Given Texas’s sorry luck to be the home of George W. Bush, Tom DeLay, Ken Lay et al., Northern liberals sometimes forget about the state’s robust progressive tradition. One of the crown gems of that lustrous heritage is The Texas Observer, which turned fifty this year. Throughout its half-century run, the muckraking monthly has cut through the rhetorical fog, dug up the buried corruption and afflicted the powerful. From its coverage of the murder of an African-American teenager by East Texas night riders in the 1950s to the Sharpstown banking scandal that implicated state legislators in the 1970s to the Tulia drug sweep in 2001, the Observer has reported fearlessly. It has apprenticed a succession of gifted editors, including Ronnie Dugger, Willie Morris, Lawrence Goodwyn, Robert Sherrill, Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, Lou Dubose and Nate Blakeslee. Currently upholding tradition are Jake Bernstein and Barbara Belejack. There’ll be a big birthday bash in Austin, where the magazine is based, on December 4, with Bill Moyers and Willie Nelson presiding.


If it weren’t potentially fatal to thousands of Americans, the flu shot crisis would be a rich source of irony. The usable vaccine comes from the Pennsylvania plant of Aventis Pasteur–a French company! In the last debate Bush said, “We’re working with Canada to…help us realize the vaccine necessary to make sure our citizens have got flu vaccinations this upcoming season.” Funny. Didn’t Bush explain in a previous debate that he blocked the import of Canadian drugs out of “safety” concerns?


In its recent twice-annual report to the Security Council, the IAEA warned that satellite imagery and open surveillance information shows “widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq’s nuclear program…in many instances the dismantlement of entire buildings that housed high precision equipment…formerly monitored and tagged with IAEA seals, as well as the removal of equipment and materials.” IAEA inspectors were kicked out of Iraq in March 2003 at US behest and have not been welcome since. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said the missing dual-use machinery could be used in manufacturing bombs. As Charles Duelfer confirmed, Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons sites had been closed down and monitored by the IAEA since 1991. Under antiproliferation agreements the US and Iraq’s interim government are obligated to inform the agency about missing equipment and material from former sites but haven’t done so. It appears the US occupation allowed bomb-making equipment to be stolen and possibly fall into terrorists’ hands.


The Times‘s William Safire: “Members of Kerry’s debate preparation team made Mary Cheney’s private life the centerpiece of their answer to the question, especially worrisome to them, about same-sex marriage. Kerry was prepped to insert her sexuality into his rehearsed answer.” Same day, same paper, page A14: “two officials who attended the debate preparations said they had not heard the subject of Ms. Cheney come up.”