Jabberwocky in Berlin

The Radical Center

The gibberish coming out of the European summit last week was nothing but a cover for the advance of the right across the continent. Last year it was the “Third Way.” Now it’s something called “Progressive Governance.”

“I am the radical center,” enthused Canada’s prime minister Jean Chrétien.

“I like the ‘Third Way’ because it is sort of easy to remember,” Clinton said.

Such statements illustrate how far things have come now that the leaders of industrial Europe parade shamelessly as “left of center” when, in fact, they are salesmen for Big Capital, huddling around the lame-duck Clinton, playing out the role of Willy Loman.

In reality, “Progressive Governance” means unrestricted free trade, which means shipping U.S. jobs abroad. It means devaluing 401(k) pension plans by investing them in “emerging markets” in the Pacific Rim. It means putting mothers to work at exploitative wages to compete with the third world.

So, while central Africa is overwhelmed by famine, while Sierra Leone tortures and maims its young citizens, while Zimbabwe sinks into virtual civil war, the leaders of the Western world embrace and toast each other and mouth empty phrases. To mask the chaos in the third world, they now include court jesters in their discussions: the heads of state of South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil — all nations with wealthy European populations. And they very much wish to include Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer who last month had police raid top media offices, an action The New York Times on Sunday decorously declared “stirred liberal fears about his commitment to democracy.”

Meanwhile, at home, conservatives are keeping the heat on Hillary (a woman marginally more progressive than her husband), if only to prevent backsliding. Day after day, they hammer away: Last week, the candidate was countering right-wing allegations that members of her staff had spat at cops during the recent state Democratic Convention. At week’s end, she was dodging charges being booted about on the Web that Hollywood liberals (read “reds”) were dumping money into her campaign.

Taking the FDA Clitorally

The Vagina Dialogues

The much-maligned Food and Drug Administration scored a first last month with what appeared to be an endorsement of a vaginal gadget to aid sexually dysfunctional women. UroMetrics, the pharmaceutical firm that makes the device, calls it Eros and markets it as a prescription item.

In a May 5 letter to physicians headed “It’s About Time,” UroMetrics quoted the FDA’s Dr. Diane Mitchell, the clinical reviewer of the device, as saying, “This is one of a kind.” The company described the product as follows: “The Eros is a prescription device designed for at-home use by pre-menopausal and post-menopausal females who are suffering from Female Sexual Dysfunction. The device creates a gentle vacuum over the clitoris to increase blood flow to the genitalia and causes clitoral engorgement.”

The letter continued: “Colin Pollard, head of the FDA’s obstetrics and gynecology branch, said, ‘We felt that the risk profile on this is very low and the effectiveness angle straightforward.'”

An FDA spokeswoman said it was “highly unusual” for a firm to send out such a letter, adding that the practice was “frowned on” by the agency. She said that both Mitchell and Pollard had answered reporters’ questions about the new product in interviews, and charged that their replies had been taken out of context by UroMetrics. Eros comes in a satin case with two AAA batteries and costs $359. A UroMetrics spokesman said the letter would not be repeated.

Footnote: Amid the pharmaceutical industry’s rush to cash in on female sexual dysfunction, some plastic surgeons are offering a procedure called “vaginal rejuvenation,” which involves nipping and tightening and costs between $2500 and $5000.

The Man Who ‘Knew Too Much’

Waco Rubout?

Carlos Ghigliotti, one of the nation’s most respected infrared technologists, who insisted that he had detected muzzle flashes in films of an FBI assault team at the Branch Davidian compound, was found dead under mysterious circumstances recently, fueling the Clinton conspiracy frenzy. The FBI has consistently maintained that it did not fire into the compound — a position supported by an independent study done by a British firm, which concluded that flashes seen on film were reflections from the sun.

Ghigliotti, who worked both for attorneys suing the government on behalf of victims and for Dan Burton’s House Government Reform Committee, became a linchpin of the highly charged case. He was preparing a report for the committee when, on April 28, workers in his office building in Laurel, Maryland, who hadn’t seen him for weeks, called authorities, saying they thought something was wrong. Entering the office of Infrared Technologies, police found Ghigliotti’s badly decomposed body. There were no signs of a break-in, no evidence of suicide, and no signs of violence. At 42, friends said Ghigliotti had seemed healthy.

Police quickly removed computers and files from the office. Burton’s committee called for an investigation. John Danforth, special counsel on Waco, asked a federal court to take control of evidence from Ghigliotti’s office.

Richard Leiby, a Washington Post reporter who had closely covered the Waco story, said Ghigliotti had told him, “I’ve solved the case. I know exactly what happened.”

Soon the Web was abuzz with theories: Ghigliotti “knew too much,” and like the nearly 100 others who were involved with Clinton or the administration and died mysteriously, had been offed as part of an Arkancide plot. Another theory has it that he was killed by anthrax. Better yet, he is still alive and working as a government agent, and a transient’s body was put in his place.

In fact, the coroner found that Ghigliotti had suffered a massive heart attack. No chemical substances other than an over-the-counter flu remedy were found. Ghigliotti’s sister Claire concurs that his death probably was natural.

The funeral was small: nine mourners, including Leiby. But there was a stir in the back of the room as five dark-suited men entered, sitting together off to one side. They left quickly without talking to anyone. “They departed in an SUV behind smoked windows,” Leiby reports. “None of the mourners had any idea who they were.”

Whistle-blowers’ Nightmare

‘Goodwill’ Hunting

One might have thought that the ill-founded Department of Energy, accused of pollution, nuclear contamination, and lax security, could use every bit of help from its employees to get on an even keel. No such luck when it comes to a department run by presidential “goodwill” ambassador and vice-presidential brown-noser Bill Richardson.

In recent years, Richardson’s department has been accused of harboring spies running around federal facilities like mice. Now Richardson reportedly is seeking to silence whistle-blowers who are trying to bring to public attention problems such as pollution at a nuclear facility in Hanford, Washington, by siding with the contractor and dumping on the employees. Late last month, two whistle-blowers told the House Commerce Committee’s panel on oversight and investigations that the contractor retaliated against them after they raised pollution and safety concerns.

In another case, the department paid $500,000 to settle a suit after a number of pipe fitters who had raised questions about safety at Hanford were fired. “That means that the people here in this room today are paying tax dollars to fight us,” said Randall Walli, one of the pipe fitters.

It is against the law for a contractor or a government agency to take action against employees who complain about lack of safety, but workers must pay the court and administrative costs for making a claim. Associated Press reports that “Joe Gutierrez, a whistle-blower at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said he has spent about $50,000 of his own money to press his case.” Gutierrez said he was given an unfavorable job evaluation after challenging a claim by lab officials that the lab had not violated the federal Clean Air Act. Of course, the latest violation of the Act came last month when the Cerro Grande fire swept out of control through the area, leaving Los Alamos a burned-over toxic waste zone.

Civics Snub

As a lesson in civics, Diego Garcia, a seventh-grade teacher in Miami, had his students write to elected officials. Andres Brito asked for more police. Harbie Omega wanted fewer drug dealers. Valerie Valcourt requested more teachers. Garcia hand-delivered the letters in January. Four months later, there were no replies from anyone, including his congresswoman, Carrie Meek; her son, state senator Kendrick Meek; or state representative Frederica Wilson, a former principal and school board member. ‘I tried to teach the lesson that their opinions mattered,” Garcia told the Miami Herald. “Apparently, the lesson backfired.”

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi