Monday, May 28, 2007

The incompetence scam

Standard political wisdom: George W. Bush, and his Administration, are a bunch of incompetent bunglers. All they do is screw up. Bush's two terms seem to be an unending catalogue of ineptness, from 9/11 through Katrina to the so called War in Iraq. It's like Dubya is some sort of dark King Midas; everything the Bush II Administration puts its collective hand to seems to turn to shit.

Equally standard political wisdom: The Democratic Party is also a bunch of dimwits and weenies who couldn't operate a hot dog concession in a Super Bowl parking lot without having the thing catch fire and burn to the ground.

I don't buy this assumption for either set of politicians. Both the Bush Administration and the new Democratic Congress are certainly corrupt, and, yes, many elected and appointed officials on both sides of the aisle are, individually, far from the sharpest pencils in the box. Bush II himself has made a career of failing upward again and again, driving various business operations into bankruptcy and being bailed out of the consequences of his own disastrous mismanagement by his family connections... but anyone who thinks Dubya makes any actual decisions in his Administration is really too naive to be taken seriously. Dubya, like Reagan before him, is a figurehead; the actions and policies of his Administration are set into motion by others... and those others know what they are doing.

And now we're being told that the latest Democratic dominated Congress is also a batch of blithering bunglers, for allowing themselves to be outmaneuvered by a person one of their own most revered figures has recently derisively labeled "the worst American President ever".

Glenn Greenwald, probably the man most widely hailed throughout the blogosphere for his acute political insights, has this to say about this latest Democratic 'misstep':

our Iraq war policy was just determined, in large part if not principally, by a complete myth: that de-funding proposals constitute an abandonment or, more ludicrously still, "endangerment" of the troops.

It is difficult to overstate how irrational this theme is, and yet it is equally difficult to overstate what a decisive role it just played in ensuring the continuation of the war. Polls consistently demonstrate that Americans overwhelmingly favor compelled withdrawal of the troops from Iraq. Other than defunding, they overwhelmingly favor every legislative mechanism for achieving that goal -- from a straightforward bill setting a mandatory time deadline to a rescission of the resolution authorizing military force to compulsory benchmarks. Yet polls are equally uniform in showing that a solid majority of Americans oppose de-funding.

Yet, rationally speaking, this makes absolutely no sense. De-funding is nothing more than a legislative instrument for ending the war, and is substantively indistinguishable in every way from the other war-ending legislative means which Americans favor. Congress has used de-funding or the threat of de-funding multiple times in the past to compel the President to cease military action, and to invoke it, Congress simply consults with the military, determines how much time is needed to effectuate a safe withdrawal, and then de-funds the war accordingly...

...The whole debate we just had was centrally premised on an idea that is not merely unpersuasive, but factually false, just ridiculous on its face. That a blatant myth could be outcome-determinative in such an important debate is a depressingly commonplace indictment of our dysfunctional media and political institutions.

But the real reason this happened is because Democrats not only allowed it to occur, but eagerly helped it. As much as anyone else, even leading anti-war Democrats such as Carl Levin and Barack Obama continuously equated de-funding with a failure to "support the troops."

Time and again, even those Democrats who supported a mandatory troop withdrawal would talk about de-funding like it was some sort of grotesque act of betrayal ("oh, absolutely not, we will not de-fund the war. We will support our troops").

Greenwald's central thesis is that this pernicious myth -- de-funding a war is the equivalent of refusing to support, or, infinitely worse, actively endangering, the troops currently prosecuting that war -- has been somehow allowed to enter into the American collective consciousness and therein attain the status of sacred truth, due to the witless ineffectuality of the Democratic Party. Not only have the Democrats made no real effort to debunk this myth, they have themselves frequently supported it by repeatedly making public statements such as this one (also as reported by Greenwald):

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has called for initiating a withdrawal but has rejected a cutoff in funding. "I think that sends the wrong message to our troops," he said a few days ago. "We're going to support our troops, and one way to support them is to find a way out of Iraq earlier, rather than later."

And so, as Greenwald points out, the myth that de-funding will endanger the troops becomes 'cemented' in the collective consciousness as actual truth... all because of Democratic cowardice and incompetence.


