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Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Dirty Little Dots

by Clinton Fein

The Prozac has worn off and everything’s a little worse than when we started. Looking back on the plush Clinton 90’s and the haze from which we’ve semi emerged in search of something stronger, it seems as though the dots we never connected were frantically flashing directional cues at us constantly. It’s not that we couldn’t connect the dots or really didn’t see them. The reality is that we didn’t want to connect them, because until the piper came along calling, there was an undisputable payoff in ignoring the very existence of dots. Especially dirty ones.

Glossy Terry McAuliffe feature spreads in the Vanity Fairs of the publishing world gushed at the remarkable capabilities of the Presidential fundraising kingpin, and now (fully disconnected and cashed out at the expense of Global Crossing employees) Democratic party chief, while competing with the publication of Monica Lewinsky photographs with literary allusions to tax-funded revelations pertaining to leaves of grass, which are as laughably frivolous now as the content they were expounding on was back then.

Then there was that fuzzy logic period somewhere in between, where stronger doses of everything were needed to get through the boredom of the most insipid election in history. And when it wore off this time, Al Gore had ballooned into a wooden parody of himself, free elections were a thing of the past, the Supreme Court had appointed George W. Bush president, and John Ashcroft had anointed himself Attorney General. And while we can Monday morning quarterback all we like regarding our dot connecting failures, let’s not forget we can’t even punch holes in and then count ballots in Florida, never mind connect dots.

Then there was the spectacle of the corporate controlled propaganda machine, turning already decaying journalism into a cheaply packaged, self-referential freak show that not even anthrax could stop. Are there FDA approved antidepressants strong enough to help one forget the tearfully earnest, spit flying self-congratulatory backslapping by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews -- the pious sense of pride he felt the role journalism played in stalking and condemning a lame, philandering politician, Gary Condit -- while Mohamed Atta laughingly practiced flying planes above his head?

Eminem was being pilloried by Lynn Cheney for his fey, faux-bad-boy-Vanilla-Ice rap shtick. She sided with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Defamation against lyrics that were deemed misogynistic and homophobic, polluting the minds of children, as the Taliban (when they weren’t selling off ancient sculptures) stoned to death and hanged women and gays in sports stadiums that were as packed as Eminem’s concerts. While Enron staged an energy crisis in California that resulted in rolling blackouts in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, Dupont made plastic hearts strong enough to withstand accounting irregularities at Halliburton.

We are worse off as a nation in every sense of the word since September 11, and the terrorist attacks are not even the half of it.

John Ashcroft -- when he isn’t draping velvet over statues or powdering his face for satellite feeds -- continues to announce pivotal milestones in the War on Terrorism that are about as meaningful as the issuance of stock options at WorldCom. While he and the rest of Bush’s multimillion dollar cabinet reposition and cloak their assets to ensure maximum revenue on the butchering and pharmaceutical remedying of the Iraqi people, and the totaling and rebuilding of Baghdad and surrounding areas, American citizens languish in detention centers without trials, lawyers or recourse – not to mention evidence.

The June 10, 2002 Ashcroft announcement of Abdullah al Muhajir, also known as Jose Padilla's capture and the Department of Justice’s supposed heroic saving of the world from a dirty bomb was so flimsy, even President Bush rejected it without the aid of aides. A non event, it turned out, which rather than anything related to bombs or nuclear material, was more along the line of dirty tricks like Lucianne Goldberg, the wicked witch of the East who talked Linda Tripp into trapping Monica Lewinsky on tape so she could ultimately get her pudgy, lily white son a writing job at National Review.

So while America furrows her brow in a bewildered attempt to understand why everybody hates her, it might behoove her to consider that it wasn’t necessarily the combined evils of globalization, capitalism, domination, Christianity and Empire envy that got the goat of the hijackers on September 11, but a deep-rooted anti-Semitism, reinforced and personified by a cud-chewing cow with a tape recorder handing out book deals to people who can’t write. September 11 might have been, for all we know -- White House stalled bipartisan investigations notwithstanding -- one massive, anti-Semitic literary review.

