was worried that there might be no “there there,” but Tenet’s double reassurance on the slam dunk was memorable and comforting. Cheney could think of no reason to question Tenet’s assertion. He was, after all, the head of the CIA and would know the most. The president later recalled that McLaughlin’s presentation “wouldn’t have stood the test of time.” But, said Bush, Tenet’s reassurance—“That was very important.”
“Needs a lot more work,” Bush told Card and Rice. “Let’s get some people who’ve actually put together a case for a jury.” He wanted some lawyers, prosecutors if need be. They were going to have to go public with something.
The president told Tenet several times, “Make sure no one stretches to make our case.”
It’s the perfect “bold leader” script. Bush—who has now been “stretching” the intel for months—tells Tenet, “several times,” to make sure no one does any stretching! Does Woodward really know that Bush said this? Or is this one more script from the Rove script machine? Of one thing we can be quite certain—no press member will ever ask. This odd story begs for analysis. We promise—you won’t see that happen.
The sequence of that famous briefing doesn’t seem to make much sense. It leaped off the page of last Saturday’s Post. But the stewards of your discourse have walked off their posts, and they only discuss the topics Conventional Wisdom provides them.
A national group of Christian leaders is sending a scathing letter to President Bush on Earth Day, accusing his administration of chipping away at the Clean Air Act.
"In a spirit of shared faith and respect, we feel called to express grave moral concern about your 'Clear Skies' initiative -- which we believe is The Administration's continuous effort to weaken critical environmental standards to protect God's creation," the National Council of Churches wrote in an advance copy of the letter provided to The Associated Press.
The New-York based group, which represents 50 million people in 140,000 Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox denominations, argued in the letter that the administration's proposed changes to certain Clean Air Act rules will allow "some of the country's biggest polluting facilities to avoid installing air pollution control equipment when they significantly increase polluting emissions."
A northern Virginia power company whose chairman has longstanding ties to the Bush White House and this state's public pension fund last week received swift approval by Gov. Jeb Bush and the state Cabinet for a pipeline project that would bring natural gas from the Bahamas to South Florida.
The company is AES Corp., an $8.5-billion revenue corporation whose chairman is Richard Darman. For those not up on the Washington scene back in the 1980s, Darman rose to become the high-profile budget director in the first Bush administration.
Darman was intimately involved with former President George Bush's promise - later broken - immortalized in the line, Read my lips: no new taxes. Breaking that vow was a major factor in Bush's election loss to Bill Clinton in 1992.
Darman moved on from government. But not too far. In addition to his recent role as chairman of AES, Darman has served since 1993 as part of the senior management team and adviser of the Carlyle Group of Washington.
It's a business tale of cozy ties that this brief column can only begin to describe.
One of the world's largest private investing firms, Carlyle was started by former Bush administration and other former senior federal officials. Its initial focus: buying and reviving troubled defense companies. Carlyle was quickly and immensely successful, thanks to the firm's ability to win federal contracts.
Former President Bush worked as a high-paid rainmaker for Carlyle for years, giving international speeches and opening the doors of foreign governments. He recently retired from that role.
Critics charge that Carlyle's phenomenal success is based on little more than former senior federal officials leveraging their access and personal influence here and abroad. Carlyle, whose address, like that of the White House, is on Pennsylvania Avenue, also enjoyed close client ties and investments with the Saudi royal family and the wealthy business side of the bin Laden family (not tied to Osama bin Laden's terrorism) long before Sept. 11, 2001.
Evidence supporting Abrupt Climate Change theory builds (from a new study published in Nature Magazine, April 22 2004) : "Rate of Ocean Circulation Directly Linked to Abrupt Climate Change - A new study strengthens evidence that the oceans and climate are linked in an intricate dance, and that rapid climate change may be related to how vigorously ocean currents transport heat from low to high latitudes...
Want to read Bob Woodward's new book, Plan of Attack, without plowing through all 467 gossip-soaked pages? We can help! Slate has taken Woodward's tome and reduced it to a point-by-point executive summary. Grab a copy from the nearest bookstore and read along.Such As...
Page 186: Bush aide Nick Calio declares his intention to vitiate a congressional filibuster. Bush says, "Nicky, what the fuck are you talking about, vitiate?"
...As an adult psychopharmacologist, I tracked from early on the emergence of the idea that ADHD, previously thought of as a condition of childhood, persists into adulthood, and was referred numerous people interested in being evaluated for ADHD. As Thomas Spencer MD notes in one of the quotes Rebecca reprints, ADHD is one of the most dramatic examples of a condition defined so vaguely, broadly and imprudently that not only do millions of people believe they have it but millions qualify for the diagnosis. I groaned when a freelance journalist described his idiosyncratic and unscientific take on ADHD in a 1987 New York Times Magazine piece which basically used the diagnosis to explain away his lifelong underachievement. I have spluttered ever since, as certain unscrupulous psychiatrists, including John Ratey and Ned Hallowell here in Cambridge (shamelessly marketing their 'Harvard Medical School' affiliations), have made a lucrative cottage industry in mass market fiction books, workshops, consulting work and media appearances from fueling the idea that this diffusely defined ADHD ("driven to distraction", the title of the US News series to which Rebecca links, is the title of the first of their enormously successful books) applies to nearly everyone, and have gone on to describe other 'shadow syndromes' that are, similarly, versions of established psychiatric diagnoses so watered down as to similarly apply to virtually everybody.
This is such a travesty of my sense of what psychiatry is supposed to be, in which a diagnosis is a distinction that makes a difference. However, it is consistent with the medicalization of daily life and the era of cosmetic psychopharmacology, which has completely buried the distinctions between normal variants and pathology in the notion that personality can (and should) be hacked and tweaked... regardless of the consequences to the human soul. Many of my assessments consisted in trying to persuade people who thought they had they syndrome that they really did not, by stringent criteria and my attempt to ferret out what might be going on in their brain physiology and chemistry. Many were disappointed, some more legitimately than others. (Of course, the issue is complicated by the fact that the treatment of choice has been any of a variety of stimulant drugs. Needless to say, stimulants make most people feel better and more productive, so stimulant response does not confirm the diagnosis.)
The Vatican insisted Friday that lay people must not deliver sermons or preach the Gospel during Mass, issuing a new directive to crack down on practices that are becoming increasingly frequent in the United States and Europe. The document, commissioned by Pope John Paul II, softened a draft that had discouraged the use of altar girls and denounced such practices as applauding and dancing during Mass. But it was still likely to raise concern among Roman Catholics and -- if followed -- will likely change the way liturgies are celebrated worldwide.
Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House.
The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.
The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.
The bills now go the Senate, which also is controlled by Republicans.
The Conscientious Objector Policy Act would allow health care providers to assert their objection within 24 hours of when they receive notice of a patient or procedure with which they don't agree. However, it would prohibit emergency treatment to be refused.
Three other three bills that could affect LGBT health care were also passed by the House Wednesday which would exempt a health insurer or health facility from providing or covering a health care procedure that violated ethical, moral or religious principles reflected in their bylaws or mission statement.
A senior Food and Drug Administration official said Wednesday that it was unfortunate his agency stopped and inspected a busload of seniors returning from a medicine-buying trip to Canada.
"This is not consistent with our current practice," said John Taylor, the FDA's associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. "I would not expect it to happen again."
The FDA says it cannot guarantee the safety of medications purchased in Canada and has been increasing pressure on state and local programs that help people buy the lower-cost prescription drugs there .
The bus-stopping incident occurred last October but wasn't made public until Wednesday, when Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., wrote to the FDA to complain about it. Dayton, a millionaire, donates his entire Senate salary to pay for the bus trips from Minnesota, allowing seniors to take advantage of the much lower drug prices.
Female performers in an Afghan province have been banned from performing on television and radio. According to Reuters, female entertainers have been declared un-Islamic in the Southeastern province. The provincial government, according to Radio Free Europe, ordered state-run television in Jalalabad to stop broadcasting Afghan women singer’s performances.
Earlier this year, for the first time in over a decade a video with footage of a famous Afghan female singer was broadcast on public television. The footage of the female performer came just a few weeks after the approval of Afghanistan's new constitution that endorses equal rights for women and men. However, Afghanistan's Supreme Court protested the video, stating that they were opposed to women singing.
From 1992-1996, during Afghanistan's civil war, the Islamic mujahadeen did not allow images of women to be broadcasted on television. When the Taliban came to power in 1996, they banned television altogether.
Income and lifestyle needs aside, the truly serious writers and artists out there should consider where their true interests lie in the Bono/Golden Globe controversy. They should understand (and many do) that this claim of a constitutionally protected pants-drop is simply a race to the bottom that is sucking all the available capital out of the entertainment system and increasingly investing it in junk guaranteed to enrage the majority in what, alas, is still a democracy. If broadcasters and cable networks couldn't slip in f-words and f-scenes to make ends meet, they'd have to try harder to "create" something new that would hold large audiences.Got that? The majority is enraged by junky indecency, and yet junky indecency is also so incredibly appealing that all you need to attract large audiences are a few "f-words and f-scences."
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission voted Thursday to allow employers to reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they become eligible for Medicare at age 65.
The agency approved a final rule saying that such cuts do not violate the civil rights law banning age discrimination. The vote was 3 to 1, with Republicans lining up in favor of the rule and a Democrat opposing it.
Employers and some labor unions supported the change, saying it would help preserve coverage for early retirees. But AARP, which represents millions of Americans age 50 and older, strenuously objected.
The new rule creates a potentially explosive political issue, because it will create anxiety for many of the 12 million Medicare beneficiaries who also receive health benefits from their former employers. . .
Employer-sponsored health plans help retirees pay medical expenses not covered by Medicare. Those expenses could include co-payments and deductibles, the catastrophic costs of severe illness and the cost of preventive care and prescription drugs, beyond what Medicare might pay...
Leslie E. Silverman, a member of the commission, said the appeals court decision had confronted employers with an all-or-nothing choice: "Give all of your retirees the exact same benefits, which is incredibly difficult, or eliminate your retiree health benefits altogether."
Texas activists say that the tight connection between Bush and Lay bodes ill if Bush is elected. Andrew Wheat, from Texans for Public Justice, a campaign finance advocacy group in Austin, compares the symbiotic relationship between Enron and the governor to "cogeneration"--a process used by utilities to harness waste heat vented by their generators to produce more power. "In a more sinister form of cogeneration, corporations are converting economic into political power," he says. "A Bush election fueled by Enron dollars could ignite in the public policy arena, and consumers would get burned."
And so may people in the Third World.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both criticized Enron for colluding with police who brutally suppressed protests at the company's giant power plant in western India. The plant's operating firm is called the Dabhol Power Company. From 1992 to 1998, Enron owned 80 percent of it, with General Electric and Bechtel each holding a 10 percent share. (In 1998, the Indian state electricity board bought a 30 percent share of the company, which reduced Enron's stake to 50 percent.)...
In its actions overseas, Enron has made a practice of taking advantage of corporate welfare. And it has enlisted George W. Bush in this effort.
For example, in March 1997, Lay wrote a letter to Bush that was subsequently released to the press under Texas open records laws, asking him to contact every member of the Texas delegation in Congress to explain how "export credit agencies of the United States are critical to U.S. developers like Enron, who are pursuing international projects in developing countries." These agencies include the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which provides political risk coverage and financial support to U.S. companies investing abroad....
The Enron Methanol plant in Pasadena, Texas, lies in the Houston Ship Channel area, the nation's largest concentration of petrochemical plants just east of the city. The plant has won special concessions from Governor Bush, allowing the company to pollute without a permit, as well as giving it immunity from prosecution for violating some environmental standards....
Only 7 percent of the more than 3,500 tons of nitrogen oxide emitted by the Enron Methanol plant in 1997 would have been permitted had Enron not gotten away with this under the "grandfather clause" of the 1971 Texas Clean Air Act, which allows plants built before 1971 to continue their polluting practices. Bush extended this clause under the 1999 Clean Air Responsibility Enterprise (CARE) program that his office drew up in a series of secret meetings with representatives of the top polluters in the state...
The CARE program is backed up by an act that Bush signed in May 1995 giving sweeping protections to polluters that perform internal environmental or safety audits. The law makes these audit documents confidential and allows polluters to escape responsibility for environmental violations. To date, Enron has conducted five such audits and filed for immunity from prosecution for violations of the law, according to the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the state equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency....
Last year, the Bush campaign borrowed Enron's corporate jets eight times to fly aides around the country, more times than any of the thirty-four other companies that made their company aircraft available to the Presidential hopeful....
