Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine”: Corporatism in Extremis

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

Most of the books I’ve read about the awfulness of the Bush presidency remind me of the old story about the blind men trying to figure out what an elephant looks like. Each one feels the part in front of him and describes the elephant within that singular context. The blind men’s descriptions are correct but they don’t really capture “elephant-ness,” the totality of what such an animal might be.

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Published in: on 04/16/2008 at 12:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Things That Go Bump In My Night

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

In the hour of the wolf, we progressive activists are sometimes visited by nightmarish political scenarios. No doubt, dear reader, you have your own scary visitations. Here are ten of mine:

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Published in: on 04/01/2008 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Western Parable: Waist-Deep in the Big Muddy (Again)

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

My neighbor’s cattle operation had a huge number of prized Black Angus steers and Holstein dairy-cows. I wanted them and the lush range they fed on. I tried making some sort of deal with the owner, but he was one ornery sumbitch.

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Published in: on 03/25/2008 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Peace May Be Possible in the Post-Bush Middle East

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

The Middle East is undergoing yet another paroxysm of violence. An attack from one side or the other, be it Israeli or Palestinian in origin, leads to reprisal attacks, which leads to — well, we all understand the vortex that both sides continue to fall into.

This state of warfare has been going on for at least 60 years, since the founding of the State of Israel, and, in a sense, much much longer than that. And the situation is getting worse.

Those on the extremes in both Israel and Palestine (including those inside the governing entities on both sides) are attempting to make sure there will never be a peace settlement. And, by and large, both both sides’ leaders allow that interference in the peace process to rule their responses, even though polls in both Israel and Palestine indicate most citizens would prefer a peaceful two-state solution.

The Israel/Palestine situation is so seemingly intractable in how to get to that solution that it leads to regional, indeed almost universal, despair and depression. Without much energy or hope for progress, the status quo of low-level violence persists and constantly threatens to break out into full-scale warfare.

Every so often, maybe every five or ten years, the ongoing slaughter pushes the two battle-weary sides to come close enough to inspire hope that a solution can be devised — not a perfect solution, not one that guarantees peace, but one leading in that direction. And just as usually, those potential “solutions” tend to fall apart, usually after an act of violence from a crazed individual or an over-reacting Israeli government or from Hamas or other militant groups in Palestine.

DOES ANYBODY REALLY WANT PEACE?

One can’t help but conclude that neither side really wants peace; they seem to feel more comfortable playing the victim role. Each side uses its distressing history and a belief that God is on its side. Each would feel supreme joy if the other side simply vanished. Each convinces itself that with just a little more effort — just another major attack or two, another bit of pressure tactics — the other side will disappear, will see that it cannot win and will capitulate to its enemy’s demands.

Yes, of course, that type of thinking makes no rational sense, but the Middle East puzzle, it’s clear, operates mainly out of emotion, hypernationalism, overweening ethnic and religious pride, the ongoing rituals of conflict, and thoroughgoing contempt and fear of The Other.

The two sides, given the mutual hatred and massacres and suspicions, seem incapable of creatively making a peace on their own, though on occasion temporary and informal cease-fires do manage to occur. Outside mediators, be they Arab organizations or the superpower U.S., then have a go at trying to lead the two warring sides into meaningful negotiations.

Various American presidents have put their reputations and energies on the line to try to bring about a settlement that can last (Clinton and Carter were the most successful), only to see the spiral of mistrust and suspicion and violence rise to the fore yet again. Totally ignored is the role-model of how Northern Ireland moved away from its seemingly intractable violence to a tenuous but growing peace.

MIDDLE EAST SPIN AND PHOTO-OPS

George W. Bush occasionally makes some sort of diplomatic move in the Middle East, usually right before a major domestic election. Now, just before another presidential balloting and as his eight-year tenure is coming to a close and he’s thinking about his legacy, Bush initiates yet another feint. The White House P.R. machine beats the drum that the U.S. is trying hard to arrange a Mideast peace settlement, but nobody believes that anymore, since it’s clear Bush doesn’t believe it either. Since he’s tied U.S. policy so tightly to Israeli policy — Israel being America’s only dependable ally in the region — it’s all spin and photo ops, lots of sound bites signifying nothing, really.

Indeed, it may well be that the war Bush&Co. care about is not the Israel/Palestinian one, but the ones about to come, perhaps as early as this summer: U.S./Israel against Iran and Israel vs. Hezbollah in Lebanon (as proxy for Syria).

Clearly, there will be no real chance for a movement toward peace in the Middle East until the new American regime takes over, if then. CheneyBush were happy to let the Israelis handle the Palestinian in their own fashion, including further humiliation and brutalization. Bush&Co. admired and saw their own aggressive policies mirrored by the “tough” Israelis.

All three of the major-party contenders for the presidency profess to be staunchly pro-Israeli, so it’s unclear whether anything major will change if McCain or Clinton or Obama were to become the new resident in the White House. AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby in Washington, continues to cow many legislators into silence, though they do not represent the wide variety of opinion, much of it sympathetic to Palestinian cries for justice and an end to the occupation, in the American Jewish community. There are strong Jewish pro-peace movements both inside America and inside Israel.

But we do know for sure that as long as Cheney and Bush are in power, nothing will change and the situation in the Middle East will become even more explosive and dangerous,

One can hope that the new U.S. Administration in 2009 will recognize its opportunity to move forcefully and quickly to craft ways out of the endless Israel/Palestine morass. Indeed, this may be history’s final opportunity to craft a viable two-state solution. For the U.S. to abdicate its role in helping bring peace to that agonized region would be shameful and self-defeating.

From now and until the November election, each of the three presidential contenders should be grilled by the press and public about their plans for ameliorating the situation in the Middle East. No doubt, they would fudge and spin their answers, but just forcing them to talk about Israel and Palestine, and how a solution is tied tightly to America’s well-being, might yield benefits down the line.

SOME FOUNDATIONAL ASSESSMENTS

Here are some possible starting points that the new president might want to consider about the Middle East dilemma:

1. Working a way to a just and peaceful solution in the Middle East is of supercharged importance not only to the survival of Israelis and Palestinians, but also is in the vital national interests of the United States.

So much of the fervor, passion and anger directed at the U.S., Israel and the West by Hamas and many other distressed Palestinians and other Arabs in the Greater Middle East would start to dissipate if the Palestinians were to achieve a viable, geographically-contiguous state of their own. To continue to let the current situation stagnate and fester is to ask for more trouble, big trouble. Doing nothing meaningful in the Middle East has been the Bush Administration’s policy for nearly eight years, and that’s what must be changed, quickly, by whoever becomes President.

