Saturday, June 07, 2008

John McCain's New " General Election " Campaign

  Have you been to John McCain's website lately? Go check it out Here  if you have the time. If you have seen his old site, then you know how old and boring looking the place was. Well now, he's somewhat come into the 21st century with a real, modern looking site. One problem with this site though. It is almost a copy of Barack Obama's website!

  You can be damned sure that the Republicans know that they are in deep shit if they have to steal something from the Democrats in order to make themselves look good and trustworthy. McCain is neither one of these.

   On that note, a comment from georgia10 over at Daily Kos

Sat Jun 07, 2008

So yesterday, Senator John McCain released his first general election ad. It's playing in 54 media markets across 10 states - Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. You can watch the ad here. The full text of the ad:

"Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war. ... I was shot down over Vietnam and spent five years as a POW. ... I hate war. And I know how terrible its costs are. I'm running for president to keep the country I love safe. I'm John McCain, and I approve this message."

Who would have thought that John McCain would have put out the first anti-war ad of the general election?

For the no or low information voter, the average American who doesn't know much about John McCain, this introduction tells them two things: John McCain was a POW, and John McCain hates war.

And for us, who have known John McCain all along, it tell us that, as expected, the only way John McCain thinks he can win is if he sounds like a Democrat.

The transformation from "primary season" McCain to "general election" has been remarkable.  Gone is the austere black-and-white website and scrubbed is the text that McCain wants to send more troops into Iraq. The not-so-subtle slogan "the American president Americans have been waiting for" has been tossed aside, and sing-songs about bombing Iran are a distant memory.

Welcome the new, general election McCain.  His website is now bursting with color, and has an all-too-familiar logo on it. His slogan, riffing off of Obama's, is now "a leader we can believe in." His speech on Tuesday?  It was all about "change." In fact, McCain mentioned "change" twice as many times as Obama did in his victory speech on Tuesday.

It's not surprising that McCain is co-opting Obama's message (among other things).  After all, it's a message and a campaign theme that has clearly resonated with voters. It works.

But no matter how clever the McCain camp thinks it is by camouflaging itself in Obama's mantle of change and pragmatism, no amount of spankin' new marketing or rebranding can change the candidate himself. No amount of reinvention can alleviate McCain's YouTube Problem, or erase the fact that McCain has voted with President Bush almost 100% of the time over the last two years.   

In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company launched a new product, New Coke. It looked like traditional Coke, but was sweeter and was rolled out with a grand marketing campaign. The product lasted a whopping 77 days, as consumers, who weren't swayed by the savvy marketing, rejected the "new" Coke. 

The American people have a sophisticated palate when it comes to their Coke.  Will the same prove true for their candidates? Given how transparently obvious McCain's attempts are to conceal his true policies and positions, and how brazen his attempts are to market himself as a reasonable moderate when his record proves anything but, I suspect many Americans will find the "new" McCain entirely unappetizing. 

Brand new package for McCain, but the same old bull wrapped up inside.

Christianity And The U.S. Military

  Kind of on the sick side today so I've had ample time to cruise around the Internet while having no reason to do so.

   I ran across a website The Public Record, which has an interesting story about a lawsuit brought by Jeremy Hall and Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) because it seems as if Hall was denied a promotion because  of a pending lawsuit against the military.

He does not believe in God. Mr. Hall is an atheist and he refused to hold hands  and pray at a Thanksgiving dinner in 2006. It get really good from that point on.

The complaint alleges that Hall's First Amendment rights were violated as early as Thanksgiving 2006 when, because of his atheist beliefs, Hall declined to participate in a Christian prayer ceremony commemorating the holiday.

"Immediately after plaintiff made it known he would decline to join hands and pray, he was confronted, in the presence of other military personnel, by the senior ranking ... staff sergeant who asked plaintiff why he did not want to pray, whereupon plaintiff explained because he is an atheist," the lawsuit states. "The staff sergeant asked plaintiff what an atheist is and plaintiff responded it meant that he (plaintiff) did not believe in God. This response caused the staff sergeant to tell plaintiff that he would have to sit elsewhere for the Thanksgiving dinner. Nonetheless, plaintiff sat at the table in silence and finished his meal."

Additionally, the complaint alleges that last July, when Hall received permission by an Army chaplain to organize a meeting of other soldiers who shared his atheist beliefs, his supervisor, Army Major Freddy Welborn, broke up the gathering and threatened to retaliate against the soldier by charging him with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The complaint also alleges that Welborn vowed to block Hall's reenlistment in the Army if the atheist group continued to meet - a violation of Hall's First Amendment rights under the Constitution.

"During the course of the meeting, defendant Wellborn confronted the attendees, disrupted the meeting and interfered with plaintiff Hall's and the other attendees' rights to discuss topics of their interests," the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint charges that Hall, who is based at Fort Riley, Kansas, has been forced to "submit to a religious test as a qualification to his post as a soldier in the United States Army," a violation of Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution.    Entire Article

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Bush Economy Loses More Jobs In May

  This must be the Bush booming economy that we have heard so much about this year. Those permanent tax cuts are supposed to do what? Create jobs? I just don't see it.

The Gavel

Leader Hoyer:

It is increasingly clear that the only people who believe the Bush Administration’s policies are working are the cheerleaders who reside and work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Today’s dismal jobs report is more bad news for American workers, who not only are struggling with the reality or fear of job loss but also with decreasing household incomes, exploding gas and food prices, and skyrocketing health care costs.

While economists debate whether the economy is technically in recession, the one-half point jump in the unemployment rate in May to 5.5 percent and the loss of more than 300,000 jobs since the first of the year demonstrate that the Bush economy is wheezing to the finish line.

