Saturday, December 04, 2004

SS: A Social Compact

Note: The following was held up by a fundraiser at WBAI yesterday. My archives are of course full of defenses of Social Security…. By the way, I commend Friday’s Daily for a staaggering example of the stupidity that infects our airwaves.

Here we go again. For 25 years, the enemies of Social Security have been wailing that it would bankrupt the country, and even telling us when that would happen. Time after time, they would stave off the awful day by cutting benefits and raising the withholding tax. I wonder now whether I didn’t play into their hands by showing time and again how they were juggling the numbers. The thing is -- it was just a game. Social Security is not an insurance plan -- it’s a social compact. We agreed, as members of the human family. to care for all who needed it. The trust funds were a fiction -- IOU’s that we owed to ourselves. The armed forces don’t have a trust fund, but nobody has ever talked about THEIR going broke, even under the bloody chicken hawks who are now in control. They’re moving 12,000 more troops into Iraq to enforce democracy, and they say they’ll need them there for at least a decade more. Money’s no object -- even laws and treaties are no object. This is a matter of national security, and that’s held to be sacred. Well, so is the principle of Social Security.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Hess: Torture ‘Technically Illegal’

A front-page story in the Washington Post says our generals in Iraq were warned [in a memo] that torture was illegal. Heck, they ORDERED the torture. What’s more, torture is as American as apple pie. It goes back to the early settlers and their witch hunts. One common tag for it is the third degree, and our cop shows routinely feature it with approval. One of the first reactions of our pundits to 9-11 was to recommend the torture of suspects.

We’re about to get a new attorney general who maintained that anybody suspected by the president has no rights at all. The Red Cross does not agree. It told our government so emphatically after visiting
Ironically, the New York Times refers today to the abuse of prisoners in Fidel Castro’s jails. Dissidents who were just released told of solitary confinement in cells six steps across -- light left on all night -- crude plumbing - reading matter and television censored. Outrageous -- but no comparison was drawn with the squirrel cages at Guantanamo.

It needs to be said that Castro has no right to lock up dissenters, even if they were encouraged by a government in Washington that has been trying to kill Castro off and on for 45 years. Yet it must also be noted that he was the only Latin American leader to have challenged Yankee imperialism. And survived. Today, even though Venezuela is a big supplier of oil, Washington’s campaign to overthrow Hugo Chavez has continued -- with strikes, hit squads and all the rest -- with the staunch support of the New York Times.
This said, Castro is wrong to limit democracy. There has got to be a better way.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Born Again and Again

Is this a marvelous country, or isn’t it? There were the two biggest mouths on radio, yakking away -- Bill O’Reilly, as if he had not just paid off the colleague who sued him for sexual abuse, and Rush Limbaugh, as if he weren’t facing time for sundry crimes involving drugs. And there was Dick Cheney confirming that nobody from the New York Times could fly on his plane -- not even Tom Friedman, who has backed the war on Iraq as much as he has.

If we have a national religion -- and we do seem to be heading that way -- it may be hypocrisy. The champion winner on "Jeopardy" turns out to have ve had a team of experts feeding him the answers with a gadget like the one Dubya Bush is supposed to have worn. The religion is born-again Christianity -- a literal belief in every word in the Bible, no matter how absurd or contradictory. David Brooks of the Times nominates a pope for it today -- a Southern Baptist named John Stott. Brooks doesn’t really believe in anything,-- he contradicts himeslf in two phrases halfway down the column. What is troubling is how progressives have bought the complaint tbat we’ve been mean to believers. In truth, we’ve been happy to fight alongside movements like Witness for Peace -- and shared jail cells with them. It is a grave mistake to believe that we should imitate the Brookses and pretend we sympathize with churchgoers who hold, like Stott and Dubya, that to abort a pregnancy is an act of murder. That is not the way we’re going to win elections, and not the way we want to win. That is -- hypocrisy -- not our party at all.

Monday, November 29, 2004

To End the MADness

All right, grownups, back to the real world. The WBAI evening news invited you to spend the weekend with the kiddies and “fageddabahdit” -- the news would not be really new. And it wasn’t. Even the headlines didn’t change…

The main one said Iran maybe would, or maybe wouldn’t. agree to rule out research on dangerous nuclear materials. The talks are being conducted by Europeans, along with the UN atomic agency that kept trying to tell us that Saddam Hussein had no nuclear capacity. Well, even the small amount that Iran might turn up with would be something to worry about, but it’s ridiculous for the US to make noises about it -- since we have more nukes than the rest of the world put together and are actually building new ones and fixing to scatter some around in space. We’re the only country that ever used the bomb, and has threatened flat-out to use it again.

The official policy used to be called MAD, for Mutual Assured Destruction. There was a moment when Ronald Reagan, in the early stages of Ahlzheimer's Disease, agreed in principle with Mikhael Gorbachev to begin getting rid of nukes entirely, but Reagan’s advisers said he didn’t mean it, and Gorbachev’s generals replaced him with a drunk we called a hero because he shot up the Soviet parliament.

Anyway, there’s a huge step that we can now take to improve world security. That is to buy -- for money -- the surplus warheads that are kicking around in the former Soviet empire. At the same time, we can do the same ourselves, and save money. We have enough bombs to destroy all life on earth ten times over. Wouldn’t one time be enough?