Another great reality check from James Corbett: http://www.corbettreport.com/the-last-word-on-terrorism/
The convenient, timely, and fortuitous downturn (revolutionarily speaking) in the now-deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s health – rumored to be a heart attack or stroke and possibly yielding to a coma – had already seemed suspicious, given the circumstances. When Leon Panetta, Director of the CIA, announced that Mubarak “may step down”, it wasn’t clear if he had simply spoken prematurely or if he was stating publicly the already agreed upon, CIA-approved resolution to the degrading situation, sans a little tender loving convincing from the Egyptian Army. Mubarak, apparently insulted by what appeared to be an externally supported military coup, made one last stand in defiance, refusing to step down. The next day, perhaps after double-checking his credit card rewards points, Mubarak resigned, turning over rule to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, and fleeing Cairo. This information was, of course, brought to us by Omar Suleiman, former Egyptian intelligence officer and torture expert turned Vice-President. So much for regime change and flowing rivers of milk, honey, and democracy (but that’s a topic for another post). In any case, it remains unclear if his sudden health problems were the reason for his decision to step down or if they occurred afterward.
Restless Dictator Syndrome
As if in sympathetic unison, news sources also reported that the recently-ousted Tunisian leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, 74, suffered a stroke and slipped into coma in a Saudi Arabian hospital. One might wonder if magical heart attacks, strokes, and comas befall all deposed dictators or if merely announcing the condition is simply all the rage among the recently exiled. Either way, let’s all keep our eyes open as yet other middle eastern nation-states experience governmental rearrangements (such as Kadafi’s rumored, yet unconfirmed, planned flight from Lybia to Venezuela), for any signs of this terrible affliction. Until a vaccine is found (by Bill and Melinda Gates), ask your doctor if Post-CoupStrokia* is right for you.
* Side-effects are common, but generally well-tolerated, and may include sudden loss of palaces, living abroad in other dictatorships, and having your assets frozen.
You might call it bloody irony… literally. On Tuesday, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walked into the auditorium at George Washington University to give an address, the applause subsided and those in attendance took their seats. Still standing was Ray McGovern, veteran U.S. Army officer, and former senior CIA analyst, having served for 27 years from Presidents Kennedy to George W. Bush, providing security briefs to President Ronald Reagan, as well as the President’s Daily Brief to George H. W. Bush. A man of conscience, McGovern has worked for more than a decade now as a political activist, involved with numerous organizations such as Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and Veterans for Peace, exposing and confronting corrupt and fraudulent actions on the part of the CIA and intelligence community. He has been vociferously critical of the misuse and proven questionable nature of the intelligence used by the second Bush administration to launch the Iraq War – even confronting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld live on CNN during a Q & A session in 2006. Peaceful, yet unafraid, the 71-year-old McGovern not only remained standing, but turned his back on her highness, Hillary, in silent protest of her policies and of the lies and dishonesty she was about to speak.
As McGovern stood, Clinton began her address -a soliloquy on the right of free speech among a free people. She waxed politically and philosophically about the Egyptian government’s terrible abridgment of its people’s free speech by pulling the plug on their internet. Ironically, I suppose Americans are meant to pay no never mind to the U.S. Congress’ current debate over our own Internet Kill Switch Bill, which would allow the President to essentially “shut down” portions (or all?) of the internet in the case of a “cyber emergency”, such as he may define it. After a few short minutes, however, McGovern was approached by several apparent security agents lead by a yet unidentified individual who violently grabbed him, and dragged him out of the auditorium in view of everyone present, Clinton included. McGovern can be heard questioning, as he’s dragged out, “So, this is America?” Once outside, he was roughed up, put in double handcuffs, and handed over to the D.C. police, but not before he had been bruised, cut, and left bleeding – all while not resisting. D.C. police charged and processed him with disorderly conduct and subsequently released him, while the security detail who beat him were apparently not charged at all. McGovern, still bloody from the altercation, took a cab to a nearby hospital to have his wounds treated.
