October 31, 2007

Wake Up: The Only Issue that Matters

I will have much more on the Andrew Meyer incident soon. One of my major concerns is the extent to which most people have internalized the principle of obedience: obedience to authority in all its manifestations (including its most notable embodiments, the state and its various agents, such as the campus police in this instance), and an enthusiastic willingness to "follow the rules." It is vitally important to understand some of the roots of this psychology; upcoming essays will focus on this question in detail.

I continue to get emails telling me that I am "missing the point" about the Meyer story, that he was, in fact, a "brat" who acted up and acted out and, because he would not do as he was told, he "deserved what he got." And many people continually refer to Meyer as a "kid," a troublesome and bratty kid who needed to be disciplined. Such terminology is unintentionally revealing. Whatever one's view of Meyer and his actions, he is not a "kid." He is 21 years old. He is young, but he is a young man. In effect, my critics (and the many people of similar mind whom they represent) seek to discipline Meyer as they would discipline a badly behaved child. They will resist the truth, but it remains the truth: they thus reenact their own childhoods, and how they were brought up. Now they seek to impose similar disciplinary methods on anyone who "breaks the rules," even when that person is an adult and even when breaking the rules is the only way the person can make himself heard. All of this should become clearer in the articles I have planned. (If you want a preview of the issues involved, please consult my numerous Alice Miller essays -- perhaps especially the last parts of my series "On Torture," here and here, and "When the Demons Come." I will be providing a great deal of additional material on this very complicated subject in the new pieces.)

Let me briefly clarify a related issue. It is absolutely immaterial to me what Meyer's motives were. In view of the questions Meyer asked, and his second question especially (concerning an attack on Iran), it should be immaterial to you as well. I don't care if he was only looking for a brief moment of fame. I don't give a damn if he was a "prankster" seeking to create some kind of outrageous incident. I care only that he asked the most crucial question of this time -- and that he asked it of someone who could actually do something about it, if he wanted to. But John Kerry and almost every other Democrat in Congress will never do a damned thing. In fact, the Democrats only act to make an attack on Iran more likely, and that is because they and the Republicans share the same fundamental perspective and pursue the same ultimate goals: a foreign policy of world hegemony, and a corporatist-authoritarian state at home.

I don't care if Meyer was rude or abrasive, or even if his motives were awful. He asked the crucial question. For God's sake, writers and bloggers who say they themselves think an attack on Iran would represent a horrific criminal act, and may additionally lead to the final imposition of a dictatorship in the United States, can barely bring themselves to ask the question in articles or on their blogs. And they do nothing to pressure the Democrats in Congress to act to prevent an attack -- and the Democrats are supposedly their representatives from their party, and purportedly concerned with their views. But for the most part, these writers and bloggers do absolutely nothing. At least they do nothing politely. They follow the rules. They are marvelously well-behaved. By such means, they also render themselves utterly useless and irrelevant -- and accomplices before the fact to a monstrous crime.

All I care about is the fact that Meyer asked the question that should be everyone's highest concern right now. Meyer tried to stop traffic and, for a very brief, fragile moment, he did. He tried to wake people up. Most of you are still in a self-induced coma. So much for Meyer's attempt.

And, as this exchange with NBC's Today show indicates, Meyer has a very good understanding of what is at stake here. Consider what he says about his first two questions:
TODAYshow.com: Your arrest has sparked a lot of questions about free speech and police brutality, but one of the biggest questions remains your motive for attending the John Kerry event. What was the point you were trying to make?

Meyer: The first question I asked the Senator was about his concession of the 2004 election. Greg Palast, author of "Armed Madhouse," the book I was holding up at the forum, proved that John Kerry won the 2004 election. The ultimate point I was trying to make was to bring up was the heinous way millions of American votes were chucked in the garbage on Election Day. Not only is this a total assault on democracy, but the same tactics used to throw away votes in 2004 will be used again in 2008. Read about the Help America Vote Act and see for yourself. HAVA helps America vote in about the same way the PATRIOT Act patriotically dismantles the Bill of Rights. In other words, it’s completely Un-American.

The second question I asked was why haven’t Kerry and the Democratic Congress made any moves to impeach Bush, considering he has led us into two wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, and wasn’t even legitimately elected (as Kerry knows since, as he told me, he has read "Armed Madhouse.") If Kerry is so concerned about the aggressive posturing the administration is taking towards Iran, why don’t he and the Democrats running Congress do something about it? They have the impeachment power. Millions of Americans believe they should use it.
As stated above and as I have explained in numerous essays -- see "The Worsening Nightmare," "Morality, Humanity and Civilization: 'Nothing remains...but memories,'" and "Building an Effective Resistance," in particular -- because of the panoply of horrors that will result from an attack on Iran, this is the only issue that matters right now.

Andrew Meyer understands this, and he did something about it. Why -- why, in God's name -- won't more of you do something about it? Why the hell won't you wake up?

October 30, 2007

Break the Goddamned Rules

Forgive me for quoting myself, but these passages are the quickest way to an issue of critical importance. In Part II of "A Nation on the Edge of the Final Descent," I wrote:
For this is where we are in the United States, nearing the end of the Year of Our Lord 2007: the truth is not merely unpleasant, an uninvited guest who makes conversation difficult and awkward. Truth is the enemy; truth is to be destroyed. To attempt to speak the truth on any subject of importance requires a deep reserve of determination, for to speak the truth requires that one first sweep away an infinite number of rationalizations, false alternatives, and numerous other failures of logic and the most rudimentary forms of thought -- as well as the endless lies. On that single occasion in a thousand or a million when a person overcomes these barriers and speaks the truth, he or she discovers an additional, terrible truth: almost no one wants to hear it. This is how we live today: lies are the staple of our diet. Without them, we would die, certainly in psychological terms.
Toward the end of that essay, I turned again to the Andrew Meyer incident (the tasering and arrest at the University of Florida):
It was in this cultural setting that Andrew Meyer asked his questions. His second question concerned Iran (we assume Kerry discussed Iran in his lengthy remarks, which ran longer than scheduled, thus conveniently reducing the time for questions significantly). Meyer wanted to know this: why, if Kerry is so concerned about Iran, isn't Kerry urging impeachment of Bush now, before he can order an attack on Iran? Meyer pointed out that Clinton was impeached for a blowjob, for God's sake. Shouldn't Bush be impeached now, before another monstrous crime is committed -- and before a possible world war is begun?

At this moment in history, and in view of the stakes involved -- which stakes involve literally the future of the world and of civilization, to employ those words with their genuine meanings for once -- that is the question that should be asked of every national leader at least once a day, and preferably a hundred times a day. It is the question that should be asked all the time, of everyone. It is the question that should be asked of every Democratic member of Congress all the time, every day. Almost no one asks it. Democrats and their partisans continue their dull-witted fixation on the 2008 elections, forbidding themselves and anyone else to acknowledge that by then, it may be far, far too late. Major actors in the Bush administration have longed to attack Iran for years, and they have never tried to hide it. Now, their viciously murderous purpose is being aided and abetted by leading Democrats such as Hillary Clinton.

And no one will ask: Why don't you act to stop this insanity?

