Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Impeach Obama

Virtually all of my progressive friends have looked puzzled when I showed them how I’d cut the word “Bush” off an “Impeach Bush” bumper sticker, and stuck “Impeach” over the red-white-and blue sunrise logo on the “Obama ‘08” sticker, still on the tailgate of my pickup, so that it reads “Impeach Obama.”

I didn’t actually vote for Barack Obama. Being a traitor to both my race and my gender, I voted for Cynthia McKinney, the African American Green Party candidate, who was also most closely aligned with my own political principles—the only truly satisfying way for me to spend time in the voting booth in recent years. But being a realist, I also wanted Obama to win, lesser-of-two-evils-wise; and so I helped my local Democratic friends campaign for him, and even wrote columns on my blog giving him qualified support, for his “transformative” potential—although always leavened with suspicion of his corporate ties and his fealty to the “war on terror” (I called him “the Lion of Afghanistan”).

I wrote Obama off after three months of his presidency. Even at that point, he had already proven himself worse than my lowest expectations of him, and had stolen whatever glimmers of hope he had raised in me with his stirring campaign rhetoric. But I kept the bumper sticker on the truck anyway, just to annoy the local racists, and resigned myself to the one-corporate-party status quo. I quit writing the blog not long after I lost any hope in Obama—not seeing much hope in the blogosphere either—and began seeking other avenues to effect change.

It didn’t occur to me that Obama was worth spending any more attention on (I avoid listening to him now, feeling the same kind of disgust when I hear him that I used to experience with Bush) until the Gulf oil massacre. I use that term because, if there were ever a crime of “ecocide,” this would be it. And from my observation, it seems Obama has done everything in his power to make it worse. That is to say, it has become more apparent each day this crisis passes (and as I wrote over a year ago in my last blog post), that the 21st-century American presidency has no true power, beyond that allotted by the corporate/military dictatorship that actually rules America. Obama, the living embodiment of the new multinational order, is the perfect spokesmodel-in-chief, bowing obsequiously to every corporate command. Like all modern presidents, he has a job that gives him plenty of time to play golf.

Depending on how the lessons sink in, the Deepwater Horizon explosion can almost be viewed as a blessing, in the way that it has exposed the rot at the center of American government, and the nest of serpents feeding on democracy’s corpse. This episode, in all its apocalyptic horror, starkly reveals how government and corporate interests have become so intertwined that you can no longer see the line that is supposed to separate them. Two months into this tragedy, and the question of “Who’s in charge—BP or the government?” still lacks a clear answer. Corporate secrets have become a national security issue; and the American people, no matter how total the destruction of their livelihoods and way of life by a corporation seemingly immune to public accountability, are “out of the loop.”

The rudiments of totalitarianism are evident throughout this most recent application of the Shock Doctrine: the (and let’s call a spade a spade) conspiracy between government and industry to keep the American people in the dark; the use of state power and law enforcement agencies at every level of government to give primacy to corporate interests; the unembarrassed restriction of freedom of the press and freedom of movement; the police state mentality pervasive around the Gulf coast; the silent, defeated submission of the proles.

I suppose it is the immensity of this disaster that finally moved me to get out my scissors and slap the “Impeach” sticker in front of Obama’s name on my tailgate. But even as I laughed at myself for the utter frivolity of my gesture, I had to think: why not impeach Obama? Didn’t I want Bush impeached, for his multiple violations of the Constitution and the rule of law, and to restore accountability to the American government? And has Obama pursued justice on a single one of the issues that I thought Bush and his henchmen should be held responsible for?

Obama’s failure in that regard alone should technically justify his impeachment, for his violation of his presidential oath to uphold the Constitution. But to make matters worse, the Obama administration is regularly, even in his own bureaucracy, referred to as “Bush’s third term.” In other words, especially in matters of foreign policy and national security, Obama continues to commit many of the same crimes of state that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should have been—were this an actual constitutional republic—impeached for. And, at least in the case of his approval of execution of American citizens without due process, Obama’s own constitutional violations exceed Bush’s.

Wouldn’t it be hypocritical to demand Bush’s impeachment, and excuse Obama’s own constitutional crimes? If I think Cindy Sheehan is correct in identifying Obama as a “war criminal”—which I do, from his torture policy in Afghanistan, to the doubtless ongoing electronic surveillance of the American public’s private business (I couldn’t care less about the legal fig leaf they slapped on that)—then shouldn’t I be demanding that Obama, too, be held accountable for his flaunting of the constitution, his betrayal of his oath, his ongoing deception of the public?

The objection from my progressive friends is easy to imagine: impeachment of Obama would be playing right into the hands of Tea Party fascists, and give them an opening to turn the federal government into the theocracy they so desire. And this objection can’t be dismissed lightly. As an official philosopher opined recently in the New York Times, the insensibility of the Tea Party is a form of “nihilism,” a blindly destructive element swirling in the current of our present political culture—the violently authoritarian mentality at the root of our ancestral colonialism, reborn again. Not to be trifled with. The wholesale abandonment of critical thinking, and the disruption of public meetings, are far too resonant of the early Nazis for comfort. Sinclair Lewis was right: there is no longer any doubt that fascism, American-style, carries a cross and waves the flag. Hitler’s base constituency was rural conservatives.

But I think we have to look at this strategically. In the first place, impeaching Obama is the right and principled thing to do. And we who advocated for Bush’s impeachment remain open to the charge of hypocrisy, as long as we’re still protecting our guy, if we think he’s committed the same crimes. We fall into the moral sewer with Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.

Secondly, if the Republicans recapture the House of Representatives this November—which must be regarded as at least an even possibility at this writing—how long will it be before some conservolibertarian hotshot introduces articles of impeachment against Obama, thus setting the impeachment narrative, and ignoring the true crimes of which Bush and Cheney were also guilty. In an economic climate as volatile as this, anything could happen then—including race war, because African Americans would quite correctly see an element of racism, on vivid display ever since the inauguration, in any Republican impeachment effort.

(To put this into personal context: a white leftist’s call for impeachment could just as easily be seen as racist. To argue my defense, I would point to the fact that, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, I was writing a regular column in West Virginia’s oldest newspaper, in which I called for Bill Clinton to do the honorable thing and resign, for lying so flagrantly to the American people. I soon reversed myself, when the Republicans impeached, because in my opinion his lie didn’t amount to “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The point being, I’ve also taken a public stand against a white Democratic president.)

One of the ways that a Republican impeachment effort could play out would be a repetition of the Clinton storyline, with a public backlash against the GOP for overreaching, and the triumphant re-election of Barack Obama in 2012. Is that what we really want or need?

The third strategic consideration is the one most germane to me. There is a growing consensus across the political spectrum, left to right, that the American government is broken, and needs fixing. The white men of property who constructed the elegant Newtonian machinery of government in the US Constitution, with its elaborate checks and balances, were extremely wary of the unwashed public, and kept that wariness in mind throughout their deliberations in that hot Philadelphia summer of 1787. They didn’t leave many avenues open for a direct public challenge to the government. The power to impeach, initiated as it is in the lower house, the people’s house, is one of those few avenues.

Over two centuries later, with the walls of corporatism closing around us and the republic imperiled, we would be fools not to avail ourselves of every opportunity left to “get our country back.” That’s something we all want, even if we have different ideas about what it means. In any event, we can never actually go back, because, in so many ways—socially, economically, culturally, ecologically, and certainly politically—the old America is over. It’s dead. We can only go forward.

Starting from where we are today, in any direction, to rebuild a government that is responsive to the people, will be a multi-step process that will need all our input to get there. For me, the idea of President Biden is just a first, hopefully sudden step.

Maybe then—especially if the impeachment process begins on the left—the power elite will start taking the peasants seriously. And the sooner that happens, the better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Constitution 2.0

Around the time of my last blog post, over two months ago, I had a remarkable email correspondence with two friends, which started me on an inner political journey that led to a vision of America reborn. To realize that vision, we can keep the Preamble and the Bill of Rights, but everything else in the Constitution needs an upgrade.

Both of my email correspondents are (like me) boomer generation and lifelong progressive activists. But unlike me, they are both women. They also share the characteristic (perhaps not that unusual in the internet age) that I’ve never met either of them face-to-face.

Our conversation began around the subject of 9/11 truth, and how a strategy for the truth movement could be expanded to address a more comprehensive agenda, and become a larger movement for social and political transformation in the US (as I wrote about in my recent essay, “9/11 truth force”). It concluded about a week later with the consensus, arrived at independently by both friends, that the political change America really needs is impossible under the current circumstances. Only an extreme national crisis will break the media spell that still holds most Americans in thrall, and make change possible.

I was somewhat surprised how similar my friends’ opinions were. But since they mirrored my own—especially about, as one friend put it, the “hidden backroom corporate control that’s taken over the world”—I wasn’t really that surprised. It’s an opinion found all over the blogs, and out in the Zeitgeist. Where I disagreed with my friends was in the appropriate course of action. I wondered if this difference might be a gender thing.

Answering my rhetorical question about how to shovel frogs into a wheelbarrow, they both spoke eloquently about the difficulties of organizing, both at the national and local levels, in a culture as fragmented as America. Their stories sounded quite familiar, suggesting that there is a national core of activists with similar experience and outlook. And both my friends have taken the same path, in light of the circumstances—choosing to work on the issues that mean most to them until the world, of necessity and its own accord, changes.

When one of them expressed some frustration about finding outlets for her writing, I suggested she start a blog. Her reply echoed a feeling I’ve long had about the internet. She said there are already “enough activists talking to each other.” The problem is breaking through to the majority of Americans who still get most of their news from the propaganda arm of the military-industrial complex, the corporate media. She doesn’t find blogging “useful.”

Although there are many arguments to the contrary, on one level she is right, as I myself have previously written. There is already more information (and certainly more opinions) on the web than any one person could possibly read, and is all the information we need to move the country in a progressive direction. What is lacking is a concentrated action component, beyond single-issue and electoral politics, to create that movement. And here is where I disagreed with my friends, and why it might be a gender thing.

Whereas they—with an entirely logical view of the relative hopelessness of the new age of “hope,” the fragmented character of 21st century American consciousness, and the thankless difficulty of grassroots organizing—think we need to wait for a national crisis for the American people to awake, I (in my male way) think that we should already be about the business of creating the butterfly that will emerge (hopefully) when the national cocoon splits open. We should be building a grassroots progressive infrastructure that gives people something to turn to when the top-heavy political and economic institutions collapse, and America needs to rebuild a more decentralized government, and is looking for guidance to chart the future.

My immediate fear is that “the crisis,” in the form of gradual economic implosion, is already upon us. Yet we present no real progressive alternative for people to rally around. If the “liberal” Obama fails, to whom will average Americans turn? This could easily be a recipe for fascism—real fascism, not the smiley-faced kind we have now—coming soon from a tea party near you.

The email conversation presented me with a dilemma. From the very first article I wrote for the internet over five years ago, I have been discussing strategies for organizing a national progressive movement, and the need to rebuild American government from the ground up. For the last seven years, I’ve been part of a nonpartisan and non-ideological local movement here in Hampshire County, West Virginia, to rebuild and decentralize our own county government (a movement recently stopped in its tracks by an Orwellian ruling from a corrupt WV Supreme Court), and writing about that.

It seemed my friend was right. From my experience, what use was blogging?

Around the time of my email conference, I had a lot of extra work around the farm, and my 60th birthday was coming up, so I decided to take a break from the blog and think about why I should continue this seemingly fruitless effort, beyond entertaining my friends, indulging my ego, and contributing yet another offbeat frequency to the white noise of near-infinite cyberspace. Mostly though, I wanted to figure out why there is no national movement (outside some fringe websites and the Green Party) thinking about creating a post-imperial American government, to take the place of our long-lost republic when the Empire finally, inevitably (and perhaps soon) collapses. How could I help to make that happen? What more could I say or do?

A big part of the political problem is Barack Obama. Although a number of my more mainstream liberal friends still want to give him a chance, I think I’ve seen enough. I still admire his many gifts, and totally recognize the difference between a Democratic and a Republican president in how they can affect issues I believe in. I also agree with Glenn Greenwald that the release of the CIA torture memos was an act of courage, and another example of Obama’s strategic brilliance—he had to know that the memos themselves would generate their own momentum. But mostly due to the diminished power of the modern American president (whose sole function in post-democratic America is serving as the mouthpiece-in-chief of the military industrial complex and its corporate sponsors), and his own too cautious and deceptive nature (or is that realism?), I think Barack Obama is personally incapable of delivering a change that I can truly believe in.

It’s not entirely his fault. Because I have lost my faith in this American government, no individual man or woman could ever bring it back—however much “hope” they offer.

But let’s face it: looking at the poll numbers at this point, most Americans—and most progressives—want Obama to succeed. And more importantly, they accept that the paradigm that the corporate media creates is the proper one in which to measure “success.” Most Americans and most progressives believe in their hearts that the Constitution still works, and that the American government is still legitimate. They don’t recognize that six decades of the national security state have turned their beloved Constitution into a piece of trash—“a goddamned piece of paper,” as George W. Bush is reported to have described it. And Obama isn’t treating it much better.

American democracy truly died when the national security establishment murdered John F. Kennedy. And until more people start admitting that to themselves, and wake up from their media-induced hypnosis, we will be trapped in our ever-present downward spiral of Wall Street thievery, environmental destruction, media brainwashing, rampant militarism and random planetary violence, all legitimized by our nostalgic faith in a no longer functioning document.

No matter what single-issue progressive battles we may win, the fact is, we have already lost the war. Real democracy is gone, and won’t ever be recovered on the federal level. Washington is occupied territory, swarming with the enemies of the people.

I enjoyed my break from the blog. The spare time that I usually spend researching and writing, I used instead to practice music and yoga, two other activities I’ve done most of my life that I find just as fulfilling, and that enriched the time around my birthday with the renewed (and comforting) realization that you never reach the end of learning, especially about the cosmic architecture of the human body. But I continued to ponder the question of how to change the American government like a Zen koan.

Towards the end of March, I learned that Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst turned progressive hero, was going to be speaking at Shepherd University, a little over an hour from here, on the subject of holding the Bush administration accountable for torture. I’ve admired him since he first entered the progressive universe some years ago, and since his subject was a perfect illustration of the government’s dysfunction, I decided to go and put my question to him. Figuring it likely that I’d only get one chance to ask, I spent the week formulating the question in my mind.

