Swans Commentary » swans.com July 14, 2008  



What's Your Breaking Point?


by Gilles d'Aymery





"It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war."
—Abraham Lincoln in a letter to William F. Elkins, Nov 21st, 1864.


(Swans - July 14, 2008)  The meaning of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that was enacted last week is relatively simple to grasp. If you break the law and commit a crime you end up in the dock. But if you are a big telecommunications company like AT&T or Verizon, you send your lobbyists to Washington and have Congress grant you retroactive (and future) immunity for past (and future) criminal law breaking, under the argument that you did not really break any law since you acted at the request of the government. And if you happen to be the president of the United States and have broken the law repeatedly, you simply change the law so that what you did illegally is now legal, even if in so doing you are gutting the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. It's that simple. This is Bastille Day, a good time to hear loud and clear Lee Iacocca's sound bite: Throw the bums out! Why, but oh why, do you keep voting for those bums when there is an alternative in Ralph Nader, a man with impeccable credentials, high integrity, and profound intellectual honesty?

The Senate, in step with the House -- remember this is a so-called Democratic-controlled Congress -- voted 69-28 for the new FISA law, which, in the words of Glenn Greenwald, "immunize[s] lawbreaking telecoms, terminate[s] all pending lawsuits against them, and vest[s] whole new warrantless eavesdropping powers in the president." Georgetown Law Professor Marty Lederman wrote (source Glenn Greenwald):

The new statute permits the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and a foreign location, without making any showing to a court and without judicial oversight, whether or not the communication has anything to do with al Qaeda -- indeed, even if there is no evidence that the communication has anything to do with terrorism, or any threat to national security. (His emphasis.)

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America reads:

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.

In October 2007, Mr. Change-you-can-believe-in had his campaign issue the following statement: "To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."

It turns out that Senator Obama first voted for cloture on the bill (hence against filibuster) and then was one of the 69 senators that voted for the bill that granted immunity to those companies, calling it a "compromise." (Senator McCain didn't even bother to vote.) Perhaps Mr. Change-you-can-believe-in should be appropriately renamed Mr. Chameleon.

Haven't you had enough of perpetual war, of attacks on, invasion and occupation of countries that did nothing against us? Haven't you had it with torture, extraordinary rendition, racial profiling of Muslim and Arab Americans, loss of habeas corpus for legal residents?

Yet, YOU keep voting for those bums -- two senators, one from Illinois, the other from Arizona, both faithful flag bearers of the status quo, the Establishment, the Elites. Are you a member of that club? No you aren't. So, why do you vote for those bums?

The market value of General Motors is less than $6 billion, the lowest value by far of the 30 companies listed in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. (For comparison, Toyota is valued at $160 billion.) GM is as close to bankruptcy filing as is Chrysler -- and possibly Ford. Workers are laid off by the ten of thousands. Management keeps getting paid millions of dollars and do not lose their jobs -- and if they do they get a golden parachute. Talking about bankruptcy, the Office of Thrift Supervision seized the assets of IndyMac Bank ($32 billion) last Friday and transferred them to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as the bank collapsed under the weight of the mortgage and housing crisis. Also last week, the shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac dropped to 17-year lows prompting fear in Wall Street that the country's two biggest mortgage financiers could default. They own or guarantee over $5 trillion in mortgages (about half of all outstanding mortgages in the U.S.). In the past three quarters alone they have lost a combined $11.8 billion and the value of their stock has plummeted 74 percent. If it keeps going asunder, Uncle Sam (that is, the taxpayers) will be forced to intervene as the economic consequences of them defaulting would be dramatic.

What about health care, or pension and mutual funds, or education, or free time (leisure, repose, time off), or job security, or the infrastructure of the country, or the oceans of red ink, or the absence of a sound energy policy, or global climate disruptions, or the abhorrence of income distribution, or the war economy that's sucking the blood of the American people dry to the bones (and destroying vast swaths of the world), or, or, or? As Lee Iacocca says, "This is America, not the damned Titanic." What's your breaking point?

Polls after polls reflect the pulse of the country. People do not trust their government. The president's approval rating has sunk below 30 percent. People have even less esteem for the members of Congress -- an all-time low of 9 percent. Yet, the same people keep voting for those bums. That one can expect different results from the same bums that are so widely discredited and mistrusted is truly baffling. Remember Albert Einstein's saying? "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

Mr. Chameleon and Mr. McSame are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. They and their cohorts of advisers -- all bona-fide card-carrying members of the Establishment (political and corporate) -- represent the very same kind of thinking that created the private and public policies that have led the country to the edge of the cliff. Both of them are beholden to corporate interests and supportive of the military-industrial-congressional complex. Both candidates are willing and able to order a military strike against Iran. Both intend to further destabilize the African continent to better control its riches. Both are social reactionaries in various shades and forms. They embody the Washington Consensus and the status quo politics that have dominated the scene for almost 40 years. Neither of them offers concrete solutions to the many predicaments the country faces. What they offer is business as usual, either through neoliberal triangulation or neoconservative Straussian hard power. These people, on behalf of our future and that of our descendents, must be defeated. Throw the bums out!

Indubitably, people want the best and hope for the best. Many will argue that we have to make do with "reality" -- the two-party system. These people ought to be respected even though their judgment is erroneous. A two-party system is neither written in the Constitution, nor is it written as yet in the history books. Faced with a train wreck of dramatic proportion, we do have a choice. We can bow down on our knees and accept things as they are, or we can stand tall and call it as it is -- and make a choice among the alternative candidates.

The Nader-Gonzalez ticket is by far the most qualified and experienced to govern the nation. Their combined expertise, their common sense approach to problem solving, and their acclaimed honesty appeal to a wide range of people from all sides of the political divide. Contrary to the two candidates of the duopoly they are not panderers; they are not flip-floppers; they do not exploit fear for political ends; and they have no corporate masters and are not owned by lobbyists, which allows them to represent the interests of the entire American people, not the top twenty percent of the population. Two other tickets may appeal to various constituencies. The Green Party has selected Cynthia McKinney, the former congresswoman from Georgia, to head its presidential ticket, with Rosa Clemente, the 35-year-old hip-hop journalist, activist, and community organizer, as her running mate. Social conservative, free-market Libertarians may look to the nominee of the Libertarian Party, Bob Barr, the former Georgia republican representative and his running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, a self-made businessman, author and television producer. Supporters of Ron Paul may well be attracted by any one of these three tickets.

But, as often stated, a vote for Nader is a vote for sanity -- and the country has never needed more sane and sound policies than since the 1930s.

If we can't make it happen this time around and build a real movement for actual change, not the same old rhetoric, we'll still keep in mind the words of Eugene V. Debs: "I'd rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don't want, and get it" -- especially if what we get is a continuation of the disastrous policies that are slowly sinking our ship of state.




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Internal Resources

Ralph Nader: Character and Integrity

Green & Independent Politics

US Elections & Democracy

America the 'beautiful'

Patterns which Connect


About the Author

Gilles d'Aymery on Swans (with bio). He is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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This Edition's Internal Links

Chicago's Gay Parade And Related Gay Memories - Art Shay

Next Target Of The IMF: You, Me, And The United States Of America - Carol Warner Christen

Had Enough? - Lee Iacocca

Fringes - Martin Murie

Free The EPA - Cartoon by Jan Baughman

The Soros Media "Empire": The Power of Philanthropy to Engineer Consent - Michael Barker

US Exploitation Of The World - Book Review by Charles Marowitz

Raging Silence: Charles Marowitz's Silent Partners - Book Review by Peter Byrne

A Hell Of Heaven And Vice Versa Revelations - Theatre by Karen Ritenour

Haiku Number Two - Poem by Guido Monte

Thirty Seconds Echo - Poem by Marie Rennard

The Circus - Poem by R. Scott Porter

Letters to the Editor

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art14/ga255.html
Published July 14, 2008