Democracy has been taken for granted at a time when it is most endangered. Neo-Conservatives are organized to replace it with oligarchy, to replace consent for the rule of law with fascistic allegiance to the executive branch disguised as "patriotism." As a team made up of a political philosopher and a writer, we consider otherwise repressed information from a critical perspective in the hope of elevating the quality of our political dialogue so that it is worthy of a truly democratic society.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Lives Richly Lived, Ripples Across the Landscape

Tonight I’d like to take a moment both to lament the deaths of Edward Said and George Plimpton as well as to express, as concisely as possible, why I think these two seemingly disparate souls made significant contributions to our socio-political landscape. You must excuse a certain lack of eloquence from me this evening (I promise to make it up to you), as the central chunk of my contribution to the state as such has involved discussing Chapters 9 and 10 of John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, the Modernist poetry of Wallace Stevens as mirrored in the Cubist painting movement, and the fundamentals of meteorological terms in the study of geography (tomorrow it’s Paul Zindel’s The Pigman, Warriner’s Grammar exercises involving predicates of all stripes, and John Krakauer’s Into the Wild), as well as the ongoing perils of groups of adolescents blossoming. You try to form cogent sentences after all that. But I shall try, not the least of which is because I feel my own life and worldview has been enriched by the intellectual efforts of Said and Plimpton.

Edward Said: 1935-2003

I came to the writings of Said relatively late, in my second grad school program, in an amazing postcolonial lit class taught by an endearingly crusty old Yale grad who knew from subaltern. Having lived and worked and established relationships in the Middle East myself, I dove into Said’s masterwork, Orientalism, with more than a passing critical eye on my white-ass-self. What I found, though, was far from bilious mudslinging, something I think I could have understood if it had been the case. What I found, instead, was a Palestinian man, denied a country, who elected to give voice to what perhaps we may consider a different ethical totality, a voice powerful in its ability to compel according to the rigors of reason. A not useless observation that much of what is written under the aegis of postcolonial lit requires the subaltern to make use of their oppressor’s discourse constructs may be addressed by noting that for far too long those colonizing forces/entities simply wouldn’t listen any other way. For me, Said made eloquent use of Western academic and social constructs in such a way that never tempered his questioning, his rage, or his appeals for reason and compassion. He shows us ourselves not simply as villains but as a people with the potential for great positive change for growth beyond our borders, both geographic and ideological. I include below an excerpt from Joshua Adams’s well-done essay in Flak Magazine:

“Unfortunately for Said's legacy, and doubly so for us, no one seems poised to take up his work. The field of postcolonial studies has not continued to spawn theoretical giants, but this is understandable as the field's one great insight is also just that — one great insight. Some scholars, such as Gayatari Spivak supplement this problem by taking seriously their commitment to activism, to the point where they don't just write about politics but actually make things happen on the ground. But for every example of political commitment, legions of seminar soldiers abound. The old slogans of solidarity and engagement generally fall on deaf ears. The hardy souls who get Ph.D.s nowadays are too worried about finding a job to advocate for the dispossessed.

“It's all the rage to say that the postcolonial moment has passed us by. Empire is what people want to talk about now, not imperialism. But our contemporary thinkers risk much when they ignore Said's lessons. In the mind of would-be occupiers, the desire of the occupied is for the security and stability and progress and wealth brought by a benevolent empire, but that pliable image is always partly a projection, a fantasy. One hard look at the events on the ground will tell us so.”
Full text to be found at:

George Plimpton: 1927-2003

George Plimpton was born into priviledge and a world or two away from that of Edward Said. Yet I can imagine the two at a table, maybe in a Fifth Avenue bistro, maybe at a souk kiosk, engaged in spirited discussion. The one thing Plimpton wasn’t was arrogant, and his gifts were many. Chief among those gifts, so far as I am concerned, was his absolute interest in other people—what drove men and women of all stripes to aspire, create, and live. That he is well known at all is a by-product of his interest in others and his desire to push himself to experience things seemingly beyond him. He played football, he acted, he sang, he raced cars, he boxed, and, perhaps most dear to me, he wrote. Plimpton’s biography of Truman Capote is very likely the best biography I have ever read in terms of the artistry of his language and observations. He turned a passionate and incredibly respectful eye on all his subjects, and his works and life have inspired me to live with similar passion. I include below an excerpt from his obituary in The New York Times:

By Richard Severo

“As a ‘participatory journalist,’ Mr. Plimpton believed that it was not enough for writers of nonfiction simply to observe; they needed to immerse themselves in whatever they were covering. For example, football huddles and conversations on the bench constituted a ‘secret world,’ he said, ‘and if you're a voyeur, you want to be down there, getting it firsthand.’

“And he didn’t always fall on his face. One night in 1997 (too old by then to engage in strenuous contact sports), he showed up at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, which was then having its amateur night. He announced that he was an amateur, and when asked what he was going to play, replied, ‘the piano.’ He knew only ‘Tea for Two’ and a few other tunes, but played his own composition, a rambling improvisation he called ‘Opus No. 1.’ The audience adored him, and the charmed judges gave him second prize.

“Perhaps his career was best summarized by a New Yorker cartoon in which a patient looks at the surgeon preparing to operate on him and demands, ‘How do I know you're not George Plimpton?’
Full text to be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/27/obituaries/27PLIM.html
Requires (free) initial sign-up.

The lives of these two learned men, documented by themselves and others as they struggled to interpret and reflect the lives and struggles of others, should serve as beacons of aspiration to those of us lucky enough to find ourselves with some capacity for intellectual observation, reflection, and dissemination. Both men were possessed of a certain appreciation that in societies purporting to be governed by the rule of law, all people are strengthened through the exchange of a multiplicity of beliefs and worldviews and, yes, questions. We must ask ourselves, are we being represented politically by the best we have to offer? Would our current leadership appreciate the endeavors of two such men as Said and Plimpton?

Respectfully, I bid you good evening.

Greetings and Salutations
I'm Eric, a teacher and writer living in the mountains of Montana . . . and one quite especially fond of our Philosophy Ph.D. candidate/Interiority Vixen, Lisa, who has graciously invited me to cast some thoughts your way. I'll be posting largely by the name of my nome-de-keyboard, one Stourley Kracklite. Forthcoming tonight, a few words and thoughts about two scholarly men who recently left us, Edward Said and George Plimpton. Why should you care? Ah, well, I'll attempt to persuade you, friends.

FAIR released a story last month documenting Ashcroft's use of political influence to ensure that the media would work to increase public support for the patriot act by encouraging the view that it is ultimately harmless. To do this, significant aspects of the act which would not otherwise be popularly received were not introduced into the media debate - conveniently at the time when Ashcroft and others were lobbying the public for support through extensive speaking tours, etc. An excerpt of the story follows below. (click here for full text)

John Ashcroft Needs Help: Attorney general seeks media's aid in selling Patriot Act

On June 19, Attorney General John Ashcroft told editors and media executives at an Aspen Institute conference that the government needs the media's help in "portraying accurately" the USA PATRIOT Act. The New York Times' Adam Clymer reported (6/20/03) that Ashcroft stressed that public distrust of the law, passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, was based on bad information. According to the Times, Ashcroft had a few suggestions; for one thing, media should emphasize that the Patriot Act "isn't something new, this isn't something different, this isn't some vast incursion into the freedoms of the American people."

The trouble with Ashcroft's editorial suggestion is that the Patriot Act does grant the government new and different powers. Whether or not one favors the changes, the law does restrict U.S. civil liberties. Responsible reporting on the act would call it what it is.

Ashcroft's request, just like the actual provisions of the Patriot Act, wasn't widely covered. In fact, one could argue that the sparse, vague coverage of the act's controversial measures did the Bush administration a favor. A FAIR review of coverage before the act's passage found that "debate" was nearly invisible on the nightly network newscasts (Extra!, 11-12/01) What little coverage there was could hardly have been considered unfriendly to Ashcroft; ABC's World News Tonight, for example, closed its report (9/21/01) with this comment: "As one veteran of World War II put it today, if you have to violate freedom to protect the masses, go ahead and do it."

(end excerpt)

Just as he struck earlier at the Freedom of Information Act immediately after Sept. 11 - an Act which was passed as a safeguard against future corruption of the kind witnessed during the Watergate era - Ashcroft is now manipulating the rules of engagement between government officials and the press from a dynamic of dialogue and inquiry to one in which the role of the media is to transform White House press releases into public sentiment. Thus, Ashcroft is once again promoting the erosion of procedural checks upon the power of the executive by the public and its representatives.