These guys aren't incompetent, they know exactly what they're doing. And one of the things they are very competently doing, with the unwitting help of pundits like Greenwald, is putting forward the constant 'myth' that they are all hapless klutzes who cannot do anything right. It's a myth that serves them well because, while Americans may get exasperated and irritated with bumbling dimwits, our culture has also been programmed for generations to find such shenanigans essentially endearing. The American people can always find a place in their collective hearts for the good natured, kindly clown who means well but who never quite manages to accomplish precisely what it is he sets out to do at any given time.

In the end, we are always willing to forgive a bumbling boob, because we find them entertaining, and, anyway, we all see a little bit of ourselves in such ineffectual antics. We cannot find it in us to become truly enraged or infuriated with these people; it is a part of our cultural mythology that we cannot seem to overcome that we must always give such people another chance, no matter how many they've already had and fumbled, and no matter how urgent the current situation they seem to be screwing up may be.

Thus, the guise of ineffectual fumbler serves our so-called public servants well. Ultimately, it deflects us from the outrage we should almost certainly feel, and causes us to, inevitably, come to feel a sort of grudging affection for these poor dimwits. Clearly out of their depth, stumbling around flailing their arms and only making everything worse, and yet, in the end we love them for it, as generations of Americans have loved their own fictional bumblers like Charlie Chaplin, the Keystone Cops, the Three Stooges... and their modern day inheritors like Adam Sandler, Paulie Shore, Paris Hilton, and all those dimwit semi-celebrity culture critiques on VH-1 and MTV.

Let's get this straight -- dolts don't manage to get elected to high office anywhere, much less America. Dubya himself may be a drunken dimwit, but the political machine that lurks in the shadows behind him knows exactly what it is doing every second of every minute of every day. Every 'blunder' they make puts another billion dollars of our money into their pockets, and edges them one or two steps closer to a position of complete and overwhelming perpetual authority over the rest of us. When it seems to us that they are not accomplishing their goals in any particular area, it is not because they are actually dimbulbs who couldn't find their asses with both hands and a flashlight, it is because we have profoundly misunderstood their goals... generally because that's what they want us to do.

The goal has never been 'democracy in Iraq', or, even, a docile American puppet state in Iraq. For some reason we do not at this point understand, the goal of the Iraq War is now and always has been the same -- creating chaos in the Middle East. Why? I couldn't tell you. But nothing else makes sense; if Bush Inc. really wanted to pacify Iraq using military means, and conventional forces wouldn't work, there's no reason they wouldn't do what I've been dreading for six years -- deploy unconventional weapons, like nukes, chemicals, and biologicals. Who or what would stop them? What possible consequences to them could there be? No, if we're still fighting, and apparently not winning, a conventional war in Iraq, and the only effect is to create and continually spread more and more civil chaos, then that must be what the people making the decisions want. I don't know what they get out of it -- other than billions of dollars a day in war profits, which could be enough -- but I know that the chaos itself must be, in and of itself, their goal, and it's one they have achieved admirably.

Similarly, if the Democratic Party has allowed the meme of 'de-funding the war equates to endangering our troops' to become 'cemented' as a sacred truth in the minds of the American public, it's because that's how they want it. De-funding a war is the one irrefutably effective mechanism for overruling a battle-crazed President that Congress has; it's the one trick that always works. Greenwald wants us to believe that this one singularly effective weapon has been rendered inert by Democratic incompetence -- well, I don't believe it for a second.

The Democratic Party wants this war to continue, just as much or more as the Republicans do. Now that they have a majority in Congress, they could bring it to an immediate end simply by refusing to continue to spend tax money on it... so that method, above all others, must be put off limits. This is why they not only do nothing to defang the pernicous lie that 'de-funding the war will endanger our troops', but they actually do everything they can to strengthen and maintain that public misperception. As long as the American people believe that the one thing Congress could do to end this war is the one thing they should never do, well, the Democratic Congress is helpless. It's not their fault! It's all on us... we want the War ended, and yet, we refuse to allow our elected representatives to do the one thing that would accomplish that.

That this is idiotic nonsense should be immediately obvious to anyone capable of three consecutive seconds of political analysis. Our elected representatives constantly take actions and enact policies that their constituencies oppose, especially immediately following elections, because as an unfailing general principle, voters forget about such things by the time the next election rolls around. Even if we all believe that 'de-funding the war will endanger the troops', the next elections are more than a year away. There is plenty of time to demonstrate the fallacy of that misperception through practical action; if Congress went ahead and de-funded the War, by the next elections, we would all have seen that in point of fact, it did not endanger the troops at all and it actually just did what we wanted it to do -- got us the hell out of Iraq again.

