The Gadfly Bytes -- January 8, 2005
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE
|That which can not go on forever won’t
“Stein’s Law” – (Herbert Stein)
We’re now led by men who think that macho posturing makes Stein’s Law go away. On issues ranging from budgets to foreign policy, they insist that we can sustain the unsustainable. And when challenged to explain how, they engage in magical thinking.
The Bush administration has set the United States upon a course which, if it continues, is almost certain to lead to a radical transformation of American society. And unless an energized public intervenes, it will continue, for George Bush is renowned for his determination to “stay the course,” and for his disinclination to contemplate and consider alternative policies and courses of action in the face of unforeseen developments.
It is impossible to predict the outcome of Bush’s radical experiments with the American economy, his disregard of our political traditions, and his freedom from constraints from the Congress, the media, and soon the federal judiciary. Most scenarios are, quite frankly, dreadful. If we are to avoid the precipice toward which we are accelerating, this deliverance must come from a shock of recognition of our perilous condition followed by decisive and concerted action by the financial establishment, the media, and the general public. It has happened before in our history – the end of isolation and the mobilization for war, following the Pearl Harbor attack, the discrediting of Joseph McCarthy, and the fall of Richard Nixon, our disengagement from the Viet Nam war. Unfortunately, the prospects for such a rescue from the Bushevik folly are not promising.
Of this much we can be confident: economic trends set in motion by the Bush Administration can not continue indefinitely. Herbert Stein’s law rules: “That which can not go on forever won’t.” Yet this is a regime that recognizes no limits, and has forgotten the meaning of “enough.” And so, as with a bending branch, or an ever-tightening violin string, the process must eventually come to an abrupt end. As the national debt soars out of control, as income disparity between the very wealthy few and the remainder of the population grows even as the median standard of living falls, as the casualty lists from endless foreign wars lengthen, as dissenting opinions are ruthlessly suppressed and civil liberties curtailed – eventually, something’s gotta give.
The developing crisis has many dimensions, any of which, or a combination of which, might well bring about sudden catastrophic consequences as they reach a breaking point.
Let’s examine a few of these dimensions:
The Federal Deficit and the National Debt. A leading economist forecasts that America faces “economic armageddon.” The odds: about 90%. And who is this economist? Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, or some other liberal? No, it is Stephen Roach, the chief economist at the Wall Street investment firm, Morgan Stanley. As Brett Arends of the Boston Herald reports, the “four horsemen” of this “economic apocalypse” are the federal deficit, the trade deficit, the falling value of the dollar, and record level of consumer debt -- all of which continue to grow, with no end in sight. And so, the branch bends and the string tightens. As the dollar falls, interest rates rise, imported consumer goods become unaffordable, retail stores close, workers are laid off, bankruptcies and home foreclosures follow – more dominos fall, and the economy collapses. If, however improbably, we are to escape another depression, the remedy is no picnic. The remedy? Allow inflation to rise, thus reducing the value of consumer debts. Bad news for long-term lenders. But if inflation rises, it’s a sure bet that real wages will not keep pace.
When at last the bubble bursts, Bush, Inc. and the corporate media will, no doubt, blame this catastrophe on “the terrists,” Bill and Hillary Clinton, God’s punishment of America for tolerating gays, abortions and the ACLU. Anything but their greed and their cockamamie policies But surely there is a limit to the gullibility of the American public and to its capacity to absorb economic deprivation. And when that limit is reached, watch out, Dubya!
Income disparity – economic injustice. Twenty-five years ago, the average Fortune 500 CEO earned forty times as much as his median employee. Today, that number is greater than 500. To put this in perspective, this means that twenty-five years ago it took that CEO about a week to earn as much as his worker earned in a year. Now he earns his worker’s annual salary in half a day – from the time he enters his office in the morning to the time he leaves for his three-hour three martini lunch.
Is this disparity enough? Apparently not. Bush intends to make his wealth-favoring tax “reforms” permanent, as he continues to phase-out taxation on investments and estates while continuing taxation on earned income. All this will accelerate the “reverse Robin Hood” flow of wealth from the middle class and the poor (those who produce the wealth) to the super-rich (those who own the wealth).
Will the time for that CEO to earn his worker’s annual income now shrink from four hours to one? To ten minutes? How much more of this robbery will the impoverished public tolerate, before it storms the Bastille?
