Friday, October 22, 2004

On Pulling the Trigger

Tom Friedman of the Times says he has a nightmare -- that John Kerry would not pull the trigger against the next target for pre-emptive war. The editorial page worries that he wouldn’t pull the trigger against Social Security. It clings to the line of Peter Peterson and his Concord Coalition that Social Security and the welfare state are on their way to bankrupting the nation.

Well, let’s compare the two major candidates on these issues. Actually, neither one has a plan to get out of Iraq, and both of them both fudge about showdowns with Iran and North Korea. As for Social Security and Medicare, Bush is committed to begin privatizing them in January, coaxing workers to invest in the stock market instead. Kerry did not follow my advice and call for single-payer, universal health care. But he did come out for some decent measures: a patients’ bill of rights, coverage for more children, the right to negotiate prices with the drug industry, and so on. Trouble is, he’d have to get his program through Congress.

I cling to the point that Kerry is a man who can be pushed around. He shows that every day. Up to now, the push has come from the wrong side. Representatives of the public interest have given him a blank check. Now, we have to fight just to get our votes counted. Then, however that turns out, we must fight to keep them from pulling those triggers.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A Hurrah for Boston

Well hurrah for the visiting team! There have always been a lot of New Yorkers who root for Boston to beat the Yankee imperialists, and it’s great to think of Rudolph Giuliani there in Steinbrenner's box -- Rudy, the Brooklyn boy who betrayed his own Dodgers in order to snuggle up to the powerhouse in the Bronx. This year it was particularly gratifying because the Bush gang has kept spewing about Taxachusetts -- that liberal state.
I remember when cars from there carried bumper stickers saying "Don’t blame me -- I’m from Massachusetts. That was a couple of years after the Nixon landslide of 1972-- after the Watergate cover-up came apart and Nixon was headed for impeachment. Now, there’s a word we may need to freshen up if the Bushwackers heist the White Houze again next month.

Every day, good people tell me that if that happens, they’ll move to Canada. I grant that four more years of the worst president in American history is a grim prospect -- but there is no reason why we should run away, or take it lying down. Besides, where would we get our flu shots?

I’m reminded of the years of Reagan and the elder Bush. They were loaded with impeachable crimes -- pre-emptive wars -- trading with the enemy -- perjury -- assaults on Social Security and Medicare -- a transfer of the tax burden from the rich to working people. The Democrats lost Congress and quite a few state houses and city halls. But we survived. Trouble is, many people weren’t paying attention, or forgot, and we went on to blow our next chances in the Clinton years. But there was a chance - there always is one. Look at the Red Sox. Go for it, Boston.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Flu Shots in the Capitol

It’s a relief to learn that flu shots are being given, free, to members of Congress and their staffs, as they go off on recess. For common citizens, the supply is limited to infants and old folks. The rest of us might be safer staying home and watching the playoffs.

That may be what many are doing, anyway. That may help explain the cockeyed election polls -- they’re not paying attention. The humor weekly Onion says Kerry is hoping that stem-cell research may find a cure for what’s bugging his campaign. And it says our generals have settled for a strong second place in their war against Iraq.

Listen -- if enough of us had a sense of humor, we wouldn’t be there. Or, if they paid attention. Listen to Bush, indignantly denying that he would privatize or cut Social Security -- as he promises to begin doing just that in January. Just give it another name -- like Clear Skies for more smoke in our lungs and Clean Water for more lead and mercury in our faucets.

Anyway, there’s Bill O’Reilly to cheer us up. The Daily News says his accuser turned down his offer of $2 million to settle her complaint of sexual harassment - so that affair may brighten the gossip columns for a while longer.

That’s OUR flu shot. Not to be sneezed at.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Bent Straws

According to the polls, a majority of Americans have pegged Dubya Bush as bad news at home and abroad --stupid and greedy, mean as home-made sin. Yet he holds an edge among those likely to vote. A reminder of H. L. Mencken’s dictum that noibody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence and taste of the American people. I’ve put it down to bad information, a bad shaping of people’s minds -- and I’ve often cited the influence of the Times. Now I must note that it had a very well written editorial endorsing Kerry -- or rather, opposing Bush -- and there’s a front-page analysis today that highlights what Dubya has called his "catastrophic success" in Iraq.

The trouble is that the Times and Kerry do not squarely challenge the morality of the war, or call for bringing the troops home. And they waffle on what should be a winning point -- Bush’s plan to privatize Social Ssecurity and Medicare. Both of them play along with the notion that some more cuts are needed. Kerry even brags about breaking with his party to support a couple of them.

I’ll get back to that -- try and stop me. But I must close on a bit of pleasant news. Bill O’Reilly has called off readings to kiddies, to promote his children’s books -- because he’s in a swivet about his telephone sex habit. Not long ago, he was entertaining talk about his running for president which of course brings up Bill Clinton’s sideplay in the Oval Office. Tell me, is this a great country, or isn’t it?

Monday, October 18, 2004

‘Into the Valley of Death’

The mutiny of a platoon in Iraq throws a burning light on our feelings about war. They did not question the morality or wisdom of it; they just objected to the lack of body armor and protection. They called it a suicide mission. The army doesn’t deny their complaints, but sticks to the motto -- theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die.

Actually, if soldiers didn’t run away there’d be none left to tell the tale. Over the week-end, I saw a rerun of "The Red Badge of Courage," about a young soldier who runs away from his first encounter with enemy fire. For a change, this one’s about the brave Union army -- usually, it’s the rebels who are the good guys. And the picture has a happy ending. The hero comes back to rejoin his comrades on the line. Ready, aim, fire -- fix bayonets, charge -- beat the drums, seize the flag from fallen comrades, charge again. The red badge of courage is a bullet wound in the heart.

So in the end this tragic film glorifies war. It was written about the time that Kipling was calling upon America to pick up the white man’s burden and rule the world. The thin red line -- into the valley of death rode the 600 -- theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die. History tells us that that charge in the Crimea was a total defeat for the empire. It was an act of lunacy, as Bob Herbert writes of the war in Iraq.

That is plain to see in the news every day, but the perpetrators can’t take the blame. There will be a court martial and heavy sentences, to set an example. It does not seem to have occurred to the platoon sergeant to apply his intelligence to the wisdom or morality of the war, but he evidently has a sense of humor. What can they do to us, he asked -- send us back to Iraq?