Current Events for Dummies
May 17, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The
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CORPORATIONS, HURTING WORKERS
Q. I don't get it. The government makes it harder for individuals
to file for bankruptcy, but United Airlines is permitted to declare
bankruptcy and to refuse promised pensions to its employees. Isn't
that a bit hypocritical?
A. The Bush Administration is not hypocritical. It has been very
open about its priorities, and they don't include ordinary workers.
Everything is geared to protecting big business and those already
wealthy, such as in the huge tax breaks and refunds granted to that
narrow strata of society. Those who complain are accused of "class
warfare." (Note: It's only "class warfare" if liberals talk about
it; conservatives don't talk about it, they just wage it.)
Better face up to it: until Bush & Co. are sent packing - either
by impeachment or when another party takes control in 2008 - there
will be no hope of economic justice in this country. If you're unable
to pay your credit card bill, be prepared to face jail-time; if
you don't pay your employees their pensions, you're a savvy businessman
and you'll get federal assistance.
By the way, if you're still wanting a prime example of Bush's
hypocrisy, check out his firm support for the brutal government
of Uzbekistan's Karimov. Bush talks big about expanding freedom
and democracy all around the globe, but because the Uzbek strongman
is our guy in the Caucuses - he's helpful with oil, and the U.S.
sends him terrorist suspects to torture - the Administration puts
him on its good-guys list. (Note: Karimov has few scruples; he's
even had recalcitrant prisoners boiled to death.)
"FIXING" INTELLIGENCE AROUND POLICY
Q. Blair and Bush made a secret deal in mid-2002 to attack
Iraq the following year and to use the interim period in which to
"fix" the "intelligence and facts" around that policy; the secret
memo surfaced just recently in the Times of London. But virtually
none of the major American media reported in a timely way on this
memo substantiating that Bush and Blair lied through their teeth
in taking our respective countries to war. Why the U.S. media reticence?
A. You must be the same dim bulb who asked about pensions, right?
The corporate American media, especially TV and cable but also the
major newspapers, are and long have been in lockstep with the Bush
Administration: they do what they can to hype the Bush spin and
to keep embarrassing stories out of the public eye, or they delay
running anything them until the interest dies down; whether this
is because the media are ideologically in bed with Bush & Co. or
because they are afraid of Roveian retribution doesn't matter, since
the result is the same.
But sometimes a story is simply too important to be ignored totally,
and even the corporate media feel obliged to run something. So the
UK memo story is now starting to appear in a few spots, two weeks
late and usually buried somewhere by the editors; we shall see if
the story, and its implications, break through into the mass-media,
especially on TV, in a major way. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting
for that to happen.
In general, as you no doubt have figured out, in order to learn
what's really going on in the news requires you to seek out journalistic
sources less controlled, which means smaller publications, independent
radio networks, a few liberal talk-show radio hosts, and, especially,
progressive writers on the Internet.
WHY BUSH STILL SUPPORTS BOLTON
Q. Many politicians, especially conservatives these days, say
that a President, having been elected by the voters, should have
the right to appoint ambassadors and judges who mirror his philosophy.
If that's true, John Bolton and those controversial judicial nominees
for the appeals court should be confirmed. But the Democrats are
trying to derail these nominations. What's going on?
A. First off, let's make clear that we're still not sure that
Bush was indeed elected by a majority of the voters (there are unexplained
vote-counting anomalies that suggest the strong possibility of electoral
fraud) but that's a whole different issue. So let's stick to the
main thrust of your question.
Normally, a President's nominees sail through the approval process
precisely for the reason you supplied: a President, having been
duly elected, should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes
to his nominees. But when a particular nominee is so bad that he
brings discredit to the government or to the court, it is the Constitutional
duty of the Senate to decline to approve.
John Bolton clearly should not be confirmed as ambassador to the
United Nations for a wide variety of reasons: his stated antipathy
for that international body's existence, his out-of-control temperament
toward his family and colleagues and other diplomats, and his intentional
(and perhaps illegal) misuse of secret intelligence information
and intelligence agents.
Bush wants Bolton in place at the United Nations partly to keep
that body weak while the U.S. continues its march toward global
hegemony, and partly to help lay the groundwork for U.N. approval
of possible future attacks on other countries, most likely Iran
or Syria. The Democrats are correct in trying to keep Mad Dog Bolton
from being the public face of the U.S. at the United Nations, and
the Republicans are disgracing themselves by moving sheep-like in
approving him. It's theoretically possible that some moderate Republicans
will join the united Democrats in denying Bolton the post, but,
again, don't hold your breath.
