Redford Disses Norton; Hitchens Defends Himself; Cockburn Plays Dr. Ruth for Rudy

Written by Alexander Cockburn on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.

Robert Redford
has given Interior Secretary Gale Norton the cold shoulder. Last week Norton
sent an invitation to the movie star in his aerie at Sundance in the Wasatch
Mountains above Salt Lake City, asking if he would care to present at the release
of a condor raised in captivity. Norton added that "You and I have never
met, but we do have a common interest" in condors, and that she

had fond memories
of Redford’s movie Three Days of the Condor. She said that in such
a meeting they could discuss "the best way to conserve America’s unspoilt
landscapes and the wild creatures who inhabit them."

Redford sent
back a snotty note to Norton saying that he was "mystified" by the
invite, and that "Sadly, since assuming the Interior Secretary post, you
have compiled an abysmal record of capitulating to big businesses at the expense
of the nation’s public health, public lands and wildlife."

Now, when it
comes to preserving nature’s domain Norton’s nothing much to write
home about, but neither is Redford. Indeed, you can forgive the Interior Secretary
for thinking there might have been a soft spot in Redford’s heart for her,
considering what he has been ready to sanction and condone in recent years.
After all, it was Redford who attacked Ralph Nader late last year for the latter’s
denunciations of the Clinton-Gore environmental record. Redford was a big presence
in Oregon in the last week of the presidential campaign, targeting Nader voters
in recorded phone messages. The gist of Redford’s appeal was that Naderites
were too purist, and that Gore was the man to vote for. In other words, Redford
was ready to condone eight years of trashing the national forests, of giving
the go-ahead to mining companies, and even of sabotaging the Endangered Species
Act, which, among other functions, has helped save the condor from extinction.

It should also
be noted that while Redford and others have slammed the Bush administration
for rescinding the Clinton team’s last-minute booby-trap regs on arsenic
in Western water, Redford was silent on this matter for the eight years when
the Clinton administration did nothing about the supposed arsenic peril. Redford,
it should also be recalled, was party to a bid to destroy the Blackfoot River,
immortalized in Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It and turned
into a movie by Redford.

In the mid-1990s
he campaigned for Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. The Baucus family, which owns
one of the largest ranches in the state, at that time stood to rake in millions
from their interest in the mining rights to a property bordering the Blackfoot
and scheduled for gold mining by the so-called "heap leach" cyanide
method, lethal to all living things. The plans of this mining company also included
the leveling of an adjacent mountain revered by Ted Kaczynski. Noting the threat,
Kaczynski took an increasing interest in environmental matters, in whose cause
he devised his own drastic strategies.


on Kerrey

On Monday last,
just as New York Press was on its way out the door to the printer, I
got a call from Christopher Hitchens, duly noted in a STOP PRESS note in my
column. He was eager to stress that at the time he made his comments on Fox
he was not up to speed on Kerrey’s account of his actions at Thanh
Phong. (Hitchens appeared on Fox on Monday, April 30, by which time the Kerrey
affair had been headline material across the weekend.)

In his call
Hitchens was at particular pains to underline his disgust at the New School’s
board members who have issued a statement asserting that it is improper to attribute
specific blame for war crimes, which, as we have noted, has been a standard
liberal line. He said he was forwarding the text of an open letter to his colleagues
at the New School.

Too late for
inclusion in my STOP PRESS note, I received portions of this, though a middle
section is lacking, and in its place there is what appears to be the e-mail
addresses of the New School faculty. However, I do have the creditable final
section, which runs as follows:

"It [the
statement] also–but this is only a detail–takes at face value the
sleazy and evasive and self-pitying utterances made by our new President and
my former friend. That passive acceptance might just have passed muster if Kerrey
had said ONE WORD about the Vietnamese civilians he admits to having killed.
(Let’s pass over the ones he isn’t so sure he killed.) But examine
the remarks issued under his name and under the names of Tishman and Scaturro
[New School trustees]. There isn’t even a polite nod in the direction of
the victims. This is a scandal pure and simple. Should I dilate on the supposed
principles of the School? Why embarrass myself, or you? Last month you didn’t
know that Kerrey had left a ditchful of civilians behind him and accepted a
medal for an action that read–officially phrased–21 VC KIA (BC). That
means twenty-one Vietcong, killed in action (body count). So–a liar as
well as a killer, since he knew the figures were falsified. This month you do
know. So perhaps by the watercooler or in the corridor we hear: ‘Oh hi
Bob! Shit happens, right?’

"One or
the other thing, but not both. He may have been a victim himself but he must
be honest about what he did and he must say a word or two about the people he
slaughtered. The board and the trustees, meanwhile, have no right to defend
him in the terms they outline, which are terms that would exculpate any Nazi
or any stressed-out ethnic cleanser."

A friend of
mine who served in Vietnam in the U.S. Marine Corps writes, noting that "Kerrey
said no one ever taught him about the Law of War. That is baloney. We went over
the Geneva Convention like a catechism or like Miranda, partly to protect us
if we were captured but also because we were fighting in the midst of civilians."


There Are Other Ways!

Andrea Peyser
tells us in Sunday’s New York Post that "the treatment has
rendered him incapable of having sexual relations for the past year." Of
course she’s talking about Mayor Rudy Giuliani, afflicted with prostate
cancer and taking radiation treatment plus chemo plus two drugs, lupron and
casadex, all of which have taken a toll upon his priapic puissance. In other
words the guy can’t get it up and furthermore has to endure the horrible
experience (amid side effects of chemo like throwing up eight times a night)
of hearing Donna Hanover, his lawful wedded wife, thrashing about on her exercise
machine. After the rupture in their relations prompted by his liaison with Judi
Nathan, the Mayor has been exiled to a spare room where he tosses on his bed
of pain.

of having sexual relations"? Maybe in Rudy’s repressed Catholic erotic
lexicon he feels that it’s missionary position or nothing. But Rudy, there
are other things to do, you know. Maybe you and Judi should ask around. Who
knows, a gay cop on the mayoral security detail might be available for consultation
on moderate s&m, bondage and so forth. There are lips, armpits, feet and
kindred pathways to sensual gratification.

It’s hard
to feel much compassion for the former prosecutor who had those unfortunate
stock operators hauled from their beds in the wee hours and carted off in handcuffs
to the federal clink; for the mayor who put sharpshooters on top of City Hall
to guard him against the wails of people suffering from AIDS, demonstrating
against his administration’s policies; for the neofascist authoritarian
who has put his boot on the necks of the poor and the vulnerable, year after

Right now the
Mayor is pushing through another piece of legislation aimed at further eroding
the possibility of sexual pleasure in his dominion. He’s already turned
building inspectors into morality police, enforcing zoning changes that restrict
erotica. Now, chafing at the thought of anyone blessed with sexual enjoyment,
he’s pushing through pell-mell further zoning changes aimed at stores selling
erotic tapes, at topless clubs, peepshows and other spots that draw people from
near and far and render the metropolis an agreeable spot instead of some sterile
settlement in the Bible Belt.


Really Nasty Way to Go

So T. McVeigh
gets a short-term renewal of his lease on life, maybe a long one. The Bureau
never lets us down.

Lethal injection
has been sold as just about the most soothing way to go. Not so: like many a
Benthamite vision of Progress, it has serious flaws. Edward Brunner, MD, PhD,
is the Eckenhoff professor and chairman emeritus of anesthesia at Northwestern
University Medical School and at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He gave a chilling
interview to Charles Madigan of the Chicago Tribune, published April
22, in which he described how lethal injection, as administered in death chambers
across the country by nonmedical personnel, actually works.

"The thiopental
will cause the patient to look like he is falling asleep. The second drug will
paralyze him. If the drugs are not given properly, the sleep drug can wear off,
allowing the patient to be aware but unable to move, even to breathe. He undergoes
suffocation and asphyxiation in a horribly painful way, even though he looks
completely calm as he is lying on the table. Then he experiences that deep burning
sensation as the potassium courses through his veins on the way to his heart."

Brunner says
that in about 40 percent of cases where lethal injection has been used, there
has been misuse in one way or another, and it has taken as long as 45 minutes
for the person to die. "The chemistry of the drugs is such that thiopental
and succinylcholine, when they react to each other, cause a precipitation of
a white, flaky substance that will block up the needle from the IV. What has
happened in a number of cases is that they give the thiopental and follow with
the succinylcholine, then they get this precipitate which blocks the needle.
The thiopental wears off. The patient is partly paralyzed and partly not, and
begins to move around. In a number of circumstances, they have to close the
curtains so that people can’t see the struggling. Sometimes they have to
start all over again."

Since no doctor
will perform these injections, the job goes to people who are untrained and
who have no business using these drugs. "Thiopental is a controlled substance.
To use it you need a special license, which the executioner doesn’t have
and the warden doesn’t have. So they are in violation of federal and state
regulations when they use these things. More than that, the drugs have been
tested for safety in therapeutic uses. They have never been tested for use in
killing people. What they are really doing is experimenting on humans, much
like the German doctors did in concentration camps. What they are doing is inhumane.
The subjects end up with a strong possibility of being subjected to excruciating

Probably many
Americans, including those "survivors" and relatives in Oklahoma City
looking for "closure," will say that "excruciating suffering,"
i.e., cruel and unusual punishment, is exactly what McVeigh deserves. But that,
at the moment, is not the name of the game.


Guy Joke

one a friend of a friend got from Paul McCartney. A songwriter turns in a ballad
with an exquisite, haunting melody. "What do you want to call it?"
the recording company exec asks. "Yer Tits Are Too Big," the oaf replies,
and successfully imposes his will. Another melody, another haunting tune, this
time titled "Yer Ass Is Too Big." Third time, the exec calls in at
the songwriter’s pad, gross and filthy beyond description. The songwriter
goes to the john, and as he returns the exec looks at him and says, "Do
you know your cock is hanging out?" "Do I know it? I fucking wrote