The Nation website has been running an ad recently urging readers to "say no to government regulation of the internet." Please don't click on it. It's a deceptive campaign created by high-priced consultants and paid for by the cable and phone industries to build opposition to the net neutrality bill. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth and their trade associations are spending millions every week to mislead and misinform the American public through tricky ad campaigns such as these.
As the invaluable group Free Press reports, their latest attempt to hoodwink Internet users is a cutesy cartoon at www.dontregulate.org -- a clever piece of industry propaganda that is riddled with half-truths and conveys a fake populist message that sounds plausible, while undermining the work of genuine public and consumer advocates.
Why, you may ask, is The Nation running the ad? The short answer is that we take ads because we're a business that runs, in part, on advertising revenue, not because we agree with the advertiser. It's the same answer we gave to outraged readers when we took full-page magazine ads from Fox News. (Click here to read The Nation's advertising policy.) My goal here isn't to defend the policy--though I do find it legitimate and unobjectionable--but rather to try to highlight this particular ad's devious and misleading opposition to "net neutrality"--something that The Nation magazine fully supports. (Network neutrality is simply the principle that Internet users should be able to access any web content they choose, without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service provider.)
Since my last post bashed Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, let me indulge in a little Hillary-bashing today. If you're angry at Hillary and all she represents -- i.e., the total non-opposition of the supposed opposition party -- help discredit her with the party's liberal base so that she won't become the Democratic nominee in 2008. I suggest getting involved with Jonathan Tasini's upstart campaign. Tasini -- a longtime labor activist and writer -- is challenging Hillary for the Senate. (Full disclosure: Jonathan and I were debate partners in a smackdown sponsored by The Nation and The Economist magazines, on the question "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?") Jonathan is, by his own admission, unlikely to unseat Hillary. But this is not really about the Senate; it's public education for 2008. Jonathan is calling attention to Hillary's dismal pro-war record, and her failure to stand up for working people (not only has she served on the board of Wal-Mart, she voted for the bankruptcy "reform" bill, paid for -- and authored -- by the credit card industry).
Speaking of trying to stop bad people from becoming president -- an admittedly quixotic endeavor -- I just saw an excellent documentary called "Giuliani Time." Like most political documentaries it drags on a bit, but the film is illuminating and even shocking, even for someone like me who lived in New York City during that horrible era.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, inspired a lot of enthusiasm among progressives when she moved into a leadership position among Congressional Democrats three years ago. She was a solid liberal who had voted against authorizing President Bush to attack Iraq in 2002 and seemed to get the point that Democrats needed to become an opposition party. As minority leader, however, she's stumbled repeatedly on the issues and generally failed to function as a leader.
Pelosi is personally progressive on many issues. But she has not done much to develop a progressive image -- or message -- for Congressional Democrats. Rather, she has embraced the same caution that has undermined the party's appeal in the past two election cycles.
Pelosi was all over the place with regard to Representative John Murtha's call the development of an Iraq exit strategy. Even now, she's sort of for the Pennsylvania Democrat's proposal, but she's not moving the caucus in a coherent direction with regard to the war in particular or foreign policy in general.
Yesterday I spoke to a brilliant group of kids studying AP government at Washington's Eleanor Roosevelt High School. One student asked me, "Are politicians in Congress supporting, opposing or ignoring the Iraq war?"
Good question. "Mostly ignoring," I answered.
Listening to Congress, you'd barely know there's a war on, let alone one that's already passed the three year mark. Most Republicans won't dare go after the President on his signature issue. Many Democrats aren't willing to undermine their timid leadership. Thus serious discussion of the war rarely occurs inside the corridors of power.
I confess. I watch American Idol. At the end of a long Tuesday or Wednesday at The Nation, I don't reach for Le Monde Diplomatique or New Left Review. I reach for my remote. And I enjoy the critical powers of American Idol Judge Simon Cowell.
