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, March 29, 2004

Personal note for my far-flung friends:

Tomorrow my life will change, and I will find out one of two things: that I am terminated from my job, or that I will not be offered a contract for next school year. Don't worry about me just yet. I have had this whole school year (and all of last school year!) to get used to what is surely an inevitability, and it was never a good fit anyway. I'm a liberal alien in a right wing town, and though I gave my all for my school, it has worn me into a yukky person. I have six preps (!), no benefits, no retirement, and a year-to-year contract, and a miserably anti-intellectual headmaster, so my idealism has given way to reality in this case, and I have grown fed up with sinister attempts to paint me as some kind of bad person that I'm simply not. I've been reading a lot about Buddhism and trying to reorient my various perspectives about people and the world. I am not cynical, surprisingly enough. I am free. My debts are paid (except for federal student loans, but hey). I have love in my life. I will keep walking. Who knows where I will end up, but maybe I'll pass your way again.
Be good to one another, and keep an eye out.
::Addendum--I resigned from my teaching job effective Monday, 12 April 2004 after much internal debate. I believe this decision to be the healthiest thing for me.::

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Mayor With a Mission

From The New York Times


Published: March 28, 2004

"Jason West, the mayor of the little Hudson Valley village of New Paltz who married 25 gay couples last month before receiving a court injunction to stop, has been thinking about gay marriage for a long time. In fact, immediately after taking office last summer, the two things the 27-year-old asked his new village attorney to check on were, first, the state and local beaver trapping laws, since a dog had recently been caught and killed in a beaver trap on the old Bienstock property -- a huge New Paltz scandal that was soon labeled Beavergate; and second, whether a mayor could perform gay marriages. The attorney, Spencer McLaughlin, is a Republican legislator from Orange County and a former deputy executive director of the New York City Human Rights Commission under Ed Koch. That West would turn to a Republican for advice was a surprise to the people who thought the mayor, who was elected on the Green Party line, was a radical liberal activist about to turn the town into a socialist enclave. In his reply to West, McLaughlin noted that the law is unclear. ''That's because the laws were written around the late 19th century, and no one ever conceived of wanting to do this then,' McLaughlin said recently. The attorney ended his memo to mayor saying, ''That's a very long-winded explanation of why you can't perform a same-sex marriage, but does not address the issue of whether you should or not.'

"Gay marriage was also one of the issues West supported during his two ill-fated campaigns for State Assembly in 2000 and 2002 -- along with free education to the Ph.D. level and an end to corporate pollution. His campaign slogan was 'Forget the Lesser Evil -- Choose the Greater Good,' and as he likes to say, 'I lost by a landslide.' And back when he was in college in the late 90's at the State University of New York at New Paltz, he was known as a guy who could always be counted on to show up at the latest protest -- resisting the arrival of a new Starbucks, for example. In 1998, a local activist and gay rights organizer, Gale McGovern, asked West to help her plan a protest against a visit to a New Paltz bookstore by Gov. George Pataki, who along with state Republicans had criticized the women's studies department at the university for a conference it had organized on women's sexuality. West decided to serve as host of the event. 'He said to me recently that that was when he first started to think about organizing,' McGovern said.

"West has been a house painter since he was 15 -- he paints alone, often without even a radio -- and his workday uniform rarely changes: paint-splattered pants, T-shirt and worn tan Carhartt jacket that is functional as opposed to fashionable. He was an artist in high school, though he has the slouchless demeanor of a former jock. He is tall, and a cinch to spot on Main Street in New Paltz, a 6,000-person village -- of students and small-business owners, college professors and New York City transplants -- 80 miles north of New York City along the Wallkill River. It has been fertile ground for activism since the Vietnam era and even as far back as the Civil War, when abolitionists ran the underground railroad in the nearby hills. In town, West waves and is glad-handed by restaurant owners and shopkeepers, who have gotten over their initial fears that he might ban capitalism -- and he is now even semi-memorialized: on the day in early March when he was ordered to appear in court on charges of illegally marrying gay couples, the Gilded Otter, the local brewery, was selling Get Out of Jail Ale."

Read the entire article here (Requires a free, one-time registration).

Lisa, I hope your spring is going well.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I have been paying attention to Boyle's commentary for several years now, and find his arguments clear and powerful. The following interview explains the judicial review of the Israeli wall as legal problem, which i must say is a fresh alternative to all the religious covenant claptrap that is so carelessly spewed by apologists.


United States Professor of Law.

Interview with Betty Molchany, J.D.

Francis A. Boyle is a leading American professor, practitioner, and advocate of international law. He was responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, the American implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. He served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International (1988-1992), and successfully representing Bosnia-Hertzegovina at the World Court. He teaches international law at the University of Illinois, Champagne.

Among other actions, Boyle was the first, to the best of our knowledge, to file a lawsuit outside Israeli courts against an Israeli official to hold him accountable for the deaths of Palestinians. This Boyle did when he sued Israeli General Yaron with respect to the massacre of helpless and defenseless Palestinians at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla. The case was lost when the Reagan Administration entered the lawsuit on the side of General Yaron. It is reported in the Palestine Yearbook of International Law.

Boyle served as Legal Adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization on the Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 15 November 1988 and has advised the PLO at other times as well, including during peace negotiations from 1991 to 1993.

In this interview, he is asked to comment on the hearing now before the International Court of Justice in the Hague questioning the legality of the Israeli wall built in Palestine.

Q : What will be the significance of any decision decided in the International Court? Certain members of the media have stated that the Court's opinion will have no consequences.

F.BOYLE:Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding as to the significance of the decision. Of course, it will be an advisory opinion, that will be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly on the matters before it.

It will have consequences for at least two reasons:

One - what the World Court says about the Wall and its accompanying circumstances will constitute an authoritative enunciation about the rules of international law with respect to the entire situation.

Two - that statement of the rules of international law can then be acted upon by the United Nations General Assembly, for example, by recommending sanctions against Israel and also will have consequences for other governments of the world that will have to refer to what the world court ruled in this opinion and will have to act in accordance with it.

So it is incorrect to state that this opinion will have no consequences. It is not simply a public relations exercise and I don't believe most people understand that. The Israeli government understands this well and have adopted a comprehensive campaign to minimize the significance of what the world court is doing. So they understand the importance of this ruling.

Q: You're assuming three will be a ruling ?

Boyle: Yes, I believe there will be.

The last time something like this came up was when there were dual requests for advisory opinions from the World Court by the World Health Organization(WHO) and the General Assembly on the legality of nuclear weapons. The World Court. declined the request of the WHO on the grounds that the legality of nuclear weapons did not fit with its mandate of world health organizations. But they granted the request of the General Assembly on the grounds that the General Assembly has the authority and the mandate to deal with pretty much anything related to international peace and security.

So, of course, the World Court can decline to give an advisory opinion, there is no obligation on its part to give an advisory opinion, but I could not imagine its not responding to the request by the General Assembly to respond. And if you read the sources in Israel, they are contemplating how to deal with it.

Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, and others like him, is saying it is a kangaroo court and all the hatchet people in the US will immediately start to say this is a kangaroo court. And it seems to me that the Palestinians have to start planning their own public relations strategy to the American people about why the decision is important, why it matters.

Q : Many of the Western nations filed objections to the court's hearing this issue, stating that it is a political issue. What is your view of this argument?

F.BOYLE : That's ridiculous. That is the result of the strategy mounted by the Israeli government and the Israeli lobbies in all these countries to undercut the significance of the ruling. The General Assembly asked a very narrow technical legal question about this wall. And that is what the court will answer. The normal jurisprudence of this court is that it will answer a technical legal question even if it has profound political consequences. And all these European governments know this. They are simply siding with Israel by taking this position. This is nothing new. The E.U. hasn't lifted a finger to help the Palestinians against the Israelis and the U.S., and they aren't going to. The fact that they have taken such a legally preposterous position simply betrays the fact that these governments are working with Israel against the Palestinians.

Q : What will the Court have to consider to make an advisory opinion?

F.BOYLE : They will have to get into the situation of the occupation itself, the occupation regime and the laws that relate to occupation. That cannot be avoided. They will have to apply international laws of belligerent occupation.

Q : Do you currently have any affiliation with the Palestine Liberation Organization?

F.BOYLE :Yes, I do give them advice from time to time. Whether they take it is another matter.

Q :What, if any, legal cases have you been involved with related to the occupation of Palestine?

F.BOYLE :I was the person who sued General Yaron with respect to the Israeli massacre of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatilla. To the best of my knowledge, that was the first time any lawyer outside Israeli courts attempted to hold any Israeli official accountable.

I lost it when the Reagan Administration entered the lawsuit on the side of General Yaron.
It is in the Palestine Yearbook of International Law. Vol 4 or 5.

Q : Have you yourself taken any formal position with respect to the Wall?

The important point to keep in mind is that, for the first time ever, the International Court of Justice invited the state of Palestine to appear and argue a case. This is a major breakthrough for the Palestinians. Right now the state of Palestine has basically de facto UN membership. They are treated as if they are a UN member state, except for the right to vote. As it stands, the World Court has basically ratified their status as a state by asking them to appear and argue their case, as Ambassador Al-Kid did. This is a very significant breakthrough for the Palestinians since they are being treated as a state body by the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice.

