The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Ohio, Conyers House Judiciary Democratic Report

Election 2004

Ohio Attorney-General's attack on election protection attorneys draws mountain of documentation on state's stolen election, including new study on exit polls
by Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman
February 3, 2005

Stiff legal sanctions sought by Ohio's Republican Attorney General James Petro against four attorneys who have questioned the results of the 2004 presidential balloting here has produced an unintended consequence -- a massive counter-filing that has put on the official record a mountain of contentions by those who argue that election was stolen.

In filings that include well over 1,000 pages of critical documentation, attorneys Robert Fitrakis, Susan Truitt, Peter Peckarsky and Cliff Arnebeck have counter-attacked. Their defense motions include renewed assertions that widespread irregularities threw the true outcome of the November vote count into serious doubt. That assertion has now been lent important backing by a major academic study on the exit polls that showed John Kerry winning the November vote count.

Petro's suit is widely viewed as an attempt at revenge and intimidation against the grassroots movement that led to the first Congressional challenge to a state's Electoral College delegation since 1876. The attorney general's action was officially requested by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who administered the Ohio presidential balloting while serving as co-chair of the state's Bush-Cheney campaign. Petro and Blackwell have labeled as "frivolous" the election challenge filing. Their demand for sanctions will be reviewed by the Republican justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Though Petro's filing was aimed at backing down further challenges to the Ohio vote, it has allowed the election protection attorneys to enter into the official archives critical documentation detailing dozens of problems with Ohio's presidential balloting. Among the documents now made part of Ohio's legal archives is a congressional investigation report from Rep. John Conyers that seriously questions the November 2 outcome.

The two now-infamous lawsuits in question, Moss v. Bush and Moss v. Moyer, argued that irregularities involving enough votes to switch the state's electors from Bush to Kerry, and from Supreme Court justice Tom Moyer to challenger Ellen Connally, gave the public the right to file suit. Underlying much of the challenge have been wide ranging questions about whether Blackwell administered the election in a partisan manner.

Blackwell refused to testify in the case, and he has removed from public access critical documents relating to the vote count.

nder Ohio law, an original action to contest election allows only deposition testimony. It was impossible during the ten days of discovery to take the depositions of tens of thousands of disenfranchised voters, the majority African-American. But, as a result of Petro’s sanctions motion, the attorneys were able to enter into evidence (as Exhibits 1 & 2) explosive first-hand sworn testimony from November 13 and 15 public hearings in Columbus about voting irregularities. Excerpts from these first-person accounts were published on the House Judiciary Committee Democrats webpage and were used by some three-dozen U.S. Representatives and Senators to challenge Ohio’s Electoral College certification in Congress on January 6.

That historic challenge and ensuing national debate deeply embarrassed Ohio's Republican establishment. Blackwell was explicitly criticized on the floor of Congress for partisan behavior in administering the election. In return, Blackwell -- who is running for governor -- has issued personal attacks against the election protection attorneys who filed the Moss lawsuits, at one point referring to Fitrakis in public as "a complete idiot."

In documents filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, Petro’s office charges that the citizen contestors – Ohio voters - and their attorneys lacked evidence and proceeded in bad faith to file the challenge. Petro says the election challenge was a "political nuisance" lawsuit, and as such, the legal team should be fined -- personally -- many thousands of dollars.

As the sanctions motion moves toward a hearing before Ohio’s Supreme Court, hundreds of sworn statements are now permanently in the public record, documenting the massive voting problems which led to Bush's contested win in Ohio.

Equally significant, the attorneys were able to place into the court record the 102-page Status Report of the House Judiciary Democratic Staff entitled "What Went Wrong in Ohio?" Spearheaded by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) the report concludes, "We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters. Cumulatively, these irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousands of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts whether it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004 were chosen in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and constitutional standards."

A motion was also filed asking the court to allow an amicus curiae brief from Rep. Conyers in support of the contesters counsel. Fitrakis, Truitt, Peckarsky and Arnebeck have entered affidavits swearing that they had proceeded in good faith in contesting the election.

Also entered into evidence was a letter dated December 23, 2004 from Peckarsky to John Zucker, Senior Vice President for Law and Regulation at ABC that outlined an agreement to "maintain intact Mitofsky's exit poll data" and that it "not be altered or destroyed"; and a letter from Truitt dated December 27, 2004 confirming a telephone conversation, with Richard Coglianese, Ohio Assistant Attorney General, "to the effect that regardless of the need for the deposition and regardless of the amount of notice provided (whether days or months) you will not allow the deposition of your client, J. Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio, to occur at any time for any reason."