2. Under Bush, the U.S. supposedly was big on helping democracy bloom in the region. But when a democratic election didn’t go the way the Bush Administration wanted, when Hamas won the approval of the majority of Palestinian voters in its parliament and both the U.S. and Israel said it would not recognize that popular electoral result, the hypocrisy of the American position was plain for all to see.

Hamas is not going to go away. Israeli governments cannot wish it away and cannot blow it away with missiles and bombs. Hamas is strong among its people because it stands up against Israel and America. Hamas therefore will have to be included in any diplomatic discussions leading to a negotiated solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. No doubt, this will happen after Fatah and Hamas make their own separate peace with each other, if such is even possible, so as to negotiate as a united Palestinian government.

There have been hints that Obama and Clinton are not philosophically opposed to meeting with those deemed America’s “enemies” — such as Iran, Syria, North Korea, et al. — as long as preparations for such meetings would seem to indicate fruitful avenues for discussion. Is it too much to hope that the new American president might be consistent and follow the same approach with Hamas?

NEITHER HAMAS NOR ISRAEL WILL DISAPPEAR

3. Israel is not going to go away. Even if most Arabs in the region believe that the establishment of Israel in 1948 on land taken from Palestinian residents was grossly illegal, the practical reality is that the Israeli state is there to stay. No amount of international pressure or bullets or suicide bombers is going to alter that reality, though the permanent borders are still up for discussion. Therefore, all Palestinian/Arab entities will have to deal with Israel at the negotiating table. (Hamas has been the most adamant political organization to oppose Israel’s right to exist, but on occasion has hinted that if Israel made the right concessions, it could possibly bend even on that hardline position.)

4. Both sides have to realize that each has historical justifications on its side, and that in their behavior both sides are both right and wrong. In short, the question of who is the more aggrieved victim, while important, is not going to get either side anywhere, certainly not to a just peace. It’s long since time to put that history to the side, so to speak, and just get it done. This doesn’t mean Palestinians and Israelis will, or even should, like each other, or ignore their suspicions of the other’s motives or their own painful histories. It just means getting the peace made and getting the difficult details worked out as best as one can.

5. The hope for a potential peace treaty depends on both sides’ leaders (as well as those in the U.S.) being willing to make huge, politically risky decisions. Everyone knows this.

GETTING FROM HERE TO THERE

A. Israel will have to end its Occupation and return to its pre-1967 borders. It will have to abandon its settlements in the West Bank/Gaza so that the requisite geographically-contiguous state of Palestine can be made viable. Maintaining the Occupation of Palestinian lands is bleeding Israel of treasure and, more importantly, of its moral sense of itself.

B. The various branches of the Palestine liberation movement will have to recognize Israel’s right to exist within secure borders, probably based on the pre-1967 map.

C. Even if the above were to occur, there likely would be occasional acts of violence and terrorism emanating from both sides. Ultra-Orthodox, fundamentalist Jews (some inside the government), believing that the Torah supports them in their Greater Israel territorial claims, may well try to derail any peace negotiations, and the requisite concessions, by attacking Palestinian targets. Likewise, ultra-nationalist or militant Islamist groups in Palestine and beyond, believing history and/or their faith give them justifications for their policies, may keep up the rocket attacks on Israel and suicide bombings inside Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Both negotiating sides will have to agree that they will not permit the movement toward a peaceful solution to be vetoed by those who would try to stop that progress through violence. Right now, anytime there is some hope for the peace process and an incursion or bombing or rocket attack takes place, the violence veto is allowed to trump the hard work of the solution-minded diplomats and political leaders. That must stop, and can be stopped, in effect, by ignoring the terrorism. If the two viable states are talking to each other and reach significant agreements, that terrorism eventually will diminish.

D. If (and it’s a very big if) the two sides can recognize that The Other is not going to disappear, no matter how much violence is employed, and sign a peace treaty, then a wide variety of other vexing issues can be brought to the forefront and solutions found. Issues such as: how to deal with the Palestinians’ claimed “right of return” to their ancient lands inside Israel, who will rule Jerusalem, who will control the water rights in that parched region, how thousands of Palestinians can move back and forth easily between Gaza and the West Bank and to their daily jobs inside Israel, etc. etc.

SOME POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

One can see the outlines, if not the details, as to how these problems might be solved:

A. Once a peace treaty has been signed, some Palestinian families will be permitted to return to their ancestral lands inside Israel, but there’s no way Israel will permit millions or even hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees to pour into the Jewish State. Equitable financial compensation will be paid by Israel to those not permitted to return. (In principle, Palestinian negotiators in the past have indicated that they’d be willing to entertain discussion along these lines.)

B. Jerusalem is holy land for all three major religions in the area. It would make sense for Jersualem to become an “international city,” administered either by a joint Christian/Jewish/Islamic body or by an already existing international agency, perhaps under United Nations auspices. (Again, discussions already have taken place on such a potential arrangement.)

C. Water rights and easy access to and from Israel/Palestine no doubt can be worked out once the essential compromises have been made and both sides are working in good faith with each other.

PEACE MAY BE THE ONLY OPTION LEFT

Given the current tense, explosive situation on the ground in Gaza and throughout the Middle East, is any of what’s been discussed above practical or even possible? Maybe not. Maybe it will take another decade or two of continued slaughter and occupation before cooler, probably younger, leaders emerge with the courage to make the deal to ensure the peaceful future of their children and grandchildren.

But to do nothing, to give into that status quo despair, to surrender to ongoing violence, to assume that we have to wait decades for the killing to get so intense, is to give tacit support to Israel’s continued occupation and brutalization and humiliation of Palestinians, to give tacit encouragement to Palestinian suicide bombers and rocket launchers.

With the departure of CheneyBush in January of 2009 and the possibility of a new, more intelligent and nuanced Administration in Washington, we must all try to build up the momentum for peace in the Middle East. To do nothing, in the mode of the Bush Adminstration, is self-defeating, immoral, and can no longer be accepted as an option.#

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has written extensively on the Middle East condundrum; he has taught an universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers. To comment: crisispapers@comcast.net .

First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 3/11/08.

Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner.

Published in: on 03/11/2008 at 3:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The E.L.F.s are mad! Why aren’t we?

“Of Mommies and Daddies Who Just Don’t Give a Fuck”

By Jason Miller

Thomas Paine’s Corner

Sorry kids, but you’re just going to have to deal with the fact that we are greedy narcissists. We’re dyed in the wool consumers, we worship Mammon, and eliminating the cancer of capitalism is simply out of the question.

