Thursday, November 30, 2006

Suppose the radioactive Polonium that poisoned Litvinenko was actually a smuggled nuclear bomb? Boom!


I came back from Europe last August complaining bitterly that wary airport security officials in Frankfurt made me squirt my own prescription nasal spray up my nose. They wanted to, uh, “confirm” that it wasn't explosive.
http://thenewyorkcrank.blogspot.com/
2006_08_01_thenewyorkcrank_archive.html

Then it turned out that Colonel Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian spy who most probably was poisoned by henchmen of Russian head honcho Vladimir Putin, was done in by radioactive Polonium – not by Thalium, as originally suspected and as I reported. See “the lunatic who came in from the soup” here:
http://thenewyorkcrank.blogspot.com/2006/11/curious-cases-of-poisoned-russian-spy.html

Most recently, traces of radioactive Polonium 210 have been found on at least two British Airways jets.

The Times reports today that it’s “not clear” how the radioactively hot stuff got onto the airplanes in the first place. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/30/world/europe/01spycnd.html?hp&ex=1164949200&en=210f59188877aad4&ei=5094&partner=homepage

Well dudes, that’s the life-or-death question. While airport security folks are busy sniffing shoes for plastique and examining 1 ounce nasal spray bottles for teensy-weensy explosives, some diabolical genius could walk aboard an airplane with a nuclear device, detonate it over London or New York, and turn all of us into radioactive cinders.

I don’t want to belittle the damage that an ounce of nasal spray could do in the right hands. I mean, it could paralyze sinuses from here to Kirkuk.

But for goodness sakes, do you mean to tell me that after all this time since 9/11, they still don’t have Geiger counters passively screening passengers as they walk through airport security – not to mention Geiger counters screening checked luggage?

Oh, sorry, I forgot. We only screen for whatever happened last week.

Well, folks, that’s how the bad guys are gonna get us. Not by smuggling in things we’re looking for. They’re going to get us with what we don’t bother looking for because it’s too much trouble or too expensive. Or because our security people are too lazy to think of it.

Speaking of which, there's a program in the works to give business travelers who pay $100 an “easy pass” to avoid airport security. Nice idea – on the surface.
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/061119/27traveler.htm

But what’s to stop an Alchaida bellhop in London from slipping a small nuclear something-or-other into the traveling patsy’s bag, which will then speed through security unexamined, it's telephone-activated trigger cocked?

Thanks to the Polonium flub-a-dub, we now all know there's evidently nothing to stop nuclear luggage. The privileged passenger turns into an A-bomb bomb delivery system. Or at least a dirty bomb delivery system that could poison half the citizens of any good sized city. Are we going to wait until it happens before we install airport geiger counters and repeal these stupid "easy passes." My guess is...

Boom!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Heil Bloomberg! New York City police state swings into high gear.


As I write this, a public “hearing” into a new Police Department regulation defining a “parade” is going on in New York’s City Hall.

But don’t expect the police high brass or the city’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg (shown at right with a deserved Hitler mustasche) to be listening.

They’ve got their hands full with a police riot that led to a gang of rampaging cops firing 50 shots – most of them into a van full of unarmed passengers, a few into nearby objects. One passenger is dead, killed the night before his wedding.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061127/ap_on_re_us/police_shooting

No no, I’m not claiming Mayor Bloomberg, or his police commissioner Raymond Kelly, actually ordered the shootings. On the contrary, instead of keeping a watchful gaze on the anti-crime operations of a police force noted for shooting first and asking “What the hell are we doing?” second, (remember Amadou Dialo, who committed the fatal crime of waving his wallet?)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amadou_Diallo
they’ve been busy redefining what a parade means.

TIME'S UP DEMONSTRATES,
EVERYBODY GETS PUNISHED

Apparently, the cops are so bugged by a ragtag group called Time’s Up that holds unruly street demonstrations on bicycles, they’ve decided to outlaw the peaceful congregation of any group of 30 or more people for any reason at all unless the cops give them a permit to "parade." (If the connective logic of this eludes you, you're not alone, but that's the Bloomberg Administration for you.) You say that meanwhile other cops are gunning down unarmed citizens? Never mind that. Let’s fix the unauthorized parade problem.

This is remarkable, because it makes New York City one of the few places in the world where the cops, not a legislative body, write the rules and then enforce them. Well, actually Nazi Germany did that, too.