On April 7, 2000, he played host to Bush and his father, the former President, at the Houston Astros' first home game of the season. The game was held in the baseball team's brand new stadium--Enron Field--which was built with the help of a $100 million donation from Enron. (The company got free advertising, a tax break, and a $200 million contract to supply power to the stadium in return.)
Less than three weeks later, Lay joined candidate Bush in Washington, D.C., for a Republican fundraiser that topped all previous records by bringing in a staggering $21.3 million, easily the biggest one-night haul for any political party in history.
...Enron Oil and Gas Company, a subsidiary of Enron Corporation, announced on October 16, 1986, that it had completed a well producing both oil and natural gas in Martin County, Texas. An Enron Oil and Gas press release reported the well was producing 24,000 cubic feet of natural gas and 411 barrels of oil per day in the Belspec Fusselman Field, 15 miles northeast of Midland. Enron held 52 percent interest in the well. According to the company's announcement, 10 percent belonged to Spectrum 7. At that point, Spectrum 7 was still Bush's company. Harken's completion of the Spectrum 7 acquisition was announced in early November....
...In early January, the President claimed he and Lay had not always been close pals. "He was a supporter of [Texas Governor] Ann Richards in my run [against her] in 1994," Bush asserted, noting he did not get "to know Ken" and work with him until after he won that election. But campaign records show Lay donated three times as much money to Bush in that race as he did to Richards. Moreover, contacts between Lay and the Bush family pre-dated that campaign. In 1992, Lay chaired the host committee for the 1992 Republican convention in Houston, where Bush's father won his second presidential nomination. And Lay was a sleepover guest at the White House of President George H.W. Bush....
...In May of 1985, a subsidiary of InterNorth, an Omaha-based energy company, announced the completion of a well in Martin County, Texas. According to "PR Newswire," the company said that Spectrum 7 owned an 18.75 percent interest in the well. (The rest was held by the InterNorth subsidiary.) The well, like the one mentioned above, was located at the Belspec Fusselman Field. That same month, InterNorth merged with Houston Natural Gas (HNG)--which gave birth to Enron. HNG/InterNorth changed its name to Enron in 1986, and the InterNorth subsidiary that had invested in the well with Spectrum 7 became part of Enron Oil and Gas. If Spectrum 7 and Enron Oil and Gas had retained their interests in the well, that would mean that Bush's oil company was in partnership with Enron before the deal reported above....
...Way back in 1994, I reported that Rodolfo Terragno, a former Argentine cabinet minister, had claimed that when he headed the Public Works and Services Department in 1988, George W. Bush, whom Terragno did not know, called him and pressured Terragno to award a pipeline contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Enron. (See http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020204&s=corn.)...
John Ashcroft, whose Justice Department launched its criminal investigation Thursday into Enron's fall — and the remarkable foresight of its top executives in parachuting out early and rich — recused himself and his chief of staff from the probe, just as designated attack Democrat Henry Waxman was dashing off a letter reminding Ashcroft that he'd received $25,000 from Enronites for a Senate re-election campaign....
...the list of Administration members with Enron connections is long indeed — aside form Lay buddies Bush and Cheney, Karl Rove was a big stockholder, Larry Lindsey and Robert Zoellick were $50,000-a-year board members, Marc Racicot was a lobbyist until Tuesday and Secretary of the Army Thomas White Jr. is a former executive....
The Bush administration has until June 1 to turn over secret documents involving Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force or provide the legal grounds to withhold them.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman instructed the departments of the Interior and Defense, as well as several other government agencies, to make public thousands of pages of documents on the day-to-day operations of the classified meetings and records of the task force’s executive director, Energy Department employee Andrew Lundquist.
In his March 31 ruling, Friedman rejected arguments by the Bush administration that records from the meetings—including the names of those present—are protected by executive privilege. He found that the documents involve issues of public interest and importance and therefore fall under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The task force, formally known as the National Energy Development Policy Group, was created by President Bush in early 2001 to devise the nation’s energy policy. It was chaired by Cheney and consisted of 10 Cabinet-level officials who met with representatives from oil, coal, gas and nuclear industries.
Shortly after taking office, President Bush waged a battle against the imposition of federal price controls in California that allowed Enron to price-gouge consumers by extending the energy crisis in California, costing the state billions of dollars. Enron reported increased revenues of almost $70 billion from the previous year.
Bush also resisted attempts to crack down on Enron's utilization of its 847 offshore subsidiaries in countries with lax banking-regulation laws. The consumer-rights watchdog organization Public Citizen alleges that some of these offshore havens helped Enron defraud its stockholders.
Moreover, while Sen. Gramm was working the Congress to pass legislation favorable to Enron (and collecting nearly $260,000 in campaign contributions from the company), his wife Wendy Gramm first was chairperson of a regulatory committee overseeing Enron's business activities and later a paid member of that company's board of directors. Enron paid her between $915,000 and $1.85 million, according Public Citizen. Sen. Gramm has announced his decision not to seek reelection for another term in the senate.
Enron, whose stock price plummeted from almost $85 per share to $0.25 per share within one year, forced its employees to invest their retirement plans in the company stock while corporate executives were free to make out like bandits by selling their stock when it was near its peak before anyone caught wind of the company's impending collapse. Jeffrey K. Skilling, who resigned his position as Enron's chief executive in August, sold more than $30 million worth of his stock in the company this year. Lay, who was Skilling's predecessor, was able to unload about $23 million worth of his Enron stock.
Meanwhile, employees, who invested in Enron stock through their company's 401(k) plan, were prohibited in diversifying into other securities. They lost their shirts while 500 of the company's top executives divided up $55 million worth of bonuses. The remaining 20,000 employees were given severance packages of not more than $4,500 each.
...the Bush administration has, whenever given the choice, moved towards making retirement less secure, most recently by threatening to veto a bill that would offer much needed relief for traditional pension plans....
...The Kaiser Family Foundation reported earlier this year that 38 percent of employers with more than 200 employees offered retiree health insurance in 2003 – down from 66 percent in 1988. And many employers who still offer it plan to shift costs onto retirees. Yet, the Bush administration has put its weight behind a Medicare prescription drug plan that fails to control rampant health care costs and leaves many retirees out in the cold. Already the projected costs for the Medicare plan are 30 percent higher than the original and misleading White House claim....