What’s that, our beloved sons and daughters? You’re worried that the air will be too polluted to breathe, the water too toxic to drink, the rain forests too sparse to act as the Earth’s lungs, and the resources too depleted to sustain you and the other sentient inhabitants of this planet? You don’t believe “clean” coal, biofuels, and nuclear power will sustain the exquisite industrial civilization we will bequeath you once we’ve siphoned off the last drop of oil and departed for the big suburb in the sky?

Unfortunately, you’ll just have to suck it up, shut up, and deal with it! George Bush 41 made it abundantly clear that our “American Way of life is non-negotiable.” We Americans don’t even negotiate with terrorists, so it would be idiocy to even consider the possibility that we would budge an inch for mere children! Culturally genocidal perpetuators of the horrors of factory farming like McDonald’s; mammoth, gas-guzzling personal tanks that keep the economy Humming; televisions with screens large enough to put AMC out of business; single family McMansions with sufficient square footage that one subdivision could solve the homeless problem in America; our dinosaur-sized carbon foot-prints; and the production of enough garbage to ensure that we have the means to fill that ugly void known as the Grand Canyon are indispensable aspects of our being.

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Published in: on 03/09/2008 at 9:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Better Buckle Up! — CheneyBush’s Final 10 Months

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

If anyone still harbors any illusions that the lame-duck CheneyBush Administration will taxi relatively harmlessly to its departure gate in January 2009, recent events suggest otherwise. It’s been made abundantly clear that in the next ten months, these guys are going to behave even more brutishly in amassing and misusing their power, and in screwing things up, than they’ve already done in the past seven-plus years.

In essence, the message emanating from the White House to the country can be summed up this way: “You want us? You come and get us. Otherwise, get out of our way! We’ve got a whole lot of unfinished business to complete.”

In foreign policy, we should expect CheneyBush to continue locking-in agreements with the Iraq government that will permit permanent stationing of troops and aircraft and missiles on that country’s soil, which in effect means a continuation of the war perhaps for decades — or, in the approving estimate of John McCain, for 50 or 100 years or more. (But you can bet that CheneyBush will withdraw some troops from Iraq, for partisan reasons, just prior to the election.) Then there’s the prospect they will bomb Iran’s military/scientific installations from the air, something Cheney and Bush and the other neo-cons, in and out of government, are salivating about.

In domestic policy, one can expect even more bad policy: placing a whole lot more incompetent ideologues into positions of administrative power and onto the courts, selling off more of America’s public lands for energy exploitation, giving more sweetheart deals to their contributors (such as the one the EPA just cut with big agriculture so they don’t have to report their factory-farm toxic-gas emissions), cutting more vital social and infrastructure programs as the economy continues to tank — thanks to Bush policies of spending upwards of three trillion dollars on the wars and associated costs), etc. etc. 

Consider just four examples from last week:

1. ENJOY YOUR “DOWNER” BURGERS

Americans were justifiably horrified when they saw recent hidden-camera footage on the nightly news of emaciated, scrabrous cows being dumped into the food supply that winds up as hamburger meat in schools and prisons and who knows where else. According to Department of Agriculture regulations, those so-called “downer” cattle (those too sick or weak to stand) are not permitted to be placed into the public food-supply chain, for fear of passing on “mad cow” or other horrific diseases.

Nearly 145,000 million pounds of such potentially tainted meat from the slaughterhouse in question had to be recalled, 37 million pounds of which already had been consumed in school lunches and other nutrition programs.

Good, the meat-processers in question were shamed and embarrassed. The government’s regulatory system was in place and all was well in the world. Right?

Wrong. CheneyBush and their GOP enablers in Congress are in hock up to their eyeballs to their corporate benefactors, and ideologically opposed in any case to the concept of regulating a free market. So, how did the Administration handle this black-eye episode?

Were the fines increased for meat-processors that skirt the rules? Their corporate owners shunned and contracts canceled? Nope.

Instead, last week, the CheneyBush Administration officially authorized the use of “downer” meat as fit for human consumption. A few more random inspections were ordered at meat-processing plants, but no systemic overhaul of the limited inspection protocols were devised to increase protection for the public. 

“So you caught us red-handed bowing to the meat-processing industry,” Bush&Co. seemed to be saying. “What are you going to do about it? Bugger off and get out of our face.”

2. WHO WATCHES THE WATCHERS?

The CheneyBush Administration is probably the most secretive in U.S. history. It doesn’t like anybody looking over its shoulder and knowing what it’s up to, mainly because so much of what it’s up to is either immoral, illegal or the result of massive corruption, often all three at the same time.

CheneyBush have been especially secretive about the many and various ways they’ve mangled and decimated the Constitution, especially in how the massive intelligence-gathering techniques available to it have been marshalled to data-mine and spy on American citizens. New technologies have enabled federal agents to secretly enter citizens’ computers, read their personal email, tap their telephones, etc., without those victimized ever knowing. Such privacy violations are done, of course, in the name of “fighting the war on terrorism.”

Just like authoritarian governments all over the globe, the CheneyBush regime keeps its illegal operations top-secret, and fights like the devil to keep them that way. One way they do this is to make sure nobody — no court, no congressional committee, and certainly not the public — is privy to their shadowy operations. To have total control of the inflow of information, they had to figure a way to avoid the post-Nixon law establishing the FISA Court as the one legal entity for oversight of all Executive requests for wiretapping and the like.

Even though the FISA court has been a virtual rubber-stamp for whatever Bush&Co. choose to do, CheneyBush don’t want to be compelled to seek official  “permission” to listen in on phone calls of American citizens. But they especially don’t want to admit that the President can be reined in by any other institution. And so, shortly after CheneyBush took office, but before 9/11, on their own order they had the NSA begin massive wiretapping and eavesdropping. After 9/11, they asserted an even greater desire to have all intelligence in their hands, always using the “national security” excuse, and, in effect, maneuvered the FISA court out of any meaningful say in their intel-mining programs.

But one final institutional outlet needed to be made toothless. It’s called the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), established in 1993, which had the power to question the legal authority of intel decisions made by the Administration. By executive order last week, it has been renamed (taking the word “foreign” out of its title) and its most important committee, the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB), was effectively stripped of its oversight responsibilities. Most notably removed was the requirement that abuses of executive power “shall be reported” to the Attorney General and that investigations can be carried out by the IOB to determine how bad the situation is. The IOB now merely reports to the Director of National Intelligence.

Here’s the sum-up, as explained by Daily Kos’ Sminthius: “The Bush administration is engaged in an epic struggle with Congress to keep its illegal domestic intelligence activities secret. That is what the battle over the FISA bill is all about. The last thing Bush, Cheney, and Addington would wish to do would be to leave the IOB in a position to start investigating or exposing that illegality — now, or in a future administration.”

