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Cuban Menace

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And other stuff we'll never know

By Bob Harris

I HAVE A BUDDY in Ohio who is one of the most conservative guys I know. The Berlin Wall came down almost a decade ago, and he's still a vigilant anti-Communist. Thank goodness, because the international conspiracy really has its sights set on Ohio. So he calls me up last week, because he and another old friend are planning on a trip and they want me to come along. I ask where they're going, and he says ... Cuba.

Cuba? Whoa, hold on here. Uh ... Castro, missile crisis, travel ban, all that? So I ask what the hell he's been smoking, and his response is just two words: Cohiba Esplendido.

That's a cigar.

So great. Mr. Morality suddenly wants to defy the State Department and become an international smuggler. I guess an addiction really can impair your judgment.

Speaking of which, cigar use has doubled in the last few years--among young people the number has tripled--which isn't good if you have any interest at all in breathing. According to the California Department of Health Services, one cigar can pack the punch of about three and a half packs of cigarettes. A recent study concurs, concluding that if you're a cigar smoker, boom--you double your risk of dying of cancer or heart disease. And another new study says that as the wrapper gets moist in your mouth, it passes along the same jolt to your tissues as a good dollop of chewing tobacco.

At this rate, they're gonna figure out that just looking at cigars gives you eye cancer.

Yet some people still actually think cigars are glamorous. Truth be told, when I see some famous Hollywood action star who knows kids idolize him trying to look butch by sucking on a big fat stogie, all I think is: cool. Anything that cuts that guy's career short is OK by me.

You want irony? According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon has just concluded that Cuba now poses essentially zero military threat. Do the math. Cuban cigars will harm more Americans in the next seven days than the Cuban military will in the next seven years. You really want to fight the Cuban menace?

Slap Arnold Schwarzenegger.

HEY, I HATE to distract everybody from all the important stuff going on in Washington--all the titillating stuff that Sam and Cokie and the two Georges consider so important to a functional democracy--but there's a tiny item on the news wire that might be worth mentioning just this once.

(Do these beltway reporters ever have any sex of their own? I'm beginning to think not. Which isn't to belittle how goofy Clinton looks in trying to duck the whole deal by citing executive privilege. You're supposed to invoke executive privilege only to protect sensitive foreign-policy discussions. Granted, what Clinton's protecting is probably sensitive enough, but I just don't see the connection. Maybe the CIA has developed some weapon of mass destruction you can make out of kneepads.)

Speaking of which, and returning to our subject, did you know that Monica Lewinsky apparently received a Top Secret security clearance? No kidding. It was part of that Pentagon gig they gave her. Let's get this straight: John Lennon was a threat to national security, but the White House Spice Girls can Armor-All the cockpit of a stealth bomber. Makes sense to me.

Here's my point: Do you have any idea how many people are able to classify documents in this country? Sen. Daniel Moynihan had a whole commission do reports and hearings and stuff last year. They came up with a total of ... 3 million.

(Which seems like a lot, but when you think about the size of giant weapons-manufacturing corporations, many of whose personnel receive clearances, the number starts making more sense.)

So how much stuff is still classified that is old enough so we should probably have it already? Nobody even knows, but it's believed to be roughly 400 million pages of documents. And that's just the stuff that never got put through a shredder after use.

The CIA, which has about 40 million pages backlogged all by itself, has just announced that it will review over 13 million pages for declassification before the year 2000. Too bad that still leaves twice that many pages fully classified. Besides, a "declassified" CIA document is often just a big black rectangle with a page number.

On CNN right this minute they're showing footage of a guy in a plane hanging from a wire. For the 30th time today. Over on the Fox News Channel a bald guy and an guy with a combover are debating White House nookie.

And still 400 million pages of our history remain secret.

A democracy is supposed to function based on the informed decisions of the citizens. As philosopher George Santayana once wrote: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

So how are we supposed to learn from the past when we aren't even allowed to see it?

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From the April 16-22, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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