Archive for February 22nd, 2010
I finally made this recipe. It’s quite good—and satisfying. I used French green lentils, which keep their shape better, and I might use a bit more chicken stock next time, but certainly was good tonight. I like that it uses things I don’t generally cook with: fresh sage, pancetta, radicchio.
I never heard of this, but it’s an ingenious application of neurological research.
I’m sure these encouraging developments will draw criticism from conservatives; I just can’t quite figure out why.
Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan immigrant who was a key player in what the federal authorities have said was one of the most serious threats to the United States since the 9/11 attacks, is expected to plead guilty to terrorism charges this afternoon, a law enforcement official said.
Mr. Zazi is scheduled to appear before Judge Raymond J. Dearie at Federal District Court in Brooklyn at 2:30 p.m. to plead guilty conspiracy to detonate bombs in the United States, according to the official. [...]
Mr. Zazi, who was born in Afghanistan and was raised in Pakistan and later Flushing, Queens, where he attended high school, was working as an airport shuttle driver in Denver when he was arrested in September 2009.
The federal authorities said he had received weapons and explosives training at a Qaeda camp in Pakistan, bought beauty products that contained the raw materials to build a bomb and traveled to Queens with bomb-making instructions in his laptop on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
His arrest was one of the key national security/law enforcement success stories of the last year, which reportedly is paying dividends beyond just preventing a deadly attack — Zazi is apparently cooperating with officials and providing intelligence as part of his plea agreement.
Indeed, Zazi has been sharing quite a bit of late, talking not only about his activities, but also his training, his accomplices, and his associations overseas.
U.S. officials now have all of this information without torturing Zazi, and without throwing him in Gitmo.
The Zazi case is a textbook example of a process that works — and it works because it ignores the hysterical cries of Republican hacks. Here’s a case in which we stopped a terrorist through law enforcement and intelligence gathering (which the GOP considers an example of "weakness"), read him his rights and gave him a lawyer (which, again, the GOP finds offensive), gained valuable information through torture-free questioning (which the GOP seems to think is impossible), brought him to a civilian courtroom (another thing the GOP finds outrageous), and will soon lock him up in an American prison (which the GOP considers dangerous for some reason).
By any reasonable measure, the only people who find Republicans credible on these issues are those who aren’t paying attention.
Post Script: I should note that if the White House wanted to shamelessly exploit this success story to prove a larger point, it’d be just fine with me.
Like all their plans, it relies heavily on lies and misdirection—the problem with the GOP is that the public opposes the things they want, so they have to hide or disguise what they’re really doing: if they were honest, they’d be voted out of office at the next election.
O.K., the beast is starving. Now what? That’s the question confronting Republicans. But they’re refusing to answer, or even to engage in any serious discussion about what to do.
For readers who don’t know what I’m talking about: ever since Reagan, the G.O.P. has been run by people who want a much smaller government. In the famous words of the activist Grover Norquist, conservatives want to get the government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
But there has always been a political problem with this agenda. Voters may say that they oppose big government, but the programs that actually dominate federal spending — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are very popular. So how can the public be persuaded to accept large spending cuts?
The conservative answer, which evolved in the late 1970s, would be dubbed “starving the beast” during the Reagan years. The idea — propounded by many members of the conservative intelligentsia, from Alan Greenspan to Irving Kristol — was basically that sympathetic politicians should engage in a game of bait and switch. Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit.
Read this story about the judge sleeping with the prosecutor in a capital murder trial.
Interesting article by Deborah Blum in Slate:
It was Christmas Eve 1926, the streets aglitter with snow and lights, when the man afraid of Santa Claus stumbled into the emergency room at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital. He was flushed, gasping with fear: Santa Claus, he kept telling the nurses, was just behind him, wielding a baseball bat.
Before hospital staff realized how sick he was—the alcohol-induced hallucination was just a symptom—the man died. So did another holiday partygoer. And another. As dusk fell on Christmas, the hospital staff tallied up more than 60 people made desperately ill by alcohol and eight dead from it. Within the next two days, yet another 23 people died in the city from celebrating the season.
Doctors were accustomed to alcohol poisoning by then, the routine of life in the Prohibition era. The bootlegged whiskies and so-called gins often made people sick. The liquor produced in hidden stills frequently came tainted with metals and other impurities. But this outbreak was bizarrely different. The deaths, as investigators would shortly realize, came courtesy of the U.S. government.
Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.
Although mostly forgotten today, the “chemist’s war of Prohibition” remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history. As one of its most outspoken opponents, Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was “our national experiment in extermination.” Poisonous alcohol still kills—16 people died just this month after drinking lethal booze in Indonesia, where bootleggers make their own brews to avoid steep taxes—but that’s due to unscrupulous businessmen rather than government order.
I learned of the federal poisoning program while researching my new book, The Poisoner’s Handbook, which is set in jazz-age New York. My first reaction was that I must have gotten it wrong. “I never heard that the government poisoned people during Prohibition, did you?” I kept saying to friends, family members, colleagues.
I did, however, remember the U.S. government’s controversial decision in the 1970s to spray Mexican marijuana fields with Paraquat, an herbicide. Its use was primarily intended to destroy crops, but government officials also insisted that awareness of the toxin would deter marijuana smokers. They echoed the official position of the 1920s—if some citizens ended up poisoned, well, they’d brought it upon themselves. Although Paraquat wasn’t really all that toxic, the outcry forced the government to drop the plan. Still, the incident created an unsurprising lack of trust in government motives, which reveals itself in the occasional rumors circulating today that federal agencies, such as the CIA, mix poison into the illegal drug supply.
During Prohibition, however, an official sense of higher purpose kept the poisoning program in place…
I’ve always wondered why there is no women’s ski jump event in the Winter Olympics. And literally, I have always wondered that, ever since I was a little kid, because it’s obvious women have been doing every other winter sport in the games–luge, downhill skiing, ice hockey, etc. So women’s ski jumping has always been notable for its absence.
It makes no sense: we can fly through the air on snowboards, do back flips on the moguls, yet we can’t ski jump? What’s up with that? Especially since men’s ski jumping has been an Olympic event since the 1920s.
It seems the issue is a hot topic this year and via this MSNBC.com video I finally have my answer. Although some very thin and lame excuses have been floated around, what it seems to boil down to is that the European men don’t want to be shown up by a bunch of girls, one of whom holds the record on the actual ski jump used at the Vancouver games.
Yes that’s right, Lindsey Van beat the men’s record on the exact same ski jump the men will be sliding down to claim their Olympic medals this week. I ask you: how fucked up is that?
This quote cracked me up:
In 2005, Gian Franco Kasper, FIS president and a member of the IOC, said that he didn’t think women should ski jump because the sport “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.”
Oh my God are we still having that same argument? Seriously? In this day and age? What does Gian Franco Kasper think is going to happen? Vaginas scattered all over the hill? Menstrual blood on the start bar? Boobies flying through the air?
If you think about it, it seems like men with all that stuff dangling around down there would be less “medically” suited to a whole bunch of sports, not just ski jumping. Imagine if one of y’all’s testicles just flew off in mid-air. Someone could get hurt. An eye could get poked out.
Even worse is IOC member Dick Pound, who withdrew his head from his ass long enough to utter this asinine warning to the women ski jumpers: …
When I was director of admissions at St. John’s College, I attended a conference of independent schools for women, and the issue of women in sports came up. One coach (a man, as it happened) said that he was used to getting complaints that women should not participate in vigorous sports “because of danger to their reproductive organs.” As he pointed out, men’s reproductive organs are much more exposed to danger than women’s, yet men somehow are able to play vigorous sports.
The fact is that women are discriminated against worldwide, and though the discrimination in the US is more subtle, it’s there. I recall a woman firefighter in Iowa City who had to quite because of discrimination (her uniform gloves were covertly cut, for example).
Very nice post with a table that compares and contrasts the three options now being considered. I suppose the GOP will bring their plan to the summit.
Despite Barack Obama’s pledge not to enforce the law with respect to torture and not even to investigate the various war crimes committed during the Bush Administration, the war criminals are becoming nervous—perhaps the result of a guilty conscience, hearing the footsteps of the Eumenides closing in.
So those involved in the war crimes are trotting out their most-used weapon: lies—lots of them, repeated over and over and over. Sometimes it works (cf. global warming). Greenwald:
I didn’t think it was possible, but former Bush officials — desperately fighting what they know will be their legacy as war criminals — have become even more dishonest propagandists out of office than they were in office. At National Review, Bill Burck and Dana Perino so thoroughly mislead their readers about the DOJ report — rejecting the findings of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) of ethical misconduct against John Yoo and Jay Bybee — that it’s hard to know where to begin. They devote paragraph after paragraph to hailing the intelligence and integrity of the report’s author, career DOJ prosecutor David Margolis, in order to pretend that he defended Yoo and Bybee’s work, claiming that Margolis "officially exonerated Bush-era lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee" and that "Margolis rejected OPR’s recommendation and most of its analysis." Perhaps the most deceitful claim is this one:
So, in one corner we have a legal all-star team of Mukasey, Filip, Estrada, Mahoney, Goldsmith [all right-wing Bush lawyers], and Margolis. In the other corner, we have OPR operating far outside its comfort zone and area of expertise. This shouldn’t have been close — and it wasn’t, on the merits.
Compare that to what Margolis actually said (p. 67):
For all of the above reasons, I am not prepared to conclude that the circumstantial evidence much of which is contradicted by the witness testimony regarding Yoo’s efforts establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that Yoo intentionally or recklessly provided misleading advice to his client. It is a close question. I would be remiss in not observing, however, that these memoranda represent an unfortunate chapter in the history of the Office of Legal Counsel. While I have declined to adopt OPR’s finding of misconduct, I fear that John Yoo’s loyalty to his own ideology and convictions clouded his view of his obligation to his client and led him to adopt opinions that reflected his own extreme, albeit sincerely held, views of executive power while speaking for an institutional client.
Just think about that for a minute. Margolis said that whether Yoo "intentionally or recklessly provided misleading advice to his client" when authorizing torture — about the most serious accusation one can make against a lawyer, as it means he deliberately made false statements about the law — "is a close question." That’s the precise opposite of what Burck and Perino told National Review readers about Margolis’ conclusion ("This shouldn’t have been close — and it wasn’t, on the merits").
Moreover, Margolis repeatedly adopted the OPR’s findings that the Yoo/Bybee torture memos — on which the entire American torture regime was constructed and which media elites now embrace in order to argue against prosecutions — were wrong, "extreme," misguided, and the by-product of "poor judgment." As Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin so clearly explained, the only thing that saved Yoo in Margolis’ eyes was that attorney ethical rules have been written by lawyers to protect themselves, and the bar is therefore so low that it basically includes only "sociopaths and people driven to theft and egregious incompetence by serious drug and alcohol abuse problems." As a result, Margolis could not ultimately conclude that Yoo — as shoddy and misleading as his torture authorizations were — purposely lied because Yoo "was an ideologue who entered government service with a warped vision of the world in which he sincerely believed." Does that remotely sound like exoneration?
Burck and Perino also include this, a common myth among American elites who do not believe the rule of law should apply to them: …
I want to see John Boehner and Eric Cantor wearing those enormous floppy shoes, a rubber nose, and a stupid hat. Alison Fitzgerald and Justin Blum report in Bloomberg:
Alabama Republicans Jo Bonner and Robert Aderholt took to the U.S. House floor in July, denouncing the Obama administration’s stimulus plan for failing to boost employment. “Where are the jobs?” each of them asked.
Over the next three months, Bonner and Aderholt tried at least five times to steer stimulus-funded transportation grants to Alabama on grounds that the projects would help create thousands of jobs.
They joined more than 100 congressional Republicans and several Democrats who, after voting against the stimulus bill, wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood seeking money from $1.5 billion the plan set aside for local road, bridge, rail and transit grants. The $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed last year with no Republican votes in the House and three in the Senate.
Bonner said opposing the stimulus doesn’t mean he shouldn’t help Alabama projects compete for grants. “It is my role to ensure that their request is considered by the federal agency,” he said in an e-mail.
Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming named by President Barack Obama as co-chairman of a new deficit- reduction commission, said about-faces on government funding aren’t surprising.
“It’s the original sin of Washington — it’s hypocrisy,” Simpson said. “You can’t do that then say you go out and cut the other stuff.”
Aderholt “believed that the Alabama taxpayers should be able to benefit from the programs that their tax dollars paid for,” spokesman Darrell Jordan said.
Obama, during a Feb. 19 speech to the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, said congressional critics are calling the stimulus a “boondoggle” while “making appearances at ribbon-cuttings” for local projects financed by the bill. “They’re trying to vote against their cake and eat it, too,” he said.