What are CheneyBush hiding in their all-encompassing intel-mining of U.S. citizens? It could involve listening in on their political enemies, or it could be something huge in the works (an attack on Iran?) that they feel would require a nationwide clampdown on intel collection and dissemination. Stay tuned.

3. TRUE CONTEMPT OF CONGRESS

Another way of avoiding scrutiny and oversight is to ignore and neuter the other branches of government. Given how many HardRight judges they’ve appointed, CheneyBush more or less can count on getting their questionable actions approved by the appellate courts and even by the Supreme Court. In addition, they control the Department of Justice through the ideological toadies they appointed as Attorney General, most notably Alberto Gonzales and now Michael Mukasey.

Recently, the House voted to hold two key Administration figures (White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers) in contempt of Congress for their failure to honor a subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee requiring their testimony and relevant documents relating to the matter of the fired U.S. Attorneys. They were informed by the committee that they could assert a claim of “executive privilege” as a justification for not answering questions and not providing the documents, but they had to do that by appearing and making that claim in front of the committee. They were not simply free to ignore a lawful subpoena to appear. In short, nobody was above the law.

The committee gave the Administration all sorts of extended deadlines and opportunities to comply, but all they got back was silence from the White House. CheneyBush didn’t want their aides to appear and so they didn’t; for them to appear, in this twisted theory of governance, would be to acknowledge the validity of Congressional oversight and the separation of powers under which the U.S. has operated for more than 225 years.

Congress can not challenge the authority of the President, this White House reasoning essentially is: “We  will not submit to your requests or demands or subpoenas, so go stuff yourself.” (Of course, it’s easier to strike this tough-guy ‘tude when you know that the Democrats in charge of Congress have taken impeachment “off the table.”)

Eventually, the House leadership had had enough and Miers and Bolton were cited for contempt, which could earn them jail time. But the citation is meaningless unless it can be enforced and guess who is in charge of referring those contempt citations to a grand jury for possible indictments? Right, Michael Mukasey, CheneyBush’s handpicked lackey as Attorney General. And, sure enogh, Mukasey refused to refer.

Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer voted to confirm Mukasey because, they said, he promised to be an objective independent AG. It didn’t take long, as was demonstrated last week, to figure out that Mukasey, like Gonzales, is little more than a trained poodle willingly and energetically doing the White House bidding whenever called upon to protect Cheney and Bush from possible legal problems.

And, even if Muksasey had sent the contempt citations to the criminal court, the U.S. Attorney for the D.C. District, Jeffrey Taylor, would have to sign the request in order for criminal indictments to be delivered. Taylor is another made man, one of Bush&Co.’s handpicked U.S. Attorneys, and he’s made clear that he would not enforce Congress’ contempt citations against Administration officials.

4. YOU’VE GOT (NO) MAIL

Another way Bush&Co. hide what they’re really up to is to make sure there’s no evidence lying around. Rove and his minions, to keep their less savory projects secret, used both White House email addresses and Republican National Committee email addresses. The White House claims that several million of its requested emails have gone “missing. When Congress subpoenaed the tens of thousands of RNC emails to the White House, they were told that, glory be, those emails likewise had somehow “disappeared” and couldn’t be found. Angry Democratic chairmen said look again. The Republicans said they would try to restore computer backup tapes.

Many months have now gone by and last week, the RNC told Congress that it “has no intention of trying to restore the missing White House e-mails.” No explanation. That’s it. “Up yours. Whatya goin’ to do about it, suckers?”

Unless somehow the Democrats can bring more power to bear, the RNC move, writes Lambert at the Corrente blog, “increases the likelihood that an untold number of RNC e-mails dealing with official White House business during the first term of the Bush administration — including many sent or received by former presidential adviser Karl Rove — will never be recovered…”

Maybe the Democrats should ask Attorney General Mukasey to look into the likely destruction of email evidence pointing to illegal activity in the White House. That should take care of the matter.

FOLLOW THE POLITICS

The secrets of how and why CheneyBush fired those U.S. Attorneys and replaced them with their own loyalists will remain hidden away from public view, even though it’s clear to all what was going on. CheneyBush needed to get rid of independent-minded U.S. Attorneys and replace them with those who would do what they’re told, especially harassing and indicting Democrats on trumped-up “vote fraud” and other phony charges prior to the November election, and protecting corrupt officials and GOP dirty-tricks operatives working to suppress hundreds of thousands of minority voters from exercising their franchise in the November elections.

So shutting down Congress’ contempt citations is par for the course for this administration that makes sure that it is never held accountable for its reprehensible and often illegal actions. That’s the way autocrats rule.

House Speaker Pelosi said she’s now entertaining taking those contempt citations into civil court, thus bypassing the U.S. Attorney. We shall see.

Or, given the CheneyBush penchant for secrecy — aided and abetted by their enablers in Congress, the corporate mass-media, and the courts — maybe we won’t see. #

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers. To comment: crisispapers@comcast.net .

First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 3/4/08.

Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner.

Published in: on 03/04/2008 at 5:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bloviate this!

An Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly

By Jason Miller

Thomas Paine’s Corner

Dear Bill,

This is a note from an American radical.

We are few in number, but we do exist.

Time and again we’ve watched you bully your victims (or “guests” as you duplicitously refer to them) from your secure little perch high atop the food chain of craven and mendacious propagandists dutifully maintaining the pernicious lies that perpetuate the moral retardation and turpitude of this nation. You are a truly despicable human being. And by the way, Bill, characterizing you as a human being is a sign of our generosity and open-mindedness.

[As an aside, just what did Fox give you in exchange for your soul, Bill? Hopefully it was worth it because you are so deeply complicit in maintaining the mind fuck that enables your masters amongst the power elite to continue annihilating millions of sentient beings and destroying the planet via naked imperialism, neocolonialism, resource exploitation, factory farming, and a plethora of other evils.]

In an interview on “Sixty Minutes” within the last few years, you proclaimed yourself to be “working class.” Now that took some real balls to float such an obvious lie on a show with that many viewers. Actually, rather than displaying nerve, you were probably just being shrewd. As adept as you are at plying your craft as a professional prevaricator, you knew that many US Americans (who still believe in the magic kingdom of meritocracy and egalitarianism) would swallow that whopper hook, line and sinker. [If by some ridiculous chance you are making working class wages, you better tell Rupert or Roger you want to renegotiate your contract immediately!]

Being the avaricious and narcissistic careerist you are, you have clawed your way to the top of the dung heap of apologists for a system that is murdering the planet by “bravely” proclaiming your support of motherhood, apple pie, and the American Way. What most of your fans and viewers don’t realize (and perhaps you don’t even see it–though it is unlikely you are that unsophisticated) is that you are a Right Wing thug thriving in a Right Wing Nation where “liberal” mainstream politicians like Hillary Clinton would need to move several degrees left simply to make it to dead center.

