Monday, August 19, 2002

“Greed and Lead”

It had been a month or so since I’d been in Darrell’s health food store, and I’d been itching to see how his business was doing.

“Howdy, Darrell,” I said. “Got any sesame tahini hidden around here?”

“I’m fresh out,” he declared. “Had a big run on it. But I should be getting some more in on the truck tomorrow.”

“I guess I can wait. So how’s business?” I asked. “Still following the Enron model? All those ‘round trip’ sales to Wendell? Stock options to your auditing firm?”

“Those pikers!” he scoffed. “All they did was get filthy rich. I’ve got my sights set higher than that.”

That took me by surprise. “Just how high do you have in mind, Darrell?”

“The Big Cabin in Washington,” he announced proudly.

“The White House!” I said incredulously. “How in the world do you think you can pull that off?”

“The same way I’ve built this business,” he said. “Study the techniques of the masters, and then put the pedal to the metal.”

“So you’ve been studying …?”

“George W. Bush’s rise in the world.”

“I see. So you’re combining corporate business dealings and politics.”

“You’ve got it. ‘Greed and lead’.”

“What’s your plan?”

“I’m negotiating with a giant food distribution firm to buy me out at three times what this store is worth; they’re also giving me a seat on their Board of Directors and their auditing committee.”

“No offense, Darrell, but why would they want to buy a piddlin’ little outfit like this?”

“Because of my name and my connections, of course!”

“I know folks around here think a lot of your family, Darrell, but once you get beyond Leatherbark and Broomstick, I’m not sure a whole lot of people know who they are.”

“You’d be surprised. Daddy was president of the Back Fork Coonhunters Club for years, and when your daddy is president, it tends to open doors for you.”

“Say that’s true, for argument’s sake. What happens next?”

“Then I get a bargain-basement ‘loan’ from the company that I’ll never repay.
I use that to buy company stock. I sign an agreement that I won’t sell the stock for at least six months, but two months later, knowing that the stock is going to take a nosedive, I sell it at a huge profit, and use that money to buy into the Charleston Alley Cats. Then I get my buddies to maneuver the city into using $150,000,000 of taxpayers’ money to build me a new stadium. Then we sell the Alley Cats for three times what we paid for them to a guy I coincidentally just steered $9,000,000,000 of public assets to. My partners, who are all hardheaded businessmen, insist that, even though my share of the sale should only be $2.3 million, I just have to take $14.9 million. I’ll protest, but what can I do? So I start with nothing, really, and end up a multi-millionaire. Is this a great country or what?”

“That’s really inspiring, Darrell. It just goes to show what someone can do if they’re willing to work hard and play by the rules.”

© Tony Russell, 2002

Saturday, August 17, 2002

“Stormin’ German”

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said today that war with the United States is “inevitable.” “We have undeniable proof that American ruler George Bush possesses weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and biological weapons, as well as the means to deliver them,” he declared. Schroeder pointed to the belligerent nature of the Bush regime, calling it “a rogue state which poses an immediate threat to its neighbors and the region,” and repeatedly called for “a regime change.”

Germany has long suspected the U.S. of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction in facilities carefully masked from public and international view. Schroeder demanded that the U.S. allow teams of “weapons inspectors” unlimited access at once to sites anywhere in the country where weapons of mass destruction might be manufactured, stored, or concealed. American ruler George Bush denounced this as an intolerable infringement of U.S. sovereignty.

Schroeder went on to accuse the U.S. of long supporting terrorism on a global scale, citing its invasions of Panama, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and numerous other “incursions,” as well as attempts to overthrow democratically elected governments throughout the world, most notably in Chile and Nicaragua, and most recently in Venezuela. A notorious arm of the U.S. secret police, known as the CIA, has conducted clandestine operations involving disinformation, torture, and political assassination on a continent-wide scale. Schroeder also cited Bush’s contempt for and mistreatment of his own people, including Native American minorities concentrated on so-called “reservations” in the western part of the country, and immigrant groups settled in many large cities.

As evidence of the regime’s “rogue status,” he pointed to America’s attempt to scuttle an anti-torture protocol in the United Nations Economic and Social Council because of Bush administration interest in torturing captives it suspects of terrorism. The Bush administration is also attempting to derail an international treaty on the rights of women, and has “unsigned” the treaty creating the International Criminal Court, announcing it has no intention of ever honoring the treaty. Schroeder noted that nearly every other government on the planet has denounced the American action, including not only America’s former allies in Europe, but Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of most of Latin America.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, in another widely reported speech, declared that “Doing nothing is not an option.” “It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ there will be a war with the U.S.,” he said, “but ‘when.’”

In an attempt to demonstrate that an overthrow of Bush would be welcomed by his own citizens, Germany recently hosted a gathering of representatives from American opposition groups. The meeting was rebuffed by a number of opposition leaders, but included Joseph Lieberman from the Democratic Party, Ralph Nader from the Green Party, Ross Perot from the Reform Party, and other figures such as Jesse Ventura and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Infighting broke out among the group, and it is unclear if any of them commands enough of a following within the U.S. to be installed as leader of the interim government should Germany succeed in deposing Bush.

There is virtually no international support for the German attempt to manufacture a war with the U.S., and Germany would have to both man and fund an invasion of American territory entirely on its own. Even members of the Chancellor’s own Social Democratic Party (SPD) have voiced hesitation over Schroeder’s seeming determination to have a war. They point out that launching an attack against a country that has not committed any aggressive act toward Germany puts Germany in the untenable position of an international bully. They question what the ultimate cost will be for a sustained military offensive and military presence (i.e., occupation) in the U.S., at a time when the German budget is already running heavily in the red. They also question how the Chancellor can drag the country into war when the German constitution details that right to the Bundestag.

© Tony Russell, 2002