Tuesday, October 11, 2011


October 6, 2011

It's once around the world, once around the clock:

NEW YORK — The Occupy Wall Street movement, which a couple weeks ago was just another ragtag bunch of crazy kids camping out in a city park, has turned into something like a force. The numbers have swelled from dozens to thousands, composed of a growing array of mad-as-hell people frustrated by wealth- disparity and the apparent determination of a bought-and-paid-for government to keep it that way. Now you've got Michael Moore plying the crowd, and even some labor unions poised to join up. The demonstrations have gone from polite marches around Lower Manhattan to storming the Brooklyn Bridge, where 700 were arrested on Sunday for blocking traffic. Who'd have guessed that the tactics used in Tunisia and Egypt would translate so well to America? And who'd have guessed that the Tea Party would be countered by a grass-roots movement on the left for the first time since Vietnam? The Arab Spring turns into the Financial Fall. Now cells of the movement are springing up in major cities across the country, including Los Angeles. Is a viable third party about to emerge?

YEMEN — On Friday, the United States assassinated two of its own citizens, Al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, an editor of the organization's on-line English magazine, in a targeted drone strike on their car. It was a clean little operation that brought them to justice while avoiding the expensive and time-consuming alternative of apprehending and trying them. So the Wild West turns up in the Middle East.

The War on Terrorism was first conducted as if it were a real war, with military invasions and occupations. That was the wrong way to deal with an invisible enemy, but at least it was aboveboard and nominally subject to international law. Now the job has been turned over to the CIA, gunslingers who operate under the legal radar, with little apparent constraint by Congress and with the full support of our Nobel Peace Prize President. Terror begets terror.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Republican Party announced Monday that it would move up the state's presidential primary to January 21, leapfrogging over Iowa and New Hampshire and trumping Florida's own leapfrog date of January 31, determined just last week. New Hampshire, which has an "us first" rule, may set its primary in December. It's checkers, played on a very big board.

In 1933, the U.S. Constitution was amended to move the inauguration of Presidents from March to January; given the increased speed of transportation and communication, a four-month gap between election and inauguration was clearly unnecessary. Here we have the reverse: the possibility of nearly a full year between the first primary and the general election, forcing even more money to be raised and spent on mindless and mind-numbing campaign ads. Common sense would dictate that given the increased speed of our own transportation and communication, we'd only need a couple months to select candidates, give them a hearing, and make up our collective minds. If the hopefuls actually took a year to refine their positions on issues, it might make some sense, but all that will be refined is the precision of attack ads.

TRENTON, N.J. — Republicans, dissatisfied with their either dull or dotty slate of possibilities and looking for straight- talking charisma, spent the last few weeks pressuring New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to throw his belt in the ring. Lawyer, county freeholder, lobbyist, U.S. attorney, and for just a year and eight months, governor: Now there's a résumé for President even slimmer than Barack Obama's was. Isn't anybody worried about the 3 a.m. phone call? Sensibly, he conquered the temptation, leaving the party to seek another savior.

Hey, wait a minute! Why not tap Admiral Mike Mullen? There's a guy with real experience, and judging from his recent Congressional testimony and media interviews, he's got straight- talking charisma aplenty. He just retired from the military and may be looking for something to occupy his golden years.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bank of America announced last week that it would begin charging customers $5 a month for using their debit cards. What were they thinking? As if the American public were not pissed off enough at big banks (see lead story above), here they go nickeling and diming folks for taking out their own money.

Go ahead, Chase, now's your chance! Announce that you'll gladly welcome all customers from fee-charging banks, smoothly transitioning their accounts, direct deposits, and automatic payments, and maybe even giving them $5 a month for a year. You could gut your competition and increase your bottom line by billions in new deposits, and become the unlikely hero of the middle class as well.

NEW YORK — Andy Rooney delivered his last monologue on 60 Minutes last Sunday after 33 years on the job. Did you ever notice how the more things change, the more they stay the same?

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