OFF THE PAIGE

“Terrorist” is surely the blackest epithet in the Bush Administration’s lexicon, so it would seem that Education Secretary Rod Paige owes the NEA more than just an apology for calling it a “terrorist organization.” Especially, one would think, when the union’s only sin was exercising its right of free speech to criticize aspects of the fancifully titled “No Child Left Behind” Act. Perhaps Paige is following the John Ashcroft model of branding critics of the Patriot Act pro-terrorist. Paige has been under fire in many states that say the Administration hasn’t put enough money behind the act. So he needed a scapegoat. Who better than that old antiunion-GOP reliable–the NEA? Paige should go.

STOP THE COMCAST-DISNEY MERGER

Jeff Chester writes: Will the move by Comcast, the nation’s largest cable TV and broadband giant, to swallow up Disney/ABC spark a new round of protests against the looser FCC rules? So far, Senators Kerry and Edwards–as well as other leading Democrats–have failed to publicly oppose what would be the biggest media merger in US history. Only a year ago, Comcast acquired AT&T Cable. It already dominates the TV business in eight out of ten of the largest communities in the country. Now it wants to add to its empire ABC TV, ESPN and Disney’s movie studios and theme parks. Comcast plans to push Disney content using the might of its cable and Internet pipes. Expect the web to turn into a commercially sponsored corporate theme park. Comcast has mobilized a phalanx of heavy-hitter lobbyists, including former Pentagon PR chief Victoria Clarke, recent top aides to Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, ex-Representative Dick Armey and Representative Billy Tauzin. Not only does Comcast seek to expand, it has exemplified an anti-public interest philosophy: unionbusting and opposing “open” Internet proposals. John Kerry’s cable-TV connection (his brother is a lawyer for one of the big cable lobbying firms) raises questions about how tied into Big Media he is. He and John Edwards, among others, should feel pressure from those who want to restrain the media giants. Opposing Comcast’s Disney/ABC takeover should be high on the progressive agenda.

BLAIR OUTGUNNED

British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government has dropped its case against Katharine Gun, the former intelligence officer charged under the Official Secrets Act after she leaked a memo alleging an American campaign to spy on UN delegates before the Iraq war (see D.D. Guttenplan, “Whitewashing Blair,” February 23). The announcement came one day after Gun’s legal team served documents on the government demanding to see any advice given to ministers about the legality of the war–disclosures that could have been potentially damaging and embarrassing for the government. Gun had maintained that the memo, which reportedly described a “surge” in US eavesdropping on UN Security Council countries crucial to the vote on a second resolution for action in Iraq, exposed serious wrongdoing and could have helped prevent the deaths of Iraqis and British forces in an illegal war. The government dismissed the suggestion that its decision and the request for documents were linked but declined to give any formal reason for its decision. Gun said, “I have no regrets, and I would do it again.”

NEWS OF THE WEAK IN REVIEW

The recent Economic Report of the President suggests that jobs in the fast-food industry should be reclassified as manufacturing jobs. Its authors claim there’s only a difference in degree between assembling a Big Mac at McDonald’s and assembling an Explorer at Ford. Yeah, sure. And think what this little statistical fix would do to those embarrassing manufacturing-job-loss figures! It’s the biggest Orwellian shell game since the Reaganites reclassified ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches.