Saturday, February 11, 2006

Call The Whiner Line

Our local sports talk radio station, WEEI, has a thing they call "The Whiner Line". Fans call in and pretend to be athletes or owners or some other sports personalities, whining about some coverage, or criticism, or call, or whatever. It's pretty funny, especially the local guys with the thick Boston accents. They even have annual awards for the best rants.

Jim Brady, executive editor of the Washington Post who presided over the Deborah Howell/Abramoff gave to Democrats/NOT/truthiness saga, is pissed off and whiny:

BLOG RAGE | By Jim Brady

Howell's inadvertent error prompted a handful of bloggers to urge their readers to go to to vent their discontent, and in the subsequent four days we received more than a thousand comments in our public forum. Only, the word "comments" doesn't convey the obscene, vituperative tone of a lot of the postings, which were the sort of things you might find carved on the door of a public toilet stall. About a hundred of them had to be removed for violating the Post site's standards, which don't allow profanity or personal attacks.

I am proud to have made one of the comments so offensive it was permanently deleted. This is what I wrote:

Deborah, you're doin' a heckuva job. Signed, George W. Bush.

Wicked harsh, eh?


Update: In response to a comment, here are previous posts on this subject (no, I'm not writing up this whole thing again, commenter):

Notorious House of Presstitution

I've Been Deleted From the Washington Post -- Twice!!

Presstitute of the Day: Deborah Howell

Deborah Howell, Meet Eugene Robinson

All Together Now

She Still Doesn't Get It

Operation Enduring Vacation

Not to be interrupted by bad news.


Brown Blames Superiors For Response to Katrina

Brown said he called and spoke at least twice on Aug. 29 with White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph Hagin or Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., telling them: "New Orleans is flooding; it's the worst-case scenario." But the message apparently did not get through to Homeland Security officials.

It's Your Funeral

Not the right wing nutjobs' funeral. They can have 138 page scripts for Ronald Reagan's funeral (which I learned from Colbert King's op-ed in the Washington Post today), but I prefer live events. By the way, Ronald Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964; would it have been inflammatory for me to mention that at his funeral?

Some true-life scenes: Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (calling it "humiliating to the South"), and ran for governor of California in 1966 promising to wipe the Fair Housing Act off the books. "If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house," he said, "he has a right to do so." After the Republican convention in 1980, Reagan travelled to the county fair in Neshoba, Mississippi, where, in 1964, three Freedom Riders had been slain by the Ku Klux Klan. Before an all-white crowd of tens of thousands, Reagan declared: "I believe in states' rights".

Facts are facts. Why is the right all up in arms over facts being stated at Coretta Scott King's funeral?

A Fitting Funeral for Mrs. King

This Is Where I Grew Up

Enjoying my newly acquired ability to post pictures!

Today's Climate News


Today's climate news is not good. From the Independent (UK):

Global warming: passing the 'tipping point'
Our special investigation reveals that critical rise in world temperatures is now unavoidable

Research commissioned by The Independent reveals that the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has now crossed a threshold, set down by scientists from around the world at a conference in Britain last year, beyond which really dangerous climate change is likely to be unstoppable.

The implication is that some of global warming's worst predicted effects, from destruction of ecosystems to increased hunger and water shortages for billions of people, cannot now be avoided, whatever we do. It gives considerable force to the contention by the green guru Professor James Lovelock, put forward last month in The Independent, that climate change is now past the point of no return.

The danger point we are now firmly on course for is a rise in global mean temperatures to 2 degrees above the level before the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century.

At the moment, global mean temperatures have risen to about 0.6 degrees above the pre-industrial era - and worrying signs of climate change, such as the rapid melting of the Arctic ice in summer, are already increasingly evident. But a rise to 2 degrees would be far more serious.

By that point it is likely that the Greenland ice sheet will already have begun irreversible melting, threatening the world with a sea-level rise of several metres. Agricultural yields will have started to fall, not only in Africa but also in Europe, the US and Russia, putting up to 200 million more people at risk from hunger, and up to 2.8 billion additional people at risk of water shortages for both drinking and irrigation. The Government's conference on Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, held at the UK Met Office in Exeter a year ago, highlighted a clear threshold in the accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, which should not be surpassed if the 2 degree point was to be avoided with "relatively high certainty".

What do they mean by past the point of no return? Possibly, this:

Some scientists have been reluctant to talk about the overall global warming effect of all the greenhouses gases taken together, because there is another consideration - the fact that the "aerosol", or band of dust in the atmosphere from industrial pollution, actually reduces the warming.

As Professor Shine stresses, there is enormous uncertainty about the degree to which this is happening, so making calculation of the overall warming effect problematic. However, as James Lovelock points out - and Professor Shine and other scientists accept - in the event of an industrial downturn, the aerosol could fall out of the atmosphere in a matter of weeks, and then the effect of all the greenhouse gases taken together would suddenly be fully felt.

And how are the braindead oil peddlers in the Bush Administration reacting to this? By continuing their policy of ignoring global warming. La La La, I can't hear you, let's cut EPA's budget.

EPA Budget Cuts Trouble Environment Groups

We Love Lists

For your reading pleasure. Some of these are online, some are not:

2005 Utne Independent Press Awards: And the Winners Are...

The 17th annual list of the year's most inspiring, enlightening, and essential periodicals
—By Staff, Utne magazine
January / February 2006 Issue

Friday, February 10, 2006

Another Bad Asbestos Bailout Bill

It's not me who's saying that. It's small and medium-sized asbestos companies. This bill actually cancels their insurance!

Coalition for Asbestos Reform

Myths & Facts

Myth: S.852 will protect businesses by capping payouts for asbestos claims.

Fact: This bill creates a $140 billion trust fund that favors a few large Fortune 100 companies as it shifts the financial burden to ? and threatens the economic viability of ? small and medium-size companies. Large companies which ran out of insurance coverage long ago benefit by provisions capping lawsuit payouts and limiting their financial responsibility to asbestos victims. For smaller companies the story is much different: S.852 actually cancels the insurance coverage they have, which has been bought and fully paid for, leaving them with a new, bank-breaking, multibillion-dollar tab.

Although the bill is ostensibly supposed to prevent bankruptcies, it will inevitably contribute to them. Several companies have testified that they will close their doors on the day S.852 is signed into law. One company, which today has adequate insurance to cover future claims in the court system, would lose its insurance and be required to pay $16.5 million annually into the trust fund. With annual earnings around $1 million, the company would have no choice but to close. As these companies drop out of the pool of contributors, additional financial pressure will be put on the ones that remain, further weakening their ability to meet their increased financial allocations. For these companies, S.852 is a "solution" that is vastly worse than the problem it is meant to fix.

A. W. Chesterton, a small company in Massachusetts, one of the members of the Coalition for Asbestos Reform, outlines its objections to the bill in yesterday's New York Times:

Large and Small Businesses Part Ways on Asbestos Bill

But for A. W. Chesterton, a 122-year-old company based in Stoneham, Mass., that used asbestos fibers in its industrial fluid sealing products, the amount of money it would be responsible for under the bill could destroy it, according to its outside legal counsel, John B. Manning.

"Its assessment under the Fair Act is going to be a minimum of $16.5 million annually for 30 years," Mr. Manning said. "That $16.5 million is more than double a year's profit for this company."

By contrast, large corporations will, at most, be responsible for $27.5 million a year for 30 years.
"You've got large companies making billions and billions a year in profits," Mr. Manning said. "Having to come up with $27.5 million is nothing to them."

These people are serious. They have a major campaign to defeat the bill:

Aiming at Asbestos Bill

Nearly 20 corporations have paid a total of about $3 million to defeat the asbestos trust-fund bill, which Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has designated his first priority in 2006, according to a coalition planning document obtained by The Hill.

The Washington Post editorial entitled "Forward on Asbestos" today dismisses these companies and Sen. Harry Reid's actions on their behalf, parroting the RNC talking point: It's all about the trial lawyers.

Unfortunately, the bill's critics are not always so reasonable. Sen. Harry M. Reid of Nevada, the Democratic minority leader, has complained, "One would have to search long and hard to find a bill in my opinion as bad as this." He has even described the legislation as the work of lobbyists hired by corporations to limit asbestos exposure. But the truth is that the bill's main opponents are trial lawyers, who profit mightily from asbestos lawsuits and who constitute a powerful lobby in their own right. Mr. Specter and Mr. Leahy are in fact model resisters of special interests who have spent more than two years crafting legislation that serves the public interest. For Mr. Reid to demean this effort in order to fire off campaign sound bites is reprehensible.

Balderdash. This bill has bipartisan opposition. The opponents are not only trial lawyers, it includes many of the asbestos companies. The bill is not fully funded and will ultimately fail, having achieved its only objective: to keep as much money in the hands of the huge asbestos companies as possible.

Let's hope that saner minds prevail and the latest challenge to the bill, that it will bust the federal budget, succeeds.

White House Learned of New Orleans Levee Breach on Monday, August 29, 2005

Here's George Bush on Tuesday, August 30, 2005, fiddling while New Orleans drowned:

White House Knew of Levee's Failure on Night of Storm

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 — In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.

But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Marty Bahamonde, first heard of a major levee breach Monday morning [August 29th]. By late Monday afternoon, Mr. Bahamonde had hitched a ride on a Coast Guard helicopter over the breach at the 17th Street Canal to confirm the extensive flooding. He then telephoned his report to FEMA headquarters in Washington, which notified the Homeland Security Department.

"FYI from FEMA," said an e-mail message from the agency's public affairs staff describing the helicopter flight, sent Monday night at 9:27 to the chief of staff of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and recently unearthed by investigators. Conditions, the message said, "are far more serious than media reports are currently reflecting. Finding extensive flooding and more stranded people than they had thought — also a number of fires."

Michael D. Brown, who was the director of FEMA until he resigned under pressure on Sept. 12, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he personally notified the White House of this news that night, though he declined to identify the official he spoke to.

White House officials have confirmed to Congressional investigators that the report of the levee break arrived there at midnight
, and Trent Duffy, the White House spokesman, acknowledged as much in an interview this week, though he said it was surrounded with conflicting reports.


Eyewitness to Devastation

As his helicopter approached the site, Mr. Bahamonde testified in October, there was no mistaking what had happened: large sections of the levee had fallen over, leaving the section of the city on the collapsed side entirely submerged, but the neighborhood on the other side relatively dry. He snapped a picture of the scene with a small camera.


[I]nvestigators have found the e-mail message referring to Mr. Bahamonde's helicopter survey that was sent to John F. Wood, chief of staff to Secretary Chertoff at 9:27 p.m. They have also found a summary of Mr. Bahamonde's observations that was issued at 10:30 p.m. and an 11:05 p.m. e-mail message to Michael Jackson, the deputy secretary of homeland security. Each message describes in detail the extensive flooding that was taking place in New Orleans after the levee collapse.

Given this chain of events, investigators have repeatedly questioned why Mr. Bush and Mr. Chertoff stated in the days after the storm that the levee break did not happen until Tuesday, as they made an effort to explain why they initially thought the storm had passed without the catastrophe that some had feared.

Picture caption: A photo taken by a federal emergency official the day Hurricane Katrina arrived [Monday, August 29, 2005] showed the broken 17th Street Canal levee in New Orleans.

Senate Throws Civil Liberties Under the Bus

Today's WaPo:
Patriot Act Compromise Clears Way for Senate Vote

Several liberals condemned the bill. "I am gravely disappointed in this so-called deal," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). "The White House agreed to only a few minor changes" that "do not address the major problems," he said, adding: "We've come too far and fought too hard to agree to reauthorize the Patriot Act without fixing those problems."

I'm with Suburban Guerrilla on this one:

Kiss Your Civil Liberties Goodbye

The Senate sold us out on the PATRIOT Act yesterday. Let’s see what the House does.

Yesterday's News

No time to post yesterday. Here's the news of the day (besides those mysteriously disappearing hawk's nests in Boston):

Novel defense: My boss said it was OK! Even though it broke several federal laws! That's what Scooter Libby is peddling. Looks like he got himself Oliver North's old lawyer, and they're going to play hide the salami by asking for classified documents which BushCo will then refuse to turn over:

Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.


If Libby's defense adopts strategies used by North, it might be in part because the strategies largely worked for North and in part because Libby's defense team has quietly retained John D. Cline, who was a defense attorney for North. Cline, a San-Francisco partner at the Jones Day law firm, has specialized in the use of classified information in defending clients charged with wrongdoing in national security cases.

Among his detractors, Cline is what is known as a "graymail" specialist-an attorney who, critics say, purposely makes onerous demands on the federal government to disclose classified information in the course of defending his clients, in an effort to force the government to dismiss the charges. Although Cline declined to be interviewed for this story, he has said that the use of classified information is necessary in assuring that defendants are accorded due process and receive fair trials.

Remember Bamboozlepalooza, where George Bush spent months barnstorming the country trying to get us to gut Social Security? Never one to give up on a horrible idea, Georgie "LaLaLa I Can't Hear You" Peorgie Bush wrote his entire insane Social Security privatization plan into this year's proposed federal budget. Like the rest of that fictional document, it is dead on arrival:

Bush's Social Security Sleight of Hand

Last year, even though Bush talked endlessly about the supposed joys of private accounts, he never proposed a specific plan to Congress and never put privatization costs in the budget. But this year, with no fanfare whatsoever, Bush stuck a big Social Security privatization plan in the federal budget proposal, which he sent to Congress on Monday.

His plan would let people set up private accounts starting in 2010 and would divert more than $700 billion of Social Security tax revenues to pay for them over the first seven years.

And, as we all knew deep in our hearts, Bush knew Jack:

EXCLUSIVE EMAILS: Jack Abramoff Describes Relationship With President Bush

EXCLUSIVE: Abramoff Photos of President Bush, First Lady ‘Just Sitting In His Office’

Rethugs Frist & Hastert duped fellow members of Congress into giving Big Pharma immunity from lawsuits:

Hastert, Frist said to rig bill for drug firms
Frist denies protection was added in secret

That dumb kid who resigned from NASA still thinks he has a right to stifle science: Ex-Press Aide for NASA Offers Defense

Speaking to a Texas radio station and then to The New York Times, Mr. Deutsch said the scientist, James E. Hansen, exaggerated the threat of [global] warming and tried to cast the Bush administration's response to it as inadequate.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Has Paula Zahn Moved to Boston?

Pale Male and Lola, redux? Et tu, Paula?

From today's Boston Globe:

Vanishing of nests ruffles feathers
In heart of city, hawk pair's plight worries onlookers

The pair of red-tailed hawks that have made their home on an 11th-story ledge overlooking the Boston Common in the last year have become beloved residents of the neighborhood. In office buildings and homes for blocks around, their likenesses are on computer screensavers, in desktop picture frames, sent by e-mail from one bird-lover to the next.

But suspicion has suddenly torn through the little community of hawk-watchers. The birds' nests have repeatedly disappeared. Daily observers of the ledge at 6 Beacon St. say that the twig home first vanished last month. The hawks rebuilt, stick by stick. But the nest was soon gone again, and the birds once again rebuilt. Some say that, in all, three nests have mysteriously vaporized. The latest was Tuesday morning, and fingers are now being pointed.

Paula Zahn v. Pale Male
, last year.


This is not good (from HuffPo):

Mad Hatters and Quicksilver Hares

In February 2003, the EPA reported that one American woman in twelve had elevated mercury levels in her body. In December of that year, the agency corrected its findings and reported that one in every six American women was at risk, and that by eating more than three servings of fish per week, even women who "might become pregnant" placed their children at a greater risk of lowered intelligence and developmental disabilities.

A lot of skepticism was expressed about these findings. So the Sierra Club joined in a nationwide clinical study by Drs. Steven Patch and Richard Maas, from the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. They planned to test an unprecedented number of Americans for mercury body concentrations. The Sierra Club asked members of the New Hampshire legislature, delegates to our Summit and folks going to beauty salons and barber shops all over America, to get tested by giving us a hair sample. More than 6,600 people of all ages and from 50 states participated.

Today, Patch and Maas released their findings. The interim report found mercury levels exceeding the EPA’s recommended limit of one microgram of mercury per gram of hair in one in five women of childbearing age tested -- more than the EPA's previous estimates. While this sample might contain a larger number of women at risk than the population at large (because women who love fish might have been more concerned and thus more likely to get tested), it still confirms that the number of women with too much mercury in their bodies is enormous. Mercury contamination is of particular concern for women of childbearing years (16 to 49 years old) and their small children (under the age of six), because mercury exposure in the womb can cause neurological damage and other health problems.

"In the samples we analyzed, the greatest single factor influencing mercury exposure was the frequency of fish consumption," said Dr. Steve Patch. "We saw a direct relationship between people’s mercury levels and the amount of store-bought fish, canned tuna fish or locally caught fish people consumed."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Coretta Scott King's Funeral

Had some great eulogies. Hope to link to transcripts eventually. For now:

VIDEO: Rev. Lowery’s Standing Ovation

We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. [Standing Ovation] But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor.

The Church Has A Lot to Hide

Outing Cardinal Egan
A priest's lawsuit alleges the Catholic Church is hiding pedophile clergy—and offers a stunning reason why

Who knows whether Cardinal Edward Egan is sleeping soundly these days. But as head of the New York archdiocese—as the top Roman Catholic prelate in the state—he'd have every reason to be restless after the recent advent of a little-noticed lawsuit.

The suit, now pending in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, was filed on December 13 by Bob Hoatson—a 53-year-old New Jersey priest considered a stalwart ally among survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. Hoatson, the now-suspended chaplain for Catholic Charities in Newark, is suing Egan and nine other Catholic officials and institutions, claiming a pattern of "retaliation and harassment" that began after Hoatson alleged a cover-up of clergy abuse in New York and started helping victims.