Andrew Meyer asked that question.
Just the other day, in "It's Called the Ruling Class Because It Rules," I wrote:
Laws are the particular means by which the state implements and executes its vast powers. When an increasingly authoritarian state passes a certain critical point in its development, the law is no longer the protector of individual rights and individual liberty. The law becomes the weapon of the state itself -- to protect, not you, but the state from threats to its own powers. We passed that critical point some decades ago. The law is the means by which the state corrals its subjects, keeps them under control, and forbids them from acting in ways that the overlords might perceive as threatening. In brief, today, in these glorious United States, the law is not your friend.
As I discussed in these articles (and in many others), our public debate -- that discussion that involves our politicians, the major media, and most bloggers -- is almost exclusively made up of empty phrases, vacuous utterances, and meaningless gestures. We do not speak of the genocide we have caused in Iraq, nor do we speak in truthful, accurate terms of the criminal war of aggression the United States launched against that hapless nation. Nor do we speak in truthful terms of the equally criminal occupation that continues from day to bloody day -- and which this goddamned worthless Democratic Congress could end within months by simply refusing to fund it for one more murderous moment. But the Democrats and their apologist bloggers will tell you -- apparently believing that everyone is as stupid as they are and will fall for this load of shit -- that the Democrats can't end the war. They don't have the votes. Waaaaaaahhhhhh! The fact that the Democrats can't end the war, waaaaaaahhhhhh!, is, of course, why we need "more and better Democrats."


And our politicians speak of keeping "all options on the table" with regard to Iran. They talk of our "right" to threaten, bomb and destroy still another nation because it will not do exactly as we tell it -- even though that nation is not any kind of threat to us and will not be for years to come, if then. Our government is a genocidal murderer, empowered and enabled by cadres of genocidal murderers. If certain individuals do not commit the murders themselves, they make the murders possible -- and they allow them to continue.

The law is not the only method by which the state controls us, and strips our national discussion of all meaning. There is another, less formal but no less constricting means, which is commonly identified by the phrase, "the rules." We must all follow "the rules." You cannot ever break "the rules." Be very, very clear on this point: the only way you can speak the truth on any subject of importance in this country today is BY BREAKING THE RULES.

That is what Andrew Meyer did in Florida. He broke the goddamned rules. He did not do so in any way that merited his being arrested -- but HE BROKE THE RULES. This cannot be permitted, not if our meaningless, pointless national discussion devoid of all substance is to continue in its meaningless, pointless way. Breaking the rules cannot be allowed if the lies are to continue. So he was arrested.

And he was charged with a third-degree felony for resisting arrest with violence and a second-degree misdemeanor for disturbing the peace -- for asking the most urgent question of our time, the question that almost no one will ask. He was charged with resisting an arrest that should never have occurred -- and with "disturbing the peace."

Friends, if this country -- and if you individually -- are to have any kind of human future at all, and by "human," I mean a life with any genuine meaning and joy, a life not fatally compromised by ongoing murder, torture, and brutality -- you had better fucking disturb the peace every second of every day. Faced with the destruction of his life, Meyer apologized. In exchange for Meyer's obeisance to the state, to the law and to the rules, the charges were dropped.

I'll return to this in more detail when I continue the "Final Descent" series, but for now, consider this passage from one of Meyer's apologies:
In society, as in life, there are consequences for not following the rules. In this instance, not following the rules has imposed consequences for many people other than myself, people who have seen their school, and perhaps their degree, tarnished in the eyes of others through no fault of their own.
I do not criticize Meyer to any degree at all. The state targeted him for destruction. He is a very young man, with all of his life ahead of him. The cost was prohibitive. He had broken the rules, and he had to be destroyed. His example would help to keep the rest of you in line.

And speaking of that -- and speaking of the fact that, eight months after I first proposed these suggestions for halting an attack on Iran, not one major writer or blogger has seen fit to do a goddamned thing of any consequence with any of those ideas or with additional ideas they might think of on their own, if they actually gave a damn -- I wrote the following in an essay I wish more people would read, "Passing on the Sense of Wonder." For certain reasons, that piece is a personal favorite of mine. On this issue, I said:
I am enormously struck by the unnecessary and indefensible narrowness of action that most people, including almost all progressive bloggers (and certainly all national Democrats), view as feasible or "realistic." I will be discussing this in detail in a new essay I'm working on, and that I hope to complete by tomorrow; it will deal with a few political heroes on a grand scale, and how such people have vanished from our lives, to be replaced by two-bit charlatans for the most part. For the moment, I will simply observe that almost all people think only within the severely circumscribed limits of what others have already determined to be "acceptable" behavior. In connection with progressive writers especially, the irony is exceptionally heavy: these are people who endlessly rail against "conventional wisdom" and "inside the Beltway thinking," while they themselves vehemently reject the merest suggestion that anyone should break the accepted rules in any significant way, or refuse to play the game as it has always been played. In part, this is why my suggestions in "Dispatch from Germany" were almost universally ignored: I purposely insisted that the bounds of what is "acceptable" be expanded, and that the rules of the game be changed. For most people, this is unthinkable. They say such ideas are not "realistic"; what they mean is that they are not willing to take the necessary risks. But on rare occasions, a hero will come along who takes precisely those risks and completely rejects the conventional rules. Many progressives hail these heroes, and simultaneously prove entirely incapable of applying the indicated lessons to our situation today.
Brave progressive bloggers, who will not dream of or even consider breaking the rules. Brave Democrats, who helped write the fucking rules.

In following up on the matters discussed here, IOZ has another entry. He quotes from an extraordinary post at Stop Me Before I Vote Again, which includes this:
The main thing, though, is to stop being constructive. Don't waste a moment thinking about what "policies" might be better than the ones we have. The fact is that the institutions we have absolutely guarantee insane policies, and unless the balance of power between the elites and the rest of us is changed, then those institutions will continue to manufacture insanity day in and day out.

And there is, needless to say, no institutional way to change the balance of power. The institutions exist to maintain the balance of power – or, more accurately, to tip the balance of power ever more toward the elites. Changing the balance of power requires interfering with the institutions, and impairing or impeding their operation.

In short: stop traffic.
Andrew Meyer tried to stop traffic. The state decided he had come to represent too great a threat, so he had to be crushed. Now he has been.

My suggestions, and many other actions that could be taken to try to prevent an attack on Iran, involve much less risk, and probably none at all. Yet almost no one will do anything. Most people's lives are entirely constricted by "the rules." To break them is the absolutely forbidden thought. And so we continue toward catastrophe -- and this one may be the last.

And still you do nothing. So I have one more suggestion:


Your life -- and the lives of millions of others -- may depend on it.


Even Worse than I Had Thought

With regard to my "Final Descent" series (and Part I is here), which deals in large part with the tasering of Andrew Meyer at the University of Florida: yes, I am aware of these latest developments, including Meyer's various apologies.

I'll deal with this in due course, when I continue the series in the next few days. None of this changes my basic judgment about what happened here, and what its significance is -- except that Meyer's apologies cause me to view our current situation as considerably more fragile and more dangerous than I had thought, and my judgment was already extremely negative. I don't care in the least that Meyer himself and the various institutions and authorities involved may now consider this matter closed: it is certainly not closed to me, nor should it be to anyone who appreciates the dynamics involved. On certain occasions, our actions take on a significance that we ourselves may not have originally intended, and a significance that we may be eager to later disclaim. But the significance remains, together with the ominous warning.

More to come on all this very soon.


I don't get drawn into comment threads very often (or often at all), but I've gotten drawn into this one.

It is extraordinary, disheartening and more than a little frightening to realize the extent to which the omnipresent, close to omnipotent state has come to dominate the perspective of so many people, and that so many of them appear to regard this state of affairs as axiomatic and unalterable -- even in places where one would not expect to encounter this phenomenon. These observations are not directed at IOZ at all, but at some of the commenters. [For a bit more on this from IOZ himself, see here.]

You might want to, as they say, read the whole thing.

AND STILL ONE MORE TIME: From the end of February -- Building an Effective Resistance.

Will enough of you finally wake up in time, and begin to do something? The answer, almost certainly, is: No, you will not.

Great Laff Lines

"...the media should, in its role as guardian of some minimal level of competency within the political process..." -- Ezra Klein
Is that one of the roles of "the media"? Really? I mean, honest to God?

Isn't Klein supposed to be a member of the "reality-based community"? Well, I suppose he never said it was this reality.

So, you know, he's covered there.

October 27, 2007

It's Called the Ruling Class Because It Rules

Sisters and brothers, girls and boys: I obviously do not say the ruling class "rules," using "rules" in its contemporary colloquial sense, meaning that the ruling class is the most awesome and keenest contraption since fully functional, life-sized Ken and Barbie dolls that can fulfill each and every one of your private (and hopefully wonderfully disturbing) fantasies. How much more pleasant life in Imperial America would be if I did.

No, I mean the ruling class, including those corporations of vast wealth and influence, together with the necessarily corrupt and loathsome inhabitants of the swamp which contains our national politicians along with much other nauseating detritus, determines and enforces policy both at home and abroad, it controls the terms of debate through the collusion of its willing adjunct, the major media, and it acts to satisfy the most critical goals of the ruling class's various components. The primary goal is, of course, the accumulation of still more wealth and power. (See "The Elites Who Rule Us" and "Cui Bono? -- and Bush's Monstrous, Deadly Dare" for the details.)

As we shall see in the next installments of my series concerning the recent taser incident at the University of Florida, the reaction of most people to that demonstration of potentially deadly state power included some highly disturbing elements. Several of those elements reveal a culture that is fully prepared for the final slide into dictatorship, and they include an unthinkingly enthusiastic willingness to defer to that holiest of holies, the law. Most commentators contemplated the noble spectacle of the Glorious Warriors of the State, embodied by the heroic gang of campus police, descending on that day's threat to Civilization and Order, a gangling, nonthreatening, lone student, and almost as one, they cried, progressives and conservatives alike: "We must obey the law! We must do what the police tell us! We must, we must, we must!" (The next installment of that series will provide many examples of this reaction, including examples from self-identified progressives and liberals. This problem lies far beneath political designations; it is more fundamental, and thus far worse as a sign of things to come.)

They did not mean this in a simply practical sense: that you would often be best advised to do what the police tell you whenever they begin to order you around, primarily to avoid still worse trouble. That would not be too troubling, although even that serves to underscore the fact that when the state targets you, regardless of the nature of the crime and whether you have in fact committed what ought to be a crime in the first place, you are close to entirely helpless before its power.

But that's not what most people meant about the taser incident. What they meant is troubling in a much deeper sense: they meant that the law and its enforcers are right. They meant that the state is concerned with genuine threats to public safety and "order." After all, they ominously pointed out, Andrew Meyer might have done something terrible! Never forget he kept waving that book around. He even raised his voice -- primarily to ask for help, which was not forthcoming. These commentators meant that the law and its representatives are intent only on protecting us. The state and its enforcers are Good and Virtuous. Their hearts are Pure and Noble. When you accept the general American "exceptionalist" myth, you will be ready and eager to accept its narrower manifestations. America the Good has only Good Police, and Good Soldiers. (Right. Indubitably correct.) You should do what they tell you, without question and without resistance.

If you resist -- even if you are, in fact, fully justified in resisting, since the state's agents should never have approached you in the first place -- then you are the one who makes the police take stronger measures. You pushed your way to the head of the line to ask a question no one else would ask -- the question that everyone should be asking all the time, every day -- and you saw nothing in your behavior that merited being arrested. Perhaps you might have deserved a warning from the college administration, and even a notation in your student record. But arrest? Why, in God's name? So you resisted. Therefore, said many progressives and conservatives, Andrew Meyer "deserved" what he got. He "asked for it."

Such people are ready for the yoke. They will put the chains on themselves. Many of them already have, and now they can't wait to put the chains on everyone else, especially on the "troublemakers." In the wake of another significant terrorist attack or two here in the U.S., plentiful chains will not be long in coming. But more about all that in the continuation of the "Final Descent" series.

To return to the law: this unquestioning reverence for "the law" represents a significant failure of understanding and analysis, and an appalling ignorance of history. We saw this in the midst of the sickening racism that was revealed in the recent controversies about immigration, and in the widespread condemnation of "illegal immigrants." They're "illegal"! That is bad. It's, like, an axiom. Is it?

On this general point, in "The Triumph of Racism" while analyzing an especially repugnant example of racist condescension from a nominal liberal, Eric Alterman, I wrote:
Alterman echoes all the mindless, contentless screams of the racist conservatives who railed against this bill: "But they're illegal immigrants! They broke the law, our law!" Neither Alterman nor the conservatives choose to acknowledge, let alone address, how those laws are written, whose interests they serve, or how arbitrarily they are enforced. Not for Alterman or for the conservatives, any recognition of one of the most fundamental of human rights, the right to move, which [Sheldon] Richman mentions in his column but almost no one else does. They shout, "The law! The law!," like any barbarian, not even beginning to understand that is only the first step of the inquiry, not anywhere near the last.


[Liberals like Alterman] still believe, like not very bright children who believe in Santa Claus past the age of six or seven, that calling something "government" or appealing to "a society of laws" purifies it of self-interest and corrupted and corruptible motives and concerns. They seem to be incapable of understanding that, from the first historic forms of the State, the State has always formed and will always form alliances with certain individuals and segments of society -- to which the government bureaucrats will provide favors and special dispensations, and to the severe disadvantage of those individuals and groups that are not so favored. I will return to this issue and many related ones in my upcoming series on tribalism in politics; for now, I note that our contemporary tribalists believe, without any history or evidence whatsoever to support the claim, that if only members of their tribe were in charge, they would act in saintly and disinterested ways, and they would be uniformly non-venal, non-self-seeking, and non-human. Good luck with that. It has never happened and it never will, barring a fundamental transformation of what it means to be human.
The law is not some Platonic Form plucked from the skies by the Pure in Heart. Laws are written by men, men who have particular interests, particular constituencies, particular donors, and particular friends. (The same is now true of women as well, of course. But for most of our history, it was men and only men. Straight, white men, to be precise; see here and here.) Laws are the particular means by which the state implements and executes its vast powers. When an increasingly authoritarian state passes a certain critical point in its development, the law is no longer the protector of individual rights and individual liberty. The law becomes the weapon of the state itself -- to protect, not you, but the state from threats to its own powers. We passed that critical point some decades ago. The law is the means by which the state corrals its subjects, keeps them under control, and forbids them from acting in ways that the overlords might perceive as threatening. In brief, today, in these glorious United States, the law is not your friend.

In "The Triumph of Racism," I included this genuinely awful passage from Alterman:
Personally, I support a fence. The current system encourages the horrific abuses that take place against immigrants attempting to sneak in. Naturally, I support allowing generous numbers of immigrants into this country, but I support doing so legally, first and foremost. I also think it encourages contempt for the law, which is a net negative in any society. (I also support the legalization of pot for the same reason.)
The earlier post considers the elitist racism of Alterman's perspective with regard to the immigration question. Previously, I didn't focus on Alterman's comment about "the legalization of pot," but let's consider it briefly in this context. Alterman says nothing about individual rights, including a person's right to his own body. No, he speaks about laws that are frequently broken and disregarded, and how this failure of obedience "encourages contempt for the law."

How pathetically sickening. This perspective reveals a cramped and crabbed spirit, and an impoverished intellect. Given the ravages of the Drug War, an entirely phony war that has destroyed numerous lives, including the lives of a huge proportion of several generations of young African-Americans, to speak of "contempt for the law" -- when the vast majority of the laws in question are entirely invalid and indefensible -- is obscene. I thought self-identified liberals had somewhat loftier concerns. At least, that's what they keep telling us. Live and learn.

In an authoritarian state, the law is not designed to protect the ordinary citizen and his or her rights. The law's purpose is to control you, to limit your choices in every area of your life and, when necessary, to imprison and destroy you. I repeat: the law is not your friend.

And the law is the tool of the ruling class -- which brings us to the latest FISA obscenity. When the law might prove to be troublesome to a significant component of the ruling class -- say, the hugely powerful and wealthy telecom industry -- change it! Retroactive immunity! Now, in this sense, the law is certainly the coolest thing ever! It rocks!

Chris Dodd is attempting to stop, or at least slow down, this monstrous attack on truth, justice and (insert laugh track) the American way. Good for him. That the protection of fundamental principles of fairness -- to say nothing of some of the foundations of the original conception of American government -- should depend on such parliamentary strategems reflects only how frayed the imitation of a democratic republic that serves as the U.S. government has become. It is now so delicate that the entire edifice could be collapsed overnight. One more significant terrorist attack will certainly do it.

And, dear reader, let me ask you this. Do you honestly believe -- honestly, take a few moments to consider the matter in the privacy of your own mind, and we promise not to ask you to give the game away publicly -- that even if Dodd manages to stop this bill, the telecoms will ever suffer a penalty of any significance for what they have done? The telecoms and their full partner, the federal government, will avail themselves of endless evidentiary challenges and obstacles, they will delay any outcome through years of appeals, and they will dilute, postpone and otherwise render any judgment close to meaningless via numerous other routes. And what about the criminals who designed and ordered the surveillance in the first place? What about impeachment of at least one of the numerous criminals in this administration? If you're serious at all about "accountability," justice and similar notions -- all of which today have been ground into dust by the rampaging leviathan state -- impeachment proceedings would begin tomorrow. Oh, but that's "off the table." Of course. Thus does the ruling class protect itself.

And do you genuinely believe that anything will roll back the government's surveillance powers? Only a few months ago, the Democratic Congress significantly expanded those powers. Do you truly believe Dodd's tactics will alter our course in any way that matters? Do you think the suffocating agglomeration of vast and growing government power will be turned aside so easily?

For God's sake, grow up. As sincerely as I laud Dodd for the attempt -- at least he seems to give a damn, which is more than can be said about almost anyone else in Washington -- Dodd's effort will ultimately be a blip of no importance at all. The steamroller of government, and of the desire for power on the part of every Republican and Democrat in Congress, two or three people excepted, will crush him easily enough. Look at the big picture. Consider the unrelenting, unstoppable developments of the last century -- and note how they tend to only one result: a corporatist, authoritarian state, which feasts on oppression, war and death, both here and abroad.

Speaking of history, we will now consider an entry from Glenn Greenwald, only one from his infinite series on How to Restore America's Nobility and Reclaim Our Indispensable Role in the Vast Cosmos, in Just One or Two Easy Lessons! The lesson in this instance is Dodd's resistance to retroactive immunity and how, if private lawsuits against the telecoms are able to continue, we may eventually discover the truth of what happened here and return government to a more properly limited role, the sun will shine more brightly than ever before, and each one of you gets a puppy.

(A brief tangent about my perspective: this essay is written with an admittedly sardonic, bitter and sarcastic tone. I have explained many of the issues that follow on numerous earlier occasions, although using different specific examples. I've been over this general ground many times. For the last several years, I have tried to reach readers more "gently" and "politely," slowly leading them through the mounds of evidence, trying to encourage them to draw the indicated conclusions. My efforts proved entirely useless. Perhaps the literary equivalent of several very heavy two by fours over the head will do the job more effectively. In addition, as this and certain upcoming essays will demonstrate in detail, I have realized several critical facts about the online liberal-progressive community in the last half-year or so. One of those facts is that the majority of online liberals are considerably more stupid than I had thought, and hoped. My evidence follows, in part here and in part in coming weeks, and you are encouraged to make your own judgment on this matter. And while I realize that, for most blog readers, nothing can possibly matter if it wasn't written in the last 15 minutes, many of my earlier essays also provide copious evidence supporting my judgment.)

In describing the close cooperation between the Bush administration and certain telecom companies, Greenwald writes:
The private/public distinction here has eroded almost completely. There is no governmental oversight or regulation of these companies. Quite the contrary, they work in secret and in tandem -- as one consortium -- with no oversight at all.


There is obviously nothing inherently wrong with corporations competing for lucrative government contracts. But the work they were to perform here -- in providing unfettered data and other information regarding the communications of Americans -- was illegal under multiple federal laws enacted precisely to prohibit telecoms from providing access without warrants to the data and content of their customers's calls.
Ponder the critical sentence: "There is obviously nothing inherently wrong with corporations competing for lucrative government contracts." The "obviously" is a nice touch, and a revealing one -- revealing of massive historical ignorance, of a profound inability to understand either political theory or political reality, and of Greenwald's constant desire to reassure his readers that he's not proposing anything too radical or too upsetting. "Obviously," there is nothing wrong with the fundamental principle that began to undermine the original design of American government in the late nineteenth century, the principle that gathered full power in the twentieth century, and the principle that has led to the catastrophe that confronts us today. "Obviously" we can fix this, if only our hearts and minds are pure in intent and purpose: some oversight here and there, add a little accountability, and the blazing sun and the puppy dog are yours for keeps. We'll even throw in a few rainbows, just to make it all, you know, pretty.

Note, too, the unquestioning reverence for "the law." What the government and the telecoms did here was illegal, as Greenwald bolds the word in his original text just so we realize how truly terrible this is. What's the implication? If they had gotten warrants and made the spying legal, everything would be peachy keen? Must I remind you that the very purpose of the secret FISA court from its inception was to largely strip the Fourth Amendment of all meaning and force? (And see Jonathan Turley here on the same point.) Must I remind you that FISA grants virtually every warrant that is requested? Must I remind you that every dictatorship has laws? The question is not whether a given activity conforms to the law. The question is whether the law protects individual rights, and whether the law is defensible.

The Military Commissions Act is the law. It happens to be a law that destroys the foundation of liberty, habeas corpus, and that makes it legal for the government to torture anyone it chooses, and then to use "evidence" obtained through torture in proceedings against anyone it chooses. But it's the law. As I said in "The Triumph of Racism," examining the law in question "is only the first step in the inquiry, not anywhere near the last."

In "Dominion Over the World," I am discussing certain failures of analysis and of historical understanding on both the right and the left. Near the beginning of Part IV, I wrote:
The other error occurs on the liberal side of the political spectrum. It consists of the view that an increasingly centralized and more powerful federal government can be pursued for allegedly "positive" ends domestically, without having serious implications for foreign policy. We shall see that this view is also factually false. In its most critical respects, the Progressive movement (from 1900 up to World War I) was a nationalist movement, and that nationalism fed directly into overseas expansionism and militarism. These are not separate issues, but the same issue, as we shall explore. Moreover, contrary to many people's views (including many of today's liberals and progressives, who appear to be woefully ignorant of this period in our history, which allows them to bestow undeserved praise upon its achievements, that is, praise from the perspective of their own policy preferences), the Progressive movement in many ways culminated in the triumph of already-vested big business interests. It was, as Gabriel Kolko titled his pathbreaking book, The Triumph of Conservatism, not "progressivism."
Despite Greenwald and his "obviously," these intricate, complex interminglings of government and nominally private business are the problem, and it is a monumental one. Must I remind you that this kind of partnership is one of the cardinal characteristics of fascism? But "obviously," there's nothing wrong with that.

The following might more properly be designated as the next installment of the "Dominion" series, for these excerpts from Kolko's book throw into high relief Greenwald's failure, a failure which is typical of the progressive community. Indeed, as I discussed in the earlier pieces excerpted above, today's progressives seem to know nothing about the actual program and history of the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century, an ignorance that Hillary Clinton now seeks to capitalize on. (See another installment of my "Dominion" series for a discussion of some of the Progressive movement's roots and goals: "Unwelcome History -- Religion, the Progressives, Empire and the Drug War.")

The title of Kolko's book, a book which is now widely and deservedly regarded as a modern classic, is The Triumph of Conservatism. The subtitle is, A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916. Kolko's work hit the world of historians and of historical analysis with tremendous force. He performed significant original research -- and the results of his research upended what had come to be accepted as the conventional narrative of the Progressive era. Much additional research since the publication of Kolko's book has confirmed the accuracy of his analysis. At one time, it would have been somewhat understandable for progressives to regard the opening decades of the twentieth century as a testament to the "benevolent" powers of government, operating to constrain rapacious business practices on behalf of "the common man" and "the common good." Today, nearly half a century after Kolko's book was first published in 1963, there is no excuse whatsoever for people who are politically active and who regard themselves as at all knowledgeable about political history to be so profoundly in error about this critical period. Yet today's liberals and progressives appear to understand next to nothing about what actually happened during those years.

The following is from my essay, "The Elites Who Rule Us," and it may be useful as background to the excerpts below:
The major narrative to which I have devoted a number of essays -- a narrative which is profoundly false both in its general outlines and in every detail, and one which has been and continues to be literally lethal in its effects -- is the tale of "American exceptionalism." Assuming that one knows even a minimal amount of history (which, I grant, is far too often a completely unjustified assumption today, even and especially with regard to the "best educated" Americans and the members of our ruling class), and if one considers this mythology with any degree of honesty, its inconsistencies, outright contradictions, and numerous points of incoherence quickly become apparent. Yet the overwhelming majority of Americans continue to believe this fable, and the regular invocation of America's "unique" characteristics, which make us "better" than any other people who have ever lived and which, for reasons that are never explained, entitle us to direct events across the globe, is nothing less than a religious ritual.

At the opening of the last installment, I summarized certain common errors regarding American history committed by many liberals and conservatives. In large part, those errors arise and continue to find new life because of many people's adherence to this American mythology. People with views across the political spectrum are unable to recognize the realities of American political and social history because those realities would fundamentally challenge the fable to which they are so devoted: conservatives cling to the notion that American progress and superiority are the result of free and unfettered capitalism, that is, the result of the operations of private business in an essentially laissez-faire environment, while liberals see the steady advance of America as due in significant part to the growing influence of the interests and wisdom of "the common people." As one result, both groups have the identical blind spot: both appear unable to fully appreciate the joining together of government power with certain influential (and usually exceedingly wealthy) private citizens and businesses. This combination, which began in the late nineteenth century, gathered force in the two decades following 1900, and was firmly cemented in place by World War I and then the New Deal, resulted in the creation of a class made up of the American elites. It is in these elites that almost all power is concentrated, both the power of the state and the power of the dominant private interests.
The following excerpts are from Kolko's final chapter, and they follow almost 300 pages of evidence documenting his thesis. The title of this chapter is, "Conclusion: The Lost Democracy." Kolko writes:
The American political experience during the Progressive Era was conservative, and this conservatism profoundly influenced American society's response to the problems of industrialization. The nature of the economic process in the United States, and the peculiar cast within which industrialism was molded, can only be understood by examining the political structure. Progressive politics is complex when studied in all of its aspects, but its dominant tendency on the federal level was to functionally create, in a piecemeal and haphazard way that was later made more comprehensive, the synthesis of politics and economics I have labeled "political capitalism." [This is the phenomenon with which Greenwald "obviously" finds "nothing inherently wrong."]

The varieties of rhetoric associated with progressivism were as diverse as its followers, and one form of this rhetoric involved attacks on businessmen -- attacks that were often framed in a fashion that has been misunderstood by historians as being radical. But at no point did any major political tendency dealing with the problem of big business in modern society ever try to go beyond the level of high generalization and translate theory into concrete economic programs that would conflict in a fundamental way with business supremacy over the control of wealth. It was not a coincidence that the results of progressivism were precisely what many major business interests desired.

Ultimately businessmen defined the limits of political intervention, and specified its major form and thrust. They were able to do so not merely because they were among the major initiators of federal intervention in the economy, but primarily because no politically significant group during the Progressive Era really challenged their conception of political intervention. The basic fact of the Progressive Era was the large area of consensus and unity among key business leaders and most political factions on the role of the federal government in the economy. There were disagreements, of course, but not on fundamentals. The overwhelming majorities on votes for basic progressive legislation is testimony to the near unanimity in Congress on basic issues.


The Presidents considered -- as they must be -- as actors rather than ideologists, hardly threatened to undermine the existing controllers of economic power.


This essential unanimity extended to the area of ideologies and values, where differences between the Presidents were largely of the sort contrived by politicians in search of votes, or seeking to create useful images. None of the Presidents had a distinct consciousness of any fundamental conflict between their political goals and those of business. Roosevelt and Wilson especially appreciated the significant support business gave to their reforms, but it was left to Wilson to culminate the decade or more of agitation by providing precise direction to the administration of political capitalism's most important consequences in the Progressive Era.


This identification of political and key business leaders with the same set of social values -- ultimately class values -- was hardly accidental, for had such a consensus not existed the creation of political capitalism would have been most unlikely. Political capitalism was based on the functional utility of major political and business leaders. The business and political elites knew each other, went to the same schools, belonged to the same clubs, married into the same families, shared the same values -- in reality, formed that phenomenon which has lately been dubbed The Establishment.
Kolko goes on to note that "[p]olitical capitalism in America redirected the radical potential of mass grievances and aspirations -- of genuine progressivism..." Virtually every significant voice during the Progressive Era held "a naive, axiomatic view that government economic regulation, per se, was desirable"; everyone believed in the "fetish of government regulation of the economy as a positive social good" -- and they neglected to notice that the programs enacted conformed precisely to what the business leaders themselves wanted, and ensured the favored and protected status of the wealth-controlling class into the foreseeable future. As I wrote in the earlier essay, it was by these means that the already vested interests ensured that their particular goals would not be threatened -- and the federal government was their preferred means of protection.

And yet today, many progressives and liberals herald Roosevelt and Wilson as special "progressive" heroes -- when it was these two (and others), but Wilson in particular who killed what Kolko terms "genuine progressivism" for good. And it was killed not because these programs failed, but precisely because they succeeded. This brings us once again to the great evil represented by war, for it is war that provides the opportunity for government to consolidate and expand its powers. Under the alleged threat to "national security" -- even if, as was certainly the case in World War I, no such threat existed as far as the United States was concerned -- the public can be steamrolled into accepting almost anything. In addition to the century of war and destruction that the U.S. entrance into World War I set in motion, the Great War also provided Wilson with the means to set political capitalism and the partnership between government and business in stone.