Then there was the weepy, teary-eyed, flag clutching desecration of civil liberties that turned America into the closest thing to a police state ever. Antidepressant sales have understandably skyrocketed a staggering 30% since September 11, and what better than numbing everything ala Bush by swigging down Jimmy Beam or popping Vicodin if falsely accused of terrorism? The detention camps have already been built, while the military videotapes protests and protestors in deference to the Posse Comitatus Act in Washington D.C. Branches of the United States Post Office, in the absence of official policy, demand identification for the sending off of grandmother’s birthday present or any other parcel you wish to mail that weighs over a pound.

In a profoundly disturbing development, as if to flip off its own Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal journalist murdered in Pakistan last year, the Dow Jones Company teamed with Reuters to announce the "Factiva Public Figures & Associates" database – as a combined media company offering. Designed as a product to help companies required to perform "Know Your Customer" requirements or "enhanced due diligence", the database touts itself as only available to certain entities as determined by the joint venture.

As if journalists don’t already face enough danger on a daily basis in the performance of their jobs, they now have to wear the badges of organizations that are designed to provide revenue producing security and private information services to National and International Police Forces, Intelligence Services and Justice Departments. Next we can expect to see those organizations teaming up with the Pentagon, strapping remote-control explosives to their reporters and using them as military devices, since dispatching them under these current circumstances is about as close to murdering them as it gets.

Bush’s case for waging war on Iraq looks dangerously like a dot com business plan from 1999. In those heady days of consumer stickiness and fifty million dollar blowjob investigations, you spent obscene amounts of money to capture eyeballs, the capture of which was supposed to yield then (and still) unsubstantiated promises of wealth beyond the wildest imagination. A business plan that dared reference a revenue model or base financial projections on solid economic theory was tossed out the window with the careless abandonment of a terrorist threat at the FBI or CIA.

While it might prove the ultimate slap in the face for the anti-globalization crowd, it would make an iota of sense to some of the money minded in our midst, if future plans (that, despite their vagueness and official denial, cannot conceal the obvious long term American occupation of Iraq), also included possible revenue generation from a few Baghdad Starbucks franchises, or GAP outfits made by, and for, cheap labor – particularly Iraqi kids who aren’t killed or born deformed as a result of the past and future bombing by the United States Nations of chemical weapon factories.

The purpose of a two party system, we once thought, was to create some kind of a balance, even though independent parties are treated like fourth class citizens and are denied any true representation. All we have are a bunch of ineffectual sheep that are good at absolutely nothing other than giving away the power vested in them by the constitution. The United States congress is the modern day equivalent of the League of Nations. While Republicans are to conservatism what Jeffrey Dahmer and Andrew Cunanan were to gay rights, Democrats are to liberalism – that which favors civil liberties – what the President’s niece, Noelle Bush, is to a “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign.

While Republicans can be expected to jump on the Bush bandwagon like sycophantic leeches, toadying and sliming their way into the good graces of a President who views them as cheap and annoying stray dogs that relish and acquiesce at the slightest bit of attention, the actions of the Democrats defy explanation. New York Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, voted to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq with tortured circular logic meant to avert war by allowing Bush to go to the United Nations with a mandate from congress which will then be used to ignore the will of member countries. As the new It girl of the Senate, perhaps the title of her yet-to-be-released book, which received a cool 8 million dollar advance, can be offered as a sequel to her first, drop the It, and simply be titled Take a Village.

California’s butch brunette bomber, Dianne Feinstein, voted to attack Iraq despite politically expedient promises to the contrary. Given her unwavering support of censorship, National ID cards, and hatred of privacy, one cannot but question her political pedigree. While she claims to be half-Jewish on her father’s side, someone at the Department of Justice should investigate where a certain man by the name of Ashcroft happened to be during the time the little tyrant was conceived, because a dirty little ditty about John and Dianne would make a fabulous John Mellencamp song, simultaneously knock the patriotism parasite, Bruce Springstein, off the front pages finally, spawn a Billy Idol cover of White Wedding and explain some extraordinary similarities.

