Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is It Still An Oath If A Politician Takes It?

Presidential Oath Of Office

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

We don't really expect this guy to remain true to his oath, do we? As a matter of fact, in light of the all out assault on our Constitution carried out by this halfwit and his corporate handlers, I'm surprised he was able to keep a straight face while mouthing the words. Let's move on, shall we?

Congressional Oath Of Office

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

Our founding fathers certainly thought it was important to defend the Constitution. So much so that they set up three coequal branches of government; all sworn to defend the Constitution; all keeping each other in check to make sure we remained "a nation of laws, not of men". But during the first six years of this administration something went horribly wrong. The Republican majority in Congress decided, like their wannabe dictator of a president, to ignore their oath of office and become rubber-stamp enablers for every policy he wanted. No longer were they a coequal branch of government, but merely an extension of the Executive branch, dedicated not to defending the Constitution, but to defending a permanent Republican majority, and to furtherance of the unitary executive theory. No oversight, no limits, no questions!

And so it went until the election of 2006, when the public finally had its fill and kicked the bums out, giving the Democrats control of the House and the Senate. Finally we would have some restraints on this out of control president. Finally the Legislative branch would keep their oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States" instead of the interests of their own political party. Right?


Case in point, the torn and tattered Fourth Amendment to our besieged Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That bit about warrants and probable cause is very important. Not all searches and seizures require warrants, but the Supreme Court has interpreted warrantless searches and seizures as unreasonable, unless there is probable cause to suspect you of a crime. This means the government isn't allowed to, for example, have the NSA seize the records of phone companies and internet service providers without a warrant, and run data mining software on the telephone calls, e-mails, and web browsing of millions of completely innocent Americans. That would be unconstitutional, and a felony. But the Bush administration has been, by their own admission, doing just that since 2001, in violation of the law, and your constitutional rights. So much for the Fourth Amendment.

Your Democratic Congress was so outraged by this that they recently passed legislation, modifying the FISA Act, allowing Bush to do it with impunity! Why? They were afraid that he would make political hay out of them trying to protect your constitutional rights, thereby threatening their precious re-election prospects. They were afraid that he might call them "weak on terrorism" for not passing his legislation before going on vacation. To hell with their oath of office, they had the Democratic majority and their own miserable hides to protect first and foremost, just like the Republicans they replaced. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

This is precisely the same reason they caved (and will continue to cave) on funding of the Iraq war, and why they won't impeach Bush or Cheney, no matter what these serial felons do. It wouldn't fit in with their political strategy of maintaining a Democratic majority. If you think these people are in this game for anybody but themselves you've got another thing coming. Sorry kids, but you've been had. There is no Santa Claus; there is no Easter Bunny; and the Democrats are going to continue giving Bush everything he wants for as long as he wields the "terrorism" club over them with elections coming up.

The only thing that would fix this broken government of ours is a thorough house cleaning -- voting every single incumbent out of office and replacing them with someone new, just to send a message. This is, of course, a naive thought. The two parties are too entrenched, and long-time incumbents are rarely defeated. Sadly, this state of affairs will probably one day spell the end of our system of government. It is already well on its way to becoming a plutocracy, and if this trend continues, the number of disaffected people in this nation will continue to grow until they eventually decide to follow the instructions Thomas Jefferson left us in the preamble to the Declaration Of Independence, as to what our duty is when the government stops deriving it's powers from the consent of the governed. These will be dark, violent times for our nation, and I hope I'm not around for them, although it would be nice to witness some prominent members of the ruling class get their long-overdue comeuppance.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"Doublethink" And The Neocon Mindset

The Neocon mindset is a strange and shocking thing to behold. I have encountered it many times in my discussions on Web forums and Usenet. Surprisingly, this mindset still survives in a hardcore ~29% of Americans, and in a smaller minority of Internet users -- the ones who still indignantly recite Republican talking points spoon fed to them by right wing pundits on cable "news" programs and talk radio. For the uninitiated this mindset can be simultaneously infuriating, nonsensical, and terrifying. The most crystalline example I have ever read of this bizarre mindset came from an article in the New York Times by Ron Suskind.

"In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality- based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

If you're a member of the "reality-based community", the first thing you have to try and get past is the unmitigated arrogance of that statement. That's the infuriating part. Next -- the nonsensical part: What's all of this craziness about reality being irrelevant to how the world works today? Are these guys "kookoo for Cocoa Puffs" or what? Finally, the terrifying part: Arrogant pricks like this, deluded enough to espouse this doctrine, actually possess real military power -- and won't hesitate to use it since they are, they condescendingly boast, an empire! An empire creating reality as they, "history's actors", deem reality to be.

How was this pernicious mindset foisted upon that barely sufficient number of voters required to get these madmen into office twice? How could some people (still today!) read that paragraph above and not cringe at the bleak picture of authoritarianism it so vividly paints? Why, after all of the obvious miserable failures of the Neocon "empire" in the face of real world reality, do you still find people willing to defend these jokers? How did they pull it off?

The key word here is "Doublethink".

Anyone who has read George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four will be familiar with this term. According to the novel,
Doublethink is:

"The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. ... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies-all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."

In the totalitarian society depicted in Orwell's book, doublethink was a thought control tool of the regime, used to help reinforce their ever-changing version of reality. Sound familiar? This process of "reality control" was necessary to make sure that the regime was never viewed in a critical manner, no matter what happened in the "reality- based" world. The "Ministry Of Truth" took care of re-writing the history books and government documents to correspond with the current reality, always casting the regime in a favorable light. Note the doublethink: a "Ministry Of Truth", whose job it is to write lies. It was every citizen's duty to loyally exercise doublethink and forget the previous version of reality, unconditionally accepting the new one. Not to do so would be a "thoughtcrime".

Fast-forward to post 9/11 America. Spooky echoes of Orwell's "Ministry Of Truth" abound. Think "Patriot Act", "Clear Skies Initiative", "Healthy Forests Initiative". Doublethink! Orwell's "Big Brother" turned out to be a bumbling, folksy, born-again Texan backed up by a legion of right wing pundits and preachers ready to lay some major league doublethink on a poorly-educated, frightened, "red state" voting populace. The assault began with some clever euphemisms.

The violent overthrow of a foreign government became "regime change"; bombs became "ordnance"; the civilian deaths caused by the bombs became "collateral damage"; dropping bombs without causing too many civilian deaths became a "surgical strike". Words like "friendly fire" rolled off their tongues without one second's pause as to the striking contradiction inherent in the term.

Once they got their foot in the door there was no holding back. "Regime change" had now morphed into a liberation! The mission was accomplished and yet we were planning to build permanent military bases. Bin Laden, once "wanted dead or alive" was "not that important". Doublethink was now boldly on parade.

When the new Neocon reality didn't "sort out" the way they had planned, the doublethink assault intensified: Kidnappings of foreigners overseas became "extraordinary rendition"; sleep deprivation became "sleep management"; the torture of prisoners became "enhanced interrogation techniques". The ultimate insult to the intelligence of any thinking human being came when Rear Admiral Harry Harris dropped the
mother of all doublethink bombs, claiming that the suicides of three Guantanamo Bay prisoners were "an act of asymmetric warfare" against the American military.

Let that one sink in for a minute.

When the public got restless, commissions were appointed by the administration (but their recommendations weren't followed). Bush and Cheney even testified (but not under oath). The president listens to his generals (but fires them if he doesn't like the advice). Cheney isn't in the executive branch (but claims executive privilege). Clinton should have been impeached for perjury (Libby should be pardoned for perjury). The doublethink blitzkrieg rages on.

Today, words are redefined at will, depending upon the analogy the pundit or politician wishes to make. Take the word "insurgent" for example: The rag-tag insurgents valiantly outlasting the Redcoats at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War are called "Patriots", and the brave insurgents fighting back against insurmountable odds in France during WWII are called "The Resistance". But the Iraqi insurgents are fanatical "terrorists", impeding our noble mission of peace and democracy.

And all the while these right wing blow-hard pundits conveniently forget that their hero, Ronald Reagan called Bin Laden's CIA-backed Taliban insurgents "freedom fighters". Somebody better call the Ministry of Truth!

So my "reality-based" friends, if you run into one of these die-hard 29 percenters, don't get frustrated. They are nothing more than victims of their own propaganda techniques. They have performed the ultimate act of doublethink by forgetting the fact that they have been employing doublethink. They just don't know it yet.