Thus, Kolko writes: "Progressive goals, on the concrete, legislative level, were articulated by various business interests. These goals were, for the most part, achieved..." He goes on:
Yet a synthesis of business and politics on the federal level was created during the war, in various administrative and emergency agencies, that continued throughout the following decade. Indeed, the war period represents the triumph of business in the most emphatic manner possible. With the exception of a brief interlude in the history of the Federal Trade Commission, big business gained total support from the various regulatory agencies and the Executive. It was during the war that effective, working oligopoly and price and market agreements became operational in the dominant sectors of the American economy.
In yesterday's post, I referred to many progressives' "idiotic belief in the stupid, childish vision of America, an America that is still noble if flawed, still capable of being fully redeemed." A great many conservatives share the same fundamental vision, for most Americans subscribe to the identical mythology. Reading Kolko, and understanding the mechanisms by which government and business band together for their common goal -- the protection of the interests of the most wealthy and powerful for, they hope, perpetuity, and the use of the unanswerable power of the state as their enforcer -- reveal that my characterization was hardly too severe. Various online liberals regularly indulge in notably treacly, self-flattering, vacuous sentimentality -- "the American public," indeed (which, to the extent it can be identified, is an ignorant and frequently violent ass) -- but as I discussed in "The Elites Who Rule Us" (and here as well, on a narrower issue), the American government does not exist to serve "the people," whoever the hell they are. It serves the ruling class: it provides them with untold weath and power, it coddles them, it nurtures them, and it makes them still richer and still more powerful. There is no conflict between the aims of business and of government; their aims are identical on every point of importance. You, "the people," do not figure in their calculations. Their nods to "serving the people" are, as I regularly note, the propaganda used to drug you into unthinking acceptance, and into the willingness to grant them still more power.

Contemplate how successful they've been. Today, most progressives bemoan the federal behemoth, at least insofar as its attacks on civil liberties are concerned, and yet their prescription is that we ingest more of the poison that has already almost killed us: still more government control and regulation. They have never understood that state power is always coopted by the most powerful vested interests for their own ends, and they still fail to grasp it today.

Given an increasingly corporatist-authoritarian government, the law is not your friend. The state is not your friend. Read Kolko, study history, and try to buy a clue. I'm sure the oligopolists will be more than happy to sell you one, for all the good it will do you now.

October 26, 2007

"The Thing Must Go Its Course..."

As feeble and inadequate as they are, I offer my apologies once again for my absence here. My health continues to be completely rotten, and other factors have weighed heavily on my mind and spirit. To explain my general frame of mind, I offer here part of a message I sent to a dear friend, a friend of fiercely independent and brilliantly perceptive intellect, who writes with a depth of both passion and compassion that is extraordinarily rare, and precious beyond measure. I've omitted certain parts of the message, since they might identify this person and because they're none of your business. I've added a few links to some relevant essays here; they obviously were not in the email:
As long as you are determined to tell the truth -- and I regret to inform you, that will be as long as you live -- the other truth I mentioned in that (still) latest essay is operative: almost no one wants to hear it. This is especially true of the liberal-progressive "mainstream." They are wedded to their idiotic belief in the stupid, childish vision of America, an America that is still noble if flawed, still capable of being fully redeemed -- if only the "right" people were in power, which is to say, if the "right" Democrats were in power. They refuse to surrender this belief, since it is tied to the primitive, militantly anti-intellectual, determinedly ignorant tribalism that has subsumed their entire sense of personal identity.

I realize now that, if there is any hope for "saving" this country (and there isn't, but you know that), it lies with "ordinary" Americans, that is, those people who are basically decent and, by and large, completely uninvolved in politics. But since they are so uninvolved in that sense (they do have lives to lead and families to support, after all), they do not begin to appreciate the great danger we're in, and they will do nothing to avert it. But I've concluded that those who are politically involved to a great extent -- including almost all bloggers, of right and left -- are among the very worst. In logic and in fact, they must be among the most corrupt intellectually. They've placed their bets on a system that they refuse to acknowledge is rotten at its core and at the foundation. To give that up would be to die psychologically as far as they're concerned. So they must exert more and more effort to defend the indefensible, they must erect ever larger and higher walls to ward off unwelcome knowledge, and they become progressively stupider. (Ah, finally a valid use for the term "progressively"!) By the way, you and I are very different from these political bloggers in a crucial respect. As we've discussed, we read, think and write about politics only because we feel we *must*, that in a certain vital sense we have no choice about it. We would much prefer to be engaged in writing of a very different kind. But these people actually *like* it. Think about the kind of person that is, deep in his soul, who actually *likes* the kind of politics we see today.

You see all this very clearly in the behavior of the progressive bloggers with regard to the D.C. Democrats -- and you see it in the almost complete lack of response to my last essay. NO ONE will help to try to stop an attack on Iran (six or seven people who've written to me excepted, and no one with a way to reach the kind of fundraising audience required). In addition to being corrupt, they are the worst and most obvious kind of liar: they do not care about any of the things they *say* they care about -- avoiding more war, personal liberty, etc. -- with one exception: they most certainly *do* care about electing more Democrats. More and better ones, of course. They are despicable. And the truth is the one thing they absolutely refuse to consider, about the Democrats, about the United States, and about any other subject of importance.

I'm very sorry I didn't respond sooner, and that I've been out of touch. In addition to feeling like shit, I've been deeply depressed by the realization that there truly is no hope for any kind of "popular resistance" to our course, however unlikely of success such resistance would be. I still find it close to impossible to fully comprehend that people won't even *try*. But as a beloved friend (now deceased) once said to me about a different but similar issue: If you did understand it, Arthur, you'd be *like* them. Be glad, she said, that you don't fully understand it. I will never understand how someone can be alive, and not even *try*.

I'm also consumed by guilt: people gave very generously, and I haven't written a damned thing this month. I don't know what to say to them. Well, I'll try to get back to writing in the next few days, and slowly make amends for my prolonged absence.

I'm sorry I don't have better news or words of encouragement on any front. But that is where I am and, I fear, where we all are now.
To these remarks, I add two brief excerpts from Martin Mayer's, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-1945. Longer excerpts and more discussion of these issues will be found in my essay, "Thus the World Was Lost."
"You know," he went on, "when men who understand what is happening--the motion, that is, of history, not the reports of single events or developments--when such men do not object or protest, men who do not understand cannot be expected to. How many men would you say understand--in this sense--in America? And when, as the motion of history accelerates and those who don't understand are crazed by fear, as our people were, and made into a great 'patriotic' mob, will they understand then, when they did not before?

"We learned here--I say this freely--to give up trying to make them understand after, oh, the end of 1938, after the night of the synagogue burning and the things that followed it. Even before the war began, men who were teachers, men whose faith in teaching was their whole faith, gave up, seeing that there was no comprehension, no capacity left for comprehension, and the thing must go its course, taking first its victims, then its architects, and then the rest of us to destruction...."
"Americans have never known anything like this experience--in its entirety, all the way to the end. That is the point."

"You must explain," I said.

"Of course I must explain. First of all, there is the problem of the lesser evil. Taking the [German fidelity] oath was not so evil as being unable to help my friends later on would have been. But the evil of the oath was certain and immediate, and the helping of my friends was in the future and therefore uncertain. I had to commit a positive evil, there and then, in the hope of a possible good later on. The good outweighed the evil; but the good was only a hope, the evil was a fact."
No, the United States will not collapse into a dictatorship exactly like that of Nazi Germany. Each society that has passed the point of no return collapses in its own way, depending on the specifics of tradition, culture, and particular political institutions. And, for example, fascism was not identical in Germany and Italy, or Spain, or a number of other countries.

