Dubya’s Dilemma

McPain in the Ass

George W. Bush’s biggest problem is how to get the feisty and mouthy John McCain, now running interference for Rudy Giuliani in New York after a highly publicized trip to Vietnam, out of the way. The longer McCain lingers in the spotlight, the more he disrupts Dubya’s campaign, nagging at the business moneybags to adopt campaign finance reform and calling for less in tax cuts in deference to shoring up Social Security and reducing the debt. Bush desperately wants to make peace with the Christian Right, but McCain, despite his stiff-necked apology, will have none of it. Bush sees the Confederate flag issue as a way of attracting the white male vote in the South. McCain, the descendant of a family that once owned slaves, openly rebukes Bush on the issue.

Over the weekend, Shrub told reporters that at his scheduled summit meeting with McCain next week, “I’m going to remind him… that there’s a lot we agree on, like Social Security reform, governmental reform, education reform,” adding at another appearance, “Hopefully he’ll campaign with me.”

Indeed, since the New Hampshire campaign, Bush has been trying to deflect McCain by teasing him with the VP spot. Tellingly, at a high school rally in Merrimack, New Hampshire, in early January, Bush himself brought up McCain’s name in reply to a question about whom he might accept as a running mate: “John McCain is a man I respect… We’re friends. We’re going to be friends after this campaign, but we’re going to disagree. We’ve had disagreements over taxes… But we’ll be friends, though, I promise you.” Of course, McCain continues to insist he doesn’t want the second spot.

Footnote: Last week, the crime site ran an investigation by Sydney Schanberg pointing out that McCain has methodically gone out of his way in the Senate to shut off access to POW files from his Vietnam days, raising questions about whether he may have something to hide. During the New Hampshire campaign, McCain assembled a group of Vietnam vets called the Patriots to refute rumors that he received special treatment in Vietnam.

Damn the Torpedoes

Kennedy Targets Vieques

With the U.S. government preparing to evict protesters from the Navy’s bombing range on Vieques island in Puerto Rico, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently paid an unexpected visit to the island to offer assistance from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which he represents. Kennedy promised residents that he would go into federal court to seek a temporary injunction against any more bombing, and follow that up with a massive legal assault aimed at ensuring that the Pentagon never again drops a bomb on the island. On Monday, he said the council is preparing two lawsuits against the Navy — one on environmental grounds and a second class-action suit to cover the islanders’ health problems.

Vieques is an eco disaster. Protesters who have occupied the Navy’s shooting range for the past year have gained a better idea of just how contaminated it is. The Navy first denied, and then, when confronted with Freedom of Information suits, admitted that it had tested depleted-uranium ordnance on Vieques. According to the newspaper La Voz de Vieques, eyewitnesses have allegedly seen huge amounts of solid waste being buried at night inside restricted areas by men wearing protective radiation and bacteriological gear.

The island’s coral reefs have been blasted away, along with breeding grounds for sea turtles and mammals. Wetlands and lagoons have been purposely choked to reduce the fish population, and thus undercut the Navy’s traditionally militant opposition: the Vieques fishermen. Tons upon tons of unexploded ammunition lie beneath the sand and water. The soil is laced with toxic heavy metal contamination, and the underground waters are polluted. Airborne toxic materials are carried daily into nearby civilian areas by the prevailing winds. The sea and land food chain has been found to be laced with poisonous substances. Certainly the health statistics are depressing: Vieques has the highest rates of cancer, lung and skin diseases, and infant death in all of Puerto Rico.

After visiting Vieques, Kennedy expressed his anger. “You keep on doing what you’re doing,” he told La Voz de Vieques. “I’ll go back home and carry Vieques’s case there until it resounds in all the national news media. I’m going to turn your case into a national cause. It’s unconscionable that citizens [should] be subjected to a prolongation of World War II in their own community today. If a foreign country did to Vieques what we are doing to you, the U.S. would consider it an act of war. In all my years of environmental activism, in all my travels throughout the world, I have never witnessed such a pitiless aggression against any ecosystem as I have been able to see here. The Navy’s activities in Vieques have had a disastrous effect on the health and the quality of life of all Viequeans. It must be stopped from extending that damage, immediately and permanently.”

He added, “I’ll be back, sometime in late May or early June, with a team of NRDC legal experts and environmental technicians, to collect the necessary data for a major federal lawsuit against the U.S. Navy. We shall immediately submit a request for a temporary injunction to stop further bombings until our case is heard. At the end of this process, the courts will force the Navy to clean your lands and waters, and leave your island forever. We shall not allow one more bomb to be dropped here again.”

Why Wackenhut for ‘D.C.’ Prison?

Wacko Award

As noted in this column last week, the District of Columbia, under court orders to clean up its horrendous prison system, has turned to the Wackhenhut Corp. to build a corrections facility for it on an old slave plantation in North Carolina. Wackenhut, a Florida firm, is the second biggest corrections corporation in the nation. It operates 56 institutions containing 39,308 inmates in 13 states and seven foreign countries. In Louisiana it recently gained a reputation for turning a juvenile corrections facility into a snake pit.

In March the Justice Department filed suit against Wackenhut and the state of Louisiana, charging conditions at the for-profit jail in central Louisiana were “dangerous and life-threatening.” It asked a federal judge to take emergency action to protect the inmates. The suit asked the judge to stop the guards at the Wackenhut prison from beating young boys, failing to provide them with adequate mental health care and education, keeping them in isolation for long periods, and throwing gas grenades into their barracks.

According to The New York Times, “A group of experts hired by the Justice Department who toured the prison, at Jena, reported that many of the 276 boys incarcerated there had no shoes or blankets and were constantly short of food. The experts also reported that many boys had tried to commit suicide or had deliberately injured themselves to get into the infirmary as a way to escape physical abuse by the guards.” Wackenhut, in reply, said it was providing the boys a safe and secure place to live, and that the experts were misled by “exaggerations and misstatements” by the inmates.

The question is, how could the Justice Department, which is suing Wackenhut, allow the company to get involved in a federal facility for the District of Columbia?

Microsoft’s Anti-Eco Connection

Barbarians at the Gates

In Microsoft’s campaign to defeat the government’s antitrust case, it has portrayed itself as a good environmental neighbor. Now, however, the Corporate Crime Reporter, a Washington newsletter, says the computer monopoly secretly has been funding a group called the Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism, a free-market outfit whose chairman, Robert Tracinski, warns that environmentalism is out “to destroy technology and to subordinate mankind to nature.”

“Watch the crowds of environmentalists who will gather on the Mall tomorrow, and notice that they never have met a form of technology they liked,” Tracinski said last month before Earth Day. “Every kind of new technology is attacked, from nuclear power to genetically modified foods. But they also oppose every old, existing technology, from fertilizers and pesticides to the internal combustion engine. And they always place the blame for every problem on one basic target — the Industrial Revolution.” Microsoft admitted helping to finance the Center, but neither the company nor the Center would say how much money was involved.

Spooks in the Hollow

Years ago, when then CIA director William Webster asked her for a date, country music star Naomi Judd recently confided to The Ladies Home Journal, she said no. Judd explained that “my girls were convinced that if I married him he’d implant homing devices in them and they’d never be able to have sex again.”

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi and Ben Wheeler