Not Showing You a Damn Thing
judge decided that the investigative arm of Congress doesn’t
have the authority to check the executive branch of the U.S.
government, and somewhere, in an undisclosed location, Vice
President Dick Cheney is still cackling.
Last spring, the General Accounting Office filed a lawsuit
against Cheney inquiring about the participants in and decisions
made by the administration’s energy task force. Many of the
administration’s cronies from its days in the energy business
were involved in those meetings, and many speculated that
the nation’s energy policy would largely reflect their interests.
When the GAO requested the information, the administration
simply wouldn’t supply it—hence the lawsuit. But on Dec. 9,
a U.S. District judge, a Bush nominee, said the GAO did not
have the authority to ask Cheney for information regarding
While the decision may have pleased Cheney, newspaper editorial
boards across the country were livid. Many fear that the ruling
sets a dangerous precedent for the decision-making powers
of the executive branch to go unchecked.
this ruling is allowed to stand,” wrote the editors of the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “the GAO’s power to retrieve
documents and other information would be eroded, and the president
and his subordinates could remain largely invulnerable to
aggressive oversight by Congress’ official investigative agency.”
The administration’s energy plan called for expanded gas and
oil drilling domestically—including drilling in Alaska’s Arctic
National Wildlife Reserve—and easing the restrictions on building
nuclear power plants.
Informally, Cheney has maintained a defense of executive privilege,
telling Fox News Sunday on Jan. 27 that the GAO’s requests
were “unprecedented in the fact that it has never been done
before.” But a report filed by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman
(D-Calif.) noted otherwise, saying that the GAO had reviewed
work by the Task Force on Health Care Reform established by
Hillary Rodham Clinton. The editors at the Minneapolis Star
American people do not much like secrecy and insider influence
in government,” the Star Tribune said. “[T]hey’re inclined
to resent the proposition that a bunch of oil, gas, coal and
electricity executives should quietly steer the country in
territory as crucial as energy policy, where the national
interest is often at odds with industry self-interest.”
Much Are You Willing to Give?
to a report released last week by the Center for Responsive
Politics, big-money campaign donors provided the lion’s share
of all itemized contributions in this year’s congressional
elections. The report said that less than one-tenth of a percent
of the U.S. population gave 83 percent of all itemized campaign
contributions. In the most recent elections cycle, itemized
political contributions totaled $873 million, and approximately
237,000 donors supplied $728 million. Approximately 600,000
citizens gave contributions large enough to be itemized by
the Federal Election Commission for the 2002 congressional
is the kind of thing we need to stop,” said Jon Bartholomew,
clean money/clean elections coordinator for Citizen Action
of New York. “These statistics state that there is a very
small number of people who call the shots in the government.
If a tiny number of people donate, then it is only that tiny
number that influence our political process, and the general
public is just left out in the cold.”
The Federal Election Commission requires recipients of any
contribution over $200 to identify who donated the money.
The CRP’s report accounted only for hard- and soft-money contributions
made by individuals; contributions from political action committees
to candidates or parties, and soft-money contributions made
by organizations, were not included in the report.
Though McCain-Feingold-Cochran, the federal election-reform
bill passed this year, aimed to curb the kind of exclusive
influence wealthy individuals can exercise in U.S. politics,
Bartholomew said he doubts it will have a real positive effect.
may lead to more itemized individual contributions,” said
Bartholomew. “This may lead [contributors] to find other ways
to donate. People will say to their family members, ‘Write
a check and I’ll transfer the money into your account.’”
Bartholomew and Citizen Action of New York are seeking greater
statewide sponsorship on a clean elections bill circulating
the state Senate. The bill would require politicians to prove
popularity among voters through a petition process and swear
off contributions from individuals in return for state funding
to run their campaigns. Bartholomew said the bill would bring
the public interest back into politics.
end result of [clean elections] leads to a more representative
government,” Bartholomew said. “It leads to greater voter
turnout, more incumbent challenges. And then these people
do not owe favors to anyone but the voters.”
for Almost Everyone
years after gay-rights legislation was first introduced into
the state Legislature, Gov. George E. Pataki signed into law
a gay-rights bill hours after it was passed by the Senate
on Dec. 17.
The governor’s signature on the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination
Act, first introduced in 1971, now grants gay and lesbian
New Yorkers the same civil rights benefits and protections
provided to people based on age, race, religion, color, national
origin, sex, disability and marital status.
SONDA was passed each of the last 10 years by ever-widening
margins in the Assembly and, for the first time this year,
by a majority of Assembly Republicans. The state Senate approved
the measure 34-26.
now know they have the law behind them,” said Ross Levi, legislative
counsel for the Empire State Pride Agenda. “This law serves
as a warning. New York doesn’t see sexual orientation as a
reason for oppressing people in their public life. It doesn’t
get rid of people’s prejudices, but it will discourage them.”
While members of ESPA, one of the bill’s main lobbyists, welcome
the law with open arms, critics said New York’s civil-rights
laws are still incomplete, as protections for transgender
individuals were not included in SONDA.
were left off because the people who run ESPA think that transgendered
people are less acceptable than they are,” said Cathy Platine,
who runs a transsexual women’s housing collective in Pallenville.
“The irony of it was that [SONDA] would have gone through
with us. To outsiders, we’re all queer. Nobody is more queer
than anybody else. You either have a problem with it or you
Platine said she will continue to push the Legislature to
include protections for gender expression.
Though Levi expressed remorse that the protections for transgender
individuals were not included in the bill, he said it would
have been a tough sell to some legislators.
1971, it has been the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination
bill,” Levi explained. “Politicians have been lobbied in this
manner, they have talked to their constituents about this,
and unfortunately that hasn’t been the case for the transgendered
community. But we’re going to look into strengthening civil-rights
Back at Ya
karma has caught up with Adm. John Poindexter, the convicted
Iran-Contra felon who has stirred controversy recently with
a proposed Pentagon antiterrorist computer system that would
keep the American public under surveillance by gathering several
kinds of citizens’ personal records in a massive database
[“O Big Brother, Where Art Thou?,” Dec 5). Wired.com reported
on Saturday that hackers have taken the lead from a San Francisco
journalist and plastered Poindexter’s phone number and address,
photos of his house, and other personal information on more
than 100 Web pages around the world.
According to Wired, Matt Smith—a writer for SF Weekly
who feels “violated” by the aims and methods that Poindexter’s
Total Information Awareness Office has planned for detecting
and tracking terrorists within the country—maintains that
the information on Poindexter that he included in a recent
piece is all publicly available.
I dialed John and Linda Poindexter’s number—(301) 424-6613—at
their home at 10 Barrington Fare in Rockville, Md., hoping
the good admiral and excused criminal might be able to offer
some insight,” Smith wrote two weeks ago. “Why, for example,
is their $269,700 Rockville, Md., house covered with artificial
siding, according to Maryland tax records? Shouldn’t a Reagan
conspirator be able to afford repainting every seven years?
Is the Donald Douglas Poindexter listed in Maryland sex-offender
records any relation to the good admiral? What do Tom Maxwell,
at 8 Barrington Fare, and James Galvin, at 12 Barrington Fare,
think of their spooky neighbor?”
Hackers quickly exploited the published information. Someone
got into the Verizon computer system and found the details
of the switch serving his house, and Cryptome, an online privacy
site, published satellite photos of the Poindexter home after
Smith urged that the admiral be made to feel the discomfort
of the scrutiny to which he would be subjecting all of us.
Writing again on Tuesday on sfweekly.com, Smith quoted retired
Sun Microsystems pioneer and cyberlibertarian John Gilmore,
who has encouraged hackers to turn up the heat on Poindexter:
“The question is, how to stop him? If he hears from enough
people in his ordinary everyday life that he’s a terrible
person, he just might decide to stop. What if the guy who
delivers milk to him says, ‘You people are sons of bitches?’
What if his phone service constantly gets turned off, because
teenagers are turning it into a pay phone? Wouldn’t it be
great if his picture were up on posters all over Washington
that said, “Don’t speak to this man. Don’t pick him up if
you’re a cabdriver.’ ”