As Mr. McGovern also pointed out in an interview on the Alex Jones Radio Show, just a few short paragraphs after having watched him being dragged from the auditorium and without intervening (or even so much as a pause in her speech), Clinton went on to say, regarding the situation in Egypt, “What happened is once again… using violence against protesters who are seeking basic freedoms”, and going on to reference that, “they stood and they marched.” If this doesn’t paint a picture of the disingenuous spirit with which these words were spoken, I’m not sure what does.
That I agree or not with everything that Ray McGovern says or advocates is of little issue, nor does the disturbing thing that occurred really have anything to do with him, personally. What’s a shame about the incident with Ray is a shame for all of us: the open, unrepentant disregard for and disintegration of our First Amendment rights and our ability to non-violently redress the establishment and protest our elected and appointed public servants. When a man is treated in a Stazi-style manner for the simple act of standing – be it physically or in principle – for his political convictions, and turning his back on a “god” of government, it ought to grab our attention. Whether we choose to stand and turn our backs on the liars and criminals in our government, or whether we choose to raise our voices over issues, it’s our right to do so. And a right not exercised is a right forfeited. For this reason alone, we should all “stand” like Ray.
Keep On Truckin’
During college, I worked as a salesperson in the hardware department of a national chain store where I encountered many of the earthier, blue collar clientele. I found myself waiting on a woman one day who was in her 50’s, missing multiple teeth, smelling strongly of liquor, and presenting an all around haggard appearance. Her husband was making his rounds, unassisted, and so she became my best friend, chatting me up at my cash register. After telling several unsolicited and rather crude jokes involving gas and other nocturnal processes, she managed to steer the conversation to a discussion of pickup trucks – in particular, Ford and Chevy. She proclaimed very matter-of-factly that on their side of the street it was “Ford Country” (her eyes beaming with pride), while on the opposite side it was “Chevy Country” (Annie, grab your gun!)… With no thought to the more than 200 million total vehicles in the United States, or of the dozens of manufacturers producing them, she asked me with utter sincerity, “Which one do you like???” I barely had the heart to tell her I drove a Volkswagen…
Amusing, though this was, it remains so deeply representative of the popular political ethos and of its central flaw that laughter might give way to tears. The fundamental way in which the left-right paradigm is “false” is that this left-to-right tracking reduces the political spectrum to a single lateral (side-to-side) axis in a one-dimensional model. Congratulations, your political will and your government just became one of two pickup trucks. So, go grab your showgirl mudflaps, and let’s head to the ballot box, Uncle Daddy. Or not. If you’re like me, you might prefer your decisions to have a modicum more choice than that of a turn signal. Maybe we could do better for ourselves if we adopted the model the Founders used when considering how the world worked as they set about crafting the Constitution. It’s just a thought.
The Founders’ Spectrum
It’s worth underscoring that while the idea of “left-wing” and “right-wing” were in use in the Founder’s time (the twin terms originating from European parliamentary seating positions where the left was occupied by radical communistic parties and the right by militant/fascistic ones), the definitions of their respective “liberal” and “conservative” counterpart labels have been a moving target over time and, in modern usage, the words have become so vague as to make them increasingly meaningless, if not utterly useless. Instead, the Founders viewed everything pertaining to government, the law, the powers of elected officials and the execution, thereof, as existing along an axis of liberty to tyranny. In this model, less government = greater liberty, the caveat being that, taken to the extreme, a total lack of government leads to total anarchy. Conversely, more government = less liberty and, in its extreme, total tyranny ultimately follows.
