Sunday, April 01, 2007

Why the Bush regime is illegitimate

Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.
-John Stuart Mill
In his classic essay "On Liberty", John Stuart Mill deals with the issue of "civil liberties" -not the metaphysical issue of "free will". Mill deals with threats to liberty from within the institutions of democracy itself. This issue is especially relevant today, a time when widespread domestic wiretapping and surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a measure intended to prevent the abuse of liberty by government, a measure intended to preserve the very ownership of government by people.
A time, however, came in the progress of human affairs, when men ceased to think it a necessity of nature that their governors should be an independent power, opposed in interest to themselves.

- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

With those words, Mill is off and running.
The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar, particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England. But in old times this contest was between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the government.

That (it might seem) was a resource against rulers whose interests were habitually opposed to those of the people. What was now wanted was, that the rulers should be identified with the people; that their interest and will should be the interest and will of the nation.

-- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
...creating the desire, the need, for a government "...of the people" themselves.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble, U.S. Constitution

The preamble to the US Constitution is, arguably, the most important clause in the entire document. Historically, it must rank with the Magna Carta, establishing up front the source of US sovereignty: the people themselves. It asserts its own legitimacy and the philosophical basis for the legitimacy of government itself. It defines a revolution based upon the ideas of Montesquieu, John Locke, Rousseau and, of course, Voltaire.

As important as the preamble to the US Constitution, is the still revolutionary principle articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Government is no longer "legitimate" by default or by raw power. Legitimacy and sovereignty reside with the people themselves. The apparatus of government is owned by the people and those governments violating those principles may be overthrown -by revolution, if necessary.

A special note about Voltaire is appropriate. Voltaire's life illustrates those principles that many of us growing up in a free society take for granted. Voltaire lived most of his life in or near Geneva or nearby Ferney in France. He lived always in fear of being arrested by the French regime where all power resided in the King and Church. The King's will was law made "legitimate" by "The Church" which recognized a "divine right of kings". Voltaire's France was a society in which the King supported the authority of the Catholic Church in France and vice versa. The people were controlled, however, only so long as the masses believed in both the divinity of the Church and in the "the divine right of kings". "Heretical writing" as well as his "upstart" attitude had often landed Voltaire in jail. From Ferney, he could always beat a hasty retreat into Switzerland just down the road.

The repression of dissent, of minorities, of "subversives" is nothing new. Mill reminds us of the plight of Socrates, arguably the father of Western Philosophy itself:
Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision. Born in an age and country abounding in individual greatness, this man has been handed down to us by those who best knew both him and the age, as the most virtuous man in it; while we know him as the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue, the source equally of the lofty inspiration of Plato and the judicious utilitarianism of Aristotle, "i maestri di color che sanno," the two headsprings of ethical as of all other philosophy. This acknowledged master of all the eminent thinkers who have since lived -- whose fame, still growing after more than two thousand years, all but outweighs the whole remainder of the names which make his native city illustrious -- was put to death by his countrymen, after a judicial conviction, for impiety and immorality. Impiety, in denying the gods recognized by the State; indeed his accuser asserted (see the "Apologia") that he believed in no gods at all. Immorality, in being, by his doctrines and instructions, a "corrupter of youth." Of these charges the tribunal, there is every ground for believing, honestly found him guilty, and condemned the man who probably of all then born had deserved best of mankind, to be put to death as a criminal.

- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
In a post-911 world, we simply must remember the philosophical source of our own founding. It does not serve our purpose here to pinpoint a specific time when people began to think differently about how and by whom they should be governed. However, two significant events come to mind: the signing of the Magna Carta and the English Civil War, to cite just two examples. Indeed, in 1649, in an historic assertion of the rights of Parliament, King Charles I of England was executed. According to Mill, government itself ceased to be the seat of sovereign power. More accurately, I would say that it never had been. But it required a realization by people that they had always been the sovereign. Upon this realization, "governors" ceased to be independent powers; magistrates of the State became delegates of the sovereign i.e. the people themselves. Their power was revocable, or as Simon Schama said in his "History of Britain", even a King could be "brought to book."

The American Declaration of Independence put that principle in writing.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

-Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

The aim of early libertarians was to limit the power of the ruler over those governed. Mill understood that even governments of freely elected executives and legislators often become unaccountable and, as we have seen recently, autocratic. He understood the need to limit the power of elected governments. Because even majorities can be tyrannical, Mill understood the necessity of limiting the powers that even freely elected, democratic governments, may exercise over minorities and individuals. His work is more relevant now than ever.

