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Thanks But No Thanks

Crank Call

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Another Thanksgiving come and gone and the war on terror is plainly being lost. On Saturday, a "frustrated" Greyhound bus driver, on his way from Philadelphia to New York, posed a challenge to homeland security, according to an AP story. Maddened by the traffic, the driver, Robert Mickens, took a shortcut off the New Jersey Turnpike. "Do you know what you're doing up there?" came shouts from behind. "Do you know where you're going?"

Clearly annoyed, Mickens answered stoutly, "I'm taking you to the Taliban."

Where the Taliban might be hiding in New Jersey wasn't clear as of press time, but "some people panicked," whipped out their cell phones and dialed 911. "Within minutes, 18 police cars surrounded the bus and pulled it over." The passengers were marched off with their hands in the air, and Mickens was charged with "creating a false public alarm." An exceedingly mild sentence, all in all, at a time when American citizens can be denied legal counsel and held without trial as "enemy combatants."

I'm just glad I wasn't there, because I'd probably have been carted off with the driver. I've been flying the friendly skies -- frisked, searched, looked over, shaken down and instructed at every airport from Vermont to New Orleans to keep my eyes peeled for "suspicious persons." Gasping for life by the time I got home, I was lucky not to be reported the first day.

Really, we need to redefine what a "suspicious person" is. I think the anchors on CNN are pretty suspicious, and I think the ones on Fox are downright evil. Normally I don't watch television news -- one does have limits -- but you can't shut the damn thing off at Thanksgiving, apparently. I've never been hit in one sitting with so many things to be alarmed about.

First is "Showdown Iraq," as CNN calls it, or "Countdown Iraq," as they say at Fox -- though it might be the other way around. Snow in the Northeast had the talking hairdos salivating over the potential for snarled disaster on this traditional but somehow bittersweet family holiday. It was noon, with the sun brightly shining, before the anchors confessed that we'd missed another Storm of the Century.

Magazines weren't any better. News-week was filled with reports on "alternative medicine" and new gadgets for sale in its "TipSheet." Essentially, Newsweek's take on herbs and potions is this: Don't say we told you, and be sure to see your doctor. He's the one who'll be getting the smallpox vaccine a lot sooner than you do.

You don't want to know about smallpox, or botulism, or those farmers in Vancouver who ground up 63 prostitutes in a wood-chipper and fed 'em to the hogs. Worse, those farmers sold topsoil, so bits and pieces of somebody's sister might turn up as far away as -- well, who knows? DNA will tell (brother, will it).

The Pentagon's new "Total Inform-ation Awareness" (TIA) program, by which the government will monitor your every deed from its Total Information Office (TIO), was proposed and will be headed by Admiral John Poindexter. As you may recall, he was convicted of lying to Congress and obstructing justice in the Iran-Contra scandal but was later sprung by a couple of Reagan judges.

And how many of you also know that "TIA" and "TIO" mean "AUNT" and "UNCLE" in Spanish? Don't tell me I'm paranoid -- the truth is out there and its name is Henry Kissinger.

Still not scared? How about these: Asbestos has been found in the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Earth's magnetic field is "weakening dramatically" and could disappear in just a thousand years. The next generation of drugs to treat male impotence "will have the same impact as Viagra, but will have effects that will last for days, not hours." (Wives, just lie there and think of your canning, as the old lady says in The Night of the Hunter.) CNN's breaking news, "Ready, Set, Shop!" displayed "disappointing crowds" in the malls. Retailers expect only a 4 percent rise in sales this Christmas, barely enough to keep executives on the take.

Here's a suspicious person for you: Dr. Jerrold Post, professor of political psychology at George Washington Univer-sity and the CIA's appointed expert on the psyche of Saddam Hussein. Apparently, the problems started in the womb with Saddam. "During the mother's pregnancy the father died," Dr. Post explains. Later, "She tried both to commit suicide and to have an abortion."

Note how warfare reinforces domestic policy -- no more abortions, you wicked girls. Saddam became a "malignant narcissist," says Dr. Post. This disorder is marked by "an extreme lack of empathy for others, paranoia, the absence of conscience and a readiness to use violence to achieve goals... It can also produce compensatory dreams of glory." (Post thinks Osama bin Laden "is suffering from the same malady.")

Another profile of the Evil One, read sideways on a plane, depicts his "obsession with image and hygiene" as proof of insanity. It's a description that would fit the American consumer to a T. When push comes to shove, warns Dr. Post, "Saddam will probably both set fire to the Iraqi oilfields and order the use of chemical and biological weapons against the invading troops and against Israel." Meantime, the cameras are adjusting their picture of Dubya to reflect his historic vision.

"Big boys have big toys," says Saddam's shrink, superfluously. "Without the weapons, he's nothing.

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