Current Events For Dummies, May 2005 Edition
Current Events For Dummies, May 2005 Edition
By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers
Politics is so confusing these days, with all sorts of charges, scandals, distortions, nominees, wars, distractions. To help me out of this current-events muddle, I once again turn to the editors of the popular franchised book series, for short easy-to-understand answers.*
Q. I don't get it. The government makes it harder for individuals to file for bankruptcy, but United Airlines is permitted to declare bankruptcy and to refuse promised pensions to its employees. Isn't that a bit hypocritical?
A. The Bush Administration is not hypocritical. It has been very open about its priorities, and they don't include ordinary workers. Everything is geared to protecting big business and those already wealthy, such as in the huge tax breaks and refunds granted to that narrow strata of society. Those who complain are accused of "class warfare." (Note: It's only "class warfare" if liberals talk about it; conservatives don't talk about it, they just wage it.)
Better face up to it: Until Bush&Co. are sent packing -- either by impeachment or when another party takes control in 2008 -- there will be no hope of economic justice in this country. If you're unable to pay your credit card bill, be prepared to face jail-time; if you don't pay your employees their pensions, you're a savvy businessman and you'll get federal assistance.
By the way, if it's a clear example of Bush hypocrisy you're wanting, check out his firm support for the brutal government of Uzbekistan's Karimov. Bush talks big about expanding freedom and democracy all around the globe, but because the Uzbek strongman is our guy in the Caucuses -- he's helpful with oil, and the U.S. sends him terrorist suspects to torture -- the Administration puts him on its good-guys list. (Note: Karimov has few scruples; he's even had recalcitrant prisoners boiled to death.)
"FIXING" INTELLIGENCE AROUND POLICY
Q. Blair and Bush made a secret deal in mid-2002 to attack Iraq the following year and to use the interim period in which to "fix" the "intelligence and facts" around that policy; the secret memo surfaced in early-May in the Times of London. But virtually none of the major American media reported in a timely way on this memo substantiating that Bush and Blair lied through their teeth in taking our respective countries to war. Why the U.S. media reticience?
A. You must be the same dim bulb who asked about pensions, right? The corporate American media, especially TV and cable but also the major newspapers, are and long have been in lockstep with the Bush Administration: They do what they can to hype the Bush spin and to keep embarrassing stories out of the public eye, or they delay running anything them until the interest has died down; whether this is because the media are ideologically in bed with Bush&Co. or because they are afraid of Rove-ian retribution doesn't matter, since the result is the same.
But sometimes a story is simply too important to be ignored totally, and even the corporate media feel obliged to run something. So the UK memo story is now starting to appear in a few spots, two weeks late and usually buried somewhere by the editors; we shall see if the story, and its implications, break through into the mass-media in a major way, especially on TV. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
In general, as you no doubt have figured out, to learn what's really going on in the news requires you to seek out journalistic sources less controlled, which means smaller publications, independent radio networks, a few liberal talk-show radio hosts, and, especially, progressive writers on the internet.
WHY BUSH STILL SUPPORTS BOLTON
Q. Many politicians, especially conservatives these days, say that a President, having been elected by the voters, should have the right to appoint ambassadors and judges who mirror his philosophy. If that's true, John Bolton and those controversial judicial nominees for the appeals court should be confirmed. But the Democrats are trying to derail these nominations. What's going on?
A. First off, let's make clear that we're still not sure that Bush was indeed elected by a majority of the voters (there are unexplained vote-counting anomalies that suggest the strong possibility of electoral fraud), but that's a whole different issue. So let's stick to the main thrust of your question.
Normally, a President's nominees sail through the approval process precisely for the reason you supplied: a President, having been duly elected, should be given the benefit of the doubt. But when a particular nominee is so bad that he brings discredit to the government or to the court, it is the Constitutional duty of the Senate to decline to approve.
John Bolton clearly should not be confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations for a wide variety of reasons: his stated antipathy for that international body's existence, his out-of-control temperament toward his family and colleagues and other diplomats, and his intentional (and perhaps illegal) misuse of secret intelligence information and intelligence agents.
Bush wants Bolton in place at the United Nations partly to keep that body weak while the U.S. continues its march toward global hegemony, and partly to help lay the groundwork for U.N. approval of possible future attacks on other countries, most likely Iran or Syria. The Democrats are correct in trying to keep Mad Dog Bolton from being the public face of the U.S. at the United Nations, and the Republicans are disgracing themselves by moving sheep-like in approving him. It's theoretically possible that some moderate Republicans will join the united Democrats in denying Bolton the post, but, again, don't hold your breath.
