Joe Conason's Journal

More crony capitalism in Texas. Plus: Will Iraq hawks take yes for an answer? And why Superman is mad at George W. Bush.

By Salon Staff

Published September 17, 2002 4:11PM (EDT)

Cornyn and cronyism
Avid students of crony capitalism in Texas during the Bush years will recall an agency known as UTIMCO that was once controlled by Tom Hicks, the venture capitalist who bought the Texas Rangers from the future president's syndicate. The acronym stands for University of Texas Investment Management Company. It was created by the great university's trustees when, with the explicit support of then-Gov. George W. Bush, they decided to privatize (that word again!) management of UT's enormous financial assets. Those assets turned up in the hands of Hicks, a big Bush moneyman, and various other Republican donors and cronies, as the Houston Chronicle first revealed in 1999.

Now the Chronicle's superb R.G. Ratcliffe reports that with the market downturn, the suits who run UTIMCO are trying to keep the returns on the cronies' private equity deals secret. And the decision about whether to permit that abuse of the state constitution to stand will be made by Attorney General John Cornyn -- the Republican Senate candidate who is dependent on Bush and those same GOP contributors for his own war chest. (Cornyn's candidacy is already compromised by his longtime fealty to Houston's disgraced Enron gang.)
[3:30 p.m. PDT, Sept. 17, 2002]

Inspect this
Taking yes for an answer from Saddam won't be easy for the White House hawks and their friends at the Pentagon. Indeed, the first statement issued by the press office refused to accept victory. (Someone suggested a couple of weeks ago that Baghdad might well capitulate to a credible threat combined with multilateral diplomacy.) This outcome must be gratifying to Kofi Annan, to Rep. Nick Rahall and former Sen. James Abourezk and all the others who intervened to convince the Iraqis that Bush is serious.

But the mood in the White House today seems disconsolate and sulky. Iraq's abrupt agreement to renewed, unconditional U.N. weapons inspections must be particularly disappointing to Gen. Karl Rove, commander of Republican forces in the midterm election. Changing the subject from Social Security, pension reform, corporate corruption, prescription drug coverage and other topics that delight Democrats won't be as simple for Rove as it was yesterday.

Despite this setback, the Bush administration (minus Colin Powell) remains determined as ever to wage war in Iraq.

Yet the international coalition that was reconstituting itself for possible action after the president's U.N. address clearly won't support "regime change" unless weapons inspectors are thwarted again. In this instance, the conservative response is to throw money at the problem. According to today's Times of London, the administration plans a $200 million worldwide propaganda "blitz" to convince foreign and domestic audiences that military action against Saddam is unavoidable. The campaign will be "overseen by the Office of Global Communications, whose existence will not be formally announced until next month." (That would be the biggest waste of federal funds since that $250 million retroactive tax break for Enron.)

Tugging on Superman's cape
We've come to expect uplifting courage from Christopher Reeve. What we don't hear about as often is his justifiable anger and frustration with the politicization of medical science. On the eve of his 50th birthday, as he is beginning to recover sensation and movement, Reeve tells the Guardian why he's furious with President Bush. If Reeve was angry when he gave that interview, wait until he reads this appalling account of the Bush administration's ongoing subversion of federal scientific panels to placate industry and the religious right.
[10:30 a.m. PDT, Sept. 17, 2002]

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