But that's not all his lawsuit claims. Halfway through the 44-page complaint, the priest-turned-advocate drops a bomb on the cardinal: He alleges that Egan is "actively homosexual," and that he has "personal knowledge of this." His suit names two other top Catholic clerics in the region as actively gay—Albany bishop Howard Hubbard and Newark archbishop John Myers.

I was raised in a Catholic church, but this whole sex abuse scandal has led me to despise the church and its hierarchy. The cover-ups, putting pedophiles back into churches where they have contact with children, the utter hypocrisy. Now the church is on a witchhunt against gay priests. Gay priests aren't the problem. Pedophiles are the problem. Gay bishops who let pedophile priests prey on children to avoid being outed are a big problem.

And the Vatican installed our own pedophile enabler Bernie Law in a private apartment in Rome. Sickening.

Here's Hoatson's complaint, from

Today's Environmental News

A winter Olympics without snow, yet somehow this WaPo article fails to mention global warming:

Turin: No Snow, No Problem
City Is Hosting Only Indoor Events, So Competition Not Affected

TURIN, Italy, Feb. 7 -- The official mascots of the 2006 Winter Olympics -- a female snowflake named Neve and a male ice cube named Gliz -- are looking increasingly fanciful as Friday's Opening Ceremonies draw near without a trace of winter in sight. If the forecast holds, temperatures will be warmer at Turin's Stadio Olimpico than at FedEx Field when the Olympic torch is lit, signaling the start of the Winter Games.

Temperatures are predicted to climb into the high 40s in Turin on Wednesday and stay there through the weekend. According to the 15-day forecast, Neve and Gliz likely will be the closest thing to snow that Turin sees for the duration of the 20th Winter Olympiad, which concludes Feb. 26, with no days below freezing on tap. Good thing they're symbolic mascots rather than real ones, lest they be reduced to puddles before the Games begin.

Historically high temperatures in the U.S. last month. Again, no mention of global warming by WaPo despite breaking the old record by 8.5 degrees. 8.5 degrees! Across the country!

January Was America's Warmest on Record

The country's average temperature for the month was 39.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 8.5 degrees above average for January, the National Climatic Data Center said Tuesday. The old record for January warmth was 37.3 degrees set in 1953.

The government moves to study polar bears: because they got sued by environmental groups. Therefore global warming is mentioned by WaPo; it was part of the lawsuit.

Feds Move to Protect Polar Bears

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Amid concerns that global warming is melting away the icy habitats where polar bears live, the federal government is reviewing whether they should be considered a threatened species.


The decision comes after the Center for Biological Diversity of Joshua Tree, Calif., filed a petition last year that said polar bears could become extinct by the end of the century because their sea ice habitat is melting away.

The group, joined by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace, also filed a federal lawsuit in December to seek federal protections for the polar bear.

"I think it's a very important acknowledgment that global warming is transforming the Arctic and threatening polar bears with extinction," said Kassie Siegel, lead author of the center's petition.

On to the New York Times; one of the Bush soldiers in the War on Science has had to resign, because it turned out he didn't even have his pathetic journalism degree. Not science, journalism. And he didn't even finish. This 24-year old kid was telling NASA scientists what not to say:

A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

Mr. Deutsch's resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.

Tie On the Old Feed Bag

'Cause it don't make no difference what you eat, after all:

New York Times: Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds

Washington Post: Low-Fat Diet's Benefits Rejected (poor headline, but you get the drift)

The Times (uk): Fruit, vegetables and low-fat diet have 'little impact' on cancer risk

Trying to decide what to eat in honor of this study. Fettucine alfredo? Cheeseburger & fries? Maybe head over to West Boylston Seafood for a good old fried scallop dinner with onion rings and cole slaw.

Got to take all medical and nutritional advice with a grain of salt (pun intended). For years margarine was considered more healthy than butter. Right. I'm happy I stuck with the Julia Child theory during those years:
"If you're afraid of butter, as many people are nowadays," she said in one of her last television shows, "just put in cream!" she proclaimed, with a twinkle in her eye.

Maybe a little cream in the coffee in the a.m., too. For Julia. To annoy food nazis everywhere. Liberate your taste buds!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Get Out And Vote for Coretta Scott King

Currently running on MSNBC, vote percentages as of 11:53 p.m.:

Was it appropriate for speakers to make politically charged statements at Coretta Scott King's funeral?

Yes, her life was about politics. 55%

No, it should have been a neutral affair. 45%

Teflon Sticking Inside Us

Teflon was recently banned by the EPA, at least prospectively. It is supposedly going to be eliminated by the year 2015. I say supposedly because the EPA is notorious in not enforcing such bans. Asbestos was first "banned" by the EPA in 1972, but banned again and again over several decades, as follows:

[] The manufacturing of asbestos-containing, spray-applied insulation and fireproofing was banned in 1972. Since 1972, the following bans were placed on asbestos by the EPA:

1973 - Spray-applied materials for fireproofing and insulation

1975 - Molded and wet applied asbestos such as pipe joint insulation

1976 - Asbestos for mechanical system insulation

1978 - Acoustical and decorative applications

1989 - Many other types of non-friable asbestos to be phased out in 3 stages by 1997

1991 - the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals required the EPA to reevaluate the bans. The EPA clarified the restrictions and the following additional items were banned:

1993 - Paper Products, Flooring Felts and New Uses of Asbestos

but reportedly was still being sold as late as 2000. And that's not even getting into vermiculite contaminated with tremolite asbestos, which was sold into this decade.)

EPA tries to curb use of Teflon chemical

In a surprise turn Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency moved to eliminate the production of a suspected carcinogen used in the making of Teflon and other non-stick and non-stain coatings.

The EPA has asked eight manufacturers that use a family of chemicals known as perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, to reduce production 95% by 2010 and to stop using it altogether by 2015.

PFOA, which is found in the blood of more than 95% of Americans, has been tied to cancer and developmental damage in animal studies. It is used in the process that makes water-, stain- and grease-resistant products, everything from microwave popcorn bags to pizza box liners, non-stick cookware to pillows, upholstery to carpets.

