Politics: November 2002 Archives

By golly, it had just never occurred to me that following through with a promised statutory pay raise would undermine the "war on terrorism." Still, our leaders must certainly know what they're doing, seeing that they're not against all effective pay raises, notably the virtual elimination of taxes for the very very very rich and the generous removal of the estate tax which so burdens the future security of the spawn of America's multi-millionaires. The argument seems to be that we will win the war only if those famously patriotic folks get more dough, while the rest of us pay with our huge reserves of savings, freedom and blood.

Citing a state of national emergency brought on by last year's attacks, President Bush on Friday slashed the pay raises most civilian federal workers were to receive starting in January.

Under a law passed in 1990, federal employees covered by the government's general schedule pay system would receive a two-part pay increase: a 3.1 percent increase, plus an increase based on private-sector wage changes in the areas where they work.

Bush said Friday the latter type of increase [about 18.6 percent in the D.C. area] will not be given.

This ukase is only among the first of an endless number we can expect in coming years, "because the terrorist threat continues."

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's aide has finally been forced to resign over her calling George W. Bush a "moron."

Mr. Chrétien comes from the left wing of Canada's governing Liberals and is uncomfortable with Mr. Bush's stance on many issues, including the threats to attack Iraq.

Mr. Chrétien, 68, developed a close friendship with President Clinton during his presidency and often golfed with him. But he is one of the few leaders of a close United States ally yet to be invited to spend time at Mr. Bush's private ranch in Texas.

Wow. I think Chrétien probably knows how lucky he's been.

Ah, the beautiful logic of money and power.

I've been wanting for some time to post an item on the fascinating Bush health and insurance care plans and to reference a compelling dichotomy, but Ted Rall's take is superb this week, as seen in the Village Voice and elsewhere.

Today was certainly the day for some of us to try to make a small fuss.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26 — President Bush signed legislation today to help the insurance industry against terrorist attacks, describing it as a measure that would help Americans on Main Street and Wall Street, boiler room to board room. [and said with a straight face, I presume]

The more immediate, political evil of "family values" affects all of us, whether our own families are "valued" or not. In Florida, the Bush family has been helped by the Rehnquist family, even as each family helps itself.

At the request of Gov. Jeb Bush's office, the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department ordered delays in a federal audit of Florida's pension fund that ensured that the review would not be completed before Governor Bush won re-election, officials said today.

Congress is investigating the delays sought by the inspector general, Janet Rehnquist, daughter of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

I'm not making this up.

John Bender tells us, sort of courtesy of Apple Computer, why he switched.

"... patriotism is the rohypnol of the American public ... I heard people say if you don't love the United States of America, then get the hell out --- I did."

He's done little enough to keep us out of the mess we're in now, since he voted for the new Department and for the office, but at least Chuck Schumer knows what kind of "big brother" he doesn't have in mind, even though it's too late now to do anything about it.



WASHINGTON - Sen. Chuck Schumer slammed Iran-Contra figure John Poindexter yesterday as the wrong man to head the Pentagon's new "big brother" program, saying the retired admiral barely escaped jail.
"If we need a big brother, John Poindexter is the last guy on the list that I would choose," said Schumer (D-N.Y.).

He demanded that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld replace Poindexter, who is overseeing a Pentagon anti-terrorism project, Total Information Awareness, charged with developing a vast database allowing unprecedented access to Americans' electronic transactions, from banking business to video rentals.

Poindexter, who was national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan, and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North were convicted in 1990 of lying to Congress in the weapons-for-hostages scandal. The convictions were overturned on the grounds their right to a fair trial was violated.

The conviction "was overthrown on a technicality that had nothing to do with the facts of whether he lied to Congress," Schumer said yesterday on ABC's "This Week."

He "demanded?" Doesn't he realize who he's talking to?

Sound vaguely familiar? But don't draw too many parallels, even if the picture is incredibly grim.

Early twentieth-century fascist and totalitarian states were created in milieus which included strong leftist parties and the regimes were not even partly driven by fanatical religionists, but their party dictatorships were successful nevertheless. In the U.S. we currently have conditions in many ways even more favorable to the emergence of our very own, American fascism.

