Do the clothes have an emperor?

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Increasingly, when I inspect Our Newspapers, works of journalistic art that they are, it seems they treat most of what really matters the way Victorian novels did sex. Lots of fluttering around the edges, but the main issues are never quite addressed.

Now one of the advantages of being a pariah, and being beyond hoping for invitations to, say, tony Detroit media parties, is that court jesters can speak their minds. Occasionally, a few even noticed when the emperor had no clothes, and did a public service by pointing this out.

This won’t happen here. I am too dull-witted, and showing the emperor’s genetic pool waving in the breeze only matters if the leader is capable of shame.

Yet for my own amusement, here are a few questions about the royal wardrobe that you might ponder while you wait for the "‘temporary’ casinos" to open. If two or more of these have occurred to any of you, send a stamped, self-addressed FedEx package to the Metro Times, and I will send you Hugh McDiarmid’s last six columns predicting John Engler will be the GOP vice-presidential nominee.

1) Where’s the outrage? Muffy, listen closely now. While you sat at the bar at Somerset last night, your military was killing dozens or hundreds of Yugoslavs, including, no doubt, women and children. We are doing this (our aim, we say, is to hit only ‘military’ targets) because we are not happy with Slobodan Milosevic’s policy of ethnic war against the Albanians of Kosovo.

Something like 700,000 are now refugees, and many more are said to be wandering or hiding in Kosovo, uprooted from their homes. We have been bombing Yugoslavia for nearly two months now, with no apparent effect on the expulsions. A nation is being pulverized and taught to hate America. So why don’t we seem to care?

2) Where is the plan? How are we going to put all these people back? Once we do, how does President Clinton intend to prevent this from happening again? What is the plan? Do we even have a plan? Do we have the faintest idea what we will do next? Will we opt for ground troops or end up with the mother of all refugee problems? Is this Good Morning, Vietnam? Is anyone even thinking about these things?

3) Don’t Russia me. The world’s other major nuclear power is seemingly on the point of meltdown. Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s unstable leader, is sick, has a drinking problem, and barely survived impeachment last weekend. And the alternatives appear worse. By an overwhelming vote of 239 to 78, the parliament thought he should be removed … for dissolving the Soviet Union in 1991! Fortunately, the Communists needed 300 votes to oust him. But not-so-fortunately, Yeltsin was saved in part thanks to Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a screaming loony who poses for pictures in his underwear and talks of retaking Alaska for the motherland. What are we doing about any of this? What can/should we do? How much coverage of the world’s biggest ticking time bomb are you getting in your Daily Bugle?

4) Rubber-stamp Legislature? Back when Huey Long ran Louisiana from his U.S. Senate office, he had a puppet governor of whom he once boasted, "a leaf blew in on his desk. He signed it." Is Michigan’s GOP-controlled Legislature now nothing more than a rubber stamp for Engler’s policies? Last week, when Marvis Cofield blocked appointment of an interim Detroit schools CEO, Lansing managed to rewrite the law creating the school reform board, have both houses pass it and the governor sign it – in one day. As a result, the board was able to hire David Adamany, a result I approved of. But the means might make us nervous. What if the governor wanted to confiscate your property? Do you think somebody ought to be able to put the brakes on, at least for some reasonable time? Does either house have any ability to stand up to the governor? Does he ever have to listen to anyone other than himself?

5) Finally, what really matters? The sleeping monster of next year’s presidential race is beginning to stir. Soon, we will learn too much about the dreary sexual pasts of the candidates, even as Bob Dole, the 75-year-old battered war hero who lost the last election, is on TV gamely selling a drug he says gives him erections. Eventually, the press will fasten on the details of some esoteric tax proposal and write volumes comparing each candidate’s highly manufactured views.

Yet – will anyone tell us what they think this is all for? The thought that life could be better, Paul Simon once sang, is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains. That may be romantic, but it is true. The Kennedys and, yes, Ronald Reagan tapped into that. They thought politics ought to be the art of trying to leave this a better world. Clinton fooled millions into thinking that was what he was about, too.

Today, many seem to think politics is merely about attempting to adjust tax rates for your contributors. Meanwhile, college students are aimlessly drinking themselves to death, high schoolers are manufacturing bombs, and most voters refuse to get off the couch for anybody. I suggest you examine the present crop of blow-drys and ask if any has the ability to inspire. For if not, I suggest we are heading for real trouble.

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