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American Empire 

Inside Track

Alexander the Great did it. So did the Mongols, the Sumerians, the Persians, the Arabs and even the British. In fact, Iraq is one of the most conquered places on Earth. Now it's George W. Bush's turn. Isn't this exciting? Aren't you proud to be an American?

It used to be said during the 19th- century reign of Queen Victoria that the sun never set on the Union Jack, the British flag.

Today in the 21st century, it can be said that the sun never sets on the American flag, a burning American flag, that is. Everyday, on every continent, Old Glory is set ablaze. This is not a real good sign, folks.

For weeks, yours truly's been humming an old prophetic tune from the 1960s by patriot and folksinger Phil Ochs. It's called "Cops of the World."

Our boots are needing a shine, boys

Boots are needing a shine

But our Coca-Cola is fine, boys

Coca-Cola is fine.

We'll spit through the streets of the cities we wreck.

We'll find you a leader that you can't elect.

Those treaties we signed were a pain in the neck,

'Cause we're the cops of the world, boys,

We're the cops of the world

With King Bush II on the throne, America has quickly turned into the most despised nation on Earth. What's the saying -- there are two superpowers left: the United States and world public opinion?

First, you'll recall, Dubya's stated reason for his Iraq fixation was to rid Saddam Hussein of his "weapons of mass destruction."

Then we were told by George the Great that it's really about "regime change." Saddam must go!

And then, last week, reversing his earlier stated opposition to Bill Clinton's foreign policy, King Bush II told us it is, after all, all about "nation-building." The purpose of this mad enterprise is to bring democracy to a culture and country that has never known it. And if we have to slaughter thousands of civilians to make them free, so be it.

When we butchered your sons, boys

When we butchered your sons

Have a stick of our gum, boys

Have a stick of our bubble-gum.

We own half the world,

Oh, say can you see?

And the name of our prophet is democracy.

So like it or not you will have to be free, free, free!

'Cause we're the cops of the world, boy

We're the cops of the world.

The hanging chads of Florida pale in comparison to the Hanging Gardens of King Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 B.C.). This is the Fertile Crescent. The cradle of civilization. The biblical setting for the Garden of Eden. Every true conqueror worth his salt has conquered the land now called Iraq.

But what happened to our democracy, eh? King Bush II has rammed through draconian police-state-style laws that have gutted our Bill of Rights. Big Brother has risen from the ashes of communism and reinvented himself as the Prince of Homeland Security.

Good lord.

And King Bush II has unilaterally changed the essence of American foreign policy. Negotiation is out. Domination is in. We will invade any country, any time, for any reason. We possess more weapons of mass destruction than the rest of the world combined and we are not afraid to use them. The 21st century, in the view of our ruler, will be the age of the American Empire!

Clean the johns with a rag, boys

Clean the johns with a rag.

If you like you can use your flag, boys

If you like you can use your flag.

We've got too much money, we're looking for toys,

And guns will be guns and boys will be boys,

But we'll gladly pay for all we destroy

'Cause we're the cops of the world, boys

We're the cops of the world.

The way things are going, anyone who dares utter the words of Patrick Henry -- "Give me liberty or give me death" -- will be considered unpatriotic.

Our "Hijacked Democracy" -- A modern-day Oracle of Delphi spoke at the Statehouse Saturday. Her name is Arianna Huffington. She's an elegant and sexy 52-year-old Greek redhead with the wisdom of Socrates and the wit of Robin Williams.

"I was born in Athens, Greece," said Arianna. "You know, we gave you democracy and you've screwed it up."

She was educated in England at Cambridge University where she was president of the debating society. No dyed-in-the-wool left-winger was she. Arianna's first book was a stunning rebuttal of the feminist movement. Yes, the lady has come a long, long way.

By the early 1990s, she was the wife of a billionaire Republican congressman, Michael Huffington and a confidante of GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich. Arianna has since evolved into a fire-breathing goddess of truth and justice.

American democracy, she said, has been "hijacked" by an upper crust of crooked and greedy corporate thieves. We highly recommend her latest bestseller, Pigs at the Trough. It chronicles the dirty deeds of the greatest thieves of our time, from Enron's Ken Lay to Adelphia's John Rigas.

"At their heart," said Arianna on Saturday, "these corporate scandals are a political scandal. They would not have happened were it not for the nexus of corruption between Washington and Corporate America."

At their root, she said, is the "enabling" that's gone on, in which Congress and the powerful lobbyists who run it have gamed the system to encourage corruption.

"Greed has always existed," said Arianna. "We're not going to eliminate greed. But right now greed is flourishing."

P.S. Saturday's visit to Vermont wasn't Arianna's first. She told Seven Days that Vermont is the first place she landed in America. The year was 1967 and Arianna Stassinopolous was a Greek high-school student participating in an exchange program run by the Brattleboro-based Experiment in International Living. Something in that Vermont water, eh?

For much more on our favorite Greek oracle, check out

Deanwatch 2004 -- Our favorite presidential hopeful did another nice job on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday. Iraq is not an imminent threat to the United States while North Korea is, said Howard Dean. And Howard is not in favor of torturing al-Qaeda prisoners. Good for him, torture has too many fans these days in our mad, mad, mad, mad world.

The fact is, candidate Howard Dean has reached a key plateau in his personal quest to climb Mr. Everest. He's gone from "obscure longshot" to "significant player." His position on the conquest of Iraq has put him in the national spotlight. It's won him admirers and contributors and a growing list of enemies.

Recently Rep. Tom Delay, the GOP "Hammer" in the House, lashed out at Ho-Ho for criticizing Dubya on Iraq. Delay accused Dean of supporting "appeasement." That's a word from the 1930s that refers to the British/American acceptance of Adolph Hitler's expanding Third Reich.

But Saddam Hussein is hardly in expansion mode. He's surrounded by powerful enemies and his sky is filled with U.S. and British warplanes. No matter how many times American TV replays the video of Saddam waving that long sword or firing that rifle into the air, he's hardly a threat to the world's only superpower located 6000 miles away.

Tom Delay is not the only Dean critic out there. "Roll Call" columnist Stuart Rothenberg recently highlighted Ho-Ho's New York City roots.

"In style, he's like a freight train," wrote Rothenberg. "Confident to the point that some people will see arrogance, and so certain about his prescriptions that many will regard him as inflexible, Dean will need to overcome the fact that voters prefer their presidents to be likable, empathetic, even charming. Instead, he almost appears angry."

Yeah, yeah, sure. New Yorkers, by nature, are a little pushy. C'mon, Stu, everybody knows that. Ever try to catch a cab at rush hour?

Dr. Dean has been kicking his Capitol Hill opponents in the shins for weeks, and we're told they've just about had it with the little guy from Vermont. Time to return fire.

Some have noted that Dean "sheepishly" signed Vermont's landmark civil-unions law in private, while today he wears its passage like a badge of courage.

And others are even citing his refusal to support medical marijuana as a black mark against him.

All of this, of course, is to be expected. Ho-Ho has clearly arrived. He's in the ring. Last fighter standing wins the Democratic nomination.

On Tuesday, Dean spoke at noon to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 400 twentysomethings -- mostly congressional staffers -- at a Capitol Hill eatery. Dean was introduced by U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords. Our sources say the crowd went totally nuts.

This coming Sunday at 9 a.m., candidate Dean slides into the hot seat on NBC's "Meet the Press," with Tim Russert playing the Grand Inquisitor.

Should be worth a look.

Upper-Class Tiff -- Whoa! Don't you just hate to see millionaire Republicans fighting amongst themselves?

The sordid snit erupted on the pages of The New York Times last week. On one side was the Manchester Education Fund. On the other -- Vermont's Republican National Committeeman Skip Vallee.

You see, upscale Manchester, like about two dozen other gold towns, set up its own private, off-the-tax-rolls fundraising scheme to circumvent Act 60's sharing pool. The effort raises $2.4 million annually. It's a way to keep Manchester dollars in Man-chester. Sharing their wealth with the children of the unwashed is an unacceptable concept.

To pressure local residents and businesses to contribute, the Manchester School Fund publishes the names of "voluntary" donors in the local paper. And word-of-mouth effectively lets folks know who isn't making their "voluntary" contribution. Businesses that cave in to the shakedown get a nice sticker to put in their front window. It's not hard to notice which businesses lack stickers.

According to the Times, "This year's number-one shamed person" was Skip Vallee, a wealthy out-of-town businessman who owns the Maplefields chain of gas-station convenience stores. For the third straight year, Maplefields did not cough up its $2200 share."

To turn the heat on Gasoline Vallee, the school fund's Web site published a letter from an angry Manchesterite declaring his family no longer purchased gas or coffee at Skip's Maplefields.

Another distinguished Manchester resident named Boot Seem personally wrote Gasoline Vallee informing him he would make a concerted effort to drive away business from Maplefields. He vowed he would cost Ol' Skip a lot more than the $2200 he was withholding from the anti-sharing crowd.

For Gasoline Vallee, folks, $2200 is chump change. The dude lives the good life in one of those chateaux on Spear Street. And he hates Act 60 as much as the next Republican millionaire. Honest. But Vallee's refusal wasn't about money, it was about principle.

"I went nuts," Vallee told the Times when he received Mr. Seem's unseemly letter. "This is the mob!"

Gasoline rang up his attorney and faxed Mr. Seem a copy of the Vermont criminal statute on extortion.

The Times reported that Seem quickly wrote back it was all a misunderstanding and no boycott was planned.

Stay tuned.

P.S. What a positively mindless editorial in Sunday's Burlington Free Press. "Revolt Over Act 60" called on Vermonters to vote down school budgets at Town Meeting. All school budgets. It could just as easily have been titled "Screw the Public Schools!"

The Burlington daily offered no advice on what should be changed in Act 60, the current public education funding law. The paper merely declared taxes too high and called for a "tax rebellion."

How thoughtful!

Actually, the editorial board of our local Gannett-chain newspaper chickened out completely (just like it did on the civil-unions debate in 2000.)

The Freeps neglected to take a position on the Act 60 reform proposal that just passed the Vermont Senate 29-0. The Senate plan eliminates the sharing pool hated by our well-heeled citizens. Every Democrat and every Republican voted for it!

But don't expect the Senate plan to get a fair hearing in the House. The House leadership, you see, is afraid it might pass.

Republicans have screamed the loudest over Act 60. And this is the third consecutive year Republicans run the Vermont House. Unfortunately, it'll be the third consecutive year Speaker Walter Freed & Co. drop the ball.

Talk is cheap. So are reckless newspaper editorials like the one in Sunday's Burlington Free Press.

For shame!

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.


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