Arnebeck filed a separate memorandum opposing the sanctions that began: "The Attorney General's motion for sanctions is false and defamatory. It appears to be submitted for the partisan purpose of attempting to discredit those who brought the challenge . . ." Arnebeck told the court that the Attorney General filed the sanctions motion for intimidation purposes and it was aimed at public interest attorneys.

"In this instance the Attorney General of the State of Ohio may unwittingly have placed himself in a position of obstructing justice rather than upholding it through the filing of this partisan motion, which is lacking merit and is intended to terminate the search for truth and accountability in an election of profound importance to the citizens of Ohio, the United States and the world," Arnebeck concluded.

Fitrakis, who also holds a Ph.D. in political science and served as an international observer in the 1994 elections in El Salvador and co-authored and edited the international observer's report to the United Nations, charged that Petro's actions should be regarded as "an act of political retaliation and state repression." In the affidavit he also states that the "Ohio elections fail basic standards of transparency" under international law.

In the meantime, a high-powered team of researchers concluded "the many anecdotal reports of voting irregularities create a context in which the possibility that the overall vote count was substantially corrupted must be taken seriously. The hypothesis that the discrepancy between the exit polls and election results is due to errors in the official election tally is a coherent theory."

The report comes from USCountVotes, which convened ten mathematicians, statisticians and other researchers to evaluate recent assertions by Warren Mitofsky and other pollsters that the November 2 exit polling may have been wrong. Among the assertions by the pollsters is that more Republicans than Democrats may have refused to be polled after casting their ballots.

But the USCountVotes study points out that the numbers of voters polls in Republican precincts was actually higher than in Democratic ones. Mitofsky and others have said the disparities between their exit polls and the final outcome were "most likely due to Kerry voters participating in the exit polls at a higher rate than Bush voters." But, says the USCountVotes study, "no evidence is offered to support this conclusion. In fact, data newly released in the report suggests that Bush supporters might have been OVERREPRESENTED in the exit polls, widening the disparity to be explained."

The report adds that no data in the pollster's report "supports the hypothesis that Kerry voters were more likely than Bush voters to cooperate with pollsters, and the data suggests that the opposite may have been true."

Should Ohio's Republican-dominated Supreme Court decide to take revenge on the four election protection attorneys, it will have a mountain of data to disregard. But whatever the decision, that mountain of assertions about who really won Ohio and thus the presidency is now a part of the state's permanent legal landscape.

Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors, with Bob Fitrakis, of OHIO'S STOLEN ELECTION: VOICES OF THE DISENFRANCHISED, 2004, a book/film project from Contributions are welcome at and via the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism, 1240 Bryden Road, Columbus, OH 43205.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Scoop: U.S. Declares Iraqis Can Not Save Their Own Seeds

U.S. Declares Iraqis Can Not Save Their Own Seeds
Thursday, 27 January 2005, 11:58 am

For the record: ''U.S. Declares Iraqis Can Not Save Their Own Seeds''

Free Iraq
Janaury 23, 2005

As part of sweeping ''economic restructuring'' implemented by the Bush Administration in Iraq, Iraqi farmers will no longer be permitted to save their seeds, which include seeds the Iraqis themselves have developed over hundreds of years. Instead, they will be forced to buy seeds from US corporations. That is because in recent years, transnational corporations have patented and now own many seed varieties originated or developed by indigenous peoples. In a short time, Iraq will be living under the new American credo:

Pay Monsanto, or starve.:

"The American Administrator of the Iraqi CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) government, Paul Bremer, updated Iraq's intellectual property law to 'meet current internationally-recognized standards of protection'.
( ))
The updated law makes saving seeds for next year's harvest, practiced by 97% of Iraqi farmers in 2002, and is the standard farming practice for thousands of years across human civilizations, to be now illegal.. Instead, farmers will have to obtain a yearly license for genetically modified (GM) seeds from American corporations. ( ). These GM seeds have typically been modified from seeds developed over thousands of generations by indigenous farmers like the Iraqis, and shared freely like agricultural 'open source.'"

