This week has several sort of weird streams in the news. This year, as opposed to 2000, one Democratic Senator grew a pair, and it was Barbara Boxer. If I still lived in California, I would send her a contribution for standing up with John Conyers, who always stands up, and saying what needed to be said, i e that today's Republican Party will do anything to win and that politics cannot be allowed to be like that in a democratic republic. So thank you BB (and could you take some time to tell me what the deal was when no Senator would sign the congressional Black Caucus's protest in 2000,when it might have made a difference.)
Al Gonzales no longer approves of torture. No, really! He told Patrick Leahy, yesterday at the hearing, that torture was "unacceptable" because the President had said so, quite clearly, only two and a half years after the memo. (On the thursday before both New years Eve and Al's confirmation hearing for Attorney General of the United States of America, moving several democrats to use the word "coincidently" more than once each) You remember the memo? The high points would be a giggle if they did not repudiate at least 100 years of American philosophy. AG designate A. G. writes that: 1. It's not really torture if (a long list of excusable cruelty inserted) and 2. The Geneva Convention only applies to people we say it applies to and 3. If the president says we're at war then he can do anything he wants no matter what the law says and he can tell anybody else to do it too and it won't really be illegal because he said it wasn't (sort of a legal 'King's X' like in hide and seek). and 4. there are people and places that are outside the law and 5. that the international treaties going back to the Peace of Westphalia have been rendered "quaint" by the election of his holiness George W. Bush. (I wanted to spit)
For the younger among us, let me explain why I get so emotional about this. At the battle of Trenton, New Jersey George Washington established an American tradition by allowing the Hessian Mercenaries he had just defeated to lay down their arms and receive humane treatment from their captors. It was unprecedented for mercenary troops and they spread the word through all of Europe. Since then, whatever else was going on, American soldiers, while having a reputation throughout the world for being fierce combatants and serving more than one government that could be oppressive, were always the "good guys". Now, that's not strictly true, we've done some real whoppers like the Phillipines in the early 1900's and some of the things we did in Viet Nam, but we've always been moved by the argument that our guys were the ones who handed out chewing gum and traveled with Civil Affairs battalions to rebuild your city and, most especially, held to the Geneva convention as if it were the word of god! We have been, in short, idealists.
I learned a soldier's duties under Geneva at Ft. Sam Houston, TX in 1960 from a SGT who had been a POW in Korea. He had been tortured, (in that war it was called 'brain washed') and the only relief he got was regular visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross with clean blankets, medical care, and letters from home. See, the North Koreans, who thought Geneva silly, understood that the whole world knew that American soldiers held to Geneva, no matter what, and to refuse the Red Cross its prerogatives under the treaty would lead to international condemnation to the point that not even the Soviet Union or China could afford to supply them. What he said, and I believed, was that, when you are captured, your only defense is that reputation. That because American's are known around the world for our slavish devotion to the humane treatment of those captured on the field of battle, your captor, however evil, might pause, might not strike you down. Its a thin defense, but its worked before. Sadly, because of the moral cowardice of George W. Bush and his legal lackey, Alberto Gonzales, it never will again. They have condemned generations of American soldiers to death and torture for no good reason and now the son of a bitch wants to be the Attorney General of the United States of America. I could just, as I said before, spit.
On a lighter note, the Social Security Dog and Pony Show opened Monday in Wash. DC and its a zinger. I was thinking (hoping actually) that not even the Republican Majority would have the gall to continue to claim that the system was "in crisis". I mean the Social Security Trustees, who really ought to know, report that everything is going just the way it was planned. And, if that's not enough, the Congressional Budget Office, who works for them, reported that, if anything, its better than the Trustees think. But noooo, they won't back off, not even a little, its a CRISIS and that's that! Now, I'm not going to dignify this with the statistics, you can go to the New York Times and read Paul Krugman for that. I just wanted to point out a little logical inconsistancy in the whole thing and we can keep it between the two of us because it requires holding two concepts in our heads at the same time, so the conservatives won't be able to decipher it.
Here we go. The system is in crisis because, in only a few years, the Baby Boom generation will begin to retire. When that happens, the story goes, it will rapidly become the case that there will only be two workers for every retiree. How do we know that? By doing some simple demographic calculations, easy really. First you take all the stuff you know for sure then you assume some stuff you're pretty sure about and then you plug those things into your equation and, voila, population statistics for the future. Now here comes the second thought. When we're not thinking about this crisis, we're paying attention to another, real important, crisis. Poor people from Central and South America and, especially, Mexico are streaming across our southern border in alarming droves. They are, Lou Dobbs assures us, taking GOOD AMERICAN JOBS, as bus boys and gardeners and cement finishers and the like and they may have TERRORISTS among them. (although I'm pretty sure that none of the 9/11 highjackers were Mexicans) So, I went and looked up how many of these immigrants, legal and illegal, the demographers were assuming for the Social Security calculation and, guess what, its none. That's right, the assumed net in migration for the next 75 years, for purposes of Social Security is Zero (0).
Now lets go over these two complex thoughts for a minute. 1. Social Security is in crisis because of a shortage of workers in a few years. 2. the country is in crisis because unwanted workers are invading from the south. Does anybody see a way out of this? How about this; we let them come in, we demand that employers treat them like real American workers with living wages and withholoding taxes and overtime pay and the whole Megilla and we incorporate them into the Social Security system. See, that way we don't have such a shortage of workers. What's wrong with that? Well, the big thing wrong is, that would require our government actually trying to protect American workers and our jobs and that would, in turn, require that we turn these ignorant SOB's out of office. But that's another subject.