The Transportation Department, at the request of Bloomberg News, released almost 300 pages of letters supporting applications for grants from the Recovery Act’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, known as Tiger…
UPDATE: More here.
Maybe Obama and Holder are simply not strong enough to enforce their policies—that may explain why Yoo and Bybee got off scot-free despite the OPR Report. Look at these two stories at MPP, both by Kurt A. Gardinier:
Chris Bartkowicz was conducting a medical marijuana growing operation in his suburban Denver basement and was so confident that he was complying with state law that he decided to talk to the media, boasting to Denver’s NBC affiliate about the size and success of his operation, saying that he’s “living the dream.”
The next day his dream ended when DEA agents entered his home, placed him under arrest and carried off dozens of black bags full of marijuana plants and growing lights. While some details of this case remain unclear, Jeffrey Sweetin, the DEA special agent in charge of the Denver office, left little ambiguity as to his position. “It’s not medicine,” Sweetin said. “It’s still a violation of federal law [and] we’re still going to continue to investigate and arrest people.”
Sweetin went on to tell the Denver Post that “the time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their profit is, we seize the building and we arrest everybody.” Sweetin’s comments come just months after a recently announced change in policy by the Obama administration, which said in October that the federal government would respect state laws allowing for the growing and selling of marijuana for medicinal use.
Sweetin’s stance on the issue has seemed to soften a bit. He told the Denver Westword yesterday that the DEA is “not declaring war on dispensaries.” He went on to say, with an apparent laugh, “If we were declaring war on dispensaries, they would not be hard to find. You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting thirty of them.” Apparently someone with the Obama administration has updated Mr. Sweetin with its new policy.
Meanwhile, Chris Bartkowicz has been formally charged with “possession with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense 224 marijuana plants ” — a crime that could put him behind bars for five to forty years and cost him up to $2 million in fines.
And this one:
by Kurt A. Gardinier
President Obama campaigned yesterday for U.S. Senator Michael Bennet at the Fillmore Theater in Denver, but the real excitement occurred outside the theater, where dozens of medical marijuana patients and supporters gathered to express their frustration with the recent DEA activity in their state. Many held signs that read “Stop Arresting Patients” and “Stop Rogue DEA Raids,” referring to the DEA blatantly ignoring the change in policy made by the Obama administration this past October.
Over the past few weeks the DEA has entered and confiscated thousands of dollars worth of medical marijuana from two Colorado medical marijuana labs (Denver’s Full Spectrum Laboratories and Colorado Springs’ Genovations). Most recently the DEA arrested licensed medical marijuana grower Chris Bartkowicz, who was conducting a medical marijuana growing operation in the basement of his suburban Denver home. Bartkowicz now sits in jail facing five to forty years in prison and fines of up to $2 million.
Yesterday’s protest was organized and led by Sensible Colorado’sexecutive director Brian Vicente, who aptly points out that “at the most fundamental level, it’s just a blatant and ridiculous waste of resources to go after an individual who was absolutely growing for medical purposes.” Vicente went on to say that the “U.S. Attorney needs to get out of the dark ages,” and that “his comments are representative of decades past.” They sure are. Right on, Mr. Vicente.
Does Obama want to impose martial law to shut down the Tea Party movement?
For months, much of the right-wing blogosphere has been fuming about Executive Order 12425, which Obama amended in mid-December. The one-paragraph document grants Interpol, the international law enforcement agency based in France, special privileges within the United States—mainly immunity from the Freedom of Information Act and from lawsuits over activity considered part of its official duties. It’s no secret police conspiracy.
But thanks to Glenn Beck, the National Review, Newt Gingrich, and others, this obscure directive has fueled a firestorm of right-wing paranoia. Conservative activists warn that Obama intends to use Interpol as a "secret police" with the power to knock down doors and arrest law-abiding American citizens. No matter that Interpol agents don’t even carry guns and have no right to arrest people, or that its American office boasts all of five people. And the hysteria over the executive order is not confined to the Tea Party movement. It has also reached the highest levels of politics—that is, the US Congress.
In January, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) introduced a resolution that would require a repeal of the order. "As a former FBI agent, I believe that giving INTERPOL blanket exemptions is dangerous," Rogers explained in a statement. "This change ties the hands of American law enforcement and prevents full access to information that could be crucial for on-going U.S. investigations related to criminal or national security activity. This is no time to be weakening the ability of law enforcement to defend our nation."
