Friday, September 24, 2004

First Amendment, Anyone?

A clipping turned up in my files, about a poll taken in 1988. One question asked: Should the Constitution be amended to say there shall be no law abridging freedom of speech and press? 41 percent said yes…30 percent said no…7 percent had no opinion…and only 22 percent said it was already in the Constitution -- the First Amendment.

Now, polls are of course wildly misleading. But it’s got to mean something that a random survey by telephone would reveal such a level of ignorance, or that fully 30 percent would say they didn’t even want our freedom to be guaranteed.

There is the core base of the Bush vote. They never were a majority, and there is no reason to assume that many of them couldn’t be brought to see the light -- but clearly, our press has not been doing its job.
Look at how it responded to Bush’s performance yesterday, with an Iraqi warlord in tow: Bush’s usual disjointed string of untruths -- unresponsive to the questions asked, in language that doesn’t parse. Sadly, Kerry’s reply did not disagree in any material way. And as for civil rights, Democrats helped to draft and pass the rollback now taking place.

Well, we’ve lived through worse, and survived -- even, now and then, come out ahead. Newcomers keep joining the ranks of the freedom riders. Welcome, and have a brave weekend.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

A Bipartisan ‘Rescue’

Last evening, I welcomed the start of what the Times called the serious and useful debate the American people deserve. I pointed out that both sides agreed, basically, about Iraq. As I spoke, Jim Lehrer of PBS was holding another phase of the debate -- on Social Security.

In this round, the two parties -- and the moderator -- agreed that Social Security was headed for broke. The official spokesman for Bush called for privatizing Social Security for young workers and trimming benefits for those already in line. The official spokesman for Kerry was more emphatic. If he had his way, he said, he’d end all welfare entirely. He’s an old accomplice of Peter Peterson, the Wall Street zillionaire who’s been flim-flamming the media for decades. One typical result is today’s editorial in The Times, which says Bush’s plan is wrong but young workers can’t expect to receive as much as us old geezers do. For one thing, it says, we’re living too long.

You can find my replies to this monstrous propaganda in MY TIMES and in the archives of the Nation, Counterpunch, Extra! and WBAI. Meanwhile, take note that there is no difference on Iraq or on Social Security between the two parties in the "serious and useful" debate now under way. We’ll get to other issues as we go along. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A Serious Debate?

The Times says hurrah! -- we’ve now had "the start of the kind of serious and useful debate the American people deserve." Well, goody, but how did the two opponents differ?

We’ve been here before, in another war that everybody now admits to have been -- to put it kindly -- a mistake. In 1968 the contender, Richard Nixon, implied that he had a plan to get out. Four years later, he said he WAS getting out, by degrees. Today, neither guy has any plan but to stay the course.

Dubya Bush should be in bad trouble, but he’s so cocky that he went to the United Nations -- that house so hated by the far right -- to tell the whole world off. Kerry’s backers are in a panic -- for good reason. Paul Krugman prays that he won’t let himself be trapped into neo-con fantasies -- which of course he has done when he talks of enlisting foreign and Iraqi support. He says that winding down our occupation and letting others work it is probably the best we can hope for. Nixon call that Vietnamization. He didn’t mean it, and it didn’t work.

David Brooks takes on the neocon side. Typically, he begins by praising Kerry for finally taking a stand. He asks a keen question about drawing down our forces -- what do you say to the last man who dies before you finish pulling out. His column is typical of Brooks -- pretending to look at it sympathetically from our side, while slipping in a dart now and then. Only a year ago, Brooks was caught faking a political portrait of a redneck county in Pennsylvania. That didn’t keep him from getting a fat job at the Times. Poor Dan Rather bit on a forged memo that was essentially true, and he’s being made the villain of the day.

When does the serious debate begin?