Friday, October 04, 2002

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then, and Robert Musil may have stumbled on one here, when he points out that many of the ethics violations which Eliot Spitzer is gleefully uncovering at Goldman Sachs happened under CEO Jim Corzine, who is presently the Democratic junior Senator from New Jersey. Noting the extensive list of beneficiaries of Goldman largesse, "a who's-who of the corporate Go-Go nineties", Musil argues,

Such an extensive list of prominent executives, and such huge amounts, all bespeak a policy made at the very top of Goldman.

Since Musil has belatedly discovered that Chairmen and CEOs (Corzine held both posts) are actually responsible for the activities of the companies they are supposed to be running, I await with baited breath his critiques of Halliburton's accounting irregularities and those messy equipment sales to Iraq under Dick Cheney, and the Texas Rangers baseball team's abuse of eminent domain and other government largesse under George W. Bush.

He might spare a few words as well for Dubya's good friend, the former chairman and CEO of Enron, Ken Lay, who as of this writing remains unindicted...

Thursday, October 03, 2002

The Democratic party yesterday asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to permit them to replace Sen. Torricelli on the ballot, after he quit the race. Megan McArdle thinks that their arguments were outrageous. So much so that it's apparently beneath her dignity to say why she disagrees with all seven justices of the court, six of whom were appointed by Republican Christie Whitman. I sense a touch of hubris.

This comes after Andrew Sullivan came out opposing the move because it would deny voters the chance to express what they thought of Torricelli.

But what I can't figure out in all this fracas is why no one has considered the solution that played out well enough in the Washington DC Mayor's race --- run Lautenberg as a write-in candidate, and be sure that poll workers are very well informed about write-in procedures. Which would allow the Republican party to express what they think of allowing the voters meaningful choices, and would allow voters to express exactly what they think of the party that's trying to deny them a choice on the ballot. But then again, the one is happening anyway... and so, one way or another, will the other.

The closest thing Megan has to an argument is the complaint that the Democrats were asking the court to "overturn the law by fiat." Actually, they were asking the court to overturn the law because its application would conflict with constitutional principles. Which is generally the job of any body which calls itself a "Supreme Court".

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

I'd like to critique the administration's position on Iraq further, but I'm waiting for them to figure out what it is. In the meantime, we have the following apparent hostile action toward The Onion, quoted straight out of today's New York Times, with no edits:

President Bush seemed to soften his tone today about military action against Iraq, saying he was open to compromises with Congress and the United Nations as long as both passed "tough" resolutions that did not tie his hands if Saddam Hussein refuses to disarm. But his spokesman said later that Mr. Bush was still determined to oust Mr. Hussein, and urged the Iraqi people to rise up against Mr. Hussein and exile or kill him.

Mr. Bush said twice today that his goal was "disarming this man," and, in remarks that may have been intended to placate the Security Council members and allies who would have to approve a new United Nations resolution, he made no reference to engineering Mr. Hussein's overthrow.

Two hours later, his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, whose words do not carry as much weight with foreign leaders as the president's, said the goal of removing Mr. Hussein had not changed.

"The policy is regime change, and that remains the American position," he said, even if it was not the policy of the United Nations. He also used the White House podium to encourage a coup, suggesting that there were less expensive ways to accomplish the removal of Mr. Hussein than a military invasion.

"The cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than that," he said. "The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that."

That comes on the heels of a much-noted Newsweek article which describes the Rumsfeld battle-planning process:

Rumsfeld, an impatient questioner, demands to see a plan of attack. The generals respond that they can’t plan without knowing exactly what they are planning for and with what tools, i.e., what bases and what forces. Rumsfeld becomes vexed and insists on “out of the box” thinking. The generals look perplexed or exasperated and fall back on traditional notions of the American way of war, which is to overwhelm the enemy with superior firepower. Such a campaign takes a long wind-up and a massive attack, which prompts the basic questions—from where? with what forces?—all over again.