So the new regulations, theoretically “under consideration” essentially appear to be a done deal. They “would allow the police to arrest any group of 30 or more cyclists or pedestrians for ‘parading without a permit’, even if they are obeying all traffic laws. Groups of as few as 10 cyclists or pedestrianscould also be arrested, if a police officer decides that the cyclists or pedestrians have violated a traffic rule for ‘more than two city blocks’.

Now, there’s not even language in the so called regulation defining what these people have to be doing, aside from walking or riding in a group.

TOURISTS TAKE NOTE:
NY COPS CAN BUST YOU
AND THROW YOUR BUTT
IN JAIL

If your kid, for example, is part of a class trip to New York, and there are 31 people in the group, they can be arrested just for being together without a permit. (A good reason why the class might want to visit, say, Montreal instead.)

Angry recreational bicycle riders, who have nothing to do with Time’s Up but who often ride in groups of more than 30 on their way out of the city, could also be arrested just for riding together without a permit.

If ten of you come to New York and you’re crossing the street, and one lags a bit and the light turns red, you all can be arrested under the proposed police regulations.

In other words, the new regulations of Mayor Bloomberg’s NYPD will punish everybody who happens to live in, visit or do business in New York in order to get even with a small band of unruly political demonstrators.

This reminds calls to mind what the Nazis did during WWII. If a Nazi officer was killed by a sniper in a village, they’d grab 50 villagers – involved in the sniping or not – line them up against the wall, and shoot them.

YOU CAN FIGHT IT IN COURT AND WIN
IF YOU'RE BUSTED, BUT IT'LL COST YOU

Fortunately, the New York Courts have been shooting down these insane Bloomberg Administration police regulations as fast as the cops can write them and then arrest somebody for violating them.

And the under-the-breath whisper one hears in defense of these Nazi-like edicts is that the law will be enforced selectively. In other words, “we’re only going to arrest people we don’t like.” Which of course, is the very soul of the fascist idea.

Besides, mistakes get made. Do you want to be the one who gets arrested and fingerprinted and spends the night in a crowded prison cell reeking of urine before your case comes up for judicial review? Want to spend the many, many thousands of dollars involved in appealing your case?

There’s no point complaining to Michael Bloomberg. As I said, he’s not listening. He isn’t the slightest bit interested in listening. And he’s too busy right now – trying to wipe up the stuff that hit the fan when his cops went on another rampage – to listen even if he wanted to.

But do us New Yorkers a favor, because we have to live here full time with these police state rules. When you cancel your hotel stay, restaurant reservations or theater tickets in New York, send in a printout or e-mail to the vendor or a cut-and-paste of this article along with your cancellation.

The one thing short of mass minority outrage over a police homicide that seems to get the Mayor’s attention is the possibility that the city is losing business.

Let New York businesses know what this mayor is really costing them.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Oh, stop it already with that frantic Latin American alarm stuff. Stop it, willyuh? Just STOP IT!


This morning’s headlines shout with alarm that Hugo Chavez is leading in Venezuela’s presidential elections.

Yeah, yeah, I know. He’s not only a populist and a nationalist but maybe even a Marxist. Even worse – horror of horrors – he branded President Bush with the mark of Satan, declaring Bush to be “the devil” and telling the UN back in September, “I smell sulfur.”
http://www.boston.com/news/world/latinamerica/articles/2006/09/22/
venezuelan_chavez_wants_to_be_worlds_anti_us_voice/

What’s the best way to deal with the Chavez anti-United States stance?

Nobody in the present regime in Washington is going to listen to this, but the best ploy is to reach down and give Chavez a great big bear hug. Love him to ruination.

As we finally learned in Viet Nam after a war that wasted thousands of American lives… as we finally learned in China, to which we now go to finance President Bush’s regime of financial mismanagement…nations busy gobbling up wealth at the groaning board of commerce have no time to plunge full time into Marxist dialectic and major league repression.

And they’re certainly not going to bite the hand that feeds them.

The quickest way to undo Fidel Castro’s form of Marxism would have been to trade with him and readdict Cuba to U.S. price supports for sugar. Similarly, Chavez's economy ought to get force fed by us like a Strassbourg goose. Ditto a roomful of Latin American nations whose poverty and inequities of wealth feed their anti-Uncle-Sam-ism.

Of course, just as it has elsewhere, the Bush administration will go in exactly the wrong direction on Chavez. I wouldn’t be completely taken by surprise if some White House directed agency attempts the overthrow or assassination of Chavez, once again aping James Bond and the Russian secret police.

No no, guys. Believe me. You don’t want to off Chavez. You want to seduce him.

But what to I know compared to that genius, Boy George?