It was already a major victory for Palestine to be invited to argue their position.

Q : Is there any advantage for Israel not to participate, as it has chosen?

F.BOYLE : They don't have to participate. If they don't want to.

Q : Some argue that the wall is used as a weapon:

F.BOYLE :Professor Noam Chomsky wrote that. I have great respect and admiration for him. He and I are friends. He is a very courageous human being. The court is going to look at this from a legal perspective. In addition to violating the laws of belligerent occupation and international humanitarian law, Israel is attempting to establish an illegal de factor border. So all those issues, I suspect, will be addressed by the World Court in its advisory opinion.

Unilateral Actions

Q :Given the wall is a unilateral action as are many acts by Israel, how do you explain, if you can, the frequent resolutions by the US Congress threatening the Palestinians if they ever take unilateral action, such as declaring themselves a state.

F.BOYLE :We already declared Palestine a state on November 15, 1988, and we have de jure recognition by about 125-130 states. As I explained, we have de facto recognition by the General Assembly and now the World Court which is why this is so important.

I have written a book explaining all this. The title is Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law, Clarity Press, 2003. It has all the legal work I did for the PLO, advising them on setting up their state.

Q: Part of Al-Kid's opening statement was that this is not a wall for the sake of security. What is your perspective about Israel's assertion that the wall is necessary for security?

F.BOYLE : Whatever Israel wants to argue about security, it must be done in a manner which does not violate the laws of war, the laws of belligerent occupation and international humanitarian law. That law applies even in self-defense. I really don't see this as defense. Sharon is trying take more land.

A decision by the World Court will be quite sweeping because it will have to consider the whole context of the occupation to give this opinion..

Professor Boyle , who received his J.D. in 1976, from Harvard Law School, also provides us commentary on an article entitled, "Peacemakers, Harvard's negotiation scholars prepare to touch the third rail of Israeli politics." written by Christopher Reed and published in the March-April 2004 issue of Harvard Magazine. Boyle specifically addresses remarks made by Harvard Law Professor Robert H. Mnookin on pages 52-54 and found at http://www.harvardmagazine.com/on-line/030411.html. Mnookin expresses concern for the settlers who are living in Occupied Palestine and that "some" of them will likely have to move. He believes that Palestinians should give up their right to return and should share sovereignty in East Jerusalem. Boyle's response is this:

Notice that according to Mnookin, the Palestinians are supposed to give up their sacred right of return under Resolution 194, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and customary international law. Apparently, Mnookin is not even aware of the fact that Israel has no sovereignty in West Jerusalem, let alone East Jerusalem. Yet he expects the Palestinians to share sovereignty with Israel over East Jerusalem in violation of Resolution 181 and Resolution 242, and give them West Jerusalem as well. He is also unaware of the fact that Israeli settlers are there illegally under international law and thus have no "claims" thereunder except to pay Palestinians for any damages they inflicted.

Mnookin is an unknowledgeable and unworthy successor to Roger Fisher as Harvard Law School's Williston Professor of Law and chair of Harvard's Program on Negotiation.

Betty Betty Molchany, J.D.

Monday, March 01, 2004


Two excerpts here which should be taken together. The first article was published today on the Guardian website and discusses the possibility that the British government may not have legal immunity from wrongful death suits in the event of an illegal war. It details the pressure on Downing street to publish the legal case for war, which they have so far refused to do. The second is from the Guardian, March 2003 and discusses problems with the Blair government's use of the 1990 UN resolution against the invasion of Iraq to justify the 2003 campaign.

Doubts on case for conflict may bring flood of claims

Pressure grows to publish advice to Blair in full

Clare Dyer, Nicholas Watt and Richard Norton-Taylor
Monday March 1, 2004
The Guardian

Doubts about the legality of the war could lead to a flood of compensation claims against the government from servicemen injured in Iraq, according to a leading international lawyer. Such a claim would require the courts to decide whether the war was lawful and force disclosure of the attorney general's full advice, said Jeremy Carver, head of public international law at the City law firm Clifford Chance. Battlefield immunity, which protects the government from claims for soldiers' injuries or death during military operations, might not be effective in the case of an unlawful war.

Mr Carver, who represents governments and has helped them draft alternative UN resolutions, said he had initially formed no view on the war's legality. "I didn't know then whether there was any sufficient basis on which to say the war was lawful," he said. "From everything we have learned since then, it has become obvious there was no valid basis for the war and therefore the war was illegal."

Mr Carver's warning came as Tony Blair was facing intense pressure to publish the attorney general's full legal advice on the Iraq war. Leading the call, John Major said that the government's stance was damaging. In a carefully-timed intervention, Mr Blair's predecessor in No 10 told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost: "I think the air does need clearing. This is poisoning the whole political atmosphere ... domestically - internationally as well."

Mr Major's demand was backed by an international law expert, Sir Franklin Berman, a former chief legal adviser to the Foreign Office, who also called on the government to disclose its full reasons for going to war. "For a decision to go to war, especially when the government claim to be acting on behalf of the international community, they ought to explain in the necessary detail the basis on which they were acting."

Downing Street stood firm in its refusal to publish the attorney general's advice. Lord Goldsmith gave the green light to the war on the eve of hostilities after warning that failure to secure a second resolution at the United Nations security council would make the war unlawful.

When a vote was not held - in the light of France's "unreasonable veto" - Lord Goldsmith said that resolution 1441 of 2002, coupled with resolutions dating back to the first Gulf war, provided legal cover. The agonising by Lord Goldsmith was seized on yesterday by lawyers and other experts. Lady Kennedy, the Labour peer who is a leading barrister, told GMTV that America put pressure on the government to seek more hawkish legal advice after it was told by Foreign Office lawyers that the war against Iraq would be illegal.

Lord Goldsmith had then based his case on advice from Christopher Greenwood QC, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, whose views were "hawkish" and known to be in the minority of legal opinion, she added. "The preponderance of Foreign Office opinion, legal opinion, was that going to war without a second UN resolution was unlawful ... Out of proba bly only two lawyers who would have argued for the legality of going to war, one of those was the person to whom the attorney general turned."

Further evidence emerged yesterday of the deep unease in senior government circles about the legality of the war. The Guardian has learned that on the eve of war senior lawyers in the Foreign Office believed an invasion of Iraq was illegal because of fresh intelligence that Saddam Hussein's banned weapons programme did not pose anything like an imminent threat to Britain.

Military chiefs at the Ministry of Defence were also extremely concerned about the prospect of British troops fighting a war that was unlawful. Lord Boyce, then chief of the defence staff, was described by sources yesterday as being "worried" about the ambiguous advice coming from Lord Goldsmith in the weeks leading to war as British troops were gathering in the Gulf. "He wanted to make sure, was a war legal or not?" a well-placed source said yesterday.

The chiefs of staff were finally appeased only when the attorney general said a second UN resolution was not necessary. The fresh intelligence which gave rise to doubts in the Foreign Office, shown to Tony Blair in the weeks before the war, painted a much less dramatic picture than the government's disputed weapons dossier published the previous September. The much more sober analysis, which was expressed in joint intelligence committee reports in February and March last year, increased the doubts in the Foreign Office. Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy legal adviser to the FO, resigned in protest at the decision to go to war.

The Case for War with Iraq (full text here)
Thursday March 13, 2003
Matthew Happold

Is war illegal without a second UN resolution?
The prohibition of the use of force is a foundational rule of international law. Only two exceptions are permitted: the use of force in self-defence, or with the express authorisation of the UN security council exercising its powers under chapter VII of the UN charter.

Iraq has not attacked the US, the UK or their allies, nor is there any evidence that it is about to do so. Force may only be used in self-defence in response to an actual or (according to some commentators) an imminent armed attack. Therefore any arguments based on self-defence fail. What the US national security strategy has advocated are pre-emptive attacks on countries which may threaten the US. The use of armed force in such circumstances is contrary to international law.

What about UN resolution 1441?

Security council resolution 1441 does not authorise the use of force. Any attack on Iraq would consequently be illegal.

Resolution 1441 finds Iraq to be in "material breach" of its disarmament obligations under earlier security council resolutions. It gives Iraq a "final opportunity" to comply with its obligations and, to that end, establishes an onerous and rigidly-timetabled programme of Iraqi disclosures and UN inspections.

Failures by Iraq to comply are to be reported to the security council, which must then "convene immediately ... to consider the situation and the need for full compliance". The resolution also recalls that the council has repeatedly warned Iraq of "serious consequences" as a result of its continued violations of its obligations.

But the resolution does not authorise the use of force. The term "serious consequences" is not UN code for enforcement action (the term used is "all necessary measures"). And, in their explanations of their votes adopting resolution 1441, council members were careful to say that the resolution did not provide such an authorisation.

Why, then, does the government say there is a legal case for war?

It is difficult to know on exactly what grounds the government is basing its arguments that that is a legal basis for war, in the absence of a second security council resolution. Ministers have been less than explicit as to what that basis might be, and the government has refused to release the advice given them by the law officers and Foreign Office lawyers.

Nevertheless, there are arguments, if not very convincing ones, that the proposed US and UK action would be lawful. In particular, it is argued that security council resolution 678 (1990) provides express security council authorisation for force. That resolution, adopted by the security council in response to the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait, authorised the American-led coalition to use "all necessary means" to liberate Kuwait and restore peace and security to the region.

