The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Europeans are incipient Nazis - sez Woolsey!
It would be untrue to suggest that Randy Newman's European policy  has, as yet, been formally adopted by the Neocon Tendency.
But, with a government so committed to pre-emptive war as the Bush Administration, for self-preservation's sake, one needs to read the runes early!
According to the National Post (November 30), retired CIA chief and franc-tireur for the Tendency, James Woolsey, has been taking his ease north of the border, and unburdening himself of one or two mots on the subject of
Europe's media and cultural elite
A class of persons who, it seems,
have have breathed "the first breath of totalitarianism."
A marvellously broad and flexible definition of an offence. Almost totalitarian, one might say.
The piece goes on
Jews are history's great champions of the rule of law, James Woolsey said...
And what definition of rule of law is he using, I wonder? I'd be surprised if you could get most legal scholars to agree the rule of law (as commonly understood) was established in any jurisdiction much earlier than the English Bill of Rights of 1689. In which, I suspect, the part played by Jews was somewhat small.
Woolsey's definition is rather different
this notion of the rule of law is something that came to the world something between three and four millennia ago in the Sinai desert.
The piece says he was talking to
a predominantly Jewish audience yesterday at York University.
That's in Toronto.
His notion of the term is that
...the government is above the ruler, and that rulers, whether it's King David or anyone else, are to be held to account by the people, by great prophets, by whomever...
Now, I'm no expert: but my superficial researches suggest that Woolsey's definition is not one that would command universal acceptance amongst scholars .
He goes on
Jews have always promoted the primacy of the law over the leader.
The most extensive bio of Woolsey that come to the top of the pile gives no hint at the professional expertise that might support so large a judgement.
Very frequently suggests that he has at his fingertips several dozen examples at least. But, of course, in many cases, the drift into anti-Semitism may have been hampered by a lack of available Jews. Has he controlled for that in his analysis, I wonder?
The greatest concentration of clearly authoritarian regimes over the last couple of hundred years has been Latin America. Some - Argentina, for one - have been the home of significant numbers of Jews. Of how many was a ramping up of anti-semitism a major feature ?
In Europe, Mussolini's regime in Italy started in 1922 with no particular antisemitic agenda : this review in the Financial Times suggests that
fascism was nonracist for more than a decade until Mussolini cynically began to stoke anti-Semitism in 1938.
And, in Poland, I mentioned on October 19 the case of General Pilsudski, dictator between the world wars, under whom the native antisemitism of the country was to an extent kept under check. Only after Pilsudski died in 1935 did antisemitism flare up again.
As Ira Gershwin once wrote, it ain't necessarily so...
Anti-semitism speech-chilling campaign: latest sally
It needs no conspiracy for supporters of Sharon government policy to spot that the accusation that opposition to that policy is per se antisemitic successfully exploits a weakness in the American polity, and to add their two cents to the fun.
Last week, Sharon was making the argument himself (November 24): in the Guardian yesterday, the dreaming spires of Oxford chimed in - in the form of Emanuele Ottolenghi . He's Italian, but has a sound grasp of the English-language formulae favoured in this branch of propaganda .
After an opening feint - he begins with
Is there a link between the way Israel's case is presented and anti-semitism?but never addresses the question - he states the opposition view:
Jewish defenders of Israel are then depicted by their critics as seeking an excuse to justify Israel, projecting Jewish paranoia and displaying a "typical" Jewish trait of "sticking together", even in defending the morally indefensible.
As with the attack on Rep James Moran , a key element is the allegation of the use of Jewish stereotypes - which in itself is, it seems, to be taken as evidence of antisemitism. The fact that these critics - unnamed, natch! - would suggest that any behaviour by Jews was typical is thus a black mark against them.
(As a piece of scholarship, Ottolenghi's piece - isn't. No footnotes. No sign of the use of quantitative methods in support of allegations covering the generality of the opposition to Israeli policy. Not so much GE Moore as Michael Moore.)
He makes the ritual assertion that he is not suggesting that criticism of Israeli policy is anti-semitic per se:
There is no doubt that recent anti-semitism is linked to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And it is equally without doubt that Israeli policies sometimes deserve criticism. There is nothing wrong, or even remotely anti-semitic, in disapproving of Israeli policies.
Reminiscent of the old line, Some of my best friends are Jews, but...
Jewish defenders of Israel...are concerned about the form the criticism takes.
Shylock may have his pound of flesh, providing that he spills no blood in getting it. Neat, huh?
If Israel's critics are truly opposed to anti-semitism, they should not repeat traditional anti-semitic themes under the anti-Israel banner.
It's the sleazy old trick of the missing article: some critics no doubt use anti-semitic themes - but the sense of they applies to all such critics. And, while the clause is in form a mere apodosis, in substance it is a statement that all critics use anti-semitic themes.
(It's not, I think, a trick available in a language like French, where the article - des or les - distinguishes references to the whole of a class from those to part only.)
And, just to make sure we're all on the same page, he gives examples:
the Jewish conspiracy to rule the world, linking Jews with money and media, the hooked-nose stingy Jew, the blood libel, disparaging use of Jewish symbols, or Christian anti-Jewish imagery
Again, note the sleazy way that stuff that is simply untrue -
the hooked-nose stingy Jew- is thrown in with stuff that may indeed be true -
linking Jews with money and media
Only this week, we have had the example of John Updike's New Yorker piece in which he used the expression rich Jew - and got himself an apoplectic rant (I suppress the G-word at this point) from the New York Observer for his pains. In my piece, I had the temerity to mention the Bronfman family as being rich. Antisemitic.
The hooked nose is meant to add a veneer of plausibility to a thoroughly meretricious argument, by by-passing reason and pressing the emotional hot buttons.
He mentions Labour MP Tam Dalyell's assertion that was a Jewish cabal at work influencing HMG's foreign policy in the same breath as an Italian cartoonist. Dalyell said he was referring not to British but American influence - in other words, much the same as James Moran was saying.
This allegation may not stand in its simplest form. But, as I suggested in relation to Moran, it might well be qualified in such a way as to make it factually accurate. Ottolenghi and other defenders of Israel (Jewish or not) will not take the risk: any statement on the influence of Jews on the foreign policy of USG or HMG, however qualified or supported by evidence, must be delegitimated ab initio as anti-semitic.
Then, he complains that Israel is held to a higher standard of behaviour than other countries, and implies that that, too, is anti-semitism at work:
Singling out Israel for an impossibly high standard not applied to any other country begs the question: why such different treatment?
(If Israel is singled out, it may be for several reasons: that Israel (with DOIs) singles itself out, for one, as the only democracy in the Middle East - as well as the claim for the uniqueness of the Holocaust. Or because Israel has long been the US's most significant recipient of defence aid and diplomatic support - such that it has been allowed to flout UN Security Council Resolutions for decades. Or even because others think that the self-described Chosen People ought to act better than the rest of us.
