John M. Phelan
Framing Terror



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Busharama: Connecting the Real Dots by Following the Money

The internet, which has everything from macrobiotic soup to certified nuts, contains whole mountain ranges of facts and figures that document the incompetence and marginal malfeasance of the Bush team and that flatly contradict the Bush line of the day for every day he has been in office. Curiously, the internet also has oceans of claims, outraged jeremiads, and bizarrely inventive calumnies against his critics and opponents. I say curiously because they seem to "work" better. They are simple, they play to those old reliable baser instincts, and they, above all, are easy.

For those who follow these things, it is well known that surveys show that among Bush voters, a scary majority believe to this day that Saddam Hussein was behind the Twin Towers atrocity, that there still are weapons of mass destruction. They now believe that Iraq is on the road to democracy for a negligible cost. And so on. The majority who voted for Kerry were and are aware of the spectacular mendacity of former good guy Colin Powell, who is the real champion flip-flopper, of the outrageous violations of human rights and even basic animal dignity perpetrated under the cloak of necessary security and well, the list could go on and on.

And then there are the revelations of former cabinet members and department heads about the incompetence and monomaniacal ideological drive of the neocons who literally trashed all plans for managing post-war Iraq. A former regularly attending member of Cabinet meetings described them as "a blind man in a room full of deaf people." And the revelations of taxpayer money being used to hire journalists and plant fake ones in the Washington press corps, of firing dedicated civil servants for daring to tell Congress the truth about budgets and costs ­ none of these outrages have legs, as they say on Broadway. They don't play in Peoria.

It seems that no fact, no revelation, no cheating, no lies, no mounting death toll of innocent lives, no majority abuse of Congressional rules and customs ­ nothing would seem to bring this President down. His 4% popular majority in the last election, the lowest ever for a sitting President, is construed as a mandate. Even if, as is probable, a majority of Americans have either loathing for or amused contempt of the President, those same people believe he is unstoppable and supported by what Lippmann called the "phantom public."

Ironically, I believe the cause of this horrendous electoral disconnect is that the critics and opponents do not connect the dots, which the supporters have smeared into a thick fudge of rhetoric about freedom and democracy while managing to restrict the one and snub the other. And the Bush team, spearheaded by an undoubtedly gifted demagogue, are masters of isolating the dots and playing our flawed media structure with virtuosity. Their bloviated string of staying on message about a very vague march of freedom and democracy plops contentedly into the pottage of the 24/7 soft news cycle, with Fox in the lead and the rest striving to catch up by frantic waving of the same flag.

But there is another compelling narrative to be told and to be sold. It has the ring of truth, the drama of villains, and the truly frightening prospect of possible annihilation. Better than any video game, it is the ultimate reality show.

It goes like this. First, follow the money.

The Iraq and Afghanistan adventures, in no way having achieved even a part of the original stated goals, are draining the treasury and our young blood. Is the money going to Iraq, Afghanistan, and our boots on the ground? Only a small portion ­ most is going to contractors who have been and will continue to be heavy contributors to the GOP. (After our own soldiers, the largest contingent in both areas is contracted mercenaries.) And most if not all of this money is dressed as "supplemental" meaning that it officially is not part of the budget. Dot One.

No one disputes that the tax cuts, which will become permanent if Bush has his way this year, have created an unprecedented humongous trillionesque shortfall for the year that becomes part of our Himalayan debt. No one disputes that the vast bulk, over 90%, of these cuts benefit the very rich. No one disputes that services, even essential services like police and fire and health, have been sharply cut in states and cities from Maui to Maine, because of withdrawal or cutbacks in supportive federal programs. Dot Two.

We now turn to Social Security. We have heard the superficially suasive arguments about a growing old population supported by fewer and fewer workers. Less in, less out, right? Of course, but this is not the way SS works. For decades the money has been going into a trust fund where it has garnered interest. In the early eighties it was foreseen that in about twenty years the trust fund would begin to be stretched. So with bipartisan support of Senators Bob Dole and Pat Moynihan, President Reagan tweaked the system by raising the payroll tax. It was fixed and it remains fixed. More in, more growing in there, more yet coming out.

But we are lied to that the system is in dire trouble and must be reformed. Part of that reform involves borrowing more money and asking simple folk to trade in a guaranteed annuity for a chance to go to Wall Street Vegas, where, you guessed it, salivating heaviest GOP contributors are waiting, top hats and waxed mustaches intact. Dot Three.

In order to sell this snake oil, the President has said that unlike social security, one would own private accounts, and so the government cannot take them away from you. Yes, he is saying this over and over again. We do not own our SS accounts, the government does. What does that mean? Worse, what does it predict?

Can the government take away my present account? Or as President Bush also says, what if the government can't keep its promise?

The government can't keep its promise?

Social Security is a very serious promise, the most serious promise, a Trust Fund in US Government Bonds, which have the full faith of the United States of America backing them up. The same bonds held in the billions by private purchasers and foreign governments from China to France ­ in fact the bonds enable us to carry on business because the world is so far accepting the word and full faith of the United States of America.

You got it. In order to reward its supporters and peers with obscene wealth, the Bush team has already been willing to let our infrastructure, our insurance, our safety, our health go to hell. But the war and other adventures cost more and more ­ the money will simply have to come from the Social Security Trust Fund, which must somehow be presented as being fixed while being raped. Dot Four.

Can such a colossal fraud be put over? Well, they have a great track record so far. Stripping individual citizens of their right to sue the mighty or declare bankruptcy are simply part of tort reform.

Of course they cannot fool the gnomes of Zurich ­ or of Beijing, Tokyo, London, Paris who as I write are unloading dollars for euros. It is a slow leak waiting to explode. They know this administration has backed off serious US prior commitments like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This is the iceberg that Captain Bush is going to ram at full speed after he has fired every reliable honest sailor and officer. This is what must be fixed.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to see the larger picture but you have to be a good narrator so that the American people see what is really happening. The Bush team is ingenious at deflecting attention. We had elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, so case closed. We thus have low key announcements of increasing deaths each day treated as weather reports. Meanwhile our national attention is divided between Michael Jackson's trial and network quickies on the president's plan, accepting his numbers and giving even less time to critics. He says, They say. And now a word from our sponsor, MerrillLynchCitiChaseJPMorganSchwabAmerica.

Of course there are other important dots which must be woven into the narrative that must replace the facile conceits of vague values, standing tall, holding fast (to what?). Oil is skyrocketing. A superb military designed to fight two major theater wars has been reduced to failure in controlling two cities because of the spectacular and cretinous arrogance of its leaders. Gifted young men improvise ingenious and brave tactics forced on them because of the crippling confines of bankrupt strategy. And these men are being killed every day along with far more civilians - both groups innocent collateral damage in a mad master narrative.

Is it conservative to support this shameful chain of duplicitous fiascoes? Is it liberal to expose and oppose them? Is it a matter of faith versus atheism? No, clearly it is reality versus fantasy, realism versus ideology, honesty versus fraud.

Of course this house of marked cards must collapse from its own inconsistencies and jerry-rigged short-term solutions. But should we wait for that? We are talking about massive momentum that must be stopped and reversed.

Parties and politics are not at stake.

The nation is.



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