Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Impeachment "lessons"

In an April 24th article entitled "Kucinich launches oust-Cheney effort," Tom Curry of MSNBC claims that "The Republicans proved in 1999 that impeachment is not a functional political tool, except perhaps in the case of corrupt federal judges (against whom it has been used a few times in the past 30 years). "

I'm growing quite tired of the impeachment naysayers (which, unfortunately, includes a lot of our congressional leadership) who, along with media analysts like Curry, keep spouting the received wisdom that impeachment is a bad idea, even if richly deserved by the thugs who comprise the decision-making core of the Bush administration.

The two arguments against impeachment seem to be that either (1) it is a political mistake (Curry's opinion) or that it would be (2) bad for the country.

Political Mistake
As to the first argument, it has 3 serious problems:
First, there is far too small a sample of US presidential impeachments to draw any conclusion about the political benfefits or drawbacks of impeachment. And, in fact, in parliamentary democracies, no-confidence votes and changes of government are common tools of all political parties and provide a mechanism for holding government accountable. There can certainly be political fallout, but the idea that it is always bad for those initiating the action is just not so.

Second, using the Clinton impeachment as a model for impeachments is completely unjustified. Clinton was impeached for having sex with Monica Lewinsky (though the excuse for the impeachment was that he lied under oath about it). To claim that there is any similarity between what Clinton did and what the Bush Administration has done is nonsense! As the bumper stickers quite reasonably point out, "When Clinton lied, nobody died." In contrast, the Bush Administration has engaged in a cold-blooded, calculated campaign of lying about multiple grave matters of state and at several levels of the administration and for several years.

Bush et al's lies have caused the US to invade a sovereign country, which has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, and thousands of Americans. It has de-stabilized the world oil market, leading to ruinous energy price increases that have hurt people worldwide in general and in America in particular, where high energy costs threaten our fragile economy and cause hardship for ordinary Americans.

Bush et al's machinations have done irreperable damage to the reputation of the USA with its allies and have provided fuel for decades of jihad-building hatred by our enemies -- and by people who didn't used to be our enemies.

Meanwhile, to enable the above, Bush's little gremlins have infiltrated the entire federal bureaucracy poisoning it with incompetence, cronyism and ill will. And his big gremlins have been working on trying to repeal the Bill of Rights and to nullify the Geneva Conventions!

Third, it is the duty of Congress to act as a brake on executive misconduct and, so far, it has done fuck-all (as the British would say). It doesn't matter what the political fallout of impeachment, Bush et al are guilty of high crimes and need to be called to account.

Bad for the Country

The second argument - is that our democracy will come tumbling down if we have an impeachment. (Funny how this argument didn't seem to bother the Republican partisans who pursued the Clinton impeachment with such a vengeance; apparently removing a president for a sexual peccadillo wouldn't ruin the country, but removing him for attempting to undermine the Constitution would. Hm, funny logic that).

I happen to think that our Constitution, our nation, and our people can tolerate action needed to bring crooks to account for their misdeeds. That's why our system includes the impeachment mechanism; it's not there as a pretty embellishment never to be used.

An impeachment in the USA is much rarer than a vote of no confidence in a parliamentary country and is therefore perhaps more frightening to us as Americans, but not, I submit, as frightening as allowing the thugs who run the Bush junta to consolidate their insidious power to such an extent that the USA may soon begin to resemble 1980s Argentina.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Surge too late?

Predictable I suppose that an "analysis" would appear this AM with the title "Did Iraq 'surge' come too late?". As seems typical of the media attitude toward the Iraq war, there is a fixation with tactics at the expense of the big picture. Which is --

Our government used a bunch of lies, half-truths, and nationalist hysteria over 9/11 to cook up a case for invading a sovereign country. Virtually everything that was claimed about the reasons for going to war, the ease with which the war would be run, and the benefits both to America and to Iraq were wrong. We were not welcomed with open arms by anyone except looters. We did not march through the country with no opposition. We did not have enough troops to subdue the population. We did not find weapons of mass destruction.

On the other hand, nearly everything that people opposed to the war predicted has happened: The war did quickly turn into urban house-to-house combat . We did not have adequate troops to secure anything or any place, thanks to the arrogance and pig-headed blindness of Don Rumsfeld. Antiquities were looted. The country's infrastructure was ruined (schools, healthcare, water supply, sewers, electricity, you name it). Tens of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans have died. And just by the way, we have not been able to use Iraq oil revenue to finance the war; far from it - the war is leaching the present and future out of the US national budget and has cost (what a surprise) much more than predicted by our government's salesmen.

