Assume the Position
Friday, December 10, 2004
If You Blinked You Missed It
Yesterday, as I noted Monday, was International Anti-Corruption Day. Normally, the Secretary-General's office makes some pronouncement in observance of this or that international day set aside by the UN. Not this time. There was just a quick mention in the daily press briefing:
**UNODC –- Corruption
Today is the first anniversary of the signing conference of the UN Convention against Corruption. To mark the occasion, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime launched a new initiative aimed at assisting the Governments of Kenya and Nigeria to recover assets stolen by corrupt officials. The project involves technical assistance, which will help those countries’ legal institutions overcome obstacles to recovering assets. We have a press release on that upstairs.
During the Q&A that followed, no reporters asked about International Anti-Corruption Day.
The referenced press release was apparently this one:
VIENNA, 9 December (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today launched a new initiative aimed at assisting the Governments of Kenya and Nigeria to recover assets stolen by corrupt officials. In the 90s, corrupt officials in Nigeria looted and exported at least US$2.2 billion, and embezzled US$5.5 billion. Similarly, it is estimated that over US$3 billion has been lost to corruption in Kenya. …
Retiring Propagandist Bemoans Competition
Bill Moyers is retiring from the tax subsidized airwaves. Moyers is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "I'm going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee. We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people."
Moyers may be right; if there were a "vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people," it might have done some reporting on Moyers apparent conflicts of interest and nepotism. Moyers ducks counter-charges of being part of the partisan propaganda arm of the Democratic National Committee by simply being further left than the DNC. He can wage a continuous war on Republican ideology and Republicans, then claim to be even-handed or just reporting in the public interest because he's also attacked structural issues that both parties have in common such as campaign finance.
MOYERS WAS STILL bitter when I [Stephen Hayes] asked him whether his frequent attacks on the Bush administration--in "documentaries" on taxpayer-funded television, in his new show, in his speeches--are more strident even than the attacks Bush's political opponents make on commercial networks.
"What attacks on the president?" he responded, with no apparent irony. After pointing out to me that he criticized the Clinton administration for its campaign finance abuses, he turned the question around. "Are you going to attack me by reporting on this? I mean, I'm asking you seriously, where in this broadcast have I attacked President Bush? Where in the LBJ library speech have I attacked President Bush? You have to be specific."
Political science professor David Schaefer of Holy Cross sees Moyers support for campaign finance reform as coming from the view that the only people who should be allowed to engage in political speech are Moyers and company.
Last October  Frank Greve, a reporter for the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, uncovered the ethically dubious role that Bill Moyers plays by simultaneously supplying (through the Schumann Foundation) some one-third of total philanthropic contributions to the campaign for campaign finance limitations, including the support of NPR shows devoted to that cause; broadcasting Frontline shows devoted to exposing alleged Democratic and Republican fund-raising excesses; and featuring on his broadcasts the views of campaign finance "watchdog" groups without disclosing that those groups were funded by his foundation. Now that Moyers has set his son (formerly executive director of the Schumann Foundation) up as president of his own "fund" (while supporting that fund with Schumann donations), the ethical conflict-of-interest tangle grows.
Both TomPaine.com's tone and its medium exhibit the danger that campaign finance "reform" poses for constitutional democracy. The Moyerses seek to restrict the ability of private individuals and businesses to finance the dissemination of political speech so as to prevent the "few" from "drowning out the many": but just who are the "few" and who the "many" here? Few individuals or even businesses have assets comparable to the $90.2 million that the Schumann Foundation held at the end of 1998 according to Greve (that amount is undoubtedly much greater now), available exclusively to devote to partisan advocacy. (Just how many individuals or organizations regularly sponsor op-ed ads in the Times?) Even fewer have a publicly subsidized pulpit available to them that can rival Bill Moyers's. And those individuals and businesses, unlike the Schumann Foundation and its offspring, pay taxes on their income.
The real goal of Moyers père et fils, it appears, is not to make room for the voice of the "many" as against the "few," but to constrain the capacity of many rival, partisan spokesmen so that "the many" will pay undistracted heed to the enlightened and utterly public-spirited or altruistic voice of … TomPaine.com and its ilk.
What may gall Moyers most of all is the solid truth behind the satire that Moyers' departure "fails to leave the customary void." While his influence saturates PBS, PBS hasn't exactly been saturating the American public.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
The Latest Convenient Objector
Smash writes "An Open Letter to Pablo Paredes," the media hungry  convenient objector , outlining the consequences of his choice and urging him reconsider and "Be a man and do your duty."
Reading the two articles about Petty Officer 3rd Class Paredes' protest, this statement of his  compels comment:
Paredes of the New York City borough of the Bronx said he joined the Navy in 2000 and has 20 months left on his six-year enlistment. He said he was stationed previously in Japan.
He said he was young and naive when he joined the Navy and "never imagined, in a million years, we would go to war with somebody who had done nothing to us."
Naive! Let's see. Exactly what did Milosovic and the Serbs do "to us" that lead to a 78-day bombing campaign in Yugoslavia just 18 months before he signed up? And when he signed up in August or September of 2000, what was the US doing? Bombing Iraq. Why was the US still bombing Iraq? In fact, what had Iraq done "to us" that led to the 1991 Gulf War? They "had done nothing to us."
I suppose somebody could have been that clueless when enlisting in 2000, but it sounds more like a self-serving rationalization to me.
1. "On Sunday, [Paredes] had called newspapers and radio and TV stations to announce his anti-deployment intentions."
2. Somebody whose objection to this war is based upon their finding themselves sent to it, whatever war this one happens to be.
Monday, December 06, 2004
Since you're apparently not planning to resign anytime soon, I suggest you stand outside the UN this Thursday and hand out commemorative Oil-for-Food Vouchers™ to all comers.