This in fact violates constitutional provisions for political liberalsim - a form of government (our form in theory) which seeks to minimize the use of coercive power and unjustified political authority. In a liberal democracy, the media should not be prone to function as the means for the manufacture of popular consent. The provision for the free-press in the bill of rights was intended by the Federalists (when they finally stopped struggling to keep it out) to increase the free distribution of all information potentially relevant to the public interest. The early Federalists viewed the citizen as a rational ends-seeker, but also as a deliberator and co-participant in the formulation of a general will. The process of will formation properly belongs in the public sphere – the people will confer and represent their interests to their legislators.

It should not be the role of the media to artificially create the conditions for consent by re-interpreting matters of public concern. Without a press which is free in the sense that it is not invested in any particular interpretation (but especially the interpretation put forward by the spokesmen of consolidated political power), the necessary conditions for the public to pass judgement on political policy are eliminated, and the ministers of institutions endowed with powers of coercion enjoy greater opportunity to abuse it for their own ends.


I posted two short stories on this development (9/20/03) and it has not managed to get swept under the rug entirely as might well have happened. The allegation from ambassador Wilson is that a senior member of the Bush administration violated anti-treason laws by leaking the identity of his wife as a CIA operative to the pundit Robert Novak (of all people) who promptly used his column to publish it in the press - a deliberate act of revenge for causing the Bushies some trouble over the manufactured case for the Iraq war. Now George Tenet has called on the justice department to investigate, and although this is the federal equivalent of entrusting Himmler to keep an eye on Hitler, the process of investigation has at least moved a step forward.

Two points are worth noting immediately:


SECONDLY, IF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS, THE CASE CONTINUES TO MOUNT FOR CHARGING THEM WITH COMMITTING HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS - AND THUS BEGINNING A DEBATE ABOUT IMPEACHMENT. THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION MAY HAVE IN FACT EGREGIOUSLY JEAPORDIZED THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY AND COMPROMISED NATIONAL SECURITY (as though they hadn't done enough bankrupting us, handicapping our market for the long run, costing us any international cooperation we might otherwise have relied on, increasing poverty and the erosion of labor and environmental protections, and forcing us to pay for BY OURSELVES a war which as of yet has no end in sight.) It is time for this question to be confronted with the courage that makes sincerity possible. Bush is not our king! He can be removed in the national interest!

Justice Dept. to probe leaks from White House
CIA officer's name allegedly given to journalist

(from the Washington Times)
Washington -- At CIA Director George Tenet's request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that a White House official leaked the name of an undercover officer to a journalist, administration officials said Saturday.

The operative's identity was published in July after her husband, former U. S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly challenged President Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Africa, which can be used in nuclear weapons.

Bush later backed away from the claim, which he had made in his State of the Union address in January.

The intentional disclosure of a covert operative's identity can violate federal law.

Administration officials said Tenet sent a memo to the Justice Department raising a series of questions about whether a leaker had broken federal law by disclosing the identity of an undercover officer. Administration sources familiar with the matter said the Justice Department is determining whether a formal investigation is warranted.

A senior administration official said two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife, shortly after Wilson revealed in July that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim.

Wilson wrote in an op-ed article in the New York Times that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. That account touched off a controversy over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

Columnist Robert Novak published the agent's name in a July column about Wilson's mission.

Sources familiar with the conversations said the leakers' allegation was that Wilson had benefited from nepotism because the Niger mission had been his wife's idea. Wilson said in an interview Saturday that a reporter had told him that the leaker said, "The real issue is Wilson and his wife."

The senior official would not name the leakers for the record and would not name the journalists. The official said he had no indication that Bush knew about the calls.

Wilson, while refusing to confirm his wife's occupation, has suggested publicly that he believes Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, broke her cover. He said Aug. 21 at a public forum in Seattle that it was of keen interest to him "to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said he knows of no leaks about Wilson's wife. "That is not the way this White House operates, and no one would be authorized to do such a thing," McClellan said.

Rove, asked to comment, responded through McClellan, who said of Wilson's comments: "It is a ridiculous suggestion, and it is simply not true."

The Intelligence Protection Act, passed in 1982, imposes maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and $50,000 fines for unauthorized disclosure by government employees with access to classified information.


Okay, this story is an oldie but a goodie, and it's one of my favorites.


CNN offers the following short story. It is significant because Powell admits as Rumsfeld did two months ago that the US didn't have any new intelligence that Iraq was a threat - but that Sept. 11 caused us to view the intelligence in a new light. Now instead of the standard of justification for a first strike requiring IMMINENT THREAT, the fact that we were so freaked out by the thought that someone could actually punch us in the eye caused us to lower the standard to POTENTIAL THREAT AT A LATER DATE. NOTICE: This lower standard does not require that a threat actually EXIST, but only that it might at some point in time. Ladies and Gentlement, this is in violation of the rule of law at the domestica and international level. No individual NOR GOVERNING BODY has the right to take the law into its own hands simply because it woke up feeling hysterical one morning.

And one more thing: it took us a year after Sept. 11 to attack Iraq, and in the meantime the president was assuring us that he had not made the decision to attack, and no plans were on his desk. Then, a year later, for no apparent reason other than the first anniversary of 9-11, we have such a hard-on to drop bombs that Rumsfeld is telling the American public that Iraq could put warheads on massive ships and float them to the East coast within 45 minutes (staggering falsehood), and Cheyney tells us that the administration knows that Hussein had reconstituted nuclear weapons. COME ON FOLKS! STOP LETTING THEM FEED US BULLSHIT - IT'S AN INSULT TO EVEN THE STUPIDEST OF US!! In fact, i believe that it was never really a matter of fooling people, but that the people believed because they were really hot for another war. We hadn't gotten it out of our system with Afghanistan, and there's nothing to make us feel like we're really the big ol' boss like dropping bombs on poor countries from the absolute safety of an airplane. Hell, it's better than football, huh?

DISSERTATION UPDATE (ch. II) -- I am unavoidably locked in a battle with F.A. von Hayek for ideational superiority- trying to to do immanent critique on The Consitution of Liberty for its metaphysical and otherwise untenable view of the relationship between wealth and democracy in a free society. Once this part is done, then i'll go on to show that what Hayek fails to realize (coercive force of the market) actually suggests the normative content of liberal values cannot cohere with the procedural mechanisms it claims to require (remembering to set up the end of the chapter for Rawls in the next one, where we will begin from a 'free-standing,' anti-metaphysical political liberalism which tackles the problem of distributive justice as effective means for realizing the moral powers of the citizen and more generally the procedures appropriate to a constitutional democratic regime) Okay, gotta run...

Sunday, September 28, 2003


Here is the website of a grassroots peace organization (Beyond War) I am starting to hook up with. You might be able to find local branches in your area.


Brought to you by Americans United for Separation of Church and State - click here


If I were an economist, I would be Paul Krugman. This is precisely the type of economic expertise we need right now. The following is an interview he gave recently which suggests a fundamental connection between the belligerent Republican party and its disdain for rule of law, and our immanent economic self-destruction. The future is dismal.

For the complete article, go here


You probably think you know Paul Krugman, the liberal New York Times columnist with never a kind word for George Bush. Think again.

Is Krugman merely someone who dislikes Bush and thinks his policies are horribly misguided? Oh no. In fact, in his most recent book, The Great Unraveling, he makes it clear that he thinks it's much, much worse than that. Here's a set of excerpts from the introduction in which he spells out exactly how he feels. Be sure not to skip past this if you want the interview that follows to make sense:

Most people have been slow to realize just how awesome a sea change has taken place in the domestic political scene....The public still has little sense of how radical our leading politicians really are....Just before putting this book to bed, I discovered a volume that describes the situation almost perfectly....an old book by, of all people, Henry Kissinger....

In the first few pages, Kissinger describes the problems confronting a heretofore stable diplomatic system when it is faced with a "revolutionary power" — a power that does not accept that system's legitimacy....It seems clear to me that one should regard America's right-wing movement...as a revolutionary power in Kissinger's sense....

In fact, there's ample evidence that key elements of the coalition that now runs the country believe that some long-established American political and social institutions should not, in principle, exist....Consider, for example....New Deal programs like Social Security and unemployment insurance, Great Society programs like Medicare....Or consider foreign policy....separation of church and state....The goal would seem to be something like this: a country that basically has no social safety net at home, which relies mainly on military force to enforce its will abroad, in which schools don't teach evolution but do teach religion and — possibly — in which elections are only a formality....

Surely, says the conventional wisdom, we should discount this rhetoric: the goals of the right are more limited than this picture suggests. Or are they?

