Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chris Floyd answers Juan Cole's indictment of the American Electorate

Juan Cole:

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Nation of Masochists

"I send my tormentor hurrying
hither and thither in the
service of my
suffering and desire."
- Mason Cooley (d.2002)

I have concluded that Americans, who pretend in public to be straitlaced, are in fact rabid masochists addicted to whips, black leather and the application of fists. It turns out that large numbers of people throughout the world are accidentally asphyxiated every year because they need to be choked for maximum pleasure.

The diagnosis of national masochism is the only thing that can satisfactorily explain the poll numbers in the presidential race.

Let's get this straight.

The Republican Party came to Washington, DC, in 2000 with a solid majority in both houses of Congress and on the Supreme Court, allowing them to steal the presidency, as well. If you wanted to know what a pure Republican-Party government unhindered by the Democrats, Libertarians, Greens or Socialists might look like, this was the moment.

So they came to power when there was a budget surplus bequeathed by a Democratic president.

They immediately ran up a big deficit every year since, doubling the national debt from $5 trillion to $10 trillion. You don't run big deficits of $300 and $400 billion a year in good times according to Keynes. You save the the deficit spending for a recession, when the economy needs a jolt. If you're already racking up a big deficit every year in a good economy, you have no way of making a difference during a significant downturn except by then going for a truly mega-deficit, which risks destroying the value of your currency abroad. In a service economy like that of the US, a dollar with a declining value might not even help the economy via exports very much, since the manufactured goods are being made down in Mexico now, anyway.

Note that Clinton had been talking about using the surplus to pay down the debt or to fix the looming crisis in social security.

With the government encumbered with $5 trillion in new debt before September, and now with another trillion and a half (probably when it is all said and done with), how exactly will social security be fixed?

(Hint: Republican leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich hated social security, because the people are grateful to the Democrats for it. Bush tried to privatize it and McCain would have helped him; you wonder if they are trying deliberately to destroy it. Social security is the main reason for which the elderly are not now, as they were in the 1930s, the poorest and most miserable section of society.)

Then many of the Republicans came to Washington with a crooked plan to use fraudulent methods to ensure that campaign financing went almost exclusively to them through super-lobbyists like Jack Abramoff. Grover Norquist's K-Street Project aimed at guaranteeing big corporate dollars for the Republicans in exchange for their granting the corporations the right to write the legislation affecting their industry. Thus, laws governing pharmaceuticals were written by the pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and just signed off on by the Republicans.

This scam goes beyond Marx's fear that government in a business society was just a "managing committee" for the business classes. Tom Delay, from 2002 the Republican Party majority leader in the House, was too lazy even to be the managing committee! The K-Street crowd just let the business classes run the legislature directly, themselves, having the regulatory laws written to suit them.

So Abramoff, Delay, the K-Street crowd are busted. Once upon a time such a thing would have been a huge political scandal and would have haunted the party that produced it. But because US Big Media is mostly Republican-owned, it just quietly subsided as a story.

It is not just that the rap sheet against the Class of 2000, 2002, and 2004 among the Republican politicians is longer than a trans-Atlantic cable, it is that so much of the corruption took the form of a conspiracy.

All parties have people in them looking to get rich on the side. But the K Street Project and various other such scams weren't just about individual aggrandizement. They were about fixing the whole American system permanently to kow-tow to the super-rich without so much as a whimper, and to positively punish the middle classes.

After the 2002 mid-terms, even George W. Bush wanted to do a tax cut for the middle classes. But Cheney over-ruled him, insisting on another deep tax cut for the very wealthy. We won the mid-terms, Cheney said. This is our due. Deficits don't matter. "Our" due? Cheney is saying that the Republican Party is the party of the super-rich, of the 3 million at the top of American society who own 45% of the privately held wealth (as though we were Brazil), and they are the ones that will be exclusively benefited by Republican rule.

Of course, there were many other conspiracies by the pirouetting pirates of plunder.

There was the Iraq War, one of the great criminal conspiracies of modern times. Barton Gellman has how related the story of how Dick Cheney lied to Dick Armey before the vote on the war, telling him that Saddam's family was all al-Qaeda and that Saddam's evil scientists had made a suitcase nuclear bomb that he would certainly turn over to Bin Laden, and such rank horse manure as that. Dick Armey weeps, says he deserved better than to be bullshitted by the vice president of the United States.