This is not to say that left-right issues were of no concern whatsoever, but the question of liberty vs. tyranny was demonstrably the more important dimension. Applying both dimensions, the reality is that the political spectrum is, at the very least, a two-dimensional, bi-axial model. Using a two axis approach, the model becomes a circular spectrum of four equal quadrants, intersected by both axes – creating a field in which philosophies and ideologies can be positioned. The diagram below borrows extensively from two related diagrams I encountered online and combines several other sources, showing an interpretation of the bi-axial model with several ideologies applied (click to enlarge):
The Founders understood the liberty-centric model of government to address a most important truth which they held concerning their fellow man: The natural state of the individual is one of being free and self-determined. Collectively, when any type of institutional organization or government is applied to a society, both the corrupt and even the well-meaning will tend to subjugate others, rise to the top of the system, and concentrate in positions of power. Their goal, therefore, was not merely to manage the sway between the social flavors of the day, but to guard and maximize the essential liberties of the individual, while minimizing the potential for the gravity of tyranny to take hold and its tendency towards totalitarianism. The balancing point between all four poles was considered to be well nearer the liberty end of the central axis and very near center on the left-right axis, so that only the minimum required government ever be permitted to act upon otherwise sovereign persons. This view is expressed in no more a succinct way than in Thomas Paine’s belief, “That government is best which governs least.” On this key principle, they judged all things.
Goals vs. Methods
This is a good spot to draw attention to a key difference between the two axes and, consequently, why they ought to never be confused, used singularly, or in place of the other. The liberty-tyranny axis defines a goal or result of government. The left-right axis describes a type of method or device in achieving the former. Our current system has created nothing less than a huge majority of our population of 307 million people all arguing over the how part of the equation (albeit, using only a two-choice solution), and rendered largely blind to the what and where of the matter. Stated differently, we’ve all embarked on a road trip together and are emphatically shouting whether to take the highway or the country road, but have forgotten to inquire as to the destination. And because so many of us are not attuned to the destination – be it liberty or tyranny – our leaders can take us anywhere and seldom will we notice the difference. And in this fugue state, we become utterly unable to recognize the near-naked continuity of agenda between the left and right when, despite all the hype about “liberal this” and “conservative that”, the system moves as a whole in a steady direction – a fact that, when noticed, ought to clue us into the falsehood of the paradigm to begin with. More on the topic of continuity of agenda in an upcoming post… or several.
Many modern political scientists assert that an even more robust, multi-variate model of the spectrum which includes political, economic, and social dimensions should be adopted, and a simple internet search yields numerous illustrations of these alternatives to tickle your political brains. While I would encourage everyone to consider some of these models insofar as we need to be aware of the “other” dimensions of gravitas, I’d equally caution against those seemingly “socially aware” models which use complexity to simply draw the spectrum right back into the same old, tired, left-right rut. I would argue that for the purposes of escaping this paradigm trap, the liberty-tyranny model serves as the best set of bolt-cutters we can hope for. In my mind, there’s plenty of time to tackle real left-right issues and their social implications after we get our heads screwed on straight with regard to liberty. Let’s get the oxygen mask pumping air into the lungs of the Republic before we start rescue breathing on every societal ill that plagues us.
I’m Feeling Flushed
One last “ah-ha” feature of the model is to illustrate that a deviation too far in either direction along the left-right axis – be it fully left toward Socialism or fully right toward Corporatism – will catch the same sweeping current towards tyranny. This subtle aspect of the traditional left-right paradigm is no less true for ultra-left neoliberals than it is for ultra-right neoconservatives and, in fact, the closer the two descend toward the tyranny end of the axis, the closer they are in proximity and the more blurred the substantive distinction between them becomes. If we’re being flushed down the same toilet to tyranny, does it really matter if we circle the bowl predominantly on the left as opposed to the right side? Given gravity’s universal effect, I’d rather spend my time eliminating my turd status than arguing over the quality of the porcelain beneath me.
It All Falls Apart
With increasing frequency, however, we see examples when the false system fails and its best efforts come up short in creating the pre-fab Boolean reality it so desperately seeks to propagate. Countless examples abound (and I intend to cover more of them in future installments), so I’ll merely cite one example which has always been obvious to me – that being the mainstream media’s coverage of anything relating to the 9/11 Truth movement. Regardless of your opinion on this topic, even a five year old could recognize the discontinuity and double-think emanating from the squawk box, just as the child from the famous tale could recognize that the Emperor was wearing no clothes. Tune into “conservative” news sources like Fox News, Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh and they’ll tell you that 9/11 Truthers are a “left-wing fringe element”. Tune into “liberal” media outlets like MSNBC, with talking heads ranging from Chris Matthews to Rachel Maddow, and they claim that this same cadre of activists are “right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists”. Well, which is it guys? Help me out here, Dave Grohl: “One of these things is not like the other… ”
At the very least, this system is a manipulative and mind-numbing one, truncating discourse to neatly fit into Box A or Box B, with nary a dangling chad. This force-fitting of ideas and limiting of our conversation in the face of so many complexities which demand to be parsed out is really a surreptitious denial of our choice as much as it is our speech because, as Orwell reckons it in 1984 (via Winston Smith’s reading of Goldstein’s Book of The Brotherhood), “There is no way for discontent to become articulate.” So long as we buy into the paradigm served up by the system and its lap dog media hounds, we become useful idiots who perpetuate the very lie that keeps us servile and distracted from truly bringing change to the system.
No, I’m not Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, calling cadence while marching my platoon of “maggots” around Parris Island. I’m simply repeating the monotonous drone of the mainstream media and the endless panels of political pundits who never fail to reinforce what we’ve been indoctrinated with our entire lives – that we have two choices when it comes to all things political: Left or Right. Red or blue. Coke or Pepsi. Of all the lies in politics, this one is arguably the single most pernicious, as its fundamental offering is to set up the game board in such a way as to artificially control the movement of the pieces. While not the first stone I overturned when I began this line of research, recognizing this fallacy has been central to shifting my political paradigm and influencing how I interpret almost everything else that follows. Like a slob-turned-health nut who has replaced his formerly toxic diet with whole foods, the thought of returning to this left-right junk food not only makes me ill, but it frustrates me to see so many people getting fat and killing themselves with the empty calories of this false paradigm.
For many people on both sides of the left-right fence, it doesn’t compute for them when we talk and I present this view. There’s usually a silent pause accompanied by a blank look, followed by a resumption of whatever default argument was being referenced, almost like a computer program that simply ignores indecipherable code rather than handle the errors resulting from it. To be sure, my own political awareness once moved along these lines, in varying states of support for certain issues for which I held opinions, but, mixed with a general disinclination to bother with what I regarded as a glad-handing system of career phonies.
Without getting drawn into a detailed, exploded view diagram of my own political obstacle course (a subject in need of its own dedicated blank page), it’s sufficient to say that I, too, was a part of the unfortunate process by which so many of us have been sidelined into this inaccurate way of thinking. The left/liberal/democrat vs. right/conservative/republican model has been drilled into our heads from our earliest days and continually reinforced so that, even if you cognitively recognize the deficiency of such a dichotomy in expressing your political will, you very nearly can’t escape it, because to do so, you have to dismiss the very premise with which political information is delivered to you. Sure, third parties are name-checked and the more salient planks of their platforms considered and given some selective credence, but even as this is done, the political liquor is still poured through the gravity filter of the orthodox paradigm, and drained into one of two chambers from which we’re peer pressured into drinking. Argue as we might over which spirit has the superior flavor, both liquids have equally within them the power to make us blurry-eyed, disconnected and stupid.
So, what makes this system “false”, to what end does it lead, why is it important, and what’s the alternative? Well, now – that’s what the next post is for…
Hey, everybody – thanks for taking the time to check out another socket in the blogosphere. I have a lot of ideas in my head to try and organize and type out, and I won’t claim to do so perfectly, in order, or even necessarily according to a reliable schedule. I’ll make an attempt to adopt the episodic, blog format, but… knowing me, I’m sure a lot of it will end up in a more article-like fashion. I’m fine with that. I’m also sure that as I make my way through the serpentine of orange cones that are the topics I want to cover, I’ll likely knock a few of them over, make some people sick from my driving style, and inflame yet others to never carpool with me again. There’s also the possibility you might like what I say. Only one way to find out, I suppose…
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