|PREVIEW OF COMING DISTRACTIONS:
CHRIST-FREE CHRISTIANS ENRAPTURED
28th JANUARY 2006
by Gore Vidal, Truthdig.com
January 28, 2006
While contemplating the ill-starred presidency of G.W. Bush, I looked about for some sort of divine analogy. As usual, when in need of enlightenment, I fell upon the Holy Bible, authorized King James version of 1611; turning by chance to the Book of Jonah, I read that Jonah, who, like Bush, chats with God, had suffered a falling out with the Almighty and thus became a jinx dogged by luck so bad that a cruise liner, thanks to his presence aboard, was about to sink in a storm at sea. Once the crew had determined that Jonah, a passenger, was the jinx, they threw him overboard and -- Lo! -- the storm abated. The three days and nights he subsequently spent in the belly of a nauseous whale must have seemed like a serious jinx to the digestion-challenged whale who extruded him much as the decent opinion of mankind has done to Bush.
Who knows what other disasters are in store for us thanks to the curse he is under? As the sailors fed the original Jonah to a whale, thus lifting the storm that was about to drown them, perhaps we the people can persuade President Jonah to retire to his other Eden in Crawford, Texas, taking his jinx with him. We deserve a rest. Plainly, so does he. Look at Nixon's radiant features after his resignation! One can see former President Jonah in his sumptuous library happily catering to faith-based fans with animated scriptures rooted in "The Simpsons."
I have read many descriptions of our fallen estate, looking for one that best describes in plain English how we got to this now and where we appear to be headed once our good Earth has been consumed and only Rapture is left to whisk aloft the Faithful. Meanwhile, the rest of us can learn quite a lot from "Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire," by Morris Berman, a professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
I must confess that I have a proprietary interest in anyone who refers to the United States as an empire since I am credited with first putting forward this heretical view in the early '70s. In fact, so disgusted with me was a book reviewer at Time magazine that as proof of my madness he wrote: "He actually refers to the United States as an empire!" It should be noted that at about the same time Henry Luce, proprietor of Time, was booming on and on about "The American Century." What a difference a word makes!
Berman sets his scene briskly in recent history.
"We were already in our twilight phase when Ronald Reagan, with all the insight of an ostrich, declared it to be 'morning in America'; twenty-odd years later, under the 'boy emperor' George W. Bush (as Chalmers Johnson refers to him), we have entered the Dark Ages in earnest, pursuing a short-sighted path that can only accelerate our decline. For what we are now seeing are the obvious characteristics of the West after the fall of Rome: the triumph of religion over reason; the atrophy of education and critical thinking; the integration of religion, the state, and the apparatus of torture -- a troika that was for Voltaire the central horror of the pre-Enlightenment world; and the political and economic marginalization of our culture.... The British historian Charles Freeman published an extended discussion of the transition that took place during the late Roman empire, the title of which could serve as a capsule summary of our current president: "The Closing of the Western Mind.""Mr. Bush, God knows, is no Augustine; but Freeman points to the latter as the epitome of a more general process that was underway in the fourth century: namely, 'the gradual subjection of reason to faith and authority.' This is what we are seeing today, and it is a process that no society can undergo and still remain free. Yet it is a process of which administration officials, along with much of the American population, are aggressively proud."
In fact, close observers of this odd presidency note that Bush, like his evangelical base, believes he is on a mission from God and that faith trumps empirical evidence. Berman quotes a senior White House adviser who disdains what he calls the "reality-based" community, to which Berman sensibly responds: "If a nation is unable to perceive reality correctly, and persists in operating on the basis of faith-based delusions, its ability to hold its own in the world is pretty much foreclosed."
Berman does a brief tour of the American horizon, revealing a cultural death valley. In secondary schools where evolution can still be taught too many teachers are afraid to bring up the subject to their so often un-evolved students.
