Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bush’s Balancing Act

As the price of labor goes down
Half the Right wears a frown
Mumbling bring on the beagles
And chase the illegals
Across the South border
And build a high wall
To keep law and order
Before we all fall
While the other half praises
The lowest of wages
At home and abroad
And legislates fraud

In a strange way, it is fun to watch the Republicans in a schizoid stance trying to balance the hatred of the far right with the greed of the far right. We have racist ideologues facing off with free market ideologues. Of course, the free market ideologues have an edge with Bush pushing for a guest worker (no citizenship) program. This keeps wages low here and keeps the status quo in Mexico so that the oligarchs there, including Fox, don't have to invest in a middle class and we can reduce our middle class at home. Meanwhile, we are in a war that takes all the fun out of the Republican dilemma because in that ultimate reality program real people are really being killed and the money is our tax money being paid out through no-bid contracts.

If you happen to stop in a bookstore, pick up Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor. It will confirm all your suspicions about how soon in his first term Bush and his accomplices decided to go to war and how weak the planning became as Donald Rumsfeld bullied General Officers to whittle down the size of the invasion force while speeding up the process. As Condi Rice put it so well, "thousands of mistakes were made." Of course, the most frightening scenario is that the administration has not learned from its mistakes.

Planning for Katrina was no better than Iraq and the same no-bid contracts were let to the same contractors with the same underachievement. Cronyism ruled contracting both home and away. Indeed, the administration used the Katrina aftermath as an opportunity to combine the incompetence of senior appointees with the economic disadvantages of low wages so Halliburton and others are hiring manual laborers from Mexico to clean up New Orleans.

For the Bush administration and its cronies, Katrina may, in fact be the perfect storm. It has permitted, through an act of God, the enrichment of the few while so changing the demographics as to make a Democratic district a wasteland and simultaneously deny the former residents an opportunity to vote. We boasted how we encouraged ex-patriot Iraqis to vote from remote locations here in the United States, but refused to allow displaced New Orleans residents the same. It is difficult to distinguish the effects of nefarious intentions from sheer incompetence and I am not sure which label best fits the Bush Leaguers. The result will be conversion of a Democratic district in Louisiana into a Republican district. Above all, (including outing a CIA undercover agent) it is politics above the good of the nation. DeLay in Texas redistricting and Bush in Ohio and Louisiana disenfranchisement. Now that is teamwork.

For those of you who wonder how the Congress will resolve the "immigration" issue, look no further than the immediate past for your best prediction. There will be a compromise for the racist right with the "free market" right. The racist right will get its Berlin Wall West and the corporate right will get its no-bid contracts and a franchise for low priced labor. Look for the invocation of "national security" to build a wall and then look for some compassionate consideration by permitting Mexicans and Central Americans as guest laborers. This is essentially the gastarbeiter system of Germany that has failed so miserably. The connected will get the no-bid contracts to build the wall and with a minimum wage here that is three times the average wage in Mexico, the infiltration will continue to the delight of the Right.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Corporate Crime

After the claim about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction was proven baseless, the Bush Administration retreated to the fallback position occupied by the great American myth: our selfless nation's divinely-ordained mission was to bring democracy and all its benefits to the Iraqi people. As soon as it was feasible, our noble conquerors would return the country's governance to Iraq¹s newly elected leaders, and the gifts of self-government and private enterprise would flow upon the Iraqi people like manna from heaven.

As we have been seeing lately, however, this promise is turning out to be yet another cruel joke. Far from benefiting the bleeding people of Iraq, the American-imposed "regime change" was clearly meant to open yet another country to the corporate giants who control our world. The latest scholar to point this out is Antonia Juhasz. In several articles and now in a new book, The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time, Juhasz argues that the invasion of Iraq was about turning that ancient country into a free-fire zone for America's corporate-welfare elite. The orders imposed by L. Paul Bremer, former head of the now-defunct Iraqi Provisional Authority, make this abundantly clear. For what those orders did (and they are still in effect) was to cancel Iraq's planned economy which had given the Iraqi people food, jobs, and control of their massive oil reserves in favor of the mass privatization of virtually every resource: the oil, the water, the power, the security, the whole shebang. All were made available to takeover by private American corporations like Bechtel (rebuilding the water works destroyed by American bombers), Halliburton, Exxon-Mobil, Lockheed-Martin and their ilk. And what these American "benefactors" have done is increasingly brought cheap foreign labor and goods into Iraq, leaving most of the Iraqis themselves jobless.

What's worse, far worse, is that all of these orders by Bremer violate international laws overturning occupying powers, which state that such interference with an occupied nation's existing laws is wholly illegal. To quote Juhasz in a recent article:
Transformation of an occupied country’s fundamental laws is illegal under international law. It directly violates the international convention governing the behavior of occupying forces, the Hague regulations of 1907 (the companion to the 1949 Geneva conventions, both ratified by the United States), as well as the U.S. Army's own code of war ­ as stated in the Army field manual "The Law of Land Warfare." Article 43 of the Hague Regulations requires that an occupying power "re-establish and insure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country." (See "The Economic Colonization of Iraq," at The Bush Agenda.)
In brief, the occupying power is required to protect the people of the occupied nation and obey its existing laws. True to its disdain for all international law, the Bush Administration has done just the opposite. It has completely overturned Iraq's legal system and economy in favor of one benefiting its corporate cronies. And it knows this, which is why it is so impatient for the Iraqis to form a puppet government to ratify what has already been done.

Now we can see the "frustration" of officials like Condoleeza Rice and the "tough" members of Congress in a new light. They keep threatening the Iraqi government with dire consequences if they don’t resolve their differences and form a government. Why? Because such a government is desperately needed as cover for war crimes, i.e., as an entity to make official the theft already committed, and to welcome with open arms the American corporations eager to rush in and glut themselves on the economic bonanza that has been prepared for them.

How craven and calculating and cruel this will one day appear to all those who have sacrificed their lives in this criminally commercial endeavor, can only be imagined.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Can the Democrats Win?

We hear a great deal these days from Democrats about the Fall elections, about the increasingly strong chances for a Democratic retaking of Congress, and especially about how best to accomplish this feat. All of this is fine, but one fact threatens to make all this speculation moot: Republican control of the elections process and the high probability that the theft of the most recent elections will be repeated. If nothing is done to change these conditions, all the election strategy in the world will not bring victory.

Consider the recent article posted on AlterNet.com (see bottom of link) (Mar. 2, 2006) by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, Ohio authors of How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008. What they pointed out as the product of their latest research adding to the more than 100 different ways in which the Republican Party perverted the democratic process in Ohio is the purging of more than 300,000 mostly Democrat voters from the Ohio voting rolls!

In traditional Democratic Party strongholds like Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), some 175,000 voters were purged and 10,000 who were registered were lost due to "clerical error." This in a state where George W. Bush's margin of victory was only 119,000 votes. An additional 133,000 voters were eliminated from the registration rolls in Cincinnati and Toledo, the excuse being that they had failed to vote in two previous elections (note that no law requires this). The result of this and other purges was that thousands of voters turned up to vote at their regular polling places, only to be told that their names had been somehow removed from the rolls. When many of these voters used the government-mandated provisional ballots, they found that the Republican Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, had instituted unprecedented requirements for provisional ballots, such as supplying the voter's birth date, which poll workers failed to mention. As a result, thousands of such "disqualified" ballots were then thrown out.

Anyone who doubts that the 2004 election was stolen should read another book on the Republican theft, Fooled Again, by Mark Crispin Miller. Among the literally hundreds of dirty tricks employed by legions of Republicans throughout the nation, Miller cites (a) New Mexico, where 19,000 under votes were cast (an under vote is where no vote is cast for president on an otherwise completed ballot), with 17,147 of these under votes coming from notoriously "fixable" electronic voting machines this in a state where Bush won by only 7,047 votes (Miller, p. 149); (b) the expatriate voting scandal, where of 7 million eligible voters living or working in foreign countries (with civilians outnumbering service personnel by 15 to 1 and hence favoring Kerry by large margins), at least 43% were prevented from voting according to the Overseas Voting Foundation, because they were either prevented from registering on time, or they received their ballots late or not at all (Miller, pp. 249 ff).

There is far more to Miller's book, as well as to the accounts of Fitrakis and Wasserman in Ohio. The sum total is chilling. Most important, it makes all too clear that short of a major Democratic Party effort to closely monitor and fiercely contend any inkling of chicanery in future elections, all the strategy in the world will be useless. For the truth is, John Kerry was declared the winner in every exit poll, and he still "lost."

If such unprecedented fixing can be done once, it can be done, and will be done, repeatedly. In short, democracy and all strategies to ensure it are simply meaningless if the very basis of Democracy a fair and free election can no longer be counted on.