This myth that 'defunding the War will endanger the troops' is just political cover for the Democratic dominated Congress, in exactly the same way that the 'bungler' facade is a helpful, shielding charade for every elected and appointed government official we have. They are not bunglers who are doing their best, but just find themselves strugging out of their depths. These are corrupt, amoral men and women who are evil by the only standards of evil I understand -- they regard their fellow human beings as mere abstractions, whose lives and deaths, cripplings and maimings, sufferings and miseries are merely fuel to be thrown on the flames of their own ambitions.

These government officials support our troops -- in what? An ongoing, illegal, immoral and outright evil campaign of illicit terror against an innocent populace? How? By sending them off to kill or be killed, torture and be tortured, maim and be maimed? By bringing them home again in coffins and wheelchairs, with their balls shot off or their faces burned away or their limbs destroyed or their spines shattered, to be buried and forgotten in either beautifully maintained, well funded and elaborately staffed military cemetaries or shoddily run, terribly underfunded and incompetently staffed military hospitals?

These government officials are not incompetent, they are not helpless, they are not foolish, or bungling, or ineffectual, or somehow victims of a confused and petulant American electorate... what Al Gore disingenously calls 'good people in a bad system'. These government officials know exactly what they are doing. They want this War, for whatever reasons they may have to want it... profits for themselves and their major corporate contributors, enhancing their own prestige and power, using it as a lever to attain higher office, whatever.

People are dying, Americans and Iraqis and others, right now, and our government has the power to bring it to an end, and they won't. All they do is try to insulate themselves from any eventual blame or responsibility for the consequences of their own actions.

Our government is both shameless and shameful. And to the extent that our government represents us, the American people, we are deeply shamed by their actions.

They could stop this war today or tomorrow, and they will not. We could stop this War... if not today, or tomorrow, then, at least, at some point, if we were willing to do what has to be done -- which is a great deal more than sign electronic petitions, send email to our Congressmen or Senators, put bumper stickers on our cars, or spend an hour a month holding a placard on a street corner outside a coffee shop somewhere.

They could stop it, but they won't. We could stop it... but honestly, we just don't care that much about it. We care a little... we care enough to piss and moan and bitch and whine and shake our fists about it... but we only really get motivated when something happens to one of our kids. A sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, a niece, a nephew, a cousin... one of our neighbor's children. But until that, the 'troops' that we 'support' are only abstractions to us. The Iraqi people that the troops we support are killing, maiming, torturing, and raping every day are barely even that to us.

We aren't benefiting from the war. We aren't making any money off of it, we aren't using it to leverage our careers. But we know what's going on over there, and it's being done by people wearing our uniform, representing our country, our culture, our government... us.

Our government could stop all this, but they won't. They claim to be incompetent, although they aren't. They know exactly what they're doing.

What's our excuse?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dangerous Minds

One of my favorite high school teachers had a colorful phrase he used to say to those of his students he found especially, egregiously foolish: "If you people had a brain, you'd be dangerous".

I'm reminded of that phrase this morning, when I go over to Mike Norton's blog and in his comment threads find the following public display of utter braying witlessness (not from the inestimable Orto himself, natch, but from one of the chains he and I both seem to have forged in life that we cannot, now, unshackle ourselves from no matter what we do):

I suppose that the talk of "stealing" the 2008 election has to start somewhere.

As I pointed out before, all of the alleged shenanigans were totally ignored when it turns out that the Republicans lost the last election. And these shenanigans were whined about all over the blogosphere until about two hours after the polls closed. Then everything was both hunky and dory.

If there are true, actual, demonstrable voting problems were should all be screaming, yelling and fighting to fix them -- no matter if "our" side wins or not.

If the election process is dirty, or flawed, then let's pull together and fix it.

This is the sort of talk typical to the kind of person who likes to think of themselves as 'fair' and 'open minded', the sort of 'independent voter' who 'looks beyond party affiliations' and 'tries to vote for the best candidate regardless of political bias'. And all the other high minded crap that a contemporary 'undecided' voter uses to justify being 'undecided', generally right up to the point the curtains on the voting booth jerk shut behind them.

