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Candide’s Latest: December 28, 2006

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Too Silent, Too Late
Ford Secretly Blasted Iraq War Policies

To Ford, fealty always trumped responsibility

One more example of the press, and Bob Woodward in particular, playing footsey with the establishment. The questions about this story are more pertinent than its belated revelations: Why didn't Gerald Ford speak his mind about the Iraq war before the luxury of death freed him from his misplaced loyalties? What does it say about Republicans that they place their old-boy fealty ahead of the national welfare? And what does it say about Bob Woodward, ever the Washington courtesan and source-stroker, that he'd agree to such multi-year embargoes in exchange for his personally lucrative gets? For the dead, and Ford's foppish one is the least of them, It's too late now to matter. Here's the Woodward story:

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush had launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration. In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief. "Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do." In a conversation that veered between the current realities of a war in the Middle East and the old complexities of the war in Vietnam whose bitter end he presided over as president, Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy. "Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security." The Ford interview -- and a subsequent lengthy conversation in 2005 -- took place for a future book project, though he said his comments could be published at any time after his death. In the sessions, Ford fondly recalled his close working relationship with key Bush advisers Cheney and Rumsfeld while expressing concern about the policies they pursued in more recent years." See the full story...

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From the Editorial Board
Gerald R. Ford

From the News-Journal: "Sure there were the quips and gags about Gerald Ford -- Lyndon Johnson saying he couldn't "chew gum and walk at the same time," former Detroit mayor Gerald Cavanaugh saying "there's nothing wrong with Gerald Ford except he played football too long without a helmet," Chevy Chase's stumbling iconography of the 38th president on Saturday Night Live, even John Updike crafting an entire novel around the hazy, dopey "Memories of the Ford Administration." But in retrospect the jokes were more hip than factual, the assessment of Ford as a bumbling president as dated as disco and Henry Kissinger's brinkmanship.No sense slandering the man's memory by romanticizing it. In a quarter century of public service through 13 straight victorious elections to the House of Representatives (and minority leadership there), then a brief stint as vice president and 896 days as president, Ford accumulated his share of blemishes. He was a lifelong opponent of the minimum wage and public housing; disliked trade unions; opposed Medicare in 1965; didn't author a single major bill in Congress; tried to impeach William O. Douglas, a liberal Supreme Court justice, on no evidence; thought Johnson's Vietnam policies not hawkish enough; and defended Nixon's illegal incursions into Cambodia and Laos to the end. He also logged 130,000 miles as vice-president while defending Nixon's innocence in the Watergate scandal until just days before Nixon's resignation and, of course, pardoned him one month into his presidency." Read the rest...

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Fence Madness
Pakistan's Afghan Wall

Fence this

First it was the Israeli "fence" along (and well inside) the West Bank. The it was America's nativist Republicans and quite a few Democrats, along with their president, approving that 700-mile fence along the Mexican border. Now it's Pakistan's turn. From Pakistan's Dawn:

Pakistan has decided to put in place landmines and a fence along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as a ‘last resort’ to stop cross-border movement of terrorists, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said on Tuesday. [...] He said the government had already deployed 80,000 troops and established over 800 check posts on the border. [...] Notably, the announcement about additional measures comes amid mounting complaints from Afghanistan, the US and Nato that Pakistan is not doing enough to help stabilise the situation in the border areas and the growing concern about tribal areas turning into safe havens for the Taliban and militants. [...] To a question if Pakistan had reached an agreement with the Afghan government on fencing and mining of the border given that it had been opposed to these measures, his response was: “There is no question of an agreement in this regard as this is a measure that we will be taking on our side of the border.” [...] When his attention was drawn to the international convention on mining, he said Pakistan like a number of other countries, including India, was not a signatory to the Ottawa Convention that forbids mining and added. [...] Defending Pakistan’s decision to fence segments of the border, he cited the example of fencing on the US-Mexico border to check cross-border movements. He argued that the move was a necessary measure to carry out Pakistan’s commitment that its territory would not be used for militancy inside Afghanistan. [...] Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah told Dawn that fencing and land mining would not done at the whole 27,000kms border but at the most critical patches from where the movement of the Taliban could be possible." The full story...

Next up: a fence between North Dakota and Canada. Right along the International Peace Garden.

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21st Century Inferno
Slavery in the UK

From the UK Independent: This is the story of Somalatha, who is from Sri Lanka. It is not her real name - you are about to find out why. It is a story that most people will disbelieve could occur in modern-day Britain. Sadly, it is true. It happened very recently. Somalatha arrived in Britain when she was 29 with a family for whom she had been working in Jordan. Her job was to be a maid. She had to work 16 to 18 hours a day, for which she was paid £200 a month. In the first two years, she was not given one day off. She was not allowed to eat with the family and had to wait for leftovers. If there were none, she was advised to eat onions and potatoes. If any food was missing, she was automatically blamed for it, or even punished. Somalatha had to sleep on a sofa-bed in the sitting room, where she was disturbed by anyone who came in late. Friday nights were especially difficult since the teenage children would come home late at night and bring their friends, which would prevent her from sleeping. Her employer deliberately let Somalatha's visa expire. Since she was without a visa, she could not run away. She kept asking for a letter from her employer so she could apply to renew her visa but this was refused. Under current law, women like Somalatha have a way out. But the Government is about to close her escape route. Earlier this year it proposed changes to the law which will divide migrants to the UK into five tiers according to their perceived skills and the economic benefit they will bring to the country." The full story...

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Counterpoint
In Praise of Lebanese Sectarianism

Michael Young in Lebanon's Daily Star: "Praising Lebanon's sectarian system may seem odd this end of year, as sectarianism seems closer than ever before to devouring the society. But that's precisely what we should do, because political developments in recent weeks have shown that sectarianism, for all its demonstrable shortcomings, is the only system reflecting the true nature of social relations, imposing humility on all the parties, and offering the Lebanese a pluralism so abysmally lacking elsewhere in the Middle East. [...] But sectarianism is also the one thing that has made Lebanon more or less democratic in a region stifled by despotism. Because the religious communities are more dominant than the state, power is diffused, so that no single political actor or alliance has ever been able to impose its writ on all of society. In the absence of absolute victory, the system has, of necessity, embraced perpetual compromise - or, when one of the sides, or both, has ignored the rules, collapsed into crisis. The dissatisfied have often looked for salvation in a strong state, leading to a longstanding rivalry between supporters of muscular state institutions and supporters of traditional sectarian leaders. Not surprisingly, the latter have usually won out because they better reflect the country's social disposition, which cannot long abide exclusive central authority." The full column...   

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Zombie Centennial
Memories of the Brezhnev Administration

A delicious retrospective piece about Leonid Brezhnev, one of the twentieth century's least appetizing personalities, whose odd centennial it was last week, by Andrei Fursov in The Moscow News: "Is Brezhnev interesting as a personality? Definitely not. Although he was more likable than most of his predecessors or successors, he was of course what is known as a mediocre personality. But he could not have been anything different: Otherwise he would not have made a career within the "anti-natural selection" system that was typical of the Communist nomenklatura setup. Brezhnev is only interesting as a representative of the mature, well-fed and therefore not at all bloodthirsty nomenklatura as a small, elite subset of Communist Party members who held various key administrative positions in all spheres of the Soviet Union. Brezhnev was its symbol. So Brezhnev's centennial gives us cause to talk not so much about him as about the model and era that he represented, or rather, reflected. The Brezhnev era, on the one hand, saw the elimination of contradictions that had accumulated in Soviet society in the 1920s-1950s (especially in the 1950s), but on the other hand, it created new, highly acute contradictions that came out into the open in the 1980s and had to be addressed by Gorbachev and then Yeltsin. By now, these contradictions have been almost completely eliminated: The era that started on the borderline of the 1960s and the 1970s is rapidly coming to an end, while Brezhnev's centennial is a good reason to say goodbye to it - forever." The full piece...

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Rotten Apple
Steve Jobs, Corrupted?

From the Finacial Times: Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple Computer, was handed 7.5m stock options in 2001 without the required authorisation from the company’s board of directors, according to people familiar with the matter. Records that purported to show a full board meeting had taken place to approve Mr Jobs’ remuneration, as required by Apple’s procedures, were later falsified. These are now among the pieces of evidence being weighed by the Securities and Exchange Commission as it decides whether to pursue a case against the company or any individuals over the affair, according to these people. News of the irregularities, which is expected to be revealed in a regulatory filing by Apple before the end of this week, will add to pressure that has been growing on one of Silicon Valley’s most highly-regarded companies since the middle of 2005. Apple is among more than 160 companies that have owned up to stock option backdating – handing options to executives and other employees at exercise prices that were set in hindsight at favourable levels – a scandal which has led to the departure of a number of chief executives." The full story...

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Your Duke Ellington Moment

Here's "Perdido," from Ellington's Live At the Blue Note album, originally released in 1952 (and re-released in 1994).

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Chez Nous Les Malls
Champs Elysées Go Florida

From Der Spiegel: "Paris is alarmed at the prospect that its beloved main boulevard is becoming just another brand-driven shopping street. City Hall is fighting the invasion of foreign high street retailers and struggling to keep the Champs Elysées as French and chic as possible. Fifth Avenue might be longer, the skyscrapers on Causeway Bay are taller, Bond Street is more fashionable and Ginza more exotic, but voilà -- when it comes to flair, and that typical French mixture of prestige and exclusivity, then the grandest thoroughfare in Paris beats the main drags of New York, Hong Kong, London or Toyko hands down. "Les Champs Elysées" -- directly translated it means the fields of paradise. Visitors to Paris often consider the stroll from the Arc du Triomphe down to the Place de la Concorde to be the emotional highlight of their trip, especially at this time of year, when the avenue shimmers in a sea of Christmas lights. Locals on the other hand with patriotic modesty call the two-kilometer-long street "the most beautiful avenue in the world." [...] Now this symbol is facing a new danger -- the rampant onslaught of cheap stores is eating away at the avenue's charm. Cafés and bistros have given way to pizzerias and fast-food joints; astronomical rents -- between €5,000 and €10,000 per square meter, are pushing out traditional restaurants and cinemas. Instead the street is dominated by luxury shops, like the pompous Louis Vuitton store, or giant mega-stores for the Gap, Nike or Adidas. "The Champs Elysées is being colonized," a Paris blog exclaims, "and the French aren't lifting a finger." Will all of Paris soon be in the inescapable stranglehold of international brands? Perhaps not, now that the left-wing city government has openly declared its opposition." The full story...

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