Noriega needs a few more sleazy friends

This week’s theme is depressing but familiar—sleaze. This is not a call to revive the Meese Commission or needless doomsaying to stir what’s left of your Sunday vodka hangover, but a revelation of widespread criminal abuse of power and incompetence by the very people that are supposed to be at the wheel.

Don’t get me wrong, sleaze is nothing new to this business, or America. For as long as even Sen. Strom Thurmond can remember, there’s been a certain amount of mismanagement and Machiavelian politics in government and elsewhere.

But we were supposed to learn from the mistakes. Depending on which decade you lived in, the solution was either progressive social reform, or more recently, brutal incarceration with an eye toward walling off Manhattan as a last-stop, high-security prison.

But if recent news is any indication, the wall is already up, and it surrounds all 250 million of us. Last week, Manuel Noriega was convicted on eight drug charges and could face 120 years. Bush said “justice has been served.”

It wasn’t and won’t be until Bush, Reagan and a dozen others share a cell with the former Panamanian strong man. His conviction came only after seven months, $200 million, sweet plea bargains for traffickers, the ignoring of serious legal questions and suppression of evidence.

Make no mistake, Noriega is a thug who probably deserves castration with a half brick, but he did not operate in a vacuum. Noriega was on the CIA payroll since Bush ran the Agency.

At the same time Ollie North was shelling out $500,000 in bribes to swindlers for useless information on hostages, Noriega agreed to sabotage the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua—a high priority in some corners of the White House in those days.

As for the drugs, I’m not much into conspiracy theories, but we were running a guerilla war without congressional approval.

Revolution costs a lot of money. Chances are better than average that a few kilos or tons of cocaine found its way north with Noriega’s and at some level, American approval.

In other events, a 61-year old Nebraska farmer with no previous record was arrested for buying child pornography—after a federal agent spent two years hounding him to do so. Even Clarence Thomas and the Rehnquist Court said this was entrapment.

In Washington, police paid a convicted rapist to go whoring undercover in order to rid the town of prostitution. Soon Charles Manson and the Son of Sam will be prowling the streets in LA with shotguns and uniforms to keep the murder rate down.

Even the media is running with the maggots. USA Today decided that we had to know Arthur “Who?” Ashe has AIDS. Technically, Ashe is a public figure, but so is any traffic cop. The difference was that Ashe boosted circulation.

But print is a shrinking or dying business, so all conventions are out the window and they will fight to the death like wild beasts in the swill alongside the tabloids.