It's only then, as they stare, all fawn-eyed and gape-jawed and trembling at the array of options before them, does this 'fair, open minded, independent and unbiased independent voter' really start to make up his or her mind. You can nearly hear the mental wheels creaking and the gears grinding as they are brought to the sticking point where they absolutely must come to some sort of final, conclusive decision, an act of mental will unnatural to them, which they hate with every fiber of their being and which they do everything in their power to postpone for as long as they possibly can, short of simply not voting at all. (These sorts always vote, because by voting, they get a cheap sense of superiority over many of their fellows which is as precious to them as the One Ring To Rule Them All was to Gollum. And yet, still, they just HATE to have to actually make a decision. If the act of voting didn't allow these people to strut around smugly, once more securely swaddled in their cocoons of self righteous civic exceptionalism, for the several years until the next election comes along, they'd never trouble themselves to do it at all. This is why no society can ever achieve full electoral participation short of mandating it by law; if we ever got to a point where a majority of the eligible population voted voluntarily in every election, these monkeys would naturally have to abstain, simply so they could feel that they are different from the mob, and, therefore, innately better.)

And, as a good, solid general rule, the way these people are going to vote, at that point where they are actually driven to it very nearly at spearpoint, will be largely based on whichever political ad they saw or heard most recently, maybe on the radio while driving to the polls.

In other words, such people are sheep. Worse, they're fools... and they are the kind of fools that, according to everything I've heard over the past decade or so, have decided every major election in the United States in that time period, largely due to our incredibly polarized electorate.

In the particular case of the passage I've quoted above, the foolishness is especially egregious. When you find someone who genuinely believes that contemporary American elections have no 'true, actual, demonstrable voting problems', you have found a startling example of a person who lives full time in their own little pig headed paradise, comfortably cushioned from anything bearing the remotest resemblance to reality by their own provincial prejudices and rigorously maintained invincible ignorance.

Regard the stunningly circular non-logic: ...all of the alleged shenanigans were totally ignored when it turns out that the Republicans lost the last election. And these shenanigans were whined about all over the blogosphere until about two hours after the polls closed. Then everything was both hunky and dory.

In other words, "You guys stop complaining about how unfair it is when, despite all those unfairnesses, you still manage to win. Nuh uh. If the election is unfair, you should protest the results even when they favor your guys."

I... honestly, I just don't know where to start with this, but, basically, I guess I'll try to dig in here:

Who, exactly, are the Democrats supposed to call to complain about rigged election results?

Local election boards? State election officials? State governors? Federal judges? Congress? The Supreme Court? The President?

I'll leave aside the fact that, when the Republicans blatantly stole the 2000 elections in Florida, the Democrats raised sixteen different kinds of hell and did everything they possibly could to contest those election results, and at every turn, they were balked by corrupt Republican election and government officials (up to and including the winning candidate's brother, who just happened to be Governor of the state in question) at every level of the government, and when the case went to the Supreme Court, that Republican dominated judicial bench shut it down in a so called 'legal' decision that has since been ridiculed and derided all over the world, and, for all I know, all over the universe, ever since.

People protested. They tried to count and recount the votes, and got shut down by an obviously corrupt Secretary of State (Katherine Harris, as well as by hired Republican thugs flown to Florida by Halliburton for the sole purpose of staging violent, illegal demonstrations in front of recount sites.

They appealed to a Republican dominated Congress and were ignored.

The Democratic candidate hired the best, or at least, most expensive, lawyers in the world and took his case to the Supreme Court, and got shut down.

People protested when the same thing happened again in Ohio in 2004. A corrupt, Republican dominated electoral system in that state deliberately shifted voting machines out of predominantly Democratic (read: poor, urban, minority) dominated districts, to create long lines that would keep a significant percentage of potential voters from actually being able to cast their votes. When people complained, they were, once again, ignored.

But, again, leave all that aside. I ask again: who you gonna call? And after two elections of this nonsense, why would you even bother?

How many times do losing Democrats have to hear people like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh braying over the national media "You lost, move on, get over it" before they get the message?

Here's the message: the game is rigged, absolutely. If you're not in power already, if you're trying to take power away from the incumbents who have already stacked the system with their people, then you can't just win an election by 1, 2, or 3 percent. Nope. They've already stolen that much of your vote, before you ever get a single registered Democrat into a voting booth. If you want to beat Karl Rove at his preprogrammed Wheel of Fortune, you have to win BIG. You need a genuine landslide; you need a population so thoroughly disgusted with what the opposition has been doing in office for the last however many years that despite every barrier they will throw up in your way, you still manage to get enough people out to the polls to win that election by 4 percent, or 5 percent, or 6 percent.

And then what will happen is, you'll win, but it will be reported as a narrow squeaker, something you only pulled off by 'a few percentage points', a 'statistical aberration attributable to many factors', something that 'isn't really a clear message from the American people about anything, to anyone'.

But, nonetheless, you won. You can now initiate investigations, appoint special prosecutors, repeal bad legislation and, hopefully, pass better legislation in its place. Work to get rid of the corruption, and reform the system from within.

And, you know, you should complain about this? And, worse, if you don't complain, it somehow proves that... ummmm... wait, I need to get a running start for a leap of illogic like this... the system was never corrupt in the first place?

How does that make any sense at all? Given the inherent corruption of the system, demonstrated everywhere in 2000 and again in 2004, why would Democrats complain when they finally manage to win? When you win against a system this corrupt, what it demonstrates is that you really did legitimately win... not just by the narrow percentages actually (grudgingly) admitted by the opposition owned media, but by significantly larger margins that the official vote will never reflect and the media will never report.

The way our electoral system currently works is very simple -- tie goes to the incumbent. Scores with a spread less than 3% also go to the incumbent. This is the Karl Rove advantage, built into the system over two decades of Republican dominance of at least two out of the three branches of government. This is why Rove has been confidently predicting a 'permanent Republican majority' for the last ten years; this is why Republicans were so utterly flabbergasted by the results of the 2006 elections. It's why Bush won't fire Gonzales and Gonzales won't quit; because if the Justice Department remains corrupt, it's very feasible that the 2006 election results may be merely a momentary aberration, and Rove can get the Party of Power back on top again in 2008.

From Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast, page 225:

Jacksonville is a city more divided than Berlin when the wall was up. The acting elections supervisor in that race, Dick Carlberg, from the white side of the wall, was in charge of counting the vote on the black side. Those votes were cast on some ancient punch-card machines. At the elections office, Dick was happy to explain to me how he counted those votes. In a voice sticky sweet with Southern charm, he explained that he put the cards through an automatic reader, which just doesn't read too well if a card isn't "clean punched." He ran the cards through once, and thousand indicated no vote for President. When he ran those through again, the punches opened a little more and Al Gore picked up 160 votes, George Bush just 80.

Bush officially won Florida by 537 votes. Carlberg knew the count was whisker-close when he did his second run. Then he stopped counting.

"So, Dick, if you ran the 'blank' ballots through a few more times, we'd have a different President," I noted. The Republican gave me a big, wide grin and wouldn't answer.

These are the people that we're supposed to complain to, when elections don't go our way, or (bafflingly) even when they do.

I can't say this makes any sense to me, but, then, I try to look at things at least somewhat realistically. Here in the real world, elections are corrupt now and have been corrupt probably since the first Cro-Magnon put the first white or black rock into the first badly cured hide bag to vote for either Ogg or Gurg as cave fire marshall.

Corruption is endemic to any voting process. It should be opposed at every opportunity, by everyone, yes. But the fact that you complain going into the election about your vote being suppressed by the people in power, and then, when it turns out they didn't manage to quite suppress enough of your votes, you stop complaining, doesn't mean no votes were suppressed. It simply means, you won big enough that they couldn't manage to steal it away from you... this time.

But only a fool ignores what is happening right now, in every state, especially the battlefield states. Here, for example, is a fabulous graphic created by Joseph Cannon of Cannonfire, showing to even the most foolish and willfully ignorant out there exactly what the U.S. Attorney purge was all about:

The map shows the election results of 2004 -- blue states, red states, and 'battleground', or, purple, swing states decided by less than 3% of the vote. Amazingly enough, to date, every U.S. Attorney purge/replacement has taken place in a swing state.

This should be enough to show anyone that for Karl Rove and his masters, it's all about the power -- getting it, and keeping it. In America, that means winning elections, and if your boys don't serve the people well enough to win them legitimately (and, worse, the rubes catch on) then it means stealing votes -- not many, on the grand scale of things -- just, you know, 3% of the total cast, or that could be cast, if you didn't manage to monkey wrench things beforehand.