The American people want and deserve economic policies that are designed to generate economic growth and create jobs, to ensure tax equity and fairness, to invest in our future, and to restore fiscal responsibility. These are precisely the goals put forward in Senator Barack Obama’s dynamic economic plan, and I look forward to working on his behalf in the campaign ahead. It must trouble all Americans that Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has flip-flopped and now promises to pursue the Bush Administration’s failed economic program. Our nation needs to move in the new direction that Senator Obama has outlined. The last thing we need is the third Bush term that Senator McCain promises.

  But wait! There's more!

The number of people looking for work climbed 861,000 to 8.5 million in May. Nearly one in five of those looking for work have been jobless for six months or more. (BLS)

Average weekly earnings continue to fail to keep pace with inflation - up only 3.2 percent over the last year compared to nearly 4 percent inflation. (BLS)

Crude oil prices today reached a record $134 per barrel, and gas prices remain at a record of $3.99 a gallon - more than double that of 2001 - after setting new record high prices for 28 of 29 days. Diesel prices remain at near record levels, at $4.76 a gallon. (AAA)

Families faced the biggest jump in food prices in 18 years in April – as prices rose by more than 6 percent over the last quarter. The cost of bread is 14 percent higher than a year ago, while milk is up 13 percent. (BLS)

Democratic Party Leader Obama: Lead

  Barack Obama can put a stop to the Republican " Protect ATT Act " right now if he wanted to. It is time for Obama to use his leadership muscle!

   From digbysblog dday says

I congratulate Barack Obama on his primary win and think he has the opportunity to bring forward meaningful change in America. In fact, he can start today. He can go to the well of the Senate and demand that the party he now leads not authorize new powers to spy on Americans and immunize corporations who broke the law with their illegal spying in the first place.

Barack Obama could put an end to this today if he wanted. He could tell his colleagues in the House and the Senate that they should not work so hard to codify into law what his opponent is calling for - the ability for an executive to secretly spy on Americans.

  The Democrats are close to making a deal with the GOP on the FISA/ATT Amnesty bill, which would be no good for you and I.

   Maybe we should let our next President know how we feel about the issue?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Permanent U.S. Bases In Iraq?

  So what's new, right? Anyone in this country with an I.Q. over ten has already figured out that the Bush Crime Family had intended for our troops to stay in Iraq until hell freezes over. The war profiteers have been making to much money off of Iraq to just let any President, Bush, Obama, or Clinton, close down the shop.

  Al Jazeera  JUNE 05, 2008      Entire Article

Details have emerged of a deal between Washington and Baghdad that would allow the US forces to occupy permanent bases in Iraq, carry out military operations and have immunity from Iraqi law.

The deal would also cement the US military presence in Iraq and could prevent Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful, from making good on campaign promises to withdraw US troops if elected.

  This would be the Bush plan to keep on helping his war industries with their finances.

The Independent report says that under the proposed "strategic alliance", the US, which currently has about 155,000 troops in Iraq, would be allowed to have more than 50 permanent bases in the country.

Soldiers stationed there would be granted full immunity from Iraqi law and a free hand to conduct arrests and military operations without the consent of Baghdad, or even an obligation to consult the Iraqi government, according to the report.

  How the Iraqi citizens must be loving American democracy right about now!

FISA, Congress, And The Latest GOP Bull

  Back to the Protect ATT bill.

   Daily Kos

Is there a price too high?

by Kagro X Thu Jun 05, 2008

Among the latest round of stories indicating that Congressional Democrats may once again be on the verge of collapse on FISA is this one in The Hill.

We've been over and over this ground, noting that every time around the block another shoe drops, and there are more and more reasons not to trust the "administration" to deal squarely on anything, much less the issue of covering up their own illegal spying.

And although there's really nothing new about the Republican position in this article, I was struck by the particular wording in this one. It's probably been said exactly this way before, too, but it just never hit me the same way:

Republicans say without the protections, companies will not be willing to help protect the country from terrorist attacks.

Can I just ask you something, as an American and a human being?

Why the hell would anyone give a damn about helping a person or a company that would let the country be attacked by terrorists?

I mean, what would you do if you were in a position to actually prevent a terrorist attack? What price would you pay to make sure it didn't happen?

Because the telecoms want the equivalent of cash money down to do this.

Is your Senator or Representative voting to give it to them?

Imagine what they'd call you or me if it fell to us to prevent a terrorist attack, and we demanded money up front. Hell, imagine what they'd call you or me if we said what these companies claim their position is -- "Nice country you got there. Be a shame if anything should, you know, happen to it..."

You or I would be arrested for extortion. Hell, we'd probably be arrested on suspicion of being terrorists ourselves.

But a few checks placed in the right pockets, and bingo! Through the magic of capitalism, the corporate bottom line is now worth more than good, old fashioned patriotism.

AT&T would rather see you die than have to pay legal fees.

Seriously. The position that the telecoms and the Republicans are actually taking here boils down to this: they are looking you in the eye and arguing with a straight face that if Congress does not step in to protect their cash reserves, they will sooner permit terrorists to attack the country than step in to prevent it.

The most generous explanation for what the telecoms are doing is that fear of the lawsuit now outweighs their sense of duty to country. A closer description, though, is that they have become terrorists themselves.

And the Republicans and their Blue Dog co-conspirators can't wait to reward that. They literally fear not knuckling under to it.

You just want your constitutional freedoms protected. But you're getting no help from Congress. In fact, you're getting lectures about how you "just don't understand." Meanwhile, the telecoms are threatening to let terrorists attack the country unimpeded if we don't lower their legal bills, and Congress can't jump high enough or through enough hoops.