But, to draw any conclusions on world opinion on the matter, one would clearly need to do a great deal of research. Not a commodity that appears to inform Ottolenghi's piece at all...)
He goes on with more sleazy selectivity:
...some of Israel's critics use anti-semitic stereotypes.
At last, a partitive! We should be grateful, I suppose.
their disclaimers frequently offer a mask of respectability to otherwise socially unacceptable anti-semitism.
Note the quantifying word frequently. That implies he has some evidence of frequency - is it 10%, or 30% or what? On the basis of what research is he making his quantitative assertion? Answer, of course, comes there none.
Many equate Israel to Nazism, claiming that "yesterday's victims are today's perpetrators":
Is that many of Israel's critics as a whole; or many of the some of those critics who use anti-semitic stereotypes?
On this point - Glory be! - the man has evidence: a quote - just the one - from a novelist, Louis de Bernières  who apparently said
Israel has been adopting tactics which are reminiscent of the Nazis.
He's not content to put the man's assertion to the test of actual evidence (Ottolenghi seems allergic to actual evidence, to judge by his piece): it must be damned out of hand as antisemitic.
That's one solitary example he's volunteered in 430 words of rant (up to that point).
Then, he says
Others speak of Zionist conspiracies to dominate the media, manipulate American foreign policy, rule the world and oppress the Arabs.
Again, are these others amongst the some, or amongst all critics of Israel? He's not a numbers man, clearly.
By describing Israel as the root of all evil, they provide the linguistic mandate and the moral justification to destroy it.
There are three suggestions here, then:
Dishonesty on this scale, if applied to financial matters, could well yield its author a long vacation with Club Fed!
The Patron of the blog, in his wise pre-war position on slavery, was attacked in very much the same manner: in the Fourth Debate (Charleston) of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, on September 18 1858, he said, in reply
...I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied every thing. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes.
It was ever the cry of the defenders of slavery, and then of Jim Crow, that anyone proposing reforms to benefit the Negro - in voting rights, say - was really advocating Miscegenation.
(Ottolenghi's innuendo is that anyone who opposes Israeli government policy hates Jews.)
He then gets on to anti-Zionism: I should have thought (I wouldn't state it as fact, because, unlike Ottolenghi, I would be embarrassed to make such a sweeping assertion without evidence) that most white opponents of Israeli policy would not oppose the existence of Israel. Yet he seems to suggest that opposing Israeli policy entails opposition to the idea of their being a Jewish state at all.
He invokes a stereotype of his own - of the Jew as a passive bearer of suffering - to suggest that anti-Zionists are happy see Jews suffering singly, but not standing together as a nation.
Again, it's all assertion and no evidence.
He concludes with a Rambo-style burst of fire from the hip:
Israel errs like all other nations: it is normal. What anti-Zionists find so obscene is that Israel is neither martyr nor saint. Their outrage refuses legitimacy to a people's national liberation movement. Israel's stubborn refusal to comply with the invitation to commit national suicide and thereby regain a supposedly lost moral ground draws condemnation. Jews now have the right to self-determination, and that is what the anti-semite dislikes so much.
He starts off the graf still castigating anti-Zionists. Then enters No Man's Land - from whom, exactly, does
Israel's stubborn refusal to comply with the invitation to commit national suicidedraw condemnation? Anti-Zionists alone? Or critics of Israeli policy generally?
And finishes with a reference to
the anti-semite.- as undefined and unquantified as when he started.
Ottolenghi's bio shows a list of 14 peer-reviewed articles (I recognise the names of a couple of the journals). One can only hope he was held to a rather more stringent standard in those than is evident in his Guardian piece.
The aim of such a piece is clearly not to inform. Nor is it to provide arguments in favour of a policy.
The piece is what Ottolenghi protests it is not: an attempt to persuade the academic or journalist  - in particular, in the US - to think twice before even entering the debate on Israel and the Middle East. The field of academic and journalistic endeavour is limitless: why take a risk with a promising career? Who will it help to tackle an Israel-related topic, with the danger of being drawn into statements which can be twisted into anti-semitism? Who will be impressed by such foolhardiness?
Better far to pass by on the other side!
At last, some common sense on juries - from Jeremy Clarkson...
There ought to be a name for the ratio that the amount of fame a personality has in his own country bears to the amount of fame he has worldwide (but, since there isn't, let's call it the Plawg ratio.)
Some personalities will rate close to 1: Clinton, say, or Charlie Chaplin. Others, something fairly stratospheric: Katie Couric or Jonathan Ross.
Jeremy Clarkson's Plawg would be 1,000 or more: he's a British TV pundit specialising in cars, who fancies himself as a plain-speaking, anti-PC guy's guy (though no one is allowed to be that on British TV!). The descendant of the Terry-Thomas type from the 1950s, all cravats and MG sports cars, taking a spin with the little lady to a road-house on the Hog's Back.
Yet, for all that, he's had sufficient sense to go into print to condemn the institution of the jury (London Sunday Times today). Which I have done here before (as on September 9 2002).
I reckon that, in hundred years time, the idea of entrusting fact-finding in complex cases with life-or-death consequences to a bunch of folks deliberately chosen for their lack of expertise in this highly exacting task will seem as alien as the institution of slavery.
(The first fly-on-the-wall documentary set in a jury-room will kill the whole business stone dead.)
There was, it comes back to me, a Clarkson who was one of the leaders of the movement in Britain for the abolition of the slave trade - Thomas Clarkson, that is. Any relation to Jeremy?
Saturday, November 29, 2003
The Frank Koza Story: British leaker in court
The converse of the wise old saw that All that glisters is not gold: sometimes, the cheapest-looking costume jewellery may be 24 carat!
To cut a long story short, in the run-up to the war, a memo was leaked which had ostensibly been sent out by the afore-mentioned Koza (a senior National Security Agency (NSA) guy) and dealt with a USG plan to eavesdrop on UN Security Council members, to provide the inside dope for US diplomats negotiating for the mythical second resolution on Iraq.
It sounded pretty unlikely, but turned out to be true. Or, at least, generally accepted - which is far from the same thing, natch!
The UK security boys have come up with a body  - in the shape of a Ms Katharine Gun of GCHQ (the UK equivalent of the NSA) - and she's appeared in court (Guardian November 28) charged under the Official Secrets Act .
Apparently, Gun will be admitting the leak, but arguing the defence of necessity, the law on which, in the context of the OSA, was clarified in 2001 by the (English) Court of Appeal in the case of David Shayler .
Watch this space (but don't expect action any time soon!).
Operation Rockingham - world's media pass by on the other side
It's the spy story-cum-conspiracy that, if it's kosher, should have hacks ten deep bashing out pieces on their laptops.
Yet, since, the latest instalment in the Guardian - my piece of November 21 everyone has been staying away.
Not even the Guardian's own specialists in intelligence matters, like Richard Norton-Taylor, have touched the story, even with the proverbial nine-foot pole. (In the meantime, Norton-Taylor has had six bylines, according to the paper's search page.)
Is the media silence professional respect for the outstanding quality of the paper's story? Or because they think it belongs on the Onion?
There have been a couple of letters published by the Guardian in reply to the Michael Meacher article: the first (November 22) from John NL Morrison, who gets straight to the point:
Michael Meacher's piece...is unadulterated codswallop. I can say this because I personally set up Rockingham in 1991, when I was head of the central secretariat in the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS)...From 1995-99 I was deputy chief of defence intelligence and head of profession for DIS analysts.
(I assume, from the fact that there is no correction on the page, that the paper checked that the writer was who he said he was.)
According to Morrison,
Rockingham was a tiny cell which drew on and coordinated all the resources of the DIS; its only aim was to provide leads for Unscom teams, which it did very successfully despite the problems of sanitising sensitive intelligence
The second letter (November 29) came from the ubiquitous Scott Ritter, commenting on the Morrison letter:
While factually correct in the few substantive points made about Operation Rockingham, the letter is disingenuous about the role and impact it played concerning the shaping of British intelligence reports on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the UN efforts to disarm them.
He says Rockingham
institutionalised a process of "cherry-picking" intelligence produced by the UN inspections in Iraq that skewed UK intelligence about Iraqi WMD towards a preordained outcome that was more in line with British government policy than it was reflective of ground truth.and asserts that
Many examples can be offered to counter Morrison's assertions that Operation Rockingham was little more than a "tiny intelligence cell"...
The problem is that Ritter is not a corroborative source: his views were prominently represented in both the original Glasgow Sunday Herald piece  and in Meacher's. His bolt has already been shot.
Who's kidding who here?
Friday, November 28, 2003
Lee Kwan Yew still raining on Whitey's parade...
The news - my piece of November 25 - of the Old Fox-cum-Bloviator's retirement from the bully pulpit was exaggerated.
While I'm no student of the man, it seems to me that Lee, in some ways, was like an old-style American machine politician - a Frank Hague or Edward Crump: he maintained an iron grip on his little patch of turf as a quid pro quo for being consistently effective in delivering goodies to his voters; and used that local power to make himself a player on the wider scene. The completeness and longevity of his control prompted the envious respect of leaders in more mutable democracies, who had a pretty good idea he would outlast them.
Now, in addition, he has elder statesman - even oracular - status. It shows a certain strength of character, I suppose, that being the object of so much kow-towing for so long hasn't turned him into a total megalomaniac.
Newsweek sent a supplicant (one Fareed Zakaria) to bend his ear on Iraq and Al Qaida.
The opening graf is not for the recently lunched:
Richard Nixon once remarked that had Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew lived in a different country in a different time, he would have achieved the status of a major historical figure-a Churchill, Disraeli or Gladstone.
(I suspect that Lee would have taken that as an insult - I'm fairly sure he does think himself on such an exalted plane! Was Nixon deliberately damning with faint praise? Do we think it would occur to Zakaria to consider the point? Answers on a postcard...)
Lee's shtick is friendly concern about the differences between the US and Europe - getting a bit of his own back for the old Imperial divide and rule!
He says (to cut a long story short) that the Europeans (with an ETA/IRA frame of reference) are wrong on AQ because they ignore the global reach of its terror; whilst the US is wrong because of its emphasis on a military solution.
Zakaria ventured to enquire (as it were) what the Wisdom of the Orient might have to suggest. My recollection is that Lee has a Rummy-type twinkle-eyed smile of his own which I suspect was deployed at this point:
Well, America can't do it alone. You can't go into the mosques, Islamic centers and madrassas. We don't have any standing as non-Muslims. Barging in will create havoc. Only Muslims can win this struggle. Moderate, modernizing Muslims, political, religious, civic leaders together have to make the case against the fundamentalists.
(Love the we - by the way.)
Of course, Lee knows quite well that the moderate, modernizing Muslim is the Philosopher's Stone of Middle East policy: or rather, such creatures exist, but no one has been able to deploy them with any degree of success . The best we can do is countries like Morocco and Jordan, with a veneer of democracy, under which one has old-fashioned our sons of bitches . These MMMs - a picture of Ahmed Chalabi popped up in my mind's eye for some reason - are a key part of the PNAC/NSS fantasy on which Bush expatiated in his London speech (my piece of November 24).
While Vietnam (as with all historical) analogies are to be handled with care, it seems to me there is some similarity between the MMM obsession and the absurd belief of USG's in the early 1960s, first, that South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem could be provided with the qualities of legitimacy and authority essential to any successful campaign against Ho Chi Minh; and, second, that by removing Diem from power, such qualities might be vested in his successor.
(There are MMMs outside the Middle East with actual power: in Mahathir Mohamad's Malaysia, for instance. But, in each case (that I can think of), MMM supremacy depended on the conditions in the country concerned, and was accomplished without foreign intervention: Uncle Sam parachuting in exile MMMs - or raising up the local Great and the Good from the professional - Europhile - classes would result (in the eyes of the general population) in so many béni-oui-ouis, Christmas tigers  nodding at the Yankee word of command.)
Lee's recipe in Iraq?
Iraq has become a test of American perseverance. You must see it through, and I believe that you will. It is related to the larger struggle. You must put in place moderates who can create a modern society. If you walk away from Iraq, the jihadis will follow you wherever you go. You may think you've left them behind, but they will pursue you. Their ambitions are not confined to any one territory or people.
You don't say?
Lee, in properly diplomatic language, is taking the piss. If he has any sensible ideas on either AQ or Iraq, he's not telling. (Perhaps he has in mind a private consultation with Bush - accompanied by an appropriate fee .) But, even without the fee, he has the pleasure of knowing that the fawning hack thinks he's got a story.
And, under the cockamamie US media regime, he has! It's another example of objective journalism (last castigated here on November 14): Lee's position alone guarantees his column-inches.
(Just like Joseph McCarthy could spout any old bollocks about Commies (or not, depending on his formulation du jour) in the State Department - 205, 57, any damned number he chose - and the hacks would dutifully report his words as if handed down by the Almighty on Mount Sinai! )
[The link via Geitner Simmon's excellent Regions of Mind - which is rather more impressed with Zakaria's story than I am!
The blog has a somewhat similar approach to US politics, in the sense of enlightening the subject with a historical perspective - whilst it labours successfully under a crushing burden of actual knowledge about the subject that I am fortunately spared...]
Sense and nonsense from the Golden State
I get the feeling that Maria Shriver may do California good - to judge from her first (solo) appearance as the state's First Lady.
Apparently asked about the budget cuts the Governator is proposing, she doesn't have conniptions, play the housewife or clam up:
Nobody likes the cuts. Arnold doesn't like the cuts. There is nobody that takes joy in that. I think we hope California can come back and that one will be able to put money into programs in the future, but that's not the case right now. Is that painful? Yes.
Pitched just about right: moderately sympathetic but firm, no specifics; gets her word for the man right (not the Governor or my husband or swerving to avoid using any word) - Arnold is dignified, is his actual name and might even be what she calls him at home!
And she comes off as a not-Hillary, by accident or design.
From the completely Californicated column comes a memo
apparently written by Joe Sandoval, division manager for purchasing and contract services in the Internal Services Department at the County of Los Angelesto computer vendors which says that
the standard designation used for connecting two disk drives to a single IDE port, which entails setting one drive as a "master" and the second as a "slave" drive, is an example of equipment labelling that may be "construed as offensive or defamatory in nature".
Consider the amount of brainwashing - or, perhaps, diversity training - it takes to fashion a (for want of a better word) mind that could come up with such garbage. That's jumping Jim Crow with a Fosbury flop!
(Optimists might decide that the memo was a joke, a satire on PC mania and journalists' gullibility - and that, like the Onion spoof that was taken seriously by some Peking rag, the po-faced gentlemen of the American media have jumped, as predicted, to conclusions informed by their several prejudices. A quick check on Google News just now suggests that, if it was a joke, the po-faces have yet to admit it.)
AP yesterday gives a little background:
In May, a black employee of the Probation Department filed a discrimination complaint with the county Office of Affirmative Action Compliance after noticing the words on a videotape machine.
Reeks of Jesse Jackson-style shakedown to me! For the benefit of avoiding a multimillion dollar class action - not to mention ranting remotes on the local TV news from candidate Al Sharpton - you too would be happy to roll your eyes, shuffle and mumble Yassir! like Stepin Fetchit...
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Bolivia: unravelling the Indian power structure
It's a work in progress!
There are various elements that need to be brought together.
Firstly, the traditional notions and structures of government that have come down from pre-colonial times. I cannot pretend to any understanding of this to date: the key peculiarity to strike the Western mind is the prevalence of what (recycling a grand old English word) is known to the anthropologists (and other -ologists) as moiety organisation. According to the Klein snippet I've referred to before , each nation of the Aymara  was divided into two kingdoms (p17a); and the Aymara's kinship groups, or ayllus, were similarly each divided in two. And, side by side with the structures of ayllus was a parallel system of rule by local chiefs, or caciques.
When the Incas arrived, they preserved the Aymara structures, at least in some of the kingdoms (p20a). And the Spanish, too, used the existing structures as the basis of local government .
(There's an interesting short paper  which gives a flavour of the contribution of traditional forms of government to the current systems of local government.)
Second, there are those systems: during his first term of office (1993-97), President Sánchez de Lozada introduced far-reaching decentralisation legislation (far-reaching, at least, for a previously centralised state like Bolivia.) My (fragile) understanding is that it was a response to a mobilisation of Indians in opposition to the Washington Consensus economic policies followed by Bolivian governments since 1985 .
Third, there are the national organisations representing the Indians - a bit less than two-thirds of the population, a proportion spookily similar to that the of Shi'ites amongst Iraqis. Personalities plus ideology equals alphabet soup - again, there is a short paper that describes the rise of the Indian movement from the 1970s up to 1999 .
(One guy I've not mentioned before, who deserves name recognition, is Román Loayza, who is a senador suplente - or back-up - in the Bolivian Congress for Evo Morales' MAS party and, it seems, bitter enemy of Felipe Quispe of the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB) .)
Fourthly, the interaction between the Indian groups (that I call, failing anything better, the street opposition) and the regular parties and the national bureaucracy. Because both Morales' and Quispe's groups are in Congress, as well as in the street.
And lastly, the very question of Indian-ness : so strong is the Indian heritage (in combination with other factors like geography) as apparently to call into question what content the idea of the Bolivian nation has. (Hence, the ease of separatist tendencies in Santa Cruz and Tarija departments in suggesting the refundación of the country's government  - a hollowing out of something that is already pretty hollow!)
But there is also the matter of relations between the Indian groups: the Quispe-Morales antipathy, in cartoon form, is Aymara versus Quechua . Nothing else about the place is that simple, so I doubt whether this is. Nor, I expect, is it the Western indigenophile's Eden of cross-cultural tranquillity.
And there's race: the Spanish colonial model favoured mestizaje - the women who would have been the equivalent of that bane of British India, the memsahib, were left in Spain. And, to this day, Latin America works on the (at least) three-colour standard, with mestizos a separate group.
The assumption seems to be made that there is no difficulty in assigning individuals to a particular group. Are all of those who call themselves Aymaras really full-blood Indians? And are all those who call themselves white really so white?
It's the sort of apartheid racial classification nonsense slam-dunk for satire that should have done for the University of Michigan's race game before the Supremes earlier this year. But how does it work in practice in Bolivia ?
(Of course, the question does arise in the US in connection with the casino racket. On October 16, I produced a range of online sources on this farce - Prohibition in reverse - including a piece dealing with the very apartheid notion of blood quantum. Too much white blood, and it's no casino wampum! If only the missionaries had had that shot in their locker when preaching against miscegenation in the Wild West...)
Bolivia: now the generals step in over the claim against Chile
As has been mentioned here more than once, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela fancies himself rotten when it comes to pulling Uncle Sam's beard. His latest piece of troublemaking in the Back Yard was vociferous support at the Ibero-American Summit a few days ago for Bolivia's longstanding claim for a Western Hemisphere Danzig Corridor to the Pacific Ocean .
Easy to dismiss as a serendipitous combination of grandstanding and expression of gratitude to one's host.
There are signs that the story may have legs: there's a AFP story today that
El ministro de Defensa, Gonzalo Arredondo, y el comandante en Jefe de las Fuerzas Armadas, Luis Aranda Granados, coincidieron en afirmar, por separado, que Perú debe emitir un pronunciamiento oficial sobre el tema marítimo para comenzar una negociación diplomática con Chile, con la mediación de los países de la región.
As I've suggested before, though the country has had military dictatorships a-plenty, the current contingent of Bolivian brass are not in party mood: the story was that a substantial number of junior officers supported the revolt that toppled former president Sánchez de Lozada last month; and it's 21 years since the last dictator goose-stepped down from the presidential podium.
The Atacama Corridor claim gives the military cover for renewed friskiness, however: it is likely to unite large swathes of the Bolivian people - even coca-growers leader Evo Morales was quoted in April (first to come to hand) contemplating exporting Bolivian gas via a Pacific port with Bolivian, or even joint Bolivian, Peruvian and Chilean, sovereignty (though I doubt whether that offer is still good!)
And, whilst military action against Chile may be out of the question , in dealing with any deterioration in the internal security situation in Bolivia, the military may find a wag-the-dog element useful in justifying a higher profile on the streets. A kinder, gentler strategy of tension .
What would make this an actual story - rather than a concatenation of druthers - would be a statement of support for the Bolivian position from the Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo, or one of his ministers. An extensive trawl through the online Peruvian press has produced precisely nada. While a diplomatic war with Chile might have plausible benefits for a Bolivian government fighting a peasant insurgency in, say, six months time, I don't currently see what Peru would get out of joining in on Bolivia's side.
Slow-burner or fizzle? Dunno...
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
And now the Thought Police on the Hudson...
After the contributions towards a new ice-age of speech from Ariel Sharon and the University of Virginia touched on here earlier in the week, the New York Observer - whose stuff I have previously noticed with a modicum of praise - is making its contribution to replacing the US national motto with the well-known Irish advice: Whatever you say, say nothing.
In this week's editorial (screwy URL), it starts off as it means to go on:
Is The New Yorker implicitly endorsing anti-Semitism in its pages?
A free brown shirt with every subscription? Note the marvellous weaselly quality of implicitly - lacking direct evidence, one is invited to draw inferences from circumstantial evidence. And, for the guidance of the terminally obtuse, the interrogative is clearly one that expects the answer, Yes.
The searing exposé continues:
In a review of Peter Carey's novel, My Life as a Fake, John Updike refers to one of the characters, David Weiss, as "a rich Jew." Note that Mr. Updike was not quoting a passage from the book, or referring to how another character viewed David Weiss. The "rich Jew" phrase is his own.
So, one infers, it would be acceptable for a character in the novel to say rich Jew; and even for a third person narrator to do so; but not John Updike as himself.
The Observer says that
For the editors of The New Yorker to have signed off on this is insensitive at best.
Sensitising is indeed the process we're looking at: inculcating a Pavlovian reaction, threatening pain so that the act complained of will be avoided in future. Just as, in Jim Crow Mississippi, a Negro male would know by puberty never to raise his eyes to meet those of a white woman: no need for muscular enforcement, except, of course, for strangers who didn't know the code.
The very word Jew is apparently suspect : hence the absurd circumlocution Jewish person. But, qualified by rich?
To say that the expression "rich Jew" is loaded with historical anti-Semitism is an understatement. Would Mr. Updike describe someone as "a rich Catholic" or "a rich Protestant"?
Why not? In Ireland, where Catholic and Protestant are separate tribes, what more natural ? No less an oracle than Jonah Goldberg refers to rich Muslims on NRO. And the Village Voice has a review from 1999 using the expression rich blacks .
Would it matter if one could demonstrate that that the use of the word rich, attached to the names of ethnic and religious groups around was a commonplace? Clearly not: Jewish exceptionalism rules, OK, according to the Observer. Because, of all such names thus attached, only Jew is a stereotype.
And how is one to describe - to pluck a name out of the air - the Bronfman family? Who have been - and so far as I'm aware, still are, fabulously - to coin a word - rich? Use of a synonym would presumably be equally insensitive. Reference to some monetary estimate of their fortune would surely be as bad. Saying that they controlled a group of companies (Seagram) which is well known to be worth a mint, again, doesn't get round the stereotype. Whichever way you slice it, the Bronfmans are rich . And, according to the Observer's rule, we can't say it!
I'm fairly sure the paper is perfectly well aware that, in the cold light of day, any neutral - observer - would treat its contention as laughable. But that's the point: to ensure that the question is looked at, not in the cold light of day, but in the murk of half-truth and innuendo - not directly, but reflected in a distorting mirror.
And, lo and behold!, an old friend gets namechecked:
At a time when anti-Semitism has been documented to be on the rise on the country's college campuses-so much so that Harvard University president Lawrence Summers gave a speech addressing this toxic trend-it is frankly outrageous that David Remnick and the editors of The New Yorker allowed Mr. Updike's "rich Jew" to appear.
Documented by whom, you might ask, just to start? And what does the piece mean by anti-Semitism: physical attacks, student groups, literature? Or does it mean antisemitic thought? How have any of these been quantified? The writer assumes that his readers are already cowed by his rant - who amongst us can answer in the negative to the new Mark Fuhrman question? - and will allow his assertions as fact by default, without the least attempt at substantiating them.
That he should laud Summers's disgraceful weaselling  - a toxic concoction indeed! - is scarcely a surprise.
Objective journalism - another harmful side-effect
Jack Shafer in Slate yesterday brought up another nonsense of US media which he puts down to the fetish of objective journalism - condemned here often before: the fact that newspapers don't issue rebuttals to letters to the editor.
The argument underlying this Trappism is, he says, that, if the facts of a piece are believed by the paper concerned to be correct, then that's the end of the matter: paper:
...no need to comment further in its pages about shades of meaning, interpretation, or context, or to deliver a death blow to the whining subject of one of its stories...
(He raises the point in connection with a piece of Barton Gellman on the non-appearance to date of Iraqi WMD that David Kay dissed.)
The CBS/Reagan/FCC saga: whoda thunkit...
So not in my wheelhouse - but the Reagan miniseries farrago got me started on the strange case of the FCC diversity of ownership rules , and it hasn't disappointed in entertainment value.
To recap briefly, in June, the FCC issued a ruling raising the percentage of national aggregate audience reach  that could be controlled by any one company from 35% to 45%. An unholy alliance (including consumer groups and the NRA) took up arms against it, and persuaded both the House and Senate to insert a rider into the Commerce Appropriations Bill reversing the ruling (or something to that effect).
Now, as the unfinished appropriations bills have been rolled into HR 2673 , and timing gets tight, a deal has been done for the FCC limit to be pegged back - but only to 39%.
On the face of it, it sounds as if Hollywood has got the fuzzy end of the lollipop. But - and this was a point of information that should have excited my interest before, had I actually been interested in substantive questions of US TV regulation - one has to look at the numbers (courtesy of the LA Times November 26): ABC and NBC both currently score below the original 35% limit; Fox is at 38%, and CBS - who rolled over on the Reagan controversy - tops out at just 39%. Spooky or what!
The status of this deal is open to question: the Times says it was made between the White House and the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Ted Stevens (R-AK). The Dems are supposedly hopping mad. I'm not clear whether it made the conference report (USA Today November 25 suggests not.). Even if it did, it may be the sort of ballast that will get thrown out of the process at the last moment to make the appropriations balloon fly.
If I understand matters aright, the temporary funding authorisations under which the Federal government is operating in Financial Year 2004  will expire on January 31 2004. Since, in presidential election year, no one (surely?) is going to want to risk a Newt Gingrich-style government shutdown, a deal will have to be done .
