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. 911Truth.org 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 (www.historichampshire.org/hamphist.htm).

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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 www.911blogger.com, which also linked to the Online Journal version of “Obama and 9/11 2” yesterday. Thanks, guys.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Obama and 9/11 2

Imagine yourself within the mind of Barack Obama, the first African American president of the United States of America. You are a man who knows how “the system” works.

This knowledge has been accrued at hard struggle, and by a remarkable and unique ability to adapt to any environment because you spent a lifetime as an exotic specimen in every environment, from Kansas to Kenya—both African and American, Muslim and Christian, black and white. But you always displayed your native nobility—tribal nobility on your father’s side; nobility of spirit on your mother’s—and you were, with rare exceptions, accepted on your own terms. You were born under the sign of Leo, the lion, the natural leader; and your intelligence was honed with great discipline, under the influence of strong women.

Because your upbringing instilled in you a generosity of spirit that is natural to liberalism, and firsthand understanding from your grandfather of what motivates a man to risk his life for his country and an African father’s sense of freedom, unencumbered by Jim Crow oppression, you are a natural idealist who believes in the promise of America.

But you are also—with laser-focused intensity—a realist. A “pragmatist,” as they say. And no one knows better than you how much danger you are in.

It’s not just the racist crazies, one of whom could always, unexpectedly pop up through some weird quirk in the security system. But that’s only a distant possibility. You know, better than anyone, I suspect, that your greatest danger is what “the system” will do to protect itself, to what lengths it will go to protect itself, if certain lines are crossed. And you know exactly what lines you cannot cross.

Perhaps you didn’t always know this, at least to the degree that you know it now. But you were born in the ‘60s, and grew up with your mother’s hippie sensibilities, and you knew from personal experience that America’s promise wasn’t always delivered, that there are some worms in the apple pie. But you have always been adaptable, and you decided early on to adapt to the political environment, in order to do the work that you felt in your deepest soul called to do. Down the rabbit hole you went.

You would have learned, from the very beginning in Chicago, that what happens on the surface of American politics is usually not as important as what happens on a subterranean level. You learned early on that ex-governor Blagojevich was right, that what he was doing to trade your seat was not intrinsically different from “business” that goes on in every state capital, every single day. You know very well that American government lives on bribery, the true mother’s milk of politics, and that the business of America is most definitely business.

You know that whether anything happens from your “indiscretions” depends on whom you cross. You know the example of Eliot Spitzer, who tried to use the office of New York governor to interrupt the sub-prime Ponzi scheme before some major players had cashed out. We’re all under surveillance—especially politicians. J. Edgar Hoover lives in 21st Century America. You know that.

As an intellectual, you know that it is now said even in polite company like the New Yorker that “everybody” knows that this is a government of, by and for the corporations. Just like Alan Greenspan told us that “everybody” knew Iraq was all about oil. How wouldn’t you know this, Barack, when among the rare handful of documents made public about Dick Cheney’s infamous Energy Task Force (April 2001) were maps of Iraq’s oilfields? It’s well established that Bush instructed his counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke to try to connect the 9/11 attacks to Iraq. Clarke just didn’t want to hear the unspoken command. The wily old bureaucrat.

As a new president, you know firsthand the phenomenon that Bob Woodward described in his first book about the Clinton administration, The Agenda, of how a new president is immediately surrounded by “a phalanx of CEOs.” You know that the informal relationships among those CEOs are more important to what official policies are adopted than whatever is publicly said by the infinitely replaceable spokesmodels of the American political hierarchy—executive, legislative, and judicial. Including you.

You know—as the presidents Roosevelt and Wilson admitted they knew—that behind the American government is a secret government, intertwined with wealth and ancient legacies and the military industrial complex. Eisenhower knew that, too. And you especially know that Abraham Lincoln was far more worried about the bankers behind him than he was about the rebels in front of him.

As an obviously learned scholar of American political science, you know the work of the sociologist C. Wright Mills, who, in the early years of the national security state, defined those who rule America as the “power elite,” who are “in command of the major hierarchies and organizations of modern society. They rule the big corporations. They run the machinery of the state and claim its prerogatives. They direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure.”