If minorities have rights today, due credit must be given to J.S. Mill. No society is expected to tolerate genuinely criminal behavior. But, for Mill, a free people, in a free society, may not tolerate a majority rule which seeks to interfere with or suppress minorities or non-conforming behaviors indiscriminately simply because a "majority" may be prejudiced, mis-informed, or simply tyrannical and arbitrary.

Mill understood that the democratic ideal -a government of the people - is often not the case in fact. Those exerting the power of the government -elected officials, bureaucrats, the judiciary - develop their own interests, influenced by special interests and their constituencies in ways that are at odds with the interests and liberties of individuals, minorities, or, indeed, the greater good of the society as a whole. Indeed, a majority may become tyrannical when its interests are at odds with the legitimate interests of a minority or an individual. Mill sees no difference between a tyranny of one and a tyranny of many. A majority running roughshod over the rights of individuals and minorities is no less a tyrant because it is a majority, because it is elected, or because it is elected by a majority.

What then are the powers that society may legitimately exercise over the individual?

Mill answers:
The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.

-J.S. Mill, On Liberty
James Madison -called the "Father of the Constitution" -anticipated Mill's ideas in his draft of the Bill of Rights -the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Implicit in the Bill of Rights is the recognition that the power of the state is a blunt instrument. Abused, it can oppress and repress individuals and minorities alike. The Bill of Rights addresses this issue by guaranteeing "due process of law", limiting state power over individuals and groups, guaranteeing that groups and individuals may speak and worship freely.

The Fourth Amendment specifically is a promise that our government made to us in its very founding:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

-Fourth Amendment, Bill of Rights, U.S. Constitution
The Bush administration has waged a war of assaults upon the Fourth Amendment. The "Sneak and Peak" provisions of the Patriot Act, for example, allowed agents of the federal government to come into your home, to search your residence, and leave without even telling you about it. Initially, it was unclear whether Bush administration intended to prosecute the War on Terrorism as justification for his subversive campaign against the Bill of Rights --or was he willing to abrogate our most precious freedoms in pursuit of a phantom menace --terrorism? Bush has not waged war in defense of freedom but against it.

Nat Hentoff would later write that by "...a stunning 309-118 vote, the House of Representatives on July 22, reflecting a growing apprehension about the USA Patriot act around the country, voted to deny funding for a key section of that act. Before that move, at least 142 cities and towns and three state legislatures, have passed strongresolutions against the Patriot Act." Hentoff also reminded that the issue of warrantless "search and seizure" was among many British abuses listed by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. It was, he wrote, "... a precipitating cause of the American Revolution."

Many politicians, eager to consolidate the powers of government, seem eager to invent powers that have simply never existed in American tradition. Executive privilege is just one of many powers that simply do not exist, were never articulated by the founders, or, in a worst case, blatant inventions. Let's make it also clear that there are no "inherent powers" or "implicit" authorizations" that would, in any way, overturn, limit, or repeal the Fourth Amendment or any other portion of the US Constitution or the Bill of Rights. A President may not cite "inherent powers" that will, in any way, expand his/her own powers beyond those enumerated in the Constitution. A President may not create various and asundry powers under the cover of "executive privilege", a notion so imprecise as to be utterly meaningless.

It is not only an executive who is constrained. Congress may not, cannot overrule the Fourth Amendment with statutory law. Constitutional Law is supreme and provisions in the Bill of Rights are valid until amended as set out in the Constitution itself. Widespread domestic surveillance is illegal whatever is done by Congress ex post facto -and until the Constitution is amended, it will remain illegal. At last, ex post facto laws, themselves, are expressly forbidden by the Constitution.

Mill is all the more remarkable for his insight into issues that remain contemporary. In every literate criticism of "special interest groups", PAC's, the gun lobby, the tobacco lobby, the Military/Industrial Complex, one sees the lasting influence of John Mill.

The regime of George W. Bush has not only corrupted the American government, it has assaulted the very principles upon which the United States was founded. Right wing, "neo-conservative" ideas are a throwback to Medieval Europe, in this case espousing the autocratic rule of one man, a man who could not and has not won a majority of the popular vote.

Since 911, however, the administration of George W. Bush has taken abuses of the US Constitution to new levels. These are "...broad based assaults on basic Constitutional rights". Checks and balances are not working even as the Bush administration attacks the very concept of an independent judiciary.

