It scarcely seems possible, but two of the staple items on the conversational menu of the left these past years might well be on the edge of disappearance, or at least a change in content. Mumia Abu-Jamal is no longer on death row. Pacifica's wars are amid final settlement. In both instances, it's a good advertisement for pertinacity. Had it not been for those tireless and oft-ridiculed Mumiacs, I doubt US District Judge William Yohn Jr. would have detected those improper jury instructions. Two years ago the Pacifica National Board thought it had the situation under control, and it was only a matter of time before the ultras were cleaned out of their caves in the mountains of Berkeley. But the much-derided left kept at it.
One good feature of Judge Yohn's ruling is that it takes the emphasis off innocence or guilt, which surrenders the basic moral axiom of the anti-death penalty cause, namely, that capital punishment is wrong.
As for Pacifica, the heat is now on those who fought the national board to exhaustion and defeat. Can they produce decent programming and hike Pacifica's dismally low audience figures?
Enron and the Green Seal
The fall of Enron sounds the death knell for one of the great rackets of the past decade: green seals of approval, whereby some outfit like the Natural Resources Defense Council or the Environmental Defense Fund would issue testimonials to the enviro-conscience and selfless devotion to the public weal of corporations like Enron. These green seals of approval were part of the neoliberal pitch, that fuddy-duddy regulation should yield to modern, "market-oriented solutions" to environmental problems. Indeed, NRDC and EDF were always the prime salesfolk of neoliberal remedies for environmental problems. NRDC was socked into the Enron lobby machine so deep you couldn't see the soles of its feet. Here's what happened.
In 1997 high-flying Enron found itself in a pitched battle in Oregon, where it planned to acquire Portland General Electric, Oregon's largest public utility. Warning that Enron's motives were of a highly predatory nature, the staff of the state's Public Utility Commission (PUC) opposed the merger. They warned that an Enron takeover would mean less ability to protect the environment, increased insecurity for PGE's workers and, in all likelihood, soaring prices.
Other critics argued that Enron's actual plan was to cannibalize PGE, in particular its hydropower, which Enron would sell into California's energy market.
But at the very moment when such protests threatened to balk Enron of its prize, into town rode NRDC's top energy commissar, Ralph Cavanagh, Heinz environmental genius award pinned to his armor and flaunting ties to the Energy Foundation, a San Francisco-based outfit providing financial wattage for many citizen and environmental groups that work on utility and enviro issues.
Cavanagh lost no time whipping the refractory Oregon greens into line. In concert with Enron, the NRDC man put together a memo of understanding, pledging that the company would lend financial support to some of these groups' pet projects. But Cavanagh still had some arduous politicking ahead. An OK for the merger had to come from the PUC, whose staff was adamantly opposed. So, on Valentine's Day, 1997, Cavanagh showed up at a hearing in Salem, Oregon, to plead Enron's case.