Thursday, August 19, 2004

Backward Reels the Mind

A headline in the comic weekly The Onion reads, "Homosexual Admits to Being Governor of New Jersey." And you know, all the news sounds as if it‘s being played backward. Here’s Bush proposing to bring some troops home -- and Kerry saying that’s reckless. Here’s a key Republican in the House saying he wouldn’t have voted for the war if he knew what he knows now, and here’s Kerry saying HE would have -- and what’s more, if he’s elected, he may send MORE troops to Iraq.

You’d think the Republicans would want to forget about Vietnam, but they’re making an uproar over Kerry’s record there. They say five medals are too many. Somebody asked Dick Cheney about his five draft deferments. He said he had other priorities. And guess who got the bigger hand from the Veterans of Foreign Wars?

Play the reel backward. We’re on high alert for a terrorist attack here, so the FBI and the police are going around taking names of pacifists. They say Ted Kennedy turned up on a no-fly list. He got aboard but a lot of grandmas have run into trouble at airports.

Our mayor is terribly concerned about the damage they might do to the grass, especially when the Republicans come to town. He offers us a discount on admission to the zoo if we behave.
And talk about reeling backward, the Times replaced the great Barbara Eherenreich from her guest spot on the Op-Ed page and turned it over to one Dahlia Lithwick -- who claims to be a Democrat and says we lose votes by making fun of George Dubya. takes her column apart today in a most entertaining way. Yes, we can laugh at the news, if we reel it backward.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Yes, Do Recount

The Times has appealed to its friends in Venezuela to stop pretending that the election was rigged. It only caused the oversight commission run by Jimmy Carter and the Organization of American States to run another careful recheck -- confirming before witnesses that the first count had been highly accurate. Hugo Chavez had once again defeated an effort backed by Washington, and the Times, to overthrow him.

A detail with special meaning for us is that the touch-screen voting machines used in Venezuela kept a paper trail that made a reliable recount possible. Not so for thousands of new machines sold to Florida and other jurisdictions in the U.S. Experts have been shocked at how easy it is to rig the code to report any count that is desired. And that is only one of the problems we face in trying to get fair elections.

Here as in Venezuela, difference in wealth and politics tends to be linked to difference in complexion. Conservatives in this country have always tried to deny the vote to people of color. The Bushes are again at work on that in a dozen dreary ways, trying to frighten the poor away from the polls. Already, they’ve brought in the police and the FBI. So the common folk won’t get a full count -- they never have. Their job will be to turn out, and fight for every vote. Venezuela proves they can win.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A ‘Yes’ to Democracy

There was no way for the average Yankee to realize what a triumph for democracy the vote in Venezuela has been. Our embedded media has been blowing spitballs at Hugo Chavez since he came to power. In one if the most disgraceful episodes in the history of the New York Times, it hailed the announcement of a coup that locked him up and kicked out the constitution, the national assembly and the supreme court. Its joy lasted less than two days, when an outpouring of the mostly poor majoriiy turned things around.

Ever since, Washington and its henchmen have been trying to dump Chavez by other means: boycotts, long strikes, sabotage of oil production and propaganda (they own most of the media). They figured that misery would wear out the resistance. And finally, a recall referendum looked appealng -- a chance for everybody to vote No. They threw all they had into it, but finally began to realize they would lose. Juan Forero of the Times blamed the rise in oil prices, which allowed Chavez to spend more on schools and health and land reform -- dirty pool. It was a signal defeat for a policy that says we will not tolerate any regime in the third world that talks back -- that does not recognize the right of international capital to exploit their resources. That’s a fact well understood everywhere but in this country. So I urge you to spread the word from and and Noam Chomsky’s new book. We have a few referendums of our own coming up.