The American GOP has indulged a level of corruption and state-sponsored crime completely unprecedented in American history. Bush, his base, and the GOP learned all the wrong lessons from Watergate. They learned how not to get caught. The Republican party and the regime of George W. Bush continue to advocate powers for the office of "President" never envisioned by the founders, powers that never existed.

The regime of George W. Bush continues to conspire with corporate sponsors to subvert the authority of the "people", who, alone under our Constitution, are sovereign. Bush and his monied sponsors assumed arbitrary powers and authorities that simply do not and have never existed. This is most notable with regard to the round up and detention of "terrorist suspects" over which Bush assumes dictatorial and arbitrary powers of life and death. Bush has no such authority and must never have it. Bush, has in fact, reserved for himself the power to order the arbitrary executions, murders of American citizens. If you should think such arbitrary powers are reserved for for use against on those persons who are easily identified as "Middle Eastern" or "Muslim", then I pity you. The Bush doctrine, therefore, is a poke in the eye to American values, the Constitution, indeed, the very concept of the Rule of Law. There is a word for such rule: tyranny.

On Liberty is essential reading for anyone interested in law, the principles of government, political science, political philosophy, indeed, freedom itself. It is also essential reading for anyone interested in learning about the intellectual underpinnings of Anglo-American civil liberties. It is, likewise, essential reading for anyone wishing to restore to America the blessings of a free society.

Some additional resources:

Why Conservatives Hate America

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hizzoner said...

My congratulations to you on an excellent post. Very few denizens of the great blogosphere take the time or effort to outline the philosophical basis for either the structure of our government (which Bush is trying to dismantle) or the manner in which government affairs should be conducted (by the constitution of course with an eye on the underlying philosophies).

I've added your blog to my favorites and will visit frequently.


SadButTrue said...

An excellent post indee, but I think you left out one or more critical reasons that the Bush regime is illegitimate. To start with, the fact that he was never elected, but appointed by a partisan vote of the Supreme Court, including members who were appointed themselves by his father, and should have recused themselves. His reselection in 2004 was perhaps even more tainted, as now well-documented electoral fraud was perpetrated on the people in the form of dodgy voting machines.

I echo hizzoner in my applause for the references to Mills, Locke, Voltaire etc.

Len Hart said...

Thanks to hizzoner for the kind comments. Welcome and please come back.

Sadbuttre, indeed I neglected many specific abuses of the Bush administration and, perhaps in error, tried to focus on how fundamentally out-of-sync Bush is from the standpoint of heritage, philosophy, values. Clearly, the Bush ideology has nothing to do with our precious heritage, our values as a people. Clearly, Bush is another "animal" --subversive not only to laws but to heritage, decency, and civilization itself. I felt I needed to focus upon how out of step Bush is from the philosophical underpinnings of our nation.

Perhaps, I can write a sequel in which I deal with specific acts of lawlessness that have come to identify this administration.

As always, your comments are excellent and relevant. Many thanks.

Batocchio said...

Thanks for a great, thoughtful post! This past month I wrote a piece on the consistent attack pattern of the authoritarian movement's efforts - but Mill's "struggle between Liberty and Authority" is especially apt. I've joked before that I think the Bush administration has undermined every amendment in the Bill of Rights except the second.

The big issue, that you nail here, is that the authoritarians are not solely seeking power within the existing American system of government. They have been trying to undo the system itself. As you imply here, the Bushies really aren't far from the monarchists of years past.

Sam from Ithaca said...

You quote Mill:
The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.

I wonder what Mill would have said about the drug war in general, or cannabis prohibition in particular.

Metro said...

Navigated my way over from Schecter, or perhaps Mr. Hart (sorry for the forgetfulness). A thoughtful, solid analysis.

Which may account for the absence of trolls; it clearly requires too much effort to read, let alone to write a riposte. Not when Fox news is just begging to confirm their prejudices.

I think many citizens of the US (I'm a Canadian myself) have been sitting back saying "Well he was elected (this time). Nothing to do until his term of office expires."

But when I read stuff like this, I hear the whispering of that blessed word "impeach" ...

Len Hart said...

bataccio wrote:

Mill's "struggle between Liberty and Authority" is especially apt. I've joked before that I think the Bush administration has undermined every amendment in the Bill of Rights except the second.

I think you are correct. Madison was rarely wrong on issue. But he was wrong about the need for a Bill of Rights. He was urged to draft one and did so despite his sincere belief that a "government of the people" would not deliberately seek to abrogate the rights of the people. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Madison may have been wrong on that point but is redeemed by the excellent work he did.