Almost all of you have made accommodation with evil. You deny that it is evil, but overwhelming evidence of that fact surrounds you on all sides. The evidence cannot be avoided, although you spend most of your days and almost all your energy trying to do precisely that.

The majority of you who might read this deserve to go to hell. You won't even try to stop what is coming, even though certain courses of action still remain open to you. Unfortunately, you will take many other people with you, people who do not deserve the fate you have done so much to earn. And so, "the thing must go its course," in time taking all of us to destruction. That ultimate result may come quickly or slowly, over a period of decades if we are lucky. Of one thing you may be certain: an attack on Iran will significantly hasten the destruction in numerous ways, both abroad and at home.

And most of you won't even try to stop it. My contempt for all such people is impossible of measurement, and incapable of proper expression.

Still, I will continue writing, and writing about politics and certain crucial cultural and psychological issues. It's what I do now. It strikes me as futile, and almost absurdly comic. And I will begin my long-promised series on contemporary political tribalism in the next several days, because those issues must be explained in an attempt to clarify many other subjects. It truly is absurd, though. I have only several hundred reliable, daily readers and, no matter what I do, I will never have more. I never did, even when I regularly posted several times a day. I'm too "negative," too "extreme." I'm a "troublemaker." I hope that last is true; if it is, it fills me with tremendous pride. It's not that I set out to cause trouble -- but events, and most of you, left me no choice.

So, writing is what I do. Back soon.

October 16, 2007

A Nation on the Edge of the Final Descent (II): A Culture of Lies, and a Desperate Need for Action

Part I: Glimpses of the Horrors to Come

Before we consider the nature of the questions put to John Kerry by Andrew Meyer, together with the implications of what happened at the University of Florida and the reactions to it (here's a video of the incident, once more), let us take several steps back. Let us try to describe the general nature of our national conversation, and of our political debates.

To even raise this subject, is to run into nearly insurmountable difficulties at the outset. It is not simply that our national discourse rests on a foundation of evasions, complicated by equivocations, twisted by avoidance, and rendered into meaningless insignificance by an uncountable series of lies. All of that is true, but it fails to capture the quality that is most striking to the perceptive observer. That quality is one of overwhelming, oppressive and suffocating unreality. It is as if everyone knows, but will never acknowledge, that we may speak only in code, and that we may only utilize the safe, empty phrases that we have agreed are "acceptable" -- phrases and language that are safe precisely because they have been drained of all correspondence to facts. It is as if everyone realizes, but will never state, that we are engaged in an elaborate charade, a pageant of gesture and indication, where substance and specific meaning have been banned. On those extraordinarily rare occasions when a politician appears who speaks the truth on any subject -- for example, a Ron Paul, or Mike Gravel, or Dennis Kucinich (and whatever one's disagreements with these individuals, all of them speak the truth on certain crucial subjects) -- such persons are regarded as kooks and crazies, and they are treated as objects of derision and ridicule. It is impermissible that they be taken seriously, or that they be allowed to hold the public's attention for any appreciable length of time. And it is absolutely forbidden that they ever attain a position of notable influence; the governing class, including its indispensable adjunct, the corporate media, will make certain of that.

For this is where we are in the United States, nearing the end of the Year of Our Lord 2007: the truth is not merely unpleasant, an uninvited guest who makes conversation difficult and awkward. Truth is the enemy; truth is to be destroyed. To attempt to speak the truth on any subject of importance requires a deep reserve of determination, for to speak the truth requires that one first sweep away an infinite number of rationalizations, false alternatives, and numerous other failures of logic and the most rudimentary forms of thought -- as well as the endless lies. On that single occasion in a thousand or a million when a person overcomes these barriers and speaks the truth, he or she discovers an additional, terrible truth: almost no one wants to hear it. This is how we live today: lies are the staple of our diet. Without them, we would die, certainly in psychological terms.

The United States is in the fifth year of a criminal, illegal occupation of a country that never threatened us. The occupation follows a war of aggression and conquest, an international crime that violates the Nuremberg principles. The Nazis fabricated a series of lies to justify their invasion of Poland; the United States did the same with regard to Iraq, and now does the same in preparation for an attack on Iran. The United States set in motion a series of events that has led to the deaths of one million innocent Iraqis, and probably more. The deaths will go on for at least several years to come; the United States will remain in Iraq for decades, probably for the rest of your lifetime. In this manner, the United States has made itself an international criminal, and a world outlaw. It did all this not out of any credible concern for self-defense, however slight, for Iraq never represented any serious threat to us, as much of the rest of the world (and many Americans) well understood in the winter and spring of 2002-2003. The United States did all this because the ruling class is intent on world hegemony; both parties are committed to this goal, and no major national politician opposes it. It did all this because it could, and because no one could stop us -- and because we will have our way. If other countries will not obey us, they will be bribed, coerced and otherwise manipulated, and -- if they persist in their disobedience -- destroyed.

But none of this is to be discussed. Instead, we speak of "liberation," and of "spreading democracy." Even the most strident of "respectable" critics of our foreign policy point only to the Bush administration's "incompetence," and to how badly it "bungled" the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is understandable that you might have thought the twentieth century had forever ended contemplation of "competently" executed genocide -- but you would have forgotten the power of lies, and what happens to a culture steeped in lies. We are America the Good, the Noble, the Virtuous. We represent, in William Pfaff's phrase, "the culmination of human development." A Democratic administration in 2009 may "provide[] a less abrasive and more courteous version of the American pursuit of world hegemony," as Pfaff expresses the point -- but the basic policy will remain the same. Yet if you identify any of these truths, you are "extreme," or crazy, or a troublemaker. You are not "respectable," you are not to be treated with any degree of seriousness, and you are not to be listened to.

Here at home, the basic foundation of liberty -- habeas corpus -- has been destroyed by the Military Commissions Act. This is an occurrence of momentous significance; as I suggested in "Thus the World Was Lost," this may be the turning point that future historians identify as the moment when the final destruction of the United States as a constitutional republic became inevitable. But you would never know this from our national debate. One or two forlorn Democrats will mention restoring habeas corpus from time to time. But the Democrats have been in charge of Congress for almost a year, and this is obviously not a matter of great urgency to them -- for they have yet to do anything. I repeat: habeas corpus is the foundation of all our liberties. Without habeas corpus, nothing else matters. A few Democrats say they understand this point, but they do not act as if this overwhelmingly significant issue has any reality to them.

And no one speaks of repealing the Military Commissions Act. If anyone in Congress actually gave a damn about liberty and civilization on the most basic level, that is what they would discuss, and they would discuss it all the time. For the Military Commissions Act did not simply destroy habeas corpus; it also established the state's use of torture as an acknowledged, acceptable, standardized means of governance. All the Democratic presidential candidates have recently condemned torture as an element of official government policy -- although I am not aware that anyone has asked Hillary Clinton why she has apparently altered her previously expressed approval of a supposedly narrow "exception" to the prohibition against torture, and if she now rejects her own earlier view. But as long as the Military Commissions Act remains the law, all such condemnations are meaningless, and they deserve to be disbelieved. If any of these politicians were seriously opposed to torture, repeal of the Military Commissions Act would be among their very highest priorities.