The Bush administration's only response has been a warmed-over tax cut for the wealthy through Retirement Savings Accounts (RSAs). With RSAs, people could put away up to $5,000 a year after taxes and earn interest and withdraw money tax free. While this sounds appealing, it primarily helps the wealthy since they are already maxing out on other tax advantaged savings, and since they are likely to actually face substantial income taxes in retirement. Because RSAs will allow high-income earners to reap tax advantages outside of a company pension, business owners and executives will have less of an incentive to establish pensions for themselves and their employees. Thus, RSAs could actually result in less pension coverage.
Remember Enron? While most 401(k) plans continue to feel the effects of the corporate scandal, the government has done little to protect 401(k)s from being decimated in a similar fashion. The U.S. House of Representatives has twice passed the mislabeled Pension Security Act – "strongly" supported by the White House – which offers a Faustian bargain that would ultimately make pensions less secure and reduce pension coverage. While the bill allows workers to get more quickly out of their employer's stock, it also repeals existing worker protections by allowing mutual funds and other investment managers – the very same companies now accused for misleading and taking advantage of ordinary investors – to give workers conflicted advice on their 401(k) accounts. At the same time, the bill makes it possible for companies, which can already exclude 30 to 80 percent of regular workers from their pension plans, to exclude even more workers from their 401(k) plans and pension plans.
The bill before us today: fails to give employees control of their pension plans; fails to require companies to notify employees when executives dump company stock; fails to provide employees a voice in their own retirement savings; allows continued special treatment for company executive pension plans; fails to hold company officials responsible for misconduct; and fails to enhance plan accountability.
One provision of this bill, as reported by the New York Times, will actually rollback existing law that requires pension plans to achieve balance between benefits for lower paid and higher paid workers. One Harvard Law pension expert says this new provision will “gut” the current rules that ensure companies offer roughly proportional retirement plans to highly paid and more moderately paid workers.
It is unconscionable to think that, after Enron executives enriched themselves while leaving their rank and file workers empty-handed, this Congress would perpetuate the gap in pensions between the highly compensated executives and the average worker.
As we witnessed with Enron, workers need independent financial advice, not advice plagued by self-interest. While Enron’s top managers were encouraging their employees to invest their pensions in Enron stock, Enron insiders were selling-off shares for millions of dollars.
Current law ensures that those who manage assets of a pension plan cannot engage in any transaction under the plan in which they have a financial or other conflict of interest. These rules, known as the prohibited transaction rules, are designed to ensure that the best interest of the investor is maintained. If these rules are eliminated, as today’s bill calls for, the integrity of the pension system will be threatened by fraud and abuse. Unlike the Republican bill, the Democratic substitute allows unbiased, independent financial advice for employees when company stock is offered as an investment option.
Enron workers lost $1 billion in retirement savings and have no recourse to recoup these losses. This bill does not address the problem of corporate wrongdoing and misleads American workers into believing that their pensions are safe from future corporate misdeeds. However, the Democratic substitute provides real safeguards and remedies to ensure that employees who have worked and saved a lifetime for retirement will not be swindled by their employers.
This bill is just another Republican fraud on the American people. It does nothing for pension security except make wealthy executives even wealthier. I urge my colleagues to vote for the Democratic substitute and against final passage of H.R. 3762.
...we are seriously concerned with an amendment expected to be offered by Representative George Miller (D-CA), based on H.R. 3657, which, under the guise of responding to the unfortunate Enron situation, in fact, constitutes a radical revision of this nation’s pension laws. Although what happened at Enron was wrong and indefensible and cannot be excused or trivialized, nothing in the record justifies the sweeping nature of this proposal.
Clearly, the Enron debacle raised certain areas such as diversification and blackout periods as legitimate issues for review. However, the Miller proposal takes these areas of good faith debate and uses them to bootstrap massive changes to pension law—changes which will threaten the viability of our voluntary pension system. Many of these seem driven more by a political agenda than substance.
For example, the Miller proposal provides for new causes of action in court, with expanded liability, and creates a new potential pool of defendants, without any demonstration that the already broad remedies under ERISA have proven to be inadequate to address the Enron situation. Indeed, massive litigation has already been filed and consolidated against Enron and numerous defendants in Tittle v. Enron Corp., pending in the Southern District of Texas — suggesting that ERISA does provide an adequate vehicle for redress. The limitations on arbitration, a favorite of the trial bar, reverse established case law and will result in more expensive court litigation. The bill imposes a requirement, long on organized labor’s agenda, for joint trusteeships on single employer plans, with patently absurd election requirements, which will alone drive employers away from providing pension benefits and which has no understandable linkage to what happened at Enron. The required diversification option after only one year of service will provide a clear disincentive to employers to provide matching employer stock contributions. The requirements for mandatory insurance, particularly in view of the expanded liability provisions under the bill, may in fact be literally unattainable in the real world and will simply impose additional costs on plans.
Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse discovered that the audit rate by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for businesses of all sizes slid to 2.1 audits for every 1,000 businesses last year, down from 2.2 in 2002. Meanwhile, the IRS audited 14 percent more individual tax returns, amounting to 6.5 audits per 1,000 taxpayers.
The report also indicated that the decline in face-to-face audits for all corporations was even steeper, dropping by 21 percent from 2002. For the largest corporations ($250 million or more in assets), there was a 16 percent drop from the previous year.
Alluding to the serious impact this will have on the nation’s burgeoning debt, the report states: “The array of declining audit programs that focus on businesses may have special consequences during a period when substantial tax cuts, a less than booming economy and the fiscal demands of homeland security and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have together resulted in very large federal deficits.”
Declining audit programs currently combine with shrinking tax prosecutions, the latter totaling half of what they were a decade ago. In the 15 months from October 2002 to December 2003, only one out of every 200 IRS criminal prosecutions involved corporations or corporate officials
“[T]he IRS indirectly confirmed that business fraud had not been a central concern of the agency in recent years even though in the wake of Enron and other business scandals President Bush established a Presidential Corporate Task Force in 2002,” the study revealed....
Accounting for slightly more than 1 percent of the economy in 2003, corporate income tax receipts have fallen to historically low levels. The General Accounting Office recently reported that 62 percent of US-owned companies and 71 percent of foreign-owned firms contributed no taxes in the US from 1996 to 2000—at the height of the stock market bubble when profits were soaring. Nine out of ten corporations paid less than 5 percent of their total income. Last year, corporate taxes fell to just 7.4 percent of government receipts, versus a high of 40 percent during World War II.