Many Americans do not seem to understand that the above facts point to the reasons why this enterpise was and is doomed. This is because many Americans are not inclined to put themselves in other people's shoes. The simple exercise of imagining ourselves as the invaded rather than the invaders seems not to have occurred to the mainstream media, for example. Try this exercise yourself and then try to guess how much cooperation you'd be giving to the invaders.

Was the surge too late? The only thing "too late" was not to have started the war. Now that we have done, we, the Iraqis, their neighbors, and our national future are stuck with the consequences and the aftermath of that inexcusable decision. You can surge today, surge tomorrow, or surge last year; we are where we are not wanted -- and with good reason. We will never win in Iraq because there is nothing to win and no one there who wants us to win. If we sent enough troops to subdue the entire country (an unimaginabley large number of troops) we would then have an armed occupation - we might have more security, but certainly no less hatred of us.

So why does our government keep asking for more time and more money in order to "finish the job"? For a "surge." Because they started the war and now don't know what to do. And, based on their unblemished record of dishonesty and incompetence, we the American people can expect more of the same until we put on the brakes and demand an unconditional withdrawal.

After that, we can impeach our government and put the prime movers in this vile mess on trial for war crimes.

Imus schmimus!

When I first heard about the Imus thing, I was inclined to write a nasty letter deploring his actions and demanding his firing. After a few days of media frenzy over the issue, I realized that, as usual, we the public are being led to focus on the wrong thing: ie Imus the individual acting wrongly.

The more important issue is that the American people's airwaves have been handed over by Congress and federal regulators to mega-corporations whose actions are driven by their bottom lines and who, in the merger frenzy of the last 25 years, have caused an increasing concentration of media ownership in the hands of fewer and fewer. And people like Imus serve the interests of those media moguls who, after all, pay their salaries. Imus says things that are what Joe Sixpack is saying day in and day out at his local bar because this is what Imus' handlers have decided makes for good (ie profitable) radio. Oh, they may express outrage at Imus' “unpredictable” behavior, but that is just standard procedure when an employee has done something that embarrasses his employer.

The question here is whether it is good for Americans that the Imus (and Bill O'Reilly, and Rupert Murdoch, and FOX and Rush Limbaugh et al) point of view dominates the airwaves to the exclusion of more progressive, tolerant, enlightened points of view which may be less profitable to air. The rich, mostly white, mostly men who control the airwaves claim that they only put on the air “what people want to see and hear” and, whether true or not, this claim is consistent with a risk-averse approach to making money. Could the goal of a more balanced media in general and more open radio broadcasting in particular be met without recourse to regulation is an open question, but history should not make us sanguine; every industry de-regulated in fact or in law since Reaganomics has suffered a precipitous loss of quality. Expecting the media moguls to buck this trend on their own is unrealistic.

This is why real regulation is so important – contrary to the idea that it strangles innovation and competition, it actually provides a safer space for businesses to innovate, knowing that certain bottom-line economic realities are protected by a regulatory safety-net. For example, if the FCC ruled that all TV stations had to provide a full one-hour commercial-free news show every night at 6PM, there would be no competition-based argument against it, because every station would be required to do it. If the FCC mandated free equal airtime for all political candidates and banned paid political advertisements, then all media would be equally “inconvenienced” and we the people could hear the opinions of candidates not rich enough to afford to buy airtime. We would also see an immediate improvement in the content of political discourse as the candidates could not resort to attack ads and slickly-produced distortions about their opponents.

In addition to re-regulating content, the American people need to re-think ownership of the media. Freedom of speech and of the press was never envisioned by the founders to mean control of speech and the press by a small group of Plutocrats – quite the opposite. By allowing essentially unfettered mergers and acquisitions (albeit with the usual smoke and mirrors by the FCC that they are “concerned”) the number of possible different points of view aired by all media have necessarily lessened. If the NY Times and Boston Globe are owned by the same company, I don't care what claims they make to the contrary, there is going to be less difference in their outlook than if they were truly independent. If Sinclair Broadcasting owns 50 TV stations (and they do) then they will have an undue influence on the news and other content of those stations (as they already have done).

The above is what we should be focusing on, not whether Imus is a good guy or a bad guy, whether he can apologize enough to make people like him again. Because Imus is only the tip of this iceberg.