February 5, 2006

The Unraveling of America

Everywhere I look now it's dissolution. Every headline in the local weekly paper is a reflection of the ongoing process in Washington of transferring more of the resources and productive energies of the poor to further enrich the already rich. And after years of the ongoing heist, it's trickled down to the street. This is what it looks like on the ground. This week the police are being taken out of the school system; the federal grant ran out. Last week it was the school board moving to eliminate middle schools, "reorganize". The week before it was the closing of the town's only hospital. Down and down and down. This is the government being drowned in a bathtub, and the rapacious plundering of the commons by the privateers. The ongoing deconstruction of government services, the continuing building and bolstering of the greedy warfare state, the actual destruction of the social fabric itself. And still no significant reaction. The population stands still in stunned silence.

To those abroad looking at America through misty glasses, this is what it looks like here. Will the country just continue to slide down the drain with barely a whimper? Stay tuned. It's happening fast now. When the draining gets near to the bottom of the vat, it seems to move more quickly.

The integrity of language itself is under siege. The truth is under bombardment, nearly extinct. I put on a few moments of Bush's State of the Union so-called speech the other night, about as much as I could stand of the Bush fairy tale, which is about five minutes. First the sickening feeling of seeing all the archcriminal political hacks filing into the chamber, the group that is collectively dismantling the country for their mutual benefit and the destruction of everyone else, all yukking it up together, enjoying the party, the pomp.

It was on public television, Jim Lehrer "moderating", announcing (?) whatever it is they do, shepherding your own thoughts and perceptions lest they go wayward. He's arguably the top end of the broadcast news business, about as good as it gets in this time of diminishment. And he's fumbling around for something to say during the obscene entrance spectacle, and he says, "Bush is wearing a very bright blue tie..." Uh huh. Hmmmm. So he is. After a pause while Bush ambles through the thick crowd of admirers, trying to touch him, hoping for a look, Lehrer continues. "Vice President Cheney and Speaker of the House Hastert are both wearing red ties...." Yeah, right... okay.

I watched for a while while the most totalitarian president in American history talked about eliminating tyranny; the head of the most aggressive, flagrantly unethical regime talking about civility in politics; the anti-science fundamentalist president who leads a movement against teachers explaining theories of evolution, who ignores data of environmental dangers, talking about more funding for science. The unreality of it all is crushing. Logic and rationality themselves obliterated from the culture.

America is desperately in need of a renewal. Will it happen? It's way overdue. I often think I see signs of it, vibrant signs of life in the culture. But as yet it has not touched the political sphere. They are all still in monkey-see-monkey-take-the-money-and-run mode. Still looking for that light of leadership on the horizon. Something tells me it won't be coming from Hillary, or John Kerry, or any of the careful, fastidious politicians who have been the handmaidens of the republic's destruction. It will have to come from outside that system of power. Barack Obama? Whoever it is, he-she'd better wake up soon while there's still something to save.

February 10, 2006

Browsing around the Internet, I see some interesting things...

  • Good Place to Start -- Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin, wrote, "In last Friday's column , I wrote that President Bush's fundamental challenge as he tries to regain his political footing is that most Americans don't trust him anymore."
  • Civilization in Decline -- In the Boston Herald I saw a headline that said, "Cash woes seen as sparking slayings". When I read the article I saw it referred to a specific case, a Brit named Entwhistle who's accused of killing his wife and daughter. I had thought it referred to a more general trend, perhaps including the incident in which postal worker went postal the other day. To me these kinds of "random, senseless" killings are the human side of the policy decisions we see every day in Washington. Every time you read of a few billion taken from Medicare or some other program that serves the survival needs of citizens, in order to be put into the coffer of some big defense contractor, it seems so abstract. What does this really mean? But when you see "isolated" cases of people who are driven to desperation because of money woes, inability to get the medical care they need to survive, etc. you are seeing the handiwork of the crooked politicians and lobbyists who see the productive capacity of the population only as a resource they are in a position to plunder. I really do believe you could make the case, as some have in the past, that with today's industrial capacity, you could essentially wipe out poverty, if that was what you wanted to do. But those with their hands on the control are more interested in making a few rich people inconceivably rich. No one needs the multi-millions a Dick Cheney or a George H.W. Bush command as a result of their corrupt war investments. Their greed is a sickness and they need to be saved from themselves.
  • Bush Claims Suspect (as always) -- Bush claimed he stopped an attempted terrorist attack in L.A. in 2002. The mayor of Los Angeles wonders why he never heard about it till now. The mayor told the Associated Press, "I'm amazed that the president would make this on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels." (See MTV News) Think and Ask asks, what was this little apparently bogus news item really for? To divert attention from a new record deficit (up 18 percent)? from Scooter Libby's claim that the White House told him to leak Valerie Plame's identity as an undercover operative? or to avoid Michael Brown's upcoming testimony, in which Brown blames the White House and Department of Homeland Security for ignoring his hurricane Katrina warning?...
  • Just Following Orders -- And yes, Libby is saying Cheney told him to leak the name of the CIA agent. Chicago Sun Times
  • Hot Times a Coming -- These are the hottest days since record keeping began in the mid-19th century, but now the Globe & Mail tells us that "The warmth in which the Northern Hemisphere has basked since the middle of the 20th century has been the most widespread and longest period of unusual climate experienced at any time during at least the past 1,200 years, according to a research paper in the journal Science."