Hostilities in the Gulf war were then terminated by resolution 687 (1991), which imposed a lengthy list of obligations on Iraq, including several regarding disarmament. Iraq is in breach of those obligations. Indeed, resolution 1441 found it to be in "material breach" of them. Accordingly, so the argument goes, the authorisation to use force granted the US and the UK by resolution 678 has been re-activated.

However, there are problems with this analysis. First, it is generally considered that security council authorisations of force are only for limited and specific purposes. In the case of resolution 678, the authorisation to use force terminated with the adoption of resolution 687. Secondly, such an analysis was specifically rejected by security council members in their explanations for their votes on resolution 1441. The general view was that resolution 1441 did not provide for "automaticity", that is, it did not trigger any authorisation to use force.

Finally, it might be thought that even if resolution 678 did permit the USA and the UK to use force to enforce Iraq's disarmament obligations, it does not provide authority for regime change.


The documented accounts of police brutality, civil rights repression and FBI surveillance at the latest FTAA summit in Miami can be found in droves on the net, so i'm not going to bog down our forum with them. However, what you may not know is that the $87 billion that the Bush administration requested as supplemental funding for the war in Iraq included millions of dollars that were used to gear up for martial law in Miami. Why the hell didn't Kerry or Edwards point this out?

By the way, the definition of fascism includes the use of the military and police forces by the government in order to repress the citizenry on behalf of a corporate ideology.

Iraq war bill includes millions for Miami trade meeting
Alex Clifton, Palm Beach Post
November 4, 2003

Buried in a bill that provides money for the war in Iraq is an $8.5 million federal boost for Miami to host the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference later this month.

Passed in the House last week and the Senate Monday, the FTAA money is a single line within the massive Iraq bill. But for the 40 local communities expected to provide extra police officers and equipment at the conference, it helps ease the financial burden on already strapped cities and counties. Between 20,000 and 100,000 protesters are expected to flood downtown Miami during the conference set for Nov. 17-21.

"The money enables the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County in particular to go the extra mile in security," said Charles Cobb, chairman of the nonprofit Florida FTAA Inc., which is helping organize the conference. "It gives them much more comfort to do whatever is necessary to provide good security and do it in a friendly, positive way." The FTAA would establish a free-trade zone among the nations of the Americas and the Caribbean, excluding Cuba. It would be the world's largest free market, with a combined gross domestic product of nearly $13 trillion and nearly 800 million consumers.

U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale, said Miami can't be expected to shoulder the entire security burden, especially since violence and protests have erupted at free trade meetings in Seattle and Cancun, Mexico. "I think we can be sure we'll have the same problem in Miami," Shaw said. "It's certainly to the United States' advantage to show the world we can have a successful conference in the U.S., protect civil liberties and maintain order."

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, also supports federal money for the FTAA. "Congressman Hastings is supportive of having the meeting in South Florida and that obviously costs money," said Hastings' spokesman, Fred Turner. "As far as the federal government can help with funding, he's happy it was included."

Cobb said it's important for Miami to make a good impression on the foreign ministers attending the conference. "Security is a critical element," said Cobb. "Doing it firmly, but friendly."

The pliable distinction between the production and service sectors

THis is not a joke - as ridiculous as it sounds, it's just another in a long line of examples of pseudo-scientific manipulation of socio-economic data a la George W. Bush and his team of Capitalist cronies. As we know, their most recent predicitions for job growth have not become reality. Their next move has been to push for reclassifying burger-flipping McJobs into "manufacturing" positions in order to inflate the data. As the first excerpt from Mother Jones instructs us, let's all show our support for the manufacturing might of the U.S.A. by stopping at McDonald's and ordering up a few Quarter-pounders. As you will see from the interview between Bush and the Press pool in Roswell I posted here earlier this year, if we buy a bunch of food from a restaraunt we'll be doing our part to keep the economy strong (if you haven't seen this interview go check it out - it's a side-splitter).

Of course, such reclassifications are problematic because it becomes increasingly difficult to really measure what is happening with the economy even at the most general level, much less in a way that affirms the role of the market in the reproduction of conditions for human well-being. The democratic values of popular sovereignty reflect the moral right of people to address their most fundamental needs and concerns via a political process that involves informed consent. We're at a stage in the development of the global economy where it is crucial to know how our economy is changing and how people are being impacted. The conclusions of the expert culture are the product of orchestrating statistics to fit together in a way which obscures growing market pathologies. We should not be measuring the economy in order to craft the best campaign image for a party that represents the political organization of Corporate power. We must take a democratic approach to studying the economy because the productive base of society is essential to the viability of our society. What political values justify hiding our problems from full review and analysis by re-describing reality in ways which favor the status-quo, and what kind of government do we affirm in the process?