Back to Kissinger. His description of the baffled response of established powers in the face of a revolutionary challenge works equally well as an account of how the American political and media establishment has responded to the radicalism of the Bush administration over the past two years:...."they find it nearly impossible to take at face value the assertions of the revolutionary power that it means to smash the existing framework"....this passage sent chills down my spine....

There's a pattern...within the Bush admin-istration....which should suggest that the administration itself has radical goals. But in each case the administration has reassured moderates by pretending otherwise — by offering rationales for its policy that don't seem all that radical. And in each case moderates have followed a strategy of appeasement....this is hard for journalists to deal with: they don't want to sound like crazy conspiracy theorists. But there's nothing crazy about ferreting out the real goals of the right wing; on the contrary, it's unrealistic to pretend that there isn't a sort of conspiracy here, albeit one whose organization and goals are pretty much out in the open....

Here's a bit more from Kissinger: "The distinguishing feature of a revolutionary power is not that it feels threatened...but that absolutely nothing can reassure it (Kissinger's emphasis). Only absolute security — the neutralization of the opponent — is considered a sufficient guarantee"....I don't know where the right's agenda stops, but I have learned never to assume that it can be appeased through limited concessions. Pundits who predict moderation on the part of the Bush administration, on any issue, have been consistently wrong....

I have a vision — maybe just a hope — of a great revulsion: a moment in which the American people look at what is happening, realize how their good will and patriotism have been abused, and put a stop to this drive to destroy much of what is best in our country. How and when this moment will come, I don't know. But one thing is clear: it cannot happen unless we all make an effort to see and report the truth about what is happening.

Whew. Alarming enough for you?

What more can I say after all that? A couple of things: first, in person Krugman hardly fits his image of a fire breathing demon of the left. In fact, he's got a hint of the geeky air you might expect from a Princeton professor of economics: slightly harrassed, stuff in his shirt pocket, a bit of a nervous speaking style.

Second, although there's some repetition in the book — an occupational hazard of column collections — it's a great read (currently ranked #12 on Amazon and likely to soon join the five other liberal books currently dominating the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.) And you really do have to read it to truly understand where Krugman is coming from. It's one thing to hear him say that the Bush administration lies continually, it's another to read column after column in which he documents it. The lies are relentless, brazen, and indisputable.

When I caught up with Krugman he had flown into town to appear on Bill Maher's show the previous night — "with Jesse Ventura, if you can imagine that" — and had just driven from Hollywood down to Del Mar to appear at a book signing at a local independent bookstore. I got to speak with him for about 25 minutes before making way for a reporter from the San Diego Union-Tribune. Here's the interview.

The main theme of The Great Unraveling is how much Bush lies. But Reagan lied, Clinton lied, Johnson lied, all presidents lie. What's the difference between them and Bush?

Actually, I miss Reagan. I never thought I'd say that, but....

Reagan lied a little bit, and his policies were often crazy, but they wouldn't do 2 -1 = 4. They'd say, if we have our tax cut we'll have this wonderful supply side thing and the economy will boom and it will pay for itself, which was a crazy theory, but it wasn't a blatant lie about the actual content of the policy.

Bush says, I've got a tax cut that's aimed at working people, ordinary working people, and then you just take a look at it and discover that most of it's coming from elimination of the estate tax and a cut in the top bracket, so it's heavily tilted toward just a handful of people at the top. It's just a flat lie about what the tax cut is.

So this is different, this is really more extreme. We're not talking about disagreements about policy at this point, we're talking about people who insist that things that are flatly not true are true, that black is white, up is down.

One of the points in your book is that "reasonable" liberals aren't taking this seriously enough, that they just don't see the things you do. But doesn't that make you sound like a crank? How do you…

Well, you just keep on hammering it, and you try to document it.

During the 2000 campaign I was inspired to get radicalized. You know, this was not your ordinary average slightly misleading campaign, this was something off the scale, but most people just wouldn't go at it. And that's when I started saying that if Bush said the Earth was flat, the resulting article would say "Shape of the Earth: Views Differ." And then after September 11th it was really impossible, because people wanted to believe good things that just weren't true.

So you just keep on hammering, and I think it's actually changed a lot. In fact, when I wrote the intro to the book the guys at Norton were worried, they were saying, that's pretty tough stuff. But at this point it doesn't seem that far out anymore, there are a fair number of people saying the same thing. In fact, I almost felt as if we missed the window when this stuff would still be shocking, because a lot of people are starting to see it. The scales are falling from people's eyes.

The introduction to your book was tough. It almost sounded like, just in case you still haven't figured out how Paul Krugman feels about things....

Well, I wanted a context. I was having a little trouble with the editors who kept on pushing the book to be about the bubble and its aftermath. And while there's a fair bit about that, that's not actually the central theme. The central theme is, we're being lied to by our leaders, and I just felt I really needed to put that very strongly in context.

If you look at what the introduction is about a lot, it's partly about what these guys are doing, but it's partly about why reasonable people have such a hard time facing up to what they're doing. The Kissinger quote is not about what the France of Robespierre was doing, it's about why the diplomats of Austria couldn't handle what the France of Robespierre was doing, and that's why they just couldn't understand that such a thing was really possible. And that's what it's addressed to, the intro is really addressed to the liberal or moderate who just can't believe that Bush isn't another Reagan, that this is something really much more radical even than that.

What do you think is the difference with Bush? The movement conservatives, the Grover Norquists of the world, they've been around for 20 years plus....

They're much more organized and the funding has increased to a level that wasn't there before. Basically there's a lot more money behind it, there's a lot more organized fanaticism. The strength of the hard religious right — even though the numbers are probably smaller than they were in the 80s — is higher because the fanaticism of those who remain is much greater.

And of course September 11th, which gave them the ability to turn national security into a club with which to dash down opposition to this radical agenda, has made it much more severe than it was. Basically, they just got better at it. The "compassionate conservative" front is something that they learned their lessons about. They learned not to run people like Steve Forbes, but to run people who could talk a better game while actually doing the same stuff.

What do you think are their underlying motives?

If you think that income inequality is one of the things that drives this – and I do believe it's part of the story – then you have to look at the self-reinforcing process in which growing concentration of wealth at the top feeds into the political power of the people who serve that class's interest. I don't want to sound like a Marxist here, but there's some of that going on. What we thought was an explosion of inequality in the Reagan years was nothing compared to where we are now.

Of course, that happened all through the Clinton years too.

That's right, income inequality was going up the whole time, because Clinton was actually a very moderate president. Clinton was not really doing anything to lean against it except for that one fairly significant tax increase at the beginning, but the underlying trends were still going. So, in 1975 CEOs earned about 40 times the average wage, by the end of the Reagan era they were earning 130 times the average wage, and we thought that was a wildly unequal society, but now it's 500 times. So whatever it is that was going on in the 80s is now much more powerful.

But they're still pissed off.

Well, that's what I don't understand. It's odd that the better things get if you are rich or a fundamentalist Christian, the more angry they get. That's the nice thing about the Kissinger quote. I'm not sure he understands it either, but this notion that if you have this kind of revolutionary power you don't feel secure unless you have a complete monopoly of power, that seems to be the way it's playing out.

Purely on an economic basis, what's wrong with income inequality? Does it hurt? And why?

Well, I think you can't do it on a pure economic basis, you have to think how it plays through the social system and the political process…

Suppose it keeps going up. What happens?

One thing that happens is you have an adversarial kind of society, you have a society in which people don't share the same lives at all, don't share the same values. Politically, it leads to erosion of the support for public institutions that we need.

Take this catastrophe in Alabama just now. It was a dispute about taxes, but what's ultimately at stake is, are they going to do anything to improve that dismal primary education system in Alabama or is it going to get even worse because of the budget crisis? And the answer is, it's going to get even worse.

It's funny, some of the businesses in Alabama were supporting Riley's tax plan because they actually are starting to understand that a decent education level is more important to them than a couple of points off their taxes. But it gets harder to have that sort of enlightened social policy when you have a society that's so radically differentiated. Think of Latin America. The characteristic thing in Latin America is that they have lousy infrastructure and lousy education systems because they're so polarized on income, and in turn that leads to low development and polarized income. You get this kind of downward spiral. And there's something like that happening here.

But despite 20 years of this, starting in the early 80s, there's actually remarkably little class envy among the working class in America.

Yeah, and that's partly because people don't know. There's a funny thing that happened when I had that piece on inequality from the Times magazine a year ago. I had no control over the artwork and didn't see it until everyone else saw it, and they had this big picture of what they thought was a mansion. But it wasn't a mansion, it wasn't what the really rich are building now, it was a roughly $3 million house of about 7,000 square feet, and there are a few of those in Princeton just down the road from me. The people doing the Times magazine artwork just don't realize how rich the rich are these days, what the real excesses look like, and I think that's the general thing. I think most people are not well informed, and after all who is going to inform them? It's the power of propaganda: 49% of the public thinks that most people end up paying the estate tax.