If we want to understand what's taking place in the country today we have to realize that the Democratic Party is the American conservative party and the Republican Party is the party of reaction. This means of course that there is no significant center, no progressive party and certainly no left, contrary to the amazingly successful propaganda of the right (the Democratic-Republican coalition) and of its loyal media.

Adding to the tragedy for our clueless and disempowered citizens is the fact that, unlike conservative or even reactionary parties in other countries, our own equivalents do not offer their supporters even the most minimal protections of a traditional democratic socialism or of the more capitalist "economic safety net." Even historical fascism, the apparent model for the gangs in Washington, accepted the need for certain forms of socialism.

Finally, even our very real liberties, which were once probably the only fair boast of the American system, are now being removed, with the apparent approval of the citizenry, on the specious argument that these freedoms interfere with our security.

We get an enormous, intrusive, reactionary police state backed enthusiastically by the very largest corporations and the most fanatical religious elements, and we get perpetual war, but we get no security, no assistance and a wounded environment. This government asks everything but gives nothing, and yet we cheer loudly and sign up for more of it. How did we get here? Will we ever escape?

Part of The Left, of the 1960's, of New York City, of our very conscience, Mark Rudd hasn't retired altogether.

Mr. Rudd, 55, lives in Albuquerque, where he teaches mathematics at the Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute, a community college.

"I'm involved in local antiwar demonstrations," he said last week, "and I've been involved in marches for peace in the Middle East."

His view of the American government is still bluntly negative. It is pursuing "world domination," he charged. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 were a "terrible crime," he said, and "I'm not justifying Saddam Hussein." But of the American plans for military action in Iraq, he asserted, "There are ways to deal with threats to peace other than murdering people." Then, with the kind of phrasemaking that once rallied the ranks to the campus ramparts, he added: "Saddam Hussein, very bad, very bad. George Bush, very bad, very bad."

Most Americans still believe they live in something close to a meritocracy, and most believe in the family, whatever they mean by that. It turns out that most Americans are half right.

It has always been good to have a rich or powerful father. Last week my Princeton colleague Alan Krueger wrote a column for The Times surveying statistical studies that debunk the mythology of American social mobility. "If the United States stands out in comparison with other countries," he wrote, "it is in having a more static distribution of income across generations with fewer opportunities for advancement." And Kevin Phillips, in his book "Wealth and Democracy," shows that robber-baron fortunes have been far more persistent than legend would have it.
But it's probably gonna get worse, before there's a revolution.
The official ideology of America's elite remains one of meritocracy, just as our political leadership pretends to be populist. But that won't last. Soon enough, our society will rediscover the importance of good breeding, and the vulgarity of talented upstarts.

For years, opinion leaders have told us that it's all about family values. And it is — but it will take a while before most people realize that they meant the value of coming from the right family.

The Houses of Parliament are talking.

And once again.

[describing the imminent establishment of a "Department of Homeland Security"]


Even if the NYTimes relegates it and the entire story to page 14, reservng the front page lead story to a glorious account of the overwhelmingly successful passage of the bill through the Senate.

Ooops! The paper just altered/censored itself. The headline which now appears on their website article reads, "ESTABLISHING HOMELAND SECURITY AGENCY IS EXPECED TO TAKE YEARS," making a subtle distinction from the original, much more alarming text.

So, why is this thing being done in Washington. I think we know. Senator Byrd has the words.

While his colleagues have debated the fine points of the domestic security bill, he has been virtually alone in asking the larger question: Why is this new department suddenly so necessary? What will the largest and hastiest reorganization of the federal government in half a century do besides allow politicians to claim instant credit for fighting terrorism?

"Osama bin Laden is still alive and plotting more attacks while we play bureaucratic shuffleboard," Mr. Byrd told the Senate. "With a battle plan like the Bush administration is proposing, instead of crossing the Delaware River to capture the Hessian soldiers on Christmas Day, George Washington would have stayed on his side of the river and built a bureaucracy." Mr. Byrd imagined Nathan Hale declaring, "I have but one life to lose for my bureaucracy," and Commodore Oliver Perry hoisting a flag on his ship with the rallying cry, "Don't give up the bureaucracy!"

Do we feel safer yet?

By the way, the comments of one Democratic Senator who didn't have the courage of his (conviction?), declining to be named, should be enough to explain why there are virtually no principles still visible in that body.

