Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Fat Lady Has Sung

It's over folks! The 238 year American experiment with democracy has ended, not with a bang but with an embarrassing fart. The unrelenting efforts of the Supreme Court to undermine the Constitution in favor of its corporate sponsors have borne their fruit and both Houses of Congress have now passed into the control of the oligarchy, along with the judiciary. Will the executive branch follow? Does it matter?

In the wake of the mid-term elections, which broke all campaign spending records for non-presidential elections, and may have set new records in percentages of voters not showing up (most reports state the national voter turnout as 36.6%), Democrats have taken to blaming everything from factions, strategies, the press, voter suppression laws, the widespread perception of the two parties as being equally corrupt and ineffectual, the failure of candidates to embrace Obama, and Obama himself, to the nastiness of the Republicans for the debacle, but the debacle stands.

From the nether world of the ex-Confederacy comes news of Rush Limbaugh's latest tirade. He urges the new GOP  Congress to be unrelenting in their quest to dismantle the country. This time I can only agree. Please don't offer any compromises to Obama. He has a tragic affinity for compromise and a tendency to meet his declared enemies 3/4 of the way on any issue. So keep the heat on, Radical Right Republican Reactionaries, pedal to the metal, all the way to oblivion-- total meltdown or nothing!

Well meaning friends ask me if I think the results will have an effect on the next presidential election in 2016. What can I say? Actions have consequences. Inactions do too.

The appointment of George W. Bush to the presidency in 2000 led to a catastrophic series of events from which the United States has never recovered and probably never will. In case your memory isn't working as well as it once did, in short order we witnessed: a corrupted Presidential election, a stock market collapse, 9/11, an unfocused invasion of Afghanistan, the illegal invasion of Iraq, the Bremer administration of the occupation, tax cuts for the rich and the conversion of a budget surplus into a monster deficit, Hurricane Katrina and “good job Brownie” in New Orleans, torture as DOD policy, domestic spying as NSA policy, massive voter suppression, deregulation of everything that needs to be regulated, another stock market collapse with a too big to fail bailout followed by too big to jail and the Great Recession.

While prior to this election, most serious news was successfully suppressed, apart from hysteria inducing stories of ebola, ISIS and out-of-control immigration, the day after the election the news came out of a newwhistle-blower, Alayne Fleishman, who spoke of her difficulty in getting the Justice Department to hear and do anything about the crimes she witnessed while working for JP Morgan Chase. Just a few weeks before this news surfaced documenting his reluctance to prosecute big-time banksters on criminal charges, Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation. Fortunately for the denizens of Wall Street, as quickly as a magician can pull a rabbit out of a hat, a nearly perfect Holder clone, Loretta Lynch, was found among the inner circle of lawyers who alternate between defending white collar criminals of the sort who work for banks, and working for the Justice Department. Her current gig is US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She's the one Obama appointee almost certain to be approved by the Senate. Even Rupert Murdoch supports her. Jamie Dimon can continue to sleep soundly. While Republican Senators, and some Democrats, couldn't bring themselves to approve Debo Adelbile, a well-qualified lawyer, as head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department because he'd once defended Mumia Abu-Jamal, it's hard to picture Republican Senators blocking her appointment just because she has defended a number of crooked bankers. Besides, she's black, and of course, they wouldn't ever want to be seen as racist.

The goals of the new GOP controlled Senate will be:
1. To repeal Obamacare- This may prove more difficult than thought since thousands of people now have health care who didn't have it before. It's one thing to deny something to people. It's another to take something away from them once they've got it.

2. Approval of the Keystone Pipeline and the evisceration of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mitch McConnell, the new Senate Majority Leader, who famously stated in 2008 that his top priority was to assure that Obama would be a one-term President, has a new priority. He feels the responsibility to block all action on climate change and to reign in the Environmental Protection Agency, which his new colleague in the Senate, Joni Ernst, the ex-hog castrator from Iowa, has compared to the Gestapo. It will be interesting to see how well Senator Ernst does her work in Republican committee meetings.

3. Approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact.
Obama wants it to happen and the corporate owned GOP Congress will be happy to speed it along. These are the democracy ending “trade agreements” that have been in secret negotiations for months. Secret because if the public knew what was in them there would be rioting in the streets. (or am I being uncharacteristically optimistic?) There's a bitter irony in this since Republicans have always railed against international institutions such as the UN which “threaten US sovereignty”. The TPP, negotiated in secret by a cabal of large corporations, will end all local and national sovereignty in the USA and everywhere else, and cripple the ability of elected governments to legislate on matters related to the environment, food safety, workplace safety, minimum wage, working conditions and internet privacy. They may still be permitted to debate whether theories about evolution, gravity or climate change may be discussed in schools, so we'll probably have to retain a skeleton force of elected officials. Not too big though, since ALEC now writes most US legislation. Yes folks, if you hadn't noticed, government has been privatized. TPP is the biggy, the bomb in the schoolhouse, the one big thing that makes everything else fade into insignificance since it basically abolishes electoral-based governance.