The online backlash to executive order 12425 became so intense that Ron Noble, Interpol’s secretary-general, wrote a piece for Newsweek’s website debunking the conspiracy theory. "An executive order cannot legally authorize an unconstitutional act, and this one doesn’t even come close," he wrote.
But Noble’s appeal for reason isn’t likely to quiet the storm. That’s because the Obama executive order feeds a thriving narrative on the right about the current administration’s nefarious intentions. Ever since Obama took office, certain corners of the Internet have been frothing with speculation that Obama fancies himself a Mobutu-style African dictator who is furtively plotting to use martial law to crush dissent or unrest over his economic policies.
President Obama unveiled his compromise healthcare plan today, and it’s almost exactly what everyone expected. Here’s the White House list of the "key changes" he’s proposing to the Senate bill that passed last December, along with annotations:
- Eliminating the Nebraska FMAP provision and providing significant additional Federal financing to all States for the expansion of Medicaid [i.e., the end of the "Cornhusker Kickback," essentially by making the same deal available to all states];
- Closing the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” coverage gap;
- Strengthening the Senate bill’s provisions that make insurance affordable for individuals and families[i.e., higher subsidies for low-income families];
- Strengthening the provisions to fight fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid;
- Increasing the threshold for the excise tax on the most expensive health plans from $23,000 for a family plan to $27,500 and starting it in 2018 for all plans [i.e., removing the special deal unions got on the excise tax and instead making their deal available to everyone];
- Improving insurance protections for consumers and creating a new Health Insurance Rate Authority to provide Federal assistance and oversight to States in conducting reviews of unreasonable rate increases and other unfair practices of insurance plans [i.e., allowing HHS to prevent gigantic premium increases like the 39% rise recently announced by Anthem in California].
These are modest changes, but they ought to be enough to bring everyone back to the table. Wonks get to keep the excise tax, but it’s scaled back considerably to keep unions happy. However, in order to keep it from being a "sweetheart deal," the change applies to all high-cost health plans, not just those for unions. Increased subsidies and increased federal Medicaid financing also ought to make everyone happy.
This will cost money, of course, but the White House insists that its plan will cut the deficit by $100 billion over ten years, just like the current Senate bill. How? It cuts payments to Medicare Advantage a bit more than the Senate bill, it expands the Medicare payroll tax on high-income individuals to cover investment income as well as wage income, and increases assessments on the pharmaceutical industry a bit.
(Plus, in a fascinating little aside, it raises a bit of money by eliminating the "black liquor" tax credit loophole. See here for details on this ingenious little tax system rip-off.)
Anyway, no big surprises here. There’s no public option, and Obama’s plan threads the needle between the House and Senate bills pretty carefully. He’s obviously hoping for a low-drama compromise that both sides can agree to pretty quickly. Next stop: the Thursday "conversation" with Republicans on C-SPAN. Should be interesting stuff, especially if the Democratic caucus gets its act together and decides to support Obama’s plan without too much squawking and infighting. Stay tuned.
Daniel Schulman is Mother Jones‘s Washington-based news editor. He writes:
The Office of Professional Responsibility report on the Bush administration’s torture memos—released at long last this evening, completely bollixing this reporter’s plans for after work cocktails—is remarkable on a number of levels, not least the duration it took to put together. The report was almost five years in the making. What took so damn long? "This was not a routine investigation," the report notes, going on to detail a laundry list of complications. One was the deletion of the email records of Office of Legal Counsel officials John Yoo and Patrick Philbin. (Sound familiar?)
The report elaborates in a footnote:
OLC initially provided us with a relatively small number of emails, files, and draft documents. After it became apparent, during the course of our review, that relevant documents were missing, we requested and were given direct access to the email and computer records of [REDACTED], Yoo, Philbin, [Assistant Attorney General Jay] Bybee, and [Assistant Attorney General Jack] Goldsmith. However, we were told that most of Yoo’s email records had been deleted and were not recoverable. Philbin’s email records from July 2002 through August 5, 2002—the time period in which the Bybee Memo was completed and the Classified Bybee Memo…was created—had also been deleted and were reportedly not recoverable.