Eminem released a new album, capitalizing on the publicity Lynne Cheney and GLAAD generated through their earlier whining. The horror of the new album is all in the sub-text. A song using his bound-to-be dysfunctional little daughter, “My Dad’s Gone Crazy”, amidst a slew of vitriolic cussing and blasphemy inadvertently reveals that he will likely make a far better parent, in spite of his language, than the into-the-closet-shoving-of-Mary parenting by the Cheneys or the example set by Halliburton Dick through his conduct in the world of business and politics.

The final straw was President Bush’s sneered acknowledgement, above and beyond all the other compelling reasons which he couldn’t really tell us for attacking Iraq, that Saddam had threatened to kill his Daddy, which sounded like JR Ewing in a Dallas rerun, slurring after one too many scotches at Southfork. And you though Bush’s drunk, cheerleading frat-boy college days were over. “I hate Saddam,” screeched Bush Senior, with Nobel Peace prize maturity, in an interview with The New York Times.

If big oil fat cats in Texas weren’t closing rank to muzzle the morons, one would think the barely literate, barely readable bomb bimbo, Ann Coulter, (who was shamelessly and flirtatiously porning her trite ramblings to the Solicitor General, Theodore Olsen, before his wife’s smoldering body was even removed from the debris of the plane that flew into the Pentagon) was co-scripting the White House public relations effort with Jerry Falwell and the editorial staff of the New York Post.

A White House spokesman pointed to a one sentence afterthought from the President’s radio address on Saturday to demonstrate how “very focused” the President is on the economy: “America's economic security, especially the creation of good jobs, is also an urgent matter,” was the tightly consolidated result of such intense focus. And all this time we thought the White House didn’t have an economic plan. We can rely on bipartisan support for this, however, since the Democratic economic plan so far is identical.

All Bush has done domestically, aside from have protesters arrested on an increasingly frequent basis, is overturn emissions policies set by California to illustrate his commitment to smaller government and respect for State’s rights, and pressure longshoremen into listening to management or preparing for a little visit to Hotel Guantanamo.

Never before has the talent of Karen Hughes been so blatantly apparent through its mere absence. We are witnessing a new take on sunshine and oversight laws that offer transparency through stupidity, arrogance and ignorance rather than full disclosure.

In the prolifically depressing British movie Trainspotting, a character played by Ewan McGregor tears away from friends and relatives at a bar, following a court hearing sparing him prison time for heroin abuse, to score a fix. As he disappears into the abyss, communicated audio-visually by his sinking into a carpet with Lou Reed’s It’s a Perfect Day playing soothingly in the background, the desperate escape from reality – despite its dire context and predictable consequences – looks extraordinarily inviting.

This is where we find ourselves on the eve of a vaguely defined war, the global consequences of which we cannot imagine in our worst nightmares, regardless of what chemicals we gorge on to avoid having to actually think about it. In this frenetic world, our hyperactive attention deficit disorders are simply repackaged as multi-tasking acumen, reinforced by an ADD President with attention span of a Ritalin tablet.

We have twenty-year-olds gulping down Viagra and ecstasy cocktails for all-night marathon sex sessions, and we have Air Force pilots seesaw-popping amphetamines in the morning and Ambien at night for precision bomb-dropping with requisite sleep. We have a pecking order of high society queens – men and women, gay and straight -- based on which brand of antidepressant they’re on, and we have eighty-year-old grandmothers chomping on Oxycotin to take the edge off. We have psychotic, road-raged soccer Moms in SUVs on so many variations their bodies are in a perpetual state of toxic shock, schlepping their irritated, sleep-deprived ten-year-olds who are snoring their way through class unless they’ve gulped down a gallon of Starbucks before school. We have teachers furiously debating whether their Wellbutrin dosage might interfere with their Adipex crash diet, while their students run wild unless they over-amp them on Dexedrine.

Depressingly enough, it’s reality that is depressing, and antidepressants and all its cope constructed cousins are nothing more than a pharmacological escape from it, not a coping mechanism to function in it. We are confusing grim realism with depression, pessimism with weakness and denial with optimism. As a result, everyone’s taking all the wrong drugs for all the wrong reasons.

Perhaps it’s time to be more sympathetic to where Noelle Bush is coming from, and from what she is running. Like all of us. Dirty dots. Everywhere.

Clinton Fein can be emailed at clinton@annoy.com


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