Friday, November 30

Pay Attention

I really enjoyed those pictures of President Bush and President Vladimir Putin of Russia back-slapping and barbecuing down at the Bush ranch in Crawford the other day. It was heart-warming. You don't see that very often. But you know what else you don't see very often? Such a personal, important summit meeting that doesn't reach any agreement. Now that's unusual. But because the Taliban were falling at the time, no one paid attention. We should.
Houston, we have a problem here. And the problem can best be framed as: How much of President Bush's pre-Sept.-11 foreign policy agenda is he ready to abandon in order to advance his post-Sept.-11 agenda?

The Bush team came to office obsessed with building a ballistic missile shield. In order to test missiles for such a shield the Bushies insist they must remove the restrictions set by the 1972 ABM treaty with Russia. Many experts argue that the U.S. could do all the testing it needs now within the ABM treaty, but the Bush hard-liners don't care. Because what they really want is to get rid of the ABM treaty, and all nuclear arms control, so they can be free to pursue Ronald Reagan's fantasy of a total Star Wars missile shield.

The Russians initially resisted changing ABM. The ABM treaty is critical to Russia as confirmation of its superpower status, and for maintaining nuclear predictability. By keeping ABM, the Russians feel they have a legal barrier that would prevent the U.S. from developing something more than just the "limited" shield the Bush team claims to want. What the Russians fear is a total Star Wars umbrella that might make the U.S. invulnerable to missile attack and thus able to strike Russia without fear of retaliation. This would upset the nuclear balance that has kept the peace since World War II.

Now for a brief aside: While the Bush administration was pushing missile defense as its priority before Sept. 11, some of us were arguing otherwise. We began by asking a simple question. What are the real threats to U.S. security? The answers were: nuclear proliferation, missile proliferation, terrorism, mafias, rogue states and financial contagion. Then we asked: Is there any way the U.S. could effectively deal with any of these threats without a cooperative relationship with Russia? Since the answer was NO, we argued that missile defense, not to mention NATO expansion, should be subordinated to forging a strategic relationship with Moscow. Nothing has vindicated that view more than the events since Sept. 11, when Russia's support has been essential for fighting the Taliban, and would be even more critical for fighting Iraq.
Don't upset the mutually assured destruction (MAD) balance that has kept us 'safe' from nuclear attack all my life. MAD was good enough for Dad and it's good enough for me.

Thursday, November 29 NewsFlash ACLU supports longtime critic Falwell in property lawsuit against Virginia
The Associated Press
11/28/01 12:32 PM
LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) -- The American Civil Liberties Union offered to support the Rev. Jerry Falwell in his challenge of Virginia laws that restrict how much property a church can own.
Though Falwell often chides the activist group, the offer was welcomed by Jerry Falwell Jr., who is representing his father in the case.
Proof that civil liberties are not just some leftist social agenda. While I understand the ACLU taking the case, I'd have been o.k. with the idea of just letting Falwell pray for a positive outcome.

November 29, 2001

An Implosion on Wall Street

The company's autopsy will be a complicated affair, entailing numerous lawsuits. What is already clear, and will come as a shock to millions of trusting individual investors across America, is that the financials of a Fortune 500 company were essentially a mystery. Enron's death watch began last month when it grudgingly disclosed that $1.2 billion of its market value had vanished as a result of "related-party" transactions with private partnerships that enriched company insiders. Then Enron admitted that it had overstated its profits over the last five years by $600 million. Dynegy cited Enron's lack of forthrightness as a reason to walk away from the merger agreement.

Not very long ago, competitors and Democrats in Washington were worrying whether the close ties between Enron's chairman, Kenneth Lay, and George W. Bush would give the company too much influence. Enron has aggressively lobbied, with some success in recent years, to limit regulation and disclosure of its trading operations.
Creative accounting and lack of proper controls allowed millions of American's to be duped into furthering the wealth of the few at the expense of the many. Look for a similar outcome within government accounting practices as baby Bush and company stifle information that would make them look bad. They'll probably be using the excuse of protecting our children from terrorists. They've already figured out how to save our children from prosperity. Will they figure out a way to blame Clinton? Count on it. Bush is as bankrupt intellectually as the Enron Corp appears to be financially.
Calendar Live - Is This Seat Worth $14? Is This Seat Worth $14?
L.A. moviegoers have a new option: The "upscale cinema." Writer Jon Burlingame tries out the Bridge at Howard Hughes Center.