Mind you, nobody with a lick of sense truly believes that the telecom companies are actually going to pocket billions of dollars worth of federal contracts and then still sell us out to the terrorists if we don't also pick up their legal tab. But that's what their argument actually means. That's what they're threatening.

Licks of sense must be hard to come by these days, though, because as dumb as it is, a near majority of the United States Congress appears to believe  every word of it.

Is your Senator or Representative one of these addle-brained idiots?

Maybe you should call and find out.

Is Bush Gearing Up For An Attack On Iran?

  I have always though that the Republicans would pull off some sort of October surprise because this currant administration cannot afford to leave office. they might have to eventually face trials and world courts for their war crimes and many other criminal activities.

  Now we have this from author Conn Hallinan at Portside concerning the Bush rhetoric about Iran.

June 3, 2008   ( edited )  Complete Article

The May 8 letter from U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to George W. Bush, received virtually no media coverage, in spite of the fact that it warned the President that an attack on Iran without Congressional approval would be grounds for impeachment. Rumor has it several senators have been briefed about the possibility of war with Iran.

Something is afoot.

According to Newsweek, during his Middle East tour in January, President Bush "all but disowned the document" to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. A "senior administration official" told the magazine, "He [Bush] told the Israelis that he can't control what the intelligence community says but that [the NIE's] conclusions don't reflect his own views."

Neither do they reflect the views of Vice-President Dick Cheney or Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

In an interview with ABC during his recent 10-day visit to the region, Cheney downplayed the NIE: "We don't know whether or not they've [the Iranians have] restarted." Cheney also said Iran was seeking to build missiles capable of reaching the U.S. sometime in the next decade.

According to the Israeli website, DEBKAfile, Cheney's trip to the Middle East in March was seen in the region as a possible harbinger of war. "The vice-president's choice of capitals for his tour is a pointer to the fact that the military option, off since December, may be on again," DEBKA concluded. "America will need the cooperation of all four [countries he visited] - Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey."

There has also been a steady build-up of naval and air power in the region. A new aircraft carrier battle group has been assigned to the area, Patriot anti-missile missiles have been deployed, and U.S. naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean have been beefed up.

   I'll have more on the subject later in the evening. Time for work now.

    Good day everyone!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Future of U.S.-Iraqi Relations

  A couple of comments from a few Iraqi Representatives while speaking to The Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight today.

From The Gavel

June 4th, 2008 by Jesse Lee

The Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight has just concluded a hearing, “The Future of U.S.-Iraqi Relations: The Perspective of the Iraqi Parliament.” Witnesses included The Honorable Nadeem Al-Jaberi and The Honorable Khalaf Al-Ulayyan of the Council of Representatives of Iraq.

Full transcript:

“As you know in the history of international relations any signing or any bilateral agreements, if they are not between two equal parties cannot be successful. On the contrary, they may lead to more instability. And these are problems that unequal signatories of treaties can lead to. Therefore what we strive for is establishing a balanced relationship between the two countries. But nothing of this could be made possible until the troops withdraw from Iraq. And then negotiate in an objective manner. In such a way that the interests of both countries are taken into consideration. So that we may reach friendly and solid relations between the peoples of the two countries and our governments.

“However, if we were to make an expedient treaty that may cause problems for the government and the people. And of course we do not need to burden them with more problems. Because it has other a security and economic tasks ahead of it.

“We also were very concerned when we heard that this agreement was not to be proposed in front of the Iraqi parliament. And this goes against the Iraqi Constitution. You cannot put any agreement into application in Iraq, according to the Constitution, unless you have a majority two thirds approval of the parliament. Therefore not presenting it to the parliament may be a factor in this agreement failing. And thank you.”

  UPDATE:  Here  is even more on this story.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Obama Polls Better Than McCain

    Two good things happened in the political world today!

     First off, Barack Obama has captured the Democratic Presidential nomination according to the Associated Press. Now maybe Hillary Clinton will bow out gracefully?

   The second good thing today is that according to a Gallup/USA Today voter opinion survey,  Barack Obama has now taken the lead among voters as the choice for President in the November election.

Obama would beat McCain 47 to 44 percent in the November election, in a reversal from Gallup's findings a month ago, which saw McCain ahead of Obama 47 to 45 percent.

Both leads are within the poll's four point margin of error.

A matchup pitting Hillary Clinton against McCain saw the former first lady with a sharper advantage of 49 percent versus 43 for the presumptive Republican nominee, Gallup found in its survey of 1,012 American adults.

  In another poll done by Harris..

   ...which surveyed 2,317 US adults over 12 days last month, showed that more independents would vote for whomever the Democratic nominee turns out to be than for the presumptive Republican candidate, McCain, in November.

Around 40 percent of independent voters said they would vote for Clinton or Obama, while around 36 percent said they would choose McCain.

  It is now time to get out and let the public see the real differences between Barack Obama and Republican John McCain. Just keep pointing out that McCain is George Bush's second coming if he gets into the White House. We don't need that kind of crap any more.

   Get over your racist attitude if you are a Clinton supporter and start supporting the Democratic Party's nominee! This is your party, is it not?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Are You On The Governments Martial Law Round-Up List

   If you are one of those people that criticize our government or the war in Iraq, then you've probably made a secret list that the government has been making and this list could get you locked up if Martial Law breaks out in the United States. You can bet your ass that the ultra-secretive Bush administration has some of you in its sights under the rule. The Protect America Act and the FISA law updates were not created to just fight terrorism, they are here to mainly gather information on us, the United States citizens.

   Christopher Ketcham at RadarOnline has an eye opening look at this database of names and info which is very well worth reading in its entirety.

