Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Ethics And The Bush Administration - The Environment

Environmental Media Services and The Unified Forest Defense Campaign have released a media tip sheet on the ethical lapses of the Bush Administration in regards to environmental policy.

There is growing concern that the current Administration has become comfortable operating within a pattern of deception and spin to circumvent laws and environmental protections and exploit the natural resources found on public lands. From keeping confidential files on public meetings, misleading the public through misnamed programs, ignoring scientific and economic facts, to granting sweetheart out-of-court settlements to friends in industry, Administration officials have become increasingly brazen in their intentions toward public lands.

Collectively, these examples illustrate a pattern that—at best—skirts ethics, and—at worst—demonstrates contempt for public involvement and maintaining a healthy balance between economic growth and environmental protection.

They list a number of areas along with supporting information for each. I won't go into detail here, but there are a number of examples for each charge.

1. Withholding Information From The Public

2. Misleading The Public

3. Out of Court Settlements That Favor Industry

4. Ignoring Scientific Information

In other words...deception, double dealing, lying, cheating, profiteering, corruption, cynicism, and fundamentalist irrationalism.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Bush Administration Attempts To Gag FBI Interpreter And Critic Of 9/11 Preparedness
The Bush administration will today seek to prevent a former FBI translator from providing evidence about 11 September intelligence failures to a group of relatives and survivors who have accused international banks and officials of aiding al-Qa'ida.

Sibel Edmonds was subpoenaed by a law firm representing more than 500 family members and survivors of the attacks to testify that she had seen information proving there was considerable evidence before September 2001 that al-Qa'ida was planning to strike the US with aircraft. The lawyers made their demand after reading comments Mrs Edmonds had made to The Independent.

But the US Justice Department is seeking to stop her from testifying, citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege". Today in a federal court in Washington, senior government lawyers will try to gag Mrs Edmonds, claiming that disclosure of her evidence "would cause serious damage to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States".


Her lawyer, Mark Zaid, said last night: "The FBI wants to shut her up completely." He said it was ridiculous to claim that everything Mrs Edmonds knew had national security implications. Rather, he said, the FBI wanted to silence his client to save its embarrassment.

The Bush administration has been put on the back foot by allegations that senior officials - perhaps even Mr Bush himself - were provided with considerable information warning of an imminent attack by al-Qa'ida and that they failed to act. Mrs Edmonds said yesterday: "What are they are afraid of? If I am not allowed to give evidence, the families will not get the information I have; that will be that."

She said it was wrong for the Bush administration to claim it wanted a full investigation. "If there is transparency, there is going to be accountability and that is what they don't want."

That's a day old actually. The judge agreed to hear the case next month.

National Rifle Association Seeks Not Just To Influence, But Become, Big Media
In the spring of 1990, Philip Morris circulated a top-secret proposal suggesting that the nation's biggest cigarette manufacturer acquire a news company such as Knight Ridder in order to "improve the climate for the marketing and use of tobacco products."

Luckily, Big Tobacco never acquired Big Media, and the nation was saved from the prospect of newspapers run by the Marlboro Man. Since then, the threat of special interests' owning news outlets hasn't gone away. In fact, it has come closer to reality.

Earlier this month, at its annual meeting in Pittsburgh, the National Rifle Association (NRA) launched, a private news company that offers a daily Internet talk show and plans to acquire TV and radio stations.

NRA President Wayne LaPierre was candid about the goal: to give the NRA's media arm the same legal recognition as a mainstream news organization, so that it can push pro-gun views and candidates without the pesky constraints of the campaign-finance law's ban on certain donations.

In the U.S., there are few legal restrictions on who can own news outlets. After all, defense contractor General Electric owns NBC. So who's to say Wal-Mart or ExxonMobil — or Philip Morris, for that matter — shouldn't own a national television network or newspaper chain? There's little stopping political advocacy groups, either.

In regards to General Electric, I can see all kinds of conflicts with a defense contractor owning a major network, and most especially because we have such a concentration of media ownership at the moment, so that owners with similar agendas or interests could steer emphasis and coverage a particular direction without worry of competition showing them up.

That's why I'm for strict limits on media ownership, in the sense of shaping laws and regulations in this area to encourage ownership and production diversification, so as to assure a healthy and competitive market that assures that all stories are created equal, in the sense of the owners of the news not having a financial interest in their own content. The mission of news media and organizations, and profit model, ought to be on how well they break stories and report on compelling issues to their customers, and ought not to be muddied by having signifigant financial interests and profit motives elsewhere that would benefit by increased coverage with a particular slant (say coverage of an impending war, while downplaying opposition sentiment, if you are a defense contractor who will profit spectacularly should such a war happen).