Can Hollywood get leverage? Whose palms do they grease? Will the NRA ride into town for a shootout? Is that an Ennio Morricone soundtrack I'm hearing...
I think that's enough FCC, Ed. Probably.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
The thought-police is an equal opportunity career...
After Ariel Sharon's effort at mind control, noticed in yesterday's piece, it's only right to point out a similar operation back in the Land of the Free . In the University of Virginia Medical Center, at Charlottesville (just up the road from Walton's Mountain, as I recall.)
An employee of the Center is supposed to have said something like this:
I can't believe in this day and age that there's a sports team in our nation's capital named the Redskins. That is as derogatory to Indians as having a team called Niggers would be to blacks.
It's a point that's puzzled me from time to time, about the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians: the poor sucker was only reflecting a due concern for racial sensitivity! (Of course, some selected Indians are crying all the way to the bank with their casino wampum...)
Now, it seems to me that, every time I visit to Rosenberg's blog, there's some chiselling going on at UVa on a racial issue, with the local Sharptons holding their indignation meetings, and the pusillanimous administration antiphonising Amen, brother! with the mob - for fear of a shakedown, natch!
As, for instance, this:
In an e-mail sent to a black faculty e-mail list, History Prof. Julian Bond, national chair of the NAACP, called for the employee to make a public apology and take sensitivity training.
...free speech protections I hold dear... In its usage here, free is from the same lexicon as the democratic in Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Generously, Bond agrees that the University may commute the thought-criminal's sentence to kow-tow and Pol Pot-style re-education: I think we get a sense of who's running the show. Someone should check whether the good Professor's budget gets an unexpected hike next time...
But, apart from the politics, how would Bond define the scope of the thought-crime: is he suggesting that any use of nigger is to be forbidden? Surely not - how, then - to pick one example at random - could that Ur-work of American literature, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, every be discussed in his fine university?
I'd humbly suggest to those UVa students uncowed by the electronic Black Citizens' Council of which Bond seems to be Chairman that they out-stunt Bond by arranging a marathon reading of Huckleberry Finn - in aid of charity (one of Amnesty International's, perhaps). The text un-Bowdlerised, of course. Or do I mean, un-Bonded?
And what of the First Amendment (to which, as a public university, UVa is subject)? A cursory search suggests there is a good deal of material on workplace harassment and campus speech codes - but I get the impression that the law here is in the process of formation . Much further research to get up to speed on this stuff - for another time.
I note, on re-reading Rosenberg's piece, that, in referring to the matter complained of, he never actually uses the word nigger, preferring to euphemise with blanks or the N-word. A tad odd, perhaps, thus to indulge those who believe they have a right not to be offended by anything they read, in a piece whose substance will certainly offend them!
The Patron Saint of freedom to say anything inoffensive is erstwhile elected dictator of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew. Lee championed the notion of Asian Values - a sort neo-Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere notion, that Asians preferred to dispense with the luxury of individual rights with which the decadent white man pampered himself, in exchange for the material prosperity that only deference to the interests of the group could secure.
(Strangely, we don't seem to have heard much about Asian Values lately. Lee's motormouth successor in the region, Malaysia's Mahatir Mohamad, has been more keen on Jew-baiting. Which brings us back to Sharon...)
[Those curious about Tony Blair's instincts in the matter could do worse than research the case of quondam England football manager Glenn Hoddle.]
Erin O'Connor - whose stuff I'm pretty sure I came across first on Discriminations - has much more on UVa in the Slough of Despond, freedom-wise, in her blog Critical Mass, as well as stuff on academic freedom more generally.
As with Rosenberg's blog, the problem is, the higher the quality of material, the more despressed the reader! In the words of the title of the biography of Trevor Huddleston, race warrior of a bygone age, she really has naught for your comfort!
(But, then, it is surely as infantile to confine one's reading to the comforting as to the inoffensive.)
Monday, November 24, 2003
Sharon weighs in with a anti-Likud = anti-semitic rant
As flagged here many times before, a key element of neocon propaganda in support of the PNAC/NSS strategy for the Middle East is to assert as loudly and often as possible that opposition to the policies of Ariel Sharon's Likud government in relation to the Palestinians and its sovereign neighbours is an expression of anti-semitism.
The purpose of this assertion is to chill opinions in opposition to those policies, and thereby create a climate conducive to governments - above all, USG - having no political interest in opposing those policies, and every interest in supporting them.
(The sensitivity of media and politicians in the US to the most inconsequential remarks which might conceivably have antisemitic undertones is illustrated most recently in the farrago concerning Gregg Easterbrook and his review of Kill Bill .)
Now, we have Sharon on record on the subject in an interview with EUpolitix.com published today .
An example of the rhetoric:
Question: Mr prime minister, in Europe there is an attempt to distinguish between an anti-Semitism that should be condemned and a legitimate criticism toward Israel's policies. Furthermore there are those who think that Israel utilises anti-Semitism as a shield from criticism directed at her.
So, it seems, the new propaganda tool is collective anti-Semitism. The spinners are afraid that to call opposition to Likud policies antisemitism tout court would not carry conviction: people are sure they know what antisemitism is - pogroms, death-camps and the like - and know that opposing Likud comes nowhere close.
But so powerful an icon is the word antisemitic that it must be brought in at all costs: some sly qualification must be found that melts away in the presence of the white heat of the principal term. Veteran readers may recall the speech of Clinton Treasury Secretary, and now President of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers in October 2002 in connection with the then hot topic of university disinvestment from US companies trading with Israel, in which he was pleased to allege that
Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.
The re-education efforts of Pol Pot and Mao Tse-tung could scarcely have included a more mischievous concept; or the vagaries of Jim Crow etiquette set a more puzzling challenge for the unwary Negro.
What Summers then, and Sharon now, are about is, in its intention, much the same as informal Jim Crow: by vague and uncertain formulation, by establishing a large penumbra of doubt about the scope of the 'rule' being laid down, they seek to cause those to whom the rule is directed to be doubtful whether their intended conduct might constitute a transgression. Since the consequences of transgression (of the antisemitism and Jim Crow rules) are liable to be serious (but, in any case, exacted capriciously, without due process), and avoided at the trifling cost of a modicum of humiliation and sacrifice of integrity, those to whom the rule is directed will be inclined to comply. When in doubt, say nothing. Except, Yassir!, naturally .
Of course, most Europeans will not take much notice of Sharon's exercise in applied sophistry. Just as he takes little notice of their governments.