They took us to war against a country that had not attacked the United States; they killed or maimed 33,000 Americans, and turned a whole Arab Muslim country into a burned-out hulk, displacing millions and continuously bombing the very cities that they had conquered and occupied, killing and disfiguring.

They propagandized us with implausible lies about mobile biological weapons labs and Baathist al-Qaeda, and our journalists and their corporate bosses bought them hook line and sinker, as did the public.

Cable and satellite television "news" tells us nothing of elections in India or constitutional crisis in Thailand, and barely mentions a major workers strike at Boeing. Dozens of car bombs go off in Iraq and we are told it is "calm" now. It is a vast electromagnetic form of bread and circuses, wherein hapless celebrities and philandering politicians are fed to the lions before millions of cheering plebes, by corporate moguls desperately hoping that the marks will not notice the legion of pickpockets in the arena, relieving them of their purses.

This crew in Washington thought nothing of assiduously attempting to induce the press to out a covert CIA operative working against Iranian nuclear proliferation, Valerie Plame. Their culture of lies is such that they attempt to divert attention from all the phone calls to journalists by Irv Lewis Libby and Karl Rove trying to get the press to print her name by saying that those two did not succeed. As if the attempt were not dastardly!

Why is trying to inform the Iranians of the identity of a CIA field officer assigned to spy on Iran not an act of treason? After all, you can't inform the world without also informing the Iranians. Isn't the punishment for treason hanging?

The Republican Party conducted a vast illegal spying operation on Americans and on foreign diplomats. We still don't know why exactly, and that the operation had domestic political motivations cannot be ruled out.

They imposed on us this so-called PATRIOT act that gutted the Constitution. The peaceful protesters in St. Paul at the RNC were actually charged with being terrorists, in this Brave New World.

By their incompetence and cupidity the Republican politicians deeply damaged the relief effort for one of America's great cities, New Orleans, which will never see the $33 billion pledged for its reconstruction. Not to mention that levies and bridges are breaking and falling down all around us because Cheney did not want to tax his billionaire friends to pay for the country's infrastructural upkeep.

And then they so radically deregulated and removed any oversight from the banking system that they came within hours of presiding over a 1929-style absolute meltdown of the entire financial and securities system. To cover the criminal activities of their cronies, they are now proposing to impose a fine of one trillion dollars on the middle class, to ensure that their partners in crime will receive their $25 million Christmas bonuses and be held harmless for their misdeeds.

And in the wake of the greatest and most sustained act of systematic plunder since the Mongol hordes appropriated to themselves the riches of everyplace in Asia from Beijing to Isfahan, the reaction of the supine and slave-like American voting public is to scratch their heads and have a hard time deciding if they would like more of the same.

Despite his aristocratic prerogatives and connections in high society, even the Marquis de Sade himself was brought down by a lowly maid, who complained to the police of his cutting her while having his way with her, leading to his arrest.

In contrast to that plucky domestic servant, the American public appears to enjoy being lacerated while being badly used, moaning with delight at each new act of abuse and abasement, while, blue-lipped, gasping for air.

One worries for our children, threatened with the fate of the homeless street children so common in the sort of third world country into which we are being turned by our managing committee.

But, well, if you are determined to bend over on November 4, at least I hope you enjoy pain. In that case, you are going to be ecstatic.

posted by Juan Cole @ 9/22/2008 12:59:00 AM

At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Chris Floyd said...

Professor Cole, I deeply respect your wisdom and draw on your work constantly, but I have to say that there is a simple answer to your question, and it doesn't involve whips, black leather or the application of fists.

After very effectively laying out the case against the Bush Administration -- a sharp, succinct and true bill of indictment -- you then say:

..."the reaction of the supine and slave-like American voting public [to all this] is to scratch their heads and have a hard time deciding if they would like more of the same."

Why is this? Because in very many, very important respects, "more of the same" is all they are being offered -- by BOTH parties.

You eloquently describe the flagrantly criminal activities of the Bush Administration, each of them crying out for where are the bills of impeachment introduced by Senators Obama and Biden? Where are the high-profile, Watergate-style Senate hearings into the Administration's high crimes launched by the Democratic-controlled Congress? Where are the federal marshals rounding up Administration minions who defy subpoenas and refuse to testify before Congress? When have we seen Obama or Biden leading public crusades denouncing the heinous practice of official torture or aggressive war, putting themselves out in front of these issues? Where are Obama's pledges to relentlessly pursue prosecution of these still-fresh crimes once he comes to office, without fear or favor?