In the meantime, unemployment will increase as well-paying jobs continue to flow out of the country, and median family incomes continue to drop. For how long? Surely not forever.
Civil Liberties and Civil Rights. Few Americans appreciate that five of the ten articles of the Bill of Rights specify the individual’s protections from abuses of law enforcement and prosecution: the Fourth (restricting searches and seizures), the Fifth (no self-incrimination, no confinement without indictment, no double jeopardy, right to due process), the Sixth (right of accused to be given statement of charges, to confront accusing witnesses, and to have benefit of counsel), the Seventh (right to trial by jury), and the Eighth (no excessive bail or fines, no cruel or unusual punishment). Nowhere in the Bill of Rights are we instructed that these rights apply only to citizens of the United States.
All of these guarantees have been violated, by executive order of the President, in the case of the “detainees” seized in “the war on terror” and held in various prisons abroad, in Guantánamo Bay, and within the United States. In addition, these incarcerations are in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which have the status of United States law. These violations continue, despite a ruling of the Supreme Court that they be discontinued.
And now we have just learned that the Administration is claiming the right to hold these wretches for life, without charge.
We’ve heard the excuses for these outrages: “But these people aren’t citizens, they are terrorists – Arab soldiers in the Al Qaeda army.”
Non-citizens? Consider the American citizen, Yasir Hamdi.
Arab non-citizens? Consider the Hispanic (Puerto Rican) citizen, Jose Padilla.
And who is a “terrorist.” Apparently, anyone whom the President or the Attorney General designates a “terrorist.”
And remember, the Bill of Rights applies to all persons, whether or not they are citizens.
Still feel safe? True, they haven’t come after ordinary dissenting citizens – not yet. But keep in mind the warning of Martin Niemöller:
In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me -- and by that time, there was no one left to speak up.
Be afraid – be very afraid.
The Human Cost of the Iraq War. At the close of 2004, more than 1200 American military and more than 100,000 Iraqis were dead as a result of the war. And for what? The original justifications for this war, Saddam’s WMDs and his al Qaeda connection, as proclaimed by Colin Powell to the Security Council in February, 2002, and by George Bush shortly before, in his State of the Union address, are now universally recognized as bogus. So now there is a new justification: “bringing democracy to the people of Iraq.” Day after day, the Iraqis are making abundantly clear what they think of our “gift.” There is still no “exit strategy” from the Iraq war, and while we remain, our presence stimulates the recruitment of al Qaeda terrorists, and our international prestige, now at an all-time low, continues in free-fall.
In another year, in another ten years, how many more dead and wounded will be sacrificed to this folly? How many more parents will grieve, how many more young wives will be widowed, how many children will be orphaned – needlessly, meaninglessly? The Vietnam war taught us that there are limits to the numbers of lies that the American people will believe, and the numbers of losses that they will endure. There still are limits. Sooner or later, the American people will say “enough!” – and they will throw out the scoundrels that brought this misery upon us and upon the people of Iraq, and who stained our good name and reputation with the world community.
The Stolen Elections – Past and Future. If in fact the will of the American voters in the 2004 was overturned by computer fraud and voter suppression, then it would appear that the Republicans have executed a perfect crime. Today, January 6, as I write this, the Congress has certified the election, and George Bush has been officially elected to his second term. No Senate or House elections have been contested. Immediately after the election and forward to this day, cogent criticisms of the validity of the election have been almost entirely excluded from the mainstream media.
In today’s debates, Republican Senators and Members of Congress have said, time and again, that “there is not a shred of evidence” that the Ohio election was unfair and invalid, as if repeatedly saying so would make it so. The Democrats, for their part, while complaining bitterly of successful GOP tactics aimed at suppressing votes in Democratic districts, repeated a litany of their own: “it is not our intention to overturn the results of this election.” By so saying, they were following the lead of their candidate, Senator John Kerry.
Notwithstanding all that, compelling reasons remain to doubt the validity of the announced tally of votes, and “the results of this election.” It remains a fact that 30% of the votes in this national election were cast, and 80% of the votes were compiled, by three private companies, owned and controlled by conservative Republicans. The voting machines produce no independent auditable record and utilize a secret software “source code.” And as several software experts have demonstrated, these machines can be readily “hacked” and the vote tallies altered, without leaving a trace of the mischief.