Since 1962, the top corporate tax rate has been cut from 52 percent to 35 percent and the top income tax rate has been cut from 91 percent to 35 percent. Over the same period, the payroll tax rate—a tax shared by both employee and employer—has more than doubled....
...According to a report by United for a Fair Economy (UFE), there has been a two-thirds decline in the share of federal revenues contributed by corporations, versus a 17 percent rise in individuals’ share since 1962....
An example of the tax bonanza meted out to the top 1 percent is the 2003 tax returns of the president and Laura Bush. Breaking with tradition of full tax disclosure (since President Jimmy Carter), Bush only partially disclosed his returns, revealing that he netted $31,000 directly as the result of his administration’s tax cuts.
For nearly 13 years, until October 2003, I was a tax collector for the Internal Revenue Service. I was a field officer, spending the majority of my time making unannounced visits to businesses and individuals who owed federal taxes. I never expected a warm reception and rarely did I receive one.
And whose doors did I knock on? The carpet installer, the day-care center operator, the Wal-Mart clerk, the carpenter, the print shop owner. The majority of the taxes I collected were from the small-business owner with fewer than 20 employees. I long ago lost count of how many weed-choked fields I have trudged across to inspect some broken-down piece of farm equipment; how many musty warehouses, dilapidated mobile homes, cluttered shops and offices reeking of sweat and that peculiar odor of human desperation I have sat in; the number of ill-educated tradesmen, struggling entrepreneurs and desperate homemakers I have interrogated, demanding the impossible and promising the full fury of my federal power when my demands could not be met.
It is no secret that the nation's tax code favors the wealthy and protects big business. (An astounding 63 percent of United States corporations paid no federal income tax at all in 2000.) The individuals and businesses I encountered during my career did not have an army of tax lawyers, certified public accountants and lobbyists to guide and protect them.... Most were honest people who knew my arrival was the death knell of their American dream.
...The truth is that most I.R.S. employees fear their employer more than the average taxpayer does. Most middle- and upper-level managers rose to power long before 1998, men and women (but mostly men) who learned as front-line employees the spoils of civil service (promotions and awards) come in direct proportion to the amount of power they exerted over taxpayers, invariably in the form of confiscation. As my on-the-job trainer informed me early in my career, if I wanted to advance my career in the I.R.S., I had to seize assets. And it didn't matter what I seized — the I.R.S. could always make equity....
...as long as Congress passes laws that favor big business and the richest among us, as long as money buys protection and influence, there will never be true reform.
...Concern is growing within the archival and historical communities regarding the Bush administration's hoped for "fast-track" process to replace Archivist of the United States John Carlin with one of its own choosing -- historian Allen Weinstein. According to informed sources, the administration hopes to short-circuit the normal confirmation process and see Weinstein confirmed through an "expedited" process. Their goal -- place Weinstein in the position prior to the November election....
Though it is not widely known, in January 2005, the first batch of records (the mandatory 12 years of closure having passed) relating to the president's father's administration will be subject to the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and could be opened. Another area of concern to presidential officials relates to the 9-11 Commission records. Because there is no mandatory 30-year closure rule (except for highly classified White House and Executive Department records and documents), all materials relating to the commission are scheduled to be transferred to the National Archives upon termination of the Commission later this year. These records could be made available to researchers and journalists as soon as they are processed by NARA.
In what appears to be a calculated move by administration officials, Rove and Gonzales have advanced the nomination of Weinstein fully aware that according to the "National Archives and Records Administration Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-497) the Archivist of the United States position is to be an appointment based "without regard to political affiliations and solely on the basis of the professional qualifications required to perform the duties and responsibilities of the office of the Archivist." If Weinstein is confirmed and if President Bush is not elected, then President Kerry could be accused of "politicizing" the position should he try to replace Weinstein. In fact, though, the president's strategy in seeking to replace Carlin at this time rather than later injects an element of partisanship that could give John Kerry, should he be elected president in November, ample justification to replace Weinstein in the same manner that the White House is seeking to replace Carlin....
On 14 April 2004, archival, historical, and other governmental watchdog organizations concerned both the politicization of the appointment process and the qualifications of the nominee, issued a "statement" calling for the Senate to conduct a confirmation hearing consistent with other positions of importance requiring Senate confirmation. The statement drafted by the Society of American Archivists and issued on behalf of several archival and historical organizations (see http://www.archivists.org/statements/weinstein.asp ) raises a concern about "the sudden announcement on April 8, 2004, that the White House has nominated Allen Weinstein to become the next Archivist of the United States."
According to the statement that has the endorsement of the Society of American Archivists, the Association of Research Libraries, Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, Northwest Archivists, Inc., the Association of Documentary Editors, Midwest Archives Conference, the American Association for State and Local History, and the Organization of American Historians: "Prior to the announcement, there was no consultation with professional organizations of archivists or historians. This is the first time since 1985 that the process of nominating an Archivist of the United States has not been open for public discussion and input. We believe that Professor Weinstein must -- through appropriate and public discussions and hearings -- demonstrate his ability to meet the criteria that will qualify him to serve as Archivist of the United States....the decision to appoint a new Archivist should be considered in accordance with both the letter and the spirit of the 1984 law."
Are we fighting some people who 'hate freedom'? Well, yes, if, as I assume we do, we mean by this people who want to build a closed, theocratic society and hate the secularism and liberalism of the West. But maybe we're also now fighting people who are just nationalists, or people who've been affected in some fashion adversely by the occupation. And maybe we've maneuvered ourselves so badly that now we've got the nationalists and the people who 'hate freedom' fighting together. And, even worse, maybe that's helping the people who 'hate freedom' convince the nationalists and the aggreived that they should 'hate freedom' too. And maybe there are folks there who sorta 'hate freedom' but don't necessarily hate us -- maybe Sistani, for instance, or the folks behind SCIRI, who probably more fairly fit that description than Sistani. And maybe we can drive a wedge between those two groups. Who knows if these points of analysis hold true? But we'd better start digging into the particulars of what's really happening over there or we'll become the primary victims of our whirl of empty, bamboozling phrases. And the infantile belief that everyone who doesn't follow our dictation 'hates freedom' will end up leaving a lot of people really hating us.
A new law governing the news media, quietly approved and put into effect several weeks ago, bans criticism of Islam or insults to officials.
The statute also creates a seven-member commission with powers to decide whether journalists accused of violating the new law should face prosecution in the courts.
The law has come under attack from both journalists and legal experts for its vague provisions and imposition of a form of censorship.