Addendum:

Our last post had Russian Colonel Alexander Litvinenko lying ill in a London hospital after having been poisoned – presumably by Russian agents – with thallium.

Litvinenko died yesterday. And the poison, whatever it was, turned out not to be thallium after all. Nobody seems to know what it was. Livinenko’s final words: “The bastards got me, but they won’t get everybody.”
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aFmK1K3mzIV8&refer=home

Monday, November 20, 2006

The curious cases of the poisoned Russian spy and the lunatic who came in from the soup




So perhaps you’ve been reading about former Russian spy and critic of the current Moscow regime, Colonel Alexander Litvinenko (picture at right), who was poisoned with a deadly chemical called thallium in London.

As I write this, Litvinenko is in an intensive care unit with a 50-50 chance of survival. If you’re not up on the story, go here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061120/ap_on_re_eu/britain_russian_spy

The news reports bring to mind a woman I met outside the United Nations building years ago – while the late premier of the USSR, Nikita Khrushchev, was inside scandalizing the planet by taking off one of his shoes and disruptively banging it on a desk in front of the world’s diplomats.

A GREAT YEAR FOR CRAZY STUFF

This was in October of 1960. It was a very good year for nutty things to happen – from shoe banging to Fidel Castro slaughtering his own chickens in a Harlem hotel – and I was on top of the nutcase situation when I met Sylvia Krause.

I was a reporter at the time for one of New York’s daily newspapers. Sylvia Krause was an antiques dealer. The first time I saw her she was walking around in one of the pens made of saw horses, erected across the street from the UN by cops trying to control the insanity. The various pens were spaces reserved for legitimate protestors and for severe nut cases. You name it and they had it penned up:

There was a man dressed in a bear costume, goose-stepping. There were angry survivors of the Soviet-induced famine in the Ukraine back in 1932-33. There were enraged Hungarians. There were anti-Castro Cubans. And then there was Sylvia Krause.

Sylvia was carrying a sign that said something like “Russian Spies Poisoned Roosevelt. Who’s next?”

Huh?

“Are you talking about Franklin Delano Roosevelt?” I asked her.

THE SOVIET HIT LIST

“Oh yes,” she said, “and they didn’t stop with Roosevelt.” She ticked off a list of more than a dozen celebrities from the world of politics and the movies whom the Kremlin had bumped off with poison.

“Why movie people?” I asked.

“Because they were anti-Communist,” Sylvia replied.

What immediately struck me was that, like Roosevelt, all of the “victims” had been reported dead of natural causes when their obituaries appeared in the newspapers.

“How do you know they were poisoned?” I asked.

THE SECRET AGENTS IN YOUR SOUP

“The Russians have secret agents working as waiters all over the world,” Krause explained, “and when someone they want to kill comes in for lunch, they put poison in their soup. That’s how they got…” and she listed the names of half a dozen more deceased celebrities.

“But how do you know this for a fact?” I asked.

Because they tried to poison ME!” she said.

“Then how come you’re not dead?”

“Because I realized they had poisoned my soup, and right there in the restaurant, I stuck my finger down my throat and threw up.”

I loved the imagery, so I wrote a short feature story about her. In those days, stories were typed on actual paper rather than into a computer. Next they were carried by a “copy boy” to the desk of a city editor, who edited them with a fat lead pencil. Unwanted stories ended up “spiked” – literally impaled on a brass spike that sat atop the city editor’s desk.

I watched forlornly as, across the city room, my Sylvia Krause story got spiked faster than a secret agent can say “thallium bromium arsenic chromium.”

Sylvia Kruase operated her antiques business, The Carriage Antique Shop, in a townhouse on East 70th Street near Lexington Avenue. In the course of poking around for information, I learned that she had been leafleting students at nearby Hunter College concerning those poisonous secret Soviet agents. Evidently, many of the students had encountered her and were fond of coming into her shop between classes just to torment her.

THE LIST OF VICTIMS GROWS

A few years later, I wandered past her shop again. There were no longer any antiques in her shop window. The window contained only a spotlight shining down on a photograph of the late President John F. Kennedy. Seems that Sylvia learned the Soviets had poisoned JFK's soup, too. The grassy knoll, Texas Book Depository and Lee Harvey Oswald? Those were just fabrications to throw you off the track, Sylvia explained.

Her new list of secret Soviet poisoning victims included Marilyn Monroe and John Foster Dulles.

As you might expect, an antiques dealer who spends her time tracking down Russian poisonings rather than displaying, buying and selling antiques is doomed to financial failure. She went out of business soon after. Way out of business.

