Saturday, July 17, 2004

Worse Than We Knew

I was planning to chat about Martha Stewart, but she’ll keep. The Internet carries some news we simply can’t ignore. Parental guidance is advised -- I mean that.

A highly regarded Australian correspondent reports that Ahmed Allawi -- our handpicked prime minister -- drew his pistol and killed seven prisoners. This in front of American witnesses. An earlier report says he once called for a hatchet and chopped a prisoner’s hand off. But there is worse.

Sy Hersh told the ACLU about letters written by women prisoners begging their menfolk to kill them to end their shame. They had been forced to watch their young sons being sodomized before their eyes. Hersh says photographs of those crimes were withheld from the package released by the Pentagon.

When the torture story broke, George Dubya was shocked. But Gary Trudeau dug up a cartoon he’d drawn for the Yale News many years ago. Dubya was the fun-loving head of an elite fraternity, where the initiation included branding with a hot iron. Dubya said it was only a clothes hanger, and no worse than a cigarette burn. He’s presided over a lot worse since then.

Which confirms Barbara Ehrenreich’s observation that torture is as American as apple pie. True, but so is a belief in common decency. We’ve simply got to get rid of these sadistic brutes.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Behind the Safety Doors

Our Police Commissioner is so uptight about security that he won’t let peace marchers anywhere near the Garden. He also ordered up four safety doors for his own headquarters, at $50,000 apiece. He paid cash down, which is something the city almost never does -- and they’ve disappeared - - not a scrap of paper to show they ever existed. One guess is that they never did.

I’ve often said that if we close our eyes and stick a pin into a map, it will hit a spot of corruption. Nassau County would break out in measles. It just ordered an audit to find some missing money -- and learned that one of the accounting firms it hired was one of those that had certified the cooked books..

The pin could have landed in Suffoilk County -- either end -- or in Westchester. Yonkers? White Plains? Or Rockland, or Orange County. Jersey is always rich pickings -- especially now that they’ve brought in a call girl used as a bribe. But if the pin lands near Wall Street, it’s liable to explode like a rocket grenade. The financial pages these days read like the Police Gazette -- and they of course mention only the rare individuals who have to take the perp walk for all the others. Like Martha Stewart, who will face the music tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we get this show of democracy, paid for out of their petty cash. We’re all invited to watch it, at a safe distance, behind security doors that are a sham. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

In the War Room

The Republican spin-meisters are so proud of their work that they let a Times reporter into their war room. They studiesd a long, routine campaign talk by John Kerry -- same old same old -- until one of them pounced. Kerry said he was proud that he’d voted against a spending bill for the Iraq war. It was not against spending the money -- it was against a couple of riders in that bill. Later, he voted FOR an amended version, and he has said he favored spending even more. This was not news to anybody -- yet the signals went out from the war room, and the big media dutifully carried that spin for today.

The campaign also did its damnedest to spin the gay marriage. issue. Bush called for a Constitutional ban, to please his born-again base -- but he didn’t twist arms, or offer payoffs, the way he has done on things that were really important to him. So the amendment fell short of a simple majority -- much less the required 60 votes for cloture. That took it off the table till well after November. That should be a relief to a lot of Americans, including many Republicans, who don’t want the Federal government meddling with our sleeping arrangements.

Those margins in Congress can be shifted. It is paralyzed now on a lot of vital matters -- minimum wage, health care, the environment, jobs and justice, war and peace. They will be decided, not by this Congress but by how we the people respond right now. Let’s put the right spin on it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Postpone Elections?

George the Second flew to a nuclear bomb factory at Oak Ridge to show us what he saved us from. It was an update on the message he delivered on that aircraft carrier -- mission accomplished. He reminded us that he speaks only gospel truth.

Because Amrerica led the way, he said, "the forces of terror and tyranny have suffered defeat after defeat, and America and the world are safer." Meanwhile, his department of Homeland Security was alerting us against major attacks -- maybe even bigger than 9-11 -- and suggesting that we might have to postpone the November elections.

Funny -- that has also been proposed in Afghanistan and Iraq. We were supposed to be building those nations on the American model. Now it looks as if we’re building ours on their model.

It’s worrisome. A group of House members has appealed to Kofi Annan to name a commission to oversee our elections. If the world depends so on a free America, there is certainly plenty of cause -- the explosion of election spending, the efforts to block some people from voting, the barriers to third parties and independents getting on the ballot or being heard, the insane gerrymandering, the undercounting of votes, and so on.

Yes, we could use oversight by the UN. Unfortunately, it will not happen. Democracy is, finally, up to us -- each of us - to keep informed, to educate our kinfolk, our neighbors, our fellow workers -- and make our voices be heard. There are signs that this is happening -- that like last time, only more so, a majority of voters want George Dubya out. Don’t let them dare postpone that happy day.

Kucinich Falters

Going through an old file I came upon a column I once wrote about Dennis Kucinich, the boy mayor of Cleveland. He’d just squeaked though a recall referendum, and the media were calling that a sock in the eye. I said heck no, it was a blazing triumph: Normally, people don’t vote FOR a candidate but against all the others. That time there was only one on the ballot, and a majority voted for him. They were right, too. He saved the municipal power plant, and that turned out to be a blessing for Cleveland .

Kucinich eventually moved on to the national battleground. Among the nine candidates for president in the Democratic primaries, he was the first to denounce the party’s betrayal of the New Deal, the first to challenge the war on Iraq. He won a few electoral votes, and promised to carry his fight to the convention. Well, I’m sorry to report that Kucinich seems to have let us down. According to the Times, John Kerry’s people -- that is, Bill Clinton’s people - talked Kucinich into withdrawing his plank calling for a prompt withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, the draft calls for withdrawal “when appropriate” -- in weasel words that even the Bush gang could endorse.

Now, the platform that Ralph Nader proposed to Kerry was, I believe, a winning platform, right on all the major issues. But many good folk who agree with it are terrified that Nader would take enough votes away from Kerry to elect Bush. Republicans think so too, and are trying to help Nader get on the ballot, while Democrats try to keep him off. It’s not a pretty picture. In any case, progressives should be fighting right now, every day, to salvage the Democratic platform, to elect decent candidates to Congress and local office and, above all, to bring the troops home. That advice goes for Dennis Kucinich, who, I hope, will quickly coime to his senses.