May 25, 2006
Not Their Fault

What a long strange trip it’s been.

Growing up in Appalachia, about a hundred miles north of the recent killer mine in Harlan County, I often encountered reactions like those Bill Hicks recounts.

I was in Nashville, Tennesee, last year. After the show, I went to a waffle house. I’m not proud of it, I was hungry. And I’m eating, I’m alone and I’m reading a book, right? Waitress walks over to me: ‘Hey, what you readin’ for?’ Is that like the weirdest fucking question you’ve ever heard? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading … for. ‘Well, God damn it, you stumped me. Why do I read?

Hicks clearly didn’t feel like he fit into the society he was raised in. He dealt with his disappointment over the state of the world by glorying in his difference. This is a strategy I can identify with. The need to rebel against an oppressive system, to question authority, is deeply embedded in my psyche. No doubt many of us who were compelled by the draft to take some sort of stand on the war in Vietnam suffer from the same condition. Or are liberated by it.

Still, some of the impulses and theories that worked against the imperial President of that time are out of step with the resistance to the current would-be emperor. Most notably, as I’ve remarked elsewhere: when sides were chosen, the military and the intelligence community (so called) went with us.

If you believe, as the White House seems to, that the CIA is leaking information with the intent to harm George W. Bush, then (1) you agree with me, and (2) your position is diametrically opposed to the view of the CIA held by antiwar activists during the Vietnam war.

Of course, if you work for an organization that is nearly always under attack from one direction or another, and practically never congratulated for success, you develop a siege mentality. Whether the organization actually deserves congratulation, or has ever had a success, is not directly relevant to my argument.

Since the CIA was created to be the President’s private and unaccountable army, it would presumably not expect to be attacked by the White House. But this White House refuses to admit that such a thing as reality exists; it is proudly not reality-based. Thus, information — for example, that Saddam had no nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons — provokes a reaction similar to an uninvited guest at a mob wedding. Unless, of course, it conforms to the Vice President’s prejudices, which it normally doesn’t (as Stephen Colbert recently pointed out, reality has a well-known liberal bias). I mean, what can you call a guy who’s had at least four heart attacks (not counting those he suffered since 2000, which have been carefully managed and denied), who nevertheless compulsively salts every side of every bite of steak? Impermeable to information.

In the end, bureaucracy usually trumps politics, and this is often a good thing. Bureaucracy is, in a sense, the stored memory of the civilization’s understanding of government. We’ve already seen the right’s tendency to advocate positions that hurt Democrats (who, after all, are basically right-wingers themselves these days), then attack the same positions when they hurt Republicans. Bureaucracy, invented by the Romans, was a solution to the cronyism and corruption inherent in the monarchical methods that preceded it. Bureaucrats can certainly be bribed; but cronies only accept the appointment because they expect bribes. Government, contrary to the right’s mantra, is generally far more efficient than private enterprise, because profit is not the main consideration.

For example, the section of the bureaucracy devoted to the collection and analysis of information about other nation-states is more efficient than political ideology in determining facts. This is not controversial, except among ideologues such as those in the White House. Of course the neo-cons, whose concern is not really centered on the United States, or the world’s, welfare literally do not care what destruction their policies wreak. But this administration only used the neo-cons for cover; in fact, theft in general, and war profits in particular, have been the driving force for the Bush family for at least three generations, and the Cheneys and Rumsfelds are on board for exactly that reason.

The interesting point is that the military and the intelligence community are not. Of course CIA and NSA spy on business meetings just like they spy on UN meetings; Echelon, like the military and the police, was built to defend the interests of the corporations, in other words the super-rich. But when General Hayden is nominated to complete the Republicanization of the CIA, even the predominantly-Republican CIA objects. My proof? The timing of the leaks about the NSA’s illegal data mining and warrentless wiretapping.

On the other hand, the Democratic leadership is, surprise, making soothing noises about their lack of interest in impeachment. It’s a typical Democratic maneuver: the right won’t believe them, and the left won’t support them. Sometimes I think my Congresswoman, nominally the minority leader of the House, actually hails from Orange County. And I’m certain that the Senator who claims to be from San Francisco is a closet Republican.

Still, given the outspoken resistance from the military, as recently articulated by the retired generals, and the quieter but legally more dangerous opposition of the CIA, I wouldn’t want to be in the White House right now. All the administration’s lies and fabrications are coming apart in the face of the facts. The ability to ignore this disintegration appears to be confined to the administration, its cronies, and those who believe that anyone who professes a belief in Jesus Christ could not lie, cheat, steal, and murder. In other words, the liars and the idiots.

Thus, we hear that Rove’s master plan for defeating those who would jail him is to point out that the Republicans are likely to face jail time if they are removed from power. Of course he doesn’t put it exactly that way, but that’s the essence of the strategy. Republicans, aware of the truth of the basic premise, are forced to choose between abandoning their so-called leaders and supporting unsupportable causes. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of folks-in-denial.

Taking a lead role in Rove’s psychodrama is John Conyers, who’s made no secret of his belief that Rove’s boss has engaged in illegal activities. (Indeed, as John Dean pointed out, Bush is the first President to announce publicly that he has committed an impeachable offense.) In addition to Conyers, if I were in the White House I’d be afraid of John Murtha. His view on the possibility of the Democrats retaking the House?

“It will be a stunning thing to them, and then the investigations will start,” Murtha said.
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Posted by Chuck Dupree at May 25, 2006 12:44 AM
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I've never been a Christian, although I was reared in the bosom of Holy Mother Church. But I used to be an idiot.

Living in the South my first 48 years, I foolishly thought that Christians had to abide by the tenets of their faith. No lying, cheating, stealing or murdering.

So--

When I called a plumber or a contractor and a Christian showed up complete with that fish thing on his truck and a tendency to want to talk about church and bible and schools no good any more and the wretched decline of American whatever it is that they call civilization which doesn't include me, I thought, at least I won't be cheated. After all, he's a Christian. They have rules about things like that. But I was cheated. Time and again.

At least, here in New Jersey, you know what to expect. Unless you lie to yourself.

Posted by: lloyd chance on May 25, 2006 11:12 AM

I have a relative in real estate who is Christian in the good sense -- personal inspiration, helping people, doing good works and not cramming it down anyone's throat.

He says whenever he deals with a counterparty in a real estate deal who is showily Christian, wants to pray before signing the papers, etc. his guard immediately goes up. He's been cheated too many times by such people, and he says his caution with these types has saved him a lot of headaches and money.

Posted by: Doyle on May 26, 2006 12:33 AM

I grew up in a small town in the south and there were always a few corrupt business men in every town who used the the church as a "cover". Today there are probably business women doing the same thing.

On the other hand, most folks in the town went to church and most folks living in those town were good people. Maybe my town was the exception, but we just didn't have much extreme fundamentalism, but that varied from county to county. The poorer counties seemed to have more fundamentalists. I'm not sure why; but I've studied that more and more and it seems to have been true throughout my state.

Grouping these folks is just as bad as racism. Just because there are some bad black people doesn't mean all black people are bad. Hopefully a liberal can understand that concept.

Later in life I quit going to church and remember hanging out one Sunday morning with a friend at his convenience store when one of the crookedest businessmen in town came in one Sunday morning and lectured us about going to church. My friend shot back "there are more people there going to hell than there are out here". He and I sat there and counted the crooks in town who we knew would be at that church or the other big one in town. Just about every major crook in town went. If you can call any of those small town small timers major crooks.

Yesterday Ken Lay was interviewed after the verdict and made reference to his faith in that grossly over the top way that some people who call themselves Christian folks often do. There's a big time crook example.

Another thing. I learned never, ever to go to a business down South that put a sign out that said "a Christian business" or something like that. It's almost always a sure sign that they're crooks.

85% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. We liberals have got to quit dumping on the whole group. We're spoiling our chance to sit at the dinner table.

Well, anyway, it's good to see some left liberal Christian groups popping up.

Posted by: Buck on May 26, 2006 5:40 AM
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