1. Don Sellar, ombudsman for The Toronto Star, reminds journalists of one of the questions they seem to have given up asking: "Who forged the Niger uranium papers?"

Good question. I have my own question for the online editors of The Star: Haven't you noticed that spaces between paragraphs make online text much more readable?

2. This New York Times article, by Katie Zezima, provides a good excuse for another shameless plug for Equal Exchange and their wonderful fair-trade coffees. Their coffee is:

… bought directly from coffee cooperatives at prices that guarantee a living wage to small farmers in 17 countries.

By exporting the coffee themselves, farmers earn considerably more a pound than if they sold through industry middlemen. Equal Exchange said it paid the cooperatives $1.26 a pound for regular coffee and $1.41 a pound for organic coffee. On the international market, coffee for March delivery closed at 63.25 cents a pound this week.

It's also pretty good coffee. It costs a bit more than the low-end industrial coffees (Maxwell House, Folger's, etc.) and a bit less than the fancy schmancy gourmet coffees, but it tastes more like the latter than like the former.

3. I'm not sure whether the first line of this Reuter's story is the punchline or the set-up for what seems like a bitter joke:

The Environmental Protection Agency's top enforcement official on Monday said he will leave his post later this month to become a lawyer for Sam's Club, a unit of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest company.

You can't fault John Suarez for the career move. Sooner or later, we'll all be working for Wal-Mart and he saw his chance to get one of their few positions that pays a living wage.

Suarez' description of the EPA's accomplishments over the past three years is also interesting:

"I am extremely proud of the work that we do here in EPA enforcing our nation's laws," Suarez said in a letter to colleagues. The EPA has "been able to provide more compliance assistance to industry than ever before," he added in a letter circulated by the agency.

Some call it "enforcement," some say "compliance assistance for industry" — it means the same thing, doesn't it? No?

4. Shorter David Brooks: Richard Perle is lying when he brags about his influence, and anybody who criticizes the neoconservatives is an anti-Semite whacko. Especially that Jew-boy Wesley Clark.

5. If you haven't already read E.J. Dionne's lovely New Year's column, "Working Hard — And Forgotten," go read it now. Here's a taste:

We pay no attention to the people on whom we depend every day. As [author Beth] Shulman has written: "They are nursing home and home health care workers who care for our parents; they are poultry processors who bone and package our chicken; they are retail clerks in department stores, grocery stores and convenience stores; they are housekeepers and janitors who keep our hotel rooms and offices clean; they are billing and telephone call center workers who take our complaints and answer our questions; and they are teaching assistants in our schools and child care workers who free us so that we can work ourselves."

And where public policy is concerned, they are nothing. We don't worry that they lack health insurance coverage. We're not concerned that their children lack child care or that they get little or no vacation time. You have to admire the gall of free-market economists who, in articles so often written during summer breaks in places like Martha's Vineyard or the Rockies, tell those who earn so little to work harder.

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  • none

    Hmmm. The Star article has spaces between paragraphs on my browser. Have they responded to your suggestion already, or is my (Safari’s) CSS parsing “better” than yours?

  • Chris

    “Compliance assistance?” Does that mean “lowering the bar so industry can’t help but comply?”

  • Jeff S.

    “Some call it “enforcement,” some say “compliance assistance for industry” — it means the same thing, doesn’t it? No?”
    Not necessarily. “Compliance assistance” may be that the emphasis is to actually work with the industries, and specific facilities, to implement processes, and technologies to bring about long term compliance, rather than just acting as a policeman looking to simply “catch” those that are not complying.
    Whether the EPA under Suarez intended this distinction or it is just a Dilbertesque euphemism, I could not say.

  • Jeff S.

    Fair Trade ala the Equal Exchange is something that I would think both progressive and conservative Christians could agree on.
    I am particularly fond of theTen Thousand Villages stores.
    I would like to see this model expanded beyond coffee and crafts.

  • Neocons

    David Brooks’ new column, (via Slacktivist) reminds me of a question I’ve been meaning to ask: why is it that it’s only the conservatives who are constantly pointing out that all the “neocons” are Jews?

  • Accumulated Reading

    Calpundit comments on Republicans vs. the Environment, and what I agree is very strange news that Halliburton will no longer report fuel costs to the US military. If a fraud occurs in Iraq, and no record is kept, does it make a crime? Juan Cole notes t…

  • Accumulated Reading

    Calpundit comments on Republicans vs. the Environment, and what I agree is very strange news that Halliburton will no longer report fuel costs to the US military. If a fraud occurs in Iraq, and no record is kept, does it make a crime? Juan Cole notes t…

  • meg

    Fix thge date on the opening Bush quote — you have the year on it as 2004.

  • Kevin Carson

    I’ve read that Ariel Sharon has his own personal intelligence group, along the lines of OSP. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Niger documents were cooked up between Sharon’s people and the Rumsfeld-Feith clique.
    Put together with the fact that the WMD program was “all on paper,” this deliberate fabrication of data to manipulate the American people into a war is criminal, in the most literal sense. When does the truth commission meet?