November 08, 2007

Impeaching Dick Cheney - an Alien Notion

Dennis Kucinich apparently does not dispute an account in Shirley MacLaine's new book that he saw an unidentified flying object near her home in Washington State during the 1980's. "He saw a gigantic triangular craft, silent and observing him. It hovered for about 10 minutes or so and sped away with a speed he couldn't comprehend. He felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind." I suspect that the full story has been withheld for reasons of credibility. I think Kucinich's experience was actually a Close Encounter of the Third Kind, and that when the spaceship sped away, Kucinich was on board. The reason that Kucinich could not comprehend the speed is related to the theory of relativity; in order to reach home base in a solar system near Alpha Centauri and return Kucinich to Earth in time to run for President, it was necessary to travel close to the speed of light. Alpha Centauri is about 4.365 light years away, so even if his new googly-eyed friends were humping it at .99(C), Dennis was going to be gone at least 9 Earth-years or so. Because of time dilation on board the triangular craft, which Dennis also could not comprehend, he didn't age much at all, and indeed the Ohio Congressman has a very youthful appearance even today. Returning to Earth at practically the same chronological age as the day he left Shirley's backyard, Dennis looked around for a wife youthful in Earth-years and evidently found her, tongue ring and all.

While he was gone, however, not everything was above board on board. At some point in transit to Alpha Centauri, the aliens, tired of lounging around in their Imperial Barcaloungers, their four eyes bleary from staring at the 1000 inch plasma TV on board, decided to have a little fun. They slipped Dennis a mickey of Versed/Fentanyl, and while he was in a state of hypnotic sedation (even today he seems not to have fully recovered), they opened the hatch behind one of his Spock ears and gained entry into the central processing unit of Kucinich's brain. They swapped out the CPU in favor of an Alpha Centauri upgrade.

With this fuller account revealed, it is easier to make sense of Kucinich's recent attempt to impeach Dick Cheney. Prior to the Close Encounter, I don't think Dennis would have tried this; after alien tinkering, goofy, weird behavior can probably break out at any time.

Kucinich's resolution contains 3 articles of impeachment. The first two concern the invasion of Iraq, Cheney's manipulation of intelligence to make false cases that Saddam had WMD and that Iraq had ties to al-Qaeda. The third article refers to Cheney's bellicose posturing regarding Iran, which Kucinich argues amounts to an unconstitutional abrogation of treaty obligations not to engage in preemptive war against nations which have not threatened us.

That's it. That's the resolution. With all the material the Congress has to work with against Bush and Cheney, including the commission of actual felonies under federal statutory law (violations of the War Crimes Act, the FISA law and the Identities Protection Act, e.g. - by no means an exhaustive list), Kucinich chose three points which are arguably political controversies. And he aimed his case against the Vice President instead of Bush, supposedly on the theory that Cheney should be removed first so he does not succeed to the presidency after Bush's impeachment.

This is beyond stupid. Earth to Kucinich (we know you were away for a few years, and things have changed): impeachment is going to fail in both cases. There aren't enough Democrats in the Senate to convict. No one is going to be removed from office no matter how strong the case. The point of impeachment proceedings is to compel the production of evidence on the most serious abuses of the Bush Administration. To air it all out once and for all. Instead, Kucinich placed in motion a resolution so weak and insubstantial that the Democrats ran from it while the Republicans voted to schedule it for debate, resulting in another Keystone Kops moment for the "majority party" and destroying, probably forever, the idea of accountability through the impeachment process. Really, Dennis -- you need to call Intergalactic Tech Support.

November 06, 2007

Rough Disbarment in Islamabad

To cement his grip on power, Pakistani junta leader Pervez Musharraf has been rounding up lawyers and throwing them in jail. Life imitates art, I suppose, since Googling the subject turns up all kinds of references to the immortal line from William Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." This sounds like the first lawyer joke (it probably is), but the "sophisticated" view finds its way into most of the analyses of Pervez's overthrow of his own government (which he installed after he overthrew the government preceding his). The enlightened interpretation is that lawyers are guardians of public order and guarantors of due process and legality -- in a sense the conscience of society; ergo, a tyrant gets them out of the way first in order to break down restraints and organized resistance. I'm pretty sure that the exchange between Dick and Jack Cade in Henry VI wasn't about that. Theirs was a vision of a simple utopia where everyone had plenty to eat and there were no lawyers to bum you out by driving you off your land or throwing you in jail for debt. The other interpretation is a nice fantasy, but Shakespeare was going for a laugh with his lawyer joke. And I'll bet he got one.