"More and more of our members feel he's dragging it on and on ad infinitum, which is not necessary," that senator said. "Make your point. Have a vote. And move on. He's not willing to do that. He's from a different school. At some point you have to say, `Enough is enough.' "
But the issues at stake in Congress are not those of a club or prom committee, and we should expect some people to take them very seriously.

Sure, the Europeans have a better understanding of the world, but can they make a difference? Edward Said observes the scene with intelligence, and an objectivity impossible for most Americans.

The second major difference I have noticed between America and Europe is that religion and ideology play a far greater role in the former than in the latter. A recent poll taken in the United States reveals that 86 per cent of the American population believes that God loves them. There's been a lot of ranting and complaining about fanatical Islam and violent jihadists, who are thought to be a universal scourge. Of course they are, as are any fanatics who claim to do God's will and to fight his battles in his name. But what is most odd is the vast number of Christian fanatics in the US, who form the core of George Bush's support and at 60 million strong represent the single most powerful voting block in US history. Whereas church attendance is down dramatically in England it has never been higher in the United States whose strange fundamentalist Christian sects are, in my opinion, a menace to the world and furnish Bush's government with its rationale for punishing evil while righteously condemning whole populations to submission and poverty.

It is the coincidence between the Christian Right and the so-called neo-conservatives in America that fuel the drive towards unilateralism, bullying, and a sense of divine mission.

Said insists that this crusading impulse is without an equivalent in Europe.
The ideological position common to nearly everyone in the system is that America is best, its ideals perfect, its history spotless, its actions and society at the highest levels of human achievement and greatness. To argue with that -- if that is at all possible -- is to be "un-American" and guilty of the cardinal sin of anti- Americanism, which derives not from honest criticism but for hatred of the good and the pure.

No wonder then that America has never had an organised Left or real opposition party as has been the case in every European country. The substance of American discourse is that it is divided into black and white, evil and good, ours and theirs. It is the task of a lifetime to make a change in that Manichean* duality that seems to be set forever in an unchanging ideological dimension.

In an earlier paranthetical aside, we had been reminded:
Incidentally, I know no other country [than the U.S.] where the adjective "un" is used with the nationality as a way of designating the common enemy. No one says unSpanish or unChinese: these are uniquely American confections that claim to prove that we all "love" our country. How can one actually "love" something so abstract and imponderable as a country anyway?

He concludes with the hope that "...Europe will come to its senses and assume the countervailing role to America that its size and history entitle it to play. Until then, the war approaches inexorably."

* (seeing things in good/evil, black/white terms)

Did we ever think we would see such a headline describing events in the land of the free?

The headline is from yesterday's Reuters story, covering developments little noticed and less remarked upon by those people once described as free.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a victory for the Bush administration, a secretive appeals court Monday ruled the U.S. government has the right to use expanded powers to wiretap terrorism suspects under a law adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The ruling was a blow to civil libertarians who say the expanded powers, which allow greater leeway in conducting electronic surveillance and in using information obtained from the wiretaps and searches, jeopardize constitutional rights.

In a 56-page ruling overturning a May opinion by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the three-judge appeals court panel said the Patriot Act gave the government the right to expanded powers.

Horrible. Secret appeals court overturns secret court ruling in secret hearing and there is no appeal. The decision threatens, or rather wipes out, some of the most fundamental constitutional rights of citizenship.
The appeal hearing was not public, and only the Justice Department's top appellate lawyer, Theodore Olson, presented arguments.

Although the court allowed "friend of the court" briefs to be filed by civil liberties groups and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, since the Justice Department was the only party the ruling can likely not be appealed.

"This is a major Constitutional decision that will affect every American's privacy rights, yet there is no way anyone but the government can automatically appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court," [said Ann Beeson of the American Civil Liberties Union].

How else do we account for the silence and obvious indifference of the overwhelming majority of the U.S. population in the face of the Republicans' radical refashioning of the American economy, society and state?

November 19, 2002

Low-Turnout Mandate

To the Editor:

Re "Orwell Was Right" (letter, Nov. 16):

Decrying the continuing assault against our civil liberties, the letter writer asks, "Does a 40 percent voting turnout give the government a mandate to invade our privacy this way?"