OUR TALE ENDS NOT ONLY SADLY—
BUT ALSO WITH A SHUDDER

In 1970 I came across her again, grimy and a bit ragged looking, at the base of a flight of steps at the Seventh Avenue entrance of Pennsylvania Station in New York. She was begging for coins, shaking a bent and filthy Styrofoam cup, but still displaying a sign – this one written in crayon on a piece of corrugated coardboard – denouncing Soviet poisonings. By then, she appeared to be about 50.

I never saw her after that. I doubt that she is still alive. Even if her life had remained comfortable, she’d most probably be in her late 90s by now. I assume that she died somewhere on the street and was buried at the potter’s field on Hart’s Island, where the city rids itself of the remains of its homeless.

But now there’s the case of Col. Alexander Litvinenko, evidently poisoned in a London restaurant. And the hair stands up on the back of my neck.

I mean, you just have to wonder: did Sylvia Krause really know something after all?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A geography lesson too good to ignore

The blog Overheard In New York publishes some hits and some misses, but this one is a super-triple-extra bonus home run. With their encouragement, I just had to run it here

As Long as We Maintain a Sense of Smug Superiority, We'll Make It

Blonde #1: You know her parents are letting her study abroad next semester?
Blonde #2: Really? Where?
Blonde #1: Ummm, this place that's near, like... Russia. Like, in China?
Blonde #2: Japan?
Blonde #1: No. Well, yeah, Japan's in China, but that's not the one she's going to.
Blonde #2: India!
Blonde #1: No, but oh my god I totally just remembered! It's New Zealand!
Blonde #2: New Zealand's not in Russia, it's in Australia, stupid.

--Astor Place

Overheard by: MistressSilver


via Overheard in New York, Nov 18, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Big Dummy’s Guide to Borat Bashing


Boy, you might have known it. The Conservative faction of Op-Ed Alley at the New York Times has taken up arms against the movie “Borat.”

Both John Tierny –sometimes a dead spot-on columnist and sometimes a dead-wrong one – and David Brooks – a conservative pundit who rarely manages to write engagingly about anything or anybody – have attacked Borat.

I guess that since the Republican Party fell into a poo-pot of their own making on Election Day, neither of these guys wants to natter on about the political situation when they can pick on a cheaply-made comic movie instead.

In case you’ve just arrived here from a long journey in outer space, let me explain that the movie Borat, (full name: “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”) is one of those split-your-sides-and-roll-in-the-aisles films that come along perhaps once a generation. The last one that I can remember before Borat was Animal House, and before that the very first Pink Panther movie.

RUSTIC BOOBS TURN OUT
TO BE RUSTIC BOOBS

The premise is that a rustic boob from a backward republic comes to America to make a documentary film about life here. The Borat character is such an obvious sendup that only a fool would take him seriously. Among the fools who did (beside Tierney and Brooks) were the people who run Kazakhstan. They were so upset that they went to considerable expense airing a TV spot for several weeks in America, to, uhh, correct the negative impressions of Kazakhstan that might gain currency when the Borat movie opened.

Speak of boobs! The TV spot showed a herd of horses, a quick view of what looks like some grazing buffalo, a pile of rocks, a mosque, a small group of thuggish-looking guys in black suits, a city block somewhere that looks exactly like a city block somewhere, and a fountain somewhere that looks surprisingly like a fountain.

The two sentences of spoken information on the sound track inform us with a grandiose phrase, “Kazakhstan, the heart of Eurasia,” (So what is Turkey, chopped liver?) and an enigmatic question, “Kazakhstan – ever wondered?” No, not really. And why should this TV spot correct your negative impression?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPv_T8B4R4M

Back at the Times, you’d think the outraged conservative op-ediots would at least come to the defense of poor beleagued Kazakhstan. But no. These guys want to fry Borat in oil – or at least the alter ego that created him, Sacha Baron Cohen. Cohen’s unforgivable crime? Poking fun at the Americans he films in his travels.

Tierney at least touched on a valid point: To make fun of his subjects, the Borat character takes cruel advantage of their sometimes good-natured gullibility. This does create some laughs that are a bit on the edgy side, although Cohen makes almost as much fun of himself – in scenes that range from Borat in a ridiculously revealing bathing suit to Borat and his hairy manager in a nude wrestling match.

However, both Tierney and Brooks seem to be fuming – Brooks more expansively so – at what they evidently see as a form of liberal “snobbism” behind the movie.