You know Mills went on to talk about the centrality of celebrity culture to the power elite’s power, which was “of a consequence not before equaled in human history,” and how this power was concentrated in “the economic, the political and the military domains.” Mills then said, at the dawn of postwar expansion, “As each of these domains becomes enlarged and centralized, the consequences of its activities become greater, and its traffic increases. The decisions of a handful of corporations bear upon military and political as well as upon economic developments around the world. The decisions of the military establishment rest upon and grievously affect political life as well as the very level of economic activity. The decisions made within the political domain determine economic activities and military programs. There is no longer, on the one hand, an economy, and, on the other hand, a political order containing a military establishment unimportant to politics and to money-making. There is a political economy linked, in a thousand ways, with military institutions and decisions.”

Mills agreed with Ike. And, as you know, if you don’t know C. Wright Mills, you don’t know America. Psyops would never let a subversive like Mills get the media platform he got in the ‘50s, today.

When you were on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, you confirmed your analysis that bankers count more than politicians in foreign relations, and you wooed bankers with your practicality and charm, to further your ambitions. Because your beautiful wife is on the board of directors of the Chicago branch of the Council on Foreign Relations, you are aware that if you sit at the intersection of wealth and foreign policy, you can see the currents of the future. You know the connections between Wall Street and the Central Intelligence Agency predate the Agency’s creation, in directors like Allen Dulles and Bill Casey, and that the CIA serves as Wall Street’s Praetorian Guard.

You know that, just as there is a secret government within the US government, there is a CIA within the CIA—still intertwined with ruling class good ol’ boys, and involving the same nexus of oil, drugs, Mafias of every sort, terrorists, arms dealers and Cuban exiles—but more military. More corporate. More 21st century. You know it’s exactly like the high-level CIA insider told the Spytalk blog: Langley is just a Potemkin village of plump middle class bureaucrats, most of whom have no idea of what the fuck is going on, protecting their own little bureaucratic turf, and with the sole purpose of backing up the president’s official story, whatever that may be. As you know very well, that’s not the real CIA.

You know—even if he doesn’t remember it—that George Herbert Walker Bush, the namesake of CIA headquarters, was in Dallas on November 22, 1963, the day Jack Kennedy was murdered.

Now that you’re getting your presidential daily brief, you know it is true that the US government, like many governments, engages in “false flag” terrorist operations, staging terrorist attacks that are then blamed on an enemy, to further foreign policy goals. You know the most famous example of US false flag terrorism was “Operation Gladio,” which was coordinated with NATO allies for decades in postwar Europe. A bomb in a train station in Bologna killed eighty people, and was attributed to Italian leftists. Just about the time you were born, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff offered Kennedy a plan called “Operation Northwoods,” to stage terrorist attacks on American soil and connect them to Fidel Castro, to justify an invasion of Cuba after the failure of the Bay of Pigs. JFK turned them down.

The generals never liked Kennedy. And neither did the organizers of the Bay of Pigs, who despised him for their embarrassment.

You have always wondered, ever since it happened, why the military response on the morning of September 11, 2001 seemed so…confused. You had always heard that the Pentagon was “the most protected building in the world.” You’d think that, a half hour after two airplanes had both struck bull’s eyes on the jihadists’ favorite target, and there were reports of as many as thirteen hijackings in the air, Andrews Air Force Base, right next to DC, might have had something scrambled. Especially since that’s supposed to be one of their missions. And why were so many military and intelligence, and even FEMA exercises scheduled on that very day? What a coincidence!

It’s always interested you that the plane (or whatever it was—Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the Office of Special Plans, went out right after it happened and didn’t see any evidence of a plane) that hit the Pentagon, hit the section that held the records of the missing $2.3 trillion that Secretary Rumsfeld had just reported to Congress the day before. Another amazing coincidence! Just like the coincidence that when World Trade Center Building 7 for some mysterious reason collapsed on the evening of September 11th, twenty minutes after the BBC had reported it had fallen, it took with it the records of the Security and Exchange Commission investigation of those old Bush family friends, the Enron Corporation.

Vladimir Putin wasn’t merely joking when he told a state dinner that the KGB always kept a careful eye on Texas.