Having said that, I would have preferred a less ambiguous "Second". Gun types insist upon believing that a mere comma has come to mean "please disregard the first part of this sentence."

Sam from Ithaca said:

I wonder what Mill would have said about the drug war in general,

I cannot imagine how Mill could have supported the authoritarian position. Thanks for the link.

Metro said...

Which may account for the absence of trolls; it clearly requires too much effort to read, let alone to write a riposte. Not when Fox news is just begging to confirm their prejudices.

I take that as a high compliment. Thanks, Metro. No one ever said it would be easy. Indeed, I often think that trolls and other right wing kneejerks are frightened by complete sentences, indeed, anything beyond a mindless slogan or label.

The "Cowboy" is proud to do NUANCE.

Fuzzflash said...

"Why the Bush regime is illegitimate". Because they are a mob of bastards, that's why.

Another sensational post, Len. Your talent for informing, educating and entertaining is unsurpassed in the blogosphere of the mind.

I got some money in mah pocket,
Got mah swag-bag in mah hand,
Gonna hitch a ride to Byron,
To see some Blues 'n' Roots bands.

Bet yo sweet bippy on it.

Ziggy and Stephen Marley, Lee Scratch Perry, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. The old swamp fox hisself, Mistah Tony Joe White, Bela Fleck + Flecktones, Chris Smither, Taj Mahal etc. Lineup for the 5 day fest is on I see old acquaintances in the street and tell 'em where ah'll be this Easter and they say;
"Why Fuzz, ah'm so ENvious!"

If the magic happens, will do a post/review on the Corral.

Oh yeah, great to see new commenters. Welcome all. Trolls are vivisected and our No Brain-No Service policy applies at all times.
Damien, may I recommend Sad's piece about David Hicks on the Corral.

Len Hart said...

Thanks, Fuzz.

If the magic happens, will do a post/review on the Corral.

I look forward to it.

Oh yeah, great to see new commenters. Welcome all.


Anonymous said...

Great post!

SadButTrue said...

I have a somewhat different take on the second amendment. Anyone with passing familiarity with social customs in 18th. century Europe should observe that one of the privileges of peerage was the right to wear a sword. In the military a sword was a weapon reserved for officers only, and officers were almost invariably 'gentlemen', in other words members of the titled classes. Viewed in this light, the second amendment could be seen as intended to tear down one of the visible and practical barriers between the haves and the have-nots. Note that the reference is to arms, not firearms or sidearms.

Len Hart said...

SadButTrue said...

one of the privileges of peerage was the right to wear a sword. In the military a sword was a weapon reserved for officers only, and officers were almost invariably 'gentlemen', in other words members of the titled classes. Viewed in this light, the second amendment could be seen as intended to tear down one of the visible and practical barriers between the haves and the have-nots.

Excellent take and I venture to say that it is a "take" completely ignored by the psuedo-scholars favored by the NRA.

NRA partisans, of course, ignore the first two phrases of the single sentence that is the second. That phrase is:

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, ..."

Most, if not all, NRA types either ignore those phrases or assert -wrongly -that they carry no weight. Else, their position is meaningless.

Clearly, James Madison established that the "right" to keep and bear arms occurs only within the context of a militia -a regulated militia!

Among the "founders", there is NO debate about the "right to keep and bear arms" but within that context.

It is also easy to make a case that Madison, who drafted the Bill of Rights, may have intended that the preservation of the "state" was, indeed, the primary justification for the private ownership of firearms and, therefore, to be regulated.

At last, despite the movie by Mel Gibson, the militias had not acquitted themselves with honor during the American revolution.

Rather than exempting militias from regulation, the compelling case is that the "militias" were in NEED of regulation.

Even cursory research will uncover scathing criticism of the militias by George Washington, James Madison and many others in a position to know.

Washington would say that "They (militias) were undependable, there today, gone tomorrow"

Washington claimed that militia officers were undisciplined, interested only in increasing their pay. It was also claimed that some militia members "...plundered citizens under the pretense of their being Tories"

Washington advised that militias be segregated from regular troops "... because it would spread the seeds of licentiousness among the regulars"

And, in many accounts, the militias were said to have failed to provide an adequate defense against British and Tory foragers. In other cases, militias failed to turn out in the numbers that had been expected (the Pennsylvania militia) and many returned home following a dispute with General William Alexander over supplies.