It’s all so easy when you’ve got the backing of deep-pocketed corporate sponsors, isn’t it Bill? And how can you lose when you consistently shoot fish in a barrel by skewering mealy-mouthed liberal proponents of “fixing our system” (rather than flushing it down the sewer where it belongs)? To the indoctrinated masses you look like a hero when you beat such “threats to the American way of life” into the ground with your jejune tirades and then proudly proclaim that you “aired an opposing viewpoint.”

But not all of us on the Left in the US are so passive, mild, and impotent. Some of us are radicals in the sense that we get to the root of the matter. We recognize that the status quo, including capitalism, hyper-industrialism, militarism, environmental rape, corporatism, imperialism, and a host of other ills you defend so vociferously, is a piece of shit that needs to go, much like you.

We don’t give a fuck about being PC. We’d just as soon kick you in the balls, tell you to fuck off, and stick your microphone up your ass as to attempt to engage you in an intellectually honest debate (of which you are incapable anyway). Which is why you would embarrass yourself in a profound way if you debated a radical in a neutral venue.

You see, Bill, as small in number as we may be, there is a true Left in the United States. It appears that you either don’t know we exist or, quite conveniently, neglect to acknowledge our presence.

We aren’t latte-sipping pacifists who drive Volvos and “abhor guns and violence.” Some of us believe in the Second Amendment as fervently as reactionary libertarians from Texas. And we’re locked, loaded, and ready to exercise our right of defense by any means necessary, just as they are.

We see you for the wretched creature that you are. To us it is obvious that you and your ilk are the ones who belong in the American gulag of the prison industrial complex. Your work has figuratively fucked millions upon millions up the ass; it’s time you were on the receiving end of some of that action.

While we recognize that in the “land of the free” the alternative to at least ostensibly playing by the rules of the system is to sleep under a bridge or dwell in a cell, we refuse to fully dedicate ourselves to the depravity of the American Way. History has repeatedly demonstrated that revolutions will occur when conditions warrant it. Given the intrinsically oppressive nature of American capitalism, it is only a matter of time before such conditions arise. And when they do, people pursuing true democracy in America will be prepared to act.

We understand that many who engage in the banal evils of perpetuating the American Empire do so out of ignorance or coercion. They are the ones we move to awaken from the false consciousness fogging their minds.

We know that cynical, conscious promoters and beneficiaries of globicide like you are beyond reclamation and will ultimately be swept away by the forces of truth and justice you work so hard to suppress.

In short, we are friends to the working class and enemies of the ruling elite you serve with such enthusiasm.

We have a very weak hand, for now, and we play it accordingly. As long as Keynesianism, chewing gum, and bailing wire hold things together enough to shelter many US Americans from suffering too much economic pain, we know that scum like you will continue to prosper in this Right Wing Nation of rabid “free market” proponents who have been brain-washed to act against their own interests to preserve the “rights” of you and your ilk to continue raping the planet.

However, as powerful as you are, not even you and your opulent masters can maintain an irrational, unstable, and malevolent socioeconomic structure indefinitely. But it’s obvious you’re going to enjoy the ride all the way to the bottom.

Meanwhile, those of us struggling to forge a humane civilization will strive to mitigate the damage inflicted by the savage war you and your ilk are waging upon the Earth and its sentient beings.

Glad to meet you, Bill O’Reilly. Now go fuck yourself…..

Sincerely,

Jason

Jason Miller is a recovering US American middle class suburbanite who strives to remain intellectually free. He is Cyrano’s Journal Online’s associate editor (http://www.bestcyrano.org/) and publishes Thomas Paine’s Corner within Cyrano’s at http://www.bestcyrano.org/THOMASPAINE/. You can reach him at JMiller@bestcyrano.com

Published in: on 02/22/2008 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Beyond CheneyBush: A Realistic (Cynical?) View of Change

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

Here’s a brief survey of where we are now in the Election 2008 cycle, which might help progressives figure out where we want to go and maybe even what the post-CheneyBush future might look like. Four quick observations:

1. Let’s assume, at least for the sake of argument, that the November election proceeds without attempts at intervention or “postponement” by CheneyBush, and that it is a reasonably honest one, with a minimum of electoral fraud involved. (Certainly, what we’ve witnessed in the primaries should make us all nervous: a hundred thousand votes not counted in Los Angeles, unsecured ballot boxes left overnight in poll workers’ homes in New Mexico, votes not being recorded or going to other candidates on touchscreen voting machines in New Hampshire, etc. etc.)

The election campaign from now until November no doubt will be a mighty dirty one, initiated by Rove and his GOP and swiftboating minions. It will include the usual ploy of illegally suppressing the Democratic vote by knocking off the election rolls as many as hundreds of thousands of legitimately registered citizens. Democratic registration drives will be harrassed by White House-friendly U.S. attorneys charging Dems with “fraud” right before the election. And much more such attempts to manipulate the vote. It’s possible that American public might be even more turned off by such obvious tactics, which would harm the Republican candidate.

And, if CheneyBush launch a pre-election air attack on Iran’s military and nuclear-lab facilities, which they are itching to do, this also might backfire on the GOP candidate. My own guess is that such an attack, if the reluctant Pentagon brass is not able to prevent it, would come either very soon or between November and when the new president takes over in late-January. (Loosing the dogs of war after the election would avoid a potential negative backlash by voters alarmed that Republicans would be taking the U.S. into yet another interminable Middle East war.)

2. GOP ALREADY LOOKING TO 2012?

Unless something extraordinary happens between now and November, it would seem that John McCain will be the GOP nominee. The only things up in the air are: who McCain will nominate as his running mate (Huckabee?), and how many HardRight conservatives will sit on their hands or vote for a third-party candidate rather than vote for McCain. Even with Romney and Bush#41 giving their imprimature, McCain still isn’t trusted as a true conservative by the extremist wing of the party.)

One can reasonably presume that a goodly number of Republican leaders, seeing the handwriting on the wall that the Democrats are a shoo-in in November, privately realize that 2008 is a lost cause and have started working for 2112. In a sense, it’s a re-run of the 1964 race: The GOP knew that it was going to lose big by nominating Goldwater, but the rightwing used that huge defeat as the starting point and fuel for building the new engine of HardRight conservatism. Rightwing billionaires like Scaife, Coors, Otis, the Koch Brothers, et. al, founded think tanks, published books, bought up cable networks and radio talk shows, employed scores of rightwing pundits, trained college students in conservative Republican activism, etc. etc. But that 16-year infrastructure-building effort paid off big in 1980 when Ronald Reagan took office.