Iraq law Requires Seed Licenses November 13, 2004

"According to Order 81, paragraph 66 - [B], issued by L. Paul Bremer [CFR], the people in Iraq are now prohibited from saving seeds and may only plant seeds for their food from licensed, authorized U.S. distributors. The paragraph states, "Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or any variety mentioned in items 1 and 2 of paragraph [C] of Article 14 of this chapter."
( )

Written in massively intricate legalese, Order 81 directs the reader at Article 14, paragraph 2 [C] to paragraph [B] of Article 4, which states any variety that is different from any other known variety may be registered in any country and become a protected variety of seed - thus defaulting it into the "protected class" of seeds and prohibiting the Iraqis from reusing them the following season. Every year, the Iraqis must destroy any seed they have, and repurchase seeds from an authorized supplier, or face fines, penalties and/or jail time. "

Iraqis Can't Save Seed January 19, 2005

The original article on this topic: Iraqi farmers aren't celebrating October 15, 2004:

As per an Iraqi proverb, the day will come, sooner rather than later, when the Iraqis will shred Bremer’s Laws, soak them in water and offer the glass to Bremer to drink.

Molly Ivins - A Personal Account By Any Other Name Is . . .

A personal account by any other name is …

By Molly Ivins
Creators Syndicate

AUSTIN - I wouldn't say it's the most earth-shaking issue around, but I'm fascinated by this fight that the administration is picking with the media over "private accounts" vs. "personal accounts."

Everybody went along in cheerful harmony describing the president's Social Security plan as "partial privatization," as it would allow younger workers to put some of their payroll taxes into private accounts.

President Bush called them "private accounts," everyone in the administration called them "private accounts," and Republicans, Democrats and the media all called them "private accounts."

Then, one day, some focus group showed that people, particularly older people, react negatively to any connection between Social Security and the word private. For some reason, people like the sound of "personal accounts" better than they do "private accounts."

So the Republicans, with their fabulous ability to march in lock step, all about-faced and started referring to the privatization of Social Security as "personal accounts."

The Republicans in Congress, the president, the administration and all its media supporters, paid and unpaid, now insist on referring to the partial privatization plan as "setting up personal accounts." This is the new political correctness.

Rather than the old liberal habit of creating linguistically awkward phrases to avoid hurting people's feelings -- such as African-American rather than Negro or colored -- this is twisting language for purely political purposes.

Liberals used to amuse themselves by making up absurd examples of our linguistic tic, such as "differently abled, heightwise," instead of "short."

Then John Leo and other right-wing commentators decided that political correctness, rather than an attempt at verbal good manners, was a turrible, turrible menace to freedom of speech.

Since I live in a state where racial epithets are still used by a substantial minority, I never paid much attention to them, but many on the right found it a useful tool with which to beat liberals over the head.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove, Frank Luntz and many other smart political operatives were perfecting the art of changing language for political reasons.

Do people perceive conservatives as mean? Then run on the slogan "compassionate conservative." Has no meaning, but it sounds better.

People don't think the government should be involved in religion? Call it "faith-based policy."

People are against more air pollution? Then call it "the Clear Skies Initiative."

Corrupting language for political purposes, as George Orwell noted nearly 60 years ago, has hideous consequences. What is interesting about this little, apparently unimportant word shift for political advantage is how the Republicans are using it to "work the refs," the media.

Luntz did a brilliant job on Air America.

Asked: "Do you think it's fair for Democrats or reporters or anybody else to use the words privatization and "private accounts" to describe the president's policy?"

Luntz: "I think it is fair for the Democrats to do so."

"Why not the press?"

"Because it's not -- the press is making a pejorative statement."

"But wait, it's the phrase that the president himself uses over and over again. …"

"Used it."

"OK, so if as long as he stops using it, from that point on -- but I'm being serious about this -- at the point at which he no longer uses the word, reporters have to start using a different verbiage, shall we say?"

"It's one of the reasons the American people don't trust the media. If the media wants to engage in a debate, let it say so. Let them come on the shows as they do on Sundays, and let them state a point of view and people know that they're not getting the journalistic report, they're getting the opinion of the left wing or the right wing because there are journalists from both sides."

See the beauty of it? If the media continue to call private accounts "private accounts," then we are taking sides, and the right can once more trot out their hoary shibboleth about "the liberal media."

Use our language or we'll accuse you of bias again. Under Richard Nixon, they used to say, "That statement is no longer operative."

Rove never lets his clients get "off-message." Repetition, repetition, repetition, never deviate from the script, and in no time flat, we'll all be calling them personal accounts.

You won't catch me. Taking inspiration from Prince, I shall refer to them as "the accounts formerly known as private."

Although it's really something to get a bunch of right-wing Republicans claiming that the word private is pejorative. Don't they usually think the word public is?
Molly Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate. 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045

© 2005 Star-Telegram and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Paul Krugman: Gambling With Your Retirement

The New York Times
February 4, 2005
Gambling With Your Retirement

A few weeks ago I tried to explain the logic of Bush-style Social Security privatization: it is, in effect, as if your financial adviser told you that you wouldn't have enough money when you retire - but you shouldn't save more. Instead, you should borrow a lot of money, buy stocks and hope for capital gains.

Before President Bush's big speech, a background briefing by a "senior administration official" made it clear that the plan calls for exactly the "borrow, speculate and hope" strategy I described - not just for the system as a whole, but for each individual.

Here's the money quote: "In return for the opportunity to get the benefits from the personal account, the person forgoes a certain amount of benefits from the traditional system. Now, the way that election is structured, the person comes out ahead if their personal account exceeds a 3 percent rate of return" - after inflation - "which is the rate of return that the trust fund bonds receive. So, basically, the net effect on an individual's benefits would be zero if his personal account earned a 3 percent rate of return."

Translation: If you put part of your payroll taxes into a personal account, your future benefits will be reduced by an amount equivalent to the amount you would have had to repay if you had borrowed the money at a real interest rate of 3 percent.

Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution got it exactly right: "It's not a nest egg. It's a loan."

For years, privatizers - including Mr. Bush - have claimed that people would do better with private accounts than with traditional Social Security even if they played it safe and invested in U.S. government bonds (which yield 3 percent after inflation).

But the official at the briefing made it clear that his boss was fibbing: if you invested your private account in government bonds, you would face benefit cuts equal in value to your investment, so you would be no better off than under the current system.

The only way to get ahead would be to invest in risky assets like stocks, and hope for higher yields. But if the investment went wrong and you earned less than 3 percent after inflation, your benefit cuts would leave you poorer than if you had never opened that private account.

So people are expected to take a loan from the government and use it to buy stocks, and if that turns out to have been a mistake - well, too bad.

Experts usually tell people to plan for their retirement by investing in a mix of stocks and bonds. They disapprove strongly of speculation on margin: borrowing to buy stocks. Yet Mr. Bush wants tens of millions of Americans to do exactly that.

Meanwhile, what does any of this have to do with the ostensible purpose of the whole thing: saving Social Security?

Here's the senior official again: "In a long-term sense, the personal accounts would have a net neutral effect on the fiscal situation of Social Security." The government would have to borrow huge sums up front to create the personal accounts - $4.5 trillion in the first two decades - but it would supposedly make up for all that borrowing with offsetting cuts in account holders' benefits many decades later.

Color me skeptical: will retirees with private accounts that performed badly really be forced to repay their loans in full? Even if they are, private accounts will at best have a "net neutral effect" - that is, they will do nothing to improve Social Security's finances. Mr. Bush says the system faces a crisis; what does he propose to do about it?

The answer, presumably, is that his plan will also involve major benefit cuts over and above those associated with private accounts. And it's true that you can improve Social Security's finances with privatization, as long as you also slash benefits - just as you can kill a flock of sheep with witchcraft, provided you also feed them arsenic. (Thanks, M. Voltaire.)

Do you believe that we should replace America's most successful government program with a system in which workers engage in speculation that no financial adviser would recommend? Do you believe that we should do this even though it will do nothing to improve the program's finances? If so, George Bush has a deal for you.


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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Frank Rich: The Year of Living Indecently

The New York Times
February 6, 2005
The Year of Living Indecently

LET us be grateful that Janet Jackson did not bare both breasts.

On the first anniversary of the Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction that shook the world, it's clear that just one was big enough to wreak havoc. The ensuing Washington indecency crusade has unleashed a wave of self-censorship on American television unrivaled since the McCarthy era, with everyone from the dying D-Day heroes in "Saving Private Ryan" to cuddly animated animals on daytime television getting the ax. Even NBC's presentation of the Olympics last summer, in which actors donned body suits to simulate "nude" ancient Greek statues, is currently under federal investigation.

Public television is now so fearful of crossing its government patrons that it is flirting with self-immolation. Having disowned lesbians in the children's show "Postcards From Buster" and stripped suspect language from "Prime Suspect" on "Masterpiece Theater," PBS is editing its Feb. 23 broadcast of "Dirty War," the HBO-BBC film about a terrorist attack, to remove a glimpse of female nudity in a scene depicting nuclear detoxification. Next thing you know they'll be snipping lascivious flesh out of a documentary about Auschwitz.

This repressive cultural environment was officially ratified on Nov. 2, when Ms. Jackson's breast pulled off its greatest coup of all: the re-election of President Bush. Or so it was decreed by the media horde that retroactively declared "moral values" the campaign's decisive issue and the Super Bowl the blue states' Waterloo. The political bosses of "family" organizations, well aware that TV's collective wisdom becomes reality whether true or not, have been emboldened ever since. They are spending their political capital like drunken sailors, redoubling their demands that the Bush administration marginalize gay people, stamp out sex education and turn pop culture into a continuous loop of "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm."

With Sunday's Super Bowl, their crusade has scored a touchdown. MTV has been replaced as halftime producer by Don Mischer, the go-to guy for a guaranteed snoozefest; his credits include the Tony Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors and the 2004 Democratic National Convention at which the balloons failed to drop. (His subsequent cursing was heard on CNN, but escaped government sanction because no Republicans were watching.) Fox Sports Net has changed the title of its signature program "Best Damn Sports Show Period" to "Best Darn Super Bowl Road Show Period." The commercials, too, will "be careful" and in "good taste," according to the head of marketing for Anheuser-Busch. Fox, which recently pixilated the bottom of a cartoon toddler in a rerun of the series "Family Guy," now has someone on full-time rear-end alert: it rejected a comic spot for Airborne, a cold remedy, showing the backside of the 84-year-old Mickey Rooney as he leaves a sauna.

This might all be laughable were the government not expanding its role as cultural cop. But it is. The departures of Michael Powell, the Savonarola of the Federal Communications Commission, and John Ashcroft, whose parallel right-breast fixation was stimulated by a statue in the Justice Department, are red herrings. "Thank God he's gone, but God help us with what's next," said Howard Stern upon learning of Mr. Powell's imminent exit. He's right. After all, L. Brent Bozell of the Parents Television Council condemned Mr. Powell for "four years of failed leadership" in fighting indecency. (Mr. Powell's commission had the temerity to actually reject some Parents Television Council jeremiads, which are distinguished by their inordinate obsession with the penis.) Mr. Bozell, whose organization has been second to none in increasing the number of annual indecency complaints from 111 in 2000 to a million-plus last year, is angling for a tougher successor and may well get one.

His wish has in effect been granted even before Mr. Powell's chair is filled. The second Bush term began with the installation of a powerful new government censor in another big job, Secretary of Education. Margaret Spellings hadn't even been officially sworn into the cabinet when she took on "Postcards From Buster," threatening PBS with decreased financing because one episode had the show's eponymous animated rabbit hobnobbing with actual lesbian moms while visiting Vermont to learn how maple syrup is made. Though Buster had in previous installments visited Muslims, Mormons, Orthodox Jews and Pentecostal Christians, gay couples (even when not identified as such on camera) are verboten to our new Secretary of Education. "Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode," Ms. Spellings wrote in her threatening letter to Pat Mitchell, the C.E.O. of PBS.

The letter, as it happened, was unnecessary: Public broadcasting says that it had decreed on its own only a few hours earlier that it would not distribute the offending show - the most alarming example yet of just how cowardly it has become and how chilling the Janet Jackson effect has been. (Since then, some two dozen member stations out of a total of 349 have rebeled and decided to broadcast the episode anyway.) But the story won't end with this one incident. Ms. Spellings' threats against PBS are only the latest chapter in a continuing saga at an education department that increasingly resembles an authoritarian government's ministry of information.

A month before the election, The Los Angeles Times reported on its front page that the department had quietly destroyed more than 300,000 copies of "a booklet designed for parents to help their children learn history" after Lynne Cheney, who has no official government role, complained about its contents. The booklet burning occurred under the watch of Rod Paige, the education secretary who, we would later learn, was simultaneously complicit in another sub rosa exercise in heavy-handed government information management: the payment of $240,000 in taxpayers' funds to Armstrong Williams, a talking head and columnist, to plug Bush administration policies on radio and TV.

