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K Marx The Spot

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25 July 2005

Whither Standards?

What does it take for television stations to let a fraud stay on the air? Probably just some money. As the New York Times Book Review notes, Kevin Trudeau, infamous shiller of coral tablets that would supposedly cure cancer, is back on the air.

In the 1990's, Kevin Trudeau went to prison for credit card fraud. Last year, he was fined $2 million and banned from infomercial advertising—he's appeared in or produced hundreds of these late-night spots—in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. (Among the dubious products he hawked: Coral Calcium Supreme tablets, which he said could cure cancer.) But Trudeau, a man one F.T.C. attorney called "a habitual fraud artist," is back on television, exploiting a loophole in his ban that lets him peddle books in infomercials.

Just what sort of "public interest" does it serve for cable and television outlets to continue to show his infomercials? I suggest firm but gentle communciation with the general managers of the offending stattions may help.

Posted by Tim W at 7/25/2005 11:58:00 PM

Relativist Republicans

Once upon a time, the United states actually pretended to be against the spread of nuclear weapons. There was always the nasty problem of Israel's not-so-secret cache of nuclear weapons, but the United States government at least tried to discourage India and Pakistan from going nuclear. When South Africa voluntarily and quietly dismantled its token nuclear armory, the United States was a instrument for de-escalation. And when Ukraine and Kazakhstan found that independence brought with it nuclear weaponry, the united States was eager to have the two new nations disarm.

Throughout the past 30 years, the United States government had treated India as anathema in terms of nuclear cooperation. In 1974, India exploded a bomb—officially a "peaceful nuclear explosion"—using plutonium diverted from a Canadian research reactor. India is among the few nations that has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In 1998, India detonated a test series of hydrogen bombs and declared itself officially a nuclear weapons state.

In June 2003, Bush had his knickers in a twist over Iran's nuclear program:

"The international community must come together to make it very clear to Iran that we will not tolerate construction of a nuclear weapon," Mr Bush said. "Iran would be dangerous if it had a nuclear weapon."

Mr Bush added that he had raised the subject with other members of the Group of 8 governments at their recent summit in France. "There was near-universal agreement that we all must work together to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," he said.

And who can forget the plethora of images of Iraq's supposed nuclear program, complete with circles and arrows on the fronts of each one, telling the world who made the bad weapons, what they were for, and why Iraq had to sit on the Group W bench.

Indeed, until last week, American foreign policy on nuclear weapons was merely hypocritical—American nuclear weapons were forces for good; Israeli and Pakistani nuclear weapons were Not To Be Discussed; Iranian nuclear weapons were incredibly dangerous, albeit not yet in existence; North Korean nuclear weapons were all Clinton's fault. At least Indian nuclear weapons were not yet in focus.

When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came to Washington, Bush and Singh issued a grandiose press release, declaring that the two countries were "strong global partners"—a statement that previous presidents could also claim, if they ignored the nuclear explosions that made most of the world quite nervous. But no longer.

Completion Of The Next Steps In Strategic Partnership (NSSP) Initiative. The NSSP encompasses cooperation in commerce in space, civil nuclear energy, and dual-use technology.

That bullet-point was the first of eight initiatives for the two governments, but it was the only that announced a collapse of the American treatment of nuclear proliferation. Indeed, not only would India and the United State cooperate on civilian nuclear technology—in spite of the fact that India abused its civilian technology two generations ago to make its first nuclear weaponsᾰbut that the United States, contrary to existing law, would be selling billion of dollars of military equipment to a nuclear proliferator.

Even I never thought that relativism would do so well within a supposedly conservative administration.

Posted by Tim W at 7/25/2005 11:19:00 PM

15 July 2005

Blood in the Water

A truly liberal press corps would start asking tough questions of Scott McLellan—and his boss—well before there was the whiff of indictments. Go read the full transcript of the 11 July hearing—this leval of evasion and cynicism is why Nixon's press secretary, Ron Ziegler, was the perfect mouthpiece for his boss.

Yet what is more important? Seeing Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House? Or asking why a needless, immoral, and fruitless war got the go-ahead in the first place? It seems to be the former for our so-called liberal media.

Posted by Tim W at 7/15/2005 08:05:00 AM

Conference Call

Brad DeLong rightly points to the elephant in the corner of the room and shouts: "there's an elephant in the room!"

