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  14 October 2007

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A picture named spydercrystal.jpgAs I've asked my friends at Lucianne.com many times: Naomi Klein; isn't she right? Johann Hari has done a nice job with and article in the New Statesmans reviewing Klein's book "Shock Doctrine". This is essentially the economic philosophy of modern Republicanism in America.... see if you don't see the pattern.

The price of freedom

Johann Hari

Published 11 October 2007, Newstatesman

How can Naomi Klein top No Logo, the most influential political polemic of the past 20 years? Her first book forensically studied the bloodstains that have splashed from the developing world's factories and "export processing zones" on to our cheap designer lives - and it spurred the creation of the anti-globalisation movement. Today, she has produced something even bolder: a major revisionist history of the world that Milton Friedman and the market fundamentalists have built. She takes the central myth of the right - that, since the fall of Soviet tyranny, free elections and free markets have skipped hand in hand together towards the shimmering sunset of history - and shown that it is, simply, a lie.

In fact, human beings consistently and everywhere vote for mixed economies. They want the wealth that markets generate, but they also want them to be counterbalanced by strong government action to make life in a market economy liveable. (Even Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were not permitted by their electorates to tinker with anything but the outer fringes of social regulation and the welfare state.) The right has been unable to accept this reality, and unable to defeat it in democratic elections. So in order to achieve their vision of "pure capitalism, cleansed of all interruptions", they have waited for massive crises - when the population is left reeling and unable to object - to impose their vision.

Klein's story begins with the market fundamentalists' showroom: Chile. Milton Friedman, the apostle of pure unfettered capitalism, sent many of his finest students to Chile for years to spread the message that markets must be allowed to work their pristine logic unhindered by government. They persuaded virtually nobody. Their parties were thumpingly defeated, and the democratic socialist Salvador Allende was elected instead. So the CIA backed an anti-democratic coup by the fascist general Augusto Pinochet - and Friedman swiftly stepped in to design "the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted anywhere", as Klein puts it.

All subsidies for the poor were scrubbed away, prices were sent soaring, and unemployment reached unprecedented levels. Friedman told Pinochet to go further and cut harder. The wishes of the people could be safely ignored, because "the shock of the torture chamber terrorised anyone thinking of standing in the way of the economic shocks", she notes. "Attacks on union leaders were often carried out in close coordination with the owners of the workplaces."

So the right-wing vision of total markets - slice away all social protections and let the corporations rule - was born with the iron fist of state violence as its conjoined twin. In most of the places it has been tried they have been there, inextricably stuck together. Klein tracks them across continents: in post-Soviet Russia, for example, Boris Yeltsin could only impose this extreme vision by blowing up the parliament (with most of the elected representatives trapped inside), shredding the country's young democracy, and starting a vast distraction-war in Chechnya that killed 100,000 people. In post-Tiananmen China, the Communist Party could only turn its country into a vast export credit zone with massacres and mass imprisonment which made ordinary Chinese workers too terrified to ask for even the most meagre rights. Indeed, across the planet, "some of the most infamous human rights violations of this era . . . were in fact committed with the deliberate intent of terrorising the public to prepare the ground for the introduction of free-market reforms".

Where this über-corporate vision has not been imposed by force, it has been imposed by blackmail at a time of crisis. One of the ugliest examples Klein exposes is the use of the tsunami - an almost biblical wave that washed away 250,000 people - as a pretext to impose a Friedmanite vision. In Sri Lanka, mega-corporations had long been keen to clear away the old beach-dwelling communities of fishermen and open up the coastline to much more profitable foreign tourism. But the people liked their homes, and their careers, and did not want to hand their beaches over. So these proposals prompted a wave of militant strikes and mass protests. They were then put to the Sri Lankan people in an election - and were defeated by a landslide.

But then a wave washed it all away, and "underneath the rubble and carnage was what the tourism industry had been angling for all along - a pristine beach, scrubbed clean of all the messy signs of people working, a vacation Eden". The Sri Lankan government was told that it would only receive the vast reconstruction loans it needed from the World Bank and IMF if it agreed to a "restructuring" programme - which consisted of everything that the Sri Lankan people had just rejected at the polls. Reeling from the shock, the Sri Lankan government agreed. It banned people from returning to their beach-front homes, declaring a "buffer zone" for indigenous people - but not for the hotel trade, which was free to do as it pleased. So money donated nominally to help tsunami victims was actually used to inflict a "second tsunami" on them, handing over their land to foreign corporations and ending their historic lifestyles for ever.