In the spring of 2007, a retired senior official in the U.S. Justice Department sat before Congress and told a story so odd and ominous, it could have sprung from the pages of a pulp political thriller. It was about a principled bureaucrat struggling to protect his country from a highly classified program with sinister implications. Rife with high drama, it included a car chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., and a tense meeting at the White House, where the president's henchmen made the bureaucrat so nervous that he demanded a neutral witness be present.

The bureaucrat was James Comey, John Ashcroft's second-in-command at the Department of Justice during Bush's first term. Comey had been a loyal political foot soldier of the Republican Party for many years. Yet in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he described how he had grown increasingly uneasy reviewing the Bush administration's various domestic surveillance and spying programs. Much of his testimony centered on an operation so clandestine he wasn't allowed to name it or even describe what it did. He did say, however, that he and Ashcroft had discussed the program in March 2004, trying to decide whether it was legal under federal statutes. Shortly before the certification deadline, Ashcroft fell ill with pancreatitis, making Comey acting attorney general, and Comey opted not to certify the program. When he communicated his decision to the White House, Bush's men told him, in so many words, to take his concerns and stuff them in an undisclosed location

Few Americans—professional journalists included—know anything about so-called Continuity of Government (COG) programs, so it's no surprise that the president's passing reference received almost no attention. COG resides in a nebulous legal realm, encompassing national emergency plans that would trigger the takeover of the country by extra-constitutional forces—and effectively suspend the republic. In short, it's a road map for martial law.

According to a senior government official who served with high-level security clearances in five administrations, "There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived 'enemies of the state' almost instantaneously." He and other sources tell Radar that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.     Complete Article

     For those of you interested in more on the Continuity of Government program, go right Here

John McCain Lobbyist Rick Davis: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

  By now most intelligent people are well aware that John " the reformer " McCain is no reformer when it comes to politicians and the lobbying groups. It seems that everyday we learn of new ties to lobbyist and their foreign clients, those lobbyist on the McCain campaign.

   Here is one more example of John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, and his lobbying prow-ness on behalf of clients dealing with foreign countries. In this case, Iran, the one that McCain wants to bomb,bomb, bomb.

But Davis isn't just any lobbyist. He's a lobbyist-turn-presidential campaign manager who just a couple weeks ago was drawing up rules on how to build a wall between lobbyists and McCain's political operatives. And McCain has been more hawkish than most of his colleagues about confronting Iran.

And, interestingly, Davis' lobbying shop, Davis Manafort, was doing work for the Ukranian oligarch about the same time that Davis was serving as the president of McCain's Reform Institute.

A McCain aide told us Davis did not work on that account while he was heading up the firm. And he was unaware of the company's ties to Iran.

  The incompetent campaign of John McCain. And this moron wants to run our country when he can't even keep track of his campaign workers?

The Corporate States Of America

   While America keeps its eyes focused on the next American Idol and/or the latest celebrity gossip, our country is/has been taken over by its own corporations.

   From our government, to our schools,and everything else in between, our corporations are becoming our rulers and America is under siege by its own self-created terrorist who aren't using violent weapons to subdue its citizenry.

   Cross-posted from  Common Dreams for original

The Corporate State and the Subversion of Democracy

by Chris Hedges

Note: Chris Hedges gave this keynote address on Wednesday, May 28 at 7 p.m. in Furman University’s Younts Conference Center. The address was part of the protests by faculty and students over the South Carolina college’s decision to invite George W. Bush to give the May 31 commencement address.

When it was announced earlier this month that President Bush would deliver the commencement address 222 students and faculty signed and posted on the school’s Web site a statement titled “We Object.” The statement cites the war in Iraq and the administration’s “obstructing progress on reducing greenhouse gases while favoring billions in tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies that are earning record profits.”

“We are ashamed of the actions of this administration. The war in Iraq has cost the lives of over 4,000 brave and honorable U.S. military personnel,” the statement read. “Because we love this country and the ideals it stands for, we accept our civic responsibility to speak out against these actions that violate American values.”

I used to live in a country called America. It was not a perfect country, God knows, especially if you were African-American or Native American or of Japanese descent in World War II or poor or gay or a woman or an immigrant, but it was a country I loved and honored. This country gave me hope that it could be better. It paid its workers wages that were envied around the world. It made sure these workers, thanks to labor unions and champions of the working class in the Democratic Party and the press, had health benefits and pensions. It offered good public education. It honored basic democratic values and held in regard the rule of law, including international law, and respect for human rights. It had social programs from Head Start to welfare to Social Security to take care of the weakest among us, the mentally ill, the elderly and the destitute. It had a system of government that, however flawed, was dedicated to protecting the interests of its citizens. It offered the possibility of democratic change. It had a media that was diverse and endowed with the integrity to give a voice to all segments of society, including those beyond our borders, to impart to us unpleasant truths, to challenge the powerful, to explain ourselves to ourselves. I am not blind to the imperfections of this America, or the failures to always meet these ideals at home and abroad. I spent 20 years of my life in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans as a foreign correspondent reporting in countries where crimes and injustices were committed in our name, whether during the Contra war in Nicaragua or the brutalization of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces. But there was much that was good and decent and honorable in our country. And there was hope.The country I live in today uses the same words to describe itself, the same patriotic symbols and iconography, the same national myths, but only the shell remains. America, the country of my birth, the country that formed and shaped me, the country of my father, my father’s father, and his father’s father, stretching back to the generations of my family that were here for the country’s founding, is so diminished as to be nearly unrecognizable. I do not know if this America will return, even as I pray and work and strive for its return. The “consent of the governed” has become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science are obsolete. Our state, our nation, has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations and a narrow, selfish political elite, a small and privileged group which governs on behalf of moneyed interests. We are undergoing, as John Ralston Saul wrote, “a coup d’etat in slow motion.” We are being impoverished-legally, economically, spiritually and politically. And unless we soon reverse this tide, unless we wrest the state away from corporate hands, we will be sucked into the dark and turbulent world of globalization where there are only masters and serfs, where the American dream will be no more than that-a dream, where those who work hard for a living can no longer earn a decent wage to sustain themselves or their families, whether in sweat shops in China or the decaying rust belt of Ohio, where democratic dissent is condemned as treason and ruthlessly silenced.