These are the simple, undisputed and indisputable facts about the “black box” voting machines. The response of the Republican party and the Republicans who manufacture and machines and write the secret software: “Trust us!” There is not, and cannot be, any other response. That is what they intended, for there are many affordable means by which the accuracy of the votes might have been independently audited and validated. These were all deliberately rejected. The public has been offered no plausible explanation of why this is so.
While direct validation of the votes has been denied the public by the Republican Congress and Republican state legislatures, there are compelling indirect indications that this election was stolen – a serious charge, which I will defend in my next essay. Suffice to say that the most significant evidence of fraud comes from the early exit polls. Exit polling sufficed to uncover fraud in the elections in the Georgian Republic and in Ukraine, and to lead to new elections which overthrew the corrupt governments. Exit polls were also very accurate in uncontested and auditable states in the November election. Virtually all the “errors” favored Bush, and the widest deviations occurred in the “battleground states," such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The response of RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie to the American exit polls? Abolish them!
Absent widespread and persistent public protest, in the forthcoming elections of 2006 and 2008, the percentage of votes issuing from paperless “black box” voting machines will increase significantly.
Despite the determined attempt by the mainstream media to keep the issue of election fraud from the public’s attention, a small but significant minority of 16% believed, in early November, that this election was stolen, and that number has since increased to 19%.
It is now widely believed that had the Supreme Court not intervened in 2000 and had the Florida vote continued, Al Gore would have won the state and the presidential election. In addition, there is good reason to believe that had the 2002 elections been honest, the Democrats would have won back the Senate. In the past election, the early exit polls indicated a Kerry victory by about the same margin eventually claimed by Bush. But the public has apparently accepted the official word that the exit polls were wrong, and the final tally was correct.
But if the economic conditions, the unconstitutional repressions, and the casualty figures from abroad follow the trends projected above, in the forthcoming elections there will be surge of voter reaction against the Republican administration and Congress. This sentiment will be reported in the pre-election polls, (unless these too are suppressed or “fixed” in favor of the Republicans).
Now imagine, in 2006, a landslide of public sentiment demanding a change of government in Washington – say, 60/40. Suppose then that instead, the final “official” tallies show further GOP gains in Congress, including a filibuster-proof sixty vote majority in the Senate. Imagine further, the same overwhelming public sentiment in 2008 and the announced “close” election of Bush’s successor – his brother Jeb. In both cases, almost all votes will be then cast with and compiled by unauditable machines built and secretly coded by private Republican corporations.
Do you believe the public would put up with this? Perhaps they would – after all, the American public has tolerated today far more official abuse and mendacity than many of us would have imagined to be possible, just a decade ago. But is there no limit to what our fellow citizens will tolerate and endure? In Ukraine and in the Republic of Georgia, there were limits; they were exceeded, and the corrupt regimes were overthrown.
If the last three elections were in fact stolen by the GOP, the evidence of that theft remains even though the media refuses to report it. No doubt, there is still more evidence to be uncovered. The Republican regime in Washington will of course do nothing to expose the crime, but there are numerous states and municipalities still in Democratic control that can carry on investigations. If public discontent grows significantly, as economic, civil, and international conditions worsen, the public may become much more open to the idea that the Bush regime is not, and never has been, “the people’s choice” – that it is, in fact, the people’s oppressor.
Numerous additional unsustainable trends have been set in motion by the Bush Administration. This late in the essay, I can only list them with brief comments:
Media concentration and bias. There is a
limit to how much the “official” press can deviate from the experience,
memory, and common sense of the public before that public simply ignores
that official line and looks elsewhere for accurate news and for opinion
that reflects public sentiment. The Royal governors in the American
colonies discovered this, as patriots set up committees of correspondence,
and the “underground publications” by Thomas Paine became best sellers.
The Soviet government also discovered the limits of propaganda, as the
citizens ignored Pravda, Isvestia and Gostelradio, and turned to The Voice
of America, the BBC and unauthorized publications – “Samizdat.” Even now,
an American samizdat
emerging in the progressive internet.
Official lies and eroding credibility. The
Bush propaganda machine depends upon a widespread public amnesia – a
failure of the public to remember during one week, what Bush, Inc. and its
servile media said the week before. Even so, the facts persist, as do the
records thereof. Bush did, in fact, announce “mission accomplished” and
the end of Iraqi resistance, from the deck of the Abraham Lincoln. And
Colin Powell did in fact tell his lies before the Security Council in
February, 2002. Those words can not be unsaid.