Why is the Bush administration doing what they're doing economically? Obviously they want to get reelected, and they know a strong economy is important to getting reelected. So why deliberately follow policies that aren't going to help?

I think they were betting that the economy would spontaneously strengthen. They were betting that they would get their recovery — and they might still be right, though I think it's almost impossible that Bush will end this term with more jobs than when he came in — but in any case the trend might be up enough that they can still pull it off.

But they've been shocked by this, they expected that it would turn out OK, and their strategy has been to play to the base. They've just thought that that's what maximizes reelection chances. God knows. After all, on what issue have they actually said, here's a problem and we have to solve it? There have been none of those, there have just been, here's a problem and how can we use it to advance the base's agenda? And it's still better than even odds that they will get reelected regardless.

Beyond that, obviously Grover Norquist and the Heritage Foundation see all this as a way to radically downsize government by creating so much red ink that it becomes politically possible to chip away at Social Security and Medicare. I doubt that Bush understands that that's where it's going, but in effect he's allowing himself to be used by people who have those sorts of goals.

And they honestly think they can do that? I don't think politically you can cut those programs.

Train wreck is a way overused metaphor, but we're headed for some kind of collision, and there are three things that can happen. Just by the arithmetic, you can either have big tax increases, roll back the whole Bush program plus some; or you can sharply cut Medicare and Social Security, because that's where the money is; or the U.S. just tootles along until we actually have a financial crisis where the marginal buyer of U.S. treasury bills, which is actually the Reserve Bank of China, says, we don't trust these guys anymore — and we turn into Argentina. All three of those are clearly impossible, and yet one of them has to happen, so, your choice. Which one?

Well, how about your choice? What's your best guess?

I think financial crisis, and then how it falls out is 50-50, either New New Deal or back to McKinley, and I think it's anybody's guess which one of those it is. It's crazy stuff, but think about where I am on this. My take on the numbers is no different from Brad DeLong's, it's no different from CBO's now, and we all look at this and we all see this curve that marches steadily upwards and then heads for the sky after the baby boomers start retiring. I don't know what Brad thinks, I think he's open-minded [actually, it turns out he's optimistic that voters will eventually come to their senses and raise taxes on the rich. —ed.], but the general view is: yes, but this is America, it can't happen, so something will come up. And I'm just willing to say I don't see any noncatastrophic solution to this, I don't see an incremental stepwise resolution. I think something drastic is really going to happen.

How does all this feed in to the current account deficit? Will China keep financing that forever?

They're financing both the current account deficit, and, as it turns out, directly financing the government deficit. We were running a big current account deficit that accelerated through the late 90s, but there you could say that it was due to the strength of the U.S. economy, it was all this investment demand, technological revolution, and after all, the government was in surplus.

Now, we're back in twin deficits territory, and there are two related issues, the solvency of the federal government and the solvency of the United States per se, and both of them are now somewhat in question.

Maybe I'm a captive of my own model, but I think that what happens when the world loses faith in the U.S. as a place to invest is that the dollar plunges, but that in itself is not so bad because the lucky thing is our foreign debts are in dollars, so we don't do an Indonesia or an Argentina. But the federal government's solvency is a much more critical thing because it needs to keep on borrowing more and more just to pay its bills.

What happens if these foreign countries do stop buying U.S. bonds? Is this a real concern, or a tinfoil hat kind of thing?

Oh, I don't think China is going to do it to pressure us. You can just barely conceive of a situation where they're mad at us because we're keeping them from invading Taiwan or something, but more likely they just start to wonder if this is really a good place to be putting their money.

So what happens is a plunge in the dollar when they decide to stop buying and start cashing in, and a spike in U.S. interest rates. But you might also get in a situation where the interest rates the government has to pay to roll over its debt become so high that you get an accelerating problem, which is what happened in Argentina. What happened was that suddenly no one would buy Argentine debt unless they paid a twenty something percent interest rate, and everybody says, but if they have to roll over their debt at a twenty percent interest rate, there's no way they can pay that back. So the whole thing grinds to a halt and the cash flow just dries up.

And do you think that's a serious possibility for the United States?

Yeah, just take the numbers as they now look, and that's where it heads. And you might say, OK, we can easily handle it. U.S. taxes are 26 percent of GDP in the U.S., in Canada they're 38 percent of GDP. If you raise U.S. taxes to Canadian levels there's plenty of money to cope with all of this. But politically we've got a deadlock, and it's hard to imagine that happening.

So you say, but this can't happen, this is America, and I guess my answer is, is it? Is this the same country that we had in 1970? I think we have a much more polarized political system, a much more polarized social climate. We certainly aren't the country of Franklin Roosevelt, and we're probably not the country of Richard Nixon either, so I think we have to take seriously the possibility that things won't work out this time.

If you were king of the economy, what's the Krugman plan?

A phased elimination of all the Bush tax cuts, plus some additional taxes. I'd probably look first at some way to make the corporate profits tax actually effective again — the nominal rate is 35% but the effective rate is only 15% or so. Look at some cuts, maybe you start to talk about retirement age, and possibly some means testing of Medicare, and that's enough to bring the budget under control. And meanwhile you have to manage the economy, you have to talk about what we can do to actually get demand going faster, and there are lots of things you can do….

Are there? We're running a $500 billion deficit, interest rates are at one percent…

We're running the wrong kind of deficit. We need aid to state and local government, more checks to lower and middle income people. We need some WPA type of projects, and as it happens the homeland security stuff would be a perfect candidate. I just looked to find out how much of that $20 billion New York has actually gotten so far, and the answer is $5.6 billion. Two years after September 11th New York has gotten less than $6 billion in aid, so how about a little bit more on all of that?

In terms of a classic Keynesian stimulus, homeland security is a perfect fit.

Yeah, but they don't want to do it. Partly because they don't like government, partly because a lot of it would be going to New York and they don't like New York. It's pretty amazing.

Let me switch gears. One of the things you notice when you read a whole bunch of your columns in just a few hours is how short they are, and how little you actually get to say in each one. Is that a frustrating thing?

I've sort of disciplined myself, I have 750-word thoughts now. I started writing nontechnical stuff as 5,000 word pieces for Foreign Affairs, and then I disciplined myself down to writing 1300 word pieces for Slate, and then 900 word pieces for Fortune, and now I get 750 words. There's a lot of things you can't do, and you can't count on readers having read the last two columns in sequence, so yes, it's hard. But that's what people read.

How do you work? Where do you get your information? From people, from the web, from Lexis, from...?

I read seven newspapers every morning. I get four delivered, I read the Washington Post online, and I look at a couple of the British papers, not always the same two. I'm on the web, I read Josh Marshall regularly, and Atrios regularly, and I read you occasionally, once every couple of days so I know what's going on. People email me stuff, or tell me things I should read. I'm constantly monitoring and often talking with or corresponding with the good think tanks and research institutes — and yes, there is a tiny conspiracy between me and Bob Greenstein at CBPP. As Tom Friedman says, it's a target rich environment, there are so many things out there, there are at least six outrages a week that you ought to be poking on.

Let's finish with some quickies. What are your three favorite Bush lies?

On economics, the one that got me going was Social Security during the 2000 campaign, when Bush basically said, I'm going to take a trillion dollars away and it's going to strengthen the system. Another one is the distributional stuff, just the raw lie that this is a middle class tax cut. I could come up with another economic one, but obviously I'm really exercised about the Iraq war. Even if you think the war was worth fighting, and I think that's a diminishing perception among people, we were lied into it, and that's scary, that's never happened before.

What are the three biggest problems the United States faces right now?
The budget deficit, joblessness, and, ultimately, what really, really scares me, even though I can't write about it all the time, is the environment. That's more important than anything.


For the full transcript, click here

BILL MOYERS: Those of you who are faithful to NOW will recognize this clock, the deficit clock, just a few blocks from our office here in New York silently measuring how fast the United States government is spending money it doesn't have. Standing there you get the impression you're looking at the digital Doomsday deficit clock and you have the urge to talk to Peter Peterson.

So here he is. Mr. Peterson is chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as well as of his own investment firm, the Blackstone Group. He's a lifelong Republican who served as Secretary of Commerce in Richard Nixon's cabinet.

A dozen years ago when the deficit clock was also going haywire he helped to found the non-partisan Concord Coalition whose members set out to alert their fellow citizens to a crisis in the making. Now he's back, déjà vu all over again. Welcome to NOW.

PETER PETERSON: Thank you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: What do you see when you look at that clock?

PETER PETERSON: Well, I see both a fiscal economic crisis in the making. I also see a moral crisis. And maybe that doesn't come very convincingly from an investment banker. But let me explain that to you. The fiscal crisis is both domestic and foreign. We are now facing a situation during a decade when we should have been saving for the Boomer revolution that's coming and the retirement costs. Instead of saving during that decade we're squandering it. The Concord Coalition, Goldman Sachs, the Committee for Economic Development predict that over the next ten years we're going to be adding $5 trillion of deficits. So we have a domestic fiscal crisis. Much less understood, Bill, is the foreign deficit, what we call the Current Account Deficit, that's caused by the biggest trade deficit we've ever had. Plus--

BILL MOYERS: We're buying a lot more overseas than they're buying from us.

PETER PETERSON: Precisely. And we have a lousy savings rate, the lowest in the world. And we are now going to be importing-- something like $500 billion to $600 billion in foreign capital. We've become hooked, we've become addicted to foreign capital.

BILL MOYERS: You mean they are paying for our deficit?

PETER PETERSON: They're paying for our deficits, our various deficits.

BILL MOYERS: Somebody watching says, "But why don't we want them to pay our debt? The foreigners, why don't we want them?"

PETER PETERSON: Well-- because at some point we're going to have to pay it back. And in the meantime they end up owning a great deal of America. And the interest costs get to be very terrific.

One of the crisis scenarios, of course, is we have this mammoth debt. The foreigners lose confidence in us. The dollar fall, the-- stock markets fall, the bond markets fall, the interest rates go way up. Then the debt burden goes up astronomically.

And the foreign deficit-- Bill, is at five percent of the GDP heading towards six. And the previous record during the Reagan Years was only 3 1/2. So we have this fiscally speaking, we have this dual crisis in the making. Now--

BILL MOYERS: The deficit and the foreign deficit.

PETER PETERSON: And the foreign deficit. Now the moral crisis. There's a German philosopher named Bonhoeffer who said the ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children.

When we sit around here and talk about all these tax cuts and we say it's our money, your money and mine, I think we ought to be honest with the American people. In the first place, it's also our debt and it's our children's debt.

But secondly, a tax cut isn't really a tax cut long-term unless you reduce spending. Because then it becomes a tax increase on your children. So we're inflicting this awful bill not simply on ourselves but most importantly on our kids. And it is that phenomenon that is very troublesome when we have to consider that ten years from now 77 million Boomers are retiring.

All of those liabilities are not funded. The Trust Fund is one of the ultimate fiscal oxymorons of our time. There's nothing in it that's not funded and you shouldn't trust it. And whether you had it or didn't have it, you'd still have to go out and do the same thing. Increase payroll taxes to pay for Social Security and Medicare.

You realize, Bill, at the present time, the Social Security Administration believes that my children and grandchildren will have to pay between 25 and 35 percent of payroll to fund these programs. So when we say you and I, fat cats that we are, are getting tax cuts, I prefer to think of it as a tax increase on my own kids and grandkids. And I find that a fundamentally unacceptable immoral proposition.

BILL MOYERS: The national debt could increase by the Year 2000-- 2013 to $14 trillion. That's a tripling of the debt today. What does that mean in practical terms?

PETER PETERSON: That number is roughly correct for the so-called official debt. But we have not told the American people is there's $25 trillion of unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare. $25 trillion--

BILL MOYERS: That we don't know about.

PETER PETERSON: And it's off the books. We don't even talk about it. So that's a gross understatement of the amount of liabilities that we now have.

BILL MOYERS: You know, these are breathtaking numbers Pete Peterson. Help us to translate them into their impact on my team here in the studio, on the people watching, on our individual lives.

PETER PETERSON: I want to present a picture to you. There's 77 million Boomers we're talking about. A doubling of the elderly. Half of the people getting Social Security make less than $20,000 and they depend enormously on Social Security as part of that. It's over half of it. Unfortunately, our country has staggering amounts of elderly that have no savings at all, about 20 percent.

Imagine politically 77 million Boomers. They don't have savings. They depend on Social Security and somebody's saying to them, "Sorry, folks, we're out of money. You're not going to get your benefits."

And they've been told-- they've been misled by politicians all their lives that this Trust Fund is going to take care of them. My father went to his deathbed thinking that there was real money there. And he said, "My son, I don't know what you're talking about because it's like a savings account."

And I kept saying, "Dad, there's nothing in there. It's just liabilities." So I think that political-- implications would be devastating. But more than that, the social implications. It's the richest nation in the world. And you're going to sit there and tell me we're going to throw tens of millions of Americans into a destitute situation without advanced notice? I don't think so.


Editor's Note | This story ran in the New York Times in 1944. Draw your own conclusions and compare Henry Wallace's analysis to the situation we find ourselves in today. (click here for full text of article)

The Danger of American Fascism
By Henry A. Wallace
The New York Times
Sunday 09 April 1944

(excerpt follows)
Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after "the present unpleasantness" ceases:

The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups. Likewise, many people whose patriotism is their proudest boast play Hitler's game by retailing distrust of our Allies and by giving currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

It has been claimed at times that our modern age of technology facilitates dictatorship. What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini's vaunted claim that he "made the trains run on time." In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler's claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.


From the New Yorker: Seymour Hirsch chronicles the irrationality of US foreign policy


Can I get an Amen?

Xinhuanet - Father of two US soldiers in Iraq: Rumsfeld must resign

The Capital Times - Rumsfeld Should Resign

Counterpunch - Unfit for Office: Time for Rumsfeld to Resign

ABC News - Dean Joins Kerry In Seeking Rumsfeld Resignation


And the governor of Colorado is appointing this group to train up and coming faith-based christian welfare groups...

For the full text of the documentary article, click here

ZWERDLING: The head of Faith Partners' board of directors says the volunteers never try to coerce their welfare clients. But Barry Farrah says the group does have a religious goal for the families it helps.

FARRAH: The first step is to love them and to care for them. And not to attempt to share with them necessarily any of the concepts surrounding the Christian faith. But just to be the faith, love them and accept them. And that takes a few months of the program and that's phase one. And then the next phase is inviting them to explore the contents of the faith in God through Jesus Christ, which is the Christian faith.

I think it's somewhere in the 85 percent range that come to some relationship with God through Christ as a consequence of our participation with them.

ZWERDLING: Faith Partners has just made a video to promote its program…and the climax shows a fictitious welfare client finally going to church.

JARAMILLO: There are people in our program, I believe that they're searching for something that they can hang on to that can help them over turn the negative circumstances in their life that they're facing. And I believe that the families actually have a desire in their heart to go to church and the experience that.

ZWERDLING: You said to me that in a sense Faith Partners does have a covert mission, you've used the word covert. Why… what's covert? What's your mission and why is it covert?

JARAMILLO: I think it's covert because… I think I used the term covert because 95 percent of the Christian world is uncomfortable sharing their faith with people.

ZWERDLING: You want your welfare clients, as I understand it, to embrace Jesus Christ.

JARAMILLO: We want them to embra… we let them articulate what it is that they want to embrace, and then we support them in that. We hope that our witness to Jesus Christ is strong enough that it is Jesus Christ.

ZWERDLING: And why do you have to tiptoe around the… Why do you need to be you know covert, in your word, about that goal in the community?

JARAMILLO: Because we are funded with government money.


I loved him as a great intellectual. The following tribute comes from Counterpunch.

A Monument of Justice and Human Rights
A Tribute to Edward Said


It is with heartbreaking sorrow that the Palestinian National Initiative announce the tragic death of Edward Said who passed away yesterday after eleven years fighting leukemia. At this time our thoughts and love are with his family. We wish them strength and courage and assurance that Edward will be a man forever remembered not only for his incredible achievements but for his remarkable qualities as a friend. Though words may do little at such a time to assuage the pain and grief something must be said to pay homage to a man and a life we should truly celebrate.

A man with great courage and clear conviction Edward Said was a shining light in a confused world. As a true intellectual giant, Said inspired all fields with his accomplishments. The passion which infused his intellectual abilities presented him as a man with clear visions to be greatly admired, trusted and respected.

Though his beliefs and commitments presented him with many challenges his statements and many testimonies of outrage at the hypocrisies, contradictions, and indignities so rife in the world gave him the integrity and honesty for which he was renowned.

A prolific writer Said addressed all issues of culture, colonialism, imperialism, language and literature. As a Palestinian exile much of his political writing came from personal memories yet he remained objective and grounded not only affirming the Palestinian presence but also pointing toward a future where peace is possible. Among spokespeople for the Palestinian cause surely there was none so articulate, so inspiring, so admired.

For the Palestinian National Initiative, a movement striving for democracy in Palestine itself co-founded by Dr. Said, the death of this unique and most prominent leader, a man of values and integrity who truly believed in freedom and justice is a great loss. The Mubardara remain determined to follow in his foot steps, and remain committed to his vision, conveying all his hopes and values not just of a free Palestine, and free Palestinians but of freedom for all, the world over.

The sense of loss felt by the death of such a great intellect, gentleman and friend is immeasurable. His eminent work of decades and all that he stood for will remain forever a monument for justice, and human rights. As a man of courage, graciousness, hope and dedication, his memory will remain forever in our hearts.

Birthday Baby: You are intense -- a no-nonsense individual who pours heart and soul into your endeavors. You are responsible and dedicated and will not back down from anyone or anything

IF SEPT. 28 IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: Actress Gwyneth Paltrow (born 1972) shares your birthday. You are refined, gentle and romantic. This makes you a magnet for others. You easily win the affection of friends. You have an active love life. Many born on this date are beautiful. Challenges attract you. The year ahead will be social and very active romantically.


I think astrology is for the willfully weak, but i have never managed to come across one of those "if today is your birthday" horoscopes. I found one, it seems to be good enough for government work.

Happy Birthday, Libra!

Intelligent and capable, you can become a brilliant shining star, provided you're able to get started and stay the course. Preparation and attention to detail are likely to be of paramount importance to you, but may also get out of hand. Because you have an exacting eye, you feel compelled to make revisions in existing situations. This could continue until a deadline occurs or others simply lose patience and leave. Decision-making is often an intricate tarantella that leaves you and those nearest you emotionally and physically exhausted. Your good taste helps you recognize real value, beauty and talent when you see it. But since you don't always trust your instincts, every possibility must be processed through your complex maze of consciousness. Relationships are a major challenge, probably because you're very restless. Because of your edgy, often nervous sensibility, you don't do well in predictable, routine-infested settings. You feel like Mount Aetna on a bad day. A rebel who masquerades as a team player or average Joe, you may leave jobs, relationships, or locales very abruptly. As soon as you feel more like a captive than a free agent, a powerful urge to wander takes over. In an ideal scenario, you'd have others in your life when you wanted or needed them. You don't like giving up your autonomy for the sake of a relationship - although many of you are able to manage this for a period of time. Competitive and farsighted, you're the proverbial hare in a sea of turtles. You may have difficulty being patient with others' slow drip mentality, particularly since your brain is exceptionally active. Unlike most Librans, you're not necessarily looking for a lifetime mate or long term career. You know yourself better than that. Most of the time, the people in your immediate perimeter reflect your current state of mind - not necessarily a long-term commitment. You will not tolerate authority figures without occasionally throwing globs of dust in their eyes. No one tells you what to do - and if they do, you're gone. Many of you had a decidedly un-Leave It To Beaver childhood, as a result. If parents or teachers clamped down, you generally retaliated. Since you are so bright and capable, it seems logical that you would achieve success and stability. If you're able to discipline yourself and accept the boring along with the exciting, you are very likely to find yourself on top. But if almost paralyzing perfectionism, self doubt, or extreme restlessness prevails, you may find yourself "starting over" again and again. Like all Librans, you must drink lots of water, hydrate your skin and hair, and eat simple, healthy food. Fad diets and fasts create short-term results and inevitable disappointment. Born today are Tom Sizemore, Andrew "Dice" Clay, Bryant Gumbel, Erika Eleniak, Anita Ekberg, Patricia Hodge, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ian McShane, Emily Lloyd, Jean-Luc Ponty, Mike Post, Jill Whelan, Lech Walesa, Cervantes, Madeline Kahn, Stanley Kramer, Horatio Nelson, Les Claypool, Sebastian Coe, Manuel Fernandez, Chris Mims, Derrick Oden, Mike Pinera, Dave Silvestri, Steve Tesich, Gene Autry, Enrico Fermi, and Natasha Gregson Wagner.


Thank goodness - i have been following this story for over a year, and i couldn't be more pleased that this Nigerian woman has won her appeal against the sentence of death by stoning for giving birth to a child out of the bonds of wedlock. The reproductive rights of women are human rights. Read the story

Friday, September 26, 2003

Excerpt of Chirac's UN Speech - Sept 23, 2003

A culture of confrontation must give way to a culture of action

In order to fulfil the missions entrusted to it and remedy some of its blatant shortcomings, the United Nations must change.

Democracy, authority, and efficacy must be our watchwords.

Progress has been made, thanks to the secretary general, and new avenues are opening up. It is now up to the member states to take matters forward without delay, and to put an end to the damage caused by the stalemate over reforms.

The United Nations suffers from the current weakness of the General Assembly. Yet that is where debate on solutions to the world's great problems should take place and consensus be forged.

A culture of confrontation must give way to a culture of action, aimed at achieving our common goals.

Chief responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security lies with the Security Council. It is therefore essential to its legitimacy that its membership reflect the state of the world. It must be enlarged to include new permanent members, for it needs the presence of major countries.

France is thinking, naturally, of Germany and Japan, but also of some leading countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America. It needs additional elected countries as well, in order to make the Council more representative still.

Under the resolute impetus of the five permanent members, each of us must take up this discussion with the general interest in mind.

This reform should be accompanied by a strengthening of the Council's authority. It is the role of the Council to set the bounds to the use of force. No one is entitled to arrogate to himself the right to utilise it unilaterally and preventively.

Conversely, in the face of mounting threats, states must have an assurance that the Council has appropriate means of evaluation and collective action at its disposal, and that it has the will to act.

We all place a high premium on national sovereignty. But its scope can and must be limited in cases of gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

The Security Council is taking steps in that direction, and France supports this development.

Meanwhile, crimes against humanity are being punished more effectively, with the establishment of the International Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction is universal.

This historic step forward must be accompanied by a strengthening of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, under a Commission equipped to discharge its duties and mission in full.

We now realise that globalisation demands stronger economic, social and environmental governance.

To that end, France proposes the creation of a new political forum representative of the present state of the world economy in all its diversity.

This council would be entrusted with the responsibility for providing the necessary impetus to the international institutions, for improving their co-ordination, and for anticipating and tackling global problems more effectively.

Effectiveness also depends on increased financial resources. France calls for two changes.

First, a reversal of the trend toward raising voluntary contributions at the expense of mandatory contributions. Failing that, we will end up with a pick-and-choose United Nations, an outdated vision, and a harmful one.

Second, we need to make progress in harnessing funds for development. France wants to meet the official development assistance target of 0.7% of gross national income by the year 2012.

But this effort, together with that of the European Union, will not suffice to generate the necessary funds needed to finance the Millennium Goals each year.

France therefore supports the innovative concept of an International Financial Facility.

I would also like us to give pragmatic consideration to the idea of international solidarity levies, a kind of tax on the wealth generated by globalisation.

To advance on these issues, I approve the secretary general's intention to gather around him a committee of independent wise men and women entrusted with making proposals.

Ladies and Gentlemen, against the risk of a world without order delivered up to violence, let us work to establish one governed by the rule of law.

Against the injustice and suffering of a world of ever-widening inequalities - even though it has never been as rich as it is today - let us choose solidarity.

Against the chaos of a world shaken by ecological disaster, let us call for a sharing of responsibility, around a United Nations Environmental Organisation.

Against the barbarity of a world in which fundamental rights are trampled on, where the integrity of mankind is under threat, where native peoples-the heirs to an irreplaceable heritage-vanish amid silence and indifference, let us uphold the demands of ethics.

Against the perils of a clash of civilisations, finally, let us insist on the equal dignity of all cultures, respect for diversity, and the importance of dialogue.

With the Charter adopted in the name of the Peoples of the United Nations, our founders proclaimed their faith in these ideals.

Let us seek to be worthy of them. Let us strive to place the United Nations at the heart of this planetary democracy so vital in our day and age.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003


I don't have time to track them all THIS MINUTE, but my next post will link several sources calling for Rummie to step down. Here is one now, but there will be many more.

Oliver Willis: Donald Rumsfeld Must Resign

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


I've got two sources for the French response to Bush at the UN. But first, the following:

There must be some kinda Francophobia running around so powerful it could prevent Chirac's UN address from being posted on the web. Now, that sounds silly but I found Kofi Annan's address in text form in about two seconds. I have search for Chirac's for what feels like forfuckingever, and nothing. In fact, there are VERY few stories at all that give him much exposure. I can't help but think someone is acting out against the dreaded "Chiraci Regime" armed with their powerful stinky cheeses and crooked felt hats...