You know, because of your familiarity with the relationship between foreign policy and corporate interests, that Enron stood to gain greatly from the oil and natural gas pipelines that would flow from the Caspian region through Afghanistan to the power plant that Dick Cheney was acting as Enron’s rep for in India—if only the Taliban would give the contract to an American corporation, Unocal (represented by Bush mobster and future ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad). The Taliban were escorted around Washington in the summer of 2001 by the niece of a former CIA director, and were essentially given a choice of a “carpet of gold” if they chose Unocal, or a “carpet of bombs” if they stuck with the Argentinians.

No deal had been struck by September 11th.

You always found it strange how your predecessor had just sat there that morning, reading “My Pet Goat” with those kids. Maybe he was struck by some kind of unconscious premonition that someday in the not too distant future, he himself would be a lot of people’s pet goat. But he had to know what was going on. The Secret Service was plugged into the FAA-NORAD loop before the first plane hit the building, which happened before Bush entered the classroom. He is often a good liar, but not when he said his first thought was, “What a terrible pilot.” Please.

You know all about the multiple warnings that were coming in from everywhere. You know that George Tenet and Dick Clarke were running around with their “hair on fire” while George Bush couldn’t be disturbed from his vacation, telling his CIA briefer informing him that bin Laden was “determined to strike in the US” that he had “covered his ass,” and Junior walks off to clear brush (and what fool clears brush in August?). You know from the Moussaoui trial testimony that the FBI got all kinds of warnings that were smothered by supervisors who were later rewarded with bonuses. You know the National Security Agency had all the information anybody needed. You know at least as much as Jersey Girl Patty Casazza knows, that even the FBI knew the date, target and method of the 9/11 attacks.

You know September 11th was no “surprise.”

But what do you do with that knowledge?

You’re trying to do the best you can, and you know you can do a lot of good things. Within limits. And you know what those limits are.

As a patriot, you hate what the Bush mob has done to America, to its reputation and to its sense of identity. As a constitutional lawyer, you are in agony over the gross violations of the Constitution and of every principle that it stands for, over eight years of Bush mob malfeasance. As a human being, you recoil at the Bush mob’s gross violations of all bounds of human decency, and the way the psychopathic brat “president” treated living humans no better than the frogs he used to blow up by sticking firecrackers in their asses, in his backyard pond in Midland, Texas. But you can maybe go after a few Addingtons and even a few Roves, but what else can you really do?

Because you know that the Bush mob acts as the enforcement arm of their patrons, the rulers of 21st century Earth. And you know the Bush mob will do whatever those patrons ask.

September 11th is a “national security” issue. Just as the British film reviewer wrote in the London Sunday Times recently, if the truth of 9/11 gets out, it will essentially destroy the present world order. And the once and future New World Order will not allow that to happen. And it is the duty and responsibility of the President of the United States of America to maintain the national security.

You know that.

You know, just by watching the media in that same careful way of yours, that they can write any story they want. It’s global irregular warfare on a total information battlefield. You know the world has been divided into the fiefdoms of global corporate warlords, like in the movie “Rollerball,” with ever-shifting borders and alliances. You know you may have the left wing of the New World Order behind you, in people like Warren Buffett and George Soros and Ted Turner and the Clintons, and even the left wing of Skull and Bones, because they’re as scared shitless about global warming as you are. But the Bushes have the media, thanks to George Senior, as CIA director, refusing to give the Church Committee the names of hundreds of CIA asset journalists. And they have the military industrial complex, with which they’ve been intermarrying and profiting for generations. And most importantly, in this case, they have the mob—all the mobs. They are the mob.

A chance meeting of a private contractor and an ex-KGB sharpshooter now doing business in the Russian underworld, and you know you’re history. Blamed on some patsy—Muslim, no doubt. Like Sirhan. Assassination? Their stock in trade.

You see Sasha and Malia standing there, beautiful in their photogenic sorrow, like John John and Caroline, iconic emblems of another century of lost hope and disillusioned innocence.

What do you do?

You know, life is funny.

When I started writing this essay, I thought that Barack Obama had to be a 9/11 truther, because he’s too smart not to be, given all the evidence that’s out there, and knowing (at least what the media tells me, which seems authentic in this case, and from his books) that he is a consumer of a broad base of information.

But I didn’t know that Obama was a 9/11 truther until the first part of this essay was posted at 911 Blogger, and commenters replied with some very interesting information. (Just goes to show the value of networking.)