The discipline of the industrial age: Bush-style (from www.MotherJones.com)

Less than two weeks ago, the President's chief economic adviser, Greg Mankiw wrote "that the movement of U.S. jobs overseas due to cheaper labor costs - 'outsourcing' he dubbed it in a remarkable display of political tone deafness - would prove 'a plus for the economy in the long run,' and was simply 'a new way of doing international trade.'" And Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader in the House of Representives, felt called upon to promptly dismiss him from sight: "I understand that Mr. Mankiw is a brilliant economic theorist, but his theory fails a basic test of real economics. An economy suffers when jobs disappear. Outsourcing can be a problem for American workers, and for the American economy. We can't have a healthy economy unless we have more jobs here in America."

But this week the President's economic team was back for more, predicting massively unrealistic job gains in the Economic Report of the President to Congress. According to Dana Milbank of the Washington Post:

"President Bush distanced himself yesterday from a forecast made by his economic advisers predicting that the U.S. economy will add 2.6 million jobs this year. A Feb. 9 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers predicted that payrolls would grow to an average of 132.7 million in 2004 from 130.1 million in 2003, an exceptionally rapid employment gain for an economy that has shed 2.3 million jobs during Bush's tenure. Facing the prospect that Democrats would make a campaign issue of Bush's failure to meet his own projections, Bush and top administration officials declined to endorse the 2.6 million jobs forecast."

Twice in a week, the vaunted Bush team stumbled on the most basic economic issue, the one that reaches deepest and rings most bells in this country: Jobs. But don't think this administration has no answers on either job outsourcing or job creation.

How to gain manufacturing jobs

In a piece on "new economics" in The New York Times' business section this week, David Cay Johnson suggested one way out of the outsourcing bind, taken from the same Economic Report of the President:

"Is cooking a hamburger patty and inserting the meat, lettuce and ketchup inside a bun a manufacturing job, like assembling automobiles? That question is posed in the new... thick annual compendium... on the health of the United States economy. The latest edition... questions whether fast-food restaurants should continue to be counted as part of the service sector or should be reclassified as manufacturers. No answers were offered.

In a speech to Washington economists Tuesday, N. Gregory Mankiw... said that properly classifying such workers was 'an important consideration' in setting economic policy. Counting jobs at McDonald's, Burger King and other fast-food enterprises alongside those at industrial companies like General Motors and Eastman Kodak might seem like a stretch... But the presidential report points out that the current system for classifying jobs 'is not straightforward.' The White House drew a box around the section so it would stand out among the 417 pages of statistics. 'When a fast-food restaurant sells a hamburger, for example, is it providing a "service" or is it combining inputs to "manufacture" a product?' "

Economic tip: Do the White House reelection campaign a favor -- stop in at McDonald's today and help America rebuild as a mighty manufacturing nation.

It's a stretch (full text here)
By MATT WICKENHEISER, Portland Press Herald Writer
Copyright © 2004 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles (and) onions on a sesame-seed bun might make an American classic, the Big Mac, but are they steps in a manufacturing process?

That's the question raised in the Economic Report of the President, given to Congress recently. In the manufacturing chapter, President George W. Bush's economists suggest that the government's definition of "manufacturing" is vague, which might affect policy-making and even provide factory tax breaks for fast-food businesses.

"When a fast-food restaurant sells a hamburger, for example, is it providing a 'service' or is it combining inputs to 'manufacture' a product?" the authors questioned.

The question led to criticism of the administration from Democrats and jokes on late-night television, but White House spokesman Ken Lisaius stressed that the report didn't suggest that making a pizza or cheeseburger was in any way manufacturing, or that fast-food jobs should be considered such. "It raises a point that policy shouldn't be based on arbitrary classifications," Lisaius told the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. "The report does not say that classification should be changed, only that it's a slippery slope, if you will, when reviewing policy."

Even so, the idea that hamburger production is on the same hill, slippery or not, as paper-making hits something of a nerve in Maine. The sector has suffered severe job losses - 30,900 since December of 1990, including 15,700 in just the three years prior to December 2003. Despite these losses, the state still has a strong manufacturing base of more than 60,000 goods-producing jobs, with shipbuilding, paper, semiconductors and wood products a big part of the economy. Mainers know what manufacturing is and what it isn't, and they are as amused as the late-night hosts that the two might ever be confused.

Making pizzas and subs isn't manufacturing, no matter how closely you follow the recipes, said Tony Barrasso, owner of Anthony's Italian Kitchen in the Old Port. "Open this can, add this spice, put the garlic in - I don't see that as being manufacturing," said Barrasso, from behind the counter at Anthony's. "I think we're food preparers."