As for the appellate court nominees, the Republicans are indeed
hypocrites, since they blocked scores of Clinton nominees but now
object when Democrats block a mere handful (5%) of Bush nominees.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist cannot get those few controversial
nominees approved by the traditional method, so he is threatening
to change the rules in order to keep the Democrats from filibustering.
The real goal, once the filibuster is removed, is to smooth the
way for Bush's anticipated Supreme Court nominees - no doubt in
the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. If the Democrats
hang tough, they may be able to keep Frist at bay. And they may
be joined by a few courageous GOP moderates. But don't count on
it; Rove is in his we-want-it-all-and-we-want-it-now mode.
SOCIAL SECURITY "REFORM" AS A WEDGE
Q. Bush is running into a wall in his attempt to "reform" the
Social Security system. Why is he still running at that wall? What's
really going on?
A. To begin with, Bush is one stubborn guy who - believing himself
God's representative on earth - refuses to admit that he's even
capable of making a mistake; he had such success in his first term
with his in-your-face approach, getting others to move toward his
positions, that he figured he'd simply keep doing the same thing
in his second term.
This approach requires that he refuse to back down, and constantly
come back with the same demands until the other side caves. But
the Democrats are united on this one - they read the polls showing
little or no support for Bush's destructive Social Security ideas
- and he's going to have to compromise if he wants to get even partial
credit for anything to do with Social Security and if he wants to
insert a wedge into the monolith that is Social Security's existence.
Which brings us to the real goal. The Hard-Right has been salivating
for decades about the prospect of rolling back the New Deal/Great
Society programs initiated by FDR and LBJ from the 1930s through
the 1960s. They can't attack those programs frontally - they are
far too popular with the electorate - so the GOP aim is to whittle
away at them, starve them, "reform" them to the point where they
easily can be toppled when they are too weak to stand on their own.
That's why Bush encourages trillion-dollar deficits, so that federal
social programs have to be eliminated or have their budgets cut
way back, such as Medicare/Medicaid, Head Start, National Endowment
for the Arts, etc. And it's why he wants private accounts for Social
Security; in the latter case, the aim is to drain enough money out
of the Social Security system so that it becomes little more than
a welfare program for the elderly poor, thus making it easier to
eliminate someday. Bush & Co. want to "drown" these popular social
programs in the bathtub, to use Hard-Rightist Grover Norquist's
apt description. In addition, of course, privatization also provides
a windfall for the huge Wall Street investment firms and brokers,
who are big financial supporters of the GOP and conservative causes.
FOXES IN THE HENHOUSE
Q. Bush wants to be known as a good steward of the environment.
How does his record add up?
A. You still don't get it, do you? The Bush Administration is
tied ideologically and economically to the polluting corporations,
those who make big bucks off plunder and environmental rape. The
Bush Administration effectively lets the energy/logging lobbyists
write the laws governing air, water, refining, mining, logging and
so on. Permitting them to police themselves is like sending in a
hungry fox to guard the henhouse. The environmental damage done
by the Bush Administration in eight years will take decades to turn
around. And remember that the Busheviks are the same know-nothing
guys who refuse to accept the reality of global warming, and who
demean scientists wherever and whenever they can, in favor of faith-based
ways of looking at the world.
FIDDLING WITH THE VOTES
Q. You alluded above to electoral hanky-panky in the 2004 election.
Are you serious? And, if so, how could a political party get away
with fiddling with the election returns? Wouldn't such manipulation
be so obvious that they'd risk their reputation forever?
A. Since one third of the electorate in the last election voted
on computer-voting machines with no verifiable paper trail, we'll
never be certain how many votes might have been tampered with. We
do know how non-secure the voting process is. Prior to the 2004
election, for example, Howard Dean and Bev Harris demonstrated on
CNBS how easy it was for them to access the vote-counting software,
alter the figures, and exit without anybody being the wiser.
Since the voting machines and the secret vote-counting software
that compiles the total votes of the various precincts are effectively
controlled by three Republican companies, and since statisticians
using demographics and exit-polls have determined that Bush had
only one chance in a million of winning the election, it is highly
likely that some fiddling took place with the results. Under the
current system, local returns, for instance, could be 100% accurate
- even with a verified paper trail - and an election still could
be stolen, due to compiling fraud.
