Thursday :: Jun 1, 2006

Is The US Merely A Barrel Of Bad Apples?

by pessimist

Not too long ago, there was a fair amount of press coverage concerning a rumored Bush project intended to establish his historical legacy. Chris Floyd thinks that the media missed the real story:

The Line of Atrocity: From the White House to Haditha

Like Abu Ghraib, Haditha is not an aberration by a few "bad apples" but the emblem of a wider, systemic crime, the natural fruit of an outlaw regime that has made aggressive war, torture, indefinite detention, "extrajudicial killing," rendition and concentration camps official national policy.
This moral rot is Bush's true historical legacy.

Floyd has company. Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, says Bush in his wartime capacity as commander in chief is a danger to the constitution:

[T]he constitution is an intricate mechanism of checks and balances that creates constant accountability. The question at the heart of Bush's politics is whether that can be indefinitely suspended and the constitution radically revised.

But the Constitution is only a piece of paper! Just Ask Alberto!

Musmanno sent this to me with no link or attribution for this excerpt (hint, hint!):

When Alberto Gonzales was asked over the weekend on ABC's This Week whether journalists might be prosecuted for publishing information leaked to them about the NSA scandal, Gonzales indicated that under the Espionage Act of 1917 this "would seem to be a possibility." Gonzales then went on to pay lip service to the first amendment, saying he respected the role of the press, as well as the first amendment. He then added his unsettling comment:

"...but it can't be the case that [the right under the First Amendment] trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity."

Yes, Mr. Gonzales, actually it can be the case. And it is. The Constitution, of which the First Amendment is a part, is the Supreme Law of the Land. It trumps the desire of the federal government to do what they want in going after criminals. It also trumps legislation like the Espionage Act of 1917. Of course, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity doesn't always conflict with the Constitution, but when the two ARE in conflict, guess what? The Constitution wins.

As an attorney (indeed as the highest government attorney in the land), Mr. Gonzales ought to know better.

He probably does, and that makes the comment even more unsettling.

I agree fully! If only we still had in this land a real investigative reporting media:

Media: Lapdogs, not watchdogs

Former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card once advanced the once-novel idea that journalists “don’t represent the public any more than other people do. In our democracy, the people who represent the public stood for election. I don’t believe [journalists] have a check-and-balance function.”

What’s worse is that more and more journalists, often modulated by their corporate keepers, have joined in subscribing to this peculiar, ahistorical, aconstitutional and thoroughly antidemocratic point of view.

But then, those we task with maintaining the law seem to have forgotten - just as our media has - what their job entails:

[S]tate courts are not bound by U.S. Supreme Court precedents.

Justice Tom Parker, who is running for chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court, argues that state judges should refuse to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedents they believe to be erroneous. Three other GOP candidates in Tuesday's primary have made nearly identical arguments.

John Carroll, a former federal magistrate who is now dean of the law school at Samford University in suburban Birmingham, called Parker's position 'absolutely wrong and without any basis'.

"This view would create absolute anarchy.
If this became the practice ... we would not have any law,"
Carroll said.

Who cares about the law!

Don't the Radical Republican Religious who think only they are America answer to a Higher Power?

Michelle Goldberg's Gone To the MegaChurch - and She Found Christian Nationalism There

[T]here is a very conservative school of Constitutional interpretation which is actually adhered to, I think, by a lot of Bush’s judicial appointees, which essentially holds the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to the states.
They’ll say what is to stop each state from declaring themselves to be a Christian state?
The Congress was going to have the first-ever Hindu priest give an invocation. The Family Research Council issued a really angry statement, which says: "While it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our nation’s heritage. Our founders expected that Christianity and no other religion would receive support from the government, as long as that support did not violate people's consciences and their right to worship. They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference." That’s from the Family Research Council, which is a spin-off of Focus on the Family.

One of the crucial figures in spreading this kind of Christian revisionist history is a figure named >David Barton, who’s actually the Vice Chairman of the Texas Republican Party, which I think shows you how much this ideology - which has departed so far from rationality or scholarship - is rooted and intertwined now with the Republican Party.

There are a lot of people who have the same backgrounds that are in the federal bureaucracy. I think it’s often very hard for people who don’t do this for a living, or pay attention to politics, to understand the influence that somebody who’s relatively obscure, on a relatively obscure subcommittee, can have on their actual day-to-day lives.
One of the things Hannah Arendt talks about is the way totalitarian movements construct an entire parallel reality and then insist that that reality be substituted for the actual reality.