Like just about everyone else in this country, I have Teflon pans in my cupboard. I'm putting them away, and getting out my cast iron, after reading this in yesterday's WaPo:

Suspected Carcinogen Found in Cord Blood

BALTIMORE -- A suspected carcinogen used to make Teflon was found in nearly all the umbilical cord blood samples tested by researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The researchers are now trying to determine whether it has harmed the newborns.

Of the 300 newborns tested, perfluorooctanoic acid, was found in the cord blood of 298.

What are the alternatives to Teflon?

What's the Deal With Teflon?

Calphalon One seems to be the most economical non-stick alternative. It's made of infused anodized aluminum, is a little stickier, but contains only aluminum, pressure-cast. Enameled cast iron and stainless steel with copper bottom are also good alternatives.

John Dickerson Wants a Subpoena, John Dickerson Needs a Subpoena


Where's My Subpoena?
Valerie Plame, Scooter Libby, and me.
(Part 1)

Where's My Subpoena?
Valerie Plame, Scooter Libby, and me.
(Part 2)

[His story takes place traveling with the President in Africa, in July of 2003, shortly after Joe Wilson's op-ed questioning the 16 words was published.]

While the president finished his meeting with Museveni, I hung out with a "senior administration official" by an old yellow school bus. This was the first of my two conversations about Wilson. []

The senior administration official spoke to me on background about Wilson and the president's amazing decision to blame the CIA. [] The official walked me through all the many problems with Wilson's report: His work was sloppy, contradictory, and hadn't been sanctioned by Tenet or any senior person. Some low-level person at the CIA was responsible for the mission. I was told I should go ask the CIA who sent Wilson.

An hour later, as Bush spoke at an AIDS treatment center, I chatted with a different senior administration official, also on background. We talked about many different aspects of the story—the fight with the CIA, the political implications for the president, and the administration's shoddy damage control. This official also pointed out a few times that Wilson had been sent by a low-level CIA employee and encouraged me to follow that angle. I thought I got the point: He'd been sent by someone around the rank of deputy assistant undersecretary or janitor.

At the end of the two conversations I wrote down in my notebook: "look who sent." [] What struck me was how hard both officials were working to knock down Wilson. []

[] [I received] an e-mail from Matt Cooper telling me to call him from a land line when I had some privacy. At some time after 1 p.m. his time, I called him. He told me that he had talked to Karl Rove that morning and that Rove had given him the same Wilson takedown I'd been getting in Uganda. But Matt had the one key fact I didn't: Rove had said that Wilson's wife sent him.

So, that explained the wink-wink nudge-nudge I was getting about who sent Wilson.


[] I came back from the trip harboring a suspicion that only fully made sense when I learned Plame's CIA cover had been blown. It seemed obvious that the people pushing me to look into who sent Wilson knew exactly the answer I'd find. Yet they were really careful not to let the information slip, which suggested that they knew at the time Plame's identity was radioactive.

Wonder who those two senior administration officials were? Let the guessing begin. Let the indictments fly.

Maybe They Think He'll Sell Some Shirts

Chelsea still in race to sign Adu

The 16-year-old, who plays for DC United and who made his international debut in January, is a prime target for Europe's top clubs.

BBC Sport understands Chelsea continue to monitor his situation closely and hope to clinch a deal, although a move is not imminent, as has been reported.

Manchester United also want to sign the Ghanaian-born prodigy but Chelsea are hopeful of beating off all opposition.

The big problem for Freddy is he has shown little on the field to date, other than a few tricks and some pretty goals. He hasn't even nailed down a starting spot on his squad in MLS, not exactly a top tier league (sorry, American fans). He appeared for the US national team earlier this month, not because he had earned it, exactly, but because he and Ghana were making noises about his appearing for that country. Until he made an appearance for the US national senior team, he was essentially a free agent.

And who knows? Maybe this is all spin from his agent. Maybe the article in today's WaPo is spin from his agent, too, toward a different goal:

Adu's World Cup Hopes Hinge on Play for United

Freddy Adu has not given up hope of making the U.S. World Cup squad, but after training under Coach Bruce Arena in California for a month, the 16-year-old forward realizes this much: It is imperative to make a robust impression with his club team, D.C. United, before he has any chance of joining the national team in Germany this summer.

Adu's effort began yesterday, when he participated in his first preseason practice of the year at RFK Stadium's training grounds.

"I've just got to work hard and be a regular starter for D.C.," he said. "The month of April [when the MLS season starts] is very important for me because Bruce said he is going to be monitoring my every move and I'm just going to work hard and keep improving and bringing that to D.C. United.

I do not expect to see Freddy in Germany this summer.

This Headline is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

This AP writer apparently didn't actually watch or listen to yesterday's hearing:
Gonzales Answers Tough Questions on Spying

OK, Gonzales was there, but

1) There were no tough questions;

Reality: VIDEO: Senate Conservatives Refuse To Put Gonzales Under Oath

2) He didn't answer any of the softballs lobbed his way, anyway.

Reality: Too few answers on domestic spying


And the Whole Thing Is Being Flogged by Saudi Arabia

From dailykos:

Muslim Cartoon Controversy: What the Media Isn't Telling You

So what triggered this? Well it takes a blog to explain it. What CNN and the other traditional media failed to tell you is that the thousand gallons of fuel added to the fire of outrage came from none other than our old pals Saudi Arabia.

While it was a minor side story in the western press, the most important of Muslim religious festivals recently took place in Saudi Arabia - called the Hajj. Every able-bodied Muslim is obligated to make a pilgrimage once in their lifetime to Mecca, which is in modern-day Saudi Arabia. This pilgrimage can be done at any time of the year but most pilgrims arrive during the Muslim month known as Dhu al-Hijjah, which follows a lunar calendar that does not exactly match the western Gregorian calendar.

The most recent Hajj occurred during the first half of January 2006, precisely when the "outrage" over the Danish cartoons began in earnest. There were a number of stampedes, called "tragedies" in the press, during the Hajj which killed several hundred pilgrims. I say "tragedies" in quotation marks because there have been similar "tragedies" during the Hajj and each time, the Saudi government promises to improve security and facilitation of movement to avoid these. Over 251 pilgrims were killed during the 2004 Hajj alone in the same area as the one that killed 350 pilgrims in 2006. These were not unavoidable accidents, they were the results of poor planning by the Saudi government.