The U.S. Attorney purge was about putting U.S. Attorneys in place in swing states that would help Republican electoral efforts by initiating high profile bogus vote fraud investigations against Democrats, and by providing high profile indictments against Democratic candidates or incumbents during election season. It wouldn't matter if the charges were ridiculous and the cases were either quietly dropped after the elections, or reversed immediately on judicial appeal, because to Rove and those who run Rove, nothing that happens after an election matters. They own the media, and they are well acquainted with what George Orwell called 'the memory hole'. If people don't know about something, they can't be bothered by it, and even if they do know, they won't be bothered by it if nobody reminds them of it at the right time.

That's ALL the U.S. Attorney purge was about -- throwing elections. Because if you game the elections well enough, you get to do anything you want the rest of the time. Lie. Forge documents. Manipulate evidence. Invade other countries for no reason you'll ever publicly admit to. Control the price of oil. Lock people up without trial. Torture people. Steal. Gouge. Seduce teenagers under your care while actually voting on actual legislation on the actual floor of the actual House of Representatives. Patronize prostitutes while simultaneously legislating 'family values'. Shoot people in the face. Whatever. You take the election, you take it all... because when you control every branch of government, and when every single person in a position to pass laws, or enforce laws, or investigate what you're doing, or report on it to anyone, is in your pocket, getting a cut of the take, you have nothing to worry about.

Nice work if you can get it.

Everything with these guys is about stealing the elections. Everything. Bush's new immigration bill? Almost certainly will be used to suppress Democratic voters; see here and here.

Then there's the current push for increasingly rigorous ID checks at the polls -- these new laws demanding that everyone prove they are a U.S. citizen before being allowed to vote. Here's just one of many, many examples of proposed new legislation to 'tighten' ID requirements from what they are right now (which you can see here).

You can read here about a bill passed by the House of Representatives just before mid term elections in 2006 that would require presenting a photo ID before you can vote in a Federal election in 2008, and that would mandate presenting a photo ID that confirms U.S. citizenship to vote in 2010. (Such IDs do not currently exist; if you think this is a backdoor attempt to push through the generally unpopular 'Federal ID' cards that the Republican dominated government has been trying to foist on us for about the last twenty years, well, there ain't no flies on you.)

If you look at the text on that bill, you'll see the Republican Congress was originally targeting the 2006 elections. The bill passed the House, but got bogged down in the Senate, which is lovely; if it hadn't, and every voter in American had been forced to present photo ID prior to pulling a ballot lever, that incredibly tight mid term would almost certainly have swung to the Republicans... because rich white people never have much trouble producing proper I.D., or, for that matter, finding a local poll worker who will certify their identity if they happen to leave their wallet home. It's only poor non-whites who have difficulty producing with the correct identification, and who never seem to have anyone to vouch for them when they can't.

The devil here is, as always, in the details. The key phrase in H.R. 4844, the text of which you can find here, is:

shall require the applicant to provide a photographic copy of any document which provides proof that the applicant is a citizen of the United States, in accordance with guidelines established by the Election Administration Commission in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State.'.The problem is, there are currently no Photo IDs in America that provide 'proof that the applicant is a citizen of the United States' besides passports. Who has passports? Not poor people. We don't need 'em, because we don't ski in Europe, and they cost time and money that we generally don't have, or don't want to invest in something we're never going to use.

I had read reports that stated a more recent clause was inserted into this bill, that would require states to provide acceptable photo IDs to any citizen applicant at no charge. I don't see any such clause in the text on the page I found, but, well, maybe it's there in a later draft. But, again, there's a Catch-22 here. Assuming you're happy with the very concept of there being a form of standardized Federal ID with your photo on it that you must present in order to vote (and don't even try to convince yourself that the utility of such an ID would stop there; it would rapidly become the 21st Century equivalent of a Social Security card), it's going to be goddam hard to get, if you have to prove you're a U.S. citizen to get it... just as hard as it is to get a passport now. You'll have to present some form of proof of citizenship, which is, generally, an original birth certificate... something many people do not have, especially including the poor, the non-white, and the elderly... demographics that (by sheer coincidence, of course) tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

However, I do not really mind the idea of people needing to present a U.S. Voter's photo ID in order to vote, with one little codicil: that in order to get such an ID, you do not need to present any form of documentation at all. What you DO need to do is pass a test... the same test that U.S. immigrants have to pass to become citizens. Make it mandatory for EVERYone who wants to vote to pass this test, and I'll get behind any Voter ID card legislation anyone wants to put forward.