I'm not sure why Pervez is incarcerating lawyers and judges. I suppose it's because they protested his suspension of elections and house-arresting the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court. Bush is now dithering in this moment of absurd Realpolitik. Everyone is quoting his Second Inaugural speech and its "freedom on the march" theme. The one about "standing with the oppressed," etc. Look, folks, you can't shame this man. If what's happened in Iraq doesn't bother him, a speed bump like this isn't going to disturb his adolescent slumber. He's hunkered down with his line about Pervez supporting our mighty war on terror, and while he's distressed (he indicates) about the Sheriff's suspension of democracy, the money Pervez needs to run his junta will keep on flowing from the U.S. Treasury to army HQ in Islamabad.

Matters are complicated by the Islamic Bomb, of course. That's the primary point, in fact. Thug that he is, Pervez seems reliable; he's not going to sell one of his A-bombs to al-Qaeda or send A.Q. Khan to Tehran to run a PowerPoint on nuke-construction. Benazir Bhutto (in a NY Times Op-Ed) tells us that the vast majority of Pakistanis are moderates who should be trusted with democracy, but Bush isn't buying. Last time he trusted the democratic process in a Muslim country, he wound up with Nouri al-Maliki. Which brings up an interesting point. I think I've seen a guy dressed up in a military uniform, wearing a moustache and squashing sectarian dissent in that part of the world before. As recently as 2003. He had to go, of course, know something? It gets confusing. Sometimes it seems our foreign policy operates with no principles whatsoever. Saddam didn't have the bomb, but we said he did. Pervez actually has missiles loaded with A-bombs, which we freely acknowledge. Saddam suppressed Muslim dissenters, just like Pervez. Saddam operated a police state, just like Pervez. Saddam was a bulwark against Iranian ascendancy, just like Pervez. On the other hand, Pervez seems to protect Osama bin Laden, and Saddam was his mortal enemy.

I think I'm clear here. Pervez never threatened George W. Bush's daddy. Or: since Poppy Bush never invaded Pakistan, there was no way for Junior to go him one better. Beyond the looking glass, where the Bush Administration dwells, you take your principles where you find them.

November 05, 2007

A wild surmise

From Hale Stewart's column in the HuffingtonPost, Oct. 22, 2007:
"However, the big foreign buyers of US debt aren't buying this debt like they used to. According to information from the Treasury Department, the five largest holders of US debt (Japan, China, UK, Oil Exporters and Brazil) owned a combined total of $1.224 trillion in August 2006 and $1.459 trillion in August 2007. That's an increase of $235 billion. And over that same time, the really big purchases came from the UK ($189.4 billion) and Brazil ($63.6 billion.) China only increased their holdings by $13 billion and Japan decreased their holdings by $37.9 billion. In other words, Asian Central Banks -- who used to be reliable purchasers of US debt just aren't that interested in buying anymore right now."

And then this subtle datum: "M3 includes all of M2 (which includes M1) plus large-denomination ($100,000 or more) time deposits, balances in institutional money funds, repurchase liabilities issued by depository institutions, and Eurodollars held by U.S. residents at foreign branches of U.S. banks and at all banks in the United Kingdom and Canada."

As of March, 2006, the United States government stopped publishing data on the M3 money supply. The reasons given were unconvincing; to "save money," was one excuse. Saving money on a government program? The mind reels. Or: because you can calculate the M3 supply by reference to other data, such as the M1 and M2 numbers. Huh? Someone needs to do a Venn diagram. M1 and M2 are supposed to be included in the M3 supply.

Admittedly, all of this is a bit arcane, shadowy and abstruse, and I may choose to make this third adjective My Word for the Day, and if I use it three times -- it's mine! So I'm told. It means "recondite" or perhaps "hidden," from the Latin abstrusus, meaning, well, "hidden." But I come around to what I think is a logical question. Why did the British suddenly become our #1 purchaser of Treasury debt among foreign investors? I see plenty of Land Rovers around my neighborhood, I admit that, and "Benny Hill" in syndication must bring in a fortune (okay, not really). Still -- what's going on? Between August 2006 and August 2007 the British suddenly became the chief financiers of America's ongoing slow-motion bankruptcy.

Persistent rumor has it the U.S. printing presses are working overtime making lots and lots of money. Some have speculated this is the true reason for the relative stability of the U.S. stock market despite the deflating housing bubble -- all that money has to go somewhere. But suppose (and this is where the wild surmise takes shape) that the United States, which must finance about 1/2 trillion dollars per year to "balance" its crazy books, has hit on a scheme which eluded the Weimar Republic in its disastrous hyperinflation days of 1922 and following. One way you might do it would be to concoct a system for buying your own debt. And to conceal what you're doing, you stop publishing data on Eurodollars (U.S. dollars held in banks in the UK and Canada, chiefly), because you (yo! Treasury -- I'm talking to you) are using an elaborate system of straw men to "buy" Treasuries from yo'self. You're cash-strapped, you're running wars you can't afford while cutting taxes, and the Asians signal that they're tired of watching their dollar holdings depreciate in value while receiving a measly return on Treasury notes, especially now that the tapped-out American consumer is making fewer trips to Wal-Mart to buy lead-based toys and dog food with Ikea dust in it.