Early in 2007, when then-Senator Obama could still be approached by a couple guys from Student Scholars for 9/11 Truth with a video camera, and asked about re-opening the 9/11 investigation, Obama replied, “I think that we need to investigate a whole range of options, although I have to admit that, some of the issues I understand that you guys have raised, I’m not entirely confident.”

Of course, the most important clause here is, “we need to investigate.” But Obama’s also providing some revealing information about what he already knows. He’s familiar enough with the 9/11 truth material that he can say that he’s not “entirely” confident with “some” of the issues the movement has raised.

For Christ’s sake, neither am I.

More stunning even than the SS911T video, however, was a letter that Obama sent in February 2007 to an Infowars supporter. It’s worth quoting in full:

“Dear Penny,

Thank you for contacting me regarding your belief that the US government was complicit in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. I appreciate hearing your passionate views on this matter.

While I do not believe the US government was complicit in the attacks, I do think it should be held accountable for the unacceptable mistakes it made in the run-up to that terrible day. The blunders that occurred prior to the 2001 attacks were inexcusable and often outrageous. The series of clear warnings about the potential use of hijacked planes as weapons is just one example of why the “surprise” of 9/11 should have been anticipated. In my view, proof of government complicity is not necessary when making the argument that the US should accept some responsibility for what happened on 9/11.

Thank you again for writing.

Barack Obama”

Why would he put the word “surprise” in quotation marks, if he’s not a closet 9/11 truther?

So here’s my take on Barack: I think he’s basically a good guy who wants to do the right thing, but he’s also a pragmatist who has proven beyond measure that he knows how the system works. I think he’s a guy who has chosen to live within the limits set by imperial power, because he knows what that power is capable of when crossed—especially with a guy as popular, and thus dangerous, as Barack Obama. He is a guy who makes compromises with the Empire every day, just like most of the rest of us, including me. He is a guy in an impossible situation. I can’t honestly say that I know what I would do, myself, in his circumstances.

But I also know, based on an excellent portrait drawn of the early Obama by John Nichols in the Nation, that he is, at heart, a progressive who will do the right thing when pushed by the public. So I know that, just like he always says, what Obama does is not as important as what we do. It is our job, as a 9/11 truth movement, to apply the public pressure that will make Obama do what he already wants to do.

He knows, as well as you and I know, that a new, truly independent investigation of September 11th needs to take place. We need to hold him accountable to what he’s already said.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Supreme Court injustice

While I'm working on the second part of "Obama and 9/11," I thought you might enjoy reading an op-ed I wrote for the Charleston Gazette a couple weeks ago, but waited to post until they published it, which they did yesterday in the Sunday opinion section. I've already received an angry email from the West Virginia Association of Counties.

Update: Well, the misunderstanding with the Association of Counties has been resolved. And you can now find the Gazette's edited version of this op-ed, with its headline, "Hampshire's 'quiet revolution'," online at www.wvgazette.com/200901260368. Also, I'm sorry I neglected to mention that all the legal documents in this case can be found at the Historic Hampshire website, www.historichampshire.org/hamphist.htm.

Last month, in its ruling in the case, Committee to Reform Hampshire County Government v. Richard Thompson, Speaker of the WV House of Delegates, and Earl Ray Tomblin, President of the WV Senate, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals essentially repealed one of the most truly democratic provisions found in any state constitution in the United States.

Article IX, Section 13 of the West Virginia Constitution allows the citizens of a county to choose the form of government under which they exercise their local democracy. Under this provision, if ten percent of county voters present a petition to “reform, alter or modify” their county commission, and a majority of the county, voting in a referendum, agrees, the Constitution clearly stipulates that, at that point, “the Legislature shall…reform, alter or modify the county commission…and…create another tribunal.” The word “shall” connotes a mandatory duty.

For most of the state’s history, the Supreme Court upheld the intention of the constitution’s framers to give West Virginia citizens the “indubitable, inalienable and indefeasible right” of self-government at the local level—as it said in its Taylor County Commission v. Spencer decision, which also says, “the Legislature is obliged by the constitution to vindicate the desires and designs of the voters of the county.”