    February 11, 2006

  • Brownie Rebels -- Michael Brown, former head of FEMA and previously head of the Arabian Horse Association, is not letting himself be a fall guy for Bush. He isn't cooperating with Bush's cover. He called him directly on August 29, the day of the storm, and told him through his aid Joe Hagin that the levees were broken and New Orleans was drowning. According to the NY Daily News, "Katrina killed more than 1,300 people as it turned New Orleans into a swampy bayou of corpses and chaos. Much of the city remains uninhabitable. Bush went golfing the next day and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff attended a conference on avian flu in Atlanta." This is compassionate conservatism.
  • Ignorance Getting Less Blissful -- Funny how often the Bush administration's defense is its own ignorance. Time after time they dodge the bullet by claiming they didn't know. They never seem to know about anything. And yet they have creted this image of themselves of being the best defenders of the U.S. based on tough talking stances, backed up by nothing. Meanwhile, while they use ignorance as a defense, they continue to use each disaster as a way to grab more power. Gonzales says they need to be able to wiretap without going to the FISA court within 72 hours of starting the tap. But they can't even act on the direct phone calls coming to the White House from their own top people. According to the Boston Globe, Republican CongressmanThomas Davis of Virginia, "noted how President Bush stayed on vacation at his Texas ranch, Vice President Dick Cheney was fly fishing in Wyoming, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was in Maine. Davis told The New York Times, 'It is disengagement.' He told The Washington Post, 'Who's in charge here?' That question became even bigger this week as the Times reported yesterday on a fresh batch of e-mails dug up by congressional investigators. The e-mails showed that the White House was well informed on the night that Katrina hit -- much sooner than it has previously admitted -- that the levees were breached by Katrina's tidal surges."
  • Bush Lied (again) this time about Katrina, according to his former friend Michael Brown, as told by The Independent. Bush lies and documentation of ineptitude mount. But without a reliable voting system, nothing can be done.
  • Gulag USA -- FEMA is reported to have 800 detention camps in the US, staffed with guards and ready for ... what? Existentialist Cowboy

    February 12, 2006

    Browsing the Sunday Times:
  • Trickle Down Moral Decay -- In today's Sunday New York Times there's an article about rising violent crime in U.S. cities. It's more evidence of a society in decay, the corruption at the highest levels trickling down to the bottom. With people in increasing poverty, desperation and hopelessness watching as the top officials demonstrate that they have no respect for the law and no concern even for human decency, the moral decay spreads. This New York Times article, incidentally, will only be available online for a couple of weeks. After that you have to pay to see it.
  • Shattered Men -- Also in the New York Times, "Healing, With New Limbs and Fragile Dreams", an excellent, though extremely grim report on the poor young men who are being torn to pieces in Iraq, coming home with amputated limbs and shattered hopes.
  • Bad Times at the Times -- Speaking of the New York Times and morale, sources there say morale is very low. Of course the paper has been cutting staff, but there's something more, an undefined malaise. The Judith Miller disgrace is a big part of it.

    February 14, 2006

    Happy Valentine's Day!
  • Clintography -- During an eight-hour drive today I listened to the audio book of Bill Clinton's My Life. Whew! What a trip! This is essentially a novel experience in history, having a living ex-president write an autobiography and then read an audio book of it. There have been parallels, but nothing quite like this. There were things like David Frost interviewing Richard Nixon, Walter Cronkite interviewing Eisenhower. But this is a different kind of experience.