When I arrived at the lecture hall, I was greeted by a couple of members of the local chapter of Amnesty International, co-sponsors of McGovern’s appearance, who were passing out index cards on which to write questions he would answer after his talk. This was disappointing, because I had to skip some of the nuances in my question, and the prologue, in order to fit it on the card. Here’s (approximately) what I wrote:

“The issue of not holding American officials responsible for the crime of torture is, like single-payer health care or, here in West Virginia, mountaintop removal, a symptom of a deeper problem—the failure of democracy. Here again, the will of the majority [this was before the recent CBS and ABC polls showing 6 in 10 don’t want torture investigated] is thwarted by a corrupt and dysfunctional government. Isn’t it time for the American government to be replaced? Is a Constitution written for a pre-industrial society of 3 million citizens adequate to govern a post-industrial society of 300 million?”

After returning the question to the Amnesty people (and making sure they could read my handwriting), I went to use the restroom. When I washed my hands, I recognized the guy who was using the sink area to sort out papers. It was Ray McGovern.

If I’d had my wits about me, I would have asked him if this was the best the university could do for a Green Room; but instead, I just kidded him about his last-minute preparations for the talk. He smiled and introduced himself, and I introduced myself, and just to make conversation, I told him I was sorry I didn’t have space on the card for the prologue to my question, and he said, “Well, why don’t you just give it to me now?”

So I said, “Okay, here it is: besides our gray hair, you and I have several other things in common. We’re both veterans; we both worked for the CIA; and we both want a new investigation of 9/11. The latter two characteristics we share with former CIA agent Robert Baer.” With a broadening smile, he nodded and said, “Yes, yes,” when I came to the part about Baer, and then I gave him a thumbnail version of my question, which seemed to intrigue him. He said he’d give it some thought, and would answer after the talk. We chatted briefly (though I never got around to telling him that my job at the CIA was as a part-time, low-level clerk and manual laborer while I was in high school) and then I excused myself to go get a seat.

It was easy to see why McGovern was a popular briefer at the CIA. He has an Irish storyteller’s flair, and a kind of leprechaun persona that allows him to mimic the identities of the subjects of his stories and jokes. At the same time, his argument was well organized (and laid out in his recent articles on torture) and he was able to convey the serious nature of the crimes and the depth of his own outrage. He also possesses a spiritual calm and sense of compassion I’ve seen before in those who have, in whatever form, seen “the light.”

The audience of about 100 people was about two-thirds students, and one-third baby boomer progressives. After the talk, most of the students, who’d been assigned the lecture, got up and left, leaving us old folks to hang around for the questions. Mine came up about third. He stumbled a few times on the barely legible handwriting. When he came to the end, he said, “This is a good question.”

I wish I had been taking notes, because I don’t want to mischaracterize his answer. But he essentially said that, even though he has serious problems with the way the government currently operates, he won’t give up on the Constitution. Like many liberals and progressives, he sees the Constitution as our only protection against the wealthy and powerful, the last refuge of the rule of law and people power against the corporate state.

In all honesty, I wasn’t surprised at his answer—because it is the mainstream progressive consensus. Most of those who have publicly challenged the Bush administration’s practice of torture have done so in defense of both international law and the US Constitution. And there is a very legitimate concern among progressives that opening up the Constitution to changes at this time, especially in an Article V Convention, will only open a Pandora’s Box of corporate-friendly delegates stripping away what few protections individual liberty and the public good have left—a concern I wholeheartedly share.

I was more interested in how he answered a couple other questions. When asked, “Was 9/11 an inside job?” he went on at great length in defense of the 9/11 truth movement, and several times emphasized the importance of a new investigation. He was vague about his own view of what happened on 9/11, except to say that he doesn’t go as far as David Ray Griffin, with whose work he seemed quite familiar. (Wanting to avoid the stereotype of the irrational truther, I resisted the urge to call out, “What about the physical evidence?” A week later, the peer-reviewed Open Chemical Physics Journal published an article conclusively proving the existence of a high-tech military-grade nanothermite explosive in the dust of the World Trade Center. I regret my reluctance to speak.)

McGovern’s other answer that interested me came in response to an audience member who expressed his doubt that there would be any meaningful prosecution of the torture perpetrators. McGovern grimly replied that he shared the questioner’s doubts—which struck me as ironic confirmation of my question’s premise of constitutional dysfunction.

When the talk was over, I told him I was disappointed in his answer, because I think the Constitution has, unfortunately, failed. We agreed to disagree. I recommended, in support of my opinion, that he read the book I was carrying, “Democracy, Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”

Author Sheldon Wolin, a political science professor emeritus at Princeton, attributes American-style totalitarianism to a “schizoid condition” in the American public, found, for example, in the now-rebranded Global War on Terror, “a war without mobilization, a war where the citizenry is a potential target but not a participant.” The public’s schizoid condition, he continues, “…is strangely reproduced in domestic political matters. While the war on terrorism induces feelings of helplessness and a natural tendency to look toward the government, to trust it, the domestic message of distrust of government produces alienation from government. The people are not transformed into a manipulable mass shouting “Sieg Heil.” Instead they are discouraged, inclined to abdicate a political role, yet paradoxically trusting of their ‘wartime’ leaders.

“The domestic message says that the citizenry should distrust its own elected government, thereby denying themselves the very instrument that democracy is supposed to make available to them. A democracy that is persuaded to distrust itself, that applauds the rhetoric of ‘get government off your backs,’ ‘it’s your money being wasted,’ and ‘you should decide how to spend it,’ renounces the means of its own efficacy in favor of a laissez-faire politics, an antiegalitarian politics, where, as in the market, the stronger powers prevail. What is revealed or, rather, confirmed is that the consummated union of corporate power and governmental power heralds the American version of a total system.”

Fascism: the union of state and corporate power. That is, our present de facto system of government: a corporately “managed” democracy. Not the real thing.

McGovern said he’d check out the book. And speaking of books, I thanked him for recommending (in his recent article, “Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President”) the book, “JFK and the Unspeakable,” by Jim Douglas, which I’d been intending to read for months. He asked, “Have you read it?” I said, “Not yet, but I mean to” (I finished it last week), and he vigorously encouraged me to read it. Since the central thesis of the book is the CIA’s role as assassin—on behalf of the national security state—in Kennedy’s murder, I took it as a serious recommendation coming from a patriotic CIA veteran like McGovern. But again, I was struck by the irony—he knows that Dallas was the coup d’etat that turned the Constitution into a moot point.

While looking over my library last week, I came across my autographed copy of “Shadows of Hope: A Freethinker’s Guide to Politics in the Time of Clinton,” by Sam Smith, the lifelong editor and publisher of The Progressive Review. The inscription reads, “We’ll miss you but know you’ll keep the faith.” Sam and I had been working together for a few years in the early ’90s on local drug policy reform in DC, and I was getting ready to move to West Virginia.

I agreed with Sam politically on pretty much everything but Bill Clinton.

Our allies from the national drug policy reform movement were telling us in meetings that the Clinton campaign people were advising them to keep quiet during the campaign, and after the election they could work together on reform (which, of course, turned out to be a blatant lie). I was convinced at that time that Clinton was a closet progressive (sound familiar?). But Sam was infinitely more skeptical, seeing Clinton as just another corporate tool. As we all know now, Sam turned out to be right—just as he’s been right about Obama.

When I noticed “Shadows of Hope” on the bookshelf, I had a small epiphany about how the Democrats have substituted “hope” for genuine populism in their presidential campaigns—Clinton as much as Obama. “Hope” is all they have to offer, really, because—as we now know, after the first hundred days of Obama—they are proscribed by circumstances from ever offering any real “change.”