The difference would be news, on the one hand, and public relations and marketing, on the other. I'm not saying that this is happening today, but I'm suggesting it could. Since it could, we should assure it won't. The measure of our liberty and democracy is inevitably mediated and communicated through the freedom and integrity of our press. Since it's much easier for a possible conspiracy against our liberty and democracy to occur amongst a handful of conspirators, if even as innocent in motive as financial self-interest, so it is in our best interests, in the grassroots, to advocate that our media be much less concentrated.

Then, rather than ruminating on or debating the existence of conspiracies and elite deviance, we remove the elite from the structure of the equation and also the possibility of a conspiracy at all. Real solutions anticipate problems before they occur. Big Media is a structural problem, in the sense of the inherent potential for deviance and harm that could conceivably result. We should address the structural anomalies that put our democratic and (classical) liberal values at risk by restructuring our media laws and regulations to encourage a diversity of views and healthy competition in the news media marketplace.


It's late at night and I'm rambling, so if this doesn't make total sense, bear with me, leave a comment, and I'll fix it up in a more rested condition.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Venture Capital Embraces Eco-Economy
Across the country, venture capitalists are opening their wallets to upstarts that, like Nanosolar, develop "clean" technologies in anticipation of a growing market for products that generate revenue without harming the environment.

In 2003, investment in clean technology ventures rose 8 percent to $1.2 billion while overall venture capital investment fell 14 percent to $18.2 billion, according to the Cleantech Investor Network. The Howell, Mich.-based group defines clean technologies as technologies that allow for more efficient use of natural resources and greatly reduce ecological impact.

Venture capital firms are pouring money into clean technologies related to water purification, agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, recycling, air quality and alternative energy such as solar, wind and hydrogen.

the times,
they are

How Far Does The Freedom Of Information Act Currently Go?

I found this piece in The Hill to be an interesting perspective in regards to the freedom of information.
Under the 1966 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Congress also left a hefty chunk of the government off-limits — yet another reason why the sun doesn’t shine on much of what goes on. The lawmakers exempted the White House staff and “others whose sole function is to advise and assist the president,” the federal courts and themselves.

But the Pentagon didn’t get a blanket pass. The brass can withhold records only when, if disclosed, they “reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security.” That exemption has been widely seen as covering military plans, weaponry and certain scientific and technical data.


In an hour-long talk before several hundred publishers and editors last week, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said that while “government information ultimately belongs to the people … we have been moving in a different direction. The period after Sept. 11 saw the single biggest rollback of FOIA ever.”

His companion on the dais, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), used the session to defend the USA Patriot Act. The Judiciary Committee chairman wants the law to be extended and broadened. But Leahy, the panel’s ranking member, charged the Bush administration with hiding behind the statute to thumb its nose at demands for more openness, not only from the public but also from lawmakers.

In serving here over a span of six presidencies, Leahy charged, “I’ve never seen such a lack of cooperation.”

“In a period when there is so much to be accountable for,” the senator added, “it is the things we don’t want you to know about that you need FOIA for.”


Sunday, April 25, 2004

News Flash: Cheney In Bed With Special Interests

Okay, I know that's not really a news flash, since we all know this already, but more disturbing news is coming out about corporate influence on policy, the nexus of special interests lobbyists and government bureaucracy, and Dick Cheney's infamous and very secretive Energy Task Force.
The executive director of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, whose closed-door meetings with industry executives enraged environmentalists and prompted a Supreme Court showdown this week, became an energy lobbyist just months after leaving the White House, records show.

Andrew Lundquist, a native Alaskan who worked on Capitol Hill for both his state's senators, shepherded the development of the administration's energy policy as executive director of the National Energy Policy Development Group, a Cabinet-level task force chosen by President Bush and headed by Cheney.

When the task force completed its work, Lundquist stayed on at the White House as Cheney's energy policy director, leading the vice president's effort to turn the task force's work into law.

Then, a day after leaving government service, he opened a consulting business. Nine months later, Lundquist was a registered lobbyist for companies that stood to benefit from the energy policy he helped craft, according to 2003 lobby disclosure records reviewed by the Globe.

This guy is a classic case of what has gone wrong with our democratic system. Hopefully, some court rulings to come will help clear this up for us and rally public support for reforms.

Lundquist's behind-the-scenes role as policy coordinator, vice presidential aide, and ultimately as a lobbyist for energy companies highlights some of the concerns that have led consumer groups to seek the opening of the task force's records.

Environmental groups contend the task force met with companies seeking benefits under the bill but did not grant equal access to people challenging those positions.

Cheney has refused to release the records. When a federal judge agreed to allow some records to be reviewed in the discovery process, Cheney did not comply, pushing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear it on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, another environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, drew on the fact that Lundquist was paid by the Department of Energy to seek his task force records under the Freedom of Information Act, which covers the department. When a court ordered the records released, the administration again refused, putting Lundquist in the middle of the administration's battle over the secrecy of its energy dealings.

