Thursday, April 02, 2009

More to it than meets the I-Pod

If you've been following cable news, over the past few days, you're not likely to have missed the Obamas at Buckingham Palace, and constant footage of Michelle Obama's arm around the Queen's waist, an act seen as so egregious it can only be eclipsed by that of George W. Bush rubbing German Prime Minister Angela Merkel's back.

If you've been watching the circus inside the palace, and the bloodshed outside only to be upstaged by the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968, you know that the gift du jour the Obamas brought with them for the Queen was an I-Pod and, of course, you also know that she already has one.

England has apparently become our equal not merely when it comes to user-friendly technology, but in terms of its draconian use of law enforcement to stifle dissent, and the suspension of civil liberties. Who'd have thought Trafalgar Square would someday resemble Tiananmen Square. A member of Parliament was detained during a demonstration, and treated to a lock down equal to everyone else who could be seen having their way with bank windows. Looks like we exported democracy to Great Britain, anyway.

Speaking of which, the constant media reminders that President Obama is "the most powerful man in the world" kind of makes one wonder whether the founding fathers would agree that we left the monarchy behind, or if the modern unitary executive isn't some kinder, gentler version.

While the Obamas were busy doing Europe, incredibly enough, back home, renowned attorneys for Binyam Mohamed, a Gitmo detainee, face the real, and wrenching, possibility of being sentenced to six months in jail for merely writing a letter to Obama in which they describe how their client was tortured by interrogators.

As The Guardian reports, the Defense Department is still up to its old tricks of eavesdropping on phone calls, and e-mails between lawyers and detainees, at the naval base in cuba, and are doing all they can to suppress any proof of malfeasance. All the lawyers asked was that Obama release evidence of their client's physical, and psychological, abuse into the public arena.

The Pentagon's "privilege team" took the liberty of redacting everything but the subject line in the letter. The chief lawyer, Stafford Smith, wrote: "You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command."

So, while broadcast news brings you streaming images of the President's long black limousine, and Mrs. Obama's latest outfit, ad nauseum, as well as constant reminders of Jackie, Jack, and Camelot, consider this:

We are no closer to trimming the Pentagon budget so that $10 billion a month doesn't go to warfare. While we may be spending less on Iraq, you can bet that the remainder will go to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and/or Iran, and Syria.

We are no closer to ensuring that every man, woman, and child in America has some kind of catastrophic health coverage.

And, while President Obama had a jovial photo op with his Russian counterpart, the Chinese premier vowed that China would be the first to mass produce electric cars.

In the streets of London, Dublin, Paris, and even, yes, even in Los Angeles, people are mad as hell at all the bank rubs coming from the chief executives of the G 20.

Nobody feels any safer in the board rooms of Tokyo, Toronto, Hong Kong, and New York, and no one believes that greed can be bailed out. No rational person actually believes that the USA Patriot Act has anything to do with patriotism.

But, how about this? How about an ex-Patriate Act? They have the right idea in Spain. Instead of presenting Buckingham Palace with an I-Pod, how about presenting them with accountability before they present us with the summons for the "enhanced alternative" interrogation methods performed by U.S. interrogators on British subjects.

Given that this administration is no more willing to eradicate extraordinary rendition than its predecessor, how about rendering all those named as war criminals in the Spanish indictment starting with Mr. Cheney, Mr. Gonzales, and Mr. Rumsfeld?

That's right; never happen. We'd sooner find the Hague on Mars than Mr. Gonzales behind bars. These days, accountability is something that we strive for like monogamy.

This will be an important summit if the President is willing to listen, and process when Europe calls for a global regulator, they're not just talking about the financial markets. The banks have been gorging themselves on the entrails of earnings, and lifelong dreams, of ordinary working people just as the lords of the manor feasted on the labor of serfs.

It is time for Mr. Obama to prove that "change" isn't the longest four letter word in the English language.