The answer, of course, is yes. That low turnout is precisely what gives the government the mandate to act as if no one cares and no one is looking.
Somerville, Mass., Nov. 16, 2002

Remember fascism? Maybe it's not yet in the house, but the boot is in the door, and it doesn't look like anyone is going to slam that door shut until it has made it all the way in--invited in the name of "security."

But this isn't a column about the Gestapo, the Brownshirts and the Blackshirts. It's about our new Homeland Security Department (due to be approved by the Senate today), government jobs and events in the state of Michigan.

In Michigan last week, federal agents started to use roving checkpoints to seek illegal immigrants, drug runners, weapons and terrorists.

Is this legal? Yes, according to the Detroit Free Press. "Under federal law," the newspaper reported last week," the Border Patrol can set up checkpoints up to 100 air miles from any international border, or from the shoreline. Within the first 25 miles, federal agents can stop drivers who seem suspicious, and they can search and conduct surveillance of private property."

Who knew?

Think of the places within those 100-mile or 25-mile limits. To name a few: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Savannah, Jacksonville, El Paso, San Diego, Portland, Sacramento, Bangor, Buffalo, Detroit, Tucson . . .


Is there, uh, something basically wrong with this in the land of the free and the home of the brave? No, according to the mostly conservative voices I've been hearing since Sept. 11, 2001.

"If you haven't done anything wrong, if you have nothing to hide, what do you care if they search you?" they ask.

Paul Reubens has been arrested again.

Once again you will be able to watch the witch-hunt from the (dis)comfort of your own home. The initial Reuters story is sketchy, but the American puritanical elements should be as alarming as they are unsurprising.

Reubens, whose career was nearly derailed in 1991 by a lewd conduct scandal, faces a misdemeanor count of possessing child pornography stemming from a search of his home by police in November 2001, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office said. [An acquaintence, actor Jeffrey Jones, was charged with hiring a teenager "to pose for sexually explicit photographs."]

... Charges against the performers grew out of searches conducted by police at their homes in related investigations.

In 1991 Reubens was arrested for masturbating in a darkened porn movie theater, and his charge this past friday seems to have been for possessing ordinary vintage physique art photographs which often included images of males U.S. laws today consider to be children.

Putting it into perspective, none of the facts as reported eleven years ago or today would be against the law in most, if not all of Europe, nor would they have attracted much interest as a scandal.

Along with all of the other problems it presents, this is probably the biggest patronage scheme of all time!

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — The Bush administration said today that it would place as many as 850,000 government jobs — nearly half the federal civilian work force — up for competition from private contractors in coming years.
The new policy can be enacted without Congressional approval. Just who do we think is going to get these contracts and these jobs, this money? We also know what the White House will say about anyone who opposes this plan to "save money."

Scott Ritter, the ex-Marine and former U.N. arms inspector, hasn't yet been silenced in his own campaign against the mendacity of this particular Oval Office. His stature and his sincerity does get him some press, even if he is not the press, which has itself totally failed to question what comes from our war leaders.

[In a Veterans Day talk at the University of Maryland] Ritter contended that it was ridiculous for an uninformed Congress to give President Bush sole power to wage war: "It's like going to a doctor who says you have a brain tumor and that he needs to chop off your head so he can dig it out. You say, 'Wait, that's kind of extreme. May I see the X-rays?' And the doctor says, 'Don't worry about X-rays. Just trust me on this.'"

The students laughed, but Ritter cut them off, saying: "Don't blame Congress or Bush. You are the government. They just represent you. What they are doing is happening in your name."

Bush Lies, Media Swallows

So reads the headline of a Nation column this week, in which Eric Alterman suggests the following question: Would you rather the press tell us the President is lying about,