I single out no party. The Democratic Party has been as guilty as the Republicans. It was Bill Clinton who led the Democratic Party to the corporate watering trough. Clinton argued that the party had to ditch labor unions, no longer a source of votes or power, as a political ally. Workers, he insisted, would vote Democratic anyway. They had no choice. It was better, he argued, to take corporate money. By the 1990s, the Democratic Party, under Clinton’s leadership, had virtual fundraising parity with the Republicans. Today the Democrats get more. In political terms, it was a success. In moral terms, it was a betrayal.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was sold to the country by the Clinton White House as an opportunity to raise the incomes and prosperity of the citizens of the United States, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA would also, we were told, staunch Mexican immigration into the United States.

“There will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home,” President Clinton said in the spring of 1993 as he was lobbying for the bill.

But NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, had the curious effect of reversing every one of Clinton’s rosy predictions. Once the Mexican government lifted price supports on corn and beans for Mexican farmers, they had to compete against the huge agribusinesses in the United States. The Mexican farmers were swiftly bankrupted. At least 2 million Mexican farmers have been driven off their land since 1994. And guess where many of them went? This desperate flight of poor Mexicans into the United States is now being exacerbated by large-scale factory closures along the border as manufacturers pack up and leave Mexico for the cut-rate embrace of China’s totalitarian capitalism. But we were assured that goods would be cheaper. Workers would be wealthier. Everyone would be happier. I am not sure how these contradictory things were supposed to happen, but in a sound-bite society, reality no longer matters. NAFTA was great if you were a corporation. It was a disaster if you were a worker.

Clinton’s welfare reform bill, which was signed on Aug. 22, 1996, obliterated the nation’s social safety net. It threw 6 million people, many of them single mothers, off the welfare rolls within three years. It dumped them onto the streets without child care, rent subsidies and continued Medicaid coverage. Families were plunged into crisis, struggling to survive on multiple jobs that paid $6 or $7 an hour, or less than $15,000 a year. But these were the lucky ones. In some states, half of those dropped from the welfare rolls could not find work. Clinton slashed Medicare by $115 billion over a five-year period and cut $25 billion in Medicaid funding. The booming and overcrowded prison system handled the influx of the poor, as well as our abandoned mentally ill. And today we stand in shame with 2.3 million of our citizens behind bars, most for nonviolent drug offenses. More than one in 100 adults in the United States is incarcerated and one in nine black men ages 20 to 34 is behind bars. The United States, with less than 5 per cent of the global population, has almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

The growing desperation across the United States is unleashing not simply a recession-we have been in a recession for some time now-but the possibility of a depression unlike anything we have seen since the 1930s. This desperation has provided a pool of broken people willing to work for low wages and without unions or benefits. This is good news if you are a corporation. It is very bad news if you work for a living. For the bottom 90 percent of Americans, annual income has been on a slow, steady decline for three decades. The majority’s income peaked at $ 33,000 in 1973. By 2005, according to New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston in his book “Free Lunch,” it had fallen to a bit more than $29,000, this despite three decades of economic expansion. And where did that money go? Ask ExxonMobil, the biggest U.S. oil and gas company, which made a $10.9-billion profit in the first quarter of this year, leaving us to pay close to $4 a gallon to fill up our cars. Or better yet, ask Exxon Mobil Corp Chief Executive Rex Tillerson, whose compensation rose nearly 18 percent to $21.7 million in 2007, when the oil company pulled in the largest profit ever for a U.S. company. His take-home pay package included $1.75 million in salary, a $3.36-million bonus, and $16.1 million of stock and option awards, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He also received nearly $430,000 of other compensation, including $229,331 for personal security and $41,122 for use of the company aircraft. In addition to his pay package, Tillerson, 56, received more than $7.6 million from exercising options and stock awards during the year. Exxon Mobil earned $40.61 billion in 2007, up 3 percent from the previous year. But Tillerson’s 2007 pay was not even the highest mark for the U.S. oil and gas industry. Occidental Petroleum Corp. CEO Ray Irani made $33.6 million and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. chief James Hackett took in $26.7 million over the same period.

For each dollar earned in 2005, the top 10 percent got 48.5 cents. That was the top 10th’s greatest share of the income pie, Johnston writes, since 1929, just before the Roaring ’20s collapsed in the Great Depression. And within the top 10 percent, those who made more than $100,000, nearly all the gains went to the top 10th of 1 percent, people like Tillerson, or Irani or Hackett, who made at least $1.7 million that year. And until we have real election reform, until we make it possible to run for national office without candidates kissing the rings of Tillersons, Iranis and Hacketts to get hundreds of millions of dollars, this rape of America will continue.

While the Democrats have been very bad, George W. Bush has been even worse. Let’s set aside Iraq-the worst foreign policy blunder in American history. George Bush has also done more to dismantle our Constitution, ignore or revoke our statutes and reverse regulations that protected American citizens from corporate abuse than any other president in recent American history. The president, as the Boston Globe reported, has claimed the authority, through “signing statements,” to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution. Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ‘’whistle-blower” protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ‘’to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” George Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ‘’execute” a law he believes is unconstitutional. The Bush administration has gutted environmental, food and product safety, and workplace safety standards along with their enforcement. And this is why coal mines collapse, the housing bubble has blown up in our face and we are sold lead-contaminated toys imported from China. Bush has done more than any president to hand our government directly over to corporations, which now get 40 percent of federal discretionary spending. Over 800,000 jobs once handled by government employees have been outsourced to corporations, a move that has not only further empowered our shadow corporate government but helped destroy federal workforce unions. Everything from federal prisons, the management of regulatory and scientific reviews, the processing or denial of Freedom of Information requests, interrogating prisoners and running the world’s largest mercenary army in Iraq has become corporate. And these corporations, in a perverse arrangement, make their money off of the American citizen. Halliburton in 2003 was given a no-bid and non-compete $7-billion contract to repair Iraq’s oil fields, as well as the power to oversee and control Iraq’s entire oil production. This has now become $130 billion in contract awards to Halliburton. And flush with taxpayer dollars, what has Haliburton done? It has made sure only 36 of its 143 subsidiaries are incorporated in the United States and 107 subsidiaries (or 75 percent) are incorporated in 30 different countries. Halliburton is able through this arrangement to lower its tax liability on foreign income by establishing a “controlled foreign corporation” and subsidiaries inside low-tax, or no-tax, countries known as a “tax havens.” They take our money. They squander it. And our corporate government not only funds them but protects them. Halliburton-and Halliburton is just one example-is the engine of our new, rogue corporate state, serviced by people like George Bush and Dick Cheney, once the company’s CEO.

The disparity between our oligarchy and the working class has created a new global serfdom. Credit Suisse analysts estimates that the number of subprime foreclosures in the United States over the next two years will total 1,390,000 and that by the end of 2012, 12.7 percent of all residential borrowers in the United States will be forced out of their homes. The corporate state, which as an idea is an abstraction to many Americans, is very real when the pieces are carefully put together and linked to a system of corporate power that has made this poverty, the denial of our constitutional rights and a state of permanent war inevitable. The assault on the American working class-an assault that has devastated members of my own family- is nearly complete. The U.S. economy has 3.2 million fewer jobs today than it did when George Bush took office, including 2.5 million fewer manufacturing jobs. In the past three years, nearly one in five U.S. workers was laid off. Among workers laid off from full-time work, roughly one-fourth were earning less than $40,000 annually. A total of 15 million U.S. workers are unemployed, underemployed or too discouraged to job hunt, according to the Labor Department. There are whole sections of the United States which now resemble the developing world. There has been a Weimarization of the American working class. And the assault on the middle class is now under way. Anything that can be put on software-from finance to architecture to engineering-can and is being outsourced to workers in countries such as India or China who accept a fraction of the pay and work without benefits. And both the Republican and Democratic parties, beholden to corporations for money and power, allow this to happen.

Take a look at our government departments. Who runs the Defense Department? The Department of Interior? The Department of Agriculture? The Food and Drug Administration? Who runs the Department of Labor? Corporations. And in an election year where we are numbed by absurdities we hear nothing about this subordinating of the American people to corporate power. The political debates, which have become popularity contests, are ridiculous and empty. They do not confront the real and advanced destruction of our democracy. They do not confront the takeover of our electoral processes.

We have watched over the past few decades the rise of a powerful web of interlocking corporate entities, a network of arrangements within subsectors, industries or other partial jurisdictions to diminish and often abolish outside control and oversight. These corporations have neutralized national, state and judicial authority. They dominate, for example, a bloated and wasteful defense industry which has become sacrosanct and beyond the reach of politicians, most of whom are left defending military projects in their districts, no matter how redundant, because they provide jobs. This has permitted a military-industrial complex, which contributes lavishly to political campaigns, to spread across the country with virtual impunity. Defense-related spending for fiscal 2008 will exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history. The U.S. has become the largest single seller of arms and munitions on the planet. The defense budget for fiscal 2008 is the largest since the Second World War even as we have more than $400 billion in annual deficits. More than half of federal discretionary spending goes to defense. This will not end when Bush leaves office. And so we build Cold War relics like $ 3.4-billion submarines and stealth fighters to evade radar systems the Soviets never built and spend $ 8.9 billion on ICBM missile defense that will be useless in stopping a shipping container concealing a dirty bomb. The defense industry is able to monopolize the best scientific and research talent and squander the nation’s resources and investment capital. These defense industries produce nothing that is useful for society or the national trade account. Melman, like President Eisenhower, saw the defense industry as viral, something that, as it grew, destroyed a healthy economy. And so we produce sophisticated fighter jets while Boeing is unable to finish its new commercial plane on schedule, and our automotive industry tanks. We sink money into research and development of weapons systems and starve technologies to fight against global warming and renewable energy. Universities are awash in defense-related cash and grants, and struggle to find money for environmental studies. This massive military spending, aided by this $3-trillion war, is hollowing us out from the inside. Our bridges and levees collapse, our schools decay and our safety net is taken away.

The corporate state, begun under Ronald Reagan and pushed forward by every president since, has destroyed the public and private institutions that protected workers and safeguarded citizens. Only 7.8 per cent of workers in the private sector are unionized. This is about the same percentage as in the early 1900s. There are 50 million Americans in real poverty and tens of millions of Americans in a category called “near poverty.” Our health care system is broken. Eighteen thousand people die in this country, according to the Institute of Medicine, every year because they can’t afford health care. That is six times the number of people who died in the 9/11 attacks, and these unnecessary deaths continue year after year. But we do not hear these stories of pain and dislocation. We are diverted by bread and circus. News reports do little more than report on trivia and celebrity gossip. The FCC, in an example of how far our standards have fallen, defines shows like Fox’s celebrity gossip program “TMZ” and the Christian Broadcast Network’s “700 Club” as “bona fide newscasts.” The economist Charlotte Twight calls this vast corporate system of spectacle and democratic collapse “participatory fascism.”

