We're giving Diamond Jim Douglas and the Montpeculiar stars a breather this week. There's a bigger picture that simply cannot be ignored.
President and Chief Gunslinger George W. Bush's heroic poll numbers are finally sliding.
Last Saturday, hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens took to the streets in Vermont, around the nation and around the world to oppose the impending invasion of Iraq.
And on Monday, America's first and oldest ally declared that it stands firmly against Dubya's mad death march.
France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, accused Washington of "impatience" in the confrontation with Baghdad over illegal weapons and added, "We believe that nothing today justifies envisaging military action."
France, lest we forget, stood bravely by us in our hour of greatest need -- our birth. Without France, we'd be watching cricket matches at Fenway Park and courtseying to the Queen of England.
Instead, we became the land where freedom rings. And 100 years after our successful overthrow of the English crown, dear France sent along a big statue of Lady Liberty as a reminder.
Vive la France!
The foreign minister warned of a French veto in the United Nations Security Council when Dubya seeks its blessing to launch his own weapons of mass destruction. A veto would deny our macho president any semblance of international support for his reckless scheme to avenge his daddy's shortcomings in Desert Storm and assure every gas-guzzling SUV owner in America that they will never see a line at the fuel pump.
We may well look back on last weekend's antiwar marches as the moment the tide turned. The moment hundreds of thousands of Americans put down their TV remotes and exercised their conditional rights to take to the streets in protest.
Britain's Guardian newspaper reported 22 "coaches" from little Vermont made the trip to Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
According to Don Gray of Central Vermont Peace, five buses made the overnight trip from Rutland. They arrived in D.C. at 7:30 Saturday morning.
"It was really beautiful," said Gray, "all frosty and all."
Don Gray, a 53-year-old veteran of the anti-Vietnam War marches of many years ago, told Seven Days he never before experienced "a more positive group united behind one central issue."
Gray reported that the Washington protest comprised Americans from all walks of life, races and religions, as well as all age groups, including plenty of silver-haired, card-carrying members of AARP.
"It was very nonviolent and peaceful," he said.
University of Vermont English professor Nancy Welch was on one of the four buses that departed from Burlington.
"If we had advertised earlier," she told Seven Days, "there would have been more."
Welch, a proud member of the faculty union, said she marched in a large "U.S. Labor Against War" contingent that included school teachers from Wisconsin and health-care workers from the Big Apple.
It was not Ms. Welch's first overnight bus trip to protest in Foggy Bottom. "I knew to bring a thermos of coffee and pack lots of water and food."
But for many in the Burlap delegation, she said, it was a first. The group included teachers and students and graphic designers as well as "people doing yoga and stretching exercises."
The next big antiwar rally is scheduled for February 15 in New York City. It's a much shorter trip than the one to D.C. Don't forget your thermos.
Media Bias??? -- You'd better believe it. C-Span covered Saturday's Washington, D.C., protest live. God bless C-span!
After all, it was the largest antiwar march in 30 years! But tuning into "The NBC Nightly News" Saturday reminded us of the media bias against the antiwar movement during the 1960s and 1970s.
Back then, the "enemy" of peace was called the "military-industrial complex" -- a name coined by President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican and former Army general. It was composed of the Pentagon and the defense contractors.
Ike warned America that the MIC's thirst for profit would lead America into senseless military actions around the world. Vietnam is a prime example and one of many.
Nowadays, the "enemy" is simply called Corporate America. Its spinoffs include Corporate Greed, Corporate Welfare and, last but not least, the Corporate Media.
NBC led its Saturday evening national newscast with five minutes of Iraq scare stories. Somehow the report failed to mention that the empty warheads found in Iraq by U.N. inspectors were attached to old missiles with a range of only 12 miles.
Finally, after the Bush propaganda report, NBC briefly mentioned the huge protest march in Washington. Jeezum crow, we thought, NBC sure sounds pro-war.
Suddenly a light went off in our head. Actually, it was more like a light bulb. And on the light bulb was printed the name "General Electric." As it was in the days of Ike, GE continues to be one of the world's leading weapons manufacturers. GE claims it "brings good things to life."
Actually, GE brings many good people to death. A quick and sudden death. And, guess who owns NBC?
Would you believe GE?
What a coincidence, eh?
Bait & Switch -- Got to give credit where credit is due. And George W. deserves credit for pulling off one of the biggest bait-and-switch schemes of all time.
You may recall that on September 11, 2001, a multimillionaire named Osama bin Laden, head of al Qaeda, successfully orchestrated a daring and murderous scheme to destroy the twin towers of New York City's World Trade Center and blow up a big chunk of the Pentagon.
You may also be aware of the fact that it wasn't the first time Osama blew up American targets. For years Osama has called for a holy war against America and Americans.
After some delay in returning to the Capitol on 9/11 to take control of the situation, Dubya promised we'd track down Osama and catch him "dead or alive."
Indeed, since Osama's successful strike, 9/11 has affected all of us deeply. Orwellian legislation has been passed to snoop on the citizenry. Countless unsubstantiated terror alerts have been issued by the White House. The defense budget has skyrocketed and the national deficit has ballooned to an all-time high.