You see this with everything from what’s going on in the science class, to the construction of foreign policy, to the promotion of abstinence education to the kind of fictitious numbers that are given for the Bush tax cuts. It’s something quite new in American politics – this idea almost of radical relativism – the idea that truth is determined by the person who has the power to impose it.

There is at least one person trying to educate us about this threat to real freedom and liberty:

May 31, 2006

He's been a critic of U.S. foreign policy for decades, but Noam Chomsky has now taken off the gloves. A story in the British paper The Independent prints excerpts from his latest book, Failed States, in an attempt to explore the linguistics professor's political insights.

In "Why It’s Over for American," the MIT professor ticks off the distinctive signs that the United States has lost its vision and deteriorated into the same sort of empire-building oligarchy as befell its predecessors in Europe and Asia, and faces the same downfall.

* An inability to protect its citizens.
* The belief that it is above the law.
* A lack of democracy.

"Three defining characteristics of the 'failed state,'" he declares, noting that these are characteristics of the government, not the population, which "not surprisingly, does not agree."

Certainly The Washington Post doesn't agree with Chomsky's assessment, and goes on to do its Bu$hCo lapdog thing of personally slamming Chomsky (while ignoring what information he presents!), saying "his critics find his pronouncements detached from reality."

I think you readers are smart enough to make that assessment for yourselves. I'll only quote certain excerpts, but Chomsky's entire essay is posted here, and here for your perusal:

Noam Chomsky: Why it's over for America
[A]s Gar Alperowitz puts it in America Beyond Capitalism, "the American 'system' as a whole is in real trouble - that it is heading in a direction that spells the end of its historic values [of] equality, liberty, and meaningful democracy."

No one familiar with history should be surprised that the growing democratic deficit in the United States is accompanied by declaration of messianic missions to bring democracy to a suffering world. Declarations of noble intent by systems of power are rarely complete fabrication, and the same is true in this case. Under some conditions, forms of democracy are indeed acceptable.

[D]emocracy is acceptable if and only if it is consistent with strategic and economic interests (Thomas Carothers).
The basic dilemma facing policymakers is sometimes candidly recognized at the dovish liberal extreme of the spectrum, for example, by Robert Pastor, President Carter's national security adviser for Latin America. He explained why the administration had to support the murderous and corrupt Somoza regime in Nicaragua, and, when that proved impossible, to try at least to maintain the US-trained National Guard even as it was massacring the population "with a brutality a nation usually reserves for its enemy," killing some 40,000 people.
The reason was the familiar one: "The United States did not want to control Nicaragua or the other nations of the region, but it also did not want developments to get out of control. It wanted Nicaraguans to act independently, except when doing so would affect US interests adversely."
Similar dilemmas faced Bush administration planners after their invasion of Iraq. They want Iraqis "to act independently, except when doing so would affect US interests adversely." Iraq must therefore be sovereign and democratic, but within limits. It must somehow be constructed as an obedient client state, much in the manner of the traditional order in Central America.

In modified form, the doctrine holds at home as well. The [domestic] "system" is coming to have some of the features of failed states, to adopt a currently fashionable notion that is conventionally applied to states regarded as potential threats to our security (like Iraq) or as needing our intervention to rescue the population from severe internal threats (like Haiti). Though the concept is recognized to be, according to the journal Foreign Affairs, "frustratingly imprecise," some of the primary characteristics of failed states can be identified.

One is their inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction.

Another is their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, and hence free to carry out aggression and violence.

And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from a serious "democratic deficit" that deprives their formal democratic institutions of real substance.

Though it is natural for doctrinal systems to seek to induce pessimism, hopelessness, and despair, reality is different. Opportunities for education and organizing abound. [T]he tasks require dedicated day-by-day engagement to create - in part recreate - the basis for a functioning democratic culture in which the public plays some role in determining policies, not only in the political arena (from which it is largely excluded), but also in the crucial economic arena (from which it is excluded in principle).
There has been substantial progress in the unending quest for justice and freedom in recent years, leaving a legacy that can be carried forward from a higher plane than before. As in the past, rights are not likely to be granted by benevolent authorities, or won by intermittent actions - attending a few demonstrations or pushing a lever in the personalized quadrennial extravaganzas that are depicted as "democratic politics."
There are many ways to promote democracy at home, carrying it to new dimensions.

Opportunities are ample,
and failure to grasp them is likely to have ominous repercussions:
for the country, for the world, and for future generations.

Ah! If only we still had patriots populating this nation - as we once did back in 1775! We then might again fire a shot to be heard 'round the world!

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