"Add to this the pervasive hostility toward science on the part of the current administration (e.g. stem-cell research) and we get a clear picture of the Enlightenment being steadily rolled back. Religion is used to explain terror attacks as part of a cosmic conflict between Good and Evil rather than in terms of political processes.... Manichaeanism rules across the United States. According to a poll taken by Time magazine fifty-nine percent of Americans believe that John's apocalyptic prophecies in the Book of Revelation will be fulfilled, and nearly all of these believe that the faithful will be taken up into heaven in the 'Rapture.'"Finally, we shouldn't be surprised at the antipathy toward democracy displayed by the Bush administration.... As already noted, fundamentalism and democracy are completely antithetical. The opposite of the Enlightenment, of course, is tribalism, groupthink; and more and more, this is the direction in which the United States is going...Anthony Lewis who worked as a columnist for the New York Times for thirty-two years, observes that what has happened in the wake of 9/11 is not just the threatening of the rights of a few detainees, but the undermining of the very foundation of democracy. Detention without trial, denial of access to attorneys, years of interrogation in isolation--these are now standard American practice, and most Americans don't care. Nor did they care about the revelation in July 2004 (reported in Newsweek), that for several months the White House and the Department of Justice had been discussing the feasibility of canceling the upcoming presidential election in the event of a possible terrorist attack."
I suspect that the technologically inclined prevailed against that extreme measure on the ground that the newly installed electronic ballot machines could be so calibrated that Bush would win handily no matter what. [Read Rep. Conyers' report (pdf) on the rigging of Ohio's vote.]
Meanwhile, the indoctrination of the people merrily continues. "In a 'State of the First Amendment Survey' conducted by the University of Connecticut in 2003, 34 percent of Americans polled said the First Amendment 'goes too far'; 46 percent said there was too much freedom of the press; 28 percent felt that newspapers should not be able to publish articles without prior approval of the government; 31 percent wanted public protest of a war to be outlawed during that war; and 50 percent thought the government should have the right to infringe on the religious freedom of 'certain religious groups' in the name of the war on terror."
We are assured daily by advertisers and/or politicians that we are the richest, most envied people on Earth and, apparently, that is why so many awful, ill-groomed people want to blow us up. We live in an impermeable bubble without the sort of information that people living in real countries have access to when it comes to their own reality. But we are not actually people in the eyes of the national ownership: we are simply unreliable consumers comprising an overworked, underpaid labor force not in the best of health: The World Health Organization rates our healthcare system (sic--or sick?) as 37th-best in the world, far behind even Saudi Arabia, role model for the Texans. Our infant mortality rate is satisfyingly high, precluding a First World educational system.
Also, it has not gone unremarked even in our usually information-free media that despite the boost to the profits of such companies as Halliburton, Bush's wars of aggression against small countries of no danger to us have left us well and truly broke. Our annual trade deficit is a half-trillion dollars, which means that we don't produce much of anything the world wants except those wan reports on how popular our Entertainment is overseas.
Meanwhile, China, our favorite big-time future enemy, is the number one for worldwide foreign investments, with France, the bete noire of our apish neocons, in second place. Well, we still have Kraft cheese and, of course, the death penalty.
Mr. Berman spares us the happy ending, as, apparently, has history. When the admirable Tiberius (he has had an undeserved bad press), upon becoming emperor, received a message from the Senate in which the conscript fathers assured him that whatever legislation he wanted would be automatically passed by them, he sent back word that this was outrageous. "Suppose the emperor is ill or mad or incompetent?" He returned their message. They sent it again. His response: "How eager you are to be slaves."
I often think of that wise emperor when I hear Republican members of Congress extolling the wisdom of Bush. Now that he has been caught illegally wiretapping fellow citizens he has taken to snarling about his powers as "a wartime president," and so, in his own mind, he is above each and every law of the land. Oddly, no one in Congress has pointed out that he may well be a lunatic dreaming that he is another Lincoln but whatever he is or is not he is no wartime president. There is no war with any other nation...yet. There is no state called terror, an abstract noun like liar.
Certainly his illegal unilateral ravaging of Iraq may well seem like a real war for those on both sides unlucky enough to be killed or wounded, but that does not make it a war any more than the appearance of having been elected twice to the presidency does not mean that in due course the people will demand an investigation of those two irregular processes. Although he has done a number of things that under the old republic might have got him impeached, our current system protects him: incumbency-for-life seats have made it possible for a Republican majority in the House not to do its duty and impeach him for his incompetence in handling, say, the natural disaster that befell Louisiana.
One way that a majority of citizens can help open the road back to Crawford is by heeding the call of a group called the World Can't Wait. They believe that the agenda for 2006 must not be set by the Bush gang but by the people taking independent mass political action.
On Jan. 31, the night of Bush's next State of the Union address, they have called for people in large cities and small towns all across the country to join in noisy rallies to make the demand that "Bush Step Down" the message of the day. At 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, just as Bush starts to speak, people can make a joyful noise and figuratively drown out his address. Then on the following Saturday, Feb. 4, converge in front of the White House with the same message: Please step down and take your program with you.