Some states learned that they could not rely on militias to defend the state. Washington also opposed the use of militias because it was felt they would compete with the Continental Army for recruits.

Contrary to NRA fairy tales about the glories of gun ownership, a few facts are clear. A man owning firearms was expected to defend his state against the British and, in too many cases, could not be depended upon to do so. It is no wonder, then, that Madison drafted an amendment addressing the need for militias while making clear that militias be "regulated", presumably to address the problems witnessed and complained about by Washington.

hizzoner said...

Yo Cowboy!

You have been "blog-rolled" on the County Party

See ya 'round the blogosphere!


Len Hart said...

hizzoner said...
You have been "blog-rolled" on the County Party Site...

Thanks, hizzoner. And you will find a link to woodcodems at the Cowboy main page.

BTW - the URL to the "Cowboy" is incorrect. It should be:

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Fuzzflash said...

you're completely original and very good written yourself, ma'am. Downright cerebrally refreshing, you are. I'll venture Harry J. Anslinger is one of your favorite people. He was such a caution and ever a "cannibis' expert.

SadButTrue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SadButTrue said...

NEW POST over at the corral:
Supreme Court Jesters ..and Obscene Court Gestures
SCOTUS has just decided NOT TO DECIDE on the issue of habeas corpus rights for the 385 detainees still held at Gitmo after more than five years. I cover all the bases on this one, including some angles the big blogs tend to miss;

"One other thing I think is really important and likely to be skipped over. The court is claiming that they are not making a decision here, but from a practical standpoint I can hardly imagine anything more deceptive. The detainees are not being released, nor are they being afforded an appearance before the court, so a de facto decision has been reached - from the point of view of the detainees, very emphatically so."

Bev said...

Thank you again Len for your inspiration. I thought I would add the following:

The horrible job the GOP is doing is on purpose:

Naomi Klein author, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism"

from Democracy Now
The transcript is free

"The Worse Things Get in Iraq, the More Privatized This War Becomes, The More Profitable This War Becomes" - Naomi Klein on the Privatization of the State

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

Her forthcoming book is titled "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism."

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue to look at the issue of Iraq and the US occupation, we turn to the acclaimed author and journalist Naomi Klein. Naomi Klein is a widely read columnist for The Nation magazine and the London Guardian, author of the best-selling book No Logo, more recently, Fences and Windows. She came to New York for the launch of Jeremy Scahill's book on Blackwater and spoke at the Ethical Culture Society on the privatization of military and the state, putting it in a historical context.

NAOMI KLEIN: This drive to the privatize every aspect of the state of government is about a 35-year-old campaign. Many people date it, many historians date it to the 1973 coup in Chile, which is something that is interesting in terms of Jeremy's research, because he talks about how Blackwater are now hiring Chileans to go to Iraq, and I'll let him do that. But the first example of the attempt to build a fully privatized corporate utopia was in Chile in 1973 after Pinochet's coup, when he joined up with a team of economists from the University of Chicago to engage in that experiment.

It is a different kind of colonial project. In Latin America, this project, which is often called neoliberalism, is referred to as neocolonialism. The first stage of colonialism was the opening of the veins of Latin America, as Eduardo Galeano describes it, the pillaging of raw resources, the exporting of raw resources. The second stage of colonialism -- and, of course, that first stage never fully goes away -- was pillaging the state. What had been constructed in the aftermath of the Great Depression and during the post-war boom years -- the construction of healthcare systems, education systems, roadways, railways -- but this is really what was launched in Chile with the help of the Chicago boys: the strip mining of the state itself.

The way I imagine this corporate project, this privatization project, is if we imagine the state as a kind of an octopus with all of these limbs. And for the past thirty years, and certainly in this country since Reagan, what the privatization campaign has really been doing is lopping off the limbs of the state -- the phone system, the roadways, these sort of non-essential services, if you will. And after you've chopped off all the limbs, all you have left is the center, is what they call the core.

And what the Bush administration has really been doing is going for the core, privatizing those core essential government services that are so inherently part of what we think of as the state, that it almost seems impossible to imagine that they could be privatized, like the government itself, like cutting Social Security checks, like welfare, like prisons, like the army, which is where Blackwater fits in.