There may be historic reasons for a bit of optimism. Many of my liberal friends are hopeful that in 2016 Democrats will retain the presidency and retake both Houses of Congress. Republicans are in a quandary about whom to select for their Presidential candidate from among the brain dead, the certifiably insane and the sociopaths in their number. All three groups were rewarded with remarkable success in this year's elections. In a bit of a panic over this situation, Wall Street groups have dragged out the name of Jeb Bush as a possible saviour from outside the three main factions.

On the other side of the aisle, it appears that Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her new Athena, Goddess of War mode, is the only Democratic candidate. Hmm, Bush-Clinton! Wonder what that will do for voter turnout? At least the electorate may have an inkling of who the candidates are. Campaigning as the less horrible choice didn't work this year and there's no assurance that it will in two years either. We'll have to pin our hopes on the GOP picking a really grotesquely horrible candidate, something clearly within their capabilities.

History can move quickly. Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany at the start of 1933, following the huge gains his Nazi Party scored in the 1932 elections. Before he died in his Berlin bunker just eleven years later, WWII had devastated much of Europe. That's even faster than the devastation brought on by the election of 2000, although don't tell that to an Iraqi. Some 13 million Iraqis and Syrians are now reported to be displaced and homeless. By 1946, following the Nuremberg trials, Europe was starting to rebuild. Our own recovery (as well as that of Iraq) from the wake of 2000 hasn't gone as well and with the election results in, it may be on permanent hold.

On a brighter historical note, it was in AD 41 that Emperor Caligula discussed making his horse Incitatus the newest member of the Roman Senate, on the basis that his horse was capable of doing as much as the current members. Some things haven't changed in two millennia. We haven't crowned an emperor yet but the electorate, who still theoretically get to choose members of the Senate, took a similar course as Caligula, giving the nod to such luminaries as the aforementioned Joni Ernst, Thom Tillis and incumbents such as Pat Roberts, a stellar all-star cast.

The Roman Senators didn't take the slight lying down. A bunch of them got together and stabbed Caligula to death and then tried to restore the Republic. That failed, as the Roman equivalent of our Secret Service rounded up the assassins, killed them and saved the Empire. The good news is that the Roman Empire glided on for another relatively good three or four centuries till Romulus, the last Roman Emperor was deposed in AD 476 by Odoacer, one of the invading barbarians. 435 years after Caligula! That's a pretty impressive run.

The ascendancy of Jim Inhofe to Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works may throw a monkey wrench into our hopes for a similarly long, slow decline. We all know that our planet earth won't be around forever but mostly we think in terms of geologic ages, a bit of an abstraction. Senator Imhofe may change the time scale of the planet's demise to something most of us humans can relate to personally. The good Senator, like many of his Oklahoma constituents, is not unduly concerned since he and they know that the second coming of Jesus will carry us all (at least the righteous amongst us) away to heaven when we manage to arm Israel sufficiently to pacify the Middle East. The Bible tells us that there will always be seeds and the harvest, no matter what Monsanto is up to and that God creates the weather so what is all this presumptuous talk about our changing it.

Once again, there is a kernel of hope, despite all odds. Our current form of government has been called by many names. Recently Sheldon Wolin dubbed it “Inverted Totalitarianism”. That may be technically valid but sounds a bit academic for my taste. I prefer “Corporate Fascism”, which besides being reasonably accurate, touches an appropriate nerve. The oligarchs running the system all seem to be driven by an insatiable lust to exploit the planet and gather the world's riches for themselves. They are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. While the current operating mode may be corporate fascism, or whatever name you choose to apply, their phenomenal success is leading inexorably to neo-feudalism. Once everything in the world is owned by the Walton and Koch families, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Paul Singer and a handful of others, we can all go back to being serfs. Mass consumption will end. After all, how much can those people consume? Pollution will be reduced, along with life expectancies. This may not be the future you had hoped for your grandchildren but hey, life is a gift; it's a wonderful planet. Its population of seven billion people may be radically reduced along the way but with a little luck the planet may be restored to health for our grandchildren's grandchildren.