by Richard Macintosh

September 22, 2003


"I hate as I hate Hell's own gate, that man who hides one thought within him while he speaks another."
--Homer, (words of Akhilleus), Illiad (1)

Using Akhilleus (Achilles) as a starting point, it is a given that politicians are corrupt, prone to lying, and consequently cannot be trusted. Most Americans sense this, but ignore it out of necessity. To face the truth of their leaders' mendacity would dash their hopes and force them to rely on their own abilities, something they doubt possession of and fear to confirm. People would far more prefer to place their hopes on another "bought and paid for" politician in a futile exercise of "democracy," so-called.

In other words, the electorate votes to "throw out the bums," only to replace them with a new set of bums. The "bums," themselves, have contempt for the populace and have pet acronyms for them, such as "OFU," coined by George H. W. Bush, Sr., which stands for "one fodder unit." (2)

Blind to this contempt, the American people are once again preparing for a vote that they believe will set the direction of the country. That they are being set-up for disappointment does occur to some, but the true believers still soldier on, caught by the false illusion of a democratic vote that will ensure a free, democratic country.

It is a neat and futile self-deception to think that the direction of the country will be decided in a democratic way. The word, "democracy," is the shibboleth (3) of our age. People use "democracy" all the time, but rarely define it; it is even doubtful if any two persons mean the same thing when they utter it. If one could coin a word, it might be "democratistic." The United States has become "democratistic" of late -- that is a political entity crafted to have the appearance of being democratic, while being quite something else.

What we now have in America is, at best, an oligarchy of the ruling elites, sanctified through a voting ritual that may or may not have relevance to the actual outcome. At worst, we have a "junta."

The trend away from democratic forms has accelerated during our transition from republic to empire, a move from "American" to "Americanistic," much in the same way that the Ancient Greek civilization moved from Hellenic to the Hellenistic under Philip of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great. Our old Republic is as dead as the proverbial dodo, affecting a republican form, without the substance. In its place now exists a poorly disguised imperial government, destined to run the well-worn path of former imperial powers from koros to hubris, then to até and finally, nemesis. (4)

The bad news is that the population does not understand the peril. What is even worse is that the leadership, so-called, may not understand the danger, either. Why does this situation exist? Because both the leadership and the citizenry have been blinded by delusions of grandeur. They are in love with themselves and they have come to believe their own spin (or "lies," if you prefer). Caught in a narcissistic dream, our current leaders believe it is America's destiny to reshape the world and it is their duty to force the change.

Hold it! What sort of change are our leaders talking about? If they mean bringing democracy to the unenlightened -- by force -- shouldn't we first be practicing it here in the good ol' USA? Well, Pilgrim, it depends on what you mean by "democracy."

The problem for people is that the United States of America is no longer run exclusively by elected officials (if it ever was), but is increasingly directed by appointed bureaucrats, federal judges and a shadow cabal comprised of men and women we common folks seldom hear about, those who flit back and forth between think tanks, foundations and mercantilist corporations, masquerading as "free traders." The most visible of these entities is the federal court system where appointed judges do not have to face elections and are eligible to serve for life. The federal bureaucracy is more opaque, thus being less open to inquiry from the citizenry.

Allow me to validate the last point. Have you ever met a person who works for the IRS -- I mean other than during an audit?

I didn't think so.

Apparently a large number of Americans are blind to the danger of a system that allows the Federal Judiciary -- headed by the United States Supreme Court -- to override the democratic vote of the people. Rather than question this unjust situation, politicians seek the viewpoints of court intellectuals to justify it and subsequently devise strategies to control five or more of the justices. In this manner, political forces attempt to bend the Constitution to their will. The lesson was taught by Justice John Marshall in the landmark case, Marbury vs. Madison (1803). Justice Marshall got himself (and the Court) out of a sticky situation by ruling that the Court had no authority to intervene in the case. But the most important thing he wrote in his majority opinion was: "it is the duty of the judicial department to say what the law is." (5)

Ah, a little sleight of hand to stay the forces of Jeffersonian democracy. Such judicial twisting goes on today, in the name of "democracy," however defined. Is it any wonder that Bill Clinton, a lawyer by training, questioned the meaning of the word is?

What Justice Marshall's opinion means is that the words of the law are merely "directional" when interpreted by the unannointed (the populace). The words in the law are binding only when the Federal Judiciary have (a) allowed the law to stand as is, or (b) written an opinion defining what the words mean. Thus, the Supreme Court takes authority on itself to void any law deemed by it to be "unconstitutional." This sleight of hand is accomplished when the justices determine the intent and meaning of words.

Those who can remember their high school days may note that the legislature's authority to pass bills is similar to that of student government when faced with administrative review. This may be fine when voting for things such as providing three flavors of ice cream in the school cafeteria. Otherwise: Zilch!

OK, the ice cream analogy may sound childish, but remember that the Congress, reacting to French refusal to join our attack against Iraq, and further egged-on by such luminaries as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, voted to change the name of "French fries" in the Congressional cafeteria to "freedom fries." Now, THERE'S a vote about something of substance! ("Boy, that otta show them Frenchies who's boss!")

But perhaps you are pleased with the latest vote of the court. You can clap your hands and jump and shout with delight! ("Oh, thank God for Sandra Day O'Connor!") Yes, but what the Lord giveth, the Lord can taketh away. Have you ever thought about how fragile a law is that can be granted or denied by a vote of nine appointed justices -- five to four? How many Americans, do you suppose, ever thought that nine people who eat, sleep, and relieve themselves in the bathroom -- just as they do -- have no authority to grant or take away their rights?

Probably not many.

It doesn't matter what your ideals are, or what you were told by your teachers back in the dark ages, or by other representatives of the political class over the years, leading up to the present. De facto and de jure, the United States of America is not a democracy.

Sorry. It just isn't. Nope. No way, no how.

But, before you get angry, remember that you are merely "one fodder unit" (OFU). Angry or not, your vote doesn't really matter. Why? Because the "fix" is in.

Think tanks and foundations often have great impact on US Administrations. Men and women who make up favored think tanks are well represented through appointments to governmental agencies. The Project for the New American Century -- PNAC -- is represented in the Bush II administration by the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, I. Lewis Libby, John Bolton and Donald Kagan. (6) The influence of these men has been powerful in convincing the President to pursue empire through so-called "preemptive" war.

Note that the President is not a founding member of PNAC. That is because PNAC -- say what you will about it -- is an organization of thinkers. The President is not a thinker; he's a figurehead. Former congressman and author, Jim Hightower, has him down pat:

"But you mentioned something that I think is important. . . which is it's stupid just to keep calling Bush stupid. Yes, he doesn't have the brain muscle for much heavy lifting, but that's not his role. It never has been in his life, and he knows that. He knows his role and he plays it beautifully, which is to be the front man for corporate interests." (7)

A good example of Bush's "corporate interests" would be Koch Industries, a private corporation managed by David and Charles Koch. Investigative journalist Greg Palast described Koch Industries as follows:

"Koch Industries is the biggest company you've never heard of -- and their owners like it that way. Estimates of its annual turnover, at $35 billion a year make it bigger than Microsoft or Boeing Aircraft. We can only estimate because Koch is a private corporation, the second largest in the United States. . . If you've never heard of the Kochs, the politicians have. Among the Big Oil that funded the Republican party during George W. Bush's run for the White House, Koch Industries pumped in more than any corporation except Enron and Exxon-Mobil." (8)

Two other examples of Bush's "corporate interests," Halliburton and Bechtel corporations, were recently awarded profitable contracts to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure without submitting bids. Such behavior is corporate cronyism of the most egregious kind. It is the sort of in-your-face arrogance that has characterized the Bush II administration from the beginning, but especially since the tragedy of 9/11. In effect, the administration acts first and then dares anyone to do something about it. "You're either with us, or against us." Period.

