Take care, this first day of November, and feel the openings sleeve.
Also, prayers for Vicki in her grief.
The media are missing possibly one of the biggest stories of our time: widespread outrage, despair and fear over the subversion of a host of democratic processes.
I listened as his voice cracked. At a major national conference, a colleague from another university—an eminent historian—could barely contain his anguish as he referred to the recent detention bill and its gutting of habeas corpus. A few hours later I listened to two young people who work in the film industry talk about how they fully expected this election to be stolen. Driving through Oakland, Calif., I saw a movie marquee urging people to demand paper ballots from electronic voting machines so there’s a record of their votes. In my classes I have been asking my students why they don’t follow the news, and they say, “Why bother—it’s all spin and you can’t believe it.”
As the news media finally begins to turn its attention to the congressional elections, we are getting a focus on the trees, but not the forest. Will Rick Santorum win or lose? Will the Republicans pay for the public’s opposition to the war in Iraq? But when you talk to a range of everyday people, it’s the forest they’re concerned about: Will our system of constitutional democracy survive? And for many, this election is a crucial, desperate test. Because the evidence is that this administration and its allies will do anything—anything—to stay in power.
Can you remember a time when people were so terrified (not an overstatement) about the future of the republic? Everywhere they look they see collapse. The legitimacy of the entire infrastructure—Congress, the presidency, the news media, the electoral process—is in question. When can you remember an onslaught of so many books, issued almost weekly now, that seek to save the nation by documenting the incompetence and duplicity of Team Bush and its various arrogant, power-grabbing, anti-democratic adventures? Fiasco by Thomas Ricks, The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind, How Bush Rules by Sidney Blumenthal, The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Frank Rich, Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, the list goes on and on. Even Bob Woodward, sensing a change in the atmosphere (and his fortunes), has produced the mea culpa State of Denial. Most of these books have been or are bestsellers. Yet there is a disconnect between acknowledgement (finally!) of the Bush crowd’s past deceits, along with the lax journalistic scrutiny of them, and outrage about what they are up to right now, today, in further abrogating our rights.
There have been times when the news media have been ahead of the public, bringing the civil rights movement or the women’s movement into people’s living rooms and playing a central role in changing their minds about race and gender relations in the country. Today, still trapped in old new routines—just look at the huge play given to the Foley scandal—they are behind a rather large sector of the population. The news media seems to be reporting on the dots—breakdown of voting machines here, increased carnage in Iraq there—without connecting them. They are missing possibly one of the biggest stories of our time: widespread outrage, despair and fear over the subversion of a host of democratic processes.
People aren’t fools. Many know, without using the term “neoliberalism,” that the government and the press have been in the hands (and service) of elites for a long time. But it is the determined and very public turn from neoliberalism to naked autocratic power that has so many of us freaked out. People sense that the country is veering toward some horrid hybrid that exhibits the repression of a fascist state and the incompetence of a banana republic. They see a defining turn that is shaping what kind of a country the United States will be for the next five, 10, 25 years, and it is a very dispiriting picture.
The 300-pound gorilla in the room is widespread anxiety over the integrity of the election, which is a proxy for the future of the country. Few of us are reassured by the public opinion polls showing Congress, Bush and the Republicans in the ratings toilet, because we’ve read Fooled Again by Mark Crispin Miller, Was the 2004 Election Stolen? by In These Times’ Joel Bleifuss and Steve Freeman, and the articles in Rolling Stone by Robert Kennedy Jr. We know about the various Diebold disasters, including the latest in Maryland, in which the supposedly secret computer codes that run the machines appeared in a former legislator’s mailbox. A recent poll conducted in Pennsylvania found that nearly two-thirds of the voters there do not fully trust these machines to accurately count their votes.
Yet the possible (probable?) upcoming voting booth malfunctions, the widespread alarm throughout the land about that and all the other Team Bush assaults on the constitution, have not been captured, reported or framed by the news media. In the second week in October, Cory Lidle’s plane crash into a New York high rise got three times as much coverage as the looming congressional elections. But the dread is out there, all over the place, holding its breath, waiting to see what happens.
Frank Morales: Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President's ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.
Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."
President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the term is "martial law."
Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled, "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies." Section 333, "Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law" states that "the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of ("refuse" or "fail" in) maintaining public order, "in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."
"What concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are."
Outsourcing Al Gore
Do you get the feeling that every project the United States might once have undertaken is now either outsourced or simply handed over to others elsewhere on the planet? GM and Ford, for instance, took the SUV money and ran, handing over the market in fuel-efficient cars, and part of our economic future, to Japanese and other foreign automakers. Now, it turns out that the federal government has done both of those companies one better. In a front-page piece in Monday's New York Times, "Budgets Falling in Race to Fight Global Warming," Andrew C. Revkin points out that, as the global energy crisis revved up, American dependence on foreign oil imports grew, and military research of all sorts rose by 260 percent "annual federal spending for all energy research and development… is less than half what it was a quarter-century ago. It has sunk to $3 billion a year in the current budget from an inflation-adjusted peak of $7.7 billion in 1979."
Practically speaking, what that means is: From solar power to wind power, the US is ceding a lucrative energy future to other countries. Whatever breakthroughs might be achieved in alternative fuel development are ever less likely to happen here. Imagine what our world might have been like, if -- instead of laughing him out of American living rooms --- we had listened to Jimmy Carter in that "peak" investment year of 1979 when he gave his famous "crisis of confidence" speech in a sweater. "To give us energy security," he announced that night, "I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel." Talk about what-if history…
In the meantime, here's an inconvenient truth to consider. In the America of George Bush and Dick Cheney (who undoubtedly expect to be driving their Ford and GM SUVs on some quail-hunting expanse in the middle of the country when global warming really hits), a former vice-president with a sideline expertise in climate change, is a totally exportable commodity.
On Monday, the British government released a major global-warming study, commissioned by Gordon Brown, leading candidate for Tony Blair's prime ministership. It suggested that, in the coming years, the impact of global climate change could make the Great Depression look like a tea party. The study's author, Sir Nicholas Stern, suggested that the possibility of avoiding catastrophe is "already almost out of reach." The Brits then promptly hired former Veep Gore, clearly unemployable in our country, to advise them on climate change and lobby on their behalf. Talk about a brain drain.
It's hard to imagine Gore as a foreign lobbyist jollying up to the Bush administration. Could it be that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are betting on another kind of climate change in the US soon?