a) a blow job, or
b) a story which will take us into war, perhaps a world war?
President Bush is a liar. There, I said it, but most of the mainstream media won't. Liberal pundits Michael Kinsley, Paul Krugman and Richard Cohen have addressed the issue on the Op-Ed pages, but almost all news pages and network broadcasts pretend not to notice.
He then tries to explain, quoting Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post, why the media never calls a president on his lies, even about the most absolutely critical issues affecting the entire country or the world. But all arguments from reason or even normal human frailty are blown away when he points out the incredible exception the press made for Clinton's lies about sexual conduct.
Reporters were positively eager to call Clinton a liar, although his lies were about private matters about which many of us, including many reporters, lie all the time. "I'd like to be able to tell my children, 'You should tell the truth,'" Stuart Taylor Jr. of the National Journal said on Meet the Press. "I'd like to be able to tell them, 'You should respect the President.' And I'd like to be able to tell them both things at the same time." David Gergen, who had worked for both Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon as well as Clinton and therefore could not claim to be a stranger to official dishonesty, decried what he termed "the deep and searing violation [that] took place when he not only lied to the country, but co-opted his friends and lied to them." Chris Matthews kvetched, "Clinton lies knowing that you know he's lying. It's brutal and it subjugates the person who's being lied to. I resent deeply being constantly lied to." George Will, a frequent apologist for the lies of Reagan and now Bush, went so far as to insist that Clinton's "calculated, sustained lying has involved an extraordinarily corrupting assault on language, which is the uniquely human capacity that makes persuasion, and hence popular government, possible."

George W. Bush does not lie about sex, I suppose--merely about war and peace. Most particularly he has consistently lied about Iraq's nuclear capabilities as well as its missile-delivery capabilities. Take a look at Milbank's gingerly worded page-one October 22 Post story if you doubt me. To cite just two particularly egregious examples, Bush tried to frighten Americans by claiming that Iraq possesses a fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used "for missions targeting the United States." Previously he insisted that a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed the Iraqis to be "six months away from developing a weapon." Both of these statements are false, but they are working. Nearly three-quarters of Americans surveyed think that Saddam is currently helping Al Qaeda; 71 percent think it is likely he was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

What I want to know is why this kind of lying is apparently OK. Isn't it worse to refer "repeatedly to intelligence...that remains largely unverified"--as the Wall Street Journal puts it--in order to trick the nation into war, as Bush and other top US officials have done, than to lie about a blowjob? Isn't it worse to put "pressure...on the intelligence agencies to deliberately slant estimates," as USA Today worded its report? Isn't it more damaging to offer "cooked information," in the words of the CIA's former chief of counterterrorism, when you are asking young men and women to die for your lies? Don't we revile Lyndon Johnson for having done just that with his dishonest Gulf of Tonkin resolution?

Here's Bradlee again: "Just think for a minute how history might have changed if Americans had known then that their leaders felt the war was going to hell in a handbasket. In the next seven years, thousands of American lives and more thousands of Asian lives would have been saved. The country might never have lost faith in its leaders."

Reporters and editors who "protect" their readers and viewers from the truth about Bush's lies are doing the nation--and ultimately George W. Bush--no favors. Take a look at the names at that long black wall on the Mall. Consider the tragic legacy of LBJ's failed presidency. Ask yourself just who is being served when the media allow Bush to lie, repeatedly, with impunity, in order to take the nation into war.

The "homeland security" bill accepted by Republican-Democrats yesterday does not include a provision for the creation of an independent commission to investigate the circumstances leading up to Sept. 11, although in September the Senate had actually overwhelmingly agreed to add such a commission to the bill.

Some people had this strange idea that it would be useful to know how the terrorists could have been so successful, but others must have a very good reason to ensure that we never know what happened.

Yesterday the Republican-Democratic Party won again!

Democrats who had held up the [bill creating a monstrous Homeland Security Department] before Republicans regained control of Congress in the midterm elections gave in to relaxed Civil Service rules demanded by the White House.

The agreement gives the Bush administration a free hand to jettison Civil Service rules in promoting and firing workers in the new agency and allows the president to exempt unionized workers from collective-bargaining agreements in the name of national security.

Unions, civil service rules protecting the worker and collective bargaining are not threats to our security, in spite of what this regime tell us.

The Democratic Party is accused of losing the recent congressional election because it believed in the rights of the worker, even the "Homeland Security" worker. Now that the election is over and lost the Party abandons what might have been an extremely rare example of its former integrity. Are they absolutely insane, completely incompetent or just totally corrupt?

Congress is simply an extra-large board room, blind, like all of its kind, to both reality and morality.

They're back, and they're still pretty queer, puckish and annoying as hell, and I mean all of that in the very best way!


