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November 29, 2003, 9:20 A.M.

We received the following comment from reader Brian M. regarding our recent post on the shut-down of the Baghdad bureau of al Arabiya:

From: "Brian M*******"
To: ed@philpotonpolitics.com
Subject: shutting down al-Arabiya
Date: Sat, 29 Nov 2003 07:15:06 -0500

Dear Ed,

I disagree with you that it is proper for the Governing Council in Iraq (or, translated from Newspeak, "puppet government,") to shut down al-Arabiya's Bagdhad news bureau.

First, al-Arabiya is a news organization, and news, regardless of its source, is the responsibility of the media to disseminate.

Moreover, just imagine that the Iraqis invaded our country, toppled our government and sent President Bush into hiding. Subsequently, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) began broadcasting clandestine messages from Bush, advocating American resistance including the killing of Iraqi soldiers. As a consequence the "Iraqi Administrator" or its puppet Governing Council made the CBC sign a paper saying that until it swore off broadcasting clandestine messages from Bush, the CBC news bureau in Washington would be shut down. Yeah, right. So why should Iraq be any different? It seems to me that people who've been attacked have the right to use whatever means of resistance they choose. It's one thing to yell "fire" in a crowded movie house. It is quite another to advocate the ouster of an invading army.

Perhaps the difference lies in the fact that Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, and we liberators ride in wearing white hats. I don't think that reasonable people will disagree that Hussein is a bad guy, but let's never forget that until he evidently pissed off Washington a little too much he was Washington's bad guy. Even after he had gassed his own Kurdish population, Washington continued to offer Hussein advanced technology and biological agents useful in the manufacture of WMD. During that period Hussein warmly greeted such noteworthies as then-Senate majority leader Bob Dole and Senator Alan Simpson, who conveyed to Hussein then-President George H.W. Bush's greetings. Our present Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was photographed giving Hussein a hearty handshake and a warm smile.

And as for the Americans acting in some capacity as liberators, it's important to remember that our "rescue mission" was an unprovoked attack against a sovereign nation, which has no justification by any norm of international law or UN mandate, let alone by popular request to be invaded by any responsible Iraqi spokesperson or plebiscite.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like our soldiers being put into harm's way one bit. But it's important to remember that the reason they've been put into harm's way has much less to do with Hussein's pipsqueak and clandestine calls for insurrection than it does with the present junta in Washington pursuing a policy which is hell-bent on controlling the flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf area at all costs.

Brian M******

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Brian.

November 24, 2003, 9:00 P.M.

I read an article in CNN today about the shutdown of the Baghdad bureau of Al Arabiya, the Arab news network. Apparently, Al Aribiya has been prohibited from broadcasting until it signs an agreement stating that it will not incite violence. The event that precipitated the ruling from the Iraqi Governing Council was the broadcast of a tape from Saddam Hussein inciting Iraqis to rise up and attack Americans. Wehad Yacoub, Al-Arabiya's Baghdad bureau chief, said the ruling left him “numb.” “I could not understand how a country professing to aspire to democracy and freedom could shut down a news agency.” Well, Mr. Yacoub, I think Oliver Wendell Holmes, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932 said it best when he said:

"But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done…. The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force…. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.”

There are limits on speech and in this case the Iraqis are correct in imposing them.

November 24, 2003, 9:01 P.M.

Politics does make for strange bedfellows. This week we have seen Judd Gregg and John Sununu in a rare break with the administration when they rose against an energy bill and consequently stood together with trial lawyers, environmentalists and local governments against special interests, the oil and energy industries and the President.

Equally perplexing is the AARP support for a Medicare bill that includes prescription drug subsidies (which greatly favor drug companies, by the way), but places the future of the entire program in jeopardy. Things do get curiouser and curiouser.

November 24 2003, 7:00 P.M.

Two major pieces of legislation now being considered in Washington deserve our attention: the energy and medicare bills. Both of these bills are shameless attempts at subsidizing major industries at the expense of the rest of us. The MBTE controversy especially hits home right here in the Lakes Region.

Included in the energy bill is a provision that would shield gasoline manufacturers from liability for damages caused by the gasoline additive MBTE. MBTE is a hot topic right here in Laconia where our drinking water is drawn from a lake populated by MBTE emitting boats and personal water craft. Not surprisingly, the so-called "safe harbor" liability protections were buried in the 1,148 page bill by none other than Texan Tom DeLay. DeLay is pushing this legislation because three quarters of all MBTE is made in Texas and Louisiana, and because he wants the legislation in order to protect energy industry cronies.

The "safe harbor" provisions of this bill would protect companies that make, use or market MBTE from federal and state product liability suits. This would bar suits such as the recent claim filed by the State of New Hampshire against 22 companies because MBTE has fouled numerous drinking water sources in the State and the California lawsuit that just resulted in a tentative agreement by three oil companies to pay $92.5 million to clean the MBTE out of Santa Monica’s drinking water supply. Coincidentally, the settlement was announced on the same day that the energy bill was blocked in the Senate.

The current failure of the energy bill to progress in the Senate was due in no small part to the leadership of Judd Gregg and John Sununu. Both men deserve credit for standing up to what must have been tremendous pressure from members of their party, including the Vice President, who has lobbied hard for this bill. Their actions support the State in its suit to clean up our drinking water.

In addition to the MBTE shield issue, this bill is bad for our country in many other ways. It creates incentives for expanded offshore oil and gas drilling, despite state prohibitions to the contrary, thus essentially bribing cash-strapped coastal states to abandon their opposition to offshore drilling. The bill also gives expanded authority to the Department of the Interior to permit drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf while limiting the rights of coastal states to have a say in projects that affect their coastlines: fishing and tourism industries and general environmental protection.

Not only does the bill ease constraints on exploration and acquisition, it repeals the Public Utility Holding Company Act, which protects consumers from market manipulation, fraud and abuse in the energy sector. In other words, the law that protects us, the consumers, from the likes of Enron.

The Manchester Union Leader in an editorial in Monday’s paper called the bill a "$31 billion boondoggle" and went on to say that "[i]t is such a ridiculous hodgepodge of special interest giveaways that it put several conservative Republican Senators on the same side of the fence as Robert Redford." I agree, and I must acknowledge our own Senators for recognizing that this bill is bad for the country, bad for the State and bad for the Lakes Region. It’s not over yet, and we all need to press our representatives to beat back this boondoggle.

Even though the GOP is now (in exchange for the $92.5 billion gift from the oil companies to Santa Monica, perhaps?) considering eliminating the MBTE safe harbor provision from the energy company welfare bill, it appears that the bill will not pass this year. This prompted House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to blame trial lawyers for stalling the bill. "The trial lawyers held up the entire energy bill," he said on Fox News Sunday. If that’s the case, we ought to be thanking trial lawyers because this bill is no good for anyone other than the oil and energy industries. The bill is nothing but pork for the table for President’s friends and backers in the industry. It should be opposed by everyone who cares to drink and swim in clean water.

The New York Times reported today that mayors and other local officials and operators of municipal water supplies are lobbying hard against the bill because if the bill passes with the MBTE liability waivers, local taxpayers and water users will be left to foot the bill for cleanup. This could have a dramatic impact right here in Laconia where our water source is a fragile lake, already overpopulated with MBTE-emitting watercraft.

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