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The Lunatics Are In Charge
June 5, 2003
By punpirate

Maybe this is a parallel universe. Maybe someone set the Wayback Machine to 1887. Or, maybe, we collectively just took a wrong turn at the corner of Liberty Avenue and We The People Way. Perhaps, the White House is dragging us down the rabbit hole. But, no matter the mechanism, everything in the US is upside down right now.

A foreign and presumably conservative, albeit rational, voice, the Financial Times of London, says of the United States, approximately, that "the lunatics are in charge." They refer, of course, to US economic policy under the Bush administration.

They aren't particularly interested in the other aberrant afflictions the Bush administration has visited on the US. They are only interested in what upsets the international monetary applecart. More's the pity. We could use a little more of the same from the very staid and tweedy Financial Times. No one else seems willing to call this particular spade for what it is.

Let's try to put these curious times in some perspective. An insect exterminator from a portion of Texas known for its storage facilities and trailer parks is the second-most powerful man in the US House of Representatives, and rules in that body by threat and intimidation.

The leader of the Senate, that august deliberative body known historically as the most patient in matters of legislative thought, is now ruled by a heart surgeon who deluded volunteers at local animal shelters into believing that he was a lover of cats, only to take the little moggies home not for milk and tuna and scratches behind the ears, but rather for extermination and autopsy. This same man's votes on civil rights, on issues important to the NAACP and most of the humans in the minority in this country, hover near zero on the acceptability scale. He obtained his present leadership position when the former Senate leader from Mississippi made nice to an elderly racist from South Carolina on his birthday and was called down for same, belatedly, by a press which by all accounts was rendered virtually unconscious from all the frivolity.

And, then, there's the President, and his men. What can we say of George W. Bush? Words fail. In a country which has elected men to the Presidency of true oratorical genius - Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Kennedy - the Supreme Court of the United States has chosen, by fiat, to place in that important role a man with all the verbal skills of a passive-aggressive teenaged misfit with drug- and alcohol-inhibited neural synapses.

His second-in-command, Richard Cheney, the Vice-President, is a man of consummate skill in enriching himself at the taxpayers' expense, and is the ward-heeler of a corporate world in which the word "rape" is interpreted to mean an "obligatory responsibility to provide profit to the shareholder and the CEO." He smirks like Bush, too.

Slightly further down the President's ladder of responsibility are the Cabinet Cabal. There's Spencer Abraham, appointed to his position as Secretary of Energy because he advocated the abolishment of the department he was appointed to head.

And, there's Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, who has managed to avoid acknowledging, somehow, that the mightiest military in the world's history, with the name "Department of Defense" was completely unable to defend its own shores and people on a particular September 11th morning, but still manages to cheer at his charges' ability to destroy successive third-world countries on command.

Nor can we forget Colin Powell, who, when a part of that military, made his way up the military chain of command by hiding a few military indiscretions in another sordid time, the Viet Nam war, and therefore, earned his position as the country's chief diplomat, the Secretary of State. Why should a general, with the policy of "overwhelming force" not be afforded the opportunity to handle ticklish diplomatic affairs?

And, certainly, why shouldn't his child, Michael Powell, not be afforded the opportunity to hand over all of the public's interest in the airwaves to corporate interests, as head of the Federal Communications Commission?

Oh, we've forgotten Gale Norton, a Red Queen if there ever was one. Appointed as Secretary of the Interior, her voluminous experience can be summarized by her tenure as lobbyist for corporate polluters such as Harold Simmons' NL Industries (NL being a nice name for National Lead). We'll overlook for the moment that Harold Simmons is a huge contributor to the Republican party.

How about that Elaine Chao? A Secretary of Labor to die for, if you're a corporate leader. The wife of one of the most conservative members of Congress, Mitch McConnell, and, well, she doesn't much like unions, or laborers, or, well, much of anything having to do with the proletariat. A fine pick, says Humpty Dumpty.