To be sure, there are some steps involved in food service - five main steps to putting together most of the McDonald's sandwiches, explained Brenda Nueslein, manager at the McDonald's Express on Congress Street in Portland: Take the bun, toast it, dress the bun (mustard, ketchup, pickles, onions, "cheese if they want it; if they don't, they don't") put it together, wrap it, send it up to the customer.

But that's not manufacturing, said Nueslein. On a basic level, there may be some similarity, said Thomas Healy, general manager at Nichols Portland, a manufacturing plant that makes 30 million to 35 million gears for automotive pumps a year. "They take frozen fries and they cook them. They have to assemble the hamburgers, there's several different pieces," said Healy. "They have to cook it, we have to bake our steel parts . . . " Of course, said Healy, some of Nichols' part specifications are more exact - to the micron-level; a micron is .001 millimeters - than in fast-food kitchens.

Another difference is in the number of steps to make a hamburger, say, versus the number of processes needed to produce a computer chip. Between 200 and 350 steps have to be taken to make a microprocessor, said Anne Gauthier, public affairs manager for the National Semiconductor plant in South Portland. "The tooling required to make semiconductors is a lot more sophisticated. (It's) computer-controlled, very highly mechanized and integrated with other parts of equipment," said Gauthier. "It's an automated line where wafers are being moved from piece of equipment to piece of equipment, and the equipment can cost from a low of $1 million to a high of $10 million."

Jim Raffel, owner of the Arby's on Forest Avenue, questioned the motivation behind even theoretically linking manufacturing to fast food. "(It's) to make statistics look better," said Raffel. "The fact is, fast-food restaurants do not pay as much as manufacturing."

Raffel's concerns were echoed by U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine. "I would think it's odd, to say the least, that they would even raise the question," said Allen. "This doesn't say this, but are they thinking about expanding manufacturing so their job numbers look better?"

Of course, calling fast-food jobs manufacturing positions would go a long way toward turning around Maine's goods-producing sector. In 2002, 13,720 Mainers flipped burgers, flung pizzas or deep-fried chicken - just 4,080 fewer than the number of manufacturing jobs lost in the last few years, according to state statistics.

U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, has already lambasted Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, for statements made recently regarding the benefits that can come with moving work overseas. Michaud has called for Mankiw's resignation, and the fast-food comparison just put more fat on the fire for the Maine congressman, who worked in a paper mill before his election. "It was absolutely outrageous that the Economic Report of the President released last week praised outsourcing American jobs overseas as good for the economy. It borders on the complete absurd that this same report (speculates about whether) working in a fast-food restaurant (could be) a 'manufacturing' job," said Michaud in a written statement. "Just tell that to the 24,000 manufacturing workers who have lost their manufacturing jobs in Maine since the passage of the North America Free Trade Agreement."

Maine's two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, did not respond to requests for comment. Lisaius, the White House spokesman, said the issue had been misrepresented nationally by people wanting to politicize the report. He said there had been talks on Capitol Hill regarding whether the government could better define which people work in manufacturing, but the White House has only raised the question in its report and hasn't offered any input toward the legislative discussion.


This is a nice little article in which the author tells a story of a second war over the Iraq question, between the political leaders who acted desperately and illegally on behalf of pre-emption, and those who will use the laws to oust them. Remember, there is not yet any legal basis for any party to use absolute power to achieve their goals. If the law has been willfully violated, politicians can be held to account.

Notice in the body of the essay the reference to Rumsfeld's recent interview where he stated in no uncertain terms that a sovereign state can behave as it pleases - in that case what basis is there for the concept of war crimes? What law has Saddamn Hussein broken that the U.S. can hold him accountable to? We cannot have our cake and eat it too - either we affirm that the law must be universally respected, or acknowledge that international relations will never amount to more than the war of all against all, and stop being so fucking pissed off every time a nation behaves in some way we find disagreeable.

This war is not yet over

The consequences of Iraq could still break Blair and Bush, and change forever the way our world is ordered

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday February 11, 2004
The Guardian

It's the Alan Clark manoeuvre. When the old Tory reptile found himself assailed by a tricky argument, he would fire back with his most lethal weapon. "This is boring," he would say airily. "You are being the most frightful bore." Clark used the word often, keenly aware of its peculiarly English power to devastate.
Now the government is deploying the Clark manoeuvre. Those who still insist on banging on about Iraq and its missing weapons of mass destruction are anoraks, they say, trainspotters on the fast track to Dullsville. Ministers declare that the rest of the country lost interest in this media fixation long ago. Only journalists, with their stained coats and plastic carrier bags, still care.

It is beginning to work. Plenty of those whose blood was up in the immediate aftermath of the Hutton report - the backlash against the whitewash - suspect they ought to drop it now. Better to change the subject than be a bore.

They should think again. For this is more than another political story de jour, one that looms enormous at the time but is soon forgotten. This is not the fuel protest or the Hinduja affair. On the contrary, the legitimacy of the Iraq war is about as serious a question as you could imagine; its answer could determine the way our world is ordered in the 21st century. And this is not abstract, chin-stroking stuff for the seminar room. It has direct political consequences; it could even break the governments of both Britain and the United States.

The gravity should hardly need to be proved. Yesterday's suicide attack on a police station 25 miles from Baghdad, killing dozens, was a reminder of how Iraq remains a matter of life and death. The rising number of British and US casualties drives the point home just as intensely. What more serious question could there be than whether all these deaths are the result of a grievous mistake? If the war was not an error but built on a lie, then those dead are the victims of a terrible crime.

Take the most recent dispute: whether Tony Blair should have known that the legendary 45-minute claim applied only to Iraq's battlefield weapons. Ministers insist this is an "obscure" question, of interest only to the nerd class of defence specialists. But surely it relates directly to whether Blair was right to brand Iraq a "serious and current threat" in 2002. If Saddam did appear to have long-range, strategic weapons of mass destruction deployable in under an hour, then the threat would indeed have seemed serious and current. But if it was just battlefield shells, then the danger was rather less pressing. Hardly an obscure difference. (Imagine what extra ordure Lord Hutton would have piled on Andrew Gilligan if he had broadcast a report on Iraq's arsenal, only later to confess that he never bothered to find out what kind of weapons he was discussing.)

Still, the specific cost in human lives of the Iraq war is not the sole reason why this will remain the central question of current politics. There are wider reverberations. For this war was unique, the first truly pre-emptive attack lacking even the pretence of provocation. At least earlier, hotly controversial military adventures, whether over Suez or in Vietnam, had an initial, immediate prompt to action. But in 2002 there was no nationalisation of the canal, no threat by the north to topple the south. There was merely an ongoing stand-off with the United Nations, one that had been running for years and that, admittedly under the threat of military action, was beginning to unblock. Hans Blix and his men were making progress; they were not threatened or harassed. There was no provocation.

The Bush administration makes no secret that it sees the Iraq war as the prototype for future conflicts; indeed, it has enshrined the idea in its official national security strategy document. Pre-emption remains the Bush doctrine. Witness Donald Rumsfeld's revealing remarks in Munich last week. Asked whether America is bound by any international system, legal framework or code of conduct, the US defence secretary replied: "I honestly believe that every country ought to do what it wants to do ... It either is proud of itself afterwards, or it is less proud of itself." Translation: the US can do what it likes - including making war on countries that have made no attack on it.

Such pre-emptive wars are only possible with intelligence. Without some knowledge of the perceived threat that is to be removed, no case for preventative action can be made. Which makes the reliability of intelligence a centralissue of our time -and ensures that the use politicians make of such intelligence is not some fleeting, one-off issue that will die with the Iraq episode. Its legitimacy or otherwise will determine how wars are fought in future. If the lesson of the WMD debacle is that intelligence cannot be relied upon, for it will always risk what Blix calls "dramatisation" in the hands of politicians, then Iraq might be the last pre-emptive war. If Blair and Bush succeed in leading public opinion towards the reverse conclusion, we will soon live in a different world.

Such consequences can almost seem too large to grasp. But there are some concrete ones to contemplate, too. A majority of Britons now believes that Tony Blair lied over the Iraq war and that he should resign, according to an NOP poll last weekend. When the prime minister's trust ratings took a hit in the past, the working assumption was that things would soon right themselves. Sure enough, formula one and the Mandelson home loan affair brought embarrassments, but the Blair numbers soon recovered. This is of a wholly different order. The PM said Iraq had WMD when it did not, and the public trust has been irreparably broken. It is as harsh and as simple as that. Whether it is at the next election or later, one cannot help but believe that somehow the Iraq adventure will destroy the Blair premiership if not the Labour government.

In the US, that process might already be under way. Few would dare bet against the president just yet, but Iraq could be the undoing of Bush. His presumptive opponent, John Kerry, is running hard on the issue, even lashing out at the bogus 45-minute claim at the weekend. Al Gore, recast as an elder statesman, is making fierce speeches comparing Bush with Richard Nixon, who won re-election only to be brought down two years later. The president himself is looking defensive and shaky, most visibly in a feeble TV performance on Sunday.

Blair and Bush must suspect that Iraq could be the breaking of them, even if they do not know how it will happen. Governments toppled in London and Washington, and the world order reshaped. Boring? I don't think so.

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