If, on the other hand, you simply want to pass laws that guarantee that only Buffy and Vince get to vote, because, by sheer coincidence, Buffy and Vince tend to vote Republican, well, sorry... I can't play that game with you.

These are the 'shenanigans' that are currently underway to suppress poor and non-white (in other words, Democratic) votes in the next election. The current Administration knows exactly what it is doing when it weeds out U.S. Attorneys that will not go along with its voter suppression agenda, and when it puts forward laws carefully crafted to keep millions of people who almost certainly would vote Democrat from ever setting foot in a polling place.

For what little it's worth, my guess is that when and if we ever learn precisely what Bush Inc. has been doing with all that illegal domestic surveillance they've been conducting, it will also turn out to be an effort at election manipulation. Again, with these guys, everything is about the next election. If they're doing something dirty, it's nearly a lock that you'll eventually find out that, somehow, it was intended to cook someone's vote.

In the meantime, though, never doubt that Karl Rove and crew are busy using every tool they have to manipulate a Republican victory in 2008, and as long as the Republicans have power over any branch of government, over any government agency, over any department or cabinet or directorate or apparatus or elected or appointed official, they will be using those 'assets' to cook the next election. Because this is all they care about -- getting and keeping power. At all costs (hopefully, though, not to them). Now more than ever, since they've seen the horrible, terrible, unpleasant, unacceptable, and appalling results of letting an election get away from them.

I mean, jesus -- let Democrats get back into power and the little fuckers actually ask questions! They fucking investigate your ass! They exercise goddam oversight! They try to hold you responsible for the consequences of your own legislative and executive actions! They actually try to enforce the goddam law -- on rich white people, for fuck's sake!

I mean, seriously, what the fuck is that all about?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Entropy always increases

Been a while.

I've been slowly slogging my way through Greg Palast's ARMED MADHOUSE: From Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets & Strange Tales of a White House GONE WILD. It's been an interesting trip so far.

When I say 'slowly slogging', I mean no disrespect to Mr. Palast, who is an engaging writer. It's just that when you have three stepdaughters, two of whom just had proms, and one of whom is about to turn 18 and graduate high school near simultaneously, and the last of which is merely seven years old and possessed of both Super Intelligence and HyperSonic Speed, well, spare time is nearly as mythical as the fabled unicorn.

Palast is a former forensic accountant turned investigative reporter who likes to report on things that make the American media very uncomfortable. Because of this, the current gang in power often refer to him as a "British reporter" although he's as American as I am; he simply has to find work with the BBC because no major American news organization wants to puts its brand on in depth, accurate accounts of exactly how the Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were so deftly hijacked, or exactly who is profiting so much from things like the drowning of New Orleans or the ongoing catastrophe we call the War In Iraq.

There's a reason why the American media is completely unwilling to tell tales out of school on the people in power, and it's pretty much exactly what you'd think. On page 274, Palast quotes Sumner Redstone, Chairman and CEO of Viacom, as saying:

From a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on... I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.

Viacom, in case you've been a practicing anchorite for the last twenty years, is the vast media monolith that owns CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Infinity, Showtime, Simon & Schuster, Midway Games (known for Mortal Kombat and Defender), BET, VH1, the CW, Comedy Central, Famous Players, Famous Music Publishing, Sundance Channel, the Movie Channel, FLIX, TNN, CMT, King World Productions, and several theme parks, among many, many other things.

It seems safe to assume that the corporate policies of media colossus Viacom will probably strongly echo the corporate policies of other, similar media megacorps -- not that we here in the 21st Century's brave new world have very many such to choose from anymore. Since 2004, the media has been controlled by 6 huge megamedia hypercorps -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, Viacom (formerly CBS), and General Electric's NBC.

With virtually all news reporting in America in the hands of only half a dozen corporate colossi, and with every single one of those corporate colossi hungering and slavering for the same thing above all -- deregulation -- it's easy to see why Palast had to go abroad to do any kind of really substantive investigative journalism as regards the behavior of the American master class... what George W. Bush once infamously called "the Haves and the Have-Mores". And it's also easy to see why Palast's reports never get seen or heard by American eyes or ears. If each of the Big Six 'votes for Viacom', or, rather, votes for their own corporate interests above all else, then each of them will, basically, do whatever they can to ingratiate themselves with those who make, administer, and enforce the laws of this country.