In 2004, for the first time in West Virginia history, the Legislature failed to meet this requirement, after Hampshire County submitted a valid petition. In 2005, when the Legislature again refused to pass a bill enabling county citizens to vote on the proposed reform, several Hampshire County residents (including myself) sued the Legislature in Kanawha County circuit court.

Over the course of three separate hearings, the circuit judge decided in our favor on every point. He ruled that the changes our petition proposed (specifically, electing members of an expanded county council by district) were constitutional; that the Legislature has a constitutional obligation to give county citizens a vote on the proposed reform; and that this obligation extends beyond the Legislature to which the petition is submitted.

When the Supreme Court accepted the Legislature’s appeal in early 2008, I knew we were in trouble. The Legislature’s brief was a how-much-spaghetti-will-stick-to-the-wall mishmash, raising issues that had never been litigated at the circuit level. It was a Hail Mary pass whose arguments were easily deflected in the response from our attorney, WVU constitutional law professor Robert Bastress.

My suspicions about our plight were elevated shortly after the Supreme Court hearing in October, in a conversation with another attorney, a friend who has been a close observer of the WV Supreme Court. He told me that, historically, the Court’s decisions were made either “on principle, or on politics,” and our case would likely fall into the “politics” category, so “don’t get your hopes up.” When I replied that he was probably right, since our chief opponent in the legislative process had been the Association of Counties, he just rolled his eyes and said, “Well, there you go.”

I think this is the key to the hidden subtext behind this five-year struggle for our “indubitable” rights. In all the numerous and absurd arguments the Legislature has made for not fulfilling its constitutional duty, its lawyers have raised questions about the constitutionality of virtually every provision in our petition, with one glaring exception: our petition calls for drastically reducing the salaries of the council members, in order to make the reform revenue-neutral.

Of course the Association of Counties was alarmed. If Hampshire County can reduce official salaries, what’s to stop other counties from doing the same thing?

“Politics,” indeed.

Appropriately enough, the Supreme Court decision to quell what a Shepherd University history professor called “the quiet revolution in Hampshire County” was written by Justice Brent Benjamin, who, as a recent Gazette editorial noted, “has become a national symbol of questionable justice.”

Benjamin’s written opinion is as nonsensical as the Legislature’s appeal, but with an Orwellian twist. It claims to be upholding the Spencer precedent, while it completely overturns the real meaning and spirit of that decision. If this decision holds, the fundamental constitutional right of West Virginia citizens to govern themselves at the county level will be left to the whim of legislators who will never have to answer to the citizens whose rights they deny—as it has been for the past five years.

That is why we have filed a motion for the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision. Perhaps, with two new members on the Court, we can get a decision based on principle instead of politics.

But we still don’t have our hopes up.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama and 9/11

Although I was as happy as most Americans that Barack Obama took the oath of office last week, rather than his Republican alternative, there is a major reason that he did not get my vote in November, which went instead to Cynthia McKinney: Obama is unlikely to re-open an investigation into what really happened on September 11, 2001—an investigation that needs to happen.

According to polls, about four in ten Americans are suspicious that the Bush administration was complicit in the 9/11 attacks—either by deliberately ignoring intelligence that warned an attack was coming and allowing the terrorists to strike, to gain public support for the neoconservative foreign policy agenda of increasing American military power in the Middle East; or by actively coordinating the attacks themselves, for the same reason. As Time magazine, in a rare acknowledgement of the 9/11 truth movement, said: “This is not a fringe phenomenon. It is a mainstream political reality.”

It’s easy to understand, however, why a majority of Americans have such a hard time getting their minds around the idea that their government may have some involvement in such a horrendous crime. Americans are conditioned from an early age to think of themselves as “the good guys,” living in a “democracy”—which, however imperfect, has always been primarily motivated by the desire to advance the core national principle of “freedom,” both at home and abroad. And the actions of the government are closely monitored by a diligent “free press.”

It’s a civics class myth. Yet this myth has the emotional resonance that comes with also being at the heart of what sociologists call America’s “civil religion.” And the myth was especially encouraged among us presently living generations of Americans, the citizens of the post-World War II national security state—although there has obviously been a greater public distrust of government since the Vietnam War and Watergate. The Bush administration brought this distrust to new heights, lying about everything to genocidal effect. But still, many people want to believe that the Bush mob was just too incompetent to have pulled off a sophisticated attack like 9/11 (although non-state actors living in caves in Afghanistan, half a world away, were perfectly capable).

There are many reasons why a political sophisticate like Barack Obama would not want to give too much attention to the unanswered questions of 9/11 (Of the hundreds of questions submitted by the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, whose passionate persistence was ultimately responsible for the creation of the 9/11 Commission, only a small percentage were addressed by the Commission’s report). And there are two basic possible foundations for Obama’s thought on this subject, though his thoughts could range across the spectrum of possibilities between the two poles: that either he accepts the official story of 9/11, or he doesn’t.

Let’s speculate, just for argument’s sake, that Obama’s views are like those of mainstream liberal/progressives on the subject of 9/11 truth. In this view, “conspiracy theories” only serve to distract the public from the systemic rot at the heart of the global capitalist system and of its chief enforcer, the US military-industrial complex. These liberals would like to think that the Bush administration was just too incompetent to pull a complex operation like 9/11 off. And besides, too many people would have to be involved, and somebody would have spilled the beans by now, and the media would be all over it.

Obama could even go as far in his thinking as Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, who have basically said that, even if Bush and Cheney and their henchmen were responsible for 9/11, it would be just another crime to add to a long list of crimes that have, in certain cases, also killed thousands—like the lies that, like a spider’s web, entrapped the American military in Iraq. 9/11 could just be standard operating procedure for the Empire, another “false flag” attack, like the Tonkin Gulf situation in Vietnam, staged to enlist public support for expanded military operations abroad; and a search for 9/11 truth will in the end be as fruitless as the search for the truth of JFK’s assassination. And even if, as with JFK, a majority of Americans come to believe that the US government is the prime suspect, nothing will ever come of this belief.

I’ve had a number of conversations with liberal 9/11 truth skeptics, and my general impression has been that the primary reason they are skeptical of “conspiracy theory” (aside from their fear of ridicule) is that they don’t know very much about the subject.

In the first place, their defense of the official story is built upon the utterly illogical premise that, even though Bush and company have lied about virtually every matter of executive branch responsibility, from science to intelligence to defense contracting to politicization of the Justice Department, on this one issue—9/11—they are telling the truth. How much sense does that make?

And every other point in the “liberal” defense of the official theory (i.e. Arabs in caves outwit stupid Bushies) is subject to serious question. Bush’s incompetence? On the contrary, it could be argued that Bush and Cheney accomplished everything they wanted to while in office. The biggest asset that went into Bush’s so-called “blind trust” when he entered office in 2001 was Exxon stock—a company that has seen world record profits ever since the Iraq invasion. And Halliburton stock has also soared.

The traditional Bush family interests, especially the defense and energy industries, have prospered mightily. A compliant media let Bush and Cheney do whatever they wanted for eight years, whatever the law might say, and are still on full guard, trying to protect them from investigation and prosecution. And Bush, in an Oedipal frenzy, vastly outdid his father’s measly half a trillion dollar savings and loan taxpayer ripoff, with trillions of dollars stolen from generations of taxpayers, and redistributed with unprecedented arrogance directly into the pockets of the wealthiest cronies of the power elite—no questions asked. Bush played his dumb smirking redneck schtick to perfection.

On the other hand, as David Ray Griffin notes in his latest book, The New Pearl Harbor Revisited, Bush’s incompetence, as such, is on ready display in the fact that there are so many glaring holes in the official story—from the lies told by the military and CIA to the 9/11 Commission, so egregious that the co-chairs considered asking for federal indictments; to the violations of fundamental laws of physics in the official explanations for the unprecedented “collapse” of three steel-framed skyscrapers in one day—the only steel-framed buildings in history to “collapse” due to fire.

Also, the “need to know” compartmentalization of American intelligence guarantees that only a few key people, and possibly some outsourced mercenaries, would need to know the full story of the 9/11 operation; and either patriotism, bureaucratic groupthink, fear or money would keep everybody else in line. The few whistleblowers, like the FBI’s Sibel Edmonds, who had the courage to destroy their careers for the sake of truth, have been easily turned into “non-persons” by a corporate-controlled media coordinating their broadcasts with a Defense Department psychological operations agenda, a dynamic revealed by the New York Times in its analysis of conflicts of interest among “independent” TV network military “analysts” (more accurately, Pentagon propagandists).

But it’s their lack of knowledge of significant 9/11 details that, in my experience, usually leaves liberal 9/11 truth skeptics in dumbstruck confusion, when confronted with facts.

In the first place, they’re generally unaware that 9/11 questions go way beyond “theory.” There is hard, cold physical evidence, from the microspheres of melted steel found in every single sample of dust from the World Trade Center (and which the US Geological Survey said needed to be further investigated, and never were); to the melting and “sulphurization” of the steel beams of WTC Building 7, as reported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and which the New York Times called “the biggest mystery” of 9/11—and which was also never investigated further.

A few weeks ago, after the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) corrected its years-delayed draft report on the destruction of WTC7 (which was never hit by an airplane), to finally concede that critics of the original draft were correct that the 47-story building collapsed at free-fall speed (a concession ignored by corporate media), there was a discussion of the report at the website Democratic Underground.

The first reply to the original post was a snarky comment about “Bigfoot” causing the collapse, which initiated a sometimes ugly debate between defenders of the official story and 9/11 truth advocates. The “Bigfoot” commenter kept repeating, “Go read the report,” and giving the NIST URL. I was surprised that no one thought to tell him, on a site as tuned-in as DU, that he may as well have been saying, “Well, go ask George W. Bush,” since NIST is just a branch of Bush’s Commerce Department. Like I said, we now know about outright lies, especially lies about science, coming from every Bush-era executive branch agency, from EPA to CIA. Why would NIST be exempt from this pattern?

Not only that, but anyone can watch a Youtube video of one of NIST’s lead investigators, engineer John Gross, lying through his teeth in a public forum, trying, in answer to a question, to deny the existence of molten steel in the WTC rubble (since the NIST report, like every other government report, had to acknowledge that the fires barely got hot enough to weaken steel, much less melt it, and then only for brief periods). In the clip, he archly maintains, “I didn’t see any molten metal,” and claims ignorance of contrary accounts from numerous other eyewitnesses (including the WTC’s lead engineer), video of heavy equipment pulling molten metal out of the rubble, fires that smoldered at the site for months, and satellite thermal imagery.

NIST admits in all its WTC reports that it never investigated for the possibility of explosives in the buildings, even though that is standard procedure in fire investigations, and in spite of the questions raised in the USGS and FEMA reports about unexplained phenomena in the WTC steel, and in spite of the testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses (including over a hundred firefighters) who said that they heard explosions in the buildings. An ABC report on the day of the attacks said that the FBI was initially working on the hypothesis that bombs had been planted in the World Trade Center.

Where liberal skeptics really freak out, however, is when they hear about the eerie “coincidences” related to WTC security in the weeks before the 9/11 attacks, “coincidences” greatly underplayed in the corporate media—about the mysterious workmen upgrading the WTC electrical system, laying cable for a company owned by a Skull and Bones fraternity brother of the Bush family; about the unprecedented complete “power down” of the WTC complex the weekend before the attack; about the removal of bomb-sniffing security dogs from the WTC the Thursday before the attacks—dogs who never returned to duty; about the CEO of the company in charge of WTC security being George W’s cousin, Wirt Walker, who was also joined on the company’s board of directors by Bush’s brother, Marvin; about the millions (perhaps billions) of dollars made on unprecedented stock trades in the days right before the attacks, made on companies directly affected by the attacks, by traders whose actions were declared “innocent” and whose identities were kept secret by a 9/11 Commission staff who otherwise judged the source of funding for the 9/11 attacks to be “unimportant,” and who worked under the direction of a White House mole secretly communicating with Karl Rove, despite his assurances to the contrary to the Commission’s co-chairs.

Considered together, these “coincidences” are enough to generate a case of cognitive dissonance—and often do—among those who want to believe that “the system” still works.

It is the cumulative weight and seriousness of the questions that remain about 9/11, however, that lead me to think that Barack Obama is not in fact a skeptic of 9/11 truth. He’s much too smart to ignore the obvious contradictions in the official story. But that scenario opens up a pretty complicated can of worms, which I will explore in the next installment of this commentary.