Thank God for the Freedom of Information Act. It's time we expand it to a full constitutional amendment. I'd love to see, for once, some of our most popular bloggers champion this issue. Everyone loves the complaints and spotlight on malfeasance and corruption that our leading bloggers frequently issue. But once in awhile we need to hear about institutional and legal remedies we can take to stop this from happening before it occurs, or have greater remedy to act against it in a speedier fashion once underway. In other words, reform.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Freedom Century On Its Way

The software project I've been working on is finally going production next week, so get ready to see the brand new Project For A New Century of Freedom sometime in the month of May. It will have a whole new design, and some cool new features, including greater indexing and searching (in other words, organization of content).
An Excellent "New" Blog - World Changing

The Internet, and Google, really are a beautiful thing. Just a second ago, while googling for a link to Lester Brown's book, Plan B (posted below), I found this awesome "new" blog. I put new in quotation marks because they've been around for awhile, from the looks of their archives, but there's so many blogs exploding around the globe that it's hard to keep up with even one-half of one percent of the ones that share political and social commentary (which themselves are probably one-half of one percent of new blogs).

Once found, however, never hesitate to include. To integrate. So, with that in mind, I highly encourage everyone to link in to World Changing. It's a group blog, with contributors from around the globe, Trinidad and Tobago to Toronto, Stockholm to Seattle, and places inbetween, and my first impression of the content has been progressive "thinking out of the box". Here's a sample of "why they're here": works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together.

I won't argue with that. That's why I'm here.

Care To Learn More About Eco-Economy?

Feel free to go visit the Earth Policy Institute, led by Lester Brown. Also, The World Watch Institute is a great resource for keeping up-to-date on the latest environmental indicators.

Did I say feel free? Well, I won't dispute that notion, but perhaps some urgency is in order as well. Why? Brown explains in Plan B.


Thursday, April 22, 2004

Happy Earth Day - Making Global Warming Personal
In the decade after the first Earth Day 34 years ago, people planted trees to fight smog, picketed toxic dumps, slogged through mud to clean up grungy river banks. Being Earth-friendly meant giving $25 to save the whales - or choosing unleaded gas at the pump.

But in the new millennium, using a trash can to "keep America beautiful" is not enough. One of the planet's most pressing problems - global warming - looks to be one of its most intractable. And that is proving frustrating to would-be activists.

Their challenge: How to get individuals to change their behavior for a problem that looms so large and is unlikely to be solved for generations.

"Environment took off as an issue in the 1970s because you could do something personal about recycling and pollution in neighborhoods," says Dale Jamieson, president of the International Society for Environmental Ethics. "One of the dangers of thinking about the global warming issue today is that it can be extremely impersonal, disempowering for people."

My friends, we need to get way beyond recycling. In order to "deal with the real", we have to acknowledge our overuse of automobiles, and emphasis on energy use for global commerce and transportation. While we use the art and science of economics to make convincing cases for global trade flows, we fail to address externalities and costs associated with the energy use required to sustain these flows. These externalities and costs include war and conflict in the Middle East and Asia.

Are we too spoiled, stubborn, or stupid to see the simple changes we can make to help alleviate the situation? Are we too greedy to care for the common good? Why do we have so many SUV's? Isn't anyone thinking beyond tonight and tomorrow? Why do we have to import so much food from thousands upon thousands of miles away, when we have the ability to grow it closer to home? Why are we forced to buy so much bottled water because everyone acknowledges that the tap water is "at your own risk" (too dangerous for most), but so few of us are willing to invest in water filtration systems?

It's time economists graduate from the naive and childish economic measurement system we currently use and start becoming a force of enlightened change. It's time we citizens do the same in our own forecasting and actions. Nothing in life comes for free, and when we destroy natural resources, we destroy value. Judging by the resilience of the Clean Air Act against steady attacks by special and corporate interests, it's clear there is a demand for the services of nature that isn't being appropriately measured in economic analysis or output calculations (like GNP).

Dare I say it's a structural problem? I will, in part, but there is very clearly a personal element here, and one that begs the question of the nature and extent of our attention. If we do something now, while there is still time, we just might avoid a natural catastrophe that could make 9/11 fade into irrelevance. Are we paying attention?

We can't wait until we are certain that our activities will doom us, or doom others along seacoasts, or radically change our environment and/or perspective on life - this kind of certainty only comes in hindsight after the dreaded potential has already materialized, and has little adaptive fitness.

Intelligence, wisdom, and courage counsel us to act while there is still uncertainty, but where the available information is too compelling to discount and, in that light, exposes potential risks that are too great to ignore.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

European Parliament Ministers Overcome Resistance To Put Spotlight On Media Concentration
Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire will come under fire on Thursday despite efforts by the EP’s centre right to sideline the issue.