The Bush lies
are being recorded and chronicled by the
progressive opposition, and as the public comes to suffer more from the
abuses of this regime, it will become ever more receptive to the idea that
the Busheviks simply can not be believed. And a leader who can no longer
be trusted or believed is a leader who ceases to lead -- unless
(ominously) he does so through brutal repression.
Energy independence. The Bush-Cheney
insistence upon staying with the petroleum-based economy will have
devastating consequences for world climate and the global environment. But
it will also have serious impacts upon our economy, and perhaps much
sooner than most of us might expect. It is likely that sometime during
this decade, world oil production will “peak” and then decline –
the world is running out of oil. Add to that, the increasing demand
for oil from China and Japan which, co-incidentally, are our primary
international creditors. This can only mean that gas prices must rise
sharply and soon. There is much more at stake than the price at the pump,
for petroleum is the foundation of our economy. It drives farm machinery,
and brings food to us from the farms, ranches and fisheries. Goods are
shipped to us by gasoline powered vehicles and plastics are produced from
petrochemicals. Other countries that wisely foresee the ending of the
petroleum age are developing and investing in alternative energy
technologies, while we are falling far behind. Nature decrees and science
confirms that we cannot go on like this. But we know what George Bush
thinks about science, and thus it is no surprise that he has cut funding
to the National Science Foundation and from support for alternative energy
research and development.
The emerging theocracy. Listen to the
religious right – Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Bob Jones
III – and they will tell you that because they delivered the election to
George Bush, they now “own” him and the Republican Party. Expect to hear
demands that “intelligent design” be taught alongside, or even instead of,
evolution, and that the Ten Commandments posted in every courtroom. Also
expect legislation to be introduced to restore anti-sodomy laws,
repression of gays and lesbians, and the end of most legal abortions. Be
assured that the non-Christian twenty percent of our population will not
tolerate this. And these citizens – including Jews and agnostics,
prominent in the arts, sciences, the law, finance and education – are
influential far out of proportion to their numbers. Moreover, a large
portion, perhaps a majority, of the remaining 80% are “Christians” who are
moderate, fundamentally secular, or even “Christian” in name only. They
also endorse our civic compact of tolerance, inclusiveness, and the
separation of church and state. I suspect that the “success” of the
Christian right is about to ignite a counter-revolution far more powerful
than they, or even we, might expect.
Corporate corruption. Scattered among our
population, and at the moment politically dormant, are the victims of
corporate corruption. These include the thousands of ex-employees of
Enron, Global Crossing, and the like, who lost their pensions as well as
their jobs. Add to that the millions whose investments and retirement
accounts were decimated by the collapse of these corporate Ponzi schemes.
Then there are the residents of such states as California (including “Aunt
Millie”) who were gouged by Enron’s criminal inflation of the utility
rates. Finally, there is every single American taxpayer, whose tax bill is
inflated to compensate for the revenue lost as corporations set up tax
shelters in the Bahamas or the Cayman Islands. If and when a bandwagon of
resistance to the Bush regime starts rolling, expect these victims of
“crime in the suites” to climb aboard.
Finally, International Isolation, as the United States, once “the beacon of freedom” and “the city on the hill,” becomes an international pariah – abrogating treaties, violating international laws such as the Geneva Conventions, refusing to submit to an International Court of Justice or to cooperate with the Kyoto Accords, and invading sovereign nations at will. Bush and his neo-conservative acolytes believe we can do all this because “we are America” – we are powerful, wealthy, and of course, godly and moral. Besides, “who is there to stop us?” We may be about to find out. Far from being free to do as we please with the rest of the world, we are, in fact, woefully dependent upon other nations. We owe most of our national debt to foreign countries, and they, in turn, supply most of our essential raw materials – must crucially, oil. They could, at any time, form “coalitions of the fed-up” which could reduce our national economy to a ruined heap, and they could do all this without firing a shot. (See my “The Vulnerable Giant”). Our one-time friends and allies devoutly hope that this will never happen, and so, along with our progressive compatriots, they look forward to the day when the United States will awake from its dogmatic slumbers, emerge from its temporary madness, and regain its place as an honored member of the community of nations. But if not, there are limits to the patience of the leading nations of the international community.
Clearly, we can not long continue on the course upon which the Bush regime has plotted for us. The American people know what it is like to be prosperous, free and respected. Somewhere along this road there must be breaking point. Something’s gotta give.
