THE PAULSON PLAN:
The financial-reform plan announced by Treasury Secretary
is better understood as Wall Street’s pitiful, lame-duck defense against genuine reform. The confusing bells and whistles do not conceal Paulson’s real purpose: to blame the disaster on disorganized government regulators and do little or nothing to restore strong prudential regulation.
The media are making a big fuss, but Bush’s ideas for reform are no more credible than
‘s promise of “a chicken in every pot.” The real reform debate can’t start until we have a new President and Congress. Meanwhile, Paulson, a son of
, seeks to protect fellow club members with distracting proposals. Let the Federal Reserve become the “supercop” of Wall Street. That’s a hoot. The Fed is a principal culprit–the bankers’ friend–that looked the other way, then showered billions on the failing financiers. What’s disturbing is that the Democrats seem disposed to go along. They will be sorry if they do. Putting the Federal Reserve in charge is not reform but surrender. — WILLIAM GREIDER
BACHELET AND THE PILL:
Chilean Constitutional Tribunal
is set to rule on a 2007 lawsuit brought by thirty-six conservative legislators to block President
‘s decision to distribute emergency-contraception pills to women of all income levels. In a Catholic country where abortion is illegal, Bachelet’s opponents have seized on the issue to undermine Chile’s first female executive.
Three giant pharmacy chains–Salcobrand, Farmacias Ahumada and Cruz Verde–initially refused to carry the pill, incurring heavy fines from the government. Two eventually backed down (the third, Salcobrand, is led by a devout
member), but not before launching a propaganda campaign against Bachelet and refusing to pay the fines. Anti-Bachelet municipal leaders sent back shipments of the pill that were to be distributed in public clinics, gaining much media attention for their defiance. And with a majority on the tribunal lined up against Bachelet, insiders predict it will ban the pill later this month.
If so, the decision will be another blow to poor women, who cannot afford to leave the country for abortions and must resort to the back-alley variety. It may also open up legal space to call into question Bachelet’s other progressive reforms, including her insistence on gender parity in the government. Grandstanding social conservatives will have their way, the pharmacies will get away with disobeying the law and Chilean women will pay the price. — ASHLEY STEINBERG
INDECENT IN INDIANA:
Indiana doesn’t want to be known for its porn, according to State Representative
. Goodin is the author of a new state law, signed March 19, that requires anyone selling a product that “appeals to the prurient interest in sex of minors” to pay a $250 fine and register with the Secretary of State. While Goodin’s law is intended to stop new sex shops from popping up along highways and in strip malls, the vague wording grants much leeway in how the law can be enforced. Do art books and sex-ed manuals apply?
? What about lingerie? Halloween costumes?
“This is just outrageous from our standpoint, and we believe it is a violation of the First Amendment,” says Chris Finan of the
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
, which plans to file a legal challenge with the New York-based Media Coalition and the Indiana ACLU. Goodin, for his part, says constitutional concerns are a lot of “hullabaloo about nothing.” Free-speech advocates and prurient minors in Indiana no doubt disagree. — SUSANNAH VILA
PENTAGON PLANE FOLLY:
Controversy surrounds a $35 billion Pentagon contract for aerial refueling tankers, awarded February 29 to Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Corporation (EADS). Rival
, once favored for the contract, is pushing the Government Accountability Office to overturn the decision.
Opponents protest that the deal will outsource American jobs–or, as Frank Gaffney of the Boeing-tied
Center for Security Policy
put it, support “anti-American” (i.e., European) labor unions. But the EADS/Northrop Grumman team is building a plant in Mobile, Alabama, to assemble the new tanker, and Boeing has plenty of foreign suppliers that would have been tapped had it won the contract. The controversy has more to do with who gets the profits than who gets the jobs.
Besides, dirty dealing cost Boeing a no-bid contract in the first place. Company executive Michael Sears and Pentagon official Darleen Druyun both went to jail after Boeing lured her with a private-sector job while she was working on negotiations for the tanker deal. Boeing’s criminal behavior opened the door for the EADS/Northrop Grumman bid.
Truth be told, neither company deserves the contract. The Pentagon’s
Defense Science Board
have found there is no compelling need for new tankers. Rather than arguing over where the jobs should be, someone in Congress needs to stand up and say that there are better uses for the $35 billion allocated for these unnecessary planes. — WILLIAM D. HARTUNG AND FRIDA BERRIGAN
BAGHDAD TO THE BORDER:
Uncle Sam wants you: first to serve in the Army, then for a job with the Department of Homeland Security, courtesy of the US
Customs and Border Protection Agency
. The CBP has announced that it will expand its recruiting to military installations overseas, the latest step in the ongoing militarization of the country’s borders. First stop was the
Kaiserslautern Military Community
in Germany, where, on March 26, recruiters urged American soldiers to consider a postmilitary career as a border guard.
The largest uniformed law enforcement agency in the United States, the CBP has doubled in size since 2004, to more than 48,000 employees; President Bush has pledged that it will surpass 50,000 by the end of the year. Veterans already make up one-quarter of the agency’s workforce.
Why the good fit? The CBP refers to the military as a “fertile source for applicants,” while an agency official cites a shared “commitment to security of the nation.” Oh, yes–veterans are also “familiar with working outside.” — BRETT STORY