[Senator] Grassley's problem [about making what Grassley thinks are prudent changes to Social Security] is that whatever deals he strikes in the Senate will be reversed when the bill goes to the conference committee. He needs a commitment from the Republican House leadership that they will pass the Senate bill unaltered. That's where the breakdown of legislative process has gotten us. That's a piece of paper Grassley needs to have in his hand before he can move anything that isn't partisan posturing out of his committee.

It would be nice if some print journalist somewhere would write something about how the present gridlock is in large part a result of the use made of conference committees since the start of 2001.

In a decade or two, this is what political scientists will be writing about today's Congress, long after Duke Cunningham has joined the ranks of crooked ex-Congressmen.

Republicans in Washington are expert in using conference committees to craft essentially new legislation. (The committees are supposed to reconcile differences between versions of legislation that has passed the Senate and House, so that each chamber can then pass the same bill.) Even perverting the job of the conference committee might be tolerable if the standard mode of legislative action in the Republican-led congress were not to spring massive bills on the House and Senate with no time either to debate the final bill, or even to read it.

I have written before that now is the time for some Democrat to play Howard Metzenbaum for a Senate term and put an end to this nonsense.

Posted by Tim W at 7/15/2005 07:55:00 AM

Back in the Saddle

Gary Younge in the Guardian this week penned an excellent response to the brutal murders of commuters in London—that words to this effect appear in the mainstream British media and not the mainstream American media is prima facie evidence that the so-called liberal media is hardly the left-wing powerhouse that gets American conservatives so perenially exercised.

Shortly after September 11 2001, when the slightest mention of a link between US foreign policy and the terrorist attacks brought accusations of heartless heresy, the then US national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice got to work. Between public displays of grief and solemnity she managed to round up the senior staff of the National Security Council and ask them to think seriously about "how do you capitalise on these opportunities" to fundamentally change American doctrine and the shape of the world...

For those interested in keeping the earth intact in its present shape so that we might one day live on it peacefully, the bombings of July 7 provide no such "opportunities". They do not "clarify" or "sharpen" but muddy and bloody already murky waters. As the identities of the missing emerge, we move from a statistical body count to the tragedy of human loss—brothers, mothers, lovers and daughters cruelly blown away as they headed to work. The space to mourn these losses must be respected. The demand that we abandon rational thought, contextual analysis and critical appraisal of why this happened and what we can do to limit the chances that it will happen again, should not. To explain is not to excuse; to criticise is not to capitulate.

We know what took place. A group of people, with no regard for law, order or our way of life, came to our city and trashed it. With scant regard for human life or political consequences, employing violence as their sole instrument of persuasion, they slaughtered innocent people indiscriminately. They left us feeling unified in our pain and resolute in our convictions, effectively creating a community where one previously did not exist. With the killers probably still at large there is no civil liberty so vital that some would not surrender it in pursuit of them and no punishment too harsh that some might not sanction if we found them.

These basic humanistic precepts are the principle casualties of fundamentalism, whether it is wedded to Muhammad or the market. They were clearly absent from the minds of those who bombed London last week. They are no less absent from the minds of those who have pursued the war on terror for the past four years....

It is no mystery why those who have backed the war in Iraq would refute this connection. With each and every setback, from the lack of UN endorsement right through to the continuing strength of the insurgency, they go ever deeper into denial. Their sophistry has now mutated into a form of political autism—their ability to engage with the world around them has been severely impaired by their adherence to a flawed and fatal project.

The autism that Younge describes is not solely the autism of American political leaders, but also of the American media and the American public. And the American political opposition is too cowardly to point it out.

Posted by Tim W at 7/15/2005 07:45:00 AM

09 July 2005

"Live The Life They Choose"

I read with admiration the statement delivered by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, and published in the Financial Times on July 7, 2000. Livingstone speaks to the world and the whole world is listening. Indeed, the bombings in that great city were “a cowardly attack” aimed at “ordinary Londoners”, who live and work in the most multi-cultural city in the world.

May we in America hear clearly Livingstone’s call promoting freedom and liberty, no matter the level of terror and political pressure. In America, much of the terror we have faced in our history has been home grown. At this most delicate moment in history, it is my hope that President Bush nominates a man or woman for the Supreme Court that understands the liberty of which Livingstone speaks. May all of the people in our great nations “live the life they choose.”
Posted by PAUL at 7/09/2005 06:13:00 AM

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