Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Could I Have Two Fives, Please? With Reagan's body barely cold, his acolytes in Congress are moving to change the faces on US paper money, which have been in place since 1929 (more of that conservative respect for tradition we've come to expect from the GOP). The Senate bill would replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10, and the House bill would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20. A "compromise" would put Reagan's mug on one side of the dime and Franklin Roosevelt's on the other. The funniest thing about this, to me, is that the Republicans have zeroed in on the only Democrat to be featured on paper money (Jackson) and Hamilton, the hapless Treasury Secretary who was killed in a duel. I would have loved to have been present at the strategy meeting where they ultimately decided that Grant got to stay on the $50.

Meanwhile, In the Real World... Although I like a good game of kick-the-corpse as much as the next guy, there has been actual news happening since the death of the Gipper. The New York Times uncovered a March, 2003 memo from White House lawyers opining that neither the president nor any executive branch officials (including those in the military) are legally bound by an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal law banning it in interrogations. This leads one to wonder: If no one in the executive branch is bound by these, whom were they designed to keep in check? Those murderous thugs on the Supreme Court?

Wait, We Have Troops in Afghanistan? Oh, that's right! It was so long ago, I forgot. Apparently, the Taliban is still alive and kicking, and spurning Hamid Karzai's offer to participate in the new Afghan government. According to this report, fighting between the Taliban and US forces is now expanding beyond the areas where it was previously confined. Say, isn't Afghanistan routinely hailed as a success story by advocates of the "war on terror"? Doesn't President Bush routinely talk about how our efforts have destroyed the Taliban? Someone should tell them they've been destroyed. Maybe that will help.

The Grim Denoument Robert Mugabe, the pirate who runs Zimbabwe, has apparently scraped the bottom. In the past, whenever his popularity would take a dip, he would allow some thugs to "reclaim" a farm owned by white Africans (farms that were, for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with skin color, the only successful ones in the country). Now he has announced that the state is seizing all farms, not just the ones owned by whites. Since Mugabe began seizing the farms in 2000, Zimbabwe has gone from exporting food to producing less than half of its own needs. This will not help. "In the end all land shall be state land and there shall be no such thing as private land," Land Reform Minister John Nkomo said. Yeah, because nothing says "productivity and efficiency" like "the Zimbabwean bureaucracy."

Okay, Okay, I Couldn't Resist I guess, after yesterday's Top Five inspired, that I'll be posting at least one "golden oldie" from the Reagan regime for as long as his death is front and center in the American news. Think of it as a useful corrective to all the bullshit about how he's the most popular president ever and so forth. Today's installment: the history of the massacre at El Mozote in El Salvador, carried out by the Atlacatl Battalion, a group of killers trained and equipped by the US military (in fact, US military "advisors" were along for the ride when the 800 or so villagers at Mozote were slaughtered). A month after the New York Times and Washington Post carried stories of the massacre, Reagan showed that decisive leadership that we've heard so much about lately: He signed a bill giving $55 million in military aid to El Salvador (over the course of the country's civil war, the US military aid ultimately amounted to more than $6 billion, more than El Salvador's GDP).

-Consider Arms