ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SOUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512 453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip MEDIA OBSERVER Lapdogging with George Will. Readers of the Houston Chronicle for Thursday, July 6, were treated to an unusual up-close-and-personal profile of Mayor Bob Lather, penned by none other than syn dicated conservative columnist George Will. Under the headline “Explaining Mayor Lather’s popularity,” Will ponder ously delivered what amounted to an grov eling advertisement for Lanier, warning off any potential mayoral opponents against Mayor Bob, whom Will portrayed as the “preternaturally popular” heir to Lyndon Johnson and Fiorello LaGuardia, a “potent combination” of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, possessing the “folksiness” of the latter with the “guile and hauteur of the former.” Not surprisingly, the only source for Will’s encomium was Lather himself. Will apparently sat enthralled at the Mayor’s cowboy booted feet while Lather flashed his “pretty multicolored bar graphs” and dictated a summation of his own version of his sterling record, taking credit for filling potholes, cutting crime, installing street lights and on, and on, and on, with nary a discouraging word. Will recorded as gospel Lanier’ s assertion that he had paid for all these improvements simply by cancelling his predecessor’s [Kathy Whitmire’s] plans for a downtown monorail and accepted uncritically Lanier’s claim that his “massive show of force” with additional police was solely responsible for a decrease in crime. That the Mayorindeed, that any politicianshould be so enamoured with himself is hardly surprising, but Will’s slackjawed credulity for Lanier’s self-canonization was extraordinary, even for a Washington scribe accustomed to swallowing royal sources whole. Local journalists, long skeptical of Lather’s grandiose opinion of himself, reacted to Will’s column with bemusement. Chronicle political reporter Alan Bernstein wrote a funny item collecting Lanier-ascowboy newspaper descriptions, going back to 1991 and culminating in Will’s bootsoled clichs. Asked for comment, Bernstein’s colleague Lori Rodriguez said she respected Will’s work but called the Lanier column “pretty pathetic…not the sort of thing you’d expect from a ‘Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist.’ She added that “there are lots of serious questions about Lanier’s administration and particularly his wholesale use of transit money to underwrite his expansion of the police and his other projects…Will noticed none of that, and apparently didn’t try to find out.” Coincidentally, Will’s column ran opposite a letter from City Controller George Greanias, denouncing Lather’s “wholesale transfer of Metro funds to the city” and virtually begging the City Council to show some independence. Brian Wallstin of the Houston Press echoed these comments, noting that one reason Lanier may be, as Will wrote, “happy with term limits,” is that his budgetary policies, especially if he is elected to another and final term, will saddle his successors with enormous debt. “They’ll be left to clean up the mess.” Will, said Wallstin, “bought the Lanier mystique” and just “regurgitated his arguments.” Although this was an egregious example, Rodriguez noted that this isn’t the first time that Will has loaned his gullibility to some grateful pot. “It seems whenever he gets outside the [Washington] Beltway, he tends to write these `aw-shucks,’ga-ga’ stories about whomever he’s talking to. I guess he’s so glad to be out of his cage…that he can’t bear to say something bad about someone who’s been so kind as to let him in his office.” Whatever the reason for Will’s prostration, there’s little doubt that should he want to return to Houston, the Mayor’s office will welcome him with wide-open armsboots and graphs at the ready. Jim Bob Around the World. Austin readers will be painfully familiar with the local history recounted in the July 31/August 7 Nation, currently on the newstands. Reporter Eyal Press has a lengthy and detailed feature on “corporate predator” Freeport-McMoRan, with particular attention to the giant mining company’s operations in Irian Jaya, the colony of Indonesia where Freeport operates the world’s largest gold mine and the thirdlargest copper mine. Press describes Freeport as “the picture of modern corporatism, heedless of country and flag, ruthless in pursuit of profit.” Freeport’s unrelenting determination to build a huge real estate development in Austin’s Barton Creek watershed, despite intense local opposition, is one of several examples offered of the company’s disregard for wider community interests. Press repeats Freeport C.E.O. Jim Bob Moffett’s memorable sniff at Austin’s resistance to his blandishments and bullying: “I can assure you we receive better treatment in some foreign countries than we do here.” That is certainly true for Indonesia, where Freeport has been given extraordinary rights to Irian Jaya mineral resources, beginning in 1967. Working mineral reserves worth an estimated $50 billion \(in which Suharto’s dictatorial regime employs a handful of the local peo ple in the mining operation, while the Indonesian military keeps the rest in check, using forced relocations as well as, according to Amnesty International, “political imprisonment, torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial execution.” It’s not quite that bad yet in the U.S., says Press, where Freeport has largely confined itself to protecting its Environmental Protection Agency ranking as the nation’s number one polluter. Barton Creek is small beer in that record; in Louisiana, Freeport is working hard to win the right to pour tons of fertilizer production waste into the Mississippi. Not to worrythe company is also funding professorial chairs in “environmental studies,” which will no doubt be filled by models of objective scholarship. \(The Nation is available on newstands; subscription address is P.O. Box 10763, Press describes Freeport as “the picture of modem corporatism, heedless of country and flag, ruthless in pursuit of profit.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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