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Next Questionclick for answers
Clearly lots of people have views other than our political leaders. Some write columns in the papers, some have talk shows on TV. Most of us are left with the Internet as a means to express ourselves. On these pages you'll find the commentaries of one citizen, for whatever use you can make of them.
1: the betrayal of a trust :
2:the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family
There is all manner of evil in the world. One of the worst kinds is a government that turns on its own people. Usually we think of such an event as happening all of a piece, appearing suddenly as an aberation. But in the case of the United States of America, this treason has arisen slowly over time, almost unnoticed by those who fell under its power.
One could ask, how can a government commit treason against itself, but the facts are that in the United States, the true government is the People, and if a sitting government turns against its own People here, it commits treason. Further, our elected officials owe allegiance to the Constitution, and by violating its principles, they also commit treason.
Like all such evil it began with small acts. A vote sold here, a lie told there. Soon it was business as usual. Soon it was most votes and many lies, as our government more and more served only wealth, and less and less either the People or the Constitution. With the 2nd Bush administration, the whole thing has become a nightmare.
You have to wonder what ambition, what love of power, what religious ideology, would drive elected officials to betray their own people and the very foundations of our way of life. But betrayal is what we have today, though many still chose not to see it.
Below are put a few of the treasonous acts of our elected officials:
In the '60's, three men of moral substance, two of the Kennedy brothers and Dr. King, are assassinated. We are told the assassins acted alone, but the real question is who benefited by the heart being torn from our People.
A President covers up crimes against our People, orders unlawful acts against his opponents, and commits war crimes against the Cambodian Nation.
The Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, awash in unjustified campaign contributions, manage all elections for the benefit of the incumbents. This same Congress routinely abuses the People's retirement program, Social Security, while creating for themselves retirement benefits of an unparalleled nature.
A large bill is about to be passed in the Congress, and unknown to anyone (supposedly), as if by magic, a rider is attached to this bill, benefiting to the tune of $50 Billion dollars the tobacco industry.
An election is stolen from the Party that should have won, and even the highest Court is incapable of either seeking the truth or justice, but instead goes for expediency, while the losing Party itself fails to press the issue, for their leaders still have power, and it is only our People that really suffer the consequences.
A terrible tragedy happens to our people, and soon those with an ambition to dominate the world start to use that horror to convince us to go to war - a war where there is no credible threat to us.
Around the same time, a complicated piece of legislation is offered to the Congress, who passes it unread, only to discover later what an afront it is to our hard won civil liberties. Such legislation was not written in the last minute, but had to already be there, produced by some working group that knew full well its assault on our freedoms. Who wrote this? Who set them to such a task?
In order to maintain power, the leader of the House of Representatives, seeks to redistrict Texas, in order to unseat sitting Congressman, and thus insure his party's majority in the next election.
The ruling elite, supposedly of the Party of Lincoln, hardly hide their deeds anymore, and sell favors almost openly. Power such as they have used and seek is heady stuff, intoxicating in the extreme. Their fans accuse their critics of being unpatriotic. The truth is they daily commit treason, for the Executive Branch no longer honors the Constitution, but instead makes plans to further erode the basic rights of our People.
Our public officials serve now only wealth and their own ambition and love of power.
Whatever other name one wants to call it, I call it Treason.
Democrat, Republic, Green or Citizen
Eventually, and hopefully not too late, people will wake up to the fact that our Republic is rooted in acts of Citizenship, not party politics or affiliation.
Parties fight over power. That's it, nothing else. That's their point, the reason they exist. They fill no other social purpose.
They are controlled from the top down, not from the bottom up. Citizens are at the bottom, politicians are at the top. Politians routinely lie. Politicians routinely pretend to believe in things they don't really believe in, in order to get elected. Politicians keep secrets about what they are doing, because they know the public would not approve. Politicians organize our election laws and voting districts in ways designed to keep themselves in power. Politicians run the Parties, even the Greens (the main Green argument is about participation in the power game, if you read through the hype).
Politicians have all kinds of justifications for what they do. But these rationalizations are just that - they don't change what is right or wrong. Lying is wrong. Pretending is wrong. Keeping secrets is wrong. Keeping yourself in power is wrong. Playing the power game instead of taking care of the Public's Business is wrong.
If you do wrong stuff long enough, you get so used to it that it becomes business as usual. We tolerate it because we are used to it. Thing is, this kind of abuse of power goes on long enough it wrecks something. Marriages and families get wrecked by lying, pretending, secrets and power games. Businesses are wrecked by the same thing. It is also possible to wreck a Country, which is what is happening in the United States now.
We are having a serious social-political train wreck.
In slow motion - which makes it hard to notice.
Its going to get worse before it gets better.
Politicans won't make it better, they have no reason to do that.
Only Citizens, only those who set aside party politics for serious consideration of the real issues of governance are going to pick up the pieces after the train wreck. It may even be possible to nullify some of the potential damages as the train wreck continues - but that is not any kind of certainty.
Politicians are not public servants. They serve themselves and the owners of money. A Republic based on citizenship responsibility died some time ago. However, it can be resurrected.
But only Citizens can do that. The politicians won't do it. Oh, they will say all the right words (lies), make all the right promises, but in the end they will do what they want, for reasons they won't tell us, and at the behest of folks we never know.
And, if you don't see this, then you are not being a responsible citizen.
Neo-fascism hiding as Anti-terrorism
In the name of anti-terrorism, the Justice Department is urging its acquisition of all manner of powers. Even conservatives wince at some of what is requested. Here are some fundamental considerations.
Why, at all, do civil rights have to be sacrificed in order to protect us from terrorists? We can examine this question without even considering the powers the Justice Department is asking for. For some the argument is whether security is more crucial than some liberties. We are told that the Justice Department needs these powers in order to make us safe. But the central question goes deeper - will the sacrifice of these liberties actually make us safer?
First of all can we be made absolutely safe? No. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together realizes this. The War on Terrorism, whether carried out abroad or here at home, will not be won. This War is a political act, done by politicians for political reasons. We had a War on Poverty, and lost. We had a War on Drugs, and lost. These kinds of Wars are not about solving a problem, they are all about appearing to solve a problem.
We always have to keep in mind the first principle of observing our politicians - don't believe what they say. Believe only what they do, and then not the names by which they call what they do.
What is the record so far? The administration is holding several hundred men and children in Cuba, away from recourse to our system of Justice. The administration held several hundred other Arab men, arrested just after 9/11, whose only problem was with their visas, for months, even over a year, with no access to our Justice system. From this last group of men not one single terrorist was discovered, not one.
The administration wants (and has already to a certain degree acquired) the following powers:
The power to name someone as a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism, without any proof or any judicial review of this claim. We are to trust our political leaders to name someone a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism only for the reason of protecting us from terrorists. They want to do this in secret, on the basis of whatever information or sources they define, and with no one ever able to review this decision. Do you suppose they would never be tempted to use this power to claim a political opponent or someone engaged in dissent is a terrorist?
Once they have determined that someone is a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism (remember no proof required), they claim (or want) the right to detain indefinitely, and in secret. That is, should they decide you are a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism, they get to secretly arrest you and hold you as long as they want without anyone knowing why or where. No court is to able to review this situation.
They also want to try terrorists and their supporters in secret, and are seeking to be able to apply the death penalty to such situations.
They also want to be able to take away your citizenship. If they decide you are a terrorist or a supporter of terrrorism, they want to be able to declare you no longer a citizen and deport you (to where is not so clear).
The above, of course, has little to do with the electronic eavesdropping they want to do, or their ability to come into your home without a warrant and copy your hard drive, and make it possible to copy all the keystrokes you make. Nor does this deal with their desire to turn all our neighbors into secret police, able to harrass us for whatever petty grievance they hold.
Now ask yourself, how do these powers, if given, make us safe from terrorists? How does their power to name someone a terrorist or a supporter of terrorists, without judicial review, make us safer? Such a power only makes the judgments, of those who hold the power, safe. How does the power to search and arrest without warrant make us safer? Only those who would use such a power are made safe from any abuse of that power.