EXPENSIVE IRE – FOR A CHEAP SHOT AT LIBERALS

I would list a URL for you here but sad to say, access to both columns is by special New York Times for-pay subscription only. You have to shell out to read these cheap shots at comedy on line. Personally, I consider this either a desperate attempt by the Times to make these columnists earn their keep, or an equally desperate attempt to hide them from view as much as possible.

Brooks is self-righteously irate. If I read the gassy bubbles in his boiling ire correctly, he’s upset that yet another effete intellectual snob (an English one at that) has made fun of stock objects of heartland ridicule such as a gun dealer and drunken frat boys.

But wait! Borat asks the gun dealer which weapon he should buy to “kill Jews” and the gun dealer helpfully points to the proper weapon for blowing somebody’s head off. Why isn’t Brooks irate at the gun dealer for not responding to this request by hurriedly calling the cops and saying, “Hey, I might have a psychopathic murderer in my store and he’s trying to buy a lethal weapon.” Isn’t a guy who would enable a cold-blooded murderer worthy of at least some ridicule? The nerve of that movie to make fun of somebody who’d help you blow the head off a perfect stranger!

Borat’s depiction of the frat boys – who come across as two foul, drunken slobs – also ignited Brooks’ fury because they are the kinds of stock characters Brooks has been hearing about all his life. Maybe Brooks has watched Animal House so many times that the entire topic of frat house swine bores him. But unlike Animal House, these frat boys are authentically swine-like, not some fictional caricatures cooked up by a bunch of Lampoon writers.

The frat boys are now suing Cohen. They claim the racist and sexist remarks they made were spoken with the understanding that the film would only be shown outside of the United States. Evidently, they seem to think it’s perfectly fine to spew racism and sexism around the rest of the world.

They also claim that before the cameras rolled they were taken to a bar and given booze by the film crew. Oh, those poor 250 lbs.-or-so babies! Did all those effete intellectual snobs stick a gun in your ear and force you to down jello-shots? If not, where’s the beef, other than on your fat heads?

The lawsuit claims, “The film ‘made plaintiffs the object of ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community.’”

All of which those two prejudiced porkers seem roundly to deserve.

There are several other examples of pure red blooded American bigotry in the film, but if you haven’t witnessed them yet, I won’t spoil things by telling you more about them.

COLUMNIST SENT INTO EXILE

Instead, I’ll end with some positive news. Tierney’s op-ed column is about to become history. Instead, he will move to the Science Times pages, writing on science subjects. For a writer who has enjoyed the kind of exposure and unfettered range of subject matter that Tierney once had in Op-Ed, thi smust be the equivalent of deportation to Kazakhstan.

As for David Brooks – maybe he should take a real journalist’s tour of Kazakhstan and report back on what life there is really like. That might lead to a Brooks column that actually offers some interesting content.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What has the dunce in the White House learned from the spanking voters just gave him? Nothing, nothing, nada, zilch, zip!


A dunce is a dunce.

Yeah, Rumsfeld’s history. But the W and his merry band of Bushniks seem to think that all they need to do is change a face in the cabinet and everything will get all better again.

Substantial changes? Forget about it. These guys plan to shuck and jive ‘till the cows come home to avoid changing anything they’ve always been doing. Consider how they're trampling on the Bill of Rights -- the sort of thing we're supposed to be fighting for.

The Associated Press reports: “The Bush administration said Monday that Guantanamo Bay prisoners have no right to challenge their detentions in civilian courts and that lawsuits by hundreds of detainees should be dismissed.

“In court documents filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Justice Department defended the military's authority to arrest people oversees and detain them indefinitely without access to courts.”
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061113/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/detainees_lawsuits

Speaking of the Associated Press, one of their photographers has been locked up for – well, there’s open suspicion it’s for doing his job as a combat photographer, although the Pentagon claims otherwise.

Says the American Journalism Review, “The U.S. says Bilal Hussein has links to terrorists. The outraged AP implores the Pentagon to charge him or free him.”

Oh yes, a small matter: The photographer is a Pulitzer Prize winner.
http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=4227

The military had three secret meetings about the photographer, but refused to tell him specifically what he's charged with. He’s been behind bars for over seven months.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reports that while the Bush administration says it’s willing to take a “fresh” look at Iraq it’s not fresh enough to change the administration’s “policy” of “achieving success there” – whatever the hell that means.

It seems to mean they’re not leaving until the Iraqi government announces it can defend itself – which that government is not going to do as long as we’re determined to stay “as long as it takes.”

Stick with the Bush policy and 50 years from now it’ll all be the same. We’ll still be mired down in Iraq. American lives will still be getting wasted needlessly. The lights and tap water from Kirkuk to Bagdad still won’t work. The Bushniks ain’t changing nuttin’ if they can help it.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0611130206nov13,1,5460141.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed

Looks like the spanking administered by American voters has done nothing to improve our nation’s World Class Dunce.

See, all those child psychology people who say spanking doesn’t work are right.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It’s time to move the political center a few feet to the left.

Since almost nothing’s as nauseating as a wonky recap of political history, I’ll spare you reams of historic details. Suffice it to say that not so many decades ago, the American center was in favor of a robust Social Security system with defined benefits. The center was in favor of Medicare, in favor of graduated taxes, in favor of much higher taxes for the most highly-paid individuals than we have today, in favor of mutual sacrifice for the future of America.

What do we have now? Thanks to the Republican Greed-Is-Good crowd, not a single politician I know of – left, right or so-called center – dares to say, “We need a tax increase for the good of the United States of America and future Americans.” The word “sacrifice?” Count on most people to sacrifice somebody else’s chicken, and then only to Mammon, the god of greed.

If you’re a candidate running as a Democrat and you oppose reducing taxes, you’re “hopelessly liberal.” More spending? Sure, say the Greedniks, especially if it's money spent in Iraq. Taxes to pay for the spending? The Greedniks assume the money will materialize magically from a galaxy far, far away. (My own suspicion is that the Bush administration is secretly printing money to pay its own bills, gradually moving the value of the dollar, in the direction of the value of toilet paper.)

The Democrats, at least recently, have been overly careful to watch what they say ( except for Gaffing John Kerry.) I’m not certain whether the latest election will change that. House Democrats are talking about bipartisanship. As of this writing, control of the Senate is iffy at best, and Republicans in the White House and the judiciary seem to be sticking to their guns. Which leaves nobody standing up for America and our nation’s future prosperity, or sweating over the terrible debt we’re placing on our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

HEREWITH, A NEW DEFINITION
OF THE POLITICAL CENTER

We need to move the political center a few feet to the left. Hereafter, let’s define the center the way it should be defined. Here’s are some of the key commonsense things that real “centrists” believe:

1. ON WAR

As a centerist, you have to believe in Colin Powell’s doctrine of going into combat only with “overwhelming force.” In war, as in almost everything else, you get what you pay for. Right now we’re paying for a losing proposition in Iraq. This has been said many times before but it’s worth repeating: It’s taking us longer to drown in the mire of Iraq than it did to win World War II. Don’t you get the feeling that history and current events are telling us something?

2. ON GETTING THE U.S. INTO WAR

It’s a no-brainer that any time you get into a war, people get killed, wounded and horribly maimed, and that the loss is financial as well as human. Therefore, war should be conducted only in the gravest and clearly tangible circumstances.

Anyone proved to have gotten the United States into war on a pretext such as non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” – thus robbing the United States of citizens’ lives and of economic treasure for no valid reason – has committed a deed equivalent to treason and ought to be tried and, if found guilty, punished with according severity.


3. ON TAXATION

If you are truly in favor of capitalism, you have to be in favor of graduated federal income tax with extremely high taxes on the highest incomes that paid to officers of public corporations. Here’s why:

Taxation does more than raise money for Federal projects. Properly applied, taxation also controls rapacious and clearly anti-capitalist behavior, such as looting corporate treasuries, thus directly robbing the companies’ owners – the stockholders. Another example: The Ken Lay Maneuver – committing fraud to prevent stockholders from selling out and cutting their own losses. Taxation should make it pointless to take more than about $2 million a year in total compensation out of any public company. If that means a 97% tax bracket on CEO incomes over $2 million, tax the greedy bastards!

You’ll hear the CEOs who make $50 a minute – that’s a minute – whine, “But I’ll lose my incentive to work!” Yeah, and so would Willie Sutton, the bank robber. Fine, lose your incentive, be gone and be damned. Meanwhile, maybe your board will recruit an innovative leader who’s more interested in growing a company, innovating new products, and contributing to America’s economic base than he is in stuffing his own bank account.


4. ON SMALL BUSINESS VS. BIG BUSINESS

Americans, Democrats included, seem to have forgotten that the true wellspring of economic growth is the small entrepreneur, not the big business mogul. Job-creating new industries – the ones that grow into the Apples and Microsofts – start in garages, not in executive suites.

Therefore, preferential tax treatment should be given to small companies. And companies that get “too big” – and perhaps we ought to have a national debate over how big “too big” is – ought to be broken up for being the anti-competitive dinosaurs that they are.

5. ON GUNS

True Centerists agree with the U.S. Constitution on the right to bear arms. Specifically, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Therefore, the Government should, under the Constitution, keep a list of all owners of arms, large and small, to make sure those people are properly enrolled in their militias, now known as the National Guard, and are providing regular service to those militias. Those gun-owning individuals not doing so should be arrested as AWOL or as deserters.


6. ON PRIVATIZED VS. PUBLIC
FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT

The first instance of privatization recorded in American history occurred during the Revolutionary War – fortunately on the British side. Rather than put their own soldiers everywhere, the Brits rented Hessians to do the soldiering for them. It was a lot cheaper, and a lot less upsetting back in England. The result? Of the 17, 000 Hessian soldiers, more than 11,000 were disasters.

• 535 and were reported as killed in action
• 3,014 were reported as deserted or missing
• 2,628 were reported as captured during the war
• 4,983 reported as died of other causes (disease, accidents, etc.)
[Source: http://www.vondonop.org/hessianfaq.html]

Incidentally, my source for the privatized Hessian numbers considers these figures to be conservative. By other accounts, Hessians killed in action numbered 1,200.

In any case, the founding fathers learned a lesson: Some government functions, most especially war, are far too important to be left to private enterprise. The lives, security and health of American citizens are too important to be entrusted to a bunch of greedy corporate jerks out to make a buck. If the American Revolution were left to the likes of the today’s Hessians – the Halliburtons and Bechtels –we’d still be singing “God save the Queen.”

Functions reserved to government ought to include not only national defense and local policing but also highway construction and maintenance, the maintenance and expansion of national forests, and health care insurance, to mention only several. It’s a national crime that over 20 cents of every healthcare dollar you spend goes to enrich an insurance company (or more probably its under-taxed CEO) rather than to purchase medication, get you the doctor you need, or support your local hospital and medical school.

7. ON REGULATED INDUSTRIES

Big business is out of control. You can see this almost any time you pick up a newspaper, but moderates ought especially to be outraged that Big Banking is working overtime to drive American citizens into debt that – thanks to Repulican legislation – is becoming harder and harder to escape by declaring bankruptcy.

Puppet Republican legislators, their strings yanked by banking lobbyists, get irate and declare that people ought to pay their credit card debts without recourse to an escape by declaring bankruptcy. The problem is, most bankruptcies in this country are caused not by carelessness but by out-of-control medical bills that can destroy a family. And Republicans don’t seem to give half a damn about that.

How bad is the situation? Credit card interest rates can go as high as 25 percent, and maybe higher under the right circumstances. That’s worse than the rate Legbreaker Louie, the Mafia loan shark, used to charge back in the days when the FBI and the Treasury Department were working overtime to send Louie to the pokey.

Centerists believe in stronger usury laws and stronger limits than we have now on the pursuit of people who’ve fallen in over their heads on debt, usually for no fault worse than trying to pay for the medical care needed to save a family member's life. Incidentally, where are all the “right to life” people when it comes to paying for life-saving healthcare?

7. ON GAY MARRIAGE

Centerists would gladly oppose gay marriage if we could see one iota of harm it does. However, all evidence is that it does no harm at all.

“Defense of Marriage Act?” Defense against what? How does it hurt my heterosexual marriage, or yours, if two gay folks down the block tie the knot? The issue is pure hokum from the get-go, designed to take your mind off issues that really matter to your life and your future.

How come people who don’t want government “meddling” with a life-and-death issue like healthcare suddenly get all worked up about gay marriage? It’s time to get off this piece of crap “issue” and focus on what’s important.

MORE TO COME

When The Crank gets around to it, we’ll have more to say about the center – and about what a good Centerist’s position ought to be on public education and its outrageous cost, on abortion, about pseudo science and its toxic fallout, and more.

Until then, stay centered.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

$5 Fortune Teller Predicts Election Outcome. And The Winners Are…


Hey, I know The New York Crank is up against some heavy competition. If you want oracles with a track record there’s the New York Times/CBS Poll. There’s Zogby. There’s the Marist Poll. There’s Gallup. Unfortunately, here at The New York Crank, we can’t afford the big-name pollsters. We work on a budget so small it could hide under the petty cash box in a newspaper newsroom.

Fortunately, just down the gritty block from our own rodent-infested office, and up a flight of none-too-pristine stairs, we have a local oracle. She prefers not to advertise her name, even on her street sign, so let’s just call her Madame Galzogarist. She offers what she calls (see photograph of sign, above) a “$5 Speical.”

It’s always a bit risky to ask a fortune-teller to see into the future when she can’t even see into a dictionary for the correct spelling of “special.” But in an election year, any prediction is better than no prediction.

HERE’S THE TRANSCRIPT
OF OUR REVEALING S√ČANCE

NY CRANK: Hello. I’m here for the $5 special.

MME. G: You want a special? Or you want the spe-i-cal?

NY CRANK: Can you explain the difference?

MME G: Nevermind, just gimme the five. Now whaddya wanna know?

NY CRANK: Can you predict who's going to win the next election?

MME. G: For a lousy five bucks?

NY CRANK: If you call this one correctly, we might have more work for you.

MME. G: Okay, ask me something.

NY CRANK: Hold on a second. Do you have any experience predicting political outcomes?

MME. G: You bet. I have lots of famous clients.

NY CRANK: For example?

MME G: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. I’m the one who predicted to him that the Iraqis would greet our troops with roses.

NY CRANK: That wasn’t very accurate.

MME G: So what? You never heard of a rosy prediction? Even the CIA and Condi Rice use me.

NY CRANK: For what?

MME G: Who do you think told them about all those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Did I mention Dick Cheney? I tell him everything he knows.

NY CRANK: I’m a little nervous about the accuracy of your predictions. What’s your margin of error?

MME G: Plus or minus 97 percent, just as good as the White House. You got a prediction you want for your five bucks or not?

NY CRANK: Okay. First of all, who’s going to win the elections?

MME. G: You askin’ about this district by election district, or in a general sort of way? Because if you want a precinct breakdown, it’s gonna cost you a lot more than five bucks. You got fifty?

NY CRANK: Sorry, we aren’t budgeted for that. In a general sort of way, who’s going to win? Republicans or Democrats?

MME. G: Hmm, let me concentrate on my crystal ball. I see a Democrat sweep, but with a malfunctioning broom.

NY CRANK: What does that mean?

MME G: It means where they win they’re gonna win, and where they lose they’re gonna lose.

NY CRANK: Yes but what do you mean by a malfunctioning broom?

MME. G: I mean Democrats may be right on political issues, but they’ve got a gaffe problem. I mean, tell John Kerry to keep his day job and forget about doing stand-up comedy. Somebody should duct tape his mouth until the elections are over. I mean, tell Howard Dean not to do his whooping cowboy impression any more. He shouted "Eeeyah!" once and we got stuck with John Kerry as a waffling candidate and then four more years of Bush. I mean, in New York, tell Alan Hevesi that the next time his wife wants to go somewhere, hail a cab or call a lobbyist to send a limousine instead of using a a state-chauffeured car. If he’s going to steal, at least steal like a Republican.

NY CRANK: Don’t you think Republicans are guilty of some gaffes, too?

MME G: You mean like Republican Senator George Macaca Allen’s racial slurs? Or are you talkin’ about the fact that the Prez of the U.S. can’t even pronounce “nuclear?” Yeah, Macaca Allen is probably toast. But Kerry’s safe for now because he’s not up for re-election. Goes to show you: It’s not what you say, it’s when you say it.

NY CRANK: Will the Congressional page scandal around former Republican Congressman Mark Foley hurt Republicans in Florida?

MME. G: His former Congressional district right now is as hot as a Republican trolling for sex in a public latrine at midnight. I’d say Republicans can kiss his seat goodbye, if you know what I mean.

NY CRANK: Will the Republican attempt to cover up the Foley scandal have any fallout?

MME. G: Yeah. It'll allow evangelicals to decide whether they want to vote to get us out of the Bush mess in Iraq or vote in favor of more hypocrisy.

NY CRANK: Which way will they go?

MME G: You’re askin’ a helluva a lot for five bucks, but if I were you I’d put my money on hypocrisy.

NY CRANK: I notice campaign advertising is getting dirtier and dirtier. Who will the slime hurt most?

MME. G: Listen, kid, throwing slime is as American as apple pie. That’s why politicians are right up there in the public esteem with used car salesmen and matrimonial lawyers.

NY CRANK: But will the Democrats get hurt more than the Republicans or…

MME G: Nah, at the price you’re paying me, that’s all the predictions you get.

NY CRANK: You mean, you’re not telling me any more?

MME G: Come back any time. But as the Republican candidate said to the lobbyist, be sure to bring lots of money.