By JON BURLINGAME, Special to The Times

They're called Director's Halls at the Bridge: Cinema de Lux, and they are the ne plus ultra of L.A. moviegoing: Roomy leather seats, stadium seating, reservations required, assigned seating, ushers who don't just clean up the popcorn after every show but escort you to your seats.
Of course, it's not cheap. Top ticket on weekends is $14, but to a certain segment of the audience, it's worth it. Plus the snack bars serve frozen cappuccino, personal pizzas and boneless hot wings. There's even a lounge where alcohol and sandwiches are served before, during and after the movie.
What, no caviar. I'm outraged!!

Wednesday, November 28

Stolen-car suspect too young to drive / 12-year-old being held in Santa Cruz County Stolen-car suspect too young to drive
12-year-old being held in Santa Cruz County

Alan Gathright, Chronicle Staff Writer Wednesday, November 28, 2001

The Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputy knew it wasn't a routine stop when he pulled over the new Acura sedan he said was weaving and lurching all over the road: The short, boyish driver was sitting on a backpack to peer over the dashboard.
Figuring he'd seen baby-faced state troopers who didn't look old enough to drive, Deputy Derek Fenster gave the kid the benefit of the doubt and asked for his driver's license.
Patting his pants pockets, the driver said, "Oh! I left my license at home, " recounted Deputy Kim Allyn, the sheriff's office spokesman. Fenster ordered the driver out of the car and was stunned to see he "was no taller than 4 feet. "
Further investigation revealed the motorist was a brash 12-year-old driving a stolen car -- his second car-heist bust.
The kid had been in court THE SAME DAY for his first offense. Now would not be a good time to ask me if I thought the parents ought to be held responsible.

Tuesday, November 27

Capital punishment is the harshest, most terrifying use of government power, and it explains why elsewhere in the Western world, the death penalty has been abolished either in law or in practice -- and why, incidentally, Spain is balking at extraditing alleged terrorists to the United States. Yet Texas's sloppy and inexcusable application of capital punishment troubled Bush not at all. He dispatched 152 people and slept the sleep of a baby.
So, for that matter, did the occasional defense lawyer in a death-penalty case. Many defendants went to their deaths represented by hacks or incompetents, and almost all the court-appointed lawyers, underfunded by the state, were handicapped in mounting an aggressive defense. Minors and the mentally feeble were executed for crimes they dimly perceived, and such was the condition of Texas's capital punishment system that as soon as Bush decamped for Washington, the state moved to clean up its act.
All this would be mere history if it were not apparent that Bush the president is as apathetic as Bush the governor when it comes to civil liberties. Attorney General John Ashcroft, less amiable than his boss, has played the heavy in much of what has recently been done in the cause of homeland security, but he is Bush's man -- down to, and including, a manic enthusiasm for the death penalty.
In the name of anti-terrorism, the government has abridged what was once the unquestioned right of lawyers and their clients to confidential consulta
Don't mix science and religion Of course, those who believe life begins at conception absolutely could not support cloning embryos for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells. I understand and respect this. President Bush and others have every right to stand by what they believe.
But their beliefs should not be shaping public policy. In other words, I don't want someone else's religion getting in the way of my science. If my son had bone cancer and stem cells from a cloned embryo could cure him, I would not hesitate to do it; I wouldn't consider the microscopic clump of cells to be a human life but rather a means of giving new life to my son.

Friday, November 23

Those Fox "all-stars" discussed Clinton's speech. Too bad that no "all-star" had read it. "If any American deserves any guilt for laying the groundwork for September 11, Bill Clinton’s name must come at the top of most lists. How fitting that he should seek to deflect this fact by casting aspersions on the country whose highest office he besmirched and disgraced."

-Andrew Sullivan, writing on "Clinton Speaks," Thursday at

What’s so amazing about that clip-job? Sullivan placed these idiot comments on his web site last Thursday, November 8—four days before the WashTimes ran it. The following day, he took it all back—noting that he had been deceived by an "appallingly slanted" piece in the Washington Times! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/9/01. Incredibly, Sullivan hadn’t read Clinton’s speech when he posted his original, astonishing comments.) But Pruden’s paper runs on deceit; it exists to lie, dissemble and deceive you. Imagine! Knowing that Sullivan had renounced his essay—and knowing that he’d blamed the Times for its errors—the Times went ahead and published it anyway, not telling its readers about his later reversal. People who will lie in your faces like that are people who will lie in your faces about anything. There’s a word for Wes Pruden and his slimy little band. And you know that word—anti-American.
College bans affairs between professors and students

Nov. 21, 2001 | WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) --

Affairs between professors and undergraduates have been banned at the College of William and Mary, where a former instructor caused a furor by writing a magazine article about his romance with a student.

The policy adopted Friday bans "consensual amorous relations" between professors and undergraduates and the professors' graduate students.

Faculty members who violate the rule could face dismissal, but exemptions may be granted "in exceptional circumstances."
I'm wondering exactly what 'exceptional circumstances' would qualify? Could a professor claim he was so horny he thought he might
explode? I'm just searching for a little clarity here.

Wednesday, November 21

The Village Voice: Features: Assault on Liberty: Military Justice Is to Justice as Military Music Is to Music by Alan M. Dershowitz Assault on Liberty
by Alan M. Dershowitz

Military Justice Is to Justice as Military Music Is to Music

Long-term resident of the United States who President Bush believes may have aided a terrorist can now be tried in secret by a military commission and be sentenced to death on the basis of hearsay and rumor with no appeal to any civilian court, even the Supreme Court. This is the upshot of the "military order" issued by Bush on November 13, 2001. And that is not all. Noncitizens suspected of membership in Al Qaeda or of aiming "to cause injury to or adverse effects on the United States" can be rounded up and "detained at an appropriate location" for an indefinite time without access to the courts.
I'm taking a wait and see attitude toward these 'extralegal' wranglings being enacted by the Republican zealots. Let's see how long before they abuse the powers they are arbitrarily giving themselves. I'm guessing it won't be long.
A Police Force Rebuffs F.B.I. on Querying Mideast Men A Police Force Rebuffs F.B.I. on Querying Mideast Men

The Portland, Ore., police will not cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its efforts to interview 5,000 young Middle Eastern men nationwide because such questioning violates state law, the department's acting police chief, Andrew Kirkland, said yesterday.
The decision is the first known case of a city's refusing to go along with the antiterrorism effort, which was announced last week by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Maybe this is payback from the people of Oregon who are not exactly happy with Ashcroft for trying to subvert the majority vote in Oregon concerning an individuals right to end his/her own suffering?
In Utah, a Government Hater Sells a Germ-Warfare Book In Utah, a Government Hater Sells a Germ-Warfare Book
ALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 19 — At the "Crossroads of the West" gun show here last weekend, weapons dealers sold semi- automatic rifles and custom-made pistols, and ammunition wholesalers unloaded bullets by the case. But perhaps the most fearsome weapon for sale in the cavernous, crowded exposition center was a book
What's up with this? Feds too busy protecting terminal patients in Oregon from themselves to bother this guy? Or maybe he's one of
Ashcroft's favorite gun nut friends? Just asking.

Monday, November 19 People | Cher and Cher alone Or look that way, either
"In my heart of hearts, I'm a black R&B singer -- I just don't sound that way."
-- Barry Manilow on his inner hepcat, in the New York Post.

Friday, November 16

Monte Vista clamps down on cheeky act But since when does the long-standing, if sophomoric, art of mooning constitute a felony? Drop trou, and get dropped in the hoosegow? It could happen to Grillo if the Contra Costa district attorney's office decides to press charges against the Danville teen.
Hey, buddy, whattya in for, dealing crack?
Well, in a manner of speaking. .

Thursday, November 15

Seizing Dictatorial Power Seizing Dictatorial Power
ASHINGTON -- Misadvised by a frustrated and panic-stricken attorney general, a president of the United States has just assumed what amounts to dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens. Intimidated by terrorists and inflamed by a passion for rough justice, we are letting George W. Bush get away with the replacement of the American rule of law with military kangaroo courts.
In his infamous emergency order, Bush admits to dismissing "the principles of law and the rules of evidence" that undergird America's system of justice. He seizes the power to circumvent the courts and set up his own drumhead tribunals — panels of officers who will sit in judgment of non-citizens who the president need only claim "reason to believe" are members of terrorist organizations.
What Price Patriotism? / The new USA Patriot Act treads upon the same freedoms it purports to protect I hope that the USA Patriot Act will be used wisely and carefully and rarely, because as much as any of the freedoms we're over there bombing Afghanistan and cutting off bank accounts to protect, the right to privacy is certainly one of them. We shouldn't have to cross our fingers and hope we can keep it safe from our very own elected representative government.
EXTRAORDINARY TIMES: SECRET GOVERNMENT (PART I) Whatever the threat of these times -- and it is both great and mysterious -- the Bush administration, with significant help from Congress, is using it to rewrite American law and tradition. The new rules make it easier to conduct wiretaps and searches of homes, detain and deport people accused of nothing, and monitor conversations between suspects and their lawyers. Such things merit debate.
The president also, on Nov. 1, signed an executive order giving himself the power to prevent historians and others from ever inspecting any of the records of recent presidents, including himself. He now has complete control over what we will officially know or not know about what the U.S. government is doing in our name in this extraordinary time.