All the moves which keep the exercise of power by our govenment free of judicial review do not make us safer from terrorism, they only make it safe for neo-fascists to exercise their diseased ambitions free of the constitutional protections our Founders gave to us, and for which our soldiers have died since the Revolutionary War.
The only beneficiary of these powers is the already powerful.
When Push come to Shove
Things are going to get worse. The powerful don't give up power easily. Especially when they are on a roll, and when their wealthy friends are starting to get desperate.
Lets face it, the economy is getting worse, corporations do not look good, and lots of people don't trust them at all anymore. There is a discontinuity in the world, between the moral sensibilities of most people, and the actions of a few. We are shocked and dismayed when we read over and over again about the selfishness of corporate leaders. Those who investigate this carefully come to understand that there is a cooperation between government and corporate intesests - a cooperation that is all about wealth and power, and in which the little people's (the citizens of the Republic) real needs are secondary if not outright irrelevant.
The rule of wealth is in danger. And when sharks and wolves and pirates are in danger they attack!
I lived through the late '60's and '70's in Berkeley California. Let's recall how our government behaved in those years, keeping in mind that today they not only have more powers, but even more motivation to suppress dissent.
The FBI used agents provocateurs - that is they infiltrated various groups, from the most radical to the least, with spys who pretended to be part of the groups and frequently encouraged the groups into lawbreaking.
The government created an enemies list and targeted individuals for IRS investigations, or if they were political, planted false information about them in the Press. Illegal surveilance was common. The Democratic Party headquarters was broken into, as was a psychiatrist's office (this is stuff we know about, not everything that was done). The CIA tested drugs and simple biowar weapons (LSD and infectious flues) on unsuspecting American citizens.
Dissent was denounced as unpatriotic. Local police agencies where encouraged to do their own spying on the general public. Such illegal surveilence was routinely kept secret. The Press was frequently manipulated, and the government lied over and over again about the War in Vietnam and about its own role in supressing dissent.
Keep in mind that I am speaking in generalities, but if you read the particulars it will raise the hair on the back of your neck and loosen your bowels. The more violence oriented the dissent (the Black Panthers for example), the more vicious the response from the authorities (the assassination of Fred Hampton).
There is a long history of this kind of activity (the labor movement troubles early in the 20th Century). Wealth and power don't show any restraint in maintaining their position, and believe they hold all the cards.
What's going to happen?
Impossible to actually predict. The hope is that it goes away with little strife. Let's consider a small example of the excesses of power that can come into play, and basically how it usually applies itself to individuals in terms of maximum force.
A couple in New England is home schooling their children. The educational authorities want to test the children, and the parents refuse to have the children tested. The authorities then use social services to take away the parental rights of the parents, in order to force the testing that is being refused. Then one day law enforcement officers show up at the house, threatening the parents that they will take away their children, unless they consent to the testing. This is enormous power of the State applied in a situation where no threat exists as regards the children - the only treat is the refusal to conform to the educational authorities desires. Home school your kids, ignore the educational authorities and the law will take away your children?
In this case the parents said, okay arrest us, take away the children and then explain to the public what you are doing. Push comes to shove, and the parents faced down the power of the State (who backed off).
What do you think is going to happen when the State declares you a terrorist, or a supporter of terrorism because you choose to dissent against their policies? Will you be able to stand against this irrational and excessive abuse of power? What if they just threaten? They say, tell us a story about your neighbor, and we'll not apply our power on you. When do you cave and when do you stand up?
It ain't going to be easy.
An Open Letter to the Republican Party
There are those who see our modern political problems in terms of issues. Speak to the issues they say. Or they ask a candidate for higher office: "What are your stands on the issues". But this is a hopelessly superficial view of modern political existence. It is the kind of thinking a fifth grade boy has about sex. Mostly fantasy, with little connection to reality, and certainly no understanding of the real nature of women.
Modern politics isn't about issues. Its about substance and stature and capacities and responding to the real needs of a People. At the very least it requires some sound judgments about human nature.
The way the world is presently ordered is that the United States is in a natural position of a certain limited form of dominance. We didn't so much earn it as having been placed in this position by the Genius of History as a matter of Grace. We ought to be humbled by this - it is an enormous responsibility.
The sad fact is that we are a quite miserable failure at honoring this gift. Our current political leaders are about as incompetent as possible in how they relate to our responsibilities. Like that fifth grade boy, they treat the world in a very childish fashion, as if it was a board game in which the point was to win.
Yet, the Genius of History is anything if not tolerant, so we could approach this situation as if it was a learning experience. We have to stumble around a bit in our state of ignorance and social immaturity first, in order to eventually realize that there might be a better way.
Right now the Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln, has sold its soul to the Christian Right and to Money, in order to enjoy power. If we look at what is being done in our Nation's Capital, we see Republicans drunk on power. They can do just about anything, so that is what they do, just about anything. But there is no wisdom in what they do, or any coherence. They have power, but no knowledge or competence.
The very least that our higher public servants ought to understand is something about human nature. One is simply not competent for the exercise of such authority if one does not understand such basic realities.
For example, mere ambition does not qualify one for elected office. Nor does the possession of wealth, or the possession of the correct ideology, or knowing the right people. Yet, it is exactly these qualities that are used to judge whether a Party (Republican or Democrat) finds someone a suitable potential candidate. Also of import are: telegenic presence; willingness to be a team player above all; and (most unfortunately) the absence of sufficient personal integrity to stand up to various temptations.
When the Parties offer us a candidate they have not sought out the best qualified people. In fact, it would be quite difficult to even find it anywhere considered what personal character, expertise and experiential skills are needed for highest office. Real competence is that last thing on anyone's mind.
The Nation and the World now suffer from this failure of the Parties to seek out the best and the most qualified to serve the Republic.
George W. Bush is a nice man, but a bit too much of a silver spoon kid, and not quite bright either. However, nothing in his resume qualifies him to be our President, and the Republic Party has only itself to blame for the consequences.
He doesn't lead, but is lead. Power hungry people populate his government. They were faceless in the beginning, but now they are known, and again, other than having a school boy view of world affairs, a rigid moral arrogance, and a lot of money, Rove, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Chaney and company have no business having the power and authority our founders gave to the Executive Branch as a great trust.
The reality is the People don't want them in power. Oh, you can point to polls and say well they do, but the only reason some of the people have been fooled in this regard is because the truth is kept from them. Anyone, and I mean anyone, with two brain cells knows that if the American People knew the truth of what is going on in Washington they would be enraged.
Already Bush and his handlers have divided the Country, and will continue on that path if they remain in power after the 2004 election. Everyone who loves our Country has to stand up and be counted now in the effort to get these children out of office. Yes, the other guys are about as lame, but that is another matter that will have to wait to be addressed after the White House is first given a thorough spring cleaning.
Now someone reading this might say, well could you do better? Or they might say, what could Bush do that is different? These and related questions are quite justified. As to the first question, you should read Re-imagining the Conduct of the Presidency - a Presidential Campaign as an Act of Statecraft and the Presidency as the Art and Craft of Statesmanship. As to the second, that follows.
As noted at the beginning of this essay, the Genius of History has placed before the American People a certain opportunity and responsibility. This was not done by accident, but rather because it is our given nature to be able to rise and meet this task. This, however, will not be easy - nothing worthwhile ever is.
In order to understand what is called for we have first to understand our place in the world, and the world's own state of being. These are not simple matters, but I will try to sketch the basics in the following:
The world has become a single community. This was not true before, but is true now. As Dr King put it, we are now neighbors who must next learn to be brothers. American then has the natural gifts in this, because it is in our own land that the Genius of History has brought all the world's Peoples together in one place. For a long time now we have been struggling with this very problem, and our experience in this regard is more mature than we might think.
Politicians, seeking to divide us and rule, make it appear that we are not together in the way we need. But if you go into the work places and neighborhoods, and see what is happening that doesn't get misrepresented on the 11 O'clock News, you see people actually getting along. We get along more than we don't, but that isn't News, so it doesn't get reported. Its only News when it doesn't work. But if you want the truth, watch Oprah. It isn't easy, but it is our nature - we are the People of Peoples after all - "...and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea".
This being who we are, then we are qualified to help the world take the needed steps in the direction of moving from mere neighbors to brother and sisterhood. The world doesn't need our domination, but our example. That's what real leaders do, they lead by example.
So what example have Bush and company given us - live in the thrall of great wealth, destroy the civil liberties of your own people to maintain power (rule through fear), invade other countries and create chaos while destroying the struggling to emerge world order (disregard long standing treaties, undercut the United Nations, don't pay any attention to our natural allies or to world opinion).
We can do a lot better, and the Republican Party needs to play a role. The Party of Lincoln needs to reclaim its true nature as sound Conservatives, and maintainers of tradition. It has to free itself from its bondage to wealth, and its domination by its own Right Wing.
If Bush is not opposed in the 2004 election within his own Party, that failure will haunt us all.
The President as Figurehead* (or what happens when the President is substantially less smart than his advisors)
*a head or chief in name only
George W. Bush seems like a nice guy. Many people feel a kinship with him because of this, and for some the fact that he is not an egghead seems to be a plus. He is reported to have said at a Yale Commencement, something on the order of: "congratulations to all you honor students, and also congratulations to all you C students, because you too can become president"
We do have the Ideal that anyone can be President, and I wouldn't want us to set that aside. But if we are going to be taken (and I do mean taken) by small groups of people putting forward a figurehead candidate, then we do need to know the truth about those behind the figurehead. Otherwise we vote for and honor not the true holder of executive power, but simply the false mask that power has chosen to wear.
It is a worthwhile question to ask whether this aptly describes the George W. Bush presidency. Not only this, we need some kind of way to assess such a situation - to discover it, and understand how it works.
Obviously the worst case senario is one where the President is basically a vain fool, who enjoys more the trappings and perks of office, works short hours, and leaves to his presumed underlings the discussion and elaboration of the fundamentals of foreign and domestic policy. They in turn (the underlings) would then (because of their presumed superior intellect) manipulate this fool through his vanity and appetites, telling him what he wants to hear, and overcoming his weaker intellect in clever ways. He becomes their tool, and we, the Citizens, would have no idea whom to hold really responsible, given that none of the underlings is an actually elected official.
While some would find such an idea improbable in our democratic Republic, it clearly has more than once been the case in the history of humanity. Emperors, Kings and Queens, and other Chiefs of State, have frequently been mere figureheads and the power behind the throne held by other, less accountable, hands.
We should also confess that this is quite possible in the United States, given the nature of media, the role of money in elections, and the way the actually workings of the White House are hidden from examination. Think about it. Politicians and their campaign operatives practice a certain art. They are professionals at dissembling, at lying, at hiding the truth, at creating false images, and inventing new ways of misdirection.
Political campaigns are not about the truth at all, or even the issues - they are about manipulating the public mind.
Elected officials never stop campaigning. Everyone knows this. Each decision is judged primarily for its political (re-election potential) consequences. Nothing is done because it is the right thing to do in spite of any risks taken by the politician. All is done in order to obtain and maintain power.
Now some might argue - well, what about all the good stuff that is done? Okay, so what. Most of what is done is done for the holders of money, who have paid for it by their campaign contributions. Any good done for the general welfare is mostly incidental to doing it for the wealthy. Yes, we have a defense department, but we also have defense industries (and don't forget Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex).
We have an Interior Department, but it serves (especially under Republican administrations) the needs of commerce, not the needs of the enviroment or ordinary people. Our government is not the steward of America's great natural wealth, but rather it's wholesaler. The needs of wealth come first, and benefits to the taxpayers are incidental.
As for the Democrats, our national sovereignty was sold by Clinton during the '90's in a series of trade agreements that primarily served the needs of international wealth at the expense of working people the world over.
So just don't assume that governance by politicians has anything to do anymore with the American People.
Manipulation of image and truth then being the main skill of elected officials and their operatives, it should not be doubted that a figurehead president is a serious (and quite dangerous) possibility. Read this link about Karl Rove and Bush to start to get a picture of the truth here.
The best that I can do here is point the reader in the direction of examining this question. If you want, there is all manner of detail that can be discovered that shows, quite tragically for the United States of America, how it is that we have elected a pleasing mask, without sufficient wit and mind to be able to see the ill conceived intentions of his puppeteers.