A report by Dutch MEP Johanna Boogerd-Quaak on media freedom singled out the Italian premier’s grip on the public and private media as a cause for concern

Although it has no legal weight, the report threatens political embarassment for the Italian centre-right in the run-up to the June European elections.


Leader of the European Liberals Graham Watson said the report reflected legitimate public concern about freedom of information.

“Freedom of information is not possible without a free media and neither is a functioning democracy,” he said.

“Concentration of ownership is reflected in a narrowing of views.”

But speaking earlier in plenary, Watson stressed that the report was not just about Berlusconi.

Spain is also held to account for “goverment pressure” on public service broadcaster TVE which resulted in “blatant distortion” and “ignoring of the facts” following the Madrid March 11 terrorist attacks.

Monday, April 12, 2004

The First Truly Postmodern War
The war in Iraq was based on the conventional premise that no great power can afford to have its will flouted – flagrantly, abusively, and indefinitely – by a small power. To do so invites further challenges from other small powers, challenges that together combine to form a big challenge.

Before this war in Iraq started, I sent some emails around describing the rise of the first truly postmodern war, in the sense that there was no clear and compelling reason for the war, and, depending on who you asked, you could get any number of different rationales (whatever the particular ideological encampment seemingly wanted to believe - for or against the war).

Even now, there is very little clarity anywhere about exactly why we went to war with Iraq, whether it was due to their being a threat of some sort or the launching pad for a democratic transformation in the Middle East.

During this time before the war, however, and since it's begun, I've yet to hear the rationale for the war in Iraq as stated above - "no great power can afford to have its will flouted...". That it should be stated so matter-of-factly, as if not even a question that has been debated ad nauseum absurdum, just struck me as strange, and almost Twilight Zone-ish.

I don't think Americans would have been, or would be now, supportive of the war as premised by the rationale given above. To my knowledge, not even PNAC dares suggest such a thing.

As a student of propaganda, therefore, and also a denizen of the blogosphere and Internet news, I'm realizing that there's still some information I may be missing, that's being reported, and I definitely need to start paying more attention to the major newspapers around the world that are not in the West.

I'm going to start by keeping closer tabs on the Jerusalem Post.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Tonight And Tomorrow On Islamic Lands' TV, Radio, And Newspapers

As people in Islamic lands rise this morning, and catch some TV, read the newspaper, or head to the local shop to gossip, they will be seeing, reading, and hearing that United States forces bombed a mosque in Iraq and killed 40 people (the rebels seem to have escaped).

There is some dispute and uncertainty in the matter, but this is how it is being reported in the Daily Times of Pakistan, Al-Jazeera, and other outlets. The BBC originally reported this news as well, and that will give the Islamic media all the license it doesn't really need to report the events as it chooses.

The bottom line seems to be that our guys were pinned down, and there may have been no other way to avoid a disaster for our side, but this tactical situation didn't happen by accident, and the impact could be devastating to our larger efforts and strategy.

This will not win hearts and minds - it will lose them, enrage them, and transform them into our sworn enemies.
Deeds Mean Much More Than Words
The owner of a jewelry kiosk at a mall in Tampa, who wears an Islamic head scarf, said she was physically and verbally assaulted by three people who told her to "get out of (America)" and said her religion is "hateful and violent."

And these three individuals presumably practice a religion of love and peace.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

John Kerry And Kos

Until and when John Kerry's web site reinserts its link to the Daily Kos, John Kerry will be viewed as suspect, as will the Democratic Party.

Up to today, some of the spinelessness by the liberal mainstream has been deemed acceptable (considering their desperateness to get back in power), and, for the most part, I'm in total assent with this mission.

But censoring and ostracizing Markos for a single comment of his goes beyond any moral understanding I can uphold.

The line is in the sand...

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Thanking Mr. Clarke

This space would be highly remiss not to extend a warm and gracious thank you to Richard Clarke. He has courageously stepped forward to warn us of dangers regarding our leadership, and committed himself to great service on behalf of our security over the past decade or more. Perhaps if the Bush Administration had given him and his views more credence, we would have been able to prioritize risks and strategies more effectively.

Also, his heartfelt apology to the families of those who suffered personal losses on 9/11 was the stuff of real integrity, compassion, and personal responsibility.

The Bush Administration ought to stop trying to destroy Clarke and instead emulate him.
Credit Where Due

President Bush,

Thanks for the doing the right thing. Though it's mysterious why you and Dick would testify together, rather than individually like everyone else, what's most important is that the two of you will testify before all the commission members, and that Condoleeza Rice will testify publicly and under oath (this is the least she could do since essentially calling Richard Clarke a liar).

As a further thought, you may want to consider changing your relationship to the truth. How many people have resigned from your administration? How many have been stymied because of views that differed from your own?


Jimm Donnelly