Friday, June 24, 2005

George W. Bush is No Conservative


The day before Iran held the first round of its presidential election, George W. Bush issued a statement basically calling the Iranian process a sham: this from a man whom the Supreme Court appointed to the presidency on rather zany legal grounds, and whose "re-election" was suspect, given the shenanigans in Ohio and other states.

Ostensibly, Bush was motivated by a desire to one day see U.S.-style democracy in Iran. One would have to read his mind to be sure.

The result: Iran's hard-liners exhorted Islamic fundamentalists to get to the polls; evidently, they went, and the reformers lost. Regime officials snidely thanked Bush repeatedly the day after the vote. It would appear that he helped ensure the life span of their theocracy.

This was one small example of this administration's moronic hubris -- but it was quintessential Bush. In campaign politics, he leads a charmed life. But in policy-making, he and his team have, time after time, shown virtually no circumspection.

Bush's lack of genuine compassion has long been documented, going back to when he was governor of Texas. He mocked a woman whom he refused to pardon from Death Row ("Please don't kill me," he said to an interviewer in a falsetto voice).

Now it is easy to conclude that he is not only a phony as a "compassionate conservative," but as any kind of conservative.

This is not to say that I am a fan of conservatives. I confess that, long ago, I was once one of them. Experience taught me their true intentions -- to rationalize and defend privilege, most of it unearned; and to dupe as many of the underprivileged as possible into thinking it's in their best interests to side with the winners.

Also, they tend to cite the longevity of human institutions as proof of their purity and soundness; tell that to the victims of pedophile Roman Catholic priests. The typical "thinking" conservative's professed dark view of human nature seems to turn into naive optimism when they encounter power and privilege. Their pessimism seems to apply only to the weak and destitute.

Conservatism is largely an ideology of opportunism. Historically, they have not been unwilling to use illegal force, ranging from CIA-engineered coups to union busting by company goons, to get their way. Their platitudes about the rule of law have a hollow ring.

But even if one really tries to regard conservatives as they would like to be seen, as those who strive to preserve what was best about our past -- it is clear that Bush is a right-wing radical, not a conservative. He has more in common with the hard-line Iranian mullahs whom he reviles than he will ever realize.

Would Winston Churchill have gone on supporting tax bonanzas for the rich in the middle of an expensive war? Would Senator Robert Taft have wanted to drag us into invading a country that had not attacked us, based on intelligence that sounded flimsy even before it was proved bogus? Would Barry Goldwater have approved of the most sweeping rollback of legal rights and protections in decades? Would Ronald Reagan have mined the harbors of Nicaragua? (Oh, yeah, he did do that! -- but then, one could argue that Reagan wasn't a true conservative, either.)

Russell Kirk, regarded as an intellectual founding father of the modern conservative movement in America, wrote an essay, The Essence of Conservatism, in 1957, in which he identified 10 chief principles of American conservative thought.

Among the principles, presented as quotes:

"Power is full of danger; therefore, the good state is one in which power is checked and balanced, restricted by sound constitutions and customs."

Packing the courts with extremist ideologues, defying a Congress controlled by his own party, bullying the media, running the executive branch with Nixonian secrecy -- the Bush-Cheney-Rove gang has ignored that admonition so many times, it is pointless to go on. Suffice it to say that, very early, one pundit dubbed them "The Mayberry Machiavellians."

"The past is a great storehouse of wisdom."

Did Vietnam, or the disastrous British occupation of Iraq after World War I, enter Bush's mind during the run-up to the war? He is reported to have majored in history at Yale, yet he has again and again displayed profound ignorance of it. As the poet George Santayana, a bona fide conservative, warned, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

"In the affairs of nations, the American conservative feels that his country ought to set an example to the world, but ought not to try to remake the world in its image."

Do the words "regime change" sound familiar? Has Gitmo set a good example for democracy wannabes?

"Change and reform, conservatives are convinced, are not identical; moral and political innovation can be destructive as well as beneficial."

The Bushies should have been told this when they set out to debase Social Security, America's most successful and venerable anti-poverty program, so as to furnish more lucre for Wall Street.

On several counts, Bush and his cohorts fail at what Kirk called essential principles of conservatism. They lack the respect for diversity -- the hallmark of a high civilization, as Kirk described it -- and the foresight, the wise caution, the mature judgment, that has characterized the best classic Burkean conservatives. Bush's consistent failure to learn from mistakes, or even admit them when they are obvious, is not prudent conservative governance.

His idea of conserving the environment is to punch holes in a fragile wildlife refuge; to invade and disastrously occupy a Third World country for its oil, so America can keep driving those gas-guzzling SUVs; and to reject an important treaty that other major world powers have signed on to. A true conservative would want his or her children to inherit a planet worth living on. But when it comes to the environment, this administration ignores sound science and apparently lets oil companies determine policy. Exactly what is being conserved? It's obvious -- profits.

Fortunately, as the screw-ups mount and the body count grows, the court of public opinion seems to be slowly turning against Bush. Real conservatives, or what's left of them, should be worried; Bush's simple-minded, Messianic right-wing radicalism could very well bring down their entire movement.

I pray, literally, that it does, and before this smug fool's second term ends.

If he were to leave office tomorrow, it would take America's so-called liberals decades to pay off some debts, salvage our infrastructure, curtail the putrification of our air and water, and somewhat restore our standing in the world community.

Since our "liberals" and "progressives" have long been, by the standards of Europe and elsewhere, establishment centrists, it shouldn't be much of a stretch for them to, ironically, serve as our country's de facto post-Bush conservatives. I hope they can save the best elements of our recent past.

Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas.

Friday, June 17, 2005

"Nixon's Enemies List" Alumnus Conyers Not Afraid of a Fight


A funny thing happened on the way to the GOP completely consolidating its stranglehold on power in Washington: the Democrats finally re-discovered their backbone.

And if you want a Democrat who's not afraid of being intimidated by the powers that be, John Conyers is your man.

After all, Conyers has been standing up for truth, justice and the American way since he entered the House in 1964.

Like all crusaders for the truth, Conyers has long rankled the powerful and corrupt in America. For example, in 1971, Conyers was one of the 20 original names included on the Nixon's Enemies List, an infamous compilation of Nixon foes, put together by presidential chief counsel Charles Colson.

Ironically, the Washington Post was also included in the full version of the "Nixon's Enemies List." How times have changed.

These days, the Post has been cowed into silence in its refusal to cover the Watergate of our era: the Downing Street memo bombshell.

And, worse, the Post has the gall to belittle Conyers as he wages a lonely fight against long odds to investigate the Downing Street memo and bring the truth to the American people. So we get the likes of political correspondent Dana Milbank serving up a insult-filled, sarcastic critique of the recent Conyers-chaired hearing by Democrats into whether the American people were deliberately misled in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

I don't think we can expect the likes of the Washington Post to ever take the Downing Street memo seriously. After all, to do so would mean that the Post has been on the wrong side of history dating back to the early part of 2003, when the likes of the Post and the New York Times simply acted as cheerleaders for the war, instead of examining Bush's case for invading Iraq.

No doubt, the Post would rather see Conyers just fade away and once again become a below-the-radar, obscure member of Congress.

But something tells me that isn't going to happen. Whether other not the U.S. mainstream media gets on board, the Downing Street memo train has clearly left the station and is snowballing into the major news event of our era. The American people want to know the truth and if they can't get it from the mainstream media, they won't hesitate to get it from independent sites and bloggers on the Web.

Conyers and other brave voices in Congress are going to continue to pursue the truth on the Downing Street memo. And this effort has widespread public support: 560,000 Americans have thus far signed Conyer's petition that requests an official inquiry into questions that the memo raises.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

To Learn What's Going On in America, Read the British Press


Would you like to know what's happening in American politics and government these days? Then look to the British media.

Once upon a time, we Americans could count on depending on our nation's press to keep us informed about what was happening in our country. But those days are over. In fact, since George W. Bush first took office, if you'd limited yourself to reading the U.S. press, then you would have missed many of the biggest stories of our time.

Take the story of the 2000 presidential election and how it was stolen by the GOP. This major story got virtually zero coverage in the U.S. media. Working in the British media, American journalist Greg Palast did some wonderful, hard-hitting, investigative reporting on the election theft. But there was only one problem.

As Palast pointed out in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, his 2003 book:

"In the USA, it ran on page zero--the story was simply not covered in American newspapers. The theft of the presidential race in Florida also grabbed big television coverage. But again, it was the wrong continent: on BBC Television, broadcasting from London worldwide---everywhere, that is, but the USA."

In retrospect, it shouldn't really be surprising that the U.S. media has ignored the Downing Street Memo story. Or that we Americans are having to look to the British press (the London Times in this instance) to find out what's going on in our own country.

The fact is, that the U.S. media has snoozed through all the important stories of the Bush administration. If important stories weren't picked up by the bloggers (like the Jeff Gannon bombshell) or the European press, then, they simply have not been covered at all.

And what "news" the U.S. media has reported has in many cases turned out to be flawed, or flat-out wrong. Take the Jessica Lynch fairy tale, for example. The U.S. media swallowed the Pentagon's version of this story whole and it wasn't until the BBC took a look that Americans learned the truth.

Far more seriously, the U.S. media, far from serving in a watchdog role, has actively worked to provide crucial support to the Bush Administration.

Recall how, in the buildup to the Iraqi war, the U.S. media did little more than stand on the sidelines, acting as a cheerleader, instead of investigating Bush's claims about the WMD issue.

On May 26, 2004, in a stunning and unprecedented half-page correction, The New York Times basically admitted that ALL of its pre-war coverage was seriously flawed.

Why is it that we Americans can't be reliably informed by our nation's own media?