And while the deaths of these pilgrims was a mere blip on the traditional western media's radar, it was a huge story in the Muslim world. Most of the pilgrims who were killed came from poorer countries such as Pakistan, where the Hajj is a very big story. Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it.

Their plan was to go on a major offensive against the Danish cartoons. The 350 pilgrims were killed on January 12 and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons. The Saudi government asked for a formal apology from Denmark. When that was not forthcoming, they began calling for world-wide protests. After two weeks of this, the Libyans decided to close their embassy in Denmark. Then there was an attack on the Danish embassy in Indonesia. And that was followed by attacks on the embassies in Syria and then Lebanon.

From the Bush's family's good and great friends, the Saudis. Great.

Is This Really a Freedom of Speech Issue?

The cartoons printed by the right-wing Danish paper, causing uproar around the world, have been defended on the grounds that they are free speech. Really? Or was this just, as suggested earlier, a bad editing decision?

Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today.

The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny.

So, they were willing to offend Muslims, but not Christians? How much more hypocritical can you get?

Oxes being gored, and all that.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Betty Friedan Would Be Proud

Britain defies US with funding to boost safe abortion services
· Attempt to replace lost dollars after 'global gag'
· 70,000 died last year in backstreet operations

The British government will today publicly defy the United States by giving money for safe abortion services in developing countries to organisations that have been cut off from American funding.

Nearly 70,000 women and girls died last year because they went to back-street abortionists. Hundreds of thousands of others suffered serious injuries.

Critics of America's aid policy say some might have lived if the US had not withdrawn funding from clinics that provide safe services - or that simply tell women where to find them.

The "global gag" rule, as it has become known, was imposed by President George Bush in 2001. It requires any organisation applying for US funds to sign an undertaking not to counsel women on abortion - other than advising against it - or provide abortion services.

The UK will today become the founder donor of a fund set up specifically to attempt to replace the lost dollars and increase safe abortion services.

The Department for International Development will contribute £3m over two years. DFID and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) - whose clinics across the world have suffered badly - hope that others, particularly the Scandinavians, Dutch and Canadians, will be emboldened to put money in too.

Heckuva Job Brownie: The Backstory

via Surburban Guerilla:

Unholy Trinity: Katrina, Allbaugh and Brown

and the full text version:

Unholy Trinity: Katrina, Allbaugh and Brown

Michael Brown will forever remain the poster child for federal incompetence. And the central question has yet to be answered: who was Michael Brown, and how did he end up at the helm of the Federal Emergency Management Agency? Indeed, how did he and his predecessor and mentor, Bush political operative Joe Allbaugh, manage to turn FEMA, a once proud and effective agency, into a national laughingstock?


But why Michael Brown? [] When pressed, the taciturn Allbaugh tersely replied that Brown was a lifelong friend in whom he had confidence. To this moment, that has remained the official, indeed only, explanation of how and why Michael Brown was running FEMA when Hurricane Katrina struck.

The truth, RealNews has learned, is that the relationship between the two is a decades-long hidden partnership designed to advance both men's business and personal interests. By all appearances, that relationship encompassed Allbaugh's decision to ask Bush to let him run FEMA, and then his decision to turn the place over to Brown so he could profit from their ties.

Indeed, as soon as Allbaugh left the agency, he began cashing in. Today, both Allbaugh and Brown are consultants, making money off their connections at FEMA and in the administration—tattered and tarnished though their legacies may be. And now FEMA is staffed by others put into position by the two men and run by David Paulison, best known for having advised Americans to stock up on duct tape as protection against future terrorist attacks.

Is this really just about incompetence as a byproduct of a deeply ideological presidency? Or has a debilitating "culture of corruption" become deeply embedded in agencies like FEMA on which we literally rely for our lives? And just how far into the Bush White House does this dismaying story reach?

Abramoff Spinsanity

Nina Easton (former Presstitute of the Day), spouse of Republican strategist Russell Schriefer, in today's Boston Globe:

Abramoff's grand aims came early
Made powerhouse of GOP group

Today's Republican spin, I mean article, sets up Abramoff as always outside the Republican mainstream. Crazy guy, that Abramoff, always tilting against the good Republican party. Republicans have been working to keep the crazy rogue elephant Abramoff down for decades:

As Abramoff saw it, the only hitch to his Napoleonic-scale ambition was the pea-sized budget that his sponsors at the Republican National Committee were willing to commit.


His money pleas unheeded, Abramoff spent the next four years, from 1981 to 1985, bypassing the RNC chain of command -- the organization legally responsible for the College Republicans -- to build his own financial juggernaut to advance the group's hard-right agenda, according to memos from College Republican files and interviews with GOP officials involved.

Unbeknownst to the RNC
, he launched an expensive direct-mail campaign that left the group in debt, and vendors complaining about unpaid bills. He set up at least two tax-exempt groups to raise money -- over the objections of an RNC lawyer who warned that such groups could not legally engage in political activities. He borrowed money for his cause, even from his father.

''Jack was a freebooting pirate as far as I was concerned," said a Washington attorney, Mark Braden, then the RNC's house counsel. ''He had a strong belief in his own correctness. It was damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead."


Looking back, Abramoff's critics inside the Republican Party say his tenure at the College Republicans should have provided a crystal ball into the turns his life might take. ''Look how the seeds of his current destruction are so evident," said Richard Bond, who as RNC deputy chairman repeatedly confronted Abramoff over spending issues.

Ronald Kaufman, then the RNC's political director, described Abramoff's management as ''living on the edge. . . . I don't think any of us thought he was an evil person. But we were really worried about the group and the direction they were taking."

''I remember them being in debt and constantly having financial issues," said William I. Greener III, a former RNC communications director. ''You had the sense of grabbing at air to try to get specifics and details" about where the money had gone."


Paul Erickson, who served as the College Republicans treasurer under Abramoff, dismissed the accusations of RNC officials as untrue and ideologically-based, saying Abramoff's critics were moderates allied with Vice President George H. W. Bush, who ''didn't want conservatism promoted in any sense."