With Democrats having taken control of both houses of Congress in the 2006 elections, though, some basic re-alignments seem to have taken place. While Republicans were firmly in the driver's seat, Republican dirt stayed way back under the rug and Republican operatives could cavort with gleeful abandon through the ballrooms of power, more often than not on the taxpayer's dime, secure in the knowledge that the news media's prying cameras, microphones, notebooks, and electronic recorders would stay far, far away.

Now that Democrats have come into power, though, the media conglomerates seem to have come to the uneasy realization that they're going to have to do something to get back into the good graces of a political party they would much prefer to have permanently written off as ineffective and marginalized. So it is that the media has given broad, if grudging, coverage to the recent rash of Republican corruption scandals (most of which had actually been chugging merrily along for years when Republicans themselves were in control of every branch of government) especially including the U.S. Attorney purge.

If Viacom and the rest could be sure that the Democrats would be swept back out of power in 2008 and relegated to the perpetually subservient status Karl Rove has been promising for the last ten years, then I have little doubt that few papers and fewer television news organizations would have any interest whatsoever in covering Democratic Congressional investigations, no matter how lurid the results. But Rove's promise was inexplicably broken in 2006, and corporations don't remain out of the red by backing a political loser. With the Dems back in power, the megacorps need to throw at least a few bones into the donkey stall, however small and stinting those bones may be.

Oh, Big Media is still assiduously cultivating the Republicans, just in case a conservative comeback is in the offing... this is why the media has so incessantly harped on idiotic non-stories like John Edwards' haircut, and so assiduously ignored Rudy Guiliani's heartless snub of a farm family in Iowa because they weren't rich enough for him.

But, at the same time, the Big Six have also tried to show themselves as more 'impartial', meaning, to keep the government axe off their necks and their profits, they're doing favors for the Democrats now, too. It's a tricky balancing act, and probably exactly mirrors the intricate dance that various lobbyists and other members of Washington D.C.'s power elite are going through now -- trying hard not to alienate or aggravate their old Republican buddies, just in case, while at the same time trying to cement new bonds with the current Democratic majority leaders as well... but not cement them TOO firmly, just in case Karl Rove rejuvenates his mojo and manages to steal Congress back in '08.

It doesn't go too deep. Nobody out there is crazy enough to try to really investigate what happened when Cheney shot a guy in the face on a hunting trip... hell, no major media outlet even wants to report the actual details of such a 'hunting trip' (in which cage-raised grouse with clipped wings are released at specific points for the Vice President and his entourage to shoot at, which would hardly strike the Republican base as being particularly daring or manly) for fear of pissing off people who might still be able to do them a bad turn.

On the other hand, the very instant Britney Spears gets out of a car anywhere without her panties on, we'll get breathless up to the second coverage.

If there's a lesson to be learned from this, it's that newspapers should be independent and TV news programs should be carried as a public service by the networks, and not required to support themselves with commercials. Furthermore, the fewer companies who control what we read and hear, the worse informed we are about things that matter.

And, lastly, corporations suck, and at the very least, we need someone in high office somewhere to take a great big swing at them. Rescinding the idiotic legalism making corporations into "natural people" would be an excellent first step, and writing some laws that would allow certain types of lawsuits to penetrate corporate legal shields, and reach into the personal assets of corporate CEOs, board members, and even stockholders, would be a fabulous follow up.

Not that reforms like that will ever happen under Republicans, who still firmly believe that what's good for business is good for America... at least, the 1% or so of America that currently controls 32.7% of American wealth. As long as Republicans remain the party that caters to that 1%, they will continue to be the party that "votes for Viacom". And as long as that happens, Viacom will continue to enjoy the same legal protections as a 'natural person', and Viacom's CEO, board of directors, and shareholders will continue to be shielded from having to actually deal with any of the consequences of their actions.

The problem is, of course, that the game is rigged towards the Viacoms of the world, and always has been... and once the Democrats get into power, they very quickly become the party that 'votes for Viacom' themselves.

What we need is a political system that does not elect politicians.