Actually, like AIDS, they never went away, even if some of us did, but lately the videos have been few and far between. This month, in his latest documentary, "Fight Back, Fight AIDS: 15 Years of ACT UP on Video," James Wentzy, Dakota's answer to Leni Riefenstahl, assembles an extraordinary visual and noisy record of years of AIDS activism. The new work will be shown at the NY Lesbian & Gay Experimental Film Festival.

Over the span of its 15-year history, ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) has helped to transform the nation's consciousness about the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and made activism a vital part of the LGBT political landscape. Comprehensively documented by media activists and video collectives (Testing the Limits, GMHC Audio Visual Dept., and DIVA TV), the bold strategies, media savvy, and decidedly queer wit of ACT UP remains a fresh source of inspiration to today's artists and activists through the invaluable trove of images sampled in this dynamic program of AIDS activist video.
Thursday, November 21st, 2002
75 minute film begins at 7pm
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave (at Second Street)
New York City

The place should be swarming with the people who made activism sexy.

White House officials said Mr. Bush, whose service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War meant that he was not sent to fight in Southeast Asia, had never before visited the monument as president.
But we've known for several years that there is no record that Bushie had any effective participation in the military at any time. How is it that the media can deliver this puff piece with a straight face, and with absolutely no clarification, while they mouth the White House press release?

There is apparently no account, official or unofficial, of where Bush was during most of the entire term of the Texas Air National Guard duty his family was able to secure for him in lieu of service in Vietnam. He apparently failed to report for duty and skipped off to Alabama to work on a political campaign. He was ultimately suspended from flight duty and didn't show up during the last two years of his service. This is not "service during the Vietnam War." Ask a real veteran. No, ask the NYTimes and the Los Angeles Times, among others.

Over a period of years they have somehow been able to fool enough voters (and nonvoters!) to get into the position where they can finally acomplish their fundamental but hidden, goals.

There is a method to the G.O.P.'s tax cut madness, beyond the obvious benefits to the very rich. Conservatives have long reasoned that the only way to destroy popular programs that actually help ordinary Americans (Social Security, Medicare and so on) is to starve the government of the money needed to pay for them.
A plan exquisite in its simplicity, and we bought it.

One month ago at John F. Kennedy Airport the U.S arrested and deported to Syria a Canadian citizen who was returning from a vacation with his wife and young children. He was at JFK only to switch planes on his way to Montreal. He now languishes in prison, probably somewhere in Damascus. The story has been everywhere in the non-commercial media, but the NYTimes, the putative paper of record and boastful bastion of liberalism, reports it in its entirety only today for the first time. [Why not tell us before this, and why now?]

American officials claim that Mr. Arar is a member of Al Qaeda, but the Canadians say they have no such information. The Syrians are questioning Mr. Arar closely, Western diplomats say, but officially the Syrian government has expressed outrage that he was deported to Syria instead of Canada.
Imagine the outrage had the situation been reversed, and an American deported while returning to the U.S., and imprisoned abroad in an unknown location!

No, forget that thought--for a moment I had forgotten that the deported Canadian citizen was of arab descent and birth, so of course his status as an American is at best provisional these days.

Of course we have every right to stride the earth unhindered, like a mindless, blind terrified colossus, since we have been so injured by the supposedly unique disaster of September 11. Yes, September 11 did damage us all, but the damage is of quite a different nature than that usually described. It has destroyed our courage and our wits.

But of course we already knew this.

UNITED NATIONS - Friday's unanimous vote in the U.N. Security Council supporting the U.S. resolution on weapons inspections in Iraq was a demonstration of Washington's ability to wield its vast political and economic power, say observers.

''Only a superpower like the United States could have pulled off a coup like this,'' an Asian diplomat told IPS.

The unanimous 15-0 vote, he said, was obtained through considerable political and diplomatic pressure. The lobbying, he added, was not done at the United Nations, but in various capitals.

We can also imagine how much we promised the pesky permanent members, Russia, China and France (not discussed in this piece, but all of whom opposed the Bush war until last week), in money, silence, oil concessions, military goodies or whatever is currently dearest to their own hearts or pocketbooks.

So spake James Carville, just after the election, as we learn from Mark Morford's scary but entiely plausible alarum.

...Congress will now have almost zero struggle or balanced counterargument when the GOP chooses to ram through more generally invidious resolutions and white-power laws.

Laws that further its famously mean-spirited schema of war, oil, corporate cronyism, CEO inbreeding, heartlessness, artlessness, cultural molestation, giddy homophobia and really awful fashion sense.

Let us not also forget anti-choice misogyny, racism, gluttony, support for Big Agribiz and Big Tobacco and a general antipathy toward anyone who makes less than six figures or who really cares about the environment or enjoys true religious freedom or alternative viewpoints or authentic orgasms or honest laughter.


As noted crusty and ruthless and largely unpleasant former Clinton adviser James Carville observed just after the election, "The American people just don't have a clue as to what's coming."

If you are female, gay, bisexual, atheist, black, immigrant, poor, progressive, intellectual, open minded, open hearted, if you hold alternative views, dress funny, dance, enjoy sex, read seditious literature, believe in peace and funky spirituality and don't particularly care for a sneering angry self-righteous well-armed anti-everything deity, you are about to find out. The hard way. And so is everyone else.

The gods can only shake their heads, and sigh.

A view from London, and also pretty much the view, I must admit, from this desk in New York City.

Europeans do not understand the curious civilization that the current America is becoming, and the grip that a visceral and idiosyncratic conservatism has on its national discourse. They especially do not understand the undercurrents of an increasingly self-confident and subtle racism that is its own variant of the forces that in Europe gave us Le Pen and Pim Fortuyn. George Bush Jr is a chip off the old multilateralist, transatlantic establishment, runs the European argument. He may seem hawkishly conservative but, in the end, he seeks UN resolutions like other American Presidents. Even at home, his bark is worse than his bite.

Wrong, wrong and wrong again. Anyone who thinks the Tory party is 'nasty' has not encountered contemporary American republicanism.

How did we end up supporting a man and a government whose interests and policies are so patently offensive and contrary to the welfare of at least ninety-five percent of the nation?

One statement keeps coming back to me as I repeatedly run through in my mind the extraordinary events of the past fourteen months. On the day after the election last week, Douglas, the sweet guy who works at the pet supply store across the street, admired my (slash war) button and was delighted I had an extra on me. When I told him how shocked I was at the number of people who supported the war and the war-mongers, he said, "They're afraid. I think it's a power trip."

Is this how democracies die, in fear and chest-pounding?

--before he was canonized by September 11.

Some of us will not forget the man who essentially presided over a regime of terrorism against the poor and the weak, and who encouraged its most visible instrument, the New York Police Department.

"Justifiable Homicide," a documentary about the police shooting deaths of two young Puerto Rican residents of the Bronx, Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega, opened November 6 at Anthology Film Archives in the East Village.

The filmmakers characterize the Rosario-Vega case as part of an epidemic of police shootings during the Giuliani administration, climaxing with the killing of Amadou Diallo in 1999. "Justifiable Homicide" is a sobering reminder that there was more to Mr. Giuliani's mayoralty than Sept. 11.

Reuters headline today: "Democrats Pledge Cooperation After Defeat"

--and no one anywhere is doing much to change that, since the people involved are not men.

In Amsterdam, with a huge significant immigrant population dominated by those who share her religious heritage, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been trying to turn the lights on.

What Mr. Fortuyn did on the right, Ms. Hirsi Ali has done on the left. Many in the Labor Party, where she worked on immigration issues, were shocked when she told reporters that Mr. Fortuyn was right in calling Islam "backward."

"At the very least Islam is facing backward and it has failed to provide a moral framework for our time," she said in one conversation. "If the West wants to help modernize Islam, it should invest in women because they educate the children."

Her life is now in danger.
[She has been] receiving hate mail, anonymous messages calling her a traitor to Islam and a slut. On several Web sites, other Muslims said she deserved to be knifed and shot. Explicit death threats by telephone soon followed. The police told her to change homes and the mayor of Amsterdam sent bodyguards. She tried living in hiding. Finally, last month, she became a refugee again, fleeing the Netherlands.
She's planning to go back now, to stand for the Dutch Parliament. She's going to need a lot of help, but even if it comes, it may not be enough to ensure her own survival.

Jane Smiley, not without a certain perverse delight, says, in a letter to the NYTimes editor, that she's now rather pleased with the election outcome.

To the Editor:

Re "Into the Wilderness," by Paul Krugman (column, Nov. 8):

The Republican Party now gets to create the world it has been saying for a generation that it wants.

The Republican world looks to many of us like a Hobbesian jungle, where the poor and the unlucky have to play by harsh rules, but the rich and lucky have no rules at all.

It will be a world of mistrust, especially at the international level.

It will be a world where every square inch of America will be up for grabs, where there is no sense of common property, common heritage or common good, where the only American dream is greed.

The voters have indicated that this is a world they want, and the liberals have been told to shut up.

After the 2000 election, when it looked as if this world was going to be imposed upon the country in spite of the popular will, I was upset and outraged, but this time, when the voters seem to have freely chosen it, or chosen not to care, I am rather glad.

If this is the world they want, this is the world they deserve. At least there's clarity in that, and guess what? They can't say they weren't warned.

Carmel Valley, Calif., Nov. 8, 2002

Quote of the day, found in the last sentence of the following excerpt from Frank Rich's column:

As the reigning cliché had it, 2002 was the "Seinfeld" election — an election about nothing. But how could an election in the midst of one war and on the eve of another be about nothing? How could an election at a time of economic torpor be about nothing? Even Jeb Bush, in an arguably Freudian episode of one-upmanship after his victory, said flatly on TV that while Florida was doing well, "the national economy is weak." This election was not about nothing; it's the Democrats who were about nothing. That is hardly the ideal stance from which to fight someone like George W. Bush.

In one of the best pieces to appear since November 5, Thomas Scott Tucker talks, on his own site, about where the Democratic Party came from, where it went and where it now has to go, to survive.

In the wake of November 5, who will the leaders of the Democratic Party blame? The weather in Minnesota, the Greens in all fifty states, or the man in the moon?

The junta in Washington frightened, seduced or merely distracted, us with a war of its own invention. Is this nation cowardly, insane or just plain stupid?

Never mind. The consequences will be the same, regardless of the answer.

The people who illegitimately seized power in the last election now control every* institution of our national government and have free rein to accomplish their mean and dangerous program of greed and violence.

This was less an election than a second mugging.

The nation and the world are almost certainly doomed. What a pity it has all been accomplished without a real contest, and by such small minds.

Ah, but you and I both now see that it's 5:30 in the morning! Won't it look better in the daylight?


* Think of all the federal judgeships in the land, and the nasty appointees on the way.

For a somewhat less end-of-the-world reading, see Bloggy.

In the context of a letter to the editor responding to a really problematic NYTimes OP-Ed piece by Thomas L. Friedman, the writer includes a compelling european view of the U.S. today.

The United States is the friendly but overweight neighbor who owns a big house and a big car, has a pile of junk in his backyard, thinks he owns the block and walks around waving his gun. This neighbor doesn't bring on envy, but he sure does raise some eyebrows.

[Barry and I are sharing this greeting today.]

An Election Day post courtesy of Thomas Scott Tucker's "Open Letter."

We knew there had been at least one reason why we had some negative feelings about Paul Wellstone:

Whatever can be said in favor of Wellstone's record has been said by the editors of The Nation, the leaders of NARAL, and indeed by the editor of Open Letter. But the crude contempt the Democratic Party leadership shows for the historical record will also now be inscribed on the same historical record. Paul Wellstone's votes for the Defense of Marriage Act, the Afghanistan war, and the Patriot Act reflected the rightward drift of his own party. That party is dominated by the Democratic Leadership Council, which even Wellstone never troubled to deny.

Maybe the big story in the arrival of hundreds of Haitians on the Florida coast is not just the interruption of traffic or even the clear preference of our laws for Cuban refugees over their Haitian counterparts. A letter in the Daily News states the obvious.

Open shores

Forest Hills: Where is homeland security when hundreds of Haitians run aground feet from our land, swim ashore, crowd a U.S. highway and hitch rides in broad daylight?

Tom Mortensen

One right-wing pundit, who shall not be otherwise dignified with an identity here, has pointed out that most potential terrorists can read newpapers and have access to television. It should also not be necessary to point out that boats are almost as easy to access as guns in this country.

But the Bushies are keeping us safe, right?

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from November 2002.

previous archive: Politics: October 2002

next archivePolitics: December 2002