3. CLINTON V. OBAMA

There is no certainty at this point in the Democratic camp. Clinton seems to have had no Plan B beyond the February 5 SuperDuper primaries, which she and her advisers mistakenly assumed would result in her “inevitable” nomination. The result was a number of tactical errors, including not competing in a number of smaller-states’ primaries and caucuses, which did her campaign great damage. Now she’s playing catch-up big time — dumping her campaign manager in the process — and banking that the big-state delegates in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania will take her over the top.

If that happens, she may pull even with Obama and count on the superdelegates, mainly more status quo-oriented office-holders, to push her into the nomination.

But Obama’s momentum is so huge now — as I write this, he’s won eight in a row — that he may be unstoppable.

The danger for the Democrats is that Clinton and Obama, desperate for victory, will savage each other in such ways as to provide an enormous amount of political ammunition for McCain and the Republicans in both the presidential and congressional contests.

4. DEALING WITH THE CHENEYBUSH MESS

4. Supposing that either Clinton or Obama beats McCain handily in November, what might a Democratic administration look like and how much of the CheneyBush disaster could be reversed?

I think it’s safe to say that whomever gets into power would be inheriting a huge, tangled mess, one of the worst in American political history. Part of that mess derives from the near-total ineptitude of the current Administration, but much of it is planned chaos designed to mess up the social/political/economic system so badly as to hamstring the incoming president from being able to do much corrective or creative restoration of good government. The GOP hope is that the public will then take out their frustrations on the Democrats in power rather than on those who originally created the gawdawful situation domestically and in Iraq and probably Iran as well.

How many times must a sorely tempted Al Gore have asked himself: “Even if I could win the presidency in 2008, would I want it? Or is it better for me to sit this one out — look and sound ‘presidential’ but not have to deal with any of the catastrophe left by Cheney and Bush with which no Democratic president, no matter how decent and inventive, probably can deal effectively?” Perhaps this is why Gore said no thanks.

Maybe Kucinich, or maybe even Edwards, if one of them were to have ascended to the White House, could have turned the CheneyBush policies on their heads, and really made a significant contribution to getting America back on track. But it would seem overly optimistic to think that Clinton (despite her reputed toughness) or Obama (despite all his rhetoric about unspecified “change”) would be able, even if willing, to do much more than get the garbage-cleaning process started.

DIALING BACK OUR EXPECTATIONS

Yes, of course either Obama or Clinton is preferable when measured against McCain, and each would be willing to change significant things around the edges. But Obama and Clinton are centrist Democrats who are beholden to many of the same corporatist forces that pull the strings in Washington and have done so for decades.

Those who think the two contenders for the Democratic nomination would push for, and fight for, truly progressive legislation in the areas of universal health care, a major shift in American imperial policy abroad, immigration reform, globalization, public financing of elections, making elections transparent and honest once again, and so on, are likely to be disappointed.

Better to go into 2009 without wearing our usual rose-colored glasses.

A POSSIBILITY FOR REAL CHANGE

I’d be overjoyed to be proven wrong by a Democratic president and Congress willing to take the bold progressive moves that the country so desperately needs and, in many ways, wants. If the Democrats were to capture unstoppable majorities in both houses of Congress, along with the presidency, that might even be possible.

And it could happen: In 1932, FDR was believed to be, and campaigned as, a conservative. Events made him a social-action liberal. Roosevelt was a canny politican, who knew how the system required the right sort of practical-politics manipulation. He once told a liberal leader in essence: “I completely agree with you. Now go back and force me to do what we both want me to do.”

Though it’s not unusual for a political campaigner to jettison his promise-them-anything rhetoric once in office, who knows what might happen if Obama were to be elected? He might find that he’s so inculcated the messages of “hope” and “change” that he won’t be able to retreat. He might possibly turn out to be the very agent for significant change in politics he’s been playing on TV. Stranger things have happened.

But I suspect that lowering one’s expectations, at least for the first four post-CheneyBush years, is the more realistic approach that will be required. The mess they’ve left for their successors is simply so FUBAR that it probably would take a decade or more to undo just the top layers of damage.

OPPORTUNITIES AND SINKHOLES

Of course, all of us must work our asses off in trying to do more that just settle for what we can get. After eight years of CheneyBush, there are opportunies there for strong, positive leadership as well as plenty of sinkholes of inevitable despair.

So, what we’re talking about here is to use the next four years to govern aggressively, yes. But also to educate and train and work for increasing the power and backbone of ordinary citizens and progressive/liberal candidates and office-holders. In addition, wealthy Democratic individuals must step forward to support and help establish the progressive superstructure of honest media, more liberal think tanks, grassroots activist training, solvent internet bloggers, and so on, to help the “restoration” take root and grow. All this will take infinite patience and unflinching determination.

If we had forgotten before CheneyBush, we’ve been sorely reminded (by their immoral war, moral and financial corruption, and desecration of the Constitution) that democracy has to be worked on day by day, fought for day by day, lest our apathy and acquiescence create an avenue for HardRightists to return to power, which could mean leading this country into even more domestic and foreign-policy disasters.

Politics is indeed a contact sport, and, without ceding the moral high ground by crass imitation of our ideological enemies, we’d better learn how to sharpen our elbows and get in there and play it. #

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers website. To comment: crisispapers@comcast. net .

First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 2/19/08.

Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner.

Published in: on 02/19/2008 at 4:17 pm  Comments (1)  

“Shallow Throat” Sizes Up the Dem/GOP Candidates

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

I received the coded message from “Shallow Throat” — the high-ranking GOP mole in the Bush Administration — and quickly arranged a Bethesda meeting at the place I was housesitting.

ST didn’t even wait to sit down on the sofa before starting the vent: “Everytime I think you and your Democrat friends have some smarts, and are showing some moxie that might lead to a turnaround in public policy, you screw it up.

“You guys fell right into Karl Rove’s trap,” said ST, taking off the new wig and wraparound shades. “The public is ready for a MAJOR political shift. You had a chance to nominate someone who would represent a real difference between Bush and his manipulators, but you sent Kucinich and even Edwards packing. Now the two left in the race are centrist Dems — with potentially huge negative numbers — who are beholden to the same corporate/lobbying interests that stand behind Bush and Cheney and McCain and Romney. In short, the powers-that-be can’t lose no matter which party gets into the White House. Not much will really change.”

(more…)

Published in: on 02/06/2008 at 2:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Sputtering But Still Dangerous CheneyBush Juggernaut

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

It’s the usual M.O. from CheneyBush. They still act and speak as if nothing has changed politically from when they first fired up their juggernaut nearly eight years ago.