Precisely because we know how often such electoral theft occurs
around the world, we Americans should be extra-vigilant about it
happening here. But we're in denial: we're not Zimbabwe; surely,
American politicians wouldn't do that, we tell ourselves. But Karl
Rove and his minions are masters of the Big Lie technique and a
host of electoral dirty tricks. And John Kerry handed them the best
gift of all; he didn't even raise a question about the validity
of the result, just gave his concession speech quickly and exited
The only way to guarantee an honest, transparent vote in contemporary
America is to return to paper ballots, hand-counted in the presence
of both partisan and independent monitors - and with tested/certified
software adding up the grand totals, again in the presence of election
monitors. If the U.S. doesn't take these steps, it's asking for
more corruption of the process and suspect election results in election
after election. The Republicans benefit from the current system
and will do nothing to change it; the required changes will not
happen on their own but will require massive and unrelenting citizen
THE LOGIC BEHIND MILITARY DRAFT
Q. You hinted above that the Bush Administration may be moving
toward more wars. Doesn't this suggest that the military draft will
have to be reactivated?
A. The neo-con warriors, led by Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld, do not want
to restart the draft. They know, from the Vietnam experience, that
a mercenary (volunteer) army, one derived from the poor and lower-middle-class,
is much easier to control; draftees and their parents and spouses
are an unruly bunch who can exert strong influence on their members
However, given how thin the U.S. military is stretched and how
bogged-down it is in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the world,
and how unable the recruiters are to meet their monthly quotas these
days - even with illegal recruiting tricks and the $30,000 bonuses
new recruits are being offered - the draft is a distinct possibility.
This is especially likely because in order for the U.S. to have
a believable threat against Syria and Iran and North Korea, those
nations' leaders have to believe that the U.S. is thoroughly capable
of mounting invasions of their countries; air/missile power can
only do so much, eventually, you have to put boots on the ground.
Ergo, the draft; accordingly, the Selective Service System is slowly
DANGERS OF CHURCH/STATE MELDING
Q. How much influence do fundamentalist Christians have in
the Bush Administration? Should we worry about a possible theocracy?
A. Short answers: a lot, and yes. Karl Rove gave out a lot of
chits to fundamentalist leaders prior to the 2004 election, because
he knew how important that base of voters would be in the close
balloting. Now Robertson, Dobson, Falwell, Bauer, Perkins, et al.,
are calling in those markers. Plus, key leaders of the GOP are born-again
believers - Bush, DeLay, Frist, et al., along with key elements
in the military. It's a theocracy in the making, separation of church
and state be damned, and only the courage of a few federal judges,
and an embarrassing defeat of the Hard-Right in an (honest) election,
will get us back to the more balanced approach envisioned by the
IMPEACHMENT POSSIBILITIES & 9/11
Q. You mentioned impeachment above. What are the chances for
A. There are so many political/policy/intelligence scandals that
could blow up in the faces of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld, but the American
public - heavily influenced by the corporate-owned mass-media that
protects these guys - doesn't seem to care enough. However, if there
were sex involved, maybe. It probably would take videotape of Jeff
Guckert/Gannon in bed with George W. Bush for the American people
to get aroused enough to call for impeachment.
Q. Speaking of Gannon or Guckert or whatever his real name
is, will we ever find out who authorized that GOP shill's access
into the White House Press Corps?
A. We'll probably learn that answer when the Valerie Plame coverup
gets unraveled and we find out which White House officials outed
her as a covert CIA agent. In short, the 12th of Never.
Q. Speaking of coverups, will we ever learn the extent of White
House pre-knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks?
A. There was a sort-of "breakthrough" recently. David Ray Griffin,
the theologian who has become something of an expert on the 9/11
coverup, actually had an hour on national TV, on CSPAN, so maybe
the public mood is shifting a bit. (Or, the Bush Administration
let Griffin through the censorship net because his more far-out
speculations, of the tinfoil-hat variety, make him easy to ridicule.)
But there probably won't be a genuine, full-bore investigation until
some years have passed after Bush & Co. leave office and a Democratic
sweep has occurred. Don't hold your breath.
In the meantime, you know what to do: organize, organize, organize!
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught politics and international
relations at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with
the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The
Crisis Papers. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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