By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
'Heads Should Roll'
Hackworth Echos Low-Level Military Revolt
Demands for the release of the three GIs captured on the Macedonian border are helping to fire a congressional inquiry into the incident, which promises to feed the rebellion already under way in the Pentagon by low-level officers. This got a shot in the arm last week when it was revealed that U.S. intelligence knew about Serb plans to abduct U.S. soldiers. Columnist Bob Novak said he got a call from one source March 23 alerting him to the plan. The soldiers were captured eight days later. Armed Services Committee chair John Warner of Virginia, who has supported the NATO bombing, wants to know why the intelligence on the threat of abduction was ignored.
Reflecting the uproar within the military, which so far has been muted in the mainstream press, Colonel David Hackworth's e-mail newsletter, Defending America, posed some scathing questions last week.
Hackworth demanded to know why three recon scouts who'd been in Macedonia for months apparently gave up without much of a fight.
Congress, he declared, should ask:
"Why were the three scouts in a hazardous zone without their tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles . . . ?
"Why were they on patrol by themselves in just one extremely vulnerable Humvee . . . without at least three more vehicles each with mounted machine guns, each covering the others?
"Where was the backup force . . . ?
"What were the ROE (Rules of Engagement)? Were their weapons locked and loaded? Did the soldiers have clear orders to fire if threatened or fired upon?
"Why weren't there dead Serbs on the ground?"
Hackworth concluded that the incident was mishandled and that "Heads should roll."
Foundations and Empire
The Ideological Battle in Washington
Seldom noticed by reporters, the real struggle for hearts and minds in Washington is waged not by traditional lobbyists but by nonprofit foundations. On the right, this ideological battle amounts to an intense propaganda war by well-heeled nonprofits ranging from the mainstream conservative Heritage Foundation (annual budget: $28.7 million) to the vociferously combative, Libertarian-minded Cato Institute (annual budget $8 million) to the social conservatives in the Family Research Council (annual budget: $10.2 million).
A new report finds that the top 20 conservative think tanks have doubled their budgets in the '90s, spending $158 million in 1996, with total spending exceeding $1 billion during the decade. To put that figure in perspective, says the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, which prepared the report, "the Republican party raised and spent $138 million in 'soft money' contributions in 1996, $20 million less than the conservative policy groups profiled in the report."
The think tanks utilize a clever approach, appealing to "ordinary people" with anecdotes, like the Competitive Enterprise Institute's claim that homeowners in Southern California wouldn't have had their dwellings destroyed by fire in 1993 if the Endangered Species Act had not kept them from clearing flammable growth from around their homes. Or the Heritage Foundation's report that purported to show how lower-income Social Security participants would've had a much higher rate of return (and more money at retirement) had they invested in the market through IRAs. Both claims were attacked by liberal groups, but not before receiving a sympathetic reception in the press.
However, liberals are beginning to hit back, through groups such as the Institute for Public Accuracy, with its releases of alternative "experts" that reporters can turn to for the other side when they get a PR release from a conservative foundation. But this approach still falls far short of adequately dealing with operations like Heritage, which runs a nonstop open house for reporters.
Newest trend for cities all over the nation is renting themselves out, in whole or in part, to big companies as a way of making money.
For example, Ocean City, Maryland, has Coke as its official drink and Panama Jack as its official sunblock, with exclusive marketing rights on the beaches. Ford is the "official vehicle" of Los Angeles County beaches, and both New York and Indianapolis have corporate sponsors for their parks.
But, reports Robert Weissman in the Multinational Monitor, none compares with Sacramento, California, which is pushing a "Capital Spirit" program in which nearly every municipally owned item is hawked. According to a consultant to the city, the practice can generate from $2 to $5 million a year in revenues.
Additional reporting: Ioana Veleanu