Meanwhile, back at Prairie Chapel Ranch, Bush is frantic to keep the pipeline open between the American treasury and American mercenaries and defense contractors in Iraq. If it were to leak out that America is now printing money, sending it to UK banks which in turn buy our own debt, it could put a real damper on war funding, and also turn Bush's last year into the waking nightmare he has so far somewhat eluded. Such a disclosure would probably spell the end of the U.S. dollar's reign as the world's "fiat currency." Not to be too abstruse (2), but it didn't work for the Confederate States of America and it probably won't work for the Union either. As I say, a wild and abstruse (3) surmise, but if we've learned anything about the Bushians, it's that they're capable of any kind of deceit, large or small.

November 04, 2007

You can do it too, George

"ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 4, — About 500 opposition party workers, lawyers and human rights activists were arrested today as the government of General Pervez Musharraf tried to consolidate its control after imposing emergency rule." New York Times.

George W. Bush must be sitting in the den at Camp David, getting ready for a long afternoon watching the Colts-Patriots game, and thinking: Why can't I do that? I think we all know by now that W has nothing but contempt for the democratic process, the bothersome routine of having to ask Congress for money, for "authority" to bomb the next country on his list. He's a natural-born autocrat, but unfortunately for him, he ascended to his father's ancestral throne in a nominal democracy, the United States of America, and so far the practice of locking up your political opponents has not gained the traction here that it enjoyed in Nazi Germany or the Stalinist Soviet Union. Bush has done everything he can to move this country toward a banana republic with a junta-style leadership. Secrecy, duplicity, Guantanamo, Jose Padilla, Abu Ghraib, illegal wiretapping, illegal wars, massive corruption, the evisceration of the currency. He's accomplished so much, yet there's so little time left. I think that's why he finds his partner in terrizm-fighting, Pervez the Sheriff, so inspiring. You see, Pervez came to power 8 years ago in a military coup, not unlike Bush's stolen election of 2000. And Pervez's "term," like Bush's, was nearing completion. The Pakistani Supreme Court seemed determined to dash Pervez's hopes for tenure as Strongman-for-Life. Musharraf's response was a model of elegance and clarity: he got rid of the Supreme Court, then closed down the TV stations and the telephone system and the hostile press, then started arresting everyone who opposed him. It was an "emergency," the emergency being that Pervez was about to have his death-grip pried away from the levers of power.

What to do? Pakistan has been such a valuable ally in the war on terror that it seems folly, so we're told, to cluck-cluck about the Sheriff's tyrannical response to dissent. We have to remember that among his chief detractors are Muslim fundamentalists, terrorists, in other words. Strict insistence on democratic purity might result in another Muslim theocracy, like the one we've installed in Iraq, only this Muslim country would be fully armed with the Islamic Bomb. Haven't we learned anything from deposing Saddam Hussein?

Interesting as all that might be, it's a different "lesson learned" that I'd like to pass along to our own Tyrant-in-Waiting. It would be easier here to maintain power illegally than in Pakistan. You don't just have to wish, George; you can have it too. I hope you bear in mind when you're rounding people up that I gave you the idea. Let's look at things practically:

First, the Pakistani militant Islams are a tough crowd. They take to the streets, they get violent, they burn things. Americans are push-overs. They write blogs and letters to the editor. So what? Once you announce that you're not leaving, Americans will just roll over for it. Trust me, I know a lot of Americans.

Second, Congress won't do anything. The Republicans will stand behind you, and a lot of the Democrats will sign on to a nonbinding "sense of the Congress" that you did what you had to do, and to do otherwise would make America weaker in the face of its enemies, the ones who would do America harm.

Third, the mass media will like it. A coup d'etat is something new, and nothing sells like a new product. The cable news networks will rig up some new logos: "American Junta." "America: The Bush Coup." Their ratings will go way up.

Fourth, the military will play along. Don't they always? Chain of command, blah blah blah, the President must know what he's doing.

Fifth, you don't have to arrest anyone or close anything down. No one will care. After a slight initial shock, it will dawn on Americans they don't have to watch Presidential campaigns anymore, or ever hear the words "Hillary Clinton" or "Rudy Giuliani" again. This will go a long way toward alleviating the slight discomfort at seeing the American experiment end.

Finally, the world won't care either. They're so tired of our hypocritical democratic posturing, it will be a relief when we begin admitting what we've become.

It's up to you, George. I don't know if this country is worth the trouble, but it's yours if you want it.