(In the latest issue of The New Republic, newly anointed editor Franklin Foer has a terrific and snarkily insightful analysis of Simon's judicial "pistol-whippings"--replete with comparisons to the power of other arbiters of American critical taste such as Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling, and Clement Greenberg.)
Since early Spring, I've had a running bet with one of America's leading religious thinkers as to who will be America's next Idol. In late March, she bet on Elliott Yamin. But after last night's performances--and I've been trying to reach her this evening without success--I'll bet she's changed her bet. It's now a showdown between the two other finalists--Alabama's Taylor Hicks and Los Angeles' Katharine McPhee. Yes, Alabama vs. Los Angeles. (The show's red-blue dynamic was brought alive tonight with highlights of Alabama's Bob Riley celebrating Hicks and LA's (Mayor) Antonio Villaraigosa welcoming McPhee.)
The good news out of Detroit is that the largest version of the Hummer â€“ the 10,000 pound, less than 10 mpg, $150,000 Hummer H1 â€“ is being scrapped by General Motors due to lagging sales.
But, on the flip side, sales for the entire Hummer fleet â€“ including the H2 and H3 models which boast whopping 13 mpg and 16 mpg fuel efficiencies, respectively â€“ TRIPLED nationally between March 2005 and March 2006. According to The Wall Street Journal "people are buying Hummers precisely because of high gas prices â€“ buyers want the world to know they can afford the gas." (If you were wondering who the 29 percent of Americans are who still support George Bush, look no further!).
And, despite recent election year grandstanding, the Bush administration is doing nothing of significance to push for improvements in the fuel efficiency of the gas-guzzling, light trucks category (SUV's, minivans, and pick-ups).
Six months ago, The Nation published The Dictionary of Republicanisms, a guide to the Orwellian phrases the Republicans have introduced into American politics. And it seems like every week since then they keep adding new ones. This week's winner is The Terrorist Surveillance Act. Last week's was trolling.
Yes, last Thursday the country experienced an uncomfortable moment when the President of the United States reassured us that the government was not "trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans." Apparently W's speech writing staff doesn't know that trolling is slang for an older gay man cruising for anonymous sex with younger men.
The White House defense for the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Act, its defense for coercing the phone companies into giving up millions of Americans phone records is that they are trolling the "logs," not listening to the content. If you believe that I suggest you pepper your telephone conversations with the Arabic phrase for "Allah is great" and see how you're treated at airport security.
Wondering why Vice-President Dick Cheney recently played footsie with Kazakhstan's autocratic leader--an oil-rich president with an awful human rights record whose recent re-election was fraudulent? (Hey, sounds sort of familiar.) No, it wasn't because Cheney wanted to mimic his boss, who recently received another oil-rich autocrat--the president of Azerbaijan--in the White House. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Cheney used to occupy a cushy seat on Kazakh's Oil Advisory Board? (Did anyone see this in coverage of the Vice-President's trip?) As reported by Mark Ames in the June 2003 issue of The Exile, Cheney was a member of that board in 2001 and advised Bush to "deepen [our] commercial dialogue with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and other Caspian states." On this trip, he pronounced himself to be "delighted" to be a guest of the Kazakh president, adding that the United States "is proud to be your strategic partner" and looks forward "to continued friendship between us."
Speak for yourself and your oily interests, Mr Cheney, not for the millions of Americans who still seek a moral compass in our politics.
On an evening when every politician in the Washington was trooping in front of the television cameras to add their commentary to the slurry of blather that is the immigration "debate," and most Washington reporters were trying to figure out whether White House political czar Karl Rove will be indicted this week, little attention went to what could turn out to be the most significant story of the day.
But as journalists wake up to the fact that they have apparently become the latest targets of the Bush-Cheney administration's abusive eavesdropping, that should change.
According to ABC News, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been quietly going after the phone records of news reporters as part of its investigations of leaks of information of government employees.
Let's get a couple of things straight about the immigration speech President George W. Bush unreeled Monday night from the Oval Office.His address had nothing to do with actual border policy and everything to do with domestic electoral politics.
