Friday, June 27, 2008

Ye venal slaves

I had to take a full day to settle down enough to post this. I was that furious.

About what, you ask?


If you didn't see or hear anything about the "testimony" the puling scrivener Yoo, and the autocratic lickspittle Addington, gave before Congress you're not alone. This entire contemptible little episode has been dramatically underreported by every news outlet I can find - I think it was buried somewhere on the bottom of Page 2 of The World's Worst Newspaper. Search their webpage and it's buried even there, beneath Mrs. Flores obit and something about the Klamath River salmon. Honestly.

The infuriating thing is that this is - in a vital, living democracy this SHOULD be -a Big Deal. A HUGE, torches-and-pitchforks, a la laterne, death-to-the-revanchists sort of deal. This wasn't a couple of dog fighting gangstas in some penny-ha'penny municipal court. This was cold, open contempt for the People's House, the Congress of the United States. And, regardless of the knowledge, wisdom or lack of same of the legislators involved the arrogance and aristocratic hauteur shown by the two Administration lackeys is not simply contempt for political rivals but contempt for the People in Congress.

At one point in the proceedings I thought I must have missed something in the transcript. This began when Addington, true to form as the nasty, brutish little Bush button man he is, threatened the legislators with the usual Bush hitmen: "No American should think we're free," he growled, "...the war is over, al-Qaida is not coming and they're not interested in getting us, because that's wrong."

The part I missed, then, was the part where the chairman John Conyers (D-MI) rose from the bench, face pale with wrath and stormed back: "You DARE mock this House by prating the snivelling fears and traitorous cowardice with which your master has tried to rot and corrupt the very foundation of this republic since the day we were all attacked by enemies that your own incompetence and ignorance raised, your own insensate wrath and incapacity enabled and your greed and lust for power have manipulated ever since as a weapon to beat your political enemies?!? To blabber and threaten with a handful of ragged jihadists in the halls where once better Americans than you faced down the might of Hitler's Germany and stood firm against the power of the Soviets? You dare! You, who have sat here fleering and mocking this committee, you who talks of "war" and "enemies" having never faced a foe in arms while your tortuous policies and malignant secrecies have made this once-proud nation a byword and a hissing among all those decent and honorable? YOU DARE??!! Well I, for one, will listen to this cowardly and jesuitical twittering no further. Sergeant at arms, remove the, remove the prisoner to the custody of the federal marshal's office, to await our pleasure in the form of a charge of obstruction of justice, perjury, malfeasance of office, conspiracy and violation of the Laws of the very War he is so eager to warn us about."

Yeah. That part. (laughs sadly)

And the saddest of all, this entire moronic kabuki theatre doesn't shock or astound but simply drives home the extent to which our "republic" has already fallen. Posturing, capering, bloviating legislators unable to elicit the slightest useful information from their supposed executors in the Administration but, unable to stop pretending that they have a useful function, like the Roman Senate they exist simply to reap and dispense largesse and applaud Caesar's dictates.

Fatuous. Disgusting. Unamerican, as Publius might say.

Or, perhaps, this IS the New America, the America of the 21st Century, a nation of grubby peculators and single-issue-voters led by small-souled functionaries, liars and rogues. One would, were one not a hardened republican oneself, be tempted to echo Oliver Cromwell in saying:

"It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money; is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? is there one vice you do not possess? ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God's help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do; I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place; go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!"
And take these two sorry, cowardly, arrogant, mewling, puking little autocrats with you.

Right at the moment I am disgusted with my nation.


Lisa said...

Thank you for addressing this egregiously underreported story.

"puling scrivener Yoo"--I do so love concision and precision in expression. Spot-on.

rangeragainstwar said...

FD Chief,the arrogance of these no combat freedom fighters is palpable.Look at their nasty ,smug looks.Telling indeed. jim

pluto said...

I watched some of the "testimony" on C-Span and was highly under-impressed with Conyers.

He was:
1. obviously very tired
2. was working from a script
3. could barely articulate the questions that somebody else wrote for him
4. couldn't comprehend or respond effectively to the responses that Yoo and Addington gave him.

In short, Conyers was a beaten man before he went into the meeting and the results were as inevitable as they were obvious.

Here's a good article from Slate on the interviews to save you a great deal of drudgery from watching the sham.

Your comment on the Oregonian's coverage got me thinking a little bit about what's truly important to the likes of you and me. And that in turn led me to some very disturbing questions.

As I've noted before, local news organizations have been hammered by budget cuts trying to become more profitable in the Internet age and have cut out much of their national coverage. My local paper has degenerated to the point where I'm calling it the "Weekly Shopper" because it contains so many ads and so little news.

Are the news organizations ahead of the curve for once? Does what happens in Washington matter to us any more? Has the country degenerated to the point where we in the outer provinces can no longer expect reasonable guidance from our capital? Has our new Dark Age already begun without us recognizing it?

I await your response.

Publius said...

Chief, I share your opinion of Addington and Yoo, two of the slimiest pricks to come down the pike in some time. We can only hope that somehow those boys get to take the long course at Leavenworth.

But, you know, the problem with being outraged on behalf of our Congress is that, these days, it's pretty hard to get energized to do so. Frankly, when thinking about Addington and Yoo across the table from the bozos we have in Congress, it's hard to tell the players without a scorecard. Don't you think that maybe the fact that the Congress has proven to be every bit as corrupt and venal as any of these administration lackeys might have something to do with the contempt displayed? Add to that the typical poppinjay strutting about, and one can see where a dedicated, motivated scoundrel with a very good mind might just say, "these guys ain't worth the effort."

The unfortunate reality is that when they're trying to muster a sense of outrage at degenerates as these men, members of Congress all too often come across like the hooker who's been turning tricks on one corner for several years and then accuses a john of rape. "Yeah, right," is the usual reaction by the cops. And that's how the American people react.

We've seen the polls. By overwhelming margins, the American have no respect for either the legislative or executive branch. If the two bodies in our legislative branch wish to garner the respect associated with being the "peoples' house" or "the world's greatest deliberative body," one would think they might do something to earn it.

FDChief said...

Pluto: I would say, rather, that we as a nation have grown so inchoate that what happens in Washington is often simply inapplicable to those of us out here in the hustings. We have outgrown and outlived our system of government.

Think of it this way: the Constitution was written by an 18th Century Enlightenment elite for a small, homogeneous nation of agrarian smallholders. Women couldn't vote. Most of the propertyless couldn't. Black people were either slaves or in most cases dienfranchised. The notion that we could govern ourselves without narrowminded self-interest, political party or "faction" was a real possibility (although, in fact, we couldn't and didn't).

Now we're a mess. Part of this is sheer size and the loss of a central identity. I have less in common with a rural Mississippian or an urban LosAngelino than I do with a resident of London, Toronto or Caracas. But part of this has been the desuetude of the social net that should be holding us together, things like a genuinely active and free press or an economy that spreads out wealth instead of concentrating it.

Perhaps the most indecendiary reason I loathe and despise the GOP is that it has done everything it can to accelerate this process during the 20th and 21st Centuries. Sometimes our of ignorance, sometimes out of fear, but mostly out of greed. It was greed that loosened the rules on ownership of news organs and cleared the way for the media empires now hollowing the newspapers, TV and magazines. IT was greed that hollowed the economy, emphasizing the financial and service sectors and allowing, even encouraging, manufacturing to flee overseas.

The GOP is to blame for most of this. But the Dems have been supine or even enablers in their relentless quest, as Publius points out, to root themselves to the trough as well.

I'm skeptical that we will see a new Dark Age, but I suspect that we will see much more of what John Robb calls "systems disruption" and "decentralized platforms". I believe that the hollowing of our nation will continue; wealth and power ever more concentrated in a narrowing elite, with the rest of us living in gradually decaying cities and increasingly deserted countryside. Our Constitution will become as much a formality as the old Soviet "constitution", with real authority vested in people like Addington who have the arrogance and greed to sieze it. We will be a hollow giant, another late Imperial Rome, with our legions on the global frontiers increasingly unsupported and disconnected from the helots and capti censi entertained and diverted by the meaningless noise from the corporate media back here at home.

Publius: Indeed, and hence my invocaton of the Lord Protector. My frustration is fairly catholic, it encompasses both the Tom Fools of the capital Right as well as the Jack Fools of the Left.

But as George Carlin reminded us, these greedy, venal bozos are our own. They come from us, we placed them where they are and we choose to leave them and their empty rituals in place. They have lost our respect and see no reason to regain it, nor do we see fit to force them to.

We're just pretty much screwed, and 'tis by our own feathers, not by others' hands, are we now smitten...

pluto said...

Your response is eloquent as usual, Chief. I also really liked your comment on the Constitution at Fabius Maximus.

But I feel that my analogy of the Dark Age holds up fairly well and that your comments support my thinking.

The Dark Age was a period when, for a variety of reasons, centralized governments didn't exist in much of Europe or the Middle East.

This made great works of art, literature, and construction less likely to happen because the locals didn't have enough resources to spare to start or even envision such projects. Science and technology research tended to grind to a halt for the same reasons.

You said it best when you said, "We have outgrown and outlived our system of government."

Your statement, "Now we're a mess. Part of this is sheer size and the loss of a central identity" perfectly describes what the average citizen of Paris would have said in 350 AD. You'll note that the Roman Empire still officially had another 80 years to live, but the critter was already dead and stinking by 300 AD.

With this in mind, your comments about the GOP are both accurate and incorrect. The GOP has simply played the role of Constantine the Great when he demolished much what Rome had originally stood for but much of what Constantine did was to formalize the damage that subtler trends had already done. That said, I will NOT let the Republicans off the hook for shamelessly lining their pockets and doing tremendous amounts of unnecessary collatoral damage at the same time. History holds Constantine accountable for the same charges. The man was at the same time, the savior of the eastern Roman empire, the wrecking ball of the remnants of the western and southern empire, and sowed the seeds for vast quantities of later pain and destruction.

Powerful nation-states are created by powerful personalities when an equally powerful external force (or more likely, set of external forces) threatens people who have enough natural resources to defend themselves. They are maintained by powerful personalities that need to meet the threats facing the nation-state within the founding principals of the nation-state. The nation-state ends when either the personalties in charge are not powerful or bright enough to get the job done or when the nation-state succeeds and faces no external challenges.

The Bushies knew this when they were elected and attempted to turn China into an external threat. The facts that China was rapidly becoming our biggest trading partner and so obviously wanted to become more like us made them a very poor choice of enemy. OBL and the events of 9/11 made a much more convincing opponent and so the Bushies immediately used them as their whipping boy.

The problem with OBL and AQ as opponents is that powerful nation-states need powerful opponents to keep their leaders honest and working toward the common goal. AQ was beaten by the end of 2003and can now be kept in check with decent police and intel work and doesn't require the existance of a powerful national government.

So what new cause should our government take up? Why should Americans ask what they can do for their country? I don't see anything remotely suitable on the horizon and I think that is why we are seeing the rapid disintegration of both political parties and our government as a whole.

There are no overwhelming external challenges that require great efforts from our leaders so they delve further and further into our personal lives in an attempt to show that they are still necessary and important. The crooks and scoundrels come to the fore under these circumstances because they are better liars than the honest men and care less about the long-term results as long as they get paid today.

Call me a Marxist, but I think for the moment that the large nation-state does not meet the needs of our times and in rapidly falling away. The Soviet Union imploded spectacularly 15 years ago. China is doing so right now in a quieter and more controlled fasion. Yugoslavia disintegrated messily while Indonesia lost East Timor in a less bloody way. South Africa spun off Namibia with relatively little pain but can't seem to re-integrate the old tribal homelands from the apartheit days. Even Scotland is looking to secede from England. Why should the US be any different?

I would argue that we aren't and that standing in the path of history is an excellent way to get run down, both literally and figuratively. These days I spend more and more time trying to discern what the post-US America will look like. What I see both frightens me and gives me hope for the future.

FDChief said...

Pluto: Mmmm. OK, I see you're meaning in terms of "Dark Age"; in the political sense, yes. I agree - I think we're headed for a period of political and economic entropy. Those periods can be dynamic, in that they often tear down the static and dysfunctional to let new institutions grow. As you point out, they are often horrific for those living through them. This may well be the case, and I fear for my children.