The key audience is in the US: in particular, opinion-formers who are disturbed by Israeli policy on the Wall-aka-Fence, settlement expansion and so on, and are tempted to express doubts about that policy. They will fear - not without justification, given Easterbrook, Moran and the like - that the mere accusation of anti-semitism will see colleagues and friends edging away, institutions will play it safe and cancel lectures, leave book options un-taken-up, fail to grant tenure: the whole Joe McCarthy shtick.
Our putative opinion-formers don't need to see actual cases of this happening: just the fear of it will make them play it safe.
If I were Sharon, and had at my disposal as powerful a Pavlovian tool of behaviour control as the potential allegation of anti-semitism against a US pol, academic or journo, I'd use it to the max, too.
Just so long as we're all clear that that's what he and his friends are about.
The main point about the Sharon interview picked up by the rest of the media seems to be his mention of the Moslem element of the population of Europe; though he talks about educating the Moslems about antisemitism, his suggestion, I think, is that European governments, in formulating their Middle East policies, are pandering to Moslem sentiment for electoral gain.
But, as I've said, talk between Sharon and European governments is a dialogue of the deaf. Again, the real audience is in the US:
A trope of the literature of the US South - I'm thinking here more of Woodrow Wilson's favourite, Thomas Dixon , than William Faulkner! - distinguishes between the examples of the Good Nigger (loyal to the Masser) and the Bad Nigger (monomanically bent on ravishing white women). The former is rewarded, at the minimum, with a noble death, while the latter meets a distinctly stickier end.
Similarly, Sharon wishes to distinguish between the Good of USG's Israel policy and the Bad of European governments', not in any hope of influencing the latter but to raise their Badness as a living example for the purpose of keeping the former on the straight and narrow.
Collective anti-semitism may be a difficult concept to grasp: the ugly mug of Chief Weasel Jacques Chirac, on the other hand, is easily burnt in effigy.
Jessica Lynch: even WaPo ombudsman flags deafening silence on the fake Miss Rambo story
The relatively recent spread of the ombudsman in (certain reaches of) US journalism is, of course, a welcome opportunity for the worst excesses to be highlighted. And, today, WaPo's Michael Getler tartly commented on the paper lack of comment about the Pentagon-fed fantasy it ran about Pfc Jessica Lynch's war-comic exploits against the Iraqi enemy prior to her capture in the light of her comments on the matter in her Diane Sawyer interview broadcast a few days ago:
The Post, which catapulted Lynch and the original story of her capture onto the world stage, has exhibited rather little interest in this last on-the-record phase of the story. Readers have noticed.
And he quotes a reader on the matter thus:
Given the Post's starring role in perpetuating the myth, its reporters and editors should have been the first to run a front-page interview with Jessica about her disgust at being used by the media and the military for their own cynical ends. The Post ought to have also done some top-notch, multi-story investigative reporting on who concocted this hoax and how they were able to hoodwink the public with it through the national media.
When last I referred to the Lynch case - on Armistice Day, November 11, as it happens - I mentioned the apparent extreme reluctance of the War Party to acknowledge the USG fraud that the WaPo gleefully splashed, and the impact it had on the American public.
Getler will do a considerable service if he keeps this matter alive.
[It would, of course, be a cheap shot at this point to refer to the false financial statements admittedly filed with the SEC by Conrad Black's Hollinger International Inc - purveyor, through the organs it owns, of a stream of propaganda supporting the PNAC-NSS-Likud strategy - and thereby suggest by innuendo that such falsity tainted the generality of the group's journalistic output. That would be to descend to the level of War Party hacks - and certain famous bloggers, too - who, for instance, leap on any report of corporate misdeeds in Europe as an indication of generalised moral degeneracy on le Vieux Continent.
My sense, from a little light searching, is that leading War Party bloggers have been singularly unforthcoming on the Hollinger affair. A matter to be kept under review, I think.]
No play-by-play here on Hollinger: but, since the URLs are to hand, interesting pieces on the substance here, here and here.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Boiler being fired for the Damascus Express?
As Marshal Foch said  in September 1914
Pressé fortement sur ma droite, mon centre cède, impossible de me mouvoir, situation excellente, j'attaque.
A similar idea may - I'm merely hypothesising here: let the evidence speak for itself - be informing the strategy of USG as it faces the gentle decline of its fortunes in Iraq.
Despite all the controversy about American unilateralism, the PNAC/NSS strategy in the Middle East was never a solely US project. Israel makes the difference, warrants the expenditure of time and money, justifies the negative sequelae.
In his London speech, Bush used the expression forward strategy (twice). My understanding of forward in the context is that, historically, it has referred to a policy devised to encourage a reaction from the enemy, political or military.
(Israel, of course, is a master of the use of the forward strategy - road closures, the Fence (aka the Wall), and so forth, designed to bring forth violence from the Palestinians to be used to justify harsher measures against them. The aim is that, just as the proverbial frog is brought to the boil by imperceptible increases in temperature, so Israeli measures can be brought to the level necessary to safeguard the Jewish state without a step-change involving that state being identified as the aggressor.)
So far as I'm aware, there is no direct evidence suggesting that a military attack on Syria is being planned by USG . But its ally, Israel, has already mounted such an attack: the raid by Israeli jets on the Palestinian training camp in Syria on October 6.
Meanwhile, the London Sunday Times  today has a piece referencing
a letter to an Israeli newspaper published last week [in which] Major-General Shlomo Gazit, the former head of military intelligence, expressed misgivings about the threats against Syria.
And - news to me - the piece says
He cited, in particular, a recent incident when Israeli planes buzzed the palace of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.
Imagine how Icon of the Week President John Fitzgerald Kennedy would have reacted if Nikita Khrushchev had sent over some MiGs to buzz the White House back in 1962. How many would have got back to Russia, do you think?
Gazit goes on:
For several weeks now Israel has been inciting and humiliating Damascus. It’s only a matter of time until the Syrians are unable to hold back and then the big blaze will begin.
The piece mentions an incursion of Israeli F-15s over Beirut; and supplies a quote (November 16) from Lieutenant-General Moshe Yaalon, chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces:
If Syria continues to ignore the message that Israel and other countries have sent, it may be necessary to send further messages of a different nature.
Assad is holding his fire, for the moment - I would hypothesise that he is betting against an Israeli invasion in the short term, and is waiting for the US to leave Iraq in order to secure an alliance with the new government in Baghdad. (Though that's pure connect-the dots - to be tested against the evidence as it comes to hand.)
From the US viewpoint, though, Israel's forward policy towards Syria is both threat and opportunity: on the one hand, an unexpected Israeli attack on Syria leading to war made whilst large numbers of US forces are in theatre would be less than welcome.
On the other hand, if USG, after due planning, wanted to have a casus belli for an invasion of Syria, Israeli action could be just the ticket - with (barely) plausible deniability.