But, hold on! Isn't it true that prominent Democrats are also millionaires who are connected to corporate interests? Yes. Of course. You don't think the working man really has much say about the goings on in the Democratic Party, do you? Do you believe that something is "democratic," just because someone says it is? Really? How old are you? Do you know what is going on, or not?

We have a deluded population led by a self-deluded leadership: the blind leading the blind. Irony is not dead.

And all of this is carried off with the satisfaction that Americans are a special people, a people who "stand tall and see further into the future" than other peoples. (9) On this subject, the author, José Ortega y Gasset was prescient:

"What the home is in relation to society, such on a larger scale to one nation before the assemblage of nations. One of the manifestations, at once most evident and overwhelming, of the ruling "self-satisfaction" is, as we shall see, the determination taken by some nations to "do what they jolly well please" in the consortium of nations." (10)

That's us, "the good ol' US of A," doing what we jolly well please, both at home and abroad.

Our nation is exhibiting hubris: behavior born of delusions of grandeur and a false sense of democracy.

There will be a hard landing.

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References and Resources

1.  Homer, Iliad, Fitzgerald Translation, 1974. Anchor Books, New York. Chapter 9, lines 283-284.Words of Akhilleus (Achilles) to Odysseus, regarding Agamemnon. Fitzgerald uses "Akhilleus" in place of the German "Achilles." He thinks that this spelling is closer to the sound of the name, when using the English pronunciation of Roman letters.  (back)

2.  OFU = "One Fodder Unit." Attributed to George H. W. Bush Sr., by Al Martin in his article: "The Ambassador Wilson Affair: The End of Karl Rove -- And George Bush?" Published September 2, 2003, http://www.almartinraw.com/  (back)

3.  "Shibboleth" is a Hebrew word, which either means a flowing stream, or a head of grain. The Gileadites used this word to identify which of their prisoners were Ephraimites. The Ephraimites pronounced the word "sibboleth." The prisoners were asked to pronounce the word and if they pronounced it "sibboleth," they were put to death. According to the story, 42,000 Ephraimites were executed. Source: King James Bible, Judges 12: 5-6.

In our age, politicians, writers, and common people parrot the word, "democracy," using it as a sort of "shibboleth," but what do they actually mean by it? Are they interpreting it or using it properly?  (back)

4.  The Ancient Greeks believed the path to personal destruction ran from stability (koros) to self-delusion (hubris), which leads in turn to madness exacerbated by attempts to hold on to delusions (até). Once in a state of até, personal ruin (nemesis) is inevitable. This road to catastrophe can also be applied to groups, political, military and economic. The key survival is to recognize hubris and back away from it, but the afflicted, are so in love with the feeling of omniscience that they tend to ignore the warning signs. There is a very good chance that the current President of the United States and his "cabal" are caught in this classic description of decline.  (back)

5.  Garraty, John A. 1975. Quarrels that have Shaped the Constitution, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, p. 12.  (back)

6.  http://www.newamericancentury.org/   Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Current US foreign policy (including the Iraq war) cannot be placed in proper context without understanding what PNAC is and who is behind it.  (back)

7.  BuzzFlash interview with Jim Hightower. August 21, 2003. http://www.buzzflash.com/interviews/03/08/21_hightower.html  (back)

8.  Palast, Greg. 2003. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Plume Books, New York, p. 111.  (back)

9.  Albright, Madeline, NBC "Today" show, February 19, 1998: "If we have to use force, it is because we are America! We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further into the future."  (back)

10.  Ortega y Gasset, 1932. Revolt of the Masses, W.W. Norton, New York, pp. 102-103.  (back)

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Richard Macintosh was a Public High School Teacher in California (1956-1989). Ed.D, Educational Leadership, BYU, 1996. MA, Liberal Studies, Wesleyan University, 1982. BA, history, Stanford University, 1956... Macintosh is currently a part-time consultant on Personnel/Team matters in Washington State. (Added May 1, 2008: Richard died of heart failure in June 2005. Please see his commemorative Web page on this site.)

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Published September 22, 2003
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