The really frustrating and maddening thing is that there are two ways to try and approach this sort of gathering storm. We have chosen to ignore and pretend it doesn't and can't exist. Jared Diamond talks about how societies deal with change; vital and living cultures adapt, rigid and ossified ones often shatter. But I don't see our society as ossified - I think our country has enormous potential reserves of human energy. We have just let ourselves become old, cautious and corrupt at the top. And, in nations as in armies, letting the leaders grow stale and tired brings the Auerstadts and Verduns.

bg said...

"But the Dems have been supine or even enablers in their relentless quest, as Publius points out, to root themselves to the trough as well."

Is it possible that Dems today are purposely "sandbagging?" Could they be purposely allowing things to get worse to better their position in the upcoming Presidential elections? ISTM that if the Dem's were to propose legislation that they know will get vetoed, it weakens their credibility, so instead, they just do nothing.

For the next 6 months or so, they can blame every failure on Bush. Hell, for the next 4 years they can blame every failure on Bush and the lasting effects of his policies. Wouldn't the Dem's have something to gain from continued failure during this administration?

Isn't it conceivable that the Dem's can be just as devious and duplicitous as the Republicans?

basilbeast said...


Isn't it conceivable that the Dem's can be just as devious and duplicitous as the Republicans?

I think the over-riding concern of both parties now is how to stay in power, and to get more of it to do what you want. I still have enough hope(?) trust(?) naivete(?) to think the Democratic Party wants what I want, which is a decently-functioning government that on the whole is fair to the country as a whole.

But no one can trust our national media on a consistent basis. A democracy needs to have a fair, accurate and truthful ( able to back up its reporting ) - - not BALANCED - - delivery of news to the electorate. Many of us don't receive that, and those of us that do receive a variety of news sources, often wind up just confused. Tiger Woods' injury headlines CBS network PM news show for 5 minutes.

Tell me what's good about that? We need the facts, and truthful analysis, and we get crap. What good can a decent leader do in that situation?

And we need leadership, not just A leader, who can inspire and lead, not pander. Obama started out that way for many, including me, but his stance on FISA and just this morning his denouncing Wes Clark ( and moveon too, for that matter ) has tarnished his image for me.

What I'm left with is that this time next year, Obama's plusses will outweigh his minuses.

Way to go USA, a bit more than mediocre.


FDChief said...

"Isn't it conceivable that the Dem's can be just as devious and duplicitous as the Republicans?"

I would say, rather, that they are as shortsighted and greedy for a place at the trough. The only difference I see at this point is that the Democratic party retains a handful of people who care about the potential of this nation to be more than just another thug-state preying on both its own and as many others as it has reach to grasp. The 27%ers, i.e. the GOP base, is lost. Gone. Unredeemably given over to paranoid fantasies of Islamists under the bed and foreign lucre abroad.

The DLCers, the "centerist" Dems, are nearly as bad, afraid to reclaim the ideas of the New Deal for fear of being called "liberals".

But I think the big picture is that the GOP has, in effect, succeeded in its eighty-year project to reverse the lickin' that FDR gave the worst of the Gilded Age excesses, and the supine and corrupted media is in collusion with them. IMO short of a violent revolution, the short-term (within the next 50 years) hopes for a resurgence of populist ideals is gone. The rich will get richer, the poor poorer and the national center will not hold. Both sides are essentially out of ideas, and our current debased national politics reflects that.

Publius said...

Well, wouldn't Mr. Jefferson say, "it's time for a revolution"? Mr. Adams, with his alien and sedition acts, probably wouldn't like me very much for saying that. And I doubt I would have liked him, either. But, IOTM that Adams would go along with revolution about now.

I'm old, and I've had the best of America. What a wonderful country this once was. But I now see a nation on the downhill. A nation that's going to be like we've seen in boxing movies: "you were great in your day, kid, but now you just can't cut it." We as a nation were great in our day, but we've reached old age way too early. A revolution is the only thing that might save us, but that's not going to happen.

We were great in our day. But our future is to be a second-rate former power. If we're lucky, we'll land as softly as England, France and Spain. If not, the third world beckons. No more "City on the Hill" for us, IMO.

Strix said...

I know I'm a year too late, but I came across this blog while following up on the current UK Parliament scandals. I initially mis-understood your Conyers speech as a verbatim account, and it practically brought tears to my eyes. I wondered why I hadn't heard of this before, and I thought "there are still giants in the land". What a magnificent piece of oratory. You should be very proud of it. Too bad it never happened!