So the United States has destroyed the foundation of liberty, and it has enshrined state torture as a legitimate means of government. This is very rarely discussed or acknowledged, and no one acts to change it. But we are not to speak of this. For all our major politicians and all our leading commentators, the United States remains "the last, best hope of Earth." On the actual record, and if our national leaders were correct in their view that the United States is the only nation that genuinely matters for the future of the world (they are not), mankind should surrender all hope now. But to say any of this makes you "crazy" and a troublemaker. You are not "respectable." You should shut up.

At present, the United States is the leading international murderer, and it murders on a monumental scale. And it appears determined to launch still another campaign of destruction and of possible genocide, against Iran. Every leading national politician agrees with Hillary Clinton's position, as expressed in this Foreign Affairs article:
Iran poses a long-term strategic challenge to the United States, our NATO allies, and Israel. It is the country that most practices state-sponsored terrorism, and it uses its surrogates to supply explosives that kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The Bush administration refuses to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, preferring to ignore bad behavior rather than challenge it. Meanwhile, Iran has enhanced its nuclear-enrichment capabilities, armed Iraqi Shiite militias, funneled arms to Hezbollah, and subsidized Hamas, even as the government continues to hurt its own citizens by mismanaging the economy and increasing political and social repression.

As a result, we have lost precious time. Iran must conform to its nonproliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table.

On the other hand, if Iran is in fact willing to end its nuclear weapons program, renounce sponsorship of terrorism, support Middle East peace, and play a constructive role in stabilizing Iraq, the United States should be prepared to offer Iran a carefully calibrated package of incentives. This will let the Iranian people know that our quarrel is not with them but with their government and show the world that the United States is prepared to pursue every diplomatic option.
My all-embracing cynicism is woefully inadequate to this moment. I had entertained a vague notion that the leading presidential candidate of the nominal "opposition" party, a woman who has offered numerous remarks purportedly critical of the Bush administration, would be reluctant to repeat the administration's Iran propaganda word for word. We might note the various critical assertions for which no proof whatsoever has yet been adduced: that Iran "uses its surrogates to supply explosives that kill U.S. troops in Iraq," for example, or the statement that Iran has a "nuclear weapons program" -- which Iran has repeatedly denied. And, I repeat, an assertion for which no proof exists or has been offered.

But there is a hugely notable omission in Clinton's formulation of her Iran policy, and it is critical that we appreciate what it is. This is the key sentence: "If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table." According to the IAEA, Iran has complied "with its own commitments"; in fact, Iran has voluntarily undertaken commitments that it was not obliged even to consider. And the meaning of "the will of the international community" is clear enough: this refers to "the will" of those countries that the United States manipulates, cows and coerces into adopting its position, whether the other countries in question view that position as legitimate or even sane themselves. And there are a number of countries whose "will" is very different on this question. But those nations are not part of "the international community" as we choose to define it for our own purposes.

And everyone knows -- although no one will state explicitly -- the meaning of that last vile phrase: "all options must remain on the table." That means one thing, and only one thing: if Iran does not do exactly as we say, we reserve the "right" to attack it, to bomb it, and to destroy it -- just as we have destroyed Iraq. But note what Clinton does not say: she does not postulate that Iran has directly threatened the United States, or that it has even indicated it wishes to threaten us. She does not imagine that Iran has attacked the U.S., or that evidence exists that it plans to do so. No, Iran's crime would be of an altogether different kind: Iran will not have conducted itself in the manner that we demand. This has nothing at all to do with self-defense, if that phrase remains even tenuously tethered to reality. But it has everything to do with the title of my ongoing foreign policy series: "Dominion Over the World."

Clinton has enunciated this position before. The ultimate meaning of this foreign policy stance is what I indicated at the conclusion of that article: "America is God. God's Will be done." Other nations must do exactly what we tell them to do, and nothing else at all. If they do not, we have the "right" to destroy them.

This is the meaning of American world hegemony. These are the utterances of a genocidal murderer, without conscience and without remorse. These are among the reasons I have said the United States is infinitely worse than a murderer like Cho Seung-Hui. An attack on Iran by the United States might lead to the deaths of millions, and to worldwide war, possibly with nuclear weapons. No matter. Very few Americans seem to be troubled by a million or more deaths in Iraq. What's another two or three million dead, even if the murdered individuals never threatened us, and never could have? (Furthermore, as I discussed in detail here, even an Iran with nuclear weapons, which possibility lies at least five or more years in the future, would represent a danger that could certainly be contained, if it represented a danger at all.)

But none of this is to be discussed. In the last several years, we have caused the deaths of a million or more innocent people. The United States has committed crimes on a scale that defy comprehension. This fact is almost never mentioned by our leading politicians and commentators. And now all our leading politicians lay the groundwork for another act of still worse, monstrous, criminal aggression -- but we discuss it as if it is our "right" to wreak destruction, suffering and death, in the name of "self-defense" and "civilization." Lies, on top of criminality, on top of genocide, both accomplished and planned. Lies and destruction without end, and facts and reality are banished altogether.

And yet we talk about none of this. If you do, you're a crazy troublemaker. No one should pay attention to you, and you will be shunned.

It was in this cultural setting that Andrew Meyer asked his questions. His second question concerned Iran (we assume Kerry discussed Iran in his lengthy remarks, which ran longer than scheduled, thus conveniently reducing the time for questions significantly). Meyer wanted to know this: why, if Kerry is so concerned about Iran, isn't Kerry urging impeachment of Bush now, before he can order an attack on Iran? Meyer pointed out that Clinton was impeached for a blowjob, for God's sake. Shouldn't Bush be impeached now, before another monstrous crime is committed -- and before a possible world war is begun?

At this moment in history, and in view of the stakes involved -- which stakes involve literally the future of the world and of civilization, to employ those words with their genuine meanings for once -- that is the question that should be asked of every national leader at least once a day, and preferably a hundred times a day. It is the question that should be asked all the time, of everyone. It is the question that should be asked of every Democratic member of Congress all the time, every day. Almost no one asks it. Democrats and their partisans continue their dull-witted fixation on the 2008 elections, forbidding themselves and anyone else to acknowledge that by then, it may be far, far too late. Major actors in the Bush administration have longed to attack Iran for years, and they have never tried to hide it. Now, their viciously murderous purpose is being aided and abetted by leading Democrats such as Hillary Clinton.

And no one will ask: Why don't you act to stop this insanity?

Andrew Meyer asked that question. The prospect of an attack on Iran appeared to upset him a great deal, and he wondered why Kerry wasn't more upset than he seemed to be. Why aren't you more upset? Why aren't you asking that question? Why don't you act to stop this? Almost eight months ago, I offered a number of practical suggestions to try to avert this looming catastrophe, one with effects that are likely to stretch across the globe. With very few exceptions, no one gave a damn about them.

The first of those suggestions involved the placement of a series of newspaper ads. I am unable to raise the necessary funds and do all the required work myself -- but if several people (including, I would hope, one or two bloggers with readerships far larger than mine) were willing to assist me, I'll help write the ads and get them placed, if it seems at all possible to raise the money needed. (And as I've stated many times before, if you have different and better ideas, I'd be most grateful for them.)

No one else will do it. So I will, or at least try to. Your help is needed, and a lot of it. If no one wants to help to try to stop this nightmare, that means you don't give a damn either. If that turns out to be the case, to hell with you.

In the next part, I'll consider the Meyer incident in more detail and begin to examine the most common reactions to it -- as well as the underlying causes for those reactions, and their meaning.