Palast himself has an interesting observation to make about this problem. He notes that Britain's Guardian and Observer newspapers are the world's only major newspapers owned by a not-for-profit corporation. He notes:

"If the Rupert Murdochs of the globe are shepherds of the New World Order, they owe their success to breeding a flock of docile sheep---snoozy editors and reporters content to munch on, digest, then reprint a diet of press releases and canned stories provided by government and corporate public-relations operations."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

U.S. Media Unable to Bury Downing Street Memo Story


Despite determined efforts, the U.S. mainstream media has failed in its bid to bury the snowballing Downing Street Memo story.

The U.S. mainstream media has long been careful to treat the Bush Administration with kid gloves. Any stories that could be potentially harmful to Bush have been carefully quashed, from the Bush/cocaine story, all the way up to the Jeff Gannon bombshell.

This pro-GOP bias is, of course, nothing new in the corporate media. I mean, how many people recall that it was not the U.S. media that broke the story of 1985 Iran-Contra affair, but rather a Lebanese magazine, Ash-Shiraa?

Similarly, it was overseas media that broke the Downing Street Memo story. The story, which created a firestorm of controversy in Europe, has been pretty much ignored by the U.S. press.

But there's a silver lining to this story. A funny thing happened on the way to the U.S. media giving this story the kiss of death and carefully burying it deep inside the paper.

As it turns out, the Downing Street Memo story has legs. And, even with the mainstream media doing its utmost to kill the story, Downing Street continues to pick up steam. The mainstream press continues to try to convince us all that the "real news" is what happened today in the Michael Jackson trial---and is finding out that nobody cares.

The thousands of independent voices on the Web and an army of progressive bloggers is working to make sure Downing Street gets the light of day that it deserves.

As recently as 10 years ago, the U.S. press could have successfully buried a story like this. But today's news is no longer determined by what an editorial meeting at The New York Times deems worthy enough of including on Page One.

Increasingly, the mainstream U.S. press is facing the prospect of becoming irrelevant. After all, Big Media no longer gets to decide what today's most important stories are. Today, stories can become huge and get widespread exposure----and yet be completely ignored by the mainstream press.

The maintream media, in fact, is in perhaps the biggest crisis in its history. Its credibility is in tatters (as evidenced by a recent poll that shows that Americans, by a 3-to-1 majority) do not trust the press.

In the pre-Internet age, if Americans were fed up with what the media was serving them, alternatives were non-existent. Today, though, there are a gigantic number of alternative voices out there in cyberspace. If The New York Times or the Washington Post can no longer be relied upon to cover an important story, then the likes of the London Times or the Manchester Guardian are simply a click away on the Web.

The era of Big Media is clearly over in the U.S. For a start, the mainstream media's business is in a fiscal crisis these days. Circulation figures are plummeting for the nation's top newspapers. And ratings for the likes of CNN and Fox are in freefall.

It's clear that Big Media brought its current crisis upon itself. The corporate mainstream press has been cutting budgets for news gathering operations for years. Increasingly, Big Media has relied on cheap-and-easy-to-cover sleaze and sensationalism to fill its pages. But the American public is no longer buying it.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

U.S. Retracts Portion Of War Based on Bad Intelligence

Satire by Manifesto Joe

The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- In a startling development, the White House and the Defense Department announced Monday that they are retracting a portion of the war in Iraq, apologizing for an inaccurate intelligence report.

President Bush told reporters at a hastily called news conference that he and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided to retract the portion of the war that was based on sources who told them Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction. As it turned out, the CIA now says, there was only one source.

"And he was drunk," said a CIA official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The president apologized for the error but stressed that despite the retraction, U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for an indefinite period until order is restored and a stable democratic government is in place.

"It's hard for America to admit being wrong about something," Bush said. "But Iraq is freer today because of our mistake."

Bush said the source of the intelligence report, after time in rehab, has "backed away" from his original account, and that the United States could "no longer stand by" that portion of the war.

Rumsfeld told reporters that he and the president "did not want to be in the position of splitting hairs, to look like we were being evasive or not fully forthcoming."

According to military sources in Baghdad, the unsubstantiated intelligence report touched off an invasion of Iraq over two years ago that has left over 1,800 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead.

Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker, who knows something about retractions, called Bush's decision "a good first step" but said it could not repair the damage that had been done.

"The report had real consequences," Whitaker said. "People have lost their lives. Our image abroad has been damaged."

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, traveling home Monday after another surprise visit to Baghdad, said, "It's appalling that this portion of the war got started."

She stressed, however, that the United States still stands by the parts of the war that have liberated the Iraqi people and spread democracy in the region.

Some administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, remain suspicious that Saddam had a hidden cache of chemical weapons before the start of the war.

"After all, we sold him a buttload of them back in the '80s," Cheney told Fox News. "What the hell happened to them? Did the inspectors check the sewer system? Maybe he flushed them down the toilet."

(Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas.)