That kind of charged rhetoric repeatedly landed Abramoff in ''hot water" with RNC officials, as RNC communications director Greener noted in a 1983 memo. ''Bad use of words!" Greener scribbled on an Abramoff memo that described efforts to ''smash" PIRGs and United States Student Association chapters, and ''drive the final nail into their coffin sometime within the next year."

Abramoff was admonished by RNC official Bond
after a letter to the Palestine Liberation Organization went out over RNC stationery, according to a memo.

''It got to the point where the CR's played it like a war and Republican leaders rolled their eyes," Kaufman said. ''You couldn't trust them not to get in trouble."


Bond, now a former RNC official, characterized Abramoff's assertion that he had gained access to the RNC contributor list as ''outside the realm of reality. That list is like the Holy Grail . . . You can see his early prevarication."


Champing at the RNC bit

Like other RNC affiliates -- groups that represent GOP women, African-Americans, and the like -- the College Republicans were allocated an annual budget. Abramoff's defenders say he was trying to build a far more potent political force than other affiliates, with a national program to train conservative activists.

''We fought, begged, and pleaded" for more funding, recalled Erickson. ''We were sick to death of being on the RNC leash."

The precise amount of the debt was unclear from memos, as well as the memories of RNC officials. But, Bond said, ''speculative direct mail" by the College Republicans was ''completely unauthorized."

So were loans to the College Republicans, but a July 1982 memo from Abramoff to his father, Frank, shows that he borrowed $5,000 for the group. ''If I had known the CRs were out getting loans from people that they potentially couldn't pay back, I would have stopped them dead in their tracks," said Bond.

Determined to find financial footing independent of the RNC, Abramoff proposed setting up a separate group, the College Republican National Fund, whose income would be tax-exempt. But in a March 1982 memo, Braden, the RNC counsel, told Abramoff such a group would skirt tax laws.

'Such organizations may not engage directly or indirectly in political activities," Braden wrote. ''I received last week a print order for stationery for the College Republican National Fund. This activity cannot be funded through College Republicans, nor will the RNC permit the use of its facilities for these purposes."

Memos show that Abramoff set up the fund anyway.
As one solicitation suggests, the fund had clear political intent.


The College Republican tactics and unpaid bills led the RNC to demand that Abramoff leave the building and move the group elsewhere, former RNC officials said.

''Jack was a difficult person to work with from a lawyer's point of view," Braden said. Disturbed by the College Republican operation, ''we threw him out. I don't remember what precipitated it, but I remember [the incident]. It was painful. He was a very difficult personality. There were all types of management problems and a lack of trust between us and them."

Bond and Kaufman also recalled asking Abramoff to move out.


Dissent within the ranks
Questions about Abramoff's financial management prompted rumors to circulate within the organization. One competitor in Abramoff's 1983 race for reelection accused Abramoff not only of generating a debt but of embezzling money that he had deposited into a Swiss bank account.

Nothing came of the claims, but they prompted one Abramoff supporter to issue a letter to College Republican convention delegates rebutting these ''personal attacks and character smears."

A short time after leaving the RNC building, Abramoff set up another nonprofit, the USA Foundation, soliciting money from such New Right donors as the Olin Foundation. Although he organized it as a nonpartisan, tax-exempt group, Abramoff served as chairman of both the foundation and the College Republicans.

In 1984, the foundation helped organize ''Student Liberation Day" in support of Reagan's invasion of Grenada. On College Republican stationery, Abramoff wrote: ''While the Student Liberation Day Coalition is nonpartisan and intended only for educational purposes, I don't need to tell you how important this project is to our efforts as CRs. I am confident that an impartial study of the contrasts between the Carter/Mondale failure in Iran and the Reagan victory in Grenada will be most enlightening to voters 12 days before the general election."

By then, the College Republicans had been banished not only from the RNC premises but also from the Reagan White House. At the close of the Student Liberation Day celebration, Abramoff, Erickson, and others traveled to the White House to attend a reception for the American medical students who had been rescued in the invasion. They were blocked.

''Deaver had crossed us off the list," Erickson recalled in a reference to the Reagan adviser, Michael Deaver.

A year later, Abramoff left the College Republicans to pursue other ventures. By then, his four-year tenure had made him a divisive figure.

Erickson defended Abramoff, saying he was promoting the cause of Reagan conservatism, not getting rich. ''Jack governed by sheer force of will," Erickson said. ''Things happened because Jack willed them to happen."

His detractors at the RNC took a different view. Greener said: ''I have found in life that individuals who believe what they are doing is so right and so good and so important are also the individuals that have a high-frequency level of rationalizing away unacceptable behavior."

See No Global Warming, Hear No Global Warming, Speak No Global Warming

From today's WaPo:

Sports on Ice Are Feeling Under the Weather

The problem, as Washingtonians also know, is that this January did not act like January on the East Coast. In Boston, the average temperature last month was a little over 36 degrees -- more than seven degrees above normal. Farther north in Burlington, Vt., January was even more abnormal, 10.2 degrees too warm.

Forecasters say the fault lay with the jet stream. Instead of blowing frigidly in from the north, the dominant flow was more directly west to east, bringing along wetter, warmer, Pacific weather.

"Normal climate variability," a government forecaster called it.

This article does not even mention global warming. No mention that 9 of the 10 warmest years in human history are 9 of the 10 last years. No mention that 2005 was the warmest in recorded history. The corporate media goes blithely on, presenting all news as "infotainment", stripped of context. It's like covering 9/11 by saying, "Look, a plane flew into the World Trade Center! Two! Hmmm. That's unusual."

Today's global warming news:

Global warming threatens Tibet rail link

Feb 5, 2006 — BEIJING (Reuters) - Global warming could threaten the new Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's highest, within a decade, a Chinese researcher said in remarks published on Sunday.

Wu Ziwang, a frozen soil specialist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the official Xinhua news agency his research over three decades revealed large areas of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau showed signs of shrinking, as they were frozen less of the time.

This could threaten the new railway, which is to start operations this year, Wu said.