The new law, signed late last month by President Hamed Karzai and approved by his cabinet, is only the latest in a series of controversial press laws that have been on the books since the 1920s.
Abul Hamed Mubarez, deputy minister of culture and information, defended the new law. He insisted that it was designed to protect journalists, especially those in remote provinces which remain under the control of powerful governors and former mujahedin commanders, who may disregard the dictates of the central government.
SA former member and longtime critic of the Church of Scientology has been ordered by a Marin County judge to pay the church $500,000 for speaking out against the controversial religious movement.related: Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, Operation Clambake, Google and the Church
Superior Court Judge Lynn Duryee issued that order in a breach-of- contract lawsuit against Scientology defector Gerald Armstrong.
The Church of Scientology had sought $10 million from Armstrong, who joined the church in 1969, left the fold in 1981 and later became one of the movement's harshest critics.
He was sued by the church in 1984 for allegedly stealing thousands of pages of private papers that shed new light on the movement's mysterious founder, the late L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard, a prolific science-fiction writer and freelance philosopher, founded the Church of Scientology in the 1950s and died in 1986.
During his years in Scientology, Armstrong says he worked as an intelligence officer and communications officer and compiled documents for a church-sponsored biography of Hubbard. He says he has been in Scientology's sights since the church filed its 1984 lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court to get control of Hubbard's private papers.
Judge Paul Breckenridge Jr., who presided over that case, issued a ruling in which he called Hubbard "virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements." In settling that case in 1986, Armstrong agreed to return the documents. He says that the church paid him $515,000 ($800,000 including his lawyer's fee) and that his attorney at the time persuaded him to sign an agreement promising to "maintain strict confidentiality and silence with respect to his experiences with the Church of Scientology."
In the 1860s New York lawyer and anthropologist Louis Henry Morgan attempted a systematic cross-cultural study of the institution of marriage. Morgan's data were imperfect, but he was able to demonstrate that the record of human societies showed a startling diversity of socially approved forms of marriage. All societies had some form of regularized partnership, but no single standard human form could be identified. Generally, even within a society, there was a certain elasticity of marriage forms.
The most famous of these unions were the ones most foreign to Western Victorian society: marriage between a woman and several men; marriage between a man and several women; forms of "visiting" marriage, whereby a man might visit his wife but not live with her. As anthropologists assembled more reliable data, they found it difficult to produce a definition of human marriage that would hold true for all its socially legitimate forms.
Marriage generally functioned to provide a "legitimate" identity to children -- a kind of "last name." Yet, the structure of these arrangements was extraordinarily diverse: Biological paternity was not universally the basis of identity -- as, indeed, it is not in the case of adoption in America. In many cases, the biological father (the Latin term is genitor) was distinct from the legal father (pater) produced by the marriage contract and ceremony. Alternatively, it could be the mother's family and not the father that bestowed identity on a child.
As for sex, rarely if ever has marriage been able to restrict its varied practice to the relation of man and wife. In most cases, anthropologists agreed, what counted was that some socially approved form of marriage provided a secure place for the child in the social order.
But marriage has not been solely about children. In most societies known to us, everyone marries; it is an expected rite of passage and part of the normal life course of all adults. Only in post-classical Western societies do we find high numbers of unmarried people. Unlike other peoples, we consider marriage -- however desirable or undesirable -- optional.
Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, The Manchester Guardian calculated that Mr. Bush, in his first seven months of office spent 42 percent of his time on holiday, "a whopping 54 days at his Texas ranch, 38 days at the presidential retreat at Camp David and four more at his parents' place in Kennebunkport, Maine."
That changed when the job became fundamentally more serious after the terrorist attacks. But Mr. Bush still rests, although his month-long retreat of August 2001 – the longest presidential vacation in 32 years – is no longer politically prudent while the war on terrorism is being waged.
Just another causality of post-Sept. 11 America, one assumes. Presidents vacationing less; well, so is the rest of America, an industrialized world low, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After three years on the job, Americans average a measly 10.2 days off a year.
Democrats criticized Bush for taking the Easter-week vacation while U.S. forces are struggling to put down an uprising in Iraq. Campaigning in Milwaukee, Sen. John F. Kerry, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, said: "I notice President Bush is taking some days off down at Crawford, Texas, and I'm told that when he takes days off, you know, he totally relaxes: He doesn't watch television, he doesn't read the newspapers, he doesn't make long-term plans, doesn't worry about the economy. I thought about that for a moment. I said, sounds to me like it's just like life in Washington, doesn't it?"
White House communications director Dan Bartlett retorted that Bush is "not skiing" in Texas, as Kerry did on a recent vacation in Idaho. He said Bush remains in contact with his military advisers and is spending Easter weekend with his family. "Most Americans will understand that," Bartlett said.
This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.
He told the guests that he’d called Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser, a mass murderer to her face; what had they ever done? (The Rice exchange occurred in 2002, at the N.A.A.C.P. Image Awards, where McGruder was given the Chairman’s Award; Rice requested that he write her into his strip.) He recounted a lunch meeting with Fidel Castro. (He had been invited to Cuba by the California congresswoman Barbara Lee, who is one of the few politicians McGruder has praised in “The Boondocks.”) He said that noble failure was not acceptable. But the last straw came when he “dropped the N-word,” as one amused observer recalled. He said—bragged, even—that he’d voted for Nader in 2000. At that point, according to Hamilton Fish, the host of the party, “it got interactive.”
Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation, was sitting in the back of the room, next to Joe Wilson, the Ambassador. He shouted out, “Thanks for Bush!” Exactly what happened next is unclear. Alterman recalls that McGruder responded by grabbing his crotch and saying, “Try these nuts.” Jack Newfield, the longtime Village Voice writer, says that McGruder simply dared Alterman to remove him from the podium. When asked about this incident later, McGruder said, “I ain’t no punk. I ain’t gonna let someone shout and not go back at him.”
Alterman walked out. “I turned to Joe and said, ‘I can’t listen to this crap anymore,’” he remembers. “I went out into the Metropolitan Club lobby—it’s a nice lobby—and I worked on my manuscript.”
Newfield joined in the heckling, as did Stephen Cohen, a historian and the husband of Katrina vanden Heuvel. “It was like watching LeRoi Jones try to Mau-Mau a guilty white liberal in the sixties,” Newfield says. “It was out of a time warp. Who is he to insult people who have been putting their careers and lives on the line for equal rights since before he was born?”