At this point, I’d like to confess that I may have something to do with the Democrats’ marketing of “hope.” What I’m about to tell you has never appeared in print before, although I told a few friends about it at the time (I don’t remember if I ever told Sam). But here’s the story:

After Clinton was nominated in August 1992, there were a lot of articles in the media about how open the Clinton campaign was to ideas from the grassroots. So I decided to contribute an idea. Then-president George Bush (it’s like a nightmare that never goes away, isn’t it?) was running for re-election on his foreign policy credentials, especially his Gulf War victory and the collapse of the Soviet Union. I wrote a memo that I delivered to Frank Greer, who was advising Clinton, by dropping it off with the receptionist at Greer’s office off Pennsylvania Avenue. The memo suggested that Al Gore (who, as a senator, had more foreign policy chops than the governor of Arkansas) start questioning Bush’s “success,” especially in light of the corruption that was emerging in Russia, and Saddam Hussein’s unimpeded slaughter of the Shiites in southern Iraq at the end of the Gulf War.

The last paragraph of the memo begins: “This is a campaign of hope against fear…”

Since I was a known radical around DC at the time, I told Greer in my cover letter that it would probably be better if I stayed anonymous. So I wasn’t surprised that I never heard from him. But the weekend after I dropped off the memo, both the Washington Post and the New York Times mentioned that Clinton’s stump speech had a “new ending,” featuring the phrase, “hope against fear”—which, as I recall, the Times even used as a pull quote. The campaign had changed other language in my sentence, but kept the rhetorical triplet construction. And shortly thereafter, Gore started getting more aggressive about Bush’s foreign policy.

Pleased with my success, I sent the campaign another, shorter memo about a month later, via the same route, with some tactical suggestions. They appeared to implement just about everything I suggested, but I still never heard back from anybody, which was fine with me. My band played at the Montgomery County MD Democrats’ Clinton Inaugural Ball—probably my greatest moment of happiness with our “two-party” political system.

There are a couple of reasons, besides the remarkable synchronicity, that I think I may have contributed the phrase “hope against fear” to Clinton’s stump speech (and almost two decades later, Obama still uses the same phrase). The first is that the natural opposite of “hope” is “despair,” not “fear.” It’s not that you don’t see “hope” and “fear” rhetorically paired (especially since 1992), but it was theretofore a relatively unusual juxtaposition of terms, and suspiciously coincidental that Clinton started using it just a few days after I sent the memo.

The second reason is more subjective: it’s one of the odder patterns in my life that I have been the sometimes anonymous contributor of memes to public consciousness. This incident fits that pattern. For example, the slogan, “The war on drugs is a war on people,” is the title I gave to a pamphlet I wrote in 1989 for the National Pledge of Resistance, who distributed it widely. I still hear that expression verbatim on the radio from the mouth of an occasional talkshow caller. The first use of the slogan “No blood for oil” in the Gulf War that I am aware of (it had been used in an earlier Middle East crisis), was to accompany my cover art for the September 1990 Washington Peace Letter (a drawing of leaking oil barrels emblazoned with a skull and crossbones) which was reproduced on a button distributed nationally by progressive propagandists Donnelly Colt. (I actually wanted the button’s caption to be a question, “Blood or oil?” But I was wisely overruled by the ever-militant Lisa Fithian, a brilliant woman who was then coordinator of the Washington Peace Center, and who later went on to national renown as a strategist for Justice for Janitors. She insisted on “No blood for oil.”)

Additionally, it seems to me that out-of-the-mainstream theorizing became ever-so-slightly more respectable when my first internet article, “Paranoid shift,” was republished at the top of Tikkun’s homepage, under the headline, “George Bush’s conspiracy.” The term “Charlie Brown Democrats” gained popularity after it appeared in my 2004 essay, “21st Century American Revolution.” And more recently, the theory advanced in my article, “Obama and 9/11”—that Obama’s personal awareness that the CIA killed Jack Kennedy colors his presidential decision-making—has already become conventional wisdom at a number of blogs.

Yet for all the small influence I’ve been able to exercise (for what it’s worth) with my writing and meme-planting, I have been frustrated in the extreme that no one seems to have taken up my call for a new Constitution—a persistent theme in my essays over the past decade. This leads me to the sad conclusion that I just haven’t made the case. And neither, apparently, has anyone else.

I can only conclude that a subject of this magnitude requires a book-length treatment to be considered seriously—perhaps the book that I have started and abandoned (for various reasons, none particularly good) so many times over the years, about why we need a new Constitution, and how we get there.

Accordingly, I’ve decided, for the immediate future, to quit writing the blog on a regular basis, in order to put my writing time and energy into finally finishing that book, and making the case I think needs to be made. I may pop up at the blog on occasion, when I’m feeling particularly outraged, or need to express a sense of impending peril. But for the next six months, at least, I’ll be working on organizing my collected thoughts and research on the subject of a new Constitution into a readable book form.

So why do we need a new Constitution?

If the generation of Americans who formed our Constitution were transported through time to the early 21st century, Federalist and Antifederalist alike would be horrified at the government their work had wrought.

Instead of a federation of independent states, where power arises from local political machines, and political independence is based on the economic independence of citizens, ninety percent of whom are self-employed farmers, merchants and artisans (as they were in 1790), the founding generation would see a massively centralized federal empire, its standing armies spread across the globe—a government with little decent respect for the opinions of humankind; a government where power flows from the top and every president is, as Bob Woodward says, “surrounded by a phalanx of CEOs,” and where ninety percent of American citizens toil in debt slavery for corporate masters, to slake the greed of the power elite.

Even the Antifederalists would be shocked at how their warnings about the evils of centralized power have been so fully realized.

They would see a government presently scrambling to rescue the preceding administration from answering to the rule of law and to the precepts of the Constitution and international treaties, the sovereign law of the land. A government continuing the Bush Doctrine of military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, and including in its cabinet a held-over Secretary of Defense who has served as a Bush family operative in many intelligence and defense capacities over the years, including as CIA director. A government answering to the same finance, energy and defense interests that every administration since JFK has loyally served. A government that, in all ways, unites corporate and state interests.

The founding generation would be hard pressed to explain how their intricate system of checks and balances could be so easily packaged and sold off to the highest bidder. They’d be scratching their heads over a judiciary branch that entertains the absurdity that a corporation—a dangerous entity that needs strict control (Thomas Jefferson wanted a constitutional amendment to that effect)—should have the same rights as a “person;” or that the Bill of Rights has so little relevance to post-9/11 America. They’d be flummoxed that the government has expanded in such a way that the legislative branch would include a Senate where a minority of the US population would control a majority of the votes, and a Representative would have more than 22 times the number of constituents stipulated in Article I (30,000, because the Framers thought 40,000 was too many). In other words, every citizen has less than 5 percent of the representation in Congress the Framers intended.

The nation’s founders would be most disturbed, however, by the change in character of the executive branch, and by the imperial nature of the 21st-century presidency. A president who has assumed legislative power, in the declaration of pre-emptive wars—where the intelligence has been “fixed” to suit the policy—and judicial power, in affixing “signing statements” that give the executive’s interpretation of law priority (“If the president does it, it’s legal.”), resembles more the tyrants whose dictatorial power the Framers feared, than the president they modeled on the relatively modest George Washington. They’d be most astonished to hear that two sociopaths, who share the characteristic common to all serial killers of a history of ruthless cruelty to animals, had occupied the offices of president and vice president of the United States.

