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23 April 2006

FDA & Bush White House incur the Wrath of the NY Times

"Nelson the Newsboy" (1901),
a boy's adventure novel by Horatio Alger, Jr.

A newsboy -- in this case an orphan who lives with a sailor -- must be plucky and ambitious, but it also helps if the rag he's hawking has not in recent years become enfeebled, incompetent, and inexplicably afraid of the government.

In the world of US English-lingo daily newspapers, an editorial from The New York Times is about as close as humans ever get to Holy Writ. Fox can scream all it likes that The Times is in the dreaded Satanic grasp of Atheist Liberal America-Haters, but unhappily The Times has a century's track record of being pretty fucking accurate about most Factual Things, including the goings-on of government.

And when The Times feels the Time Is Right to turn what it knows of Facts into How The Times Feels About Stuff related to those Facts, politicians all over the spectrum tremble.

A president or senator or congressthing can survive a direct editorial blast from The Times. It's a built-in expectation of Big National Ambitions. Freakazoids like Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich consider it a Badge of Honor (until The Shit Hits The Fan).

But no American politician can survive The Wrath of The Times over and over and over again, at least not without alternating editorials also praising the politician's antics.

When The Times says Nixon has to go eleven times, Nixon has to go. Five more editorials saying he has to go, and he really goes.

When The Times says bluntly eight times that foole Scott McClellan has to go, well, he just left.

"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What i tell you three times is true."

-- The Hunting of the Snark, Fit the First
Lewis Carroll

Nixon is the last -- maybe the only -- president to leap into the pit with both The New York Times and The Washington Post with the intention of maiming and disabling both newspapers as powerful independent forces in national politics, so he could get on with The Nation's Business with no more fucking bullshit from those Commie queer liberal newspaper fuckers. (Sorry, that's just the way he talked into the tape recorder, you can check it out yourself at The National Archives. Also I left out the vile racist antisemitic epithets, but Nixon didn't.)

It was one ugly nasty fight, and Nixon fought it largely without rules or legal or Constitutional restraint. (G. Gordon Liddy once, in front of some senior White House staffers, offered to assassinate a Nixon-troubling journalist, and then offered to stand on a streetcorner so some other White House contract loony could drive by and whack him.)

Times and Post vs. Nixon
Final Score:
Times 1
Post 2
Nixon 0

And they had long since stopped alternating Good President editorials. A steady blast of jeremiads from The Times and The Post for two or three years, and the man went down and stayed down.

Things have changed. There's been unprecedented incompetent and embarrassing behavior at both papers, Leno and Letterman make jokes about the things that have gone on there in the last couple of years. Most are just gaffes for other newspaperpersons to giggle and blush about, but The Times' bizarre decision to sit on the NSA warrantless wiretap story for a year because The White House asked them nice-nice to spike it ...

Well, a certain Vim and Vigor The Times was noted for during the Nixon years has apparently dissipated in these times, a few of les Grands Fromages at these periodicals must be having Issues or trouble at home.

When The Times and The Post got their hot little hands on The Pentagon Papers, they ran it Page One Above The Fold and had big bundles of that sucker on the newstand the next morning.

What follows is a Tiny Jeremiad, and it won't grow legs and that dog won't hunt and it's not going to raise the temperature under the Bush White House a quarter degree Fahrenheit.

For what it's worth, it is an authentic and particularly crude and thuggish embarrassment, coming as it does during a Season Of Nothing But Big Public Hassles for the Bush White House. It will be good for some embarrassing questions at one WH press conference, and if you're lucky you can see the heated exchanges on C-Span 2 in a crappy time slot. But it won't make the nightly network news shows.

This is The War On Drugs, and a very predictable and boring hypnotic federal ritual that takes place about the science and the federal junk science related to marijuana every two years.

One account of the FDA's announcement is that the agency was goaded into it by The Mother Of All Frothing Drug Warriors, US Rep. Mark Souder, Republican of Indiana.

Don't get me started. But if you're an American citizen -- or an Uzbeki with a laptop at an Internet cafe -- it would please Vleeptron enormously if you'd devote a Special Day or Three between now and the 7 November election to do Something to make the Good People of Fort Wayne retire Mark Souder from Congress and thus localize and shrink the constant spew of toxic psycho damage he does to America and as much of the world as he can get his creepy hands on.

Is it possible that in the years between Nixon and Bush, The New York Times and The Washington Post have allowed themselves to be reduced to political ineffectiveness? If 100 is the score of national political prestige and influence these newspapers earned when Nixon hopped the final helicopter, what's their score today?

Are we flipping through the pages of two newspapers that now can only claim 60? Or 40? Are there senators and tenured members of Congress who ponder incurring the wrath of these papers, and think: "Screw those rags, they're weak, nobody cares."

Anyway, here's a Tiny Jeremiad, a little bit of icky nasty mud mixed with a small quantity of fecal matter which, once flung, will be pretty quick and easy to dry clean, and then it'll be Back To Business As Usual @ The White House, which is killing Asians and young, poor American servicemen and servicewomen, and bugging your computer without a warrant.

It's not enough for Bush to straighten up and fly right, and that ain't ever going to happen anyway.

The Times and The Post have to straighten up and fly right first. Or they could lose the big broken-bottle back-alley ear-biting brawl between an out-of-control, extra-Constitutional president, and the most responsible and prestigious of the American daily newspaper press.

~ ~ ~

The New York Times (New York City USA)
Saturday 22 April 2006 (4/(20+2))



The Politics of Pot

The Bush administration's habit of politicizing its scientific agencies was on display again this week when the Food and Drug Administration, for no compelling reason, unexpectedly issued a brief, poorly documented statement disputing the therapeutic value of marijuana. The statement was described as a response to numerous inquiries from Capitol Hill, but its likely intent was to buttress a crackdown on people who smoke marijuana for medical purposes and to counteract state efforts to legalize the practice.

Ordinarily, when the F.D.A. addresses a thorny issue, it convenes a panel of experts who wade through the latest evidence and then render an opinion as to whether a substance is safe and effective to use. This time the agency simply issued a skimpy one-page statement asserting that "no sound scientific studies" supported the medical use of marijuana.

That assertion is based on an evaluation by federal agencies in 2001 that justified the government's decision to tightly regulate marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. But it appears to flout the spirit of a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences.

The institute was appropriately cautious in its endorsement of marijuana. It said the active ingredients of marijuana appeared useful for treating pain, nausea and the severe weight loss associated with AIDS. It warned that these potential benefits were undermined by inhaling smoke that is more toxic than tobacco smoke. So marijuana smoking should be limited, it said, to those who are terminally ill or don't respond to other therapies.

Yet the F.D.A. statement, which was drafted with the help of other federal agencies that focus on drug abuse, does not allow even that much leeway. It argues that state laws permitting the smoking of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation are inconsistent with ensuring that all medications undergo rigorous scrutiny in the drug approval process.

That seems disingenuous. The government is actively discouraging relevant research, according to scientists quoted by Gardiner Harris in yesterday's Times. It's obviously easier and safer to issue a brief, dismissive statement than to back research that might undermine the administration's inflexible opposition to the medical use of marijuana.

Related Articles

* F.D.A. Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana (April 21, 2006)
* Times Select Content Drug-Fighters Turn to Rising Tide of Prescription Abuse (March 18, 2004)
* For a Very Few Patients, U.S. Provides Free Marijuana (March 19, 1999)
* Times Select Content Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria You Use (August 2, 1994)

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company


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