Return with us briefly to yesteryear, when Queen Glenda Hood ruled Orlando from her red-leather throne. Back then, going along to get along was the order of the day for the city commission, and government in the sunshine, well, just wasn't classy.
But Glenda's in Tallahassee now, in charge of the state's cultural affairs and such. In her place we have Buddy Dyer, a career politician who was elected on the promise that he would be a different kind of mayor. And it felt like a new day when he took office. Some guy even danced and sang "Happy Days Are Here Again" on the steps of City Hall Feb. 26 and it didn't seem wrong. At his first city council meeting, Dyer ditched the queen's red-leather throne in favor of a brown chair just like the ones the rest of the council members sit on.
But here we are almost a year later, still waiting for Dyer to do something to differentiate himself from Hood. He talks a mean game, he gins up a mean task force, and he wields a mean bulldozer, but when it comes down to it, Dyer is, so far, just Glenda Lite.
Consider: We have a wimpy living-wage ordinance that isn't indexed to inflation and doesn't say anything about health care. Granted, Hood wouldn't have touched any such ordinance with a 10-foot pole, but for all the play he gave the issue on the campaign trail, Dyer should have done better. We also have no anti-PATRIOT Act resolution. Glenda would have scrunched up her nose at the very thought. Dyer just brushed the idea aside and smiled. We have nothing in the works to alleviate transportation woes, though in all fairness Dyer did get on board with Mobility 20/20. He and Rich Crotty just couldn't get it done. We have nothing tangible going on in Parramore besides the gentrification juggernaut begun by Hood. Though Dyer promised to make the neighborhood a priority, he showed his true colors by appointing exactly one resident to yet another task force studying the area.
And finally, we have the ultimate homage to Glenda: Dyer's recent promise to keep development deals secret until it's too late to do anything about them, lest that pesky government in the sunshine stuff get in the way. It just isn't classy.
Plastic turkey prez
Speaking of disappointing pols, I've come to think of George W. Bush as the "plastic turkey" president because whenever he does something neocons hail as a success, along comes the laughable screw-up and/or appalling reality of the move shortly thereafter.
It started with his "compassionate conservatism" that turned out to be right-wing extremism from the first days of his presidency when he instituted the "Gag Rule" on countries that receive U.S. funding for family planning, forbidding them to even mention abortion even though it is legal in the United States and in many of the countries that get the aid. It continued right through to his Thanksgiving Day publicity stunt when he flew into Baghdad and paraded around homesick troops with a mouth-watering turkey, roasted to a luscious golden brown. Only the bird turned out to be made of plastic. Hence the nickname.
So naturally, the first thing that sprang to my mind with news of Saddam Hussein's capture was, "Where's the plastic turkey in this story?" My money is on Hussein's "trial." I doubt there will be one, at least in the American jurisprudence sense of the word.
You see, a fair trial would require that Saddam get his turn to speak. And that would be very embarrassing for America. Iraqgate revisited, anyone?
Saddam has a long and storied history with the United States, dating back to 1959 when he was part of a CIA-backed hit squad targeting then-Iraqi Prime Minister Gen. Abd al-Karim Qasim. Washington wanted the prime minister taken out because he was getting cozy with the Soviets. When Hussein bumbled the job, the CIA made sure he got out of Iraq alive, and even put him up in an apartment in Cairo until things cooled off.
In 1963, when Qasim was offed in a Baath Party coup, the CIA helped Iraq's new rulers hunt down and kill members of the old regime. By 1980, which saw the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam was head of the Baath Party's secret intelligence service. As such he worked closely with the Reagan/Bush administrations to plan strikes against Iran. It was during the '80s, while president and still a U.S. ally, that Saddam committed his infamous atrocities against the Kurds.
It would be interesting indeed to hear his take on what presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush knew about those mass slaughters, and when they knew it. But Junior isn't going to let that happen.
As Robert Fisk, a reporter with The Independent, said in a recent interview, "Saddam is a man who knows more about the secret relations between the U.S. and Baathist Iraq than anyone else. If they're going to put him on trial, it is going to be very embarrassing for the Americans. While the Americans are going to want him interrogated about massacres, he is going to want to talk about Donald Rumsfeld and the Reagan government's assistance to Iraq. He is going to want to reveal secrets we haven't been told. Which is one reason why some Arabs think he is going to suffer a fatal heart attack or commit suicide, in quotation marks, in custody."