Mr. Paige fled his post last month without adequately explaining what he knew about these scandals. Enter Ms. Spellings, previously a White House aide who by some accounts had been a shadow administrator of the education department during Mr. Paige's out-to-lunch tenure. With all the other troubles in public education, why would she focus on a single episode of a single children's program on her second day in the job? We don't yet know. But her act was nothing if not ideologically synergistic with still another freshly uncovered Bush propaganda effort. Just as Ms. Spellings busted Buster, two more syndicated columnists copped to receiving taxpayers' dollars, this time siphoned through the Department of Health and Human Services, to help craft propaganda for a Bush "healthy marriage initiative" that disdains same-sex couples as fervently as Ms. Spellings did in her letter to PBS.

What makes this story more insidious still is the glaring reality that the most prominent Republican lesbians in America are Mary Cheney, a former gay and lesbian marketing liaison for Coors beer, and her partner, Heather Poe, who appeared as a couple in public and on TV during the presidential campaign. That Ms. Spellings would gratuitously go after this specific "lifestyle" right after taking office is so provocative it smells like payback specifically pitched at those "pro-family" watchdogs who snarled at the mention of Ms. Cheney's sexual orientation during the campaign whether it was by John Kerry or anyone else. Surely Ms. Spellings doesn't believe in discrimination against nontraditional families: by her own account, she was a single mother who had to park her 13-year-old and 8-year-old children in Austin when she first went to work at the White House. Then again, President Bush went on record last month as saying that "studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is being raised by a man and a woman" (even though, as The New York Times reported, "there is no scientific evidence that children raised by gay couples do any worse").

That our government is now both intimidating PBS and awarding public money to pundits to enforce "moral values" agendas demonizing certain families is the ugliest fallout of the campaign against indecency. That campaign cannot really banish salaciousness from pop culture, a rank impossibility in a market economy where red and blue customers are united in their infatuation with "Desperate Housewives." But it can create public policy that discriminates against anyone on the hit list of moral values zealots. Inane as it may seem that Ms. Spellings is conducting a witch hunt against Buster or that James Dobson has taken aim at SpongeBob SquarePants, there's a method to their seeming idiocy: the cartoon surrogates are deliberately chosen to camouflage the harshness of their assault on nonanimated, flesh-and-blood people.

This, too, has its antecedent in the McCarthy era. In his novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," Michael Chabon was extrapolating from actual history when one of his heroes, a gay comic book artist, is hauled before Congress to testify about pairing up "strapping young fellows in tight trousers" as superheroes. A Senate committee of the time did investigate the comics. Its guiding force was the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham's fear-mongering 1954 tome "Seduction of the Innocent," which posited that Batman and Robin could corrupt children by inducing a "wish dream of two homosexuals living together." The decency cops of that day, exemplified by closeted gay right-wingers like J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn, escalated a culture war into one with human costs by conflating homosexuality with the criminality of treason.

One big difference between that America and ours is that the culture industry, public broadcasting not included, has gained much more power since then. Should Sunday's Super Bowl falter in the ratings, its creators will lure that missing audience back next year with wardrobe malfunctions that haven't even been invented yet.

But gay parents whose "lifestyle" is vilified by a cabinet officer don't have that power. They're vulnerable even in a state like Vermont that respects their civil rights. "I feel sick about it," Karen Pike of Hinesburg, Vt., told The Burlington Free Press, after learning that PBS had orphaned the "Buster" episode showing her, her partner and their three children. "I understand they get public funding, but they should be the one station we feel confident in, in knowing that what we see there represents our country."

No one had told her that some stories are no longer welcome. You have to wonder if anyone has told Mary Cheney: Focus on the Family could not have been pleased to read last week's New York Post report that she has hired Bill Clinton's high-powered literary dealmaker to peddle her own story as a book.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Charles Pierce - You Do Not Own Their Courage

You do not own their courage.