What's so extraordinary about what has happened in Iraq -- and Amy mentioned the "Baghdad Year Zero" article -- is that you really have all of these layers of colonialism and neocolonialism, this quest for privatization, forming a kind of a perfect storm in that country. On the one hand, you have sort of old-school colonial pillage, which is, let's go for the oil. And as many of you know, Iraq has a new oil law. It's passed through cabinet, hasn't yet passed through parliament. But, really, it legalizes pillage. It legalizes pillage. It legalizes the extraction of 100% of the profits from Iraq's oil industry, which is precisely the conditions that created the wave of Arab nationalism and the reclaiming of the resources in the 1950s through the '70s. So it's an undoing of that process and a straight-up resource grab, old-school colonialism.

Layered on top of that, you have sort of colonialism 2.1, which is what I was researching when I was in Iraq, which is the looting of the Iraqi state, what was built up under the banner of Arab nationalism, the industry, the factories. The kind of rapid-fire, shock therapy-style strip-mining privatization that we saw in the former Soviet Union in the '90s, that was the idea, that was Plan A for Iraq, that the US would just go in there with Blackwater guarding Paul Bremer and would sell off all of Iraq's industries. So you had the old-school colonial, then you had the new school.

And then you had the post-modern privatization, which was the idea that the US military was actually going to war, the US Army was going to war, to loot itself, which is a post-modern kind of innovation, right? If we remember, Thomas Friedman told us less than a decade ago that no two countries with a McDonald's have ever gone to war. Now, we go to war with McDonald's, Taco Bell, Burger King, in tow. And so, the process of waging war is a form of self-pillage. Not only is Iraq being pillaged, but the United States coffers of this government are being pillaged. So we have these three elements, all converging this perfect storm over this country.

And one of the things that I think is most important for progressives to challenge is the discourse that everything in Iraq is a disaster. I think we need to start asking and insisting, disaster for who, because not everybody is losing. It's certainly a disaster for the Iraqi people. It's certainly a disaster for US taxpayers. But what we have seen -- and it's extremely clear if we track the numbers -- is that the worse things get in Iraq, the more privatized this war becomes, the more profitable this war becomes for companies like Lockheed Martin, Bechtel, and certainly Blackwater. There is a steady mission creep in Iraq, where the more countries pull out, the more contractors move in, which Jeremy has documented so well and will talk more about.

The danger. These are the stakes that I think we need to understand. And I really do want to keep this brief, so that we have a fruitful discussion afterwards. What are the stakes here? The stakes could not be higher. What we are losing is the incentive, the economic incentive, for peace, the economic incentive for stability. When you can create such a booming economy around war and disaster, around destruction and reconstruction, over and over and over again, what is your peace incentive?

There was a phrase that came out of the Davos conference this year. Every year, there's always a big idea to emerge from the World Economic Summit in Davos. This year, the big idea was the Davos dilemma. Now, what is the Davos dilemma? The Davos dilemma is this: for decades, it's been conventional wisdom that generalized mayhem was a drain on the global economy, that you could have an individual shock or a crisis or a war that could be exploited for privatization, but on the whole -- and this was the Thomas Friedman thesis -- there needed to be stability in order to have steady economic growth; the Davos dilemma is that it's no longer true. You can have generalized mayhem, you can have wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, threats of nuclear war with Iran, a worsening of the Israeli occupation, a deepening of violence against Palestinians, you can have a terror in the face of global warming, you could have increased blowback from resource wars, you can have soaring oil prices, but, lo and behold, the stock market just goes up and up and up.

In fact, there's an index called the Guns-to-Caviar index, which for seventeen years has been measuring an inverse relationship between the sale of fighter jets and executive luxury jets. And for seventeen years, this index, the Guns-to-Caviar index -- the guns are the fighter jets, the caviar are the executive jets -- has found that when fighter jets go up, executive jets go down. When executive jets go up, fighter jets go down. But all of a sudden, they're both going up, which means that there's a lot of guns being sold, enough guns to buy a hell of a lot of caviar. And Blackwater is, of course, at the center of this economy.

The only way to combat an economy that has eliminated the peace incentive, of course, is to take away their opportunities for growth. And their opportunities for growth are ongoing climate instability and ongoing geopolitical instability. Their threats -- the only thing that can challenge their economy is relative geopolitical and climatic peace and stability, so I suppose we have our work cut out for us to fight the war profiteers.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, her forthcoming book is called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.


U.S. government 'outsourcing its brain'

03/30/2007 @ 3:57 pm
Filed by RAW STORY

Due to its increasing practice of contracting out to private firms and agencies, the U.S. government is quickly losing its expertise and competence in vital national security and defense programs, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

"Since the 2001 terrorist attacks and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the federal government's demand for complex technology has soared," writes by Bernard Wysocki, Jr. for the Journal. "But Washington often doesn't have the expertise to take on new high-tech projects, or the staff to oversee them.

"As a result," he continues, "officials are increasingly turning to contractors, in particular the hundreds of companies in Tysons Corner and the surrounding Fairfax County that operate some of the government's most sensitive and important undertakings."

The number of private federal contractors has now risen to 7.5 million, which is four times greater than the federal workforce itself, the report indicates. Such a trend is leading the government to what Wysocki calls the "outsourcing [of] its brain.
The shift to private firms has not been without its problems, however, with faulty work and government waste becoming rampant.


A noble effort here in Texas to attempt to reclaim Democracy.


Wednesday and Thursday in Austin, Texas

Media Advisory Contact:
Abbe Waldman DeLozier 512/736-5802
Vickie Karp 512/775-3737




Wednesday, April 4th, 2pm CST, Austin Capitol, Rm. E2.028, Texas House Committee on Elections hearing: Bruce O’Dell, an award-winning software designer specializing in software security for American Express, General Motors, and other Fortune 100 companies, will deliver a 20 minute presentation to the Committee on why electronic voting is neither secure nor reliable and should be banned for use in Texas.

Thursday, April 5th, Austin Capitol, Rm E2.002, Legislative Conference Room, 11:15 am CST: Press Conference

Rep Lon Burnam, Texas House District 90, will make the announcement of new HB 3894, mandating paper ballots, hand-counted in public view with citizen oversight, with totals posted at the precinct level.

* David Rogers, assistant general counsel of the Texas Legal Foundation and former campaign manager for Republican Texas Supreme Court Justice Candidate Steve Smith, will make a statement about his experience in the Texas 2006 primary regarding e-voting disaster and huge cost of recounts that do not even reflect voter intent. Rogers is a longtime conservative Republican activist.

* Bruce O’Dell, (mentioned above), will give a statement about why electronic voting is unsafe and can not technically be made "easier, faster, nor secure…"

* Sputnik, Founder and State Chairman of the Texas Motorcycle Bikers’ Association, member of the National Legislation Task Force and a member of the Texas Chapter of the Lawmakers Club. Sputnik will speak in support of HB 3894.

* Vickie Karp, PR Director, Vote Rescue and Board Member, Black Box Voting, will address why "voter verifiable paper audit trails" won’t solve e-voting fraud, and introduce VoteRescue’s Cost Analysis of E-Voting Elections vs. Hand-Counted Paper Ballots. Joni Ashbrook of VoteRescue will present a short summary of the astronomical costs of electronically held elections as reported through interviews with Texas county election officials.

* Karen Renick, Founder and Director of VoteRescue, Austin election integrity group supporting HB 3894, will introduce the "Vote-PAD", the non-electronic voting system which allows the disabled to vote without assistance, fulfilling the mandate of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Thursday, April 5th, Austin Capitol, Rm. E2.002, Legislative Conference Room, Noon CST – 1:30 pm. A video presentation of a hacking of real Diebold electronic voting equipment (a vendor used in Texas), and a presentation by Bruce O’Dell on the acute security issues with electronic voting in Texas. Lunch, plus three repeat presentations: Noon – 12:30pm; 12:30pm – 1pm; and 1pm – 1:30 pm. All Texas Representatives, Senators, and their Legislative Staff have been personally invited. The media is welcome to attend.
Thursday, April 5th, First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover, Austin, Texas, 7-10 pm: Showing of the startling and revealing HBO documentary, "Hacking Democracy", featuring the electronic vote fraud research of Bev Harris of Black Box Voting and ending with the hacking of real Diebold electronic Optical Scan voting equipment in a sanctioned setting in Leon County, Florida under direct supervision of the Superviser of Elections, Ion Sancho on certified election equipment; and presentation and follow up explanation by Bruce O’Dell. Media welcome.

Call your reps to demand proof of our Democracy.

Batocchio said...

10:24 PM, Len Hart said...

Yes, good point. My dad, who got a law degree later in life, used to talk about this very point - some founding fathers thought the Bill of Rights was unnecessary. Thank goodness we have it. As it is, it seems some of those rights, notably the 4th Amendment, have been eroded over the years.

(I plan to link this post later, I hope this week.)

As for another commenter's point - I have to say I could be in favor of the return of duelling. Between heads of state, that is. It would save so much bother. ;-)

Len Hart said...