The real mission of the 6,000 National Guard troops he has called out is to quell the rebellion on the President's right flank, the flaring mutiny of his own conservative base. Indeed, if the President were being honest, the newly mobilized troops would be taken off the Federal payroll and moved onto the books of the 2006 national Republican campaign.
They certainly aren't going to be stopping illegal immigration. Most of the Guard will be unarmed. They will be barred from patrolling the border itself, as well as from confronting, apprehending or even guarding the undocumented. The troops will be given solely behind-the-scenes, low-profile, mostly invisible tasks of pushing paper, driving vans, and manning computers. Bush could have saved the taxpayers a load and sent a few battalions of Boy Scouts to do this job. (Click here to read the entire after-the-speech reaction on MarcCooper.com).
As George W. Bush's poll numbers plummet, influential conservatives have diagnosed the cause of his misery: he's not conservative enough.
Bush is just a softy moderate masquerading as a right-wing Christian. He won't push hard for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He won't send illegal immigrants back across the border. He's never met a spending bill he didn't like.
"I can't tell you how much anger there is at the Republican leadership," direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie told The New York Times today. "I have never seen anything like it."
As a result of the work done by reporters Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber, the California Department of Managed Health Care has intervened to demand that Kaiser pay for transplants at established hospitals if its patients elect to transfer to other programs. "Let me put it this way, [Kaiser] will do what the patients want them to do," Cindy Ehnes, director of the department told the LA Times.
Yesterday, Kaiser made a public apology and confirmed that it has agreed to the terms described by Ehnes.
Illegal wire-tapping, millions of civilian telephone records turned over to the NSA, National Guard troops "temporarily" deployed on the Mexican border, "extraordinary rendition" of nameless suspects, "detainees" imprisoned in Guantanamo without due process, a limitless war on terror, an "axis of evil" -- sounds like the President has been reading Michel Foucault's Society Must Be Defended, a series of lectures given at the College de France that reverses Clausewitz's famous aphorism and explores how "politics is war continued by other means."
That President, however, is not George W. Bush. He's Democrat Josiah Barlet, who departed The West Wing after two terms, seven seasons and a raft of Emmy nominations. Yes, in last night's series finale, observant viewers spotted Foucault's book among President Barlet's private possessions.
I'll leave it to TV critics to debate what this might signify. But note to the real Prez in case he decides to take the lead of his fictional counterpart and, uh, read: Though Society Must Be Defended "deals with the emergence...of a new understanding of war as the permanent basis of all institutions of power," it is not a how-to manual.
What will Bush really mean by sending "troops to the border" as anticipated in his Monday night speech on immigration. Probably a lot less than what it is implied as I explain here.
But it's going to be a bloody mess anyway. As Bush tries to appease his right flank while simultaneously pandering to the more moderate reformers in his own party, he's likely to tear that immigration baby right in half.
Those pushing for reform are likely to be dissatisfied with what will probably be at most a back-handed endorsement from the President. The Minuteman Right, meanwhile, is going to be even more irked when it learns that all those troops heading to la linea are most likely to wind up as glorified desk jockeys.
A non-profit company in El Paso -- The National Center for Employment of the Disabled (NCED) -- was raided last week by 70 federal agents investigating whether it violated the terms of its no-bid contracts to produce chemical protection suits for soldiers.
Under the contract, 75 percent of the work was to be completed by severely disabled employees. The Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled â€“ the federal panel overseeing such contracts â€“ indicates that, in fact, only 7.8 percent of the labor was performed by severely disabled workers.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the NCED was awarded $1.2 billion "in recent years", and $276 million in the fiscal year ending in October. But now its government contracts have been suspended and federal agents have confiscated more than 1,000 boxes of documents and computer information from the company.
"Had enough?" certainly beats the focus-grouped hogwash that passes for Democratic slogans these days. Such as the official: "Together, America Can Do Better." Or the even more preposterous motto floated by a prominent Dem recently: "America Needs An Audit." As our colleague David Corn astutely noted, everyone hates audits.