It's been a couple of weeks since we last heard from Mr. Terry McKenna, and I'm sure you've had more than your fill of my New Age nonsense. Therefore, without further prologue, Monday with McKenna:
This week my topic is the Bush Administration’s attack on America’s history of open and honest government. But first, and by way of introduction, a couple of brief comments.
Comment: NO, asshole, we need to mandate fuel economy, not a switch to a different carbon based fuel source.*
Comment: We have already lost this one. Neither are we surrendering to Iraq – they didn’t conquer us: if we leave, we are just LEAVING.
BushCo and the Assault on Good Government
America at its heart has been a very successful experiment in self-government. There are lots of reasons for this, one being the entry of millions of energetic Europeans and Asians to a vast and under populated** land full of rich soil and mineral wealth. Another is the absence of a ruling class of petty nobles and landlords who in other societies have been empowered to exact rents and other restrictions upon commerce. Thus, citizens have been able to engage in commercial activity with much less interference than almost anywhere else. We expect our public officials to behave fairly, and for the most part - except when it involves contracts to provide goods or services to the government itself – they do. Building permits, licenses and all manner of government activities are carried out for the genuine public interest. Town engineers practice engineering in a professional manner; geological surveys are genuine; and our national weather service provides solid and sound weather information. By and large, American civil servants have no agenda but to provide service. (To Chomsky-ites, followers of Howard Zinn and old leftists who dote on America’s failures, you are right as far as it goes, but so what—in the scheme of things, America is as good as many and better than most. Fairer as a whole than nations like Russia, China or Zimbabwe, and not quite as fair as places like Sweden and Norway.)
Oh yes, to those who say we are a nation of laws and not men – hogwash! Just think of Iraq and its constitution. Or of the UN and its numerous covenants and protocols. Suffice it to say that it takes a lot more than a signed document to generate a civil society or to inspire good behavior.
Starting with the New Deal, Congress created agencies that took on various roles that conservatives claimed were properly left to the states or to the people. The Supreme Court also took on a more activist role to re-make America into the free land implied by our founding documents. When a conservative president was finally elected after a space of five decades (with the election of Ronald Reagan), conservatives decided to use the executive branch to destroy programs that they were unable to attack directly.
Thus, Reagan appointed James G Watt – an avowed opponent of federal conservation programs, to manage the Department of the Interior. Reaganites especially hated environmental laws, housing programs, the Department of Education and the enforcement of civil rights laws. But Reagan operated before the flowering of modern Right Wing think tanks, so his efforts were not as focused as those today.
Enter Bush II (Really Ronald Reagan II) and cadres of trained right wing professionals, each ready to speak the newspeak of corporate evasion and to hide their mission, which was to bend federal programs into supporting the right wing policy arm - actually, anti-policy arm, since the right wing has no real policy, just newspeak meant to build a consensus against policy. Gail Norton at the Department of the Interior was one example. She was a protégé of James G. Watt and built her career setting up what are known as astro turf groups*** with a fake environmental agenda. And think of the FDA. This formerly proud servant of public health was shaped into an instrument of conservative Christianity when it stalled the approval of the morning after pill.
In almost all spheres of activity, officials have switched from serving the American people to serving the president. Thus Treasury lied to the nation about the cost of the Bush tax cuts; and the Defense Department lied about the cost of the Iraq folly. And when they are not lying to us, the feds are simple nincompoops like Brownie.
So Alberto Gonzalez’s lies are not surprising. The entire executive is bathed in deceit.
But are we ready to conclude that the future is lost too? I don’t think so. At the local level, our civil servants still serve us honestly. And Democrats by and large believe in the government that they serve, but we won’t know how they will act until they win back the White House, which they surely will do in 2008.
And before I go, an expression of thanks to the hospitality of San Francisco and the surrounding towns within northern California. I just returned from a seven day trip to California, my first ever. Now I understand what led many of my generation to extend their stays in this strange but attractive land.
*If you think ethanol is a solution, then please read up about the cost of raising the corn necessary to produce it. The net energy yield is close to zero. And for those interested in sugar instead (especially as produced in Brazil) the yield and costs are better, but the bad news is, the Brazilians use slave indigenous labor to clear the Amazon jungle in order to get open land for sugar can.
**Yes, I know that North America was populated by millions of what used to be called Indians, but after the European settlements had been established, disease and warfare (especially disease) so shrunk the existing population that the later immigrants felt they were entering a virgin land.
***Astro Turf groups are funded by industry, or sometimes by wealthy right wing zealots (for example, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Move America Forward, and Focus on the Family). They are named to sound friendly, but beware, they have a mission and are to be feared.