Novelist, playwright and essayist Gore Vidal is a contributing editor to The Nation. Visit Truthdig.com CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE in its original context or listen to an audio file of Vidal reading the entire piece.
28th JANUARY 2006
Boxer Delivers Major Address on Why the Alito Nomination Should Be Defeated
Today, I am announcing my opposition to the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court of the United States. [snip of passionate, thoughtful paragraph after passionate, thoughtful paragraph] It is with deep regret that I conclude that Judge Alito's judicial philosophy lacks this wisdom, humanity and moderation. He is simply too far out of the mainstream in his thinking. His opinions demonstrate neither the independence of mind nor the depth of heart that I believe we need in our Supreme Court justices, particularly at this crucial time in our nation's history. That is why I will oppose this nomination.
And she managed to say all that without once using the word "filibuster!"
|click to read and weep
Today's professional con[gress]-artists are much like the maid who pulls a chair up to her Master's table, looks around, and says, "what a dump." Then begins to stick her fingers in the serving dishes and diners' plates, grabbing only the most sumptuous and delectable morsels, while shaking her head and muttering, "dust...disarray...disgusting. (mmm mmm mmmmm...I loooooooooove truffles.) Someone really should clean up around here."
We hired you to "clean up around here!"
And you're on the clock. So get your fingers out of the pie, get off your asses, and get to work.
"Just Say No to Alito" is neither original, nor a strategy. Save your Big Talk and hot air for the filibuster. You'll need it...Rb
JOHN FUCKING KERRY:
From: "John Kerry" <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006 02:53:13 -0500
Yesterday, Senator Ted Kennedy and I told our colleagues that we supported a filibuster of Judge Alito's nomination for the Supreme Court. And we weren't alone. But the bottom line is that it takes more than two or three people to filibuster successfully. It's not "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." If you want to stop Judge Alito from becoming Justice Alito, use your own email list and organize. We can't just preach to our own choir. We need to prove to everyone - from our friends and neighbors to our fellow Senators - that the American people know Judge Alito will take our country in the wrong direction, and they expect something to be done about it.
So I'm asking you to join Senator Kennedy, me, and concerned citizens across America who are signing this petition to support a filibuster. If there was ever a time to forward an email on to friends and family, this is it. One way or another, we're going to find out in the next few days if Judge Alito is going to become Justice Alito. You know where I stand. The time to make your voice heard is now. So please sign this filibuster petition and get as many friends as you can to do the same.
Don't you dare pretend that you cannot filibuster if "enough people" don't send email and sign petitions, John Kerry. Don't you dare. Millions of us have already worked our asses off and made a far greater number of personal sacrifices than you, at your behest, beginning with your saunter for the presidency [which immediately followed the far greater number of personal sacrifices made between 1999 and Coup2K; and so on], and you betrayed us. Millions of us are, yet again, making a far greater number of personal sacrifices than you, trying to stave off Big Brother [on steroids].
You're not a stupid man. You know that more than half of the country's populace is just waiting [if not begging] for someone to stand up
to bush et cie. What do I expect from you, John Kerry? I expect you to offer nothing but bravado in your attempt to appear as though trying to stop the confirmation of alito [what the kids would call "greasing the neocons' wheels"]. Afterwards, I expect you to believe that a self-aggrandizing show of righteous indignation and a grim, paternal "no" constituted "action." And when push comes to shove, I expect you to insist that you would have filibustered, but we, the people didn't send enough emails or sign enough petitions or make enough phone calls or give enough money. Are the same people who counted our votes counting these emails and signatures and phone calls? Uh-oh. Makes your life a lot easier, though. All you have to do is "look busy" every once in a while, and, before you know it, you're back at the table with your fingers in the pie -- and with us, the people waiting on you!
Prove me wrong, John Kerry. I hate always being right...Rb [who would ask, "whom must one blow to get his job." But who's heard too much about skull & bones initiation rites.]
This Isn't A "Vote Of Conscience" Concerning A Filibuster; It's A Vote To Save Democracy. And If Reid Can't Cajole And Bluster 41 Democrats Into Saving Democracy, He Should Resign His Position. [HEAR! HEAR!]
26th JANUARY 2006
The New York Times, in a January 26th Editorial, Calls for a Filibuster of Alito.
If Harry Reid doesn't start acting like a minority leader and get the Salazars, Landrieus, Bidens and Feinsteins to support one, then he should step down as minority leader.
