Brownout on Fact-Checking - October 20, 2003 -

Times Watch for October 20, 2003

Brownout on Fact-Checking

Neil Lewis pens "Battle Lines Already Forming Against a Bush Court Selection" on Justice Janice Rogers Brown, Bush's nominee to serve on the D.C. Circuit. It's not a bad write-up, though Lewis lets the Congressional Black Caucus accuse Brown of "extreme conservative activism" without reminding readers the Black Caucus could itself be accused of extreme liberal activism.

But Lewis really should know the D.C. Court better. In his Saturday piece, Lewis asserts that Brown "would be the first black woman to sit on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia."

That probably comes as a surprise to Judge Judith Rogers, who currently sits on the court. As Charles Lane reported in the July 17 Washington Post: "Brown, who has served on the California high court for seven years, would also become the second African American woman judge on the D.C. Circuit, which is often considered second only to the Supreme Court in the federal judicial hierarchy. Judith W. Rogers, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, was the first." If Lewis is going to bring up the race issue in the first place, he really should nail down the relevant facts.

That error was noted by Philadelphia attorney Howard Bashman on his website "How Appealing," as was this other, more significant Lewis inaccuracy: "Lewis also errs when he writes that 'Justice Brown is the only Bush appeals court nominees [sic] to date who has not received a strong endorsement from the American Bar Association.' The 'not qualified' rating from a minority of evaluators that D.C. Circuit nominee Janice Rogers Brown received from the American Bar Association is identical to the ratings that several other federal appellate court nominees have received, including at least three whom the U.S. Senate has confirmed by substantial margins." (Bashman provides a link to recent ABA appellate court ratings.)

For the rest of Lewis on Bush nominee Brown, click here.

Janice Brown | Congressional Black Caucus | Corrections | Judges | Labeling Bias | Neil Lewis | Race Issues | Judith Rogers

David Sanger Remembers the Maine

The Times has often linked Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Vietnam "quagmire." But David Sanger reaches all the way back to the Spanish-American War in his front-page story Sunday on Bush's trip to Manila: "While Mr. Bush made elliptical references to the Spanish-American War, some of his critics have argued that the justification for invading Iraq bore a resemblance to the rationale the United States used to begin that war in 1898, citing evidence, discounted as flimsy, that the battleship Maine had been deliberately blown up in Cuba by Spanish forces."

Sanger makes these apparently ominous parallels with sledgehammer subtlety: "That began the first war in which the United States seized territory beyond its continental shores, and the first in which other nations accused Washington of imperialist and colonial ambitions. Now, Mr. Bush faces similar accusations from critics questioning whether Saddam Hussein possessed weapons that posed an urgent threat."

For the rest of David Sanger's report from Manila, click here.

George W. Bush | Iraq War | Philippines | David Sanger

Times Editor Explains Tax Policy to Alabamans

Thank goodness Adam Cohen is here to tell Alabamans how to vote! His latest liberal editorial (for Monday's paper), "What Alabama's Low-Tax Mania Can Teach the Rest of the Country," speaks more in sadness than in anger about the rejection by Alabama voters of Gov. Bob Riley's tax reform plan (which would have lowered some tax burdens but raised taxes on more wealthy payers). Cohen laments: "The budget ax is swinging in Alabama, and the carnage is piling up."

After listing a series of projected cuts due he claims to the rejection of the plan, he implies the Alabama incident is just modern-day conservatism in action: "Alabama's disintegrating government is a problem, certainly, for anyone in the state. But it may also be a harbinger of where the nation is headed. There is a 'starve the beast' ethic, currently fashionable among conservatives, holding that the best way to downsize government and end the social safety net is to get voters to demand lower taxes. But before we hurtle any further in that direction, we should think hard about whether we want the whole nation to look like Alabama does this year or, worse, next year."

The whole nation like Alabama? Quelle Horror!

Cohen lauds Gov. Riley for the courage of raising taxes: "He courageously offered up a tax package that raised the needed revenue while shifting the burden from overtaxed poor people to undertaxed business interests."

After correctly noting some tax-plan skeptics were influenced by the "state tradition" of legislative pork and patronage, Cohen fumes: "It is easy to sell voters on low taxes, and a well-financed campaign by Alabama's business community-aided, shamefully, by the state Christian Coalition-did just that. What is harder, but vital right now, is making the more challenging case for why taxes, and sometimes even tax increases, are necessary."

Cohen then explains the truth to Alabamans (no doubt speaking slowly so they could understand him): "Alabama voters also need to realize that by entrenching their state at the bottom of the national rankings in taxes and government services, they are putting themselves on the margins of the new, global economy, and sabotaging their future tax base. Businesses looking for low taxes and cheap government will pass right over Alabama and head for Mexico. And companies that want well-educated, skilled workers, the companies Alabama needs to attract, will not locate in a state where high school students do not graduate, TB cases are not tracked and the restaurants may be hazardous."

Finally, Cohen brings it all back on Bush: "The Bush administration has tried to delude the public into thinking we can fight a war, rebuild Iraq, fix our schools, get prescription drug benefits and still enjoy the largest tax cut in history. But the deficit cannot grow forever. Eventually, we will have to pay more or, as 'starve the beast' proponents hope, do with much less. Last month, Alabama voted for fewer social services, less education, and a shoddier legal system-to become, that is, more like a third-world nation."

For the rest of Adam Cohen's helpful hints for Alabama, click here.

Alabama | Adam Cohen | Editorial | Taxes