On the other hand, it is not surprising that the financial descendants of the colonial aristocracy who wrote the Constitution should have spent the past two centuries consolidating their wealth and power, and frustrating the promise—widely held throughout early America, as Alexis de Tocqueville discovered—that political equality would eventually yield, as a natural consequence, economic equality.

In “Democracy, Inc.”, Sheldon Wolin gets to the root of why popular movements for reform in America are so often frustrated, even with a sympathetic president. He traces it to a strain of elitism inherent in the very notion of “republican” government (echoed today in the right wing talking point that “America is a republic, not a democracy”). Wolin follows the intellectual development of “republicanism” from Machiavelli, who never argued “in defense of popular participation, much less of democratization of politics,” but nevertheless “favored the people [rather than aristocrats] as a reliable ‘foundation’ for power principally because they did not demand much,” to the 17th-century English civil wars, where “advocates of republicanism proposed a blend of Machiavellian competence with Puritan notions of an ‘elect’ to produce a new variant of elitism.” It was this elite concept of republicanism that migrated to the New World and, Wolin says, “dominated” the formation of the American republic.

“With the possible (and ambivalent) exception of Jefferson,” he writes, “the American republicans were steadfast critics of democracy. When they decided that it was time to draft a new constitution, they treated as axiomatic that a modern political system had to make concessions to democratic sentiments without conceding governance to ‘the people.’ Accordingly they composed a masterful translation of republicanism that drew a line indicating what was to be allowed and what excluded from the democratic aspirations aroused by the struggle for independence from Britain.

“While they recognized the ‘people’ as a political presence, they proceeded to dilute the potential of democratic power by constraints intended to filter out any grand schemes. An elaborate system of checks and balances, separation of powers, an Electoral College to select the president, and, later, judicial review were designed to make it next to impossible for popular majorities to institute policies actually in the interests of the majority…The framers of the Constitution were the first founders of modern managed democracy.”

The reason corporations have taken over the people’s government? It’s in our national DNA.

There have been brief flurries of popular democracy throughout American history—the Jackson era, the Populists and Progressives, the New Deal, the Sixties—but the steady trend has been the concentration of wealth and power. As historian Michael Lind has observed, Progressives made a devil’s bargain a century ago when they agreed to the growth of the federal government as a check on Big Business, rather than checking the power of corporations at that early stage by more strictly regulating monopolies. Twentieth-century American history is thus a story of continuing centralization of power, and the rise of what sociologist C. Wright Mills called “the power elite”—the omega to the Framer’s alpha. The counter-revolution. The overseers of the present American empire, the fallen republic turned “managed democracy.”

In response, it is our duty, as citizens, to move onto the next phase of democratic evolution, and exercise the franchise opened to us in the Declaration of Independence, and change our government.

We have been left the means to get there, in Article V of the Constitution. But unfortunately, there’s a hitch, as Wolin notes further into his discussion of the nation’s founders: “The republicans assembled at Philadelphia demonstrated their grasp of how, in a popular government, the electoral system could be stacked so as to prevent its being used to promote a populist agenda, and nowhere more clearly than in the provision governing the most crucial power a democracy can have, the power to change its constitution. Article V stipulated that an extraordinary majority was required for constitutional amendments: a two-thirds vote of both houses and ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures or by three-fourths of special state conventions. That naked empowering of minorities amounted to a subversion of the Constitution’s grandly democratic preamble, “We, the People of the United States…do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

Changing the Constitution is obviously an enormous challenge. Yet I can’t think of another time in my fairly long life when there has been such a palpable yearning among the public, across the political spectrum, for some kind of political breakthrough that will rescue the American people from the seemingly inevitable and unconquerable tyranny of corporate power. But although serious people like William Greider and David Korten are talking about restructuring the economy, I don’t see anyone in the progressive arena (at least on my radar screen) talking about restructuring the government in a fundamental way. It’s a discussion that needs to happen, and soon.

So what would a restructured American government look like? I think there has been a progressive consensus about that for quite some time. There are a lot of ideas in Sam Smith’s book, “Shadows of Hope.” The central argument that Sam and other progressives have been making for decades is that governmental power should be decentralized, and both politics and economics should be more locally based. In one final theft from Sheldon Wolin, let me quote what he says in his concluding chapter:

“Democratic political consciousness…is most likely to be nurtured in local, small-scale settings, where both the negative consequences of political powerlessness and the positive possibilities of political involvement seem most evident. Further, a vital local democracy can help to bridge the inevitable distance between representative government and its constituencies. There is a genuinely valuable contribution which democracy can make to national politics, but it is dependent on a politics that is rooted locally, experienced daily, and practiced regularly, not just mobilized spasmodically.”

A new Constitution should embody the principle that government is rooted in the people. The only way to get to that new Constitution is to start generating ideas about what a reborn America will look like, and to have a national discussion about it, just as the post-revolutionary generation of Americans did.

Of course, I have my own ideas about what to include, that I’ll be developing in my book. But just to get the discussion started, I’ll give you a quick sketch.

The Constitution, you will recall, was written to replace Articles of Confederation whose relative freedom threatened the fortunes of the new nation’s elite. I think America needs to return to the original vision of a confederation of states. The federal government should provide policy guidance and oversight, but the central engine of government should be the state.

Like Benjamin Franklin and other early American fans of the Iriquois Confederacy, I also think the federal legislature should be unicameral, which would be more democratic. A House of Lords—our present Senate—only institutionalizes the notion of elitism. The federal legislature could have one representative per half-million constituents, elected by state. This body would not be much larger than the current House of Representatives, but each citizen would have both more representation (a current representative has about 680,000 constituents) and more voice in the process, because there would only be one legislative house.

Since the primary function of the federal government will be policy and oversight, the executive branch can be replaced by a prime minister and a legislative committee system to oversee a vastly reduced bureaucracy, appointed by the legislature, whose responsibilities would essentially be coordinating and auditing state government functions—especially those under federal jurisdiction, like the environment and national defense. The legislature would also appoint a federal judiciary to decide on legal issues between states.

State governments would be modeled on the federal government, as a confederation of counties with a unicameral legislature. Administration of government would primarily take place at the county level. The states would be responsible for organizing state militias, and ensuring that state resources are distributed fairly. Taxing power would be shared by the state and counties. Every county should be self-sustaining in both their food and energy needs, to guarantee economic, and thus political independence.

Obviously, there are many points to be made about each of the proposals I’ve raised here, that I’ll save for the book. But I wanted to illustrate the range of potential for real governmental change that is open to us, if we will only open our minds to the possibility.

So how do we get there?

This returns me to the opening conversation in this essay, between me and my two friends whom I’ve never really met.

The problem of progressive politics is the problem of American society at large: it is fragmented and based in a culture of deceit and virtual reality. For example, as a 9/11 truther, I think progressives like David Corn, Norman Solomon, and Noam Chomsky, among others, owe me an apology. On my side of the argument, I’ve got a peer-reviewed scientific article in the Open Chemical Physics Journal, with astounding electron microscope photographs, which proves the existence of cutting-edge military grade explosives in the World Trade Center. They’ve got the Bush Incompetence Theory.

There’s no argument.