Would you buy a used war from these men?

These are the people that promised real professionalism in government, not like those amateurs in the Clinton administration. Not since Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize has anyone worked harder to put political satirists out of business...

Monday, September 30, 2002

When Dubya visited Neville Island in Pennsylvania at labor day, Bill Neel showed up with a sign that said "The Bushes must love the poor --- they made so many of us." He was arrested for carrying that sign outside of a "designated free-speech area". It wasn't as if the rest of the island was a "no-speech area" --- signs were allowed right along the motorcade, so long as they were pro-Bush and looked pretty for the cameras.

As anti-Dubya protestors go, Mr. Neel's complaints were minor. Nobody pepper-sprayed his baby. And the protesters who were herded into the "designated free-speech area" weren't then arrested anyway. But the Orwellian twisting of the language here is a new one on me --- designating one corner of the island as a "free speech area" to avoid the right name for what they were doing, which was enforcing a "censored-speech area" covering the rest of the island.

Which makes it sound as if Dubya is hiding from unpleasant speech, and perhaps unpleasant facts. Is that unfair? Let's look at what he's been up to.

As I noted last week, he's been stacking policy review boards with people chosen less for their credibility and competence than their political reliability. Using the terrorist threat as an excuse, he's trying to strip employees of vast stretches of the government of civil service protections which were originally designed to prevent partisan abuse.

He's trying to push the country into a war with Iraq, using the terrorist threat as an excuse, even though, as NSC veteran Daniel Benjamin explains in today's Times, Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda are not allies, but in fact enemies. (And blogsphere "grand strategists" like den Beste buy the lie --- he says that an attack on Iraq would somehow hurt the Islamists when in fact, as I've noted elsewhere, it would be doing them a favor --- they would have successfully gotten their two enemies, "the near enemy" and "the far enemy" as Benjamin explains, to take a chunk out of each other).

And to make sure the blinders stay on, Dubya's crowd has made sweeping claims of executive privilege --- for instance, they're still stonewalling on the records of Dick Cheney's energy task force, even though it's now beyond plain that the energy industry, with which the administration admits deep ties, is hugely corrupt. And let's not forget their "interpretation" of the Presidential Records Act --- mandating release of records after a certain time --- which effectively negates it. Daddy's records are coming due just about now.

His attorney general is insisting on the right to hold people, including American citizens, without charge for arbitrary times, suspending common law rights that go back to the Magna Carta. He's tried to set up an informants program to get citizens to snoop on each other --- and even to enlist delivery and postmen as government eyes. Den Beste would have you believe that absolutism concerning the Bill of Rights is behind Dubya's resistance to the International Criminal Court, echoing the administration's public line, but considering their attitude towards Habeas Corpus, that's a stretch; word from negotiations is that in this sphere, too, they're guarding the American politburo --- that they're really protecting Henry Kissinger, not GI Joe.

And that's the context of the restrictions on speech which I started with --- yes, you can still protest, so long as you stay to a designated area where your protest will not be heard or appear on camera, and as long as you're willing to subject yourself to arrest when the police gets a little jumpy. The scent of boiled frog is in the air.

When I was learning about the evils of communism in school, I didn't hear so much about the massacres, or even the gulag. It was instead the conditions of daily life that got to you --- people subject to search and arrest without any review, the informants, the restrictions on mass media, the inefficient, government-connected industries despoiling the environment (with a few apparatchiks at the top skimming off cash for a sumptuous lifestyle), the government agencies stocked only by the politically reliable, and the goons in the politburo able to impose whatever half-baked policy they liked, justify it with whatever lies they liked, enforced by a government apparatus stocked high with only those chosen to be politically reliable, and never be subject to any meaningful review. I'm starting to get the feeling that someone got the same lessons I did --- and thought to themselves, "Wow, what a neat idea!"

Last paragraph edited almost immediately after posting... and even after that, I managed to forget the link at the top. sigh...