And now the good news: Bush is vulnerable. Despite the awesome wealth of his supporters and the might of his propaganda machine, Bush and his regime can be toppled by an opposition that is intelligent, creative, courageous and united – qualities which, sadly, have not been conspicuous of late in the Democratic party.
These are a few of the factors that are working against the Bush regime, and which are likely to hasten its downfall:
First of all, the Busheviks apparently believe that the public’s capacity to absorb abuse is infinite, and that the public can be fooled time and time again and yet remain docile and trusting. Thus they treat us, the American people, the same way that Lucy treats Charlie Brown: no matter how many times Lucy yanks away the football, Charlie Brown comes right back for another go at the damned thing. Likewise, they believe that they can continue to cheat and lie to the public, and the public will simply come back and ask for more. Admittedly, up to now the public has given the Busheviks little cause to believe otherwise. But as further hardships and abuses are heaped upon the public, that forbearance is likely to erode and eventually disappear.
In addition, Bush’s supporters in the corporations and the media seem unaware that they have no stake in the future toward which Bush is leading them along with the American people. It is all well and good to approach "the establishment" with appeals to “truth, justice, and the American Way,” but let’s not kid ourselves; the most effective approach to corporate America is an appeal to their rational self-interest. To be sure, this is not an easy case to make at the moment, for the Great GOP/Corporate/Media Dream Machine is on a roll. They’ve grabbed the keys to the candy store. What the fat cats want, the fat cats get – tax breaks for the wealthy, the dismantling of social services, the crippling of government regulation (“interference”) -- while Big Media distracts the attention of the public from this looting with myths and trivial entertainments. Nonetheless, this bacchanalia is leading us all straight to the economic precipice. Intelligent capitalists such as George Soros and Warren Buffet, and now Steven Roach of Morgan Stanley, can appreciate that if we do not radically change course and soon, there’s a shipwreck ahead, whereupon all hands will go down. No prudent person would want to book passage on the Titanic knowing, or even suspecting, its fate, no matter how luxurious the First Class cabin arrangements en route. As the clouds of economic decline and civil unrest gather, the corporate and media establishment may begin to take notice and act appropriately. Whether they will do so in time, remains to be seen.
Finally, while none of the above political, economic and social trends are sustainable, Bush and his minions appear to be unaware of this, as they carry on with their wicked business as usual as if it could go on forever – or at least through the next few presidential terms of office. These are dogmatists, not pragmatists, and thus they are no more prepared to deal with unexpected future contingencies than they were able to develop and execute a plan of action after the fall of Baghdad. In short: events that the Bush administration has set in motion will soon overtake and overwhelm them, and they clearly lack the “smarts” to deal with these events.
It is almost impossible to overstate the arrogance of George Bush, and those immediate around him. Those who disagree with Bush’s “gut,” such as Colin Powell, Paul O’Neill, Joseph Wilson and the senior officers of the CIA, are banished from the Presidential Presence. Empirical research and rational assessment of policy alternative have no place in the Bush White House. Instead, George Bush and his circle presume themselves to have a God-like ability to create reality out of wishful thought.
An exaggeration? Consider Ron Suskind’s report of his conversation with “a senior advisor to President Bush:
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' .. That’s not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
And Seymour Hersh:
There are many who believe George Bush is a liar - a president who knowingly and deliberately twists facts for political gain. But lying would indicate an understanding of what is desired, what is possible and how best to get there. A more plausible explanation is that words have no meaning for this president beyond the immediate moment. And so he believes that his mere utterance of the phrases makes them real. It is a terrifying possibility. (Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 and Abu Ghraib. p. 416).
This is beyond arrogance. It is insanity. And I
measure that word carefully and employ it in a clinical sense: as "a detachment from reality.”
And it is an American tragedy. This derangement at the head of our government is a ominous burden upon all of us who dwell in this once-blessed land, and a threat to the humanity that lives beyond our borders.
This derangement also presents an opportunity for the progressive opposition. For such a “leader,” and such an administration can, if carefully studied and skillfully provoked, be led to their own destruction, for they are blind to their own shortcomings and incapable of responding rationally and effectively to unexpected obstacles that are placed before them.
The Bush regime will eventually collapse of its own ignorance, arrogance and folly. The task of a responsible opposition is to hasten this collapse, while seeing to it that as few innocent bystanders as possible are struck by the falling debris.
Copyright 2005, by Ernest Partridge
Conscience of a Progressive: A book in progress.
Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers".