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Party Rules 

Crank Call

Published January 8, 2003 at 5:00 p.m.

"They're changing the guard at Buckingham Palace/Christopher Robin went down with Alice" - and found himself knocked against a wall, hog-tied, fingerprinted, deprived of sleep, popped in a canister and shipped off to Egypt for further interrogation. What happened to Alice and Christopher Robin isn't clear, although you can bet the boy's bear got unstuffed and that Alice, at the least, was threatened with the removal of her nipples and toenails.

You probably didn't know that Christopher Robin was a dangerous terrorist. No matter: According to a story in The Washington Post, this is what happens to even "suspected al-Qaeda operatives" when they're captured by the CIA. Torture is still illegal on American soil; the most we can get away with here are "stress and duress techniques," but it's another thing entirely among our loyal allies overseas, whose "intel services" aren't hampered by pesky democratic concerns. Along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia is a favored destination for "suspects" when they won't spill the beans.

"We don't kick the [expletive] out of them," a CIA source tells the Post: "We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them." U.S. officials defend this recent upsurge in [expletive]-kicking as "necessary to glean info." Says one: "If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job."

Welcome to one-party rule. By the time you read this, Republican lawmakers will be back in Washington "to take over Congress," as The New York Times puts it, "solidifying their hold on a vastly changed Washington." For the moment, Demo-crats are putting a brave face on it, vowing to fight for minorities, families, the middle class and the poor.

"We can't do the rope-a-dope," says assistant Democratic leader Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, using the usual dumb sports metaphor - in this case, from boxing - in order to reassure what's left of the electorate that Democrats won't be "backed into a corner." But since half of Congressional Democrats are Republicans in disguise, and with the example of the last two years as a guide, you can expect this show of opposition to melt like butter in a pan. We're "at war." And in time of war, extraordinary powers accrue to the commander-in-chief, as they know very well in the "'Father Knows Best' White House," as the Times calls it.

If you listen to the Bushmen, in fact, opposition of any kind is un-American. "We want more and more faith-based charities to become partners in our efforts," Dubya proclaims, "our unyielding efforts, to change America one heart, one conscience, one soul at a time."

Change it into what? Newly elected Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, taking over from "disgraced" Mississippi Republican Trent Lott, describes his ascent as "a catalyst for unity" instead of a coup d'etat engineered by the White House in the form of Dubya's Rasputin - and Frist's chief patron - Karl Rove. The Republican Party's sudden interest in racial equality is "purely strategic," according to the Post, a "vote-getting" affair born not from principle or policy but solely from changing demographics.

"We have just about maxed out with white men," an unnamed Republican strategist confesses. "When you look into the future, all you see is smaller numbers and more and more Hispanics." And "terrorists."

No wonder Frist read from a prepared statement and refused to take questions at his first press conference in December - "the most powerful man in the Senate" never even voted in an election before 1989. Comparing his now "awesome responsibility" to the kind he faces every day as a heart surgeon and $25 million shareholder in Columbia/HCA, America's largest profit-making hospital chain, Frist pledged to work in Congress for "all Americans." He stressed the word "all," thus assuring his loyalty to Dubya and Rove.

HCA, by the way, was recently prosecuted for "massive billing fraud" and ordered to pay more than $1.7 billion in civil and criminal penalties - "the largest amount ever in a health-care fraud case," says The Chicago Sun-Times. But never mind: There are to be no independent voices in Bush's regime. This president is conniving us into war with Iraq and willing to see the economy go down the tubes, so long as welfare isn't cut off for the rich.

Hence: the proposed elimination of the dividend tax, which even shareholders admit won't do a thing to encourage "stimulus-type spending"; the Bushmen's request that the federal debt ceiling be raised to accommodate a permanent war economy; and a freeze on "non-entitlement and non-security-related domestic spending," which will include cuts of up to $300 million in a program designed to help the poor with their heating bills.

You won't be able to raise your debt ceiling, I expect, when they come for the TV. Chop up your furniture if you need to heat the house. And remember what happens to "suspected" dissidents in a brave new world of thuggery, thievery and lies - one heart, one conscience, one soul at a time.

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Peter Kurth

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