[Gazit is not the only senior retired figure from the Israeli security establishment to have gone on the record against Sharon's policies: on November 14 I mentioned the statement from four former Shin Bet leaders condemning his policy towards the Palestinians. There seems to be something of an epidemic of self-hatred amongst ex Israeli brass!]
THOMAS is now functioning: the HR 1828 page - this link - says that the last action was on November 20, when the House agreed the Senate amendments to the bill and a Motion to reconsider laid on the table. I'm not chasing down what that means right now...
And the buzzing of Assad's palace took place in the middle of August.
Saturday, November 22, 2003
They killed our access to CRS Reports! You bastards!
In the previous piece, looking at the question of riders to appropriation bills, I find with relief that there is a CRS Report on that very subject . I go to Rep Mark Green's CRS page - to find that they have all vanished! I've been there a good many times, but, obviously not so much recently. (FAS have a CRS page, but only for foreign and defence reports, and I've been getting my CRS fixes there for a while, I reckon.)
I find that Rep Chris Shays had a similar deal - his CRS page has gone, too.
A little digging proves this to be conspiracy, not cock-up: the Shays/Green access was an experiment, according to this - which CRS is not planning to restart.
A WaPo piece (February 17) goes further: it refers to S Res 54 from John McCain - designed to put a proper system of net access to CRS Reports in place - but makes clear that the CRS are positively Siberian about the idea:
The CRS, however, has issued a terse response to the idea, saying that it is not designed to perform -- at least not directly -- a "public information function" and that courts have upheld its role as a "confidential and exclusive adviser to Congress."
Charles Dickens' Circumlocution Office scarcely contained a greater concentration of jobsworths!
Why did the CRS allow the Shays/Green experiment in the first place? I sense a soap opera here of Guiding Light dimensions...
The Reagan rumpus: perhaps CBS needn't have bothered...
Last time, I relayed the suggestion that a reason the Reagan miniseries might have been pulled was that Congress was liable to pass a law annulling a (potentially profitable) loosening of media ownership restrictions passed earlier this year by the FCC - and they wanted to keep Bush sweet and ready to veto the law.
Now, the legislative technique has changed: instead of a stand-alone bill, opponents of the FCC rule change are looking to add a rider to an appropriations bill. To kill the rider, Bush would have to veto the whole bill. And he wouldn't like to do that!
(It seems to me surprising that an amendment to an appropriations bill can be made germane - House Rule XVI (4) - merely by turning it into a prohibition to use money appropriated under the bill to do a thing.)
Now, not for the first time, tracking down the detail has been made monstrously more difficult by the fact that the grownup journalists fail to specify bill numbers. What's up with that?
Salon (November 21 - ad wall) says
Adding the provision to the year-end omnibus spending bill, which is a grab bag of often-important items stuffed in at the last minute by Congress, makes it politically difficult to veto.
But the latest information on THOMAS is from September (!): both the House (HR 2799) and Senate (S 1585) versions of the Commerce, etc, Appropriations Act 2004 (WaPo July 17 ) have the following §624:
None of the funds in this Act may be used to grant, transfer or assign a license for a commercial TV broadcast station to any party (including all parties under common control) if the grant, transfer or assignment of such license would result in such party or any of its stockholders, partners, members, officers or directors, directly or indirectly, owning, operating or controlling, or having a cognizable interest in TV stations which have an aggregate national audience reach, as defined in 47 CFR 73.3555, exceeding 35 percent.
And now, in a process whose details I can't say I follow  the departmental spending bills, like the Commerce one, have been magicked into an omnibus bill which (more magic!) finds itself straightaway in a conference committee! And, according to WaPo (November 20), the committee has agreed to retain in the conference report omnibus bill the FCC rider set out above.
The Salon piece identifies the weird coalition that is behind the rider:
...right-wing Christian and pro-gun groups make up a strange-bedfellows alliance with other opponents of the FCC rules: anti-corporatist liberals, anti-monopolist conservatives, music-loving opponents of the radio behemoth Clear Channel, free-speech advocates, defenders of local media.
There don't seem to be many deep pockets amongst that lot - not, at least compared with a combination of Viacom, Vivendi, Disney and News Corporation!
It occurs to me that the rider might be what used to be called a ripper bill - a bill which, if passed, would gravely injure wealthy interests, introduced for the purpose of extorting benefits from those interests in exchange for its withdrawal . With elections coming up, and many campaign warchests in need of replenishment, now is the time for Hollywood to come to the aid of the party...
Friday, November 21, 2003
The anti-abortionists' legislative technique
Having flagged the energy bill as a fine example of the chiseller's art earlier this week, a piece in Salon (compulsory ad) runs through the pro-life playbook.
It's asymmetric warfare, not totally dissimilar from what's going on out in Iraq: no frontal attack on Roe v Wade (pending the arrival of the missing Fifth Horseman), but guerrilla raids on isolated targets. Including partial-birth abortion  (was the phrase a K Street invention, I wonder?) and a putrid little number to be known as Laci and Conner's Law - aka the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2003 (HR 1997).
The wedge of which UVVA is the thin end? It would enshrine in Federal law the notion that a fetus is an unborn child. The title of the new section (§1841) it would insert in USC Title 18 is
Protection of unborn childrenand the idea is used throughout the bill.
As the piece says
Though it makes an explicit exception for abortion, within the rhetoric of a law that defines killing a fetus as murder the exception seems absurd -- and that's precisely the point.
There's also a bill to ban RU-486, and another - a sort of abortion Mann Act - to punish an adult taking a minor across a state line for an abortion free of parental consent rights: identical (to my naked eye) bills HR 1755 and S 851.
The attritional work by legislators meshes with the efforts of the picketers and doctor-killers to make it just too damned unpleasant for clinics to carry on. The result: whatever the legal position might be, so many counties don't have abortion providers that there's a de facto abortion ban already in place pro tanto. Which has the effect of lowering expectations for the existence of abortion provision amongst women generally.
So low, that, according to the piece,
An April 7 survey commissioned by the Center for the Advancement of Women, a feminist group, found that only 41 percent of women see keeping abortion legal as a top priority for the women's movement.
An isolated number like that is apt to mislead - but, on the face of it, the pro-abortion base is toppling.
(John Ashcroft is revealed to have a subtle sense of humour: he's delegated enforcement of the PBA ban to the Civil Rights Division. So, not only does he get the kind of liberal attorney that no doubt gravitates to that Division prosecuting abortion doctors, but he buttresses the perception of the fetus as a person who has civil rights.)
At the current rate of progress, by the time the Fifth Horseman arrives, most of his abortion work may, in effect, have been done.
(There's a compare and contrast to be done with the way that the civil rights movement worked in the 50s and 60s, in a synergetic combination of action in the streets, the courts and legislatures. Wearing down and worrying away, taking little victories when they offered themselves, but keeping the ultimate goal always in mind.)
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