The Gadfly Bytes --
January 8, 2005
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE
||That which can not go on
“Stein’s Law” –
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. [Link broken]. 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,
Income disparity – economic injustice. Twenty-five years ago,
the average Fortune 500 CEO earned forty times as much as his median
Today, that number is
344. 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
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
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
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
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?
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
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,
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
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 is 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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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