Guard Dogs of ‘Morality’
In recent years the Democratic Party hasn’t amounted to much more than a collection of Washington-based lobby shops pasted together with the slogans of the Democratic Leadership Council—the latest being DLC stalwart Joe Lieberman’s “New Guard” catchphrase. Although the party is faced with a dwindling poor and working-class base, in Los Angeles the illusion of old-fashioned party politics is what counts. The party machinery is still good for cranking out propaganda, and in the absence of traditional Democratic programs, religion and family values will do just fine.
The basic issue for the Democrats in the postwar era has been whether the privileged in suburbia are willing to see some of their wealth redistributed to aid the poor in the inner cities and rural areas of the country. In recent years, it has become clear that the overwhelming majority are not willing to do so. Therefore, the contortions to make it seem as if they do: instead of decently funded public schools, there are, for some New Democrats (like pre-veep candidate Lieberman), charter schools; instead of true universal health care, there is the HMO contrivance.
In the misty past, there was a time when some Democrats argued that the poor were kept down by class. Then, under Kennedy and Johnson, the party began to assert that what the poor needed was a leg up. Now, with Gore-Lieberman, the line is that they need a remake—a new morality—to make the big jump. The very sight of these politicians mouthing religious sentiments deepens the alienation ordinary people must feel toward them, isolating and removing them further from the reality of our lives.
Over the weekend, Gore announced that he will be pushing more of the stale nostrums that the administration has served up over the last decade, such as middle-class tax cuts and welfare reform, along with more phony “town meetings” that Clinton and Gore concocted in 1992. A dismal augury in regard to the latter is the revelation that Beta Man plans to “take the risk of getting into specifics” in his convention acceptance speech, conjuring up the memory of what happened in New Hampshire when exhausted audiences found themselves trapped in Gore’s presence as he ground on for hours about the minutiae of daily life—even lecturing single moms on how to dress for their first job interview after being kicked off welfare—before such affairs ended amid the strains of his coopted campaign anthem: “You’re Simply the Best.”
In 1926, the hobo and petty thief Jack Black summed up his life story with a phrase that could be the coda for the underclass in the age of Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Gore: “You Can’t Win,” a note that was seemingly beginning to resonate with demonstrators who took their growing opposition to the party leadership into the L.A. streets early this week.
Among the protests were one against the Gore family for its ownership of stock in Occidental Oil, which is drilling on land claimed by the U’wa people of Colombia; others against Gore-Lieberman’s steadfast support of the death penalty; and a significant demonstration outside of the luxury Loews Santa Monica Hotel, inhabited for the week by fat-cat Staples sky-box attendees. The hotel is owned by Jonathan Tisch, a friend of Gore’s and one of his top Wall Street fundraisers, who has been accused of union busting by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union.
Nipping at Nader’s Heels
It was hardly surprising to see eco blabbermouth Robert F. Kennedy Jr. take an opportunistic poke at Ralph Nader last week, arguing in The New York Times that, guess what, Nader is a “spoiler” and “irresponsible” for not acknowledging what a great champion of the environment Al Gore is, in contrast to the depredations that can be expected under Bush-Cheney.
Kennedy says Gore “helped persuade” Clinton to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In fact, there never was a chance that Clinton would not protect the Refuge, whose preservation has been key to environmental fundraising efforts for the last 20 years. But what no one expected was that right next door, Clinton would open the National Petroleum Reserve—24 million untouched acres that are home to a large caribou herd—to oil drilling. Chief beneficiary of this will be Arco, which is a major ($1.4 million) contributor to the Democratic Party. At the same time, Clinton dropped the ban on selling Alaskan oil abroad. This also benefits Arco, which is opening refineries in China. So although the oil companies won the right to exploit Alaskan oil on grounds that to do so would benefit national development, Clinton-Gore unilaterally changed the agreement so that it benefits China’s industrial growth.
During their 1992 campaign, Clinton and Gore promised to halt the operation of the WTI incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio, the nation’s most hazardous such facility, which is located a few hundred feet from an elementary school. But once in office, they turned their backs on protesters and the plant continued to function. In the New Hampshire primary, Gore refused to commit himself to any improvement on this issue.
Early in Clinton-Gore’s first administration, they pledged they would stop the plunder of the Northwest forests. They then double-crossed their environmental backers. Under Bush Sr., the courts had enjoined logging in the Northwest habitats of the spotted owl. Clinton-Gore persuaded environmentalists to join them in axing the injunction. The Clinton administration went before a Reagan-appointed judge who had a record as a stalwart environmentalist and with the eco toadies in tow, got him to remove the injunction, and with it the moratorium on existing timber sales.
Then there is the Delaney Clause. In the 1960s, largely in reaction to the book Silent Spring by the late Rachel Carson (to whose home Gore repaired to pay campaign homage over the weekend), the government made an effort to get off the dime on regulating pesticides. The Delaney Clause, which became part of the agricultural law, sought to set zero-tolerance guidelines for dangerous chemicals in processed foods and put the onus on the manufacturers to demonstrate that their products were safe before they were allowed to become commercially available. Although the Delaney Clause was imperfectly enforced, the corporations hated it with a passion. Enter Clinton-Gore, and exit Delaney. The administration replaced it with the modish, if inexact, concept of “risk assessment,” in which experts try to guess the effects a chemical might have on segments of the population.
Beyond that, Clinton-Gore were the prime sponsors of NAFTA, arguing, in conjunction with some of the big environmental groups, that various side agreements would protect the environment. Several years later, many of the environmental organizations have changed their tack and now are openly critical of the trade agreement.
It’s sad to see a Kennedy acting as a spaniel, let alone nipping at Nader’s heels on the leash of the miserable figure of Gore.
Before the national government can start to police the Internet, private industry is jumping in with its own spook force, provided by www.ewatch.com, an arm of the old PR Newswire, to track down and silence those who cast aspersions on companies, their products, and services. “It is unfortunate that companies are being targeted by entities whose motives are fraudulent, deceptive, or criminal,” says a blurb for the new service. “eWatch CyberSleuth will attempt to identify the entity or entities behind the screen names which have targeted your organization.”
Key to CyberSleuth’s work is ferreting out the motivation behind “On-Line Anti-Corporate Activism,” be it a “legitimate complaint” or “behavior influencing” (e.g., an “environmental group targeting an oil company, stock manipulation, revenge, mis or disinformation, fraud, [or] extortion”). Once eWatch figures out what’s going on, it launches a “containment” by “neutralizing the information appearing online, [and] then neutralizing” the offending agent. “This may mean something as simple as removing a posting from a Web message board on Yahoo! or shuttering a terrorist Web site,” says eWatch. “The objective is to not only stop the spread of incorrect information, but ensure that what has already spread is also eliminated.”
The service boasts that it can tell companies what consumers and professionals are saying and reading about their services, products, industry, and competitors. “You’ll hear rumors before they start to spread.” WebWatch, a part of the service, “enables you to keep an eye on every Web site that affects your business”—whether it is the competition, an activist group, a nosy government agency, plaintiffs, defendants, “or even your own site.” For a big company, eWatch is cheap, starting at $16,200 a year.
With the major candidates embarked on a nonstop pray-a-thon, fundamentalists are chomping at the bit to have the Lord’s Prayer offered in some way at football games. Although the Supreme Court ruled against allowing students to lead crowds in prayer before games, a North Carolina outfit called We Still Pray hopes to encourage “spontaneous” prayer.
“We are encouraging everyone that attends football games to join in the Lord’s Prayer immediately and spontaneously as soon as the national anthem is complete,” said Reverend Wendell Runion.
Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi