Ken Silverstein

Ken Silverstein is the Washington Editor for Harper's Magazine and a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He is the author of Private Warriors, and most recently, The Radioactive Boy Scout: The Frightening True Story of a Whiz Kid and His Homemade Nuclear Reactor.

Recent Articles

Good Press for Dictators

S omewhere in Africa, a dictator sits in his presidential palace, alone and forlorn. Just recently, he deployed troops to quell an opposition rally and a few unarmed civilians were killed. Nothing out of the ordinary, really; but this time the international press have descended on his capital. Foreign governments are calling for democratic reforms. And embarrassed international financial institutions, which have long subsidized the corrupt regime, are openly discussing a loan cutoff. As he ponders the gross unfairness of his current predicament, the dictator is momentarily despondent. Abruptly, though, a smile comes to his face. There is still plenty of money in his personal checking account--the state treasury--so all is not lost. Far from it. The dictator flips through his Rolodex and reaches for the telephone. Who's he gonna call? In all likelihood, lobbyist Herman Cohen in Arlington, Virginia. In recent years, Cohen has emerged as the influence peddler of choice for African...

The Road to Baghdad

In 1998, a group of 40 conservatives wrote an open letter to President Clinton calling for the United States to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Today many of the signers of that letter hold important government posts, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his chief deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. Together with right-wing activists in the private sector, they see the post-September 11 military campaign as the perfect opportunity to achieve their goal of toppling the Iraqi leader. "Saddam Hussein engages in acts of terrorism, he hates the United States and we know he has weapons of mass destruction," says Perle. "To ignore all that is too big a risk." Wolfowitz and Perle, the two names most closely associated with the Get Saddam crowd, both have hard-line Cold War pedigrees and are close to Israeli right-wing political leaders -- including Ariel Sharon -- who are as anxious to get rid of Hussein as they are. They remain angry...

The Judge as Lynch Mob

A s any student of the death penalty in America knows, the chance that a person charged with a capital crime will live or die depends greatly on race, social class, and--perhaps most important--where the alleged crime was committed. First and foremost is the question of whether the defendant comes to court in one of the 38 states where capital punishment is on the books. If he (or occasionally she) does, the outcome will differ greatly state by state and county by county, depending chiefly on the quality of the local defense bar, the trial judge, and the district attorney, who alone decides whether to seek capital punishment. For all these reasons, the odds on death are particularly high in Alabama, especially in the port town of Mobile, and most of all in the courtroom of Judge Ferrill McRae. Though rarely mentioned in the national media's treatment of the death penalty, Alabama has the largest number of people per capita on death row. Its criminal defense system is the worst in the...

Stocking Up

T hrough much of the year 2000, stock market analysts at leading brokerage houses were wildly bullish on Priceline.com , the Internet firm that sells discounted airline tickets, groceries, and other goods. True, the company was hemorrhaging money--operating losses for 1999 ran to $63 million--but the analysts boldly predicted that Priceline would soon move into the black. In January 2000, Mark Rowen and Susan Hawkins of Prudential Securities rated the company a "strong buy," saying, "Without a doubt, consumers have adopted Priceline as a great new way to buy." A host of other analysts joined in with their own upbeat assessments, including Credit Suisse First Boston, Jefferies and Company, PaineWebber, and Robertson Stephens. The analyst at Robertson Stephens, Lauren Cooks Levitan, gave Priceline her highest possible rating on September 8. The company was poised to take off, she informed investors in a turgid research report, thanks to "organic growth in existing businesses, the launch...

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