Thanks Bev, indeed, "privatization" is Orwellian newspeak for more pork. It is an easy way for conservative politicians to pay back corporate sponsors while appearing to favor "smaller" government. Numerous studies have shown that smaller is not always better, more efficicient or less costly. It just sounds good. And, as we have seen with the likes of Abramoff, Tom DeLay et al, much if not most of the move to "privatize" is just a fancy and subtle money laundering scheme.

Batocchio said...

My dad, who got a law degree later in life, used to talk about this very point - some founding fathers thought the Bill of Rights was unnecessary. Thank goodness we have it.

Indeed, I think Madison warmed to the task. There has always been a "debate" about whether the people have rights inherent rights not expressly articulated. Many felt that by writing down the rights of the people, it would be construed that the people would enjoy only those rights so articulately.

I favor writing it all down while including clauses that rights are not to be limited to specific, codified rights.

Madison had been thinking along those lines.

The 9th Amendment reads: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

And then, Article 10, the issue of state's rights:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to
the people.

Britain does not have a written Constitution but some 1,000 years of common law and some weighty precedent like Magna Carta.

SadButTrue said...

Bev, that is some excellent comment. Indeed the overt neocon agenda of 'shrinking government to the point that it can easily be drowned in a bathtub' is merely a cover for their hidden agenda of doing the same to democracy itself. Thanks for the thought provoking material, especially the 'guns to caviar' index, of which I had never heard.

I recently proposed a top ten list of factors that dominate modern US politics but are unmentioned in the Constitution. The untoward commercialization of the process is behind many items on that list.

Len, I don't read the philosophers as much as you do. I took philosophy 101 decades ago and was turned off by a syllabus that included Hume, Kant, St. Anselm and a bunch of late medieval stiffs who preferred turgid prolixity to thoughtful clarity. I do however have my own copy of Mills' On Liberty which is thoughtful, clear, and essential. For those who do not have the print edition, it is available online at John Stuart Mill: On Liberty, courtesy of

Len Hart said...

Some corrections in one of my previous comments. It should read:

"There has always been a "debate" about whether the people have rights inherent rights not expressly articulated. Many felt that by writing down the people's right, the people would be limited to those rights only."

Sadbuttrue, thanks for the link to the online version of On Liberty. Having moved recently, I parted with most of my library acquired over the years. Even so, I had already begun to rely increasingly on online resources. Maintaining a huge library is a luxury that is difficult to indulge these days. Still, nothing compares to an easy chair and a good book on a rainy day.

bev said...

greetings sadbuttrue, I forgot to thank you for the link to John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty." It will take me a while since I am not a fast reader. And, I see that you are from Canada; you all seem to have that kinder, saner thing going on. Lucky...

Len Hart said...

bev said...

greetings sadbuttrue, ...I see that you are from Canada; you all seem to have that kinder, saner thing going on.

Welcome back, bev. Indeed, the "Cowboy" is honored by posts from various locations around the world. That's one of the things I love about the internet. It has the potential to create a world community.

omyma said...

one of the best posts I've ever read - which I hope you don't mind my linking to from my site it is positively great, and expresses much of what I believe in passionately.
also, as a person with both Muslim & Arab-sounding name, I have personal experience with Homeland Security Hell, the natural outcome of this march-to-tyranny done in the name of "freedom" - shoulda stayed home when the "terror level" went red.
mere suspicion on the part of any established WASP is quite sufficient to drag someone away, put them in a red jumpsuit, and forbid contact with their family, as well as forbid questions as to the cause/reason for detention.
suspicion? ah yes, saying "have a happy 4th" is VERY suspicious if the speaker happens to be, or appears to be, of mideastern origin.
Who could blame them? There was all this hype, something big was going down, and the country is crawling with well-funded terrorism task forces with not a single goddamned thing to do.
Strange, all totalitarian governments do this kind of thing. I used to think we never would...
As for you, existential cowboy, just keep on talkin'... thanks a million, or how about some inflation - OK, a billion...

Len Hart said...

omyma said...

one of the best posts I've ever read - which I hope you don't mind my linking to from my site...

I will be happy to link to your site. My blog roll links are always unconditional but, of course, a link back to the "Cowboy" will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the kind words. You can depend on me to keep shooting my mouth off. Bush is the current problem. But as long as the GOP keeps attacking the very foundations of freedom and enlightenment, I will be screaming bloody murder. And, I need all the help I can get. Thanks for your post, and, as they say in Texas: don't be a stranger.