Ignoring the irony, for example, they’ve appointed Paul Wolfowitz — the always-wrong neo-con architect of Iraq war policy — chair of the State Department’s arms control and disarmament panel. They continue to nominate incompetent ideologues for high posts. They have re-vetoed the popular SCHIP bill that would expand health care to poor children. They are talking about putting U.S. forces into Pakistan and are still issuing bellicose warnings about a possible attack on Iran. They are not cooperating fully, or sometimes even at all, with Congressional investigations of their scandals. They are opening up more of the fragile Alaska wilderness and waters to logging and oil exploration. They pretend to do something, but in reality do little or nothing, about such running sores as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, global warming, affordable health-care; etc. etc.

CheneyBush remind me of huge rampaging monsters, countless arrows sticking out of their bleeding wounds but still able to thrash about and wreak great damage. They’re lame ducks, weakened politically but angry, highly motivated and out for revenge and vindication.

Because CheneyBush are still operating in their old style — the reckless, arrogant style that has made Bush the worst president in Amerian history (with Cheney even more disliked than Bush) — the public is ready, and has been ready for several years now, to cut them loose, along with the Republican Party.

It seems pretty clear that the damaged-by-association GOP will fare badly in Senate and House races in November, giving the Democrats an even bigger majority, probably enough to prevent Republican filibusters. (Question: But how many of those Democrats will be genuine liberals/progressives and how many will be from the centrist-rightwing of the party, willing to join the GOP conservatives on key votes?)

THE PROGRESSIVES’ CHOICE IN NOVEMBER

It would seem apparent that the fired-up Democrats should be able to take the White House as well, but since the party system in this country is so loose, many voters tend to base their presidential choice separately, upon their need for a leader who makes them feel comfortable and secure. Short version: This means that the Democrats don’t have a lock on re-taking the presidency in November.

It comes down to whom the parties nominate, and how the campaigns are run. Luckily, any of the three viable Democratic contenders would make a decent, perhaps even good, president. None of the leading Republicans give one any hope in that regard. But going against Romney or McCain is not going to be a walk in the park.

Rove&Co. (which includes most of the major corporate media) are salivating at the prospect of having a full-bore go at Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama, with their swiftboating forces ready to crank up the old dirty-politics smear machine that worked so well for them in taking care of Kerry and Gore. Plus, the Democrats are, in their race toward the nomination, providing even more political ammunition for the GOP in their attacks on each other.

Assuming that either Clinton or Obama is the Democratic nominee — i.e., a candidate from the centrist-right, beholden to the usual plutocratic forces — how should the progressive base of the party respond? Offer unqualified support to whomever the Democrats nominate? Sit out the election because not all that much will change if Clinton or Obama, or even Edwards, gets into office? Join the Greens or another third-party? Hold one’s nose and support the Dem nominee as a small, incremental move toward good government, the best one might hope for in a non-progressive era?

William Rivers Pitt, one of the best progressive writers on the internet, takes the long view, opting for the last-named solution:

One election won’t change anything, but ten might, and there is no reason or impediment blocking dedicated Americans from keeping their shoulders to the political activism wheel long enough to roll that rock up the hill. … Change is not going to come, and has already come, and may yet come. This is what makes the 2008 presidential election an absurdity, and an opportunity, and a fait accompli all at once. It is what it is.

As for me, I’m working for Edwards as long as he’s in the race, as the most progressive viable alternative among the Democrats. I’m waiting to see how primary voters treat the three Dem contenders; and then I’ll make up my mind about how to vote in November after seeing the Republican ticket and deciding if the policy differences between the two parties justifies yet another vote for a Democrat in November. I know I’m not alone in this attitude. This seems to be what the objective conditions are telling us in 2008.

HOW WE GOT TO THIS PLACE

It might be appropriate here to recall how we got to this place as CheneyBush enter the final year of their White House tenure. To appreciate the answer — that they’ve always operated on the principle that a spread-’em-wide offense is the best defense — it thus might be helpful to remember the historical context. So, here goes:

Other countries wind up under the heel of authoritarian rulers, but it happens often enough in those nations and regions that they know what to expect and sometimes how to oppose or otherwise get around the worst policies of those harsh governments. When authoritarians take over in so-called “civilized” countries, the citizens, raised on democratic traditions and trained to behave civily, often are bereft of effective strategies for dealing with get-out-of-our-way-or-else leaders who play by their own rules.

Take Germany in the 1930s, for example. Even though Hitler had written a book outlining his extremist philosophy, few paid attention to that little creep and his bullyboy followers. When he assumed the reins of power, Hitler slowly begin slicing away at freedoms, starting with the most vulnerable, marginal elements in society — those with mental and physical defects, Communists, Jews, trade union leaders, et al. Since so few objected to the maltreatment of these weak groups, he set out after bigger game, including religious leaders and political opponents. In addition, Hitler, a megalomaniac, began unnecessarily attacking neighboring countries, both for imperial conquest and to rally the population to his side during wartime.

Huge segments of the German population, hungry for decisive leadership during a time of uncertainty and chaos, and easily bamboozled by the regime’s propaganda ministry that had control of all means of mass-media, fell into line behind Hitler and his Nazi party. Other segments of the citizenry came to be aware that the Fuhrer’s policies likely would result in taking the country down the road to catastrophic ruin, but they hadn’t organized early enough to be effective. By that time they were starting to think in oppositional terms, they had few ways to fight the fascist dictatorship under which they lived, and many soon found themselves in Hitler’s concentration camps and crematoria.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that CheneyBush’s America is Hitler’s Germany. But wise citizens try to learn from history to avoid making similar mistakes that could turn out disastrously.

“COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVES” — NOT

Unlike Hitler, neither Bush nor Cheney let the American public know what they planned to do if they got their hands on the levers of power. They disguised themselves as “compassionate conservatives” — remember that handy little term? — during the 2000 election. Bush talked of the “humble” foreign policy he would initiate, and said that “nation-building” would not be part of American behavior abroad. He spoke of their devotion to “small government” and to “protecting” citizens’ rights from a Big Brother federal behemoth.

Then, even though Bush had lost the popular vote and with ballots still out there needing re-counting, they were installed into the White House by a conservative majority on the Supeme Court and began working behind the scenes to carry out their real agenda. At the very first Cabinet meetings, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill later told us, Cheney and Bush and Rumsfeld were discussing plans for attacking Iraq, a country that was incapable of, and uninterested in, doing physical harm to the United States. In addition, also long before the horrific events of 9/11, CheneyBush were authorizing widespread domestic spying on U.S. citizens.