This isn't a "vote of conscience" concerning a filibuster; it's a vote to save democracy. And if Reid can't cajole and bluster 41 Democrats into saving democracy, he should resign his position.
The future of America is at stake. Even the New York Times realizes it now. In an editorial entitled, "Senators in Need of a Spine," the NYT states the dire situation quite clearly:
"Judge Samuel Alito Jr., whose entire history suggests that he holds extreme views about the expansive powers of the presidency and the limited role of Congress, will almost certainly be a Supreme Court justice soon. His elevation will come courtesy of a president whose grandiose vision of his own powers threatens to undermine the nation's basic philosophy of government — and a Senate that seems eager to cooperate by rolling over and playing dead.
It is hard to imagine a moment when it would be more appropriate for senators to fight for a principle. Even a losing battle would draw the public's attention to the import of this nomination."
As we've noted in a series of BuzzFlash editorials and news analyses, the Dems must take a stand or they will just be a rubber stamp Congress, because Bush and Cheney are daring them to stop this Administration from becoming a de facto dictatorship, empowered with breaking and creating the law at will.
Bush, day after day -- in myriads of ways -- is telling Congress, "Yeah, I'm breaking the law and ignoring Congress. Just try to stop me."
For some reason, instead of becoming outraged, the Democratic Senators act puzzled. This is why the so-called "middle Americans" don't trust the Dems on national security. The average Joe or Jill knows that if someone is threatening to beat you up, you don't hand him a bat.
As one of our readers wrote to the BuzzFlash Mailbag, reflecting the current mood of the Democrats who vote (not the ones who are Senate careerists): "I'm getting beyond my 5 year 'blame Bush' mentality, as Bush is doing just what Bush/Cheney wants, and doing it damn well and virtually unopposed. So I blame the enablers; those with the (D) behind their names on the Senate roll. They've gone beyond disappointing their supporters. They are about to bring disgrace onto this country, and they want us all to cheer the 'No' vote they use to camouflage their cowardice."
BuzzFlash has interviewed Harry Reid and found him candid and highly critical of Bush. But talk is cheap. What the Democrats need is a passion to save democracy and the leadership to get their stragglers in line.
As we noted, in 2003, John Kerry, who would like to be president, promised to lead a filibuster on a nominee that fits Sam Alito to a "T." Then, lead, John Kerry, lead, or be a hypocrite and get trounced in the Iowa primaries. If you don't have the 41 votes, get them. If you want to be president, you better be able to secure the backing of your party caucus, because if you can't lead the Democrats, you can't lead the nation.
We haven't heard you publicly call for a filibuster or heard you announce that you'll lead one, but that's what you promised in 2003. Just read your words here, in an article entitled "Kerry says he'll filibuster Supreme Court nominees who do not support abortion rights".
And Hillary Clinton just decided this week that she opposed Alito. What's that about? She should have been leading a national campaign against him the morning after Bush nominated him following the now-forgotten Harriet Miers fiasco. Do you think that they support an imperial presidency and the dismantling of the Constitution in Omaha, Hillary?
As we wrote on January 6, in one of our many Alito commentaries, "Thank God our current Senate Democrats weren't at Lexington and Concord!" There never would have been an American Revolution if the Dems were running the show. The Dems in the Senate would have been too busy rehearsing Hamlet off on the side of the road.
But, now, we have come full circle, and the crowning of King George IV will be nearly complete if the Dems don't filibuster Alito.
Bush is asking the Dems in the Senate to sign the death warrant for Congress and the balance of powers, and the Dems are taking the pen and putting their name to the document. ("No" votes don't count. Only a filibuster does, because "No" votes don't stop the confirmation of Alito. So don't let any Dem Senator get away with saying they voted against Alito, but didn't support a filibuster.)
As Molly Ivins, madder than a wet hen (and this week's BuzzFlash "Wings of Justice Award Winner"), exhorted: "Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation.... Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can."
It's time for the Democrats in Congress to rehabilitate themselves and end the cycle of "the battered opposition party" syndrome. But there's no time for them to seek help in an abuse shelter and receive rehabilitation.
The time to act is now.
No voter, including us, will believe that they can battle Bush on national security (when he is actually making our country more insecure and vulnerable) when they won't even lift a finger to stop a Supreme Court nomination that may be the final nail in the coffin of democracy -- and will likely render Congress irrelevant.
|A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL