The National Starr

So, the Special Pornographer has delivered his 485-page brief. Starr says he had to recount every lurid detail (sometimes, Dr. Freud, a cigar isn't just a cigar) to rebut Clinton's claim of no "sexual relations." Hah. A simple paragraph would have sufficed. Compare Starr's steamy prolixity to the terse report Leon Jaworsky delivered on Nixon. A better explanation: For $40 million, Starr wanted to at least provide some juicy reading. Or he wanted to so embarrass Clinton that, impeachable or not, he'd have to quit.

The mediacracy, even in supposedly blasé Europe, swallowed the bait and intoned non-stop about the president's fatal loss of "dignity." But this attack may backfire. Regular folks (probably Clinton's ultimate jury, given the paucity of impeachable offenses) mistrust elite notions of dignity, especially if they watch Jerry Springer. And all the detailed disclosures of Bill's fumblings with Monica (and attempts to break it off) may actually build sympathy for the guy. He's such a panting, plaintive galoot.

Not long ago, I might have seconded The Seattle Times' call for Clinton to resign—not for this farce but for China, airwave giveaways, and a hundred environmental cop-outs, and to give Gore a running start on 2000. Now I wonder if he's gotta stay, to preserve the dignity of the presidency and restore integrity to our politics. If Clinton can weather this, we can move beyond keyhole politics and the mindless, distracting hyping of private scandals. If he bites the dust, it's open season. Remember "post-Watergate morality"? Imagine post-Monica morality, and tremble.

Just ask Peckersniff

The moralizing frenzy over Starr's report reminds me of a professor I knew a few eons back. Call him Peckersniff. Of all the know-it-all elders who tormented us back then, he was the most patronizing and self-righteous: a walking editorial page, always ready with the right censorious quote from one great book or other.

It seems Peckersniff's private life didn't match his public posture. Years later, I heard he'd taken up covertly with a grad student a third his age, sponsored her for a fat fellowship while avowing they had no special relationship, and dumped his wife and cut off his kids in particularly cheapskate fashion.

Now I hear that Peckersniff is leading a conference on virtue in public life and vice in private, on the occasion of Bill Clinton's displays of the latter.

More precious than money?

Michael, a.k.a. "Buffalo," Mazzetti is glad to report there is life after Mountain Mist, though not necessarily after Battle Mountain. Last April, Mazzetti's Okanogan Highlands Bottling Co. started selling "Water More Precious Than Gold" as an ingenious fund-raising/propaganda ploy. The name itself is a dig at the Battle Mountain Gold Co., which seeks to dig this state's first big open-pit, cyanide-leaching gold mine in the Okanogan Highlands. The label is a brief against the project in particular and watershed-wrecking mining giveaways in general. Mazzetti, a longtime activist, will donate half of any eventual profits to the Okanogan Highlands Alliance, which opposes the mine.

Mazzetti intends to bottle water right off Buckhorn Mountain, the proposed mine site, in two years: "Then we'll have an economic as well as environmental interest in it." But he started up in April by contracting Puyallup's Richardson Bottling, a.k.a. Mountain Mist, to bottle "Water More Precious Than Gold." Two months later, Mountain Mist canceled his contract because, Mazzetti says he was told, it had a larger contract supplying the offices of Lane Powell Spears Lubersky—Battle Mountain Gold's law firm: "To keep their account, they wanted Mountain Mist to stop supplying our water."

Mountain Mist executives said, "No comment" then; they and the Lane Powell attorney for Battle Mountain didn't return calls this time around. But when I told a Mountain Mist receptionist I was inquiring about "the Okanogan Highlands account," she asked revealingly, "Are you from Lane Powell?"

All's well, says Buffalo Mazzetti: "We got a new contract at a better price with Cedar Grove Bottled Water in Oregon"—which apparently has no big mining clients. And his Water More Precious Than Gold scored a coup as the "official water" of this year's Seattle Hempfest. "We could have gotten a cheaper deal from other bottlers," including Mountain Mist, says Hempfest director Vivian McPeak. "But we decided to support a good cause."

Commies and freedom fighters reveal true colors!

Sure enough, Russia's meltdown has nostalgic Cold Warriors like Charles Krauthammer cheering the return of the Evil Empire. "Isn't the Collapse of a Communist Enemy Good?" asks the headline over his column in the September 7 Seattle Times. Wow, we get to win again!

That's not the only Cold War echo these days. No one seems to want to say so amidst the lamentations over blown-up planes and embassies—but this is just the latest wave of terrorist blowback from the CIA's proxy war in Afghanistan. Under Reagan, it armed the most fanatic (hence supposedly most effective) anti-Soviet insurgents, who proceeded to wipe out the more moderate resistance just as the communists did the socialists in Moscow and Barcelona. This helped create the Taliban and the international underground that's now attacking the West. We made Osama bin Laden what he is today.

Consider another blast from the Cold War past. Sixteen years ago, a young UW engineering graduate named Ben Linder went to help out in Sandinista Nicaragua, at the height of the CIA's Contra war against it. Against the odds, Linder built a small hydroelectric plant that brought potable water and the first electricity to the remote border hamlet of El Cuá, right in the path of Contra attacks. In April 1987, he was starting a plant for a larger town, San José de Bocay, when a Contra patrol killed him (apparently execution-style) and two local helpers. Soon after, Vice President George Bush told Linder's brother John, "Your brother was on the other side. . . . He made his choice."

So what's the blowback here? Nicaragua has now gotten back to business the old-fashioned way: It's cryingly poor and utterly forgotten by the Reaganites who were so ardent to save it from Demon Socialism. But not by Linder's parents and friends, who a decade later still carry on the work he started. Under the Ben Linder Memorial Fund, they've raised the money to build the Bocay plant and an adjunct machine shop, and upgrade the El Cuá plant. Now the Canadian-based Magrath Foundation has extended the Bocay project and launched other hydroelectric, development, and environmental projects in rural Nicaragua. To find out more about this blowback, check out the Magrath Foundation at www.mfus.org, or contact the Ben Linder Memorial Fund, 2757 NW Raleigh St, Portland, OR 97210-2456.

How was your substantial rally?

The week's most intriguing news lead was the start of Stephen Dunphy's Friday business column in The Seattle Times: "The stock market, like just about everyone else, reacted to the Starr report on the conduct of President Clinton with a substantial rally today after traders said it contained no new surprises."

 
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