The people who stood in line Sunday [in the Iraqi elections] did not stand in line to make Americans feel good about themselves.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify lies about Saddam and al-Qaeda, so you don't own their courage, Stephen Hayes. They did not stand in line to justify lies about weapons of mass destruction, or to justify the artful dodginess of Ahmad Chalabi, so you don't own their courage, Judith Miller. They did not stand in line to provide pretty pictures for vapid suits to fawn over, so you don't own their courage, Howard Fineman, and neither do you, Chris Matthews.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line in order to justify the dereliction of a kept press. They did not stand in line to make right the wrongs born out of laziness, cowardice, and the easy acceptance of casual lying. They did not stand in line for anyone's grand designs. They did not stand in line to play pawns in anyone's great game, so you don't own their courage, you guys in the PNAC gallery.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to provide American dilettantes with easy rhetorical weapons, so you don't own their courage, Glenn Reynolds, with your cornpone McCarran act out of the bowels of a great university that deserves a helluva lot better than your sorry hide. They did not stand in line to be the instruments of tawdry vilification and triumphal hooting from bloghound commandos. They did not stand in line to become useful cudgels for cheap American political thuggery, so you don't own their courage, Freeper Nation.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify a thousand mistakes that have led to more than a thousand American bodies. They did not stand in line for the purpose of being a national hypnotic for a nation not even their own. They did not stand in line for being the last casus belli standing. They did not stand in line on behalf of people's book deals, TV spots, honorarium checks, or tinpot celebrity. They did not stand in line to be anyone's talking points.

You do not own their courage.

Thom Oliphant - Social Security campaign is political grave-robbing

The Boston Globe
Social Security campaign is political grave-robbing

By Thomas Oliphant, Globe Columnist | January 30, 2005

UNABLE TO find any live Democrats to join his Social Security cause, President Bush has tried to recruit a dead one on false pretenses and with false claims.

From the grave, however, Daniel Patrick Moynihan has added to the blows Bush has received on the issue from people who could have been supporters -- four by my count, including the late philosopher-senator from New York -- just since his narrow reelection last November.

The result reflects the odd political situation the president is saddled with as his second term begins for real this week with a State of the Union address followed by a confrontation with reality called the federal budget. Instead of the honeymoon that normally accompanies victory, Bush starts out decidedly weaker than he was the morning after his win over John Kerry.

Ironically, until he started abusing Moynihan's legacy, all of the true trouble Bush was facing was coming from Republicans -- worried not so much about confronting a vexing and controversial issue as concerned by his unwillingness to confront tough choices.

As his inauguration neared, with neither a detailed proposal nor a coalition to cover him, Bush began citing Moynihan to advance his cause, much as a drowning person might reach frantically for a life preserver. It is more than desperate, however; it is dishonest.

The abuse of Moynihan stems from his role as cochairman (with Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons) of the commission Bush set up his first year in office to examine Social Security and suggest a range of alternatives framed around the president's longtime advocacy of partial privatization via individual investment accounts. The commission suggested three, none of which Moynihan supported, according to the commission's record.

Starting last month, the distortion campaign has tried to create the impression of support. As Bush said, ''Much of my thinking has been colored by the work of the late Senator Moynihan and other members of the commission who took a lot of time to look at this problem and who came up with some creative suggestions."

Bush's deception was amplified by constant references from administration spokesmen, including most recently Treasury Secretary John Snow on the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal.

That last blast got a response from Moynihan's devoted and passionately Democratic family last week as well as from his most frequent collaborator on fresh Social Security thinking, former senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.

The Bush assertions are wrong in terms of what the commission did, and wrong about Moynihan's actual views, as well as wrong about the context in which he expressed them.

Working with Pat Moynihan on tough issues has always been challenging as well as rewarding, ever since this innovative iconoclast tried to help advise Richard Nixon on domestic issues during his first presidential term. On Social Security, I weighed in on his (and Kerrey's) key difference with Bush more than three years ago.

It boiled down to the all-important difference between two concepts of investment accounts -- those ''carved out" of existing payroll tax revenues that pay for current benefits versus those ''added on" to the existing, intact structure. At that time, Moynihan was a committed ''add-on" guy and in private comments to some writers underscored his position as well as frustration with a meddling White House that opposed inclusion of the idea.

Never one to be silenced, the great man managed to wedge a short presentation of his views into his introduction to the final report. His position had been endorsed by Bill Clinton near the end of his presidency and by Al Gore during the 2000 campaign.

It is a fact that Moynihan and Kerrey had supported investment accounts in the late 1990s, but only with responsible financing from a lifting of the income ceiling on payroll taxes and higher rates after a 10-year phase-in.

It is also a fact that he had been more than willing to consider reductions in the pace of future benefit increases, but Moynihan favored a pay-as-you go transition -- including limits on inflation adjustments, taxation of benefits, a higher eligibility age, and benefit adjustments to reflect higher life expectancy.

Above all, Moynihan and Kerrey were thinking anew at a time when a $5.6 trillion surplus loomed. Moynihan would have considered the government's current, deficit-plagued mess obscene. He was the first person to charge in Reagan's time that red ink was being used to create crises to force cuts in entitlement programs and he was the first person to attack the use of the Social Security surplus he helped create to cover operating deficits.

The Bush crowd is famous for its willingness to say anything politically to get ahead. From the grave, however, Moynihan's lifelong intellectual honesty mocks the perversion of his thinking now being attempted in desperation.

Thomas Oliphant's e-mail address is
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


Boston Globe - White House-friendly reporter under scrutiny THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
The Boston Globe
White House-friendly reporter under scrutiny

By Charlie Savage and Alan Wirzbicki, Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent | February 2, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration has provided White House media credentials to a man who has virtually no journalistic background, asks softball questions to the president and his spokesman in the midst of contentious news conferences, and routinely reprints long passages verbatim from official press releases as original news articles on his website.

Jeff Gannon calls himself the White House correspondent for, a website that says it is "committed to delivering accurate, unbiased news coverage to our readers." It is operated by a Texas-based Republican Party delegate and political activist who also runs, a website that touts itself as "bringing the conservative message to America."

Called on last week by President Bush at a press conference, Gannon attacked Democratic Senate leaders and called them "divorced from reality." During the presidential campaign, when called on by Press Secretary Scott McClellan, Gannon linked Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, to Jane Fonda and questioned why anyone would dispute Bush's National Guard service.

Now, the question of how Gannon gets into White House press conferences is coming under intense scrutiny from critics who contend that Gannon is not a journalist but rather a White House tool to soften media coverage of Bush. The issue was raised by a media watchdog group and picked up by Internet bloggers, who linked Gannon's presence in White House briefings to recent controversies over whether the administration manipulates the flow of information to the public.

These include the disclosure that the Education Department secretly paid columnist Armstrong Williams to promote its education policy and the administration's practice of sending out video press releases about its policies that purport to be "news stories" by fake journalists.

McClellan said Gannon has not been issued -- nor requested -- a regular "hard pass" to the White House, and instead has come in for the past two years on daily passes. Daily passes, he said, may be issued to anyone who writes for an organization that publishes regularly and who is cleared to enter the building.

He said other reporters and political commentators from lesser-known newsletters and from across the political spectrum also attend briefings, though he could not recall any Internet bloggers. McClellan said it is not the White House's role to decide who is and who is not a real journalist and dismissed any notion of conspiracy.

Nonetheless, transcripts of White House briefings indicate that McClellan often calls on Gannon and that the press secretary -- and the president -- have found relief in a question from Gannon after critical lines of questioning from mainstream news organizations.

When Bush called on Gannon near the end of his nationally televised Jan. 26 news conference, he had just been questioned about Williams and the Education Department funds, an embarrassment to the administration. Gannon's question was different.

"Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the US economy," Gannon said. "[Minority Leader] Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you said you're going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"

As it turned out, Reid had never talked about soup lines. That was a phrase attributed to him in satire by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show.

Last year, during the presidential campaign, Gannon's comments could be even more pointed. In a Feb. 10, 2004, briefing with McClellan, for example, Gannon rose to deliver the following:

"Since there have been so many questions about what the president was doing over 30 years ago, what is it that he did after his honorable discharge from the National Guard? Did he make speeches alongside Jane Fonda, denouncing America's racist war in Vietnam? Did he testify before Congress that American troops committed war crimes in Vietnam? And did he throw somebody else's medals at the White House to protest a war America was still fighting?"

David Brock, the former investigative journalist who made his name revealing aspects of former President Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs, said he was watching last week's press conference on television and the "soup lines" question sparked his interest because it "struck me as so extremely biased." Brock asked his media watchdog group, Media Matters for America, to look into Talon News.

It quickly discovered two things, he said. First, both Talon and the political organization GOP USA were run by a Texas Republican activist and party delegate named Bobby Eberle. Second, many of the reports Gannon filed for Talon News "appeared to be lifted verbatim from various White House and Republican political committee documents."

Eberle did not return phone calls yesterday, and Gannon declined to comment. He did reply to Brock's group on his personal blog: "In many cases I have liberally used the verbiage provided on key aspects of the issue because it is the precise expression of where the White House stands -- free of any 'spin.' It's the ultimate in journalistic honesty -- unvarnished and unfiltered. If only others would be as forthcoming."
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company