A BuzzFlash Guest Commentary
August 8, 2002
My Island, My Country
A BuzzFlash Guest Commentary
by John Westermann
Here on Long Island, where I grew up and spent twenty-one years as a cop and an author, we've seen this before, the high-speed disintegration of public wealth, and trust in our leaders. The once-richest suburb in America, Nassau County, New York, was run into the dirt by the local GOP, and is now beholden to a massive state bailout to pay its bills. This remarkable feat of mismanagement was accomplished during the boom years, while the usual watchdogs ignored boiled books, goober capitalism, outright fraud, disintegrating infrastructure, feverish flag-waving, and a tax system that forced the poor to subsidize the wealthy. Here on Long Island we've had car-leasing scandals, health insurance scandals, fee-splitting scandals, the New York City mob corrupting our landfills, all delivered courtesy of current or former Republican chiefs. We had the head of a public hospital fake his own disappearance. And we gave a grateful nation the Traficant-prototype-Senator Pothole, Alphonse D'Amato. Florida's got nothing on us when it comes to stark, raving political ineptitude, Katherine Harris notwithstanding. Yup, thank God the grown-ups are back in charge.
These days on Long Island we shudder with deja vu as President George "Double-Dip" Bush applies these same low Ivy League standards to governing America, with the same dreadful results: a collapsing economy, a climate of disbelief and despair, and a return to huge deficits for everyone but his family and friends.
The signs are everywhere (weigh the collected political mischief of our nation at BUZZFLASH on any given day against the glut of Brittany Spears stories over at right-wing DRUDGE), just as they were when civic activists were screaming bloody murder up and down my crooked Island. But the GOP District Attorneys never brought charges against anybody powerful, for anything, not pedophile priests, not politicos, nobody. Righteous complainers were mocked as unpatriotic, lunatic-fringe, and the whistle-blowers were suffocated. I mean, you could write a book about it, which I did, which pissed them off no end. The major newspapers -- including Newsday and The New York Times -- were criminally indifferent -- as they are, say, about former FBI agent John O'Neill, and the foreign policy failures of the Bush administration prior to September 11. Newsday wrung its hands, and held its nose, and endorsed the GOP year after year, then expressed shock and anger at the fiscal meltdown. I witnessed a New York Times reporter interviewing employees of a Town we call Crookhaven. At a secret meeting at my home these nervous workers spilled their guts about alleged widespread corruption under the administration of a current elected official and the Suffolk County GOP Chairman whom the Feds finally nailed chopping trucks. The Town employees had flow-charts, photographs of crimes-in-progress; they told of schemes for civic fraud never before imagined. The Times reporter gave the employees a list of items he needed for corroboration, and left the meeting, pumped. He never called them back. So I called him. He told me his editor did not want to spend that much time and ink on just one town, even if it is the size of Rhode Island, even if half a million people live there. As we say on Long Island, fugedaboutit. That'd be like Dick Cheney running a marathon. Neither man has the heart for the job.
But all is not lost, not in a country as strong and diverse and free as ours, in spite of the mopes we sometimes elect. To give hope where so little currently resides, I would point out that in Nassau County, in spite of toothless watchdogs and cheerleader media and a sludge-flow of alliterative hooey from the throne, the one immutable law of politics took effect: You cannot polish a turd. Last year the people of Nassau got off the damn sofa on Election Day and threw the bums into the street. A bright young Democrat is now repairing the monumental damage left behind.
a similar "regime change" occurs in Congress this autumn, all
Americans should do what smart Long Islanders did to survive the local
Republican debacle: string barbed-wire at your feet and do not bet your
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John Westerman is the author of EXIT WOUNDS, HIGH CRIMES, LADIES OF THE NIGHT, etc., and can be found at http://www.johnwestermann.com.
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