I was going to use the title “How the Left Was Won” but since the guy on the way out made it known recently that invoking it was one of his only mistakes I thought it would be an appropriate title for a discussion of the neoconservative’s greatest achievements. In the last eight years, and with absolutely no resistance from the former Arkansas governor or congressional Democrats (sans Russ Feingold and Paul Wellstone), Karl Rove et al. have managed to drastically shift perceptions of the American psyche’s Gaussian distribution. In some warped yet brilliant way establish the Bush administration as a the gold standard with respect to toughness, compassion, patriotism, principle, and faith. Mind you the last word is supposed to be separate from policy, toughness is not exactly something that imbues you to multilateral talks, and compassion doesn’t fit with the hate speech oozing out of many evangelical and Pentecostal churches across the land.
I submit that this sea change is evidenced in the sigh of relief Patrick Leahy and the entire judiciary committee let out when Eric Holder agreed that waterboarding is torture and rendition is not an exercise that should be used to usurp US and international law. Is this some sort of admirable quality that Mr. Holder exhibited? Or is it something we should expect of our public officials? Well according to the Democrats it is the latter and this is just another case of Pelosi, Reid, and Co. lowering the moral bar so as to not stir the pot too much for fear of coming across as soft on terror or unpatriotic. I am sure Mr. Holder is a fine man and legal scholar, but his acknowledgement doesn’t strike me as the least bit liberal or conservative, rather it strikes me humane and pragmatic.
Speaking of pragmatism, neocons have managed to shape the energy discussion with the phrase “clean coal” now fashionable and our national security as the top priority for weaning ourselves off of Middle East oil. First let me say that our dependence on Middle East oil is overblown with a preponderance coming from Canada and 9% (1.2 million barrels per day) of that coming from the awfully dirty, inefficient, and ecologically shortsighted oil or tar sands of Alberta (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/business/energy-environment/18oilsands.html?ref=todayspaper; http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2008/05/scenes-tar-wars). Ian Austin in The Times recently noted that there are estimated to be 1.7 trillion barrels in these sands of the Canadian boreal region and production geared to ramp up to 3.5 MBPD when (i.e. not if!) we reestablish old driving patterns. Yeah and then what? Will we finally stop making excuses for why Cape Wind is a bad idea or the 300,000 Megawatts of wind-power off the Atlantic Coast is a pipe dream (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/magazine/14wind-t.html?scp=1&sq=wind%20delaware&st=cse). Ask James Hansen or Judy Bond of Coal River Mountain Watch or the folks of Harriman, TN or Inez, KY if there is such a thing as clean coal? Well I’ll save you the trouble Judy just sent me an email in response to this issue
“Even if you could get rose petals to come out of the smokestacks, coal is filthy and will never be clean as long as mountains and communities are blasted and streams and communities are poisoned…The entire cycle of coal must be examined. We in Appalachia are blasted by over 3 1/2 million pounds of explosives daily and are similar to a “banana republic”. The coal industry is allowed to simply kill us slowly with toxic waste.”
The government and regulatory agencies are ignoring the destruction of the “cradle to grave” toxic coal cycle and what that cycle is doing to vulnerable children. I think this public relation campaign to clean up coal is much like the “safe cigarette” campaign by similar con artists other public relations companies have used.
As for energy and our national security the options to diversify our energy portfolio are many, “shovel ready”, and geared to employ tons of folks in many of the same places where unemployment is highest (See Flint, MI or Akron, OH) (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/us/18flint.html?scp=3&sq=Flint%20employment&st=cse). This will take someone that is not as concerned with the next election as he/her is with the welfare of the next generation of Americans. We need to stop feeding the beast. Our national security would be best served if Obama and his crew turned to hectoring speeches imploring Americans to stop consuming so much and while he has started down this path further action will require greater haste and agility. Take some accountability America! Stop blaming Afghanistan and South American farmers for your respective heroin and cocaine addictions. Don’t take any solace in knowing that China has surpassed us relative to CO2 emissions its only because there are so many people we still dwarf everyone on a per capita basis w/ China at about 5.5 versus the US >19 tons of CO2 per person annually. This is also not a time for self-hatred but rather reinvention. Let’s be stewards not pillagers of this precious planet’s resources.
Here it is in plain English we have the right to water, food, health care, a decent job, and housing, but we don’t have the right to bottled water from Fiji, year round access to any and all produce, plastic surgery, million dollar bonuses, or McMansions. See the common thread! Responsibility and forethought need to be rewarded not excess and short-term, overly risky, and highly leveraged financial behavior.
Hey you don’t approve of homosexuality, Islam, or abortion? I promise none of them are contagious! Okay fine but do we need laws banning them? Really we do? These are issues a wealthy, highly educated, and arguably[?] atheist at worst and agnostic at best right has framed as divisive instruments. We are being played against each other for the good of a privileged few. According to Fred Magdoff the richest 400 or 1.3% of Americans have a collective net worth of $1.6 trillion which is more than that of the bottom 150 million people. Oh I know they probably worked harder. More likely they were lucky recipients of what Warren Buffett calls ‘The Ovarian Lottery”. Why are we letting this infinitesimal sector of society get between the other 98.7% of us? Because they have convinced us that if we’re good, say our prayers, listen to them, continue to serve our country rather than question its motives, and eat the crusts of our PB & J we can be just like them. Better yet we have been convinced that we want to be like them. Why because money is the great elixir?
I believe Americans know better and will realize that regardless of skin color, sexuality, or religious affiliation the greater good is served when disparities shrink, when we see the residents of New Orleans as members of our extended community and the destruction of Gulf Coast wetlands—to make way for oceanfront living, oil and gas infrastructure—as a crime against humanity and nature. There will come a day when we cease letting consolidation of power and wealth be the norm and turn to nonviolent revolution against such crimes. We will march on DC and our state capitols when our elected officials stop listening to us and demand constant accountability and less backroom deals and redacted transcripts.
The final example of neocon success is their redefinition of the word “elite.” Somewhere between Lee Atwater and now they have managed to transform the word from shorthand for belonging to country clubs, taking weekends in the Hamptons, and three cars to a label for those who engage in iterative discourse on variety of subjects, attend graduate school, spend weekends hiking/biking/or kayaking, and a bike as the primary source of transportation. They have achieved this change by the same legerdemain that values short-term financial gain over foresight and the pursuit of knowledge. They have managed to eliminate nuance from debate and encouraged screaming at rather than talking with in most mass media. We have been told that everything from responding to terror to bailing out AIG and CITI requires swift, decisive, and overwhelming force. Is there honestly no time for thought or research into precedent? Must we act now. Where has this pattern gotten us? We are temporarily alleviating the stress on an overstressed and ill-equipped political and financial system. Yet when it comes to things like health care, education, closing Guantanamo, David Addington et al, and climate change…Well those are complicated issues they’ll take time and maybe more time if need be. Look health care is a human right, Guantanamo is a crime against humanity and is a net source of terrorists/jihadist, because by all accounts men that weren’t terrorist when they arrived in Cuba or Baghram are when they leave, Addington is as much a war criminal as Chuckie Taylor, and climate change is something that if not dealt with now will take more time and money later to deal with and oh yeah it won’t be pretty!
Contrary to Sarah Palin and Karl Rove’s assertions, the media is not made up of liberal folks. If they suffer anything it is fools. The Media Industrial Establishment (MIE) has become about the personality and the physical rather than intellectual picture being streamed out for all to see. They don’t ask enough questions of Rahm Emanuel, Pelosi, or Reid as they never asked the hard question of Dana Perino, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld. What was it about Rummy that was so scary anyway? So what do we do about this quagmire? Well you can start by demanding from all media outlets including Fox, NPR, MSNBC, and Air America that they stop pandering to our base phobias and report just the facts. That’s it no more or less! How about acknowledging the existence of Helen Thomas in the White House press corp for once? That to me along with the praise for Browny and Chertoff in the aftermath of Katrina is one of the arrogant displays of disrespect of the Bush administration. Also demand that they ask tough, substantive, and probing questions of our public officials–it is their job to do this. Ask why Barry R. McCafferey is still considered an objective source for military insight? Ask why we are already seeing kid gloves with Mr. Obama’s cocoon of Clintonites when he is supposed to be an agent of change? Rick Warren? Why must MSNBC and FOX feel constantly inclined to editorialize when that has historically not been nor should it be their charge? If they all spent a little more time asking questions and a little less trying to frame the debate we would all be better off. Oh yeah does the Obama administration really want to compare their appointees to the Bush gang? Is that the new gold standard? God and Allah help us all if it is!
Liberalism is not some evil monster to be feared nor is true conservatism. What is to be feared are those forces whose purpose it is to highlight our differences, obfuscate responsibility and accountability, disenfranchise for the hell of it, and flippantly engage in aggressive, short-sighted, and offensive activities. Finally, overcoming that fear would be well served if we actually gave more than lip service to 3rd, 4th, and 5th party candidates, which would require addressing campaign finance reform (eg How bout giving each candidate $2m and saying go get em tiger!). Watch how fast both parties start attacking that concept and note that the faster and more visceral their reaction the better you can feel about it. Mission accomplished!