How did we get here? How did this happen? In a word, deregulation-the systematic dismantling of the managed capitalism that was the hallmark of the American democratic state. Our political decline came about because of deregulation, the repeal of antitrust laws, and the radical transformation from a manufacturing economy to a capital economy. This understanding led Franklin Delano Roosevelt on April 29, 1938, to send a message to Congress titled “Recommendations to the Congress to Curb Monopolies and the Concentration of Economic Power.” In it, he wrote:

“The first truth is that the liberty of democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism-ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way to sustain an acceptable standard of living.”

The rise of the corporate state has grave political consequences, as we saw in Italy and Germany in the early part of the 20th century. Antitrust laws not only regulate and control the marketplace, they serve as bulwarks to protect democracy. And now that they are gone, now that we have a state that is run by and on behalf of corporations, we must expect inevitable and perhaps terrifying political consequences.

I spent two years traveling the country to write a book on the Christian right called “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” In depressed former manufacturing towns from Ohio to Kentucky it was the same. There are tens of millions of Americans for whom the end of the world is no longer an abstraction. They have lost hope. Fear and instability has plunged the working class into personal and economic despair, and not surprisingly into the arms of the demagogues and charlatans of the radical Christian right who offer a belief in magic, miracles and the fiction of a utopian Christian nation. And unless we re-enfranchise these Americans back into the economy, unless we give them hope, our democracy is doomed.

As the pressure mounts, as this despair and desperation reaches into larger and larger segments of the American populace, the mechanisms of corporate and government control are being bolstered to prevent civil unrest and instability. It is not accidental that with the rise of the corporate state comes the rise of the security state. This is why the Bush White House has pushed through the Patriot Act (and its renewal), the suspension of habeas corpus, the practice of “extraordinary rendition,” the warrantless wiretapping on American citizens and the refusal to ensure free and fair elections with verifiable ballot-counting. It is part of a package. It comes together. It is not about terrorism or national security. It is about control. It is about their control of us.

Sen. Frank Church, as chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence in 1975, investigated the government’s massive and highly secretive National Security Agency. He wrote:

“That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. … I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capability that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return. …”

When Sen. Church made this statement the NSA was not authorized to spy on American citizens. Today it is.

In a military brig in Charleston an American citizen, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, is being held in a black hole set up on American soil. He was stripped on June 23, 2003, by George Bush of his constitutional rights and declared an “enemy combatant.” He is being detained without charge, interrogated without a lawyer and held indefinitely. Lawyers for the Bush administration claim that the president can send the military into any neighborhood, any town or suburb, capture a citizen and hold him or her in prison without charge. They base this claim on the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress after 9/11, that gives President Bush the power to “use all necessary and appropriate force” against anyone involved in planning, aiding or carrying out the attacks. But Al-Mari was not captured in Afghanistan or Iraq. He was arrested in Peoria, Ill., in December 2001. And if the president can declare American citizens living inside the United States to be enemy combatants and order them stripped of constitutional rights, what does this mean for us? How long can we be held without charge? Without lawyers? Without access to the outside world? Maybe Al-Mari is, as the government claims, a terrorist. I don’t know. But I do know that if this becomes a precedent, if it is not overturned by the courts, habeas corpus, the most important bulwark of our democratic state, will be dead.

We are fed lie after lie to mask the destruction the corporate state has wrought in our lives. The consumer price index, for example, used by the government to measure inflation, has become meaningless. To keep the official inflation figures low the government has been substituting basic products they once measured to check for inflation with ones that do not rise very much in price. This trick has kept the cost-of-living increases tied to the CPI artificially low. The disconnect between what we are told and what is actually true is worthy of the old East German state. The New York Times’ consumer reporter, W.P. Dunleavy, wrote that her groceries now cost $587 a month, up from $400 a year earlier. This is a 40 percent increase. California economist John Williams, who runs an organization called Shadow Statistics, contends that if Washington still used the CPI measurements applied back in the 1970s, inflation would be in the 10 percent range. The advantage to the corporations is huge. A false inflation rate, one far lower than the real rate, keeps equitable interest payments on bank accounts and certificates of deposit down. It masks the deterioration of the American economy. The Potemkin statistics allow corporations and the corporate state to walk away from obligations tied to real adjustments for inflation. These statistics mean that less is paid out in Social Security and pensions. It has reduced the interest on the multitrillion-dollar debt. Corporations never have to pay real cost-of-living increases to their employees. The term “unemployment” has also been steadily redefined. This has rendered official data on employment worthless. In real terms about 10 percent of the working population is unemployed, a figure that is, over the long run, unsustainable. The economy, despite the official statistics, is not growing. It is shrinking. And as the nation crumbles we are awash with the terrible simplicity of false statistics. We confuse our emotional responses, carefully manipulated by advertisers, pundits, spin doctors, television hosts, political consultants and focus groups, with knowledge. It is how we elect presidents and those we send to Congress, how we make decisions, even decisions to go to war. It is how we view the world. Four media giants-AOL-Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsGroup-control nearly everything we read, see and hear. This growing disconnect with reality is the hallmark of a totalitarian state.

“Before they seize power and establish a world according to their doctrines,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations. The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda-before the movements have the power to drop iron curtains to prevent anyone’s disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world-lies in its ability to shut the masses off from the real world.”

So what do we do? Voting is not enough. If voting was that effective, to quote the activist Philip Berrigan, it would be illegal. And voting in an age when elections are stolen by rigged ballot machines and a stacked Supreme Court willing to overturn all legal precedent to make George Bush president, will not work. I am not saying do not vote. We should all vote. But that has to be the starting point if we want to reclaim America. We must lobby, organize and advocate for the dissolution of the World Trade Organization and NAFTA. The WTO and NAFTA have handcuffed workers, consumers and stymied our efforts to create clean environments. These agreements are beyond the control of our courts and have crippled our weakened regulatory agencies. The WTO forces our working class to compete with brutalized child and prison labor overseas, to be reduced to this level of slave labor or to go without meaningful work. We need to repeal the anti-worker Taft-Hartley law of 1947. The act obstructs the organization of unions. We need to transfer control of pension funds from management to workers. If these pension funds, worth trillions of dollars, were in the hands of workers the working class would own a third of the New York Stock Exchange.

The working class has every right to be, to steal a line from Obama, bitter with liberal elites. I am bitter. I have seen what the loss of manufacturing jobs and the death of the labor movement did to my relatives in the former mill towns in Maine. Their story is the story of tens of millions of Americans who can no longer find a job that supports a family and provides basic benefits. Human beings are not commodities. They are not goods. They grieve, and suffer and feel despair. They raise children and struggle to maintain communities. The growing class divide is not understood, despite the glibness of many in the media, by complicated sets of statistics or the absurd, utopian faith in unregulated globalization and complicated trade deals. It is understood in the eyes of a man or woman who is no longer making enough money to live with dignity and hope.

George Bush, who will be here on Saturday, has done more to shred, violate or absent the government from its obligations under domestic and international law. He has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, tried to kill the International Criminal Court, walked out on negotiations on chemical and biological weapons, and defied the Geneva Convention and human rights law. He has set up offshore penal colonies where we deny detainees basic rights and openly engage in torture. He launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public. And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for these crimes, if we allow the Democratic majority in Congress to get away with its refusal to begin the process of impeachment, which appears likely, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences. For a world without treaties, statutes and laws is a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, will be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others. This new order will undo five decades of international cooperation-largely put in place by the United States-destroy our own constitutional rights and thrust us into a Hobbesian nightmare. We are one, maybe two, terrorist attacks away from a police state. Time is running out.
We must not allow international laws and treaties-ones that set minimum standards of behavior and provide a framework for competing social, political, economic and religious groups and interests to resolve differences-to be discarded. The exercise of power without law is tyranny. And the consequences of George Bush’s violation of the law, his creation of legal black holes that can swallow American citizens along with those outside our borders, run in a direct line from the White House to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and military brigs in cities such as Charleston.
George Bush-we now know from the leaked Downing Street memo-fabricated a legal pretext for war. He decided to charge Saddam Hussein with the material breach of the resolution passed in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War. He had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was in breach of this resolution. And so he and his advisers manufactured reports of weapons of mass destruction and disseminated them to a frightened and manipulated press and public. In short, he lied. He lied to us and to the rest of the world. There are tens of thousands, perhaps a few hundred thousand people, who have been killed and maimed in a war that has no legal justification, a war waged in violation of international law, a war that under the post-Nuremberg laws is defined as “a criminal war of aggression.”

We have blundered into nations we know little about. We are caught between bitter rivalries and competing ethnic groups and leaders we do not understand. We are trying to transplant a modern system of politics invented in Europe characterized, among other things, by the division of earth into independent secular states based on national citizenship in a land where the belief in a secular civil government is an alien creed. Iraq was a cesspool for the British when they occupied it in 1917. It will be a cesspool for us as well. We can either begin an orderly withdrawal or watch the mission collapse.

A rule-based world matters. The creation of international bodies and laws, the sanctity of our constitutional rights, have allowed us to stand pre-eminent as a nation-one that seeks at its best to respect and defend the rule of law. If we demolish the fragile and delicate domestic and international order, if we permit George Bush to create a world where diplomacy, broad cooperation, democracy and law are worthless, if we allow these international and domestic legal safeguards to unravel, our moral and political authority will plummet. We will erode the possibility of cooperation between nation-states, including our closest allies. We will lose our country. And we will, in the end, see visited upon us the evils we visit on others. Read Antigone, when the king imposes his will without listening to those he rules or Thucydides’ history. Read how Athens’ expanding empire saw it become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. How the tyranny the Athenian leadership imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. This, Thucydides wrote, is what doomed Athenian democracy; Athens destroyed itself. For the primary instrument of tyranny and empire is war and war is a poison, a poison which at times we must ingest just as a cancer patient must ingest a poison to survive. But if we do not understand the poison of war-if we do not understand how deadly that poison is-it can kill us just as surely as the disease.

Hope, St. Augustine wrote, has two beautiful daughters. They are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are and the courage to see they do not remain the way they are. We stand at the verge of a massive economic dislocation, one forcing millions of families from their homes and into severe financial distress, one that threatens to rend the fabric of our society. We are waging a war that devours lives and capital, and that cannot ultimately be won. We are told we need to give up our rights to be safe, to be protected. In short, we are made afraid. We are told to hand over all that is best about our nation to those like George Bush and Dick Cheney who seek to destroy our nation. A state of fear only engenders cruelty; cruelty, fear, insanity, and then paralysis. In the center of Dante’s circle the damned remained motionless. If we do not become angry, if we do not muster within us the courage, indeed the militancy, to challenge those in the Democratic and Republican parties who herd us towards the corporate state, we will have squandered our courage and our integrity when we need it most.

Chris Hedges, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, is the author of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.