Secondly, if you get just far enough away from the propaganda and facile glosses of major American media outlets, you can find some perspectives on US foreign policy that hit the nail on the head in a way American journalism doesn't have the balls to muster. The title of the first one cracked me up. The second is from Reuters - written in the spirit of compelling inquiry and investigation, as you can see by the in-depth journalistic analysis.

US offers peanuts to UN

NEW YORK — France’s President Jacques Chirac said he and US President George W. Bush had failed to overcome differences on the future of Iraq during a meeting here yesterday.

The two met for 45 minutes at the US mission to the United Nations after they set out their opposing views to the UN General Assembly on how to handle Iraq’s reconstruction and transition to democracy.

Chirac told reporters that France and the United States shared the common goal of securing peace and rebuilding Iraq but added “we also have differences”.

“We believe — and this is what I told President Bush — that today, the situation in Iraq is such that it is very difficult for Iraqis in general to accept a situation that, one way or another, is an occupation,” he said. “We have to change tack,” Chirac said, urging a quicker handover of power to Iraqis. “It will take a month, six months, nine months. I can’t tell you exactly how long, but we have to take a decision today.”

He said Iraqis were frustrated by the situation and that the international community should demonstrate a “clear will through a strong political gesture — in other words, the transfer of sovereignty”.

Chirac, who spearheaded opposition to the war, said in his address that the US decision to launch war without UN backing had “shaken the multilateral system” and that there was no justification for a superpower to act alone.

“No one can be isolated, no one can act alone in everyone’s name, and no one can accept the anarchy of a lawless society. There is no alternative to the United Nations,” he said.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003 11:53 a.m. ET

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - In a stinging attack on unilateral U.S. action in Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac said on Tuesday the war had put the United Nations through one of the most severe crises in its history.

Speaking after President Bush called for world support for the U.S.-led occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, Chirac said: "No one can act alone in the name of all and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules."

"The war, launched without the authorization of the Security Council, shook the multilateral system," he said. "The United Nations has just been through one of the most grave crises in its history."

He called for an early transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people and proposed a Security Council summit to draft an action plan to fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction and create a permanent corps of U.N. arms inspectors.

Despite their differences, however, Chirac told reporters that Paris did not in any want the United States to fail in Iraq — a charge now regularly laid against France by many US commentators.

“It’s a difference of opinion that we express in a very positive way. We very much want the Americans to succeed, and we are trying to make a contribution to their thinking based on our own experience,” Chirac said. — AFP


Oh how the mighty have fallen - less than a year ago Bush referred to the UN as "irrelevant" and a "debating society" - and now he stands as the leader of a rogue state which has overextended itself militarily in order to try and reassert itself economically. It's not a new story. Unsurprisingly, he neither apologized nor admitted wrongdoing, but browbeat the audience with what he referred to as their shared responsibility for cleaning up our mess and getting us out of a jam - whoops, i mean establishing democracy in Iraq.

But Bush took it on the chin from more than one figure. In the following excerpt from Kofi Annan's address, he points out that the UN was founded as a means for securing world peace by preventing war of all kinds - so as to guarantee the sovereignty of the signatory nations. The fundamental aspect of the rule of law is that it must be universal and impartial. Just as in a democracy the little guy is supposed to get an equal vote, all nations are called upon to regard one another from the standpoint of respect for human dignity and toleration. And now here's the kicker:

One nation cannot take action against another for violating international law by violating it themselves: this contradicts the principle of universality

War cannot be tolerated as a means for achieving the peace - this contradicts a principle of consistency between means and ends.

Admittedly, I am rearticulating his points in juridical terms, but the points are there nonetheless. He put the US on notice: it cannot choose to participate in the structures of international law according to its own whims. Here's an excerpt of his address:


Three years ago, when you came here for the Millennium Summit, we shared a vision, a vision of global solidarity and collective security, expressed in the Millennium Declaration.

But recent events have called that consensus in question.

All of us know there are new threats that must be faced – or, perhaps, old threats in new and dangerous combinations: new forms of terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

But, while some consider these threats as self-evidently the main challenge to world peace and security, others feel more immediately menaced by small arms employed in civil conflict, or by so-called "soft threats" such as the persistence of extreme poverty, the disparity of income between and within societies, and the spread of infectious diseases, or climate change and environmental degradation.

In truth, we do not have to choose. The United Nations must confront all these threats and challenges – new and old, "hard" and "soft". It must be fully engaged in the struggle for development and poverty eradication, starting with the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; in the common struggle to protect our common environment; and in the struggle for human rights, democracy and good governance.

In fact, all these struggles are linked. We now see, with chilling clarity, that a world where many millions of people endure brutal oppression and extreme misery will never be fully secure, even for its most privileged inhabitants.

Yet the "hard" threats, such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, are real, and cannot be ignored.

Terrorism is not a problem only for rich countries. Ask the people of Bali, or Bombay, Nairobi, or Casablanca.

Weapons of mass destruction do not threaten only the western or northern world. Ask the people of Iran, or of Halabja in Iraq.

Where we disagree, it seems, is on how to respond to these threats.

Since this Organisation was founded, States have generally sought to deal with threats to the peace through containment and deterrence, by a system based on collective security and the United Nations Charter.

Article 51 of the Charter prescribes that all States, if attacked, retain the inherent right of self-defence. But until now it has been understood that when States go beyond that, and decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, they need the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations.

Now, some say this understanding is no longer tenable, since an "armed attack" with weapons of mass destruction could be launched at any time, without warning, or by a clandestine group.

Rather than wait for that to happen, they argue, States have the right and obligation to use force pre-emptively, even on the territory of other States, and even while weapons systems that might be used to attack them are still being developed.

According to this argument, States are not obliged to wait until there is agreement in the Security Council. Instead, they reserve the right to act unilaterally, or in ad hoc coalitions.

This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last fifty-eight years.

My concern is that, if it were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without justification.

But it is not enough to denounce unilateralism, unless we also face up squarely to the concerns that make some States feel uniquely vulnerable, since it is those concerns that drive them to take unilateral action. We must show that those concerns can, and will, be addressed effectively through collective action.

Excellencies, we have come to a fork in the road. This may be a moment no less decisive than 1945 itself, when the United Nations was founded.

At that time, a group of far-sighted leaders, led and inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, were determined to make the second half of the twentieth century different from the first half. They saw that the human race had only one world to live in, and that unless it managed its affairs prudently, all human beings may perish.

So they drew up rules to govern international behaviour, and founded a network of institutions, with the United Nations at its centre, in which the peoples of the world could work together for the common good.

Now we must decide whether it is possible to continue on the basis agreed then, or whether radical changes are needed.

And we must not shy away from questions about the adequacy, and effectiveness, of the rules and instruments at our disposal.

Among those instruments, none is more important than the Security Council itself.

In my recent report on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, I drew attention to the urgent need for the Council to regain the confidence of States, and of world public opinion – both by demonstrating its ability to deal effectively with the most difficult issues, and by becoming more broadly representative of the international community as a whole, as well as the geopolitical realities of today.

The Council needs to consider how it will deal with the possibility that individual States may use force "pre-emptively" against perceived threats.

Its members may need to begin a discussion on the criteria for an early authorisation of coercive measures to address certain types of threats – for instance, terrorist groups armed with weapons of mass destruction.

And they still need to engage in serious discussions of the best way to respond to threats of genocide or other comparable massive violations of human rights – an issue which I raised myself from this podium in 1999. Once again this year, our collective response to events of this type – in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in Liberia – has been hesitant and tardy.

As for the composition of the Council, that has been on the agenda of this Assembly for over a decade. Virtually all Member States agree that the Council should be enlarged, but there is no agreement on the details.

I respectfully suggest to you, Excellencies, that in the eyes of your peoples the difficulty of reaching agreement does not excuse your failure to do so. If you want the Council's decisions to command greater respect, particularly in the developing world, you need to address the issue of its composition with greater urgency.

But the Security Council is not the only institution that needs strengthening. As you know, I am doing my best to make the Secretariat more effective – and I look to this Assembly to support my efforts.

Indeed, in my report I also suggested that this Assembly itself needs to be strengthened, and that the role of the Economic and Social Council – and the role of the United Nations as a whole in economic and social affairs, including its relationship to the Bretton Woods institutions –needs to be re-thought and reinvigorated.

I even suggested that the role of the Trusteeship Council could be reviewed, in light of new kinds of responsibility that you have given to the United Nations in recent years.

In short, Excellencies, I believe the time is ripe for a hard look at fundamental policy issues, and at the structural changes that may be needed in order to strengthen them.

