The early days of 2006 find me in a foul mood.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a wonderful Christmas and a fun-filled New Year’s, but returning to the news this week has been a trying experience (to say the least). So many things have gone wrong lately that one hardly knows where to begin. Every time I start a column, something else happens that begs for analysis and comment.
So, to keep things simple, I’ll just hit the high points:
- The Jack Abramoff Scandal:
Washington is all atwitter about super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s recent plea-bargain in which he allegedly agreed to testify against several prominent beltway power brokers.
As best I can figure, Abramoff is accused of bribing various congressmen in return for "special favors" for his clients. He allegedly threw a lot of cash and luxury junkets around Capitol Hill in order to change policies concerning gambling interests and minimum wage laws.
I’m frankly mystified as to why anyone finds this newsworthy. After all, Washington DC is essentially nothing more than an enormous fencing operation. Every year, the government takes money from hard-working Americans, puts it into a giant pile, and then distributes it to a myriad of special interest groups using a shady, dishonest process involving favor swapping, backstabbing, and influence peddling.
This procedure is not an anomaly or a glitch, but is actually the core function and purpose of the system.
Jack Abramoff was not, philosophically speaking, doing anything out of the ordinary. He may have been a little more blatant and dishonest about it…but is that newsworthy?
Jack Abramoff is just one of many parasites slithering around in the large abscess that is Mordor on the Potomac. If he goes to the big house, virtually the entire city should go with him.
Either way, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. My only wish in the matter is that the Washington establishment would spare us the self-righteous indignation.
- The Iraqi Election:
Iraq held yet another in its seemingly endless series of elections. And yet again, we were treated to seemingly endless pictures of smiling voters with purple fingers.
On cue, the neocons touted the election as a milestone in Iraq’s transformation into a modern democracy. They took the opportunity to claim their policy is working and that the invasion was therefore justified.
Whether by conscious intent or mere self-deception, they couldn’t be more wrong. The election was a debacle for Iraq and is leading straight to civil war.
The Sunnis decided (this time) to participate in the election, hoping to win real power in the future government. They ceased their military attacks, nominated a slate of candidates, and worked hard to maximize their turn-out.
The results were disastrous.
Through some combination of fraud and simple demographics, the Sunnis’ share of the vote total was dismal compared to the Shiites and Kurds. Locked out of power, the Sunnis face a bleak future. They see themselves confined to a triangular dustbowl without oil, money, or hope. Even worse, their lives will be at the mercy of a government dominated mostly by their hated Shiite rivals.
A civil war is now almost inevitable. What they cannot win in the voting booth, the Sunnis must now try to win via the barrel of a gun.
The only good thing that could have emerged from this election was a graceful American exit. Saddam is gone. There are no WMDs. A successful democratic election was held.
Any sane American government would take that as a cue to declare victory and head for the exits (although one could certainly argue that a sane government would never have gone to Iraq in the first place…but that is another issue entirely).
Unfortunately, no one ever accused the Bush administration of sanity. They seem to believe that this election was a success and that things are better than ever. And since their original intentions included permanent American military bases, they have no real desire to leave Iraq anyway.
So whether by delusion or design, American forces don’t appear to be leaving anytime soon…which will place our soldiers in a ring-side seat at a nasty, three-way civil war.
- Fast times at the NSA:
The Bush administration seems to be running some sort of contest to see how many constitutional amendments it can violate in a single two-term presidency. I lost track of the running total some time ago, but the Bushites must be outshining the historical competition by a substantial margin.
The most recent scandal involves revelations that the NSA snoops were ordered to eavesdrop on American citizens’ phone conversations. This is, supposedly, against the law, since the NSA is only allowed to use its snooping powers outside the empire.
Even more outrageous is the fact that several instances of spying allegedly continued even after the administration was denied warrants by federal courts.
This is a direct attack on both the separation of powers and the Bill of Rights.
Without doubt, this constitutes an impeachable offense.
Unfortunately, impeachment would require an actual opposition party in congress dedicated to protecting our constitutional rights…and all we have are the Democrats.
Were I a federal judge (now there’s a scary thought) I’d send a posse of marshals over to the NSA to round up the wiretap records. Then, I’d compare the records to the warrants issued by the court…whereupon I’d start tossing people in jail for contempt.
But that sort of thing only happens in a republic, not an empire.
- Coal Mining Tragedy:
I closely followed the disaster in West Virginia last week, hoping for a miracle that would find the men alive. It was a particularly cruel twist that the families were told all their loved ones had survived, only to be informed later that the information was wrong.
Certainly, our nation’s thoughts and prayers belong with these folks in this difficult time.
Doing the jobs that Americans “won’t do”
Having been born and raised in coal country (my hometown is only minutes away from the Quecreek mine, the site of the dramatic rescue several years ago), I’ve had many friends and relatives in the industry. Miners are a stubborn and unique breed. Scratching for coal in dark, cramped caves takes a certain kind of courage that few possess.
After the Quecreek incident, and again after this one in West Virginia, my thoughts eventually drifted to a certain cliché I often hear in the media. It is frequently said that America must not guard her borders or interfere with illegal immigration because our nation requires hordes of illegals to do those jobs that Americans "won’t do".
I’ve always bristled when I hear that statement because I know it is false. Even worse, it is slanderous.
The men at the Quecreek and Sago mines are Americans, born and bred. Many of their families have been working those mines for generations.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m tired of listening to journalists and academics describe American workers like they’re a bunch of pampered creampuffs. Going down into the mines is a tough job…one that’s a heck of a lot more dangerous than, say, picking oranges. While the folks in Washington and in the media may not think Americans will do these jobs, I know the truth is quite to the contrary.
Steven LaTulippe [send him mail] is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.