    I don't know if George H. W. Bush did an audio book of his book of letters, but if he had, it would have been very stiff, gawky and wierd as he was and as his writing was. But Clinton! This is the breakthrough of the baby boom generation to leadership. (Bush Jr. is a reversion. He's just a puppet of the old guard of the Nixon administration.) This was the first post World War II president in terms of birth. This was the first McLuhan generation kid, who grew up with electronic media and for whom they are as natural an environment as air. He was a sax-playing, anti-war, white trash, jive timer, who broke through to the highest ranks of power in the world theater.

    To hear his audio-autobiography is to enter a fascinating world, to come to feel quite intimate with this person whose voice envelops you, and then to realize: Wait! This is Bill Clinton! He was the president! Everyone followed his every move. Everyone in the world feels they know him. This feeling of intimacy is a fantasy -- and yet...

    Clinton is revered with great passion around the world. When he appears anywhere, people are electrified. He is showered with adoration. It reminds me of the way it was with Muhammad Ali -- and as soon as the comparison comes to mind, the common element leaps forth.

    Why do people love them so much? What Clinton and Ali share in this regard, I think, is that they are people who stood up for an ideal, remained true to it, took a lot of hammering, and kept fighting for it though practically everything was taken from them. And in the end they still came back and rose above it.

    In an age where practically all is valued in terms of money and power, the man who stands for principle at the expense of all material comforts is a hero.

    Perhaps it's a bad comparison. Certainly, Clinton is not nearly on the level of Ali and his motives and objectives were not as pure. Clinton played politics with the elites, he played their games and he played them their way. He supported the so-called North American Free Trade Agreement and so-called welfare reform and plenty of things that were horrible. He was no saint. But within that horrible realm in which he played, he seemed to still maintain some touch with humane and democratic aims. In comparison with Bush, he looks very good.

    The audio book is worthy of entirely separate consideration from the book itself. It's a whole different entity. As an abridgment, it is effective. The short version cuts to the chase, cuts the culinary descriptions. The ability to absorb it during the driving trance is a unique advantage. And the magic of audio reproduction of the master's voice -- aah! Amazing!

  • Times gets tough: "We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers ó and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less." As the government closes in on the paper for breaking the story on Bush's illegal wiretaps, it may be fighting for its life.
  • "Mr. Whittington is a former member of the Texas Board of Corrections, which runs the state's prisons, and he once led the Texas Public Finance Authority Board.

  • Skeletons Escaping from the Closet -- No Bush-Cheney story is without its intrigue; no stone is turned that does not reveal the rot of corruption. According to the New York Times, Cheney's shooting victim is "a former member of the Texas Board of Corrections, which runs the state's prisons ... In 1999, George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, named Mr. Whittington to head the Texas Funeral Service Commission, which licenses and regulates funeral directors and embalmers in the state. When he was named, a former executive director of the commission, Eliza May, was suing the state, saying that she had been fired because she investigated a funeral home chain that was owned by a friend of Mr. Bush."

  • More on the Cheney shooting -- Anne Armstrong, the owner of the ranch where Cheney shot, "served as: a close advisor to President Nixon; President Fordís British Ambassador; and approved covert actions on the Presidentís Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under Reagan. A veteran of blue-chip corporate boards, Anne Armstrong was a Halliburton director when that corporation hired Cheney." whitehouseforsale.org

  • Out of Control -- According to ABC, Cheney "broke the cardinal rule of hunting." It hardly seems necessary to mention that a "hunter" should look at what he is shooting and is indeed responsible for what he shoots. This bit in the original reports quoting Ms Armstrong (the ranch owner) saying Whittington "came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn't signal them or indicate to them or announce himself," is pretty weird. Cheney had a gun. It's like blaming the victim in a hit-and-run accident.
  • Splainin' to do -- Now that Time magazine released the first picture of Abramoff in the Oval Office with Bush, a new explanation has to be crafted. "I don't know the guy" is cutting it anymore. But a TV report said the White House stuck to its story and said it didn't know how he got into the room. Whenever they are cornered, the Bushies take refuge in feigned ignorance. I know nothing. Time magazine via Truthout

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