Oh, my goodness, that brings us to former Senator John Ashcroft, the Attorney General. No, I won't refer to him as "Crisco Jack." But, here is a man sworn to uphold the laws of the United States, is in a position to do so, who fought tirelessly for the rights of his state's children to avoid integration. Beaten by a dead man in his state's Senatorial race in 2000, George W. Bush saw in him a man who would return this country to a time when corporations ruled and people followed (approximately 1887, see above). The architect of detentions without trial or counsel, the progenitor of the USA PATRIOT Act, which has stripped more rights from citizens and residents in shorter time than any other Attorney General, John Ashcroft is setting records for abuse of the Constitution which will long live in this country's history.

There's Don Evans, of course, but why pick on a personal friend of the President, even if he knows about as much of the workings of the Department of Commerce as Red Skelton?

And Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services, who cares about neither. Mr. Thompson is from Wisconsin, and looks as if he's been visiting former Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy's hair stylist.

For all the trouble these folks have caused, it's nothing compared to the men behind the guns (apologies to Alfred Noyes).

Paul Wolfowitz, deputy Secretary of Defense. Now, here's a real trip to the Twilight Zone. This man thinks like Richard Nixon. Lies are the truth, unless one gets caught. He's wanted to invade every country in the world since he was four years old.

Richard Perle, advisor to the Defense Policy Board (well, he was chairman, until that nasty little business about using his position to favor a corporate client of his). He's called the "Prince of Darkness" by his friends. His enemies aren't quite as charitable in their characterizations of him. If you caught this man in the shower at your local gym, you'd find him scrubbing his tail and his horns while having a conversation with Lucifer on his cell phone - and he'd be telling Lucifer what to do. This man really has a complexion that you'd think means he has to crawl into a casket before sunrise, and he's helping to decide which country your leaders invade next.

Douglas Feith. Ummm. No. Won't go there.

John Bolton. Unh, huh, won't go there, either. Nasty piece of work. Thinks statesmanship means blowing everything up.

Well, shit. What happened? This is the most perverse assortment of wackos to ever invade the government of the United States. Look at 'em. If there ever was a more completely ideologically-driven bunch in the history of the country, I can't remember who tops them. It's simply not accessible by ordinary logic how these maniacs wound up running the country.

Even if one factors in a corporate media with its own lusts for such a bunch, how did the American public buy into their bullshit? What happened?

Truth is, I don't know for sure. I can figure out parts of it, but not all. I'd like to dig up Samuel Clemens, breathe life into him for a while and ask him what he thought of what was going on in our age. Given that, around the turn of the last century, Clemens was the foremost spokesman against American imperialism, his words might be applicable now to this latest bunch of imperialists with which we find ourselves saddled:

"Give her the glass; it may from error free her
When she shall see herself as others see her."

That her is us. Our country. Our government, which has been dragged down the rabbit hole of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, where up is down, black is white, lies are truth, wrong is right, and the right is wrong. Our country, where H.G. Wells' time machine has transported us back to 1887 and the robber barons are in charge, with the help of George W. Bush & Co. Where Sherman punched the wrong button on the Wayback Machine and plunked us all down in the middle of a nasty little morality play written by J.P. Morgan and Commodore Vanderbilt.

Or, maybe, it's a horrid unproduced script from the Twilight Zone, one Rod Serling dared not set to teleplay. Or, maybe, it's a parallel universe.

Or, more likely, it's what has happened to our lives, our country, our government, our democracy when we weren't watching. Diverted by fairy tales, cartoons, patriotic ditties, mistaking what is on the television screen for real life, we went along with it all, trying to cope with a life growing increasingly complex and devoid of time, and then, one day in early 2001, tripped and fell and just couldn't seem to get up, and remained disoriented and disconnected from reality.

Perhaps, it's time to simply lay where we fell, look up at the sky and get our bearings, concentrate our thoughts on who is actually running our country and controlling our lives today and make some sensible judgments. We are now represented, for all the world to see, by a fundamentalist insect exterminator, a fundamentalist cat-killer and the fundamentalist scion of a wealthy family who killed small animals with firecrackers when he was an adolescent.

The Financial Times was right. The lunatics are in charge.


punpirate is a New Mexico writer who knows lunacy when he sees it

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