Time and time again, Mr. Bush has declared his number-one job is to protect us, but Osama remains a free man and hundreds of thousands of Americans in uniform are being placed in harm's way throughout the Persian Gulf region. But they're not there to catch Osama or to destroy al Qaeda. They're there to topple Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
George Bush has deftly duped the citizenry to transpose the face of Saddam onto the image of Osama. Americans now think we'll avenge 9/11 by blowing Iraq to kingdom come and capturing Saddam's head on a platter.
But friends, not even our macho president has been able to link Saddam to 9/11.
A search on the White House's official Web site turns up 363 hits for "Saddam." A search for 'Osama" turns up just 173.
In fact, in the last six months, Mr. Bush and his Minister of Misinformation, Ari Fleischer, only uttered Osama's name when directly asked about the world's most wanted criminal. One of the last mentions occurred September 24, 2002. During a photo-op in the Cabinet room, a reporter asked Bush the following:
Q: "The Vice President [Al Gore] yesterday said that you've managed to replace the world's sympathy on Iraq with fear, anxiety and uncertainty. And you're using the issue to steer attention away from the inability to get Osama bin Laden."
The President: 'I'm confident a lot of Democrats here in Washington, D.C., will understand that Saddam is a true threat to America. And I look forward to working with them to get a strong resolution passed."
Mr. Bush then went into his standard harangue about Saddam and what a mean, wicked, bad and nasty person he is. But he never once uttered Osama bin Laden's name or attempted to answer the question he was asked.
Perception, they say, is everything, and the current perception of the American people is rooted in one of the greatest acts of political deception ever achieved.
Therefore, Inside Track proudly honors President George W. Bush with our first "Greatest Deceiver in America Award."
Congratulations, Mr. President. Keep up the good work!
P.S. Mr. Bush may no longer give a tinker's damn about finding Osama bin Laden, but we do. And since Seven Days is available on the World Wide Web, there's a chance Osama or one of his followers might read this. Please, Osama, get in touch. We'd love an interview. George Bush may be ignoring you, but we still care. Hey, I'll even buy the coffee, OK?
Deanwatch 2004 -- No shortage of glowing reviews of Howard Dean's fiery performance Saturday at the Lind County Democratic Dinner in Marion, Iowa. Ho-Ho shared the podium with Rep. Dick Gephardt and Sen. John Kerry. C-Span ran the speeches twice on Sunday evening. The contrast between the new guy and the established veterans was like that between two lighted matches flickering in the wind and a bonfire of political sanity.
Dr. Dean opened his 25-minute speech by taking on the issue of the day -- Bush's announced opposition to the affirmative-action program at the University of Michigan School of Law.
"I was deeply, deeply disappointed," said Dean, "more so than I've ever been after a long series of disappointments with President Bush's administration, when the President last week went before a national television audience."
Bush "used the word 'quota' seven times on national television. The University of Michigan does not have a quota system," noted Dean, his voice rising with passion. "It never did have a quota system. The word 'quota' is designed to foster racial divisiveness and to encourage people to be fearful that other folks are going to take their jobs. That is a disgrace," shouted Ho-Ho, "for the president of the United States to ever use that word!"
The audience roared. He had them eating out his hand as he strode though a litany of George Bush's failures, from the economy and foreign policy to health care and education. "We can do better," was his ringing refrain.
He ridiculed Bush's "No Student Left Behind" Bill, as the "No Teacher Left Standing" Bill. Members of the audience leapt from their seats when Dean declared himself the only presidential hopeful who opposed the Iraq resolution. He was on fire!
On energy policy, Dean joked that he'd noticed the cars in the parking lot. "I'm not asking you to get out of your SUVs and trucks," said the Vermonter, "but I want mileage standards for SUVs and trucks that are the same for the rest of the fleet."
More applause. And a standing ovation when he got to civil unions. Ho-Ho learned forward, rested one elbow on the podium and told the hushed crowd, "I did not do this for gays and lesbians. I did this for America," said Dean. "I want to be the president where everyone in America has equal rights under the law."
Should he be the Democratic nominee, said Dr. Dean, "I can't wait to stand next to George Bush in the debates and have him explain to Americans why everybody, even though they're willing to go to Afghanistan and die for this country, shouldn't have equal rights under the law when they get back. I can't wait to see the President of the United States explain that."
Tuesday's ABC News "Political Note" put it best: "If you saw the reaction to Dean's Saturday night speech and you still don't think he can be a serious player in the Iowa caucuses (and maybe win them), you need to recalibrate your brain."
Media Notes -- Kudos to WPTZ-TV for sending veteran Stewart Ledbetter to Iowa to cover Saturday's speech. Stew spent a few days in the land of cornfields. Bet there's a special series in the works.
WCAX-TV covered the Iowa dinner with a reporter from the local CBS affiliate in Cedar Rapids. Unfortunately, technical problems screwed up the feed. WCAX's Anson Tebbetts has already "done" Dean in Iowa.
Yours truly has never been to Iowa.