Yet a tour through the progressive blogosphere finds that most on the left still live in the false paradigm that 19 lucky Arabs forced the American empire to institute a virtual police state and initiate needless wars purely in response to the 9/11 “blowback” from imperial foreign policy. There are occasional whisperings that Khalid Sheik Mohamed, the so-called “mastermind” of 9/11, was tortured to elicit false testimony. But rarely is the next logical question ventured, even in the firestorm of controversy around the “torture memos.” If KSM testified falsely, what really did happen on 9/11?

The biggest political problem we face today is that democracy is predicated on an informed public. By contrast, despite (or because of) an information glut, the American public is generally uninformed, disinformed and misinformed. We have a corporate media system so tightly controlled that the only appearance outside the internet of the news that scientists have proven that the World Trade Center was brought down by controlled demolition was in Dr. Steven Jones’ hometown paper, the Deseret News. This is a level of media control that Stalin would have killed for. We will have to find alternative means to create an informed public.

What the 9/11 truth movement brings to the table is not only a truth that, once registered, may shock the public out of its cognitive dissonance and into an awareness of its real predicament, but the fact that truthers span the political spectrum. The fact is, where American elites have been particularly successful is in keeping the political left and right at each other’s throats, and thus blind to their common enemies. Even when protesting the same bailouts and bankster protection racket recently, the left and right held separate events, with Bill Greider in the left corner and Glenn Beck in the right. This “divide and conquer” elite strategy must be transcended.

Where the political transformation of America must begin is at the local, I think even at the precinct level. I realize this sounds like a cliché, but it is only through face-to-face community rebuilding that a sense of national purpose can be genuinely shared, and political differences overcome. We may communicate across cyberspace, but the human need for companionship can only be fully realized when verbal and nonverbal communication come together. This will also be the only way to circumvent the surveillance state, the 21st century’s Big Brother. Power does not surrender easily.

The political goal, however, must be the transformation of state governments. The states are the constitutional key to real change in America. Once the states reflect the genuine democratic aspirations of the people, change at the federal level can happen naturally. Of course, state and local governments both currently reflect the massive corruption at the federal level, which inevitably oozes downward. But changing state governments is, I believe, a more realistic and realizable goal than changing the federal government—which, as I said before, at this point seems to me beyond redemption.

I’ve been an idealist all my life. And despite the Democratic Party’s abuse of the term, I still believe in hope, which is pretty much all we’ve got left, politically. Where “fear” is the natural opposite of “hope” is in the annals of humanist psychology. Psychologists recognize that fear of the future prevents the human animal from hoping.

The politics of the national security state and the American empire is the politics of fear. The only way the people can reclaim America, and bring about another “new birth of freedom,” is by turning our hope into the will to change. Once we do that, the process of transformation can begin.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hope and paradox

Being an idealist by nature, I’ve always been a sucker for hope. The idealism is pretty tarnished by now—to the point where hope is really all I’ve got left. I certainly no longer have any faith in the institutions where faith should naturally reside, especially in the institutions of government.

So it was with a kind of wary hope that I watched Barack Obama’s speech to the joint session of Congress last night—the non-state of the union. It’s been years since I watched a presidential speech, unable any longer to abide the insult of the illegitimate presence of George W. Bush standing where an actual elected president was constitutionally required. To tell the truth, I found the contrast reassuring.

Despite my misgivings about Obama, who has become the black Bill Clinton that I feared he would before the election, I cannot help but admire the man. He seems to have an amazingly focused intelligence, without Clinton’s psychological baggage, but with the same gift for politics. He’s the first president since JFK who I think I would genuinely enjoy having a beer with—if that’s still the standard by which we’re supposed to judge presidents.

He may also be the best that progressives could have hoped for, under the circumstances of an utterly corrupt political system. I sympathize with the view of my fellow radicals that Democrats and Republicans both work for the same puppetmasters. But after eight years of Bush, I don’t think that anyone can honestly say anymore that there are no differences between the two parties. The old saying is true: the difference is that Democrats think the corporate slaves should be treated humanely, in contrast to the ruthless exploitation that Republicans favor.

That seemed to be the message of the speech last night, as Obama highlighted the most popular components of his stimulus package and budget plans, to raucous standing ovations from the left side of the room. It was hilarious to see the dawning realization in the Republicans’ faces that they were getting punked; and by the end of the speech, they were standing up and applauding themselves, in opportune moments, just so their misanthropic ideology wouldn’t be completely obvious to the viewing audience. Even totalitarians have to cater to public opinion sometimes.

The dilemma for me, as a radical, became clear when Obama was talking about how important it was to save the present economic system. It was ironic, because I found myself in the same situation as the Republicans, but from the other side (triangulated again!). Here I am watching Franklin Delano Obama trying to save a capitalist system whose priorities are ravaging the Earth (I cringed when I heard him say “clean coal”) and inflicting untold suffering upon humanity (e.g. Afghanistan), and probably needs to crash and burn before the phoenix of a better system can rise from its ashes. Yet I also know full well that the impending collapse of the present system is already causing many people to suffer even more all over the world, and could easily lead to global chaos and a more militant fascism than what we already experience.

I suppose this makes me a gradualist. I’m not Rush Limbaugh; I don’t want Obama to fail. Yet at the same time, I don’t want him to completely succeed, either. I want him to be the pragmatist that he says he is, and come to the realization that the “change” he’s offering is not enough of a change to meet humanity’s real needs.

But of that, I have little hope.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

9/11 "truth force"

One of the central elements of Mahatma Gandhi’s strategy to free the Indian people from British colonialism was what he called “satyagraha,” a Sanskrit word that is most often translated as “truth force.” What he meant by this was that those who seek justice should embody the truth in their actions.

The strongest element in the campaign for 9/11 truth is the very fact that we have truth on our side (and however “9/11 truth” became the consensus slogan of the movement, it was brilliant marketing). Seven years of independent research and investigation by thousands of concerned patriots, expert and amateur alike, have turned up enough evidence to make the official story of what happened on September 11, 2001, look highly implausible—and prosecutable.

Up to this point, most of the efforts of the 9/11 truth movement have been geared to educating the general public about the facts that refute the official story—the mysterious inaction of the US military; the inscrutable behavior of the chain of command, from Bush on down; the weird “coincidences” in both airline and World Trade Center security; the unexplained global stock trades on companies affected by the attacks; the deliberate confusion of US intelligence; the official attempts to hide the truth, from destroyed video and audio tapes, to manipulation of data in government reports, to profligate use of the “state secrets” privilege; and perhaps most important, the physical evidence, now in the hands of independent scientists, of controlled demolition of the World Trade Center.

It seems to me that 9/11 truth has reached a certain point of saturation in the information environment. The Internet has all the sites one could wish for to find all the information you would need to make the case for 9/11 truth. The Journal of 9/11 Studies, WTC7research, and other sites provide the scientific background. has the authoritative expertise on other aspects of the case, backed up by at least hundreds of other sites (covering the whole spectrum of credibility). Patriotsquestion911, together with all the professional organizations for 9/11 truth, from architects to whistleblowers (and most recently, religious leaders) give 9/11 truth a necessary respectability among elites. 911blogger and others provide the latest news and grassroots networking capability.

(I don’t intend to slight anyone with this list. These are sites to which I’ve gravitated, personally, based on my individual understanding, whose possible imperfection I freely grant.)

Where the truth of 9/11 has trouble, as “truthers” (official name of 9/11 truth advocates, as certified by the New York Times) are exquisitely aware, is penetrating the corporate mainstream media, from which the vast majority of Americans still get their “news.” As most truthers are also aware, however, the corporate media—which many of us refer to as the Matrix—essentially function as the psychological operations arm of the Empire (the global power elite), and thus cannot be expected to cooperate in their own demise. This is where truthers have the advantage over mainstream American progressives, who seem constantly frustrated and bamboozled by the fact that media are not delivering on the expectation of the nation’s founders that the press would serve as a watchdog over government. Truthers know that 21st century media and government serve the same masters; most progressives still want to believe that the press is “free.”

Regardless of the virtual corporate media blackout of 9/11 truth, however, a substantial number of Americans have serious doubts about the official story. Zogby and Harris polls found that about four in ten think the Bush administration was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. About seven in ten think that, whatever the truth of 9/11, the government is hiding information about what happened. The 9/11 truth movement, in films, articles, pamphlets and grassroots street demonstrations, has succeeded in raising enough doubts about the official story to wound the Empire, which has begun striking back A film reviewer in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times wrote last month that 9/11 truth (which he called “counter-knowledge”) could turn out to be a bigger threat to global monopoly capitalism (which he called “liberal democracy”) than “the authoritarian onslaughts of Stalin and Hitler.”

As a truther, I take that as a compliment.

I’ve been writing about 9/11 truth since shortly after the attacks happened—at first, in my regular weekly column in the Hampshire Review, which is published in one of the reddest counties in the red state of West Virginia (and where, as you might imagine, I was often derided, until I quit the paper in early 2003, as a “conspiracy theorist”); and for the past five years as a contributing writer for Online Journal. My writings have appeared at dozens of websites (both “conspiracy” sites and progressive/alternative sites like Common Dreams and Buzzflash), and I still write occasionally for mainstream media (most recently last month, in the Charleston (WV) Gazette).

For my whole adult life, I have also been a political activist working on peace and social justice issues. I have organized at the local, state and national levels. I have dealt with mayors, city and county councils, state legislators, members of Congress, and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. I have canvassed, petitioned, phone-banked, licked envelopes, edited newsletters, chaired committees and meetings, marched, carried signs, organized demonstrations, served as a demonstration “peacekeeper” and nonviolence trainer, spoken to crowds, been interviewed on local and national television and radio, drafted state law and official resolutions, sued the West Virginia legislature, and once was arrested, tried and convicted for praying in the rotunda of the US Capitol—a conviction overturned by a full US Court of Appeals.

I present these “credentials” not as a boast, but as a “letter of introduction” to a 9/11 truth community who may wonder why someone who has not been particularly associated with 9/11 truth activism would presume to suggest a political strategy for the movement—which is the purpose of this essay.

Any strategic assessment of the 9/11 truth movement must begin with where we are today, in the context of a global world order which obviously, after seven years, doesn’t want the truth revealed. At this point, it seems to me, the movement has been successfully marginalized by the US political establishment, cordoned off into one of the single-issue ghettoes that keep any mass movement for fundamental change in American politics from coalescing. In this respect, it is similar to the movements for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the movement for a single-payer health care program, or most especially, the decades-long effort to reveal the truth about the JFK assassination, which—no matter how many facts continue to come out, as more government documents are declassified—cannot escape the taint of being “ancient history,” and thus of no real relevance to average Americans.

The genius of 21st century American fascism (sometimes known as “neototalitarianism”) is that, by allowing dissidents to say anything they want on the Internet and in small-circulation publications (and only rarely in corporate media), the illusion of political “freedom” is maintained in the minds of the American majority, who thus have little awareness of the degree to which their fundamental rights have been curtailed. So they can watch their jobs being shipped overseas, and know that they are being blatantly and regularly lied to by government and business, and even have their hard-earned tax money transparently extorted by the trillions, yet still retain their faith (or “hope,” in the present case) in the basic integrity of the American political system.

Americans are politically paralyzed by both cognitive dissonance and by what psychologists call “learned helplessness,” the result of years of having one outrage after another foisted upon them, without there ever being any real accountability. So, as many truthers have discovered, the most common reactions of average Americans, when presented with the facts of 9/11, are either, “My government would never do that,” or, “Okay…but what can anybody do about it?”

A good question. The usual answer, and the rallying cry for the 9/11 truth movement, has been the demand for a new, independent investigation. But is this enough?

What virtually all the movements for progressive change in America and the world have in common is a common enemy: a global power elite (numbering in the thousands, perhaps—a tiny fragment of humanity’s billions) with neototalitarian systems of government acting as frontmen, and working in league with a vast underworld nexus, operating outside any concept of law. Both communism and capitalism are obsolete, left back in the 20th century. We live, for the first time in human history, under a system of global fascism—the natural end state of capitalism, as George Orwell predicted.

It’s also the Brave New World Order that Aldous Huxley envisioned. The mass populations of the post-industrial world are kept entranced not only by Prozac and other widely-consumed drugs (both legal and illegal), but by an imperial “bread and circus” so hypnotic that people spend their entire non-working lives interacting with its technology, mindlessly munching on genetically-modified snacks. The next time you want to start a revolution, try walking around the aisles of Walmart and evaluating your fellow working class insurgents. You’ll notice they’ve gotten a little flabby. I often say, if the Roman Empire had television, we’d all be speaking Latin.

So, as any progressive activist working today knows, these are the biggest challenges we face: global fascism and a barely conscious public. In light of that, I ask again: should the demand for a new investigation of 9/11 be the ultimate strategic goal of the 9/11 truth movement? Or should that demand be seen as a necessary first step toward a broader strategic goal of transforming a global system of government that manufactures endless 9/11s, in its efforts to retain power among an existing power elite (who may fight among themselves, but nevertheless work together to preserve the structure of the present global economic order)?

The reason I ask this question is, the goals of a movement should determine its strategy.

If the goal of the movement is a new, independent investigation, we’re already moving in the right direction. Public awareness of the inadequacy of the 9/11 Commission report is building—similar to the eventual public conclusions about the Warren Commission’s investigation of the JFK assassination, but helped along in this case by the doubts expressed by the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission themselves, by revelations in recent years about information withheld from the commission, and even by “limited hangouts” in the corporate media, like Philip Shenon’s book about the commission’s internal dynamics. A few days ago, a column appeared in the mainstream blog, Huffington Post, calling for a new investigation, and even raising questions usually seen only on 9/11 truth sites. Most importantly, perhaps, we have a new president who, early in his candidacy, expressed his support for a new investigation (see the second part of my essay, “Obama and 9/11,” for details).

Where efforts have been lacking, from what I’ve observed, are in the courts and in legislative bodies. On the judicial side, this has less to do with the activities of victims’ families and other activists than it does with judges who have used “national security” as an excuse to keep government secrets hidden. You cannot eliminate the possibility of corruption or threats to personal safety being the underpinning of at least some of these decisions, but whatever the reason, the pattern is one of general obstruction in the judiciary.

On the legislative side, although there have been a few profiles in courage at both the national and state levels, there hasn’t been much activity. In the Congress, GOP Representative Ron Paul and Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich have been most closely associated with 9/11 truth, but both have stepped back from their initial statements on the subject. Once again here, their behavior suggests an element of coercion—which would hardly be surprising, in this political environment.

But the failure thus far to achieve significant results in exposing 9/11 truth in either the judicial or legislative arenas (or the corporate media) offers a clue why a new investigation should only be seen as a step toward a broader strategic goal. It’s easy to imagine that a new investigation may prove to be only slightly more satisfying than the 9/11 Commission report, because it will be taking place in the same political context as the last one. Over the past few decades, America has witnessed any number of investigations of its government’s dark side—from the Church Committee’s report on CIA abuses, to hearings on BCCI and Iran/contra, to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s never-to-be-completed report on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction—that slaked the public’s thirst for action without ever getting any real accountability. And there are plenty of secrets about 9/11 that can be exposed without revealing the underlying rot.

What makes a new investigation problematic, under the present circumstances, is the same thing that makes the truth of 9/11 so difficult for many people to accept: if the consensus position of the movement—that the US government conspired to stage false flag attacks on the American homeland, and that fact is being covered up by a complicit mass media—is true, then America can no longer be considered a democratic republic capable of self-investigation. The institutions of government are simply too corrupt.

This is a truly frightening thought. I think that even many truthers are in denial about the depth of corruption in American government, because it threatens the very foundations—political, economic, social and even psychological—on which most of us have built our lives. When we accept the truth of 9/11, we see clearly the enormity of the challenge we face to return our nation and world to a society based on principles of justice. It is daunting.

So I think, in order to be ultimately successful in its goal of exposing the truth of the 9/11 attacks to a skeptical American public, and having those facts accepted, the movement will have to address the underlying primal fear that 9/11 truth will, by definition, raise—the fear that the institutions by which we order our public lives are no longer valid, and the constitutional dream of democracy has become a totalitarian nightmare. It is a fear that bubbles not far from society’s surface, and is getting more difficult for the power elite to contain.

As is often said, 9/11 truth is the key that can unlock the chains that bind us to a world order that has condemned humanity to a future of exploitation, suffering and mass violence (not to mention environmental catastrophe). We thus have in our possession what may be the missing link that can bind the multiple movements for peace, social and environmental justice, human rights, and a thousand other issues that have labored separately toward what is in reality a common goal.

So my suggestion is that the 9/11 truth movement expand its focus beyond the immediate near-term goal of a new investigation, to the broader strategic goal of working to build a new global society, to transform America and the world. By expanding our strategic vision—while at the same time keeping a focus on 9/11 truth—we will open ourselves to collaboration and cooperation with the millions of other people who are increasingly aware that there is a cancer at the heart of the world’s political economy that must be removed if humanity is to survive. We are, by the very nature of our movement, radicals. And the world needs a radical change.

We can be that change, as Gandhi suggested, by fully accepting the meaning of 9/11 truth and becoming a global “truth force.” And with luck, perseverance, commitment, and faith in our fellow human beings, perhaps the truth will indeed set us free.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Holding pattern

The past week has been extremely busy for me, and I'm still working on the next magnum opus--which, by the way, no longer has the title "9/11 truth revolution." Someone reminded me after I posted that there is a specific group with that name, and my essay is directed at the strategy of the movement as a whole. I hope to finish it this weekend.

Sorry about any confusion, and thanks for your patience.

Friday, February 6, 2009


It’s been extremely interesting to monitor the paths of both parts of “Obama and 9/11” as they wormed their way around the internet over the past week. In the process, I discovered that if you google “michael hasty holy earth,” you can get access to the whole collection of columns I wrote for the Highlands Voice, the monthly newsletter of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, at the turn of the millennium.

As you can imagine, most of the columns have an environmental theme, but fellow radicals (pantheist and otherwise) might enjoy “Potemkin democracy,” (February 2000) which also discusses the work of the sociologist C. Wright Mills, author of “The Power Elite.” It may also be the first time I used the word “fascism” to define the American system of government. Well…maybe not.

At any rate, I hope you’ll find these diversions entertaining until I’m back in a few days with my next piece, “9/11 Truth Revolution.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Heartbreaking news

It may be in the Hampshire Review this morning, but there is some sad, though hardly unexpected, news about the lawsuit that the Committee to Reform Hampshire County Government brought against the West Virginia legislature (in which I am a plaintiff).

The battle is over, seven years after we began the campaign to change our county government, as the WV Constitution allows local citizens to do, in Article IX, Section 13. Last week, the WV Supreme Court voted 3-2 to decline our petition to rehear the case, which they had decided on December 12, 2008, in favor of the legislature, reversing three separate circuit court decisions in favor of us, the plaintiffs. It was a “political” ruling, which you can read more about in my posts, “Reflections on a lawsuit” (9/29/08), and “Supreme Court injustice” (1/26/09). You can read all the legal documents in the case at the Historic Hampshire website (

It’s ironic, because the two newest justices on the court, Margaret Workman and Menis Ketchum, voted to rehear the case. If it were not for the grave illness of the court’s other “liberal” member, which kept him away from the bench both last week and when the case was heard in October, we may very well have won, and true democracy would still be alive in West Virginia. Article IX, Section 13 is one of the most democratic provisions in any state constitution in the country. This is a major loss for the people of this state.

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I’ve been gratified by the very thoughtful comments that have come in about “Obama and 9/11,” both here and on other sites where it has run. I want to congratulate that sly guy “viddal,” who figured out that what I really wanted to do was send a letter to Obama, and this was just my way of doing it. Your prize is, I answer your question about the quote from the film reviewer.

He is Antony Beevor, who wrote a column in the 1/18/09 London Sunday Times (a Rupert Murdoch publication, I believe) inspired by the 9/11 truth movie, “Loose Change,” in which he spoke of the phenomenon of “counter-knowledge,” which he defined as “the propagation of totally false legends,” and gave as an example, “the 9/11 attack on New York was orchestrated by the Bush administration.”

He went on to write, “Studies of internet sites reveal an unholy alliance between left-wing 9/11 conspiracy theorists, right-wing Holocaust deniers and Islamic fundamentalists.” (And if you extend the logic, that means that truthers are ultimately also in alliance with the CIA. May the circle be unbroken.)

Beevor concludes, “It may sound alarmist when one talks of their attempts to fragment proven reality. Yet the effects of counter-knowledge and pseudo-history might develop a bigger threat to liberal democracy than the authoritarian onslaughts of Stalin and Hitler.”

Gosh, thanks, Mr. Beevor! Especially if by “liberal democracy,” you mean “global fascism,” which—since you’re working for Rupert Murdoch—I think you do.

I wanted to bring attention to one other comment, from Ivan Hecko, whose comment is worth reading in its entirety because he is a disciplined thinker and who, because he lives in Slovakia, knows whereof he speaks when he gives, in his concluding paragraph, “a small final remark concerning the present ‘freedom of the media’ in the US: during the so-called communist regime the censorship of all the media was absolute. Yet the percentage of people who knew what was really going on in the country was much higher than in the US today.”

Munch on that, boys and girls.

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Finally, if the Matrix really gave us the news, the biggest story on every network today would be the interview that George Washington, the indispensable man, published at his blog, with Terrell E. Arnold, former Deputy Director of the Office of Counter-terrorism and Emergency Planning at the US State Department, and former Chairman of the Department of International Studies at the National War College. Arnold thinks that the “collapse” of the World Trade Center violated the laws of physics, among other astonishing things. I found GW at, which also linked to the Online Journal version of “Obama and 9/11 2” yesterday. Thanks, guys.