If a Democrat or a traditional Republican had been placed in power by similar circumstances, that leader would have realized how divided the country was and would have treaded lightly, trying to finesse their agenda through Congress in a bipartisan way. But the philosophy behind the CheneyBush approach, as devised by political guru Karl Rove, was that it didn’t matter how they got into power or how close the election was. The point, Rove indicated, was that as long as they had control of the reins of power and had a majority of one, they should behave as if they had a “mandate” to rule as they saw fit.

The corollary, and this is where it gets interesting, was that they should act ruthlessly toward their political opponents. Instead of seeking bipartisan cooperation, they would play smash-mouth, take-no-prisoners politics, the aim being to marginalize or, if possible, destroy the Democrats as a viable opposition and create the conditions for several generations of one-party Republican rule.

THE “OPPORTUNITY” OFFERRED BY 9/11

And then came 9/11. Neoconservatives had salivated at the prospect of a “new Pearl Harbor” (page 51) as a cover for their political revolution, and now it had arrived. CheneyBush had been forewarned in advance by numerous countries’ leaders that a “spectacular” attack was coming from al-Qaida, probably by air and aimed at American icon targets, but the Administration chose to do nothing. Afterwards, they talked to their colleagues about taking advantage of the new “opportunity” (to use Condi Rice’s term at the time) that 9/11 offerred to push their agenda. “9/11” became the umbrella excuse that we citizens were told justified every controversial Administration action.

The Democrats, already fairly weak, disorganized and indecisive, never knew what hit them. They thought that the new Administration would behave in the time-tested Washington way of traditional give-and-take, compromising, small-step governance. They had no idea how to combat an Administration that wanted all power in its hands, and would lie and cheat and steal their way to get what they wanted. The Republicans in Congress, so happy to be in the majority, with all the perqs that go with that lofty position, blindly supported Cheney and Bush, even when the White House was turning Congress into an irrelevancy.

Internationally, CheneyBush’s control of the government meant being eager and willing to use their lone-superpower might to attack potential foes with so-called “pre-emptive” wars. Since there was no other superpower to oppose them, they figured it would be easy to take what they could get, re-order the world in America’s imperial image and to meet America’s needs, and slap down anybody else, even traditional allies and international organizations, that got in their way. Hence, ignoring the United Nations, some of their key friends abroad, and the ten million protesters marching in the streets, CheneyBushRumsfeld launched their unprovoked invasion and disastrous occupation of Iraq.

Domestically, CheneyBush’s governing philosophy required that all police and intelligence power move into the hands of the president, the “unitary executive”: secret courts, torture prisons, black bag jobs, sneak-and-peek invasions of citizens’ privacy, invasions of their computers and emails and telephone calls, and so on — all were part of this obsession with full control. The courts would be packed with far-right Federalist Society judges; Congress, at best, would be consulted but would have no power to stop White House actions.

And, if by chance Congress passed a law CheneyBush didn’t like, Bush issued “Signing Statements” that said he wouldn’t enforce parts of the law he didn’tlike. If Congress subpoenaed his aides for testimony or documents, Bush refused to comply.

NO “PLAN B” FOR IRAQ

But something happened in Iraq that CheneyBushRumsfeldRove hadn’t counted on. The invasion/occupation of that country had been devised in the ivory towers of neocon think tanks, and was based on lies and misconceptions; when harsh reality popped up, the Administration, in denial and still locked into fantasy, had no idea what to do. They hadn’t anticipated a full-scale nationalist-Iraqi rebellion to their incompetent, imperial rule, and had no Plan B to counter it. For four years, CheneyBushRumsfeld were locked in ideological quicksand, while Iraq spun out of control and into a bloody civil/religioius war; tens of thousands of American troops were dead or badly wounded, with close to one million innocent Iraqi casualties.

CheneyBush were better off domestically, since, for the most part, the mass-media were in their corner, eschewing investigatory journalism and presenting Administration spin as truth. And, best of all, the population had been so frightened by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks soon afterwards, that they were agreeable to giving the Administration whatever it said it needed to fight its self-proclaimed “war on terror.” As it turned out, this blanket request included the Constitution, which CheneyBush proceeded to shred to pieces.

For six years, the Democrats, effectively neutered in Congress, were little more than political eunuchs. All Rove&Co. had to do was call them “soft on terrorism,” or “supporting the terrorists,” or “offering aid and comfort to the enemy,” and the timid Dems would back off, lie back, and be rolled over yet again.

The future didn’t look good for the Democrats or for democracy itself. There was no opposition party to speak of, and thus no effective oversight of the worst of Administration policies; the Dems even took the one real political weapon they had, impeachment, and placed it “off the table.” With no opposition party to speak of, the Republicans simply did whatever they wanted and never had to worry about possible penalties for their overreaching, misbehavior, corruption, foreign-policy disasters, destruction of Constitutional protections, etc.

TURNING THE TABLES

You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but, as the saying goes, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. It took six years, but the American citizenry — often led by traditional conservatives, including many high-ranking military officers — finally turned on the Bush Administration and, in the midterm congressional election of 2006, swept the corrupt, incompetent and pro-war Republicans out of majority control.

The disaster that was Iraq, the fading economy, the over-reaching for more and more centralized power by CheneyBush, the trillions spent on misadventures abroad, the failing infrastructure around the country, the ruining of the environment, the denigration of science, the downplaying of global warming — all these, and more, led Americans to want, and expect, something different from the new Democratic majority.

It turns out that our expectations were too high. The numerical majority was not quite enough for the Democrats to get much legislation passed, and the Republicans — even staring at major defeats in the upcoming ’08 election — remained allied with CheneyBush and filibustered most liberal legislation. And so the Democrats, under Reid and Pelosi, crawled back into their timid mode, forgetting that Bush’s approval numbers certify him as one of the least popular presidents in history.

The old GOP pattern repeated itself: smear your opponents as “weak on national security,” and as aiding the forces of terrorism by calling for withdrawal from Iraq. Indeed, the major contenders for the Republican nomination are throwbacks to the failed policies of the CheneyBush Administration, as if they’re running in the 2004 race, not the one in 2008. Which is why the Democrats are wrapping themselves in the “change” flag.

The political situation has indeed changed. If the Democrats and we the people acknowledge that fact and commit to united, progressive activism to turn our country around, it might be possible to effect the kind of major change that is required.

It won’t come easy, and it won’t happen overnight. The fight never is easy when wounded beasts are cornered. But, if we love our country and the unique system of government that has been so distorted by the current squatters in the White House, we can do no less than to give it our all. #

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (). To comment: crisispapers@comcast.net .

First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 1/29/08.

Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner.

Published in: on 01/29/2008 at 5:37 pm  Leave a Comment