Looking for a leader
To bring our country home
Reunite the red, white and blue
Before it turns to stone
-- Neil Young, “Living with War”
could be more absurd than the Bush administration pushing the United
Nations for a resolution of condemnation against Iran? Three years ago
the same White House gave solemn assurances that a similar resolution
against Iraq would not be used as justification for war. While lying to
the Security Council may not constitute an impeachable offense, it
eliminates the need for character witnesses the next time you try the
Fool me once… well, we’re not going to get
As if competing for the mendacity of the week award, Senator Rick
Santorum (What is wrong with Pennsylvania?) lectured his colleagues on
ethical conduct, advising them not to accept private jet rides from
corporate sponsors two days after accepting the same from his own
Not to be outdone, Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss retired
shortly before his name was dragged through the muck in connection with
disgraced former congressman Duke Cunningham, defense contractors, poker
games and prostitutes at the Watergate Hotel.
With two and a half years to go, after the latest shake down, the White
House is a ghost ship inhabited by misfits and failures. Michael
Chertoff and John Negroponte in charge of the nation’s security? Who is
kidding whom? Karl Rove spends all his time preparing his defense in
the Valerie Plame-Wilson case, Dick Cheney is drafting position papers
on presidential pardons, Josh Bolton supervises the shredding operation
and songbird Jack Abramoff is the hottest ticket in town.
Meantime, the biggest bogey of them all, the NSA Spying Scandal (What
part of illegal do you not understand?) hides its ugly head awaiting a
fair hearing before an impartial congress. As the latest Orwellian
revelation settles in (an apparent attempt to accumulate a data base of
every American phone call and email ever recorded), memories of Dick
Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover float to the fore. (Was Martin Luther King a
terrorist associate?) When you accumulate vast amounts of information,
someone is bound to use it. What if it falls into the wrong hands? For
instance, what if it gets into the hands of people who would out a CIA
agent for a political vendetta?
The president’s claim that we only spy on terrorists and terrorist
affiliates takes its place in a long line of executive deceptions.
No one could have imagined planes used as missiles.
We know exactly where the weapons of mass destruction are.
The next attack may be a mushroom cloud.
Saddam is the second cousin of Osama bin Laden.
We do not torture.
We do not wiretap without a warrant.
Iran is the greatest threat to peace in the world.
It has nothing to do with oil.
The tax cuts benefit the working people.
The economy is strong.
The Katrina catastrophe was the result of state and local malfeasance.
We have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here.
Afghanistan is a beacon of democracy.
No president wants to go to war.
The bogeyman himself, NSA chief, administration stooge and Air
Force General Michael Hayden, faces senatorial confirmation hearings to
succeed DCI Goss, at which we will surely be treated to the cardboard
façade of Democratic opposition. Watch Senator Feinstein agonize: He may
have committed a blatant felony, he may have overseen the gathering of
phone records on over 100 million “Al Qaeda affiliates”, but he’s such a
nice man, a good technocrat and he does not play poker with
Assuming he passes the test, if Hayden succeeds in his new assignment,
the once venerated spy agency will go gently into that goodnight --
until the next terrorist attack.
Nearly five and a half years into the worst presidency in recorded
history, the stock market approaches an all-time high while working
class Americans stare into the abyss of poverty and ruin, the runaway
debt climbs to an insurmountable peak, the price of gas is a dagger in
the working man’s back, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are the latest
forgotten war zones, a reactionary congress searches for fresh
scapegoats, America has lost its moral grounding, falling headlong into
a spiral descent, and the president believes he can restore his
leadership by christening another war with tactical nuclear weapons.
Looking backward in agony, the question must be asked: How could so many
Americans have been fooled?
Looking forward in trepidation, is there any assurance we will not be
Democracy is far more than the periodic ritual of voting. Saddam’s Iraq
dutifully practiced the ritual like a moon dance at harvest time. True
democracy is founded on real freedom and genuine freedom is wholly
dependent on the right of privacy. More than anything else, what
distinguishes citizens from slaves is that our lives are our own behind
There is no freedom of expression if the government is listening. There
is no freedom of choice if the government is keeping tabs. Even freedom
of thought is irreparably harmed if our thoughts are shadowed by the
fear of a government monitor.
Having sacrificed our rights and freedoms with hardly a whimper, we
can only take our government’s word that we are more secure. Even now,
as we reflect on the years since 11 September 2001, there have been
horrific wildfires and massive explosions at chemical and industrial
plants. If we cannot rely on our government to tell us the truth (as we
clearly cannot under George W. Bush), how would we know if there was a
The government has already cowed the media and the opposition party is a
cruel joke. Now we are told that a majority of Americans is willing to
sacrifice the right of privacy for the illusive promise of security. If
that is truly the case, we have already lost the battle to retain our
The problems of this nation go well beyond the deficiencies of a little
man from Crawford, Texas. The central problem of this nation is a
political system that offers a choice between two corporate proxies
every four years: Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum. The problem is a system
that relies on the corrupt to police the corrupted. The problem is a
system that disallows innovative thought and reduces acceptable policies
to those that are corporate sanctioned. he problem is a system that is
dominated and controlled by international corporations without a vested
interest in either the nation or its inhabitants.
The only realistic solution to the rapidly unfolding decline of the
nation is a third American revolution. The first secured independence
from the British Empire at the cost of American blood. The second was a
critical affirmation of the principles of democracy with the election of
Thomas Jefferson in 1800. The third must be a reaffirmation of the
Recently, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman took the most
unusual tact of advocating a third party movement. The theme of his
imaginary party was green power and its lynchpin was a significant
federal gas tax.
With due respect, Mr. Friedman is right and wrong. Green power is the
correct theme but a gas tax is its death knell. Presumably, Mr. Friedman
resides in the only metropolis in America where an automobile is not
prerequisite to employment. Presumably, Mr. Friedman need not worry that
another rise in the cost of living will push him over the edge. He will
not lose his home, his health coverage and the means of supporting his
family. He does not live where the working class lives.
There is in fact a host of measures (see “Paradigm
Shift: Embracing the Power of Green”) that can be taken without
a tax that singles out the most vulnerable among us for punishment. It
includes fuel efficiency standards, mass transit, industrial hemp,
re-regulation of the energy industry, expansion of alternative energy
sources, mandatory solar panels and energy efficient design. It requires
assembling the brightest minds in the land to draft a comprehensive
energy policy that will wean us from destructive fuels and lead us to
the forefront of green technology.
Beyond taxing the elite who have all but received a free pass over the
last five and a half years, we need only stop the war, putting an end to
a monumental waste of human and financial resources, and invest in the
future of the nation and the planet.
Beyond preventing or at least alleviating certain environmental
catastrophes and defusing the need for war to secure oil, a successful
third party drive to significant power just might rekindle the flame of
democracy in America.
Is it an impossible dream? No more so than winning independence from the
world’s most powerful army in 1776. No more so than fighting back the
wealthy aristocrats in 1800. It is in plain fact the American dream and
if we do not fight to secure it, we will surely inherit a nightmare in
is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the
Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City
Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by
CounterPunch, the Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident
Voice and others. Visit his website: