"The High Priestess of Unfettered Capitalism"
Bush's nomination of Rep. Chris Cox to head the Securities and Exchange Commission makes Friday's Page One in an article by business reporter Stephen Labaton, accompanied by the leading headline, "Bush S.E.C. Pick Is Seen As Friend To Corporations."
Labaton was no friend of the Republican-backed bankruptcy bill, which he feared would let "corrupt companies" off the hook. Now he worries that Rep. Cox admires Ayn Rand, "the high priestess of unfettered capitalism."
He opens by calling the pro-regulation Donaldson "independent": "In Republican and business circles, William H. Donaldson has been viewed as the David Souter of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a disappointingly independent choice who sided too frequently with the Democrats."
"President Bush, hearing complaints about Mr. Donaldson's record from across the business spectrum, responded on Thursday by nominating Representative Christopher Cox, a conservative Republican from California, as a successor whose loyalties seem clear. And unlike the Supreme Court, where Justice Souter has a lifetime appointment, the S.E.C. provides the White House with an immediate opportunity to tip the balance of the five-person commission in a more favorable direction."
The online photo caption drives the ideological point home: "Representative Christopher Cox, a conservative Republican from California, spoke on Thursday after being nominated by President Bush."
Labaton describes Cox's politics: "Mr. Cox - a devoted student of Ayn Rand, the high priestess of unfettered capitalism - has a long record in the House of promoting the agenda of business interests that are a cornerstone of the Republican Party's political and financial support. A major recipient of contributions from business groups, the accounting profession and Silicon Valley, he has fought against accounting rules that would give less favorable treatment to corporate mergers and executive stock options. He opposes taxes on dividends and capital gains. And he helped to steer through the House a bill making investor lawsuits more difficult. That measure, which Congress adopted over President Bill Clinton's veto, was hailed by business groups, which say it has reduced costly and frivolous cases. It has also been criticized by consumer and investor organizations. They say its adoption in 1995 contributed to an unaccountable climate that fostered the big accounting scandals at companies like Enron and WorldCom a few years later."
After a mix of views from senators and lawyers, Labaton writes: "One issue that is certain to arise is whether Mr. Cox will feel obligated to Wall Street and the business groups that have been among his most important political contributors. Since 1989, his campaigns have raised more than $6 million, with more than $2 million coming from business political action committees, according to federal election reports analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization that favors tighter controls on campaign contributions."
Labaton ends on this ominous note: "Over the last 16 years in the House of Representatives, Mr. Cox has played a central role as one of the strongest pro-business voices. But his advocacy for some interests also caused him some trouble. Early in the first term of President Bush, Mr. Cox withdrew his name before it was formally put forward by the White House for a federal appeals court seat on the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, because the slender Democratic majority in the Senate had threatened a bruising confirmation battle."
The story includes a helpful chart from the liberal Center for Responsible Politics, labeled "Business Ally" and breaking down the campaign donations by industry.
For the rest of Labaton on Cox, click here:
Thank Goodness: Conservative Christian Town "Not Militantly Right Wing"
Thursday's Arts section fronts reporter Bruce Weber's dispatch from Muhlenberg, Pa., "A Town's Struggle in the Culture War." The town's school board and parents are debating the propriety of teaching the young adult novel "The Buffalo Tree," because some parents feel the book is unsuitable for the classroom. The book, set in a juvenile detention center and narrated by a 12-year-old boy inmate, is on the 11th grade reading list at the local high school.
Weber writes: "According to the American Library Association, which asks school districts and libraries to report efforts to ban books - that is, have them removed from shelves or reading lists - they are on the rise again: 547 books were challenged last year, up from 458 in 2003. These aren't record numbers. In the 1990's the appearance of the Harry Potter books, with their themes of witchcraft and wizardry, caused a raft of objections from evangelical Christians."
(Back in 2003, Weber wrote a notorious "review" of "Discordant Duets," a uniquely pro-Christian play shown at that year's New York City Fringe Festival. Weber boasted about walking out of the play because its message offended him, a strange tactic for a presumably open-minded critic to take.)
Weber gives the liberal ALA ample room to make their case against closed-minded Republicans: "Judith Krug, director of the library association's office for intellectual freedom, attributed the most recent spike to the empowerment of conservatives in general and to the re-election of President Bush in particular. The same thing happened 25 years ago, she said. 'In 1980, we were dealing with an average of 300 or so challenges a year, and then Reagan was elected,' she said. 'And challenges went to 900 or 1,000 a year.'"
Weber sniffs: "Muhlenberg is a township of modest homes and 10,000 people or so, a bedroom community for the city of Reading, in the southeastern quadrant of the state. It is conservative politically and almost entirely white, and there are a growing number of evangelical Christians."
Even his attempted evenhandedness contains condescension: "But the town is not militantly right wing. It is significant that even the more vociferous opponents of the book did not insist it come off the school library shelves (though thieves apparently took care of that). In fact, on April 14, as soon as Dr. Yarworth discovered that an overzealous underling had had copies of the novel stored in the school vault, he ordered them returned to storage in classrooms so it could still be read by students who sought it out."
For the full Weber from Muhlenberg, Pa., click here:
Anti-War Protest Tips on Page One
Friday's Page One gives huge play to reporter Damien Cave's "Growing Problem for Military Recruiters: Parents," which lays out the tactics anti-war parents are using against recruiters in high schools: "Rachel Rogers, a single mother of four in upstate New York, did not worry about the presence of National Guard recruiters at her son's high school until she learned that they taught students how to throw hand grenades, using baseballs as stand-ins. For the last month she has been insisting that administrators limit recruiters' access to children." ("Children" that are in some cases old enough to vote.)
His next concerned parent: "Meanwhile, Amy Hagopian, co-chairwoman of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association at Garfield High School in Seattle, has been fighting against a four-year-old federal law that requires public schools to give military recruiters the same access to students as college recruiters get, or lose federal funding. She also recently took a few hours off work to stand beside recruiters at Garfield High and display pictures of injured American soldiers from Iraq. 'We want to show the military that they are not welcome by the P.T.S.A. in this building,' she said."
Hagopian is a notorious anti-war activist who did more than "stand beside recruiters" at the high school. She tried to drive them out, telling Sgt. Melisa Porter, "Do you realize you arent welcome here?" and telling a reporter for the Socialist Worker (who just happens to be her son) that military recruiting stations "are great targets for the antiwar movement; this could really be a new frontier of the antiwar movement."
Deeper into the story, Cave partially addresses Hagopian activism but doesn't provide the full flavor: "Many of the mothers and fathers most adamant about recruitment do have a history of opposition to Vietnam. Amy Hagopian, 49, a professor of public health at the University of Washington, and her husband, Stephen Ludwig, 57, a carpenter, said that they and many parents who contest recruiting at Garfield High in Seattle have a history of antiwar sentiment and see their efforts as an extension of their pacifism."
Cave writes: "Two years into the war in Iraq, as the Army and Marines struggle to refill their ranks, parents have become boulders of opposition that recruiters cannot move. Mothers and fathers around the country said they were terrified that their children would have to be killed - or kill - in a war that many see as unnecessary and without end."
For the rest of Cave on liberal parents' opposition to campus recruiting, click here: