Friday, September 10, 2004

3d Anniversary Blues

Offering up a bit of laughing gas to relieve the pain, a listener proposes that everybody’s who’s for peace drive with headlights on all day, and everybody who’s for the war drive with their lights off all night.

A cartoon in the New Yorker shows a beggar with a sign that says "Pay me or I’ll vote for Nader." That’s a pretty good dig at those Democrats who are more worked up about the three percent who might vote Green than they are about the much larger numbers who may vote for Bush because he talks with Jesus, wants to ban gay marriage and is giving us back our assault rifles. Not to mention the half of the population that doesn’t bother to vote at all.

Another caller offers a reason why. John Staso has joined the panicky Kerry camp as its main adviser on Social Security and Medicare. Staso has been a fulltime propagandist for the Cato Institute, peddling the notion that those programs are gonna bankrupt the nation. It’s not clear why they need Staso,. The New Democrats led by Clinton have been pushing that line for 25 years. So now, voters are invited to choose between two cockamamie plans to privatize pensions and health care - plans that nobody can tell apart. Meanwhile, they face another homongous increase in the cost of Medicare, and a million more workers drop out of health coverage entirely.

So here we are, on the third anniversary of 9-11, with the outlook no at all clear. I can only suggest that we keep our headlights on.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

1,000, and Rising

The big black headline in the New York Daily News is just the number 1000. No need to explain -- Bush’s war in Iraq has rolled up a toll that the media could not ignore.

The Pentagon claims to keep no count of the number of Iraqis killed. During the current "truces," what it calls "incidents" have risen to 260 a week, and the odds typically run 25 or more Iraqis killed for each American, but for us, what counts is the death of our own. That’s normal, and has been the case during all our wars It was true for Vietnam - which has been revived as a hot topic during our election campaign. Quick,now - 58,000 Americans died -- how many Indochinese?

For those of us who were around then, the current debate is like a replay fast-forward. Great demonstrations, thousands finding imaginative ways to dramatize their cause, despite police repression. Already, some veterans home from Iraq are reaching out to one another to form a peace movement like the one John Kerry led on his return from Vietnam.

It was his golden moment. He has tried to live it down - play the war hero over again. That’s been a disaster for him, and a disappointment for us -- but we’ve lived through that, too -- two national elections before the Vietnam war came to an end. This one should require only one.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Four More Years?

Someone asked John Kerry when he would bring the troops home. He said he thought he could do it by the end of his first term.

Four more years? That was the chant we heard from inside the Garden last week. It was not what we heard on the streets, where half a million people marched for peace.

Now Kerry has taken a dive in the polls. Paul Krugman explains that deep down, people love war. I dunno. I can think of a few occasions in history when masses of people cheered going off to war -- as in 1914. But they all thought they would be home by Christmas. The cheering never lasted four years.

Alas, fear and hatred stay around longer. David Brooks rakes the embers by dwelling on the madness of suicide bombers as if they were a race apart -- as if war itself was not suicide bombing.

The word is that the dreadful events in Russia have strengthened the poll ratings of Vladimir Putin - just as 9-11 strengthened Dubya Bush. If so, it’s a case of rallying around the flag, but it cannot last. Russians have paid a terrible price for the imperial ambition of their rulers. It brought down the Czar and it brought down the Soviet Union.

I guess an American can say that without being accused of being unpatriotic. Or can he?