Also slowing down the process was some "witnesses’ initial reluctance to provide information," and a complete lack of cooperation by others, including Vice President Dick Cheney’s legal counsel and later chief of staff David Addington and former deputy White House counsel Timothy Flanigan, both of whom refused interviews.
And there was at least one other complicating factor. During the years the OPR was conducting its inquiry into the memos, the watchdog was saddled with so many other allegations of malfeasance by the Bush Justice Department (including, presumably, the agency’s politicized hiring practices and the US attorney firings) it was difficult to keep up with it all:
All of these problems were exacerbated by limited OPR resources, in light of an unprecedented number of complex investigations of high-level officials occurring during this same time period.
Given the range of difficulties OPR "experienced in obtaining information over the past five years," the watchdog leaves open the possibility that its exhaustive report may not even be the final word on the controversial memos: "It remains possible that additional information eventually will surface regarding the CIA program and the military’s interrogation programs that might bear upon our conclusions."
Thomas Friedman told readers that: "But now it feels as if we are entering a new era, ‘where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people,’ said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum."
Unfortunately, Mr. Friedman apparently doesn’t talk to anyone who has ever taken any economics. There are no serious forecasts that do not project that productivity will continue to grow for the indefinite future, and many project that productivity will grow at a more rapid pace than it did in the years from 1973-1995. This means that there is no reason, except incompetent economic management and/or the continuing upward redistribution of income, why the vast majority of the population should not experience improvements in living standards. This would mean an increase in both public and private services.
Friedman does have a nice house, though.
UPDATE: A good introduction to the article below with more background info.
An interesting if frightening article by Justine Sharrock in Mother Jones. It begins:
THE .50 CALIBER Bushmaster bolt action rifle is a serious weapon. The model that Pvt. 1st Class Lee Pray is saving up for has a 2,500-yard range and comes with a Mark IV scope and an easy-load magazine. When the 25-year-old drove me to a mall in Watertown, New York, near the Fort Drum Army base, he brought me to see it in its glass case—he visits it periodically, like a kid coveting something at the toy store. It’ll take plenty of military paychecks to cover the $5,600 price tag, but he considers the Bushmaster essential in his preparations to take on the US government when it declares martial law.
His belief that that day is imminent has led Pray to a group called Oath Keepers, one of the fastest-growing “patriot” organizations on the right. Founded last April by Yale-educated lawyer and ex-Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes, the group has established itself as a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanan have all sung its praises, and in December, a grassroots summit it helped organize drew such prominent guests as representatives Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, both Georgia Republicans.
There are scores of patriot groups, but what makes Oath Keepers unique is that its core membership consists of men and women in uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans. At regular ceremonies in every state, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution—but then they go a step further, vowing to disobey “unconstitutional” orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government.
LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, who is on something of a crusade against big corporations hijacking the California initiative process, tells the story today of a big corporation hijacking a municipal initiative process in order to exempt itself from the laws that apply to everyone else. The city is Carpinteria, on the Pacific coast just north of Los Angeles:
The corporation is Venoco Inc., an independent oil company with revenue of more than half a billion dollars a year, which currently owns an oil storage facility in Carpinteria….This Denver-based firm is spending lavishly to pass a ballot initiative specifically exempting itself from the city’s industrial development and environmental rules.
That’s because it’s afraid that Carpinteria’s elected officials, left to their own devices, might not greenlight its proposal to operate a 10-story oil derrick round the clock on its property next to a 225-home residential neighborhood and on the edge of the ecologically sensitive coastal bluffs.
[Gruesome details follow.....]
So here we are on the cusp of a new California trend: businesses that don’t care to bother with legitimate government regulatory procedures scampering directly to the voters. All it takes is money. Venoco has reported spending more than $155,000 on the initiative up to the end of 2009, but a company spokesman told me last week that more money has been spent since then. And the election is still three months away.
So let’s take a guess and say that Venoco is going to spend half a million dollars in a city with 6,000 registered voters. It’s democracy in action! One can only hope that, regardless of the merits of Venoco’s case, the residents of Carpinteria are smart enough to defeat this resoundingly just to send the appropriate message. The corporatization of the California initiative process has been a cancer for a long time, and it’s long past time to put a stop to it.
This will not bother the commenter who believes that we can trust businesses to do what’s right, but it bothers the hell out of me.