"Fast thawing of frozen soil in the plateau might greatly increase the instability of the ground, causing more grave geological problems in the frozen soil areas where major projects such as highways or railways run through," Wu added.

Global warming boosting Greenland glacier flow

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Two major glaciers in Greenland have recently begun to flow and break up more quickly under the onslaught of global warming, a new study said on Friday, raising the specter of millions drowning from rising sea levels.

The report from the University of Swansea's School of the Environment and Society said the Kangerdlugssuaq and Helheim glaciers had doubled their rate of flow to the ocean over the past two years after steady movement during the 1990s.

This spurt meant that current environmental models of the rate of retreat of Greenland's giant ice sheet -- which could add seven meters to the height of the world's oceans if it disappears -- had underestimated the problem.

Global Warming Posing Significant Threat To Great Barrier Reef

Sydney, Australia (AHN) - Australia's hot summer has had a devastating effect on the ecologically sensitive Great Barrier Reef.

Water temperatures during the past four months had been well above normal and the reef is following a similar temperature profile of 2001-2002, which led to the worst incidence of coral bleaching to the spectacular natural formation.

The University of Queensland scientists say the underwater scene shocked them and are fearful the entire reef may be at risk of destruction from global warming.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg reports most of the reefs the team saw are now completely bleached.

He continues, "Going down to 10 meters, every pieces of coral was a glowing white color - all that brown color had disappeared and that was surprising for us.”

Medicare Part (D)isaster: Making the Mentally Ill Sicker

Today's WaPo:

Stability of Mentally Ill Shaken By Medicare Drug Plan Problems
Some Prescription Denials Have Heightened Distress

Since the prescription program made its debut Jan. 1, some of the estimated 2 million mentally ill Americans covered because they receive both Medicare and Medicaid have gone without the drugs that keep their delusions, paranoia, anxieties or stress in check. Mental health service providers and advocacy organizations nationwide say they worry that scores are at high risk of relapse. Numerous people have been hospitalized.

San Antonio Express, last week:

Medicare glitches are hurting the mentally ill

As the days and nights passed, Floyd Spears watched with dread as the pale yellow pills in the medicine bottle dwindled.

When they were gone, the voices began.

They tormented him, insisting he lash out. He'd pound his fist against his forehead, screaming aloud at them to stop.

In nine years, Spears, 42, never missed a day of work as chief of a local janitorial crew. But since his pills ran out and couldn't be refilled amid the chaos of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, he's been at home struggling to control his moods and his life.

Spears, who has paranoid schizophrenia, is one of many people with mental illnesses falling through the cracks as the new federal program continues to suffer major technological and administrative glitches.

The American Psychiatric Association reports increased patient relapses and emergency hospitalizations. Local doctors, pharmacies and caseworkers are grappling with how to get patients the medications they desperately need.


Since the new program began, many patients have left drugstores empty-handed because government databases didn't have their information. Health plans' help lines have been jammed. Pharmacists don't know which drugs were covered under which plans.

The fiasco has put the already-vulnerable population of those with mental illnesses at particular risk, said Lupe Morin, past president of the San Antonio chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"Many of these people are having delusions and just struggling to stay somewhat stable every day," she said. "They're not going to pay close attention to all the letters and literature sent to them about this complicated program. Then they sit on the phone all day on hold trying to get answers about policies they don't even understand."

Glenn Greenwald is On

C-Span right now. 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Must-See TV: Glenn Greenwald on C-Span Monday

Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory, the blogger who has been all over the NSA illegal wiretapping story, is going to be on C-Span Monday morning from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. He'll be debating Professor Robert Turner of the University of Virginia, an extreme proponent of unchecked Presidential power. Check out Unclaimed Territory for more on Turner.

NSA debate on C-SPAN

Professor Turner served in various positions in the Reagan Administration, including as counsel to the President's Intelligence Oversight Board, and is currently a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, which lays in the belly of the neoconservative beast (Its Co-Chairs are John Kyl, Joe Lieberman, George Schultz and James Woolsey, and its other members include Midge Decter, Victor Davis Hanson, Newt Gingrich, Michael Horowitz, Clifford May, Daniel Pipes, Norman Podhoretz, Victoria Toensing and Ed Meese -- the list goes on and on like that, but you get the idea).

In December, Professor Turner wrote a widely celebrated (among Bush followers) Op-Ed in The Wall St. Journal praising the Administration's decision to eavesdrop in violation of FISA on the ground that Congress has no right to limit the President's eavesdropping activities. I'm definitely looking quite forward to the opportunity to have this discussion, particularly since Professor Turner has advocated a rather extreme (and pernicious) view of unchecked executive power. []

It's a live call in show so you can try to get through C-Span's busy lines.

Some Things Aren't Funny

Danish embassies are burning around the world because of the cartoons printed in a right-wing Danish newspaper depicting the prophet Muhammed as a terrorist: one showed a bomb in place of his turban.

I agree with this op-ed in today's London Times:

These cartoons don't defend free speech, they threaten it

A newspaper is not a monastery, its mind blind to the world and deaf to reaction. Every inch of published print reflects the views of its writers and the judgment of its editors. Every day newspapers decide on the balance of boldness, offence, taste, discretion and recklessness. They must decide who is to be allowed a voice and who not. They are curbed by libel laws, common decency and their own sense of what is acceptable to readers. Speech is free only on a mountain top; all else is editing.

Despite Britons’ robust attitude to religion, no newspaper would let a cartoonist depict Jesus Christ dropping cluster bombs, or lampoon the Holocaust. Pictures of bodies are not carried if they are likely to be seen by family members. Privacy and dignity are respected, even if such restraint is usually unknown to readers. Over every page hovers a censor, even if he is graced with the title of editor.

To imply that some great issue of censorship is raised by the Danish cartoons is nonsense. They were offensive and inflammatory. The best policy would have been to apologise and shut up. For Danish journalists to demand “Europe-wide solidarity” in the cause of free speech and to deride those who are offended as “fundamentalists . . . who have a problem with the entire western world” comes close to racial provocation. We do not go about punching people in the face to test their commitment to non-violence. To be a European should not involve initiation by religious insult.