As for the appellate court nominees, the Republicans are indeed hypocrites, since they blocked scores of Clinton nominees but now object when Democrats block a mere handful (5%) of Bush nominees. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist cannot get those few controversial nominees approved by the traditional method, so he is threatening illegally to change the rules in order to keep the Democrats from filibustering. The real goal, once the filibuster is removed, is to smooth the way for Bush's anticipated Supreme Court nominees -- no doubt in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. If the Democrats hang tough, they may be able to keep Frist at bay. And they may be joined by a few courageous GOP moderates. But don't count on it; Rove is in his we-want-it-all-and-we-want-it-now mode.
SOCIAL SECURITY "REFORM" AS A WEDGE
Q. Bush is running into a wall in his attempt to "reform" the Social Security system. Why is he still running at that wall? What's really going on?
A. To begin with, Bush is one stubborn guy who -- believing himself God's representative on earth -- refuses to admit that he's even capable of making a mistake; he had such success in his first term with his in-your-face approach, getting others to move toward his positions, that he figured he'd simply keep doing the same thing in his second term.
This approach requires that he refuse to back down, and constantly come back with the same demands until the other side caves. But the Democrats are united on this one -- they read the polls showing little or no support for Bush's destructive Social Security ideas -- and he's going to have to compromise if he wants to get even partial credit for anything to do with Social Security and if he wants to insert a wedge into the monolith that is Social Security's existence.
Which brings us to the real goal. The HardRight has been salivating for decades about the prospect of rolling back the New Deal/Great Society programs initiated by FDR and LBJ from the 1930s through the 1960s. They can't attack those programs frontally -- they are far too popular with the electorate -- so the GOP aim is to whittle away at them, starve them, "reform" them to the point where they easily can be toppled when they are too weak to stand on their own.
That's why Bush encourages trillion-dollar deficits, so that federal social programs have to be eliminated or have their budgets cut way back, such as Medicare/Medicaid, Head Start, National Endowment for the Arts, etc. And it's why he wants private accounts for Social Security: The aim is to drain enough money out of the Social Security system so that it becomes little more than a welfare program for the elderly poor, thus making it easier to eliminate someday. Bush&Co. want to "drown" these popular social programs in the bathtub, to use HardRightist Grover Norquist's apt description. In addition, of course, privatization also provides a windfall for the huge Wall Street investment firms and brokers, who are big financial supporters of the GOP and conservative causes.
RANDY ROOSTERS IN THE HENHOUSE
Q. Bush wants to be known as a good steward of the environment. How does his record add up?
A. You still don't get it, do you? The Bush Administration is tied ideologically and economically to the polluting corporations, those who make big bucks off plunder and environmental rape. The Bush Administration effectively lets the energy/logging lobbyists write the laws governing air, water, refining, mining, logging and so on. Permitting them to police themselves is like sending in a horny rooster to guard the henhouse. The environmental damage done by the Bush Administration in eight years will take decades to turn around. And remember that the Busheviks are the same Know-Nothing guys who refuse to accept the reality of global warming, and who demean scientists wherever and whenever they can, in favor of faith-based ways of looking at the world.
FIDDLING WITH THE VOTES
Q. You alluded above to electoral hanky-panky in the 2004 election. Are you serious? And, if so, how could a political party get away with fiddling with the election returns? Wouldn't such manipulation be so obvious that they'd risk their reputation forever?
A. Since one third of the electorate in the last election voted on computer-voting machines with no verifiable paper trail, we'll never be certain how many votes might have been tampered with. We do know how non-secure the voting process is. Prior to the 2004 election, for example, Howard Dean and Bev Harris demonstrated on CNBS how easy it was for them to access the vote-counting software, alter the figures, and exit without anybody being the wiser.
Since the voting machines and the secret software that compiles the votes of the various precincts are effectively controlled by three Republican companies, and since statisticians using demographics and exit-polls have determined that Bush had only one chance in a million of winning the election, it is highly likely that some fiddling took place with the results. Under the current system, local returns, for instance, could be 100% accurate -- even with a verified paper trail -- and an election still could be stolen, due to compiling fraud.
Precisely because we know how often such electoral theft occurs around the world, we Americans should be extra-vigilant about it happening here. But we're in denial: We're not Zimbabwe, we tell ourselves; surely, American politicians wouldn't be that brazen and corrupt. But Karl Rove and his minions are masters of the Big Lie technique and a host of electoral dirty tricks. And John Kerry handed them the best gift of all; he didn't even raise a question about the validity of the result, just gave his concession speech quickly and exited stage right.
The only way to guarantee an honest, transparent vote in contemporary America is to return to paper ballots, hand-counted in the presence of both partisan and independent monitors -- and with tested/certified software adding up the grand totals, again in the presence of election monitors. If the U.S. doesn't take these steps, it's asking for more corruption of the process and suspect election results in election after election. The Republicans benefit from the current system and will do nothing to change it; the required changes will not happen on their own but will require massive and unrelenting citizen pressure.
THE LOGIC BEHIND MILITARY DRAFT
Q. You hinted above that the Bush Administration may be moving toward more wars. Doesn't this suggest that the military draft will have to be activated?
A. The neo-con warriors, led by Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld, do not want to re-start the draft. They know, from the Vietnam experience, that a mercenary (volunteer) army, one derived from the poor and lower-middle-class, is much easier to control; draftees and their more affluent parents and spouses are an unruly bunch who can exert strong influence on their members of Congress.
However, given how thin the U.S. military is stretched and how bogged-down it is in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the world, and how unable the recruiters are to meet their monthly quotas these days -- even with illegal recruiting tricks and the $30,000 bonuses new recruits are being offerred -- the draft is a distinct possibility.
This is especially likely because in order for the U.S. to have a believable threat against Syria and Iran and North Korea, those nations' leaders have to believe that the U.S. is thoroughly capable of mounting invasions of their countries; air/missile power can only do so much, eventually you have to put boots on the ground. Ergo, the draft; accordingly, the Selective Service System is slowly gearing up.
DANGERS OF CHURCH/STATE MELDING
Q. How much influence do fundamentalist Christians have in the Bush Administration? Should we worry about a possible theocracy?
A. Short answers: A lot, and yes. Karl Rove gave out a lot of chits to fundamentalist leaders prior to the 2004 election, because he knew how important that base of voters would be in the close balloting. Now Robertson, Dobson, Falwell, Bauer, Perkins, et al., are calling in those markers. Plus, key leaders of the GOP are born-again believers -- Bush, DeLay, Frist, et al., along with key elements in the military. It's a theocracy in the making, separation of church and state be damned, and only the courage of a few federal judges, and an embarrassing defeat of the HardRight in an (honest) election, will get us back to the more balanced approach envisioned by the Founding Fathers.
IMPEACHMENT POSSIBILITIES & 9/11
Q. You mentioned impeachment above. What are the chances for that happening?
A. There are so many political/policy/intelligence scandals that could blow up in the faces of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld, but the American public -- heavily influenced by the corporate-owned mass-media that protects these guys -- doesn't seem to care enough. However, if there were sex involved, maybe. It probably would take videotape of Jeff Gannon in bed with George W. Bush, and an excited male horse, for the American people to get aroused enough to call for impeachment.
Q. Speaking of Gannon or Guckert or whatever his real name is, will we ever find out who authorized that GOP shill's access into the White House Press Corps?
A. We'll probably learn that answer when the Valerie Plame coverup gets unraveled and we find out which White House officials outed her as a covert CIA agent. In short, the 12th of Never.
Q. Speaking of coverups, will we ever learn the extent of White House pre-knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks?
A. There was a sort-of "breakthrough" recently. David Ray Griffin, the theologican who has become something of an expert on the 9/11 coverup, actually had an hour on national TV, on CSPAN, so maybe the public mood is shifting a bit. (Or, the Bush Administration let Griffin through the censorship net because his more far-out speculations, of the tinfoil-hat variety, make him easy to ridicule, thus tarring the entire 9/11 pre-knowledge movement.) But there probably won't be a genuine, full-bore investigation until some years have passed after Bush&Co. leave office and a Democratic sweep has occurred. Don't hold your breath.
In the meantime, you know what to do: organize, organize, organize!
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, was a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers ( www.crisispapers.org).
* For earlier articles in his Dummies Series, see http://www.crisispapers.org/weinerpubs.htm .
Originally published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 5/17/05.
Copyright 2005 by Bernard Weiner.