Similar programmes of extortion have been inflicted on other communities reeling in shock. As the people of South Africa were fighting the last battles against apartheid, the successor ANC was forced to haggle with the IMF and World Bank for their loans. The conditions? Ditch all the social protections included in your Freedom Charter, and leave the economic structures of apartheid in place.

And as the people of Poland emerged blinking from the horror of Soviet communism, the Solidarity government was forced to gut its social-democratic vision and impose a bitter dose of "shock therapy" that cut the country even further to the bone. In both countries, the will of the people was ignored.

Klein's account of this "disaster capitalism" is written with a perfectly distilled anger, channelled through hard fact. She has indeed surpassed No Logo. Today, this brilliant book should stir a tsunami of shame - and of political action by us to finally stop the shock "therapy".


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  22 August 2007

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A picture named dragonscale.jpgI've pointed out to my friends on Lucianne.com for many years, far before it was popular to do so, that this Republican administration is the epitome of a diseased political ideology that has finally become apparent to real Americans.

Scott Ritter as published a very interesting article on Dick Cheney that reveals the core, the heart of Republican ideology. It is important to realize that Cheney, and this Republican administration, and their supporters do not abhor the current state of affairs in America..... the condition is by design.... it is how they think it "should be".

Here's the article:

Why Cheney Really Is That Bad

by Scott Ritter

Karl Rove, interchangeably known as “Boy Genius” or “Turd Blossom,” has left the White House. The press conference announcing his decision to resign has been given front-page treatment by most major media outlets, but the fact of the matter is the buzz surrounding Rove’s departure is much ado about nothing, especially in terms of coming to grips with the remaining 16 months of the worst presidency in the history of the United States.

Rove is a domestic political marauder, the personification of a conservative movement which lacks a moral compass and has a complete disregard for facts. The master of exploiting mainstream America’s predilection for news-as-entertainment, under which the likes of Rupert Murdoch can manufacture headlines out of thin air, Rove helped turn “fair and balanced” into a national joke which everyone laughs at but few actually comprehend. Rove served as the maestro of a political-smear orchestra composed of such intellectually challenged muckrakers as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, manipulating the NASCAR/professional wrestling crowd’s addiction to seedy gossip in an effort to maintain the all-important 51 percent majority needed to win elections.

Perhaps if the Democratic Party had possessed a semblance of organization and cohesion (not to mention a post-Clinton message that could be sold to a majority of America), then Rove would be but a footnote in history, known simply as the man who helped the worst governor in the history of Texas get elected. Even the self-destructive campaign run by Al Gore in 2000, in which he distanced himself from a sitting president who, despite all of his faults, would have defeated Bush in a landslide if the Constitution permitted a third term, was enough to deny Rove his beloved 51 percent-it was Gore, not Bush, who won the majority of votes in that contest. It took a Republican governor of Florida, backed by a compliant Supreme Court, to put George W. Bush into the White House, not any genius on the part of Rove.

“Bush’s Brain” may claim that it was his careful manipulation of fiction over fact that carried the 2004 election, in which the term “Swift-boating” became synonymous with political character assassination, but it was the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq which sank the Democratic Party and its candidate for president, John Kerry. It is very difficult to unseat a president in a time of war, especially when so many Democrats voted in favor of the concept, first by buying into every post-9/11 policy put forward by the Bush administration (find me one Democrat who actually read the Patriot Act in its entirety before it was voted into law) and second by rubber-stamping the lies that led to Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in March 2003. Remember, it was Kerry’s inarticulate defense of his decision to vote in favor of granting war powers to the president that sank his election hopes, not his Vietnam War record.

Certainly, Karl Rove played a significant behind-the-scenes role in supporting Bush’s war policies. The perjury trial of “Scooter” Libby forced the collective of deaf, dumb and blind pseudo-journalists who populate what is known as the mainstream media in America to recognize how pathetically duplicitous and petty the Bush administration could get when it came to defending the policies propping up the so-called Global War on Terror and the awful tragedy of Iraq. Rove’s fingerprints were all over the decision by Vice President Dick Cheney to leak CIA officer Valerie Plame’s name to the media in an effort to thwart the truth-telling of her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson.

But that is about as deep as Rove’s involvement in the two issues that will define the presidency of George W. Bush gets. While Rove might be the “genius” behind the kind of winner-takes-all dirty politics that won the Republicans a majority in Texas (and brought down the likes of Tom “The Hammer” DeLay), he was way out of his depth when it came to the reality of national security policy. Unlike unsubstantiated rumors of wrongdoing which can stain a political opponent’s record for the brief moment needed to gain political advantage, regardless of what the actual truth is, the never-ending flow of dead American service members from a war based on a foundation of lies cannot be overlooked indefinitely, even by the most subservient of media outlets.

Try as Rove and his political operatives might, one cannot forever suppress the images of flag-draped caskets, row upon row of white grave markers sprouting up in cemeteries across America, or the thousands of wounded veterans left to rot in hospitals, forgotten by an administration that, with few exceptions, never knew war and used the military as an electioneering prop. Eventually, those patriotic Americans who were fooled into believing there was actually some coherent planning behind the global conflict Bush had dispatched their youths to fight and die in were bound to get wise. Rove never had the depth needed to navigate such serious waters.

Being the Brain of the most vapid, intellectually shallow president ever creates an apt epitaph for Rove’s tenure at the White House. The Bush administration has never won accolades for its substance. Its best frontman, Colin Powell, self-destructed in front of the U.N. Security Council in February 2003. Powell’s nemesis, Donald Rumsfeld, followed suit shortly thereafter, unable to coherently explain where Saddam Hussein had hidden all those WMD we went to war for, and ultimately telling the average foot soldier to pound sand when it came to the lack of adequate equipment needed to fight and survive in occupied Iraq. Bush’s singular appeal has been the impression of steadfastness in the eye of the storm, even if the storm is for the most part self-created. For this we must look not to “Bush’s Brain,” but instead peer deep into the dark recesses of the White House, where we can glimpse the awful “soul” of the president-Dick Cheney.

The vice president is the single greatest threat to American and international security in the world today. Not Osama Bin Laden. Not the ghost of Saddam Hussein. Not Ahmadinejad or Kim Jung Il. Not al-Qaida, the Taliban, or Jose Padilla himself. Not even George W. Bush can lay claim to this title. It is Dick Cheney’s alone. Operating in a never-never land of constitutional ambiguity which exists between the office of the president and the Congress of the United States, Cheney’s office has made its impact felt on the policies of the United States of America as had no vice president’s office before him. Granted unprecedented oversight over national security and foreign policy by executive order in early 2001, many months prior to the terror attacks of 9/11, Cheney has single-handedly steered America away from being a nation among nations (albeit superior), operating (roughly) in accordance with the rule of law, and toward its present manifestation as the new Rome, a decadent imperial power bent on global domination whatever the cost.

The absolute worst of the rot that has infected America because of the policies and actions of the Bush administration has originated from the office of the vice president. The nonsensical response to the terror attacks of 9/11, seeking a “global war” versus defending the rule of law at home and abroad, taking the lead in spreading the lies that got us involved in Iraq, legitimizing torture as a tool of American jurisprudence, advocating for warrantless wiretappings of U.S.-based communications (regardless of what the Fourth Amendment says against illegal search and seizure), and pushing for an expansion of America’s global conflict into Iran-all can be traced back to the person of Cheney as the point of origin.

America today is very much engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the forces of evil. The enemy resides not abroad, however, but at home, vested in the highest offices of the land. Neither Osama Bin Laden nor Saddam Hussein threatened the life blood of the United States-the Constitution-to the extent that Cheney has. Not Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Ho Chi Minh. Not since the American Civil War has there been a constitutional crisis of the magnitude that exists today, threatening to rip the very fabric of American society apart at the seams, courtesy of Dick Cheney.

That Congress today remains relatively mute on this crisis is one of the great mysteries of our time. Perhaps the vagaries of national politics can be blamed. The Democratic majority in Congress appears to have ceded its leadership role to unelected presidential candidates who seem solely empowered to comment on current events, domestic or foreign, and who, out of fear of any misstep which could hurt their chances to seize the White House as their own, refuse to actually take a substantive stand against the policies of the Bush administration. In an effort that is curiously Rovian in the quest for electoral victory, the Democratic candidates (with a few notable exceptions) have been less than bold in their opposition to the heinous policies that are currently in place concerning Iraq, Iran, the war on terror, torture and constitutional violations-unless you count empty rhetoric.

In many ways, the leading Democrats, both those running for office and those currently holding office, are a far greater insult to American values than the conservative standard-bearers for the policies of Cheney. No one of substance takes seriously the manic ranting of the Hannity/Limbaugh/Coulter triad. These Democrats, on the other hand, have mastered the art of compromise to the point that they stand for nothing at all-this at a time in American history when the policies of the administration, derived from the dark abyss of Bush’s soul, Cheney, provide the most concrete example of what we as Americans should be standing against.

The Democrats need to stand for something. Cheney has provided the sort of political ammunition that would enable them to fight, and win, a constitutional battle over the heart of America, the kind of defining struggle which I believe the vast majority of Americans would rally around. Unless the Democrats start separating themselves from the policies of the Bush administration, and take an active role in outing and suppressing the true evil that is Dick Cheney, all they will achieve in the coming years is a change in the titular political orientation of America, without the kind of deep-seated break from the failures and crimes of the past six-plus years that have taken our nation, and the world, right up to the edge of chaos.

“Bush’s Brain” may be gone, but his “Soul” lives on. It is high time all of America put Dick Cheney fully in the spotlight of collective accountability, purging our nation of this scourge which has harmed us in so many ways. If there is any case for impeachment to be made against any member of the Bush administration today, it can be made against a vice president who has shamed our nation, destroyed our moral standing and broken our laws.

Scott Ritter was a Marine Corps intelligence officer from 1984 to 1991 and a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He is the author of numerous books, including “Iraq Confidential” (Nation Books, 2005) , “Target Iran” (Nation Books, 2006) and his latest, “Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement” (Nation Books, April 2007).


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  24 March 2007

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I have over the years pointed out to my friends at Lucianne.com that modern Republicanism is indeed a bankrupt political philosophy, and time is catching up with it. Once again, Paul Krugman at the New York Times describes the phenomenon of modern Republicanism and its failings much better than I could ever hope to. More and more Americans are beginning to see the failure of the so called "conservative" movement after decades of eroding the best in that which is truly American.

Paul Krugman

Don’t Cry for Reagan

Published NYT: March 19, 2007

As the Bush administration sinks deeper into its multiple quagmires, the personality cult the G.O.P. once built around President Bush has given way to nostalgia for the good old days. The current cover of Time magazine shows a weeping Ronald Reagan, and declares that Republicans “need to reclaim the Reagan legacy.”

But Republicans shouldn’t cry for Ronald Reagan; the truth is, he never left them. There’s no need to reclaim the Reagan legacy: Mr. Bush is what Mr. Reagan would have been given the opportunity.

In 1993 Jonathan Cohn — the author, by the way, of a terrific new book on our dysfunctional health care system — published an article in The American Prospect describing the dire state of the federal government. Changing just a few words in that article makes it read as if it were written in 2007.

Thus, Mr. Cohn described how the Interior Department had been packed with opponents of environmental protection, who “presided over a massive sell-off of federal lands to industry and developers” that “deprived the department of several billion dollars in annual revenue.” Oil leases, anyone?

Meanwhile, privatization had run amok, because “the ranks of public officials necessary to supervise contractors have been so thinned that the putative gains of contracting out have evaporated. Agencies have been left with the worst of both worlds — demoralized and disorganized public officials and unaccountable private contractors.” Holy Halliburton!

Not mentioned in Mr. Cohn’s article, but equally reminiscent of current events, was the state of the Justice Department under Ed Meese, a man who gives Alberto Gonzales and John Mitchell serious competition for the title of worst attorney general ever. The politicization of Justice got so bad that in 1988 six senior officials, all Republicans, including the deputy attorney general and the chief of the criminal division, resigned in protest.

Why is there such a strong family resemblance between the Reagan years and recent events? Mr. Reagan’s administration, like Mr. Bush’s, was run by movement conservatives — people who built their careers by serving the alliance of wealthy individuals, corporate interests and the religious right that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s. And both cronyism and abuse of power are part of the movement conservative package.

In part this is because people whose ideology says that government is always the problem, never the solution, see no point in governing well. So they use political power to reward their friends, rather than find people who will actually do their jobs.

If expertise is irrelevant, who gets the jobs? No problem: the interlocking, lavishly financed institutions of movement conservatism, which range from K Street to Fox News, create a vast class of apparatchiks who can be counted on to be “loyal Bushies.”

The movement’s apparatchik culture, in turn, explains much of its contempt for the rule of law. Someone who has risen through the ranks of a movement that prizes political loyalty above all isn’t likely to balk at, say, using bogus claims of voter fraud to disenfranchise Democrats, or suppressing potentially damaging investigations of Republicans. As Franklin Foer of The New Republic has pointed out, in College Republican elections, dirty tricks and double crosses are considered acceptable, even praiseworthy.

Still, Mr. Reagan’s misgovernment never went as far as Mr. Bush’s. As a result, he managed to leave office with an approval rating about as high as that of Bill Clinton, who, as we now realize with the benefit of hindsight, governed very well. But the key to Reagan’s relative success, I believe, is that he was lucky in his limitations.

Unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Reagan never controlled both houses of Congress — and the pre-Gingrich Republican Party still contained moderates who imposed limits on his ability to govern badly. Also, there was no Reagan-era equivalent of the rush, after 9/11, to give the Bush administration whatever it wanted in the name of fighting terrorism.

Mr. Reagan may even have been helped, perversely, by the fact that in the 1980s there were still two superpowers. This helped prevent the hubris, the delusions of grandeur, that led the Bush administration to believe that a splendid little war in Iraq was just the thing to secure its position.

But what this tells us is that Mr. Bush, not Mr. Reagan, is the true representative of what modern conservatism is all about. And it’s the movement, not just one man, that has failed.

 

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  06 February 2007

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I've pointed out many times to my friends at Lucianne.com that modern Republicanism is very rightest in orientation. The telltale signs continue to appear as Dubya and this Republican administration attempt to undermine the very foundations of Liberal government... substituting ideology and dogged loyalty for competence at every turn, and behaving much more like the "other" Party we all knew and loved in the former Soviet Union... The Communist Party.

Sneaky and backward, modern Republicanism drives on! Or is it at the end of its rope?

Paul Krugman points out the rightest phenomenon the best in a recent article in the New York Times:

The Green-Zoning of America

Published: February 5, 2007, NYT
 

One of the best of the many recent books about the Iraq debacle is Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.” The book tells a tale of hopes squandered in the name of politicization and privatization: key jobs in Baghdad’s Green Zone were assigned on the basis of loyalty rather than know-how, while key functions were outsourced to private contractors.

Two recent reports in The New York Times serve as a reminder that the Bush administration has brought the same corruption of governance to the home front. Call it the Green-Zoning of America.

In the first article, The Times reported that a new executive order requires that each agency contain a “regulatory policy office run by a political appointee,” a change that “strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts.” Yesterday, The Times turned to the rapid growth of federal contracting, fed “by a philosophy that encourages outsourcing almost everything government does.”

These are two different pieces of the same story: under the guise of promoting a conservative agenda, the Bush administration has created a supersized version of the 19th-century spoils system.

The blueprint for Bush-era governance was laid out in a January 2001 manifesto from the Heritage Foundation, titled “Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.” The manifesto’s message, in brief, was that the professional civil service should be regarded as the enemy of the new administration’s conservative agenda. And there’s no question that Heritage’s thinking reflected that of many people on the Bush team.

How should the civil service be defeated? First and foremost, Heritage demanded that politics take precedence over know-how: the new administration “must make appointment decisions based on loyalty first and expertise second.”

Second, Heritage called for a big increase in outsourcing — “contracting out as a management strategy.” This would supposedly reduce costs, but it would also have the desirable effect of reducing the total number of civil servants.

The Bush administration energetically put these recommendations into effect. Political loyalists were installed throughout the government, regardless of qualifications. And the administration outsourced many government functions previously considered too sensitive to privatize: yesterday’s Times article begins with the case of CACI International, a private contractor hired, in spite of the obvious conflict of interest, to process cases of incompetence and fraud by private contractors. A few years earlier, CACI provided interrogators at Abu Ghraib.

The ostensible reason for politicizing and privatizing was to promote the conservative ideal of smaller, more efficient government. But the small-government rhetoric was never sincere: from Day 1, the administration set out to create a vast new patronage machine.

Those political appointees chosen for their loyalty, not their expertise, aren’t very good at doing their proper jobs — as all the world learned after Hurricane Katrina struck. But they have been very good at rewarding campaign contributors, from energy companies that benefit from lax regulation of pollution to pharmaceutical companies that got a Medicare program systematically designed to protect their profits.

And the executive order described by The Times will make it even easier for political appointees to overrule the professionals, tailoring government regulations to suit the interests of companies that support the G.O.P. — or to give lucrative contracts to people with the right connections.

Meanwhile, never mind the idea that outsourcing of government functions should be used to promote competition and save money. The Times reports that “fewer than half of all ‘contract actions’ — new contracts and payments against existing contracts — are now subject to full and open competition,” down from 79 percent in 2001. And many contractors are paid far more than it would cost to do the job with government employees: those CACI workers processing claims against other contractors cost the government $104 an hour.

What’s truly amazing is how far back we’ve slid in such a short time. The modern civil service system dates back more than a century; in just six years the Bush administration has managed to undo many of that system’s achievements. And the administration still has two years to go.


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  29 December 2006

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A picture named WARPAINT.jpgAs I've mentioned to my friends at Lucianne.com on more than a few occasions... it is at root the radical political philosophy of modern Republicanism that is at root un-American.

The Republican "Contract on America" that commenced in 1994 is coming to a crashing demise as horrible policy, foreign and domestic, comes home to roost with the Republican hegemons who probably do not quite understand the full dimension of their disgrace.

And it is Republican political philosophy that is in disgrace... make no mistake about that. The argument that they had simply betrayed their "conservative" roots and principles is nonsense. Modern Republicanism flew its skull and crossbones over America for a little over a decade... now the American people have shown they have a few tricks of their own... and are returning to their true Constitutional roots, revealing the radical Republicans for what they are and forcing them out of office whenever they can.

Paul Krugman delineated all this quite well in the New York Times on  29 December, 2006. Read it and see if it doesn't ring true:

Published on Friday, December 29, 2006 by the New York Times
A Failed Revolution
by Paul Krugman
 

After first attempting to deny the scale of last month’s defeat, the apologists have settled on a story line that sounds just like Marxist explanations for the failure of the Soviet Union. What happened, you see, was that the noble ideals of the Republican revolution of 1994 were undermined by Washington’s corrupting ways. And the recent defeat was a good thing, because it will force a return to the true conservative path.

But the truth is that the movement that took power in 1994 — a movement that had little to do with true conservatism — was always based on a lie.

The lie is right there in “The Freedom Revolution,” the book that Dick Armey, who had just become the House majority leader, published in 1995. He declares that most government programs don’t do anything “to help American families with the needs of everyday life,” and that “very few American families would notice their disappearance.” He goes on to assert that “there is no reason we cannot, by the time our children come of age, reduce the federal government by half as a percentage of gross domestic product.”

Right. Somehow, I think more than a few families would notice the disappearance of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and those three programs alone account for a majority of nondefense, noninterest spending. The truth is that the government delivers services and security that people want. Yes, there’s some waste — just as there is in any large organization. But there are no big programs that are easy to cut.

As long as people like Mr. Armey, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay were out of power, they could run on promises to eliminate vast government waste that existed only in the public’s imagination — all those welfare queens driving Cadillacs. But once in power, they couldn’t deliver.

That’s why government by the radical right has been an utter failure even on its own terms: the government hasn’t shrunk. Federal outlays other than interest payments and defense spending are a higher percentage of G.D.P. today than they were when Mr. Armey wrote his book: 14.8 percent in fiscal 2006, compared with 13.8 percent in fiscal 1995.

Unable to make good on its promises, the G.O.P., like other failed revolutionary movements, tried to maintain its grip by exploiting its position of power. Friends were rewarded with patronage: Jack Abramoff began building his web of corruption almost as soon as Republicans took control. Adversaries were harassed with smear campaigns and witch hunts: Congress spent six years and many millions of dollars investigating a failed land deal, and Bill Clinton was impeached over a consensual affair.

But it wasn’t enough. Without 9/11, the Republican revolution would probably have petered out quietly, with the loss of Congress in 2002 and the White House in 2004. Instead, the atrocity created a window of opportunity: four extra years gained by drowning out unfavorable news with terror alerts, starting a gratuitous war, and accusing Democrats of being weak on national security.

Yet the Bush administration failed to convert this electoral success into progress on a right-wing domestic agenda. The collapse of the push to privatize Social Security recapitulated the failure of the Republican revolution as a whole. Once the administration was forced to get specific about the details, it became obvious that private accounts couldn’t produce something for nothing, and the public’s support vanished.

In the end, Republicans didn’t shrink the government. But they did degrade it. Baghdad and New Orleans are the arrival destinations of a movement based on deep contempt for governance.

Is that the end for the radical right? Probably not. As a long-suffering civil servant once told me, bad policy ideas are like cockroaches: you can flush them down the toilet, but they keep coming back. Many of the ideas that failed in the Bush years had previously failed in the Reagan years. So there’s no reason to assume they’re gone for good.

Indeed, it appears that loss of power and the ensuing lack of accountability is liberating right-wingers to lie yet again: since last month’s election, I’ve noticed a number of Social Security privatizers propounding the same free-lunch falsehoods that the Bush administration had to abandon in the face of demands that it present an actual plan.

Still, the Republican revolution of 1994 is over. And not a moment too soon.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company


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  23 November 2006

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As I've mentioned many times to my friends at Lucianne.com, modern Republicanism has trully strayed far from traditional American values... in fact the flavor is quite "Rightest" in nature with strict regimentation of Republican politicians and the "11th Commandment" adhered to by so called "conservatives" for well over a decade.

Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican."

This was the beginning of the Republican Party's drift toward poor citizenship, and poor government... but what do you expect from a political party that doesn't believe government has a function?

I much prefer Teddy Roosevelt to the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" attitude of the modern Republican Party. Rule number one is the people we elect are employees of the American People, not our Rulers... modern Republicanism seems to have forgotten that, and many Republicans speak as if they would prefer a monarchy or dictatorship of some sort... and in fact, the administration they elected has sought at every opportunity to undermine the balance of power and center power in the Executive Branch.

"The government is us; we are the government, you and I."
-- Theodore Roosevelt

From the WIKIPEDIA:

In American politics, the Southern strategy refers to the focus of the Republican party on winning U.S. Presidential elections by securing the electoral votes of the U.S. Southern states.

The phrase, Southern strategy, was coined by Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips. For the years 1948 - 1984, the southern states, traditionally a stronghold for the Democratic Party became key swing states, providing the popular vote margins in the Presidential elections 1960, 1968 and 1976. During this era, several Republican candidates expressed support for states' rights, which critics have argued was intended as a signal of opposition to federal civil rights legislation for blacks. This strategy was largely a success, and the South is now considered a Republican stronghold in national elections.

Recently, the term has been used in a more general sense, in which cultural themes are used in an election — primarily but not exclusively in the American South. In the past, phrases such as "busing" or "law and order" or "states' rights" were used. Today, appeals largely focus on cultural issues such as gay marriage, abortion and religion. Yet, the use of the term, and its meaning and implication, are still hotly disputed.

There are many people who challenge the opinion that the Southern Strategy was responsible for large GOP political gains in the South. There are several facts that appear to support this challenge, such as:

  • Democrat Jimmy Carter's victory in every Southern state except for Virginia in the 1976 Presidential election, years after the emergence of the Southern Strategy.
  • The first Southern state to give the GOP control of both its governorship and its legislature was Florida, and it did not do this until 1998 [2], long after the original architects of the Southern Strategy had left the GOP. However, it should be noted that the Southern Strategy was mainly targeted at electing presidential candidates, and that Democrats on state level were much more conservative than the likes of George McGovern, Michael Dukakis or John Kerry. (One of the originators of the Southern Strategy, Kevin Phillips, had even become openly supportive of Democratic political candidates by then.)
  • Georgia did not see its first post-Reconstruction GOP governor until 2002.
  • Until 2005, Louisiana had been represented since Reconstruction by two Democratic US Senators. Arkansas still has an unbroken line of Democratic US Senators. However, all of these Democratic senators are routinely accused of being Democrat in name only, generally conservative-to-moderate.

It is highly disputed that the Southern Strategy existed as an agreed upon strategy within the GOP after the early 1970s, when Kevin Phillips and Richard Nixon left positions of influence within the GOP.

Of course, some would argue that Carter's one-time victory in the South reflected more of a temporary reaction to the Watergate scandal than an end to this long-term strategy for realigning the South with the GOP. Overall, as of the early 21st century, the South has gone overwhelmingly Republican. Opponents of the GOP point to occasional faux pas, such as that made on Dec. 5, 2002 by Mississippi Republican Trent Lott as evidence that the attitudes which spawned the Strategy are alive and well. After heavy criticism, including some criticism by prominent Republicans, Lott apologized repeatedly and was forced out of his Senate Majority Leader position. Defenders of the Republican Party suggest that this indicates that his views are not widely held within the Republican Party. Lott remains the junior Senator from Mississippi as of 2006, and the national Republican Party has not endorsed a primary challenger for his seat, which will be up for election in 2006, and he has wide approval ratings high above 60%, despite these remarks. Critics of the GOP also point out that the politics of white southerners are fiercely Republican and conservative on a national level, and that the contrast in Mississippi during the 2004 presidential election served as a reminder, when 89% of white female Mississippi voters voted for George W. Bush and 90% of black Mississippi voters voted for John Kerry.

The southern strategy was used during the 1988 election, during the Willie Horton controversy. It has been used as recently as the 2000 election. During this election, George W. Bush political strategist Karl Rove was alleged to have conducted a push poll, suggesting to conservative Republican South Carolina primary voters that primary opponent John McCain had fathered an "illegitimate black child."

Following the 2004 re-election of President George W. Bush and the low number of African Americans voting for him and other Republicans, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Bush's campaign manager Ken Mehlman began an extensive tour to deliver speeches at meetings with African American business leaders, community and religious leaders, church meetings and some college students meets in states like Maryland and New Jersey. Mehlman apologized[4] for the Southern strategy, declaring that the Republican Party would never be complete or a majority party without receiving the support and confidence of the African American community. Mehlman is said to be building a comprehensive effort to open the minds of African American voters to voting Republican, and working to combat stereotypes about the Republican Party that developed in the Civil Rights era and owing to the Southern strategy.

Many prominent Republican and conservative commentators have denounced Mehlman for his apology, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity among them.

In the 2006 race for Tennessee's Senate seat a controversial political advertisement paid for by the Republican National Committee featured a series of characters facetiously offering their support for black Democratic candidate Harold Ford, Jr. One character was a partially undressed white woman who claimed to have met Ford at a Playboy party. At the end of the ad, she requested that Ford call her. Critics accused the RNC of race baiting by playing on negative views of mixed-race relationships. 
 


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As I pointed out to my friends at Lucianne.com many times, criticism of Dubya and this Republican administration was not a "leftest" phenonmenon at all...in fact there is no viable "leftest" voting block in the United States... but there sure is a "rightest" takeover in the Republican Party, and the Republicans themselves are going to make a big correction to the center.

Here is an excellent article discussing how Dubya is bringing back advisors from his father's administration... much more reasonable heads than the neocons that conned him into the wrong war at the wrong time.

Here's the article:

Published on Thursday, November 16, 2006 by the Guardian / UK
The Neocons' Last Stand
They scurried off Bush's sinking ship, but are still trying to stop a reversal of his Middle East policy
by Sidney Blumenthal
 

Even before the electoral repudiation of President Bush, the guardians of the Bush family trust surfaced as the presumptive executive committee of the executive branch. For years, George Bush Sr and his former national-security team have tried to rescue the president from himself - and from the clutches of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their neoconservative centurions. Earlier this year Bush Sr quietly approached a retired four-star general to inquire if he would be willing to replace Rumsfeld, but that premature coup came to naught. Several of the father's associates personally warned Bush Jr before the Iraq war that it would lead to sectarian civil war, only to be dismissed with disdain.

James Baker - the elder Bush's campaign manager and secretary of state, charged for decades with cleaning up family messes - is now chairman of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) and has assumed the aura of a regent. He is burdened with more tasks than those specified in his commission's brief about Iraq. Not only is he developing a whole new US foreign policy, he is trying to salvage whatever can be retrieved from the wreckage of Bush's presidency for its last two years and to prevent the Republican party, having lost the crown jewel of the Congress, from being permanently tainted.

Just before the electoral doom, the neocons scurried off the sinking ship. Richard Perle, former chairman of the defence policy board (DPB), put the onus on Bush in an interview for Vanity Fair: "At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible." Kenneth Adelman, another neocon DPB member, who predicted that the invasion of Iraq would be a "cakewalk", said of Bush administration policy makers: "Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."

Yet the neocons plot to confound Baker. Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, on the advisory panel of the ISG, says the ISG member Edwin Meese will oppose the recommendations.

The neocon logic in favour of the Iraq war was that the road to Jerusalem led through Baghdad: an invasion would install an Iraqi democracy that would force the Palestinians to submit to the Israelis. Now near-unanimity exists on Baker's commission to reverse that formula. The central part of a new policy must be, they believe, that the road to Baghdad leads through Jerusalem.

In an article in the Washington Post in July, Brent Scowcroft, the elder Bush's national security adviser, who is very close to Baker, spelled out the notion that security and stability in the region, including Iraq, can only be achieved by re-establishing the Middle East peace process. Scowcroft's piece is a precis of Baker's views as well. On September 15, Philip Zelikow, Condoleezza Rice's legal adviser and a former Scowcroft protege, echoed Scowcroft's ideas in a speech at Washington's Middle East Institute. Afterwards, Cheney pressured Rice and she rebuked her closest deputy, underlining her own weakness.

Then the electoral catastrophe intervened, giving Baker leeway (and sidelining Rice). Baker even summoned Tony Blair to testify on Tuesday in order to support a restart of the Middle East peace process. If Baker were to propose that, he knows - although he will not explicitly say so - that its enactment would require the firing of neocons on the national security council and Cheney's staff, in particular Elliott Abrams, the NSC's near-east affairs director.

If Baker actually advocates what he thinks, Bush will have to either admit the errors of his ways and the wisdom of his father and his father's men - or cast them and caution aside once again.

Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is the author of How Bush Rules

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2006


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