By the time McGruder had finished, and a tipsy Joe Wilson took the microphone to deliver his New Year’s Resolutions, perhaps half the guests had excused themselves to join Alterman in the lobby. A Nation contributor estimated that McGruder had offended eighty per cent of the audience. “Some people still haven’t recovered,” he said, sounding thrilled.
"The first week (on March 14), they were given verbal warnings," Guidara said. "We've made every effort to contact everyone involved and talked to them about alternatives. The issue is not about feeding the homeless. The issue is that you are feeding the homeless and failing to meet city codes and ordinances overseeing it. The officer explained to these individuals, who we admit are well-intending, why they are not allowed to be giving out food there. City parks, when that has taken place, have become campsites for the homeless. They have been bathing in the fountains. It just makes the parks unattractive to the rest of the city's residents."
Danny laughed at the idea of the city stopping people from feeding the homeless, saying the city is not out to protect anyone's health, but rather to hide the number of homeless people in its streets.
"Why would they say giving away food to the hungry is a health hazard?" Danny asked. "It seems like that is healthier than just letting them starve. I think I know what's healthy for my body, and going hungry isn't healthy. The city isn't out to protect anyone's health. They just want to pretend we are not here."
Under pressure from the September 11 commission, the White House today declassified and released an intelligence digest given to President George W. Bush weeks before the 2001 terrorist attacks. The confidential President's Daily Brief (PDB) for August 6, 2001 contained a two-page section entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US," and refers to possible hijacking attempts by Osama bin Laden disciples and the existence of about 70 FBI investigations into alleged al-Qaeda cells operating within the United States. The August 6 PDB, an excerpt from which you'll find below, was presented to Bush while he vacationed at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. The digest is prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency, an official from which briefs the president on the report's contents. While Bush critics have described the August 6 PDB as a warning of an impending al-Qaeda attack, Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, testified Thursday that the document contained "historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information."
Sullivan is obviously more literate than the run-of-the-mill right-wing garbage mouths in the U.S. like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh; in that respect, his blog has the pretense to be cosmopolitan and high-brow. Yet, at the same time, he has a rich supply of all the typical pathologies of the American right: limited horizons of possibility, moral tunnel-vision, parochial prejudices, national chauvinism, historical ignorance, and so on.
But it's the presence of these latter traits that goes some distance towards explaining why he's such a morally repulsive creature: for there is one issue on which he exhibits the sensibilities of a citizen of the larger world, an empathetic human being, someone whose intellectual and moral horizons aren't defined by John Kerry and George Bush. And that issue is: the rights of homosexuals. On the one issue that affects him, as a gay man, most directly, he is not a noxious right-wing creep. Consider his recent, passionate postings objecting to Bush's endorsement of a constitutional amendment stigmatizing homosexuals as unfit for marriage: strong, powerful statements.
And there's the rub: what does it say about someone that the only time he can really come to the defense of human dignity, the only time he can appear to rise above parochialism and chauvinism, is when his interests are at stake? Well, I suppose we know what it says.
Here’s one horror story culled from the thousands of complaints that just keep coming: In late February 2003, only a few weeks before two mighty iron fists – the Army’s 3rd Mech Division and the Marine’s 1st Marine Division – punched toward Baghdad, the Air Force Reserve’s elite 514th and 439th Aeromedical Staging Squadrons were activated. Two days after D-Day in Iraq, they were flown to Germany and busted their butts converting a gym at Ramstein Air Base into an operational, 100-bed contingency aeromedical staging facility, the 86th CASF.
Shockingly, the CASF was still setting up when the casualties started pouring in. “We were three days late for the war and two months late for the mission,” explains one medic. So much for prior planning.
“By the time my group was redeployed home in November we had handled about 9,000 casualties,” says a medic. “Many of these were pre-existing prior to their deployment. One soldier with a broken wrist in the USA had his cast cut off and was told to get on the plane. As soon as he landed in Kuwait he complained about the pain in his wrist and was immediately evacuated to us and then to the States. Total time in theater: two weeks. You can multiply that story by thousands with confidence. Substitute fractured wrist for torn knee cartilage, diabetes, hypertension, herniated disk, thyroid disease, depression, anxiety disorder, pregnancy – the list goes on and on. It was a travesty.”
A travesty is putting it mildly. The CASF’s records provide a paper trail that goes from crooked, pencil-whipping small-unit leaders all the way to the Pentagon. Ironically, the same mistakes were made during Desert Shield/Storm, but since the Air Force brass conveniently lost that after-action report, the folks in command were free to screw up all over again.
In the Nation magazine, Phillips argued that, "most of the Washington press corps has been content to leave alone the much larger story—the apparent seventeen-year connection between the Bush dynasty and Enron. Even without such information, it seems clear, counting campaign contributions, consultancies, joint investments, deals, presidential library and inaugural contributions, speech fees and the like, that the Bush family and entourage collected some $8 million to $10 million from Enron over the years, which is more than changed hands in Harding's Teapot Dome scandal. Depending on some still-unclear relationships, it could be as high as $25 million."
What Phillips pointed out almost two years ago remains uninvestigated today.
Why does it matter? Well, not only did Lay and his corporate minions outdo all the other Pioneers to take home the George W. Number One lifetime donor crown, Ken Lay and Enron contributed to the "successes" of the early Bush administration in many ways before the corporation imploded. Enron's corporate tentacles ran deep, and have never been fully exhumed. My own personal favorite is this little tidbit: not only did Ken Lay, Linda Lay and Jeffrey Skilling each donate $100,000 to George W's inaugural fund, but, according to Arianna Huffington, Enron provided the corporate jet that flew his parents in for the show. Now that's service.
Ken Lay involved Enron in White House personnel decisions, especially in the selection of new energy regulatory heads; and in policy-making, including the infamous Dick Cheney energy task force meetings, which are still secret today. Several key administration officials had strong ties to Enron, owned large amounts of Enron stock or had taken Enron campaign contributions in earlier races. And Enron lobbied hard to keep the Bush administration on the sidelines during the California energy crisis.
Despite all these links, when Enron began to go down the tubes, George W. acted like Bill Clinton in the early days of the Monica Lewinsky crisis. As several wags pointed out, W's extremely lame—and misleading—comments, suggesting that he had inherited Ken Lay's support from Ann Richards, and implying that 1994 was ". . . when I first got to know Ken and worked with Ken, and he supported my candidacy" was not only just flat out wrong, it was the moral and economic equivalent of "I did not have business relations with that man!"
Involvement in transnational institutions, networks and activities not only defines the global elite but also is critical to achieving elite status within nations. Someone whose loyalties, identities and involvements are purely national is less likely to rise to the top in business, academia, the media and the professions than someone who transcends these limits. Outside politics, those who stay home stay behind. Those who move ahead think and act internationally. As sociologist Manuel Castells has said, "Elites are cosmopolitan, people are local." The opportunity to join this transnational world, however, is limited to a small minority of people in industrialized countries and to only a miniscule handful of people in developing countries.
...if conservatives act as if happy endings are always in the offing, liberals, by contrast, have come to act as if nothing can ever go right, as if a cloud surrounds every silver lining. Just compare the old liberal version of the "domino theory" in Southeast Asia with the new conservative version in the Middle East. In the first, the dominoes of communist expansion tumble, creating a threatening world. In the second, the dominoes of democracy tumble, creating a free and peaceful world. In short, conservatives have, in the classical sense of the word, a comic vision of the world, liberals a tragic vision -- a difference that goes a long way toward explaining why liberals have had such a hard time in electoral politics recently.
Or to put it in more homely terms, conservatism has become a Hollywood movie, liberalism has become literature. Like the movie blockbusters, contemporary conservatives centralize action, extol the power of the individual to bend the world to his or her will, demonize enemies to the point where anything short of annihilation would be a surrender, operate from an absolute confidence in the hero's rightness while treating opposition to it as a form of treason, and promise the comforting catharsis of eventual victory that confirms everything that has gone before. Contemporary liberals, on the other hand, like the best literature, centralize thought and deliberation rather than action, fasten on human interconnectedness and the inability of any one individual (or nation) to command events, attempt to understand the complexity of life, operate from a decidedly wary position when it comes to absolute certainties, and promise no final victories.
Lam Nguyen's job is to sit for hours in a chilly, quiet room devoid of any color but gray and look at pornography. This job, which Nguyen does earnestly from 9 to 5, surrounded by a half-dozen other "computer forensic specialists" like him, has become the focal point of the Justice Department's operation to rid the world of porn.[Metafilter thread with more related links]
In this field office in Washington, 32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains.
In a speech in 2002, Ashcroft made it clear that the Justice Department intends to try. He said pornography "invades our homes persistently though the mail, phone, VCR, cable TV and the Internet," and has "strewn its victims from coast to coast."
Given the millions of dollars Americans are spending each month on adult cable television, Internet sites and magazines and videos, many may see themselves not as victims but as consumers, with an expectation of rights, choices and privacy.
Ashcroft, a religious man who does not drink alcohol or caffeine, smoke, gamble or dance, and has fought unrelenting criticism that he has trod roughshod on civil liberties in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, is taking on the porn industry at a time when many experts say Americans are wary about government intrusion into their lives.
The Bush administration is eager to shore up its conservative base with this issue. Ashcroft held private meetings with conservative groups a year and a half ago to assure them that anti-porn efforts are a priority.
Brad DeLong is a liberal Berkeley economist who is often a sharp critic of the lies and distortions of the Bush Administration--he's a Krugman for the blogosphere, as it were, not as distinguished an economist, not as pithy, but he does the same basic job. Proof that he's basically a "good guy": he's got Donald "I'm rich and stupid" Luskin on his case all the time.
Brad DeLong is also a Chomsky-hater. Of course, as is well known, there are lots of them in the United States, but most are rather obviously not very bright (remember the blogopath Pejman--an "ignorant blowhard" as one of his friends described him to me in an e-mail--the Pepperdine Law grad who mostly rambles on about how he went to University of Chicago undergrad?). DeLong seems to be bright, but he really hates Chomsky. He has even published a long take-down of Chomsky, which, befitting a bright person, is well-written and cleverly crafted (though do see the first comments on the posting by one Simon Kisby).
A growing number of peregrine falcons are finding homes amid the smokestacks, skyscrapers and subdivisions that occupy the birds' traditional habitat in northern Illinois.
The graceful, fast-flying raptor -- Chicago's official bird -- has increased its numbers enough since the early 1990s that state officials have removed the falcon from the state's list of endangered species. Instead, the peregrine falcon has been reclassified as "threatened,'' a less ominous ranking that indicates the bird's numbers are rising in the state, officials say.
"The population is definitely on the road to recovery,'' said James Herkert, a member of the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board, which earlier this year changed the classification for the peregrine falcon. he falcons have managed to find a niche that allows them to exist with their human neighbors.
Traditionally nesting on cliff faces or other high places, the birds now are settling down on building ledges and rooftops, smokestacks, bridge supports or the occasional tall tree.
"They're so high off the ground, it's mostly a people-free zone,'' Herkert said, adding all 10 of the breeding pairs identified in the state are in Chicago or nearby suburban counties.
Now Liddy told us: "I had been invited on his show, but I was contacted [through an intermediary] and told I would not be 'allowed' on unless I apologized. I'm not going to apologize, in private, or on his show." Liddy added: "Bill did what all bullies do, he ran when someone stood up to him."
On his Fox News TV show Friday night, O'Reilly stood up for himself, saying that even after he was presented with network statistics about "Factor's" listenership, "Liddy refused to retract his false statements, which tells you all you need to know about him."
The Observer has obtained a remarkable email sent to the press secretaries of all Republican congressmen advising them what to say when questioned on the environment in the run-up to November's election. The advice: tell them everything's rosy.
It tells them how global warming has not been proved, air quality is 'getting better', the world's forests are 'spreading, not deadening', oil reserves are 'increasing, not decreasing', and the 'world's water is cleaner and reaching more people'.
All pollution regulated by the Clean Air Act is declining, has been declining for years, and continues to decline under George W. Bush.
A woman [Deanna L. Laney] who claimed God ordered her to kill her sons was acquitted of murder charges by reason of insanity on Saturday, sparing her a life prison sentence and allowing the state to commit her to a psychiatric hospital...
Her lawyers argued that insanity was the only reason why Ms. Laney, a deeply religious mother who home-schooled her children, would kill her sons without a tear....
All five mental health experts consulted in the case concluded that a severe mental illness caused Ms. Laney to have psychotic delusions. Psychiatrists testified that Ms. Laney believed she was chosen by God to kill her children as a test of faith and then to serve as a witness after the world ended.