History is a harsh judge: it will not forgive us if we let this moment pass.


Lots of people are mocking this story, but check it out: if your boss the network head mucky-muck tells you to report the story in a way which is more favorable to the Hawks, you'd think long and hard before disobeying.

NEW YORK (AFP) - CNN star reporter Christiane Amanpour has stirred a media hornets' nest by claiming US television networks, including CNN, were "intimidated" by the Bush administration in their coverage of the war in Iraq.

"I think the press was muzzled and I think the press self-muzzled," Amanpour told former Vanity Fair editor, Tina Brown, on her CNBC talkshow.

"I'm sorry to say that, but certainly television -- and perhaps to a certain extent my station -- was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News," she said, referring to the conservative, Rupert Murdoch-owned network that has become CNN's main cable news rival.

"And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did," Amanpour said.

Press reports on Tuesday said CNN news chief Jim Walton had a "private conversation" with Amanpour over her remarks, but had stopped short of reprimanding the reporter who is one of the news network's biggest names.

"Christiane is a valued member of the team and one of the world's foremost journalists," Walton said in a statement. "However her comments do not reflect the reality of our coverage and I do not agree with her about this."

A Fox News spokeswoman was quoted as saying: "It's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."

Asked by Brown if there had been any story during the war that she had been unable to report, Amanpour said: "It's not a question of couldn't do it, it's a question of tone. It's a question of being rigorous. It's a question of really asking the questions.

"All of the entire body politic in my view -- whether it's the administration, the intelligence, the journalists, whoever -- did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels," she said.


Check Out Its Account of the Perverted Relationship Between Bush and His Treasury Secretary, John Snow (Or, "Hey, Whatever Ya Gotta Do to Keep Yer Head Frum Rollin'")

Did John Snow Sell His Deficit-Hawk Soul to the Devil?

Or did Bush's moneyman have a plan to get his way all along? Read on.

Monday, September 15, 2003
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum

It's possible to read too much significance into seating arrangements, but for bragging rights in Washington, nothing tops sitting next to George W. Bush. So when the President met with his economic advisors in the living room of his Texas ranch house last month, it's worth noting that Treasury Secretary John Snow got the big chair next to Bush. The other advisors—including such heavyweights as Elaine Chao and Don Evans, the Secretaries of Labor and Commerce, White House budget director Josh Bolten, and Greg Mankiw, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors—had to settle for the two couches facing the President and Snow.

The meeting was to be a Snow moment, the culmination of his quiet campaign to change administration policy on taxes and the deficit. Over the previous three months or so, he had taken advantage of his time with the President—aboard Air Force One, in the presidential limo, in numerous phone conversations—to press his case. His argument went something like this: The President's tax cuts were a great thing. They prodded the economy nicely. But now it was time to reckon with the budget deficit, which over the long term would slow economic growth. That would have to mean an end to major tax cutting. "The economy is in an accelerating recovery," Snow assured Bush at the ranch house. "There's no need for further macroeconomic stimulus."

That sort of argument, while perhaps obvious to a Ph.D. in economics like Snow, doesn't necessarily sit easily with a President facing reelection—especially at a time when unemployment is as high as it's been in a decade. Bush desperately needs the economy to grow and unemployment to fall (see Things Are Looking Up ...). He also needs to show that unlike George I, he's compassionate and forward-looking, which means spending money on things like a prescription-drug plan for the elderly and updating the nation's electricity grid. Or possibly offering another tax cut to a grateful electorate sometime, say, before next November. (And then there's the little matter of $87 billion for rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan.)

So the President, according to people present, was wary. For two hours he listened to Mankiw's presentation on the economic picture, heard Bolten on the deficit outlook, and questioned them and Snow. How certain is the turnaround? How strong would it be? Would manufacturing recover? In the end Bush went along with Snow's advice. When the session ended, Bush stepped into the scorching sun with his economic team at his side and proclaimed a new direction. "We feel like the [tax-relief] plans that we have in place are robust enough," he said, squinting into the cameras. What's needed now, he said, is for "Congress to hold the line" on spending (though he refrained from offering specifics).

If you hate budget deficits, then Snow's victory in Crawford, Texas, will seem a hollow gesture at best—like a dieter passing up dessert after gorging on pork chops in heavy cream. After all, the tax bills, which cut revenues by $1.7 trillion over ten years, are a big reason that next year's budget deficit is expected to reach a record half-trillion dollars. At worst, his act will seem hypocritical. In fact, Snow threw himself so unequivocally into the role of salesman-in-chief for the most recent tax cut that congressional aides called his pitch the Snow job. He never breathed a doubt about what turned out to be the third-largest cut in history, even though, as CEO of CSX Corp., he had been one of the nation's most outspoken opponents of widening the deficit.

At the same time, if you're a deficit hater, Snow is your best hope. The President loves tax cuts almost as much as baseball or cowboy boots. Karl Rove, his political savant, and many other Republican hard-liners continue to push for fresh tax relief. Snow, however, urges caution, and he's succeeding in some measure. Without fanfare, he's become the President's main moneyman, bending his ear—and the administration's policies—on issues that range from pension reform to international taxation, and from airline subsidies to highway construction. In every case he's moved those positions away from the old whatever-it-takes mentality to something resembling restraint. In fact, FORTUNE has learned that the President is expected to announce in October that he is removing steel tariffs imposed just last year—a move Snow has been advocating. No one knows, of course, if Bush will stick to Snow's larger course. The President has promised fiscal discipline before and delivered torrents of red ink. If his poll numbers continue to dip, big tax cuts could resurface. But for now, the person the President most respects on money matters is consistently shouting, "Slow down!"

Snow gets a good reception at the top in part because he's not alone. Bush's new group of economic staffers is remarkably cohesive. Late last year Bush fired his first Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, as well as the White House's economic coordinator, Larry Lindsey, in part because they couldn't get along. O'Neill barely spoke to Lindsey, except to swear at him occasionally. But thanks largely to Snow's easygoing, cooperative style, the new team not only gets along but also agrees on most policies. Bush was so impressed—and pleasantly surprised—by this behavior that this summer he invited Snow, Mankiw, and Lindsey's replacement, Steve Friedman, for a weekend at Camp David, where, during a stroll through the woods, the President thanked the trio for its teamwork.

This new chemistry, and Snow's presence in the mix in particular, have altered the molecular structure of the Bush administration's economic policies. Before Snow arrived, the focus was on short-term problems like sluggish growth, and Band-Aid solutions as well. Now, sources say, the President takes a longer perspective. To address slow factory orders, he doesn't talk about a few tax write-offs, for instance; he sends his Treasury Secretary to persuade the Chinese to allow their currency to rise in value, which would make U.S. manufacturers more competitive. Rather than giving tax breaks to poorly funded retirement plans, their entire financing systems are being rethought. And deficits aren't merely an inconvenience caused by a war on terrorism; they're a threat to the nation's well-being if not brought under control over time.

"Deficits matter, and managing them is a priority now," Snow said in one of a series of interviews with FORTUNE this summer. "If, when I leave this job, people say that Snow called attention to the need to look at the long-term costs of decisions and what they do to the future debt structures of the country, I think I'd have accomplished something."

This version of John Snow as a sober advisor and a man who thinks about long-term costs looks very different from the John Snow who was sworn in to his new job in February. On Capitol Hill and in D.C.'s gossipy salons, Snow often was—and still is—derided as a lackey and a yes man. Paul O'Neill refused to go to bat for the President's latest tax cut, and we saw what happened to him. Snow understood that if he signed on as Treasury Secretary, he would have to sell the tax cut with blind loyalty.

He took the job. Snow's first three months were a mad dash to pass the tax plan. He moved from Richmond, where CSX is headquartered, into a tiny basement apartment ten minutes from his office. He coordinated strategy and schedules with other economic advisors during a daily 8 a.m. conference call and then spent every waking moment (except for a few golf weekends in Richmond) promoting its virtues.

His relentless speechmaking and, more important, his frequent trips to Capitol Hill helped the President win one of his biggest legislative victories, but not before Snow also stumbled in a manner reminiscent of the notoriously gabby O'Neill. In mid-May he failed to give the standard response when asked whether the U.S. dollar should remain strong against other currencies. On ABC's political talk show This Week, he allowed, "When the dollar is at a lower level, it helps exports," rather than repeating by rote that the U.S. wants a strong dollar. The dollar tumbled in currency markets as a result, and a Treasury spokesman was forced to "clarify" the remark. The New Republic ran a cover story headlined why john snow is just as bad as paul o'neill. Washington wanted to know: Would Snow be the next to go?

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