Where, in short, are the indications that the malefactors of the Bush Administration will face even the slightest tincture of justice for their crimes if Obama is elected? And if they do not, then the situation will indeed be "more of the same."

Where was Obama when the time came to stand up against the illegal surveillance of American citizens that you have rightly and eloquently decried? He was standing on the other side, with Bush and Cheney, voting to legitimize tyrannical powers and immunize lawbreakers. More of the same.

What does Obama offer us as his future foreign policy? He will "withdraw combat troops" from Iraq, he says, as long as "conditions on the ground" are right. This is also what Bush and McCain say is their policy, and their ultimate goal. But Obama, like those two, plans to leave an unspecified number of U.S. troops in Iraq, in those impermanent permanent bases. More of the same.

Obama proposes expanding the War on Terror to Pakistan's hinterlands -- a policy already being adopted by Bush and promoted by McCain. More of the same. He also supports expanding the war in Afghanistan itself, with more troops (and more blunderbuss airstrikes to support these troops). More of the same. Obama has declared his fast intent to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, baiting the Russian bear just like Bush and McCain, and reigniting the Cold War. More of the same.

Like Bush and McCain, Obama too rattles the nuclear sword at Iran, vowing in no uncertain terms that he will never take ANY option "off the table" against Iran. More of the same. Like Bush and McCain, Obama has declared his support for the hardest-line Israeli policies against Palestine, and he too refuses to have any truck with the democratically-elected Hamas government. There is virtually no chance whatsoever that an Obama administration would be substantially different in any way from Bush and McCain. It will be, in every important respect, more of the same.

Like McCain, Obama proposes an even larger military machine, one even more ready to strike anytime, anywhere, all over the world, to any perceived "threat" to the ever-unspecified "American interests." More of the same. Like McCain and Bush, Obama says nothing about rolling back America's vast empire of military bases -- those provocative and intrusive imperial outposts that produce so much of the kind of grievous blowback that Chalmers Johnson, among others, has documented so well. More of the same. Like Bush and McCain, Obama has been completely silent about America's direct involvement in the horrific conflict in Somalia -- another botched and murderous job like Iraq. More of the same.

Obama supports the $700 billion theft of American tax money to be ladled out to the cruel and stupid wastrels of the elite, albeit with a few mild caveats about "oversight" -- no doubt the same kind of rigorous "oversight" we have seen from the Democrats throughout the Bush Administration. But the end result will be, yes, more of the same: vast amounts of public money spent to coddle elites and protect them from the consequences of their actions, while millions of ordinary people suffer lasting hardship.

What's more, Obama's own hands as president would be tied by the massive commitment of public funds to the bailout. More money for education, for infrastructure, for affordable health care, for a "Manhattan Project" on global warming? Sorry, can't afford it; we're too busy paying off Wall Street's debts, and expanding the military, and spreading the War on Terror into Pakistan, and maintaining tens of thousands of "non-combat" troops in the hostile environment of a country we destroyed in a criminal act of aggression that no one is going to be held accountable for. But don't worry, there is still enough money left for us to eavesdrop on your emails whenever we feel like it. So that's OK, right?

The Obama campaign has been a massive, historical failure in terms of offering anything like a genuine alternative to the dysfunctional and destructive system we have now. This is not to say that an Obama administration would not be different in numerous and not insignificant ways from a McCain regime. But that is not the issue here. The question is why the election is still in doubt, why McCain may very well win it, even though he represents a continuation of policies that most Americans have thoroughly rejected. And I repeat, this is not because Americans are masochists, or suffer from some other collective character flaw. It is because they see both candidates offering more war, more meddling in the affairs of other nations, much much more of the military-industrial complex, more coddling of the rich, less liberty for our citizens and a bleaker future for our children as they spend decades paying off the debts of the rich and facing the terrible storms of blowback from the imperial adventures that both candidates support.

It is so unreasonable that many people would feel hesitant about such a "choice"? Who should really be castigated here, especially in such harsh and lurid terms? The American people? Or those who failed to offer them a clear and genuine and substantive alternative to "more of the same."

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