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Commentary Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Democrats� turn to dispense placebos as designer drugs
By Ben Tanosborn
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Nov 13, 2006, 01:35

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After ending my purist days as an advocate for progressive causes, I must admit that it�s difficult having to live in this imperfect world of continuous compromise. And the way I view things has been evolving for over two decades to the point where I now find myself making choices following my own rules of moral detente.

In American electoral politics, where progressive candidates are rare or non-existent, I resort to a self-coined dictum when it comes time to vote. If I feel compelled to vote -- which is not always the case -- and must choose between two SOBs, I�ll give my vote to whoever of the two is an orphan. Not always, but there are times when there is such thing as a lesser evil or a way to buy time. And that thought brings me to the midterm elections we�ve just had in the US, the results of which have been touted by many here and abroad as a �major change,� a rebuke of Bush. If you happen to be among them, perhaps you need to review the medications you�re taking and whether there are any hallucinates mis-dispensed among them.

Granted that the days of the arrogant idiot seem to have come to an end; but America�s ills appear well-entrenched, forever waiting for some serious doctoring that our practitioner-politicians are totally unable, or unwilling, to perform. This takeover of Congress by the Democrats signals, unfortunately, nothing but a change in the cast of characters, and not of policies: domestic or foreign. And the word, or rather warning, is already being broadcasted loud and clear, that the Democrats need to move to the center in order to legislate . . . or help govern.

How absurd can anyone get? Move to the center? To the center of the Far Right . . . is that what they mean? Even some well-intentioned Democratic legislators will likely find themselves politically handcuffed. The anti-people machine that is Washington will continue grinding away as it has for over a quarter of a century. And little or nothing will be done that will decelerate the rate of growing separation between haves and have-nots. Capitalism, no matter how predatory or unfair, will remain self-regulated, untouched by any �misguided� purveyors of social justice.

Just what illusory �major change� is the nation, or the world, contemplating? America�s foreign policy will stay rigidly in place, even if there is some superficial cosmetic surgery to change the imperial dragon�s appearance. Perhaps some new approach as to how the US might exit Iraq; forget about �victory� . . . just exit!

Basically, there is little that Democratic politicians can do to make us a more trusted, less feared, neighbor to the rest of the world. And our Middle East policy will continue being written, as in the past, not just by calligraphers from the powerful �Israel Lobby,� but by public sentiment favoring Israel; the result of the influence that Jews exert on every ambit of America�s life. That is a multi-layered reality that is always purposely, if not dishonestly, overlooked domestically; and naively disregarded by Arabs, at least quantifiably, as if they were living in Fantasyland.

And little of consequence will change on the domestic front. Just as in foreign policy, any changes made will be cosmetic, nothing meaty or revolutionary; nothing that will demonstrate that politicians we elect are committed to the needs of the people they represent, only to their self-serving interests. Government reform will be conspicuous by its absence and, after two years, rest assured that lobbies will still tailor legislation and continue footing much of the reelection costs with succinct ambidexterity to please both Democratic and Republican scoundrels. Leases on K Street will keep getting renewed . . . of that we can be assured.

As for that PR-laden promise of legislation that Democrats will introduce in the House during the first one-hundred hours after the House convenes on January 3, much of it won�t be of major significance, just placebos with designer drug labels. The first order of business, one presumably trying to break the link between lobbyists and legislation, will be dead on arrival unless it�s watered down to the point of being worthless. Meaningful lobbyist reform . . . not in your wildest dreams!

And as for the tepid issues of enacting all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the attacks of 9/11; or raising the minimum wage; or cutting the interest rates on student loans; or negotiating with the thieving pharmaceutical companies to (perhaps) lower drug prices for the aged . . . all of them are but a drop in a bucket that needs to be filled to the rim. Placebos and nothing else!

For example, the intended minimum wage is already, or will be come January 1, surpassed in much of the country by more progressive state legislatures . . . and perhaps fewer than 30 percent of minimum wage earners will benefit from it -- to those people, however, that�s real, not a placebo.

Most of us are pouring our hearts in wishing success for Madam Speaker, and those in Congress who may have honest and lofty goals for the nation they represent. If we show incredulity, or cynicism, apologies are extended; and if my criticism proves to be wrong, I promise to eat crow . . . or do the appropriate penance.

For now, I stand by my political dictum that �when the choice before me is that between two sons-of-bitches, I�ll always choose the one who is an orphan.� But few of them are.

� 2006 Ben Tanosborn

Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer, resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business consulting firm. Contact him at

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